If you’ve been wanting to make cookies with your kids but are nervous about your kids eating the dough, try egg-free cookies.  You can find lots of recipes on-line, but be fore-warned: eggs are an important chemical component of baking, and most egg-free cookies and cakes have a slightly weird or crumbly consistency.  That said, you can find some really yummy egg-free cookies that are worth experimenting with.

Donovan loves licking the spoon after making egg-free cookies!

My sister-in-law, Katie, and nephew, Donovan, recently sent me a recipe for Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Feeding the Whole Family: Cooking with Whole Foods by Cynthia Lair.  Katie loves this cookbook–both the author’s philosophy about introducing healthy foods to young children (the author doesn’t make separate meals!) AND the recipes.  Katie has loved almost every recipe she’s tried.  If you’re new to whole foods cooking, it simply means using unprocessed or minimally-processed foods whenever possible, such as whole grains, raw nuts, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.  It means keeping your food as healthy and as natural as possible.  If this seems a little “too healthy” for you, you might try adding more whole foods to your menus as a way to add extra nutrition, not necessarily as an entire lifestyle change.  Katie is a regular mom who succumbs to boxed macaroni and cheese and fish sticks on the nights she needs to get out of the house early for her book club meeting (and feels guilty later . . .).  Luckily, Cynthia Lair’s cookbook allows Katie to “balance out” her son’s nutrition and to feel good that on average she’s doing just fine.

Donovan mixes the dough all by himself.

Donovan made Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for his play date friends last  week–a fun, self-esteem building activity that he could do (mostly) by himself.  He measured, poured and mixed all the ingredients.  He even spooned a few cookies onto the cookie sheets himself.  Best of all, Donovan got to lick the spoon when they were finished because the dough was egg-free.  The only problem: he and his friends ate all the cookies in one day!  My boys and I had the same problem, but for a very different reason.  I foolishly announced that these cookies were special because they could eat some of the dough at the end, and my boys took this as an invitation to eat all the dough they wanted (silly mommy).  In fact, they were really upset when I took enough dough to make three measly cookies just so I could see how the finished product turned out (I have to admit the dough was really good . . .).   Our verdict: a yummy, easy recipe that parents can feel good about!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(from Feeding the Whole Family: Cooking with Whole Foodsby Cynthia Lair)

Look at me!

1 1/2  cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the oats, flour, and salt  in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the maple syrup, butter, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix well. Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips. With moist hands form dough into 3 inch cookies and place them on lightly oiled cookie sheet or one lined with parchment paper. Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes until edges are brown. Enjoy!
Makes 1 dozen 3 inch cookies
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Want to beat the heat and have a little fun with the kids?  Make popsicles! It’s been at least 96 degrees every day in Missouri for over two weeks (107 last Tuesday!) and my entire yard, plus the garden and the kids are drooping.  I can’t bring myself to cook much or to eat hot foods, so my boys and I have been slurping breakfast smoothies and making frozen pops instead.

Boy eating popsicle.

Aidan loves his apple juice popsicles!

The easiest way to make a popsicle is to put your favorite juice in a plastic popsicle mold and freeze it at least 6 hours or overnight.  Alternatively, you may use ANY small, food safe container with any kind of wood or plastic stick as your popsicle mold (put saran wrap over the container to keep the stick in place until it freezes).  Be creative for some fun!

If you want to experiment with popsicles, keep a few things in mind.

