My Life With Twins: Meal Planning for Your Growing Family

Families raising twins or more  are, by definition, feeding a larger than average family.

babies eating
Mealtime is aways an adventure!

Because of their larger size, and the added expenses to manage larger family dynamics, meal planning is crucial for MoMs (Mothers of Multiples).

I am a habitual meal planner. Meal planning stems from my love of reading cookbooks, food blogs, and magazines, scouring them for new things to feed my family.

However, I am not a consistent meal planner. Some weeks I plan my menus down to dessert and snacks, some weeks I plan a rough outline of five or six dinners to make for the week, and some weeks I depend on some”old standby” meals to fill out my meal plans.

There are so many resources available to help you plan your meals, that I thought I would compile them here for your reference.

  • My dear friend Essie hosts a weekly Menu Plan Monday, complete with recipes and a link up every Monday.
  • The Meal Makeover Moms recorded a great podcast on meal planning. Their weekly podcasts are a must listen and a huge resource for feeding your family.
  • Michelle at Make 5 Dinners in ONE Hour has a great blog and subscription meal planning service that features healthful, varied, kid friendly meals that can be made ahead in just one hour a week! I’ve followed several of her meal plans and several of her recipes have become new family favorites. Her blog is also FULL of great recipes and time and money saving food tips!
  • My friend Megan plans her meals out a month at a time. She even plans for some yummy breakfasts and great snacks and desserts! She is a great cook (and mom), he meal planning inspires me!
  • Do you want a cookbook that will lay out an entire year of seasonal menu plans for you? And gives you a shopping list? And includes a dessert Then A Dinner a Day: Complete Meals in Minutes for Every Weeknight of the Year is for you! I bought this cookbook back in 1999, and I cooked from it for 52 weeks! We ate such a varied and interesting diet! It is now out in Kindle edition as well, and I am tempted to download it to my iPad, it really is good enough to own twice!
  • Do you want to do the menu planning all on your own? Here is a great first step, and a great way to facilitate dinnertime conversation: ask everyone to list their top ten dinners, as well as their bottoms ten. Use this as a springboard for family dinner ideas. For example, Megan always has either tacos or pizza for Friday night dinner. My family loves chili and spaghetti, so we have one or the other every week. Once you know what your family loves, it is easy to line up a week’s worth of family fare!

Chime in! Do you plan your meals weekly, monthly, or right before it is time to make dinner? Do you have to make allowances for your “multiple blessings?” I’d love to hear from you!

Do you have twins, are expecting twins or know someone who is? Make sure you click on over to my “Got Twins?” page and learn more about the wonders of twindom! Lots of advice and experience from pregnancy, breast feeding and beyond!

How to Prevent Childhood Obesity: Start in Your Kitchen

The facts are staggering. Childhood obesity is a major problem in America. How is it that a nation that is so obsessed with health and dieting has such a high rate of childhood obesity?

Statistics show that nearly 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese! I have six children. Statistically, 2 of them should be overweight. However, all six are slim and fit! If you were to view the genetics of both sides of our family you would see that Dakotapam’s children are genetically predisposed to being at least a little chubby.

How have we managed to (so far) beat the childhood obesity odds?

