Gung Hay Fat Choy! (with Organic Long Life Noodle Recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

Last night our family celebrated Chinese New Year in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Even in past years of rain, this has become a family tradtition.  This was named one of the top 10 parades throughout the country – what’s a few raindrops?  This year was clear and crowded.  We met my cousins, who oddly enough have lived in the Bay Area 35 years and never been to Chinatown.  It was quite a spectacle of sights, sounds, tastes, and colors for all ages.  It was fun to see my kids showing my family around and telling them which foods were their favorite (egg custard, shrimp hargow and lomein) and which store fronts they like to see (the fishmongers and produce stands).

This year we walked into a store that had a variety of brightly colored bulk bins.  Bins usually mean candy.  And while they did have a section of the western sweets, the majority of items we had never seen, let alone tasted.  There was the typical dried mangoes and papaya, but it didn’t stop there.  Bright green balls called “green plums”, lacey shredded cuttlefish, dried lychees and shaved octopus tentacles were some of the offerings.  My son was begging for the dried fruit peel.  Not one to squelch culinary curiosity, I bagged some (along with mangoes and prunes) and paid.  My cousins couldn’t believe he would want to try it.  And no, he didn’t like the fruit peel (I don’t blame him), but I appreciated him trying it and wanting to experience something new.  I think that’s what fun and interesting about introducing children to new cultures, customs, holidays and foods.

My new book Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry [Avail. March 2009] gives ideas, tips and recipes for children’s snacks, drinks and party foods.  As part of the “merry” section there’s lots of good reasons to celebrate from birthdays and New Years (western and Chinese)  to simple “snow days”.  Here’s a noodle recipe for getting your family  into the Chinese New Year spirit.  Happy 2009!

Long Life Noodles

Fireworks, lantern festivals, dragon dances, parades, and lots of food are all part of this special occasion. Both symbolic and delicious, noodles make a great food for sharing during Chinese New Year. There are many options for noodles that could work besides rice noodles; try Chinese egg noodles, udon, or soba for a variation. The peanut butter lends a bit of sweetness your child will enjoy.

Makes 8 to 10 (1-cup) servings

8 ounces rice noodles
2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger or ½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup julienned organic carrot (1 large)
1 cup julienned organic red bell pepper (1 large or 4 mini)
¼ cup chopped scallions (about 3)
2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari
1 tablespoon peanut butter
½ cup organic vegetable broth
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Prepare the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant and soft, about 1 minute. Add the carrot and bell pepper and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender but not soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, scallions, tamari, peanut butter, broth, and lime juice and bring to a boil. Add the noodles and heat until hot, stirring to combine with vegetables and sauce.
See also Lisa’s DooF-a-Palooza
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry [Avail. March 2009], and lives in Sausalito, California.
Images Credit: Lisa Barnes |

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Hooray for the Half! Angels vs. Devils (cakes, not kids)

From Lisa Barnes

When you ask a child under 10 years old their age, you’re bound to hear a fraction in the answer. “I’m 5… and a half” says my son. Of course the “half” is said louder than the rest of the answer. A friend of his says “Well I’m 5 and a quarter”. My kids both get their halves in January. In order to celebrate this momentous occasion, we make a half dessert. It could be half a cake (to be shared by the family) or each person gets half a muffin or cupcake.

We even cut the candle in half. So you still get a wish, it’s just a stubby one. And we sing “Happy Half Birthday to You…” There are no fancy gifts (isn’t the title enough?), but I like to give a pair of socks or shoes (just wrapping one).

My daughter is a vanilla lover while my son goes for chocolate (like, Mom, the darker the better). I’ve shared a few cupcake recipes (carrot cupcakes, better brownie cupcake) which work well cut in half. Here’s also an angel food and devil’s food recipe, so you can see who wins out in your house.
Happy Half!

Angel Food Cake

This is a yummy, light, and airy cake for celebrating just about anything. It is a lighter alternative to chocolate cakes with heavy frosting. The fun part for kids and adults is letting them choose their own toppings and décor for their piece. Set out fresh raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries; whip up some cream; and maybe have some chocolate sauce for a truly decadent treat. Let children create their own special pieces.

