When I Deny You Dinner

I’m known for being a positive discipline, crunchy, Christian mom. But tonight is the first time I’ve denied my 3.75 year old dinner.  Let me share why. Here are my five easy steps to having dinner denied to you.

  1. I put a healthy meal in front of you and you told me you didn’t like it. How rude.
  2. I offered you a snack later if you finish your dinner. You leave and go look out the window. Really?
  3. I reminded you, you’re not excused. You go get Pom Poms instead. This is disobedience.
  4. You get two more reminders that it’s dinner time, you’re not eating later if you don’t eat now, and you still don’t eat. Your reply is a question. That’s not a response. That’s avoidance behavior. Very savvy, little one.
  5. I clean up dinner without your help. You sealed the deal.

I did however still do reading time, and let him snuggle in my bed. I’m glad I did. There’s nothing like watching your firstborn fall asleep. 

I guess he really wasn’t hungry afterall. But if I offered him junk food, he would have scarfed it down. We are coming back to normal life after vacation. Welcome to normal life, kiddo. I love you!

 

Creating a Nice Morning

It can be hectic in the morning for moms, everyone knows that.  You can’t predict your children’s moods every day, the weather, everyone’s health, etc.

You can, however, do a few things each evening to set yourself up for success in the morning.  You can either do these things after the kids go to bed, or even better, have your kids help you after dinner each night.  Here are some ideas that will help you keep the chaos-factor down:

  • Have your kids help you prep tomorrow’s lunch.
  • Do the dishes after dinner and wipe down the table.  While you clean up the table, have your kids put their toys away.
  • Start the bath water.  While the bath is running, have your kids put their dirty clothes in the hamper each night.
  • While the kids are taking a bath, while you’re sitting next to them, look at tomorrow’s schedule and make a note of any necessary events including driving time, errands, or events and how this changes what you need to bring along.  If you need more snacks then you’ve packed tonight, make a note.
  • After the bath, the kids can get into pajamas, and they (or you) can set out the next day’s clothes.  This way, you avoid a confrontation in the morning regarding what they want to wear.  Pack the diaper bag if needed, but do it tonight.  It’ll be easier this way.
  • After everyone is in pajamas you are ready to spend quality time together winding down, reading and saying prayers.  If you want to use my wind-down meditation, see here.

I hope this helps you run smoother in the morning, and feel more productive each evening.  The nice thing about this routine is it helps teach your kids responsibility as well.

Comment with any additional routines you add a night which help create a smoother morning.

Love, Robyn

Cooking for the Week on the Weekends

Hi Active Mamas,

I posted a conference call to guide you through how to cook 1-2 week’s worth of food on the weekend.  Here’s a prep guide so you can ready your mind before the session.  Use the information below to walk through the items you might need to think about, fix, or obtain before the session.

Post any questions you’d like addressed in the comment section below.  I look forward to our call, and to hear about the kinds of successes you will have as a result of this journey which should include better eating habits, more responsible spending, and your growing confidence as a cook!

Please note: I posted enough food to feed my family for about 2 weeks.  You may find the menu will last your family for a shorter or longer time depending on your family’s size, meal portions, and how frequently you go out to eat.

Below you will see a list of tips, cheats, the menu I’ve prepared for you with links to the actual recipes, and a list of kitchen equipment I recommend you have on hand.  Enjoy!  If you wish to sign up for the conference call, here’s the link: http://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas/events/128292942/  

Tips:

  1. Make ‘Menu Sets’ for your weekend cooking, that way you are not re-spinning your wheels every week.  This workshop and lesson can function as ‘Set 1’ for you.

  2. Ensure you keep your family’s preferences in mind ahead of time.  Are there any allergies you must remember?  Do some of your family members refuse to eat certain items?

  3. Print  your menu and your recipes once.  Hole punch them, and put them in a binder.  Combine ingredients from all your recipes so you know what you need.  For example, you may have two recipes that require celery, but you only want to buy celery once.  Make note ahead of time!  You may also dislike a vegetable or meat in one recipe and prefer to replace it with another vegetable.  Take the liberty to do so!

  4. Ask a baby-sitter to come to the house, or a friend who you want to cook with.  Your kids may have a hard time not getting your attention, and it’s harder when they can see you right there in the kitchen!  They don’t care you are cooking food for them!  They just want you now!

  5. Check your calendar to see when you are going out to eat, when you are entertaining in the home, or even possibly bringing food somewhere (such as to a friend) so you can determine if you want to double or triple up on any recipes.

