All Posts By Foodlets

Charity Curley Mathews dreams of raising kids who eat (and enjoy) real food. A former VP at MarthaStewart.com, she's a contributor to The Huffington Post and heads up Foodlets.com: Mini Foodies in the Making…Maybe. Together with her husband and three small children, she now cooks in North Carolina.

5 Kid-Friendly Alternatives to Cheese, Crackers and Carbs

by in Recipes, January 23rd, 2015

Carrots & Dip Taste TestGot a carb lover on your hands? A couple of pintsize cheese addicts? Me too. In fact, I have four small kids, and sometimes it seems like they’ll eat only cheese, crackers and other carbs (CCC), at least without a fuss. When we’re in a CCC rut, I break out a few of these delicious alternatives.

Carrots and Dip Taste Test: Hear me out. If your kids don’t like raw veggies, give them a choice of a few dips (salad dressings, hummus or whatever you have in the fridge), and ask them to pick a winner. Alternatively, pick their favorite dressing — say, ranch — and offer three to four kinds of raw veggies to dip right in. Have them declare a favorite vegetable instead.

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9 Fresh Ideas for Winter School Lunches

by in Family, January 16th, 2015

Sandwiches on a StickOK, I admit it: I was a little relieved when school started again after the winter break. The house will be quiet again, I thought to myself. The house will be clean again. (In both cases, the “at least for a little while” part is implied, but you parents knew that.) In the midst of all this reflection, though, I forgot about something: packing lunches.

Without the allure of new lunchboxes, packing lunch this time of year can get tedious, so we’re stepping it up. Here are a few of our favorite ideas, including new things to try ourselves.

1. Embrace the Skewer: Chop up your kids’ favorite sub-style sandwich ingredients into big bites, then thread them onto a bamboo skewer, like what’s pictured above.

2. Amp Up Your Cheese and Crackers: Instead of a sandwich, serve cheese and crackers, but do it antipasto style by tucking in a couple of cheeses, one favorite and one new variety. Then add turkey lunchmeat and a couple of slices of salami.

3. Serve Soup: What’s more comforting than a thermos of hot homemade soup? We’re trying this 10-Minute Tomato Soup recipe ourselves. (P.S. Send a few crackers to add on the spot.)

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Why Our Family Food Goals Focus on More, Not Less

by in Family, January 13th, 2015

Foodlet.comMost food resolutions are about swearing off something: carbs, dairy, sugar, only refined sugar, white flour, all grains altogether … My Facebook feed is full of these New Year’s goals right now.

Eating better is a great idea, but I think these goals are off the mark, at least for me and my crew.

Our Family Food Goals

We have four small kids, from 7 months to 5 years, and there definitely are things I want to work on for better nutrition this year:

  • Less sugar (especially in hidden places like spaghetti sauce and yogurt)
  • More vegetables
  • Fewer empty carbs
  • And don’t forget manners! Our 2-year-old is a force at every meal, and for the sake of sanity all around, we’ll teach him the same rules his two older sisters follow.

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Creative Plating: My Secret Weapon for Getting Kids to Try New Foods

by in Family, December 27th, 2014

ChiliWhenever I have a new food I want my four small kids to try, I trot out a secret weapon — or two. There’s a drawer in my house full of little white bowls of all shapes and sizes: dipping bowls from an import store, egg cups from a big box store, little square appetizer plates bought on sale online. They’re all meant for adults to enjoy little bites of carefully made canapes at cocktail parties; I use them to serve new foods to small fries. Bonus: They’re also the perfect size for serving decadent desserts.

Anytime something is served in a dish like these, the kids think it’s fancy and exciting, so they’re way more willing to try it. And one more thing: All of my pieces are inexpensive, so if (and when) something breaks, it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve amassed a big collection, but even a couple of options would be just as fun. Here’s how we do it:

Juice Glasses: Of all my tiny pieces, our juice glasses probably get the most use. I use them for drinks every day, but occasionally they’re filled with parfaits. Everything from layers of chili and cheddar (pictured above) to yogurt and honey looks fancy when you can see those colorful layers.

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The 1970s Ingredient No Parent’s Fridge Should Be Without This Holiday Season

by in Recipes, December 21st, 2014

Turkey MeatloafAs a parent of four small kids, I’ve stumbled upon a little bit of liquid gold in my own kitchen. Every time I add it to things like soups, sauces, marinades or any cooked meat, my kids give a resounding thumbs-up. What is this miracle ingredient that transforms dinner from a Just-Take-a-Bite-a-Thon into a (reasonably) peaceful meal? It’s Worcestershire sauce!

