Our First Vegan Thanksgiving

Last year this time, we had begun to toy with the idea of vegetarianism or veganism for our family, but we had not taken that step yet.  Our oldest is 3.5 yo and starting to understand that we eat differently than most of our family.  To help make her feel excited about the way our family eats, I want to do a few things with her this year and in coming years to show her that our Thanksgiving can be even more special, because we are vegan.

1. Peta Kids Thanksgiving Coloring Sheets – I have this for the kids to color and as a gentle conversation starter about how some people are going to eat turkey at Thanksgiving, but we think of turkeys as our friends who we want live.

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2. The Official Thanksgiving Survival Guide for Vegan Kids – This is one that I am saving for future years, because it is a bit advanced for my peanuts, but it is nice for elementary and up age kids.

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3. Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey Program – This is a nice way to put a real face to the idea of the Thanksgiving turkey that your family is choosing not to eat.  Kids see lots of cartoon images of turkeys and photographs of cooked and raw turkeys, but your family can have pictures of a real, live turkey that you help sponsor.

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4. Thanksgiving Books – As a former librarian, I am always on the lookout for Thanksgiving books that are about something other than the First Thanksgiving, since many of them come under criticism for historical inaccuracies.  Here are a few that I am hoping to add to our collection.  In many ways, it is easier to read these books with vegan and vegetarian kids, because they don’t have to deal with the personification of an animal that will end up as the center of the Thanksgiving meal!  They can root for the turkeys and be reminded that they are helping real turkey, too, by having a veg Thanksgiving meal!

Turk and Runt 

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‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

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Run Turkey Run

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The Turkey Ball

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Sometimes It’s Turkey, Sometimes It’s Feathers

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The Best Thanksgiving Ever!

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A Turkey for Thanksgiving

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The Thankful Book

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5. Fall Crafts – Obviously, you can still do plenty of turkey crafts if you want to do so, but if you want to do some crafts that do not focus on turkeys, here are few ideas.

Lego Stamped Corn – My DD made this at school, and it is now hanging on our bulletin board at home!

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 Q-Tip Autumn Tree – The link is a different language, but you can easily get the idea through the pictures.  If the Q-tip is too hard for little hands to hold, you can use a pencil eraser or bottle cork or even their fingertips.

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I am Thankful Pumpkin

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Placemats

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Pumpkin Pie Craft

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Kids in the Kitchen – Little Chef

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NL (3.5) loves to help in the kitchen!  Since she was a little baby, who sat in her high chair while I cooked, she has spent a lot of time in the kitchen with me.  Sometimes, it is a huge headache for me, but the benefits tend to outweigh the hassles.  Children who are involved in grocery shopping, helping in the garden, and preparing and serving meals are often more willing to try to new foods.  Her sense of pride and excitement over “helping” Mommy cook are heart-warming.

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At 3.5, she helps

  • make choices at the grocery store (Do we want the apples or the pears?)
  • remember items on our grocery list (Help me remember to get carrots, NL!)
  • take groceries out of the bags and put them away
  • decide what we are going to cook (Do we want to have tomato sauce or pesto tonight? Do not offer a choice you aren’t okay with!)
  • add measured ingredients into the bowl or pot (Just be careful with adding items that might splash hot liquids.)
  • stir ingredients (We do not let her stir boiling ingredients or anything frying in hot oil, but we let her watch from her learning tower pushed back a few feet.)
  • tear ingredients like bread for croutons or lettuce for a salad
  • cut softer items with a plastic knife
  • take her plate to the table and put it in the sink after dinner’
  • help me make her lunch each night or morning

Beyond making meals and snacks for her family, she has also helped me when we have made treats for her preschool class or muffins to take to a Sunday school friend who had surgery or dinner to a family with a new baby.

She loves to “help,” and she sometimes is truly helpful!  It might be hectic at times, and it may take a bit longer to prepare dinner, but letting your kids in the kitchen may make mealtime a lot smoother and help model how you and your family care for others.  Start thinking about ways you can get your little ones involved, regardless of their ages!

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Little Lunchbox for October – Pumpkins everywhere!

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Pumpkin lunchbox #1 — Mandarin orange pumpkin, carrot & raisin salad, hummus pumpkin sandwich, olives, and dried mangoes.

The carrot & raisin salad is super simple. Just mix a spoonful of mayo (Just Mayo is the one we have on hand most of the time) with a little bit of maple syrup till it is slightly sweet. Most of the time, I just make enough dressing for the individual servings.

I made a whole batch of the Mandarin orange pumpkins for Little Miss’s class snack this week, too. Such a simple, healthy, allergy friendly snack for school, soccer games, and parties. Tiny pieces of snap peas work well for the stems, too.

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Pumpkin lunchbox #2 — Freeze dried corn, broccoli slaw and green beans, pasta and olive pumpkin with tomato, white bean, spinach, and red pepper sauce, and a ghost pear.

I will put a pumpkin face on anything in October. Start thinking about what you can turn into a pumpkin with a cookie cutter, olives, raisins, etc., and I am sure you can find all sorts of festive ideas!

