As a kid, food was fun. Important to life, nourishing, sure – my mom always cooked healthy food from scratch for us even before it was trendy.
But it wasn’t stressful, until life threw me some curveballs.
After overcoming an eating disorder in college, I was diagnosed with food allergies as an adult.
This is not fun to hear:
- “No peanuts!”
- “Almost no wheat. Avoid it when you can.”
- “Almost no egg whites. If it has more than 2 eggs you probably shouldn’t eat it.”
- “No dairy!” (later revised to “Take a lactaid pill and enjoy life.”)
Suddenly the challenge of healthy eating went to a whole new level.
As an adult who is still growing out of her love-hate relationship with food while raising a young one with similar tendencies, I have learned this important truth:
Eating healthy is about fulfilling our body’s physical, emotional, and even social needs through food
When I stumbled across Kitchen Stewardship, I felt empowered to make small but significant changes to find what would work best for me and my family. And today I get to talk about how I’m making sure food is fun again for my own kids (and nourishing!).
Cool, crazy coincidence….love it! Here’s Danielle again:
Like most of you, I believe that holidays are for fun and gathering! I know that for some chefs and hostesses they bring unwanted stress, and for those of us with allergies life gets even more challenging. Like Katie said, I’ve been coming up with a bunch of fun and easy ways to invite friends and family into the kitchen for your holidays.
Ready for some healthy stress-busters that won’t cost any extra time or money? The first 3 tips are very important:
1. Get help in the kitchen.
I don’t mean hire a professional chef, though there are times when I think that would be lovely.
No, I mean that we should involve our family in meal time before the eating begins. Train those extra hands and willing hearts to join you in the kitchen!
Do you feel nervous like I was about how to have productive, safe helpers? Katie’s got you covered.
A gift from our family to yours!
My 4 kids and I created the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse to help bring real food and independence to families all over. Over 10,000 kids have joined us and we want to share the love – please grab your FREE copy of
10 Snacks Your Kids Can Make
Packed with our favorites for the road, like
- Pumpkin Pie Bars (grain-free)
- Homemade Granola Bars
- Fruit Juice “Gellies” (like gummy snacks but real food!)
- Energy Bites (pictured below)
Read more about it here…and a little tip – you may also get a chance to grab a knife skills class for kids for a ridiculous discount, so watch out for that!!
2. Keep it simple.
Meal planning is a must as Katie teaches us with her ten baby steps. But even THAT can be overwhelming at times.
Whether it’s the holiday rush, moving to a new place, or some other challenge to your motivation, remember YOU’VE GOT THIS. A meal prepared in love as family with good ingredients can be the best medicine for mediocre motivation. Just keep it simple!
Katie jumps in to say that smoothies and popcorn (in nourishing coconut oil with lots of butter!) or decently sourced sausages from Costco and Jackson’s Honest chips (in coconut oil…see a theme? #healthyfats) from Thrive Market make up two of our family’s “uh oh there’s nothing for dinner” fallbacks! Just keepin’ it real!
3. Make it fun.
Since sometimes we forget this in the stress of nightly family meals, I try to occasionally declare a random holiday or theme (strategy 6, “Do Something Crazy,” from Katie’s fun and helpful webinar class).
It helps everyone remember that it’s okay to play with your food and that time with family should be delicious. And with so many holidays around the corner we don’t have to look hard for ideas and inspiration.
First up is Halloween, and on this year’s menu we have so many choices I couldn’t just stop at one night of fun!
Night Before Halloween Fun Food
- Ghost poop: mashed potatoes and/or creamed cauliflower
- Goblin boogers: green peas, in or outside of their pods, cooked or raw
- Troll’s feet loaf: Gluten-free meatloaf shaped accordingly (inspired by this, my recipe below)
Halloween Pre-Trick-or-Treat Dinner
Toxic waste mac and cheese (inspired by this, my recipe below) and apple nut butter monster mouths
Night After Halloween (All Saint’s Day for Catholics)
Day of the Dead fruit pizza (using the best gluten-free sugar cookie dough) and frozen GF pizza (because every mom needs a break sometimes!) Here’s a whole grain fruit pizza for those who don’t need to avoid gluten.
All of these meals are gluten-free, peanut free, and come with lactose-free options as well because those of us with food allergies crave the freedom to enjoy eating as well.
With each of these meals there is also
- an element my child has a history of not enjoying and
- a part for her to help prepare
Just because it’s Halloween doesn’t mean we need to be scared of eating veggies or having little helpers in the kitchen, right?
- 1 to 1½ lbs ground beef (needs to have at least 10% fat)
- ¼ c. ketchup or favorite salsa
- 2 to 3 slices bread (gluten-free works great), cut in ½ inch cubes
- ¼ c. milk
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbs. dried minced onion or ½ medium onion, diced (save other half for garnish)
- ½ to 1 tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. pepper
- for the BBQ Sauce:
- ¼ c. + 2 Tbs. sugar
- ¼ c. + 2 Tbs. ketchup (check to avoid high fructose corn syrup)
- 2 Tbs. vinegar
- 2 Tbs. water
- ¾ Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- two good squirts of mustard (no more than 1 Tbs.)
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. ground chipotle chili pepper
- ¼ tsp. ground lemon pepper (just plain pepper works too)
- Make a panade by combining the milk, egg, and bread.
- Add in remaining ingredients and knead together.
- Shape into two medium small loaves (use child's traced foot for sizing suggestion.)
- Cook at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile, warm sauce ingredients in a small pot until combined and slightly thickened. This would also be the time to start boiling potatoes for mashing (russets make the best colored ghost poop but we used up the last of our yukon golds this time.)
- Remove from oven and garnish with onion toenails and onion stumps of leg bone.
- Top the meat with the sauce and bake for an additional 10 minutes.
Even with multitasking that wasn’t too scary was it? Now let’s try 3 ways to make mac and cheese.
Green Homemade Mac & Cheese: Gluten-free, Lactose-Free, and FUN
The last time I made GREEN macaroni and cheese was for St. Patrick’s day a few year’s ago and it was from a box. No one would eat it at the potluck!
Today I wanted to show my daughter that you can have pretty, yummy, mac and cheese not from a box. In an effort to not be a short order cook (something I’ve tried not to be since the first day my child eat solid foods) I set aside part of the sauce before mixing in the BBQ sauce or green veggies.
In the spirit of keeping it real I’d like to share 3 worrisome myths I battled in this recipe:
- Green mac and cheese was bad last time so it will be again.
- Mac and cheese is only convenient and worth the time if it comes from a box.
- Good gluten-free, lactose-free mac and cheese doesn’t exist so just kiss this comfort food goodbye forever.
Now for the recipe, and then you can see who won – me or the myths!
- 1 c. lactose-free milk
- 1 ½ c. homemade chicken stock (added shitake mushrooms & leeks to Katie's recipe )
- 2 c. grated (8 oz block) cheddar cheese (Vermont sharp white cheddar cheese is naturally lactose-free)
- ¼ c. unsalted butter (or lactose-free substitute)
- ⅓ c. all-purpose GF flour
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 Tbs. dried onion flakes (or 1 tsp. onion powder)
- 3 Tbs. prepared mustard
- ¼ tsp. ground chipotle pepper
- 10 oz pkg. frozen spinach (thawed and drained) or 1 c. BBQ sauce
- 1 package (16 ounces) pasta of choice
- Get your water and pasta going in one pot while making the sauce in another.
- First, in a medium pot, we need to make a roux on medium low heat. That's French for the beginnings of all things delicious (bechamel sauce, gravy, etc.) and usually uses equal parts flour and butter. I find I need slightly more GF flour than butter.
- Next add the spices and mustard and stir around.
- Gradually add in the milk and stock. Many bloggers seem to add the milk first, but I find it easier to get a smooth sauce with well blended flavors doing it this way.
- Simmer and stir for 8 minutes or until thick.
- Remove thickened sauce from heat.
- Stir in cheese until it's melted and well combined.
- It's time to change your color! The sauce would be ready to pour on noodles normally but for Halloween we'll take it a step or two further.
- ** For green “toxic waste”: Add in the spinach and garnish with green peas or other favorite, cooked green veggie.
- ** For a BBQ “rusty sludge”: Stir in one batch of my BBQ sauce and sprinkle in crumbled bacon to taste.
* Recipe Inspired by Cooking with Curls
The tasty verdict? In order of my personal preference:
- 1st place… Mac and cheese w/ secret ingredient (bone broth)
- Surprising 2nd place…Green veg mac and cheese
- 3rd place…Rusty Sludge BBQ mac and cheese
To me the BBQ sauce one didn’t get mixed well so some bites were a bit too sweet or vinegary (that’s a word right?) The bacon really helped balance and blend the flavors and give added texture.
Ladies and gents, I actually liked green food! Ring in through the comments on which is your fav!
More Mac & Cheese
Check out this fun video of John (my 5yo, Katie here) making mac and cheese in the Instant Pot! Bet you could still make this one green…
More Halloween Tips
- Spooky Halloween Shepherd’s Pie
- Quick and Easy No Sugar Halloween Party
- How to get face paint off without harsh soaps
- Roasted Pumpkin Seeds that are Actually CRISPY, not Chewy!
- Healthy Pumpkin Pie (with a secret twist)
Danielle is a Christian wife, stay-at-home mom, and uniquely picky eater: a year after recovering from an eating disorder, she was diagnosed with food allergies to egg whites, nuts, wheat, and dairy. Her family of 3 just moved to CT for her husband’s post doc at Yale. While they wait for more children to join the mix, she is preparing to get a master’s in music. Danielle says: “I believe the keys to good health are moderation and involving the whole family in the before, during, and after stages of a meal.”