Kids Healthy Cooking – The Perfect Mini Pizza

making mini pizzas with kidsPizza is another one of those fabulous recipes to make with kids that is super easy and fun. Not only do kids like eating pizza, kids like making pizza to! It is fun, easy and something they can get their hands into.

Making mini pizzas with kids is great because they can choose their own ingredients and put on what they like. Giving them choice and control over what they are having. It is also great because they use their hands to make it, and most kids, (though I do know some who don’t), like getting messy and using their hands to make and create things.

The key as the adult is providing a number of ingredients for them to choose from, not only in hopes that they will choose ingredients that will provide a balanced diet, but also an opportunity for them to try something new.

making mini pizzas with kidsMaking mini pizzas is also a great way to give kids further autonomy over their pizza because they are truly making their own, that they are going to eat and no one else.

I had to laugh when we made these in our Mini Chefs class. As soon as I took out the ingredients we were using, little ones started expressing how they did not like tomato sauce, or mushrooms, etc. I just smiled and said that was the great thing about making your own pizza is that they could put whatever they wanted on it!

So they did. Some of them completely excluding the tomato sauce and just placing ham and cheese on top. Others experimented with all the ingredients, while some went for the simple straight forward ‘just cheese’.

And it’s so great to watch them experiment and try new things. Sometimes I don’t know what is actually new for them until after class when I talk to Mom and say “Suzy had ham and cheese on her pizza today.” Then Mom looks at me in surprise and says “Wow, she tried ham, she won’t touch it at home,” looking impressed.

Once you have the kids making a basic mini pizza, you can then start adding in some new ingredients the next time you make them, like spinach or feta. You can also get creative around holidays like Halloween and have them make spooky faces on their pizzas (again adding new ingredients to try like peppers or olives – they’re great for faces). Pizza options really are endless and once they’re hooked and involved they’ll be no limit to what you and they can try.

Mini Pizzas

Ingredients:

Tomato saucemaking mini pizzas with kids

Daiya mozzarella cheese (or regular mozza if preferred)

Sliced ham

Pineapple, sliced and cut into pieces

Mushrooms, sliced

Whole Wheat English muffins

Cut english muffins in half. Place both halves face up on counter. Spoon on 1-2 tablespoons of tomato sauce (to taste). Be careful not to use too much as it will make the muffin soggy. Place desired toppings, ham, mushrooms, pineapple on top of tomato sauce. Spread toppings evenly. Sprinkle with Daiya mozarella.

making mini pizzas with kidsPlace in pre-heated oven (350F) or toaster oven until cheese is melted and muffin is golden brown around the edges – approximately 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on your pizza as some ovens are warmer than others and may cook faster.

Next week we experiment with dips – the caramel one is to die for (and is fabulous with apples – you’ll want to eat an apple just to eat the dip)!

It’s Green….eewww

IMG_4568Greens, greens, greens, one of the first things I hear when talking about diet is that we should eat more greens. There certainly is a variety to choose from like spinach, lettuce, kale, chard, dandelion, etc. all fall into this category. They are rich in fiber, vitamins (like vitamin C, K, E), minerals and have many disease fighting benefits.

But honestly, greens are not always that appetizing. Seriously, I can only eat so many salads, so many different ways and then my body is craving something else. A totally different texture and sweetness even. I don’t care how good for you they are, I get to a point when I cannot possible eat another leafy thing. (You’re with me aren’t you?) Salads can get boring even after you have come up with all different kinds of ways to spice them up! Whether it be nuts, dried fruit, salad dressing etc. You need a change!

So how do you get those oh so beneficial greens in on a daily basis? In fact vegetables in general sometimes I can find a challenge. They recommend 5 servings of veg a day and often I get to supper and may not have had even one.

What I have discovered is the magic of smoothies! They are a great way to get all kinds of things into your body in a quick, easy and yummy way. There are all kinds of great recipes and combinations out there that are absolutely delicious. And sometimes you may not even notice the ‘good stuff’ (like spinach) that’s in there because you can’t really taste it.

IMG_4309Every morning I make a delicious tasting green smoothie that includes a bunch of greens and some fruit to sweeten it up. That way first thing I am getting not only some vegetables, but some green vegetables right away! I make it religiously and even my kids love it and enjoy it as well, asking for some when I make it. (Score!) I miss it on the odd day that I do not make it, usually because I am out of some ingredient and haven’t gone to the store yet.

