Homemade Tortillas

The more I read food labels, the more disappointed I become. Even at health food stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's,  I find myself frustrated by how many unnecessary ingredients are added to packaged foods. Sure, health food stores might leave out the  preservatives, but there are a slew of other food additives that I don't like consuming. Ingredients such as maltodextrin, soybean oil, canola oil, soy lecithin, xantham gum, and the list goes on. All of these ingredients are completely unnatural despite what the label may tell you.

When choosing which packaged foods to purchase, think to yourself what ingredients NEED to be in this particular food. The only neccessary ingredients for tortillas are flour, water, salt, and oil- preferably unrefined oil which does not include lard,  soybean, canola, or vegetable oils.

In an effort to continue striving to eat clean, whole foods, I have developed a very EASY, INEXPENSIVE recipe to make your own tortillas. When you make your food from scratch, you know exactly what you are eating! No surprise ingredients- what a relief!

Homemade Tortillas
makes 6-8 tortillas
1 cup whole grain wheat flour + extra for kneading
1/2 cup refined, unbleached flour
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup oil (I use cold pressed olive oil)

In a large mixing bowl, add flour, water, oil, and salt. Mix slightly with spoon. As dough becomes sticky, add extra flour as needed and knead with hands. Dough should not be sticky. Form dough into ball and cut in half. Continue shaping dough into balls and cutting in half until you have 6-8 balls, equal in size. Roll dough on floured surface into flat circles.  Roll dough as thin or as thick as you like; this is just personal preference. Cook on stove top in a skillet using medium heat.


25 Lunch Box Snacks

Now that the back to school season is upon us, I wanted to share some of my top snack ideas to add to your kids' lunch boxes.  With careful planning, each snack we feed our children can be a great opportunity to squeeze in some extra nutrients between meals.   As a rule of thumb, snacks should contain a generous amount of fiber and protein, as well as a little bit of fat. If you don't have kids, these snack ideas are definitely great options for taking to work also!

  1. Ants on a log- celery with peanut butter and raisins
  2. Veggies with homemade ranch
  3. Veggies with hummus
  4. Homemade sweet potato fries- season potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper;bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes
  5. Frozen peas- sounds weird, but young toddlers love this!
  6. Avocado chunks- serve with whole grain crackers and sprinkle with cheese
  7. Baked garbanzo beans- season with salt, pepper, olive oil, bake at 425 for 30 minutes; kids love the crunch!
  8. Organic tortilla chips with black beans and mild salsa
  9. Small serving of natural/homemade soup
  10. Small serving of oatmeal- sneak in some omega 3s by adding 1 tbsp chia seeds
  11. Whole wheat pita with hummus
  12. Air popped popcorn- stay away from the microwave version; buy kernels in bulk at your grocery store and pop it in an air popper or on the stovetop
  13. Homemade oatmeal raisin cookies- replace 1/2 of the sugar with 1 overly ripe banana; use whole wheat flour
  14. Homemade muffins- replace 1/2 of the sugar with 1 overly ripe banana; use whole wheat flour
  15. Small quesadilla- use whole wheat tortilla
  16. Lara bars- these are my absolute favorite store bought bars; each bar contains 3-5 ingredients!
  17. Roasted nuts- make sure your child is old enough to tolerate whole nuts
  18. Soft boiled eggs
  19. Peanut butter banana boat- slice banana partially through lengthwise and fill with peanut butter
  20. Apple slices with cheese
  21. Smoothie- yogurt, ice, fruit, small handful of spinach
  22. Frozen blueberries dipped in yogurt- another great one for young toddlers
  23. Fruit salad drizzled with yogurt and granola
  24. Natural/organic applesauce
  25. Homemade fruit popsicles- sweeten with honey


Kale Cobb Salad

Today was one of those days where I felt completely restless and bored. Do you remember being a kid on summer vacation and constantly complaining to your mom about how bored you were? Yes, that was me today, except I was complaining to my husband! Surprisingly, it ended up being a highly productive and overall good day. I think my disappointment was in the fact that we didn't leave the house. I get restless sitting in our teeny tiny house all day. Despite not leaving the house, I managed to entertain myself with 2 loads of laundry, 1 scummy bathroom, and a few rounds of hide-and-go-seek with a cute 3-year old!

Remember several years ago when salads started to evolve from boring iceberg and Caesar salads into something much more exciting? Now it seems that every restaurant has at least one signature salad that is full of yummy concoctions and toppings. Just recently I have started seeing kale chopped salads on restaurant menus. Someone has finally discovered that kale doesn't taste as bad as we have all been told. In the past several years I have been known to hide kale in tons of recipes. Pasta sauce, soup, chili, smoothies, etc etc. Now low and behold, there is no need to hide the kale. Let that kale shine in all its green glory!
If you are a kale newbie, I highly suggest lacinato kale, also known as dinosaur kale. Rest assured when I tell you that it is not bitter in the slightest. Whether you cook it or eat it raw, this is the most mild breed of kale that exists. I am sure you grew up constantly being told to eat your greens. Not all "greens" are created equal. Kale is bursting with nutrients. I suggest eating it 2-3 times a week if possible. Kale belongs to the Brassica family which means it is a cruciferous vegetable and can ward off most types of cancer.  Kale also lowers cholesterol and greatly decreases risk of heart disease, a leading cause of death in women. Kale is also very high in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, flavonoids, phytochemicals, and fiber.  I know for certain that Trader Joe's, Sprouts, and Whole Foods all carry lacinato kale. What are you waiting for? Go get yourself some greens! :)

I have always been a fan of cobb salads. I usually steer clear of them at restaurants because they can be a calorie death trap. I modified this one to not be so heavy and high in fat. Using a homemade dressing makes it a much more "clean" meal because you know exactly what ingredients are in that dressing. No xanthan gum or other unnecessary additives and thickeners. I have recently begun switching our lettuce from spinach to kale, and my husband hasn't even noticed. This recipe is a fairly QUICK one for busy school nights. The key here is to chop the kale very very finely and to toss the dressing with the kale before serving. Your kids just might like leafy greens afterall!

