Flashing Back and Looking Forward

erin schrode

Last evening I went to a lovely event to hear from a young woman name Erin Schrode who is running for U.S. Congress.  She is inspiring, dynamic and passionate about the environment, human rights, gender equity, education, workforce development and the need to lead a younger generation to become involved and get excited about politics and legislature.  So why am I sharing about Erin?


Because of a post I wrote here, 6 years ago.  I was inspired by a group of teenagers who founded a non-profit called Teens Turning Green.   They hosted a summit where scientists, entrepreneurs and activists spoke on a myriad of issues from women’s health and nutrition, to products and fashions that were green and sustainable.  So turns out Erin was one of the founding members of that group.  The group started by educating teens and all ages about the harmful effects of cosmetics and hygiene products, and potential link to cancer.  I was certainly in my element for the advocacy of fresh, organic foods but there I also learned about other ways to make my family and lifestyle more healthy for me and the planet.  In addition to learning about effects of factory farming and learning greener alternatives to many popular home and healthcare products, I also met the founders of UKonserv and PlanetBox.  Two of the companies I still support and promote for reusable, safe food storage. When I went home from the summit, I immediately starting researching and replacing all my cleaning products and cosmetics, with healthier, greener alternatives.


Erin and her friends inspired me with her enthusiasm and activism then and Erin continues to inspire as a activist and politician, 6 years later.  Teens Turning Green, now Turning Green has gone beyond cosmetics and is now a student led global movement devoted to education and advocacy around environmentally sustainable and socially responsible choices for individuals, schools, and communities. They  created the Conscious Kitchen, a non GMO, organic school lunch program in Marin City.  There’s is curriculum and town hall discussions that travel to U.S. high school and university campuses to teach greener lifestyle choices to students.  Erin has gone beyond local endeavors and has travelled the world, besides attending NYU.  After visiting earthquake torn Haiti,  she founded The Schoolbag, a youth education project to provide tools and materials for students in need, She continues to work for global stewardship and environmental curriculum with Palestinian, Israeli, and Jordanian youth, urban recycling infrastructure in Ghana, and recently with Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees in Greece and Macedonia.  She’s only 25, but has made the most of those years.  Please click on these links to learn more about Turning Green and Erin.


Petit Appetit Guest Blogs on Ginger Garner

Latley I’ve been helping some other sites with blogs and content.  I was very pleased to be part of a three week blog series with feeding babies on Ginger Garner’s site.  Ginger is  founder of Professional Yoga Therapy (PYT), the first education program for Complementary and Alternative Medicine practice in medical therapeutic yoga in the United States. Ginger has traveled across the US teaching yoga and Pilates as Complementary and Alternative Medicine, while also raising awareness about mothers’ rights and improving women’s health.  She also is a mother of three.  Her youngest James, is eating my apple puree above.


Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my daily life with school age kids, I forget about new babes coming into the world.  Then I see a cute photo or read a kind email or post about a mom feeding their baby for the first time, and I wish I was right back there.  If you’re looking for tips for feeding babies and a recipe for apple puree – a perfect first solid food, please see my guest posts here.




Pesticides Link to ADHD

Thought this was of interest for those who need more cause to buy organic.  While there are links of ADHD in children to heredity and exposure to tobacco and lead, there is also evidence that exposure to high levels of pesticides commonly found on berries, celery and other produce could raise the odd for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

Read the article here.


Get Cooking Light…New Cookbook

So funny, that when you write about food and recipes and cooking people from all over contact you to try their product (food, book, sandwich wrap).  Most of these requests and things that people want to send me just don’t apply.  There’s way too many offeres for alcohol related recipes and products – obviously not in touch that I write about kids and family foods.  (or maybe they are and know parents sometimes need a drink).  Anyways when I was offered a chance to review a Cooking Light cookbook, I was quite pleased. 

Cooking Light, Cooking Through the Seasons is really how I like to cook.  Simple recipes with key ingredients and seasons in mind.  Choosing what to prepare is easy as you go to your season, in this case spring and list your ingredients to be able to buy at the local farmer’s market.  Not that I didn’t jump ahead and see some great summer and winter recipes too.  The book may replace my Better Homes and Garden Cookbook as a true cookbook staple and my new go to guide for making fresh seasonal food.  There’s easy steps of cooking methods for those unfamiliar (braising, blanching, etc).  The book also highlights ingredients from the seasons that may or may not be familiar.  Never being one to do much with rhubarb, I jumped right in, learned how to choose and made a refreshing sorbet.  Fava beans are also something I don’t use very often, but embraced a wonderful warm salad.  (And when I tired of peeling fava beans and didn’t buy enough, I substituted with spring peas.)

