Chocolate vs. Carrots

On a recent afternoon I heard, “Mama, can I have a Hershey Kiss?”

More often than not lately, I’ve been giving her a thumbs up. What harm can it do? But this time, more out of crankiness than anything else, I denied her request. I’ve been slacking lately. The junk has been creeping into our diet with increasing regularity.

My girl’s response was not a happy one to say the least. I dreaded having to listen to her protests.  But the pestering for sugar has gotten out of hand. And her diet has been dominated by beige foods for the past week or so. Instead of gently and lovingly parenting her back into a place of health and well-being, I quickly reached into the crisper drawer and dug out a neglected bag of carrots.

Despite her extreme displeasure with my decision, she was happily munching on carrots 10 minutes later. She’s not one to let go of a fight so easily. It seems that hunger got the best of her. And she actually ate a colorful food! Lots of it actually.

At dinner I was a lot more relaxed about her eating. The carrots had injected some much needed variety into the kid’s diet and there wasn’t as much pressure to make sure she consumed something resembling a square meal. I realized that I really missed being able to relax at the dinner table. The confrontation was worth it.

I guess my point is that even when you’re writing a flipin’ blog about healthy snacks for children, you’re not always bringing your A game. My new life rule is to stop buying little chocolate treats the minute they become routine or anyone in the family seems to be leaning a little too hard on the stash. After some moderately painful readjustments the family will see the light of day. And as long as there’s some fresh produce in the house, everything’s going to be okay!

2011 Lunch Box Under Construction

A friend, I mean a real non-internet friend who I actually hang out with and talk about everything other than kids and eating, just asked me what the heck to buy for lunch boxes this year. I’ve been wondering lately too. The clock is ticking and school’s gonna be here before we know it.

First off, I’ve been thinking seriously of buying these cute little eco lunch boxes ever since I saw them mentioned on Burwell General Store.

But I think I’m going to take a leap and get this little jobbie instead. I’ve always wanted one of these. And as long as my kid doesn’t kick it across the playground after lunch, it should last forever! My practical side likes this one because it’ll be easy to clean and has a handle. At Amazon the price is $24.99.

And if all you’re looking for are containers these boxes from Lunch Bots look perfect. I might actually pick up some of these once my cheapo Ikea tupperware gives out, which should be any day now.

 

I have to admit, that I do have a couple of these dip containers still kicking around from last year. The kids love apples and carmel or carrots with yogurt dip. So I’m sure they’ll be pulled into service again. A good tip is to freeze any dip that may spoil in the inner well overnight and then pop the rest of the snack in in the morning. I usually see these at the grocery store or Target this time of year.

As you can tell, I’m trying to be done with plastic as much as I can. I deeply hate cleaning out the creases in insulted lunch boxes after all sorts of juices and food bits have been stewing in there all day. My kids’ food may stay cooler in an insulated lunch box, but its also living in close quarters with giant germ colonies. I’m psyched to give stainless steel a try this year.

BTW, Amazon isn’t giving me any kick backs for any of these links. It’s just the easiest place I’ve found to buy all this stuff. Let me know in the comments below if you’ve used anything like these products and what you thought. Or add a mention of your own lunch box favorite. Educate me!

Thanks!

Birthday Party Planning for the Lazy Parent

One of my first and clearest memories is running around my house with my friends during my fifth birthday party. Therefore, with both of my kids, I felt a bit of extra pressure to make extra sure that we had a super cool fifth birthday party. Unfortunately, I always seem to forget that all the kids want is to play with their friends and drown themselves in frosting.

This year I didn’t have as much time on my hands as I usually do. We had recently moved their were many boxes still waiting to be unpacked. And to further distract me, we had a guest who is allergic to nuts. At first I thought it would be no problem to keep things safe for him. But if you spend enough time reading ingredient labels and worrying about whether or not your mixing bowls are clean, you start to get a little loopy. Lucky for me, the child’s mother was a real rock star helping me through the menu and responding to all the crazy little questions that came up at the last minute.

