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Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Banana Chocolate Chip Yummy Healthy Muffins

I am always asked, “what should my kids eat for snack?”. I make these muffins and keep them in the freezer for a quick breakfast or go to snack. Buy the mini-chocolate chips as a little bit goes a long way. I’m not normally a fan of hiding healthy things in food but I couldn’t help myself this time. Adding a few crushed walnuts and flax seed meal provides you with healthy fats and Omega 3’s (and they taste DELICIOUS!)! I also find that the flax meal gives the gluten-free flour a little more substance. Enjoy!

Recipe:

1) In a large bowl, smash 3 bananas with a fork.  Beat the following until well blended:

  • 2/3 Cup of Coconut or date sugar (or honey or maple syrup)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 Cup of Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons of Vanilla

2) In a large measuring cup or bowl, combine dry ingredients below. Then add to banana mixture:

  • 1 2/3 cup of Gluten-free flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1)
  • 2 Teaspoons of Baking Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

3) Mix in Healthy alternatives (optional):

  • A sprinkle to 1/2 cup of Mini-chocolate chips (slowly transition to less and less)
  • 2 TBS- 1/4 cup of Flax Seed Meal
  • 2 Tablespoons of crushed walnuts (I like to crush a batch and add keep in a ziploc)

4) Spray muffin tins with Coconut Oil (or use paper cups) and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Best Kale Chips

You Never Know
Ever notice that some of the most picky children like some of the weirdest foods?  I always hear stories like, “my kids only eat chicken nuggets, Cheese-Its, and Goldfish…..oh, yeah and pickles!  What?!

Somewhere in there is a sophisticated eater, just waiting to break free!  Keep trying different foods – at least a few times a week.  When it doubt, take a new vegetable – wash it peel it and boil it, then put a little olive oil/butter and salt on it and cut it into small pieces.  They may just surprise you.

Three months ago I didn’t want anything to do with Kale Chips (and neither did my kids).  But, I made them several times and now they disappear 5 minutes after they come out of the oven!

Kale Chips

1)  Wash and THOROUGHLY dry 1 bunch of kale (use salad spinner, paper towels, dish towels – whatever it takes)

2)  Take out stem:  Hold piece of Kale upside-down  and grab it by the end of the stem.  Slide your hand down the stem and the greens should slide right off!

3)  Rip Kale into large pieces and lay on 2 baking sheets.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and salt.  Use hands to toss making sure that each pieces is very lightly coated.  Space out pieces on baking sheet – try not to overlap.

4)  If you have a Convection Oven, put it on 350 for 7 minutes and they will be perfect!  If not put regular oven on 375 for 8-9 minutes.  Enjoy!

How Can the Kids Help?

  • Teach the kids how to use the salad spinner – faster, faster!
  • Show them how to strip the leafy green off it’s stem.
  • Demonstrate how much a “drizzle” of oil and a “dash” of salt is.

Did You Know?

  • When you flip the Kale leaf over and run cold water over it, it looks like little pieces of glass everywhere!
  • Kale is one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet!
  • Among a host of other vitamins/minerals, it has 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K!

Caponata (Veggie Stew)

Kid Swap

I was watching the show “Wife Swap” the other day and I had an idea (uh-oh). What if they did a Kid Swap?  What if you sent a terrible eater (assuming no food allergies or sensory issues) for 2 weeks to a family that provides only one healthy family dinner?  The interesting part of this experiment is that when it is not your child, the anxiety and emotion is removed.  It’s a heck of a lot easier to say to a child that is not your own, “oh well, too bad you don’t like dinner, maybe you’ll eat breakfast”.  Assuming the dinners were simply prepared, fresh foods, do you think the child would starve?  It would be like a food boot camp.  Only instead of 100 push-ups, the child would be given fresh roasted chicken and vegetables with rice.  Who’s interested?  I live at 234 Main Street……potty trained please.

