Popeye Puree (Organic Spinach For Kids Recipe)


From Lisa Barnes

Today’s children probably don’t even know Popeye, but most adults remember him fondly chugging those cans of spinach. No wonder everyone thinks spinach is wet, gray, and tasteless. Here’s the real deal—very sweet and packed with vitamins.

Makes 12 to 14 (1-ounce) servings

1 bunch organic spinach, or 1 (10-ounce) bag frozen organic spinach

Separate leaves and trim from stalks. To clean spinach of all the sand and grit, fill a sink or large basin with lukewarm water. Plunge leaves into sink and swish under water. The silt and sand will sink to the bottom, leaving you with clean leaves.

Steamer Method: Place spinach leaves in a steamer basket set in a pot filled with about 1 to 2 inches of lightly boiling water. Do not let water touch spinach. Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 2 to 3 minutes, or until spinach is wilted and bright green. Rinse spinach in cold water to stop cooking.

Puree spinach in a food processor. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of cooking liquid to make the puree smoother and adjust consistency.

Microwave Method: Place spinach in a microwave-safe dish. Add 2 tablespoons water and cover tightly, allowing a corner to vent. Microwave on high for 1 minute and stir spinach. Re-cover and cook for 1 minute, or until wilted and bright. Cool spinach and proceed with directions above.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons
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Getting Greener or Getting Fooled – Label Deception

From Lisa Barnes

Advertisers and marketers are having a field day with the going green trend and making millions on labels for everything from cheese puffs, to laundry soap, to toys. Everyone wants to buy “greener” products and we simply look for a quick “seal” or buzz words – but what do they mean? Is it eco-friendly, or sustainable, or recyclable, or animal-friendly, biodegradable or “other”?

I recently taught a baby food cooking class to new parents who were just starting to feed their children solids. They of course are very concerned about what goes in and around their babies – as they should be. I showed them how not only to read labels but decipher them and be careful about products marketed for babies and children. Brands our parents and grandfathers trusted aren’t necessarily helping the confusion.

We discovered baby teething biscuits with partially hydrogenated oils. Turkey labeled as “natural” (however it’s legal for “natural” turkey to have been raised on a diet that included hormones, antibiotics or genetically modified corn). Typical “junk foods” (cheese puffs, potato chips) labeled as “organic” (but still no healthier due to trans fats and additives and preservatives). And the biggest shock to the class was baby food packaged in #7 plastic (thought to leach chemicals in foods) – with microwave directions!

This past weekend was a helpful article in the San Francisco Chronicle about green products seals, and claims surrounding green products. We’re still so new at determining and establishing some product standards that some companies are just making them up themselves. Do we want to trust Johnson and Johnson’s “green” label conducted by an in-house team? We need to educate ourselves so we’re not caught up in the marketing tactics of large companies who just want to sell us products (healthy or not, truly “green” or not). Those of us trying to go “greener” need help as well as some time and patience to read between the lines. I found the article to be helpful which you can read here.

As far as food goes, it’s just one more reason to avoid reading labels and shop for whole organic foods at the Farmer’s Market. I know we can’t always go there and they don’t have everything, but it sure makes shopping, cooking and eating easier (and healthier). The good news is that there is a federal standard for “organic” food. However staying away from processed foods cuts down on much of the label deciphering, but if you must do it keep these things in mind for “organic” food claims.

Those small stickers with the numbers on the fruit mean something too. Did you know?…

*A four-digit number means it’s conventionally grown (not organic).

*A five-digit number beginning with 9 means it’s organic.

*A five-digit number beginning with 8 means it’s genetically modified (GM).

According to the Center for Food Safety, GM foods have been in stores only since the 1990s, so we don’t know the long-term health risks, and in a 1998 EPA sampling, 29% of the foods tested contained detectable pesticides.

Here’s a reminder of the organic labels on multiple ingredient foods:

Labels and definitions are as follows

“100 percent organic” All ingredients are organic.

