Teatime Talk and Popcorn Reading

Teatime Talk and Popcorn Reading - creative and tasty ways to incorporate more read-aloud time into your day!

Any other tea drinkers out there? Winter weather, even here in the Arizona desert, has a way of bringing out the teapots.  In this B.O.Y. heavy house, I try every once in a while to help civilize them.  My husband just rolls his eyes.  I look at it as a way to not only prepare them for marriage one day {ever seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers?}, but also help bring in a little balance as their sister gets older.  Poor Greta, at 16 months, is already wondering around the house with a toy 6-shooter making ‘pshhh’ sounds.  She is in serious need of some genteel influence…

As we’ve embarked on our morning Bible study using The Dig, we’ve added ‘tea-time’ to the mix.  Our favorite right now is peppermint tea.  My busy young boys need something to keep their hands busy, so that their minds can listen and engage in our study. Tea-time is perfect for short sessions like this.

popcorn4

{They loved wearing their Safari hats in fitting with the theme of our devotional…  And my boys get their sense of humor from their dad – hence the mocking of ‘dainty’ manners.}

I’m a big fan of pulling out REAL tea cups.  I think it is good for them to have some experiences where they need to execute great care with things. Tea cups certainly fit the bill for that. Of course it always comes with a reminder to be so very careful.  The four year old is repeatedly told that he is excused from his normal chore of clearing the table afterwards. I can just picture him tripping on his way in to the kitchen and my beautiful china shattering everywhere.  Although after Skypping with my sister and her kids this weekend and seeing K2’s effect on their tiny teapot, I’m having second thoughts…

As an aside, I never thought I would be a Kindle convert since I just love the feel of real paper in my hands.  But I have to say that I’m loving it more and more.

For our afternoon reading time, we pop popcorn.  Remember when I posted about Popcorn in the Park and shared our Kettle Corn recipe?  We eat popcorn pretty much ALL the time now.  I blame it on my limited diet last year when I was gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, peanut-free, soy-free, etc…

Well, this last August, I began playing around with blending my love of popcorn and chocolate.  Hence our obsession with chocolate popcorn.   While we normally go for plain popcorn with some butter and nutritional yeast added, we love our chocolate popcorn so much that the boys wanted me to share our recipe with you!

Simple, tasty stove-top chocolate popcorn!
  • 1/4 c coconut oil
  • 1/8-1/4 c sugar {I’ve worked us down to 1/8 c. It is NOT sweet enough for Rich this way, so sometimes we add more!  I’ve also added a few drops of vanilla stevia we have!}
  • 1/8 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c popping corn
  • salt to taste

We heat the oil in our stove-top popcorn maker and add two kernels. Once those pop, pour in the rest of the corn, sugar and cocoa powder. Stir regularly until it is all popped. When finished place in a bowl and add salt for that delicious blend of chocolate, sweet and salty!

If you are making this for read-aloud time, be sure and reserve some for yourself, otherwise they will devour everything and you will get nothing.  Trust me on this!

So what are we reading right now?  Earlier this month we read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  It was an amazing experience.  This last week we started reading a book about Johannes Kepler.  This is a bit of a stretch for the two younger boys {popcorn helps here}, but Xander and I are loving reading about this man’s great faith in God, his love for science and his willingness to ask questions and challenge the status quo.

What are you reading right now?
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* some affiliate links included.

10 Tips for Helping Your Picky Eaters

10 tips to help your picky eater start making better food choices.  It's worth the effort!

Oftentimes, someone will tell us how ‘lucky’ we are that our children eat so well.  But the fact is, luck has NOTHING to do with it.   It’s taken a lot of hard work, consistency and a little creativity thrown in as we’ve encouraged them to venture out and try new things.

But we weren’t always here…

Wide-eyed and new to this whole getting-a-toddler-to-eat thing, I remember asking an experienced mama her secret to getting all 5 of her boys to eat just about anything she put in front of them, including lots and lots of veggies.

Her simple response: “I expect it.”

I was left scratching my head a little.  This seemed daunting, but we were determined to work on it.

Now four kids later, they will eat nearly everything that we put in front of them…  because we expect it!

While there are still days that they begrudgingly eat, go on an eating strike and/or complain, it has been fascinating to watch them acclimate and actually enjoy eating healthy, nourishing foods with gusto.

