Cooking with Kids

Reminiscent of the Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man“?!?  The plumper we get, the more true that may be. . .

Overweight children are more likely to be obese adults.  Obesity in the US is increasing Jamie Oliver bring-food-education-back_502917291bbf9-620x3402about 1 percentage point per year.  Unfortunately the US isn’t alone.  A report  produced by the National Obesity Forum in the UK suggests that half of the UK population could be obese by 2050.  Due to spread of the Western lifestyle around the globe, obesity is now a greater health crisis than hunger.  And it’s an entirely preventable epidemic.

Let’s work on that ounce of prevention.  Invest in the future of a child by fostering a love of real, whole foods.  Involve your kids (or borrow some) in meal preparation and see the pride that comes with making something delicious.  Even if they don’t like a new food or recipe, they’re much more likely to try it if they’ve been involved in making it.  And with repeated exposures over time, they will start to enjoy a wider variety of whole foods (added bonus- you will too!).

In selecting new recipes, incoporate at least 1 ingredient (or side dish) the child recognizes and enjoys.  For example, the MYO Pasta Salad is a great dish to start with.  Most kids love pasta and with a variety of toppings to choose from (beans, veggies, seeds, herbs), they have some control over what goes in, though you should make a quantity minimum (for example, each kid needs to fill a ½ cup with toppings or get a scoop of at least 4 different toppings).  If they’re not old enough to boil water for pasta, have them cut (using a knife or scissors) or tear topping ingredients.

If you’re trying a new one pot dish and there’s nothing obviously recognizable, include whole grain bread as a side after a minimum bite buy-in.  That way the kids have to have a certain number of polite bites before they can have the piece of bread.

Ask your kids to ‘kick it up a notch’ by turning a mundane spaghetti dinner into something adventurous by adding lentils or white beans, canned artichoke hearts, and maybe even sauteed mushrooms into a jar of spaghetti sauce.  Easy and quick- your kids will be making dinners for you in no time!!

Before the kids can have a snack or dessert, ask if they’ve met your family’s daily whole food requirements.  Your requirements can evolve over time but start out with a list that expands everyone’s current repertoire.  For example,  4 servings of veggies, 4 servings of fruit, 2 servings of whole grains, 1 serving of beans or lentils, 1 serving of nuts or seeds.  If you’re more of a bean counter (ha ha), you can always count grams of fiber using a site like this.  Regardless of what method you chose, instead of thinking about what you’re missing, focus on what to eat as in Dr. Fuhrman’s Holiday Challenge.

Use the recipes below to start teaching your kids about the benefits of eating whole foods.  Lower your expectations for what constitutes a proper dinner and kick up the health factor.  Making simple plant-based meals requires minimal planning and kitchen time (it is summer after all), and it’s far cheaper than going out to eat.  Recognize that by eating plant-based foods, you’re transitioning to a low fat diet so satiety will feel different.  Low fat doesn’t mean severe calorie-wise, though.  Instead of a chicken breast and cheesy potatoes, eat two hummus wraps with raw veggies and fresh fruit on the side if that’s what you need to fill up.  Because you’re eating whole, plant-based foods, there’s no need to count calories or fat intake.

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll want to minimize your consumption of nuts and seeds to no more than 1 ounce per day or every other day.  And everyone should avoid processed soy food products (more on soy coming soon- but organic whole soy like edamame, tofu, and tempeh are fine- it’s the isolated soy protein type soy in faux meat products that you want to avoid).

I know first hand from teaching at the local Boys and Girls Club that involving kids in making healthy food gets them excited about plant based eating.  So do yourself a favor – change your expectations about what constitutes a “good” dinner, get in the kitchen, and help the next generation not be as obese as the current one.

Here are some easy ways to do that, ideally with your favorite young’uns.

 

Carrot salad

Using a food processor, shred the carrots into small pieces.  Transfer to a bowl with a lid.  Add raisins.  Stir in half to a full can of drained pineapple tidbits, depending on how many carrots you used and how sweet you want your salad.  If possible, refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight before serving.  When serving, have sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or walnut pieces available to stir in for extra crunch (as well as omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and vitamin E).

Wraps

A Wrapper (lettuce, cabbage, tortilla, spring roll wrapper, nori, etc)

Spread (any type hummus, guacamole, refried beans, bean spread, mashed avocado, etc)

Veggies (greens, carrots, peppers, onions, sweet potato, leftovers from last night’s dinner, avocado, brocolli, etc)

Optional: A Lil Extra (hot sauce, fresh herbs, seeds, oil-free dressing, tofu or tempeh, etc)

Select your wrap, apply the spread, cover with veggies, and add a lil extra if needed.  Roll up as tightly as possible without breaking the wrapper and enjoy.  To roll the wrap burrito-style: fold one side of the wrap over the contents, then fold the top and bottom sides in, finally roll the burrito toward the final side.

For Sushi Wraps, limit the amount of veggies per wrap and slice into 2 cm sections before serving.

 

Rice bowls

 

Cole Slaw

Cabbage, shredded or processed into small bits

Poppy seed salad dressing

Mandarin oranges or diced apples

Sliced almonds or sunflower seeds

Combine the first 3 ingredients to taste.  Add sliced almonds or sunflower seeds just before serving.

 

Black bean mango salsa

 

Massaged Kale salad

 

Caramelized Onions

Once your child is ready to use the stove, caramelized onions are a great place to start.  Caramelized onions make simple dishes like wraps, rice bowls, and spaghetti that much more delicious.  Peel and slice the onions (always cut way more than you think you can use because they shrink so much when cooked).  Add the onions to a large pan over medium heat and stir regularly to loosen the cooked bits from the pan.  Have a container of water nearby to add water by the spoonful as needed when the onions stick or start to burn.  The great thing about caramelized onions is you only cook them as long as you have time for.

 

Mac and Trees

 

Spaghetti with white beans, mushrooms, artichokes

Jar of spaghetti sauce

Can of lentils or white beans

Can of artichoke hearts or pieces

Fresh mushrooms, sauteed

Pasta or rice, cooked

Sautee the mushrooms if using.  Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and heat through.  Serve over pasta or rice.

 

 

Photo Credit:

Jamie Oliver Food Revolution Day – http://www.foodrevolutionday.com/

 

Perhaps It’s the Why

As you are making or enforcing your new year’s resolutions, consider the why.  Why are you resolving to lose weight, exercise more, or eat healthier?  If the why isn’t strong enough, you’ll struggle with the resolve needed to make the right decisions multiple times each day, day after day to meet your goal.  So dig deeper.  If last year’s goal to lose 10 lbs or cut out fried foods didn’t work, reconsider why this goal is so important to you.  If the why is there, if it is truly important to you, then you can do it- you can do hard things.  And the benefits will be greater than you think.  Making a lifestyle change provides energy to make other changes, to change other habits, to spend less time couch sitting and more time having fun.

Once you’ve figured out the why, plan out exactly how you’re going to keep your resolution.  Leo Babauta has great advice on sticking to a habit .  Perhaps you need to always have fresh fruits and veggies with you (at home AND at work) to snack on when cravings erupt or only order salads when you eat out.  Perhaps you need to find a workout buddy or pay your kid to exercise with you, which has a bonus of getting extra one on one time with your offspring.  Read this post  for tips on meal planning and prep for the week. 

Start now- while you’re thinking about it and energized to make a change- list out a few whole food plant based meals for the next week.  Plan to make at least 3 meals you are familiar with (spaghetti with marinara sauce, salad and baked potatoes, refried bean quesadillas, vegetable soup, etc) so you have no more than 3 new recipes to try and one night of leftovers.  Then gather the recipes and make a grocery list of the ingredients you don’t already have. 

After grocery shopping, immediately wash all of your produce.  Lastly, set aside 2 hours to prep the week’s meals, some in entirety but definitely any sauces or steps that take more than 30 minutes.

As an example, this is what we’re eating over the next week and how I’ll prep the meals:

Black Eyed Pea Salad over shredded lettuce with a side of brown rice

  • In advance
    • Cook the black eyed peas or use canned/frozen
    • Make the black eyed pea salad and brown rice in advance for a 5 minute meal
  • Evening of
    • Make the black eyed pea salad and brown rice if you haven’t already
    • Reheat the brown rice if you made it in advance

Stuffed Squash with green beans

  • In advance
    • Cook the acorn squash (tips here) and the wild rice
  • Evening of
    • Stuff the squash and reheat in the oven or microwave
    • Steam or microwave green beans

Chicken-like Seitan Cutlets and Lentil Gravy with mashed sweet potatoes and sautéed greens

  • In advance
    • Make the Chicken-like Seitan
    • Cook the sweet potatoes and peel once they have cooled
    • Make the lentils and caramelize the onions for the gravy
  • Evening of
    • Slice seitan into cutlets and grill or sauté; try Chicken Baked Fake Steak if you have more time
    • Make the gravy and mash the sweet potatoes
    • Sauté the greens with minced garlic (add small amounts of water and cover to steam, adding a splash of lemon juice at the end) or like this with raisins and pine nuts

Irish Stew (Slow Cooker)

  • In advance
    • Chop the veggies either the night before or in the morning as you’re starting the slow cooker
  • Evening of
    • Add leftover veggies at end of cooking, such as green beans or acorn squash

Baked Ziti

  • In advance
  • Evening of
    • After making the penne, pour the cashew cheese and tomatoes into the pot over medium low heat until warmed through (feel free to cover and bake if time is not an issue)

Baked Bean Chili (Slow Cooker)

  • Morning of
    • Add ingredients to slow cooker, stir, and turn on low

 

Black Eyed Pea Salad

32 oz drained and rinsed or 3 c cooked black eyed peas

1 red bell pepper, diced

¼ c red onion, diced

2 T pepper or jalapeno jelly

1 T red wine vinegar

½ t salt

¼ t freshly ground pepper

2 avocados, diced

Mix the black eyed peas, red bell pepper, and onion in a medium lidded container.  In a small bowl, mix the jelly, vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Add the jelly mixture to the black eyed pea mixture and stir to incorporate.  Cover and refrigerate.  Just before serving, add diced avocados and stir.

 

Baked Ziti

1 batch of Cashew Ricotta

16 oz whole grain penne pasta (wheat, rice, quinoa etc)

28 oz fire roasted diced tomatoes

Tomato sauce or additional tomatoes, optional

Cook the pasta according to the package directions and drain.  Return the pasta to the pot over low heat and add the cashew ricotta and tomatoes.  Stir well and cover until warmed through.

 

Lentil Gravy (adapted from Isa Chandra Moskowitz)

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch of salt

½ T dried thyme

½ t ground sage

½ t freshly ground pepper

1 ½ c cooked brown lentils

2 T white miso

1 ½ c vegetable broth

1 ½ T tapioca flour or arrowroot, optional

Saute the onion til lightly browned, using small amounts of water to prevent sticking.  Add the minced garlic and salt and continue cooking until onions are caramelized.  Stir in the thyme, sage, and freshly ground pepper.  Add lentils, miso, and vegetable broth and stir well.  Transfer to a blender and puree for ~2 minutes until gravy is smooth.  Return gravy to pot over low heat.  If gravy is too thick, add broth or water.  If gravy is too thin, make a slurry of tapioca flour or arrowroot with broth or water, then stir into gravy. 

 

Chicken Baked Fake Steak

1 c non-dairy milk

1 T apple cider vinegar

1 batch of Chicken-like Seitan

½ c bread crumbs

1 t poultry seasoning

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Make buttermilk by adding the vinegar to the non-dairy milk and letting it sit for 5 minutes to curdle.  Mix the poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper into the breadcrumbs.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray.  Slice the Chicken-like Seitan and dip into buttermilk then coat with breadcrumbs.  Bake at 350˚ for 15 to 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are crispy.  Serve with Lentil Gravy.

Budget Reduction

Neal Barnard, MD, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has provided Five Ways to Save Billions – and Boost the Nation’s Health.  The article is specific to the gargantuan debt problem of the US government and includes recommendations such as cutting junk food from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) and prioritizing health in commodity purchases.

  • Food manufacturers are benefitting from SNAP while SNAP recipients get sicker and sicker.  If SNAP benefits were limited to truly healthful foods, we could address hunger, malnutrition, AND healthcare at the same time, while saving billions.
  • Instead of the USDA buying millions of pounds of cheese or beef for school meal programs and other food assistance programs, the USDA could support farmers in providing fresh, local vegetables to schools and ensure each school-aged child has the opportunity to eat from a fresh salad bar at least once a day.

Although we may have no or little impact today on how the US government spends tax payer money, we can create our own budget reduction by:

1. Stop buying junk food. 

You don’t need it.  And if you have it at home or stashed at work, then you’ll eventually eat it.  Once you cut out all junk food and replace those calories with plant-based calories, you will stop craving the junk because your body is getting what it needs.

2. Increase your range of healthy snacks.

Not only do you need to expand your horizon of healthy snacks, you need to have them available at all times.  Rely mostly on whole fruits, raw veggies, and whole grain snacks and enjoy the higher fat snacks like nuts, nut butters, and hummus only occasionally if you’re trying to lose weight.

snacks

 3. Reduce the amount of processed food you buy.

Once you evaluate the amount of processed food you buy, you will probably be surprised at what percentage of your grocery bill it represents.  Use the snack list above to think of ways to eliminate processed snacks, like using sliced cucumbers instead of crackers or roasted chickpeas instead of chips.  When you buy processed food for convenience, make sure the ingredients support your health goals- no corn syrup, low or no sugar, low or no oil, and plant based.

4. Buy ‘smart’ prepared foods.

When you do buy processed foods, make them count.  For example, a single packet of prepared chana masala can be the base of a quick dinner for four if you add a can of chickpeas and leftover or frozen veggies and serve it over brown rice.  The same thing is true for a single serving package of lentil soup- add a bag of frozen mixed veggies and serve over a whole grain for a complete meal for 2.  Add more lentils or quinoa to serve 4.  THAT is healthy fast food!!

 5. Think long term.

By changing your diet, you are saving thousands of dollars long term on healthcare.  By changing your diet, you are dramatically reducing your chance of having a chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes or cancer.  Every craving you resist and every healthy choice you make gets you one step closer to where you want to be- healthy and disease free for the rest of your life.

 

 

Roasted Chickpeas

Use canned chickpeas or make your own using the Basic Beans (Slow Cooker) recipe.

For each 15 oz can or 1.5 cups of chickpeas, lightly spray with oil or toss in 1 t oil, then season.  Plain ol’ sea salt works fine here, but prepared seasoning mixes are great too- BBQ, Cajun, salt substitutes- whatever you have tucked away in your cabinet.  Use a different baking sheet for each seasoning.

Roast the seasoned chickpeas on a parchment lined baking sheet at 350˚ for about 30 minutes, shaking once or twice while cooking.  Keep an eye on the chickpeas during the last 5 minutes or so to prevent burning.  The chickpeas should be crunchy when they’re done but will also continue to harden as they cool.

 

Baked Tortilla Chips

Cut whole wheat tortillas into triangular pieces and arrange on parchment lined baking sheets.  Lightly spray with oil and season with salt.  Bake at 375˚ for 8 to 12 minutes, rotating baking sheets once if the chips are cooking unevenly.

 

Soft Serve Ice “Cream”

Serves 3

Peel, slice, and freeze 4 to 5 bananas in a gallon freezer storage bag.  Using a high speed blender, such as VitaMix, puree frozen banana slices with a small splash of non-dairy milk (<1/4 c) as quickly as possible.  Stop the blender to stir as necessary.  Use chocolate non-dairy milk for chocolate ice cream.  Add other frozen fruit with the bananas to flavor the ice cream.  Serve immediately or freeze for 20-30 minutes to harden.

 

Breakfasts

Hopefully you’re already convinced of the importance of breakfast.  If it’s the implementation of the healthy breakfast that’s Pancakesgot you hung up, read on.  Consider making a Big Batch of Pancake Mix or French Toast and Fruit Compote on the weekend, and then reheat during the week.  These pancakes reheat fabulously in the toaster.  Or while cleaning up after dinner one night, make Yogurt Parfaits or Overnight Oatmeal for the next morning.  On a rushed morning, throw together a Banana Nut Butter Wrap in less than 2 minutes and eat in transit.  If you’d rather drink your breakfast, there’s always the Fruit Smoothie with more variations than I could ever describe.

 

Big Batch of Pancake Mix

8 c whole grain flour

½ c sugar

2.5 T baking powder

4 t baking soda

4 t salt

Mix these ingredients together and store in an airtight container until ready to use.

For the whole grain flour, I’ve been using 5 to 6 c whole wheat flour and 2 to 3 c oat flour.  Experiment with your favorite flours, using as much whole grains as possible.

To make pancakes, mix 1 c pancake mix with 1 c liquid and 1 flax egg.  Carbonated water makes fluffier pancakes, but non dairy milk and water work as well.  For the flax egg, mix 1 T ground flax seeds with 3 T water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes to gel.  Using ¼ c batter for each pancake, one cup of pancake mix makes about 9 pancakes.  It’s hardly worth the effort to just make one batch, so make at least 2 or 3 batches and freeze the leftovers with wax paper in between each layer.

On school days, my kids can either eat pancakes fresh out of the toaster like a cookie, or if we have compote, I’ll cut the pancakes up for them and serve topped with compote to help speed up consumption.

 

Fruit Compote

In a small pot, add approximately ½ c fruit per serving (diced if necessary), ½ t sugar per serving if the fruit is not sweet enough on its own, and 1T water per serving.  Cover and bring to a slow boil, then stir and reduce heat.  Continue cooking until fruit is desired tenderness, probably 10-15 more minutes.  If compote isn’t thickening, then remove lid to allow for evaporation.  Compote will further thicken upon refrigeration.

This recipe works great with any type berry, mixed berries, peaches, apples, etc.  Always make more than you think you’ll need as the fruit reduces by half when cooked, and it always goes faster than you’d expect!

 

Yogurt Parfaits

½ c non dairy yogurt per serving

½ c grains per serving

½ c fruit per serving

Alternate layers of non dairy yogurt, grains, and fruit.  Refrigerate overnight to soften grains.

Suggested grains include homemade or prepared granola, oats or oat groats, or prepared cereal such as GrapeNuts.  Most fruits work well here but remember to include berries as antioxidant powerhouses!

 

Overnight Oatmeal

½ c dry oats per serving

¾-1 c non dairy milk (or water) per serving

Pour dry oats into a mason jar or other container and add non dairy milk.  The non dairy milk should more than cover the oats- if not, add more.  While in the refrigerator overnight, the oats will soak up the milk and soften.  If the oats are not as soft as you’d like, heat the oatmeal or include more non dairy milk the next time.  Add fruit and enjoy!

Using a small mason jar makes this an easy breakfast on the go, even if you want to heat the oatmeal a bit when you get to work.  One container and no mess!

I also keep single serving size jars of dry oats in my office, which makes it really easy to add hot water and let sit for a few minutes before eating.

 

Banana Nut Butter Wrap

1 tortilla or piece of bread

2 T nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower seed, etc)

1 banana

Spread nut butter on tortilla.  Peel banana and place in center of tortilla.  Wrap up and enjoy!

This is a great post workout breakfast on the go.

 

Fruit Smoothie

Here’s my philosophy on smoothies- you can’t really screw it up.  Even if it doesn’t taste great, it’s probably still healthy and you can just chug it.  As long as you can figure out why that variation didn’t work, you can be sure not to repeat it.  In all the years I’ve been making daily smoothies, I’ve really only screwed it up once.  And my family won’t ever let me forget it.  So don’t try to add chickpeas to a smoothie, and you’ll be fine.

The purpose of the smoothie is to get everything you need in one tasty drink.  So we include the following basics in most smoothies (listed below per serving):

1/8 c oats

1 T chia, ground flax, or hemp seeds

1 frozen banana, sliced

¼ – ½ c frozen fruit

¼ c frozen greens

1 c water, OJ, or milk

Add ingredients in the order shown and process according to your blender’s instructions.  If your blender can’t handle this amount of frozen fruit, then use fresh bananas.  Blend until desired consistency has been reached and enjoy!

A few tips:

  • Freeze fruit in slices.
  • Keeps lots of different fruits in your freezer for variety in your smoothie.  Stock up when fruit is on sale and process it immediately for the freezer.
  • While spinach goes undetected in most smoothies, kale and collards aren’t bad either
  • If you’re using a bag of frozen spinach, then use less than recommended.  Consider buying fresh spinach in bulk and immediately freezing it (it compacts greatly once frozen) or freeze it once you realize it’s not fresh enough to serve to guests.
  • Fruits such as strawberries, pineapple, and cherries are great thickeners
  • Store any leftover smoothie in a mason jar or immediately freeze in ice cube trays.  Once frozen, pop out and store in an airtight container.  Smoothie cubes are a great way to start the next day’s smoothie.  Frozen cubes can also be packed in a mason jar to defrost by lunchtime.
  • Gradually increase the ratio of greens to fruit in your smoothies.  Also experiment with adding other vegetables and notice how great you feel on the ‘truly’ green smoothie days.

For a chocolate smoothie, use non dairy chocolate milk or 1T cocoa powder per serving.  Chocolate hides the taste of greens quiet well, so throw in extra greens!

Berry Deliciousness

QUICK!!  While you can, stock up on all the fresh berries you can- these antioxidant powerhouses are the healthiest of all blackberriesfruits.www.nutritionfacts.org  If you’re stuck in the produce aisle or only have a couple of hours at your local pick-your-own farm, check out the graph created by Michael Greger based on work by Carlsen et al (2010) illustrating the antioxidant power of berries and common fruits.  In descending order of antioxidants, here are common fruits:  blackberries > cranberries > raspberries > blueberries > strawberries > mangoes > apples > bananas.  Whenever possible, choose higher antioxidants.

If you’re not aware of the Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, you may want to check out the Dirty Dozen Plus: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale/collard greens, and summer squash.  While originally referred to as the Dirty Dozen, the Plus highlights two crops- domestically grown summer squash and leafy greens (specifically kale and collards) that did not meet the traditional Dirty Dozen criteria but were commonly contaminated with pesticides especially toxic to the nervous system.

The EWG strongly advocates that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables far outweighs the risks of pesticide exposure.  This is one way I implement my Good-Better-Best approach.  It’s really good to eat fresh fruits and vegetables (lots of them!!).  For those on the Dirty Dozen list, buying frozen and organic is even better, and the best option would be to buy fresh, organic, and local – but unfortunately that’s not realistic for most of us most of the time.  So we do the best we can.  So if you’re trying to decide whether to buy a fruit or not, buy it, and if it’s on the Dirty Dozen list AND it’s not significantly more to buy organic, then do so.  Keep an eye on sales of the Dirty Dozen organic produce and stock up whenever possible.

The EWG also maintains a Clean Fifteen list of the fruits and veggies with the lowest pesticide residue once the item has been washed: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapples, sweet peas (frozen), and sweet potatoes.

blueberriesIf you’re able to stock up on berries, you may eventually get bored with eating them raw, with grain cereals such as oatmeal, or in non-dairy parfaits.  In that case, check out the recipes below for Berry Delicious Smoothie, Strawberry Milk Smoothie, Berry Cobbler, and Berry Pops.

 

Berry Delicious Smoothie

Makes 2 two cup servings

¼ c oats

2 T flax meal, chia seeds, hemp seeds or a combination

2 bananas, sliced and frozen

1 c frozen berries

2 c orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.  This recipe is extremely versatile, so don’t worry about the exact measurements or all of the ingredients.  This is a great starter smoothie for berry lovers and can be made as a milkshake with more bananas and less orange juice.  Leftover smoothie makes delicious popsicles.

 

Strawberry Milk Smoothie

Makes 4 two cup servings

1/3 c oats

3 T flax meal, chia seeds, hemp seeds or a combination

3 bananas, sliced and frozen

¾ c strawberries, frozen

2 to 3 c cold non-dairy milk, ideally unsweetened

1 to 2 c cold water

Add all ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth.  The amount of liquid needed depends on the desired thickness of the smoothie.  This recipe is extremely versatile, so don’t worry about the exact measurements or all of the ingredients.  This is a great starter smoothie for novices and can be made as a milkshake with more bananas, less non-dairy milk, and no water.  Of course the more strawberries, the better, but seeing as how they are the most expensive ingredient, we use them judiciously.  Leftover smoothie makes delicious popsicles.

 

Rip’s Blueberry Cobbler [http://engine2diet.com/]

Serves 4

2/3 c whole wheat pastry flour

1.5 t baking powder

1 T vanilla extract

2/3 c non-dairy milk

3 T agave nectar or maple syrup

2 c blueberries

Rip says to mix the dry and the wet ingredients separately, then combine.  I say mix it all together until smooth.  (The batter will be runny.)  If using frozen blueberries, use just under 2/3 c non-dairy milk.  Pour the batter into a non-stick 8” square pan and sprinkle the blueberries over the batter.  Bake for about 45 min at 350˚.

This is such an easy recipe to pull together as it’s quick and uses basic ingredients you’re likely to have on hand.  It works well with cherries, strawberries, peaches, apples- any fruit you’d make cobbler with.

 

Berry Pops

To entice my niece to eat blueberries one day, I went the gimmicky route, stuck them on pretzel sticks, and called them “Blueberry Pops”.  The first plate of Blueberry Pops disappeared so quickly that I turned the ingredients over to my girls to make the second and third batches.  Since then we have also enjoyed Blackberry Pops and Raspberry Pops- antioxidants with a salty crunch!

 

 

References

Carlsen MH et al. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide.  Nutrition Journal 2010 9:3.

www.nutritionfacts.org/video/best-berries/

Everyone’s Favorite Fruity Veggie

When the question of whether tomatoes are fruits or vegetables comes up at your next cocktail party, refer to the US Supreme Court case of Nix v. Hedden (1893).  In this case, the Court unanimously decided that rather than the botanical classification of tomato as a fruit (because it is seed-bearing and grows from the flowering part of a plant), the tomato should be classified under customs regulations as a vegetable, based on the ways tomato_http-::bit.ly:1b0LBcs in which it was used.  At the time, imported vegetables were taxed, but not fruits.

Regardless of the botanical or legal classification, tomatoes and tomato products (in addition to watermelon, guavas, papaya, and pink grapefruit) contain lycopene.  Lycopene is a carotenoid and is a much more powerful antioxidant than its chemical relative, beta-carotene.  It’s not just raw tomatoes that contain the powerful antioxidant- cooking tomatoes releases the lycopene from the plant’s cells, which increases our ability to absorb the lycopene.

To confirm previous findings that frequent tomato or lycopene intake was associated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer, Giovannucci at al (2002) evaluated data from 47,365 participants in the prospective Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.  Consumption of tomato sauce, which contains a whopping 20 mg of lycopene per ½ cup, Barnard and Reilly 2008 was associated with an even greater reduction in prostate cancer risk.  Two servings of tomato sauce per week provided a 23% reduction in prostate cancer risk compared with those who rarely eat tomato products.  Men who consumed 10 or more servings of tomato products each week had a 35% reduction in prostate cancer risk.

If consuming 10 or more servings of tomatoes each week to significantly reduce your prostate cancer risk seems daunting, consider this:

  • Even pizza sauce and ketchup (in addition to spaghetti sauce) count as lycopene-rich tomoto products.

When planning meals this week, try out the Tomato Pie, Pasta Fagioli, and Panzanella recipes below, check out Shortcut Gazpacho with 23 mg lycopene per 1 cup tomato juice, and enjoy a snack of watermelon for 14 mg lycopene per 280 gram slice.

Please note, though, that tomatoes can be a common trigger for migraines, arthritis, and digestive problems.  To learn more about an elimination diet to determine what food may be triggering your poor circulation, inflammatory pain, hormone-related conditions, or metabolic and immune problems, check out Dr. Barnard’s book Foods That Fight Pain.  He recommends an elimination diet based on simple foods that are free of all common pain triggers.  Once your symptoms are gone or at least diminished, you slowly and systematically add other foods back into your diet.  Dr. Barnard provides tips on how to identify trigger foods and plenty of recipes with only foods included in the safe list.

 

Tomato Pie

2 to 2 ¼ lbs heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced

½ to 1 t salt

1 sweet onion, diced and sautéed

1 c Cashew Ricotta pureed with ¾ c (½ can) white beans

¼ to ½ c fresh herbs (I used parsley and basil)

Freshly ground pepper

1 pie crust (prepared vegan pie crust such as Pillsbury or refer to Vegan Pie in the Sky for delicious pie crust recipes)

½ c whole wheat bread crumbs (use 1 c bread crumbs if not finely ground)

Spread the thinly sliced tomatoes on paper towels or a dish towel and sprinkle with salt.  After 10 minutes, use more paper towels or another dish towel to blot the salt and excess moisture from the tomato slices.

In the unbaked pie crust, layer the tomatoes, onions, herbs, and cashew ricotta bean mixture.  Sprinkle each layer with freshly ground pepper and top with breadcrumbs.  Bake at 350˚F for 30 minutes, shielding the pie crust if needed.  Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

 

Pasta Fagioli

My mother-in-law, through her Italian heritage, handed this recipe down to us, though I think we may have abbreviated it over time.  The key that made this dish such a hit with my kids is that everything is pureed except the ditalini.  I did not grow up with real Italian food, so it reminds me of a fancy spaghetti-oes, which you likely loved unless you had authentic Italian food growing up like my husband.

1 large sweet onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1T EVOO

2 28oz cans of Italian style stewed tomatoes

½ c fresh Italian parsley

2t dried basil

½ t freshly ground pepper

6c vegetable broth (low sodium preferred)

30 oz white beans

16 oz ditalini pasta (or another type of small pasta)

In a soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic in EVOO at least until tender, longer if you have time.  Add the tomatoes and herbs, reducing heat to medium low.  Stir frequently until fragrant, then add the broth and white beans.  Cover and cook at least 20 minutes but ideally for an hour or two to allow the flavors to fully develop.  Puree the soup in batches, using a dish towel to cover the blender, allowing steam to safely escape.  In a separate pot, boil the pasta, and only add the pasta to what is being served.

My family loves the leftovers of pasta fagioli too, because we combine the soup and the pasta.  When you do this, the pasta absorbs the liquid in the soup, and the pasta swells up significantly.  It’s like getting two for one because the meals look so different.

Once you’ve made the recipe, you can comment below about how to pronounce ‘fagioli’.  It is most often pronounced ‘fa-zool’ in the US (maybe because of “That’s Amore” but depending on the region in Italy, can be pronounced ‘fa-joe-lee’, ‘fah-djoh-lee’, or ‘fa-sool’.

 

Panzanella

16 oz whole wheat French or Italian bread or whole wheat bagels, cut into small cubes

1 seedless cucumber or 2 cucumbers seeds removed, peeled and diced

2 lbs heirloom or organic tomatoes, coarsely chopped

¼ red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 to ½ c fresh basil, torn

3 cloves garlic, minced

2T to ½ c Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette, homemade or bottled (or you can substitute high quality balsamic vinegar)

Optional ingredients to consider

¼ c kalamata olives, pitted and cut into quarters

1 avocado, pitted and diced

1 c fresh organic corn, removed from the cob

Mix the vegetables, herbs, and dressing in advance and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  The bread cubes may be toasted in a 300˚F oven for 15 minutes to dry them out (this may not be needed if you are using day or two old bread).   After the bread cubes have cooled, toss them with vegetable mixture and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.  Let sit 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Most panzanella recipes contain ½ to 1 cup of olive oil, which in my mind totally opposes the point of eating fresh, raw summer veggies.  The volume of dressing needed will depend on how juicy your tomatoes are.  With really ripe tomatoes, I use very little dressing.  In the latest batch I made, I used about 2 T of high quality balsamic vinegar instead of dressing, and it was fabulous- tasted like bruschetta with a fork.  If you aren’t eating the panzanella all at one sitting, reserve some of the bread cubes to add the next time.

 

Fat Free Balsamic Vinaigrette (adapted from The Starch Solution)

Makes 1 cup

Use a ½ c measuring cup and add approximately equal amounts of balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, and unseasoned rice wine vinegar.  The higher quality vinegars you use, the better the flavor of the end result.  Adjust the proportions and vinegars to suit your liking.

2 cloves garlic

1/8 c ketchup

½ T Dijon mustard

½ to 1 T agave nectar

½ c water

¼ t powdered agar (Telephone brand powdered agar is available in small packets at Asian markets) or arrowroot

Add all ingredients except the agar/arrowroot to the blender, and blend until smooth.  While the blender is running, add the agar/arrowroot.  Continue to blend until the powder has been incorporated and dressing has thickened a bit (it will thicken more with refrigeration).  Taste and add more agave if needed.

 

References

Barnard, Neal. Foods That Fight Pain. 1998

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

Giovannucci E, Rimm EB, Liu Y, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. A prospective study of tomato products, lycopene, and prostate cancer risk. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2002 Mar 6;94(5):391-8.

McDougall, John and McDougall, Mary. The Starch Solution: Eat the Foods You Love, Regain Your Health, and Lose the Weight for Good. 2012

 

Photo Credit: Tomatoes http://bit.ly/1b0LBcs

The Return to Reality

The return to reality after a week of vacation is no fun, but healthy meals will help everyone feel better through the transition back to the reality of  jobs and school.  Especially when our lives are busy, it’s critical to have meal planning habits to rely on to help us avoid the temptations and the OIBexpenses (both financial and health-related) of eating processed foods.  If you do not have a meal planning habit, now is the best time to start.

A day or two before I do my big grocery store run, I start planning the next week’s meals.  Never go to the store without a specific list of the meals planned for the week.  I also like to include a few lunches in the plan, though leftovers are usually the default for adult lunches.  Start the meal planning by checking your fridge, freezer, and pantry for ingredients that you already have on hand.  If you’re unsure how to use an ingredient or would like to try something new, set a timer so you don’t get carried away and search online for recipes using that ingredient.

TrafficDuring the meal planning stage, I also consult the family calendars to see which nights I’ll have less time to prep dinner.  I plan exactly which dinner will be on each night, to ensure the freshest ingredients get used up early in the week and to prevent waste.  I usually leave Fridays for leftovers (to clean out the fridge) or MYO (make your own) night where the kids will have sandwiches, breakfast for dinner, or Fork Free Fridays – something a little out of the ordinary.

Once you know the meals for the week, create the grocery list based on the ingredients that you don’t already have.  I like to create my grocery listswith the layout of the store in mind so I don’t have to read through my entire list on each aisle.  The NutritionMD recipe site will create a grocery list based on the recipes you chose- for free!

As soon as I return from the grocery store, we wash and start prepping produce.  Because I already know the recipes for the week, I know how each item needs to be prepared.  This is a hugely important point and will prevent lots of fabulous produce from passing its peak while hidden in your produce drawer.

On an ideal weekend, I’ll take the meal prep a step further and actually make a few of the meals (or meal components) for the week.  This is critical for meals with significant prep or cooking time or for weeks where I’ll be out of town or in the office later than usual.  Conversely, if I know that I won’t have time for significant meal prep on the weekend, I take that into account and plan simpler meals for the week ahead.  This coming week is such a week where we’ll eat simple meals that are easily made in less than 30 minutes.

I also make a mid to end of the week grocery run to pick up fresh greens, bananas, bread-  whatever else we need to finish out the week, making sure I’ve accounted for the weekend meals that will take place before the next week’s meal planning.

The most recent addition to my meal planning habit was to make a standard shopping list for each of the stores that I routinely visit.  By looking at the standard list before I visit that store, it jogs my memory about items that we may have run out of in the past two weeks that I didn’t note on the shopping list.

Use this week to start or improve your meal prep habit.  You’ll notice a difference in time and cost savings, which may allow you the freedom to be more creative in the kitchen- trying a new recipe each week or freeing up time to do something else for your health.

 

Shortcut Gazpacho

Tomato-based vegetable juice blend

Freshly prepared salsa (store bought or homemade), drained of any liquid

Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced

Garlic, minced

Parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Italian herbs, dried

Fresh lemon juice, optional

Diced avocado, optional (use as a garnish)

Mix all ingredients tasting often until desire flavor combination is achieved.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Gazpacho is a light and refreshing meal, perfect for a hot summer day.  If serving it for dinner, you may want to serve it alongside something hearty, like baked potatoes or brown rice.  To encourage children to eat gazpacho, consider making Oven Baked Tortilla Chips so they can scoop the soup as if it were salsa, or cut the tortillas into thin strips before baking and serve atop the soup.

 

Mac and Trees

Box of whole wheat macaroni pasta

Cashew ricotta (you won’t need the full batch)

Broccoli florets, frozen or steamed

Begin cooking the pasta as directed and add the broccoli florets to the pasta water half-way through the cooking time.  A couple of minutes of additional cooking time will be needed as the broccoli will reduce the temperature of the boiling water.  Drain the pasta and broccoli and return to the pot.  Pour the cashew ricotta over the pasta and broccoli, stirring to mix.  Serve warm.

To increase the heartiness of this one-pot meal, add a can of drained and rinsed white beans.  Another option is to puree the white beans into the cashew ricotta, adding water as needed to thin the sauce.

 

Easy Pasta Salad

Box of whole wheat fusilli pasta or orzo, cooked and drained

2 to 3 cups of assorted diced and shredded vegetables [This is a great way to use up little bits of leftover raw veggies]

Your favorite oil-free dressing [Or whisk a tablespoon of hummus with juice from 2-3 lemons and minced garlic]

To make this easy pasta salad a one-pot meal, add a can of rinsed and drained beans to complement the other flavors in your salad.

 

References

Photo Credit (traffic): http://bit.ly/189sZXY

Practice Vegetarian

Recently my daughter’s friend asked about how to become a vegetarian.  She was concerned about lack of support from her family and that she would essentially end up only eating the sides that accompany dinner.  I recommended that she become a “practice” vegetarian as a Practicesegue from her current diet to one relying on plants.  As a practice vegetarian, she would slowly increase her consumption of vegetables, by eating more servings of the vegetables she already likes and committing to eat a few bites of all disliked vegetables.  This strategy serves her well immediately and would make the transition to vegetarianism fairly seamless down the road.

Although this tween may not routinely be involved in meal planning, she could suggest the family gradually shifts to whole grains instead of refined grains.  The easiest way to do so is to start with rice, by incorporating 25% brown rice into white rice, then increase to 50%, etc until eating only brown rice.  When cooking from dry rice, cook the brown rice for 5 minutes before adding the white rice to the same pot.  Boil in bag or microwave packages of instant rice are even easier- just combine after cooking.  The same concept works for shifting to whole grain pasta.

Perhaps the trickier adaptation for the practice vegetarian is increasing the consumption of beans and legumes.  This is where canned beans come in really handy.  Even non-cooks can whip up the bean salads below, which are perfect to have around when you are famished and about to reach for something less desirable.  Bean salads are also very portable and ideal for taking to picnics and potlucks- particularly when you aren’t sure how much other healthy food will be available.

Other great ways to increase legume consumption are to use beans and lentils as salad toppings, add to pasta and rice dishes, or puree and incorporate into sauces, like marinara for spaghetti.

Having that comfortably full feeling is key for a successful dietary transition, and beans are the secret ingredient for feeling satiated.

NY Times food writer Mark Bittman coined the concept of ‘vegan before dinnertime’ a few years ago, and more recently, VB6, the title of his book on the topic.  Due to health issues, a doctor suggested Bittman adopt a vegan diet, but at the time he felt becoming a full-time vegan was unrealistic for him.  After a few months of eating vegan until dinner, Bittman had lost 35 pounds and his medical issues had resolved.

Both the practice vegetarian and VB6 concepts may work quite well for ‘moderators’, people Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project describes as those who do better when they avoid absolutes and strict rules.  According to Rubin, the ‘abstainers’ find it far easier to give something up altogether than to indulge moderately.

According to Rubin:

You’re a moderator if you… – find that occasional indulgence heightens your pleasure–and   strengthens your resolve
– get panicky at the thought of “never” getting or doing something
You’re an abstainer if you… – have trouble stopping something once you’ve started
– aren’t tempted by things that you’ve decided are off-limits

 

Starting a whole foods, plant-based diet cold turkey (ha ha) may work better for someone who identifies as an abstainer.  I have trouble indulging in moderation and am less tempted by things that I’ve decided are off-limits, so I’m an abstainer.  Discovering this and then years later reading The Willpower Instinct have been instrumental for me in adhering to a whole food, plant-based diet.

Regardless of your strategy, each step you take in improving your diet will pay off.  It’s up to you which path you chose and how quickly you get there.

 

Three Bean Salad

3 cans of different beans (ex, garbanzo beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, black beans), rinsed well and drained

2 stalks of celery, diced

½ red onion, diced

½ c fresh parsley

1T fresh rosemary

1/3 c apple cider vinegar

1/6 c – 1/3 c sugar

¼ c EVOO (or ½ avocado pureed with a splash of orange juice)

1 – 1.5 t salt

¼ t pepper

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and olive oil or avocado in a small bowl and pour over rest of ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir and refrigerate to let flavors develop.  Stir again before serving chilled or at room temperature.

This bean salad is extremely versatile.  Use black and kidney beans with tomatoes, avocados, and organic corn for a South of the Border twist.  Use white beans and garbanzos with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and roasted red peppers with lemon juice instead of vinegar for a Mediterranean twist.  Be creative!!

 

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

2 cans black-eyed peas, rinsed well and drained

1.5 c diced red/orange/yellow bell pepper

½ c diced red onion

¼ c red pepper jelly

¼ c red wine vinegar

2T EVOO

¼ c cilantro

¾ t salt

¼ t pepper

Just before serving, add:

2 avocados (diced) or 2 large fresh peaches (diced)

Optional: 1 jalepeno, seeded and minced (or substitute jalepeno jelly for the red pepper jelly)

 

Mix the jelly, vinegar and EVOO in a small bowl and pour over rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir and refrigerate to let flavors develop.  Stir again before serving and add avocado or peaches.  Serve chilled or at room temperature, on its own or over fresh greens.

 

Other no-cook bean salads you may want to check out include:

Taco Salad

Black Bean Mango Salsa

Massaged Kale Salad

 

References

McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct : How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. 2012

Photo Credit: http-www.flickr.comphotoszen44663180sizeso.jpg

 

Spinach: It’s not just for Popeye!

This week’s theme is spinach- borrowed from the secret ingredient at a recent PTA event where two local chefs battled it out in cafeteria kitchen stadium.  The delicious spinach was provided by a local farmer who participates in our small town’s farmers market every Saturday morning.  The two chefs were absolutely fabulous and WANTED kids in the kitchen helping them prepare the dishes.   To top it off,  the chefs were totally happy to make vegetarian dishes!!  Somehow both girls managed their way onto the chefs’ teams, http://www.flickr.com/photos/watz/2715424972/sizes/l/so the dinners we made yesterday for the week were their recollections of the competition dishes.

It was so neat to see the girls taking charge in the kitchen and confident of what needed to happen.  One daughter is mostly hesitant to help with cooking (unless it’s dessert) – she started out by asking where a pot was.  So making dinner was a huge step that I took a lot of pleasure in watching and serving as sous chef for.  They took a lot of care with plating and were brimming with pride to describe and present their dishes.

So why should we eat spinach?  For its iron and calcium?  To be like strong like Popeye?  For all of these reasons and many more, but today we’ll focus on calcium.

