Tool Talk

As a busy working mom I am always looking for ways to cut my meal preparation down.  Even though I am a chef and I love to cook, after a long day of standing around in the kitchen the last thing I want to do for dinner is chop, mince, and  zest. 

These three kitchen helpers are things I love and use almost everyday and make my life easier.

Narrow Measuring Spoons: I love these because they fit into small spice jars easily.  They stay nice looking after lots of uses and nest well.  Trying to get a round spoon into a small jar is not something I need to be wasting my time on.  before I got these, I seemed as if I tried all of my toddler spoons trying to get the spices freed from their jars, not anymore!
Safety Chopper: When my friend Michelle over at What's Cooking suggested this tool for our kids cooking classes I was sceptical. Well, never say never I love this tool!  I distinctly remember saying, "Oh I have knife skills I will never use this in my kitchen." (eating words) Now I use it all the time, not just with my 5 year old but on my own for nuts, onions and so on. The kids do get a kick out of using it and it gives them confidence.  I tell them to wind up and hit it with all their might, the silliness gets everyone laughing and having a good time.

Micro Grater: I use this for everything!!!  This particular one has a long slender surface with small grater holes. Its ordinary purpose is for things like zest or grating Parmesan cheese but I like to use it for things like apples to make "applesauce," and finely grated carrots.  The thing I  love it for the most is grating frozen ginger. I keep chunks of ginger in the freezer for adding to tea and stir fries, it glides easily along the grater when frozen.  I just take the frozen ginger and grate the desired amount right into the bowl or pot give it a bang and all the ginger I need is deposited!!  

When someone in our house is sick they get ginger tea here is how I make it:

Spicy Feel Better Tea

1 mug hot tea temperature water
A few shaves of ginger root (frozen)
2 T honey
1 good squeeze lemon
1 pinch Cayenne pepper (for the grown ups)

Mix and drink.

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Toddler Café Tuesday - Put Your Buns to Good Use

It's Toddler Café Tuesday. Our book has been out about a year now and I thought it was time to start sharing more of the recipes with you, my loyal readers. 

With summer on it's way  I thought I'd give you some ideas for leftovers. Last week it was using up all the crumbs in your pantry, this week how to use up buns!  You are sure to have a stray hot dog bun hiding in the back of the fridge after a fun weekend of cooking out. Put it to good use, try this recipe.

Banana Hot Dog


In a pinch, a plain old banana can become a hot dog! This is a funny and different way to serve this fruit. Put it in front of your child and watch their reaction. Let your kids help add the “mustard”—it may be messy, but it is sure to get them interested. And it’s a great way to use up your old hamburger or hot dog buns. Serve with banana chips for the ultimate tropical experience.


Makes 1 serving

 1 banana, peeled

1 whole-wheat hot dog bun


Creamy peanut butter

Place the peeled banana in a bun. Fill 2 zip-top baggies, 1 with jelly and the other with peanut butter. Cut a tiny hole in the corner of each bag, and squeeze out onto the banana as you would mustard and ketchup. Eat and enjoy.


            Add crushed pistachios for a crunchy relish look-alike.

            Cereal and dried fruit make great additional toppings.

 Toddler Tip:

            Let your toddler have some fun squeezing out the peanut butter and jelly in crazy patterns on their plates.

 Recipe Note:

            If you are weary of peanut butter, try soy nut or almond butter for a change.




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"I Can Make Can Cakes, Can You?"

I never thought I would, really I didn't. Should I tell you?  OK, while browsing the isles of Whole Foods as I do (really it is for work I just have to spend long hours wandering around the grocery store.) How do you think I get most of my ideas?  Mostly I just walk around in a daze while my brain and eyes take in the plethora of ingredients.
I saw a new product called Batter Blaster, at first I walked on by ignoring it's draw.  It's shiny yellow label, it's tall canister filled with pre- mixed organic pancake batter. My better half knows this is over packaged and that mixing up pancake batter takes all of about... 3 minutes. But on the other hand we are planning to go camping and a spray batter would be so easy!   See where I am going here I really wanted it, and I bought it, and....the family loves it.
I don't think I'd buy it all the time, but for once in a while convince food, I can see it. I do love the idea that kidlet wants to make her own breakfast and with this and some supervision she can. She has named them Can Cakes, I can't decide if that is cute or scary, as long as she knows where the ingredients came from I am OK!
It really is the perfect camping breakfast, you only need a pan, some butter and a spatula to make them.  It would be so great if they could come out with a Gluten Free version so mommy can enjoy them too.

