Mama Maker: Christelle from Cooking with Kids and Wine

Christelle manages a team of business analysts at a systems integration firm, where she’s affectionately known as “mama bear.” Despite her technical role, a 90-minute commute, and the tightly packed schedule of a working mother, she’s found a way to cook dinner with her kids four nights a week.

“It’s not gourmet, it’s not something I’d serve at a restaurant, but it tastes good,” she says.

With her two sous chefs, Christelle manages to get dinner on the table between daycare pick-up at 6:00 p.m. and a bedtime routine that starts around 7:15 pm (and ends just after 8:00 pm with a glass of wine).

It was during her drive home one day that she came up with the idea to share some of her family recipes–old and new–by starting a blog, Cooking with Kids and Wine.

“Part of me is cooking. It’s definitely in my blood,” she says, describing the passion that sparked in her own childhood.

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“My grandmother and I used to love cooking together,” says Christelle. “My favorite cooking memories are with her. She was amazing at coming up with recipes and we just had so much fun together.”

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Christelle embraces the mess that comes along with bringing young children into the kitchen, and takes pride in blogging with photos that aren’t professionally styled. That doesn’t mean she shies away from complex recipes.

“My heritage is French, Irish and Mexican, so lots of different flavors.”

In fact, she recently recreated the French Financiers reminiscent of trips to patisseries in France while visiting her grandparents.

How this Mama Makes it Work

Her advice for parents who aspire to do the same?

“Introduce it as early as possible. I was giving my kids salmon and hummus when they were 10 months old.” (Much to the surprise of their daycare providers.)

Christelle counts Stuffed Squash among their staples, and often creates recipes based on what’s in the fridge.

“We don’t have hot dogs in the house,” she says. “I do have chicken nuggets in the freezer for desperate days, but they don’t think to ask for those things because it’s not offered to them.”

In her tips for bringing kids into the kitchen for the first time, Christelle recommends having all your ingredients handy and making a game out of it.

“I would have them smell the spices when I was cooking. They were always involved, and I think that’s part of why they enjoy it,” she says.

She also gives her kids the space to decide when they want to join her in the kitchen, and admits “sometimes they’re not in the mood to help.”

Christelle blogged about a recent weeknight when her daughter helped pull together Sloppy Joe-Styled Sausage and Peppers, complete with freshly picked basil, while her son opted to play with legos instead.

When I asked if she sees her kids developing their own passion for cooking, she said it’s too soon to tell. For now, she’ll enjoy creating those memories that would otherwise be elusive on busy weeknights.

“There are times when they ask to cook with me and that makes my heart happy.”

Toddler-Approved Family Stew Recipe

Of all the things that would get my 2-year-old excited about potatoes and carrots, I never expected it to be a 50+ year old stew recipe passed down from my husband’s French grandmother.

My typically picky eater actually made audible mmm sounds while eating the potatoes and thanked me. Zut alors!

Here’s my modified version with shortcuts for busy mamas. (I’ll also include the original handwritten recipe from my mother-in-law because it has that extra special je ne sais quo.)

Warning: this recipe takes 3 hours and has lots of flour, butter and potatoes. Mon dieu!

First, make sure to pick up the following ingredients:

-Pre-cubed stew meat (1.5 lbs)

-Pre-washed baby carrots

-2 potatoes

-4 onions (I had red on and, but any will do)

-Garlic

-Thyme

-Low-sodium beef broth

Wondra All Purpose Quick-Mixing Sauce ‘N Gravy Flour

-Butter

-Salt & pepper

You’ll need a Dutch oven or large pot, plus a sauté pan:

1. Toss the meat in a bag with a few shakes of flour, salt & pepper

2. Brown the meat in half a cube of butter (yep, you read that right) in the main pot

3. Meanwhile, sauté 1.5 cups diced onion; add it to the main pot

4. Add 10.5 oz beef broth, 1.5 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, and a whole clove of garlic to the main pot

5. Sauté the remaining diced onions and add to the main pot

6. Bring back to a simmer

7. Add the baby carrots (about 2 cups’ worth) and simmer until tender; which takes about 45 minutes

8. Peel and quarter the potatoes and add to the pot when the carrots are nearly done

9. Simmer for another 45 minutes or so, until tender

10. Salt & pepper to taste

For additional ingredients, here’s the original recipe:

Next up, we’ll try my family’s stew recipe which is more of an Irish-style dish. In either case, it’s good for Sundays so you have leftovers for 1-2 other weeknights.

Toddler-Friendly Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

Eureka! I have stumbled upon a vegan pumpkin muffin recipe that’s crumb-resistant, dairy-free, low-sugar and toddler-approved. It’s the unicorn that will make serving up healthy breakfast on weekday mornings that much easier.

I say resistant because just like sunscreen, there’s no truly crumb-proof muffin; however, even my spirited toddler couldn’t take these down in a crumbly blaze of glory. I attribute the “glue” that binds these together to my food processor. I’d imagine a blender would produce the same result.

