I’m excited to share my experiences from a sponsored trip with Pacific Coast Producers last month, but this is not a sponsored post- I simply want to share some exciting and meaningful information with y’all!
I had the pleasure of attending the Heart of California Orchard and Field tour at the end of August. I couldn’t be more grateful for the experience and how it’s already impacting the decisions I make in my own home! I’m so excited to share the highlights of the trip and the moments and knowledge that resonated the most with me.
Pacific Coast Producers is a cooperative of about 160 farms. These farms often belong to third and fourth generation farmers, which is always so touching to me to see families pass down their livelihood throughout the generations. These family farmers put their blood, sweat and tears into growing crops that get preserved into cans in canneries just a few miles away from the farm. I had the privilege of learning about (and picking!) peaches at Micheli Farms and observing a tomato harvest at Joe Muller & Sons Farm. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I even did an Instagram live while riding on a tomato truck that was harvesting tomatoes. It got a little bumpy and juicy on that truck, but that was pretty close to a bucket-list experience for this dietitian nerd!
Spending time with these farmers was such a humbling experience for several reasons, but the most valuable realizations came through watching the farm to canning process from start to finish. I’ll be the first to admit that in my house, sometimes canned foods tend to be low on the totem pole compared to other forms of produce, but I truly don’t feel that way anymore. I always knew canned foods have a place, but now I feel like I have a more powerful story and connection to these foods that have been preserved for our consumption and can help families get just one more serving of fruits and veggies every day!
The last night we had a time of reflection and shared what experiences were most valuable. I’m sure I sounded like an airhead, but in complete transparency I shared how unlike other forms of fruits and vegetables, I didn’t really make a connection between the farm where the produce was grown and the end product. Somehow in my mind I didn't associate canned fruits and vegetables with their origin- a farm. Did you know (because I sure didn’t!) that the length of time from orchard to can for peaches is only about 8 hours (and sometimes less!)? Tomatoes often are in the can in about 2 hours after being harvested and watching that process was truly mesmerizing. I’m not even kidding when I say I can’t wait to make more recipes with canned tomatoes!
And because it had been a while since I brushed up on my canned food nutrition, I was excited to re-learn that nutrients are sometimes even higher in canned foods. For examples, folate in canned peaches is actually up to 10 times higher than fresh! And lycopene, an important phytonutrient in tomatoes, is absorbed 2.5 times better in canned tomatoes than fresh. We even got to sit on some brand new research on fresh apricots and canned. Apricots are such a fragile fruit and canning them (or freezing them) is an excellent way to preserve their lifespan and also reduce food waste that could easily result from fruit quickly spoiling.
Sustainability and food waste were hot topics during the tour and one more area I’ve been doing some soul searching on. Did you know that 40% of all food we produce in the United States ends up in a landfill? Although food waste comes from many sources, our homes are the most frequent culprit. The average consumer wastes 300 pounds of food annually and I know I can do a better job of minimizing food waste in my own house by eating more leftovers, purchasing less food, starting to compost and also purchasing more canned foods. Not only do canned foods help minimize wasted food with their more generous expiration date, they also can give confidence in terms of seasonality (many of us don’t know what’s in season or not) and you can have faith in their production regarding efficiency and sustainability practices! I was blown away at all that’s being done at the Pacific Coast Producers canneries and how every single part of the fruit or vegetable is used. Even if it’s used to water grass that will feed livestock, it’s used- there is very little to no waste happening with the production of these canned foods!
I recognize these experiences I’m sharing with you are likely ones most folks won’t experience first hand. I wish my family, friends, clients and every consumer could visit these farms and watch gorgeous produce make it’s way to a cannery to be preserved for the years to come, but I know that isn’t the case. I hope these personal snippets will inspire you to keep canned fruits and vegetables in your pantry and not only use them as a last resort! We ALL need more fruits and veggies in our life and canned foods are one of the easiest ways to help us get closer to the minimum 5 servings a day we all need! Thanks for letting me share my heart about this special trip!
Duda Farms Fresh Foods is a brand I enjoy working with, but this is not a sponsored post. I'm just excited to share fun ways kiddos can enjoy Ants on a Log!
Did you know there's actually a National Ants on a Log Day? It's the second Tuesday in September every year and it gets me excited because I love anything that celebrates fruits and vegetables and it can be a fun way to encourage kiddos to eat more of both! I especially love making Ants on a Log with Dandy Celery because it's less stringy! They actually have 5 PhDs on staff and their job is to work with Mother Nature to make the celery sweeter and crisper than other varieties. So when trying to get kiddos to try new fruits or vegetables, in this case- celery, it's always helpful to pick up one that has less strings!
Y'all know I love creating healthy, fun and creative lunches (I actually made a whole post on Bento Box lunches last month)! Different variations of Ants on a Log are perfect for Bento Box style lunches, a lunch at home or even an afternoon snack! And these are NOT your grandma's Ants on a Log- from sweet to savory to holiday-themed, check out these fun options that will definitely have your kiddos excited about lunch and maybe even trying a new food!
1.) Here are some of my favorite sweet options! What kiddo doesn't love a PB & J? Well take that love for the classic straight to the celery stick and make these super cute PB & J celery boats.
2.) If your kiddo loves S' mores, they will love this twist on the campfire classic! PB & Co Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter + graham cracker crumbs + mini marshmallows. Can lunch get any cuter and delicious?
3.) One of the easiest swap outs for the classic Ants on a Log are these Apples on a Log- creamy peanut butter with sweet and crunch apple. 4.) I also like this version with pumpkin spice peanut butter for a super fun seasonal treat. Pb & Co makes the perfect pumpkin peanut butter that gets me excited every fall!
