Tips for Feeding Your Family Well in the New Year

kids cooking

If you’re like millions of others around the world, the start of the New Year marks a new or renewed commitment to healthier eating for you and your family. Here are some helpful, quick and easy tips to help make your resolution a reality that sticks.

8 Resolutions for Healthy Family Eating

1. Buy what’s in season

Fruits and veggies that are in season simply taste better and often have more nutrients than produce that’s traveled long distances to get to you. Using what’s in season – greens and citrus are in season now – is the best choice for you, your budget and your environment.

2. Cook quality in quantity

This goes for meals – such as making a big batch of veggie lasagna or a large pot of soup that provides enough for at least two dinners – and for making batches of dishes that can be pieced together for quick and easy meals throughout the week. Make a big pot of lentils, brown rice or any other grain when you have a spare minute, and keep it in the fridge along with fresh fruits and veggies you prep once and have at the ready all week.

3. Buy in bulk

Beans, nuts, grains and dried fruit can all be purchased from the bulk bins. They are hearty, reliable staples that can be turned into meals in minutes. Keep them on hand and you’ll always be ready to whip up something good for your family.

4. Eat less white, and fewer refined grains

If you haven’t already, make a commitment to switch to whole grain bread, pasta and rice. If you’re nervous about sneaking the change past your kids, try mixing brown rice with white, gradually adjusting the ratio of brown to white until the darker wins over.

5. Incorporate more texture and new tastes

If your kids are like ours, introducing them to new foods is often a recipe for disaster. No one wants to toil at a new meal only to have it met with great protest, aghast faces and turned up noses. Instead of throwing something totally foreign at your kids, start by introducing a bit of new texture and taste along with a tried and true meal. For instance, sprinkle some chia or flax seeds into the breading you use for chicken tenders, sneak some greens into a favorite smoothie, or simply add a new, in-plain-sight veggie to your child’s plate, casually suggesting she try your tasty new find.

6. Plan ahead

Nutritional experts say that meal planning is a crucial component to consistently providing your family with healthy, filling meals. Planning ahead is also friendly on the family budget. If you’d like someone else to do the planning for you, check out Yummly. Yummly lets you search through thousands of recipes based on super-specific filters like prep-time, flavor profiles, allergies, special diets, and more.

7. Commit to fewer restaurant meals

With restaurant meals, you never truly know what you’re getting. Chances are, the meals aren’t always as healthy as they are described on the menu, and chances are even greater that the kids’ meals are even worse. View dining out as a treat – book a babysitter and make a night of it – and keep a standby list of local restaurants that commit to healthy meals to call when take-out is your only option for getting food on the table.

8. Get your kids involved in meal planning and preparation

It’s true that kids are more likely to eat what’s on their plates if they helped to put it there. Start talking to your kids about good food and how it grows while they are young, and keep at it by starting your own garden, visiting farms and letting the kids help choose new fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market or grocery.

Remember that how you eat is how you live, and how you live is likely how your kids will live. Giving them good food and healthy habits now will be a gift that lasts their lifetime.

Search for babysitters and nannies who can help cook healthy meals for the kids at UrbanSitter.

New Grill Classics the Whole Family will Devour

By David Guas

Just in time for summer come these grilled treats from David Guas, host of Travel Channel’s “American Grilled.” Whether your lighting the coals to feed a whole crowd, or keeping it a low-key family affair, these two mouthwatering recipes will have everyone clamoring for seconds—and thirds!

Grilled Smoked Bologna with Yellow Mustard Slaw
Serves 8

I grew up just a few blocks from the Bunny Bread factory in New Orleans. The irresistible smells of freshly baked bread filled the neighborhood, taunting me because white bread was strictly forbidden in my house. My bologna sandwiches—which I frequently traded at school lunch—were stacked on slices of fiber-rich whole wheat. Now, I get to make my own rules, and sometimes I just want grilled bologna on extra-thick white bread.

1 head green cabbage, quartered
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Table salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. yellow mustard
½ tsp. celery seeds
¼ tsp. ground red pepper
½ cup grated Vidalia onion
8 (½-inch-thick) slices bologna
Wood chips
16 slices Texas toast
¾ cup unsalted butter, melted

1. Light 1 side of charcoal grill or preheat gas grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high); leave other side unlit. Drizzle cabbage with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place cabbage, cut sides down, on cooking grate; grill, turning occasionally, 7 minutes or until grill marks appear on all cut edges. Using a serrated knife, thinly slice the cabbage.

