Friday, December 20, 2013

All You Want for Christmas is 5 Bean Soup (We hope!)

All You Want for Christmas is 5-Bean Soup 

(We hope!)

Hooray for the holidays! We love this time of year in our house: the decorations, the holiday music, the celebrating and the gift-giving! Every year I pick out a craft for the kids to make that they can, in turn, give as a gift to loved ones. This time of year can easily be mistaken as the season of receiving instead of the season of giving. I always hope that by maintaining this tradition where the kids craft something themselves to give to others, that they might carry the message of GIVING in the hearts long after the holidays are over. 

In the past, I have had each child work on their own craft. This year I decided to try something new and had everyone work on one joint gift. While searching for a good combined-effort venture I found the perfect one on Cassie Johnston's awesome blog, Back to Her Roots. She had a great, easy to follow plan for a handmade holiday gift of Vegetarian 5-Bean Soup, perfect for holiday giving. Click here for the post on her blog for this project. It is great! 

It was a lot of fun to do as a group, lots of laughs and lots of fun. I doubled the recipe to make twice as many jars of soup mix than Cassie's original post called for. When we were done, we were out of breath from laughing and had a bunch of gifts for all our loved ones. I was more than happy! 

There are two parts to the prep: layering the dried beans in the mason jars and mixing & measuring out the spice packets. We began with just the dried bean portion of the project. Before I brought the kids on the scene, I set up a sample of what the beans would look like layered, made a makeshift funnel out of card stock and separated the beans for everyone. 

We moved along, assembly-line style. Each older was in charge of two different beans. 

Baby Sister was in charge of just one type of bean. This was plenty because we quickly  discovered she preferred to put the beans in one at a time. 

Next I measured and mixed a spice mixture. The olders worked together to place two bay leaves into the spice pack and then scoop 3 tablespoons of the mix for each soup jar. 

We modified the original directions a bit here, too. We swapped out parchment paper for plastic wrap. It was just easier for the kids to twist and tie to create the spice packet. 

I wrote out the instructions (although the website provides printable labels which is pretty awesome) and the kids decorated the labels. We tied the directions to the jars with simple string and voila! A handmade gift made by all three kiddies! 

So, if you are in need of a homemade gift idea for the kiddies or even for yourself, this one will work for sure! It was so much fun to do as a group and the results included fun family time and cute gifts for the babes to share. I hope you have fun with this as well! 

Thank you for reading and happy holidays!!! 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Roasted Red Beet Hummus

***Guest Blogger Alert!*** 

I am so happy to tell you guys that this latest and amazing post for a DELICIOUS beet hummus was written up by a friend and fellow (soon to be certified)  Health Coach, Heather Bedell. After seeing the pictures and hearing about how much her family loves this recipe, I wanted it for myself. But I couldn't stop there, I knew you all would love it, too, so here it is! Thank you so much, Heather!


Original recipe by: / October 2013
This deep red, protein rich hummus is quickly becoming a family favorite. A much healthier selection than most store bought hummus choices. And it's SUPER easy to whip up!!!

1 pound red beets, washed, peeled, and cut into chunks (or wash, dry & wrap individually in aluminum foil)
Olive oil, for drizzling
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (soaked chickpeas--that's if you're having a stellar day and super organized)
3 +/- garlic cloves, crushed 
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon ground cumin 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

1.Preheat oven to 400 f. Place beet chunks on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil & sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Allow to cool slightly.

2. Transfer roasted beets to a food processor and add all remaining ingredients. Blend until creamy, scraping down sides as needed. Adjust with lemon juice and salt. Refrigerate up to 3 days.

PER SERVING (1/2 cup): 347 cal, 16g fat (7g mono, 6g poly, 2g sat), 0mg chol, 10g protein, 42g carb, 10g fiber, 630mg sodium

Thursday, November 21, 2013



If you have a couple of paper plates, a toilet paper roll, construction paper, markers and crayons, you can set the kids to task making this adorable turkey. This one was made by my 4-year-old. He is pretty proud of this guy!  So proud that this turkey might be gracing our Thanksgiving table this year. Too cute! 

To begin, we colored the big feathers on a half of paper plate. Look how focused!!!