Now there are lots of variations on a green smoothie out there an honestly some of them are not very good. They look a gross colored green when mixed, they don’t taste that great, and though good for you I end up choking it down, trying not to bring it back up. Gross! Who wants to drink that! I don’t care how good it is for me.

IMG_4573I had tried one before that was cucumber, spinach, celery, parsley, lemon, banana and water. It was ok and I drank it, got the health benefits, but honestly it was not that tasty. And seriously if I am going to eat healthy then I want it to taste good to. I am not a believer in healthy having it taste like cardboard, or having to choke it down. Food is supposed to taste good, we are supposed to enjoy our food. It is one of pleasures of being on this planet and being human, food! So I did this first version for a while and then gave up, it just didn’t provide the taste I was looking for. So good for me or not, I ditched it. (Though for someone else this may be totally the kind of taste and smoothie you are looking for! To each his own right?)

It was when I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago that I discovered my recent combination for a green smoothie. Spinach, mint, papaya and more this smoothie not only looked a lovely vibrant green it tasted absolutely delicious! I was sold. I wrote down the ingredients and came home to create my own. I played a little bit with the amounts, got it how I wanted and now everyday I enjoy this yummy, sweet, nice looking green delicious smoothie. I even have both my mother and sister (and sometimes even my Dad and that’s saying something because my Dad is not really a smoothie guy) enjoying this smoothie everyday. Once I shared it with them and they tasted it, they were hooked as well.

Now of course, I am going to share it with you, and I hope you love it! If you’re not a sweet kind of person it may not work for you but give it a go and see. Kids for sure will love it and it is such a fabulous easy way to get in those vegetables and fruits that we may not be getting in daily. Smoothies in general  have endless possibilities…. but that is another post.

Green Smoothie

1 c. spinachIMG_4567

3-4 stems of parsley

1 sprig of mint

*1/2 c. papaya

1/2 c. pineapple

1/2 c. mango

1/2 -3/4 c. apple juice

Put all ingredients in Vitamix blender. Start on low moving up to high. Blend on high for 1 minute or until smooth. Enjoy!

*I usually use orange or yellow papaya as I like it better and find it sweeter; but you can also use red papaya

**vary the amounts of fruit to make it sweeter or less sweet to taste

Makes one glass of yummy green smoothie

 

Sugar the Good, the Bad and Why it’s important to know the difference

teaspoon_of_sugar_photoThere have been an increasing number of articles recently on sugar; the astounding amounts we consume to the effects it has our body. From National Geographic to MacLean’s magazine they produce astounding stats about sugar. As a result this has spring boarded various responses from the public either agreeing with these articles or disputing them.

Recently I read a blog post on todaysparent.com that stated that ‘fear mongering‘ does not teach our children how to eat healthy and that labeling sugar bad or good was not a good thing. I agree with this blogger in part but I also disagree with her as well.

It is important to distinguish between the different types of sugar. Sugar in natural forms, such as fruit and honey, are good for us and we do need it to assist our body’s functions (as Jen Pinarski states). It is the refined sugars, the ones that are processed from their original forms and remove things such as fiber or other beneficial ingredients that are the concern. Things like white sugar, molasses and corn syrups to name a few.

Fruit has natural sugar that our bodies metabolize and use positively

Fruit has natural sugar that our bodies metabolize and use positively

It is also the amount of these sugars that we are consuming in our daily lives, as 80% of our foods do have some form of processed sugar added to it. This is what creates the astounding amounts that we consume on a daily basis. Yes some of it is choice and yes many people can read labels but many people don’t. They assume that because it is tomato sauce it is good for them and there is no problem, but many brands add processed sugar.

