Ditch the Middle School Drama

Happy New Year! 2017 is off to a very busy start. One day I hope to have more time to blog regularly. For now, here’s my most recent article that was published in the January issue of Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine. I hope it might help any of you struggling with mean behavior from your child’s peers. Gotta run! 

Bullies and exclusive cliques have long been a struggle for adolescents, but today’s world presents our youth with new and bigger challenges. Here are some tips from psychologists, teachers and other moms to help your tween cope with mean behavior from their peers.

When we grew up, bullies were known to torment the short kid on the bus, steal the freshman’s lunch, pull girls hair during gym class or gossip behind our back. Back then, teachers would see it happen and could intervene. These days, so much of mean behavior happens out of sight or earshot of adults. It is usually tied to social media where students post pictures, send snapchats and comment on posts using language and pictures that can really hurt the feelings of others. Responses are fired back immediately before parents or adults have had the opportunity to help the child cool off, reflect and decide how to handle it the next day at school.

“When we were kids, we might have heard about something mean someone else said about us. Today, adolescents are actually seeing it in writing on the internet for all their peers to see too,” says Tira Stebbins, Clinical Psychologist.

“One of the most common behaviors I see is when students post pictures from parties to intentionally hurt the feelings of students who were not invited,” says Jennifer Bencko, School Psychologist at Chagrin Falls Middle School. Social media takes “mean behavior” or bullying to a different level by positing it for the world to see. Bencko says, “This impacts victims even more because they feel so vulnerable.”

Tweens are very focused on peer acceptance and are fixated on feeling like they belong. “It can at times cause worry, anxiety and poor decision making in order to gain this desired acceptance,” says Kelly Stukus, mother of two and Curriculum Consultant.


So what’s a parent to do when they see their child feeling down, struggling with “mean behavior” from their peers? It’s impossible to shield your child from “mean behavior” completely and while we would prefer it never happens at all, learning to persevere through such situations and to live amongst people like these are actually an important part of growing up. But here are some ways to help your child avoid unpleasant experiences with bullies and to prepare them for mean people in life.


Preparing your child to withstand this sort of behavior or not to turn into the bully themselves, actually starts very early on in their lives. It is paramount that you practice what you preach and continue to do so as your children transform into teens, even if they may act as if they are ignoring everything you do or say. By modeling kindness, confidence and tolerance of our differences, you are teaching them the most important lessons they will need as tweens and throughout their lives. “Kids are smart and can sniff out hypocrisy,” said one local mom of a 14, 13 and 11-year-old. “If you say to be kind and then treat people horribly, they will emulate that behavior.”

Raise your children to understand the impact they have on others and to believe in themselves. “Help them learn to discover their inner self and teach them to stand up for that,” says Michelle Koehler, a mom of four children ages 18, 16, 14 and 11. “Helping to find their truths and what they think independently of you starts becoming evident during the tween years.”


“The biggest advice I would give parents is to monitor their child’s use of social media,” says Bencko. While you can’t possibly see every snapchat or post or know everything they are reading or seeing, it is important to observe and limit social media use as best you can. “Follow your child on social media, keep the lines of communication open and watch for behavioral changes in your children,” says Bencko. Parents who are oblivious to what is going on online are often blind sighted by bad situations.

Most middle schoolers do not have the self control and are not capable of managing time spent on social media. It is a skill they need to learn over time. Phone use by tweens should not be unsupervised. If you wouldn’t let your 12-year-old have a boy in her room, then she shouldn’t be allowed to use her phone alone in her room. It is essentially the same thing.

For those just starting out with tweens, Dr. Tira Stebbins suggests that parents create a sort of contract when they first give their child their own phone. Lay out your expectations specifically. Ensure that your child understands that the phone belongs to you, the parent, and that you are giving them the opportunity to borrow it. That way, if it is misused, you have an easier way to take it away from them. “It is a lot harder to pull back their use of the phone than it is to slowly give them freedom to use the phone more, once they show they can handle it,” says Stebbins.


But what about when your child has already experienced an incident and is feeling emotional and vulnerable? Dr. Stebbins recommends doing lots of listening. Let your child vent and then offer confirmation of their feelings. Be careful not to be too critical. It’s easy to begin pointing out mistakes your child might have made, but to your child that feels condemnatory. Stebbins suggests asking your child if they would like your advice before offering solutions. “As parents we want to swoop in and solve the problem. It’s usually best to think of yourself as a coach, to problem solve together and collaborate on ideas,” says Stebbins. Talk to them about which friends make them feel good and contribute to their happiness versus those that make them feel bad. Even consider doing some role playing to help them find the words to address the situation next time they see the culprit.

“I think listening a lot instead of always providing solutions right away is important,” says Michelle Koehler. “Help your children problem solve through situations and interactions and guide them.” She suggests asking them what they think and how they feel. It helps them learn to analyze and figure out their own solutions.


If “mean behavior” escalates from a child not including your daughter to humiliating her time and time again despite your child’s efforts to ignore it, you may be dealing with full-on “bullying.” When you’ve tried everything and the behavior is not stopping or is getting worse, it may be time to intervene. But do be aware that you run the risk of the situation potentially getting worse before it gets better.

Be diligent, but not so much that your child feels as though they’ve lost all their independence. Try to have faith in all the love you’ve given them and the good qualities you’ve instilled in them all along.

“While I could attempt to restrict their access to social media, the important lesson becomes teaching them to be children of good character. To reinforce the importance of kindness, acceptance and tolerance and to model those traits for them.”

When in doubt, share with your child these very wise words from a bright 12-year-old I recently heard from. “Don’t make yourself into someone else to please someone who is judging you. Make yourself be you, because the friends you love… love that person.”

Get Cookie-ing


To some, baking holiday cookies with kids sounds like a recipe for disaster. It’s not difficult to imagine all the mess and the drama. But with a pinch of preparation and a dash of extra patience, baking with your children can be educational and, yes, even a lot of fun! Here are some mom tested tips for a successful baking experience, reminders about why baking together is so beneficial, along with a couple of classic holiday cookie recipes that are perfect to make with children.


  • FOLLOW DIRECTIONS – A child’s health and safety can depend on her ability to follow orders and kids function better in school and sports when they know how to carry out instructions. Not to mention, mom and dad are much happier when their children do as they’re told. Following the directions in a recipe together offers a chance for positive, upbeat instruction with a tangible outcome.
  • WAIT YOUR TURN- Baking together offers a great opportunity to help your children practice taking turns. Your turn to pour in the flour, my turn to add the sugar, your sister’s turn to add the salt. It’s an important life skill with which young children can always use more practice.
  • MATH SKILLS – What better way to learn about fractions than to measure out a half a cup of milk and see in person that two halves make a whole? Younger children can help count the number of eggs going in the bowl and the number of cookies coming out of the oven. Yet, it’s all so fun they won’t even realize they’re learning math in the process.
  • PRACTICE READING – Recipe reading offers potential for new, challenging words and the opportunity to build on your child’s vocabulary.
  • FINE MOTOR SKILLS – Pouring, scooping, measuring, and mixing are all excellent tasks for building a child’s coordination of small muscle movements. Practicing these fine motor skills when it’s ok to get messy, allows kids to be successful when serving themselves food at meal time.


  • SENSORY EXPERIENCE – The feel of soft dough in your hands, the smell of your creation cooking in the oven, the taste of your finished product and the “oohs and aahs” of happy taste testers; baking is a feast for the senses. Children learn best and retain the most information when they engage their senses and many of our favorite memories are associated with one or more of our senses too.
  • LEARN ABOUT REAL FOOD – Cooking together is the best lesson in how to eat a “real food” or “clean” diet. By adding in each ingredient individually, it offers an opportunity for discussion about where real foods come from, like the milk that came from a cow, the eggs that came from a chicken and the flour that came from wheat. Yes, baking almost always includes sugar too, but it is a valuable time to talk about balance and moderation. In my book, this is one of the most important lessons you can teach children when it comes to healthy eating. If you always say no to sweets, it becomes the “forbidden fruit” and when they do have access to it, they will not know how to self regulate.
  • ADVENTUROUS PALATE – Children who prepare food with their parents are more likely to eat a variety of different foods. Cooking together offers kids the chance to taste the ingredients as they are going in to the dish, thus making the end result less scary and more appealing.
  • A LESSON IN ANCESTRY- Most of us remember baking with our parents or even our grandparents as a child. Preparing these time honored recipes with our own children allows us the chance to tell stories about family they may not have known and pass along traditions from generation to generation.


