Foodie Friday: Baked Chicken and Vegetables…and Then Chicken Noodle Soup!

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Categories Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Lifestyle, Parenting, Solid FoodsTags 1 Comment

I’m sharing a recipe that I made a couple of times a month when my girls were smaller…juicy, flavorful chicken and tender, yummy veggies, all from scratch…what’s a toddler (and her mommy and daddy) not to love???  Almost five years later, this recipe is still a favorite.

This recipe uses all REAL ingredients, which is something I strive for.  And it makes enough for my family to eat two meals…plus extra veggies…PLUS stock for a small batch of chicken noodle soup.  That’s a home run for time-crunched mamas in my book!

DSC_0613Grease a LARGE baking dish (I use a big lasagna pan), and place 10 or 12 chicken legs with the skin on.  Around the chicken legs, place baby carrots (I buy the petite ones so they cook a little quicker), potatoes that have been peeled and sliced into wedges, peeled garlic cloves, and quartered mushrooms.

Finely slice an onion and arrange it over the chicken and veggies.  Then arrange pats of butter on top of the dish.  The recipe I referenced from originally called for 4 Tbsp. of butter, but I only use about half that.  I cut the butter into very thin slices and arrange it evenly.

DSC_0615Then sprinkle spices over the dish — I use a tablespoon of dried parsley, 1/2 a tablespoon of garlic powder, and fresh-ground salt and pepper, to taste.  Then pour water over everything, to about 1/2″ of the rim of the dish.  Cover the dish tightly in foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour.  Uncover and bake for another 20-30 minutes, until veggies are tender and juices in chicken run clear.

I forgot to take a picture as I pulled this out of the oven (as my crew was clamoring!).  Here is the pan after the four of us ate supper.  You can see we had about half the recipe remaining!

DSC_0625This dish heats really well.  I separate the meat and veggies into one bowl, and then I strain the stock into another…and this is the dish that keeps on giving!

Refrigerate the stock, if you’d like, and it will congeal.  Skim the fat from the top of the dish and discard.

DSC_0677DSC_0680Heat the stock in a saucepan, along with finely sliced carrots (1 or 2), finely sliced celery (1 or 2 stalks) and finely sliced cloves of garlic, if desired.  If you have left-over chicken, you can shred it and add to the soup, too.  Bring the stock to a boil and add some egg noodles.  Cook at a slow boil 8 minutes, or according to the directions on the package of egg noodles.

Viola!  Super easy chicken noodle soup!

DSC_0682I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does!

MandyE is mom to soon-to-be five year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Foodie Friday: “The Rules” of Eating

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I am a rule-follower by nature.  As a first-time mom, I was quite set on following our pediatrician’s instructions, particularly when our twin girls were infants.

When it was time to introduce solids, I was extremely pedantic about the order in which our girls tried new foods…first green veggies…then orange ones…then fruit.  I took copious notes (which I still have, of course!) to keep track of how many times the girls had had green beans, lest there be some type of allergic reaction.

Our girls are now 4 ½, and I guess old habits are hard to break.

No, I’m not still recording every bite my girls take, but I am still keenly aware of how many fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins they have every day.  It started innocently enough…replacing baby food bananas with fresh diced ones…adding in some avocados to round out their green veggie intake.

The first few months of big-people food, we ate a lot of baked fish and baked chicken.  It was easy for me to dice that for the girls and serve it with a side of veggies and fresh fruit.

It took quite a while for me to make the leap to casseroles and one-dish meals…does this mixture contain the proper amounts of protein and veggies?  Do I need a veggie on the side?  How do I log this into my spreadsheet?!?!  (I’m kidding about the spreadsheet…mostly.)

By the time the girls were about 18 months old, I was beginning to relax a little bit about what they ate.  Looking at how I still plan most of our meals, my “relaxation” is probably relative.

Breakfast religiously consists of a protein, a grain, fresh fruit, and milk.  I vary our proteins between scrambled eggs with cheese, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt; and our grains between oatmeal and cream of wheat.  On the weekends I sometimes get a little crazy and make whole-wheat French toast to fill the grain slot.

About every other day, our lunch is two veggies and a fruit, usually with some cheese and a couple of wheat crackers.  On alternating days, I will fix a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat with one veggie and a fruit.

