Tips for Feeding Your Family Well in the New Year

kids cooking

If you’re like millions of others around the world, the start of the New Year marks a new or renewed commitment to healthier eating for you and your family. Here are some helpful, quick and easy tips to help make your resolution a reality that sticks.

8 Resolutions for Healthy Family Eating

1. Buy what’s in season

Fruits and veggies that are in season simply taste better and often have more nutrients than produce that’s traveled long distances to get to you. Using what’s in season – greens and citrus are in season now – is the best choice for you, your budget and your environment.

2. Cook quality in quantity

This goes for meals – such as making a big batch of veggie lasagna or a large pot of soup that provides enough for at least two dinners – and for making batches of dishes that can be pieced together for quick and easy meals throughout the week. Make a big pot of lentils, brown rice or any other grain when you have a spare minute, and keep it in the fridge along with fresh fruits and veggies you prep once and have at the ready all week.

3. Buy in bulk

Beans, nuts, grains and dried fruit can all be purchased from the bulk bins. They are hearty, reliable staples that can be turned into meals in minutes. Keep them on hand and you’ll always be ready to whip up something good for your family.

4. Eat less white, and fewer refined grains

If you haven’t already, make a commitment to switch to whole grain bread, pasta and rice. If you’re nervous about sneaking the change past your kids, try mixing brown rice with white, gradually adjusting the ratio of brown to white until the darker wins over.

5. Incorporate more texture and new tastes

If your kids are like ours, introducing them to new foods is often a recipe for disaster. No one wants to toil at a new meal only to have it met with great protest, aghast faces and turned up noses. Instead of throwing something totally foreign at your kids, start by introducing a bit of new texture and taste along with a tried and true meal. For instance, sprinkle some chia or flax seeds into the breading you use for chicken tenders, sneak some greens into a favorite smoothie, or simply add a new, in-plain-sight veggie to your child’s plate, casually suggesting she try your tasty new find.

6. Plan ahead

Nutritional experts say that meal planning is a crucial component to consistently providing your family with healthy, filling meals. Planning ahead is also friendly on the family budget. If you’d like someone else to do the planning for you, check out Yummly. Yummly lets you search through thousands of recipes based on super-specific filters like prep-time, flavor profiles, allergies, special diets, and more.

7. Commit to fewer restaurant meals

With restaurant meals, you never truly know what you’re getting. Chances are, the meals aren’t always as healthy as they are described on the menu, and chances are even greater that the kids’ meals are even worse. View dining out as a treat – book a babysitter and make a night of it – and keep a standby list of local restaurants that commit to healthy meals to call when take-out is your only option for getting food on the table.

8. Get your kids involved in meal planning and preparation

It’s true that kids are more likely to eat what’s on their plates if they helped to put it there. Start talking to your kids about good food and how it grows while they are young, and keep at it by starting your own garden, visiting farms and letting the kids help choose new fruits and veggies at the farmer’s market or grocery.

Remember that how you eat is how you live, and how you live is likely how your kids will live. Giving them good food and healthy habits now will be a gift that lasts their lifetime.

Search for babysitters and nannies who can help cook healthy meals for the kids at UrbanSitter.

5 Strategies for Prying Away the Halloween Candy

halloween candy haul

For children, Halloween is almost too good to be true. They simply show up at a neighbor’s door, dressed as their favorite character, and handfuls of candy are tossed into a bag that’s already bursting with sugary treats. For parents, it means days of fighting to keep their children from eating their body weight in sugary junk.

Veteran parents will tell you your best bet for dealing with Halloween candy is to let your little ones choose a few favorite pieces and hand over the rest of their bounty. To make the transaction go a little smoother (and to limit disappointment) try one of these proven strategies for getting kids to let loose of their Halloween candy without a fight:

1. Buy It!
Get your child to “sell” you his Halloween candy in exchange for something he really wants. If you prefer, call it a trade. You might offer a new toy or a special activity in exchange for the bag of candy.

2. Donate it.
Sell it to your child as helping others while also having fun in a reverse trick-or-treating kind of way. You can package the candy and make a few stops around town, donating it to those who could really use a treat. Good donation spots include shelters, a local Ronald McDonald house, nursing homes, and food pantries. There are also organizations who will ship the candy in care packages to US military troops away from home.

3. Become Mad Scientists.
If you haven’t yet stumbled on the very cool web site, Candy Experiments, pre-Halloween is the perfect time to check it out. It’s loaded with simple science experiments to do with candy in your own kitchen. Bookmark the link and do a little advance planning to make sure your kitchen and pantry are locked and loaded to turn into a fun science lab. You’ll quickly turn the sugary loot into a distant memory and have a great time doing it.

4. Get crafty.
What’s almost as good as eating candy? Playing with it! Here’s the perfect craft for turning candy into a mosaic.

