Finding balance with food, movement, and community for my (dairy-free) family.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Licking Asparagus

Sadly, the title of this post is, in fact, "licking" not "liking" asparagus.

In Feeding the Whole Family (one of my favorite cook books), the author, Cynthia Lair, suggests keeping a variety of blanched veggies in the refrigerator for quick snacks.  Since texture seems to be an issue here with raw vegetables, I thought blanching might help.

Sis helped me blanch asparagus and together we made a (non-dairy) coconut peanut sauce for dipping.  Sis sampled the sauce repeatedly as we were cooking, so I was feeling pretty optimistic as we sat down at the table with our snack.

She grabbed an asparagus, dipped it in . . .

 . . . and licked the sauce off like it was a drippy Popsicle--without consuming any actual asparagus.  Bummer.

She asked me for a drink from my water bottle.  I prefer not to share my water bottle and generally try to avoid bribing, but told her she could have a drink after she'd swallowed a bite of asparagus.

She immediately and without complaint, cringe, or grimace, dipped one in the sauce, chewed it, swallowed it, and snagged my water bottle.  Hmmm . . . so the texture isn't inherently offensive, it's just not desirable enough for her to eat without incentive.

The sauce is delicious, though a bit on the hot side depending on the quantity of hot pepper sauce added.   Sis would gladly have made a meal of the sauce using the asparagus as a green spoon.

Although it wasn't a hit, I'm planning to start setting out veggies with a little serving of dip as an appetizer for the kids to munch on before dinner.  If they are truly hungry before dinner (as they often maintain they are) this will give them a wholesome option which either won't fill them up OR will fill them up with veggies which is, after all, the goal.

Blanching Vegetables*
These directions are given for blanching broccoli, but also suggested for cauliflower, asparagus, carrots, and green beans

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Cut vegetables into uniform snack-size pieces.  Drop vegetables in the boiling water and cook until bright green and tender (less than one minute).      Drain and place in ice water (sink full or large bowl) until they are cool.

Toss with a splash of lemon juice if desired.

Coconut Peanut Sauce*
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons tamari or shoyu (I used soy sauce)
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar (I used just rice vinegar)
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1-2 teaspoons hot pepper oil
1/2 cup coconut milk

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Whisk until mixture is smooth.  Cook over medium to low heat stirring gently until it thickens.

*From Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Improving Syrup

I was too disheartened to try to smuggle vegetables into breakfast again today (regrouping to make a better plan before I try again), so today we improved our syrup by replacing it with a blueberry sauce.    For French toast toppings, my picky eaters usually chose between homemade syrup (sugar, water, and mapeline flavoring) or coconut oil with a dusting of powdered sugar.

Real maple syrup would, of course, be a better option, but it's just so expensive.  I know if I let them use that, I'd be horrified by left over syrup puddles and would find myself licking the plates clean to avoid waste--which would be good for neither my dignity nor my pant size.

I confess, despite success with berries in the past, I tend to avoid using them because of the inevitable laundry issues they create.  Fear of stains has kept me from making this recipe sooner.

Blueberry Syrup Sauce*
2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder (or corn starch or kudzu)
1 cup apple or berry fruit juice
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
2-3 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a small sauce pan, combine the arrowroot powder and fruit juice (we used apple juice).  Add blueberries and maple syrup.  Stirring constantly over medium heat, get the sauce simmering.  Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, until mixture is clear and purple.  After removing from heat, add lemon juice and serve.

Edited to add:  I've found that this gels when refrigerated and, although it can be reheated, I prefer it made fresh.  I now make a half batch to reduce our left overs.  

Big Brother helped me make it.  While it simmered, both kids nibbled on frozen blueberries (yeah!).

When I ladled it onto their French toast, Big Brother objected to the whole berries that remained in tact.  I assured him that was the best part.

Nevertheless, as he ate, he carefully picked the berries off and left them on his plate.  Despite that, both seemed to enjoy the sauce although it was much more fruity and less sweet than their normal French toast topping.

Brother's rejected berries

Overall it was a success.  Lots of purple lips . . .

but no stained clothing.

 It's not a huge improvement over syrup, but it's a baby step.

 *Recipe from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair.

Homemade Leave-In Conditioner

Sis de-tangling herself.
With the goal of reducing chemical exposure, I've been looking for natural substitutes for our hair care products.  I found this recipe to replace the Paul Mitchell detangler I use for Sis's hair.