“Organic” At least 95 percent of ingredients are organic.

“Made with organic ingredients” At least 70 percent of ingredients are organic. If less than 70% of the ingredients are organic, the word “organic” can be mentioned on the information panel, but not on the front of the package.

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Introducing Solids To Baby (with Organic Sweet Potato Puree Recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

The American Pediatric Association recommends introducing solids between four and six months of age. A few large-scale studies suggest that this timing may lower the risk of developing type I diabetes. Feeding your baby solids before four months can trigger an abnormal reaction in his immature immune system. Many mothers are told by well-meaning family members to give baby solids very young in order to get them to sleep through the night. However, feeding a baby solids does not make them sleep any better. It may just coincide with other developments that encourage routine sleeping patterns at this stage.

On the other hand, introducing solids later than six months may inhibit the development of a child’s palate, as they will not be exposed to enough variety early on. It is best to check with your child’s pediatrician to get the green light based upon your own child’s needs and development.

How Much?
In the beginning your baby will eat about one to two teaspoons of cereal or puree, once or twice per day. Although the first few times, when they’re getting acquainted with the process, your baby won’t swallow much of anything. He is still drinking about twenty-four to twenty-eight ounces of breast milk or formula each day.

Many parents, me included, look forward to introducing solids and are just waiting for the right time. But when? The biggest cue is that your child will take an active interest in watching your eat, looking at and trying to grab your food. You’ll know they’re ready when you start to feel guilty eating a meal in front of them.

Babies have a natural reflex in their tongue called a thrust reflex. This is when the tongue thrusts outward to push items out of the mouth. When this reflex is gone, your baby will be able to eat because he can then swallow food. When I began my son, Jonas, on solids at five months, he still had the reflex. I would spoon the food into his mouth and his tongue would flip up, as if he wanted the spoon under his tongue. He was not yet ready to eat. However, he enjoyed thinking he was eating (though it was on his chin and spoon only) and we continued the routine. After about three days, he stopped thrusting his tongue and learned to swallow.

It is best to keep a log of foods your baby has eaten. It may sound silly, but it is very easy to forget what your baby has tried or not tried. This information can be provided to your doctor in case of illness or reaction. This information can also prove helpful to baby sitters and family members who care for your baby. Foods will need to be introduced for three to five days in a row to check for any allergic reactions. Then, if a problem arises, it will be easy to determine the offending food.

First foods are most likely single-item fruit and vegetable purees and cereals. In commercially prepared foods, some companies call these “Stage 1” foods. Rice cereal is the most common introductory food in baby’s culinary adventure because it’s easy to digest and isn’t likely to cause allergies. This is best purchased commercially prepared, because these cereals have an extra boost of iron, which your baby needs after six months of age. There are a few brands to choose from, with organic and GMO-free options. The cereal can be mixed with formula, breast milk, or water. Once introduced, the cereal can also be mixed with fruit, vegetable, and meat purees.

Some parents think that children introduced to vegetables before fruits will not have a sweet tooth. Most nutritionists and doctors disagree with this idea. Children will like sweets. There are also many opinions about the order of food items to introduce. Some experts recommend serving vegetables in order of color—lighter yellows to oranges to lighter greens, then dark greens. This suggestion is because lighter-colored foods tend to be milder in flavor; then as your baby’s palate matures the food flavors will increase with color intensity.

When To Stop
No one wants to waste food; however, forcing your child to eat or “finish their plate” is not advised. Before your baby can speak and tell you he’s finished eating, he will give you cues. These include: refusing to open his mouth, looking away, becoming agitated, appearing distracted, or squirming in his chair. According to nutritionist Mary Ellen DiPaola, most children can regulate their own appetites in their early stages of eating. If you force children to eat, they may lose the ability to read their own hunger and full signs. Feeding should be enjoyable for baby and parent, in a relaxed atmosphere, and at your child’s natural pace and appetite.