2. Combine mayonnaise, mustard, celery seeds, and red pepper in a large bowl, and mix until smooth. Add onion, and blend well; add sliced cabbage, and blend until thoroughly coated with dressing. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper; refrigerate until ready to use.

3. Place bologna slices on cooking grate on lit side of grill, and grill 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear. Sprinkle wood chips over lit charcoal. Move bologna slices to unlit side of grill; cover with grill lid, and smoke for 10 minutes.

4. Brush 1 side of each slice of bread with melted butter, and place on cooking grate on lit side of grill; grill 45 seconds to 1 minute or until grill marks appear. Remove from grill (do not toast other side). Place 1 bologna slice on untoasted side of each of 8 bread slices; top each with ½ cup slaw and another bread slice, toasted side up.

South-of-the-Border Barbecue Chicken

It’s a Mexican fiesta in your mouth! This easy grilled chicken recipe is a crowd-pleaser you’ll turn to again and again. Serve zesty Southwestern-flavored chicken over a bed of Mexican rice, or slice it to use in soft tacos.
Serves 4

1½ cups fresh lime juice
1 cup olive oil
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. seasoned salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. ancho chile powder (optional)
8 garlic cloves, minced
4 skinned and boned chicken breasts (about 2 lb.)

1. Whisk together first 7 ingredients in a small bowl; reserve 1 cup marinade for basting, and chill. Place remaining marinade in a large shallow dish or zip-top plastic freezer bag; add chicken, turning to coat. Cover or seal, and chill 24 hours, turning once.

2. Light charcoal grill or preheat gas grill to 300° to 350° (medium). Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Grill chicken, covered with grill lid, 12 to 13 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 165°, basting frequently with reserved 1 cup marinade.

Excerpted from Grill Nation: 200 Surefire Recipes, Tips, and Techniques to Grill Like a Pro. Copyright © 2015 Time Inc. Books. Reprinted with permission from Oxmoor House, an imprint of Time Inc. Books. All Rights Reserved.

5 Easy, Hearty Dinners for Halloween Night

Halloween is no time to be fussing over dinner. You have costumes to assemble, kids to dress up, parties to attend and trick-or-treating to spearhead at home and on the street. Take the stress of “what’s for dinner?” off your plate. You can ensure that your kids have a warm, healthy meal to fuel them before the big night by planning and preparing a make-ahead meal. These five meals are just right for making in advance and heating and serving before the Halloween festivities begin.

image via Blue Apron

Stuffed Shells with Spinach RicottaNo jarred pasta sauce or processed cheese required, this recipe is just as simple without the shortcuts. The surprising combination of ricotta, lemon, cinnamon and basil makes it extra special, while keeping it kid-friendly. (via Blue Apron)

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Spooky Ghost PizzaKeep the kids busy before it’s time to get ready for trick-or-treating by having them help assemble this ghostly pizza. Keep it simple by asking the deli to slice thick slices of mozzarella and use a cookie cutter to turn the cheese into ghosts. Keep the pizza in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it. (via Chef Mom)

image via The Stir

Easy Pumpkin Mac and CheeseJust right for a chilly night and spot on for Halloween. Thanks to the creamy, nutritious pumpkin, this is no ordinary mac and cheese. (via The Stir)

image via Mom's Kitchen Handbook

Slow Cooker Braised Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Apple Cabbage SlawNeed a little meat to fuel your fire? Throw a pork tenderloin in the crock pot for a deliciously simple pulled pork sandwich filling and add a fresh apple cabbage slaw for a balanced meal. (via Mom’s Kitchen Handbook)

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Pasta e Fagioli Soup: This hearty soup is just right to have at the ready. Make a batch to keep in the refrigerator and reheat when it’s time to eat. (via Food52)

Pick one of these delicious, make-ahead meals for Halloween night, and you’ll feel good knowing your kids’ bellies are filled with warm, nutritious food before the onslaught of candy begins!

