Monday, September 29, 2014

End it with Orange: Orange Meals Inspired by No Kid Hungry

Weekly Meal Plan Inspiration: Fall Produce and Hunger Action Month

Hunger Action Month is coming to a close. Orange is the designated color for the month, so we're going to end it with orange by sharing my favorite Fall recipes featuring some amazing orange vegetables: butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots. All three of these veggies are full of health benefits and kid-friendly. 

Wild Thing in his orange for Hunger Action Month. In this photo,
he was sad and hungry. I feel grateful to know I am able to provide
snacks and healthy meals for him when he feels this way.
(Psssttt...I'm ending this month with some green is estimated that between 14.7 and 18.5 million children in the United States struggle with hunger/food security. I'm committing to a monthly donation of $18.50 to No Kid Hungry to represent each child struggling with hunger. I invite you to join me -- with a monthly commitment or one-time donation as well. You can also check out other ways to get involved in the battle against hunger). 

Butternut Squash Recipes:  

(The recipe includes vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy free options and is yummy!) 

(This is on my meal plan list this week -- Wednesday night for dinner.)

(When I made this I made it in the crock pot, which worked out fine. I also didn't top it with the goat cheese or chorizo.)

Veggies simmering in the crockpot before I pureed the soup.
(My boys devoured them, and I didn't even make the frosting).
Sweet Potato Recipes:

(Also on our meal plan this week - Friday for dinner.)

(I always make this for my husband's birthday and don't even bother with frosting...It's that good). 

(Another healthy treat my boys absolutely love!) 

Bonus Shares: 
(Okay, not orange, but pears are a favorite Fall fruit for us).

What's your favorite Fall fruit or vegetable? Have a favorite Fall recipe? If so, please share it!. Also, please also join me this month (and every month!) to help end hunger. Together, we can end it. 

Click here to get involved!

Sharing this at the In and Out of the Kitchen Linky.

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Go Orange Fall Bucket List
Books and Hunger Action Month

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Hunger Action Month: 11 Simple Ways Kids Can Get Involved

Moms Fighting Hunger Blog Hop 2014 -- Kids and Families Making a Difference During Hunger Action Month

Hunger is an issue I have cared about for many years. Two years ago, I became more active with No Kid Hungry and joined together with other moms to create Moms Fighting Hunger. For Hunger Action Month, I've compiled this list of 11 Simple Ways Kids Can Get Involved During Hunger Action Month, which draw heavily from my own personal experience with my children over the last two years as well as the examples of many of the other inspiring mothers that are a part of Moms Fighting Hunger. 

1. Collect Spare Change - Last year during Hunger Action Month, my sons and I created a coffee can for change. We literally carried a coffee can around all month to put our spare change in and found that others added to it as well. In the end, we raised nearly $45 -- and a few friends and family members matched our donation. The boys were so proud to see that their effort to collect change resulted in so much money (nearly $200) being donated to No Kid Hungry.

2. Donate to your Local Food Pantry - We do this often and try to find ways to make it fun. Our Very Hungry Caterpillar Virtual Food Drive was lots of fun and inspired others as well. JDaniel4's Mom also created a Hunt for Hunger for her son, and the Pleasantest Thing and her son got involved with her food pantry's Breakfast in a Bag program. To find a food pantry in your area, look here.

3. Visit your Local Food Pantry or Volunteer - When you make your donation, plan to take some time to learn about the food pantry. Visiting a food pantry allows children to learn more about hunger. 52 Brand New shared about her children volunteering at a food pantry, which is a great way to get kids involved. 

4. Garden! - Katie's Krops is an organization focused on encouraging children to garden to end hunger as they share the produce they grow with others. We've just started a small container garden, but have already shared our tomatoes with neighbors that we know are in need.  

5. Eat a Meal with Gratitude - Using  your own meal  times to learn about hunger and focus on gratitude for the food you have is an important way to help children understand hunger. This month you can also Dine Out for No Kid Hungry as a family and Pennies of Time shared a powerful Hunger Dinner her family held to truly understand hunger. Some families also decide to take the Snap Challenge for a week or for the entire month during Hunger Action Month. Conveying Awareness shared her experience taking the Snap Challenge. 

