3-Ingredient Hot Chocolate

We love a cup of hot cocoa as a special treat this time of year but we've noticed that the ingredient lists on some of our favorite instant mixes are looking pretty heavy in the chemical department.  So here's a way cheaper, and just as good option, using just three ingredients!

1 heaping tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1 cup milk of choice, heated

Place the cocoa powder and syrup in the bottom of a mug and then gradually add the hot milk, stirring as you pour.  Blend well and serve!

How to Cut a Butternut Squash and Our Healthy Squash Recipes

To say that we live for butternut squash season would be an understatement. We are full of butternut squash recipes. From Roasted Veggies, to Spooky Soup, we are obsessed!

One of the most common questions we get whenever we mention butternut squash is, "how the heck do I cut this thing without losing a finger?" Breaking down a butternut squash can seem daunting, here's our favorite way to carve and cube one of these (while keeping all your appendages). If you're feeling thrifty, many stores now offer pre-cut butternut squash in the refrigerated produce section- but it will cost you extra per pound. So this is our preferred method for cutting a butternut squash while saving some dough.

How to cut a butternut squash, step by step:

When shopping, select squash more uniform in shape-this makes cutting easier. Rinse squash thoroughly.

Trim off both ends of the squash.

Cut in half.

Stand each section on its end and carve the edges away (you can do this with a vegetable peeler, too).

Cut each section in half lengthwise.

Scoop the seeds out of the round halves.

Stand each section back on its end and cut in half again (parallel to the previous cut).

Stack the sections, cut side down onto the board and slice.

Rotate the slices 90 degrees and cut into cubes.

Once you get the hang of it, cutting a butternut squash can be completely painless.

How to cut a butternut squash, via montage:

How to cut a butternut squash, via collage:

Use All Five Senses, Food Appreciation is Learned

Want your little ones to become foodies?  Encourage them to use all their senses!  Let things get messy.  Let them sniff their food.  Let them touch, squish, stir, spread, break, and whisk.  Why? Because food appreciation is learned, just like cooking is learned.  All kids can become little foodies! To broaden palates it takes planning and effort as well as offering a variety of healthy food while limiting the processed stuff. It may seem hard but helping your kids blossom into little gourmets can be really fun and exciting!

Let them choose a new ingredient at the farmers market. Bok choy for the win!

Kids can wash while you work on the more advanced steps. Calling all kitchen helpers!

Ask little ones to help you sort groceries after returning from the supermarket. This lets them get familiar with produce.

Ingredients can be used for all kinds of sensory play.  Our Jicama Fruit Salad recipe is perfect for building little edible log cabins or for a very short game of Jenga.


Broccoli crowns can be used as brushes with a Savory Greek Yogurt Dip as the paint.

Food is more than just fuel, it's family, entertainment, love, energy and tradition.  So create those traditions in your home and you'll begin to see those little tikes become little foodies right before your eyes.

Tiny carts are a must!

Start an herb garden.  Have a family cooking night.  Pass down recipes from both sides of the family.  Use your imagination and your whole family will flourish in the most exciting ways imaginable.

Herb gardens are an easy and inexpensive way to cultivate palates and build confidence.

Who wants to play 'name that veggie?'

Creamy Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Soup

It can be so tempting to depend on canned soups for quick meals but making soup from scratch is a lot easier and faster than it seems.  Our recipe for broccoli cheddar soup below is ready in half an hour.  To save even more time, all of the vegetables can be grated in a processor instead of diced by hand.  Single servings can be kept in the freezer and reheated later for super fast meals.

Creamy Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium sized carrot, diced
1 large bunch of broccoli with stems, diced
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano (optional)
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup soy milk
1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Sweat the onion, celery, carrot, and broccoli in the oil for about 5 minutes (add some of the salt here, too).  Add the flour and let it cook for just a minute, then add the garlic and oregano.  Add the broth and stir really well.  Cover and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.  Turn off the heat, puree the soup then add in the milk and cheese.  Stir until it is all melted (turn back on low heat in order to melt the cheese if you need to) then add the Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste.

Fall Stove Top Potpourri

Can we share our latest obsession?

Stove top potpourri is something that will make your house smell like one of those fantastic holiday commercials where everything is warm, cozy and stress free (read: two kids enjoying each other's company, aka not fighting, while a gorgeously put together mom drinks a hot cider on a couch in front of the fire).  Last year we were urged, urged by the wonderful guys at Crafty Lumberjacks to make this stuff and we never did.  Shame on us!

