Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas on Crack

The title pretty much sums-up my thoughts on Christmas at my house. It's crazy. I'm basically just trying to "get through" the month. Now I do blame myself. I usually am way ahead of the game instead of waiting so late to do everything. I also have bitten off a little more than I can chew this year with a new baby, Room Mom stuff, church obligations, etc. So I have VOWED to next year enjoy the holiday season with my family instead of trying to figure out how for every one thing I cross off my December "to do" list, three more things get added. Which is why I've been a little MIA as far as my blog is concerned. I just haven't had ANY time. So I felt compelled to share my plan of attack for next year and the years following.

We just had a guest speak at my moms' group at church. Her topic was, "Surviving the Holidays with Blessings." It didn't hurt that she is a professional organizer with FIVE KIDS. She uses the binder system when organizing her holidays. A little OCD- yes. But the point, she is completely done with all things Christmas-related BY December 1st. That includes her baking, her shopping for her and her children's holiday wardrobes AND her house is clean and organized before the 1st of the month as well. I actually got to see her binder and flip through it. A work of art for sure. Now as type-A and OCD as I can be, some aspects of this notebook were a little much for me. But the beautiful thing is you just print the pages that you will use. You custom make your own notebook to your specifications. Sound like a lot of work? I've got no where to go but up people. Check it out:


Oh, and the pages are free. Get goin' ladies. Christmas '10 is right around the corner.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Brown-Bagging Fish"

I just came across this fish tip from a NYC chef, Seamus Mullen. I'm a huge fish person and appreciate any new way, especially a fun and creative way, to make it and serve it. One of my specialties when entertaining in the Spring and Summer is to do sea bass in parchment paper. I serve the "packets" like little presents to each guest and they get to un-tie the twine to "open" their meal. The steam and aromas from the fish and the vegetables just flood out. The parchment paper gets this really pretty golden brown hue and the edges really brown. It is so unique looking and I'm always proud of it! It's always a HUGE crowd-pleaser and quite the conversation starter. So when I saw this new presentation when serving fish, I was elated to put it mildly!

Brown-Bagging Fish- Instead of roasting fish in a pan, cook it in a plain brown-paper lunch bag set on a baking sheet. Brush the bag liberally with olive oil and add a well-seasoned piece of fish along with slices of lemon and vegetables. Close the bag, place on the baking sheet and cook at 375 until the fish is opaque; an eight-ounce fillet will take about eight minutes. Cut the bag open, remove the fish and serve. - Seamus Mullen, Boqueria in NYC

Food and Wine

Obviously you can see from the title of the article this has little to do with feeding your kids. However, it has everything to do with mommy's mental health if you know what I mean.

It is no secret that I am trying to get some baby weight off since have my ten and a half pound son six months ago. He was big. I got big. It is also no secret that I love beer. I don't mean a frat boy kind of love. I mean I really, really enjoy it. That being said, we all know it isn't diet-friendly especially in the problem area that follows two ten-pound children (my stomach). So in my quest to make better choices I have started to really try and develop a pallet and love for wine. I think it actually might be an acquired taste. The other reason for my pursuit of passion for wine is my husband's blood pressure. He has high blood pressure that is hereditary, it has nothing to do with stress or his diet or what kind of shape he's in. If you saw him, you'd know I'm not foolin' around. He's hot (i.e. he eats great and is in shape). Anyway, upon talking to my physician (who happens to be my husband's physician as well) about Brian's blood pressure and things we could be doing differently at home or I could be incorporating into our diets that aid lowering blood pressure, red wine and dark chocolate came up. My doc said that the research backing red wine and it's benefits for the heart and blood pressure is no joke. It is legitimate. As is all the hoop-la surrounding dark chocolate (the REAL stuff, not Hershey's) and the beneficiary, antioxidant punch it has.

Enter my new found love for Pinot Noir. Pinot is the highest antioxidant red wine (or wine period for that matter) that there is. I even made a point to drink it pregnant, obviously in very, very small quantities as research came out stating that red wine during pregnancy (again very low amounts) might benefit the fetus in later IQ studies. I have absolutely no idea if this has been confirmed but I was on board for selfish reasons. Now it is a staple in my home and I have my husband enjoying a glass a night and popping a handful of dark chocolate for dessert after dinner. It's something we look forward to as we try to unwind at the end of the day and according to my doc, it has legitimate health benefits.

Now on the point of my article. Recently I was reading Food and Wine magazine, the October 2009 issue, and came across an article that I found to be most interesting and so worth passing on to my fellow cutie patootie foodies. I think you all, wine people or not, will find it has a place in your kitchen when entertaining especially. It is regarding wine and food pairing. I was so glad to have come across this particularly right before the holidays since I was put in charge of wine for Thanksgiving. "No problem!" I said.

Champagne- Perfect with anything salty. Most dry sparkling wines, such as brut Champagne and Spanish cava, actually have a faint touch of sweetness. That makes them extra-refreshing when served with salty foods.

Sauvignon Blanc- Goes with tart dressing and sauces. Tangy foods won't overwhelm zippy wines like Sauvignon Blanc.

Pinot Grigio- Pairs with light fish dishes. Light seafood dishes seem to take on more flavor when matched with equally delicate white wines such as PG.

Chardonnay- For fatty fish or fish in a rich sauce. Silky wines- for instance, Chardonnays from California, Chile or Australia- are delicious with fish like salmon or any kind of seafood in a lush sauce.

Riesling- Pair nice with sweet and spicy dishes. The slight sweetness of many Rieslings helps tame the heat of spicy Asian and Indian dishes.

Rose Champagne- Is great with dinner not just hors d'oeuvres. Rose sparkling wines, such as rose Champagne, cava and sparkling wine from California, have the depth of flavor and richness to go with a wide range of main courses.

Dry Rose- Great with cheesy dishes. Some cheese go better with white wine, some with red; yet almost all pair well with dry rose, which has the acidity of white wine and the fruit character of red.

Pinot Noir- Great for dishes with earthy flavors. Recipes made with ingredients like mushrooms and truffles taste great with reds like PN which are light-bodied but full of savory depth.

Malbec- Won't be overshadowed by sweet-spicy barbecue sauces. Malbecs and Shiraz are big and bold enough to drink with food brushed with heavily spiced barbecue sauces.

Zinfandel- For pates, mousses and terrines. If you can use the same adjectives to describe a wine and a dish, the pairing will often work. For instance, the words rustic and rich describe Zinfandel as well as chicken-live mousse.

Cabernet Sauvignon- Fabulous with juicy red meat. California Cabernet, Bordeaux and Bordeaux-style blends are terrific with steaks or chops: Their firm tannins refresh the palate after each bite of meat.

Syrah- Match highly spiced dishes. When a meat is heavily seasoned, look for a red wine with lots of spicy notes.

* The above is taken from Food and Wine magazine, October 2009.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meal-planning advice...it requires the couch, your jammies and a glass of wine...interested?

Below is an email I got from a girlfriend today. And following is my answer to her question. I hope my advice on meal planning (or at least making the time to do it) will inspire and help some of you!

"Ok so my question is - how in the world do you find the time to do all these things from scratch? How do you organize your weeks - do you plan your meals ahead of time? I think maybe I need some time management advice :) Anyways i would seriously LOVE to hear any advice on how you organize yourself to be so efficient with your meal planning/cooking!Thanks and hope you are doing well! -K"

HA! Don't be too impressed! My BIGGEST struggle is good time-management. I don't feel like I "use my time wisely" at all!

As far as meal-planning goes, it is a Sunday thing for me. I plan for the week, do my grocery shopping, sporadically do a few batches of homemade baby food. Sunday is the day. However, I don't make a bunch of overly complicated things. Fish is a 20-minute meal. A couple of chicken breasts or fillets on the George Forman take such little time, I don't even start until Brian walks in the door. I'm also into making things and freezing them. The pumpkin muffins I posted? Still have them in the freezer. Plus, my oldest loves to help me cook so I make it something she and I can do together. She is so, so very proud of "her" pumpkin muffins. It is also a good time to teach them about temperature, dissolving, measuring, etc. Good, intentional learning time. Plus, it is VERY, VERY important to me that my girls know how to cook. And honestly, it's important to me for my son to know, some-what, how to cook as well. So as he gets older, he'll be helping me too. I also plan on, when the kids are able, to make them plan one meal a week. They have to shop for it, make it and the rest of the family has to clean-up. Good life skills lesson there. Plus a good way to teach them to budget, etc. I can't wait for this day to come. I really just want them to learn to put meals together in a healthy way that is enjoyable as well! If my kids don't feed their kids like I do, I'll feel like a failure! Anyway, I digress, back to your original question. Here's kind of how it goes down for me...

