Archive for the ‘ Meals ’ Category

The Perfect Kid-Friendly Recipe for Your Graduation Party

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

If your child attends any kind of educational institution you are probably well aware that this is graduation season. From pre-schools to universities, commencement ceremonies are popping up left and right and are a ton of fun to attend if you know a graduate or two. And, of course, like any formal ceremony there is usually an informal party to attend after the event.

Since parents of the grad rarely have time to prepare an entire party from scratch while tending to their student, it’s nice to offer to bring something to the party to help out. Your offer will be gratefully accepted and you, the friend, will feel good about easing the work load of the proud parent.

When I bring something to a graduation party, or throw one of my own, I always make this delicious tortellini salad. The sharp pesto and bright tomatoes showcase the emerging flavors of the season. Plus, it is easy to make ahead and everyone loves it–most kids included. I’ve never seen any leftovers!

This recipe comes from my new cookbook, The Family Calendar Cookbook: From Birthdays to Bake Sales, Good Food to Carry You Through the Year. In it there is a whole chapter on graduation parties in case you need more ideas for throwing your own!

Tortellini Caprese Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

24 ounces fresh cheese tortellini

½ cup pesto (homemade or store-bought)

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts

  1. Cook the tortellini according to the package instructions and drain well. Return it to the pot and stir in the pesto until the tortellini is evenly coated.
  2. Pour the tortellini into a large serving bowl and toss with the tomatoes, mozzarella, and pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Kelsey Banfield, a.k.a. The Naptime Chef, is the author of The Family Calendar Cookbook: From Birthdays to Bake Sales, Good Food to Carry You Through the Year. In it you’ll find all sorts of edible crafts, menus for festive occasions, and tips for your family garden. Follow Kelsey on Twitter.

Fruit Nachos
Fruit Nachos
Fruit Nachos

Young graduate image via Shutterstock
Tortellini image courtesy of Kelsey Banfield

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Big News in Fast Food! Taco Bell and Pizza Hut to Improve Menus

Friday, May 29th, 2015

TacoBellLogoTaco Bell and Pizza Hut are the latest fast food chains to announce health-positive changes are coming soon to their menus.

“Black pepper flavor” will be removed from Taco Bell’s seasoned beef, Yellow No. 6 from the nacho cheese, as well as Blue No. 1 and carmine (a bright pigment) from other menu items. High fructose corn syrup and palm oil will also be removed from their products. New recipes including these changes are currently being tested and, if all goes as planned, will be in stores nationally by the close of 2015. The company, which is owned by Yum Brands Inc., has also said it will remove artificial preservatives “where possible” by 2017.

As for Pizza Hut, they will be making changes sooner. Their menu will be free of artificial colors and flavors by the end of July.

While removing these ingredients from their food may create a “healthy glow,” decreasing portion sizes or the amount of salt and sugar the food items contain would create a more healthful outcome, according to John Coupland, professor of food science at Penn State University.

More and more food distributors and chains are realizing they need to alter their food in order to stay relevant to consumers’ desires. Kraft is nixing synthetic coloring and artificial preservatives from their original mac and cheese. And fast food chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s have also vowed to improve their kids’ meals by removing soda as a beverage option.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn

Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep
Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep
Mom Confessions: Parenting Rules I Thought I'd Keep

Image: Taco bell sign via Shutterstock

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9 Ways to Cope When Kids Get Choosy

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

Between the ages of 2 and 3 my excellent eater started to get pickier. The baby who once vacuumed up broccoli turned into a toddler who suddenly turned up her nose at anything green.

Sound familiar?

Rest assured, this is completely normal, and chances are it’s also temporary. Here are a few tips for coping with this stressful time from my new cookbook Real Baby Food: Easy, All-Natural Meals for Your Baby and Toddler.

First, why does this pickiness rear its ugly head at all? Around this age children are growing less quickly so their bodies don’t need as much energy, and they are naturally less hungry. Second, also around this time many children develop neophobia, or a fear of new foods. Scientists tell us this is a legacy of our caveman days when tots that ran around trying any green leaf under the sun were at risk for poisoning.

So, take comfort in the fact that this is a normal stage. Most kids become more adventurous again around age 4 or 5.

In the meantime follow these Do’s and Don’ts to make mealtime as painless as possible:

Do Eat Together: Serve yourself and your child the same meal. Let him see you enjoying all the healthy foods on your plate.

Don’t Force: Never pressure your child to try something or clear her plate or punish her if she doesn’t. This will only make mealtime more fraught and what should be a pleasant activity a battle. When your child is a little older you can consider making a family-wide “one polite bite” guideline, but not at this stage and only then if you are prepared to back off and carry on with the meal if your child refuses. Mealtime should never develop into a stand-off at the Toddler Corral.

Do Mix It Up: At each meal be sure to serve at least one thing you know your child will eat, like whole wheat bread, a fruit salad, or milk. But after that don’t cater the whole meal to a 2 year-old’s tastes. Serve a well-rounded delicious meal you’ll enjoy eating. The point here is to teach your child to eat within the family structure, not to make the rest of your family eat like a toddler.

Don’t Reward: Does your spouse give you a high five and clap his hands when you try the sweet potato salad? No. Because it’s dinner and what we do at dinner is eat. If your child tries something new don’t make a big deal out of it. Also, don’t promise your child a treat (food or otherwise) if she eats her meal. Then the act of eating will seem like an ordeal only to be tolerated to get to the “good stuff”.