Today I’m going to explain how we got here and how we are continuing help our children cultivate a taste for healthy food!

So without further ado, here are my top 10 tips!

1. Expect It!

Ok, ok, I just told you I would give you more than this, but it is important to have the end goal in mind. What do you expect?  You are the parent.  And yes, you can and should expect them to eat what you offer. Our children will rise to our expectations.

2. Small Portions!

When introducing a new food, we start with small portions.  They are required to ‘try’ it.  Our children each have preferences.  While we try to honor these to some extent, we’ve also taught them that they need to take at least a few bites.  We try to make this fun by issuing our boys the challenge of ‘training their tastebuds’ just as an athlete would train.

3. Give Them Better Choices.

If you were to ask my children if they would rather have a carrot or a cupcake, they’d take the cupcake each time.  The key here is to empower your children by giving them choices that are a win-win.

What not to do: Would you like a carrot or goldfish for your afternoon snack?
How about:

  • snack time: “Would you like pepper strips, carrots or cucumber slices?”
  • after dinner dessert: “Would you like an apple or an orange?”
  • oh, you’re still hungry: “I have sliced veggies in the fridge.”

My boys, even at their tender young age eat A LOT.  We’ve already been eyeballing our food budget and preparing for the teenage years.  While we set limits on carb foods and even fruit, there is an open-fridge policy for fresh veggies!

As I shared a few years ago, we’ve had great success in the veggie department when we are out and about.  For some reason, when we go to the zoo, they have voracious appetites.  Since veggies are the only snacks I pack, except for an occasional piece of fruit, they’ve acclimated to pounding enormous quantities of veggies in the form of red pepper strips, carrots, cucumber slices or peas.  Even if they are not currently into those veggies at home, I’ve found that if that disappear quickly when that is the only option on the road.

4. Give them a Reason: Nutrition Education

Taking lessons from Eat Healthy, Feel Great and going on a green/red/yellow light hunt at the grocery store.

It must be the homeschooler in me, but just about EVERYTHING in life becomes an opportunity to learn.  And that is certainly the case here.  We really hit a turning point in their attitude towards food when we equipped them with the ‘why’ behind nourishing food!  We fell in love with Dr. Sears book, Eat Healthy, Feel Great.  It has been read over and over again.  They actually understood ‘why’ we should put good food into our bodies and the concepts of food that helps them GO (and what boy does not want to GO), foods that slow us down and foods that stop us.  I blogged about our nutrition learning adventures with this fun book that literally had my kids begging for broccoli.

Long-term, if we want them to own healthy eating choices (or any choices for that matter) we really need to give them a reason to embrace good decisions beyond just ‘because I said so.’

5. Eat to Learn-Learn to Eat  

I’m a big fan of engaging the senses during our homeschool adventures and that includes our taste buds!  I always try and play up the adventure and encourage them to at least ‘try’ it!  We’ve eaten George Washington’s breakfast, foraged in our suburban neighborhood so that we could make pancakes out of mesquite pods and eaten Chinese, Mexican and Indian foods as we travelled the world during our geography unit.  While we’ve had a few flubs, these kinds of culinary explorations usually pay off.

6. Let Them Help

Bringing our kids into the process goes a long way to developing healthy eaters.

This powerful option was on full display tonight as I was getting ready for dinner.  My four-year old is all about helping me in the kitchen right now.  He loved peeling the carrots and pretty soon his brothers were peeling too so they could all have a pre-dinner snack.  Peeling is a great motor skill for those preschoolers of ours and a wonderful way to get them invested in the process.  They still love making cucumber boats and sailing them right into their mouth and down into hungry tummies! We’re also big fans of the apple-ring sandwiches!

I’ve been convicted in this area a lot recently and it has been paying huge dividends as let them do more in the kitchen.

7. Make It a Competition

Now I’m not sure how this would fare with the girls in your family, but our boys thrive on competition.  I used this to my advantage a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to unload the rest of the broccoli.

Mom: Who wants another serving of broccoli.
Boys: “me”
“not me”
“not me”

Mom {in a moment of brilliance}: “Fabulous.  Xander and I will definitely out-race you both   tomorrow after eating our extra servings of green-light foods!”
Boys: no comment, just a mad rush to claim rest of broccoli!