Makes 12 servings

1 cup organic cake flour, sifted
1 1/3 cups evaporated cane juice
12 large cage-free organic egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan or tube pan.

Mix cake flour and sugar together in a bowl. Beat egg whites and the cream of tartar with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks are formed, about 5 minutes. Sift one-third of the flour mixture into the egg whites and gently fold in. Repeat by sifting another one-third of flour and finally the last one-third until all combined. Fold in salt, vanilla, and almond extract until combined.

Pour or spoon batter into prepared pan. It will fill the pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until top is golden brown and batter does not shake. Remove pan from oven and completely cool in pan on a wire rack, about 1 hour. When cool, place plate over top of pan and carefully turn over. If cake does not come out, slide a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen cake.

Little Devil’s Cake

This is not a true devil’s food cake because it does not contain melted chocolate in addition to cocoa. However your little devil will be happy to indulge in this tasty cake. The drizzle of frosting is especially pretty and lends moisture to the cake.

Makes 1 (8-inch-round) cake; 8 servings

5 tablespoons organic unsalted butter, melted
½ cup organic unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup organic applesauce
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 large cage-free organic eggs
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup unbleached organic all-purpose flour
¼ cup hot water


1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon organic milk, plus additional if needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8-inch-round cake pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together butter and cocoa. Stir in applesauce and brown sugar until combined. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating to combine. Stir in vanilla, baking soda, and salt.

Gradually add flour to cocoa mixture, stirring just until blended but do not over mix. Stir in hot water, just until blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Gently turn out cake and cool completely on wire rack before icing.

To make icing: Combine all icing ingredients in a small bowl. Using a fork, drizzle icing over cake. To serve, cut into 8 wedges.

Disappearing Icing. We made this for my son’s half birthday. The next day my son wanted a piece and noticed the icing was gone. He wondered what happened. I explained it was magic and that it just sunk into the cake. He asked, “If I say abracadabra will it reappear?”
See also Lisa’s She Takes The Cake (with Organic Flourless Chocolate Cake Recipe For Kids)
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Lisa Barnes |

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The Show Must Go On – Soothing Organic Recipes for Children Under the Weather

From Lisa Barnes

Since winter started it seems every time I take my children to school there’s a new rash of sickness. Even with a healthy diet, lots of laughter and exercise, there’s no escaping the preschool germs. My kids (as well as the rest of our family) were ill over the holidays. This was a real bummer – at least for the adults. It’s too bad our kids count down and look forward to such dates. When they were smaller I could just “postpone” a holiday or occasion if need be.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I took turns trying to stay awake with our five year old (who wanted to wait up for Santa) and then putting together and strategically placing the Santa gifts. This was all while running to the bathroom every 20 minutes. When I was looking for some empathy from my parents on Christmas day, they told me of stories when they did the same for me during my childhood. I guess “the show must go on”, and always has and always will. So while I felt bad that my kids would have a negative memory of the holiday, they were happy that Santa came and that they had popsicles for dinner. (The Christmas dinner I had planned, we enjoyed a few nights later when we were all back to solids).

I am often asked what to give a baby or child when not feeling well. I’ve always made camomile tea, broth and popsicles when my kids were under the weather. It gives them liquid as well as a dose of some needed vitamins and nutrients. It’s easy to have broth (in cubes frozen in the freezer) and a tray of popsicles ready for the first sneeze or temperature. For those wanting to provide some homemade broths and popsicles to comfort a little (or big) one here are some recipes to help. Stay well!

Very Veggie Broth
This is a favorite recipe from The Petit Appetit Cookbook as it is a basic broth recipe for a baby’s bottle or sippy cup. It delivers a punch of calcium and vitamin C for a child (or any age) needing a liquid diet or vitamin pick-me-up. Serve warm or cool in a cup or bottle for baby. Also this broth freezes well in ice cube trays for later use.