6. Support a Neighbor in Need - This can be fun and simple. You can make healthy muffins or make an extra batch of soup. It's easy, but also so greatly appreciated. We've given bagels and produce to a homeless man in our community, have made a meal for an elderly neighbor and have taken meals to families that have a member battling cancer. 

7. Organize a Food Drive -  Depending on the age of your children, the parents might be doing most of the organizing, but the children can definitely help spread the word and learn a lot in the process. Coffee Cups and Crayons held a fun Hunger Heroes Food Drive Play Date.

8. Host a Bake Sale - No Kid Hungry has lots of resources to help you get involved through a bake sale. 

9. Volunteer at a Dinner for Those in Need - We've volunteered at a local Thanksgiving Dinner for families in need and discovered that even young children can help out in this way. Now is a great time to research an upcoming holiday dinner and sign up to be involved. 

10. Read! - Reading books that help children understand hunger is important -- and can lead them to want to be involved to help those that are hungry. Pennies of Time shares tips for reading books and discussing hunger. Childhood Beckons created a fun Feeding with Reading Food Driveand Let's Lasso the Moon has a great list of books about hunger

11. Learn about Hunger/Talk About It - Similar to reading books, talking about hunger and learning about hunger is another important way to get kids involved as it raises their awareness about hunger and their empathy for others. If you might feel intimidated by this idea, Moments a Day has 5 Activities for Teaching Preschoolers about Hunger, JDaniel4's Mom shared about how she discussed hunger with her young son and Kid World Citizen shared lessons for teaching kids about hunger.

If your children have gotten involved around the issue of hunger, please tell us all about it -- and if you've written a blog post about it, link it up to our Moms Fighting Hunger Blog Hop. We'd also love for you to engage with us about ending hunger and getting children and families involved on the Moms Fighting Hunger Facebook page -- and we've got many more resources collected on the Moms Fighting Hunger Pinterest Board. I'm sharing at the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop, Make a Difference Mondays, and After School Link Up Party.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Kids in the Kitchen with The Weekly Kid's Co-Op

Featuring Our Picture Book of the Day: Stone Soup

My boys loved reading Stone Soup by Jon J. Muth, and I loved the message of the book as it highlights the value of coming together as a community and of every person giving what they can. Each member of the village contributes to the soup pot and in the end the whole community has a feast. Through giving, everyone has more than they would have had on their own. It is a message I seek to instill in my children regularly and to live in my own life and professional work. 

The book also, of course, got the boys excited about making soup with me, so we made our own variety of "stone soup" using what we happened to have -- just as the villagers did in the book. We started with 3 "stones" (just as in the book). Our stones were garlic cloves.
Then we added onions, a must according to Wild Thing, because of the onions in the book, and then diced up some veggie Italian sausages we had. Wild Thing enjoyed adding ingredients to the pot, but mainly wanted to take photos of the soup-making process this time, rather than me taking photos of him. He did a great job with the photos. 

Caterpillar (3) helped me add in some chicken broth, broccoli and snow peas (again things we just happened to have) and some salt and pepper. Wild Thing didn't capture any pictures of Caterpillar helping as Caterpillar is very camera shy these days, so we mainly got shots of him making a run for it -- away from the camera...Basically, Caterpillar would add ingredients then make a break for it as Wild Thing helped stir the soup and then take photos. 

Ultimately, the stone soup turned out really well. My husband and I both really liked it. The boys are still not sold on soup -- the hot liquid part (even after it cools) is just odd to them, so they mainly ate some of the broccoli and sausage that I pulled out of the soup. 

Still, it's important for me to have the boys help me cook and to learn about different foods, and this "recipe" was particularly fun as it encouraged them to see how you can create a meal with what you already have with just a little bit of creativity. Here's some other fun kids in the kitchen activities from The Weekly Kid's Co-Op:

Monday, September 15, 2014

P is for Plátano: Discovering New Foods

Hispanic Heritage Month: Exploring Different Cultures Through Food

Food, books, music and language are the primary ways we enjoy learning about the world as a family. In April, we traveled to the Dominican Republic, where my husband's mother was from, for a family wedding. 

