RecipesSalads

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette

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This is a refreshing Spring salad for when berries and spinach come into season. After a long winter, this salad tastes so good! Enjoy!

 

Strawberry Spinach Salad

4 Cups Fresh Spinach
1 Cup Fresh Strawberries, sliced
1/2 Raw Almonds
1/3 Cup Feta Cheese CrumblesRed Wine Vinaigrette:
1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Dijon Mustard
1 clove Garlic, minced fine
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Toast whole almonds at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Watch closely and be careful not to burn. Let cool before chopping.

2. Meanwhile, combine all vinaigrette ingredients into a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake the dressing until the honey is totally dissolved.

3. Assemble salad ingredients in a large bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the salad mixture. Serve immediately. This salad does not store well, so plan to eat it all within the same meal.

Makes 6 side dish servings.

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RecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Vegetable Teriyaki Chicken

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It’s final. I can never make a single batch of this dish again. Between my husband, me and our four children, one batch of this delicious dish is just not enough anymore. Last time I made it, every last bite was gone. Gone, gone. Not even leftovers for lunch the next day. Enjoy this family favorite dish from our home to yours!

Teriyaki Chicken and Vegetables

16 oz. Dry Farfalle (bow ties)
3 Carrots (about 2 Cups), julienne
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 1/2 Cups Frozen peas
1 Cup Chicken, cooked and chopped (see cooking tip)
1/2 Cup Almonds, whole
1/4 Cup Green onions, chopped fine
1/4 Cup Cilantro, chopped fine
3 Cups Loose Leaf Spinach (optional)

Teriyaki Sauce
1/3 Cup Rice Vinegar
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1 teaspoon ground Ginger
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sugar
1/4 Cup Sesame Seeds

Directions:
Add all Teriyaki Sauce ingredients to a pint-sized mason jar and screw on a tight-fitting lid. Shake the jar until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

In a large pot, bring to boil 4 quarts of water and cook the pasta until al dente.

Strain pasta from pan and use the same hot water to steam the bell peppers, carrots and peas about 5 minutes.

Once the vegetables are crisp tender, remove steamer from pot and drain water. Return pasta, vegetables, chicken, herbs and teriyaki sauce to the large pot. Stir to combine.

Serve warm over 1/2 cup loose leaf spinach (optional).

Makes 5 servings.

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Baked GoodsRecipesTreats

Hearty Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I like to help people understand that a balanced diet includes a few treats now and then. However, because I eat so little refined sugar and flour, treats aren’t as enjoyable to me when I follow the original recipe. Thus, I usually cut out half the sugar and use whole wheat in most of my baked goods.  These cookies still belong in the “Sometimes Foods” category, but they do have a good dose of fiber at 1 gram per cookie. Enjoy!

Hearty Mrs. Fields Cookies

1 Cup Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 Cup White Sugar
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/2 Cups Old Fashion Oats
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
6 ounces Mini Chocolate Chips
1 1/2 Cups Walnuts or Pecans, chopped

Directions:

1. Cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until fluffy and smooth.
2. Put small amounts of oats in a blender and grind until it turns into a powder.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, ground oats, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
4. Mix one cup of dry ingredients at a time into the creamed wet ingredients.
5. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
6. On an ungreased cookie sheet, spoon a tablespoon of dough for each cookie and place 2 inches apart. Bake at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes, until tops are lightly golden. Let cool on the sheet for about 2 minutes before removing with a spatula.

Makes Approximately 4 Dozen, 2-inch Cookies

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BreakfastRecipesSmoothies

Mango Kefir Smoothie

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Start your day with a dose of healthy fats, probiotics and antioxidants. This smoothie will kick-start your immune system to power you through the day. Enjoy!

Mango Kefir Smoothie

1 Cup Kefir
1/2 Cup Water
1/2 Banana
1 Whole Mango or 3/4 Cup
1 Tablespoon Ground Flaxseed

 

Add all ingredients to blender in the order listed. Blend on high speed for 60 seconds. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 Servings.

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Food Group TourFood is MedicineNutrition Education

“Feeling Good” With Kefir

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After learning that its health benefits range from cancer prevention to stomach flu cure, we have recently added Kefir to our diet. The word, Kefir, is derived from the Turkish word, Keyif, which translates to “feeling good” after it is eaten. After drinking it for the last three months, I commend the Turks for giving these lovely grains such a fitting name! Much of the information below comes from a scholarly article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Production of Kefir

Kefir is a natural probiotic dairy beverage. To make the drink, Kefir grains acting as a culture starter are added to cow’s milk at room temperature and soaked for 18 to 24 hours. The yeasts and bacteria contained in the grains ferment the milk and create probiotics (healthy bacteria). At the end of fermentation, the grains are removed and the beverage is refrigerated. Kefir grains can be dried and reused repeatedly for up to 18 months. When soaking in milk, Kefir grains will multiply in size and number, and that is how you know that they are still working. After the grains multiply, they can be dried and shared as a culture starter for a friend. If you want to make your own Kefir beverage, Mel’s Kitchen Café has a wonderful tutorial.

Health Benefits
  • The probiotics contained in Kefir can treat and prevent gastroenteritis (stomach flu) and yeast infections. In our home, I use Kefir after someone in the house has battled a case of the stomach bug or has been taking an antibiotic. It helps to replace the “good” bacteria that was lost during illness.
  • In Russia, researchers are using Kefir to treat ulcers in both the stomach and large intestine.
  • Kefir and other fermented dairy beverages have anticarcinogenic properties, preventing cancer and early-stage tumor growth. The probiotics in Kefir do this in two ways: 1. by blocking the enzymes which turn pre-carcinogenic compounds into carcinogens and 2. by activating the immune system to attack the cancer on its own.
  • The active ingredients formed in the fermentation of Kefir act as immunity boosters which stimulate the immune system and decrease inflammation.
  • Research is finding cholesterol-lowering effects of Kefir with the theory that some of its bacteria binds to cholesterol and removes it from the blood system through waste.
  • There’s good news for those who suffer from lactose intolerance and still want to enjoy the health benefits of Kefir. Because it contains the active enzyme, β-galactosidase, which stays active when consumed, Kefir is easily digested. Also, many batches and brands are up to 99% lactose free.
Flavor

To describe the flavor of Kefir I would say it has a tangy and tart—similar to plain, unsweetened yogurt. It’s not a beverage I would drink on its own, but mixed with fruit it tastes wonderful.

Uses

When first starting my family on Kefir, I added 2 Tablespoons per serving in all our smoothies. Thus, I used 12 Tablespoons (or 3/4 cup) when I made a 6-cup smoothie for the 6 members of our family. It’s important to ease into drinking Kefir. Not only is it a bit of an acquired taste, but too much too soon can cause diarrhea. As our bodies got more used to Kefir, I worked our way up to half almond milk and half Kefir in all our smoothies.  At some point, we will be able to drink 1/2 cup of Kefir per person, 2 to 3 times per week. Two of my favorite smoothies to put Kefir in are my Mango Kefir Smoothie and my Blueberry Sinus Remedy Smoothie.

Kefir also acts as a really good sour milk in pancakes and waffles. However, when heated at a high temperature, it deactivates some of the good enzymes and bacteria.

I still consider myself a rookie in Kefir recipes. What are your favorite ways to incorporate this lovely food into your diet? I would love to learn more ways to enjoy it.

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RecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Chicken Zoodle Alfredo

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I know I am a little late to the bandwagon, but I must say that I am loving these Zoodles (zucchini noodles)! I have a hand-held spiralizer which works well to make beautiful spirals of zucchini squash into zoodles. What a great way sneak more vegetables into your diet and cut a few carbs out for people like diabetics who need to watch their intake! Tonight, I made zoodles into an Alfredo dish that was delicious. My 7-year-old was inhaling the stuff as he told me I needed to take a picture and put this on the website. So, here it is. Enjoy!

 

Chicken Zoodle Alfredo

2 Chicken Breasts (2 1/2 Cups), fully cooked and cubed
4 Medium Zucchini Squash, spiralized
8 oz. Spaghetti Noodles
1 Recipe Guiltless Alfredo Sauce

Directions:
1. Bake or grill chicken breasts until fully cooked through. Cut into bite sized cubes and set aside.
2. Prepare 1 Recipe Guiltless Alfredo Sauce. Set aside.
3. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook Spaghetti noodles until tender.
4. Meanwhile, spiralize the zucchini squash and place them in a large, non-stick skillet. Steep the zoodles, covered with a lid for about 5 minutes.
5. Strain the spaghetti noodles, and add them along with the chicken and Alfredo sauce to the zoodles. Stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

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Appetizers/ DipsRecipesWhole Food Alternatives

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce from “Our Best Bites”

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This is a classic Alfredo sauce recipe that I use at least twice a month in my cooking. It’s fast, easy, and a bit lighter than most versions. Any dish I make with this sauce is always a hit at our dinner table. Thus, I attribute many of my dinner successes to Sara and Kate over at “Our Best Bites.”  You can find their original recipe here.

 

Guiltless Alfredo Sauce

2 Cups Low-fat Milk (I use 2%)
1/3 Cup (3 oz.) Cream Cheese
3 Tablespoons Flour (I use whole wheat and it works great.)
1 teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Butter
3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
1. Combine milk, cream cheese, flour and salt in a blender. Blend on high speed until totally smooth, about 2 minutes.
2. In a large sauce pan, sauté the minced garlic in the tablespoon of butter for about 30 seconds. Be careful not to overcook the garlic.
3. Over medium-high heat, add the milk mixture to the saucepan of garlic and stir continuously with a wire whisk until the mixture begins to thicken and bubble.
4. Remove sauce pan from the heat and mix in the Parmesan cheese, stirring until it melts completely.
5. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Makes approximately 3 cups of sauce.

 

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BreakfastRecipesSmoothies

Green Apple Smoothie

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This delicious smoothie has probiotics for gut health, ginger and lemon for an immunity boost, and a whole serving of vegetables. I thought it was going to be one of those smoothies that tasted terrible, but I drank it anyways because it was “good for me.” Boy, was I wrong. This smoothie is so yummy!

 

Green Apple Smoothie

1 Cup Packed Spinach
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, fill to 1 1/2 Cup line
3/4 Cup Unsweetened Apple Sauce
1/2 Cup Ice cubes
4 Tablespoons (1/4 Cup) Kefir
1 teaspoon Ginger, freshly grated
1 teaspoon Lemon Juice

Directions:

1. Inside your blender, pack spinach until it reaches the 1 Cup line. Add almond milk until it reaches the 1 1/2 Cup line. Blend until smooth.

2. Add all remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and a bit frothy.

3. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 servings.

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CasserolesRecipesSunday Dinners

Megan’s Homemade Lasagna

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I was shopping in Costco last month when I walked past the freezers with lasagnas in it. I was tempted to pick one up for a future dinner to save myself some time and energy. When I checked out the ingredient label, nutrition information and price, I realized that with a little work I could make a more nutritious version for about the same price. Below is my cost comparison and nutritional analysis of the Costco lasagna vs. my homemade lasagna:

Kirkland Signature Meat Lasagna $12.99

1 Cup Serving:

Calories: 340 calories

Fat Calories: 160 calories

Total Fat: 17 grams

Carbohydrate: 29 grams

Protein: 20 grams

Vitamin A: 20%

Calcium: 35%

Vitamin C: 20%

Iron: 15%

Megan’s Homemade Beef Lasagna $11.36

1 Cup Serving:

Calories: 270 calories

Fat Calories: 100 calories

Total Fat: 11 grams

Carbohydrate: 23 grams

Protein: 20 grams

Vitamin A: 50%

Calcium: 23%

Vitamin C: 9%

Iron: 14%

As you can see, my version has 70 less calories per serving than the Costco brand for almost all the same (and in some cases more) nutrition. Check out all that Vitamin A in my version! You will love the fresher, lighter flavor of this homemade lasagna.  From start to finish, I spent about 1 hour and 15 minutes making this dish. While that is longer than most weeknight meals I make, I believe it was worth every minute when I watched my kids lick every last bite out of the pan. I hope you and your family enjoy it as well!

Megan’s Homemade Lasagna

1/2 pound Lean Ground Beef (2/3 cup cooked)
1 Cup Onion, chopped
2/3 Cup Celery, chopped fine
2/3 Cup Carrot, shredded
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1- 15 ounce can Diced Tomatoes
2- 15 ounce cans Tomato Sauce
2 Tablespoons fresh Basil, chopped fine
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Cups Cottage Cheese, 4% milk fat
1 Egg* (See note)
1/3 Cup Parmesan, shredded
2 Cups (Packed) Spinach
10 Lasagna Noodles
1 1/2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Makes 12 Servings, 1 Cup Each.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. For sauce, cook beef, onion, celery, carrots and garlic in a large saucepan until meat is brown. Drain any excess fat.

3. Add un-drained tomatoes, tomato sauce, chopped basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

4. Meanwhile, cook noodles for 10 to 12 minutes or until tender but still firm. Drain noodles and set aside.

5. For cheese filling, mix together cottage cheese, egg, Parmesan and spinach. Set aside.

6. Spread 1/2 cup of the sauce over the bottom of the baking dish. Layer half of the noodles in the bottom of the dish, trimming with kitchen shears as necessary to fit. Spread with half of the cheese filling. Top with half of the remaining sauce and half of the mozzarella. Repeat layers.

7. Place 9 X 13 dish on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

*Note: I have mistakenly left out the egg in the past. It still tasted great, but never really set up in a pretty square serving. So, if the soupy plate doesn’t bother you, and you are trying to watch your cholesterol intake (there’s plenty in the meat and cheese here) you can leave out the egg.

