Baby Bean Dip

What: An easy, toddler and kid-friendly White Bean Dip for your blender. 4 batches later, I can’t stop making this stuff. ¬†It’s really satisfying and feels rich. It’s just a bonus that my son eats it too. ūüôā

screen-shot-2017-02-26-at-9-30-33-pm

When: Have 30 seconds? 

Why: Beans are so good for you (particularly by providing antioxidants, B vitamins, protein, fiber and iron), and this versatile dip is as appealing to kids as it is to adults. I spread it on toast, serve it with Smoked Salmon, use it as a simple dip for Carrot Sticks, or as a sandwich condiment for myself or my son. Any chance to get extra nutrition in your kid in no time flat is one you should take.

How: I like to add a little bit of green freshness to brighten this smooth and silky dip. Baby Spinach Leaves work nicely but any dark salad green will do. You could even sub in herbs to your liking such as a tablespoon of Italian Parsley or a pinch of Rosemary. For kids, the mellow flavor of Spinach is an easy sell.

Baby Bean Dip 

Makes about 8 Servings

Ingredients:

1 Can  (15.5 Ounces) Low Sodium Organic Cannelini or Great Northern Beans (we prefer Westbrae Brand) well rinsed and drained.

1-2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (2 Tablespoons makes a richer tasting dip but both amounts work)

1.5 teaspoons Red Wine Vinegar

5-6 leaves Baby Spinach

1/4 teaspoon Salt

Dash of pepper

Method:

Blend until smooth and serve! Keeps 4 days in the fridge.

School Lunch Remix! Veggie & Grain Base

What: A fast Veggie and Grain blend to help you switch up one of your many parental responsibilities – keeping school lunch exciting! The key is to make your grains ahead as I do each week – one big batch to use in lunches, salads, dinner sides. Grains even freeze well after cooking. Some favorites are: Farro, Barley, Bulgur, Wheatberries, and Quinoa.

When: When you and your little one are sick of making and eating sandwiches every day, serving protein atop a grain and veggie bowl is a great way to deviate from the norm. I’ll tell you more about how your child¬†can easily to transport your creation to school, alongside some other exciting options to make lunch fun, healthy and colorful.

Why: We don’t serve too many cold cuts, a school lunch staple, in our house. This is because it’s hard to find good quality lunch meat that is without potentially dangerous¬†Nitrates and Nitrites. I also prefer to buy Organic Cold Cuts where possible (which is not to say that we don’t cheat once in a while). While there are good options for Organic Lunch Meat, many brands still use fillers such as Carageenan, an ingredient that is non-nutritive and brings with it several health concerns. All these things considered, Grains and Veggies topped with a Protein are a great alternative to the omnipresent sandwich.

When I do manage to find a Cold Cut brand that satisfies all my usual requirements (Plainville Farms is my current fave), it will always, and unfortunately,¬†have a higher price tag attached to it. Sure, maybe¬†I’ll throw together a sandwich or two with it, but serving sliced Lunch Meat atop a grain bowl is a nice way to mix things up but also stretch the ingredient! Grain and Veggies are super filling and will give your little one a nutritional boost when they need it most.

img_3140

How: 

Grain and Veggie Blend (2  to 3 Lunch-Sized Servings)

Ingredients:

1/2 Chopped Zucchini

4 Sliced then Chopped Cremini Mushrooms

2 Pats Salted Butter

1/2 Cup packed Organic Fresh Baby Spinach Leaves, minced

3/4 Cup cooked grains such as Farro

Salt

Method:

In a skillet over medium flame, melt a pat of Butter and add Zucchini and Mushrooms. Cook, stirring, until tender, turning the flame down if needed. Once veggies are tender, add the Minced Spinach and stir. Finish by adding Grains and heat through. Melt one last pat of Butter and add Salt and other seasonings as desired.

To serve, top with sliced Cold Cuts or other protein (last night’s dinner leftovers make a great option too!).

Tip: We absolutely love our Bentgo Kids Lunchbox. I recommend it to everyone (they’re also available on Amazon). The lunch boxes are BPA free, and they come with a removable, microwaveable tray, for easy heating, serving and cleaning. If you can, buy a spare removable tray. This will allow you to prepare two lunches at a time¬†leaving you ahead of the game on busy weekdays.