This book gives enough information and great photos for a novice cook, but also enough interesting ingredients, inspiration and delicious recipes for those more comfortable in the kitchen.

Here’s a few of the yummy foods I’ve made so far…

asparagus with brown butter sauce
chicken, edaname (sub for spring pea) and potato salad
rhubarb sorbet
vegetable fetuccini

The Dirty Price for Organic Produce

Refrigerator Veggie Drawer
Refrigerator Veggie Drawer

So this is not a statement about politics…it simply is about dirt.  When you buy your produce at the grocery store, especially if it is grown conventionally it’s clean looking and sprarkling and even shiny (waxes, washes…).  However when you buy from a farmer’s market or get a produce box delivered from a CSA, it’s dirty.  Of course there’s nothing wrong with that.  It just takes some extra effort. 

Sometimes parents in my classes ask if it is necessary to wash organic produce.  The answer is YES.  Even if it doesn’t look dirty, the produce may have bugs (bug feces), dirt, bacteria etc.  And just because you’re not going to eat the peel, such as a carrot.  You still need to wash the outside.  Everything from the outside of that carrot is getting pushed right inside when you use the peeler or knife.

 My family gets it’s dirtiest produce from our own yard and CSA box.  When we pick a radish or something else from the ground, it’s clear it needs washing.  And CSA’s don’t have time (or resources) to wash your produce.   I didn’t realize how messy produce could be until I looked into my new refrigerator and saw the dirt. (see above).  Oh my!  My kids and I love to come home to see the box of produce on the front porch on delivery day.  It’s the element of surprise and a bit like opening a present on Christmas morning.  “I wonder what’s inside”, my daughter will say. 

We three gather around the “low table” and everyone looks in and starts taking out and identifying “Carrots, grapes, peppers, potatoes… Is this kale or chard?”  Before I saw the dirt in the refrigerator, we were simply transferring the items from the box to the produce bags to the refrigerator.  Well now we we have a new system…

1. Unpack and identify

2. Give items that need washing right away (not greens or berries) to mom at the sink

3. Mom washes, scrubs and dries

4. Kids count items and put in reusable produce bags.  (These bags are great.  They look like mesh and the produce can breathe.  However unlike plastic or bio bags, the dirt escapes)

5. Put appropriate bags in refrigerator or bowl(s) on counter. 

Of course there’s some upfront time (but we make the chore fun), and now I can keep my refrigerator clean (and save time when prepping to cook).


Fish Taco Night!

tacos 008
my son's fish taco creation

I did it.  I went to the store and thankfully I was able to buy some fish.  At Whole Foods, there was a sale on Dover Sole for $5.99 a pound.  This is a thin fish, so 4 fillets came in at about 2/3 of a pound or $3.29.  I had to rethink my idea of stir fry and the chinese noodles.  I just can’t do noodles again.  So I factored in the cabbage, cheese (I still have cheddar), black beans, and onion and came up with fish tacos.  I was missing tortillas, but figured I had enough cushion (remember I only spent $95 and change) and bought those for $2.99.

This meal was a real treat after the heavy dinners I had been making.  And it looks like a lot, since there’s many dishes of individual things (shredded cheese, cabbage, diced onion, beans).  Tacos are always so great because everyone can make their own choices and participate.  Without holding back some of my budget, I wouldn’t have been able to alter my meal plan.  I was worried if I went into the store another day during the week, I would buy too many other items.  I did buy a few more, but told myself and kids we couldn’t eat them until next week.  I realize that through this challenge I need to go to the store less often.  Out of sight out of mind.  Instead of waiting until we run out of something or we only have 2 kinds of cereal (and not the usual 4 or 5), I go out and rebuy, along with other things. 

Tonight I even got creative with a bit of dessert and made sugar-cinnamon tortilla crisps.  So easy and the kids love them.  Simply cut desired shapes in tortilla with a cookie cutter.  Don’t toss the scraps (those make tasty/funny crisps too).  Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and brush with melted butter.  Sprinkle a mixture of sugar and cinnamon (we keep some handy in a shaker) and bake in a 375 oven for about 8 minutes (turning half-way through) until browned and crisp.

sweet tortilla crisps
photo before baking

I also used more of the watermelon and feta for my salad again.  And there was the rest of the broccoli which I roasted in the oven with olive oil and rosemary salt.

