“Let Freedom Ring”

Flag of the United States at the memorial to P...

Today on Memorial Day we in the USA remember those who have gone before us to defend our freedom. We honor the fallen heroes and

pay them our respects. May our country continue to enjoy freedom, peace, and prosperity.

Unofficially, today also kicks off summer vacation season. I hope, wherever you are, you can spend extra time with family and friends.

If your children need a break from whatever they are doing, why not get them started on some projects in the kitchen with Kids Cooking and Learning Through Food Activities.

This will whet their appetite for more “work” in the kitchen.  Who knows, by the end of summer, they may be super chefs!

To your good health and that of your family,

Lee Jackson, author and nutrition advocate
http://www.imagesunlimitedpub.com

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Too Many Chocolate Bunnies?

Did the Easter bunny come loaded with candy to your house? Or did he have some non-sugar related treats instead, such as

A milk chocolate Easter Bunny.

A milk chocolate Easter Bunny. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

new socks, new shirts, or fruits and nuts?

If your bunny was like most bunnies I know, he packed a high sugar load. As parents, how to handle the high influx of sugars into young bodies? As well as, how to get back into a schedule of healthy eating?

Studies have shown that high sugar intake not only can add pounds but plays a role in a wide range of health problems such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Long-term sugar addiction can also produce a weakened immune system, chronic fatigue, hormonal problems, and gastrointestinal issues as well as anxiety and depression.

There is conflicting evidence over sugar-producing mood altering swings in children. But many parents have seen the changes in their child from a sweet, fun-loving child to one of a hostile, out-of-control “brat”. Too much sugar causes different reactions in different people.

Some view the never-ending “need” many have for sugar as a powerful addiction not unlike that of alcohol. With sugar addiction, individuals are no longer able to use their body’s natural abilities to control their food intake. Reportedly, some parts of the world still keep sugar under lock and key believing it to be a narcotic.

Just as with any other addiction, sugar craving needs to be controlled. This includes cutting out artificially sweetened foods as well as natural sugar foods. Getting the sugar habit under control is especially important for children for health reasons as well as weight control.

How can parents help their sugar-craving kids?

  • Help make Easter candy less readily available. Perhaps making a game out of choosing one piece and then hiding the rest. Often “out of sight, out of mind” helps. Stock cabinets and refrigerator with fruits and vegetables that are within easy reach.
  • Start your kids off with a good breakfast. This could consist of a vegetable omelet or oatmeal with chopped almonds or quinoa flakes and fresh fruit. It could also include last night’s meal of chicken or roast beef with veggie sticks.
  • If you are the chief meal planner and preparer, eliminate sugars and any sugar derivatives (honey, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose syrup and the like) from the menu. Plan  meals in advance, shop intentionally, based on what you need, and prepare the meals at a set time.
  • Pack the meals with plant-based foods from the vegetable group, the fruit group, and high-quality protein sources from animal or plant protein sources such as seafood, poultry and lean meats.
  • Set a good example by not eating foods with sugar. This means eliminating any “diet” soft drinks and other processed, sugary foods as well.
  • Take your kids shopping and ask them to help you make dinner or prepare their school lunch. Praise them for their good choices.
  • Have pitchers of water handy so your kids can drink this anytime. Kids should drink water rather than any soda or other sweetened drink.
  • One of the biggest helps is to teach kids the value of staying active and exercising. When they are playing baseball, hiking or biking they are not as apt to want a piece of candy. Then, have some healthy snacks when they are through, such as nuts or peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, rice cakes and peanut butter, carrot sticks, apples, bananas, grapes, etc.
  • Your child may be tempted to eat sweets, just as you, perhaps, are tempted. Try to get past the temptation by focusing on another activity. Perhaps on some hobby you have, or a pleasant experience you had.
  • Some like to use visualization when this happens. They imagine and visualize how much healthier they will be without the sugar, or they will see a firm, slender body if they don’t indulge.

Getting past the sugar craving is not easy. Having candy and other sweets out of sight is the first step. Stocking up on healthy foods is the second. What your children eat or don’t eat relates to how they think, act, and feel so it is in everyone’s best interests to help them eat healthy.

To your success,

Lee Jackson
http://healthykidseatingtips.com

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Bunny Salad Idea for Easter

A pear

A pear (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here is an idea for a bunny salad kids will love to create. Children enjoy working with food, especially if provided with encouragement and inspiration. Carrying out the bunny theme with food is not difficult and they will be pleased with their results.

Bunny Salad

1 fresh pear cut in half, remove seeds and stem
or use canned pear halves
Raisins
Red cherries, candied or maraschino
Shredded cheese
Marshmallows
Lettuce

Prepare fresh pear or drain juice from canned pears.
Wash lettuce and put a lettuce leaf on individual plate.

