Pate with Degas: Foodie Tots Cook the Arts

When she’s not scouting out the city’s best falafel or macarons, the foodie tot is a ballet dancer. She’s been, at her own request, in ballet classes since age two. Her program focuses their learning units around a story time to draw the kids in and keep them engaged. One day, she came out of class and struck a pose, announcing, “I’m Marie!” It turns out they had read a story about Degas’ famed sculpture, Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. She wanted to know if we could go to the National Gallery to see the sculpture. As luck would have it (or perhaps it was intentional on the part of our ballet school), a musical production of the fictionalized story was about to premiere at the Kennedy Center, and I had been debating whether the tot, at age four, was old enough to attend her first grown-up production. I went ahead and got tickets for a weekday matinee, and we were off to the National Gallery to whet our appetite by exploring Degas’ sculpture and ballerina paintings.

visiting Degas' Little Dancer | foodietots.com

Of course, as a family food writer I’m always looking for a way to inject food into our experiences, and we had two chances in our Degas adventure. First, no visit to the National Gallery is complete without a stop for gelato in the below-ground cafeteria. We happened to run into a preschool classmate there and the two girls danced around the cafe in between bites of gelato.

Paté with Degas | chicken liver pate recipe | foodietots.com

During the show — which was more magical than I can describe — I noted that Degas’ housekeeper once mentioned preparing a lunch for him of “a baguette and paté.” So naturally I seized upon the opportunity to introduce the tot to paté at home. I didn’t grow up eating chicken liver or the like, but have acquired the taste for it as an adult. Liver is so rich in nutrition that I’ve been meaning to find ways to include it more in our home cooking. The foodie boy actually encountered it several years ago when we arrived at my brother’s for a holiday. My sister-in-law had made some paté and set it out for hors d’oeuvres. From the table, mouth half full, he called out to his cousin, “Come try this chocolate dip!” We all looked at him wondering what on earth he was talking about — only to notice he was scooping the pate onto crackers and scarfing it down. The foodie tot had a good laugh over this story as I tried to fend off her little fingers long enough to snap pictures for this post.

Paté with Degas tea time | foodietots.com

I’m not going to lie, the cornichons likely made all the difference in enticing the foodie tot to try our paté. I also set the table with our china tea cups (purchased at a thrift shop) and when she came into the room and saw the table she gasped, “Oh, are we having a tea party?!” Another reminder that sometimes it’s simply how you present a new food that will encourage little ones to give it a try.

chicken liver paté with cornichons | foodietots.com

Recipe: Simple Chicken Liver Paté

Makes 16 servings, as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound chicken livers, preferably from free-range chickens
  • 1/2 cup plus four tablespoons butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • black pepper
  • 4-6 fresh sage leaves

Instructions:

1. Melt two tablespoons butter in skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for a minute, then add livers and saute, stirring occasionally, until outsides are browned, about five minutes. (Insides should still be pink.) And sherry and cook for an additional minute, until steam subsides.

2. Remove from heat and let cool a little before transferring livers and cooking liquid into a food processor. And 1/2 cup butter, two sage leaves, salt and pepper. Process until smooth.

3. Spoon paté into individual ramekins or small jars. Place a sage leaf on top of each. Melt remaining two tablespoons butter and gently spoon over tops. Cover and chill in the refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving, and be sure to serve with toasted sliced bread or baguette and cornichons.

Cooking with Kids notes: Little ones can carefully chop the shallot (it doesn’t need to be perfect since the mixture will be puréed) and press the buttons on the food processor.

~*~

Sadly Little Dancer has already ended its (too short) run at the Kennedy Center, but thanks to the magic of social media, we now follow the dancer who plays young Marie on Instagram — and you can only imagine how thrilled the foodie tot was when Tiler commented on one of her own ballet photos. You can still see the Little Dancer sculpture, and the famous Degas ballerina paintings, at the National Gallery of Art.

@foodietots instagram

Kids Cook: Cider-Braised Bok Choy and Sausage #52NewFoods {Giveaway}

A fellow family-food blogger, and creator of the game “Crunch a Color,” Jennifer Lee, has a new book out next week: The 52 New Foods Challenge: A Family Cooking Adventure for Each Week of the Year, with 150 Recipes. The premise of the challenge is simply to cook a new food item together each week. In addition to recipes, the book offers advice for shopping together (at the farmers market, preferably) and other strategies to help children develop a healthy relationship with food. And then it leads you through 52 foods grouped by season with kid-tested recipes. I particularly like that these aren’t cutesy recipes for kids, but real dishes that the whole family will enjoy. My son quickly flipped to the edamame section and asked to make the Edamame Pasta Salad next.

