Thursday, September 30, 2010

Product review: Birdseye Steamfresh products

It has been a while, but I have talked about Birdseye Steamfresh products before...I'm a huge fan. I understand if some people aren't into microwave cooking for various reasons, but I'm personally okay with it. If you are too, then please continue reading! :)

Recently, Birdseye has put out more rice dishes that are excellent - Brown & Wild Rice with Broccoli & Carrots, Multi-Grain Blend with Spinach, Tomato & Onions, and Brown & Wild Rice with Corn, Carrots & Peas.  They don't have added salt/sodium, flavors, or preservatives - just simple rice and veggies. I can heat one up in 4-5 minutes for a quick meal for one, a side dish for the family, or add a sauce and meat for a one-pot meal. I'm also able to find these on sale on a regular basis, plus coupons are readily available.

*I don't get any compensation for these reviews...I just do them because I assume other parents like to hear honest reviews before purchasing products!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Product review: Yogi Granola Crisps

I had a good coupon for Yogi Granola Crisps, so I decided to give them a try. They are normally too expensive for me, but $1.50 off made it more affordable. I have to say, my kids are in love with these! We tried the strawberry crunch variety, and they have a very rich strawberry flavor. They are a perfect anytime snack. I found them at Food Lion, but their Web site allows you to search for a retailer near you.

I post a lot of healthy coupons on my Facebook page, so come on over and "like" me to hear about more good deals, news stories, etc. I don't just post links to today's blog post - I try to keep the material different. Thanks!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Annoying commercial(s) #15

And so it begins...commercials to make us parents believe that HFCS (my bad...corn sugar) is A-OK. Please keep in mind that these commercials are put out by those who stand to profit from HFCS being used in all the products you love to buy (Corn Refiners Association).

I'm not allowed to embed apparently, but here are the links to two commercials with the same message.

Doesn't everyone play with their kids in corn fields and have picnics?

Friday, September 24, 2010

School lunch with Grayson

Dennis decided to eat lunch with Grayson at school yesterday, and they both bough school lunch (first time for the year). I asked him to take a picture and report back on what they ate.

Homemade hamburger bun (tasted good)
Fresh apple (Grayson loved this)
Tots were baked
Lettuce & tomato for burger and coleslaw were offered (veggie choices)

Low points
Burger was very fake tasting
Bun could have been whole wheat/grain
Peaches were in syrup
Tots were overcooked

I was really happy to see the school is no longer using Styrofoam trays! This meal doesn't win best or worst lunch award. I feel much better about what packed Harper - hard boiled egg, carrots, string cheese, mango, and peanut butter crackers.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Guest Blogger - Homemade Baby Food

After reconnecting on Facebook, I realized a friend of mine from high school has the same philosophies about childhood nutrition that I do. Since she is still knee-deep in making baby food, I asked Kate if she would be willing to write a guest blog on the topic. Thank you Kate for your contribution! 

The foods you serve your child now lay the foundation for his eating habits for the rest of his life.  Homemade baby food allows you to establish healthy eating habits early as well as an openness to flavors and new tastes.
Now, in order to explain my decision to make all my children's baby food I feel I have to give a little background- a slight ranting, but I promise I will make it concise.  I am a mother of two wonderfully-made children.  When I was pregnant with my first child, I was approached many times with the question of whether or not I planned to breastfeed.  I felt a little taken aback by such directness because I didn't even know what I was in for baby wise much less how I planned to feed him, and did I really want to talk about it to strangers?!  So, I decided to research- as most new moms-to-be do.  I read and decided to take a class that taught the ins and outs of breastfeeding.  I was enlightened but still felt firm in my decision that I would try it and if it didn't work out that was ok, too.  Then, the big day came- EARLY!  My son was premature. His system was so very delicate- he was so very delicate!  I instantly became uber protective, as any mom does.  The moment I saw him I knew it was up to me- I had to do what was best for him.  They are born so simplistic and pure.  Why would I put anything man made and synthetic into his perfect little system?  That's where it all began.  I nursed my son for 15 months, through 13 months of colic and severe reflux.  I eliminated EVERYTHING from my diet to keep his very sensitive digestive system happy.  So why when faced with solid foods would I choose anything different than what I had been doing? I could not fathom, after months of only breast milk, putting preservatives in his belly.  That is how I came to my decision to make my own baby food.  

Now that this has been said and you get my deep passion for the health and well being of my children, let's get on tho the big question.  Why make baby food when there are so many commercial brands available?  That's simple- PERKS!