  • Most popsicle recipes can double as a slushie or a smoothie.
  • Conversely, most smoothie or slushie recipes can double as popsicles (omit the ice cubes from slushie recipes).
  • Most things don’t taste as sweet when you freeze them, so you might want to add slightly more sweetener than you think you need.
  • Coconut milk can be substituted for milk or yogurt in most popsicle recipes if you want a dairy-free alternative.
  • You can also use water or juice as a substitute for milk.
  • Use honey, maple syrup, liquid Stevia, Splenda or confectioners sugar to sweeten pops instead of regular sugar or your pop will be grainy.  Be sure to blend the sweeteners well!
  • You can use whole, “chunky” or fully pureed fresh fruit.
  • Liquid expands when freezing so leave a little room at the top.
  • If you use milk or yogurt, partially freezing the pop in an ice cream maker first will give you a creamier pop.
  • Using Greek yogurt in place of regular yogurt gives a creamier, higher protein pop.
  • Using condensed milk instead of regular milk gives a creamier pop (although I personally don’t like the taste as much.)
  • Hand wash plastic molds!  The heat from dishwashers can release toxins from the plastic which will get into your food the next time you use them.
  • Hold the popsicle mold in your hand (or run under warm, not hot, water) until the popsicle slides out easily.

Here’s a couple fabulous popsicle recipes to get you started.  You may want to add more sugar if you aren’t on a controlled carbohydrate diet.  I tend to go really light on the sugar or sweetener because I don’t enjoy overly sweet desserts.

Coconut Cream Pops

1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1 cup milk or water (or go crazy and add more coconut milk . . .)
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (not flaked!)
3 tablespoons honey OR 1/4 cup powdered sugar OR 1/2 tsp. liquid Stevia (see note)
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients until well blended.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight (at least 6 hours.)

Yeild: about 3 cups popsicle mix (This makes 12-14 pops with my molds)

Note: You may want to use up to 3/4 cup powdered sugar in this recipe if you like things really sweet.

Melon Pops

4 cups cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew melon
1/2 cup plain yogurt (optional)
1 cup orange juice (or apple juice or pineapple juice)

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and mix until well-pureed.  Pour the mix into popsicle molds and freeze overnight or at least 6 hours.  Alternatively, make different layers using watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew for a pastel-striped fun pop.  Let each layer set (about 3 hours) before adding the next layer.  My favorite combinations are cantaloupe with orange juice and honeydew with pineapple juice.

Yeild: About 3 1/2 cups mix

Strawberry Lemonade Pops

8 ounces strawberries
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from 1 good-sized lemon or two smaller lemons)
3 tablespoons honey OR 1/4 cup confectioners sugar or 1/2 teaspoon liquid Stevia*

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and blend until well mixed.  Put into popsicle molds and freeze overnight or at least 6 hours.

Yeild: about 3 cups popsicle mix

Note:  Again, you may want to increase the sugar in this recipe.

Time Saver: To save time, use 1 1/2 cups lemonade from concentrate in place of the water, lemon, and sugar.

Get the Kids to Help:  My boys love measuring and putting all the ingredients in the blender and pushing the button.  They also love putting the sticks into the popsicle molds.  Most young children, however, don’t have the patience to wait for the popsicles to be done six hours later.  If you know you’re going to make special popsicles, you might want to freeze some plain juice ones the night before to have as a snack when the coconut cream ones are setting.  Alternatively, add a little ice to some of the stawberry lemonade mix and blend it in the blender for about 15 seconds to make a slushee.  Having a slushee now keeps kids from being upset that they have to wait until tomorrow for their popsicles.

A few days ago Cameron announced he was done eating about ten minutes after the meal started.  When the boys were young toddlers, I let them get down from the table as soon as they were finished.  Otherwise they would start throwing peas or blowing bubbles (soon to be tidal waves) in their milk.  When a one-year-old is done, he is done!

But this time I did something I’ve never done before.  I told Cameron that Aidan and I would like him to sit and talk to us while we finished our meal.  Surprisingly, he climbed back into his chair and looked expectantly at me.  Okay, now what mom?

I’ve never been good at starting conversations, even with soon-to-be-three-year-olds, so I tried the dinner table classic:  “Tell me the best part of your day” and “Tell me the worse part of your day.”  It worked! I learned that Cameron loved making popsicles and didn’t like having only one book at nap time.  Aidan also loved making popsicles and didn’t like his tower being knocked down by his brother. Both thought they should have ice cream for dessert, that jumping in the pool is fun until you get water up your nose, that Grammy and Papa had been in Florida for too long (four days . . .), and that putting play-do in your hair is silly.

