Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Perpetual Peanut & Jelly - Picky Eaters

My sweet six year old eats a peanut butter and honey sandwich every day for lunch. He used to eat a peanut butter and jelly but about 4 months ago he switched it up to honey and has been having that ever since. 

It makes for easy lunch time and I don't complain too much because I buy really healthy bread an peanut butter is a really good food (and I skimp on the honey) 

And since he happens to be one of the kids later in my line of children, I am lots more relaxed about picky eating and things that I feed my kids and that they choose to eat. Most of them come around, and most aren't going to starve themselves - and if you only offer healthy choices, then they only have healthy decisions to make. 

But if you happen to have a picky eater in your family and it is stressing you out - here are some tips to help deal with the issue in your family. And keep in mind that you are the one to set the tone if your family. You make the rules and you set the example.

1. No Complaining about food.

2. Food is not a reward or a punishment

3. Eating is a family activity.

4. Try, Try Again - and Again

5. Hunger is Okay sometimes.

6. Focus on nutrient dense foods.

Just like you are learning about foods and nutrition education. You are responsible for teaching your children about nutrition education. If you don't teach your children to be emotional eaters chances are they won't be. If you offer them a wide variety of healthy foods their bodies will want those foods and their pallets will crave the taste of those foods.

And remember to eat as a family - that makes all the difference in the world.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Never Start Your Day Hungry

One of the things that I am crazy passionate about is Kids' Hunger issues. I try and support them and promote them whenever and where ever I can.  It is one of the major reasons that Food $ense means so much to me. The best place to start feeding kids - and feeding them healthy and teaching them to make the best food choices starts at home. With Me and with You. 

Breakfast can be a super easy meal, but it is often overlooked because people think they are too busy or aren't aware of how quick a healthy breakfast can be. Here are some great basic ideas. 

Making breakfast can be as easy as 1-2-3 — cereal, fruit, and milk,

Any low-sugar cereal, such as Cheerios or Corn Flakes, will do — and all you need is a bowl and a spoon.

A few other wholesome, fast breakfast options include:

Low-fat yogurt with fruit and granola
Whole grain waffles with 100 percent fruit juice
A scrambled egg with tomato slices and toast
A banana and a low-sugar granola bar — a great grab-and-go option

Just beware of shortcut breakfast options that may not have any health benefit. "Kids should steer clear of caffeinated energy drinks,

Also avoid chocolatey or sugary cereals that seem more like desserts than breakfast foods, 

But do give your kids a choice. Going through the aisle shopping for cereal, say, "Here we have two choices that look pretty good — you pick one,"  What your kids like may end up surprising you. My oldest absolutely loves Grapenuts and my two younger ones love Cheerios. I would not have imagined they would like cereals without cartoon characters and wild colors to entice them. I was wrong. 

Breakfast doesn't have to be a Breakfast food.  Any leftovers from last night will work. I have a son who just doesn't like breakfast food, so he will eat last night's spaghetti or warm up a pork chop from the fridge. I know that sounds really really strange, but it is what he likes to do and Hey! if it was good enough for dinner - it certainly is good enough for breakfast. 

There are no shortage of breakfast ideas on the web - from over night oatmeal to freezer breakfast sandwiches (one of my personal favorites). Experiment and see what works for you family and what they like. 

We have people in our family that need grab-n-go meals, So a piece of fruit and a ziploc bag or granola work really well for them. I have some that have a little more time in the morning and they enjoy toast with peanut butter. The little ones at home with me have a bit more time, so we'll have scrambled eggs and toast or make a bowl of hot oatmeal. Not every idea works for every family and in fact, not every idea works for every family member.  The most important thing is realizing and Teaching your family that breakfast is Really important! 

Please check in your area and see if your school offers a breakfast at school program. We have been at schools that offer it and schools that don't and I have to tell you - I honestly LOVE it!  If you have it, please participate in it, so they can keep it going. If you don't have it, advocate for it! It is a wonderful program and the kids benefit more than you can imagine from it. 

Compared to children who do not eat breakfast or eat breakfast at home, children who eat school breakfast:

are less likely to be overweight,
have improved nutrition,
eat more fruits,
drink more milk,
consume a wider variety of foods.

Here is a link to get started if you want to try some advocacy for this program. 