  6. Make sure you have the materials you need ahead of time such as storage containers, parchment paper, aluminum foil, and especially freezer space  There’s nothing worse than finding out you can’t store all your goodies!

  7. When you set out to cook, shop early on Friday (if possible) or late at night while everyone else is out partying or sleeping, and prep your food before you begin your marathon cooking spree.  You’d be surprised at how much prepping you need to do to cook all this food ahead of time!

  8. Make sure you start with a clean kitchen and clean pots and pans.

  9. Take out all your cookware, accessories, herbs and spices ahead of time and put them on the dining room table or your kitchen counters so you don’t have to go hunting for them when your hands are dirty because you started cooking or handling your chickens.

  10. Have your plan written down ahead of time.  Ex: Cook chickens first because they are time consuming and you need to make stock from them for soup.

  11. Start early and plan in breaks for yourself.  Your arms, back and legs may get tired.  If you have fatigue, or are pregnant, you may want to divide this kind of cooking up over several days at a time, just by planning ahead each night like most people do anyhow.  This is not for everyone!

  12. As you eat your meals, open your menus and make notes in your recipe binder on each related recipe about real portion sizes vs the suggested portion sizes, flavor notes, cooking times, and how much you liked the meal.

Cheats

If you’ve never done weekend cooking this is possible a new and daunting task. Here are some short-cuts that will save you time, help you avoid having to learn how to cook all this at one time (such as how to roast and stuff a chicken), and perhaps make your first time experience much faster.

The downside to using these tips is most notably related to money, sodium levels, the ability to control flavor, freshness, the ability to use the pieces as you wish, and the flexibility that starting with raw gives you, less variety in the week, and/or you may still find yourself dependent on chemical-laden packaged foods.

  1. Buy an already-roasted chicken
  2. Buy already chopped vegetables
  3. Hire someone to do all the chopping for you
  4. Buy some items from the frozen section of your grocery store to pair with your meals
  5. Cook less menu items but cook bigger portions

Menu:

Breakfast

1. Garden Vegetable Quiche

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TvicycT8dshMVkN7rHVLGXjK_hcn7wA4v5GTELsgF7k/edit

2. Breakfast Burritos to Go

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17qLS1_o-v2SR5YaRubVdVTpZ01I1Zr3CDDxHna33aEU/edit

3. Old Fashioned Pancakes

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1uWzeQBdxTvs76b0JzKhh5k7wAJBpEHAjr8GsK5LnEo4/edit

Dinners

4a. Herb-Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HgyIQUvfIinpaHvhucWZhQjixA1m7OKUBxOHRsFF2-k/edit

and 4b. Classic Bread Stuffing With Onions, Celery, and Herbs 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1z-GodOa9lAPPSIwchysRIUtGWorX-RYIW5dQAEQhh0M/edit

5a. Chicken Tortilla Soup 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1HlgmOAUTe-sB60xto63RkyEw3i4CkUM3Y0QvOAtqfFc/edit

& 5b. Slow-Cooker Chili Chicken Tacos

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1SVDhX03FlX6Pf-cQ54iD5bT9dwgRcVWanZb0l5Sy6r8/edit

6a. Coconut Soup

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1-fc7S3seU4NSQdAQp7sm5QFtRRL8QzOLubrGv9j4eoc/edit

& 6b. Pad Thai

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1xW_87cBc5DbPOf3jkrKhnsAZKB2Hl-oX70n5CgicnVM/edit

7. Jambalaya

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UafzzrEr0HmAw_w1aOaY5uskDXRza9QSlD4JtaK7V60/edit

Lunches for baby

8a. Copycat Chick-Fil-A Nuggets & Sauce

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Cxbm6HEWgmbNvdzlLMoLBjiXAOuMs-uV1ZixLaV73Hw/edit

& 8b. Roasted Vegetables 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/146E4VEYKWg4fG5zgoWHtWQt4H3umQYpvWVbBryJQNfA/edit

9. Granny’s Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1oxbYKBix9okHHBjFUlZABci45Mj4-M5FT-WtWzAb0RY/edit

Extras

10. Chicken Stock

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nRn9BuJG4H7gcLI0rdxGGjsJh8KXvLdOJ_TRnrwtENA/edit

11. Cheddar Dill Crackers

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gEVowaH7PA8BahtpGpkY4eFaI3MVLdJZ9n1eBB4n_VE/edit

12. Broccoli breadsticks {grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free} 

https://docs.google.com/document/d/18q0__M1wI7EtWoo6V1AidsRqpBsUe_5GtIxcKRH4H-k/edit

13. Banana Crackers

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1vBkS1dMOq0GaTvyhX-IEB9b6kNpHk2zcMgJXYRHbi20/edit

Kitchen Equipment

Dear Judith . . . World’s pickiest eater

‘My daughter is almost 4 and only eats peanut butter and jelly. I sometimes substitute baby food veggies or fruit for jelly, but I want her to eat a wider variety and make sure she has a healthy diet. What can I do?’

