kid-friendly spinach salad with carrots and cucumber (a 101 cookbooks makeover)

NO, IT’S NOT A MISTAKE. This is indeed a spinach salad that I served it to our kids, ages 3 1/2 and 2 years.  Did they try it? Yes. Did they devour it, no. Did the stars and flowers help? Absolutely. And we just might be onto something.

Just to be clear, I have no shame when it comes to gimmicks, bribes or brainwashing–at least where the kids’ food is concerned. I just want them to be healthy. To know and like good, fresh and more often than not, nutritious food. My obsession hope is that they grow up with a few recipes in their pockets and if I have it my way, these kids will eventually know their way around a kitchen, grocery store and most of all, a table full of food, family and friends. It’s not very strategic, but I’m trying to teach them a life lesson here, in good food. 

Also, this plan is also the best anti-diabetes measure that I know of.

Which leads me to my favorite new kitchen tools: a set of 4 stainless steel vegetable cutters, which thanks to the magic of, arrived at my door from Japan…and cost $3.50.

Why not just use cookie cutters? I’ve tried that in the past but these are smaller, sharper and stronger. And since the Great Spinach Salad Experiment, I’ve been cutting everything in sight. The best results so far have been cheddar cheese and butternut squash that I roasted on a pan with olive oil and  salt. You could use these for anything though:

  • apple slices
  • sliced beets or eggplant to roast in the oven
  • sliced radishes or zucchini to eat raw
  • carrots to use in homemade soup
  • cutting out a peek-through hole in the top of a sandwich

Last year around this time, I experimented with using a vegetable peeler to produce heart-shaped carrots and it worked. But this is easier.

Also, there’s a bit of waste when it comes to the trim. Since I have a very hungry baby in my house, I just save all the veggie bits to roast or saute and puree. But it’s such a scant amount if you keep the cutters close to the edge of whatever you’re chopping (imagine how you roll out and cut sugar cookies as closely together as possible) that it’s not a big issue so far.

I’m sure we won’t be punching out cucumber stars forever and certainly don’t aim to get stuck in the “but I only LIIIKE it when it’s a STAAAAR” rut, but for now, it’s a fun little way to encourage a smile at the dinner table. Especially when there’s spinach involved. Segue to today’s recipe makeover…

This month, we’re cooking recipes from 101 Cookbooks, a gorgeous food blog dedicated to healthy, whole ingredients. Heidi Swanson’s Greenest Salad was the inspiration for our simplified, kid-ified version here.


Original recipe: The Greenest Salad, from 101 Cookbooks, which involves broccoli, avocado and pistachios.

  • more kid-friendly: Use any two veggies, nuts or fruits that your kids already like (if this is broccoli, pistachios and avocado, use them!) Or, make it a combination: Two tried and true family favorites plus something new and nutritious. And of course, use a veggie chopper to produce fun shapes.
  • faster: Try organic baby spinach, which doesn’t require chopping or shredding but it’s still sweet (bonus, get a bag that comes pre-washed).

Now, I have a question for you. What kind of salads do your kids like eating? Ours is a mixed bag. Phoebe loves something called Broccoli Slaw with a balsamic vinaigrette, while Estelle is the coleslaw eating champ. And they both love “sauce”, especially when they get to pour it on the greens themselves. Love to hear more hits and misses from you, so please do share.



  1. Sara says

    Thank you so much for the link to the cutters! I just ordered them on Amazon. Love the idea. My kids (ages 6, 4, and 3 next week) will eat romaine lettuce super chopped with chopped almonds, shredded cheese, and the dreaded ranch dressing. I’m trying to find a way to make a healthier version of the dressing, because I think it’s the ‘sauce’ that’s selling it!

    I love your site! Thank you so much for all you do.

    • charityc says

      Ah, thank YOU Sara! What a great note. I really appreciate it.

      You could make Ranch dressing and use Greek yogurt to give it a bit of protein and definitely cut back on preservatives and fillers. I know this bc we just moved back to the US from Rome, where they definitely don’t have Ranch dressing but my husband loves it! (They don’t have sour cream either, so I sort of fell into this healthier version that way.) Here’s a link to The Pioneer Woman’s version, which I’m sure is lovely. But replace the sour cream with Greek yogurt! Maybe I should do a makeover there…

      • Sara says

        I vote for makeover! Your version will be even better :) I love the idea of greek yogurt, instead of sour cream. I will let you know how arts & crafts veggies go, once my cutters get here!

      • says

        I make ranch dressing at home ALL THE TIME. My go-to base is about 70% sour cream and 30% mayo, then add a whole lot of dried dill, a goodly amount of garlic powder, a decent amount of onion powder, salt and pepper. I personally like a pinch of herbs de provence and you might want to add a little milk or even water to thin it down to a pourable consistency. I certainly have used yogurt or greek yogurt instead of mayo, and you can try using olive oil and a little lemon juice instead of mayo. If you happen to be chopping chives, onions or shallots for other parts of your meal adding a little of those to your dressing is a nice touch. Give it a try, it’s really easy and I don’t even measure things anymore. Much better tasting and better for you than that scary stuff in the bottle.


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