What you need, and it's probably already in your home!
This is a great 'kids in the kitchen' activity and perfect fall craft.  The uncooked ingredients in a glass jar make beautiful inexpensive gifts for teachers and neighbors this holiday season.  So get those adorable kitchen helpers ready!

Give it as a gift in a beautiful Mason jar!
If you have never made stove top potpourri before, it's simple.  Just grab aromatic ingredients in your home, set them on the stove in a pot with water and let them simmer.  Your house will smell like fall and bring you a bit of extra relaxation which always brings on a bit of patience.  Who out there can't use more of that?

You can use anything but for our recipe all you need are apples, orange rinds, cinnamon sticks and water.

Peel the orange, chop the apple, and place them in a mason jar if you are going to give it as a gift or for it to be cooked later.  If you want to cook it now then pour the ingredients straight into a pot.

After adding all ingredients, add water.

If you are interested in enjoying your potpourri immediately, then simmer the ingredients on the lowest setting of your stove top (or in the slow cooker) all day and enjoy the glorious smells!  When the water begins to evaporate you can simply add more.

This is a great sensory activity for younger kids.  Encourage them to smell, touch and describe the ingredients they are adding.

To find more stove top potpourri recipes, visit the Crafty Lumberjacks, they have several sweet smelling ideas that will make your holiday season warm and cozy.  This link has a recipe that includes cranberries and sage (squeal).

Prapple Butter (Pear and Apple)

        Prapple Butter (Pear and Apple)

Fall harvest brings so many delicious fruits...but they sure can pile up after a while!  The next time you have a big batch of overripe pears or apples (or both), try our pear/apple "Prapple" butter recipe below.  It is really easy and fun to make, plus the whole house will smell amazing while it cooks!  It keeps well in the fridge and makes for a great topping on whole wheat toast, oatmeal, or even frozen yogurt.  You can make this recipe with any combination of pears and apples you have on hand, but our favorite combination for this recipe is half McIntosh apples with half D'Anjou pears.

Prapple Butter (Pear and Apple Butter)

8 medium sized pears and/or apples, sliced thick (cores/seeds removed)  
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar  
1 tablespoon cinnamon  
1 teaspoon allspice

Combine all ingredients in the slow cooker and stir to blend well.  Set on low for 10 hours.  Blend in the blender or with an immersion blender until smooth.  Let cool at room temperature and then keep refrigerated.


Checking Labels- Is the Food You're Eating Healthy?

Misleading Advertising

We all want to do what's best for our kids, but it seems these days it's harder than ever to figure out what is healthy and what is not.  So many cereals, bars, protein powders, crackers, yogurts and pouches are all advertised as healthy.  They include buzz words and phrases like organic, natural, made with real fruit, made with whole grains, multigrain, enriched wheat flour.

This kind of marketing is purposefully misleading and confusing.  Advertisers want us to believe that something like fun fruits aka 'fruit snacks' labeled with the words organic and 'made with real fruit,' will fool us into thinking that cheap candy is a healthy snack.

What to look for on the label

When you do need to shop for something that is packaged or canned check the ingredient list on the label.  The ingredient list is the most telling piece of information on the packaging.  Look for products with the least amount of ingredients, preferably less than 5.  All ingredients should be words you recognize.  If long words that remind you of high school chemistry begin to pop up, WALK AWAY.  It's amazing what you'll find on the ingredient list- yogurts are often loaded with sugar and/or corn syrup and seemingly healthy bread is often mainly white flour with other grains.

Still confused by a label? Check out the 16 most misleading healthy food labels and buzz words.

Healthy Pumpkin Banana Smoothie

        Healthy Pumpkin Banana Smoothie

Seriously, we cannot get enough pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING.  This blog contains other fall time goodies, like this spooky soup and pumpkin overnight oats, but we had to throw in a pumpkin smoothie.  Everyone has their own recipe for this sweet treat, but ours has added fiber and omega 3's. Perfect way to jump start everyone's day this fall, including your littlest of tots- infants over 6 months can enjoy this too!  Great choice for kids who aren't big breakfast eaters.

Healthy Pumpkin Banana Smoothie

2 frozen bananas  
1 cup almond milk (whichever type your family likes)
3 tablespoons pumpkin puree  
1 teaspoon allspice  
2 teaspoons ground flaxseed (optional)  
1 tablespoon real maple syrup

Blend all ingredients until smooth. For us adults, substitute 1/2 cup of milk for cold coffee for that extra morning kick. Enjoy! 