Makes about 3 cups; 6 servings

1 quart cold water
1 cup organic cauliflower flowerets, (about 3 to 4 ounces)
1 cup organic broccoli florets (about 2 to 3 ounces)
1 cup organic collard or dandelion greens, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 cup rounds organic carrots, (about 3 to 4 ounces)

Place water in a medium pot with a lid. Add vegetables and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cover pot. Cook for 1 hour.

Strain broth and reserve vegetables. These can be pureed or mashed for baby.

Not Just Baby Broth. This is a great broth for many ages and uses. It can be a liquid meal for someone under the weather, a calcium rich soup for baby, or a flavorful liquid for poaching meats and fish. Always having broth cubes in the freezer means lots of cooking options for you and your family.

Dried Fruit Broth
If constipation is a problem and your pediatrician suggests juice, here’s a way to make your own broth that’s not as sweet as store juice and not as strong for young taste buds and system as well. This is much easier to swallow than full force commercially packaged prune juice, but will still have some of the laxative benefits.

Makes 1 cup broth

½ cup dried organic prunes, peaches, or apricots
2 cups water

Put dried fruit and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 40 minutes. Broth will be reduced, darker in color, and have sweet fruit flavor. Strain through a strainer into a bowl.

Want more laxative? Puree the remaining cooked fruit in a food processor or blender and mix with plain yogurt or spread on toast. The fruit can even be enjoyed alone as it will be soft, but lighter in flavor.

Any Juice Pops
Look beyond the boxed pops in the freezer section of the grocery store. There’s no telling how many combinations and variations you and your children can make by having an ice pop mold on hand. These are nice and icy on a hot day and can be made with any juice you have on hand. Adding water dilutes the juice and sugar a bit and also lends a more “icy” texture.

Makes 8 (¼-cup) pops

1½ cups fresh organic fruit juice such as unfiltered apple juice
½ cup water

Shake juice container to mix contents before measuring and pour into pitcher. Add water to juice and stir.

Pour liquid into ice pop molds. Put the tops on and transfer to the freezer on a flat shelf to freeze until solid, about 1 hour.

To remove the pops from the mold, stand the mold in a bowl of cold water (or run water under one, to release only one pop) for 1 to 2 minutes until the pops lift out.

Kids Korner
Mix It Up! There’s no need to stop at one juice for these pops. Ask your child for flavor combinations. Combine orange and apple or pear and pomegranate. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be making lots of colors and flavors of frozen treats.
See also Lisa’s Safely Feeding Babies – 10 Important Tips (plus one you already know)
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Rmarmion | |

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New Year’s at Nine (with Organic Recipes)

From Lisa Barnes

What did you do for New Year’s with small children and no babysitter?  We had a family party to celebrate the New Year on East Coast time. Although you can use Australian time, or any other time that suits your needs and bedtime. We were hoping to celebrate with friends and their kids, however we were getting over the flu and didn’t want to spread the “cheer”.

However the good thing about kids (at least little ones) is that they really don’t know much about time.  So blowing a noisemaker and putting on silly hats at 8:30 p.m. works for them.  This can be effective for any celebration or get together with little ones.  A few festive foods and decorations and it doesn’t matter what time it is. Plan for all ages to be awake and be able to celebrate with sparkling drinks and party snack foods for your next celebration. With Tivo and other recording devices the New Year’s Eve ball drop can happen anytime – day or night (or more than once a year).

Our menu (recipes below) was fun because we ate our New Year’s dinner with our fingers – like a real h’ors d’ouvre party.  Some other easy and kid fun “bites” include threading things on toothpicks like cut sausage (serve with mustard or ketchup dip of course), or grilled shrimp or chicken pieces.  Happy 2009!

Organic Juice Sparkler

This is a fun and healthy way for children to join in on a fancy toast with a sparkling drink of their own. This recipe is really simple and can be made with any kind of fresh, organic juice such as orange, pear, or apple. At holiday time I like pomegranate juice because of the bright and festive color. Pomegranates are a rich source of antioxidants and flavonoids. The juice can be found year round in the fresh refrigerated juice section of most supermarkets.

