Back to School with Hungry Harvest

Our kids aren’t old enough for full time school yet. Watson is starting preschool, so we’re feeling back to school season for the first time since childhood. He’s learning a lot at school (for today’s show and tell he had to bring something that begins with the letter C). We want them to learn about good eating habits just as they learn letters and numbers and more at school.

We’ve been really glad to start every weekend with a Hungry Harvest* delivery to go through with the kids. They’ve had such fun unloading the boxes with us and helping us put fruits and vegetables away, and they get the chance to learn what everything is and how we use it! The weekends are usually all about cooking and other food prep for the week, and we try to involve the kids as much as possible in that. The fact that Hungry Harvest gives us a good variety every week means the kids are always learning about new foods instead of just seeing the same old ones.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click it and use the code HERO5 you’ll get $5 off your first Harvest!

We’re also trying to get better at feeding them what we eat. We feel it complements their school learning to learn about new healthy foods. Vegetables help them grow, and they taste better than kids think! Watson frequently gets out of his chair to show us how he grew a little bit taller every time he eats a bite of broccoli.

We watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood where the focus was on trying new foods. Watson and Vivian have taken it to heart enough to try little bites most of the time. Freddy, on the other hand, eats anything we put near him.

With their excitement about food and learning, each of our kids has been a #hungryharvesthero. Back to school season is a good time for us to remember that we’re always teaching our kids. Hungry Harvest gives us a really good means to teach them how to eat delicious, healthy food.

Errands with Kids

We told a parent friend once about a time 2 out of 3 of our kids were screaming at the grocery store for various reasons, which meant we had to throw what we could in the cart and leave with only half our list. We thought we’d be met with sympathy or commiseration, since what parent hasn’t been there? But instead she said, “That’s why I don’t bring my kids to the store.”

That blew our minds! The idea of a peaceful journey to buy groceries without having to rip open a box of baby biscuits in desperation or promise whatever kind of chocolate frosted sugar bomb type cereal they want just to have 2 more minutes of price comparisons on toilet paper (for real, though, it’s basically impossible to effectively compare prices on toilet paper) sounds like bliss. For us, however, it isn’t the right solution.

We’ve found that by taking our kids with us to the store, to restaurants, and on any errand we may have, we teach them how to deal in public. The kids are able to cope with situations that might bore them because they’ve got some experience under their belts. They find ways to enjoy errands and are more aware of some of the drudgery of adult life. Our son says when he grows up he wants to mow the lawn and pay for groceries. They’re very realistic dreams!

These are little kids and they’re still learning. There will be miserable, horrible, temper-tantrum-in-public days. But that’s what wine is for, and the liquor store has lollipops.

This Week’s Hungry Harvest

This week brought a huge bounty of healthy fruits and vegetables. One of the heads of cauliflower is the biggest I’ve ever seen. And for good measure, two adorable kids (the other one was having some much needed quiet time in his room).

Right now we’re cooking up a fun vegan dessert with beets (you laugh now, but it’s going to be hot fire), and a couple of wild and crazy sweet potato ideas. Recipes will follow this week, unless something is a disaster in which case this all goes down the memory hole along with the war with Eastasia. Or was it Eurasia?

Confetti Pancakes – A Tale of Creation

I normally bristle at the idea of blog posts where you have to scroll for an hour to get to the recipe, so I’m going to put the recipe in a separate post, and hopefully you’ll indulge me a photo essay about the creation of these pancakes.

Over the weekend, Jocelyn and Watson embarked on a culinary adventure together. At first, Watson was nervous.


Vivian was fearless, though as merely an observer, the best she could do was to provide citrus to ward off scurvy.


After a little while, excitement set in.


Watson and his mommy marked the occasion with a selfie for posterity.

First they set to work making the “buttermilk.”


Then came the mixing of the dry ingredients.


A brief interlude for a vitamin C infusion.


Next came the mixture of the wet ingredients.


While Watson was mixing, Jocelyn got to relax for a few minutes.


Finally, the piece de resistance: the rainbow sprinkles that confer the name upon this confection.


In the meantime, Fred sits patiently, munching on some cereal.


The pancakes cooked quickly and colorfully.


Finally they were finished, and garnished with strawberries and chocolate!


Watson eschewed standard notions of cutlery as outdated.    
In the end, he and Vivi couldn’t have been more satisfied.    

This Week’s Hungry Harvest

As is now our tradition, we like to post a picture of at least one of our crazy kids with our latest Hungry Harvest delivery. This week we got a whole bunch of corn, carrots, lettuce, peppers, broccoli, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes, grapes, squash, cabbage, an onion, plums, and a bag of passion fruit. The kids love helping us lay everything out, and they love helping us put it away in the fridge afterwards.