What I’m getting at is that the move and a guest’s dietary needs helped to keep me in check and compared to the some of the super high-stress, non-stop, cram-it-all-in parties I’ve planned, I was downright lazy. And you know what? I think it was the best party we’ve ever had.

I’ve made a list of tips to remind myself how to throw a non-crazy kid’s birthday party next time:

Keep the guest list short. We had a total of five kids, including my two girls.

Encourage any older kid(s) in your family to contribute heavily to the party’s decor. At the very least, make some tissue paper flowers together a few days before. Thank you Martha Stewart.

Steal cute and simple food ideas from genius bloggers.

Make exceedingly simple food and make of as much of it ahead of time as possible. We served crudities and deviled eggs as appetizers. Then the kids sat down to eat popcorn, fruit, and cheese strombolis before the cupcakes descended. More than one of the recipes came from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook which I love.

Keep activities and games to a minimum. We did a pinata and that’s it. The two hours flew by. Most of the time I was hanging out with the grown ups. The kids were running amok all over the house.

Have the kids decorate their own cupcakes! This saved me a ton of work. Best of all, it was the birthday girl’s idea. We stuck a candle in her creation and she could not have been more pleased.

Feel free to add your genius ideas for making kids’ birthday parties easier and more pleasant in the comments below. : )

Chicks Update: 3 Weeks Old

The chicks are growing each day and their feathers are coming in in a hurry. They’re about of 3 weeks old now. I’ve doubled their living space by taping two boxes together and unintentionally provided them with a hurdle/roost to play around with. Aside from changing out their food and water twice a day and keeping their bedding clean, they require very little thought these days which is nice.

Chicks!

Well, we were supposed to be waiting until next year…

But you know how that goes. Hopefully, I’ll have more willpower when it comes to getting a dog. 

We have six Rhode Island Red chicks who are growing like wild fire. Here they are (above) at one week old fresh from the Tractor Supply Store.

And here they are at two weeks (above). Notice the wing and tail feathers already coming in!

Here are the reference books I’m using as guides.

But I still have very little idea what I’m doing. Anyone know of a rad website/blog that details raising chicks?? Right now I’m wondering how long they are going to be happy in a big box. They’re growing so quickly I just can’t picture them fitting in it a couple weeks from now.

But, luckily, so far, so good. If you’re thinking of raising some chicks, be warned that they produce a great deal of poop! It’s giving me flash backs to the days my kids were in diapers. I could share other details, but I’m such a novice I think I’ll just keep quiet for now. Fingers crossed.

Barbecue Chicken Quesadilla

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The guy at California Pizza Kitchen who came up with the Barbecue Chicken Pizza should really get a medal acknowledging the greatness of his achievment. When my husband replicates the pizza it brings me great joy. But awhile ago I had to cheat and make this quesadilla because I couldn’t wait to get my fix.[/donotprint]

And miracle of miracles, the kids liked them when I made them for dinner the other night. It was a rare moment. We were all eating the same food which had been inspired by my cravings. And we all enjoyed it. Amen and hallelujah!

Barbecue Chicken Quesadilla Recipe

2 10-inch flour tortillas
1/2 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1 handful coarsely grated Monterrey jack cheese
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon purple onion, minced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Place one tortilla in a skillet over medium heat. Evenly distribute chicken and barbecue sauce on the tortilla. Sprinkle on the cheese and then the onion and cilantro. Top with the second tortilla. Cook for 3 -5 minutes or until the tortilla starts to brown. Flip and cook the other side for a few more minutes. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board. Allow to cool for a couple minutes. Slice into quarters or sixths. Serve.

Yield: 4-6 wedges
Prep-time: 15 minutes

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Mommy Lunch: Japanese Spinach with Rice

When your entire morning has evaporated while you made what you thought would be a quick batch of crackers…and you’re still trying to stick to the vegan-before-6 thing, you quickly learn how important it is to have easy and healhty lunch ideas in your back pocket. Otherwise, you end up eating all the crackers you just slaved over!

Sorry kids!

