Hot Dog Octopus Bites

I did not come up with this great idea – and I feel terrible but I can’t recall where or when I saw it – so, whoever you are out there, the credit goes to you!  Thanks for a fun lunch idea!  My little tip is to do all the prep work ahead of time (the night before or the morning of) and then store them in a container in the fridge…then, when lunch time rolls around, boil the water and toss the little guys in, and there you have it!

Uncooked spaghetti noodles
Hot dogs

Cut each hot dog into approximately 1/2-3/4 inch thick chunks, stick 4 uncooked spaghetti noodles through each chunk (so the hot dog is in the middle of the noodle).  Repeat until you have your desired amount.  I usually make 1 hot dog per child…so if you have 4 kids, use four whole hot dogs cut into chunks.  If you are doing this work ahead of time, store them in a container and refrigerate until you are ready to cook.  Then, boil a large pot of water, toss in them all in and boil for about 10 minutes.  Check the noodles because depending on what kind you use, it may take longer or shorter.  Drain and let cool a bit before serving!

Curried White Bean Dip

I made this dip for the first time when we were having some adult friends over…I didn’t know if it would be kid-friendly.  Well, the second time I made it, my 18 month old was eating it by the spoonful…so, I guess she is telling me to share it!  It tastes great with anything, and could even be spread onto a sandwich.  The original recipe is from the Food Network, and one of my favorite chefs, Giada De Laurentiis.  I changed it a tad by using cilantro and loved it!

1 (15 ounce) can white beans (I have used Great Northern or cannellini), rinsed and drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice
2 tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt (maybe start with less and then add more after you taste it)
1 cup fresh cilantro OR flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1-2 cloves garlic
zest of one lemon
Optional: add some spice with 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Put everything into a food processor or blender and process until smooth.

Bruschetta Salad

I can’t get enough of this recipe.  It’s easy, delicious and makes awesome use of those extra tomatoes and basil (from the garden or farmer’s market).  My kids ate a small portion of it, but it’s mostly a scrumptious adult recipe, if you ask me 🙂

4 cloves garlic, chopped into small chunks
1 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP red wine vinegar OR balsamic vinegar
1 TBSP olive oil
2 cups grape tomatoes (or any kind will be great, but about 2 cups is what I’ve used)
1 whole palm-full of FRESH basil leaves (however, you could substitute 1 or 2 TBSP pesto, if needed)
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 bag of fresh spinach leaves
crumbled feta cheese OR fresh mozzarella chunks

In a small sauce pan, heat the 1 TBSP olive oil over medium-high heat…then add the chopped garlic cloves.  Watch this carefully, stir often until the garlic has turned a golden brown (NOT burned!)…see image to the right.
Then remove it from the heat and pour into a medium bowl.  Add the vinegar, 1 more TBSP olive oil, chopped tomatoes and chopped basil leaves.  Add a little salt and fresh pepper, if desired.  Put it in the fridge for about an hour (or more).

When you are ready to serve the salad, chop the spinach leaves into bite-sized pieces…put about a cup or two into a bowl, top with several large spoon-fulls of the bruschetta mixture on top.  Lastly, sprinkle feta cheese (or mozzarella chunks) over everything…as much as you like!

Sneaky Pasta Sauce

I get excited when I come across easy, healthy lunch ideas that the kids will enjoy. This summer, I have experimented with making a large batch of pasta sauce and using it for several meals. The trick though, is to incorporate other veggies into the sauce and the kids love this one so much, I had to share it! This recipe requires a little work ahead of time, but once you have it made, you can use it for a few different meals, if desired!

3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small white onion, finely diced (optional)
2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
3 ice cubes of pureed zucchini
2 ice cubes of pureed carrot (or 1 jar of carrot baby food!)
To make zucchini puree: chop zucchini into large chunks, puree in food processor for at least 3 minutes, or until super fine. To make carrot puree: Chop carrots into large chunks, steam for several minutes and then puree in food processor until smooth. Freeze both vegetables in ice cube trays.
To make sauce: Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the oil and onions (if you are using them), saute for a few minutes. Add the minced garlic and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and tomatoes and all of the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Once it boils, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I usually serve the sauce with whole wheat penne or similar. Store the rest of the sauce in a large jar or tupperware and use later in the week. I have also browned up some ground beef, turkey or chicken and then add the sauce to it for a different meal. Or even use it for homemade pizzas!

Peanut Butter Banana Burrito

Usually lunches are tricky because we need to make something packed with nutrients in a matter of minutes after our fun morning activity when everyone is famished and waiting impatiently.  Well, here is a great new easy and healthful lunch option that my kids love.  Try not to laugh…

1 banana, peeled
peanut butter
Jelly or raisins
1 whole wheat tortilla

Spread peanut butter over the tortilla.  Take orders: jelly, raisins or both?  Kids like to make their own choices, I am learning. 🙂 Place the banana at one end of tortilla and roll.  Serve sliced or burrito-style.  Whatever they want. 🙂  Make one for yourself too…they’re pretty yummy!

Sneaky Smoothie with Spinach

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and I can always tell if my kids have had a good one or not by mid-morning 🙂 Smoothies are a GREAT way to sneak in a lot of nutrition. Below is an example of the standard smoothie I make, but you should adjust it with whatever fruits you think might be good!
  • 1 Banana
  • 1/2-3/4 cup yogurt
  • a BIG handful of fresh spinach leaves OR a couple golf ball size chunks of frozen spinach
  • 1/2-3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (I buy a huge bag of frozen mixed berries from Costco)
  • 1 package of mango puree (Trader Joe’s sells packages of 4) OR 1 package of Acai berry puree (which I have found at my local health foods store)
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flax seed – thought to have many health benefits
  • Other good options: kiwi, strawberries, canned peaches or pears, pineapple
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend well – add a little water if it is too thick. Serve with fun straws! If the smoothie is for a child drinking out of a sippy cup, just remove the plastic insert in the top so the smoothie can flow more easily…and then put on a bib 🙂

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