Pleasing Picky Pants…Oven Baked Carrot Fries

I have an unwritten policy as regards dinner planning in my house. It’s important to remind you all that I am the mother of one VERY picky eater. When I say picky I don’t just mean that she makes faces when she eats or that she really loves the foods that all children love most.  When I say picky I mean my daughter has about 5 foods in the world that she enjoys, the rest is either nearly tolerable or yucky. We spend a LOT of time in nearly tolerable. When I plan a few days worth of meals I attempt to ensure that at least every few days I make something that Ms. Picky Pants might actually almost enjoy (even if it’s not one of the top 5). If I know the main dish isn’t anywhere near the top 5, I try to make up for it with sides she might like to ensure some level of dinner time tranquility. Which brings us to tonight.

Having backed myself into a grocery corner by running out of time yesterday, I was committed to having my beloved nutshroom burgers. I should mention that Mr. Little Sis and I both love these. My son is not enthusiastic, but is accepting. My daughter USED to love these burgers. That’s the other thing I should tell you about the top 5 foods Ms. Picky Pants enjoys. They rotate out on a daily basis. I’m not making this up. In response to “I thought you liked this dish sweetie,” my daughter will say “I DID like it before, but I DON’T like it today.” Yes, she is going to be the death of me. You can, perhaps, now also see why I don’t accommodate her preferences more than I do. I’d have to actually know what her preferences are on that day to even consider accommodating her. I digress.

 photo IMG_0670.jpgIn order to make the nutshroom burger dinner a pleasant experience I had decided to make oven fries. Many problems can be solved with my oven fries. When the time came to get started this evening, I realized that I had failed to procure the needed spuds. My own garden spuds are not quite ready for fry size, so I decided to do some creative improvising. Internet search engine to the rescue. Carrot fries coming up, thanks to William Sonoma.

In the end, these were not as fry-like as I would have liked, but if I had cooked them longer, they might have been. Regardless of the non-fry nature, these carrots were delicious. And we had a 75% approval rating, which in our house means it was a winner. And who knows, next time I make them, maybe everyone will like them. I only changed the recipe a little… I swear.

Oven Baked Carrot Fries

    •  photo IMG_0684.jpg1 1/2 pounds carrots (10 medium)
    • 2 T olive oil
    • 1/2 t sugar (I used coconut)
    • 1/2 t salt
    • Pinch of paprika

Preheat oven to 425.

Wash and peel carrots (I will not peel next time – why bother?). Cut into fry sized lengths. I cut them in half crosswise and then into vaguely fry sized pieces. I now acknowledge that the size of my fries may have been part of the non-fry result. Moving forward…

Place the cut carrots in large bowl with olive oil and seasoning. Place on large baking sheet (I used a jelly roll panand I DO love my jelly roll pans for just about everything – and no, I’ve not made a jelly roll, in fact don’t really know what a jelly roll is…) lined with tin foil. Spread out carrot fries as much as possible. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the carrots reach the right tenderness (or they seem like fries you lucky devil). Serve with world famous nutshroom burgers and a salad, or whatever you need to serve to make your picky pants okay with carrot fries. :-)
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Help for Hummingbirds : Kids & Real Food

I am feeling it a little bit lately, although I am trying to dodge and weave and can’t get ‘it’ in focus.  Like the hummingbird outside the window I just tried to photograph to share with you,  things are feeling kind of fuzzy.  I know that if I open the front door to get a shot from the front porch, she will probably fly away so I am enjoying her and will let you imagine her vibrant green back and her tiny wings that look thick with frenzied speed while the rest of her stays steady and immobile.  Apparently my steady, immobile persona still fools friends who are surprised anytime (and everytime) we eat anything less than perfectly nutritious, yet my wings are getting a bit tired with the attempt to provide healthy, real food in this culture.  So my hard edges as The Food Regulator (TFR) are beginning to blur a bit.

There is a hummingbird out there valiantly staying afloat against all odds.

There is a hummingbird out there valiantly staying afloat against all odds.

Not to complain, but between work, graduate school, TaeKwonDo (which my son and I do together) and home and family, I am starting to wear down a little.  I don’t tell you this for sympathy or “pride of busy-ness” (the 8th deadly sin),but because I am sure that many of you are similarly stretched.  There just isn’t enough time in the day to do all of the cooking and gardening that I used to do and would like to do.  So I have decided that a little controlled erosion is in order lest the whole mountain be undermined and bury us in an avalanche of mcnuggets, doritos and moon pies.

