Baked Apples

One of our fondest childhood memories is of our mothers baking apples for dessert. The warm, homey smell of cinnamon and apples permeating the air. Aaah the smell of fall! Everyone got their own apple, it felt like such a treat. Bring this tradition to your home! Simple is often the most delicious.

(Serves a family of 4)

4 firm apples
4 teaspoons brown sugar
Cinnamon (optional)

1. Remove the top of the apples at an angle (similar to a Halloween pumpkin).

2. Scoop out the center of the apples, leaving the bottoms intact.

3. Fill each apple with the brown sugar and a sprinkle of cinnamon then replace its top.

4. Put all the apples in a baking dish filled 1/4 inch up with water.

5. Cover with lid or aluminum foil and bake at 350° F for 40 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Talk About Healthy Food With Your Kids

Preschool and Elementary school kids love to answer questions about food, so start the conversation! Here are some fun ones:

Where does food come from?
Name three healthy foods.
What does healthy food do for your body?

What healthy foods do you like?

Even the pickiest eaters love this game.

Building Self Esteem in the Kitchen

Children are eager to help at a very early age.  They begin to show curiosity when they turn one, too little to help with any success but really interested in doing so. The kitchen in particular is a very interesting place.  All those gadgets, pots, pans, tupperware, running water, it's a treasure trove!  Even though letting them 'help' means everything takes forever (think big mess), the long term effects can be pretty fantastic.

Letting kids help builds a strong sense of community in the home.  But not only that, it builds self esteem and a sense of authentic empowerment, laying down the foundation for the family dynamic.  Allowing your kids to help at an early age sends the message that they are trusted and provide value to the family, teaching them early on that family is about give and take. Chores are exciting to little ones (I know, right?!) and we want to keep that illusion going for as long as possible!

Here are a list of fun things you can have your little ones help with:

-mix ingredients
-add spices
-rinse vegetables or fruit 
-clear/set the table
-stir dressings, sauces, salads
-taste tester!
-put away leftover ingredients
-pour water
-wash/dry dishes
-cutting or stirring on stove top, all possible with plenty of clear instruction and supervision

What do your kids like to help with most in the kitchen?

Black Bean Soup

Black beans are so darn tasty. If you want to keep your kids healthy, add this protein rich super food to their diet. As you know, we are suckers for a simple, delicious, healthy meal.  Puree or keep beans whole at it's naturally chunky texture, depending on what your kids prefer.  Playing with textures is an important step to introducing a new foods. Some children love a smooth, creamy consistency and some prefer a bit of texture. How do your kids like it? We like ours with a dollop of coconut cream, oh yeah.

Fun tip on getting your kids to actually EAT this:
Try putting this delicious, thick soup in a cute tea cup or maybe even an espresso cup and then fill it repeatedly. Make a game of the refills, "Please Sir, may I have some more?" "MOOOORE????????" You get the idea.

(Makes about 2 servings)

1 can of black beans
1/2 cup fresh salsa (could use jarred)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup vegetable broth

1. In a small pot, combine beans, salsa, cumin, garlic powder and broth letting it simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Use a blender to puree until smooth. This recipe can be made without pureeing, if you desire a chunky soup. Enjoy!

Homemade Ketchup

In the store, this delicious sauce is LOADED with crap unhealthy ingredients. It's one of the most sugar ladened things we can give our kids and yet they're eating it by the bucketful. So why not make your own that keeps the flavor but cuts the junk? Or better yet, have THEM make their own.  This is the perfect 'kids in the kitchen' recipe - totally safe and whose child doesn't like to mix things like a mad scientist? Tomato paste is really good for us. It's got tons of antioxidants. So make this and eat it like crazy!

1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon agave or maple syrup
Dash Salt and Pepper
Dash of onion powder 

1. Mix all of the ingredients together. Keeps well in the refrigerator.  

Children's Books About Manners

We love using children's books to cross reference life lessons. Here are some of our faves for kiddos of all ages.  What are your family's favorites?

Richard Scarry's Please and Thank You Book
This book holds a lot of fond memories for us.  It includes Scarry's lovable cast of characters and brings humor to everyday situations. Go out and buy this book, it will be read over and over AND OVER again. This book is recommended for ages 3 and up, although we believe children who are even younger will get a kick out of it.

