Back to School Basics

In some places children have already returned to school with the anticipation that the start of a new adventure brings. Locally we have another week to wind down our summer. Even though the private school where I’m employed as a counselor and nutrition consultant is a year round school I still get that beginning of the school year feeling. It’s something between excitement for all the possibilities and melancholy about the end of another summer season.
In keeping with the beginning of the school year theme as it relates to my health coaching practice, I wanted to share some ideas for how to pack healthy, brain food for your child/ren that doesn’t set them apart from their peers. Let’s make eating healthy the cool thing to do this year and see if it can become the new cool. Something as simple as cream cheese (or Tofutti dairy free cream cheese) topped with fresh fruit is sure to grab kids attention.
Other ideas range from fruit kabobs to assorted wraps. Most fruit will keep in a lunchbox and when it’s as easy as sliding off a skewer into your mouth who can resist.
We can create so many variations of wraps that it’s limitless. In fact, in many schools they are slowly replacing white enriched bread with whole grain breads and wraps.
Wraps are an easy way to include vegetables in your child’s lunch in a way that they will eat them. If you can make the time to engage your child in the preparation of these beauties they are more likely not to trade them away for a snickers bar. My favorite wrap to teach children to make in my Cool Kids Cooking Class is the California wrap which includes avacado, sprouts, cucumber, carrots and cheese (if your child can tolerate dairy). It always makes me smile to see how quickly kids take to eating healthy when they are part of the preparation.
cali vege wrap
I also suggest getting to know the lunch ladies (and gents) who are preparing school breakfast and lunch. Be kind to these hard working people and let them know that you appreciate their efforts. Congratulate them when they have made something healthy and kid friendly. Offer your ideas about improving school meals in a way they can hear you. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that people respond better when you are willing to walk with them on their journey than when we give the impression we know what’s best. lunch ladies
If you are involved in your child’s school you may want to get involved in changing school food programs so that all children enjoy a healthier meal. For some children these are the only meals they eat each day so keeping it nutritious means they can attend to learning and the other challenges school brings. One of the many challenges educators face is holding all children to a standard. When a child experiences food insecurity it can be nearly impossible for them to focus on English or math. Educators are all too aware of these challenges.
An example of what a couple moms did in Berkeley California to change the school lunch program in their children’s school is the movie “Two Angry Moms.” It outlines what isn’t working with school meal programs and shows how they went about dramatically creating the change in their school. It is one example of how to start thinking about the food we eat and provide to school children.

“You must be the change you want to see in the world”
Mahatma Ghandi

Be Well
Leanne Yinger, M.Ed. Holistic Health Coach @ Kira’s Kitchen



Berries, Berries Everywhere

If you’re like me you love picking berries. There is something meditative about the process of gently pulling ripe berries from the vine while leaving those not yet ready to be picked. This weekend the berry focus was blueberries. I went to my CSA, Bradley Farms right here in Lanesborough and the blueberry bushes were heavy with berries. 24 pints later my freezer is well stocked for the mid winter lack of fresh local berry blues. I even picked again today with my daughter. And since I gave a talk this morning I decided to make a blueberry buckle for the occasion that was a hit…recipe to follow.


a couple weeks ago I made this little fruit tart with mixed berries and kiwi that was also pretty yummy.

fruit tart

AND…I made this delicious cherry cheesecake when my daughter Hannah came to visit from sun scorched California last weekend. It is a gluten free recipe with almond meal crust.

cherry cheesecake

I am continuously struck by nature’s generosity. This year in Massachusetts it seems that berries in particular have been very happy. Last month we picked cherries and red raspberries locally. All the rain has been a plus for the berry patches (well not strawberries) so I complain much less about a long string of rainy days. The blackberry patch I cultivate in my own yard that may look just wild to passersby has offered up over 5 pounds of fruit for me to pick along with much to share with the birds and chipmunks who favor fresh berries like me.

raspberry cherries 

A wise teacher once told me that if I eat what the animals eat I will have optimal health. I thought about that (being a baker it was hard to take in) and it has proven to be true. As much as I love fresh baked goods including breads and pastries, I know that sooner or later I don’t feel well when I over indulge. True confession time, I am at that point!

So for now the baking will cease as I reclaim my clarity and energy with more whole grains and fresh vegetables and less sweet treats. I will practice what I teach and have a sympathetic ear to those who also experience the sweet over load. It’s all good because my freezer if full of potential desserts for future days.


I send prayers of gratitude to all that has given of itself on this day.

The strong beans, and the hardy grains, the beautiful leafy green plants and the sweet juicy fruits.

I thank the sun that warmed and vitalized them, just as it does me,

and the Earth that held and nourished them, as it does me,

and the waters that bathed and refreshed them, as they do for me,

I thank the fire that transformed them, just as I wish to be transformed by the fire of Spirit.

I thank the hands that grew and prepared this food, just as I thank all those that have touched me in so many ways. 

                                                                                    Sedonia Cahill

Leanne’s Blueberry Buckle


 ¼ cup whole oats

¼ cup garbanzo bean flour

¼ cup flax meal

¼ cup maple sugar

Nutmeg about ½ tsp

6 Tbsp Earth Balance butter


 ¾ cup brown rice flour

¾ cup garbanzo bean flour

¼ cup flax meal

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

Pinch sea salt

6 Tbsp Earth Balance butter

1/3 cup maple sugar

Lemon zest from half lemon

½ cup Greek yogurt

2 eggs (or if vegan use 1/3 cup applesauce)

2 – 3 cups fresh blueberries

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9 inch square glass baking pan with Spectrum organic all vegetable shortening.

 To make topping place oats in magic bullet or food processor and pulse until ground. Add garbanzo bean flour, flax meal, maple sugar and nutmeg to the oats. Then add cold Earth Balance and blend until crumbly. Place in freezer until ready to use.

 For the cake sift together the flours, baking powder and soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl cream the Earth Balance, maple sugar, lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time (or applesauce if vegan) and thoroughly blend.

 Alternate adding dry ingredients and yogurt and almond milk until all are blended well together. Once fully blended fold in half the blueberries. Transfer mixture to prepared cake pan. Top with remaining blueberries and then top with crumb mixture. Bake for approximately 50 minutes until brown and the center if firm when pressed down.

Enjoy and remember those leafy greens out in the garden too