A Love Letter to Andrea Howe of Gwyneth Made Me Do It

Gwyneth's book from For the Love ofWe are well in to the new year and I’m sure I am not the only one still trying to figure out how to make my life a little healthier.  But I have to be honest, my energy is low for learning something from scratch.  About all I can muster is cheating off someone’s cliff notes version.  When my oldest son was one and diagnosed with food allergies, I had to completely figure that out on my own.  I had to teach myself to cook, I had to figure out what foods he could tolerate and how to prepare them.  It was so much work.  But that was my only focus at the time.  While we have the food allergies figured out (dare I say we are almost outgrowing all of them???) the whole living approach that was very much a part of his early diet has gotten neglected.  And while I enjoy reading and learning new things I don’t feel ready to take it all on myself.  Which is why I need to make sure that you all know Andrea Howe.  I met Andrea last year at Alt Summit.  She lives about half an hour from me and we’ve been lucky enough to see each other a few times since the conference.  Her blog, For the Love of, is amazing.  With her fashion background she talks about real woman fashion problems, how to make things work for you and even does DIYs for accessories.  She’s got adorable children and she is very frank with what is going on in her life.  I adore her.

Dip recipe for the love ofBut the real reason I want to make sure you know about her is because of a sort of side project she started called Gwyneth Made Me Do It.  Yes, that Gwyneth.  Immediately I was interested in Gwyneth’s cookbook and getting back to a more healthful way of eating.  I was delighted when Andrea created the Instagram account to chronicle her experience with the book (you can read how the whole thing got started in this post here).  For real, I have learned so much from her.  Andrea talks about everything from how to choose the right meat, to how she got her kid’s off chicken nuggets to what ingredients you really don’t want to see on your food labels.  She shares recipes (the above is a more healthy version of a ranch dip that she served at a Christmas party) and information that I find truly important.  Oh and now she also writes a column on it for Babble.

diypizza5She is a mom of 3, with picky eaters just like the rest of us.  But she’s willing to put in the work and really figure out what is best for her family.  And she shares all the highs and lows along the way.  Take the time to read through her body of work and you will come away feeling like you have found your new best friend who just wants you to be the best version of you.  She has done a complete makeover on the way her family eats and shows that making your family’s health a priority is hugely important.  And totally doable.

All images via Andrea Howe of For the Love Of

Healthy Snacking and Meal Tips for Kids

Motts logoboys-hanging-outThese boys excel at snacks.  Put a plate of food in front of them and they won’t touch it.  But give them smaller quantities of things that are individually wrapped and they will eat them ALL.  It is something that I struggle with especially because I want to make sure they are eating healthy foods.  But if you look at most diet plans, they suggest snacking in between meals can be healthy.  That just means that I need to make sure I keep healthy snacks that the kids will eat in the house at all times.

oat-banana-smoothieMy boys love sugary cereals and convenience foods in the morning.  And I can’t blame them.  I love them too.  But they also love smoothies.  So I try to make sure that they have smoothies whenever we have time for them.  This Banana Oat Smoothie is a favorite and helps to keep them full for quite a while.  Any time I can get fruit in my kids before lunch I call a victory.  We usually use yogurt for protein and little to no sweeteners in our smoothie so I feel really good about them having a large serving.

keep-healthy-snacks-lowI still have my littlest home with me two days a week.  I have learned to keep the healthier snacks lower in the cupboard, easily in his reach.  While there might be cookies higher in the cupboard, he knows that if he can’t reach it, it is unlikely that he will get it as a snack.  This also helps me out when I’m right in the middle of something and can’t stop to get it for him.  He has also been taught that he can’t just go get something whenever he wants just because he can.  He still has to ask.  (Did you have to do this?  I have a clear recollection of being in high school and standing in the kitchen thinking, I can totally reach the snacks, I don’t really have to ask any more…)  More often than not, he will grab a Mott’s Snack & Go pack.  They come in a variety of flavors, which is awesome since my sons rarely like the same flavors.  They don’t require him to get a bowl or spoon and he can take care of it all by himself.  Kids love that, don’t they?

strawberries

Once the kids are home from school, I let them pick out a snack.  This can be pretty much anything, (their lunches are a sandwich, fruit and veg – pretty healthy) a cookie even.  But if they still need another snack before dinner it has to be a fruit or veggie.  While my mom freaks out about them eating a snack so close to dinner, I feel like this is the prime time to get something healthy in to them.  They think they are getting an extra snack and I know that they are really getting something good for them.  Please nobody tell them.

have-kids-pick-dinner-one-night-a-weekSomething happens when it is time for my kids to sit down at the table.  Suddenly they hate food and don’t want to eat.  Or they suddenly they don’t like the meal that used to be their favorite.  So now, I ask each child and my husband to pick a meal for me to cook each week.  When they have picked it themselves they eat more and take ownership of it in a way.  This also helps with the menu planning burn out that I often get.  It’s hard to come up with meal ideas all the time.  This has been working out great.  And I totally lucked out because the meal my husband asks for it SUPER simple.  Thank goodness.

brussels-sprouts-and-mushroomsSomething else I try to do is mix something the kids like with something new or that they aren’t sold on yet.  My oldest recently began to love mushrooms.  I try to make them for him often.  But I also try to mix them in with other types of veggies and flavorings so he can try more things.  It doesn’t always work (for instance, he prefers his Brussels sprouts with bacon) but is worth a try.  It is also a great way to work in some leftovers if you don’t have a ton of one thing.

snacks-for-hiking

Weekends might be the hardest time of all for snacking.  Since my boys are always hungry, I always make sure to have snacks with me.  There is nothing worse than being out on an errand and having only whiney children with no food for them.  However will they make it through?  Mott’s® Snack & Go applesauce packs are the perfect thing!  They are easy to take with you and are pretty much mess free.  I always have these in my purse.  I’m so grateful for these snacks!

Mott’s® Snack & Go is the nutritious applesauce kids love in a squeezable pouch they can take with them wherever they go.  Mott’s is also the only applesauce brand with Box Tops for Education, helping to support kids’ schools.  Visit motts.com to learn more.

*Disclosure:  Compensation was provided by Mott’s via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Mott’s.

Baby Gourmet Giveaway {Winner!!}

A big congrats to Julia of Fat Girl Trapped in a Skinny Body who won the Baby Gourmet samples!  Email me so I can get your address and discuss your review post!  CupcakesAndCutlery@gmail.com! 
Thank you, everyone for entering!!!  And if you haven’t entered yet I am giving away some custom party goods from For Your Party!  You can enter that giveaway here
Sharon
photo is mine

Baby Gourmet Organic Baby Food {and Giveaway!}

There are all kinds of reasons that reviewing this baby food appealed to me.  While I don’t have baby food eaters at home any more, I am in love with this product and company and wanted to share it with all of you.  Baby Gourmet is a new baby food product that has launched in Walmart stores nationwide and I can’t wait to tell you why I love it.  
GIVEAWAY:  I will be sending samples to one commenter (see more details at the bottom of the post)!
With our first son, I was still working and the idea of making my own baby food made me want to cry. I didn’t know about “whole” cooking and quite frankly didn’t care.  But when we were diagnosed with food allergies at 1 years old, I became very aware of all the harmful stuff we were introducing to our bodies, whether it was from pesticides or even just preservatives.  When my second son was born, I did make a lot of his baby food.  But the volume of produce I had to buy, prepare and smoosh was a total time sucker.  I felt like I was trapped in the kitchen.  And when we left the house, I always used jarred foods because I couldn’t wrap my head around having to thaw the food somewhere or if I was keeping it at the right temperature.  If these pouches were around when the kids were little, I would have absolutely tracked them down.  And while my second son doesn’t have any food allergies, I knew that a whole foods diet is what I wanted to give the kids.  I know the top right picture is a little small but basically the packages show everything you could want to know and want in a baby food:  organic, unsweetened, no dairy, egg or lactose, no nuts, BPA free packaging, gluten free.
The company was started by Jennifer Broe because she wanted something better for her kids than she was finding in stores.  Aside from the quality of ingredients she wanted to feed her kids, she actually wanted it to taste good also.  She tastes every batch to make sure she likes it and understands the variance in flavor that vegetables can have.  This product is straight from her heart to our homes.  She began selling her baby foods at local Farmer’s Markets but the demand grew and so did her business.  The growth led her to the shelf-stable packaging which actually helps to create a healthier product.  The flash cooking process is quicker and maintains more of the great nutrients in the food itself. 
The re-closable spout makes feeding on the go a snap.  For smaller babies, just squeeze directly on to a spoon.  For older kids, they can squeeze it right in to their mouths.  I asked a couple of the cutest babies I know to give these a try so I could review them. 
Our first taste tester is little baby C.  This adorable guy is my neighbor and he is just about 5 months old.  How darling is his face! 
Baby C’s mom loved the idea of this food.  She loved that it tasted good and that the packaging was super easy to use.  Since it has been a while since I have fed anyone baby food I asked her how it compared.  She said this consistency was thicker than the standard food on the market and that you could tell it was made with real fruit (he tasted the apple cobbler flavor).  I am pretty sure he really liked what he was eating as his little feet never stopped kicking.    
Next up is my buddy, D (why, yes, that is his older sister in a wrestling mask in the background).  He is about 10 months old and he likes to eat.  
D took to the Roasted Squash and Fruit Medley like a champ.  I didn’t taste this one but from the content looks and how much he ate, I think he really dug it. 
My 2 1/2 year old has been riding me since these arrived at my house to let him try them.  So finally, I relented.  I gave him the stage 1 Juicy Pear and Garden Greens.  I quickly tasted it before handing over the package found it was sweet, with just the right amount of tartness, and although you could taste the “greens” when it hit your tongue, by the time it got to the back of you mouth, they were completely blended with the pears and made a delicious bite.  My son does not eat.  I mean, I’m sure he does but almost always, I take away a plate from meal time that looks very similar in size to the one I put down in front of him.  I am going to go find these to supplement his meals with.  He thought it was a snack but what he was getting was pure wholesomeness.  While I am not trying to revert my son to baby food, I am trying to get him to eat a more well balanced diet.  
So the final consensus for Baby Gourmet…a toddler thumbs up!  Although their store locator info doesn’t seem to be completely input yet, these meals are available in Walmart now.  Go find them!  There are 3 flavor options for each of the 3 stages of food.  
If you are interested in trying these out with your own child leave a comment telling me why you want to give them a try.  I will choose one person to receive samples and and write a review for the blog.  (You do not need to be a blogger or professional photog to win – the post will be sent via email with photo attachments).   Must live in the United States.  Will take comments until midnight, Tuesday, October 18, 2011.  

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Sharon
all photos (except photo of Jennifer Broe) by me
*I was sent samples of the baby food to try but the opinions are mine, my son’s, the babies and toddlers featured as well as their mothers.  We can not be bought.  At least not with baby food.  Will accept other inquiries. :) 

The Healthy Cowboy Kitchen – Tasty, healthy food

I’m so excited for my friend, Katie!  She started her own company, The Healthy Cowboy Kitchen, making, healthy, unprocessed and totally yummy foods and you can now find her at Farmer’s Markets all over Orange County!  We tried her popsicles for the first time today and you HAVE to try them!  They are coconut milk based and amazing!  Miles tried the Summer Peach with pieces of raspberry and cinnamon (which added the most subtle and perfect flavor!).  I tried the Cantaloupe Mojito (no rum, darn :).  So here is the deal.  It was simply phenomenal.  It was refreshing, and because it is made from nothing but ripe, REAL fruit, the flavor was out of this world.  The fresh mint added the most pleasant herbyness and I think I could have stood there and eaten them all day long.  Except that they were starting to melt and Miles was totally sticky and I have an aversion to messes.  But seriously if you have kids, you need to take them to get these popsicles.  Delicious and a great way to introduce them to natural foods.  She also sell Spicy Bean Burger Patties which I don’t know too much about so you should probably track her down and ask her about them.  
Her Roasted Corn Salsa was crazy good.  It was seasoned just perfectly and was really flavorful.  She has the magic touch with cumin, which can easily go from “Oh, hello there.  I’m cumin.  Pleased to make your acquaintance” to “Come here.  I’m about to punch you in your throat.”  I finished this container and immediately got sad that I didn’t buy more for the rest of the week.  It was THAT good.  
She also sells 3 kinds of energy bars.  RAW energy bars.  I’m not a follower of the raw diet.  It frightens me a little.  But I really wanted to try these.  She makes a sort of Orange/Cranberry version, a Lemon/Ginger version which I am kicking myself for not sampling and this Lime/Coconut version that I would marry if it was legal.  While I try not to have nuts in the house due to food allergies, I just had to try this.  Lime might be my all time favorite flavor (sorry basil) and you could see the lime zest throughout this bar.  The flavor was amazing (totally running out of adjectives, I know!  And I don’t think sounds will translate well via type so I’ll add an extra exclamation point to drive my point home)!!  Forget Luna bars, these are the thing for me.  I’m not sure what the shelf life is but if I can just get enough to get me through to the next Farmer’s Market, I’ll be okay.  
Find Katie and her Healthy Cowboy Kitchen at these Farmer’s Markets:
{Saturday}  Laguna Beach (may not be there every day as she fills in when people can’t make it)
(sorry these are the best links I could find!)
Katie works from a kitchen out of Laguna Canyon and I’m so impressed with her whole operation.  These popsicles would be a perfect treat for your next kid’s party!  I love to support small, local businesses and this one is for such a great cause, YOUR health!  Read Katie’s story here and become inspired.  She’ll be updating her blog again as soon as she gets in to the swing of things but you can check out a post she did for me {here}.
Way to go, Katie!!!  So proud of you and all that you stand for.  
Sharon
all photos are mine.