They say peanut butter and jelly is a childhood staple, but this is ridiculous. I have a four year-old too, and I know it can be frustrating to watch your child reject the meal you’ve lovingly prepared. It may be small comfort to know you are not alone; a great many children become picky eaters approximately between ages 2 and 4.

You are doing the right thing by making your daughter’s choice healthier. To maximize the nutritional value of PB&J you can use whole grain bread; peanut butter with added omega-3 oils or another kind of nut butter like almond; and puréed fruit or veggies, sliced bananas, local honey, or dried fruit that you’ve stewed and puréed. By offering variety within her preferred structure is that you will be exposing her to new flavors and textures in a familiar format.

In the meantime, you can work on introducing new foods. I hope some of these ideas work for you.

Respect her choices. Part of pickiness is that children this age are just learning that they have choices and power. Respecting her choices will prevent turning food into a power play, which could become a huge problem down the road. It will also teach her to respect her own body’s hunger and satiety signals and give her the pace to explore at her own pace.

Don’t give up. Young children like what they know, and it if you continue to offer a new food she will likely try it. Eventually. Count on offering the same food at least 10-15 times before she tries it, and several more before she likes it. Let her see you eating the same food, too.

Start with something yummy. Since your daughter is stuck on a single food, reward her when she does break down and try something new. Though she’s probably not old enough to articulate the logical connection between new food and pleasure, the experience can be part of conditioning her — yes, like Pavlov — to let down her guard a little more easily. Remember, we’re working on food curiosity first: healthy can come later.

Let her to help you prepare food. Sometimes kids are more likely to try new foods when they’ve helped prepare them. At four, your daughter is old enough to break eggs, stir, add ingredients, set the table, etc.

Grow a garden. There is something magical about watching a plant grow from a sapling to a mature plant, then enjoy its fruit, especially for children. This is the best time of year to start seedlings, or wait a few more months and get plants that are ready to go.

Practice patience. In all likelihood, this is just a phase that will pass.

Best of luck!
Judith
____________________

Judith is our Active Mama’s Munchie Maven and Yoga Maven. That means she teaches Active Mama’s Cooking Basics Chef classes, and is also our instructor for Active Mama’s Mommy Yoga with Judith.

Judith is refreshingly laid back, exceptional at what she does, and is the able mother of 3 beautiful children.

Judith comes well-accredited. She earned her Masters of Public Health and her passion is helping people find ways to make their lives healthier.

If you have questions for Judith she can be messaged throughhttp://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas

Judith is teaching another much-requested Health Cooking Session Sunday, March 17th, and this time, she’s added bread!!!

Dear Judith… Dessert Doctor

“My husband has a sweet tooth, but I want him to eat healthy food. Do you know any desserts that are healthy and will also satisfy his sweet tooth?” – Active Mama’s member

I can sympathize with your husband: sweets are my weakness, too. I can pass on the chips, cheese and pizza, but once I get to dessert table all bets are off. My own husband likes to eat fruit in the evening, but fruit, even if eaten after dinner, is definitely not dessert.

Moderation is one way to enjoy desserts without busting your belt. Another way is to choose desserts made with healthy ingredients and cut down on the sugar. For me, dessert is an experience, part of a ritual of winding down my day and it’s the ritual that counts as much as the food itself.