I’ve relaxed my “rules” the most at dinner time.  We sometimes stick with the baked fish / chicken + veggie + fruit model.  More often, though, I make a one-dish meal…a soup or stew or baked pasta or stir fry over rice.  I occasionally serve a veggie with that; we often have bread dipped in olive oil; and I always serve fresh fruit and milk.

This model works for us.  I buy lots and lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and I try to limit processed foods as much as possible.  Most importantly, my girls eat a wide variety of foods, and I feel like they are getting a very balanced diet.

It just struck me as funny a few days ago, though, when I made pulled pork barbeque in the crock pot and served it up to the girls…with a side of Brussels sprouts and diced mango.  That’s not exactly the type of barbeque plate I grew up eating.  😉

I’m not sure if my pediatrician would be proud…or a little frightened at my [still] literal interpretation of “the rules”.

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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(Un)Foodie Friday: What I’ve Learned from a Lack of Family Dinners

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My daughters attend a YMCA after school program located at their public elementary school. At the end of the school day, when the other kids rush off to their parents, my girls and their friends head over to the school cafeteria to check into after school care. Well, this year, their teacher often lets them help around the classroom with her daughter, M’s best friend, so my twins can avoid the check-in chaos in the cafeteria.

(Un)Foodie Friday: What I've Learned from a Lack of  Family Dinners from
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

New this year, they’ve started offering children dinner at 5:30. The kids who are still there are fed food from the next day’s school lunch. It’s a win-win situation. The school’s food doesn’t go to waste and the after school kids don’t get crabby from hunger.

When I picked up J and M on their first day of second grade, I was surprised to learn that they had already eaten. Part of me was sad that we wouldn’t have our family dinner together. The lack of family dinner went against one of my core parenting philosophies. I was miffed not to have the opportunity to assure my children a homemade meal in which every ingredient was high quality and nutritious.

It took me less than a week to fall in love with dinner at the Y. We suddenly have an extra hour or more together in the evenings. Instead of a mad rush to make and eat dinner, check homework, and get ready for bed between 6:30 and 8:30, we have time to talk and play between the homework check and bedtime routine. Instead of hungry, grumpy kids who haven’t had a meal in nearly 7 hours, I have happy, energetic little girls bursting with news from their day.

We get home and there’s no sense of urgency. Once the girls put their backpacks away, our time is our own. One night this week, J sat down with her knitting and phoned her grandmother while M and I read, snuggled up on the couch. Another evening, M entertained us with a high energy 45-minute rendition of Feliz Navidad, switching between a hairbrush and a remote control for her microphone and her sister’s head and mine for percussion. Last night, M spent an hour telling me, in great detail, all about her PE lesson, while J played with our cats, drew ducks and swans, and worked on some optional math homework. I can’t remember the last time M told a complete story on a weekday, in her own way without me trying to rush her along.

There’s been a lot more laughter in our house since the school year began. There’s been a lot more singing and dancing on weeknights. My house is cleaner than it’s been in a long time; I can fold laundry and dust while I’m talking to my daughters. I now wait until they’re in bed to eat my own dinner.

Providing excellent nutrition to my children has always been high on my list of priorities, but I’m now reevaluating those priorities. Nutrition is important, of course, but the school lunches aren’t awful. Yes, they’re mass produced and include some processed foods, but there’s a large number of dishes produced from scratch, and they, like me, include a whole grain, protein and vegetable in every meal. Far more valuable is the time I spend with my kids, and spending it over food didn’t work nearly as well for us.

I say good riddance to weeknight family dinners, and welcome weeknight family time.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at and Multicultural Mothering.

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Foodie Friday: Summer Rotini and Cheese

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After years of reviling the stuff, my 7-year-old daughters have discovered a love of macaroni and cheese. I’ll confess that the boxed stuff is sinfully easy for this single working mother. I try to assuage my feelings of guilt by using our grocery store’s (HEB) whole wheat store brand.

One day, we ran out of the boxed stuff, but M was adamant that she wanted mac and cheese for dinner. I do make a divine mac and cheese from scratch, but the recipe is long and involved and, of course, the kids hate it. There was no way I was going to make anything involving the oven in our Texas summer heat. The air conditioner was working hard enough as it was.

