Oct 19, 2014

Tips for Toddlers and Children to Eat Soup

One day last week my two youngest and I ate soup outside for lunch.  The weather was perfect - a glorious fall day.

After I snapped this picture (and posted it on Instagram as mommamajors), the thought came to me, "I wonder if other moms serve soup for lunch?"

We eat a lot of soup in the fall and winter.  Soup is nourishing, delicious, inexpensive, easy and quite versatile.  Not to mention, the warmth in your mug and belly can knock the chill out of your weary bones.

I've learned over the years of serving soup that it can be messy for those less coordinated (i.e. toddlers).

Tips for Toddlers and Children to Eat Soup

for the very messiest and uncoordinated unpracticed
- Strip 'em naked and let the soup run down their chin, chest, belly and chair.  Do this just before bath time and chalk it up to a learning experience...for both of you!
- Eat outside or in old clothes.

for those wanting to improve
- Serve chunkier soups with little or no broth (or liquid).  This is the soup I made last week (it's a current fav).  My 22 month old son was basically eating ground beef, cooked/mushy veggies, and beans all in one cup.  He loved every chunky morsel then slurped the remaining spoonfuls of broth at the end.  He is gaining control with the spoon and does remarkably well.  I try to set him up to win (removing frustration) by giving him the chunks in soup without the "soup."

- Serve in a cup or small bowl so that the child feels the freedom to drink the soup instead of fight with the spoon.

- Give the child the widest spoon that will fit in their mouth.  They need all the extra surface area they can manage to get food in their mouth.  Sometimes the "baby spoons" are not all that helpful.  We have a couple stainless toddler spoons that are helpful. (I steer away from using plastic when I can.)   If you watch my baby, he looses quite a bit from the bowl to his mouth.  When he is super hungry he sometimes puts down the spoon and eats with his hands for the first few bites.

- If at first you don't succeed, try and try again!  Don't give up!

Julie

PS -- My daughter is almost 4.5.  She can wield a spoon like nobody's business and has been eating soup like a champ for a long time.  I say that to encourage those with preschoolers that soup isn't messy forever.

PSS -- I'd love to know what soups you are making these days.  I am always on the lookout for new recipes.

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Oct 15, 2014

Save Time & Energy with This Tip

The day I realized two whole chickens would fit into my slow cooker --it was a glorious day.
If I'm going to spend the time and energy to debone a chicken, it's not that much more work to debone two.  The crock needs to be cleaned no matter what's inside.

The extra meat can be used for fast week-night meals or frozen for later.

And the additional bones makes it worth my time to make broth.  Win-win.

Julie

PS - Scroll through other cooking tips here.

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Oct 12, 2014

Plantains Are My New BFF

Plantains are my new best friend.  Have you ever tried them?  They're the huge green banana looking things.  When ripe, they are black.  I found some at the Colony West Kroger this weekend.

Last night at a dinner party a friend said, "When we were in Costa Rica, we ate them at every meal."  I've eaten plantains as chips and even fried my own but I didn't know the extent to their versatility.

I am learning they are quite adaptible, especially if you are trying to eat grain-free.

Today I tried a couple new (to me) recipes from The Paleo Mom.  I highly recommend her blog if you haven't checked it out.  She earned a PhD but now stays at home and can explain the science behind food.  She just released a cookbook.  Here's a video where she explains a bit about plantains -- how to choose and cut them, etc.

I made her nut-free, coconut-free paleo (grain-free) muffins.  They were really good and not grainy like some gluten-free recipes.  Many times with gluten-free treats you have to buy lots of random ingredients.  In this recipe, the most random ingredient was a plantain.  And if you can't find plantains, you can use a green banana (or so it says in the comments.)  The recipe recommends 3-5 T of dry sugar.  I used 5 T of sucanat and they were plenty sweet with the additional 2+ cups of blueberries.  Next time I make these muffins I will use even less sugar.

For dinner, we had herbed chicken savory crepes with mushroom "cream" sauce.  Delish.  I used to make crepes frequently but since we are trying to be grain free, I'd written crepes off my menu.  I will say, this meal was perfect for a weekend and would be too much work for a weeknight meal.  My eldest son ate the remaining crepes with butter and maple syrup.  We'd all eaten blueberry muffins before dinner so we weren't that hungry.  With the remaining filling, I added more chicken and broth for a hearty soup for my husband's lunch one day this week.

