We love Mexican food in our house, however I haven’t found a truly mild sauce in a can that would be mild enough for my kids to consider trying. I decided to figure out the traditional spices in enchilada sauce and create a homemade version without the heat. I was worried it might lack flavor and not even taste like enchilada sauce, but I’ve made it a few times and we all love it!
Per usual, I wanted to include an extra vegetable instead of just stuffing my enchiladas with chicken, so I added a thin layer of pureed cauliflower which has a pleasing, mild taste and feel – perfect for sensitive toddlers and kids!
I cook my chicken for both tacos and enchiladas in the crock pot, which I find to be the easiest and most time-efficient for us. See below for my easy crock pot chicken directions.
Kid-friendly Chicken Enchiladas
- Enchilada Sauce (about 2 cups) (See below for recipe)
- 8 tortillas
- 1 pound cooked and shredded chicken, about 4 cups (rotisserie, or see below for crock pot recipe)
- 16 ounces shredded cheese (Cheddar, or Mexican mix)
- 1 cup cauliflower puree (see below for recipe)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Lightly coat a 9x13 pan with spray oil.
- Add about ¾ cup of enchilada sauce and spread over bottom of pan.
- On a separate plate, begin assembling enchilada by spreading two tablespoons of cauliflower puree in middle of tortilla.
- Add about ½ cup chicken to tortilla.
- Sprinkle one tablespoon of cheese over chicken.
- Pour one tablespoon enchilada sauce over cheese and fold tortilla, laying enchilada in pan with seam side down.
- When all of the enchiladas are in the pan, pour in the remaining sauce, and top with shredded cheese.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
*Make ahead directions!
- Prepare enchiladas as above, including baking step. Let cool, then cover tightly with foil. Store in refrigerator or freezer.
- To reheat from refrigerator, keep foil on and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
- To reheat from freezer, keep foil on and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.
- You can also wrap and freeze enchiladas individually, heating in microwave for about 2-3 minutes.
Very Mild Homemade Enchilada Sauce for Kids
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- ½ tablespoon chili powder
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons onion, minced
- 1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
- 1 ½ cups water
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.
- Stir in onions and cook for one minute.
- Add garlic and cook an additional minute.
- Stir in flour and chili powder. Cook until flour is lightly browned, about one more minute, whisking constantly.
- Slowly add tomato sauce, water and cumin, whisking until smooth.
- Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until thickened.
- Add salt.
Easy Crock Pot Shredded Chicken
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
- 1 cup chicken broth
- ½ cup diced onion (optional)
- 1 clove garlic (optional)
- Spray crock pot with light coat of oil.
- Add all ingredients.
- Cook on low for about 6 to 8 hours.
*For more flavor, may add 3 tablespoons taco seasoning, or replace broth with jar of salsa.
**Shredded chicken with juices freezes well for future use.
- 1 head cauliflower
- ½ cup chicken or vegetarian broth
- Cut cauliflower into 1 inch florets or chunks.
- Steam either in microwave or on stove until fork tender, about 6-8 minutes.
- Puree cauliflower and broth in food processor or blender.
- Use in recipe, and freeze extra for later use by spooning into ice cube trays. Transfer to container or freezer bag when frozen.
What child wouldn’t want to eat a hot pink pancake? And what parent wouldn’t want to be able to create these hot pink Valentine's Day Pancakes without weird chemicals or additives? And use a vegetable packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to boot? Hurray, we have done it by making Beet Pancakes for Valentine’s Day!
Beets provide a powerful array of antioxidants, including betalain which is responsible for that rich, deep color. They also offer multiple other antioxidants, as well as good amounts of vitamin C, magnesium, folate, potassium, fiber and manganese.
Roasting the beets brings out the natural sweetness best, but it’s difficult to squeeze this step in before breakfast! I roasted my beets the night before and pureed them in the morning. The next time I do this, I plan to roast and puree extra beets so I can freeze some for future pink pancakes or whatever else! Some vegetables need extra liquid to make a good puree, however roasted beets puree well by themselves.