Manners at the Table (Way to be! Manners) 
by Carrie Finn, Illustrated by Chris Lensch
This beautifully illustrated book is recommended for ages 5 and up, but we think your preschoolers would love this too!  It's charming, fun and straight to the point.  This book will open up the conversation for all things polite at the table. 

Dude, That's Rude!: (Get Some Manners)
by Pamela Espeland & Elizabeth Verdick
This book is fantastic for the older crowd, children ages 8 and up.  It's modern, (including advice on cell phone & computer use) and funny. This book includes table etiquette as well as manners for all sorts of other situations.  It's creative and silly but gets the point across.  We think it'll be a big hit.

How to Keep Kids Seated During Meals

We all want to enjoy a nice relaxed meal around the table as a family, but the fact is most of the time our kids don't want to stay seated for very long.  How do we teach, encourage and persuade our young kids to enjoy a meal for more than 10 minutes? Here are some tips for doing just that.

At home tips:
Set expectations- tell them what you expect of them before dinner begins and be consistent.  Make sure those expectations are reasonable for their age.

Set the mood- turn off the T.V. and turn on some music.  Come to the table as your most relaxed, present and enthusiastic self.  Enthusiasm is contagious.

Start a conversation- tell stories and engage.

Give your full attention- most kids run amok because they are given the opportunity. As parents our attention is divided, we are still cooking, on the phone, focused on something else, so they busy themselves. Make meals sacred. Kids love undivided attention, they'll literally eat it up!

Read books- for really young kids this is a great way to spend dinner. Especially if they are eating before you and your spouse.  It will keep them super happy, eating more and you will find yourself enjoying the quality time.

Kitchen helpers- having your little one participate in creating the meal will increase interest in the meal.  Keeping them interested means keeping them seated.

Give a task- have them set the table, pour water, get the salad dressings, etc. Really little kids are eager to help, it's their nature.  Giving them a task gives them a purpose and boosts self-esteem.

Establish predictable meal times- keep meals as consistent as possible. Most kids can't eat as late as adults.  They may need to eat a meal before you and your spouse. If so sit with them and engage.  You are laying down the foundation for future family meals.

Make sure your child is hungry- try not to allow snacks 2 hours before their meal.

Candle light dinners- start a ritual such as lighting a candle at the beginning of each meal.  Your little one can blow the candle out at the end of the meal.  (We found this fantastic tip at

Know their limitations- have reasonable expectations for the amount of time your child can sit at a table depending upon their age.

Restaurant tips:
Set expectationsthis is vital.  Tell them what you expect of them before you walk into the restaurant. For the really little ones, explain exactly what is going to happen, "First we'll order drinks, then we'll wait and talk..." This may seem like overkill, it's not.  Kids like to feel in control and knowing what's going to happen will reassure them.

Order early- for really young children, order their meals when you order your drinks. This will help prevent toddler meltdowns.

Dodge bad timing- avoid eating out during nap time or when your child is already beyond the point of hunger.  Set yourself up for success by timing your trip just right.

Distribute food slowly- this is a great tip for really young kids.  Food in and of itself is entertaining, so give it to them gradually and in small portions.

Know their limitations- have reasonable expectations for the amount of time your child can sit at a table depending upon their age.  Increase amount of time spent at restaurants slowly.  They'll get better at it over time.

Distract them by engaging them- point out decorations, the kitchen, anything your child might find interesting. Talk about what's going on. Tell stories. Engage! Make it a fun experience for everyone.

Bring stuff- we all know this one don't we? In case the restaurant doesn't offer crayons and paper, bring appropriate materials to keep your child engaged.

Practice makes perfect- Restaurants are noisy, distracting and exciting.  Eating out is a practice in patience and patience takes practice.  Keep taking them to eat out despite all the ups and downs.  They'll get the hang of it.

Have a back up plan - after you receive your order, ask your sever for the check.  This way if things get out of control, you can leave the restaurant right away.  This is your back up plan and is a good idea when you have toddlers who are trying their best but don't always succeed.

What tips have you found that work? We'd love to hear from you!