**Haven't tried it yet but just saw this recipe for Simple Paleo Tortillas...will try soon.

Tonight I also made The Paleo Mom's grain-free Swedish Meatballs.  I used way more fresh herbs because the recipe as written seemed a bit bland.  The meatballs we will eat tomorrow night.

My kitchen looked like a bomb had gone off when I was finished.  The fridge is stocked with good food.

Any new recipes you're making I need to try?
Julie

PS - By way of reminder, I do not make any money from this blog.  I endorse books and blogs just because I think they are helpful.

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Sep 29, 2014

Dinner Time Is a Sacred Time --Fight For It

The children set the Thanksgiving table.
I love food.
I love making food.
I love making food for the people I love.

I don't always love dinner time.

I spend hours thinking about food: procuring, chopping, marinating, fermenting, sautéing, blending, roasting, baking.  And then there's the kitchen clean up...

After the dreamy days of preparing the perfect meal,  I present my labors for three children who turn up their noses.  They don't always appreciate the labor of love in front of them.

Recently, it hit me during one of these dream shattering wake up calls.  Dinner time isn't just about the food.

Dinner time is a sacred time.  I must fight for it.

No matter what stage of life you find yourself -- with babies, teenagers, and every staged between, there is something (many things?) that pulls us away from the table.

The table is the one place where we all are gathered and sit face to face.  No other time during the day are the five people in my home focused on one another.

Dinner time is the portion of the day when we learn about each other.  What were the highs?  Where were the lows?  How can I encourage?  Let's talk about plans for tomorrow.  Not only do the adults ask questions but we prompt our children to step outside their egocentric circles and ask about another.  When guests come, we help the children think in advance a question they could ask.

Reality is, the children interrupt adult conversations.  Babies make gigantic messes.  Some children complain about the menu (yes, mine).  To be quite honest, more times than not, our table time is shorter than I prefer.  My eldest longs to be other places and the baby makes everyone miserable with loud shrieks once he is full.  Sibling rivalry even rears its ugly head during dinner.

We must battle for this sacred time.

I can't think of a night when the dinner hour was perfect.  Why do I have this unrealistic expectation?  I'm working to readjust so that when we have gathered as a family there is a sense of achievement.  We were together.

If it were easy, more people would be doing it.  Take off your oven mitts and put on the boxing gloves.  This is a battle worth fighting.  Gather your people around the table, turn off your electronic devices and gaze into one another's eyes.

Where else do children intentionally and consistently interact with adults?  The table is a place to practice manners.  We practice not only with napkins in our laps but also with the placement of our words.  The tone of our voice and the choice of our vocabulary.   We practice showing preference to one another: let me serve you.  Over and over and over.  We practice these things.

Don't fall prey to the idealistic notion that your meal needs to impress Martha Stewart.  Or even be Sally Fallon nutritious (though I do recommend a ferment at every meal!)   Life sometimes necessitates take out.  At least try to sit together and face one another.  Resist the temptation to eat on the run, standing up, or in the car.  Dinner time is a sacred time.

And when your less-than-perfect dinner time concludes, there is still more family time!  Everyone can take their plate to the counter or load into the dishwasher.  Even the smallest of hands can wipe the table while the more coordinated children can sweep the floor.  My husband recently started motivating the children towards happy hearts with blasting the very religious music of one of his favs -John Mellencamp.  Now our 21-month-old requests in his own way to ROCK in the USA after every meal.

Good times.  Good memories.

Fighting for my right to party, [another 80's music reference]
--Julie

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Sep 22, 2014

Arkansas Abundance:: New CSA in Town

I'm always happy to promote local food.  But I am especially excited when there are new farms trying to get started.  WE NEED LOCAL FARMS.  If you have been thinking about trying to buy more local, chemical-free food, this could be the option for you.  --Julie
About Arkansas Abundance
Arkansas Abundance is a six-acre farm located on the south side of Little Rock. We are in our first year of production and excited to provide good food to the Little Rock area. All of our produce is grown using organic methods; we use no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on our produce. In addition to tasty vegetables, we raise goats, rabbits, and free-range chickens.