Foods To Avoid
There are a few reasons to avoid certain foods when introducing solids. The reasons include allergens, food intolerances, family history, special dietary needs, nitrite levels, and choking hazards. The biggest concern is potential food allergies and intolerances. Symptoms include rash, hives, respiratory problems, diarrhea, gas, and vomiting. Food allergies and intolerances are often linked genetically, so if parents are allergic they should be cautious and delay introducing these foods to children. Potential allergens include: wheat, cow’s milk, soy, nuts, shellfish, strawberries, and egg whites.

Some foods are more likely to cause adverse reactions. Doctors agree these should not be introduced as first foods, but how long to wait is often debated. Some believe these foods should not be introduced until after one year of age, while others, such as Brock Bernsten, M.D., my son’s pediatrician, believe some of these foods, such as yogurt and wheat, should be introduced between six and eight months of age. Otherwise you may miss an important window of opportunity when children will try new foods. He cautions, however, to give these foods each day for five to seven consecutive days, rather than the typical three- to five-day recommendation.

Nuts and peanuts are a special concern because of the severity of allergy symptoms affecting the upper respiratory system. Less than 1 percent of children and adults have the allergy. However, there are many processed and prepared foods that you may not realize contain nuts, including cookies, crackers, sauces, and ethnic foods. Many nutritionists suggest waiting to introduce nuts and nut butters until your child is two years old or older.

Organic Sweet Potato Puree

I never met a baby who didn’t love sweet potatoes. They are much sweeter in taste and higher in nutrients than the basic white potato. They pack more beta carotene (an antioxidant) than any other vegetable and are loaded with fiber and vitamin A. Baking the potatoes in the oven may take longer but the flavor is much richer than steaming in the microwave or stovetop.

Makes 4 servings

2 medium (7- to 8- ounce) organic sweet potatoes
Water, formula, or milk

Oven Method: Preheat oven to 425°F. Prick potatoes with a small knife, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until tender, and skin is wrinkled. Potatoes should pierce easily with a toothpick. Set potatoes aside to cool before handling.

Using your fingers, peel potato skin from flesh. Mash with a fork for thicker potatoes, or puree in a food processor with a steel blade until mashed. For a smoother and less sticky texture, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water, formula or milk, at a time. Add liquid and process until you’ve reached desired consistency.

Microwave Method: Prick potatoes with a knife and place potatoes in a microwave-safe dish. Add ¼ cup water and cover tightly, allowing a corner to vent. Microwave on High for 3 minutes and turn potatoes over. Re-cover and cook for 3 to 6 minutes, or until tender. Check for doneness, cool, and proceed with directions above.

It’s all in the name. The names sweet potatoes and yams are used interchangeably in the United States, although true yams are different from sweet potatoes. Only sweet potatoes can be found in the U.S. You will notice different varieties (with varying shades of orange) in stores, most common are Jewel and Garnet.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Excerpted from The Petit Appetit Cookbook
Image Credit: © Eric Gevaert | Dreamstime.com
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Williams-Sonoma’s New Cooking for Baby Book (with Recipes)

From Lisa Barnes

I’ve written the recipes for a new baby food book for Williams-Sonoma. Entitled Cooking For Baby, this book focuses on those first bites through 18 months old. Although I must say some of the grain recipes and snacks are yummy for the whole family. Of course you’d never know I wrote the recipes unless you look in the inside title page or back inside jacket.

Doing this book was very different from my own. Although I am still happy with the results and it is interesting to see the food in photos. I was really hoping to be on the photo shoot for the book. I’ve always heard how they do all kinds of crazy stuff to food to make it hold up under lights and for lengthy photo shoots. Unfortunately I wasn’t invited. (Probably too many cooks in the kitchen!). So I don’t have anything juicy to report from the process.

Here’s a few recipes (organic versions) for those expanding their baby’s palate and moving on from first foods. It’s a fun and exciting time to watch those first bites. Be sure to have a camera on hand for the range of faces and expressions.

