Author Archives for cookingfortots

About cookingfortots

Thank you for visiting Cooking for Tots! My name is Samina and I’m Registered Dietitian and mother of two. I use my love for cooking and nutrition expertise to create fun, healthy and delicious dishes for my family and I’m here to share it all with you!

Farro Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Have you ever cooked with farro?  Since I’ve been working on an article about ancient grains, I’ve been intrigued to make a dish with it.  This Italian born grain dates back to ancient Rome and is super versatile, easy to make and truly delicious! Farro is rich in minerals like iron and magnesium and contains about 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber per one cup cooked. While farro is not gluten-free, it’s said to contain less gluten than modern day wheat and may be more tolerable for anyone sensitive to gluten.  Chop the veggies in advance and you’ll have this dish on the table in no time!



  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves


  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • dash of salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Combine the water and farro in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 25 minutes.
  2. Drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl to cool.
  3. Add the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, chives, and parsley to the farro, and toss to combine.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to coat.

Austin’s Favorite Banana Bread

Aside from my family, it’s the little things in life that make me happy.  Like a new kitchen gadget, cooking tool or creating an amazing recipe with an ingredients I’ve never used before (on the first try too which rarely happens!)  You’re looking at one of my 2 year old’s (and my own) favorite things to eat- BANANA BREAD.  But this is no ordinary banana bread.  It contains ground flaxseed for a boost of healthy fat and fiber, is free of refined sugar (I only used 2 tablespoons of 100% pure maple syrup for the entire loaf which you can leave out if you have super ripe bananas) AND it’s my first recipe using SPELT FLOUR.  Have you heard of spelt?  If not, here are the details in a nutshell.  Spelt is an ancient relative of durum wheat that has never been hybridized, which basically means that it retains many of its original characteristics like complex flavor and whole grain nutrition.  Also, because of its high water solubility, its vital nutrients are quickly absorbed into the body.  It’s important to note that spelt is not gluten-free however, people with wheat intolerances can usually tolerate spelt due to that fact that it’s easily digested compared to other forms of wheat.  High in fiber and a good source of iron, spelt makes a great substitute for most recipes that call for wheat and because I struggle with digestive issues (and still can’t believe its taken me so long to bake with spelt) it will definitely be a new staple in my home!

Whether you’ve used spelt before or intrigued to try it, let me know in the comments below.  and I hope you get a chance to try it with my recipe- I promise you will love it and will not miss the huge dose of unnecessary sugar that many bananas breads have!  While Austin enjoys it plain, I love it drizzled with almond butter as shown here…truly beyond delicious!


1 1/2 cups spelt flour

1/4 cup finely ground flaxseed

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (depending on how cinnamon-y you like it)

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 ripe bananas, mashed well

2 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup*

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, whisked


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a loaf pan with parchment paper so that some of it sticks out on the sides like handles.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl combine spelt flour, cinnamon, flaxseed, baking soda, and salt and whisk until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine mashed bananas, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla and applesauce.  Whisk well and add to dry ingredients.
  4. Whisk batter just until wet ingredients are well incorporated into the dry, but do not overmix.
  5. Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan.
  6. Bake in 350 degree oven for 55-65, or until a knife comes out clean when inserted into center of loaf.  Lift the loaf out of the loaf pan using the parchment paper sticking out from the sides and let it cool completely on a cutting board or cooling rack before cutting.  Enjoy!

*if using super ripe sweet bananas,you can omit the maple syrup if you choose.

Banana-Berry Carrot Oat Muffins

Muffins are one of my favorite things to bake with my kids. Once you have a basic muffin recipe, it’s totally customizable to include many colorful fruits and veggies which also add natural sweetness without adding sugar. When Austin and I made these muffins, I used my banana oat muffin recipe and added in finely shredded carrots and blueberries. The result was pure deliciousness! I used full fat greek yogurt to replace milk, which made them SO MOIST!! As with dairy in general, greek yogurt has naturally occurring sugars which also enhance the flavor as well.   Another way I add flavor to muffins without adding sugar is with vanilla extract-I’ll usually add in 1 to 1.5 teaspoons to a basic muffin recipe.

Bonus: they are made in a blender!  making for super easy clean-up!  Another way I save on the clean-up is by using muffin liners.  My absolute favorite is by  “If You Care”- the price is great and they never stick to muffins!! Even those that have no oil or butter like these beauties 🙂 I hope you enjoy this recipe which is totally gluten-free!


2 cups gluten-free oat flour (about 2 1/2 cups rolled oats that are finely ground to a flour-like consistency).