My husband is kind of a baby. He likes me right by his side after the kids are down (he gets this from his grandfather). So when he's watching all his ridiculous shows I could care less about, I sit there "cuddling" and peruse my cookbooks or my recipe box for ideas and I make my grocery list. Even if I don't do the exact recipe, I'll use them to "piggy-back" off of and do my own thing, usually a much easier, low-maintenance version! Honestly, meal-planning and grocery list-making can be seen as a little relaxing down-time! It MAKES me sit still. And it makes me sit there with hubby. A lot of times with a glass of wine or a cup of organic "nighty night" tea. I'll wash my face and get my jammies on and sink down into the couch with my cookbooks, recipe box, spiral and pen and go to town.

I also have a calendar on my fridge that has each day of the week where I write-out what we're eating that night. Some days it notes that my husband will be out of town. Other nights it says soccer or swimming which means we'll pick something up. Other nights, I have meetings and I have to think of something easy for the rest of the fam. But this helps me glance up at the fridge each week and see what's going on.

Back to the freezer. A deep freeze was the best investment my husband and I ever made. If a recipe doubles well or makes a ton and I can get two or three meals of it, score. But if I make muffins or cookies that are healthy, I freeze them and keep them on hand for quick breakfasts and after-school or lunch box treats. Throw them in frozen! That's the best way anyway! They'll be perfect (and fresh) just in time for your kids' lunch hour.

I think there are ALWAYS things to have on-hand that no matter what you can throw an easy, healthy meal together. For me, those things are frozen vegetables, organic spaghetti sauce, a great pasta like Barilla's PLUS pasta and natural hamburger meat that is frozen but you can lay-out that morning. If you forget to lay-out the meat, big deal. Just have a veggie pasta. I know that if I'm low on groceries, I will always be able to throw together a veggie pasta that my kids will eat. And shredded mozzarella freezes (and thaws) great too. I find this to be a great emergency meal. Also great to have on hand, different fish fillets in which the cooking instructions say NOT TO THAW it. You cook it frozen- usually in under 20 minutes. Coat that sucker in olive or coconut oil and roll it in some bread crumbs or crushed nuts and your set! With a generous amount of seasonings of course! Wild grain rice is always a great staple too. Get out the frozen broccoli florets and some cheese and fruit and you've got a perfect meal! It doesn't have to be complicated and the freezer is your friend.

And don't be afraid to get creative with dessert. If my kids eat a great meal of a lean protein and veggies, I have no problem getting out ice cream or frozen yogurt as their dairy for that meal and putting chopped mango, strawberries, blueberries and other fruits on it. I also put the real, organic, dark chocolate chips on sometimes. Don't underestimate it's antioxidant punch. And nuts too. I think dessert is sometimes a great way to get some other things in their diet! My kids LOVE angel food cake with some Reddi Whip and just covered in berries. My next thing is going to be a "brownie sundae" made with the VitaTop's double chocolate muffin top!

So, in conclusion, get creative with your planning for the week and start viewing it as "down time" instead of a chore. Anything that MAKES you sit is a good thing! Start looking at it differently and you'll start actually looking forward to it!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"I am only human"...(humorous confession)....

So my husband and I went to a basketball game last night. Yes, it was date night and I'm the cool wife that will accompany my hubby to sporting events. Anyway, we're sitting in the stands noshing away on concession stand hot dogs, nachos covered in jalapenos and Cokes. Oh, and popcorn. So as I'm mid-bite on my hot dog, I think of you all! I think of my blog! I lean over to my husband, ball-park cheese running down my chin, and say, "If only my bloggees could see me now!" Anyway, I thought it was funny the conviction I felt and needed to repent to my cyber-space friends. This particular meal, the one listed above, it pretty much EVERYTHING I stand against. I would never, ever feed that madness to my kids. However, date night is date night and that's that! And don't think I didn't wash all that down with a beer afterwards. So though I may blog my face off about feeding your kids good, I myself fall into the grips of overly processed, by-product food. I'm only human after all.....wink.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Food for Thought- Mothers, Daughters and Body Image

Below is an email I just received from a good friend of mine. Having two daughters and currently obsessed with losing my baby weight, it somewhat jolted me back to reality and I will be far more careful about comments I make about my own quest to fit into normal jeans again...

“The essence of our findings are that while there are many factors that help determine how a girl feels about herself when she looks in the mirror - everything from the media to peer pressure to perfect body messages - there is one indisputable fact: mothers matter the most to a daughter's developing sense of her body and herself. A mother needs to take a good look at herself and her own ideas about body image because, as her daughter's primary female role model, everything she says and does is absorbed into her daughter's female DNA. Even if she has a different body type, if she's adopted or her parents are of different races, her mother is the main influence on her ability to develop a positive connection to her body. A mother needs to realize that when she is worrying about her three-year-old's chubby thighs, her daughter is hearing her and in ten short years those thighs will become her daughter's her main obsession."

This is from a book I have, “You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother" by Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen.

Here is a link to an article they wrote that may be of interest to you: http://www.feminist.com/resources/artspeech/body/youhaveto.html

Love, K

My Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

This oatmeal is a regular occurence at my house. My kids (and my husband) love it and I feel great about the breakfast they just had!

You need:
oatmeal (Quaker works just fine but try and find "steel cut")
coconut oil (which you should have in the pantry anyway)
ground flax seed (which you should have in the pantry anyway)
whole grain blend (which you should have in the pantry anyway)
raw sugar (the brown stuff)
brown sugar
1 apple, peeled and chopped finely (my kids prefer either a fugi or a pink lady but it doesn't matter)
finely chopped walnut (or any nut or an assortment of nuts- but finely chopped or ground)

*black walnuts have the most potent nutritional punch
* some times I throw wheat germ in

Make the oatmeal using directions on package. But right before you add the oatmeal, after a mild simmer/boil, add about a tablespoon of coconut oil, two tablespoons of raw sugar, one tablespoon of brown sugar. Stir quickly then add oats. Stir again. Add chopped apple, one tablespoon of ground flax, one tablespoon of whole grain blend and the nuts. And the wheat germ if you're using it. Add a couple of dashes of cinnamon. Stir. Let simmer mildly for a couple of minutes but don't let it get too mushy. I spoon into bowls and pour just a little heavy cream, half and half or milk on top. Feel free to sprinkle the top with more cinnamon!

The above amounts are really "to taste." I don't even measure. I'm just trying to give you an idea of ABOUT how much I put in! I make it to two servings on the oatmeal package. It makes two good-size bowls.

You noticed I put "should have in your pantry anyway" next to some of the above ingredients! I'm pretty serious about certain things you need to have on hand to "sneak" into recipes. The above items are just a few of them. GET 'EM! Trust me!

This is a quick, hearty and super-healthy breakfast! Enjoy!

Milk...Does a body good?

I am not anti-milk at all. I grew-up clearing a gallon of Vitamin D milk a week with my Dad. I love milk. My kids love milk. You just have to understand it's place in your diet and your kids' diets. I'll simplify: Milk should be viewed as a meal, not a form of hydration or a form of dairy with a meal. Ideally, milk is the perfect snack. It's filling, it's full of vitamins and minerals and it does have it's health benefits.

However, know milk's affect on your body. It increases mucus production. It blocks iron absorption and other vital vitamins and minerals. It has been said to cause mild inflammation all throughout your body. It causes constipation. It is NOT hydrating.

Several years ago I congered up the courage to approach one of my good girlfriends to tell her that her son had an iron deficiency. She was stunned at my observation, not offended but just a little thrown off. She asked me how I knew. "I can tell by looking at him." That in addition to me knowing how much milk he drank a day. His skin was also very, very pale and pasty which is the first visible sign of an iron deficiency. I also told her that he was most certainly dehydrated since all he ever drank was milk. I then went on to explain to her that an iron deficiency causes stunting of growth and possibly speeds-up the lingering development of learning disabilities. Sure enough, after an appointment with their pediatrician, she called me in awe that I was right. He not only had an iron deficiency and had to get on iron supplements, but he was severely dehydrated.

For those of you that have the Caring for Your Child book from the American Pediatric Board, you will notice that they are not only very specific about the ounces your child should get, but in a sample diet for a two-year-old it has the two servings of milk as snacks- a morning snack and an afternoon snack. Though they do NOT do a good job of explaining why this is. I am convinced that though the American Pediatric Board is very well versed in how milk is completely over-rated in our children's diets, they won't come out and say it because of what that would do the economy. But that's just my own little conspiracy theory...

Research shows that "milk kids" tend to be "lower" on the growth curve. Is their a correlation? YES. If your kid isn't growing properly and you have any sort of a decent pediatrician, the first question they will ask you is how much milk your kid drinks a day. But sometimes, they don't ask until it's too late...

I also believe with every fiber of my being that the reason young ladies are going through puberty faster now is because they are not only fed improperly (growth hormones and other chemicals in our food) but they are given milk that is not organic. If you are going to spring for one organic item in your home, IT NEEDS TO BE MILK. And then meat but first milk!

