Back to Basics: Teaching Basic Table Manners to Children

Back to Basics: Teaching Basic Table Manners to Children

You know how I feel about making dinner an event in your home. I’m a firm believer in getting everyone around the table together for dinner to reconnect with each other, discuss the day’s events and to nourish our bodies with good home-cooked food.

A few weeks ago I talked about the importance of learning how to set a proper table. Today, I’m going to talk about something else that makes sitting down to a meal an enjoyable experience. Today we’re talking table manners.

My children were taught how to behave at the table from the time they were in their booster seats, so they naturally grew up knowing what to do and what not to do at the table.

This might not seem like a significant life skill to some people, but I believe that it is.

Think about it. How quickly can someone be turned off by a person chewing loudly with their mouth open in a formal dinner setting? It drives me up the wall when someone reaches over my plate to grab something at the table, rather than asking for me to pass it to them.

If you have children around your table, you have lots of time to train them in dinner table etiquette.

Teaching table manners to pre-schoolers.

It’s never too early to start teaching the basic stuff, like washing your hands before going to the table and sitting down on your chair to eat. Those things can start being drilled into a child as young as 2. Between then and kindergarten age, here are some other basic table manners you can start to teach:

• Say please and thank you
• No toys at the table
• Ask to be excused from the table
• Set your napkin in your lap and to use it when wiping your face
• Thank the person who cooked the meal
• Use utensils to eat
• Take small bites
• No running around or yelling during dinner

For children at the higher end of this age bracket, they can be taught to say nice things about the foods they like and to not make a fuss about the foods they don’t like.

Teaching table manners to grade-school children.

A child at this age should automatically wash their hands before sitting down at the table and they should already be sitting nicely at the table, and saying please and thank you. But now it’s time to teach some more adult table manners:

• Don’t slurp
• Use a knife and fork to cut food
• Chew with mouth closed
• Don’t reach over a fellow diner’s plate
• Wait until everyone is served before starting to eat

Include children in discussion around the table and make sure your child knows that you’re interested in hearing about their day.

When they have these manners down as children, it’s really just a matter of refining them through young adulthood.

Comment on their good manners when you find they’re using them. Your praise goes a long way.

Teenagers should already have these basic table manners down, but please make sure there’s a “no phones at the table” rule in place. Lead by example! Everyone should wait until dinner is over before returning to their mobile device.

What is your biggest dinner etiquette pet peeve? Come tell us on Facebook.

Frugal Meals: Dinner on a Dime

Frugal Meals: Dinner on a Dime

Are you looking to stretch those grocery dollars? Let me show you how to spice up and season that lowly beans and rice dish so you can enjoy several different ethnic (styled) dishes. And FYI, these are representations of this type of cooking, not the actual authentic versions, so don’t be hatin’!

First off, cook up a batch o’ beans. Use something like white beans, pintos, red beans or even black beans. Doesn’t matter; we’re going to use them up a bunch of ways. Secondly, make your rice. Needs to be whole brown rice. I prefer long grain brown rice, some people like a short grain rice. Just make sure it’s brown rice so you get the nutrition! How do you cook beans and rice? Look on the back of the packages to each of them…you’ll get all the info you need. The important part is getting them cooked.

Okay, you’ve got a big batch o’ beans and a big batch o’ rice cooked, right? Now let’s look at all the possibilities:

Mexican-Style Beans and Rice
Jamaican-Style Beans and Rice
New Orleans-Style Beans and Rice
Southern-Style Greens, Beans and Rice
Indian-Style Beans and Rice

For ease of accomplishment, these “recipes” are servings for ONE. Multiply as needed. One serving equals 1 cup rice, 1 cup beans. You can bag these beans up in freezer quality bags and freeze in serving sizes (either individually or enough to serve your family) if you want. You can do the same thing with the rice. Once you have all those beans and rice packages, here’s what you can do when you thaw them out. Remember, these are servings for ONE…multiply them out as needed to serve your family:

Mexican-Style Beans and Rice

Serve the rice and beans plain with salsa, sour cream, grated cheese over the top and a quesadilla on the side.

Jamaican-Style Beans and Rice

In a saucepan over a medium heat, add beans, add 2 tablespoons of coconut milk, a pinch of thyme, a clove of crushed garlic and heat through till warm and bubbly. Serve over rice with chopped green onions on top.

New Orleans-Style Beans and Rice

In a skillet, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat and saute 1/4 cup each: onion, green bell pepper and celery. Add 1 clove crushed garlic, 1/8 teaspoon thyme. Mix this into the beans and serve with a bottle of Tabasco or other hot sauce.

Southern-Style Beans and Rice

In a skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped onion, then add 1 cup chopped frozen greens. Add 1 clove crushed garlic, a pinch of thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Add 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth. Add 1/2 cup beans and simmer till greens are tender. Serve over rice.

Indian-Style Beans and Rice

In a skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup chopped tomato and cook till tender. Add 1 clove crushed garlic, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cumin 1/4 teaspoon curry powder. Add the beans and simmer for five minutes. Serve over rice with chopped cilantro on top.

There you go…how’s that for Easy Button easy! Enjoy!

10 Signs Your Digestion Needs Love

10 Signs Your Digestion Needs Love

Burp much?

Or maybe you just feel like you had a brick for dinner?

These are signs that your digestion is in need of a little attention!

Digestion is a massively important function–it has to be addressed or you won’t get the nutrition you need from the food you’re eating.

Not only that, but the quality of your life truly reflects how well you digest–poor digestion can wreak havoc!

Here are the 10 signs:

1) Gas–burping or flatulence, it’s all a sign that your food never broke down properly

2) Bloating–same as above, your body is in distress and trying to digest what you ate

3) Full, heavy feeling–like the brick analogy above. I used to feel like that every time I ate steak!

4) Indigestion and heart burn–this is because you have insufficient stomach acid, not too much

5) Stomach ache–this can occur right after you eat or even a little later

6) Increased aging–because of malabsorption of available nutrients

7) B12 deficiency (blood test would reveal that)

8) A tendency to allergies. The reason for this is that if foods are poorly digested then the immune system reacts against them (most of your immune system is located in your gut), and that can switch on an allergy.

9) Iron deficiency (blood test would reveal that)

10) Acne or skin rashes–poor digestion shows up one way or another.

A lot of people think that heartburn is because of too much stomach acid when the exact opposite is true! It’s because there’s not enough stomach acid to digest what you just ate–I never believed that even after learning about this fact when I was getting my nutrition training.

I had just had my second child (he’s 26 now!!) and heartburn was my constant companion during pregnancy. Post pregnancy not so much but it happened on the rare occasion.

Here’s what you need to know: stomach acid declines with age–that’s a fact of life, unfortunately. BUT you can help your body along by using digestive enzymes, asking sure you’re getting enough fiber and don’t forget the probiotics! This is how you establish good bacteria in your gut.

Check out our Gut Check bundle–we’ve got you covered in all areas!

The Power of Thought

The Power of Thought

A page from my journal…

I had a moment today that caused me to stop everything I was doing and come upstairs to write.

I’m in the midst of packing for a move (ugh) and well, you know how that goes and how much there is to do (always).

Anyway, I’m listening to a speaker on my phone as I’m shoving stuff into boxes and she says,

“The only way to consciously deactivate a thought is to activate another. In other words, the only way to deliberately withdraw your attention from one thought is to give your attention to another.”

I had been feeling sorry for myself because I didn’t want to move, I was preoccupied with all the things I didn’t have in that moment, and as you can tell, gratitude was not a part of my thought process at all.

I thought about what she said about giving my attention to something else and stared down at the washing machine. I had several magnets on the washer (they wouldn’t stick to my fridge) that I’ve collected over the years that had meaning to me, but didn’t give them a second thought because, well, there they are on the washing machine, below eye level.

I looked at each magnet as I pulled them off to pack them. See the picture below:


Leanne's Magnets


There are two magnets I have that were my Mom’s: the magnet on the left is one I gave her in a birthday card a long time ago and she kept it on her fridge forever. The other one is the little trailer (peach colored) that I gave her when she bought her mobile home at the beach over 30 years ago.

Two dear friends sent me magnets of encouragement–the one that says You are unrepeatable. There is a magic about you that is all your own…and the Believe magnet.

There’s tiny little picture of my Mom holding Caroline who had just turned one year old–I love that picture of both of them.

Then there’s the Dinner Diva magnet that we used to sell so many years ago and a Le Creuset Dutch oven magnet that reminds me of all the wonderful sponsors I’ve had in the last 18 years.

Tears flowed–gratitude tears. Tears of love for family, friends, home and mission to help women.

And at that moment, I realized I had the ability to deliberately withdraw my attention and deactivate one thought and activate another.

Everything changed in that moment and the power of my thoughts became so evident, so crystal clear, so powerful.

I just wanted to share that with you because your thoughts are powerful, unbelievably so and yes, what you think about, you bring about.

With so much love,


Myths of Keto

Myths of Keto

Since we started Hot Melt last year, we’ve had a few questions (understandably) that I want to address, especially because this is the information that runs rampant in the health space that needs to be squelched once and for all.

The first is that it’s unhealthy–and to that, I say solidly that NO it is not.

But it can be–especially if you’re on Pinterest pinning a bunch of fatty keto recipes that only address ketosis and not the nutrition you absolutely still need, regardless.

Second is that putting your body into ketosis isn’t “natural” and it is bad for you. All ketosis is, is your body’s way of letting you know it’s starting to use fat for its primary source of fuel, not sugar. It’s a sign, not a medical crisis!

Ketoacidosis on the other hand, is a true medical issue and involves symptoms like shortness of breath, abdominal pain and more–completely different than ketosis.

Another myth (and again, I’ve seen this perpetuated on Pinterest) is you can pretty much eat any fat you want, as long as you’re choosing fat over other macronutrients. SO not true! Your body STILL needs nutrients! And while bacon, butter and cheese are certainly a part of the keto diet, it’s not ALL of it and woe to those who go that route.

And lastly, you’ve heard this one, I’m sure–your brain needs glucose to operate. Where does glucose come from? Carbs! But here’s why you don’t need carbs to make that happen. There’s a process called gluconeogenesis  which means you convert protein to glucose and that is what feeds your brain. As a matter of fact, there is science that supports that this is superior fuel for your brain!

It’s a matter of adapting to running on fat vs sugar is all–it’s just getting there that can be problematic. The “carb flu” is a symptom of someone becoming fat adapted and brain fog might be one of those symptoms!

But the good news is it’s temporary–once adapted, people who have done it will tell you they’ve never had more clarity, dropped weight effortlessly and feel fantastic!

I hope that helps you understand a little bit more about this keto diet stuff–

As a nutritionist, I’ve seen it all (hey, I’ve been doing this for 25 years!!) so for me, the biggest sticking point of course is the nutrition side of things. Getting those nutrients in is critical in the short run and in the long run.

We developed our own nutrient-rich version of keto called The Hot Melt Diet and have seen amazing results in our own little exclusive Facebook group of Hot Melters. It’s really exciting to see their results!

Take a peek if you like at our Hot Melt–it’s pretty fantastic stuff (if I do say so myself, LOL)

Want a sneak peek at some of our favorite Hot Melt recipes?

The Case for Butter

The Case for Butter

I get a lot of emails from people who are, understandably, nutritionally confused. How do you decipher the claims of some of these things? The biggest question I get is regarding the butter/margarine debate. Check this out:

Dear Leanne,

I’m confused. You say I should use butter instead of margarine because margarine isn’t real food. I heard you say it was a molecule away from being plastic on your radio show! But what about the saturated fat? And what about those margarines that don’t have trans fatty acids and have Omega 3 fatty acids in them? They sound like they’re a better choice.

Confused in Boise

Dear Confused,

I understand all the confusion. The food industry has been working overtime to rid itself of the trans fatty acid problem and give margarine a better name. Well, maybe some of that is so, but I say stick with foods that have been around since your great-great-grandmother and you’ll never go wrong. So that means eat BUTTER. Yes, it’s got saturated fat, but you don’t eat much. I do this personally by using whipped butter and going easy. My cholesterol is just fine and I know I’m eating something my body will recognize as food. Too much of anything, even real, good food, is a problem!

The Case for Real Butter (and other healthy fats)

Here is something I wrote years ago explaining the problem. Pretend with me, for a minute, that I am a nutritional attorney defending a bottle of olive oil in a non-fat Court of Food. I am giving closing arguments to Judge Dinner Saver. Take a listen:

“Judge, let me just summarize the defendant’s right to be included in a healthy diet by giving the court these facts:

Fact One: A developing child (before and after birth and throughout childhood) must have fat for normal brain development.

Fact Two: Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that reduces the bad cholesterol (LDL) while not affecting the good cholesterol (HDL).

Fact Three: It satiates and helps with that “full” feeling–helping people not to over eat.

Fact Four: It helps keep skin and hair healthier looking.

Fact Five: It helps food taste better,” I said motioning dramatically to my client, the olive oil.

The Judge was unmoved and eyed me like a piece of lettuce lodged in her tooth. “Everything you say may be true, Ms. Dinner Diva, but isn’t it true that oils are unstable?”

“That is true, Judge. But this is easily overcome by purchasing the right oil. For example, a cold pressed or expeller pressed oil most often found in health food stores, is always a good oil and is labeled as such. Never mind the instability problem–if the oils are stored correctly in the refrigerator after opening, their fatty acids are preserved and no more rancid oils!” I said. But I could see the Judge wasn’t willing to back down and asked the question I had been dreading.

“Well, margarine is made from oil and yet you told me earlier that it was hydrogenated and a bad choice! So you have the audacity to tell the food court to eat BUTTER!” she bellowed.

I sighed and shifted nervously in my chair. “Here we go again,”I thought. “Honorable Judge, while it is true that butter is a saturated fat, it is still real food and is digestible by the body. IF it is eaten in mass quantities, it will be problematic both for your thighs and your heart. Margarine, on the other hand, is hydrogenated oil with fake colors and flavorings. This is a product filled with trans-fatty acids which will actually RAISE LDL levels and reduce the HDL levels.

Not only that, but the trans-fatty acids will age you faster than sitting in a tanning booth with your face slathered in bacon grease, I said.

Judge Dinner Saver removed her glasses and rubbed her eyes and sat for a moment. The tension could be cut with a butter knife.

“Thank you, counselor,” said the Judge finally. “Obviously, we can all use all the help we can get with our health and as far as I’m concerned with regard to The Non-Fat People vs. Olive Oil, case dismissed!” She slammed her gavel down and smiled for the first time.

A cheer went up in the audience. The safflower oil and peanut oil embraced as the butter melted in its chair. It was emotional for every oil and almost every fat…however, the Crisco and margarine left in a huff.

I hope I grabbed your attention–butter is your friend, a delicious one at that! So is avocado, salmon, olive oil, nuts….amazing stuff all of it especially because they all can help you shed the belly fat and boost your brain! More here if you’re interested!


Ready for some delicious recipes packed with healthy fats?

Ask Leanne: Why does keto have to be so complicated?

Ask Leanne: Why does keto have to be so complicated?

Unbelievable–that’s exactly the difference between a keto diet (all the rage!) and our own Hot Melt Diet.

Yesterday I explained the difference between a keto diet and a paleo diet (because you ask me that all the time, LOL!!) And now I think it’s important to explain the difference between a standard keto diet and our own, Hot Melt Diet.

WHY the unbelievable difference between the two?

For starters, I think having to pee on a stick or poke your finger for blood to see if you’re in ketosis is garbage–oh sure, you can do it (and I’ll tell you how even), but WHY do it if you’re adhering to the principles of eating a lot of good healthy fat (and keeping an eye on your other macro-nutrients)?

The other thing is that whole question of macro-nutrients–do you really want to be measuring and weighing food, counting and doing math all the time? Do you even want yet another app on your phone to enter all of this stuff for the calculations? Do you have time for that? Can you sustain that?

Me either.