FoodieTots #52NewFoods Challenge

We accepted Jennifer’s challenge to create a recipe around one of the 52 new foods in the book, and started with Bok Choy. We may have had it once or twice in the past, but it never really caught the kids’ attention until the boy started playing Plants vs. Zombies. Yes, sometimes a video game can lead to healthy food discoveries — who knew?! One day we were strolling through the market and he pointed to a table exclaiming, “look, bok choy!” Of course I seized the opportunity and brought several bunches home to try. Bok choy may have an odd sounding name, but it’s really a fairly mild vegetable and can be cooked in ways that bring out the sweetness, like the cider-braised technique I used here. I added sliced sausage to make it a main dish, but you can simply omit the sausage if you want to keep it vegetarian and serve it as a side.

foodietots taste bok choy #52NewFoods

When they realized I was going to take pictures of them prepping the bok choy, they decided to get a little silly. Much to my surprise, my leafy-green-loathing foodie tot quickly followed her big brother’s lead and chomped down on a raw leaf, declaring, “Oh, now I love bok choy!”

This recipe provided a good opportunity for knife skills practice as the bok choy just needs a simple trim of the bottom (and check out the neat flower shape that remains), and the sausage was easily sliced as well.

Cider Braised Bok Choy and Sausage | foodietots.com

As for the finished dish …. well, the foodie tot stuck to the sausage, but the foodie boy asked for seconds. At least now I know to just give the tot her leaves fresh!

Today is Food Day, and in my opinion, the single most important thing we can do today is to welcome the kids into the kitchen and cook something together. Will you join us and take the #52NewFoods Challenge?

Recipe: Cider-Braised Bok Choy and Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 bunches of bok choy
  • 4 chicken and apple (or other mild) sausages
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider
  • sea salt & pepper

Instructions:

1. Help children trim ends from bok choy and separate leaves. Place in colander to rinse and let drain.

2. Slice sausages into 1/2 inch pieces.

3. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Brown sausages, about 3-4 minutes on each side.

4. Add bok choy to pan, pour cider over and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, until bok choy is tender.

GIVEAWAY ~  One lucky reader will receive a copy of the 52 New Foods Challenge book: Simply follow the instructions below to enter. A winner will be selected Friday, November 7.

52 new foods challenge cook book

Carrot Coconut Soup {Vegan}

Fall’s first cool weather means a return to soup season — and we’re celebrating by cooking this creamy vegan carrot coconut soup together.

Carrot Coconut Soup {Vegan} | foodietots.com

Soup making is a great time for kids to practice their knife skills, especially with a soup like this that will be pureed, thus masking the irregularity of the veggie cuts. Now that she is a very grown-up four, the foodie tot was glad to take over the task of peeling carrots.

learning to peel carrots #kidscook | foodietots.com

I also took advantage of the time to work on her garlic peeling and chopping skills — again, because the garlic didn’t need to be finely chopped. (If it had, a garlic press may have been more efficient.)

This soup is vegan, perfect for Meatless Monday or as a first course for a bigger meal. While the kids like it as is, the husband and I spiced it up with a dash of cayenne pepper (him) and harissa (me) — yum!

carrot coconut soup {vegan} | foodietots.com

Recipe: Vegan Carrot Coconut Soup

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound carrots (about 8), peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions:

1. Melt coconut oil in soup pot over medium low heat. Add carrots and garlic and cook until garlic is soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.

2. Add broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower to a gentle simmer (medium low) and cook until carrots are easily pierced with a fork, 15 to 20 minutes.

3. Remove from heat. If little ones are helping, let cool a bit before processing. Using an immersion or regular blender, carefully blend until smooth. Stir in salt.

Dr. Praeger’s Little Bites for Foodie Tots

This post is sponsored by Dr. Praeger’s.

