Smart Mamas

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Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair (4)

Christian and his buddy selecting the perfect tomato

Pick Your Own Farms

There are many ways to get your kids interested in vegetables and fruit, this way is fail proof, the crown jewel. Plan a fun family day by visiting a local pick your own farm. There are many all over the country. Every farm is unique. Some are destination spots with picnic tables, restrooms, and tours. Others are small, intimate family farms with nothing more than a bucket to fill and rows and rows of fresh veggies.

Once your child learns how to look for ripe pickings, the hunt is like Easter on steroids.

This farm we visited with friends.  They grew many varieties of tomatoes. They also had peppers, watermelon, and squash. My friend’s daughter hated tomatoes. It wasn’t long before she was munching on tiny, yellow sweet tomatoes (sweet golds).

My boys couldn’t wait to get home and eat their little treasures. Christian ate a large tomato just like an apple and little Roman ate grape tomatoes by the fistful. The nice thing about picking your own fruit and veggies is they tend to be sweeter, juicer, more flavorful than those found in the grocery store. Also, kids get a chance to learn how veggies are grown and about different varieties.

Once you visit a farm, many times they will put you on their mailing list, so you will get email updates when they have a new crop ready to harvest. It’s a fun and unique way to spend a family day. One your kids will fondly remember.

The best online resource for locating a pick your own farm in your area is http://pickyourown.org/.

Have you visited one before? I would love to hear your experience.

Healthy Mango Milkshake

This is one of our favorite fruit shakes.  Sure to be a hit with it’s light and refreshing taste and a snap to make.

Ingredients

1 mango, peeled and seeded

1 large pear

2 cups of your favorite milk.  We love it with almond or soy milk.

ice

Directions

Cut the mango and pear into large pieces and place in your blender.  Add 2 cups of milk.  You may want to adjust this according to the size of your fruit.  Add ice, we use around 6-8 pieces. Blend till smooth.  Pour into glasses and enjoy.

Mangoes are packed with vitamin A and other antioxidant vitamins like E and C.  They are also high in iron.  This fruit can even help with acne by unclogging pores.  You can slice a few pieces and place them on the affected area for about 10 minutes.  Mangoes have a wonderful anti-inflammatory property, which can reduce pain from arthritis and ease symptoms of asthma.

Cheers!

Note to self, clean spots off blender and glasses before taking pictures:)

Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair (3)

Grow something small.

When I was very young we lived on a farm in Fox Lake, Illinois.  My mother grew an impressive organic garden and my two brothers and I had the opportunity to help tend our food.  I have fond memories of keeping the animals out of the garden and running outside to pick veggies for our meals.  I remember taking the colander with me and filling it to the brim then immediately rinsing the greens in the sink.  On the weekends we would pick all we could and sell our produce at a nearby farmer’s market.  I thought all families ate the same way.  Perhaps many did in the 70s.

My parents separated when I was a toddler, but they shared similar food values.  My father has never eaten at a fast food restaurant.  He was raised in Greece and that was not part of his culture.  His comfort foods consist of whole foods, rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  Meat was a side in some meals, hardly a main attraction.  Vegetables abundant and fruit sweeter than anything I have ever tasted in the States.  My father lives in Arizona and he grows an impressive garden, year-round.  When we visit, my boys run to the citrus trees in the morning to pick fresh oranges and then devour them at the kitchen table.  They associate his home with family and good food, often asking if we will ever have trees they can eat from.

Here are some photographs my father took of his garden:

Zucchini

Watermelon

Broccoli

Artichoke

Lettuce

Carrots

Assorted onions

Radishes

Tomatoes

Spinach rinsed and ready for a salad

We do not all have the luxury of a large outdoor space to grow such an abundant garden.  Many of us do not have the spare time.  But, we can all grow a few herbs indoors.  Large grocery chains like Sprouts and Whole Foods sell living basil in water.  It couldn’t be easier to keep alive.  The only task is to set it near a window and keep the roots covered with water.  I kept one alive for 6 months and my boys would pluck the leaves off and toss them into the pots as I cooked.  It cost less than $3 and I never used or bought dried basil.  In the spring my boys each have their own cherry tomato plant and they are completely responsible for it.  I love to watch them decide when the tomato is ripe enough to pluck.  Their tiny fingers breaking it free from the stem, their eyes close as they place the precious piece of fruit in their mouth.  Each time I hope it leaves enough of an impression to form a memory.  A positive memory of vegetables.  Something more than a food that has to be finished in order to enjoy dessert or leave the table.