It was a Friday and the end of a long week, and I just wanted to get dinner on the table. I offered to boil some pasta and sprinkle cheese on top, with apples on the side. M refused. Preparing myself to do battle, I asked M if she’d let me try to invent my own version of mac and cheese on the fly. To my shock, she agreed. To my greater shock, both the girls loved it. J has never deigned to touch any mac and cheese that wasn’t processed to death, but she was right alongside her sister in licking her bowl clean. I’m being literal here. Their fingers were scraping the bottom of their bowls, trying to get every last speck of cheese.

This is a thick, thick sauce–more glop than sauce–that sticks in the crevices of the rotini.

Sadia’s 15-Minute Rotini and Cheese


  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 squirt ketchup
  • 1 pinch pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or more)
  • 5 oz (1/3 box) whole grain rotini pasta


  1. In a large pot, set salted water to boil for your pasta.
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter.
  3. As soon as the butter has melted, whisk in the flour. Keep whisking, for at least a minute after it’s well combined.
  4. Continuing to whisk, slowly pour in the milk.
  5. Continue to whisk until the mixture is smooth. If you must take a break to get the baby to stop chewing on the cat, it’ll be okay. Just don’t let the sauce burn.
  6. At this point, your water is probably boiling. Pour your pasta into the water and set the timer. The brand I use boils for 12 minutes.
  7. Get back to whisking. You can afford to take a break or two to get your kids to stop fighting.
  8. Squirt the ketchup in and whisk some more.
  9. When the milk mixture begins to bubble, sprinkle in the cheese and pepper and whisk it smooth. Resort to Mean Mommy Voice if you must, but spend the 30 seconds it takes to do this. It’s worth it.
  10. Turn the heat off for the cheese sauce.
  11. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to the cheese sauce.
  12. Stir and serve.
  13. Pat yourself on the back and pray that your kids will eat it.
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Foodie Friday: Ode to a Smoothie

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Categories Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, HDYDI Blog, Parenting2 Comments

Today’s post is not about sharing a huge secret or a magical way to get your kids to eat when they are on hunger strike. I’m not going to pretend that a smoothie will solve all your kitchen problems and keep you from having to cook dinner this Friday night. I am; however, going to highlight the utility of “the smoothie “ and hope that you will find them as useful as I have over the last few years.

Before babies

Photo Credit: madlyinlovewithlife

I have never been a big fan of breakfast. For whatever reason, I did not enjoy eating cereal or oatmeal and never really found breakfast foods all that appealing. During graduate school, I got in the habit of eating a blended smoothie for breakfast. I did not own a proper blender, and instead, I used an immersion blender and a big cup to blend together milk, yogurt, fruit, and protein powder. I enjoyed drinking my breakfast on the way to work and found that I was full until lunch-time. During my post-doc years, I not only graduated to using a bender but I also graduated to making smoothies for my husband. The heat (we lived in Arizona at this time) combined with the fact that I road my bike to work, made drinking a cool smoothie for breakfast ideal. I drank them for years and never got bored.

While pregnant

As many of you know, the protein requirements for pregnant moms of multiples is quite high (eating between 80-100 grams of protein is suggested). Food aversions, nausea, heart-burn, plus the myriad of other symptoms that one can experience during pregnancy can make it hard to ingest enough calories, not to mention protein. I found “the smoothie” a great way to add protein to my diet. In fact, I found that the days I did not drink a smoothie, I landed nowhere near the 80-100 gram protein goal. For me, it was an easy way to get food in my belly and in the rare case it made a reappearance during “morning sickness”, it was not the worst thing in the world to revisit.

For my kids (before age 1)

My kids were breastfeed until 1, but I was keen on them learning how to use a straw and how to drink from a cup around 11 months. By this age, they had tried yogurt but not milk. I found smoothies made from yogurt, bananas, blueberries, and a little water to be a great way for them to learn how to drink from a straw cup as well as a great way for them to start getting some solid foods. One we started to wean off breast milk, this smoothie was a great drink to have around during snack time.