Caponata (quick Italian Veggie Stew)

This is a traditional Italian dish but I simplified the recipe and the flavors to accommodate families of all ages.  It’s a great side dish or spoon this over brown rice for a hearty meal.  This is so great in the winter and re-heats perfectly the next day for lunch.

  • Cook ½ onion and 2 garlic cloves in about 3-4 TBS of olive oil in a heavy pot.
  • Cook until soft about 6-7 minutes.
  • Add 1 peeled/diced eggplant and 3 peeled/diced zucchini and 1 bell pepper (any color).
  • Cut up and add 4-5 tomatoes (these will break down when cooked – could also use 1 can of diced tomatoes).
  • Add 2 TSP salt and 1 TSP pepper and some basil (fresh, 1 TSP of powdered or 1 TBS from a tube).
  • Optional: Add a Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar for additional depth of flavor.
  • Cook until soft at least 10-15 minutes.  Add some water or broth if it gets too dry – should look like veggie chili.

Note:  This dinner warms your soul and is a perfect meal for your toddler!  You can also add celery, carrot and/or mushrooms to this recipe.

What Can the Kids Do?

  • Smash the garlic.
  • Use a chopper to chop up the onion.
  • Learn how to use a peeler (if ready) and help peel the zucchini (soft skin).
  • Set the table and get the drinks.

Did You Know?

  • Many Caponata recipes are made with olives, celery and capers and traditionally have more of a sweet and sour taste.  Some versions of the recipe include octopus or swordfish.

Best Granola Ever (home-made)

This granola is so addicting and so much cheaper to make than to buy.  Play around with the recipe to make it your own!

  1. In a large bowl, mix together:
  • 6 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (melted)
  • 3 Teaspoons of Vanilla
  • 1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup of Honey or Maple Syrup (or mix both)
  • 1/3 cup of Coconut Sugar or date sugar (or any sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons of Flaxseed Meal (optional but amazing)

2.  Stir in 4 cups of oats (not quick-cooking) into the bowl.

3.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out granola evenly on the pan.  Should be a little sticky.  Bake on 350 for 15 minutes. Use convection if you have it on 325. 

4.  Pour mixture back into the mixing bowl and add whatever you like (or nothing):

  • 1/2 to 1 cup of any assortment of chopped dried fruits, seeds and/or nuts (apricots, cherries, raisins, apples, prunes, walnuts) 
  • ¼ cup of coconut
  • 2 Tablespoons more of honey or maple syrup (should still be a little sticky so it doesn’t completely crumble when cooked)
  • Spread back on baking sheet and bake on 350 for another 15 minutes.  Take out of oven if getting too brown.
  • Let it cool in the pan.  Store in Ziploc bags leaving large chunks. 

    Note:  Are your kids not a fan of big nuts but want the protein and health fat?  Crush walnuts or almonds into tiny pieces or powder.

How Can the Kids Help?

  • Pick out the dried fruit, nuts and seeds
  • Mix all the ingredients
  • Pour onto the tray
  • Taste test!

Rocky Mountain Cookies

Tis the season….of arguing already?!  My kids have been out of school only 2 days and it has started already.  The ONLY thing that transforms them into a Charles Dickens novel almost immediately is decorating cookies.  They are so cute painting on the icing and carefully designing the colored sprinkles, working and laughing together….who are these children?  Forget the 7 fishes dinner tonight, let’s make more cookies!

If you only make one more batch of cookies besides sugar, make these Rocky Mountain Cookies.  I revised Laura Bush’s Cowboy Cookies and my daughter re-named them, Rocky Mountain.  They are not the healthiest but your guests will love them!

Ingredients:
3 cups of gluten-free flour
1 TBS Baking Powder
1 TBS of Baking Soda
1 TBS of Cinnamon
1 TSP of Salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) of butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar (date, coconut, whatever you like)
1 1/2 cups of light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup of white chocolate chips (or 2 cups of chocolate chips)
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups finely ground coconut flakes
1 cup of dried cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl.

Beat butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 1 minute.
Gradually beat in sugars to combine, 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each.
Beat in vanilla extract.

Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Add chocolate/white chips, oats, coconut and cherries.

Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through.  Remove cookies from rack to cool.

These cookies will be brown, don’t worry they are not over-cooked.  The coconut will make them chewy.  If you put the coconut through the food processor quickly, you won’t even know it’s in there.

Sausage Stuffing and Home-made Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving Kids Meal

I love Thanksgiving because nobody serves kid food at this meal.  There is simply no time or room in the oven for chicken nuggets.  The kids actually eat the simply prepared foods such as the turkey, corn and sweet potatoes.  You can have one meal for everyone (at least one day of the year)!!!

Two of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes are 1) Sausage Stuffing and 2) Cranberry-Pear Relish.  I have wonderful memories of my mom teaching me how to clean and prepare the turkey and make the stuffing.  Now, I enjoy cooking and teaching my younger cousin how to prepare these special dishes.  Thanksgiving is not just about the food but the traditions and memories associated with the meal.  What Thanksgiving traditions will your children cherish?  I hope you enjoy these recipes and that you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sausage Stuffing

I always make a double batch for 12-15 people.

1)  Take 1/2 lb of Organic Italian turkey sausage out of casing and fry in a large pot, chopping into small bits until cooked through.  Move sausage to plate and set aside.

2)  In the same pot, heat 1 stick of butter and add the following veggies, cook until softened:

  • 1 ½ cups of chopped onions
  • 2 cups of peeled and chopped celery
  • 1 Tsp of Salt and ½ Tsp of pepper
  • 2 Tsp of Poultry Seasoning (or fresh sage, rosemary and thyme)
  • Optional:  1/2 cup of mushrooms and/or 1/4 cup of fennel (use top of fennel called “fronds” for added flavor)

3)  Once veggies are softened, remove from heat and add:

  • 1 bag of gluten-free bread cubes (12 ozs)
  • ¼ cup of fresh chopped parsley
  • Cooked Sausage

4.  Gradually add about 2 cups of chicken broth and stir until moistened adding more broth as needed. Should be moistened but not soaking wet.

5.  Place in sprayed baking dish.  You can refrigerate for 1-2 days.  Heat on 350 for 30 minutes (add about 1/4 cup of chicken broth before heating if looks dry).

Cranberry Pear Relish

1)  Bring 1 ½ cups of sugar and ½ cup of water to a boil for 5 minutes.

2)  Add the following and cook on Med/High:

*  1 bag of cranberries (12 oz)
*  2 peeled and diced pears (or 1 can)
*   1 small can of mandarin oranges
*   1/2 Tsp of cinnamon
*  1/2 Tsp of Orange or Lemon zest

3)  Stir and continue cooking until thick like jam (about 15 minutes).  If sauce starts to stick to the pan, reduce heat to Medium.  Press and “pop” all the cranberries.  Cook until smooth and much of the water is absorbed.

4)  Cover and refrigerate for a few hours or days.  This will thicken in the fridge.

Don’t forget to prepare a timeline of tasks to be done to ensure that everything is HOT and ready to serve at the same time – the biggest challenge!

Pumpkin-Apple Bread

Cooking with Love

I admit that I feel a sense of accomplishment and true happiness when someone eats (and likes) something I have cooked. I like making others feel full and content if only for a brief moment – almost like a really good hug.   You will love this recipe for Pumpkin-Apple Muffins.  I suggest you wrap-up a few and  ask your children to deliver them to a neighbor, friend or teacher. I guarantee  it will make them feel happy – and the recipient will enjoy them too!

