Our Parenting Philosophy

Before we even get going, I want to say this: our parenting philosophy is ours, and we don’t want to claim, explicitly or otherwise, that we’re doing it right and others are doing it wrong, or that doing things differently from how we do them is somehow less right. In fact, that’s a pretty good summation of one of the main points we try to keep in mind:

  • We’re all doing the best we know how to do.

It’s easier than it should be to get down on ourselves about snapping at the kids when they’re being tough and we’re having a rough day, but that happens to everybody, and dwelling on it doesn’t help anybody. Parenting is tough, and while we shouldn’t let that control our actions, we shouldn’t forget it either.

  • Kids changed our life, but we need to teach them how to be part of our lives, not just be subsumed into theirs.

Between visits to children’s museums, birthday parties, diaper changing, story times, etc., parenting can make it can seem like our lives barely exist anymore. But we do have lives, and wants, and desires, and it’s not wrong to want to exercise those. It’s not easy to do, but it’s important to assert our right to our own time and our own preferences. Too often we hear parents complaining about TV shows their kids like, but that they’re forced to endure. It’s struck us that we can make those decisions, and let the kids join us in what we like, as much as we let them develop their own tastes and try to share their enjoyment. Letting parenting get in the way of doing anything we enjoy seems like a recipe for resentment down the road.

  • It’s important to be kind.

Underlying everything, we try to stress at every turn that it’s important to be kind. Think about how other people feel, how you’d feel if they’d done to you what you did to them, etc. We live in a world where it’s not always easy to have empathy, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

  • Take our own advice.

Our kids are just doing the best they know how to do, and still trying to figure everything out. They also need to be allowed space to live their own lives, and to have us be open to being invited into those lives and interests. As parents we need to be kind and empathetic to them, and understand how they might be feeling, and meet them where they are, rather than where we’d like them to be.

Whatever We Have Around Salad with Making It Up As I Go Dressing

The intersection of healthy eating and parenting tends to get congested quite a lot. Sometimes you look in the fridge on Sunday as the kids are screaming and fighting with each other and defiantly refusing to nap, and you realize that you don’t have enough lunches prepped for the week. At times like those, it’s necessary to think fast and think minimal. Thankfully, jarred salads are both.

This week we roasted some vegetables, whipped up some rough peanut dressing, and topped it with some roughly shredded kale. The time spent working in the kitchen added up to only about 10 minutes, and it padded out our lunch count by two full days. Mission accomplished.

Ingredients:

Green beans, trimmed
Carrots, peeled and sliced
Mushrooms, chopped into small chunks

4 Tbsp creamy natural peanut butter
2 Tbsp sesame oil
2.5 Tbsp tamari (or soy sauce)
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
Garlic powder to taste

Kale, chopped roughly

Directions:

First, I didn’t put amounts for the vegetables or greens because this is based around whatever you’ve got around. If you’ve got zucchini and no green beans, you’re golden. Broccoli instead of mushrooms? Sure. Whatever fills a jar and is tasty and healthy. Same with the greens. If you don’t have or don’t like kale, throw some lettuce in there. Or some arugula. Or some spring mix.

Ok, so now we get down to brass tacks. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Put those veggies on a baking sheet with a small spritz of the oil of your choice, and let them roast for half an hour or so. Meanwhile, turn to the dressing. I’ll outline my process below, but you can probably figure out a more streamlined process if you read between the lines.

Put 3 Tbsp of the peanut butter, the sesame oil, the tamari, and 3 Tbsp of the rice vinegar in a bowl. Whisk together until fully incorporated. Taste, and discover that its way too salty. Add the fourth Tbsp of peanut butter, but worry that the dressing would be too thick without something else. Add the fourth Tbsp of rice vinegar. Taste, decide it’ll work, and then add in some garlic powder because you’re feeling saucy.

Finally, divide the dressing among 4 pint jars. Divide the roasted vegetables among the jars. Then top each jar with shredded kale. Refrigerate, breathe a sigh of relief, and eat a few days from now.

