Spinach and kale tots

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

One reliable way I could get some greens into M was to present things as a “tot.” He really loved the Spinach and Kale Bites from Trader Joe’s, but our store has been out of them for weeks. So here is my copycat version.

Take me to the tots (recipe)!

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

Note my use of the past tense up there.

M is still in his picky phase that I’ve mentioned before. He’s off of hummus, but full steam ahead with smoothies. One day he loves yogurt and the next he won’t touch it. Some days, carrots are a safe food and other days broccoli is his only vegetable. One day he’ll ask for a bowl of peas (straight up with nothing on them) and another day he’s picking them out of his mac and cheese. It’s maddening.

However, food refusal is a normal part of eating for kids. It’s hard to learn how to eat! Their taste buds are changing, their caloric needs swing wildly from day to day, and part of a preschooler’s job is to push against boundaries, so if there are rules around food in your house, they’ll try to break them. It’s how kids operate.

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

One of my big things is making the same food for the whole family, so the good news here is that I really like these tots and they’re packed with veggies, so they make a good snack for the grownups as well.

Make these tots! One day my kid will eat them, I’m sure. And until then, I’ll eat them.

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

Spinach and kale tots

1 bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 bag frozen kale, thawed and squeezed dry
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
¾ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup shredded mozzarella
Heaping ½ tsp sea salt
Heaping ½ tsp onion powder
Heaping ½ tsp garlic powder
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350.

Thaw and squeeze dry a bag of spinach and a bag of kale. To achieve a smoother texture in your tots, pulse the dried greens in a food processor 10-15 times. You may need to squeeze with another towel if more liquid is released.

Place the squeezed dry greens in a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well to combine.

Take about 1½-2 Tbsp of the mixture and press into a nugget shape with your palms.

Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes or until the nuggets feel solid when you push on them lightly.  

Yield: about 24-26 tots 

Spinach and kale tots | Me & The Moose. These “tots” are filled with super greens and come together quickly for an easy side, lunchbox filler, or snack. #meandthemoose #homemadetots #tots #totsrecipe #lunchboxrecipes #veggiesnacks #kidfoodrecipes #kale #spinach #kidseatgreens

Purple kale and cabbage salad

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods

Yada yada yada…take me to the recipe

Do your kids eat salad?

Leafy greens are hit or miss around here, as are all foods these days. M is doing a lot of refusing to eat at meals— and not just healthy stuff, but ALL stuff— and the struggle is real.

I follow @kids.eat.in.color on Instagram and her feed is a sanity saving reminder that kids’ appetites change dramatically from day to day and week to week for a variety of reasons, so I’m trying not to sweat this testing phase. I think it has a lot to do with control and independence because when he gets really hungry, he eats. Last night he took down about 8 homemade dumplings, peanut noodles, broccoli, and scallion pancakes.

I actually talked to a dietitian friend about it and her mealtime strategy is to serve everyone the same main dish, but to also put bread and hummus on the table so that her kiddos have an alternative if they aren’t into the main. If they ask for something else, her response is a gentle but firm, “Sorry, that’s not on the menu tonight.”

I LOVE this strategy and am going to implement it on our table. An apple with almond butter is M’s go-to if he doesn’t like what I’ve made. So instead of letting that be the end point of a power struggle, I’m just going to start putting it out on the table as a way to de-fang this dinner time dance we’re doing.

I just want to make sure that I don’t take the joy out of eating for M, you know?

I recently read the book The Eating Instinct and it was fascinating. The author talks about how we start off using food for comfort and connection when feeding infants, but pivot to a whole different way of looking at food for older kids and throughout our lives. Sure, food is medicine and can be vital to our health, but it’s also love and community and comfort and it should be all of those things.

Another of my takeaways from the book is that our culture’s messaging around food really undermines our ability to trust ourselves to know what and how much to eat. I really don’t want to do that to M. I want to trust him that if he’s had two bites of dinner, he really is done.

I realize what a privilege it is that I get to worry about my kid not eating a kale salad. I mean, it may not get bougier than that, right? So, I also want to let that bit of perspective slow my roll when I start to get worried or frustrated that he isn’t eating.

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods

Anyhoo, when things are working normally, I have a few tricks to getting M to eat salad:
1) Let him help with mixing the salad and tossing in the dressing.
2) Cut everything really small.
3) AAC, or Always Add Croutons: Bread is pretty safe for most kids and the added crunch can be a fun textural element.
4) Deconstruct: If your kids like to isolate textures, you can also deconstruct the salad so they eat each element on its own.

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods

This salad is lovely and complex, but shockingly simple. I made it with just carrots the day I took photos, but it’s better with the roasted radishes and carrots. The carrots are sweet, which is great for kids, but the radishes add a slightly bitter edge that balances that sweetness. Roasting the radishes also takes away about 99 percent of the bite, though, so they’re very mellow.

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods
Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods

Don’t skip rubbing the bread with garlic once it’s toasted and before you cut it into croutons. So so good.

And don’t be shy with salt. Salads are so much better with salt.