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FeaturedLifestyle EatingNutrition Education

5-Step Meal Planning For Busy Families

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The biggest obstacle to eating healthy usually comes at the dinner hour when you are faced with no plan and no time to cook a homemade meal. Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:

You walk in the kitchen after a busy day and you have exactly 30 minutes to make and eat dinner before you need to be out the door again for little Johnny’s soccer game. Assessing the contents of the fridge, you have lots of fresh food but no idea how to throw something together on time. Thus, you resort to hopping in the car and zipping to the drive-thru for a burger. You and the family scarf down your meal in the car as you drive to the soccer field. And there your dinner sits like a brick in your stomach while you cheer on little Johnny.

Maybe your scenario looks a little more like this one:

The dinner hour is fast approaching, and everyone is starving! You flip through Pinterest and find something that looks quick and easy. Unfortunately, half way through the meal prep, you realize you don’t have any onions for the white sauce. You cannot eat an onion-less white sauce, so now you are running to the store for an onion. Meanwhile, the kids are at home ransacking the snack cupboard and filling up on crackers and cereal.  You are so hungry that you grab a bag of chips from the check-out line. As you finish the homemade Pinterest-worthy meal, you munch on the chips to satisfy your growling stomach. Now you nor your family is really that hungry for the dinner you just made. You all eat it anyways and go to bed feeling overstuffed and not all that content with your dining experience. And then tomorrow, it happens all over again.

We have all been there! Early in my marriage and as a young mom learning the ins and outs of homemaking, I used to be an emotional wreck by the time I got dinner on the table. I was frantically trying to pull ingredients together to make a meal each night. I can’t promise that I never get a bit frantic in the kitchen anymore, but the agony over what to make each night has been removed from my life. Ever since I started meal-planning, our family eats healthier, more diverse, and less expensive meals than before. Now, I am going to show you how it’s done in five simple steps.

1. Theme each night.

It’s easy to get stumped when planning meals, so I assign a theme to each night which I know my family will enjoy. It helps me have a place to start when deciding what to make. Here’s how I set up our week:

Sunday: Crockpot Comfort Food

Monday: Baked Dishes (Winter) Grill (Summer)

Tuesday: Mexican

Wednesday: Italian

Thursday: Chinese or Soup

Friday: Pizza

Saturday: Breakfast for Dinner or Dine Out


2. Plan your meals.

I don’t do anything fancy with my meal planning. I just have a note in my phone with the meal plan on it. This is what ours looked like this week:

Meal Plan 2

 

3. A meal is never complete without a FRESH vegetable.

A fresh vegetable includes cooked veggies whether they were raw or frozen to begin with. It does not include ketchup or potato chips… Many times I plan the salad or veggie first and then the main dish to go along. Other times I plan two or three salads and we have side dishes for dinner. Here is our final meal plan with recipe links:

Sunday:

Cranberry Chicken

Crockpot Cranberry Chicken

Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli Salad Mix


Monday:

Quinoa Cake 2

Spinach and Feta Quinoa Cakes

Hearty Roasted Carrots with Parsley

Roasted Carrots with Parsley


Tuesday:

Enchilada black bean and vegetable

Black Bean Vegetable Enchiladas

Peach Salsa

Fresh Peach Salsa


Wednesday:

Poleta and Roasted Vegetables

Cheesy Polenta with Roasted Vegetables


Thursday:

Vegetable and chicken fried rice

Not-Fried Vegetable Rice

Cabbage Salad


Friday:

Pizza Zucchini tomato garlic salt and sausage mozz cheese

Whole Wheat Pizza and Salad


Saturday:

WW bagel, avo, tomato, canadian bacon, fried egg

Hearty Breakfast Bagel

Green Smoothie

Green Smoothie


4. Make your grocery list out of the ingredients needed for your meal plan.

I have an ongoing note on my phone for things I notice throughout the week that we are out of. Then, on Saturdays or Mondays when I sit down to meal plan, I add the ingredients we need for each night’s dinner. After that, I log into my online grocery store account and order all my groceries online. This is totally optional, but it saves me a LOT of time and grief, wrangling my toddlers in the grocery store. I order my groceries at least four hours before I need them, and schedule a pick-up time that works for me. The grocer comes to my parked car, reviews my order, swipes my credit card, loads my groceries in the trunk, and sends me on my merry way. The process takes less than 10 minutes. And it has changed my life.

20170221_150835

 

5. Each evening, check out what is needed for tomorrow’s dinner.

Spend 15 minutes chopping veggies, marinating meat, assembling your crock pot, or whatever you need to do to be one step ahead for dinner the next night. Put your prepped ingredients back into the fridge. Yes, you can even put your entire crock pot bowl in the fridge so the next morning all you need to do is place it inside the heating element and plug it in. You will come home to dinner either totally cooked or half-way finished, and that is a lovely feeling!

vegetable pre-prep

 

Now, unless you accidentally burn your quinoa to a crisp while you are distracted helping someone with an equally important task (happened on Monday…), you have no excuse for eating out more than once this week.  Happy meal planning!

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