Book Review: French Kids Eat Everything

When Karen Le Billon convinced her husband to relocate their family from British Columbia to his native France, she did not realize the adjustment in eating habits which would be required of their two young daughters. Like many North American children, the three and five year old were picky eaters with only a handful of foods which comprised their diets. Their French counterparts, in contrast, ate a greater variety of foods from all the food groups, and it seemed, did so neatly and without complaint. In fact, by school age, most French children seem to eat and enjoy all the varied foods their parents do.

How could it be so? The author was plunged into a year long, sometimes painful, cultural and parenting comparison with the French system. And a system indeed it seemed: both preschool and grade school had daily lengthy luncheon times set aside for children to be served several courses of gourmet foods (no mac ‘n’ cheese or nuggets here!) to train the child in good taste (amid linens and china!) and parents approached mealtimes at home with a similar intention for exposure of a broad range of flavors.

I picked up this book (actually I had it reserved at the library before it was available in print!) because I hoped it would give some secret, some easy trick to help my children eat (and enjoy!) every meal I serve them. It gives no such tricks. Rather, the author shares the ten sensible and joyful rules (or routines, some of them attitudes) which she gleaned from her French neighbors. Some of these I congratulated myself for having already instituted so well (Kids Eat What Adults Eat), and others I was shocked at (No Snacks Allowed). The French Food Rules reflect an entire way of life and culture, so it would naturally be difficult for us North Americans to institute them all perfectly into our lifestyle (including the two hour lunch and farmers market shopping twice a week). However, most parents will find the list inspiring -if not instructive as well- in good food parenting.

Karen Le Billon’s personal account of her family’s experience of living in rural France for one year -and unintentional food appreciation adventure- is a joy to read. Not only does she describe the foods and food habits of the French in lyric, mouthwatering detail, her restrained humor had me laughing in empathy at parenting frustrations and cultural faux pas. It is not just an examination of French food and parenting culture, but of our own as well.

Pot Pies and Motherhood

This is a homemade chicken pot pie, which is in a different category entirely than the frozen pot pies I craved as a child!

When I was a child, I loved pot pies. You know, the generic kind you buy from the freezer bin at the supermarket, pop in the oven for half an hour, and then eat slowly, savoring each flakey crumb of pie crust.

We rarely ever got to eat them, and as a kid I thought they were too expensive; I know I was told that as a general reason why Mom didn’t buy prepared/frozen foods. I’m sure I was also told that processed food isn’t good for our bodies, but I don’t remember ever thinking much about it. I just thought they were too expensive, and if we got them by request on our birthdays, wow, that was a splurge!

Now that I am a mother, I realize my mom was thinking of her kids health as the primary reason she didn’t buy us pot pies more than once in a very blue moon. Compared to the fresh fruits and veggies, fresh fish, whole grains, natural cheeses, whole chickens, and other “real” foods that filled my mom’s shopping cart, frozen pot pies are cheap(!) and easy(!!). If they were a healthful food, every mother would serve them twice a week.

My mother has four grown daughters with children; 14 beautiful grandchildren.  I wonder if she thinks with satisfaction about all the work of all those years in raising her children, and the wonderful reward of grandchildren for her toil. Although the feeding of a child is not nearly the whole of parenting, nor the gravest of moral responsibilities in their upbringing, it sure does take a lot of time and effort. In addition to the million things my mother taught me, gave me, and sacrificed for me, I’m grateful for the good foods she made me (and made me eat!); she gave me the nutritional foundation to grow a strong body and be ready for motherhood myself.

Thanks, Mom! I love you!

 

Two Week Meal Plan

So here is the much requested Two Week Meal Plan. It’s not pretty; if I wait until I have time to make it pretty, you’d never see it. But a print out in my purse has been working for me since last fall.

Which brings my to my next topic: we are VERY TIRED of these meals. At least most of them. My husband flat out told me the other day that he doesn’t want to eat curried soup again for a long time. I’ve been the long eater of curry soup leftovers this week. 🙂

So, I’m working on a new meal plan.

I’m suggesting that you don’t do as we did and eat the same 14 meals for 6 months straight. OK, so we did have a few other meals in there (holidays? random whims? friends bringing meals for me post-partum?), but this was truly the back bone of my meal planning. And now it’s really old.

All the same, maybe these meals are all new to you. So I’ll walk you through them.

 

Click here for the Two Week Meal Plan Fall 2011.

Breakfasts: skillet eggs means either fried or scrambled eggs, and opa eggs means soft boiled (our family name for them). Smoothies are the kefir smoothies I make for my husband daily (kefir, banana, whey powder, frozen strawberries). The waffles are the High Protein Waffles on this site, EXCEPT I use almond flour rather than oatmeal and dry curd cottage cheese vs. cottage cheese while we’re on SCD, and honey vs. maple syrup on top. (Oops, those aren’t on the 2 week plan, but we have them penciled in for Friday mornings.) We didn’t actually make carrot juice as often as this menu states, but that was our goal.

Lunches: soup means a basic carrot/celery/onion soup, sometimes with chicken broth in there too. The chicken salad and almond/PB roll ups are recipes I’ve given recently; the “quesadilla” is in a thin egg wrap with cheese like an almond roll up (it’s more like an omlette than a quesadilla, but I’m not telling my kids that).

Snacks: I listed snacks so I would remember to shop for these things too, but we weren’t locked into certain snacks on certain days. The “Grape Zip” mentioned is homemade yogurt mixed 2:1 with concord grape juice…it’s a drink and makes a fast snack without quite so much mess/dishes as serving yogurt in bowls. Other snack ideas besides nuts, muffins, fruit: cheese, white bean hummus and celery sticks, spoonful of nut butter, kale chips, homemade frozen yogurt, homemade juice pops.

Dinners: Having dinner planned is what saves the day for me very often. In this menu, I was planning specifically for activities we were leaving for immediately after dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday, so those dinners had to be fast (that is, they had to be liked well enough for the kids to eat without many complaints). Thursday we had soccer practice and would arrive home for a late dinner, so I wanted it to be ready in the crockpot/oven. This mostly worked out, but I want to explore more crockpot meals for the future so I spend less time in prep in the late afternoon (maybe I’ll get a nap one of these days!!!).

Pizza: my husband requested this every. Friday. night. After six months of this, he’s agreed that once every other week is often enough. I have salad listed several times, and “veggie” which may be whatever is hitting the stores at that season or frozen green beans and broccoli (oh… that just made me think of a yummy chicken broccoli casserole with sauce and cheese…). Zucchini spaghetti is shredded zucchini in place of the pasta (and yes, I’ve tried spaghetti squash, I just like zucchini better).

Many meals use ingredients from previous meals: using meat or broth from the chicken roasted on Sunday, or planning the leftover pizza as the picnic lunch for the soccer game Saturday. You just have to line up your meals so you can keep rolling foods into the next meal or two. Also, I shop Trader Joes each Sunday evening, and pick up eggs and milk on Wednesday, and then make yogurt/kefir after that. Sometimes the day you shop makes a difference on when you want to schedule a meal…like plan guacamole for a few days after you shop for avocados, but eat fish the same day you purchase it.

What menu planning tips do your have to share? What are your favorite meals?

Pizza [gluten free, SCD]

Making pizza tonight; here’s my recipe, which I’ve been using since we went grain free. It isn’t a yeast bread, so when we are back to “normal” gluten free eating (vs. grain free) I plan to perfect a better wheat dough imitation. In the meantime, this is enjoyable.

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Heat oven to 400 degrees, with stone in oven if using a pizza stone.

In food processor mix:
3 cups almond flour
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (fine, in the tub)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp Italian seasoning

Add, then process just until combined:
3 large eggs
2Tb olive oil

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Place dough onto baking parchment, cover with seran, press and/or roll into a crust the size of your pan/stone, discard seran. Remove stone from oven, and slide paper onto stone (or pan).

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Parbake for 8 minutes, then top with sauce, cheese, toppings, and more cheese. Bake at 500 for 10 minutes.

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My husband wants a “real” pizza each week (this is the only meal which he opts out of the diet the rest of us are on…and to be fair, he has never liked homemade pizza, gluten or otherwise). So the pizza on the bottom of the oven is the take-and-bake which he picks up each week. His pizza bakes at 425, so that’s what we’re baking ours at -for 14 minutes- but I think next time I will bake them separately.

Diet Makeover Wrap Up

If you’ve been following this Diet Makeover since the beginning, you may have wondered whatever happened at the end of the week. Sorry for the delay in blogging; I’ve been traveling and returning my own family into a normal schedule and wasn’t able to write.

I left my sister’s house on Saturday morning, after a few last hugs all around and a snuggle with Baby Mac. It’s always hard to hold him as I’m afraid he’ll “break” in my arms, although his parents assure me that won’t happen and I should just hold him like any other baby. Here he is with me (left) and his mom.

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I ask Mrs. Mom to weigh Baby Mac on Saturday morning to see if there was any change with the daily bone broth/butter oil supplementation. He has really struggled to gain weight, as healing from surgery requires so many additional calories. On Thursday he also had to fast for 12 hours for an MRI, (which just seems wrong and Mrs.Mom has decided to fight on the next go around), so we were holding our breath that he had retained his 4.5 ounce gain between Sunday and Tuesday. But low and behold, his weight had risen another 2.5 ounces to 14 lbs!! Good job Mac! Keep it up!

I can’t wait to see the results as he transitions even more to the broth/liver formula (Weston A. Price) which Mrs. Mom is making this week.

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Mr. Dad commented that his seasonal allergies had been better all week, except for right after indulging at Chic Fil’A, and that he hadn’t therefore needed his allergy medicine all week, which he normally took daily. The SCD diet makes no claim to restore immune health so quickly; it’s the long term nourishment and cleansing that truly bolsters the immune system, however wheat, sugar, and milk are all common allergies, and removing them from his diet may have helped Mr. Dad feel better so quickly.

In prep for the coming week, I gave Mrs.Mom an electronic version of my 2 week meal plan, which I’ve printed off and keep in my purse so I can quickly reference it while grocery shopping each week. She will need to revise it with some of their favorite meals (like Aeggekage) and delete some they don’t like or which have ingredients which they react to.

We plan to FaceTime this week so I can walk her through making a pizza crust with almond flour (yes, it can be done).

Some other menu ideas:
Curry Crockpot Chicken over diced apples and shredded cabbage
Tuscan white bean soup with sausage and kale
Grassfed beef hamburgers with cheese buns
Burrito bowls
Steak and roasted veggies

Have you enjoyed this Diet Makeover? What changes have you made to support a healthier lifestyle?

Day Five [Diet Makeover pt. 13]

Day Five of American Family’s Diet Makeover began with bananas, yogurt, and muffins, and scrambled eggs for whoever would take them. No complaints, but the children did seem unduly excited that I would be leaving in the morning.

Breakfast:
24 hour raw yogurt
Ripe banana
Scrambled eggs with cheese
Banana muffin (almond flour)
Kefir/banana/berry smoothie (for Mr. Dad)

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Lunch:
Kids: an Organic grassfed hotdog without sugar (Applegate Farms), no bun, and apple slices
Adults: leftovers and/or chicken salad over greens with balsamic dressing

Afternoon snack:
Nuts or nut butter with celery or apples

As dinner prep on the late morning I sliced 1.5 lbs of zucchini, mixed it with a 1 lb bag of frozen bell peppers, and marinated it in red wine and balsamic vinegars, olive oil, and 1/8 cup Italian herbs.

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By late afternoon, the marinade has doubled with veggie juices, and I ladled it off into a saucepan. The veggies I divided into two glass pans and broiled at 500 degrees for about 30 minutes or until just beginning to blacken at edges, stirring every ten minutes or so. Meanwhile I sliced three defrosted chicken breasts and sautéed the pieces in butter and half the marinade juices. The remaining marinade I heated over medium flame, added more salt, garlic powder, and about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Just before using I added 1/4 cup Creme Fraiche.

When the veggies and chicken were done, I mixed them together in in glass baking pan, poured the sauce over the whole, sprinkled with more Parmesan cheese, and served hot.

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Dinner:
Italian Chicken Bake
Spring Salad

In the evening, Mrs. Mom baked banana muffins herself to transition into this new type of cooking. They turned out fabulous, of course.

Task list:
Prepare and serve above meals
Finish/start yogurt, Creme Fraiche, and Kefir as desired
Menu plan next week

Refrigerator [Diet Makeover pt. 12]

We’ve already looked in American Family’s pantry and spice cabinet; now let’s peek in the fridge. These photos are from later in the week, so most of the SCD illegal foods have already been cleaned out. (What did we do with them? Mr. Dad gave them to coworkers.)

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Top shelf:
Leftovers at the back, including the chicken veggie soup in the pot. Front center is bone broth for Baby Mac (we cooked another bird and stewed the bones so he would have broth) and Parmesan cheese on the right.

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Next shelf down:
Waters to left. Jars at back are Kalamata olives, marinated artichokes, and chopped garlic, all of which are all natural and no sugar. Front right are leftovers and a chicken liver (organic from in the bird we made for broth) to be made into baby formula. Center front is homemade Creme Fraiche.

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Next shelf down:
Organic raw milk, waiting to be turned into yogurt or kefir like that in the jars behind and beside it. To the right we have organic peanut and almond butters, without sugar which is often added to nut butters). Behind the peanut butter is a bottle of lemon juice which is used for non-food purposes only.

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Top drawer:
Parmesan, cheddar, and Swiss brick cheeses, shredded Quattro Formaggio, and Aidell’s apple chicken sausages (back) and Applegate Farms organic grassfed hotdogs, both without sugar or fillers.

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Next drawer down:
Lots of organic raw veggies: carrots, celery (soup), lettuce (wraps), dill, thyme, oregano (for ranch dip), leeks (for leek soup), broccoli (for chicken casserole).

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Bottom drawer:
Box of organic spring salad, mushrooms (crimini is my all around favorite).

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Top of door:
Butter (grassfed or organic is best)
Lower down:
Medicines on this shelf, plus a few sugar laced fruit butters (don’t eat while on SCD, but maybe later for holiday baking?), and marichino cherries (which are awful chemical concoctions, but might top a birthday cake sometime without being actually eaten…I’ll leave them).

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Next shelf down on door:
Perrier waters, wine (very dry is technically the only one allowed on SCD which is my favorite for cooking), unfiltered apple juice, maple syrup (not allowed on SCD but it’s a wholesome sweetener for later), a box of yo gourmet starter.
To Go: the two jars of Better Than Bullion which supplant the superfood bone broth, and are made of sugar, maltodextrin, and chicken “flavor” (whatever that is).

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Bottom of door:
This is the last cache of food which Mr. Dad will be taking to coworkers, except the pure concord grape juice which is “legal.” All the rest are full of sugar, corn syrup, and bad oils (poor coworkers! But if this is what they are eating anyway…). There were a few other containers that already were chucked in the trash can as they were too empty to hoist on offer to friends, including a bottle of Hersheys chocolate syrup. It’s going to be important that sweets like that are out of sight and out of mind if this diet makeover is to last the intended six week intro.

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Day Four [Diet Makeover pt. 11]

Kids woke happy and ate up their muffins and yogurt in a flash. Here’s a happy face and empty bowl (sorry for the harsh lighting).

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Breakfast:
Ripe banana
Homemade 24 hour yogurt with berries and honey
Banana muffins [almond flour] with butter
Frittata with sauteed bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and sliced apple sausage, topped with cheddar (for Moms)

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Mr.Dad had to leave early for an appointment a few hours away, so he ate muffins and yogurt before the frittata was ready. Taking a lesson from yesterday’s Chic Fil-A incident, we discussed food options for him while on the road. The top ideas:

Restaurant Meal Ideas

A salad with grilled chicken, hold the dressing and croutons (a drivethru option, but it would be boring without dressing, and the chicken may be injected with sugar/corn syrup)

An omelette with veggies, meat, and aged cheese (cheddar, Swiss, etc.) if he could lunch at a breakfast place

A meat entree with veggies on the side, such as steak and asparagus, half a roasted chicken and green beans, etc. This is obviously an option for a nicer sit-down restaurant.

A burrito bowl, hold the rice and corn chips (this is what he chose at Baja Fresh)

Lunch:
Apple sausages, mandarins (kids)
Fajita leftovers as lettuce wraps (Moms) Yummy!

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Mrs.Mom and I made dinner together, converting one of her favorite recipes; a Danish Souffle. (We substituted kefir for milk and almond flour for wheat flour.)

Dinner:
Aeggekage, with honey caramel sauce
Chicken apple sausages

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SCD Aeggekage
9 large eggs
2 cups 24 hour kefir
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup liquid honey
1/2 tsp salt
Melt 1 stick of butter in a glass 9×13 pan in a 500 degree oven. Whisk ingredients together until foamy, carefully pour into hot pan, and bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Honey Caramel
1 stick butter
1/2 cup honey
Heat in saucepan over medium flame, stirring until boiling for about 5 minutes thickens sauce.

Also today I made 3 zucchini lasagnas for the freezer. Wash and thinly slice 1.5 lbs zucchini, dehydrate for about 2 hours on parchment lined pans in a 200 degree oven.

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Fry up 2 lbs of Italian sausage. I used a mixture of Trader Joes Sicilian chicken sausage (it has no sugar) and organic ground beef with Italian spices and garlic added.

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Add 2 jars of prepared marinara. (Wholefoods brand 365Everyday in no fat variety has no sugar or bad oils (soy and canola being the common bad oils) and is organic.)

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Assemble the lasagnas with meat sauce, then layer of zucchini, then cheese (using Trader Joes Quatro Formaggio which is an Italian blend).

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Then a layer of homemade ricotta: yogurt strained through a cheesecloth. You’ll need about a quart of yogurt drained through flour sack into a glass bowl for about 6 hours. Yield is 1 cup ricotta and 3 cups whey liquid (we are saving the whey as an ingredient in homemade baby formula).

