Monthly Archives: May 2013

My Kids Eat Chicken Nuggets, Pizza & Hot Dogs

ImageAlarmed by the title? Don’t be. There is a reason I did not name this blog “2 perfect children with 2 perfect parents.” We are all about balance and making better choices in the Cook household these days. Life is difficult enough without food stress.

 Matthew learned to read food labels when he was in pre-K. It was around that time that I started to really take a hard look at what was in our food.  Enough already with the calories and fat…what’s actually in there? My primary focus at that time was sugar…Holy Toledo! Have you turned over the wrappers of our kids’ favorite go-to snacks? That was a huge education for me. Sugar is everywhere and often disguised under multiple names within the same list. Tricky!! Little by little we started scaling it back. Then I read “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan, and high-fructose corn syrup left our pantry shelves forever. You have to look, but it is totally possible to find ketchup and barbecue sauces that are sweetened with sugar (remember we are going for “better” here, or honey and molasses) at any major grocery store.

 Over the next few years I continued to educate myself about what’s in our food, and limited certain ingredients that are believed to be harmful. What’s the easiest way to pick the healthiest choice? It usually comes with the shortest ingredient label. Apples and bananas are easy. Compare Triscuit crackers to Club and you will really see the difference. BHT, MSG, nitrites/nitrates and hydrogenated oils I avoid whenever possible. I am still serving meat to the boys a couple times a week – but I have gone to mostly vegetarian fed/organic selections. I choose organic produce when our budget allows, but at this point it’s honestly not all that realistic.

 “But chicken nuggets?”  I found a brand with whole grain bread crumbs and ingredients I can live with. I serve them a couple times a month. “And pizza?” Yep – we all love it. Thin or whole wheat crust, cheese for the boys (a few veggies for Henry) and veggie-packed, no cheese for mom and dad. “And hot dogs?’ Every once in a while we grill Hebrew Nationals (yes, with nitrates) for them, and I’m looking into other brands. Balance. Better choices.

 I often feel like I am walking a tightrope. I want my boys to be healthy and make good choices, but I also want them to be kids. If Matthew and Henry had never had chicken nuggets, pizza or hot dogs they wouldn’t care about them. But they have, and they did not drive to the store and buy them with their own money, right? So…we talk about healthy choices…a lot. We talk about them at dinner, at the grocery store, and in the restaurant booth. We negotiate: “you can toss a marble in the Good Job Jar for every carrot eaten” or “yes, you can order the french toast, but please ask for it without whipped cream and butter.”

 Will our family ever zip through a drive-thru again? Probably. Will my kids make good choices every time they are out of my sight? Nope. Will they have hot dogs, cheese puffs and marshmallows at a cookout this summer? Most likely. But we have them thinking. We are exposing them to a variety of tastes and textures and helping them explore what they like. Steve and I are eating a wide variety of foods, and offering up bites at every meal. Fear is not the goal. I love food. I want them to love food. But I also want them to love themselves…and learn that being active and eating well (most of the time) are the two best things they can do to ensure they live long, healthy lives.


Henry’s Homemade Energy Bars

Henry and I had big plans for this past Monday…we were going to hit the local greenhouses and get our hands dirty! Since Mother Nature gave us Memorial Day weather that was a bit more Thanksgiving-ish, we postponed. Henry likes to make a big mess in the kitchen as much as I do, so we gathered up some ingredients to make our own energy bars instead.

On a recent trip to Whole Foods Market, I came upon the multigrain energy bars that they make in-house and fell in love. Unfortunately, the closest Whole Foods is a 45 minute drive and the bars are a bit pricey. Our creation is an adaptation of the ingredient wrapper from my last beloved bar…and a recipe I found on I think we did pretty good! Our version is shared below…try it out and let us know what you think.

There are a million ways this recipe could be changed up – sunflower seeds, dark chocolate chips, dried blueberries, pecans, unsweetened coconut, maple syrup, almond butter…imagine the possibilities! This also happens to be a perfect recipe for cooking with kids. Henry was able to measure out most of the ingredients and do the mixing. There was a lot of “sampling” going on as well…a great way for him to experience different tastes and textures.

Henry’s Homemade Energy Bars
Makes 12 bars

1/4 cup raw slivered almonds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill 5-grain hot cereal
1/2 cup honey
1/3 tsp kosher salt
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 Tbs Molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Toast oats, sesame seeds & almonds under a broiler until light golden brown. Cool.
2. Combine cherries, raisins & apricots in food processor. Pulse to mince (stop before it becomes a paste).
3. Add minced fruit and toasted oats, sesame seeds & almonds to a large mixing bowl. Combine. (We had to use our hands!)
4. Boil 1/2 cup water and add the 5-grain cereal. Stir and remove from heat. Allow to rest 2 minutes. Add peanut butter, molasses, honey, salt & vanilla. Cook on low, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Mixture will “glisten” and start to roll off sides as you stir.
5. Add warm peanut butter mixture to the oats and fruit. Mix well.
6. Press mixture firmly into an 8X8 pan-put some muscle behind it! A flat metal spatula was helpful.
7. Allow to rest at room temperature for several hours. (Next time I might even try the fridge.)
8. Cut into 12 bars. (You could also cut them into 24 snack-sized bars.) We wrapped ours tightly in plastic wrap and put half in the freezer (for later) and stored the other half in the fridge until we were ready to eat. Can also be stored at room temperature, they will just be a little softer.


Nutrition (with help from Calories: 305, Carbs: 36, Fat: 14, Protein: 8, Sodium: 113, Sugar: 19

Happy, happy, happy!!

imageI woke up early this morning and noticed a post on Steve’s Facebook wall from a good friend. It read something like…”Happy Birthday Steve! Glad you are here to celebrate it!” WOW. So true. So glad. So thankful.

In church about a month ago the pastor asked us to raise our hands if we truly believed we had witnessed a miracle. Without hesitation both our hands went up. Thankful.

So tonight…we celebrated!! We celebrated Steve’s LIFE and many birthdays to come! We celebrated second chances, and committing ourselves to never forgetting how we feel right now. Life is good. God is good. We are okay.

Steve and I have chosen to remove meat and dairy from our diets for a while (a topic for another day!) and have scaled them back for the boys as well. This left me in a bit of a “birthday treat” quandry! A friend reached out and shared an out-of-this-world vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe, and I even found ice cream made with coconut milk! We celebrated with cookie sundaes. We raised our spoons, and laughed, and smiled and gave thanks that all four chairs at our table were filled.

I hope everyone has a safe, happy Memorial Day weekend.

Hug your families…bake them some cookies!




Hello and welcome to my first blog post! Please check out the links above to learn more about my family and why I decided to journal our experiences. This is a lesson in accountability for me. Good health cannot be a “passing trend” for me, my husband and my boys – it needs to be a way of life. I would love your feedback…what should we talk about here? Do you struggle with finding balance when trying to make healthy choices for yourself or your family??

More coming soon!