Pictured in today’s colorful lunchbox:

Organic Raspberries

Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato (steamed in the microwaved then mashed)

Horizon Organic Mozzarella Sticks

 

Here’s to fun and healthy lunch.

 

The Best Healthy Oatmeal Cranberry Muffins

 

What: Deliciously and healthy Oatmeal Muffins your kids will crave.

img_1999When: Have cabin-fever from the holiday break? Baking with your kids is a great way to engage them as you teach healthy eating habits and discourage straight up junk food. These Muffins make a great on-the-go breakfast you can feel good about on those super rushed days.

Why: We’re not a gluten-free household but we are huge fans of Oatmeal, so this is a win win. To make these gluten free, you can simply purchase Gluten Free
Oats instead of regular. Another reason we love these is that all told, this recipe is quite healthy yet naturally sweet enough to appeal to your little ones and the adults in your home alike.

How: These are so fast to make, proving once again that there’s absolutely no need to buy a mix. Customize them with Nuts and Fruits to your liking (about a half cup of Nt or Fruit per recipe should be enough).

The Best Healthy Oatmeal Cranberry Muffins 

Yield: 12 Muffins that are Gluten Free Optional, Oil Optional, No Flour, No Sugar and very customizable!

Lightly adapted from Brendid.com

Ingredients:

2.5 Cups Whole Rolled Oats (Optionally Gluten Free Oats), toasted in the oven or toaster for about 5 minutes

2 Large Ripe Bananas

1/3 Cup Apple Sauce

2 Eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 Cup 2% Milk

1/3 Cup Honey

1/4 Cup Coconut Oil (Optional) but improves texture and moistness

2 teaspoons High Quality Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

2 teaspoons Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries, briefly soaked in water

Equipment: Muffin Tin, Muffin Cups, Food Processor/Grinder to grind Oats

Method:

Preheat Oven to 350 with a rack in the middle.

Separate out 1.5 Cups of the Rolled Oats and grind them to a fine flour. Add to a large bowl.

Now measure off another 1/2 Cup Rolled Oats from the un-ground remainder and add that the bowl. Set aside the last 1/2 Cup whole Oats for the end.

To the bowl add all the rest of the dry ingredients and whisk well.

In a second bowl, mash the Banana really well with a potato masher until no chunks remain, add Apple Sauce, Eggs, Milk, Coconut Oil, Honey and Vanilla Extract. Combine.

Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir gently. Add the Cranberries and stir again. Allow to sit five minutes so the Oats are soaked through.

Pour into muffin cups and top with remaining Whole Rolled Oats.

Bake for 20 Minutes or until a pick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and enjoy! Great with a smear of Coconut Butter on top.

 

3-Ingredient Candy Cobwebs

Boo! It’s Halloween, and we here at Neurotic Mom hope you’re looking forward lots of fun activities with your little ones this creepiest of evenings. Even if your trick-or-treating already happened this weekend, there’s still time for a spooky, edible craft that will delight big and little diners alike, with none of the commitment of cupcakes or other more involved baked goodies. You don’t even have to turn on the oven.

As you can see, these don’t have to be perfect to look positively adorable and delicious!

Grown-ups: are you headed to a party empty-handed? These whimsically sweet spider webs come together in ten minutes (just leave a half hour for them to firm up). With only three ingredients, they can be ready in a flash. 

For the easy HOW TO head to our sister site Neurotic Kitchen (the place for easy and elegant recipes for the busy home cook with a day job!).

Chewy Granola Bars In a Flash

What: Relatively no-bake Granola Bars (unless you count quickly toasting the Oats and Nuts)  that are the perfect healthier treat for your picky toddler. Customize them to your liking with easy ratios of Nuts and Dried Fruit. You could even add in ground Flax or Chia to up the nutrition content.

img_3020

When: This recipe comes together in about 15 minutes. Allow about an hour for them to firm up in the freezer before you cut them into bars.

How: You’ll need an 8 inch pyrex or small baking pan with high sides, some aluminum foil and a food processor or high powered blender. Toast Oats and Nuts in the toaster oven or conventional oven before you start the mixing process.

