Sunday, December 26, 2010

This Christmas we bought the kids a few toys to replenish their toy kitchen stock.  We found two great Melissa & Doug sets that the kids have been enjoying.

This set includes seven types of fruit that the kids can pretend to slice.  Ben served me a very nice wooden fruit salad today.  The kindergarten teacher in me can see lots of matching and fraction practice too.

This is the other pretend food set that was under the Christmas tree.  It is a stir fry set that includes various vegetables, shrimp, and beef, along with the necessary kitchen tools - wok, spoon, knife, and chop sticks.  Some of the foods can be chopped into smaller pieces with the knife.  Hannah has created several stir fries for her baby dolls already.  I hope that if we create matching stir fries in the kitchen maybe the kids will eat them.

Did your kitchen (real or pretend) get a little bigger Christmas morning?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Trick or Treat

Halloween is just around the corner.  We try to eat healthy (obviously - given the nature of this blog) and not let Halloween derail the healthy habits we work so hard to foster.  Halloween is NOT the beginning of holiday eating.

Here is how we manage a cavity-free Halloween:

1)  Make the focus on dressing up.  The kids love choosing  their costumes and picking out the finishing touches.  This year Hannah is going to be Cinderella and Ben is going to be Elmo.  Hannah made sure to point out that Cinderella does not wear a tiara, she wears a blue satin headband and matching choker necklace.

2)  Limit trick or treating to one event.  In my town there are many many opportunities for trick or treating.  Just about all the shopping centers, malls, and even zoo have trick or treat hours that are not on Halloween.   We only go trick or treating once, around the neighborhood on Halloween.

3) Eat most of the Halloween candy on Halloween night.  I know, this probably sounds crazy.  Normally I would not condone eating large amounts of sugar but it is Halloween.  I have read that it is better for your teeth to eat a heavy dose of sugar once (and then brush well) than to be constantly snacking on sugar.  My kids are allowed to eat as much candy as they want when they come home from trick or treating.  They are usually so overwhelmed that they only eat about 5 pieces.

4)  Get rid of the candy that isn't an absolute favorite.  There is no need to eat candy that you don't like just because it was free.  The neighbors will never know you threw it away.

5)  Switch Witch!!  Every year on Halloween we have a special visitor - the Switch Witch.  The Switch Witch is kind of like the Halloween version of Santa Claus.  Instead of leaving milk and cookies we leave the majority of the Halloween candy.  The kids each pick 10 pieces to keep and the rest is left on the table.  In the morning the candy is gone and a gift is left in it's place.  My kids typically only get new toys on their birthday and Christmas so this is very exciting to them. 

How do you handle Halloween in your house?  Do you place limits on the amount of candy allowed to be eaten at once?  Do you pass out anything other than candy?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

10 Commandments of healthy eating for parents

I received this as an e-mail recently and thought it was worth sharing.  We try to follow these guidelines in our home.

The 10 Commandments of Healthy Eating for Parents

It's as simple as counting to 10!
  1. Thou shalt not force, bribe or coerce thy child to eat.
  2. Thou shalt set a good example by eating at least five fruits per day thyself.
  3. Thou shalt make mealtimes pleasant.
  4. Thou shalt encourage thy child to help in meal planning, preparation, and cleanup.
  5. Thou shalt back off when mealtime becomes a power struggle.
  6. Thou shalt accept food "binges" as phases that will eventually pass.
  7. Thou shalt accept the fact that thy child is an individual and thus will dislike certain foods (and there may be many).
  8. Thou shalt not give up on introducing thy child to new foods. Thou shalt realize it sometimes takes 10 tries to get a child to accept a food.
  9. Thou shalt use this division of responsibility for eating: As the parent, thou art responsible for deciding when and what to serve. Thy child is responsible for deciding how much (if any) will be eaten.
  10. Thou shalt give thy child a multivitamin-mineral supplement if he is a picky eater.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sauteed green beans and mushrooms

Sauteed green beans and mushrooms

1 lb. green beans, cleaned and trimmed
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil

1. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with extra virgin olive oil.
2. Cook the onion and garlic over medium heat until they start to soften.
3.  Add the green beans, mushrooms, and a light sprinkling of salt.  Stir often until the veggies are soft and tender.
4.  Eat :-)

This side dish is ridiculously easy but it is very yummy.  It comes together in just a few minutes and goes great with many fall dishes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Food coloring is evil

Yesterday afternoon was a bad afternoon, very very bad.  Hannah jumped off the school bus talking a mile a minute about the cupcake she had in class to celebrate a classmate's birthday.  She was very excited about it which I understand.  We do not bake cupcakes very often so they are truly a treat for her.  She's 5.  In her opinion a surprise cupcake in school = best day ever!

Within 2 minutes of getting off the bus she was already picking on her little brother - snatching his toy trucks away and then throwing them at him when told to give them back.  You know it is a bad sign when a time out has been issued before we even make it through the front door!

All through the homework process Hannah fussed that she couldn't concentrate.  The homework was just too hard, she couldn't do it, clearly I hate her for making her write the number 2 a couple of times.  Oh, believe me when I tell you that my normally happy child was gone and no where to be found.  After some questioning, Hannah told me that the cupcakes were very very colorful ("like rainbows").

Now I see the problem.  Hannah and food coloring do not mix well.  It isn't surprising since food coloring is a neurotoxin.  Add it into a ball of sugar and wheat and pass it out in a party atmosphere and we have trouble.  Big trouble.  Put the kids to bed early and pour a glass of wine kind of trouble.

I don't know what I can do about this problem.  I certainly don't want to label it as an allergy with the school and have Hannah singled out during special events.  Honestly, it isn't the cupcake that bothers me.  There is plenty of room in Hannah's 20% for a birthday cupcake.  It is just the food coloring that bothers me.  If the cupcakes had been left white we likely would have had a better evening. 

I suppose there isn't anything I can do to avoid this.  Hannah is bound to have a colorful cupcake again this year.  All I can do is make sure we are stocked up on wine when I see a birthday coming up on her class calendar.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Real food expires

Follow the link to see what a McDonald's Happy Meal looks like after 6 months.  It might be different than you think!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Menu plan

I love stealing ideas for dinner from other people's menu plans.  Here is what we will be eating this week:

Monday - Chicken brocolli (and cauliflower) cheese bake
Tuesday - Roast beef (crock pot)
Wednesday - Grilled salmon
Thursday - Beef stew
Friday - Butter chicken
Saturday - Apple dijon chicken (crock pot)

Other things to make this week:
Trail mix
Chocolate chip cookies
Pumpkin "brownies"
Stuffed dates

Monday, October 4, 2010

Let the fall cleaning begin!

The air is finally starting to feel cool and crisp.  Around my house that means it is time to begin the annual tradition of fall cleaning.  I of course clean my house on a fairly frequent basis.  With two little kids and a dog there is hardly a day that goes by without at least a little cleaning.  I kick it into high gear in the fall (and again in the spring) though.  I love to air out the house and clean every nook and cranny before the weather becomes cold and we spend all day in the house.  To keep myself organized I have a binder with several pages of cleaning and organizing tasks to be completed for each area of the house.  I love crossing those tasks off the list!

If you spend much time in the cleaning aisle at the grocery store you might believe that you need all kinds of chemicals to get your house spic and span.  I don't think this is true.  The dirt might be gone but there could be a chemical residue in its place.  I clean the majority of my house using vinegar, water, and baking soda. Ben is one of those toddlers that is into everything and not remotely slowed down by standard babyproofing.  I can store my cleaning products under the sink with ease knowing that he can't be poisoned.

