Salad Days

It finally happened, yes it's true...my child loves salad!! I knew the day would come, she always liked her veggies and was OK with chomping on lettuce, but a salad was not on the menu for her. Salad is a tough one for kids, it can be acidic, or slightly soggy or just green! The advice I give in my cookbook Toddler Cafe is to present some form of salad every night.  Put it on the plate, just a few leaves and cut up veggies let your child get used to seeing the veggies there but don't force it. You may end up eating a few extra veggies while you are cleaning up because they probably will leave them untouched every night for years....but...eventually they will eat it. (fingers crossed)
Another tip is to use very crisp lettuce like baby Romaine and cut it small. I like to cut the length of the leaf and then across to make smaller bite size pieces. Having to manage large leaves of lettuce can be un-fun for little mouths, so chop all the ingredients small.

 Of course it was not all my hard work and determination to get her to like salad, it was school! One day the second grade made a salad, they were so excited it was as if they had just all gotten a candy bar or something!! All 17 of them came screaming in the class room, "LOOK WHAT WE MADE, LOOK WHAT WE MADE, WE MADE A SALAD!!!!"
I just happened to be in the classroom for reading groups and got the witness the total frenzy of excited eight year olds first hand.  It was so cute, they were so proud of harvesting and making the salad including the dressing.

That night when Kidlet came home she asked if she could make a salad for our dinner. She has always cooked with me and always created her own "recipes" but she hadn't really made anything fully edible yet on her own. I said with gusto, "sure you can make the salad tonight!" I fully thought it would be horrible, I mean she has been making salad for her pet rat but now she's working on one we are going to eat!! I knew there would be a mess, corn smashed on my socks and dried up lettuce to be scraped off the floor but I didn't care.

She chose her ingredients and I helped get the appropriate tools for her. I showed her how to scrape the food in to the bowl from the cutting board instead of manhandling it in small fistfuls into the bowl.
She made the dressing with lemon, olive oil, salt and a few drops of Balsamic vinegar. Her veggies were, sweet corn, broccoli, carrots, lettuces and parsley, all chopped well.
She tossed it and served it and was beaming and proud and truth be told it was really good!!
Now she wants to make the salad every Friday night, we dubbed it Shabbat Salad and she is in charge of  that part of the meal now.  We always say what we are happy about on Friday dinner and on that particular Friday I was happy my daughter was exited about salad!

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Soda Comes Clean (also win a SodaStream)

Our garnish is a hula girl straw with a strawberry
In our house we don't drink soda but we do like "fizzy water."  One of my favorite gadgets in my kitchen  is my Soda Stream. I can't stand buying bottles of fizzy water just to toss them out a few days after they go flat. Plus with old age approaching schlepping those bottles can be a real back breaker. I became obsessed with "needing" a Soda Stream and once it came I was in love.  One of the best things about it is that if the water doesn't get used up right away you can just add more water and re fizz it instead of  pouring out the water.  Another great thing is that the Soda Stream is self contained, by this I mean it has no plug or cords, and is free standing.  We can take it camping or to a party, it travels well no electricity not problem. I chose the model with the plastic bottle for safety with the kids but the "Penguin" model is very pretty with it's retro looking  glass bottle.

Mashing berries with wooden spoon
I use a dropper for vanilla extract
When I attended the International Housewares Show in Chicago I got lucky enough to be given a Soda Stream to give away on my blog! (I asked really nicely and smiled a lot and it worked!) Details below on entering to win.
I thought I'd give you a fun way to make a healthier soda so when you win the Soda Stream you have a fun activity to do  with the kids for summer. You can use your imagination for whatever fruit you want to add and as always I encourage creativity and using up your leftovers!
Removing stem
I also want to teach you how to de-stem a strawberry using a straw it is a great tip. Taking a sturdy straw push it from the narrow end of the strawberry through the center of the top (green leaves). Voila, a de-stemmed berry! (We like to suck the berry meat out of the straw, waste not in our house.)

If you want to get a little less healthy and a little more celebratory try adding a scoop of vanilla or strawberry ice cream! With the ice cream try adding blueberries for a great a Fourth of July drink!
Add lemon for another interesting drink or float an orange slice for more color.
Strawberry Sodas
Serves 2

6 medium Strawberries, washed
1 1/2 tsp sugar, honey or sweetener of choice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 ounces unflavored fizzy water from SodaStream
an egg slicer

Have the kids take the tops off the strawberries using the straw technique.
Slice de-stemmed berries in the egg slicer, and place 3 in each cup.
Add sweetener and, have kids mash, mash , mash with the end of a wooden spoon!
Add soda water  to the top and enjoy!

