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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Taming the Pomegranate, with Organic Minty Fruit Salad Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

Did you know November is National Pomegranate Month?  They’re high in antioxidants, potassium and fiber and the seeds make tasty snacks, thirst quenching juice, and add color and flavor to dishes of all kinds.

When my sister and I were little we (mostly she) loved pomegranates. She would open them and the seeds would fly everywhere, staining her clothing and anything else in the way. We would eat them almost like an apple, so my mom would have us go outside to eat them (not that bad we lived in So Cal and it was always sunny).  In researching my latest cookbook I discovered a quick, easy and mess free way to enjoy the seeds… thanks to Lily Pulitzer, of all people.  I was so excited to find this trick about freeing the seeds.  First I tried it (to be sure it worked) and then I called my sister to tell her.  Even my son can do it (although it’s even easier if mom does it and he just eats it).  Now this week when my kids spied the pomegranates in the store and asked for them I didn’t even hesitate.  And when I’m thinking of something festive to add to a salad or dessert, I start de-seeding.

Here’s the de-seeding tip and a yummy and refreshing fruit salad for the holiday season.

Pomegranate De-seeding Tip

Fill a large bowl with water. Score pomegranate with a sharp knife into quarters going through the blossom end. Do not cut deeper than pith. Immerse pomegranate in water and pull apart at cuts. Continue to work under water and use fingers to pull seeds from pith. The seeds will sink to the bottom and the pith float on top. Pour off water and pith and drain seeds.

Put mint in a mortar and grind with a pestle to release juices. Add evaporated cane juice and mash together.

Place pomegranate seeds, pineapple, and mango in a medium serving bowl. Stir in mint-cane juice mixture to combine and coat fruit. Chill in refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Minty Winter Fruit Salad

Makes 6 servings

1 organic pomegranate
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 ripe organic pineapple, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into bite-size pieces (about 4 cups)
1 organic mango, peeled, pitted, and cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon evaporated cane juice
See also Jeff’s Organic Pomegranate Time Is Here
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: |
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Home-Made Fruit-Free Granola (Organic Recipe)


From Lisa Barnes

I had a client who had a fruit allergy and couldn’t find a fruit-free granola recipe for herself and toddler, Zuzu. I came up with this recipe, which does not contain any fruit or fruit juice. Of course, fruit lovers can add fresh or dried fruit to create a variety of textures and flavors.

Makes about 8 cups

5 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup organic wheat germ
1 cup organic wheat bran
1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds, walnuts, pecans, or combination
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup maple syrup or pasteurized honey
1/3 cup expeller pressed canola oil

Preheat oven to 300°F. In a large bowl, stir together oats, germ, bran, nuts, seeds, and cinnamon. In a smaller bowl, whisk together syrup and oil. Stir syrup mixture into nut and grain mixture to coat and moisten.

Divide mixture in half and spread evenly onto 2 greased jelly-roll pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until lightly brown and crisp. Stir after 20 minutes of baking to be sure all sides are golden. Remove from oven and transfer with a spatula to parchment paper to cool. Break into desired size clusters and enjoy dry as a snack, or with milk, yogurt, or cottage cheese.

Tip: Eat some now, save some for later! Store the granola in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks at room temperature. For longer storage, seal in freezer bags and place in the freezer for up to 2 months.
See also Lisa’s Got (the right) milk?
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.
Images Credit: © Paul Cowan | |
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Outstanding In The Field

From Lisa Barnes

Hard to believe that less than 2 cool weeks ago I was having a wonderful dinner al fresco in Napa Valley. I wasn’t at a fancy restaurant, but literally in the middle of a garden (owned by vegetarian restaurant and yoga studio, Ubuntu). The guests were a community of food, farm and garden lovers and the conversation was friendly and enthusiastic.