Kale Cobb Salad
serves 4

8 cups lacinato kale (organic)
4 eggs  (organic)
4 thick slices bacon  (organic)
2 avocados
1 large tomato
1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1-2 lbs cooked chicken cubed (organic)

Honey Dijon Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/4 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey
pinch of salt
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp chopped garlic

Add all dressing ingredients to a small bowl, stir, and refrigerate. Finely chop kale and set aside. Brown the bacon in a sauce pan for 5-7 minutes and chop into fine crumbles. Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil and add eggs. Cook for 7-8 minutes and rinse with cold water. Peel eggs and chop into small chunks. Chop tomatoes and avocado and set aside. Toss kale in a bowl with the dressing. Distribute kale among the plates. Add all toppings.  Serve with crusty bread if desired.


The Most Important Meal of the Day

 Breakfast this morning was based upon what needed to be used up. Bread that was about to start molding, cherries that had seen better days, an {almost} mushy avocado, {local} organic eggs, and {local} bacon* we found hiding in the freezer. We threw it all together into something pretty tasty!

I'm under the impression that most Americans think of breakfast as an afterthought.  The common trend is to rush out the door, barely making it to work on time. If you're lucky, maybe you had time to grab a sugary cereal bar. In our house quite the opposite is true. Pardon me for sounding like a total cliche dork, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day! We always make it a point to prepare breakfast, sit at the table, and eat. As a result, I feel much more energized and ready to tackle my day. The large mug of caffeine helps too :)
I cringe at the thought of how many people I know who don't eat breakfast. Our bodies are not programmed to fast for such a long period of time. When you wake up from sleeping for 8-10 hours, and then you head out the door with no food in your stomach, your metabolism is slowing down A LOT. If you are trying to lose weight/ maintain your weight, eating breakfast everyday is the best no-brainer way to do it. Don't even get me started about parents who send their kids to school with no breakfast. Glucose is the ONLY source of energy that your brain is capable of using. It's no wonder so many kids can't focus at school if they are eating a poor breakfast or not eating breakfast at all.

I would love to tell you that I wake up at the crack of dawn everyday and whip up a fancy breakfast for the three of us, but let's be realistic. I really only prepare a time consuming breakfast once or twice a week. We typically just fend for ourselves. A common breakfast for James and I is toast with peanut butter and fruit. I also love overnight oats in lots of different variations. Sophia goes through phases of what she likes. Right now she is loving O's cereal from Whole Foods. It is organic and totally natural with zero unnecessary ingredients. Because it is not sweetened like most kid's cereal, we sprinkle it with cinnamon and a teeny tiny drizzle of honey. She eats it with non-homogenized whole milk.
Now that I have scolded you for not eating breakfast everyday, you are probably wondering what defines a healthy breakfast. I thought you would never ask! In the simplest of terms, a healthy breakfast consists of 1-2 servings of complex carbohydrates, 1-2 servings of fruit/veggie, 1-2 ounces protein, 1 serving of heart healthy fat. Below are a few examples that will provide a nutritious breakfast to kick start your day and keep you full until lunch. If you are more inclined to eat several small meals, save the fruit or nuts for a mid morning snack.

Healthy Breakfasts
2 Slices whole grain toast with peanut butter and 1 banana
1 cup cooked oatmeal with milk; walnuts; dried fruit
2 egg omelet with tomatoes, avocado, cheese; 1 slice whole grain toast; 1 apple
1 1/2 cups whole grain cereal; milk; 2 tbsp almonds; watermelon
2 whole grain pancakes with chopped nuts; fresh berries; 1 sausage link*
Ham and egg sandwich on whole grain bread; tomato slices; melon
1 cup granola; 1 cup yogurt; fresh berries; 1 tbsp almond butter
Breakfast burrito on whole grain tortilla, eggs, black beans, avocado,  corn, cheese; fresh fruit

I hope these give you some good pointers about how to prepare a healthy, satiating breakfast. Please leave some of your favorite breakfast ideas in the comments below. Happy Friday!

*Although I don't advocate eating high fat sausage and bacon on a regular basis, I see nothing wrong with enjoying it in small portions throughout the week. Try to choose local or organic if possible to be sure that the meat does not contain antibiotics, by products, or  sodium nitrates.


School's Out For the Summer!

This morning included lots of this...CRAMMING! This week has been insane. I have had 3 exams and 4 assignments in the past 4 days. Did I mention that James has been out of town? Yeah, not fun.  Studying for my final exam wasn't really an option. I literally woke up this morning at the crack of dawn 7am and studied my brains out! It worked! I did pretty decent on the final exam and I am very happy with my grade for the class. Working hard toward something, and having that hard work pay off is so rewarding. I was so blessed to have a wonderful teacher. She made the class engaging and fun.
 Thank goodness for Trader Joe's English Breakfast tea! I had 2 full mugs this morning and I was ready to go! I also had a delicious and nutritious breakfast of whole grain toast (two slices) with almond butter and a banana. Breakfast of champions! Despite being happy about never ever having to take another lab science, I am a little sad too! I have really enjoyed looking at fuzzy fungi and wearing my awesome lab coat and glasses. All good things must come to end. Goodbye dorky lab coat and glasses. You will be missed!