Baby’s Organic Brown Rice Cereal
Although most babies begin their culinary adventure with commercially made rice cereal because of the added iron, this is an easy way to graduate them to another grain. Brown rice is not stripped of the hull, which not only makes it brown, but also more nutritious than its white counterpart.

¼ cup Organic Brown rice

Put rice in a blender and pulverize into a powder, 3 – 5 minutes on medium to high speed. Bring 1 cup water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add brown rice powder and reduce heat to low. Cook, whisking constantly until water is absorbed, 4 – 5 minutes.

Add water, breast milk or formula to thin the cereal to a consistency your baby can handle. As baby gets older and tries more foods, combine rice cereal with fruit or vegetable purees.

Makes 1 cup

Note: Commercially prepared baby rice cereal is usually fortified with added iron. If you prepare rice cereal at home, discuss your baby’s iron needs with your pediatrician. Young babies can get iron from a range of foods, including breast milk, formula, meat, poultry, prunes and dried apricots. To store, refrigerate cooled cereal in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice cube trays or other containers and freeze for up to 3 months.

Baby’s Organic Turkey
Start with ground turkey for the easiest texture, then once baby is ready, simply puree or chop up pieces from your own adult cuts for baby. To sweeten the flavor, and smooth the texture, stir in baby’s pear or apple puree.

½ pound organic ground turkey
¼ cup water

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add turkey and water. Cook, breaking up and stirring turkey constantly about 3 – 5 minutes, or until meat is cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from heat and let cool. Drain and reserve cooking liquid.

Transfer turkey to food processor fitted with a steel blade and puree 1 minute. With machine running, add reserved cooking liquid by the tablespoonful. Texture will be paste-like. Add more liquid to thin puree to a consistency your baby can handle.

Makes about 1 cup

Baby’s Organic Sweet Pea Puree
Homemade peas should be bright green, unlike the drab colored jarred versions available at the supermarket. To help the peas retain their vibrant color, do not overcook them. Frozen peas are the next best thing to fresh spring peas: they’re available year-round and they will save you the time and effort of shelling.

2 cups (10 ounces) organic peas, fresh or frozen

Bring 1 inch water to a boil in a pot. Put peas in a steamer basket, set in pot, cover tightly and steam until bright green and tender enough to mash with a fork: 5 – 7 minutes for fresh or hard frozen peas, and 3 minutes for thawed frozen.

Remove basket from pot, reserving cooking liquid. Rinse peas under cold running water to stop cooking. Puree peas in a food processor until smooth. Add cooking liquid, breast milk or formula to thin pea puree to a consistency that your baby can handle.To store: refrigerate cooled pea puree in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or fill ice cube trays or other containers to freeze for up to 3 months.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Crunchy Frozen Organic Bananas For Kids Recipe


From Lisa Barnes

Believe it or not, the inspiration for this recipe came from a box of Cheerios, although there are many options for providing the crunch on these tasty bananas. This is a cool and healthy treat for children and adults.

Makes 8 servings

4 ripe, firm, large organic bananas
1½ cups or 1 (12 ounce) container organic whole-milk yogurt, any flavor
3 cups cereal (toasted Os, wheat germ, or corn flakes)

Peel and cut bananas in half crosswise. Insert a wooden stick with rounded ends into cut ends of bananas. Place yogurt in a small bowl. Sprinkle cereal on a plate or waxed paper. Dip bananas in yogurt to cover. Then roll yogurt-covered bananas in cereal to coat. Place finished bananas on baking sheet or plate and place in the freezer for about 1 hour, or until firm.

Tip: Freeze, please! You can store these to serve anytime. Just wrap each banana in waxed or parchment paper, and place in a freezer bag. Label, date, and store in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Monika Adamczyk | Dreamstime.com
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Hippity Hoppity Organic Easter Eggs with Natural Dyes (plus Egg and Olive Spread Recipe)


From Lisa Barnes

I just finished my St. Pat’s left-overs and now it’s time for dying Easter Eggs. Of course there are a zillion egg dyes at the supermaket and high end cooking stores to make the most picture perfect eggs. But how about some simple do-it-yourself natural colors?