The dinner was created by Outstanding in the Field,  a company that creates moveable feasts across the country for 5 months of the year. Outstanding founder, Jim Denevan and his colleagues and volunteers have been arranging rustic dinners on farms, dairies, gardens, beaches, ranches and vineyards since 1999, in an effort to close the gap between consumers and diners and their food, and the land it comes from. Denevan says “at conventional restaurants the farms come to the table. Outstanding in the Field works the other way around. There’s a strange phenomenon in our culture that makes celebrities out of chefs while ignoring the people who actually produce our food.”  While they do take you out in the field, there are still restaurant luxuries such as white tablecloths, stemware, and good service.  No paper plates or picnic ware here. And your food is not only sourced locally, but maybe within feet or even inches of your chair.

I’d been looking forward to attending one of these dinners for a long time. I had read articles and signed up for the Outstanding website newsletter for an announcement of a date in my area. Months ago I saw the date and city and quickly my husband and I signed up with some friends without knowing where exactly it was to be held or who would be preparing the meal. The secrecy certainly added to my excitement.

The date finally arrived and the day was beautiful and warm. We drove out to a rural area of Napa and were led to a dirt parking lot. The guests arriving were from as far away as New York and as close as 2 miles down the road. There were first timers as well as a couple who has followed the feasts through 5 states.  The site of the long table was beautiful. The “kitchen” set-up was a rustic barn bustling with chef and servers. The view of the valley was outstanding and vast and changed to dark and starry by the evening’s end. (Note: next time I’ll bring a flashlight for the walk down the dirt road to the car).

My favorite part about the experience was the tour and talk in the garden prior to the dinner, probably because it’s where I have the least amount of knowledge and experience relating to food, and most admiration). At every Outstanding event, dinner is preceded by a farm and garden tour. Our tour was led by Jeff Dawson, curator and biodynamic master gardener of Ubuntu.  His love and understanding of all things nature was inspiring (As he spoke about the earth breathing I was imagining the inhale and exhale).  He showed us a greenhouse of microgreens and herbs, trellises of perfect looking tomatoes (which he said our dinner would be the last in season), and beautiful rows of greens and edible flowers I’d never tasted before.

I had many questions for the Outstanding folks: How do you choose a venue?  Does the weather ever cause a problem?  How do you do local logistics?  I heard lots of great stories including fines for setting up the table without permits, and logistics of equipment in beach caves and the overall goodwill and understanding of diners and communities.

Chefs Jeremy and Deanie Fox created a wonderful vegetarian meal starting with champagne served with castelvetrano olives and marcona almonds with lavendar sugar and sea salt. My husband had to pull me away from the table. There was a tasty and very “meaty” dish of squashes, vadouvan, amaranth, coriander and nasturtiums. The guests next to us were joking they had a salami in their car if they needed to add it or felt hungry after the meal.

One or two other dishes were not as interesting and may have fallen flat in a restaurant. However, sitting in the garden, being surrounded by nature and eating by candle and flashlight (at the end) made up for any short comings. In addition to the fresh, local ingredients in all 5 courses, there were also biodynamic wine pairings. The evening was long (as it got cooler it seemed too long) at about 5 hours… kind of like attending a wedding reception. We were lucky to sit by “veterans” in the know who brought extra layers and even blankets, and were generous to share with us.

Per Ubuntu owner Sandy Lawrence, “Ubuntu, translated by the Zulu people of South Africa is ‘humanity towards others’ and the Ubuntu ideology requires harmony through observance of community rules, such as connection to each other and to the land we call home and from which we grow our food.”

That pretty much summed up the evening.
See also Lisa’s Slow Food Nation 2008
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.
Images Credit: Lisa Barnes |
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Pumpkin Patch Visit with Organic Pumpkin Ice Cream Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

I love visiting a pumpkin patch this time of year. Not the kind with a jumpy and a row of look alike pumpkins. But a real patch at a working farm with tractors, hay rides, animals, u-pick pumpkins, potato digging (my kids with their prizes), hay maze, cow milking and every variety of pumpkin and squash imaginable.

This is, of course, a fun Fall ritual, but also a great teaching opportunity to show your kids (especially those from the city) how a farm works.  We know how precious small farms are to our nation’s communities.  At this year’s Slow Food Nation event there was a wake-up call to encourage more to become involved in farming and teaching, and how vital it is for our food safety, health, environment and economy.  On the farm kids can see the balance and relationship of people, land and animal (and also appreciate how hard the people and animals work).

