Friday, February 25, 2011

To M&M or Not to M&M... That is the Question

This week I was in Las Vegas for a convention and happened to stumble across the giant monstrosity of an M&M store on The Strip. Who knew that Mars could fill four generous floors with adorable, colorful M&M merchandise and candy? As I was about to walk past I saw a small sign that read "customize your M&Ms on the 3rd floor". Hmmmm, here lies a dilemma. Annie absolutely loves M&Ms. I know so since our part time nanny, Lana, brought her some for Valentines day. I thought about how awesome it would be to get her some special M&Ms customized for her and Max's birthday party on Saturday. But then the uptight, go green, registered dietitian in me thinks "ugh, do I really want to bring her something full of processed ingredients and food coloring?"

So what did I do?

I marched straight up to the 3rd floor, picked out a colorful selection of M&Ms and had "Happy Birthday Annie & Max" printed on each one of those tasty little morsels. I couldn't wait to see how excited she was when I gave them to her. See how freakin' cute they turned out?

For me, it's got to be about give and take. We are never going to completely prevent our kids from eating the over processed "food" that dominates our culture. But I am OK with them indulging just a little since most of the stuff we eat is pretty healthy. My biggest concern with the M&Ms is the food coloring. Several studies have shown a link to cancer and food dyes (click here for more info). But, we do eat a lot of fruits and vegetables that are full of powerful antioxidants that work in the body to help prevent certain cancers. I figure balances out. Plus, giving Annie a small handful of M&Ms every now and then will hopefully prevent her from shoveling down fistfuls of them later when she has more freedom to make her own food choices. 

All in all, I think a little flexibly in a kid's diet can go a long way. I just think it's important to do the best you can most of the time. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What We Ate For Valentine's Day

Yes, the thought did occur to me that not everyone really cares what we had for our family Valentine's Day dinner, but it was really good. Seriously. So here it is... I included the recipes for this kid and adult friendly meal!

Pretzel Crusted Chicken
Butternut Squash Soup
Mixed Greens Salad
Chocolate and Vanilla Pudding Parfaits

Pretzel Crusted Chicken

2 cups whole wheat pretzels
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs
4 organic skinless boneless chicken breasts

Put the pretzels into a large plastic bag and crush them using a rolling pin or other blunt object. Get the kids involved in this part- its a ton of fun for them! Add the cheese, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to the bag and mix. In a separate bowl beat the eggs lightly. Dip each chicken breast in the eggs then in the pretzel mixture and place in a baking pan. Pour any remaining crumbs on top.

Bake for about 35-45 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Slice and serve!

I used Giada De Laurentiis' Butternut Squash Soup recipe...  I still had some leftover squash from our mac and cheese last week. Instead of the fontina cheese crostini, I just toasted some wheat bread and melted a bit of brie on top (yes... still trying to use up the brie too!) I put the brie side down in the soup for presentation purposes. 

The mixed green salad was just some organic red leaf lettuce tossed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt. 

For the parfaits, I used this chocolate pudding recipe and this vanilla pudding recipe and layered the two in a little cup placing a raspberry on top. As you can see, they aren't "picture perfect" but they were tasty!

This meal isn't too hard to do... the pudding and soup can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Mmm Mmm Mac & Cheese

I adapted this recipe from Rachel Ray’s site…. It is really good and much better for you than the boxed stuff! It’s high in vitamin A, calcium and fiber and is sure to be a hit with the whole family.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

                1 pound whole wheat cavatappi or macaroni (organic if possible)
                1 tablespoon canola oil
                2 tablespoons organic butter
                1/2 medium onion
                3 cloves of garlic
                3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
                2 cups organic chicken stock
                16 ounces cooked butter nut squash (you can buy frozen or bake from fresh)
                1 cup organic half-and-half
                1 1/2 cups organic sharp Cheddar, grated
                1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
                1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
                Black pepper

Heat a pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt the water then add the pasta and cook to al dente.
While pasta cooks, heat a medium heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, grate the onion and garlic directly into the pot with a hand held grater or Microplane. Cook the onion and garlic in butter and oil 1 to 2 minutes, then add flour and cook together 1 to 2 more minutes. Puree the stock and squash together in the blender until smooth then add to pan and whisk until warmed through and smooth. Stir in the half-and-half and bring sauce to a bubble. Stir in cheeses in a figure 8 motion and season the completed sauce with salt, nutmeg and pepper. Taste to adjust seasonings.
Drain cooked pasta well and combine with sauce. Serve with a big salad or veggie side of choice. 
Here's the giant batch I made on Wednesday... It's already been part of 3 meals now for us!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The “Problem” of Leftover Brie

Don’t you love it when one of life’s “problems” is having to use something up in the fridge… especially when it’s a nice big wheel of Brie cheese? Oh the dilemma! Yesterday I found us “stuck” with a sizeable round of Brie that I had originally planned to bake in puff pastry with apricot preserves and bring to a Superbowl party. We ended up not being able to attend the party due to illness, so here I am… dreaming up creative ways to use it that the whole family will love.

Yesterday for lunch I decided on grilled brie sandwiches, tomato soup and sautéed zucchini. It was very easy to do….

I sliced and sautéed the zucchini with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and oregano.

The grilled cheese was simply whole wheat bread and brie. I sprayed the outside slices with canola oil spray before putting on the griddle.

The tomato soup was Pacific organic creamy tomato.... delish!

This is a great, nutritious, easy combo to make. It's also a good source of fiber, vitamin A and calcium! 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feeding Kids is Not Always Easy!

Sometimes it’s actually downright hard to keep your kids eating healthy. They have minds of their own... each with individual preferences, tastes and opinions. And they can be stubborn. Very stubborn.

Last night I made chicken tacos for the family. We had corn tortillas, shredded chicken breast, tomatoes, cheese, rice, black beans and yellow peppers. Plus I made some softer veggies for Max since the raw ones are too hard for him.

This is what he thought of it.

It’s very frustrating because I’m really ready to stop nursing and transition him to whole milk. I’d like him to be eating more solid foods to ensure he’s getting a balanced diet. But last night he had plans of his own. It was so tempting to just keep giving him shredded cheese so he'd be quiet during dinner. But we didn’t…we just sat and listened to him whine and whine and whine.  Ugh.

It’s tough no doubt, but starting good habits early is essential. Here are a few tips to keep your kids eating well:

  • Have them eat what you eat… and you need to set a good example! I’ve mentioned this before, but my kids eat what we do. Period. If they don’t eat they don’t get anything else. Don’t worry, they will make up for it with other meals.
  • Be consistent with meals. Have snacks and meals at about the same time every day. Kids like to know what to expect and thrive on structure.
  • Be mindful of snacks and milk between meals. Snacks are OK, but they should be just that- a snack. Too much food or drink between meals will keep kids from eating at mealtime. The majority of calories should come from the family meals, not from snacks.
  • Food is for hunger, not boredom. Don’t use food as a way of keeping kids quiet. I see it all of the time in church, the store, the car etc… This teaches children that mindless eating is ok and that food is an acceptable cure for boredom. A habit like this can get particularly destructive into adolescence.
  • Let them try sweets. I’ve seen parents that never let their kids have any sweets when they are young and once they are over at a friend’s house… they can’t stop with the cookies! Sweets are good every now and then. It teaches kids to appreciate food (we bake with Annie) and understand that sweets are a “sometimes food, not an always food.”

Feeding kids is certainly not easy, but remember food is fun! Teach kids about cooking, baking and the joy of eating. It all helps create a healthy relationship with food for a lifetime!