There’s been a lot of hand-wringing in the press over a recent study that called the family meal stressful and unattainable. I’ll spare you my complete rant on the matter, but suffice to say that even yours truly takes short cuts when needed to get a healthy meal on the table on even the busiest of school nights. And I’m grateful to have a handful of real food products to fall back on from companies I can trust, like Dr. Praeger’s. I first purchased their Little Bites way back when the foodie boy was first starting on finger foods, and continue to use them when I want a fun way to boost the veggie content of a meal. Shaped in fun dinosaur and star shapes, they have all the appeal of that dreaded childhood favorite, the chicken nugget, but with none of the junk — in fact, the ingredients are 100% pronounceable and recognizable. The Broccoli Littles, for example, contain: broccoli, potatoes, onions, egg whites, potato flakes, expeller pressed canola oil, arrowroot, salt, garlic. Things you would even find in your own kitchen. Imagine that.

Dr. Praeger's Fishies review | foodietots.com

One of my son’s favorite school lunches is something called “fish treasures.” I’m glad to be able to serve fish bites at home that, again, I can feel good about — knowing Dr. Praeger’s are made with wild Alaskan pollock and aren’t full of unhealthy fillers. There’s even a gluten-free, rice-crusted version of the Fish Littles, and all the veggie Littles (broccoli, spinach and sweet potato) are gluten-free. Dr. Praeger’s asked us to create a couple foodie tot-approved “Little Meals” around their Littles, and we were happy to taste-test some new combinations. The sweet potato Littles can stand in for hash browns at breakfast, and to make a super fast dinner, I roast some additional vegetables — sweet carrots, here, orange and purple carrots we found at the farmers market — while the bites are cooking. (The carrots are bubbles, get it?) Edamame, sauteed with olive oil and garlic, is another kid-friendly favorite in our house to round out the plate.

Dr. Praeger's Fish Bites dinner | foodietots.com

I’m not one to hide the fact that we’re eating vegetables, so I like to serve a few broccoli trees along side the broccoli Littles and point out the fact that foods can taste different depending on how they’re prepared. My kids loved dipping the broccoli Littles in carrot soup. (Another tried-and-true trick for feeding toddlers: embrace the dip!) As with the carrots, I simply tossed the cut broccoli with a little olive oil and roasted it on a separate baking sheet for 10 minutes, while the Littles cooked.

Dr. Praeger's Broccoli Littles meal | foodietots.com

{Get our simple, six-ingredient Carrot Coconut Soup recipe here.}  You can find Dr. Praeger’s in many grocery stores, but check their store locator to find a retailer near you.

Disclosure: Thank you to Dr. Praeger’s for sponsoring this post and providing samples for review. As always, all opinions and comments are our own and we only recommend products we eat at home. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make this blog possible!

Back-to-School Lunch Box Taste Test

We’re fortunate here in Virginia that we don’t go back to school until after Labor Day, so there’s still time to check the last few things (and favorite summertime treats) off our to-do list. My niece starts school this week though, and I know others are already back in school — having grown up with an August birthday, and having a child with one as well, the thought of starting back to school in August will probably always seem strange to me. Regardless, whether you’ve already started back or are still getting ready, I thought I’d dust off my old school lunch tips now that we’ve had a few more years of experience.

back to school | foodietots.com

The first, though, is still my biggest one: plan lunches together. One way we do this ahead of time is to do a sandwich taste test, where I let the kids put together whatever they can imagine to see how they like it. Last year they came up with a peanut butter & salame (his) and pb & pickle (hers). Butter, prosciutto and peach was another favorite the boy came up with while we still had a few local peaches on hand.

pb & pickle | foodietot creation

Even if your kids love sandwiches, it helps to have some non-sandwich alternatives in your pocket to keep the lunches from becoming too monotonous. Rice cakes with nut butter or hummus, mini bagels with chévre or cream cheese, and the occasional waffle sandwich can be found in our lunch box rotation. For the preschooler, a scoop of hummus with several things that can be dipped in it (pretzel chips or pita, cucumbers and tomatoes are her usual) is often requested.

lunch box taste testing | foodietots.com

If your kids are particular about their fruits and vegetables, ask them for a list of ones they’d like to eat, and then encourage them to try one new one each week. If they normally go for carrots, do half carrots and half celery (or peppers or green beans) so that there’s still something familiar in the lunch box. When they’re caught up in conversation with friends around the lunch table, they just might drop that stubbornness they display at home. (Check out the Today I Ate A Rainbow kit if your child needs a little extra encouragement.)

Working with kids to let them feel in control of what they’re eating can go a long way to ensuring they actually eat what you pack. As they get older, they can do more of the packing themselves — even better!

cheddar cheese crackers | foodietots.com

Here are a few other healthy, homemade treats the kids have helped me make to pack in the lunch box too:

Do your kids have any lunch box favorites?