Monthly Archives: November 2014

French Food Rules

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving! We’re getting together with some friends from church and so Scott and I are cooking a third of the menu items; he has the entire week off which is heaven! We’ll be making Sweet Potatoes (with a quinoa and nut crumble topping), Pecan Pie, Caramel Apple Pie, Holiday Quinoa Salad, maple syrup sweetened Cranberry Sauce, and Mashed Potatoes. It’s gonna be great!

I recently read a book by Karen Le Billon titled, “French Kids Eat Everything”. It’s about a Canadian woman who moves her family to her husbands hometown in northern France for a year(they are university professors and would be on a one year sabbatical), and she is surprised by the food education she receives, along with her two young daughters. Karen came up with ten ‘French Food Rules’ based off her observations of the French food culture; below is a photo of her rules:

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Here is a closer look at that list of rules with some of the ideas/thoughts I gleaned from the text that followed each rule; the text in italics are my personal thoughts:

French Food Rule #1 You are in charge of food education Don’t play with food. Kind but firm. Authoritative parenting. French Food Rule #2 Avoid emotional eating. Food is not a pacifier, a distraction, a toy, a bribe, a reward, or a substitute for discipline. Don’t use food as a bribe, reward or punishment. Don’t give it attention if they don’t want to eat it. Don’t label them a ‘picky eater”. Rather tell them they are ‘learning to eat”. Serve veggies every day; one day raw, the next cooked. Fried food no more than once a week(we don’t really do fried so this won’t be difficult). Real fish at least once per week(This, on the other hand, will be very difficult considering I don’t like fish.But I think it’s a nice idea 🙂). Fruit is dessert most days; sugar desserts, once per week(really like this one!). French Food Rule #3 Parents schedule meals and menus. Kids eat what adults eat: no substitutes and no short-order cooking.(Amen!)  I used to do this all the time when we only had our one child. If Elisabeth didn’t want what I made for dinner, I’d warm her up Dino Buddies :). Yikes! I’d pop 5 chicken nuggets in the microwave; and I thought that was a healthy substitute! But what I eventually realized was that I was hurting her by doing that, not just with health and nutrition, but because I always had a substitute for her and never made her try what we had, she didn’t develop those tastes early on like her siblings did, and still now, even though it’s 5 years later and she’s ten-years-old, she’s my one that still has a harder time trying and liking new foods. But, as she is maturing, and as we talk more about foods, about their flavor, texture, color, etc,  she is recognizing the benefits of trying new, nutritious foods and she is making a conscious effort to do more trying, and liking, which is wonderful! Americans tend to be anxious about food and to identify health, nuturtion and dieting as the key issues they associate with eating. The French, almost never mention any of these topics when asked for their thoughts on food. Rather, they talk about pleasure, tasty food, socializing, culture, identity and fun. French Food Rule #4 Eat family meals together. No distractions! We’ve always been pretty good about not having any TV, phone, electronics of any sort etc. at the dinner table and I’m glad because we have some of the best interaction with the family over dinner together; in fact, when my kids ask me what my favorite thing was each day (they ask after I ask them first), my answer is almost always, ‘dinner with the family’. And it’s true. French Food Rule #5 Eat vegetables of all colors of the rainbow. Don’t eat the same main dish more than once per week.  French food rule #6 For picky eaters: “you don’t have to like it, but you do have to taste it.” Say at every meal. (I love this phrase and use it often!) I didn’t have to teach my daughters the patience they needed to wait in line at the bank or grocery store because snacks would achieve the same result, without stress. (true!) Don’t fuss. Say, “you haven’t tasted it enough times yet.” Try to serve it as a soup or puree for taste if they don’t like texture. French Food Rule #7 No snacking! It’s okay to feel hungry between meals. ( 4 meals , or three meals and one snack. Limit snacks, ideally one per day, two max & more for small children, and not within one hour of meals) It’s okay to feel hungry between meals. Eat until you are satisfied rather than full. “A good meal must start with hunger” -proverb.  Hunger is the best seasoning. North American children are given anything to stave off hunger. French children are promised they’ll eat well at next meal(really like this!). Even with newborns, they only eat every 3 hours. French learn self control early on. Never have to ask to reach for a fruit or vegetable. But they do have to ask permission for anything else. If needed, keep family food diary for a week. Track what and how much the family eats. Rebalance snacks and meals if needed. More or less of some foods? French Food Rule #8 Take your time, for both cooking and eating. Slow food is happy food. Instead of saying “I’m full”, say “I’m not hungry anymore.” Parents encourage kids to ‘eat until they are satisfied.’ Ask, “are you satisfied?” or “have you had enough?” “Cooking can be an act of love and delight, or It can be yet another exercise in racing through life on automatic pilot- never stopping for a moment to notice, feel or taste. Cooking performed as an act of love brings us renewed energy and vigor” – Janet Luhrs, The Simple Living Guide Point out the smell, appearance, texture. Have table all set and ready, classical or peaceful music. Once sitting, sit. Eat slow. Visit. Praise those who eat well rather than punishing those who don’t. Don’t be anxious or create a negative emotional setting. French Food Rule #9 Eat mostly real, homemade food, and save treats for special occasions. (Hint: anything processed is not ‘real’ food.)  French Food Rule #10 Remember eating is joyful- Relax! Here are some specific things that we’re implementing at home:  *Less snacking(More veggies. If you do snack make sure it’s not within an hour of your meal time) *Do more 3 course meals: salad, entree, fruit. Don’t bring out entree until after we’ve had time to eat salad. Treat once a week.  *Don’t use food as bribe, reward or punishment which, “imbues food with emotional baggage; children later on will attempt to deal with or bury their emotions through eating; eating disorders.” *Don’t force to eat, no coercion, fuss. *Only eat at table! Not in car, standing or on the run…this will mean cleaner cars and strollers. Great book with lots of good ideas on food culture!


