Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Food allergies

I was thrilled to see these shirts for kids with allergies. It’s a brilliant concept and of course a mother came up with it. Brava!


Having my mother-in-law care for my son for the first 5 years of his life was such a gift, especially when we learned he had a dairy, egg, and nut aversion. I imagine how challenging and scarier this would have been if I didn’t have my mother-in-law attending allergist appointments, grocery shopping with me, and preparing avoidance diet meals for my son while he was in her care.

When I think about the times my son traveled with my mother-in-law and was with relatives who knew he had food allergies, but didn’t really understand what that meant – this shirt would have been super handy.

As soon as either of us said he had allergies, friends and relatives would ask about nuts and gluten. Yes, a lot of people are allergic to these items – but gluten wasn’t on my son’s list. People just weren’t clear in what he was avoiding – and this shirt would have been crystal clear and helped them pause before offering him any food or treats.

If you have a multigenerational event coming up and you have a little one (I’m thinking under age 7) with allergies, I think a shirt like this would give a parent (or grandparent) a bit of calm as the little one wonders about during the multigenerational festivities.

If you have allergies or a child with allergies – how do you educate friends and relatives about this?


French Kids Eat Everything

Have you heard about this book, French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon? (Yes, mega long title.)

My mother-in-law and I had a field day about this topic and the author.

So…you have to be French in order for your kids not to be picky eaters?

We think not!

I’ve been parenting since 1999. My mother-in-law has been at it since 1973…and probably a bit earlier since she’s the oldest of 4 other siblings.

Even though we are both fascinated with the French language, French culture, and French cuisine – we do not think  the French parenting style is the only way to cure picky eating.

Here’s why…

We do not make food a big deal in our multigenerational nest. Even with my youngest following an avoidance diet due to his allergies – we don’t make eating dramatic, drawn out, or adversarial – between the grownups and the kids.

The two kids are involved in grocery  shopping, couponing, cookbook browsing, and cooking the meals. They see food as a way to be together with the family, nourish their bodies, travel to different countries (right at our dinner table) and try something different.

We have not had any issues about eating fruits and vegetables because our approach to food – overall – is about healthy eating.

I think back to last night’s dinner…the kids were arguing over who got to eat the last Brussels sprout. On a different night – the broccoli (or “trees” as my youngest calls it) was devoured so quickly, my mother-in-law realized she should have cooked more.

When my kids were able to move to solids, when they were babies, hubby made their baby food and it was vegetable based. There were no issues there – except the clean up of smooshed squash or smeared sweet potatoes (to name a few veggies).

When my oldest was about four-years-old, our family was invited to a dinner party. My friend called ahead and asked what she could prepare that was “kid friendly”. I promptly informed her we did not make separate meals for our daughter.

At the time we would take a portion of certain foods out of the batch so it wasn’t too spicy for her – but it was still the same meal.

My friend was surprised and shocked. She said she had been cooking specialized meals for her four kids, her husband, and herself for over 15 years.

I’m sorry, but I think that’s nuts, and I don’t have the time or patience to do that.

I think Karen Le Billon, the author, offers some good tips about helping kids develop a positive relationship with food – but she’s not saying anything earth shattering or new.

In all honestly, I think she learned more about her role in being in the parenting driver’s seat – in working with and raising her own children – than about picky eating and the French.

Parents should be the guides for their children, model healthy eating habits, and discuss ways to try out new things. I’m not sure why Karen Le Billon seemed so fascinated by this. It’s what parents, French or otherwise, do.

For our multigenerational nest, we have the following food expectations:

  • Select healthy snacks. (The fruit bowl, on our counter, is always full.)
  • Be gracious to the person who prepared the meal.
  • The food that is prepared is all that is available to eat.
  • Make sure the food items are “Kingston friendly”. (That’s for my son with the food allergies.)
  • Try a little of everything.

 How do you handle picky eating? As Karen Le Billon asserts, do you think the French are the go-to culture to cure picky eating?


Ingredients for a fun & multigenerational Thanksgiving

  1. Keep it simple.
  2. Make sure there is room and space for loved ones who may need it. (e.g. portable cribs, wheel chairs, walkers, oxygen tanks, etc.)
  3. Let people who want to cook – cook. (easy recipes)
  4. Don’t be opposed to catering.
  5. Check on any food allergies.
  6. Make sure the first-aid kit is up-to-date and well stocked.
  7. Have traditional Thanksgiving food and non-traditional dishes – it’s fun to mix things up.
  8. Play some games.
  9. Create a family BINGO to use as an icebreaker. Family members can text pictures of themselves – or you can grab a thumbnail from Facebook.
  10. Buy some mini Play-doh and use them as place cards. Loved ones’ names can be written on the top of the lids – or print some labels on the computer.
  11. Set-up a camera on a tripod so loved ones can take random pictures. If you want to be fancy – rent a photo booth.
  12. Set aside some time to have a Skype session with loved ones who could not join you during the Thanksgiving celebration. A “regular” phone call works, too.
  13. Create a festive playlist.
  14. Create a “list of thanks”.
  15. Appreciate the time you have together.

Happy Thanksgiving from our nest to yours!

This is not an endorsement for Publix.

My culinary life: before marriage & after marriage

A friend posted this link a few days ago and I about fell over laughing.

Yup, that flow chart explains my cooking life prior to meeting my husband.

I think back to my single life in Chicago and I chuckle about how far I’ve come as far as cooking – well, domesticity in general. My skills were very underdeveloped in those areas and I was in no hurry to cultivate them.

I knew how to cook and I owned cooked books. I loved reading magazines about food and cooking,  but I didn’t enjoy the actual art and task of cooking. It seemed like too much work and production for one person. I had to go to a bunch of stores to get a bunch of ingredients. The storeclerks didn’t seem too helpful when I was wondering what cream of tartar was (probably because I was pronouncing it *tar – tar*). And then the cooking tools – there were just too many to have in order to prepare the dishes I saw in the cookbooks.

I mentally gave up. Cooking became low on my creativity list and crafting was super high.

Then my future hubby showed up in 1996 and came to my apartment for a visit even though we’d know each other since 1993. He was horrified to see I only had two pots and a fairly empty frig. Leftover pizza, cheese, and frozen corn were the staples. Yup, totally pitiful.

When he came for his next visit, after I grudgingly agreed we were officially dating, he showed up with his own pots and pans, and bags of groceries. The even crazier and funny part about this was 1) he had driven from Iowa to Chicago, 2) he was still an undergraduate, and 3) I was a “grown-up” with my own apartment, job and life.

[Yes, take a moment to shake your head and crack up.]

Anyway…we cooked together and he made sure we prepared extra food so I could freeze it and have  decent meals when he went back to Iowa – meals that were more substantial than eating a bag of frozen corn for dinner.

As we continued our courtship, we prepared more meals together, I learned more about cooking, and then I was hooked creating in the kitchen.

Now with me living with hubby and my mother-in-law, the opportunities for my culinary skills to advance are endless. They are both patient teachers and they make cooking exciting and fun.

If I want to try out a recipe on my own, I’m given the space to do that. If the dish comes out less than pleasing, the feedback is supportive and direct. Then I’m encouraged to try again.

If I want to try out a recipe and feel like cooking as a pair or a group – no problem – hubby and my mother-in-law are more than willing.

When I get a little more time, maybe I’ll construct a new flow chart that describes how far I’ve come in my culinary life. Until then, you may want to try out this bread pudding with rum sauce recipe my mother-in-law just made. No, I didn’t help make it, but I definitely helped eat it.


From Martha Stewart

Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce


Makes 8 servings.


1/4 cup raisins

2 tablespoons dark rum

12 slices white bread, preferably slightly stale (about 1/2 pound)

1 cup milk

1 cup coconut milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg


3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup water

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1/4 cup dark rum


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9 x 13 x 2-inch ovenproof baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the raisins and rum and set aside.

Remove the crusts from the bread. In a blender or food processor, blend the crusts into bread crumbs. Set aside 3 tablespoons and reserve the rest for another use. Cube the bread and put the pieces into a large bowl. Pour the milk and coconut milk over the bread. Set aside to saturate completely.