All right, I exaggerate, I don’t think our decline would be quite that drastic, but I will share with you the plan for maintaining my real food airspace and keeping those wings vibrating at mind numbing speed.

I’ve been ‘just saying, No’ for a long time – why is it harder now?  Much of the difficulty is time related, but it is also related to social situations.  My son, who is now 13, has a best buddy who I adore.   He is sweet, polite, eager and just all around a great kid.  A great kid who subsists on Taco Bell and Dr. Pepper.  Several of the times he has spent the night he has gone home without breakfast because he wouldn’t eat anything that I had in the house.  I’m serious.  Not even my natural peanut butter and whole fruit / no sugar added jam on whole wheat bread….. not even whole grain pancakes with as much real maple syrup as his heart desired…. Not even Barbara’s Puffins.  I hate to lessen the chances that this kid is coming over to hang out.  My son has other friends who are also shocked at the selection in our ‘cafe’ (what’s that round red thing with a stem?) and I really would rather they hung out here at least some of the time so I get to know them….. and I know what they’re up to ;-).

This hummingbird needs some help.

My first step to getting back on track in a sane fashion is honesty with my family and the recruitment of help.  The honesty part comes in talking more about why we eat what we eat.  I learned that part of my son’s new-found energy in requesting pizza, chips or ice cream everyday is plain ol’ rebellion.  We had a long overdue discussion (with the hummingbird listening in) about why a kid as bright as he is, who is very focused on his athletic activities, continues to request poor, and even dangerous fuel for his wonderful body.  He admitted that he often talks lovingly of McDonald’s in my presence to irritate me.  We also discussed that perhaps buying lunch on Friday when the school has pizza is not a good idea if it gets him requesting pizza all of the time.  This was a powerful deterrent.  I suggested that perhaps he is an all or nothing guy when it comes to junk food, and since he isn’t going to get ‘all’ under my roof, perhaps we’d better try ‘nothing’.  This suggestion is what brought out the admission (without harsh lights or cigarette smoking detectives) that he partly talks about junk food to enjoy my reaction.  Ah yes, I will now think lovely thoughts, keep those wings moving and gracefully approach another lavender tinged flower while I savor the possibilities rather than peck out one of his eyes ;-)  So we are re-visiting discussing why we eat what we eat, what those foods do for us physically and remembering that one way to control the amount of junk food eaten is to eliminate it all together.

Next I am asking all of his friends who come over what kind of foods they like so that I can find some common ground.  The favorite friend likes scrambled eggs – and he thought that the organic eggs he ate at our house were the best he ever had.  Score one for the hummingbird!

As far as recruiting help, we all sat down this morning and planned out the next week and part of the following week of meals.  Everyone contributed suggestions, everyone helped look up recipes and a shopping list was created to reflect this plan and avoid extra trips to the store.  We have done this (and shared this with you) in the past, but we stopped doing it.  Hindsight reveals the power in planning our meals.  There is nothing like a break between semesters to get our act back in gear.  Here’s my trusty write-on-wipe-off planner.  I have 2 and they are magnets that go right on the refrigerator.  Pretty nifty:

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The upper entries of the first week spots are for what is going to school for lunch that day.  We will re-visit this plan next Sunday and complete next week and probably part of the next.

In addition, my son likes to bake and will bake some and my husband is picking out some crockpot recipes that he can handle (he’s an awesome dish washer….).  This leaves leftovers (always make extra!!!!) for lunches!

So honesty and recruitment have my wings beating a little stronger again.

Next, I am lowering the bar on a few things as the bar is currently too far above my head to reach.

- I no longer make almond milk.  We buy it.  I prefer the homemade with no additives at all, but there it is.

- I will not be baking much for school this year, and because I am working full time and we have a little extra money we will indulge in the ready-made treats from the more health conscious bakers at Nature’s Bakery, Larabar, Clif, and even Kashi since they agreed to stop using GMO ingredients in their products.  Basically I go into the health food section at my Kroger, look for sale signs, read labels, and get whatever is healthiest and slightly reasonable.  Not only does this satisfy the request for a sweet-ish thing with lunch, but because it is packaged it is apparently more socially acceptable.  I know, gag me with a spoon, but a little compromise is in order to keep this increasingly independent boy from utilizing all of his spending money to by junk food.

