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.

Learning in Layers

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how learning occurs in layers.  As each layer is placed down, it enriches and enables the next layer to be added.

Layers is the whole reason why we embarked this summer on our study of world geography.  As we studied Native Americans and frontiersmen this last spring, I noticed that Xander was finding it difficult to relate to maps, regions and the concept of travel.  So we decided to lay down a layer of world geography and map awareness.  It’s been awesome.

Another layer that we’ve been exploring is our own bodies!  In an impromptu kind of way!

The boys received this puzzle as a gift. 

It is 5 puzzles in one, that is put together… in layers!  Of course, this makes it too complicated for Treyton (2.5) to figure out.   But Keegan (4) and Xander (6) are loving it and we’ve been able to talk about the different layers in our bodies!  There is a girl version of this puzzle too!  It looks like they used my niece as the model! 🙂  I also love the implicit pro-life message in the ‘Mother Body’ puzzle. 

We loved the book, Me on the Map, and were inspired to make our own map books.  She’s written a whole series of books like this.  Including this one on the human body.  There are so many wonderful directions you could go after reading this book.  We could trace our body outline on butcher paper and then draw in organs, muscles, bones…  I have fond memories of the anatomy apron I did as a kid.  For now, I think we’ll just settle for the book and our puzzle!  Keeping it simple…

Food sculptures

All of this talk of food, nutrition and teaching our children, reminded me of something my sister had written a while back.  She has graciously agreed to ‘guest post’ here.  What a powerful lesson in modeling to our children and yet also holding expectations lightly and allow them to express themselves artistically in an open-ended, oftentimes abstract way.  Finding that balance between modeling how to do something and allowing them to explore and discover for themselves is an art.  This is definitely a skill I’m still working on…

I’m also reminded to be grateful for the mothers who have gone before us and the wisdom they have to offer.  I have several women like this in my life and am better off because of their love, insight and friendship.


When I read about this activity on Heather’s blog, I wanted to do it immediately in spite of E’s age (2.5 years old) and inability to accurately recreate the play-doh food, and I was encouraged by a note my mother-in-law sent me around that time that said,

“When I saw the precious picture of Evangeline painting, I instantly thought of something I learned somewhere in my reading when Arthur was new. It is really nothing you haven’t heard but made me keenly realize the power of modeling in a child’s development. The story, as well as I can recollect, was about a classroom where the teacher was instructing her students to make simple clay structures like balls and snakes and coiled baskets. One of her students wasn’t engaged but she dismissed it, thinking it was due to his learning disabilities. Later, she brought in a guest artist who spent a fair amount time in front of the children, not talking about his work, but actually working in the clay in a masterful way. The mentally slow child drank it all in, and soon got another opportunity to work in clay again without the previous parameters. Everyone was amazed at how he fashioned the clay with confidence and dexterity, though obviously as a novice and not a master. He had picked up some technique but more so, passion. Now this only happened because the boy had an inclination toward 3-D expression, granted. But how vital it was for him to see a master at work to even begin to unlock his potential.”

I went ahead with the activity, and it actually morphed into a delightful time for the both E and me. First, I pulled out our real-food samples. We talked about each one, whether it was a fruit or vegetable, it’s color and it’s shape. Then, E selected the color-appropriate play-doh and I made replicas and she made abstract versions of the produce. We discussed the difference between real and fake food, and she even sneaked a taste of the play-doh to prove to herself it was fake. We ended with a mini feast of the real stuff.


attorney turned stay-at-home mom of two kiddos (2.5 years and 15 months old), loving wife, crafter extraordinaire, fashion consultant (to me, anyways), best-friend sister to two of us!

Green Means Go!

Eat Healthy, Feel Great

Every once in a while, we unearth a true gem of a book.  Eat Healthy, Feel Great is one of them.

It explains the nuts and bolts of nutrition in a way that has my kids begging for broccoli, literally.  After our first read through of the book, the boys were hooked.  Every meal, every trip to the grocery store they would pepper me with questions and observations.

“Mom, will this cantaloupe give me sharp eyes? It has vitamin A, right?”

Chomp, chomp, chomp.

“Potato skins have iron, right mom?  Iron makes my blood better so I have more energy, right mom?” 