Then we traced the shape of our feet.

We cut out our outlines, then decorated and colored the turkey's body. 

And decorated some more.

Then I glued the bodies to toilet paper rolls and stapled the rolls to the paper plate feathers. Instant cuteness! This one is by my littlest. You can make out the outline of her tootsy toes on the bottom of  her turkey. That was her favorite part, having her foot traced! 

These are super easy and a fun craft for the days leading up to and even on Thanksgiving Day! I hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday and I look forward to seeing you back here soon! 

Thank you for reading! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Healthy Lunch Box Lunches

Healthy Lunch Box Lunches 

These are some of the lunches I prepared for my Kindergartener during the months of September and October. They are all easy to prepare and great for anyone at anytime! 

Avocado, raspberries, homemade chicken meatball with coconut and bacon, ketchup for dipping, carrots and celery and a chocolate covered pretzel. 

Sliced salami, homemade oatmeal and raisin muffin, celery, yellow peppers, mushrooms and blueberries.

Non-GMO blue corn tortilla chips, apricots and roasted coconuts, roasted turkey, kiwi & blueberries and dried cherries. 

Locally made coconut yucca chips, blackberries and raspberrries, leftover Amy's pizza, fresh green beans and a candy corn treat.

A hard-boiled egg, dried cranberries, apricots, honey (in the small container for the peppers. Big Sister gets fussy about raw peppers sometimes) peppers, cucumbers and baked snap peas. 

Raw carrots, raspberries, black lentil salad, lightly steamed broccoli and a chocolate covered pretzel. 

Letter "M" carrots, non-GMO corn chips, flax seed waffle sandwich with homemade blueberry jam, dried cranberries, avacado and a spriulina and banana chip. 

Thank you for reading! 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Whole Happy Food Detectives

Whole Happy Food Detectives

If you are like me, whenever you hit the supermarket, health food store, Farmers' Market, or what ever your choice, you have one or more little ones in tow. For a year and a half I had three in tow. Not easy but you make it work. Now I have my two youngest and there are still challenges on the shopping scene. All the marketing done for children specifically, can make walking up and down the aisles of any supermarket with your kids a nightmare. All the little toys that are hung sporadically at eye level, the brightly colored wrappers and familiar characters promoting low nutrient foods can be all your children are begging for from one aisle to the next. 

For a long time I saw this as the bane of my chore-fulfilling existence. Really, food corporations and supermarket managers know that any parent doing food shopping with their children is just trying to survive and are bound to give in to some whining and begging in order to avoid a complete melt down. Really sneaky, guys. 

But instead of seeing a trip to the supermarket as a tricky obstacle course that I had to get through by distracting the little ones and sharply snapping, "No! No! No!" every 5 seconds, I began to think this is a seriously awesome opportunity to teach them so much. I decided I could use this as a chance to teach them about healthy foods, especially finding and choosing them, and about marketing tricks. (Yup, marketing tricks. And believe it or not, they get it!) Sometimes I forget that if you give them the language and a decent, kid-appropriate explanation, they catch on fast. 

I want to empower my kids to be able to spot whole, healthy foods on their own. Essentially I wanted to help them become Whole, Happy Food Detectives. This is a chance to take another step in that direction. 

Here is what I started doing:

Tip #1 Tell them that sometimes food companies try to trick them! 

You can assume that when we go shopping, we are looking for the healthiest choices we can find. That is a given. Cool packaging does not mean healthy food and no kid wants to feel like they are getting duped. Not even my 4 year old. So when he asked for a box of Capri Sun juices I told him, sorry, not going to happen. His response was, "But there is a cool surfer guy on it!" (insert sad puppy dog eyes right here) So,I told him the truth. "That cool surfer guy is on the package to get your attention and to get you to buy it." Its true, isn't it? If Capris Sun or similar juices marketed for kids had to stand on their ingredients alone, no one would buy them. High fructose corn syrup is often the main ingredient. No thanks. And corn syrup, aka GMO. No thanks again. Plus some flavors have HFCS AND plain ol' sugar, too. In my humble opinion, there is nothing healthy about a juice drink like that. Therefore cool surfer guys are needed. So, for the kids, just break it down:
  • Tell your little one there are a lot of things in that product that are not healthy. 
  • Even though it isn't super healthy, the company still wants you to buy it, so they make it look pretty or cool to catch your attention.
  • When you see bright colors, a character or cool surfers, its a clue that the company MIGHT be trying to trick you...
  • ...So check out the ingredients! 