Why: Because Granola Bars are a good opportunity to add nutrition to your toddler’s diet. They’re handheld, chewy, and a little sweet – three things young children can resist. Still, I wanted to make the best of this opportunity and create an easy to make recipe that is as junk free as possible. That means less added sugar, and no ickies like tons of corn syrup or other sticky, nutritionally-vacant binders. Super tender Dates (we love Date Lady brand, also available on Amazon) do the trick to knit these bars together, and an hour in the freezer helps them set up. When ready to serve, bring to room temperature and slice. You can wrap them in Saran ¬†or in an airtight container in the fridge and use them for up to 4 days.

Easy Chewy Fruit & Nut Granola Bars

Adapted from Inspired Taste

Yield: Makes about 8 Bars or 16 toddler-sized Granola “sticks”

Ingredients:

3/4 Cup very soft pitted Dates, finely chopped. If pitting yourself make sure you check them carefully after removing the pit.

2 Cups Organic Rolled Oats

1/4 Cup mixed, chopped Nuts of your choice (we used Pistachio & Walnut). For a nut-free option simply sub in the same amount of seeds such as Sunflower Seeds.

1/4 Cup chopped Dried Cranberries (or other dried fruit – i.e. Raisins, Apricots, etc)

1/4 Cup Salted Butter

1 teaspoon Honey

1/2 teaspoon good Vanilla Extract

1 teaspoon Light Brown Sugar

Method:

Preheat Oven or Toaster Oven to 350. Line an 8-inch pyrex plate or small baking pan with high sides with some aluminum foil. Mix Nuts with Oats on the foil. Toast Oats and Nuts for 5 Minutes. Take care not to burn. Remove them from the foil covered pan to a bowl and grease the foil with Oil, Cooking Spray or Butter.

Mix in Dates and Dried Cranberries.

In a small pan or the microwave, warm the Salted Butter Until Melted. Add Honey, Brown Sugar, and Vanilla Extract. Blend until all are dissolved.

Pour butter and sugar mixture over the oat/nut/fruit mixture, carefully incorporating. Remove mix to a Food Processor and process until Dates are incorporated as well as possible. You may need to scrape down the sides.

Press Mixture into foil-lined pan and remove to freezer for an hour. When ready to serve bring to room temperature, slice and enjoy!

 

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Kebabs

What: A treat on a stick you can feel good about – today’s snack uses ingredients toddlers are unable to resist – Yogurt and Berries! Plus, have you ever found a food that comes on a stick that they don’t love?

When: When you have 5, count em, 5 minutes in which to craft your kid’s newest favorite treat. Just allow about an hour to freeze! These yummy mini pops are also a great, guilt free birthday party bite hat look impressive and take practically zero effort.

img_2693

Why: I once promised you that this wouldn’t be the blog where you’d find cutesy things like mini chia puddings in frosted mason jars, or anything that takes more than a short time to toss together. Who has the time? Certainly not your impatient toddler. I was drawn to the idea of making these healthy little kebabs because they are ready in no time flat and can have as little as 3 ingredients.

How: I purchased Wilton¬†Lollipop Sticks on Amazon because I was smitten¬†with the fun colors and patterns, but you could certainly find something far more basic to use. Just try and be sure whatever sticks you choose aren’t too sharp so your little one doesn’t end up poking themselves. Once you’ve dipped the Strawberries in the Yogurt mix, sprinkle with topping of your choice. Get creative with it! I chose some chopped Nuts because my son has a peanut and nut allergy yet there are a few nut varieties he can eat without an issue. For this reason, we do our best to keep them in his diet to hopefully help him remain tolerant to them.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Kebabs

YieldL Makes about 12

Ingredients:

One small cup, 5.3 Ounce Full Fat Greek Yogurt (for this recipe we chose Stonyfield for its consistency).

1 teaspoon sweetener of your choice – such as light Agave, Maple Syrup or our fave Honey *(Important note: Honey is only appropriate for children 1 year and up only!)

12 Large Organic Strawberries (they should always be organic where possible), hulled

Kebab Toppings of your choice- chopped Nuts, Coconut Flakes, Sprinkles, Mini Chocolate Chips

Parchment or Wax Paper

12 Popsicle or Lollipop Sticks

Method:

Line a plate or large tupperware container with parchment or wax paper

Mix your sweetener of choice in the Yogurt container

Place the Strawberries on their stick, inserting where they were hulled and continuing half way through. Don’t pierce the other end of the berry

Dip Gently into Yogurt Mix until coated, or spoon on if easier. Place on the parchment and sprinkle with toppings. Remove to the fridge for an hour and enjoy!