Across the nation there are many farms as well as farmer’s markets that have special pumpkin and harvest activities that are great for families with curious children. Besides pumpkins, autumn is also the time to find Asian pears, apples, persimmons, pomegranates, grapes, and winter squashes (butternut, acorn). To find a pumpkin patch and/or farmer’s market in your area go to LocalHarvest.

My family tradition for the past three years is to head to Peter’s Pumpkin Patch at Spring Hill Cheese Goat Creamery in Petaluma, California.  Most years we have visiting grandparents with us to share the experience as well.  Last year my son (4 at the time) asked his grandma where the “gutters” were, when approaching a milking cow.  This year my daughter (age 2) cried when we went to leave.  We asked her what was troubling her and she said she needed to see Jessie again (the same milking cow).  A big favorite activity, after getting lost in the hay maze, but before taking a wheelbarrow into the pumpkin field is eating homemade ice cream.  Not just any ice cream, but pumpkin ice cream.  This is one of my all-time favorite tastes.  While my version doesn’t do the creamery justice, I’ve included my recipe below.

Organic Pumpkin Ice Cream Recipe

Makes 1 quart

Sweet Cream Base:

2 cups organic heavy cream
1 cup organic milk
2 cage free organic eggs
3/4 cups sugar

Whisk eggs in mixing bowl.  Whisk in sugar, a little at a time until blended.  Whisk in cream and milk.

Ice Cream:

1 cup canned organic pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

Pour 1/2 sweet cream base into a second bowl.  Mix in pumpkin until blended well.  Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg.  Add remaining sweet cream base.

Place mixture into ice cream maker and freeze per manusfacturer’s directions.
See also LIsa’s Happy HallowGreen – Roasted Organic Pumpkin Seeds 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: Soybeans © Norman Chan | |
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Potluck Salads (Organic Recipes)

From Lisa Barnes

It’s potluck time at my kids’ school.  You may remember (or you can read here) my blog (rant) from last year regarding everyone who brings take-out pizza to the school potluck.  Although after now attending a few of these school functions I realize the other popular way out is with dessert.  Who doesn’t like to make and eat cookies and cupcakes?  Plus think how popular your child will be with his friends.

I feel like I shouldn’t take up the dessert choice and the main dishes have improved (a great enchilada and chicken at the last one).  So now I’m bringing salads. Not a typical lettuce salad, but something unique.  Even though I know unique may not be eaten (or tried) by everyone.  Here are two that are easy, healthy, tasty and very colorful.

Organic Confetti Slaw

Here the produce takes center stage with a bright, vitamin-rich mix of colors and flavors that will entice children and adults alike. Cutting julliened pieces or shredding fruits and vegetables with a box grater is a great way to add extra vegetables into dishes such as quesadillas and pasta sauces.

Makes 5 (1-cup) servings

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed organic orange juice
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large organic zucchini, julienned
1 medium organic red or orange bell pepper, juliened
1 small organic Fuji apple, peeled and juliened
1 cup juliened jicama
1 cup shredded organic purple cabbage

In a medium bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, and olive oil. Add the zucchini, bell pepper, apple, jicama and cabbage, and toss together to combine.

Monica’s Organic Edamame Salad

My friend Monica brought our family a lovely dinner after I came home from the hospital when my daughter was born. The best part was this yummy and beautiful salad. It quickly became a family favorite. Whenever I make it my son Jonas asks, “Did Monica make this for us?” This is a very versatile and quick dish because you can use many prepackaged convenience items (such as slivered almonds), make use of left-over cooked rice, or even find pre-cooked rice in your store. It can be made ahead for a potluck picnic or school event.

Makes 10 (1-cup) servings

1 1/2 cups cooked organic brown rice (left over or pre-packaged)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen organic white corn, thawed
1 (16-ounce) package fresh or frozen organic edamame, (if frozen, cooked according to package directions)
1/2 cup chopped organic celery
1/3 cup organic golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped green onions (about 4)
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves


3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
5 tablespoons expeller-pressed organic canola oil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds

Combine rice, corn, edamame, celery, raisins, onions and basil in a large bowl.

