Happy HallowGreen – Roasted Organic Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

From Lisa Barnes

You might think someone that promotes healthy eating wouldn’t like a holiday where begging for candy is involved. But I do. The “trick” at my house to avoid the (what’s on sale in the big bag) candy “treats” is that the Halloween candy gets “turned in” to mom and traded for a non-candy item of choice (usually a toy – but this year my son has already earmarked a pair of sweat pants). The practice of dressing up in costumes and begging door to door for treats on holidays goes back to the Middle Ages. Trick-or-treating resembles the late medieval practice of “souling,” when people would go door to door, receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (All Hallows Day).

Fast forward to little ghosts and goblins (or firemen and princesses) going door to door expecting candy. A lot has changed! If you want to see something scary on Halloween read some of the wrappers on your child’s candy. There you’ll see partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, alkali, chemicals, artificial colorings and more. To decode these items and see a list of healthy sweet alternatives read the full story at Kiwi Magazine.

If you have ideas of a greener holiday check out this great article from the Lansing State Journal for suggestions on recycled costumes, fair trade chocolate treats, partyware, decorations and battery-free flashlights. For those looking for greener, non-candy items to pass out to trick-or-treaters here is an abbreviated list of suggestions from GreenHalloween.org:

  • seed packets
  • coins
  • pencils
  • stickers
  • polished rocks, sea glass or seashells
  • card games, tricks, jokes
  • barrettes
  • balls and spinning tops
  • mini pumpkins

Speaking of pumpkins and staying away from candy…how about making the most of the jack-o-lantern by roasting the seeds…

Roasted Organic Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

My favorite part about carving a pumpkin at Halloween is getting my hands into the pumpkin to pull out the seeds and stringy goop. My son does not share the enthusiasm for the slimy, gooey mess. And my daughter just wants to eat the goop and seeds right out of the pumpkin. The reward for mom picking thru all the stringy stuff is enjoying the roasted pumpkin seeds while watching the candle flicker in the jack-o-lantern.

1 cup organic pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon olive oil

Seasoning options:

½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon curry or
½ teaspoon granulated sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Heat oven to 300°F. Cut off top of pumpkin and scoop out insides. Rinse pumpkin seeds in colander with cold water. Remove as much of the pumpkin strings and flesh from the seeds as possible. Try to blot excess water with a kitchen or paper towel. In a small bowl combine seeds, oil and seasonings of choice. Stir until coated. Spread out seeds in a single layer on foil lined baking sheet. Roast until golden brown and dry, about 40 minutes. Stir seeds with a spatula, every 10 minutes during cooking. Let cool on a paper towel and store in an airtight container.
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Potluck or Pot(un)luck? To Make or Not to Make. (Organic Kabobs Recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

My son’s preschool class had their first pot luck open house. I marked my calendar and saw the sign-up sheet posted in the classroom. I didn’t have anything special in mind to make. Last year I made a lovely edanamme salad. I reviewed the potluck list and noticed three people had signed up for entrees, then next to their names it said pizza (three times!). I was a bit surprised. Were they all making pizza? I didn’t think so. Maybe it’s just me, but I thought potlucks were supposed to be homemade items. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I am new to the whole family/school events. To be sure something at the event would be homemade I signed up for an entree, but didn’t write in the item (I didn’t know yet). Yes, it was a bit competitive of me.

As for the meaning of potluck. I (of course) looked it up on Wikipedia and found that the word comes from the two words “(cooking) pot and luck”, probably derived from “whatever food one is lucky enough to find in the pot”. Seems the only traditional rule is that each dish be large enough to be shared among a good portion (but not necessarily all) of the anticipated guests. I was wrong. These days it apparently can be anything from anyone’s pot (or supermarket shelf) or restaurant menu.

