Author Archives: upnorthtwinmom

About upnorthtwinmom

Stay at home mom of four year old twins, a two year old tornado, and a new baby. I'm focused on keeping my family happy and healthy, and to do so I make my kids cook for me. It's a win-win.

Sniff and Season

My five year old makes me so proud.

My five year old makes me so proud.

Sniff and season is a very serious task.

Sniff and season is a very serious task.





We live in Northern Michigan and that is never more clear than during the winter. We get a lot of snow, a lot of ice, and now that the twins are in school we get a lot of snow days.

The kids get to stay in their pajamas all day, we get to eat on our natural schedule, the baby can nap when she’s tired. The house gets destroyed every time. It takes weeks to recover from the housekeeping nightmare that is a snow day.

Around lunchtime we always have the food debate. Soup? Sandwiches? Chicken nuggets (again)? Inevitably we can’t all agree, that is the nature of kids. Mine at least. They want something fast and NOW. I want something hot for them, since they eat cold lunch at school every other day of the week.

Today we all decided on fish. Fish is a dish that is either loved by all, or barely touched, depending on the day. So now the kids are in charge of seasoning it every time, this almost guarantees that at least three of the four will eat it. They trust each other’s seasonings more than they trust mine.

It is the same process every time, the only thing that changes is the kid. I pull out all the spices that we have. They open each one, give it a good sniff, and if it smells nice it goes on the fish. We get a nice meal, the kids gets more familiar with spices and how they work together in a dish.

Pierce and Ted are heavy handed with their seasonings, they prefer to mask the taste of the fish as much as possible. Both prefer to stick to old favorites like lemon pepper, garlic, or dill.

Lillian changes it up but is always light on the seasonings. She really gets into the concept of sniff and season. Since she is not putting much of anything on, the seasonings usually end up like a nice light nature’s seasoning. She takes her time, sometimes going back to ones she has passed over.

Today she had a lovely mix that pleased everyone, it is always amazing when one meal is enjoyed by all the members of the family! We don’t write down the fish recipes, it is more fun to do the sniff and season every time. This method keeps us from getting in a seasoning rut. I save ruts for my pot roasts and stews.

In case you don’t want to try the sniff and season method yourself here is the mix she used today:

Sniff and Season Tilapia

1 package frozen tilapia, thawed
1/2 stick salted butter, cut into chunks
Onion powder

Preheat oven to 425

Cover cookie sheet with aluminum foil, spray with oil. Place fish on sheet so it is not overlapping. Put the chunks of butter on top of the fish. Lightly season with everything, to your own taste preference.

Bake 12 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.


The three things we learned are
1) How spices work together
2) Sniff and season can take 30 seconds or 30 minutes depending on the kid
3) Mom needs a vacation after a snow day

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Posted by on February 19, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Letting Go

Honey Bunches of Oats

I give my kids a lot to do in the kitchen. They prepare, cook, eat and clean. So you’d think it would be easy to hand over an entire meal to them. When I was pregnant with Charlotte a friend on Twitter suggested having the kids get their own breakfast, allowing me to rest longer. So, wait. That’s allowed? I can have my kids wake up and take care of themselves?? It was like a lightening bolt of duh for me. Isn’t that what I’d been preparing them for all along?

Sounds easy, right? This was a the biggest struggle I’ve faced in the kitchen. The biggest.

I had to let go. Not of control, I was fine letting them make their own choices. Their favorite cereal has always been Honey Bunches of Oats, so I wasn’t concerned about what they’d be eating. I knew they were fully capable. They could reach everything they needed, pouring wasn’t a problem.

I had to let go of that time, those moments. Every minute we were washing potatoes, beating eggs, picking out the right color bowl, we were doing it together. Our kitchen time is the best time for conversation. We really get to know one another on a deeper level while we prepare meals together.

I wasn’t sure I was ready to let them grow up that much.

I didn’t want them to not need me.

Luckily I have lovely children that are still as needy of me every other moment of the day. Sometimes all at once. At the same time as each other, and my husband, and the kitten. So, in the long run I was pleased to let them grow up a bit and get their own breakfast. Once, on a very special day that we will cherish forever, they ate and played for an entire hour. Brad and I were able to sleep in until 7:30. It was a glorious day.

Post provided us with a new type of Honey Bunches of Oats to try! All the following reviews are our own. After they got their own bowls, poured their cereal in, got the small container of milk out to add to their cereal, (spilled the milk, yelled at each other to find a towel, finally the baby got the towel and sopped it up) my kids had the following to say.

Pierce said “It’s fruity. I don’t like it…I love it!” followed by a chorus of “I don’t like it, I love it” from the others since his comment made me giggle.

Do you want to try the new Tropical Blends Honey Bunches of Oats? Leave me a comment below by 12am February 17th, 2013 to be entered in for a free box! For a second entry follow @HBOats on Twitter and leave a second comment here telling me you did.

After you’ve done that head over to enter the Tropical Trio sweepstakes on the Purex Brand Promotions page here. If you win the 4-night stay at Outrigger Waikiki I’d be happy to join you!


Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Uncategorized


How to keep the apple from getting funky.

So simple and it works!

So simple and it works!

Apples. They brown if you slice them, they aren’t as likely to get eaten if you don’t.

I’ve tried everything to keep them from browning before the kids get to lunch time. Lemon juice, orange juice, lemon-lime soda. All of these work, but leave a taste on the fruit that my kids complain about.

So now I use the handy dandy slicer on the apples…then hand the whole thing to a kid who is waiting impatiently on the sidelines with a rubber band. They slip it over the apple, and we all marvel at the fact that it looks whole! From start to finish this trick takes 27 seconds, and it always gets completely eaten when sent as their snack.

My twins prefer this method since the fruit only tastes like fruit.

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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Look in the middle...that is where the genius lives

Look in the middle…that is where the genius lives

This is a fairly busy picture, my apologies.

Focus on the center, there is a simple thing happening there that was a huge hit.

Lily Belle wanted to put something on a pick. The picks are a highly desired piece of our bento arsenal. I usually just stick a few grapes on them, but the kids get more creative. She took a piece of lunch meat and gave me a lesson in fractions (I fold it and now its in half I fold it again and now we have ________…at which point she looks to me for my input, I love lessons where the teacher doesn’t have the answers) and stuck it on a pick. She filled up the pick with meat, which took only a few minutes.

This meat, outside of a sandwich, was such a fun novelty for both twins that we’ve continued to add it to lunches. I think it’s a cute method, and its easy enough for them to do themselves…maybe soon she’ll remember what 1/4 is.

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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Carrot Flowers

Pretty bouquet

Pretty bouquet

Today I’m not feeling the blog. I don’t have anything fabulous to post, so I’m thinking I’ll start a new “thing”. I’ll show you a picture of when I was feeling particularly into making school lunches. I’ll tell you who did it, if the kids liked it (meaning–ate it), and how long it took to make. We don’t Bento all the time, but we do add bits of fun to most lunches. By we I mean the kids…I was over making school lunches after the first week.

Here is the first installment of my “not feeling it, so look at this picture” series.

Carrots. My kids love them, and usually get sticks in their lunches a few times a week. The day that we peel and chop the big bag of carrots for the week we set one carrot aside. The biggest.

This one makes a special carrot flower. It started because Charlotte loves carrots, but couldn’t chew them. So, using the vegetable peeler, the big kids would shave off long thin strips for her. Of course all the kids had to try them, and inevitably play with them. Rolling them up into tubes turned into a fun way to make a flower in their lunches! Pierce’s usually get a squeeze of ranch dressing in the bottom of the cup, which he’s told me travels well and is fine at lunchtime.

Pierce made the ones pictured, he’s five. They can be made by anyone who has mastered the vegetable peeler, which my kids started using around 2 or 3 years of age.
He took about forty-five minutes to make three carrot flowers, arranging them in the cup is a tad difficult even for me.
The twins ate them up! They love carrot flower day, and we do it every couple of weeks.

If you want to try it:
1) Pick a fat carrot
2) Peel and wash it
3) Using the vegetable peeler slice off long strips until the carrot is too thin to make it worthwhile to continue.
4) In a silicon cup (or a small compartment of a lunch box, or maybe a paper cupcake liner?) place numerous rolled up strips of carrot in a manner that resembles a flower.

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Posted by on January 16, 2013 in Uncategorized


Back to Basics

Oops! Littlest one is about to learn a lesson about standing on chairs.

Oops! Littlest one is about to learn a lesson about standing on chairs.

Since I’ve been gone from the blogging world for awhile, and in the meantime added a new cook to my team, I figured a back to basics post was in order.

But first…Congratulations to Angie, the winner of the Borax giveaway! I’ll send out your prize this weekend!