When it comes to pasta sauce, I will through whatever veggies I have on hand into a pan, saute them, and puree them to make a sauce.  It is a simple way to use up odds and ends and get veggies into my kids that they might refuse otherwise.  Leafy greens are a difficult vegetable to get my kids to eat, so I primarily use them in smoothies, pasta sauces, and soups so that the texture does not bother my little peanuts.

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Pumpkin lunchbox #3 — Hummus “pumpkin patch” with sungold tomatoes, snap peas and cucumber ghosts, grapes and raspberries, pumpkin tortilla chips, olives, and a few chocolate chips.

The cucumber ghosts are made with the ghost cutter out of this mini holiday set.  These cutters are very small, sturdy, metal cutters, and the set includes ones for several holidays. They also have a nature set and a sweet treats set. At this size, they are perfect for tiny fingers, and Little Miss adores them! I had a hard time getting enough cucumbers cut for her lunch, because she wanted to eat them all!

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Pumpkins made into another school snack this week.  I sent in Mandarin orange cups with faces drawn on with a Sharpie and Halloween bat and pumpkin pretzels.  These are another healthy, simple snack!

These are few of my favorite things . . . kids’ shoes

Baby shoes are some of the cutest creations known to man . . . or at least to women. It seems silly and callous of me, but when we decided to go vegan as a family, one of the first things that really made me sad was the realization that I would have to give up buying some of the adorable little shoes for our peanuts that are made with leather. First world vegan problems here, people.

Kids are rough on shoes, and many of the synthetic, fake leather shoes do not hold up well, and I don’t love the idea of just trashing shoes when our kids are done with them. I hope to be able to save them for family, resell them at consignment sales, or donate them to a charity shop. Here are few of the best vegan kids shoes that I have found so far. I am still on the quest for more adorable vegan shoes, so let me know if you find some great ones!

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Keen Coronado Sneakers – These are our favorite sneakers with adorable prints, sturdy construction, and flexible, rubber soles. They are actually certified vegan and say so on the inner soles! Not all Keens are vegan, so be careful when you are looking at other styles, but they actually have a vegan catergory on their website, and they offer vegan options for all ages. http://www.keenfootwear.com/products/na/kids/139,3468

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Bogs Waterproof Winter and Rain Boot – These are our favorite winter boots right now. Warm and soft inside, cute and bright Neoprene and rubber outside, easy to pull on and off with those big handles, and vegan to boot! Not all Bogs are vegan, since some use leather, but they have some great options for the whole family. We snagged a pair of Bogs recently for a deep discout at Gabe’s, so check there if you have one nearby, and Amazon sometimes discounts certain designs and often has shoe promo codes.

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Natives – Hands down, our favorite shoe this past summer. Similar to Crocs, but cuter, IMO, and better at staying on little feet, Natives are light weight, breathable, come in a ton of colors, and are easy to hose off or wear in wet places. Some kids will wear these long into the fall with a pair of socks. You can find these fairly often at TJ Maxx or Nordstrom Rack.

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Mini Melissa – Girly, girly, girly shoes for your little vegan ladies. A plethora of bright colors, sweet designs like kitty faces, hearts, and bows, and yummy scent, yes scent!, make Mini Melissa the most fun vegan shoe for little girls and women, since they have an adult line, too. The children’s sizes run small, so be prepared to size up. You can find them on sale sometimes on Amazon and on sample sites, such as Gilt. You can wipe them right off, so your girl can have pretty shoes for playing in the dirt!

We are still on the look out for cute, comfy vegan shoes that hold up well for all of our family, so I will keep you posted as we try other brands. I am interested to try Hot Chocolate Designs, because they have a ton of unique, fun styles. Anyone have any experience with those? What is your favorite vegan kids shoe?

 

Little Lunchbox – Elephants & Bears & Broccoli – for October 2, 2015

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3 year old’s lunch – grape tomatoes, Asian pear elephants, broccoli slaw with goddess dressing, teddy bear hummus sandwich, white beans with pickle elephants, and animal crackers. Oddly enough, the sandwich came home uneaten and the broccoli slaw was all gone! Random little person pickiness is of the many reasons why I try to give her such a variety each day. If she eats even a few bites of several things, she is getting at least some of the nutrients she needs. Small amounts of each thing means we don’t waste much food if she doesn’t like a new item or just decides that she isn’t in the mood for it.  We don’t force her to clean her plate at home, and I am not upset if something comes home from school uneaten, as long as she is eating a balanced diet most of the time.

Maybe she just thought the sandwich was too cute to eat! These cutters are an incredibly easy way to add a lot of character to the lunch box. Save odds and ends of bread to make homemade bread crumbs later for zero waste!

Little Lunchbox – Trader Joe’s Adoration – for September 30, 2015

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3 year old’s lunchbox –  carrots, Asian pear pigs and orange, grape tomatoes, puffed multigrain crackers, tomato basil hummus and a peppermint.

