Looking for an easy way to get your toddler or young child into the kitchen? Great! Cooking with your children is one of the simplest ways to encourage healthy eating and getting kids to try new foods. Plus, they stop asking "when will it be time to eat" because they can see the meal being created! Now if only we could limit the incessant "are we there yet" on a roadtrip.
So you've decided you need a cookbook to get your kids in the kitchen. That's a great idea! There really is nothing else that brings a family together in the kitchen than working through a cookbook. Plus, you can jot notes, collect cooking stains on the pages, and pass it down to the next generation.
At Snackster Sam, we're all about trying new foods that grow. We've tried many cookbooks catered to toddlers and young kids, and here are our favorites.
Little Helpers Toddler Cookbook
Today's dinner was a big hit in our house. I even heard from my 4-year old, "Mom, you make the best foods." Aww, thanks kiddo! Good thing she doesn't remember all the food failures when I was just learning how to cook. I'm so thankful for a period in my life when we were literally counting pennies. Yes, you read that right... I'm thankful. Our disposable income (you know, the money you have left over after all the bills are paid) was $2. Yes, you read that right, too. We couldn't afford to go out to eat. Even McDonald's was out of the budget. It was during this period of our life that I studied cooking shows. (Martha Stewart's Cooking School and The Chew were my favorites!) I learned how to cut an onion, cook a scrambled egg, and really learned how to make something delicious and nutritious out of very little money.
That is a big reason I made Snackster Sam. When I looked for other lists of peanut-free snacks that are safe to bring to school, I found lists that included items exclusively sold at high-end grocery stores. Eating the best foods isn't for the upperclass. Choosing healthy foods can be more simple and affordable than you may realize! Snackster Sam helps make it easy.
When I saw the can of wild rice on sale (and if you've messed with wild rice before, canned is so much easier), I knew I could make a meal out of it! There are so many variations. Give it a try and share your comments below!
Wild Rice Chicken
2-4 chicken breasts
1 can cooked wild rice (used 40 oz can in video, but can adjust to family size), partially drained
1 onion (any kind)
1 pint mushrooms (any kind)
1/3 stick butter
Optional Ingredients and Variations
2 stalks celery
1/2 cup cranberries (fresh or dried)
1 green pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit on convection oven, otherwise 350 degrees (adjust for cooking times).
Place chicken on non-stick baking sheet. Season evenly with thyme and rosemary. Place baking sheet in preheated oven in center rack.
While chicken is cooking, heat butter in pan on medium heat. When butter is melting, add sliced mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms for a minute. Add sliced onions and continue to sauté. When onions are translucent, add partially drained can of wild rice. (You can add other ingredients for a variation while sautéing or now.) Turn heat to medium-high and allow mixture to cook uncovered.
When chicken is finished cooking (it should just start turning golden brown), remove from oven. Carefully slice chicken and add to wild rice mixture. Cover and cook for about 5-7 more minutes. The chicken will absorb the liquid from the wild rice mixture.
Serve immediately. Pairs well with green beans and other vegetables.
Did you try it? Share your thoughts below!
I whipped up this very simple pasta, and oh-m-gee was it ever delicious. It's packed with flavor (oh, and nutrients), and it was so good, you forgot it was actually meat-less. Say what?! No complaints from the hubby, because it is still full of meaty-like vegetables that make you feel full (without the guilt).
The best part is the kids loved picking out each vegetable and talking about what it was, where it grows, and how it tastes. This is a part of the dinner-table-talk that needs to happen with every family. Discussing how your food grows can fill a conversation and spark so many other interesting learning opportunities (like different states, countries, climates, culture, and so much more)! And it's a conversation that is engaging for a wide range of ages.
Ok back to the recipe.
There are so many variations to this, but I hope you try new vegetables and give it a try!
Easy Vegetable Pasta
1 eggplant, peeled and diced
1 zucchini, diced
Fresh diced tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes
1 pint fresh mushrooms (any kind)
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced and chopped
1 can tomato sauce
Penne noodles (or your preference or none! Make it your own!)
Heat oil in a frying pan. Add diced onions and sauté until translucent (a few minutes). Add mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes. Add diced eggplant and zucchini. Stir frequently and let cook for about 5 minutes or until zucchini starts to soften (it shouldn't be wilted, but you'll notice the seeds start to loosen). Add diced tomatoes, garlic, seasoning, and sauce. Stir and cover pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
While your vegetable mixture is cooking, cook your noodles according to the directions. You do not need to use a noodle, and you could certainly use a spaghetti squash or other vegetable instead. I like to keep my sauce to noodle ratio 3:1. You don't need a lot of noodles... the sauce is the main part of the meal! ;)
When noodles are finished, add the noodles to the sauce. And serve!
p.s. This is possibly even better the second day!
Please share your comments below! Did you try it? Tell us!
