Thursday, January 31, 2013

Introducing Children to Real Food (Or "Bing Crosby Answers")

I have a secret.  Bing Crosby is a past heartthrob of mine.  When Jeremy and I were dating, I told him his only competition was Bing (we were on a first-name basis, Bing and I).  Sure, he was on the other side of eternity, but his records and movies lived on in my heart.  How does this have anything to do with getting kids to eat healthy food, you ask?  I'll tell you.  Bing Crosby will, actually.  He delivers his wise answer in classic, Bing form (cue the big band intro music).  If you know the song, croon along with my Bingter:

Accentuate the Positive

Real food is good!  It's colorful, flavorful, and it makes us feel great.  I know that and you know that, but how do we open our children's eyes to that?  Especially if they've been eating lots of packaged foods as of late.  Their taste buds have been conditioned for it, and it can be rough reconditioning them to enjoying what real food tastes like.  The first step to help them understand is to level with them.  Communicate.  Express our excitement and joy.  
Oh my goodness, this organic orange is so sweet and juicy!  I can feel my body getting so happy about it!  It's killing germs and giving me energy!
Wow, these carrots were  just pulled out of the ground and they are so tasty!  I never knew carrots could be so sweet and crisp!  Food that is grown close to our home and just harvested makes them super fresh.  The fresher, the tastier!   Can you taste the difference of these carrots from those packaged baby carrots?

This roast is so juicy and tender!  It's from a cow that ate what it was created to eat: grass!  When cows are treated well, they give us amazing roasts, steaks, and burgers.  There's so much more good stuff in grass-fed beef than the kind that comes from caged up cows.  

Does your child still complain about healthy food?  Here are a couple of my favorite responses:
You don't think you like this?  That's just because you haven't tried it enough.
If your child still refuses to eat the meal, instead of getting trapped in their drama, simply remove it from the table with a gentle response of, you'll like it better next time.
I totally just said that.  
If your child absolutely refuses to eat the meal, remove it.  S/he will eventually be hungry and eat.  You are the parent.  You are the one in authority over the food situation, not your child.  That might not have been the household approach in the past, but this will help your child realize that their little, immature (but very cute) self is not the one who makes the food choices; not until they have been "trained in the ways they should go" (that's what we are doing for, here).  "But my kid won't eat that."  They certainly will if they don't have a choice.  Trust me.  This isn't mean.  Allowing them to eat health-compromising, fake food is, though.

Eliminate the Negative

We want our children (and ourselves, for that matter) to make good choices, right?  Let's make it easy on ourselves:  don't buy bad stuff.  It's easy to buy a box of crackers, cookies, cereal, and other things filled with white/refined sugar and flour to fall back on "for an emergency" or "to eat in moderation," but if your family is used to snacking on them and they are there for the taking, you simply will not stop eating them.  Ya gotta go cold turkey.  You also must have healthy alternatives available.  Here are some "if you eat ___, eat ___ instead" ideas:
Sometimes, if you're already familiar with cooking from scratch, it's as easy as transitioning your old ingredients out and and buying new ingredients.
  • Choose spelt instead of white flour.
  • Choose almond and/or coconut flour instead of all-purpose gluten-free flour (many recipes using these flours can be found in our recipes page).
  • Choose coconut, date, or whole sugar instead of white/refined/expeller pressed sugar.
  • Instead of grocery store produce that has likely traveled thousands of miles, is old, and laden with cancer-causing pesticides, find a local Community Supported Agriculture to get in-season, organic fruits and veggies.  You might be surprised how amazing they taste!  It will save you time, as well:  good food doesn't need to be disguised or made into a dish, they taste delicious all on their own. 
  • Find local, grass-fed meat.  There's so much to say about this.  It's really important.  If you want to know more, I highly recommend looking into this little, easy-read book.
  • Choose organic, raw, grass-fed milk and dairy products instead of pasteurized.  I know this is a huge stretch for some, and I was adamantly against raw dairy until I read up on it.  We have been eating it for years now and have noticed a massive improvement in our health.
Yes, good food costs more.  Yes, it can be challenging to fit it in a budget.  It makes you re-prioritize your whole life as you work the budgets around.  Cable TV or food that will make my family thrive?  One of my favorite quotes is "You either pay the organic farmer now or the doctor later."  It's so true.

