food

Tips for Picnics with Kids by Kate Brightbill

It's almost always more appealing for my kids to eat outside vs. inside. It's a simple way to step up a basic lunchtime routine and get them moving. 

Because of all the picnicking we've done lately, I've learned a few lessons about what works and what doesn't work. Here are my tips to picnicking with little ones:

  1. Fair Weather Fans-- Too chilly out? Postpone the picnic! Just do it. Maybe I'm actually just talking to myself, because ahhh, I've pushed the envelope on weather, and I've lost too many times. Spring has this way of looking so gorgeous from the window in our warm home, and then turning the tables when we walk to a park as if in a tundra. Wind is not a picnic's friend. 
  2. Kids can Help-- I find that when I let the kids help pack the food and choose the food, they take ownership of what is in front of them. We always fill our bags and plates with plenty of fruit and some Columbus Salame. Always. If we have some good cheese on hand, that goes in there too, as well as some crusty breads.
  3. Keep it Simple-- I'll be honest: I will plan gorgeous platters overflowing with goodies and set in a pretty way, but really, I need to save that effort for the grown-ups. When we hiked Angel Island on a sweltering hot day, nothing felt better than grabbing directly out of the packaging. No need to set things beautifully. 

Here's a picture of what I set when I was trying to impress the kids. They love setting fancy tables, so I assumed they'd be into it, but when my children are outside, they want to just be OUTSIDE. i.e. not just sitting to eat... They weren't even into the animal sticks! They just grabbed the salame and cheddar and ran to climb trees until they got more hungry. ;) 

This picnic style went WAY better. They grabbed the salame straight from the package, cut the cheese using the one fork we brought, added a cracker to the mix, and straight in their mouths. They were blissfully happy about helping themselves, combining the cheese and salami flavors and deciding combo worked best (their winner was the Crespone with the brie. My winner was the Hot Sopressata with the brie. I wish I knew about that one sooner. I lovvve it and can eat a full package by myself in just a couple days. ;)

My last tip is: if you're picnicking as much as us this summer, don't forget to pack the salame! There are flavors for all the taste buds-- make sure you try Crespone, Hot Sopressata, and Finocchiona (our favs!) that are antibiotic and added-hormone free! 

Good is good and Columbus is the good stuff. Bonus? It's a San Francisco brand. Love the local factor! 

xx

*Post is sponsored by Columbus Craft Meats. All opinions are my own. 

San Francisco Kids: Peekadoodle Kids Club by Kate Brightbill

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This is the look of a girl who is confident in the kitchen. 

WHY is Maggie so confident in the kitchen, you ask?

Peekadoodle Cooking Classes. 

I joked when I signed her up for her first class that I want to train my kids to be amazing chefs so that by age 10 they can do all the family cooking. She was 2, and it seemed like a great extracurricular. Before the session even ended, I signed her up for another class... then another. Many many bus rides and beautiful walks around Ghiradelli square later, I'm finally writing about it... and based on how much and how often Maggie wants to cook with me, I'm actually starting to think my jokes may come true! 

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Let me tell you about this place...

Peekadoodle's location is IN Ghiradelli Square. Feels like a postcard. I love fresh air, and spent so much of my time during her classes taking walks around municipal pier, enjoying the waterfront and quiet foggy mornings in a peaceful neighborhood. I would buzz to get into Peekadoodle, drop Maggie with her adorable cooking teacher, then grab a cup of hot coffee in the Peekadoodle cafe... which I actually enjoyed HOT. What? I know. Normally my cups of coffee are lukewarm (or I just throw ice cubes in and embrace the cold coffee) because I'm chasing my kids and hustlin' around home or around the city. Peekadoodle gave me a moment every week to breathe and relax.

Tiny Jack!

Tiny Jack!

Jack was tiny during Maggie's most recent session, so he sometimes would sleep and sometimes would look around and want to play in the section devoted to babies. Toddlers stayed on their side of the play structures, and babies safely can maneuver and scoot around their play area. Any tasted toys get put in a bucket and cleaned regularly, so we could be assured that babies are avoiding extra germs.

...Back to Peekadoodle cooking classes. I had all the perks of coffee and wifi and leisure, and calm times with Jack, but I promise-- Peekadoodle was more about Maggie. ;)

Maggie currently knows how to safely chop, how to mix without the mixtures flying out of the bowl, how to crack an egg (without any shells), and most importantly, she understands how delicious healthy recipes can be. All because of her classes.

The kids start class by washing their hands, putting their tiny adorable aprons on, and sitting down to prep their food. This is the bulk of the class time, but all the ingredients are prepped and ready for them, so it doesn't take longer than necessary. Watching the teachers work to teach groups of toddlers and pre-schoolers the basic cooking skills showed me that I can feel confident teaching my own children at home too. A huge aspect of not going totally crazy while doing so is PREP. Teachers have ingredients set aside but measured, and the kids can pour. As they get more experience they get to have more hands-on responsibility.  

When the food goes in the oven, the kids have story time and letter practice, and they get to run around (in butterfly wings if they want!) outside. 

Can I just tell you (in case the pictures don't speak for themselves): Maggie thrived in her class. She would leave full of chatter and excitement. When we'd go to the grocery store, she would ask me to buy the ingredients from the recipes she made in class to make them for Brian and Sophie too. She could rattle off all the ingredients, AND the order in which she mixed them into her recipe. It's honestly amazing what a 2-4 year old can really soak in, and I am SO glad we invested into this program. She just asked me this week if we can make pear tarts because she made them in class a couple months ago. Kids are like fabulous little sponges.

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Peekadoodle's extracurriculars don't start and end with cooking. There is a full pre-school, as well as:

  • baby and toddler music classes
  • baby sign language  
  • art labs
  • build-it class
  • drama-rama class
  • imagination station
  • and more! 

Maggie says you should sign your kids up too! Registration is open for summer camps! WORTH EVERY PENNY. :)

Thank you for YEARS of fun, Peekadoodle!

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I'm so grateful to have had Maggie's most recent cooking class comped in exchange for becoming a Peekadoodle Ambassador. All opinions are my own, and I cannot rave enough about this program and this little school.  

Cooking with Sunbasket by Kate Brightbill

There are a million things I've learned from being a mother, and one of them is that my children eat. A LOT. Maybe your children are nibblers and when you eat out, you can order one kid's meal for three to share, and then you'll have leftovers. I know people like you, and you tell me what good eaters mine are and I tell you how $$$ it is to keep them fed and we both wish for a bit more of a happy medium. My children are the ones who each need an entree for themselves, and Jack eats milk around the clock, making me far too capable of eating two adult meals on my own. We eat a lot. 

I've become a relatively proficient cook in the last three years. Before that, I scraped together soups and tacos most evenings, and had breakfast-for-dinner far more than I care to admit. Once my children started easing past the toddler stage, I had to up my cooking game. Now I'm at the point where I actually enjoy cooking, and I LOVE when I get the time to make a really nutritious family meal where all the plates are clean and tummies full. 

I consistently dislike a couple factors. PLANNING, and buying ingredients that I can't use before they spoil. It's also hard to come up with new ideas for dinner on weeknights when life feels literally insane. I'm working very hard to be better at menu planning, but I love that in this day and age we have other options when we can't quite get our act together for dinner planning. 

Enter Sunbasket. They offered us a box full of ingredients and recipes, and I couldn't refuse-- one week without menu planning? Wellllll okay, if you insist. ;)

I'm a sucker for good packaging, and they start from the box on my doorstep. Everything is separated into daily meals, and packed carefully to maintain freshness. Labels on every individual item (the organization-lover in me gets way too excited about this sort of thing, ha!)

The recipes are straightforward. Some are quick, some take a little longer, but I'm not the type to mind some mindless chopping. Take the picture above... it took maybe about five minutes to chop all of the veggies for a chicken recipe. That doesn't bother me at all-- it may not be your cup of tea. I will say, the vegetables were GORGEOUS, and I have never in my life purchased shallots, and I had no idea how simple it was to make all of those beautiful veggies taste so good in the oven. The girls were raving. There are no leftover ingredients. Everything packaged by Sunbasket goes into the recipe, so you don't have too much or too little of anything. SO IDEAL.

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Maggie firmly believes she is a chef. She asks to help me make most meals. She watches Masterchef Junior and believes she will definitely be able to compete when she's old enough. She looked at all the recipes and decided she would be in charge of making the smoothie. 