Here are some suggestions for cooking hard boiled eggs and decorating them with your children — with or without dyes. Be sure to store dyed hard cooked eggs in the refrigerator if you want to eat them. Also, here’s a favorite yummy stuffing/spread to use all the eggs.

A Good Egg – Organic Hardboiled Eggs

Eggs have been served since ancient times because they symbolize spring and rebirth. During March and April they are served at a Seder meal as well as dyed and decorated for Easter traditions. This is also the only accurate way to separate an egg for a baby that cannot have whites (recommended for those under 1 year old). Here’s a way to insure the perfect hard boiled egg.

6 large cage free, organic eggs

Place eggs in a pot with lid. Add enough water to cover eggs. Put pot on stove over medium-high heat. When water starts a rolling boil, cover pan and turn off heat. Leave pot on burner, covered for 15 minutes.

Drain water and rinse eggs under cold running water. Tap the egg all over to break shell. Egg shells peel easiest from the rounder end (where there is air space). Eggs should have bright yellow centers. If gray or green color appears, then the eggs have been overcooked.

Unpeeled eggs keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. If you’re dying eggs and then plan to eat them later, they must be stored in the refrigerator, not at room temperature in a basket.

Egg Decorating Tips: Dying

Here are some fun tips for decorating eggs with children…

1. Start by layering a table with newspapers to mop up any spills or drips.

2. Use empty egg cartons as drying racks for the eggs once dyed.

3. Keep paper towels handy to blot any dye that collects under eggs.

4. Use individual containers for each color. I find ramekins to work well. Container should be sturdy enough to hold liquid and egg, and allow for fingers or spoons to lift eggs in and out. Nothing too tall or plastic that can tip. Be sure to rinse containers of dyes so there are no stains.

5. Use plastic utensils or wooden sticks to stir each color. This makes clean-up a breeze, and there’s no risk of stained utensils.

6. Let children create their own masterpieces, even if all the eggs come out blue. Be patient. If you do not want to use the prepackaged dyes and colors you can make your own natural dyes by boiling common ingredients in water with a tablespoon of vinegar until desired shade is reached. Be sure to strain to remove solids.

Here are the color options and what to add to the water:

Yellow – tumeric or yellow onion skins
Orange – make yellow and add beet juice
Pink – cranberry juice concentrate
Blue – grape juice concentrate, red cabbage
Red – beets, paprika
Green – spinach or kale

Egg Decorating Tips: Other Options

Some children are too small or you may not be up to the challenge or mess of working with dyes. Other ideas include:

Stickers – your child’s favorite stickers can transform an ordinary egg without mess or stained fingers

Collage – using a glue stick or craft glue, how about adding sequins, beads, ribbons, feathers or anything else your child can dream up

Drawing/Coloring – bring out the crayons, markers and pens for children to draw and color on eggs (warn them not to push too hard)

Happy Days Organic Egg and Olive Spread
(from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

Run out of ideas for all those hard boiled eggs after Easter? Many adults think of egg salad and olive spread as comforting foods from their childhood. This recipe combines the best of both. The lemon and yogurt give this spread a new fresh taste and healthy alternative to the standard mayonnaise flavor, which many children do not like. As an alternative to the usual sandwich bread, try wrapping up in lettuce or stuff in pita bread with spinach leaves.

2 hard cooked, cage-free organic eggs

1/3 cup pitted black olives (about 10 whole), chopped

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon plain organic whole milk yogurt

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Chop eggs finely using an egg slicer or knife. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined.

Makes 15 (2 Tablespoon servings)
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Happy “Green” Day with Organic Irish Soda Bread Recipe


From Lisa Barnes

Remember when green was just a color? As a kid I always associated green with St. Patrick’s Day. I’d think of shamrock shaped pancakes and green colored milk my mom and grandfather would make on St. Patrick’s Day morning.

