Friday, April 27, 2012

Back to Blogging!!

It's been a while, but I thought I would dust off this old blog and give it another go. Lately, I have gotten more and more interested in scratch cooking and want to share my experiences. This spring and summer, I am learning how to make kombucha tea, fresh sourdough bread from starter, yogurt, butter, and much more. I think I'll even experiment with making some cheeses too.

The most exciting thing for me is the sourdough bread. I am learning that bread made from starter can be ok for those with gluten intolerance. I'm going to use my son as my guinea pig (shhhh!!). If it works, we can go back to sandwiches for lunch!!! As you can imagine, making lunch every day for school without using bread can be a bit challenging. (He won't usually eat the gf breads unless they are toasted, as in grill cheese).

I started "feeding" my sourdough starter today and will bake tomorrow. I'll keep you posted... 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sorry Whole Foods, We Don't Want Your Salad Bar...

If you've been to your local Whole Foods lately, you've probably seen the signs  for their initiative to get salad bars into the schools. I think it's a great idea!!

The Preston/Forest location in Dallas ranks 5th in donations throughout the country. That location of Whole Foods wants to give a salad bar to 5 schools in the area.

Unfortunately, DISD schools won't be getting any of these salad bars.

I personally asked Dora Rivas, Director of Food and Child Nutrition Services at DISD, if the district would support our school applying for one of these salad bars. Here was her response:

"We are not accepting salad bars. I have implemented salad bars in the past and had to remove due to issues with labor and food safety issues. We are currently providing pre-packaged salads on the line to assure food safety and cross contamination. In schools, our health department is very strict. Please feel free to give me a call if you have further questions on this."

While I understand the district's concerns, I think it is a shame that we won't be getting a salad bar. Our parents at school were all ready to step up and volunteer to make it happen. What do you think about this? Let your school district's nutrition department know!

I wonder what Whole Foods will do with the $1.3 million they raised for this program? I wonder if other districts will say no as well...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Back to School Lunches

Now that the kids are back in school and in the swing of things, I thought I would go visit them at their lunchtime. I saw things that both encouraged me and bothered me at the same time.

There have been some positive changes in our district. They have added freshly made sandwiches on wheat bread several days a week, switched to brown rice, and had a couple of sides that were fresh fruit and vegetable. Overall, the lunch looked pretty good to me.

When I saw what was being served (Frito pie with rice), I knew immediately that my littlest one wouldn't eat it. Thank goodness for the sandwiches! He also got grapes, green beans, and a juice. Not bad. He even ate the lettuce on the sandwich. Now the only problem is to get him to eat instead of talk - there isn't much time for them to eat.

When my second son went through the line, however, it was a bit of a different story. He got the Frito pie and some cucumbers. He ate two Fritos for lunch. I asked him why didn't he get the sandwich and the little girl across from him informed me that they were out of sandwiches. When I went back and asked if they were out of sandwiches, the lady went to the fridge and pulled two more out. I wasn't sure how that was going to feed the 30 kids that were in line, plus several hundred still to come through.

Also on the menu was a hummus plate and veggies. This was nowhere to be found. I asked and found that it hadn't been available at all so far.

I felt so sorry for my son and had nothing to give him. You can imagine how hungry he was when he got home. Overall, it was a discouraging visit.

What I don't understand is why say healthier foods are going to be offered, then not make them available to the kids. I like the changes that are on paper, but who is enforcing them? I guess that's why parents like us need to get involved in our school. Don't just assume that what's on the menu is what your child is getting.

Over the coming weeks, I'll be documenting what I am doing at our school to make healthier changes. I hope you'll follow and do the same at your child's school. Please let me know what you are doing and what is working.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer Fun

Well, school's out and the kids are home for the summer. I am so looking forward to sleeping late, not making lunches every morning, and the opportunity to spend more time with my two boys.

For the next few months, I am choosing the kids over the computer! I have decided to put this blog on hold until school starts back up so that I am not ignoring them several mornings each week.

I will be blogging once weekly at, so find me there on Thursday's at 3:00.

