Slow Down with Slow Cooking

This School Year: Breakfast is for Champions

This School Year: Breakfast is for Champions

No one needs to be told the pace of living is just too fast. From the time the alarm clock (or the baby) starts the day, until bedtime, parents have a daunting number of things to attend to—rushing from jobs to games, lessons, and practices, then back home and ‘what-the-heck’s-for-supper’?

If you don’t already own a slow-cooker, think about investing in one. You won’t believe how many uses you will find for this inexpensive and indispensible kitchen appliance. If you have one, start using it more. The Internet has hundreds of free recipes. Since we are focusing on breakfast we chose three recipes that cook overnight while you sleep.

This won’t completely remedy your busy life but it can help slow things down a little, and put a nutritious breakfast on the table that will give your champions a flying start to their school day. If you are really short on time, use a crock pot disposable liner to spare yourself the clean up.

Deluxe Crockpot Oatmeal

  • 2 C. cow’s milk, almond milk or coconut milk
  • ¼ C. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. melted butter
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ to 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 C. oats (old-fashioned is best)
  • 1 C. finely chopped apple
  • ½ C. raisins, dates, dried cherries, or craisins
  • ½ C. walnuts or almonds

Grease the inside of crockpot. Put ingredients inside crockpot and mix well. Cover and turn on low heat. Cook overnight or 8-9 hours. Stir before serving. Makes 4 Cups, or 6-8 servings.

slow-cooking2Breakfast Cobbler

  • 4 medium apples peeled and sliced
  • ¼ Cup honey
  • 2 Tbls. melted butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 C. granola cereal

Spray inside of Crock-Pot with nonstick spray. Place apples in slow cooker add in remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours, or overnight. Serve with milk or a dollop of Greek yogurt. Real maple syrup can be substituted for the honey.


slow-cooking3Overnight Egg Bake

  • 32 oz. bag of frozen hash brown potatoes
  • 1 lb. cooked ham, cubed
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 ½ Cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ tsp. salt and pepper

eggs, milk and seasonings until well mixed. Pour over the ingredients in the slow cooker, cover and turn on low. Cook for 8-10 hours, until casserole is set and eggs are thoroughly cooked. Check the temperature of the eggs to be sure it’s done.
If you have a new, hotter cooking crockpot, you’ll need to check this after 6 hours and it will probably be done after 7 hours. Eggs should reach a temperature of 160° to 165°.

New Vitamin D Recommendations

The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its guideline and now recommends that all infants and children, including adolescents, have a minimum daily intake of 400IU of Vitamin D beginning soon after birth.
We have always known that Vitamin D is important in maintaining good bone health, but research now supports a potential role in maintaining immunity, preventing fatigue and possibly preventing diseases such as diabetes and cancer.  Read more about this topic by going to “Medical Links” and visiting the American Academy of Pediatrics website and entering “Vitamin D” in the search bar.

Feeding Your Baby

The most important food after birth for your new baby is milk, either breast milk or formula, which will supply all the calories and nutrients that your baby needs for growth until the baby reaches 13-17 pounds or about 4 to 6 months of age.  Signs that your baby may be ready to start solids include wanting to breast feed more than 8-10 times daily or wanting 32 ounces per day from the bottle.  In addition, your baby may appear to be dissatisfied due to hunger or may begin to awaken consistently at night.

When Should I Start Solids? 

In the past solids were introduced as early as two weeks of age.  It is currently felt that the early institution of solids may promote allergies in some children.  In addition, early feedings with solids may predispose a child to being overweight when he or she grows up.

How Should Solids be Started?

To avoid problems and to be able to recognize problems with new foods, they should be introduced one at a time.  A new food should be given for 3-5 consecutive days before beginning another food. Usually any food intolerance will be noted in this amount of time. As new foods are started you should watch for rashes, diarrhea, irritability and wheezing.  Theses symptoms may indicate an allergy and you should contact your doctor if they occur.

The following foods should be avoided:

  • Wheat until 6 months of age
  • Honey until one year
  • Peanut products (including peanut butter) until 3 years of age
First Foods 

The solids are usually started as stage one or pureed foods. These foods introduce new tastes and textures to your baby. When your baby has tried all single ingredient foods you may begin stage 2 or strained foods. Stage 3 foods are more coarse in texture and may be started when the baby begins to teethe. If you choose to make your own baby food, Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron is a great resource.

Solids are usually introduced in the following manner:

  • Cereal – rice, barley, oatmeal. Start at 4-6 months of age. Begin with 1 tbsp. and increase to 4 tbsp. mixed with formula or water. This may be started morning and night.
  • Fruits – applesauce, pears, peaches, bananas, and prunes. Start at about 4-6 months of age, 1/2 to 1 jar per feeding.
  • Vegetables – initially carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes, then peas and green beans. Start at 4-6 months of age, 1/2 to 1 jar per feeding.
  • Meats – chicken, ham, turkey, veal. Start at 7-10 months of age, 1/2 to 1 jar per feeding.
  • Juices – apple, pear, white grape juice. Juices are unnecessary for babies. If you choose to introduce them always dilute them to 1/2 strength. Juices should not be substituted for milk feedings and should not exceed 6 ounces of diluted juice per day.
Table Foods 

Table foods may be started after your baby has tried the first three stages of solids and is teething. This is usually around 7-9 months of age.  Be prepared, the institution of finger foods can be messy! Soft table foods are usually started first and include:

  • soft, canned fruits, ripe bananas
  • soft, cooked, cut up vegetables
  • strips and bits of lean tender meat
  • starches—mashed potatoes, rice, macaroni, and noodles
  • zwieback, toast, crackers—watch for choking
  • legumes – hummus, refried beans, baked or black beans

You should avoid foods that could cause your baby to choke such as nuts, popcorn, and hard candy. Even soft foods such as  hot dogs and grapes should be quartered lengthwise before being chopped up.

Remember, when your baby is self-feeding it is best to:

  • not leave your baby alone
  • use easy to handle utensils
  • use bite-sized pieces
  • make sure baby remains seated

2% or whole milk may be started at 12 months of age and your baby should be weaned to a cup by 10-15 months of age.

Toddler Feedings 

During the second year of life your baby will grow less rapidly. You will notice that as a result his or her appetite will diminish. The biggest complaint of parents of children from 1-2 years of age is that they don’t eat. Actually they eat just as much as they need to grow and no more. This is nothing to worry about. The following general rules apply:

  • Your baby’s milk intake may decrease to 12 ounces per day
  • Your baby may eat one good meal a day or well for a day or two then poorly for a few days
  • You may find that four or five small feedings per day will be taken better than three large meals
  • Your baby will be using utensils and cup drinking by 15 months and should be off the bottle by 15 months of age
  • You can decide what, where, when your baby eats; your baby should be allowed to decide how much

Overweight: A Weight-Reduction Program


  • Your child appears overweight to an objective person.
  • Your child’s body mass index is greater than 85% for age.
  • The skinfold thickness (fat layer) of your child’s upper arm is more than 1 inch (25mm), as measured with a special instrument.
  • More than 25% of American children are overweight.


  • The tendency to be overweight is usually inherited.  If one parent is overweight, half of the children will be overweight.  If both parents are overweight, most of their children will be overweight.  If neither parent is overweight, the children have a 10% chance of being overweight.
  • Heredity alone (without overeating) accounts for most mild obesity (defined as less than 30 pounds overweight in an adult).  Moderate obesity is usually due to a combination of heredity, overeating, and underexercising.  Some overeating is normal in our society, but only those who have the inherited tendency to be overweight will gain significant weight when they overeat.  It is therefore not reasonable to blame your child for being overweight.
  • Less than 1% of obesity has an underlying medical cause.  Your physician can easily determine this by a simple physical examination.

Expected Course

Losing weight is very difficult.  Keeping the weight off is also a chore.  The best time for losing weight is when a child is over 15 years old, that is, when he/she becomes concerned with appearance.  The self- motivated teenager can follow a diet and lose weight regardless of what the family eats.  Helping children lose weight between 5 and 15 years of age is very difficult because they have access to so many foods outside the home and are not easily motivated to lose weight.  It is not quite as difficult to help a child less than 5 years old to lose weight because the parents have better control of the foods offered to the child.

How to Help Older Children and Teenagers Lose Weight

Readiness and Motivation 

  • Teenagers can increase their motivation by joining a weight-loss club such as TOPS or Weight Watchers.  Sometimes schools have classes for helping children lose weight.  A child’s motivation can often be improved if diet and exercise programs are undertaken by the entire family.  A cooperative parent-child weight-loss program with individual goals is usually more helpful than a competitive with individual goals is usually more helpful than a competitive program focused on who can lose weight faster.

Protecting Your Child’s Self-esteem 

  • Self-esteem is more important than an ideal body weight.  If your child is overweight, he/she is probably already disappointed in himself.  He needs his family to support him and accept him as he is.  Self-esteem can be reduced or destroyed by parents who become over-concerned about their child’s weight.  Avoid the following pitfalls:
    • Don’t tell your child he’s fat.  Don’t discuss his weight unless he brings it up.
    • Never try to put your child on a strict diet.  Diets are unpleasant and should be self-imposed.
    • Never deprive your child of food if he says he is hungry.  Withholding food eventually leads to overeating.
    • Don’t nag him about his weight or eating habits.

Setting Weight-Loss Goals

  • Pick a realistic target weight, depending on your child’s bone structure and degree of obesity.  The loss of 1 pound per week is an attainable goal, but your child will have to work quite hard to maintain this rate of weight loss for several weeks.  Have your child weigh himself no more than once a week; daily weighings generate too much false hope or disappointment.  Keeping a record of weekly weights may provide added motivation.  When losing weight becomes a strain, have your child take a few weeks off from the weight-loss program.  During this time, try to help your child stay at a constant weight.
  • Once your child has reached the target weight, the long-range goal is to try to stay within 5 pounds of that weight.  Staying at a particular weight is possible only through permanent moderation in eating and maintaining a reasonable exercise program.  Your child will probably always have the tendency to gain weight easily and it’s important that he understand this.

Diet:  Decreasing Calorie Consumption 

  • Your child should eat three well-balanced meals of average-size portions every day.  There are no forbidden foods; your child can have a serving of anything family or friends are eating.  However, there are forbidden portions.  While your child is reducing, she must leave the table a bit hungry.  Your child cannot lose weight if she eats until full (satiated).
  • Encourage average portions and discourage seconds.  Shortcuts such as fasting, crash dieting, and diet pills rarely work and may be dangerous.  Liquids diets are safe only if used according to directions.  If you have any questions, consult a dietician.
  • Calorie counting is helpful for some people, but it is usually too time consuming.  Consider the following guidelines on what to eat and drink:
    • Fluids:  Mainly use low-calorie drinks such as skim milk, fruit juice diluted in half with water, diet drinks, or flavored mineral water.  Because milk has lots of calories, your child should drink no more than 16 ounces of skim or low-fat milk each day.  Since fruit juices and 2% milk have similar calories per ounce, keep juice consumption to 8 ounces or less per day.  All other drinks should be either water or diet drinks.  Encourage your child to drink six glasses of water each day.
    • Meals:  Serve fewer fatty foods (for example, eggs, bacon, sausage, butter).  A portion of fat has twice as many calories as the same portion of protein or carbohydrate.  Trim the fat off meats.  Serve more baked, boiled, or steamed foods and fewer fried foods.  Serve more fruits, vegetables, salads, and grains.
    • Desserts:  Encourage smaller-than-average portions.  Encourage more gelatin and fresh fruits as desserts.  Avoid rich desserts.  Do not serve seconds.
    • Snacks:  Serve only low-calorie foods such as raw vegetables (carrot sticks, celery sticks, raw potato sticks, pickles), raw fruits (apples, oranges, cantaloupe), popcorn, or diet soft drinks.  Limit snacks to two each day.
    • Vitamins:  Give your child one multivitamin tablet daily during the weight-loss program.

Eating Habits

  • To counteract the tendency to gain weight, your youngster must be taught eating habits that will last for a lifetime.  You can help your child lose weight and keep off unwanted pounds by doing the following:
    • Discourage skipping any of the three basic meals.
    • Encourage drinking a glass of water before meals.
    • Serve smaller portions.
    • Suggest chewing food slowly.
    • Offer second servings only if your child has waited for 10 minutes after finishing the first serving.
    • Don’t purchase high-calorie snack foods such as potato chips, candy, or regular soft drinks.
    • Do purchase and keep available diet soft drinks and fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Leave only low-calorie snacks out on the counter – fruit, or example.  Put away the cookie jar.
    • Store food only in the kitchen.  Keep it out of other rooms.
    • Offer no more than two snacks each day.  Discourage your child from continual snacking throughout the day.
    • Allow eating in your home only at the kitchen or dining-room table.  Discourage eating while watching television, studying, riding in the car, or shopping.  Once eating becomes associated with these activities, the body learns to expect it.
    • Discourage eating alone.
    • Help your child reward herself for hard work or studying with a movie, television, music, or a book rather than food.
    • Put up reminder cards on the refrigerator and bathroom mirror that state: Eat Less.

Exercise:  Increasing Calorie Expenditure 

  • Daily exercise can increase the rate of weight loss as well as the sense of physical well-being.  The combination of diet and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight.  Try the following forms of exercise:
    • Walk or bike instead of riding in a car.
    • Use stairs instead of elevators.
    • Learn new sports.  Swimming and jogging are the sports that burn the most calories.  Your
    • child’s school may have an aerobic class.
    • Take the dog for a long walk.
    • Spend 30 minutes daily exercising or dancing to records or music on television.
    • Use an exercise bike or hula-hoop while watching television.  (Limit television sitting time to 2 hours or less each day.)

Social Activities: Keeping the Mind off Food

  • The more outside activities your child participates in, the easier it will be for her to lose weight.  Spare time fosters nibbling.  Most snacking occurs between 3 and 6pm.  Help your child fill after- school time with activities such as music, drama, sports or scouts.  A part-time job after school may help.  If nothing else, encourage your child to call or visit friends.  An active social life almost always leads to weight reduction.

Call our office during regular hours if . . . 

  • Your child has not improved his eating habits and exercise after trying this program for 2 months.
  • Your child is a compulsive overeater.
  • You find yourself frequently nagging your child about his eating habits.
  • Your child is trying to lose weight and doesn’t need to do so.
  • You think your child is depressed.
  • Your child has no close friends.
  • You have other questions or concerns.

Growing Peanuts in Minnesota

When my grandmother planted a row of peanuts here in Minnesota to appease my younger brothers, she wasn’t expecting a horticultural success. And it wasn’t, although they did manage to coax a few stunted specimens out of the ground. The real reward from that exercise was watching her grandkids fall in love with gardening.

Enjoying gardening, and having a willingness to try new foods go together. These are the markers of successful gardening with children, not necessarily filling your freezer or pantry for the coming winter. Have realistic goals and be aware that they will spill the seeds, they will ‘weed’ the wrong plants, and of course they will get dirty. Try not to take things too seriously– When working with kids, taking things too seriously almost guarantees failure. In spite of the mud and dirt, there are many good reasons for trying:

  1. Gardening is a fun way for families to spend time together outdoors, engaged in moderate physical activity. Everyone can help, everyone works together.
  2. Kids are far more likely to eat lettuce, green beans or tomatoes that they have planted, watered and nurtured themselves.
  3.  Children are not born with the patience or the ability to deal with long-term projects. Gardening is a good way to help them learn that some things take time.
  4. There is of course a nutritional value to growing even a small amount of your family’s food. Fruits and vegetables can be served at peak freshness and be as organically grown as you choose.
  5. There is a financial reward here as well. Write down the cost of one package of green bean seeds and then compare the amount you harvest with grocery store prices.