  • BUILDS CREATIVITY – Cut out cookies are like a blank canvas for creating a colorful masterpiece. The more sprinkles and decorations the better!
  • BUILDS CONFIDENCE – When they see that their hard work resulted in a beautiful and tasty treat, they’ll feel satisfied in their effort and gain confidence in their abilities.


GET ORGANIZED – Set up the kitchen by bringing out all the tools and ingredients you’ll need before you call them in to get started. To minimize bickering, set up each child at a separate area of the counter (with a stool for young children). Consider buying child sized tools. Give them each their own little bowls of sprinkles and other decorations to choose from. They will most certainly dip their dirty little fingers in each of them and lick and dip again. If they aren’t cross contaminating or fighting over who got more gum drops, you can relax… a little. Try creating a sort of “batting order” listing in which order they will take turns adding ingredients.

BREAK IT DOWN – When setting out on your baking adventure, try breaking it down into stages to keep their interest and minimize fighting. For example, with cut out cookies, try making the dough together before nap time. Refrigerate it while they’re sleeping. Then let them roll, cut and bake before dinner. Set the cookies aside to cool while the kids play and eat dinner. Decorate the cookies after dinner or even the next day. Some moms even recommend doing the baking yourself and just letting the kids do the decorating.

EXPECT A MESS – It goes without saying that baking with kids is messy. There will be flour and sugar and icing on the floor and on their clothes, maybe even in their hair. And there will be lots of dishes! Don’t schedule a baking session just after you cleaned your house or gave them baths. Wear old clothes or maybe even a full body aprons! Embrace it if you can. Messy can sometimes be fun if you’re in the right frame of mind and it does make for a great photo op.


BE PATIENT – Baking with children always takes longer than it would if you were to do it all on your own. While there will be recipes that you do want to make alone, try to remain patient even just through one recipe and remind yourself of all the reasons why it is beneficial for them to help out.

DON’T LEAVE THE KITCHEN – To avoid any trips to the emergency room, never leave the kitchen while baking with your kids. Children need constant supervision around hot stoves and sharp knives and to ensure they don’t lick the bowl of icing clean before you decorate the cookies.

LET GO OF PERFECTION – Your finished product will likely not be magazine cover worthy or ready to be “pinned” on your favorite social media sites. Perhaps you shouldn’t plan to use the cookies you made with the kids for your upcoming holiday dinner party. Us Type A, perfectionist moms do struggle with this. Focus instead on the fun you’ll have together. Your cookies may not be “perfect.” In fact, cookies made with kids are virtually a spot-on metaphor for life with children; messy, busy, colorful and oh so sweet. Like your life, cookies made with kids are “perfectly imperfect.”


If I only get around to making one batch of cookies each holiday season, cut out cookies are it. Here is my favorite recipe passed down from my mother.



•3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

•1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

•1/2 teaspoon salt

•20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

•1 cup sugar

•1 large egg

•1 tablespoon milk

•2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

•1/4 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (optional)


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

*  Decorations of your choice.

(e.g. sprinkles, red hots, chocolate chips, coconut, marshmallows, etc).

In a large bowl, whisk together thoroughly the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl beat together the butter and sugar. To the butter mixture, add the egg, milk, vanilla and lemon zest and beat well. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended and smooth.

Place the dough on a flat surface and shape into a large ball. Divide the dough in half. Place each half between two large sheets of wax or parchment paper. Roll out to a 1/4 inch think, checking the underside of the dough and smoothing any creases. Keeping the paper in place, layer the rolled dough on a baking sheet and refrigerate until cold and slightly firm, about 30 minutes. (Or longer if you want to split up the job to keep you kids’ interest).

Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. Working with one portion at a time (leave the other refrigerated), gently peel away and replace one sheet of the paper. (This will make it easier to lift the cookies from the paper later.) Peel away and discard the second sheet. Cut out the cookies using 2 or 3 inch cutters. With a spatula, transfer them to the cookie sheets, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Roll the dough scraps and continue cutting out cookies until all the dough is used; briefly refrigerate the dough if it becomes too soft to handle.

If you’re not planning to ice all of the cookies, decorate some with colored sugar or nonpareils. Decorating a dozen or so before we baking them is nice because there aren’t quite so many to decorate with icing later on. Young children seem to get bored after doing just a few.

Bake, one sheet at a time, just until the cookies are lightly colored on top and slightly darker at the edges, 6 to 9 minutes; rotate the sheet halfway through baking for even browning. Remove the sheet to a rack and let stand until the cookies firm slightly. Transfer to cookies to racks to cool.

Stir together icing ingredients until desired consistency. Decorate cookies when completely cooled.

If you just don’t think you can muster the patience to handle cut out cookies with your kiddos, Magic Cookie Bars are a perfect treat to make with young children. You get the same benefits of baking together, yet there are fewer steps and less mess. These have always been a favorite cookie at our house over the holidays.


1 stick butter

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup chocolate morsels

1 cup butterscotch or peanut butter morsels

1 cup flaked coconut

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Melt butter in a small bowl. Add graham cracker crumbs and stir until well combined. Spray the bottom of a 13 x 9” baking dish and press crust into dish. Pour condensed milk over crumbs. Sprinkle with morsels, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly. Bake for 30 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool all the way through and cut into squares.

This article was published in the December 2016 issue of Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine

10 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

img_0562Hi! Remember me? Yes, I’m still here and I’m still running, for exercise (and for fun) but mostly as a “mom on the run” chasing after my three kids. Life these days feel busier then ever before. That is in fact why I haven’t written a post here in… 4 whole months?!?! I will continue to post in my spare time, whatever that is ;). Lately it feels like there is NO spare time and when there are even just a few moments of it, the first to-do on my list is sitting down to pour a tall glass of vino… or two.

My next post will be about what I’ve been up to these last four months. In short, I’m trying to run a business and run my household (at which I feel as though I am failing miserably), while also trying to change the world.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this article with you that was just published in the November issue of Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine. Those of you who follow me on social media know that I’m passionate about reducing food waste. I pitched this article to NEO Parent Magazine because it’s an issue that is so very important. A link to the article is listed at the bottom of this post.

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Picture Browns Stadium overflowing with garbage. That’s how much food is thrown away in our country every single day. It equates to each of us trashing about a half pound of food daily and totals more than 230 billion pounds of food squandered annually. Now also consider that eighty percent of our nation’s water, 40 percent of our land and 10 percent of our energy is used to grow our country’s food. And then there’s what it’s doing to our pocketbooks. Americans are wasting the equivalent of $100 billion in food each year. According to the NRDC, a family of four loses $1500 a year on wasted food. All the while, 40 million Americans are food insecure and 800 million people worldwide suffer from hunger.

It’s all enough to make you lose your lunch. Whether your concern is for the environment or for the well-being of your wallet, here are some ideas to help you and your family reduce food waste.


Estimates say we don’t eat 25 percent of what we bring home. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs indeed. While shopping, we get talked into things by our kids that we later decide we don’t want them to eat. We get suckered into the bountiful displays of farm fresh produce and buy more than we need because it looks so pretty. We want to make fewer trips to the grocery store, so we overload our carts while we’re there.

  • Try changing your shopping habits and purchase only what you need for the next few days. This way food won’t get buried in the depths of your refrigerator behind baby bottles and leftovers.
  • Plan ahead and shop from a list
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach.



Maybe you’ve noticed that the produce displayed beautifully in your market’s produce section looks photo ready; perfectly shaped with just the right hue. That’s not by accident and it’s not because all produce looks perfect. It’s only because your grocer thinks you expect perfection.

