Cutest Review

My seven year old son had to write a review or critique of something in his first grade class.  He chose to write about the restaurant that’s just opened near us (and I’m actually bartending at a couple of times a week).  I had to share the review because in my thoroughly biased opinion, it is adorable.  

7 year old's opinion

7 year old’s opinion

My eldest son, who is now 12, said that it should’ve read “if you like high quality food” instead of “chicken fingers”, but everyone’s a critic.

Some people might see this and may think, “Vanessa allows her kids chicken fingers?” but that is often a misconception on my food views.  Yes, I do allow chicken fingers and fries and other stuff, just not all the time. Plus The Spinning Wheel’s chicken fingers are whole pieces of breast meat with their own breading.  It’s not made of mechanically separated parts mixed with who-knows-what.  

I have a couple of recipes for those who’d like to make their own at home. My original one is here and another one has a crunchy coating. They’re much, much healthier than the majority of prepared chicken fingers/nuggets/popcorn you’ll find in the stores or fast food places. 

One thing I find I often need to do if we eat out and they order from the children’s menu, is to order a side of vegetables or a salad, because too commonly, restaurants don’t serve vegetables with the kids’ meals.  

If you take your kids out to eat, do they share their opinions on the food?  Do they get a balanced meal? 

Science Backs Up My Mom (well, when it comes to dairy it does)

Last night I had a conversation about fats in milk … the other person and I were in agreement that full-fat milk, cream cheese, yogurt, etc. tastes so much better than the low-fat or fat-free versions.  I added that we were taught in my family that it’s okay to eat/drink full-fat dairy as long as it was in moderation.  They said they were as well– they were Greek. My family is from New Zealand and Germany. We were wondering if that was one reason, we stuck with the cultural norm.  When I was growing up (and for long after) everyone around us (here in the US) was saying you needed to eat/drink low-fat dairy.  My kids only have low-fat milks at school, where there is no choice. 

Today, while spreading organic butter onto one son’s bagel and full-fat cream cheese on another, I heard on the radio about the latest studies (in a string of recent studies with similar outcomes) that those who consume full-fat dairy are less obese and also do not have higher incidence of heart disease than those who eat/drink low-fat or no-fat dairy.  

“Whatever the mechanism, this association between higher dairy fat and lower body weight appears to hold up in children, too.

As we reported last year, a study of children published in the Archives Of Diseases in Childhood, a sister publication of the British Medical Journal, concluded that low-fat milk was associated with more weight gain over time.” 

It’s what I’ve been saying for years, with only anecdotal evidence, but now science is backing up the beliefs my parents and grandparents passed on to me.

One point made in our conversation last night was that if you look at the ingredient list on those low-fat dairy packages, you notice that there is often added sugar and complex artificial additives to try to make it taste like full-fat dairy.  I remember my mother once, by mistake, bought fat-free cream cheese.  I put it on my bagel and was horribly shocked when I took a bite!  It tasted like plastic! Ick!  I thought it was off/bad – but it was just fat-free.  Think about it, fat-free cream cheese is an oxymoron.  Cream=fat.  Fat-free cream?  Hmm.

A fairly new snack/dessert my eldest two kids are absolutely loving is Greek yogurt with local honey. It’s hard to find full-fat, but I’ll be making my own this week. I buy the Fage 2% plain yogurt. 

Greek yogurt drizzled with local honey.

2% Greek yogurt drizzled with local honey.

The probiotics in yogurt is great for the immune system as is honey!  And if you eat local honey there’s a side benefit– reduced seasonal allergies. (Science still has to prove this one.)

So, if your family does consume dairy– go ahead and buy your kids and yourself the full-fat dairy.  Don’t be afraid. Don’t feel guilty.  Be confident you’re making the right choice. 

Now, to get the schools up-to-date with the science!

Cooking With Kids

Recently I wrote an article which gave my top 2 tips for getting kids to eat well/healthily.  Well, today, on Food Day, I give my third top tip: let them help prepare the food.  And I don’t mean just getting them to bake cookies with you.  Although fun, baking shouldn’t be the only time parents let their children help.  I understand if someone is nervous with hot stoves or knives, but under supervision, children of many ages can do so much to be involved.  Sometimes, just scooping out frozen peas from a bag, measuring rice, or simply stirring a pot gives a child the sense of involvement which in turn can get them more interested in the foods you will serve them.  Peeling carrots and potatoes has been one of our children’s favorite ways to lend a hand.