In the end, Cameron stayed at the table for another twenty minutes.  Along with finishing his carrots and his watermelon, he talked, laughed and had fun with his mom and brother.  I hope he also felt a sense of belonging, of being important enough to be listened to and wanted—not just the dinner table, but in all of our family activities.

I’m not expecting miracles.  Most days I imagine he will be done, when he’s done.  (Or I’ll really wish he’d gotten down . . .) But we were blessed that night because I took a chance at chaos and tried to talk to my kids. Maybe “Best part, worse part” will become a family tradition.  Maybe we’ll find other ways to talk about the things that are important to us.  What matters is that we are trying and succeeding in small steps to make family meal time a special time for everyone—mom, Grammy and Papa, and kids.

 

We’re two weeks into the beastly hot weather in Missouri and my boys and I have the crabby fussies.  We don’t want to eat.  We don’t want to cook.  We want to go outside and play without passing out. . .

Luckily, cantaloupe and watermelon are starting to ripen in my garden and it’s time to make cold, melon slushees.  In fact, I just finished sipping one, and it was so refreshing that I had to share.  The following recipe is for cantaloupe slushies, but keep in mind that you can substitute watermelon, honeydew or casaba melon for the cantaloupe.  You might also like lemon juice in place of the lime.  Even better, if you have any slushie left over, pour it into popsicle molds and freeze for at least 8 hours.  My boys gobble these popsicles up!

Cantaloupe Slushies

4 cups cantaloupe, refrigerator cold or slightly frozen
2 tablespoons lime juice
2  tablespoons honey or sugar*
8 ice cubes

Put the melon, lime juice and sugar in the blender and  blend until combined (If your melon isn’t quite ripe you may have to add a little water).  Add the ice and blend until “slushie” (about 10 – 15 seconds.) Pour into serving glasses and enjoy!

Yeild: About 4 cups of slushie.

Note: Adjust the sugar and lime juice in this recipe based on the sweetness of the melon and your own tastes.  (Usually it’s best if you keep the ratio even). I’m getting fresh cantaloupe from my garden right now and it’s so sweet, I  don’t think it needs more than half a tablespoon of sugar.  Of course, my boys would prefer that I halve the lime juice and double the sugar . . .

Popsicles: If you plan to freeze slushies into popsicles, use confectioners sugar or honey or you’ll end up with a grainy consistency.

Variation 1:  Add 1/2 cup plain yogurt to the cantaloupe for a creamier slushie.  Yogurt is especially good in the popsicles!

Variation 2:  Substitute watermelon or honeydew melon in place of the cantaloupe.   Also try lemon juice in place of the lime.

Variation 3:  Substitute 1/2 cup orange juice for the lime juice and sugar.

What could be better in the summer than a huge banana split?  A huge banana split with a health make-over—one so healthy it can double as a fruit salad!

Yum!

I love Banana Splits!

It’s been so hot lately I haven’t felt like cooking.  Three nights ago I pulled out assorted cheeses, lunchmeats, and whole grain rolls.  After a quick sandwich, I set out the cutting boards and the boys and I went to work making dessert.  Because dessert was also part of dinner, I doubled the fruit and went light on the chocolate sauce. My family also uses a reduced sugar, “reasonable” fat ice cream to keep these “dinner worthy.”  An unexpected bonus: this dinner was definitely fun!  My boys and I laughed and talked about dinner and their day at the pool as we ate and “cooked” together.

Yum!  These banana splits were so good we ate them again the next night (and the next . . . but hey, we couldn’t leave Grandma and Papa out of the action, could we? ).

Healthy Banana Splits:

2 small bananas (or 1 large)
4-8 ounces strawberries, sliced
1 cup pineapple tidbits (about half of a 20 ounce can, drained)
4 scoops vanilla ice cream or ice milk (1-2 pints depending on your scoop size)
Chocolate syrup or fudge sauce

If you have a toddler, slice the banana in bite-size pieces.  Otherwise, slice the banana length-wise (“split” the banana), then cut each split piece in half.  Put two pieces of the split banana on either side of a bowl.  Put a scoop of ice cream between the banana pieces then add sliced strawberries and pineapple tidbits to the top.  Drizzle a little bit of chocolate syrup or hot fudge sauce over the top and serve.

