healthy food

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Cook Book Trials – Week 1

Published May 22, 2011 by Mrs. Malo

As promised we are cooking exclusively from our 3 new cook books for the next 4 weeks.  The only exceptions will be a few dinners we have at family gatherings at other houses.

Monday – Ricotta Rotini page 104 Healthy in a Hurry

Trying to stick to our routine Monday is Meatless.  The thing I like about the Company’s Coming series of cookbooks are the very clear instructions.  We started with this recipe because most of the ingredient were familiar to our family but we still had one new ingredient: artichoke hearts.  As promised this recipe was done in less than 30 minutes, and that including preparing all the ingredients.  We made one substitution using shredded Parmesan cheese rather than grated but it worked out fine.   My only complaint is that even though it was considered heathy it still had 702 calories per serving.  The serving was a good size but I thought there could be ways to reduce the calorie count.  For example it called for regular ricotta cheese and we used light instead, and the flavour seemed fine.  Not an amazing dish but O.K. for meatless Monday.

Tuesday – Gary’s T-Night Tacos page 9 The Family Dinner

When I was making my weekly menu last Sunday I opened up The Family Dinner I realized that I probably needed to read this book  before cooking too much from it.  I decided to tackle the first recipe in the book as I figured I could ready the 8 pages leading up to Gary’s T-Night Tacos.  This is no normal cookbook – it could more realistically be considered a parenting book.  The Foreward by Harry Karp had a great quote that I think show the focus of this book:

I encourage you to think of family dinner as your child’s nightly dress rehearsal for adulthood, a protected space for him or her to master patience, conversation, an cooperation … one meal at a time.

The foreward is followed by an introduction by author Laurie David and then the recipe we tried.

We are a pretty traditional Taco family so I was not sure how this was going to go.  Our tacos usually come from a kit with ground beef, tomatoes, cheese, and lettuce added.  We have had some luck in the past trying the non-traditional so I thought we would just go for it – and we were pleasantly surprised.  The texture of this recipe is a big softer than I would normally like but the favour was great!  I asked Gord what he thought and his comment was: “Surprisingly pretty good”.  There were many ingredients in these that my kids would not normally eat, eg. avocado, but they devoured them in the tacos.  It wasn’t amazing but was pretty good and probably a make again.

Wednesday – Tarragon-Poached Fish page 91 Healthy in a Hurry

For the next couple of weeks Wednesday’s are still pretty busy for us, until swimming lessons finish at the end of the month.  Because of this I picked a really quick recipe for Wednesday.  This recipe definitely met my criteria.  It took less than 10 minutes to prepare and was very easy to clean up.  This was a nice light fish with a mild flavour.  Again not an outstanding recipe but good for a weeknight.

Thursday & Friday – Thursday afternoon and evening were crazy busy with a visit to the Naturalpath, make up dance classes, and our Family Fit exercise class, so we decided to make it a leftovers night.  Most of the dishes were left over from our Chinese feast last Sunday but the Ricotta Rotini from Monday re-heated pretty well.  Still not a big fan however.  On Friday it was a gorgeous day so we decided to treat ourselves to a hot dog from the Arbor in Port Dover after dance class.

Saturday – Alphabetter Soup page 32 Kids Cooking

Saturday is our kids “Cooking with the Kiddies” day so it was the perfect day to try out Kids Cooking.  I picked the Alphabetter Soup because it looked pretty easy and it wasn’t anything too strange for the kids.  I really like the way this cook book is set out for kids.  The ingredients and tools are listed both with pictures and words.  Then the recipe was divided into Getting Reading and Cooking.  Kaitlyn helped read the recipe using both the pictures and any words she knew or could sound out.  The steps are pretty well laid out and it tells which steps to have an adult do.  We did have one problem as it tell the child to “Open the can of tomatoes and carefully pour them into the pan”.  This is a step that an adult should do – when Kaitlyn was pouring them in the oil in the pan splashed up on her hands.  She doesn’t take too well to pain, like any child would react, and it took her a bit to come back in the kitchen to finish dinner.

The cookbook seems very kid friendly and very well laid out but there seemed to be a lack of creativity in the recipe we tried and in short it was not very good.  I think the problem was two fold.  First it needed more flavour.  Other than a bay leaf there were no spices added and they would have been a welcome addition.   Secondly it called for 4 bouillon cubes in the soup.  We never use bouillon and now I remember why.  It didn’t say which type to use so we used chicken bouillon.  Upon first taste I knew something wasn’t right.  It wasn’t until Gord mentioned it that I figured out what it was – SALT.  It tasted like I was eating pure salt.  It was sooooo strong that you couldn’t taste the flavour of the vegetables.  I went to check the bouillon package and quickly noticed the first ingredient listed is salt – no surprise.  This recipe would possibly have been much better if made with low sodium vegetable broth instead of the water and bouillon, or possibly even just using the water and adding more natural spices.  A very disappointing dinner.  Hopefully the next recipe we try from Kids Cooking will be much better.

Sunday Breakfast – Egg in a Frame page 15 Kids Cooking

Normally Sunday is pancake day but none of our three new cookbooks had a pancake recipe.  Instead we decided to try one of the “Four Ways to Cook an Eggceptional Breakfast”.  My girls had never had them before so we made “Eggs in a Frame”.  Again there was not a lot Kaitlyn could do in this recipe.  She used a cup to create the hole in the center of the bread but Mommy had to do the rest as it was over the stove.  I am starting to think this cookbook is for much older children.

Sunday Dinner – Simple Beef Broccoli page 75 Healthy in a Hurry

Normally Sunday night is our big family dinner and we invite extended family over for dinner.  This week we were suppose to go to a BBQ for my father-in-laws birthday but that was cancelled so we made a dinner we were suppose to have early in the week (but decided to go out instead).  Simple Beef Broccoli was a very easy recipe.  The most time consuming thing was cutting up the meat and veggies.  I purchased a whole steak instead of pre-cut beef stir-fry strips so it took me a few minutes longer to prepare the meat.  Instead of the suggested rice I served the beef over a bed of whole wheat egg noodles.  Sometimes it feels like we eat brown rice every day so this was a nice change and a nice pairing.  We did make one substitution in the recipe.  It called for 2 tbsp of dry sherry, which I did not have and did not want to buy a whole bottle for one recipe.  I found a great website that gave substitutions for different types of alcohol in your cooking.  It called for vanilla extract, orange juice or pineapple juice.  I couldn’t imagine using vanilla in this recipe and I didn’t have orange or pineapple juice so I used apple juice, a staple in our fridge.   The substitution seemed to work fine.

So that was our first week of cookbook testing.  We tried a few recipes from Healthy in a Hurry and Kids Cooking and I am really looking forward to next week and trying more from The Family Dinner.

Our Dairy & Wheat Free Adventures

Published April 27, 2011 by Mrs. Malo

Much to the dismay of my husband I took the kids to see a naturalpathic doctor yesterday.  When he tried to argue with my my response was: “If you want to take time off work to stay home with them every time they are sick, and to drive them to their many doctor and specialist appointments you are welcome to have an opinion!”  It was probably a bit harsh of me but some days it seems I am at my wits end.  My middle child, Eileen, seems to always be sick.  Last September she had tubes put in her ears, after 8 rounds of ear infections, and developing an allergy to two antibiotics.  I made the appointment for Eileen but I couldn’t find a babysitter so I had to take all 3 kids.  It turns out that Eileen is actually sick right now – not really a surprise.  We have all had cold for a week, and Michael is getting over  croup.  By the time we left we had an action plan for all three kids.  There are all on Pleo Not to try and get them all healthy and the girls are on an immun booster and a supplement to help build the good bacteria in their tummies.  This was all good and fine with me until she said they needed to come off wheat and dairy for 10 days.

I do not necessarily subscribe to the opinions of many naturalpaths that you need to take your kids off dairy but thought it might be an interesting experiment for a week.  I agreed to do it until we leave for our trip to Great Wolf Lodge next week, it will just be too hard to do well eating out for 4 days.  She also gave me comfort by saying it was only a temporary thing and after 10 days they could go back on dairy and wheat.

So I have decided to share our experiences with you. The girls will both be wheat and dairy free while Gord and I will not be following as strict a diet.  We will however be eating the same dinner as the girls which will be wheat and dairy free.

Our our way home from the Natrualpath yesterday we stopped at the Natural Food store to stock up on supplies.  With a bit of help we were able to find the gluten free section of both dried and frozen varieties.  I also found some dairy free cheese.  We had to stop a the grocery store to get the almond and rice milk.

Tuesday Dinner – I had already done my week’s meal plan and grocery shopping before our new adventure began so I had to make some alterations.  The plan for dinner was Tortellini and Bean Soup from Today’s Parent and a salad.  The only alteration I needed to make was the pasta in the salad.  I switched from fresh Tortellini to rice macaroni. It still tasted pretty good.

Beverages – The biggest challenge will be beverages for the girls, they drink alot of milk.  Last night we tried the chocolate almond milk.  They loved it, and when I tried it I realized why – it is very sweet.  I have decided to break my own rule of limiting juice for the upcoming week and I am letting them have more apple and orange juice.  I am also pushing the water pretty hard.

Packing Kaitlyn’s Lunch – We have been experimenting with Bento boxes for Kaitlyn’s lunch so I didn’t have to make too many changes.  I made her the Ladybug Picnic from Yum-Yum Bento Box.  It consisted of 2 rice lady bugs, Savory chicken & veggies, a hard boiled egg, and a couple grape tomatoes.  I put some of the chocolate Almond milk in a drink container for first break and apple juice for the second.  She also had an apple for snack, and a small container of Outback Animals chocolate cookies.  She isn’t home yet but I will ask her what she thought when she gets home from school.  I had to tell her to just bring home her milk she gets as part of the milk program.

Breakfast – For breakfast the girls had apple sauce with their Natren Healthy Start System added and they also had wheat free waffles.

Snack – Snacks aren’t much of a change as they usually have fruit.  Eileen’s morning snack was grapes with her Outback Animals Vanilla Cookies.

Lunch – I picked up a couple of cans of Campbell’s Chicken with Rice soup and Eileen and I had that for lunch.  I knew she would want crackers so I gave her some plain rice crackers and she added them to her soup as she normally would her saltine crackers.

So far we have survived without too many complaints.  Kaitlyn had one slip up last night eating a piece of chocolate.  As it was in her mouth she asked: “Mommy is chocolate dairy?”  Eileen tried to get yogurt out of the fridge this morning so I have now moved it to the garage fridge.  We will see how day 2 goes.

Saturday in the Kitchen – Using your hands

Published April 9, 2011 by Mrs. Malo

Todays recipe for Fun Food Saturdays was one we have been using for a while but it is always a favourite: Walnut and Cranberry Chicken Tenders.  I am always on the look out for new recipes and this one came a couple of years ago in an insert in a magazine.  This one is kid friendly, quick, easy and most of the ingredients are always in our house, we just had to pick up the cranberry sauce and egg substitute.

Chicken tenders are one of those foods that most kids love, but buying the frozen ones in the grocery store is not always the healthiest option.  They are very easy to make and by baking they are warm and juice for little mouths.  The best thing about this recipe is getting the kids to help.

I get three of my pasta bowls out and mix up the three different stages of dipping before even getting the kids in the kitchen: 1 – the flour, 2 – the egg mixture, 3 – the bread crumb mixture.  As much as the girls didn’t want to get messy making the Mini Turkey Burgers last week they were all in for dipping the chicken.  This recipe is also very forgiving so don’t stress when they don’t evenly coat every piece of chicken – they still taste great.

One other thing we have added is letting the girls pick their own vegetables.  It encourages them to eat healthy but empowers them with choices.  On Thursday we all headed to our local farmers market and I told them they each had to pick a vegetable for Saturday dinner.  One picked green beans and one picked yellow beans.  I should have expected that!

Tonight was a huge success and everyone’s plate was clear with no left-overs!