I agree that we need to educate our children about the pros and cons of sugar, and teach them the differences between natural and processed sugars. But how does a kid get that processed sugars are addictive, suppress our immune systems, and create mood swings? They don’t. We have been sugar free in our home for almost 3 years now and I still struggle with my oldest son understanding why we do this. There are days he’s cool with it and there are days that he’s not; and in our case he is one of these people who is highly affected by sugar and it wreaks havoc on our lives when he consumes it). I am trying to teach him that he is a leader for others and that he is sick less or for not as long (to name a few benefits). It’s over his head, he doesn’t care. He wants the coffee crisp that the kid beside him is having, because its prepackaged and ‘everyone else’ has one. Never mind that I can offer him an alternative that is pretty much the same but made with whole ingredients and natural sweeteners.

food_labelsIt is the parents/ adults we need to educate first, teach them how to make healthy choices for their families and how to teach their children to do so as well. I have always felt the best way to teach children is to model, they are so impressionable and often do and say what they’ve seen rather than what we have said. Not that saying informing to is not effective, we need to do that as well, but our actions truly speak the loudest. So parents need to read labels, switch out soft drinks for healthier choices, etc. and do it happily. The kids will start to do it as well. My son often will pick up something and read a label before he asks for it, he knows what to look for and the twins do as well, though they cannot read yet, they are doing the action and know why 🙂

Almond Butter Rice Krispie Treats

Almond Butter Rice Krispie Treats

It’s the titles of these articles that are the problem. Though they catch people’s attention and are quite factual, the titles such as “death”, “anti-sugar”, “fear mongering” are the things that turn me off and send me looking for another source. But no matter how it is titled, the bottom line is processed sugars are bad, there’s no two buts about it. If it was invented today it would not be approved for consumption. It is an addictive substance that has many negative effects on our body. This does not take the joy out of eating but allows us the opportunity to get creative and find sweet healthy alternatives (with natural sweeteners). I can make quite the variety of treats that taste yummy and one would not know the difference if it was sweetened with processed or natural sugar.

It also provides us all with the opportunity to learn more about our foods and where they come from, how they affect our bodies. I believe the government and schools have to start somewhere and I fully support them removing pop and candy machines from their buildings. Perhaps their message is a bit skewed in how they’re communicating it, but they can work on that. The next step is to offer healthy choices in lieu of, as well as teaching children why a is better than b.

Spooky Halloween Appetizers – Bat Bites

halloween appetizersOne of the things that I have enjoyed about Halloween over the past few years is the unique fun recipes that I have discovered. Now when I say unique and fun I mean ways of taking healthy food and making it into something Halloween themed.

I know I could have been doing this years ago, but since eliminating sugar and going to a sugar free Halloween, my focus has shifted to seeking these things out. I wanted to take the focus off the sugar fest at Halloween and show the kids the other fun aspect of things, like the decorating, festivities and food.

As a result I have made things like Boo-nanas and Apple Bites, which are banana ghosts and ghoulish looking smiles with teeth. I have found veggie platters made into skeletons and this year Bat Bites!

healthy halloween snacks

Apple Bites

These I think are by far the most fun yet. They are made from goat cheese, cream cheese and pesto (of which I have all non dairy substitutions for) and they are not only easy to make but look super cool. These treats are likely more for the adult crowd as some kids may not like the tastes and texture of them.

The trick was when do I make them? Luckily I had planned a wine and cheese for my neighbors and friends very close to Halloween, so I was able to try them out. Of course they were a hit! People loved them, not only how they looked but how they tasted as well.

So if you’d like to get a little creative this Halloween with your eats definitely give these a try! And there are all kinds of ideas out there. Hop on the net and Google it to find a variety of ideas to fit every taste bud.

Bat Bites

4 oz. vegan cream cheese

8 oz. soft mild goat cheese

1/4 c. pesto

2 tbsp. coarsely ground pepper

2 tbsp.poppy seeds

8 pitted olives, sliced

32 triangular corn chips (I just used Tostitos and broke them into smaller triangles)

Mix together cream cheese, goat cheese and pesto. Chill for 40 minutes.

Shape mixture into 16 2 inch balls, about 1 heaping tsp. each. Mix pepper and poppy seeds together in a bowl. Roll balls in poppy seed mixture to cover. Press olives into ball for eyes and insert chips on either side for wings.

healthy halloween snacks

Boo-nanas

Happy Halloween!