There are a ton of resources online for growing fruits and veggies in containers.  This spring consider growing something small and involve your children.  You may be surprised how many things you can grow right inside your house.  Check out this site, they sell indoor starter kits for growing your own colony of mushrooms.  There are many companies that sell similar products.  This site teaches you how to grow them on your own.

My father started by growing herbs in containers.  There are a ton of fruits and vegetables that can be grown this way.

The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic

Most people have heard of the dirty dozen.  The 12 fruits and veggies that have  high levels of pesticides.  Well, a new list was made in 2010.  Here are the new dirty:

The New Dirty Dozen: 12 Foods to Eat Organic.

Be sure to check out the clean 15, too. These foods you do not have to buy organic.

The Clean 15

I like to make a list of the dirty dozen and keep them on my fridge as a reminder.  Great way to keep your family safe and reduce the amount of pesticides in your diet.

Good Morning Chunky Monkey Milkshakes

My boys love this quick morning breakfast and it is loaded with potassium, iron, and protein.  When I introduce new foods to my children I start with something fail-proof.  The first time they tried this shake it had these ingredients:

1 cup of unsweetened almond milk

2 bananas (I like to use my freezer bananas)

2 teaspoons of blackstrap molasses or 1 tablespoon of maple syrup

3 ice cubes

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend till smooth.

Serves 1

In time I added other ingredients:

1/4 cup of organic, fresh roasted peanut butter or 1/4 cup of tofu

1 teaspoon of ground flax seeds

Flax seed is a wonder grain. Stocked full of omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, high in most B vitamins, and magnesium.  It’s easy to sneak into meals, just don’t overdo it.  I don’t use more than a tablespoon per kid a day.

They love this breakfast and think it’s a big treat.  Milkshakes for breakfast, what beats that?  I know it’s healthier than cereal or any other processed breakfast.  A good start of the day for all of us.

Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair (2)

This post is the second in a series.  I am sharing different ways we have kept our kids excited and interested in fruits and vegetables.

What is it?

The boys LOVE this.  We do, too.  Whenever my boys accompany me to the grocery store they pick out a new fruit or veggie they would like to taste.

This is a very serious process.

They scour each bin in search for the strangest, most unique produce.  Once they locate it they treat it as if it were a precious gem carefully carrying it back to the cart.  “What about this one, mommy?”  Both proud and curious.

As soon as we get home they are relentless in asking, “When do we get to eat it?”  It’s usually soon.

Yesterday this is what they chose…

The bin labeled it dragon fruit.  Good choice.

I told them we could eat it after dinner.  Dinner came and went and they asked if they could have a piece of Halloween candy.  I told them they could after we tried our dragon fruit.  They accepted this as a good deal on their end.

Typically we wikipedia the new item and learn a bit about it before we eat it.

This is what we learned:

It is actually called a pitaya and it is a fruit of several cacti species.  It is commonly known as a dragon fruit in Chinese.  There are 3 varieties, 2 red and 1 yellow.  They are native to Mexico, South America and Central America.  They are also cultivated in many Asian countries, Hawaii, Australia and Israel.  It is compared to a kiwi because the inside has many small edible black seeds.

Usually after viewing several pictures and learning about it the boys can’t wait to dig into it.  The sit in anticipation as the knife meets the flesh.

It is a big moment.  We dip four spoons into the soft innards and we all taste it at the same time.

It was a hit.  Not overly sweet. Kind of a cross between a kiwi and a pear.