Homemade Leave-In Conditioner and De-tangler
2 oz aloe vera juice
2-3 drops Rosemary essential oil

Combine the aloe vera juice and essential oil in a small spray bottle.  (In the travel/sample-size aisle in the beauty product section at Walmart they sell 2 ounce spray bottles that work perfectly for this.)  Shake vigorously and then spray, shaking frequently and vigorously throughout use to disperse the essential oil.

When Sis' hair is wet, I spray on quite a lot and comb it through. When her hair is dry, I spray just a bit on to dampen it and de-tangle.

I'm quite pleased with how this works to de-tangle and to reduce static.  There are just two little drawbacks:

  • It needs to be refrigerated because there are no preservatives in the aloe vera juice
  • Sis thinks it stinks!  
However, a couple of days ago I was at our local baby shop and noticed they had a de-tangler made by a local home-based natural body-care company with very similar ingredients (for $15.00 eek!).  That product listed a combination of orange, lavender, and rosemary essential oils as ingredients, so I'm going to try that mix on our next batch and see if it pleases Sis' nose a bit more.

Vegetables for Breakfast

My kids tend to be hungriest at breakfast.  I'm not sure if this is because typical breakfast foods tend to be most appealing to their grain-preference (waffles, pancakes, French toast, etc) or if it's because they often ate very little at dinner the night before because that's the meal that tends to be vegetable and meat heavy.  

If my picky kids are hungrier at breakfast, surely they'll be more adventurous in trying new foods, right?  

The Food
So for today's baby step I made scrambled eggs with veggies to go along side their usual French toast.  In my double-boiler I steamed a stir-fry medley of frozen veggies (asparagus, red pepper, onion, summer squash, cauliflower, and broccoli) until VERY tender.  

I diced them to make them less obtrusive.  Then added them to the scrambled eggs along with a little salt, pepper and Greek seasoning.  

Introduction Strategy
French toast with apricot jam
Knowing these would meet with objection and rejection, I reduced the serving size of their French toast and added a tiny serving of the eggs and veggies to their plate.  My hope was that they'd finish the French toast and I'd then kindly and in a matter-of-fact tone insist that they eat the tiny serving of eggs and veggies before having more French toast.  

Apparently I didn't reduce the French toast serving size enough as they rejected the eggs and veggies, ate the French toast, and asked to be excused without pressing for more.  

Hmmm, guess I'll have to slice the bread thinner next time I try this strategy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

State of the Plate: April 2011

My children are attempting to live on bread alone.  It's making me crazy.

Here's where we're at . . .

Sis (nearly 3) and Big Brother (5) are both intolerant of dairy products, so our whole family eats dairy-free.

Grains:  They prefer to eat grain-based foods.  Many of the bread products they eat contain a high percentage of whole grain--but not always.  I have a whole grain sour dough starter, but have not been using it a lot.

Protein:  They do okay with ground meats (sausage and hamburger) and processed meats (ham), chicken is hit and miss.  They struggle with any meat that requires more chewing.  Both like scrambled eggs if they're in the right mood and will eat boiled egg whites, but not the yolk.  Both tend to spit out nuts--as if they require too much chewing.

Fruit:  Hit and miss.  There's not much that they eat regularly.  When Big Brother asks for food, if I offer fruit as an option he says to me, "Mom, I want FOOD, not fruit."  Sis eats Craisins.  Both enjoy berries, but I struggle with effectively incorporating these into daily eating.

Vegetables:  Big Brother is increasingly willing to eat well-cooked vegetables that are incorporated into dinners (in stew, casseroles, etc).  Sis actually seems to do a bit better with raw vegetables--she likes salsa.  I can't even label their vegetable eating as "hit and miss"; it's really just "miss."

It's not that what they ARE eating is bad; it's more that I worry about what they are NOT eating.  Whole categories--important categories--are missing.  I know it's my fault.  I'm the one who buys, prepares, and serves the food.   When I've tried to make changes before, I tend to get discouraged because there is inevitable waste as they reject new foods.  (If only I had chickens or pigs to whom I could feed scraps. )

My Goal
I'd like to introduce baby-step changes to increase their vegetable and fruit consumption, while reducing their reliance on grains.  I'd like the grains they do eat to be whole grain and soaked or made using a sour dough process when possible.

I'd particularly like them to accept snacks that are not grain-based.

We'll see how it goes.  I'd love any suggestions anyone might have to share.