Our Toddler Snack Bin #MealPrepMadness

One of the things I struggled with right after Julie was born was snack time for Jake. It seemed like every time I sat down to nurse her, he’d start begging for a snack. And, oh, the meltdown if I grabbed the wrong snack!

My solution was to make him his own snack bin. I filled it with pre-portioned snacks I was okay with him helping himself to.

Here’s what’s in the snack basket this week:


The snacks in plastic bags are ones we buy in bulk. It takes me just a few minutes to grab a handful and add them to the bags – and is way easier than trying to get Jake not to eat an entire 1 lb. bag of yogurt raisins.

Here’s what everything looks like in the basket:


The basket lives on the lowest shelf in our pantry. Jake can open the pantry to get to the snacks on his own, but 90% of the time he still needs help opening the packaging. This is proving to be the best of both worlds – he feels like he’s in control, but he still brings it to be before eating so I can monitor.

How do you handle kid snacks at your house?

Tuscan Spread

Jake loves dip. Or, as he says it “deeeep!” Anything that can be dipped is a hit – and that extends to spreads, too. It’s common now to get halfway through a meal and then have him start asking for dip. I’ve been keeping things like hummus in the house so we have some healthy options to dip – but sometimes you just need something fun.

This was fun.

It pairs well with crackers and we loved it with cucumbers, too. And it really couldn’t be easier. This is an awesome option for summer potlucks!


Tuscan Spread
(slightly adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything)
Serves 10-12 as an appetizer

2 packages cream cheese, softened
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/3 cup chopped black olives
8 green onions, chopped
3 oz. roasted red peppers

Add everything to a food processor and pulse until combined.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Caramelized Onion Tart

I’m pretty obsessed with caramelized onions. Like, if they weren’t destined for this tart, I probably would have just eaten them with a spoon.

This tart is a great option for a holiday appetizer. It’s a nice mix of sweet and savory and warm cheese makes pretty much everyone happy.  This was a definite crowd-pleaser.


Caramelized Onion Tart
(from Annie’s Eats)
Serves 8-12

2 Tbsp. butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the onion, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are caramelized and golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl whisk together the ricotta and egg yolk until smooth.

Roll out the puff pastry sheet on a baking sheet and fold in each edge about 1 inch to make a crust.  Spread the ricotta mixture over the puff pastry and sprinkle about half of the Parmesan cheese over the ricotta mixture.  Spread the caramelized onions evenly over the cheese and top with the remaining Parmesan.  Bake 25-30 minutes, until the puff pastry is golden.  Slice and serve.


Cranberry Salsa

I was so excited when I found this recipe. First, it was another no-cooking-involved appetizer that was still fun and festive. Second, I knew any leftovers would be awesome alongside my favorite use of leftover turkey – Turkey Cranchiladas. Seriously, though – can you think of a better day-after-Thanksgiving meal?

If you’ve already have your Thanksgiving menu set, keep this in mind for Christmas. The color is such a beautiful, rich red that would be super festive on a holiday table!


Cranberry Salsa
(from Bake-aholic)
Makes about 2 cups

1 (12 oz.) package of fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 medium jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1 green onion, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp. cumin

Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until you reach the desired consistency. Serve with tortilla chips.

Cranberry Pumpkin Walnut Spread

I’m thankful for a lot. My husband who works so hard for our family in so many ways. My little guy whose smiles just make my day. That we’re all healthy, fed and safe. And my friends – because I really don’t know where I’d be without them.

Last night, we had some friends over to celebrate an early Thanksgiving. Friends I went to middle school with who have loved me since before I’d really learned to love myself. Friends from college who have been supportive of us as we dated, got married and grew the family. And newer friends, who helped me stay sane during the early months of motherhood. It was just a small cross-section of our friends, but as I looked around the table it reminded me just how lucky we are.

I think something that often gets lost in prep for these big meals is that the goal is really to spend time together – not hours cooking. With that in mind, I whipped up a few no-cook appetizers. This one is whipped up in about five minutes and can be ahead of time. For a busy day like Thanksgiving, it’s a definite winner.


Cranberry Pumpkin Walnut Spread
(from Pen and Fork)
Makes about 2 cups

8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup dried cranberries, plus a tablespoon for garnish
3/4 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients, except cranberries for garnish, in a food processor and pulse until nearly smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with crackers or toast points.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

I often tease my husband that he must have had a boring childhood because he doesn’t know 99% of the kid songs I know and he doesn’t get any of my Sesame Street references – and this started way before we had kids. There’s a few times he’s been able to tease me back – and making pumpkin seeds is one of them.

