Making nut or seed butter at home and How to Get Your Kids to Eat Anything, part 2.

My last post was all about how to make lunch fun and why any busy parent would bother. Here, you can find some of my favorite tools for creating fun and interesting lunches, plus our favorite lunchbox.

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Today, I’m sharing a few more ideas for healthy, well rounded lunches or snacks. My kid won’t touch a sliced plum but if I cube it and skewer it, he loves it. Go figure. More proof that when it comes to kids, visual appeal is everything.

I found some of our favorite skewers at Ross for around $3. For one stop shopping for everything bento, check out Bento USA. They carry picks, sticks, and the cute flexible bowls you see above. The sticks and skewers are sharp but I send them with my 4 yr old and haven’t had a problem after explaining that he wouldn’t be able to take them again if he misused them. If you or your school are not comfortable with sticks, try raw spaghetti noodles, a skinny handle of a spoon, or pretzels!

Here are just a few ideas for sticks and picks.

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Around here, we call these Sweet Potato Pops and it’s how I got the guy to eat them at all. They couldn’t be easier to make. Rinse and cut a sweet potato into 1″ chunks, toss with a bit of melted coconut oil, place in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet, and roast at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or so. When they are soft, remove from the oven and add pretzel sticks!

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For pasta sticks, you could use tortellini, rolled lasagna noodles, gnocchi, ravioli, etc… Serve with sausage or meatballs, cheese chunks, or cubed tomatoes. Add a small container of dipping sauce or coat with your favorite red sauce.

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Raw veggies and fruit are so much fun if they are cut into cute shapes. Again, serve with dipping sauce (dip dip, as my son calls it). The tiny sauce container that came with our Laptop Lunchbox is just right.

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Fruit sticks and rolled sandwiches are so easy and the options are endless. Melons, grapes, berries, apples (soak them in apple juice or lemon water to keep them from browning), or cubed oranges. For sandwich rolls try cream cheese with deli slices, hummus and matchstick veggies, peanut butter and jelly, or pizza rolls with cheese and olives with marinara dipping sauce. You can use tortillas, pitas, or sandwich bread to hold it all together.

I thought I would include instructions for making homemade peanut butter. It’s delicious and ridiculously easy, not to mention lacking in several nasty ingredients that are often included in store bought. This also works for sunflower seeds, if your kid or school is nut free. Just add a teaspoon or so of olive oil to the seeds to make them easier to blend.

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That’s it. Really! Raw or roasted, salted or not. Throw them in the food processor and let it go for around 3 minutes. It’s the freshest tasting peanut butter you will ever eat and you can add cinnamon, honey, or smoked paprika if desired. Store in a mason jar in the fridge for up to a month for the best flavor, though ours never lasts that long.

Are you feeling inspired to make some Fun Food? I hope so! I would love to see or hear about your creations!

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How To Get Your Kids To Eat Anything

Do your kids lunches sometimes come home only half eaten? Do you wonder how much of their own lunch they ate, how much they traded, and how much ended up in the trash? If you have been anywhere near Pinterest or a recent parenting magazine, you have probably noticed the bento craze sweeping the nation. Bento boxes usually have several small boxes that fit snugly in a larger box that holds it all together. It makes it easy to pack smaller portions of a variety of things, for a more well rounded meal. Because the bento pieces fit together so well, it’s easy to create “art” with the food and know it will still look that way when your kid opens it at lunchtime. We bought ours from laptoplunches.com. Yes, it cost a little more than some lunchboxes but it came with a recipe booklet, silverware, and an insulated carrier. Plus, it’s BPA, lead, phthalate, and PVC free. After a few months of not buying plastic baggies, it ends up being cheaper than a plain lunchbox or paper bags.

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Why would anyone go to so much trouble? Well, because I guarantee that your kids will be willing to try more foods if they look cute. Does yours take one look at something they have never tried and say “I don’t like that”? Mine too. Visual appeal is huge.

This?

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Or THIS!!?

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Start to finish, this took around 10 minutes active time since the starfish crackers were premade and frozen.

This weekend I’ll share some of the tools I use and tricks I have picked up for making a visually appealing, healthy lunch. I’ll also share some easy recipes that are a huge hit in our home. Since I started making “fun food”, my 4 yr. old has starting eating salad, olives, hard boiled eggs, sweet potatoes, raw carrots and cucumbers, and many other things he would not have touched before.

The first tools I want to share are cutters. Cookie cutters aren’t just for cookies anymore! I had several in my kitchen already and have added to my collection over the last few months. Every time I go to a discount store like Ross or Marshalls, craft stores, or even Target and the grocery store, I keep my eyes open for cute cutters. They are usually around $2 – $5 so picking up one or two is not a big deal. If you’re an online shopper, you will find any cutter you could imagine at Cookie Cutter Company for very reasonable prices.