To make bunny:

Place pear halve face down on lettuce leaf.

Put 2 raisins on the pear for the eyes.

Use a red cherry for the nose.

Put several pieces of shredded cheese on each side of face for whiskers.

Cut two marshmallows in half and use for ears of bunny.

Add a marshmallow for the bunny’s tail.

There you have it – one sweet bunny. These salads multiply well for any number of guests. Recipe taken from Amy Houts first book in the Food and Fun series, Cooking Around the Calendar With Kids: Holiday and Seasonal Food and Fun. See more at Cooking/Calendar.

To your childrens’ creativity,

Lee Jackson
Nutrition advocate and author
http://healthykidseatingtips.com

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Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Cover of "I Have a Dream: Writings and Sp...

Cover via Amazon

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in 1986. On January 16 we honor this man who is best known for securing progress on civil rights in the United States and around the world. He is remembered as a non-violent advocate of equality for all men and women.

Dr. King‘s “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered on August 28, 1963, in which he called for racial equality and an end to discrimination. He was a ray of light and hope at a troubled time in our history. It is important that we honor him with a national holiday, but perhaps he would rather want us remember him by remembering and living his dream!

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Kicking the Sugar Habit After the Holidays

Fastelavnsboller

Image via Wikipedia

After all the Christmas goodies, it is hard to get back into a schedule of healthy eating. Our bodies may be so attuned to eating foods with a high sugar content that the craving for sugar continues.

Just as with any other addiction, sugar craving needs to be controlled. This includes cutting out artificially sweetened foods as well. Getting the sugar habit under control is especially important for children for health reasons as well as weight control.

How can parents help their kids get off the sugar train?

  • First of all, those desserts and holiday candies need to be out of the house by now. As the expression goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Stock your cabinets and refrigerator with fruits and vegetables instead of chips, cookies, and candies. Yes, fruits are a source of sugar but they also provide vitamins necessary for good health.
  • Start your kids off with a good breakfast. By this, I don’t mean a bagel or bran muffin, but foods more nutritious such as a vegetable omelet, some oatmeal with chopped almonds, and fresh fruit.
  • If you are the chief meal planner and one who prepares the meals, eliminate sugars and any sugar derivatives (honey, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose syrup and the like) from the menu. Plan  meals in advance, shop intentionally, based on what you need, and prepare the meals at a set time.
  • Pack the meals with plant-based foods from the vegetable group, the fruit group, small amount of grains, beans and legumes, and high-quality protein sources from animal or plant protein sources such as seafood, poultry and lean meats.
  • Set a good example by not eating foods with sugar. This means eliminating any “diet” soft drinks and other processed, sugary foods as well.
  • Take your kids shopping and ask them to help you make dinner or prepare their school lunch. Praise them for their good choices.
  • Have pitchers of water handy so your kids can drink this anytime. Kids should drink water rather than any soda or other sweetened drink.
  • One of the biggest helps is for parents to teach kids the value of staying active and exercising. When they are playing baseball, hiking or biking they are not as apt to want a piece of cake. Then, have some healthy snacks when they are through, such as nuts or peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks, etc.
  • Your child may be tempted to eat sweets, just as you, perhaps, are tempted. Try to get past the temptation by focusing on another activity. Perhaps on some hobby you have, or a pleasant experience you had.

Some like to use visualization when this happens. They imagine and visualize how much healthier they will be without the sugar, or they will see a firm, slender body if they don’t indulge. Sometimes it helps to just tell our body what we need and what we don’t need.

To your success,

Lee Jackson

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5 Holiday Food and Fun Ideas for Children

Help create happy memories for children by involving them in holiday activities.

Here are 5 ideas from Amy Houts’ book, Cooking Around the Calendar with Kids: Holiday and Seasonal Food and Fun, that can be the start of fun family traditions.

1. Memories and baking cookies are a big part of the holiday season. Get friends together and have a cookie baking or exchange party.

2. Children can help create simple holiday gifts from the kitchen, such as Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar, Holiday Spice Mix, and Hearty Soup Mix.

3. As a way to recall the many blessings received during the year, place five or more kernels of candy corn in a zip lock bag and give to each child. Decide together what blessing each kernel symbolizes.

4. Check out a cookbook from the library with recipes typical of those used by your ancestors. Make a traditional cookie or bread recipe from that country.

5. Take time to remember the birds. A gift for them, or to a bird lover, could be a pinecone bird feeder you and your child create. Don’t forget to give the birds water, too.

Journalists, newsletter publishers, bloggers and others: You may reprint this blog or any of the blogs as long as you include the website: http://www.cookingandkids.com/blog.