The dark truth is that 30 percent of food grown in the US never even makes it to your grocery store. Some gets plowed under or sent to the landfill because the orange peel is scratched, the potato is misshaped or the cauliflower is yellowish-white instead of all white, for example. Imperfect misfits get sent back to the wholesaler by grocery stores who know their customers want oranges with no scratches. Consumers demand for picture perfect produce is a huge part of the food waste crisis. While some items might look a little “imperfect” on the outside, most wasted produce is still completely fresh and safe and offers the same nutritional value as it’s airbrushed-looking counterpart.


Parents strive to teach their children that “beauty is skin deep” and that “what’s on the inside is more important than what’s on the outside.” Unfortunately we’re not walking the walk when it comes to giving ugly produce fair rights. Of course, we all want to get what we pay for. We don’t want to pay full price for bruised apples and we’ve been groomed to pick eggplant that are large enough to cut into perfect sized slices for our Eggplant Parmesan. Certainly you don’t want to buy rotten food. Just consider how what you choose at the market informs your store’s decisions about what you want and also think about how it affects demand on a much larger scale.

* Select imperfect items if you see them on your grocers’ shelf. If they aren’t left lingering, over time, your store will see the shift in consumer demand.

  • Consider telling your grocery store you would like to see them carry more “imperfect produce.”
  • Check out Perfectly Imperfect Produce, the program I developed to help reduce food waste. We box up imperfect fruits and vegetables and sell them below wholesale prices for delivery on Fridays.



By better understanding where and how to store fresh produce and when to wash it, you can significantly extend the usability of your purchase. Many fruits and vegetables should only be stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. For example, refrigerating melons, mangoes, pineapple and citrus fruits too early can cause cold damage or prevent them from ripening to good flavor and texture. And washing some fresh food too far in advance removes some of nature’s natural preservatives.

For a detailed list of proper storage and washing instructions for more fruits and vegetables visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org or www.savethefood.com/


Ask your child’s teacher and I bet they will tell you with confidence that most moms almost always pack way too much food in their kids’ school lunches. Although it should come as no surprise because every time you open up them at the end of the day, half of what you packed still remains. An appreciable amount of food waste can be saved by learning to prepare the appropriate sized meals and snacks for your family. I know you’re thinking, “But I just don’t want them to be hungry.” Don’t worry, if you aren’t packing enough, they’ll be certain to tell you as soon as they get off the school bus! For now, assume you should pack less! Visit http://www.childrenshealth.com for information on appropriate portion sizes by food group.


When your children are eating meals at home with you, let those age 3 and over serve themselves. It seems impossible to believe, but kids 5 and under will actually instinctively choose the right portions. According to the Early Sprouts Institute, young children are naturally able to self regulate. After that, cues to eat and stop eating come more from environmental factors. The key is starting this practice early so that they form the right habits that will stick with them through the rest of their lives.


By the time the weekend rolls around it is common to have lots of containers of leftovers lingering in the fridge along with bits and pieces of fruits and veggies that were not used up. Before heading out to the grocery store to stock up again for the week ahead, try to use up what remains on Friday and Saturday. Look through the refrigerator and pantry for items about to go bad and see what you can come up with. Here are a few ideas.

  • Cut up the remaining pear no-one finished, the handful of grapes left at the bottom of the bag, the kiwi lost in the bottom of the fruit drawer and the last bites of melon and give them new life in a colorful fruit salad. The kids won’t even realize they were sitting in the fridge all week.
  • Dice up the random selection of remaining vegetables to create a vegetable stew, stir fry them and serve them on rice for a unique Asian feast, sauté them to add to your burritos or use them to top your favorite pizza crust.


In the craziness of life, running from school to dance class, soccer practice and more, we all have some items that “go south.” Don’t fret. That’s when the freezer becomes your best friend.

  • Those bananas that are now black, the bruised peaches, the pale strawberries, the mushy mango… toss them all into storage bags and pop them in the freezer to throw into your next morning smoothie. They help make an even more delicious smoothie because the more ripe the fruit, the sweeter it becomes.



Inside Out Peanut Butter & Jelly

I often think about how I could feed all the hungry people in the world by finding a way to save the “butts” of everyone’s loaves of bread. Until I figure that out I will keep making sneaky PB&Js for my kids by putting the jelly and the peanut butter on the dark outside crust and putting those ends together. My kids are smart enough to know I do it and I usually hear about it, but if they are hungry enough, they will eat it at lunch and hopefully learn a lesson about reducing food waste. In fact there are many uses for stale bread. Try using it in your French toast, chopping it up and toasting into croutons or grating into bread crumbs.

LO Party Mix

Somehow children have a habit of INSISTING they are hungry enough to eat an entire bowl of pretzels, but still only manage to finish half. If you haven’t yet mastered the art of getting your way or don’t feeling like fighting that battle, try pouring the leftover snacks in a large bag or container all together. Popcorn, cheesy fish crackers, peanuts, raisins, pour them all in. By the end of the week you’ve created your own party mix out of LOs.


And then of course, there’s the time honored method for reducing food waste which is to utilize them in recipes that actually call for overripe fruits and vegetables or meat scraps.

* Turn soft tomatoes into fresh tomato sauce

* Bake bruised apples into applesauce or pie

* Cut up last night’s roasted chicken to add to tonights chili

* Save scraps such as broccoli stalks, carrot tops or beef or chicken bones to use for  soup stocks and broths.



When you grow your own food in your own backyard, you are more likely to not let anything go to waste. You know the amount of time and effort it took to plant, weed and harvest. You stood there with the hose all summer long so you saw for yourself how much water it required. When you grew it yourself, you will embrace the carrot that looks like an alien and the tiny one-bite beets. You will cook them with pride. And your child who also helped in the process will eat every last morsel of that Brussels sprout because they understand this all too.



Rather than throwing your food waste in the garbage, put it to good use. Keep a bin of compostable food scraps in your kitchen and take them out to the compost pile each evening. Put it to work creating rich, fertile soil to put back into the earth to grow new food or beautiful flowers. Less food waste in landfills means lower emissions of dangerous gases like methane, a greenhouse gas 100 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Read more about composting at www.howtocompost.org.

Ashley Weingart is the Director of Communications & Community Outreach for The Forest City Weingart Produce Company. She is the founder of their Perfectly Imperfect Produce program and is passionate about reducing food waste while increasing access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. Ashley has three children and lives with her husband Andy in Chagrin Falls. Learn more at www.perfectlyimperfectproduce.com .

Read this article as published in the November issue of Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine on page 43 here http://www.mirabelsmagazinecentral.com/digitaledition/index.html?id=715a130b-0ad5-429f-8005-495fca31cd5a&mc_cid=bb9b6c91e6&mc_eid=[UNIQID]


Kale & Quinoa Salad with Blueberries

Last week we were invited to dinner to celebrate my father in-law’s birthday. I offered to bring a salad and I knew it was the perfect chance to use up some of the kale from my garden. Here’s the recipe I threw together.


What You Need:

  • 1 bunch fresh kale
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups quinoa, prepared
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

For Dressing

  • 2 Tbsp. evoo
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. honey

Prepare quinoa according to package directions. Wash kale thoroughly. (Mr. Spider took a trip inside with us). Cut leaves away from stems and ribs and chop into small bite sized pieces. Wash again and then use salad spinner to dry out leaves. Place in a medium serving bowl. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp. EVOO and salt and pepper. Massage kale leaves to soften.


When the quinoa has cooled add two cups to kale greens. Then add blueberries, feta and almonds. Prepare dressing by combining oil, orange juice, salt and honey and whisking well. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of dressing over the salad and toss well.


Pairing the sweet blueberries and dressing with the bitter taste of the kale makes for a delightful combination of flavors. The quinoa adds a bit of protein to the dish. It’s perfect for a summer evening and will save nicely to eat for lunch the next day… if there’s any left!

