Alternative to Fast Food for Children – Make Your Own Nutrional Happy Meals at Home

Today’s society is a fast food one. It seems that every time I am out and about, my children are begging me to stop at McDonalds. Through television advertising during seemingly innocuous cartoons, my children have grown up demanding certain brands. The other day, my 6 year old told me she wanted to eat at McDonalds. I asked her why there? She told me flat out that it had Hello Kitty toys for its happy meals! A light bulb went off in my head as I realized that she really didn’t seem to eat much of her meal, it was the toy that she was most interested in after all. A quick look in my 2-1/2 year old’s Happy Meal box told me that he, too, was more interested in the toy and not the Chicken McNuggets.

It was then that I hatched an idea of fast food look-a-likes. My children wouldn’t care what the food was, just so long as there was a toy involved. This would be a great way to sneak a little extra nutrition into their growing bodies and save me the expense of a fast food meal that goes uneaten. Here are a few ideas to help you you’re your own Happy Meals at home:

French fries:

It is very easy to peel an apple and then cut it in long strips to resemble French fries. Or substitute carrot sticks or celery sticks if your child can eat them. Make simple letters like the letters “A”, “E”, “F”, “H”, etc. anything that you can make out of the sticks. Ask your child which is which and once he or she identifies it, have them eat that letter. Cutting a melon such as honeydew or cantaloupe into French fry sticks is also a nice treat, provided the fruit isn’t overripe.


Milk is a good choice and flavoring it with a Hershey’s Syrup yourself will give you some control as to how much sugar your child consumes. Instead of a milk shake, substitute a smoothie instead using fruit that you have on hand. A smoothie will give your child an extra serving of fruit. A Capri Sun Roaring Waters juice pack is also another smart choice, as it has only 35 calories.

Sandwich ideas:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich: Cut with a cookie cutter into your child’s favorite shape. Cookie cutters come in a variety of shapes, and using shapes that
correspond to the nearest holiday is a delight. Near Christmas, use a Christmas Tree; Valentine’s use a heart; 4th of July use a Star.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Cook several sandwiches and use a round, square and triangle cookie cutters to create a shapely lunch. If you wish, fry up a little hamburger and sprinkle some chunks of meat inside and call it a cheeseburger. This idea is great for those whose children need to follow a gluten free diet since you can bake your own bread for use.

The use of cookie cutters is especially fun for pre-schoolers because you can review shapes with them and ask them if they can eat the triangle. For older children, they like to pretend play and pretend playing with real food will really appeal to them. Have your school aged child take your order and serve you.

No meal is complete without the above-mentioned toy. There’s always yard sales or consignment children’s stores that may have Happy Meal toys still in their original packaging. You could also try to stop in to McDonalds and ask if you could purchase a toy separately or ask parents of children who are too old for a Happy Meal toy to save them for you. You could even buy some on eBay! Another idea would be to visit the party goods area of your Wal-Mart or Target and take a look at the fun toys there. You will end up buying a package of them, but if you have more than one child, it is sometimes easier if everyone gets the same toy so there is no fighting.

I hope that this article gives you some ideas on a fun activity to do with your children. It seems so wasteful to take your children to McDonalds only to have them not eat! Making a Happy Meal at home may be something your children will enjoy and ask to do again.

Oklahoma’s Food for Kids Program

The Oklahoma Food Bank is very much aware of the problem faced by Oklahoman kids who do not have enough to eat. Because of this, they have started “Food For Kids Backpack Program.” This simple plan helps to feed school children and their younger siblings over the week-end. Children, who qualify for the program, receive a backpack full of snacks, juices and other food items each Friday.

Oklahoma teachers and administrators have been seeing more and more hungry children in their classes. In fact, some students were only eating lunch at school and doing without over the week-ends. When this fact was brought to the attention of the Oklahoma Food Bank, they began the Food For Kids Program.

