Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'll-Never-Buy-Grocery-Store-Hummus-Again Hummus

I have been searching for a good recipe for homemade hummus. Some of the stuff in the grocery store tastes just flat-out awful. Other kinds of hummus have tons of preservatives and additives. So, for the past few months I have been on the lookout for a great recipe. I found it!

I'll-Never-Buy-Grocery-Store-Hummus-Again Hummus

1 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained, reserving liquid
3-4 T tahini
3-4 T lemon juice
1 t salt
1 T olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves

Place all ingredients in the food processor. Blend until smooth. If too thick, add some of the chickpea "juice," 1-2 T at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Since tahini, lemon juice and garlic are strong flavors, work with them to see what your favorite combination is for your hummus.

We made this today and I swear I could eat the whole batch in one sitting...probably not a good idea though.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Breakfast Day or Night, Pancake Style

I don't know about you, but one of my favorite easy peasy dinner ideas is to do breakfast for dinner. This is a pancake recipe that I make regularly for breakfast/brunch (usually on the weekends when my wonderful husband can help corral the kids while I whip them up) but can also be used for a fun dinner.

This recipe is super easy, and you can add blueberries, banana slices, apples, peaches, etc to them. I have even added steamed little chunks of sweet potatoes! Just add the fruits or vegetable once the batter is in the pan.

Our Favorite Pancakes

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour (can use all whole wheat or all white flour, if you don't have both on hand)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites, beaten
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon applesauce

Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until *just* blended (there will be little lumps--that's ok!).

Preheat a nonstick pan to medium heat. Pour the batter into the pan (add fruit, etc if desired), wait until the pancakes are covered with little bubbles, and flip and let cook for 2-3 minutes longer.

**Instead of butter and syrup, try on of these different toppings:

--fresh fruit with a touch of sugar
--no-sugar-added jam (you can heat this in the microwave to "melt" it to make it more syrupy)
--peanut butter

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pickles In a Blanket

My son loves pickles right now. They count as a vegetable, right? So, we recently created this idea for a new lunch "sandwich." This recipe also uses the pre-shredded bagged carrots. These are such a great, easy peasy way to sneak carrots into lots of different things. I have cooked them with refried beans, spaghetti sauce, soups, etc. Some brands are thicker than others, so you might want to give them a good rough chop first, just to get them easier to hide.

Pickles in a Blanket

2 Dill Pickle Spears, sliced lengthwise and then diced
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1-2 radishes, sliced thin and chopped
1 tablespoon onion, minced
1/4 - 1/2 cup light cream cheese
whole wheat or spinach tortillas

After dicing the pickles, set them on paper towel to absorb extra moisture as you prepare the other vegetables. Mix the first five ingredients, spread on the tortilla. Roll up the tortilla like a spiral, cut into 1 inch pieces.

You can add really any veggies you have on hand; popping the cream cheese in the microwave for 10 seconds makes this mixture a snap to spread.

This would be great for a back to school lunch!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Had a Hard Day? Try This Salad...

After a long day, nothing takes out the frustration like using the mallet in this salad!

I love taco salad. This taco salad recipe is lots of fun to make with a preschooler because you can use a wooden mallet to crush the chips. This salad also uses iceberg lettuce--I know, not the most interesting of greens, but it is kid-friendly and gets them on the path to liking salads.

To make it more interesting and more fun, try layering the different components of the salad in a trifle dish or clear glass bowl. The kiddos like the layered, colorful look of this salad...and hey, any interest in vegetables, even if it is merely visual at first, is a step in the right direction!

While this is a fun recipe for kids, it is nice enough for a light dinner or lunch for us adults too.

Layered Taco Salad

1 small head of iceberg lettuce, chopped into very small pieces (the smaller the more they "blend in")
15 oz can black or kidney beans
15 oz can corn or 2 cups fresh corn
2 cups of shredded 2% milk cheddar cheese
1/2 red pepper diced
3 green onions chopped
half a pint of grape tomatoes, quartered -OR- 3 plum tomatoes, deseeded and diced
4-5 good handfuls of baked tortilla chips (blue corn chips are fun for kids), crushed in a baggie
1/2 cup lite mayo or lite sour cream or fat free plain yogurt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t salt

Combine the mayo/sour cream/yogurt with cilantro, lime juice, cumin and salt. Layer in bowl 1/2 the lettuce, 1/2 chips, 1/3 of the dressing and then 1/2 the beans, corn, cheese, red pepper, green onion and grape tomatoes. Repeat. Top with remaining dressing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Summer, summer, summertime

Does anyone remember that song from DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince? Loved it. Anyway, so here is my simple and easy summer pasta salad formula. I can't really call it a recipe because it changes every time I make it, but here is the jist--

Farmer's Market -or- North Market -or- Our Garden Pasta Salad

1 pound of whole wheat pasta like rotini
1 can 15 oz can of chickpeas
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped small
2 tomatoes, deseeded and diced
1/2 a small red onion, diced (or about 1/4-1/2 cup of chopped green onions)
1/2 c small cubes of cheese (your choice)
1/2 bottle of an olive oil based salad dressing (we love Newman's Balsamic)

Cook the pasta, drain and add all the other ingredient and toss. Easy as can be.

You can add diced meat, or do any combo of peppers, celery, shredded carrot, small florets of broccoli, etc.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Leading down the right path...

Did you hear about the recent study on the effects of food marketing to children? In a nutshell, 3-5 year olds tasted foods, some packaged with a McDonald’s logo on it and some that was in neutral packaging. Despite the food being identical in each package, overwhelmingly the children chose the McDonald’s food as being tastier. What does this say about the power of branding on the preschool set?

The lesson here for me is that children pick up on everything! If your child is exposed regularly to fast food, of course they will develop a taste and perhaps become a Arch-a-holic. So I am trying to use the power of persuasion in more positive ways and expose them to foods that pique their interest healthfully. And I know I am not the first person to type this…there is no better influence on their eating habits than YOU. Whether this thrills or scares you, if you walk the walk, the more likely you are to have little ones following behind you.

So here is one of my family’s favorite healthful meals. It is vegetarian, although we are not vegetarians and my husband would faint at the suggestion! You can easily add meat or seafood to the mixture and make many changes to suit you. We don’t really measure things, we just throw them together…

Baked Burritos

8-10 Whole Wheat Tortillas

2-3 cups cooked Brown Rice

2 cups Seasoned Black Beans*

1 cup Salsa (store bought or see the recipe below)**

2 cups Reduced Fat Shredded Cheddar or Mexican Cheese

1-2 teaspoons olive or vegetable oil

Preheat your oven at 400 degrees. Place a couple tablespoons of the rice and beans on one end of a tortilla. Top with about a tablespoon salsa and sprinkle with 1-2 tablespoons cheese. Roll up, pulling in the sides as you roll to bake your burrito. Lay seam side down in a baking dish (9x13 usually fits the bill).

Once your pan is full, brush the tops of all the burritos with olive oil or vegetable oil. Place into the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Remove the pan, sprinkle with an additional cup or so of the cheese and place under the broiler for just a minute or two to melt the cheese and make the burritos extra crispy.

These are so good, and again, the sky is the limit on changes, alterations, etc.

*Saute a chopped small onion, 2 cloves of minced garlic and one 15 oz can of black beans in a sauté pan with about 1 teaspoon of vegetable or olive oil. Once cooked you can add 2-3 teaspoons of hot sauce and cilantro, cumin, salt and pepper to taste. OR- just by a 15oz. can of black beans already seasoned.

**Easiest, Tastiest Salsa Recipe Ever**

2-3 tomatoes

1 medium onion, cut in 4 thick slices

1 jalepeno, halved and deseeded

Place first three ingredients in a sauté pan with no oil or butter over medium high heat. The vegetables will all start to char a bit, a la fajitas. Once they are blackened, remove and let cool for a few minutes. Place into a food processor or blender with a handful of cilantro (no need to chop) and about ½-1 teaspoon salt. Voila, fresh salsa.

Again, try having your kids help with the blending…lots of fun for the preschool set.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Here Goes Something...

After countless conversations with friends and family, I have finally done it. I decided to set up a format to share what I have been asking for these past months…ways to help us all eat healthfully.

Am I looking for recipes? Yes…but so much more: new ideas for meals, thoughts on nutrition, experiences from your homes and maybe even tricks to keeping your kids eating healthy. I have learned so much from my friends, hopefully we can all share and have a place to come to when we need another…meal…idea.

So many kids are only exposed to a diet of typical kid (read: bland, boring) foods. In our house we can fall into the lunchtime PB&J routine. I think it is easy to get stuck permanently in a rut of kid-friendly cooking and miss out on a whole world of eating adventures.

As I type it is nearly 100 degrees outside so what better way to end this entry than to go enjoy a healthy popsicle:

Melon Berry Popsicles

¼ Cantaloupe, rinds removed and cut roughly

¼ cup blueberries

½ cup plain yogurt

¼ cup 100% fruit juice

Put into a blender and puree. Pour into 8 popsicle molds, add sticks and freeze.

These are so easy to make and have no added sugar. I do all sorts of fruit combinations, just whatever I have on hand.

As an aside: My 3 year old love, love, loves using the blender. Maybe the noise reminds him of a truck or other machine, but regardless, he loves to blend. Use this recipe not only to make a healthy treat, but to involve your little one and create an early love of cooking.