Also, many of you were probably told not to take your pre-natal vitamin with milk. Or it might have even been specified on our pre-natal vitamin if they were prescription. The reason? Same explanation as above, it blocks nutrient absorption in the intestines especially iron. And there is a reason they test pregnant women for iron deficiencies (which I've had two of my three pregnancies though both of these kids were 10 pounds or more). I don't give my kids their multi-vitamin on cereal mornings. I wait until lunch or even dinner. Giving it with milk would be null and void. You should not take ANY vitamin with milk. I don't even give my kids any medications within a two-hour window of milk because I am not a "medicine mommy" and so if I do choose to give my kids meds, then there is a reason and I am not going to have it's absorption compromised!

The other night I made this fabulous baked penne pasta with meat sauce. It was incredible. My kids asked for milk with their dinner. NOPE, sorry. Why? Because I will not under any circumstance serve milk with red meat. We don't eat a lot of red meat in my house so when we do I want every single tiny bit of iron to be absorbed and serving red meat with milk is just out of the question. Now do I serve milk with cookies? Sure. Do I serve milk with cake or brownies? Sure. Because what the heck is in those items where I care if anything is blocked? NOTTA.

And I think it important to understand milk's role when it comes to congestion. Several weeks ago I had to once again mention to one of my girlfriends that the reason her kids' noses wouldn't ever dry-up and were constantly running was because she wasn't cutting-back on their milk intake. MILK CAUSES MUCUS PRODUCTION. If your kids are congested and you're giving them milk, guess what? Your just making it worse. And to give milk to a congested kid right before nap or bedtime? Well of course it's going to make their cough worse! You've got to give their bodies a chance to dry-up. Milk is not going to help aid this process. If you have an allergy kid, cut back on the milk or at least be more discerning about when you give it to them.

Research has been done on whether or not milk exacerbates ear infections, again looking at mucus production and then the fluid on the ears. Especially if milk is given right before bedtime and then your child lays flat and the fluid pools in their ears. This made so much sense to me that for my second child, who did have to get tubes, I completely altered her milk diet. I will do the same for my third.

And any dentist will tell you that they see a lot of cavities in "milk kids" because people don't realize the amount of sugar in milk. Kids have it right before bed or even worse, take it to bed with them, and then the sugar sits on their teeth all night. My dentist said you should brush no matter their age if you give milk at bed time or at the very least rinse their mouth with water after their bedtime milk.

In 1992 I broke my femur and my tibia literally in half snow skiing. I still to this day am convinced that the reason they healed so quickly was due to the amount of milk I consumed prior to my break. I wasn't, however, able to drink milk after my break because I became anemic because of blood loss and was put on iron supplements. It had one of those red stickers on the iron supplement bottle stating I couldn't drink milk with them. I didn't understand until years later why I wasn't able to drink milk while taking the iron. Now I know!

For those of you that are a little skeptical about all of the above statements, go drink a glass of milk and then tell me what your throat feels like and how many times you have to clear your throat. You know that nice, mucus-y feeling you've got? Same thing is going on in your stomach and your intestines.

I'm going to laugh when I get sued like Oprah...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Seasonal Suggestion...

I'm a huge fan of Ovaltine. I mean regardless of how you feel about it you have to admit it is a heck of a lot better than Swiss Miss or whatever that stuff is. The earlier you introduce Ovaltine the better. I luckily stumbled across it early so as far as my kids are concerned, it tastes great because they don't know otherwise. If they want chocolate milk for a snack, great! As they get older, they will probably look back and realize Mom was always a quick "yes" when chocolate milk was requested. I don't mind Ovaltine and if you take a minute to look at it's label, you'll see why.


As far as my seasonal suggestion goes, forget hot chocolate the traditional way. Do Ovaltine instead. That way, at least they are getting milk AND the vitamin/nutrient-rich/low-sugar/80-calorie chocolate powder instead of just water and fake chocolate and sugar with zero benefit. Ovaltine has directions for a "hot drink" as well as cold. Follow the hot directions and then throw some Reddi Whip and some chocolate sprinkles on top. You as the Mom will feel good about your child's hot chocolate this winter! Ahhhh...a guilt-free holiday season!

Juicing 101 (including some breakfast tips)

I have recently become a huge fan of juicing. My one regret in life? Not having a juicer during all three of my pregnancies. But it's never too late!

Several months ago, I went over to a girlfriend's house. This particular girlfriend was in the hellish midst of trying to get some post-baby weight off. I'm in that reality as we speak- BOO. Anyway, after telling her how great she looked, she told me she only had 10 more pounds to go to meet her goal. Pounds? I wasn't talking about weight! I was talking about her hair! Her skin! Her nails! She looked fabulous. "What are you doing?" I demanded. Juicing. Juicing everyday. I think I had a juicer in my possession within 48 hours...

First off, and I get asked this all the time, I do not endorse one particular juicer. I have mine, a Jack LaLanne, and I do love it. How does it stack-up to other juicers? I have no idea. Would one of the big-daddy stainless steel ones look so much more posh on my kitchen cabinet? Sure. But I spent $80 (with a coupon) at Bed Bath and Beyond and I was happy! I am still happy!

Secondly, get over the mess. What you are "creating" is so worth the stickiness that NO MATTER what will accumulate on your cabinets if not your floor as well. It is what it is.

This is a GREAT thing to do with your children. My oldest LOVES helping me dump all the fruit in the "tube" and then put the presser-thing down in it to mash the fruit into the machine. She loves making juice. I love the fact that when this kid goes off to college, one of the first things she'll want for a graduation gift will be a juicer. This is a HUGE part of my kids' lives now. And you know what? My kids won't drink the nasty bottled stuff anymore. Neither will I. It's almost a joke to me and you feel dishonest drinking it! Like it really isn't "feeding" your body.

Controversial comment: Your kids don't need juice. They don't need apple juice. They don't need orange juice. You know what the first question a pediatrician will ask if you take your overweight kid into the office? How much juice are they drinking? You know why? BECAUSE THAT EXTRA SUGAR PUTS ON THE POUNDS- NOT FAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Kids today are digesting far too much sugar. This is why the obesity rate in children is frightening. And parents think they're doing such a good thing by allowing their children endless amounts of juice. Gross. STOP NOW! If you're not making it, they don't need it. And don't even sit there and ask, "Well what about the vitamin C?" Please. There are 100 better ways to get vitamin c than juice. And if you're sitting here thinking, "Crap. I've gotta wean my kid off juice," start by diluting the heck out of it with water. And then cut it out completely. It has zero value. Almost as little value as milk....more on that one later.

Back to the juicer...every time I make juice I make Popsicles as well. You might as well. Because the juice needs to be consumed within 15 minutes of making it to preserve all the anti-oxidants and vitamins. Think of the juice as "live." But if you freeze it, you're still preserving it's nutrient content. And my kids think my Popsicles are the greatest thing ever. They think of it as a treat. I think of it as a fruit serving after a meal.

The other great thing about a juicer? It will save all the pulp in a container as it juices your fruits and vegetables. This is a great opportunity to freeze the pulp for muffin, cookie and pancake mixes! Every weekend almost I get out a bag of my frozen left-over pulp and plop the entire thing into the Fiber One muffin mixes. Then I add wheat germ and flax seed and tons of different nuts. And oats. Totally healthy, healthy breakfast (with some yogurt and a couple of poached eggs). You can put this pulp in your Popsicles too. Or make sorbet out of it as well (see recipe below).

For those of you with infants that your starting on the Baby Food Introduction chart, juicing can actually make life a little easier for you as well! I save some of the pulp to mix in with different baby food blends. Then your infant gets a whole assortment of goodness in one little cubey. I also put some of the juice in my little Snappies (breast milk storage containers- see below) for the freezer and I have frozen all kinds of juice blends for Walker when he's a little older. The Snappies hold only about 2 oz. each which is perfect since I will dilute with water for him when he's ready. He won't need anymore than 2 oz. of juice a day given his hearty solids program of fruits and veggies.

Also, just a side-note about juice and cereal for breakfast. Vitamin C aids iron absorption. Milk blocks iron absorption. Drinking a small glass of juice (even if it's the bottled junk) will help the intestines absorb the iron that is in (or ON I should say) fortified cereals. It doesn't even have to be juice, per say, but any high vitamin C fruit. Vitamin C and iron are friends. Remember that. Milk and iron are not. Very, very important since many young American children today have iron deficiencies because they drink too much milk and they drink milk with meals (which is a no no). OK. I'm going off on my milk tangent. I'll save that for a completely different article.

Here is a typical breakfast schedule for my kiddos:

Fresh juice and an organic mixture of different cereals (all low sugar, all multi-grain) with organic 2% milk

Organic oatmeal with wheat germ, ground flax seed and dried blueberries served with Yo Baby yogurt with a probiotic capsule (the powder) "snuck" into it

Some sort of muffin or pancake mix with the wheat germ, ground flax seed and left-over fruit/veggie puree from my juicing served with some poached eggs and a dairy item

A quick, on-the-road breakfast always makes it's way into our week at least one morning. This is usually a Vitatop Muffin with a "snack trap" of fruit for the road.

And then on weekends, I do like to bust-out with a yummy breakfast casserole that will make plenty for leftovers for say......throwing on a tortilla with cheese and salsa! I just got the most fantastic breakfast cookbook yesterday. I'll be sharing some recipes from it very, very soon!

