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!

Eggnog is the New Pumpkin

Last couple of months I noticed pumpkin flavored everything in the stores.  When I saw pumpkin moisturizing cream, it reminded me of the paper I’d written years ago on oat bran for my marketing class at university.  Back then oat bran was hailed as being fabulous for one’s health.  How it ended up in shampoo and everything else besides oatmeal, was the marketing geniuses at work.  Back to pumpkin; I did actually indulge in some pumpkin flavored items like instant oatmeal and pancake batter (the latter was so delicious) in October and November.  I also incorporated it into some of my cooking and baking.  Now it’s eggnog season, pumpkin is so last month, and I’m beginning to see some items like ice cream (one from Trader Joe’s is really, really good), gelato and cookies.  I’m wondering what else will be now eggnog “flavored”. Donuts?  Hair gel?  Deodorant?

Anyway, all my kids happen to love eggnog.  I buy it pre-made from a couple of stores/brands but it’s hard to get it without high fructose corn syrup and preservatives.  It’s also costly since I usually end up getting the organic one by default (sans other ingredients I’m avoiding). I’ve told the boys we’re going to make some, but I keep putting it off.

Well, my eldest son asked for French toast the other day, “made with eggnog”.  I used about 1/3 cup with one egg, sprinkle of cinnamon, dash of sugar and pinch of salt. Cooked on a lightly buttered saute pan over medium/medium-high heat until golden.  Topped it with some warm buttered maple syrup*.  He loved it and since there was a little mixture left, I had one too.  He had a great idea!  So, maybe eggnog won’t go the way of oat bran or even pumpkin, but we’ll be indulging in the next few weeks while it’s around.  Think I’ll try some in my baking. 

*Warm Buttered Maple Syrup:  I learnt this tip from the restaurant business.  Add a pat of butter to 1/2 cup of maple syrup (we only use the real stuff) and heat it in the microwave for 40 seconds until the butter melts. Stir and serve on pancakes, waffles, French toast, etc. 

Pancake with warm buttered maple syrup

Pancake with warm buttered maple syrup

(didn’t have a photo of the eggnog French Toast)


Easy Peasy Pie Crust

I used to shy away from making my own pie crusts because I thought it was difficult and time consuming.  Then I read Mark Bittman’s recipe and how it just takes a few minutes with a food processor.  The recipe I use is adapted from Allison Holst’s pie crust in her Bacon & Egg pie recipe.  You can add some sugar for a sweet pie crust.  

Pie Crust
1 1/2 cups AP flour (more if needed plus some for dusting surface)
1/4 cup spelt flour (optional- use more AP if omitting) 
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, very cold & cut into pieces
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vinegar

Add vinegar to milk and set aside.

Pulse dry ingredients together in food processor until mixed.  Add butter and process until butter is mostly incorporated (fine if small pieces, but don’t over do it as you want some chunky bits for flakiness).  

IMG_0949 IMG_0957 IMG_0959


Slowly add milk/vinegar.  The dough should start coming together, if too sticky add more flour.  It will be done when it forms a ball.   IMG_0961IMG_0964

Place on floured surface and split into 2 or you can wrap well and place in fridge for a couple of days. 
Roll with flour on both sides so it doesn’t stick. 
IMG_0970 IMG_0971
When it is your desired thickness/thinness you can place in pie plate.  Fill and bake! IMG_0972 IMG_0976 IMG_0979IMG_0984IMG_0987

This was a version of bacon & egg pie I made because I messed up a recipe calling for egg yolks– I blended the whole egg together; actually 11 whole eggs.  

At least I have a great lunch and possibly dinner!

Now to go get some more eggs so I can make my Thanksgiving Day Apple Cream Pie (using just egg yolks!)


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.  

Baby Kale Chips

Can't wait to get them on a plate!

Can’t wait to get them on a plate!

It’s been weeks since I’ve had a chance to post on here.  My husband is working for a new restaurant and he’s working 14 hour days/6 days a week.  (Well, even his one day off he’ll still do food ordering, and other odds and ends.  Hey, better than being unemployed!)  After most of the past year having him around, I’d gotten quite used to it and now I’m back to doing all the parenting (after 8:15 AM) alone as well as cooking, cleaning, laundry, lawn mowing, shopping and my other job.  Oh, and the volunteer stuff I still do. Oh, and a kid home each day for 3 days last week after a 4 day weekend.  And, my son who’s not willing to get to school most days– at least on time.  So, all I’m saying is that it’s been a bit tough to sit down and write.  (Or I’ve got a fairly good excuse!)

I have been cooking and baking more now that my professional chef husband is out of the kitchen.  I’ve created a couple new things but mostly done many stand-by’s.  Those who are familiar with my blog might recognize some of the snack foods I’ve been making, but sometimes I like to change it up a bit. One such way, using baby kale when I make kale chips.  The boys gobble it up this way and I have done it 3 times in 2 weeks.  