Now get our there... and eat your breakfast! 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole - Create a Casserole

One of the Greatest things about Food $ense (and you know I think that there are a lot of great things)
Is the idea that you can make a meal with what you have on hand - whatever that may be. 

That you can Create with what you have. 

All you need is a pattern instead of a recipe. You need to know a few simple techniques and you can put together whatever you are in the mood for - or whatever pleases your family. 

My family goes bonkers for the taste combination of Chicken Cordon Bleu. Really what is it but ham and cheese and chicken - pretty simple, but who has the time to stuff chicken and wrap it and do all that. Plus, I am pretty sure if I actually made the real thing, my kids would be like, "what the HECK is This!" 

So here is how you go about it: 

Step 1: 
Choose one starch; 
• Brown Rice: 1 cup rice, 2 cups water: Combine rice and water. Bring to boil. Turn heat to low and cover pan with lid. Simmer until water is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
• Whole grain pasta or noodles: 2 cups pasta or 3 cups noodles, 6 cups water: Heat water until it boils. Stir in pasta or noodles. Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain. Look on the package for specific instructions.
• Potatoes: 3 cups diced potatoes, 6 cups water. Heat water until it boils. Add potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain.
• Whole grain tortilla: Flour or corn.

Step 2: 
Choose one protein; 
1 (15 oz.) can or 2 cups cooked dried beans or lentils (pinto, black, white, kidney, etc.)
• 2 cups chopped hard-boiled eggs
• 1 (12-16 oz.) package extra firm tofu, drained
• 1½ cups cooked and diced chicken, turkey, ham, beef, fish, or pork
• 1 (6-8 oz.) can beef, chicken, tuna, salmon, or other fish
• ½ pound cooked ground beef

Step 3: 
Choose one or more flavors 
• ½ cup chopped onion, celery, green pepper, or salsa
• 1 - 2 cloves garlic, crushed
• 1 - 2 teaspoons dried herbs (oregano, basil, cumin, chili powder, thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.)
• ¼ cup sliced black olives
• Salt and pepper to taste

Step 4: 
Choose one to three vegetables: 
Broccoli, carrots, corn, green beans, peas, squash, mixed veggies
• 2 cups frozen vegetables, cooked 
• 1-2 (15 oz.) canned vegetables

Step 5:
Choose one or more topping (optional) 
• ¼ cup breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese, ¼ cup grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese

Step 6: 
Choose one sauce

• 1 (10 oz.) can soup (cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, cream of celery, tomato, cheese, etc.)
• 1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes with juice
• 2 cups gravy:
 2 tablespoons cornstarch OR 4 tablespoons flour
 ¼ cup COLD water
 2 cups HOT chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
Mix cornstarch or flour into cold water with fork. Make sure you have no lumps. Slowly add mixture to boiling stock, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and continue to cook and stir with whisk until thickened.

I used pasta for my starch, ham and chicken for my protein, I used garlic and onions that I sauteed for my flavors. I served it with a side salad for my veggies. And I used a creamy soup for the base, that I added grated swiss cheese to.  How simple is that!  And I made two so I could put one in the freezer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Flax and Bran Muffins - Create a Quick Bread

Sometimes healthy muffins get a bad reputation. I'm not talking about applesauce muffins or muffins with a few raisins in them, but the serious Hard-Core really really good for you - packed with vitamins and fiber and really really healthy stuff - good for you muffins. 

Muffins that could be a Shock to Your System if all you eat is Egg McMuffins. 

Yah, I am talking about those kind of muffins. But this recipe is going to change your mind about healthy muffins being delicious. In fact, not only is it going to change your mind, but it is going to blow your mind!  wooooaah, that is some heavy talk right there. 

I suggest that the first time you make them, you stick to the recipe - it will be worth it. But if they end up being a little too over the top for you, try substituting some of the ingredients with 1/2 less healthy ingredients. Like 1/2 AP flour instead of the wheat pastry flour. 

But these are fantastic! Did I mention they were kinda good. They were gobbled down in not time flat here at my house and not a single eater was any the wiser that I was pumping them full of fiber for heart health, and colon health and whole grains and fruit and vegetables. 