I hope you have a wonderful summer too. I know we will.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good news on the school lunch front

Last night, our school lunch group had a meeting at Andrew Ormsby Catering to discuss how to improve school lunches. Dora Rivas, Director of Food and Child Nutrition Services in DISD, came to discuss the changes the district is making next year to their menus. She suggested parents join to keep updated on changes and request additional funding from legislators, working with the PTA, and ensuring that your school is in compliance with the district's wellness policy. Let me know if you want to get involved!

Andrew Ormsby of Andrew Ormsby Catering hosted the event. He served a wonderful buffet of 'kid-friendly' foods made with fresh, natural ingredients, that would be great on a school lunch menu.

Pictured here (from left to right) are Dora Rivas, Andrew Ormsby, and myself.

Some of the positive changes slated for the menu next year are brown rice and whole grain breads, vegetarian options daily, and homemade sandwiches. It's a great start, but there is still a long way to go.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day Brunch

I had the most beautiful mother's day this year, thanks to my wonderful husband Michael. He absolutely pampered me all day long. I woke up and read a book in bed, one of my favorite things to do. Then, breakfast in bed was served. The boys had made chocolate covered strawberries for me, which they sat with me and ate. Then I took a long bath. (I definitely need to do that more often)

I am blessed to have all the kid's grandparents in town right now, so we had all 4 mothers to celebrate with. Michael set up a beautiful table on the patio. The weather was perfect, cool and crisp, to sit outside.

Then he cooked a wonderful lunch inspired by some of our friends. The roasted potatoes with feta cheese, recipe compliments of Joslyn Taylor, were divine. They really are the best potatoes I've had. Find the recipe here. The spinach salad is so simple and fresh, perfect for summer. That recipe was shared by my friend Eimilie Mitchell. Just combine baby spinach, feta, strawberries, and toss with Brianna's poppyseed dressing. I've never been a huge fan of poppyseed dressing, but this combination was absolutely perfect. Then melted ham and swiss finger sandwiches topped off the meal.

Of course, what mother's day meal would be complete without mimosas and a chocolate covered strawberry. It really was a beautiful day.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Grilled Salmon Recipe

I have to say, my husband makes the best grilled salmon I have had anywhere. I have a hard time ordering salmon when I go out now because I know it won't be nearly as good. He grills it on a cedar plank for an extra smoky flavor. I usually pair with a nice green salad, brussels sprouts, and a bottle of white wine. Perfecto!

The recipe:
Soak cedar plank in water for an hour
Marinade the salmon in soy sauce and spicy schezuan sauce for an hour
Heat the grill to 400 degrees
Put the fish on the cedar plank skin side down and put on the grill
Baste the fish with soy and schezuan sauce every few minutes
Cook about 20 minutes or until fish is slightly flaky (do not flip fish while cooking)
Take off heat and let sit 5 minutes
Cut and serve - melts in your mouth!

It's so easy and so delicious. Salmon is so good for you, too. It's loaded with Omega-3's and is one of the healthiest foods you can eat (along with spinach and blueberries), according to Steven Pratt, M.D., author of SuperFoodsRX. A great read, by the way.

I'd love to hear how you like this salmon recipe. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Changing School Lunches NOW!

I am so excited about the real possibility that school lunches may actually change for the better. Not in several years, like I thought it would take, but now!

On the upside - decisions are being made in Dallas ISD this week on next year's menus. What you can do: email (DISD menu planner) and let her know you want fresh foods served for lunches and less processed foods, no high fructose corn syrup, no trans fats, and no antibiotics and hormones in the meat and milk. Even if your child isn't in DISD, those kids deserve a healthy lunch and need your help.

More good news: they are adding freshly made sandwiches, a vegetarian option each day, and items like yogurt parfait and hummus and pita to the menu. A great start! 

On the downside - even with these changes, there will still be processed foods. Why? Because our school district is worried about the health and hygeine of cooking with real meat. Can you believe that? They would rather pump our kids full of chemicals than take a class on food safety. I was floored when I heard that.