5. Create a Halloween dessert
It sounds counterintuitive – offering yet another sweet extravagance, but it’s the perfect solution to doing away the candy without losing the treat. Young children won’t realize that it doesn’t take all their candy to create a fun Halloween dessert, and older kids will enjoy creating and consuming it to give much thought to the price they’ve paid. Start a fun tradition of making a Halloween dessert the day after trick-or-treating. Here’s a simple, satisfying salty sweet bark made with candy, pretzels and a bit of dried fruit.

Whatever your strategy, stick with it year after year and it’ll quickly become part of your family’s Halloween fun!  

Kristin Groos Richmond of Revolution Foods is Recruiting Kids for a Healthy Eating Revolution

Kristin Groos Richmond, CEO and co-founder of Revolution Foods

By Dawn Van Osdell

On her early morning drive to her Oakland, CA, office Kristin Groos Richmond is already thinking about lunch. Not her own, but the more than 1.5 million fresh, wholesome meals her company will lovingly distribute throughout the week to schoolchildren across the country. She’s also thinking about the small details that make the difference between kids gobbling up the food or leaving it untouched on their cafeteria trays. Details like white cheddar rather than orange cheddar in a quesadilla, and the red kidney beans Louisiana kids expect to find in their jambalaya.

No one knows food and kids quite like Richmond and her business partner, Kirsten Saenz Tobey, two moms who met at the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley 10 years ago and together co-founded Revolution Foods. Their now-burgeoning company, ranked #5 in food by Fast Company magazine in 2012, provides nutritious snacks and meals to schools and stores, often in communities where children have limited access to them.

Fresh lunches are made daily at Revolution Foods Culinary Centers

As if it weren’t hard enough to get wholesome food into the hands of these kids to begin with, the company also has to get them to eat it. “If kids are turning up their noses, we’re not doing it right,” says Richmond, explaining that they provide affordable meals using real foods with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives —and, just as importantly, educate kids about proper nutrition, helping them build healthy eating habits that will hopefully last a lifetime. The best way to do this, says Richmond, is to bring kids into the kitchen and into the discussion.

“We’ve found that when we not only give kids healthy food and tell them why it’s better, but also give them a voice, together we can come up with what works.”

— Kristin Gross Richmond

That discussion—or at least, the core values behind it—has its roots in her time volunteering with kids in New York while working in corporate finance, a career path she knew she wouldn’t follow forever. When a friend mentioned that she was starting a school in Kenya, Richmond, who grew up caring for animals on her grandparents’ cattle ranch in the hills outside San Antonio, TX, found herself quitting her banking job and signing on to head to the African savannah.

With her friend, she co-founded the Kenya Community Center for Learning in Nairobi and taught there for two years before her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Steve, finally talked her into moving to the Bay Area. There, working at the nonprofit Resources for Indispensable Schools and Educators (RISE), she heard teachers complaining repeatedly that their students didn’t have access to proper nutrition. That critical complaint stuck with her, all the way to the inception of Revolution Foods.

Today, Richmond lives in Mill Valley with her husband and her very own research and development team: sons Caleb, 8, and Watts, 5. “I am so lucky to get an inside look at what kids want and what they think,” she says, mentioning that Caleb and Watts have first tastes of just about everything Revolution Foods serves. “I ask them if the food is too spicy, too strong, about how the bread looks or how big a meatball should be.” Recently, Caleb asked, “Mom, do you really listen to everything we say about food?” Yes, she does.

Revolution Foods provides schoolchildren with delicious, healthy meals to fuel their growing minds and bodies

Richmond says her company prides itself on being culturally relevant. San Francisco has a large Asian population, as well as many Hispanic communities, and Revolution Foods also serves school districts in 11 states and Washington, DC.  Meeting local taste expectations is an important part of what Revolution Foods must accomplish.  And, she says, “We ask kids to help us get it right.”

Their culinary centers—really, massive commercial kitchens— are regionally located so food can be made fresh and sent directly to the 1,000-plus schools Revolution Foods serves. The meals they create must comply with the National School Lunch Program, a federal assistance program that subsidizes schools to provide low-cost or free school lunches. On visits to the culinary center kids can watch non-stop deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and meat free of nitrates and nitrites, all of which is prepped and prepared by real people, not machines. “It’s important for kids to put faces behind food, so that they don’t think it just comes from packages,” Richmond says.

Kristin Groos Richmond at Revolution Foods headquarters in Oakland

Here, kids are allowed to get in on the action, chopping and mixing and creating their own healthy dishes in Iron Chef-like competitions in which they’re judged on taste, aesthetics, healthy balance, and nutritional content— even the name they create for their masterpieces. “It’s about making it fun, so they respect food,” Richmond explains.  Recently, kids at the culinary center in Oakland helped name an Asian-inspired breakfast bowl.

