We Are Moving (VIRTUALLY)

Hi readers, for all of you, new and old I just want to let you in on some new information. The good news is Toddler Café the book is sold out! (no bad news here)  The Toddler Café Blog is moving, the new blog,  Playful Pantry will essentially be the same.  I have moved over all the original posts from here so you wont miss a beat, all my old post are coming with me.  The premise of the new blog is creativity, this has always been my focus but my ideas will expand a bit to include food for kids and grow ups too!  I will be working on new projects, and will keep you updated as they begin.  The new blog Playful Pantry will be just as fun and will also include great tips, fun and different ideas to help you in the kitchen.
Pleas make sure you go over to Playful Pantry and sign up for my email alerts and RRS feed.  I value your readership and hope to see you over at Playful Pantry soon. It's easy to follow my new blog, just head over there and sign up for my e mail subcription, and invite your friends too!
Also don't forget to follow me on my Chef Jen Facebook page and Twitter for all my updates!

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Eating Your Veggies

Cute Little video for kids who may not be hip to eating their veggies!! Start the New Year off right, get some veggies and sing!

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HAPPY HOLIDAYS from The Cardens!


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Home for the Latkes

Hanukkah for me is like Thanksgiving for most Americans, I think. The smell of frying potatoes takes me right back to my childhood. It evokes a warm happy, safe wintery  feeling. I have a deep need to share this time with our friends, Jewish or not so I can tell you that today my house smells like a greasy spoon, in a good way. Yesterday I fried Latkes all day long and it was well worth it. 
Even though it is not snowing there is a perfect chill in the evening air and frost in the morning. It is good enough for me to re create the winter holiday season I have imprinted from growing up in the East coast. 
So here is my recipe for Latkes, I don't drain the potatoes like most people do, they will come out fluffy and crispy just the way we like them! You can make these anytime even if you are not Jewish, everyone eats potatoes!
Happy Holidays to you all!

Home Style Latkes
Recipe by: Jennifer Carden * Author of The Toddler Café
We love Latkes; we like them crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. We call the crispy outsides “hair” and the hairier the better in our family!  The small hole grater is what makes these so delish.  My method for making these is a little different than most recipes, just go with it. 

3 Tbs all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 russet potatoes, peeled
1 small onion
1-2 cups vegetable oil
For serving
Applesauce, sour cream

Whisk the flour, eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Set aside. Grate the potatoes on a fine or very small grating disk in a food processor, alternating with the onion.
Mix the potato onion mixture into the egg mixture with your clean hands.
The mix will be soupy, it is OK, and there is no need to drain it. (The water is what makes the hairy edges.)
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium until a bit of mixture dropped in bubbles sizzles. Be sure not to let the oil start to smoke-you want a shimmer only.
Using tongs or large slotted spoon and gently drop the mix into the hot oil. Fry until edges are brown and crispy. Remove with tongs draining oil over pan.
Drain pancakes on brown paper bags or paper towels. Serve hot with applesauce and sour cream on top.

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Taking Chickpeas To The Next Level

Finished roasted chickpeas

I learned to make  Crispy Chickpeas with Garlic & Sage from my friend Michael Chiarello, we eat them all the time. We love the crunch and the chickpeas are a healthy fiber filled snack food for the kids. We love to do a quick version of his recipe by roasting them in the oven with rosemary and salt, they always get eaten up before they get to the table!  My daughter loves to go pick rosemary from the garden wash and cut it up using scissors The kids can season them and stir them, and be proud of their involvement in the dish.  
Tiny sorghum popcorn and chickpeas
Chickpeas can be great in rice, eaten cold or warm, with curry, in salad they go great in just about anything. If your kids are like my daughter they may not like humus but they may like chickpeas in a different form. I always try to serve up ingredients in various forms and sometimes it actually works! My child wont touch hummus but loves the crisp texture of baked chick peas!
I was looking for another way to serve up these power packed legumes. I came across a very cute video of two girls making a very yummy version of our favorite. Human Body Detectives  is an adorable series about body function written by Dr. Heather about her kids adventures in the human body.  Her girls also make videos about their favorite healthy recipes that they cook at home. I came across their recipe for a slightly sweeter version of crunchy chickpeas I really like it, I can use organic ingredients, raw honey and control the sweetness too.  You can use other spices, try adding pumpkin pie or nutmeg or some vanilla. 
Standard popcorn vs. Sorghum popcorn
One thing we came across recently is Sorghum popcorn, it is tiny tiny popped grains, the cutest thing you ever saw! We tossed it in with the cooked sweet chickpeas for a little texture and saltiness, it was a hit. If you can't find plain popped Sorghum just use regular popcorn it works just as well.
The winter holidays are on the way like a wave of sugar and glistening sparkles and you want to be armed with snacky food ideas, don't you?  Skip the chips and dip, instead put bowls of crunchy snacks all around the house. Surprise your kids and guests with these sweet gems, it's time to break out of the hummus rut.  I suggest making a double recipe....

