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Letting Go, and Letting Kids Create in the Kitchen

31 January 2014

Since this week has essentially become confession week here at Teaching Good Eaters, I have another one to make.

I am not a naturally fun person.

This was made abundantly clear this past weekend when my husband and kids discussed a snowshoeing "adventure," in the woods. As I got up to get ready, my daughter said, "You're not coming, are you mom?!"

Apparently, she thought that I would just say, "no," to everything… I would have killed the spirit of adventure.

In order to be "fun," I have to push myself. I have to work at it. I need to push past the part of me that worries, and doubts, and over-thinks.

Since starting to read the book, Hands Free Mama, I have been trying to say "yes," more often. By this, I don't mean letting my kids do whatever they want, or even lightening up on the rules.

What I do mean, is stopping my knee-jerk reaction to say, "no," because of my own hangups.

Saying, "yes," to playdates, even though my house could be cleaner.
Saying, "yes," to reading a story, playing a game, or doing a craft, even though I have "things to do."

And, here's the big one for me right now, saying, "yes," to letting my kids create in the kitchen.

I've always been a proponent of kids in the kitchen.

However, a while back, as I was watching Master Chef Junior, it occurred to me that even if my own kids possessed culinary talents, I would never know it, because they had never been given the chance to try.

Sure they could follow a recipe and take my direction, but they certainly hadn't been given many opportunities to create, and even more importantly- to fail.

I was reminded, yet again, of the things I know about teaching and learning that I seem to ignore with own kids, particularly when it comes to things outside of the academic realm.

I crafted lessons that allowed kids to learn through experience, to evaluate what works and what doesn't, and I took advantage of the powerful learning that can take place when kids expectations do not yield the expected results.

Now, at home, I take complete control over all of their experiences with cooking, not allowing them to do any real learning at all.

I have don't have to do too much soul searching to figure out why this is: The kitchen is my domain, and I am a bit of a control freak.

Someone else in my kitchen using my food, gives me anxiety.

And so…. baby steps.

You may know that my daughter decided to start her own blog. She wanted to make a new post and asked if she could create her own cookie recipe.

This was not the first time she asked… but it was the first time I said, "yes." Even though, the kitchen was already a mess…  Even though I really needed the counter space to make dinner... I took a deep breath, said, "yes," and then tried to keep my mouth shut.

Her cookies turned out ok. She and my kids still ate them, but she decided that they weren't very good and tasted more like a bread than a cookie. She also decided that they weren't really blog worthy. By staying out of it, she was able to do all of this evaluation on her own, and she was still proud of herself, even though the cookies didn't turn out as she'd hoped.

Thanks to a cutting board and some "safety," knives my kids received for Christmas, my boys have been asking if they can make up recipes of their own, as well.

My kids are smart enough to know that a good way to get this mom to say, "yes," is to ask if they can make up their own recipes using vegetables.

I still have to take deep breaths while they invade my space (especially since once one starts, they ALL feel the need to work on their own creations, as well) but I also know that they will eat just about anything that they create.

Want to know the other hard part for me?? You know that post about how my kids are better eaters than I am? Sometimes I have to really push myself to try what they made. Sometimes, I have to be brave.

In the spirit, of letting go of control in the kitchen, I have decided to let my daughter plan and pack lunches next week. To be honest, this is a pretty safe experiment... In the wake of her reaction to the Lunchables experiment, I'm pretty confident that her choices will be "mom approved."

Is the kitchen your domain, or I am the only one who gets anxiety when someone else tries to take control in the kitchen?

Do you let you children experiment with food? What have they made?

All links to Amazon are affiliate links which means that if you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small referral fee.

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The Day I (Tried) to Eat Like my Kids

29 January 2014

A few years ago, I remember reading an article in a parenting magazine about a mom who tried to eat what her kids ate (for a day? a week? I honestly can't remember.) For the duration of this experiment, her diet consisted of things like macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets, and goldfish crackers.

Strangely enough, she basically concluded that this was a horrible diet- for her --- with little (if any?) mention of the fact, that maybe it wasn't so great for her kids either.

At the time, I remember thinking that if I ate like my kids, I'd be much better off. 

Here's why: I feed my kids better than I feed myself. Yep. I'm pretty much a hypocrite. I was even worse when I first read the article. I've gotten much better thank to having gestational diabetes during most of my 4th pregnancy, and also due to the fact that I cut out wheat about 8 months ago.

