Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Summer Reading

We posted this last summer, but as kids get out of school and structure falls away, we thought it would be a great time to remember to keep kids reading! The hardest part is how. Here we have a few suggestions, and an updated link from teachers across the US listing summer reading programs for your kids to help them stay motivated, keep track of their progress, and best of all, earn prizes for reading! From We Are Teachers.

Here at Peas of Mind we believe that health is much more then what you eat. Yes, part of a healthy life style is eating veggies and a well balanced meal, but to us, being healthy is also about laughter, playing, exercise and joy.  We not only believe an apple a day keeps the doctor away, we also believe a book a day does too!

Our favorite book here at Peas of Mind
So this week we're changing gears a little bit and focusing on the importance of reading, especially this time of year when school is out of session and silent reading is no longer enforced.

First things first, if you don't have one already, get a library card. Summer is a great time to introduce your children to the library and the freedom that comes with browsing the aisles for a new (used) book.  Make a weekly date out of it: a late breakfast at your favorite cafe, then a few hours at the library followed by a play date at the park so your little ones can share and read their new books. Also, libraries usually have free, kid friendly activities scheduled during the summer; contact your local library and find out what fun activities you can add to your library date day!

For those long car trips, always have a box of "car only books." This way they'll get to immerse themselves in new books they've never seen or read. The box of "car only books" will become one of their favorite things about being in the car.

Find time to read. That means you Mom! Set a good example and enjoy some quality family time together reading instead of watching a movie or TV.  This is a great way to spend time together as well as secretly set a good example. During this time ask questions about what's going on in the book, what characters do they like and how do they think it will end.  This will not only encourage them to process what they're reading but it also shows them that you're interested and that reading is important to you.

Let this summer be the summer your little ones learn to LOVE to read. Besides feeding them their Veggie Wedgies, it's the greatest gift a parent can give.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

DIY Fruit Snacks (with hidden veggies, naturally)

Veggie Gummies!

Getting our little ones to eat fewer sugary snacks and more veggies is always a challenge, and convenience is the easiest way to get off track on nutrition. This month we reinvented a summertime favorite: the gummy fruit snacks!

Our fruit snacks are made from vegetable juice with no added sugar and no weird preservatives. Best of all, they are SO EASY! We promise! With pre-made juice, you simply pour, heat, stir, and let it set. That’s it!

Just choose a combination of fruits and veggies that sounds good to you (i.e. blueberry + beet, carrot + mango, kiwi + kale). You’ll only need the juice for these, so either juice your fruits and veggies at home or to save a step you can purchase 100% fresh juice at the store.

¾ cup fresh carrot juice
¾ cup fresh mango juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp honey
1 packet stevia (2 grams)
4.5 tbsp powdered gelatin
The strange wet sand look of blooming gelatin! 

Measure juices into a small saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin powder on top. Let it sit for a few minutes to allow the gelatin to bloom. The juice will start to look strange and almost sandy and wrinkly. That’s fine! Now turn the heat onto medium and whisk while warming it (you want it to get hot but not to boil) until the mixture returns to liquid form. Once it’s the consistency of juice again, add the stevia and honey, keep whisking until it’s hot again. Now pour it into a container (decorative molds are fun! Or just use a 5”x8” brownie pan.) We lined ours with plastic wrap to make it even easier to remove from the container. Once you’ve poured it, toss in the fridge for a few hours to set, or the freezer if you’re in a rush! Takes about 30min in the freezer to set. Then unmold and cut into diamond shapes. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Guided by your Gut!

Sometimes parenting can feel a lot like permanent jet lag. Kids are up at all hours, for hours and hours, and if you’ve got more than one, or they’re sick, it can wreak havoc on your routine.

Photo by Alan Cleaver

We all know disruptions to your sleep can also have serious health consequences, like weight gain, aging more rapidly, diabetes, and heart disease. This is because of your circadian rhythms, which influence nearly every process in your body, but especially sleep and digestion. These two are closely linked, and they are unfortunately the first to be thrown out of whack when our schedule is altered.

Luckily, there are a few ways we can fight it! The main way to fight jet-lag-like changes in our schedule is by eating our meals at consistent times. This means not eating within 3 hours of going to bed, and not skipping breakfast or eating breakfast at 3am because your kids woke you up. Keeping your mealtimes regular will help keep your sleep schedule regular and will help keep you healthy as your gut clock (digestion) influences your body clock. Your body clock in turn tells your hormones, blood pressure, temperature, and hunger to sync up. All of these systems work together to signal your body to be awake and alert when you're up, and help you sleep when it's time to rest. 

And if you are suddenly on an opposite schedule (working the night shift, up late repeatedly with the kids, or traveling), here is a link to the meal plan that the Navy Seals, CIA, and Army use, as well as a more modified modern version from Harvard and Beth Isreal Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Both involve mild fasting to help reset your gut-clock to coincide with your sleep-clock.

So remember, even if your schedule is out of whack, sticking to regular mealtimes will help use your gut clock to your advantage, recalibrate, and remain your healthiest! 

Further reading on digestion and circadian rhythms here, here, and here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Check us out on Pinterest!