Makes 1 cup

¾ cup sparkling mineral water
¼ cup fresh pomegranate juice

Combine water and juice in a glass.


If serving a crowd, combine three parts sparkling mineral water with one part fresh pomegranate juice in a pitcher. Serve over ice cube cuties for older children and adults.

Kids Korner

For a really festive drink, add a few cranberry ice cubes (just add cranberries when freezing water in trays) and a straw. You’ll be surprised how much those touches will excite your child.

Kids’ Crab Cakes

Just because “kids” is part of the title, don’t be hesitant to share these with adults, too. They are simply shapes for smaller mouths, or a single hors d’oeuvres bite for mom and dad. These are festive and special for a holiday appetizer or dinner with family, and made healthier than the usual crab cakes with yogurt substituting for mayonnaise.

Makes 16 to 18 (1½-inch) crab cakes

1 large cage-free organic egg
1 tablespoon organic plain yogurt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon grated yellow onion
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup soft bread crumbs
8 ounces fresh or canned lump crabmeat
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs or panko
2 teaspoons expeller-pressed canola oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, mustard, dill, onion, and pepper. Stir in soft bread crumbs until combined. Stir in crabmeat until combined but do not overmix.

In a small bowl, combine dry bread crumbs and oil. Set aside.

Using your fingers, shape heaping tablespoonfuls of the crab mixture into 1½-inch rounds and flatten. Press each side of cake into dry bread crumb mixture to stick.

Arrange on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden on bottom and cooked through.

Zuke Sticks

Zucchini is a tough name to pronounce for little ones and zuke sounds much more fun. These are a good snack food, side dish, or party food to serve with other veggie sticks. A side of marinara sauce or ketchup is good for those little dippers.

Makes about 50 sticks; about 6 servings

¾ cup dried bread crumbs or Panko
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup organic milk
3 medium organic zucchini, cut lengthwise into 3 × ½-inch pieces (peel if desired)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a jelly-roll pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, salt, and pepper. Place the flour on a plate. Pour milk into a shallow bowl.

Dip each zucchini stick in flour until lightly coated. Then dip in milk. Finally roll in bread crumb mixture until covered, pressing so mixture sticks.

Transfer zucchini sticks to prepared pan and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until zucchini is tender and coating is crisp and brown.

Kids Korner

Enlist older children to help by rolling sticks in flour, milk, and bread crumbs. This may become a messy job as mixture can stick to fingers. A child that does not like messy hands will pass on this task.
See also Lisa’s Happy New Year! Lobster vs. Pizza – Don’t Ask
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Roberto Giovannini | |

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More Kids in the Kitchen (with Organic Recipes)

From Lisa Barnes

When engaging kids in kitchen and cooking activities you may want to serve them something special like a festive hot drink or a snack of granola or trail mix.  It’s one more reason to stay and help, and also won’t tempt them to eat or “sample” too much of what you’re making.  The drink recipe below is great for all ages and takes the chill out of a cold and rainy afternoon.

Of course there’s the usual helping decorate cookies (see last week’s Little Helpers in the Holiday Kitchen) which kids are always up for.  But there are also other tasks that don’t involve desserts.  Below is a recipe for a unique way to prepare and enjoy brussels sprouts that my kids love to make and eat.

Organic Calientito
Calientito means little hot one and this drink is a spiced cider made with spices and fruit. You can use just about any fruit and fruit juice combination here. This is good for the kids at a party when serving adults mulled wine. The name sounds appropriate for my feisty daughter.

Makes 5 cups; 5 servings

2 cups organic unfiltered apple juice
2 cups organic pomegranate juice
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
½ cup orange segments
½ cup chopped pear
1 tablespoon organic raisins
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients and simmer over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick, Serve hot or wait to cool for younger, sensitive mouths. If serving to younger children, strain before serving to prevent choking.

Leaf Us Alone Brussels Sprouts
Although they are one of my favorites, I realize Brussels sprouts are not welcome by many. I think they get a bad rap because they are usually boiled, bland, and still rock hard in the center. Peeling the leaves and discarding the center core, makes for an entirely different taste and texture. And yes, you and your kids may even have a new green favorite. Note this takes time and patience, but little hands make great peelers.