Yummy Summer Treats to Make With Kids

Before you open a box of popsicles or round up the kids for a trip to get ice cream, consider surprising them with a summer treat they can help create. Kids love to help in the kitchen, and everyone loves a summery treat to share on a hot afternoon or at the end of a long summer day. These delicious desserts make the most of summer’s fresh fruit– berries, watermelon, and cherries – and ingredients you likely already have in your pantry or can easily pick up on your way home. They are so simple to make, we can hardly call some of them recipes.

julia-Kid eating giant heart made of bread


The World’s Easiest Pudding
Choose a healthy packaged pudding cup (or make your own) and scoop it into a waffle bowl. Top with berries. Voila! (via A Dose of Pretty)

via A Dose of Pretty

Watermelon Frosty
Add 2 1/4 cups frozen watermelon cubes
 (freeze the night before), 1/2+ cup water, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 large lemon, squeezed (lime juice also works very well! use 2 limes), and 1 fresh banana to a blender. Blend. Add more water as needed, but as  little liquid as possible to keep your frosty thick and frosty. Garnish with frozen watermelon/rind slices. For a grown-up version, turn this super smoothie into a margarita by adding tequila! (via Lunchbox Bunch)

via Lunchbox Bunch

Super Easy Strawberry Shortcake
Shortcakes, strawberries and whipped cream, oh my! Dip tops and sides of biscuits in margarine (or butter), dip into sugar
. Place onto un-greased cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes
. Combine strawberries and sugar in a mixing bowl, set aside. 
Beat whipping cream, sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form
. Split biscuits, layer on cream and strawberries
. (via Tammilee Tips)

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Pretzel Nutella Ice Cream Sandwich Bites
You can whip up these mini sweet and salty sandwiches with little more than a bag of pretzels, ice cream and a jar of nutella. Place a sheet of wax paper on a small freezer-safe plate or pan. Place half of the pretzels on the wax paper. Smear some Nutella on each of the pretzels. Working quickly, top with about a teaspoon of ice cream and place a plain pretzel on top. Freeze for about an hour, or until they’re solid. Working quickly, smear a little Nutella on one end of each sandwich and dip in crushed hazelnuts. You may want to return these to the freezer for a while to re-harden them. Or you can eat them right away. (via Tasty Kitchen)

via Tasty Kitchen

Cherry Pie Bars
A little more work, this recipe is a good one to tackle with older kids. These bars would be  sweet to pack for a picnic or bring to a BBQ. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a separate bowl, whip together butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Mix in eggs one at a time, then blend in vanilla and almond extracts. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Reserve and set aside 1 1/2 cups batter then spread remaining evenly into prepared baking dish. Top with cherry pie filling spreading into an even layer. Dollop small spoonfuls of the remaining batter evenly over top. Bake in preheated oven about 30 – 37 minutes. (via Cooking Classy)

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These treats are the perfect way to make a play date extra fun or to leave with the sitter for special surprise to enjoy with the kids while you’re away. 

5 Simple, Healthy Summer Meals

Whether you’re coming home from work or from a long day at the pool or beach with the kids, you need a healthy dinner to feed and please your family – and you need it quick. In the heat of the summer, the less time in the kitchen, the better. These tried and true favorite summer recipes are fresh and satisfying, and so simple that you could ask the sitter to prepare them.


5 Simple, Healthy Summer Meals

Edamame Salad
A satisfying salad your kids will devour. After all, what kid doesn’t love the tiny green soy bean?

via Whyy Org
via Whyy Org


  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon siracha (optional)
  • 1 pound frozen, shelled edamame, thawed
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup shredded carrot

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.


Nourish Bowl
Not exactly a recipe, but rather a formula you can follow and customize to create a healthy, delicious one-bowl meal for every member of your family. Start with a big bowl with a base of dark leafy greens, top with a protein, a carbohydrate, and a healthy fat. Check out the helpful diagram and suggestions for each component.