My boys can be picky eaters, so one of the things I worried about the most was that they would turn their nose up at local food and not respect that their relatives were cooking food for them and learn about another culture through food.

Much to my surprise, they both gobbled Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice), fish straight from the ocean and cooked up beachside and served with fried dough, Dominican salami and eggs for breakfast, and plátanos (plantains) -- both served up as tostones (crispy fried plantains) and fried sweet plantains. Of course, they also ate chicken nuggets and pizza while we were there! 

Learning about plátanos/plantains is a great way to explore Hispanic culture. Plátanos are from India and the Caribbean. Discussing the origin of the fruit allows children to learn about the rich diversity of the Caribbean. Often, especially in Southern California, the focus on Hispanic culture and heritage centers on Mexico and Central America, but there is a rich Hispanic history in the Caribbean because of Christopher Columbus and the many other Spanish Explorers who colonized the islands. (We saw family home of Columbus when we were in Santo Domingo). 

When the boys first saw plantains, they immediately assumed they were bananas -- and they are right! They are both in the banana family and are just different varieties, like apples. Comparing them to apples that come in many varieties made this easier for the boys to understand. A fun activity is to look, touch and taste both plantains and bananas and compare how they are alike and how they are different, and to explore how differently each are prepared and eaten. For children who are old enough, it could be fun to make a chart and write the differences and similarities side by side. It's fun to also map your fruits and vegetables, including your bananas and plantains like Kids World Citizen did here.  

We can find plantains at all of our groceries stores, probably because we live in Southern California, but if you do not see it at your local grocery store, see if there is a Hispanic grocery store or market in your town/city and look there. 

Do you explore cultures and world geography through food? If so, what have been some of your favorite recipes and/or food learning experiences? 

Please tell me how you explore different cultures, and please enjoy the Third Annual Hispanic Heritage Blog Hop hosted by Multicultural Kid Blogs including an amazing giveaway that you won't want to miss! I'm linking this post to this awesome blog hop! Also sharing at the After-School Linky

Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15 every year, “celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America” (from

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Kid Yoga - Mommy & Son Yoga Time with Kids Yoga Stories

Hello, Bali: A Kids Yoga Island Adventure Book 

When Wild Thing (almost 5) brought home his school work at the end of preschool last year, many of the pieces surprised me. In his PreK journal, he wrote often about doing yoga with me. I had no idea how much he enjoyed our Mommy and Me yoga. It made me realize that the older he got (and further away we went from Mommy and Me Baby-Style Yoga), the less and less often we did yoga together. Yet, it was something he truly enjoyed. I realized that I needed to make yoga time together something we did more often. 

Hello, Bali: A Kids Yoga Island Adventure Book from Kids Yoga Stories was the perfect way for us to engage in yoga together again. Wild Thing loves learning about new cultures, and he loves yoga, so this book is perfect for him. Some of the poses were easier for him and some we will need to practice and practice to get right, but that's what makes it fun.

He's always enjoyed yoga as something he gets to do with mommy, but this book allowed him to enjoy it in another way as well. He loved going back and forth between the yoga mat and the book, and we got lucky because the book contained many letter S words, which we happen to be focusing on right now too. 

We've also been discussing meditation a lot, which is a byproduct of his interest in Star Wars, so he enjoyed learning some of the poses that lend themselves more toward meditation, in particular Hero's Pose. 

He struggled a bit to keep his shoulders down.
We focused on deep, slow breaths and worked on calming our mind and body. I'd like for Mother and Son Yoga to be something that we do regularly again, and I know that using this book will help us.

I also loved the way the sun was a point of emphasis in many pages of the book as the sun's rays shine through on the mountains, ocean, statues, etc. It reminded me of a wonderful sun inspired journal activity we did this summer as we participated in Mama Scout's Family Journal Jam. 

We painted the sun together and brainstormed sunny words -- I think this exercise is a great one to do in connection with the book and the sun of Bali. 

Do you do yoga with your kids? If not, would you like to try it? If so, please check out Kids Yoga Stories, which is an amazing resource for all things kids and yoga! 

