6 Healthy Winter Treats To Make With Your Kids

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With virtual school, holiday break, and WFH, we’re spending way more time at home right now, which means we’re eating every meal, including snacks, in. It’s easy to fall into the trap of the same-old chips, cookies, and crackers, but why not get creative and healthier to boot? We talked NJMOMpreneur Rene Gonzalez, better known as Bambino Chef, to get some easy and healthy recipes that you can 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 via @BambinoChef

Psst! We love seeing your social-distancing New Jersey adventures. Be sure to tag your photos with #NJMOM and @njmom for a chance to be featured in our round-up next week.

Whip up these cold-weather snacks with your kids:

You might not be able to have just one via @BambinoChef

Apple S’mores
A fruity version of the kid-friendly treat includes the familiar marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers, 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

Directions:
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 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.

You had me at cheese via @BambinoChef

Mac and Cheese Cupcakes
“This is a classic,” says Rene. “And I’m all about using leftovers.” You can take any plain pasta that 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

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Cook pasta according to package instructions.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine milk, egg, 1 cup 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 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the tin.

Deck the halls with bagels via @BambinoChef

Holiday 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. 

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

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

Poppin’ around the Christmas tree via @BambinoChef

Festive Popcorn
“Every Friday, my family does a movie night,” says Rene. Rather than
munching on plain popcorn, she likes to spice it up and make it seasonal. 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 candy cane, crushed (optional)

Directions:
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 the crushed candy cane 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 to the popcorn before adding the spices (to help them stick).

Delicious and healthy via @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

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Cut the pears in half and scoop out the insides.
3. Mix together 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.

Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree via @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.”

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

Directions:
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 cookies, or freehand them into holiday shapes (think snowmen, Christmas trees, bells, and stars).
5. Place crackers on a baking sheet.
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until crispy.


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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.

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