But still, I will insist that my kids snack on carrots and apples while secretly inhaling a handful of chocolate chips.

I feed my kids a high protein, low sugar breakfast, while enjoying my own breakfast of champions: coffee.

I don't really eat a lot of "junk food," because I don't have it in the house… but I don't regularly eat all of the good foods that I insist that my kids eat either.

While some days, I do pretty well, other days I simply graze until dinner time.

Since I'm all about experiments lately, I decided to do another: I would to try to eat like my kids all day long.


I've always had a hard time eating first thing in the morning.

However, since my kids eat as soon as they wake up- on this day, I did too. I had a slight advantage because my kids had a snow day which meant that breakfast started at a little later than usual.

First up- a smoothie (banana, frozen organic strawberries and blueberries-from Aldi, almond milk, and chia.) I have always insisted that I just couldn't handle all that sweetness in the morning. Not only did I drink it, no problem, but I really enjoyed it!

Next, my kids had their standard "egg-toast" with guacamole. Since I don't eat bread, I had two eggs, guac, and some blackberries.

However, my resident smoothie-faced theif ate most of my berries…


On days that he doesn't go to preschool, my 4 year old asks for food all morning. For the past few days, I've reminded him that at school, he doesn't eat until snack-time and is therefore not starving… so, I've done this- and it works... mostly.

Here's how he entertained himself while he waited for snack-time:

When it was finally snack-time, the kids ate crackers (wheat thins) and hummus

And the (almost) 2 year old and I ate veggie chips and hummus because we don't eat wheat…

Also, since the kids have been begging for chocolate, I bought some chocolate almond milk, which I heated up and then topped with whipped up coconut milk and 2 mini marshmallows.


For lunch, the kids had apples with cashew butter (the 4 year old wanted apple "donuts" with cashew butter and raisins inside) and turkey and guacamole or ham and mustard sandwiches.

Again, since the baby and I don't eat wheat, I made guacamole and ham quesadillas on corn tortillas. I actually sat down and ate with the kids!

Before nap/ rest time, a few of the kids finished their sandwiches from earlier, so I joined in and finished my son's quesadilla.

Sneaky Snack…

Naptime was a struggle. Normally, this is when I eat. Until nap time, it's go-go-go, and I often forget to eat. I then suddenly realize that I'm starving.

On this day, even though I had been eating all morning, I still wanted to eat.

I gave in and grabbed a bowl of nuts and raisins. I figured that, if the kids had asked, I probably would have allowed them to have some as well. However, since they were all banished to their rooms to give mommy one hour of peace, they couldn't ask ;)

While cleaning the kitchen, I found my hubby's lunchbox with some almonds left in it. I couldn't let them go to waste…


After rest time, we all sat down to some carrots and hummus. I didn't really want to eat the carrots, nor did the four year old,  but we ate them anyways, because that was the only thing I was serving ;)

We got an awesome surprise gift of a dehydrator for Christmas!! We used it for the first time today because it takes me forever to try to new things. (Which was stupid because it was so easy!)

After our carrots, our fruit leather (which I made way too thin) and our dried pineapple were done, so we ate all of the fruit leather and three and a half trays of dried pineapple.


My daughter and I were supposed to go to a knitting class at 6:00, and dinner wasn't ready yet, so we both downed some salad with turkey before we left. I was in a such a hurry, I forgot to take a picture until I was done…

However, the class was, to the huge disappointment of my daughter, cancelled- so we joined everyone else for chicken legs cooked with bacon, sweet potatoes and broccoli.

Don't let the tiny plate fool you. The large dishes were still in the dishwasher because the (almost) 2 year old restarted it about 5 times today, so we had to use the little ones. I did only have one chicken leg (not my favorite part of the chicken) but I ate at least 3 times the amount of veggies shown.


1) We would not survive around here without apples, guacamole and hummus.
2) I can eat and enjoy breakfast. I just need to make an effort to do so.
3) I like smoothies… even first thing in the morning.
4) This experiment made me think about food all day, which made me think that I was hungry all day. It was really hard not to just grab something whenever I wanted to.
5) When I ate like my kids, I drank more water! I usually don't realize that I'm thirsty until evening.
6) I need to sit down and eat with my kids more often (not just at dinner)
7) I didn't want to eat carrots--- but I ate them anyways because I didn't have a choice.
8) When my kids say they are "starving," they may be hungry, or they may be bored. I'm still not sure if I was really as hungry as I thought I was yesterday, or if I just wanted food all day because I knew I couldn't have it.
8) It would be good for me to eat like my kids more often…

Do you eat like your kids?
If you did, would it be a good thing or a bad thing??

