Thursday, October 28, 2010

Healthy Sack Lunches for School

The book of Proverbs says a good homemaker "riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household."  (Prov. 31:15)

As a homemaker, I have been extremely wary of the quality of food served in the school lunchroom.  Our family has always prepared a lunch at home under conditions that I can control.  Though time-consuming at first, eventually this task can be handed over to the children as they become older.  Through consistency, eventually children become expert at making their own lunches.  

It helps to prepare as much ahead of time, even on the weekends, if possible, to simplify the morning rush.  On those mornings when you just have to hurriedly whip up a peanut butter and jam sandwich, don’t forget to tuck in a quick note of love that will turn even this meal into a banquet! 

I also recommend having children leave everything left over from lunch in their box for the parent to survey to help understand what is and is not being eaten.  In order to insure my children ate their fruits and veggies, I tried to make them as appetizing as possible.  Also, if they were being picky, I would “give them a choice” of two good choices, such as grapes or bananas because they were more likely to eat what they had “chosen” for themselves.  Try some of the following ideas for making these choices more interesting to kids.

For fresh fruit such as bananas, oranges, tangerines, apples, melon, and grapes:  
I like to go ahead and section apples, oranges and tangerines because lunch time is very short now.  
Apples are dipped in a little lemon juice to keep them pretty—presentation is important. 
 I sometimes serve bananas and apples with peanut butter on the side. 
Slip a half or third of a banana into a lunch, dipping ends in lemon juice to keep from turning dark.  Try to package bananas so that the rest of the lunch does not take on their odor.
Serve celery sticks, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, etc. with a little low-fat ranch dressing on the side.
Make smiley face oranges which are oranges sliced into eighths.  
Ants on a log is celery with peanut butter and raisins on top, (wrap individually).  
Apple Smiles are apple slices similar to smiley faced oranges only put the lips together with peanut butter and add marshmallow or sliced almonds for teeth.  

Wrap lettuce and tomatoes separate from the sandwich to preserve crispness.

After a while, my kids helped me prepare the lunches.  Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich became a work of art.  My kids began to try and make their lunches as attractive as possible since they received so much interest over their meals from their school chums.  Before long, it became a friendly competition between friends to see who had brought the better meal.

The following party/appetizer recipes work well as lunch box meals that my kids love:

Pigs in a Blanket
1 pkg. crescent rolls
1 pkg. all-beef cocktail sausages
Tear pieces of crescent dough.  Wrap around sausages.  Bake at 350 degrees F. for 10-15 minutes.

Slow-Cooker Snack Mix
8 c. Chex cereal of any combination
2 c. each mini pretzels, bagel chips, Cheese Nips
1 c. mixed nuts
6 T. butter or margarine, melted
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. seasoning salt
1/2 tsp. each onion salt and onion powder

Combine Chex cereals, pretzels, bagel chips, Cheese Nips, and nuts in a slow cooker.  Combine butter, Worcestershire, seasoning salt, garlic powder, onion salt, and onion powder.  Pour wet mixture over dry mixture, tossing well from time to time--don't drench the mixture.  Cover slow cooker and cook on low 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Recipe Substitutions for Wine and Liquor

If you're interested in cooking, you're also just naturally interested in art, in love, and in culture.  ~Madame Jehane Benoit

I'm not interested in dishes that take 3  minutes and have no cholesterol.  
~Julia Child

In my cooking, I often come across recipes where liquor is called for.  I like that programs like Rachel Ray’s 30 Minute Meals sometimes take into consideration that not everyone will want to cook with wine or liquor.  Just the other day, I came across a crockpot recipe I wanted to try from Taste of Home Magazine that required rum.  I wasn’t going to let that stop me from making the scrumptious-looking recipe, so I took out this old article I found on the Church website ( to see what I could use instead.  I used pineapple juice!  The article mentions that if you use substitutions that are syrupy, you may want to dilute them with water a little bit. Here’s the article source and my most used substitutions from the list:
Winnifred C. Jardine, “How to Be a Gourmet and a Mormon Too,” Ensign, Dec. 1976

In Soups and Entrees
Dry (unsweet) Red Wine
red wine vinegar
Liquid drained from canned mushroom

