Holiday Thumbprints


These thumbprint cookies are fun and easy for the kids to help make.  They can be made with any flavor of jam or preserves you like.  Apricot and raspberry are our favorites.  You can also roll them in finely chopped nuts instead of sugar.  We like them both ways.  Try substituting a Hershey kiss for the jam, or some Nutella (haven’t tried that yet, but it sounds yum).  These cookies look great on a holiday tray.  This dough is easy to work with, and these cookies taste buttery and delicious.


1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. salt

granulated sugar for rolling the cookies in

1/2 cup jam or preserves


In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, cream the butter and brown sugar together until smooth.  Stir in the egg and vanilla until combined.

Gradually stir in the flour and salt.  Cover the dough and refrigerate it for at least 1 to 2 hours or until the dough is firm enough to roll into balls.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Form scant tablespoonfuls of the dough into 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls in a bowl of granulated sugar.  Place the balls on an ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper about 2 inches apart.

Using your thumb, your knuckle, or the end of a wooden spoon, press an indentation into the center of each cookie.  If the cookie cracks, just press the crack together to make it smooth.  Fill the center of each cookie with about 1/2 teaspoon of jam or preserves.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until very lightly browned.

Cool on baking sheets for about 2 minutes.  Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat until all the dough is used.

These cookies can be prepared up to 1 week ahead of time and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.  Makes about 4 dozen Thumbprints.


Gingerbread House



My kids love making gingerbread houses.  (Probably because of all the candy involved).  But they really are exciting and fun to make.  The kits they sell at the store are nice and easy, but we think the homemade ones looks and tastes much better.

I created my own template for the house by drawing the walls and roof on a piece of cardboard with a ruler.  This way, you can make your house look any way you want, and be any size you want!  Just make sure your cardboard pieces fit together the way you want them to before using them to cut out the dough.  For example, I wanted to have some overhang where the roof connects to the house, so I had to cut the front and back sides of the house a little narrower than I had originally drawn it.  Don’t forget to cut out some windows and a door!  And don’t worry, with the Royal Icing in this recipe, you can have no fear that your house will fall apart while building it.  It dries fairly quickly, and holds like cement.

Gingerbread Dough Recipe


5 cups flour

1/2 cup baking powder

4 tsp ground ginger

4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground cloves or allspice

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 large eggs

1/2 cup dark molasses

1 Tbsp water


Whisk all the dry ingredients together and set aside.  Beat butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of a mixer on medium speed intil fluffy.  Add the eggs, molasses, and water and beat until well combined.

Beat half of the flour mixture into the mixer until blended and smooth. Add the remaining flour mixture and then knead the dough until firm and manageable, but not dry. Add more flour if the dough is wet.

Place the dough in a sealable container or zip-top bag in a cool place for up to 2 hours. If you make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate it, bring to room temperature before working the dough.

When ready to roll out the dough, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spray your cookie sheets with nonstick spray.

Roll out dough about 1/2 inch thick and cut into desired shapes using a sharp knife and the cardboard templates you made, working in batches and keeping the remaining dough in an airtight container so that it does not dry out. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces. The gingerbread will be light brown when it is done. Let cool completely before putting together.

Once you have your gingerbread pieces baked and cooled, you can trim them if necessary making sure your walls will be straight.

Royal icing with fresh egg whites:
1 large egg white
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Combine egg white and powdered sugar in a microwaveable bowl and microwave until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. The best way to do this is to microwave the mixture on high power, stopping every 20 seconds to take the temperature; it will take about 2 minutes and 40 seconds, but cook time will vary based on microwaves. Make sure to use clean utensils each time you check the icing. The other option is to microwave the mixture for 45 seconds on high, but the consistency will not be as good.

Beat on high speed until the icing cools and holds a stiff peak, about 2 minutes. If the icing needs to be thicker, add up to 2/3 cup more sugar; you will probably need to add about 1/3 cup more sugar. Food coloring can be added, if desired. Work with the icing in small amounts, keeping the remaining icing in an airtight container, as it will dry quickly.

Royal icing with powdered egg whites:
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon powdered egg whites
2 tablespoons water

Beat all ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer until stiff peaks form. Food coloring can be added, if desired. Work with the icing in small amounts, keeping the remaining icing in an airtight container, as it will dry quickly. The icing can be re-beaten if necessary.

Building the House

First prepare a platform for your house by covering a tray or board with foil.

