Working as a nanny I have found that the most important thing to getting kids to eat healthy food is to start when they are young, and as they get older, making healthy food fun really helps them to stay on the right track. As parents and caregivers to the children in our lives, we are able to help pave a path that they can take and benefit from for the rest of their lives.
When working with infants I like to begin introducing solids with savory soft foods first like squashes and avocados and waiting before introducing sweeter foods like bananas and apples. Once they’ve acquired a taste and liking for sweet foods, it’s likely going to be harder to get them to eat their vegetables as well.
I’ve worked with a lot of infants and really young children over the years, and more recently have been working with older children as well, around the ages of 3-6. I am encouraged seeing how much kids really enjoy healthy food when they have the taste for it, when they get to participate in the preparation or be engaged with the food in some way while eating it and when it’s just fun. Kids always want to have fun, and this carries over into food. One way to make food fun is with the presentation and here are just a few protein and nutrient rich food ideas that I’ve used and had success with over the years. I will continue to add more with time. I do love these tasty treats and eat them regularly myself.
Almond butter is great of course because it is rich in protein. Apples, bananas and celery make for a great base, and cinnamon and honey are full of immune strengthening and anti-inflammatory properties.
I set these up usually to allow the kids to have as much participation as possible, unless under a time constraint of course. They love topping the celery with either raisins or Goji berries. Apples and bananas with either cinnamon and/or honey, and on special occasions I even pull out the sprinkles. If there is something here you’ve tried before or plan to make, I will love to hear what other wonderful ideas you come up with!
Note: A fun trick to making something like a plain apple or banana fun to eat is to slice a few pieces and then put them back together. Sell it to the kids as ‘Puzzle’ fruit!
Curry power (I used a pre-made mix of curried spices from bulk at MOM’s)
Thaw chickpeas with just a little bit of water over low to medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally.
Warm a generous amount of coconut oil, and add mustard seeds and fresh grated turmeric root.
When mustard seeds begin to pop slightly, begin to saute onions with seasonings: Turmeric powder, Curry powder (either pre-made or your own creative blend), adding fresh garlic only towards the end so as to not over cook and loose the flavor.
Combine chickpeas, seasoned onions and enjoy on their own or as a side!
(I like to generously season the onions, using basically the amount of seasoning I will like to have present in the entire dish. Seasoning the dish in this way can help prevent over stirring veggies at the end and getting a mushy consistency as a result.)
This tasty dish pair’s well with tomatoes and greens.
This recipe is inspired by my dear friend Katherine Croll of Gentle Earth Retreats (Mundo Tranquilo in Costa Rica) who has treated me to this dish on a number of occasions. I have replicated her dish many times before, and find that each time it is always just a little bit different. Beets and Potatoes make for such a nice combination, and when using red beets to complement this dish an otherwise ordinary looking potato salad manifests into a pink delight.
I realize a lot of people don’t actually like the taste of beets. If that’s the case, try using golden ones, I find the flavor to be mild by comparison, and you can always just use a small amount. With any success you just might be able to mask the flavor and still receive the health benefits. Personally, I love the taste of beets and enjoy using a decent amount!
I will like to play around in the kitchen and find a nice homemade recipe for vegan mayonnaise, until then I am grateful Veganaise: with Grapeseed Oil is readily available. It’s delicious and I’ve served it to plenty of people who say they either couldn’t tell a difference from original mayonnaise, and many who even prefer it’s taste over any other kind.
The leafy beet greens are wonderful, I always look for the best looking beet roots as well as healthy greens because it feels like a 2 for 1 deal. I love adding the greens to smoothies and have yet to try cooking with them.
Prepare beets and potatoes by washing and scrubbing them thoroughly, remove tips and tops of beets and peel. (I peel only the beets, and leave the potatoes’ nutritious skins intact.)
Boil beets and potatoes separately until tender when pierced with a fork. Beets take awhile longer to cook. (upwards of 30-45 minutes) To expedite the cooking process cut the potatoes into bite size pieces before cooking, and cube the beets into even smaller pieces.
Allow both to cool in the refrigerator until potatoes don’t easily fall apart. (at least 1-2 hours ideally)
Sautee Onions with coconut oil for a few minutes before adding sliced celery, and then add garlic towards the end.
Once everything is cooled off, combine everything in a large bowl, adding together: beets, potatoes, sauteed veggies, vegan mayonnaise, cilantro and S & P to taste.
I’ve been wanting to try for some time now to create a vegan version of this notorious topping, whipped cream, and successfully did so today. I will explore further to see if I can make it even fluffier, in the mean time I am thrilled with the results!
