Tag Archives: nutrition

Juice

I don’t consider juice to be a replacement for a serving of fruits or vegetables yet I have always had juice on our menu as an occasional ‘treat’.  Milk is always served with lunch but once or twice a week I do serve juice with snack (water for those whose parents don’t allow juice).  I have never served fruit flavoured ‘beverages’, any type of powdered beverage mix or soft drinks even for special occasions.

Sometimes I have had children who don’t like milk but they will eventually drink it or water if juice is not an option.  Sugar sweetened beverages can become a battle ground (I’ve never even served chocolate or other flavored milk).  In the 20 years that I have been providing childcare, children refusing to drink anything except juice has never been a problem – until this summer.

I actually found it funny at first – none of the children in this group are new here – they all like milk but they love juice.  Their juice chant following every meal/snack had reached riot level.  The day they started throwing cups of milk and demanding juice instead was the end of my amusement.

However, I didn’t actually remove juice from the menu.  Instead, I now only buy/serve one type of juice – tomato based, eight vegetable juice.  It took just two weeks – no one demands juice anymore.  In fact, when offered juice or water they all choose water.  No one complains about milk anymore either. 🙂

Taco Pie

Today I want to highlight one of our lunch menu items.  A long time ago I used to have chili buns on the menu – they were popular but any meal items that need to be assembled on the individual plates I find are too time consuming.  I much prefer to prepare ‘all-in-one’ meals like Layered French Toast that can be prepared in advance and are easier to serve to a group.

Taco Pie is like that – essentially a chili bun casserole type meal – perfect.  In the morning I start by making chili;

  • 1 796 ml can diced tomatoes
  • 1 540 ml can of black beans
  • 1 284 ml can of tomato soup
  • 1 lb ground beef, scramble fried
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning (approximately – maybe more – I don’t measure it, I just dump some in until it looks/smells right).
  • salt, pepper, chili flakes, paprika, (to taste)
  • Salsa (optional – sometimes I add some, sometimes I don’t, never measure)

These all simmer for an hour or so while I grate cheese, prepare the crust and do any other necessary tasks before the children arrive.  This is the biscuit crust recipe – this I measure;

  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 8 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Make a well in center and pour in milk and mayonnaise.  Mix to moisten and then press into bottom of a greased 9×13 baking pan.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle crust with grated cheese, pour chili over top, cover with crushed corn chips and some more grated cheese.

At this point I suppose you could just bake it a little longer to melt the cheese and then serve it but because I prepare it very early in the morning I cover it with foil and put it in a 175 degree oven until lunch – it is ready for us whenever we are done playing.

DSC02789

 

Squash

This year we got a lot of squash in our CSA box from Wild Earth Farms.  We got a lot last year too but this year there was more. Luckily squash keeps longer than the other types of fresh produce so I didn’t have to use it all at once.  Some of it made a nice addition to our Fall decor.

14-11-squash01

I like that we got so many different kinds of squash and some I had never tried before.  I find it interesting that as I search for new recipes it doesn’t seem to matter what type of squash I use in the search I still get many similar recipes.  The only exception is the spaghetti squash which has some unique recipes that would not work as well if you used another type of squash.

I have roasted the various squash and used them in stir fries and stews.  I love squash however, it has been a challenge to get the children to eat it.  If it is not baked in a pie, loaf, or cake they will usually just leave it on their plate.

This week I tried something different.  I cut up an acorn squash, coated it with egg and a mixture of bread crumbs, flour, cornmeal, and taco seasoning.  Then I baked it until it got crispy – about 30 minutes at 425 F.  I served it along with our Mexican Chicken and Rice.

I loved it.  The baby inspected it very closely then dropped it off the side of the highchair without ever even tasting it.  The 2 year old children expertly gnawed all the breading off every squash nugget but left the innards. The three year old never even touched the squash.

After eating every last bit of her chicken and rice she pushed her plate away and announced that she was done.  The rest of our conversation went like this;

  • Me: You didn’t try your squash.
  • 3 yo: I don’t like it.
  • Me: How do you know that if you haven’t even tasted it.  It’s like a chicken nugget.
  • 3 yo: It’s not a chicken nugget.
  • Me: Try a little one.
  • 3 yo: No, I don’t like them.
  • Me: Why do you think you won’t like them?
  • 3 yo: McDonald’s doesn’t have squash nuggets.

Sigh.  No they don’t.

14-11-squash02

The Review

Often when I write posts about one of our activities or changes I’ve made to our spaces I will include links to the products we used or the stores where we purchased them.  I do this only because I want to, I don’t receive anything for doing this. I know that when I read other blogs and see something interesting I want to know where they got their supplies from.  If there are links then I don’t need to search for the items.

However, I have been asked – three times – to review products in exchange for free stuff.  Once, a clothing company offered to send me samples of their children’s outerwear for us to use and evaluate.  After a few email conversations they backed out due to my location – I think they were concerned that their clothing was not suitable for some of our extreme weather conditions.

The second request came from a product that I had no interest in reviewing – it was not something I would have ever purchased and I doubt I would have had anything good to say about it – I refused that request.

Today though I am going to write about a book that was recently sent to me to review.  The National Geographic Kids Cook Book by Barton Seaver. Now, honestly, I would never have actually gone looking for a kids cook book – or any cook book.  Even though I occasionally look for new recipes I’m unlikely to ever find a book with more than two or three that I’d like to try – hardly worth paying for an entire book.

The recipes in this book range from very simple ones that even toddlers could help with to more elaborate recipes and everything in between.  The book is arranged as a year long calendar with many seasonal recipes.  There are recipes from around the world along with  interesting facts about the country and the ingredients. I found several recipes that I liked and selected two to try before beginning this post.

Poached Pears is actually the last recipe in the book but the first one I made – maybe I’m a little backward.  This recipe interested me because I love pears but the ‘fresh’ pears in the store are always green and hard and taste horrible.  I buy them but then it takes so long for them to ripen and then they are only ‘nice’ for a day before they start getting brown and mushy – yuck.  This recipe let me use the green pears and made them taste truly wonderful.  I served them for snack along with my Cinnamon Biscotti – all the children loved them!

14-10-review01

The second recipe I tried was the Sweet Potato Latkes.  I didn’t weigh my sweet potatoes until after I had grated them all – oops, I had 4 times the amount I needed so I quadrupled the recipe.  It took a really, really long time to cook all those pancakes but they were so good I had no problem finding people to eat them all.  I didn’t even get to take any pictures.

This book isn’t just a recipe book.  In fact, I only counted 49 recipes and the book has 160 pages.  There is a lot more in there too – cooking tips, games, crafts, and tons of information about the environment and where our food comes from.  There are stories about some wonderful people, places and traditions from around the world.

The children have enjoyed looking at all the colourful photos on every page – this book won’t be sitting on the shelf with my other cookbooks.  This book will be out all the time because there is always someone who wants to check it out.

14-10-review02

How about you?  I was given THREE copies of this book.  One for me and two to give away.  So, one I am donating to the Manitoba Nature Summit to use as a door prize for our AGM – the meeting date hasn’t been set yet but it will be posted on their website and Facebook page so check back often.

The other one will be given to one of the readers of my blog.  If you want a chance to win a copy of this book then post a comment below and tell me what you think of this post, what you find interesting about this book, or why you would like a copy of your own.  The winner will be selected by a random draw (done by one of my toddlers) on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 and announced on Saturday, November 8th.  Good Luck!

Replacing Crackers

I was at a meeting with other childcare providers and the subject of crackers came up.  Conversation centered around the use of crackers as the ‘grain’ portion of meals and snacks.  There was a brief moment of silence after I commented that I didn’t think the children liked crackers all that much so we rarely have them here.

Then I had to clarify my statement;  The children don’t like the crackers that I am willing to buy.  I have searched through the cracker aisle in the grocery store and read every label.  My husband has been near meltdown stage begging me to just pick a box and move on. I sigh and choose a variety that is somewhat (barely) acceptable.  I won’t advertise the brand but this is the nutrition label;

crackers01

The sodium level is still too high but it is less than some of the other types and at least it has some fibre.  Most crackers have none – even many of the ones that claim to be multigrain or wholegrain.  The only ‘benefit’ to this purchase is that this 200g box will be in my pantry for at least two months.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Even with eight children in care it will take about that long to finish a single box of crackers.  There are some types of crackers that the children really do like and will consume more of but the nutrition labels for them are nearly identical to that of a bag of chips.

Our four week menu has two snacks per day, five days per week for a total of 40 snacks.  Each snack has a serving of each of these food groups – fruit, dairy and grain.  Currently I only use packaged crackers for two of those 40 snacks.  So what are the other 38 you ask?

  • Oatmeal – the steel cut kind – I refuse to buy/make the overly processed varieties.
  • Store bought breads & bagels – always whole wheat or multigrain – the heavier the better.  We haven’t had any type of white bread here in the last 10 years.
  • Homemade breads etc – apple bread, raisin bread, pumpkin loaf, biscuits, and more.  I use only whole wheat flour even when the recipe calls for all purpose.
  • Breakfast cereals – high fibre with limited sugar – a processed item that I think is acceptable when only offered once per week.
  • Quinoa Pudding
  • Quesadillas made with multigrain tortillas
  • Homemade cookies and bars – all contain wholegrain flour and old fashioned oats

There are also a few snack items that I am considering eliminating.  Things like rice crispy squares and store bought waffles, and graham wafers. A total of six items in the four week menu that I’d like to replace – eight items if I replace those crackers too.

These items might be considered ‘treats’ but are certainly not necessities.  I’d even question the use of the term ‘convenience’ in reference to these items.  Healthier options are not a lot more work.  A big batch of biscuits or scones takes less than an hour to prepare, bake and clean up after.  They freeze well so they can be prepared in advance and used a required.

What about the cost of homemade snacks verses the cost of store bought items? Financially I think it varies but most of the homemade items are less expensive.  Time wise homemade items may cost more unless you are like me and spend hours in the store reading labels before you buy.  Nutritionally there is no contest – homemade always beats processed.

So, I’m off to find some new recipes.  I’ve got a long weekend ahead and a half empty freezer.  First up I think I’ll try something I’ve never made before – biscotti.  Maybe I’ll find a way to use all that pumpkin puree I have left from last fall…

A New Perspective

This post may seem a little off my normal theme but there is a family childcare connection.  First though, a little history:

I went to a family physician regularly for 15 years.  He saw me through several of my pregnancies and delivered two of my children.  His office was nearby and even after I opened my family childcare home I could make late day appointments that didn’t require me to close the daycare or hire a substitute.  It was perfect – until suddenly he closed his practice.

I felt somewhat abandoned.  Apparently there had been a notice in the classified section of the newspaper but I hadn’t seen it.  I didn’t find out until I called to make an appointment and got the automated message.  I was supposed to schedule a follow-up appointment to get test results and instead I was left scrambling to find a new doctor and discovered that few were accepting new patients.

When I did finally find a new physician there were issues with both his office location and his hours.  His last appointment of the day was 4pm which would mean I would have to leave before 3:30 – earlier than any of my potential subs could arrive.  His ‘early’ appointments were 10am and the one time I tried this he ran late and I had to leave before I got to see him – my sub could not stay any longer.

So, for the last seven years I have only seen my physician for annual checkups in July during my vacation.  Every year he reports that I am his favourite type of patient – healthy.  Still, although I was not actively looking, I did often think that it would be nice to have a physician that I could visit more than once a year – just in case…

Recently I heard of a clinic that had extended hours and they were accepting new patients.  Their location was convenient too so I booked an appointment – on a Saturday!  I went for my first visit and was very impressed. Then they called me back for a ‘follow up’.  Hmmm, that’s different.  I went back and sat in the doctor’s office as he matter-of-factly stated “Your cholesterol level is too high.  You need to improve your diet, exercise, lose weight and we’ll check your levels again in a few months.”

What?!?  I left the office feeling somewhat stunned.  I’m all about healthy foods and an active lifestyle.  I read the nutrition information for everything I buy. This doesn’t make sense.  Maybe there was something I was missing?

I went home and did some research.  I read lists of the ‘best foods to lower cholesterol’ – many of my favorite foods were there.  Our entire menu revolves around whole grains, fruits and veggies.  Nuts, they are not allowed on the childcare menu but I eat them.  Fish – OK, this one is a bit of a problem for me.  I manage to choke down fish occasionally but I find it difficult so I take an Omega 3 supplement daily.

I changed my search to look for the ‘worst’ foods.  There were a few of my favourite ‘treats’ there –  things like french fries and cheese. Yes, I love them but I also limit them.  I don’t like red meat.  There was nothing on the bad lists that I eat regularly.

Then I thought…does the season make a difference?  Turns out that season can have an impact on cholesterol levels.  I normally have my blood tests done in the summer when we spend all our time outdoors.  We are indoors more in the winter – this year’s extreme weather has made it even harder to get outside to play.  I’ve done a lot more snow shoveling this winter but it is still far less physical activity than what I normally get in the summer.

Maybe my cholesterol levels have been higher in the winter before and I just didn’t know.  A visit to the doctor in the winter has given me a new perspective.  Seems I’m going to have to make some adjustments.

Lunch Solutions

I’ve encountered the first ‘problem’ of the new group schedule. We have too much leftover food.

Last year I had five preschoolers and two school-age children here for lunch every day.  Over the summer two preschoolers were replaced by extra school-age children but they have left now.  My current enrolment includes one infant (who brings his own food), four preschoolers and three school-age children (who stay at school for lunch).

Essentially that means that suddenly I have half as many children here for meals and I’m making too much food.  So, I’ve been considering changing a few of the menu items.  Many of the meals are easy to adjust the amounts to suit the number of children in attendance.  Several of the casseroles can be halved – or returned to original since in most cases I was doubling the recipes.  However some are difficult to modify so they may have to be replaced if I don’t want a fridge full of leftovers.

Another strange phenomenon is that the preschoolers that are here for lunch are eating far less than usual.  I’m not sure if this is a temporary thing due to the change in season and schedule.  This one I’ll just wait and see if it continues then maybe it means they are getting tired of certain meals and we will have to change more of the menu.

Then there is the produce from our garden.  Some things like the peas and corn did not provide anything edible – something I find odd.  Other plants continue to generate so much that we have difficulty eating it all.

I love those little pear tomatoes – we have hundreds of them!

Of course this produce is great for menu items like the Chicken Gumbo;

And I’ve been baking with those zucchini too so we’ve had some special snacks.  Anyone interested in joining the Family Childcare Committee?  We’re looking for new members and our meetings are delicious. 🙂