As I stated in that post, "I like to go to the store with little or no plans for meals for the week. I know it's a foreign concept to many of my meal-planning friends, but if I go in with a set plan, I may miss out on discounts, fresh and in-season produce, and new recipe ideas. When I shop, I start in the produce section and base all of my meals for the week on what is on sale and what looks ripe and ready to eat. If my meal plan includes avocados but they are not ready to eat, I would either be forced to use unripe avocados or change my meal plan. Going in with no plans makes shopping more fun and keeps my mind opened to possibilities!"
SNACKSTER SAM'S BIG ADVENTURE - ON SALE NOW
Later in the week, I had no plans for dinner again . . . but I did have several ingredients that I knew would make a great meal! Watch the video below to see what I created and keep reading to get the recipe:
One Pan, No Plan Dish
4 potatoes, diced
1 green pepper (or any color variation), chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2-1 package fresh mushrooms
Handful of kale
Handful of fresh spinach
1 cup tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1 can tomato sauce
2 chicken breasts, cooked
1 cup red kidney beans
SEASON TO YOUR TASTES
Add oil to saucepan and heat to medium-high. Add hardy vegetables (potatoes, pepper, onion) and seasoning. Cook, stirring often, until potatoes are tender. Add protein of choice. Add tomato sauce and stir until sauce is thoroughly distributed. Add softer vegetables (leafy vegetables, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes). Cook for a few minutes or until leafy vegetables are tender.
(If cooking chicken, either do so in another pan or fully cook in the ONE pan and set aside until directions call for you to add the chicken back to the pan. Otherwise, this is a great way to use leftover chicken!)
TIP: Get children involved with prepping the vegetables. Smaller children can wash vegetables and rip up leafy vegetables while older children can open cans and stir the pan. At the dinner table, ask them to identify the different vegetables in the meal. Then discuss where the vegetables grown - is it on the ground or on trees? For older children, go further and find out the geographical location where they grow!
Want to learn more about helping kids find the best foods? Get the book: SNACKSTER SAM'S BIG ADVENTURE
I opened the fridge - empty.
My first thought was to just order dinner or go out to eat, but I knew that would just delay the REAL solution, which was to go to the grocery store. So I bundled up, brought my shopping buddy, and ventured to our local grocery store with a couple of ideas in mind for dinner. I like to go to the store with little or no plans for meals for the week. I know it's a foreign concept to many of my meal-planning friends, but if I go in with a set plan, I may miss out on discounts, fresh and in-season produce, and new recipe ideas. When I shop, I start in the produce section and base all of my meals for the week on what is on sale and what looks ripe and ready to eat. If my meal plan includes avocados but they are not ready to eat, I would either be forced to use unripe avocados or change my meal plan. Going in with no plans makes shopping more fun and keeps my mind opened to possibilities!
Luckily, there were good sales on produce that I wanted. I picked up some Portobello mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, green and orange peppers, and avocado. With these ingredients, I knew I could make a large meal that would feed my family for two meals - Vegetarian Chili. I grabbed the other ingredients I would need, along with items for other meals for the week, and headed home to get started on dinner.
SNACKSTER SAM'S BIG ADVENTURE - ON SALE NOW
What I love about chili is it's SO easy. You can add more of the ingredients you like, add as much or little seasoning as you want, and it's a hands off meal. It's really hard to make a mistake. After you chop all the vegetables, you can let the heat do its thing until you're ready to eat. This chili is so simple, I was on the phone throughout the preparation and cook time!
I used this Vegetarian Chili Recipe for inspiration. This chili is not your average chili recipe . . . think of it more as a Mexican-influenced chili. With cilantro and avocado, this recipe takes me to the beaches of Mexico. It's packed with vegetables and is meatless, but is not lacking in flavor or protein. If you are wanting to make this but are nervous about the cost of Portobello mushrooms, compare the cost of the mushrooms to the meat you would have used for traditional chili. Or if you can, make this when you can get the ingredients on sale!
Not Your Average Chili Recipe
2 tablespoons oil (olive, coconut, or canola)
1 large onion, chopped (red, yellow, or white)
1 bell pepper, chopped (orange, yellow, green, or red)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 zucchini, chopped
1 cup corn kernels (frozen or fresh)
4 portobello mushrooms, washed and cut (I just broke the mushrooms as I was washing)
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 can black beans (you can use chili black beans or plain - drain and wash according to directions on can)
1 can tomato sauce OR 2 cans of canned tomatoes (whole or diced)
1 can vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
SEASON TO YOUR TASTES
1-2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne
GARNISH (optional - but good!)
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Chopped green onions
Cooked brown rice (can add to finished chili or serve on the side - or use to make leftovers different!)
Add oil to a large stock pot and turn heat to medium-high. Add chopped onions and peppers. Stir and let cook for about 3 minutes, or until onion starts to become translucent. Add garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, and corn (if using fresh). Stir and let cook for about 6 minutes. Add seasoning and stir until vegetables are thoroughly coated. Add canned good items and fresh tomatoes. (Add corn if frozen.) Bring chili to boil and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve and garnish as desired.