Removing the tough skins
Butter cinnamon mixture
Roasted Honey Cinnamon Chickpeas
1 15 oz. can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (or 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbs of canola oil or 1 1/2 Tbs of melted butter
1 Tbs of raw honey
1 cup tiny Sorghum or regular popcorn

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Place the beans between two paper towels and pat dry, loosening the outer skin of the
3. Remove the outer skins of the beans, and pat dry to remove any other excess water.
4. In a bowl, whisk together the oil or melted butter and cinnamon. Add the beans and
coat well. Place on a baking sheet.
5. Roast for 40 minutes.
6. Remove the beans from the oven, place in a glass bowl and toss with 1 Tbs of
7. Place back in the oven and roast for an additional 7 minutes. Cool completely add in popcorn and serve!

* Sorghum popcorn  http://www.minipopsinc.com/

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Zojirushi Winner!!!

#16 Serena Victoria is the winner. Congrats to you I hope you love your new rice cooker!!

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Egg Pasta Ribbons Minus The Pasta

(it is very important to make sure you have color coordinated flowers on the table at all times (not really, just coincidence)
This morning my daughter asked if we could have "egg pasta" again soon, how ironic I told her because I was already writing this post! "Great minds think alike" I said!
I think the summer has officially gone, it is starting to get cool and rain here in the San Francisco Bay. I thought I'd share a very easy sunny recipe with you.  As I write this it is very sunny and warm but it wont last.
Nothing annoys me more than when my daughter asks for plain pasta for dinner. I may as well give her the sugar bowl and a spoon! Kids need a little more than plain pasta but sometimes we are in a hurry or just out of ingredients. 
We almost always have eggs in the house, it is our go to meal. We love eggs the good kind, the deep orange yolks from chickens that roam free and have personal groomers (no really I just couldn't resist!) Just get yourself some great eggs, when you make a one ingredient dish that ingredient should be the best it can be.   Eggs are great way to get some nutrition into a kid, but if they are picky or discerning then eggs may turn them off.  Pasta will turn them right back on again, I can guarantee it. If making homemade pasta is not your thing this is the next easiest way to fake it and get them to eat eggs! If they like this recipe it try tossing this with real fettuccine noodles upping the nutrition factor. Add peas and Parmesan for a little more flavor.  Add cooked chicken or shrimp, or roasted carrots and ricotta cheese.

Egg Pasta Ribbons Recipe
The way you get the ribbons is to treat he eggs like a crepe, cooking it as thin as you can. Use a very large pan so the egg spreads very thinly or else you will just end up with an omelet.
Serves one

2 eggs
Pinch salt
1 Tbs olive oil or butter

Crack the eggs into a bowl scramble very well.
Heat a large 8 or 10 inch non-stick pan on medium add oil or butter coating pan thoroughly.
Add egg and swirl immediately coating the whole pan. Cook on medium for about 30 seconds to one minute until cooked through. Pour out into a plate or cutting board. Roll the egg into a tight roll and cut 1/4 inch slices with a knife. They will be rolled up like little spirals, put on a plate, toss to unravel and serve!

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Oh The Horror...Cherpumple Cake

Every Halloween I try to make the most disgusting thing I can think of, like earwax Q-tips or Bloody Eyeballs or the infamous Cat Litter Box Cake. We always have fun with Halloween, we eat healthy during the year but on Halloween I just have to go to the dark side! Halloween is a great time for me to showcase my baking talents, I love to bake but I try to stay away from it during the year.  My friend Barb sent me a link to one of the worst horrors I'd ever seen, Cherpumple, a travesty of cake and pie a most disgusting mess. I knew I was destined to make this monstrosity and I knew it would take hours, and it did.  I think the originator of this mess was Charles Phoenix so I will give him credit too.  
       It is basically a Turducken in cake form, a Turducken is a turkey stuffed with a chicken a duck and quail and so on with stuffing in between each layer. I have made one before but it is not a regular occurrence in our house.
I knew if I made this cake for Halloween it would have to represent something creepy. It reminded me so much of Frankenstein that I decided to give it the green frosting and hair but not the whole face. I did make bolts for the neck but they ended up looking weird.  The problem with this cake it that finished it weighed about 25 pounds and I forgot that It would have to go on a car ride.  
I made three layers, yellow cake with a pumpkin pie, chocolate cake with a cherry pie and spice cake with apple pie.

