A Seamless Back to School

August is "Back to School" Month for many at The Motherhood Collective. We were happy to share this post last year and thought the suggestions were so great, we'd share it again! Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom, we hope that these thoughts on transition will inspire you. ~TMC ---

Whether you're homeschooling, co-oping, or sending your child to school; your life is about to adjust a bit with the beginning of school! The key to making it a seamless transition is spending some time in preparation! That word "preparation" sometimes sounds like a scary one to me. We have 3 kids (10, 8, and 5). This is my first year with all three kids in school which is a major life change for me. I've had someone with me for almost 11 years, so the first couple days of school have been very emotional. This season is a stressful, but exciting time for each of us!

A goal in our house is to find balance in all areas of our life: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Facing this new season takes our job as moms to a new focus. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a seamless transition and a happy home.

Plan your breakfasts: I fall into the routine of letting my kids have cereal and fruit each morning, but this year I am challenging myself to wake up earlier and fix them a healthy breakfast (realistically a few times a week). Kids need a balance of protein, whole grains and good omega oils to get their days started. Try making them a green smoothie each morning, a fresh juice, some whole grain muffins, buckwheat pancakes, homemade granola or local eggs and 100% whole grain or gluten free toast.

Incorporating omega oils such as chia seeds, flax seeds and other sources have been known to help children behaviorally and mentally. One study says: Supplements of omega-3 and omega-6 oils can improve the behavior of rowdy kids and help language skills, researchers from England have found.During five months, 65 children with behavioral problems were given a daily supplement of omega-3 fish oil in combination with evening primrose oil (omega-6).

Be creative with their lunchbox: There are so many great ideas out there, especially on pinterest, for lunchboxes. Don’t be satisfied with good old PB&J everyday.. although they will probably have it once a week at my house. With just a little thought and changing around ingredients to make their lunchbox more interesting, your kids will enjoy new real foods without any trouble. Introduce a new veggie or fruit each week. Don’t forget a little note from time to time.


Allow time for some exercise: Fall sports leagues, good ol’ playing outside, or a family walk are all good ways for your child to decompress from a day of using their minds. Being part of a team teaches them many valuable lessons as well. Personally, I have a hard time with teams because our kids are gone for so much of our day. I would really like them to be home with us in the evenings. But I have found that each child claiming one season is do-able for us. We would go to our son’s baseball practices and games together as a family.

Plan family dinners: According to an article in TIME magazine: Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use.

An older mom once told me she would prep most of her meals while the children were at school, or do crockpot recipes, so that when her children came home from school her attention would be on them and not dinner. When it is time for dinner, include your children in preparing it. This teaches both responsibility, independence, and a new skill set!

You don’t have to make an elaborate meal, but try doing a Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, or Wacky Wednesday. Our family enjoys "cooking through the nations". Finding new foods from other cultures and making a theme out of dinner not only helps me prepare, but makes it special for the kids. Having a set theme each week will alleviate the stress of meal planning (which I have not mastered yet!).

Come up with a few questions you consistently ask your kids about their day. Allow them to share their happy and sad times while teaching them about the healthy foods they’re eating. Talk about where the food came from and how it was harvested. Give thanks for real food together.

Rest! Rest is not idleness. But it is a time where we stop, relax and enjoy one another. Disconnect from electronics! Reading together, playing games together or walking together allows your child to connect with you emotionally as well as, decompress from a day of mental focus. Allow a day per weekend to really rest and do what your family enjoys most. Many families in our culture do not understand how to rest. We run from event to event, party to party, sport to sport. If we stop for a moment, we can learn so much from one another and care for the emotions that our family is experiencing.

Back to school time is not just about helping their minds, it's about their emotions and their physical development! By feeding your children healthy, real foods and exercising their bodies, they will be strong physically. With your time writing notes, reading to them, and meals shared together, their emotions are free to develop appropriately. May your back to school days be a special time for your family!

Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you! For more on this subject and others, please check out my website!

Recipe of the Week - Asian Style Fried Rice and Beans

Image Courtesy of:  

We love fried rice, but it is hard to find a recipe that tastes as yummy with healthy ingredients and brown rice.  I came across this one in the Better Homes and Gardens magazine, and love it!  I never would have thought to add beans to fried rice.  It is super simple as well, and we always have leftovers.


½ pineapple, peeled, cored, and sliced, or 8 oz. canned pineapple slices (I use canned)

1 Tbsp. oil (I use coconut oil.)

2 medium carrots, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

2 cups cooked brown rice (Leftover works even better.)

1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

3 Tbsp. reduced –sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup fresh cilantro

1 lime, halved (optional)

(You could also add scrambled eggs, for added protein.)


In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 2 tsp. of the oil over medium heat.  Add pineapple; cook about 2 minutes per side until golden brown.  Remove from skillet and set aside.  (Note:  Canned pineapple won’t get the same caramelized look, but it will still taste delicious).

Pour the remaining 1 tsp. oil into the hot skillet.  Add carrots; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until just tender.  Add garlic and ginger; cook 30 seconds.

Stir in brown rice, garbanzo beans, and peas.  Add soy sauce.  Cook and stir about 4 minutes or until heated through.  Stir in cilantro.  Return pineapple to pan.

To serve, squeeze lime over all.  Top with additional fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.  Makes 4 servings.

Recipe of the Week - Mandarin Sesame Salad

Mandarin Sesame Salad We love salads any time of the year, and this recipe is so tasty that we sometimes just make it our dinner entrée for the evening, served alongside a thick slice of French bread.

Asian Dressing:

2 Tbsp. brown sugar (I use sucanat instead; I’m guessing honey or agave would work as well) 2 tsp. soy sauce 1 Tbsp. sesame oil ¼ cup oil (I use olive) 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar

Combine dressing ingredients ½ hour before serving.

Salad Ingredients:    Lettuce (I use green leaf, or mixed greens) 1 package crunchy rice noodles (these act as the “croutons”) 1 can mandarin oranges in juice (I splurge and buy 2 since they’re so good) 2 green onions 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds Chicken breast, cooked and shredded (optional Bell peppers, boiled eggs, garbanzo beans (optional additions)

Directions: Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat.  Watch carefully and stir often, as they will go from just right to burnt in a matter of seconds.

Combine lettuce, optional chicken, oranges, onions, and toasted sesame seeds.  Let chill for 10 minutes.

Before serving, add the crunchy rice noodles and dressing.

Recipe taken from:

Recipe of the Week - Vegan Mac and 'Cheese'

Not long after our son was born, we discovered he had GERD (severe acid reflux), which was aggravated by a protein intolerance. This has made for some incredibly hard times over the past year, but also a lot of growth. One of the ways we grew, (by force) was in our eating adventures! I breastfed for the first 4 1/2 months, and any proteins I ate that our son couldn't digest made for an unpleasant few days (to put it mildly). This caused us to search out foods that wouldn't bother his digestive system, but also didn't taste like cardboard. This was one of our favorites; even a year later, my meat-loving husband asks for this frequently - it's that good!

Recipe adapted from

1 bag orecchiette pasta, 16 ounces 3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes (or to taste - we usually use a bit more) *start small and add more nutritional yeast as needed 3 Tbsp Dijon mustard 2 tsp garlic powder 1 medium or 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled/baked 1 1/4 cups plain non-dairy milk (we have used rice and coconut - both work well!) 1/2 tsp black pepper 3 Tbsp EVOO

1/2 tsp sea salt (to taste) 1 Tbsp maple or agave syrup 2 Tbsp paprika a few dashes cayenne powder (opt'l-a little goes a long way) 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar


1. Cook your sweet potato until soft (in microwave or oven).

2. Start a pot of salted water to boil on the stove. Add your pasta when boiling. Cook pasta for about 8-10 minutes, or until tender.

3. In a bowl combine: milk, mustard, spices, nutritional yeast, agave, salt, vinegar and oil. Stir well until all ingredients are blended.

4. Drain pasta and pour into another large bowl; toss with additional nutritional yeast flakes if desired.

5. Remove skin from your sweet potato. Add it to the sauce. You can mash by hand, or if you own a handy-dandy immersion blender, use that to incorporate into the sauce until smooth.

6. Add sauce to the pasta and coat well.

7. Steam peas (or other veggies) and mix in.

8. Add salt and pepper to taste!

This is wonderful re-heated as well, and I promise, you won't even miss the cheese!

Recipe of the Week - White Chicken Chili

Chili is my husband’s favorite  soup/stew, but we get tired of the mainstream beef, tomatoes, corn and kidney beans.  This is an excellent one to mix things up!  It is very flexible, and my favorite way to make it now is to sauté the onions, garlic, spices, and green chilies, then throw everything in the crockpot to let the flavors really meld together.White Chicken Chili


1 Tbsp. oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 4 ounce cans chopped green chile peppers

2 tsps. ground cumin

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (you can add more if you want it to go further)

3 cups chopped/shredded cooked chicken (I’ve used way less than this, or none at all)

3 15 ounce cans white cannellini beans (drain 1 can, use a whole can, and puree one whole can in a food processor to thicken the chili)

1 can pinto beans, drained

1-2 cans black beans

Optional cilantro, lime, Monterey jack cheese


Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Slowly cook and stir the onion until tender.  Mix in the garlic, green chiles, cumin, oregano, and cayenne.  Continue to cook and stir until the mixture is tender, about 3 minutes.  Mix in the chicken and stir briefly.  Add broth and beans.  Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally (or place in crockpot on low 4-6 hours or high 2-3 hours).

You can always add more beans or broth to adjust texture, as well as to make the chili go further.  Dried beans would work as well, you would just have to add more cooking time and much more broth or water to desired preference.

Adapted from

To a Healthier Holiday

Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC  Staying healthy over the holidays can be tricky...especially if you’re not the one doing the cooking! While I don’t want to be a party pooper, I have found that I have to be a little more hands-on when it comes to holiday meals. This has meant a lot of thinking ahead, preparing for possible awkward conversations, learning to "let go" and practicing graciousness.  While you may only have control over one or two dishes, there are a few things you can do to limit the chemicals and carbs in your holiday diet.

1) Limit the rolls or go whole wheat. I won’t hide it. I love bread! I would never be able to skip the rolls. I do limit myself to one roll but I also found this delicious whole-wheat roll recipe last year and I felt better about eating them throughout the weekend.

Please keep in mind that most packaged yeast includes MSG. It is very easy to buy yeast, in bulk, from a health food store. For those of you who do not know how to recognize MSG, it’s listed, typically near the bottom of the list, as monosodium glutamate.

2) Make what you can from scratch. My father-in-law makes delicious pot pies with leftover turkey meat, but he uses canned soup. While I am thankful that he’s leaving me with 3 plus dinners in the freezer I'm not thrilled with the thought of all the MSG we, and especially my 1-year-old son, would be consuming.  I kindly asked if I could make the soup for him to use, and he didn’t mind. Here is the recipe I used. It was really simple to make, obviously, not as simple as popping the lid off the can but definitely worth the minimal extra effort.

3) Halve the sugar! *According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar a year! It sounds crazy, but start checking the ingredients list. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. If you eat a bowl of cereal for breakfast, you’ve most likely already hit the recommended consumption of sugar for the day (six teaspoons) and it’s not even 9am. So, when it comes to baking that yummy pie, consider halving the sugar and even using a healthier substitute rather than white sugar. Honey, raw sugar, agave nectar, maple syrup or stevia are all great substitutes and there are many more.

4) Choose wisely and use common sense. If you’re given the option, a homemade dessert is going to be “healthier” for you than a store bought dessert. Also, remember you don’t have to eat everything. I am a people-pleaser so choosing one aunt’s dessert or dish over the other can be tough for me. I have to remind myself that others will eat it and no one will get their feelings hurt. You have the right to choose your calories. If you don’t care for mashed potatoes, don’t have any and eat more dessert!  I’m not a huge fan of pie so I double up on the sweet potato casserole. To each his own!

5) Pick your battles and practice flexibility. I mentioned the canned soup above. I know my father-in-law. That was a situation where I knew I wouldn’t be stepping on any toes. Now, if I had tried to suggest I make the piecrust, from scratch, for his famous Thanksgiving pies, my husband probably wouldn’t have spoken to me until January. Some things just are not worth it. Though the holidays seem to revolve around food, it’s really about being with your family and the people you love, among other things. If you can keep that as your focus and take a deep breath, those few extra chemicals, carbs or calories won’t seem to matter as much.


Reducing the Sugar Rush During the Holiday Rush

Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC Simple Sugars The newest change to our eating philosophy has been a different approach to sugars, and it’s just in time for the holidays!  A couple years ago we made a point to cut out all high-fructose corn syrup, and I highly suggest this as a great “first step” if you’re considering a healthier food intake.  I still couldn’t shake myself of good old cane sugar—you know, every girl’s first love.  Even with wanting a healthier lifestyle, I’ve still tried to hold on to two points that I think are very important with how we view food in our house.

1.  Food is meant to keep us alive. 

Shocking, I know.  I just feel like too many foodies view what they eat (and what our society eats) as something that is killing them and not sustaining them.  True, the wrong kind of food should be avoided, but…it’s still food.  Something to be thankful for, first and foremost.

2.  Food is meant to be enjoyed.

Enough of the self-martyred, suffering vegan (spoken from a vegan 3 days out of the week).  Enjoy feasting!  Especially during the holiday season.  (Stepping down from soap box…)  All that to say, I was afraid that if I cut the sugar, we would cease to employ point number 2—enjoying food.

Slowly, we have made a few changes, and I haven’t bought sugar for a few months now, and we don’t feel like we’re missing anything!

The first thing I did was start to use fruit purees instead of eggs when making sweets/fruit breads.  The fruit adds natural sweetness which then helps you lessen the amount of added sugar.  Here are some easy conversions:

Applesauce, Mashed Bananas, and Pumpkin Puree—work well in sweetened baked goods, just make sure the flavor would be compatible with other flavors, as the fruit will likely shine through a bit.  1 egg=1/4 cup fruit puree (one medium mashed banana will normally substitute for 2 eggs)

Prune Puree—since stronger in flavor, works well with dense desserts such as brownies.  1 egg=1/4 cup fruit puree

After sweetening with fruit, I started cutting the amount of sugar.  Stat with using ¾ of the amount called for, and then cut back to half.  If you’re having company, offer frosting or honey to be added if someone has more of a sweet tooth.  I promise, you will get used to it over time, and the more you cut out, the less often your brain will send sugar signals.

I also read this awesome article about decoding sweeteners—there are just so many out there!  We now use mostly honey, agave, and molasses for sweetening.  We keep some stevia and sucanat on hand, and we occasionally buy maple syrup.  These are all sugars, but they’re not nearly as refined as white sugar or hfcs (high fructose corn syrup) and they do not raise the glycemic level as much.

Conversions:  for honey and agave, use ¾ cup for 1 cup of sugar the recipe calls for, reduce liquids by ½ cup for every cup of honey you add, and reduce oven temp. by 25 degrees to prevent browning.  For sucanat—equal amounts as sugar.

I am a little timid about this holiday season, as this will be my first one completely dairy free, mostly corn free, as well as (six days out of the week) ovo-vegetarian (no meat or dairy products, but I still love me some eggs!).  I know…there go all my dinner invitations!  My way of coping so far when I go to parties is either eat a lot beforehand so I’m not tempted, or, better yet, always take a dish with me so I have something to enjoy with friends.  Whether or not you have allergy/dietary restrictions, I would suggest offering to bring food.  If you’re opting for a healthier holiday season, prepare a sweet dish with less sugar, or an appetizer that’s homemade, and that way you will get to enjoy the food—and have it too.

How do you cope with allergy and special diet restrictions during the holidays?

Recipe of the Week - Sweet Potato Biscuits

In our house, we thank God for our daily sweet potatoes.  They have become such a staple, not only because of their awesome nutritional value, but because they’re just plain scrumptious and versatile.  I was thrilled when I came across a Sweet Potato Biscuit recipe by Martha Stewart.  I have no doubt that the great Martha’s recipe is delicious, but I immediately set to work modifying it.  I am allergic to milk, so we couldn’t use cow’s milk and butter.  We’ve also cut out refined flours and sugars at our house, so I knew I would want to substitute the flour and sugar it called for.  The recipe below is the first batch I tried with all the changes.  They turned out perfectly—I think the moistness of the sweet potatoes makes them pretty fool-proof, so feel free to experiment!  They are now vegan, amazing, and a weekly occurrence.  To elevate them even more, serve them with honey or apple butter!

 Sweet Potato Biscuits

1 pound sweet potatoes

2½ cups white whole wheat 4 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled [To make this vegan, I use soy free earth balance spread.] 2 tablespoons honey ¼ cup milk [I use coconut milk.]

