Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Meals for Week of August 30, 2010

After School Snacks
If you need some ideas for after school snacks or even just snacks for packing in lunches or when you’re out and about, pick up the September issue of Food Network Magazine.  It features a handy tear-out booklet of 50 after-school snacks.
A couple that caught my attention-
  • Yogurtwiches- a scoop of frozen yogurt placed between graham cracker squares, rolled in chocolate chips and then frozen until firm.
  • Pita Nachos- whole wheat pita sliced into wedges, broiled until golden, then sprinkled with cheese and salsa and briefly broiled again to melt the cheese.
  • Apple Quesadillas- Thinly sliced apple with grated cheddar cheese placed on one half of a tortilla, fold the other half over it and cook in a skillet until golden on both sides.
Health Benefits of Watermelon
Someone recently told me they read that pureed watermelon was not only refreshing but a healthy energy drink.  Did you know that watermelon is a great source of vitamins A, C and B6?  It also has a higher concentration of lycopene than tomatoes.   For me, I think I’ve undervalued watermelon mostly based on the name.  Not that water isn’t healthy, but I just considered it a refreshing, but messy to eat fruit and because it was so juicy I didn't even think about how much good stuff is packed in that juice.  Always in search of healthier alternatives to sports drinks for my athletic daughter, I did a little research and found several articles.  I’m sharing this one because it’s a quick read and includes a great recipe. 

The Surprising Health Benefits of Watermelon

Meals for the Week of August 30, 2010

A new month is almost upon us.  How is that possible?  I thought it was the 4th of July just last week?  In any case, I consider the start of the month a time to take stock of my cupboards, fridge and freezer and then form a shopping list to re-stock any of the things I like to keep on hand.  Then throughout the month I plan my meals based on what I have and make just a few additional shopping trips later in the month for more dairy or produce as I run out.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta- Meatless but filling, using whole grain pasta, a little cheese and roasted veggies.  This can be just as good with grilled vegetables.

Thai Style Chicken Legs- Great recipe for grilled chicken.  Use a food processor or a chopper to blend up the marinade; it might be easier than pulling out your blender.

Corn and Tomato Pie- Different from the previous tomato pie I shared last week, this has both a bottom and a top crust and the addition of sweet corn.  You might be back to school, but hold onto the flavor of summer and make this pie!

Chicken and Summer Vegetable Tostadas- What we like about this recipe, is there no frying of tortillas.  Just bake them to get crisp and then they crisp up some more when you broil it with the toppings.  This method can really just be a jumping off point for your own tostada combinations.  And use whatever kind of tortilla you prefer.

Beef, Cheese and Noodle Bake- Here’s a kid-friendly casserole that doesn’t contain any cans of high sodium, processed soups.  You create your own cheese sauce to combine with lean ground beef and noodles.  Try ground turkey if you prefer.

Grilled Steak with Tomato and Scallions- The recipe calls for using flat iron steaks which are less expensive than other cuts and fairly lean as well.  The grilled vegetable topping is great.

Zucchini Strand Spaghetti- This dish is so perfect for summer and don’t be afraid to adapt it to suit what you like.  The basil oil in the recipe is wonderful, but you can always just toss it with regular olive oil with some sun dried tomatoes and grated parmesan.

Easy Ravioli Bake- *COOK’S NIGHT OFF* Use this recipe as a guideline for your own baked ravioli creation.  You may need a larger casserole dish depending on the size of ravioli you choose.

Pork Chops with Dijon Sauce- I love how well Dijon pairs with pork chops and this creamy Dijon sauce is really good!

Quinoa Stir Fry with Vegetables and Chicken- Quinoa is a fantastic high protein whole grain that is similar in texture to cous cous, but a tiny bit larger.  This is a great, one dish meal that you can really customize to your own tastes.

Simple Grilled Tilapia- This recipe is really a no-brainer.  But if you’ve seen tilapia in the store and wondered how to prepare it, give this a try, it’s really a great tasting, but mild fish that doesn’t need much fuss preparing it.  Plus, it’s very inexpensive!

Breakfast/Side Dishes

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins- A lighter muffin, with added fiber and whole wheat flour, but a little bit of chocolate that will appeal to kids.

Chilled Cucumber Soup- Super easy soup!  Very refreshing and with the non-fat Greek yogurt you get healthy protein as well as important probiotics for digestion.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Meals for Week of August 23, 2010

Articles of Interest

There was a report recently about how re-usable shopping bags can be dangerous because of bacteria that raw food or moisture can leave on the bags, then creating cross-contamination. This quick blog article discusses that report and how it is a good idea to periodically wash your bags.
Wash Those Bags

I recently discovered Delicious Living magazine and was happy to see they have a pretty extensive website which included online versions of their print articles. This particular article about eating a nutrient dense diet has some good information. I like the lists of the top 5 foods in various food groups like grains, fruits, and vegetables. So even if you aren’t going to create a structured nutrient-dense diet, keep them in mind and try to eat them often.
The Nutrient Dense Diet

What I’m Doing

I have completed 4 weeks of my Mama Bootcamp. My exercise in between sessions has not been what it should be, but now that we’re back to school, I think I’m going to be much better. Although I shouldn’t make excuses, the last few weeks of summer break had us traveling all over be it overnight or day trips and left me with little time to visit the gym. I did actually do some exercising at home, which is sort of a miracle, because I really never do that. I found myself with fast food way more often than I should have. I must admit, as much as I do love to cook from scratch and truly have an interest in healthy cooking, I am a sucker for the junk. French fries are my weakness. I’ve tried to be prepared and instead of just remembering to pack a snack for my kids, I pack a snack for myself as well. It could be as easy as a Larabar or a baggie with fruit, cheese and a couple of crackers. And I’m carrying my water with me at all times. I love these re-useable plastic tumblers made by Aladdin-
They don’t sweat so you don’t have water dripping down the sides!

One other change I have to make right away is get back in the habit of planning all my meals. I know, me, Ms. E-mealplanning, not planning her meals. I’ve always got dinner figured out but I used to also create a detailed chart with breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole family. Now that we’re back in school, I really need that level of organization, plus it will help me with my Mama Bootcamp program. Maybe next week I’ll share my chart with you.

Meals for Week of August 23, 2010
This week I made sure I was back to my usual variety of recipes between seafood, poultry, pork, beef and meatless meals.  Most are quick for a weeknight with a couple that are probably more suited for weekend cooking.  The other day I posted on Facebook that I'm always happy to help find a recipe for someone or I'm taking requests for recipes to include in the blog, so I put that same question out here.  Leave a comment if there is something you have been wanting to make and need a good recipe or if there is a type of meal you'd like to see in the blog.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Meals for Week of August 16, 2010

Back to School Shopping
Summer has quickly flown by and many kids are returning to school this month. I wanted to share a few ideas for back to school lunches and products that can help you. Actually, this info works just as well for the adults in your house who are packing a lunch practically every day. It’s less expensive than eating out and much easier to eat healthy when you pack a lunch than be tempted by restaurants near work. I’m sharing some links to several different things that can help you with packing lunches.

Reusies- Eliminate or reduce your use of plastic sandwich or snack bags. These cute bags are food safe and clean easily and over time you will reduce your garbage and the amount of money you spend on plastic baggies.

Easy Lunch Boxes- I’ve shared links to other styles of lunch box systems in the past, but this one is less expensive and very easy to use. Like they say, they are in between high end bento style lunch containers and cheap disposable storage containers. I spent $30 including tax and shipping for a set of 4 boxes plus a cooler bag for my husband. The kids’ lunch boxes will fit them. These are compartmentalized and the lid seals the compartments. They are not completely leak free when packing dips or yogurt, but their website has some ideas and ticks that can you do to still pack those sorts of things. What I like about these is you can still fit it in your child’s beloved lunch box and it reduces the number of little containers you have to pack. (and then wash!)

Land’s End backpacks and lunch boxes- Highly recommend the back packs and lunch boxes from Land’s End. They really hold up well throughout the school year. Shopping tip- Land’s End has a department within many Sears stores and they offer more sales and clearance of the products than the online store and catalog. They also sometimes provide display models of items that are catalog only so you can see and touch them before ordering.
Some quick lunch and breakfast ideas-
  • Leftovers can work for kid’s lunch too- A thermos that can be popped in the microwave for 2 minutes while you’re getting dressed in the morning will keep warm until lunch. You can pack leftover taco fixings with a tortilla or a baggie of tortilla chips.
  • If you have one of the little bottle bags that sometimes comes in a diaper bag, don’t toss it out when you’re done with bottles! Heat a burrito, quesadilla or hot sandwich, wrap it in foil, stick it in the bag and then pack that in your lunch. It keeps the warm food separated from whatever else you’re packing.
  • Sometimes it’s more fun for kids to have a lunch full of snacks than just a sandwich. A little container of peanut or almond butter with crackers, apple slices and cheese slices can be filling. Or baby carrots, ranch dip, salami or ham slices with crackers and cheese is great. It’s like your own version of the popular Lunchable but with something like the Easy Lunch Box, you save a lot of money and make it healthier.
  • Make breakfast burritos ahead and individually wrap them to microwave and then eat on the go. They freeze well, or on Sunday make up some to keep in the fridge for the coming week. 

Cooking Tips
  • To avoid overcooked vegetables, be sure to remove them from the heat when they are slightly underdone from your desired doneness. There is carryover heat that will continue to cook them, so turn the heat off and let them sit for a couple minutes for serving.
  • The larger the zucchini, the more water content. Even though it’s neat to grow an enormous zucchini, your better tasting ones and the ones easiest to prepare will be ½ lb or smaller. If you need zucchini to put out less water in a dish (like a casserole or lasagna) sprinkle slices with salt, let it sit and then gently squeeze or use a paper napkin to blot them and remove the water.
  • If you have overripe bananas but don’t have the time to use them right away, place them in a plastic zip bag and put them in the freezer. When you’re ready, they will thaw quickly ready for use.
  • Pre-cut bagged lettuce or salad greens only seem convenient when you are going to use the entire bag at once. Moisture is the enemy with those things. Plus they are more expensive when compared to just a regular head of lettuce. But yet buying whole heads of lettuce (like the 3 pack of romaine hearts) lasts longer when I wash, cut and spin dry then place in a sealed container in the fridge. You can even add sliced cucumber and mushrooms to have a salad ready, but I only recommend that if you’re going to eat it all within a couple days. You can also place a paper towel over it and then the lid and that helps fight moisture.
This week I have recipes that I hope will be easy for those first few days of getting back into a routine with the return of school. I’m a little heavy with the chicken meals, but it’s a nice variety of chicken recipes along with a few meatless recipes. Please be sure to come back and post to share how your meals turned out or email me any feedback at

Meals for the Week of August 16, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Meals for Week of August 9, 2010

Home Cooking Can Help
There are studies that show that the rise of processed and prepared foods from outside the home contributes to the rise of obesity in the US.  One of the reasons I created is to help families reduce the need for excessive eating out and consuming overly processed foods and instead help promote healthy home cooking.   I’ve been reading the report from the Task Force on Childhood Obesity from the Let’s Move website and I have to say it’s not really new found facts or ideas, we've been hearing this information for a few years now, however it's great to have a push to promote healthier eating for children and there’s an action plan for ending obesity.  But as I’ve said before, saying and doing are very separate.  I’ve got my work cut out for me in my own house with getting all of us on board with eating healthier.  But learning to cook and making the effort to cook more at home from scratch can make a difference in being healthier.

I wanted to share a couple of resources that are useful to read.  I actually shared these in a newsletter a couple months ago but now that I have the blog and new readers, it’s worth sharing again.
The No High Fructose Corn Syrup List-

The other item I have is not a specific article but a section of the Eating Well website that is full of articles and recipes for healthy diets for kids.  There are tips for packing lunch, nutrition guidelines, and articles on getting kids to make healthy choices.

Cooking Tips

  • Drink a lot of milk in your house? Save some money and keep dry milk powder on hand to mix up and use for cooking and save your milk for drinking.
  • When making a stir fry with any meat or poultry, you don’t have to completely defrost it. Meat slices clean and easy with a sharp knife when slightly frozen. It’s a great way to get very thin slices.
  • A common mistake in cooking is to over-soften butter. Don’t try to speed things up by heating it. To soften butter for baking- Over a mixing bowl, shred the amount of butter you need on a grater. The little pieces will soften faster than a solid stick. In no time, the butter will be bake-worthy. (From Martha Stewart)
  • Always dry your steak before cooking it. A wet steak steams instead of fries when you put it in a pan.
  • I'm always having you purchase fresh herbs for recipes. Take your unused herbs, tie the stems together with twine and hang upside to dry. Store them in a container in a dry place for future use.
  • When slicing juicy fruits like melons, place in a colander over a bowl to drain and allow some of the juice to drain which saves it from getting mealy when storing the cut fruit.
  • Substitute for wine in cooking: Use 1/2 cup broth plus 1/2 tsp red or white wine vinegar or lemon juice for 1/2 cup wine
  • Did you know that you can freeze buttermilk? If you buy a half pint for recipe that calls for one cup, just portion out the rest into 1 cup or ½ cup portions into paper cups, set them in the freezer and once frozen you can wrap each one with plastic and then store them in a zipper freezer bag.

This week's meals are varied like usual, but I provided a couple of recipes that focus on using summer fruits and veggies like corn, zucchini, tomatoes and nectarines that you may either have bursting from your garden or will find on sale in stores and markets.