Oct 30, 2012

Sweet...But Scary: What to Do with Halloween Candy

Reposted from October 2011.

So...what's got you shaking in your boots right about now?

Christmas shopping on the horizon??  Your neighbor's freaky Halloween displays??  ...OR the idea that in a few days your children might be bringing home a boatload of Halloween "goodies" and then proceeding to bounce off the walls right before your very eyes?! (Never mind possibly get sick.)

We parents sometimes laugh amongst ourselves about the sugar highs and the inevitable sugar crashes our children experience, as if there are no real lasting effects. However, refined sugar (the kind found in candy and other processed treats) is a bit more frightening than many of us realize. Just Google it...for quite the fright, indeed. (Here--I'll do it for ya.) Once you really start doing some research, you will want to run as far away from sugar as you can!

Speaking from personal experience, as one who was utterly and completely given over to an addiction to sugar, there are severe consequences over time. Was I addicted to sugar as a child? Of course, not! But, honestly, it was so readily available to me and any possible consequences so remote and seemingly far-fetched, that eating it as much as I did was simply NOT a big deal whatsoever. So I did. Thank you very much.

And now, at 37, I sincerely regret the life I once lived, nutritionally-speaking. Because NOW here I am with a damaged thyroid and fatigued adrenals, no thanks to the sweet stuff (among other things). If I could do it all over again, I would. But things don't usually work that way. So instead, I'm trying to train my kiddos to do better. To KNOW better. They will still have personal choices to make, of course, but they will be more educated than I was and are already far healthier--because they eat "real food" and their mean ol' mommy makes them avoid the sugars and corn syrups and other freaky substances found in all those brightly-colored, fun packages at the check-out line...or at the movies. (Resist, people, resist, no matter how cute they look when they beg!)

The truth is, though, we don't always resist. In fact, many times we're not even present when our children are offered the unfriendly fare. And candy-related holidays are certainly not the most helpful to us health-conscious parents. So, we recently polled our Facebook followers for ideas on what to do with the Halloween candy that threatens to destroy our kids could soon fill our kids' buckets. Well, we got a grand total of ONE response, by the way, which is probably an indication that we parents...ummmm...NEED some ideas. So we compiled a handful of options for you.

Top Ten Things to Do With Unwanted Candy:

1. Explain to your kids that there are men and women serving our country overseas, and then send a large family donation to the troops through Operation Shoebox. Or perhaps you have a personal favorite soldier!

Operation Shoebox
8360 E Highway 25
Belleview, FL 34420

Along the same vein, maybe your church supports foreign missionaries. Missionaries have kids, too, and they often don't "get" to partake of sweets as readily as we in the States do. You could put together a care package for them. 

2. Lots of churches in central Arkansas participate in Operation Christmas Child, a ministry that sends Christmas packages to needy children all over the world, and could use candy to help fill their boxes. (Chocolate is not the best choice in this case, however.) If interested in this option, leave a comment and I'll get you the proper contact information. National Collection Week is November 12th through 19th.

3. There are other, more local, places to donate candy as well: Food banks, homeless shelters, battered women's shelters, schools, senior citizens' centers, or Dad's friendly office staff.  ;)  Just drop it off and wave a happy goodbye!

4. Save it until Christmas, use it to decorate a gingerbread house...and then give the house to a neighbor or friend.

5. Make a deal with your precious offspring: candy for money. (Toy shopping to follow.) I'm thinking this one could work year-round...

6. If your kids are young, you might manage to get away with hiding it and then hoping they'll just forget about it. It happens. *hangs head in shame*

7. But if that's too deceitful for you, there's always the "Halloween Fairy," the "Candy Fairy," the "Great Pumpkin," or whatever you want to call the one who comes to empty the gigantic bowls (cute trick-or-treat containers, paper bags, etc.) of Halloween candy and put a much-wanted toy or gift inside as a replacement. Convenient service, huh?

8. Have your very own mini-parade (no specific occasion necessary) through your neighborhood. Get all the neighborhood kids on board. Let them ride their bikes, pull their wagons, wear costumes, play instruments, maybe even decorate floats. Be sure to invite everyone to come out for the event. And then? Throw the candy to the onlookers and be done with it.