We also have an outtake that was too cute not to share. The produce didn’t turn out well in this photo, but the kids were just having the time of their lives.

Vegan Shepherds’ Pie with Cheesy Potatoes

We’re not shepherds, but we have always been fans of their pie. Both of us grew up liking it quite a bit, but we hadn’t figured out a good healthy vegan version until now.

The kids tried it last night, if by tried it you mean didn’t try it almost at all. Watson took his requisite two bites and Vivi just made a huge mess. Sometimes it’s harder than other times to remember how rewarding parenting is. But we ate it happily with a light salad, and it was healthy and absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp olive oil 

1 medium onion, diced

2 large carrots, sliced

1 pkg mushrooms, sliced (a good meaty mushroom is best but use what you’ve got)

1 pkg soy crumbles

1 6 oz container tomato paste (we used more because I always forget about half used tomato paste cans in the fridge)

2 1/2 cups veggie stock

1/2 bottle dark beer

3-4 medium potatoes

1/2 cup nut cheese (we used kite hill almond milk ricotta)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions and carrots until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and soy crumbles and sauté for another 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, 2 cups of the vegetable stock, and beer. Let this mixture cook until thick and saucy.

In the meantime, boil the potatoes until they’re soft and mashable. Drain and transfer into a bowl and mash them. Mix in the nut cheese and the remaining 1/2 cup vegetable stock.

Put the mushroom mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish, and spread the potatoes on top. Bake for 30 minutes or so. The potatoes on top should be starting to brown. Enjoy!

Losing Weight While Having Kids

We’ve heard a lot from parents who have packed on some extra pounds after having kids. We were both determined not to fall into that trap, and not to let having kids be an excuse to not be healthy. And you know what? It’s worked! Let me go through a few of the things we’ve done to manage our much busier lives in a smarter, healthier way. Note: This certainly is not to say that losing weight is the only, or even the primary component to being healthy. It’s one of the things we needed to do for ourselves, but please consult your doctor before attempting any kind of methodical weight loss program.

One of the tools we use is the Fitbit Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale. It automatically syncs weight and body fat percentage to the Fitbit app, so we can have a real-time record of our progress. Some people definitely don’t do well with daily weigh-ins, since weight can fluctuate in the short term, and those fluctuations can get discouraging. For both of us, though, there’s something very rewarding in looking at a graph charting our weight over the course of 3+ years and seeing a fairly steady decline (pregnancies excepted, of course, for both mom and dad). More than just keeping track of our weight, looking critically at this data helps us see patterns we might otherwise not be aware of. Does our weight tend to go up around a certain time of the week? A certain time of the year? What can we do to combat that?

Above is Tim’s weight for the last 4 years or so, with the birth of each child noted. It’s easy to see the weight gain during each pregnancy as well as the weight loss after each birth.

So how did we do it? We lost some weight after each child was born, but as you can see above, we really kicked into high gear over the last 8 months. The answer is 90% healthy diet, 10% exercise. When we say healthy diet, we mean four things:

1 Portion control
2 No added sugar
3 No dairy, with small exceptions
4 Tons of vegetables

Let’s take these one at a time. First, portion control. One way to eat healthy is just to eat less, as long as you’re still getting what your body needs, but it’s way easier than anybody realizes to just eat a whole lot of food in a sitting. We’ve been combating this by planning meals pretty rigorously, and by not keeping snacks around, especially at work. If you know you’re a person who can’t have a big barrel of hard pretzels from Target sitting on your desk without eating the whole thing in an embarrassingly short time, then maybe just don’t get the big barrel of hard pretzels from Target in the first place, to use a totally random example that’s not at all derived from real life.

Second, no added sugar. We’re not religious about this particular rule, but as a healthy guiding principle it’s served us well. A lot of stuff is really delicious without making it sweeter than it needs to be. One side effect of lowering the amount of sugar we put in stuff is that we tend to want less sugar in stuff. The habit of not eating so much sugar is affecting our tastes so that we don’t actually want as much sugar. There’s a part of us that’s a little sad that a donut doesn’t taste as good as it used to, but on the other hand, if that means we eat fewer donuts, then it’s a win.

Third, little to no dairy. When Vivi was little we thought she had a lactose intolerance, so we cut dairy out of our diets (it was easier to just not have it in the house at all, rather than just have one or two of us cut it out). We learned to take our coffee black. Once we found out that Vivi didn’t have lactose intolerance, we had gotten used to a scaled down reliance on dairy, and it’s helped us like crazy. There was a whole lot of less healthy fat we were getting through cream, butter, milk, and cheese, and which we generally don’t miss. We’ll still allow ourselves some indulgences now and then, like a small latte or some feta crumbles on a salad, but this is another one which, once we cut it out, we’ve been shocked by how little we’ve missed it. We eat mostly vegan now, and no longer relying on dairy has really opened us up to a lot of different techniques and ingredients that we never would have considered before.