Let’s get to one of my addictions…rosemary salt.  This perks up everything – roasted veggies, potatoes, meats, dressings, etc.  We get it at the farmer’s market or order it online at Eatwell Farms.  I realize that while I only use a bit at each meal, this would be a cash layout of $8 for a jar.  Kind of a luxury given the hunger challenge.  You’d have to give up something one week to have this (althugh for a while).  For me it would be worth it.  Even if you couldn’t do the rosemary salt, a sea salt is so much better and smoother than traditional Morton salts, and not so salty.  A big shaker is worth the extra money, say $3.50 vs. $1.00(?) for Morton.


Snack Time

So I’ve got kids and like to graze, so this means snacks.  Snacks sometime get a bad reputation.  There’s the thought that a snack is something big on carbs and suagr, low on nutrition and processed out of a bag.  Not at our house.  I like to think of snacks as mini meals with various textures (a little creamy, a little crunchy).  They could even be left-overs.  I think it should have some carbs but also some protein to sustain energy and not give a sugar rush (which will leave you hungrier and unsatisfied).  I factored in snacks when making my hunger challenge food list.  Both for packing for my son’s lunch, when we’re on-the-go and eating at home. 


Here’s are some favorites:

pita with cheese (pita could be toasted or not)

pita with hummus (pita could be cut or not, or baked in the oven for “chips”)

organic carrot sticks and edamame with hummus

organic apple alices with sunflower butter (we like nutspreads too, but not duing the challenge) – above

smoothies – any combo of yogurt, and fresh and frozen fruit (see yesterday’s below)

fruit with yogurt dip – a simple dip of plain yogurt and lemon and squeeze of honey, syrup or agave is good with fruit.

slice of cheese and trail mix – we usually create our own trail mix from raisins, cereal, seeds and nuts (though too expensive this week to buy all thins individually)

organic apple sauce and fig bar

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

You can make just about any smoothie with some fruit and yogurt and either milk or juice.  I like to have bananas in the freezer waiting and ready (or just think ahead an hour or two).  This makes the smoothie creamy and thick and there’s no need for ice, which can be a choking hazard for little ones.

makes 2 cups

1 frozen banana

4 strawberries (about 1/3 cup), tops removed

2/3 cup organic milk

1/3 cup plain organic yogurt (can freeze too for thicker texture)

Blend all together in a blender.  Adjust thickness and consistency with milk. 

kids drinkingsmoothie


The Challenge Continues…Last Night’s Dinner

Aside from my son’s comment “Only two things?” when he came to dinner table, I think the hunger challenge meal was a success.  My kids are used to variety – more than one low sugar cereal, more than one bread type (pita, mini bagel, sandwich, lavosh),  more than one “butter” (peanut, almond, sunflower, pumpkin), etc.   At dinner as well there are usually, my son pointed out, and least three things.  They have many choices and are lucky.  This is certainly a luxury for many, and I tell them.

Tonight was a use of the last of the roasted veggies from the potluck sandwich, with penne noodles, goat cheese (again from the sandwich ingredients) and 3 of the 5 chicken apple sausages.  Because of my son’s disappointment of only 2 things.  I split one sauage for he and his sister.  Sometimes I serve my kids meal deconstructed – same ingredients but not all added together, thus the sausage alone from the pasta.

The other item at the table was a watermelon salad.  This is my new favorite, after having on a few restaurant menus recently.  So I was very excited to see the free watermelon on the pantry list.  It’s also a great use of the fresh mint in our garden.  My kids really enjoy this.  It’s very surprising how the ingredients work together and really quite refreshing.

I was pleased with dinner.  It was easy to make and I did it ahead of time and had it in the refrigerator for when my family got home hungry from soccer practice at 6:30 p.m.

Here’s the recipes and photos:

Veggie Sausage Pasta Salad 

4 cups cooked penne noodles

1 cup chopped roasted veggies (eggplant, peppers, squash)

2 chicken apple sausages cut into chunks

about 2 Tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup torn basil leaves


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablesppon balsamic vinegar

1 teablespoon red wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

This all went together and tossed in a big bowl.

Watermelon Salad

about 3 cups watermelon, cut into chunks

about 1 cup cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks

1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 – 3 Tablespoons nuts (I picked these out of the trail mix)

about 3 Tablespoons fresh mint, chiffonade


about 2 teaspoons olive oil

about 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Combine watermelon and  cucumber.  Sprinkle nuts, cheese and mint.  Drizzle with dressing.



Risk it or Toss it? Lunchbox Challenge

Today I packed my kids’ lunch (pretty much the same items as yesterday).  They’re on an egg kick – which fits well with the hunger challenge as an inexpensive protein.  My son likes hard boiled and my daughter likes egg salad, so I can easily satisfy both for a healthy lunch.  Plus I was able to boil the eggs ahead, Sunday night and be prepared to pack quickly in the morning.


