Happy Holidays from The Cardens!

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Squashed Potato Pancakes

If you have leftover squash from Thanksgiving then this recipe is a great way to use it up. Kids love pancakes, savory or sweet. Crisp and satisfying, perfect for dipping, these are an easy version of an old standard but with a twist. They are easy to pick up and dip and fun to eat. They are also a great way to get fiber and vitamins in to your kids. This recipe is very forgiving add whatever you'd like, experiment get creative.
They fit perfectly in little hands and have crispy and soft textures for little teeth to sink in to. Super with applesauce, sour cream or BBQ sauce.

This recipe is from my cookbook The Toddler Café

Squashed Potato Pancakes

Makes 12 medium sized pancakes

1 10 ounce box frozen squash, thawed

4 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1/2 1 lb bag frozen hash brown potatoes, semi thawed or 2 medium potatoes shredded

Dipping sauce of choice for serving

Vegetable oil

In bowl mix squash and egg well add flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder, with a fork or your hands. Add potatoes continue stirring until combined.

Heat a nonstick sauté pan on medium heat, add oil, place about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in the pan and fry each side about 3 minutes.

Drain on paper towel lined plate.

These can be reheated or held in a 200F oven.

Optional - omit salt and add 1/2 cup French fried onion rings to the batter

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Fall Leafs Me Feeling Happy Mobile

I know, I can’t believe it either but yes, Thanksgiving is here again! The leaves are falling all around us, how about making good use of them? Let the planning begin and make sure to involve the kids. As a kid, Thanksgiving always seemed stressful for my parents; running around, cleaning, bringing up chairs form the basement and foreshadowing the negatives of how the day would go. “Would Zedi (grandfather in Yiddish) be in a good mood?" “Oh, and make sure he gets the turkey neck, that will make him happy for sure!” Isn't this season supposed to be about joy?

There always seemed to be a layer of tension being laid down with the table cloth as it was smoothed over the big table. Having people over to the house was more of an performance then a relaxing event about togetherness. Mom is a fabulous cook, she had nothing to worry about in that area. The kids were usually shooed out of the kitchen. As the clock got closer to afternoon, the adults could focus on preparing the meal “in peace.”

As a grown up I can respect that, but as a mother I want my child to be involved, to make the holiday as much theirs as ours. It can be done in a way that makes everyone feel involved.

I remember not being able to wait until we were dismissed from the table so we could go watch TV or play a game. I want my child’s memories to be filled with food, pride, and feeling like a valued part of the holiday preparation. What better holiday to start with than Thanksgiving. Here is a craft that will get the kids excited, it is a nice way to honor the guests too.

Make a point of taking a walk a few days before Thanksgiving and searching out beautiful fallen leaves for this project. Do the project in the days prior to the holiday and use that time to connect with your kids. Once the day comes and you get busy your kids will have a great feeling of being a part of preparation for the day. If you live in a place where there is no "Fall," you can get leaves at the craft store, they will work just as well.

Fall "Leafs" Me Feeling Happy Mobile

A great way to involve the kids is in a craft, get some air make it a fun walk to gather leaves. This particular one is a great way to honor your guests and let them know that you gave thought to who was coming, plus it adds some color and interest to your room.

Items you will need:

Leaves with beautiful fall colors a few more than the number of guests

A branch about 1 foot long


Clear contact paper


Hole punch

Permanent metallic marker

  • Have the kids help gather beautiful large leaves, the leaves need to be supple not too crunchy,
  • Wipe the leaves with a dry cloth
  • Cut large squares of contact paper 1/2 inch larger than your leaf, peel off backing. Lay leaf on one half of the strip, and fold over covering leaf.
  • Seal and pushing out air bubbles
  • Cut around leaf leaving 1/4 inch of contact paper boarder
  • Punch hole in the top of each leaf
  • Write each guests name in large letters on each a leaf. I like to use small leaves for kids and large ones for adults
  • Tie ribbon through hole and string up
  • Tie leaves on to the branch and hang over your table

Tip: go one step further and use photos of your guests kids and hang them from the mobile too!