Despite what the dairy industry has been advertising for years, there is evidence that dairy consumption is not linked to bone health and that increased dairy consumption is related to prostate cancer.  If you’re interested in your own search, check out http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed or research-based evidence summarized in The Cancer Survivor’s Guide by Neal Barnard, MD, or The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD.  I’ll highlight three studies here, two studying bone health in women and one studying prostate cancer in male physicians.

In a study assessing exercise and calcium intake in adolescent girls during their peak bone-building years, getting extra calcium made no difference at all in bone growth, whereas exercise fostered bone growth.Lloyd 2000  A Harvard study followed 72,337 postmenopausal women for 18 months and demonstrated that dairy calcium did not help bone strength at all, as measured by protection against hip fracture.Feskanich 2003   Harvard’s Physicians’ Health Study investigated the association between dairy consumption and prostate cancer risk in over 20,000 male physicians and concluded that dairy products and calcium are associated with a greater risk of prostate cancer.Chan 2001

Although the mechanisms for these deleterious effects of dairy on bone and prostate health are not known, it is believed to be due to the interference of excessive calcium intake on vitamin D activation.

The best plant-based sources of calcium are legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) and the leafy greens (kale, mustard greens bok choy, and cabbage).  Although spinach is not the best source of calcium among the leafy greens because its oxalic acid content hinders calcium absorption, spinach is still a good source of calcium and may be considered by veggie novices to be more palatable than some of the other leafy greens.

When eating a whole food, plant based diet, there isn’t a concern about adequate calcium intake, as long as you are including calcium-rich legumes (beans, peas, and lentils) and leafy greens in your diet.  So cut down on dairy if you haven’t already eliminated it, and rely on legumes and leafy greens for your calcium needs.  Upcoming posts will address dairy alternatives- but for now, enjoy these spinach recipes!

 

Play on Sushi

For 4 light servings:

Cream cheese, 1 container (vegan)

Black beans, 1 can (or 1.5 cups) rinsed

1 Red and 1 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips

1 Carrot, cut into thin strips

2 Celery stalks, cut into thin strips

2 Large handfuls of spinach

4 Whole wheat tortillas

 

Soften the cream cheese and blend/process with the black beans.

Roast the pepper, carrot, and celery strips on a lightly sprayed baking sheet for about 15 min at 400’F, sprinkling with salt and freshly ground pepper if desired.

Spread the cheesy bean mixture on the tortillas.

Add ¼ of the veggies to the bottom half of each tortilla and top with the spinach.

Starting at the bottom of the tortilla, roll tightly.

With the seam down, cut the roll into 1” pieces, using the ends as “tasters” if there’s not enough filling or if the little chefs are hungry.

Use the extra cheesy bean dip to serve with carrots and celery as a side OR double the recipe and use it for Mexican Lasagna.

 

Mexican Lasagna

For 8 servings:

6 Whole wheat tortillas

1 Can diced tomatoes

4 Large tomatoes, seeded

2-4 Cloves of garlic

½ Onion

1-2 Carrots, optional

2 Large handfuls of spinach

Cilantro

Pinch of salt

Cream cheese, 1 container (vegan)

Black beans, 1-2 cans (1.5-3 cups) rinsed

Avocado, sliced or diced

 

Blend or process the canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, garlic, onion, and carrots if using to make salsa.

Soften the cream cheese and blend/process with the black beans.

Lightly spray two glass pie pans (or a casserole dish).

Layer a tortilla, cheesy bean mixture, spinach, and salsa.

Repeat.

Top with another tortilla, (cheesy bean mixture if you have any leftover), salsa, and cilantro.

Bake at 350’ for 20 min or until heated through.

Top with avocado if desired.

Using two pie plates provides the opportunity to add jalapenos into one dish or to freeze the second dish if only 4 servings are needed.  This dish may not be substantial enough to serve as a standalone entrée for 4 unless you use 3 cups of black beans and 1-2 avocados.

 

Veggie Pasta

For 6 servings:

1 Bag of spiral pasta

4 Large tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 Red bell peppers, seeded and diced

3-4 large handfuls of spinach

Parsley

Bread crumbs

 

Optional sauce:

Cream cheese, 1 container (vegan)

1 Jar of spaghetti sauce

 

Make pasta and add veggies 2 min before pasta is finished cooking.

Drain pasta and veggies and return to pot.

Blend or process the cream cheese and spaghetti sauce, if using.

Pour sauce over pasta and veggies.

Top with parsley and season with salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.

Sprinkle bread crumbs over each serving.

Optional variation: When we had leftovers from this meal, we added diced non-GMO vegan Italian sausage into the pasta.

 

Homemade Chips and Dip with Fruit and Veggie Kabobs

One of the chefs also made baked tortilla chips and a spinach dip that my younger Iron sous chefs Apr 2013daughter can’t remember the ingredients for (except spinach and cream cheese).   The whole wheat tortillas were cut and baked for a few minutes on a lightly sprayed baking sheet.  I’ll work on a spinach dip recipe separately, substituting white beans for the bulk of the cream cheese used in the competition recipe.  In addition to making the dip creamy, the white beans will add calcium, selenium, vitamin E, protein, and fiber to the dish.

The chips and dip were served with fruit and raw veggie kabobs- a great kid-friendly meal for no fork Fridays or a picnic.  Chef Jenny (creator of veggie pasta, homemade chips and dip, and fruit and veggie kabobs) won the competition by appealing to her audience.  The student judges were randomly selected to represent their grade level after having correctly answered nutrition word problems.  Although some looked a bit concerned when the secret ingredient was revealed, afterward, they all seemed more open‑minded about eating more veggies.  And that means the event was a great success.

 

References

Lloyd T, Chinchilli VM, Johnson-Rollings N, Kieselhorst K, Egglie DF, Marcus R. Adult female hip bone density reflects teenage sports-exercise patterns but not teenage calcium intake. Pediatrics. 2000; 106:40-44.

Feskanich D, Willet WC, Colditz GA. Calcium, vitamin D, milk consumption, and hip fractures: a prospective study among postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77:504-511.

Chan JM, Stampfer MJ, Ma J, Gann PH, Gaziano JM, Giovannucci EL. Dairy products, calcium, and prostate cancer risk in the Physicians’ Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2001;74(4):549-554.

Popeye Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/watz/2715424972/sizes/l/