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Peanut Butter Cookies

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Have you ever made whole wheat cookies? I have. I’ve tried to substitute whole wheat flour for white flour in quite a few of my cookie recipes, like snickerdoodles, chocolate chip cookies etc. It doesn’t usually end well which my kids do not appreciate. BUT, you can switch out whole wheat flour for white in peanut butter cookies and still have them taste so good! I have made quite a few different ‘healthified’ peanut butter cookie recipes and they’ve all been pretty good, and after a lot of experimentation, I’ve found that this recipe is the best! They are soft and chewy, even though there is no refined sugar, and they taste amazing!

So, what do I use to sweeten it? Honey and pure maple syrup. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that my hubby, Scott, and I are doing a sugar fast until Thanksgiving. So, when I say sugar, I mean actual cane sugar so the sweeteners in these cookies aren’t included in that category, lucky me! A little side note, last week we had a ‘baking buddies’ group at my house and I had the girls make these cookies and homemade vanilla ice cream, also sweetened with pure maple syrup. When Scott got home from work and he saw me eating a bowl of said ice cream with crushed peanut butter cookies inside, he said something like, “Uh, Dear. I think this sort of defeats the purpose of our sugar fast.” Lol! Okay, so I may have gone a little overboard with this one, but I only host baking buddies at my house twice a year so it was a special occasion :).

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Alright, now back to the cookies. I’ve made these cookies using all honey for the sweetener, and all pure maple syrup. They  turned out yummy both ways, but the maple syrup cookies were a little too cakey for me and while the honey cookies were perfectly chewy, the flavor of the honey wasn’t as mild as the maple syrup, and I kind of preferred the mild flavor. So I found that combining the two sweeteners gave me a perfectly chewy and flavorful peanut butter cookie.

This cookie recipe is extremely straight forward so I won’t take you through the recipe, step-by-step, with  pictures. But I will share a couple of tips that I gleaned from making these cookies so many times in the past several weeks.

I grind my own wheat with my Nutrimill wheat grinder. I’ve had this machine for several years, received it as a Christmas present from Scott, and I love it and use it often. Because I do a lot of baking foods from scratch (breads, pizza dough, tortillas etc), I use a lot of wheat flour and it’s cheaper to grind it myself. And there is something satisfying about grinding your own wheat :). This machine works very fast,  is not messy at all and fits perfectly on my kitchen counter under my cupboards. I understand that most people do not have their own wheat grinders and so if that’s the case, use a good quality whole wheat flour. I’ve used King Arthur’s Whole White Wheat flour and would recommend it.

Once you’ve mixed together all your ingredients, using a cookie scoop to drop the dough onto the baking sheet will make baking 40 cookies quick and easy with very little mess; no dough sticking to hands which is always a plus.

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There’s also no need to grease your baking sheet or use parchment paper. They come off with a spatula nice and easy. I was able to fit 20 cookies on my large baking sheet.

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Once they get out of the oven, wait a couple of minutes before removing them from the pan to a cooling rack so that they’re not as hot and fragile. And do your best to wait to eat your first cookie until it’s cooled a few minutes otherwise you may burn your tongue and then the others won’t taste quite the same for a short while….not that I know anything about that…. I would never do something like that…I’m the epitome of patience and self control :).