This post is linked up to What I Ate Wednesday and since I ended up with so many pictures, I'm joining Jessica in (not quite) "Wordless" Wednesday.

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The Lunchables Experiment

27 January 2014

My life is full of "I would nevers."

Especially when it comes to parenthood.

All those things that I said I would NEVER do… until I did.

The truth is, I never thought I would be THAT mom. You know, the one who feeds her kids "healthy" food. THAT one. The one whose sole purpose is to make her kids the "weird ones" while simultaneously making other moms feel bad about what they feed their kids. Yep. That's me.

I did not intend this. Many times, I don't WANT this. But each time I try to fall off this particular wagon, I am thrown back on. With a vengeance.

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7 Quick Takes about Blogging, Friendship, and Jim Gaffigan

24 January 2014

Click the picture above to see all the other fun Quick Takes over at Conversion Diary!!

This October, after a yearlong hiatus, I decided to give this blogging thing one more try. This month, doubt and frustration began to creep in. I was ready to throw in the towel. For. Good.

And then, a strange thing happened: Momentum.

A comment that made my day.  A Twitter interaction that started out as a pity party and ended up as an ego boost. A few really positive email interactions. More FB engagement than ever before.

And then, this post showed up in my Twitter feed: 8 Practical Motivations to Blog When no one is Reading it.

Message. Received.

Speaking of Interactions… It's pretty pathetic how excited I was about this particular one:

 (And, oh my goodness, if you don't know who Jim Gaffigan is, you must watch this youtube clip A.S.A. P.)

If you're a blogger, or a regular follower of blogs, you know that the relationship between bloggers and Facebook has been a little tenuous lately.

Basically, if you don't interact with a blog's Facebook posts- and interact often- Facebook will not show you their posts. Additionally, if a blogger shares a post that contains a link, only about 5% of a blogger's followers will actually see the post.

This is, admittedly, very frustrating.

But…. there is an upside:

I am a true believer in learning styles and I learn by talking- that's how I process information. The more that I interact with blogs that I follow, the more I learn, the more I process, and to top it all off, the more connected I feel. And that's a good thing.

Since I learn by talking… there are a few books that I'd really love to discuss with you all!

So, starting the first Monday in February, I will be introducing: Monthly Monday Book Club.

Each month I will introduce and give away one copy of the book at the beginning of the month. Then, I  will plan a book club about that book for the following month.

The books will usually, though not always, be non-fiction and related to food/ parenting. They will also usually, if not always, have a memoir feel because, for me, non-fiction without story, just doesn't keep my attention.

I'm still debating how to do this but am considering a Twitter party and a Google Hangout (which is TOTALLY new to me.) I'm also considering a link-up for posts about the book. Have you ever hosted or attended a Google Hangout? What are your thoughts? Other suggestions??

Interested? email me: info(AT) and I'll add you to my Monday Book Club mailing list to make sure you don't miss any information about the book club.

Due to the cold, most of my interactions have been of the online, rather than the "in person," variety. However, today, after one too many two hour delays, I asked a fellow mom to hang out at my house while our 4 year olds were at preschool.

This is not a common occurrence.  My house is not usually fit for company at this time of the morning.

But then, I reminded myself of the wonderful gift a new friend once gave me.

The first time she invited my kids and I for a playdate she said, "I purposely didn't clean up before you came so that you wouldn't feel like you needed to clean before inviting me."

In that moment, I decided that I wanted to be her friend.

I've told this story often, but have yet to really embrace the meaning behind it, until today.

And so, when my friend arrived this morning, I said the exact same words to her.

Friends don't clean up for friends. (Though I did wipe the remains of breakfast from the table and put the sink slop down the disposal lest she think I'm a complete slob.)

By the way, this post about making mom friends, nailed it.

I have a favor to ask.

One of the blogs that I interact with on a regular basis is the blog Pretty Hungry. Sadly, the blog's author, Carissa, just lost her father very suddenly.

My heart aches for her.

Truth be told, I'm pretty clueless when it comes to helping someone who's grieving. And yet, there's always that question, "What can I do?"

In this post, she explains why she's still blogging in the midst of facing this personal tragedy.

Since cooking and blogging is her solace right now, why not throw a little sunshine her way by way of her blog??