It was purple. She was sold. It was delicious. I was sold. 

Really, Sunbasket is a sanity-saver. I want so badly to be the wife and mother who has the home together, the kids together, and the meals together, but sometimes something has got to give. Rather than ordering in junk food or making bleary eyed extra trips to the store when I don't manage to get my cooking act together, I am so glad to have this option. There are paleo meals, gluten free, vegetarian... options for all the food restrictions and food preferences. 

Thanks Sunbasket! Looking forward to ordering another box. You can take a look at some of their incredible meals below, and get $30 off your first box by clicking HERE

Happy eating!

 

Meals were provided for review. All were delicious. All opinions are my own. 

Back to School Lunches by Kate Brightbill

Lunch food c/o  Whole Foods . It's our favorite place to shop for nutritious ingredients to keep our family healthfully fed, and their  website  is FULL of gorgeous and healthy recipes for the family.

Lunch food c/o Whole Foods. It's our favorite place to shop for nutritious ingredients to keep our family healthfully fed, and their website is FULL of gorgeous and healthy recipes for the family.

When Sophie started kindergarten last year, the whole lunch-packing thing was pretty daunting. She found out quickly that her SF restaurant palate did not approve of purchasing school lunches, and apart from "pancake with sausage day," she requested home packed lunches every.single.day. 

Apparently I was NOT alone in my reluctance to pack homemade lunches... I recently found out that 90% of parents surveyed would rather help with carpool or homework than pack lunches. What? Yes, I know. It can be a brutal morning routine... and yet...

Is packing a lunch so bad?

By the end of last year, (apart from the dragging myself out of bed every morning factor), I was secretly enjoying the lunch packing. I'm not going to lie- It took awhile (like the entirety of last fall, haha!) to get Sophie to approve of the my lunches -- "mommy, I was kind of hungry when I was done with my lunch. Can you add more tomorrow?" // "mommy, I had too much lunch and I had to sit for SO LONG to finish. Can you make it smaller?" // "mommy I love cheese, but not that kind in my lunchbox. I prefer the other kind..." // "My apple hurt my loose tooth!" // Kids are way too honest sometimes. 

One day, it clicked. I was doing lunches wrong. Enough of the large sandwiches and whole fruit (apple, oranges, etc) ...I changed my formula, and started loving the packing process. It totally appealed to my childhood self to create meals in this new way... but more importantly- Sophie LOVED the changes, and was coming home happy with her lunches-- finally!

Here's what I realized: variety is huge for a kid. Chopping things to small sizes is almost always nicer for them. Small bites of good food, and having color and brightness involved are extra perks. My kiddos- thankfully- adore their fruit and veggies, so I include at least two per day in a small compartment. Sugary sweets aren't totally off-limits, but they're not recommended by the schools. That said, I like to include something for Sophie that is a nutritious sweet (her current favorite are these rasberry fig bars that check all the right boxes). Rolling lunch meat and adding a fun animal pick to secure them is a big win. The right crackers or a cheese stick can be added to round out the lunch, and we're all set!! 

Today, and probably monthly throughout the school year, I will share a few lunch ideas with you. It's something I love, it's something I'm given feedback on daily (thanks Soph!), and it's an area I really do enjoy these days.

Here are just three meals from our week that are incredibly simple to prep, and would generally be well-received by the little ones: 

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Day 2:

  • Salami rolled and secured with a pick.
  • Crackers! These are brown rice crackers and I love them, but full disclosure: Sophie prefers wheat thins as her standard cracker. To each their own!
  • Celery sticks! I often add hummus on the side of carrots or celery, but it definitely makes for more messes in the lunchbox.
  • Rasberries. 
  • Rasberry fig bar.

 

 

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Day 1:

  • Tiny triangle turkey sandwich with one roll of extra turkey meat, secured with a food pick.
  • Nectarine, cut.
  • Snap Pea Crisps (I always stock these! They're a favorite around here)
  • Raisins-- WF sells a big box that lasts much longer than those tiny ones.
  • Greek strawberry yogurt with a couple berries (for things that should be chilled, sticking them in the freezer for about 30 minutes before school can keep them cool until lunch!). OR these cute ice packs are great!

