Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pairing Picture Books With Food

Don't your kids just love picture books!? There are so many good ones! We love pairing picture books with food. Above, we paired our Sausage and Pea Pasta with Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola, it's a big hit with the kiddos. Pairing books and food make for a great Saturday afternoon activity and offers plenty of opportunities to create fun childhood memories.

We also love these books about food...

Yummy Yucky by Leslie Patricelli is a fun book for your little tots! It's silly and fun, perfect for older infants and toddlers who are just being introduced to the world of food.

How do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food by Jane Yolen. This book is all about table manners and food etiquette. It's never too early to start!

The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah is a fantastic book for picky eaters who are fearful to try something new. This is a cute tale with a powerful story.

12 Golden Rules for Tackling Picky Eaters

Ok, so these are our 12 Golden Rules. The things we know work, absolutely and without a doubt. It takes time and effort, that is for sure, and it may seem extensive (it kind of is) but it's easier to apply these rules than it is to have a picky eater for the next 18 years.
You are probably naturally implementing a bunch of these rules in your home as it is. And sometimes you won't be able to apply all 12 ALL THE TIME. Totally cool. Just knowing where to begin is all you need. Start by starting!

1. Model good behavior. Kids are more likely to eat the type of foods you are eating. If you are adventurous with food, they are more likely to mimic that behavior.

2. "No thank you bite," you don't have to eat it but you have to try it. It pays in the long run to be focused on the effort made in trying something new. Give them incentive to try again later. It can take a child 7-12 times before they acquire the taste, but once they do it will feel like you won the super bowl.

3. Keep meals fun and free of anxiety. This can be a really difficult one for us parents. Tell stories, ask them about their day, sing songs, create meal time traditions and most of all be present with your little ones. This will create a lifetime of childhood memories and a real love of food. When a power struggle is created around meal times a negative association with food can develop.

4. Repetition is KEY. This is one of the most important rules. If you want your child to acquire the taste of a new food, try, try, try again! (In small, unthreatening portions, free of anxiety); persistence and patience is vital and pays off, often just when you think of giving up.

5. Talk about the food, how it tastes, smells, feels. Use all five senses. Create a curious and joyous sensory experience.

6. Try the same ingredients in different preparations. Broil, sauté, grill, bake, steam, mash, puree, dice, you get the idea. Changing the preparation transforms the texture and flavor. A chewy, sweet oven roasted tomato tastes different than a juicy, seedy raw tomato. Which textures do your kids like? In order to find out there often has to be culinary exploration.

7. Teach your kids to fill up on healthy stuff. Avoid the habit of serving unhealthy snacks after an unfinished meal (or before).

8. Teach them to listen to their bodies. Urging little ones to clean their plates is so tempting. We want them to have full bellies and panic often ensues if we think they haven't had enough. This is normal for us parents. But by letting them stop when they're done we teach them to listen to their bodies which prevents over eating in the long run.

9. Water and milk are the best options for kids - everything else in moderation. Juice is full of sugar and for picky eaters this often satisfies their appetite before meals and derails your attempts to keep them well nourished.

10. Cook together! Dub your child 'Kitchen Helper.' Children are more likely to try foods that they've had a hand in making.

11. Fresh non-processed ingredients are best. Junk food and processed foods have preservatives that are highly addictive and cause type 2 diabetes. Even if your child is picky and thin, it can be easy to assume that these processed foods won't have a long term affect. Food preferences begin early in life. Breaking this processed food addiction can be very difficult. It's not enough to have their bodies filled with food, these bodies need to be filled with nourishment. We know that fresh ingredients aren't as inexpensive and that being on a budget is tough. Use frozen foods and buy in bulk when possible. All processed and junk foods should be limited and used in moderation.

12. Not a punishment nor a prize. "If you eat all your broccoli, I'll give you ice cream." We've ALL used this trick. It's a hard one to pass up. Recent scientific studies have shown that rewarding children this way will zap their motivation to maintain those healthy choices in the long run. Plus, this method teaches kids that some foods are good (ice cream) and some foods are bad (broccoli). We're not saying to not give your kids ice cream, we're saying avoid the bribes.

Genius Mom Idea

You know when you are out and you just see some really put together mom with a great idea? Saw some genius mom slice open an avocado and start to spoon it out to her toddler at a park bench. It looked GOOD! But the genius was in the way she sliced the avocado, just the top so that she could hold it like a cup. Totally stealing that idea.

