"To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art." - La Rochefoucauld

Creative in the Kitchen

1. Turn Food into Shapes:
I enjoy making cute shapes with the kid's food. Sandwiches, cheese, fruit, pancakes, veggies can all be made into fun treats.  My goal is to make eating an enjoyable experience.  Meal time can be so much more then nourishment. It can be a great time to bond with your kids and lots of fun.
2. Dinner Time Rules:
Don't get me wrong, our meal times are usually CRAZY! Loud, messy and chaotic.  I really try to establish a routine, despite the chaos.  Here are my dinner time rules: 1. TV is off. 2.  No cell phones or toys at the table.  3.  The kids have to ask to be excused. 4.  We need to sit with the family until the last person is finished eating. 5. You do not have to clean your plate. You just have to try everything on your plate. The kids get big cheers for trying new foods and being adventurous eaters. Again, don't let my rules fool you.  The kids need daily reminders of my rules.  It is definitely a work in progress. :)
3. Holiday/Food Traditions:

As the holidays approach, I always try to come up with family traditions. I love the idea of my kids, when they are all grown, smelling a certain food and having a rush of family memories come back to them. Food brings such comfort and love. My mom and grandmas spent hours in the kitchen over the years, slaving over holiday dinners for our family. They hardly would even sit down...they were so busy rushing around making sure every one had what they needed. They never complained about their food being cold, they were just happy to have us all gathered around the table, enjoying a meal together. If that isn't love, I don't know what is...

I have copied many traditions from friends and families. Here are some of my current food/holiday traditions:

1. Halloween: Homemade Sloppy Joes in the crock pot, stolen with love from my mother-in-law.

2. Thanksgiving Weekend: We make huge batches of Monkey Munch and deliver it to the NICU nurses that have to work on the holiday.

3. Decorating the Christmas tree day: Make popcorn balls. See recipe below. My vision for this is to string popcorn for the tree and have a contest for who can come up with the best tasting popcorn balls.

4. Christmas Eve Dinner: My dad always makes an amazing Pasta Fagioli soup that we eat before dinner. It is wonderful and always makes me think of our family Christmas.

5. Christmas Morning: Monkey bread. My husband always complains that we don't have a lot of junk food in the house but for the holidays, I like to mix it up and make some naughty food for the fam. We all deserve special treats from time to time.

That is all I have come up with so far. I am hoping to come up with something for New Years, Easter and the fourth of July. I know...it is pretty cheesy. I just know how much I enjoyed our family traditions and would love to do the same for my kiddies.

Here is the popcorn ball recipe. I looked high and low for a healthy one. Many of the popcorn ball recipes use corn syrup. This one had all of the favorites and was soooo yummy.

  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 cups hot-air popped popcorn--Be sure NOT to use microwave popcorn. Microwave popcorn has toxic carcinogenic chemicals in the lining of the bag. (Please know I am not telling anyone this to make them paranoid. I am just stating the facts. My opinion is that knowledge is power. The more knowledge we have about the food we eat, the healthier we will be.)
  • butter for handling
1. Place air-popped popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.

2. In a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl, combine honey, sugar, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of softened organic butter. Microwave for 40 seconds.

3. Pour honey mixture over popcorn and stir to coat with a wooden spoon then set aside to cool.

4. After thoroughly washing your hands first, butter your hands then shape popcorn into balls.

Makes 6 popcorn balls.


4. Homemade Food Coloring - Healthy and Toxin Free

I really thought it would be fun to dye our popcorn balls Christmas colors but did not want to use food coloring. I found this great site: http://hubpages.com/hub/make-food-coloring that had recipes for homemade/healthy food coloring. I thought this may be helpful with all of the holiday baking coming up. I only posted one example, but check out the site for a bunch of other colors. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"What would the world be like if everything was black and white? Gloomy. Insipid. Lifeless. Probably so. Colors do affect our moods as well as increase our appetite. Look at little children, for example. They tend to enjoy colorful Trix cereal more than boring shredded wheat, and get more excited to taste a bright rainbow cake rather than a simple coconut pie. In fact, adults are like that, too. Imagine two dishes sitting in front of you: one is a salad filled with colorful slices of carrot, apple and lettuce whereas the other is a bowl of dull-green Greek horta. Both are nutritious and tasty, but most of us will probably go with the salad. Why? It looks more appetizing.

