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

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.

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”

Captain Steve’s Seafood Restaurant Review

Located in Fort Mill, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina

Captain Steve’s Family Seafood Restaurant located in Fort Mill, North Carolina is a great place for affordable seafood dishes. Located at 1975 Highway 21 Bypass the same road that Carowinds Theme Park is located on but in the opposite direction about 5-8 miles up the road. Captain Steve’s is open Tuesday through Saturday usually from 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. They accept cash and credit cards. Captain Steve’s has another restaurant located at 8517 Monroe Road with the same hours as well.


Captain Steve’s is an affordable seafood restaurant located within the Charlotte Metro area that provides generous portions at affordable prices. Captain Steve’s is not a buffet seafood restaurant, but once you order you’ll have more food than you can eat. Taking home a white box is a must. They have everything from shrimp to hamburgers. Most of the food is fried and the food is greasy, So be prepared to use your napkins. Captain Steve’s serves soda, water and sweet tea. No alcohol beverages are sold. Kids can get a baby shrimp meal for free.

Captain Steve’s menu options can be viewed here

I recommend the Steve’s Fishermen platter at $13.95 comes with a filet of flounder, oysters, scallops, jumbo shrimp, baby shrimp and a deviled crab.


Captain Steve’s seafood at Fort Mill, North Carolina is very large and spacious. The restaurant can accommodate small to very large groups. Another thing is that the restaurant parking lot is very large that can accommodate cars to buses. The parking lot will be packed, but you’ll have no problem getting seated within a few minutes. Captain Steve’s is handicap accessible.


Captain Steve’s service is great from the time you enter the building by the host to sitting at your table ordering your seafood and having your drinks refilled. The staff is friendly and the bus boy’s clean the tables fairly quick.

Restaurant Cleanliness

Captain Steve’s if pretty clean considering the amount of traffic that moves through the restaurant on a daily basis. Silverware, glasses and plates have always been clean during my visits. Bathrooms are clean as well as the floors of the restaurant.

Overall, if your looking for a great seafood restaurant in Charlotte or the surrounding area you need to visit Captain Steve’s located in Fort Mill. You’ll receive a lot of seafood for your money and great service as well. The restaurant can accommodate any size party you may have and kids usually get a free baby shrimp dinner. Be prepared to take your food home because you’ll get stuffed with seafood and hushpuppies.

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution

I’ve been watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. It aires on the ABC Network, Friday evenings at 8e/7c. So far they have shown the premier, which aired two weeks ago, and last week was a two hour special. It was a repeat of the premier during the first hour and the first episode followed.

Jamie is on a mission to bring wholesome, healthy lunches to our school systems. After some research, it was reported that Huntington, West Virginia has the highest mortality rate that is caused by obesity. Jamie sets off to start his “Food Revolution.”

Jamie reaches out to the community of Huntington, West Virginia, via radio, where the host twists everything that Jamie says, sending the town into an uproar. This response brings Jamie to tears and filled with frustration. Never the less, he continues to strive forward.

He goes into a Huntington Elementary School to enlighten their way of thinking, cooking and feeding the children. Although the lunch ladies are less than enthusiastic about the changes being suggested, they go along with it and try it his way.

After a week of trying to get through to the staff, children and even the parents, Jamie inquires about utensils for a meal he is preparing for the kids. Reluctantly, the school comes up with plastic forks and knives. Soon the staff notices that many of the kids don’t know how to use their utensils. As the staff attempts to help the children learn to use the utensils, they also begin to encourage trying the new foods before them. This effort plus some really cool stickers motivates the kids to eat and the revolution is on its way!

Jamie is given permission to stay on at the elementary school two more weeks to continue his efforts. Elated Jamie accepts.

He then moves on to the High School to make some head way with the student over there. Much more receptive than the younger children he picks out a team of students to help change the thinking and choices the other kids are making.

This reality show is truly an eye opener. For this young man to come into our country and take this on himself to try to help us is an incredible act of kindness and love for people. This show is a must see. There is a petition on his website. Sign up and join the revolution!


The Best Food Options at Minute Maid Park

Foods at the Ballpark Are Far from Healthy but Some Choices Are Better Than Others

Let me tell you something: just about the worst eating you can do is at your local sports stadium. That is just a general rule. Sports fans go to sports events to be entertained. They watch athletes get exercise while they enjoy meaty, fatty foods and down loads of booze. I’m from Houston Texas, home of the Astros Baseball team. Here is the lo-down on all the food options available at Minute Maid Park and what your healthiest food options will be if you go there:

Food Items:

Hot Dogs- the chili meat on top of chili dogs is juicy and flavorful. You pay for it with the calories. I think that hot dogs are oily and fatty, but if you eat it plain or with mustard then it is probably one of the better choices at the ballpark. This is because a plain hotdog doesn’t have any of the liquid, viscous sauces that are jam packed with fats, sugars, and calories. Mustard is a low calorie condiment that adds a flavorful kick to your food.

Nachos- these are a common choice for baseball fans. You can get Buffalo Chicken nachos, BBQ Pulled Pork nachos, Beef Fajita nachos, or the traditional cheese nachos. This is the worst option for you. Nachos with meat run between one thousand and two thousand calories. This is how a meal consisting of nachos will break down: Salty corn chips with almost zero nutritional value; Melted cheese, which is jam packed with calories and salt; “Sloppy Joe” pulled pork meat that is almost the worst you can have because it is fatty, saucy, and oily; Sour cream has super high fat content. If you are trying to lose weight or be healthy then don’t do this to yourself!

Loaded Baked Potato- Don’t be fooled; a potato is a vegetable but that doesn’t make it the best choice for a healthy meal. In order for a vegetable to be able to compete flavor-wise with hotdogs, burgers, and nachos, it has to undergo a few modifications. It is loaded with butter, sour cream, and saucy piles of meat. The baked potato is a dangerous trap!

Burgers- These burgers are new and I haven’t had the chance to see them. Burgers aren’t by any means a safe diet food but I’m guessing that if you follow the same general idea as I mentioned in the hot dog suggestion I think that this may also be a better choice.

Peanuts- a classic ballpark food. Peanuts are high in fat but they have a healthier fat that is better for your body (in moderation). Don’t eat too many peanuts, though, because they are covered in salt.

Drink Choices:

If you want to be healthy then cut out the alcohol. It is jam packed with carbohydrates (and sugars if you get a fruity alcoholic beverage). You know that soda is a sugary drink that competes with the sugar content of candy. The answer for you is water or diet sodas. You will be getting enough rubbish from your food. You don’t need anything more from your drink.


You can choose between various candies, Ice creams, and cotton candies. The stadium sells blue bell ice cream, which is a no-no for you! It’s very creamy and high in fat. Especially avoid the sundaes drizzled with chocolate fudge and whipped cream. Candy is candy. It has the nutritional information printed on the box. You know what you are in for.

Food items available can be found at