Latch On To The Affirmative

Celebrate each victory!  When you find a healthy dish that your family, or most of your family enjoys (or even eats without weeping and gnashing their teeth), do a dance of joy!  Blow a shofar!  Give a First Nations victory yell!  You are on the road to health, and you are taking your family with you.  Praise your family for making each good choice.  You just enjoyed frozen blueberries instead of those nasty popsicles we used to eat!  Your body is so happy and healthy now!  

Don't Mess With Mister In Between

Consistency is key.  It's also the hardest part.  You know those days when you're super tired, unmotivated, or cranky and you just want your kids to be happy for once so you're tempted to shove something in their mouths that will make the house quiet and peaceful for a few seconds?  Yeah, I totally don't know those days, either.  Except I do.  Don't give in!  Take it easy on yourself, but don't show the kids that you can be manipulated.  Get out the air popper and make some peanut butter and honey popcorn.  Or just melt some butter or coconut oil and pour it over the popcorn and sprinkle some sea salt on it.  Go ahead.  Dive in head-first.  Oh, and the kids can have some, too.  Just don't go to the store and get a box of something!

I know Bing and I just covered a million miles of information and you might have some questions.  Please, please go ahead and write your question down in the comments box below!  I will reply, or even write a post, just for you.  Bing might have a few things to add, too.  We make a good team, Bing and I.  Jeremy understands.

I'm sharing this at Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fight Back Friday.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Winter Kitchen

In my winter kitchen:
  • There is almost always a pot of bone stock simmering.  Some is immediately used for a dinnertime soup, the rest is either placed in the freezer for later or directly put in enchilada sauce (if we are running low), or to used to make rice for the week.
  • The oven is frequently baking a batch of muffins or slow-cooking a roast of sorts.
  • Dirty dishes are always waiting in the sink for cleaning, and the window above is letting in more wintertime sunshine then usual.  The windowsill plants are happy about that, and I try to enjoy it and not worry too much about the lack of rain during what should be the heaviest month of rainfall.  I pray for rain. A lot.
  • A long, wooden bowl at the center of the kitchen table holds the last of autumn's apples and bright, fresh, citrus fruit (California-grown, of course), ready for the taking.
  • A little ten-month-old keeps busy on the floor with a bowl and several kitchen utensils.
  • One child asks what is for dinner while an older one helps prepare a smoothie for everyone's afternoon snack and another rolls cookie dough bites for dessert and future packed lunches.
  • Taking advantage of the dark, leafy greens that are currently in season, I am washing/chopping/tossing/putting together a big salad to feast on for the week.  Some nuts, bits of apple, a diced avocado, and how about some some cheese and sausage tossed in?  It sounds like lunch to me!
  • We are getting close to a hundred seedlings, growing away in their trays.  They move all around the kitchen with the light, and they turn toward it.  I'm waiting for the question of how many seed starts do you plan to grow in this little kitchen of ours?  But until then, I keep starting more and dreaming of the day they go outside.
  • I'm thinking I want to add more plants to my suculant collection and decorate the kitchen table with them for our February centerpiece.
  • We drink lots of freshly-made orange, carrot, lemon juice to ward off the sickies.
  • Collecting the kitchen scraps and egg basket, we stick on our boots and head down to the chicken coop to exchange daily treats.  Scraps for them, eggs for us.
What have you been up to in your winter kitchen?

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Simple Cloth Bracelet Tutorial

Last Saturday, as Jeremy and our oldest son went fishing for dinner and the baby was napping, the girls and I found ourselves in the mood to create.  They wanted to make bracelets.  I thought it would be fun to crochet some.  They wanted to use material.  It sounded like a great idea.  Sometimes it's fun to follow their lead.