My future scientist in the making!
The weekend is almost here! We will be heading out on a road trip with my husband and his band! Can't wait:) I am only TWO classes away from achieving a Bachelor's Degree. That is worth celebrating! Have a great weekend!


{Refreshing and Light} Lentil Salad

Has anyone else noticed how hot it is outside? To be honest, I really don't mind it. Being an Arizona girl for most of my life, I can take the heat! Personally, I would rather be hot than cold. A little sunshine is good for us. That's what swimming pools and tank tops are for. I wish I could tell you that we have been swimming a lot this summer and doing "summer stuff" like going on family vacations and grilling burgers every weekend. Honestly, I have not been in summer vacation mode in the slightest! Being in summer school has sort of ruined that for me. Thank goodness I only have 3 more days and then I will have a 4 week break until the Fall semester. I am hoping that a summer getaway is in my future....

The biggest disappointment during the summer is not being able to use the oven for cooking. I swear, if we use our oven in the summer, it heats the house 15 degrees higher for the rest of the day. Not worth it! This is why we all resort to breaking out the grill during these hot summer months. Although I am a huge fan of grilling, I have been craving something light and satisfying. Sometimes when it is so hot outside, eating a heavy meal doesn't appeal to me in the slightest.

I have created this lentil salad as a fairly EASY and very INEXPENSIVE dinner option when you want something on the lighter side. Lentils get a bad rap as being boring, tasteless, "health food". Yes it's true, they are incredibly healthy, packing in more than half of your daily needs for folic acid as well as {keep you full} fiber. Despite lentils being touted as a health food, they soak up flavor like a sponge and are actually quite tasty! You {and your picky husband} might be surprised when you realize how yummy this salad is. 

This salad is a great introduction to lentils. The heat from the rice and lentils causes the spinach to wilt just a little bit, which I love! Although this is a hot salad, it doesn't require heating up your oven, making it a great salad for the warmest months of the year.  If you want to make this meal super budget friendly, I suggest buying your lentils and rice in the bulk bins of your local health food store. I spent a whopping $4 on the rice and lentils for this recipe, and we had a lot leftover.

Lentil Salad
Serves 5-6

3 cups cooked brown rice
3 cups green lentils
3 cups romaine (organic)
5 cups fresh spinach (organic)
1 cucumber Peeled and diced
1 large tomato diced (organic)
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 lemon
1 large red onion
pita chips for garnish (optional)

juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1tsp chopped garlic

I highly suggest soaking your lentils ahead of time to cut the cooking time in half. Place lentils in a large bowl, cover with water. Refrigerate for 4-8 hours. Prior to cooking, rinse lentils to remove any debris and place them in a large pot submerged in fresh water. Add garlic, salt, pepper. Cook on low/medium for 30-45 minutes. They should be soft but not mushy. After cooking, drain any excess water and squeeze lemon over the lentils. Mix the cooked rice and lentils into one pot and keep warm.

Julienne onion and saute in olive oil until edges are crisp. Chop lettuce and spinach very finely and set aside. Mix all ingredients for the dressing and place in refrigerator for a few minutes. Distribute lettuce and spinach among plates and top with the lentils and rice. Add cucumber, tomato, onion, and pita chips. Drizzle with dressing and enjoy.


Choosing to Study Dietetics

People always seem very intrigued by my course of study and curious as to how and why I chose to study nutrition. I hope this will answer your questions:)

I have always thought of myself as someone who is "not cut out for school". Though I love learning new concepts, I hate deadlines and I don't learn well in a classroom. Yes, I have a lot of knowledge about nutrition and I consider myself very intelligent on the topic, but getting to that point has not been easy. I have to work VERY hard to do well in my classes. I am most certainly not the sort of person who can cram for a test and do well. And I am definitely not an A student. I struggle just to get B's.

After I graduated high school in 2005, I had no clue as to what I should do next. Everyone told me I would make a great preschool teacher. Um, no thanks. I LOVE kids, but I have zero interest in having a job that is centered around kids.  I spent the first year of college taking completely random classes because I felt like that was what I was supposed to do. Marine Biology anyone? How about The History of Women in Film? After a year of random classes, I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

 After getting married in 2008, I decided to take a few nutrition courses. I was hesitant to do this because of my previous disordered eating patterns in high school.  I didn't want people to think that I was trying to learn more about how to diet and lose weight. In fact, quite the opposite happened! Delving into nutrition has made me loathe the idea of dieting and weight loss. A professor once told me that there is a reason that the first 3 letters of diet are D-I-E. I couldn't agree more! Glod has blessed me so much. He has taken a very distorted view of food and completely turned it into a healthy, and very normal relationship with food.

After having taken only two nutrition courses at a community college, I knew without hesitation that God was calling me to the field of nutrition and dietetics. With that being said, it is not an easy field! Don't let anyone ever tell you that nutrition is easy. "It's just the food pyramid, how hard can it be?" Actually, the food pyramid is completely obsolete and is most certainly not a good measure of healthy eating. Nutrition is hard! If I wanted to take the easy route, I would have become a preschool teacher or not gotten a college education at all! (No offense to preschool teachers). Instead, I took a deep breath and enrolled at Arizona State University. I knew this path was going to be challenging, but if I was about to spend thousands of dollars on an education, it had better be for something that I am highly passionate about!

Choosing to finally declare a major of nutrition and dietetics was a difficult decision for me. After learning that I would need to take EIGHT lab science courses, I was a little very hesitant.  After weighing the pros and the cons of such a challenging course of study, I felt fully confident that God was leading me down this path. In the past 5 years I have learned to embrace the bulky lab coat and safety glasses....