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Why Kids Love “The Littlest Christmas Kitten”

Another grandmother told me she read this Christmas story, The Littlest Christmas Kitten, with her two little grandchildren, as they do every year. She said they never get tired of hearing it.

I think it has become a popular Christmas story because the bold pictures grab kids attention and the story keeps them guessing. Why are all the animals excited this night? Will the Mother Cat find her little lost kitten?

This is a short 32-page story about the night Jesus was born. The events of the night have a profound effect on all the animals, especially the cats. Included is an illustrated glossary of Christmas symbols, describing their origins. For example, why do we have candy canes at this holiday? How did the tradition of having a decorated tree get started? Why do cats purr at Christmas?

Order this book now, as there are only a few days left before Christmas. Click this link now to order your book with free shipping. Start your own Christmas reading tradition with this book.

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Baking with Kids – Fun Cookie Recipe

Candy Cane Cookies

Image by janielianne via Flickr

Cooking with kids can be fun and create memories for years to come. Remember when the kids kept snatching cookie dough from the refrigerator? You finally had to put a toothpick in the dough with a note that said to not even think about eating it.

Here is a cookie recipe that will be tempting, either in the dough form (which they shouldn’t eat) and in the baked form (which will be hard to resist).

This recipe lists red food coloring as an ingredient. You may want to avoid using artificial food coloring by using natural products. You can  purée or juice a beet to get a very effective red dye. Mix a drop of this juice into the dough to make it pink or add a little more for red. Just keep your fingers protected unless you want red fingers for the next few days. You can also use a little pomegranate juice.

This cookie recipe comes from the childrens cookbook, Cooking Around the Calendar with Kids – Holiday and Seasonal Food and Fun by Amy Houts.

Holiday Candy Cane Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
1/4 crushed peppermint candy
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Children can help measure butter, shortening, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, almond extract, and crack egg into large mixing bowl. Children can mix with large wooden spoon or adult can beat with electric mixer until well mixed.

Note: there is no baking powder in this recipe.
Stir in flour and salt. Divide dough in half. Add red food coloring (or alternative)  to one half of dough. Pinch off about a teaspoon of red dough. Children can shape into about a 4-inch rope by rolling back and forth on lightly floured board or cloth. Repeat with plain dough. Set side-by-side and twist together. Place on ungreased baking sheet, curving one end down to form handle of cane.

Repeat process, placing candy canes about 2-inches apart on baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, until very light brown. Meanwhile, mix peppermint candy and sugar. Sprinkle on cookies right when they come out of the oven. Then remove to cooling rack.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

Happy baking!

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Get Kids in the Kitchen This Holiday

Old-Fashioned Christmas Butter Cookies

Image by Sifu Renka via Flickr

Are you saying, “but it takes too long to work with my kids in the kitchen”, or “it’s too messy when they help me”? In her book, Cooking Around the Calendar with Kids: Holiday and Seasonal Food and Fun, Amy Houts says that with a little planning and imagination, you can make holiday baking stress-free and enjoyable. The part children will remember is that they were able to “help” you in the kitchen.

Some points to remember when working with children:

  • Read through the recipe completely from top to bottom. Talk about the recipe. Explain what you will do and what the child will do. Know what needs to be done first, second, and so on.
  • Emphasize hand washing. Be a role model for your child. Practice food safety.
  • Collect all of the ingredients and tools that you need before you begin.
  • Measure everything carefully.
  • Clean up as you go.

Using this strategy, will help make cookie baking or any food work much more pleasant and enjoyable.

To your cooking enjoyment,

Lee Jackson, food writer

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Crock Pot Roast Beef & French Dip


With the busy holidays upon us, oven space may be at a premium. That is another good reason to use a crock pot. But best of all, I like to use the crock pot for meals that you can begin and forget.

Here is a wonderful recipe made by my good friend, author, and chef, Amy Houts. We had this for lunch recently when her mother from New York was visiting. She served it with relishes and chips and had apple cake for dessert –  another one of my favorites!

You can find this in Amy’s new cookbook, Cooking Around the Country with Kids – USA Regional Recipes and Fun Activities on p. 206.

French Dip for Roast Beef Sandwiches

3 pounds beef chuck or arm roast
2 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
Dash pepper

12 hard rolls

Place roast in a crock pot. Children can help measure and add water, soy sauce, and spiceds to crock pot. Cook 5-6 hours on low heat setting or 3 hours on highs. Remove bay leaf from pot. Slice or shred beef and cool in refrigerator. Remove fat that has hardened on the surface of the dip. Heat again over stove or back in crock until hot. Place on hard rolls. Pour broth into individual serving dishes, about 1/4 cup per person. Dip sandwich into broth and enjoy!

Serves 10-12