  1. I cook from scratch and use real foods. The temptation when trying to control your own weight, or that of your children is to prepare and serve “diet” foods. If you were to peek in my refrigerator and pantry you would be hard pressed to find any reduced fat, or sugar-free artificially sweetened foods. In my experience, full fat foods (in moderation) are more satisfying and closer to their natural state. A more satisfying meal leads to less over-consumption. Also, many reduced fat, fat free and sugar free foods have added extra ingredients (many of which you cannot pronounce) to make up for what is missing. So, in our kitchen I cook with butter, and real cheese, and full fat milk. I also make many of my own sauces, and very rarely use packaged mixes.
  2. I serve more water. When you attempt beginning a diet, the first thing you do is up your water consumption. Proper hydration is essential to our health and water is the perfect liquid. However, the temptation is to give our kids lots of juices and sports drinks and excessive amounts of cow’s milk instead of water. The current AAP guideline is that children ages 1-6 should have no more than 4-6 ounces of juice, and older children should be limited to 8-12 ounces of juice a day. Preference should be given to eating actual fruit over fruit juices. The AAP recommends  2 cups of milk/dairy for children ages 1-7 and 3 cups a day for ages 8-18. In our family our children get enough fruit juice and dairy before dinner, so our dinner beverage is water.
  3. I rethought my fruitbowl. I always have a bowl of fruit available to the kids for snacks. I have found that they appreciate vegetable options as well. Whole, peeled carrots are a treat for my bigger kids, and they also enjoy raw broccoli and cauliflower dipped in some Ranch dressing. Apples are an ideal, portable snack, and my kids learn to eat whole apples from a very young age. Spend some time a few days a week preparing fruits and vegetables for family snacking. The fiber in fruits and vegetables helps fill up little tummies and you are teaching healthy snack strategies.
  4. I got my kids involved in meal planning. My boys know where I store the cookbooks and food magazines and have been known to thumb through them. When they see a new dish that interests them, I make sure to try it out on my next meal plan. My kids are more willing to try new foods if they are involved in the planning process. We also have fun theme food nights, such as different ethnic foods, Superbowl foods, movie themed meals. We also talk about what makes certain foods healthier than others. As a matter of fact, we talk about food a lot; where it comes from, how it is produced, the benefits to our bodies and the like.
  5. I break the rules sometimes. Let your kids know that it is OK to splurge sometimes. My kids look forward to soft drinks with popcorn for our at home movie nights (I am so thankful that some soft drink brands are going back to sweetening with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup). I have a sweet tooth and that comes out at dessert time several times a week! The key is keeping most of your diet healthy, so that the splurges are the exception and not the rule!

So, chime in!  How are you preventing childhood obesity in your home? I’d love to hear from you!

Chicken Pasta Soup

This is the soup I made for my family on Monday evening. It is from a new cookbook that I picked up at the book fair, called Keeping Good Company . This cookbook is full of down to earth, non-gourmet, wholesome family foods. I chose the Chicken Pasta Soup because, as many of you know, I am the Soup Nazi of Bismarck, and I am constantly searching for a new soup to tweak. This is a nice change from my classic chicken noodle and I am impressed by the volume of vegetables I could sneak in. This is not a quick and easy soup. It took me well over an hour to prepare. It is also not low fat,  but if you ever saw the boys in bathing suits you would see that I am not needing to restrict their fat intake any time soon. I did redeem it somewhat by using whole wheat penne as the pasta…and not one of them noticed the switcheroo! So, without further ado:

Chicken Pasta Soup
6-8 Chicken breast tenders (I used 20 ounces of fancy free range vegetarian fed chicken thighs that I got on major sale)
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
4 T. Olive Oil
1/2 cup butter (divided in half)
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced thin, crosswise
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup flour
2 (14 oz) cans chicken broth
ground red pepper to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp dried basil
2 cups half and half (I was out so I used whole milk)
4 oz sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup sugar snap peas (I was out, and used frozen peas instead)
1 T. sugar
6-8  oz. Penne Pasta
Sprinkle chicken with seasoned salt. Saute in olive oil over medium heat for about six minutes per side or until done. Remove chicken and set aside to cool.
In the same pan , melt 1/4 cup butter. Over medium heat cook onion, celery and carrot until limp. Add flour, stirring until smooth.
Gradually add chicken broth, stirring constantly. Turn heat to low. 
Slice chicken into thin strips, add to broth along with red and black pepper and basil. Slowly add half and half, stir and heat through.
Melt remaining butter in a large, shallow bowl int he microwave. Combine mushrooms, peas and sugar and cook on high for three minutes, stirring once, midway. Fold this into soup mixture on the stove and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain well and add immediately to soup.
 A complete meal when served with hot, crusty bread.
Serves 10-12 ( if all of your family and friends eat recommended serving sizes…feeds 6 Thompsons with some left-over).
This soup also created a kitchen full of dishes to wash…a sign of a good recipe for sure…I gave the boys the night off and I tackled the kitchen, which was made more pleasant now that I have an iPod and an adapter to hook it to my undercounter radio.
The Rev. and I think that it tastes like chicken pot pie and next time I will make it with crusty biscuits to float on top.
This meal redeemed me from a few weeks of yuck, sprinkled with fast food…even good cooks lose their Mojo sometimes!
Enjoy! And let me know if you try this recipe!