Nutrition is one of those topics that fires me up! Whenever I hear someone talking about a diet craze, it aggravates me to no end! I feel like I am in for a challenging and yet rewarding career path. So many people think that they are experts in healthy eating because of something they read on the internet. Very few people will listen closely to what a nutrition professional has to say because we all want a quick fix when it comes to weight loss.

I am graduating in about 20 weeks, and the truth is that I have no idea what I want to do after graduation. The only thing that I do know is that I want to advocate change. I want people to trust my opinions. I want to be taken seriously as an educated nutrition professional. I want to change the mindset of Americans in regards to what healthy eating should be. I want to be part of the movement to get America back to traditional, sustainable, real foods that come from nature and not from a big corporate factory. I want to radically change our American food system!

Stay tuned in the next few days as I detail the courses and skills required for a  dietetics degree.


Advocating For Our Children

Hello dear readers! I was asked by a close friend to write a guest post on her blog this week! I was so honored to have the opportunity to write a post that all mothers can relate to and find some common ground. Do me a favor and click here to read the post. Let us know what you do to advocate for your children.


A Rainy Day & Strawberry Shortcake

Happy Independence Day! I have been excited about celebrating the 4th of July for the past few weeks. Sophia has never seen fireworks and I have been looking forward to taking her to see them. Unfortunately we woke up to a down pour of rain:( I am not so sure if fireworks will be an option for us tonight. We are crossing our fingers that the weather will get better before this evening.

If there is one thing that the rain can't ruin, it's baking! After watching the rain fall for a few minutes, Sophia and I got to work in the kitchen. A patriotic holiday requires a patriotic dessert! Bring on the strawberry shortcake! This recipe is so QUICK, EASY, and INEXPENSIVE. I would be willing to bet that you already have the ingredients in your pantry. If you are looking for a QUICK dessert for tonight, this might be just the thing. The homemade biscuits are much healthier than that Bisquick stuff from the grocery store. I'm just sayin'....

Strawberry Shortcake
serves 5-6

Whole Wheat Biscuits
1 pint strawberries (organic)
1 pint blueberries (organic)
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream (organic)
2 tbsp honey

Directions: Slice biscuits in half lengthwise. Thoroughly wash all berries and slice the strawberries. Using an electric mixer, mix the heavy whipping cream and honey until peaks form; about 5 minutes. Layer the berries and whipped cream on the biscuits. Serve immediately.


Whole Wheat Biscuits

I am one of the few people I know who don't really care for biscuits. I love bread, but for some reason, biscuits just don't impress me. Especially the type that come in a can. Something about biscuits in a can is just weird! Despite my issues with biscuits, I decided to create a healthy biscuit recipe for my  readers to enjoy. I am sure a lot of you have used canned biscuits or Bisquick in the past. I hope that when you realize how EASY these biscuits are, you will decide to make your biscuits from scratch. Yes, they are still fairly high in fat, but unlike store bought biscuits, these ones have no trans fat or artificial ingredients.

This is a great recipe to let the kids help with. Get creative and pull out those cookie cutters. Who ever said that biscuits have to be round? :)
This recipe is incredibly versatile. Rather than using salt, I have chosen to use sugar. If you prefer salt, feel free to substitute. Serve these with dinner, breakfast, or dessert in a strawberry shortcake recipe.

Whole Wheat Biscuits
Yields 10-12 biscuits

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup heavy cream (organic)
1/2 cup whole milk (organic)
6 tbsp cold butter (organic)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp sucanat sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add flour, sugar, and baking powder to a food processor or blender. Cut butter into pea-sized pieces and add to flour mixture. Transfer to a bowl. Create a "hole" in the middle of the four mixture and pour in the milk and cream. Knead with your hands 10-12 times until dough forms. Using a rolling pin, roll dough approximately 3/4 inch thick and cut into desired shapes. If you don't have a biscuit cutter, use a drinking glass. Bake on an ungreased pan for 10-11 minutes. No more and no less. Enjoy them now or freeze them for later.


Raising Kids to Be Healthy Eaters

Let’s talk about picky eaters. Are kids naturally picky eaters, or do we as their parents and as a society,  “allow” them to be picky eaters? I like to think that the latter is true, except maybe in a few rare situations. When we give birth to our babies, we have great intentions of nurturing their little bodies with super nutritious breast milk. As they get older, we feed them homemade organic baby food and we feel proud because of the nourishment we are giving them. At some point between baby and toddler, a lot of parents give up. They begin to  see happy meals as a rite of passage,and when their child says that he “doesn’t like vegetables”, they stop trying and declare their child as a “picky eater”. This is a vicious cycle that we fall prey to in America. We are one of the only countries that offers a kid’s menu at restaurants.  Its nonsense if you think about it. Why can't kids just eat off of the adult menu?  I get asked a lot of questions from friends about how to keep your kids from becoming picky eaters. My plain and simple answer is to not give them “kid food”. When I say “kid food”, I am referring to things such as processed macaroni and cheese, processed hot dogs, chicken tenders, french fries, refined pasta, grilled cheese on white bread, and the list goes on.  For those of you who have given your kids these items, I don’t want you to feel that I am scolding you or looking down on you,  I am simply saying to move away from the mentality that your child needs “kid food”.  Next time you go to a restaurant, how about letting your child use the kid’s menu just for coloring. Take a long hard look at that kid’s menu, chances are the nutritious options are very few and far between. Most restaurants will offer smaller adult portions or a la carte items for children if you ask.  So what should you do if your child truly doesn’t like a food? Just like adults, children are allowed to have aversions to foods. I hate peas! If they are in a dish, I must pick out each and every one!  If your child doesn’t like carrots, then don’t make him eat carrots. However, if he says he doesn’t like any vegetables, that is a problem that must be solved. It is important to remember that children have much stronger taste buds than adults. They can taste a bitterness in broccoli that we don’t even know is there. I am a huge advocate of making food fun for kids. At our house we try to make it fun by eating trees with snow (broccoli or cauliflower and homemade ranch), princess food (salmon, because its pink), and lion food (apples). Not really sure where that one came from....