I’ve always loved cooking, but I’ve got to say that cooking with vegetables grown in your backyard is even more satisfying. We’ve eaten up all the kale from the garden this year. Next year I’m going to plant even more lettuce. It’s easy and quick to grow. For now I’m dreaming up ideas for all the other goodies that will come out of my garden this year. Stay tuned for more garden fresh recipes!




Race Recap

No, I didn’t run a race this weekend… haven’t run one since April. But I’m beginning to look at races for this fall. I’ve got a few half marathons on my radar. I’m surprised to say that I even have the urge to sign up for another full, but I’m going to force myself to postpone that desire until another time. I just can’t properly fit that sort of training in with all the exciting projects I have going on right now with our business. And that’s ok, because all of the career goals I set a year ago are all coming to life and it is one of the most exciting times in my life!

But as I begin to think about half marathons I honestly couldn’t remember how many I’ve done now. I decided that somewhere I should keep a log of the races I’ve run and my times. Obviously this seemed like the logical place. So, here goes…

I’ve highlighted my current PRs in each distance in red so that I can reference it quickly for upcoming races.


May 2013 Chagrin Falls Blossom Run, Age 35, Distance 5.25 miles, Time 45:00.4, Place in Age Group 20th, Place Overall 713, Pace 8:34, May 26, 2013, PR, My 1st Race!

Blossom Time - My 1st Race

Blossom Run, My 1st Race!

TowPath 10/10 10K, Age 35, Distance 10K, Time 53:00.6, Place in Age Group 2nd, Place Overall 59th, Pace 8:33, June 16, 2013, PR, My 1st 10K!

LifeBanc Gift of Life 10K, Age 35, Distance 10K, Time 49:51.8, Place in Age Group 1st, Place Overall 42nd, Pace 7:53, August 3, 2013, 10K PR, 1st in age group and SET A NEW RACE RECORD! 

River Run Half Marathon, Age 35, Distance 13.1 miles, Time 1:51:10, Place in Age Group 23rd, Place Overall 296, Pace 8:29, September 8, 2013, PR, My 1st Half!

My First Half Marathon 2013

River Run, My 1st 13.1

Rock N Roll Half Marathon Cleveland, Age 35, Distance 13.1 miles, Time 1:54 (Results no longer posted, so I don’t know the rest). October 6, 2013


Rock N Roll Half Marathon

Chagrin Falls Turkey Trot 5K, Age 35, Distance 5K, Time 24:13, Place in Age Group 6, Place Overall 91, November 28, 2013, 5K PR


Big Sur Relay (I ran 16 miles), Age 36, 3:50:35 total time for 26.2 miles for our two person team, Event Place 27, Pace 8:48, April 27, 2014, The furthest I’d ever run!

Cleveland Half Marathon, Age 36, Distance 13.1 miles, Time 1:49:31, Place in Age Group 44, Place Overall 507, Pace 8:21, May 2014, PR

Cleveland Marathon - 2014

Cleveland Half Marathon

Chagrin Falls Blossom Run, Age 36, Distance 5.25 miles, Time 41:38.8, Place in Age Group 7th, Place Overall 366, Pace 7:56, May 25 2014, RACE PR

Akron Half Marathon, Age 36, Distance 13.1 miles, Time 1:49:21, Place in Age Group 39, Place Overall 689, Pace 8:20, PR, September 27, 2014, HALF PR


Akron Half Marathon


TowPath Half Marathon, Age 37, Distance 13.1 miles, Time 1:53, Place in Age Group 5th, Place Over 147, Pace 8:38, April 12, 2015

Big Sur Marathon, Age 37, Distance 26.2, Time 4:41:18, Event Place 53, Pace 10:44, PR, April 26, 2015, My 1st Marathon!!!

Cleveland Marathon, Age 37, Distance 26.2, Time 4:06:24, Age Group Place 34, Place Overall 573, Pace 9:23. PR, May 17 2015

Chagrin Falls Blossom Run, Age 37, Distance 5.25 miles, Time 42:37.1, Place in Age Group 9th, Place Overall 356, Pace 8:06, May 24, 2015

River Run Half Marathon, Age 37, Distance 13.1 miles, Time, 1:55:07, Place in Age Group 23, Place Overall 329, Pace 8:47, September 13, 2015 (Ankle injury. Training run for Chicago Marathon)

Chicago Marathon, Age 37, Distance 26.2, Time 4:07:55, Place in Age Group 772, Place Overall 12969, October 11, 2015

Turkey Trot 5K, Time 25:19, Place in Age Group 4, Place Overall 262,November 26, 2015,


Cleveland Ten Miler, Age 38, Distance 10 Miles, Time 1:24:11, Place in Age Group 20, Place Overall 405, Pace 8:25, April 23, 2016 (I added on 3.1 more miles to make it a spring half in my mind. My time was 1:55.), PR

So… only ONE race so far this year??? What’s up with that? Well, this spring I had to miss some local races because of prior engagements, like my son’s birthday! And honestly I was feeling a little selfish and guilty for spending so much time training and racing in 2015.

I wanted to focus more time on doing good in the world then on doing good for myself. After creating a marketing plan for our company, building a website and blog for them, launching our Perfectly Imperfect Produce product and beginning our new From Seed to Spoon educational program, I feel like I’ve made major headway there. I am ready to commit to a race or two for the fall.

Tell me all your favorite half marathons!


UNIQUE MARKET FINDS; and how to get kids to eat them

IMG_8498Walking through the local farmer’s market is a feast for the senses. It’s a journey full of colors, smells and flavors – some familiar and some new and interesting. Farm markets will soon be stocked with all sorts of unique vegetables. From turnips and kohlrabi to chard and fennel, there are many choices that perhaps you’ve never even tried yourself. Maybe you’re afraid to buy them because you’re certain your kids won’t touch them. Here are a few simple recipes that will help you introduce these vegetables to your family along with some general tips for helping your children try new foods.


  • Let your child shop with you and help make choices. They’ll be more excited to try something new if they had a hand in picking it out.
  • Allow them to help prepare meals. Sure it takes a little longer, but if they taste the new ingredients as they are going into the dish, they will be more likely to eat the meal because the foods in it aren’t unfamiliar and scary.
  • Introduce new foods in combination with familiar ones. Don’t serve up a new vegetable along with a new main dish all in one night. Try mixing a new taste in with an old one. See my recipe below for an example. It’s not about hiding the flavors, it’s about making the new experience a pleasant one.
  • Talk about how the new food is similar to some they know. For example, when I first introduced my children to persimmon I tasted it first and explained to them that it is like a combination of cantaloupe and mango, two foods that they know and love.
  • Don’t force it. Never force your child to eat (or even taste) any food. That means no bribing them to try even just a bite in return for dessert or for other privileges. This leads them to believe that the food is so terrible that you have to offer them something in return, plus it sets a bad precedent that they will always get a “reward” for trying new foods.
  • Don’t make a big deal about it – If you introduce the new food by saying “We’re having a new vegetable for dinner tonight! You’ve probably never even seen it before.” You’re likely going to be met with resistance. Simply offer it up as part of the meal and let everyone discover it as they eat.
  • Model good behavior. Whether you realize it or not, your children are watching what and how you eat. If you don’t care for the taste of a new food, be conscious of how you react. You don’t need to announce that you didn’t like it. If asked, politely say that perhaps you might like it more next time.
  • Don’t give up. It takes some children at least a dozen times trying a food before they like it. When they say they hate it and make faces, you can respond by saying something like. “I’m sorry you don’t like it yet. Perhaps you’ll like it better next time.” This lets them know that tastes are acquired.
  • Start young. Breaking bad habits is so much harder than building good ones from the very start.



This odd looking vegetable is a member of the cabbage family and therefore features a similar sweet yet peppery flavor. The bulbous bottom is the part most commonly consumed, but the entire plant is edible. The skin has a rubbery texture like broccoli stems and can be white, light green or bright purple. When buying Kohlrabi pick vegetables that are firm and solid, not soft or squishy. Trim off the leaves and peel or slice off the most outer layer of the bulb.