If you love our recipes and tips, check out our Pinterest boards for more inspiration and a monthly book club for kids!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How we stopped eating off the kids' plates!

When you’re running after the kids, whose list of approved foods seems to change hourly, it’s very easy to end up eating off of the kid plate.

We know, you don’t relish it. It’s often more of a sigh and mindless grazing paired with a well-intentioned desire not to waste food. 

It can be hard to resist! That mac and cheese is pretty tasty! The problem is often that all those little bites of slobbery mashed up nuggets or slices of pizza with only one bite taken out of it add up to a lot of unintentional food (and calories!) instead of real meals.

Parents need healthy and nutritious meals in order keep up with kids, so making full meals a priority is important.

It seems like catch-22, so we decided to try out the two-bin option. We keep an empty food storage container in the fridge, and when the kids have food on their plate, and we are moving on to the next activity, we decide – compost or fridge. The older kids have to put their own uneaten food in compost or fridge as well, which helps them see what they’re wasting and teaches them to perhaps choose smaller portions next time. Half-eaten string cheese? Fridge. Couple of chicken sausage pieces? Fridge. Bread crusts? Compost.

This helps us avoid mindless eating as parents, and our rule for leftover kid food is “put it a veggie on it.” That’s it, pull out the container at the end of the day and you can turn that kid food into adult versions. The cheese stick goes into a grilled cheese with kale pesto on thick crusty bread. We have a big salad for dinner with some leftover nuggets and Caesar dressing, or eat the rest of the mac and cheese atop a big plate of roasted broccoli and mushrooms with some real Parmesan. Now we don’t feel guilty about throwing food away, and we can ensure that as grownups we are eating balanced meals. 

The compost either get’s picked up by your garbage man or you put it into soil in your garden!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Secret Veggie Cheese Crackers!

Homemade Cheddar Crackers!

When you’re on the go and trying to keep kids fed and occupied while running errands, waiting in line, or in a high chair, one of the go-to’s for moms everywhere are cheesey crackers. They might be shaped like fish, rabbits, or little squares, and boy do they do the trick! Downside is they aren’t cheap, and they often have loads of sodium, oil, preservatives, and dyes.

Well we decided to create our own and in classic Peas of Mind fashion, we added veggies! Just a little pumpkin puree we had on hand (though you could use carrot or sweet potato) gives the crackers an extra boost of vitamins that we can feel good about.

We created an easy, quick, cheddar cracker recipe with just a few whole ingredients. Instead of oil we used real butter; we shredded some sharp cheddar cheese and we used whole-wheat flour. The dough freezes beautifully, or you can cut them into your desired shapes and freeze them on a baking sheet. Once the little shapes are frozen, simple bag them up and they’re all ready to bake whenever you want them!

Equipment : Food processor, oven at 350o F

Ingredients :
2.5 cups whole-wheat flour
1 cup pumpkin puree
8 oz grated cheddar cheese
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp salt

Add all ingredients to the food processor and pulse until it forms a dough. Chill the dough in a plastic wrapped disc for 1 hour. Roll out the dough as thin as possible (less than 1/8th inch thick) between two lightly floured pieces of parchment. Take the top parchment off and leave the bottom parchment in place. Cut the dough into a grid using the tip of a pairing knife (to look like the classic cheese-it). Place the piece of parchment with your cut shapes on a sheet tray and put into the freezer for 5-7 minutes (this makes the crackers a breeze to simply flip over onto a fresh sheet of parchment). Line a sheet pan with parchment and flip dough onto the tray. Bake at 350o F degrees for 10 minutes, then watch closely as they go from perfect to…well done and remove from the oven when slightly browned. Let cool to crisp up! Keep in the fridge for up to 7 days.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Zest Is Up to You!

Zest first!

Well, we really should have mentioned this at the beginning of citrus season, in early winter, but we didn’t even think of it. Before you peel that orange, lemon, or lime, take an extra moment and zest it!

By zesting and freezing the zest, you’ll get much more out of your fruit dollars. The zest freezes very well, and it will make life easier the next time a muffin recipe calls for a tablespoon of fresh orange zest or a when a little lemon zest would really brighten up that pasta!  

There are two ways to freeze zest – first, you can put a teaspoon or so into ice cube trays, fill with water, freeze, and then bag the cubes. When you’re ready to use the zest, just defrost or run a bit of warm water over the cube and the zest is recipe-ready!

Alternatively, you can simply use a microplane and zest right into a Ziploc bag (use a different one for lemons, limes, etc. of course) and freeze it this way, adding to it as you have zest. With this method you do run the risk of the color oxidizing slightly freezer burn, but it hardly impacts the flavor of the frozen zest, which remains remarkably fresh and intact. The preservation of flavor is likely due to the fact that the XX of the rind comes from its oils, so they will hold nicely for months in freezer, but do try to use them up in three or so.

Once you’ve zested a fruit, it will still hold a few more days just fine until it’s time for a lunchbox. On the other hand, if you bought that lemon or lime solely for the zest in a recipe, not to worry, simple squeeze-and-freeze! Pour the lemon juice in an ice cube tray and use in lemonade this summer or use blood orange juice in a smoothie or dessert.

Now that you know, you’ll get twice as much out of every citrus fruit you buy!