The lunchbox is pictured above.  It contains:

egg salad salad in 1/2 pita (hard boiled egg for son)

edamame and carrots

half a banana

apple sauce

For my son I had to pack a snack as well – a fig bar and cheese.  Luckily my daughter’s preschool supplies her with a morning snack.  We’re doing o.k. for the challenge as far as lunches for them, I think.  I hope I have something left by Friday to pack.

It was a really hot day and when I picked my son up from school at 1:30 he said he wanted to eat his lunch at home and didn’t eat much because “I wasn’t hungry, just hot.  And they don’t give me enough time to eat”.  My son is a slow eater and so we’ll have to figure that out.  As I unpacked his lunch at home, I realized I forgot to put the ice pack in my son’s lunch.  Oops!  Not sure how that happened but anything is possible as we’re trying to get into a kindergarten routine. 

I realize that if I throw the egg away, I am not only wasting precious food but cutting into my reserve for another lunch or snack.  Being that my son’s safety comes first, I toss the egg.  Poor food safety and an honest mistake happens all the time, but it may seem like a luxury to some to throw it away.  Other’s may say “It’s fine.  Just eat it.” and may have been, but I don’t want to take the risk.

For my lunch I had the final piece of the left-over veggie sandwich from Sunday dinner and a few edamame.  I would like something more, but will wait until I am truly hungry.

Daughter’s lunchDaughter's lunch

Food Stamps and Potlucks

sandwichSo my very first dayof the hunger challenge I am faced with a dilemma, that I did not deal with last year, and that’s social dining and guests.  Just because you’re on a limited budget and using food stamps, this doesn’t mean you don’t want to connect with family, friends and community.  Perhaps eating in a communal setting actually helps feed more and gives more variety too.  But how do you create meals that can be expanded to feed more on the same $4 a day?

You’ll note I added some large loaves of bread, veggies and goat cheese to my list.  I was to bring a main lunch item to a family gathering and I made my Big Veggie Sandwich from Petit Appetit: Eat, Drink and Be Merry, with a few adjustments.  I used japanese eggplant instead of mushrooms and doubled the recipe for two sandwiches.  In looking at the recipe I just realized I omitted the artichoke hearts on my shopping list, since they were already onhand.  I’ll add another $3 to my bill.  (Good thing I added some cushion).  I even have a few left-over veggies that I cooked, but didn’t add to the sandwiches (I’ll use them later in pasta). The two sandwiches cost about $22 to make total (more than 1 1/2 days of total food bill).  This also made me realize that shopping and planning is crucial.  And why doing the challenge determining grocerieis rather than individual pricing of meals makes more sense, and is like we all shop and plan.  We don’t buy $4 of ingredients per day.  If I hadn’t factored in the event and it had been toward the end of the week, I may not have budgeted for enough food.  Thus I can see another issue of not having enough food and finance – and that’s feeling isolation.

The really good thing is that while the sandwiches were a hit, and there was so much food (which usually happens at a potluck) that I took home an entire sandwich.  This meant we had a few bites for dinner (we were still a bit full from the lunch) and ate it again tonight with a can of minestrone soup.  There’s even one square left which I plan to eat for my lunch tomorrow.  Each sandwich (about $11) is a hearty 8 adult servings, but with sides at the original luncheon it was certainly stretched to 16 servings.  So about .70 per serving.

Here’s the recipe…

Makes 8 (2-inch-wide) servings, or 16 (squares) 


1 (1-pound) ciabatta or pugliese loaf, about 14 × 7 inches

1 organic red bell pepper

1 zucchini

1 summer squash

1 portobello mushroom

3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

1 (14-ounce) can water-packed artichoke hearts, chopped

4 ounces goat cheese (rBGH free)


Preheat oven to 440 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray a 12 × 9-inch glass baking dish with oil. Slice vegetables lengthwise into ¼- to 1/3-inch-thick slices and layer in prepared dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the oil, the vinegar, and thyme. Brush vegetables with oil mixture. Bake for 25 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Remove from oven and set aside. Leave oven on.

Cut the bread lengthwise down the center so you have a top and bottom. Lay pieces, cut sides up, on prepared baking sheet. Spread the artichoke hearts on bottom half and goat cheese on the top half. Drizzle artichokes with 1 teaspoon of the oil. Bake for about 5 minutes, until warm.

Layer vegetable slices on bread over artichokes and top with remaining bread, goat cheese side down. Press sandwich together and weigh top of sandwich with a baking dish or heavy plate. Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.


Packing Tip. If taking these for travel, be sure to wrap tightly and place toothpicks in each section to hold together. Remove picks before serving.