1-1/2 cups Whole Wheat Flour 
3/4 cup Flaxseed Meal
3/4 cup Oat Bran Cereal 
1 cup Brown Sugar
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1-1/2 cups Carrots finely shredded
2 Apples peeled & shredded
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup Nuts chopped (I used sunflower seeds - unsalted)
3/4 cup Milk
2 Eggs beaten
1 tsp Vanilla Extract


Step 1
Mix together flour, Bob's Red Mill Flaxseed Meal, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Step 2
Stir in carrots, apples, raisins (if desired) and nuts. Combine milk, beaten eggs and vanilla. Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir until ingredients are moistened. DO NOT OVER MIX.

Step 3
Fill muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes.

Yield: 15 medium muffins

*You can also use 1 1/2 cups Unbleached White Flour in place of the Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. 
**For a twist on this great recipe- try substituting 3/4 cup Hazelnut Meal in place of the Oat Bran.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Irish Stew - Create a Soup

I know there are going to be many people enjoying the "traditional" Irish dish of corned beef and cabbage tomorrow. But did you know it might not be as traditional as you think?  Here is some fun information about Traditional Irish food and where is comes from and why they ate it. 

Irish immigrants started eating Corned Beef and Cabbage with Potatoes when they came to the United States... and it was most likely Jewish Corned Beef they they were eating from Kosher butchers. 

My parents had their meal of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes yesterday after church. We had Irish Stew. It is actually much more traditional to the Ireland because it used Lamb as the meat instead of beef. 

If you think your family might be a little skeptical about eating lamb, you can't find, or you can't afford it - beef is an easy substitute and it will still be incredibly delicious! 

The recipe is from and he has some amazing Very traditional recipes. 

I am going to go ahead and convert it to our units of measurement. 

2 tblsp grapeseed oil - (you can use canola or vegetable oil )
2lb 3oz lamb shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1in chunks (if you are using beef, just buy stew meat)
2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, trimmed and sliced
1 bay leaf
4 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1¾ pints beef or lamb stock (lamb stock is nearly impossible to find. I used beef)
2lb potatoes, peeled and cut into ½in slices
good knob of butter
sea salt and ground black pepper
slices of white bread, to serve

Place a large, flameproof casserole pot over a high heat, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and brown the lamb pieces in two batches. Remove and set aside on a plate. Reduce the heat to medium–high, add another tablespoon of oil and fry the onion, celery and carrot for 4–6 minutes or until the onions have softened.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. 

Return the meat to the pot, along with the bay leaf and stock, season with sea salt and ground black pepper and bring to the boil. 

Remove from the heat and push the slices of potato down into and across the top of the stew, dot with a little butter and give a final seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper. 

Cover and place in the oven to cook for about 1½ hours or until the meat is tender, then remove the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes until the potatoes have colored.

You can serve the stew straight away or leave it covered overnight in the fridge for the flavors to develop. 

Serve in deep bowls with slices of white bread to soak up the liquid.

 To make this a Cook once, Eat twice. I peeled and boiled extra potatoes and mashed them. Two days late we used the stew as a meaty gravy over our mashed potatoes.

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Healthier Version of Loaded Baked Potato Soup

** This is my Official Disclaimer - I said a Healthier version - NOT a Healthy Version **

Now that is out of way, let's fry up some Bacon!! 

My in-laws gifted us with a huge box of potatoes this winter. They have been kept in the garage and they are fantastic potatoes. Some of them are like 7 inches long! That makes for a mighty big baked potato.  However, my husband happens to hate everything about potatoes. He thinks they taste like dirt - he is wrong - they are delicious! But we don't have them all that often because of that. 

But we had my parents over the other night and I was craving potato soup. So I whipped some up. 

This recipe is a little different because it gets the creaminess from evaporated milk and cooking in the crock-pot. Not from a whole bunch of heavy cream that is added. The flavor is great and you don't Need to add all the extras and the goodies if you don't want to.

Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup
Yield: About 6 servings


3 to 3 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces (about 7 medium potatoes, 8 - 9 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (1 cup)
3 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup evaporated milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To Make the Roux
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Optional Toppings
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz)
9 oz bacon, cooked and diced or crumbled
4 green onions, diced


To a 6 or 7-quart slow cooker, add potatoes, onion, chicken broth, evaporated milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with lid and cook on HIGH heat for 4 hours or LOW heat for 8 hours (poke potatoes with a fork to check make sure they're soft).