Dry (unsweet) White Wine
Chicken broth
Ginger ale
Liquid drained from canned mushrooms

In Cheese Dishes (fondue or rarebit)
Beer or Ale
Chicken broth
Ginger ale

In Desserts
Apple cider

Pineapple juice


Creme de Menthe
Spearmint extract

Red Burgundy
Grape juice

Ginger ale


Friday, October 1, 2010

Healthy Choices for Picky Eaters

"Moms should not be a short-order cook.  Children can learn to be picky eaters by having their preferences catered to too often."  Table Talk, 1994 by Mimi Wilson & Mary Beth Lagerborg

I was a very picky eater as a child, probably more so than my pickiest child!  I used to worry about how I would get my own children to eat healthy foods when I was so picky.  But there came a point in growing up that I realized my tastebuds were evolving.  What I use to hate, I had grown to like.  It is important to put away your own old prejudice against some foods and keep experimenting.  Children need to see us try new things.  I have one child that will try anything Dad tries whether it's fried alligator or oysters on the half-shell (ugh!).  Also, I found that kids will eat anything they grow or cook themselves.  So if you can, grow a small patch of sweet potatoes, tomatoes, green beans, etc. whatever's easiest for you.

"Research shows it may take 10 to 20 tries over the course of many meals before a child eventually learns to like a new food." (Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RD & Liz Weiss, MS, RD)  Keep trying foods, since tastes might change.  However, there is no end to the assortment of foods to try. 

Kids love getting to make their own choices, so it's a good idea to provide more than one acceptable choice such as apple slices or orange slices.  Both are good choices and the child is happy 'cause they got to choose!

At times, my mom could be pretty clever, besides the old guilt trip, "There are starving children in Africa," one thing that did the trick and also works on my now teenage children is to make the food sound more interesting and exotic.  For instance letting them know that the food is French or Native American.  Also any interesting facts about the food makes it more appealing for some reason like, "bananas have a lot of potassium and will help keep you from cramping up during cross country practice."  Believe me it works!

Sometimes my 15 yr. old son will not be happy unless he gets Dominoes Pizza for dinner, so I compromise and make an attractive salad to serve on the side.  With hot dogs or hamburgers (preferably grilled), I might make (healthier than chips) Baked Potato Wedges or Rachel Ray's 30 Minutes Baked Beans.

It's true, kids, (even 20 year-old-kids), can sometimes be extremely picky eaters, which is very trying for Chef Mom!  Here are some ways I have learned to combat these picky people:

~Don't let children snack before meals.
~I make a deal that they only have to eat one bite, 
but they do have to try it.
~I experiment with recipes to find the most attractive ways to serve food.  For example, my kids were not crazy about Brussels sprouts, but I found this Martha Stewart recipe that they just love:

Brussels Sprouts in Cashew Sauce
1-1/2 lb. fresh Brussels
1/3 c. butter
1 T. brown sugar
3 T. soy sauce
2 tsp. white vinegar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. minced garlic
1/3 c. cashews
If using fresh Brussels sprouts, wash thoroughly; remove any discolored leaves.  Cut off stem ends, and slash bottom of each sprout with a shallow X.  Place fresh or frozen (20-oz.) Brussels sprouts in a large saucepan; add water to cover.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until tender.  Drain well; set aside.  Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat; add brown sugar and soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, and garlic.  Bring to a boil stirring constantly; remove from heat.  stir cashews into butter sauce.  Pour sauce over Brussels sprouts.  Serve immediately.  Yield:  4 servings.

Baked Potato Wedges
2 med. potatoes
2 T. butter or margarine, melted
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Scrub potatoes and cut into wedges.  Place potato wedges on a sheet of foil on a baking sheet.  Brush top side of each wedge with butter or margarine and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.

30 Minutes Baked Beans
6 c. Bushes original baked beans
1 tsp. coarse black pepper
3 slices bacon, copped, 1/2-in. pieces
1 med. red onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. brown sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Pour beans into a casserole dish and place in oven. In a small nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat 2-3 minutes.  Add onions and cook 3 minutes longer.  Slide the beans out of the oven.  Scatter the onions and bacon around the beans.  Sprinkle the brown sugar and black pepper over the onions.  Bake beans with toppings 10 minutes longer.


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