In an interview on KWTV, an administrator for one of Oklahoma’s schools told the story of a little girl he found eating balloons. When he asked why she was eating balloons, her answer seemed obvious to her. “I am hungry,” she answered honestly.

A teacher told a KWTV reporter that a little girl in her class was crying. When she was asked what was wrong, the little girl explained that her pet rabbit had died. The girl continued sobbing and told the rest of the story. Her family had killed the rabbit and ate it, seeing there was nothing else for them to eat.

“I didn’t know about any of this [until I saw it on Channel 9]. Balloons – wow. That is so sad,” Mandy, from Enid stated. “I can’t imagine. If I knew the kids that weren’t eating, I would feed them myself.”

Children who go without food, even for a short time, are more likely to have many different problems. There is a direct connection between a child’s development and nutrition. Lack of food can have a negative influence on a child’s behavior and health as well as cause psychological and behavioral problems.

“Oklahomans need to help each other and put a stop to this problem,” Mandy said. “No child should go hungry. Do anything that you can to help!”

The cost for the Kids Backpack Program is covered completely by donations from Oklahomans concerned about children going hungry. A donation of $200 will provide on backpack for a child for an entire school year. Oklahoma businesses are also helping with this program to stop children from being hungry. Some are even matching donations from their employees and the general public. Every little bit helps and no donation is too small to make a difference.

The Food For Kids Backpack Program is just one of four programs that the Oklahoma Food Bank has that helps to feed Oklahoma’s children. They also offer Kid’s Café, School Pantries and the Summer Feeding Program.

White Wine Poached Salmon Salad: With Baby Lettuces and Fresh Ground Black Pepper Garlic Vinaigrette

Salmon is a quality protein fatty fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. It is a great fish choice when choosing a variety for a heart healthy diet. This salad combines the power of antioxidant-rich baby lettuces for a salad good for the heart.

Use any mesclun mix or a selection of different baby lettuces that appeals such as baby Romaine, radicchio, baby spoon lettuce, baby oak leaf or Swiss Chard, frisee or baby spinach. Serve the salad as is or dress it up with any roasted vegetable or a sprinkle of cooked black beans to make the salad unique. It is also adaptable to any prepared vinaigrette in the refrigerator making the salad quick and simple. This recipe serves 4.

White Wine Poached Salmon Salad


  • About 8 oz. baby lettuce, washed and trimmed if necessary
  • Four 4-oz. salmon fillets, poached and cooled, recipe below
  • Black Pepper Garlic Vinaigrette, recipe below
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for garnish



  1. Take the washed and trimmed baby lettuces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add enough of the prepared vinaigrette to lightly coat the lettuce leaves. Toss well.
  2. Divide the lettuces between four large salad plates or bowls.
  3. Flake the cooked and chilled salmon and divide between the bowls. Top with freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Serve.

White Wine Poached Salmon Fillets

  • 4 4-oz. fillets of samon
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • About 6 whole peppercorns
  • 1/4 medium onion, cut in half

Place the salmon in a large frying pan that has a lid. Choose a pan that will fit all the fillets in a single layer, without overlapping each other. Add the wine, water, and whole peppercorns. Add additional water if necessary to ensure the liquid covers the fish. Separate the onion layers and sprinkle over the liquid. Bring the court boullion to boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then add the salmon fillets. Cover the pan and gently poach the fillets until they are opaque in the center. Remove from the liquid, place on a plate and chill the fillets until cold and ready for use.

Black Pepper Garlic VinaigretteThis recipe makes about one cup.

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed with 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Finely chop the garlic clove and sprinkle with salt. Smash and puree the garlic clove with the flat part of a chef’s knife. Place the smashed garlic clove with salt in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar. Stream in the canola oil while constantly whisking and mix well. Add in the fresh ground black pepper to taste. Use as needed for the recipe, reserving any extra for another use.