They can also help tweak dishes. For instance, Revolution Foods always uses brown rice in their many Latin-inspired meals— a healthier grain that’s new to many kids. “We get that it’s different,” Richmond’s team tells them, acknowledging the denser texture and nuttier taste. Then they ask the kids to tell them how to make the flavor of the overall dish more like what they’re accustomed to. “We’ve found that when we not only give kids healthy food and tell them why it’s better, but also give them a voice, together we can come up with what works,” says Richmond. It turns out, brown rice isn’t an issue for most kids when it’s colorful from a mix of minced veggies and seasoned the way they expect.

Across all markets, kids help to nix ideas, too—recipes made with good intentions but ultimately not what kids want to eat. They also have the power to vote on the best-of-the-best dishes, so the company knows what will work nationwide. Some kid favorites are unsurprising: whole grain spaghetti and meatballs, chicken tenders, oranges, kiwis, and pasta alfredo with white beans. A more unexpected hit: salads. Kids especially dig Revolution Foods’ chef, taco, and sesame chicken salads, proving that pushing the envelope really can pay off.

Fresh meals made by hand, not machine

The process of involving kids, Richmond says, means kids are eating better and educators are starting to see improved test scores, fewer behavioral problems, and declining obesity rates. Time-pressed parents can get in on the action, too. Revolution Food’s ready-to-eat lunchbox kits are now available in more than 2,000 stores like HEB, Safeway, and Fresh and Easy.

“One of the nicest surprises to come out of Revolution Foods has been the job creation,” says Richmond. Mostly at its local culinary centers, the company has created more than 1,400 jobs, hiring the fathers, mothers, uncles, and cousins of the kids they feed. “It’s not just about fresh food,” Richmond says, “but about how we can have an even bigger impact on the community.”

Photographs by Bonnie Rae Mills and courtesy/Revolution Foods.

Citrus Recipes Kids Will Flip For

Fruit makes a perfect snack for kids, no matter the season. And all kids seem to love the tender, juicy bites they get from ever-popular mandarin oranges. To mix things up a bit, we asked our friends at Halos for their take on how to get kids eating right with citrus—at snack time and beyond!

Mandarin and Quinoa Chicken Bowls
Serves 4

Quinoa is hearty, healthy, and easy to make. Spoon it into a bowl and top it with Wonderful Halos mandarins, grilled chicken, cilantro, black beans, and savory chipotle lime vinaigrette for dinner or a packed lunch.

1 cup quinoa
3⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cumin
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups baby spinach
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
1 small red bell pepper, sliced
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
1 scallion, sliced
4 Wonderful Halos mandarins, peeled and segmented

Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette:
1⁄4 cup lime juice
1 garlic clove, sliced in half
2 tablespoons honey
3 teaspoons adobo sauce, from canned chipotle in adobo 1 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄3 cup olive oil

1. Cook quinoa according to package directions and set aside to cool.

2. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Mix together the salt, chili
powder and cumin and rub on chicken. Grill chicken on both sides until cooked through; set aside to cool, then slice.

3. Make chipotle lime vinaigrette by whisking together all ingredients. Discard halved garlic cloves.

4. Spoon quinoa into 4 bowls. Top each bowl with remaining ingredients and drizzle with vinaigrette e. Tip: If making ahead for lunch, pack vinaigrette separately so bowl stays fresh.

Prosciutto Bruschetta Bites

Toasted crostini is topped with a little slice of savory prosciutto, Wonderful Halos mandarin segments and shallot chutney for a sweet and salty appetizer bursting with flavor.

1 baguette, sliced and toasted
Olive oil, bowl for brushing baguette 1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups shallots, sliced
1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄2 cup white balsamic vinegar
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds 13 slices prosciutto
1 cup Wonderful Halos mandarin segments, roughly chopped
1⁄3 cup toasted hazelnuts, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1. Heat oven to 375oF. Slice baguette thinly, brush with olive oil and bake until just toasted. Let cool.

2. Make mandarin chutney: In a skillet over medium heat, sauté the shallot and salt in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, bay leaf and coriander seeds and let simmer until vinegar is reduced and almost gone. Add the mandarin segments and stir; remove from heat.

3. Top toasted baguette slices with a 1⁄2 slice of prosciutto and a spoonful of mandarin chutney; sprinkle with hazelnuts and thyme.

Smoothie Pops
Serves 12

Sweet Wonderful Halos mandarins transform healthy breakfast smoothies into crave-able frozen Smoothie Pops. You can enjoy these nutritious breakfast popsicles on-the-go or as an afternoon snack—your kids will never miss the sugar.

Version #1: Smoothie Pops with Mango 4
Wonderful Halos mandarins, peeled
1 cup pineapple, diced
1⁄2 cup banana, sliced
1 cup mango, diced
1 tablespoon flax meal
3⁄4 cup vanilla yogurt
Extra Wonderful Halos mandarin segments

Version #2: Smoothie Pops with Strawberry
5 Wonderful Halos mandarins, peeled
1⁄2 cup pineapple
1⁄2 cup banana, sliced
1-1⁄4 cups strawberries, sliced
1 tablespoon flax meal
3⁄4 cup vanilla yogurt
Extra Wonderful Halos mandarin segments

1. For each flavor, combine all ingredients in the pitcher of a blender. Cover and blend on high speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour into ice pop molds and add extra Wonderful Halos mandarin segments to each pop; insert sticks.

2. Freeze until solid and remove from molds; serve immediately or store in a zip lock bag in the freezer.

Healthy Living with Dean, Anne, Lucas & Jasmine Ornish, Sausalito, California

By Dawn Van Osdell

Dean Ornish, M.D., his wife Anne, and their two children—Jasmine, age 6 and Lucas, age 15 (from Dean’s previous marriage)—live the holistic lifestyle they teach others by embodying a simple motto: “Eat well, stress less, move more, and love more.”

Dr. Ornish is passionate about helping people live healthier, happier lives by making better lifestyle choices. He’s the founder of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of six best-selling books that claim that lifestyle and diet can reverse aging and improve chronic diseases—such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and prostate cancer—and can also change your genes by turning off disease-promoting elements. “We’re committed to creating healthcare, rather sick-care,” he explains about his pursuits. Anne, a former yoga instructor, is the digital director for Ornish Lifestyle Medicine at Healthways, Inc., focused on bringing their holistic principles to the masses by providing inspiring tips for creating a better balanced life.

The couple took time away from their work to talk with us about their daily life with Jasmine, a rising first-grader at Mark Day School in San Rafael, and Lucas, who is returning from summer camp and starting his freshman year at The Bay School of San Francisco in the Presidio, which is just over the Golden Gate Bridge from their home in the picturesque, water’s-edge town of Sausalito.

the ornish family in 2014


What makes Sausalito conducive to living the healthy lifestyle you teach?
Dean: I’ve lived in Sausalito since 1988. It allows us to embody the principles we teach others, and to implement them into our daily lives. We can walk to work, find healthy foods from local farmers’ markets, and incorporate exercise into every day. It feels good just being in Sausalito.

Anne: Sausalito has a network of stairs—our daughter calls it “the secret passageway”— that take us from home to our office, and comes out by Poggio, one of our favorite restaurants. We almost never have to get in our car. We have electrical packs on our bikes so when we leave Sausalito, we can bike all the way to Point Reyes, Fort Baker, CronkhiteCavallo Point, or to the (Bay Area) Discovery Museum. We have a special, covered doggy basket on our bikes for our Maltipoo, Cocoa, so she can come, too.

Aside from walking and biking as transportation, how else do you incorporate exercise into your busy lives?
Anne: We have two double kayaks with recumbent pedals that are like sea turtle paddles. We kayak bayside—around Sausalito and Mill Valley, or head out to Belvedere and Angel Island.

Dean: If exercise is fun and easy to incorporate into daily life, it works for me. In addition to walking to work, riding bikes with my family, and kayaking, I like to swim and play tennis. I have a treadmill desk at work so I can get some exercise while I’m checking my email. I also have a personal trainer who comes to my home gym and helps me incorporate strength training and cardio.

Building a stronger mind/body connection and reducing stress are a big part of your lifestyle philosophy. Is this something you practice daily?
Anne: For me, mind/body practice, like yoga, is essential. I was a private yoga instructor in my 20s. Now, like all working mothers, I practice whenever I can squeeze it in. On busy workdays, that usually means meditation time in the morning to get grounded and focused. On other days, I get in longer practices. I can’t always practice everyday, but if the majority of my seven days are well balanced, the whole week seems balanced.

Jasmine must have been a yoga teacher in a former life—she’s a natural, even in her mannerisms. She’s always teaching me something, especially with our dog around to show her some poses!

Where do you like to go when we venture away from home?
Anne: We like to take the ferry from Sausalito into San Francisco, especially when we have guests. Last weekend, the grandparents were visiting and we took them to the Ferry Building for the great restaurants and market, visited the Exploratorium, and the Academy of Sciences.

On the mainland, as we like to call it, we like to visit Big Sur, Napa and Sonoma, where we recently visited the beloved Train Town. Additionally, we spend a couple of weeks every year in Kauai. It’s like a healing sabbatical for us—our time to recharge and enjoy the fresh food, like the amazing local bananas and mangoes.

You have so many fantastically healthy, flavorful recipes on your site and in your books. What are some of your family favorites?
Anne: We have four or five salads that everyone loves that are in rotation right now. We tend to think in themes: Asian or kale/Brussels sprouts, for instance. But then we’ll go the farmer’s market and throw in whatever is fresh, like a perfect peach. Right now my favorites are shredded Brussels sprout salad, similar to the Kale and Brussels Sprouts recipe on our site, and a kale and mint salad we make with sugared pecans and sliced apples. Having so many great markets nearby makes it easy to get fresh, good food. We all enjoy going to the farmer’s market in San Rafael, where they have pony rides for the kids on Thursday nights. It’s like a street fair.

kale and brussels sprouts salad, an ornish family favorite.


Where do you enjoy eating out around Sausalito?
Anne: In addition to Poggio, we like Sushi Ran; Fish, which offers sustainable fish and local, organic produce; and we’ve just tried and really enjoyed a new restaurant, Barrel House—we order all the vegetables and eat them family style, with a great view.  We also really like Greens in San Francisco.

Do your kids eat what you eat? If so, what’s the trick!?
Anne: If left to her own, Jasmine would eat the food all kids like. But we’ve been exposing her to what we eat since she was very young, and working at developing her palate. If kids see what everyone else is eating, they want to be a part of it and will usually want to eat the same thing. Sometimes it’s about picking the parts that work for them.

Photos: Grapes via Maja Petric at Unsplash; Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad via Ornish Lifestyle Medicine; Ornish family photo via the Ornishes

Nona Evans of Whole Kids Foundation Wants to Turn Every Kid Into a Passionate Gardener—And Eater


By Lela Nargi

Nona Evans calls her latest job, as Executive Director of Whole Kids Foundation (WKF), penance for the past working lives of her ancestors. “My grandfather on one side of the family owned an Italian restaurant, and my grandfather on the other side started a candy store. They put a lot of sugar and calories out in the world!” she laughs.

Evans started her own work life in a conventional grocery store, in marketing and PR, before she found her way to organic specialty market chain Whole Foods. There, she headed the company’s foray into educating its customers about what children across the country were eating for lunch, and how it affected how they were performing in school. Response to the program was so successful that it became larger than her job description. So, in 2012 she went to the company’s powers that be and they voted to translate her work into WKF, to provide schools with grants to start gardens and salad bars. Evans has been its fearless and passionate leader ever since.

What were you hoping to get out of this project when you started the Foundation four years ago? 
We fully believe that a school garden is the most reasonable investment a school can make. We did lot of research and found that a grant of $2,000 is adequate for a school to implement garden for first time, or for a school with an existing garden to make meaningful transformation: triple it so every class can have bed, or add an outdoor classroom, or add irrigation. But when we started, the idea of gardening at school was just beginning to become something parents and teachers and administrators could consider. Today, awareness of its impact and importance is so much greater, and there’s an openness to the type of learning that can be accomplished with it. I don’t think we’re at the tipping point of being mainstream just yet—the USDA did a survey at end 2014 and found there are only an estimated 20,000 school gardens across the US—but I’m encouraged by the experience of Whole Kids so far.

Well, what are the benefits of a school garden?
The most important thing that school gardens do for our kids is add a hands-on, nature-based learning environment. There are three types of learners: visual, artistic, and kinesthetic. One and three learn best in school garden, so it enhances educational effectiveness for two-thirds of the population. It actually makes the academic portion of what a school is challenged to do more effective. We know from research, and from what Alice Waters did with her Edible Schoolyard Project, that when kids know where their food comes from, they’re more willing to eat a new vegetable. They want to understand the connection between what they eat and how their bodies work: how it helps them perform on the soccer field, or whatever they’re passionate about. The most powerful ingredient we activate is curiosity.


Do you do garden experiments on your own kid?
I have a 12-year-old son, Patrick. He’s best case study I could ever have been given. He ate absolutely everything till he was 4 years old. Then one day he came home and said word “yuck,” and I almost fell out of me chair. His girlfriend at daycare, Summer, had said “yuck,” and he became a picky eater, because he could. He would pick the green stuff out of everything. We live in Texas, where we have Tex-Mex rice with everything, and he would pick out every iota cilantro. So, we started gardening. Funnily enough, he decided he wanted to plant cilantro . And he started eating it by handful, because he had that connection. He had grown and nurtured it himself. Even now, I bought some cilantro seedlings a few weeks ago and I found him sitting at the kitchen table, with every leaf picked off it. My caterpillar son!

That experience is very similar to what we find and advocate for with Whole Kids. Give kids a choice and the world opens up. Implement a salad bar at school, and kids are empowered to pick what they want for lunch. They may begin by picking lettuce and carrots and croutons, but by end of the school year, they’re experimenting because of positive peer pressure. They’re eating garbanzo beans.

greens-in-gardenHave you always been a gardener?
Actually I have to credit my husband, John Spillers, who’s a police officer. He was a gardener long before it was fashionable; he was a fan of Square Foot Gardening, that PBS show. He really enabled us to garden as family. Once, for Valentine’s Day, he gave me two new raised beds with spectacular soil in them, a mix of compost and vermiculite and peat moss that produced beautifully. Four years ago, when we moved so we had more room to garden, he moved my dirt.

We make a good team. I’m laissez faire and he’s meticulous. I had the good fortune three years ago to visit the White House garden—talk about meticulously cared for! I came back with every intention of having a pristine garden. But no matter how much time I have to spend in garden, nature is an amazing thing and so much grows, both literally and figuratively. We make sure to take care of our pollinator friends, so this year I planted zinnias for them, and we always put in milkweed for the monarch butterflies, which are experiencing a lot of habitat loss. Last year, we had so may caterpillars, they made a chrysalis across our front door. We saw so many butterflies emerge, which is like it’s magic.

How’s your neighborhood for gardening?
We live in Shady Hollow, which has lots of the old-growth oak trees that are native to area, which is wonderful. But in terms of gardening, I think we were the original catalyst in the neighborhood. There’s a wonderful young man next door, Caulden, who when he was 3 years old wandered into our yard. He tugged on some greens and out came carrot. I still remember the amazement on his face. His mom said he’d never eaten that before and in 10 seconds, it was gone. The kids around here expect them, now. I’m constantly delivering fresh greens and tomatoes to people. I always have bountiful rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley, enough for everyone. And we’ve created a neighborhood share; these days, we’re a wonderful gardening community. Our next door neighbors just started raising chickens. All the kids around here benefit.

Do you also cook from your garden every night?
We’re a two-parent working family. Cooking is my therapy, and I specialize in getting dinner on table 15 minutes or less, and whatever I make it always has lots of herbs from my garden. I love to cook with herbs. But it’s important to have go-to paces for dinner when don’t have energy or time to cook. We try and find places that serve locally-grown ingredients. Anything that has a vegetable combo on the menu, it’s definitely on our list.

What’s your advice for starting a garden for other Austinites, or for anyone who wants to plant something in the ground?
Start with what you love to eat, and don’t be afraid to experiment. There are tons of places in Austin for seeds and seedlings: there’s The Natural Gardener, which promotes native species. There’s a nursery called It’s About Thyme that’s locally-owned; I love anyplace where you can get to know the owners. And we love High Mowing Organic Seeds, which is one of the best seed suppliers in the country—you can order seeds online. But it’s also important to remember that you don’t have to have a huge back yard. Your garden can be as small as a windowsill or a pot you put on your patio. Just give it a shot!

Photographs of Nona and Patrick, and bed of greens, courtesy of Nona Evans.

5 Healthy Lunches for Parents on the Go

[maxbutton id=”1″]

Parenting rarely seems to go at a relaxed pace. This time of year especially is a whirlwind of to-dos. Between filling out back to school paperwork, making carpool arrangements, scheduling team photos, packing lunches and shuffling kids to and from after-school activities, there’s rarely a spare minute to take care of yourself.

If you find yourself eating the PB&J crusts off your kid’s plate and calling it lunch, this post is for you. We’ve found 5 delicious recipes for quick and easy, healthy lunches that even the busiest parent can prepare and take to work, enjoy in those few quiet moments when the baby naps or to eat on the go. Not only do they taste great, they’ll also give you the energy you need to power through the day.

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwich
Lightened up chicken salad loaded with healthy fruit and veggies, via Damn Delicious. In a large bowl, combine chicken, red onion, apple, grapes, dried cranberries or currants, sliced almonds, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper, to taste. Eat it on a green salad, wrapped in a tortilla or on nice hearty bread.

Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 11.25.45 AM

 [maxbutton id=”3″]

10-Minute Tomato Soup
Don’t let the goldfish crackers in the photo fool you, this soup is not just for kids…but they might want some! Puree tomatoes, celery and broth in a blender until smooth. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper, lemon juice and maple syrup. Stir in cream. Keep a pot in the fridge so you can heat a cup at home or take it along in a thermos. Thank you, Food Network!

via Food Network


Couscous Salad with Cucumber, Red Onion and Herbs
This salad resembles tabbouleh, but it’s heavier on the grains and has even more fresh vegetables. Toss finely chopped herbs with the couscous, as well as the sliced cucumber, onion, and lemon zest. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, chili powder, and cumin, then toss this dressing with the couscous. Stir in the pine nuts. Crumble the feta and stir in. Taste and season generously with salt and pepper.

via The Kitchn

Mashed Chickpea Salad
A little like potato or egg salad, but healthier. This hearty salad from Simple Veganista is awesome on a leaf of lettuce with a squirt of lemon and a handful of pumpkin seeds, or slather it on your favorite bread with some leafy and mashed avocado and you have one great sandwich. It’s full of protein, fiber, texture and flavor.

via The Simple Veganista

Slow Cooker Chicken Caesar Sandwich
It doesn’t get much easier than this. Throw a few ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning, and have a hot lunch at the ready come noon. This one from Chef in Training makes a great dinner, too.

via Chef in Training

These picks certainly trump the ho-hum turkey sandwich…or scraps from your kid’s plate. Wouldn’t you agree!

[maxbutton id=”1″]

5 Simple, Healthy Summer Meals

Whether you’re coming home from work or from a long day at the pool or beach with the kids, you need a healthy dinner to feed and please your family – and you need it quick. In the heat of the summer, the less time in the kitchen, the better. These tried and true favorite summer recipes are fresh and satisfying, and so simple that you could ask the sitter to prepare them.


5 Simple, Healthy Summer Meals

Edamame Salad
A satisfying salad your kids will devour. After all, what kid doesn’t love the tiny green soy bean?

via Whyy Org
via Whyy Org


  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon siracha (optional)
  • 1 pound frozen, shelled edamame, thawed
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup shredded carrot

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.


Nourish Bowl
Not exactly a recipe, but rather a formula you can follow and customize to create a healthy, delicious one-bowl meal for every member of your family. Start with a big bowl with a base of dark leafy greens, top with a protein, a carbohydrate, and a healthy fat. Check out the helpful diagram and suggestions for each component.

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 1.07.36 PM
via Nutritionally Stripped

Greens | spinach, romaine, arugula, kale, micro greens, sprouts, mustard greens, swiss chard, etc.
Proteins | tempeh, beans, quinoa and lentils (starchy-proteins), hemp seeds, nuts/seeds, eggs and wild-caught fish, animal proteins
Healthy fats | avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, hemp seeds, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, truffle oil
Veggies | carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, snap peas, peas, radish, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower; any and all veggies you enjoy!
Carbohydrates | sweet potatoes, quinoa, millet, brown rice, wild rice, beans (starchy-protein), corn and peas (starchy veggie)
Fruits: strawberries, pears, banana, papaya, mango, grapes, raspberries, apples, etc.
Dressings |  2 tablespoons hummus + 2-4 tablespoon apple cider vinegar + 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast = a super thick and creamy dressing.


Any Veggie Frittata
This super simple recipe uses asparagus as the star ingredient, but really any veggie will do.

via Simply Recipes
via Simply Recipes


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup minced shallots
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears cut diagonally into 1-inch lengths
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese

1. Heat butter into a 10-inch oven-proof frying pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they soften and turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add asparagus, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, covered, for 3 minutes.

2. Pour in eggs and cook until almost set, but still runny on top, about 2 minutes. While cooking, pre-heat oven broiler.

3. Sprinkle cheese over eggs and put in oven to broil until cheese is melted and browned, about 4-6 minutes. Remove from oven with oven mitts and slide frittata onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges.


Lemon Garlic Pasta
What could be easier (and more delicious!) than pasta tossed with lemon, olive oil, red pepper flakes, parmesan and roasted garlic? Dress it up with some roasted chicken, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, shrimp or fresh vegetables…. if you have the time and are so inclined. Roast garlic ahead of time if you know this dish is on the week’s menu, and you’ll have an even speedier meal.

via Wonky Wonderful
via Wonky Wonderful


  • 1 head of garlic (10-15 cloves)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 tbsp fresh lemon juice (1 large or 2 small lemons)
  • lemon zest
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like spicy)
  • 1/2 lb angel hair pasta (cooked)
  • fresh grated parmesan

1. Place peeled garlic cloves in an oven safe dish, drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Oven roast at 400° for 30-40 minutes (until lightly golden browned). Let cool for 2-3 minutes, then chop.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Feel free to use a different type of pasta if you prefer.

3. In a large sauté pan over medium/low heat – heat the olive oil and chopped garlic for 4-5 minutes while stirring.

4. Add the lemon juice and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.

5. Reduce heat to low – add the salt and red pepper flakes.

6. Add the cooked pasta and toss with the lemon garlic sauce until fully coated.

7. Transfer to serving dishes and top with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon zest, fresh grated parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes (optional).


Mini Breakfast Pizza
Everyone loves breakfast for dinner. Put a twist on the usual pancakes or scrambled eggs by whipping up breakfast pizzas instead. The beauty of the recipe is that it’s highly adaptable. Use what you have on hand – English muffins, bagels or bread, any suitable meat, cheese or veggie.

via Sweet Remedy
via Sweet Remedy


  • 3 english muffins
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice open English Muffins, top with pizza sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Add olive oil to a skillet, crack eggs inside and cook on high until almost done. Add eggs to prepared english muffins and top with more cheese and parsley. Bake on baking sheet for 10 minutes or until eggs are cooked through.

What recipes do you keep up your sleeve for when time is tight or to leave the sitter to make for dinner? Share your favorites with us in the comments! 