- The boys are eating more meat when I am not home.  I don’t like to eat much meat, we try to eat all organic meats and sustainable fishes but my boys really like their meat – so they eat it more often when I miss dinner because I am working a 12 hour shift at the hospital.  This is easier for them, and again, creates, rather than uses, leftovers which we use for lunch.

It’s coming back into focus now!

Honesty, help and a lower bar.  Still eating real food the vast majority of the time.

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I can see the flowers now that we are all looking together and now have the energy to stay aloft.  I have no illusions that the struggles are over but a re-set sure helps.  If you need a re-set for feeding your kids healthy stuff or addressing issues over school lunches and choices, check out these old posts:
Enabling the Lunchable
Small Mouths, Small Bites
Veggie-licious Snacks
Previous post about meal planning and snack packing

Keep beating those wings my friends, and please share some of your challenges and successes (or failures) in convincing kids to eat healthfully and/or feeding friends who are not accustomed to real food.

 

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF)

The garden continues to produce green squash at a startling rate. What a lovely problem to have. If the plants keep up like this I will surely shred and freeze a good bit of it for use in zucchini bread and mac and cheez in the colder months, but it’s nice to have some to use right now, today, when our thoughts are turning toward books, notebooks, pencils (I love the smell of new pencils) and  LUNCHBOXES. It is time for Momma to get busy making some reasonable goodies for those lunch boxes.

 photo IMG_0658.jpgWhile I was thinking about the need to start baking for school and noticing the abundant zucchini, the internet happened and mashed them together for me. I was inspired and responded with my usual “Ooooh, that looks good. What ingredients should I change?” The result got a straight yummy thumbs up from 3 of the 4 of us and even earned a “pretty good” from Ms. Picky Pants. That is a good cooking day in my house. Because of the lower fat content, these cookies are a little more biscuity than most, but ring all the necessary cookie bells to satisfy treat eaters who are willing to overlook the little flecks of green, which I think are beautiful, BTW. And so, without further ado, I give you…

Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies (DF) inspired by these beauties.

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  • 2 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar (I used turbinado)
  • 3 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 3/4 c applesauce
  • 1/4 + 1 T maple syrup
  • 4 T coconut oil
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c grated/shredded then chopped zucchini
  • 2 c chocolate chips of your choice (DF if that’s your thing)

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Before you get started with the other bits, I would suggest draining the zucchini. These squash hold a surprising amount of water that can leak out while cooking and produce a steaming effect on your food that is not always desirable. To do that, place the chopped zucchini (my little man suggested chopping it smaller after seeing the shreds – “too big for cookies Mom”) in a fine mesh sieve, adding a dash of salt, stir and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Then press with a spoon to release more water. The rest of the preparation here follows the usual cookie procedure of combining dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another and then joining the two. Combine the flour, baking soda, sugar, oats and salt in one bowl. Whisk to integrate. Combine eggs, applesauce, maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla in a smaller bowl and whisk to combine (this will be considerably easier if the applesauce is NOT super cold as that tends to harden the coconut oil). Add wet to dry and stir to combine. Add zucchini and stir to distribute. Add chips and stir to distribute.

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Place dough on parchment sheets in blobs approximately 1 1/2 Tbs large (I use one of these cookie scoops). Then gently press with a spoon or fork to flatten a bit (they will not do it on their own and your end result will be weird if you don’t). Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges have slightly browned. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for at least 3 minutes before transferring to wire cooling rack. You should eat one at this point, while the chocolate is still melty. Delish!