We pulled the box of cloth scraps out and each daughter chose her colors.  We decided to use buttons or beads to make the center of a "flower," using the fringy ends.  The girls were so pleased with the end results that I thought I'd share them with you.  They plan to make several more to give to their friends as Valentine's Day gifts.  This works for me!  Using extra buttons that come with clothes and scraps of cloth from old clothes or projects means they cost nothing, and they only take about five minutes each to make!

You Will Need (per bracelet):
  • 3 different prints/colors of material (a square foot altogether will be more than enough)
  • 1 button or 3 beads
  • thread and a needle to fasten the button
To Assemble:
  1. Measure the wrist of the person the bracelet is for (or eye it as best as you can).  Cut 3 strips of material to braid, a little longer than the wrist measurement, about 1.5 inches (or 3 fingers) thick.
  2. Cut 2 strips to tie off each side of the braid, about 4 inches long and a half inch thick.
  3. Tie the 3 strips you plan to braid together with one of the two 4-inch-long strips with a square knot.  Have a helper hold where you just tied the square knot, or use your knees to hold it while you braid.  Braid the three strips to the end, finishing it off with the second 4-inch-long strip tied in another square knot.
  4. Using one end of each of the square-knotted 4-inch strips, tie them in a square knot, turning the braid into a bracelet.
  5. Using a thread and needle, sew on the button or beads in the center of the fringy ends. (each step can be seen in the collage above).
I'm sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Weekly Menu Plan #61

Wishing you the very best of weeks, filled with meaningful family connection and good, nourishing food.

To do: hard boil eggs, soak porridge, thaw potato cheddar soup for Wednesday. 
Lunch:  Leftover Muffins, Cream Cheese & Turkey Wraps, Apple

To do:  make yogurt
Breakfast:  Porridge & Eggs
Lunch:  Hard boiled Egg, Raw Cheese, Almonds, Apple

To do:
Lunch:  Almonds, Raw Cheese, muffins from Monday, Ants on a Log

Lunch:  GF Nut Butter & Honey Sandwich, Raw Cheese, Carrot Sticks
Snack:  Orange Julius
Dinner:  Cheese, Wilted Chard, & Winter Squash Quesadillas with Rice Tortillas

Lunch:  Hummus, Carrots, Raw Cheese Wrapped in Lunch Meat,  Cookie Dough Bites

Dinner:  Irish Nachos

Breakfast:  Leftover Omelette from Saturday
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Leftovers
(Sunday is my day off)

I'm sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter.

Friday, January 25, 2013

8 Ideas to Give Your Packed Lunches a Healthy Makeover

This post has been in the making since August.  Each time a lunch was made that my kids adored, I started taking pictures of them to archive as a reference.  I share a few of them over at Modern Alternative Kitchen today, as well as three simple steps to ensure a successful transition to simple, real food lunches.  As I'm always on the look-out for new ideas, what are some foods you like to pack into lunches?  I am thankful for any suggestions.

I'm sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fight Back Friday.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Year Of Smoothies ~ 10 Seasonal Smoothie Recipes For A Healthy Gut, Year Round

Because we drink a smoothie each day, coming up with new flavors has been a focus of mine for the past year.  We are now up to ten different varieties, so I thought it might be helpful to gather them all up into one neat post, categorized by season.  Of course, if you freeze some of your berries and fruit, you can whip them up out of season, as well.

Each of these smoothies are raw and contain enzymes crucial for good digestion and overall health.  They all contain cultured dairy to impart probiotics and strengthen immune and digestive systems.  If you are dairy-free, you can actually make coconut milk kefir (click on this link for how-to videos and culture starters).  Most of the recipes call for kefir, but you can substitute with yogurt cup-for-cup if you prefer.  If you have never made your own kefir or yogurt, you might be surprised at how easy it is. You can also find how-to videos and culture starters for those by clicking this link.

