“Fall” Into Some Cozy Meals

Fall is in the air here. We’ve had such  warm and sunny weather over the past 2 months, but cooler temperatures, more wind and gray skies are starting to set in. Along with the cooler weather, It’s starting to get dark now before I get home, which means more time spent indoors. While I’m more of an outdoors sort of person, this time of year can be fun too. More time spent on crafts, sewing, reading, catching up on movies. And getting ready for the holiday season. I don’t know about you, but eating right this time of year can be particularly challenging for me. I have an interest in “heavier” or more substantial meals in the fall but don’t want to get a head start on this year’s addition to the holiday-season spare tire that’s already been growing around my middle over the past few years. Some of you may also have little time (or maybe little interest) for making home cooked meals. No worries! Today, I’m sharing some of my favorite cool weather meals that are quick and easy to make, and are satisfying without expanding your waistline. As long as you eat in moderation……which can be hard to do with these meals, because they are goooooood!

First up, black bean quesadillas. Last year, I found several recipes for these and they were “ok”,  but I wasn’t thrilled about any of them. So, I just threw together what I had on hand, and it turned out great. They can be made in 15 minutes, tops. Whole grain tortillas and the beans give it lots of fiber, which helps keep your blood sugar (thus your energy level) even after eating and keep you satisfied until the next meal. I tend to cook the way my grandmother’s generation did, which is to say, not a lot of measurement, just adding ingredients to taste. But to give you some guidelines, here’s what I used:

041

Sautee 2-3 slices of red onion and a chopped red bell pepper in a tablespoon of olive oil on medium heat. I see a lot of recipes recommending using olive oil over medium high heat. Just step away from using olive oil in any temperature higher than medium, as it denatures the oil and can actually make it rather unhealthy. So take it easy, turn down the temperature cause it still won’t take long to get a good family meal on the table.

044

Drain and rinse the beans, add to the skillet along with some frozen corn and a cup of your favorite salsa. Add some fresh chopped tomatoes and heat through.

011

Lightly spray a skillet with Pam, put a whole grain tortilla in the pan, warm it a few seconds, sprinkle some grated cheese on half of the bottom, add some bean mix and top with a little more cheese. Fold the tortilla in half and lightly fry on each side.Easy!

Ellie Krieger creates some great recipes for healthier versions of high calorie favorites. She has a Chicken Cacciatore recipe that is delicious. Though not authentically Italian, I like tomato sauce. A lot. So I make her recipe with a few modifications. Whether you use her recipe as it is written or you mix it up a bit, its all yummy.

Ellie uses skinless chicken breasts, which is lower in fat. However, I believe most foods are permissible in moderation, so I sometimes use chicken thighs with the skin on. Brown the chicken…..

004

Then put it in the over at 325-350 degrees to continue cooking while you put red bell peppers, a sliced onion and button mushrooms in the same pan and cook over medium heat until vegetables begin to soften.

005

Add tomato sauce, 1/2 cup of red wine (if you are so inclined–it makes any sauce better!) and place the chicken breasts or thighs back into the pan. Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

009

Utter perfection! You can find Ellie’s recipe at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/chicken-cacciatore-recipe.html

We all know eggs are not just for breakfast. Eggs are still one of the best grocery store buys there is. Yes, I know the price of a dozen of these babies has skyrocketed, but for a measly 80 calories, an egg packs a lot of nutrition. Eggs have also been cleared of charges of increasing cholesterol levels. Most of us can safely eat eggs in moderation. Having said that, I personally find whole eggs a bit rich, so I use half whole eggs and half egg whites.

Lorenza De’Medici of The De’Medici Kitchen created this slightly sophisticated but simple dish called Frittata Arrotolata  or Omelet Roll with Spinach. This recipe is not available online and is under copyright, so I cannot reprint it here. However, you can create a similar dish that makes a tasty evening meal or a main dish for a weekend brunch. Pat dry a package of frozen spinach or lightly steam a small package of fresh spinach, then pat dry. Add parmesian cheese, garlic, and pine nuts to the spinach and set aside. Prepare the eggs, using 2 eggs or 1 whole egg and 1 egg white per person. Lightly spray your favorite skillet with Pam, add the eggs and cook until the bottom is set.

032

Slide the egg mix onto a baking sheet. Add the spinach mix over the eggs and roll up. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes after removing it from the oven and serve promptly. This frittata is particulalrly good with a fresh fruit salad.

040

Give these simple fall meal recipes a try.Home cooked meals can be fast, delicious and tasty as well as healthy. I’d llove your input if you try any of these recipes or if you would like to share you own quicky and healthy meal recipes.

Next time, let’s talk turkey….Oh, I mean, let’s talk Thanksgiving. I’ll share some ideas of how you can really bring the spirit of this holiday alive even in the midst of a busy life. Until then….

