Tag Archives: kid friendly recipes

February is Eggplant Month

At the beginning of the year, I set out a monthly challenge to make dishes from seasonal products and see how my toddler liked them. To see upcoming challenges see my Happy 2014 Post here! The benefits of setting and sharing this challenge include:

1) Eating seasonally is budget and local farmer friendly
2) It stretches my cooking repertoire
3) Seasonal produce goes from farm to fork quicker and is nutritionally better for us!
3) It encourages new food appreciation for my family, especially my toddler.

February is Eggplant Month!


Recipe #1: Eggplant Chips

Toddler Review: She sucked the crumbs off and ate mushy inside of the chips – but left the skins behind.

Ingredients & Method:  Sliced one large eggplant and cut into “steak fry” sizes.  Coated with a drizzle of olive oil and then tossed in multi-grain breadcrumbs.  Baked at 150oC for 40mins.

Eggplant Chips served with Hummus
Eggplant Chips served with Hummus

Recipe #2: Burghal & Pork Stuffed Eggplant

Toddler Review: Toddler loved the stuffing mix.  However, was not fussed on eating the actual skin of the eggplant again.

Ingredients & Method: Take 2 Medium sized Eggplants and roast them whole in the oven at 150oC for 1 hour. Remove and let them cool down a bit.  Make up your stuffing mix next by letting 1/3 cup of burghal absorb 2/3 cup of boiling water in a heat proof bowl (takes about 5 min).  In a pan, sautee a diced brown onion in some olive oil.  Once the onion is starting to go transparent, add 200g of pork mince and cook through, add the burghal, 2 tbsp of tomato paste, 1/3 cup of diced caspisum, 1 tsp dried oregano and a handful of chopped fresh basil.  Cook all together for a few minutes until fragrant.  Remove from the heat.  Cut your eggplants in half and remove some of the larger veins of seeds.  Add the flesh of the eggplants to your stuffing mix.  Add an egg to the stuffing mix and combine well.  Put the stuffing mix into the shells of the eggplant and finish with grated cheese.

PlaywithFood-1876Return the stuffed eggplants to the oven for a further 30 min until the stuffing is fully cooked and the cheese is browned. Serve with salad.


Recipe #3: Zucchini and Eggplant Dip 

Toddler Review: “yum”  – my toddler loves dipping sauces though!

Ingredients & Method: Roast 2 medium sized eggplants on 150oC for 1 hour with 1 medium – large size zucchini.  Coarsley chop the zucchini (skin as well) and remove the flesh (including seeds) from the eggplants and put this into a food processor.  Add 1 cup no fat greek yoghurt, a pinch of salt, a pinch of black pepper, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice (or juice from 1/2 a lemon) and 2 cloves of garlic crushed.  Blitz in the food processor, spoon into serving dish and then top with an additional drizzle of olive.  We had ours served with some sourdough rolls.  It is also really great chilled and served later.  A great dip to make ahead for a party or BBQ!


Cooking with Kids

Before I started blogging my recipes (this year), I regularly published recipes to my Facebook page & also I write recipes for Mum’s Lounge.  The recipes for Mum’s Lounge are in a “little one & me” format, where I step out what the kids can do and what the adults can do to complete the recipe together.  I really and truly believe cooking with the kids leads to wonderful conversation and food awareness …. but don’t just take my word for it….

Why involve kids in the kitchen?  Children who learn to cook before the age of 8 are 50% more likely to have healthy diets!  Read more here  

Today’s post summarises my “little one & me” recipes for you to have a look at:

"Monster Balls" served with a white bean dip
“Monster Balls” served with a white bean dip

My FAVOURITE “little one & me” recipe is for these Monster Balls.  Why is it my favourite?  Because it is so versatile.  You can use the basics of this recipe (bread crumbs, eggs & cheese) then choose any left-overs / or a clever mix of your child’s tolerated and preferred foods to make these.  See the variations list in the introduction to the recipe and some ideas for dipping sauces at the end.  Giving food clever names will help engage your children to a theme & spike their interest in trying it out.  There is nothing wrong with having a bit of a laugh in the kitchen!