I take a lot of pride in the way that my daughter eats. I don’t attribute her healthy habits to “luck”, I attribute it to the strong discipline of my husband and I in our decision to teach healthy eating habits from day one. James and I made a mutual decision after having Sophia, that healthy eating will be a huge priority in our family with major limitations of restaurants, fast food, and processed foods. Sophia has only had fast food once in her life due to an act of desperation when we were out running errands. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know that white bread exists because I only buy whole grain. She would rather eat grilled chicken dipped in homemade ranch than have store bought chicken nuggets.  When given the choice between french fries and roasted sweet potatoes, she chooses sweet potatoes. These are just a few examples of how her taste buds are adapted to eating real foods. I state these things not to brag or boast, I simply want to illustrate that it is possible to raise a healthy eater. Although Sophia is a super healthy eater, we definitely have our battles like any other family. A huge frustration of mine is that Sophia is very picky in what fruit she will eat. She loves berries whether they be black berries, strawberries, blueberries,  or raspberries. The negative aspect of this is that I insist on buying organic berries, and this gets super expensive. We are trying to teach her to like a wider variety of fruits (that won’t hurt our budget) by offering dipping sauces and fun fruit kabobs. We also have difficulties with her grazing all day and not wanting to sit at the dinner table. She enjoys eating small servings throughout the day and never wants to eat when it's a designated “meal” time. I’ll touch more on this in #6.  Using the skills I have learned in several courses regarding food and behavior, as well as my personal experiences, I have compiled a list below with tips on how to raise your kids to be healthy eaters. We adhere to these rules in our house and it works! I hope you all find it helpful no matter what age your kiddos are.

7 Tips to Raise Healthy Eaters

1. Start early if possible.
Breastfeeding and the introduction of solid foods are both great opportunities to teach your baby to be a healthy eater from day one.  Breast milk can have a very distinct taste depending on what the mother is consuming in her diet. If you eat garlic for example, your breast milk will have a little garlic flavor in it and your baby will become accustomed to the flavor. When you start solid foods, always choose vegetables before fruit. If you offer fruit first, your baby will be less inclined to want the less sweet vegetables. As your child develops into a toddler, resist the urge to give them “kid food” such as packaged macaroni and cheese, store bought chicken nuggets, hot dogs, etc. Try as much as possible to teach your little one to eat normal foods that the rest of the family is eating.

2. Teach your children why they should eat healthy food. Yes, you can teach an older child to eat healthy. If you have raised your kids on fast food and now you feel ready to make the switch, its not too late! I think it is important to tell your children why they are not allowed to have fast food or why it's not okay to have ice cream every night. Whether your child is 3 or 13, you can choose how to vocalize this to them. “We don’t eat McDonalds anymore because it is not healthy for our bodies”. “We eat broccoli because it has calcium in it to help us grow big”. "We need to eat a healthy lunch at school so that you can concentrate at soccer practice". With your older kids you could go so far as to talk to them about growth hormones, grass fed beef, pesticides, and even watch food documentaries such as Food Inc with them if they are interested. Kids don’t like to hear “because I said so” for an answer. If you are not allowing them to eat something, explain why and hopefully they will be less likely to ask for that food next time.

3. Don’t have food in your house that is off limits. This is a VERY important lesson. I have heard of several parents who don’t let their kids have sugar, fast food, packaged snacks etc, but the parents order pizza after the kids go to sleep or keep ice cream hidden far back in the freezer. I really don’t think this is a good idea. Kids are smart. If they find food in your house that they are not allowed to eat, they will question it.  My husband and I recently instilled a rule that ALL food in our house is food that Sophia is allowed to eat. (The only exceptions are alcohol and spicy things such as cayenne and jalepenos.) This is a controversial one I realize. Like I said, I know that a lot of you probably enjoy eating snacks after the kids are in bed. Just make sure that if you do indulge in  something once in a great while, it is gone by morning and not hidden in the house.

4.  Set a good example. This goes hand in hand with #3. If the kids have to eat broccoli with dinner, then so does dad. Just last night, we had Trader Joes frozen pizza for dinner- by the way, their pizzas are great! All organic ingredients. I put the pizza on the table and a big bowl of carrots with the rule that everyone has to have five carrots. Sophia saw James and I eating carrots, and without hesitation, she started munching away. If your kids see you eating healthy foods, they will be much more inclined to eat those same foods. This is also a great way to introduce new foods. I munch on raw bell peppers several times each week, and as a result, Sophia loves bell peppers.

5. Try try try to not make it a battle, You’re in charge. There are some days when I offer Sophia several options of fruits and veggies and she just says no. On those days, I leave it on the table and tell her that if she is hungry, she can go eat in the kitchen. Nine times out of ten, she is back in the kitchen a few minutes later eating what I offered her. I usually give Sophia two options during meals and snacks. “Do you want blueberries or apple slices, do you want chicken or peanut butter and jelly?” If they throw a fit, just be patient. Don’t allow yourself to raise your voice over vegetables. If your kids see how frustrated you become, it will make them less inclined to eat the food. Remember ultimately that you are in charge and you are not a short order cook! If you have more than one child, offer all of your kids the same few options, if they don’t like the options, they can go hungry. I promise, they won’t go hungry:)