We used to live less than 10 minutes from a Trader Joe’s, and I became fairly addicted to several of their products. Now we live about 35 minutes from TJ’s, so anytime I head in that direction, you better believe I am that crazy lady filling two freezer bags full of TJ goodies! One of my favorite spreads prevegan and now is TJ’s tomato basil hummus. I can eat this savory dip by the spoonful!  These little peanuts better know they are loved, since I am sharing this goodness with them!

Little Man loves these fruit bars from Trader Joe’s, and they are a great, healthy snack with only 2 ingredients, 2-3 grams of fiber depending on the flavor, and only 90 calories!

I am not being compensated in any way by Trader Joe’s, but if they would like to supply this hummus addict and her fruit bar addicted son with a lifetime supply, I wouldn’t complain. : )

Little Lunchbox – Penguins on Parade – for September 29, 2015

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Take 1

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Take 2

Tonight was a lesson in why it is nice to have two lunchboxes.  I made a great kale, basil, and walnut vegan pesto based off of Chef Chloe’s recipe in Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen (one of my favorite cookbooks ever!), and both kids enjoyed it so much that they were eating it by the spoonful with and without pasta!  Whenever we have leftovers that were such a hit, I try to incorporate them into the next days lunchbox, so Little Miss Peanut and I used the pesto pasta in not one but two lunchbox compartments!  We added Asian pear penguins, Chao original slices with carrots and tomatoes, and a peppermint.

I had just put the lunchbox in the fridge and was cleaning up the kitchen when it hit me . . . two kids in Little Miss’ class have peanut and tree nut allergies and her whole preschool is tree nut and peanut free.

Time for take 2!  I transferred the side items to the other lunchbox and tossed some extra leftover pasta with tomato sauce.  Phew!  Glad I didn’t send any of her sweet classmates into anaphylactic shock!

We are lucky that our little peanuts are not allergic to any foods, peanuts or otherwise!  My mother in law is allergic to corn, carrots, shrimp, and chocolate, so with our vegan diet and her allergies, cooking Thanksgiving dinner should be an adventure!  What allergies do you have to worry about when you feed your kiddos at home or school?

Little Lunchbox – Butterfly in a Grape Sky– for September 25, 2015

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3 year old’s lunch – Hummus and shredded carrot butterfly sandwich, Thomcord grapes, bread and butter Bubbie’s pickles, tangelos, and coconut milk creamies for a treat. Baby brother has the same stuff, just cut up a bit.

I used a butterfly cookie cutter and added the carrot body with a little extra hummus. I love mixing shredded veggies like carrot, sweet peppers, cucumbers, or broccoli slaw in with hummus or vegan cream cheese for a sandwich or wrap filling. Many kids will pick out big pieces of veggies but happily gobble up veggies that are mixed into a creamy spread. You can also use a piece of one of those other veggies for the butterfly body. Both big sister and baby brother love these little vegan coconut milk treats from Happy Baby, and they provide a little dose of probiotics and Vitamin A

Little Lunchbox – Cat Sandwich – for October 1, 2015

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3 year old’s lunch – Mandarin orange cup, pumpkin o’s, cat hummus sandwich with olive eyes and nose and carrot whiskers, grape tomatoes, black olives, and pickles.

I made the cat using a cat outline cookie cutter, and I added the pieces of olive and carrot with a bit of hummus, pressing them down into the bread a bit. Use whatever your kiddo likes to make the features, maybe pretzels and chocolate chips with a nut butter sandwich, celery and raisins with a nut butter or cream cheese filling, or broccoli slaw and sunflower seeds with hummus filling.

The cat cutter is from a huge miscellaneous bunch of cookie cutters that I snagged at an Old Time Pottery.  Here is a similar set.

 

Little Lunchbox – Cats and Mac and Cheeze -for September 23, 2015

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Little Miss’s (3.5 yo) lunch – butternut squash mac and cheeze made with Oh She Glows recipe and zoo pasta, cat watermelon with Thomcord grapes, fava beans and black olives, and a dark chocolate covered graham cracker treat!

This lunch was pretty successful, both in the making and the eating.  Little Miss and I put it together after dinner, using the leftover mac and cheeze from our dinner.  She had already helped make dinner by stirring the sauce and the pasta and pouring measure ingredients in the pan.  The butternut squash mac is wonderful way to get some healthy veggies into a picky eater.

She loved using the cat cutter on the watermelon, and she kept trying them out on the extra pieces.  We used these cutters, and they are great, because they are small but sturdy and not too sharp for littles to use.  They worked well on the precut chunks of watermelon from the grocery store.

The Thomcord grapes are a fun change from the more commonly found green or red seedless grapes.  They are smaller and intensely flavored, and I had to stop myself from polishing off the pack before they made it to the lunchbox!

Black olives are a frequent addition to our meals, since they are one of Little Miss’s favorite foods, since she was around a year old!  What foods are you surprised that your children just adore?

Only the fava beans and a bite or two of pasta made it home.  When I asked her about lunch on the way home, Little Miss’s only comment was, “I ate my chocolate . . . yummy in my tummy!”

Little Man (15 months) went to preschool that day, too, and his lunch was similar to big sisters.  I used plain pasta for him, and of course, I chopped his olives and grapes up a bit.

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