Put your Family’s Best Fork Forward

ID-100116173

Image courtesy of marin at freedigitalphotos.net 

It’s that time of year again. This March is the annual National Nutrition Month, which means that all month long nutrition professionals will be hitting up social media surrounding this month’s theme: Put Your Best Fork Forward! It’s an initiative built up around the main message of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that says, it’s  not a singular food that makes the difference but entire meal plans made up of a variety of different foods working together.

The theme Put Your Best Fork Forward reminds us that healthy eating and living is only small changes built up over time. You don’t have to do something drastic, go on that special diet, or lose 20 lbs for a better, more healthier you. Instead it’s all about building good habits that’ll last a life time! (That includes exercise just as much as it is what we eat.)

Healthy habits, just like anything else, begins in the home  with what you cook for your family and yourself everyday. Your children will learn from the habits you build, so starting mindful eating habits right in your own home is the best place to start!

And this is exactly where I started when thinking about what would be this month’s blog post. At first I didn’t know what to write about, then, while cooking with my boyfriend, it suddenly occurred to me that the simple dish of sauteed vegetables and cashews could be the base of any dish.

It’s always hard coming home from work after a long day and not having anything prepared. It’s even harder to come home with the daunting task of whipping something up to eat when it’s 6:30 pm at night! What I needed was a quick dish that could be accomplished in 30 minutes or less. For many of us that would include frozen meals, I know it has for me many times and I’m a Nutritionist! But, my boyfriend Michael had whipped up this quick vegetable dish that can easily be built upon within 30  minutes. The best part was that the meal was only vegetables, spices, cashews, and a little olive oil. Talk about a marriage of antioxidants and healthy fats working together in perfect harmony.

My boyfriend’s a genius!

That being said I was quick to propose to him the idea for this blog and if I could share his recipe with my readers. Success! The downside though is that the recipe would have to be prepared ahead of time on a weekend and then frozen in containers for the rest of week. Other than that you could defrost the vegetable mix, add your own spices, meats, fish, or just add brown rice or whole wheat noddles for a variety of meals in 30 minutes or less. Just make sure the rice is cooked ahead a time. Batch cooking is how you get home cooked meals when you work 5-6 days a week.

Here is the basis of the recipe:

3 Sweet Peppers diced (Try for yellow, red, & orange)

1/2 c. of diced onion

1 c. of celery chopped

1 1/2 c. of chopped or matchstick carrots

2 c. of unsalted cashews

2 tablespoons of olive oil or another oil of your choice

Your choice of spices

Directions:

1.) Wash the fresh produce in a colander. Afterwards place on a towel to dry.

2.) On a cutting board dice all the vegetables except the matchstick carrots. Place aside.

3.) Place a wok of skillet on the stove. Turn it up to medium heat and add all the vegetables w/ 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Add cashews last. 

4.) Put a cover on top of the vegetables and let cook until vegetables are tender. 

Now that you cooked dinner you have more time to gather round the table with your family. Happy National Nutrition Month!

 

Cooking with Kids on Valentine’s Day

id-100153438

Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich at Freedigitalphotos.com

Even though Valentine’s Day has passed, it’s still February and you don’t have to wait for the 14th to celebrate the meaning behind the special day all through the year.

Growing up in a Catholic Christian home I read, and was told, countless stories about the saints. One of them was St. Valentine. There are many legends about him, but the focal point of all those legends is the kind of self-sacrificial love that St. Valentine showed while he was alive. His life can easily be summarized from scripture with the passage, “No greatest love has man but this,  that he lay down his life for his brother”.

As a Catholic Christian Valentine’s Day can be celebrated in many different ways: sharing a meal, doing something nice for a loved one, or going out of your way to do something kind for a stranger.

Today I will share with you a sweet recipe that my mom makes around the holidays. I personally think it’s great for Valentine’s Day! It’s also a fun activity to do with your kids.

Food is a way of saying “I love you”!

It’s also a way to bond with family. Your kids will just love making these, just as much as eating them.

Fruity Cheesecake Mini’s*

Makes a dozen

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Ingredients: 

1 c. of graham crackers (crushed)

4 tablespoons of butter

2 (8 oz.) cream cheese packages

1/4 c. 2 tablespoons of sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

21 oz. can of  Hannaford’s fruit pie filling (Cherry, Blueberry)

Instructions:

1.) Take a zip lock bag and place a few graham crackers in the bag. Seal it, and crush the crackers within the bag until they are crumbs. Place aside.

2.) In a small mixing bowl, measure out 1 c. of graham crackers and mix with butter until it has a damp consistency to it.

3.) Take out a cupcake tin and line it with cupcake liners. Put the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of the cupcake liners in an even layer.

4.) In a separate mixing bowl combine cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice.

5.) Fill the cupcake liners 2/3rd’s full.

6.) Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Cool. Put your choice of pie filling on top (blueberry, strawberry, or cherry)

Note: For the more daring chef you can add fresh fruits to the top of your cheesecakes by slicing strawberries on top, or blueberries. 

As a reminder, you can get your younger kids involved by mixing/combining/stirring ingredients. Older ones can layer the ingredients in the cupcake tins. Everyone can help spoon fruity pie filling on top.

 

*Original Recipe came from Cooks.com

Tactics to Talk Food Waste with Kids

How do you start a conversation with our children about food waste and its importance? Well, this was exactly my question and part of the reason why I wanted to write this blog post.

The other reason was simply for the purpose of my blog: to encourage cooking with kids and to teach them about food!

I began my search by brainstorming some ideas with my boyfriend. This is what we came up with:

Take the chance at family meal times to bring up food waste. One simple way to do this is by creating topic cards. Place them in a jar where you can take them out during meals and have one of your children take a card (or slip of paper) and read the prompt. Remember: keep question complexity to the grade level of your child. Check out this link to a previous blog for more ideas on family meals.

If you grow a garden in the backyard and your kids love helping you, take advantage of that moment to teach about ways to stop food waste such as composting. Show your kids that scraps of food that would normally be thrown away can be re-purposed.

Kids in the kitchen offers another opportunity to approach food waste, composting, or even re-purposing of leftovers. Have your kids come up with creative ways to transform leftovers or show them that the stems, leaves, and roots of some veggies/fruit can be eaten as well.

As an example here is one idea to try next time you cook.

Sauteed Radish or Beet Greens

1 pound of radish or beet greens

1 tablespoon of peanut or canola oil

1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder or 1/2 garlic clove

Pepper and salt to taste

Directions

1.) Rinse the greens first. Set aside.

2.) In a skillet combine garlic , pepper, peanut or canola oil, and radish/beet greens.

3.) Set on low to medium heat.

4.) Cook until leaves a slightly wilted, but still have a bright color. Serve.

For more ideas go to: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/teaching-kids-waste-less-food

Re-inventing Holiday Leftovers

id-10020857

Photo courtesy of Carlos Porto at freedigitalphotos.net

A few days ago on Thanksgiving I spent time with my boyfriend’s family for the day. It was a wonderful afternoon with good company and lots of food. Though we were only four there was so much food that between my family’s Thanksgiving and theirs we’ll have leftovers for two or three weeks.

Since my family hates to waste food, this time of  the year has always proved to be creative with transforming thanksgiving leftovers into two or three different meals. We then have to freeze the rest of it.

Today I’ll share with you some of the ways you and your family can waste less this year through re-inventing holiday leftovers! This will also prove to be a great teaching moment for young kids about the importance of wasting less and helping their parents in the kitchen.

1.) Hot Turkey Sandwich: Homemade gravy, turkey, peas, and carrots mixed together and ladled over an open faced sandwich. This quick meal was one of my favorites growing up because it was similar to a chicken pot pie. Which brings me to my next idea.

2.) Chicken Pot Pie: If your feeling creative you can make a chicken or turkey pot pie and throw in leftover veggies. Add in some potatoes and your all set.

3.) Homemade Stock: Not wanting to waste even the bones of a Thanksgiving turkey or chicken I made my own stock this year with carrots and celery. Freeze the rest and you’ll have stock for meals months after the holidays are over.

4.) Turkey Cranberry Wrap: Before I went to collage I never thought of this possibility, but it’s a delicious one. Take a tortilla wrap and place slices of turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and spinach leaves in it. Roll it up with some mayo or mustard and your finished.

5.) Meat Stew: Make stew with leftover veggies, potatoes, and meat either turkey, chicken, or lamb.

6.) Potato Latkes: And here’s another idea. Take those mashed potatoes and turn them into Potato pancakes with homemade applesauce.

These are just six of the ways you and your family can get to transform holiday leftovers. There are many other ways that would work and incorporate cultural foods as well.

Get cooking this holiday season! And if your stumped as to how to get your kids involved visit some of my past blog articles such as Kids Kitchen: Tasks for Every Age

 

Last of Summer Turkey Burgers

 

id-100454364

Photo courtesy of KEKO64 at freedigitalphotos.net

Looking for ideas for dinner? These turkey burgers are sure to please. This past week I was up in New Hampshire with my boyfriend at his aunt’s cabin. We hiked, played video games, and watched movies. We also cooked up a few meals together including this one. I have to say cooking is one of our favorite date ideas. Hopefully cooking with loved ones is fun for you too. If not, that’s okay because these burgers don’t take too long to cook.

It’s a play on the classic salmon burger, which was one of my fav’s growing up. I combined my family’s traditional recipe with a new one I found on Pinterest from thelivefitgirls.com. The goal, to create a new delicious burger that would please the whole family!

Pepper and Onion Turkey Burgers

Serves:6, Prep time: 10 minutes, cook time 10-15 minutes, total time, 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 pound of ground turkey (85% lean)

1/2 c. diced onions

1/2 c. diced peppers (orange, yellow, or red pepper adds color)

1 egg

3 tablespoons of canola oil

1/2 c. of Italian seasoned bread crumbs

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon of ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

1.) On a clean cutting board wash and dice the onions and peppers. Place aside.

2.) In a medium bowl mix the ground turkey with all of the above ingredients. Add the peppers and onions. Make sure the ingredients are uniform throughout the mixture.

3.) In a skillet heat the oil on medium high heat. Form the turkey mixture into patties. The mixture will make 4-6 patties in total.

4.) Cook until there’s no pink in the center. Add your own buns and additional toppings as wanted. Enjoy!

 

This recipe is great to make as a family. Younger children can help form patties while older ones can help dice the vegetables with an adults supervision.

 

 

 

 

 

50 Conversation Starters for Families

Getting everyone to the table for a family dinner night is hard enough let alone starting a conversation (at least it’s this way for my family). Dad and I hardly speak at all while we’re eating. Mom, on the other hand, is trying her best to get us all to talk, and that includes grandma. Usually though it ends in silence.

So, I put together a list of 50 conversation starters for family meal times. I’ve pooled together these 50 from friends, family, games, and a few parenting websites with slight changes. Even if your family are pros at this you may find some inspiring ones to try.

50 Conversation Starters/ideas for Families
1.) What is your favorite color? Why?
2.) If you could choose to be an animal, which would you choose. Why?
3.) Choose one song on the radio you like the best and explain why.
4.) Discuss a favorite movie or tv series. Why was it your favorite?
5.) Tell jokes.
6.) Share family stories.
7.) What is your biggest fear? Why?
8.) What is the one thing you loved most about your day?
9.) What is one thing you loved least about your day?
10.) If you could be any cartoon character for a day which would it be and why?
11.) If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
12.) When you grow up what do you want to be?
13.) If we lived in a world where there was only one season which would you choose? Why?
14.) What’s your favorite fruit/vegetable?
15.) What’s your favorite family meal?
16.) If you had three wishes like Aladdin what would you wish for?
17.) What’s your favorite family tradition and explain why?
18.) What makes you, you? Share a special talent.
19.) Who is your favorite teacher? Explain why.
20.) What is your dream job?
21.) If a friend was being bullied what would you do?
22.) What makes you happy?
23.) If you won the lottery what would you do with the money?
24.) Which country would you like to visit one day?
25.) Share some riddles.
26.) Share a story about a cooking “disaster” or family gathering gone wrong.
27.) Share about something inspiring that you saw in nature?
28.) Share about an answered prayer?
29.) Do you believe in miracles? Angels? God?
30.) Tell about a time when you forgot something very important. What did you do?
31.) Have a story about a time when you mistook someone for someone else?
32.) What was your favorite family vacation or outing?
33.) If you had a time machine where would you go and why?
34.) Tell me about a person who meant a lot to you? Why?
35.) Name three favorite past-times and why they are your favorite?
36.) Which subject(s) do you like the best in school?
37.) If you were president, what three things would you do?

38.) Share about a time when you acted like someone you were not?
39.) Tell me of a time when you were embarrassed, but looking back on it you can laugh?
40.) What was the most unbelievable thing you saw in person? Explain.
41.) Share a story about a time when you stood up for something that you believed was right even though it was an unpopular position.
42.) If you could create any business you wanted what would it be?
43.) Tell of a time when you helped someone who needed help.
44.) What do you think of the saying, “An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth”?
45.) Can change be positive? Explain and give an example.
46.) Tell of a time when you were your own worst enemy. How did you handle this?
47.) What are three things you are most grateful for? Why?
48.) It is said, “That success is failure turned inside out”. Describe a time when you turned a failure into a success.
49.) What was your favorite childhood song? Sing it.
50.) Share a story about a time when you put off doing something important. What happened and what did you learn?

Happy conversation!

For more ideas go to the Family Dinner Project.

Kid’s Kitchen: Stuffed Peppers

ID-100215900

Image courtesy of Mister GC at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Trying to get the whole family to eat together? Here’s a recipe that you and your kids can cook and eat together.

This recipe is a family recipe and also happens to be my favorite. The highlighted directions are the things that young kids can help you with. The recipe is simple, but may take awhile to cook rice and ground turkey.

Ground Turkey Stuffed Peppers

10-20 minutes to prep. and 1 1/2 hours total

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

4 bell peppers (any color)

1 lb. of ground turkey

1 1/2 c. of brown rice

1-16 oz. can of tomato sauce

1/2 c. of part-skim mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1.) Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.) Using a colander, rinse the peppers. Then transfer to a cutting board, cut the tops off, and remove the seeds.

3.) Next, set a large pot of water on the stove and place the four peppers in the pot. Cook on medium high heat until just slightly tender. The peppers should retain their bright color.

4.) While the peppers cook, cook the rice over the stove until cooked. (You can have your kids pour the rice into the pot)

5.) In a skillet cook the ground turkey completely with a tablespoon of canola oil. Pour the cans of tomato sauce slowly into the skillet. Don’t splash.

6.) Once the rice is fully cooked, drain and transfer to the skillet. Mix turkey and tomato sauce mixture with the rice.

7.) Take out a deep dish pan and place the peppers into it. Stuff the peppers with the turkey and rice mixture. Put the tops of the peppers back on top and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.

8.) Layer the rest of the turkey and rice mixture around the four peppers. Place in over for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Bon appetit!  Here’s to hoping that you and your family can gather in the kitchen to cook and to eat.