Monday Mixture: Surviving Food Shopping, Meal Planning & Prep with the kids home for Summer, Meatless Monday

3 school days left

While I am counting the days until we can sleep in and have some less structured days, I know it can be hard to get things done with the kids around.  As much as we like summer vacation, the job of primary cook and meal planner gets even harder.  Here are some ways to involve the kids with these tasks.  While it may take a little longer to get some things done, you will be teaching some great life skills while keeping their academic skills sharp.

Grocery List / Errand List – Excellent handwriting, spelling practice, reading practice.  Have your child help write the list for what you need to get at the store.  Not only is this great in teaching them how to organize a list, but they will be able to visualize how much you need and understand how long it may take when you are at the store.  Don’t stop there though.  In the store have your child remind you of the items and cross them off as you pick them up.

Shopping – I have found that I am able to quickly pick up my needed items and breeze through a store if I know where things are.  So start teaching your kids early.  Assign each child a few items to pick up at the store.  Let them know when you are in the aisle or area they can be found and let them find it.  Skills such as knowing how to shop are lifelong and a valuable asset in being organized.  This is also great reading practice for the younger set.

Don’t forget Farmer’s Markets are a great place for kids to learn about new foods, talk to the farmers, and pick a new food to try.

Meal Planning –  I introduced my Recipe Must Make List Page in last Monday’s Mixture.  In this blog I have mentioned that I love to pin recipes on Pinterest, book mark websites, and tear recipes out of magazine.  Over the years I have made lists of what I want to try and certain types of recipes I want to make.  Recently I came across a list I had in 2011.  Apparently I was into baking at the time.  I decided now that I have started blogging I needed to revisit my list, make some updates and add some of the recipes.

Little Miss Mixture like many children is not quite as discerning as myself when it comes to recipes she wants on my to try list.  She pretty much wants me to make any food that looks good in a picture.  Thus my “to try” list multiplied after she looked through a recent Cooking Light magazine.  This got me thinking what a great way to  have your children try new foods.  Give them a magazine, a food website, or a cookbook and have them write down or point out at least 5 recipes they want you to make or that they can help make with you.  The more you involve kids in the kitchen the more apt they are to be interested in healthy eating and expand their variety of foods consumed.  Be sure to let them pick at least one dessert as they all look good in pictures.  Remind them when you serve the food that this is something they picked.  They may not love everything you make, but explain to them that is okay at least we tried.

Cooking – Getting kids in the kitchen is another great way to expand their interest in food and work on new skills.  There are a lot of cookbooks that have kid recipes in them.  We have one that provides great step by step pictures for children.

There are websites and companies that have great tools for helping kids in the kitchen, such as kid stir, Williams Sonoma Kids, Whole Foods Cooking Classes for kids.  However you are their best resource.  They watch you and they want to be like you.  Allow your child to help by washing fruits and vegetables, cutting foods, making a salad, mixing, cracking eggs, rolling pizza dough.  Here is a great list of kitchen skills broken down by age.

A great summer classic is kabobs.  Recently I realized this is also a great fine motor skill activity for children.  You can make fruit kabobs, dessert kabobs, ham & cheese kabobs for their lunch, or help prep kabobs for the grill.

So instead of dreading getting things done this summer, enjoy your time together and build a confident kid in the kitchen by instilling some lifelong skills.

 What we ate this week – 

SaturdayPesto Pasta

Sunday – BBQ Chicken Pizza

Monday – Black Bean & Sweet Potato Enchiladas

Tuesday – Shrimp Fried Rice

Wednesday – Leftovers

Thursday – Pesto pasta redo

Friday– Tuna Melt, Edamame Salad







Monday – Meatless & Mixture

How was your weekend?  Did you spoil yourself and indulge on National eat what you want day?

Since I like to celebrate all the little things I took great pleasure in enjoying May 11th as both Mother’s Day and “eat what you want day”.  We have certain traditions that have been created over the years and Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that includes some.  We all have small indulgences that we like and I try to eat healthy but every now and then you have to spoil yourself.

Doughnuts – I have never been a person who eats a lot of doughnuts but I have always liked munchkins and on occasion I would stop by Dunkin Doughnuts when I used to travel for business and get 5 chocolate cake munchkins.  Yes I am probably one of the few individuals who realizes you can buy munchkins individually.  After Little Miss Mixture was born I stopped traveling and it had been a good year since I had enjoyed a munchkin, so on my first mother’s day that is what I got for breakfast.  Now it is a day Little Miss Mixture waits for and regardless of it not being a breakfast that fits our eating style anymore, I cannot change the tradition, as it is our Mother’s day breakfast.  I have also come to realize Mr. Mixture is a fan as well as it makes for an easy Mother’s Day morning for him as well.