His family always roasted their seeds as a part of the annual pumpkin carving festivities. We never did. And now that I found a recipe I really like, I’m happy to incorporate them into our new family traditions.


This year was Jake’s first time helping with everything – he was unimpressed with the pumpkin and the seeds. Here’s to hoping he grows to love it!


Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
(from The Homesick Texan’s Family Table)
Makes 1 1/2 cups

1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 tsp. paprika
Pinch of cayenne

Rinse the seeds until they’re free of all pumpkin. Place in a pot and add 4 cups of water and the salt. Bring the pot to a boil then turn down and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 375F degrees.

In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter and spices. Add in the pumpkin seeds and toss until evenly coated.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and spread out the pumpkin seeds in a single layer. Roast for 20 minutes, then let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Buffalo Hummus

I was lamenting to myself the other day that I had so many recipes bookmarked for football season that didn’t get made – and then I realized it’s March. March Madness is right around the corner! I’m very ready to binge-watch basketball and get annoyed when my bracket implodes.

For fun, I put together a bracket group for Kate’s Recipe Box readers. Click here to join and fill out your bracket once teams are announced. It’s free and I’ll be sending the group winner some goodies!

And if you need some game-watching munchies, this is a great option. I always associate buffalo flavor with junk food so, to me, this tastes “bad” without any of the deep-fried guilt.


Buffalo Hummus
(from Fettle Vegan)
Makes about 2 cups

1 15oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp. cumin
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp. salt
3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. tahini
2 Tbsp. Frank’s buffalo sauce
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup roasted red peppers
2 Tbsp.olive oil

In a food processor, combine everything except olive oil and pulse until well combined. Add olive oil and process until well combined and at desired consistency.

Queso Blanco

Every once in a while, I have a meal I’m really excited about that ends up un-bloggable. This queso was part of one I made recently. It was one element of the burritos I was making. I made this ahead and really liked it – so much so that I was worrying all my chip-dipping wasn’t going to leave enough for the meal. I figured I’d photograph it quickly just in case.

And wouldn’t you know, the burritos kind of sucked. But they were drenched in this queso, so decent, but not worth blogging. Or making again. The queso, though? Totally something I’ll make again.


Queso Blanco
(from Center Cut Cook)
Makes about 3 cups

1 lb. white american cheese, shredded or finely chopped
1/2 cup half and half
1/2-1 tablespoon oil
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1/4 of a small red onion, diced
1 roma tomato, diced
Black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering and then add the jalapeno and onion and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the cheese and stir until almost completely melted. Stir in half and half until desired consistency is reached (you may use more or less than 1/2 cup, depending on your preference). Season to taste with pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with diced tomato.

Garden Fresh Salsa

So, rolling with the tomato theme – the other way my husband will eat fresh tomatoes! You knew this was coming, didn’t you?

I’m loving this version because we have tomatoes, onions and hot peppers in the garden currently  – so I can walk out the back door and grab the ingredients whenever I want and mix this up in about ten minutes.

I’m going to miss the garden when the season is over!


Garden Fresh Salsa
(slightly adapted from About.com)
Makes about 2 cups

4 Roma tomatoes
1/2 small onion
1 hot pepper (I used a Serrano pepper)
2 cloves of garlic
1-2 Tbsp. lime juice
1 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse one of the tomatoes, onion, hot pepper and garlic until finely chopped but still chunky. Transfer to a bowl.

Dice remaining tomatoes. Stir into the processed mixture. Stir in lime juice and sugar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


You know how I said we had zucchini in the garden? That lasted for, oh, five minutes. Once again, our plants died off without producing much.

Tomatoes, though, are going strong. We’ve never had so many. Which is both awesome – I love it – and a pain in the butt – Mark doesn’t eat fresh tomatoes. Bruschetta is one of the only ways Mark will eat fresh tomatoes (salsa being the other), so I’ve been making this in force.


(Kate’s Recipe Box original)
Serves 6-8 as an appetizer

3-4 tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup fresh shredded parmesan
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 baguette, sliced

Mix all ingredients together, except bread, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Toast baguette slices before serving.