November is traditionally a time when our nation is focused on acknowledging the people and things that give us reason to be grateful. Family is one of the things on the top of my list! That is why I love celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with my husband, kids and extended family on the fourth Thursday of each November. (This year will be extra special, since my husband’s birthday happens to fall on Thanksgiving Day in 2012!) Food is such a large part of these celebrations that it’s easy to go overboard. So I’ve developed several fun ways to keep my family eating healthily during the month: 1. Go on a special shopping trip for seasonal produce. Many local farmer’s markets and farms allow you to pick your own vegetables through mid-November. There are also several annual harvest fairs and festivals held throughout the country where you can pick up fresh produce from local crops. Wherever you go, make shopping for produce a fun, educational experience. Get your kids involved before you even reach your final destination. Younger kids can help figure out what you will pick up on your special shopping trip, while older kids can write out the shopping list and even help calculate the prices to keep you on budget. 2. Have your kids help prepare special family versions of Thanksgiving recipes. Most kids enjoy being helpful and this is a fun way to allow them to be so. My 5 year-old son Sean especially loves to be my “super helper”. That works out well … especially since he is the child who likes the least types of foods. I have him cook with me as much as possible. It gives him such a sense of satisfaction and he eats more of whatever he helps to prepare … without fail. (For instance, with my special “Bacon Ranch Sautéed Green Beans,” both of my sons trimmed the string beans for the dish.) 3. Use the holidays as an occasion to experiment with food in a fun way. Did you know that there is a food holiday for most foods? Do a Google search for “National (fill in the desired food) Day” and see what comes up. Kids enjoy celebrating holidays, so if there is a particular food that I want to introduce to my kids, I try doing so on its day, week or month “holiday.” You can also use national holidays like Thanksgiving to introduce new or adapted recipes to your family. For example, mashed potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple in my house and my kids love to use a masher to help mash. Adding a new seasoning, like Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® Seasoning & Salad Dressing Mix Shaker , is the perfect way to transform this traditional dish into a a special Thanksgiving treat with a bit of a kick! ! Did you know that the #1 researched recipe during the month of November is for a Green Bean Casserole? Well, I have a confession … my family does not like that dish. However, I’ve developed a simple “Bacon Ranch Sautéed Green Beans” recipe that is a welcome substitute that everyone enjoys. With ranch dressing and bacon, it’s a hit with family and friends of all ages! Foodie City Mom’s Bacon Ranch Sautéed Green Beans Serves: 4-6 INGREDIENTS: 1 pound fresh string beans, trimmed 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons Hidden Valley® Original Ranch® dressing 4 slices bacon (or turkey bacon), cooked and crumbled INSTRUCTIONS: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add string beans, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander, and immediately pour cold water over them, which will help set the green color and prevent them from cooking further. Toss the beans with the olive oil. Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the green beans and ranch dressing to the pan and sauté the mixture for approximately 3-5 minutes, until crisp tender. Toss the crumbled bacon into the dish right before you serve it, so that the bacon stays crisp. TIP: Have the kids help by trimming the string beans. Simply give them three containers – one for the string beans that need to be trimmed, one for the discarded trimmings and one for the string beans that are ready to be cooked!