Vinegar is effective against some molds, bacteria, and germs.  I fill a new spray bottle about 1/3-1/2 full with distilled white vinegar and fill the rest with water.  This is a great multi-purpose cleaner.  I use it to clean my kitchen counters, bathroom sinks, dining room table, and any other nonporous surface.  It is also a fantastic window cleaner.  I think it does a better job cutting through the greasy fingerprints that seem to appear constantly on my windows and glass door than commercial cleaners.  Vinegar is an extremely useful and economical cleaner.  I buy those huge containers of distilled white vinegar for a couple of bucks and it lasts about 6 months.  $3 for 6 months worth of a multi-purpose cleaner is a great deal!

Have you ever seen those massive boxes of baking soda at BJ's and wondered who buys them?  I do!  Baking soda has a ton of uses, not just limited to cleaning.  I like to clean the bathtub with baking soda.  I hate to clean the tub with yucky chemicals and then give the kids a bath later.  I feel like they are sitting in chemical soup instead of fresh water.  I don't have that problem when I use baking soda.  Baking soda is nontoxic and safe enough to eat.  Sometimes I even add it to the tub to help with any diaper area redness.  My kids love when I clean the drains with baking soda and vinegar.  I just sprinkle in some baking soda and pour on the vinegar.  The drain fizzes right up, which always makes the kiddos laugh.  I then clear the drain with hot water.  Here are a few more ways to clean with baking soda.

With a little bit of planning and elbow grease you can naturally clean your home. Here are a few websites that offer specific cleaning advice:
The natural way to clean everything in your house
66 All natural cleaning solutions 
Natural cleaning recipes 

What fall cleaning tasks do you have planned?  How do you use natural cleaners?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Avoiding flu shots

This time of year you can not run to the grocery store or Target without seeing an advertisement for a flu shot.  Vaccines are a very personal issue so I am in no way trying to persuade someone who WANTS a flu shot to not get one.  I just want to offer a bit of support for those who choose NOT to get vaccinated.

My children and I have never had a flu shot (Paul has because they were mandatory in the Air Force).  I choose not to get the vaccine because we have healthy immune systems.  I also am a bit paranoid about all of the immunizations given to young children so I don't want to add anything else to the mix.  The first time I declined a flu shot for my children the doctor called me a bad mom and told me it would be my fault if my son died from flu complications.  Nice. It is worth pointing out that Ben was only 4 months old at the time and the flu vaccine is not FDA approved for babies under 6 months.  Needless to say we switched pediatricians. 

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition weighed in on the flu shot vs. no flu shot issue in the March 2010 issue.  They reported a study out of Japan that suggests that adequate levels of vitamin D are 800% more effective at preventing influenza than flu shots.  More studies are needed but appears to be promising information.

It makes me happy to know that taking vitamin D supplements can be so beneficial.  Our immune systems are growing stronger by the day. We are avoiding the flu while still avoiding formaldehyde and thimerosal (flu shot inactive ingredients).

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Staying healthy while traveling

It can be really easy to eat junk when you are traveling.  The junk is RIGHT there.  There are big macs, french fries, and chocolate donuts at almost every exit.  You don't need to eat them though.  You can stay healthy while traveling.

1)  Preparation is the key - you NEED to pack snacks!

We usually start long car trips either very early in the morning, around 3 a.m.   This way we can drive for a while before we need to feed the kids breakfast.  In theory they would fall back asleep after being put in the car but my kids are always so excited to be traveling that they stay awake for hours.  When bellies start grumbling we pass out cheese sticks, homemade trail mix, raisins, apples, bananas, and/or nuts (chopped for the little one to avoid a choking incident).  This usually holds the kids for awhile. 

2)  Choose your restaurants carefully.

At some point we usually end up at a restaurant.  We can get the kids dressed (remember, they were plucked from their beds still in their jammies), teeth brushed, get out our wiggles, and eat a somewhat healthy meal.  We always choose a sit-down restaurant over fast food.  A real restaurant usually has a larger menu with more options and are willing to customize a meal.  For breakfast, Cracker Barrel is a good choice.  They offer a low carb meal that has eggs, bacon, and tomatoes.  It oddly comes includes bread too - just leave that alone.  Most restaurants serve some sort of salad for lunch or dinner.  Just make sure you order meat (chicken, shrimp, steak, etc.) on top of the salad or you will be starving by the time you are back on the highway.  If you really must eat fast food choose Chipotle.   Here is an excellent post on how to order at Chipotle.

3)  Bring bubbles!

Sitting for long amounts of time isn't good for you but is near impossible for little ones.  Bring bubbles, balls, and frisbees to use at rest stops.  When Hannah was 23 months old I drove (with the help of my mother-in-law) from Colorado Springs to Northern VA.  That is 30 hours of driving!  We stopped at rest stops along the way so that Hannah could run and chase bubbles.  When it rained we stopped at Walmart and let Hannah walk around until her little legs were tired.  If there are no other options you can stop at a fast food restaurant with a play area to play for awhile.  There is no rule you have to eat there just because you are using the play ground.

How do you stay healthy while traveling? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Autumn in a jar trail mix

Autumn in a jar trail mix
(recipe inspired by Martha Stewart)

1 c. raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
coarse salt
1/2 c. unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c. almonds, toasted and chopped
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1.  Coat the pumpkin seeds with the extra virgin olive oil and salt.  Bake at 375 for about 8 minutes or until golden.
2.  Mix all of the ingredients together.

Simple and delicious (oh wait....that's a different magazine)!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nutritional supplements

I spend a lot of time researching recipes, ingredients, and nutrition in general.  The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is that I still don't know.  Take nutritional supplements for example.  I know that some are necessary,  some are a complete waste of money, and some can be downright dangerous.  The trick is to figure out which category each supplement falls into.  That is still largely a mystery to me.

Currently, I only take a D3 supplement (5000 IU - oil based).  I know that I probably should take a multivitamin but I have yet to find one that doesn't make me nauseous.

What supplements do you take?  Do you have a multivitamin that you recommend?  Any links to help decode the nutritional supplement mystery?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Brain Food

Cooking Light magazine recently ran a list of 10 foods that benefit mental health.  It is no surprise to me that these foods are primal friendly.  They are all foods that are found in nature and offer various health benefits other than just mental health.  If you want to protect your mental health (and who doesn't) make sure you include these in your diet.
1.  Blackberries
2.  Coffee (black)
3.  Apples
4.  Chocolate (the higher the cocoa count the better)
5.  Cinnamon
6.  Spinach
7.  Extra virgin olive oil
8.  Salmon
9.  Curry
10. Concord grape juice

Is there anything on this list that surprises you?  Anything you expected to see but don't?


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

School lunch menu

The September breakfast/lunch menu was passed out at kindergarten orientation.  I was not impressed.  At all.

Here is the first day:
Breakfast - Chilled orange juice
                  Sausage breakfast pizza
                    Cereal with oatmeal to go

Lunch -               Choose one
                  Popcorn chicken with bread stick
                   Teriyaki beef dippers with bread stick
                   Chili cheese wrap with cheese sauce and tostitos
                   Yogurt with bread stick
                   Pepperoni and cheese salad with bread sticks
                          Choose two
                    Mashed potatoes with gravy
                    Steamed broccoli
                    Chilled mixed fruit
                    Fresh nectarine

This is a pretty typical lunch.  Some form of fried chicken and pizza are offered every single day!

Let's be positive first.  There are some good things about the menu.  There is a salad choice every day (although it often includes fried chicken) and fruits and vegetables are offered daily.

Now the negative. The breakfasts are not ideal.  Cereal WITH oatmeal?  Really? Sausage could be okay if it wasn't on pizza.  I find it absolutely awful that a child could eat nothing but fried chicken and pizza for lunch Monday through Friday.

Probably needless to say, Hannah will be packing lunch 99% of the time.  What are the school lunches like where you live?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies

I think we have finally found our new cookie recipe!  I changed around Elena's cookie until it fit our desires.  This recipe makes a really soft cookie. 

