For the Love of Food

Food plays a huge role in my life and I could list all the cliche ways it’s impacted me.

One of my proudest moments as a child was when I cooked my parents a dinner with minimal help from my mother. I remember being so thrilled that I did most of the work myself and remembering to wash my hands after handling raw meat without prompting.

My love for food comes both as something to be enjoyed and something that nourishes me to survive. I love to look at a plate for how it’s presented to me when we’re in a restaurant, along with how good it tastes. I would like to think I am a bit of a foodie, but I am far from being obsessed. I think I have a passing appreciation over whether or not a dish is good.

I want to pass this love on to Jai, so as he grows older, I plan on teaching him how to cook and bake as soon as he’s ready. He’s already showing interest as our friend, Lady, was kind enough to pass along a play kitchen that he uses and mimics mommy.

Looking Ahead

For the month of September, I will discuss my relationship with food, how food played a role in my relationship with Ash, feeding a baby and toddler so they can start their food appreciation journey, and what to do to help foster a love of food and cooking in little ones. Every Friday will have a new recipe to enjoy that I am looking forward to sharing with everyone.

Before getting started, what are some of your fond food memories? What is your favorite dish to eat alone and a favorite dish to share? Leave your stories in the comments.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography

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Fun Literacy Activities

Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment: literacy is extremely important.

I taught college composition for four years in graduate school and I saw first-hand how important literacy is to a student’s long-term college success. Students with high literacy and goal-oriented succeeded in the classroom, whereas students who struggled and did not take advantage of the opportunities provided for them inside and outside the classroom did not do as well.

Without going down the rabbit hole of the American educational system both past and present, I recognized that a student’s success correlated with their literacy levels. Those with high literacy knew when they struggled and came to me for help. Those with lower literacy levels tended to not recognize it or rejected any outside help I offered them. I had several students with lower literacy levels (or were afraid to reveal how literate they actually were) who sought extra help from me.

Those were always my favorite teaching success stories. They turned their failing grades into high passes. The look of accomplishment and pride they gave when meeting at the end of the semester informed me that they would find college would be less of a struggle now that they could apply what they learned in my classroom across the courses.

Seeing the importance of literacy informed how I would teach Jai as a parent and encourage him when he finally became a student. I want Jai to know how to work through a problem and to seek help when he gets stuck.

What is Literacy?

Originally it was defined as the ability to read and write effectively. But like all words, over time it’s expanded to include how we interact with language and information both in conversations and what we read. At its core, literacy is critically thinking through information presented to us and analyzing it to determine what to do with that information: accept as fact/opinion or rejecting it as misinformation.

Literacy is struggling to maintain relevancy, but there are ways to ensure it remains important in how we teach our children. It’s never too late to encourage literacy with a child, but because I have a toddler, I am going to focus on the fun activities that promote literacy between the ages of 12 months and 36 months.

There are plenty of resources available to promote literacy in early childhood for little ones beyond the toddler stage.

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Simple 3-Ingredient Fruit Leather

Jai and I went strawberry picking yesterday, our first of the fruit season. It was his first-time strawberry picking, though he went peach picking with me last year. He seemed to enjoy himself, although he stayed in his carrier the whole time which isn’t a bad way to spend the time: comfortable transportation AND food service? Yes, please.

This bodes well for blueberry picking because the farm we go to has tall bushes that are out of reach for little ones. He may be able to grab a few while he’s on my back and if he doesn’t, he won’t be bored while I pick.

I snuck a couple of (rinsed) berries to him while he was back there and he seemed to be a fan, though he was more into eating them once we got home.

Strawberries have an extremely short shelf-life, so I had to come up with some ways to preserve them beyond a couple of days. We got huge bucket-full so I needed to think of something quick.

Jai is on a fruit leather kick so I decided to make some from the fresh strawberries. I hunted around for some recipes and settled on this one, but I made my own modifications to veganize and help naturally sweeten the leather some more.

I’ve written up my modifications below, but do check out Momables for other great healthy eating ideas for little ones.

berrypicking

Jai’s first berry-picking experience. He was the official quality control agent: my shirt-back can attest with all the strawberry stains.

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For the Love of Dark Chocolate

When we first met, Ash told me how much he loved dark chocolate.

Me: Dark Chocolate? Really?
Ash: Yeah. It’s great. It’s delicious.
M: It’s gross. Ugh. So bitter. How can you like the stuff?
A: Well, I don’t like all dark chocolate. I like specifically 82% dark chocolate. My friend from college – his dad was a Swiss chocolatier and introduced me to that percentage. It’s not too bitter, not too sweet, but it’s the perfect balance of the two for me.

I tried it and rejected it for my milk chocolate love because it was too bitter to get around the flavor. Yet, when I quit sugar it meant I had to quit chocolate. This was devastating because chocolate is delicious and I am addicted to that endorphin release.

I was able to last a month without chocolate at first and focused on fruits as a means to satisfy my sweet tooth. But soon I started craving chocolate again. I looked around and found that there are several options available for those trying to get a chocolate fix without added cane sugar. (These are not sponsored links, but I do recommend them)

Ash saw me unwrapping a candy bar one day and wanted to know what I was eating:

A:What’s that?
Me: Chocolate. Why?
A: Can I see the wrapper?
M: Yes… (I hand him the wrapper)
A: You know this is dark chocolate right? You always said you hated the stuff.
M: (My mouth full)…so?
A: I TOLD you it was delicious.

He caught me. I found that by dropping sugar I was more receptive (desperate?) to dark chocolate. It was a good thing doing so because I was starting to get the actual health benefits from eating dark chocolate that’s on the news.

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Benefits of an Anti-Inflammatory or Mediterranean Diet

One of the things that I have found most beneficial for my MS is to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet. This is because I am lowering my intake of foods that might cause flare-ups such as wheat, dairy, or sugar. It isn’t easy to drop these delicious foods, but it’s doable because there are plenty of delicious recipes available all over the internet and passable alternatives for specific cravings.

Unfortunately, some of the recipes take time and prep and if you are low on energy, that can be discouraging. Making food ahead or finding shortcuts can help minimize food prep-stress.

In the news recently, there’s been a lot of talk about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. Looking at the two food pyramids for each diet there’s a lot of similarities between the two. So if you were ever considering doing the Mediterranean, or already on the Mediterranean, then you are maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet.

Food Pyramids

*I am linking to them to respect each site’s copyright.

Comparing the two, Dr. Weil breaks down the Mediterranean Diet in further detail, but each food category is in the same area of the pyramid; there are certain foods types you eat more of and others you eat less of and they overlap. While it may not be 100% the same, the overlaps are significant and the health benefits equitable.

The advantage to recognizing the similarity between the two is it can open up the doors for more recipe options with modifications. When starting new diets, it’s easy to get discouraged by recipe limitations. Having more options available can make the diet shift process smoother and more pleasant.

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