Having a mini muffin pan has changed my life. No really, it has—not in a big way, but it's inspired us to experiment with different muffin recipes. A healthy muffin makes a great breakfast treat, lunch box snack, playgroup munchie, or Halloween party goodie. One of our favorite muffins to make in the fall (and year-round, even), are pumpkin muffins. They're delicious, healthy (pumpkins have lots of fiber, beta carotene, and protein), and easy to make. Sometimes we just grab a box of Trader Joe's pumpkin bread mix, but more often than not, we make them from scratch. They make the house smell great when they're baking, too.
Once something found mainly in health food stores and Middle Eastern restaurants, hummus is now a mainstream snacktime staple available in every local supermarket. I've found most of the grocery store versions of this garlicky, lemony garbanzo bean purée to be uninspired and not all that authentic, but fortunately it's really easy to make your own hummus at home, and we make sure to have the ingredients on hand for whenever a hummus craving hits!
My kids love hummus (my daughter's been a certified hummus fanatic since she was a toddler), which is fantastic, since it's both tasty and healthy. I like to serve it with homemade whole wheat pita chips, but it's also great with carrot sticks and other dippable veggies. I even pack it into my kids' school lunches. This recipe involves no cooking, and the kids can help out with it, too.
I don't know anybody who doesn't like lasagna, and this rolled version is simple to make and delicious. With all the same ingredients as traditional Italian-American lasagna, I find it easier to assemble and serve. The kids like to help assemble the rolls, too.
1 recipe or 24–26-ounce jar of your favorite pasta sauce
Coming up with new healthy and kid-friendly lunch and after-school snack ideas can be something of a challenge, but local business Hip Chick Farms makes it a little easier! Hip Chick Farms, a parent-run company based in Sebastopol, has made a mission out of creating a healthier, more sustainable version of that children's menu staple, the chicken finger.
Available at numerous grocery stores in Marin and the Bay Area, including Whole Foods, Mollie Stone's, Woodlands Market, Mill Valley Market, and others, their products are made with Mary's air-chilled chicken, and organic and gluten-free versions are available, too. They also make chicken meatballs and sweet-and-spicy chicken wings. They're all delicious, too! (We've tried them all.)
We asked Hip Chick Farms' Chef Jen a few questions about the business, and she even provided us with a couple of tasty recipes that utilize their products, both of which are perfect for a quick and easy lunch or after school snack.
What was your inspiration for starting Hip Chick Farms?
I began my career working with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. It was there that I became passionate about creating food that incorporates only the freshest, sustainable and locally sourced ingredients. It was actually my work in Ann and Gordon Getty’s kitchen as their personal chef that motivated me to share my recipes with the world. Part of my job included cooking meals for all the children attending the school in the Gettys' home. My cooking became a pretty big hit with all of the kids – particularly my chicken fingers. This became the inspiration for our Hip Chick Farms’ line of artisan, transparently sourced frozen poultry products; convenient for busy families. Our chicken products contain no artificial ingredients; it’s like I’m in your kitchen, making it for you fresh.
What makes your product different from the others available out there?
With all the apple picking we do in the late summer and fall, I find myself looking for apple related recipes of all kinds. This is one of my family's favorites: old fashioned apple dumplings. They're basically peeled and cored whole apples stuffed with butter, sugar, and cinnamon, wrapped in pie dough, and drizzled with a syrup that turns into a gooey caramel in the oven. This is a perfect dessert for upcoming cool fall evenings, and it makes the house smell wonderful when it bakes.
You can make these using your own favorite pie dough recipe, but I usually opt to save some time and effort and use the frozen pie crusts from Trader Joe's. They're really very good and as far as I can tell are indistinguishable from homemade!
This Monday is Labor Day, that traditional last gasp of summer. To celebrate the end of the season with a backyard BBQ is a Labor Day tradition, so to help you out we've put together a selection of our most popular family-friendly grilling recipes, along with a few great sides and warm weather treats. So fire up the grill, cook up a feast, and enjoy the weekend!
After apple picking, and having a surplus of apples, I love to make this easy and delicous applesauce. My daughter loves to pack this in her lunch box. Homemade applesauce is very easy to make, and really beats that stuff you get in a jar at the supermarket.
Serve it to the kids as a snack, or as a side dish with potato pancakes, pork roast, and more. You can also use it as an ingredient to make other tasty treats like applesauce muffins.
With fall coming and the evenings getting cooler, it's time to make some delicious comfort food for dinner. This classic Mexican soup features little meatballs cooked in broth with tons of fresh vegetables. It's tasty and healthy, too!
For this version, I added some fresh summer green beans, chunks of zucchini, and tomatoes to complement the usual carrots and potatoes. One of the great things about this dish is that you can vary the vegetables depending on what's in season or what your family likes. Cabbage, kale, corn, and peas would all be welcome in the pot.
We used lean ground grass-fed beef for the meatballs, but you can use half beef and half ground pork, ground turkey, or even chicken. My kids love to get involved and help make the meatballs, too.
In the late summer and fall we love to go apple picking at farms in Marin and Sonoma County. It's so much fun to choose and pick your own fruit, but sometimes you end up with more apples than you know what to do with. I've been trying to figure out different creative ways to use apples, since I hate to see any go to waste.
Fresh-baked apple walnut bread is delicious, easy to make and a great way to use up extra apples. It also makes the house smell amazing while it's baking. It's good as part of breakfast, as a snack, or even dessert. My kids love to get a slice in their lunchboxes, too.