To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients.

Pour dressing over salad and toss with a spoon until everything is coated. Serve almond pieces on the side (in case of allergies) to sprinkle on top.

Picky, Picky! For a choosey eater, separate out items such as raisins and edamame that make great snacks on their own, without the fight over “mixing it all together” or getting “dressing on everything.”
See also Lisa’s Freeze Please! (do your kids hate eating veggies?)
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: Soybeans © Norman Chan | |
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Baked Organic Chicken Bites For Kids Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

Toddlers love chicken they can pick up and dip. Because the chicken is quality white meat, there’s no guessing what’s in the “nugget.” They are a healthy twist to the usual fried strips found in restaurants and freezer aisles.

Makes 4 servings

2 skinless, boneless organic chicken breasts
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 cup dry bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut chicken breasts into desired size strips. In a medium glass bowl, combine lemon juice, oil, garlic, and mustard. Add cut chicken to lemon mixture and marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or longer. Spread breadcrumbs on a plate or wax paper. Remove chicken pieces and roll in bread crumbs to coat. Place chicken pieces on lightly oiled or parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, turning after 10 minutes. Be sure sides are golden and chicken is cooked through.

Tip: Chicken little no more. These are tasty enough for adults to enjoy as an appetizer with a dip or as a main course over dressed greens or pasta.
See also Lisa’s Easy, Creative Organic Dips For Kids
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, and Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California. |
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The Hunger Challenge – (not much) Food for Thought

From Lisa Barnes

My friend Adrienne of Leah’s Pantry told me about the San Francisco Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge and asked that I participate and blog about it.  I said yes, not really knowing many details, nor the facts about the people getting assistance from the food bank and government food stamp programs.  Once I learned I was very surprised by the small amount of money that could be spent, but still I thought it was doable, as I could certainly be creative with menu options and foods.

The average family living on food stamps has just $1 per person to spend on each meal (example my family of four would have $4 total per meal).  So the challenge is to try spending just $3 per day on food (per person in your household), or $21 a week per person.  Whether you try it for a week or just one meal they want us to share (blog) about our experience.  Also any shared recipes posted that cost $1 per person will help benefit the Food Bank and local community.  I’ve posted a few on their site, as well as a Pinwheel Pizza Recipe below.

This was definetely going to be more difficult than I had originally thought and there are a few things that make this challenge especially frustrating.  The first is that it has to be done at all.  Food should be a right, not a privilege.  All individuals and families should have access to healthy foods, especially in a country where so many have so much.  The second problem is having a family.  If you were only in charge of feeding and providing for yourself as an adult you understand your own circumstances and can try to be more discilplined.  How do you tell your child “no, you may not have the other half of her banana”?  Another issue is that having this small budget means shopping and buying things within your means which may go against your health and lifestyle.  If you want peanut butter you’re more likely to buy a processed version with transfats over a natural offering because it’s half the cost.  Or you may have to drive farther to a cheaper grocery store in an unfamiliar neighborhood.  Finally there’s the problem of making a poor choice and being penalized to eat it.  In buying produce such as apples you may find once you cut one that it is mushy or wormy inside.  You don’t have the luxury to waste it and choose another.

I immediately put my thinking cap on and reviewed my cookbooks.  I realized even that was a luxury as many can not afford to buy cookbooks.  I decided there are many single food items that could be made for $1 per person but what about anything to go with it.  I could buy hamburger but might have to forgo buns (at least whole wheat ones).  I could make pasta, but not be able to have a side of greens, let alone some french bread.  Plus my whole idea of $4 per meal didn’t allow for any snacks in between.  Tell that to my growing 2 and 5 year-olds, besides myself!  Parenting is a selfless act.  I am certainly used to my daughter eating the last bite of my oatmeal or my having to give up my sandwich if my kids want more.  But while I may go without for a short while, I certainly know I can have more later (make or order another sandwich)  or choose something else (they ate the rest of the pears, I’ll eat berries instead).  These parents just go without, period.