 

School Lunch

 

Day 3: (more of a traditional lunch, which is great once or twice a week to add variety)

  • Ham sandwich (for school, I keep sandwiches to meat, cheese, and mayo or mustard. Lettuce and tomato make the bread soggy by lunch, so it's best to skip!)
  • Rasberries... I stock at least one berry in bulk for the week because they're a favorite lunch staple, and I switch between blueberries, rasberries, and strawberries weekly.
  • Terra Veggie Chips with Sea Salt. 

Whole Foods spoiled us with some fantastic snacks for us to try, and the CUTEST snack containers. They're collaborating with PBS kids to create adorable backpacks, lunch containers, lunch bags, and pencil box that are all made responsibly with the bright colors and patterns that kids adore. I let my girls pick their favorites and they were giggling with excitement to show their daddy when he got home. 

ALSO- they give great lunch ideas and recipes for kid-friendly meals for the family on their website.... it's definitely worth checking out if you're in a food funk. :) How did I never know this existed?? It's full of amazing options. 

Happy new school year!! Hope this helps the back-to-school process! 

xoxo

-- 

Post is not sponsored. Whole Foods provided products and food for our family to enjoy... all opinions are my own. x

For the Lunchbox: 01 by Kate Brightbill

I'm loving the whole "pack a {cute and healthy} lunch" concept. When I was a child, my mom made the sweetest lunches for us, often including a thoughtful note to make us smile. It's one of my fond memories in elementary school, and I'm determined to create similar memories for my own children. What a luxury to have Pinterest around to keep us full of easy ideas to fill those lunch boxes. I've been searching for bento boxes, reusable lunch skins to hold sandwiches, and basically everything we could need to get our kids nutritious meals this year. 

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Summary of a Nutritious Week by Kate Brightbill

Today I put sugar in my coffee and rice in my chicken soup. 

It felt right.

I survived 6.75 days on the Whole30, and realized it's simply not for me in my lifestyle right now. I'm not lazy, but I also don't have or make the time it takes to get fresh groceries, and make all of my meals from scratch for breakfast, lunch and dinner for all of us daily. Super discouraging also when you check your almond milk carton when you get home, rather than remembering at the store, and then realizing it has a small amount of added sugar, and having to retrace back to the store, and then find out that only Whole Foods carries almond milk without sugar, and your children are crankier by the minute... 

Perhaps this is only my experience? 

I don't have the luxury of a car or a nanny or a chef, or a cleaning crew. It's just me and my little brigade of minis and I'm maxed out. So my almond milk has a little sugar, and so does the salmon glaze that I've added to dinner. I'm cool with that. Everything in moderation, eh? I'm moving on from all that. 

I have learned a bit from the near-week that I did follow the rules {mostly}. Ready for it? Okay, here you go:

  • Almond butter with bananas is just as delicious as peanut butter and far healthier. In fact, it's an overall perfectly acceptable permanent substitute. Do try it!
  • Sweet potato fries. YES. Baked, salt, olive oil, DONE. 
  • Burgers without buns are also totally acceptable, as long as the condiments are there. I didn't miss the bread.
  • Keeping good basics in the house is entirely more helpful than one would even think! It forces you to make better choices on the regular!
  • To contrast, keeping chips and ultra-processed snacks around are a good way to maintain an unhealthy balance.
  • There are bars that make healthy snacking a breeze and they're good to stock... my favs were select LunaBars, Trader Joe's all-fruit bars, and Nakd gluten free snacks {pictured at the bottom- they came c/o Nak'd and are gluten free, dairy free, no added sugar! Brilliant}.

Without further ado, may I present to you my proudest meals of Whole30. The first was actually my mom's crazy delicious salad, the second is grated zucchini and sweet potatoes, mixed with egg and seared in olive oil with another egg, tomato, lettuce and onion atop. It.was.good. The third was my favorite though: ceviche! Tons of lime juice, diced tomatoes, avocado, onion, and baby shrimp... I'll be making it on the regular {but now with tortilla chips on the side!}

Salad
Veggie
Ceviche
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One last tip! If you're going to do Whole30- and I commend you with my whole heart if you do- do yourself a favor and check the following hashtags on Instagram #whole30 #jennaswhole30. SO many beautiful recipes and a whole support system of people working toward the same goal! 

xoxo,

Kate