*    3 Cups of Gluten-free flour (try Bobs Red Mill 1 to 1 blend)
*    2 TSP of Baking Soda
*    2 TSP of Cinnamon
*    1 ½ TSP of Salt
*    1 1/2  Cups of Sugar (date sugar, maple syrup or honey)
*    1  Can of Pumpkin (15 ozs.)
*    4  Eggs
*    1/2 cup of coconut oil (melted)
*    2  Apples (well peeled, cored and diced)
*    ½  Cup of Apple Juice or Water

1.  Combine Flour(s), Cinnamon, Baking Soda and Salt in a large bowl.
2.  Beat Sugar, Pumpkin, Eggs, Oil and Apple Juice until fully blended.
3.  Add to flour mixture and stir until blended.
3.  Stir in apples.
4.  Pour into muffin trays and bake in 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes until golden and toothpick comes out clean.  Add 20-30 mins. for loaf pan depending on size.

How the Kids Can Help?

  • Baking is the easiest way to teach kids how to measure and stir.
  • Ask the younger helpers to put the muffin papers in the pan.
  • The kids can do the toothpick test for you too!

Fun Facts:

  • Did you know that a pumpkin is really a Squash.
  • Pumpkins are fruit and contain Potassium and Vitamin A
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
  • The largest pumpkin was close to 1500 pounds!

Guest Blogger! “How to Eat Local”

Many thanks to James Kim from Food on the Table for this post that encourages us to eat local.  Many local farms will actually deliver their produce straight to your door.  It’s more than a trend – it just makes sense!

How to Eat Local

You can probably guess the benefits of eating local: it helps minimize air pollution and strengthens the local economy while providing you with fresher food. But how can you go local in your meal planning? Here are some easy tips to help you get started.

Take a Trip

Take the whole family to visit a nearby farm. Not only is this fun, but it’s educational for the kids (and yourself)! Here, you learn the methods used to harvest your food. Don’t know any farms in your area? Find one using the Eat Wild website.

U-Pick farms are another way to get yourself out to a farm. Grab a date and head out to a u-pick farm to pick your own fruits and veggies. Afterwards, you pay for what you’ve picked. Try the Pick Your Own website to find a u-pick farm near you.

Know Your Seasons

In our globalized economy, you can now buy nearly any grocery item year round. However, buying food in season cuts miles out of your food’s travel time. Smart Living provides a search engine which provides a list of seasonal food for each state. Create seasonal rituals that implement these food items. For example, in summer, make a pie out of your favorite seasonal fruit (find a vegan pie crust recipe here). This will help you and your family internalize your list of seasonal foods.

Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets can be a fun way to get the freshest local treats. The best part about shopping at farmers’ markets? Meeting exactly who has been harvesting your food. While some local food does not have the USDA organic certification, you can ensure that the food is organic by USDA standards by asking your farmers questions about their food. Assure that your farmers have not used most conventional pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

Find a farmers’ market near you by visiting the USDA website, which contains a farmers’ market search engine.

Local Food Producers

The easiest way to go local? Buy a loaf of bread from your local bakery or coffee beans from your local coffeehouse. Endorsing local eateries can help you build your community (while making you feel more a part of it!).

Follow these easy steps to get started on your new local diet. Helping the environment has never tasted so good.

James Kim is a writer for foodonthetable.com.  Food on the Table is a company that provides online budget meal planning services.  Their goal is to help families eat better and save money.

Herb Chicken/Veggie Noodle Dinner (20 minutes)

Good-bye Kid’s Menu

Here’s my goal – get rid of the Kid’s Menu at all restaurants!  I propose that all restaurants offer ½ portion meals at ½ price for their child patrons.  The restaurant could also offer a toddler some pasta or steamed veggies with butter or some grilled chicken.  This not only helps your child, it also helps the restaurant build goodwill with their customers.  Don’t be afraid to ask your waiter to make something simple for your kids even if they do have a kid’s menu.  This is so easy if your children are accustomed to fresh, simply prepared food at home.  I love the fact that my kids love the same restaurants we do.  Why limit yourself to TGIFridays when you could go to your favorite Italian or Sushi place!