9. Run and hide. Seriously. Go somewhere entirely non-Halloween-related as a family. This way you avoid the crowds at your front door (and, by default, don't have to shop for them) and your children will have empty treat bags! Or...turn off your front lights, go to the back of the house, and hide there for a special family movie night with your own much-healthier, homemade treats like ice cream, caramel corn, or soaked cookies.

10. There's always the trash can.

One more friendly tip:  If you DO give out "treats" at your own house to all the cute, masked door-knockers, do yourself a favor and give out non-candy treats so you won't have to deal with the leftovers. Things like stickers, bubbles, small toys, party-favor-type-doohickeys, or small bags of pretzels, trail-mix, popcorn, and small boxes of raisins.

Whatever you choose to do with the stuff, the key is in educating your children about making healthy choices and why it's important.

We'd love to hear any other creative ideas our readers may have!


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Oct 29, 2012

Local Food All Year Long

Frequently on the blog, I talk about taking baby steps. If you are looking for your next baby step, here's a challenge for you: buy something this week from online farmers' market described below. Sam Hedges, from ALFN, gives us the skinny.   This is part II of what he started yesterday. - Julie

What is the Arkansas Local Food Network?  That’s a question we, the network, ask ourselves all the time.  Not because we have an identity crisis, but because we’ve always been an organization shaped by our community.  A better question to ask may be, “What do you think we are?”

Formerly the Arkansas Sustainability Network, ALFN is a non-profit committed to growing healthy food locally, through our farms, gardens, communities, businesses, the whole shebang.  We are small but strong in our community support and presence.  Over the years we’ve supported a number of initiatives.  A few more recent ones include our Community Fund (a small grant for community projects working on local food), the FRESH Local Food Directory (a community resource of Central Arkansas’ gardens, farms, markets, non-profits, and restaurants), and the Little Rock Local Food Tour (a walking-biking tour of Little Rock’s local food landscape).  The truth, however, is that our local food landscape is changing and growing all the time, and so are we.  

Year 'Round Online Farmers' Market
Our dearest project, our bread and butter, is the Local Food Club.  It’s an online farmers’ market in which you, a member, order local meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, herbs, cheese, jams, bread (and so on) on our locallygrown.net site, from Arkansas producers, and pick up the following Saturday or Monday at our headquarters in Christ Episcopal Church.  You pay when you pickup (in case a grower over predicts his or her harvest and fails to fulfill all his or her orders), and enjoy your products at home.  It’s that simple.

Online markets are a new and growing segment of the local food world, and they provide an interesting set of benefits for customers and growers.

Easy for Customers
First, as a customer, you have access to hundreds of locally grown products every week.  All you have to do is click your mouse and pickup a few days later, and you have total control over what you put in your grocery bag.  Your weekly meal plan can revolve around what is in season.  Not sure what to do with all the okra you ordered?  Check out the recipe page.  If you are unfamiliar with a grower, check out the grower page to learn more about them.

Great for Growers
For our growers, an online market is an opportunity to easily sell their products without the need for their physical presence or the risk of low sales.  Physical farmers’ markets are time-consuming for farmers, usually taking a whole day, and there’s no guarantee they’ll sell enough even to cover the cost of getting there.  Of course, on the flipside, you get to meet the people behind the produce at a physical market.  While our market is convenient, it lacks that level of meaningful encounter.  You do still get to know our growers over time, through the things you buy from them, and the events we hold.

I like to say that our Food Club is for the serious local eater.  By that I mean the person who stocks their kitchen week after week with locally grown fare, who’s changed the way they eat to reflect their values.

Which raises the question, Why eat locally?”

There are a multitude of answers, and the truth is that every person finds his or her own reason.  Let me share mine with you.  There are few things more fundamental than food.  The tradition of sharing a table and meal together is ancient.  If you want to connect deeply with the people around you, food is the best way.  Eating locally gives character and definition to the things that sustain you in a way that grocery stores will never be able to do.  Your relationships come to define your kitchen.  In a very real sense, I know my community because my food comes from my community.  That isn’t to say that local tomatoes are noticeably better than grocery tomatoes (though really, they are) or that Arkansas, pasture-raised pork is obviously the only way to go.  It’s just that eating locally is noticeably better than eating any other way.

Eating locally can be tough.  You have to accept limitations.  Seasonality, availability.  It takes patience, and you’ll have to force yourself to cook even when you don’t want to.  But these small annoyances get lost in the bigger tradeoff, of feeling connected, of feeling good about what you eat, of knowing the stories of your farmers and gardeners and neighbors.  And we, the Arkansas Local Food Network, are here to make that as easy for you as possible.  Step outside your door and see what’s growing!

-Sam Hedges
Arkansas Local Food Network

Live nearer to Conway?  Here's the market link there.
Live nearer to Russellville?  Click here.

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Oct 28, 2012

Arkansas Local Food Network {ALFN}

Now that the farmers markets are closing many readers have asked, "How can I get local eggs, meat and veggies?" Today's blog post is written by Sam Hedges, the Director of Operations for the Arkansas Local Food Network.  Each week I enjoy receiving an email from Sam that reminds me to place an online order for local food. As you will read, he is an interesting writer.  - Julie

My first encounter with the Arkansas Local Food Network (ALFN) occurred four years ago.  It was the Arkansas Sustainability Network then; most people still refer to us as “ASN”.  I’d come home from school with a burgeoning interest in local food.  It’d become a bit of a thing on campus, and Dad told me about this online farmers’ market he’d been using.  I took a look at the site and came with him on pickup day, and I thought, “Wow.  This is happening in Little Rock now?”  I didn’t realize I was looking at the tip of an iceberg.
A year at Overlook Farm in Massachusetts proceeded graduation.  Sigh.  New England.  Where the local food movement is so established it’s old news.  People farm up there like it’s watching television.  For me, it’s where I tangibly experienced the agricultural lifestyle: the seasons, the cycles of life, the basic work of survival.
  I came back to Little Rock, and I set up my account with ALFN’s online market that week.  I needed my customary supply of locally grown-raised-produced food to continue.  I remember how excited I was, to be a part of a food club, to come in on Saturdays with other members and pick my order up, to scheme about what I was going to buy next week.  These high moments were usually interrupted by a midweek exasperation with myself over all the vegetables and fruits slowly turning in my fridge.  I couldn’t even remember why I’d chosen half of them.  I habitually over ordered, with no thought to what I was actually going to cook or eat.  Using online markets, it turns out, takes a bit of a refining.  I now order with actual recipes in mind, as well as a realistic sense of what I’m going to want to eat next week.  It takes time, but you get there.
As to my dedication to eating locally, I can’t say why exactly.  In the broad world of green living, food is just my thing, more so than eco products or recycling.  I love its fundamental nature.  People choose good food every time.  A place like The Root CafĂ©, which promotes and uses local ingredients in all its food, plays host to a wide variety of patrons.  You’ll see Obama and NRA stickers on hybrids and trucks out front.  Inside, people of every ideology and social clique nest side by side over hamburgers and pancakes.  When good food is present, these differences don’t matter.  It’s an experience that speaks to everyone, and locally grown food speaks for itself.
Which is why I’ve dug myself knee deep into local food here.  As a bread baker, then a market manager.  The big change came when an ALFN board member invited me onto the board and, several months later, the position for Director of Operations opened.  I was in a “Yes” phase.  I applied, no hope for actually getting the job, and, yikes, became director.  I’ve learned more about our local food system than most would consider healthy to know.  It’s all I talk about these days.  At this juncture, there is unbelievable growth: more farmers, more markets, more projects and ideas, as well as an amazing amount of potential to scheme over.
Take the Arkansas Local Food Network, for example.  We changed our name last Spring as a reflection of what we really care about.  Our online market is in the cool warmth of Fall, with lots of greens, eggs, pasture-raised meats, and plans for growth and change.  We printed FRESH, a Directory of Local Food.  We’re seeing new growers on our market and all kinds of new products.  We just hosted the first annual Little Rock Local Food Tour.  That was a wonderful experience.  Lots of people came together to tour South Main’s vegetable gardens, urban farms, and restaurants, and we topped the whole thing off with an outdoor dinner of delicious, locally-sourced food catered by Boulevard Bread Co., and tales by Tales from the South.  Beneath the twinkling lights of Bernice Garden, everyone relaxed, ate, and laughed over stories.  Something felt very special about that day, like real things were happening in our community.  Once again, good food prevailed.
When I moved back to Little Rock, I hadn’t planned on staying.  Little Rock was home, and home is where you run from.  Three years later, it’s hard to imagine leaving.  Community runs as deep as roots here, and there is an energy for celebration and togetherness that I haven’t seen everywhere else.  In my humble observation, in Little Rock and Central Arkansas beyond, if something is going to succeed, it must come from within, from its own community members, and it must involve a party.  Preferably with tasty eats.

-Sam Hedges
Director of Operations
Arkansas Local Food Network

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Oct 18, 2012

Local Food Research

Imagine a strong and vibrant sustainable community based local food system in Little Rock. What are its characteristics? What is the culture surrounding food in Central Arkansas? Who produces the food? Where is food sold? How are you involved? What is your role in this food economy?

A new project partnering Little Rock Urban Farming with Dylan Perry, a Masters Candidate at the Clinton School of Public Service, intends to identify opportunities to strengthen our local food system through a community needs assessment.  This project will engage a diverse group of stakeholders ranging from civic leaders, institutional leaders, politicians, business leaders, food producers, and consumers. The project will collect and document ideas from the community about developing a strong, vibrant, sustainable community based food system in Central Arkansas through a participatory process including interviews, community conversations, and surveys.

Little Rock Urban Farming (LRUF) is a community based food enterprise that specializes in the sustainable production and distribution of vegetables, fruits, flowers, honey, eggs and herbs. Chris Hiryak, the founder and Creative Director of LRUF, says, “We are ready to branch out and actively engage the community. Everyone in our community has a part to play in this food movement.”

Hiryak is a proponent of food citizenship, defined as the practice of engaging in food-related behaviors that support rather than threaten the development of a democratic, socially and economically just, and environmentally sustainable food system. LRUF will facilitate this process by getting the community to share ideas on what they expect and demand from their food system. LRUF will use that information to develop a program that is consistent with the shared vision of the community.

You may see LRUF conducting surveys at the following locations:

Farmers’ Markets:
Hillcrest Farmers’ Market - Saturdays 8am-12pm
Bernice Garden Farmers’ Market - Sundays 10am-2pm
Community Conversations:
Fletcher Library – October 20th, 4:00pm
Terry Library – November 10th, 10:00am
Cox Center – December 15th, 2:00pm
Other Events:
First Thursday at the Shops at Woodlawn – 5:00-9:00pm
SOMA Food Truck Thursdays – Second Thursday of every month, 5:30-8:30pm

Everyone is invited to attend any or all of these meetings.

Feel free to email Dylan Perry dlperry AT clintonschool.uasys.edu with any questions.

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Oct 15, 2012

Another Freezer Cooking Day

Whew!  Another freezer cooking day under our belt - and this one was the most relaxing by far.    Experience has taught us a few things.  Most importantly: lower thy expectations.
Today's menu
Chicken pot pie (tripled)
beef tips
60 burritos (half beef, half bean)
pizza sauce

Ingredients prepared in advanced
15 cups carrots, celery - chopped
18 onions - chopped
12 cups broth
4 pounds dried beans, soaked and cooked
3 whole chickens
2 beef roasts
20+ bell peppers, chopped and roasted

Additional thoughts
1.  I (Julie) feel quite confident about making chicken pot pie filling because I have made it so many times.  Today I couldn't get the sauce (or soup) to thicken and I'm not sure why.  HB reminded me that the last time we tripled the recipe that it was rather soupy then, too.  I do not have this problem when making smaller batches.  So - next time I will make either one batch at a time or make the cream of soup completely separately.

2.  We both enjoyed today's relaxing pace and lower expectations.  The last cooking marathon was too much.  Starting roughly at 9am and walking out the door of a clean kitchen at 1:45 was a pace that this pregnant lady can keep.  We even sat at the table for lunch!

3.  I regret not having a picture of two dear friends that joined us - Lori (who writes here sometimes) and Kelly (who is on furlough from Uganda).

4.  It was a great day.  I hope to get one more cooking day in before the rush of the holidays - and before baby BOY comes, the first week of January.

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Beef Tips and Rice {Recipe}

This is a super-delicious recipe, a childhood favorite from HB's recipe box.  We've made it at least 3 times on our cooking days.  I've been hesitant to add the recipe to this blog because I'm not really sure of the ingredients in Kitchen Bouquet.  However, because this is a crowd pleaser and because the recipe only calls for one teaspoon, I've decided to share.  - Julie  

3 lb. chuck beef, cubed (or stew meat)
2 t. nonseasoned meat tenderizer*
1/2 t. pepper
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. thyme
2 c. water or broth (includes meat drippings)
4 t. butter
4 t. flour
1 1/2 cups. milk
1 1/2 cups beef broth, can use chicken broth
1 t. kitchen bouquet* (in a brown bottle with yellow label in spice aisle)
1 onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
1 T. parsley

(t. = teaspoon, T. = tablespoon)
*EDIT: We've since made it without the Kitchen Bouquet and the flavor is not missed.  Meat tenderizer is simply salt and sugar.

Sprinkle meat tenderizer, pepper, salt and thyme on beef. Turn meat several times to distribute seasoning. Cook in heavy roaster in oven at 400, uncovered for 45 minutes. While the beef is cooking, melt the butter on stovetop in a skillet, once butter is melted, stir in flour. Very slowly add beef broth and milk until you have a thick sauce. Taste this sauce and add a little salt if necessary, but don't overdo it.

Once beef is done in the oven, pour the drippings into a 2 cup measuring cup. Add enough water (or substitute broth) to the leftover beef drippings to make 2 cups. Then, mix the water and the sauce till smooth, then add all the kitchen bouquet to this mixture. Next, combine sauce, beef and veggies and cook them covered in the roaster at 350 for about 2 hours, or until tender. Be sure to cover the roaster tightly.

Serve over hot, buttered rice or potatoes. Enjoy!

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Oct 13, 2012

HB's New Dream Kitchen

Because there are several writers for this blog some people have been confused about who moved and who is pregnant.

I (Julie) am pregnant and it has taken a toll on me - thus the lack of posts.  This summer my best gal pal, who calls herself HB, wrote a post about real food during a move.   HB and her family moved three doors down from me!  How super fun is that?!

This post is dedicated to HB's glorious kitchen.  She waited a long time to upgrade.  Her patience paid off!  This new kitchen is a dream, as you will see below.
Our neighborhood was built in the late '60s and many people are the original owners, as was the case when HB bought their house.  The previous owners had done some updating but HB, with all her mad design skillz, totally renovated the downstairs to this phat crib.

Below is a picture of the kitchen when they were considering the house.
Once owners, they opened up the space by knocking down the blue wall between the kitchen and formal dining room, as well as removed the pantry (gold doorknob on right).

Wow - look at the difference that removing a wall can make!  They also added canister lights.
The wall between the kitchen/dining room and formal living room also came tumbling down.
The cabinets were built on site.  The below picture is taken from the current dining room, looking into the kitchen.
And here you can see the kitchen into the dining room.  The walls are actually gray, like the island, but look sort of green here.
Ta-da!  The amazing dream kitchen!  Granite counters, industrial stove, and wood floors adorn this work of art.
This stove was a steal from Craig's List - 6 burners and double ovens.  Just for an extrovert, behind the stove is a giant mirror so that she can talk to her guests whilst making dinner for them.
 She even has a built-in desk.  Look at the wall of cookbooks above it.
 The island will be perfect for our huge batch cooking days.
 From the below picture, you can see the edge of their dining table as well as the island.
 The crowning glory to her kitchen is this floor to ceiling pantry.
 It probably deserves a post all to itself.  Sweet mercy look at all that storage.
On Monday we plan to dirty up this beautiful kitchen and break it in right with a batch freezer cooking day.  It won't be as crazy as the last time we cooked together (which about killed me.)  

Until then, I'm trying to rest up.

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Oct 11, 2012

Linky Love

170 Reasons to Lose the Soy in Your Diet - from The Healthy Home Economist (Wow. This is a well documented post.  If you eat soy, please read it.)

Coconut Cream Pie - from Mississippi Kitchen (I made this for my mom's birthday, yum! I only used 1/4c. sucanat and unsweetened coconut - it was plenty sweet.)

Canning Applesauce - from Thy Hand Hath Provided - this is batch cooking at its finest...142 QUARTS at once.  She also posted about her year end tally (preservation) from their garden.  Inspiring.

Ladeled: Nourishing Soups for all Seasons - from The Nourishing Gourmet.  Soup season is upon us and this looks to be a soup-er resource!  This soup was our dinner tonight; it is frugal, fast, delicious and nourishing.

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Oct 7, 2012

Infrared Thermal Scans Available in Little Rock

Thermography was approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago as a viable adjunct to mammograms.  Thermal imaging is a safe, painless and accurate means of early breast cancer detection.  Due to concern regarding radiation exposure, many women are choosing thermography as an alternative to mammography.

November 3rd and 4th Body Scan for Health of Rogers, AR will be providing breast, half body, and full body thermal imaging at the Wellness Revolution on Chenal Parkway in Little Rock.

If you are interested in making an appointment or finding out more, please e-mail your phone number to  Lisa Lipe who is scheduling all appointments. (lisa8 AT sbcglobal DOT net)  Please do not contact Wellness Revolution regarding thermal imaging appointments.  Appointment spaces are very limited.

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Oct 5, 2012

How to Get a Toddler to Eat (Real Food)

My parents came into town this week.  During dinner, my 2.5 year old daughter didn't eat as well as she normally does.  I attributed this lack of appetite to the distraction of new people at our table.

After they left, an epiphany came to me.  There are some "tricks" I have for getting her to eat real food.

The biggest, most important one is...drumroll please...

1.  If I only serve real food, she will only eat real food.

No duh, huh? 

When my parents were here I served saltine crackers with our chili.  For the chili I'd soaked the beans, cooked them in broth, used organic onions and tomatoes with grass-fed beef.  What did my child want to eat?  Crackers.  She didn't want to touch the chili.  The next day, she ate a huge bowl of chili when I didn't offer crackers.

I can't really blame her.  She hasn't learned the fine art of self-control.  After all, what's not to love about the salty, crispy crunch of crackers?

Truth be told, this is one reason I do not buy potato chips often.  If they are in my pantry I want to eat the whole bag in one sitting.  I haven't learned the fine art of self-control.

2.  Offer real food when you know she is hungry.

Usually when she wakes from an afternoon nap I offer a snack.  This has a two-fold purpose.  The snack helps ward off the before-dinner-crankies while helping her to re-enter life, post-nap.  If I were to offer chips or pretzels, I'm sure she could eat her weight in them then snub her nose at a nutritious dinner.

One day recently, I decided to re-heat leftovers to serve as the 4pm snack.  She ate an adult dinner portion!  Of course when dinner rolled around she only picked at her plate.  I didn't mind, because I knew her belly was already full with real food.  If I'd given her a cookie after nap, I would have been mad (at myself and her!) for not eating dinner.

Also because my children tend to eat light dinners (i.e. their taste buds don't yet appreciate the real food I offer) they are usually starving for breakfast.  In our home, I make it my aim to make a nutrient dense breakfast in the form of local pastured eggs, nitrate free bacon or sausage, soaked oatmeal, and fresh- from-the-cow raw milk.  Recipes we like: oatmeal bake, soaked muffins, granola with full fat yogurt.

3.  Save milk for after dinner.

Children (maybe it's just my children) are notorious for filling up on milk then not being hungry for dinner.  At our house, we usually drink water with dinner or maybe a very small cup of milk or kombucha (unless it has been a particularly hot day and we are dehydrated).  I am happy to serve more milk after the plates are clean.  Milk is a good mid-afternoon snack, as well.

4.  Bribe them with dessert.

Dessert is not a frequent offering on our table.  However if I am serving a dish that is less than palatable to tiny mouths, I have been known to say, "If you eat all of your xxxx, you may have a bowl of ice cream."  This tactic works better with children who can reason, not necessarily with 2.5 year olds.

Those are four of the tricks up my sleeve.

What else do you recommend?


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