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 ½ cups almond flour (make sure to press the flour into the measuring cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ cup honey
1 egg, beaten
1 cup dark chocolate pieces 
  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Stir together wet ingredients in a smaller bowl
  3. Mix wet ingredients into dry
  4. Form ½ inch balls and press onto a parchment lined baking sheet (a mini-scoop is really good for this)
  5. Bake at 350° for 7-10 minutes
  6. Cool on the parchment paper and serve
Tips:  *I add the egg last so I can taste the cookie dough first and adjust the sweetener, amount of chocolate chips, vanilla, etc.
          *I recommend that you cool the cookies on the parchment paper.  They are so soft they might fall apart hot out of the oven on a cooling rack.

Makes 24 cookies
I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as we do!

Changes to our television schedule

All week summer we have been preparing for kindergarten.  Hannah went to a fantastic preschool program last year but now she is going to REAL school.  Permanent record kind of school.  Pass or fail school.  Can you tell we think this is a really big deal in our house?

As part of our preparations we laid down a new family rule.  No television during the week.  Did you hear screaming children somewhere in the distance on Monday morning?  Sorry.  That was my children's reaction to having the television turned off and the remote moved out of reach.  I was a little bit surprised they were so upset.  Our old t.v. rules were somewhat strict (1 show in the morning, 1 show while I'm making dinner, a movie only if it is raining so hard you can't go outside) by today's standards.

The good news is that the children are starting to recover from their grief.  Contrary to what they believed would happen, they did not die.  In fact they found lots of things to do.  On several occasions they took the time to dig to the bottom of the toy basket to find forgotten favorites.  We read a ton of books, built every puzzle in the house, baked cookies (look for our recipe today), built with blocks, etc.  You know, the kinds of things kids are suppose to do.  We all survived and did not cross the border into Crazyville.

The reason we elected to ban television during the week is pretty simple. We want to foster time management skills.  Hannah is only awake about 12 hours a day (7am-7pm).  Her morning will be completely taken up with getting dressed, eating, brushing teeth, etc. in order to get to school on time.  By the time she gets home from school and does her homework she only has two hours until dinner and starting her bedtime routine.  I want her to be able to play, create art projects, hang out with her brother, and just generally jump out her wiggles.

Has anyone dared take away television?  What are your back to school rules?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Children and sleep

I think it is fairly obvious that everyone needs enough sleep.  I feel most productive, energetic, creative, and just generally well when I am well rested.  This holds true for children too.  Everyone's sleep requirements are individual but in general:
1-3 year olds need 12-14 hours (total, this includes naps)
4-6 year olds need 10-12 hours
7-12 year olds need 10-11 hours
12+ need 8-9 hours

Good sleep habits are important during the school year for the mental, physical, and behavioral benefits.  Children can react to fatigue by becoming overly emotional and sensitive, loud, and just generally wild.  This is Hannah.  When Hannah is tired she cries at the drop of a hat while running around in circles.  When she is that tired she has an extremely hard time settling down.

In order to facilitate good sleep habits my kids have a pretty rigid bedtime.  Ben has the luxury ability to nap during the day but Hannah's kindergarten is full-day without a rest time.  Both kids go to their rooms at 7:00 and Ben goes to sleep almost immediately.  He sleeps until 6:00 and naps for a 1-2 hours each afternoon.  Hannah plays quietly in her room reading, coloring, or rocking her baby dolls until 8:00 when she has to go to bed.  She sleeps until 6:00 or 7:00.

This bedtime/wake time allows the children to get enough sleep each night.  Benjamin averages 12-13 hours daily and Hannah averages 10-11 hours.  These are smack in the middle of the recommended sleep amounts.

How much sleep do your kids get each night?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Immunity boost

Kids are notorious for spreading germs.  It makes sense.  Most kids have no clue about personal space, touch everything, and don't wash their hands as often as they should.  All of those germs can add up to lots of missed days of school and just generally not feeling well.

Since we have cleaned up our diet we haven't gotten sick.  This is one of the benefits of the paleo/primal eating plan.  By giving our bodies all of the necessary nutrients, our bodies are able to function to their best abilities.  I don't think it is just a coincidence that it is summer though.  During the summer we spend a lot of time outdoors.  We make vitamin D whenever we have exposed skin in sunlight. 

The importance of vitamin D is just beginning to be understood.  It is starting to gain a reputation as a miracle drug but only time and lots of scientific studies will determine if that is true.  It does seem that vitamin D3 supports the immune system. Our bodies are a wonderful thing and seem to know how important D is for us.  All we need is a little uncovered (by clothing or sunscreen) skin and a nice sunny day and our bodies can manufacture vitamin D.  We try to spend an hour or so without sunscreen outside daily to top off our vitamin D tank.  Our bodies store vitamin D, which in my non-expert opinion, just goes to show that is is absolutely essential for good health.

Now that Hannah will be starting school she won't get as much mid-day sun exposure so she won't naturally produce as much vitamin D.  Combine that with lots of time spent in close proximity to other children and I start to worry that my normally healthy daughter will spend a lot of time at home sick this year.

So, waiting in my kitchen cabinet, is a bottle of vitamin D3 supplements.  Beginning Tuesday I will supplement Hannah with D3 anytime she might not get enough sun (Monday - Friday, winter, etc.).  Currently the RDA is very very low.  So low that it is laughed at by the natural medical community.  You would need to take 100X the RDA to have a negative effect!  1000 IU per 25 lbs of body weight is a good healthy dose to top off those D3 stores (as recommended by experts in the subject.

Vitamin D is a massive topic that I have barely begun to scratch the surface.  I plan to write more posts on the subject but in the meantime here are some informative links.

The Vitamin D Council
Heart Scan Blog

*I am not a doctor and have no formal medical training (just lots of hours in front of the computer).  

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kindergarten countdown continues

Only one more week until school begins and Hannah is officially a kindergartner! This time next week my baby girl will be putting her laptop lunchbox in her new princess backpack and heading up to the bus stop.  Crazy.  I can not believe how quickly the last five years have flown by. We have put a lot of thought and preparation into school meals and feel like we have a pretty solid grasp on that aspect of "back to school".  I suppose we won't know for sure until the lunch  box comes home empty.

I am a planner by nature so I have been thinking about what else we can do at home to give Hannah the best school foundation possible.  Rather than one massive post I will break the huge "back to school" subject into bite-size daily topics.

The rest of this week you will find
* how to naturally boost immunity to ward off all those icky kid germs
* how much sleep the average young children needs
* why we eliminated tv from our Monday - Friday lives (and if we have been driven crazy yet)

I am very very close to perfecting the chocolate chip cookie recipe so I'll post that this week as well.  These will be perfect for an after school treat on the first day of school.

What back to school topics have been rattling around inside your heads lately?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Local honey

The honey vendor is back at the farmer's market!  He sells several different types of local honey, bee pollen, and honey products.  We always try to buy local honey for the health benefits:
*  Local honey helps reduce allergies to local flowers and trees. Think of it as a sweet allergy shot.
*  Honey by the spoonful is great for soothing a sore throat.
*  Honey has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that support the immune system.
*  Honey can be used to help speed wound healing.
*  Honey contains a variety of vitamins and minerals.

Honey is our favorite sweetener.  We swirl a bit in hot tea for a comforting healthy drink.  What is your favorite way to use honey?  Do you try to find local honey?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie

Last year we started several first day of school traditions.  I think Hannah's favorite is the ritual of freshly baked cookies awaiting her return from school.  I like to think she can feel the love baked into the those sweet cookies by her mom, who has missed her all day.  This time last year we were not following a primal eating plan so her first day of preschool cookies were sugar cookies iced with pink royal frosting.  Now that I am aware how food coloring affects Hannah we avoid it at all costs so we need a new cookie for the first day of kindergarten.