Pickled Green Beans

Our Pantry Penchants are sometimes quite clear.  We have toyed at times with re-naming the blog My Sister’s Sweet Potatoes…. My Sister’s Pancakes….. and now I guess we’ll have to consider My Sister’s Pickles as well.  I hope you like pickles as well as I do, so you won’t mind another pickle recipe, and I offer the explanation that my preference for pickles is related to a problem.  My son, who used to enjoy lots of raw vegetables has somehow lost his taste for raw veggies.  We have a rule that before any non-produce snack is eaten, a piece of produce must be consumed.  Fruit is easy and always an option, but in the past he was also willing to eat raw sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, carrots, green beans, slightly pickled (raw) cucumbers or salad (although that is generally only with a bit of pressure).  We do also keep leftover roasted potatoes and other cooked veggies as an option but as far as raw vegetable go, we are down to pickled (raw) cucumbers, carrots (under duress) and salad (duress-er).  He eats cooked vegetables and I still freely load any dish with veggies that I can, but I’m thinking that perhaps if I can cold-pickle some more veggies, that would provide us with another veggie snack.  These green beans are not strictly raw, but they aren’t cooked much…. so I’m going to give it a go!  The recipe I found was a dill-y concoction but my son generally prefers the sweet (surprise, surprise), so I made up a batch of both which are currently getting flavored up in the refrigerator.  I leave you the recipes and then I will sleep while my green beans soak in flavor!!

Pickled Green Beans – adapted from Marlene Koch’s Eat What You Love Everyday, as presented by Snack Girl on her blog

1 cup distilled vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 garlic clove (Ms. Koch used 2 garlic cloves)
1/4 cup sugar (Ms. Koch used 1/3 cup sugar)
1 tsp salt (Ms. Koch used 1 Tbsp salt)
1 tsp dill weed (Ms. Koch used 2 tsp dill weed)
¼ teaspoon cayenne powder ( I put smallest pinch of hot pepper)
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed cut into pieces that will fit in your jar and pot

Combine everything  but beans in a pan that will also accommodate your beans and simmer & stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add beans and simmer for 2 minutes for crunchy beans – 3 for less crunchy.  Turn off heat and let come to room temperature before loading in jar and storing in frig.  Letting them sit for awhile will make the flavor stronger.

Pickling

Pickled Sweet Green Beans

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp mustard seed
3/4 cup water

Combine everything  but beans in a pan that will also accommodate your beans and simmer & stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add beans and simmer for 2 minutes for crunchy beans – 3 for less crunchy.  Turn off heat and let come to room temperature before loading in jar and storing in frig.  Letting them sit for awhile will make the flavor stronger.

Pickling2

 

Okay, so morning has arrived – that was fast, wasn’t it?

Here are my vinegary minions awaiting inspection….

Pickling 3 Note the cucumbers which are almost always sitting in a briney solution in my frig…

So with the help of my rawly recalcitrant young man, we took some of the dilly and some of the sweety pickled green beans and tried them, dilly first -
Me: Wow!  Awesome!
Rawly Recalcitrant Young Man (RRYM): (Unable to speak while making disgusted face)
Me: Really?  You’re being dramatic – these are delicious!
RRYM: No, really, I don’t like those.

Okay now for the sweet pickles
Me: Wow! Awesome!
RRYM: Yuck – I don’t like those either, I don’t think green beans were meant for pickling Mom.
Me: (noticing lack of disgusted face for the sweet ones) So if you had to choose between eating the sweet ones and broccoli, what would you choose?
RRYM: The pickles.

Well, in the pantheon of vegetables, broccoli is at the bottom of RRYM’s list, so I guess that’s progress.  I don’t think I’ve particularly solved my problem regarding my son’s snacking, but I’ve certainly helped mine!  I’m taking some of each of these pickles and having a delicious snack!

Pickling4

And yes, as I mentioned we have a few other pickle posts…..

Little Sis’s Fabu sweet and sour pickles

My recent refrigerator dills

Little Sis’s pickled carrots

I think my next raw pickling experiment will be with cauliflower…. No illusions that he’ll eat that, but who knows?

Quick and Easy Tacos – no spice packet required!

There is a rack in the grocery store that is supposed to make life a lot easier.  Rows of shiny packets full of spice combos or spice / thickener combos that can turn a few ingredients into a spectacular meal, right?  I used to use the taco seasoning mixes to whip up some tacos because everybody loves tacos, but as I started to make more things for myself it struck me that I could probably do this more authentically and without the added ingredients that I probably wouldn’t really want!

You can make your taco base with any number of things: chicken, fish, beans, lentils, or even quinoa!  From there it is another opportunity to offer a little variety of toppings that include crispy fresh offerings of the season or form your garden.

I prepare chicken about once a week, and that is the route I took here.  I really think you could use this on any of the above.  I provide the amount of chicken I used to give you an idea of how to adapt the spices to the amount of whatever you use.

Quick & Easy Tacos
a little oil in the pan (I used avocado because of the high smoke point)
2 tsp cumin seed
1 onion
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (well worth the spice investment – really adds great, smoky flavor)
1/2 tsp salt
1.75 lb chicken meat, cut into bite sized pieces (or sub beans, fish or quinoa)
optional tabasco or cayenne
optional oats for thickening (start low, 1/8 cup whole oats)

 

Toppings of your choice: lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, salsa, red onion, avocado, cheese of whatever variety your tribe eats, etc.

Taco shells – we used Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot & Blue Taco Shells, which are indeed hot, and indeed blue – so I did not use a lot of heat in the sauce, you can add tobasco or cayenne if you like!

Heat the oil in a large saute pan
Add the cumin seed and let heat a bit
Add the onion until almost translucent
Add the other spices for a couple of minutes
Add your chicken or whatever else you are using
When it is almost cooked through, decide if you want some thickening.
Add oats if you do and stir until thicker

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Pile filling into warm taco shells
Put your toppings on…

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and crunch into a big, tasty mess ;-)

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What is your favorite base for tacos?

Another Birthday Cake For Bigg Sis (GF,V and lots o’ chocolate)

The week before our annual trip to the beach with Bigg Sis and Carni-Mom, I was ambling through Costco (no, not really ambling, more like scrambling) to pick up a few items for the trip. I cut
through the book lane, with my hands half covering my eyes, but I still managed to see Angela Liddon‘s beautiful cookbook sitting there on the table. What’s a girl to do? I bought two, because I always feel better about indulging myself if I also indulge someone else. What better gift for a fabulous sister than a beautiful whole food plant based cookbook?

 photo IMG_0384.jpgNeedless to say Bigg Sis was delighted with her present, as I suspect any plant strong eater would be – this is a lovely and well put together cookbook. This wonderful book also solved my annual quandary of what to make for dessert for my wonderful sister’s birthday.

Bigg Sis, being kind and generous, insisted that we not make a fuss and that I not sacrifice any playtime for birthday desserts – bah. As luck would have it the whole troop wanted to take an excursion that involved over 500 stairs. While ye olde foot is well along in recovery, 500 stairs sounded a bit much, so I begged  photo IMG_0400.jpgoff and spent a delightful morning listening to the ocean (rather than the happy din of children at play), reading, and in a short time creating Ms. Liddon’s most amazing chocolate torte for Bigg Sis’ birthday.

I only made one modification to Ms. Liddon’s stellar recipe – and that was to leave out the espresso. While I’m quite sure it would only have deepened the fabulous flavor, little people with espresso in the evening does not for a pleasant vacation make, in my humble and occasionally extremely tired opinion.

This recipe calls for hazelnuts, oats, coconut oil, salt, maple syrup  and oat flour for the crust. I just brought oats and made my own oat flour in a food processor (Bigg Sis and I both have this one). And then added the other ingredients to make a heavenly dough for the crust in the same machine.

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Baked that puppy until it was browning at the edges and then put it on a rack to cool… okay, so beach house living forced an improvisation here…

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While the crust was cooling, I blended up the soaked cashews, melted dark chocolate, coconut oil, cocoa powder, maple syrup and salt to make some delightful chocolateness.

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Scooped the chocolate in, spread it around, chilled and voila, a little gluten free dairy free birthday magic at the beach. Thank you Angela Liddon for an easy and elegant dessert. Thank you Bigg Sis for being so incredibly awesome.

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Veggie Basics: Welcome Spring with Asparagus!

While my own personal asparagus patch has thus far only sent up a single scout, my local grocery is brimming with beautiful asparagus. Carni-Mom whipped some up for us at Easter dinner and I confess it’s spurred a bit of an asparagus binge on my part. The BEST discovery we’ve made with asparagus this year is that if we prepare it the right way, Ms. Picky Pants (who eats vegetables but detests many of them) actually loved it. Asparagus… who knew?

As with so many of our produce friends, the simplest of preparations seems to bring out the best in asparagus. My mother introduced me to oven cooked asparagus, and I doubt if I’ll ever go back to the steamed variety of the past. After 15-20 minutes in the oven, while you’re preparing the rest of the meal, you will be able to enjoy one of the finest pleasures of early spring, and maybe your picky pants will like it too.

Oven Cooked AsparagusIMG_0318

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1 T olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Wash the asparagus and cut off the woody ends. If your stalks are particularly thick, you may wish to peel them. Lay the asparagus out on a baking dish (I confess to having used foil on mine), keeping it in a single layer. Use a brush to coat the asparagus lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and a bit of pepper. Cover the pan with foil. Place in oven and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan, remove the foil and check the asparagus. Unless it’s already cooked (unlikely, but if they’re really small stems I suppose possible), leave the foil off and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Check again and return to oven for no more than 5 additional minutes. The asparagus should be tender, but not limp or mushy. Absolutely delish and a perfect sign that this dreadful winter is well and truly gone.

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* A word for the uninitiated asparagus crowd. If you have more than a stalk or two, you will likely find that your urine takes on a peculiar odor for a little while. It should pass within a day, and while a little startling until you remember why, it is nothing to be concerned about.

 

How Sugar-Strict Should You Be?

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about her ‘crazy’ sister-in-law who won’t let her kids (or the visiting kids) have a soda.  My colleague thought this was a little over the top and that there was nothing wrong with having a soda now and then.  While I confess that I have on occasion let my son have a soda, usually at a birthday party or other celebration hosted by others, I did have an answer for her and came to the defense of the unseen crazy sister-in-law (takes one to know one, right?).

The Sister-in-law’s defense your honor is a matter of the bar.  Not the legal bar exam to become a lawyer, but the bar which is a standard or expectation to which we, or the foods we put in our mouths, all must rise.  When someone raises the bar then they are increasing the expectations.

 

limbo-bar

When someone drinks a soda their expectations for what is considered sweet just got thrown at the ceiling. Splat!  Will it fall on someone’s head like a wet wad of toilet paper from the school bathroom ceiling?  Yes.  It will fall on the heads of parents everywhere who are trying to keep reduce the amount of sugar their kids consume…. and perhaps struggling with their own sugar consumption as well.

Consider this – most people would agree that fruit is sweet.  Kids even like it, or they used to.  I am amazed by how many kids come over to ‘hang out’ (my son is now too old to play) who refuse a piece of fruit.  They don’t like fruit.  Now, surely there are people with fruit preferences and allergies or a particular fruit that just doesn’t a-peel (harhar)….. but I have to stop myself from saying, “What do you mean you don’t like fruit?  What’s not to like about fruit?  What DO you like?”

Candy, soda, sugar – then throw in some chips
Gimme candy, soda, sugar – right past my numbed out lips

When you drink a can of soda that has
39 g (about 10 tsp) of sugar in a 12 ounce can of cola;
23 g (almost 6 tsp) in an 8 ounce serving of minute maid orange juice;
the 23g in an 8 ounce serving of snapple lemon iced tea;
the 33g (over 8 tsp) in a 20 ounce bottle of vitaminwater….. isn’t that supposed to taste kind of like water?

Then don’t you think the following will seem a little less than sweet to your palate?:
9 g of sugar (about 2 tsp) in a serving of pineapple;
7 g (less than 2 tsp)in aserving of strawberries
17g (a bit more than 4 tsp) in 1 large banana
11g (almost 3 tsp) in a cup of apple slices

With or without scientific evidence, we all know that comparisons affect what we eat.  You get used to Starbuck’s coffee and then some other coffees start to taste a bit weak.  You eat lots of salty chips and you will probably find yourself reaching for the salt shaker more often when eating potatoes or eggs or other bland salt vehicles.  It’s the old Ka-Pow theory of the Sis Sisters – as we increase the amount of sugar (or salt for that matter) we feel constitutes the description ‘sweet’, a little less just doesn’t register as sweet anymore.  And sweet is oh so powerful….. it attracts more flies than vinegar after all and it is what little girls are made of along with spice and everything nice.  Or perhaps big girls like sweets so much because we never felt as sweet as we were supposed to be….. okay, I’m coming back, that’s another post entirely.

Back to kids and sugar.  By the time most kids finish the load of candy in their Easter basket there will be some other occasion to inundate them with candy.  In fact they’ll probably be given some at school next week, or at a meeting or gathering of some sort – along with some soda or juice to drink… or water with flavor (chemical crap) in it.  Is it any wonder that they are not interested in fruit?

So how strict should you be with your kid about sugar?  It’s a heck of an uphill battle, but preserving their ability to taste the sweetness in real food will shape what they choose to eat.  Sometimes you just have to draw the line somewhere…. I definitely draw the line at soda.  I do not provide soda for my son and his friends.  Perhaps someday he will go hog wild and drink a bunch of soda…. but he will know just how horrifically, un-naturally sweet it is, and hopefully the rebellion won’t last so long as to re-set his sugar bar.  Unfortunately it doesn’t take much of a miss to bump that pole up a little higher!

Mind you – we are all about Baby Steps even when it comes to kids and sugar – and perhaps especially when it comes to kids and sugar.  Work it down and work it out a bit at a time, hopefully with their agreement for lasting effects.

 

 

 

Fruit Glorious Fruit!

Was that the name of the musical or just one of the songs?  I don’t remember ;-)

At any rate we are coming up on yet another wonderful holiday which has been transformed from a celebration of renewal, life and goodness into yet another opportunity to stuff candy in all colors of the rainbow and all textures imaginable into our gullets.  Okay, that’s a little harsh, we will stuff other things into our gullets as well…. personally I’m hoping for some asparagus.

But can our children truly appreciate the deeper meanings of the day and the time with friends and family while glazed over with sugar inside and out?  Well maybe they can, but I certainly can’t and it makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it!  Whew.  Caught my breath, clearly it’s time to stop ranting and share something meaningful here.

Like fruit!  Fruit is meaningful and wonderful and full of life and juice (usually).  It grows on trees, bushes, canes, vines… and in baskets!  You’ve seen fruit baskets right?  Incredible how the different varieties can grow from the same basket.  And baskets fit in perfectly with Easter!  So am I suggesting that you give your children fruit baskets for Easter?  Ha!  Even I am not that much of a nave fool.  I am however going to suggest that you make a fruit dessert.  Why not?  And if you really wanted to, you could substitute some of the candy for interesting or exotic fruits in the basket and I wouldn’t tell a soul.

I found all manner of suggestions – all of which are fast and easy – with presenting fruit in a fancy dessert-like way.  I decided to find a way to make a dairy free fruit dip / cream that could be used with any fruit to make it fancier.  That recipe follows and then the list.  In addition, Little Sis has some creamy, dairy free fruit zipper-upper in her nectarine pie.  Check that one out as well!

Mine is sweet orange sunflower dip

1 cup raw sunflower seeds soaked for at least 6 hours in 2 cups of water
zest from 1/2 – 1 orange.  Zest is a little tart, so if you are wary, start with 1/2 and add more if you want
juice from 1 orange (was a bit less than 1/4 cup if you have juice in the frig)
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Place all ingredients in food processor and run it for a few minutes until well combined.  Scrape down the sides a few times to catch the errant seeds.

Serve with fruit.  My 13 year old enjoyed this and didn’t do his usual, can I have some dessert after eating it, so it did the trick!

 

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So here is a list of fancy sounding, delicious looking and easy fruit desserts that you might serve up on Easter, or on any day!  I am intrigued by the idea of just broiling some fruit (like pineapple or mango) and it’s ready to go.  You might put a little ice cream with it, but you might not, and if you did, at least there would be more fruit and less dessert on the plate, right?

Saucy & Sweet Grilled Pineapple:

Citrus Salad with Lemongrass Syrup

Easy Glazed Banana

Tropical Fruit Salad with Creamy Lime Sauce

Mixed Berry Salad with Mint

Citrus Infused Strawberries

Cocoa-Nut Bananas

Broiled Mango

Chocolate & Banana

Carmelized Bananas

Almond Cream with Strawberries

Enjoy and have a rejuvenating and wonderful celebration of the return of spring and the power of goodness and love.