10 Ways to Stop Making Multiple Meals for your Family at Dinner (Short Order Cooking)

     1. Limit snacks right before dinner. If they are hungry (not starving) they'll be eager to eat.  Kids who snack all day tend to eat poorly during mealtimes because they aren't hungry.

     2. Include foods in the meal that your kids like. One or two familiar and beloved ingredients always helps.

      3. Have them help you prep and cook a portion of the meal. Kids are more interested in food they've had a hand in making.

      4. Get your little kitchen helpers to help you meal plan. Look through cook books together!  Give them a couple of options and see if something catches their eye.

Cooking together makes even the most foreign ingredients seem approachable to a child.

      5. Talk about the transition with your kids in advance. "We're all going to eat the same thing. You get to eat what we eat, yay!"

      6. Create a positive, stress free, environment; eating is fun, not something to be forced or dreaded. Keep the mood light. Focus on being present with your kids and upbeat even through their initial resistance.

      7. Have realistic expectations, this transition may take a while. That's ok! Sometimes as parents we get super excited for change and unrealistically expect for things to work out right away. This only sets us up for frustration and irritability. Mentally prepare.

      8.  It's harder for us than it is for them. Accept that making one meal is easier for you and that your kids WILL eventually eat it.  Often we feel guilty if we don't make something our kids will automatically gobble up, it's our job as parents to offer a healthy variety of food and give our kids a safe place to acquire the taste.

      9.  If your kid is begging you for junk food or treats during mealtimes or after and it's becoming a problem, stop buying them.  Save them as treats that are specifically purchased to be eaten that day.

      10.  After the family meal, avoid giving processed foods (crackers, cookies, cereal), many kids will save their appetite for dessert. These desserts essentially become the second meal you were unwilling to make.  Stick to fruit after mealtimes except during special occasions.

The Supermarket - Taking Your Kids, Keeping Your Sanity

If you're a parent, chances are you probably haven't gone to the bathroom, cooked a meal or shopped for food by yourself in a while.  Here are 5 tips for taking toddlers and kids to the grocery store and not losing your mind.  Oh, and while creating healthier eating habits and all that good stuff…

1. Teeny Tiny Shopping Carts. If you are lucky enough to go to a store that has these, take advantage.  At first glance it may seem like more work for you, but we promise it'll most likely make your tot more agreeable and happy to follow directions.

2. Have your little ones help you add ingredients to the cart.  It will make them interested and willing to try new foods and it gives them a sense of pride.

3. Have them make and hold the list.  If they are not old enough to read and write, have them draw pictures with your help.

4. Give kids the power of choice and ask them to help you create the week's menu.  Ask if they want quinoa or brown rice.  Roasted sweet potatoes or roasted cauliflower?  This will make all the difference for them and how they see their meals.

5. Give them a healthy food choice that they may see as a treat when confronted with the crazy aisle of junk food. "We're not getting candy today but we can choose from this section over here." This is usually where the kid picks the $5 tiny bag of pistachios, but HEY it's better than a twix.  One of the biggest ways to stop kids from picky eating is by not buying the other stuff.  It's that simple.  If it's not in the house they can't eat it.

My Toddler Won't Stop Eating!

One of our recent posts talked about what to do when your toddler isn't eating, but what about the opposite problem?  One of our followers pointed out that her toddler won't stop eating.  Showing an interest in food is what us foodies are all about, but here are our tips for handling your cub turned hungry bear.  Keep in mind, there are possible medical reasons for overeating so we recommend talking about your child's eating habits regularly with their pediatrician to be sure there aren't any medical issues that need your attention.

Some mealtimes kids will hardly eat a bite and other times we don't know where they're putting it! It's normal for kids to be hungry and eat a ton of healthy nutrient dense food. They are growing and on the move!  But if your little one is constantly eating and it's making you take pause, take an inventory of exactly what your child eats each day. We often get stuck in a rut giving in to processed kid snacks. Those snacks make kids hungrier faster, even the ones that claim to be healthy. The refined grains and sugars make them feel temporarily full, but before you know it they're hungry again.

Try increasing their protein intake and avoid processed foods high in refined carbohydrates and replace them with natural carbohydrates high in fiber.  Something like oatmeal* for breakfast instead of cereal will last longer throughout the morning.  Skip the crackers, fruit snacks, or fruit filled yogurt (loaded with added sugar) in between meals.  Instead, serve something more like fresh fruit with peanut butter, veggies with yogurt dip, or vegan cheese. They'll provide more nutrition and keep hunger at bay.

