Thursday, March 22, 2012

Food Storage Survey

Last year at my church's annual Women's Conference I taught an Emergency Preparedness workshop. For this year's conference they've invited me to teach a Food Storage workshop! I am really excited for this opportunity. I love studying about food storage and finding ways of preparing that work for me and my family. (And there are so many ways to go about it.)

I've put together a survey to ask women about their challenges and successes with getting together a 3 months supply of food. If you'd like to take the survey, that would be great! Click HERE.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Homemade Strikes Again!

So, I've been looking into replacing more things that I usually buy in a box with homemade recipes. And guess what?! You can totally make homemade instant pudding and homemade jello (using gelatin & juice)! These are way healthier alternatives and I am super excited to try the recipes out. Here are the webpages I got the recipes from.

Homemade Jello
(You can find the pastured beef gelatin she mentions on Amazon. I've also heard you can use Agar Agar instead of an animal-based gelatin if you're vegetarian. This is derived from a variety of seaweeds.)

Just think... any flavor of 100% bottled juice is your flavor of jello. How cool is that?! And don't leave out frozen juices when concocting your jello plans. My kids are going to love this!

One little side note - gelatin is actually very good for you and has many health benefits, including giving your body needed callogen (a skin builder). Jello that's healthy! haha! That is so crazy. But you know what? That's what homemade does for you, folks!

Homemade Instant Pudding

 I love that she recommends using flavored oils for all the interesting flavors you can find at the store. I was so worried I couldn't make homemade pistachio pudding, but now I can! Woohoo!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival 2012

Baaaaa baaaaaa!

It's that time of year again!!!
I am really excited to be volunteering again at the crazy t-shirt booth for the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival.
I've heard that the lines before opening get longer and longer every year. 
Can't wait! :-)

The beautiful artwork is by Deanna Williford.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Seafood Watch

So, for a few years I've known about this really cool organization called Seafood Watch that I really wanted to share with you. Seafood Watch is an organization that seeks to promote and educate the public and restaurants about sustainable fishing practices. I know a lot of people care about good food and sustainability and this organization makes it really easy as consumers to be conscientious about buying fish that has been harvested sustainably.  The thing I really love is that they have a little pocket guide that you can download and keep in your wallet so that you have an accessible guide when you're out shopping for fish so you know which kind has been raised sustainably and which fish has not - it really helps me feel like I'm a better, more educated consumer. Not only that, but they have cards you can download to give to friends or to leave at restaurants to encourage them to buy sustainable fish. I think it's a fabulous resource!

Here's the link for their downloadable cards. I've used mine a lot and LOVE it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Healthy Eats for Kids

In recent years, I'll admit, I've developed a new soap box. What is it this time, you ask? Well, it's the kids' options on a restaurant menu. It's always the same: mac & cheese, pizza, or chicken nuggets. Yes, restaurants need to make money and feel they are forced to offer these things because kids are picky eaters. And YES my kids are some of the pickiest eaters that I know. But part of the skill of a chef is to take something people know and love and make it into something new and different right? Why can't they sneak in butternut squash with that mac & cheese?? Put spinach or zucchini on the pizza and offer fresh, homemade, whole chicken nuggets????? Don't answer those questions. Just let it stew. I've heard a good option is to order a lunch-sized portion of something off the menu for your kids. I just might do that next time. My son actually loves baked fish, non-breaded with just butter and some herbs. And this was a kid who it's taken 5 years for him to willingly eat chicken!

Okay, off the soap box now. This post is about finding alternatives for the same ol' same ol' that are healthy and delicious for kids. Every kid is different, and you know your kids best. These are some options that I have found that I am excited to try out. But first, here are a few tips I've learned:

1. Help your children grow some food.

My son was so much more excited to try basil on his pizza and as a pesto on pasta when he knew we had grown it ourselves and he had watched it sprout from a tiny seed and flourish as a wonderful smelling, beautiful plant. Also, my son has learned that there is nothing like picking your very own sun-warmed tomatoes or strawberries and popping into your mouth straight off the plant. Mmmm!

2. Involve your children in making their own food.

My son loves smelling all the herbs and spices I put into what I'm cooking or baking. Both my son and daughter love to measure and stir. Children naturally love to help and when they're able to stir, and knead, and make a mess (I've had to work really hard at putting my mess anxiety on the back burner!), they can take pride in having done something as big and important as creating their own snack or putting dinner on the table that the whole family enjoys. It's also fun bonding time with mom or dad in the kitchen which is usually the center of the home.