The toddler years

It is still amazing to me how often my guys are unwilling to eat a regular meal in their highchairs. Whether it is my fault (e.g. because I booked a doctors appointment to close to the time they get up in the morning) or if it is their own doing (e.g. teething, not hungry, it’s Wednesday, insert other random reasons here), sometimes you need a food option that will fill up your kids but that’s portable too. “The smoothie” fits this bill nicely. If I need an on-the-go meal or something to feed my guys when they are clearly having trouble chewing foods, I will make a hearty smoothie for their enjoyment. I start with milk, add yogurt, frozen fruit (bananas, berries, cherries, peaches just to name a few), a small handful of spinach or kale, a carrot, and them I blend away. These days, I use a Blendtec high-powered blender. This blended makes adding vegetables to smoothies very easy because they basically disappear into the drink perfectly. The combinations are endless and are only limited to your imagination and the contents of your refrigerator.

I find that I don’t make smoothies everyday like I used to, but I keep the idea in the back of my mind and pull it out when needed. They are a great way to pack in some calories and nutrition when you need it most. Happy blending.

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Foodie Friday: A Healthy Debate

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DDSeinfeldDo you ever cook dishes in which you hide nutritious ingredients that your family would usually refuse? Many home cooks have been doing this for decades, but Jessica Seinfeld’s book Deceptively Delicious shows how mainstream it’s become to sneak fruits and vegetables into our children’s food.

SaraBeth’s Perspective

My husband is a picky eater.  I resigned myself to the fact that I’d need to get him eating better before we had children so he could set an example.  I see “sneaking in” some standard vegetables to be a great way to make a comfort food favourite into something with a little more nutritional punch.

I bought the Deceptively Delicious book for my sister at Christmas a number of years ago for her eldest daughter who lived on a beige diet of bread, chicken fingers and milk.  I decided to adopt some of the ideas for us adults to get us into the habit of getting a little more nutrition without sacrificing the flavor.

After reading Deceptively Delicious myself I started using some of the fundamentals of the book to get us eating a little bit better.  I’d routinely add spinach to casseroles, stews, sauces, eggs, I’d add a cup or two of bananas or blueberries to my muffins or pancakes or I’d make soups that pack a lot of blended vegetables to get us eating a little more green.  I sometimes even try some desserts that focus on fruits more, but would make those anyway because they taste so good.

When the minions were born my husband and I had a big talk about integrating food in a way that would get them exposed to a variety of different dishes, spices and so on.  Luckily both of our kids are good eaters, my daughter has a bit more of an adventurous palette with a penchant for spicy hummus, dill pickles and curries.  My son is a bit more meat and potatoes guy but still regularly chooses sliced vegetables and fruits for his meals.

Sometimes we need a bit of help reaching our fruit and vegetable quota for the day, parents and children included.  I think that adding fruits and vegetables into certain dishes has become more of a healthy recipe revolution than a sneak attack.  Then again I haven’t resorted to dehydrated kale chips or mixing spinach into chocolate shakes just yet, but I know that my children and their tastes change every day, so never say never.

Sadia’s Perspective

It took becoming a parent for me to realize that I wasn’t the expert on child-rearing I had always fancied myself to be. One of my most humbling realizations is that my M is an enormously picky child when it comes to food. Despite her willingness to try all sorts of things when we was a young toddler, she is picky, picky, picky today. I walked my talk and exposed my daughters to all sorts of flavours and textures when they were younger. Still, M has turned out to be difficult to feed.

I worried about M’s nutrition. Every time she refused a meal, I pictured her sliding even farther away from the growth chart than she was already. I decided to jump on the hidden food bandwagon. I hid pureed beans in muffins to give her a protein kick. I made my own ketchup from tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and pureed whatever-vegetable-I-had-on-hand. I hid cauliflower in macaroni and cheese only to discover one day that M suddenly hated mac and cheese, with or without cauliflower.

It was during a regular review of my parenting priorities that I began to realize that hiding nutrients wasn’t for us. My first life priority is the girls’ immediate well-being, and hiding sneaky recipes accomplished that. My second priority is their long-term well-being. I realized that by hiding the good food I was providing my daughters, I was standing in the way of their learning how to make good food decisions. I decided that teaching J and M good decision-making was more important than their food intake on any given day. For a while, I tried sneaking vegetables into the girls’ meals and also offering them what I wished they would eat. Before long, I got rid of all my sneaky recipes, and I haven’t looked back.