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My kids are obsessed with these cookies! Even though this recipe makes about 40 cookies when you use the cookie scoop, our family can finish them off in a couple of days; granted, we have seven members in our family, and 40 divided by seven equals about six cookies each, with the two youngest getting five…Or mom and dad could each have ten and the five kids could split the other twenty evenly, four a piece. You get the idea ;).  And because they’re whole wheat and honey sweetened, I don’t see anything wrong with serving them as an after-school-snack. If your family is not as big as mine, or if you just want to demonstrate a little more self-control than we do, these freeze well. Just wait til they’re completely cool, stick a layer in a freezer ziploc bag, two layers if you separate them with parchment paper, and freeze them for up to a couple of weeks. I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine!

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Peanut Butter Cookies

makes ~40 cookies

1 ½ c whole white wheat flour (King Arthur’s has a good brand; grinding yourself is best if you have a grinder)

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp sea salt

¾ c natural peanut butter

1/3 c raw honey

1/3 c + 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup

½ c (1 stick) butter, softened and cut into chunks (or melted coconut oil)

1 egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, or in a large mixing bowl and a handheld beater, mix the peanut butter honey, syrup, butter, egg and vanilla. Turn the mixer to low and slowly add the flour mixture until combined. Use a cookie dough scoop, or a spoon, to drop the dough onto a large ungreased baking sheet and bake until the cookes are light golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

*Can freeze a layer in a ziploc bag; can do multiple layers if you separate them with parchment paper.


Filed under Desserts

Black Bean Soup


On Monday morning(Nov 10), here in the Denver area of Colorado, it was 60 degrees and sunny, so once the three oldest were off to school, I took our youngest two girls out for a walk. We brought a soccer ball and passed it to each other along our green belt. By ten that morning, cold winds began to blow in, and they were strong. The girls and I brought all our stuff in from outside in the back yard, lawn chairs, jump rope, scooter etc., and by 1030, when we headed out the door for Costco, it was freezing, literally freezing; my phone read 27 degrees! What a change from that warm and sunny morning just an hour before! That afternoon snow began to fall. Unfortunately, we forgot to send a winter coat with Annabelle, our first grader, that morning. Bad mom award, right here! When I picked her up from school, along with Elisabeth and Charles, Annabelle told me that she was very cold during lunch recess. I was shocked they let her out without a coat! At our school in Utah, if you didn’t have a jacket when it was freezing, they kept you inside. Well, we live and learn. And she definitely remembered her coat this morning and I think she will from now on, and if she doesn’t, I will! By the way, today the high is 5 degrees and it is currently 1 degree outside. The low will be negative 3. Brrrr! The good thing about Colorado is it doesn’t last for long; we get warm and sunny days interspersed with cold and snowy ones.

When the temperature drops, I love to cook up soups and chili’s and all sorts of warm dishes. There’s something so comforting about having warm food in your tummy on a cold day. A couple of our children don’t love chunky soups so sometimes we’ll make smooth soups like tomato soup with grilled cheese, or this black bean soup. And my fifth grader, who doesn’t like beans at all, will usually eat some of this :). I think she’s a texture person.

This soup is fairly easy. I can usually have it done within about thirty minutes which is nice for those crazy busy days(read: every day). I also love crock-pot recipes for that very same reason.

You’ll start out by sautee-ing your veggies in olive oil, you’ll add in everything else minus your lime juice and optional toppings. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, and then puree it all in a blender. I need to get one of those immersion blenders so I don’t have to transfer my hot soups into a blender; I always seem to spill or splatter, sometimes on the counter, sometimes on myself, which doesn’t feel good…maybe for Christmas :). Until then, I should probably use a ladle to pour most of it into the blender. Once it’s in there, blend it until it’s smooth, then add your lime juice, and pulse it a few times to combine.


Have I ever mentioned that I love my Blendtec blender? It’s amazing! Grinds anything! And Blendtec has a long warranty (I think it’s around 10 years) and amazing customer service. I’ve gone through 3 blender jars in the 4 years I’ve had it and haven’t had to pay a cent and the process was easy and fast. The motor has been great these four years and we haven’t had any problems with it. I use it every morning to make green smoothies, and then I use it probably weekly for other things like soups, chopping nuts, making flours from grains (though I have a nutrimill too which I use to grind most of my grains, but it can’t do flax seeds and the blendtec can) fruit smoothies, salad dressings etc.


It’s yummy and flavorful just as is!



You can also add a variety of toppings. We usually dip a few chips in while we eat, and add a little sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!



