Archive for the ‘Meals In Minutes’ Category

I continue to refer to my toddler as a picky eater, but in reality I can honestly say I think most toddlers are picky.  As babies they happily ate up most anything you put in front of them.  As babies, everything is new, some new exciting texture, taste, and smell.  As toddlers, they realize they have their own personalities, their own likes and dislikes.  Anyone with a toddler will tell you they are hardheaded, strong willed.  My toddler would personally live off graham crackers and milk all day every day if I gave him the ability to choose. 

 

I find myself often times frustrated at his lack of desire to try different things.  Toddlers like routine, and change is a hard concept.  For some it’s harder than others.  “They” say that toddlers take up to 3-4 times of seeing something new on their plate to try it.  Who is “they” anyways?  And “they” clearly haven’t tried feeding my picky eater.  So, being the creative mama I am I watched my sons eating habits, focused on things he liked and didn’t like.  He prefers to drink his food; he loves “shakey’s” also known as milk with some sort of protein powder.  He loves his milk, and prefers to drink his food rather than eat.  Who can really blame him, drinking takes less time than sitting down to eat, and his little busy mind has things to do and places to see!

I was worried he wasn’t in taking enough healthy calories because of his inability to try new things.  Some days it seemed like he would only eat a bite of bread and maybe 4 goldfish and call it a day.  I talked to his pediatrician who said he was thriving, and growing so to try not to worry, and continue to offer him healthy meals.  Out of desperation and frustration I started making him smoothies and shakes.  The options are really endless, with different fruits, juices, milk, almond milk, you name it.  He also is at the age where he loves to help.  Mixing and pouring can keep him busy for hours, so I put him to work helping to pour different fruits, milk, and juices into the blender.

I purchase a sugar free vanilla, or chocolate protein powder to add some healthy calories into his smoothies and shakes.  There are so many different options but I’d like to share a few of our favorite recipes below. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Shake

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop chocolate protein powder (or sugar-free carnation instant breakfast)

1 tbsp peanut butter (if your child is allergic you of course would want to skip this)

½ banana

Mix all ingredients, and enjoy!

 

Another staple smoothie in our house is:

Berry Smoothie

1 cup milk

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (or vanilla carnation instant breakfast)

½ cup mixed berries

¼ fresh spinach

Mix all ingredients, and enjoy!

 

Like I mentioned above, options are really endless.  You can use mango, strawberries, add a teaspoon of cinnamon.  Experiment, and let your children experiment with you as well.  And most importantly enjoy these special moments with your children, they go much to fast!

As moms we are known as multi-taskers, the ones who can do it all.  The other day I was trying to juggle my children as I paid for 10 items that I somehow crammed into my kid free hand.  Mumbling to myself I said, “Not sure why I didn’t grab a cart,” the young boy bagging up my items smiled at me and said “moms can do it all, right?”  Well as much as moms would like to be able to do it all, we can’t.  We are only human. 

One important aspect of being a mom is providing your children with healthy meals, and the nutrition they need to grow.  Let’s check back into reality for a moment, feeding your kids healthy food isn’t only expensive, but it can be time consuming, and then there are those children (my son included) who would rather feast on chocolate and graham crackers all day.  Too many healthy articles on line to choose from and the fact that it’s much easier to stick to a routine recipe than it is trying to juggle the demands of your children all the while attempting to create the newest, healthiest dinner masterpiece make it seem easier to just stick to quick microwaveable food.  Not only that, but sometimes there is that recipe that just fails; plain and simple.  Or it may be exceptionally tasty, but your kids dry heave at the sight. 

Chicken tenders, pizza, carbs, carbs, carbs seem to be a favorite in my house.  I however, realize living off carbs isn’t probably the healthiest meal plan for my children.  So instead I secretly sneak things into their muffins, their breads, you name it I’ve hidden it.  Usually it goes completely unnoticed. 

I would like to share an absolute favorite in my house.  First of all, what child doesn’t like pizza?  Secondly, what child doesn’t like to help make pizza with their mama’s?  Kid’s like to help in the kitchen, so I put mine to work!  It can be fun to have them help choose the toppings of their choice (within reason of course, chocolate chips are not an option in this case).  Rather than use regular pizza dough I’m going to share a family favorite using Naan bread for a healthier alternative to pizza.

 

My children absolutely love this, and it is so simple and easy to make.  There are endless options with toppings of your choosing.  You can choose different cheeses, make your own pizza sauce, or take the busy mom’s route, and purchase sugar free pizza sauce.  Your choice!  I personally use either Trader Joes brand, or Ragu light no sugar added.  The less sugar the better in my household.

What you will need:

Naan Bread

Sugar Free Pizza Sauce

Low-Fat Mozzarella cheese

Pureed spinach

And lastly, toppings of your choice.

Not only are these exceptionally simple to make, but very affordable.  In our household we usually make two pizzas.  I puree about a cup of fresh spinach.  Frozen is okay too.  I mix that into about a cup of the pizza sauce.  Like I said earlier, hiding veggies is the key to getting your picky toddler to eat their greens without fuss.  I spread the sauce with the spinach puree over the Naan bread.  My family isn’t too big on sauce so we spread a thin layer.  We then sprinkle with cheese.  Add some olives and pineapples to the top and put it in the oven on 425 for 10-15 minutes. 

Another favorite in our household is using turkey pepperoni found in most deli sections of the grocery store.  This recipe is not only quick, and simple but exceptionally affordable for families looking for healthier meal options within a budget.

 

 

This one little packet can ensure a happy family on taco night. Inexpensive. Easy. Healthy. What more can I say???

It’s been a long time since I have posted, so I have a lot of stuff to share with you.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t invent the taco, so I won’t claim to have, but I did bring taco night home. Put one pound of chicken in your crock pot (with seasoning mix and 2/3 cup water). Let it cook on low for 4 hours (2 on high). Take the chicken out of the crock pot and place on a plate. Use two forks and shred the chicken. Put it back in the crock pot and keep warm.

Get your toppings ready. We use: salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and tomatoes. (Guacamole if I made it!!)

The best part of taco night is that it is easy to clean up. You can even serve your toppings in tupperware. Just put a lid on them and throw them in the fridge.  Ok, I said the best part of taco night was the easy clean up, but the REAL best part of taco night is that you can easily make fajitas the next night and use the same toppings. You could also make nachos, taco salad or an omelet!!!! In our house, we try to not let anything go to waste.

Enjoy taco night. It stimulates conversation- even if it is just “please pass the lettuce.”

2 slices extra-thick cut bacon,  dice
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1 carrot, peeled and chopped fine
Salt
2 plump cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 cup brown lentils
1 14.5 ounce can plum tomatoes with their juice, cut or torn into pieces
5 cups water
Chunk of parmesan rind (optional)
1 cup cooked al dente, drained and rinsed ditalini or other small pasta shape
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For serving:
Best-quality fruity olive oil
Grated parmesan
Coarse grindings black pepper

PREPARATION:

  1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and stir to coat in the oil. Allow to cook until softened and translucent. Add the onions, celery and carrots; stir. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and sauté until softened. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Tip in the lentils and stir to coat. Add the tomatoes, their juices, the water, a pinch of salt and optional Parmesan rind. Bring soup up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just about fully tender, 20-30 minutes. Add the ditalini and cook an additional ten minutes until the pasta is cooked to taste. Correct seasoning with salt.
  2. Serve in bowls with a drizzle of good olive oil, grated Parmesan and black pepper.

This hearty lentil meal goes over very well in my house. My kids and my husband LOVE when I make it. It is relatively quick and easy to make and I typically have the ingredients around. I found this website on TLC.com a few weeks ago and I have made it about once a week since. Special thanks to Buddy and Kitchen Boss for this awesome recipe.

This healthy recipe is a great “dip” that your kids will enjoy. 3 ingredients/2 minutes or less and all you need is a food processor or blender.

2-3 Avocados

1 container of fresh salsa (you can make your own salsa if you prefer)

*Make sure you get mild salsa so your guacamole is not spicy

2-3 limes

Take avocados and remove skin and pit. Add green fruit to blender or food processor

*With older kids you could use a fork or potato masher  to mash up avocado, but for younger kids I recommend a blended smooth texture.

Add salsa to food processor as well. Blend well. Add the juice of 2-3 limes (to taste) blend again.

There are many different uses for this healthy “dip.” It is perfect for dipping tortilla chips in (I use multigrain). It is also a great substitution for mayonnaise on sandwiches. It can be used on tacos or salads.

Avocados contain more potassium then bananas.  They are also rich in B vitamins, as well as Vitamins E and K. They are high in fiber and help promote healthy cholesterol levels. This power fruit is also rich in health promoting fats.

This recipe idea came from a very rushed day where I couldn’t seem to get anything done, (when in fact I got most of my list completed that day!) and I was heading from one task to another when I remembered that I hadn’t eaten yet. Like I said, it was a busy day, and I was stuck with the choice of soup or Mac N Cheese, and as much as I have often professed to love Mac N cheese, the idea of heavy noodles with basically no real nutrition did not appeal to me. I remembered a block of frozen chopped spinach in the freezer, thought about how much time I had to give to making lunch, about ten minutes, and decided that Spinach Mac would work, or I would starve.

This recipe is incredibly simple.

You Will Need
1 box Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese (the creamy sauce in a packet and noodles kind)
1 package frozen chopped spinach
4 cups water
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the four cups of water in a medium sized saucepan. Add your noodles, stir a few times, then unwrap your block of spinach, and drop it in the pot as well. Let  both items cook together according to the Velveeta package directions, or about 9 minutes. The block of frozen spinach melts and the spinach tenderizes and even adds a buttery spinach flavor to your noodles. Drain the noodles and spinach carefully and thoroughly in a colander, squeeze the cheese into the bottom of the saucepan, pour the hot noodles and spinach over it, and stir until fully combined. Make a serving and sprinkle the Parmesan and salt and pepper over the top.
Delicious, and a great last minute idea. Just had to share that one with everybody. Way better than soup, and filled me up and kept me going for the rest of the day, with that little vitamin kick from the spinach. Pretty tasty. This meal is also an ode to the great Velveeta cheese, which has been making meals awesome since my Mom was a kid. You can make almost anything with that cheese, or just dip pretzels or veggies into it. Scrumptious.

Try adding cut up hot dogs, a sprinkle of bacon bits, or other chopped veggies to the mac mix, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how quick and easy dinner can be.

When you are a mom, your time and energy are incredibly important, and nothing requires more time and energy when baking than bread made with yeast. That pesky little organism is often the reason that many moms don’t bake bread as often any more, unless its in a bread machine that you simply add ingredients too and press a button. (An incredible invention, by the way! Second only to the Crock Pot!)

Anyway, the mishaps, blunders, and bloopers that accompany the trials of yeast breadmaking have been recorded since the early days of yeast, around 4000 to 3000 BC, when the Egyptians first discovered the amazing powers of yeast, and added it to their baking recipes for a lighter fluffier bread. Breads up until that time had been simply a paste of water and flour, chewy and kind of bland to say the least. Breadmaking spread like wildfire over the European continent, with yeast leading the way, French artisan breadmakers making better lighter and tastier breads, all thanks to yeast! Unfortunately the power of yeast is only held back by its difficulty to work with, especially in the days before the little packets with instructions written on them. Bakers continued to experiment with other ways to add the reaction that created CO2 bubbles necessary for a light and fluffy bread, adding things like lye and sodium bicarbonate to their recipes. Baking soda was the most poular option until the 1800’s, but bakers and foodies alike were thrilled about the invention of baking powder, a reactive substance that not only helped the texture of their bread, but was not as bitter as baking soda.  Baking powder was faster, more stable, and did not affect the taste of sweet breads, nor did it call for a starter batch like sourdough bread.

Thus heralded the invention of the quickbread recipe, a slightly denser usually fruit or veggie based bread that used baking powder or soda as its leavener, and was made faster,as it needs no rising time or kneading time. Squash type veggies are perfect as the main ingredient in a variety of quickbread recipes, as well as bananas, apples, corn and pumpkin.

Quickbreads are easily made into healthier recipes, as they require no butter, like some yeast based breads need for lightness, texture and stability, you can easily swap butter for applesauce in a quickbread recipe. You can also use artificial sweeteners with no detriment to the finished product. You can swap the standard all purpose flour for whole wheat, for extra fiber and nutrition, or if you are looking for a gluten free recipe, try a rice based or corn based flour. Even the orignal corbread popularized by the Mayan Indians in the days of Christopher Columbus is considered a quickbread!

Some tips for the best quickbreads:

  • Never add baking soda  or powder directly to liquids all by itself. It reacts with the liquid and you don’t want to waste the CO2 bubbles, so mix it in with your dry ingredients, until you are at the very lat step of mixing your wet and dry ingredients.
  • Use the “well” method when adding your liquids to dry ingredients. Sift your flour and dry ingredients into a little pile on a cutting board or butcher’sblock, then using a large spoon, press a well into the center of the mound. Add your wet ingredients into the well, then gently mix to combine.
  • Avoid overmixing your ingredients. Mix until just combined, leave a couple of lumps. The CO2 reaction only lasts so long, and you need those air bubbles to live as long as possible until you get the bread in the oven. Killing them by over-kneading or mixing them will result in dead bread, or chewy, thick, kinda gross bread.
  • Remember that quick breads are usually very wet recipes, and are poured into a pan more often than shaped into a ball of dough. For uniform sizes and shapes, fill your bread pans about halfway, or muffin pans 2/3 of the way up, so that you don’t end up overflowing.
  • Times vary for cooking based on oven temperature, density of your bread recipe, age of your baking soda, way to many variables to list here. So use the toothpick method when checking your bread, insert a dry fresh toothpick into the center of your bread, then pull it out the same way it was put in. If the toothpick is clean and still looks pretty dry, your bread is done. If it comes out with chunks, goo, or looks wets, leave your bread in the oven just a little bit longer, until the toothpick comes out dry. 🙂
  • When cooling your quickbread, let them cool in pan until you can handle them, then pop them out and cool the rest of the way on a wire rack until they can be stored, wrapped, or eaten. The air circulating around the bottom of the bread will keep the crust from getting soggy.

Search “quick bread recipes” on Google, Cooks.com, or Allrecipes.com for a great recipe to add to your holiday baking! Quick breads are faster, more reliable and easier to make than yeast breads, and a homemade bread tastes and SMELLS much better than a store bought one.

Happy Cooking!