Later in college instead of colored milk, it was green beer. Yikes! Neither the beer or the milk was enhanced by the color (I don’t think it changed the flavor), but it was festive. Rather than color my children’s food with scary chemicals and food dyes, or sneak in a hidden green pureed veggie into their unsuspecting meal, I’m just going to make Irish Soda Bread with them and serve some green food favorites (naturally colored and honest). Where do we start? How do we choose? Green apples, cabbage, peas, asparagas, kiwi, honeydew, lime, pesto, spinach pasta, guacamole, celery and the list goes on and on…

Happy St. Patricks Day!

Organic Irish Wheat Soda Bread

This is the easiest, and quickest, bread I have ever made. In Northern Ireland this version would be called “wheaten” soda bread. No kneading, no bread machine and no mixer required. It is the perfect accompaniment to soups and salads. The bread will be a bit flat so not great for typical sandwiches but works well for tea sandwiches or spreading pumpkin butter. Irish soda bread is a classic quick bread. It surprises some people to learn that this traditional recipe hasn’t been around for thousands of years. Bicarbonate of soda was first introduced to Ireland around the 1840s.

Makes 1, 8 – 10 inch round loaf

2 ¾ cups organic whole wheat flour, plus sprinkling
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ¼ cups organic milk
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 large cage-free, organic egg
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine flour, salt, and baking soda. In a medium bowl whisk together milk, vinegar, egg and honey. Make a well in the flour mixture and pour milk mixture all at once. Stir with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, until everything is moist and combined. Do not overmix. Dough will be very sticky.

Sprinkle flour on top of dough and lift out with hands onto prepared baking sheet. Plop dough on center of sheet. It will settle in a mound (and you’ll think this will never work). Try to round as best as possible. Bake in oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until nicely browned and makes a hollow sound underneath. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before slicing.

Rise Above It! Because this dough has no yeast it will not rise very high as a typical loaf. However the ugly looking mound of dough on the baking sheet will turn into a lovely and delicious freeform round loaf – trust me.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Oatmeal Dilemma and Flavorful Organic Oatmeal Recipe


From Lisa Barnes

So if you read my previous post you know about my microwave issue. My husband dropped the burned one at the appliance recycling center – it was done. At first I wondered if I needed to replace my microwave. What do I use it for? Really not that much. I won’t be trying any popcorn recipes with it. However the morning after the microwave debacle, I went to have my breakfast and I couldn’t eat it. I eat oatmeal every morning. I usually make a pot of it on the stove on Monday and then reheat the next few days (depending on how much my daughter decides to steal from my bowl on some days). Reheating on the stove just wasn’t the best. It took more time and more energy as I did not want it to burn. I also then had to wash an extra pot. At first I thought, well I’ll just make a single serving each day, but that wasn’t convenient either. Then I switched from oatmeal to yogurt topped with granola and fruit. Good, but still not my oatmeal.

So yes, I do miss it and went to buy one. Unfortunately I discovered many usual appliance and cooking stores don’t stock microwaves (or have very few to choose from). Everyone directed me to their online stores. Again I thought, maybe I don’t need the microwave. I know many people who do not use microwaves at all, for health reasons and just because they don’t want another appliance. I can understand that.

Then I realized I use it to reheat things (mini portions for my kids of left-over meals) and to melt chocolate and butter. Of course I’ve been using the stove top this past week, but I keep going to the pantry for the quick and easy microwave. Also working on a new cookbook I often cook things using different methods and sometimes that means a microwave. So that was the final straw and justification. I ordered one online. Now I’ll have to wait for the delivery truck…

Here’s my master oatmeal recipe…

Flavorful Organic Oatmeal

Oatmeal is an easily digestible grain with a nice creamy texture which lends itself to many flavorings for children and adults alike. See suggestions below or create your own family favorites using this master recipe. You can even set-up an oatmeal bar with a variety of toppings in small bowls and let each family member choose their own.