We’ve used many a variation on this theme!

8. Find Fun Names

When my boys were really young, Rich and I found that much of our sons pickiness was mental and if we were creative in naming foods, we could circumvent his picky inclinations.

So we eat

  • Snowball Soup
  • Cowboy food  {finally got past the squash aversion with this one}
  • cheesy triangles -cheese crisps
  • trees-broccoli {actually this didn’t fool him when he was young, but it has been quite effective with our third born.}
  • flaming swords – red pepper strips

And our newest one we want to try: “Rabbit Food”.  A friend of mine told me her kids all gather around pretending they are bunnies and nibble on bits of romaine lettuce.  I’m intrigued!

Of course, sometimes even the best plans can totally flop.  My kids still don’t like raw cabbage, even when it came to creating boats.  While not full-proof, this can still be quite effective.

9. Have a Plan

My personal nemesis when it comes to eating better as a family is having a plan.  Since I’m busy with homeschooling and everything else, I’m usually too tired to even think come dinner time.  The habit that has saved me is creating a meal rotation to take the ‘think work’ out of dinner prep.  I have a 6 week spring/summer plan and a 6 week fall/winter plan. It has made life easier and we actually eat something for lunch other than pb&j from time to time…

10. Try, Try Again…

trytryagain

And finally, it is important to keep on trying.  It can be discouraging at times, but it has been neat to see our persistence paying off!   If you keep offering them good food choices, they will acclimate.

This is still a work in progress for our family, especially now that we have a toddler in the house again… I’d love to hear what has worked in your home.  I’m always looking for new tips!

linking up with: Hearts for Home

Summer Salad Love

 

Meal Planning a fall/winter and spring/summer 4-6 week meal rotation can keep a busy mother sane!

Life is crazy busy right now.  Which is why I do crazy things like spontaneously invite our new neighbor and her son over for lunch.  We are all pretty thrilled to have a neighbor who is under 10 on our street.  The boys raced circles around him and took him on a grand tour of our home several times. {I hope he doesn’t tell his mother about the mounds of dirty laundry on the floor upstairs waiting to go into the wash.}  He seemed to actually enjoy the chaos and is excited to join the boys tomorrow morning for an ‘adventure‘ in the retention basin across the street!  I’m thrilled because he seems to be a really nice kid and his mother is just delightful!

So with everything that is going on, this little offering will be it for the week!  A few weeks ago, I shared on facebook about my new meal-planning strategy that I implemented this last year and was blown away by the response.  Looks like I’m not the only one who wants to simplify life in that department.

When my eating turned upside down this last year with Greta’s initial severe food sensitivities and allergies, I started getting really desperate.  I felt like I was literally spending ALL day in the kitchen, either preparing fresh food or doing all of the dishes from all of that food preparation…  I was also initially trying to make familiar foods for the rest of the family, while I prepared my chicken, rice and veggies for myself.  I know that something had to give.  So I put together a 6 week meal rotation so that I wouldn’t have to take the time to plan each and every week what we would eat.  I left weekends free for catch-up or trying a new recipe {because I’m forever getting bored with same-ol’, same-‘ol}.  I love it.  I keep it in a page protector taped above my calender – classy, I know.  That way I can just flip it over when I’m ready to view the next three weeks of meals.  It’s helped simplify my grocery planning and finally helped us get out of my post-partum rut of serving the kids pb&j every day for lunch.

Many of you asked for a copy of my 6 week meal rotation.  I figured out how to upload it, so here is the format I used if any of you want to snag it and then personalize it for your family!  It’s nothing extravagant.  But it has helped restore some semblance of sanity over here!

But that is not all I want to give you this week.  Here are two of my favorite {maindish-ish} summer salads!

With temperatures in the toasty 100’s, I’m turning my oven off.  My sister and I dubbed last year the ‘summer of salads’.  I made it my goal to not only eat more fresh veggies, but seriously work on getting my kids to as well.   I’m thrilled to pull out these cool lunches again!

Given our obsession with mexican food it is no wonder that this black bean and quinoa salad quickly became a family favorite.  We’ll eat it by itself at lunch and with a mexican entree for dinner!

Enjoy!