Herb Chicken/Veggie Udon Dinner (20 minutes)

I always try to use up everything in my fridge on Thursday nights.  I lay it all out on the counter and start thinking.  Tonight I had 1 red pepper, 1 head of broccoli, some chicken breasts and a few mushrooms.  Any veggies will do and you can make this without the chicken.  Here’s what I whipped up:

  • Boil a package of gluten-free udon noodles in salted water.
  • Sautee 2 cloves of garlic and 2 shallots in EV Olive oil until clear.
  • Optional:  pour about ½ cup of white wine and scrape the pan – let cook off for 2 mins.
  • Add chopped veggies and a splash of chicken broth.  Cover a cook for 8-10 mins. until tender.
  • Add some salt/pepper and herbs (I chopped some parsley, basil, rosemary/thyme) – fresh or a dash of dried.
  • Drain the pasta (save some liquid) and pour the veggies in the pasta pot.
  • Cut up the chicken and add salt/pepper.  Cook chicken on Med/High in same pan used to cook veggies.  Turn and continue cooking until no longer pink in center about 6-7 mins.  Add a little chicken broth and scrape bottom.
  • Pour the pasta and veggies into the chicken and stir.  Add a little pasta liquid or chicken broth to thicken.  Top with some grated cheese.

*Note:  For the pasta, I used flat brown rice Udon noodles.  The kids loved it (so did we)!

Stuffed Turkey London Broil and Brussel Sprouts w/Pancetta

Snack Drawer

What’s in your snack drawer?  We all deserve a little something sweet or crunchy (or both) once in a while right?  My problem was that I would find my kids continually sneaking the food upstairs in their room or down the basement and worse, hiding it from me.  Something felt seriously wrong about this – I was creating very bad habits not to mention ruining my kid’s appetites for a healthy dinner.  Then I realized, “If I don’t want them to eat the food, why am I buying it?”.  Perhaps I was really buying the snacks for me but using the kids as an excuse.  Sure a few Doritos with your sandwich sounds like a great idea but it all goes wrong when you find the empty bag under the couch or worse, YOU eat half the bag.  Save the occasional junk food for the snack bar at the baseball game or the pool.  In the meantime, gradually transition to some healthier alternatives (e.g., granola bars, cut up fruit, cheese/crackers or even some chocolate covered raisins).   Now about MY secret stash of chocolate/almond bark in the freezer….shhhhh.

Turkey London Broil (aka ½ a turkey breast w/ tenderloin attached).  This is easy and pretty enough for a  dinner party.

  • Rinse a turkey London broil (1-3 lbs.), pat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Lay slices of prosciutto, mozzarella and basil on one half.  Fold the turkey like a sandwich and tie the roast together with butcher string.
  • Drizzle or paint a little EV olive oil on the top.
  • Bake in oven at 350 for until turkey reads 155 degrees (about 60 mins).
    You can also grill the turkey on Med heat for 45 mins.
  • Take turkey out of oven and cover with foil for 10-15 minutes to continue cooking.

Brussel Sprouts w/Pancetta

  • Cut up some pancetta (or bacon) and fry in a pan for a few minutes until crisp.  I keep some pancetta wheels in the freezer.
  • Add brussel sprouts (cut in half) to pan.  Sprinkle with salt/pepper.
  • Continue cooking until tender (7-8 mins).  Add a drop of water and cover to speed cooking.

Spinach w/shiitake Mushrooms

  • Heat a clove of garlic in a pan with EV olive oil.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook until tender (7-8 mins.).  Add a splash of white wine and cook a bit more for extra flavor.
  • Add a bag of fresh spinach and a little salt/pepper.  Toss with a drop of water and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until soft.

How the Kids Can Help:

  • My daughter layered the prosciutto, cheese and basil onto the turkey (see bikini picture above).
  • She also used the “paintbrush” to paint some EV olive oil on the turkey once it was tied.
  • Kids are great at measuring and pouring to make the rice pilaf.

Did You Know?

  • A male turkey is called a “Tom” and is also referred to as a gobbler.  Female turkeys are called “Hens”.
  • Enjoy this Turkey puzzle:  http://www.kidzone.ws/animals/turkeypuzzle3.htm
  • Children and teens that have frequent family meals are likelier to say that they can confide in their parents.*