Previously hating everything potato related child, gobbles down a couple of bites.

These boys of mine are motivated.  They want to run faster, heal quicker, think well and have sharp eyes.

The book divides foods loosely into three camps:

Green Light Foods – that make you go, so you can go ahead and eat as much as you want.
Yellow Light Foods – that slow your body down and should be eaten in moderation.
Red Light Foods ~ that hurt your body and you should STOP eating them…

I love the page that talks about how yellow and red light foods can trick us with ingredients that maybe look or taste yummy, but hurt our bodies.  Green light foods can be tricky too by looking strange or tasting different and we need to train our taste buds to like them.  The boys loved the idea of ‘out-tricking’ the food.

Earlier today, we decided to make our own green/yellow/red lights before setting out for the grocery store!

The boys were so excited for their big ‘test’!  You should have seen them dancing around the produce section.  People were definitely stopping to take note…

One older gentleman asked us what was with the ‘green-light’ excitement.  When I told him what we were up to, he grabbed a bunch of spinach and asked the boys if it was a green light food.  They gave him a very excited YES.  His response – “Ok, I guess I’ll get two bunches.”

Of course, they haven’t totally arrived on liking everything veggie-related.  I paused in front of the spaghetti squash and they pretty well begged me to pass on it this time…

But there is progress and they understand ‘why’ they should eat healthy foods and why they should avoid unhealthy food.

(They still wanted their free cookie, even though they recognized that it was a yellow-light food.)

Then we came back home and made a favorite salad of ours.

I’m pinching myself.  The boys are pounding salad…  And for the first time ever, Treyton actually ate a few bites.  I love positive peer pressure.  This book will definitely need to be added to our permanent collection!

Related Links:

linked to: Preschool Corner

Slime Management

I love all things blood and guts related (hence my biology degree), except when it is coming from my kids.  Blood, especially if it is profuse, can send me into a panic and snot – well snot is just gross.   I’m bracing myself with the impending arrival of cold/flu season. 

Between last post and this one, can you tell, I really don’t like having sick kids?  I also am not a big fan of the flu shot and medication if it can be helped, so I’m always on the lookout for natural preventative measures and treatments.

Last year, we found our color-coded hankies worked REALLY well.  So well, that I’ll be making myself a set this year!  With  segregated cups, quarantined hankies, nutritious food (yes, that post is coming) and great hand washing technique I think we’ll be armed and ready!

So here’s a repost of what I did last winter.

One of the drawbacks of parenthood is getting slimed. I’d be willing to guess that anyone living with toddlers knows EXACTLY what I’m talking about.

Some kids are worse than others in this department. Middle son would fall in the ‘worse’ end. He not only has used us for a tissue, but also my sofa’s, walls, carpet, etc… (No hands involved. Purely nose to surface contact for a big long swipe.)


Add to that the fact that when one child gets sick, it usually ends up making the rounds…

That is where my obsession with color coding has come in handy!

Enter the color-coded flannel hanky’s!

I took the boys to the fabric store and let them pick out fabrics and then cut out 12×12 squares and hemmed them. It was easy and now the boys know that their slime only goes in their specific hanky.

And Keegan loves the hanky’s so much he now only swipes the sofa every once in a blue moon…

For the rest of our ‘germ prevention’ unit, check this out.

Germ Prevention

A fun and powerful object lesson to help kids understand the importance of hand washing!

With flu season quickly approaching and the boys recent interest in nutrition, we thought we’d revisit basic hand-washing technique and help them understand WHY it is so important.  So here you go.

We have been working towards keeping sickness at a minimum this year. So I jumped at the chance to use this as an opportunity to teach the boys about germs and how to prevent their spread.

I find it ironic that just as I’m getting ready to wrap this little study up, we get waylaid with sickness. Poor Treyton came down with a stomach bug the night I posted last… And then 4 days later, Xander came down with the ‘spits.’ I guess it provided an excellent opportunity to review all we had learned about germs and put into practice what the boys have learned about stopping the spread of germs.

Xander has been walking around today telling anyone who would listen that his white blood cells were ‘eating’ the germs and he was feeling better!

Aside from using proper techniques when using our new homemade hanky’s and only drinking out of our own color-coded cups, we also tried to make the presence of germs a little more concrete and hands-on for them.