That afternoon I made these quick and easy kabobs with a simple whole wheat couscous. I made some full skewers and some pieces of chicken and veggies I put on a toothpick (easier for kids) . When I got to the pot luck, not only did I see pizza boxes, but also boxed Halloween cupcakes (the kind I thought were banned because of the mile high frosting), restaurant chicken, take out burritos and other non-homemade items. To be fair their were also other homemade dishes – lasagna, pasta salad, green salad, brownies. I made it a point to support and eat the other homemade offerings. However my son went straight for the bright orange cupcakes (as did most every other child) – wondering if they’d be enough for everyone and also noticing there was a Halloween ring on top. When all was said and done, the crowd was hungry and there wasn’t much of anything left (homemade or otherwise). I also noticed some of the skewers had been turned into weapons for little boys to pretend swordfight. I wouldn’t have guessed I too had a “toy surprise” with my entree (of course unintentional). Maybe next year the biggest hit atthe pot luck will be cupcakes on sticks…

Anything Kabobs (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)

These are a versatile and easy dish for lunch or dinner for all ages. There are a variety of vegetables and proteins that can be chosen to fit your family’s taste buds. For vegetarians the tofu kebobs are a good option. For those who eat meat, there’s the chicken option. For a larger quantity and more variety make both chicken and tofu, as they have the same cooking time and will be ready at once.


1 ½ tablespoons natural, low sodium soy sauce (Tamari)
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon expeller pressed canola oil
1 scallion/chive chopped
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice


9 oz. boneless, skinless organic chicken breasts, cubed (or firm organic tofu, bloated dry and cubed)
8 organic cherry tomatoes
8 organic mushrooms
8 mini organic bell peppers or 1 medium sized bell pepper cut into chunks

(Substitute other vegetables favorites such as baby corn, cut zucchini or broccoli flowerettes)

Whisk all marinade ingredients in a small glass or plastic bowl.

Place chicken (or tofu) in a large glass dish. Pour marinade chicken or tofu. Tofu should marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Chicken should marinate 30 minutes or longer. While waiting for marinade, soak 4 wooden skewers in cold water for at least 30 minutes.

Thread tofu/chicken and vegetables onto skewers, alternating as desired. Place kabobs on a lightly greased cookie sheet or broiler pan, and transfer to a hot grill or to the oven set on broil. Cook 5 – 6 minutes on each side or until cooked through and browned.

Makes 4 kabobs.

Creative serving suggestions:

*Let older children carefully help remove skewers and eat with fingers

*Remove kabob pieces from skewers and arrange in pita bread with greens and favorite spread or dressing

*Remove kabob pieces from skewers and arrange in lettuce pieces. Roll up and secure with toothpick
Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Lisa Barnes
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Apple Puree for All – Baby Food Recipe


From Lisa Barnes

Seeing as apples are one of the most heavily sprayed conventionally grown crops, and also a favorite first food for baby, it is an obvious choice for making your own fresh, organic puree. It’s easier than you think. Simply steam the apples using your method of choice and puree in a food processor or blender until desired consistency. Make a large batch and freeze in individual ice cube trays. Once frozen, simply pop out the cubes and store in a freezer bag for up to 3 months. Be sure to label the bag with the contents (if making other purees you can easily confuse them) and date.

The great thing about homemade apple puree is that it is not only enjoyed by baby, but can also be used in other foods and recipes for all ages. It pairs well with a bit of cinnamon to accompany grilled pork, or warmed as a healthy topping for pancakes or waffles, or as a healthy addition to increase moisture and reduce fat in muffins. Here’s the recipe for baby’s organic apple puree as well as a recipe to use extra puree in mini banana apple bran muffins.

Apple Puree (from The Petit Appetit Cookbook)
Apples are a great first food because of their sweetness and versatility. Golden and Red Delicious, as well as Fuji apples have the least amount of acid, and thus are the most tolerable for babies. You may peel apples before or after cooking. Cooking with skins on allows the apples to retain more nutrients.

6 medium organic red delicious apples, washed, quartered and cored just before cooking

Steamer Method: Place prepared apples in steamer basket set in a pot filled with a small amount (about 1 – 2 inches, but not to touch fruit) of lightly boiling water. Cover tightly for best nutrient retention and steam for 10 – 12 minutes or until apples are tender. Apples should pierce easily with a toothpick. Set apples and cooking liquid aside to cool. Scrape apples for skin and puree in a food processor with a steel blade. Add tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid to puree to make smoother and adjust consistency.