For other fresh fish salads, try Albacore Salad Nicoise, using fresh albacore tuna poached in court boullion or Swordfish Escabeche, where the fish fillets are pan seared, marinated in an herb vinaigrette and chilled before serving

Selling Music Online: CDBaby Vs. Tunecore

For independent musicians, availability is everything–if our fans can find our music, then and only then can they buy it. The Internet is a great tool for indie musicians for this reason, and with CD Baby and Tunecore’s digital distribution services, indie artists can easily put their music on some of the biggest online music distributors’ sites, like Rhapsody, iTunes, Amazon, Napster, eMusic, and more.

However, indie musicians are (by definition) not rich, and we need to get the most for our money. Here’s a breakdown of the differences in CDBaby and Tunecore’s digital distribution systems to help you choose the one that you need.

1. Annual fees

CD Baby is the clear winner in this category, as they charge a one time cost of for the entire setup. Tunecore charges a yearly fee in addition to their setup fee, which, depending on the stores you select, can be pretty significant. However, you do have to send CD Baby a physical product, meaning a produced CD ready for sale on their website. If you prefer to sell everything digitally, Tunecore has an advantage in this respect, especially when selling a single, which overall will end up costing less on Tunecore (though the yearly rates may eventually eat up the difference).

2. Speed

The time it takes either of the services to put your music up on iTunes, eMusic, and other online music retailers is pretty much the same. Tunecore does give you a projected date that your album or song will go “live” on, but it’s an estimate and often the processing is much faster. Expect to wait a few weeks in any case, but neither service seems to be able to determine when your songs are available, it’s all going to depend on the online retailers themselves.

3. Reporting

CD Baby’s reports are slow. So are TuneCore’s. Usually, iTunes and the other music stores send out sales reports about 45 days after the sales, so expect to be waiting at least a month in a half to see how your sales are going.

TuneCore does offer weekly “trending” reports for $2.97 each which show your buyers’ locations, what they bought, and more, but I’m somewhat irked that they charge extra without letting you know the amount of sales in the report–it might be worth $2.97 if I know that I can see the zip codes of 30 buyers, but if it’s just one, then it’s hardly worth it. Tunecore gets a slight advantage just for offering the reports, but they could be better implemented and more helpful.

4. Number of stores

CD Baby has more stores than Tunecore, but unless you’re planning on aggressively promoting at the websites of some of their smaller partners, it doesn’t really matter, you’re unlikely to see large amounts of sales from anything but the big boys (iTunes, Rhapsody, Napster, etc.). One annoying thing about the Tunecore service is that you’ll have to pay for each store added, including different stores from the same company, for instance iTunes Japan or iTunes Canada. CD Baby doesn’t put this restriction on you, and offers more stores (even if you won’t see more sales, hey, they’re out there, right?). If you want your fans to have variety, CD Baby has the better deal.

In the end, I give a definite edge to CD Baby unless you intend to distribute music completely digitally (or if you’re selling a single). Both services are useful, but CD Baby’s lower prices, simple interface, greater variety, and experience make them slightly more valuable to independent musicians than Tunecore’s services.

A History of Blues Music

Blues music developed as a response to the end of slavery. No longer spending all their lives solely working in the fields and going to church, former slaves began to spread across the country and live fuller lives. Many of them became sharecroppers on their own personal farms as opposed to living together on large plantations. As the former slaves traveled, they began to encounter the cultures of different part of the country, and for the first time in their lives, they had to find work and make money. Men in particular had a difficult time finding jobs. As their lives began to expand, so did the subject matter of the music. The work songs of the slavery era began to transform into an early form of blues, as former slaves began to sing not about their work and their religion, but about their individual lives, travel, and personal struggles with integrating themselves into American society. African-American moved away from singing about traditional African topics, such as the gods, work, nature, and life after death as the adopted American culture, which focused on the individual and his personal life here on earth. Different styles of blues, such as country blues, urban blues, classic blues, and boogie woogie, developed in response to characteristics of different locations and time periods.