So, if I can be so bold as to ask,  would you stop by her blog and get to know the sweet person behind it? Then throw a little prayer or some "bloggy love," her or share a post, comment on a post, become a follower.

Thank you!!

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"Actually," Maybe He Does Like the Bean Soup

22 January 2014

A few years ago, I wrote a guest post for the blog Making Lemonade listing my top ten tips for feeding toddlers.

An incident this afternoon reminded me of that post:

1 year old: (points to kiwi)
Me: Do you want kiwi?
1 year old: (nods his head yes, gets kiwi, doesn't eat it)
Me: If you don't want your kiwi, give it to Dillon (4 year old)
Dillon: I don't want it (the boys then proceed to push the plate back and forth yelling at each other, "I don't want it!")
Me: Fine, I'll eat it then
1 year old: I want it! (then proceeds to eat it all)

Then, within minutes, my 4 (almost 5) year old proved just how applicable these tips are for preschoolers as well!!

Tip #1: More often than not, it's not really about the food.
Tip #3: Don't engage in a battle about food.
Tip #10: Offer choices. (Both of which are a win for you.)

And one that wasn't on my list--- enlist some positive peer pressure... and even a little competition ;)

About the "bean soup" A.K.A. 3 bean chili...
4 year old (last night): My body wants what it wants, and it doesn't want that!
4 year old (this afternoon): Mmm… I LOVE bean soup. It's my favorite.

About the blackberries…
4 year old: (Didn't say anything, but his expression told me that he was about to say that he didn't want blackberries.)
Me: How many blackberries to you want?
4 year old: One.
Me: Here Sam, (1 year old) you can have two.
4 year old: Actually, I want three.

About salsa…
4 year old: I don't want any red stuff. I just want beans and wackamole (guacamole)
Me: That's fine. Sam will have salsa though- he loves salsa
4 year old: Actually, I do want salsa.

Ate a whole plate of nachos with beans, guacamole and salsa… I then made up a second plate.
4 year old: I didn't want the red stuff this time. The red stuff gives me a headache, but the beans and wackamole make it all better.

Does any of this sound familiar? I'd love to hear your own stories in the comments!
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What the Kids Ate Wednesday + The Lunchables Experiment Day 1

21 January 2014

A while ago, I discovered a link-up called, What I Ate Wednesday (WIAW) on a blog called Peas and Carrots. Bloggers link up a post of chronicling a days worth of eating.

Looking at these posts, I realized that there are so many different ways to eat and that each of us has our own "normal," when it comes to eating. Peeking into someone else's "food" day, helps me to be more creative and think outside of my typical culinary box.

I decided that it might also be helpful to see and hear about, the different things that kids eat (or don't eat) and so, this week, I decided to document one day of eating for my kids.

It just so happens that this day was a bit unusual for us in a few ways…

Breakfast was fairly typical (though it is a slight break from my standard rotation.) Cashew butter "bear" toasts, Naked (brand) Blue Machine juice smoothie, and chicken sausage.

9 year old: ate everything (plus an extra piece of sausage)
7 year old: ate almost everything. Didn't quite finish the toast, but did have an extra piece of sausage
4 (almost 5) year old: Ate the ears off of his toast, drank the juice, ate 2 pieces of sausage
1 (almost 2) year old: Had part of a gluten-free bagel with cashew butter and a a few slices of banana with cashew butter, a handful of raisins, plus juice and almond milk (I don't think he had any sausage… he loves it, but wasn't eating much so I didn't really think to give him some.)

Snack: carrots, cucumber, hummus, and nuts (my sons had a nut mix and my daughter had pistachios)

9 year old: ate everything but the hummus*
7 year old: ate everything but the hummus*
4 (almost 5) year old: ate everything-- but not all of the hummus
1 (almost 2) year old: ate all of the hummus, half of the cucumbers and carrots and finished his breakfast- which was still sitting out.

This was the size of the snack for the 9 and 7 year old. The 4 and 1 year old had 4 cucumbers and 4 carrots
*My kids typically LOVE hummus, but have been skipping it lately. I've been buying my hummus at Aldi, which hadn't been a problem, but it may be time to go back to buying Sabra or Tribe (my two favorite brands.) Or perhaps they're just experiencing hummus burnout :)

Lunch: Here's the big deviation from our norm...

On Monday, the kids were off of school, but I really needed to go shopping. To head off any potential complaints about going to the store, I asked my daughter if she had any special requests for her lunch this week.

