How Not to Cut Your Knuckle Off

This is the first post in what I hope will be many on Toddler Tips and Tricks.

I am a mom who regularly instructs small children on cooking skills in the kitchen. And this weekend I cut off a large portion of my thumb knuckle. It not only hurt, but was embarrassing as I did it in front of Audrey. This is not a time where "Do as I say not as I do" applies. I was using the knife incorrectly. The reason I bring this up is because learning proper cutting skills is very important. Audrey and I have been working with cutting activities almost as long as she has been helping in the kitchen. The same goes for Maurene. Children do not need to have sharp knives in order to learn how to properly cut. A wonderful teacher, Michelle Stern, has a good article on her website called Teaching Knife Skills to Kids. She also includes some recommendations for special knives made for children. They are not necessary but do make cutting easier. So go read the article and don't cut your knuckle in front of your three-year-old.

Snacks are a SNAP Part Four

This has been a wonderful project for Audrey and family to participate in. Not only has it raised our awareness a little more about the difficulties of individuals receiving SNAP but it has reached others as well. Our friends were kind enough last week to bring us many jars of peanut butter for us to donate to our local food bank and several people have asked questions online. We are going to continue to look into ways we can help in our local community and we urge you to as well.
Rolled oats are a wonder food. They can be made into a quick breakfast, healthy snack, or nutritious meal. It is not a food a young child could use to easily feed himself with but with the help of an adult the possibilities are endless. Here are a few of the meals we love that use oats:

  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • Baked Oatmeal
  • Apple Crisp
  • Meatloaf
Rolled oats are inexpensive and pack a lot of nutrition. Consider purchasing a container next time you are at the store to make some great snacks or fulling breakfasts. Audrey and I are going to work on an Apple Oatmeal muffin for our bake sale this summer. We want it to be tasty and healthy. I love searching for ideas. You can search by name, ingredient, or meal and there are always plenty of results. Check it out for new items to include in your menu.

Local Edition, All The Markets

We have been going to the weekend Farmers Market most weekends since opening day but this week we finally made it to all of the weekday markets. The girls have started to associate two things with the Farmers Markets: 1) fresh produce, 2) pastries.
So we have a lot more produce this week; some local chicken; and no pastries.
This week was the last of Audrey's regular school year. We plan to take advantage of all of the great programs available this summer in Lawrence:

  • Summer reading program
  • Free lunch for kids
  • Swimming at the Indoor Aquatic Center
These are just a few of the many activities available to families in Lawrence. We will also take a trip to Topeka for the zoo; visit the Natural History Museum; and hang out at the many favorite parks. What sort of fun activities are going on in your neck of the woods? How will you spend the summer? Audrey is starting summer camp June 2nd so she is only off less than two weeks.

More Green Monsters

With the abundance of greens from our CSA and the back yard container garden we have needed to come up with creative ways to use up our greens. This week Audrey had a friend visit whose mother is a personal trainer. Her mother lets her have Green Monsters so I thought it would be a great snack. Audrey and her friend were too busy playing to help but Maurene was very willing to climb up on the chair and throw in the spinach.

Maurene's Tasks:

  1. Add spinach to blender
  2. Help add milk
  3. Operate blender
  4. Add banana
Mom's Tasks:
  1. Gather ingredients
  2. Assist Maurene
I gave each girl a small glass and Audrey and her friend begged for seconds. Maurene drank most of hers. I was able to finish the rest. Yum!

Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Audrey's signature dish is an Oven Fried Chicken recipe. I found the original version in my Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. Over the years the recipe has adapted and now that the girls are a part of our dinners we have switched to boneless. This week we moved further and removed the added fat and just coated the chicken with Italian breadcrumbs.
Audrey and Maurene's Tasks:

  1. Help make breadcrumbs
  2. Hold the knife while we cut chicken
  3. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over chicken
Mom's Tasks:
  1. Gather ingredients
  2. Help girls cut chicken
  3. Assist with coating in breadcrumbs
The girls love this meal. They will eat twice as many of the homemade version as any premade or fast food type. We had sweet potato fries and greens with the meal and it was tasty.