3 Easy Steps to Healthy and Nutritious Eating (The kids will LOVE it!)

Eating well is something that is on many of our minds at this time of year. After the overindulgence over the holidays of food and especially treats, many of us look to make changes in what we eat come January. Whether the goal is to lose weight, feel better or just have the entire family eating well balanced and nutritious meals, here are some quick and easy things you can do to make changes right away.

healthy dips for kids

Veggie Cheese Tray

1.Have nutritious snacks on hand. I often find it is not our meals that get us but the snacks we have in between. I have found that my kids will eat what is put in front of them (I have even noticed this for myself as well). If there are veggies and dip out on the counter then that is what they will grab when they are hungry, but if there are cookies near by and accessible then they’ll go for those. So I have started putting together a veggie tray and setting that out afterschool. I like to include variety such as grape tomatoes, mushrooms and snow peas; include your kids faves and watch them disappear. I have some yummy dairy free dip recipes that are easy to make and great with vegetables. You can also do a fruit tray as well with this yummy healthy caramel dip.

2. Provide sugar free sweet treats. There are lots of great recipes out there for sweet treats that do not contain the refined sugars and use natural sugars instead. My kids love banana candy, which is easy to make ahead and have on hand. Or raw chocolate truffles and chocolate pudding (my mouth is watering already!) We all love our sweet treats, it’s in our nature. By providing healthy ones, we satisfy our cravings for something sweet and can feel good about it – not only for ourselves but for our kids to.

Raw chocolate truffles

3. Plan the menu for the week. If you plan out ahead of time your meals (especially dinner) this will not only reduce your trips to the grocery store and save you money but it will reduce stress and the “I don’t know what to make for dinner so I will grab this quick easy (and often unhealthy) option” -whether it be the frozen dinner or the scrambled eggs.

Starting with these 3 easy steps to healthy eating will put you on the road to eating a healthier and more balanced diet.

Tip: I have found that it is easiest to start small and break things down into steps that you can achieve easily, one at a time. If you take on too much at once and try to radically change everything not only are we more likely to give up because we are so overwhelmed, but those changes probably won’t stick. Aim for easy, aim for success!


Why you should stop convincing your kids to eat healthy food (and what you should do instead) by Nina Manolson

Nina in her family kitchen

Have you ever had these thoughts?

“I made a really healthy meal, but I couldn’t convince my kids to even try it!”

“I’ve basically given up going to the effort of making a nice nutritious family meal because my kids just complain and want chicken nuggets anyway.”

“I’m just done with battling with my kids about veggies, it’s easier to just give them what I know they like.”

I totally get it!

As a Health Coach and Family Wellness Expert I hear those sentiments all the time.

And really, who wants food wars? Everybody loses in those situations, right? Your kids get grumpy, you get cranky, and they don’t eat any healthier. What could have been a time of connecting over a nice meal, ends up as a stress-fest!

The bottom line is that you can’t force your kids to eat healthy food.

So, what do you do when you want the best for your kids and you know that means healthy food choices.

Well first things first:

Stop the battle.

Yup, just stop fighting about it right away. Seriously it doesn’t help. I’m not saying give up your ideals of making healthy food happen in your family, I’m just saying stop arguing about it.

I have a better strategy for you.

Let’s change the food culture in your family.

Instead of being in a “healthy-food is serious business” mode, use my B.E.E. method to switch it up and make your family food culture fun and interesting (and delicious of course!)

Let’s “BEE” advocates for healthy change with a positive attitude and lots of kid involvement.

 

B = BUZZ

Billions of dollars every year are being spent to market junk food to our kids, we need to create our own buzz for healthy food.

For example:  Instead of offering your kids a smoothie with the news that it’s nutritious, bring some ‘buzz’ – tell the kids that it’s delicious, with a secret hidden ingredient or fruit to discover. The same excitement can be generated at dinner. If you’re making sautéed spinach, say ‘I have a magic trick. Do you think I can make this huge pile of greens fit into this tiny bowl?’

E= Empower

I know that taking your kids food shopping is not always easy, but inviting them to choose some of the fruits and veggies that get purchased helps them get involved.  This way, you’re empowering them to be an active participant in eating healthy, and they become part of the hunting and gathering process.  Just be sure everyone eats before shopping, so there is less temptation in the cookie aisle.

The other part of empowerment is to get them in the kitchen. Giving kids the tools and skills they need to make delicious food is very empowering.

E – Educate

Talk to your kids about how food affects their bodies. We raise kids to know math and how to read and write, but we also need to create food-literate children.