Get crazy on weekends! Breakfast should be fun and something your kids can help you do. Make that part of your meal planning for the week- at least one weekend breakfast that is guest-worthy! And speaking of guests, there is nothing quite like some girlfriends over for mimosas with freshly-squeezed orange juice! Who cares about the mess? Trust me, a couple of these bad boys and they won't care!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Soapbox 2- Parents Today Not Teaching Character

I have seen this trend since becoming a parent myself. Parents are not teaching character in the home anymore. They confuse manners with character qualities. "Please" and "thank you" does not constitute character-building. So many parents are worried about the academic nature of their children so early. Do they know their ABCs? Do they know their shapes? Their colors? Their numbers? A few words in Spanish? But it never crosses their mind to teach empathy, honesty, kindness, helpfulness, compassion, charity, selflessness, teamwork, respect, love, sincerity, trust, keeping your word, diligence, work ethic. Then, of course, parents are putting their children in as many activities as they can flooding their family schedules with "gotta be here this night" and "gotta be here this morning." Family time is out the window. Family dinner time is definitely out the window. And when you have these young children? Ludicrous. This time goes so fast. This lack of genuine family time, a substantial time to actually connect is hurting the very foundation that is going to make these little people GREAT people some day. And when they are older and involved in so many extra-curricular activities through school, have their own friends and social calendar and then start driving? Where is family time going to go then?

Then, not-to-mention the lack of spirituality in the home. Notice I did not say religion. Do families even pray together anymore? Pray for their country? Pray for their world they live in? Pray for the leaders of both? Pray for their teachers, their friends, their families? Isn't this a great way to teach your children to think outside of themselves? So many children today live in "child centered" homes where the marriage is on the back burner thus the ridiculous rise in divorce. These children are so used to the world revolving around them in every way that I only pity them as they get older. They will have no friends or no real relationships at least because they are too selfish. These are going to be hard-learned lessons for them. Lessons they will have to learn the hard way I suppose. But just a prayer a day with your children whether it be at dinner time or bedtime will allow them to think of other peoples' strife and tribulations in their lives instead of always looking into themselves.

If you want your children to have a profound place in the world they live in, a place where they feel it an obligation to give back to others and serve others, it has to start young and it has to start in the home.

And it has to start by having solid parental examples doing the same.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Mommy Find- My Tot Clock

Below you will find an email I just received from a good friend of mine. Check it out!

Ok ladies ... A MIRACLE has been sent to me from the HEAVENS. We have been having a HORRIBLE time with Sam and bedtime/naptime lately. Daylight savings made it worse. She has been so sleep deprived from her bedtime antics that she can’t even function. The more tired she gets, the worse it got. I went searching for something to help our bedtime routine and I bought something called My Tot Clock. http://www.mytotclock.com/home.php

IT IS AMAZING!!!! THIS THING IS FREAKING AMAZING. First, you can set bedtime and wake time (also has a feature for nap time) - the clock glows blue when you need to be sleeping and glows yellow when it is okay to be awake/leave your room. It also has an “alarm clock” function for those of you that need to wake your kiddos up in the morning at a specific time. It will wake them playing lullabies. At bedtime, it also has these cartridge things that include a bedtime story, 5 minutes of music and then white noise (optional). We introduced it to her tonight and she was OUT LIKE A LIGHT by 7:00 – no fighting, no struggles. She was soooo excited to turn off the lights, get into her bed and listen to the story. She wouldn’t even let me read our normal bedtime books. It also has buttons for “encouragement time” so you can use it for potty training, etc...This is the coolest little device EVER!!!! What makes it cooler is it was invented by a McKinney mom which I didn’t know until I found the website. She thought of EVERYTHING.Even if you don’t have bedtime issues, this clock is pretty cool and would make a great christmas gift. Wanted to pass it along. Please PRAY that it keeps working! My poor girl needs her sleep! xoxo- Amie

Friday, November 6, 2009

Food for Thought- "The Superintendent"

This is actually not food-related, per say, but worth noting quickly.

I recently had dinner with a Superintendent of Schools from a rather large school district. He told the story of how his daughter-in-law (whose sons attend school in the district) came to his house crying uncontrollably after a parent/teacher conference. The DIL went on to explain to her father-in-law, the Superintendent, that the teacher went on and on about how her son was way behind in reading skills, letter recognition, sounds and vowel recognition. After sobbing and a rather thorough vent-session, the father-in-law/superintendent replied, "Well hell, all those kids do is play video games and Nintendo DS. They never have a book in their hand. Do you ever even read to them? I mean really, what did you expect?"

He said his daughter-in-law didn't speak to him for weeks.

I, however, went home and instituted "earn your Nintendo time" with some hard-core reading time. Thought I'd share this little ***true*** story with you all....

Food for thought!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The AARP's Vitality Project- WANT TO LIVE TO BE 100?

A researcher spent months traveling all over the world studying centurions (people 100 years of age or more). He found four common elements amongst these centurions that transcended geographic location, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status. The four factors are as follows:

1. Be more active (walking, biking as transit, not joining a gym).

2. Eat mostly plants. And eat less.

3. Socialize and volunteer with others.

4. Find your purpose in life.

Four simple lifestyle changes to start not only integrating into your adult life, but your children's as well.

1. All kids should be active every single day for AT LEAST 30 minutes. This can be as simple as putting on some music and letting them dance around the living room! Get creative! Set the timer and make them run around picking-up their toys.

2. Eating mostly plants is something to work towards. Portion control is key even when introducing solids. This habit starts early. And avoid the "clear your plate" rule. This just leads to obesity later....

3. Make sure your kids are well-socialized. They find self-worth and value when amongst friends. They also need to learn to navigate through complicated social avenues as well! There are so many age-appropriate ways to volunteer with your child, even as early as the age of two. Teach them compassion and empathy now and it will last a lifetime. You'll have the child that turns out to be the adult who thinks outside themselves and sees their role in the greater world around them.

4. While we shouldn't expect our children to find their purpose in life at this young age, teaching them to have faith in themselves and their talents now goes a long way. Be a daily confidence builder to them. Also, if you see things that your child shows an above average talent in, verbalize that to them constantly! If you want them to find their purpose in life, they need a solid support system that believes in them! Start now!

For more information, visit the AARP's website: http://www.aarpmagazine.org/health/vitality_national/

Soapbox I- "Get Over Yourself"

So here I go....

You know what has always boggled me? These moms that are so obsessed with their own diet. They count calories, cut out carbs, do all kinds of diet plans. They hire trainers and hit the gym or train for marathons, etc. etc. But you know what? They don't do squat when it comes to their kids' dietary/physical needs. I've seen it time and time again a mom eating carrot sticks and strawberries while she's feeding her kids Cheetos and Lunchables. I'm not gonna lie. I have looked down on these moms more times than I'd like to admit. Because for the life of me, I can't figure out how they can put so much time and effort into THEMSELVES but not do the same for the little, growing bodies they are responsible for. Now I previewed this post to a good friend of mine. "Don't you think you're being a little harsh?" No. No I don't. Why? Because it's been too pervasive around me since having kids that it must be said.

About a year a go, I had a mom come to me and say, "Leya, I don't know how to feed my kids and I was told to come to you." Flattering I thought. Even easier solution I thought. The exchange went as follows...

"Well, I happen to know how you eat. I know you're so concerned with staying a size 2 that you eat a certain way to do so am I right? I mean you eat all fruits and vegetables am I right?"

"Uh. Yeah. Getting my body back after having my second was really important to me. I eat good and work-out daily."

"Yes, I know this. Are your kids on a vitamin?"


"Are you?"


"Do your kids drink water or juice?"

"Both...but, uh....quite a bit of juice."

"Do you drink water or juice?"


"When you go to a fast food drive-thru, you get your kids the chicken nuggets or fingers or cheeseburger every time?"

"Yeah. That's all they'll eat."

"You get the grilled chicken sandwich don't you?"


The conversation ended with this: "Friend of mine, you need to start putting as much thought into your kids' diets and health as you do your own. Not because you're worried about their weight, but because your worried about every aspect of their little, growing bodies. You may eat this way to stay a size 2. You need to be feeding them the same way so that they'll learn to eat that way for health, not just for their True Religion jeans. This is long-term imprintation."

I don't mean to sound high and pious. I really don't. But get over yourself, ladies (some of you).

And when you have daughters, let me tell you now, if you don't teach your girls to have a good relationship with food from about 18 months on, shame on you. Your girls need to know that eating good is NOT about weight alone but their hair, nails, skin, teeth, mood, intelligence, immunities, fertility, fertility, fertility. Yeah, that's right. The day they get their period they need to understand how healthy fat plays a huge role in their cycle and supports their reproductive system. They need to understand that the shiny healthy hair, glowing skin and bright eyes they "see" in magazines are theirs for the taking if they want it. This starts at home. And it starts now. Don't underestimate how early poor body image begins. Especially these days. And for those of you that have had struggles in the past with eating disorders or still struggle with it today, LEAVE YOUR BAGGAGE BEHIND YOU. Having a baby girl is a chance to start over for you as well. Teach her the importance of feeding her body. The difference in just "eating" and then actually FEEDING your body. Happiness comes from feeling good. Feeling good comes from eating good. Simple.