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken stock (I’m sold on making my own.  So easy and chock-full of nutrition.)
  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 6-8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 c fresh cilantro
  • 1 c frozen or fresh-cooked corn kernels.
  • 3 c cooked black beans or 2 cans, drained.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Directions

  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil and stir in quinoa.  Turn down heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile in a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, vinegar and cumin.  Add green onions, red pepper, cilantro, corn and beans.  Toss to coat.
  3. Add cooked quinoa to the bowl with the vegetables and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.

This dish is easy-peasy.  Like the one above, it tastes great warm or cold.  I like to double this so we have leftovers.  I’ll serve it with grilled chicken or just as a stand-alone main dish with a fruit salad!  It is my potluck standby!

Black-Eyed Bliss

* 1 Tb grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
* 1 c. cold cooked rice (I use brown rice or I’ll sub in quinoa)
* 1 c. frozen corn (my sister prefers using fresh corn cut off the cob. I usually opt for the time-saver)
* 1/2 tsp. thyme
* 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
* 1/8 tsp. ground red pepper (If you don’t like spice, I could but this down a bit.)
* 1 1/2 c cooked black-eyed peas or 1 can (rinsed and drained)
* 3-4 c. torn spinach

Heat oil. Add all ingredients but spinach. Stir fry 3-4 minutes. Add spinach and stir for 1-2 minutes.  All done and ready to eat!

Mesquite Gathering, Mesquite Eating!

Anyone who has known me for long, knows that I talk big about gardening and even make attempts every few years with sub-par to abysmal results.  I’m at it again, trying to get the soil prepared for a fall garden because hope springs eternal that I’ll banish the black thumb someday.

In the meantime, I finally decided to pursue something else that has piqued my curiosity for several years – foraging.  For years I’ve had this itch to make something with the abundance of mesquite seed pods that we find each summer…

This week I finally stopped daydreaming about it and decided to give it a whirl.

The boys helped me collect mesquite pods.  We carefully inspected them for signs of insect holes and brought them home, washed them up and then set them in a still warm oven to sit overnight.

We remembered back to our adventures 2.5 years ago when we learned about the Tohono O’Odham indians here in Arizona and how they would grind mesquite pods.  We knew we weren’t that ambitious, so I pulled up the internet to search for a better way to make mesquite flour.  I came across this insightful post written by Frugally Sustainable, a fellow Arizona blogger! 

This morning we set to work breaking up pieces and placing them in our Blendtec!  The kids were so intrigued at the thought of having mesquite pancakes!  It put them all in a goofy mood.  I’ve had an off-kilter day or two and their silly antics worked wonders in helping me to lighten up!  How can you not smile at faces like this?

Mesquite pancakes were our first order of business.  Cooking time was much higher than regular pancakes, but they were well worth the wait.  Even my hubby, who is {understandably} leary of some of my experiments declared them tasty!

Inspired by my brunch success, we tackled mesquite flour tortillas for dinner!!! The unique flavor of the mesquite and the zip from the cayenne I added to the dough were well, A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!!!!!!
We inhaled our southwest meal and all of us looked around longingly for more.   Which meant quickly departing for our nightly walk to forage some more! 
UPDATE:
* The mesquite pods ended up chipping the walls of my blender a bit.  So I’m not sure if we’ll be pursuing that avenue of getting mesquite flour again.
* This site provides a lot of info and they even have community events in Phoenix and Tucson every October and November where you can grind your mesquite pods into flour with their heavy-duty mill.
*These recipes for pancakes and tortillas inspired me.  I replaced the dairy and eggs in the pancakes and upped the mesquite flour and switched in 1/2 c mazo (corn flour).
*Greta had a rough weekend and it turns out that her poor little tummy can’t handle the mesquite, so we are on a definite break from this yummy flour for a while.

Popcorn in the Park

The Daily Outdoor Challenge - rejuvinates the soul, awakens the mind!

Week 4 of my Daily Outdoor Challenge is behind us and I believe we’ve finally hit our stride. Habit is beginning to take over and it is normal to head out nearly every morning and evening to explore, run and play WITH my kids. I’m embarrassed at how easily I had grown out of that habit. My 10 year old self would have been wagging her tomboy finger at my 32 year old mommy self… Outdoor play is not only good for them, it is good for me!

