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Category Archives: Family

Hunger

Today, my kids and I spent two hours packing dried food packets to send to hungry children.  We were a few of many  volunteers.  Feed My Starving Children is an organization dedicated to helping hungry and starving children worldwide.  Our boxes will be sent to Haiti.

I’ve known that hunger is a problem our world faces.  We all hear of the poor starving kids in . . .  Parents of generations past used to shame their children into eating everything on the plate because, you know, there are starving children out there who would appreciate what was on their plate.  But now, here in the USA, we’re surrounded by such an over abundance of food, that true hunger and starvation seem distant.  That’s not to say there are no hungry or starving people here in our country.  There are, I’m sure.  And they face the same hunger as others, just in a different location.

So when the opportunity came up to volunteer, and in some small way affect the lives of these children, we came on board and signed up for our two hour shift.  It was amazing!  My kids and I worked alongside other children and adults to pack 179 boxes of food.  At 32 packs per box, each pack feeding a child for a day, well that’s a lot of food. And it’s specially formulated for starving children, to sustain them and help them improve nutritionally.

Did you know that about 17,000 people die each day from hunger and starvation?  It’s a staggering number.  I’ve read many blogs lately dealing with delicious food and recipes that we can try at home to enhance our diet or taste palette.  Yet while I sit here writing, or while I’m trying to decide what to make for supper from my well stocked pantry, there are children who don’t have enough to eat.  That’s sad, really sad.  While it seems like a far away problem that I can do little about, there are groups like Feed My Starving Children who get out there and do something about it.  I’m thankful they do and thankful my kids and I could be a small part of that today.  My 9-year-old said it best when he said “Mama, we helped some starving children today, didn’t we?”

If there’s a packing location near you, won’t you consider volunteering?  Two hours are all it took.  And the time flew by.  We had fun doing it together.  You can too.  Take a look at Feed My Starving Children.  You’ll be glad you did!

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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Family, Health, Nutrition

 

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Birthday Dinner Salad

The Birthday Salad

It was birthday time at our house today and I usually ask the birthday person what they would like for a meal that evening.  The requested meal this time, by my husband, was salad.  I found all kinds of good stuff to put into a birthday dinner salad for him.  In his words, this was really good!

On the counter I found a day-old cinnamon raisin bagel.  I figured no one was going to eat it for breakfast, and rather than throw it out later this week I decided to make a little crostini to go with the salad.  Slice the bagel into thin pieces and lay them on a baking sheet.  One bagel  made about 27 pieces.  Melt about 2 Tbsp. of butter (yes, butter) and brush a small amount on each slice.  Top it with a slight sprinkling of cinnamon sugar and then broil for 3-4 minutes till golden brown.  Remove the pan from the oven, turn the slices over, and repeat the procedure on the other side.  Broil about a minute till golden brown.  Watch closely to prevent burning.

Crostini made from a day old cinnamon raison bagel

In the freezer I found some salmon – not enough for a main dish by itself, but I thought it would make a lovely addition to our salad tonight.  So out it came.  After it defrosted I sprinkled on a little dill weed, sea salt, and fresh lime juice.

Salmon waiting to be cooked

For the salad, use a variety of lettuce and spinach, about 1 c. of golden grape tomatoes – halved.

Lettuce and tomatoes

One purple carrot from the garden – cut in small pieces

Purple carrot. Isn’t it pretty?

And 1 cucumber – peeled, halved and sliced.

Now with carrots and cucumbers

If you have red peppers you can try grilling them.  Peel, slice, and add them to the salad for a little more interest.

Peppers on the grill

To cook the salmon, wrap it loosely in foil and grill for 5-7 minutes or till done.

Lifted the foil a bit to check the salmon

To finish the salad, core and dice one apple, drizzling the pieces with lemon juice to prevent browning and add to the salad. Top it with 2-3 Tbsp. of feta cheese and salmon pieces, drizzling some fresh lime juice on top.

Almost done!