Tip #2 check out the ingredients and measure.

Your little one doesn't have to be able to read to check out the ingredients! We have worked out a little system. We simply measure with our fingers. If the ingredient list is really long, Brother knows it is probably not a good choice. When he finds something with a short list, there is a good choice I will let it into the cart. 

Measuring the ingredients for cheese balls. I think he was being a little conservative here, but he was pretty clear they were NOT making their way into the cart. :) 

Measuring the ingredients for these freeze-dried fruit snacks. They have ONE (yes, one) ingredient so they are Momma approved. 

Tip #3 Find items with organic ingredients.

Easy peasy! This can be like a scavenger hunt game! If I tell the Little Man he can pick out a cereal, a snack, the ketchup, whatever... but it has to be organic, you bet he can hunt it down. 

If kids can spot the McDonalds golden arches and recognize it, then it should be no problem to spin things to the other side of the spectrum and make sure they recognize the USDA Organic label. My little man can spot that label anywhere. 

Tip #4 Find Non-GMO ingredients

My stripped down definition of GMOs is that they are grown from seeds that are not healthy for us. This is how we've described corn and things made from corn. So, if the kids want a corn cereal or corn chips, it has to have "the butterfly". 


Finding "the butterfly" means that the product is free of genetically modified ingredients. and verified as such by the Non-GMO Project. The non-GMO project has a lot of information about GMOs as well as finding and purchasing non-GMO products. 
I should point out that organic foods can not knowingly contain GMO ingredients, so the organic label is also a safety net to buying and eating non-GMO foods. 

Nothing says you can't turn your little ones into healthy food detectives. I can tell you in all honestly that both my olders use all the strategies listed here and they have made an impact. I have seen my oldest on her own,measure the ingredients of a snack with her finger and whisper, "Wow, that seems like a lot," showing that she is very aware and becoming a conscious consumer of food. On multiple occasions my son has pointed out marketing "tricks" and has told me that if I looked, I would find that wasn't a very healthy item. 

Do they still ask for ice cream and crunchy cheese snacks with a picture of the very cool cheetah on the front? Yup, they sure do. They are still kids, afterall. This is just the beginning of a long, long journey. I definitely don't have all the answers and I might not be getting everything right. My biggest hope is that I am starting this little mob of mine off on the right foot, though.

Here's to hoping....!

Thank you for reading! 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Black lentils with Secret Kale

Black Lentils with Secret Kale

I wasn't even thinking about writing up this recipe except for the fact that all three of my little ones gobbled it right down, and the baby had 3 helpings. The best part is that I included "secret kale" in this dish, so it was a double WIN! 


1/2 onion, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1/2 red pepper, chopped

a handful of kale, chopped extra fine

1.5-2 cups of black lentils 
(I have never used lentils from a can before but I did for this recipe and it made things super easy!) 

For seasoning:

garlic powder





sea salt

black pepper

  1. I added the first 4 ingredients to a saucepan with a bit of olive oil and cooked everything until the onions were transparent.
  2. I added the lentils and spices and then cooked it all for about 8-10 minutes. 
  3. I served the dish to all my kids and they devoured it, easy peasy! 

It doesn't get any easier than that. 1, 2, 3 and you have a healthy and nutritious dish for your family and yourself. I will surely be making this again! I hope you enjoy! 

Thank you for reading! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Peace Out, "To Do" List

Peace Out, "To Do" List 

I was not feeling it today. The last couple weeks have been close to a muddled mess and I have been teetering on a fine line between "organized & on schedule" and "out of control and crying in the corner". The youngest's sleep pattern has been bonkers and I am officially more sleep deprived now than I was when I had an infant in the house, so I am sure that isn't helping much. 