  1. Heat oven to 400.  Peel sweet potatoes, roughly chop , and steam in rice cooker.  You could also prick with a fork, bake until done, and scoop out the flesh.  You should have about 11/4 cups of puree.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together milk, honey, and sweet-potato puree.  Add to dry ingredients, and mix until well combined.
  4. Place dough on lightly floured board, knead once or twice, and pat out to ½ inch thick.  Cut out biscuits with a floured 2-inch-round cutter (I have a specific drinking glass that works well for this). Bake on parchment-lined baking sheet for about 20+ minutes, or until golden brown.
  5. Eat half of them immediately.  Quickly!  Before anyone else comes in the room.

If you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share with our readers, please submit it here or email us at:

Recipe of the Week - Pumpkin Cookies



These are a fall family favorite in the Earl household. We typically only last a few days without before making a new batch. The best thing about them, besides the taste, is they can be relatively healthy if you follow my directions in bold and avoid the frosting. They are delicious both ways; I prefer them without the frosting but they make a festive addition to any party if you frost and top with a piece of candy corn.

Pumpkin Cookies 2 cups flour – I use whole wheat flour. 1 cup quick oats 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup butter softened – I substitute at least ½ cup coconut oil. 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar – I only use ½ cup and sometimes replace with honey. 1 cup of sugar -  I only use ½ cup of raw cane sugar. 1 egg 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup Libby’s Solid Pack Pumpkin 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or M&M’s (optional) I skip this. 1 cup raisins (optional) – I skip this. 1 cup nuts (optional) – I skip this.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Cream butter, gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Alternate additions of dry ingredients and pumpkin,  mixing well after each addition. Stir in morsels. Drop dough, using cookie scoop or teaspoon, onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-11 minutes until cookies are firm and lightly browned.  This recipe will make close to 60 cookies.


Cream Cheese Frosting 1, 3-ounce package cream cheese 1/4 cup butter 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 cups powdered sugar

In a mixer bowl beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla till light and fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Salad Bar Parenting: Coconut Oil


Salad Bar Parenting:  A buffet of ideas, practices and products loved by a Motherhood Collective Mom. Depending on your season of parenthood or mothering philosophies, you may pile on what works for you or pass the salad tongs to the next Mom. I'm a cloth diapering mama. I cloth diaper for financial reasons and I love it. A few months ago my baby girl got a diaper rash and I tried a handful of different creams and products on her bottom with no success. I even switched to disposables temporarily and while that helped clear the redness, nothing cleared up the rash entirely. After receiving a number of recommendations, I finally decided to give coconut oil a chance.

Let me clarify that just because I cloth diaper and generally prefer natural solutions, I know there is a time and place for man-made products. Being the real American that I am, I prefer immediate relief from discomfort for both me and my child that over the counter creams and medicines provide. I tried a lot of those products (at the recommendation of my pediatrician) and none of them worked. So, like I said, I finally gave coconut oil a try.

After one day my girl's bottom was completely clear. Over 2 months of a diaper rash with trial and error and the answer was in a friend's pantry the entire time?! Who knew!

After I saw the incredible change coconut oil made on my babe's bottom I decided to do a little research. Did you know coconut oil is very good for you, 100% natural and has a TON of great uses? As I type this I currently have a coconut oil + baking soda combination on my face as an exfoliating mask. (Oh the benefits of working from home!) Here are a few other great ways to use coconut oil:

  1. Eat a spoonful when you need an energy boost.
  2. Use it to treat athlete's foot, ringworm, or other fungal or yeast infections.
  3. Use it on your baby's cradle cap.
  4. Use it to help reduce visibility of stretch marks or to prevent stretch marks.
  5. For nursing mothers, consuming coconut oil will help increase your milk flow.
  6. Eat a spoonful to improve digestion, help with heartburn, help overall immune function, or curb your appetite.
  7. Helps treat thrush.
  8. Mix with baking soda for a facial scrub.
  9. Whip in your mixer for a fluffy body moisturizer that stays soft year round.
  10. Use it to treat lice.
  11. Use it as a natural sunscreen.

The uses are endless! I am definitely a new believer in coconut oil and I plan to use it for the rest of my life.

Do you use and love coconut oil? Please share with us in the comments!

For more information about the benefits and uses of Coconut Oil, check out To purchase your own, check out