Feeding Our Families :: Creating A Love of Healthy Food

May 13, 2014

Spring1 Emma-and-her-tomato Spring2 Emma-Jeanne-and-the-tomato Spring3

I have been having an amazing conversation in my head lately about the role that food is playing in our lives. I have always loved food, and my relationship with it has been pretty positive through the years. I grew up in a foodie family, where we ate together every night, took trips around food, spent many hours discussing wines, spices, pairings, and cheese. My food journey began on the back bay of Boston, continued into the streets of Chicago, and took shape in the amazing culinary playground that is California. I suppose that back then there wasn’t a concept of being a foodie, per se. There was no intention behind our love of a good meal, cooking or experiencing, we just simply did. While my parents were health conscious, and there was not a lot of processed food in our lives, I wouldn’t say that the idea of food as medicine, as a way of promoting health was ever discussed. We liked food for the sake of eating, for the pure joy of it. We were more live to eat, rather than eat to live.

After a long bout with an undiagnosed illness in my college years, I found the practice of yoga. I love yoga for so many reasons, but the way it helps you tune in to your body has to rank among the top. All of a sudden, many of the foods that I enjoyed through my life I could sense were making me ill. Years later, my oldest son was diagnosed with celiac disease, and then his brother, and then his other brother, and then my husband and I were tested, etc. In a matter of a decade I had moved from loving food to truly despising it. I was fearful in the grocery aisles, confused about what to feed us, what was good, what we were possibly allergic to, etc. As the years moved on and I tried to transform so many of the meals that we had once enjoyed into something we could eat, I could still sense that it wasn’t enough.

I realized that finding a love of food again was going to mean a radical transformation in the way that I looked at it. Food and I were going to have to get to know one another again, but on a totally different level. I was going to have to see the power to use food as a way to heal ourselves, rather than just as something to enjoy and share. There is an abundant amount of information out there about what we should eat, and what we shouldn’t. We are constantly bombarded by the newest food trend, and told that if we eat one thing we will be magically transformed into a goddess of well being, but if we dare to touch something forbidden, our lives will surely go into ruin. I doubt that anything is quite that black and white, and I have come to realize that I have to pay attention to my body at all times, and I have to teach my children to do the same. Our journey into a world of less sugar, more whole foods, and an abundant awareness of how what we eat affects us has been slow, and full of research and discovery. For instance, I know that my oldest son simply can not touch dairy in the summer months, once the pesticides have begun to be sprayed all over our town. For some reason the combination of dairy and other chemicals creates seizure like symptoms in him. Give him a bit of yogurt in February and he is just fine, but come May, no way. There are many such combinations in our family, and it takes diligence in each one of us to look at the way that something affects us as individuals, rather than as a group.

Helping my children to be able to recognize the way that food affects them is a challenge, mainly because they have clearly inherited my love of a good meal. They know what tastes good, and sometimes that gets in the way of what is good for them. It is also a challenge because listening to ourselves as individuals means that we have to stay conscious and present in what is happening to our bodies right now, rather than what has happened in the past, or what may happen in the future. It creates an added level of responsibility on young children to be able to express how they feel, or to pay attention to how their behavior and sense of well being may be impacted.

I have come to realize that the earlier we begin to get our children involved in the process of eating well, the better in tune they are. I know that it begins with me, with the food choices that I make for us as a family, what I choose to put on the table and educate them about. It also takes confidence in the fact that even at 10, 8 and 3 (Emma Jeanne isn’t quite there yet), they are capable of understanding what is good for them, and what they can tolerate. As in every other aspect of parenting, there is give and take.

Perhaps most important, there is still a need to cultivate the joy of eating itself. Whole food, healthy living does not mean giving up the love of great food. It may require a change in palette, a different set of tools to create something wonderful, but it can be done, and it is essential to get there. We have so many memories that are wrapped up in what we have eaten. Food connects us to our families, to our communities, and to our heritage. It gives us a sense of self and a history, all rolled into one.

My oldest son and I have had many conversations about family recipes, and his desire to put them onto paper. He knows that one day he will make something for his kids that I made for him, and he will tell them his own stories, and share his own memories. There will be flour of on the floor, and eggs cracked, and spices strewn about, and he will share a piece of his life. I want to make sure that as I pass these things down, I am honoring the body’s ability to use food to heal, as well as a joy of the experience of eating the food itself. If I can do that, I think that both body and spirit will be satiated.


In my own food journey I have had a few resources that have been invaluable. Renee of Fimby has certainly been one of them. Renee has a wonderful way of discussing food and health, and her recipes are staples on our table.

One of the first recipes that I ever used of Renee’s was her cashew cream. We enjoy it year round, and with everything from scones and granola, to a simple topping of fruit. For Mother’s Day this past weekend I wanted to kick it up a bit, and I added in strawberries, basil, and apple balsamic vinegar. I dare say that now I may be on a flavored cashew cream kick. This pairs wonderfully with simple biscuits, and was delicious in our morning oatmeal. Of course, the boys also just ate it with a spoon, so there is always that too.

Strawberry Basil Cashew Cream
Adapted from Fimby

1 cup of cashews (soaked overnight)
1 cup of dates
1 1/2 cups of almond milk (could use any dairy free alternative)
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp apple balsamic vinegar (could be plain or other flavors as well)

In a blender, process the almond milk, dates, and cashews until smooth. Add the strawberries and blend. Add in the remaining ingredients, and taste. You can always add in more basil or balsamic vinegar to your liking.  Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Spring Garden Pasta

On Mother’s Day we saw snow. I really don’t want to discuss just how  much there was, or the fact that it arrived after a week in the high 80’s, but let’s just say that it is an experience I hope we do not repeat anytime soon. In the days leading up to the storm we were picking greens as fast as we could eat them. This recipe is inspired by the abundance that we had, but really it is a recipe that could be played with to a countless number of combinations. The foundation of this pasta is the broth. We use a large amont of olive oil, sweat the garlic, and then use the juice of the tomatoes and the pasta water to finish it off. From there it is just what we have in the garden that makes it so good. Season well, and lunch is served.

1 lb of pasta (we use GF pasta with lots of olive oil in the cooking water)
1/4-1/2 cup good quality olive oil
3 cloves of garlic minced
2 cups of white beans
3 tomatoes diced, with their juices
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
The zest of one lemon
1 tbsp freshly chopped basil
A few handfuls of arugula
1 ladle of pasta water
Herbamare (or salt) and pepper to taste

Cook your pasta according to package directions, reserving one ladle of water. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on low and add your garlic. Allow the garlic to infuse the oil without browning. Add in the white beans and tomatoes, and cook on low until the tomatoes have released their juices. Add in the red pepper, lemon juice and zest, and basil. Add your pasta and toss with salt and pepper to taste. With the heat turned off, add in your arugula and toss gently. Serve the pasta in bowls with the broth over top. Add a touch of Parmesan or nutritional yeast for added flavor. 


Joining other amazing families in their own journey. 

Melanie from Our Ash Grove
Jules from A Little Crafty Nest
Melody from Bespoke
Sarah from Our Island Home
Tonya from Joyful Living
Taisa from Small Wonders
Lisa from Hullabaloo Homestead
Renee from Heirloom Seasons

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

MamaAshGrove May 13, 2014 at 6:17 pm

This is a lovely post, Heather. I firmly believe in listening to ourselves, and how food affects us- because I don’t believe it is necessarily black or white either, we are all so different. And yes, helping our children to recognize this is so important!


a little crafty nest May 13, 2014 at 11:34 pm

Wonderfully written, Heather. I understand all you wrote as if we grew up together. We ate well, but in a different way than my family eats now. Sunshine’s diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes reinforced just how important it is to eat well and ENJOY eating well. Thank you for sharing…I am off to check more of FIMBY’s recipes!
xo Jules
P.S. Your pinterest board is full of yummy things, too!


Sarah May 14, 2014 at 4:28 pm

Great post Heather! Thank you for the recipes. I too love many of Renee’s recipes.


Jen May 20, 2014 at 9:22 pm

Thank you for an incredibly thoughtful post on not only what feeds us but what really nourishes us. We have had similar experiences with three children and multiple allergies. It can be exausting. My children are older now, and when they eat something they “shouldn’t” there are natural consequences that encourage them to make a better choice next time. Kuddos, and thank you. I enjoy your blog immensely. 🙂


Melinda Taylor Kelly May 23, 2014 at 6:54 pm

I love this post, it is wonderful. I cannot wait to try some of the recipes.


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