Fourth, tons of vegetables. This one mostly speaks for itself, but I want to emphasize one thing: even if you think you don’t like some vegetables, give them another try. Cook them a different way. See if you can figure out a way to love them. We used to loathe broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts, until we discovered the heathy, life-changing magic of roasting. Now when one of those comes in our Hungry Harvest, we practically jump for joy. We could eat crispy brussels sprouts and cauliflower tacos all damn day.

There are a couple of other little things we do around the edges. We’re vegetarian, which we feel helps us, but isn’t necessarily for everybody. We still have eggs and fish occasionally, but by and large our diet is plant-based and mostly vegan. We try generally to stay away from gluten, not because there’s anything wrong with gluten for us, but because foods with gluten tend to be more calorie dense, so it’s a bit easier for us to have a blanket rule.

Is there anything you’ve done to successfully lose weight since having kids? Let us know!

The Stories We Tell

This article from Eater is a really illuminating look at the ways that food culture tends to erase the credit and long history of the foods we eat and prize. We don’t want to summarize it too much, because we’d rather you go and read it. But it’s important to know that the shameful treatment of minorities in this country continues in ways both big and small, and we need to be mindful of how the stories we tell can erase their true authors.

This is a really important thing to keep in mind in parenting, both in how we talk to our kids about the world, and in how we talk to our kids about themselves and their accomplishments. Nobody gets by purely on their own initiative, and we can gain a deeper, richer understanding of the world by having a real understanding of the shoulders we had to stand on to get where we are.

Proper attribution doesn’t diminish what good we’ve put into the world. It honors others for helping make us able to do that good work. We needn’t fashion ourselves and our kids as solitary geniuses for our lives and our work to have value. Understanding our place in our society is as important as anything to raising compassionate, caring, kind children.

A Favorite Book

The news can be very scary even for us as adults, and we know that our kids hear some scary things on the radio or overhear us talking. We want to make sure that they understand what they hear and aren’t scared but can learn from what’s happening. We want to protect them, but we don’t want to shelter them.

What happened in Charlottesville over the weekend was terrible, and quite honestly terrifying for a number of reasons. The continuing existence and ascendance of white supremacy is a stain on our country, and one we can only attempt to wash away with love and acceptance and inclusion. It’s important for us to instill in our kids a sense of kindness and justice. As parents we worry about the world they’re growing up in, and we can’t help make it better by hiding it from them and them from it.

It can be hard to explain these concepts to adults, let alone to sweet little children who have never known anything but love. We’ve been reading a book recently to the kids Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester and Karen Barbour. We like that it talks about race in a way our children can understand. It addresses not only the meanness of racism, but how little it makes sense. Even Watson hears us explaining that some people think they’re better than other people because of the color of their skin and just shakes his head.

There’s only so much we can do, and someday our kids are going to go out in the world and make their own choices. Teaching them the value of other people of every race, religion, gender, and nationality is important to us because we hope to see them carry kindness, love, compassion, and justice with them out into the world.

Race

Cookie Jamboree – Vegan, Gluten Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Over the weekend we decided to do some testing with three different vegan, gluten free peanut butter chocolate chip cookie recipes, and we let Watson help. The first was more coconut based, the third was fit-based, and the second is below. It’s hard to argue that chocolate chip cookies are healthy, per se, but these ones are certainly more healthy than standard recipes!

When everything had baked and cooled, and the kids had had ample opportunity to taste plenty of cookie dough (parenting win!), we had a completely unscientific taste test and determined which of the three was the best, and we bring it to you now!

Ingredients:

1/2 c maple syrup
1/2 c peanut butter
1/4 c applesauce
1/4 c coconut oil
1 tbls flaxseed plus 3 tbls water
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 c almond meal
1 c spelt flour
1 c gluten free mini pretzels chopped up pretty fine (We used a food processor)
As many chocolate chips as feels right

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. First combine the flaxseed and water in a small bowl and let them gel. In a medium bowl, mix the maple syrup, peanut butter, applesauce, coconut oil, and vanilla. In another medium bowl, combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, almond meal, spelt flour, and pretzels. Finally, combine the wet and dry ingredients with the flaxseeds and chocolate chips in a large bowl and stir until incorporated.

Put tablespoon size balls on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack until ready to put in a jar or serve to hungry kids eager to taste test.