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Combine the following in a food processor or blender:

  • 2 1/4 cups oats
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (equals about 8g coconut sugar per muffin, so I might half this next time around)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin spice

While blending, add the following:

Bake at 350 degrees until a fork comes out clean from the middle of each muffin.

Makes 12 muffins.

Note: I started with the foundational elements of Healthy Helper’s Vegan Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes (who adapted the original recipe from the Oh She Glows Every Day cookbook – as featured on Blissful Basil) and subbed out or modified some of the ingredients to make low-sugar muffins for breakfast.

Breakfast bars of champions

In search of a toddler-friendly breakfast option for busy mornings that’s not too crumbly or sugary, I went to good old Pinterest for inspiration. 

Unfortunately a lot of the easy recipe options called for honey or other sweeteners. So I took a cue from the deliciously simple, classic combo of oats and smashed bananas. 

(Plus peanut butter, but any nut or seed butter will work just fine.)

I hand mixed the following ingredients and then baked it in a muffin tin at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

You can also cut down on dishes by folding the ingredients together over parchment paper in a baking dish and then cut it into bars afterwards.

1 cup oatmeal

1 banana

1/2 cup peanut butter


Hacking Sun Basket for Leftovers

I recently started ordering the family plan from Sun Basket, which provides enough ingredients to make dinner twice for two adults and two children.

This was helpful for providing bigger portions (we nearly eat it all between the two of us) and only having to cook twice was more realistic for my schedule than three times a week.

Even better, I started ordering two of the same recipe and now only have to cook once! We have plenty of leftovers, saving me from cooking or wracking up dishes on another busy weeknight.

(See below for the 8 servings of fajitas we’ll have for dinner two nights this week, and maybe even lunch.)

Get 50% off Family Meals from Sun Basket.





Mamas Making Moments: Sarah from Piperoos

When I spoke with Sarah, founder of Piperoos, she was navigating the kind of day that any of us working mamas are all too familiar with. Work meetings, childcare musical chairs, and a little one that’s down for the count (meaning extra snuggles are in order – the silver lining of it all).

As if she wasn’t busy enough, Sarah is on an admirable mission to create environmentally conscious baby products with the ultimate goal of carving out more quality time with her daughter Piper.


Sarah set out to create all-purpose pads similar to cloth diapers and the homemade flannel pads she received as a gift before Piper was born. Her “environmental compass” was to make Piperoos with all organic cotton, recycled packaging, low impact dyes — and locally made to cut down on transportation impact. She even pays to offset the carbon footprint of shipping.

Sarah and I share a desire to help other “corporate” mama-to-be’s prepare for and return from maternity leave. While that’s a whole other topic in itself, it was a pleasant surprise to find someone else from the “made in the USA” community with similar experiences and passions. 

Get the full scoop on Piperoos here: Mama Maker: Sarah from Piperoos

Finger Food

Mealtime is an adventure when toddler hands get involved, so here’s a perfect plate for divvying up finger food whose eventual fate is on the floor.

Re-Play Made In USA 3pk Divided Plates

I’ve become a fan of Re-Play’s products, which are made in the US from recycled milk jugs.

Like little soldiers, they come in packs, hold up well to battle and clean up nice.

Source: Stepping Up to the Plate

How Sun Basket & Postmates Saved Weeknights

Commuting, daycare pick up, dinner and bedtime for a squirmy toddler was making it hard to feed ourselves before 9 p.m. on weeknights. So we did what every parent quickly learns to do – bring in reinforcements!

After trying Blue Apron and Sun Basket this spring, I ended up going with Sun Basket because they focus on regionally sourced, seasonal ingredients and have a Paleo option.

It worked out well for several months; Emmett would go to bed and I would unwind in the kitchen. It was a win-win to fuel my joy of cooking and our desire to eat healthy, while preserving some of the energy that goes into finding recipes and getting groceries accordingly.

The only challenge was that as Emmett’s bedtime crept later this summer, we found it harder to get dinner on the “table” (aka our couch, in front of Netflix or HBO’s latest) and get ourselves to bed at a reasonable hour – a necessity when your toddler wakes up anywhere between 5:30-6:30 a.m.

It was David’s idea to start ordering Postmates deliveries using some healthy dishes he stumbled upon during the workweek in our neighborhood. Enter Tri-tip with broccoli, Greek souvlaki, and other meat & veggie combos from local restaurants.

Now, we’re typically able to conjure one home-cooked meal per week (our go-to taco salad or burritos). The other nights, we lean heavily on Postmates to keep our sanity, make the most of our evenings with Emmett, and get a little couch-time after he goes to bed.

I’ve temporarily paused Sun Basket because the three recipes per week option was a little too much for us to handle. But, I hear they’re coming out with a two recipe plan, which I can get on board with!

What do you do to make it through the week?

P.S. If you want to try Postmates, use code 44MG to get free delivery. And here’s a $45 off Sun Basket.