I used my “combine new foods with familiar foods” tip and paired this unique vegetable with one of their favorite foods… apples! The flavor of the sweet juicy apple helped diminish some of the peppery, sour taste of the kohlrabi and the sweet dressing brought all the flavors together.


What You Need:

  • 2 small kohlrabi, outer skin cut off, sliced in matchsticks
  • 1 tart apple (Pink Lady or Granny Smith), sliced in matchsticks.
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • salt
  • pepper

Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk to combine. Add in kohlrabi and apples. Toss and serve.


IMG_8549They were excited about the apples which made them interested enough to be willing to try the new dish. They asked about “the green things” and wondered what those were. I told them it was a crunchy vegetable called kohlrabi that tastes a little like celery (which is not a lie). They mostly just ate all the apples first and when they tasted a bite of the kohlrabi they did lose a bit of enthusiasm. My middle daughter made a face, but the other two ate most of what was on their plate. They didn’t love it YET. BUT, no one made fake vomiting sounds or started crying, so in my book it was a successful first taste of one very unique vegetable from the local farmer’s market!



Fennel or Anise is a crunchy, somewhat sweet vegetable with a white or pale green bulb with long green stalks topped with feathery green leaves. Fennel is a part of the same family as parsley, carrots, dill and coriander, but it’s licorice-like flavor is similar to no other.

Here’s a recipe that I used to introduce my children to the flavor of fennel. Again I paired it with something sweet with which they know and love… mandarin oranges. Cuties to be exact! And salmon is always on the list of favorite dinners here.


IMG_8532What You Need;

  • 1 lb. wild salmon fillets
  • cedar planks
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • pepper
  • zest of one orange

For Salsa:

  • 2 mandarin oranges (Cuties), peeled
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced
  • 1 tsp. EVOO
  • 3 Tbsp. orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • pepper

Soak cedar planks in water for one hour or more. Heat grill. Place salmon fillets on planks. Brush 1 tsp. olive oil on salmon. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, pepper and orange zest. Place on grill. Try not to lift the cover often. Keep a close eye on it and water nearby in case plank catches fire. Cook salmon until preferred temperature. I like it cooked through so I cooked it for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare salsa. Combine oranges, fennel, oil, orange juice, ginger, salt and pepper. Stir well and set aside. When salmon is cooked, spoon salsa over top.

While they didn’t eat the fennel as quickly as the oranges and the salmon, they all tried it without me forcing them to take a bite. We talked about the unique flavor of the fennel, what we liked about it and other vegetables it reminded us of.




Northeast Ohio farm markets are brimming with locally grown greens such as arugula, collards, kale, mesclun, mizuna, mustards, mache, spinach, and more. This week the kids and I chose escarole and swiss chard to create a colorful salad to accompany our salmon dinner. Escarole is part of the endive family with peak season from June through October. There are many varieties of Chard. The greens can be prepared like spinach; the stalks, like asparagus.


Some kids love salad while others won’t touch it. I find that when I add a bit of fruit to a salad the kids gobble it all up. Suddenly they’ve gotten all that green goodness in their bellies without even thinking about it. Most days I usually put only vegetables in our salads, but to tone down the slightly bitter, pungent flavor of the swiss chard and escarole, I decided some sweetness would make the kids more willing to try this one. The escarole looks similar to romaine which is a green we commonly eat and the beautiful red veins of the chard paired with pear and dried cranberries made this salad enticing enough for my kids to give it a try. Local berries from the farm market would also be a great choice.

What You Need:

Escarole, 1 head, chopped

Swiss Chard, a few leaves, chopped

1/2 cucumber, sliced

1 pear, sliced

1/4 cup dried cranberries

1/4 cup feta, diced

1/4 cup toasted walnuts

For the Dressing: 

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1 tsp. honey

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1 garlic clove, minced

Chop lettuces and place in bowl. Top with cucumber, pear, cranberries, feta and walnuts. In a separate bowl combine dressing ingredients and mix well with a whisk. Spoon over salad.

My kids didn’t even notice that the salad I made used greens that they had never tasted before. The salad looked familiar enough that they asked for some and ate it, no questions asked. After they had tried it and inquired about the pretty red leaves of the chard, we talked about the new lettuces they had just eaten.



By creating a positive experience with new foods, children will be more likely over time to keep trying them and eventually may learn to love them. “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and kids don’t learn to love vegetables overnight. So this summer as you stroll through your local farm market, don’t be afraid to pick up some of the unique and beautiful veggies that perhaps you haven’t even tried. Embrace them and use them as a way to teach your children about all the many gifts from Mother Nature.



“Real Food” for Real Families

Years ago I began hearing phrases like “Eat Clean” and “Real Food”. At the time they were hot buzz words mostly among fitness and nutrition coaches. It has since become a more mainstream eating “trend.” Although I hate to even call it that, because “eating clean” is not anything new or trendy at all. It is really about getting back to our roots (pun intended), the way our ancestors ate before the Industrial Revolution when Americans began moving to cities for factory jobs and did less farming and cooking themselves. As a result, they were seeking out “convenience foods”. In my opinion that’s how things spiraled out of control over the following decades leading to our generation growing up eating processed everything; Lucky Charms for breakfast, McDonald’s for lunch and TV Dinners. In my eyes, it’s perhaps THE reason why more than one third of our population is considered obese including nearly 18 percent of our children. Now our generation has to be the one to try to reverse this trend and improve the health outlook for ourselves and our children.

IMG_8418While we never had a name for it, “clean eating” is really the way our family has been eating for a long time. It’s our way of life. Everyone’s definition of “eating clean” may be a little different. For us it means eating whole foods as close to their natural state as possible with little to no processing or added ingredients. Since my husband and I are vegetarians, our plates include a lot of meat free protein. Our kids do eat meat so you’ll see in the recipes below how I prepare both options for most meals.


These days, many health aware adults follow a “real food” eating plan. They’ve cut out the processed foods and learned to “eat clean.” But I talk to many parents who struggle to help their children transition and cut out the junk.

  • They’ve tried cleaning out all the cabinets and eliminating all the highly processed foods in the past and the kids just wouldn’t eat the new foods that they prepared. They don’t want to waste food and money and they don’t want their kids to go hungry, so they fall back into their old routines.
  • They’re tired of making separate meals for themselves than they do for their children, but they keep doing it because they can’t bare to listen to the whining that comes with new, unfamiliar foods. They want quiet! So they keep making the frozen crinkle cut fries and Kraft Mac & Cheese.
  • They’re avoiding going “clean” because they’re afraid it will be too difficult. With busy evening schedules, practices and homework they feel there’s just not enough time to deal with it.
  • Some perhaps just don’t feel like they know how to start off so they never even try.

I’ve experienced many of these same struggles. I want to share what I’ve learned. So I’m here to provide you with some meal ideas and recipes that work for our family of five to help you begin to get your children on a healthier track while you also get healthier too.


Hey Mikey, He Likes It!First I want to say that I am not an “expert”. I am not a nutritionist or a dietitian. I am not a doctor or a trainer. While I am certified by the Growing Healthy Eaters training program, most of my knowledge comes from the real world. I am a mom with three young, loud and crazy children that I’m constantly running after. But one thing we rarely argue about is food. They love artichokes, asparagus, brown rice, chickpeas, almonds and they’ll even eat tempeh. Granted, our family owns a produce market and we’ve been feeding our kids raw vegetables from our store since they could eat solid foods. So maybe that’s a bit unfair. But, I know how to get kids to eat healthy food because I’ve taught my own three how.

In my role as Director of Communications & Community Outreach for our family’s century old wholesale produce market I say that a love of healthy eating runs in our blood. As part of my role I get to share what we know about healthy food through community education events and in the coming months we will begin our From Seed to Spoon educational classes. But enough about me.

Before I share some recipes I want to share a few general thoughts and tips.


HelpersI call my approach “Real Food for Real Life” because life is busy here. I am not the most strict “clean eater” you’ll ever meet. I don’t have time to bake my bread or tortillas from scratch every week. I don’t make my own chicken stock, ketchup or jelly. I have done my research over the years and I have found the best store-bought items with the cleanest, fewest ingredients in them. I am satisfied with using some of those items to supplement all the many fruits and vegetables and whole foods that make up our diet.

