Cooking together: Sunday Morning Pancake Breakfast.  Getting the kiddos to choose the recipes and participate in the preparation makes for eager eaters!

Cooking with Sweet Pea Kids

We have been moving towards a whole food diet since Night Owl presented with food allergies as an infant.  The food that is easy to throw into the grocery cart for most families is not an option for us.  He is allergic to wheat (gluten), eggs, peanuts, coconut, hazelnuts, soy, watermelon, sugar, food dyes – all the prepackaged conventional snacks and treats are out for us.  People see that list and they feel sorry for us; they wonder out loud what there is that we can eat.

Answer:  Everything else.  I adjusted my outlook from despair at all the things he was allergic to…I had those moments when I wondered if we were ever going to eat “normally” again.  Now I look at it this way: those are only 8 foods/groups in the wide world of food.  We can eat millet, rice, corn, and quinoa based carb foods.  He can eat potatoes.  He can eat all the rest of the fruits and vegetables.  I looked it up…he has between 1,000 to 2,000 to choose from, depending on how you categorize the list.  Puma presented with the gluten allergy two years ago, so we made the switch to a gluten-free pantry and pretty much never looked back.

It has been the best thing that has happened to our family.  While some people struggle to make that transition from processed junk food and empty calories, our bigger challenge is how to change it up with the seasons.  How do we ensure that our kiddos have the best organic and conventional produce to choose from so that we save money and eat well at the same time?

With a little menu planning and information about produce, it’s actually very do-able.  We use the EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to decide which produce to buy organic and which crops to buy conventional.  We look through our cookbooks and find recipes that fit in with the ingredients that are in line with produce that is in season.  Now we are ready to make our shopping list for the farmer’s market and our local grocery store.

Here are our favorite cookbooks.  We have found that by working together as a family to choose recipes, the kiddos are vested in eating the food they help to prepare.  By allowing them to choose which recipes to try, there is a higher likelihood that they will taste the food that is served at mealtimes.

Superfoods for Babies and Children by Annabel Karmel

Superfoods for Babies and Children by Annabel Karmel

This is one of my favorite books for first foods.  Puma didn’t start solids until she was 11 months old – at her age, we used a food mill to grind up whatever we were eating and she ate on her own soon after that.  Since she pretty much started with whole foods, this was a great guide to help me design a plan for introducing solids.  We still use it today since there are a lot of whole food recipes that do not include Night Owl’s allergy foods, and the ones that do are easily modified.  One of our favorite recipes is the Broccoli Mac & Cheese.

Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld

Here is another favorite as families learn to eat first foods and beyond.  I made my own baby food for NIght Owl, and then followed suit with Charger.  Since I was making purees to feed the boys, I used them in the rest of our dishes to add flavor and nutrients.  Our favorite recipe in here is the spinach and carrot “infused” brownies.  I still use the tip of mixing purees into tomato sauces – that red hides just about everything.  Since we are not pureeing anymore, I do shred our fresh market vegetables into the sauce and simmer it on the stove.  The house smells amazing, and I watch with delight at mealtime as Sweet Pea Kids (and Dad!) lick their plates clean.

Weelicious by Catherine McCord

Weelicious by Catherine McCord

This has been Puma’s favorite book, as you can see by all the pages we have marked.  We are stuck on the Apple-Cinnamon pancake recipe – life-changing!  It was easily modified for our gluten-free, egg-free kitchen, and we have experimented with different fruits and add-ins.  It is by far Sweet Pea Dad’s favorite pancake recipe *ever*.  He, more than anyone, laments the shift to the gluten-free lifestyle.  We have also made some of the soup recipes, and are slowly working through the rest of the recipes we have marked to try out this summer.

Kid's Kitchen Cards from Barefoot Books

Kid’s Kitchen Cards from Barefoot Books

These are a brilliant concept from Barefoot Books.  There are 40 boardbook-type recipe cards with an illustration and ingredients on the front, and the instructions on the back.  Each of the kiddos can take turns choosing a card and deciding what to try for a snack or a main course.  Our favorite find in this stack has been the fruit kebabs.

Sweet Pea Families: Cooking with Sweet Pea Kids

The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas

This is the last book that makes the trip with us pretty much wherever we are going to stay for a while.  After watching the documentary “Forks Over Knives” this year, one of my goals is to have at least one vegetarian family meal every day.  I have been vegetarian for 13 years now.  Sweet Pea Kids have been vegetarian until their first birthday, and then they eat meat as it appeals to them.  After seeing the devastating effects of meat and current practices around the meat industry, I am more mindful of teaching our children that meat is not necessarily a staple at every meal.  They are learning more about healthy protein options…here is my proud mama moment from last week:

Night Owl eating out - nothing on the menu appealed to him, so he ordered his own smorgasbord for lunch!

Night Owl eating out – nothing on the menu appealed to him, so he ordered his own smorgasbord for lunch!

Bon appetite!  I would love to hear your  tips and tricks for engaging your children in healthy eating – what does your family do?

Sweet Pea Kiddos eating a healthy, whole food snack. Sliced fresh fruit, vegetarian cheese, and raw cashews

Sweet Pea Kiddos eating a healthy, whole food snack. Sliced fresh fruit, vegetarian cheese, and raw cashews