2 small ripe bananas

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup plain low-fat Greek yogurt

2 eggs

1/2 cup finely shredded carrots

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries


  1. Line a muffin tin with liners and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place all ingredients into a blender except for the blueberries and carrots.
  3. Blend until well the dry ingredients are mixed completely with the wet ingredients, about 1-2 minutes.
  4. Fold in carrots.
  5. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling each no more than three-quarters of the way to the top. Sprinkle some blueberries on each muffin and mix into the batter with a small spoon.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until the tops of the muffins are set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the muffins cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Note: they will deflate a bit but still taste delicious!!!

Vanilla Banana Chia Pudding

Cha-cha-cha-chia! Sorry I just had to say it.  Every time I see the word chia, I can’t help but remember those chia pets from the 80’s (please don’t tell me I’m alone here).   Chia seeds have gained a ton of hype over the past few years and for good reason.  They may be tiny, but chia seeds pack a major nutritional punch as they are loaded with antioxidants and nutrients such as fiber, calcium and phosphorous which promotes bone health. They contain a higher amount of omega-3s per ounce than salmon and more calcium by weight than milk! They can also absorb many times their weight in water, forming a bulky gel (that makes for a perfect pudding consistency), which can help you feel fuller longer and more hydrated.

Always speak with your child’s pediatrician first, but generally speaking chia seeds are a great for toddlers (while I wouldn’t recommend it for infants as it may pose digestive issues).  In fact, when my now 5 year old was 2, I would mix chia seeds into his yogurt which I found really helped with constipation and digestion.  I still use them in recipes like energy balls, smoothies and this delicious make-ahead VANILLA BANANA CHIA PUDDING.  This recipe will take you less than 5 minutes to prepare is one of my go-to breakfasts when I’m in the morning rush with getting my littles to school.  It’s filling, satisfying and really SO SO GOOD!  Here are the details:


  • 3 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened vanilla non-dairy milk (I use Ripple foods nutritious pea milk or almond milk)
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract (or use 1/4 teaspoon if using plain unsweetened non-dairy milk)
  • 1/4 cup sliced banana + more for topping
  • optional toppings: 2 tablespoons strawberries or other fruit, 1 tablespoon chopped nuts or a drizzle of nut butter



Combine all ingredients in a glass container with a tight fitting lid in this order: milk, vanilla, 1/4 cup sliced banana and then the chia seeds.  Stir or whisk to help it gel evenly. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight and in the morning, top with fruits or other healthy toppings.


Parmesan Zucchini Pancakes

Do you have any recipes that are an old favorite and for whatever reason you stop making it?  Maybe it was because you made it too often and taking a break to try other recipes (usually the case for me) or your kids just no longer ask for it (also often the case for me).   But a friend recently reminded me of how good zucchini pancakes are and I immediately whipped up my favorite PARMESAN ZUCCHINI PANCAKES.  When Ethan was two years old, I would make him these veggie packed pancakes all the time.  It was a total mom win for me because he was getting in some veggies and enjoying every single bite!  Not to mention this recipe is super easy, made in ONE BOWL and takes minutes to make once the zucchini is grated.  Then as I started to explore other healthy recipes and I didn’t make these as often.  While Austin, my 2 year old, refused to try these, Ethan loved them as he once did and my husband and I gobbled up whatever the kids didn’t eat because eating the kids leftovers is just what parents do right?

These zucchini pancake are gluten-free and full of zucchini which is a powerhouse of antioxidants and rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium and fiber!   Try this recipe, I think your family will love it.  Let me know if you try it and for those who have children or kids in the family, I can’t wait to hear what they think too!


  • 1 large zucchini, grated using the large grating side of a box grater
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white, whisked
  • 4 tablespoons gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur gluten free all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil for the pan


  1. First, squeeze out excess liquid from the grated zucchini using paper towels or a kitchen towel.
  2. Place zucchini in a bowl and whisk in the onion and eggs. Stir in the flour, parmesan cheese, baking powder and a dash of salt and pepper.
  3. Heat a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter in the pan (or heat the oil if using). When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into the pan. You may need to smear out the batter a bit to create a flat circular shop.
  4. Cook the pancakes about 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place the pancakes on a plate lined with a paper towel (to soak up any excess oil or butter)  Continue same steps until all the batter is used. Enjoy!