If you feel like I'm talking to you, maybe I am. But I hope instead of being offended, you'll do some self-evaluating into what you could be doing different for your children in addition to what you do to take care of yourself. The day you conceived, it isn't about you anymore. So put your jeans and bikini aside for just a moment and get your kids off to a good start. Then when you start cooking a certain way for yourself to drop those baby lbs, and your kids gobble it up as well, it's win-win for everyone! But they come first, you second. Them first, you second.

OK, I'm done. Thanks for your time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

14. Grocery Store Finds...

This is an area I wanted to create for everyone to share some of their favorite "healthy" grocery store finds. You can either post it in the comment fields below or you can email me and I will post it up here in the main field. These can particularly be items that make life a little easier on the mom determined to feed her kids a certain way! The more convenience foods we get posted below, the better! Also, please note the store found. You can post your name or choose not to. See below....

VitaMuffin Vitatops (frozen food section), Market Street- Leya

Cascadia Farms Organic Sweet Potato Puree (frozen food section), Market Street- Leya

Goya Fruta Mango Pulp Puree (frozen food section), Market Street- Leya

Barilla PLUS pastas (multi-grain w/ omegas and 10-17 grams of protein per serving), Market Street- Leya

Happy Baby Fresh Frozen Organic Baby Meals (frozen food section), Super Target- Leya

Ella's Kitchen Organic Baby Food (snack/food section), Toys-R-Us- Leya

Kashi frozen pizzas (the protein content in these is crazy as frozen pizzas go and they're whole grain), Market Street- Leya

Willow Wind Organic Farms Mixed Vegetables (frozen food section), CostCo- Karen H.

Oroweat Sandwich Thins (I was told they are also perfect for little pizzas), most grocery stores/CostCo- Karen H.

Voortman Flax Cookies (chocolate chip or cranberry), most grocery stores/HEB, Alisan H.

Amy's Organic Pizzas (frozen food section), most grocery stores in organic freezer- Alisan H.

Friday, October 30, 2009

13. Nutrition needs by body part...

Do you know what your kids should eat for their healthy, growing bodies?

Brain – B6

Eyes – Vitamin A
Sweet Potatoes

Heart – Magnesium
Orange Juice
Brown Rice
Pumpkin Seeds

Bones – Vitamin D and/or Calcium
Turnip Greens

Skin – Vitamin A and/or B complex
Red Bell Peppers
Collard Greens

Immunity – Vitamin C and/or Zinc
Edible Podded Peas

Joints – Vitamin C

12. Healthy Snack Ideas

Healthy Snack Ideas:

* yogurt (low, low, low in sugar)
organic raisins
cheese and crackers
Annie's bunny snacks
apples and organic peanut butter
graham crackers
organic animal crackers
sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds (great in trail mixes)
raw nuts (again, great in trail mixes or sneaking into cookies recipes, pancakes, muffins)
dried fruits (watch the preservatives)
organic popcorn
fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy dips (kids LOVE dipping)

* I sneak probiotic capsules into my kids' yogurts (Yo Baby). I bought probiotic capsules for children from the local health food store and I pull them apart and dump the powder in the yogurt and mix well. The kids never know. Just make sure and mix it in the very top part of the yogurt to make sure they actually get it. Sometimes they'll leave a little yogurt and I want to rest assured the probiotic has been eaten! See my article on probiotics next!

11. The perfect Halloween dinner!

We're having a family over for Halloween dinner and some serious super-hero trick-or-treating. Luckily this mom, we'll call her Dee, feeds her kids like I feed mine. You'll hear more about Dee when I post my article on juicing. Anyway, my goals for my Halloween dinner were simple. I wanted it easy. I wanted it rich and warm. I wanted it somewhat healthy and full of protein to combat all the candy that was about to be inhaled and I wanted it easy to make ahead (ala crock pot friendly meal). My solution? Jessica Seinfeld's Sweet Potato Sloppy Joes. I haven't tried this recipe yet but I'm pumped. Sloppy Joes...a classic but with a new healthy, seasonal twist and chock-full of protein. And what a yummy, laid-back food for Halloween night! I'll probably serve it with some frozen waffle fries (baked). Throw some carrot sticks on the plate as well. For dessert...wait, what am I thinking????

Here's the recipe....

Deceptively Delicious, Seinfeld

"Sloppy Joes with Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash"

1 T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound lean ground sirloin or turkey
1/2 cup pureed sweet potato
1/2 cup pureed butternut squash or red pepper puree
raw, finely chopped carrots (optional)
1/2 cup reduced-fat low-sodium beef broth
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chili powder or to taste
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
8 whole grain hamburger buns or hot dog buns

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and set it over medium high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the oil. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and cooks until the onion starts to soften (not brown), 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the mean breaking it up with a wooden spoon and cook until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the vegetable purees, raw chopped carrot if using, beef broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the liquid is reduced by about half, 15 to 20 minutes.

Spoon mixture over buns and serve!

* I plan on simplifying this recipe a bit. For instance, totally omitting the celery. I have pre-minced garlic in the fridge. I also plan on using CASCADIA FARMS ORGANIC, ALL-NATURAL SWEET POTATO puree found in the frozen food section at my grocery store. How stinkin' easy is that? Thaw. Dump in recipe. There is absolutely NOTHING else in this package but pureed sweet potato. Not even water. Check it out. If your store doesn't carry, might be time to get with the store manager....

And don't forget, you can make the meat mixture ahead of time and throw it in the crock pot to stay warm! It'll be better later anyway after all those spices and flavors meld!

I can't wait to hear feed-back about this recipe! Particularly from the kiddos. I already know what the husbands are gonna say!

10. Nut-free classroom or school? Here are some solutions...

Below is the "Safe Snack List" that my oldest daughter's school nurse sent home. It has helped me tremendously (as well as a certain mom that has been a wonderful resource) in planning treats for her nut-free classroom.

Snacks considered SAFE:

Nabisco- Teddy Grahams, Honey Maid Graham Crackers, Nilla Wafers, Oreo Cookies (usually the plain variety of Oreos are safe but NOT the snack bars)
Pringles Potato Chips
Some Fruit snacks
Goldfish (NOT the colored ones- blue dye #1)
Go Tarts
Most Fruit Cups
Kraft Handisnacks puddings
Hunt's brand puddings
Jello brand puddings
Certain popcorn brands (read labels thoroughly)
Sunshine Cheez-it Crackers (regular flavor)
Most fruits and vegetables
Frito Lay Doritos, Cheetos, Fritos, Ruffles, Rold Gold Pretzels
Krispy Kreme Donuts
Also any mix found in the baking aisle at the grocery store (Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, etc.)
Hostess snacks (cupcakes, Ding Dongs, etc.)

Snack considered UNSAFE:

Hanover pretzels (ALL)
Little Debbie snacks (ALL)
Jelly Belly jelly beans (ALL)
Candy Corn
Any of the main candy brands (M&Ms, Milky Way, Lemon Heads, Gummy Bears, Cracker Jacks)
Grandma's Cookies
Yogurt covered raisins
Chocolate covered raisins or pretzels
Zapp's Potato Chips
Any Kettle cooked chips
Chick-fil-A products
Any peanut butter cracker, cookie or snack
Most bakery items (whether it is a grocery store bakery or a boutique bakery)
Most all generic brands of foods (store brands too) as they are not required to follow strict labeling guidelines.

The important thing is to read all labels carefully. And when in doubt, don't buy it. As Room Mom last year for my child's class, I had no problem shooting moms an email and just point-blank asking a question about safe items or running ideas by them. They appreciate it. Which reminds me, you never want another child in the classroom to feel "different" or ostracized from his or hers peers. If they can't have the treat, you don't need to bring it. And as for the moms of these children, they feel bad enough because they feel like it is such a pain for all the other moms. As if they can help it. Be cognoscent of that and realize it they didn't ask for this and just as easily could've been you! I know several peanut allergy kids where the parents have absolutely idea where/how/why they have this allergy. It wasn't in the family anywhere. But when in doubt, Krispy Creme or throw together some cupcakes from a mix! Easy and cheap! Just watch the sprinkles! ;-)

9. Most common allergen foods....

In no particular order:

eggs (usually whites)
nuts (especially peanuts)

Have a nut allergy in your child's class? See my post on items that are approved for a "nut free" classroom.