6. Remember that kids will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. I cannot tell you how many times Sophia will wake up in the morning and eat 2 pieces of toast and a bowl of oatmeal, then lunch rolls around and she won’t eat anything, she asks for chicken at 3 in the afternoon, and then when James and I are eating dinner, all she wants is a few spears of asparagus and some blackberries. This drives me crazy! I have to remind myself that kids are the perfect example of intuitive eaters. They will eat when they are hungry and they will stop when they are full. Just because you say its lunch time, does not mean that they will want to eat. A good friend once told me that kids are like flowers, they can survive on water and sunshine. This is sort of true. When it comes to a balanced diet with your kids, rather than focusing on each day, focus on the week as a whole. If they are not hungry when you want them to eat, try to relax. Like I stated above, they won’t go hungry:)

7. Let your kids help with preparation and cooking. My daughter is not even three and she already helps in the kitchen. I always make sure to give her a small job when I am making meals so that she feels like she is part of the process. Some of the easiest jobs for her include: mixing ingredients such as beans or rice, putting salt and pepper on veggies, and mashing avocados. If your kids are older, allow them to plan meals a few times each week. I have heard of moms who have success with having a color theme at each meal. For example: eating as many red things at dinner as possible such as pizza with marinara and red bell peppers, and strawberries for dessert. Get creative so that meal time becomes a fun and exciting event rather than a battlefield.

8. Don't use food as bribery/reward/punishment. This one seems to be very controversial. Some parents think bribing kids with ice cream is a great way to get them to eat their green beans. I personally think this is a huge problem. When you use food as a bribe every night at dinner, you are actually teaching your child that they shouldn't want the green beans. I hate when I hear parents say, "if you want dessert, you need to eat all your vegetables". Now those vegetables seem a lot less enticing because your child knows there is dessert involved. I admit I am guilty of this once in a while. I try my best to not put any foods on a pedestal and not use food as a reward. If we run errands and Sophia is very well behaved, I allow her a treat once in a while. Sometimes she chooses a lollipop and sometimes she chooses a small toy. The choice is hers to make.  During lunch at our house I usually give Sophia her meal and a small cookie at the same time. If she eats the cookie first, she knows it is gone and now she has to eat her protein and her fruit. I suggest not even mentioning dessert to your kids before dinner so that they don't realize it is an option. I also don't see a problem serving a very small portion of dessert with dinner. if your child eats their dessert first, they will most likely still be hungry. They will know that the dessert is gone, and they will have no choice but to eat the other items on their plate. Ultimately we need to be mindful to not use food as bribery or punishment. If we don't put dessert on a pedestal, then neither will our kids.Of course living in America, we are all guilty of using foods as bribery. It's how we were raised. I am simply saying to try to not allow this to be an everyday habit in your house.

I hope that these tips will be helpful for kids of all ages. If you have any specific issues or questions to be addressed, I am more than happy to answer them! Please leave comments below. I truly love to hear from my readers!


3 Balloons For the Birthday Girl

I cannot believe that my sweet girl turned 3 today. It feels weird to be the mother of a 3 year old. I feel like the baby in her is completely gone. I am no longer the mother of a baby. I am the mother of a little girl. Whoa.

James has been out of town all week which has been really hard. I sort of feel like a single parent when he is gone. Not fun at all.  I wanted to be a super rockstar mom and spend the whole day with Sophia, but the reality was that I had to go to class. I tried to make her lunch somewhat special with my homemade card and heart shaped sandwich. It was a pathetic attempt at creativity.  I was really sad dropping her off at preschool this morning, but I know she is in good hands.
After I got out of school, we headed to my parents' house. My mom was gracious enough to invite us let me invite myself to dinner. I have been mooching off of them a lot lately because it is really hard to cook for just myself and Sophia.  I really do feel like my mom does such a great job of taking care of me when James is out of town. Love you Mom! Although my dad is out of town also, my sister and my two brothers and my grandma were able to come for dinner. It was so nice to be surrounded by family to celebrate Sophia's birthday.  We made some delicious grass fed beef sliders with homemade sweet potato fries and fresh watermelon. Sophia got a kick out of the "baby burgers". What a great summer meal!

After dinner we headed out for gelato. Sophia chose chocolate. Big surprise. She is just like her mama. She LOVES chocolate.  I was shocked that she barely ate half of the gelato. I think it may have been too rich for her. Needless to say, I think she enjoyed it! We will be getting together with James' parents over the weekend for even more celebrating. I'm pretty sure Sophia thinks her birthday is the entire month of June because we have been celebrating so much! I am glad she is finally old enough to understand the excitement of her birthday! I think she has had more sugar this week than she has had in the past 3 years. I'm okay with it. Birthdays are the best excuse for having sugar overload ;)

Happy Birthday my sweet girl! I am so proud to be your Mama!


Avocado and Tomato Summer Salad

 I love everything associated with summer. Long days. The sun staying out until 8pm. Swimming. Grilling. Watermelon. Popsicles. Tank tops. My newfound summer love is fresh, flavorful tomatoes. Ever since learning that conventional tomatoes are picked when they are green and ripened with ethylene gas, I make it a point to buy local, organic tomatoes. Boy can you taste the difference! A summer tomato that was grown using only sunshine and water is crunchy, refreshing, and full of flavor. Despite the hot heat, we have continued to frequent the farmer's market. Now that summer is upon us, heirloom tomatoes are in season! I only recently discovered heirloom tomatoes. I love them! We are all familiar with regular, red tomatoes, but yellow heirlooms are something different and intriguing. The taste is similar to red, but I just love the idea of a yellow tomato!

This past weekend I found myself buying way more tomatoes than I bargained for. The best way I could think to use them was to make a cold, refreshing summer salad. I am a huge fan of caprese salads. Mozzarella, tomato, basil. Although this classic salad is a winner, I wanted to spice things up a little. By adding avocado and lemon juice, this traditional tomato salad has a little more pizzaz!