 

 

Magic Pancakes – 3 Ingredient Breakfast

What: The easiest Pancakes you’ll ever make, in personal, kid-sized batches.
When: When you’ve got ripe or overripe Bananas or just feel like making your little one the simplest and most delicious breakfast ever.
Why:¬†While I am generally skeptical of any recipe that uses the word “magic” in its title, I thought the deliciously light breakfast you see below was deserving of such a designation. With just one more ingredient than it takes to make a humdrum bowl of cereal, you too can have Magic Pancakes. Trust me, you’re not going to¬†believe how well these work.

Easiest Pancakes You’ll Ever Make, and healthier too! Photo: NK

How: Banana is the secret ingredient giving this light as air pancake it’s heft without adding heaviness from extra carbs. Something tells me you’ll be stealing these off your toddler’s plate. You can blend the three ingredients together in no-time flat and you’ll have one batch of just enough for 1/5-2 toddler servings or one modest adult-sized breakfast nosh.

Make Magic Pancakes if:

You love an easy 3-ingredient breakfast perfect for 1 but easily multiplied for a family
You like the idea of a lower carb (thanks to less Flour) pillowy-light, fluffy pancake
You’ve got nice ripe or even overripe Bananas that would otherwise go to waste (even slightly underripe Bananas will work).

You’ll be a believer too. Enjoy!

Magic 3 Ingredient Pancakes 
Per serving (about 3 four-inch pancakes)

Ingredients:  

1 medium to large mashed Banana, 
2 tablespoons any kind of Flour (regular, whole wheat, coconut or other gluten free types, etc), 
1 lightly beaten Egg. 
(Optional Butter or light Cooking Spray)

Method: 
Mash Banana in a bowl, add beaten Egg and Flour. Blend Рthis can remain a little lumpy and it will still turn out fine. 

Pour batter onto a hot skillet (you can lightly butter or spray it if you prefer) and flip carefully when Pancakes begin to get golden. Finish and serve.

Better Spaghetti-Os

What: Another junk food makeover of a kid’s classic that busy moms and dads can feel good about. Today’s recipe is a healthier yet still easy take on SpaghettiOs without the BPA lined can (though I applaud Campbell’s for phasing out BPA come 2017), excess sodium, and low-quality ingredients.

When: When you’re looking for a ¬†guilt free sure bet – something your kid will greedily gobble down over and over. No toddler tantrums with this meal!

Why: Growing up in an Italian household meant that the idea of a poor imitation of pasta and sauce from a can was nothing short of sacrilege. Yet even though I’m glad my mom fed me wholesome, mostly homemade dishes, I’ll admit that I couldn’t help but be intrigued those few times I sampled SpaghettiOs at another kid’s house. Their tomatoey, cheesy flavor paired with fun, ring-shaped pasta was undeniably appealing to the younger me.

Just like during my own youth, you won’t find much in the way of pre-fab food on my son’s plate. Still, I make some exceptions.¬†Consumers today are¬†lucky to have more health conscious off-the-shelf products available to them, and busy moms and dads can benefit accordingly. Many of the recipes here are Neurotic-Mom.com will help you do just that!

How: Store bought ring-shaped pasta is your starting point, but the¬†real shortcut to it all is a healthy canned favorite – Amy’s Organic Cream of Tomato Soup (Light In Sodium version). It has just the right consistency and tomato flavor to evoke SpaghettiOs, and when paired with melted Organic American Cheese, (the other secret ingredient), the similarities in taste are uncanny. Best of all, you’ll spend under 20 minutes prepping a large batch of this sure-to-please dinner.

FullSizeRender 7
Melted American Cheese gives it that cheesy goodness.

Better SpaghettiOs

Makes Six 5-6 Ounce Servings

Ingredients:

8 Ounces Ring Shaped Pasta such as Anelletti or Anellini

5 Ounces Frozen Peas and Carrots, we prefer Cascadian Farms

3 Slices Organic American Cheese Singles, we prefer Organic Valley

1 Can¬†Amy’s Organic Cream of Tomato Soup (Light In Sodium version)
Method:

Pour Frozen Peas and Carrots into a small bowl with a little bit of water. Microwave until defrosted and steaming. Set aside.