Every age can cook. I have two five year olds, a three year old, and a 18 month old and every one of them helps me in the kitchen. We have a system that works well for us, but we’ve been making the kids cook for us for awhile! If you are new to cooking with your kids I have a few places for you to begin.

Charlotte, the 18 month old, is best at helping load or unload the dishwasher. She excels at eating the leftover pieces of fruit, vegetable, or sandwich when I am creating fun bento school lunches. I’ve started giving her more to do like setting the (kid sized) table, mixing casserole ingredients, and picking which vegetable to serve with the meal. I’m reminded with her that it takes a long time to learn the skill of stirring. Making sure to thoroughly clean the surface she’s using beforehand saves a lot of time and food. Scooping the majority of the spills back into the dish is something I’ve done and will do again. We are having fun and she is learning.

Ted is three and can do most everything in the kitchen that doesn’t involve a sharp knife or the oven/stove. He prefers the easy tasks like scrubbing potatoes and dumping pre-measured ingredients. I push him a little by making him fill measuring cups correctly and selecting the correct item out of the refrigerator. He can peel root veggies, make sandwiches, and fill cupcake tins with liners.

The twins are by far the most fun in the kitchen these days! Doing all that Ted does, but with a little more ease. They are learning fractions in my dinner prepartions, and usually find the correct measuring cup. Being able to make a full meal on their own has amped up their excitement to be in the kitchen. The twins read recipes, correctly fill and dump measuring cups, stir, peel, and more! Our Keurig allows them to make me coffee (win!!) and oatmeal for themselves and the little kids. The microwave has mostly been mastered, Lily has had two lessons on stove top safety, and Pierce has had one on the proper way to wash knives.

Knives and heat are a big deal for me. I want to instill in them a love to help their mom cook, but at the same time they need to respect the things that can hurt them or others.

Three things the kids learned recently:

  1. How to soak and cook dried beans
  2. Making rice in the microwave (thanks mom for the rice cooker!!)
  3. Sweet potatoes need to be peeled twice over, or mom gives them back

What are your kids doing in the kitchen? What age will they (or did they) be allowed to use the stove? Knives?


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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Lily Belle’s First Recipe

She wanted little to no help with this project.

She wanted little to no help with this project.

Lily Belle is five. She’s been cooking and baking with me for nearly four years now. Some days when I call in the troupes to peel, stir, and measure she declines. As much as she likes to help in the kitchen, she is not striving to become a chef.

Or so I thought.

She found an instant oatmeal packet that she loved. Loved, loved. Ruined all other oatmeal for her. No more wonderful steel-cut oats with apples and cinnamon, no more plain quick oats with jam. It was blueberry cream instant oatmeal…or nothing.

When our stock of instant oatmeal was gone, and she realized she had to wait for the next big sale, Lily Belle took the initiative to make up her very first recipe.

She added dried blueberries to the grocery list (please no one tell her I bought the much cheaper dried cranberries with infused blueberry juice!) and got to work.

Using this blog she was able to get a starting point, and after a few weeks of trouble shooting she came up with her perfect version. Now remember, Lily Belle is a kid. If I was making this for myself I would add more dried fruit, less sweetener, and maybe powdered milk instead of CoffeeMate. I was in no way going to get in the way of her creative process though, so this recipe is exactly as she wanted it.

Here is what we learned in this endeavor:

  1. Trust
  2. Determination to follow through must be mutual
  3. How to find the right measuring cup

Lily Belle’s Blueberry Cream Single Serve Oatmeal


  • Quick oats
  • Dried Fruit (We used CranBlueberry)
  • Stevia (or sugar)
  • French Vanilla Coffee Mate


Get out as many Ziploc, or reusable, bags as you want servings. One serving per bag. Add 1/3 cup quick oats to each bag. Add 1.5 teaspoons Stevia and 1 teaspoon French Vanilla CoffeeMate to each bag.

Have an adult cut three cranberries into six pieces each, so each piece is very little. Add the tiny pieces to the bag, shake to mix, close. Repeat this step for all remaining bags.

I must say I am very proud of Lily Belle for this. She found the exact recipe she wanted, she’s saving money, and making school mornings a little easier on me. I’m looking forward to altering this recipe further for the boys’ preferences.

Let me know if you try this! Did you add different things? What did you add?

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Posted by on January 8, 2013 in Uncategorized


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