Cranberry Walnut
Orange Julius

Carrot Cake Smoothie
Apricot Creme Smoothie

Very Cherry
Strawberry Cacao
Blueberry Bliss

Cleansing Grape & Fig Smoothie
Apple Pie

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sausage Kale Soup ~ A Healthy Winter Recipe

As a triple cold and flu season carries on, we continue to find new ways to combat it while carrying on with everyday life.  Food is the best medicine, as the old Chinese proverb goes.  I wholeheartedly agree.  If sugar and flour feeds bad bacteria and viruses, this soup strengthens the immune system to ward the yuckies off.  

My family does not enjoy mushrooms, but since they are such a strong immune booster, I slip them in this soup and blend them all up.  Then no one has to deal with the nose-crinkling mushroom texture.  However...  If you enjoy chunky soups and thinly-sliced mushrooms like I do, forgo the immersion blender and enjoy!  I usually save about a third of it in a big bowl before running it through with a blender to make it palatable for my family.  Chunky or smooth, this soup hits the spot and strengthens our bodies.

Sausage Kale Soup
Prep time: 20 min; cook time: 20 min; serves 8-10 (freezes well)
  • 1 pound uncooked sausage of choice (I use Trader Joe's sweet Italian chicken sausage)
  • 4 potatoes (peeled if using hard skinned potatoes like russet)
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 8 ounces crimini mushrooms
  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • pepper to taste
  1. Remove sausage from castings (this is optional.  It's a personal choice I make because I just don't like them.  To avoid castings altogether, buy sausage not in the form of links).  Place sausage in soup pot and brown over medium heat, crumbling the meat with a spatula while it browns.
  2. As the sausage browns, slice potatoes in bite-sized pieces if you plan to make a chunky soup.  If you plan to blend it, you can just cut them into fourths.  De-vein kale and cut or rip it into bite-sized pieces.  Rinse and slice mushrooms.  Dice onions and garlic (I use the food processor to slice the mushrooms and dice the onion and garlic together.  It gets these tasks done in seconds.)
  3. Once the sausage is cooked, pour chicken stock over it and add potatoes, mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme, and red pepper flakes.  Cook, covered, over medium/high heat for about 20  minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
  4. Remove from heat and add kale, salt, creme fraiche, and pepper.  If the soup is too cool, return the soup pot to heat source and simmer until hot enough.
  5. Serve immediately for a chunky soup or run it through with an immersion blender if you prefer a pureed soup.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Manuka Honey ~ 7 Ways It Might Help You

There is something that you will always find in our cupboard that has been a huge help to us and I wanted to share about it with you.  It's name is Manuka Honey and it is from New Zealand.  However, it seems it is illegal to say, "Manuka honey can heal burns, stings, bites, colds, coughs, and upset stomachs and can protect you from sickness," so I'm not going to say that.  I am also supposed to disclose that I am by no means a professional doctor and to always speak to your physician to see if this is something that could benefit you.  I do want to remind you that honey should never be given to an infant, and it is advised to introduce honey to a baby once s/he is at least twelve months old.  It can be used topically (on skin) as long as you know it won't make it's way to the baby's mouth.

Manuka honey comes from bees who only gather from the manuka plant in New Zealand.  It contains a very stable antibacterial property that is usually called UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) or MGO (Methyglyoxal).  MGO is the compound that imparts manuka honey's antibacterial properties.  When you shop for manuka honey, look for one that contains high UMF or MGO ratings (like this one).  Hospitals even use high UMF/MGO manuka honey to treat burns.

