Adventure means something different in every decade of life. For instance, my 20s were all about relationships, career, travel and food. My 30s have been an adventure in marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship and writing. And food. Still food. Always food.
It's a love I share with one of my very best friends, Madelyn Dow. While we both still relish going out to eat and commandeering the kitchen, we do far less of these things these days in Chicagoland, since our littles have entered the equation. So now we cook when we can, but not quite as we once did.
Backing up a bit, Madelyn and I met as flatmates in London a lifetime ago. Well, 16 years to be exact. I couldn't seem to find a picture of us from 2001, but I did find this one from eight years ago, when I had the time and energy to be both tan and blonde... Madelyn hasn't changed one single bit.
Madelyn is extremely modest, so let me just brag on her for a quick second. This is one amazing cook. She has made some legendary meals for her friends and family. Her menus are adventurous but not fussy. Her dishes are inspired but not over the top. She is faithful to seasonal ingredients and everything is always delicious.
Because she is a natural entertainer, Madelyn makes it all look so very easy. You feel her joy for it in her preparations and presentations. It's a blessing being on the receiving end of her warmth, generosity and love - in the kitchen and in every facet of life.
Madelyn has shared a post with us about what cooking looks like for her these days, and she keeps it real! Through the hustle and bustle of parenthood, she makes time to create special foods for and with her kids. You'll love these recipes! And these kids, too. I mean...
In Madelyn's words...
Before having kids, eating was basically my primary hobby. I would scour every “Best of Chicago” list and plan my nights and weekends around the food I could try. I made elaborate meals on the reg and tried to go to every farmers market in Chicago one summer (see Madelyn Goes to Market #failedblog).
To no one's surprise, very little of this was possible the moment our daughter Ima arrived. My husband and I would still try to go out to eat from time to time and would even drag our little along, sometimes in the hopes she would learn to appreciate food as much as we do by osmosis. But with the post-work, pre-bedtime weeknight rush, meals at home were typically more boxed mac and cheese and frozen burritos and less multi-step homemade dinners whipped up from my farmers markets finds.
When our son Elliott came along, the conundrum was compounded even further. Simplicity and convenience were of utmost importance. If I couldn't order it online or make it in 15 minutes, it wasn't happening. On weekends though I tried to find ways to make food in whatever time I had.
When Ima started on solids, I made homemade purées with combos like pear and cardamom, in an attempt to make her a more adventurous eater (let me be real though... while my daughter was amenable to this, Elliott won't touch anything green and would eat pizza for every meal if we let him). Or, when Elliott was sleeping a ton during the day at first and Ima and I had some alone time, we started to bake and make things together. She loved measuring ingredients and pouring (what 2-year-old doesn't?), so we made something every Friday on my day off.
Now that I stay home with my kids full time, we try to make something outside of our regular meals at least once a week. I still keep it simple and only make things with them that can be done in 15 minutes or so in the event of a meltdown, blowout or my son trying to eat my dog's food, which happens on a daily basis (side note: why, oh why is he okay with dog food but not black bean quesadillas or sesame green beans or most things we make for dinner?? I'll never understand).
Here are a few warm weather recipes that fit all of my criteria and also make great after school snacks:
- Kids love to eat them
- Kids can get involved in making them
- They can be made in short windows (before something goes awry)
- They are sort of healthy, or at least not terrible for the kids
The first are homemade watermelon popsicles. Since setting out to make popsicles, I've found so many recipes out there that have little to no added sugar and that the kids still think are a treat. This recipe from The Kitchn is one of those.
I bought a giant watermelon recently and despite eating it every day, we still had tons left. So my daughter helped me combine all the ingredients in the blender and pour them into the molds to make these popsicles - just three ingredients. (Note: you'll need some sort of popsicle mold. I bought this set on Amazon, and it's stood the test of many popsicle making sessions.)
The other food that we've made and my kids can't get enough of are these super easy refrigerator pickles from Smitten Kitchen.
It's like a pickle eating contest between my son and daughter when we make them... amazing given Elliott's opposition to anything green.
The recipe calls for specific kinds of cucumbers, but I've made them with whatever I have on hand or could find at the grocery and they've always been sooooo good. We decided to grow dill in our backyard this year, which was the best decision ever given my little pickle lovers, plus they love to pick the dill before we make these. Ima also loves combining the ingredients and both kids get in on the shaking action.
While this may be a far cry from fine dining, I like to think of it as fun way of getting the kids involved in making some good homemade food with delicious summer ingredients. Hope you and your families enjoy too!
Thank you Madelyn! I hope this post has provided a few ideas on how to involve the littles in your meal making and introduce them to new flavors and textures, without stress and crazy expectations. The popsicles will definitely be getting a go at our house...