Power Your Lunchbox – Hearty Snack Time

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-12-03-12-pm

I’m thrilled to be continuing my work with Produce for Kids this year.  If you don’t know about the organization, they are an awesome group of folks who strive to help kids and families have fun while eating well.  Check it out:

Produce for Kids® believes in creating a healthier generation through cause marketing campaigns that provide easy, fun and inspiring recipes. Produce for Kids has been helping families and children by giving back since 2002. Through produce and grocery retail partner programs, Produce for Kids has donated more than $6 million to charities that benefit children and families nationwide.

One of my favorite things about Produce for Kids are the ideas they have for healthy meals and snacks.  A couple of times a year they focus their efforts in helping families pack healthy lunches.  Take the pledge to power your lunchbox!

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-12-07-58-pm

I’m going to be honest, in our house we heartily support buying lunch at school.  There are a few reasons for this, not least of which is that it makes the mornings more pleasant – no lunches to pack!  But it still leaves after school snack time to deal with.  As my kids are getting older, the afternoon snack is becoming more important – there is just so much to accomplish in the afternoons before dinnertime. Things like:

  • Homework
  • Piano Lessons
  • Karate
  • Soccer practice
  • Swimming lessons
  • Choir

and really boring things like:

  • Meetings

The other day, we had a full afternoon in the hours between after school and bedtime: homework, piano lessons, soccer practice (2 of them actually), basketball practice  and a parent meeting at school.  On days like these, snacks are particularly important.  I’ve been trying to be better about packing good looking, healthy snacks that will sustain my kids (and me!) until dinnertime – which often ends up being later than I would like.

So while the big kids were at school, my little guy and I tried our hand at homemade hummus.  We used this recipe by the Pioneer Woman (don’t you just love her).  It was super easy, and also delicious because we were able to tweak the ingredients to our taste (more lemon juice, less garlic).

img_8853

Everything is just dumped into the blender and mixed up until smooth

mixer

Put it in an airtight container

serving

And make sure to pack some yummy, healthy things to dip in all that deliciousness!

snack-time

This would also make a good lunch – but hearty, tasty snacks are important too!

Don’t forget to take the pledge to Power Your Lunchbox (or snack box, or whatever!) – Happy snacking!

 

 

 

Chicken Avocado Enchiladas With Produce for Kids

Happy Summer!  School’s been out for exactly one week, and the excitement has just about worn off.  Which means we’re looking for things to do that aren’t: watching TV, playing video games or zoning out on the ipad!

One of my favorite hobbies is cooking.  Luckily,my kids share my interest.  So the other day we decided to try a recipe from this awesome cookbook:

We agreed on the Chicken Avocado Enchiladas, then headed to Costco to pick up the ingredients (or as close to the ingredients as we could get at Costco since I didn’t want to go to the grocery store, too!)

ingredients

I couldn’t find ripe avocados, so I bought this pre-made gauc.  I also have one family member who HATES yogurt, so swapped that for sour cream.

We checked all the steps, then were ready to get started!

getting ready

Another thing I forgot to mention was that I needed A LOT of enchiladas.  I’m trying to stock my own freezer, but also have a new nephew so I wanted to make a tray for that family, as well as another family who is dealing with illness.  So, I bought 2 of those rotisserie chickens at Costco to save time.  Here it is:

chicken

I didn’t get a shot of us shredding the chicken, but I am pleased to say that I didn’t have to do that much.  My girls are now old enough to take over that hideous job. Woohoo! Then we mixed in the goodies:

stuffing

Rolling them up:

rolling 'em up!

Into the tray:

filling

Finished product!

IMG_7113

It was actually a great time to teach a bunch of kitchen lessons:

  • How to substitute ingredients
  • How to shred chicken (yay!)
  • How to double or triple a recipe
  • How to package food up for later consumption (including the importance of writing instructions for cooking on the packaging!)
  • The powerful role food plays in supporting our friends and family

IMG_7119

Ready to go:

give away

Oh! And we also had them for dinner that night.  They were a huge hit.  The sauce (which we served on the side) was amazing, and the chicken was super tasty.  Definitely a keeper!

dinner's ready!

Check out this recipe and many more in Healthy Family Classics.

P.S. We’ve also made One Pot Chicken Lo Mein and Broccoli Tater Tots – all delicious.

Full disclosure: I serve on the Parent Advisory Board for Produce for Kids.  See my articles on mental health and healthy eating on the PFK site.

 

Easy, Fun Holiday Treats For Little Hands

It’s so easy to over-do it on the sweets this time of year.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sweets, but I don’t always LOVE the way they make me feel.  And I definitely don’t LOVE the effect too much sugar has on my already-hyped-up kids.

Luckily, Produce for Kids has come to the rescue again!  This year, they are again offering a free holiday cookbook – filled with lots of kid-friendly meals and snacks.  Check out the full guide here.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 4.44.57 PM

I showed my kids the beautiful cookbook and they picked out these little snacks to try:

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 4.45.09 PM

I’ll give you one guess why they chose these:

Yep, the marshmallows.  They are all suckers for those things!

Anyway, here’s how it went down:

I got all the ingredients ready:

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.59.37 PM

The kids chose an ingredient (notice which was most popular!):

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.59.53 PM

Put them on the skewers:

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 1.00.07 PM

And TA-DA! our after-school snack was ready!

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 1.00.18 PM

It didn’t look quite like the example.  We couldn’t quite figure out why.  But, they were yummy, easy and fun.  Best of all my kids ate a lot of fruit (along with some extra marshmallows, of course).

Happy Holidays!

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 1.00.26 PM

For more holiday food ideas, be sure to check out Produce for Kids.

 

 

 

 

 

Squash, Comfort and the Holidays

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest author is Dr. Bridget Engel.  Welcome, Dr. Engel!

I love Thanksgiving! There is something really special about getting together and celebrating a cozy day and all that we have to be grateful for, without the pressure and sometimes chaos that other holidays may involve. Plus, I love fall food, especially Thanksgiving food with all the fixins’. Sometimes, I wish they weren’t all so heavy and filling though. That is why I’ve started adding in a nice green salad with butternut squash that goes great with the turkey, and with the leftovers!

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.10.47 AM

Oh the sweet nuttiness and bright, cheery color of a Butternut Squash! However, one of my first feelings I experience when making Butternut Squash Salad is frustration. I find cutting squash to be difficult and tedious, even if our knives have been recently sharpened. But keep reading; its worth it. I’ve found that using a peeler sometimes works better when trimming the skin of a squash. Once I get that off, then my twin girls can help, and they love to be in the kitchen together.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.11.01 AM

Cut up the squash in chunks and then toss lightly in extra virgin olive oil. For a whole squash, I use 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with two teaspoons rosemary. If you like a garlic flavor on your salad, you can add it a bit of that now too.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.11.12 AM

Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, at 375 degrees, stirring half way through. I like my squash to be a little bit caramelized, so sometimes I flip again and put the pan back in the oven for five more minutes or so.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.11.26 AM

By now, I am usually feeling cozy and content. I love the smell and color of squash, and I feel good that I’m providing something healthy for my family. Squash of course, has vitamin C but also lots of vitamin A and B. There is no doubt that squash has good fiber, plus potassium!

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.11.38 AM

I’ve played around with a variety of vinaigrette dressings for this salad, and the good thing is that you can do what sounds best to you. I usually cut up and puree some fresh, juicy tangerines. Remember to pull the seeds out first. Those little buggers sometimes have three or four seeds! I think the citrus flavor is what makes this salad light and refreshing, alongside your mashed potatoes or stuffing.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.11.49 AM

Puree those in a blender, adding in one teaspoon of fresh rosemary and a tablespoon of olive oil. Sometimes I add in a pinch of sugar or a half teaspoon of lemon juice to make it more sweet or more tart.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.12.01 AM

Before you blend, try to get as much of the skin and the white stuff (what’s that called?) out so that you can get a nice smooth texture. You may need to blend for three to four minutes.

Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 11.12.18 AM

Gently top warm squash on a bed of spinach, and then sprinkle with dried cranberries and freshly grated pepper. Sometimes I also add kale, or the fall flavors of nuts and seeds too to vary the texture a bit. I’ve always used dried cranberries, but I wonder how fresh cranberries would taste. Or add in some fresh cranberries to your tangerine vinaigrette! Butternut Squash Salad, alongside friends and family, makes me feel joyful and happy for the holidays. I am always excited for the weekend after Thanksgiving too because leftover squash makes for some delicious little salads for lunch.

Nostalgia and Cake: A Match Made in Heaven

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest is Lisa Jensen. Welcome, Lisa!

I wanted to make a special dessert for dinner with family friends and I was feeling nostalgic for my childhood.  My grandparents immigrated from Denmark and had a bakery.  I grew-up enjoying buttery almond pastries.  I’d never had this cake but it sounded delicious and a bit indulgent.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.57.34 AM

Makes one 9-inch cake

2 to 3 very ripe pears (I used D’Anjou)

1 cup cake flour, divided

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

1 1/3 cups caster or superfine sugar

7 ounces almond paste

1 cup butter, at room temperature and cut into 1-tablespoon cubes

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

6 large eggs, at room temperature

Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan or springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and butter that, too. Dust the pan with flour and shake off any excess.

Peel the pears and cut them into very thin slices from stem to bottom. Starting at the outside perimeter of the pan, place the pear slices in tight concentric circles until you’ve covered the pan’s bottom.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.58.53 AM

In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of cake flour, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 10.59.41 AM

In a food processor, grind the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of the cake flour until the almond paste has mixed with the sugar to form a sand-like substance.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.00.27 AM

With the food processor running, add the cubes of butter one at a time. When the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Process until the batter is smooth and light.

Add the eggs one at a time, processing after each addition.

Add half of the dry ingredients and pulse a few times. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and pulse the machine until the dry mixture is just incorporated. The batter will be light, fluffy, and thin.

Pour the batter over the pears, then bake the cake in the center of the oven. Check it after 50 minutes, at which point in may look like an ominous white blob. Cook it until the top is nicely browned and the center is not too jiggly.  There was enough batter to fill two round 9 inch pans (mine overflowed in the oven).

Remove the cake from the oven and run a sharp knife around the perimeter of the pan to loosen it from the sides. Let the cake cool completely, then invert it onto a cake rack. Invert it once more if you want the pears at the bottom and the crackly, golden-brown side facing up. Dust it with confectioners sugar and enjoy.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 11.01.35 AM

Lisa Jensen (above, left) is a psychologist in Louisville, Colorado. She is married to Carl and they have 3 outrageously fun kids.

This cake is a European love child, inspired both by David Lebovitz’s Almond Cake (in turn adapted from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere) and Mimi Thorisson’s Italian Pear Cake. (less) —Sarah Jampel   Food52.com

Feeling Good? Try a Zoodle!

This post is part of the Food and Mood blog series.  Today’s guest is Dr. Mary Tobin. Welcome, Dr. Tobin!

Zoodles (zucchini noodles) with Mango-Avocado sauce
This is one of my favorite recipes to make when I’m feeling good, and am inspired to eat fresh fruits and vegetables to help me continue feeling my best! It’s also one that I make when I notice that I haven’t touched the zucchinis that I bought earlier in the week and feel guilty about it (for some reason they’re the ones usually left over in my fridge). Making this is a great way for me to address that guilt and an easy way to use up the zucchinis, as the recipe calls for a lot of them!

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.29.54 PM

Ingredients:
3-4 zucchinis, spiralized
For the dressing:
Mangoes (I use a few handfuls of pre-cut frozen mangoes)
½ an avocado (scoop out the flesh of ½ of an avocado)
Juice of 1 lime
The original recipe calls for more zucchinis and mangoes, green onion tops and rosemary, and less avocado. I change up the recipe based on how much I want to eat at the time, my specific tastes (sometimes I add a pinch or two of salt) and what I have on hand (I don’t usually have rosemary and green onions).