Place your Royal icing into a pastry bag or a plastic zip-top bag with the corner cut off.

Start building your house by squirting some icing on the bottom edge of one of your walls and placing it on the platform in the desired spot.  Hold until icing is set.

Next, take the adjacent wall piece and apply icing to the bottom and the side that will be touching the standing wall.  Put into position, and hold until set.

Add the remaining walls, using the icing to glue them together.  Let dry for about 5 minutes before icing the tops of the walls and putting the roof into place.

Now you can use the remaining icing to fill in any gaps between the walls, roof and create icicles, snow, and for attaching candies to your house.  Add gumdrop trees, bushes and a pathway to your house.  Be creative, and have fun!

Here’s the gingerbread house we made this year:

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Cinnamon Ornaments


Theses ornaments are so easy to make and the kids love to help make them.  We made ours a few years ago, and they have held up wonderfully, and still smell great!  As you can see, we used lots of different holiday cookie cutters.  We used glitter glue, giggly eyes and pom poms to decorate them once they were dry.  Each kid got to make a few of their own.  We gave them as gifts to family members and teachers, and kept some for our tree.  You can also write on them with a glittery sharpie or puffy paint and use them as gift tags.  These smell so good, you have to remind yourself and the kids that they’re not edible!

Cinnamon Ornaments Recipe

1 cup Ground Cinnamon

1 Tbsp Allspice (optional)

1/2 cup Flour

3/4 cup Applesauce

2 Tbsp White Glue


  • In a medium bowl, stir everything together until you can form a ball of dough.
  • Sprinkle some cinnamon on the counter, and roll out the dough ball to about 1/4 inch thickness.  (Be careful not to roll them too thin, or they might crack.)
  • Use cookie cutters to cut out the desired shapes.  Use a straw or toothpick to cut out a small hole for hanging.
  • Place them on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
  • Slowly dry them in a 200 degrees F oven for about 4 hours, turning them every half hour to prevent sticking.
  • Allow them to cool and dry completely, then decorate, or hang them just as they are.

Tip:  You can usually find a big bottle of cinnamon at the Dollar Tree, since they aren’t going to be eaten, the quality won’t matter too much.


Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach your kids the value of feeling gratitude for what they have.  I know when I think about the things in my life that I’m thankful for, I get a sense of peace and happiness.  I want my kids to feel this way too.  Instead of always focusing on what we don’t have, or what we want,  it feels so good to be reminded of what we already have.  Sometimes, your kids may even remind you of some things you didn’t even realize you’ve been taking for granted.

Thankful Sign

To get the whole family focusing on the things we’re thankful for, I wrote “We’re Thankful For…” on our dry erase board, and left it blank.  It wasn’t long before it was filled up with words and phrases written by my kids.  Some of the things they wrote were silly and weird like “Coco’s wiener” (our dog, Coco is a girl, and therefore doesn’t have a wiener, but she does have an outie belly button that apparently my kids are thankful for), but they also wrote some nice things like home and family.  Regardless of what they actually wrote, at least I got my kids thinking about what they’re thankful for.


If you don’t have a dry erase board, you can use a poster board or make a really cute bulletin board with little note tags like the one I found here on

DIY Thanksgiving “Gratitude Board”

Another cute idea is to make a Thanksgiving Tree.  You can use sticks and branches to make a little “tree” for hanging paper leaves with things that you’re thankful for written on them like this one:

thankful tree

Bring Awareness of the Less Fortunate

Sometimes we’re so wrapped up in our own lives, that we’re simply unaware of those that suffer daily from lack of the basic necessities of life like clean water, food and shelter.  A good way to bring awareness to our kids, and spark the desire to help others is to show them pictures and movies of the children growing up without the things that most people take for granted. By actually seeing the way less fortunate people live will help our children appreciate what they have.  Just be aware that some videos and pictures could be very disturbing, so make sure you watch them first, and decide whether or not they are appropriate for your little viewers.  I liked this one called  The Bedrooms of Children Around the World from a book by James Mollison:

Give Thanks by Giving Back

Encourage your kids to volunteer their time and help donate to the less fortunate.  With Christmas approaching, it’s a great time to teach children that it is better to give than to receive.  There are so many great charities out there for kids to get involved in.  My kid’s schools are frequently asking for donations for food banks, health related charities, and even a playground fund.  Your little ones can help out by visiting nursing homes or animal shelters.  Little kids love to drop change into the Salvation Army bell ringer’s kettle outside the stores.  Lots of families like to volunteer annually at soup kitchens, and/or homeless shelters.  I grew up in a very religious household where we were always volunteering at places like The Ronald McDonald House, and a farm where we helped harvest food for the needy, and I really enjoyed the feeling that I got from helping others.

Service doesn’t have to be organized.  Raking leaves or shoveling snow for an elderly neighbor is just as helpful and important.  You can take walks around the neighborhood and pick up litter as you go.  Extend an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner to someone you know who might be all alone this holiday.  Have your kids use their imaginations and brainstorm their own service projects to help others.  Just make sure they’re age appropriate for your little givers.

What are some of the ways your family remembers to give thanks?

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours!

Minestrone Soup

There’s nothing like a bowl of hearty, warm, homemade soup on a cold autumn day.  This soup is full of healthy veggies, and tastes divine!  Leave out the pasta  for a low-carb meal.  Or, add the pasta, and serve with warm, crusty, buttered bread to fatten yourselves up for the cold winter months ahead!  Either way, enjoy!


Minestrone Soup Recipe

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 med. size onion, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 or 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 bag of baby carrots, sliced
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • 1 28 oz. (big) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can full of water
  • 1 32 oz. carton chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb. elbow or other pasta (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese


Pour olive oil into bottom of large soup pot, and turn on med. heat.  Saute onion, celery and pepper until soft.  Add all the rest of the veggies.  Next, add the tomatoes, beans, water, and chicken broth.  Turn stove to high, and bring to a boil.  Add all the seasonings.  Turn down to med/low, and simmer for 45 min to an hour.  Add pasta and more water if needed, depending on how thin you want your soup. (Remember, the pasta will absorb some of the liquid.)  If adding pasta, cook for an additional 10 minutes or until pasta is done.  Allow to cool slightly and serve with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Tip:  Cook pasta separately to prevent the noodles from becoming mushy the next day.

Saving Pumpkin Seeds

We usually roast and eat the pumpkin seeds that come out of our jack-o-lanterns,  But this year, we’re going to save some and plant them in our garden this Spring!  If you would like to try this fun experiment, I listed the steps below to help you.

Step 1:  Scoop the Gunk

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If you’re carving pumpkins for Halloween, you’re already familiar with this step.  Cut the top off your pumpkin, and start scooping out all the seeds and pumpkin slime.  I like to use a metal spoon, so I can scrape everything off the inside walls of the pumpkin.  Try to separate the seeds as you go, saving them in a bowl and discarding the rest of the goo.  Now you can carve your pumpkin!

Step 2:  Clean the Seeds

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Place your seeds in a colander, and rinse them under the faucet with cool, running water.  Use your fingers to clean off any excess pulp from the seeds.  Discard the rest of the pulp and the smallest seeds.  The larger seeds will be more likely to germinate and be stronger plants.

Step 3:  Dry Them Out

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After your seeds are thoroughly washed, spread them out on a sheet of wax paper.  Make sure your seeds aren’t touching, so they don’t stick to each other.  Let them dry overnight.  Once the seeds are dry, line a baking sheet with paper towels. Spread the pumpkin seeds in a single layer.  Place the tray in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks. This allows the seeds to become completely dry.

Step 4:  Store Your Seeds

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Once your seeds are completely dry, go through them and throw out any moldy or discolored ones.  Save the rest in a paper envelope labeled “Pumpkin Seeds”.  Keep them in a cool, dry place like the fridge.  Now your seeds are ready to be planted in the spring!

Saving pumpkin seeds is a fun activity for the whole family.  I’ll be writing new posts in the spring and summer months, to show you how we planted them and the growing progress of our plants.  With any luck, we should have a bunch of pumpkins to carve, and repeat the process again next year.  Happy Halloween!

Old Movies Your Kids Should See

Looking for some good movies to watch with your kids?  Here’s a list of our favorite old movies.  There’s something about sharing the old classics that we grew up watching, that makes them even more enjoyable seeing them again through the eyes of our children.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

–  The Wizard of Oz is definitely one of our favorites.  It’s full of amazing characters, has an exciting story, and the songs are wonderfully catchy.  The Wizard of Oz is about a young girl, named Dorothy, who gets caught in a tornado with her dog , Toto.  They end up landing in the magical land of Oz.  While she’s there, she meets some friends who help her in her quest to find the Wizard of Oz.  The Wizard is supposed to be able to get her back home and grant her friends the gifts that they desire.  After defeating a pretty scary wicked witch, they find out The Wizard is a fraud.  Dorothy eventually makes it back home learning that the power to get what she wanted was with her all along, and that there’s no place like home.

Dumbo (1941)

–  Dumbo is an adorable story that your kids will love.  It has some pretty sad parts in it, but also some silly ones.  Your little kids probably wont notice this, but my older kids thought it was weird that Dumbo gets drunk.  Oh, well, Dumbo is about a cute little circus elephant who is constantly ridiculed because of his huge ears.  When his mother tries to stick up for him, she is locked up and considered dangerous.  Dumbo is all alone until he meets Timothy Q. Mouse who quickly becomes his friend.  The mouse feels sorry for Dumbo and convinces him that his ears are a blessing.  Dumbo has to truly believe in himself to triumph in the end.  “The very things that hold you down are going to lift you up.“- Walt Disney

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

–  It’s a Wonderful Life is an uplifting movie that your older kids will like.  The younger kids might not understand what’s going on, and there’s not many attention-grabbing events in it to keep them entertained.  But, it’s a great movie to watch with the family, especially at Christmas time.  George Bailey is a nice guy who has always put others needs before his own.  When everything in his life seems to be going wrong, and he thinks he’s a failure, he contemplates suicide.  He decideds that everyone he loves would be better off if he had never been alive.  But the prayers of his loved ones result in an angel named Clarence coming to earth to help George, with the promise of earning his wings.  He shows George what things would have been like if he had never been born.  The town is horrible and the ones George loves are either dead, ruined, or miserable.  He realizes that he has touched many people in a positive way and that life is wonderful.

 Old Yeller (1954)

–  This movie brings me to tears every time we watch it.  It’s about two boys and their mother, who live on a farm (the father leaves to go on a cattle drive).  The older brother, Travis, is trying his best to do everything his father would want him to do, and the younger brother, Arliss, is busy playing in the mud and capturing little creatures.  When a big yellow lab shows up on their land, little Arliss is ecstatic, and wants to keep him.  Travis thinks the dog is trouble, and tries to get rid of him.  After Old Yeller proves himself worthy, Travis and he become good friends.  Old Yeller saves their lives more than once, and then tragically becomes infected with rabies.  The ending is sad, but after their father comes home, he helps Travis put things in perspective, and Travis learns that he should remember the good times he had with Old Yeller, and that his life is better off having known him.

Pollyanna (1960)

– This movie was one of my daughter, Gabby’s, favorites when she was only 3 years old.  Having watched it again, recently, I think it’s kind of weird for a 3 year old to like it so much.  It starts out kind of slow, with subtle changes in the attitudes of the people Pollyanna comes in contact with.  Pollyanna is a little girl who’s parents have died, and she comes to live with her rich Aunt Polly.  Pollyanna is super nice to everyone and soon the whole town loves her.  She plays the glad game, and teaches it to all her friends.  The movie picks up at the end with the excitement of the town fair. After the fair, Pollyanna gets hurt pretty badly and loses her positive attitude.  Aunt Polly, who was kind of mean to her in the beginning,  realizes how precious Pollyanna really is and gets everyone help to cheer her up again.  I like it, because it teaches about the power of kindness and positive thinking.

Mary Poppins (1964)

–  Mary Poppins is a fun movie with great songs and dance numbers.  Mary Poppins is a nanny with magic powers who comes to the Bank’s residence at the request of the children, Jane and Michael, who really just want someone to love and care for them.  While she’s there, they have fun adventures, but the whole time she’s teaching them all these lessons.  The parents, who were too busy with their own lives before, learn that their children are growing up fast, and they should be spending more time with them before it’s too late.  It all works out in the end, and they all go fly kites.  This movie is really full of all kinds of important life lessons that both kids and parents will pick up on.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

–  The original movie is much better than the newer one called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in my opinion.  It’s about a poor little boy named Charlie Bucket who wins a golden ticket to go to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory.  There, Charlie meets the other winners who are all spoiled little brats.  They all go through the crazy factory guided by the strange Willy Wonka.  Each child is disposed of according to their misconducts except Charlie.  Charlie has the chance to sabotage Mr. Wonka, and get some much needed money for his family, but he decides to do the right thing.  In the end, Charlie is rewarded for all his good deeds, and his family never needs to worry about money again.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

E.T. is a story about an alien who gets left behind on Earth, and the little boy who finds him.  The little boy, Elliot, becomes friends with the alien and they start to communicate.  His brother and sister help him hide E.T. and keep him a secret.  E.T. makes a device to contact his alien friends, but soon he gets very sick.  Because of the connection Elliot shares with E.T., Elliot becomes sick too.  All the kids help E.T. escape the task force that is out searching for him, and help him return to his home planet.  The lesson here is that we should help each other, no matter how different we are.

The Goonies (1985)

–  The Goonies is a great adventure story about a group of kids who go hunting for lost pirate treasure.  It’s one the whole family will love although, it does have a few swear words in it.  I actually caught my little boy quoting the movie and had to explain why he can’t say certain words.  No big deal though, this movie is worth it.  So, the Goonies (Mikey, Brand, Mouth, Data, Andy, Steph, and Chunk) find this secret treasure map, and decide to find the treasure and use it to save their homes from being demolished.  They enter this hidden cave, and follow the map, past booby traps left by One-Eyed Willy the pirate.  The whole time they are being chased by a creepy family of criminals called the Fratellis.  One of the Fratelli brothers is Sloth, a huge, disfigured, scary looking guy who was kept as a prisoner in the Fratelli’s basement.  Sloth is cool though, and becomes friends with Chunk.  He decides to help the Goonies at the end, and they are able to save their homes.  The Goonies never give up, and never say die.

What’s your family’s favorite old movie?

Coffee Maker Iced Tea

Coffee Maker Iced Tea

My family loves my homemade iced tea.  It’s cheaper, fresher, and healthier than the store bought versions.  Also, a lot of the store bought varieties are full of high fructose corn syrup.  By making your own, you can control the sugar content (I like to use honey or stevia) and you can make whatever flavor you want.  You can use herbal teas too, so you aren’t giving your kids caffeine.  It’s so easy to make, and I figured out an even easier way to make it using my coffee maker.

Choose your tea-  I’m using green tea with lemon.  Take 5 or 6 bags of tea out of your package.

Green Tea with Lemon

Measure your water, and pour it into your clean coffee maker.  I use about 10 cups of water.


Place your tea bags into your empty coffee pot, making sure you leave the tags sticking out the top.


Put your coffee pot back into the coffee maker, and turn it on.

Iced Tea

Relax for 20 minutes, while your coffee pot brews your tea.  The longer your tea brews, the stronger the flavor will be.

When it has reached the desired color and flavor you want, pour the tea into a pitcher.

Iced Tea with honey

Stir in your honey or sweetener (if desired) into the tea while it’s still warm.

Add enough water to fill a 2 quart pitcher and dilute it slightly. (about 2 cups)  Stir again.


Pop it into the fridge for a few hours, or add some ice to a glass, pour your tea into it, and enjoy immediately.

Lemon Green Tea

10 Healthy Foods for Picky Kids

Getting kids to eat healthy isn’t easy.  I don’t know about your family, but most of the so called “Kid Friendly Recipes”  out there are full of stuff my kids wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  Never mind the fact that they consist of things mixed together.  My kids freak out if their foods are just touching on their plates.  If your kids are as picky as mine, rest assured, there are ways to make sure your kids are getting the necessary vitamins and minerals they need to grow up healthy.  Here’s a list of healthy foods that most kids will eat happily.

1.  Apples- Cut them into slices, chips, or chunks.  Dip them in peanut butter or caramel sauce.   Eat them as apple sauce sprinkled with cinnamon.  There are lots of ways to get your kids to eat apples.  Apples contain antioxidants (disease-fighting compounds) and water-soluble fiber (pectin).  Studies have shown that apples’ amazing combination of polyphenols (phytonutrients) and pectins are what make them so beneficial.  Apples can help protect your kids from cardiovascular diseases as well as asthma and lung cancer.  They also help regulate blood sugar and help prevent cancer (especially colon and breast cancer).  Other benefits include the prevention of  several age-related health problems, including macular degeneration of the eye and neurodegenerative problems, including Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s clear we should all be eating more of this delicious fruit.  The wise old phrase, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” has some truth to it after all.

2.  Sweet Potatoes-  Try them roasted, baked, pureed, or mashed.  Most kids like sweet potatoes ’cause they’re sweet,  but their natural sugars are slowly released into the bloodstream, helping to ensure a balanced and regular source of energy, without the blood sugar spikes linked to fatigue and weight gain. Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber, complex carbohydrates and potassium which helps regulate heartbeat and nerve signals.  They contain iron, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B6, as well as carotenoids.  These vitamins and minerals are known to prevent cancer, help build healthy bones, heart, nerves, skin, and teeth, and play an important role in our energy levels, and moods. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of magnesium necessary for healthy artery, blood, bone, heart, muscle, and nerve function, yet experts estimate that approximately 80 percent of the population in North America may be deficient in this important mineral.

3.  Chicken-  Chicken is delicious, nutritious, versatile, and inexpensive.  Kids will love it roasted and sliced, as homemade nuggets, and made into soup.  Chicken is a one of the best foods for growing children.  Protein is key to the human diet, especially for kids, because the body uses it to create new cells and maintain or repair existing cells.  It also contains amino acids that helps children to grow taller and stronger. Chicken is also a good source of niacin , which aids in metabolism; vitamin B6, important to immune system and blood sugar level maintenance; biotin , which helps cell growth; and vitamin B12, which is involved in nerve cell and red blood cell maintenance. Chicken also contains iron for oxygen transport and cell growth and zinc for immune system functioning and DNA synthesis.

4.  Blueberries- My kids love blueberries.  We eat them like candy all summer long, while they’re fresh and relatively inexpensive.  During the off season, I sometimes buy frozen blueberries and make smoothies or just mix them into plain or vanilla yogurt.  They’re also a great addition to pancakes and baked goods. With flavors that range from mildly sweet (cultivated) to tart and tangy (wild), blueberries are nutritional stars bursting with nutrition and flavor while being very low in calories.  Blueberries are rich in fiber, and are ranked as one of the highest in antioxidants and phytonutrients. (Especially organic blueberries, if you can afford them.)  Antioxidants combat free radicals and boost the immune system.  Blueberries have been shown to improve nervous system and general brain health as well as improving memory.  They’re also good for your eyes and actually help protect the human eye from damage by sunlight and oxidative stress.

5.  Yogurt-  Smooth, creamy, and delicious.  Yogurt should be one of your child’s first foods.  Most babies can start eating plain, unsweetened, pasteurized, whole-milk yogurt after they start eating solids – at around 6 months. Plain Greek yogurt is fine too (and the more live cultures, the better for your baby’s stomach).  Your kids will love it blended in smoothies,or just mixed with some fruit and sweetened with a little honey, when they’re older, for some additional health benefits.  You can also replace some if the oil with yogurt in your favorite muffin recipes.  Your yogurt eaters will also get a dose of animal protein (about 9 grams per 6-ounce serving), plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium, and magnesium. Besides being a great source of calcium and vitamin D, yogurt may help lower your risk of developing high blood pressure.  Tummy troubles?  The probiotics (beneficial bacteria) in some yogurts balance the microflora in their gut, which can aid with digestion as well as keeping them regular.

6.  Eggs-  Scrambled, over-easy, hard-boiled, poached or made into an omelet.  Eggs are cheap, easy, versatile, and can be added to pretty much any combo of meat and veggies to make a complete meal.  My kids love them just scrambled or fried. (Remember, they don’t like their foods mixed.)  Eggs are a great source of nutrition for kids because of their high quality proteins and amino acids which are essential when kids are forming new muscle tissue as they grow.  Whole eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet, containing a little bit of almost every nutrient we need like vitamin A, Folate, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B12, vitamin B2, phosphorus and Selenium.   A single egg contains 100 mg of choline which is used to build cell membranes.  Egg consumption consistently leads to elevated levels of HDL (the “good”) cholesterol, which is linked to a reduced risk of many diseases like heart disease and stroke.  Omega-3 enriched and/or pastured eggs are even healthier, containing even more vitamin A and E and  omega-3s which lower triglycerides.

7.  Oats-  A steaming bowl of oatmeal is so good on a chilly morning. Sprinkle it with some cinnamon to help regulate blood sugar, or cocoa powder for even more health benefits. Research shows that kids who eat oatmeal are better able to concentrate and pay attention in school.  Kids love snacking on granola bars and oatmeal cookies. Make your own to control the amount of sugar consumption.  Fiber-rich whole grains, like oats, digest slowly, providing kids with a steady stream of energy.  Oats are not only good for your heart, and gluten free, but also reduce the risk of asthma in children.  The beta glucans in oats boost defenses of the immune system against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.  Eating oats can also keep your kids feeling fuller, longer.  so, you’ll hear less of  that “Mommy, I’m hungry,” stuff.

8.  Almonds-  I know not every kid likes almonds and some might be allergic, but since they’re so nutritious, and my kids like them so much, I wanted to include them on this list.  Nuts are full of healthy fats, which kids need for growth and development, as well as for heart health.  Almonds are also rich in nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin E, iron, calcium, fiber, and riboflavin.   Almonds have more fiber than any other tree nut.  Almonds help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, and could help you live longer and lower a your risk of death from heart disease and cancer, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  

9.  Spinach-  My kids like to eat raw baby spinach leaves.  Since they don’t like salad, that works for me.  They will also eat it steamed with butter and a little salt.  There are a million other ways to enjoy this super healthy vegetable, but these are the only ways my kids will eat it.  Sometimes you have to pick your battles.  Anyway, spinach is so good for them because it’s full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  It is a good source of vitamins A, B2, C and K, and also contains magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium and potassium.  Spinach combats cancers  like breast, prostate and skin. Spinach has been shown to also increase muscle efficiency.  No wonder Popeye drank it from a can?

10.  Tomatoes-  The only way my kids will eat tomatoes, is in tomato sauce and ketchup.  Even though we had a million tomatoes from our garden this year, my kids hate the taste of raw tomatoes.  Whether they eat them raw or made into a sauce, they’re still healthy.  Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid. Tomatoes contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene and lutein.  They help reduce the risk of heart disease, support bone health, and have anti-cancer benefits.  So rest assured, when your kids are eating a big plate of spaghetti, or even some pizza, they’re getting their vitamins.  Just don’t skip the sauce!

Be a Better Parent

In this journey of parenthood, we might ask ourselves if we’re doing the right things, or if we’re totally screwing up our kids.  Are we giving our children enough attention, or too much?  Are we making the best decisions for them?  Are we giving them too much freedom, or not enough?  Are we giving them too many responsibilities, or not enough?  We all want the best for our kids, and want them to turn out to be happy, productive, secure, and healthy adults.

The answers to these questions aren’t in this blog.  If you truly want to be better parents, stop reading this right now.  Get off your computer, tablet, or phone.  Turn off whatever device your kid is currently playing or viewing.  Spend time interacting with your child.  Get to know them better.  You will find the answers to your questions and so much more.

Ask them Questions–  Really listen to them, offer your own personal advice.  Tell them stories of your own childhood.  You must create that personal bond with your child.  Reading parenting tips on the internet can’t do that for you.

Spend Time Together–  Do things with your children to create long lasting memories.  It doesn’t have to be anything major, like a camping trip.  Play board games, card games, tell jokes, read books.  Too busy?  Have them help you make dinner, even the youngest child can stir something.

Teach Them–  Even in the Google age, kids don’t know, and probably aren’t Googling, the important things they need to know about.  Teach them how to live.  Part of this is leading by example.  But some things about how the world works are still a mystery to them.  Things like how to apply for a job, how to know when you’re in love, how to open a bank account, how to rent their first apartment or choose a college are not taught to them in school.  It’s your job as a parent, to teach these things.  Obviously these lessons are not for toddlers, but there are other life lessons that they could be taught.  How to make a friend, how to entertain themselves, how to use the potty, etc.  When you’re giving your kids knowledge, you’re giving them a gift.  Your giving them confidence.  They now know that they can come to you with any question, and if you don’t know either, you can Google it together!

Get Involved at School–  You might not be able to volunteer as a room parent, but make it a point to get to know their teachers.  Attend Open House and parent-teacher conferences.  Have them invite their school friends over, and talk to them.  Make sure your kids are doing their homework.  Help them study for tests.  Ask them about what they’re learning in school.  They might even be able to teach you something!

Plan for the Future–  Make lists with your child.  Plan their next birthday party, a family fun day, a trip, a garden, even something simple like dinners for the week, anything that will engage them in the activity.  You’ll learn that they have great ideas of their own.  They will learn that you value them and their ideas.  Ask them what they want to be when they grow up.  Tell them the steps that can be taken now, so that they can reach their goals for the future.

Follow Through–  Make all your planning become a reality.  By doing this, you’re building their trust.  Get them involved in the whole process.  The invitations, the shopping, the searching, and the preparing.   It will give you even more time to spend with them, and strengthen that bond.

When you truly know your child, and they know you, you will have all the answers you need.