Tag Archives: food

Birthday Disaster – Saved!

I thought I was doing everything right for a 3 year old’s birthday: a lot of planning, a lot of googling and pinning, trying not to go overboard with favors or decorations. I thought I had learned a lot after his other birthdays. For 1 year old, we had it at the house and it was a lot of stuff to prep and clean. So for #2, we went to a park, which was also a lot of stuff to prep, and then throw out on a picnic table 30 seconds before anyone showed up. So for 3, I thought we would have it at the house, and yes, I would have to clean, but then at least I would get to enjoy a clean house for a few days afterward.

Then the party favors I ordered from Amazon arrived and they were broken.

These train whistles are cute. Oh, wait, they don't work.

These train whistles are cute. Oh, wait, they don’t work.

Then Finn came back from visiting his grandparents and threw tantrums for about nine hours in a row because we wouldn’t turn on another episode of Curious George.

curious george 2

George, you are killing me.

Then I woke up on the morning of the party to discover that the food we had prepped the night before had turned kinda brown, kinda black, kinda super gross overnight. I’m still not sure what happened there.

I didn't actually take a picture of the disgusting food. You're welcome.

I didn’t actually take a picture of the disgusting food. You’re welcome.

I hope I wasn’t crazy-rude to everyone who showed up to help. Thanks to my sister and my in-laws, everything was ship-shape and ready by party time. None of the nice trucks got thrown into the sandbox, Finn only ignored his friends for the first half of the party, and the cake was magnificent.

My neighbor brought over this cake from Paige’s Bakehouse. It was yummy.

thomas cake

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On Pancakes and Sick Kids

When you are stuck in the house all day with a sick child, as I was on Thursday, you could do a lot worse than …

pancakes

… make a whole bunch of pancakes.  Here’s why:

1. Kids can help make them.

2. If you can’t flip a pancake one-handed while carrying a grumpy child at the beginning of the endeavor, you will have plenty of chances to practice. And once you get it down, you will rightly feel like you have superpowers.

3. You can eat a pancake one-handed while walking around the house, while carrying a sick kid, while doing all the other hundreds of things you have to do when someone doesn’t feel good. Remembering to eat sometimes falls off the list, at least for me.

4. You can make bland ones that will feel ok on a yucky tummy.

5. You can make healthy ones. I made these “carrot cake” ones.

6. You can make peanut butter and jelly ones. It is really easy. Take a regular recipe for pancakes, even a box of mix, and add peanut butter chips. Serve with jelly instead of syrup. DONE.

6. They are cheap.

7. You can freeze them and eat them for days.

8. You can eat them for any meal or every meal.

9. Anyone can eat them, from babies on up.

10. Some children (even my children?) can be a little patient while you work, knowing that you are churning out another good thing to eat every 3-4 minutes.

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Cooking With My Kids

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It seems like “cook with your kids” is the parenting advice du jour. If your kids help in the kitchen, they may turn into better eaters with a more adventurous palate. If your kids help in the kitchen, they will have valuable self-sufficiency skills. If your kids help in the kitchen, you will create wee gourmands who appreciate what you made for dinner instead of asking for toast. Again.

Sure, any of those outcomes is possible, but they are also not guaranteed. If you let your kids help you in the kitchen and they still, STILL, will not eat that cherry tomato you helped them slice up, will you consider it all a flop? A failure that you don’t feel like repeating? What if you encouraged your kids to help make dinner and all that happened was that you had fun together for half an hour? Is that a waste if it doesn’t bring down obesity numbers? Or if everyone still wants toast for dinner?

My kids do help in the kitchen, at least the 2 year old does.  He loves to make eggs.  He will often ask to eat eggs for breakfast just so he can help make them, and then he often will refuse to eat them. I get irritated at this behavior, but it seems pretty typical for a kid his age; I mean, he doesn’t like to clean up his toys after playing with them, either, right? I try not to see the wasted eggs, the wasted groceries, the wasted money, the wasted food (and then, typically, I solve all these problems by eating them for my own breakfast, but that is probably another post).

So, here is my “advice” on having kids help in the kitchen.