On occasion, J or M will refuse to eat the meal I’ve prepared. Instead of getting all flustered, I have the ungrateful picky child prepare a meal for herself. Lunch and dinner at our house must include a grain, a protein and a fruit or vegetable. A tortilla, a fistful of cashews and some apple slices? Sure. Cheerios, deli meats and carrots? Why not? Cinnamon toast, refried beans and mandarin oranges? Whatever, honey. I’m not seeking elegance, just nutrition.

The takeaway

Sneaking ingredients that your family wouldn’t eat into food that your family will eat is a great tool, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re struggling to get your children to eat a balanced diet, it may be worth a shot. Check out some ideas.

What do you think about “sneaky” recipes?

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Foodie Friday: Quitting the Recipe Quest for My Picky Eaters

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Categories Difference, Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Frustration, Health, Older Children, Perspective, Preschoolers, School-Age, Solid FoodsTags , , , , , , 1 Comment
Fresh carrots
Photo Credit: Distant Hill Gardens

My friend Karl once told me that there’s a good reason that children develop pickiness in their food choices around age two. Around that age, hunter-gatherer kids would start to stray farther from their mothers. Their dislike of unfamiliar (and I assume a bunch of familiar) foods protected them from sampling poisonous leaves and berries when mom wasn’t looking.

As I discovered with breastfeeding, “natural” doesn’t mean “easy.” A picky kid, normal though she may be, is a pain to deal with. It seems ridiculous that in a time where nearly any food is available to us at any time of year, we struggle to get our kids to eat a well-rounded diet.

I have egg on my face from my bragging about what great and varied eaters my girls were during the early stages of solid food.

J is a little picky. She hates anything in sauce… unless it’s pasta in red sauce, dryish macaroni and cheese, or ranch dressing. The toddler who inhaled yogurt, bananas, fish and curry has turned into a school-age lover of pizza, sandwiches and mac and cheese. She won’t sit near anyone eating yogurt. She’s recently decided that all cheese is “slimy” unless it’s grated, so I’ve had to start leaving cheese out of her sack lunch sandwiches. She’ll eat most kinds of fruit and raw vegetables, although she’s anti-pear and anti-banana. She likes chicken fine and loves fish. She loves bready things of all sorts: sliced bread, rolls, muffins, tortillas, pancakes, waffles. We stick with whole-grain at our house.

M is much pickier. Like Sissy, she hates sauce textures, although she will eat applesauce and has recently branched out to marinara. She even allowed herself a taste of yogurt the other day! We’ve come a long way from dealing with her texture aversion in feeding therapy. She’ll eat several kinds of raw vegetables: broccoli (stems only), spinach, cabbage, lettuce, carrots, jicama. She’ll also eat boiled or canned corn.

She loves apples.

"I love my mom because she always lets me eat apples when I want to eat apples."
Seriously, the kid loves apples. My Mothers’ Day gift was a declaration of love for me based on the fact that I “always [let her] eat apples when [she wants] to eat apples.”
Other fruit? Don’t bother, unless it’s a purple seedless grape. Green grapes are a no-go in the under-30 set at our house.

Protein is easier. Like J, M will eat chicken, pork, fish and eggs. And breads… she loves her bread. The kid would live on pancakes, apple slices and breakfast sausage if I let her, occasionally eating a croissant for dessert.

These children have inherited my sweet tooth, but that’s a tale for another day.

For years, I’ve sought out recipes that will tempt my children’s palates. When M was a toddler, I came to terms with her odd rhythm of living on milk for a couple of days, only toying with her food at mealtimes. She’d then eat a single gigantic meal before returning to 2 days of a liquid diet. I’ve learned to accept that the things that my kids will eat taste bland and boring to me. I’ve learned to focus on nutritional balance over variety. And I’ve learned that I’d rather spend time talking to my kids about their observations of the world than arguing over food.

In recent months, I had a flash of insight. If my kids prefer their fruits and vegetables raw and separate, why do I seek out vegetable recipes? My love for rich combinations of flavours and textures doesn’t mean that different concoctions and preparations will tempt my children. They can have their veggies raw. At least they’re eating them.