Yeild:  Makes 4 banana splits

Get the kids to help: Kids can cut the bananas and strawberries (use a plastic spreading knife, a butter knife or a lettuce knife with young children).  They also enjoy assembling the banana splits and drizzling the chocolate sauce over the top.  You may want to pour a little sauce in a measuring cup and let them drizzle it from there to prevent chocolate floods!

Picky Eater Pleaser:  If your kids don’t like “mixed foods,” put a small pile of each fruit and a scoop of ice cream on a plate (not touching of course) and drizzle each pile with a little sauce.

Have you ever ordered one half of a pizza with pepperoni and the other half with sausage?  This common family meal solution can be extended to other foods like casseroles, quiches and stromboli, keeping the entire family happy without making  a lot of extra work for busy parents.

Sausage and Cornbread Pie

Sausage and Cornbread Pie before adding the topping (shown here made with sausage links)

I started experimenting with this “separate meals in one dish” idea when my boys started rejecting foods with red peppers.  Cameron will happily pick raisins out of his pineapple carrot salad before wolfing his salad down, but he refuses to even try foods containing peppers or celery.  I can live without celery, but I miss the pepper and adding it to my own portion before eating isn’t always satisfactory.

This family meal solution works best with casseroles that are layered not mixed, such as lasagna or quiche.  One of my boys’ favorites, sausage and cornbread pie, can easily be modified using the separate meals in one dish technique.

Sausage and Cornbread Pie

1 pound ground sausage (Or 2 pounds sausage and omit the ground beef)
1 pound ground beef
2 red or green bell peppers
1 onion
1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or one 15-ounce can petite diced tomatoes, drained)
1 ½ cups frozen corn (or one 15-ounce can, drained)
½ teaspoon sage
1 package cornbread mix (8 ounces)
½ cup milk
1 egg
6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/2 cup)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brown the sausage and ground beef over medium heat.  Meanwhile, chop the red pepper into thin strips and finely chop the onion.  Drain the fat from the meat mixture then spread the meat evenly in the bottom of a 13” x 9” casserole dish.  Saute the red pepper, onion and cherry tomatoes (if using) in the hot skillet with a little cooking oil until the onion is translucent (about 3-4 minutes).  Transfer the pepper mixture to the casserole. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with corn, canned tomatoes (if using) and sage.

Mix the cornbread, milk, egg and cheese in a separate bowl until the batter is just moist.  Drop the cornbread batter on top of the casserole by spoonfuls, making sure you leave an opening in the middle and maybe in the corners (this allows steam to escape while cooking which keeps your cornbread topping from getting too soggy). Bake the casserole for about 20 minutes until the cornbread topping is lightly browned.

Yeild: Serves 8 adults  (You may halve this recipe, by halving all ingredients except use a whole egg.  I keep the extra cornbread mix in a zip-lock bag and just add it to the batter the next time I make muffins.)

Separate Meals in One Dish:   If you are trying to please picky eaters by making separate meals in the same dish, then sauté the vegetables separately as needed. (You may also want to reduce the amount of an unpopular vegetable).  Layer the vegetables on one half of the casserole or the other as desired.  The tastes will mix a little, but you can keep at least part of the meal pepper or onion-free.  When I make this casserole for my family I put a lot of peppers, onions, and tomatoes on my side with just a little corn.  The boys’ side gets lots of corn, a little tomato, a little onion, and no peppers.  I also put more cornbread topping on their side, since they enjoy it so much.  Aidan still picks at the tomatoes a little, but it doesn’t keep him from eating a healthy portion (and last time he actually ate a few tomatoes.)