We resorted to the tried and true cinnamon wash.

To do this:

    • Rub little hands with a bit of vegetable oil
    • Sprinkle with cinnamon ‘germs’. This works best with a thin dusting of cinnamon. (As you can see in the picture at the top, it got sort of clumpy on Keegan and didn’t work quite as well.) Be sure to warn them not to touch their nose or eyes while the cinnamon is on their hands.
    • Have child try washing hands with only water and watch for the frustration to build as they can’t get the ‘germs’ off.
  • Here is your ‘teaching moment’. “Wow, your hands are still pretty icky. Why don’t we try adding some soap and warm water?”

  • Follow-up with adding soap. Explain that the soap helps to dislodge the germs so that you can wash them down the drain.
  • Remind them that real germs are so small we can’t see them, but like the cinnamon ‘germs’, they won’t come off unless we wash with BOTH soap and water.

We’ve been working with them on washing their hands frequently and thoroughly. It has been helpful to have them sing a song while they are scrubbing to ensure that they are washing them long enough to dislodge the germs.

After a week of barf buckets, I think they are ready to apply proper technique!

They have loved reading the following books:
WASH YOUR HANDS! ~ This is a great entry level book about the importance of washing your hands and when to wash them. The boys didn’t seem to mind that the central character was a princess and they laughed about the various situations where she needed to wash her hands. It doesn’t get into the facts on germs, but makes them out to be fanciful, yet fearful unseen monsters called – germs and nasties.
Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo
Felicity Floo Visits the Zoo ~ This charming book about the (make-believe) ‘origins’ of the flu talks about how germs are spread. The boys loved finding the gooey hand prints Felicity Floo left all over the zoo. This book blends really well with the cinnamon wash as a way to communicate how germs can be passed along.
Germs Make Me Sick!
Germs Make Me Sick! ~ The boys loved this factual introduction to the world of germs. It explains the difference between bacteria and virus’, precautions we can take to keep germs out and how the body is equipped to fight off germs once they get in. It was in a very easy to understand format and Xander loved it!
Achoo: The Most Interesting Book You'll Ever Read About Germs

Achoo: The Most Interesting Book You’ll Ever Read About Germs ~ this book is definitely for an older crowd, but the boys enjoyed it in small doses and Dad really enjoyed reading it to them!

More in this series on health/nutrition:

Begging for Broccoli

They did, they really did.  This is definitely an occasion for pulling out the milestone books for the kids.

We discovered a gem of a book this summer on nutrition.  The kids love it and what’s even better they ‘get’ it!  Sorry for the sneak peak, but you’ll just have to wait until next week when I’m ready to divulge my secret and talk about our foray into nutrition!  With flu season and holiday sweets right around the corner, I can’t imagine a better time to learn about health and nutrition! 

After reading the book again this last week, Keegan was so excited about going shopping for veggies!  He specifically requested broccoli.  He was actually begging for it!  Hahahaha…  In his excitement about the super healing power of vitamin c, he forgot his dislike of this particular veggie.

Excitement is contagious!
Although new tastes have yet to be fully acquired…

Still, they are talking non-stop about the super-powers of good food! 
And they are convinced that their muscles are bigger already! 

Can’t you tell?

p.s. Don’t ask why I had a grasshopper and bumblebee to dinner tonight.  We aren’t quite sure ourselves.

Where Art and Eating Meet

Playdough is so versatile!  This week we’ve been playing around with color mixing!  It is so much more fun to discover things for oneself than to just be told what’s true…
So we set out to find out what happens when you mix blue and yellow.
It was hard work…
Mixing, mixing, mixing.
Look mom, it’s the same color as peas! 🙂
And blue + red?
Our new colors inspired food-like thoughts…
And put everyone in the mood for a healthy snack!
The things I do to encourage healthy eating habits!
Our favorite playdough recipe (thanks Gin!)
1 c. flour
1/2 c salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 c water (room temp)
1 Tbsp veg oil
1 packet kool-aid (must be no sugar kind) or food dye
In saucepan, mix dry ingredients.  Add water, oil.
Cook over medium heat, stiring constantly about 3 minutes or until it pulls away from the pan. 
Knead and store in airtight container.