Microwave Method: Place prepared apple quarters in microwave safe dish. Add ¼ cup water and cover tightly, allowing a corner to vent. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, stir apples and re-cover and cook for 3 – 6 minutes or until tender. Check for doneness, cool and proceed with recipe above.

Makes 16 – 18, one ounce baby servings.

An apple a day…When baby is ready for more texture, chunks on steamed apples are good finger foods. Also for teething baby, put steamed apple slices in the freezer for a soothing treat.

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook: Easy, Organic Recipes to Nurture Your Baby and Toddler and lives in Sausalito, California.
Photo Credit: Lisa Barnes
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Anyone Else Living An Organic Lifestyle?


From Lisa Barnes

We just received this comment on our blog site:

I have always been a very good eater, but it was only upon becoming pregnant with my one and only daughter that I went organic. She is four years old now, and her and I have never looked back. I can tell you, however, that it has not been an easy road as one might expect it to be. No, not due to overpriced organic food, as it really is usually the same as, or pennies more than conventional, but rather due to the world around me. “Am I the only one who lives an organic lifestyle on this planet?” I ask myself. When I feel this way, I simply take a ride to the nearest Whole Foods and I finally feel at peace, and at home!

It is a sad fact that most of the population has no idea what they are putting in their mouths and that of their children. And, as religion and politics goes, always respecting the other person’s opinions is only fair. But for some reason, people find out a person is following an organic lifestyle and suddenly you become the enemy. They look at you like you are the antichrist who has come to rob their children. I have actually had people speak to me as if they were spitting fire at me for my choice which is shocking as it is not a choice that affects them.

But wait; does it? Yes, I suppose it does as it then shines a spotlight on the possibility that they perhaps are not feeding their bodies or their children in the best way possible. I don’t believe that anyone purposely feeds their children or themselves with the intent to harm, but one only needs to take the time to read a label, do a very small bit of research to get a good, general idea of the best food to eat. The challenge of living organically doesn’t end at the party conversation. Once an organic person steps out into the world it is a challenge. If I don’t have a bag packed of organic food for my daughter and myself, there is no guarantee that we will be able to find orgnanic “on the go” food while we are out and about. Some chains have started carrying a few organic odds and ends. Wawa has stepped up to the plate and they carry probably 3 organic products now. Grocery stores do have an organic “section” which may consist of 1/2 an aisle, but it is outrageously priced and sadly not the best quality.

Then there is the school system. Public or private, this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. The menus at most schools across the country are horrifying; consisting of hotdogs, tacos, pizza, mac and cheese, a “fruit” cup and chicken nuggets. Does the government or anyone for that matter realize that teaching children to eat well at a young age will save millions in health care down the road? What would be so difficult with replacing that menu with items such as granola and yogurt parfaits, grilled veggie sandwiches on whole wheat bread, pasta salads, real fruit cups, whole grain bars, whole wheat soft pretzels?

One could go on and on with healthier choices than what is offered our children. And finally, to hit home, literally, the dinner table. We, as a nation, have got to take family dinner time back. Too many children are involved in 2 or more sports that take away valuable family time, including the dinner table. Perhaps setting aside at least 4 nights a week where all sit down to eat together, in a meal that was talked about and planned together as a family with healthy elements in mind would bring not only peace to the body but to the home as well. I know that it sounds as if I am coming across as judgemental, but I am not. I realize how much work it is to live a lifestyle this way but I can honestly say that having done it, I could never go back.

Jennifer Murphy
Springfield Township, New Jersey

Yes, many are trying. I can understand Jennifer’s feelings. Sometimes I want to shout at another parent “how can you be feeding that to your child?!” With all the facts, media, studies, products, farms, experts and more telling us the importance of healthy organic foods for our children and families I wonder “why aren’t more people subscribing?” On the other hand I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and most of the people I meet on a daily basis are doing something for an organic lifestyle and trying to keep harmful foods, chemicals and pesticides away from their children (while also driving hybrids and using the latest green building materials). The Bay Area is not the whole country and for some, achieving an organic meal or school lunch is more difficult.