     The way you make this cake is to sink a prebaked pie into raw cake batter and cook it for about an hour and 15 minutes. The glitch is that you can only bake on eat a time or they bake unevenly. I started at 9 am and finished the last touches at 5 pm. I was speed cooling the last layer as I was frosting the rest, it was mayhem. I used some wrapped up frozen salmon on top as it sat in the fridge. 
The guts.
      It was a ridiculous idea to transport this cake, every time we turned it leaned like the Tower of Pisa but the Tower of Pisa is not covered with green butter cream and fondant! I would not recommend moving this cake, it was like Food Network Challenge when thy have to move those 500 pound cakes, totally nerve wracking. 
The good news it that it made it to the party and the crowd loved it. The bad news it that as we removed pieces it became so heavy that it tipped the cake plate over, that's one hefty cake!
I am already planning on my Thanksgiving cake....maybe just two layers next time.  Don't miss the Poo Poo platter photo below,  yet another disgusting idea from my kitchen.

Poo Poo Platter! (Tootsie Rolls inside)

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Zojirushi's Umami® Micom Rice Cooker GIVEAWAY

The winner is....Serena Victoria
Zojirushi's Umami® Micom Rice Cooker 5.5 cup (you only win one)
I am so glad that you can't see my office, it's really cute but you'd never know it because it is almost always filled with boxes! The boxes are full of good stuff though, great products people send me to review and give away. This is where you come in, you as reader could be you as winner! I always have something to give away and this time it's pretty amazing.

One of the appliances I can't do without in my kitchen is my rice cooker. When I was at the ABC Baby and Kid show last year the people at Zojirushi were so kind to send me two machines!  I am a multitasker and for some reason can't be trusted to make rice stove top. I ALWAYS burn it, yes even trained chefs burn stuff. Once I experienced one of these rice cookers I couldn't dream of going back to burnt rice. This is by far the best my favorite appliance, well, I love my coffee grinder too but that is for another time. The Zojirushi Micom Cooker has a timer so all you do is add the rice and water, set it for the time you want it to be done cooking (a great feature) and press a button. This machine is so smart, it's like a PC that just happens to cook food.  Truth be told this is not only cute, portable and perfect every time but it plays the cutest little tunes. Yes it plays music...when set, it plays Twinkle Twinkle and when the rice is done it plays another tune but no one seems to know what that tune that is. For about 15 minutes I made it my mission to find out but came up short, let me know if you know what the little song is.

My daughter says that I love this machine too much, "it's just not right you shouldn't hug a machine mama!" The retractable cord is great and it has a handle so you can take it with you, just strap it in to the front seat!  Not because you don't want to be parted from it, but for bringing warm food to a potluck or dinner party.  The warm setting is great, my rice stays warm and doesn't over cook.  It even has a battery which means you can unplug it when not in use and it keeps track of time.

You can make porridge or congee, a thick rice soup popular as a breakfast in some Asian countries. I have not made soups but you can make pretty much anything in it, it even slow cooks.Tapioca works well but we use it for steel cut oats. If you add the oats and water the night before it will be done in time for breakfast! Now that's an easy healthy breakfast, add fruit and you can't go wrong.

The one I own is the 3 cup perfect for our small family, don't think I haven't thought of opening the 5.5 cup that's been in my office! I have will power, not much but I have some. I kept it perfectly preserved for my winner, it's brand new and ready to be shipped. [Rice cooker stats below]

I thought I'd also add a great new cookbook to the giveaway from Michelle Stern.

Her new book is called the Whole Family Cookbook and is available on Amazon.   I am a bit biased since I food styled the book and my husband Matthew shot the photos. It is a great book because all the steps in the recipes are broken down into age appropriate tasks making it easy for all ages. Her Purple Rice recipe will work really well in your new rice cooker!! So have fun with your new rice cooker and cookbook. Rules for entry are below.

Requirements to enter the Zojirushi's Umami Micom Rice Cooker GIVEAWAY:

This giveaway ends on Wednesday, November 9th, 9am PST.
The winner will be generated with Random.org
When leaving a comment make sure you leave your e mail address, if I don't have it I can't contact you.