2. What we ate this week (May 5-May 10).  It was a crazy week with busy afternoons and evening events.

Monday  – Veggie Tostados for Cinco de Mayo

Tuesday – Leftovers                                                                                               (Little Miss had to eat on the go and Mr. Mixture and I had a late dinner to finish off some leftovers)

Wednesday – Chicken Broccoli Mac & Cheese with Bacon                                         (post about this recipe will be coming this week)

Thursday – Mr. Mixture was on his own as Little Miss Mixture and I had tickets to a play at the local children’s theatre.

Friday – Salad with Radishes, Rhubarb, & Strawberries and Chicken Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Saturday – Super Nachos

Sunday – My Night off.  We dined at Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar.

3. Nut Free Snacks – Do your kids have allergies or do you have to find healthy snacks that are not free because the school or the classroom is nut free.  As you can probably guess we are not a nut free family and this has been a challenge over the past few years finding healthy food that Little Miss Mixture enjoys to eat at school.  I have found snacks are the hardest as I like to send something balanced and Little Miss Mixture has an afternoon snack, so I really do not like sending items that require ice pack that sit around for almost 6 hours before they are eaten.  I often make homemade granola bars, muffins, healthy cookies but I have found a lot of the banana based ones are just not a favorite of Little Miss Mixture.  I also like variety.  It might be me, but I cannot send the same thing week after week and day after day.  We love Kind bars as they are a great snack to toss in your bag when traveling or just out and about, but they are not nut free.

Check out the new Nut Free Kind Bars that I found.  They are called Healthy grains and they have several varieties.  I got the Dark Chocolate Chunk and they got the thumbs up from Little Miss Mixture.  Thank you KIND.

Nut Free Kind Bars


4.Countdown to Summer – I think it has officially begun.  The weather has hit almost 90 a couple of days, so as usual we skipped the gradual spring warm up and went straight to summer temps.  These warm temperatures only fuels the readiness for lazy summer days lounging by the pool, kids staying up later and no early morning alarm clocks. Yes we are almost at the 20 days and counting point.

5. Pizza, flower & dessert – I want to thank PB for helping to make Mother’s Day special.  I love pizza and we wanted something casual with good food for dinner on Mother’s Day. Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar had been on our to try list for awhile so we decided to go.  It was a great choice as we not only enjoyed the food, but I thought they added some nice touches to make mom feel special and reinforce it was her night off.  We scheduled an early dinner since it was a school night.  Unfortunately there were no tables available outside but the host overheard Little MIss Mixture state it was cool in the restaurant and as we walked to our table he engaged her in conversation stating ” we will get you some food to warm you up” and ” I am taking you to the warmest table in the restaurant.”  It was sweet and she happily followed.

The decor is unique a mix of rustic yet modern giving it a nice vibe.


The drink menu was nice as they had local beers on tap and the wine list by the glass had several choices for the different varieties.  Something for everyone.  They had a fixed price Sunday dinner that was intriguing and very reasonable, but we had in our minds that we were going for pizza.  We each ordered a different individual pizza, which was more than we needed.  Little Miss Mixture has passed the food on the kids menu at most restaurants though she still loves to color and play the games the menus offer.  So we ordered three different pizzas – BBQ Chicken, Roasted Mushroom, and Chicken Meatball.  The individual pizzas were a nice size and though we would have had ample with two pizzas, leftover pizza has never gone bad at our house.

Mr. Mixture started with a salad that was a generous portion and could have easily been shared.  Don’t worry Little Miss and myself gave it a try as well.  The pizzas arrived and the waitress provided mason jars of parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.  We like spice, so this was an added bonus for our table.  The pizzas were hot and fresh.  The crust was delicate and flavorful and we enjoyed our choices.  To make the evening more special the restaurant provided a complimentary cannoli to mom, and Little Miss Mixture ordered a chocolate cake with tiramisu ice cream for the table.  The cannoli was not only a nice touch, it was flavorful nicely presented and had bits of dark chocolate scattered on the plate.  The cake was enjoyed by Little Miss Mixture and Mr. Mixture as well and the ice cream had a really nice flavor.


I also was provided a flower on my way out and told Happy Mother’s Day by the staff.


So thank you PB for ending my day just as sweet as it started, we will definitely be back.


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Turkey, Cheese & Spinach Quesadilla

Turkey, CHeese & Spinach Quesadilla

What do you have for lunch on the weekends?  

Looking for an easy dinner?

Have you ever noticed that foods do not come in the amount you need?

We do not eat a lot of packaged items, but I have not yet ventured into making my own soft shell tortillas as yet.  As a family of three we always seem to be left with an odd amount of items left over.  Maybe this does not happen in some families, but the few items we purchase like hamburger buns or tortilla shells leave me distraught.  I do not like to waste food and tortilla shells typically get used for quesadillas, but I found a package with three last week and was determined to use them rather than toss them.

I was inspired to make lunch on Saturday.  Truth is we did not have bread and there were no real leftovers, so I had to come up with another option as Little Miss Mixture and Mr. Mixture will quickly go for their old standby sandwiches Peanut Butter & Jelly for Mr. and Peanut Butter, Honey, & Raisin for Little Miss if I do not have a suggestions or plan. Thus I decided to make a lunch quesadilla.

