I’m not sure how it started but my sons and and their grandmother  have a running joke about eyeballs.  The boys will throw the word “eyeball” into a conversation and Grammy pretends to be totally grossed out (although sometimes it’s not an act!).

Eyeball (un) Appetizers (lesson learned: use a black or red plate if you want your eyeballs to really stand out!)

The boys love this joke so much, I thought it would be fun to really gross Grammy out with some creepy Halloween appetizers.  So here’s your warning:  If the thought of eating an eyeball makes your stomach turn, this is not the post for you.  But if you crave a little  fun with your food, here’s a sure-fire Halloween party hit for your little ghouls and goblins.  Eyeball (un)Appletizers!

My boys thought these were fabulous!  They had a lot of fun making the eyeballs and even more fun serving them.  They chopped the crab with plastic knifes, made the salad, stuffed a few egg while mommy stuffed the rest, and added the sliced olive pupils.  We served the eyeballs on a plate with a lid, so when Grammy lifted the lid she would see two eyes staring back at her.  Success!  Grammy was totally grossed out by these!  She managed to choke down one before she gagged and couldn’t continue, but the  boys (and their Papa) laughed like crazy and ate a lot! I had two and they weren’t bad (although I admit I took the black olive off the second one–very cool looking but not the best taste combination!).

Hope you have fun making and eating your own disgusting Halloween (un)appetizers!

Eyeball (un)Appetizers

8 – 12 hardboiled eggs
4 – 6 ounces crab or chicken salad (see salad suggestions below)
Sliced black olives or raisins

Shell the eggs and slice them in half.  Remove the egg yolks and save them for something else (egg salad is a yummy low oxalate lunch).  Arrange the egg halves on a serving plate.  Spoon 1 – 2 teaspoons of crab salad into the hollow of each egg half.  Top each egg with a slice of black olive.  Enjoy!

Makes 16 – 24 appetizers.


Salad Suggestions:  I wanted my eyeballs to really be gross with a somewhat realistic texture and a blood-shot appearance.  The easiest way to do this is to use real or imitation crab, separated or cut into chunks.  Add enough mayonnaise to hold it together and maybe a dash of salt and pepper or Old Bay seasoning, and Voila!  You have a crab salad that will make your eyeballs look bloodshot (and really gross!).  Another way to do this is to use shredded or finely chopped chicken or turkey.  Again add a little mayo, pepper, and salt, but this time you might want to add some thin strips of red bell pepper to achieve the blood-shot look.  I used 8 ounces of crab meat to make my salad and had at least a third of it left over after stuffing the eyeballs (which my sons ate as their snack that day without any add-ins).  You can always make a bigger batch of salad than you need.  After stuffing your eggs, add your favorite veggies, fruits, or seasonings and lunch is served!


In honor of the new school year I’ve been experimenting with granola bar and energy bar recipes for back-to-school lunchboxes and nutritious breakfasts on the go.  Here’s a high fiber, nutritious granola bar that’s not only fun for kids to eat, it’s fun for kids to make!  The bars resemble oatmeal bar cookies more than traditional granola bars because I chose to use milk instead of carmelized butter and sugar as my binder, but that’s what keeps these easy enough for young children to make on their own (or for busy parents to make quickly!).

Cameron mixes his granola bars.

 My boys were able to measure, pour and mix these granola bars with only a little assistance.  I had to do the final spreading and baking, but the boys did most of the work themselves.  Unfortunately I timed things wrong the first time we made these bars and they were almost cooled and ready to cut at 5:15 when my boys and I came inside from playing.  I hadn’t made dinner yet and the boys “needed one” right then, so I cut a couple bars and we had them with milk.  Then I cut a couple more bars, added some apple slices, fresh veges and cottage cheese and called it dinner.  The hamburgers thawing in the refridgerator could wait for the next night, but enjoying the boys’ fresh-baked granola bars could not.  After all, it’s the daily ritual of sitting down at the dinner table and enjoying each other’s company that’s important to me.