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Pinky Pops-Halloween Fun

Here is a tiny post, it has been a long weekend already, school parties, parades, baking and overall Halloween festivities.
We made these quickly with what we had in the house and they turned out very cute.
To make these:
Use mini hot dogs or Little Smokies
Make three slits for the knuckle and boil until they open up.
Use yellow peppers for the fingernails, make a slit in the hot dog and insert the "nail."
Add ketchup for blood.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Totally Disgusting!

This is pretty gross, I know but isn't Halloween the time for all things disgusting? This cake has become a Halloween tradition in our house, but we usually take it to a party. What makes this cake even more over the top is that it is served in a real cat box complete with a scoop!

I don't even remember where the recipe came from, I just know that it is always a hit!
If you don't want to invest in the kitty litter box use a foil pan it will look just as good, and just as disgusting. Don't forget to Serve with the pooper scooper for a super gross Halloween dessert.

Kitty Litter Cake


1 (18.25 ounce) package German chocolate cake mix

1 (18.25 ounce) package white cake mix

2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix

1 (12 ounce) package vanilla sandwich cookies

3 drops green food coloring

1 (12 ounce) package Tootsie™ rolls


Prepare cake mixes and bake according to package directions (any size pan).

Prepare pudding according to package directions and chill until ready to assemble.

Crumble sandwich cookies in small batches in a food processor, scraping often. Set aside all but 1/4 cup. To the 1/4 cup add a few drops of green food coloring and mix.

When cakes are cooled to room temperature, crumble them into a large bowl. Toss with 1/2 of the remaining cookie crumbs, and the chilled pudding. You probably won't need all of the pudding, you want the cake to be just moist, not soggy.

Put cake mixture into well cleaned new litter box.

Put half of the unwrapped tootsie rolls in a microwave safe dish and heat until softened. Heat 3 or 4 of the Tootsie™ rolls in the microwave until almost melted. (about 10 secoonds) Shape the ends so that they are no longer blunt, and curve the tootsie rolls slightly. Bury Tootsie™ poops randomly in the cake and sprinkle with half of the remaining cookie crumbs. Sprinkle a small amount of the green colored cookie crumbs lightly over the top.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Going Batty

Halloween comes so fast, like a speeding train heading right for you with all the winter holiday cars trailing behind. Make a costume, buy a costume, plan a party, RSVP, buy candy, it is all a little much.

We do LOVE this holiday even though it seems like a lot of work. It comes and goes so fast and we like to start early squeezing every last drop of black and orange out of October. Start early, don't miss the train and have fun along the way!

For these free form cupcakes we made very ugly face cakes. We decided to make the ugliest frosting colors we could. We made a Frankenstein green and an Graveyard gray. To decorate I gave the kids sugar eyes from the cake supply store. Some ended up with one eye and some with three!
To make the tongue and ears we worked Starburst candy until it was soft and shaped them to our liking. If you are in a rush, preorder unfrosted cupcakes from your grocery store to save time.
Let your imagination go, use up all the old candy you have to make room for the new stuff.
I can assure you there will be more spooky Halloween posts to come.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Ice Ice Baby....

This summer has been so much fun for our family, we traveled, gardened, went to camp, taught camp and were lazy and very busy.  We also purchased an old (1973) pop up camper from Craig's list. We fixed it up and took it out and had the best time, we are converts now, and we want to camp as much as we can.