By teaching your kids things like:

  • how to read labels,
  • how sugar affects their body,
  • what food actually grows from the ground and what’s made in a factory
  • and more…

You’re creating an educated consumer who can then make healthy choices on their own.

Also, be sure to educate yourself. You may not have grown up in a family that made healthy choices, or you may have fallen into some unhealthy habits. Get support for yourself. Learn from someone who can guide you in making healthy food happen for you and your family.

For more free tips on how to easily add healthy, delicious foods into your kids diet without a fight go to http://www.1shoppingcart.com/app/?Clk=4846976

If you’re ready to make a healthy change for your family now, join me for the “Make Healthy Happen In Your Family; 5 weeks to feeding your kids well in a world that doesn’t” With fun and ease, I’ll walk you meal by meal into healthier habits http://www.1shoppingcart.com/app/?Clk=4846972

Nina Manolson is the founder of SmokinHotMom.com and HealthyYummyKids.com.  She helps busy moms look and feel their best and teaches them how to make healthy habits come alive in their family. She’s the author of the practical book “Feed Your Kids Well In A World That Doesn’t.  For more information go to: http://www.smokinhotmom.com

Sugar Free Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving Turkey

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I am not sure if it is because the meal contains so many foods that I love, such as turkey, stuffing and gravy, or my favorite pumpkin pie! (Actually I love anything pumpkin – pumpkin muffins, pumpkin spice lattes)! Or if it is because of the warm, comforting feeling that surrounds the holiday. The fall season, that makes me think of burning candles and cozying up by the fire.

Pumpkin muffins

Either way I thoroughly enjoy it, and it is something that I look forward to. Last year, when we went sugar free at our house, I was a bit concerned, in fact I was very concerned about how to make my pumpkin pie. This was not something that I wanted to give up. Was it possible to find or create a recipe that would be just as good? I hoped there was, so I started looking and within a short time discovered a recipe that met my requirements and was just as easy to make. I found the recipe at Honey Bunny, the same company that makes the Bodacious Tomato Ketchup and BBQ sauce that we now buy. The Honey Bunny recipe called for evaporated milk and since we are also a dairy free household made a simple adjustment and used coconut milk instead. It turned out beautifully! and was just as delicious if not more, than what we were used to. In fact I think we all had 2 pieces!

The other thing that I adjusted last year was our cranberry sauce, as store bought brands contain a lot of sugar. I have never been a fan of cranberry sauce, but others in the family enjoy it. So I decided to make my own. I got the original recipe off the bag of Ocean Spray® cranberries and simply substituted agave nectar for the sugar. Again I had great success! and even I enjoyed some cranberry sauce last year.

I find that the highest amounts of sugar that we consume are around the holidays, and Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a lot of feasting and delectable delights. I know many people who feel like they have overindulged during the holidays and put themselves on a strict diet after Christmas. But if we had treats that were good for us and did not contain the sugar than we could enjoy the holiday feasting and not feel guilty or like we have overdone it. Eating healthy and well can be done, regardless of what is going on.

There are many alternatives out there and ways to still enjoy the foods you love without the sugar or worry. You will also feel so much better and so will your family! Perhaps this Thanksgiving is a great time to start. Try these recipes below and add them to your dinner feast. You’ll be amazed how good they are and if you don’t tell anyone else at the table, I bet they won’t even notice.

Honey Pumpkin Pie

1-398 ml can pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1-398 ml can coconut milk

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine all ingredients together. Pour into 9 inch pie crust.
Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F and cook for 35 minutes. Test with cake tester, if it comes out clean pie is done, and centre will move only slightly when gently shaken.

Cranberry Sauce

1 -12 oz. pack fresh or frozen cranberries, rinsed and drained

2/3 cup agave nectar

1/2 cup water

If you prefer your cranberries to be crushed within your sauce, crush in a bowl or puree in blender. Combine water and agave nectar in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.

Makes 2 1/4 cups

Happy Feasting!


Don’t forget, guest blogger Nina Manolson this week with more great tips and tricks on eating healthy!

Homemade (Sugar Free) Apple Pie

apple pie

It was a busy weekend at our house with the Fall activities beginning, soccer evaluations, Ju Jitsu and Leaders in Training. Rallying the kids, getting them ready and myself ready was quite the challenge, but we managed to get it all right. Well almost all. Somehow we mixed up the times for Matthew’s Ju Jitsu grading and unfortunately he missed it. He was pretty upset and now can’t grade until December, but his Dad ended up taking him for a motorcycle ride to ease his disappointment and they had a glorious time! It was a gorgeous warm, fall afternoon, with bright sunny blue skies.