So I decided to set up some guidelines for myself and family for the challenge:

1. Shop at a place I would normally shop.  I frequent Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Mollie Stones and farmer’s markets.  I chose Trader Joe’s because of price.

2. Stick to my usual values and food philosophy of fresh, whole foods when possible.  Buying organic for the dirty dozen.  Thus I’m not going to buy a conventional apple just because it is cheaper and sacrifice health and pesticide exposure.  If it doesn’t fit the budget I will make another choice.  Also I’m not just going to buy a $1 on-sale chicken pot pie because it will satisfy hunger (but little else).  Although I do understand how someone could make that convenient choice.

3. Buy usual items my family enjoys and I feel good about feeding them.  In fact they didn’t even notice anything was different until dinner (see below)

4. Use a calculator and make measurements for accurate costing as best I could.  This was probably the hardest and most time consuming activity.  I realize many in the situation who are using food stamps can not do this.

5. The challenge was accepted by me, not my family.  Thus you’ll see in my day’s food journal below I went over (as noted) budget when my children asked for more.  I didn’t think it fair for them to go hungry (but explained the challenge and wanted them to appreciate what they have).

My husband participated in breakfast and dinner, but not lunch.  Again it was my decision, and he has lunch meetings that were out of my control.  Going to an office with a budget of $1 either means a brown bag (same lunch as my kids’) or heading unfortunately to fast food.  I found it interesting this week because of being tuned in to a $1 a meal, that McDonald’s advertises a menu with items that are $1.  All of a sudden I can see how someone with few means goes there because their hunger will be satisfied for $1.  Cheap food and convenience rules over nutrition and health.

Here’s how my day went:


This was my usual.  Although I usually just blindly pour the oats and wet with my soy milk before heating,  this time I was careful to measure so that I would not go over budget.  I figured I had $.30 of oats for 1/2 cup.  I used 1/4 cup of milk which was $.25 and cut up a banana at $.40.  I sometimes choose berries and a sprinkle of granola on top as well, but today I did without.

My kids usually have a mix of 3 different types of cereal and granola with milk and bananas.  This day we didn’t have 3 different kinds because I needed to go to the store.  This worked out well because a family on food stamps would not have the luxury of 3 varieties.  The Nature’s Path granola is less than $3 a box at Trader Joe’s (more elsewhere, so makes a big difference when counting pennies) so they each have $.37 of cereal and $.25 of milk.  They split a kiwi at $.50.  But then they want another one, so I’m over budget by $.06 each.


The kids went to school, so I packed them the same lunch (easier and saves time).  Again since they didn’t opt in, I made a usual lunch and added it all up.  They each get a cheese stick ($.33 each), mini bagel with sunflower butter ($.20 plus $.20) and split an organic apple ($.35 each half).  I’m thinking that’s good as the total is $1.08 each.  But then I realize I don’t have the trail mix in yet.  I usually combine things like sunflower seeds, dried fruit, yogurt covered raisins, and whole wheat crackers.  Again this variety wouldn’t be a possibility.  A prepared bag of trail mix would send my total over by about $.30, which does not seem like much but is over by 30%.  Yikes.

For my lunch I made egg and olive salad.  I made this planning ahead that I would be using olives for dinner.  (You really need to think ahead when making such a tight list and shopping on this kind of budget).  My lunch is 1 piece of whole wheat bread ($.25) toasted with egg and olive salad ($.90 for three servings).  I wanted a pear but realize I can’t afford to eat the whole thing at $.65 and stay in budget.  I cut to eat just half and save the rest.  But I am very disappointed to see that the pear has some brown spots inside.  I realize there is no room for waste and eat my half anyways.


It’s dinner and I am hungry.  I usually would have a late afternoon snack with my kids.  Cheese and crackers or apple with hummus or peanut butter or yogurt.  They have theirs and I skip it.