3. Have your food rules and stick with them.

It's taken my husband and I our entire son's life to develop rules for eating at the table. We're still working on it, and it's been a challenge with picky eaters. Some parents have the theory of "you have to eat everything on your plate" while others are more into experimentation on the child's part and they'll eat when they're hungry. I think we're somewhere in the middle. Lately, we've been having our son help with how much is going on his plate, so that he feels that he has some decision-making power there, but he doesn't get to choose what goes on his plate. I think educating him on what our bodies need for strength and energy has helped him understand that veggies, fruit, and proteins are more important than the dessert that may follow. It's a work in progress though. :-)

Whatever your feeding philosophy, I think when your kids know what is expected at the table, then meal times will probably go smoother.

Here are some great posts I found for kids' snack ideas:

45 Real Food Snacks for Kids

10 On-the-Go Healthy Snacks for Toddlers

25 Healthy Snacks for Little Ones

Also, I think having a few cookbooks in your arsenal can be a huge help. Here are two of my favorites:

Organically Raised: Conscious Cooking for Babies & Toddlers

Healthy Meals for Babies & Toddlers

One of my favorite ideas from the book Healthy Meals for Babies & Toddlers is for ready-made sandwich filling ideas. Most kids love sandwiches, heck, I love sandwiches and would try these super cool fillings any day:

heaping 1/3 cup hummus
1 small cooked carrot, chopped
1 Tbsp chopped cucumber (you could substitute zucchini too)

Fruity Cheese Spread
heaping 1/3 cup lowfat soft cheese or ricotta cheese (I used neufchatal)
1 Tbsp. chopped pitted dates
2 Tbsp. chopped plumped dried apricots

Egg & Bacon
2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and mashed
1 Tbsp mayonnaise (or Miracle Whip if you have my more refined taste buds haha!)
2 crisp-cooked slices bacon, chopped

A twist on the sandwich: my son loves a tortilla (white or whole wheat) with peanut butter and jam or honey and rolled up into a burrito. It's pretty good!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Homemade Hot Wings

My husband and I are big fans of hot wings. But we're not a fan of how expensive they are at restaurants. So, awhile back I set out on a mission to learn how to make them at home. I decided to bake them instead of frying them like they do at the restaurant, because I wanted to make a healthier version too. I also don't coat the wings in the sauce, but have the sauce on the side, which also reduces the potential calories consumed. After all, the sauce has a lot of butter!

Here's the step-by-step:

*** Caution: Raw chicken ahead! ***

Homemade Hot Wings
(You need a very sharp knife or kitchen shears. Kitchen shears work really well.)

Buy a big package of chicken wings and take out about 15-20. (I get mine at Costco.)
Cut off the wing tips at the joint.

Set aside the wing tips for making your homemade chicken stock.
(And don't forget when you're done eating the wings, to set aside the bones to add to this stock too!)

(Broth: Chicken extras, carrots, onions, bay leaves, celery, cover with water and simmer for a few hours.)

Lightly grease a large cooking pan and line up all the wings.

Cook at 375ºF until chicken is done - about 40-45 minutes. The internal temp needs to be at least 165ºF.
You might want to put the broiler on the last 5 minutes to get the skin crispy and brown.

Cue the Super Sauce and it's side kick Butter!
We like using Frank's Red Hot, which we get in big bottles at Costco. :-)

I'd say about 1/3 cup melted butter and 2/3 cup sauce to equal 1 cup.

You can dip your wings in the sauce, or serve them on the side along with your favorite ranch or blue cheese dressing. YUM!
Here's the full recipe:

Homemade Hot Wings

15-20 chicken wings
2/3 cup Franks Red Hot hot sauce
1/3 cup butter

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Lightly spray or grease a large, medium depth pan. Remove the chicken wings from their package, rinse, and pat dry with a towel, paper or otherwise. Using kitchen shears, or a sharp knife, cut off the pointy wing tips at the joint where they bend. Set wing tips aside to make chicken stock.

Place the wings, sans tips, into the pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the internal temperature of the wings registers at least at 165ºF. Turn the wings over and turn on the broil. Broil the wings for about 5 minutes to help the skin get a little more crispy and browned if they aren't already.

While the wings are on broil, prepare the sauce by melting 1/3 cup butter and mixing it with 2/3 cup of the hot sauce. Stir until blended well.

Serves the wings right away, by either dipping them in the sauce, or serving them with the sauce on the side. Also, serve with your favorite ranch or blue cheese dressing.

Enjoy the BURN! hahaha!
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