Mango Habañero Cauliflower Wings

In recent years we’ve come to appreciate cauliflower.

Wait, no. That’s not strong enough.

We love cauliflower now. At least as long as it’s roasted. So when our Hungry Harvest list came in this week saying we were due one head of cauliflower, you’d better believe we doubled that order post haste.

Parenting often takes a lot out of us, so with the first head, we decided to make a nice, fun, healthy vegan snack of roasted cauliflower “wings” that wound up being our whole dinner. It felt like a treat, but it was still super healthy. We loved them, and we hope you do too.

Ingredients:

4 habañero peppers
2 large mangoes
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
Salt to taste
1 head of cauliflower
2 Tbsp coconut oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400° F. Blend the heck out of the habañeros, mangoes, lime juice and zest, vinegar, and salt, until you have a super spicy, but still sweet, hot sauce. Chop the cauliflower up into bite-sized florets. Toss the cauliflower with the coconut oil and about 3/4 of the hot sauce, place on a lined baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cauliflower starts to brown around the edges.

Put the cauliflower on a plate and top with the remaining hot sauce. Serve with the dip of your choice (we used Cashew Sour Cream from Oh She Glows).

This serves 4-6 as an appetizer, or two parents for dinner when they’ve had a long day of super whiny kids and just don’t care.

Spanish Tortilla with Sunflower Romesco

We like to have nice healthy vegan breakfasts, but our morning schedule usually precludes the possibility during the week. We get up at 4:45 am, get everyone’s bags packed for the day, get the kids dressed and fed, and all of us are out the door by 6:10. It’s a flurry of activity that doesn’t leave any space for a leisurely sit-down breakfast, so we have to either eat on the go or wait until we get to work.

The weekends, then, become breakfast prep time. We often make vegan muffins or scones or things like banana bread, but sometimes we want to mix it up with something healthy and savory. This week that turned out to be a vegan Spanish Tortilla with Romesco Sauce from The First Mess, though you could choose to top it with avocado, hummus, hot sauce, or whatever floats your boat. Each serving is under 200 calories, so adding a few more with a tasty sauce or spread won’t hurt.

Sorry the picture’s not the greatest, the light in my work kitchen isn’t the best. But trust me, this was super healthy and delicious.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil of your choice
1/2 medium onion, diced (or a whole one, if you really like onion)
2 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 cup chickpea flour
1 Tsp tamari (or soy sauce)
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 cup water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Heat the olive oil on medium and, when hot, put in the onion and potato and cook well, about 20 minutes. In the meantime, in a medium bowl mix the chickpea flour, tamari, nutritional yeast, and water and let sit while the potatoes and onion cook.

After the vegetables are cooked, fold them into the flour mixture. When combined, pour everything into an oven safe pan and bake until everything is set and the top is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Makes 6 servings, each curiously satisfying when heated in a work microwave and eaten alone in a cubicle.

Feeding Three Impatient Kids

We have three kids, so parenting can sometimes be something of a challenge. Watson, our oldest, is three and a half. Vivian is two. Little Freddy is almost eight months old. They’ve all got different tastes and abilities when it comes to food, but we’ve been trying hard to expand all of their healthy horizons.

Tonight was breakfast for dinner, which is our go-to Wednesday dinner. I made scrambled eggs, vegan sausage, and heated some leftover waffles from the weekend. It’s not the most glamorous meal, but it’s healthy, and cooking anything on the stove while parenting three kids is pretty challenging, so I wasn’t shooting for glamour.

As was the case last week, Watson ate his eggs and little else.

Vivian ate half her waffle and little else.

Freddy, our powerhouse, ate a whole jar of organic apple cinnamon oatmeal, but he eyed up his brother and sister’s food jealously, and we think we can probably start him on eggs next week.

Over dinner I talk to the kids about what they did at school (today Watson and Vivi played soccer and learned about teamwork). Sometimes we listen to music (they’ve been very into the Bob’s Burgers music album lately). If they eat well, which tonight they didn’t, then they get to pick out a piece of candy from their Halloween buckets, which at this rate just might be empty by this Halloween.

