Healthy Holiday Creations

I had my first cooking class last week at Mini Minds. Some of you may remember that I have been starting to do some contract work for Mini Minds and made RD Anna and LLC and working to launch my own business. We finally were able to get some families to sign up for this cooking workshop that was held on Saturday. We had 4 families that participated and it was a huge success. I am not just saying that, because I helped to lead the class, but I think everyone that came had a great time and learned some things. The highlight of the day was hearing from a mom afterwards that her daughter tried a new food, green pepper. The mother was telling me how picky her daughter was and at home it can be really tough to have her try new foods and she has a lot anxiety about that. That is totally common for lots of children and that is one of the reasons why I love doing group education, because in that setting it is easier to remove some of that anxiety and use positive peer pressure to help overcome a fear. That little girl was able to choose 1 new food to try and she chose of the green peppers. She tried them and she liked them! And then the cherry on top was that she also tried yellow peppers, because myself and another mother told her if she liked the green peppers, she would like the yellow peppers even more, because they are sweeter. She did and was so happy and proud of herself! Hearing things that like make me smile and have all the hard work that goes into putting on a cooking class worth it!


One of my goals with this class was to have an environment where the parent/caregiver is there with the child and they get to cook and make things together. We have one 5 1/2 year old, two 9 year olds and one 10 year old. All the kids were able to participate and do different tasks. It was so neat to watch them get to cook on their own. One child had never cut up a vegetable before. I worked with me and showed him how to cut up the green pepper and he totally did it! That is the overall goal that I wanted to accomplish … empower children to learn how to cook and enjoy it!

I had planned 5 different recipe items that we would make over the 1 1/2 hour class time. That ended up being overly ambitious, but I much rather have too much to do versus not enough. I saved the easiest snack/craft items for the last thing we did and I ended up doing those for the kids and they finished off the craft by drawing on it or cutting out a hat that we glued on.

I wanted to highlight some fun, kid friendly recipes that the whole family can help prepare. I was going to share with you one of my favorite recipes that we did. This one was a huge success and there is so much that you can do with this recipe to change it up and make it different, based on your own families preferences.



  • 1 Pizza dough tube (you can make your own or purchase premade pizza dough)

  • 1-2 cups pizza sauce

  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese

  • ½ cup Feta cheese

  • 1 cup chopped, green peppers

  • ½ cup olives  

  • Handful of pepperonis

  • Top with parsley for additional flavor


  1. Roll out your pizza dough on a clean surface that is lightly covered in flour. Using a rolling pin.

  2. Use the cookie cutter to cut out shapes in the pizza dough. Brush with olive oil.

  3. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper (to prevent sticking). Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes until the pizza dough is lightly browned.

  4. Top with sauce and other toppings. Place back in the oven at 400 degrees for another 5-7 minutes, until cheese melts.

If you want more information about upcoming classes with Mini Minds …. let me know! We are going to do a session on snacks and then lunches in January. I was planning on a January 12th and 26th at 11am for those sessions.


Cooking With Your Child

I have talked about including your child with cooking before on my Facebook page and blog, but it can definitely be a tough thing to do. It takes WAY longer to include your child in the cooking process and it honestly can make a much bigger mess, when all is said and done. I still want you to encourage you to give it a try! I am not asking you to include your child with every meal, every day, but make an intentional effort several times a week to cook with your child. If you want your child to grow up and be independent and enjoy the cooking process, that love for cooking starts now.

Tips for Cooking with Children

  • Embrace the Mess. When cooking with children, whether toddlers or older school age children, messes happen. It is inevitable that things will get spilled and your kitchen will end up being twice as messy compared to it your children weren’t “helping” you. Working to embrace that mess and be ok with that “disaster” is important. We would all love a neat and tidy work space, but teaching children and having them learn things can be a messy process. Along with the mess that will happen, take them time to work with your child and have them help you clean up. That is just as important of a skill as learning how to cook is how to clean up. Being able to take the time to involve them in the measuring, the mixing, the cutting (as they get older) and the stirring helps teach them to follow directions and create something. Having your child help with the dishes, load/unload the dishwasher, dry the dishes and put them away are useful skills to teach following directions and seeing a task through to completion.

  • Be Patient. As you cook with your children, you will quickly learn that it takes LOTS of patience on your part. It is way more stressful for you to slowly walk through the instructions and slowly measure/mix the ingredients. Your child will want to be independent and try to do that task on their own. That is great, but will require an extra dose of patience when they spill the ingredient on the counter/the floor. It will take extra patience as you work with your child to unload the dishwasher as they slowly place the silverware in the drawer, one piece at a time. Teaching your children these skill is a slow process. Try to keep your cool and embrace the fact that you will need to be patient, but they are learning and that is worth the effort.

  • Assign Specific Tasks. As you are working with your child, give them specific jobs to do. Explain to them what you want them to do. For example, have them stir ingredients on the pot on the stove. Give them a spatula and tell them that their task will be stirring the ingredients. Talk through how the pot and the stove are hot and they need to be careful. Give them affirmation that they are doing a great job following your directions and they are a big helper. This specific instruction is helpful for children to know what is clearly expected from them and then gives them a sense of accomplishment.

  • Be Flexible. Nothing will go quite as you planned it. You probably anticipated being able to prepare that food item in less than 30 minutes, but working with your children can length that task out by at least an additional 10-20 minutes. Sometimes you will have an expectation of what roles they will help with and how they will be involved, but your child might have different ideas. That is ok! Be willing to be flexible and let them help you in ways that they are interested in and make the experience positive. If you are cooking a meal like pizza with different topping options, be willing to let your child pick whatever they want on their own pizza. Be willing to hand over that responsibility to the child and let them take ownership of that. If you assign your child a job task, like sweeping the floor after they finish cooking, let them do that however works best for them. Be flexible with empowering them to take ownership of a task.

  • View this Experience as a Teaching Moment. Our main job as a parent is to teach our children. Taking the time to involve them in cooking and preparing food in the kitchen is a great way to teach them the art of cooking/baking, but also following directions, helping other people, functioning as part of the family unit and creating something to share with people. These are all amazing skills and using cooking as an avenue to work on these skills and instill these qualities in our children is a great goal. Talk through each step you are doing so your child learns what all goes into making a meal for the family. Your child will get better and faster at these tasks as you work with them over time, but enjoy the learning process and embrace the teaching moments.

Enjoy working with and getting to know your child better in the kitchen. This is a fun time to work with your children and help teach them skills that they will be able to use in the years to come. It can be stressful, but work to keep the environment positive, listen and dance to music as you cook and enjoy these little moments cooking with your child.


Taking Back Your Kitchen

The holidays are over and we are now well into 2018. In fact we are half way through the month of January. I am not sure what your resolutions were for the New Year, but odds are that you have already ditched those resolutions. I am not sure if "cooking more at home" was one of your resolutions, but I want to help encourage you to take back your kitchen. All of us are busy and we have so much competing for our time. Finding time to cook is often difficult. 

What are some obstacles that keep you from preparing meals in your kitchen? For me, it often involves lack of time and if I don't plan ahead, there is no way I will be able to make dinners at home. Identify whatever obstacles that are keeping you out of your kitchen. Then let's work on overcoming those challenges. 

Take Back Your Kitchen 

  • Meal Prep - Taking the time to make out a list of what you want to prepare at home for the week is a must. Think through what food items you love to cook or you have time to prepare and get those recipes. Make out your shopping list using those recipes. That will help ensure that you purchase only the food you need to cook those meals. Making out a list ahead of time can also help to save money when you go to the grocery store. Once you go to the store and purchase your food items, when you get home, take the time to prep some of those foods. Taking the time to cut and prepare your fruit and vegetables can be helpful during the week. Sometimes that cleaning and prep work takes too much time during the week. Doing it on the weekends can help ensure you are able to cook these meals at home. 
  • Realistic Recipes - When you pull recipes for the week, make sure that they are realistic. If a recipe will take you 2 hours to cook then that might not be a recipe to make during the week. If you work or have evening plans the sticking with 30 minute recipes will help ensure you are successful in cooking foods at home. Also during the week, make sure that ingredients are also easy to get. Some times if you forgot an ingredient and if you can't easily pick it up during the week, you might not prepare that recipe during the week.
  • Clean Up - Whenever you cook there is often a mess. Lots of dishes and clean up afterwards. Taking the time to tidy up your kitchen at the end of the day is helpful for the next day. I hate cooking in a dirty kitchen. Each night I try to take the time to clean up from dinner and from putting together lunches for the next day. I like walking into a clean kitchen in the morning and then preparing dinner the following night in a clean kitchen. Is that is something that is an obstacle for you cooking at home, find ways to remove that obstacle. If your spouse enjoys dishes or is able to help with one part of the cooking/cleaning that teamwork is great! 
  • Use the Left-overs - Don't throw out the food that you took the time to cook. You can save these left-overs and use them for lunch the next day. If you have enough left, you can even use it for another dinner that week. If you have taken all that time to prepare the meal, it would be a shame to throw out that food and some what wasteful. 

Think about what stands in your way from cooking in your kitchen. Do you want to take back your kitchen and start preparing more meals at home? Hopefully some of these tips and tricks will help you be successful and accomplish this goal! 

2018-01-23 18.14.22.jpg

The Art of Cooking with a Baby

Can I just tell you that finding a way to juggle holding a baby and preparing dinner is one of the toughest things I have done. It takes special talent to figure out how to get dinner prepared and then balance that the eating schedule of a newborn. Of course, the baby wants to be held during the time when dinner needs to be prepared. I have been working on acquiring my skills of balancing this act of motherhood and the need to make food to feed myself and Chas. 

