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“Would you like some help packing something for martial arts?”
As many couples do, my husband and I have certain code phrases that carry nuances no one else will get and the one delivered this morning, above, is really code for “If you feed our kids junk food from one of the plaza eateries again this month I am going to lose my mind.”
I used to think that we would never be one of those families that throws pizza slices at their kids in the car, but in fact, sometimes we end up rolling that way.
Commuting time, daycare and scheduled class time, plus a 5-year spread in our kids’ ages all combine to make evening meals a challenge several times a week. Since one of my kids gets a hot lunch but the other packs his, we need to apply some creativity if we want our kids to eat. (Are mine the only kids who get really picky after 5:30 p.m.?)
Here are three of our go-to nut-free meals, and four other strategies we have tried.
These take a little bit of prep time (cutting off the crusts; I don’t do the pinwheels, I’ll admit) but there’s something about their size and novelty that makes my kids eat them up, particularly my two-year-old. As a bonus, there’s not a whole lot for them to drop. Pro tip: You really have to wrap them tightly in plastic wrap or have them packed close in a container so they don’t dry out.
Dinner dippers (pictured above)
This takes a stable location, like the lobby of a martial arts academy, but serving dip and crackers also seems to tempt my kids into eating a closer-to-proper meal. The egg-based dip in particular packs some protein with kid-friendly flavour. Hummus also works really well, and sesame seeds are not nuts.
Quick breads, empanadas and other savoury little bites
If something looks like a treat or an appetizer, my kids are favourably disposed. By making my own muffins, quick breads and meat-pie-like-things I can control the ingredients. Warning: Your kids have to be willing to eat room temperature or cold-from-the-fridge empanadas, which my kids are. Our favourite savoury treats include Apple Cheddar Quick Bread and Cheddar Bacon Muffins. Don’t tell the Test Kitchen but I use 3/4 whole wheat flour, 1/4 all-purpose flour in both those recipes.
Four other strategies for eating on the go
1. Keep dinner in the work fridge: I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out which meals I could leave in my car, or whether I had time to swing by our house, until I realized I have access to modern refrigeration at work.
2. Keep napkins, wipes and cutlery in the car.
3. Pack drinks along. If you end up buying, it’s too easy to get talked into an unhealthy snack.
4. Fruit, cheese and (healthier) crackers are still better than junk food. Add in some raw veggies and you are rocking it.
What’s your power kids’ meal on the go? Also, check out our kid-friendly picnic food.
I am so impressed with our blogger Gina Bell’s ideas for controlling the candy in her household. There are Ziploc bags, a Book Fairy, the whole thing is very well-planned and highly impressive.
In my home though, things are a little less disciplined. This is what it looks like:
1. Kid empties trick or treat loot on floor.
2. Mom roots through it to pull out all the nut-containing chocolate, due to son’s anaphylactic peanut and tree nut allergy AND any chocolates and candies that may contain nuts or have been processed at a plant that processes food with nuts.
3. Kid doesn’t like about one-third of the treats anyway (green lollipops, sour candies, cheese twists) so those get sorted out.
4. Voila, not that much is left, and I let my son eat what he wants. I tell him that I want him to be healthy, so he shouldn’t eat too much. He’s pretty good at rationing himself.
So I’m not being entirely truthful here, because, honestly, the real way I control without controlling is that we don’t go trick or treating to that many houses. In a few years, I’m sure the little guy will be putting his foot down, or perhaps putting the pedal to the metal to hit up more homes. We’ll see.
How do you control the candy at your house?
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
Have you seen this Coca-Cola commercial?
The fact that’s it’s a Coke ad doesn’t even matter. I love the message.
In a world that can hold so much hostility and hatred, it’s inspiring to see the good. And there IS good. A lot of it.
I’d like to follow in Coca-Cola’s footsteps and shine some light on a few good deeds. These stories are so uplifting and inspiring. They made my heart smile and I want you to smile, too.
Five-year-old Jocelyn Rojas was playing on her front lawn one afternoon when authorities believe she was abducted by a man who lured her by offering her ice cream. Neighbours and police scoured the area for over two hours. Temar Boggs, 15, and his friend, took off on their bikes to search. They spotted Jocelyn in a sedan and chased the car for 15 heart-pounding minutes. The driver, knowing he was being followed, stopped the car at the end of a hill and let her out. Little Jocelyn ran to Temar and told him she needed her mom.
“He’s our hero. There are just no words to say,” said Tracey Clay, Jocelyn’s grandmother.
Wow! I couldn’t agree more. The kids’ quick thinking and perseverance saved this little girl from harm’s way. Way to go boys!
And check this out… Isn’t it ironic that Temar is wearing a Coke T-shirt?!
Brothers, Dave and Jim Schuelke run a plumbing company that handles pipe problems in the Burbank California area. They responded to an urgent call from a condominium homeowner’s association to look into a leak in the building’s garage. During their investigation, Dave arrived at a condo belonging to Dorothy and John Cothran. He noticed their son, Steve, 50, propped up in a hospital bed with an amputated leg due to diabetes and John who has Parkinson’s disease in a nearby bed. He also took note of their small bathroom which was ill-equipped to handle the demands of Steve’s disability. Immediately, Dave saw the life stripped out of Dorothy because of the difficulty she faced in her everyday life. Overcome with emotion, he decided that he would do what he could to help her. Together with his brother, a team of about 15 workers and the generous donations of their regular suppliers, they were able to transform the little bathroom into a functional space that could accommodate Steve’s wheelchair. “We must get a hundred service calls a day” they said “this one just captured our hearts”. And you…Dave and Jim have just captured mine!