This special honey is by no means to be used like like table honey.  The price tag might clue you in on that.  When you invest in a good manuka honey, all it takes is a teaspoon for it to do it's thing.  During cold and flu season, I give it to my family daily.  I prefer to avoid sickness altogether than to wait for it to hit and then start attacking it.  Provided below is a quick cheat sheet of sorts on what manuka honey can be used for and how to use it:

7 Things Manuka Honey Can Help:
  1. Burns
  2. Colds
  3. Coughs
  4. Insect stings
  5. Upset stomach
  6. Dry skin
  7. Skinned knees
3 Ways to Use Manuka Honey:
  1. Apply a small amount by gently rubbing in little circles on burns, bug bites or stings, cracked/dry skin, or skinned knees and elbows.
  2.  During cold and flu season, take a teaspoon a day to protect against sickness, or take daily as soon as symptoms start.
  3. Take a teaspoon if experiencing an upset stomach.
How To Get It Down:
You will notice that manuka honey has a very strong taste that is hard for some to take.  I avoid putting it into hot tea.  Taking it raw will keep the enzymes in tact and yield the most health benefits.  Here are ways I give it to my family without them noticing the taste:
  1. Peanut butter and honey.  Use a teaspoon of manuka honey.  If more is needed, add raw table honey.
  2. Smoothies.  Use one teaspoon per person.  If more honey is needed, add raw table honey.
  3. Healthy Cookie Dough Bites.  Use 1/4 cup manuka honey and 1/4 cup raw table honey.
Here's to getting through this cold and flu season as healthy as possible!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Healthy Orange Julius ~ A Smoothie Recipe

Yup.  It's another smoothie recipe.  We adore this one.  A little sweet, a little tart, smooth, and creamy.  Whip up a batch for breakfast or snack.  Your body will thank you, and so will your palate.  Here's how it goes:

Orange Julius
Prep time: 10 minutes, serves 5

  1. Place all ingredients in blender and process on high for 45-60 seconds, or until it's smooth.  Enjoy immediately (this smoothie does not store well unless poured into popsicles).  Pour any leftover smoothie into popsicle molds.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Weekly Menu Plan #60

Sometimes, when new things are tried, the outcome is quite exciting.  Other times, it's not.  This week, I uses saffron for the very first time in a risotto recipe from last week (pictured above is this dish in progress).  I am in love.  How has it take this long for it to be used in my kitchen?  Maybe because it's one of the most expensive spices known to man.  But my, that is a yummy splurge to make every now and then.

To do: hard boil eggs, soak porridge, thaw chili for Wednesday
Lunch:  Muffins from Breakfast, Turkey & Cheese Sandwiches, Apple

To do: make yogurt
Breakfast:  Porridge & Eggs
Lunch: Hard boiled egg, Raw Cheese, Nut Butter & Berry Wraps

Breakfast: Yogurt with Raw Honey & Frozen Berries
Lunch:  Almonds, Raw Cheese, GF Orange Blender Muffins, Ants On A Log
Dinner:  Chili & GF Cornbread

To do: make cookie dough bites
Lunch:  Yogurt with Maple Syrup, Orange, Cream Cheese & Ham Wrapped in a Rice Tortilla
Snack:  Carrot, Kale, Lemon, Apple Juice

Breakfast:  Fried Eggs over Micro Sprouts (found at Trader Joe's)
Lunch: Hummus, Carrots, Turkey & Cheese Wrapped in a Rice Tortillas, Cookie Dough Bites
Dinner:  Quesadillas with Leftover Chicken, Caramelized Onions, & Olives Topped with Avocado, Creme Fraiche, & Salsa Verde

Lunch:  Quesorritos
Dinner:  Raclette 

Breakfast:  Leftover from Saturday's Breakfast
Lunch:  Leftovers
Dinner:  Leftovers
(Sunday is my Day Off)

I'm sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday, Meal Plan Monday.

Friday, January 18, 2013


From the outside, it's business as usual around here.  But there are inner workings that will soon change the face of the Riddle Homestead.  We are working with friends and family who are skilled in the trade of house and garden building.  All of Jeremy's (very few) spare minutes go to this blueprint.  Right now, everything hinges upon it.  He is brilliant at making spaces work and knows so well what our family will use when it comes to rooms and corners.  When we are done, the blueprint will be submitted to a professional and then we wait some more.  So much paperwork is ahead. 