Want to join us? Read about the Daily Outdoor Challenge here. Select a goal. Mine is a minimum of 30 minutes outdoors playing/exploring WITH my kids through the summer. And then come back and link up your blog or share in the comments about what your family did this week.

This week we started a new tradition.  We are all pretty excited about it and will continue it as long as we aren’t melting.  We will probably break from it in July and August when the humidity rises above 10%, but for now we are loving Sunday evenings with “Popcorn in the Park”.

The boys jabbered about it all day.  Anticipation was high.  We quickly popped some of our yummy Kettle Corn and set out, bowl of sweet and salty goodness in hand and enjoyed some time at our neighborhood park!

I’m just loving how this Daily Outdoors Challenge is causing us to think, get creative and intentional about spending time together outdoors!

Do you have a hankering for some of your own sweet and salty kettle corn?  Here’s how we make ours!

Kettle Corn

{affectionately referred to as “Cinnamon Popcorn” in our home}
{Thanks goes to Camille at Flowers in His Garden for the inspiration to experiment with making our own!}

1/4 c coconut oil
1/8-1/4 c sugar (I’ve worked us down to 1/8 c.  If you like it sweeter, the original recipe calls for 1/4c)
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon (the magic ingredient)
1/2 c popping corn
salt to taste

We heat the oil in our stove-top popcorn maker and add two kernels.  Once those pop, pour in the rest of the corn, sugar and cinnamon.  Stir regularly until it is all popped.  When finished place in a bowl and add salt for that perfect mix of sweet and salty!

I experimented with using honey instead yesterday and it wasn’t nearly the same.  I think we’ll go ahead and stick with this tried and true version.

Friday
Remember when we went collecting seed pods last week?  Well, this morning we spent some time exploring those seeds.  We shook the pods and experimented with different methods of extracting the seeds.  Using a rock to open the pods was the preferred method.  We discovered that each pod contained between 16-22 seeds.  I gave the boys little baggies for their seeds and they enjoyed this activity for quite a while.  I’m not surprised.  I found extracting acacia seeds oddly therapeutic and went to work smashing pods and counting seeds!

Saturday
There is something so perfect about taking a twilight stroll to the park, hand-in-hand with my hubby with our boys racing around in front of us and pushing the stroller with Greta.  It was one of those moments when I breathed it all in and took a mental snapshot that I can revisit over and over again…  Riding bikes, swinging and chasing Killdeer.   Treyton and I had so much fun playing with two Killdeer.  The birds kept teasing us by dropping to the ground and singing until we began chasing them.  Then they would fly up in the air, taunt us for a bit before landing again about 20 feet away.  I’ve never experience this kind of bird behavior before, although I’ve read that they can do this when trying to lure you AWAY from their nest.  Since we were in the middle of a school field, I can’t imagine that they would even attempt to nest there…

Sunday
This evening we walked to a neighborhood park again for “Popcorn in the Park!”

Monday
With Memorial Day on our minds, we called and surprised my grandfather (a retired Army colonel) with dinner to eat on his back porch while listening to the birds chirp.  He has beautiful rose bushes and a typically peaceful backyard which attracts all kinds of birds.  We ended the evening by taking a dip in the pool.

Tuesday
We discover that a baby mourning dove, who isn’t quite able to fly, has fallen into our backyard.  This baby and its mother have taken up residence under and around the bushes along our back fence.  We enjoyed watching them and seeing how close we could get without disturbing them.

Wednesday
We are incorporating morning work-outs and since the weather was still so nice, we did those outside.  Nothing like running relays with my kids to realize how much I need to exercise.

Our relays disrupt the two mourning doves, so we modify them, so the birds aren’t too flustered.

Thursday
Back out for more relays and calisthenics!  We grab the binoculars and spy on the two mourning doves again.  That baby is getting bigger and bigger.  We hypothesize that they won’t be stuck on the ground much longer.