Easy Granola Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds or peanuts
3/4 cup unsweetened flaked or coursely shredded coconut
1/4 cup isolated protein powder (soy, whey, rice or pea), optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 15 ounce can condensed milk
1/2 cup honey or sweetener of your choice*

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9 x9 inch baking pan.  Combine the oats, flax seeds, raisins, pumpkin seeds, coconut, protein powder and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the milk and sweetener.  Pour the milk mixture over the oat mixture and stir until just moistened.  Press the granola into the prepared pan, then bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.  (If you do not have a 9 x 9 inch pan, you may press the granola into about 9 or 10  inches  of a 13 x 9 inch pan and leave the rest empty).

Let the granola cool completely, then cut it into 14-18 bars (about 1 inch by 4.5 inch each).  Store the bars in an air-tight container for up to one week.

* A Note about Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, white sugar, brown sugar, Splenda and stevia (1/2 teaspoon stevia powder or 1 teaspoon liquid) all work in this recipe, but honey and maple syrup add the best flavor.  If you use stevia, these bars will not brown.  You may want to add a teaspoon of honey to help the bars brown or rely on a timer for doneness.  You may also want to experiment with different levels of sweetness.  When I make these bars with dried cranberries, chocolate chips or extra raisins, I reduce the sweetener. 

Variations:  Try any combination of dried apples, dried bananas, dried cranberries, peanuts, slivered almonds, sunflower seeds,  or chocolate chips instead of the raisins, pumpkin seeds and coconut.  One yummy combination is 3/4 cup dried apple pieces, 3/4  cup raisins, 1/2 cup walnuts and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. (Your total add-ins should equal about 1.5 – 2 cups.) For a dairy-free version of this recipe, visit my blog, low oxalte family cooking

Traditional Granola Bars: You may also wish to make a more traditional granola bar or granola.  Do this by omiting the milk.  Start by toasting the oats and pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes until golden brown.  Meanwhile, put 3 tablespoons butter (or coconut oil) in a skillet on low heat.  When the butter melts, add 1/2 cup brown sugar, honey or maple syrup and stir until the mixture carmalizes (stevia and Splenda will not work). Pour all the other ingredients (except the milk) in a bowl, add the carmel mixture and the toasted oat mixture, and stir until just combined. Press the granola into a greased 9 x 9 inch pan and bake for about 30 minutes for traditional granola bars OR spoon the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 -30 minutes, stopping and stirring the mixture every 8-10 minutes during the cooking for traditional granola.  Cool completely before cutting the bars or storing.

My boys love to make cottage cheese pancakes on days we aren’t rushed.  I crack the eggs, but they can “measure,” pour, and mix the pancakes themselves.  Cottage cheese pancakes are especially good for young cooks, because unlike flour-based pancakes, egg-based pancakes do not need precise measurements. You can begin to teach the basics of measuring ingredients correctly, but if your kids put in too much flour or too little cottage cheese it won’t ruin breakfast. Just eyeball the amounts as your kids pour them in, then make adjustments at the end if the consistency doesn’t seem right.

Young cook makes cottage cheese pancakes

Aidan stirs the eggs and cottage cheese.

These pancakes pack a lot of protein, so they’re perfect for kids who don’t eat meat or other high protein foods.  Paired with fresh fruit, they also make a great dinner on nights when you don’t feel like cooking a traditional meal.  My boys like to eat plain, cold pancakes for a snack the next day, so we usually make a double batch.

Cottage Cheese Pancakes

4 eggs, beaten
1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup whole wheat flour (or baking mix*)
Dash salt
Canola oil for frying

Mix eggs, cottage cheese, flour and salt in a bowl with a spout if possible.  Heat about ½ tablespoon oil in a skillet over medium heat until it’s hot enough to sizzle.  Pour pancake batter into the skillet in 1/3 to 1/2 cup portions.  Cook until bubbles start to form on top of the pancakes and the underneath in golden brown (about 3 or 4 minutes).  Flip the pancakes once and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Serve cottage cheese pancakes with the traditional butter and syrup, or try peanut butter, apple butter, honey, jam, sour cream or fresh fruit.  One topping my boys really love is plain yogurt mixed with a little maple syrup and cinnamon.