Get the Kids to Help: I like to assemble this casserole myself then call the boys into the kitchen to make the cornbread topping.  Kids can measure, pour and mix the topping ingredients.  My boys also love to “plop” the topping into the casserole dish, although sometimes I have to perform damage control and remove some topping from the center so we have a good steam vent.

Meal Planner: This makes a great brunch dish for lazy weekend mornings.  Or serve it for dinner with a garden salad and fresh strawberries or cantaloupe on the side.

My boys and I love hummus on almost anything.  In fact, last year when I asked what special treats they wanted to serve at their 2nd birthday party, my boys chose roasted garlic hummus and actually got upset when I suggested cake.  Okay, I admit they had never eaten cake before and actually loved the fire truck cake I made them, but we still served three types of hummus at their party complete with a veggie and cheese platter.

Hummus is a Middle Eastern bean dip that is traditionally made with garbanzo beans (chick peas).  It often, but not always, includes garlic, tahini, and a dusting of paprika at the end. I started to skip the tahini a few years ago for dietary reasons and found that I like hummus better without it.  It seems smoother to me, and much tastier, especially with fresh vegetables.  I’ve left tahini in my basic recipe, but try hummus without it some time and see what you think.

Here’s a basic hummus recipe to get you started and three of my boys’ favorite variations. If you want to experiment yourself, try adding herbs like parsley, cilantro, or dill; sundried tomatoes; lime in place of lemon juice; or other roasted vegetables like eggplant.  Have fun!

Hummus

1 ½ cup garbanzo beans, cooked (one 15 oz. can, rinsed and drained)
1 tablespoon tahini (optional)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
Salt to taste (try ¼ teaspoon at first)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup water

Put about half of the garbanzo beans and the rest of the ingredients in your blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.  Slowly add the rest of the garbanzo beans, blending after each addition.  If you have trouble blending or the consistency seems too dry, add a little more of the magic hummus ingredient—water!  I use up to a cup of water to get a smooth, creamy hummus.

Yield: Makes about 1 cup hummus (this recipe can be doubled easily)

Get the Kids to Help:  Kids can measure and pour the ingredients into the blender.  My boys also love to take turns pushing the button to blend the hummus.

Roasted Garlic Hummus: For a mellower, richer garlic taste, substitute roasted garlic for the raw garlic.  The easiest way to roast garlic is to put two or three heads of garlic in a small ceramic or glass cooking dish with just enough water to submerge the heads about ¼ of the way. Cover the dish and cook the garlic in a 350-oven for for about an hour until the individual cloves are soft (I use the toaster oven).  Let the garlic cool for at least 30 minutes, then squeeze the individual cloves out of their papery skins (it should have a consistency like toothpaste—a fun job for the kids!).  Note: You can blend roasted garlic with olive oil and add it to mashed potatoes, meats, eggs, or vegetables in the last minute or two of cooking.  Roasted garlic and olive oil will keep for weeks, but be sure to keep it refrigerated!  Unrefrigerated roasted garlic with olive oil is a fabulous breeding ground for botulism.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus: For an amazing taste treat, add roasted red pepper to your hummus.  The easiest way to roast a red pepper is to place the pepper on a baking sheet and roast in a 400 degree oven (or toaster oven) for about 20 minutes until the outer skin turns black.  Let the pepper cool and remove the skin.  Cut the pepper in half and remove the seeds and ribs.  I use about half of a medium pepper in one batch of hummus.

Lemon Hummus: For a lighter, more lemony taste, increase the lemon juice to 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon and use the lower amount of garlic.  You may also need to decrease the amount of water.  Start with ¼ cup water and add water as necessary as you are blending to achieve the desired consistency.

Meal Planner:  We eat hummus a lot for lunch in the summer and occasionally for a quick dinner.  I often serve it with cheese, crackers and veges for dipping, although sometimes I actually have whole wheat pita bread on hand.  Right now I’m getting cucumbers and sungold cherry tomatoes from the garden.  I spread hummus over cucumber slices then add a cherry tomato on top for a fabulous low-carb summer treat. Yum!  Even Cameron thinks this is pretty tasty.