Strawberry Swimmy Fish

We adapted this recipe from Travis’s latest Kiwi Crate, all about pond life. The original recipe called for Greek yogurt, but you can use non-dairy yogurt in a pinch to make these little fishies vegan!

To start, place graham crackers in a zip-top plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Pour the crumbs into a bowl.

Working with 1 strawberry at a time, dip in a little vanilla non-dairy yogurt, then roll in the graham cracker crumbs. Transfer to a plate and add a mini chocolate chip (such as Enjoy Life) as an eye.

Chances are this snack will go down swimmingly!

Spring Swirl Fudge

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This recipe is basically pure sugar, but for one afternoon of spring fun it was the perfect indulgent treat!

In a bowl, stir together 1 (11-ounce) jar vegan vanilla frosting and 1 (11-ounce) can sweetened condensed coconut milk, until well combined. Spoon the mixture into an 8-inch baking dish lined with parchment paper. Squirt green food coloring on top and swirl with a skewer to disperse the color through the top layer. Veronika loved this part, delightedly helping turn our mixture green.

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For spring decorations, we added colorful sprinkles and Annie’s Bunnies & Blossoms cereal in flower and bunny shapes.

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The little bunnies were hopping over to smell the spring flowers!

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Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until set. This won’t quite set like real fudge, but once chilled, you can slice into small cubes!

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If your family is not vegan, give the fudge this quick St. Patrick’s Day twist: Use 16-ounces melted white chocolate in place of the vegan frosting, and then decorate with Lucky Charms marshmallows instead of the bunny cereal.

Homemade Coconut Butter

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It’s easy to make homemade butter just by shaking heavy creamer, requiring nothing more than a little muscle power, and that is a neat way for kids to see where their food comes from. We wanted to put a vegan spin on this project so decided to try making butter from coconut cream!

Make sure to purchase full fat coconut milk for this activity, not the light alternative, which likely won’t work.

Scoop a little of the solid coconut fat from the can into a small jar (empty baby food jars were the perfect size for small hands) along with some of the liquid.

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Then simply seal and shake! Obviously Veronika didn’t have the muscle to make the “butter” solo, as it required about 5 minutes total of shaking. We would pass the jar back and forth and shake it all the while, and her excitement mounted as she said she wanted to taste the butter.

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After shaking, the fat and liquid will combine into a creamy, smooth consistency. It’s not exactly butter of course, but it did have a nice spreadable consistency. Veronika absolutely adored it on crackers!

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While you probably don’t want to eat pure coconut cream every day, this was a fun treat to try out and she was so proud that she “made” her own snack.

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National Pizza Day

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Today is National Pizza Day and Travis’s latest issues of Highlights magazine had lots of fun topping ideas to help us celebrate the day. It seemed such a shame to choose just one that we made it more of a pizza week, testing out the following over a few days.

Of course we also celebrated by learning a little pizza history (Google the story behind the margherita pizza, for example, for some fun trivia facts).

For all of the following pizzas, we used the premade crust from Banza; the crust is vegan and gets a nice protein boost from chickpea flour! I didn’t bother to measure the quantities of ingredients for any of Highlights’ suggested toppings; just add as much of each as feels right for your family!

Bright and Early: For this breakfast spin, we spooned pesto onto the crust in place of tomato sauce, then sprinkled with a little of our favorite scrambled tofu (1 block of crumbled firm tofu sauteed in oil with 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 1 teaspoon garlic salt, and 1 teaspoon turmeric). Sprinkle on a little chopped red bell pepper. After baking according to pizza crust directions, top with avocado slices.

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Tasty Taco: This time we spooned salsa on top of the crust in place of tomato sauce. Layer that with cooked meatless crumbles, a sprinkle of shredded vegan colby jack, and sliced black olives. Bake according to pizza crust directions, then add a little shredded lettuce and a drizzle of non-dairy sour cream before serving.

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Bold Barbecue: Spoon on a little barbecue sauce in place of tomato sauce. Arrange torn slices of vegan Gouda over the sauce, then sprinkle with chopped and cooked Gardein chick’n, thinly sliced red onion, and chopped cilantro. Cook according to pizza crust directions.

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Keen on Green: Leave the pizza crust white and sprinkle with lots of vegan cheddar. Add chopped steamed broccoli florets and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with oregano… or add red pepper flakes if your kids like a little heat!

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The final night was a return to the classic margherita in the colors of the Italian flag: red tomato sauce, white mozzarella, and green fresh basil leaves.

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Which does your family like best? Please share in the comments!

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Valentine Cookie Play

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Sugar cookie recipes are a perfect way to involve a toddler in the kitchen. There’s rolling, frosting, and decorating, not to mention tasting! Because sugar cookies involve multiple steps, a recipe can easily fill a snowed-in morning together, as Veronika and I made it do today!

For the cookies, we used this recipe except (whoops!) accidentally added 1 cup Earth Balance butter instead of 3/4 cup. Luckily, the dough still worked great. If your toddler wants to help with some of the easier steps of making the dough, be sure to let him or her! Veronika wasn’t interested though until I pulled the chilled dough from the fridge and set it down, along with a rolling pin and cookie cutters.

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She loved helping roll out the dough with the purple rolling pin!