*Note: These pancakes are much denser than traditional pancakes.  You may substitute a commercial or homemade baking mix for the flour and salt if you want a slightly fluffier pancake.

Yeild: 6-8 pancakes (recipe easily doubles or triples for larger families)

Variation:  Add ½ cup grated apple, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, a drizzle of honey, and another ¼ cup flour for apple spice pancakes. Yum!  These are especially good as a left-over snack the next day.

This is good, Mommy.

What could be more comforting on a cold, spring day than a warm bowl of cauliflower soup?  It’s sweet, mild and nourishing, and it gives the kids something fun to do as the rain pours down.  Many child nutrition experts claim that kids who help pick out, prepare or cook a food are much more likely to eat it.  I agree.  My sons and I started making soup together this winter, shortly after their second birthday, and they’re hooked.  They love pouring in the ingredients, stirring the pot and pureeing the vegetables with the “magic soup wand.”  Best of all, their faces glow with pride when we invite Grammy and Grandpa over to eat the dinner they’ve cooked.

The Proud and Happy Cooks.

My boys aren’t mature enough to add ingredients to a hot pot on the stove, so I invented the following recipe with fun and safety in mind.  It can be cooked all at once using a food processor or blender to purée the soup, or it may be cooled down and puréed using a soup wand.  We usually do the latter because it’s easier for me and because soup wands are A LOT of fun.  Just don’t pull it out of the pot while it’s twirling!

Cauliflower Soup

1 pound cauliflower, chopped (about one medium head or you can use frozen)
1 onion, chopped
2 ½ cups skim or low-fat milk
¼ – ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
2 – 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

Step 1: Let the kids put the cauliflower and the onion in a medium soup pot or a large sauce pan.  Add about 1 – 1 ½ cups of water (should be about an inch deep), then let the kids stir a little (although it’s not really necessary.)  Cover the pot and cook over medium heat about 25-30 minutes until the cauliflower is tender, checking occasionally to make sure there’s enough water in the bottom so the vegetables don’t burn.

Soup wands are fun!

Step 2: If you choose to purée hot soup, transfer the cauliflower mixture into a food processor or blender (you may have to do this in batches).  If more than ½ cup of the water remains, pour some out; otherwise keep the remaining water.  Let the kids add the milk and seasonings to the soup while it’s in the food processor.  They can also turn the processor on and stop it to stir occasionally if some of the cauliflower is sticking. Transfer the puree back to the soup pot.

If you use a soup wand with young children, you must either transfer the soup to a cold soup pot or you must set the pot on a cool burner and let it cool for 1 – 2 hours (we usually do Step 1 after nap, then go outside and play for an hour).  After checking the pots’ temperature, let your kids add the milk and the seasonings.  Purée the soup directly in the pot using the soup wand on a low setting.

Step 3: Simmer the soup until it is warm (10-15 minutes).  Do not let it boil or it will curdle.  Let the kids garnish their own soup at the table with shredded cheese if desired.

Makes:  5-6 cups of soup.

Variations:  Substitute broccoli or asparagus for the cauliflower.  If using broccoli, add 1 cup of cheese (8 ounces) directly to the soup, then let family members add cheese as wanted at the table for broccoli cheese soup.

Time-Saver: In Step 1 you may microwave the vegetables in a glass dish with about ½ cup water on high for 5-6 minutes instead of boiling on the stove.

Aidan loves to eat the soup he made.

Picky Eater Pleaser: Let family members pepper their own bowls of soup at the table instead of adding it to the pot.  You may also add a larger portion of cheese to a smaller amount of soup to introduce the soup to a cheese lover.

Menu Planner:  I keep this one simple with whole wheat bread or crackers and sliced fruit on the side.