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Duckling Gets A Cookie Simple Craft and Magic Cookie Jar

{Virtual Book Club for Kids: September Author - Mo Willems} 

How One Book, A Simple Cookie Craft and a Magic Cookie Jar are Coming Together to Make Me a Better Mommy...

Adjusting to a new school year after a hectic summer left our family 
a bit frazzle. We had 2 major problems: 

1. Mommy needs to chill out! The pressure to potty train Caterpillar (just 3 in August) in time for him to start preschool in mid-August and his struggles with adjusting left me with a short temper. I found my frustration level rising and had some angry outbursts that I am NOT proud of. I was becoming a mommy I did not want to become. I was angry. 

2. Wild Thing (almost 5) came out of the summer with a seriously bad case of the "I Wants." He was whining about everything! It certainly was not helping with my frustration issue. This was not something we wanted to see continue. Not at all...

Just as I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by my own struggles and the new challenges Caterpillar and Wild Thing were presenting, the Virtual Book Club for Kids (VBCK) came to the rescue announcing their authors and book selections for this school year and reminding me about The Duckling Gets A Cookie by Mo Willems, a book we read for the first time two years ago, also thanks to VBCK. (Here's 4 activities we did with the book then).

We revisited this book as a family and I realized this book could help us change. We engaged with the story. We talked about Pigeon and how he gets frustrated so easily and always focuses on what he feels is wrong or what he wants, rather than focusing on what he has and staying calm. We also talked about Duckling and how giving and understanding he is. Even though Pigeon gets upset, Duckling is still loving. He still gives Pigeon the cookie.

Then, I talked about myself and about how I was sometimes like Pigeon. 

I even asked the boys if that they thought so, and they did. Even Caterpillar exclaimed that I get "too fus-to-waited." Then, we talked about each of them and how they were sometimes like Pigeon, and Wild Thing recognized that he sometimes makes a big deal about the things he wants rather than appreciating what he has. He recognized that he feels better when he is like Duckling - giving and helping others.

We then spoke about Duckling and about how we could help one another by giving each other more love if we see that one of us is upset and how we can do that anytime and with anyone. 

We talked about how we could be extra kind if we see that someone is sad or angry. 

Then, I showed the boys our new magic cookie jar (which is really just a rooster cookie jar that a neighbor was going to donate to Goodwill). 

We turned it into our Pigeon Cookie Jar with simple paper, a Sharpie and some tape. Then, Wild Thing spotted some lids that we happened to have and those instantly became cookies -- some with no nuts and some with nuts.

With our magic cookie jar and recycled lid cookies, we've done some pretend play and role playing and re-telling of The Duckling Gets A Cookie, but most importantly we've given each other a cookie as a reminder. I gave Caterpillar a cookie at bedtime when he was getting very upset and he instantly calmed down and went happily to sleep with his cookie. Wild Thing gave me a cookie the last time Caterpillar peed on the bathroom floor instead of in the potty as he knows I get very frustrated when that happens, and it helped me stay calm. 

And now, just seeing the cookie jar serves as a trigger, a reminder for me, and I take some deep breaths and remind myself that I don't need to get frustrated or angry in those moments when I'm feeling overwhelmed. 

I have two wonderful ducklings and they like to give me cookies (love)...

We're also planning to make real cookies to send to a family member who is in a bit of a "pigeon" phase. Focusing on kindness towards others can make a big difference. Pennies of Time has great tips for families interested in service and acts of kindness and she shows how this approach truly does bring families closer together and really cuts down on the "I Wants!" 

I am so grateful for Pigeon and Duckling and for the magic cookie jar that is 
reminding us to be kind and giving! 

Have you used a children's book to address a challenge that your family or child is dealing with -- or perhaps to discuss a difficult issue? If so, please share and while you're at it, tell us about your favorite Mo Willems book! 