ApPEELing Food

My sisters and I nicknamed last summer – the summer of the salads.  We had fun trying all different kinds and I was quite pleased with how my children took to them as well.
The last several months have turned my eating upside down – in the best kind of ways!  While I’ve been making incremental adjustments to our diet for a couple of years, these changes took a drastic shift after Greta’s vast amount of food sensitivities in her first few months.   I love the idea of eating healthier, but preparing fresh food for each and every meal when you can’t utilize dairy, gluten and most all packaged foods anymore can be a LOT of work.  
So when I find a yummy, nourishing and EASY lunch idea, we run with it.  The beauty of our newest favorite lunch is that the kids make most of it.
I don’t know why I hadn’t thought to let them have-at-it with a peeler before.  Seriously.  Meal prep help, plus honing fine-motor skills! 
They had so much fun.  Not only did they peel the cucumbers I needed, but the carrots for dinner later that night and then begged to peel more.  As long as boys would eat peeled carrots, I gave my consent to peel the rest of the bag…  Their vitamin A quota for the day was exceeded.  I’m sure of it. 
After my failed attempt at Cabbage Boats last fall, we found Cucumber Boats to be much more to every one’s liking.
Cucumber Boats
  • Peel a cucumber and slice in half, lengthwise.  (We are all big eaters and can pound two boats – an entire cucumber, each.)
  • Give your kids a spoon and let them scoop out the seeds.  {If they beg you to let them eat the seedy pulp, shrug and give consent.}
  • Sprinkle with basil. 
  • Top with slices of avocado and nitrate-free lunch meat (I’m sure grilled chicken slices would be tasty too).  I’m thinking thinly sliced tomato might be good on this too and plan on trying that this week! 
  • If your kids are feeling artistic, they could fashion their own sails like we did with our cabbage boats.  But if they are like mine, there will be a high demand for immediate consumption.

What are you all eating for lunch these days?

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Plans Gone Awry…

Sometimes the best of plans still go awry…

That was most certainly the case at my home last week.  My sister had served one of my favorite chicken salads in little napa cabbage ‘boats’ a couple of weeks ago and I fell in love with them.  Cabbage has been the big thing I’ve craved this pregnancy.  So I decided to share the love with my family…

To get the boys excited about this new voyage (we normally serve this in pita’s or on a bed of lettuce), I decided to make them ‘officially’ into boats.

They were thrilled with the prospect of decorating their sails.

And loved the look of their completed boats…
 They were even excited to eat them…

Until they took that first bite of raw cabbage.  Four out of five in my family did not care for the meal combination…
Looks like I’m adrift on my own with this fascination with cabbage.  Hopefully, I’ve laid the groundwork for Greta though…  I’ve certainly eaten enough of it over the last 8 months.
Related Posts:

Cultivating Taste…

Cultivating the palate is something we’ve worked very hard on in our home.  I remember when Xander was a toddler and being in awe of a friend with 4 boys who all pounded their veggies.  I remember asking her what the trick was since her youngest was just 7 months older than Xander.  She told me that they didn’t have a choice it was that or nothing.  It helped that this young boy had 3 older brothers and parents who ate healthy, well balanced meals. 

Now that we are nearly 7 years into our parenting journey, I’m really starting to see the fruit of offering my children healthy options over and over an over again without alternatives.  It certainly hasn’t been easy.  Given the choice, my kids would choose soda, twinkies, pretzels, fish crackers, etc over fruit, vegetables, non-processed foods and water.  But I’ve found that persistence pays off!
If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again definitely applies to this area of parenting…
This last year they’ve learned to love spinach – mostly because of this salad which pairs spinach with one of their favorite fruits – strawberries!  A few days ago we polished off almost 8 cups of spinach between the 4 of us at lunch one day!
It was so much fun to hear them begging for another helping!!!

Even the three year old who still spurns the veggies from time to time ate with relish. 

We regularly tell the boys that they are ‘training’ their taste buds to like food that will make them big, strong and smart!  Those nutrition lessons that they learned last year when we studied nutrition are still paying huge dividends.  And I always remind myself that we are helping to train their tastes now that will help them form healthy eating habits for the rest of their lives.

Here’s our recipe:
Strawberry Spinach Salad
*2 Tbs sugar
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 2 1/2 TB white wine vinegar
*1/2 c vegetable oil (although I’ve switched to using Grapeseed oil)
* 1/2 TBS poppy seeds

Combine ingredients and shake well.
Add to a bed of spinach, toasted almonds and diced strawberries!  Enjoy!

