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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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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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Fish Tacos; Sweet n’ Sour Slaw; Mango

With the sweltering heat, these tilapia tacos are a satisfying, yet light, addition to your family’s summer supper repertoire.   They are also a great opportunity to introduce lots of colorful fruit and veggie options.  Remember, “The Dinner Bar” is all about giving your kids freedom to choose what to eat from the healthy foods you provide.  You will need:

Protein:

  • 1 lb. tilapia, or other mild white fish
  • ¼ c. slivered almonds (for slaw)

Veggies and Fruit :

(for slaw):

  • 1 package broccoli slaw with carrots
  • ¼ c. golden raisins

(taco fixin’s):

  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 5 radishes, sliced
  • Lime wedges
  • Salsa

Healthy Fat/ Sweet n’ Sour dressing for slaw:

  • ½ c. olive oil
  • ½ c. cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. sugar or honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Grains:

  • Whole grain hard and soft taco shells (small)

Dairy:

(beverage):

  • Milk

(taco fixin’s):

  • Fat-free Greek yogurt
  • Mexican-style white cheese, shredded

Fruit/Dessert:

  • Fresh mango slices

To prepare the fish: Rinse and pat dry, squeeze fresh lime juice over it, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover a large flat baking sheet with aluminum foil (for easy clean-up) and coat with cooking spray.  Bake at 375 F for 12 minutes, or until it flakes easily with a fork.  (Baking in the oven helps to minimize the oil needed for pan-frying and/or grilling)

To prepare the slaw: Whisk together dressing ingredients and drizzle over broccoli slaw mix until just coated.  Discard the excess.  Top the mixture with golden raisins for a bit of sweetness and slivered almonds for a little crunch.  Toss to combine.  (This part can be done in advance and refrigerated to save time and let the flavors blend.)

Additional prep:

  • Prepare taco shells and tortillas according to package directions.
  • Chop veggies for tacos and fruit for dessert.
  • Grab ready-to-eat toppings from the refrigerator.
  • Don’t forget the milk!

Find a spot for your spread: Place all the ingredients on your “dinner bar” and let your family choose what and how much to eat.

Kids have fun creating their own blend of flavors, textures, and colors.  And you can rest assured that you have provided a healthy meal as gate-keeper, and valuable lessons on eating as a role model.  Your family, and their taste-buds, will thank you!

Note:  I used Chipotle flavored salsa to give this mild flavored fish a little kick.  Peach salsa would also be a nice twist on traditional flavors.  Blue Corn hard taco shells were an interesting change of pace and provided a colorful addition to the meal.

Contributing Author:  Cami Ruark

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