5.) Now for those who love savory a little more than sweet, check out these fun creations! Ants on a Log went for a swim in these Fish up A River celery sticks! Simply spread your favorite hummus flavor in a piece of celery and top with whole grain Goldfish. 6.) This also works great with pretzels or popcorn!
7.) Another easy favorite is to fill up a celery boat with cream cheese (if your kiddos like ranch, I'd suggest the vegetable cream cheese flavor!) and put fresh diced cucumber and tomato on top. 8 & 9.) You could also try pimento cheese or guacamole bites to be different!
10.) Celery also makes the perfect dipper or boat for chicken salad! You can snag this super simple 5 Ingredient Chicken Salad Recipe below!
This recipe is a piece of cake to whip together and has kid-friendly ingredients like mandarin oranges and cranberries! It has a creamy and smooth texture that goes perfectly with crisp celery!
5 Ingredient Cranberry Orange Chicken Salad
Time: 10 minutes
Makes 4 servings
1 12.5oz can of chicken breast, drained
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp chopped almonds
1/3 cup mandarin oranges
2 Tbsp avocado mayo
salt & pepper
Celery Sticks for dipping and to make Chicken Salad Boats
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I'm thrilled to partner with California Giant Berry Farms for this post. As always, all opinions are my own. I had the pleasure of visiting California Giant Berry Farms in June and learn all about the family business and non-GMO strawberries that are never sprayed with pesticides! Their naturally large strawberries are the perfect addition to these kid-friendly bento box lunches!
Ready or not, back to school time is officially here. And chances are, most of us really aren't ready. This time of year always ends up feeling daunting and chaotic. I'd say at least half the families I work with end up needing to reschedule their sessions because everything going on! But just like many other stressful seasons, the #1 key to success is planning ahead. And I'm thrilled to share some helpful tips and lunchbox ideas that kids won't throw away or come back home with a full lunchbox!
Bento boxes are all the rage and rightfully so- they make for the cutest, while still practical containers for a child's lunch. Since we eat with our eyes first, it only makes sense that the more attractive and kid-friendly the lunch, the more likely they are to eat it! And with big juicy strawberries- what's not to like? California Giant strawberries are naturally large because of the perfect climate and soil they grow in, making them eye candy and tasting super sweet!
As much as most kids love a PB & J, including unexpected and fun foods like pasta salads, pin wheels or even a fruit salad is a great way to liven up lunch. If your immediate thought is "My kid would never eat ________"- try including ONE new thing with other liked and familiar foods, like strawberries, blueberries or their other favorite fruit. Often times moms (and dads) go all out packing what they think is the coolest and healthiest lunch, but the kiddo is overwhelmed and even fearful of that many new foods. Try just one and consider including a favorite condiment or dipping sauce to entice them further!
KISS Tip: Try cutting a wrap into pinwheels- little hands love the pinwheels it makes a wrap easier to eat.
KISS Tip: Put a really thin layer of cream cheese on the inside of a wrap- it helps prevent sandwiches or wraps from getting soggy! The most popular KISS in the Kitchen recipe is actually this Viva Fiesta Turkey Wrap where I used some veggie cream cheese and also created pinwheels!
Don't be afraid to "not pack a main meal". Many parents are concerned if they don't pack a sandwich or "entree", there isn't enough food! That couldn't be farther from the truth and often kids enjoy eating a lunch comprised of "heavier snacks" than a real meal.
Consider these protein-style Bento boxes options:
2 Hard Boiled Eggs + handful nuts + Cheese Stick + Strawberries + Carrots with Ranch
Turkey + cheese rollups + Olives + hummus + edamame + Blueberries
Cheese cubes + Ham cubes + Greek Yogurt + cucumbers + Strawberries + Blueberries
For more back to school hacks, including 10 recipes, head on over to California Giant Berry Farm's website to snag the free e-Book download and enter to win their Fresh Start sweepstakes where one grand-prize winner will get a $500 Visa gift card and 2 secondary winners will receive a $150 Visa gift card!
Here are a few other healthy ideas that save you time, money or both!
-Pre-prep breakfast by creating DIY Instant Oatmeal Packets (this saves money plus you can control how much sugar actually goes in there) or pre-portion and freeze individual smoothie baggies. You can find a multitude of recipes on Pinterest for both of these, but get creative and inspired by what your kiddos like!
A great basic recipe is 1 cup strawberries and blueberries + 1/2 banana + 3/4 cup spinach placed in a freezer safe resealable bag and frozen until ready for use. Remove from freezer, place ingredients in a blender and add ~1 cup of your favorite milk. Blend in a high-powered blender until smooth. Add yogurt, tofu or your favorite protein powder for a protein boost!
-Make batches of Snack Bites or bars like these Creamy Cashew Lemon Bites or these Gluten-Free Blueberry Oat Squares.
-Bust out the crockpot and ask your friends to do the same. Instead of just picking out a new recipe, talk to the moms in your circle and have everyone pick a recipe. Not only does that help with meal planning accountability, but you can share the results and figure out what recipes are the easiest and tastiest!
-Make sheet pan dinners! Almost as popular as Bento boxes, sheet plan meals are recipes that allow you to put everything on the same sheet and it cooks at the same time and temperature! Check out this Southwest Breakfast Sheet Pan Bake I just made last week!
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One of my favorite things is hearing feedback from my clients about how their kiddos tried a new food or liked something new in their lunch- would love to hear what new foods your kiddos are trying too! Wishing y'all a safe and blessed back-to-school season! <3 Shannon
Welcome to KISS in the Kitchen! I'm Shannon, and my dad always told me "Keep it simple, Shannon". And that's what you'll find here- simple recipes and simple ideas to help you get healthier and happier.