Now, instead of coaxing my kids to try the latest and greatest vegetable solution I’ve come up with, I lay out a raw vegetable or collection of veggies at meal time. The girls can assemble their own salads or keep their carrots from touching their jicama if it’s that kind of day. J can have her ranch while M and I forgo dressing.

Do they like what I like? Not yet. Are they getting their fibre and vitamins? Yes. Are they learning to make good food choices? Yes. Would I rather we could all enjoy Cajun okra or curried cauliflower together? Absolutely.

What’s your children’s take on fruits and vegetables? Do they eat them cooked? Raw? Not at all?

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Cooking for a Crowd: Easy Meals for Feeding Multiples

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Categories Feeding, Feeding Older Children4 Comments

Every parent with more than one child has experienced the frustration of making sure things are fair and equal, and this pressure can be especially amplified at mealtime. From the number of meatballs on top of spaghetti to the closeness of the peas to the chicken breast, nobody notices minute differences between dinner plate quite like kids. And of course, parents of multiples will probably feel the mealtime-fairness pressure more than anyone!

Cooking can be overwhelming in itself, but cooking for kids can be even more of a challenge. The following make great go-to meals for parents of multiples, no matter what size brood you’re feeding. Not only do they all allow everyone to easily get his or her fair share at dinner time, but they’re perfect for making in big batches when you’ve got multiple hungry mouths to feed! Try out the following lunch and dinner ideas to eliminate one less stress at the dinner table.


Making individual sandwiches, subs or pita pockets for all of your multiples can be repetitive and time consuming. Instead of customizing personalized cold cuts, try melts instead. Simply place pitas, English muffins or slices of bread on a baking sheet, top with slices of tuna salad, chicken salad or turkey and stick a slice of cheese on everything. Stick the tray in the oven for a few minutes and you’ll have a tray full of open faced melts ready for everyone at the same time.

Assembly Lines

Avoid the argument of “she got more than I did” by having your kids serve themselves instead of having you divvy up portions. Create an assembly line on your kitchen counter and have everyone build his or her own plates. This method works well for meals like tacos and baked potatoes—plus, it will reduce cleanup for you.

Sliceable Options

One of the easiest ways to feed a large group at once is to choose meals that can be easily sliced and diced. French bread pizzas and flatbreads are easy dinners that can be stuck in the oven and cut into a large number of strips or slices at mealtime. Quesadillas are another good option; make a few big ones and then simply cut them into as many triangles as you need.

One-Pot Meals

When it comes to feeding a crowd, one-pot meals are a parent’s best friend. There are hundreds of dishes that can be cooked up in one big, mess-free pot, and it’s incredibly easy to double, triple or even quadruple these types of recipes—just get yourself a bigger pot! Look for pasta recipes, easy chili recipes and comforting casserole bakes; they’re perfect for feeding big families.

This list is a good starting point for moms looking to cook easy meals for their kids, but it certainly isn’t exhaustive! What are your favorite meals for feeding your multiples?


This is a guest post by Meredith K. on behalf of ReadySetEat. To explore easy recipes for dinner, visit

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The Soda Culture

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The first graders at my daughters’ school took a field trip to see Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. I’m all for field trips. If this one got kids excited about Dr. Seuss and reading, so much the better.

There was one thing about the field trip announcement that bothered me, though. The movie snack pack would include popcorn, soda and a treat.

This note describes a school field trip to see The Lorax.

Am I alone in the universe in thinking that giving 5- to 7-year-old children soda to drink crosses a line? The popcorn, and even the candy, don’t bother me much. We eat both these things at home, in moderation. Adding soda to that, though, seemed like too much. All the more astonishing to me was that my girls weren’t even offered water, even though I’d jotted a note on both their permission slips requesting water for them. At lunch, too, they told me that they were only offered sodas.

J and M’s first exposure to sugary sodas was soon after we moved to El Paso. They were given it at daycare. They then stopped going to daycare, and fast. Once they’d had a taste, I didn’t think that forbidding sugary drinks would accomplish the goal of good decision-making. Instead, we struck a deal. When I drank soda, they could drink soda. This has been keeping us all honest. We limit ourselves to a sweet drink, other than juice or milk, once a month, just as we limit chocolate and other candy to once or twice a week.

