Toddler Snacks: Veggie Plate

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Well that was a fun little break, wasn’t it? Y’all, I got somehow locked out of my blog and every time I went to bring it back to life it and write something, I became so technically bogged down that I just went to the freezer and ate a greek yogurt ice cream bar instead. Seriously people- have you tried these? They are 100 calories and feel so rich and indulgent, but aren’t. Get thee to your local market. I’ve tried all the brands. Even Aldi makes a mean mint chocolate chip.

In the meantime, I’ve written about a hundred little posts to you in my head, but none of them made it to you, so I have some catching up to do.

Hey, do your kids like to snack? Um, does wine come in boxes? Yes. and Yes. These are life truths.

My kids love to snack, but I’m one of those mean moms who doesn’t let them eat between meals. I want them ravenous at dinnertime and coming to the table ready to eat anything and everything I put in front of them. It works, and I harness this control and use it for good. Mwah-ha-ha.

Still, there are times kids are going to want snacks, and there are times when I crave a little something, too, while cooking, or anxiously waiting to hear the garage door open (is there a mom on this earth who doesn’t feel her shoulders relax when she hears that sound?) A friend shared this idea with me a long time ago, and I held onto it. I love it for two reasons: 1) It gives me a reason to say ‘yes’ to my kids and I’m trying to be more of a yes person in that improv-y kind of way, not in a permissive doormat way. So this allows me to say yes, you can have a snack! and 2) it gives me a glorious excuse to expose my kiddos to more of a fun variety of vegetables. If they eat them, GREAT. If they nibble or try something new, GREAT. If they just see something they haven’t seen before, that’s still a small win in my book. And whatever is leftover, I saute up in a big stir fry at the end of the week, or add to a weekend frittata. Who doesn’t love a frittata?!

Veggie Snack Tray How-To

  1. Shop for and buy novel, interesting vegetables – I love peppers of varying colors, carrots of varying colors, cucumbers, celery, corn, and zucchini. You could also try jicama, sugar snap peas, radishes, peas, lettuces, sweet potatoes, etc.
  2. Cut up the veggies in fun ways – I cut corn into little wagon wheels, I make zucchini into zoodles, and I cut cukes into all kinds of shapes. I love to present the veggies in a fun way. Be creative!
  3. Add a dip – I whip up a quick dip from greek yogurt – adding avocado, garlic salt and other items I have on hand. I mix it up. This is a fun recipe.
  4. Add to it throughout the week – replenish, add new things, add fruit if that’s your thing.  Keep it stashed in a large tupperware or ziplock when it’s not being served. I added homemade gummies to this tray- made with carrot juice and pomegranate juice- I thought they were repugnant but my kids seemed to love them.

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I hope this idea works for you in some way  – take the small wins – they’re still wins!

I’m glad to be back, readers. Thanks for being understanding during my involuntary sabbatical. xo Sarah

Family Traditions: Peppernuts

One of the best parts of getting married for me was marrying into a family rich with it’s own traditions. The Morford clan is known for its epic board game collection, its hereditary ping pong skills, biscuits and sausage gravy, and….peppernuts. Pepperwhats? The first time I went home with my husband for Christmas almost 8 years ago, I was introduced to the oddest cookie I’d ever seen. It looks like a dog biscuit, and yet it’s perhaps one of the most addictive treats I’ve ever known. They are tiny and crunchy and can be eaten by the handful. The Morford men are known to receive pillow cases full of peppernuts at the holidays, although in my time I’ve only seen them in huge tupperwares and jars. They are a staple at Christmastime.

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Few things make my husband happier than sitting down at night in front of a football game or Netflix cuddled up with his bourbon and his jar of peppernuts. And since few things make me happier than my husband, I’m intent on filling his peppernut jar annually. From the beginning of my relationship with my husband, it was clear that I would take on the tradition of baking them annually, and I hope I will be able to carry forth that tradition and pass it on to my kids.

After years of apprenticing my mother-in-law in the kitchen, I have taken on baking these myself for the past two years, and two years ago it dawned on me that the rolling of the dough is quite similar to playdough. This gave me the idea to host a peppernuts party for toddlers who could easily roll the dough in balls, snakes, and cut it with plastic knives into the thumb-sized nobbins. Last year, I hosted 20 toddlers for the first annual Peppernuts Playdate, and this year I’ll host at least half a dozen.

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Another tradition I have picked up from my in-laws is service to others, especially this time of year — so each year, I dedicate my peppernuts party to someone. Last year it was military kids, and this year, its to the Peninsula Food Bank. Baking and donating go so well together.