She grabbed paper and pen and went to find my oldest son to write up "their" list.

When she returned, she started reading the list to me. Midway through the list, she paused and said, "This one's a little weird. I'll save it for last."

It turns out that the, "weird," request was Lunchables.  Man, those folks have done some amazing marking to kids. Yep, even though I pack my kids some pretty good lunches with cute little partitioned lunch boxes, they still wanted Lunchables.

I suggested making our own and received a shoulder shrug which basically meant, "That really is not what I want, but I know that I'll never get what I want anyways, so just forget about it."

My daughter can convey quite a bit with a simple shrug of her shoulders.

I later decided on an experiment. There are four school days this week. So, each (school age) kid could pick two Lunchables which they would have for lunch on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday and Friday, I would make a similar (but better!) homemade version of what they chose.

My hope is that by allowing the kids to try them, I can break the appeal of the Lunchables--- especially when they see them in direct contrast to the (awesome) lunches that I make ;)

Therefore… today's lunch was: Nacho Lunchables and a bag of apples. (My daughter actually requested the apples.)

9 year old: Ate the chips, salsa and candy. Said the nacho cheese was gross and that her apples were rotten (??). Oddly enough, my kids have apples in their lunch nearly every day and she has never, ever complained about this before.
7 year old: Ate everything but the salsa which he said was too spicy. (This kid will eat pretty spicy food and I find it hard to believe that a lunch marketed to fairly unadventurous eaters would have a spicy salsa.)
4 (almost 5) year old: Ate the remainder of his "bear" toast from breakfast and a half of a cashew butter and jelly sandwich. Normally he would also eat something else but he said he was full.
1 (almost 2) year old: Ate leftover chicken and sweet potato fries

After school (or nap) snack: Baked, grain-free donuts. I have wanted to make this recipe for a long time. I anticipated that my kids would come home hungry and would be in need of some protein to stave off the sugar crash from having chips, candy and sugar water for lunch. These are made with coconut flour and tons of eggs, so they are full of fiber and protein. 

9 year old: Said she didn't like them. However, I made several batches (since I could only bake 6 at a time) so I doctored each batch a little bit. She had half of each batch which amounted to 2 donuts, plus half of a piece of sausage that she found in the fridge---leftover from breakfast.
8 year old: Said they were, "Pretty good," and ate 3 of them
4 (almost 5) year old: Started out liking it until his brother told him that his didn't have pumpkin in it like the one he was eating (I made some without butter since he doesn't handle dairy and these didn't have the advantage of the later doctoring which included pumpkin. He ate several bites, and then started to cry. He didn't finish it, though he started begging for it in the middle of dinner.
1 (almost 2) year old: Ate one donut without complaint

**Not one of the kids asked for anything else prior to dinner which is really, really rare in our house.

Dinner: Three bean chili

9 year old: Ate the whole bowl, plus almost all of a second (plus 3 tortilla chips)
7 year old: Ate two whole bowls (plus 3 tortilla chips)
4 (almost 5) year old: Ate few bites, then told me that his body wants what his body wants and it didn't want this. Begged for the donut he didn't want before (because that's what his body wanted.) Ate several more bites for a total of about half of his bowl. (plus 3 tortilla chips) UPDATE-- For more on this story, click here.
1 (almost 2) year old: Ate one bite and a tortilla chip. Then, a half hour later (bowls were still left on the table) he said he wanted more soup, and ate a few more bites of his, plus a few bites out of the other bowls left on the table.

Notice his artwork… on his hands, on his face, on the table?? What is it about markers that make them so much fun??!

**The 4 (almost 5) year old had some dairy yesterday which he does not tolerate well. This affects both his mood and his willingness to eat and explains his dinnertime behavior. The 1 (almost 2) year old typically eats a LOT more food. Not sure if he's getting sick, teething, or just going through a stage where he is eating less. Whatever the reason, I'm not worried.

Documenting a day, or a week of what your kids eat (or don't eat) can be a great way to get a better picture of what's going on with your kids eating habits. You may realize that they are actually better (or worse) eaters than you thought.

At the conclusion of one particular day, I realized that my kids had toast with breakfast, bread for their sandwiches at lunch, crackers for a snack, and pasta for dinner--- They ate almost nothing but wheat products!

I'd love to hear what your kids ate (or didn't eat!) Join me in linking up to WIAW or just share what they ate in the comments.

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