They never did ask for a piece of Halloween candy.  Instead they went to bed with bellies full of dragon fruit.

Win for mom.

Note ~ you can buy dragon fruit at a local Asian market for half the price of a commercial grocery store.

Update: I almost forget to add the nutritional info. Here it is from this source:

Dragon fruits are high in antioxidants, which help to fight carcinogenic free-radicals from forming in the body. In addition, they are a good source of Vitamin C, and are rich in minerals, especially calcium and phosphorus. They are also low in calories and high in fiber, while the seeds are have high polyunsaturated fatty acids. Aside from its nutritional content, the fruit is also said to help excrete heavy metal toxins from the body and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Dragon fruits are also known to be a natural laxative.

Click here to learn more about dragon fruit.

Kids and Veggies. How to Foster a Love Affair

Getting kids to eat veggies can be challenging and frustrating.  Cooking a healthy meal only to have the whole family throw it away and order pizza is defeating.  I’ve been there.  Sometimes it’s easy to throw in the apron and stick to processed, cheesy, gooey foods that everyone raves about.  Why not?  It’s a quick meal and everyone is happy.

Unfortunately, happy doesn’t mean healthy.  I would rather have a healthy, happy family.  This path takes some work, but it is possible for your kids to be as excited about a glass of carrot juice as they are about a milk shake.  It doesn’t happen over night, but if you are committed to teaching your children how to make healthy choices and eat a wide variety of wholesome foods, the reward is huge. Imagine your child not having food issues, eating disorders, diabetes, and living a long healthy life as an adult.  That is what motivates me.  It has been a process and I have tried many different tactics over the years.  Some were successful, others complete fails.  I know many people have a resolution to start eating more healthy and when you have children this is a good time to include the whole family.

I plan to keep this section running as part of a series and share the things that have worked for us.

Juicing

I have juiced for awhile and every time I juice without my kids help they take a sip and say, yuck!  However, when they do all the juicing on their own something magical happens.  They not only LOVE the juice, they talk about it all day.  Yesterday my 3 year old made juice all by  himself.  The only thing I did was cut the apple.  He even washed the veggies and fruit on his own.

I selected these ingredients for the first day; carrots, celery, apples, mini cucumbers and acai.  He will choose today.

Sneaking a peek at his hard work.

He did a fantastic job and the juice was very tasty.  He sat with his cup of juice cradled in both hand, slurping through a crazy straw, singing, “Delicious, delicious, so so nutritious.”  It doesn’t get better than that.

He hunted around the kitchen for ingredients for his next juice and decided to add pears to the list.

He was so excited to wake up today and show his dad and brother his new skill.  He wouldn’t even let them see these pics yesterday because he wanted to surprise them.

I love his enthusiasm.

My tiny little juicer.

New Year’s Tradition: Family Bucket List

On New Year’s Eve we started a new family tradition.  We filled up a bucket with all the things we want to do this year.  We each took turns so everyone would have the same amount of to-dos for the year.  I was most surprised by how serious my boys (ages 3 and 6) were in choosing their contributions.  I was certain they would write things like, I want more legos or buy more toys.  But, they never once mentioned anything material.  Each time their turn came around they sat quietly pondering all the possibilities.  My husband and I enjoyed listening to all their wishes for the year and it was a nice reminder that children are full of hopes and dreams, too.  Sometimes all we have to do is ask.  If you do this activity with your children, you may be surprised by what memories and activities they hold sacred.

We placed our bucket on our mantel.  A daily reminder that we are accountable for all it’s contents.  The boys are eager to pull the pieces of paper out after each recreation.