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They’re not just for sandwiches! Use cutters for tortillas, potatoes, homemade crackers, omelets, cheese slices, veggies and fruit, tofu, lunch meat, etc… They make anything fun!

School last week was all about letters and learning to spell and write names so I made baked tofu nuggets that spelled out his name. I packed it with alphabet pasta to continue the “theme”.

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Fun, yes? And so easy. I made the nuggets the day before and served the extras for dinner, packing the letters of his name in the container so it would be ready in the morning. The pasta was also leftover from a snack. The rest of the meal took around 5 minutes the morning of. How easy is that? Who wouldn’t love to open the lunchbox and see something like this? Serving someone fun food is like a hug. It takes a little extra time but is always worth it, in my opinion.

Not long ago, I read that the vegetable toddlers consume the most of is french fries. That is so sad and completely avoidable. Join the fun lunch revolution! Let’s raise some healthy eaters who try new things!

Make Me a Mimosa, Kronk!!!

It’s back to school time! Have your kids started yet? Mine will next Wednesday. As much as I will miss him during the day, I will be glad to have a little me time. One thing I am NOT looking forward to is the hectic rush that most school mornings seem to become, at least at my house. Last year I spent time on a Saturday every month or so preparing healthy, freezable, and mostly car friendly breakfasts that could be heated and served in minutes. I cannot tell you how much this helped us get out the door with a minimum of fuss and his teachers actually thanked me for sending him well fed and not on a sugar high. Have you read the ingredients on cereal boxes? Probably 95% have sugar as one of the top 3 ingredients, “Enjoy your sugar crash, Sweetie!!”.

One of my favorite recipes is Denver Biscuits and I’ll share it with you tomorrow. My family makes them every Thanksgiving and they are delicious! I use the dough for plenty of make ahead recipes like biscuit sandwiches, empanadas, and pizza rolls. It can be rolled out very thin for tortillas or fried for sopapillas. You see why it’s one of my favorites?

One more hint, make extra when you’re cooking dinner. If you already have the food processor out, why not grate potatoes, toss them with flour and bake in the oven for burritos? It takes almost no extra time to scramble some eggs, grate cheese in that warmed up food processor, and roll a few breakfast burritos to freeze. If you are making beans in the crockpot, make extra and throw those in too. If you’re making quinoa, make alot and use the extra for quinoa muffins. Steam extra rice and use it to make delicious and filling rice milk for breakfast smoothies the next day. Spending 10 extra minutes in the evening is not a big deal, but those same 10 minutes can cause grey hairs on school mornings.

Here are just a few make ahead breakfast ideas and if you have some to share, please do!!

Whole grain waffles or pancakes. I make a ton, and freeze them separated with deli wrap (you can buy a huge box at Costco, its even pre cut) in freezer bags. I make savory waffles with cheddar and chopped chives, or cinnamon and berries. If you add plenty of flavor to the ingredients, you don’t even need syrup. Take a few out of the freezer, pop them in the toaster, and go!

Breakfast burritos. Egg and hashbrowns, beans and rice, quinoa and veggies. They can be wrapped in the deli paper I mentioned above and frozen for a quick, hearty breakfast.

Smoothie chunks. This one doesn’t save all that much time but does simplify things. The berries are prewashed and cut and you only need to take one thing out of the fridge. Buy one of the huge tubs of unsweetened yogurt, I love Mountain High or plain greek. Chop up your kids favorite fruits and berries and add them to muffin cups with the yogurt. Cover and freeze, then pop out the frozen yogurt and store in freezer bags. In the morning, throw a few smoothie chunks into the blender with coconut water, that rice milk you made the night before or orange juice. Healthy and delicious breakfast smoothies are always a hit at my house.

Crock pot oatmeal. Before you go to bed put the ingredients for oatmeal in the crockpot. It cooks for around 4 hours and is perfect in the morning! If you have a fancy crockpot, you can set it to come on during the night or if not, use one of those lamp timers. Ah ha!!!! Add dried fruit or nuts, spices, and if desired, stevia or agave nectar for sweetness. How easy is that?

Granola or homemade granola bars. Have you seen how expensive these items are? And read the ingredient labels? Ouch. It’s so easy to make your own and you know exactly what you are feeding your kids. Pinterest has more recipes than you will ever use and I’ll be posting a few soon.

Mom McMuffins. That delicious Denver Biscuit dough? Yep. Make a big pan of muffins one night, serve some with dinner and use the rest for breakfast sandwiches. Scrambled eggs, sliced cheese, sausage patties (we use Morningstar), maybe sliced tomatoes? You can add whatever sounds good, wrap in deli paper and freeze.

The possibilities are endless and if you need some inspiration, check Pinterest! I can’t get over how clever people are.

Cheers to calm mornings and well fed kids!

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