Our Brood’s Food For Today:

Little Guy is basically eating everything with the family with only a few exceptions. He seems to have outgrown his wheat issues! That’s a BIG woohoo! from me 🙂

Breakfast:
Oatmeal with sliced strawberries, milk

Snack:
Grapes, raspberry herbal tea (very diluted, their request), purple popcorn

Lunch:
Napa cabage and carrot ribbon salad with sweet and sour dressing, peanuts, sliced apples, sliced colby-jack cheese, milk

Snack:
Peanut butter on a spoon, bananas, water

Dinner:
Grilled ham (leftover from Saturday), steamed broccoli, baked potato with sour cream, milk

More on Purple Popcorn:

Eric (hubby) found some Amish Country Purple Popcorn when he was out shopping that we absolutely love as a snack for the kids…and ourselves! Not only does this variety of popcorn have softer hulls, and less of them, but it also has some of the benefits known to be found in purple foods- antioxidants. This particular brand is GMO free (YES!). Grace wasn’t really into popcorn before, she didn’t like the hulls of yellow popcorn. Our kids (minus Little Guy he is too young for popcorn) love to eat it plain- no butter or salt. Making popcorn is fast in the microwave- and you don’t have to stain your hands neon orange with hydrogenated oils either!. Simply put 1/3c of kernels into a small lunch sack-sized paper bag and fold over the top once. Pop the bag into the microwave and cook for 2-3min or until the popping has stopped for 10 seconds. We serve it right out of the bag, and they gobble it down! It’s fun for them to have their own bags to eat out. If they don’t eat it all in one setting, they can have fun writing their names on their bags in crayon. Seal it up tight and keep it in the bag so it doesn’t get stale. They can enjoy the next day.

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We’re getting ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, and of course we had to make some cookies. Grace And Faithy love using sprinkles (they call them sparkles) whenever they can. We decided to make some shamrock shaped chocolate cookies with some green mint frosting sprinkles.I took the girls to our favorite cake decorating store Bakers Nook and they picked out some beautiful gold flecked sparkles to decorate with along with the green sugar and rainbow sprinkles we had at home. I used a piping bag with a star tip to frost the cookies, and the girls went to town at decorating! It is so much fun to watch a child create their own edible masterpiece, they get really into it!

Shamrock Sugar Cookies

Chocolate Shamrock Cookies with Mint Buttercream
 
Ingredients
For the cookie dough
  • 1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter (slightly softened)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
For the buttercream
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 drops peppermint oil
  • ⅛ teaspoon green food coloring paste
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
Instructions
Making the cookies
  1. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and powdered sugar.
  2. Mix in the egg, vanilla, and zest. Thoroughly combine.
  3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in batches to the creamed mixture until you have combined everything well.
  5. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. This is to harden up the fat so the cookies don't spread too much.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  7. Cut the dough in half.
  8. Roll one half out onto a floured surface to around a quarter-inch thickness. Cut the cookies out with a Shamrock cookie cutter
  9. Transfer cookies to a parchment or silicone lined half sheet pan. Do no more than 6 cookies on a pan.
  10. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until slightly browned around the edges
  11. Allow to cool on a wire rack before frosting.
To make the buttercream
  1. Whip the butter until it's fluffy.
  2. Incorporate the sugar 1 cup at a time.
  3. Add the oil and whip frosting until light and fluffy.
  4. Add milk as needed to get desired consistency
Notes
I prefer using paste food coloring. It has more vivid colors and doesn't add moisture to the dough. You can find it at a good baking store or online. Use regular food color if you like.

 

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This week we celebrated a very special day- our daughter Grace’s 5th birthday! I try to make a unique cake for each of my children’s birthdays as part of their celebration. Grace has been planning her cake for the last year, and settled on a Super Mario Galaxy Cake many months ago. For a long time I couldn’t decide on a design, or how to construct the cake. I knew I wanted to have characters on the cake, but piping butter cream is definitely not my forte. So, I decided to try using modeling chocolate! Here is a step-by-step walk through on how I made this (might I say) adorable cake.
Step 1- Baking the cakes
Grace wanted the cake to be in a mushroom shape. I used Alton Brown’s Devils Food recipe (check out Eric’s review of that recipe) for the batter, but added some mini chocolate chips in for extra moistness. I baked one batch in a large pyrex bowl for the top of the mushroom, and the second batch of batter in a more flat-sided pyrex storage container. This gave me exactly the shapes I needed without having to do too much carving. I had enough extra batter to make 6 cupcakes too. Tip: make sure to grease and flour your baking vessel! It is the only way you can ensure that the cake will come out clean. Baking time will be increased significantly when baking in a bowl. It is deeper and takes longer to set. I didn’t keep track (sorry!) but I am guessing I baked the large one for about an hour, and the smaller one for 50 minutes. Once the cakes were baked, I allowed them to cool for about 20 minutes in the bowls, and then turned them out, wrapped them in cellophane, and popped them into the freezer to firm up.