Black Bean Soup (lightly adapted from Our Best Bites)
*makes approximately 8 c soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic (or 4 cloves)
3/4 c diced carrots (2 med carrots)
3/4 c diced celery (2 ribs)
1 c diced onion (1 med)
3 c black beans (2 cans, rinsed and drained)
1 3.5 oz can green chilies
3 c chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano leaves
Optional Toppings: sour cream, tortilla chips, grated cheese, chopped cilantro

In a large stock pot, add olive oil, carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes. Add in black beans, chilies, broth, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Stir to combine. Simmer uncovered about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender. Remove from heat. Place soup in blender(or use immersion blender) and puree until smooth. Add in juice from 1/2 a lime or 1 Tbsp lime juice and pulse to combine. Ladle into soup bowls and add any optional toppings.


Filed under Dinner, Soups

Vegetarian Chili


I hope you all had a wonderful and safe Halloween weekend! Our four youngest kids decided they wanted to trick-or-treat so I took them out for an hour, and our oldest, who is ten, stayed home and handed out candy with dad. Here’s a picture of them Halloween night:

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They sorted through their candy that night and ate as they sorted, and then I had them pick out two more pieces for the next day. Elisabeth, my ten year old, had her last soccer game the following day with a ice cream party to follow, so we cut up all our Snickers, PB Cups and Twix and put them in bowls for toppings, along with all our M&M’s and peanut M&M’s. Everything else will go to work with Scott today and he’ll keep it in a bowl on his desk for others.  And starting yesterday, we’re going on a sugar fast til Thanksgiving! It started out as a goal for myself and Scott, but when we told the kids about it, the three oldest decided to join in, and by default, Jane and Nora, our 2 and 4 year-old girls, probably won’t be having any sugar either. I’m kind of excited :).

A week ago we had a ward/church Halloween party and families brought chili to share. I made a vegetarian chili. This is my favorite vegetarian chili recipe and I’ve tried quite a few. I still remember my first ‘experimental chili’. It didn’t turn out well and unfortunately we were serving it to others.  I’ve learned the hard way, multiple times, that you shouldn’t experiment with guests. It’s just not fair and then if it doesn’t turn out, they’re going to think that all the healthy food you make tastes crappy. “Crappy” is actually a bad word in our house so let’s say, ‘like garbage’. 🙂 So, now you don’t have to experiment with garbage vegetarian chili recipes, you can just use mine :).

About half the ingredients are fresh. You’ll dice up an onion, either yellow or white, it doesn’t matter, and 2 bell peppers. I used one yellow and a half red and half orange pepper just because I like all the colors and I had them all on hand. But if I just had green (usually), then I’d use that.  You’ll saute the onions and peppers in olive oil with your spices in a large pot and then you’ll add your beans (either canned or from scratch), tomatoes, corn, green chilies and your two veggie burgers that you’ve warmed in the microwave according to the package directions, and cubed. I’ve used a couple of different kinds of burgers and they’ve always turned out awesome, so use what you like. The last batch of chili I made, I used  black bean, chipotle burgers.


You can also cook this in the crock pot on low for 4-6 hours after you’ve sauteed your peppers and onions.


We like to sprinkle cheddar cheese and tortilla chips on top. Yum! I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!



Vegetarian Chili

1 Tbsp olive oil

½ med white or yellow onion, chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 1/2 -2 Tbsp sea salt

¼ c chili powder

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2 bell peppers, chopped (any color)

3 cloves garlic, minced (I always use Costco’s already minced fresh garlic)

1 can (4 oz) chopped green chile peppers, drained

2 veggie burgers, warmed(microwaved) and cut into cubes; I love Costco’s black bean chipotle burgers

3 cans diced or crushed tomatoes

1 can each kidney, black and garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 can corn
Optional: 1 c cooked quinoa (for added nutrition; add it in once everything is all cooked and done and give it a quick stir)

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, peppers and spices. Add burger cubes. Add tomatoes and beans. Bring to a boil then simmer 30 minutes. Add corn and cook another 5 minutes. Serve warm; great sprinkled with cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.

*Could also cook in crock pot. Saute onions, peppers and garlic in a frying pan with oil, dump in your crock pot, add in remaining ingredients and cook on low 4-6 hours.

*Great as leftovers. Can also freeze individual servings in quart-sized freezer ziploc bag or pint jars for another week. Thaw in fridge the day before and then warm and enjoy!

*Tip: when you’re choosing your canned goods, always read the labels on the back. Some have added sugars and lots of salt, others are lower in salt and have less ingredients…the fewer ingredients on the label, the better.

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Filed under Dinner, Soups