Meatless Mushroom Meatballs over Chickpea Pasta

When I was in college for my second degree in nutrition, an incident in my Anatomy & Physiology class really turned me off to meat for a while…a little over 4 years to be exact.  In fact, it wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child that I started to eat meat again.  But when I was vegetarian, I relied a lot on soy products with little variety in my diet and it was then that I learned the importance of balance in the diet and how it’s never good to eat too much of a good thing-including the super healthy stuff.   These days, I have way more variety in my diet and eat chicken, turkey and fish but still like to prepare meatless dinners for my family at least 1-2 times per week with recipes that have a creative vegetarian twist on some common meat dishes like these MEATLESS MUSHROOM MEATBALLS!  Ahh these meatballs are so delicious, easy to make and gluten-free.  Perfect for getting little helpers involved, my kids love mixing the ingredients and making the balls and I don’t have to worry about them touching raw meat.  Recipe adapted from one that I found on a few years ago and have been making ever since.  Thanks to mushrooms, these meatballs have a great texture and get beautifully browned.  I usually pair them with my fav Banza chickpea pasta which has 2x the protein and 4x the fiber of traditional pasta, making this dish nutritionally complete and satisfying! and serve with a side salad.


  • 1 pound fresh crimini mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs
  • dash of salt and black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, packed
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 4 cups pasta sauce
  • olive oil cooking spray (for parchment paper)
  • **if you do not have a gluten intolerance, you can use whole wheat breadcrumbs and oats that do not specify “gluten-free” on the packaging.


  1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to the hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and cook and stir until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Stir butter into mushrooms, reduce heat to medium, and cook and stir mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir onion into mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir garlic into mushroom mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.
  3. Mix oats into mushroom mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently stir in parmesan cheese.  Add bread crumbs, parsley, and eggs.  Then add in a dash of salt, pepper and oregano.
  4. Mix together with a fork until crumbly. Mixture should hold together when pressed.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours. For best flavor and texture, refrigerate overnight.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.   Line a baking sheet with parchment paper sprayed lightly with olive oil cooking spray.
  7. Form mixture into small meatballs using a 2-tablespoon scoop. Roll meatballs lightly between your hands until smooth, if desired; arrange meatballs on prepared baking sheet.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven until meatballs are lightly golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, turning once (turn very carefully as meatballs may stick a bit to parchment paper).
  9. Bring pasta sauce to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce heat to low. Gently stir meatballs into sauce until coated. Simmer meatballs in sauce for about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a serving bowl over pasta of choice and enjoy.  

Crunchy Coconut French Toast

While making healthy meals for my family is important, I also love to use my creativity to make food fun and colorful.  Instead of encouraging my kids to eat a food because it’s “healthy”, I discuss with them the importance of why it’s healthy and how the nutrients could benefit their bodies.   After much trial and error with food creations, I’ve found that children are more likely to try a new food that has a cool name attached to it or is presented in a fun way (like these cute flower fruit/veggie shapes).

With that said, I’m constantly thinking of ways to get my kids to try new foods or how to re-introduce an old favorite in a new and creative way- all while doing my best to use up ingredients that I already have on hand.  yesterday, I was cleaning out my pantry and realized that I have SO much cereal and started to think of “out of the box” ways to use it for a fun weekend breakfast and came up with this super delicious n’ easy CRUNCHY COCONUT FRENCH TOAST uses only 6 ingredients with no added sugar.  👅🍞🍽! Paired here with 🍓+🍌 FLOWER with cucumber STEMS and a little drizzle of 100% pure maple syrup (or you can cut this toast into dippers and serve with a yogurt-based dip or syrup on the side!  This recipe is gluten-free and perfect for getting little helpers involved in the kitchen! My kids loved dipping the eggy bread into the crispy mix!👩🏻‍🍳👦🏻👦🏻

True story: I was planning to take a break from social media this weekend (just to unplug for a bit) but I was so excited about this recipe that I couldn’t wait to share it with you and hopefully inspire your Sunday breakfast!  have a MAGICAL weekend! ☀️🌈🦄

4 slices gluten-free bread (or else you can use regular whole grain bread if you do not have an intolerance/allergy to gluten)
2 cups brown rice crisps (i use One Degree Organics brand)
1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk of choice (I used ripple unsweetened vanilla pea milk)
3 eggs
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (or use coconut oil which should be fine, but I used the butter)
1. Place brown rice crisps in a ziplock bag and crush until you have course crumbs or place in a blender and pulse until course crumbs are achieved.
2. Pour the crumbs into a bowl and add in the coconut. Stir to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with the milk.  Add in vanilla extract.
4. Dip each piece of bread into the egg mixture and then press gently into the cereal, turning to coat completely. Repeat with remaining bread slices.
5. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat; cook the coated bread in the melted butter until golden, about 3 minutes each side.
6. Remove from heat and and allow to cool slightly before serving to kids.  Enjoy!