Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cooking with Toddlers and the Freezer Bag



As an educator and parent, I have found that children are more likely to eat their food if they played a role in preparing it. In this article, I will show you a simple trick I gave found for how to have your children help you prepare dinner with you.



I love cooking with my son. He excitedly helps operate my stand mixer and food processor. He also loves cutting, measuring, and kneading. However, since he is a toddler, most of these tasks require close supervision. Plus, these tasks rarely allow him to prepare his own dish from start to finish.

A few years ago, I developed a method that allowed my young students, and now my son, to prepare a dish from start to finish. Behold, freezer bag cooking.

I have made applesauce, hummus, and salsa using this method. Today I will demonstrate how I use it to make guacamole with my son.

To start, I set out all of my ingredients in front of my son. I make sure to have extras of the ingredients because I know that he loves to taste everything. I love telling him that he is the chef, so he can choose to add as little or as much of any ingredient as he wants. For the guacamole, I prepare sliced avocado, garlic, quartered limes, and salt.



I give my son a freezer bag (do not use a sandwich bag, it is not as durable and will most likely not withstand the smashing and squishing) and invite him to add the ingredients he needs for his guacamole.



Next, I help him squeeze out the air from the bag and seal it shut. I give him a block and let him smash away until all of the ingredients are well blended.



We serve his guacamole as part of our Tuesday no fuss taco bar and he smiles from ear to ear as we all enjoy his homemade guacamole atop our tacos.



Freezer Bag Guacamole

Ingredients

1 freezer Bag
2 avocadoes, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon of salt
2 limes, quartered

Instructions
Invite child to add ingredients to the freezer bag. Remove air from bag and seal tightly. Encourage child to smash the bag with a block, squeeze with hands, or drive over the bag with a toy car until ingredients are well combined. Enjoy!

Prep time: 10 minutesCook time:Total time: 10 minutes  Yield: 2-3 Servings 


How do you like to involve your children in cooking?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Take-2 Meals: Salmon Caesar Salad



It is so disappointing when leftovers go to waste. Sometimes all they need is a makeover (and maybe a new name) to transform them into another exciting meal!

I'm not sure why leftovers get such a bad reputation, but for some reason I cringe at the thought of reheating last night's dinner in the microwave and eating them again the next night. That's why over the years I have brainstormed different ways to spruce up leftovers into an (almost) totally new meal!

One of my favorite ways to transform leftover protein is into a salad. Besides saving good food from going to waste and thus, saving money, revamping leftovers into a salad is a great way to pack even more vegetables into a dish.

When I have leftover salmon, my go-to recipe is salmon Caesar salad. To make this salad, begin with a large bowl of shredded lettuce. Next, add your salmon. You can also use chicken for this recipe, but when I do I omit the Parmesan cheese for dietary purposes.

Then it's time to add your veggies. I know that a traditional Caesar salad does not have other vegetables besides lettuce, but to make this meal more filling, I tend to bulk it up with more veggies. I typically like to add cucumber, avocado, scallions, sun-dried tomatoes. When I made the recipe this week, I had leftover roasted tomatoes, so I tossed those in as well.

I like to prepare my dressing in my Ninja Express Chop Food Chopper. First, pulse the garlic and anchovies in your chopper and food processor. Then, add the lemon juice, mustard, mayonnaise (while traditional Caesar salad dressing is prepared with raw egg, I use mayonnaise instead since I do not feel comfortable serving raw egg to my toddler), olive oil, salt, and pepper. Puree the ingredients and pour over the salad. Then, simply toss and enjoy!

If you're children seem skeptical about eating salad, I suggest serving this dish "salad bar style". Place each ingredient in a separate bowl or mason jar and let them choose the contents and proportion of ingredients in their salad. Be sure to give them a pre-measured amount of dressing so you can be sure there will be leftovers for you as well.



Take-2 Salmon Caesar Salad

Ingredients

Salad: 
leftover salmon, flaked
1 head of Lettuce, shredded
1 persian cucumber, halved and sliced
1 avocado, cubed1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Dressing:
2 cloves of garlic
2 anchovy fillets
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

 Instructions
Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Place the garlic and anchovies in a food processor. Pulse until minced. Add the remaining dressing ingredients and blend until desired consistency is reached. Toss salad in the dressing and enjoy!
Prep time: Cook time:n/aTotal time: 10Yield: 4 Servings 

What's your favorite way to use up leftovers?



Monday, August 28, 2017

Top 10 Products for Baby Feeding

Even the littlest members of our families need to eat too! In this post I'll list my go-to products when introducing solids to babies.

I cannot believe it, but in just 3 months, our baby will be big enough for solids! After going through tons of products with my son, I have put together a comprehensive list of great items for baby feeding and I am sharing it with all of you!

1. Summer Infant Bibbity Rinse and Roll Portable Bib



With two children under the age of two, the last thing I need is more laundry. This Summer Infant Bibbity Rinse and Roll Portable Bib keeps my baby's clothing mess free and is super easy to clean. Just a little soap and water and it's ready for the next use!

2. Silicon Feeders




I love these Baby Fruit Feeders! They're great for early feeding for your baby because they only allow safe-sized pieces to pass through the holes. The silicon makes them easy to clean and they encourage independent eating.

3. Splat Mat



Let's not sugar coat it. Feeding children is a super messy process. Use this splat mat to keep your floors clean.

4. High Chair





Your little one needs somewhere to eat. This Ingenuity SmartClean Trio 3-in-1 High Chair is easy to clean and can be used 3 different ways. If you need to take it with you, the high chair seat pops off of the stand and can be attached to a chair. You can also use the base for a toddler booster seat.