My sister is always an inspiration in the eating healthy department.  Following her lead, I’ve been incorporating more salads and vegetables into our lunch routine.  While the kids could subsist on PB & J, I’m trying to branch out and make healthier lunches for them.  Since we are staying home a lot more this summer to escape the heat, my plan is working well for the time being.  It also helps for me to take baby steps in moving my family towards more wholesome eating.  So inch by inch, we are all learning to make healthier food choices.

Now of course, I’m not totally hard-core yet.  I’m off now to make {whole-wheat} dough for cinnamon rolls to eat in the morning!  Balance, right?  This makes for a VERY happy hubby…

I’m always looking for new lunch options, so if you have any that your family enjoys, let me know! 

Also, has anyone read Nourishing Traditions?  I just started it last week and it has been very eye-opening.  It was well worth the 3 month wait to get it from the library and I’m putting it on my ‘will eventually buy’ list.

No foolin…

Temperatures here in the Arizona desert topped 100 degrees today. :sigh:  It seems so weird to see headlines talking about another snowstorm on the east coast…

This has nothing to do with the remainder of my post.  It’s just that the first day over 100 is sort of a moment to note, especially when it comes so early in the year.

I’ve been a negligent blogger of late.  Sorry.  Life has a way of just getting really, really busy.  Add throwing a birthday party on top of a crazy weekend, a scary pregnancy episode, a visit from my midwife (I heart home visits) a trip to get an ultrasound, trying to take it easy, general pregnancy exhaustion, changes in our homeschool schedule and a writing project (that is finally done) makes those extra ‘normal’ blogging hours drop to nil.

But I’m going to make it up to you tonight by sharing my newest {not so guilty} sweet indulgence!

I’m trying to really cut back on the sugar.  I’ve had blood sugar issues with the first pregnancy and some serious weight gain in the third (due to lack of blood sugar issues so an over indulgence of sweets + lots of bedrest).

Freezer Coconut Fudge
{sugar free pure deliciousness}

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsweetened, natural peanut butter or almond butter (I used a mix of both because I ran out of pb)  
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4-1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup honey (I’m going to experiment with using a little less next time.)

Mix together all ingredients. Place parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spread mix out until 1/4-1/2 inch thick.  

Place fudge in freezer. Let set for about 30 minutes.

Break into pieces and try not to eat all of it at once!  Store remaining pieces in freezer until ready to serve.

I’ll be back to ‘normal’ blogging next week, Lord willing!

Heading South of the Border…

…metaphorically speaking.

In our journey around the world, we decided to stop and explore North America first.  For the last two days, we’ve explored the country of Mexico.  In our house, we consider Mexican food a staple in our diet – just right below fruits and veggies!  But the boys haven’t explored the culture much past the food until now.
To begin our day, we re-read some of our favorite books, Hill of Fire -based on the ‘birth’ of the Paricutin volcano in Mexico and Off We Go to Mexico – a delightful rhyming overview of Mexico!
Then we set out to get our homemade refried beans going.  Xander (almost 6) helped measure out the beans and sort out the rotten one’s as well as remove any rocks.  Keegan (almost 4) enjoyed pouring in water (a classic montessori preschool activity).
We were planning a ‘Fiesta’ to celebrate daddy’s first week at his new job!  So we set out to our local Mexican ‘mercado’ to get ingredients for tostada’s and fresh salsa. 
After much preparations, we were ready for his return and our fiesta!
It was a nice way to end our day.
To have a bit of a fiesta yourself, try one of my two favorite salsa recipes!
Traditional Salsa
*2 (8oz) cans tomato sauce
* 2 (15oz) cans chopped tomatoes
*1-3 green chilis
*1-3 yellow chilis
*2-4 jalepenos
*1 cup cilantro (stems removed)
*4 green onions
*1 t oregano, cumin and garlic powder
*1 T lemon juice
*salt and pepper to taste
Blend all put chopped tomatoes well in a blender.  Add chopped tomatoes last and blend to desired consistency.
Peggy’s Salsa
(especially for those that don’t have access to fresh chilis)
*2 whole tomatoes – peeled and chopped
*3-4 green onions, finely chopped.
*1 sm can chopped olives
*3 Tbs olive oil
*1 1/2 Tbs vinager
*1 tsp garlic salt
*salt and pepper to taste
*tobasco – hot as desired
Combine and let stand for 4 hours or longer! 
ENJOY!