Lettuce Tear

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Veronika got to help make lunch today! Okay, not exactly, but here’s a fantastic way to include a toddler while the rest of the family is cooking.

I gave Veronika the extra lettuce from a head we were using, and she didn’t need any instruction about what to do: tear it of course! I provided her with a big plastic bowl, and soon she had a little salad.

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Your toddler is the perfect member of the family to patiently tear salad pieces, happily keeping busy with a task that might feel mundane to bigger kids.

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In fact there was something beautiful in her concentration, as she worked.

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I also gave her a little jar of dressing to shake shake shake, part instrument and part sensory bottle.

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Between shaking and tearing, she kept busy with this for a full half hour. What a lovely project for a late spring afternoon.

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Submarine Sandwich

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After recently learning about submarines, Travis has a whole new appreciation for why we call it a “submarine” sandwich now. We put together this fun lunch to play up the name.

To start, slice a long bread roll in half. Spread with your child’s filling of choice. We made one version with hummus and one with non-dairy cream cheese!

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Add other toppings (Travis chose lettuce and tomato) then top with the other half of the bun.

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We added a strip of red bell pepper as the “periscope” sticking out from the top, then used additional hummus or cream cheese as “glue” to stick on cucumber circles for “portholes”.

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Of course the lunch inspired some imaginative play; Travis loved pretending he was a giant squid attacking the boat as he ate, of course!

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Under the Sea Lunch

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Travis has been learning a lot about the ocean recently, both the creatures that live deep down, and the ways that humans can explore under the water. So it felt only appropriate to continue the fun with our food!

For a “fish” sandwich, trim a pita or similar flatbread by making two triangle cut-outs on one side. Now your fish has a tail.

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You can use just about anything for the filling! We filled one “fish” with tofu salad and another with cheese slices.

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Add raisins for eyes.

On the side, I served a little ocean floor scene. Almond butter (or peanut butter) was the sand, lightly-steamed celery sticks become waving seaweed, and we added a few vegan Swedish fish to populate our ocean.

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You could even add homemade goldfish crackers for the fish! I’m happy to report that lunch went swimmingly.

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Crunchy Pea Tacos

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Peas are packed with protein, and they make a vibrant and verdant alternative to beans in a vegan taco!

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lime
  • 3/4 cup frozen green peas, defrosted
  • 1 diced orange bell pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 4 hard taco shells
  • 1 tablespoon vegan Parmesan shreds
  1. Peel and pit the avocado, and scoop the flesh into a bowl. Add the salt and the juice from the lime; mash until smooth and creamy.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the peas, bell pepper, and cilantro; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, warm the taco shells according to package directions. Spread each shell with a little of the avocado mixture, and fill with the pea mixture.
  4. Add a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan on top, if desired!

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Hungry for more spring produce? Check out our recent recipes featuring carrots, lettuce, and more!

Spring Party Toasts

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There’s been a glorious abundance of spring produce in our kitchen these days, and this recipe continued the theme. I loved watching my kids taste their way through all the ingredients as Travis and I made the recipe!

First up was prepping a little mise en place for our veggie toppings. Travis helped dice 1/2 an orange bell pepper, 1/2 an English cucumber, and 1 tomato.

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Next he helped slice 12 (1/4-inch thick) slices from 1/2 a baguette. We arranged the slices on a baking sheet and brushed with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.

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Meanwhile, prepare the herb spread: In a blender, combine 1 pitted and peeled avocado, 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise, 1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt, 15 fresh chives, 6 fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, and 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lime juice. Travis loved nibbling at extra chive and basil leaves!

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Process until smooth.

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Spread the herb mixture over the toasted baguette slices, and add toppings of choice.

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Travis loved making rainbow versions, all-cucumber versions, and more! Little sister loved eating up extra herb spread by the spoonful. The recipe card included a few fun extras to read as we noshed, including the benefits of eating green (for your body) and shopping green (for the Earth!). We thought this recipe was just beautiful, and tasty too.