I am currently feeling my way through this recipe creation process.  I started with a recipe from Elena's Pantry but couldn't get it to work just right so I tweaked it a bit.  I added more almond flour and an egg, swapped honey for agave nectar, and used table salt instead of sea salt.  The result is okay but nothing spectacular.  Certainly not good enough to share the recipe.

Photo courtesy of

Now I am on a mission.  I, along with my trusty spoon-lickers helpers am going to bake the perfect primal chocolate chip cookie!  We are going to brave the I-95 traffic today to forage for more ingredients at Trader Joe's and will report back when we have completed our mission.

What are your favorite qualities in a chocolate chip cookie?  Really soft and squishy?  Crisp enough to dip into coffee?  Extra vanilla or none at all?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Change of plans

With the first day of school quickly approaching I am reconsidering the way I plan to feed Hannah.  She has become somewhat resistant to bread and pasta free lunches.  Now at home, this isn't a big deal.  I generally have the attitude that what she can eat what is served or choose to wait until her next meal.  However, that approach doesn't sit well with me for school.  I can't stand the thought of Hannah being hungry at school.  As a former kindergarten teacher I want Hannah to be able to concentrate.  She won't be able to do that if her tummy is grumbling.

I don't like the idea of Hannah filling up on lots of bread and pasta through out the day and missing out on important nutrients either.  So I came up with a new plan.  Breakfast and dinner will be 100% primal, lunch and one snack can include one serving of grains.

I am going to be trying a bunch of new breakfast recipes with the kids during this last week of summer vacation to try and find a few that they like.  They are excited about the possibility of daily smoothies.  A smoothie combined with eggs or almond flour muffins should give her the energy she will need to get her through the morning.

This change of menu doesn't compromise my attempts at better nutrition for the kids.  Hannah and Ben have been eating one serving of grains for breakfast daily for a few weeks (down from two servings).  Now the grains will just make their appearance at a different time.  Ideally, they wouldn't eat grains at all but I think kids need to be eased into a new way of eating.

What are your favorite breakfasts?  Do you cook long leisurely breakfasts on the weekends?  Do you have a favorite "special occasion" breakfast?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Primal puppies

Long before my family started eating mainly natural foods our Australian Shepherd, Betsy, followed a primal diet.  Paul heard about the BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) diet and we decided to give it a try. BARF is basically a primal diet for dogs. About 75% of her diet is raw but we do feed her cooked meat when it is more convenient. Betsy has not eaten commercial dog food for over a year and a half.  Honestly, I don't think she would eat it even if it was offered now.

When people hear about Betsy's diet they often worry because  they think dogs shouldn't eat table scraps.  In many households this is true.  Table scraps that consist of bread and sweets are not healthy for people and are certainly not healthy for pets.  Betsy eats 99% meat with the occasional homemade treat.

This way of eating has worked well for Betsy.  She is completely healthy.

What do you feed the furry members of your family?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Since eggs have been in the news so much lately I thought I would decode egg lingo for everyone.

Free-range = The USDA requires that chickens that lay "free-range" eggs have access to the outdoors.  However, there is no stipulation to the quality of the environment or the amount of time outdoors.  A factory farm can label its eggs as being "free-range" if there is a door leading to the outdoors even if the chickens never go outdoors.   There are some small farms that do really allow their chickens to roam outdoors but there is no guarantee that is what you are getting unless you can talk to the farmer. 

Cage-free = There is no legal definition of cage-free eggs.  Some farmers do give "cage-free" chickens enough room to stretch their wings but again, you don't know for sure unless you talk to the farmer.

Organic = Organic chickens (and therefore their eggs) must be fed an organic diet, typically non-gmo organic grain.  The chickens must not be given hormones and can only have antibiotics to treat illness (not prevent).  The chickens are also free-range, although you don't know if the chickens ever really go outside.

Vegetarian = The chickens are fed a 100% vegetarian diet.  In my opinion this is not the optimum diet for chickens.  Chickens like to eat grubs and worms (after all they are birds) but these foods are excluded on a vegetarian diet.

Pastured = These chickens are raised outdoors on a natural diet, the way chickens are suppose to live.

I would like to buy pastured eggs but have not found an affordable source.  My farmer's market sells them for $6/dozen.  We buy them occasionally but we go through 2-3 dozen a week so it is not realistic to spend so much money on eggs.  I do not like the definitions of free-range, cage-free, and vegetarian as I think they are either full of loop holes or just plain wrong so I usually buy "regular" eggs.  The "regular" eggs are certainly nothing special but I'm not convinced that the other more expensive grocery store eggs are worth it either.

What type of eggs do you buy?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Recipe round-up

I love to cook so I am always on the look out for new recipes.  These are a few of my favorite recipes recently.

Spinach ricotta bites - These taste like the filling in a white chicken lasagna (just add diced chicken to the recipe).

Spicy chicken and bacon poppers - These are not quite as spicy if they are served cold.  I make homemade ranch dressing to dip.

Stuffed zucchini cheeseburger boats - These are a good use for all the zucchini we have been seeing at the farmer's market lately.

If you try any of these let me know how it turns out.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Primal pancakes

Primal pancakes are a healthy alternative to traditional pancakes.  We actually prefer to make them this way.  They taste better, are healthier, and keep you full longer than other pancake recipes.

I found this recipe on Elena's Pantry website and adapted it to suit our pantry staples.

Primal Pancakes - makes 12 small pancakes (I recommend doubling the recipe for a family)

2 eggs
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups almond flour*
 ½ teaspoon baking soda
coconut oil for sautéing

  1. In a blender, combine eggs, honey and vanilla and blend on high until smooth.
  2. Add almond flour, baking soda, and a large sprinkling of cinnamon and blend again to incorporate dry ingredients into batter.
  3. Let batter sit for 15-20 minutes to thicken up
  4. Warm coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  5. Ladle a small amount of pancake batter onto skillet.  I used about an 1/8th of a cup per pancake.
  6. Pancakes will form little bubbles, when bubbles open, flip pancakes over and cook other side
  7. Remove from heat to a plate.
  8. Repeat process with remaining batter, adding more oil to skillet as needed.
I served these yummy pancakes with honey cinnamon butter and maple syrup.

Honey Cinnamon Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Beat softened butter with a mixer until it is creamy.  Slowly add honey and cinnamon until it seems like enough.  Store in the fridge.

I know, I know.  That is a horrible set of directions.  What kind of recipe doesn't include quantities?  I didn't measure anything when I made this the other night, just eyeballed it.  You can add just enough to make it exactly the way you like it. 

*If you don't have any almond flour in your pantry you can make your own.  Simply grind raw almonds in a coffee grinder until you have a fine powder.  I tried to do this with a food processor and it grind the almonds into a fine enough powder.  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Primal lunches at the pool

We had a picnic at the pool with friends the other day.  A friend snapped this photo so I thought I would share it.  I had no idea lunch would be photographed so this was definitely a REAL lunch (not at all staged). 
I served leftover turkey burger, kiwi, carrot sticks, cheese sticks, and apple sauce.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Paleo Women Snacks & Granola

Recently I had the opportunity to sample Paleo Women Snacks & Granola.  These granola-like snacks are all natural, wheat and gluten-free, and contain no preservatives.  They have four flavors:  apple crisp, cappucino, banana nut, and cacao nut.  They are a healthier version of granola because they do not contain any oatmeal - the main ingredient in most granolas.

We loved these snacks immediately.  They are the perfect blend of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and spices.  The apple crisp granola tastes exactly like you would expect apple granola to taste - yummy and slightly sweet.  This was Benjamin's favorite.  He kept running to the kitchen to try and sneak a handful.

The banana nut granola tastes just like banana bread!  I haven't figured out how to make primal banana bread yet so this was a welcome treat.  This is definitely my favorite.