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods


Purple kale and cabbage salad

1 small bunch purple carrots, peeled and sliced into large chunks
1 bunch radishes, cleaned and trimmed on top and bottom, quartered
3-4 thick slices of pumpernickel bread
2-3 Tbsp olive oil
Large pinch of salt
1 bunch purple kale
½ small purple cabbage
½- ¾ cup balsamic vinaigrette (recipe below)
1 large clove garlic, cut in half
Aged gouda (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425.

Prep the carrots and radishes. Toss with 1 1/2- 2 Tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt.

On the same sheet pan, place thick slices of bread and brush with olive oil and top with a pinch of salt.

Roast the carrots, radishes, and bread for 10 minutes. Remove the bread slices and return the carrots and radishes to the oven. Cook, checking for doneness every 5 minutes.

While the vegetables and bread are roasting, chop the kale and cabbage into very small pieces and toss well with the dressing. Set aside.

When the bread is still hot, but you’re able to handle it, rub the raw garlic over the crusty bread. Cut into small cubes and set aside.

(If you plan to make this salad ahead and serve after a few hours, stop assembling at this step. Store your cheese, croutons, and roasted vegetables separately and assemble the components just before serving.)

Add the carrots, radishes, and croutons to the salad and toss. Top with slices or shreds of cheese and serve immediately.

Yield: lots of salad.

Balsamic vinaigrette

1 small or ½ large shallot
1 small garlic clove
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a small blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Check the seasoning. Dressing will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: about 1¼ cups or 9 oz

 

Purple kale and cabbage salad | Me & The Moose. A simple winter salad with greens, cabbage, roasted vegetables, and garlicky pumpernickel croutons tossed with a shallot vinaigrette is as filling and cozy as a salad can be. #meandthemoose #salad #wintersalad #saladrecipes #vegetarian #kale #cabbage #purplefoods





White bean chicken chili

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

Who needs a quick, easy, healthy, and cheap dinner that everyone will eat, is totally customizable, and is gluten and dairy free? EVERYONE, that’s who. And we ESPECIALLY need it this week.

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

Our family just flew back from 6 days in Key West, FL and boy are my arms, legs, eyes, lungs, feet, teeth, hair, elbows, knees, and brains tired. See what I did there?

Can we talk about traveling with kids? I love it and hate it. On the one hand, it’s really nice to get out of the regular grind and say “yes” to things like daily ice cream and night swimming. That’s how memories are made, people!

But some of parenting’s stressors are portable. And some of those stressors are actually worse when saying “yes” comes with a side of fatigue and crashing blood sugar.

This particular vacation was amazing fun sandwiched between two slices of crazy-travel bread thanks to oversleeping for our 6:30 am flight on the way there, and then changing our flights twice and driving four hours at 10 pm to beat an ice and snow storm on our way home.

We also paid an arm and a leg for a 3-hour nap in an airport hotel that was the grossest place I’ve ever stayed. It was less like a hotel room and more like a bunch of pink-eye germs and bed bugs holding hands. Shudder. M commented, “It smells like a lot of people were sweating in here.”

But I fully acknowledge that we’re so lucky to be able to travel and are so grateful to the TSA and FAA employees who are currently working really hard without pay. We tried to make meaningful eye contact while saying “Thank you” over and over in securlty.

That said, I’m exhausted.

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

So, let’s get to this easy, all-purpose chili.

It is deceptively complex considering how quickly it comes together. You can certainly let it simmer for an hour to deepen the flavor if you like, but sauteing the spices and using a rich homemade stock if possible, will achieve the same depth of flavor in less time.

And if you put out every possible topping, I’ve found that this dish makes just about everyone happy.

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

White bean chicken chili  

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 large cloves garlic
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
2 lbs ground chicken breast
1½ cups chicken stock (more, if you like a saucier chili)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
8 oz chopped roasted green chilis (2 small cans)
15 oz can white beans
Toppings: Cheese, scallions, avocado, sour cream, and pickled jalapenos

Heat oil over a medium flame in a large pot. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté again until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the spices and salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 more minute.

Add the chicken and sauté until no pink remains.

Add the stock and tomatoes and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.   

If the sauce isn’t thickening to your liking after 20 minutes, combine 1 Tbsp flour and 1-2 Tbsp of water and stir vigorously to combine. (I usually use a lidded jar and shake the water and flour together.) Add to the sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the chilis and the white beans and bring back to a boil to head through.  

Garnish with cheese, scallions, avocado, sour cream, yogurt, pickled jalapenos, cilantro, etc. Whatever your chili loving heart desires.

Serve immediately.

Yield: 7-8 cups (about 5 grown-up servings)

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

Romesco hummus

Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes
Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes

It’s happening, people. The “new year, new anxiety” phase of January has begun.

Can we talk about having a second child? I have mixed thoughts about it. Sometimes it feels like a member of our family is missing. And both my husband and I have siblings and love it (both the idea of having a sibling and the actual people that our siblings are). AND being an aunt is one of my very favorite things. I don’t want M to miss out on any of that.