Let's work together and create the best cookie recipe! Today, I made cookies and reduced the sugar, added fiber (oats), and protein (nuts)... but there is so much more we can do! What items from my list can you add and what ingredients can you subtract?
Tell me in the comments below how you would improve this recipe!
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 brown sugar
2 eggs (hardboiled eggs are on the list!)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup crushed dark chocolate bar
1 cup chopped walnuts (or nut of choice)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, mix flour, oats, baking soda, salt. Set aside. (Get kids to help stir!)
In a large bowl, soften butter. After butter has been softened, add sugar. Mix well. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
Slowly add dry ingredients to mix in large bowl until completely mixed. Add ingredients as desired (we added a dash of cinnamon and some more oats). Add chocolate and walnuts. Mix and drop rounded spoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown on edges.
Let cool on cooling rack and enjoy a couple!
Store in an airtight container for another day or store in the freezer.
Searching for the best snacks? Get the list!
SOAR Roasted Delicata Squash
- 1 Seasonal Squash of your choice
- 1 chopped Onion
- 4 cloves Garlic, smashed and chopped
- 3 tbsp Avocado oil or Olive oil
- 1 tbsp adobo seasoning or herbamare (organic preferred)
Or make your own seasoning - sea salt, pepper, onion, oregano, turmeric mixture
Mix ingredients and roast at 350 degrees until tender (about 30 minutes)
Pair with your favorite green salad and grilled protein!
Try any seasonal squash!!!
Get the list of the best snacks!
But I think of ICE CREAM. Because my kids always want it (and so does my husband). But ice cream is EXPENSIVE and it's loaded with ADDED SUGAR. The cheaper ice cream usually doesn't even contain the natural ingredients that are used to make homemade ice cream.
So on a mission (like Snackster Sam's), I found a recipe to make a knock-off ice cream. I modified it slightly and removed the added sugar.
What's amazing about this recipe?
It's SO EASY TO MAKE AND CONTAINS 3 INGREDIENTS!
AND YOUR KIDS WILL THINK IT'S REAL ICE CREAM. I PROMISE.
Bananas for Ice Cream
3 frozen RIPE bananas (if you cut up prior to freezing, it will be easier)
Splash of milk, water, or milk alternatives - you don't need much!
Dash of cinnamon (optional, but oh so good)
Fruit toppings (blueberries, strawberries, bananas, etc)
Spoons & bowls!
Put ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
A note on blending: You will need to be patient. The frozen bananas take a while to blend. Some people suggest cutting up the bananas prior to freezing, and this would make your blending time shorter. I don't really mind babysitting the banana. You want some liquid, but if you add too much, your mixture will turn out like a smoothie rather than an ice cream consistency. It is better to add more than subtract, so start with just a small splash.
Ok... so why is this the best EVER?
I purchased my bananas at a discount - they were bruised and over ripe. Which is exactly what I wanted! If you can't get your bananas on sale, just store your bananas that are overripe in the freezer. Either way, bananas are much cheaper than ice cream.
Every time I make this, I have the kids go to another room while I make the Bananas for Ice Cream. When they SEE and TASTE it, they BELIEVE it is ice cream from the store. It's actually funny to watch them look in the freezer later and ask for more "ice cream". They have no idea how I make it magically appear!
If you have a picky eater who hates bananas, just try it. Frozen RIPE bananas taste so much different than non-frozen ones. Plus, if you add a dash of cinnamon or some other fruit on top, it masks any hint of banana.
What I love about this recipe is you can change it. For a change of flavor, you could add other FROZEN fruit (just keep bananas as the main ingredient). Let your kids experiment with seasonings (I bet ginger would be yummy!) and toppings. The possibilities are nearly endless!
Bananas are Snackster Sam approved! (Ice cream is not.)
(all organic if possible, use Clean Fifteen if unable to find organic)
2 Tbsp olive oil, avocado oil, lard, ghee, or coconut oil
6-8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large cauliflower, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, chopped into 1" cubes
1 medium zucchini, chopped into 1" cubes
5 celery stalks, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
2 cans diced tomato
2 Tbsp tomato paste
3 Tbsp chilli powder
4 tsp ground cumin
Sea salt and pepper added in the end to your preference
6 cups SOAR vegetable broth (if using pre-made then be sure it is organic, preservative and additive free)
1 -2 large avocado for garnish at the end
1 bunch parsley chopped to garnish
1 lb of grass-fed ground beef to add at the end (if you just can't live without the animal protein. I separated half of the chili and added the ground beef)
1 can black beans (skip if you are sensitive to legumes)
1 large pot (I used 20Q pot, need >10Q is my best guess)
1 cutting board
1 sharp chopping knive
1 can opener
Chop all ingredients. In large stock pot, sauté onion and garlic until onion is translucent. Add squash and all other vegatables adding tomato paste, chili powder and cumin. Mix well. Add diced tomatoes and vegetable broth and black beans (if including). Bring to a boil and then back to simmer and cover. Simmer until vegetables are al dente.
Serve in bowls and top with avocado and parsley. I served a side of mixed green salad, because you can't have enough veggies!