The cappucino granola would be perfect for a die-hard coffee fan.  I tend to like my coffee sweet so this granola wasn't for me or the kiddies. 

The cacao nut granola was different than what I expected.  When I think cacao I think chocolate (sweet creamy chocolate).  This is REAL cacao!  After the shock of the initial bite I started to really enjoy this one too!  This was Paul's favorite.
(Hannah does not have a favorite because she was in a mood and refused to try the snacks)

These treats cost about $3.50 per 5 ounce bag so it won't be an everyday lunchbox item but I will definitely be ordering some.  If you are from Northern VA you know that traffic can pop up out of nowhere and you might be stuck in your car for a few extra HOURS.  This is no fun, especially with young kids.  I like to keep a few snacks in the glove box just in case we spend more time than expected in the car.  If we had to stop at a McDonald's we would easily spend that much money on junk.  This way we don't have to waste our money on stuff that pretends to be food.

Head over to to request your own sample pack and then to place your order.  The granolas are available in a few brick and mortar stores too.  Visit the website to see a complete list of retailers.

If you try them be sure to let me know which flavor is your favorite!

*I did receive these granola snacks for free, but you can too.  Just send them a request.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Staples in the primal pantry

I cook almost every meal and snack for my family so I like to keep my kitchen stocked with the items we use most.  Here are the top 5 items my primal kitchen needs at all times:

1)  Coconut oil - This is my first choice for cooking oils.  Nothing else comes close.

2)  Almonds - This is one of the most versatile foods in my house.  We eat them whole, chop them up to add to recipes, and even grind our own almond flour.  Store them in the freezer to prevent them from going rancid.

3) Bacon - We almost always have nitrate-free bacon (or pig as Hannah calls it) in the house.  A little goes a long way towards imparting flavor on an otherwise bland dish.

4)  Eggs - This is my standard breakfast.  They are frequently an ingredient in many recipes.

5)  Spinach - This is a very versatile leafy green veggie.  I add it to casseroles, saute it, and make it into salads.

What are the staples in your kitchen?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Coconut oil

Coconut oil has earned a permanent spot on my pantry shelves.  It gets a bad rap because it is high in saturated fat but really it should be considered a super food.  Coconut oil is largely made up of lauric acid.  This stuff is practically magical.  Lauric acid is one of the "ingredients" in breast milk. In fact the best two natural sources of lauric acid are breast milk and coconut oil!  Coconut oil offers the most health benefits of any oil.

Benefits of coconut oil:
*  Supports the immune system - it kills viruses, bacteria, and fungus.
*  Helps absorption of vitamin E and K and several minerals (including calcium)
*  Prevents liver disease
*  Prevents kidney and gall bladder diseases
*  Helps control blood sugar
*  Helps prevent heart disease (despite the saturated fats - it does not raise cholesterol!)

Coconut oil can be used in cooking or applied topically. It makes a great 100% natural moisturizer.  I rub a little on any dry patches of skin and by the next morning my skin is as softer than ever.

Have you ever tried coconut oil? 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Homemade ranch dressing

Store bought ranch dressing is full of all kinds of things I don't want to feed my family.  A bottle of Wishbone ranch dressing contains sugar, MSG, Propylene glycol, and tons of other ingredients that I can't pronounce.  Thankfully it is really easy to make ranch dressing at home.

1 cup mayo
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
2 Tbs. pickle juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbs. dried chives
2 Tbs. dried dill
2 Tbs. dried parsley

Mix everything together and taste.  I add various amounts of the above seasonings each time depending on how spicy I want it.  If you want it a bit thinner just add more pickle juice.   I usually use 2 Tbs. pickle juice for dressing but you could omit it and use this as a dip.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Today Show Gluten free

Yesterday the Today Show aired a segment about the gluten-free "fad".  Basically, the expert said that a gluten-free diet is not necessary and has no benefits.  I disagree.  I do not eat grains, so I am gluten-free by default.  I feel so much better without gluten.  Health problems that I would never have even connected to diet have cleared up.

The expert also said that a gluten-free diet is restrictive, expensive, and difficult to follow.  I disagree with these statements too.  Yes, it took a while to get use to the whole no bread and no pasta thing but now I don't even want those foods.  They just don't register as food.  There is a plethora of gluten-free foods found in nature.  Peaches, steak, salmon, apples, and bananas come to mind.  It can be expensive but it doesn't have to be.  All of the foods shown on stage were processed foods, which of course cost more money than fresh foods.  At the grocery store I noticed a gluten-free cake mix for $6.  A pound of grapes is only $.99 this week.  The grapes are more nutritious and much cheaper than the packaged "health" food!  I don't find a diet full of yummy whole foods to be difficult to follow.  If we really want to eat a piece of bread, cake, pizza, whatever we use our 20% fun food budget.

Here is the video clip in case you missed the show.

*There might be an advertisement for margarine before the clip plays.  I DO NOT advocate eating margarine.  It isn't food.

What is your opinion of the gluten-free fad?

(This is my first time embedding a video clip so please let me know if it doesn't work)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Homemade Lara bars

Have you ever tried a Lara bar?  They are a gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, non-gmo, vegan, and kosher energy bar.  Those probably aren't words you associate with a delicious treat but Lara bars are really good. The ingredient lists are super simple and do not contain any added sugar.  For example the peanut butter cookie dough bar has dates, peanuts, and salt.  That is it!  They are a favorite snack around here.  Hannah and Ben have been feigning starvation every time we are in Target so that I will buy them one.  They don't even ask for a candy bar anymore.  They are that good!

The only drawback with Lara bars is that they are $1.50 each.  Multiply that by two kids who eat snack twice a day and that healthy treat adds up quickly.  I decided to try and create my own bars.  Hannah bars?  Benjamin bars?  I'm still not sure what to call them.

We have tried two types of bars so far.  The chocolate covered pecan is a hit!  They are rich and decadent, two of my favorite chocolate qualities.  I cut them into small bites rather than bars because they are so rich.

Chocolate Covered Pecan Bars (makes a 9x9 pan - 8 full size bars)
1 1/2 c. pitted dates
1/2 c. raisins
1 c. pecans
4 Tbs. cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1)  Put the pecans in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Use some of this to "flour" a 9x9 pan.
2)  Add the rest of the ingredients to the nuts (in the the processor) and process until the mixture starts to come together.
3)  Pour the mixture (will have a play dough-like consistency) into a medium bowl and knead it all together.
4)  Put the mixture into the 9x9 pan and press it down to form a smooth and even layer.
5)  Chill for an hour or so and slice into bars (or bites). Store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week.

We have also tried the cashew cookie dough bars.  These were enjoyed but not as much as the previous recipe. 

Cashew Cookie Dough Bars
1 1/3 c. pitted dates
2 c. raw cashews

1)  Pulse the cashews and dates together in the food processor.
2)  Pour the mixture into a medium bowl and knead together.  Pour into a 9x9 pan.
3)  Chill an hour or so and then slice to the desired size.

I found a few more recipes courtesy of google and adjusted the recipe to make a full pan of bars.  Most recipes only serve 2.  That makes no sense to me.  I want to make a bunch so I have a quick healthy snack on hand for a few days.  I haven't tried these recipes yet but they sound yummy!

Very Cherry Bars
1 c. pitted dates
1 c. dried cherries
1 1/3 c. nuts (of your choosing)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (contains a small bit of added sugar)
1 1/3 c. pitted dates
2 c. raw cashews
2 tsp. vanilla extract
large pinch of cinnamon
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

The procedure is the same regardless of the ingredients.  Just give it all a whirl, press into the pan, and chill.

I think these will make a terrific kindergarten snack.  They are a great combination of carbs (from the fruit) and protein (from the nuts) to keep Hannah energized and focused at school.

