Sunday, August 18, 2013

Picky Little Eaters

I don't consider myself a very envious person, but when it comes to parents of kids that "eat anything" the green-eyed monster pays me a little visit. I have TWO picky eaters, despite being a well-rounded eater myself, and trying a great variety of foods with them as food beginners. Both my children started their "solids" career on Curry Butternut Squash soup with Coconut milk. They loved it! Ah well, times have changed and I often feel at my wits end come dinner time.

There are two psychological hang ups about picky eaters a) no one wants to be "controlled" by one, cooking multiple meals, enduring tantrums, etc. and b) we are concerned about our kids health. Few people want to be told their typically healthy child is losing weight, and few people want to feed their children noodles and cheese all the time. 

So for any of you in the same boat, here are some tips for us all:

1) Keep a list. I often forget what foods my kids like. Using a smartphone app, I am able to record the foods that they like and it is often longer than I feel. Update it when you see them eating hummus at a neighbour's birthday party or the like.

2) Rethink the classic meal. The classic meal is usually hot, it usually has at least a few ingredients and is accompanied by 1-2 side dishes. But really, eating food for nutrition and calories is more important than the classic meal. I have often done a platter for my kids: smoked salmon (lox trim), organic cheese slices, crackers, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes. It sounds like more of a snack, but they are getting more nutrients in that meal than a lot of the cooked meals they are willing to eat. It's also not that tricky to prepare. I end up cooking hot food for my husband and I, which also saves a bit of money as he likes a lot of meat.

3) Don't knock pureed foods. It might seem strange to give a child over the age of 3 pureed foods that aren't a soup, but it is a lifesaver! Smoothies are great, and those Organic Baby Gourmet packs of varied pureed baby food are far better than a cookie or cracker in my mind. Pureed soups in the fall/winter are an easy choice, a cold version of that can be a great helper in the summer (there are a lot of raw cookbooks with great recipes for this).

4) Timing. Careful not to give a snack too close to dinner time. I have been guilty of this too many times and I have found dinner a battle zone if my children are not truly hungry.

5) Distractions. I really struggled with this one.... letting my kid eat dinner while playing outside in the summer, or reading a story while they are eating.  But since I made peace with it, I am fighting with them less and I am feeling more confident that they are going to bed with a full tummy. When my children are a bit older I will invest in the ideal of sitting down at the table, but right now I am working on them actually eating the food as a first step.

Most kids grow out of pickiness, some do not. Lowering stress levels in a parent about this is a great way to prevent eating being related to stress in a child. I always suggest people go with their guts, but sometimes our guts need coaching or they need permission to relax a bit :)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Meal Planning II Challenge RECIPES

Day 1 Lunch: Potato & Corn Chowder (Bar None Cafe)
My notes: I didn't have the major spices so I used a sweet yellow curry and it was good. I also blended the onions and celery so that my kid couldn't see too many "colours".

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 TBSP Tarragon
1 TBSP Marjoram
6 Potatoes - Large cubes
2 cups frozen corn
3 TBSP Braggs Seasoning
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parsley to garnish

Saute onions in oil until lightly browned
Add celery and herbs - stir often
Add potatoes and water to cover
Simmer until tender
Puree half of soup and add back into pot
Add corn and stir
Add Braggs
Salt and Pepper to taste
Garnish with Parsley

Day 1 Dinner: Shepherd's Pie
My notes: doing this in the skillet is great, but for bigger families, this recipe translates to a casserole dish just fine. I have used lamb or beef and both are great - I think I prefer the lamb. When I made this, I cooked up enough ground beef for this week's and next week's shep pie (probably 3 cups each) and 1 cup for each week's enchilada's and froze them.

2 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 onion, minced
1 celery rib, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 pound 95 percent lean ground beef
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons canola oil

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 cup beer (optional)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 cup frozen peas
1 ear corn, kernels removed (see page 104)
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3 medium), peeled and cut into 2‑inch chunks
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup 2 percent lowfat milk, warmed
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream, room temperature
Salt and pepper

You can substitute 3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed, for the fresh corn. Spread the potatoes to the very edge of the skillet to seal the top and prevent the filling from bubbling over the edges.

1. For the filling: Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the carrots, onion, and celery and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Following the photos on page 286, stir in the beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, garlic, and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the broth, beer, Worcestershire, and thyme.

3. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened but still saucy, 20 to 25 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the peas and corn and season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. For the topping: Meanwhile, bring 2 quarts water and the potatoes to a simmer in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

5. Drain the potatoes and return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes with the butter, stir in the milk and sour cream until smooth, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

6. Dollop the potatoes over the top of the filling, then smooth them into an even layer, making sure to spread them to the edges of the skillet. Bake until the filling is bubbling, about 15 minutes.

7. Position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element, heat the broiler, then broil the casserole until the top is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

To make ahead: Prepare the filling and topping through step 5, then layer them into a 2-quart broiler-safe baking dish. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days. To bake, cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a 375-degree oven until hot, about 1 hour, then broil as directed.

