Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pumpkin Yogurt Snacks!

I love the fall, especially the fall foods and flavors. Pumpkin is one of my favorites. Not only is pumpkin tasty, its actually really good for you too! It's incredibly rich in vital anti-oxidants and vitamins. It is very low in calories yet good source of vitamin A, flavonoid poly-phenolic antioxidants like leutin, xanthins and carotenes.

We all are familiar with the delicious fall pumpkin treats... pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread etc.... but what about something you feel good giving your kids (and yourself) as a healthy snack?.... try some pumpkin yogurt!

Pumpkin Yogurt Snacks

Pumpkin Puree (either from a can- or make yourself by baking a pumpkin until soft and pureeing the flesh)
Low fat or nonfat organic yogurt
Pumpkin Pie Spice
Honey- (I like raw and local)

Mix equal parts pumpkin and yogurt. Add in pumpkin pie spice and honey to taste. You can also top with granola or pecans for crunch!


Monday, September 19, 2011

Have You Tried a Ground Cherry Before?

Last Saturday Annie and I headed down into the city to meet a fellow foodie friend at the Green City Market. If you live in Chicagoland and have never been, you must simply try it out! The market is full of the most beautiful organic produce you've ever seen. Plus a variety of cheese, honey, salsas, baked goods, sandwiches and meats! It's a food lovers dream, plus the kids love it because there are a ton of samples and live music. 

As we were checking out the vendors we stumbled upon one of Annie's favorite fruits... the ground cherry.  Last summer she ate them by the pint-ful! We picked a pint and while we were paying Annie was jumping up and down asking for some. The farmer laughed and said he'd never seen anyone so excited over a ground cherry. But I actually think your kids might be too!

A ground cherry comes "wrapped" in its own little paper shell (on left in picture) and then when you peel it back, you can pop out the tiny marble sized fruit (right). Both of my kids absolutely loved them. I think because it's kind of fun to unwrap them, but they also taste great... sort of like if a pineapple and a tomato had a baby. Nice and sweet and so fun to eat! 

So head to the Green City Market next Saturday and grab some... or at least to your local farmer's market. It with be one healthy snack you won't have to fight your kids to eat!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Zucchini Pancakes!

Wow- its been a while since my last blog. Life sure gets busy this time of year!

I actually made this recipe a while back- figured I'd better post it before all that garden zucchini is gone. This recipe actually came from my neighbor who gave me a zucchini the size of a football! They turned out great and both of my kids (plus husband) loved them.

Zucchini Pancakes

Grated zucchini
Rolled oats
Whole wheat bread crumbs
Crushed garlic

Mix the zucchini and 1/2c to 1c rolled oats. Let sit for about 1/2 hour to absorb the liquid from the zucchini. Add in 1-2 eggs, garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Then mix in enough bread crumbs to make the mixture thick. I had to keep adding more as my pancakes started out pretty soggy. Pan fry in olive or canola oil. 

Serve plain or with sour cream. They are great with a salad, tomatoes or even mashed potatoes!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mac n' Cheese- Part 2

So I know I've already posted a mac n' cheese recipe on the blog this year. But really, mac n' cheese is truly worth of multiple postings, don't you think?
This recipe is so simple and so delicious, perfect for dinner in a pinch. 

Homemade Simple Baked Mac n' Cheese

1 lb cooked whole wheat organic cooked penne pasta
1-3 garlic cloves crushed
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 grated Cheddar cheese
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 grated Swiss cheese
1/4 grated Mozzerella cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl (except the bread crumbs). Place into a baking dish and top with the bread crumbs. You can also top with a little more parmesan if you'd like. Bake at 350 for 10-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. 

Serve with fresh tomatoes salad (toss tomatoes, olive oil, basil and salt). Ours this week were from our CSA! YUM!!!


Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Veggies are Here, The Veggies are Here!!!

I'm so excited! The CSA I'm hosting here in Northbrook is finally underway! Northbrook is a new location for this farm, so we have a slightly shortened season which allowed them to get their logistics down. Last night we got our first delivery!

So, what did it include? Potatoes, Kale, Beets, Baby Leeks, Turnips, Flat Leaf Parsley, Broccoli, Rainbow Chard, Basil, Baby Onion, & Oregano were all tucked neatly in my bag. 

Here are some pictures and ideas of what I plan to do with them. Thought this would be helpful for anyone shopping at farmers markets or buying seasonal produce as these are all in season now. And, if you're local and interested in this CSA, there's still time, just let me know!

I love red potatoes! As a side dish they are awesome boiled then just tossed with garlic, olive oil, salt and some chopped parsley. Kids will love the teeny tiny ones!

How about some kale chips? To make the, wash and dry the kale and chop into 1-2 inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and salt. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until the kale is crispy. Yum! Kids love these too!

I think this week I'll simply boil the beets (about 20 min), peel and slice. Once cool I'll top them with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar than sprinkle with goat cheese... Makes an awesome side salad!

Baby Leeks and Onions

I have to admit, turnips don't often make my weekly grocery list. After a quick google search, I think this recipe  for beer braised turnips sounds good. I'll probably substitute the butter for olive oil to make it a bit more healthy. 

So many options for broccoli! Maybe this week I'll try it steamed and tossed with pasta? To do, sauté cooked broccoli with olive oil and garlic. Add a little white wine and/or lemon juice. Toss with whole wheat pasta and top with parmesan. 

Rainbow Chard
These delicious and VERY nutritious greens are great steamed and tossed with oil, lemon, salt and parmesan. Annie loves them and will often ask for more!

Fresh Herbs
Basil, Parsley and Oregano- so many uses! You can use fresh herbs in all recipes in place of dried. Try 1 Tbs of chopped fresh for each tsp dried. 

I love my CSA! Getting such a fun variety of veggies each week is like a mini adventure- its fun deciding what to do with them all!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Easy and Quick- Chicken Quesadillas!

Chicken quesadillas are one of my favorite last minute go-to items for dinner. They are easy, healthy and the whole family loves them. They are even easier when you already have cooked chicken in the fridge. I love to do a whole organic bird in the crock pot once a week or so... it's great just to have the meat on hand for dinners like this. 

To make, all I do is chop cooked chicken, organic mild salsa (I like the Trader Joe's tomatillo) and cheddar cheese together. Put a scoop between two whole wheat tortillas and cook both sides in a pan with a little cooking spray. Pair with a full serving of tomatoes and fruit (remember- 1/2 the plate!) and viola!... dinner in about 5 minutes. 


Friday, June 3, 2011

Bye Bye Pyramid. It's Time to Say Hello to My Plate!

I hate to admit this, but I have always disliked the food pyramid. What an obscure graphic to use to try to explain to someone how to eat... especially children. Sure, they can easily figure out which foods go into what group (picture kids with hands in the air shouting "grains, grains!!" when asked what group a slice of bread should fall into), but ask them to translate that to what they should be eating everyday?... (insert crickets here). 

I am THRILLED the new food icon is a graphic of a plate. What a novel concept! That's exactly how we eat... on a plate. It really can't get any simpler than that. Here are some of the key concepts from USDA to help you really get this new My Plate concept:

Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
  • Avoid oversized portions. 

Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. 

Foods to Reduce
  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ― and choose the foods with lower numbers.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
The messages are pretty simple. Now the real question will become, How can you translate that into your family's dinner plates?

Over time I'll prepare and blog about different meals that reflect these recommendations. I'll post pictures and recipes so you can see exactly what this looks like in real life. In the meanwhile, go check out and browse all of the great info there. Print this new icon and stick it on your fridge! Then you can easily compare your meals to these simple, heathy recommendations!


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

B-b-b-b-b-b... Blueberry Muffins

So this may be hard to believe, even for us here in Chicago as we are now sweating in our post-Memorial day 90 weather, but just a few short days ago it was only 40. Yes, that's right, we had a 50 degree swing this week. I guess it shouldn't be a shock for those of Chicago natives, but it never seems to sit just right with me. 

On Friday when I was walking around shivering in my house (now reread the title of this blog), I decided I needed to find something to bake to warm up the kitchen. And the idea came out of nowhere... what about blueberry muffins??? Everyone loves them and if done right, can be somewhat nutritious. Yes, they are a little high in sugar, but they do also include whole grain flour and those little bitty antioxidant powerhouses... aka blueberries. 

I posted the recipe here since no matter the weather, these delicious treats are always a hit!

Blueberry Muffins (adapted from

Use organic ingredients if possible:

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
  2. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
  3. To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bangers and Mash

Bangers and Mash... really is just too fun to say. In my book, that alone is a perfectly good reason to have it for dinner.

Sunday night we decided to enjoy a little of this tasty German combination. Our meal consisted of small bratwurst (made in Germany, but bought at Trader Joes), mashed potatoes (skin on), sauerkraut, big soft pretzels, and spicy mustard. It was a lot of fun and more nutritious than you may think.

For starters, we only had 1 serving of the meat, 3 oz each for Oscar and me, 1-2 oz for the kids.

The potatoes were mashed with chicken stock and a little butter. By leaving the skin on they had much more Fiber, Vitamin C, Potassium, Copper and Iron.

Sauerkraut is also very nutritious. It is a good source of Calcium and Magnesium, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Folate, Iron, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. Plus, it's a fermented food and like yogurt, is excellent for gut health. To reduce the sodium content, I'd recommend rinsing it before serving.

The pretzels are just plain yummy. You can make your own... Check out my pretzel blog here. 

Theme meals are great for the whole family. Explore and be creative with something new this week, perhaps your very own bangers and mash dinner. You know it will be a ton of fun to answer when the kids ask you what's for dinner!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mad About Miso

I'm gonna take a guess and say that the vast majority of you readers out there have never tried miso at home. In all honesty, I hadn't until a few weeks ago. Sure, we've all had the occasional miso soup, but probably really never stopped to think much beyond that, let alone even ask the question... "what the heck is miso anyway?"