Step 2- Modeling Chocolate
Since a Mario cake is NOTHING without Mario and Luigi, I decided to take a little risk and try out some modeling chocolate.

I found these two videos on youtube that gave me some hope that I could do this on my own!

One is “how to” and one is “how not to” by the same person. It is such a simple process- I was shocked at how easy it looked. TIP: I didn’t leave it overnight to set, I left it for about 15min, and it was perfectly set up and ready to use. I also used wax paper instead of saran wrap, and it worked perfectly.

 

To make modeling chocolate you melt your chips in the microwave until just melted in 30 second increments. Once completely melted, allow the chocolate to cool to room temp (but still liquid). Then corn syrup is added to the melted chocolate to cause it to sieze up. I had 12oz of white chocolate chips to work with, so I used 1/3c of corn syrup. TIP: Don’t over mix the chocolate once the corn syrup is added. Allow it to just come together into a big lump, then turn it onto some wax paper and wrap it up. Allow it to cool and firm up a bit.

Once your chocolate is firmed up, it is very easy to break off pieces and work them in your hands until pliable and soft. Color can be added at this time too. I recommend using gel paste food colors for this step, but I had good success using regular food coloring too. You can’t get as vibrant of a color with the regular colors because they will cause the chocolate to become too soft to work with, but it can work.

Working with modeling chocolate is very similar to using fimo clay or even play dough. It is pliable and can be blended and smoothed. This part was so much fun! Make sure you work on a piece of wax paper so that it doesn’t stain your table. I enjoyed sculpting the faces and bodies, and making all of the other characters in the game that my daughter loves. I love how they all turned out. TIP: if your pieces start to get too soft let them sit on the wax paper for a few minutes and harden up. Once you are completely done with your pieces, allow them to fully firm up for 10min or so and they will be very sturdy, and they also taste great. I also made a door and some stones out of the scraps of chocolate.

Step 3- Frosting the cake

I decided to use butter cream frosting for the cake, because I just don’t have enough experience with fondant, and I didn’t have the materials I needed to make it that day. Butter cream is very forgiving, and can be smoothed out pretty well with the right tools. I make a very simple butter cream, and I have never had any issues with it. I use 1lb of softened butter, and whip it in the mixer until light and fluffy. At this point I add vanilla or other flavors. Then a start adding powdered sugar 1/2c at a time until I reach the consistency I like. Make sure not to get it too stiff or it will be difficult to pipe or spread. If it does get too stiff you can add a teaspoon of milk or cream to loosen it up. I added red gel food coloring to get the dark red color I need for this cake, and kept some to keep white, and some to make the green for grass. I used a total of 2lb of butter!!

When frosting a cake, it is important to crumb coat your cake first. Crumb coating means putting a thin layer of frosting on the cake surface to catch all of the crumbs so they don’t show up on the final layer of cake. I crumb coated both of my pieces of cake and put them back into the fridge for 30 minutes. Then I brought them out and frosted them again. I put the top of the mushroom onto a small circle of cardboard to support its own weight when stacked, and then stacked the cakes together. At this point the cake is really coming together!

Step 4- Assembly

I assembled the cake on a round pizza stone covered with foil. I then put the different characters on the circle where I wanted them to go. I wanted some of the stars to appear like they were flying, so I strung them onto some craft wire and shaped the wire into a rainbow shape. Once everything was placed I used a grass tip and some green butter cream to make the grass all over the base. Using a grass tip is also a great way to cover up mistakes! The bottom edge of the mushroom was a little jagged, but the grass all around it made all of the imperfections disappear! I also piped some white frosting to make the spots on the mushroom cap. Now the cake is done, and of course, Grace loved it. It makes me feel really proud to make something that brings her so much joy, and tastes SO delicious!

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Phew- I kind of fell off the wagon last week, but I’m back on!