What is a CSA?
Community-Supported Agriculture” is a system for getting food from the farm to the kitchen in a way that benefits both the farmer and consumer. Customers buy a share of the farm's produce at the beginning of the season, and the farmer delivers this produce weekly. This provides a convenient, regular supply of fresh, local produce for the customer, and it helps the farm by providing some of the season's costs up front. Our favorite reason for doing a CSA is that it helps us get to know our customers through the weekly pick-up process.

Expected Produce
The produce will vary each week according to what's growing at the time. This fall we expect to have: lettuce, spinach, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, arugula, kohlrabi, pac choi, cabbage, parsnips, turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, snap peas, shittake mushrooms, garlic, and potatoes.

Share Options
This fall, our CSA will run for six weeks, from mid-October to late November. Full shares may be purchased for $170 or half shares for $85. The amount of produce received over the six weeks will equal or exceed the total value of the share, and the customer will receive about the same amount of produce every week.

Delivery
Shares will be delivered to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market (located at 2200 Kavanaugh Blvd) on Saturdays between 8am and noon. Shares may also be picked up at Arkansas Abundance on Friday afternoons by arrangement. Distribution will begin in mid-October run for a full six weeks. We will contact you with a specific start date by the end of September.


Contact
If you're interested in a CSA, we invite you to come visit the farm and see our projects! Or you can see photos on our Facebook page. Please contact us with further questions by email (arkansasabundance AT gmail.com) or phone (501-213-6450). We are offering a limited number of shares, so please submit your form and payment promptly to ensure you get a spot!

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Sep 17, 2014

Broth Making:: Reader's Question

I'm answering a reader's question, below.  Also, I'm hosting a vegetable fermenting class on Friday, September 19 at 3pm in my home.  Email me if you are interested. luvmyhub@gmail DOT com

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Julie, 
Is bone broth supposed to taste good? My first attempt was nasty and didn't gel at all (was using beef bones).  Where do you get bones?  Do you add chicken feet for gelatin or that Great Lakes gelatin everyone is talking about?  Do you just drink mugs of it or use it for soup base? I appreciate any and all advice. 
Thanks, 
Martha

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Hi Martha!

First - let me congratulate you for trying something new and healthy!  Very soon you will be a broth-making master, I just know it! 

There are many ways to make bone broth.  As for the taste, it is not my favorite to drink just plain.  However, if you choose to drink it plain, be sure to add plenty of sea salt.  Salt can be a deal breaker when it comes to flavoring broth or any broth based soup.  Seriously.

In my home broth is used mostly for making soups, rice, greens and reheating food on the stovetop.

Here are some questions that could help you trouble shoot.

1. How much water did you add to the bones?  

I try to just cover the bones with water.  Too much water can cause the broth not to gel.  Even if it doesn't become gelatinous, it will still be healthy for you.  Homemade broth, even watery broth, is so much better for you than the canned stuff from the store.

2.  Did you add any or too much vinegar?  

Vinegar helps to pull out the micro-nutrients and minerals in the bones.  I usually make broth in either a 4 quart or 6 quart crock-pot and use about 1-2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar.  Too much vinegar can give an off taste to broth.

3.  What kind of beef bones?

Beef broth is my favorite to drink.  I have read that for best results with beef bones, make sure they have been broken or sawed so that you can get to the marrow.  I have purchased beef bones from Whole Foods freezer section (middle of aisle, near bottom of freezer case.  They look a bit like white donuts.)  I have also used bones from steaks and roasts (I ask the butcher to leave them in).  

4.  Where can I get more bones?

Another option for bones if you need to make copious amounts of broth is to purchase necks/backs/stock parts from local chicken farmers (Falling Sky, Freckle Face, and FarmGirl are farmers I know that do this).  Or buy wings exclusively for broth.  Using bird bones from conventional farms will still make good broth.

Chicken feet will provide more gelatin to broth and I use them occasionally.  Freckle Face gives them with the purchase of a chicken; I think all the chicken farmers will sell the feet in bulk.

5.  How long and what temperature did you cook the bones?  

My preferred method is to put the bones in the crock pot, cover with cold, filtered water (no chlorine), add a splash of vinegar and turn to low.  I will let this simmer for at least 6-8 hours and up to 24.  I have left it for 48 hours before but will cation you to be sure to check on the water level.  Even with a lid on the slow cooker, water evaporates.  I have found dry bones before.  On that day, without thinking I added a cup of cold water and broke my hot crock.  I think I had a small amount of bones to begin with and it was a busy season; I just forgot about the broth.