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So, if you’re looking for an easy, addictive cookie that lasts for weeks (months, really), and can be made by toddlers and non-bakers alike, I urge you to add the peppernut to your holiday baking repertoire.

The recipe I inherited is somewhat vague, so I’ve included it here with some of my notes on how to make the baking process go smoother.

Peppernuts (taken from the German pfeffernusse)

 

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This recipe, made in full, will use the better part of a 5 lb bag of flour (which you won’t even find listed on the original recipe card). You can feel free to half the recipe, and it halves quite easily.  The “half batch” will make enough to fill two large tupperware containers, or 6-8 tins.

 

 

 

 

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Full Recipe

3 cups sugar

3 cups shortening (Crisco)

2 cups light corn syrup

1 cup cream (I use whipping cream)

1/2 cup milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 eggs

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I recommend a stand mixer for this recipe, or a very large bowl and a hand mixer. Regardless of what you use, you will need to make this in two “batches.” In the bowl of the stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in your large bowl, add half of the sugar (1.5 cups), Crisco (1 cup), and corn syrup (1 cup). Add one egg. Add 1/2 cup cream, 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg, 1/4 tsp. cloves, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder. Once incorporated, using a full 5 lb. bag of flour, start adding small amounts of flour. Keep adding until the dough is the consistency of playdough – if you are using a stand mixer, it will start to lock up- don’t let it burn out the motor, but when it starts to lock up, that is enough flour. If you want to measure, there are about 17 cups of flour in a 5 lb bag- so you will need somewhere between 8-9 cups. Scrape out the dough completely, but don’t clean the paddle or the bowl. Put the dough in a large tupperware container or bowl.

 

Repeat the entire process with the other half of the ingredients until the bag of flour is gone.

Prepare a sheet pan with parchment or silpat.

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Taking about 1 cup of dough at a time, roll into a ball and then into two “snakes”. Using your thumbnail as a guide, and a knife, cut thumbnail sized chunks of dough and place them on a sheet pan. They won’t puff up much so you can put a lot of them on the pan and quite close together. Bake for 15 minutes at 350. They are done when they are slightly brown on the bottom. Cool slightly (2-3 min) and then you can use your hand to knock all of the cookies off and onto a baking rack (they aren’t delicate).

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Enjoy – they wont last long which is why we try to make 10,000 of them at once!

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Drink Your Soup: Butternut Squash, Leek & Apple Soup

Back in California, on a crisp morning last Fall, we were invited to the sweetest little Saturday morning birthday party at a park. She made it a “breakfast” theme and each seat had a little plastic cereal bowl with a built in straw, a box of cereal and little spoons to match. The kids got to decorate their own pancakes and eat them, and the adults noshed on bagels and lox and mainlined Peet’s coffee.

Well, I brought those little bowls home around the same time that I fell in love with this one-pot, instant-pot soup from Skinnytaste. This cookbook of hers is so sticky and coated after a year of constant use, it’s a wonder that the pages even open to my favorite recipes anymore.

The good news is that you no longer need to risk life and limbs to cut butternut squash. I’ll never do that again. Use a 2 lb container of store bought, pre-chunked butternut squash. The leek in this recipe gives it that something special. I put this together today while my kids ate breakfast. When I got back from preschool drop off, I added the coconut milk and used my immersion blender to blend it up. I have a whole jar of the liquid gold in my fridge now. I will typically eat a mug of soup for lunch because it’s easy and I can do it standing while I feed my kids at the counter top.

Oh, and back to those genius bowls. They’re perfect for soup. My children won’t eat this Fall soup without their special bowls, but they will ask for seconds and thirds. Make this, because, October, and don’t be surprised when it becomes an easy stand-by on rotation in your home.

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Slightly adapted from Skinnytaste’s Fast and Slow cookbook

2 lbs pre-cubed butternut squash

1 granny smith apple, cored and cubed

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 leek, white parts only, roughly chopped (be sure to scrub the grit hiding inside first)

2 tsp better than bouillon chicken

2 cups of water

1/2 cup of coconut milk

Add all of the vegetables, BTB and water to your Instant Pot. Set to manual for 15 minutes. Natural release or quick release. Add coconut milk. Use your immersion blender to blend it til smooth. If you don’t have one, order one (because it’s sooo great for IP recipes like this) or transfer carefully to a blender and blend until smooth.

This whole process can be accomplished in the crockpot on high for 4 hours, and then blended within.

Serve in mugs. Serve children in little bowls with straws. Enjoy!