Overall my goal is to keep it simple. I’ve followed clean eating meal plans that want me to cook quinoa porridge with protein powder for breakfast or some intricate shrimp dish for lunch. That takes too long and my kids will whine. For me this is about eating quick, simple, whole foods that my family will eat, not creating time-consuming fancy recipes.

IMG_0612As you know if you read my blog regularly, I try to “keep it real.” I am not going to sit here and tell you to never eat regular ice cream or shame you for buying your kids donuts now and then. To me that’s just a little too extreme. The way I see it, if you eat “clean” 80 to 90 percent of the time, you can indulge sometimes with wine and dessert. Food is something to be enjoyed in life, not feared. Enjoy some treats here and there. If you don’t, you may end up feeling deprived over time and perhaps fall back into unhealthy ways all the time.

Click here for a more detailed post about my “Real Food for the Real World” approach to clean eating along with my go to Real Food for Real Life Shopping List.


… and other things to know about helping kids eat healthier

  1. Don’t expect to have success going cold turkey. In order for new habits to be formed (especially for children) changes need to be made gradually. If you to try to change everything all at once, you will be met with much resistance. If you throw away every item in your pantry your family will not like you. Trust me, I know from experience. The kids will rebel and you will not succeed. Try changing one thing at a time.
  2. Don’t make a big deal about it. If you start out saying, “Things are changing around here next week! We’re all going to start eating healthier. No more Pop Tarts, no more chips or cookies…”, your kids are going to fight every single thing you serve them. Simply begin making some new recipes or serving them in new ways and see what happens. Handle each eye roll as it comes, but don’t set yourself up for failure by announcing that you are overhauling everyone’s diet.
  3. Introduce new foods in combination with old ones. For example, make whole wheat pasta in combination with regular pasta the first couple of times (half and half). Gradually switch to all whole wheat. Or, serve brussels sprouts with their favorite chicken dish rather than a whole new dish full of unfamiliar foods you’re not sure they will like any of. Even if they take a tiny taste of the sprouts, consider it a success!
  4. Give it time. It probably took us months of eating plain yogurt instead of the kind with the fruit and sugar mixed in before we actually sort of liked it. Now it’s just what we eat and the old stuff tastes way too sugary.
  5. Never force your children to eat (or even taste) anything. That means no bribing them to try it in return for dessert or for other privileges. (This is hard for me).
  6. Don’t try to be perfect. I am not. If you tell yourself you can never ever eat a cookie or a bowl of your favorite sugary cereal again it will feel too hard, you’ll be grumpy and you’ll give up on it. Let yourself enjoy things you like now and then. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about being healthier overall. Splurging now and then is better than falling off the band wagon all together.
  7. Let your children help prepare meals if you can find the time. If they taste the new ingredients as they are going into the dish, they will be more likely to eat the meal because the foods in it aren’t unfamiliar and scary.


8. Plan ahead. If you can prep dinner at all in the afternoon (I know it’s not easy) before the craziness of after school by cutting up vegetables or marinating the fish that makes it easier for it to all come together faster later. If you can take the time to prepare some healthier yogurt or whole wheat pancakes on the weekends to have on hand for quick kid breakfasts during the week, that makes it so much easier to make good choices on busy school mornings.

9. Start young. It probably goes without saying, but I feel I still need to say it. Breaking bad habits is SO much harder than building good ones from the very start. Introduce a wide variety of foods from an early age. Even if they don’t like it the first few times, keep serving it up. It takes kids an average of 12 times tasting a new food before they like it. And there is a window before the age of 3 when children are more open to trying new foods. After that window it will become much more difficult.

10. Don’t make special meals. “This is what’s for dinner.” You may hear some complaints that they don’t like it. My response is always something like, “It’s ok if you don’t like it YET. Maybe you’ll like it next time.” This might sound harsh, but it’s how they learn that tastes are acquired.

11. Good food role modeling is key. Whether you realize it or not, your children are watching what and how you eat. If you eat different food than they eat, they’re going to think something is wrong with what they’re eating. If you’re doing cleanses and drinking shakes for dinner, your kids think they should get something different too.

12. Don’t ban treats. If you tell your children they can never have sweets they will become “the forbidden fruit” and they will not learn how to properly self regulate. Then when they are offered treats they will end up overindulging. And when you send them away on their own, they may rebel and do the opposite of what you hoped to teach them. Treats are good now and then.

13. DECONSTRUCT EVERYTHING! For example, for stir fry night, I make the vegetables, the chicken, the tofu, the rice or noodles and the sauce. I put them out in all separate bowls. Everyone gets to pick what they want on their plate. A little or a lot. Everyone is happy.


Phew! Still with me? Following are meal and snack ideas both for you and your family. Like I say above, you’ll see that I almost always serve everything separately, at least for dinner. We all use the same ingredients, but it allows us to customize our own meal to meet all our unique tastes. This is how we manage to be successful at eating clean as a family.

* I put a star by the meals I personally eat every week. I typically eat pretty much the same things every day (except for dinner). It helps me stay on track. I know what combination of foods gives me the right nutritional balance, what keeps me full and satisfied and what helps me burn fat while gaining lean muscle.

🙂 Recipes marked with a 🙂 are kid approved by own three kiddos. These are what they typically eat without any complaints.

Where appropriate I’ve added which and how many 21 Day Fix containers are used for each recipe. Obviously this doesn’t apply to kids meals as we don’t necessarily want to be keeping such close tabs on their portions.

Click on the description above the photo for the full recipe. 


Yogurt with Fruit & Cereal


“Kids Yogurt” 🙂 

Sprouted Wheat Toast with Almond Butter & Banana


Protein Shake (Strawberry or Chocolate)


Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

Berry Crisp Oatmeal


Scrambled Eggs or Omelet with Vegetables 🙂

Daddy’s Special French Toast  🙂 


Whole Wheat Pancakes 🙂 

Whole Wheat Pancakes

Kale Strawberry Banana Smoothie 🙂 

Hey Mikey, He Likes It!

Strawberry “Danimals” Copycat Smoothie 🙂



Mixed Green Salad with Protein & Avocado*

2 cups greens, 2 hardboiled eggs (or other protein), 1/4 avocado, squeeze of lemon, drizzle of EVOO, salt, pepper (or other 21 Day Fix Dressing)


21 Day Fix = 2 green, 1 red, 1/2 blue, 1 orange

Open Face Egg Sandwich with Vegetables*

1 slice sprouted wheat toast, 1/4 avocado mashed on bread, 2 hardboiled eggs (one on top, one on the side), salt and pepper, 1 cup of baby carrots (about 10) or other veggie


21 Day Fix = 1 yellow, 1 red, 1/2 blue, 1 green

Sprouted Wheat Toast with Almond Butter & Apple, Plus Cottage Cheese* 

1 sliced sprouted wheat toast, 2 tsp. fresh ground almond butter, drizzle of honey (optional), 1 sliced apple or other fruit, 1 Container of Cottage Cheese


21 Day Fix = 1 yellow, 2 tsp., 1 purple, 1 red

My Minestrone Soup 


Click here for my “Real Food” Lunches for Real Kids🙂



Stir Fry Vegetables with Peanut Sauce & Noodles


Cobb Salad with Baked Potato


Sicilian Salmon with Brown Rice & Vegetables or

Halibut with Garlic Lemon Butter

Sicilian Salmon

Broiled Halibut

Burger Night (My Veggie Burger and/or Store Bought Turkey Burgers) with Sweet Potato Oven Fries & Salad

Burrito Bar (Three Ways)

Pasta Night

Roasted Vegetable Pasta & Pizza (Scroll Down Past Veggie Burger Recipe) or

Turkey Meatballs and Homemade Marinara + Salad

Leftover Night or Go Out


One Mid Morning & One Mid Afternoon

IMG_4347Apple or Banana with Nut Butter

Carrots or Veggies with Hummus

Ants on a Log

Cheese & Whole Wheat Crackers

Cottage Cheese & Fruit

Trail Mix

Protein Shake

Visit my recipes page for more meal ideas. And you can follow my blog my entering your email address on the homepage for more recipes to come. Follow me on Facebook @runningwithskissors for other tips and inspiration as well.

Best wishes on your journey to eating healthier and helping your family do the same. If you want to join the “Fixate for Family” challenge that I am organizing alongside some fellow Beachbody coaches, comment here or email me. Starting May 9th we’ll be challenging ourselves and our families to get better at “eating clean.” For 21 Days we’ll follow the clean eating plan and workouts that come with the 21 Day Fix program while incorporating family friendly meals like the ones I’ve shared here.

Please comment here or contact me at ashleycweingart@gmail.com with any questions.

BURRITO BAR; The “everyone is happy meal”

One of our weeknight standbys is always “Mexican Night.” It’s quick to throw together even after swim lessons and after school activities. I always have what I need on hand so it’s the perfect dinner when I feel like there is nothing super creative I can come up with quickly. Perhaps the best part about it is that it allows me to put out all the components separately so everyone can pick and choose what they like. That means no whining!!


Here’s What You Need:

Brown Rice (I use 2 bags of Uncle Ben’s 10 Minute Boil in Bag)

1/2 onion, sliced

1 bell pepper, sliced

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 baked chicken breast (and/or 1 package of tofu or tempeh)

1 can black beans

1 can corn

1 avocado, chopped

Shredded Mexican Cheese (Organic Valley)


Hot Sauce



1 package sprouted wheat or corn tortillas


Ok, this is so simple that it’s not even really a recipe. First prepare the chicken, tofu or tempeh. I usually just bake the chicken with a little olive oil and salt and pepper so the kids won’t complain that it’s too spicy. For the tofu and tempeh I slice it in long strips and saute it on the stove with EVOO and salt and pepper until browned on each side. Saute onions and peppers (and any other veggies you like) on the stove over medium high heat with a bit of EVOO until soft and browned.

Prepare the rice according to package directions. Drain the beans and corn and heat up in the microwave. Heat up tortillas and put out toppings including salsa, cheese, avocado, hot sauce, chopped cilantro, lime wedges and whatever else you like.

Since the kids aren’t so great at eating burritos I typically throw together a little quesadilla for them. For this one I used chicken, cheese and beans. Put it under the broiler for a few minutes until toasty.IMG_8425

Then let everyone make their way through the “Burrito Bar” line and choose what they like. My kids typically put a little bit of various things on their plate. My husband likes to make a big fat burrito and then toast it under the broiler. No, we do not always have name place cards on the dinner table, but this night my kids wanted to make it fancy I guess. I usually make a burrito bowl with rice, beans, corn, veggies, tofu, avocado, hot sauce and a sprinkle of cheese.

And there you have it! A “clean”, nutritious quick dinner that your kids will eat without any complaints and that you and your hubby will enjoy too!


My Meatless Mediterranean Cookout

This article was featured in the May issue of Northeast Ohio Parent Magazine. 

IMG_0004_NEW 2As owners of a century-old wholesale produce market here in Cleveland, it’s probably not surprising that our family loves fresh, healthy food. We say a love of fruits and veggies runs in our blood. We also love to entertain friends and family. It allows us to share our passion for healthy cooking and share the abundant fresh fruits and vegetables we are lucky enough to bring home from work.

When I plan a party I can’t help but create a theme. Nothing too kitchy, just something to help me focus on creating a cohesive, well thought-out menu. With Italian roots, I am often drawn to preparing my Grandma’s recipes when entertaining. I like to “clean them up” by replacing any heavy ingredients high in fat or calories with lighter ones. As summer approaches I also enjoy putting my spin on the classic American cookout. Today I’ve combined both in this mediterranean inspired summer cookout menu.

No matter what I’m serving, my approach to cooking is always about eating “real” foods that are as close to their natural form as possible, with little to no processing and few ingredients. My husband and I are both vegetarians, so you’ll find a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and meat free protein on our plates.

IMG_8325Let your kids help you in the kitchen when possible. While it does take extra time and patience, it teaches them so much about what goes into healthy meals. And they’re more likely to try new meals if they had a hand in creating them. They don’t seem so scary when served if the kids already tasted the ingredients going into the dish. Plus it creates an opportunity for fun memories between the two of you.

Here are a few of my tried and true, original recipes to help you put a healthier spin on some traditional summer time party favorites. I’ll call it “American Cookout meets Italian Bistro.” Whether you serve them at a party or simply to your own family, we think you’ll find these dishes to be crowd pleasers.


IMG_8179Most summer cookouts include burgers. As a vegetarian I have attended many where I’ve been stuck eating just a bun with a squirt of mustard. Why not serve an inspired meat-free option that will please the herbivores and surprise the carnivores all at once? I have tried many store-bought veggie burgers and experimented with various combinations of foods to create my own. I am confident this is one of the best I have tasted. They’re easy to make ahead, freeze and grill up when entertaining. Serve alone or alongside traditional burgers. The sliders are so cute that the kiddos might even give them a try.

What You Need:

2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups chopped portabello mushrooms

1 can chickpeas

1/2 cup Kalamata olives

1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 Tablespoons tomato sauce

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

1 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat bread crumbs

1 bunch fresh basil

6 to 12 sprouted wheat hamburger buns or dinner rolls (for sliders). I use Alvarado or Angelic brands.

2 roma tomatoes, sliced

1 package fresh mozzarella, sliced

Sundried Tomato Pesto

Makes 6 burgers or 12 sliders.


Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic and mushrooms until softened, for about 5 minutes.

Transfer half of the skillet mixture along with half the can of chickpeas and half the olives to a food processor. Set aside the other half of the skillet mixture, chickpeas and olives. Add vinegar, marinara, basil, oregano and salt to the food processor. Pulse mixture until combined but still chunky. Pulse in the whole wheat flour until well combined. Add in remaining half of skillet mixture, chickpeas, olives and fresh basil. Pulse a couple of times to chop up chunks, still leaving some olives and chickpeas visible. Transfer to a bowl. Form into golf sized balls for sliders or larger for patties and flatten into burger shape.

Heat remaining oil in skillet over medium high heat. Saute the patties in batches for 2 to 3 minutes per side until browned and heated through. To grill, freeze patties overnight. Place on the grill frozen.

Toast sprouted wheat buns. Spread sundried tomato pesto on bun (I use half to make an open faced, knife and fork burger). Stack burger, one or two leaves of fresh basil, one slice of fresh mozzarella and one or two slices of tomato. Enjoy.


Pasta salad; another common summer cookout dish. But this is not your grandma’s, mayonnaise laden pasta salad. Here’s my colorful and clean go-to recipe. It’s simple enough for a backyard cook out, yet pretty enough for a nice dinner party.


What You Need:

IMG_82241 lb. whole wheat fusilli

1 eggplant, cut in 1” circles then quartered

1/2 red onion, 1” diced

1 red bell pepper, 1” diced

1 zucchini, cut in half moons

1 clove garlic, minced

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp. salt

For Dressing

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt


To Finish:

1/2 cup pinenuts, toasted

1/4 cup goat cheese

1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 425. Chop vegetables and garlic and place on a large sheet pan. Toss with two tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tsp. salt. Roast in oven for 40 minutes, flipping half way. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Combine dressing ingredients and mix with whisk. Toast pine nuts over medium heat on dry skillet. Watch them closely as they burn easily.

Add the roasted vegetables and the dressing to the pasta along with most of the pine nuts and 3/4 of the goat cheese and basil. Stir well to combine. Sprinkle remaining pine nuts, goat cheese and basil on top. Serve at room temperature.

Perhaps you’re thinking that your kids won’t eat this with all the vegetables mixed in. If so, simply serve the pasta in a separate bowl as the vegetables and let everyone build their own plate.IMG_8348


Set up a pizza bar including a variety of nutritious toppings and let the kiddos play chef. I use store-bought, whole wheat pitas or whole wheat tortillas for the crust. They’re the perfect size for personal pizzas.