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via Nutritionally Stripped

Greens | spinach, romaine, arugula, kale, micro greens, sprouts, mustard greens, swiss chard, etc.
Proteins | tempeh, beans, quinoa and lentils (starchy-proteins), hemp seeds, nuts/seeds, eggs and wild-caught fish, animal proteins
Healthy fats | avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, hemp seeds, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, truffle oil
Veggies | carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, snap peas, peas, radish, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower; any and all veggies you enjoy!
Carbohydrates | sweet potatoes, quinoa, millet, brown rice, wild rice, beans (starchy-protein), corn and peas (starchy veggie)
Fruits: strawberries, pears, banana, papaya, mango, grapes, raspberries, apples, etc.
Dressings |  2 tablespoons hummus + 2-4 tablespoon apple cider vinegar + 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast = a super thick and creamy dressing.


Any Veggie Frittata
This super simple recipe uses asparagus as the star ingredient, but really any veggie will do.

via Simply Recipes
via Simply Recipes


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

1. Heat butter into a 10-inch oven-proof frying pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add asparagus, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, for 3 minutes.

2. Pour in eggs and cook until almost set, but still runny on top, about 2 minutes. While cooking, pre-heat oven broiler.

3. Sprinkle cheese over eggs and put in oven to broil until cheese is melted and browned, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from oven with oven mitts and slide frittata onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges.


Lemon Garlic Pasta
What could be easier (and more delicious!) than pasta tossed with lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, parmesan and roasted garlic? Dress it up with some roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, shrimp or fresh vegetables…. if you have the time and are so inclined. Roast garlic ahead of time if you know this dish is on the week’s menu, and you’ll have an even speedier meal.

via Wonky Wonderful
via Wonky Wonderful


  • 1 head of garlic (10-15 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 tbsp fresh lemon juice (1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • lemon zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy)
  • 1/2 lb angel hair pasta (cooked)
  • fresh grated parmesan

1. Place peeled garlic cloves in an oven safe dish, drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Oven roast at 400° for 30-40 minutes (until lightly golden browned). Let cool for 2-3 minutes, then chop.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Feel free to use a different type of pasta if you prefer.

3. In a large sauté pan over medium/low heat – heat the olive oil and chopped garlic for 4-5 minutes while stirring.

4. Add the lemon juice and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.

5. Reduce heat to low – add the salt and red pepper flakes.

6. Add the cooked pasta and toss with the lemon garlic sauce until fully coated.

7. Transfer to serving dishes and top with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon zest, fresh grated parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes (optional).


Mini Breakfast Pizza
Everyone loves breakfast for dinner. Put a twist on the usual pancakes or scrambled eggs by whipping up breakfast pizzas instead. The beauty of the recipe is that it’s highly adaptable. Use what you have on hand – English muffins, bagels or bread, any suitable meat, cheese or veggie.

via Sweet Remedy
via Sweet Remedy


  • 3 english muffins
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice open English Muffins, top with pizza sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Add olive oil to a skillet, crack eggs inside and cook on high until almost done. Add eggs to prepared english muffins and top with more cheese and parsley. Bake on baking sheet for 10 minutes or until eggs are cooked through.

What recipes do you keep up your sleeve for when time is tight or to leave the sitter to make for dinner? Share your favorites with us in the comments! 

What’s In Season: Feeding Your Kids the Best of the Fresh

After a really long winter, it’s exciting to see fresh spring produce start to show up on grocers’ shelves and in farmers’ markets. Even though we can get most any produce any time of year, the fruits and vegetables that have traveled long distances to get to us are no comparison to the foods that are in season locally.

via madlyinlovewithlife
via madlyinlovewithlife


There’s no denying that they taste so much better, are more nutritious and are budget-friendly. Cooking with the bounty of the season is one of the best ways to give your family the freshest, healthiest, most flavorful food. Look for produce that is in peak season right now, including:

  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Fava Beans
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Peas
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Turnips

While they are likely so tasty that you could simply eat them at they are, why not let them be the stars of your family’s meals and snacks.

