Tag Archives: parenting

Making Halloween a Little Less Scary

With Halloween right around the corner, I have been giving a lot of thought to the menu for our annual block party. We are hosting the party at our house this year, and I hope to serve some delicious finger foods to fill up our bellies before hitting the streets.

I haven’t settled on the menu yet, but here are some items that I am considering:

  • Vampire Drool
  • Orzo with Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
  • Sticky and Slightly Spicy (Bat) Wings
  • Spiced Pecans
  • Marinated Mini-Mozzarella (eye) Balls with Pita Crisps
  • Sour Cream and Scallion Dip with Sweet Potato Chips and Carrot Fingers
  • Mummy Pizzas that the kids will make themselves (Just pull apart string cheese and lay it on an English Muffin topped with a little marinara…Add some sliced olives for eyes and voila – you have a mummy pizza!)
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Brownie Cake – Absolutely delicious! (We had a bit of buttermilk left over from waffles this weekend, so I used that instead of the sour soy milk she recommended.)

Update: Here are some photos of our food from the Halloween party.  Pictured, you will see Vampire Drool with a Green Ice Hand, Marinated Mozzarella Eyeballs with Pita Crisps, Orzo with Roasted Vegetables and Bat Wings.  Everything was a hit, although I was reprimanded by my daughter for not making enough Bat Wings.  They were gone in a flash!

Vampire Drool with a Green Ice Hand      Marinated Mozzarella Eyeballs    Orzo with Roasted Vegetables     Bat Wings

Although I can control the quality of the foods I’ll be serving at home, I can’t control what will be doled out by the neighbors.

Kids are often afraid of the sights and sounds that meet them when the doors at each home creek open…but the truly frightening experience lies in the ingredients of the foods that they are collecting: partially hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, alkali, chemicals, artificial colorings and more…

There is no sense in banning candy – that will only make everyone want it more (parents included…admit it!). But it might be worth a few moments to read some of the labels in your stash, just to see what you are consuming and how it will affect you. It just might help prevent you from over-indulging.

In some homes, parents have created a wonderful compromise – Kids select a few of their favorite treats to keep and trade the rest with you for a toy, trip to the movies or some new books.

If you would like to promote a Healthier Halloween yourself, leave the candy at the store. Instead, pick up some flower or herb seed packets, pencils, colored markers, stickers or small card games to distribute instead.



Filed under Meal Planning, Musings of a Cooking Teacher..., Nutrition and News, Recipes

Picky Eaters – They Get It From You

The What’s Cooking Blog has moved: Please visit us at our new location: whatscookingblog.com

Hey, don’t shoot the messenger! This is a title of an article that my husband told me about in the New York Times…

I found it to be very interesting, especially their explanation of how evolutionary biology plays a part in why children are (and should be) cautious about certain foods.

The article also supports what I have been promoting:

  • Don’t be a short order cook. Make one family meal each night and don’t cater to the little drill sergeants in your kitchen. (We do that enough the rest of the day!)
  • Lying to your kids may not be the best policy.
  • Be persistent – It can take 8-12 exposures to a new food before it may be liked…or tasted!

For those of you who are fairly new to my blog, I thought I’d refer you to one of my earliest posts about some power struggles that I was having with my son. Because I Said So… describes how Ari and I avoid battle engagement at the dinner table.

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Filed under Cooking with Kids, Meal Planning, Musings of a Cooking Teacher...

Because I said so…

The What’s Cooking Blog has moved: Please visit us at our new location: whatscookingblog.com


Let’s be honest. Have you ever felt that parenting was a losing battle? You do what you think is best, but the end result is frequently a battle and a temper tantrum…sometimes thrown by you. Lately, my 5 year old son and I have been experiencing this more often than I care to admit. He is defiant and persistent and wears me down until I start doubting my parenting skills. Yet, surprisingly, we have been doing remarkably well during dinner, the venue of struggle for many other families.


Instead of sitting down to a pleasant meal, parents are frequently bombarded with complaints about the food being served. Worn down by repeated objections, weary parents comply with the wishes of their children and give them alternatives, such as yogurt, frozen fish sticks, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese. Don’t be disheartened. Be proud. You have such intelligent children! They know that if they are persistent enough, they will get what they want. Why should they eat what is being served if they can have whatever they want afterwards?


Look at this as a learning opportunity. We have already seen that persistence usually pays off…but remember that it goes both ways! It usually takes between 8-12 exposures of a new food before people will enjoy it. So, beat ‘em at their own game. Give them their dinner and nothing else. Eventually, if they are hungry enough, they will eat it. Don’t worry that Child Protective Services will come knocking on your door – no child has ever willingly starved himself to death when there is food available.


How did I manage to avoid a riot when implementing these ideas?

  • I am NOT a short order cook, and my kids know it.
  • I invite them to help me select the recipes we prepare each week. My kids are opinionated and love to tell me what they think. We gather recipes from a variety of sources and they help to pick ones that sound good.
  • I invite my kids to help me cook. (No, I am not crazy! I am not handing them the chef’s knife and going to sit on the sofa to eat bon-bons…) We work together to complete some of the steps of the recipe. Sometimes they help with only one or two steps, such as peeling the garlic or measuring, but other times they become so enthusiastic that they help with the whole recipe! Kids are infinitely more likely to taste a recipe that they have helped to prepare. They take all of the credit when a meal turns out well, and happily eat their fill.


For now, I’ll chalk up our success at the dinner table to my years of experience teaching cooking classes to children. This seems to be the only area in which I can avoid power struggles with my son, and don’t catch myself saying the words that I swore I would never say…”Because I said so!” He eats because he wants to. He eats because he likes it. And best of all, he eats because he helped to make it himself.

By Michelle Stern
Founder of What’s Cooking and What’s Cooking Weekly:
Cooking Classes and Gifts for Children and a Healthy Online Menu Subscription Service for Families



Filed under Cooking with Kids, Meal Planning, Musings of a Cooking Teacher...