Here is our 2011 bucket list:

  1. Vacation in Arkansas
  2. Go camping
  3. Play with friend, Seven (our old neighbor’s son)
  4. Have a family dinner while camping
  5. Go fishing
  6. Find a new place to hike with family
  7. Eat blueberries (my youngest is devastated they are not in season)
  8. Go disc golfing with the family
  9. Play with Riley
  10. Go snowboarding
  11. Collect seashells
  12. Visit the Grand Canyon
  13. Visit Grandma in Sacramento
  14. Learn how to ride a horse
  15. Go to the beach
  16. Go to Black Beauty Ranch Animal Sanctuary
  17. Travel around the world and collect coins
  18. Stay in a cabin
  19. Move to Arizona

2011 will be a busy year.  Better get started!

If you decide to make a family bucket list, I would love to hear your list.

Happy 2011!

Dairy Detox in December. Is it Feasible?

The week of Thanksgiving was such a lovely break.  March was the last time I had that many days off with my kids.  We spent Thanksgiving with good friends and had our first vegan/gluten-free Thanksgiving.  Well, minus the salted caramel pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes.  Those were the only dairy/flour culprits.  It was very enjoyable and I never had that overstuffed, sick feeling.  Rather blissful, actually.

I have been a vegetarian for almost nineteen years.  The last time I tried going completely vegan was in 2001.  In Texas.  No easy feat.  There wasn’t a vegan section in the local specialty grocery stores.  Soy was the only milk alternative.  Annie had just started making macaroni and cheese with her cute bunnies, no frozen options yet.  Basically, I shopped out of the produce section.  Somewhere along the line I lost my gusto.  I was lured back by feta, pita bread, and cupcakes.  I have only fallen off the meat wagon once and that lasted roughly five months.  I met my husband during that time.  Little did he know about his culinary future.

He is an omnivore so it can be challenging to balance our incompatible diets at home.  We have gone back and forth on what our kids’ should or should not eat.  Our oldest son did not eat meat until he was nearly four, nor did he drink cows’ milk.  His pediatrician worried about his iron intake and I was often scrutinized by dentists, teachers, and other moms.  I did have small victories.  One of my favorites was the day my son’s doctor gave him an iron test and returned scratching his head wondering how his iron tested higher than the average meat eating kid.  My son typically only sees him on wellness visits because he doesn’t get sick often.  His doctor doesn’t question me anymore.

The first time my kid ate meat was at a family gathering.  I did not receive a lot of support on the issue.  Family was concerned.  It was frustrating and I didn’t want him to be ostracized.  We would then return home to Texas.  I don’t have to tell you that Texas is a meat mecca.  Austin may be the only exception.  But, I don’t live there.

For the most part my husband and children eat very little meat, maybe twice a week.  There is never pork or ground beef in our house.  My kids don’t know that ribs or pork chops exist.  They are clueless that people eat pot roast, meatloaf, corned beef, or rump roast.  Do people still eat that?  I doubt they would recognize a steak.  However, they do know that fruit and veggies are seasonal.  They love edamame, zucchini, asparagus, tomatoes, and squash.  They eat carrots without ranch and devour apples, tangerines, and pineapple.  My point is that my husband is supportive and keeps meat consumption to a minimum.  It could be worse.  I hope it will get better.

Today I started reading, The China Study.  It has been sitting on my nightstand for a few months.  It is one of those books that will change your life for the better.  That I know without reading it. It will change your life.  That can be scary.  It debunks food myths and downright lies and it is well researched based on studies, statistics, and facts.  I know it’s a must read for anyone interested in health and quality of life.  I am sure it will stir things up in our kitchen and affect the way we eat.

The past few weeks I have considered detoxing from dairy for a full month.  I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to go completely vegan in December.  January would be the logical choice.  Not really too challenging, everyone is on some kind of special diet after six weeks of pure gluttony.  December is full of parties, cookies, and Christmas dinner.  There is no end to baked goods and potlucks.  How would I maneuver through all that?  Could I still bake cookies that taste good?  Do I have enough time to practice making an entire menu for Christmas dinner that is so good my husband won’t be disappointed?  Better yet, even notice.

I have a few days to make up my mind.  Until then I am gathering a reservoir of vegan recipes.  I’m also thinking about January.  How nice it would be to not gain any weight.  Who knows?  Maybe even lose a few pounds.  Imagine starting the year off completely guilt-free from December gorgefest.  It may be worth it.