Not too long ago, I heard a guest speaker at one of my moms' groups. This particular guest speaker had been a Headmaster at a couple of private schools in the area for years and years and years. In her presentation on discipline issues, she stressed how time and time again she would find that a little one's discipline issues (usually boys) were directly linked to their diets- specifically an allergy that had gone undetected. If you are facing this, ask the teacher to start tracking if the issues usually come after lunch. If so, start dissecting your child's lunch. Use the above list to start weeding these items out. Get proactive and take your child to an allergist for the "prick test." It sounds so much worse than it is. On that note, please know that taking your child for any allergy testing before the age of 3 is not AS accurate as waiting until after their 3rd birthday. Also, take into account genetics. If you or your husband has a particular food allergy, there is a good chance one of your kiddos might as well. And you definitely want to be very CONSERVATIVE introducing that food to your child but don't wait too long. There is new reasearch out, and I believe the jury is still out, but researchers (and the American Pediatric Board) are re-evaluating when parents should introduce peanut butter. Peanut allergies are on the rise. But so is the trend of waiting until a child is 2 before introducing it. Is there a link? That's what they're trying to find out. But think about it. Do you know any adult with a peanut allergy? I don't. Our parents were giving us about 80% of the above allergen list way ealier than parents do now. Interesting to chew on. We'll wait and see what the conclusive research shows.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

8. Nutrient Deficiencies in Toddler Diets

In compiling my research over the past several years, I have come across four nutrients that researchers say are deficient in the American toddler diet. These nutrients are:

Vitamin E
Essential fatty acids

Below is an at-a-glance list of food that will help you grocery shop for items high in these nutrients therefore having them readily available in your own kitchen.

Essential fatty acids:

Chicken liver (blah I know)
wheat germ (great to add to ANY muffin or cake mix, pancakes, oatmeal, cookies, shakes)
cod (fish)
peanut butter (low sodium and sugar and high in the omegas)

* Eat all of the above pregnant and breastfeeding as well. Boost your baby's brain power early! Not to mention their heart and eyes!

Vitamin E:

Vegetable oils


Whole Wheat (100% whole wheat/grain)
Fortified, low-sugar cereals


Blackstrap molasses
Beef Liver
Ground beef
Cooked lima beans
Turkey (the dark meat)
Brocolli (raw)
Spinach (raw)
Slivered almonds
Raisins (watch the preservatives)
Kidney beans

I know some of them are a little far-fetched, but some of them are not. Make a list of these things, many of which come frozen or do have a decent shelf life in the pantry, and integrate them into your kids' diets as you can. Throw slivered almonds in a muffin or cookie mix. What's easier than kidney beans with bar-b-que? Wheat germ and ground flax seed or flax seed oil are must-have pantry staples. You can throw them into so many things. Go through the above and add a couple to the grocery list. You gotta start somewhere, right?

7. Baby Food Introduction Chart

When I first made the decision to start making my own baby food, I found very few resources out there on exactly what order to introduce new foods to my infant. Then alas, the greatest one ever (see below). Taken from the book, Mommy Made by Martha and David Kimmel, this list sets up the introduction flow in a manner that presents the high allergen foods last, some even after your child turns one. It is VERY conservative, which I know some of you first-time moms will appreciate, however, you veterans, feel free to speed things up a bit! I sure did with my kiddo number three! Also, for those of you interested, I have this chart in Excel format so if you're interested in keeping up with it by date of introduction and any reactions/notes, etc, just shoot me an email and I'll send you the Excel chart format for your use! Priceless, I'm telling you.

Email me at cutiepatootiefoodie@yahoo.com.


5 months

5 months

5 months

5 months

6 months

6 months

6 months

7 months

8 months

8 months

9 months

9 months

9 months

10 months

10 months

10 months

10 months

12 months

12 months

12 months

12 months

12 months


Acorn Squash
5 months

Butternut Squash
5 months

Sweet Potatoes/Yams
5 months

6 months

6 months

6 months

Green Beans
6 months

6 months

6 months

7 months

7 months

Yellow Squash
8 months

9 months

9 months

10 months

11 months

12 months +

Lima Beans
12 months

12 months

Bell Peppers
12 months

12 months

12 months

12 months


7 months

9 months

Cottage Cheese
9 months

Cream Cheese
9 months

Mild Cheeses
10-12 months

Sour Cream
12 months

12 months

Ice Cream
12 months

Whole Milk
12 months


Rice (white)
5 months

5 months

7 months

12 months

8 months

Brown Rice
9 months

Black beans
9 months

Teething biscuits
9 months

Oat Cereal Circles
9 months

Egg-free pasta
10 months

12 months

12 months

Peanuts/peanut butter
12 months

12 months

12 months

12 months


8 months

Egg Yolk
8 months

8 months

9 months

10 months

10 months

11 months

12 months

12 months

12 months

Egg Whites
12 months

6. Making baby food...JUST DO IT.

Before I posted any further articles, I thought it important to explain how I came about this little hobby of mine. Really, I owe it all to a dear friend/mentor of mine, Kimberly. Kimberly has a daughter named Madeleine. Kimberly had Madeleine before I ever had children. One day while out lunching, I noticed that Madeleine was noshing away at sauteed spinach, mushrooms and grilled chicken. All the other children were eating chicken fingers, french fries and drinking Sprite. I looked at Madeleine. Looked at the other children. Looked at Madeleine. WOW, I thought. That is crazy. After peppering Kimberly with tons of questions about how she got her kid to eat that way, the bottom line was clear. Make your own baby food. Start early with fresh, simple, unprocessed, unpasteurized baby food. You'll mold their taste buds and they will forever be grateful for it. So I went out and bought the "Bible" of baby food making, Mommy Made, and off I went the minute my first child was ready for solids. And the rest is history. I LOVE IT. Currently, my 6-month-old son is quite the little foodie himself. Just last night he had a carrot-sweet potato-blueberry blend. I couldn't even sit here and list all the nutrients in that little mixture if I wanted to...

Now I don't mind saying, I'm known in many a social circle for how my kids eat. They eat great. Better than any kid(s) I've ever come across. When people ask me, which is all the time, why it is they eat so good, the answer is swift and confident, "I made all their baby food." I have been accused of being some hippy, tree-hugging, broom-skirt wearing mom for this. You'd think I breastfed for two years or something. On the contrary I couldn't be more different than the aforementioned description. It all goes back to my original post. I'm so hard on myself about the way I parent. I'm hard on myself about everything I care about. So for me, to be able to so definitively control something so important is great. And to feel so good about it is worth all the effort (which is really minimal to be honest).

It's so easy. I can't stress that enough. A couple hours one Sunday afternoon and you can make enough for a month! Or you can make a little here and there. Whatever works for you, find it and stick to it! For me, it's cathartic to watch mango become this Heavenly looking fluff. Or for pear, in all it's sweetness, to literally look like liquid brown sugar once pureed. I even loved mashing up egg yolk with a fork to mix in my babies' cereals. Just typing it makes me relish in the pride I take in feeding my kids well.

Let us get started...

Consult the Baby Food Introduction information in a previous post to find out "where" your baby is age-wise for the appropriate foods.

Feel free to get more creative as you get more comfortable with this and your baby's diet broadens. You can start having a ton of fun mixing different fruits and vegetables! My son's very favorite is a pear-apple-banana puree. He can't get it fast enough and he can't grunt more to get it! Get creative. Have fun. And feel great about that growing baby of yours as vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants flood his or her little body! They're getting healthier by the second as their little cells are getting substantial nourishment.

What you need:

1. A food processor.

2. A small enough silicone spatula to scrape around the inside of the processor taking into account the center opening (try Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma).

3. * Storage containers or ice cube trays for storing your food.

4. Freezer space.

5. Knife and cutting board (depending on the fruit/vegetable you're working with).

6. A Pyrex measuring cup to pour water into the processor.

* See the comments section below for some tips on storage containers.

Have your fruits and vegetables already prepped. This means thawed, washed, cut, steamed, peeled or whatever else you need to do to get it "baby food ready."

What to do:

1. Put fruit or vegetable in processor.

2. Hit food process then puree.

3. Get to desired texture (This will depend on the age of your child. Young baby ='s puree. Older baby ='s chunkier texture. I didn't put an age because every baby is different.)

* You want to start introducing different textures all throughout this process. There are "texture sensitive" babies out there. You know who's fault that is? The parents.

4. Once happy with your puree, spoon into storage container(s) of choice.

5. Freeze.

You're done! Congrats! Now pour a glass of wine as you clean-up and treat yourself to a bubble bath. You just did a good thing for your baby. Now go do a good thing for you!

5. Seasonal Recipes- October/November

"Cheesy Baked Potato with Butternut Squash" (Super Foods, Karmel)

4 medium baking potatoes
vegetable oil
1/2 medium butternut squash (about 10 ounces)
3 T butter (plus a little extra)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 T milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Prick potatoes in several places, place on baking sheet and brush all over with oil. Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until they feel soft when pressed. Meanwhile, scoop out the seeds from the squash half and brush the flesh with a little soft butter. Bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, cut the tops off the potatoes and scoop out the flesh. Scoop the flesh from the cooked squash and mash together with the potato, mustard, parmesan, mulk and butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Put the mixture back into the potato shells, top with grated Cheddar and place under the broiler for a few minutes until golden.