A New Grain for Us

Our friend Michelle Stern at What's Cooking with Kids challenged her readers to try a new grain this week. That is not hard for us because we do not eat much in the way of whole grains. We may have them ground up  into flour or baked into bread but in the true form they are foreign to our plates. I have tried serving brown rice with mixed results. After asking Michelle's advice I found something that will work, short-grain brown rice. It cooks up as fast as white rice and is still soft enough to eat. Today I had the girls help me make it into a meal with some vegetable sauce.
Audrey and Maurene's Tasks:

  1. Add rice and water to rice cooker
  2. Spoon sauce into pyrex
  3. Operate microwave
Mom's Tasks:
  1. Assist girls
  2. Serve meal
We had a wonderfully healthy meal of short-grain brown rice with tomato vegetable sauce and a salad made with an almost burgundy leaf lettuce, cantaloupe, and bacon. The girls had fresh berries on the side while I simply had more salad. I put a little broccoli flower in the rice and they both picked it out and nibbled on it. Edible flowers might be an area we explore soon.
Audrey and Maurene both ate all of their fruit and bacon from the salad. Neither cared for the red lettuce. Audrey claimed to not like the rice but once she tried it she ate most without another word. Maurene did not want to try the rice but when I offered her a small bite she ate it willingly and without complaint. This is a small victory for our house. It was an easier mission to carry out because the girl's daddy is away currently. Sometimes he is the pickiest eater. How to deal with that problem?

Kids Cook Monday, Carrot Soup

And Meatless Monday, we do both. This is the post about carrots. Local carrots. We bought them at the Saturday Market.
I decided to make soup out of them because there wasn't much to them. And, of course, the girls helped.
Audrey and Maurene's Tasks:
  1. Wash carrots
  2. Snap into smaller pieces
  3. Cut zucchini
  4. Operate slow cooker
  5. Blend
Mom's Tasks:
  1. Assist the girls
  2. Add broth
  3. Add milk
This was such a creamy and yummy soup. I bought some croutons and we enjoyed them on top. If I had planned ahead we could have made our own croutons. Next time.

Strawberry Salad and What to do with Leftovers

We had a big celebration this weekend. I graduated from college. Many friends and family stopped by for a fun party and lots of food. Too much food. After the fun was over we had to try to eat all the food, along with our regular CSA. I came up with the idea to throw all the greens into a bowl and toss them with leftover chicken and strawberries. The girls helped.
Audrey and Maurene's Tasks:

  1. Help gather ingredients
  2. Remove stems and tear greens
  3. Cut strawberries
  4. Tear chicken
Mom's Tasks:
  1. Gather ingredients
  2. Assist girls
  3. Chop remaining vegetables (carrots, radishes, onion)
  4. Toss
Sometimes the best meals are the simplest ones. This was well received by all, even the girls. Somehow they have both started to eat a few more greens. It might be the really cute leaf lettuce on the patio that Audrey loves to pick leaves from to add to any greens we have. They have a real sense of pride.

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I Don't Want to Help With Ribs

Episode two of Toddler Tips and Tricks.
Recently I received a message from another mommy of a toddler telling me her child had lost interest in cooking. That happens around here often. Audrey is three and gets bored after she has learned a task to her satisfaction. When we came home from the store with supplies for dinner and muffins she was more interested in a princess coloring book than helping with dinner. Fortunately for me, I have another helper:
Children at Audrey's age can get bored easily. The trick is to try to find a new skill to teach or something fun to do. My girls almost always love to wash dishes. I fill the sink about a fourth full with cool, soapy water and add a few non-breakable dishes. They pour water all over themselves, the floor, and the counter while they play with the dishes. I usually still need to wash them in the dishwasher after they are done but the uninterrupted time is worth it. If we are getting ready to cook I can set up or if we have just finished I can clean up. If you find that cooking holds less interest these days with your helper try to find something new to do. Washing dishes or cleaning counters are fun tasks in Audrey's kitchen.

Pineapple Not-Upside-Down Muffins

We have been working on this recipe for a bit and I finally think it is good enough to publish. I might have had three.

  • 2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1/2 cup dried sweet cherries or craisins
  • 1/2 cup butterscotch chips
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add egg, juice, milk, and butter and mix until just combined. Stir in pineapple and cherries. Do not over mix. Grease twelve muffin tins and fill to 3/4 full. Sprinkle butterscotch chips on top of muffins. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool for about 5 minutes then remove to a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Audrey and Maurene's Tasks:
  1. Help gather ingredients
  2. Take turns measuring and adding ingredients
  3. Crack egg
  4. Stir
  5. Fill muffin tins
Mom's Tasks:
  1. Assist girls
  2. Bake muffins
I would recommend giving this recipe a try. It is not the healthiest recipe we have cooked but it is not the worst either. The pineapple, cherries and whole grain make it worth the calories! You might try making the recipe with half as much butter and using applesauce for the remainder. Another substitute could be margarine  instead of butter. You could also reduce the amount of butterscotch chips but I think that really adds to the taste of the finished product. We had a lot of fun making and eating this and all previous batches of muffins during the testing process.

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