Ladle out 2 cups liquid from soup mixture in crock pot into a liquid measuring cup, set aside. 

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour 2 cups liquid in measuring cup into butter mixture (it will thicken quickly). Pour butter mixture into slow cooker and stir to blend. 

If desired, mash potatoes with a potato masher to break down into smaller pieces or use an emulsion blender to puree. Cover and cook on HIGH heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. 

Turn heat off (or to warm), stir in sour cream. Serve warm topped with cheddar, bacon and green onions (you can just mix in those three remaining ingredients into slow cooker or top individual servings).

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Littlest Kids in the Kitchen

It is never to early to get your kids started in the kitchen. If you aren't sure how to to get started or where to begin, here are some really beginning ways to get your littlest ones involved in the kitchen with you.

10 Simple Ways to Involve Your Kids in the Kitchen

Rinse the Veggies

If your child loves the faucet, as most little kids do, why not let him help rinse off your vegetables for dinner? Show him how to scrub each vegetable, and turn it into a learning experience by talking about colors, textures, and tastes. This is one of the most favorite ones at our house and we even have to keep track of who got to wash them last. Plus, there isn't much you can do to bruise a carrot or a potato. They'll be the cleanest veggies you ever ate.

Add and Stir Ingredients

Pouring, mixing, and stirring are all kid-friendly activities for younger children. Measure out your ingredients and let your child pour and mix them all together. A little bit of a trick we use at our house to keep the mess down is use a big bigger of a bowl than you normally would need. This will keep things from flying out the bowl when the stirring gets really "fun" and exciting.

Name and Count Foods

Learning opportunities abound in the kitchen! Have your child read the recipe to you while you cook, and work on math skills by counting the number of ingredients you need. We had a fun experience this weekend when our budding baker made a cake for the first time all by himself. Sadly, it didn't turn out well because he added 11 - 4ths of a cup of water. Not 1 1/4, but 11. There is so much awesome math and science involved in cooking. Take these moments to teach as well as experience the wonder of your child learning something new.

Set the Table

While you prepare dinner, your little one can help set the table. Set out all the plates, silverware, and cups you need, and let your child set each family member's place. For an added activity, let him create name cards for each family member's place setting. This is also a great time to talk about where the place settings go and nice manners at the table. It doesn't have to be overly formal, but good manners are always a good thing. We even let the table setter fold the napkins into fun shapes.

Crack Eggs

Older kids will love helping to crack eggs. It may take a little patience and a few spills, but in time, your little helper will be your right-hand man when it comes to whipping up goodies. This is THE job to have at our house. We often have to let the each crack one. I prefer not to dig the shells out of a bowl of batter, so I always have them crack the eggs into a separate bowl. (also be Sure to have you little one wash their hands after)

Cut Soft Foods

Starting at around age five, children are usually ready to cut some foods on their own. Start your child off with a dull butter knife and a soft fruit, such as a banana. As she cuts, talk to her about knife safety and the dangers of using one without adult supervision. Cutting is very exciting and officially a bigger kid job at our house. But all my kids have started it at different ages. Assess the coordination and focus of each child and decide when would be a good time to start cutting.

Use an Egg Beater

The use of kitchen appliances should be reserved for children ages five and older. Help your child measure and pour all the ingredients into the bowl, and then let her go to town beating them all together.  I am just starting to let our six year old hold the hand mixer. I put my hand on the back of it for now, and we have a little talk about safety and lifting the mixer out of the bowl while it is running ( and therefore spraying batter everywhere).

Find the Measuring Utensils

Finding the correct measuring utensils is a great math lesson for older children. Ask your child to locate the size you need, and then let him measure and pour the ingredients himself. For lots of  new adult cooks the difference in a recipe between a teaspoon and a tablespoon is a common mistake. As you let your little one find the utensils and learn the abbreviations they'll be less likely to make that mistake as an older chef.

For more information on ways to be in the kitchen with your preschooler and to deal with issues that little kids have with food Snap-Ed has an amazing website with days and days of information.

Invite those curious little ones into the kitchen - let them explore and experiment with you. They will absolutely love the time they get to spend in your company and you will be teaching them a valuable skill that will benefit them their entire lives.