All Posts Filed in ‘Cooking With Charley

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Our Journey to Whole Foods with Charley – An Update

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Almost a year ago I wrote about my food struggles with our beautiful, spirited daughter, Charley.

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Her full story can be read here, but the gist of it is that she was an extremely difficult baby and toddler and pretty much hated all food except for packaged, processed garbage. Out of pure desperation and exhaustion, we allowed her to survive on that, until last June when we made a goal to have her eating only whole, unprocessed foods in our home (progress, not perfection) by age 5.

“Our goal is no packaged foods by age five. At home, she will have only whole, unprocessed foods. I don’t want her to miss out on some of the wonderful parts of childhood; ice cream on hot days, treats at her grandparents house, or cake at birthday parties. We won’t restrict things like that which are outside of the home. But her food in our house will be real.

Charley is 4 years old now, and you can’t imagine how many times I have regretted posting that article. Most of the time I’m on board and still fired up about changing her eating habits, but when it’s 5:30pm and I’m in the midst of the dinner battle, I often wish I never made that goal and I wish I had never posted it publicly. On the flip side, when the battle is finished, I feel so glad that I made that goal public as it keeps me accountable. Accountability in any health challenge is key.

Charley has come so far with her eating and her little self has changed quite dramatically because of it. Here are a few things we have introduced since the original post back in June of 2014.

1) If you don’t eat what is served for dinner, you don’t eat at all.

Totally harsh. I know it is. But we’ve implemented this rule a few months ago and guess what? My kids are both still alive and functioning well. They do go to bed hungry sometimes, but they sleep fine and wake up ready for a big healthy breakfast. I know some parents warm up the leftover dinner and put it out again for breakfast for their child, but I don’t do that. We start each day fresh. (Note: I didn’t implement this rule at the beginning of our journey to whole foods, as I do think it is quite a leap, especially for a 3 year old. We made this decision and rule after about 7 months of slowly transitioning from packaged to whole.) Also, this applies only to dinner time, where we sit and eat as a family. Her breakfasts and lunches are often different than mine, but still whole and unprocessed.

2) New Food Chart.

Charley has a simple sticker chart that we keep taped to the fridge. Every time she tries a new food (trying a new food is quite intimidating for her – she has a very sensitive gag reflex) she gets to put a sticker on her chart. When the chart is full, she gets to pick out a new toy from the toy store. Huge thanks to my friend Alyne for this idea. Notice that she does not get a sticker for eating everything on her plate. We aren’t even going there at this point. Prior to this sticker chart we were bribing her with a couple chocolate chips or smarties, but we knew it was wrong and not helpful, plus, SUGAR. We don’t need any more of it.

3) Charley is involved in preparing her food.

This girl loves to be in the kitchen with me. We make everything from scratch and I love passing that down to her, and dreaming of one day when she will pass it on to her children. She has her own adorable little apron and recently received an awesome children’s knife set for Christmas from her auntie and uncle. These knives are sharp enough to actually chop but are totally safe. She loves them! You can find them here.

Chopping leeks in the morning sun for our breakfast

Chopping leeks in the morning sun for our breakfast

Making healthy cookies from The Jordan Project blog

Making healthy cookies from The Jordan Project blog

4) We are consistent with our “rules” and the way we talk about food.

I wrote the post Why We Don’t Use the F-Word and Other Family Rules some time ago, and we stick to this. We continue to encourage her and remind her that food is fuel for her body, food gives her energy and strength, and strength is beautiful.

Since we started this challenge back in June, Charley has been sleeping like a rock. She’s in bed sometime between 6:30-7:00pm and sleeps until around 7:00am, with barely any exceptions. This is a huge improvement from before, where she was waking up every 1-3 hours during the night and not able to fall asleep until after 8:00pm. Her intense mood swings have calmed down, although they haven’t vanished. She is still our spirited little girl and struggles with transitions and other things, but the amount of outbursts and temper tantrums has decreased hugely. We can clearly see now when she does have excess sugar how much of an effect it has on her behaviour.