 

Veggie-licious Snacks

It all comes to down to space right?  Although some stomachs are bigger than othesr, and I’m talking on the inside, not the outside… there is a limited amount of space in a stomach for food.   The more of that space you fill with vegetables, the less space there is for more objectionable, less nutritious items.  This is not to say that only vegetables are healthy, but you pretty much can’t do better.  And you KNOW it is much easier to fill in the holes for carbohydrates and protein, I doubt you’ll go too low in either category if you eat more vegetables.

Although the eat more veggies philosophy will serve anyone who wants to be healthier well, it becomes problematic in relation to ‘snacks’.  My son will come home from school inquiring about snack food and my list of fruits and vegetables / dips / bread with a healthy topping is followed by his question, “after that can I have a ‘snack?”  Snack has become synonymous with treat… which in his mind is something he’s not supposed to have often.  Ah – that old beast – Forbidden non-fruit, right?

Again, and we have discussed this previously in our Baby Steps series, I rely on Pre-Emptive Produce, i.e. – fill up on veggies first!  Requiring a healthy snack prior to a smaller helping of whatever you allow as a less than healthiest snack choice in your home still means more veggies and less crap.  It works for me as well.  An orange, an apple, a carrot dipped in almond butter, some leftover roasted sweet potato, all make me able to remember that I don’t need to eat some of the more tempting items in my pantry.  So with the seasons of more plentiful produce upon us…. I promise they really are upon us, if a little delayed this year… here are some suggestions for veggie-licious snacks beyond the carrot and celery stick.

Sweet & Spicy carrots:
Cut 2 large carrots into chunks, microwave for 60 – 90 second or to desired tenderness

Mix together 1 tsp maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ginger and a pinch of salt P1010627 Mix with carrots.
Make a double or triple batch and store in  the frig in little containers that can be grabbed – like a ‘snack’! P1010630 Pickly- cucumbers:
Slice 1 large or 2 med – small cucumbers into a glass container.
Add 1 Tbsp sugar & 1 Tbsp white vinegar
Cover with water
Add pepper if desired
Let sit for 4-5 hours – taste and add more vinegar / sugar / pepper if you like
Little Sis has some more complicated but delicious pickley cucumber goodness here.

Coleslaw cups
:
Coleslaw is very adaptable. Folks who don’t like (or don’t eat) mayo, can use alternate recipes and you can make it a little sweet without going crazy on the sugar!   Little Sis has a great cole slaw recipe here.

Roasted or baked potatoes
– this is a great alternative to chips. And if you can afford small, colored potatoes, then even better!  A mixture of potatoes and sweet potatoes is very nice and can be achieved in a 375 – 425 oven for 20 – 40 minutes depending on how small you cut the pieces.  But if you are making them for a snack it can go on while you are eating or doing something else right?  I just make extra when we have them for dinner – toss them in the frig and they are there to be easily heated up and scarfed down as a delicious snack!

Cauliflower crunch
:
Coat florets in olive oil then sprinkle paprika and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (turning once).  I usually roast things at 375.

Frozen Grapes & Kiwi:
As simple as it sounds.  Place grapes and bite-sized chunks of peeled kiwi on a parchment lined baking sheet in the freezer.  When hard, place in smaller containers and keep in the freezer.  Healthy, tasty frozen snack!

Crispy Asparagus:
dip asparagus in egg white and bread with either whole wheat panko, or Italian breadcrumbs and bake til crispy.  I would think this would work with green beans as well – and again 375 would be a good place to start – but watch them closely the first time!

Unusual fruits and veggies:
Novelty can be good or bad – depending on the person, but it is at least special or different.  Try serving fresh pineapple for dessert one night.  It goes on sale and can be a lot cheaper than ice cream (if you buy good or non-dairy ice cream in particular).  Sugar snap peas make a great snack that many kids like because they are sweet and crunchy.  Offer something different!

And of course there is the option of dipping various crispy fruits and veggies into:
hummus
salad dressing
nut butter
yogurt (yogurt mixed with a little cinnamon and sweetener, or onion soup mix – read the label!!!)
Nutty Lunch Dip

So change the snack paradigm in your house.  A snack is sustenance to carry you through to the next meal, or through a workout / physical trial.  It can also be a treat…. surely some of these will fill both bills for the snackers in your house.  And if they still have to have a little somethin’ somethin’ that is not at the top of your list of acceptable, they can have less of it on top of their healthy snack.