This oatmeal can be made and stored in the refrigerator for 3 days. If the whole oats are too coarse for your baby or if you prefer a more mushy texture, grind uncooked oats in a blender or food processor for a smoother consistency and shorter cooking time.

Makes about 2 cups

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup organic oats
2 cups water

Combine water, cinnamon and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in oats. When mixture begins to simmer, cover, turn off heat, and let stand for 15 minutes until thick and creamy.

Stir in flavor options (below) or enjoy alone.

For variety here are some flavor, color and texture options per single serving ½ cup:

– 1 tablespoon fruit puree or organic all fruit spread, plus 1 tablespoon currants
– 1 tablespoon grated apple and sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg
– 1/2 mashed organic banana, with a sprinkle of grated shredded coconut
– small handful of organic blueberries

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Hearty Organic Oatmeal Cut Outs for Valentine’s Day Recipe


From Lisa Barnes

It’s Valentine’s Day and time to make something to decorate for my son’s preschool class. To be honest I’m not very crafty. I don’t draw well (although I like to color), nor do I yield a mighty glue gun or a glitter pen. When it’s my turn to participate it’s always going to be food. I can’t help it – it’s what I know and how I show some creativity. Here’s what I’ll be making for class on Thursday. I’ll bring the plain cookies, then squeeze bottles of icing and some sprinkles and crushed candy canes that the kids can decorate with. Wish me luck. (Especially since my 19 month old will be with me to “help” the big kids). Happy V-Day!

Hearty Oatmeal Cut Outs

This was inspired by my son’s Great Big Backyard animal magazine – with a few changes, sugars, flours and the addition of naturally pink (thanks to cranberry juice) colored frosting. My son brought these to share with his preschool class to represent the letter “H” for hearts. Feel free to use other shapes, but those with less detail (circle, heart, star) work the best because of the oatmeal pieces.

Makes 35, 3” hearts
Icing yields 1/3 cup

1 ¼ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup organic rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup raw organic turbinado sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted organic butter, melted
2/3 cups organic milk


1 cup organic powdered sugar, sifted
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon organic cranberry juice
1 teaspoon organic milk

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking soda and spices. Stir in sugar, butter and milk until well mixed. You may need to knead dough together. Form into a ball and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place dough on lightly floured surface and roll with rolling pin until ¼ inch thick. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters and arrange on baking prepared sheet about 1 ½ inches apart. Bakes about 10 – 12 minutes until golden on bottoms.

Cool completely on a wire rack then frost if desired.

Combine all icing ingredients in a small bowl. Using a small spreader or squeeze bottle ice the hearts with stripes, dots, outlined or covered.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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No Yolking Around – Organic Pancakes for Kids Recipe


From Lisa Barnes

Jonathan, a two-and-a-half-year-old, was allergic to eggs but wanted to eat pancakes. His mom couldn’t find a recipe without eggs, so she sent me a request and challenge: Find an egg-free pancake recipe. I couldn’t find one either, so I came up with my own. This allows those not yet introduced to eggs to enjoy pancakes with the rest of the family.

Makes about 8 (5-inch) pancakes: 4 servings

1 cup organic whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup organic milk
2 tablespoons expeller pressed canola oil.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together milk and oil. Add milk mixture to flour mixture all at once. Stir with a rubber spatula until just blended. If batter is too thick, thin with milk.

Heat a large nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Lightly grease skillet with cooking spray or melted butter.

For each pancake, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle or skillet. Cook until bubbles form on top of pancakes and bottoms are golden and set. Flip with a spatula and brown other sides until golden. Warm finished pancakes in a 300°F oven, while continuing to use batter to make more batches.

Tip: Packing pancakes. Pancakes make a great snack for packing and snacking. Make a double recipe and seal cold, leftover pancakes in a zipper bag in your refrigerator or freezer. They make fast, convenient on-the-go finger foods.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
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