These are very easy to make
The batter tastes really good, not overly sweet
The cap and bottle are recyclable
The ingredients are all organic
You can draw cute shapes with it
It makes waffles too
The price is right @ 3.99 for 28 pancakes

A bit over packaged
Cakes are pretty light, very airy and less hearty than other cakes.
I have to go to Whole Foods or Costco to get them.

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Toddler Café Tuesday - Double Dippin’ Cheese Sticks

It's Toddler Café Tuesday. Our book has been out about a year now and I thought it was time to start sharing more of the recipes with you my loyal readers. 

Do you have lots of little bags of cereal and nuts in you pantry? It drives me crazy when I end up with rolled up bags of crumby stuff taking up room in my already too small snack cabinet.  This "recipe" is a great way to use up all those crumbs you will probably end up tossing in the garbage!

Double Dippin’ Cheese Sticks

 String cheese is not usually a food we need to convince our kids to eat, but this is a fun way to enjoy it. It teaches the kids about different textures, colors, and tastes—and they can double dip all they want! Choose some of the dips from the list below or create your own ideas.  Remember to teach them only double dip if it is your food, not shared!


Makes 1 serving


1 piece string cheese


Choose 4 of the following ingredients:

1 tablespoon white sesame seeds

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 tablespoon applesauce

1 tablespoon crushed pine nuts, almonds, or peanuts

1 tablespoon crushed tortilla chips

1 tablespoon crushed crackers or goldfish crackers


Put the dipping ingredients in separate small dishes on a plate with the cheese. Have your child dip the string cheese into each dish and discuss the different tastes. Take a bite and dip again.

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Eating Our Way Through Japan Town

(Again the photos were taken with my phone...)
If I could eat only Japanese food I probably would. One of our favorite things to do in San Francisco is to go to Japan Town it is all things Japanese, between the food and the great products it is a perfect half day trip.  We went to the city to get some items for more exciting bento lunches. We came home with so much more.....
As you can see we have a new member of the pack called Choco Kitty. Sanrio is a dangerous place, I pretty much wanted everything I saw and of course kidlet and hubby did too!  http://blog.wired.com/underwire/2007/08/hello-domo.html
Hello Kitty travel mugs, Domo everything...even DH was loving it!  As you can see in the photo Choco Kitty is enjoying one of our favorite drinks, tapioca bubble tea, also called Boba Tea. Read about bubble tea in a prior post.
Kidlet had mango @food_is_art and I had Thai iced tea. We love to slurp up the gelatinous balls of tapioca!
Kidlet's favorite lunch place is the Sushi restaurant that has the little boats that float around with sushi on them. I assume the sushi is removed after 10 times around but you never know, it makes me feel like I am living on the edge. It may not be the best Sushi around but the little boats that go around and around are a real crowd pleaser. Kidlet likes Tobiko the little tiny fish eggs, it is pretty hilarious to watch her eat the rice and Tobiko with chopsticks. She does a fairly good job if the chopsticks are rubber banded together!

We saw so much great food that day including these funny fish shaped cakes with fillings like sweet bean and chocolate.  They are cooked on a cast iron molded griddle, they are spongy and only slightly sweet.

The other thing we saw that I really wanted to taste was Spam Sushi, but I didn't. Growing up in a kosher household Spam was not on the menu, so in my adult life I have developed a kind of strange love for all things SPAM. My MIL gave me a can of SPAM one Christmas about 7 years ago, I am still not sure why, maybe she likes the graphic tin too! I do still have it, how long does it last anyway?
The original reason for our trip was to get the bento supplies and boy did we get bento supplies....Egg shapers, soy sauce containers and cute little rice molds.
Keep an eye out for some new bento box posts using our cool new stuff.