As an educator I’ve learned that some people just get overwhelmed. By that I mean many people want to be healthy, more environmentally conscious and live a greener lifestyle, but they’re not sure where to start. People also believe it will cost more — either more money or more time. That may be true in the beginning of a change, but will pay off in the end. For instance it will take more time to read food labels at the grocery store, but once you know which products are safe, tasty, and your family enjoys, you can make your list of family staples without thinking or hesitating on subsequent shopping visits.

I find another problem with starting a more organic mealtime is the threat of failure. Many clients have told me they never started to make their own baby food because they wouldn’t be able to do it all the time. I say “So don’t. Just make it this time”. Everyone needs to do what works for them, their family, and their lifestyle. Just try to make the food once. I find most people realize how easy and convenient it can be and then they continue. There’s no need to feel guilty if you substitute a jar of food for homemade baby food one week. You’re doing your best and should feel good about those small changes and efforts.

Speaking of changes and efforts here are a few websites that may be able to help some get started with small changes and efforts to a more organic table and lifestyle. These are also helpful resources for those looking to do more.

Find a farmer’s market and CSA in your city and state here at LocalHarvest.com.

Learn about how you can help school lunch programs with the Appetite for a Change Campaign.

Get small everyday tips for making your life greener at IdealBite.com.

And of course continue to read and blog with us here! We love hearing from you.

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Mussel Man (Mussels with Organic Prep Recipe)

From Lisa Barnes

My son loves to eat mussels. This was as big of a surprise to me as anyone else. A few months ago we were in Truckee visiting family and friends and we went to dinner. I get tired of ordering meals based on what will appeal to my kids. I don’t mean always eating pizza and burgers (what everyone thinks kids eat) but ordering a grilled turkey and cheese panini (my son’s favorite) over a grilled eggplant panini or ordering a side of broccoli vs. grilled chard (which I would prefer). I still like the food but it wouldn’t be my first choice. However I’m torn because I also don’t like to waste food. Even if my son is very hungry he can’t eat a restaurant portion sandwich all in one sitting. If we’re traveling I can’t take it home, so I know it will be tossed. If only more cities had some kind of left-over program which happens on a local level in San Francisco. I think it’s a great concept, “replating”. Those that started the movement define it as “to place unwanted left-overs, typically in a doggie bag on top of the nearest trash can so they don’t go to waste.” Anyways I digress…

I ordered what I wanted on this occasion – Mussels. I was halfway through my meal and my son said to me “can I have a mussel?” I was surprised, but of course happy to oblige. He ate and enjoyed each one and never even commented on the texture or appearance (although he says he’s not an “egg guy” because of the texture). He was proud of himself and even told the wait person “I like Mom’s mussels!” My husband and I joke that if it’s on my plate my son and daughter will eat it. They are both notorious for “sharing” (eating at least half) my meal especially the second half and last bite. Oddly enough I was about to dig in to the final shell and it was void of a mussel, but had a tiny little seashell (shaped like a conch) inside. My son thought that was the greatest. Kind of like seeing the toy surprise I remember searching for in a cereal box when I was a kid. We brought it home and added it to our seashell collection.

So now I’ve created a (sea)monster. When we go to the store he asks “can we make mussels tonight, please?!” Sometimes I oblige because we do like them and they are very fast and easy to prepare. Sometimes I try different herbs or vinaigrettes, or even different veggies. But other times I’m just not in the mood.

Here’s a simple recipe (although I usually just kind of throw stuff in) if the mood strikes you.

2 pounds fresh, live mussels, cleaned and beards removed
1 – 2 cups organic broth
1 cup organic white wine
½ organic purple onion, sliced
1 organic red pepper, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing
½ cup fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, cilantro (or mixture of) torn

Heat butter, olive oil and garlic in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add peppers and onions and saute until translucent and tender. Add wine and broth and bring to a boil. Add mussels and stir. Cover pot and cook 3 – 5 minutes until shells are open. Pour vinaigrette and herbs over mussels and stir to combine.