So here it is, miso is fermented soybean paste. OK, I admit that probably doesn't get you jumping in the car and heading to Whole Foods to buy some, but I'm hoping you find your adventurous side and pick up a container next time you shop. I'll tell you this, it adds an awesome flavor to dressings and marinades. Sort of like soy sauce on steroids. I mixed up the dressing recipe below and tossed with the Trader Joe's broccoli slaw the other day, and no joke, Max was following me around the kitchen trying to get more. Literally mouth open pointing to the bowl I was eating out of. It was hilarious. 

One of the very cool things about miso is it satisfies your 5th sense of taste, namely umami. You've all heard of your other 4 tastes... sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Umami is the less commonly referenced taste and it gives you the sensation of savoriness. I think umami is what can make a salad made with miso much more satisfying than one made with just your everyday vinaigrette. 

Here's a web site with a ton of miso recipes. And below is my dressing recipe that works well on most salads. I really like it on chopped raw kale and/ or chard. It can also work as a great veggie dip for the kids!

Creamy Miso Dressing

4 T Miso paste (white)
1/2 C Organic Mayo
2 T apple cider or white wine vinegar
4 T Honey (I use raw honey)

Whisk all ingredients together until thoroughly combined. If dressing is too thick you can add a little water or Canola oil. 


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Bread Fun

Happy Easter friends! Today I thought I'd share a special family recipe for our Greek celebration bread. We make this bread every year for both New Year's Day and Easter. 

On New Year's, a tin foil wrapped dime is placed in the bread before baking. Luck for the year is promised to the happy recipient of the slice with the dime. For Easter, red eggs are placed in the bread symbolizing the blood shed by Christ on the cross. 

We made this bread on Friday and I will say it does take a significant amount of time to do, it's fairly easy work and fun for the kids to help with. Plus, it's DELICIOUS! you can make this anytime and freeze extra loaves for later. We eat this bread with holiday dinners, but it also makes a tasty breakfast treat when toasted and topped with butter and honey.

Greek Sweet Bread
Makes 3-4 Loaves
Organic Ingredients

5 lbs Flour
3 Packs of Yeast
½ T Salt
1 ½ Cups Sugar
3 Cups warm milk…  about 125°
1 Cup warm Water… about 110°
1 ¼ (5 sticks) Butter- melted
4 Eggs
1 T Almond Extract

In a large bowl melt the yeast and water.  Add the warm milk and salt.  Stir in 6 cups of the flour (batter will be lumpy).  Cover and set aside in a warm spot for about 1- 2 hours until doubled in size.

Stir with a wooden spoon and add sugar, the eggs, & the butter (mix almond flavoring in butter first).  Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough.  Place the dough on a floured surface and knead thoroughly (your arms will be tired!).  Return to bowl and brush surface with butter.  Cover and let rise again.

Lightly knead again and let rest for 10 minutes.  Divide dough into 3 or 4 parts (depending on the size of your loaves).  Divide each of those in three and roll each section into long strips.  Braid and make into a circle to fit into the greased pan (approx 8- 10 inches round).  Let rise again in pan until double in size. 

Braided Dough
In Pan
After Rising Again
Red Eggs
Ready to Bake!
Brush the tops with a mixture of egg yolk and water ( 1 yolk to 1 T water).  You call also sprinkle with sesame seeds, almonds or add a few walnuts to the top. Bake at 350° for about 40-60 minutes or until done.

Baked to Perfection


Monday, April 18, 2011

Friday Night Kale Pizza, Wait, What?!?

Yep, that's right. I fed my kids pizza with kale in it last Friday. And they ate it (evidence below). 

Its super easy and actually really delicious!

I use the wheat Trader Joe's pizza dough (in the refrigerator case) and their pizza sauce (right next to the dough). Follow the dough directions for rolling and baking. Mix about 1 cup of kale (frozen... from whole Foods) right into the sauce and spread on the dough. Top with organic mozzarella and parmesan and bake to perfection! 

Its delicious, healthy and easy!

The "secret" ingredient

Monday, April 4, 2011

Red Beans and Rice

I have to admit, I love beans and rice. I'm always looking for new combos to enjoy this delicious duo. Not only are they easy to prepare, they are really good for you. Beans are FULL of antioxidants, fiber and protein. Plus, they keep you feeling full longer. Who doesn't need that??

Here's a fairly simple recipe I made the other night... the kids liked it (notice I didn't say loved it). I believe it's important to keep exposing them to a variety of heathy options and new foods.

Red Beans and Rice with Chorizo and Apples


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 apples peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 links of chorizo sausage (pork or turkey like in picture below)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 pound red kidney beans, rinsed and picked of debris
  • Cooked brown rice (follow package directions)

Place the vegetable oil in a 7-quart Dutch oven and set over medium-high heat. Add the onion, apples, salt and pepper to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions and are semi-translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the sausage, thyme, water and beans to the pot and increase the heat to high (mixture will be very soupy, see picture below). Cook, stirring frequently until the mixture comes to a boil, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Decrease the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat slightly to maintain a steady simmer and continue to cook for another 30 to 40 minutes or until the beans are tender and the sauce is thickened to your liking. If you prefer an even creamier texture, mash some of the beans with a potato masher. 

Serve the beans over the rice.

Max enjoying the meal. 

Annie's plate... she ate about half!