Thursday, December 18, 2014

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, 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!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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, Spooky Soup, Hungry Ghoulash to our comforting Pot Roast, 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 babies (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:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Little Foodie Holiday Gift Ideas

It's that time of year again! And if you are anything like us, you've made a pact with yourself to get the shopping done before you are suddenly behind the eight ball. Here are some of our favorite gift ideas that will bring out the little foodie in your kiddos. We are not affiliated with any particular company, just offering ideas with multiple links. There are plenty of companies out there, so don't hesitate to shop around!

Kids aprons and chef hats-

From Food Network Store
Food Network Store


Mini pots and pans set-



Land of Nod

Monthly recipe delivery service-

Raddish Kids

Blue Apron

Mini rolling pins-

Growing Cooks

For Small Hands

Bake Deco

Thursday, November 20, 2014

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 dangerous 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?'

Thursday, November 13, 2014

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.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

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).

Thursday, October 30, 2014

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.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

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.

The best way to ensure that your food is undeniably healthy is to shop the perimeter of the store. That's where the real foods are located like produce, diary and meats.  Ideally, these products should be bought organic when affordable.  If you have to pick and choose organic ingredients due to finances, buy regular fruits and vegetables (be sure to wash thoroughly) and go for organic dairy and meats which exclude antibiotics and hormones.

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- even for things such as salami, which will often include caramel coloring.  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.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

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! 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

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.

Don't be afraid to get messy! 

      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.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

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 with their chicken.  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.