Do you have any favorite vegan recipes?  Do you think it’s possible to succeed in December?

Peace and love,

Lisa

My First Month Out of the Blogger Closet

My first blog entry was in April of 2008.  I was a SAHM with a baby and a 3 year-old.   Hot topics were BPA in sippy cups, vaccines, and autism.  I worried.  A lot.  There were days I filled the recycle bin with plastics.  Days I dreaded taking my baby to get his shots, especially after he broke out with measles from his MMR vaccine.  Research was therapy.  WebMD was my best friend.  I longed to connect with other moms who were as neurotic as me.  Thus, my blog was born.  I wanted to create a space where I could write about some of these issues.  It was cathartic.  I loved the camaraderie and learned so much.

Soon my baby became a toddler and I enrolled in graduate school.  I was consumed with papers and temper tantrums; my blog was left to gather tumbleweeds.

One recent evening while avoiding a homework assignment, I thought of it.  My blog.  Several attempts later, I figure out my login.  Success.  There it was and shock… people had been there.  Actual hits the day prior.  How could it be?  As I read through the old posts, I remembered how much I enjoyed it.  Life got so busy.  I could find time.

Six weeks ago, I wrote four posts.  It felt good.  Nothing spectacular, but it was a start.  My blog was always my own private pastime.  No one knew about it, not ever.  On October 23rd I wrote a post about Halloween candy.  Publish.  I glanced over the post on my blog and suddenly felt the urge to post it on my Facebook page.  Perhaps it was the candy eyeballs staring me down, daring me.  Perhaps I wanted to be held accountable, forced to continue my blog journey.  Click.  That was easy.  Waiting.  An hour passed.  Fifty views.  Then 100.  The response was positive and my batteries were charged.

It’s been a month since then.  This is the evolution:

  • I wanted to find other bloggers, so I searched blog communities.
  • I came across BlogHer and joined.  One evening later, I submitted a blog post.  The next day I opened an email that read, “I’d love to syndicate this in November as part of Own Your Beauty’s imperfection month.”  Wow! I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded great! I was thrilled and stunned.  Disclaimer: This happened by sheer coincidence.  My blog topic coincided with the theme of the month.  Sometimes the stars align.
  • Now what do I do?  I spent a few days thinking about that.  What would I write about?  What were my goals?
  • My husband said I must join Twitter.  So, I joined.  Tons of interesting bloggers.  Awesome.  Now, I just have to get down twitter etiquette and figure things out like, groups.  I downloaded TweetDeck.  Love the streaming.  Shrinking, linking, retweeting gives me a headache.  The community is worth it.
  • While on twitter I found a mom community, Twittermoms, and joined.  Actually, it found me.  But, I like it so far.
  • I bought a web domain.  It’s parked.
  • I created a Facebook page for my blog, so friends that are interested can get updates.  It felt odd to post on my personal site.  That’s just me.

Thirty days later, I’m still pretty clueless.  I am vaguely familiar with things like NaBloPoMo and another really long acronym that is similar, but different.   I am trying to learn the ins-and-outs of social media.  Hours of scouring the internet about web hosting, blog designers, plug-ins, and widgets have only confused me further.

Most of the blogging world is unknown to me, but I am certain of my goals.  My desire is the same now as it was when I started a few years ago.  I want to engage with a community of writers and women whom I respect and can learn from.  I want to write.  I want to have discussions on topics like how to live a simple and meaningful life, how to buy and cook foods that are nourishing, how to connect with our community, how to tread lightly and teach children about the environment, and most of all my passion in life… how to foster growth and well-being in children, women, and families.  Right now my blog is in the cocoon stage.  I am hopeful it will grow into a space where people who want to live consciously can learn from one another through different experiences and expertise.  Until then, I’ll keep chugging… one blog post at a time.

What were your achievements or roadblocks when you first started blogging?  Thank you for reading. 🙂

*Artwork found here.

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