So where does the ice come in? Well being a 1973 camper it has an  old-fashioned   icebox in it. For the ice box to work, you have to get a large block of ice, the  old-fashioned   kind. The ice fits in the top of the icebox and as it melts it drains out the bottom into the ground. If you camp for one night then you have a great big block left when you get home, I threw it in the freezer for another day. This is where the play comes in, what to do with an over sized block of ice?
It was hot after school and the kids needed something to keep them busy. I put the ice outside on some rocks far away from anything valuable. 
I got a few turkey basters (I have no idea why I have more than one) and filled a few cups with warm water. The water got a few drops of food coloring so the kids could see how the warm water affected the ice.
We shot the water in to the ice and made craters and rivers, they had such a blast with it. I did end up running to the kitchen a lot to refill and change out the colors per request.
It was a great experiment for them; we talked about what happened when you shoot the warm water in, as opposed to slow drips. We talked about freezing our own ice with rocks so they could get the treasure out by the force of the water. You could make ice blocks with all kinds of goodies in them, army men, gems, blocks to name a few. It was a great afternoon and I can't wait to do it again.
Who knew camping could lead to such a fun after school activity.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


"Butter Up"

Cooking with kids does not have to be fancy or complicated.  Making butter is one of the easiest and  best ways to get kids involved and excited about seeing a simple technique to make something we use all the time.  We also did this at our Dirt to Dine camp with 30 very excited kids, and they were amazed at the outcome. For this post we just did this in the yard in our jammies!

It is a great way to use up their energy and funnel it into an activity that has a transformative outcome that they can feel proud of.  My favorite part of this activity is is the science, the excitement of making a liquid turn to a solid.

This butter is a great vehicle for other flavors, like herbs,  sun dried tomatoes, olives, or honey.
Now that summer is ending it is time to gather herbs for your butter, dried or fresh.   Send the kids out to pick herbs or take them to the store or farmers market and have them choose some.  Have the kids smell them, feel them, and decide which ones they like the best.

Save those empty jars because once you do this with your kids they will want to do it over and over. If they get tired of shaking make up running games to keep them shaking the jars.
You will need a mason jar, heavy cream, a strainer and a wooden spoon or paddle.  Baby food jars work great for small batches as well.
1.  If you are adding chopped herbs or any flavor add it with the cream.

2.  Fill a jar halfway with heavy cream and a pinch of salt and screw the lid on tight.

3.  Shake the jar up, down and sideways until the cream thickens and begins to stick together.  You may have to help your kids, this can get tiring.

4.  The cream will continue to gather into a ball when it is a ball in liquid it is done.

5.  Pour the buttermilk liquid off and save in a covered container in the refrigerator. You can drink the buttermilk or use it in another recipe, it will be thin, not like the stuff you get at the store.

6.  Rinse, rinse, rinse your butter it will help it not go sour. Hold the strainer under running water until it runs clear.

7.  Put the butter on a board and mash it with a flat wooden spoon or Gnocchi paddle to get out the excess water.

8.  Cover and chill. 

Stumble Upon Toolbar


School Year's Eve- well, afternoon....

I was so sad to hear Cookie Magazine has closed. I looked forward to working with them and feel for all the hard workers who have lost their jobs.

There was always a buzz around school starting when we were kids. We would go to the mall and pick out school clothes, a pair of shoes and new supplies. Maybe it is because I grew up in a very cold dark place and we needed clothes to stay warm. Living in Northern California we don't seem to do the big back to school shop like we did as kids. Maybe it is because Bubbi (grandmother in Yiddish) sends clothes to kidlet, or maybe it is because the sun is still burning brightly and the kids are still wearing their summer duds? For what ever reason we needed a reason to get excited about the new school year California style and Cookie Magazine gave us one.  I recently started working with Cookie and am loving it. They sent me a School Year's Eve Pack, basically a party in a box. 
School Year's Eve™ is a
 new holiday developed by Cookie magazine and PTA to help get families ready and excited about the new school year.

 I thought, why not try,and win 1500.00$ for my PTA, it would be super to be able to had over a check like that in these times.

My daughter was so excited when the box came and instantly started planning the party. The kit included some goodies like pencils and blowers, a very cute banner, napkins, recipes, and other goodies.

