Teaching Self-Discipline and Self-Control with Marshmallows? The Importance of Teaching Kids About Delayed Gratification

I’ve often found delaying instant gratification can be a tough personal trait to exercise as an a adult. So it got me wondering about how our kids deal with this crucial thought process. And better yet, what can we do as parents to help this very important personal trait which will ultimately help our kids live a happy, successful and fulfilling life?

Building Better Futures… One Marshmallow at a Time!


Now you might have already heard of the ‘marshmallow experiment‘or a variation of it, which examines a child’s ability to hold out to receive an increased reward. If you don’t already know, the study basically consisted of a rather simple experiment which clearly displayed a child’s ability (or inability) at a young age to recognize the importance of delayed gratification. Each child was presented with a marshmallow and then told if they did not eat that marshmallow while the researcher was away, then they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow when the researcher returned. However, the flipside is if the child decided to go ahead and eat the first marshmallow before the researcher came back, then the child would not get that second marshmallow…

Marshmallow test: Teaching kids about delayed gratification to children

Teaching Important Life Lessons with Marshmallows!

I couldn’t help but think of all the many areas of our lives impacted by our own ability to delay immediate gratification, especially when other options are on the table. And how our studies, work, relationships, health and overall life in general can be affected… Well, Walter Mischel, the Stanford University Professor who conducted the study confirmed that many years later, these children had experienced significantly different results.

The children who were willing and able to delay immediate gratification at a young age (in return for a greater reward later) ended up having:

  •  higher SAT scores in school
  •  much lower levels of substance abuse
  •  a lower likelihood of being overweight and obese
  •  better responses to stress and dealing with failure
  •  better social skills
  •  Much more likelihood as adults to achieve personal success in both their professional and personal life


What Will You Discover When Teaching Your Kids About Delayed Gratification?

Could you resist temptation?

Could you resist temptation?

Following the same basic model of the experiment, I decided to teach a quick lesson about the importance of delayed gratification to my 3 children. I offered a plump looking, delicious tasting marshmallow to each of my 3 kids, then told my children that if they chose to wait 15 minutes before eating the first marshmallow, they would receive an extra marshmallow later.

They all initially decided to wait, and my two girls, the oldest, stayed firm. But after a little while my young son began to waver. I told him it was fully up to him, but he might want to check the timer to see how much longer. As he walked towards it, it rang – saved by the bell!

Later that day I raised the stakes. I announced that each child could purchase some Legos, but their budget would be $20 if they wanted to hit the store that day, or $30 to wait for an online order. The boy chose the store, as the girls’ eyes went wide, knowing they just had to wait for that larger reward. I could almost physically see their delayed gratification “muscle” flexing in that moment.

How Are You Teaching Your Children About Delayed Gratification?

There are many different ways you can teach your own kids about the importance of delaying instant gratification – in return for a more positive reward later… What kind of lessons have you been teaching your kids lately and what methods have you been using at your place? What area of life do you think is most impacted by the skill of waiting?

Leave your comments below, we would love to hear from you and share in your experience! And don’t forget to check out our Spinning Meals App over at the iTunes store. Since it is a recipe manager app, it requires a little time up front to fill it with recipes you love, but when you see it effortlessly “spin” personalized meal plans and shopping lists you’ll know you’re reaping a long-term reward.

Internet Recipe Capture screenshots

Spinning Meals app on iTunes – Click The Picture to see how it works!

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Posted in Family, Food Articles, Fun, Kid Friendly, Parenting, Philosophies

Appreciation Checklist: 10 Reasons I Know Moms Give Everything

I Love mom - Moms appreciation

As friends and co-workers celebrate their kids’ high school and college graduations, I’m struck by the staggering investment that an involved parent makes in each child’s life. Yet the decades-long dedication comes so automatically to most, as there is simply no other way we could imagine acting towards our own children. So here’s a short list of why “everything” is the best way I can describe what moms give to their kids.

  1. I know moms give everything, because each child comes into this world essentially as a blank slate, yet year after year they develop in amazing ways.
  2. Unlike many/most mammals, human infants are completely helpless at birth, leading some to say that we need a “fourth trimester.” You won’t see us walking on our own within an hour of birth like a giraffe calf or a foal. Hold me mom, just for a year or so!
  3. Most moms don’t know when to stop; they seem to want to give everything. They see and fill gaps, like a need for a school volunteer, a need for a conversation at a key moment, or a need to pack 20 contingency items in a diaper bag which seems ridiculous until you realize most of them were actually needed. Dad stands corrected.
  4. Moms give everything because kids will take everything they’re given.
  5. Moms tend to think of themselves last. They may be the only ones on the plane who actually need the instruction to place the oxygen mask on themselves first before helping others.
  6. Raising a good kid requires so much: teaching manners, hygiene, language, habits, compassion, patience, negotiation, and on and on. Giving everything is required.
  7. The needs can’t wait. A mom’s to-do list can’t be put off, because the baby is crying now, meal time is now, potty time is…whoops, too late on that one. See what I mean?
  8. Motherhood is a non-stop commitment for decades, ridiculously over and above any normal job, as has been well-articulated in this job interview video circulating this year.
  9. For a time, a child’s parents may represent the entirety of the world around them, modeling how humans act and interact. Our interplay lays the foundation for how they will eventually get along with: classmates, authority figures, friends, co-workers, spouses, their own children… you name it.
  10. Lastly, I know moms give everything because kids are amazing. Starting from newborns they somehow grow into such rich individuals, with so much to offer the world.

This Mother’s Day my hope for every parent is that you’ll pause to admire your kids, recognize how amazing they have become, and take a little credit for being a huge part of that result. I know some days parenthood can feel like the machine in The Princess Bride which can suck a year of your life away all at once, and that may not be too far off from reality. But it’s worth it, right? Right?!? Ryan P.S. Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your thoughts. By the way, we parents get a lot back too, it’s a two-way street! P.P.S. As we’ve done the last couple years, we’re giving our 5-star meal planning app away in appreciation for moms everywhere, this weekend only. Please spread the word and enjoy!

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Posted in Food Articles, Parenting, Philosophies, Thanks

Brown Butter Cornmeal Pancakes Recipe: A Gold Medal Breakfast

Brown Butter Cornmeal Pancakes

Brown Butter Cornmeal PancakesI hope everyone has enjoyed the Sochi Winter Games, and if you don’t feel that your country has won quite enough gold medals, here’s a way to make some of your own.

I’ve been making cornmeal pancakes out of the Fannie Farmer cookbook since we were given it as a wedding gift 16 years ago. It’s hard to think of another recipe I’ve made more times than that one. But of course everything is better with brown butter, and I’ve worked on simplifying this approach so it flows well, thus allowing you to amaze your family while giving the false impression that you worked hard at it. Enjoy!

Brown Butter Cornmeal Pancakes Recipe: a gold medal breakfast
Cuisine: USA Southern
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Besides 4-inch round pancakes, this recipe also works great for creating tiny pancakes which my kids love, or drawing shapes.
  • 6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for the griddle and for serving
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Maple syrup for serving
  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, whisking occasionally, until foaming has subsided and the butter separates and turns a medium brown. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately whisk in the cornmeal, which will stop the butter from getting any hotter. Whisk in the water and allow that to absorb into the cornmeal while preparing other ingredients.
  2. Preheat a large griddle to 325 degrees F, or until butter browns when applied.
  3. Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl.
  4. Add the milk and eggs to the liquid ingredients in the pan. Whisk in the dry ingredients just a little at a time to avoid creating clumps.
  5. Grease the griddle with butter, then ladle pancakes on, about 3 tablespoons for each which will create pancakes about 4 inches across. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown and bubbles burst on the top without closing up.Flip and cook for one more minute.
  6. Serve immediately with maple syrup and butter.




Brown Butter Cornmeal Pancakes Recipe












P.S. With this post I’ve switched email delivery to Mail Chimp instead of AWeber. Please let me know if you have any issues or feedback with the new format.


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Posted in Breakfast, Family, Fast, Kid Friendly, Recipes

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Almond Cake with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

Pumpkin Almond Cake Slice Close-Up

This recipe will wow your guests, whether they are gluten-lovers or -avoiders. The “master recipe” for this form of almond cake dates back to medieval times, so it has stood the test of time, as well as the test of my kids and co-workers, who are in love with it. Whether you’re looking for a gluten-free item on your Thanksgiving pie table, or are just intrigued by something new, I hope you’ll try this and I’m sure it won’t disappoint.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Almond Cake with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream

Pumpkin and pumpkin-leaf cutouts were combined with string to create the designs in the sugar. Add your own touch!

The powdered sugar dusting can be done with any stencil you choose. And the cream cheese whipped cream is delicious with anything, but a particularly good match for this cake.

Making Almond Meal in food processor

The almonds should be processed until they are uniform small bits.

For more about the history of almond cake, developed it would seem by Jews living in Spain about 500 years ago, you can view this video of Claudia Rosen discussing some of her research and discoveries. And here is her own recipe with no pumpkin, for those who want to go back to basics.

Pumpkin Almond Cake Slice Close-Up

The texture is divine, and much more moist than most gluten-free cakes.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy!

Gluten-Free Cake Recipe: Pumpkin Almond Cake with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10
With a food processor this recipe is a breeze. If you don't have one, you can still make the recipe if you start with almond meal instead of whole/sliced/slivered almonds, and superfine sugar instead of granulated sugar. The only other special equipment needed is a springform pan.
For the cake:
  • ½ pound of sliced, slivered, or whole almonds (or use almond meal)
  • 1¼ cup granulated or superfine sugar
  • Butter or shortening for greasing the pan
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground or grated nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
  • Powdered sugar for dusting
For the whipped cream:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
For the cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Create almond meal by placing the almonds in a food processor and processing until they are chopped down to uniform small bits (about 30 seconds if starting with sliced or slivered almonds, longer if using whole almonds). If starting with almond meal, skip this step. Empty the food processor, settings the almond meal aside.
  3. Create superfine sugar by processing the granulated sugar in the processor until it has the texture of fine sand, about 10 seconds. Skip this step if starting with superfine sugar.
  4. Grease a 9-inch springform pan using butter or shortening. Dust the pan with 1-2 tablespoons of superfine sugar, turning the pan to coat it evenly.
  5. Add the egg yolks into the processor with the sugar and process until the color is pale yellow, about 10 more seconds. Add the almond meal back in, along with the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Process until uniform, about 10-20 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl and process for a few more pulses.
  6. In a clean mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, just until stiff peaks have formed. Pour the batter from the food processor over the top of the egg whites and fold it together with a rubber spatula. Pour the mixture into the springform pan and place in the oven.
  7. Cook until the middle of the cake is firm, about 40-45 minutes.
  8. Cool in the pan to room temperature. Remove the outer ring, and dust with powdered sugar just before serving, using a stencil of your choice for decoration. Freeze or refrigerate leftovers.
For the whipped cream:
  1. In a clean mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed to loosen it up and break up any large chunks.
  2. Add a splash of cream, along with the granulated sugar while continuing to run the beater(s). Turn the mixer to high and add the rest of the cream, the vanilla, and the pinch of salt. Stop the beater(s) and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Resume beating until the cream has reached stiff peaks and doubled in volume. Serve with the cake. NOTE: Since the cream cheese helps to stabilize the whipped cream, this can be made 24 hours in advance, or even a bit longer.


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Posted in Beverages, Dessert, Recipes

Epic Backyard Playhouse: How I spent my summer, and what it taught me about food

Epic Backyard Playhouse

Looking back, this project just seems crazy. But if parenthood doesn’t drive you at least a little bit nuts, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Epic Backyard Playhouse

What will it be after the kids are grown: Art studio? Poker room? Lawnmower storage?

Wanting nothing but the best for our kids, we aspired to build them a truly epic backyard playhouse, with our own hands. Not a play structure, but a real “mini-house”, and while we were at it, why not two stories…and a pop-out bay window…and a cross-gable roof?

Four months later it’s still not fully complete, but they’re thrilled, and we feel pretty satisfied. I must sincerely apologize to you all for putting my blogging on hold, and I promise more recipes soon. For now, here are the big lessons of this project, as I relate them to the world of food:

You Can’t Measure Ridiculousness

Our imperial measurement system is so bad. How much time is spent adjusting decimal results into sixteenths of inches, compensating for 2x4s being actually 1.5×3.5, or converting feet to inches? Similarly, most baking recipe developers long for the US to adopt measure-by-weight conventions for more precision and easier kitchen workflow. When will we be ready to bake a change?

Plan Ahead

You know I care about meal planning, otherwise I wouldn’t have developed the Spinning Meals app. Ever counted the per-project trips to Home Depot or Lowe’s? As our chief architect and organizer, my wife burned through a stack of graph paper with great plans and cut lists which saved our butts day after day, and kept those butts at the job site more than on the road. Plan ahead!

Epic Backyard Playhouse First Story Framing

First we built a box, then we built another box on top. Like a layer cake, but without the creamy middle.

Precision (Usually) Matters

An eighth of an inch gap may lead to a quarter, to a half…and eventually nothing fits. Time spent on precision pays well later. But an experienced carpenter knows which cuts can be made in haste and which require perfection. In kitchen work, baking is generally more precise than cooking, but not always. The good news is, food forgives a lot more than framing, and since you aren’t risking building collapse, go ahead and try something different, and if it fails just do it again more conservatively.

Practice is Confidence is Fun

The kitchen can be a scary place when you’re starting out, just as serious framing work once made me feel out of my league. But it’s amazing how quickly repetition breeds skill, and skill, confidence. Eventually my mistakes became rare, and churning out perfect compound miter cuts made this a workplace from which I drew strength and enthusiasm, not fear. Can the kitchen become a place of real joy, if you challenge yourself beyond the mundane and really master it?

Try Something Big

To energize your kitchen, maybe you don’t need to learn to make a slightly better pork chop. Maybe you need to make something that’s the ultimate, something as stupidly ambitious as this playhouse. Like a recipe with 30 ingredients, or 15 steps, or a name you can’t pronounce… Cook or bake your heart out, let your loved ones swing a hammer, I mean a whisk alongside you, and make something worth remembering, whether it succeeds or fails. Hammer on, friends.

What do you think? Any questions about it?

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Posted in Family, Food Articles, Philosophies


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