Makes 6 servings

1 pound organic Brussels sprouts
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a jelly roll pan with aluminum foil.

Cut off bottom stem or core of each sprout. Carefully peel away the leaves until it becomes too hard to peel. Cut off bottom core again and peel more layers. Continue cutting and peeling until it is too difficult to peel apart.

Place leaves in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and stir until all leaves are coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir again.

Spread leaves onto prepared baking pan in a single layer. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until leaves are cooked and start to crisp with golden edges.

Kids Korner
I brought these to the table to peel while my children were having a snack. It must have looked interesting as both my four year old and 18 month old starting peeling, too. I told them they were Brussels Buddies. My son just kept telling his dad “We’re only eating the skins.”
See also Lisa’s Why Organic For Kids?
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Reno12 | |

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Little Helpers in the Holiday Kitchen

From Lisa Barnes

The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to allow your children to help with the meal preparation and offers quality time together as a family. This is a way to keep your children occupied, but is also a fun, educational activity that incorporates a range of skills and senses, such as counting, measuring, reading, touching, listening, planning, smelling, tasting, and creativity. Baking teaches children useful skills and also makes them aware of potential hazards in the kitchen.  Helping in the kitchen can increase confidence, as well as encourage children to try a broader range of foods. Children are more likely to try a new recipe if they have helped in the preparation of the meal.

First decide what you will be making and determine how you want the children to participate.  Ask your child what he would like to make and his favorite holiday foods when menu planning, so he wants to participate and feel included.  If following a recipe be sure to read it thoroughly and have all necessary ingredients on hand before starting.

Take your child to the store or farmer’s market to purchase ingredients.

Once in the kitchen task allocation depends largely on the age and dexterity of the child, but there are some basic rules and tips that will make the process as safe and hassle-free as possible, remembering that children learn by observing and imitating adults.

Basic Rules and Tips

·Teach children the basics of hygiene (e.g., washing hands) before beginning food preparation, and also between stages, to avoid cross-contamination.

·Always explain the potential dangers in the kitchen and the protocol for safety. Such dangers include sharp knives, hot stoves and ovens, pans of boiling liquids and invisible germs.

·To save time and small children’s frustration, be sure to cut and measure ingredients before the child begins to assist. Small children have short attention spans and may become impatient waiting to “dump” ingredients in a bowl.

·Give children quick, simple instructions, one at a time, and be prepared to repeat them if they do not understand or forget what they have been told.

·Older children can be encouraged to read the recipe and help to measure out or weigh the ingredients.

·Younger children can be involved in the mixing process by placing the ingredients in a jar with a secure lid and letting them shake the contents. This works particularly well with batters and salad dressings.  Also a large oversized deep bowl can be handy when children are helping.

·All ages can help with frosting and decorating holiday cookies or cupcakes.  Decoration ideas include: colored sugars, cookie cutters, frosting, icing, edible flowers, dried fruits, nuts, etc…

·Younger children who are not yet able to help with the real food preparation can still participate in the kitchen by watching you and imitating through play with plastic bowls, wooden spoons, and rubber spatulas.

·Encourage children to be involved in the cleaning-up process during and after the cooking session is completed.

·For children interested in meal creativity with decoration, let them create interesting centerpieces, name cards or placemats.  Provide children with paper, and crayons or paints to create personalized place mats for each family member and dinner guest.  Take kids on a walk to gather the makings of a “green” centerpiece of pinecones, leaves, pods, and acorns.

Adults make a mess when they are creating in the kitchen, so expect children to have even more mishaps and build in enough time for mistakes and clean-up.

Remember to remain calm and have a sense of adventure and humor!  It doesn’t all need to be perfect – just have fun with your kids.
See also Crunchy Frozen Organic Bananas For Kids Recipe
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Hallgerd | |

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Fruity Puree Cookies (Organic Recipe For Kids)

From Lisa Barnes

This is Petit Appetit’s (my culinary service devoted to the palates and health of infants and toddlers) most popular cookie. You can make these treats at home. Make extra Apple Puree or get baby to share, so you can make these anytime. Pear puree works well, too.