We recently committed to feeding the kids mostly the healthy vegan food that we eat for dinner after taking a good, honest look at our alarming chicken nugget budget. They don’t always eat well, but they’re starting to understand that what we give them is what they get, and at least Watson usually tries a little bit of everything, though he always tries to negotiate the bite size I’ll be happy with (small becomes tiny, tiny becomes tiny tiny, etc.).

It’s not always easy to get all of the kids into position with healthy food on the table without some minor or major meltdowns, but it has been rewarding to know that we’re making the effort to give them good, healthy food and build up strong eating habits.

Next challenge: getting them to clean up after themselves.

Middle Eastern Mason Jar Salad

The combination of parenting and jobs recently prompted us to get our heads into the extreme food prep game. Mornings run so much more smoothly when we’ve just got to grab lunch and go, especially with all of the time necessary to feed and clothe three often grumpy kids. We’ve gotten pretty good at having healthy vegan lunches and dinners for the week mostly prepped over the weekend.

One of our mainstays is the mason jar salad. It’s healthy and vegan and delicious and, when layered correctly, super easy and fresh. This particular one is inspired by Middle Eastern flavors, but you can easily improvise and put your own spin on one of these bad boys.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup tahini
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 Tsp cumin
1/2 Tsp garlic powder
1/2 Tsp salt
3-4 Tbsp water, more if needed

1 can chickpeas
1 Tsp Ras-al-Hanout*
1 large cucumber, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 bunch of greens

*If you don’t have Ras-al-Hanout, substitute 1/4 Tsp each of paprika, cumin, coriander, and cinnamon

Directions:

First, the dressing. If you’ve never made lemon tahini dressing before, get ready, because it’s magical. Put the tahini into a medium bowl, add the lemon juice, and start stirring. It’s going to get weird and clumpy, but don’t worry. Keep stirring. At some point soon, all of a sudden, it will get smooth and thick and several shades lighter than it started. Magic! At that point, mix in the cumin, garlic powder, and salt. Add a little bit of water at a time and keep mixing until you reach your desired consistency. We like it thin, but not too thin.

In another bowl, toss the chickpeas with the Ras-al-Hanout until they’re well mixed and set aside.

Take 4 clean empty pint jars and first divide the lemon tahini dressing among them. Next, divide the diced cucumbers and tomatoes, followed by the chickpeas, and finally the greens. The order is very important, so that the dressing doesn’t cause the greens to get soggy.

When you want to eat, just upend the whole thing into a bowl, maybe using a spoon to get all the remnants of dressing out on top of your salad, and eat. These generally keep in the fridge for a week or so.

Gluten-Free Low Sugar Summertime Peach Crumble

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Big brother helping feed little sister.

About a week ago we decided to take the kids peach picking. It was a gorgeous day and they were in uncommonly good spirits. We saddled up and got to our local orchard, grabbed a box, and started picking. The kids, to our surprise, loved the peaches, both to pick and to eat.

Unfortunately for us, we wound up a few days later with a box full of rapidly softening peaches, some of which started to go profoundly bad. We needed a way to get as much use out of the peaches we had left as we could. We’ve been pretty good about eating healthy lately, so a vegan, gluten free dessert treat felt right up our alley. With peaches as sweet as ours, this feels like an extravagance even though everything in it is healthy!

Ingredients:

5 peaches
1 Tbsp cornstarch
2/3 cup almond meal
2/3 cup spelt flour
1 Tsp almond extract
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Slice the peaches into pieces as big or small as you want, and peel them or don’t according to your preference. We peeled about half of ours and then got lazy with the rest. Toss the sliced peaches in a baking dish with the cornstarch. You can add some sugar or maple syrup to taste, but our peaches were sweet enough that we didn’t need it.

In a medium bowl, stir together the almond meal, spelt flour, almond extract, olive oil, and maple syrup, until it is well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle this mixture over the peaches in the baking dish. Bake the whole thing for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the peaches are bubbling, or until the smell drives you crazy and you can’t stand it anymore and just need some peach crumble in your face.