Serve it all up with a big salad. I included pomegranate seeds, pistachios and feta in mine.

I hope you enjoy entertaining with my Meatless Mediterranean Cookout recipes as much as I enjoyed sharing them with you. Stay tuned for dessert!

21 Day Fix Followers

Burgers = 1 red, 1 yellow (half a bun), 1 blue (with mozzarella), 1 green, 1 tsp.

Pasta = 1 yellow, 1 green, 1/2 blue, 1 tsp.


A New Challenge

In some of my most recent posts I’ve opened up about how I ended 2015 in a bit of a slump.  My clothes barely fit, I was ten pounds heavier than before I began running marathons and I was experiencing a major case of the post race blues. I needed to make a change.

While I always eat healthy and exercise at least 5 days a week, for a little while I was sort of just going through the motions. I needed something to reenergize and remotivate me. I needed a new challenge that didn’t involve running further or faster.

So when a friend of mine invited me to join in her 21 Day Fix Challenge this past February, it sounded like the perfect way to start off the new year and the first month of my 38th year. I have to be honest, I was a little hesitant to make a big deal about it when I first committed. Here’s why:

  1. I was afraid it could turn out to be another set of wimpy DVDs that barely made me sweat.
  2. I thought I knew pretty much everything I needed to know about eating clean and proper nutrition. I was skeptical that this could teach me anything new.
  3. I wanted to see what sort of results I got before I told anyone too much about it.
  4. I thought all my readers and friends might think it was lame that I was signing up to do a Beachbody program.

But here’s the thing. It’s about ten weeks later and now I’ve completed both the 21 Day Fix and I’m halfway through the Beachbody Hammer & Chisel program (while also running a few days a week to prepare for my spring half marathon.) And guess what. I’ve accomplished a lot.

Yes, I have achieved some physical changes;

  • I’m 10 lbs lighter.
  • I’ve lost inches of fat.
  • I’ve reduced my body fat percentage.

But, aside from the stats, I’m actually more excited about some other changes the program helped me achieve and some lessons I’ve learned as a result.

  1. The ankle pain from my injuries last summer and fall is virtually gone. My body is stronger, so my ankles are stronger. This makes me a stronger, more confident runner too.
  2. I’ve eliminated some bad eating habits that I picked up during marathon training, like snacking too much and eating extra treats after the kids go to bed. Since I’m not burning 1000+ calories per day from running so much, I’m not starving all the time and I can keep better tabs on my nutrition. I rarely crave sweets.
  3. I’ve picked up some healthier eating habits like reaching for vegetables instead of protein bars and drinking a lot more water.
  4. I can fit in my training before the kids are up so I have the three hours that John is at preschool to fit in work instead of workouts. I’m doing weight training from home that I really only thought could be accomplished at a gym. Who knew you could get a DVD workout program that has you doing cleans and jerks? Yes, you can. I do take a few mornings to add running in too.
  5. My whole body is stronger; my arms, my legs, my core. I’m not trying to look like some bikini model or weight lifting competitor. I just want to feel good in my skin, be strong, healthy and focused so I approach life with energy, confidence and guts. This program helped me feel that way again.


  • IMG_5757I’ve realized that finding the most fit, healthy version of myself doesn’t mean doing as much cardio as I can possibly fit in. It doesn’t mean running for as long and far as I can. It means doing a little bit of a lot of activities with a BIG focus on strength training. It means really honing in on feeding my body the proper combination of the right amount of whole foods. While I’ve tracked macronutrients for years (carbs, proteins and fats) along with calories, I was not necessarily always getting them in the right combinations to help my body burn fat and build muscle. I lacked confidence that I was doing it right. The 21 Day Fix helped me perfect my nutrition planning.
  • I feel more balanced than ever. I am motivated and focused, but not obsessive or ego-driven. I’m back to my happy, positive, BALANCED self. 

So while I have to say that I started out thinking I’d be the last person to recommend such a program, that is exactly what I’m doing.

Here’s a couple other things I like about it.

  • IMG_8196The recommended foods don’t require you to make time consuming recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In fact, the simpler the better. For example, right now for lunch I commonly eat simply two hardboiled eggs, a cup of baby carrots, and a piece of sprouted wheat toast with 1/4 avocado mashed on it.
  • It’s not about depriving yourself of entire food groups like some other clean eating/cleanse programs. You are given a long list of foods that fit in each group and you can chose any combination of them from that list.

Normally in a post like this is where you see before and after photos of someone standing in their bikini inspecting the way their body looks in the mirror with their phone in front of their face. I hate those.

BUT, I’m including a photo of myself post program only because I want to show you how strong I feel. Am I trying to reach pop culture’s idea of the perfect body? No. I will never achieve that. Nor do I really want to. Been down that route and it’s really not a healthy one. Do I have a six pack and totally cut arms? Nope! But here is me feeling happy and focused again which feels so much better than the lack of focus I was experiencing just a few months ago.


So why did I write this post? To show off pictures of myself in my sports bra? Hardly.

I wanted to reach out to any of you who might be in the same position that I was in at the end of 2015. Perhaps you might be looking to make a change and try something different, to find new focus and balance.

If you’re in this boat then I want to invite you to join me and other women as we embark on a new challenge together. I was invited to be the “featured expert/blogger/celebrity” (ha ha!) in a new Beachbody Challenge group that we created called “Fixate for Family.” If you’re interested keep reading.


Starting May 9th here’s what we’ll do


  • WORKOUT 30 MINUTES EVERY DAY FOR 21 DAYS. Together we’ll follow the 21 Day Fix program which includes 6 workouts (one for each day that you repeat in a certain order). They can all be done from home. They were challenging enough for me (a person who had already been doing some weight training and who had just run a few marathons). But they aren’t so challenging that you hate and dread doing them. They are actually enjoyable. Each is only 30 minutes. You can do them from your DVD player or using your phone with Beachbody on Demand or with Apple TV. See the link at the bottom of the page for ordering these workouts through me from Beachbody. I’ll be your coach!
  • EAT CLEAN – When you order the program you get all of this stuff above (Fixate Cookbook is separate). It includes the nutrition planning book along with the colored serving containers. The book tells you how many calories thus how many containers you get of each food group each day. You track them through a free app. It also provides some simple recipes. If you want more recipes you can order the Fixate cookbook. And I’ll be sharing my weekly meal plan and other special recipes through my blog to use with the program!!
  • TRANSFORM YOUR FAMILY’S DIET TOO! We’re calling this “Fixate for Family” because we know that many of you are moms and dads who have kids to feed.
  • We know you don’t want to follow a clean diet plan that requires you to make a separate meal for yourself and then “kid food” for your kids. That’s too much work and it’s poor food role modeling.
  • We understand that you want to help your family eliminate all the processed food that is lingering around your house, but you don’t want to listen to the whining or for them to go hungry. So you keep making them the chicken nuggets, mac and cheese and pizza you know they’ll eat quietly.
  • Through our “Fixate for Family” challenge we want to help you eat healthier while also helping your family to clean up their diet too. I’ll make it easier to do this by sharing my tried and true, family friendly, clean eating meal plan, recipes and shopping list. 
  • PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUP – Just say the word and we’ll add you to the private Facebook group where I (along with a few other coaches) will provide daily motivation, inspiration, clean eating tips for you and your family and accountability.

If you want to join us on this challenge, you can email me at ashleycweingart@gmail.com. or you can comment on this post. You can also go ahead and order the 21 Day Fix and Fixate Cookbook to prepare.

But don’t wait too long because it takes a good 7 days for you to receive your materials. Here are the links!

21 Day Fix Workouts, Nutrition Plan, Recipes, Containers & Shakes

Fixate Cookbook

I can’t wait to hear from you! We are so excited to begin on May 9. Share with a friend so you can do it together!

Look for some posts from me the week before the challenge starts where I will include my supplemental family friendly, clean eating 7 day meal plan and shopping list!