Fan-only SWEEPSTAKES from 'Chef Jen Carden' is now Live!  Check it out on my page here

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"Like" My New Page And Enter To Win A New SodaStream

Celebrate the launch of Chef Jen's Facebook page!
Enter the Chef Jen Carden Facebook Sweepstakes and you could win a grand prize — a fancy new SodaStream soda maker. The SodaStream turns tap water into sparkling water in under 30 seconds! It's one my favorite kitchen gadgets.

The contest ends on June 27 and we will be contacting the winner via email and also announcing it here on my blog. I will be closing down the old Toddler Café Facebook Group soon, so thank you for joining me on my new official Facebook Page.

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One-Eyed Purple People Eater Muffins

One-Eyed Purple People Eater Muffins 
Photo by Matthew Carden

 Article from  Edible Marin Wine Country current issue you can see all the issues online.
How does a year go by so fast—it’s summer again? When your days are full of managing your family, driving kids from here to there and trying to fit in your job, time seems to both fly and stand still at the same time. Yes, indeed, warm, sunny weather is here again, so it’s time to get outside.
This is also the perfect time to talk to your kids about dirt. Uh-huh, I said dirt. Dirt is where all of the yummy summertime fruits and vegetables they love so much really come from, and
our kids need to learn that—for their sakes, and for the sake of the whole planet. It is our responsibility to teach our children that taking care of the soil in which our food is grown is the first and most important step in cooking. Dirt’s connection to
the kitchen is endless, yet that connection is surely lost on kids when all they see is their parent or caregiver tossing packaged items into grocery carts. Glitzy packaging may be enticing, but a pea pod is also an amazing package design, isn’t it?
So, plan a trip to the beach, the woods or somewhere else outside, even as close as your own front yard, and take along a homemade snack, like the fun and delicious Purple People Eater Muffins I give the recipe for below. While you’re out there, talk with your kids about how much dirt matters. 

For extra fun, teach them to sing Dirt Made My Lunch, one of my favorite little ditties by Santa Cruz’ the Banana Slug String Band!

It starts like this...
Dirt made my lunch, dirt made my lunch. 
Thank you dirt, thanks a bunch— 
For my salad, my sandwich, my milk and my Munch,
’cause dirt, you made my lunch.

One-Eyed Purple People Eater Muffins
Local blueberries are coming into season, so it’s the perfect time to bake some easy and deli- cious blueberry muffins with your kids. These can be eaten warm, right out of the oven, or filled with a scoop of delicious blueberry ice cream for an extra special treat. I use frozen blueberries in the ice cream mixture to get the pretty purple, but you can also use fresh berries when they are in season.
Yield: 12 muffins

For the Crumb Topping:
1⁄2 cup brown sugar 13 cup all-purpose flour 1⁄4 cup room temperature butter, cut into cubes 11⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the Muffins:
Paper muffin liners (optional) 11⁄2 cups all-purpose flour 3⁄4 cup white sugar 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
13 cup vegetable oil 1 egg 13 cup milk 11⁄2 cups fresh blueberries, in season (or frozen, semi-thawed)
For the Ice Cream Filling:
1 cup vanilla ice cream (your favorite brand) 3⁄4 cup frozen blueberries, semi-thawed (or fresh, but your mixture will not have the same intense purple color)

Preheat oven to 400°. Grease muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.

Crumb Topping: Mash together sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon. Set aside.

Muffins: Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Set aside. Place vegetable oil into a 1-cup measuring cup. Add the egg and enough milk to fill to the 1-cup mark. Pour
the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently stir until just mixed. Do not over stir. Fold in the blueberries. Fill the muffin cups about 3⁄4 full with the mixture and sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake 20 minutes until the tops are golden and firm.
While the muffins are baking, make the ice cream filling.

Ice Cream Filling: Place 1 cup of ice cream in a bowl with the blueberries and mash together with a fork or potato masher (this is a fun job for the kids). The ice cream should turn purple and will have melted slightly. Place the mixture in the freezer to re-harden while the muffins cool.

To Assemble: When muffins are cool, use a small spoon to scoop out a hole in the top of each muffin. Using a small ice cream scoop or spoon, place a scoop of the ice cream filling in the center of the muffin. Serve immediately or assemble and hold in the freezer until ready to serve.

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