Strawberry and Apple Crumble with the added goodness of Quinoa is a great celebration of springtime flavours when strawberries start hitting the green grocer.

Strawberry & Apple Crumble
Strawberry & Apple Crumble

Healthy Gummy Stars are a good recipe for lolly alternatives.  They are a very firm jelly made with real fruits and no cane sugar.  The little ones can probably only assist when it comes to cutting out the stars (or whatever shapes you have).

Easy & Healthier Snickerdoodles are a great motor planning exercise with the children as they wrap the dough around the filling.  Plus, they taste so good whilst still warm from the oven (note: if you use chocolate buttons / squares they stay piping hot for a while so always taste test them first for correct temperature before letting the kids loose on them – plus this way you ensure to get your share of them before it’s too late!)

Chocolate Button & Banana Filled Snickerdoodles
Chocolate Button & Banana Filled Snickerdoodles

Also, check out the dough that I use for the snickerdoodles because it can be made sweet or savoury, it is super easy AND is egg free!  We use this dough recipe regularly for pizza bases in our house.

Zucchini & Sesame Quackers (Crackers) is a great make ahead recipe for a party or gathering where you are told to bring a plate.  You can enhance the flavour of these crackers with herbs or parmesan cheese, depending on your taste preference & any allergy considerations you have.  The version I have made here is dairy and egg free.

A big hit on the Play with Food Facebook page in 2013 were my sweet vegie muffins and I have to say that they are so nice straight out of the oven.  You can also substitute the golden syrup with honey.  There are some good tips in the comments too for encouraging interaction with the kids during this recipe.

Wishing you all the best for some “little one & me” cooking time!


Simone Emery

January is Fresh Chive Month

As you may have seen in my Happy 2014 blog post, my new years resolution is to take on a seasonal fruit / vegetable each month to expand my cooking repertoire.  It’s also a bonus if I can use this fruit/vegetable to make a kid approved meal (or snack).

January’s Challenge: Fresh Chives

To tell you the truth, I had never actually used fresh chives in my cooking before.  I found them to be a great taste booster this month and will definitely be using them again.  It is wonderful to introduce new tastes to babies, toddlers and children through using different herbs.  Herbs do still count as part of your daily vegetable intake.  However, you don’t use much of them so they don’t make a substantial impact on your RDI.  But if they make the flavour more appealing/exciting they can help increase the amount eaten of meat, cereal, dairy, fruits or other vegetables.

I made 3 unique dishes with the fresh chives in January:

  1. Baked Eggs in Tomatoes with Chives
  2. Pear & Chive Filo Parcels
  3. Soba Noodles with Zucchini, Creme Fraiche & Chives

The biggest hit with my toddler was the Soba Noodles.  However, I figured it would be a no-brainer, as noodles are one of her preferred foods and so is zucchini.  The Filo Parcels were my favourite.  I found the chives gave the pear such an amazing flavour and I love the crispy filo pastry.  See my notes below the recipe about my meal tactics and why my combination of foods would be great for you to copy if you have a fussy eater on your hands.

Baked Eggs in Tomatoes with Chives

This is a simple idea for a lunch or brunch.  Take the top off of your tomatoes and hollow them out. Chop up some fresh chives & whisk them into the egg with a small dash of milk.  Fill your tomatoes with the egg mixture and bake at 180oC for 30min.


I do have to admit to failing on this recipe once by using a bit too much milk and running out of baking time.  Under pressure from my eagerly awaiting daughter, I decided to turn her baked tomato into what I call Vegie Eggs.  Basically, what I do is chop/grate up vegetables & fresh herbs that I have, mix with a dash of milk & an egg in a ramekin and microwave for 1 min.  The egg will be cooked through and is like a little dome of omelette without the fuss of using a pan.  This is great for getting vegies in at breakfast during the mid-week rush.  Hint: you can also reserve the middles of your tomatoes from the above recipe to make vegie eggs the next day.

Pear and Chive Filo Parcels

I LOVED this for lunch with my daughter!  We had one pear between us to make 2 parcels. After I tasted it, I wished I had made us 2 parcels each because they were so yummy.