Serve with the cinnamon raisin crostini.  For dressing I let everyone choose their own.  My favorite, however, was a simple raspberry balsamic vinegar.  This made a tasty, healthy salad the whole family liked.  Hope you enjoy it as much as they did!

The Birthday Salad

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Cooking, Family, Recipes

 

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Gifts from My Mom

Tuberose in bloom

I sit here writing as the sweet scent of tuberose fills the room.  Some in my family think it’s quite overpowering, too heavy a scent.  But I like it.  It reminds me of my mom.

You see, this tuberose was my mom’s.  She was passionate about gardening, spending more time in the summer sunshine than most people ever do.  Her green thumb was deep-rooted, and plants of all kinds flourished under her care.  But I think her real love was flowers.  That’s why the tuberose reminds me of her.  It was one of her gifts – something left of her that continues to produce heavenly scented white flowers even since her passing.  Her green thumb stretches far.

Gladiolus – Welcome

I have other flowering gifts from her that bring back memories every August.  Gladioli flowers were one of her favorites, and in her prime she grew around 3500 or more glads.  For a bulb that has to be planted each spring and dug up each fall . . . well, that’s pretty amazing for a small town gardener in my opinion.  I have fond memories of walking through her garden as a little child, finding and eating ripe gooseberries, helping her at the county fair by filling with water the bottles that would hold her glads, sorting through more purple and blue ribbons than you’d ever know what to do with, and learning how to arrange attractive bouquets. Roses, lilacs, Peruvian daffodils, peonies, and dahlias are all gifts from her garden that I now have.

Gladioilus – Atom

But I think she left much more than tangible flowers and bulbs.  Her passion passed on a love of the outdoors, of nature, of eating fresh picked vegetables from the garden, of staying active and healthy.  These are gifts too. But even these are surpassed by other heartfelt, even more intangible, gifts. Memories are one.  She also showed and gave me a reverence and love for God, love for her family, and commitment and love for her husband.  Those are the lasting, intangible gifts . . . her legacy.  And those gifts, those roots, run much deeper than even her green thumb.  They run deep to the heart.

Gladiolus – Mt. Index

Looking at those flowers now causes me to stop and reflect on my own family.  What are my gifts, what’s my legacy to my loved ones?  It’s something that I think is worthwhile to reflect upon.  I hope and pray they will have a healthy lifestyle, cherished memories of time spent together, cuddles, hugs, and kisses, a relationship with and love for Jesus, and a love for others.  That’s what I hope.  Those are the gifts I want to give.  You may not have a green thumb or a desire to stay healthy but you will leave gifts.  And I wonder . . . what will your gifts be?  What is your legacy?

Dahlia

 
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Posted by on August 27, 2012 in Faith, Family, Gardening, Health, Parenting

 

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Monday Musings on a Wednesday – Balanced Eating

Balance . . . it’s about balance.  At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself the last day or so.  We spent the last weekend with family, attended a wedding and finished up at my mother-in-law’s house.  She is the best mother-in-law ever, but when we visit it’s kind of like a continuous food feast.  Add to that a wedding and travel time, and my quest for healthy eating seems to vanish. Do you have a place like that?  A place where your determination to eat healthy just disappears?  In its place is a ravenous appetite for the snacks and meals you normally don’t have at home.  You know, like wedding cake or kettle corn – two of the temptations I faced this weekend.

As I thought about it, and talked it through with my husband since he’s trying to maintain a healthy diet too, the word ‘balance’ came to mind.  Years ago, during my time as a wellness dietitian, I often encountered people who would totally avoid anything like, well, wedding cake or kettle corn . . . until they had a weekend like mine. Then they went overboard, eating everything in sight.  It was all or nothing, up or down, with no room for anything in between.  Sometimes they would come back from such a weekend and get back on track – but feeling guilty.  Many times, however, they felt like they failed and went right back to their old eating habits.  Two steps forward, three steps back – not a healthy way to eat.