A huge hurdle to improving school lunches is the government. To participate in the school lunch program, and get reimbursed for lunches served, schools have to take food commodities (free leftover food) and use them in the schools. Take a look at these numbers of government food subsidies from an article on

•Meat/Dairy -- 73.8 percent
•Grains -- 13.2 percent
•Sugar/Oil/Starch/Alcohol -- 10.7 percent
•Nuts/Legumes -- 1.9 percent
•Vegetables/Fruits -- 0.4 percent

"That’s right – just 1.9 percent for nuts and legumes and 0.4 percent for fruits and vegetables. As a result, a salad often costs you more than a Big Mac". See the full article here.

As long as schools get the leftover subsidies from the government, fresh and natural foods are out. Even worse, schools are on the bottom of the list of who gets all this meat - after restaurants, grocery stores, fast food, etc. The kids are getting the worst cuts and bits and leftovers that fast food chains won't serve. The rest is dog food. It's a pretty bleak scenario. It's why our kids are so unhealthy.

Me, I'm choosing to focus on the positive. I know this change will happen, and I'm doing everything I know to make it happen. I hope you'll join me. It's going to take parents everywhere making some noise before the districts will listen.

Let me hear from you if you want a change!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Organic on a Budget

Can organic and budget really go in the same sentance? Sure, with a little planning.

I always plan my week's menu in advance, right down to the snacks my kids and I make after school. One sure fire way to blow your budget is shopping without a plan! I have gotten pretty good at only getting what is on my list and I can usually tell how high the bill will be by how long the list is. In other words, the more simply we eat, the less we spend. I'd rather eat fresh, natural simple meals than elaborate unhealthy ones anyway.

During the planning, I try to think of meals that use similar ingredients to save money. For example, I use a rotisserie chicken for two meals (like chicken and veggies, pot pie, tortilla soup, chicken salad, etc..) Also, we love build your own taco night. It's so quick and easy, everyone loves it, and it only costs a couple of dollars per person. Then we usually have a fend-for-yourself night, (a.k.a. lazy mommy night).

Build Your Own Tacos:
1 tomato
1 avacado
1/2 red onion
1 can pinto beans
1 lb hamburger meat (optional)
grated cheese
chopped lettuce
flour tortillas
butter lettuce
chili powder, garlic powder, pepper

Dice vegetables
Heat beans
Brown hamburger meat, drain, add spices to taste
Build your own tacos!
****We use the butter lettuce to make 'taco wraps'
****Can also be made as fish tacos (shown) or simply vegetarian

With a few nights of simple, inexpensive meals, I can usually throw in a nicer meal (like grilled salmon) or a more elaborate one with more ingredients (like a lasagne). I also try to make enough to use for lunches the next day.

Making snacks instead of buying those expensive boxed, processed snacks can stretch your budget further, too. I've found that if the kids have a pretty heavy, filling snack after school, they aren't snacking throughout the afternoon. We'll make protein bars, peanut butter and banana, cheese sandwiches, or quesadillas.

Another way I love to save on produce is by going to the farmer's market. The produce is fresher and less expensive, and also it feels good supporting the local farmers. Check out the farmers market in your area. It's a great way to get back to nature and teach your kids where our food comes from.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

How Bad Processed Foods Really Are

I think there are two types of parents out there where nutrition is concerned. Those that know how bad processed and junk foods are for us and do something about it, and those that know processed and junk foods are bad for us, but don't know HOW bad. It's that second group that I am desperately trying to reach.

I really think that if parents really knew HOW bad these foods are (and what they are really doing to our kids), there would be a lot of changes being made in a lot of households.
Well, I can tell you HOW bad these foods are. And, I can tell you what to do to change it - even on a budget. In my book, Processsed Kids, The Real Mom's Guide to Raising Natural Kids in a Processed World, I begin by explaining the link between behavior issues in children and food additives. I would have never understood this if I hadn't seen it for myself with my own son. I am hoping you don't have to go through what I did to find this link.