6 recipes that make the very most of spring’s fruits and veggies

Spring Leek Pesto Sauce
A veggie-loaded sauce you can serve with pasta or as a spread on bread. It’s a flavorful, sweet and pleasing sauce that’s an  ideal way to introduce kids to leeks. Since it’s made in the food processor, it’s quick and easy and fun to cook with kids.

via Babble
via Babble


Spring Salad
A salad so beautiful, you won’t have to nudge your kids to eat it. It’s a delightful surprise for a salad, leaving out the lettuce and loading up with the best of spring produce – juicy strawberries, sliced radishes, and crisp sugar snap peas.

via BHG


Toast with Lemony Pea Mash
What a lovely snack this would make. Get kids involved by having them help shell the peas – a perfect job for little fingers.

via Bon Appetit
via Bon Appetit

Sesame Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry
Satisfies your craving for Chinese take-out without blowing up your diet. You can whip it up quicker than you’d have to wait for the delivery guy.

via Menu Musings
via Menu Musings

Fava Bean Bread Salad
Simply toss together fresh fava beans, greens, olive oil and vinegar, and pile the mix atop of a few slices of grilled (or not) bread. Voila! It’s dinner.

via Fit Sugar
via Fit Sugar

Rhubard Crisp
When you think of a rhubarb dessert, you likely think of the old standby strawberry-rhubarb pie. While no one can knock the pie, it’s nice to make use of spring’s brilliantly red rhubarb in this one-dish crisp. It’s a simple recipe using apples, pecans and oats to make it hearty and sweet.

via Dish Base
via Dish Base


What are you cooking for your family this month? We’d love to hear how you’re making the most of the season’s best.

Tasty Twists on Thanksgiving Recipe Favorites

Whether you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner or delegated with contributing a dish, Pinterest is the place to be for recipe inspiration and how to. We’ve done some digging to narrow in on a few of our favorite pins to help you create delicious dishes with a tasty spin on your tried-and-true Thanksgiving favorites. Check out UrbanSitter’s Savoring the Season board for more great ideas.

5 Thanksgiving Recipes with a Modern Spin

1. Give the marshmallows a break this year and bring on the sweet potatoes in a whole new way with this sweet potato soup featuring pumpkin seeds and thyme. Easy on the chef, this pot of creamy, autumnal goodness can be made in advance of the big day and kept warm until you are ready to garnish and serve.

via Sweet Paul
via Sweet Paul

2. Pumpkin can lead the meal as a tasty appetizer like this pumpkin bruschetta just as well, if not better, than a classic pumpkin pie. 

via Sweet Paul
via Sweet Paul

3. Indulge in these acorn squash boats – so hearty it might just bump the turkey from its prime spot on the table.

via A Cozy Kitchen
via A Cozy Kitchen

4. Let this savory mushroom and leek tart serve as the star of a vegetarian feast. Even present it as a hearty starter or side dish for vegetarians and carnivores alike.

via Rachael Ray
via Rachael Ray

5.  Save some cash and surprise your guests with this delectable, spiced apple cider sangria. No one will miss the pricey wine.

via theKitchn
via theKitchn

Share your favorites and check back for more Pins for Parents – Thanksgiving Desserts.

Have an extra set of hands to entertain the kids while you prep for Thanksgiving – book a sitter online at

7 One-Pot Family Dinners to Welcome Fall

If you’ve had a minute to come up for air, you may have noticed that fall is nearly here. It’s time to give your BBQ a rest, forgo the salads and bring a touch of the season to your table with warm, homey, harvest dinners your family will love. The ones we’ve selected capture the season in a single pot, which means they are low-fuss and minimum mess. We hope you and yours enjoy them as much as we do.

One-pot Family Meals – Fall Recipes

1. Sweet Potato Soup

This creamy, mild soup is simple to make and truly autumn in a bowl. You can feel good about filling your family’s hungry bellies with such a healthy dose of anti-oxidants. Add a bit of chili for some heat and top with toasted pumpkin seeds for a satisfying crunch.

Sweet Paul Magazine

2. Braised Pork Ragu with Pappardelle

Dinner a Love Story calls this dish an “instant dinner party,” and explains it by saying it’s ideal for preparing in advance of your guests arrival, it tastes divine – warm and hearty – and leaves your house smelling wonderfully welcoming. If you don’t have guests coming, why not serve it for a nice Sunday family dinner.  We like her idea of serving it with a salad that has a little sweetness, such as greens with pears, blue cheese and pine nuts.

Pork Ragu
Dinner a Love Story

3. Kid-Friendly Chili

Some would argue that there’s no better way to spend a Saturday than inviting a bunch of friends over to watch a football game. Few would dispute that there’s no better way to feed them than to whip up a big batch of chili. This particular chili recipe may be just the one you’re looking to find. It was designed with kids in mind and adapted to suit a wide range of tastes, taking into consideration not just spiciness and the bean debate, but also texture. It calls for ground beef or turkey, but of course, simply omit it of you prefer a vegetarian version.