Stirring the vegetables stir-fry.

Stirring the vegetable & shrimp stir-fry.

My sons have been helping us on and off most of their lives.  We showed them how to cut with knives from about 4 years old up.  Yes, sharp chef’s knives.  (Under supervision and something that is not too difficult/slippery to cut. ) They’ve been stirring pots and adding ingredients for what seems like ages.  My eldest son is now 11 and he prepares his own fried egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast or some simple meals for lunch/dinner.   He’s in Boy Scouts and they have to plan/shop for/cook their own meals when they go camping each month which is fabulous and opening new and different methods of cooking too (Dutch ovens in a fire pit).

My sons will help set and clear the table and will also do dishes/pots & pans, but that’s more about discipline and contributing to the family.  Cooking with kids is truly a fabulous way to try new foods and expand their palate. IMG_3208

Often kids are more likely to eat the food they’ve contributed in preparing because they’re proud they helped.  My youngest once said “It tastes even better when I help make it!”  One of my girlfriends said that’s because you put love in as an ingredient.

So, tonight or tomorrow or another day soon… give them a chance to help out making something healthy.  It’ll teach them what the food looks like before it’s cooked, during and of course after.  Share with them and watch their eagerness in eating that food.  

Guest Post- SaHMMY’s Cajones Grandes

One of my earliest followers from when I started my blog on tumblr 3 years ago was “The SaHMMY”, a witty, sometimes snarky and always funny, former actress/comedian and now stay-at-home-mom who asked me to be a “guest chef” on her site/blog.  Twice!  I was incredibly flattered. It was so nice to feel the love.  I also follow her blog and the goings on of her life, her kids, her crazy ass dog… and love every minute that I spend reading about it all.  She’s one of my tumblr friends that I hope to actually meet one day.  My mom, when we were younger, would have said that we belonged to the Mutual Admiration Society.

So, a while back I asked her (Jeris Donovan a.k.a. The SaHMMY) to write a sort of testimonial about my blog. “I’d love to hear from people who may have been inspired to get their kids to eat well after reading my blog” (I must have been feeling sorry for myself that day.)  What I got is so f*%&ing funny and I’m so honored to be a positive influence.  Not that I always live up to it myself!  And I still need to get a juicer!! 

Since I just found out my son and I didn’t win the White House/Epicurious contest, I figured today would be a good day for some feels.


One day in high school while sitting on the “Senior Ledge” (really a long marble bench that became a rite of passage), a classmate dared me to say the “F” word.

“No way!” I said.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because my mother will find out,” I snapped.

“No she won’t,” he said. Then we shared a long look. “Yeah, you are probably right,” he replied. I had dated this boy two years prior and he knew of my mother’s mad snooping skills. She knew everyone and was just intimidating enough to get the truth out of someone quickly and painlessly. Her ominous powers kept me in line all through high school and most of college.

I share this little story because this same sense of “she’s gonna find out” comes over me every time I plan a meal for my family except the person isn’t my mother, is it Vanessa.

I can’t even remember when I started following My Kids Really Eat This. I think it was around two years ago when I bought a bread machine through Craigslist from a couple in the nearby crunchy town of Carrboro, NC. A stranger would have voted us most likely to meet in a Target parking lot for a bread machine exchange: one of us in a Prius and the other in a Subaru wagon, all of us in Keens. I think that becoming determined to make my own bread was the catalyst that led me to Vanessa. I began gardening, forcing inspiring my kids to try new things, and became more conscious of what we were putting in our bodies. Continue reading

A Rebuttal- Cult of Organics

The other week I read a post on BlogHer called The Cult of Organics.  Although I consider myself a moderate voice when it comes to food politics and beliefs, I still took umbrage with it. I’m sorry that the author got condescending reactions to her food choices, but I believe there are plenty of good/viable reasons to choose organic foods– some of the time.   Money is an issue for me but I still buy organic milk.  I buy organic strawberries.  But, I don’t buy only organic foods.  I choose which foods I buy that don’t need to be organic and those which do.  I might pay more for some of these choices, but it’s a price I’ll pay now so my children don’t need to pay it later with their health.  I guess I also consider myself a “food snob” because I care about and enjoy food; it’s a big part of my life.  I am not part of a cult but an informed consumer, who is concerned for the long-term effects of pesticides, over use of antibiotics and uncertainty of GMOs on my children’s well-being. 