In the midst of all this activity, I still had a huge basket of apples in my kitchen, and though we were diligently eating them, there were still quite a few. So Saturday afternoon while Matthew was out I decided to make apple pie. I had yet to try a sugar free version of this pie but was fairly confident after the success I had with the cherry pie in the summer (see earlier post for Sugar Free Cherry Pie recipe).

I had pulled my pie crust from the freezer earlier that morning. (I make a it from scratch, simply using the recipe on the Tenderflake® box, making a whole batch at once which is six pie crusts, and freeze it for later). This makes it a lot easier and quicker to make a pie when the crust is ready. Plus I make a killer pie crust, even my sister, who loves to cook and bake, is envious of my crust as she cannot make one as light and flaky as mine 🙂 I simply roll it out, prepare the filling with the pie in the oven within 15-20 minutes.

I used my apple peeler corer slicer once again to prepare my apples, also a great time saving device as you can peel, core and slice an apple in less than a minute. Mixed up the filling, estimating the amount of honey to substitute for the sugar, poured it over, put the crust on top and placed it into oven.

sugar free apple pieWhen substituting honey for sugar you reduce the amount of honey by 1/2 to 2/3 of the amount of sugar. Honey can be is 2-3 times sweeter than sugar so you don’t need to use as much. The amount of honey you will use will depend on the kind of honey you’re using (as some flavors are sweeter than others), and how sweet you like things. I found that using 1/2 cup of honey for the pie worked really well. Not too sweet that it overtook the flavour of the apples, but nice enough to sweeten it up a bit.

The pie turned out beautifully. Matthew jumped for joy when he came in from his ride and saw it on the counter. The twins, who were dubious at first, wanted apple crumble, not understanding or knowing what apple pie was, as they had never had it before.

Chloe especially insisted that she have crumble, but once she tasted her pie, she was sold and had 2 pieces! In fact, everyone loved it, ooed and awed and almost polished off the the whole pie! We had one piece leftover, which Matthew was lucky enough to take in his lunch to school.

I managed to put a good dent in my apples but I still need to make a few more things to use them up. I’ll make applesauce for the kids, but I may have to make another crumble or a pie…

Apple Pie

apple pie2 – 9 inch pie crusts (store bought or make your own)

5 c. apples (6-8 medium apples)

1/2 c. honey

2 tbsp. flour

Cinnamon

Roll bottom pastry and fit into a 9 inch pie plate. Let excess drape over the edge of plate.

Peel, core and slice apples and put into pie plate, arranging evenly. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon, to taste.

Mix honey and flour together. Pour evenly over apples. Roll out top pastry, dampen edges with water and place top pastry covering apples. Press and crimp edges together, then cut off excess pastry. Cut several slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake in 350 F oven until apples are tender, about 45 minutes. Serves 6-8.

Enjoy!

 

Homemade Macaroni and Cheese Dairy Free…What?

Macaroni & Cheese is definitely a kid favorite. One that many of us remember having as a ‘treat’ growing up. We would get so excited when Mom announced that she was making mac & cheese for lunch! I would gobble it down asking for another serving, sometimes overindulging myself as it was sooo good. Yes we were having the Kraft Dinner in a box, full of processed goodies with likely no nutrition at all. But we loved it!

When I became a Mom and was more conscious of what we were eating I began to make my own macaroni and cheese from scratch. It is pretty easy to do. Just cook the macaroni and then add milk, cheese and butter to make the sauce. But then we went to dairy free. Hmmm…I know you are probably sitting there scratching your head wondering, how the heck can you have macaroni and cheese without any dairy. “Impossible!” you say, but I tell you it is not.

Chloe loves mac & cheese!

When we decided to move to a dairy and sugar free household, due to alleriges and personal choice, one of the things that I wanted to ensure was that I could still provide all the things that we liked to eat without having to feel like we were giving things up or the kids feeling like they couldn’t have what all the other kids were having.