In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour it over the bread along with the raisins and rum. Stir the mixture until well blended. Pour it into the baking dish and sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of bread crumbs over the top. Bake for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce. In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, water, butter, and rum. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil gently until thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour a little over each portion when serving.

images 1, 2


French Madeleines to keep you in vacation mode

The holiday season is still in full swing in our nest and we are feeling quite festive.  The kids are enjoying their Christmas gifts and playing all over the house. My mother-in-law is off childcare and cooking duty. Hubby and I are enjoying more time together and a slight break from our work responsibilities.

The winter break is always interesting for me when it comes to my work life. I’m winding down and gearing up all at the same time. Today I had to take a mini-break from being on break to get some work done. I read some book chapters and research articles in preparation for a training I’m facilitating. My administrative assistant stopped by my house so I could sign a bunch of important paperwork (I know, she’s awesome). I had to make some business calls about upcoming projects and I had to write some not so fun technical reports.

All the while I was doing this, hubby and my daughter were working on a science fair project, my son was playing with trains, and my mother-in-law had been working on her New Year letter. The house was bubbling over with creativity and I was sorta missing it.

Now, I’m not saying I was dreading doing my work; this is not the case at all. I enjoy my job, feel fortunate to have a flexible work schedule, and I’m able to immediately see some of the societal benefits my work produces. What I was dreading was mentally going all the way back into work mode and not being able to easily fall back into vacation mode with the rest of the family.

At one point, I looked at hubby and said, “I have two more hours of work to do and then you’ve gotta drag me back into vacation land.”

He looked at me very seriously and said, “Well I guess you better bake something.

Yup, that’s what I needed to do, bake something. I wanted to use the mini cheesecake pan I received for Christmas, but I did not have all of the ingredients on hand. The next item that came to mind was French Madeleines.

Yes, this would be a perfect and easy treat to bake-up and to put me back in my vacation state of mind. But, uh oh, we only had one egg in the house and I needed three. What do to?

Text my mother-in-law.

She happened to be out and about – and she responded quickly to the egg request.

The recipe for the French Madeleines required sifting, and I have to admit, I do enjoy sifting. Yes, that’s a bit random. Every time I’m sifting dry ingredients for a recipe, I have fond memories of spending summer vacations on my maternal grandparents’ farm. My grandmother made most everything from scratch and she would let me sift ingredients, while we cooked together, and she told me family stories. This recipe was easily shifting me right back into vacation mode.

In no time at all, I baked up 54 madeleines. My daughter took some madeleines downstairs to share with my mother-in-law, and hubby corralled the four of us so we could head off to the botanic gardens.  (My mother-in-law needed some quiet time in the house and a break from the kids playing Wii on top of her head.)

Of course we took some madeleines with us and we enjoyed them with our hot cocoa and café mocha when we took a break from enjoying the festive night at the gardens. (The three-year-old decided he needed to have a popsicle.)

What types of things do you do to decompress from work and go (or stay) into vacation mode?

Photo credit


The apple of grandma’s eye

Unfortunately we do not have an apple tree in our yard, but a few of our neighbors do. Score!

A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law and my there-year-old went on an apple picking adventure. (I know, too adorable.) I’m sure it was my son’s idea to take his mini-shopping cart along. Either way, it was fun to receive a few snapshots of their apple picking adventure on my phone. (The mobile phone paparazzi strikes again!)

Many of the desserts we make aren’t always dairy, egg, or nut free. We often modify recipes due to my son’s food allergies. Part of the reason my mother-in-law decided to make the apple tart was to bake something “allergy free”, and what else were we going to do with all those tasty apples?

In addition to baking, they worked on photography and apple counting skills. My son took that picture of his grandma cutting up the apples. Yes, they are a great team.

The apple tart was delicious and only lasted one night. More please!

(And of course, we used some of those apples to make an apple cake.)

Baker Baker

“Baker, baker, can you make a tasty apple treat?”

“Yes, I’ll make an apple crisp just for you to eat.”

“Baker, baker, roll the dough and place the apples in.”

“Then I’ll add some tasty nuts and bake it in a tin.”

“Baker, baker, when you finish this fine apple treat. It will be for me alone, just for me to eat!”

-poem source