So what can be done?  Is it possible to have a healthy diet when faced with temptations? Let’s think this through.  What options are there?  For our family it was important that we attend the wedding and visit my mother-in-law.  Those relationships are important, so not attending wasn’t an option.  That meant we’d be faced with all kinds of not-so-healthy, but appealing, choices.  Some we indulged in, like sharing a piece of wedding cake or having a  small brownie.  Others we didn’t, like going back for a second piece of cake.  We brought watermelon, bananas, and water for snacks during the drive – a good choice.  I also made use of the treadmill in the hotel’s workout room – another good choice.  At my mother-in-law’s we both had some of the kettle corn she offered, but didn’t go overboard.

So back to balance. While we made some choices that others would deem unhealthy, we also made some good choices.  And really, there’s much more to eating than the nutritional value of food. The food itself should be appealing to the eye and have good flavor.  The eating experience is important too, should be enjoyable, and includes the people we dine with, the conversations that occur during a meal, and celebrations that call for feasting.  And a wedding is a celebration.  Should we throw caution to the wind and eat everything in sight? No.  But we shouldn’t feel guilty either if we choose items we wouldn’t normally eat because of the sugar or fat or whatever.  The weekend was only a couple of days, not enough to throw us off our healthy lifestyle, just a curve in the road that adds a little interest to the daily drive.  If our everyday diet is a healthy one, then weekends like this won’t take us off-road.  We can turn right back, without feeling guilty, and continue our healthy lifestyle.

Now if I or my husband had to follow some type of therapeutic diet things would be a little different.  We would be more diligent in following the guidelines of the specific diet.  But that’s a post for another day.  For now, our goal is to take care of ourselves with a healthy, balanced, lifestyle.  And that sometimes includes a curve in the road.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2012 in Family, General, Health, Nutrition

 

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Musings on the Question: “What’s for supper?”

“What’s for supper?” This has to be one of the most common questions uttered in homes everywhere.  At least, that’s my opinion on it.  Of course I may be biased – feeding a family of six and all.  Surely it ranks up there with “Are we there yet?” or “What time is it?” or my all-time favorite –  “Why?”  At least for my family it is.  I have no data to support my thoughts, just my experience as a mom and primary cook for my clan.

In fact, it’s a question I frequently ask myself – all too often at the same time my hungry kids make their way to the kitchen to ask the very same question or my husband calls to say he’s on his way home and was wondering “What’s for supper?”

I’ve pondered this question lately – probably as a result of listening to a reading of The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen. In it, he speaks of the choices we have in selecting our food, and how that’s changed over time. While I don’t agree with everything he writes, it did cause me to look at how our family answers the question: “What’s for supper?”  Here’s what I came up with.

  1. Taste and food preferences
  2. Availability
  3. Nutrition
  4. Cost
  5. Convenience

All these factors influence our food selection in one way or another.  But I think for my family taste and food preferences trumps them all.  If my family doesn’t like it and won’t eat it, it really doesn’t matter if it’s healthy, cheap, and convenient.  Are they ungrateful? No. I still try including those foods on our menu once in a while – usually as a side dish – just to see if I can expand their tastes a little.  And they usually humor me by trying it, and sometimes even liking it.

After taste come availability.  After all, if it’s not available in the store, pantry, freezer, or garden – it’s not likely to be found on our supper menu.  With today’s transportation abilities, however, that’s quickly becoming a weaker influence.

Nutrition and cost tie for the next slot. I realize others may think differently.  I’m all for eating healthy, and as a dietitian I’m always encouraging a healthy way of eating.  But there are times when a nutritionally superior food is just, well, too expensive. I love salmon, and it’s super healthy for you, but in the middle of the midwest in the middle of winter it’s just too much – at least for our budget.  So instead of the fresh salmon, we might have tuna or another type of fish that’s not so hard on the wallet, but still a healthy choice.  Suffice it to say that there is a balance.  For our family I will pay a little more for something that is healthier it if fits in our budget.  To me that is an investment in the lives of my family.  I just can’t fit in everything.