The children love watching daddy work on the house plans.  It's hard for them (and maybe also for me) to understand why we can't just start building new walls.  So we apply as much patience as we can muster up and continue to dream what it will be like to have more than two bedrooms and one bathroom shared among seven people.  

The garden plot (from last April)
I often walk out to our garden plot, so raw and unused.  I imagine it is the first time this space will be used for growing food (besides beef).  This area used to be a massive ranch, and before the dam was built, it was nothing but swampland.  I find myself having to settle down and remember how very important planning is for such a long term thing.  It takes everything in me to stay away from a shovel and just start going for it.  But truly, it will save time and energy in the long run if I can just be patient enough to establish a long-term permaculture paradise.

So we continue to plan and wait and crunch numbers and dream.  So very soon everything will change and the Riddles Seven can stretch out their arms without hitting each other in the face.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Raclette ~ An Old Swiss Dinner (Naturally Gluten-Free)

You might have noticed on our menu plans that we have been enjoying raclette dinners quite often these days.  I thought it might be good to explain what, exactly, it is (besides amazing, beautiful, and crave-worthy).

A long time ago, way back in the 1500's, Swiss herdsmen would bring with them hardy potatoes and a big chunk of cheese for their meals while they were keeping watch over the cattle.  They would boil their potatoes and melt slices of cheese on top of a hot stone and "racler" (scrape) the cheese off the stone and onto their boiled potatoes.

Today, in the warmth of our homes, we can plug in our raclette "stone" and go to town.  While we're at it, why not add more to the grill than merely potatoes?  You can also choose to pour your melted cheese over a wholesome slice of sourdough bread, if you aren't a gluten-free home.

Here's how it works.  Do you see those silver handles sticking out from under the grill pictured above?  They are connected to little trays, and that is where you place your sliced cheese.  
Our favorite cheeses for raclette
  • Brie
  • Gouda
  • Jarlsberg
  • A cheddar/gruyere mix that you can find at Trader Joe's  
  • There is a raclette cheese.  I love the way it tastes, but it is really stinky and my children can't handle the smell.
Once the grill is hot, simply toss whatever you would like to eat under a blanket of melted cheese.

Our favorite grill items are:
  • Slices of boiled potatoes
  • Caramelized onions 
  • Sausage (cooked)
  • Sauteed peppers
  • Steamed or roasted veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets...)
  • Pears
  • Apples
As everyone gathers around the table and we wait for the food to warm and cheese to melt, jolly exchanges are made.  Kids share about their day, grown-ups announce news of this and that.  Each person plates their grilled masterpiece and pours the melted cheese of choice over it.  Oohs and awes are heard and you've got to try this combo is said more than once.

Raclette has become a weekend ritual at our house, and we look forward to it every time.  The grill pictured above is my parents.  We have a granite stone and it works wonderfully.

Have you had raclette before?  What's your favorite way to enjoy it?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Gardening Resources for Large to Small Plots

Whether you are planning a container garden on a balcony or a one-acre plot in the back forty, preparation is so important.  It honestly can determine how satisfying your harvest is.  I thought I'd share some resources with you that have been extremely helpful over the years.


Online Resources:
  • Smart Gardener is a free, online garden journal that keeps everything organized for you.  You can design your plot, calculate how much of each veggie you need to grow depending on how many people you are feeding, it will have a to-do list for you, and gives many helpful tips.  I love this site!
  • Back to Eden.  Talk about inspiration!  You won't be the same after watching this.
  • Zone-by-zone to-do lists from Organic Gardening.  A great reference to stay on track.

Seeds and Tools:
There are so many choices out there.  I'd love to hear where you like to find seeds.  Here are places I  have shopped from and love:
Do you have a favorite gardening resource?  I'd love to hear about it.

I'm sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday.


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