Allow for messes. No one (not even grown ups) likes to try a new activity while someone who is better at everything hovers around them going, “Wait! Not that way! Oops, ohmygod, you spilled! Hold on, I’m going to clean it up. Wait! Don’t touch anything until I have a rag ready! I said wait!” So, I try to be a little zen for five minutes about the messes.  The best parenting advice I ever got was from my brother: “No matter what happens, you can always wash your hands later.” And kitchens are pretty much designed to be scrubbed down every so often.

But I don’t tempt fate: I don’t make anything with red food coloring.

Allow for bad measurements. In the book Bringing Up Bebe, Pamela Druckerman talks about how French children bake their own cakes. When I first read it, I had this moment of panic, because if you’ve ever talked to someone who was passionate about baking, or if you’ve tried to bake much yourself, you know that measuring is super important. People who don’t like to measure are supposed to buy their cupcakes at the store or something.  Little kids are not going to measure anything right, unless you are holding their hands the whole time.  I let them do the best they can on their own and then use my judgement on whether we need another small scoop of sugar or flour or whatever.  Then I adjust the baking time if it looks too stiff or too runny, and we might eat a bad cake every once in awhile. It’s ok.

Let them push the buttons. Have you noticed? Kids like doing that.

Wear costumes. We are fans of special cooking aprons. It lets everyone know who is the chef in the kitchen today. Finn calls his “my napron.”

Sometimes I let them do stuff I think is a bad idea. I’m not suggesting letting anyone climb into a hot oven or anything, but … they will want to use the whisk on those eggs. They will want to stand on a chair next to the stove. They will want to cut something up. I let them try. I show them how to do it in a way that makes it feel a little safer, and then let it happen.

Line everything. Use cupcake liners or parchment paper or tinfoil or whatever. It’s no fun if the final masterpiece won’t come out of the pan.

Encourage patience. Mix all the ingredients up and then wait while it cooks. Later, everyone can have a taste. It’s called patience. I know I wish my kids understood it better.

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Yogurt. Plain Old Yogurt.

I read this blog regularly: It’s Not About Nutrition by Dina Rose.  She calls herself a “feeding expert” and writes about how to raise a healthy kid who is an adventurous eater.  Unlike the experts who show up in parenting magazines and blogs just make us all feel inadequate, she is the real deal. I love her no-nonsense approach to getting kids to eat better foods, try new things, and be healthier in general.

yogurt

A while back she posted about what we call “kid yogurt” in our house — the little cups of flavored yogurt that my older son will shovel down his throat for every meal.  Some of them have as much sugar in them as soda.  SODA.  And then she pointed me over to Yogurt 101, a series put together by Cindy at Fix Me a Snack.  Cindy developed 101 recipes using plain yogurt.  Things like: Applesauce Yogurt, Chocolate Yogurt, Butterscotch Yogurt.  Things that are pretty tasty.

I knew kid yogurt had a lot of sugar in it, sure.  But until I read through this stuff, I hadn’t actually pulled the trigger on saying goodbye to them completely.  But a few weeks ago, I did it.  No more flavored yogurt.  When Finn ate the last Yo-Kids blueberry packet, I hoped it would be gone forever.

As a replacement, we started out with the recipe for Peanut Butter Yogurt, as peanut butter gets a lot of love in our house.  The recipe from Cindy calls for jelly on top, but I am here to say that if you like peanut butter, it tastes delicious even without it.  Finn liked it, too.

The odd thing about peanut butter is that you can mix it with something else, like yogurt or soy milk or anything else mild and creamy like that, and it doesn’t lose any of its peanut-buttery-ness.  I generally do a mix of 1-to-1.  We make peanut butter “dip” for fruit out of PB and whatever kind of milk we have around and it still tastes just like peanut butter.  The texture is different, a little less sticky, but that is ok by me.

After we tried PB yogurt, we did Applesauce Yogurt, which Finn also liked.  Then came Strawberry Jam Yogurt, another winner.

Finn, like I said, will eat his weight in yogurt if given the chance.  So, as an experiment as I was mixing up bowl after bowl of Strawberry Jam Yogurt, I added less and less jam, to see what was the tipping point.  By the last bowl, I was adding maybe as much as 1/2 teaspoon of jam.  He still thought it was good.

And then today, what a consider a crowning achievement: he saw me eating plain yogurt mixed with some strawberries, and asked for some without anything added to it.  He dipped his own strawberries into the plain, unsweetened yogurt.  And then he asked for seconds.

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