Directions:
Cut off the ends of the zucchinis (sometimes I peel the skin off and sometimes I don’t)…

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.31.08 PM

Spiralize (I love this part!)…

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.31.54 PM

I like to cut the zoodles to make them shorter and easier to eat…

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.32.42 PM

and place in a bowl.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.33.36 PM

Blend the rest of the ingredients (sometimes I have to add some water to help the blender along):
Squeezing in the lime juice…

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.34.27 PM

Pour the dressing over your zoodles and mix together…

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.35.13 PM

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.35.50 PM

Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from Fully Raw

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.42.22 PM

Dr. Mary E Tobin is a psychologist in Fort Collins, CO.
Check out Dr. Tobin’s internet policy here.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Equals Comfort

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  Today’s guest author is Amanda Keefer. Welcome, Amanda!

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.14.39 PM

Tomato soup and grilled cheese is a classic, kid-friendly comfort food that many of us, including myself, relate back to cold winter days with family and friends. Even after moving away from the cold weather as an adult, the combo of tomato soup and grilled cheese still stir up a feeling of comfort for me. Now, I serve my own version of the duo to my family.

In this recipe I skip the sodium-packed canned soup and go for an easy, homemade version that’s packed with veggies! You can stir in 1 Tbsp. plain yogurt to each bowl for extra creaminess.

The mini grilled cheese sandwiches are perfect for little mouths and for dipping.

Now, As I share this recipe with my family, I feel a new sense of comfort knowing that I am passing along not only a taste, but a feeling for them to carry on to adulthood.

Want the full recipe? Check it out over at Produce for Kids.

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 2.19.46 PM

Cranberry Salsa Feels Like Being Home

This post is part of the Food and Mood series.  I am excited to welcome guest author, Rachael Teufel – cake artist extraordinaire.  Welcome, Rachael!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. While there may be a little fuss with putting together a great meal, there’s no gifts to buy, cards to send, or candy laying around. It’s simply about spending time with family and giving thanks to all the wonderful people we love. Sadly, it’s not always possible to travel to be with family, so I have to bring our family to us in other ways. Making recipes that I would typically enjoy with them helps make me feel like I’m home for the holidays.

I thought I’d share one of my favorite holiday appetizers compliments of my Aunt Laura, fresh Cranberry Salsa. This is one of the most delicious salsas you’ll ever eat! It’s packed full of fresh fruits and vegetables and has a sweet, yet tangy flavor.

CRANBERRY SALSA

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.21.50 PM

1 bag (12oz) fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut into eight pieces
1/2 large red pepper cut into large chunks
1/2 medium red onion cut into large chunks
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup apple juice
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped pickled jalapeno pepper
1 tsp grated lime zest

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.21.58 PM
Place all ingredients into a large food processor and pulse until desired consistency is reached.  Serve with tortilla chips.  The lime tortilla chips go great with this salsa adding a little more zing to each bite.

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.22.13 PM

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.22.34 PM

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 1.27.39 PM

Rachael Teufel grew up baking in the kitchen with her Hungarian grandmother, but she didn’t discover her passion for cake decorating until later in life while seeking a creative outlet from her day job. She always had artistic interests, so cake decorating seemed like the perfect activity after a long day working as a Physical Therapist. Rachael began her passion for cake decorating in 2001 with a few Wilton classes and continued to educate herself by taking classes with top designers like Ron Ben-Israel, Colette Peters, and Marina Sousa. In 2006, she started her own company, Intricate Icings Cake Design, out of a commissary kitchen and eventually opened her own studio in 2009. After 6 years in her studio, Rachael opted to scale back her company to focus solely on custom designed, luxury wedding and event cakes, while continuing to share her cake knowledge in private classes and through online Craftsy classes.

Rachael’s work is now nationally recognized in both the wedding industry and the cake decorating community. Her work can be seen on episodes of Food Network Challenge as well as in the pages of magazines such as Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, and The Knot. Rachael has been awarded several top honors including being named one of Martha Stewart Weddings’ top pastry pros in the country and Brides Magazine’s “Top 100 Bakeries”. Brides Magazine has also featured Rachael’s cakes in the “50 Most Beautiful Wedding Cakes” and “America’s Prettiest Wedding Cakes”.

 

Food and Mood

Welcome to my new blog series: Food and Mood!

We all know about comfort food, and it’s potential to cheer us up on a gloomy day, but in this series I will be exploring how food relates to all kinds of different moods.  When you’re happy do you crave pizza? Cantaloupe? When you’re worried do you reach for the steak?

Over the next couple months I will be welcoming guest bloggers who will share a recipe along with the mood that best represents it.  It’s going to be informative AND delicious!

I’m going to start things off today with a recipe that I like to make when I am feeling:

RELAXED

Here goes:

ZESTY CRACKERS

Ingredients:

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 1.11.07 PM

Ingredients: 2-3 sticks butter, Italian Seasoning, Seasoned salt, 3-4 sleeves saltines

Step 1: Preheat oven to 275 and melt butter in large pan on the stovetop

Step 2: Add seasonings

I added about 1 teaspoon of each seasoning.  That makes for some salty crackers! If you like less salt, adjust seasonings accordingly.

I added about 1 teaspoon of each seasoning. That makes for some salty crackers! If you like less salt, adjust seasonings accordingly.

Step 3: Whisk gently until combined

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 1.11.32 PM

Step 4: Carefully dunk crackers in butter mixture.  Some days I have especially tough fingers and can dunk them in with my bare hands.  Other days I need tongs.  Who knows how that works?! The crackers only need to be submerged for a couple seconds.  Longer than that and they absorb too much of the liquid.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 1.11.40 PM

Step 5: Place crackers on cookie sheet in a single layer.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 1.11.48 PM

Step 6: Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 1.11.56 PM

Step 7: Enjoy! These little treats are addictive, so beware! I usually store them in a ziploc bag or tupperware in the pantry.  I haven’t experimented with other seasonings, but I bet cinnamon and sugar would be delicious too!

Happy eating and stay tuned for the next post in the Food and Mood series!

Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.

Healthy Eating for Busy Nights

Has the number of healthy meals consumed by your family taken a hit since school (and soccer and football and homework and piano and Lego club) started? Produce for Kids has some ideas for you! And guess what? They’re easy too!

The PFK website has TONS of recipe ideas, and this is the one my family and I chose to try:

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 9.09.17 AM

It looked pretty delicious, pretty easy and most importantly: I had almost all the ingredients on hand!

Here’s how it started:

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.36.14 AM

So…I didn’t have everything the recipe called for. Namely, chicken.  But this looked like a dish that would be good vegetarian too.  Also, my kids won’t eat whole wheat pasta, so I opted for regular.

The chopping began:

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.37.39 AM

Then it all went into the pot!

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.45.58 AM

Including the broth:

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.38.11 AM

Here it is all together.  I ended up adding some chopped zucchini because I am swimming in it these days!

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.38.23 AM

As it all started cooking I wondered (as I do every time I make one of these one-pot dishes):

Is this enough liquid?

It doesn’t look like enough liquid!

Should I add more liquid?

But I trusted the recipe, and sure enough it worked out!

Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 9.38.49 AM

And here’s the verdict:

Kid #1: “Mom, this is delicious! I mean it!”

Kid #2: “This is almost as good as the lo mein we order out! Like just an inch away!”

Kid #3: Busy playing with cars and didn’t join the meal.

2 out of 3 is success in our house. So I would definitely say it was a hit and we will be making it again.  Next time I might add some lean ground turkey or beef, and maybe a tomato or two (I know that’s not traditional for lo mein, but I’m swimming in tomatoes right now, too!).

Happy Eating!

 

This post sponsored by Produce for Kids