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I helped her press our heart cookie cutters in hard enough to push all the way through the dough, and showed her how to arrange our hearts on cookie sheets. She was so proud and delighted with all these steps! When there were only a few dough scraps left, I let her continue the play solo while I baked the cookie batches.

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Once the cookies cooled, it was time to decorate! We nixed homemade icing and instead just tinted a can of store-bought vanilla frosting pink with a little food coloring. Veronika was so proud standing at the counter, just like big brother Travis can! She helped frost the cookies…

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…and loved using a spoon to add little white sprinkles.

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Of course all of this was combined with lots of nibbling and taste-testing, making for a happy sugar-fueled morning.

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Mac and Cheese Mania

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Thanks to Travis’s Highlights magazine, it’s been mac ‘n’ cheese madness around here, trying versions of this kid favorite over the course of the week. If you want true mania, your family could even prepare all 4 of these version in one day; there’s an option below for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert! Here’s what we tried and what was declared the winner.

The Early Bird:

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The night before, cook a batch of your favorite macaroni and cheese. In the morning, heat the past and add chopped and cooked vegan breakfast sausage (such as Field Roast), your favorite scrambled tofu recipe and a drizzle of ketchup.

Rainbow Pepper Mac:

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Make a bright and colorful version that’s sure to get kids to eat their veggies! Simply prepare a batch of your favorite mac ‘n’ cheese, then dice 1/2 a red bell pepper, 1/2 a green bell pepper, and 1/2 a yellow bell pepper; add to the mac n cheese while the pasta is still hot.

Mac and Meatballs:

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This was the perfect marriage of regular mac ‘n’ cheese and spaghetti-meatball night: simply prepare your favorite mac and cheese, then top each serving with a little marinara sauce, your favorite brand of plant-based meatballs, and a sprinkling of vegan Parmesan. Yum!

Mac and Cheesecake:

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Finally, you can try this sweet version for dessert! In advance, prepare a batch of vanilla pudding and chill until ready to use. Top each portion of cooked elbow macaroni pasta with a dollop of the pudding, crushed graham crackers, and sliced strawberries.

The verdict? “Mac and meatballs” was the hands-down winner. Everyone also loved the Early Bird, too. While the dessert version was novel, the kids deemed it a little strange.

Which mac does your family like best? Please share in the comments!

Washing Vegetables

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If you have a toddler who’s eager to help in the kitchen (say while an older sibling is cooking by your side), here’s the perfect task that he or she can tackle solo!

I set out a tray with just a little water, along with a cloth, a vegetable scrubber, and a few extra veggies. Use fruits and vegetables that you know you’ll peel later (think russet potatoes, eggplants, or citrus fruits), so it doesn’t matter if your little one actually makes the vegetables dirtier on the floor rather than cleaner.

We had a few extra eggplants and I showed Veronika how to scrub at the skin with the vegetable brush.

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She was an eager helper and liked dabbing at them gently with a cloth. When the eggplants were “clean”, I showed her how to pat them dry, too. This little activity is so simple but made her feel just as important in the kitchen as big brother.

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No-Bake Banana Cookies

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These sweet treats aren’t actually cookies at all, but sugary bananas are a wonderful secret imposter in many desserts. This particular sweet treat is so easy that your toddler can help with every step!

To start, I poured about 1/2 cup Annie’s bunny grahams into a zip-top plastic bag ((or use regular graham crackers) and showed Veronika how to tap with a rolling pin until crushed.

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Next, we added slices of ripe banana to the bag. Seal the bag and shake shake shake!

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Arrange the bananas slices on a plate and your “cookies” are ready. Even better, there’s no wait for the oven required!

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Cheesy Soup Skimmers

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This quick kid-friendly cooking project makes a tasty lunch and has a little science lesson thrown in, too!

We wanted to test what could float in a bowl of soup, and decided to make cheesy “crackers”. (Note: I used Daiya’s shredded non-dairy cheddar for the experiment, which worked great. Other non-dairy cheese will most likely work, too, but I can’t say for sure).

Travis picked a few fun cookie cutter shapes, including hearts, stars…and Darth Vader’s helmet! Sprinkle a thin layer of the non-dairy cheddar into each cookie cutter over a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. We also made a few free-form shapes for comparison on the side.

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Be sure to lift off the cookie cutters before baking! Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes, just until the cheese sets.

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Let cool completely, then carefully peel the cheese shapes off the parchment paper and slip on top of a bowl of soup. We particularly liked these with tomato soup.

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The kids loved seeing the cheese float. And then they tested out a few oyster crackers, too! That’s where the science comes in: if you press on the cheese skimmers, they will break the surface tension of the soup and sink to the bottom of the bowl. The crackers will always float for a different reason, though, namely density!

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Santa Hat Pizzas

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Put a Christmas spin on pizza night in the days leading up to the holiday with this quick recipe!

To start, we stretched out a store-bought pizza dough and then cut into triangles with a pizza rolled. Fold up the bottom edge of the triangle to make a cuff.

Next, we spooned tomato sauce over the triangles, leaving the cuffs plain. Add non-dairy cheese along the cuff for Santa’s white trim. We used vegan feta, but next time I would probably dollop on crumbled tofu instead for a fluffier look!

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Bake at 430 degrees F for 8 minutes, or until the crust just starts to brown. This made pizza night a ho-ho-holiday treat.