An appetizing appearance, however, sometimes comes with a price. One little drop of artificial food coloring can make your plain vanilla icing turn hot pink in a minute, yet it might be ruining your health at the same time. Don't just assume that you're safe because you don't eat multi-color baked goods or candy very often. Synthetic food coloring can also be found in other types of food including sausages, fruit cocktails and even salmon. First, let's take a look at possible dangers of artificial food coloring, reported in recent research studies. And then let's see how we can make our own homemade food coloring and use basic natural ingredients in the kitchen to color our foods.

Beautiful Poisons - Food Dyes to Avoid

Allura Red AC or Red 17
Asthma, Rhinitis, Cancer, ADHD in children
Snacks, Sauces, Candies and Soft Drinks
Brilliant Blue or Blue 1
Cancer, Tumors and ADHD in Children
Gelatins, Beverages, Icings, Syrups and Candies
Erythrosine or Red 3
Thyroid Tumors and Chromosomal Damage
Baked goods, Candies, Popsicles and Condiments
Fast Green or Green 3
Allergies, Tumors and Mutagenic Effects
Baked Goods, Gelatins, Sauces, Icings, Vegetables
Orange B
Allergies, Kidney Damage and ADHD in Children
Sausages and Hot Dogs
Sunset Yellow or Yellow 6
Adrenal Gland and Kidney Tumors
Baked Goods, Sausages, Gelatins
TarTrazine or Yellow 5
Asthmatic Attacks, Migraines, ADHD in Children, Blurred Vision and Anxiety
Snacks, Cereals, Jams, Instant Noodles, Cake Mixes and Candies
Here is one of the several examples she posted:

Make Purple Food Coloring from Red Cabbage

To make purple food coloring, all you need is one half of a big red-cabbage head. First, chop cabbage into big chunks and put them into a pot of boiling water. The amount of water should be just enough to cover the cabbage. After about an hour, the cabbage should lose its color while the water should turn dark purple. Remove from heat and let cool. Once it is completely cool, discard the cabbage (I saved mine to put in soup or stew). To illustrate the effectiveness of this homemade purple colorant, I used it to make purple steamed rice, by simply replacing water with this natural food dye and then letting the rice cooker do the rest of the job. My steamed rice came out gorgeously purple and didn't smell too much like boiled cabbage. I named it "Riso Purpuraceous."

My "Riso Purpuraceous"

Red Cabbage and Its Cancer-Fighting Nutrients

Anthocyanins or cancer-fighting compounds, which give blue and purple fruits their antioxidant power, are also found abundantly in red cabbage. According to recent research by scientists at the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS), red cabbage contains 36 types of anthocyanins that can help prevent cancer, improve cardiovascular health and promote brain function. One cup of boiled red cabbage delivers approximately 4,700 ORAC units (oxygen radical absorbency capacity, the measure of antioxidant power), which is about 50% higher than the minimum amount of antioxidants recommended per day.

5. An Assembly Line Lesson:
The kids had to come up with a snack that had an "M" in it for school this week. We decided to make trail mix with M&Ms. I thought this was a good opportunity to teach them about an assembly line. Each kid had a specific job and had to measure a certain amount of food for the mix. I used old Tylenol/Motrin measuring cups for the measuring tool. It seemed to be the perfect amount for our trail mix concoction. I thought it would be fun to take a kid grocery shopping and have them pick out the ingredients for our next trail mix assembly line. I like how this activity also incorporated a measuring lesson.
6. Extreme (GREEN) Pantry Make-Over

My sister inspired me to do an extreme pantry makeover this weekend. However, it was a lot more time consuming than I anticipated. It is so hard to find time to do organization projects, now that I am mother. All of this stuff gets pushed to the back burner. I finally made it a priority and boy oh boy....I love it! Things are sooo much better when they are visual appealing! Every time I open my pantry, I feel a sense of pride and happiness versus stress and anger as a box of cereal is falling on my head.