  • For one, it is cheaper!  I buy organic fruits and vegetables in bulk from my local farmers market (giving back!), supermarket and box stores- like Costco.  For what you pay for a few jars of pre-made food you can make food for a month or more.
  • It produces less waste.  After I prepare my foods I freeze them in ice cube trays and store them in bulk in quart size zip-lock bags- no glass jars to dispose of. 
  • It contains no chemicals or additives and it is fresher.  It gives you an opportunity to sample with flavors and combinations that they wouldn't otherwise be exposed to. 
  • It's SIMPLE
  1. Steam any peeled fruit or vegetable until it is soft enough to me mashed with a fork.  OR, bake unpeeled until skins/peels pucker  (After your child is about 8 months old many fruits can be blended without prior steaming or baking depending on the sensitivity of his tummy). 
  2. Blend- add water to achieve desired consistency.  Breast milk can also be used but it does not store for as long as food thinned with water.  For blending I use a regular old blender and it works just fine!  No need to splurge on a fancy baby food blender.  Also, the Magic Bullet rocks for smaller portions.
  3. Pour/spoon into ice cube trays, cover with parchment paper (works best with no sticking) and freeze.
  4. Once frozen, put cubes into labeled freezer storage bags.  I personally prefer to use one quart size bag per ice cube tray to save room in my freezer.
*I must state that homemade baby food will not be the same perfectly smooth consistency as commercial baby food- don't stress!
*If fresh produce is not readily available go frozen- often frozen fruits and vegetables have more nutritional value than ones in the produce section because they are frozen shortly after picking thus retaining more of their vitamins and nutrients.

It must be said that there are rules about what foods need to be steamed or baked- some foods are harder to digest and can cause gas and tummy upset.  Still, there are others that need no preparation at all!  There are also guidelines that I suggest be followed about the age at which foods are appropriate to be introduced- food allergies are a big deal!  One website I continually find helpful for guidelines and simple preparations is It is my go-to-guide for all questions and concerns and a great website for those just beginning their voyage into homemade baby food.  Now, for those who feel confident or a little daring or just have a tot with refined tastes I recommend This site is written by a chef who now has a baby and wanted to create culinary greatness for him!  It is full of fun recipes that my children go gaga over.

My voyage began with apples, then pears.  My first batches were simplistic- nothing added.  As my babies grew and I felt they could take on a little more digestively, I spiced things up a bit- made apples with lemon peel (they must be removed) and cinnamon and pears with balsamic vinegar and vanilla- a HUGE hit.  From there I did combinations.  Since I freeze my food into ice cubes I could do blends.  For example, two apple cubes and one blueberry cube for breakfast, a carrot cube, an apple cube and a pear cube for lunch, etc.  Also, the cube form makes it easy to adjust amounts as you baby grows.  For different textures, thickening and to make sure my breastfed babies are getting their iron I also add cereal or rice to the blends. 

I make everything from sweet potatoes to papaya.  Our favorites include: Squash (butternut or winter is the most tasty), sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, peas, plums (but I use them sparingly- they are a laxative!), peaches, apples, avocado (which do not need to be cooked and are great paired with banana for a nice banacado breakfast!), mango, papaya, and nectarines.  When your baby begins finger foods you can dice the fruits and veggies, give them a gentle steaming and flash freeze for storage in zip-lock freezer bags as well. 

One more wonderful advantage of homemade baby food is the ease of travel.  Surprising fact for some, I am sure.  It truly is easy- all you need is a few reusable travel containers (Munchkin and Sassy make good containers that are easy to find at local retailers).  Before I leave for an outing I place some yummy ice cube combos and some rice or cereal if desired into my travel containers, grab a spoon and I am off.  By the time meal time rolls around the food is defrosted and ready to be devoured.  If I am headed straight to lunch I might microwave it for a second before I go. Ta-da- travel made easy!

Homemade baby food truly is a simple way to do a very healthy thing for your baby.  I enjoy the process and feel good knowing I am providing the first step on the path to healthy choices and a healthy lifestyle.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Smoothie FAIL!

Grayson has asked me for a while to make a vegetable smoothie for him, so I researched various recipes to find the best combination to use. After a lot of reading, I made him one yesterday that included:
-orange juice
I thought the combination of fruits and veggies would give it the sweetness it needed to taste better. After a kid taste test, they told me I was wrong. I dumped it back in the blender and added 2 tablespoons honey and some frozen peaches.

After another test taste, it seems my vegetable smoothie was a complete failure. Grayson politely choked down a half of a glass worth, but I let him off the hook (he's not picky at all, so I knew it honestly stunk). I even served my green concoction in a cute Shrek glass (not a toxic one!), but it didn't help.