Do you guys have any genius mom ideas to share? We can't wait to hear!

Sudden Change in Appetite?

It's a knee jerk reaction to panic when your child suddenly stops eating as much as they used to. Our first thought; they need to be force fed! (Yeah, that one always works out). Truth is, your child's body might be telling you something. Often a sudden change in appetite can signal an oncoming cold or virus before other symptoms begin to show. Start filling up on fluids and offer plenty of fruit to help with hydration. In our experience, children are more open to eating fruit when feeling ill. Think jarred peaches, kiwis, mango, watermelon- sweet, succulent and juicy.

Juice and Soda Detox


Gave your kid a bit of juice everyday and now it's all they want to drink? It's a problem for lots of people! You are not alone. The trick is watering it down. Now we know what you are thinking, yeah yeah, but my kid can taste the difference. Start gradually and water it down more and more every few days. You can start with as little as 2 tablespoons of water and slowly graduate to half the serving. The goal is to get your child to actually drink water on it's own. We know right now they seem like crack addicts. This method WILL work for you. You just need patience, consistency and a bit of sneakiness.


Soda detox is hard, but not impossible. It doesn't help that everywhere you go there is a Coke ad. First things first, you have to clear your fridge of soda completely. Or hide it, REALLY, REALLY well (if they see you drinking it, game over). Then, wean kids off sugary high calorie sodas by making healthy 'sodas' at home. Just a very small amount of 100% natural fruit juice with sparkling water. This is a great alternative to soda yet it still gives that bubbly experience that we all love. Eventually you can get your kids to drink sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh fruit juice such as grapefruit, orange or lime.

Do you have great detox ideas? If so please share!

Quick Gluten Free Snack Ideas

We've been getting some questions about gluten free snack suggestions. Here are some of our favorites for your kiddies. Freeze dried strawberries from Trader Joes, traditional apples and bananas with peanut butter, rice crackers with hummus. All healthy, quick and delicious! Go to town!

Fruit Sculptures


Looking for something fun and creative to do? How about making some of these! Time in the kitchen together doesn't have to mean cooking. This may even get your kiddos to not only eat fruit but to try new varieties they've never tasted. Get creative with after school snacks!

5 Tips for Cooking With Kids

1. Mentally prepare yourself and reduce your expectations. You will not be able to cook as efficiently as you normally do. There WILL be a mess. Boundaries will have to be set, i.e., "Mommy uses the big knife." There will be spills and missteps. Reminding yourself of this before you start prepares you to just enjoy the process of cooking vs. the end game. Mentally preparing yourself will keep the mood light and fun.

2. Chose a recipe that has a lot of kid friendly steps, like most baking recipes. OR give them a kid friendly task. For example, if you are making baked chicken fingers, have them make the BBQ sauce or ketchup. We've got great healthy recipes for condiments (that exclude all the sugar and preservatives) and have them make those! Kids love to mix and pour. Dub them your little mad scientist.

3. Give them a rundown of rules and boundaries BEFORE you begin to cook. Nothing ruins a good parent/child activity more than being told 'no' a thousand times while in the midst of things. Before getting started, have a 'chefs meeting' and tell them the plan. Tell them what they are in charge of and what is off limits. "Mommy will do the chopping and you will do the mixing." Safety first!

4. Have them taste as you prepare the food. We all know that kids who help prepare meals are more likely to try the meal. Have your child taste components as they are being made, talk about how the food's texture changes as it's cooked. Ask lots of questions, "How is it different now that it's cooked? Does it feel softer?"

5. Choose recipes on the shorter side. Making something with an hour worth of prep may be too long for your little one. Stick to time limits you know your child can manage. We love making homemade pizzas because they don't take too long and they're fun to assemble. Choose your recipe wisely!

Happy Cooking!

5 Ways to Make Meal Time Easy

1. Plan ahead, know what you are going to make in advance. Always have pantry staples on hand for a quick fix.

2. Start with healthy meals early in life and keep them simple. Frozen veggies, healthy grains and a lean protein can be made simply, easily and FAST.

3. Eat as a family. We know schedules are complicated. Shoot for family meals on weekends if they aren't possible on the weekdays.

4. Maintain a routine as much as humanly possible. Children thrive on routine. Having their body clocks set to eat at specific times of the day makes it easier on them. They like predictability.