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Carrot Cake Cookies

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Here’s the second recipe from Raddish’s Kids kit featuring spring produce, this time sneaking grated carrots into yummy cookies. It was interesting to see Travis’s reaction when he realized we were adding carrot into the batter. He loves carrots, but couldn’t comprehend that they could go in a sugary cake recipe! I’m happy to report the final result got big smiles.

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Ingredients:

For the cookies:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • 2 Ener-G eggs

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 4 ounces non-dairy cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter with the brown sugar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla, beating until combined.
  3. Add the grated carrot and Ener-G eggs, beating until blended.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the carrot mixture, beating until combined. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  5. Line two sheets with foil, and then roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, arranging 15 per sheet. Wet your fingers and press into the center of the cookies to flatten. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.Carrot Cake Cookies (2)
  6. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the pans.
  7. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: combine the cream cheese, 4 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, powdered sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla in a stand mixer; beat until smooth.
  8. Spread the frosting onto half of the cooled cookies. Place the remaining cookies on top to make cookie sandwiches.

We finished with a read about others signs of spring on the recipe card, like birds and flowers, and also got ideas for more ways to sneak veggies into our desserts in the future – beet red velvet cake anyone?

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Tofu Lettuce Wraps

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Travis’s Raddish Kids this month is all about spring produce, celebrating the seasons’s beauty and bounty. The timing is so apt, a reminder that there is still fresh food and a beautiful spring, even during social distancing.

This first recipe was big on mise en place. Travis helped prep all the components and we arranged them in pretty colored bowls before setting the dinner table!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped peanuts
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • 4 sliced green onions
  1. Tear the lettuce leaves away from the head of romaine, so they form individual cups. The best ones are about the size of your hand, so you might want to save the large, outer leaves for another use. Set aside.Chicken Lettuce Wraps (1)
  2. Meanwhile, peel and grate the carrot; place in a bowl.
  3. Cut the bell pepper into strips and then dice; place in a bowl.
  4. Place the peanuts in a bowl; set aside.
  5. To make the sauce, whisk together the garlic, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and cornstarch; set aside.
  6. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the tofu into the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the soy sauce mixture; bring to a boil and cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the green onions.
  7. To prepare the dish, spoon a little tofu mixture into each lettuce cups.Chicken Lettuce Wraps alt
  8. Have kids add their favorite toppings directly at the table!Chicken Lettuce Wraps (3)

Little Passports: Australia

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Strangely, I feel as though Travis’s packages from Little Passports are arriving closer together than one month apart… but during home school, we’re not complaining! Travis couldn’t wait to read “Sam and Sofia’s” letter and do all the usual activities: a sticker for his passport, a pin on his map, a coin for his chart, and a tag on his suitcase.

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The booklet had a fun coloring activity about a coral reef, color-coded in such a way that my kindergartner could easily follow along.

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The word find, on the other hand, was tough even for this mama! Online featured great extras; Travis particularly enjoyed the photos and clips of Australian music. Australian phrases like “rug up” and “ankle biter” got quite a laugh.

Souvenir:

No sooner was the envelope open than Travis was testing out the scratch art kit. The idea is to introduce kids to Aboriginal dreamtime symbols, and Travis loved the rainbow colors that appeared.

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He learned a few symbols (“I get it, because a kangaroo jumps up!” he noted, spotting that one), and then designed his own, which had us veering off in a Star Wars direction.

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Further Activities:

First up was a Didgeridoo Kazoo. Both kids enjoyed decorating an empty paper towel tube with markers.

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A lot of it was their own inventive scribbles, but we worked in some dreamtime symbols, too.

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As they colored, I read about how the didgeridoo dates back thousands of years. Place a square of wax paper over one end of the tube, and secure with a rubber band.

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Hum down into it for a deep, warbling sound. We put on some didgeridoo music to play along too!