Kid-Friendly Chili
Butter Yum Blog

4. One-Pan Lasagna

One of the many amazing, family-friendly meal ideas from Tyler Florence’s cookbook, “Start Fresh,” this lasagna-in-a-skillet recipe is full of taste and appealing to kids and adults alike. It’s oohy and gooey and just right for warming bellies. Serve it with a loaf of crusty bread and a nice Chianti for Mom and Dad.

One-Pan Lasagna
Tyler Florence

5. Kale Chickpea and Chicken Soup

Not your ordinary chicken soup. There’s nothing wimpy about this soup for the soul. It’s soothing and simple enough for little kids to gobble up without hesitation. Use leftover roasted chicken or pick up a nice one at the grocery store to make this a quick prep meal.  Don’t omit the rosemary croutons, as they add a good chunky, heartiness that make this a meal and not just a bowl of soup.

Kale, Chicken and Chickpea Soup
Feasting at Home

6. One-Pot Roasted Chicken and Veggies

Family Fresh Cooking calls this chicken recipe the perfect meal for those on grain-free, gluten-free meal plans. It’s a protein packed, veggie rich dinner you pop into a pot and let simmer while you do something more important, like tackle a fall craft with your kids or curl up with a book.

Roasted Chicken and Veggies
Family Fresh Cooking

7. Creamy White Bean Stew

The Cozy Apron describes this thick, hearty stew as a “warm blanket for the inside of the body.” It’s a wonderful choice for a rainy, dreary day. Be assured that there’s nothing bland about its milky whiteness. It’s spiked with smoky, thick-cut bacon, and fragrant herbs.

White Bean Stew
The Cozy Apron

If you find these recipes appealing and inspiring, check out our Pinterest Board, “Easy, Kid-Friendly Dinners for Busy Families,” for more great ideas for feeding your family.

How to Create the Perfect Family Picnic

meg_son_grassWhat better way is there to enjoy a relaxing afternoon with your family – soaking in the sunshine, eating good food and simply being together –  than with a glorious, family picnic? Before the summer slips away, follow our formula to create the perfect family picnic. We show you how to choose the right menu, including ideas and recipes for delicious and easy-to-prepare fare; how to pack just right; and also provide a fantastic round-up of the best picnicking spots for families in the SF Bay Area, New York, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Greek Salad via Pinterest

STEP 1: The Perfectly Portable, Family-Friendly Picnic Menu.

The best picnic meals are the ones that come together without a whole lot of effort. After all, who wants to be slaving away in the kitchen in August?  The most successful picnics are also easy to transport and simple to eat while sitting or lounging on a blanket.  In other words, they are fuss-free.

And, since we’re talking about a family event, make sure the menu provides food and treats kids will be happy to eat without any pleading or begging from you. Think finger foods and simple salads you can eat out of the individual containers you transport them in.

Image via Cooking Light
Mozzarella Bites via Cooking Light

Here are some sure-fire hits for the best family picnic food:

  • Greek Pasta Salad – an entire meal in one bowl.
  • Edamame Salad – kids dig the tiny green bean.
  • Crudites with Kid-Approved Ranch Dressing for dipping
  • Fruit (it comes in its own package)
  • Baked Mozzarella Bites – You can eat these and the marinara dipping sauce at room temperature.
  • Quiche or a Spanish Omelet – delicious served chilled
  • Kebabs- with or without meat, food on a stick is cool.
  • Sandwiches – if you have a picky eater on your hands, stick with what you know works.
    Simple Sandwiches via Good Housekeeping
    Simple Sandwiches via Good Housekeeping

    If your crew likes shaking it up, try a new combo, like one of these 12 Simple Summer Sandwiches. Most can be assembled on-site.

  • Cheese and crackers
  • Brownies – These Frosted Zucchini Brownies use applesauce instead of oil and require no eggs.

STEP 2: Thoughtful Picnic Packing.

Gather the essentials – enough to have everything you need, but not enough to weigh you down so much that you’re worn out by the time you get there.