I added socks for each girl and cute pencils, and tissues for their desks at school.  Another great item I added was a discount card from a local art studio called Studio For Art.

You can help out local businesses by promoting them as easily as adding a business card to your birthday gift bags.

To make the cake I bought 3 pieces of cut frosted cake at the store, added green coconut and made quick Rice Crispy treats formed into little apples.

It took about 20 minutes to decorate the 

cake and it was very cute. I stuck with the apple theme after a friend suggested it, you know, - an apple for the teacher.

To make the apples, I made 1/2 a batch of Rice Crispy treats and added red paste coloring just after the marshmallows had melted. I spread the mix out on a buttered sheet pad and let it cool slightly. With buttered clean hands make apple shapes. I just happened to find some green shoelace candy and used that for the stems. My preference would have been to use rolled gumdrops for the leaves but I didn't find them until well after I made the cake. Instead I picked out the green leaves from my Autumn sprinkle mix and added them to the top.

To make the "grass" add shredded coconut and a few drops of green food coloring and shake. 

I noticed that in the party recipe book that Cookie sent was a recipe I have in my book.  Waffle Grilled Cheese, couldn't be easier just toss your sandwich in a waffle iron and press down until it is crisp and melty.

We also had a game or two, the pass the orange game is fun, the girls were having a great time with it. They had to pass it from under their necks with no hands, it was a good laugh.

I can always count on 6 year olds to find a game or make one up, like bowling for chalk.  They stood up the sidewalk chalk and used the oranges from the previous game as bowling balls. It was so cute they "kept score" with hash marks it was adorable.

The day of the party it  was so hot here and I got really lucky and found a Hawaiian Shaved ice machine unopened at Goodwill for ten dollars. I made sure to snatch that goodie up right away. The girls were beside themselves with frosty icy goodness, as was my husband! 

We made the snow cones and used thick mango nectar as the flavoring. 

Being a back to school party I did try to incorporate some reading and problem solving like the pass the orange game and reading the signs and napkins.  They are headed for first grade and all worked on reading the signs as a group, they did great.

overall it was a very fun way to kick off the school year. 

So I hope our photo can win that 

1500.00 for our PTA but even if we don't win it was worth it.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Dirt to Dine Camp - 28 kids, 2 locations, a lot of happy campers!

I never would have thought that in one week 28 kids could learn as much as they did.  This camp took the kids from farm straight to table every day, and they got it, they really got it. Lucky for me, my connection with Eileen Gorden and her great idea and great people, has made this has a reality. She came to me with an idea to start a camp where the kids could spend time on a working farm and then translate the knowledge in to cooking class. Marie Sayles was the brains behind the
 farm side and I acted as the chef and coordinator of the cooking part. Eileen worked tirelessly to put all our ideas together, working to secure beautiful locations for the week.  It worked out beautifully!

These kids now know how to milk a cow or goat and make fresh cheese within hours. They know that the animals have to be taken care of, fed, and cleaned. They know how to grind wheat from the stalk into flour for dough. They know how important bees are to our world and how to extract honey from a hive. They did things I have never even done!

They know carrots come from the dirt not from a plastic bag, and how much work it is to pull sunflower seeds from the flower. They know that a farm fresh egg tastes so much better than one stamped with a date from a store. They have the knowledge to make informed choices at a young age!

Here is a sample of one of our days:
  • Day 3: Chickens & Eggs
    • Animal care, farm chores, chicken diet, harvesting fresh eggs from chickens
    • Making chicken stock with whole chicken
    • Make fresh egg pasta noodles
    • Make chicken noodle and Italian egg drop soup
    • Make savory french toast with Parmesan 
    • Compare raw eggs for color; conventional versus farm fresh free range 
    • Taste test: fast food nuggets versus free range chicken breast
    • Feast on the food they made, discuss and recap the day.