Makes about 100 cookies

¾ cup organic brown sugar
¾ cup expeller pressed canola oil
1 cup Apple Puree or unsweetened organic applesauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup organic oat bran
½ cup organic toasted wheat germ
1½ cup organic whole wheat flour
½ cup organic soy flour

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine sugar and oil in a medium bowl until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes. Roll 1 tablespoon-pieces of dough into balls and place on greased or parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies with a fork that has been dipped in flour. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown underneath. Remove cookies with a spatula and let cool on wire racks.

Tip: Wheat germ comes in raw and toasted versions. You can find them both in the bulk food section of specialty grocery stores or in glass containers in the cereal aisle. Toasted germ has a bit more crunch and a nuttier flavor. Either can be used here.
See also Lisa’s Mom to Mom – Six Tips on How to Shop Wisely and Save Money Buying Organic
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: © Lindsay Noechel | |

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“The Feast” – Petit Holiday Food For Kids (with Organic Gingerbread recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

Every year my children’s preschool puts up a sign-up sheet for the annual “feast” in each classroom.  When we started the school my son was 3 years old and the feast was a traditional Thanksgiving feast – turkey and all the trimmings. I was in charge of bread and I made breadsticks. Last year the teachers let the students in my (then 4 year old) son’s class choose what they wanted to eat for their feast. The kids picked pizza and I was horrified. It wasn’t homemade pizza either. How could a thanksgiving feast be pizza delivery? The pilgrims and Native Americans didn’t have take-out. I gave up on the “feast” and brought a fruit salad – whether they wanted it or not.

‘Tis the season for the feast again and I saw the sign-up on my son’s class door. Instead of turkey with the trimmings or pizza, it read “chicken nuggets”, “macaroni and cheese”, “pigs in a blanket” and “ice cream sundaes”. I could feel my blood boil as some of the kids saw me looking at the sheet and said “we picked it all out ourselves!” I can’t believe I was thinking the year before’s pizza wasn’t so bad. The only saving grace was that my son wasn’t at school the day they voted. So I could think he didn’t want those processed foods.  I wasn’t going to sign-up for those on the sheet. Yes, I’m a rogue pot luck participant at times. I brought organic lemonade and mini organic green apples.

Happily my daughter’s 2-year-old class didn’t have a say in the feast – it would be traditional. I was very excited and even volunteered to coordinate. I got the sign-up sheet ready with a column for turkey, potatoes, veggies, bread, cranberry, etc… and I was told “most of the food gets thrown away every year so we just do something small”. The suggestion was sandwiches and fruit salad, with a mention that many kids weren’t going to be there or parents would pack lunch since they might not like the feast foods. It already sounded like a defeat. I said forget the sign up sheet and I would do the feast food myself. (I didn’t control it all, as other parents did tableware, napkins, decorations and crafts.)  I felt like I had to redeem the “traditional” food and get the kids to eat and like it. Here was my simple menu, which I suggest for any type of preschooler gathering for the holidays or otherwise.

Mini Turkey and Cheddar Sandwiches – this was whole wheat bread with the crusts cut off and cut into triangles. I could have also used shape cookie cutters. The bread was spread with butter only. I also made cranberry sauce to spread on sandwiches, but that never happened (thought the teachers may not like the mess of cranberry by the 2-year-old crowd).

*Note: When cutting out or trimming sandwiches, I always save the left-over pieces in the freezer. They come in handy for making breadcrumbs and feeding ducks.

Petit Crudité Platter – steamed carrots and grean beans and cherry tomatoes with hummus for dipping.

Fruit Salad – a variation of the minty fruit salad (without the mint) and adding grapes. Everything cut to bite-size for a 2-year-old.

Gingerbread – this is my new holiday favorite, and great for gatherings because it’s nut free (see recipe below).