I have figured out a few keys to survival that have made a major difference in my busy life, no sleep and all. I have been strict about setting up a schedule at night for the following day. Even though, like any decent mom, I can assess a situation pretty quickly and make changes when and where I need to, it makes a huge difference to have an idea of the big and some little things that need to happen and when. Look, sometimes we stick to the plan and sometimes the plan needs to be adjusted, but it is definitely helping. 

And then there was today. Adjustments weren't going to help. We needed an overhaul. I knew it right away, we needed to feed our souls a little bit today, find a little balance. So, everything else got scraped. I almost wish we had kept Big Sister home from school to join us, but I didn't. 

Brother, Little Sister and I went to Princeton, NJ to walk the path along the D&R Canal. We know that path, its really easy and quiet and pretty. This was definitely the best decision I made in weeks. Everything seemed a little better afterwards. 

How lucky am I that I could be joined on a beautiful Fall hike with these two hams. Love them so much. 

"I'm walking!!!!" I think by next Spring the stroller will be a thing of the past.  

Sometimes a good hike is all you need to put things into perspective and feel connected to the whole world. The rest of the day was a breeze after having the opportunity to take all this in. 

Thank you so much for coming over to read my blog!  I hope to see you back again. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Why Am I Doing This Again?

Why Am I Doing This Again? 

Let me set the scene for you: Its Friday night. I am researching how to restore the balance of good and "bad" bacteria in one's digestive tract because yes, I am a ball of excitement and yes, this is really what I consider a fun Friday night. Ok, maybe not "fun" per se, but definitely worth while. (Stay tuned for the post on that topic.) I hit the bed around 11:00. Deep sleep immediately. Somewhere around 11:10 the baby, who is no baby anymore at 19 months, is up and screaming for a bottle. Well I am just plum tuckered out so she easily wins. No contest. I put her in our bed and give her the bottle she is so urgently demanding. Then I did the same thing at 1AM and then again at 3AM. By 4AM I thought she was just going overboard so I put my very weary foot down and decided no, not this time. Although you may be screaming 4 inches from my face, I will rub your back, tell you its ok and share my pillow, but I am certainly not giving out anymore bottles. She was not pleased but eventually fell asleep. 

Then the alarm went off at 5:30 and I think I had a flash of pure rage. I have the whole "getting up and getting the oldest off to Kindergarten" thing down but Saturday is a special kind of twisted. Our kids go to German Language School on Saturdays which basically begins the same time as our neighborhood elementary school does on Mondays through Fridays, its just that German Language School is about an hour away. So, that means Saturday keeps the same weekday routines, just a whole lot earlier. (See what I mean? Kind of twisted, right?) 

I yawned, grumbled a bit, got to cooking, prepped lunches, got the kids up, dressed, fed, car loaded and we set off to school right on time. All was well. Until the traffic, and the detour, and the screaming "baby" (ahem, 19 month old) and the way she Harry Houdini-ed her one arm out of the strap of her car seat... twice, then watching the clock strike the start of class as we were still sitting in the car.....


When I finally got the olders into class I went back to the car with Little Sister, who was now all smiles thankfully. I felt like I was spinning a bit.  It was a whirlwind morning after an eventful night. I couldn't help it, I sat down and just thought, "I need to shake this off. I am getting a big, fancy coffee and going shopping!!" You've been there, right? A little "retail therapy" to fix everything right up? My goodness, I liked the sound of that! And I could really use some boots. I turned the car on and gripped the wheel. I took a deep breath but out of nowhere I had a complete flashback. (Really brain, you couldn't keep this to yourself?) Were this a movie, the scene would turn back to me, late summer/early fall 2012. I could see it pretty clearly in my head. 