Today the kids ate:

Breakfast:
Grace and Faithy- Three Sisters Sweet Wheat cereal, milk
Little Guy- Banana spears and puffed brown rice

Lunch:
Grace and Faithy- Ground turkey soup (see recipe below), sliced strawberries, sliced baby gouda cheese
Little Guy- Quinoa and ground turkey, blueberry yogurt

Dinner:
Grace and Faithy- Brown rice and quinoa mix, sauteed boneless chicken thigh cut into bite sized pieces, green beans (Faithy ate 1 bite of rice, that was all.)
Little Guy- Diced pears, diced baby gouda cheese

Hiding Ground Turkey in a Delicious Soup

Our precious little Faithy never (OK, maybe once or twice) chooses to eat any sort of meat. Not even …gasp…hot dogs! Even so, we have found a way to sneak it into her without her noticing too much. This recipe came about on accident. It was late, there was no dinner planned, and the kids were starving. All I could find in the fridge was 2 leftover turkey meatballs from the night before. Neither of the girls ate them, but I still was determined to get them to try again. I decided to shred the turkey meatballs up into tiny bits so small that they wouldn’t notice them in a soup full of fun shaped pasta and yummy turkey stock. It worked! Faithy gobbled up her bowl and asked for more, I was so excited! Here’s the recipe:

Ground Turkey and Pasta Soup
6 kid-sized servings
 
A great way to entice your child to eat meat and include some delicious ingredients that you know they'll love!
Ingredients
  • ¼lbGround Turkey
  • 8oz Whole Wheat Mini-pasta (such as stars, ABC's or Farfarle)
  • 2C Turkey or Chicken Stock
  • 1C Water
  • 1 Carrot, grated
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Bring the turkey stock and water to a boil in a large pot.
  2. Add pasta and cook until al dente.
  3. While pasta is cooking,season the turkey with salt and pepper, and brown in a non-stick pan.
  4. Add the turkey and grated carrot to the pot and stir.
  5. Cook soup for 5 minutes at a simmer.
  6. Serve!

 

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Frozen Strawberry Yogurt Pops

What is better on a warm summer day than a frozen treat straight from your freezer? It is even better when you made that treat yourself with strawberries that you picked yourself. Combine a little yogurt and you have a nutritious treat that the kids will love. They will love it even more if you freeze them in a cool molds like the monster molds I used. My daughter calls them “monster bills”! I like these molds because they come with a stand.

I found a great recipe online from the Wishful Chef. The recipe only has 4 ingredients: strawberries, plain yogurt, lemon juice, and agave syrup. Agave syrup is a healthier alternative to sugar. It’s natural, nothing made up in a lab and it has a lower Glycemic index than standard sugar.

More Strawberry Recipes For more great strawberry recipes check out how I used 14 1/2 pounds of strawberries that I picked myself.

Frozen Strawberry Yogurt Agave Pops
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, cored and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional, the second time I made them I left out the lemon juice as I felt the pops had enough tartness to them as is)
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
Instructions
  1. Simmer the strawberries and agave over medium heat until the berries are soft. You don't want to boil that could damage the flavor, so just simmer. Then puree the berries, adding the lemon juice if you like. You can use a food processor, but I find that my immersion blender does the job well and it's less cleaning to do. Let the mixture cool in the fridge, before adding the yogurt. The amount of pops this will make just depends on the size of your molds. I ended up with 4.

 

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This morning, I have a recipe from guest blogger, Ana Brady. Ana writes about healthy living, food, exercise and family traditions. She works on a project on tamper proof labels with a small group of creative enthusiasts. Here is her recipe for zucchini boats with ground meat (whatever meat floats your boat!)

A Great Meal You Can Make in Half Hour and Freeze for Later

Probably I’m not the only mom who has trouble getting her children to eat raw vegetables. I guess I’m lucky they at least eat a reasonable amount of fruits every day, mostly apples. I think I tried every trick on the planet: making cute airplanes out of cucumbers, inventing a game called “Who eats the most carrots – wins (and gets a prize)!”, letting them get messy in the kitchen when I make salads, etc.

One day I surrendered and decided to stop trying. My only hope is that once they notice I gave up, they’ll start eating salads just because there’s no pressure, or they’ll see it from some cool kid at school (if cool kids at school eat salads). I guess it would be low, even for me, to pay a cool kid to showcase eating carrots at lunch?

My children at least don’t get picky when it comes to cooked veggies. That is, they don’t get picky if a piece of meat or pasta accompanies the vegetables.

Here’s one of their favorite recipes. It’s called:

Zucchini boats

For 4 people you’ll need:

– 4 zucchinis
– 0.7 pound of ground meat
– 2-3 tomatoes
– 4 tbsp. tomato sauce
– 1 onion
– salt, pepper, parsley

Many people make this dish using eggplants, but my children like zucchinis more, because they are more tender and sweeter; eggplants sometimes taste sour to them.

First thing you do is cut zucchinis in half vertically, and scoop out the zucchini “meat” from each half. They will look like empty boats.

