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Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Happy Saint Paddy’s Day everyone! A leprechaun visited my house in the wee hours of the morning. He left shamrocks and little green pots of “gold” (quarters) for me and the kids to find.

My house might not always be tidy but I do keep a beautiful bouquet on the table as a bright spot amidst the chaos. The leprechaun approves!

My house might not always be tidy but I do keep a beautiful bouquet on the table as a bright spot amidst the chaos. The leprechaun approves!

My kids have always known the true identity of the leprechaun-bunny-fairy-claus but still enjoy playing along.

After our treasure hunt the leprechaun made us all some green eggs. I politely declined artificial green food dye so Mike came up with a creative alternative. He made his own natural green dye from water and a crushed leaf of swiss chard with the stems removed!

It's extra classy when you use a wine cork as your muddler.

It’s extra classy when you use a wine cork as your muddler.

Once he strained out the crushed leaves, it made a beautiful bright green dye:

eggs with natural green dye

and some delicious green eggs!

green scrambled eggs

Speaking of greens, I love this graphic from No Meat Athlete on seven healthy, tasty greens that are often overlooked in favor of spinach and kale:

Seven greens graphic info

Obviously I’ve had swiss chard, and I’ve tried arugula too. I haven’t had turnip greens but I have had beet greens (sautéed in olive oil with garlic and salt – yum!) The rest I will search out the next time I make it to Whole Foods!

Are you Irish? Yes, I’m a whopping 1/16th Irish!
Did you run the L.A. Marathon or any other St. Patrick’s Day race today? How did it go for you? I have heard many good things about the L.A. Marathon and hope to run it someday.

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With my refrigerator practically bursting with winter greens from my CSA farm shares, I decided to use up a bunch of kale by making kale chips. My kids and I devoured these so quickly I wished we had even more kale! Try these as an alternative to potato chips.

Baked Kale Chips with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

one bunch of curly kale
one tablespoon of olive oil (I used Extra Virgin Garlic-infused Organic Olive Oil from Trader Joe’s)
salt to taste (I used sea salt)
parchment paper if you have it

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash and dry the kale thoroughly. Remove the center rib from each kale leaf with a kitchen knife, scissors, or by tearing. Tear or cut each leaf into bite-sized pieces.

Raw kale, ready for a sprinkle of olive oil.

Raw kale, ready for a sprinkle of olive oil and salt.

Toss the kale with the olive oil and salt (tip: it’s best to add the least amount of olive oil necessary to coat the kale — any more than that and the kale leaves will remain soggy rather than become crispy). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (if available) and spread the kale evenly over the sheet.

Glistening with garlic-infused olive oil and salt.

Glistening with garlic-infused olive oil and salt.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, watching carefully in the last minutes to remove the chips as soon as they are just browning at the edges. You can use tongs to toss the kale chips halfway through cooking. If you remove the chips as they begin to brown, they will be crispy but not crumbly.

Goodbye beautiful baked kale chips. Prepare to be gobbled up in seconds!

Goodbye beautiful baked kale chips. Prepare to be gobbled up in seconds!

Have fun with this recipe and experiment with the flavorings. Some people use seasoned salt. Others like to coat the kale with soy sauce or vinegar instead of olive oil. Have you ever made baked kale chips? What’s your favorite way to season them?

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Making your own trail mix could not be easier or more forgiving (have fun with the ingredient choices and portions below to make it to your liking)! I threw some together for a preschool class snack and it took less than five minutes and, best of all, I could prepare it the night before and not have to fuss with it in the morning before school.

Serve it in Dixie cups for a kid-friendly snack or pack it bags for the trail.

Serve it in Dixie cups for a kid-friendly snack or pack it bags for the trail.

Homemade Trail Mix

Ingredients:

1 large container of organic raisins
1 small packet of organic dried cranberries (or other dried fruit of your liking — chopped apricots, pineapple, mango or dates would be good)
1 tub of salted or unsalted peanuts
1 tub of salted or unsalted sunflower seeds (or pepitas, almonds or cashews)
2 cups or more of dark chocolate chips, milk chocolate chips, carob chips or M&Ms

Optional:
2 cups or more of plain stove-popped popcorn

Instructions

Pour all the ingredients into a bowl and stir them together. Package into serving sizes or serve in the bowl.

This homemade trail mix is high in calories (which is what you want in a trail mix, right?) but if you want to reduce the calories for a healthier snack, add in the plain stove-popped popcorn and that cuts the calories per serving significantly.

Survey: Do you call it trail mix or GORP (“Good Old Raisins and Peanuts”)? I called it GORP as a kid but I’d forgotten all about that!

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If you’re looking for a pretty side dish for brunch, a fun preschool snack, or something for the kids after school, try these simple pear cups with cheese cubes!

Breakfast on the patio, anyone?

Breakfast on the patio, anyone?

Pear Cups with Cheese Cubes

Ingredients:
1 organic pear per two people (Tip: if your pears are not quite ripe, put them in a paper bag with a banana overnight and the ethylene gas will help ripen the pears)
blocks of cheddar cheese and colby jack cheese (or substitute your favorite hard cheese, or this would even work well with Brie or cottage cheese too. If you use Brie, spoon a little honey mustard on top and the combination will taste like heaven and look pretty too!)

Tools:
Knife

Preparation Time:
5 minutes for each set of two pair halves (Note: try to prepare these cups just before serving. I made mine about an hour before serving and that was fine, but any longer and the pear will brown and the cheese might get soggy from the pear juice).

Instructions:

Rinse and dry the pear. Slice it in half vertically (from stem to bottom). Cut out the core and a little bit extra in the center to create a pear “cup.”

The pear cup, ready for cheese cubes.

The pear cup, ready for cheese cubes.

Cut up the cheese blocks into small cubes and arrange the cubes inside the pear cups, piling the cheese as high as possible. Serve ASAP but you can refrigerate them for an hour or so before serving if desired. You can either eat the cheese and the cups separately, or enjoy them together for a tasty treat!

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Monday meant back to school for my kiddos and that meant back to “work” for me. Three or four weeks per year I bring the snack for the preschool class. What compelled me to be on the list for the week after winter break I don’t know. Thank goodness I put it on my calendar and remembered! I even researched a healthy, fun snack that was inexpensive and easy to prepare. It turned out so cute I’m thinking of serving it for the next kids’ book club meeting for my 2nd and 5th grader and the rest of the moms.

Cucumber Cups with Ranch Dressing and Carrots for Dipping

Ingredients for 30 cucumber cups, 2 each for 15 people:
5 large organic cucumbers (you want to leave the skins on)
1 large bag of at least 60 organic baby carrots (you could use regular, peeled and cut carrot sticks)
1 bottle of organic or homemade ranch dressing

Tools:
melon baller or similar scooper
knife

Prep time:
20 minutes

Rinse and scrub the cucumbers. Slice off the ends of the cucumbers. Cut them into 2-inch sections, about 6 sections per cucumber depending on the size. Use a melon baller to scoop out the center of each section, creating a “cup” for the ranch dressing. Reserve the scooped-out cucumber to use in a salad or cucumber soup.

Step one: cut a two-inch section of cucumber and scoop out the center, leaving a cucumber "cup."

Step one: cut a two-inch section of cucumber and scoop out the center, leaving a cucumber “cup.”

Into each cucumber “cup,” pour a small amount of ranch dressing and add two baby carrots or carrot sticks.

These fun dipping cups end up looking like rabbit ears or sushi.

These fun dipping cups ended up looking like rabbit ears or sushi.

I knew I had a hit on my hands when my 8- and 10-year-olds wanted to help me make — and EAT — these before school. The preschool kids loved them too. When I asked my 4-year-old if the class liked them, she said they loved them. “Everyone ate 2, or 3, or 4, or 5! I had the most!”

If you’re looking for other healthy snack ideas, check out:

Ants on a Log
Four Fun Pirate-Themed Snacks

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Recently we played Name That Fruit. Now it’s time for Name That Vegetable:

malanga

I’ve started a new game with my husband. When he goes to the grocery store for me, I challenge him to buy me an interesting new fruit or vegetable. This one stumped me for sure. Thankfully it came with a Melissa’s brand tag that explained:

Malanga is a tropical tuber used in Latin and African cooking. This starchy tuber has a nutty flavor. It can be prepared like a potato: sliced, diced or mashed. It is a great complement to spicy sauces or served with meat.

The label said a single 3-ounce serving of malanga has 91 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.

“My” malanga came all the way from Ecuador. I felt a little bad about that — it’s not exactly shopping locally — but I felt good about trying something new. I baked it like a potato and ate the insides. The tag was right about the nutty flavor. Later in the week I ate some roasted chestnuts and the chestnut meat reminded me exactly of the flavor and consistency of the malanga insides. It’s more dense and flavorful than a potato. I have a feeling I’d love it if I hadn’t grown up on white potatoes. As it is I thought it was interesting, if not delicious.

“Malanga” is the Spanish-speaking name for this tropical vegetable, but some cultures call it eddoe or Chinese eddoe. In the Urdu and Hindi languages of South Asia, it’s called arvi.

Have you ever tried a malanga? What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten lately?

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Part of what I love about getting a weekly box of organic produce from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm is that it forces me to cook with vegetables that are in season, meaning that they are grown locally, taste better and are fresher than those in the grocery store.

The fennel bulb, lounging by the pool

The fennel bulb, lounging by the pool.

The fennel bulb, stalks, leaves and seeds are all edible. If you don’t have access to a CSA or farmers market, you can buy fennel in the grocery store for around $2.00-$2.50 a bulb (in California expensive prices — yours might be cheaper!) depending on the size, and it’s readily available in autumn through early spring.

When I got fennel in my weekly farm share haul, I wasn’t sure what to do with the licorice-scented bulb. Fortunately I had also recently come across this book at the library used bookstore for $3.

Vegetarian Planet

It’s Vegetarian Planet: 350 Big-Flavor Recipes for Out-Of-This-World Food Every Day by chef Didi Emmons, and even as a non-vegetarian I love it! I spent one evening by the fire marking all the recipes I want to try and I flagged much of the book! (On a fennel note though, I do feel the need to disclose that the Carrot Fennel Soup recipe in the book was not a hit — it had nice orange color and was flavorful but the strong fennel taste was not a favorite in my family. I found I enjoyed the leftover soup served cold better than hot.)

Quick Vegetable Stock Recipe

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

2 carrots
1 tomato
1 fennel bulb
1 large onion
8 garlic cloves
10 cups water

Roughly chop the carrots, tomato, fennel bulb (if you wish you can chop the whole thing — bulb, stalks and leaves) and onion. Crush or mince the garlic. Put the vegetables in a stock pot with the water, bring it all to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the vegetables out and you should have about 8 cups of vegetable stock. Vegetable stock freezes well. What I don’t use right away I like to store in portions of 2 cups each in the freezer. I find that fresh vegetable stock is easy to make and less expensive than store-bought (especially this quick version — Vegetarian Planet also has a recipe for Basic Vegetable Stock that takes a little longer and requires more ingredients).

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