Those are the reasons why; here are some ‘how-to’ tips for novice gardeners:

If you are a first-time gardener, keep it small. You might even want to start out this year with a simple container garden. Plant crops in various containers that can be placed on your deck, or somewhere in your yard that receives six or more hours of direct sunlight daily.

Plants in containers will need to be checked for moisture, daily or twice-daily in hot weather. You don’t want to drown the plants either so make sure your containers come with drainage holes or add some yourself.

Starting seeds indoors– DON’T. Why? Unless you set up a light system, your seedlings will be tall and leggy and not survive the transition to the outside world, and if they do survive, they will be weak and unproductive. Plant seeds directly into your containers at the appropriate time. Here is the opportunity to really get your kids involved. Children love to plant seeds. So if they are messy and spill some of the smaller seeds, don’t worry, be happy. Buy extra seeds when working with kids. And be sure to let the kids make some choices, maybe even one wacky one (peanuts, remember?)

Harvesting is another garden chore that kids love to be a part of. Show them which veggies are kitchen-ready and let them help with the picking.

So having discussed why, and how, here are some thoughts on what plants you might want to try:

Tomatoes and sweet peppers (the red, orange and green varieties) n eed about one 5 gallon container per plant or try the new upside down containers. This is one crop where it is probably easier to go to a garden center and buy seedlings. Tomatoes and peppers are hot weather crops so make sure you put them out after danger of frost (after May 20th).  They are heavy feeders and like to be fertilized. Kids often prefer cherry or grape tomato varieties.

Lettuce is a cold weather crop and can go out quite early—even April depending on the weather patterns. Sow these tiny seeds in rows, in inexpensive rectangular tubs. Try a variety of lettuce types. Lettuce grows fairly quickly and you can reseed bare spots that you have already harvested.

Cool Beans! Green Beans are another kid-friendly crop. Decide if you want to plant bush beans or pole beans. The first kind is usually grown in rows that produce one heavy crop followed later by a second lighter one. But these can also be grown in containers. Pole beans need to grow up against a trellis, on so mething that their tendrils can grasp. Some people use straight narrow poles from garden centers or branches arranged in a ‘tee-pee’ then plant the beans around the outside perimeter. VOILA you have created a shady, green, outdoor play space for your little gardeners. Pole beans tend to produce small usable amounts of beans all season long.

If your family enjoys broccoli, rejoice. It is another easy-to-grow crop and usually produces enough to freeze a few bags for later consumption. Broccoli florets should be soaked in salt water before preparing them for the table or the freezer to remove pests.

Try zucchini, a notoriously easy and productive plant that will provide you, your friends and neighbors with an abundance of the versatile produce. You can find creative recipes such as one that substitutes zucchini for apples in apple crisp! Or layer slices of zucchini into your lasagna.

Go on, eat some flowers like nasturtiums. This plant’s young leaves add a spicy flavor to salads and their flowers are safe and edible. So are the flowers of Johnny-Jump-Ups, pansies and violets. Remember this is supposed to be fun for the kids and help them rethink foods. Speaking of flowers that can be used as a food, kids adore watching the progress of sunflowers as they rise up from seed-in-hand to towering giants. If you don’t want to toast the seeds for your family you can always serve them to grateful birds throughout the fall and winter.

Lastly, devote some time and space to flowers, even if they are not edible. Home grown vegetables feed the body, but flowers are food for the soul.