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Next up was Animal Art. This project aimed to show the way indigenous Australian art shares stories about animals and nature. First, we cut out the provided animal templates and glued these onto thicker art paper. Travis chose the lizard.

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I encouraged him to use paints and markers to make a landscape for his animal. First he just painted water, and declared it done, but then he got more into the idea of adding traditional symbols (swirls, dots, stripes), and filling in the background.

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You can use cotton swabs for the dots for extra fun!

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Little sister wanted in on this project too, although her kangaroo was soon a bit of a mess!

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The add-on with this package was to grow a coral reef, similar in science to a crystal tree we made around the holidays. We read about coral reefs and what makes them so important as an ecosystem, and then Travis helped set up the provided absorbent paper in the stands.

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Mix the provided powder into warm water, then pour into the bottom of each tray. Whoops! One of corals collapsed right away, although perhaps this was a perfect illustration of how delicate these ecosystems are. Within an hour, we saw the first little crystals forming.

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By morning, they were a riotous display of crystal! We almost thought they looked like cauliflower.

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As the final touch, Travis colored in the Australian flag and we added it to the growing collection above his world map.

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Recipe:

To finish our journey, we baked a popular Australian dessert called Lamingtons, a cake coated in chocolate and coconut. I should note that Little Passport’s recipes aren’t as easy to follow as, say, those from Raddish Kids. As a result, a lot of them become mommy projects after a little help from my sous-chef.

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Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plain almond milk

For the frosting:

  • 2 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter
  • 1/2 cup plain almond milk
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups shredded coconut
  1. To prepare the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat 1/2 cup butter and the sugar in a stand mixer until creamy. Add the Ener-G eggs and vanilla. Alternate adding the flour mixture and 1/2 cup almond milk, beating until combined.
  3. Pour the batter into a 9×13-inch baking dish lined with foil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 28 minutes; a wooden pick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then lift out the foil and cool the cake completely on a wire rack. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge.
  4. Once the cake is chilled, make the frosting: whisk together the melted butter and 1/2 cup almond milk in a large bowl. Whisk in the cocoa powder. Add the powdered sugar, stirring until smooth.
  5. Cut the cake into 2-inch squares. Working with one square at a time, dip in the chocolate frosting, then immediately coat in the coconut. Transfer to a wire rack or pan to set.

Because the frosting was thick and the cake was very delicate, I found it easier to work by hand instead of dipping pieces in on a fork. This got messy, but sure was yummy!

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Power-Up Pancakes

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For a kid who recently learned all about circuits and electricity, getting to use an appliance for his own snack today was a big thrill. Add to the electric fun of this recipe by decorating it with a “light bulb”!

First, we needed to reheat a pancake. I showed Travis how to slot it into the toaster, and then carefully press down the button. Of course in doing so he completed a circuit!

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To top the pancake, slice the sides from a pear. I asked Travis which one looked most like a light bulb to him, and we used orange marmalade to “glue” his selection on to the pancake. (Alternatively, use apricot jam or any other “light” colored jelly).

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Slivered almonds made the perfect decoration for shining light along the sides and bottom of the bulb.

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Hip Hop Fruit Pops

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Now that we’re in the habit of mixing music and cooking, Travis and I made Hip Hopcicles today i.e. fruit Popcicles that we made while we listened to hip hop.

First, cut the tops from 1 quart of strawberries. Combine the strawberries in a blender with 2 tablespoons sugar and process until smooth.

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Spoon non-dairy vanilla yogurt into Popsicle molds, until the molds are halfway full (alternatively, you can use paper cups). Add the strawberry mixture, and swirl with a toothpick to blend the two together.

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If you’re using paper cups, insert a craft stick into each for a handle, held in place with a cap of aluminum foil.

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Freeze for 6 hours, or until completely firm. Travis doesn’t normally love yogurt, but these got a big thumbs up.