Last, but not least, is convenience.  This is not as high on my list of influencers, but it may be for others.  And truthfully, there are certain times of the year when convenience moves up the ladder a bit.  Baseball and basketball seasons come to mind – when quick meals and sandwiches seem to reign.

So that’s it. “What’s for supper?” All things considered, if it tastes good and my family likes it, it is reasonably priced, nutritionally healthy, and is available it will most likely make it to our menu at one time or another.  Convenience is icing on the top. So now, I’m curious.  What influences your food selection?  I’m sure there are other things I’ve missed or just don’t apply to our family.  How do you answer that question “What’s for supper?”

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2012 in Cooking, Family, General, Health, Nutrition

 

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But They Just Won’t Eat those Fruits and Veggies

How do I get my kids to eat fruits and vegetables?  Usually the question deals with toddlers and preschoolers.  But this question came from a friend whose child is in the “tween stage.”  And at this stage, toddler tactics don’t work.  After all, her child might just complain if she straps that child into a high chair with a five point harness.  No, at this age there is an amount of freedom with food choices that weren’t always there before.  But I believe there are still things you can do to encourage a healthy intake of fruits and vegetables for your child.  Here are a few that I suggested to my friend:

1.  Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page when it comes to feeding your family.  If you believe fruits and vegetables are important, but your spouse doesn’t, your children will notice. And if they are inclined to refuse those good-for-you rainbow colored food items – well, all the more reason to not even try.  After all, if dad or mom won’t eat them, why should I?

2.  Take stock of your refrigerator.  Have a good variety of fruits and vegetables ready to eat.  Convenience goes a long way.  If the carrots are cleaned and cut, the grapes washed, and the peppers sliced, it’s one less step for your child to prepare a snack; and the odds of them choosing one of those items over an easily accessible bag of chips increases.

3.  Provide a variety of fruits and vegetable at meals, but don’t push or force them on your child.  Nagging never works, and you will never win a food battle.  Your job is to provide.  Their job is to eat.  For more on this see Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility.

4.  Don’t be sneaky.  It just adds an air of suspicion to your child’s dislike of these foods.  Certainly don’t be afraid to put these things in foods, i.e. shredded carrots in muffins, pureed vegetables in soups, etc., but be open about it and comment on how it makes the food item a little healthier – don’t hide it.

5.  Make it interesting.  Try celery with peanut butter and raisins, frozen chocolate-dipped bananas, frozen grapes, apple slices with caramel, or strawberries dipped in chocolate.  Some may say doing that adds excess sugar or fat.  But let’s think of the goal – getting our kids to eat some of these fruits and vegetables.  Eating strawberries with chocolate is better than eating no fruits at all and may just replace a snack that lacked any resemblance to a healthy food item.

6.  Let them choose.  Take your child to a farmer’s market or local grocery store that allows you to sample some of the produce they have a available.  They may find something they like that they’ve never tried before.

7.  Educate them.  Talk about the benefits of eating healthy, and the possible consequences of an unhealthy diet.  Why is it important?

8.  Enlist other adults.  If your child has a favorite teacher, coach, or other mentor, explain your goal and ask if they could reinforce it in their own teaching.  For example, if your child is on a swimming team the coach could encourage a healthy intake of fruits and vegetables and relate it to performance.

9.  Be a good example.  Take a look at your own eating habits.  Do you eat the foods (fruits and vegetables) that you’re encouraging your kids to eat?  Or maybe you have a fruit or vegetable that you don’t like.  Why not try eating it while your child tries something they don’t like.  You may both be pleasantly surprised and find they’re not as bad as you thought.

Those are just a few ideas I had for my friend.  How about you?  If you have or know of a child who dislikes fruit and vegetables, how do you get them to try and eat these healthy food items?

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2012 in Family, Health, Nutrition, Parenting

 

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