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Activities 
Cardboard Box Bus Craft & Number Game for Kids by Toddler Approved
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Activity by Coffee Cups and Crayons 
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Puppets by Playdough to Playto 
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus: Puppets, Crafts and Storytelling by Playing with Words 365 Letter B is for Bus Craft by Royal Baloo
Pigeon and Bus Activities inspired by Mo Willems by The Educators' Spin On It 
Pigeon Rhyming Race Activity by Growing Book by Book 
Pigeon Handprint by Mama Miss 

Knuffle Bunny Activities 
Mo Willems Inspired DIY Bunny Costume Felt Headband by The Educators' Spin On It 
Knuffle Bunny Activity Mats by ready-set-read 

The Duckling Gets a Cookie Activities 
Counting Chocolate Chips - Duckling Get a Cookie by 3 Dinosaurs
Nut Free Alphabet Cookies by Rainy Day Mum
Sticky Cookie Craft by The Pleasantest Thing
The Duckling Gets a Cookie Math Games by Inspiration Laboratories
The Ducking Gets a Cookie Printable Clothespin Activity by Lalymom 

Sharing this at: Booknificent ThursdayThe Weekly Kid's Co-Op, Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop, and Good Tips Tuesday.
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Book Inspired Meals + Snacks

Monday, September 8, 2014

Meal Planning Monday -- A Few of Our Favorite, Simple Recipes from this Summer Inspiring What We're Eating This Week

What's for dinner? Here's a daily play-by-play...

Monday: Green Bean Salad, Brown Rice and Grilled Chicken. (Tip: Grill up some extra chicken to have for another meal during the week). 
I have the best helper ever when it comes to green beans!

So simple: blanched green beans, diced tomatoes, feta or goat cheese crumbles, olive oil and any herbs you happened to have. The boys, of course, eat just a few green beans and tomatoes without anything and lots of rice and chicken.

Taco Tuesday: Simple Taco Soup! 

My Taco Soup is similar to the 8 Can Taco Soup recipe shared on High Hells and Grills, which my mom made a version of all the time growing up. I like to make it in the summer because I love using fresh garden tomatoes (rather than a can of tomatoes) and fresh summer corn -- yum, yum! In this version, I used soy chorizo instead of canned chicken, which I never use in mine as I'm just not a fan. I also throw in my own spices instead of a taco seasoning packet, and I love topping the soup with avocado, shredded cheese and plain yogurt. The boys aren't into soup yet, so I usually (again) give them key ingredients that I put in the soup but not all mixed together and make cornbread on the side. (We love Bob's Red Mill Corn Muffin Mix). 

Wednesday: Togo's Take-Out for Mommy's Birthday!! We rarely get take-out or eat out, but this is a special treat for Hunger Action Month as we support Dine Out for No Kid Hungry! 

Thursday: Chicken Caesar Salad. 

I like to keep it simple, especially with the adjustments to back to school, so this recipe is easy -- just toss left over grilled chicken from Monday night with shredded or chopped romaine, your favorite caesar dressing and some shredded parmesan or mozzarella cheese. Croutons are optional. For the boys, I keep it simple and deconstructed -- grilled chicken, a small piece of lettuce or two, some yogurt dip and some bread. If we have any bacon on hand, we crumble that into the salad too. (I usually make extra bacon to use on another night, especially as we love eating breakfast for dinner).

Friday: Breakfast for Dinner -- Corn Muffin Pancakes. 

We love experimenting with different pancake recipes, and corn muffin mix pancakes are lots of fun -- and delicious with honey on top. And, we always love having fresh summer fruit on the side with any dinner, but especially when we have breakfast for dinner. I didn't get any photos to share -- but the big summer fruits at our house were watermelon and nectarines. Yummy! What are the favorite summer fruits are your house? 

Bonus Share: Mommy's Summer Treat -- Simple Summer White Sangria. 

I make mine with White Peaches and/or Nectarines, Blueberries and Moscato. I pour it all together and put it in the fridge for awhile and then I enjoy! 

For more meal planning ideas, check out my Meal Planning Pinterest Board -- and I'm excited to move fully into Fall recipes next week as I share our favorite soups and best tips/recipes for root vegetables and Fall squash. I'm a huge fan of seasonal eating because it saves us money, integrates a variety of fruits and vegetables into our diet and allows us to support local, win, win. 

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