It’s still not perfect. Every once in awhile my kids still eat Annie’s noodles, although way less often. They both still fight me on most vegetables and fruit. Often I want to throw my hands up in the air and give up, but then I remind myself to think of her future…

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for her to enter her teen years not hating her body? To live her young adult life knowing that her worth is not dependent on a number on a scale? To grow up already having healthy eating habits and exercise built into her life, rather than having to begin them at a later age, making it so much more difficult? To look in the mirror and feel strong, capable, and loved? Most adult women don’t feel that way about themselves, and it’s time to break that cycle. We need to stop passing it down to our children. The cycle can be broken, and as a parent, you have the power to do it.


For some of you reading this, it may seem so simple and obvious. You probably fed your child only whole and unprocessed foods from the very beginning. You can’t figure out why some of us didn’t do that. Be kind. You may struggle with some other aspect of parenting that comes easy to us, or you may not. Either way, be kind.

For others of you, the struggle of getting your child to eat only whole and unprocessed foods seems impossible. This post isn’t meant to make you feel guilty about that. It’s meant to be an encouragement and a promise to you that if I can do it, so can you. You can start somewhere and make slow, consistent changes. It’s really really really difficult, but it’s worth it. Break the cycle.


Recipe for the cookies can be found on The Jordan Project blog.

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Kale and Cauliflower Meatballs

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I am constantly trying to get more vegetables into my kids. It is NOT an easy job. Charley has a super sensitive gag and vomit reflex and Xavier isn’t old enough to have a conversation about why he needs vegetables. He also isn’t old enough to understand bribes either…and I’m only half kidding. I get tired of the constant battles over vegetables and fruit and so sometimes I resort to hiding vegetables in food that I know they will eat with minimal complaints. It’s not solving any problems BUT it’s better than nothing and we are doing the best we can. I threw these together with some veggies I had in the fridge and they gobbled them down. Husband gave the thumps up sign as well so I thought I’d better share the recipe!

Ingredients:

-2 lbs grass fed ground beef

-3/4 cup of finely chopped kale

-3/4 cup of grated cauliflower (use a cheese grater or food processor to grate until it is the size of grains of rice)

-2-3 cloves of garlic

-1 egg (This can be skipped if you are allergic to eggs but it does help hold the mixture together.)

-1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

-1.5 tsp dried basil

-1.5 tsp dried oregano

-1.5 tsp dried parsley

-1 tsp dried rosemary

-1 tsp dried thyme

-1 tsp sea salt

-1/4 tsp black pepper

Note: I often buy this Freeze Dried Italian Herb Blend from my local grocery store when I’m in a rush and use it instead of combining all of the above herbs together. The flavour is fantastic! I also like to use the Freeze Dried Poultry Herb Blend for roasting whole chickens.

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. It is best to do this with your hands to get the ground beef and vegetables mixed really well and sticky together.

3) Roll into meatballs about 1 inch in diameter and place on a baking sheet lined with tinfoil or parchment paper. You will need to really squeeze these meatballs with your hands to make sure the vegetables and meat stick together. Depending on your beef, you may need to add another egg to help with the sticking.

4) Bake for 20-25 minutes and then remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

My children ate theirs alongside some almonds, carrots, and raw cheese. My husband and I enjoyed ours with some steamed broccoli, roasted mushrooms and roasted yams. I wish I had doubled the recipe to have enough to freeze for emergency snacks, but they were too yummy and we gobbled the leftovers up for breakfast this morning.

Enjoy!

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5 Tips for Staying Healthy This Holiday Season

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I’m curled up in bed while I write this, surrounded by tissues and hot tea. My inspiration for this post comes from my own neglect of these practices lately, so it’s time to write about it and then practice what I preach.

This Fall, sickness has hit me pretty hard. Here are some things I should’ve been doing and am really encouraging you to do to stave off illness as much as possible.

1) Hot water and lemon. I always have a mug of warm lemon water that I carry around my home with me throughout my day. It’s comforting and refreshing but also aids in blood purification, serves as a powerful antibacterial, and aids your immune system. (For more information on the health benefits of drinking warm lemon water, click here and here.)

2) Sleep. And lots of it. Make it a priority at all times but especially during the fall and winter months. “When you’re sleep deprived, you often feel “worn down” — and that’s a clue that your body is vulnerable to infection. “Not getting enough sleep makes you more vulnerable to picking up illnesses and not being able to fight them off,” says Donna Arand, PhD, DABSM, clinical director of the Kettering Sleep Disorders Center in Dayton, Ohio. “What’s going on is your immune system is degraded.” The less sleep you get, the weaker your immune system is, leaving it less able to fight off colds, flu, and other infections.” (Read more on The Healing Power of Sleep here.)

3) Bone broth. The benefits of drinking bone broth are never-ending, including healthy gut and digestion, muscle repair and growth, a balanced nervous system, and a strong immune system to name a few. It is very simple to make at home, or you can find a good local source. When I don’t have time to make it, I buy it from our local butcher at Heritage Meats. Try sipping it from a mug or just use it as a base for all your favourite soup recipes as often as possible. (More on bone broth, and a recipe for it here.)

4) Lay off the sugar. It very quickly suppresses your immune system, and it doesn’t take much to do it. Better yet, do a Whole30. (There are a ton of articles out there on the topic (google ‘sugar and the immune system’) but I really enjoy this article by Mark’s Daily Apple.)

5) Avoid stress. Of course, not all stress is avoidable. Sometimes life throws us curveballs that we have to accept. However, I have so many friends who complain about their stress level, and most of it is just STUFF. They’ve taken on too many chores, too many activities for their kids, too many service projects (yes, that is possible), and they are burning out. Stress directly stifles your immune response. We all want to do it all, but pace yourself and choose the things that are most important to you this season. (Take my word for it, or read more here.)

Stay tuned for a collection of some tried and tested home remedies for the common illnesses that go around during the fall and winter months! Stay well, friends.

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On Why We Don’t Use the F Word – And Other Family Rules

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No, I’m not talking about THAT F-word.

In our home, we do not say the word fat. Ever. Sound extreme to you? Maybe. But if you’ve ever spent time in that dark place of self-loathing because you can’t seem to starve away every single tiny piece of fat from your body, then you will understand my intense feelings surrounding that word. (Someday I will write in more detail about that dark place, but not yet.)

That’s my sweet daughter Charley in that photo on her first day of preschool. She’s three and a half and as happy as can be. It kills me to know that because I have suffered from an eating disorder, and even though I consider myself healed, she is at a higher risk of developing one in her lifetime. I’ve read the research, and it’s enough to make some very firm rules for our household, to protect her from becoming another statistic. (Even still, if I had never had an eating disorder, the statistics of women developing eating disorders these days are still frightening.)

You may see it as helicopter parenting or keeping my child in a bubble. But have you experienced the hell of an eating disorder? Or the hell of an addiction? The hell of mental illness? If you have, you will understand my desire to build that bubble around her as long as possible. Yes, she will encounter the outside world eventually, but not until our family beliefs and words are imprinted so deeply in her mind and heart that when she comes across the confusing ideas of fat that our society presents, she will be so strong in her beliefs that they will not be shattered by Victoria’s Secret commercials, false advertising, rude comments from men, outrageous diet claims in magazines, etc.

In our home:

We do not use the word fat as an adjective (or at all). Our society focuses on size so much. Why do we always comment on the shape of a person first? Instead of describing someone as fat, large, skinny, chubby, thin or huge, we use other characteristics. “Your Auntie Julia has curly hair, blue eyes, and wears glasses sometimes.” This is a tip that I learned a few years ago in therapy and have made a rule in my life since then, even when I’m not around my kids. The obsession with size in our society needs to end, and this is one tiny place to start.

There are no good foods or bad foods. Food is food. In our home I do my best to not label foods as bad or good, positive or negative, junk or treats. This is especially difficult for me as a Health Coach because I find the nutritional value and science behind food so fascinating. We do discuss that some foods can make us feel sick, slow, or tired and that other foods can give us energy and make us feel good.

Food does not make you bigger or smaller, fatter or skinnier. Yes, if you eat pizza all day, every day, you will get fat. And if all you eat is lettuce all day, every day, you will wither away into nothing. But neither of those are options in Charley’s life right now so she doesn’t need to know that. I never want her to look at ice cream and think it will make her fat.

That scene in Little Miss Sunshine makes me so angry. I want to punch my screen. I remember watching that before I had my own kids and vowing to never let that happen in my family.

We walk everywhere, as often as possible. The walking thing started out not by my choice. Charley was an extremely spirited toddler and absolutely refused to ever sit in the stroller. She was walking confidently soon after her first birthday and at that point we just packed the stroller away into storage and she walked every where from then on. It was annoying at first, but now at age 3.5, she can walk for hours without whining. She loves hiking and running and knows no difference. I absolutely love it. We go for long walks almost every day. We make it a priority so that it is part of her lifestyle now, and not something we have to worry about incorporating later on.

She sees my love for exercise. This one can be tricky and leads right into the next one.

I do not exercise to get smaller or skinnier. My kids see me exercise. I take them for runs, I lift weights while Xavier naps, and they watch myself and other moms workout at our Mommy Workout Group that my friend leads in a park. They know that once a week I wake up early to meet a good friend for a morning workout, and they know that once a week Daddy puts them to bed because I’m at a running clinic. The thing is, my exercise has nothing to do with shrinking. I’m not “working off that ice cream”, “shrinking my love handles”, or trying to achieve the impossible “thigh gap”. My children will NEVER hear those words from me. Instead, I tell them that I’m building muscles so that I can be strong to pick them up, that I’m getting fast so I can run with them and play with them, and so my body has more energy. And those things are true. I’m not exercising to get smaller or reach some goal. I’m exercising so I can keep up with my kids, lift heavy things when I need to, and open my own darn pickle jar.

I do not stare at myself in the mirror. It’s amazing how much little children observe and absorb. I don’t do it anyway (anymore), but I especially do not stand in front of a mirror and critique myself in front of my children. I need a mirror to do my hair and makeup, but I am careful with my facial expressions. No deep sighs of dissatisfaction, no grimaces or squeezing and pinching any extra skin. I don’t have a scale, but if I did, I would not weigh myself in front of my children. So many women I know weigh themselves every single morning. What kind of habit is that to instil in our children?

I am IN our photos. I am in those photos with my kids.  I will not stay out of a photo because I don’t think I look my best or because my outfit isn’t especially flattering that day. And I will NEVER say out loud that I don’t like the way I look in a photo. I avoid negative self talk internally and externally as much as humanly possible. With this same mindset, when we are at the beach or at the pool, I will be there in my swimsuit as confidently as possibly. (It has taken me a long time to get there, but my children are a great motivator.) I will be in the water, swimming and playing with my kids, and not caring if my make up runs or my hair gets drenched and stringy. I still don’t love being in a bathing suit in public, but I’m going to fake it until I make it and make sure my children don’t pick up on that.

I compliment Charley on more than just her beauty. Charley is beautiful, and she hears it all the time from family, friends and strangers. And I’m totally okay with that. I tell her she’s beautiful all the time. It won’t take long before our society tries to make her feel ugly, so I’ll tell her as many times as I can until then that she was created perfectly. I don’t think you can tell your children they are beautiful too often, as long as your compliments of their other strengths outweigh the compliments of their appearance. For every time I tell her she’s beautiful, I make sure to magnify two or three other strengths of hers. For example, things like “I love that you are so kind to your brother”, “You are so good at sharing”, “You are so helpful”. I learned this from a very wise friend of mine who is parenting a few years ahead of me and aim to use this tool with all people I come in contact with, not just my own children.

Food is GOOD. So many people have negative issues surrounding any and all food. In my darkest times, I would be kept awake all night from the shame of eating a plain chicken breast. I would imagine all the fat accumulating on my body as I lied in bed and how much bigger I would be in the morning. I know better now. Now I know that food equals life. Food is fuel for my body. Food is energy and strength, and strength is beautiful.

This all my sound crazy to you. I might sound paranoid and maybe I am a little. These rules may evolve as my children mature and can understand nutrition and science more.

But for now, instilling these values in Charley’s mind and heart is one of my biggest passions.


To read a bit about my story and why I’m so passionate about this, click here.

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Pumpkin Muffins with Zucchini and Banana

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Fall is finally here. I know I’m supposed to be super excited about the leaves falling, cool mornings, and pumpkin spice lattes, but I’m just not there yet. I’m still mourning the loss of the hot sun and late summer nights. My kids however, have fully embraced everything pumpkin. Our local market already has pumpkins for sale and Charley got so excited and begged to take one home. We named it George, and then she helped me cut it up and scoop out the ‘guts’. After baking and pureeing the flesh, we made some of it into these delicious muffins and the rest went into Xavier’s morning oatmeal.

I find paleo baking to be pretty tricky. I usually prefer to use almond flour rather than coconut flour, but Charley’s preschool is completely nut free so I’m having to come up with some new recipes for her. Be aware that the texture of these muffins can not be compared to regular muffins made with wheat flour. Paleo baking is just different, and that’s okay.

Ingredients:

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup shredded zucchini

1 overripe banana

5 eggs

6 tbsp melted grass fed butter (or coconut oil)

1/8-1/4 cup of raw, organic honey (or maple syrup)

1 tsp vanilla

1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup coconut flour

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.

2) Combine all wet ingredients in a bowl and mix well. I used an electric mixer on low to really hide the zucchini and banana as much as possible for my kids but you could mix by hand with no problems.

3) Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well.

4) Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet mix, stirring to combine as you go until well blended.

5) Spoon muffin batter into lined or greased muffin pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until done.

Charley really wanted to sprinkle some mini chocolate chips on top of the muffins before baking so we did that this time (seen in photo). Not necessary of course, but there are much worse things she could be eating, and if those few chocolate chips get her to eat pumpkin, zucchini and banana, then I consider that a parenting win.

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Almond Zucchini Muffins

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We are loving zucchini season! We’ve been using it in everything we can. It doesn’t have a strong flavour so I’ve been able to hide it in some foods for my picky kids to eat. A friend turned me on to Danielle Walker’s Almond Flour Zucchini Bread recipe from Against All Grain and with just a couple of tweaks, Charley and I made it into our own muffins. I had made them to take camping with us the following day but the whole dozen were eaten before we left in the morning! 

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour

2 tsp Epicure’s Fruit Crumble spice (cinnamon would work well here also, I just happened to be out of it)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp hazelnut butter (any nut butter will work)

3 tbsp raw honey

3 eggs, beaten

1 ripe banana

1 cup shredded zucchini

1/3 cup Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

2) Combine all your dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl.

3) Place the wet ingredients in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.

4) Add the zucchini and beat until combined.

5) Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, keeping the mixer going.

6) Add the chocolate chips and mix until combined.

7) Pour into lined muffin tins and bake for approximately 30 minutes.

8) Let cool before slicing in half and slathering with grass fed butter. Enjoy!

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Energy Balls

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I try not to snack unless I really need to. Over the past year I’ve been experimenting with my meal sizes in an effort to figure out just how much food I need at breakfast, lunch, and dinner to avoid getting hungry in between. That being said, sometimes there is no avoiding it. When dinner gets delayed by cranky kids or extra long outings, I like to have something available to quickly grab and tide me over until my next meal. That’s what these energy balls are for. I can also grab a couple on the way to a work out, or take them with me on a hike. There are so many different variations of these that you can make, and I’ve included a few of our favourites. Charley loves making these and I’m happy to have something to offer her instead of a store bought granola bar! Bonus: these are Whole30 approved! Here’s what we created today.

Ingredients

12 dates, pitted and chopped

10 figs, chopped

1 cup hazelnuts, chopped

1/4 cup almonds, chopped

2 tbsp raw cacao nibs

1 cup freeze dried strawberries and bananas

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Raw Cacao Nibs

Raw Cacao Nibs

Directions

1) Mix all ingredients in a large bowl except for the coconut.

2) Working in batches (approximately 2 cups at a time), blend in a Vitamix (or similar food processor) on low speed until the mixture starts to stick together. Scrape the sides and blend for a few more seconds until it becomes it mouldable.

3) Scrape the sticky mixture out (I use a knife to work around the blade. It’s a sticky mess!) into a separate bowl and repeat with the remaining mixture until all of the mixture is combined. You may need to add a tablespoon of water, depending on how moist your dates and figs are.

4) Scrub your hands and remove any jewellery. Leave your hands wet and roll the sticky mixture into balls, approximately 1 inch in size. Press them pretty tightly to ensure they stay together. Keeping your hands wet will allow you to roll them easily without everything sticking to your fingers.

5) Roll the energy balls in the shredded coconut. You should have approximately 15 energy balls, depending on the size. Enjoy!

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Variations

Replace the hazelnuts and almonds with cashews or macadamia nuts.

Use fresh fruit. This makes the process messier but is absolutely delicious! One of my favourite combinations is fresh chopped cherries and 1 tbsp fresh lime juice.

Add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves. Add 1 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice.