Fix Me A Snack

A blog created by a mom who got sick of feeding her kids crackers and ice cream

Once or twice a year I am overcome by a mounting sense of desperation over what to feed my family. I just start coming up blank more often than I’d like. (I probably should just be keeping a dinner journal to help myself remember what has and hasn’t worked. That would be a good idea. It would be fun to use a 5-year journal.)

Last Spring I bought a copy of The Family Dinner while I was looking for answers. I ended up getting a lot more than I hoped for. While the recipes are great, I hadn’t counted on such a serious dose of inspiration and guidance for staging family dinner.

Family dinner sounds easy. Make dinner. Eat together. But the book opened up a new world of possibilities to me. We’ve always actively avoided after-school activities that cut into the dinner hour. But we still needed an extra push to make family dinner a strong part of our family’s routine where we would eat together but also linger afterwards. The book showed me how it’s done. It reminded me how inspired parenting and building a family can be. Along with her own examples, David shares stories from the likes of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Mario Batali about what their family dinners were like as children.

As a result of my reading the book, we started memorizing poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. Along with the list of recommended reading from the book, we have some general and nature reference books. These are kept by our dinner table at arm’s length and have proved useful when my kids started asking crazy questions like “What is electricity?”.

When I first read the book I was on a mission to make family dinner happen every night of the week. Now I just go with the flow and am happy if it happens more nights than not. We’ve become slackers in the poem memorizing department too. But the bottom line is that the book has had a huge impact on the health and happiness of my family. We’ve started building memories at the dinner table. Hats off to Laurie David and Kirstin Uhrenholdt!

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!

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!

If you’re anything like me, you’ve had enough of cooking and serving food to last a while. Even when it comes to simple and healthy little snacks, I’m taking a break.

Snack time around here has been devoted to eating the 17 million granola bars sitting around the house. Also, we might be trapped under a pile of  apple chips soon because I found it impossible to walk away from the cheap bags of “applesauce” apples from Bushy Hill Orchard. And thank goodness for clementines which have been a bright spot in our snacking repertoire.

This week, in the name of taking a break from cooking, I’m posting a list of children’s picture books about eating and food instead of a snack recipe. These are our current favorites:

1. Bread and Jam for Francesby Russel Hoban

The rest of this list is in no particular order. But this book is number one for a reason.

2. I Can’t Said the Ant by Polly Cameron

Everyday kitchen objects and foods cheer on a heroic ant who comes to the aid of a broken teapot. Fabulous rhyming.

3. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

We all love a good caterpillar story and this is one of the best.

4. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

Brilliant illustrations and a great story make us all smile every time we read it.

 5. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess

The pacing of this story is extremely energetic and fun. A great reminder to never stop laughing and never give up when it comes to trying new foods.

6. Scrambled Eggs Super by Dr. Suess

A boy flamboyantly searches the world for the ultimate gourmet egg.

7. Bee-bim Bop by Linda Sue Park

Fantastic rhythm. Complete with a detailed recipe.

8. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey

This summer, my youngest put Sal to shame in the blueberry patch.

9. Mean Soup by Besty Everitt

Anger management via soup-making.

10. A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon

A little girl denies her love of lima beans and pays dearly.

11. Chewy Louie by Howie Schneider

A puppy literally eats his way through his new home. Joyously goofy.

12. The Incredible Book-Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers

A hilarious and beautifully illustrated tale of a boy that decides to get smart the easy way.

13. The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth

Food on the run is always fun. See #16 as well.

14. The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear by Don Wood

A little mouse is convinced a bear is after his precious strawberry and will do anything to save it.

15. There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly retold by Simms Taback

I listened to this song a great deal as a child and now I get to enjoy it again with my kids. The amusing illustrations are a definite bonus.

16. Stop That Pickle! by Peter Armour

A hilarious tale of a crafty pickle on the run. Wonderfully goofy.

It has recently become commonplace for my 4-year-old to say at snack time, “I want something new that I’ve never had before!”

Really. I’m not kidding. She says it all the time. It started several months ago after she had become accustomed to being subjected to my snack experiments on a regular basis.

I started blogging in March of 2009. Save a few favorites that have made repeat appearances, my kids have been continuously exposed to new foods for a year and a half. During this time, I’ve become increasingly daring and have gathered a vast arsenal of secret weapons.

My kids are an integral part of the snack development process. They are learning to appreciate new (and old) foods just like I am. And it seems like once we established our own little kitchen subculture, they have become delighted to try new foods. Granted, the level of delight increases exponentially when sprinkles or marshmallows are involved and it also helps if they’re starving…but still.

The trick is that I started preparing snacks with the blog in mind as much as my kids. Experimentation is the rule of the day. Good or bad, I keep moving, learning, and thinking about new ways to make happy and healthy snacks. The end result is that my kids are being exposed to new foods and preparations all the time. And more importantly, I’m not necessarily catering to what I believe to be their likes and dislikes. Occasionally, their reaction to a snack is nowhere near what I would have predicted.

I don’t think my kids’ taste buds are much different than most. Before I started bombarding her with all kinds of new snacks, my four-year-old was well on her way to being labeled as “picky”. Even now only beige or white foods will cross her lips for what seems like days. Even so, she’s willing to try new foods.

If you’re wishing your kids were more open to trying new foods, you could turn your snack regime on its head for a week or preferably a month. Try not to repeat the same thing twice in a week. Make novelty the rule and banish predictability and monotony. It sounds like a lot of work, but aside from the intial adjustment to your routine, it doesn’t have to be. Watching my own children get excited about preparing and tasting new foods has been extremely rewarding.

If you asked my kids directly, they’d probably tell you that they sometimes wish their mom would let them eat a bunch of cookies or potato chips for snack. And to that I say, “Sure, we’ll do that sometime soon…but first let’s taste this thing I made today…”

Here are some tools we are digging these days:

Egg Beater!
It just occured to me that our lives were not complete until we had one of these. When I showed it to my husband he said, “Oh yeah, that was always my job as a kid”. No matter how hard I try, it seems to be too early to teach my kids how to whisk properly; something about that tricky movement of the wrist. Problem solved.

Rainbow Whisk!
I bought this on a whim a while ago and it has proven itself to be a star player in all our baking. We use it exclusively to mix up dry ingredients, but my preschooler just looooves it. It starts all our baking off on a very happy note.

Rolling Pin Bands.
This one is for me more than the kids. These bands allow me to freak out a little bit less about the uneven pressure my kids exert with the rolling pin. The sizes include 1/16″, 1/8″, 1/4″, and 1/2″.