Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fruit and Veggie Recipes

Cheesy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Prep time: 10 min
Total time: 30 min

1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained, finely chopped
1 pkg. (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup canola or olive oil light mayonnaise
½ cup shredded Cabot 75% Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese
½ tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350. Mix all ingredients until well blended.

Spoon mixture into a 9 inch pie plate or quiche dish.

Bake 20 minutes or until heated through. Serve with assorted cut-up fresh vegetables and/or whole grain crackers.

Most hot dips can be assembled in advance. Cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours.

Mexican Chicken Salad
Serves 6 to 8

1 pound chicken breasts, steamed and shredded
1 large onion, chopped
2 cups kidney beans, drained

Combine the dressing and chill overnight if possible:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 cloves garlic, mashed

When ready to serve, toss together in a salad bowl:
4 cups chopped iceberg and romaine lettuce mixture
½ cup scallions

Heap marinated chicken and beans on lettuce. Top with:
2 cups grated Cabot 50% or 75% Light Vermont Cheddar Cheese

Garnish with:
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 large avocado, sliced
Guiltless Gourmet baked chips (approx. 25 chips), crushed

Toss together before serving.

Roasted Vegetable Soup
Serves 4
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes

Preheat oven to 425° F.

In roasting pan, toss 6 beefsteak tomatoes, halved and cored; 2 leeks, white and pale-green parts cut into ½ inch pieces; 4 carrots, cut into ¼ inch pieces; 4 garlic cloves; and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Roast in a single layer (tomatoes cut sides down) until tender, about 1 hour. Using tongs, peel off tomato skins.

In saucepan, bring vegetables, 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium vegetable broth, and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

In batches, puree in blender. Stir in ¼ cup chopped fresh basil.

Balsamic Zucchini with Pine Nuts
Serves 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 Minutes

Preheat broiler.

4 lbs. medium zucchini, cut diagonally into ¾ inch thick slices
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ t. salt
½ t. coarsely ground pepper
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ oz. finely gated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (roast these in a 350° oven until browned, about 5 minutes)

Toss sliced zucchini with oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Arrange in one layer in two shallow baking pans (1 inch deep).

Broil 1 pan of zucchini 3 to 5 inches from heat, without turning, until browned in spots and beginning to soften, 4 to 6 minutes.

Take pan from oven and drizzle 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar over broiled zucchini and shake pan a few times, then continue to broil until most of the vinegar is evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Sprinkle ¼ cup Parmesan cheese over broiled zucchini and put back under broiler until cheese is melted, about 1 minute more. Cook remaining zucchini in the same manner. Cool to room temperature and serve sprinkled with pine nuts.

Balsamic zucchini (without pine nuts) can be made 3 hours ahead and kept at room temperature or chilled and covered. Sprinkle with pine nuts just before serving.

Cranberry Sauce
2 3/4 c. water
1-2 c. sugar or Stevia or Splenda depending on desired sweetness
2# package fresh cranberries (pick off stems)
3 sliced Red Delicious apples cut thin (core and seed)
2 thin sliced navel oranges
2-3 sticks of cinnamon
10-12 cloves

Put all ingredients into a large pot. Cook and mix very gently until the mixture comes to a boil. Then cook for 5 more minutes (lower the heat a little) without mixing. Take off heat and add the thinly sliced oranges. Let cool. Refrigerate and serve.

Fruit Crisp
Serves 6
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Total Time: 60 Minutes

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat oven to 350° F. Have ready an unbuttered 8 x 8 inch baking dish, a 9 inch pie pan, or a 10 x 6 inch oblong glass baking dish.

Thaw any of the following frozen fruit or use fresh fruit:

Blend 2 cups dry Uncle Sam’s Cereal (Giant or Whole Foods) until looks like bread crumbs.

Stir together with a fork in a small bowl:
1½ cup blended Uncle Sam’s Cereal
3 tablespoons Land O Lakes Soft Baking Butter, melted

Whisk together thoroughly in another bowl:
½ cup packed sugar or Stevia or Splenda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Spread one-third of the crumb mixture evenly in the bottom of the baking dish. Distribute half of the fruit in the dish. Sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture and then with 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice.

Cover with another third of the crumb mixture, the remaining fruit, the remaining sugar mixture, and 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cover with the remaining crumb mixture. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until fruit is nearly tender when pierced with a skewer, about 30 - 40 minutes. Uncover the dish. Increase the oven temperature to 400° F and bake until the cobbler is browned, about 10 minutes. Serve warm in bowls. Add frozen yogurt if desired.

High School Kids Need More Fruits and Veggies - Is There Anything We Can Do?

Once again the news is telling us high school kids don't get enough fresh fruits and vegetables. CNN had a piece on this topic just this morning.

With all the issues teens have on their plates, telling teenagers to eat more fruits and veggies seems juvenile and downright silly. Yet if we want our kids to be healthy and strong to deal with the stress and strain of high school, we need to get our message across.

So what is a parent to do? Here are a few tips that might help them eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and benefit from the nutrients and phytochemicals that will flood their systems:

Tip One: Since teenagers eat tremendous amounts of fast food, casually suggest that you go out to eat at their favorite restaurant. Let them order whatever they want. If you know ahead of time, you can review the menu and find something healthy with the most veggies possible. As you're eating together, you can talk about how delicious your meal is and what other healthy items that you might like to try the next time you return. Subway is a great place to pile on the veggies as they have tons of choices. Noodles and Company also offers lots of healthy items.

Tip Two: While we don't want to focus on the negative, if your child is having skin issues like acne, a diet high in fruits and veggies is one more tool in the arsenal to fight blemished skin. The next time they bring up the subject of skin, you might say that you read that eating carrots, spinach, broccoli, and avocado can sometimes help keep skin clear. You might mention that both Chipotle and Baja Fresh offer salads and freshly made guacamole. Additionally, avoiding trans fats, fried foods, and increasing healthy monounsaturated fats also helps. Japanese restaurants are also a good choice. Obviously expensive, but full of veggies and Omega 3 fats from the fish.

Tip Three: Take the time to serve more veggies at dinner. Steam an array of veggies and serve them with an easy to make cheesy artichoke spinach dip (see recipes on next post). Or try Dr. Praeger's Spinach Pancakes served with applesauce and a little sour cream. Soups are a great way to get in high potency veggies. If you bring in take out, make sure you are choosing dishes with lots of veggies. Even pizza provides a veggie opportunity. Artichoke hearts, tomatoes, olives, green pepper, onion, and spinach are now available. Some pizza places now offer whole wheat crust. Add a salad and you are set. Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza, and California Tortilla also have items with lots of veggies and whole grains.

Tip Four: Stock the fridge with V-8 juices and sparkling apple juice. Ditch the sodas. Make your own trail mix with dried cranberries, raw almonds, dry roasted peanuts (more healthy fats), mini chocolate chips and whole wheat Chex cereal. Bake carrot cake (use whole wheat pastry flour), carrot muffins, or banana bread. If you pack their lunch, add more veggies on their sandwiches: a few spinach leaves, roasted red peppers, thinly sliced tomato. If they balk, just smile! Whenever you make a recipe, increase the amount of veggies. More chopped or diced veggies won't affect the taste or texture.

Tip Five: It is not too late to model good eating habits. Like mom always said, "Actions speak louder than words."

Happy Trails.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Help - My High School Reunion is on the Horizon

My 40th (YIKES) high school reunion is on the horizon. Am I in a panic? Not really, but I do seem to be shopping a lot!

I have had a few phone calls from friends saying, "I am coming to the reunion even though I am fat." While we all know it's what's on the inside that counts, sprucing up for a reunion can make that first moment of entry a little bit easier. Once inside and connecting with old friends, we realize none of the exterior stuff really matters. Truly we are all grateful just to be here.

But if you are lamenting your physical state at the moment, here are some tips to help get you ready for the big weekend. All it takes is a bit of motivation, some concentrated focus, and the willingness to follow through on whatever goal you set.

Before you begin, take a breath and then put in your mind's eye the vision of you walking into the reunion. Don't let go of that mental picture. Now you are ready. If you have six months, this will be a piece of cake (you can eat cake after the reunion!) If you have only four weeks, you can still see results.

The Yes Group:
  1. Tons of veggies (the non-starchy kind)
  2. Lean protein - fish, chicken, lean beef, egg whites, low fat cheese
  3. 1/4 cup of raw nuts daily
  4. 2 pieces of fruit (no dried fruit)
  5. Two carb servings per day. Choose any two from this group: one slice bread, 1/3 cup rice, 1/2 cup of cereal, 5 Triscuits, 1/3 of a wrap, 1/2 cup of beans, 1/4 of a bagel, 1/2 hamburger bun, 1/2 small baked potato, 1/2 corn cob, 1/3 cup hummus
  6. Move everyday. Start today: garden, bike, walk, run, climb stairs, tennis, golf (no cart)

The No Group:

  1. No alcohol
  2. No deep fried food
  3. No soda
  4. No sweets (remember this is only for a limited period of time)
  5. No dried fruit

That is it! Simple and easy - especially if you tell yourself it is for a limited time.

From past reunion experience, it seems like the good times get magnified and the not so good times fade. Seeing old friends (no pun intended) connects us to the cycle of life. When you face your past, you are free to live in the moment.

If you have a reunion in your future, this month, next year or in five years, the time to start getting ready is now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Outstanding in the Field

Farm dinners are all the rage and constantly in the news these days. Last night I attended my second Outstanding in the Field farm to table dinner. Held at Ayrshire Farm in Middleburg, Virginia, this amazing 880 acre property is a combination of working farm and refurbished, regal turn-of-the-century estate.

Over 150 people turned out to dine alfresco, tour the gardens, and converse with the animals. Some people I talked with had travelled from Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

Outstanding in the Field was started by Jim Denevan, a quintessential, laid back California chef who had a vision of combining farm and food. Probably the pioneer in this quickly expanding niche, Jim told us the evolution of Outstanding in the Field while standing on a hillside overlooking majestic fields dotted with livestock (whose family members we were soon to eat!) Jim contacts organic farms around the country and then pairs them with local renowned chefs to create an unforgettable experience. He travels in a wacky 1960's bus with ten staff members.

Usually the table is set out in the fields, but due to threatening rain, the cascading table was set inside a giant paneled, chandelier laden barn. The rain arrived not long after we sat down to eat.

The dinner is five courses (including dessert) accompanied by different local wines. The barn was ablaze with light and abuzz with conversation, no doubt inspired by the setting and the continuous pouring of wine.

A few times something tickled my leg and when I looked under the tablecloth there was one of the many cats that roam the property. All in all it was a sensuous, relaxing, and wonderful evening that was well worth the drive and the price.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What's For Lunch?

As the weather begins to cool and the telltale signs of autumn appear, most moms swear they hear the wind whispering, “It’s time to think about packing lunch again.”

This age old ritual is usually approached with a mixture of love and dread. Dread because not only does it take time but also because it is hard to find healthy foods the kids will actually eat. Instead of trepidation, think of this as a great opportunity to upgrade the health quotient of your children’s lunches.

Start by setting a few nutritional goals for the school year. Two or three can make a huge difference in your child’s health. It is not necessary to commit to a major overhaul. Here are some suggestions:
· Increase whole grains with breads and snack foods
· Avoid processed meats
· Avoid partially hydrogenated fats
· Increase fresh fruits and vegetables
· Cut down on refined sugar
· Reduce sodium
· Increase healthy fats

Let’s start with sandwiches, a major staple of kids’ lunches. These can be made healthier by using whole grain breads. Look for soft products where the first ingredient is 100% whole grain. If your child balks, tell him that whole grains are good for his/her heart and are full of fiber and will help him/her poop! You can try white whole wheat bread, but it is best to get kids used to eating hearty whole grains that are naturally brown in color.

If your child eats a lot of processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, ham, and turkey, switch to brands that are nitrite-free. Studies show an increase in childhood cancers in heavy consumers of processed meats. Giant, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s all carry brands that are free of these chemicals. While your wallet may feel the difference, your kid’s will not notice a change.

Add veggies. Even a few spinach leaves or a tomato between two lettuce leaves can add fiber and phytochemicals to their diets. Veggies are low in calories and great disease fighters.
Pack snacks made from whole grains like Snyder’s Honey Wheat Pretzels, Guiltless Gourmet Baked Tortilla Chips, Whole Grain Wheat Thins, or cheesy popcorn. Avoid snacks made with white bleached flour and hydrogenated vegetable oils. While the 100 calorie packs are good for calorie control, they are loaded with these less than ideal ingredients.

Kids need fat for brain function. They need monounsaturated fats like olives, olive oil, natural peanut butter, almond or cashew butter, avocado, and canola mayonnaise. These fats are important to counteract the over abundance of trans fats and saturated fats in fried and processed foods which are sadly, often the mainstay of many kids’ diets.

Pack cut up veggies with cheese sticks or ranch dressing, fresh fruit with a small yogurt, or whole grain crackers and veggie dip. A small container of black olives and cut up carrots is always fun. Child sized Cliff Bars are a good choice for after school athletics if the workout is intense. Hummus, whole wheat quesadillas, and baked beans all make good filling snacks.

Don’t worry that you take the time to pack a healthy lunch and then your child eats other kids’ less healthy food. The important point is that you are modeling what healthy eating looks like. In the long run, a little junk food never hurt anyone! In fact, don’t completely eliminate their old favorites, just pack them less frequently.

If your children are resistant to the new foods, engage them in the process. Bring them to the store and start reading labels to find foods that meet the goals you have set. Tell your kid’s that you care about their health and together embark on new tastes and textures. Model good eating habits by eating the foods you want them to eat. When kids see you eating fruits and veggies, they will be more likely to try them. It turns out that packing lunch is really a family affair!