I firmly believe that if we eliminated ALL food additives from our children's diets, MANY behavior problems, ADD and ADHD, learning issues, agressive behaviors, and (some) autisim symptoms would virtually disappear from the planet. It's not just me that believes this, either. Everything in my book is backed up by scientific evidence and research by well known and respected doctors.

I go on to discuss common myths about foods. Some foods we think are "healthy", such as dairy, soy, and beef, have a darker story. I also explain ingredients, what they mean, where they come from, and what they do to us. It's so important to learn the truth about our food:  where it comes from and what happens to it before it gets to our table.

I couldn't give you all these problems without offering solutions. The last half of the book is dedicated to simple solutions and ways to make the switch to natural foods easy even with the busiest family on the tightest budget. There are dozens of healthy recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less - that the kids will actually eat!

I urge you to find out the truth about your food! Our children's health and future depends on us, as parents, making some drastic changes in the way we feed them. They deserve to grow up healthy and without the thousands of chemicals that they are bombarded with every day.

You can purchase the book for $15.95 by clicking here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More Food Allergies??

I feel like I should have gone into detective work. Trying to figure out my oldest child's allergies several years ago was very 'Sherlock Holmes' of me. It was difficult to pinpoint because he is not allergic to any one food, but an ingredient in many foods.

High Fructose Corn Syrup has since become the bane of my existance and a blessing all at once. As difficult as that challenge has been (and continues to be as he gets older), it has forced me to get educated about what's in our food and, consequently, prompted our family to eat much healthier. We simply can't eat processed foods.

We can eat anything anyone else eats, however. Any food can be made without hfcs or other food additives. I just have to prepare it myself, or buy it's natural counterpart. You can find just about any kid's snack food in a natural version these days. I'm not sure if that's good news or bad....

Anyway, I thought we had it all figured out. Until this morning, that is. My little one got a stomach ache and broke out in a red rash all around his mouth right after breakfast. The weird thing is that everything he ate, he has had before many times. For crying out loud! I guess I better get my Sherlock Holmes hat and pipe back out.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Food as Art

We have returned from beautiful Costa Rica and our friend's wedding. What an amazing country and beautiful place to commit your life to someone you love. We visited volcanos, hot springs, and of course the beach.  It was such a great trip and I can't wait to go back.

In Costa Rica, food is like an art form. We had the most amazing local, fresh dishes that were so clever and beautiful. This is a picture of the wedding cake. Yes, it's a volcano. The volcano piece was pure sugar, but it was so pretty. It was definitely the most original wedding cake I've seen.

What a fun lunch for the kids! Imagine surprising them with this little guy staring back at them from their lunchbox.

I'm not even sure what this is, but it sure is pretty.

Food can, and should, be fun. We don't have to be stuck eating the same, boring meals week after week. Get creative and see what you can do at home.

What fun and interesting things have you created in the kitchen?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Stay Tuned

I want to say thank you to all that keep coming back to hear my rants. Please don't forget to check back soon, because I will be out of town for the next two weeks. I'll come back with lots of great stories about food and friends. See you then!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

School lunch reform

So, do you want the good news or the bad news?

I always like the good news first. The Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 passed the Senate Agriculture committee unanimously yesterday. It's a first step towards getting $4.5 billion in additional funds to child nutrition programs over the next 10 years. The goal is to end childhood hunger by 2015 by offering more children nutritious lunches and breakfasts in schools across the country. The program would provide an additional .06 cent reimbursment per child, increase the number of children that qualify for free or reduced cost lunch, and provide money for farm-to-school programs

The bad news? I'ts not enough. It's less than half of the $10 billion that President Obama asked for. It's just not good enough to feed more kids bad food. Let's put it into perspective: We spend $7 billion on the war each month and this bill calls for $4.5 billion over ten years. As Jamie Oliver said about budget constraints, "I don't think that's the kid's fault."

Don't get me wrong. I think it's fantastic that the government is working to do something about this important issue. It's a stepping stone, not a solution.

*If you are in Dallas, be sure to watch WFAA Channel 8 news on Friday at 5 for an appearance by yours truly!