Things I have learned and skills I am cultivating: 

  • Do what you can while they are sleeping. As soon as William falls asleep I take advantage of that time to figure out what I need to get done. I have also learned that I need to prioritize my to do list. For example, being able to eat something for lunch should always trump working on the computer or some times even showering. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is in full affect. If I am not trying to feed myself I am normally trying to prepare food for the next meal. 
  • I am learning to operate within a 2-3 hour time window. So if I have to run errands I know that if I feed William I have a solid 2 hours and possibly 3 hours before he is hungry again and needs to be fed. This means that I am left prioritize where I need to go and what I need to do so I can get home before his next feeding. This is a total change of pace for me, but I am learning and getting better at it each day. Often that means only 1-2 stops while I am out at a time. Gone are the days and being out to ALL the errands done at one time.
  • I have learned that crock pots, bread makers, etc are amazing devices ... use them! I have fell in love with my crock pot again. Being able to chop up ingredients or get the meal prepared ahead of time and tossing it into the crock pot = the best thing ever. That way it is done and can be ready to be eaten whenever. 
  • I have embraced the fact that as soon as I think I can get something done, like chopping the veggies to go with the roast, the baby starts to wake up and crying. I have walked away from all the veggies that I have pulled out and gotten them ready to cut up, to feed the baby. I have just left this mess to come back to it when I have a moment to finish that task at hand. 
  • Master the one arm hold. I have been practicing and I have become much better at being able to carry William around in one arm and then do things with that other arm. I have been able to make some coffee, toast bread or stir soup. I have been proud of myself and I know that this skill will continue to improve with increased practice. 
  • Cook with the baby. I have brought William into the kitchen and put him in his Bumbo seat and let him watch me cook. It is normally content for a little bit to hear all the noises and stare at the lights. This way I can be reassured that he is fine and I can work on actually doing some productive things, like get a meal prepared. If having in next me to isn't making him happy enough the next thing I have learned to try to to attach him to me. He likes to be carried around in a wrap and that allows him to feel comforted and me to use both of my hands to get things done. 
  • I have discovered online grocery store ordering via Kroger. This is quite exciting that I can place my order online and then drive to store and pick up the things that I need. How neat is that! I am excited to use this and I think this will be become something that I do quite frequently in the months ahead! 

Healthy Dinner Ideas: Homemade Soup

This is the time of the year when the weather is chilly outside and it is often cold and gray. Nothing warms you up at the end of a long day like a delicious, bowl of homemade soup. I love cooking soups at home during the week, because more often than not, they are quick, make a complete meal and there are left overs to take to work for lunches. 

Perks To Preparing Soup From Scratch: 

  • Healthier - I love that you can find just about any type of recipe online and you can make a traditional soup recipe even healthier. There are so many substitutes you can make to any recipe that you find. For example, if you need to watch the amount of sodium in your diet then you can consider using fresh tomatoes or no salt added canned tomatoes. You can make your own broth or use a lower sodium broth option. You can choose fresh or frozen vegetables compared with their salter, canned counterparts. There are so many easy ways to tweak and make recipes even healthier. If you need to increase the amount of fiber in your soup and your overall vegetable intake, consider adding kale or spinach to the recipe. This is also a great source of Vitamin K and antioxidants. 
  • More Cost Effective - Preparing your own soup from scratch will end up saving you more money compared with purchased an already prepared canned soup option or even a dried soup packet option from the store. There is obviously more prep work involved to make the soup from scratch, but you will get a larger volume of soup and you can use it for left-overs later in the week. This larger quantity is a perk if you have a large family to feed as well. You can pair other sides with the soup as well to make it a complete meal - have bread on the side with another fruit or vegetable offering. 
  • Customization - When you take the time to put together a recipe from scratch there is a lot of areas where you can change the recipe to fit what you or your family likes. If someone in your family really dislikes corn, then in your minestrone soup recipe, make sure that you avoid adding corn and instead use another vegetable like squash or lima beans. If you have a family member with a food allergy, then preparing your own soup from scratch can allow you to accommodate their specific diet needs. 

My Favorite Soup Recipe - White Bean and Sausage Soup


  • 1 cup baby carrots, cut in half 

  • 1 cup onion, chopped 

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 

  • 7oz turkey sausage/keilbasa, cut into 1/2 inch pieces 

  • 4 cups chicken broth, fat free and reduced sodium 

  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning 

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

  • 2 cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed (15.8oz cans) 

  • 1 bag of spinach, fresh (6oz) 

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat a saucepan, coat with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook until tender. Add the onion, garlic and the sausage. Saute the vegetables for 3 minutes and stir occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, Italian seasoning, pepper and the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  2. Place 2 cups of the soup in the food processor or blender and mix until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the pan. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Remove soup from the heat. Add the spinach, stirring until spinach wilts. 
  3. Substitutions - You can substitute the spinach for kale if you would prefer. 

This is a great recipe, because you can easily make this in about 30 minutes. I enjoy having dinner together within 30 minutes during the week, because after working all day, walking the dog, and exercising, I hate spending way too much time in the kitchen cooking/cleaning. Cooking Light has a great assortment of soup recipes that you will have to check out!