Have you ever tried Lara bars?  What is your favorite flavor?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Kindergarten countdown

Exactly one month from now Hannah will be boarding the school bus for the very first time.  She has picked out her princess back pack, a few packs of crayons, and countless outfits.  She is ready.  Me - not so much.  Hannah had a great experience in preschool and I expect that to continue through elementary school.  I am just not ready to relinquish control.  For the past 5 years I have managed every minute of her day.  Now she is some one else's responsibility from 8:30-3:30 Monday - Friday.  While I wrap my mind around that I am trying to plan the last detail that I have control over during the school day - lunch.

I decided awhile ago that Hannah would be packing her lunch the majority of the time.  The school lunch menu caters to the children's wants, not so much their nutritional needs.  Items such as pizza, chicken nuggets, tacos, and grilled cheese are menu staples.  These items can be prepared nutritionally but I highly doubt that this is the case.  As a former teacher, I take education very seriously.  I want Hannah to be able to concentrate at school.  She can't do that if her brain is foggy from food coloring or she is tired from too many carbs.

I decided to buy Hannah the Laptop lunchbox this year.  It is a bit pricy but worth it if she will eat her lunch.  The Laptop lunch  box is designed to be environmentally-friendly (no waste) and child-friendly (food beautifully displayed in child size portions).  I can not wait to start using it.

I want to make a list of lunch box-friendly main course items so I can start filling the freezer.  The children rarely eat sandwiches anymore so that is out.  So far I have:
     1)  mini-meatballs
     2)  hardboiled eggs and bacon
     3)  homemade chicken nuggets
     4)  turkey and cheese roll ups
     5)  crustless quiche bites

Any suggestions?  What were your favorite lunches as a child?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Missing nutrients

When I first heard of the primal diet I was very skeptical.  I  heard all of the public service announcements that whole grains are an essential part of a healthy diet so I was weary of cutting them out completely.  Before I could commit to this way of eating I needed to know what I would be missing.

According the main nutrients that corn, oats, rice, and wheat provide are fiber, protein, vitamin A, calcium and iron.  That is pretty much it.  Honestly I thought it would be something that was unique to grains since they are the foundation of the USDA recommended diet.   I  decided to give the primal diet a try and see how I felt.  I have never felt better!

Recently I decided to compare my pre-primal diet with my primal diet.  On the average pre-primal day I would eat:
     breakfast - cereal with milk and orange juice
     lunch - turkey sandwich with chips and an apple
     dinner - spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread
This meal plan provides 59% of the RDA of fiber, 123% protein, 78% calcium, 100% iron, and 84% vitamin A.

Now I eat:
     breakfast - 2 eggs, sauteed veggies, and a peach
     snack - greek yogurt with berries and walnuts
     lunch - a HUGE salad, leftover chicken, and cantaloupe
     dinner - stuffed zucchini and a side salad
     dessert - banana with almond butter
This meal plan is approximately the same number of calories as the previous diet but provides 103% of the RDA of fiber 202% protein, 117% calcium, 81% iron, and 285% vitamin A.  On this particular day I was a bit short on iron but that is it!  All the other nutrients were well above the RDA!

Here is an article that compares the nutrient level of the different food groups.  I think removing breads and pasta and replacing them with fruits and veggies is the way to go!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Coconut chicken nuggets

I think these chicken nuggets taste better than "regular" chicken nuggets.  I plan to make a big batch soon so I can stick some in the freezer.

Coconut chicken nuggets

4 skinless chicken breasts
3 eggs
7 ounce bag of unsweetened flaked coconut
4 Tbs. coconut oil

1.  Preheat a pan to medium heat.  Add the coconut oil.
2.  Slice the chicken to the desired size.
3.  Beat the eggs in one bowl.  Place the coconut in another bowl.
4.  Dip the chicken into the egg.
5.  Coat the eggy chicken with coconut.
6.  Fry the chicken nuggets, turning over as needed until the nuggets are golden brown.
7.  Drain on paper towel.

These are equally good warm and cold.  I think they will be making an appearance in the lunch box this year.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mandatory breastfeeding

Model Gisele recently stated that breastfeeding should be mandatory worldwide.  Um, I don't think so.  Don't get me wrong, I am all in support of breastfeeding.  It is definitely the primal way of feeding a young child.  However, I am more in support of moms.  I'm sure the majority of paleolithic mothers did breastfeed their babies but I bet there were also circumstances when it wasn't possible.  She had to rely on other mothers to nurse her child.  That is rarely acceptable in America today.

As much as I would love all mothers that want to nurse be able to I don't think our society is set up for it.  Nursing mothers routinely cover their babies or go into separate rooms to feed their babies.  Young girls do not grow up seeing nursing as a normal natural part of the pregnancy cycle.  Breastfeeding is not a skill that is taught by older more experienced family members.

Making breastfeeding mandatory will only make women resent nursing and punish those who aren't physically able to breastfeed.  To really encourage all mothers to breastfeed we need:
     *Longer maternity leave
     *Lactation consultants covered by medical insurance

What are your thoughts on making breastfeeding mandatory? 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Not every morsel of food I eat follows the primal eating plan.  I don't consider it a cheat though.  Cheating implies that you are being judged or graded.  You aren't.  The only one you have to answer to is yourself.

I follow the 80/20 principle.  Basically if 80% of my food is meat, veggies, fruits, and good fats than I have room for some "fun" foods.  My 20% is usually chocolate, eating out, or sugar in my coffee.

By following the 80/20 principle I keep myself sane.  If I thought that I could never enjoy a glass of wine or chocolate covered strawberries again I would fall off the wagon very quickly.   This way I know I can eat foods I truly enjoy as long as I use a bit of self-control.

I consider 80% to be the minimum for good health.  We strive for a much higher percentage of healthy foods.  We aim for about 90% by keeping our diets very clean during the week and splurging on Sunday night dinner.  By planning for 90% we have a bit of wiggle room to still be above 80% if we slip up one day.  After you become accustomed to this way of eating you don't want to indulge too much - you just don't feel well.

What are some of your favorite "splurge" foods?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

World Breastfeeding Week 2010

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 - 7, 2010) I thought I would share some of my breastfeeding must haves. 

These are not in any particular order.

1)  Dr. Sears Breastfeeding Book - I loved this book!  I found it to be the most informative breastfeeding book on the market, and I read just about all of them.  I read it cover to cover before Benjamin was born and reread certain chapters over and over while breastfeeding.

2)  Target nursing tank top - A nursing tank top is very handy.  I could layer it under non-nursing tops so that my post-pregnancy stomach wasn't exposed while nursing.  There was just enough fabric to be supportive but not in the way. Other, more expensive, brands did not fit as well.

3)  Sling - I nursed Benjamin many many times while out in public and no one was the wiser.  He was tucked in his sling so most people just assumed he was sleeping.  I even nursed him in the sling at home when he was going through growth spurts and wanted to be attatched to me nonstop.

4)  A supportive husband - There can be a learning curve to breastfeeding.  In the beginning it seems like it takes 3 hands to get the baby correctly latched on.  There were also times that I was tired and felt like giving up and needed someone to remind me that I could do this.

5)  Mother's Milk tea - This tea is full of baby-safe herbs that help stimulate milk production.  I sipped this during growth spurts to help me keep up with demand.

There are also a few things I personally wouldn't buy again.

1)  Nursing pillow - Honestly any pillow will help support the baby.  It was a hassle to move the boppy around so I just used whatever pillow was nearby.

2)  Breast pump - In theory this was a great idea.  For the first 4 months it was helpful.  I could pump and leave Ben a bottle while getting out for awhile.  After three months though, Ben wouldn't take a bottle.  Without the bottle the pump was pretty worthless.  This could be helpful if you don't have a stubborn baby.)

3)  Nursing cover - Nursing covers just seem to draw attention to a nursing baby.  The few times I used a blanket to cover up were the times I received rude comments.  I never had any second glances when I just discreetly positioned my shirt or used the sling.