Easy Roasted Beets
- 1 medium beet
- Canola oil
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wash beet and cut in quarters.
- Place beet on sheet of aluminum foil, and drizzle with canola oil.
- Fold aluminum foil over and seal edges.
- Roast for about 2 hours.
- Cool, then skin should peel off easily.
Valentine’s Beet Pancakes
- 3/4 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- ¼ cup flaxseed meal (optional)
- ½ cup beet puree (1 medium beet)
- Roast and puree beets.
- Combine milk and vinegar in medium bowl.
- Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt in large bowl.
- Melt butter.
- Mix melted butter, egg, and flaxseed meal into milk.
- Add milk mixture and pureed beets to flour mixture.
- Mix just until combined, batter will be lumpy.
- Heat pan or griddle on medium (I know it’s ready when I flick a little water on, and it sizzles).
- Spoon about ¼ cup of batter onto pan, and cook until bubbles appear on surface. Flip and cook until browned.
Through the years I have tried many different approaches to making one of my very favorite foods, mashed potatoes, a little healthier. Most of my creations have been mediocre, trying to substitute lower fat ingredients such as yogurt or low fat sour cream for the traditional milk and butter. And it doesn’t work to just “cut down the butter” because to get that buttery taste and feel you really need a good chunk of it to override the starchy, bland potatoes! Highly disappointing, and often I would end up adding extra butter on top which definitely defeats the purpose!
Until now! A number of healthy mashed potato recipes online substitute broth for milk, which adds a punch of savory flavor and that golden buttery color without the added fat. After a few trials and tweaks, I have found that this combination of flavor and ingredients produces a delicious mashed potato that your family will never believe doesn’t contain butter with its’ rich and creamy taste!
Not that I am against butter and only try to feed my family all low fat foods! It’s just the excessive amount needed to make mashed potatoes taste good and buttery! With Thanksgiving approaching, this dish perfectly accents the traditional menu of turkey and gravy, will likely draw some compliments (don’t mention the “healthy aspect” until after people have tried it, unless they would find that appealing!), and allows guests to enjoy a bit of a healthier holiday (or at least in my case leaves more room for pie, ha!).
As for your kids, the big question is whether or not they prefer peeled potatoes or if they enjoy some if the peel mixed-in. Luckily this recipe can easily be adapted to meet their desires! You can also substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth if you choose.
Savory and Healthier Mashed Potatoes
- 1 ¼ pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and quartered
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tablespoon onion, finely shredded or minced
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ to 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 Tablespoon fresh herbs (optional – some choices are rosemary, chives, parsley)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.
- Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Drain in colander.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in the large pot used for cooking the potatoes.
- Sauté onions and garlic until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add potatoes back into pot with oil, onions and garlic.
- Add ½ cup chicken broth and mash, adding the rest of the broth if needed to reach desired consistency.
- Mix in salt and pepper to taste, and fresh herbs if desired.
Quick and easy are the two requirements of our weekday breakfasts and I’m happy to add another choice to the short list of options! My five-year-old does not love breakfast, so when I made this the first time I had him help me to encourage his acceptance of the dish. Now he nearly makes the entire meal himself! He calls it his “Fancy” egg breakfast, which cracks me up, no pun intended! I love that my son loves exerting his growing independence and the meal offers a filling, protein-rich start to the day!
“Fancy” Egg - Quick and Easy Egg Recipe that Kids Can Prepare!
- 1 egg
- Pinch of salt
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese to taste (about one tablespoon)
- Lightly coat a mug or small microwave-safe dish with spray oil.
- Add egg, salt and cheese.
- Beat with a fork to blend.
- Microwave about 45 seconds. Check for doneness, and continue cooking if necessary (depends on microwave wattage).
- Slide egg onto plate, and serve!
*You can do many variations depending on taste, such as adding milk or water for a fluffier egg, or different cheeses or herbs
An old fall favorite made a little healthier! This recipe uses half the sugar of most recipes, and has extra fiber and protein with the addition of seeds. The result is a salty, sweet and hearty snack treat!