Stick to a schedule - three square meals a day and two snacks in between is a reasonable schedule.  Whatever your schedule, stick to it.  Hungry tummies will adjust to mealtimes accordingly and it is okay to be hungry for a few minutes before meals. If they really need that extra snack (we all have those days) have them go to the table or some other spot where they are focused on eating, as opposed to watching TV or playing with toys. Allow them to eat as much healthy food as they want during each mealtime and don't rush them along.  Some kids really take their time at the table, rushing them may mean that they leave the meal unsatisfied.

Setting the rule that food is only eaten at the table will ensure that kids really are hungry and not just compulsively eating.  If they're truly feeling hungry, they will focus on eating. If your kiddo is going through a growth spurt and does need more food, making sure it is eaten at the table and healthy will keep their energy up and blood sugar steady.

Serving unhealthy snacks before bedtime or using food as a reward sends the wrong message, try using other types of rewards that your kid likes (for example, stickers or extra activities with you).  Sometimes eating is something to stop boredom and some people are born nibblers- they just like chewing.  But maybe they aren't actually that hungry- snacks like homemade popsicles or fruit leathers would be great in these cases.  Activities that keep them busy could work too, like blowing bubbles, playing the kazoo, etc.

Serving healthy foods and keeping to a mealtime schedule can help prevent power struggles.  If a kid's food intake is restricted too much, they may start to feel the need to obsess over food.  If so, keep mealtimes structured but let them decide how much they need to eat.  They may eat more at first, but eventually they will trust that the food will be there when they are hungry and will learn to listen to their bodies to tell them when they are full.

If you feel like this is a bigger problem, talk to your pediatrician.

*We recommend fixing oatmeal from scratch instead of using the prepackaged kinds.  You can still make it quickly in the microwave but this way you control the sugar content, try using maple syrup!  Overnight oats are a great option as well.

Reasons Toddlers Stop Eating Well

So your toddler used to eat pretty much everything and has suddenly become that picky kid you dreaded. Even though you probably already know- this is completely NORMAL. It's a phase that goes away if you avoid creating more bad habits along the way.

Here are some reasons why toddlers stop eating well and what you can do about it:

Early Signs of Sickness

Yep, this is a common one. Sudden loss in appetite can often be the early warning signs to a cold or flu. Check for other symptoms like exhaustion (and irritability).

Development and Distraction

The two D's! Your kid is learning something new everyday. They are suddenly seeing the world differently. Able to reach light switches and doorknobs, discovering body parts and bodily functions. Yes, oh yes, they've got stuff to do and food to them is boring in comparison. Resist the temptation to short order cook, i.e. don't make them mac and cheese while the rest of your family eats tofu with rice.  Keep meals low pressure- when they're hungry, they'll eat.

Power Struggles

These tiny intelligent tots are realizing that mealtimes can be a total power play. They may be vying for your attention at this time, and find that they get more of it if they act up or refuse food. The best thing you can do in this situation is to be present and engaging with your child during this time. Give tons of positive praise. "Hey look at you eating with your fork!" "You tried something new!" Even include them in the prepping of the meal. Have them help cook, stir, rinse, set the table. This may feel challenging but it will make them much more interested in eating and give you both bonding time.

Schedule Change

This often happens during the summer or holidays. Life gets busy and before we know it consistent dinner times have become erratic, the TV gets left on or we are regularly eating over at a friend's house. Before you know it, you realize that you aren't setting your toddler up for success. And sometimes it's completely unavoidable. When you know that the house will be full of out of town family members or that you are traveling, try to keep the rest of their schedule as consistent as possible. Often when bath and bedtimes are consistent so is appetite. If it's the holidays take a good look at what your child is eating, may be that they are getting lots of special treats from relatives and friends and have no appetite for nutrient dense foods.

Over Snacking

This is a common problem for most people. Observe how many snacks your child is given a day and how close to mealtimes they are given. This could be the direct cause of lack of appetite during meals. If the snacks are processed, refined or sugar filled, toddlers will get a taste for (aka addicted to) high fat/sugar/salt foods and snub their noses at fresh healthy ones. Fruit, nuts and vegan cheese make great on the go snacks that fill bellies and keep energy levels up.