What did you find helpful (or totally worthless) when nursing?

** These are my own opinions.  I was not compensated in any way for these reviews.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Play kitchen makeover

The other night as I was picking up the kid's play kitchen I noticed something.  There were tons of chips, cookies, and cupcakes on the floor!  We do not usually have these foods in our real kitchen so why should they be in the play kitchen?  I decided to conduct an experiment.

I sorted all of the food into categories:

Junk food

Healthy food

Did you notice that there is more junk food than healthy food in that little kitchen?

I decided to hide all of the junk and see if the kids noticed.  If the kids noticed that some of the toys were missing I planned to give them back.  If they didn't notice then I will put them in the Goodwill bag.  To make the removal of roughly 60% of the food less noticeable I took some time neatly arranging the food and dishes in the kitchen.
It has been a little over one week and the kids haven't noticed that the junk food is missing.  I can safely put it in the Goodwill bag.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Lunch update - test week completed

The test week of primal lunches for the children has gone better than I expected.  Most days the children ate most of their lunch and seemed to enjoy it.  Today Hannah did not eat all of her lunch.  She just wasn't hungry after her snack at Vacation Bible Church this morning.  I served turkey rollups, carrot sticks, and nectarines.  We are officially out of 'test' mode but will continue to eat healthy primal lunches the majority of the time.

I did not post a lunch update yesterday because we were out of town attending a funeral.  The kids made memories visiting with a great-grandmother regardless of what type of food was served.

The Story of Cosmetics

Check out this video.    It does a great job explaining the chemicals in cosmetics.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Paleo lasagna

I created this dish one night when I was craving lasagna.  My family likes it better than "regular" lasagna. Both kids gobble it up. 

1 lb. ground buffalo (you can substitute any ground or diced meat)
1 onion, chopped
olive oil
5  medium zucchini, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans diced tomatoes, drained
italian seasoning
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1.5 cups mozzarella cheese

1.  Brown the buffalo with the chopped onion.
2.  In another pan, heat the olive oil and garlic.  Sauté the zucchini and carrots until they are tender.
3. In a separate pot, combine the tomatoes and the italian seasoning. Heat until bubbly.
4.  Spread some of the tomato sauce on the bottom of an oven-proof baking dish.
5.  Alternate layers of ingredients (veggies, buffalo, dollops of ricotta cheese, sauce) in any fashion you like.
6. Top with the mozzarella cheese.
7. Cover and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Remove the cover and bake an additional 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lunch update - day 3

Today the kids didn't seem very hungry.  In retrospect I should have just served a nibble tray to last them through the afternoon.  I made turkey burgers (without the bun of course), carrot sticks, and berries.  Ben ate all of his burger and Hannah ate a few bites of burger and a few strawberries.    I'm going to save their plates and they can finish their lunch for snack later.

Farmer's market finds

We found such amazing deals at the farmer's market this week!  Paul and I had talked about freezing some summer produce if we found any great deals but were not prepared for the large amount of fruits and veggies we found.  We bought over 70 lbs of fruits and vegetables!

Tomatoes were $10 for a 25 lb. box.

Peaches were $25 for a 25 lb. box.

Bell peppers were $5 for a box that weighed in at 17lbs.  That is about 40 bell peppers!

This 67 lbs of yumminess was destined for our freezer.  We also bought sweet potatoes, nectarines, onions, grape tomatoes, and zucchini to eat this week.  We had a hard time getting it all to the van!  We had to make multiple trips with the stroller loaded down.

Once we got home I got right to work processing the food.  The bell peppers were very easy.  I just washed and dried them, diced and sliced, flash froze, and put into freezer bags.  I diced and sliced them so I have options when cooking. The diced peppers can go in casseroles and omelettes while the sliced peppers will be perfect for stir fries.

The peaches were pretty easy too.  I wanted peaches in every form possible so I decided to freeze some and dehydrate some.  First I washed and peeled the fruit.  Then I removed the pit (buying freestone peaches makes this easier) and started slicing.  Sliced peaches were dipped in orange juice and laid on a baking sheet to freeze. The o.j. helps retain the "normal" peach color.  I also pureed some peaches and froze in ice cube trays to add to iced tea.  Finally, I pulled out the dehydrator.  I diced the peaches and laid them on the trays.  I also put a bit of leftover pureed peaches on a tray to make peach fruit rollups.

The tomatoes were a bit more time consuming.  I washed them and peeled them.  To peel them, cut a little 'x' on the bottom and drop into boiling water for 1 minute and then plunge into ice water to halt the cooking process.  Then you can rub the peel off with your hands.  I decided to make some a lot of tomato sauce.  I didn't really follow a recipe, just winged it.  Hopefully it comes out okay.  Has anyone ever made sauce from fresh tomatoes?  It takes a long time to simmer - like 4-5 hours!

It is a little crazy how happy this freezer full of summer yumminess makes me!  I just love saving time and money while feeding my family healthy meals.  A little time in the kitchen now will save me a lot of time later.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Lunch update - day 2

We had another fantastic lunch today!  I served scrambled eggs, bacon, strawberries, and grape tomatoes.  The kids ate everything except the tomatoes.  I'll take as success.

Children and Food Coloring

Artificial food coloring and I do not get along.  Or rather, Hannah and artificial food coloring do not get along.  If she eats something with food dye it only takes a few hours before she starts bouncing off the walls, fidgeting constantly, and talking back.  This is not normal behavior for Hannah. 

Hannah isn't the only child that reacts this way to artificial food coloring.  Research has been conducted since the 70's that shows that food dyes cause hyperactivity, allergic reactions, and cancer.  Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are the three most widely used dyes.  According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest they are also carcinogens.  The FDA even admits that Red 3 is a carcinogen.  I guess they just don't care.  Or are afraid of the food manufacturers.  Either way, it is still legal.

Last week Britain began requiring warning labels on foods containing food coloring, much the way that cigarette's require labelling in the United States.  The label states "May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children".  Companies do not want to place the warning label on their products so they are changing their recipes.  For example, a McDonald's strawberry sundae sold in America contains red food coloring.  In Britain the sundae is colored with actual strawberries.

If American companies can manufacture foods without food coloring for other countries why are they still selling inferior products here?

15 million pounds of food colorings are added to products every single year.  Dyes do not add any nutritional value or improve food safety.  Their sole purpose is marketting. 

I really try to keep artificial food colorings out of my house.  Hannah can't tolerate them and, honestly, they aren't worth the potential health risks.  The problem is when we are out and about.  We were at a party this past weekend and Hannah was offered a yogurt.  All the other kids were eating this dye-filled yogurt and Hannah really wanted one.  I let Hannah eat it because I didn't want her to feel excluded but I really struggled with the decision.  We all paid the price the next day when Hannah could not control herself.  I hope that at some point she makes the connection between certain foods and that out of control feeling.  The FDA needs to ban food coloring so that NO child is exposed to these horrible chemicals.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Lunch update - day 1

Today for lunch we had mini-meatballs, slices of mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce for dipping, and fresh peaches.  Hannah and Ben gobbled it up!  Yay!

I think today's success was due to:
1)  Hannah spent all morning at Vacation Church School and was definitely hungry when she got home.
2)  I gave the kids toothpicks to eat their mini-meatballs.  I guess that makes it a bit more fun.

This lunch took longer to prepare than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich but it was worth it.  I made the sauce last night and put some in the freezer for future use.  The mini-meatballs were made while Hannah was at church and just heated up when we got home.  Peaches are apparently Hannah's favorite fruit this week so I expect to be serving them a lot in the near future.

Hopefully tomorrow's lunch will be a hit too!

Lunchtime changes

Last week during a dinner of turkey burgers and sweet potato fries Hannah asked if I would make that for her every night.  I saw my opportunity and replied that I would be happy to make it for her everyday for lunch if she would give up the daily pb&j.