5. Use ingredients your family loves in a new way, branch out so that it doesn't get boring. There are so many variations on the same ingredients. Change up your cooking methods, grill, sauté, puree, steam, mash, you get the idea.

Are they Not a Fan of Breakfast? Smoothies!

Lots of kids (and adults for that matter) aren't fans of breakfast. Yet, we all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, blah, blah, blah. Point is, we're all scared of our kids starting their day without full little bellies. The answer is SMOOTHIES.

Here are a couple recipes to try, go ahead and just eyeball measurements.

Cinnamon Almond Smoothie
almond milk
almond butter (we like the raw Trader Joe's almond butter)

Tropical Island Smoothie
coconut milk, unsweetened
frozen pineapple
frozen banana
frozen mango

Green Smoothie (call it something fun like Monster's Inc. smoothie or Incredible Hulk...)

Super Hero Shake

Our Top 5 Super Market Shortcuts

1. Frozen Peas and Broccoli
2. Precooked Roasted Chicken
3. Canned Beans (you can find BPA free now)
4. Whole Wheat Pre-made Pizza Dough
5. Cut and Cubed Butternut Squash

We use these ingredients to get fast healthy meals on the table, because who has time to make things from scratch everyday with kids running around the house. What are your favorites?

Texture or Flavor?

Ok, lets talk about texture and flavor for a minute because getting a handle on what flavors and textures your kids like is a game changer when it comes to acquiring tastes.

It's NEVER as simple as "I Don't Like It."

It's either a texture or a flavor problem.

How do we solve the flavor and texture mystery? Ask your kids why they don't like the food, OR in turn, why they like those foods that they love. We once heard a boy with special needs we were nannying say that he didn't like peas because they were too juicy. Interesting that he would experience peas that way. It made us realize that by transforming the pea, into a split pea soup for example, would change the texture completely.

So get all Nancy Drew about it tonight at dinner, see what kind of culinary mysteries you can solve!

Homemade Pretzels

At a loss for a fun activity with your kids in the kitchen? This is a fantastic snack and a great rainy day activity. You can buy the dough pre made or make it yourself. The fun part is coming up with the pretzel shapes. Bet your kids can come up with some other fun shapes!

(Makes 8 small, 4 medium, or 2 large pretzels)

1 pound (approximately) ready-made whole wheat dough
Water for boiling
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

3. Meanwhile, separate the dough into even size balls (depending on the size pretzel you want).

4. Roll each ball of dough out into a long even tube.

5. Cross one end of the tube over the other (making the tube into a circle with its ends making an x shape).

6. Twist the ends again, making the x shape into a twist.

7. Flip the twisted ends into the center of the circle and press the ends onto the circle’s sides.

8. Boil the pretzels for 30 seconds then transfer them with a slotted spoon onto a non-stick baking sheet.

9. Brush with oil and sprinkle with salt (if desired). Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes (depending on the size of the pretzels), or until golden brown.

Cinnamon and Peanut Butter Sandwich

Sick of old pb and j? This is what we threw together today. Always working on new lunchbox ideas, simple and familiar is often best. Slightly different but still hits the spot.

(Makes about one serving)

2 slices whole wheat bread
2 tablespoons organic peanut butter
1 teaspoon agave (or honey)
Dash of cinnamon 

1. Spread the peanut butter on one side of the bread.

2. Drizzle the agave over the peanut butter and sprinkle with cinnamon. Top with second slice of bread.

Dracula's Blood Smoothie

Do you struggle getting enough food into your child's belly? Sometimes they just don't want to eat. It can be infuriating and filled with anxiety. Smoothies are a great way to pack in the nutrients. We gave this one a fancy name because hey, why the heck not! Halloween is approaching!

(Serves two kiddos)

1 ripe banana
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup red fruit juice (such as cranberry or cherry)
1 teaspoon agave or honey
1 tablespoon of cocoa
6 ice cubes

1. Add all ingredients into a blender.

2. Blend until smooth and enjoy!

'Kettle Corn' Pumpkin Seeds

WE LOVE THE FALL!!! Have you all gone to the pumpkin patch yet?? Do your kids like to get a big pumpkin or a little one? Carving pumpkins is one of those traditions that stay with you for life. Baking pumpkin seeds is just the icing on the cake. Try this recipe to change up an old classic.

(Serves two kiddos)

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 teaspoons agave
kosher salt to taste

1. Stir the pumpkin seeds and agave together. Spread evenly onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

2. Sprinkle with salt.

3. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Let cool slightly before eating.