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Toddler Café Tuesday - Pumpkin Pockets

Lucky you...it's.....Toddler Café Tuesday. Our book has been out about a year now and I thought it was time to start sharing more of the recipes with you my loyal readers. 

Have a leftover can of pumpkin lurking in your pantry from Thanksgiving?? "What do I do with it you ask?" Get the kids and make Pumpkin Pockets!  
The sun is getting warmer and the days are getting longer and that means the kids will be playing outside more. They will want to play until the mosquitoes are buzzing and the sun is going down. I say keep them in as long as you can, cooking at your side, not because I don't like playing outside but because cooking with them is so fun!
I love having my daughter in the kitchen, sometimes it can slow me down but mostly it is wonderful. 
Here is a very easy recipe, if they like ravioli they will love making these. Make sure to let them fill and seal the pasta, they will be more likely to eat it in the end.

Pumpkin Pockets

Here is a very easy way to make homemade ravioli. Gyoza wrappers can be baked, fried, or boiled like pasta. In this case the wrappers cook up just like pasta, with a creamy inside. Serve with browned cinnamon butter, or just plain as a great finger food. Freeze extra Pockets for those nights when the kids are hungry and you’re too tired to cook. Just boil, drain, and serve.


Makes 60 ravioli


8 ounces cream cheese

One 15-ounce can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon kosher salt plus 1 tablespoon for pasta water

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 package (60) round gyoza wrappers (see Note)

2 tablespoons butter, for garnish

Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish


Place the cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat on high for 30 seconds to soften. Add the pumpkin and stir to combine. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt, the nutmeg, and cinnamon, and mix with a stick blender or by hand until the filling is smooth.


Place a 1/2 teaspoon-sized ball of filling in the center of each wrapper. Wet the edges with water and fold the ravioli over to form half moons. Pinch to close, pressing down lightly around the mounds of filling to prevent air bubbles.


Bring a large pot of water to a boil add 1 tablespoon of the salt. Gently add the ravioli, and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they float. (Depending on the size of the pot, you may have to cook them in batches.) Drain the pasta and toss them with butter and Parmesan.


Recipe Notes:

·      If you are cooking frozen Pumpkin Pockets, extend the cooking time to 6 minutes.

·      If you have whole nutmeg, use your micro grater or box grater to grate it into the filling.

·      Wonton wrappers are square and gyoza are round and slightly thicker, but they are essentially made of the same ingredients. You can use either for this recipe; the flavor and cooking time will be longer for gyoza.

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Georgia O’Keeffe in Milk?

[Photos taken with my phone....sorry about the bad quality]

What am I talking about, you ask? I hate to stray away from food because this is The Toddler Cafe you know, but this was so fun I just have to share. Lately my husband

and I have been doing projects with our daughter, simple stuff from home school websites.
The other day on a whim I found this project, Color Changing Milk. I thought well, it is made with food so therefore I can put it on my blog! The project itself is very easy and fun, but I warn you it will only work once or twice and your child will want to keep doing it. I say this because you may have to use a lot of milk, could get expensive.
Who knew that milk and food coloring could produce such amazing and beautiful images I was shocked by the colors. I kept saying wow that looks like and O'Keeffe and I'd explain to kidlet what her paintings look like. She thought latter ones looked like Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, I was amazed she remembered that.
Here are a few shots of our milk paintings at the start:

It turns out that when we went to open house for her kindergarten we learned that they had been learning about O'Keeffe. Each student had copied one of her flowers, our daughter was absent on the day of the project so she never got to learn about O'Keeffe. I turned to her and said, "remember you made on at home in milk, I bet no one else made one out of milk." She smiled!
We learned that we can be in the kitchen and use food to make art with! We also learned that we can use up passed date milk by making cool temporary paintings!!

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