For the lasagna ricotta, add one egg and some basil and nutmeg. Smear into a layer as well as you can, then repeat layers of meat sauce, zucchini, meat sauce, and top with cheese. These will make easy freezer meals in the coming weeks.

Task list:
Move yogurt, Creme Fraiche, and kefir to fridge, start new batches if desired
Make and serve above meals
Make and freeze lasagnas

Here’s a picture of me straining the yogurt ricotta from the whey. The lasagna pictures were taken by my eight year old daughter; thanks sweetie!

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Day Three [Diet Makeover pt. 10]

Breakfast:
Homemade 24 hour Yogurt, with berries and honey on top
Banana Muffins made with almond flour, topped with Irish Butter (Kerrygold)
Ripe banana

The kids woke up happy this morning, and excited about muffins and yogurt for breakfast. The pre-breakfast banana they each ate when they first rose pretty much filled up Sister, as she ate only about half her muffin and berries. But she was super excited that the berries were pink!! [favorite color] Brother ate 2 muffins plus his sister’s half muffin while I regaled him with the wonders of Irish Butter, from Irish Cows, feasting on Irish Clover. He’s been saying “Mmm, Irish Butter!” ever since.

Lunch:
Almond Roll Ups for kids (like a crepe made with just egg and butter, with almond or peanut butter and/or honey and cinnamon inside)
Soup leftovers for Moms

The Almond Roll Ups were not loved by these kids as they are by my children. I think a key is that hot crepes are awesome, but if you’re unsure about it, and stare at it for 20 minutes, they aren’t so great cold. However, the children all ate much better today, and we heard very few requests for contraband food.

In the afternoon, both Moms and kids/babies took a trip to the local Farmers Market, which was beautiful and had plenty of seasonal organic veggies. We bought asparagus and King Oyster mushrooms for dinner, as well as lettuce, several herbs, carrots, and broccoli.

Mr. Dad wasn’t able to make it home for lunch, and being pressed for time, swung through the Chic Fil-A drivethru, only to realize that there’s nothing “legal” to eat there. He ordered chicken nuggets in a heroic effort to avoid a bun. He confessed all this in true on-your-honor-boyscout spirit when he arrived home before dinner. Lesson learned: have a lunch plan.

Dinner:
Salmon fillets, broiled with marinade of lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and balsalmic vinegar, with some garlic and dill
Mushrooms sauteed in butter and garlic
Asparagus sauteed in butter and garlic

We had an unfortunate dinner malfunction because half of the frozen salmon I grabbed from the freezer had been frozen at home from a fresh whole fish…but it was too long ago and it tasted fishy and bitter. We realized this at the table, after the first bite, and had to chuck all the bad fish and divide the remaining flash frozen/individually sealed fish between us. What we had was good. Lesson learned: ask about viability of unmarked freezer food (me) and don’t freeze fish yourself (all of us).

Task list:
Begin another batch of yogurt and Creme Fraiche (trying to culture all their milk so they have some ahead when I leave town)
Make another batch of Banana Muffins
Shop for a short list at Trader Joe’s: most of what we need was already purchased there, and at Costco, earlier in the week

Why The Butter?

Q:

I have found your posts on the detox to be quite interesting, and have been reading through them all. But when I came to today’s post about sticking a slab of butter in B’s mouth and telling him to suck on it, I just had to ask…what is with all of the butter? I get using it in moderation, but you seem to be using quite a lot of it…and I have never heard of someone giving it to a child to suck on!! I would love to be enlightened :) ~Joy

A:

Great question, Joy! Butterfat is really good for the brain, especially the brains of developing children, and because it is satiating, slowly absorbed, and has the highest calorie concentration of all foods, is great in a sugar-low situation. I knew If I stuffed scrambled eggs in Brother’s mouth he’d spit them out or gag…but butter just melts in. You can read more about butter, and why quality is important, in my post here: http://cleangreenstart.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/organic-diet-step-1-oils-and-fats/

Besides working as a catalyst for vitamins A, D, E and K, butter has several healing and immune boosting properties. For adults who are watching their weight, butter may be something to use only in moderation. For persons who are healing and for children, I use it liberally!

Here is a picture of my 18 month old helping himself to the butter in our home, about two weeks ago. Although he’s not really allowed to help himself (messy!), my kids know that a slab of butter is a viable snack around our place, and I often pop slabs in everyone’s mouth when they have the hungry-for-dinner-but-dinner’s-not-ready munchies/grumpies. My children are not at all overweight, and are about the healthiest kids I know, including tooth/bone formation. They are also the smartest kids I know (OK, I’ve obviously crossed the line into mother-dillusion/bragging). I’m grateful to know they are joining the ranks of healthy butter eaters everywhere!