I decided to take my organization project one step further and make some green changes. Here is a list of ways you can do an extreme (GREEN) pantry.
1. DO A MAJOR CLEANING OVER HAUL: Be sure to use green products to wipe down your cabinets. The pantry is no place for harsh chemicals.

2. TOSS EXPIRED FOODS: I was surprised to find cans from 2008! I thought I was somewhat on top of things before my makeover...but I was WRONG!

3. READ LABELS: In the process of going green over the last few years, I am not one to toss the naughty food or chemical ridden products. It is a huge waste of money. I like to use things up first and then make my move to a better product. However, there are some things I will not knowingly consume, now that I know how toxic/harmful they are. For example, to start, foods you should toss/use up and then switch (your preference) are foods that contain any of the following: A) High Fructose Corn Syrup B) Sodium Nitrate (This chemical is used to preserve processed meats and is linked to an increase in cancer, particularly stomach cancer), C) Hydrogenated and Partially Hydrogenated Fats or Trans Fats (Linked to heart attacks and cardiac deaths) and D) MSG. I like to keep little sticky notes in my cabinet or purse as a personal reminder of which ingredients I should steer clear of.

4.BYE-BYE PLASTIC: Over the last year, I have switched my Tupperware to glass containers. Recently, I purchased some glass Fido jars at IKEA and Crate & Barrel for my oats, nuts, seeds, quinoa, rice, etc. Be sure to recycle the boxes you empty. I just love the way it looks! Plus, Miss Lana loves to rearrange my pantry during dinner time and usually spills quinoa all over my kitchen floor. Not any more!! :)

5. ORGANIZE: Rearrange your pantry like the grocery store. Put all of the baking stuff together, the cans, the pasta, etc. Also put the older cans in front and the newer ones in back. Use up the old stuff first.

6. LABEL: Labeling your pantry will help the entire family know where various items are located. Use a label maker if you have one. For the little ones who can't read yet, put little clip art pictures next to the words. The kids love helping me unload groceries. I am sure that won't last forever, but for now it is a fun game for them. However, I usually find sour cream in my pantry a week later. :)

PS) Confession: My pantry is not 100% green. My hubby still requests certain naughty foods like good old toxic Ramen noodles. I still can't believe we lived off of this devilish food in our college years. I should have known how bad they are when you can purchase 100 of them for $10.00!
7. Mac & Cheese Cakes
Make Mac & Cheese from scratch or use a box of Annie's Organic Mac and Cheese for this easy recipe. In a bowl, add cooked Mac & Cheese, 1/3 cup of organic Panko bread crumbs and 1/3 cup of shredded cheese. Mix all ingredients. Line a muffin tin with 12 cup cake liners. Bake for ten minutes at 350. These mini cakes are great as left overs. I like to store them in the fridge for a few days and pull them out for a quick snack or lunch. 
8. Motor Skills & Deviled Eggs

Working on Fine Motor Skills!

Deviled eggs are my new favorite snack to make. The kids worked on peeling the eggs for a good 20 minutes. I actually got a basket of laundry folded while they were consumed with their yummy snack. They took such pride in peeling the eggs and preparing the filling. This is such a good/easy recipe for kids. Here is our deviled egg recipe below:

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/2 cup grape seed mayonnaise
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon organic mustard


  1. Place eggs in a saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and immediately remove from heat. Cover, and let eggs stand in hot water for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from hot water, and cool. To cool more quickly, rinse eggs under cold running water.
  2. Meanwhile, place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat until evenly brown or bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Crumble and set aside.
  3. Peel the hard-cooked eggs, and cut in half lengthwise. Remove yolks to a small bowl. Mash egg yolks with mayonnaise, crumbled bacon and cheese. Stir in mustard. Fill egg white halves with the yolk mixture and refrigerate until serving.