Day 2 Lunch: Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
low sugar ketchup
tomato paste
apple cider vinegar
hot or dijon mustard
sucanat, sugar or xylitol
sweet paprika
sweet onion
chicken thighs

Instructions to follow!

Day 2 Dinner: Pesto Chicken Pasta
My notes: I baked this instead of the slow cooker at 385 for about 55 mins and it worked great. This is a recipe that works well to double up the portion and freeze. Cook up extra for the Med Pasta Salad.

8 ounces sliced mushrooms
4 large shallots
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 boneless chick breasts (or equivalent)
1 6oz pesto

mushrooms and shallots and broth in bottom, chick on top with pesto on top. hi 2-3 lo 3-4
Serve on pasta

Day 3 Lunch: Mediterranean Pasta salad
leftover pasta
leftover chicken
feta cheese
cut tomatoes
drizzle with olive oil and salt and serve!

Day 3 Dinner: Enchiladas
My notes: I love this recipe! I "beefed" up this recipe with gr beef (St Ives Mexican veggie ground would be a great alternative) and my husband LOVED it. I think next time I make it I will bake most of the time without the enchilada sauce on top and then add it and the cheese for the last 10mins. to keep it crispy. I also only did 5 wraps (split a 10 pack) and made them heavier to save money... it worked.

For Enchilada Sauce:
•8 oz. can tomato sauce
•1 cup water
•3 tablespoons chili powder
•1 tablespoon tomato paste
•1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
•3 tablespoons vegetable oil
•2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For Enchiladas:
•2 cups cooked brown rice
•15.5 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained
•1 cup corn
•1/2 cup chunky salsa
•2 cups Mexican cheese
•1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce (recipe above)
•10 6" flour tortillas

For Enchilada Sauce:
1.In a small bowl stir together tomato sauce, water, chili powder, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt and cumin until blended and set aside.
 2.Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir in flour until flour dissolved. Gradually whisk in tomato mixture. Reduce heat to low and stir until sauce thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

For Enchiladas:
3.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray non stick cooking spray on a 9"x13" casserole dish and set aside.
 4.In a large bowl combine rice, black beans, corn, salsa, 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce and 1 1/2 cups of cheese. Stir until combined.
 5.Divide mixture between each tortilla. Wrap each tortilla and place seam side down in casserole dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce on top.
 6.Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake for an additional 5 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Makes 1 1/2 cups enchilada sauce

Day 4 Lunch: Tomato salad with Millet Rice manna bread

6 large tomatoes
dried oregano or fresh basil
olive oil
cut into bite size chunks, drizzle with seasoning (be generous), put chunks of manna bread in when stirring. Grape nuts work instead of the bread too, but not as hearty.

Day 4 Dinner: Roasted Pepper & Sausage Pasta
My notes: cook extra sausage for the lentil soup the next day

Ingredients:1-2 packages of flavoured sausages (I got tomato basil this time, and italian another time)
1 jar/can of plain tomato sauce
1 bag of pasta (spaghetti, penne, rotini)
1 tub shredded parmesan cheese

squeeze sausage out of the casing into a frying pan and cook through. Add tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. In the mean time, cook pasta. Add cheese and serve.


Tip: how to serve a sauce on pasta. Method 1 - add sauce to the entire pot of cooked pasta, Method 2 - add a bit of sauce to the pasta and stir to keep it separated and put a scoop of the sauce on top of the pasta in each plate. Method 3 - put a bit of extra virgin cold pressed olive oil in the pot of cooked pasta and stir and add the sauce to the top of each plate (one additional benefit to this is that the leftover pasta does not have any sauce on it and it's separated and ready to use for a different dish).

Day 5 Lunch: Lentil Sausage Soup
My notes: I soaked the lentils all night and then through them into the crock pot with the cooked sausage and raw ingredients and cooked on high for 5-6hrs.

2 c lentils (brown or green)
2 q water
2 lrg bouillion cubes/broth
1 c chopped onion
1 1/2 c chopped celery
2 lrg cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp ground cumin ( I like more)
1/2 c dry white wine or apple juice
1 4 ox tin tomato sauce
1 tsp dried basil 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1/2- 1 lb Italian style turkey sausage
s&p to taste

Rinse lentils well.
Simmer in 2 q water with cubes 1 1/2 -2 hrs (I think it takes less). Rice cookers also work great for lentils.
Remove from heat before they lose shape.
In 2 Tbsp olive oil crumble the sausage (pull out of the skins) and saute with veggies and spices.
Add to lentil along with wine/juice and tomato sauce.
Simmer 1/2 hr.

This doubles & freezes well and is surprisingly kid friendly.