Prepare the pear with creme fraiche & chopped chives
Prepare the pear with creme fraiche & chopped chives

Take a pear and cut it in half from top to bottom removing the seeds & the stalk.  Fill the cavity (from the deseeding) with 1 tsp of creme fraiche.  Top with chopped fresh chives.  Wrap each pear half in a sheet of filo pastry and ensure it is sealed by brushing on some milk around the edges (or I just used a finger full of creme fraiche).  Cook this in a 180oC preheated oven for 15mins.  You should see that the pastry goes a nice golden colour at the edges.

Serving Suggestion for Kids:

My daughter loves filo pastry so she was happy to have the parcel on her plate.  The pear can be very hot straight out of the oven – So, I cut it up to cool on her plate.  In the meantime, I had available for her some grapes to choose (a preferred fruit) and shredded iceberg lettuce (our learning vegetable).  She was happy to talk about the temperatures of the hot pear and the cool grapes & lettuce.  We then made “wheels” out of our shredded lettuce by spinning the lettuce between our forefinger & thumb.  We drove our wheels through the “mud” – ie. Stonefruit Chutney (see recipe here).  Having a condiment and a game with the shredded lettuce helped her motor plan a new way to eat her shredded lettuce and gave her something to bite into.  Lettuce can be tricky for children as it is hard to get into their mouths and then when it is there it can be hard to maneuver with their tongue.  A thicker condiment, like a chutney, can add some bulk to it.

PWF left upper

Another part of play with food lessons that I incorporated into this lunch was my love of breaking down the barrier between fruits and vegetables by combining them on the same meal.  This is a link to some of the other topics we cover in lessons.

Soba Noodles with Zucchini, Creme Fraiche & Chives

Cook your Soba noodles as per the packet instructions.  I like to vary up the types of grains that we eat.  You could use pasta too for this meal.  Once cooked, drain the noodles and add 1/2 a zucchini worth of batons and chopped fresh chives (quantity to your liking).  Allow that to sit for 5-10mins (while you set the table & kick off your wash-up routine).  Stir through a generous tablespoon of creme fraiche and put into a serving bowl for the table.

Note: Zucchini does not need to be cooked (and definitely not over cooked to be a soggy mess).  Check that you are happy with the texture of your zucchini before serving – I like mine a bit crunchy so I only left ours in the hot noodles for 5 mins before adding the creme fraiche.

This is what we served up ourselves for lunch & what my daughter thought of it:


I can't talk or pose right now, I'm having too much fun!
I can’t talk or pose right now, I’m having too much fun!

Why is she making such a mess?  She’s LEARNING to eat.  My theory is that they have to learn to eat first before we worry about manners.  Sensory exploration of food is so important for growing minds.

Leave me some comments if you’ve tried Fresh Chives in anything else you think I should try out.  I also pin inspirational recipes for my new years resolutions on Pinterest – so have a look at my boards using the link in the side bar.


Simone Emery

Leftover Pork and Chutney

Today’s menu was a bit blank when we came to lunch.  The Christmas & New Year holiday season means that I’ve accidentally taken a break from meal planning.  Alas, we took up the challenge to use some leftover roast pork from Friday to make a light family meal.

Picture: Pork & Couscous Filo Cigars with my Homemade Stone Fruit Chutney

Left over roast pork worked into a beautiful filo cigar and served with a stonefruit  "dippy sauce"
Left over roast pork worked into a beautiful filo cigar and served with a stone fruit “dippy sauce”

How to use leftover meats:

  • Wrap the roast meat & label it, very soon after cooking & serving what you need for that meal – about 30 mins should be cool enough not to cause issues to other things in your freezer (you don’t want to raise their temperature).
  • You can refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
  • Once defrosted and re-used they can’t be frozen again – so when you initially freeze the meat do so in portion sizes that you will use in a single meal.
  • Ensure they are always re-cooked to be piping hot (60oC is to be reached rapidly – I use 70oC as my rule of thumb to balance out possible temperature probe errors & consistency across the dish).
  • For more information, here is a link to a brochure about cooling and reheating food safely FSANZ:  http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/safety/faqsafety/documents/Cool%20_and_reheat_food.pdf

What can you use leftover roast meats in?

