6 Healthy Winter Treats To Make With Your Kids


With the weather freezing outside and winter blahs creeping in, it’s easy to fall into the trap of snacking on the same-old chips, cookies, and crackers. But why not use this time to get creative and healthier to boot? We talked to NJMOMpreneur Rene Gonzalez (aka Bambino Chef) to get some easy and healthy recipes to add to your family’s snack rotation this season. Plan to get the kids on board—besides learning a life skill, being hands-on in the kitchen has a great benefit. “Kids who help out will more likely eat the food they make,” says Rene. Ready to get cooking? Scroll down to try out these winter snacks, guaranteed to spice up the stay-at-home winter blues. (featured photo credit: @BambinoChef)

Whip up these cold-weather snacks with your kids

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You might not be able to have just one. Photo credit: @BambinoChef

Apple S’mores
A fruity version of the kid-friendly treat includes the familiar marshmallows, chocolate, and graham cracker but uses an apple half to hold it all together.

Ingredients —makes 4
2 apples (Rene recommends Fuji)
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups milk chocolate chunks or chocolate chips
4 jumbo marshmallows
1/3 cup graham crackers, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut apples in half. Remove the core and hollow out each apple half, and brush the insides with melted butter.
3. Fill each apple half with chocolate chunks or chips, and top each off with a marshmallow. Place apples on a lightly greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, keeping an eye on the marshmallows to ensure they don’t burn.
5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle each with crushed graham crackers.

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You had me at cheese. Photo Credit: @BambinoChef

Mac and Cheese Cupcakes
“This is a classic,” says Rene. “And I’m all about using leftovers.” You can take any plain pasta you’ve already made and mix it with veggies in your fridge for a fun and tasty twist to this kid-approved combo.

Ingredients—makes 7 (approximately)
2 cups uncooked pasta
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup vegetables (like broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, or zucchini), chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon ground paprika

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, egg, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, vegetables, salt, and pepper. Add cooked pasta and mix well.
4. Scoop the pasta mix into a lightly-greased muffin tin. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar cheese and mozzarella cheese. Combine bread crumbs, oil, and paprika in a bowl, then sprinkle over the pasta cups.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the tin.

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Spice up Saturday brunch with delicious bagels. Photo Credit: @BambinoChef

Winter Bagel Wreaths
Rene’s inspiration behind this recipe was her daughter’s love of bagels. “Kids can get creative while playing with ingredients,” she says. The key is the fresh herbs to make this treat look festive for the season.

Ingredients—makes 1
1 bagel
2 tablespoons cream cheese (or more if you want)
Whatever ingredients you have on hand (see below for some of Gonzalez’s favorite combinations:)
2-3 cherry tomatoes, sliced; fresh dill; and crispy fried onions
Pomegranate seeds and fresh rosemary
1 mini cucumber, sliced; 2-3 cherry tomatoes, sliced; fresh dill; salt; and pepper

1. Cut the bagel in half and toast it to your liking.
2. Spread cream cheese evenly on each half of the bagel.
3. Decorate bagel halves with whatever you want. Get creative!

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Poppin’ for movie night Photo Credit: @BambinoChef

Spicy Popcorn
“Every Friday, my family does a movie night,” says Rene. Rather than munching on plain popcorn, she likes to spice it up. She recommends making the spice mix ahead of time—that way, you can always have some ready to go. “This is such a simple thing to prepare, and you can customize it to your taste,” notes Rene. “Plus, the spices are so good for you.”

Ingredients (adjust according to popcorn quantity)
2 cups popped popcorn
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons powdered sugar (optional)

1. Make popcorn according to package instructions.
2. Combine cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar in a small bowl. Add to popcorn and toss. And if you want, sprinkle powdered sugar on the popcorn before eating.
3. Note: Feel free to add more cinnamon to the spice mix. You can also drizzle a little bit of melted unsalted butter on the popcorn before adding the spices (to help them stick).

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Delicious and healthy Photo Credit: @BambinoChef

Stuffed Pears
“I’ll stuff everything,” jokes Rene. “And I love adding seeds—I’m really big on having them on hand to boost the nutritional value.”

Ingredients—makes 4
4 pears
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 tablespoon ground flaxseed
1-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped almonds or pumpkin seeds (sunflower or flax seeds also work)
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut the pears in half and scoop out the insides.
3. Mix butter, flaxseed, cinnamon, coconut sugar, oats, almonds or pumpkin seeds, and salt. Fill up each pear half with the mix.
4. Bake for 30 minutes.

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Winter trees Photo Credit: @BambinoChef

Cheesy Crackers 
“This is so simple to do with kids,” says Gonzalez, who counts these crackers as one of her favorite recipes to make. “Putting the dough together is very sensory and therapeutic.” Use holiday cookie cutters to make the shapes and put everyone in the spirit (even if it’s just after school). 

Ingredients—makes 10-12
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried chives (optional)
2 tablespoons cold water

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine butter, cheese, flour, salt, pepper, and chives. Add cold water, one tablespoon at a time, and continue to mix. If the mix is too dry—it should be moist and soft, and not wet and sticky—add another tablespoon of cold water.
3. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
4. Lightly flour a surface and place the dough in the middle. Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a thin sheet. Use small cookie cutters to cut out the dough.
5. Place crackers on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until crispy.

For more information about Rene Gonzalez, follow her on Instagram. 

Which treat will you try with your family? Let us know in the comments below.

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About Author

Caroline is a writer from central Jersey who loves checking out new boardwalks and beach towns (current faves include Long Branch and Ocean Grove), admiring the foliage and walking around downtown Princeton, and singing along to music—often with her younger sister. One of her favorite jobs was being a camp counselor and helping out at local, family-friendly events. She can regularly be found ordering a pie to go from Romeo's in Plainsboro, her favorite pizzeria.