What’s In Season: Feeding Your Kids the Best of the Fresh

After a really long winter, it’s exciting to see fresh spring produce start to show up on grocers’ shelves and in farmers’ markets. Even though we can get most any produce any time of year, the fruits and vegetables that have traveled long distances to get to us are no comparison to the foods that are in season locally.

via madlyinlovewithlife
via madlyinlovewithlife


There’s no denying that they taste so much better, are more nutritious and are budget-friendly. Cooking with the bounty of the season is one of the best ways to give your family the freshest, healthiest, most flavorful food. Look for produce that is in peak season right now, including:

  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Beets
  • Broccoli
  • Fava Beans
  • Oranges
  • Papayas
  • Peas
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Turnips

While they are likely so tasty that you could simply eat them at they are, why not let them be the stars of your family’s meals and snacks.

6 recipes that make the very most of spring’s fruits and veggies

Spring Leek Pesto Sauce
A veggie-loaded sauce you can serve with pasta or as a spread on bread. It’s a flavorful, sweet and pleasing sauce that’s an  ideal way to introduce kids to leeks. Since it’s made in the food processor, it’s quick and easy and fun to cook with kids.

via Babble
via Babble


Spring Salad
A salad so beautiful, you won’t have to nudge your kids to eat it. It’s a delightful surprise for a salad, leaving out the lettuce and loading up with the best of spring produce – juicy strawberries, sliced radishes, and crisp sugar snap peas.

via BHG


Toast with Lemony Pea Mash
What a lovely snack this would make. Get kids involved by having them help shell the peas – a perfect job for little fingers.

via Bon Appetit
via Bon Appetit

Sesame Shrimp and Asparagus Stir Fry
Satisfies your craving for Chinese take-out without blowing up your diet. You can whip it up quicker than you’d have to wait for the delivery guy.

via Menu Musings
via Menu Musings

Fava Bean Bread Salad
Simply toss together fresh fava beans, greens, olive oil and vinegar, and pile the mix atop of a few slices of grilled (or not) bread. Voila! It’s dinner.

via Fit Sugar
via Fit Sugar

Rhubard Crisp
When you think of a rhubarb dessert, you likely think of the old standby strawberry-rhubarb pie. While no one can knock the pie, it’s nice to make use of spring’s brilliantly red rhubarb in this one-dish crisp. It’s a simple recipe using apples, pecans and oats to make it hearty and sweet.

via Dish Base
via Dish Base


What are you cooking for your family this month? We’d love to hear how you’re making the most of the season’s best.

25 Candy-Free Ideas for Easter Baskets

For many, Easter is synonymous with loads of chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and sugar-coated marshmallows piled into a basket delivered by the Easter Bunny. While you might be fine with leaving your little ones a few sweet treats on Easter morning, why not replace some of the sugary bounty with fun alternatives that are sure to be met with just as much joy. Here are 25 surefire picks for candy-free treats for the Easter basket.



1. Sidewalk chalk (you can even make your own!)

via Brit+Co.
via Brit+Co.


2. Sticker books

via Amaz
via Amazon


3. Bath toys

via Boon
via Boon


4. Rainbow Loom rubberbands

via Etsy
via Etsy


5. Adhesive name labels (great for sticking on sippy cups, camp gear and even birthday gifts).

via Sticky Monkey Labels
via Sticky Monkey Labels


6. Coloring Books

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.58.19 AM
via Amazon


7. A new marker set for budding artists

via Crayola
via Crayola


8. Twilight Constellation Night Light

via Amazon
via Amazon


9. A kid’s subscription box

via Kiwi Crate
via Kiwi Crate


10. Hair bows for little girls (even DIY!)

via Tip Junkie
via Tip Junkie


11. Swimwear for the upcoming summer months

via Gap Kids
via Gap Kids


12. Swim essentials like goggles (we love these fruit-scented ones!)



13. Nail polish and lipgloss pots. Piggy Paint makes a great all-natural polish in shades that are just right for kids.

via Piggy Paint
via Piggy Paint


14. Mini gardening gear – a watering can, pail and kid-sized shovel

via Amazon
via Amazon


15. My First Garden Seed Pack, to go with the gardening tools!

via American Meadows
via American Meadows


16. Homemade gifts, such as this adorable bunny hand puppet

via Amazon
via Amazon


17. Travel games or activities for a Spring Break road trip, try these downloadable activity sheets!

via minitime
via minitime


18. Special, handmade toys, like these colorful Fairy Rings from Etsy

via Etsy
via Etsy


19. Giant bubble kit

via Amazon
via Amazon


20. Festive snacks, like these goldfish wrapped in a carrot package

via Reasons to Skip the Housework
via Reasons to Skip the Housework


In a pinch? These last-minute gifts can be easily purchased at a local store:

21. Jump rope or set of Jacks for outside play

22. An Easter or Spring book – or the latest release from a favorite series

23. Notebook or journal

24. A puzzle

25. Small toy, such as Hotwheels car,  Polly Pockets or My Little Pony doll


We’d love to hear what the Easter Bunny will be delivering to your house this year. Share with us your ideas and fun finds!