5. Feeding Spoons


These Munchkin 6 Pack Soft-Tip Infant Spoon (Pack of 3) are perfect for introducing your little one to solids. They are just big enough to scoop the perfect portion size, are aesthetically pleasing, and durable (my son used his as drum sticks for a year and they're still in perfect condition for my daughter).

6. Sippy Cup



This is my favorite product on this list. The Munchkin Miracle 360 Cup is great for introducing drinking from a cup. My son transitioned flawlessly from this to a regular cup. Plus, if they get knocked over, they don't spill. Also, it's entertaining to watch adults try to figure out how they work.

7. Reusable Squeeze Bags



These WeeSprout Double Zipper Reusable Food Pouches are a great way to store purees for on the go. As my son got older and could use them more independently, I would also fill them with yogurt and applesauce to contain the mess of his snakcs. They are pretty easy to clean and last quite a while.

8. Baby Food Storage Tray



If you are planning to freeze larger quantities of baby food, these Tinukim Baby Food Storage Trays are the way to go. They help create perfectly sized portions, are easy to clean, and have a hard lid, which is convenient when stacking them in your freezer.

9. Ninja Express Food Chopper



If you've read my post about time saving kitchen gadgets, you already know that I'm obsessed with this cute little appliance. I don't really think one of those baby food making systems is necessary (though if you have the funds and storage space, go for it) and this little guy can puree a decent amount of food in seconds. Plus, it's really easy to clean (I'm sensing a theme here) and the bowl can be used to store your baby food in if you are planning on using it up pretty quickly.

10. Bowls


One of my biggest mistakes the first time around was not getting these Munchkin Stay Put Suction Bowls as soon as I started solids. The suction cup bottom allows the bowls to stay in place on your child's high chair tray. I also love the variety of sizes these bowls come in. I still use them with my toddler and let him choose what size bowl he wants for his applesauce!

Well, those are my top 10, must have products for baby feeding. Is there anything you would add to the list? 




Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to Maintain a Well Organized Pantry

A well organized pantry can save you time and money when cooking. If you have an organized pantry, you wont waste time fumbling around looking for ingredients, and ultimately increasing your cooking time. You also wont spend extra money at the store buying lasagna noodles when you already have 2 half-used boxes of them in your kitchen. In this article I will show you how I organized my pantry quickly and cheaply.



The best way to organize your pantry is to decant bulk items such as rice, pasta, sugar, and nuts into airtight containers. I tend invest in these acrylic canisters, which are super convenient and aesthetically pleasing.

I label the canisters using these reusable chalkboard labels. That way, everything was clearly labeled and organized.


However, over time this got expensive, so I sought out a cheaper way to achieve the same goal. I began washing and saving extra glass jars from pickles, pasta sauces, etc. To remove the labels, I would soak the jars overnight in a plastic bin filled with water and a little bit of dish soap.

In the morning, I would rinse the jar and the label and glue would come right off! I still used the chalkboard labels for the jars, but that was my only extra cost.



In addition to saving me money, I love that I am repurposing old jars (which I pay for anyways when I buy the sauce, pickles, etc.). I am so happy with my organized pantry, which saves me a lot of money and priceless time.

Do you have any recycling tips you would like to share?



Monday, August 21, 2017

Top 5 Gadgets to Save You Time in the Kitchen

With a full-time job, a husband in graduate school, and two adorable children two and under, I often have to rely on shortcuts in order to provide nutritious, homemade meals for my family. The items on this list help save me time without compromising flavor or nutrition.

1. A Good Slow Cooker

 
If you've read my article praising slow cookers, then you know how amazing and convenient they are. You can prepare the ingredients for your meal in the evening, pop them in the slow cooker before work, and come home to an amazingly delicious meal. I love this particular slow cooker because it has a "switch to keep warm" feature once your desired cooking time has elapsed.

2. A Meat Thermometer


Ever sat down to what appeared to be a delicious meal, only to cut into it and find it embarrassingly over or under cooked? I cannot even begin to tell you how many times this used to happen to me. However, since I bought this awesome meat thermometer, my meat has consistently come out perfectly cooked. I especially love this thermometer because the prod stays in your meat the entire time you are cooking so you don't have to worry about losing heat as you open up the oven to check the temperature. Plus, this thermometer has a convenient alarm so I can hear when dinner is ready anywhere in my house.

3. Rice Cooker



I love my  Aroma 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker and Food Steamer. I'm a huge fan of "set it and forget it" gadgets and this rice cooker allows you to do just that. I can add my ingredients to the rice cooker, turn it on, and go play with my kids without having to worry about the pot boiling over or forgetting to check to see if the rice is done after 20 minutes. Plus, this cooker has individual settings for brown rice, white rice, and vegetable steaming (which is super helpful when prepping homemade baby food!).

4. Mini Chopper

 



My husband won this Ninja Express Chop Food Chopper for me at his school's holiday party. I have to admit I was skeptical at first, I'm not a huge fan of clutter and I was not sure this product was worth the space in my kitchen. Boy was I wrong! I use this mini chopper to make salsas, dips, salad dressings, breadcrumbs, purees, banana ice cream, and baby food. This item has definitely earned a place in my kitchen!

5. Immersion Blender


As I mentioned previously, I don't like clutter in my kitchen. This compact immersion blender can do almost all of the blending that my Ninja Express Chop Food Chopper can't. I can puree soup with less clean-up than a regular sized blender, make a quick whipped cream, and whip up a quick smoothie!

I hope these items save you time in your kitchen as well! Are there any other gadgets you would add to the list?



Cooking with Toddlers and the Freezer Bag

As an educator and parent, I have found that children are more likely to eat their food if they played a role in preparing it. In this ...