- 16 cups popcorn (1/2 cup kernels)
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1 cup sunflower seeds
- 1 cup sesame seeds (can substitute chia seeds)
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Lightly spray bottom of large roasting pan with oil.
- Pop popcorn and place in pan.
- Add pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and half of sesame seeds to pan – do not mix yet, as the smaller seeds tend to slip through to the bottom of the pan.
- Add brown sugar, molasses, butter and cream of tartar to a medium saucepan.
- Melt mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil.
- Continue cooking at a boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla, baking soda and other half of sesame seeds.
- Pour mixture over popcorn and seeds, and stir to coat evenly.
- Sprinkle about half of salt on caramel corn, mix, then sprinkle other half of salt and mix again.
- Bake for 1 hour, stirring about every 15 minutes.
I have tried to make healthy macaroni and cheese for years, even well before having kids since it tops the list as one of my favorite foods of all time. Unfortunately, healthy macaroni and cheese just never tasted awesome; Until Now!
I tested my new recipe for healthy, baked macaroni and cheese on four kids and multiple adults - even though they aren’t my target market : ))) . It’s rare for me to get hands down good review from all kids because there is usually at least one that either doesn’t like it or refuses to try it. This baked macaroni and cheese recipe received rave reviews from both young and old and I will even propose that it is just as delicious as “real” macaroni and cheese. Now, it is considerably less attractive than real macaroni and cheese, though, because of the brown whole wheat noodles, but the kids don’t seem to notice (just adults – and for them you can just throw a parsley sprig on top to distract the attention!).
When trying to “healthy” up a dish, the first thing I usually do is try to add vegetables. I used Michelle Obama’s brilliant idea of adding steamed, pureed cauliflower. I pureed the cauliflower with a little vegetarian broth (chicken would work too), and the result was a rich and smooth substitute for much of the butter normal macaroni and cheese calls for. Hurray! The cauliflower adds rich flavor, but it doesn’t overwhelm the dish. I have also tried using squash multiple times in my macaroni and cheese, which is also good, but I find that you can really taste the squash flavor. It ends up just being like macaroni, cheese and squash! When I steamed the cauliflower I pureed the whole head with the broth, then froze half in an ice cube tray and transferred to a bag to keep in the freezer for the next batch of macaroni and cheese.
For cheese ideas I turned to Ina Garten, my favorite chef who has never failed me in a recipe – I’ve tried many of her recipes over the years and they are always fabulous! Anyway, in her “to-die-for-macaroni and cheese” (I’ve made it a number of times) she uses extra-sharp Cheddar and Gruyere, so that is what I use in this version.
For added fiber I use whole wheat noodles and whole wheat flour for the roux.
Healthier Macaroni and Cheese
- 1 pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
- Olive oil
- ½ head cauliflower
- About ¼ cup vegetarian or chicken broth
- 4 cups 2% milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
- 4 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated
- 12 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
- ½ tablespoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Prepare baking dish (I used 9x13) by spraying it with a light coat of oil.
- Cook macaroni according to directions, in salted water with a splash of olive oil. Drain.
- While cooking macaroni, steam cauliflower on stove or in microwave. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree with ¼ cup broth, adding more if needed to reach a smooth consistency.
- Heat milk gently on medium heat in a small saucepan, but don’t bring to a boil.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter on low heat in a large pot. Add 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, stirring with a whisk and cook for two minutes. Slowly whisk in milk and continue cooking for one to two minutes, until thickened and smooth.
- Remove pot from stove, and stir in the Gruyere cheese, Cheddar cheese, ½ tablespoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and cauliflower puree. Whisk together to melt cheese. Add macaroni and stir to coat.
- Pour macaroni and cheese into prepared baking dish.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
*You can make the cauliflower puree ahead of time and store in fridge or freezer.
If your house is like mine, your kids have a mental list of vegetables. Those vegetables that they “like” and those that they “dislike”.