It may be surprising, but I am also the mom who allows my kids junk food, occasionally,  and I let them drink a soda when at a party, and I also throw a frozen pizza in the oven when I need   to.  But when I choose most foods, they are healthful and often times, made at home.  I think lumping everyone who buys organic or chooses to make homemade-from-scratch foods in as “elite” or “food snobs” doesn’t give the author credibility as a moderate voice.  I don’t think I’m hostile to people who choose non-organic versions of foods, but I found the article to be hostile toward those trying to educate others about them. 

Even if you haven’t read studies, articles or books on pesticides in foods (like those with endocrine disruptors); pollutants that have gone into our rivers and oceans affecting the flora and fauna; bee colony collapse; cancer causing ingredients that are banned in other countries; rises in autoimmune diseases, allergies and neurological disorders; children starting puberty younger;  or the rises in obesity, you can often see the difference in organic over conventional fruits and vegetables… a potato that’s not organic won’t sprout eyes but will just go rotten.  Or how about those ginormic strawberries that are perfectly, uniformly red, but lack a true strawberry flavor? And do you really want to buy your food from the world’s largest herbicide company –which is also the largest seed company?

I will choose antibiotic-free meats because food-producing animals are being given more antibiotics than humans as the norm to prevent illnesses that better living conditions could solve.  Those antibiotics get into our foods and water and we are getting close to an era where antibiotics will no longer work for us humans.  I don’t mean to be fearmongering and sensationalist, I am just trying to say sometimes organics are the best choice.  (In my parents’/grandparents’ day there was no such word as organic food there was just food, because then there was a fraction of pesticide/herbicide use and no GMOs.) As far as Jayson Lusk’s arguments against organics in Food Police go,– he doesn’t dissuade me, I’m not in it for most of the reasons (mostly economic) he gives.  Many studies giving out favorable information on conventionally grown foods are funded by food companies who grow the food, they not only fund the studies but consequently benefit from the dissemination and promotion of those very studies.   

I will not buy berries, apples, spinach, celery, potatoes or corn that are not organic (or at least locally produced without GMOs and most pesticides).  But I will buy broccoli, cauliflower, peas, avocados, mushrooms.  I am not a cultist or someone who is extreme.  I am an informed consumer.  My children’s milk is usually organic and always without hormones.  And the one thing I am not is rich.  Far from it.  I struggle, especially because my husband has been unemployed since January and was basically working for free for several months before that.   But I will forgo movie outings, dining out, new clothes,  cleaning people, and expensive salon trips to put the money into our food choices. 


Conventionally Grown Lettuce vs. Organic Lettuce at Trader Joe's - just a little bit more expensive.

Conventionally Grown Lettuce vs. Organic Lettuce at Trader Joe’s – just a little bit more expensive.

And I will buy frozen foods.  Even some canned foods.  And many of the “Food Police” (Pollan, Bittman,  Nestle, etc) actually do say if it comes down to it: buy vegetables and fruits in any way over not buying them at all.    If you’re looking, I find that Trader Joe’s is a great place to not only find well-priced foods but also those that are free of GMOs, artificial colors and other harmful ingredients.   Choosing to join a CSA actually saved me money and I was introduced to many new and different foods that I otherwise wouldn’t have chosen.  And those foods are pesticide-free– bugs are hand-picked then squashed.  So it’s possible to buy organic foods on a tight budget.  