Day 5 Dinner: Cashew Chicken (on rice or chow mein noodles)
 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
 1 Tbsp coconut oil
 1/4 cup GF soy sauce/coconut aminos
 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
 1 Tbsp sugar or honey
 1 garlic clove, minced
 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
 2 cups broccoli florets
 1 cup carrots, sliced into coins
 1/2 to 1 cup cashews
 1 cup cilantro, chopped
1. Grease Crockpot with coconut oil. Add chicken thighs. (Cut into tenders, or not. Mine were left whole.)
2. Mix GF soy sauce/coconut aminos, vinegar, honey, garlic, ginger in a bowl.
3. Pour over chicken and toss.
4. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8.
5. Throw in veggies to cook for last hour.
6. Top with cashews and cilantro
If you would like to thicken the sauce, pour some out and add some arrowroot starch to it.

Day 6 Lunch: Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut
into cubes
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn kernels 1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup chunky salsa
8 ounces corn tortilla chips
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook and stir chicken in the oil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cumin and mix well. Then add the broth, corn, onion, chili powder, lemon juice, and salsa. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes.
2. Break up some tortilla chips into individual bowls and pour soup over chips. Top with the Monterey Jack cheese and a little sour cream.

Day 6 Dinner: Baked Fajitas

My notes: I used the Epicure Fajita spice and it worked great!
I used beef instead of chicken, worked well. Another idea - try it with pre-cooked roast beef from the deli section.

1 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 Tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp corn starch
2 small (or 1 lg.) onion
2 medium green bell peppers
1 medium red bell pepper
1 lb. chicken breast
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium lime
8 (6-inch) tortillas
1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
1/4 bunch cilantro (optional) 

STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients for the fajita seasoning in a small bowl and set aside (chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, sugar, salt, and corn starch).
STEP 2: Cut the onion and bell peppers into 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide strips. Place them in a large 9x13 inch casserole dish. Slice the chicken breast into very thin strips and add it to the casserole dish with the vegetables.
STEP 3: Sprinkle the seasoning over the meat and vegetables. Drizzle the vegetable oil over everything and then use your hands to toss the ingredients until everything is well coated in oil and seasoning. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, stirring once half way through. Squeeze the juice from half of the lime over top of the meat and vegetables after it comes out of the oven.
STEP 4: Scoop a small amount of meat and vegetables into the center of each tortilla. Top with a few sprigs of cilantro, a dollop of sour cream, and an extra squeeze of lime if desired.

Day 7
Tuna Melts - do I need to give instructions??

Friday, March 22, 2013

Meal Planning Challenge II

Hello friends,

Welcome to the second ever Meal Planning Challenge. The goal is to learn new recipes, to stay motivated to cook healthy, fresh meals for our families and to spend less money on eating out, or buying ingredients that we don't need. If you have not tried a meal plan, I commend you for trying something new! Or if you are joining but don't like to be "scheduled" - I commend you for branching out! This will take a bit of self-discipline and follow through and it will be worth it!

Meal Planning Strategies

The meal plan is laid out with intention - extra ingredients from one meal can be used in the next meal or frozen for a future meal to streamline the process. This is my gifting to meal planning, as I am not a chef. The lunch menu is optional as some people simply use leftovers or are not at home during the day. The other possibility is to use the lunch menu as a dinner menu and stretch this out for four weeks as the dinner meal ingredients relate to the lunch menu. Doing the same list for two weeks means that you can make the next week meals in advance if you have time, or simply so that it is easier since it's already been done.


In my opinion, all the recipes can be easily accommodated for dietary restrictions (like wheat/gluten intolerance, vegans, dairy free, etc.) as they are loaded with veggies and not too dependant on non-veggie ingredients:
  • Pasta can be replaced with: corn pasta, rice pasta, rice, or quinoa
  • Wheat tortillas: corn tortillas, iceberg lettuce pieces
  • Tamari/Soy sauce: Bragg's Liquid Aminos
  • Wheat to thicken: arrowroot powder or corn starch
  • Cheese: omitted or soy substitute
  • Meat: omitted or soy alternative


This process is helpful for me in my personal life and profession. Questions I am looking to have answered through the process and at the end:
  • Was the meal plan easy to follow
  • Do/did the meals suit your family's typical eating style
  • If not, was it easy to adjust
  • Was it financially beneficial
  • Did your two weeks feel less stressful/hectic since a plan was in place?
  • How easy was it to use alternatives for dietary restrictions?

Meal Plan

Here is the meal plan (recipes/ingredients to follow later today)

Day 1
Lunch: Corn Chowder
Dinner: Shepherd's Pie

Day 2
Lunch: Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Dinner: Pesto Chicken Pasta

Day 3
Lunch: Mediterranean Pasta salad
Dinner: Enchiladas

Day 4
Lunch: Tomato salad with Millet Rice manna bread
Dinner: Roasted Pepper & Sausage Pasta

Day 5
Lunch: Lentil Sausage Soup
Dinner: Cashew Chicken (on rice or chow mein noodles)

Day 6
Lunch: Chicken Tortilla Soup
Dinner: Baked Fajitas

Day 7
Lunch: Tuna Melts
Dinner: BREAK NIGHT (use a frozen meal, order pizza, go out!)