Wacky Watermelon Cooler

Ever had agua fresco? It's basically delicious fruit water. Perfectly hydrating for those kiddies on a hot summer day without the added sugar and calories. This is a fun one to make, takes a bit of elbow grease but will be a big hit for everyone in the family. We recommend making a big batch for a fun summer party or get together. It's also a great activity to do in the kitchen with your kiddos.

(Serves 5 kiddos)

3 cups cubed watermelon
3 cups cold filtered water
Squeeze of lemon

1. Blend all ingredients together.

2. Use a strainer to seperate pulp from liquid.

3. Chill in the fridge, stir and serve!

Cinnamon Tortilla Dippers

This is a fun, quick, easy recipe when you need a healthy, sweet snack. Again, dipping is not only super fun for kids but keeps them busy for a while ;) Healthy and sweet, it's a perfect sub for a processed treat.

(Serves 1 kiddo)

1 whole wheat tortilla
1 teaspoon agave or honey
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (or to taste)
Applesauce for dipping (recipe below)

For the applesauce:

4 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Put all of the ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.

2. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes - 15 minutes, until the apples are very tender.

3. Remove from heat and smash the apples with a fork until the desired consistency is achieved.

For the dippers:

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or foil sprayed with cooking spray).

3. Lay the tortilla on the sheet and spray both sides with cooking spray.

4. Drizzle agave over the tortilla and spread evenly with a spoon. Sprinkle with the cinnamon.

5. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.

6. Let cool for five minutes then cut or break the tortilla into chips.

Toast with Olive Oil

Something has to be said for the snack you don't have to cook. 100% whole wheat bread with olive oil is the magic combination and a healthy alternative to butter. It's super tasty and keeps those little bellies full for a long time. This is great for breakfast as well as snack and a big hit amongst the little kid crowd.  

(Serves 1 kiddo)

1 slice whole wheat bread
1-2 teaspoons olive oil

1. Toast the bread.

2. Drizzle while warm with olive oil.

Black Beans and Rice

This meal is a must in any house. The black bean is one of nature's super foods and is perfect for filling those little bellies with protein and fiber. It is fast, easy, healthy and has a ton of versatility. Make with brown rice and you've got a great side to any meal. Throw it in a whole wheat tortilla to make a burrito. 

Now a word on textures... The texture of a bean can often be difficult for a child. We suspect it's the skin of the bean that can throw little ones off. If your child doesn't seem to like the texture, check out our pureed soup and our bean dip for a smoother consistency. Enjoy!

(Makes about 4 servings)

2 cans of black beans
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 chopped onion
1/2 chopped green bell pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Add minced garlic, chopped onion and chopped green pepper to medium sized pot on medium heat.

2. When garlic, onions and peppers have cooked down, add remaining ingredients and let simmer for 10 minutes. 

3. Before plating stir in the 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

4. Remove bay leaf and serve with brown or white rice. Enjoy!

Tofu Noodle Stir Fry

This is a pantry staple dish for us. Why, because it's fast, healthy, kid approved and EASY. Did you know that soba noodles are packed with protein? Yep you heard. This is really one of those awesome dishes that hit the spot on a weeknight. We're talking 15-20 minutes in the kitchen. It's also got plenty of room for flexibility. Your kids like mushrooms? Add mushrooms, your kids like peas, add peas! Your kids like... you get the idea. Anyway, since this is one of those real fast meals, we like to hand out veggies while cooking. Carrot sticks are a great choice while making fun conversation with the little guys.

(Serves about four people)

1 pound package extra firm tofu (previously marinated in soy sauce and refrigerated)
1/4 cup soy sauce1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 pound soba noodles (or whole wheat spaghetti)
2 teaspoons sesame oil (or to taste)

1. Cube tofu and put in a zip top bag or sealed container with soy sauce. Marinate for at least 15 minutes or overnight.

2. Put a large covered pot of water on high heat. Follow steps below and add the noodles to the water once the water comes to a full boil. Cook the noodles for the amount of time indicated on the box instructions.

3. Bring the olive oil to medium heat in a large sauté pan, and then add the tofu (reserving the marinade).

4. Sauté the tofu until brown on all sides then add the reserved marinade. Add in the onion and garlic powder.

5. After soba noodles have boiled, drain and add to the pan with the tofu. Add sesame oil as a finishing touch.