Avocado and Tomato Summer Salad
serves 4-6

1 pint red cherry tomatoes (organic)
4 yellow, heirloom tomatoes, or 1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes (organic)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1 avocado chopped
1/2 cup basil (organic) finely chopped
1/4 olive oil
1 1/4 cups fresh  mini mozzarella balls

Place mozzarella balls on a dish towel to allow all liquid to drain. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Cut yellow heirloom tomatoes into small chunks. Mix tomatoes together in large bowl. Add avocado chunks, basil, lemon, olive oil, salt. Cut mozzarella balls in half and add to salad. Mix well. Refrigerate before serving. Can be served as a side dish or a light lunch.


Family Fun Night

 I am officially at the half way point with summer school. 4 weeks done. 4 more weeks to endure. It has been rough so far.  My schedule right now is as follows: Wake up at 7am, shower, rush to get ready and eat breakfast. Take Sophia to preschool at 9am, I go to school from 10am until 3pm. Rush to pick up Sophia, spend some time together, make dinner, put Sophia down to bed by 8pm, try desperately to find enough energy to study. Whew! By 10:30pm, I am exhausted. Although I am loving microbiology, it is incredibly difficult to find enough hours in the day to study. Summer school is great in the sense that it is over and done with in a mere 8 weeks, but those 8 weeks are crazy chaos! I am thrilled to say that this is the last lab science I will have to take EVER. As of July 19th, I will be a measly 2 classes short of a Bachelor's degree. What a journey it has been! I am thrilled to be nearing the end. I am completely unsure as to what I will do after graduation, but I am anxious to be done!

Did I mention that James will be traveling for work most of the summer? As if life isn't chaotic enough, now I have to figure out how to juggle everything on my own! Ugh. Tonight we decided to have some extra fun family time before he hits the road. We started off by having some water fun. In this Phoenix heat, we do whatever it takes to stay cool. Sophia is completely obsessed with the hose right now. Although we were trying to water the trees, she would much rather water herself.
A great night has to include a great meal. We splurged on some wild salmon from Trader Joe's. Wild salmon is one of those things I don't budge on. If you want to hear my rant about salmon, you can click here. We only eat salmon once in a great while because it is not cheap! We paid $6.99/lb at Trader Joe's for wild, frozen fillets. The best way to know that your salmon is high quality is to look at the color. Farm raised salmon is pale pink only because they dye it pink. Take a look at the wild salmon below. The natural hue of salmon is a very deep shade of pink. We paired our salmon with an Israeli couscous/quinoa blend and grilled asparagus. It was delish!

We also can't live without this organic wine from Trader Joe's. For just $3.99, you can't pass it up!

What would a family fun night be without homemade cookies and a movie? We made some ridiculously good, ooey, gooey chocolate chip coconut cookies and watched Dumbo. Such a great way to bid Daddy farewell for a few days. Happy Thursday. The weekend is almost here!


Lazy Days at the Farmer's Market

Truly there is nothing that makes me happier than lazy Saturdays. These past 3 weeks have been filled with crazy, busy, erratic schedules. James has started traveling heavily for work, and I am taking Microbiology 4 days a week for 6 hours everyday! Last lab science I will ever have to take! Woo hoo! Sophia has been going to preschool more than usual as a result of our busy schedule. Today, we just needed to be lazy!

 I find so much joy in waking up early, slowly sipping my coffee, and enjoying the stillness before I hear my sweet girl trudging down the stairs. Today somehow I woke up at 6:45am, feeling wide awake and full of energy. I took advantage of the stillness by enjoying my coffee in silence and writing. Blogging is so good for me because I just love to write.  It is such an outlet for me. Even if I am writing simple, mundane things, it brings me joy and helps me feel calm and collected. Just like my dad, I am a much better communicator through writing than through speech.

Soon enough, I heard those little footsteps creeping down the stairs, and then the sweet voice of my girl: "Mommy, I wanna have bread with honey. And some butter. Um. I need milk in my cup too." :) Warms my heart. Just like her mama, this girl wakes up ready to eat! We made a quick breakfast with Daddy and headed out the door to the farmer's market.

Farmer's markets have become our favorite weekend tradition. Though we don't go every week, we try to go a few times each month. When the weather permits, I could spend hours browsing yummy foods and natural products. We decided to drive a little ways and check out the Gilbert Farmer's Market for a change of pace. We usually go to the Scottsdale Farmer's Market, although neither one is in our neighborhood.
The farmer's market is wonderful but also dangerous for the wallet! I always have to restrain myself so that we don't buy everything in sight! One thing I couldn't resist today was heirloom tomatoes. I LOVE heirloom tomatoes. What is more awesome than yellow tomatoes? It doesn't get much better than that! I am looking forward to making a fresh summer salad with these beauties. We also bought a rather expensive loaf of bread. $6. When we got home and made sandwiches with it, we decided it was worth every penny! 100% whole grain, but so doughy and delicious! Someday I will learn to bake my own bread; mark my words.
Much to my chagrin, James and I have both been on antibiotics all week. I cringe at the thought of antibiotics, slowly and violently destroying my lovely intestinal flora. Okay, maybe it is weird to call my intestinal flora lovely; but needless to say, we stopped at Whole Foods for some raw sauerkraut and kefir. Rather than taking a probiotic in pill form, I find it so much healthier to consume foods that are naturally bursting with probiotics to flood our GI tract with a healthy dose of bacteria. Did you know that kefir and naturally fermented sauerkraut are incredibly high in probiotics? I will be talking about this in great detail next month when I start a series on traditional foods in our modern culture. Until then, just take my word for it! Lunch today was sandwiches with Applegate Farm's natural deli turkey, avocado, and sauerkraut. Also a huge bowl of watermelon.
Just for your laughing enjoyment, let me tell you that our 3 year old will eat this straight out of the tub if we let her. She sure loves flavor!
Happy Saturday to all of you!