1. Subscribe to my email updates - enter your email in the box on the upper right of this blog 
2. Leave a comment on this blog post telling me you subscribed to my email updates. Tell me what your family's favorite rice add-ins are or what your kids favorite rice dishes are.

To increase your chances to win and receive additional entries, do the following:
  • Tweet about this giveaway. Add @chefjen and #toddlercafe to the tweet
  • Share on Facebook. Make sure you tell me you shared by commenting on my Facebook page that you did! Make sure to 'Like' my Facebook page!
Blah blah blah...
One winner will be chosen at random. Winner will be chosen in Novato California on November 9th 2011 at 10 am. The winner will be notified via email within one week after the draw. The winner will be required to provide an address to ship the two prizes to the address only be used for shipping purposes.
DISCLAIMERS: All federal, state, and/or local rules and regulations apply; void where prohibited by law. Jennifer Carden is not responsible for late, misdirected or illegible entries. Winners are responsible for any and all taxes associated with their acceptance of any prize. Jennifer Carden is not responsible for technical, hardware, software, telephone or Internet access failures of any kind, lost or unavailable network connections, or failed or incomplete, garbled or deleted computer or network transmissions which may limit the ability to participate in this sweepstakes. Sponsor reserves the right at its sole discretion to cancel or suspend this sweepstakes or any part thereof should virus, bugs, unauthorized human intervention or other causes beyond its control corrupt or affect the administration, fairness or proper conduct of this sweepstakes, including terminating just one phase or portion of the promotion. 
Rice Cooker stats:
The Umami® Micom Rice Cooker Warmer comes with Zojirushi's exclusive Umami setting that soaks and steams the rice longer for enhanced flavor. It also has a Slow Cook function that allows the rice cooker to work like a slow cooker.
  • Micro computerized Fuzzy logic technology
  • Zojirushi's exclusive Umami setting soaks and steams rice longer for enhanced flavor
  • Versatile slow cook function to cook soups and other menus
  • Automatic keep warm, extended keep warm and reheating cycle
  • Spherical inner cooking pan and heating system
  • Delay timer (2 settings)
  • Menu settings include: white, umami, mixed, sushi, porridge, sweet, brown, GABA brown, rinse-free, quick cooking and slow cook
  • cETLus listed
Model No.
5.5 cups / 1.0 liter
Dimensions (W x D x H)
10-1/8 x 15 x 9-1/4
Electrical Rating
120 volts / 610 watts
Pearl White

Model No.
10 cups / 1.8 liters
Dimensions (W x D x H)
11 x 16 x 10-5/8
Electrical Rating
120 volts / 820 watts
Pearl White

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Rainbow and Squirrel Sandwiches (not what you think)

We made it through September and October seems to be even busier!! Seriously is it me or do we get busier every year? What happened to the down time it must be somewhere, I am still looking!! The preparing dinners is tough enough, but making lunches can leave you at a loss too. Walking in to the kitchen groggy and trying to juggle breakfast, finding missing socks and making sure homework is in the backpack can be a real chore. The last thing you want to do is make a bunch of lunches, am I wrong? Well I can't help with that because the kids have to eat!! At our school we have to bring lunch everyday we do not have a lunch program (yet).  Over one hundred and twenty or more lunches in a school year can seem daunting, and if you have more than one child...well you get my drift!  
          When winter comes I immediately get out the Thermos and go for soups and stews, warmth during the day can give a child that little boost they need. But until then I like to make sandwiches, the problem is that my daughter has never been a fan of the sandwich. She much prefers a warm lunch, something homemade of course but that can't always happen. Recently I remembered I had some edible markers I usually use to draw on hard boiled eggs with. My discovery that they work on bread was a gold mine!!! I can write notes like "I miss you" or "drink more water" on her bread!! 
The best part is that she likes make her own lunches (with some persuading) because the markers are fun to use. We make the sandwich the night before so we are not rushed in the morning. We only do this once a week to keep it special but it sure is fun!!  We add, fruit, cheese and crackers, and a veggie like cucumbers or carrots. I very rarely add any sugary treats unless it is home baked like banana bread.   This gives me a break the next morning so I can gear up my creative brain for the next day's lunch.

Try going to a thrift shop for cookie cutters, Ikea has some fun ones too!  I have a large collection and find that I almost never make cookies with them. They work so well for "sandies" as we call them in our house!

Cookie cutters and edible markers make a great lunch.

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