And as a nutritionist for 25 years, some of the keto recipes I’ve stumbled across are horrific nutritionally with no thought given to what a healthy body NEEDS–

In other words, it’s NOT just about weight loss, it’s about hormone and brain function and it’s about cooling inflammation…

Hot Melt vs Keto–you decide. 🙂

Want to sample some of our amazing Hot Melt recipes?

Ask Leanne: What’s the difference between Keto and Paleo?

Ask Leanne: What’s the difference between Keto and Paleo?

I get asked this question. All. The.TIME!

So I thought I would spend a little time giving you the major differences, plus a recipe to help you see (and taste) a GREAT recipe!

First of all, a ketogenic diet is a diet that is higher in fat, lower in carbs and protein. The paleo diet is a grain free, dairy free and concentrates on higher volumes of vegetables and as much protein as you need.

Keto doesn’t mean dairy free–there’s a ton of cheese and heavy cream in traditional keto diets (which can be inflammatory).

Keto also doesn’t mean nutrient rich (which by the way, is a sticking point with me).

What keto does is help your body turn into a fat burner vs a sugar burner, giving your body the ability to shed weight nearly effortlessly and without hunger–once you get into ketosis (which is simply the mechanism the body uses to tell you “mission accomplished” you’ve turned into a fat burner!).

And being a fat burner vs a sugar burner is better for brain function, regulating hormonal fluctuations (including PCOS), perhaps overcoming blood sugar issues, lowering triglycerides, improving autoimmune conditions, calming IBS and giving a sense of well-being and increased energy!

So that’s the easy differentiators between the traditional two types of eating.

Both can be anti-inflammatory. Both have the ability to shift your body’s chemistry and help you achieve weight loss goals, health goals (i.e., lower blood sugar, bring down inflammatory markers, etc.) and help you feel great as mentioned above.

BUT–traditional keto diets may not give you enough nutrients and if you’re going the full dairy route with keto, you could actually be defeating yourself!

That’s why I created the Hot Melt Diet—the plan that gets you into ketosis fast, gives you the nutrients you need, and it’s anti-inflammatory so you get the maximum health benefits associated with keto. 🙂 It has everything you need—amazing smoothies, fabulous lunches and dinners to make you drool!

Want to sample some of our amazing Hot Melt recipes?

My Friday Favorite: Food Containers!

My Friday Favorite: Food Containers!

Believe it or not, this is one question I get asked all the time–what containers should I consider for my leftovers?


I get it because I am always dealing with leftovers myself–I LOVE leftovers because they are the magical beginnings of a new creation or else, just a glorious recap of the night before’s dinner. Either way, I’m good with them because they mean less work and ease of accomplishment for the next meal.


Food Containers (Twitter)

So what do you put these divine leftovers in anyway?


I’ve done it all from Rubbermaid, to Tupperware to mason jars and plenty of wraps, bags and foil in between.


The cleanest however is mason jars–they come in a variety of sizes, can be used over and over and over again. They freeze (if you follow some smart tips to keep them from breaking) and they’re easy to write on (plain old masking tape with a sharpie to identify and date on the lid).


Mason jars are inexpensive and are easy to find whether you’re in a hardware store, shopping online (Amazon for sure), in Target or Walmart–they are everywhere!


The lids need to replaced every once in awhile–they wear out and can get gross if they’re not washed thoroughly because they’re a two piece lid.


I prefer to put both pieces (separated) in the silverware caddy in my dishwasher and I like to use the heat function of the dishwasher (I usually don’t–I open the door and let them air dry; living in Colorado, it’s really dry here) to keep them from rusting.


Sometimes though, you just need a little tiny something to store that 1/2 a lime in or spoonful of gravy (add it to your soup to add texture, depth and a little extra flavor).


That’s when I fall down the ziplock rabbit hole. I have them and I use them but its not my first go to. They do come in handy though!


Speaking of Amazon, here’s a great deal I found (and am getting myself!)


A couple members of our team also rave about Bee’s Wrap.