Serve with rustic bread (for dipping into broth) and a spinach or arugula salad.

Makes 2 large servings. (or enough for 2 adults and 1 four year old)

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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Shopping with Children

From Lisa Barnes

My son enjoys going to the grocery store and always has. In the beginning he travelled up the aisles with me in an infant carrier. Later he moved to the cart. And now he walks and even pushes his own cart at some stores.

My daughter being 15 months old does not enjoy the store. Or maybe she enjoys it too much. If given the opportunity she will race through the store, looking back at me laughing and shaking her head no while I ask her to take my hand. If she’s in the cart it’s a constant opening of new foods as she screams and eats her way through the store. (bananas, mini bagels, cereal, cheese sticks, dried fruit, etc).

I seem to frequent three grocery stores in addition to farmer’s markets. It’s hard to avoid this multiple store dilemma. I hear this from other moms too. There’s Trader Joe’s for good buys on cereals, crackers, organic sunflower butter, nuts, dried fruits, and some Niman Ranch meats. Then there’s Whole Foods for produce, fish, bulk flours and grains, cheeses, whole wheat fig bars (we’re all addicted) and all else we’re in the mood for. Then finally there’s Mollie Stone’s for convenience items and “oops! I forgot to get,” since it’s right down the street. My children like the stores for other various reasons…

Mollie Stone’s has the mini shopping carts. Since my son was 3, he’d enthusiastically ask on the way to the store “can I push the little cart?!” Who could say “no”? He goes in and gets it himself, says hello to the baggers and checkers and joins me in the produce section. It’s cute. Of course I think this because I’m his mom. Sometimes the other shoppers aren’t as amused. At first he was not great about staying on one side of the aisle and letting people pass him (acting like a race car in the final lap). Now he is 4 and is a pretty experienced cart driver.

Whole Foods is all about tasting everything. They usually have a variety of samples which both kids must have. Each portion must be the same size as well. For example if my son thinks the pear slice given to his sister is a millimeter larger than his he says “How come I got the small piece? I’m bigger than she is.” Then there’s the cheese department. One day the “cheese man” (as my son refers to him) asked him what kind of sample he would like “string or fancy pants?” My son replied loudly “fancy pants!” To get my son and daughter to stop eating the lovely aged cheddar samples, I of course bought some and said “look we’ll eat more at home.” This little taste cost about $18.

Trader Joe’s is about the balloons for my daughter. She usually gets one and then somehow unties it before we get to the car, and says “bye bye” as it fades away in the sky. My son likes the proximity of Trader Joe’s to the pet store, which can be visited if we have a good shopping trip.

Finally the easiest and most fun place to shop is the farmer’s market. If only the farmer’s market sold paper towels and wine — maybe I could eliminate one of the grocery stores. It’s so much more pleasant to shop outdoors, smell and taste all the lovely produce and do it at my own pace. Although the rainy season is approaching.

Needless to say it’s sometimes difficult to take children to the store (and keep your sanity). Rarely do I take both kids on a large shopping trip. I salute those moms with one child riding in the seat, one riding in the cart and a third strapped to their person. I don’t know how you do it. Here are a few tips when shopping with children:

  • Be mindful of time. Your child is more likely to melt down if she is tired.
  • Do not shop on an empty stomach. You and your children will want to eat (and buy) everything if you are hungry.
  • Try to enlist their help. Children will be more focused on getting the job done if they’re helping and contributing.
  • Make up games. If your child is restless try to ask him questions about what he sees. Have him count, identify colors, shapes and foods.
  • Bring distractions such as a favorite toy she can play with while riding in the cart.
  • Keep little ones seated. Accidents happen when children are left unattended or allowed to stand in the cart.
  • Make a list. Is is easier for you to remember things if you’re being distracted by your children.
  • Give it time and be patient. Tasks with children always take longer.

See you in the check-out line!

Lisa Barnes is author of The Petit Appetit Cookbook and lives in Sausalito, California.
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