"Yellow Cake with Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Icing" (Deceptively Delicious, Seinfeld)

Nonstick cooking spray
1 18-ounce box yellow cake mix (any brand)
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 cup water
2 T vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
6 ounces nonfat lemon, banana or vanilla yogurt

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a 9-inch cake pan with cooking spray and flour lightly. Combine cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs, egg white and yogurt in a medium mixing bowl. Beat until smooth. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. About 20 minutes. Allow to cool then frost!

1 8-ounce pkg. reduced-fat cream cheese
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 T frozen orange juice concentrate

Beat all ingredients until smooth. Spread icing onto cooled cake or cupcakes.

* For this particular recipe, I sprinkle some pumpkin pie spice on top. Feel free to use cinnamon or nutmeg! Just a little for that seasonal flavor!

4. Recipes...

My favorite recipe(s) from each of my recommended books:

Super Smoothies by Barber and Whiteford

For infants:

"Breakfast on the Crawl"
1/2 cup breast milk or formula
1/3 quartered fresh strawberries
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 banana (RIPE)
approx. 1/4 cup dry rice baby cereal

Put milk and fruit in blender. Blend until smooth. Add rice cereal to desired consistency that is "age appropriate."

*Obviously, you will more-than-likely use a spoon for this in lieu of a straw! Unless you have a highly advanced infant! Also note that strawberries are a high-allergen fruit so feel free to sub it out with another fruit.

For children and adults:

"The Flu-Buster" (appropriate, eh?)
1 cup of orange juice (I would recommend FRESHLY squeezed)
1 cup quartered fresh strawberries
3/4 cup diced papaya (don't be afraid of the jarred here if necessary)
1 banana, sliced (they say frozen but I use fresh)

Combine orange juice and berries in blender. Then add papaya and banana. Blend until smooth.

Top 100 Baby Purees by Karmel

Oatmeal puree for infants:

"My Favorite Oatmeal"

1/2 cup milk (cow's milk, breast milk or formula)
1/4 cup rolled oats (try and do steel cut if you can)
6 dried apricots, finely chopped (get ones with the fewest amount of preservatives)
1 large pear (peeled and chopped)

Put milk, oats and chopped apricots into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer and stir occasionally for 3 minutes. Puree with chopped pear.

Vegetable side for older babies:

"Cauliflower and Broccoli in Cheese Sauce"

1 1/2 cups chopped cauliflower florets
1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 T unsalted butter
1 T all-purpose flour
1 cup of milk
pinch of nutmeg
3 T grated cheddar cheese
2 T grated Gruyere cheese

Steam cauliflower and broccoli for about 7 minutes or until tender (or boil until tender). Meanwhile, prepare the cheese sauce by melting butter in saucepan and then stirring in flour. Make a smooth paste and cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in the milk, bring to a boil, and cook for a few minutes over low heat until thickened and smooth. Add nutmeg. Stir in cheese until melted. Puree to desired consistency if necessary.

* Both of the above recipes are perfect for "table-training" which is teaching your child to self-feed. They both stick to the spoon well which makes for a great (and neater option) table training-food!

Super Foods for Babies and Children by Karmel

The below fish recipe is a staple recipe in our house. I serve it with broccoli florets, mango chunks and whatever "good" starch I have on hand. This meal, as you will learn in my article, "Brain Food and Vitamin E," is the ideal meal for rocking the best of both those worlds! Not to mention it is super quick and easy!

"Fillet of Fish with Herb Butter"

2 T softened, unsalted butter
2 T herbs (the recipe calls for fresh but I use dried I have on hand)
1 T lemon juice
2 cod fillets (about 1 pound)
Coarse ground sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (both of which should become spice cabinet staples)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the butter with the herbs and lemon juice. Place the fish in a small ovenproof dish, season with salt and pepper and spread the herb butter over the top. Bake until the fish is cooked through (only 8 to 10 minutes). Flake with fork and make sure there are no bones.

I had to add these choices because honestly, I make them ALL the time and have to admit, I do feel a bit "deceptive!" But in a good way. WINK.

Deceptively Delicious by Seinfeld

"Pita Pizzas"

8 4-inch whole-wheat pita pockets
1/2 cup spinach puree (1 pkg. of frozen, thawed, drained and pureed in food processor)
2 cups bottled tomato sauce
2 cups thinly sliced part-skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 400. Spread spinach puree on each pita. Spread the sauce over the spinach. Cover with cheese covering all spinach thoroughly! Place pizzas on foil-lined baking sheet and bake until cheese melts and begins to brown. Let cool so the cheese "sticks" and "covers" the veggies!

"Baked Egg Puffs"

Nonstick cooking spray
2 large eggs
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup yellow squash or butternut squash puree (baked or boiled until soft and then pureed in food processor)
2 T shredded reduced-fate cheddar cheese
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400. Coat small ramekins or coffee cups with cooking spray and set on baking sheet. In large bowl, whisk eggs, egg whites, squash puree, cheese flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Divide the mixture among the ramekins or cups and bake until tops are puffed up and the eggs are no longer runny in the center when pierced with a knife, about 13 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

* For those of you with babies, any recipe that call for just egg white, don't throw the yolks out! Babies can have the yolk of an egg before their first birthday! Save those suckers and use them when feeding your infants! A great protein source and omegas.

* Also, for those of you with babies, any recipe that calls for a puree, make more than the recipe calls for and freeze cubes of it for your infant. Kills two birds with one stone as they say!_______________________________________________

The Sneaky Chef by Lapine

I don't know about you, but anything quick for breakfast that my kids can eat on the way to school is OK by me. These breakfast cookies rock. Freeze them and just get a couple out before you jump in the shower in the morning. They'll thaw in no time. Then just make-up little snack baggies of either blueberries or grapes, grab their sippys of water and off you go. You drive, they eat breakfast. That is serious multi-tasking time management my friends!

"Flour Blend" (I doubled this below. If you're gonna make it, then make it for several uses!)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 cups wheat germ, unsweetened

Mix well and set aside for BOTH of the below recipes!

* And don't sneer at the wheat flour and wheat germ! These need to be in your pantry anyway! Trust me! More on this later! I will post some other recipes where this flour blend will come in handy, but if you need another use for it, add some bread crumbs and tons of different seasonings and Parmesan cheese. Coat some chicken or fish fillets with it! TO DIE FOR! Makes for an awesome Chicken Parm coating!

"Breakfast Cookie and Milk" (These have a lot of protein for a "cookie." Perfect for breakfast.)

2 cups whole grain cereal flakes (such as Wheaties or Total)

3/4 cup of the above Flour Blend

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 large egg

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup canola oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

Cinnamon for dusting

Preheat oven to 400. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with oil. Crush the cereal in a plastic bag. Or you can food process it. Whisk flour blend, cereal, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, whisk egg, sugar, oil, vanilla and ricotta cheese. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just enough to moisten dry ingredients. Drop tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets leaving about an inch between cookies. Flatten with back of fork. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar lightly. Bake about 18 to 20 minutes or until nicely browned and crispy around the edges.

* Great with milk! Maybe "chocolate milk" that you used Ovaltine in? A multi-vitamin in a glass!

Both my oldest kids went through this whole NO AVOCADO stage. It drove me absolutely crazy. I LOVE avocados. Love them, love them, love them. The below recipe is so easy to sneak one of nature's most valuable commodities into some store-bought chocolate pudding. My kids LOVE pudding. And so does their Daddy. But what they don't know......

"Chocolate Pudding with Avocado"

Boxed instant pudding mix (it has to be chocolate for this recipe)

1 ripe avocado, pureed in food processor

Make pudding to boxes instructions. Before it's set, quickly add to avocado in food processor. Mix well to avoid texture issues. Spoon into ramekins or other small bowls. Put in fridge- the colder you serve this, the less likely the detection of avocado. Feel free to squirt some Reddi Whip on top and throw some sprinkles on top! Voila! A great, light dessert full of calcium, vitamins C and K, folate and fiber. Oh, and "good" fat! SUPER MOM!


3. Feed your body (and your grocery cart) like a caveman...

I was just recently consulted by a very close girlfriend of mine on the grueling task of grocery shopping. This particular girlfriend of mine, we'll call her J in this post, was frustrated with her inability to do what she considered to be "healthy" grocery shopping. She, like many of us, was lured into the inner aisles of the grocery store where things have a shelf life of up to ten years! If not more! GROSS! But as busy moms, sometimes perishable items are not appealing due to their propensity to go "bad" so quickly. The pantry items are just so much more convenient- AND FULL OF PRESERVATIVES.

Think like a caveman. I know you can because most of you if not all of you have a husband or a father or a brother or an ex-boyfriend that on a good day is just a notch up from a caveman. This kind of thinking will get you mentally touring through the grocery store, a virtual tour if you will. How did a caveman eat? Meats. Fruits and vegetables. Nuts. Some whole grains. Done. No Pop Tarts. No Fruit Loops. No Lunchables (no, silly, these are not good for your kids). No Goober Grape. No Vienna Sausages (seriously, I'll call CPS on you for these). Fresh, clean foods.