Turkey Cheese & Spinach Quesadilla

1-2 Whole Wheat Tortilla Shell

1-2 slices Nitrate Free Roasted Turkey

Colby Jack or Munster Cheese

Handful of baby spinach, washed

Yellow Mustard

Olive Oil

In a skillet pour about 1 Tbsp of olive oil and heat.  Meanwhile prepare your quesadilla – Put a small amount of mustard on the tortilla shell and layer cheese, turkey, spinach, and slightly more cheese.  I find it sticks together best if there is cheese to hold it together on both sides.  Fold the tortilla shell in half, or top with another shell depending on how much you are making.

Turkey, CHeese & Spinach Quesadilla

Sauté on both sides until cheese is melted and tortilla shell is lightly golden.  Slice and Enjoy.

This proved to be a winning recipe and was in fact requested as a dinner this week when I poised the question ” what can we have for easy dinner on Thursday?”  Well easy enough everyone was happy and I plan to serve this to Little MIss Mixture after dance class along side a salad for dinner.

Who did you fool?

fools food

IMG_2274 - Version 2

Well April Fool’s day got me to thinking.  I tried to be the fun mom and though I rarely use food coloring or dyes I have some on hand from the last birthday party.  I decided to try the cereal trick – you know I added a couple drops of green coloring to the bottom of Little Miss Mixture’s cereal bowl before she came down.  I poured her milk and nothing happened so I went about my morning routine.  About the third spoon she took into her bowl, the tears began falling.  The green coloring was beginning to seep to the top and as with most pranks it was not accepted as I envisioned.

As a mother and a dietitian I have mixed views on this whole idea of hiding food for our children. We all remember Jessica Seinfeld and how she brought the spotlight to herself with her cookbook Deceptively Delicious and last week Healthy Kids twitted on this topic. But who are we really fooling? Do we think that just because we hide food and get our kids to eat the spinach, carrots, or other healthy foods that we are helping them? Is it just for moms to feel good that their children are eating a more balanced diet? Do we think that hiding food and telling them at a later time what they ate will expand their food preferences?

I understand we cannot all be as lucky as I have been. Little Miss Mixture is a great eater. In fact she is often more openminded than Mr. Mixture, but if the only way we can get vegetables and other foods into anyone than we are not building healthy eating habits. I often make foods that are on the line of being deceptive, such as this delicious Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie or Chocolate Avocado Pudding, but if anyone asks what is in it, I tell them. I am not hiding it because I have to, when it comes to these types of foods I am making them out of pure curiosity on my own part. I have a sweet tooth, so if I can satisfy that with some healthier items I am going to give it a try.  I want to trick my mind problem is I know the ingredients. But hiding veggies and other items just to ensure a balanced diet I do not think I agree with this practice.

I can still recall my little sister was pickier than I. One particular occasion I remember she did not want to eat her peas. My parents asked her to eat one for everyone she loved. Yup you guessed it she not only ate what was on her plate, but wanted more to ensure she ate one for everyone. Was this deceptive, maybe in a a way but at least a parent can feel honest about this and say “look you seemed to enjoy your peas.” Do we want our children to grow up and need their veggies hidden in order to eat a balanced meal? I get it we all have this desire to do what is best for our kids. To give them everything they need to compete in our ever more demanding society, but is this really give them an edge?  Sure for 18 years or so you can ensure they eat their veggies because you are determined to get them in, but what happens when they make their own food choices.  Will never eating a vegetable after they move out of your house be okay?  Will they become the individual who is closed minded about trying new foods.

I have a father in law whom eats less variety than his grandchildren.  Take away that he has a nut allergy and avoids spicy foods, there are a lot of foods in this world.  He is your cheese pizza and vanilla ice cream guy, and not even Vanilla Bean ice cream that would be too much.  I think each time he has eaten at my house or I have brought food to a family get together he is introduced to something new.  At times with reluctance he will try, and I believe I have even taught him to eat some new foods in the past ten years. In his defense there was less variety in foods during his upbringing and we all know change is hard for some people.  The are a multitude of sayings that we all know regarding just this… “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.”  So maybe we will go easy on our prior generations.

However I think the idea of hiding food is a newer one and we have not yet seen the effects it will have.  In an ideal world we offer vegetables, they are accepted.  Recently I have heard of lots of people who take the non accepted food and bury it in a kid friendly recipe and  hope it gets accepted.  Fast forward 20 years and we could end up with an individual who has a broad spectrum of consumable foods or we could have a very picky eater.

So the next time you go to “hide” food consider the audience.  Let’s teach our children to expand their repertoire with hands on experiences. Take your child to the farmers market, let them taste.  Plant some vegetables yourself or have them plant something and watch it grow.  Chances are they will be fascinated and want to try. Mix up a smoothie or something creative and show how things can taste good.  There is nothing wrong with trying to sneak some extra healthy food in from time to time, but please consider who is truly benefiting from “hiding” food.

“. . . and a child cannot afford to be fooled” James Baldwin