Do Deconstruct It: As often as possible give your child the chance to pick and choose what she wants to eat from what’s on the table. If a hearty salad is on the menu, like this Fajita Salad from Real Baby Food, let your little one decide which ingredients will go on her plate. Even the option to sprinkle on a garnish or not is empowering.

Don’t Give Up: Your child may reject cauliflower over and over and over (and over). But, don’t stop serving it. Prepare it in different ways – roast it, mash it with cheese, puree it as a soup. Enjoy it yourself and eventually (it’s true!) he will try it again. If you stop serving foods on his no-go list, he’ll never have the chance to be adventurous when he decides he’s ready.

Do Do Your Job: And then let your child do his. Your task is to provide healthy, tasty foods at mealtime, and your child’s job is to choose what and how much to eat. Period.

Do Make it Taste Good: Which would you rather eat: plain, over-boiled broccoli or savory, crispy broccoli roasted with olive oil and sprinkled with salt? Guess which one your child is more likely to enjoy as well.

Don’t Worry: Remember your mission as a parent is to teach your child to become a healthy eater over the long-term, not to get him to eat his pork chop on a Tuesday night.

Jenna Helwig is the food editor at Parents and author of the new cookbooks Real Baby Food and Smoothie-licious. Happily, her daughter is now a more adventurous eater, but she still won’t get within a mile of asparagus. Follow Jenna on Twitter

How to Roast Right
How to Roast Right
How to Roast Right

Image courtesy of Lauren Volo

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A Summer Dessert They’ll Go Wild For

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Memorial Day signals the beginning of cookout season and that means bringing a dish to share wherever you go. I’m happy to bring whatever is required and find that having a short, delicious list of recipes at the ready is ideal. When dessert is asked of me I like to make this Mint Brownie Tart. It is a snap to make and tastes like a grown up Junior Mint. Who doesn’t love that?

Every time I bring this treat the crowd goes wild because it has a bit of everything. The chocolate brownie bottom always makes the kids happy, and the grown ups like the fluffy mint frosting. Together it makes the perfect package, especially when topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.

For the baker the best part about this dessert is that it can be made ahead. In fact, it tastes better when it is made before-hand because the brownie has a chance to cool and get fudgy. Also, the cooler it is the easier it is to slice.

Having a repertoire of go-to family-friendly recipes to turn to on a moment’s notice is the theme of my latest cookbook, The Family Calendar Cookbook: From Birthdays to Bake Sales, Good Food to Carry You Through the Year. It is filled with delicious recipes and practical advice that will help you fill your home and your loved ones with food everyone will enjoy.

Recipe: Mint Brownie Tart

Makes 1 10-inch tart

For the Brownie:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
  • 1 pound semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (do not use chocolate chips), divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Frosting:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 3 tablespoons crème de menthe (or substitute 1/2 tsp. mint extract and green food coloring)


  1. To make the brownies: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour the inside of a 10-inch tart pan and set aside.
  2. Combine 14 ounces of the chocolate and the butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave at 50% power in 30-second bursts until the butter and chocolate have melted completely together. Stir them until they form a smooth chocolate sauce. Set aside and allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and vanilla. Stir this into the cooled chocolate mixture.
  4. In a small bowl, stir together the baking powder, flour, and salt. Fold this into the chocolate mixture until no white streaks are visible. Pour the batter into the prepared tart pan and use a spatula to spread the top evenly.
  5. Bake the brownies for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is set and the cake tester comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before serving or frosting.
  6. To make the frosting: Whisk together the butter, confectioners’ sugar, and crème de menthe. It should get fairly thick and turn a light shade of green. If it still seems a little runny, pop it in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up. Spread it evenly on top of the brownie tart.
  7. Finely chop the remaining 2 ounces of chocolate and scatter it over the mint frosting. Slice and serve.

Kelsey Banfield, a.k.a. The Naptime Chef, is the author of The Family Calendar Cookbook: From Birthdays to Bake Sales, Good Food to Carry You Through the Year. In it you’ll find all sorts of edible crafts, menus for festive occasions, and tips for your family garden. Follow Kelsey on Twitter.

Snow Cone Cupcakes
Snow Cone Cupcakes
Snow Cone Cupcakes

Images courtesy of Kelsey Banfield

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It’s Food Revolution Day! Here’s What It Means to Your Kids

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Girl cutting veggiesNot only is today Friday, but May 15th is also Food Revolution Day!

What exactly is Food Revolution day? It’s an initiative launched by Jamie Oliver and the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (JOFF) to promote food literacy and urge governments to adopt food education programs for our children.

With more than 42 million children overweight or obese worldwide, Oliver believes there is no better time to “make practical food education a compulsory part of every school curriculum across the world.”

There is a great divide between what children consume and what they know about what they’re consuming. Currently, elementary school students in the United States only receive approximately 3.4 hours of food education per year, according to Food Corps.

And although obesity is a growing issue—one in three children in the US is either overweight or obese—there is a large population of kids who are malnourished. More than half of school-aged children are from low-income families and oftentimes lack proper nutrition because they’re not eating the most healthful options or they’re simply not eating enough.

Related: Why Breakfast Should Become a Part of the School Day

Food Tank has joined the fight as well by spotlighting organizations that are doing things right by increasing education and bringing healthy food to schools around the world.

“By teaching children about food in fun and engaging ways, educators and parents can equip them with the basic knowledge they need to lead healthier lives,” says Food Tank.

If you want to help, make sure to sign the petition. And join the conversation by tweeting #FoodRevolutionDay!

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

Image: Girl with veggies via Shutterstock

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