Then you cut the zucchini meat into tiny pieces, tomato into cubes and onions into rings. Pour some oil into a frying pan, then add onion rings, zucchini, ground meat and tomatoes. Add some tomato sauce and a little water if necessary, and cook for 10 min. Add salt, pepper, parsley or some other herbs you like.

Fill zucchini boats with the cooked mixture and roast in an oven for 15-20 minutes at 375 degrees. Serve with salad (if your children will eat it), or with sour cream.

If you don’t use up the whole zucchini/tomato/ground meat mixture, you can let it cool, then put in a plastic container and freeze. Also, you can make some extra zucchini boats and freeze for the following week when you come home from work, tired, and the last thing on your mind is to cook.

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One of the best things you can do with your kids is share some time together in the kitchen. William-Sonoma has a book called Kids Baking that will give you plenty of ideas of what to make with your kids. All the recipes are pretty basic. Each one lists what tools you will need, so the kids can easily gather those together. There are recipes for cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, pastries, simple breads, muffins, and yeast breads. The book comes spiral bound and is full of pictures of kids baking. This will give ideas of how your kids can help with the process. Of course never leave your kids alone to do these recipes, they need your supervision. The book is meant for kids 6 and up. But I think there are steps even younger kids can help with like mixing ingredients and putting sprinkles on cookies. I would recommend this book to any parents looking to help their kids learn to bake and looking to make memories in the process.

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This is a special series of blogs on Food & Your Children, written by my wife, Donna Samuelson.

Thanksgiving is a time where we reflect on the things we are thankful for. And often times it includes family-and our kids! Teaching your children how to cook your favorite Thanksgiving dishes is not only educational, it is a great time to build your relationship and pass on family traditions. Here are some easy ways you can get the kids involved:

Food Prep: When you are preparing your food for your Thanksgiving feast, try to get the kids involved in the preparation. If you are making stuffing have your child rip up day old pieces of bread into a large bowl to make the stuffing/dressing to go along side your gobbler! Kids love to tear things, and it allows them to feel like they are helping out.

Turkey and stuffing roll-ups: A great way to use up leftovers! Take a thin slice of turkey breast and place a spoonful of stuffing in the center. Roll it up and place in a baking dish. After you have filled the baking dish with your roll-ups ladle gravy over the entire creation and bake until everything is warm and bubbly. This is a great way to have the taste of Thanksgiving all year round as well!

Stone Soup: “Stone Soup” is a traditional Portugueses fairy tale about a poor hungry man who makes a delicious pot of soup for the entire town out of a stone (and a few things as garnish!) This fun story can be reinacted with your children as they cook up a pot of their own stone soup. You can find a recipe here:   http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/stone-soup-678147/

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This is a special series of blogs on Food & Your Children, written by my wife, Donna Samuelson.

Toddlers are notorious for being picky eaters. They like something one day and throw it at you the next! Through my experiences with young children and my own parenting I have found some great foods that Toddlers almost always love. Here are some great nutritional ideas that you may not have thought of:

 Cream cheese on Graham Crackers- great way to add fat and fiber

Blueberries- excellent finger food high in antioxidants

Rice and vegetables mixed together with shredded cheese on top

Wheat germ- mix it into yogurt for a fun crunch and extra fiber

Large curd cottage cheese- a great finger food with lots of calcium

Apple sticks and peanut butter- Toddlers love to dip!

 Remember- a toddler needs freedom to eat In his own way. It is not realistic to expect a toddler to eat with a spoon well without giving him a chance to experiment. Use a bib and put a plastic mat under the high chair if needed. When your child is able to experience his meal he will be more willing to eat it!!

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This is a special series of blogs on Food & Your Children, written by my wife, Donna Samuelson.

Sometimes it is very hard to get your children to eat their veggies, but they are an essential part of a healthy diet. Here are some great ways to hid vegetables in your Childs food; they will never know what hid ‘em!

Chop cooked wax beans and mix them into macaroni and cheese- they look just like pasta!

Zucchini takes on the flavor of anything it is cooked with. Cutting it into small pieces and putting it into spaghetti sauce is a great way to hide it!

Mashed carrots can easily be mixed into mashed potatoes- this adds a fun color and beta-carotene

Carrot, banana, zucchini bread all contain hiding fruits/veggies!

Cauliflower can be mashed similarly to mashed potatoes. It has much more vitamins and a unique texture that kids love

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WELCOME TO MY BLOG

I'm Eric. I live in Ann Arbor, MI with my wife, 3 kids, and a flock of ducks. I love grocery shopping, trying new fruits, farmer's market, and traveling.
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