Short Order Cooking

We've all done it. Made a separate meal for our kids because they might not like what we adults are having, or because we're ordering take out after they hit the hay. Maybe it's gotten out of hand and you've suddenly noticed yourself making 'toddler' meals for you littles every night. Before you know it they're exclusively eating mac and cheese and pb&j. Or maybe you've always cooked a separate meal because you tried introducing your little ones to food and it hasn't gone well. A couple nights of short order cooking can quickly turn any toddler into a demanding customer. They know that they can have something other than what's offered and will bat their eye lashes or refuse a meal to get what they want. Luckily kids are extremely adaptable. Have them help you cook the family meal, include them in the prep work. Kids are more willing to eat food they've had a hand in making.

5 Ways to Get Kids to Stop Snacking All Day

Serve snacks that are rich in nutrients to fill those little bellies for longer and avoid the cycle of never ending snacking.

  1. Have a meal and snack schedule so your little one's body gets used to when it's going to be fed.  3 meals, 2 good-sized snacks. (This also helps their circadian rhythm, aka sleep patterns.) 
  2. Eat snacks sitting down and not in front of the TV when possible. We know there are plenty of days when this may be hard, but avoiding mindless snacking teaches them to listen to their bodies and know when they're hungry vs bored. 
  3. Serve snacks that are healthy and rich with protein and fiber. For example, trail mix or banana with peanut butter. Snacks like crackers keep kids full for only a short amount of time, making them suddenly hungry for real nutrients sooner.
  4. If you do need to add an extra snack, (hello growth spurt!) make it a fruit or veggie that will satisfy but not spoil their dinner.
  5. It's OK to say no to a snack. We want our kids to eat their meals but they'll only eat them if they have a healthy level of hunger. (We certainly do not mean that they should be starving, just ready to chow down!)

5 Ways to Get Toddlers to Try New Foods

1. Cook with them-
Kids are more likely to try food they've had a hand in making. Smelling and touching are precursors to tasting, so encourage them to help! Cooking together doesn't have to be complicated, simple tasks like mixing, rinsing or pouring can get little ones involved and excited about new ingredients.

2. Farmers markets-
All the bright displays of produce (and free samples) will evoke your toddler's natural sense of curiosity. Encourage touching and smelling!

3. Let them pick something new at the grocery store in the produce section-
Involving your toddler in ingredient choices gives them a sense of control. Kids love to make choices and buy things.

4. Expose them to one new food every week-
Regular exposure to new foods will get your toddler's palate accustomed to new flavors and textures. Don't worry if they aren't wolfing it down - the point here is for them to get used to unfamiliar ingredients on the table. A small taste is enough.

5. Grow your own veggies/fruit or pick your own at a local farm-
Let your toddler explore and marvel at how beautiful and amazing mother nature can be. Picking fruit and veggies usually leads to tasting, they can't help themselves! Kids are naturally curious.

Jicama, Fruit Salad, and Trying New Foods

We recently embarked on a mission to find the mysterious and unique root vegetable known as jicama. Our adventure led to many insights including, how to get a kid excited about trying a new vegetable, the wonders of all that is jicama, and a killer fruit salad that you will be making all summer- we promise! First let's start with getting your kids enthusiastic about trying new foods. For some of us this feels daunting! There are many ways to encourage your kids to be more adventurous but today we'll just mention one. Books! We've talked about it before, books are such an fun way to get kids excited. In fact this jicama adventure we recently went on was inspired purely by this book.

In My Foodie ABC, Little Gourmet's Guide by Puck illustrations by Violet Lemay, there is a fun new food or foodie term for each letter along with a description and adorable pictures. 'J' is for jicama, by the way. Our little kitchen helper (2 1/2 years old) was waiting to find a jicama for weeks and weeks. When we found some at our local farm, he was so excited!

Jicama in its natural state.

Curiosity sets in for this tiny tot.

Best way to 'peel' is with a knife as the skin is too tough for a peeler.

Salad ready to go! 'Jenga' anyone?
Jicama is a unique root vegetable that's eaten raw, so we created a delicious salad around it. But let's face it, jicama is hard to find. So we recommend making this salad without the jicama if you can't find it. Trust us, it'll be something you keep making again and again. Simple real ingredients to keep your family healthy.

Jicama, skin cut off, julienned (optional)
Granny smith apples, julienned
Watermelon, julienned
Manchego cheese (or sharp white cheddar or feta), julienned
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (to taste)

Cut and prepare equal parts of all ingredients in the same shape, mix with lemon or lime juice and enjoy!