Early blues music copied the structure of European ballads, which consisted of between eight and sixteen lines. Eventually blues developed into the form we know today, which consists of a 12 bar structure – each verse has three lines, and each line four bars. Blues also incorporates the call and response technique. The words of the song usually take up only half on a line, leaving the other half for a vocal or instrumental response. The music also had an AAB format, in which the first two lines of a verse would the same, and the third one would be different. Early blues involved heavy use of the guitar and harmonica. As classic blues developed, other instruments such as the piano and European brass instruments began to be used. Boogie woogie blues employed a major use of the piano. Instruments in blues played the role of mimicking vocal sounds and provided a foil for the singing. Another major characteristic of blues is the personal subject matter. Blues songs tend to be sad and melancholic, and are mostly about the singer’s relationships, social struggles, travels, and personal tragedies.

Blues began to develop and the end of the Civil War when the slaves were emancipated. As they began to travel, they developed a music that was about their personal lives. Blues continued to develop in the Reconstruction era, when African-Americans began to disperse all over the country and build and develop their own societies. Early blues evolved into classic blues in the early 20th century. The mass migration of African-Americans from the South to larger, industrial Northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and New York, along with the introduction of traveling minstrel shows and musical troupes, started the evolution of primitive blues into classic blues. Primitive blues was music meant solely for the individual, while classic blues became more formalized and was intended to entertain large audiences. 
Blues continued into the 1920, when it began to be recorded and take on more urban themes. The early 1920’s also saw the introduction of race records, which was music aimed strictly towards African-Americans. This was the time in which massive amounts of blues material began to be recorded. This was due largely to the fact that African-American were now working and earning wages that they could spend on entertainment and leisure. The Great Depression brought the end of classic blues, as African-American no longer had the money to spend on records. The decline of the commercial classic blues led to the emergence of urban blues and boogie-woogie, which was played mainly at parties. Boogie woogie and urban blues remained popular through World War I and well into the late 1930’s.

Early minstrel companies, such as the Georgia Minstrels, Pringle Minstrels, and McCabe and Young Minstrels provided the first opportunity for blues singers to reach a wider audience around the country. This led to the emergence of early classic blues singers like Bessie Smith and Gertrude “Ma” Rainey. Ma, or Madame Rainey, as she was sometimes called, toured the South with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and became a very influential blues singer. She taught Bessie Smith, who became the most famous classic blues singer. Touring troupes such as The Rabbit Foot, Silas Green’s and Mahara’s exposed enabled the early blues singer to tour the country with their music. Other early classic blues singers include Ida Cox and Sarah Martin. 
Examples of later classic blues singers include Mamie Smith, the first blues singer to make a commercial record and Victoria Spivey, whose first record, Black Snake Blues, sold 150,000 copies in a year. Classic blues was dominated by women, who did not have the burden of traveling and looking for work like the men did. Country blues, on the other hand, was dominated by men, except for notable females like Ida May Mack and Bessie Tucker. Boogie woogie blues, which gained popularity after the decline of classic blues featured musicians such as Jimmy Yancey and Albert Ammons. Urban blues singers include Tampa Red, Sonny Boy Williamson, and the very popular LeRoy Carr.

Blues music began in the rural South, where men worked as sharecroppers of traveled the country looking for work. This led to the development of primitive and country blues. As more and more African-Americans traveled north post-slaver, blues spread to a wider audience and further evolved. The closing of New Orleans’s red light district, Storyville, in 1917 led Southern musicians to travel north in order to find work. They were eventually hired by larger Northern dance bands, who soon became influenced by their music. By the early teens and twenties, blues saw most of its development in the Northern industrial cities such as Detroit, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Chicago. The theaters of the North led to the introduction of classical blues, which was a more formal and publicized counterpart to country blues. This also led to the development of a more urban blues, in which musicians sung about the difficulties of life in a foreign, industrialized environment. Quite often, the songs referred to the South as home and the North as a place of struggle. Boogie woogie blues also developed in the North, specifically in Chicago, where it first gained popularity. It was based on the tradition of early country blues singers, which relied heavily on vocals and the guitar. Boogie Woogie replaced prominent use of the guitar with the piano.