Let's say that together: "Fresh, clean foods." Say it out loud right now, "Fresh, clean foods."

This is probably not the first time you've heard to shop from the "outer aisles" at the grocery store. But as moms, all those lovely pre-packaged snacks look too good and too easy to resist. I get it. I've been there. But it's worth it to stop the madness now. And the good news, if you don't have it around anymore, you won't be eating it either (i.e. a few inches lost here and there).

I have had the question posed to me more than once, "Well what about breads? Good breads? Whole grain breads?" Well to be 100% honest with you, all of those breads on the bread aisle are full of so many preservatives it is disturbing. Buy them if you must, but your best bet is the "live" frozen bread in the frozen food section. It has to be frozen because it has ZERO shelf life because it has ZERO preservatives in it. Get where I'm going with this?

And if you think canned vegetables have any nutritious value at all, think again. First off, the sodium in those things is just almost criminal. The only canned anything you should be buying is beans and corn. Other than that, go either the fresh route or the frozen route. This is a good time to mention that a lot of times, frozen fruits and vegetables are actually BETTER for you because they are flash-frozen upon picking/cleaning therefore their nutrient content is intact. The longer any fresh produce sits, the more and more nutrient and anti-oxidant content it loses. Don't be afraid to buy frozen. Just make sure and read the ingredients. It should just say, "Mangoes." "Peas." No other ingredients at all. None. The only frozen item that has anything extra is peaches (ascorbic acid) which is basically just a vitamin C preservative/color preserver.

Story: I one time had a good friend of mine come to me all excited about a casserole recipe she'd found. She said, and I quote, "It is a great way to get your kids to eat vegetables." Sure, I say! Send it my way! Ingredients? ALL CANNED VEGETABLES. And then some nasty Campbell's soup that has MSG in it. Are you kidding me? That is not a good way to get your kids eating vegetables. That is an empty solution to a problem more and more American households are facing today. All your doing is getting them hooked, literally addicted, to sodium. Try pureeing a bunch of fresh or frozen vegetables and sneaking it into spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce or even chili and other stews. But her enthusiasm was sad to me. Why? Because she didn't know any different. If we're not educated, how on earth can we expect our children to be? And their children? And so the cycle goes....

Now, at this point I think it important to mention that I am NOT one of those moms whose kids NEVER get fast food or junk food. That is ridiculous, not realistic and just down-right boring. I can say, however, that my kids NEVER get sodas/soft drinks. Ever. Never. Ever. Period.

But the thing is, when your kids eat a certain way 90% of the time, who cares if they have pizza, cake, apple juice, sugar cookies and candy at ONE birthday party? Seriously? You don't want your kids to have a bad relationship with food, ESPECIALLY your girls. This will be the topic matter of an entirely separate post at a later date....

Back to the grocery cart. Back to "J." I proposed this question to J: "If someone like Jillian Michaels or Richard Simmons JUMPED OUT at you at the check-out stand to 'grade' your cart, what grade would you receive? Ask yourself that every single time you're about to check-out. Look down at your cart. Is it mostly processed or mostly fresh or frozen?" I can undoubtedly say that nine times out of ten my grade would be an A to an A+. And to me this is NOT subject to interpretation. Bring it Richard Simmons! Bring it all day long! You should be able to say that when you're checking out. I literally am sometimes ridiculously proud of my shopping cart! You should be too! If you're not, you need to start doing things differently.

2. The basics.

There are just a few basic things everyone must be familiar with before you embark on the exciting journey of good nutrition for your kiddos. One, you must have a little knowledge about the food pyramid. Yes, that's right. The same ol' food pyramid you learned about in grade school. However, it has been tweaked a couple of times (including recently) since then! Print it off and hang it in your pantry door. I hang any beneficial charts or info dealing with nutrition on the inside of my pantry door with double-sided tape. A good habit to get into! Here is the link to the food pyramid: http://www.mypyramid.gov/.

Secondly, I have some recommended books that I think are must-haves. If anything, I piggy-back off a lot of the recipes instead of following them exactly. Here are my endorsements and what I consider to be a good jumping-off point for recipes and advice!

Mommy Made, Martha and David Kimmel (Where it all began for me.....)
Super Smoothies, Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford
Top 100 Baby Purees, Annabel Karmel (Yes, I am passionate about making baby food from scratch.)
Super Foods for Babies and Children, Annabel Karmel
The Sneaky Chef, Missy Chase Lapine AND/OR Deceptively Delicious, Jessica Seinfeld

I haven't yet made up my mind about, Lunch Boxes and Snacks by Annabel Karmel. It is definitely for the older child and their lunch box- not preschoolers. But I did get a couple of ideas from it (like doing "safe" skewers of tortellini pasta, cheese cubes, grapes, cherry tomatoes and any other "skewable" healthy thing your kids will eat). Those are all obviously MAJOR choking hazards as well so make sure your kiddo is ready. I'll let you know as I continue to peruse this read if it's worth purchasing or not....

Here is the link to Amazon where if you have over $25 in your cart you qualify for free shipping. Not to mention the books are always cheaper on Amazon than retail at ANY bookstore around (except maybe Half Price Books).


Just cut and paste the above title/author(s) into their search field, add it to your cart and PRESTO! Done!

I think Mommy Made does a fantastic job of not only telling you which fresh foods contain a certain vitamin or vitamins, but it also explains the importance of these vitamins and body functions they help support. I learned a great deal from Mommy Made that not only benefited my children, but my husband and I as well. For example, did you know that when black beans and corn are mixed together your body processes them as a protein, not starch? Crazy. So you know that dip with the black beans and corn that everyone makes? PROTEIN! And the thing, as you dig deeper and deeper into the world of child nutrition, you will quickly realize that this stuff is (obviously) applicable to adults as well! For forever! For a life time! This is an investment for better health on every level!

Thirdly, make sure your family is on some kind of multi-vitamin. For those of you think you're a rock star right now because your kid is on some crappy vitamin like Flintstones or something, think again. First off, most vitamins like "that" (including Centrum for adults) are made from CHEAP synthetic CRAPPY ingredients. Get yourself to the local health food store and get a higher quality, more natural multi-vitamin for children that has natural elements in it (not to mention tons of natural minerals as well). Secondly, and this is very important, liquid anything absorbs better into your bloodstream more efficiently than anything "solid" that must first be broken-down by your body. Therefore, getting your kids a liquid multi-vitamin will help their bodies absorb it better and pass less of it as waste in their urine. Plus, it isn't has hard on the stomach and the liver to breakdown. Ask for help at the health food store as well. You will learn this as you continue to read my blog, I am a huge fan of health food and whole food stores. They are an un-tapped treasure trove of hidden health secrets that really will make you feel like a ROCK STAR once integrated into your family's every day life!

And lastly, get your you-know-what up right now and purge your fridge and pantry of HALF of all processed foods you currently own. Get up. GO NOW. GO. And if you're sitting here thinking to yourself you don't even know what a processed food is or you wouldn't even know where to begin, we've got bigger problems.

But not to worry. My next blog post, "Feed your body (and your grocery cart) like a caveman..." will help you learn the error of your ways!

1. Satisfaction Guaranteed! An intro to Cutie Patootie Foodie...

Several people in my life have suggested I start a blog on feeding kids (the right way) for awhile now. Today, my kids' Godmother got her claws into me and REALLY talked me into it! Thank you, Godmudder Cherry.

What got me interested and passionate about feeding my children? Well, several things. One, anyone slightly educated on nutrition knows the importance and benefits of feeding not only ourselves, but young children as well. Growing brains and bones and bodies have special requirements. What I have learned throughout the years is that moms are either uneducated on how to go about this, or sadly, just too dad gum lazy. Insert my blog. I'll do ALL the work for you. You just read it!

And my other reason? The thing about feeding your kids well is, it's OK for it to come from a "selfish" place. As moms, we beat ourselves up daily about everything. Discipline. Are our kids smart enough? Do they have good manners? Are they healthy? How do they stack-up against other kids? How do I stack-up against other moms? Just a bombardment of "what ifs" and "I should'ves" and all the mommy guilt that just simply comes from being a mom. But let me tell you ladies, there is nothing quite like laying your head down at night and knowing that you COULD NOT HAVE fed your kids any better than you did that particular day. It is satisfaction that a million dollars could not buy. And in the long run, though a couple more puzzles or "crafts" in a day might have their own benefits, there is nothing, nothing, nothing more important than feeding them well.

When you really start to look at children around you, the ones that have fewer discipline issues, better sleep habits, better manners, make better grades at school, have better listening skills, get along better with other children, are more active, more inquisitive, have shiny hair, brighter eyes, glowing skin and are less-likely to get ill are the children that are just simply fed better. That is a fact- plain and simple. If guilt is starting to well-up a little bit as you read the above, don't sweat it. You just found someone who not only takes this subject very seriously, but sincerely loves researching it and sharing it with others. Satisfaction guaranteed!