Busy Hands, Busy Minds–Happy Children

Happy Wednesday! Hope you are having a good week. It’s been a super mild fall here. Plenty of warm days to get outside and garden, walk, and hang out with the little ones in my life. Today, however, we are getting a taste of cold weather and the wind is blowing away whatever isn’t nailed down. Which has finally put me in the mood for Halloween. We don’t go overboard for this holiday (I know, that makes us so weird), but we do enjoy the season.

Keeping kids occupied is a real challenge some days, and it is important for them to have other things to do besides sit in front of a screen. In this post, I’m going to share some ideas that could make it a bit easier to get the children in your life engage their brains, bodies and hands more and have fun in the process.

116

Andrea McAnaly, AKA the author of the Momfessionals blog, is a middle school math teacher who also is a super creative mother of 3 young children. She posts some great children’s activities periodically and this is one of them. All you need are popsickle sticks, orange paint, green chenile sticks and a black painting pen. You can find complete directions at http://www.momfessionals.com/2015/09/easy-peasy-halloween-craft.html;

009

This craft from Six Sisters Stuff is literally “hands on”! It suitable for younger children as well as the older ones. While making it, you can talk to them about bats and how they navigate using sound waves. After you finish, you can play a variation of hide and seek in which the child is blindfolded and must find you by the sound of your voice. Make sure you have plenty of open space to play this game safely. Have your child also guide you while you are blindfolded. Talk about how sound creates waves that can be felt, such as when a truck or train passes nearby. Older children can do a google search to learn more about how bats navigate and draw a picture or give a verbal summary of what they learn. Have children identify ways people use sound waves such as radios, television, cell phones, etc.

004

Here’s another “handy” craft.Trace your child’s arm and hand on a piece of craft foam, cut out and peel off backing. It’s self-adhesive and ready to stick on. Cotton balls or corks soaked in fall leaf paint colors make the leaves. After it dries, mount on a fall colored sheet of paper to “frame” your little genius’ work. This idea was inspired by Pinterest.065

Ok, so maybe this isn’t exactly healthy, but it is fun. And it does have nuts and pretzels, so its not a total sugar blitz. My niece and I made Ree Drummond’s (The Pioneer Woman) Halloween Bark. Homemade treats are much more fun and can even be a work of art. I think she’s going for the abstract look! Ree’s recipe can be found at http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/halloween-bark/.

Did you know candy corn can be educational? Welcome to “Corny math”. This was inspired by Andrea McAnaly of Momfessionals. She used candy corn to help her kids learn to solve math problems. Here is our version:

069

We downloaded an image of an ear of corn and made several copies. We colored our pictures and I wrote age appropriate math problems. She answered problems by placing the correct number of pieces of candy corn on each sheet. If she answered correctly, she got to keep the candy. I created a few challenge problems as well and she rocked it!

Fall is the perfect time of year for nature walks. spend some time with your kids outside and go for a walk on a farm, park or hiking trails. Here’s some ideas to keep it interesting.050

Have the children identify the types of trees, animals, insects, flowers, etc you see along the way. Give a prize to the child who can correctly identify the most things.

Teach children how to name what they see in another language–Spanish, French, Italian.There are several free apps for smart phones that can help you and the children learn another language.

Create a scavenger hunt. Have the children look for things such as pine cones, specific types of leaves, rocks. Younger children can look for objects that are certain colors or shapes.

Collect interesting flowers, leaves, bark or plants and make a nature collage later.

List what you saw on the walk on index cards. Talk to your children about how scientists study nature by classifying things into groups or families. For example, sort cards into living and non-living things. Living things can be further sorted into animals or plants. Each category can be identified by a specific color  of sticker placed on each card. Talk about what things in each group or family have in common and how they differ from the other groups. By the way, learning to sort is a great life skill that can reduce overwhelm. When they are cleaning their bedroom, help them break down a big job into smaller tasks and then break each task into steps as they work on that particular task.

Kids LOVE to ask questions. Have them share their questions about what they saw on the walk. Let them choose the question they are most curious about and help them research an answer. Don’t just limit yourself to Google (though that is perfectly fine) but also have them learn about various ways to get information, such as library books or videos, talking to a teacher or other expert, etc.

Even everyday things can become ways to start dialogue with your children. And let them teach you. Seeing the world through the eyes of children can be amazing and hilarious.

Hope you have a great Halloween. Take some time this week to slow down, even if you only have a few minutes, and play with your kids. Play WITH them, not just send them off to play. I guarantee you, it can lead to times you both will always remember.

Hello world!

Welcome to Recipes for a Healthy Family! We’re going to have a lot of fun here. We’re going to get creative here. We’re going to (hopefully!) inspire you to take simple yet profound steps to help you get the most out of your family life.