– Caseroles
– Pies / Filo’s
– Pilafs / Fried Rice
– A Pasta Sauce
– Soups

Condiments (or “dippy sauces”) are great with meat for toddlers.  It gives them a fun task during the meal that they are in control of.  Some children are picky when it comes to meat eating, so a dippy sauce can make meat more appealing.    I made a seasonal stone fruit chutney to go with our roast pork last week.  The upside is that I made enough to have again with these pork & couscous cigars.

Seasonal Stonefruit Chutney

2 cups of diced fresh seasonal stonefruit (I had plums, yellow flesh peaches and white flesh nectarines)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup caster sugar
Juice from 1 Orange
1/2 cup water
zest peeled from 1/2 the orange
7 whole cloves
7 cardamon pods
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick (broken in half)
1/2 tsp edible gelatin
30ml boiling water

Squeeze orange juice into a pan and add the balsamic vinegar and sugar and heat.  Add the diced fresh stonefruit and the extra 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to the boil and then take it to a simmer which allows the fruit to poach in the liquid.  The fruit only needs about 10 minutes to simmer.  Add the spices – you will find it easier if you wrap them in gauze/cloth with kitchen string first.  Turn off the heat & sit for 1hr to allow the spices to diffuse.  Take the spices out – I had fun fishing out mine individually & being really careful to count that what went in was what came out – will definitely wrap mine next time!  I then returned it to the heat to check the consistency and decided to dissolve 1/2 a tsp of edible gelatin in about 30ml of boiling water & added that to my chutney.  My chutney was “set” after about 2hrs in the fridge.   

Roast Pork and Couscous Cigars

Leftover roast pork
1/2 cup dry couscous
Fennel Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Ground Sage and Ground Cinnamon (all ground together in a mortar & pestle) – quantities to your liking – you can also use rosemary, thyme or other spices you prefer with pork
Filo Pastry (Store Bought)
1 egg
Sesame Seeds for coating

Preheat oven to 180oC. Make the couscous as per packet instructions.  Finely dice roast pork. Add pork and spice mix to the cooked couscous.  Use a single sheet of filo to wrap around approximately 3tbsp of mixture in a cigar shape.  As you roll up the cigar, don’t forget to tuck the ends in along the way.  Use a beaten egg to seal the end of the cigar and paint over the top.  Sprinkle on sesame seeds.  Bake in the oven for 25min.  The egg should make the pastry golden in colour.  Check the internal temperature of the cigars is > 60oC.  Serve with stone fruit chutney!


Happy 2014!

Wishing you and your families a very happy 2014 from Play with Food!

This year is going to be filled with fun, tears, joy and sleepless nights!  Baby “Flash” is due in the next few weeks and although we don’t have classes scheduled for the first school term of 2014, I do have some exciting developments that I am working on for later in the year.  I am so grateful for the wonderful feedback I have received from parents who attended my classes in 2013.  I will share some of that with you in the new year and have also been very blessed with some constructive comments to help make Play with Food experiences even better.

For now, I have a few new years resolutions and I would invite you to take part in one of them with me.  As you will be aware, I love to try new healthy ingredients and turn them into kid friendly recipes.  I post recipes with mum’s lounge each month & share them on my facebook page – now I am going to be really tech savvy and blog about them here!

If you have been to classes you may have been confronted with some unusual fresh produce like Gai Lum, Brussel Sprouts, Kale, Quince, Persimmon, Fennel and all manner of other seasonal gems that I get my hands on.  As a further challenge to myself for 2014 I have chosen a seasonal vegetable or fruit in each month that I don’t usually use. In that month, I will endeavour to perfect a child friendly recipe for that ingredient.  Come along and join in the fun!  I have a pinterest board dedicated to gathering my ideas.  And when I have a final result, I will blog my recipe and share it for all of you to try out too.

This is the list of my monthly challenges:
January – Fresh Chives
February – Eggplant
March – Figs
Apricot – Cumquat
May – Celeriac
June – Artichoke
July – Kohlrabi
August – Brussel Sprouts
September – Swede
October – Pineapple
November – Cabbage
December – Cherries

Wishing you all the very best for a truly happy new year filled with gratitude and smiles!

Simone Emery