1 can of refrigerated organic canned Coconut Milk (do not shake contents & use only top portion of the can)
1/2 – 1 tbsp sweetener of your choice, I used maple syrup
Flavor, I used vanilla extract and edible rose water
With a hand held mixer or stand up mixer, blend for a few minutes the thick content (top portion) of refrigerated canned coconut milk until desired consistency is reached.
Then add sugar, vanilla extract and rose water
Adding all the contents of the canned coconut milk will work and taste delicious (shown in pictures this way.) After another attempt and only using the thick part of the canned coconut milk I had much better luck getting a fluffier consistency though. Once mixed I left it for a few a minutes in the refrigerator and it solidified even more. This is such a treat!
*The liquid on the bottom of the can can be saved and used as a wonderful addition for just about any dish at another time. If you choose to add some of the liquid portion of the can, be sure to do so sparingly and add only a little bit at a time.
This hearty, healthy and simple dish is easy to make, and a real delicious treat. I find it to be grounding, warm and soothing especially for the colder times of year. It’s something I threw together today before work and look forward to duplicating as well as expanding on with different herbs and spices. Give it a try, and be sure to let me know what you think.
Mushrooms (baby Bella)
Onion, sliced thinly
Garlic (fresh or powder)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1. Thaw and gently cook chickpeas over medium heat with a teaspoon or so of water, until soft when pierced with a fork.
2. Sautée onions with coconut oil, then add mushrooms and garlic. I also added a bit of ‘Earth Balance Roasted Garlic and Herbs’ vegan butter for easy source of extra flavor. (Opt.) Always fresh herbs are of course the best, but this is great for when you find yourself cooking with a time limit.
3. Cover chickpeas with several handfuls of rinsed spinach and let steam for a minute or two.
4. Combine everything, season with salt and pepper to taste and top with hemp seeds.
This simple dish came to life recently while sharing food with friends over the weekend. I’ve had the pleasure of picking up fresh produce from a local farm market for many weeks now and this time I found this wonderfully colored cauliflower. It was orange, unlike any I’ve ever seen and kept it’s color nicely when steamed. I tried to pick other vegetables that would compliment the cauliflower nicely, while also adding color to the dish. I do love the colors found in fresh, natural foods! In order to maintain the flavor of the cauliflower I separately sauteed the kale, using stronger spices, and then combined everything, the flavors from the kale then adding nicely to the dish as a whole. Of course I like just about anything topped with hemp seeds for extra protein and texture, and they are very mild in flavor. This dish came about the same evening I made Curried Spaghetti Squash and the two dishes complimented each other nicely when eaten or even mixed together.
saute kale (with cayenne, garlic and spices)
salt and pepper
hemp seeds (opt)
Steam cauliflower, carrots, onions, celery together until tender but not over-cooked. You should be able to tell desired tenderness by the feel of poking veges with a fork. Season lightly with vegan butter, garlic powder and salt.
Saute fresh garlic, kale, cayenne, coriander and cumin with coconut oil or grape seed oil and any other seasonings you may be called to use. Kale cooks quickly, be sure not to over cook it.
Combine together all ingredients and season with salt and pepper to taste.
curry leaves (can be found fresh at Indian markets)
salt and pepper
Cook Spaghetti Squash in oven: cut in half length wise and remove seeds with a spoon. Cook squash in oven, halves face down in a half inch of water. Bake at 375 until tender, 30-35 minutes. Rake a fork back and forth to remove strands like spaghetti.
On stove top prepare vaghar (seasoning), melt ghee and add spices: mustard seeds first, when they begin to pop add coriander, cumin, turmeric and a few fresh curry leaves if available. (prepare as much as needed to season not only the onions but enough to be used to season the squash strands as well)
Saute onions in vaghar and add cayenne (spicy; use a little at first, adding more if needed), cook onions until desired consistency is reached. Adding raisins for only just a moment before moving contents to a bowl.
When Spaghetti Squash is thoroughly cooked, combine in bowl with seasoned onions and top with Cilantro.
Measurements are approximate, if replicating this dish please use your discernment for right amount and enjoy the leftover stuffing!
Pre Heat Oven to 450
Cut Squash in half and remove seeds
With 1/4 inch of water in pan, cook Squash cut side facing downward for 15 minutes
Flip Squash and coat with ghee / vegan butter / coconut oil (any), drizzling a dash of maple syrup on as well and cook for an additional 10 minutes cut side facing upward.
Meanwhile prepare veggies in your choice of oil: Onions first, then celery slices, adding garlic towards the end. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until softened, approximately 6 minutes. Then add Thyme and cover for about 1 minute until fragrant.
Remove from heat, stir in rice, pecans, cranberries and S & P.
Stuff Squash, drizzle with ghee or vegan butter, cover with aluminum foil and cook for 10-15 minutes.
Remove foil and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, until squash is tender when pierced with a fork