At Connolly Ranch in collaboration with Chef Michael Chiarello & Bottega Restaurant 

Dirt To Dine is week-long summer camp bridging farming, gardening and cooking experiences in a dynamic, hands-on, youth-driven environment. The camp brings your young epicurean’s enthusiasm for all things cooking back to the source of the ingredient’s: land, soil, seeds, animals, plants and more.

Dirt To Dine is set in two locations: the epicurean center of the Napa Valley, Yountville; and Connolly Ranch, Napa County’s only family farm dedicated to education. Visit the website for bios of the "Dirt to Dine" team, click on camps.

 I would also like to thank our volunteer teachers Greer Westerink and Kim Kendall-Stubbe who worked so hard to make this camp a success. 

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Summer is Hot, Hot ,Hot!

It is the peak of freshness for peaches and summer produce. The juicy peaches are delicious running down your chin but is it worth the mess. What about those strawberries, aren't they sweet and delicious too? Why not combine them and make fruit salsa the kids will love. Pair it with some quick homemade bunuelos showered with cinnamon, it is easier than you think.

What is all the talk about Salsa you ask? Well I just happen to have this great Salsa CD from Putumayo to give away. Get it, Salsa and Salsa??

To enter just tell me what other yummy ingredients you might add to this recipe to make your kids gobble this up.

Toddler Cafe is all about being creative with your ingredients so let the ideas flow and win yourself and your kids a great CD.

Enter here by commenting and enter twice by tweeting using "@chefjen salsa contest" in your tweet.

Contest will run until August 16th 12pm I will pick the winner on Random.org. and tweet it or e mail the winner.

Contest is over the winner is Laurie thanks for playing!!

Salsa de Fruta

Recipe From The Toddler Café by Jennifer Carden

This is a version of fruit salad, easy and fun to eat. The sweet tortilla chips or bunuelos add a great crunch.

Makes 2 servings

1 cup diced organic strawberries

1/2 cup diced fresh peaches

1/4 cup small diced crisp apple or jicama

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 large flour tortillas

2 tablespoons softened butter

Cinnamon sugar for sprinkling

Combine in a bowl mix gently with a spoon.

Serve as chips and dip.

To make tortilla chips, (bunuelos)

preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush tortillas with a butter and sprinkle with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar.

Place the tortillas on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. When cool break the chips (bunuelos) up in to pieces. Serve the salsa with chips (bunuelos) for scooping.

Tell child they have to shovel the confetti up!

Use a slice of apple as a food pusher to help get the salsa on the chip.

Serve in an ice cream cone

For dinner: Serve salsa on a mild white fish or on a turkey burger

Tip: Add very ripe tomatoes to give this a slightly different flavor.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Bite Into Summer with a Sweet Activity

As most of you know I usually try to talk about recipes with some nutritional value. Well, let me tell you, summer is here and we are already looking for activities to keep Kidlet busy.  Last week I was out shopping and needed a bag of marshmallows. (yes we do make our own marshmallows but not all the time) I immediately grabbed a bag because of the great shape of the puffs inside. The marshmallows were longer and thinner than the ordinary ones from the store. I was pretty excited and was probably muttering to myself about how cool they were.Of course I brought them home with me, I prominently displayed them in a jar to admire them and show off their great lines. 
The next day Kidlet had a play date and they were looking like they needed something to do so we came up with these pretty gems.
Here is what we did:
Each child got a paper plate and a few marshmallows
We stuck a lollipop stick in each one
I gently melted some chocolate (chocolate is delicate and will burn in the microwave if not watched carefully)
We dipped each stick in the melted chocolate halfway, and then dragged a fork down the sides to create the grooves.

Sprinkle with sour candy powder
This was an attempt to use up something we had laying around
The more healthy choice would be nuts, Pistachios or Peanuts

Place them in the freezer for 5 minutes only to set the chocolate.
We slipped our sticks into the ends of frozen waffle boxes, they stood up just right.

Stumble Upon Toolbar