If you decide to make broth stovetop, bring it to a boil then lower to simmer for at least a few hours.  I prefer the crockpot because I plug mine up outside and forget about it.  Animals won't bother it because it gets too hot.  I don't have to smell it nor does it add more heat to my house in the summer.  And if I'm too tired at night to deal with the broth/bones, I can let it simmer until the morning without care.  The smell is the biggest factor for me.  While I use a ton of broth --especially in winter when making soups, I do not care for the smell of broth.

6.  Did you add anything else to the broth besides bones?

If you use bones exclusively, you should not have any off tastes.  Some people report that veggies, after an extended period of cooking (like 24 hours), can make the broth bitter.  If I know that I am going to be making broth for a while, I usually do not add any veggies.  That said, some people swear that veggies can make the difference.  I figure that I will add veggies whatever I am cooking and that I don't want to spend money on veggies in broth .  Broth to me is a vehicle for trace minerals and gelatin.  It is more flavorful than cooking with water.

Yesterday I cooked two whole chickens simultaneously in my largest crock pot.  At dinner, I deboned the birds and threw the bones back in to the crock.  I had some random bones saved in the freezer and added these too.  Covered them all with water and added a generous splash of vinegar.  About 10pm, I turned the slow cooker to low outside.  This morning around 10am (12 hours later) I removed 8 cups of broth (or half gallon) for making soup.  I added another 8 cups of water to the bones along with the veggie scraps from making soup (ends from onions, carrots, and celery).  Bay leaves are a good addition, too.  Tonight around 10pm I will remove at least 8 cups of broth then test the bones.  If the bones are still hard, I will add more water.

How does one "test" bones?
Take a bone from your pot and try to squish it between your fingers.  If it is brittle and smashes easily, you have extracted all you can from it.  Throw it away.  If the bones are still firm, let them make more broth for you.  The bigger bones can be cooked longer.  Chicken feet almost always crumble after 12 hours.  If I have a mixture of bones, I use my judgment on when I think the most of the bones are used up.  It's not an exact science.

The smooshing of bones is a great hands-on learning experience for children.  Once I gave my 9-year-old son a steak bone after it had been made to broth for about 48 hours.  I asked him to try to smash it with his bare hands.  He did and couldn't believe it. The look on his face was priceless.  I told him that, "We drink broth because it is so good for us.  This animal gave us meat and minerals. Do you want your bones to crumble like that one day? Keep drinking broth (in soup)."  He ran off with other bones to show his friends. 

Do I use Great Lakes gelatin?
I've never purchased it.  I buy gelatin from Kroger when I am making jello, gummies, or add it to yogurt when I make it.  I am not opposed to Great Lakes, it's just that buying quality gelatin is not on my high priority list.  If I were looking to heal my gut, I would probably buy a better quality. 

Hope that helps.  Let me know if you have more questions.  Give it another try!
Julie

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Sep 15, 2014

Homemade Gummies, & Paleo Wraps

For an after school snack, I've been making these Strawberry Cream Gummies from Holistic Squid.

--Did you know that one package of gelatin has 7grams of protein?!  The recipe calls for 13 packages of gelatin.  That's 91 grams of protein for just the gelatin in this recipe.  I just use Kroger brand gelatin but you can certainly buy higher quality elsewhere.  Gelatin is very healing for the gut.

--I have a silicon mini-muffin pan that I use for these but you can also just pour it into your favorite pan and cut out squares.  I tried using candy molds (disaster).  Note to self: stick with silicon or glass pan.  I used 8x8 pan and cut the tummies into ~1/2 to 1 inch cubes.

--If you have a VitaMix, you can save yourself some dishes by making everything in the blender.  Instead of heating on the stove, just run the blender a few seconds longer.  Easy peasy.

--My husband has been avoiding sugar so I've made a "jello" for him inspired from the above recipe.  I use one can full-fat coconut milk and 4 envelopes gelatin with 2 T honey.

--I also want to try this recipe for sour gummy stars.

Secondly, anyone tried these Paleo Wraps from Drug Emporium?
You will find them near the canned coconut milk.  The ingredients are simply coconut meat, coconut water and coconut oil.  They are a bit pricey but a convenient and tasty option for those going gluten free or paleo.