I notice the taste of the kale is milder.  Maybe that’s why even my pickiest son will eat this faster and in larger quantities than normal (full-grown) kale chips.   It’s a very kid-friendly healthy snack!    


For these I just use a tiny bit of olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  (Sometimes I’ll use a spray oil which gives a perfect mist.) I roast them in batches at 375F until they’re papery and crisp.  It is important not to use too much oil or they’ll burn or be too soggy.  I just put a couple drops on top of a handful in a large mixing bowl with the salt and pepper.  Toss it around and even rub the oil onto the leaves.  Line a cookie sheet with the kale so they’re only 1 layer.  

I can’t bake them fast enough!



My Top 2 Tips on Getting Toddlers/Children to Eat Well

I’m sure everyone knows the pregnant mom’s bible What to Expect When Expecting.  I used it throughout my pregnancies, especially when I needed reassurance that everything was normal!  Well they have a website that has tons of data instantly available and also a blog by moms sharing experiences and helpful information as well as funny stories.  I was honored to be asked to write a post for them.  I decided to include my top 2 tips on getting kids (especially toddlers) to eat well. 

I find toddler-hood is a crucial time for developing a child’s taste preferences and whether they’ll eat a variety of foods later.  It is especially an important time to get them to like vegetables.  Not many vegetables are immediately palatable to young ones since they may be bitter.  But with perseverance and these tips, you can be not only successful, but also secure in knowing your child is getting his or her nutrients necessary for a healthy life. 

Find the post here.

New Snack Ideas- Oloves & DipIn

 I was recently sent some packs of Oloves brand olives and DipIn dips. 

Oloves & DipIn

Oloves & DipIn

While we were with friends and their children we broke out the different varieties to taste– 3 Oloves pitted green olive packs: “Tasty Mediterranean” (with basil and garlic), “Lemony Lover” (with lemon and garlic), “Hot Chilli Mama” (with habanero chillies {sic}) and 3 DipIn dips- Black Olive Tapenade, Pepper & Artichoke Brucschetta, and Classic Hummus.   Oloves come in little snack packs that are perfect to stick into lunch bags or to have as a quick, convenient snack. 

The boys (there were 5 boys six to twelve years old) and the parents (except my youngest son who refused to try the olives) liked all the Oloves.  I think the overall favorite was the Hot Chilli Mama which had just enough heat for most of us spice lovers and not too much for my spice-averse middle son.  The second favorite was the Lemony Lover.  The lemon gave the olives a pleasant hint of tartness but didn’t overpower them.  The packs are wonderful to toss into a child’s backpack.  IMG_4791 IMG_4790 Continue reading

Healthy Nut-free Snacks

Although a few weeks left in summer vacation, our town is starting to talk about going back to school and we parents can’t wait to see who our children will have for teachers.  The packets were supposedly coming last week, then we were told probably by the end of next week.  It’s such a big deal to many– not only in getting a good fit with teacher to your child but also to see who of your child’s friends will be in class together.  But I’m always hoping we don’t get the “your child’s class is a nut-free class” letter.  Luckily my children don’t have any food allergies, but we still have to be considerate of those that do.  Especially dangerous ones that can give a reaction just in tiny amounts, like nuts.  But, since my two youngest love peanut butter and since my youngest is super picky, it’s not the easiest to find snacks that they’ll eat.  



Here’s a list of some healthy snack ideas that are nut-free: Continue reading

Rosemary Olive Bread

Yesterday's Rosemary Olive Bread

Yesterday’s Rosemary Olive Bread

Yesterday I baked a white loaf for a friend who’d recently had surgery.  Since it was a crummy day and the oven was hot I decided to make some more bread; just something a bit different.  I came up with this recipe and tried to duplicate it today without the bread maker (which I used just to mix/knead the dough) and I’d used the last of the potato flour yesterday.  Today’s was a bit different, but really didn’t matter too much as they were both delicious! 

Today's Rosemary Olive Bread

Today’s Rosemary Olive Bread

Continue reading

Summer Meal in a Flash

Between my part time work, boys’ swim lessons, swim team practice, speech therapy, and BMX practice and my Park & Rec Commission meeting there was little time to cook dinner last night but we still managed to have a quick and healthy meal.

I sound like a broken record, but I find so many convenient yet healthful foods at Trader Joe’s.  Last night I cooked Mahi Mahi burgers and served them with sides of spinach and broccoli.  The boys had theirs plain, but for mine I added a bit of a flavor treat.  One of my favorite combinations of flavors is Mahi Mahi with mango salsa.  Since the boys had to run out to BMX track and I had to get to a meeting I just skipped some of the parts, but still created a similar taste.  I added a slices of mango and avocado and some Sriracha.  So delicious! Going to do that again soon. 

Trader Joe's Mahi Mahi Burgers with avocado and mango

Trader Joe’s Mahi Mahi Burgers with avocado and mangoIMG_4492