I’m making spinach pinwheel pizza’s and salad.  Usually when I make pizza I also serve an antipasti of different veggies and dips and fancy olives and marinated mushrooms.  Not today.  Luckily I figure out I can make a salad if I buy bagged organic spinach and use it for the pizza and salad.  Also I have my olives from lunch that I didn’t use, so I’m not wasting.  The food bank gives tomato sauce and carrots so I don’t have to include those in my total.  Of course not everyone has the time or energy to make pizza dough from scratch so I bought pre-made whole wheat dough at Trader Joe’s.  At $1.29 it’s a bargain.  Although I could save if making my own (the most expensive ingredient being the yeast at $.50, then pennies for flours and oil).  Sometimes I buy pre-shredded cheese for pizza.  Let’s face it – it’s more convenient.  However buying the block and shredding myself is important to save money.  So I’ve got $.90 in cheese, $1.29 for dough, $.33 for olives, $0 for sauce and $.40 for spinach for the pizza which equals $2.92.  My (small) salad for 4 is spinach ($.40), carrots ($0), kidney beans ($.30) and cherry tomatoes ($.30) for a total of $1.00.  Thus I’m in $3.92 just under my $4 for the famly meal.  But wait!  I’ve been drinking free tap water (I realize in many places that isn’t safe), but my kids need milk.  That’s another $.25 each, so we’re over.

An interesting  thing happened when we sat down for dinner.

My son: “Is this dinner?”

Me:  “Yes, why do you ask?”

Son: “Well we usually have more things.  You only have 2, the pizza wheels and the salad.”

I explained to him about the challenge and how people who don’t have much money don’t have much food or choices when eating.  We’ve talked about how lucky we are to have food and clothing and toys and how others are not as lucky.  He seemed to understand when we donate clothing, toys and canned goods throughout the year, however this was more real.  When he asked for his and his sister’s frozen berries after dinner and I explained in a home where this was all the food for the day I’d have to say “no, I’m sorry, maybe tomorrow” – he understood.  The idea on not having enough to eat and going hungry or without himself was a powerful lesson.  But I did give him and his sister the berries.

So the challenge was eye opening.  So many things to be grateful for – healthy food, variety, abundance, family meals.  I also have a better understanding of how someone in this transitional time (you can’t get food stamps forever – the average is 9 months) can easily make unhealthy decisions or feel like they have no choices at all.  Whether you have no income or a high income, people must make the time and energy to shop wisely, stay on budget, plan menus and cook at home in order to make healthy meals a priority.  There are plenty of people with lots of money who still make nutritionally poor food choices because they do not realize the importance of eating whole foods and having healthy family meals.  I was happy with the guidelines I chose for myself in the challenge.  To know that I could eat something tasty and healthy without going to the frozen food aisle and stay pretty close to budget.  It all takes time, planning and determination.   I don’t take those things for granted.  I also did without drinks (other than water) and snacks, which are important for energy throughout the day.  What seems like small change to most of us can make a big difference in someone’s attitude, energy level and overall health.

Pinwheel Pizza

(makes 8 pieces, 1 family meal)

1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
½ to ¾ cup favorite jarred tomato sauce
¾ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup fresh organic baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons chopped black olives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch-round metal baking pan.

Roll dough out into a rectangle shape, about 10 x 12 inches. Spread sauce on top. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Top with spinach leaves (kids can help arrange) and sprinkle with olives.

Starting with shorter end, roll dough into a tube, with all sauce and toppings inside. You may have to lengthen and even out the dough roll.  Carefully transfer roll to a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, make hard quick crosswise cuts to slice through dough, preventing dough from mashing and sauce spilling out. Cut log in half, then each half in half, then each quarter in half again, so you have 8 equal pieces.