I found that with so many good dairy alternatives on the market now that making macaroni & cheese without dairy was actually very easy. I simply substitute Earth Balance, a vegan buttery spread for the butter, use Ryza rice milk for the milk and Vegan Rice Cheddar made by Galaxy Nutritional Foods, for the cheese. Now I have to admit that the vegan rice cheddar is not the same as regular cheese and though it works well in cooking it is not something that I would cut a slice of and put on a cracker.

Matthew enjoying his mac & cheese

Regardless, the dairy free version is a hit at our house, Matthew loves it and eats it up usually a bowl or 2 and the babies have at least 2-3 helpings themselves. When making it for the kids I usually put in 3 cups of macaroni keeping everything else the same. The recipe says it serves 6 but with my kids it is ‘serves 3’.

Matthew is the only one who would know the difference between the dairy and non-dairy version and if you were to ask him now he likely wouldn’t remember. He would just say that what we make is good. He likes to add a little bit of salt and pepper, as well as ketchup (we have a brand of ketchup that is sweetened with honey called Bodacious Ketchup) on his macaroni. I was never a fan of ketchup on macaroni, or eggs for that matter. I always looked at other kids weird when I was at their house and they added ketchup. I thought it was gross, but to each his own.

Whatever condiments you may like to add to your mac & cheese you’ll find this recipe to be a great hit at your house. The original recipe comes from Company’s Coming Pasta, but I have posted the dairy free version we make at home here. One other adjustment that I have made is I use brown rice pasta now too. This makes it a nice gluten free option as well. So make, eat, enjoy! It is super healthy for you. And really with mac & cheese how can you go wrong?

Dairy Free Macaroni and Cheese

2 c. elbow macaroni

1/2 c. rice milk

1/4 c. Earth Balance

1 tsp. onion salt

1/8 tsp. pepper (white is best)

2 c. grated Rice Vegan Cheddar

Cook macaroni in a large pot of boiling water until tender but firm, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain macaroni, rinse in hot water and return to pot. Add remaining ingredients. Heat slowly, stirring to melt cheese.

Serves 6

Luke gobbling it up!

Summer Treats -Grasshopper Popsicles

Sharing their first popsicle

Summer time is a great time of year when the days are long and lazy, the kids are off and you are often out playing and enjoying the summer sunshine. With summer comes all the summer treats that we enjoy like ice cream and popsicles.

Luke and Chloe had their first popsicle the other day and loved it! They shared it. It was so cute to watch them licking and biting it, getting it all over their faces and clothes, even though I did have the forethought to put bibs on them.

Anticipating her next bite

I have always made my own popsicles but now with our need to be sugar and dairy free it is even more important for us to do so. I have found the challenge with this change has been to still provide the ‘treats’ that kids are used to and enjoy without the sugar in them. Many store bought brands are full of sugar, artificial colors and flavorings, so in order to enjoy popsicles we have to make them ourselves. Traditionally I have made popsicles using apple or orange juice, or even sometimes juice from the juicer; but I have recently discovered some new, healthy and really yummy recipes for popsicles. The favorite, and the one that Luke and Chloe thoroughly enjoyed the other day, is Grasshopper popsicles. They have banana, blackberries and spinach in them. Yes spinach! What a great way to get those greens in.

I discovered this recipe when I bought my Vitamix this winter. The Vitamix came with a recipe book full of all kinds of sauces, beverages, dips, etc. that I could make with raw organic and sugar free ingredients.

Making your own popsicles is very easy. You can buy popsicle molds at most stores and they are fairly inexpensive. Choosing whatever ‘flavour’ you want you just fill them up, put in the stick and put them in the freezer. Voila! Cool yummy treat!

All done!

So as we enjoy our warm sunny days, where popsicles will become more in demand, I would suggest giving this recipe a whirl. It’s fast and easy -and if you don’t tell your kids what is in it, they probably won’t ask or know the difference. Even when they do find out what is in it, it doesn’t matter to them because they ate it and enjoyed it!

Grasshopper Popsicles – Vitamix

1 c. watergrasshopper popsicles

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 pitted medjool dates

2 c. spinach

2 c. fresh or frozen blackberries

2 bananas, peeled

Place all ingredients in the Vitamix in the order listed. Select variable 1. Turn the machine on slowly increasing the speed to 10 and then to High. Blend for 30-45 seconds using the tamper if needed to press ingredients into the blades. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.