Thursday, October 28, 2010

The high cost of healthy

A short time ago we talked about the decreasing consumption of fruits and veggies.  Americans, despite all the education to the contrary, are still moving in the opposite direction with this relatively simple step to improve their health.  The high cost of fruits and veggies was one potential stumbling block that was brought up.  I decided then to keep my receipts for groceries for a month and see just how much money am I spending on produce. I know my family eats a lot of produce.  It shows up at breakfast, banana sliced in oatmeal, it makes repeated appearances at lunch, diced bell pepper, avocado, carrots, and it often takes center stage at dinner.  Plus there are certain things I insist on buying organic-apples, greens and potatoes to name a few.  I was curious to see just what percentage of my budget was being spent on produce. 

I saved all my receipts from October and high lighted the fruits and vegetables, including frozen foods like berries for my smoothie.  Then I totaled up the highlighted pieces and compared that to my totals.  I know how much I spend routinely on groceries in general, I use for tracking my spending and planning budgets-very useful tool.  This month I spent $235.98 on fruits and vegetables.  It accounts for 33.9% of my total grocery expense.  I averaged $22.00 a day for a family of four-breakfast, lunch and dinner more days than not, because of Paulo's food allergies dining out has dramatically decreased.  I'd like to get that under $20.00 a day, that's my next challenge.  But back to the veggies.  $235.98 what did that buy me?  Multiple heads of kale and romaine lettuce, quite a few cucumbers and heads of celery, herbs like oregano, basil, parsley and cilantro, 4 or 5 red bell peppers, many pounds of spuds, close to 10 pounds of apples, a lot of bananas and pears, mango, onion and avocados-probably close to 8 of those-pints of blueberries and raspberries, tomatoes by the dozens, garlic, ginger, chard, cabbage, artichokes, brussel sprouts, chiles, mushrooms and tomatillos.  Heads of broccoli, close to 6 pounds of spinach and I can't count how many zucchini and beets.  The list goes on and on and on.  Track how much money you spend on meat and I dare say the list will be much, much shorter.  Yes, eating healthy is expensive, but there are trade offs.  I spend more on veggies but less on doctor visits and prescriptions.  I spend a lot of money on fruit but never miss work-other than for kid stuff.  I look at that 33% and see it for what it is, an investment in my health and in my family's health.  Plus, as an added bonus, it's a tasty investment.

How can you increase your consumption of vegetables?  Start small, try a green smoothie.  Add cut vegetables in the lunch box-just start bringing your lunch at all if you routinely are buying it you can find countless ways to increase your veggies.  Start dinner with a big salad.  Commit to the Meatless Monday movement.  You really will not miss meat this one day!  Do a search for meatless meals, you will be blown away by the options that show up.  Check out a vegetarian cookbook from the library and copy off some that look interesting to you.  Get the kids involved, let them pick out a fruit or veggie they haven't tried but looks interesting.  Prepare it together.  Make dips or sauces to go with your veggies.  There is nothing wrong with a light, homemade, sauce added to broccoli! 

Food, it can make you sick, or it can heal you.  It really is that powerful.  And the choice really is yours.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What a teenager eats

I write about what I feed my little one for lunch often, because, in all honesty his lunches can be cute.  I can make checkerboard apples, I can add little bat pics and smiley faces, I can carve cucumbers into little hearts.  He's 6.  He doesn't mind, he's happy when he finds those little things in his lunchbox.  If I did that for my 15 year old, he would probably get beat up in the cafeteria.

But today I thought I'd share what a teenage boy does eat.  By the way, he eats  a lot.  I'm often surprised by what that skinny boy can put away!  (And I won't be sharing this post on facebook, because he is also on facebook and I really don't want to embarrass him!)

So today's lunch consists of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Dave's Killer Bread with diced jicama and red bell peppers in one dish.  In the other we have our cheese and fruit assortment.  Little babybel cheeses, trisquits, an apple and a kiwi.  Not shown will be his dish of almonds and raisins to munch on when needed-which he'll need...because he eats a lot.  I'm a big believer in stuffing as much produce as possible into the lunch and thankfully 95% of the time he finishes it all.  I think a lot of kids don't get enough raw veggies and fruit into their diets and I'm really happy that mine are good veggie eaters-for the most part.  I mean, this dude would eat an entire red bell pepper if I let him, he loves them!  This thrills me because it is a great source of vitamin C, a single cup of diced red bell pepper provides nearly 200% the RDA of vitamin C.  Plus since it has fiber the natural sugars in the pepper don't dump straight into your blood stream causing the spike and crash that you can get from candy, juice or soda. 

There you have it, a glimpse into the stomach capacity of the modern American teenage boy.  I might need a second job to keep feeding him but hey, he's worth it!

For more cute lunch ideas visit the always inspiring Bento Lunch site.!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Three bean chile

My plan was to come here and tell you how fabulously easy it is to cook beans in the pressure cooker.  Sounds easy enough...on paper.  I was reminded Saturday about the most important rule in cooking with a pressure cooker, make sure you have enough liquid in the pot!  I had originally started the garbanzo in the pressure cooker after reading about that in my Cooking Light magazine.  An hour or so later I smelled it, the unmistakable scent of burnt food.  Ugh!  Still trying to get that pot clean!  So plan B: my crock pot. 

Into the crock pot I placed small red beans, pink beans (I believe maya cobas) and a fresh cup of garbanzo.  I cooked those on low for 6 hours on high for 1.  After they were done the real fun began!

Three bean chile
Approximately three cups of assorted beans, cooked
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, diced
1/2-1 cup frozen corn
1 can tomato sauce, low or no sodium
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Saute the onion in olive oil until soft, add the garlic and the corn, stir well.  Add in the cooked beans with some broth, pour in the tomato sauce and allow to simmer.  Mix the spices together in a separate small bowl and add to the pot, stirring well to combine.  Serve with diced avocado and warm corn tortillas on the side.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Spiced lentils and rice

This was comfort food for sure!  I wanted something warm and hearty that tasted like Fall to me, so last night, inspirited by the Morrocon Quinoa Pilaf I wrote about I made this.  Lentils, garbanzo beans, raisins and pistachios combine and simmer spiced up with curry, cardamom, tumeric, salt and pepper and then top brown basmati rice.  My kitchen smelled amazing last night!

1 cup brown basmati rice, cooked according to directions
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/2 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 can garbanzo beans, with juice
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup pistachios

Spice mixture:
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon herbamare
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Combine in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan and saute the onions until soft and starting to brown, add garlic and continue.  Add the rinsed lentils to the pan and stir.  Pour in the combined liquids, water and broth and bring to a simmer.  When lentils are close to being cooked pour in the can of garbanzo beans and stir.  Add in the raisins and the spices and mix well.  Sprinkle on the spices, I used 1 1/2 teaspoons of the mix and saved the rest for another dish.  Before serving add in the pistachios and mix well.  Serve on top of the brown rice with steamed veggies or a salad on the side.

If you make it come tell me what you thought!  I love the feedback!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A lunch for Mr. P

I enjoy visiting the What's for Lunch blog, I always get a lot of inspiration for Paulo's lunch box.  And every Wednesday, if I'm feeling brave enough, I can share one I made for him! 

Here we have a sunbutter and strawberry jelly sandwich on Momma-made gluten free honey oat bread.  Grapes and raspberries in Halloween muffin paper.  Some sugar peas and cherry tomatoes and last but not least, dessert.  He loves dessert.  I made cocoa crispy balls last weekend, they were a big hit with the little guy and the big guy!  For amusement I stuck in a bat toothpick to eat the grapes.  Somehow spearing food makes it so much more fun to eat!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

When life hads you green tomatoes...

Make salsa!  Portland had a terrible growing season this year.  I had two tomato plants in my back yard and they did not offer up much ripe produce.  It was very disappointing.  We basically had a never ending Spring.  We finally gave up hope and cut down the plants a week or so ago but Rene found these five nicely formed, but green, tomatoes and brought them inside.  I put them in the window and one of them actually ripened, the other four stayed stubbornly green.  I know there are plenty of recipes for green tomatoes, Fried Green Tomatoes is one of my all time favorite movies, but I try to stay away from frying-the hot oil intimidates me.  We do however eat a lot of salsa....

Here we have my four pitiful green tomatoes, one serrano chile, three cloves of garlic and a handful of cilantro.  All of those went into the VitaMix along with a healthy sprinkle of salt and became:

Quite a tasty salsa!  I'm not sure now flavor wise what is the difference between tomatillos and green tomatoes, I do think this salsa has a somewhat tarter flavor to it, but it's only slightly different than the green salsa I make with tomatillos.  Regardless, we all liked it and I don't have to stare at unripe tomatoes while I do the dishes anymore, win/win!

Sauted rainbow chard

I wanted a quick and simple side dish for dinner last night.  Looking into the fridge I knew I needed to use up the rainbow chard that was sitting there, I hate throwing away veggies!  This is a really quick side dish, it only took a couple of minutes of chopping and less than five minutes on the stove.  Rainbow chard is an excellent source of vitamins A, K and C while being extremely low in calories.  I've used it raw as a sandwich wrap, I've used it in smoothies, but this is the first time I cooked it up.

Lemon basil rainbow chard
1/2 red onion
6 stalks of chard, stem removed and sliced into 1" strips
basil, sliced thin
juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt to taste.

Heat olive oil in the pan and add the red onion, saute until soft.  Add the basil and continue for another minute.  Add in the sliced chard and stir to combine.  Juice the lemon directly into the pan and stir well, season with sea salt and enjoy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpkin oatmeal pancakes

In the spirit of love for all things Fall I made pumpkin pancakes last weekend.  I wanted them to be extra hearty so I added uncooked oatmeal.  They were delicious, moist, flavorful, I was very happy with the end result.  Particularly tasty with some real maple syrup drizzled on top!

It was a variation of this recipe that I posted here with a few minor modifications to turn them into a fluffy taste of Fall.

2 cups vanilla rice milk
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 1/2 cup GF flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients together, stir in milk, pumpkin and vanilla and cook as usual.  Serve warm with real maple syrup.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Black bean and corn salad

Colorful, isn't it?  This is another side dish from Saturday's tostada bar dinner party.  I wanted something to keep the fiesta theme so I made this salad.  The beans were cooked in crock pot although you could easily substitute a can of black beans if you need to.

2 cups cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package of frozen corn, cooked according to the direction and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 handful cilantro, diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced

Combine in a large dish and set aside.

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch of salt

Whisk together well and pour over the salad stirring well to combine.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, stir before serving.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Marinated beet salad

Six beets
1/2 red onion, slivered
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cilantro

Cook the beets in a pressure cooker. Seven minutes at full pressure cooks them perfectly.  Allow to cool and remove the skins.  Quarter and place them in a non reactive bowl.  Add the chile, onion and cilantro.

In a separate bowl combine the following:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
juice of 1/2 lime

Whisk together and pour over the beet salad stirring well to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 5-8 hours. 

I made this last night for my husband's birthday dinner, it went over very well, not a single beet was left over!  Beets are one of those veggies that can be difficult to get into your diet even though they are really good for you, you either love them or hate them.  I was never a fan to be honest.  I now enjoy them juiced with carrots and ginger or grated on salad.  This might be my new favorite way to eat them. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Moroccan Quinoa Pilaf

I found this recipe on The Whole Life Nutrition blog and was fascinated.   I love quinoa, particularly since it does not upset my child's tummy!  But to be honest, by itself it's a little boring.  This recipe called for all sorts of wonderful spices and additions and I knew I had to try it!

I precooked the quinoa over the weekend so it was on the table it well under 30 minutes.  And I roughly halved the recipe since I didn't need to serve 6 and while I wanted left overs I didn't want to be eating them all week!

  • 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup raw almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon herbamare
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 4 to 5 cups cooked and cooled quinoa 
  • 1 small lemon, juiced

Heat a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil, add chopped onion and saute four minutes.  Add sliced carrots and continue about 10 minutes more, allow the onions to cook but not to brown.  *I actually steamed the carrots on the side to appease certain finicky palates*  When the onions and carrots are ready, add the almonds, currants, spices and salt, saute for five minutes more, add the kale, best if you add it dripping wet, saute until kale is tender, about 5 more minutes.  Add the cooked quinoa and stir well to combine, add a little water if you need to.  Remove from heat and add lemon juice, taste and adjust seasonings.

LOVED this recipe!  The spices have a wonderful sweetness and then every once in a while you get a mouthful of the tart lemon juice, it's a great combination.  I look forward to making it again and again!

Pumpkin oatmeal muffins (gluten, egg and dairy free)

Oh how I love Fall!  I love the crisp mornings.  The changing leaves.  I even love the rainy nights.  But I really, really love the return of all things pumpkin flavored.  I'm particularly fond of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks!  I look forward to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving next month and I still have happy dreams about the pumpkin alfredo sauce I made last week. 

Paulo requested a pumpkin flavored muffin.  We've made cocoa sunbutter muffins and we've made oatmeal raisin muffins.  He was ready for some punkin'!  Not wanting to disappoint I made these last weekend:

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins
  • 1/3 cup each Sorghum, brown rice and oat flour
  • 1/4 cup each tapioca and potato starch
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Combine the wet in a second bowl and add to the dry, mix well.  Prepare your muffin tins, I used a mini muffin tin and got 2 dozen muffins plus one large muffin out of the batter.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling and enjoy!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Baked flautas

I wanted a simple Friday night fiesta dinner.  I saw this recipe on For the Love of Cooking's blog.  And knew immediately I wanted to try it.  We eat a lot of tacos but I've never made flautas because I do not deep fry well, it's an art form frankly, there are ways to do it to make the food crispy but not greasy and I am not in the know.  This recipe though calls for a bit of cooking spray and then some time in a hot oven to create a crispy shell, now this I can do!

I started the pot of pinto beans before I left for work.  They were done by the time I got home so all I had to do was finish them off with some salt and fried onion and chile in oil.  Then I refried a batch of them.  I had some cooked shredded chicken already in the freezer so I thawed that for Rene's flautas.  We omitted the cheese on mine and Paulo's since he's still not dairy approved.

The rest is super simple.  Wrap a stack of corn tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwave them to get them moist and warm.  Lay one down, add the fillings, you can get creative here, add whatever you have on hand and like to eat, and then roll it, place it in a pan seam side down and repeat with the rest.  Give them a quick spritz of cooking spray and into the oven they go at 375.  After 8 minutes turn them over and put them back in for another 5 minutes.  Because I had the meat already cooked, the cheese already shredded and the beans 99% done by the time I got home the whole dinner was on the table in less than 30 minutes which is always appreciated, especially on Friday night after a very long week!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Welcome to October lunch!

Yesterday being October 1st I decided to get in the Halloween spirit.  My son loves Halloween, I'm sure that thrills my big sister to no end if she's still reading my blog, Halloween is her holiday, she gets into it.  In all honesty it is my least favorite holiday.  But to encourage my sweet boys love of all things spooky I picked up some cute trinkets at the craft store to dress up his lunch.

We have a spoooooky bat holding one kiwi together and another keeping his green olives in line and two Halloween themed muffin cups with soy crisps in one and two muffins in the other.  He LOVED it.  He didn't see the lunch when I was making it or in the morning so when he opened his box at lunchtime he was so happy to find these Halloween decorations.   He's already asking me for Thanksgiving themed lunches next month! 

Another fun lunch box surprise was his checker board apple.  I found this blog from the links on the What's for Lunch blog.  Paulo was looking through the submissions and the apple caught his eye.  He immediately asked me to recreate it.  After a quick Q to the original creator of the apple I set to work with a knife and created this:

Totally adorable, only took a few extra minutes and it made for a very happy 1st grader!