Any thoughts on how to make a tasty veggie smoothie?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ramen - not just for college kids

When I think of ramen noodles, I think of the 3/$1 college kid meal filled with sodium, MSG, and other yucky ingredients. However, I recently discovered Dr. McDougall's ramen at my local grocery store, and decided to give it a try for the kids' lunches. They loved it! All I had to do was add water, heat in the microwave for under 2 minutes, and pour it in their thermoses. Grayson said it stayed hotter in his thermos than most other things (not sure why, but bonus!). You can see the vegetables in it, not just little dots of vegetable bits.

The ingredients list is straight forward and easy to pronounce! At $1.99 for one package, it was a lot more expensive than some other brands, but I believe that you get what you pay for.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Frog in a hole!

Have 5 minutes to spare for a fun, quick, and healthy breakfast? Frog in a hole is just that! I'm sure most of you have seen this recipe before, but kids love it, and nothing could be easier.

Take a piece of whole wheat/grain bread and cut a hole in the middle using a biscuit cutter or small glass. Put a small amount of butter in a pan and melt. Place the bread in the pan and carefully crack an egg in the hole. When it is done on that side, gently flip the egg/bread over and cook the other side. That's it! Harper thinks this is the coolest breakfast ever.

(Oh, and don't waste the hole! My kids think it is fun to eat it as-is.)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Don't believe the hype

High fructose corn syrup is making headlines again - this time because America's corn refiners want to change the name to "corn sugar" to make it sound more appealing. Don't fall for it! Of course corn refiners don't want to see a decline in corn syrup sales, but that doesn't make the product any healthier.  Stick with small amounts of the real thing instead!

Guess who paid for this ad? FUNNY!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Annoying commercial #14

Remember my post last week on canned pasta? This commercial is timely! Why do we want to hide healthy foods from our kids when we should be teaching their importance?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Product review: Stay Fit lunch container

I was doing a little shopping at Ross last week when I cam across a sectioned lunch container by Stay Fit that looked pretty cool, and for $2.99 I couldn't not buy it! It has a gel insert built right into the lid that you can freeze to keep the contents cold from the inside - what a great idea!

I packed Grayson's lunch in it this morning. One downside for me is that I couldn't put his lunch in the container last night because the lid needed to remain frozen. I guess I could have used plastic wrap to cover it until I was ready to put it in his lunchbox, but I just waited until this morning. As you can see, there was plenty of room for Grayson's wrap (turkey, cheese, and lettuce on whole wheat Italian wrap), dill pickles, apples, and carrots.

The lid has side snaps so you know it will stay closed until it needs to be opened. We didn't need it today, but there is also a flap on the top of the lid that holds included plastic ware - very cool! It also fit nicely in Grayson's lunch box.

I give this product a thumbs up!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hitting the trail

Even though it can be a very delicious and healthy snack, pre-made trail mix can really be expensive! Grayson and I decided to make a batch of our own yesterday. We got to decide exactly what was in it, and he loved being able to make something on his own. We mixed everything together in a large Rubbermaid bowl, and I'll dish it out all week in smaller lunchbox containers. 

Yesterday's mix contained:
-Whole grain goldfish
-Mixed nuts (peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
-Yogurt covered dried mango
-Sesame seeds
-Dark chocolate chips

What do you like in your trail mix?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Canned pasta...yay or nay?

I noticed that Chef Boyardee is now offering "whole grain" products, and it made me think about how many canned pasta products are on the market now. Let's talk about that a little bit.

Simple pasta is quick, cheap, and easy to make - boil some whole wheat noodles and top with a healthy marinara (like Prego Marinara). Maybe healthy ravioli, meatballs, etc. isn't quite as easy, but you get what I'm saying. There are options.

If a can is what your heart is set on, let's weigh the options.

Chef Boyardee Whole Grain Mini ABC's & 123's with Meatballs
Water, Tomatoes (Tomato Puree, Water), Meatballs (Beef and Pork, Water, Crackermeal (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and Folic Acid), Salt, Soy Protein Concentrate, Caramel Coloring, Flavorings and Soybean Oil), Pasta (Whole Wheat Flour, Semolina Wheat Flour), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Less than 2% of: Cheese (Enzyme Modified Cheddar and Pasteurized Process Cheddar [Pasteurized Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Water, Cream, Milkfat, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Xanthan Gum, Vitamin A Palmitate and APO-Carotenal [Colors]), Sea Salt, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Flavorings, Onion Powder, Citric Acid, Soybean Oil.