But it took so long for us to get pregnant with M, that I’ve been mentally preparing to have one child since he was born.

And the fact is, it took me a long time to feel like myself again both mentally and physically after having M and I’m scared to give that up. I wouldn’t necessarily claim that we’ve “hit our stride” as a family, but we’ve achieved a sort of equilibrium, so the idea of purposely throwing a HUGE wrench into the works with another baby is very scary.

I’m also scared about the change to M’s life. He’s actually cried a few times because he doesn’t have a sibling, but I know that his sadness is purely theoretical. When another little person actually takes up our time, he’ll be PISSED. I don’t want to ruin his life, you know?

But what about the joy a kid brings? And the funny family stories we’ll have in the future? And M will need someone to complain to about all of the mistakes we’ll inevitably make.

And here’s where the anxiety comes in: We are entering my 39th year of life, so my time to perseverate about having another child is swiftly coming to an end. UUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH.

What is your advice? Have any of you felt this way? How did you make the final decision? I NEED TO KNOW.

Anyhoo, I can’t think of a good segue, so HUMMUS.

Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes

Hummus was one of M’s favorite snacks until…it wasn’t. He actually told me one day that he was “done” with hummus and carrots. Rude.

So I combined plain hummus with the veggies and spices from Romesco sauce, had him measure the ingredients and press the food processor buttons, and HUZZAH he likes hummus again.

For anyone wondering why they should make hummus rather than buying it in the store I say, it’s truly so easy that a small child can do it (and did). Unlike regular Romesco sauce, this hummus is nut-free, so you don’t have to toast or roast anything. You don’t even need to chop because the food processor, well, processes.

A couple of notes:

  • There is a lot of smoked paprika in this recipe, so start with 1/2 tsp and add more to taste if you prefer milder flavors.

  • I use a brand of roasted red pepper that comes in a tall, thin jar, so the peppers are really big. If your peppers are smaller, use two.

Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes

Romesco hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained
1 large roasted red pepper (or 2 smaller peppers)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 large garlic cloves
1/2-1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
3 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar

 Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Yield: 16 oz or 1.5 cups

Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes

How to fill a lunchbox

Chicken and cheese taco with cherry tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries,  Romesco  sauce, guacamole, and flax seed tortilla chips.

Chicken and cheese taco with cherry tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries, Romesco sauce, guacamole, and flax seed tortilla chips.

I spend a lot of time thinking about, planning, and executing M's lunches. And there are days when he eats...none of it. But there are days when he eats tons and I feel utterly triumphant. I wanted to share my top lunchbox tips so that you, too, can declare victory when that lunchbox comes home nearly empty (and you haven't worked that hard to make it happen).

Sushi is always a favorite and can be filled with WHATEVER your kid likes. See my  Instagram post  for my simple sushi rice recipe.

Sushi is always a favorite and can be filled with WHATEVER your kid likes. See my Instagram post for my simple sushi rice recipe.

1) Repurpose leftovers: Obviously, you can plop a portion of last night's dinner into your kids' lunchbox. (See below for some favorite ways to do this.) But another tactic is to make extras of the proteins and veggies that were dinner's components. Those ingredients, plus a tortilla with some cheese (or vegan cheese) and avocado, become a taco, quesadilla, or roll-up. We're also big fans of the "open face" sandwich with cheese melted on top. Or, cube it all up and make a skewer. Or, if your kid is a pasta eater, add those proteins and veggies to noodles and some jarred sauce. Easy peasy.

Leftover fried rice plus smoked salmon, blueberries, cheese, hummus, and pretzels.

Leftover fried rice plus smoked salmon, blueberries, cheese, hummus, and pretzels.

2) Prep: Every weekend I do these 5 things:

  • Hard boil some eggs

  • Make a white, wheat, rice, or bean pasta

  • Bake mini muffins or doughnuts

  • Make no-bake energy balls or granola bars

  • Roast two veggies that I know M will eat

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3) Send breakfast for lunch: I often make double breakfast and add it to a lunchbox later in the week. For instance, these two-ingredient egg and banana pancakes are a big favorite. Use them as sandwich bread with nut or seed butter and chia jam or rolled them up like little cigars. Savory waffles like veggie or cheese can sub in for sandwich bread. Granola cups are also an easy batch bake that work for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

4) Take inspiration from their classroom learning: I like to theme M's lunches, but that's mostly because I need inspiration and not because I'm trying to win any mom awards. Dinosaurs, Butterflies, and The Ocean were particularly fertile ground. Even if "theme-ing" lunch just means cutting out a sandwich shape, it feels a little special.

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5) Deconstruct something they like: Add the fixings for tacos, nachos, sandwiches, pasta, etc and let them put it together themselves. Like a homemade lunchable.

6) Think about appetizers: Have you considered sending your kids to school with a cheese plate or chicken sausage pigs in a blanket? Half of M's lunch most days is a crudite plate.

See? Basically crudite.

See? Basically crudite.

Double Duty Dinner/Lunch Recipes 

Sweets with oomph

No bake add-ins

Happy lunching everyone!