Right about at that point I had decided that I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes. I couldn't drop the last 15+ pounds of baby weight, I was out of shape, lethargic and just did not feel well in general. I made some pretty big nutritional changes around that time by doing my first Whole 30 and then easily falling into a Paleo lifestyle. I began cutting out processed foods for the entire family little by little. I began to run and work out at home with my kids around. At some point, as all this was coming together, I promised myself a few big things. I promised that I would do everything I could to inspire my kids to live healthy and fit lives. I promised to encourage them to be outdoors and to love it. And one very specific promise I made in September of 2012, when another year of German Language class began, was no more Saturdays waiting for class to be over while sitting in an over-priced coffee shop or book store or Megalo-Mart. Unless it was raining or storming or freezing to the point that all the layers in the world weren't going to keep you warm, Little Sister and I would wait for the olders outside. I can get a couple of laps in around the park, she might come along for a ride in the stroller or get out and walk herself. We get in some fun, some quality time. We might play on the playground equipment or throw rocks in the water. We collect leaves and point out the busy squirrels. We do all that and more... and its awesome. Its awesome for a number of reasons but the one that stands out for me today is this: It is awesome because I made a promise to myself and I kept it. I didn't fall back into the easy routine of sitting around in a retail shop of some sort, spending money I may or may not have on crap I may or may not really need, just because I might feel like I think I deserve to or I can't think of anyplace else I have to be. The truth is I actually deserve more and I do have somewhere else to be. And way better things to do. I was in a temporary fog brought on by serious lack of sleep, a bit of stress and a whole bucket of a pity party I was holding for myself. Luckily I shook it off before any serious damage was done (to my bank account, of course) and major explanations needed to be made to the husband. I think its ok to forget once in a while why I am on this journey. Its even ok to veer off course sometimes. It happens. The most important thing is to be working to move forward and to stay true to the promises you make to yourself. I am learning that staying true to yourself can feel really amazing. 

So, shopping got nixed. My little spitfire and I headed over to the park and had an awesome 90 minutes in the fresh air. We saw geese, ducks, a beautiful crane that landed in the pond, an army of squirrels preparing for winter and so many dogs taking their owners for a walk. I helped Little Sister name all the things she saw and held her hand while she kicked up fallen leaves. See, definitely more important. 

 Look, I still need boots. I will get them. Just not today.

Waving to the ducks and geese on our walk in the park.  

Thanks for reading everyone! 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Fall Math Fun

Fall Math Fun 

This is a little project I did with Brother. I used the falling Autumn leaves to teach him tally marks and displaying data on a bar graph. It was a really fun project and he totally rocked it. So proud of my little guy! 

The night before I did some prep: I created the bar graph and decorated a sheet of paper to use for keeping track of our data collection. 
The next morning, on our way to school, we took notice of all the leaves changing color. I led the olders to the question of: What fall color is most common for the leaves in our neighborhood?

Our guesses were red and brown.

After we dropped Big Sister off at school, we used our walk home to begin data collecting to see if any of our hypotheses were correct. We decided to collect 30 leaves. We took only a few samples whenever we came across a big collection of fallen leaves. 

In order to keep track of how many leaves we had collected, we used tally marks. This is a lesson we have revisited more than once and this was a perfect way to apply it. Brother still needs lots of support when counting by 5's but who cares. He will totally get it soon enough.  :) 

Once we had all of our data collected, it was time to sort. Brother made piles of each color.  We then talked about the parts of the graph and showed him a sample of how to put information on a bar graph. 

Then my little mathematician went to task and graphed all the information he had collected. I lent him support for the taller bars but he did most of the work, and accurately even! 

The end result, as you saw above, is this! We could easily tell that our guesses of red and brown were correct and we noticed that we just don't seem to have any orange leaves in our neighborhood. Brother thought this was really fun and I could tell he felt very accomplished once he saw his finished project. 

This is an easy project to prep and a lot of fun for your little ones. If you decide to give it a try, I hope you will let us know which fall colors are most popular in your neighborhood!

Thank you for reading!!! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The letter "M" lunches

The Letter "M" Lunches

Big Sister did it. She went ahead, grew up and started Kindergarten. (sigh) This has been a busy and chaotic transition for us. No more getting breakfast going whenever I feel like it, staying in our pjs until noon and sleeping in after the baby has us up all hours of the night. We are on a tight schedule. Things need to happen no matter what happened throughout the night. I spend a LOT of time thinking about schedules and how to fit it all in. And I also spend a lot of time thinking about what to make for the lunch box. It is safe to say I am now obsessed with planetbox lunches.