For the past month or so, whenever I have leftover rice waiting in the wings I often grab a bag of frozen greens and have this brilliant lunch ready in a jiffy. If you’re unsure, please know that eating a big glob of greens (unless they were smothered in white sauce) used to be a relatively rare occurance for me. Despite the abundance of green in the photo above, I’m not overwhelmed by the roughage. It’s perfect. In fact, the other night I had it for dinner…after 6 o’clock.

Japanese Spinach with Rice Recipe

This is adapted from a recipe for Intensely Green Spinach with Sesame Seeds in Seductions of Rice by Jeffery Alford and Naomi Duguid.

For the greens I am currently using a mixture of frozen bagged spinach and mixed greens (collard, kale, mustard, etc.). I toast the sesame seeds 1/4 cup at a time in a skillet over medium low heat and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator in order to have them at the ready.

1 1/2 cups cooked white or brown rice
1 cup bagged frozen greens, loosely packed 
2 teaspoons mirin
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Reheat rice in the microwave. Set aside. In another bowl, defrost and warm up the greens.  Drain any excess liquid. Pour the mirin and soy sauce over the greens and mix to coat. Place greens on top of the rice and garnish with sesame seeds. Serve.

Yield: 1 rice bowl
Prep-time: 5 minutes

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Fried Bologna Sandwich

I won’t bore you with my internal monologue about processed lunch meats. Let’s just say I went out on a limb.

And I’m glad I did.

This is a surprisingly tasty sandwich. Try one. You might like it. And while you’re munching, take a moment to appreciate the shear human ingenuity that goes into highly processed foods. Yes, they can be unhealthy, but as I learn more about food I occasionally find myself in awe of what people have been able to conjure.

Fried Bologna Sandwich Recipe

2 slices bread, lightly toasted
6 slices bologna (I used Applegate Farms Turkey Bologna)
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Yellow mustard, to taste

Warm a skillet over medium heat. Coat the bottom of the skillet with the canola oil. Put the bologna (You’ll probably have to do two batches unless you’re using a huge pan.) in the skillet and cook for approximately five minutes on each side or until it is lightly browned and bubbly.

Place all of the bologna on one slice of bread and top with mustard as desired. Place second slice of bread on top. Cut up into small sandwiches and serve.

Yield: 1 sandwich (cut into 4 mini sandwiches for a shared snack – or not)
Prep time: 20 minutes

In the (Television) Kitchen

Molasses Snow Candy: wtnh.com

Check it out! I was on TV today! For the first time ever! It’s crazy! It was so much fun to make molasses snow candy on CT Style. Mostly because the hostess was fabulous and made it really easy to concentrate on her and forget about the fact that 100 lights and 3 gigantic cameras were pointing at us.

Even though my daughter has already had a zillion snow days this year, I took her with me to the studio. You just can’t make molasses snow candy without a kid to do the pouring. While it took her a little time to warm up, she had a lot of fun. She was a great helper and we were both captivated by all the behind the scenes action.

Best Snacks of 2010

I can’t even believe I’m writing this post! 2010 is nearly over??! Wha?

Well, it certainly has been a fabulous year. I feel like I’ve grown leaps and bounds as a cook, eater, and blogger. I’ve grown much more comfortable in all of these roles, but of course, the possibilities for more snacking adventures still seem endless.

Readership has grown a lot this year, which means a ton to me. While I am still small potatoes in the blogosphere, I’m getting actual feedback from actual people near and far. It’s great to know that other people are asking the same sort of questions I am and are craving some quailty snacks.

In my humble opinion, these are the greatest hits of 2010:

Almond Butter Balls
Honey Roasted Pecans
Carrot Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling
Beet Chips
Homemade Cheese Crackers
Homemade Polka Dot Fruit Roll Ups
Apple Chips
Yogurt with Rhubarb Compote and Fresh Strawberries

One of the best things about this list is the way it compares to my best of 2009 list which was, frankly, high in sugar – namely chocolate. Chocolate is still a close friend of mine, of course. But it’s good to see I’ve been branching out.

On a more important note, thanks for visiting and I wish you all health, happiness and many tasty snacks in 2011!!!

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