Back to Basics: Kitchen Knives

Back to Basics: Kitchen Knives

One of the most overlooked techniques in cooking has to do with using a knife. A lot of people use the wrong knife for the wrong job. Not only that, but they cut inefficiently and don’t give technique its proper due, creating a much longer prep process than necessary. The fix? Use the right knife for the job and know how to use it! Here are some hints:

Back to Basics_ Kitchen Knives

Know Your Knives

Sharp, high quality knives are an investment. This is one place you cannot afford to skimp. Buy a good brand (I’ve used Henckels for over 20 years now) and you’ll have them for your entire cooking career.

First up on the list is a basic cutting and chopping knife. A 6 to 8 inch chef knife (or the same sized santoku knife, which is a Japanese knife used for the same chopping abilities) is the ticket. Don’t be intimidated by this large a knife. Once you learn how to hold it and chop with it (don’t worry, I will teach you how!), you won’t believe you ever could cook without one!

Next is the paring knife. Again, we’re talking quality here quality, no cheapie, 99 cent plastic handled numbers you picked up at the dollar store. In a pinch on your way to a picnic, maybe, but you can’t use a knife like that everyday in the kitchen or I promise, you will end up hating to cook. Quality tools DO make a major difference.

Paring knives have smaller blades, about 2 ½” to 3″ long. This is the knife you will use to peel or pare an apple, trim the ends off radishes, Brussels’s sprouts, etc.

Serrated knives will help you slice a tomato like a pro, cut bread into slices, and cut up citrus with ease. The toothy blade makes all the difference. My preference is a larger and smaller serrated knife (one of each); the larger knife for bread; the smaller one for the citrus and tomato slicing.

You can’t have Thanksgiving (or any other holiday requiring a slicing up of the holiday fowl or beast) without a large carving knife and fork. The blade on these knives is typically long and flexible, enabling you to negotiate corners and carve neatly. If you can, purchase the carving knife and fork set together. I have the same lovely set I received as a gift over 20 years ago and they work just as wonderfully now as they did all those years ago when I struggled to carve my first Thanksgiving turkey.

Two other knives you probably won’t need are a boning knife and a filleting knife. And guess what you’ll do with these knives? Bone and fillet! Now, let me tell you how often I use my boning and filleting knives. About once a year, if that. Bottom line is if I need something boned or filleted, I will have my butcher take care of it for me. Why? Is it because I don’t know how to do it or because I’m lazy? The answer is both. I can painstakingly bone a chicken breast or another piece of meat and I can fillet, too. But not well. This is why we ask the butcher to do it. This is what he does for a living and you don’t. Besides, you have other things to do besides boning and filleting meat or poultry don’t you? I’m glad we discussed this. So for the sake a full set of knives, make sure you have your boning and filleting knives. We’ll all sleep better at night knowing you have a complete set.

Use Your Knives

So now you’re asking me how to use that santoku or French knife–the big one. Okay, believe it or not, this is easy. First off, you will need to use both hands, one for holding whatever it is that you’re cutting (that will be the opposite hand you will be cutting with) and the hand that you are going to cut with. The hand that holds the food we will be transforming temporarily into a claw. Yes, a claw. Why a claw? Glad you asked. Because when you are holding the food in a claw-like fashion, if your knife accidentally gets too close to your fingers, the worst that will happen is your fingers will get too close a shave, but you won’t be losing any digits to the santoku!

Now as far as making the chopping go smoothly and quickly like they do on Food TV; that just requires a rhythm, which will come as you get better at chopping. The idea is to “rock” the blade slightly as you chop. This will build a rhythm and eventually, your speed. Next time you’re watching the Food Network, pay attention as Emeril chops effortlessly. He’s got his claw going; he’s a-rockin’ and a-choppin”, the whole thing is an art form. Remember though, you’re not Emeril. Go easy and slow and be careful. These are sharp knives we’re working with here, not rubber spatulas.

Keep your knives sharp (use a steel, not a “knife sharpener”) and hold the knife at 25 degree angle, move the blade down one side of the steel, than on the other. Make sure you do both sides evenly. I always count when I do my knives. If this makes you nervous, go to a good quality-cooking store and have them show you how, they’re happy to oblige! Just remember, dull knives are what cause accidents. Stay safe and enjoy cooking!