This week my little lady is studying the letter "M" in school so I tried to find ways to incorporate the letter "M" into some of her lunches this week. Please keep in mind I am just NOT creative enough to make things that begin with the letter "M" like a mouse, a monster, etc. She gets the letter. Best I can do. :)

Here is the first. Sandwiches are rare for us since we don't eat many grains here at home. But honestly, I was desperate. That first day I couldn't think of anything except a sandwich to cut into the letter "M". Big Sister also had organic grapes, apricots and seeds, coconut, yuca chips and a yogurt pretzel for dessert.

The next day was a little more fun. I cut salami into "m"'s. I happily eat the cut out pieces. I also included rosemary pita chips, raisins, seeds and coconut, carrots & avocado and, yup, a yogurt pretzel for dessert.

This is a zucchini pancake turned letter "M". The first two pancakes did not cooperate. This one did but I have serious concerns about what it will look like come lunchtime. Also in this lunch are red peppers and baby portabella mushrooms, corn & chia chips (part of the non-GMO project), more avocado (a favorite) and dried cranberries for dessert.

I was told the zucchini pancakes were "AWESOME!" And had to be served again the next day. So I obliged. This time the letter "M" was a red pepper. Also in the planet box were edemame, a homemade oatmeal & cranberry muffin, cucumbers and a dried sweet prune for dessert. 

This was a popular one! In the parchment paper is a flax seed waffle sandwich with homemade blueberry jam, avocado, "M" carrots, chia seed tortilla chips (same as above) and spirulina chips made with banana and sesame seeds. 

So that is the week of the letter "M". If you use any of these ideas, great! If these ideas inspire something bigger and more creative, even better! No matter what, thank you for reading! I am glad you stopped by my humble little blog! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Finger Painting Fall

Finger Painting Fall

Hooray for Fall! A great way to celebrate the changing of the seasons is with an easy fingerpaintng project.  

Here is a list of things I get together before I begin:

  • plastic tablecloth
  • card stock
  • finger paints
  • paper plate (great for easy cleanup)
  • smocks
  • baby wipes
  • have a place designated for where wet artwork is going to sit to dry
  • for the more enthusiastic kids, have a tub ready and waiting... just in case

To set up this project, I grab a plastic tablecloth left over from a recent family party or the few I have on standby from a local dollar store. I put some fall color fingerpaints on a disposable paper plate for easy cleanup. I also made a simple tree outline on card stock. You don't have to use card stock but I find it holds up best to almost anything. I pull back everyone's hair. Yes, even my own. Then get the smocks on.  All that is left after that is to let the artists do their thing! For this project, Little Sister invited her cousin in on the fun. 

While Little Sister was creating her fall leaves, I am repeating the name of the color she is painting with to help her make the connection to colors and their names.

Can you tell she kind of enjoys art time?  (Her cousin, it turns out, DESPISES the feel of finger paints and happily watched from 6 feet back. Too cute!) 

Little Sister loves this and any finger painting project. And the results are totally worth a prime spot on the fridge.

HAPPY FALL, Y'ALL! Thank you for reading!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013



Reality is truly starting to settle in. The summer is coming to an end and soon the school bells will ring. I am excited for my eager five-year-old who can not wait for all her Kindergarten adventures. But I am also full of 1,000 worries. I am sure I am not that unlike every other parent sending their little ones off to school for the first time. One thing that has got me wringing my hands with worry is sending my healthy eater out into the world. (In case you missed it, here is the blog version my panic attack!) Since there isn't too much I can do about it, I started planning. Step one was ordering some Planetboxes for Big Sister and Brother. Brother is going to Saturday school with his older sister so I thought he could use it then. 

Step two was creating a little buzz about having cool new lunch boxes and getting to eat in school. The Planetboxes were a huge hit and the olders dug right into the checking them out! 

Big Sister chose the horse and rider magnets. Fitting. 

Brother picked the rocket ships. 

Step three was a test run! We were excited to try out our new lunch boxes. I packed them up for a special picnic today. But sadly, it ended up pouring rain. (Poor planning, Momma.) So, we moved our picnic indoors for today. 

Even though we had a change of plans, the novelty of eating out of their new Planetboxes made it pretty fun. Maybe sending my healthy eater to school will be ok! I think we are off to a good start for September. 

Have a great school year to all the school-going kids! Thanks for reading!