So it wasn’t a traditional feast like the pilgrims. I did the menu as suggested and I had a good time with the 2-year-olds as they ate and some even asked for more, especially my own daughter. She’s pictured above with her plate of seconds. I went in a bit late to pick up my son from his processed food feast (I was hoping not to see it). They were just finishing their ice cream and here’s a picture of my son showing off his.

Organic Gingerbread (from the upcoming Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry cookbook)

The smell of gingerbread in a house full of decorations means the season is in full swing. This is a simple make-ahead recipe that will feed a crowd of tree trimmers or New Year’s guests during the holidays. Besides being delicious, this is a good way to get iron into some children’s diets with the addition of molasses.

Makes 16 servings

1½ cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup mild or light molasses
¼ cup expeller-pressed canola oil
1 large cage-free organic egg
½ cup water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease and flour an 8-inch-square glass baking dish.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder and baking soda. Add the molasses, oil, egg, and water and beat on low speed until combined. Increase speed to high and beat for 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool on rack for 10 minutes before cutting into 2-inch squares. Serve warm with freshly whipped cream or pumpkin butter.

Gift Green! Why not double the recipe and give to neighbors and friends packaged in pretty recycled tins or a glass plate? Children will love helping with wrap and special delivery.
See also Lisa’s Easy, Creative Organic Dips For Kids Recipes
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California. |
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Want S’More? (with Graham Cracker Recipe for Kids)


From Lisa Barnes

In an effort to overcome being considered the “healthy” mom (and not stigmatize my son), I made s’mores for my son’s preschool class. Kind of a large departure from my usual healthy treats, but let me explain. It wasn’t the Hershey milk chocolate, trans fat laden graham cracker, kind of s’mores. It was a semi sweet fair trade chocolate, homemade (heart shaped) graham cracker cookie treat. The childhood favorite with a gourmet, healthier twist. One of the teachers was surprised about not bringing milk chocolate, but I explained about the antioxidant benefits of dark chocolate. I didn’t go all out with homemade marshmallows (just ran out of time), but I did find a trans fat free version and bought mini ones. Mini because kids like getting more of something (4 minis seem like more than 1 large).

I was a bit intimidated coming in to the classroom. I feel like this is the teacher’s turf, and I too have lots of learning to do. I’m used to teaching parents and they are not as honest with their thoughts or critiques (at least not to my face). Of course I teach my own children and sometimes their friends in the kitchen, but this was a group of 16 children.

They put together a great campfire (made of construction and tissue paper) and the children sat around putting marshmallows on sticks (recycled from a tree that went down in the neighborhood) and “roasting” them. Very cute. Then I helped them assemble the s’mores on cooking sheets for me to bake in the teacher’s oven. I worried some kids wouldn’t like them as some said “I don’t like the chocolate melted”, “I don’t like marshmallows” and “I eat the chocolate separately” (my own purist son). The teacher told me “it’s not about the end product, but the activity and the journey with children”. I did learn something. I know how much fun my own son has cooking with me, so being part of a group would be no different – whether they’re playing in a home kitchen or around a make believe campfire. I appreciated the reminder and look forward to going back.

Maybe I’ll try something healthier next time – hummus anyone?

Here’s a recipe for homemade graham crackers minus the trans fats of many of the processed, store bought varieties. Roll them thinner for crisp grahams or thicker for a cookie version.

Greatest Graham Crackers from The Petit Appetit Cookbook

1 cup organic graham or whole wheat flour

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ cup unsalted butter

½ cup honey

¼ cup organic milk, plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing

Preheat oven to 400 F. Combine flours and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until consistency of cornmeal. Mix in honey; dough will still be lumpy. Mix in milk until a stiff dough comes together.

Roll out dough on a liberally floured surface to ¼ inch thickness. Cut into squares or use cookie cutters to make desired shapes. Prick each cracker with a fork and brush with milk.

Bake crackers on ungreased baking sheets for 12 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven and let crackers cool about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Makes about 48 crackers.

Cut it out. Of course these can be cut to look like traditional store-bought graham crackers. However if you want something more fun (toddlers can help) use your cookie cutters to create desired shapes. Little hands love hearts, flowers and stars.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Lisa Barnes
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