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Preparing Shamrock Crispy French Toast with Green Fruit is a simple way to add a St. Patrick’s Day touch to your breakfast table and Eat Right with Color, this year’s National Nutrition Month theme.  No green food coloring is required, so you can serve this guilt-free and clean up is a cinch!  Kicking off the St. Patrick’s Day festivities with this wholesome and enjoyable breakfast will get your entire family in the Irish spirit!

You will need:

  • 6 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1/2 cup reduced fat or skim milk
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Cooking spray
  • Shamrock cookie cutter (optional)
  • Pure maple syrup
  • Sliced Granny Smith apples
  • Sliced kiwi
  • Green grapes
  • Sliced honeydew melon

How to prepare the fruit:

Slice or purchase pre-sliced Granny Smith apples and combine with sliced kiwi, green grapes, and honeydew melon.  Prepare as much fruit as you think your family will eat!

How to make the French toast (this recipe serves three):

Beat the eggs. Add milk, sugar, and cinnamon and mix together. If you have a shamrock-shaped or other festive cookie cutter, you can cut its shape onto each slice of bread.  If you want to involve your kids in the fun, ask them to help with cutting the shapes.  Use a fork to dip each slice of bread into the mixture one at a time. Dip each long enough to soak well, but not too long.  You don’t want the bread to break apart.

Spray a hot griddle or skillet with cooking spray (in lieu of cooking spray, you may use oil or butter); heat over a medium-hot burner.  Cook bread for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Use a spatula to gently press down so your French toast is crispy and golden in the center.

Top the French toast with a desirable amount of pure maple syrup and serve with side of green fruit and milk to drink.  Top o’ the morning to ya!

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This Dinner Bar features a quick stress-free meal that will be fun for the whole family.  If you have never tried a pizzadilla, you are in for a treat!  As its name suggests, it is simply a marriage of pizza and quesadilla which is especially easy to make and delicious.  Merging these two ordinary items creates an enticing vegetable-packed supper your kids will be begging for again and again.

You will need:

Protein:

  • Turkey pepperoni slices
  • Roasted shredded chicken (optional)

Grains:

  • Burrito-size (10-inch) whole wheat tortillas (1 per person)

Vegetables:

  • Jarred marinara sauce
  • Chopped green pepper
  • Sliced mushrooms (no salt added, canned or fresh)
  • Chopped onions

Fruits:

  • Sliced apple
  • Sliced banana
  • Sliced strawberries

Dairy:

  • Shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup skim milk

Fats:

  • (See others)

Others:

  • 1/2 can Sweetened condensed milk
  • 6 oz. Dark chocolate
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • Olive oil or non-stick cooking spray
  • Wood skewers or popsicle sticks

How to prepare the fruit:

Slice desired amount of apple, banana and strawberries.  Purchase sliced apples in a bag, or use an apple slicer for quick cutting.  Arrange sliced fruit on a large plate or in separate bowls and set out alongside wood skewers or popsicle sticks.  Use the skewers to spear the fruit and dip!

Tip:  Any leftover fruit can be combined to create a fruit salad that can be enjoyed later.

How to prepare the chocolate fondue: (adapted from www.lifemojo.com )

Break chocolate squares into small pieces and drop in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  Combine skim milk and condensed milk in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove the mixture from heat and pour it over the chocolate. Once the chocolate has melted, whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla extract.  Pour the chocolate in a fondue pot if you have one.  If not, pour into a microwave-safe bowl.

Tip:  Reheat the sauce in the microwave if it becomes too thick.

How to make pizzadillas:

Place a tortilla on a large plate or cutting board and spread with a thin layer of marinara sauce.  Add a thin layer of cheese on half of the tortilla.  Layer chosen pizza toppings on top of the cheese.  Top off with another thin layer of cheese and fold the tortilla in half.  Brush the top of the tortilla with olive oil (or spray with cooking spray) and invert onto a non-stick skillet on low heat or a Panini grill with the sprayed side down.  Brush the other side of the tortilla with olive oil (or spray with cooking spray).  If using a non-stick skillet, flip the pizzadilla when the cheese is melted and the bottom is crisp.  Once the other side is crisp, remove from the pan.  Slice the finished product with a pizza cutter.  Place remaining marinara sauce in a microwave-safe bowl and heat in the microwave.  Pour marinara sauce in small bowls or ramekins  and use for dipping.

Tip:  Wrap any leftover pizzadillas and pack in lunches for the following day!

Enjoy!

Contributing Author: Katherine Fowler, MS, RD

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This is probably the easiest Dinner Bar yet.  And with the many prepared items now available in the produce aisle of most grocery stores, it may also be the fastest. Although it is considered vegetarian, there is plenty of protein in the cottage cheese, and the beans and corn together provide complimentary proteins.  You will need:

Protein:

  • (See Grains and Legumes)
  • (See Dairy)

Grains:

  • (See Vegetables)

Legumes:

  • Black Beans, canned

Vegetables:

  • Russet Potatoes (about 1 per person)
  • Corn, canned (also a grain)
  • Green Onions, sliced
  • Salsa

Fruit/Healthy Mono-unsaturated Fat:

  • Avocado

Dairy:

  • Cottage Cheese
  • Mexican-blend shredded cheese

First, wash the potatoes, pierce them with a fork a few times, and wrap tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour, or until tender. Alternatively, choose microwaveable, pre-washed and shrink-wrapped potatoes to cut the usual time down to just 10-minutes.

In the meantime, open, drain, and rinse the black beans and corn.  Chop the green onions and slice the avocado.  Open the cottage cheese, shredded cheese, and salsa.  Choose a place for your Dinner Bar and lay out the spread in individual bowls.  It’s up to your family to choose what and how much they will load on their potatoes.

This is a great meal to fix when you’re pressed for time.  It’s also filling and packed full of nutritious fuel for active kids.  Keeping the ingredients on hand will make it even faster than any fast food excursion, not to mention healthier.  Sorry, no more drive-through excuses!

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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Looking for a teacher’s holiday gift? Or a yummy treat for the holidays?  Try Dipped and Loaded Pretzel Rods — they please most and are fun and easy to make!

I like to use this delicious take on chocolate-covered pretzels because they are hand-made and easy for children to do with a little bit of supervision.

What you will need:

Pretzel rods

Chocolate: dark, milk, or white

candy canes or starlight mints, crushed

toffee chips

sprinkles, green or red

wax paper

Melt chocolate in a glass bowl placed over a pot of simmering water.  Keep the burner on low, as it will keep the chocolate in a liquid state and easy for ongoing pretzel dipping.  Place your topping on a plate. Dip pretzels in the chocolate, using a spoon to cover ~2/3 of the pretzel.  Move the chocolate-covered pretzel over the plate of toppings and, holding the pretzel, sprinkle the topping on the chocolate portion of the pretzel.  Lay the pretzel on wax paper to dry.  For quick drying time, place the pretzels in the freezer to set.

It doesn’t get much easier than that!

This year we (actually, my daughter) made:

  • dark chocolate-dipped, loaded with crushed starlight mints
  • milk chocolate-dipped, loaded with toffee chips
  • white chocolate-dipped, loaded with green sugar sprinkles.

The teachers will be happy this month!

What are your favorite holiday treats to make and give away?

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Happy Day-After Thanksgiving! For those of you who are wondering what to do with all of the food left from your holiday meal, fret no more. This month’s “Dinner Bar” recipe showcases all of the delicious morsels that you have put so much hard work into…..again. Why eat cold turkey when you can have a warm grilled sandwich with new and exciting flavors? And who looks forward to plain reheated veggies? Bring them back to life by transforming them into fun and colorful confetti to decorate your plate with. There is a veritable cornucopia of possibilities waiting in your refrigerator. To turn your boring leftovers into unbelievable “planned-overs,” you will need:

Protein:

* Leftover Turkey

* Pecans, chopped

Grains:

* Whole wheat flatbread

Vegetables:

* Mixed greens, in a bag

* Baby spinach leaves, in a bag

* Leftover Green beans

* Leftover Carrots

* Leftover Corn

* Red onion, sliced

* Pumpkin pie mix, 14 oz. can

Fruit:

* Jellied cranberries, canned

* Craisins

Dairy:

* Fat-free cream cheese

* 2 c. skim milk (for pudding)

* Fat-free frozen whipped topping

Unsaturated Fats:

* Extra virgin olive oil

* Vinaigrette dressing, bottled

Other:

* Cheesecake-flavored instant pudding mix

First, make the cheesecake pudding using skim milk according to package directions. Add the canned pumpkin mix to taste (somewhere between ½ and ¾ of the can). Place in refrigerator to chill. Take whipped topping out of freezer to thaw. Chop pecans.

Next, get out all the leftover turkey and veggies from your refrigerator. Pick at least three vegetables for the salad. The firmness of raw, steamed, or roasted foods is best. I chose my family favorites, but any will do. Just remember, this is where the “confetti” part comes in, so pick lots of fun colors if possible. If cooked, reheat in the microwave. Dice each vegetable into small squares or circles and place into separate bowls. Thinly slice the red onion. Cut the flatbread rounds in half.

Open the jellied cranberries, craisins, cream cheese, vinaigrette dressing, and lettuce and spinach bags. Prepare a small cup of olive oil for the pan or press.

Place all the bowls and plates containing each item on your bar, and invite your family to make their own perfect Paninis, confetti-covered salads, and spiced pumpkin dessert. Remember, the Dinner Bar is all about allowing children the freedom to choose what and how much to eat. All of the items, in any combination, are fair game.

If you have a Panini press, now would be the time to use it. If not, a griddle pan with a lid or regular frying pan with a foil-covered brick for weight will also do the trick. Heat the pan and use a basting brush to lightly coat it, and the bread, with olive oil. This will keep you from using more than the desired amount of oil for cooking. Cook each Panini until heated through and golden brown on the outside, about 1-2 minutes. You should be able to do at least 2 at a time. Serve and enjoy!

I spread cream cheese and jellied cranberries on my bread, and added spinach and onions to the turkey. Then sprinkled the veggie-confetti on my salad greens. A dollup of whipped cream and a sprinkling of pecans were the perfect touch to a pumpkin-flavored pudding. Yum!

Contributing Author: Cami Ruark

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My sister, Karen, has always been a wonderful cook.  Not the gourmet, fashionable kind of cook, but the down-home, practical, family-style cook with which I grew up.  Her meals are always tasty and simple.

Karen has always been devoted to cooking for her family and she makes the effort regularly.

There was a time when I thought she was a little compulsive about her dinner meal. She would begin preparing dinner at 3 pm— this was the routine everyday.  It was a time when I was not working and at home with four very young children and she was doing the same with three children. The difference between us:  I thought I had all the time in the world to prepare dinners and she was always preparing to be prepared.  Her devotion to family meals impresses me to this day!  She is also a wonderful entertainer and mother.

Last night I made her turkey chili (actually I started it at 1 pm–see, I have learned some good tips from her!), which is a delicious, essentially fat-free turkey and bean chili.  Paired with cornbread and toppings, it’s a big family pleaser.  Warning:  it is chock-full of protein and fiber, so a little bit goes a long way.  Don’t make the mistake I did and have seconds…you’ll be feeling it for awhile.

You will need:

1# ground turkey

1 large onion, chopped

Pinto beans, 15 oz can, drained and rinsed

Corn, 8 1/2 oz can, low sodium; drain & rinse

Tomato sauce, 15 oz

Diced tomato, 14 1/2 oz

Diced tomato with green chile (Rotelle), 10 oz

Chili powder, 1 Tbsp

Cumin, 1 tsp

Garlic powder, 1/2 tsp

salt, 1/2 tsp

Brown the ground turkey in a non-stick skillet.  Chop the onion; drain, and rinse the corn and beans. Add all the ingredients to the crockpot and stir.

Cook on high heat for 4 hours.  Serves 8.

We love it, and we love Karen!  Let me know how you like it…I’ll be sure to share some of Karen’s other yummy, simple, family-style recipes in the future.


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Vegetables take the show this month with a classic pasta primavera (pasta and vegetables).  If you have been following the Vitamin series, you’ll realize this dish supplies many of the important nutrients your child needs. We showcase this dish with a crowd-pleasing light alfredo-tomato sauce.  Pour it over the pasta and vegetables, dip the veggies in the sauce, or seperate the two and have a traditional pasta with sauce and veggies on the side. The combinations are many, and up to your children, as the Dinner Bar allows your child to mix, match, and create their own dinner.

You will need:

Protein:

  • (See dairy)
  • Chopped walnuts, optional

Grains:

  • Whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

Vegetables:

  • Marinara sauce, jarred
  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

Dairy:

  • ¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping
  • 1 c. cold low-fat milk (1%)
  • ½ c. evaporated nonfat milk

Fats:

  • Olive oil (EVOO)
  • Margarine

Fruit:

  • Gala or Fuji apples, small (plan on about 1 per person)
  • 1/2 c. 100% apple juice
  • Raisins, optional

Other:

  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

To Make the Apples:

Remove the core from the center of the apples.  Spray a microwave safe baking dish, just big enough for all the apples, with cooking spray.  Arrange apples upright along the bottom.  Place ½ tbsp.  margarine inside each apple.  Pour ½ c. apple juice and ¼ c. water in the bottom of the pan.  Drizzle each apple lightly with honey, and sprinkle with ½ tsp. cinnamon and ¼ tsp. nutmeg.  If desired, add raisins to the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; pierce with a fork. Microwave for about 4-8 minutes, depending on the number of apples.  They should be tender when pierced with a knife.  You can also add a small bowl of chopped walnuts to your dinner bar to top off the dessert.

To Make the Pasta Primavera:

Cut the vegetables into 1-2” bite-size pieces.  Place each into separate large plastic baggies, along with 1/2 tbsp. EVOO and salt and pepper, to taste.  Make sure the bag is sealed tightly.  Shake the bags to coat the veggies; pierce with a fork to allow steam to escape.  Microwave each on high for 3-5 minutes, or until just tender.  Let stand for two minutes.  Be careful when opening the hot bags, as steam can cause burns.

Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

To Make the Alfredo sauce:  (adapted from Ellie Krieger, www.foodnetwork.com)

Whisk the flour and low-fat milk in a bowl. Place the garlic and 1 tbsp. EVOO in the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, 30 seconds. Add the flour-milk mixture and bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the evaporated milk, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the grated parmesan cheese; stir to melt, 1 minute.

Add the jar of marinara to the prepared Alfredo sauce, stir, and heat through.

Place pasta, sauce, and the individual veggies in separate bowls, along with the apples and nuts, on your dinner bar.  And let the dinner begin!

Note: You may use fresh vegetables in microwavable bags from the produce section.  If you don’t have a corer for the apples, simply slice the apples and layer the ingredients in the dish.

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