Luckily for us, my five-year-old is finally past the very-picky eating stage and will try new foods which includes a larger variety of vegetables. My three-year-old still has a short list of acceptable vegetables.
Variety is key for a healthy diet in kids (and adults!) as each fruit and vegetable contains its’ own unique combination of nutrients and antioxidants. If you have a kid that only eats apples and broccoli for example, the child would be missing vital, beneficial nutrients are not found in apples and broccoli.
While it is true that taking a multivitamin can replace vitamins and minerals, a laboratory cannot duplicate all of the rich phytonutrients found in the real fruit or vegetable. A phytonutrient is a plant-derived compound associated with positive health benefits.
Like my kids, your kids might not embrace a huge variety of food right now but they are more likely to include healthy foods in the future with some habits that can be learned. Try to help encourage healthy eating habits with these suggestions
- Setting a good example by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables in your household.
- If your child tries a fruit or vegetable and does not like it, first commend them for trying something new, then reassure them that our taste buds change as we grow so they may like it later on.
- When talking to your kids about fruits or vegetables that you may not like, just address it in a way that suggests you don’t like it, but other people do (instead of making it sound awful and no one could ever bear to swallow it!).
If you enjoy cooking, and have some free time (ha! a rarity, right?) to experiment, there are many ways to add small amounts of vegetables to meals without them standing out. Examples include casseroles, smoothies, sauces, and spreads.
Here is my kid-tested recipe for healthier, vegetable packed, meatballs!
While my five-year-old now eats mushrooms, my younger kid will not. But she will gobble up these meatballs without question! I have made these a few different ways and find baking to be easiest for me. As an alternative, my friend browns her meatballs and then puts them in the crock pot with an unseasoned tomato sauce – the meatballs flavor the sauce for a delicious, easy meal ready at dinnertime. I plan to try this method too!
Baked Meatballs with Mushrooms and Onions
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ cup mushrooms
- ¼ cup onions
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup bread crumbs
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil, and place a baking rack on top.
- Chop mushrooms and onions very finely, either in food processor or by hand. The smaller the chop will make for a more cohesive meatball.
- Mix all ingredients well, and shape into meatballs (mine are around the size of a golf ball).
- Place meatballs on baking rack (this allows some fat to drip off the meatball, but you can also place meatballs directly on the baking sheet).
- Turn the oven down to 300 degrees.
- Place meatballs in oven and bake for 40 minutes or until meatballs are browned.
- Serve, or simmer in tomato sauce for an hour if desired.
One thing I never fully understood before having kids is how often they get sick, and what it involves! It usually starts with an exceptionally cranky child and some exciting plans having to be cancelled at the last minute (very disappointing, often for both parent and child!). Then whatever illness it is from a cold to a stomach bug, it almost always leads to lack of sleep for everyone in the household. Good times!
To help boost our immune systems I sometimes make Hot Lemonade tea with ginger, turmeric, lemon and honey. Ginger has been used as an herbal medicine for thousands of years. It is well-known as a digestive aid, and may also provide anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits. Turmeric also has anti-inflammatory properties. A squeeze of lemon infuses the tea with vitamin C, a must-have to help heal and prevent illness. Finally, the honey works wonders to soothe a sore throat or cough and of course make the tea appealing to our little ones with a sweet touch.
Turmeric root can be hard to find and sometimes isn’t available. I usually ask someone in the produce department if I can’t find it.
I haven’t done this, but if I can plan ahead one of these days I think it would be a great idea to make some of the tea with just the ginger and turmeric, then freeze it in an ice cube tray and transfer to a sealed container in the freezer. Then it will be on hand in case I get sick and don’t feel like making the tea from scratch!
Hot Healing Lemonade
- ½ inch ginger root, peeled
- ¼ inch turmeric root, peeled (optional)
- Juice from about ½ medium lemon
- Honey to taste (about 1-2 teaspoons)
- One cup hot water
- Prepare ginger and turmeric roots, and place in mug.
- Add boiling water, and steep for 5-10 minutes.
- Remove ginger and turmeric.
- Add lemon juice and honey.