Boil water and prepare the Ring Shaped Pasta According to Package Instructions until just under al dente (pasta will cook more later). Drain and return to the pan. Add Peas and Carrots and stir in can of Amy’s Light In Sodium Tomato Soup.

Turn a medium-high flame back on the pan and get the mixture quite hot, about a minute or two. Tear up 3 slices of American Cheese and add to pan one by one, stirring vigorously until Cheese dissolves. Cool a bit and serve!

Super Green Veggie Patties

What: Easy do-it-yourself veggie patties modeled after a popular grocery brand.

When: When you’re looking for a ¬†fun and clever way to get nutrition into your toddler and you’ve got about 40 minutes to spare (with very little active time). It’s also never too early to get them used to all things green.

Why:¬†Kids just love handheld food, and¬†if it comes in fun shapes, all the better. With today’s recipe, you’ll get more for your money and use leftover greens wisely. And don’t be afraid to¬†try out new flavor combos using this method – my son enjoyed these both with Yams and White Potatoes. Also take the opportunity spice these up according to your little one’s preferences.

How: If you have a microwave for defrosting the spinach and baking the yam, the prep for these Patties will be super-fast. Just have your food processor ready to go to blend the baked yam and greens together. I like to make large batches Veggie Patties and freeze them. Use cookie cutters to turn these tasty green nibbles into fun, kid -friendly shapes.

Super Green Veggie Patties 

Yield: Fills about 1 8×8 square baking pan – cut into the shapes and sizes you wish

Ingredients:

10 Ounces Frozen Organic Spinach, defrosted and squeezed as dry as possible using a colander or dish towel

1 Large Yam, pierced all over and microwaved in a wet paper towel for 7 minutes until flesh is very soft.

Garlic Granules or other spices (Cinnamon is good too) as desired

1 Egg

1/8 teaspoon Salt

4 Tablespoons All-Purpose Flour

Parchment Paper

8 inch square baking pan or pyrex glass dish

Method: 

Preheat oven to 375.

Prepare Yam as above in the microwave. Scoop the flesh into a food processor. Add the defrosted Spinach and blend until smooth.

Add Egg, Salt and Spices. Blend for another 10 seconds.

Remove blended mixture to bowl and stir in the Flour as gradually as possible.

Line your baking pan with Parchment so that there is some overhang on all sides. Press Parchment into the corners of the pan.

Spread the mixture evenly into the pan – it will be about an inch thick.

Cook for 20 minutes until firm but not dry and toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool a bit and cut into shapes using cookie cutters. Freeze or serve warm or room temperature!

No-Bake Veggie Pasta Casserole

What: An easy layered pasta casserole that’s packed with veggies, and you won’t have to turn on the oven.

When: When you have odd amounts of vegetables or leafy greens to use

Why: Because you should never miss an opportunity to get your little ones used to greens. I like this dish because it incorporates vegetables without trying to hide them – it’s the same idea as our Mac ‘n Greens¬†from a few weeks ago.

How: Slightly overcooking the pasta and assembling it while hot helps bind this casserole together. I recommend using small glass Pyrex covered dishes to store or freeze in several portion increments.

No-Bake Veggie Pasta Casserole

3-4  Kid-sized portions 

Ingredients:

1 Cup Dry Orzo or other small pasta

2 Cups Lightly Packed Baby Spinach

1 Cup Broccoli Florets (frozen and defrosted or fresh)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Salted Butter, cut into dots

1/3 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano

Salt

Pepper

Method: 

In a food processor, blend Spinach Leaves and Broccoli with the Olive Oil until finely minced. The results should be a spreadable paste, loosen with a little water if needed. Set aside.

Prepare the Orzo in Salted boiling water, according to the package instructions. Cook an extra two minutes over recommended time. Drain.

To prepare, press a half inch of Orzo into the bottom of a glass container. Top with a thin layer of the Vegetable Mix. Sprinkle with Pecorino. Repeat, adding another layer of Orzo, Vegetables, and the Pecorino Romano. Dot the top of the casserole with the bits of Butter, pressing into the surface so that Butter Melts.

Allow casserole to set in the fridge at least a 15 minutes before scooping out portions with a spatula or spoon. Warm in the microwave or heat the glass serving dish before portioning.
Enjoy!