That said, here are some ideas for healthier desserts:

pie

Pumpkin pie: Canned pumpkin is loaded with fiber and vitamins, and with pumpkin as the main ingredient pumpkin pie is surprisingly healthy. The trick is to cut down on the sugar in the traditional recipe. You can do that by using a recipe that calls for evaporated milk instead of sweetened condensed milk and add only 1/2-2/3 the sugar in the recipe. Some canned pumpkin has this recipe on the back of the can. You may have to play around with it to find just the right balance. Alternatively, you can use a no-calorie sweetener like sucralose (Splenda) to make up the difference if you want the full sweetness.

berry

Berry pie: Since we’re talking about pie, one of my favorite summer treats is strawberry pie. Take 4 cups of fresh strawberries (or blueberries, or both), remove their stems and cut in half. Set aside. Take another 2 cups of berries, either fresh or thawed from frozen, and purée. Add these to a saucepan with 2 Tbs. lemon or lime juice, 1/3-1/2 cup sugar, 1Tbs. butter, and 1/3 cup cornstarch. Cook on medium heat until it thickens. Using a pre-cooked pie shell, add about 1/2 of the fresh berries, then cover in sauce. Add the rest of the berries, then pour the rest of the sauce over it. Let the pie chill for several hours to set, and serve with whipped cream or sweetened Greek yogurt (see below).

choco

Chocolate-dipped fruit: Speaking of berries, what’s more romantic than strawberries dipped in chocolate? Make them with heart-healthy dark chocolate and you get a double-whammy. You can also dip frozen bananas in dark chocolate, or buy them pre-made at Trader Joe’s.

walnuts

Greek yogurt: Ok, this one comes awfully close to my rule about dessert. However, when we visited Greece on our honeymoon we were served yummy Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts for dessert. What a revelation! Greek yogurt is much thicker and creamier than what we call yogurt, and paired with honey provides a wonderfully sweet and tangy experience. These days you can buy Greek yogurt in most markets, or if you like you can simply strain some plain yogurt through a cheesecloth for several hours, scraping the cloth occasionally. Even better, you can add some sugar or other sweetener to Greek yogurt to make it taste like creme freche, but with healthy probiotics and little or no fat.

____________________

Judith is our Active Mama’s Munchie Maven and Yoga Maven. That means she teaches Active Mama’s Cooking Basics Chef classes, and is also our instructor for Active Mama’s Mommy Yoga with Judith.

Judith is refreshingly laid back, exceptional at what she does, and is the able mother of 3 beautiful children.

Judith comes well-accredited. She earned her Masters of Public Health and her passion is helping people find ways to make their lives healthier.

If you have questions for Judith she can be messaged throughhttp://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas

Judith is teaching another much-requested Health Cooking Session Sunday, March 17th, and this time, she’s added bread!!!

Dear Judith…

Last week I asked the group what food questions they have. I’m no “expert,” but I have been making family meals for almost 13 years and I have a small arsenal of ideas to keep everyone happy. Boy did you deliver. Over the next few weeks, I’ll answer those questions the best I can; I welcome your feedback, comments, and additional questions.

Can you help me with some recipes for healthy meals?

There’s an old saying that a home contractor can be affordable, timely, or do high quality work. Now choose two. Cooking is the same way. Ideally, a meal should be healthy, easy and tasty, but rarely can one get all three. Food being a highly subjective matter, it’s impossible to accommodate every taste all the time. Here are some of our favorite healthy dinners, tried and true from our family of five.

Salmon Teriyaki: Couldn’t be easier, and the sweetness of the sauce appeals to lots of kids. Cover a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Get some fresh or defrosted salmon fillets and lay them skin side down. Cover with teriyaki sauce and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. The flesh should be cooked through but soft and the skin may stick to the foil but you should be able to lift the fish away from the pan intact. Serve with white or brown rice, baked potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes*, or whole wheat pasta with an olive pile and garlic sauce. Add some steamed spinach or broccoli to round it off.

Tacos: Tacos are a great way to stuff veggies into a meal. Kids love them because they can choose their own stuffing and eat with their hands. Use ground turkey, shredded chicken breast, veggie-based crumble, beans, or even leftover salmon teriyaki for protein. For toppings you can use the classic lettuce-salsa-cheese combo or experiment with Asian slaw** (great with leftover salmon), or apple and avocado slices. Corn-based shells are gluten-free — check the box to be sure — and soft shells add minimally to the meal’s carb load. If you really want to be carb free, gather your protein and toppings in lettuce leaves, wrap them up, and eat like dumplings. Or throw everything in a bowl and make it taco salad.

Turkey, veggie or low-fat beef burgers: The classic American meal can be made more healthy by using a low-fat patty. I recommend ground turkey (85% lean, more if using ground chicken or turkey breast), ground sirloin (93% lean), or veggie burger (varies by brand). You can use a whole-wheat or multigrain bun and load up on healthy toppings. Some ideas include lettuce, tomatoes, baby spinach leaves, sautéed mushrooms, onions, pickles, guacamole, cucumber slices, and feta cheese. Skip the fries and serve with fruit, salad, or sautéed onions and mushrooms.