Obviously, kids drinking soda is part of the culture here, but is it any surprise that we have an obesity problem? How can I encourage the kids to choose healthy options when their peers often don’t?

How do you go about bucking trends or local culture when you want your kids to choose differently?

Sadia, her husband, and their twin 5-year-old daughters, M and J, are still learning about the culture of the Borderlands, following a move to El Paso from Central Texas in August 2011.

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Teach a Child to Grocery Shop…

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Categories Balance, Feeding, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Other people, School-AgeTags , , , , , , 7 Comments

My husband has a very physical job, and our daughters, M and J, are incredibly active kids. It takes a little more effort on my part to fit exercise into my day, since I have a desk job, but I do my best. I will admit that I haven’t been good about working out since we moved to El Paso, so I’m thankful for Goddess in Progress‘s weight loss contest giving me the push I need to get back in shape. I like aerobics and Pilates, with the guidance of exercise videos in the privacy of my home. The twins and our cat join in with differing levels of effort.

Alongside intellectual curiosity, critical thinking, social responsibility, and self esteem, my husband and I believe that it is our responsibility to teach our children about physical well-being.

Unfortunately, our daughters’ school isn’t helping. Although they have daily physical education, they’re teaching the kids all about junk food. Cookies and slushies are available to purchase at lunch time. No carrots. No sliced apples or bananas. After school, there are cupcakes and cookies on sale, tempting the kids right before they exit the school and are handed over to their parents. On Halloween, each child was asked to bring a bag of candy for the school trick-or-treat event. Every classmate’s birthday heralds cupcakes with neon icing.

The other day, J volunteered to accompany me to the grocery store while M stayed home with Daddy. As I reached for the box of Cheerios M had requested, J asked whether she could choose her own cereal.

“Sure,” I told her, “But you have to choose one that has 6 grams or fewer of sugar per serving. Any more than that makes it a treat cereal instead of a breakfast cereal.”

I showed J the nutrition facts on the side of cereal box I was holding, pointing out where the sugar grams were. She picked one brightly coloured sugary cereal after another, rejecting each one for having too much sugar. I suggested that she’d have better luck if she looked at some granola boxes. She finally settled on Kashi Honey Sunshine.

ServeImage“Mommy,” J asked me, “can I teach M how to look at sugar next time when she comes shopping with us?”

She had her chance tonight at dinner, when M asked for a third serving of Welch’s sparkling grape juice. My husband told her that he thought she’d had enough sugar for the day, and offered her water instead. J showed M how to read the label and exclaimed, “38 sugars! That’s a whole bunch.”

“That’s true,” I told her. “This juice is a treat. We drink it for the flavour, not because it’s feeding our bodies. It’s fine to have a treat every so often, but it’s very important to make sure that we get all the different things our bodies need. We need protein to be strong, and fiber not to have hurty poops. Our body needs some fat to stay healthy, but not too much.”

For the rest of meal, the girls pored over the nutrition label on the juice bottle, asking about the different nutrients. My favourite was J’s reading of calcium as “Colosseum.” There was something quite lovely about the image of ancient architecture bolstering our bones.

I taught myself about healthy eating in my early 20s. Both my parents developed high blood pressure in their 30s, and I didn’t want to go down that path. Rich, fatty Bengali curries with massive quantities of rice must have contributed to their cardiovascular issues and my father’s subsequent Type II diabetes.

It certainly helps that both my husband and I love to cook. It’s hard to put too much junk in our bodies when we’re aware of every ingredient we eat. We don’t tend to count calories, and we’re not averse to eating out, but we try to be responsible, while allowing ourselves our treats. I’m fond of chocolate, and my husband of red wine.

I hadn’t planned to teach our girls to read nutrition labels at 5. I imagined that the model we set at home would show them how to make good food decisions. Peer pressure, though, is a strong force, and M told us today that she had bought 6 cookies at lunch to share with her friends. We don’t want the girls to feel like they need to diet or deny themselves the occasional sweet treat. However, we do want them to understand that while eating is a social and pleasurable activity, nutrition is the primary role of food. Food for taste alone is an extra, and to be taken in moderation.

Are you surprised to hear that junk food is being sold in elementary schools? What would you do if you discovered this in the school your children were to attend?

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