How to Choose Fresh Fish and Seafood

Top Tips for Good Seafood

If you want to purchase good seafood then you should be aware of how to get fresh fish. You deserve to get the best for your money and fish especially fish should be eaten fresh.

If the seafood that you have just brought is not fresh and the shopkeeper cites transportation problems then it is certainly not your fault. You deserve the best quality and rate that you deserve. If the fishmonger cannot guarantee that, then its time to find another dealer.

You can choose from a large variety of fish’s right from salmon to the shellfish and each of these has their own special distinctive features when they are fresh. If you can gauge these differences then you can guess the right type of fresh fish and you can become a good picker of fresh seafood.

Remember that the fresher the fish the better the buy. While buying from the grocery store; you thought that you had been sold shrimps they were quite fresh, but did you realize how long had it been since the fish was harvested. Was it frozen as soon as it was harvested and then sent to your local grocery store? How was it packed, in dry ice? These factors have to be taken into account when you buy fresh seafood.

The best technique to maintain the seafood fresh is to use the “Flash Frozen” method. Flash frozen is a method used to freeze sea food hardly a few hours after the harvest to guarantee the, flavor, quality and sparkle of the newly caught fish. This ensures that you are getting good fish for the right rate. Ensuring that the fish is preserved immediately with freezing also ensures that you are getting hygienic fish prepared at a quality store.

When you purchase cold seafood of any variety, check the expiry date and manufacture date. Please remember that fish appears white to opaque and any discoloration that you see on the fish could indicate that the food is not up to quality. Ensure that the seafood is frozen solid. The only smell should be a mild and fresh fishy odor. Next take a good at the wrapping of the frozen fish. The packing should be intact and vapor proof as well as moist and it should fit stiff around the seafood. Ensure that the flash frozen packing is not torn or open at any corner or even puffed in appearance. Un-wrapped edges, ice crystals and water stains should not be present. If there are water stains or ice crystals then it is an indication that the seafood thawed in between losing it freshness and causing the icicles.

When you are going to buy fish steaks or fish filets the flesh has to be firm, moist, slightly elastic and look fresh. The edges should not be dark or dry and this is a sign that you should not buy the fish. Look out for the odor too; it should be mild and fresh. The packaging should not be too tight around the fish steaks or fish filets and certainly do not buy if there is liquid in the container or wrapping.

Note that fresh fish should appear shiny and bright. The scales will be bright and hold on to the skin. Take a note of the color and marking of the fish. As the fish becomes stale it starts to fade and looks pale. The eyes should also be a way to gauge the freshness of the fish. The eyes should be clear, fresh and even protruding in some varieties of fish. See that the gills are bright red in color. As the fish turns pale the gills turn pink and later green or even brown as days pass. The fish odor should be faint. The fishy strong smell does not imply fresh. Start a conversation with the fishmonger. He is the best guide you can tell you from where the fish was harvested and even the date or time of harvest.

I am sure these suggestions will stay put in your mind when you buy seafood and fish for your next party.

Music is Life

The bells ring in expression 
Giving me a clear feeling, 
Of complete and pure affection, 
Even when the hammers of war 
Bang upon the swords of hurt.

Music is my life. Hand drawn dry brush lettering. Ink illustration. Modern calligraphy phrase. Vector illustration

The endless flutes of merciful 
Angels gives me complete hope, 
For the future that awaits me, 
Yes I have great hope for future 
Even now when spears clash.

The infinite harps of saints 
On the bountiful white clouds, 
Gives me a feeling of protection, 
Protection that’s so very complete 
Even as the trumpets of hate sound.

The eternal music of pure love 
Gives me an assurance of victory, 
Yes heaven sends me peaceful glee, 
Even when this broken Eden is chained 
In all greed and wars complete!

The music gives me a fullness of life 
And the complete armor of expression, 
I am here in avid attention seeking, 
And yes finding the shores of peace 
In the clouds and the stars of soul.

More About Wheat-free Foods

Being wheat-free is a lifestyle challenge. There are things such as wheat flour, then there is wheat bran, wheat gluten, wheat germ, and more. There are some manufacturers who provide a coding system, easy for even consumers shopping after a 12 hour work shift to decipher, then there are the labels with six or more lines of ingredient on the back, plus the fine print such as Warning: this product made on machinery that also processes gluten, dairy, corn, wheat, nuts, meat. If a product is gluten-free, it should also be wheat free.

Flour-less bread, here’s the scoop: it just might contain whole wheat berries, or sprouted wheat. Wheat germ is another ingredient to be wary of on bread products, and will not be on the top line of the ingredients list of the bread product, more than likely, if there is wheat germ in your baked item, this will be listed on the second, third, or fourth line of ingredients; somewhere around sesame seed, poppy seed, fennel seed or spices.

Here is another quick tip from Betty Hagman, author of many books about wheat-free diets and more, avoid sirimi, something that composes the majority of much of our imitation sea food, as it is manufactured using wheat. Look on the label to see if the imitation sea food contains sirimi, if so, avoid it. If there is no label, find out who manufactures the product prior to purchasing it or using it, if you are allergic to wheat, your best bet is to avoid anything that is known to possibly contain wheat from an unknown source.

It is the summer, try finding someplace where there are no pesticides: contact an organization like EarthWorks, or the Christian Gardening Association, or your local gardening club to find out where the fresh organic produce is. Make your sandwiches with grape leaves, lettuce leaves, arugula leaves, spinach leaves, tender artichoke wraps for bite-sized sandwiches, the innermost leaves on a corn ear to make a tamale – go easy on yourself, enjoy your summer, these choices obviously contain no wheat in them.

Just because a product is flour-free does not mean that it is wheat free. Being wheat free does not mean being boring, it just means changing your diet a bit. Yes, there is a lot of rice to eat, not just long-grained white rice, or short-grained rice, or sweet dessert rice. There is also wild rice, jasmine rice, basmati bice, and other varieties of rice as well. Other varieties of grain products product include corn and corn meal, which make excellent corn bread, chess pie, johnny cakes, corn pancakes, stuffing, and more.

Exotic Grains such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, flax, and soy flour can also be used as a part of your diet.

Rice, rice and more rice – rice cakes, rice pudding, rice cookies, rice puffs, cream of rice, rice milk; these are obvious choices, all of these contain no wheat, and many of these are flavorful, the bite-sized rice cakes look like crackers. Then, there are those glossy rice crackers, imported from places like Japan, available at many supermarkets, that cost about $4.00 per pound, that are always in stock at Trader Joe’s or Wild Oats Marketplace.

Tapioca is another grain that is useful for people who are trying to avoid meat, and may already be in your refrigerator. Baked goods such as tapioca bread, tapioca pie crust, tapioca crunch balls, tapioca cookies, tapioca fruit fillings, tapioca thickening agents are easily produced. I have not figured out how to produce a tapioca souffle, yet.

Oatmeal is another excellent choice for a gluten-free grain. oatmeal, granola, oatmeal bars, oatmeal bread

Granola Turkey Stuffing

This is a special, savory granola 
1 cup granola 
1 cups oats 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, or dried sage 
1/4 cup butter 
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano, or dried oregano 
1 tablespoon crumbled sun-dried tomatoes, or 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes

Mix ingredients together, and use to stuff turkey. If you have more fresh sage and fresh oregano, place at the opening of the turkey.

popcorn, popcorn balls, popcorn “monkey bread”