Chef Boyardee Regular Mini ABC's & 123's with Meatballs
Water, Tomatoes (Water, Tomato Puree), Meatballs (Beef and Pork, Water, Crackermeal [Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate {Vitamin B1}, Riboflavin {Vitamin B2} and Folic Acid], Salt, Soy Protein Concentrate, Caramel Coloring, Flavorings and Soybean Oil), Enriched Macaroni Product (Semolina Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2] and Folic Acid), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Contains Less than 2% of: Sea Salt, Cheeses (Enzyme Modified Cheddar and Pasteurized Process Cheddar [Pasteurized Milk, Cultures, Salt, Enzymes], Water, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Milkfat, Apo-Carotenal and Annatto [Colors] and Vitamin A Palmitate), Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Onion Powder, Citric Acid, Flavorings and Soybean Oil.

Campbell's Spaghetti O's, with Meatballs
Water, Tomato Puree (Water, Tomato Paste), Meatballs (Beef, Pork, Water, Bread Crumbs [Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Dextrose, Salt, Yeast, Soybean Oil], Soy Protein Concentrate, Salt, Dehydrated Onion, Dehydrated Garlic, Beef Flavor [Beef Stock, Flavoring, Salt], Spice Extract), Enriched Macaroni Product with Added Calcium and Vitamin D (Wheat Flour, Calcium Phosphate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Vitamin D) (All Nutrients in Excess of Standard), Enriched Macaroni Product (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Contains Less than 2% of: Sugar, Carrot Juice Concentrate, Salt, Enzyme, Modified Cheddar Cheese (Cheddar Cheese [Cultured Milk, Salt, Enzymes, Calcium Chloride], Water, Disodium Phosphate, Enzymes), Potassium Chloride, Vegetable Oil, Enzyme Modified Butter (Milk), Yeast Extract, Flavoring, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Nonfat Dry Milk, Malic Acid, Succinic Acid

Annie's P'sghetti Loops with Soy Meatballs

We buy the Annie's variety on occassion because I think it is the best choice out of the bunch, and my kids like the way it tastes. It is normally more expensive than the others, but I think you get what you're paying for. I still believe you are better off making it yourself!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Addicted to popsicles

My name is Kelly, and I am addicted to making homemade popsicles. I am obsessed with coming up with new combinations to try out in my Progressive International PLP-1 Freezer Pop Maker mold! The kids aren't complaining.

Doesn't this one look delicious? Strawberry on top and orange creamsicle on the bottom, and not a drop of added sugar to either one! (The orange part is a whole orange, 100% orange juice, plain yogurt, and vanilla blended smooth.) When making these, just freeze the first half, then pour the second half on top and finish freezing. Very easy, and the kids think it is super cool.

Looks like my kiddos have it made in the shade here, doesn't it! Homemade popsicles, pool side! I made these for a big group of kids that came over with all the odds & ends fruits I had around - watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, banana, and orange juice. All fruit, no added sugar, and a nice treat on a hot day!

I'm going to experiment with making creamy/fudgy bars in the near a pudding pop. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Are you ready for some football?

Football practice is VERY time consuming, which means Grayson is eating dinner on the run quite often these days. I have to make it as healthy and quick as I can, and smoothies really fit the bill.

Tonight's smoothie:
-orange juice
-plain yogurt

Paired with a soy nut butter and fruit spread sandwich on whole wheat, this is a complete meal for the boy on the go!

Friday, September 3, 2010

My day!

Did you forget my gift? No worries, just "like" me on Facebook, share the word about my blog, or become a blog follower, and I'll be happy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Annoying commercial #13

Carnation Instant Breakfast has been around for a long time,  and I have noticed some new marketing for it lately. Be aware - the 2nd ingredient listed is sugar (39 grams per bottle to be exact, about the same as a can of soda). If you're looking for a breakfast fortified with vitamins, stick with a healthy cereal. If you want the same calcium as yogurt and the same protein as an egg, then eat those foods! Drinking a bottle of chocolate milk just doesn't seem like the best way to start a kid's day.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A look at this week's school lunch

I have noticed some small, baby-step improvements to our elementary school lunches. I'm still packing for the kids daily, but I did send an email to the person in charge of food services thanking her for the small changes. Big changes still need to be made, but I don't expect overnight miracles. I also hope to see more changes in the middle and high school level.

Here is the menu for this week (click to enlarge):

What do you see that is good? What can be improved upon? How does this compare with your kids' school lunch this week? Are you doing anything to change your school lunch? If so, what? I want to help make more changes, but I get overwhelmed with where to even start...I'd love suggestions!