Reshape dough wheels and arrange in baking pan, leaving about ½ to 1 inch between each wheel, so they can expand and rise and push into each other when they bake. Sprinkle wheels with remaining cheese. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and dough is cooked. Carefully remove each wheel from the pan with a spatula or pie server.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler, and Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California. |
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Cookie as Comfort and Currency (Organic Recipes)

From Lisa Barnes

Besides being tasty and easy to hold, a cookie embodies so many things. If you ask a child what they like making most in the kitchen, the answer is 9 out of 10 times “baking cookies with mom”.  What’s not to like?  Getting into the dough, rolling it out (or plopping it on a pan), and finally, for some, frosting and decorating.  Some kids like making cakes better, however there’s more commitment and patience with baking a cake.  It’s also a great learning experience (measuring, counting, stirring, following directions) and bonding activity (bring your patience and sponges for clean-up, moms).

A warm cookie and glass of milk is the ultimate in comfort food for all ages. Why else would they serve them in first class on airline flights?  A warm cookie says “let’s get comfortable” and “everything is going to be alright”.  Whether it’s an after school treat on a hot summer day or a rainy day sweet by the fire – cookies are loved and welcomed by all. And because of this appreciation and love for the cookie, then there is…

Cookie as currency.  There are a few ways people can be paid with cookies.  Of course, there’s the bribe for children.  Even in the movies you hear “if you eat your _____, you can have a cookie”.  I use cookies as a means to open doors and make friends. If going to a play date’s house or meeting a new associate or attending a meeting, I bring cookies.  They are an automatic entry.  Who can say “no” or be grumpy when you’re giving and sharing a plate of cookies?

I went so far as bringing cookies to my hospital room when I was going to have my children. Let me explain… I was in labor and needed to take my mind off things.  What did I do?  Bake cookies. I thought this would be great to have for the nurses and anyone who visits me and the baby. I was right and then some.  My anethesiologist hadn’t had any dinner and ate four cookies before my surgery. The nurses came in to my room for extra visits and cookie “fixes”.  I remembered to bring the cookies when my daughter was born 3 years later too.  I think my son appreciated them the most, when he came in to meet his new little sister.

Lately I’ve been using cookies as currency to thank my neighbors and friends.  It’s such an easy and appreciated way to say “thank you for taking out our garbage” and “I appreciate you living next to me and being kind to my family”.

Here are two cookie recipes (one for everyone, one for vegans) to bake and use however you’d like… to eat or share (with or without strings attached).

Oatmeal Chocolate Cherry Cookies

From the San Francisco Junior League Cookbook which I worked on about 10 years ago. Feel free to substitute raisins or cranberries for the dried cherries or just add extra chocolate chips if you prefer. These are a favorite right now with my neighborhood.

Makes about 48 cookies

2 cups organic old fashioned oats
1¼ cups organic unbleached all purpose flour
1¼ cup organic whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) organic butter at room temperature
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
4 cage free organic egg yolks at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or non-stick baking mat.

In a large bowl combine oats, flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, mix cream butter and sugars together until light and creamy. Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Blend dry ingredients into butter mixture a cupful at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

Mold large heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and press lightly to flatten a bit. Place on prepared sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool slightly on pan, about 3 minutes, and transfer to wire rack.

Organic Vegan Carob-Banana Cookies

This cookie from The Petit Appetit Cookbook looks just like a gooey chocolate chip cookie, but made especially for vegans without the butter, eggs and chocolate.

A good, healthy option for the unknown dietary restrictions at school or for a new play date.

Makes about 30 cookies

¾ cup organic unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup organic rolled oats
1½ teaspoons organic ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 medium organic bananas, mashed, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons organic soy flour
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons organic light brown sugar
2 teaspoons grated organic orange zest
1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
½ cup vegan carob chips

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

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, oats, cinnamon and soda and whisk until well blended. In a small bowl whisk together soy flour and water. In a food processor or blender, combine bananas, soy flour mixture, brown sugar, zest, and vanilla until smooth and creamy.

Fold banana mixture into oat mixture. Fold in carob chips. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on bottom. Remove pans from oven and transfer cookies with a spatula to wire racks to cool completely.

*An “Egg”cellent Replacement. Combine 1 tablespoon soy flour with 2 tablespoons of water, to replace a single egg in a recipe.

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, and Williams-Sonoma: Cooking For Baby, and lives in Sausalito, California.
Image Credit: Lisa Barnes |
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