This is a huge step for Hannah.  Hannah LOVES bread and pasta.  I think her idea of a perfect day is toast for breakfast, pb&j for lunch, and macaroni and cheese for dinner.  Obviously this is not my idea of a perfect day.  I'm so happy that she is becoming more open to the possibility of no (or at least limited) bread/pasta.

I plan to make pretty much any paleo meal she wants this week for lunch.  She has already requested turkey burgers so that will definitely be on the menu at least once.  I am also planning mini meatballs, tuna, eggs & bacon.  I'll let Hannah have a good bit of control over the lunch menu so hopefully she will eat!

This week I will post twice a day.  The morning will be a "regular" post on exciting topics such as food colorings and marketing to children.  The evening post will be an update to our new lunch situation.

Wish us luck!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Question of the week

How do your kids help in the kitchen?

Please post a comment telling how your children help you get dinner (or food in general) on the table.  All ideas welcome!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cloth diapers

When Benjamin was about 5 months old we decided to do diapers the old fashioned way.  We stopped buying Pampers and started stocking up on prefolds and pocket diapers.  I admit that we were not excited about the change.  At all.  We did it purely for Benjamin's health and comfort.  For the previous few months (a.k.a. the majority of his life) he had a horrible case of diaper rash that wouldn't clear up.  We tried over the counter rash creams.  We tried medication for athlete's foot (recommended by his pediatrician).  We even spent almost $300 on a prescription diaper rash cream!  Nothing worked.  I felt so sorry for him. 

When the crazy expensive rash cream didn't work I knew we needed a different plan of attack.  We couldn't merely treat the rash, we had to remove the source of irritation.  In this case, the diapers.

Some people are able to use elimination communication to avoid using diapers but I had serious doubts about my ability to pull that off.  The next best thing was to use cloth diapers.  I am lucky enough to have a good friend who is a cloth diaper expert (she cloth diapered all three of her kids!).  She and I talked at legnth about what type of cloth diapers would be right for us.  I decided to primarily use prefolds and covers with the occasional pocket diaper.  I placed my order with and anxiously waited for my delivery.  I was so ready to get rid of Ben's diaper rash!  As soon as my diapers arrived and were prepped my friend came back to show me how to use them.  We literally sat around the dining room table putting cloth diapers on all of our stuffed animals.

The next morning Ben started sporting his adorable new diapers.  Within 48 hours he was rash free - without the use of any cream!  At that point I was sold.  Cloth diapers were a miracle treatment for him!  I quickly worked a cloth diaper routine into my laundry schedule.

Ben is wearing a blue BumGenius 3.0 diaper in this photo.

Over the past year and a half I have observed many benefits of cloth diapering.  I am never truly OUT of diapers.  Worst case scenario I do a load of laundry and we have fresh diapers again.  I have not used a single dose of rash cream or baby powder and Ben has remained rash free.  Cloth diapers have a somewhat large cost upfront but you don't have to continually buy them like disposables.  Long term they save a ton of money!  We have only spent about $400 on diapers total! Cloth diapers have a generous size range so we have only had to buy a few larger covers to make the existing prefolds fit.  As great as those benefits are, we are beginning to experience what might be the best benefit of all.  Early (by today's standards) potty training!  From about 20 months old Ben has been very interested in potty training.  He remains dry about 75% of the time now which I think is fantastic since he is barely 24 months old!  I am happy to let Ben take the lead on potty training.  He is given the choice of underwear or diapers and usually chooses underwear.  At some point every day he switches to the most natural of all choices - naked.

Cloth diapering has been a great experience for us.  I am happy that I was able to find a chemical free solution to chronic diaper rash.  All in all it wasn't really any more time consuming or difficult that using disposable diapers.

Safe sunscreen?

Imagine for a moment you are taking your family on a beach vacation.  You run out to Target to stock up on essentials for your trip, including sunscreen.  Here are your choices:

      1.  Banana Boat Baby Max SPF 100 $13 - labels says pediatrician-tested,  safe as water, and bares the Skin Cancer Foundation  seal of recommendation
     2.   Hawiian Tropic Baby Creme SPF 60 $10 - label says pediatrician-tested,  made with natural island botanicals, and bares the Skin Cancer Foundation seal of recommendation
     3.  California Baby No Fragrance SPF 30 $21 - label says provides chemical free broad spectrum sun protection
    4.   Aveeno Baby SPF 55 $7- label says UVA/UVB protection  and fragrance free

Which do you put in your cart?

Did you choose Hawiian Tropic Baby Creme??  It seems like a good choice.  After all, what can be bad about having a high SPF, being pediatrician-tested and made with natural ingredients.  It is even recommended by the SCF.

Or did you choose Banana Boat Baby Max?  I have seen a bunch of those bottles at the pool so it seems like a popular choice.

Unfortunately both of those choices contain hazardous chemicals that could put your child's health at risk.  In fact, the only safe choice among those listed is the California Baby sunscreen. 

Many of todays sunscreens contain harmful chemicals such as oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, polyethylene, benzyl alcohol, BHT, parabens, and fragranceOxybenzone is an endocrine disruptor.  Endocrine disruptors are basically synthetic hormones that can wreck havoc on an endocrine system.  Retinyl palmitate is a synthetic version of vitamin A.  Sounds good right?  Not so fast.  It is shown to cause skin cancer (yep, the very thing you thought you were avoiding by smearing on sunscreen).  Polyethylene is a form of plastic that is known to cause allergies and irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs.  Benzyl alcohol and BHT are neurotoxins.  Neurotoxins are toxins that specifically affect cells in the nervous system.  They are also found in chemical warfare.  Parabens are endocrine disruptors as well.  They are also found in breast cancer tumors.  Fragrance is a source of many allergies.  The American Contact Dermitis Society voted fragrance "llergen of the Year" in 2007.

Does this sound like stuff you want to rub on your or your child's (or even your worst enemy's) skin? 

Currently the FDA does not regulate sunscreen products so consumers need to be incredibly vigilant about the products they buy.  Fortunately we live in the information age and can find out just about anything online.  I encourage all of you to check out (the Environmental Working Group) and see what is lurking in your current sunscreen.  Label reading is crucial if you want a safe product.

What should you avoid?
 - the chemicals listed above (oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, polyethylene, benzyl alcohol, BHT, parabens, and fragarance)
 - SPF 50+  =  Claims of more than 50 can not be substantiated
 - Skin Cancer Foundation seal of recommendation = To get approval the sunscreen manufacturers must show an SPF of 15+ and donate $10,000.  Manufacturers essentially buy this seal
 - sprays or powders = There is a risk of inhaling these sunscreens.  This is especially harmful if the spray contains some of the listed allergens and irritants

What should you look for in a sunscreen?
 - Broad spectrum UVA and UVB coverage
 - Zinc
 - Titanium

According to the EWG some of the best sunscreens are:
Alba Botanica Mineral, Blue Lizard Australian, California Baby, Jason Sunbrellas, and Johnson & Johnson baby.  These are all available on

Personally, I want to make sure my family gets enough vitamin D so we do not wear sunscreen 100% of the time we are outdoors.  I rarely follow the recommendation to apply sunscreen 20  minutes before sun exposure.  I wait until we have been outside for a few minutes and then apply it.  I feel confident that we are getting a decent amount of vitamin D before the sunscreen is effective.  I do not want to risk sun burn or damage so after 30 minutes or so we cover up.  The kids put on their sun shirts (if they are not already wearing them), put on wide brimmed hats and sunglasses, and go indoors if necessary.  It seems to work.  Hannah and Ben have never had a sunburn.

If you want more information check out Dr Mercola's website. Dr. Mercola has a video discussing the sunscreen and vitamin D dance.  He also talks about what to avoid/look for in a sunscreen.