A friend of mine recently posted this video on her Facebook page along with a simple message: “This made me smile.”
Me too. Actually… I’m still smiling.
I hope this becomes a worldwide trend and never ever loses its spark. It’s way too beautiful.
The older I get, the more I realize that life really isn’t that complicated. It’s actually quite simple: Treat others as you want to be treated and love with all your heart.
It’s the gifts of the heart, the gifts of yourself, that make this world a better place and keep us smiling. Smiling from the inside out. After all, isn’t it true that a smile is the most beautiful thing we will ever wear?
Have you come across any inspiring stories or gifts of the heart? We’d love to hear about them. Please share them in the comments box below.
You don’t need a special occasion to celebrate time with your children. An after school tea party is a simple way to spend some quality time with your little ones talking about their day.
Last week, my three year old and I baked a delicious cinnamon loaf while the older boys were at school. When they got home, we surprised them with milk in teacups and a yummy treat. It was a simple “tea party”, but we all had a great time and a lot of wonderful conversations. I love that we are making special childhood memories of after school snacks and time spent together.
I found the recipe for the Cinnamon Streusel Loaf in the March 2013 issue of Canadian Living. (I am always ripping the great recipes out of my magazines and sticking them in my recipe book drawer, aren’t you?) You can find the recipe online here.
This loaf was delicious, and it made the house smell fantastic. I will definitely make it again… maybe for our next tea party. :-)
♥ Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)
My boys and I had fun this winter, but we are ready for some warmer weather and lighter clothing. It’s time to put away the snow pants and stop searching for lost mittens. So, to put us in the mood for Spring, yesterday I made the boys “flower and butterfly” pancakes.
Aren’t they cute? And they are super-easy. All you need to do is mix up your favorite pancake batter. (I left out the chocolate chips in the simple recipe from Canadian Living that you can find here.) Separate the batter into two or three separate bowls, and add a little food coloring.
After the pancakes are cooked, use shaped cookie cutters to cut out the centers of the pancakes, and switch each centre to the middle of a pancake of a contrasting color. So simple!
And while you are eating this tasty breakfast or snack, you might want to plan out some more fun things to do in Spring. For example:
1) Make a birdfeeder. – Slather a toilet paper roll in peanut butter, roll in some birdseed, add a piece of twine, and hang from a tree.
2) Fly a kite.
3) Make sidewalk paint. – Mix 1/4 cup corn starch, 1/4 cold water, and about 8 drops food coloring, and get to work painting rainbows on the driveway.
4) Blow bubbles.
5) Make a backyard obstacle course. – It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just use your imagination and whatever else you have lying around.
Happy Spring Everyone!♥Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)
Aren’t all foods more fun when they are “bite size”? If your little ones like food made just for them, I have a great “mini meal” idea to share with you today.
Isn’t it cute? I used mini cookie cutters to cut out little heart shaped sandwiches, put milk in a tiny Dixie Cup, added some baby carrots and a Minigo, and made some delicious chocolate banana muffins (adapted from a recipe I found here).
Not surprisingly, the muffins were everyone’s favorite part of the meal. Want to know how to make them?
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and have the kids put mini muffin liners in the miniature muffin pans.
2) Whisk together the follow dry ingredients: 1 Cup all purpose flour, 1 Cup whole wheat flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 2/3 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa powder, and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips.
3) Whisk together the following wet ingredients: 1 egg, 1 Cup milk, 1 Cup mashed bananas, 1/4 cup melted butter.
4) Spoon batter into muffin tins and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Next time, I think I will make some silver dollar pancakes and add some tiny fruit kabobs (on toothpicks). What do you think would make a good “mini meal”?
♥Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)
I love to send my boys to school with healthy lunches, but I also like to send a “treat” each day. The rule in our house is: “You need to eat all the healthy things in your lunch before you eat the special treat… and if you don’t follow the rule, there is no treat the next day.” It’s been working great so far!
Homemade goodies are my preference, but I also like “shortcuts” when making lunches. So, I have come up with a great system. I make a big batch of cookies, package them individually, and stick them in the freezer. If they are in the freezer, they are super-easy to “pop” into the lunch bags each night. (One batch of cookies is good for two weeks worth of lunches for my two boys.)
Today, my three year old and I made some yummy Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies (based on the yummy Canadian Living Recipe we found here). It’s a great cookie… crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.
Here is how you make them:
1) In large bowl, beat together 2/3 cup butter (at room temperature) and 1 cup packed brown sugar (until fluffy). Then, beat in 1 egg and 2 tsp vanilla.
2) In a medium size bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, 1 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt.
3) Mix wet and dry ingredients together until combined, and stir in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks.
4) Drop by heaping 1 tbsp (about 2 inches apart) onto a Silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake in middle rack of oven at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Transfer to rack and let cool.
Trust me, these are a delicious lunchtime treat. Your little ones will thank you.
What is your favorite lunchbox snack?♥
Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)
*Updated with winners! Scroll down to see if you’re one of them!*
Helen here, your friendly Canadian Living Moms editor.
I’ll keep this short, because I know you want to win one of three Dinosaur Train: Dinosaurs A to Z DVDs (retail value: $14). I’ve never seen this show with my son, but it’s from PBS Kids and looks like fun for the little dino-lovers in your home.
Want one? Just tell us your best or favourite snack for school-age kids here in the comments (it’s easy to sign in, you can even use your Facebook login) and I’ll pick 3 winners on the week of October 29. Easy-peasy, right? Enjoy!
Winners! Rhed21, Sharron Walpole and Anu Chopra, contact me with your addresses at helen.racanelli[at]canadianliving.com. Yay!