Herb 'n Flavors Restaurant Review

Within the past year I have come to loathe conventional restaurants. I care so much about the food we put in our body and restaurant food is most certainly not natural or healthy. Especially the kid's menu. Don't even get me started on the kid's menu. With that being said, we all like to go out to eat once in a while. It is a great way to celebrate a special occasion or take a break from cooking. We all need a break sometimes, but we also deserve to eat nourishing foods that are not full of unnecessary ingredients and additives. Recently we came across a new local restaurant that has become one of our personal favorites.

Herb 'n Flavors is located in the heart of Tempe. I discovered it by chance after my mom received a coupon in the mail for a free entree. The first time we went to the restaurant our waitress informed us that everything on the menu was organic and local. Me being the crazy nutrition nerd that I am, wanted to talk to the manager before we left because it sounded too good to be true. I asked the manager if everything is local and organic and he assured me that it is. He then gave me a list of all the farmers and ranchers that supply their ingredients.
 Grass fed beef and pasture raised chicken is received from Double Check Ranch, pesticide-free produce is received from One Windmill Farm and Maya's Farm, Hummus is made by the owner himself from Dr. Hummus, coffee and tea come from Cortez Organic Coffees and Teas, and pasta is handmade from Deceio Pasta. Although the salmon and shrimp are not wild, the albacore tuna is sustainably wild caught. WOW! Truly too good to be true. Now this is the question that boggles my brain and aggravates me the most. If this restaurant can offer entirely local and organic options and still have reasonably priced food items, why are more restaurants not doing the same? Is it laziness or lack of knowledge and resources? I don't know. What I do know is that I would much rather give my business to someone who is feeding me nourishing foods free from additives and pesticides than go to any other chain restaurant that is receiving frozen factory farmed meats and premade sauces. Did I mention Herb 'n Flavors makes EVERYTHING from scratch? Phenomenol! Below is a review of the overall quality of the restaurant.
Gluten Free Chicken Tenders with Fries and Vegan Spinach Dip

Chicken Fantasia with a delicious sauce as well as bell peppers and onions.

Herb 'n Flavors Review: 1 being poor, 10 being great
Atmosphere: 10 The atmosphere is very hip and bright. The color scheme is friendly and inviting. When you enter the restaurant, you are able to seat yourself wherever is most comfortable.
Staff:10 Every time I have been to the restaurant the staff is incredibly friendly and engages in conversation when appropriate.
Service: 8 The food service has always been great for us during lunch, with the food being delivered quickly and efficiently. We have only been for dinner once, and unfortunately our service was a little slow. I suggest running in for a quick lunch, but if you plan to go for dinner, make sure you are not in a hurry. 
Allergy Friendly: 9 The menu is very accomodating for all allergies and food preferences such as gluten free, dairy free, soy free, vegan, etc. Gluten free chicken tenders and vegan spinach dip are incredibly flavorful.
Variety: 9 The menu reminds me somewhat of Pita Jungle except better. Although the food is centered around Medditeranean, there are a variety of options such as salads, pitas, rice bowls, and tacos.
Taste/Flavor: 9 The food is very flavorful and uses a variety of Mediterranean-inspired spices. The sauces and dips that are served with entrees are very dense in flavor and accompany the meal well. My only disappoint thus far is the french fries. They are very bland and not fresh tasting. I would love to see some homemade fries in the future.
Price: 10 Considering all items are organic and/or local, the price is excellent. The average menu item price is $10-$12. Honestly, for such high quality ingredients, I would be willing to pay a little bit more. The fact that they are able to keep prices so reasonable is very impressive.
Real, Unprocessed Food: 9 Although there are menu items that are considered refined, such as the pita chips, sandwich bread, and refined oil in  the deep fried items, there are a wide variety of unrefined options including brown rice, grilled meats,  and homemade sauces and dips. All produce is local and free of pesticides and all meat is local and free of hormones and antibiotics. When finding what I consider "real" food at a restaurant, my top priority is high quality meat and produce. I can feel good about taking my daughter to Herb 'n Flavors and that makes me so happy!
Overall Rating: 9 Herb 'n Flavors offers high quality food, decently priced in a friendly, inviting atmosphere. If you are trying to eat at a restaurant offering local, truly healthy options, Herb 'n Flavors is the place to go.

As a family we have been to the restaurant several times. We are always pleased with what we order and our service is always excellent. We have tried all flavors of hummus as well as the vegan spinach dip. The spinach dip is delicious, but I don't like to eat a lot of it because it contains soy which is something that we try to avoid. On our most recent visit I decided to order the Gluten Free Chicken Tenders. They were delicious! The batter is made from garbanzo bean flour. Although they are probably fried in highly refined canola oil, they are a great option for anyone who is avoiding gluten. The biggest disappointment of my meal was the french fries. I expected them to be homemade when in fact they looked like any other average french fry from a steakhouse. James ordered the Chicken Fantasia on our most recent visit and it was delicious! It is served with brown rice, bell peppers, grilled chicken, and a delicious red sauce. Items we have also tried include falafel, cheese pizza, grilled chicken kid's meal, veggie pita wrap, turkey pita wrap and grass-fed tacos. Like I said, everything we have ever tasted has been delicious. If you want to eat at a restaurant that offers real food with integrity, you need to try Herb 'n Flavors!

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