I try to share information on how to prepare foods that are healthful and convenient.  I love cheap food but realize there are prices to pay.  For me it’s the whole economics — health and wealth are the factors in my decision making. I also think it is worth the extra money. Sometimes.  So, sure, let’s have some reasonableness.  Just realize us “food snobs” or those you claim are in an organic cult aren’t always the ones with the hostility.  Want to find quick ways to cook healthy foods?  Search through my blog; it’s got plenty of ideas and many of them take short-cuts so they’re convenient. You might also find my popular pizza that takes so little time but is actually pretty healthy.

So, let’s get along but understand, tolerance goes both ways.  

Exciting News

Friday night I got an email that brought great news– which I need right now!  The recipe my son & I entered in the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge & Kids’ “State Dinner” recipe contest with The White House/First Lady’s Office, Epicurious, Dept of Education and USDA was selected as a finalist for our state!  Once background checks are done and they do a final test kitchen tasting, we’ll know if we’re the winners!  So we have, at worst, a 1 in 3 chance of winning. 

I’ll be biting my fingers until the 3rd week in June!  The winners from each state and territory get a r/t flight to DC, night’s hotel and a state dinner (really a lunch) with the other winners and Michelle Obama!  My son is excited but not going to say anything until we know for sure.  He’s a better person than I am.  

My son picked a recipe that I’ve made in various ways but built upon the same foundation.  It’s based off this. He said that lentils were optional but he didn’t put them in the recipe. And if they have milk it’s a complete My Plate (USDA guideline) meal.   He had to say why he and I should be picked and I can’t find it anywhere– so I guess he just filled in the spaces on the entry form online and I didn’t save it (nincompoop!) 015

So wish us luck!  We could use some positive vibes.  I will let you know if we get picked!

And the Food Service Director I was sort of complaining about was the one who recommended we enter!  Karma be on my side, please!

Food Revolution Day

Today, May 17th is Food Revolution Day.   I signed up on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Site.  It’s a day to share what you know about eating healthily and cooking at home.  

For Food Revolution Day, I’m going in to my sons’ Elementary School to tell the kids about it and help them make healthy food choices.  I’ve gone in several times before and last year got the PTA to create a position called the Food Services Liaison.  The FSL is the point person between the parents and the School Food Services Provider/Director.  As the FSL I also coordinate other parent volunteers to go in at various days in the year to help educate the students as to what choices they have each lunch especially when it comes to the fruits and vegetables.

Today I’ll be going in with another mom to help persuade the kids to get a fruit or vegetable (or several) if they are just skipping past them.  We make sure they know that all those “offered” foods are available to them and they can take as many as they’d like as part of their paid/free lunch.   I may also try to dissuade them from buying the optional (and extra costing) snacks they offer them at the end of the line.  They’re usually empty calories and too many times they have ingredients that many parents would rather steer clear of.  If the children get plenty of the fruits and vegetables as well as the protein and carbs that are already on their plate, they should have enough food to keep them satisfied. 

Since we (almost always) cook at home, this is my way of helping others eat well and form a good foundation to a healthy life. 

Have you ever considered going into your child(ren)’s school cafeteria?  Have you discussed what foods they serve and how they serve them at school?  Does your school allow parents to volunteer in the cafeteria?  

Food Revolution Day

Food Revolution Day

NYC GOV: NYC Restaurant Voluntarily Adopts City’s Sugary Beverage Portion Size Limit


NYC GOV: NYC Restaurant Voluntarily Adopts City’s Sugary Beverage Portion Size Limit

I am Sam. Sam I am.

Tonight while reading Green Eggs & Ham to my youngest son (6 years old now) I realized I am Sam! No, really I am Sam, as in Sam I am of Green Eggs and Ham.  I am the one out there trying to get people (not just kids) to try things I’ve made or just to try something slightly different than they’re accustomed to.  I am the one thinking, you just need to be in the right situation, place, weather, darkness… to try the food.  If you notice at the end of the book Sam looks a bit dejected but thinks he’ll just try a different angle.  “You do not like them. So you say. Try them!  Try them!  And you may. Try them and you may, I say.” Other guy agrees. Then the long pause with the visual picture of the other, grouch guy (Knox from Knox in Socks?) eating it and he likes it!  (Maybe his name is Mikey.)  Anyway, I realized that’s me—SAM IS ME. 


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