Image via Pinterest
Image via Pinterest

You get bonus points if you can eat out of the containers the food is stored in, meaning you have less to carry and less to toss.  Stick with foods that require no or few utensils and borrow small plastic containers from the stash you use to pack your kids’ school lunches.

Just as important as the food are the extras –

A soft blanket everyone can fit on, a ball or Frisbee, a game the whole family can play, some music and of course, sunscreen, bug spray and water. If it’s a late evening picnic, a lantern is useful and sets a nice mood, and flashlights will entertain the kids while you rest and enjoy the night.

STEP 3: The Right Picnic Spot.

Your kids would likely be thrilled to simply throw down a blanket and sit on the back patio, since it’s so much more exciting than eating at, say the kitchen table.  If you’re looking for a better spot, here are our picks for the best places to picnic with families:







It’s an awesome time of year to be outside! Need a babysitter to take the kids to the park? Try UrbanSitter!

How to Start Cooking with Your Kids

flickr/D Sharon Pruitt

Little kids are known for their insistent plea, “I’m big enough to do it!” especially when it comes to helping out in the kitchen. While it’s often easier and just plain quicker to do it yourself, experts say kids benefit in many ways from helping to prepare food at an early age.

Why should I teach my child to cook?

  • Kids who help in the kitchen are more open to trying new foods
  • Have a greater appreciation for whole, fresh ingredients
  • Learn how to understand and follow a recipe
  • Enjoy the pride of contributing or creating something of their own
  • Build life-long healthy eating habits

If you’re sold on the idea of getting your kids to help in the kitchen, but not sure how to begin, read on for suggestions from the experts. You may find these are helpful guidelines for age-appropriate kitchen tasks:

Beginning Kitchen Tasks for Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Tearing lettuce
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Adding pre-measured wet and dry ingredients
  • Stirring ingredients
  • Inserting cupcake or muffin liners
  • Sprinkling cheese
  • Adding sprinkles
  • Frosting a muffin or cake
  • Flouring a pan

Kitchen Tasks for Bigger Kids

* In addition to the tasks for younger kids, and under adult supervision, especially when it comes to using sharp objects or hot stoves.

  • Measuring wet and dry ingredients
  • Scooping batter onto a waffle iron or dough onto baking sheets for cookies
  • Stirring over low heat
  • Cutting soft fruits and vegetables with supervision
  • Cracking eggs

Ready to Tackle a Recipe?

Keep these easy, starter ideas and recipes up your sleeve so you can respond to your child with a surprising and delightful, “I have just the thing for us to make!”

Super Simple Recipes for Wee Little Ones:

Smoothie – There’s no shortage of smoothie recipes out there and for good reason. Smoothies are the perfect recipes to tackle with a little helper. We love this Strawberry Peach recipe because it tastes great as is, and can be easily tweaked by adding more protein or other fruits and even some greens.

Strawberry Peach Smoothie
Strawberry Peach Smoothie via Weelicious

Cookie Cutter Fruit –  When you need to really keep it simple, here ya go. Place sliced fruit on a baking sheet or cutting board and let kids use cookie cutters to create fun shapes that double as healthy snacks.

cookie cutter watermelon via Kids Stuff World

Chocolate Dipped Frozen Fruit Pops – Slice fruit, such as kiwi and banana, insert sticks and freeze flat on a baking sheet. Once frozen, you and the kids can dip it into chocolate and various toppings to create this yummy summer treat.

frozen fruit pops via Our Best Bites

Suitable Recipes For Bigger Kids:

Easy Homemade Bread – No need to wait around for yeast to rise with this no yeast, no oil bread made with whole wheat flour. It’s the perfect recipe for learning to bake.

bread recipe via love food eat

Mini Apple Turnovers – Unroll crescent roll dough, brush with melted butter,  sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, fill with apple slices and bake. Yum!

mini apple turnovers via Cookin Up North

Pad Thai –  Yes, it’s a bit more ambitious than the other recipes, but it’s totally doable for kids to create with you (or a sitter) as the lead. And you’ll have dinner covered! Think how proud your kids will be!

pad thai
pad thai via The Kids Cook Monday

Check out UrbanSitter’s Cooking with Kids Pinterest board for more inspiration, recipes and tips for getting your kids helping in the kitchen.