Chili: Whether you use a mix or make it from scratch, chili is great for winter and fundamentally healthy as long as you watch the salt. Throw all ingredients in a slow-cooker in the morning and let the flavor mix all day. Add black and kidney beans, onions, extra tomatoes and bell peppers to increase the nutrition. I like my chili with meat, but some use soy ground or bulgar for texture. Serve over rice, pasta, with tortillas or wrap in lettuce as above.

Soups: Soups*** are a great venue for added veggies, just watch out for sodium. Most soups are easy to make at home and slow cooker friendly. Serve with a crusty whole grain bread to complete the meal. It’s usually better the next day and you can freeze the leftovers for a quick healthy meal.

Kabobs: Grab some skewers and put the kids to work threading meat and veggies. With infinite variations, kabobs are a great way to build a healthy dinner. The classic preparation uses marinated lamb as the protein, but you can use beef, chicken, tofu, fish or none. Onions are a great compliment to whatever you choose, and I usually add bell peppers, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. You can also add any produce item that can be threaded and cooks quickly in small pieces (or good raw): eggplant, zucchini, baby corn, pineapple, etc. serve with white or brown rice, couscous, or pilaf.

*Mashed sweet potatoes: Poke a hole in the skin of 2 large sweet potatoes. Microwave until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Scoop flesh into a bowl and mash. Taste and add a pinch or two of salt and a pat of butter if you think it needs that.

**Asian slaw recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/awesome-asian-slaw-61492

***My mom’s soup au pistou: combine two cups each of chopped onions, carrots and potatoes. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 30 minutes. Add a can of beans (kidney, white, or navy), a cup of green beans, crumbs from two slices of bread, and 1/3 cup pasta. In a small food processor grind together six cloves garlic, two tablespoons tomato paste, 1/8 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Grind these well then add to soup while it’s hot.

____________________

Judith is our Active Mama’s Munchie Maven and Yoga Maven. That means she teaches Active Mama’s Cooking Basics Chef classes, and is also our instructor for Active Mama’s Mommy Yoga with Judith.

Judith is refreshingly laid back, exceptional at what she does, and is the able mother of 3 beautiful children.

Judith comes well-accredited. She earned her Masters of Public Health and her passion is helping people find ways to make their lives healthier.

If you have questions for Judith she can be messaged through http://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas

Which Came First?

The classic chicken/egg question is meant to evoke the unknown and unknowable. We all know the dilemma: how could it be a chicken unless it hatched from an egg, and where did the egg come from if not a chicken? Don’t know about you, but the question makes me hungry. When I was a child, my family moved from Washington, DC to Houston, TX and back again within six months. At two years old and in my picky eating phase, what were the only foods I would touch? You guessed it: fried chicken and scrambled eggs.

Some things never change. These days my palette is slightly more sophisticated, and now I like my eggs fried, poached, scrambled, boiled, Benedict, or any other way you can make them. Once thought to be “junk” food because of the cholesterol they contain, eggs have finally been redeemed for the superfood they are (I knew it all along). Some stores even sell eggs with as much as 600mg of omega-3, the so-called good fat that is essential for the brain and heart, and may reduce inflammation throughout the body.

As for chicken, its versatility, protein, and abundance make it a favorite for my entire family. The simplest way to cook chicken is whole. I roast it for 1.5-2 hours with a sprinkling of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Sometimes I add fresh rosemary and an onion in the cavity. I cook it on a rack with water or beer underneath to keep it moist. Cook at 325F until the internal temperature (that’s inside the meat, not the cavity) reaches 170F. Pull it out of the oven and let it sit for about 5 minutes to let the juices settle.

Now for carving. If you’ve never carved a chicken, the only way to learn is to do it. Here are a couple of websites that can help,

http://www.finecooking.com/articles/how-to-carve-roast-chicken.aspx

http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=msscPphcLyo&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DmsscPphcLyo

Or, shameless self-promotion alert, you can take my “Chicken Basics” class, date TBA.
____________________

Judith is our Active Mama’s Munchie Maven and Yoga Maven. That means she teaches Active Mama’s Cooking Basics Chef classes, and is also our instructor for Active Mama’s Mommy Yoga with Judith.

Judith is refreshingly laid back, exceptional at what she does, and is the able mother of 3 beautiful children.

Judith comes well-accredited. She earned her Masters of Public Health and her passion is helping people find ways to make their lives healthier.

If you have questions for Judith she can be messaged through http://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas