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Category Archives: children’s activities

4 Holiday Baking Tips for Healthy Moms

Gluten -Free German Chocolate Cake

Gluten -Free German Chocolate Cake

Holiday baking! What a lot of thoughts and images it conjures up for me: time with my mom, fun, family, sharing, sugar!, chocolate, red and green sparkles and cookie cutters, science and cool nesting measuring spoons, nifty gadgets like sifters and beaters and things that plug in, aluminum foil, square shaped pans and cookie racks, tummy aches, angst, worry, over eating, eating secretly while no one is looking, getting fat, feeling gross. What a loaded activity holiday baking is! Or is it just me?

I’ve been meditating on this for a few weeks and I have some thoughts. I have just finished a 12-week transformational health course and have learned a great deal about the importance of what I put into my body (and what I put into my children’s bodies). It’s good that we, as women and mothers, understand the complexities and importance of today’s food situation.

4 Tips Healthy For Holiday Baking

1. Bake and Give

Yes! Bake away with your kids and let them add salt, pour in nuts and beat. Are they old enough to stir the chocolate while it melts in the pot? Go for it. Make a batch or two of your favorite treats and keep ¼ of what you made for your family. You (mom) have some! Have 3 or 4 bites. Enough to taste and get a little kick – but not too much so that you get a tummy ache. Then divide up the rest, wrap in cellophane and a ribbon and hand out to your mail deliverer, your neighbors and your favorite barista at your local coffee place. Share the love (and the calories) and don’t miss out on the fun of baking!

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2. Explore with Healthy Ingredients

Start from scratch (from “nothing”) and don’t be afraid of agave, almond flour, and dark chocolate and organic oatmeal! Ok, maybe your cake just like  Duncan Hines – but do you KNOW what actually goes into that stuff???

Duncan Hines Classic Cake Mix: ­­Sugar, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Propylene Glycol Mono- and Diesters Of Fats, Mono and Diglycerides), Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Sodium Aluminum Phosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate). Contains 2% Or Less Of: Wheat Starch, Salt, Dextrose, Poly

glycerol Esters Of Fatty Acids, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Cellulose Gum, Artificial Flavors, Xanthan Gum, Maltodextrin, Modified Cornstarch, Colored with (Yellow 5 Lake, Red 40 Lake).

 I don’t think I need to explain why you might not want to put this stuff into your body. And I don’t know what some of those things are! Just reme

mber this lovely phrase I heard on NRP recently:

“If it’s made by a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, DON’T eat it.” — Anonymous

fozen bananas

Everyday we teach our children. Pretend they’ve never had a chocolate chip cookie and the first one they try is called a “Healthalicious Holiday Cookies” (recipe coming). It has dark chocolate (improves cholesterol and sugar levels), dried cherries (which reduce muscle soreness, help with sleep and are loaded with antioxidants) almond flour (gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, high in fiber and a high source of protein) and grass fed cow butter (It’s got more carotene because it comes from cows that eat fresh vegetation rich in the stuff. It comes from pasture to ruminant to digestive tract to butterfat to butter to you). I think their head might explode in delight!  Let’s reform our baking traditions by stirring up health!

3. No Excuses

I see articles called something like, “How to Not Gain 10 Pounds over the Holidays”. Ok – so here is my latest thinking. It’s a cop out. I know this might sound harsh, but the holidays become an excuse for people to binge and pig out. It’s the holidays – so what! Light the menorah, bring clothes to the homeless, play music, and write cards to friends. That’s “the holidays” too and those things don’t make us put on weight and turn away from our SEVLES and our HEALTH. Let’s focus on this: Here we are! We are lucky to be here now, to have another Christmas, to be healthy and to be around our families, TO BE ALIVE! Let’s celebrate with light and health – not saturated, genetically modified corn oil.

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You may be thinking, how can I avoid it? There are treats everywhere I go! To that I say:  How do you get thru Valentine’s Day? Easter? Halloween? Thanksgiving? 4th of July? Taking the kids for ice cream? There are doughnuts to be had on every other street corner and caramelized, frothy, whip creamed, double cappuccinos on EVERY corner (with artificial flavoring that some people think keeps you thin! HA! – more on that later).Just have ONE bite, or walk away and drink some water… take a breathe and wish yourself love for giving yourself the greatest gift – health and a body that feels great!

And that leads me to my last tip for holiday baking and not binging…

4. How to Eat Holiday Treats in a Healthy Way

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Ok. We are human. I have a weakness for fudge and sometimes it has been hard for me

to stop at one piece.  I admit it. I find that a substitution plan works nicely for me. I think of any white grains (white rice, wheat pasta, white bread, bagels) and even potatoes as straight sugar. I don’t eat the white stuff anymore. Even the brown rice grain turns to sugar eventually.  So let’s say I have a piece of fudge. I tell myself… “yum that was delicious! And tonight, even though I might be making pasta for my family, I will have chicken and veggies – no grains. That will help balance out my carb/sugar intake and will also give me a sense of control around my body and my health. Good plan Deb. Now go drink a glass of water.”

I hope you have a wonderful time baking and creating sweet treats with your little sugarplums. Oh, and when they are not looking, sneak in some pureed beats or spinach – it’s fun to see them devour brownies that you know are loaded with veggies!!! Ha Ha – my children WILL eat well!!!

Now go preheat your oven!

 

Carmelized Chocolate Matzoh

Cooking with Kids: Fun cooking project/teacher gift!
Want to do a fun project with your kids and make inexpensive and yummy treats for teachers and/or neighbors? Try this caramelized chocolate matzo! We went to a thrift store and found these cute dishes (50 cents each!) to hold this holiday treat. All told, these 4 containers cost about $5 each and took about 20 minutes to make!
p.s. i love baking with my children but do not enjoy the icky feeling of having eaten too much sugar.  My policy? Bake and Give… Bake and Give (but I do recommend having a few SMALL bites to enjoy before you giving it all away!)
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Chocolate-Caramelized  Matzoh



Makes approximately 30 pieces of candy

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4 to 6 sheets unsalted matzohs
1 cup unsalted butter1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
big pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toasted sliced almonds (optional)
  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet (approximately 11 x 17) completely with foil, making sure the foil goes up and over the edges.
    Preheat the oven to 375F .
  2. Line the bottom of the sheet with matzoh, breaking extra pieces as necessary to fill in any spaces.
  3. In a 4 quart heavy duty saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the mixture is beginning to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and pour over matzoh, spreading with a heatproof spatula.
  4. Put the pan in the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. As it bakes, it will bubble up but make sure it’s not burning every once in a while. If it is in spots, remove from oven and reduce the heat to 325, then replace the pan.
  5. Remove from oven and immediately cover with chocolate chips. Let stand 5 minutes, then spread with an offset spatula.
  6. If you wish, sprinkle with toasted almonds (or another favorite nut, toasted and coarsely-chopped), a sprinkle of flaky sea salt, or roasted cocoa nibs.
Let cool completely, then break into pieces and store in an airtight container until ready to serve. It should keep well for about one week. Or wrap up in pretty thrift store dishes with ribbon and make your teachers and neighbors HAPPY!
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ChristmasTime is better than Christmas Day (Don’t end up in the ER!)

Our plan is to make Christmas more about the season than about the day. Hopefully it will keep our kids and our family centered and keep us safe too!

When I was a little girl, I would get so excited about Christmas that I would get sick. I’d work myself up into such an anxious state, my stomach would hurt and I’d almost lose my breath. My mom later told me she could not tell me Christmas was coming until 3 or 4 days before the actual day.

It is a crazy-huge concept for kids to digest isn’t it? Be good and if you are,  a magical man will fly with reindeer to the roof of your house, slide in through your fireplace, munch on your cookies and leave you your hearts’ desire, wrapped up in shiny paper and ribbons! And meanwhile, here honey, let’s make some fudge and eat some chocolate and cookie batter and stay up late and go on vacation and play play play. Talk about stimulation.

Delilah’s last two Christmases were scarred by over excitement. Two years ago she slammed her jaw into a cement wall (playing on Christmas afternoon) and last year she had a 103 temperature on Christmas day, ALL day. I just read that Christmas (especially the day after Christmas) finds many people in the Emergency Room. It’s just THAT exciting!

“How about the busiest day for emergency room care?  Any ideas?  It’s the day after Christmas.  After all the stress of trying to get thru the holidays – a lot of people end up in the hospital.”

So the way I having fun with it AND trying to keep the my girls a bit contained this year, is by talking about ChristmasTIME. Hannah (4) and Delilah (7) have 3 weeks off. That’s a lot of time! And in this “TIME” we will do all the fun and usual Christmas and Hanukkah stuff: bake, eat, sleep, wrap, deliver cookies to neighbors, sing, maybe go to some museums and take a trip to Big Sur. I talk about how lucky we are to be together and enjoy all of this time. It’s a lot of gratitude talk, and I think it’s calming for them and settling me down too!

Yes, they still ask me how many days til Christmas and Hanukkah (we celebrate everything around here), but I temper it with what is going on in the moment. Hopefully it will help them stay relaxed, get sleep at night and keep them healthy too.

p.s. Here is a fun thing to do at ChrsitmasTIME that you can do whenever the kids need a good holiday run-around. Hide N Seek in a xmas tree forest!

 

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Birthday Party Activity for a 7 Year Old: Fun and Educational Treasure Hunt

My favorite and most memorable birthday party when I was a kid was the one where my Dad created a treasure hunt for us. I was turning 9 and it really made an impression on me. He made rhyming clues, one leading to another, and all us kids had to figure them out and sleuth around to discover which one led where. I have no recollection of the prize, I just remember how fun it was for us to figure out and decipher the hidden messages.

So I created one for my daughter’s 7 year old party last night. There were 9 kids at the party and I think if you have a fairly small group, this hunt is a lot of fun. (I also believe parties should always be as small as possible. I’ll get into that in a another post). The clues were invented quickly and easily while I was in line at the post office, notating them on my iphone.

The clues, written in simple language (kids are just learning to read at this age) on little pieces of yellow construction paper, rolled into scrolls and then taped on to hiding places, led to a treasure map. The map I drew with a regular pen on white office paper. I drew a rough layout of the house and then used a darker marker to make dots leading outside to the back yard. I shredded the sides by ripping a little here and there and then tied it with a ribbon, The treasure was a pretty box I borrowed from my mom, filled with golden chocolate coins (gelt), mint chocolates and sugar-free bubble gum that I found at Smart ‘N Final (a kind of super-store… Costco restaurant supply type place in California). I hid the pretty treasure box under a plastic pin outside, stuck a big X on it and the hunt was ready!

Before we began, I laid down the rules:
1. No running
2. When they find a new clue, they are to put there heads together, talk about where it might be and walk to the place they thought they might find it. (problem solving)
3. They are to take turns reading the clues. (literacy)
4. When they find the treasure, they are to slowly come to the living room, dump it out (birthday girl gets to carry it), look at it, then slowly divvy it up. Now kids these days are trained to go nuts and hoard and grab candy (think piñata frenzy). And with our party it took about 7 reminders that there was no need to hog and fret about the goods. The key to this is buy a lot of treasure. I bought 160 coins (come in bulk for $10) and about 100 chocolate mints and one 12 piece pack of gum. The more there is, the more they relax about trying to get some.

Then I hand out empty goodie bags, so when they find the booty, they can divide up the spoils evenly. (counting…sorting).

This hunt was the highlight of the party and I thought I would teach you how to do it for your 7 and up year old. This is the kind of thing you could do every year, making the clues more and more difficult to solve.

Here’s what you will need.

6 or more clues (write your own or use mine)
6 pieces colored construction paper
tape
paper for map
ribbon for map
pretty box for treasure
something to hide treasure under (blanket, box… or you could even bury it…but i believe simple is best for mom)
LOTS of treasure
empty bags (zip-lock or what-ever you like)

I started by sitting all the kids down, going over the rules and then giving the first clue to Delilah.

Clue #1:

You’ll find the map where it gets hot
between the toaster and the pot

(all kids figure out kitchen…walk there, find toaster and on a pot near the toaster there is the second yellow clue.)

Clue #2:
Now go into Delilah’s room
and look up high beside the moon
(all kids go to Delilah’s room and look up to a moon that was already stuck up there, and see a yellow scroll taped to the ceiling. I jump up and get it and we read the next clue)

Clue #3:
Go out the front door and by the dome
look to find a little phone

(we walk outside where by our play structure dome, I had taped a clue onto a little plastic toy phone that the girls had and stuck it under the dome. You can easily find things you have to use to make rhymes!)

Clue #4:
You are smart but there is more
taped onto the bathroom door

(they all walk to bathroom, go inside and up taped on the back of the door, they find it!)

Clue #5:
Close your eyes and make a wish
Now go and feed our little fish
(they walk to the aquarium, and taped on the fish food container, the last clue)

Clue #6:
One last clue will take you there
On the red couch there is a bear

(I found a teddy bear in their animal basket and had hidden the map behind the bear)

The kids were out of their minds with excitement, anticipation and cleverness at this point.

Delilah opened the map and looked at it. I had the layout of the house sketched roughly, and she needed to figure how to go out the kitchen door to the backyard and turn left. She got out the kitchen door and turned right, so I gently redirected, as all the kids walked down the driveway looking for the X. And then one girls said “The X!”. Delilah got to lift the pink plastic bin and find hidden below, the magical box.

We brought it inside and sat in a circle, dumped it out (this is where daddy and I spoke in pirate voices and complained that our treasure had been found and stolen).

The kids divvied up the goods squarely and put their shares in their bags. They were allowed 3 pieces (it was before dinner, and again I am a big believer in not saying…”just one”.. that creates deprivation and then bingeing…more on that coming in a new post!). So 3 it was and the kids were thrilled.

And that was that. A good time is guaranteed with this treasure hunt and kids learn so much. Most of all it’s empowering, thoughtful and super fun.

AAAAAARRRRRRRR!

 

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Yellow Car – FUN driving game with counting and wishes!

 Did you see that Yellow Beetle Bug?

I wrote a song when Delilah was 2 and it was all because as we drove across town in my blue minivan, she kept whispering “yellow car” (tho it sounded more like “yeyo cah yeyo cah”). I would think, “oh that’s cute, she likes saying that” but then in about 30 seconds, a yellow car would approach, or I’d see one parked way down the road. She was seeing them before I was! And I had no idea that there were SO many yellow cars on the road.

Not only did we continue to search for the yellow cars on the way to baby group or the beach, but we started pretending that you get a wish when you see one. Pretty soon, the song was written on the road and when it came to recording the CD of course we had to put it on “Everyday Adventures”.
And it’s so funny when ever kids come over, like when Eric Herman’s girls came over to do some recording…they knocked on the door and asked “Do you have a yellow car?”. And the answer is “no”. I have a blue minivan, great for spotting yellow cars.
Here is a little excerpt from Sharla’s kidfun blog.
Beep Beep!

3 Nov  by Sharla http://kidfunandmore.com/?p=349

I’ve been meeting so many interesting people throughout the country who are sharing their ideas with us. How about the Yellow Car Counting Game? It’s a simple little driving game (perfect for KIDFUN). It came from Deborah Poppink, a Los Angeles-based mom, creative parenting advocate, and musician who records and performs as DidiPop.

Here’s how to play … every time you see a yellow car, you get a wish. She said, “I never realized how many yellow cars are on the road!” They started playing when her daughter Delilah was two years old and she began saying the word “yellow” and recognizing the color. She would whisper “yellow car”. I remember when Ryan started saying yellow – it sounded more like “lellow”. I loved it!

So the rules their family created were: Call it out every time you see a yellow car. You get one wish when you see a regular yellow car, two wishes for yellow Beetle Bugs and motorcycles and 1/2 wish for taxi cabs. What a good way to introduce fractions! And, you know, it’s fun to talk about wishes. Be clear they aren’t promises just lovely thoughts to dream about.

Learn more about Deborah by visiting www.didipop.com and www.YouTube.com/didipopmusic.

She has a new recording called DidiPop Goes to Hawaii, being released in December.

 

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Farmer’s Market teaches Seasons to Kids (and keeps them healthy!)

We like Sunday mornings here in Mar Vista. Every week we walk over to our local farmer’s market. I can’t remember what life was before we had fresh picked lettuce and fresh laid eggs available a few blocks from our doorstep. I was raised with frozen spinach in a box. It was the most disgusting, slimy, inedible stuff I’d ever seen or tasted! And even now, when I go to the “super market”, I pick up a tomato and wonder where it was born, how many chemicals are in it and how long it sat in a truck before it got into my hands. I appreciate all the people who worked hard to get that tomato to the super market, but there’s no question that I’d rather eat the one radiating vitamins that was picked this morning, an hour away from home.

Anyway, how lucky my girls (2 and 4) are to “know” fresh food. We wander, looking , tasting and smelling the wonderful summer fruits and veggies spread on the tables at the farmer’s market, or as we call it The Crepe Market. There is a french man there, Tierry, who whips up these delectable crepes. Sugar/Lime is now Delilah’s favorite.

The colors of the market are always breathtaking… it’s like a party for the senses and Hannah likes to touch everything – which is OK! (But not in Italy! Once I got slapped for touching a cucumber at a market!). We also get a great sense of seasonal change as we explore every week. For example, the peaches will only be GOOD for another 2 or 3 weeks, says the farmer who grows them. Oh how those white peaches have gotten us thru the summer, kept us cool and hydrated… and the yummy fresh peach yogurt we made with our wedding present ice cream maker. Alas… seasons change, fruits change, but last week we saw something REALLY exciting…. a few small pumpkins in a pile, glowing in the sun, calling us toward the fall and saying, “BOO!”

 

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St. Paddy’s Day Pancakes!

Dia dhuit ar maidin! (Good morning!)
Shamrock Pancakes
How fun, funny and easy it is to make your March mornings festive with these shamrock pancakes! Simply dye your favorite pancake batter green and pour out 3 or 4 (if you want to be lucky) circles (leaves) and a stem. For the truly talented pourers out there, try a top hat or even a leprechaun!
Our favorite pancake mix comes from Sears Fine Foods. We order it thru their website when we can’t get up there to pick it up ourselves.
 

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