There are many blogs out there about healthy living. So why am I writing one? What makes me qualified to do this? Well, let’s start with question number one…..I’m writing this blog as a resource for busy parents, grandparents, caretakers, or others who are caring for children and want to have them grow up healthy, smart, curious about their world, creative, and well-adjusted in a world that continues to change at break-neck speed. I’ll share with you ideas that can help you eat well even when you are being pulled in so many directions, you feel like a zigsaw puzzle–with a few pieces missing. Meal and snack ideas that help the children, and you, eat healthier without a lot of complicated or expensive ingredients. Most of the recipes shared on this blog will be quick to make, but will not be full of boxed, canned or otherwise highly processed ingredients.mothers_day_crafts_for_kids

Healthy family life is about more than food, however. Kids need a well-balanced lifestyle. This blog will also contain tips, activities and ideas that can encourage kids to learn, have fun, and develop their creativity. I’m not anti-TV, tablets or video games–well not all video games anyway. However, studies show that there is and will continue to be a huge need for those who are creative problem solvers. Creativity comes naturally to kids, and this blog will share ideas that can help you stimulate their creativity in positive ways.

Another element of healthy children and families is moving those bodies! We all need to get up off of our chairs or couches more often and shake, rattle and rcircuitoll. It used to be taken for granted that children in particular would play outside on a daily basis and would run, climb, hop, ride bike, or play ball. Diabetes used to be uncommon among children, but the rates of juvenile diabetes now are skyrocketing. They need to play and be outdoors more. And frankly, we adults do as well. I’ll share ideas and tips for ways we can reintroduce our children or grandchildren to the joys of physical movement. Even if your children are in sports, it can be great to mix it up a bit sometimes. Better still, p
laying together as a family is a great way to bond and release some STRESS.

83590550

This might sound like a whole lot of work. Overwhelmingly so. But I’ll include options for small changes that are manageable to improve or continue to make the most of your family life.

As for question number two…first let me say what I’m not. I’m not a foodie, a chef, an expert on child development or a PE teacher. I’m a mother of an adult daughter, a mental health counselor, but most of all, someone who is passionate about being healthy and having fun while doing so.It can be hard to find time or energy to wade through the tidal wave of information available. I hope to make it a bit easier by pulling a few do-able ideas together each week that can give you practical ideas or inspiration for getting the most out of your family life.

So let’s get things started off right, ok? That means breakfast. You’ve all heard how having breakfast is important. But is there any meal that can be more challenging for a family? Getting the kids up and ready for school and trying to keep your sanity while you get yourself ready, throw in a load of laundry, or help find your child’s lost bookbag. Who has time for a proper breakfast? Can’t work a miracle, but I can share a couple of ideas that make a real breakfast possible, even on the craziest of mornings.

Katie Workman berry crostini

Fresh strawberries, ricotta cheese and a baguette equals a yummy and nutritious start to the day. This recipe was created by Katie Workman, the “mom100” blogger and cookbook author. She creates recipes that are simple, tasty, and most are do-able even on super busy days. This recipe can be found at  icotta-berry-breakfast-crostini/

118057

Next up! Hy-Vee puts out this great magazine called Seasons. Its full of delicious recipes and tips for creating great family pleasing meals. These are Hy-Vee’s Egg Muffins. They can be made ahead the night before and popped into the morning. Easy! Yummy! Portable! For those of us who need to watch calories, I made a version with a mix of whole eggs and egg whites and nitrate-free sausage. My photography isn’t as pretty as Hy-Vee’s, but they were great. It can be a great way to use leftover vegetables as well.

059

This has it all–protein, healthy carbohydrates, fruit, and kid-friendly favorite foods. A sprinkle of chia seeds add an extra boost of protein and fiber.

117

You can find these and many other school day recipes at  https://www.hy-vee.com/webres/File/seasons_backtoschool_15.pdf

Cool weather is on its way and nothing beats a hot breakfast. This baked French toast recipe from Ellie Krieger makes that possible, even on a weekday morning. Make it the night before, let the flavors blend overnight and bake the next morning. It also is wonderful for a Sunday brunch or whenever you have guests for breakfast.

Ellie Kreiger

This recipe is aviailable at http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/peach-french-toast-bake-recipe.html

Give these breakfast ideas a try, or let them inspire your own ideas to mix it up and enjoy the pleasures of breakfast.

Next time, I will share a few simple and fun ideas for help your children put their personal stamp on your Halloween celebration.

Caring for body, mind and relationships–these are key ingredients  in a recipe for a health family. And a great life. Hope you will join me here each week.I hope you will also share your ideas and tips that works for your family as well as feedback.