Have you tried anything new lately?
Julie

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Sep 12, 2014

Local Eats: Terri-Lynn's

Super close to my house is Terri-Lynn's, a yummy barbecue place on Rodney Parham.  I'm a bit ashamed to admit that it wasn't until we moved into the neighborhood a few years ago that I had my first sandwich from Terri-Lynn's.  If you haven't been there, put it on your list of places to eat.  They've been dishing up lunches for over 51 years.

Recently I sat down with owners Aaron and Kristin Hether and grilled them about their restaurant.  To be more precise, we sat on a swing in their back yard and laughed at their chickens while talking food stuff.  The Hethers live in my neighborhood and are close enough to walk to their restaurant.  Our kids play together at the neighborhood pool.  Good people, I tell ya.
 
Of all the things on the Terri-Lynn's menu, when I asked culinary-trained Aaron his favorite, he said, "Oh probably one of the deli sandwiches."

What?!  And not the in-house smoked BBQ?!  I was shocked.  Because I love their beef BBQ sandwiches, with house made baked beans and potato salad.  

Aaron explained, "Most people (especially in the south) have a certain expectation of barbecue --texture and taste.  If they're in the restaurant for the first time I want them to have an original sandwich.  If they try the BBQ and it isn't what they expect in BBQ, they might not come back.  If they try one of the other sandwiches, they're sure to be back."   

Makes sense to me.

So what is his favorite? The "Lu Lu" which is new to the menu --sliced smoked brisket steamed with pepper jack cheese and onions served on toasted French bread with ranch dressing and a side of hot au jus...and the au jus is made in house.  My mouth is watering just typing that out.

One of the healthy things I learned about Terri-Lynn's is that Aaron uses tallow (traditionally rendered-in-house beef fat) in their tamales, instead of the industrial garbage called shortening.  

When extended family comes into town and I don't feel like cooking, I swing in Terri-Lynn's and get a couple pounds of chopped beef BBQ and pulled pork. It's my favorite BBQ in town, hands down.  If you are looking to impress at your next tailgating party, call ahead and order your people some Terri-Lynn's.  You're sure to be the life of the party.

Oh and dessert? Splurge at lease once and try the chocolate chess pie or the double chocolate brownies.  Or heck, try them both.  Tell them Julie sent ya.

You can read the full menu here.  They also have a fun commercial here.

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Sep 8, 2014

Simple Carrot and Jicama Salad

Someone told me a local Mexican restaurant was serving this salad and that I should try it.  She said it was really good.  Just shredded carrots and jicama --nothing else.

So I tried it.

I liked it!

The next time you're looking for a side dish to serve with a Mexican meal, shred some carrots with a peeled jicama.
Jicama - image source
Jicama can be found with other roots in the refrigerated produce section.  It has a crispy crunch and taste of an apple with mild tones of celery and onion.  It is considered a prebiotic, which feeds the probiotics in your gut.  Other prebiotics include raw garlic and onion.

Another salad I like to serve with Mexican food is simply green lettuce and jicama (peeled and julienned).  The dressing I use is equal parts honey and lime juice (or lemon) mixed with two parts olive oil, with salt to taste.

-Julie

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Aug 25, 2014

Food, Health & Money Connection

Wendell Berry is spot on in the book Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community when he writes about "The Food System."  This is a system I try to avoid when I can by making foods from scratch as well as buying locally (or growing my own food!)  Each point below builds on the previous one and I especially like points six and seven.  He observes:

The Food System is firmly grounded on the following principles:

1.  Food is important mainly as an article of international trade.

2.  It doesn't matter what happens to farmers.

3.  It doesn't matter what happens to the land.

4.  Agriculture has nothing to do with "the environment."

5.  There will always be plenty of food, for if farmers don't grow it from the soil, then scientists will invent it.

6.  There is no connection between food and health.  People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are healed by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.

7.  It follows that there is no connection between healing and health.  Hospitals customarily feed their patients poor-quality, awful-tasting, factory-made expensive food and keep them awake all night with various expensive attentions.  There is a connection between money and health.

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It is my hope that by eating real food one baby step at a time, you will experience a positive connection between health and food (see #6).

Anyone who has stepped foot in a hospital can give a hearty Amen to #7, but even if you haven't, surely you can agree that there is a connection between money and health.

It does matter what happens to our land and our farmers.  Buy locally grown when you can.  Make plans to visit a farmers market soon.  And it is not too late to plant fall veggies!

-Julie

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