Ina Garten told me to use it — and by “told me,” I mean she wrote recipes using it — and boy, do I. Now I add Worcestershire sauce all the time, and even though my kid-friendly recipes are all very fast, the Worcestershire makes any dish more flavorful, like it’s been cooking for much longer than I ever have time for.

Want proof? Check out Ina Garten’s 5-star recipes featuring just the right amount of this not-so-secret sauce here:

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How to Make Homemade Food Coloring

by in How-to, December 17th, 2014

How to Make Homemade Food ColoringIf you’re steering clear of store-bought food colorings but want to make colorful cookies or holiday gifts, I’m with you. As a mom of four small kids, I’ve been looking high and low for recipes that produce vibrant colors without chemicals, and these are the best I’ve found. Below are techniques for making three primary colors that you can use as is or mix to create orange, purple or green.

The Colors:
To make red, use raspberries, pure pomegranate juice or roasted beets.

To make yellow, use raw carrots or mangoes.

To make blue, use radicchio or red cabbage.

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5 Easy Christmas Cookies Kids Can Make as Gifts

by in Holidays, Recipes, December 14th, 2014

Coconut MacaronsTo give our thanks to the volunteers at church, neighbors who always stop and ask how we’re doing, and even the UPS driver who never rings the doorbell at naptime (bless you!), we’ve been looking for a few good cookie recipes this season. The requirements are simple: They must be easy enough for kids to make and sturdy enough to wrap as gifts. Here are our top five recipes that fill the bill:

Coconut Macaroons: These five-ingredient cookies are done in 35 minutes, and best of all, you can’t mess up the presentation. Just put a mound of coconut mixture on a cookie sheet and bake.

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5 Kid-Friendly Ways to Reinvent Thanksgiving Leftovers

by in Family, Holidays, November 29th, 2014

Ginger-Peanut Stir-FryWe have four small kids at our house with small kid appetites. That means leftovers are a nightly thing. But in the spirit of variety, I try to change things up for round two with two things in mind: Half the cooking is already done (hooray for me!), and I can usually incorporate our leftovers into a riff of an already beloved dish (hooray for the kids!). For example, leftover broiled salmon might become a simple salmon frittata for my egg-loving brood. Knowing our kid-tested family favorites, here’s our plan for those Thanksgiving leftovers to come:

Leftover: Turkey
Make: Creamy Lemon Pasta or Peanut-Ginger Stir-Fry
Give that bird a whole new flavor with one of our family’s two favorite ways to eat (and re-eat) poultry: Creamy Lemon Pasta or stir-fry with fresh ginger-peanut sauce. Both kid tested, both approved.

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Get a Head Start on Thanksgiving Dinner: 5 Easy Recipes to Make the Day Before

by in Holidays, Recipes, November 25th, 2014

Baked Mashed PotatoesMaking dinner on a regular Thursday night is hard enough for most of us, but Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings can be a full-day affair. Now, I love cooking, but I also have four kids and our oldest is five, so I need to be strategic to pull it off and not spend the afternoon yelling at everyone to get out of the kitchen. Even if you aren’t swamped with little rascals running through your kitchen this year, I bet you’ll appreciate getting a few things done by Wednesday too. Here’s my plan:

Giada De Laurentiis’ Baked Mashed Potatoes
These twice-baked mashed potatoes (pictured above) end up in a casserole dish, making them perfect for reheating on the big day. And with store-bought breadcrumbs and two kinds of cheese, they’re also my favorite mix of delicious food that’s easy to make. Grazie, Giada.

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5 Slow-Cooker Dinners for Fall

by in Family, November 4th, 2014

Mushroom Barley RisottoI’ll admit it: I’m late to the slow-cooker party. But in my defense, I could never seem to find a slow-cooker recipe that doesn’t involve a packet of onion soup mix, gravy mix or can of soup — until now. Behold, five delicious, real-food dinner recipes that politely cook themselves over the course of an afternoon. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Mushroom-Barley Risotto
A vegetarian dish that’s as healthy as it is hearty? We’re sold on this one (pictured above) full of carrots, cremini mushrooms and Parmesan cheese.

Pulled Pork
As a mom of four small kids, I like meals that are simple, inexpensive and versatile. That’s why this one is a staple in our house. Any cut of pork will do, and slathering it with a mustard-based sauce before cooking gives it just the right amount of flavor. Add BBQ sauce, use it for tacos, sandwiches or whatever you (and the kids) like.

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