Can you believe there are only six more weeks or so until school ends and summer vacation begins? This is the time of year that I find myself getting very tired of packing lunches. I am over it. I need to remind myself to put more effort into it and reap the rewards of having a healthier (and cheaper) lunch. I also end up having less wasted food if I can use those leftovers the next day for my lunch (more saving money). Even if you don’t pack student lunches, you can think about different lunch items for yourself.
So, if you are like me you probably think lunch is a sandwich, some fruit, a savory snack, maybe a sweet treat and a drink. That is what I frequently pack. I try to make the sandwich interesting by using different breads (usually whole grain) and it might be turkey, ham, tuna or egg salad. I also like to make a sandwich using hummus and avocado with cucumber and baby spinach (inspired by the Veggie Delite at ThunderCloud Subs). Of course, there is always peanut butter and jelly. Try using almond butter or a different jelly on a good whole grain bread.
Other things that are great to pack in a lunch are cheese, cottage cheese or hummus with crackers and veggie dippers, pasta salads or yogurt with granola and fruit. If you pack salads for lunch, keep the dressing separate until serving, or try a salad made with kale, like this tuna salad or this salad with quinoa, which can be dressed ahead of time without wilting.
If there is access to a microwave, pack leftovers like soup, beans with tortillas, quiche, or spinach risotto.
Do you have a favorite lunch that helps you avoid the afternoon slump?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is celebrating National Nutrition Month throughout the month of March. Visit their website for lots of great information on healthy eating.
For me, healthy eating begins with breakfast. It is no secret that I love breakfast. I am a firm believer that what you eat for breakfast will influence your food choices for the entire day. If you skip breakfast or eat too little, you will probably end up making a bad choice later in the day (those donuts will be way too tempting). If you start off the day eating leftover pizza, you might think to yourself “I already ruined today, so I might as well eat what I want and start eating healthy tomorrow”. I hear that a lot. Personally, I don’t think one meal ruins a day and I just try to balance it with better choices.
So, what makes a good breakfast? For many of us, it needs to be quick and easy. Here are some of my favorites:
Muesli with Berries and Vanilla Yogurt
Granola with Milk and Banana
Sweet Potato and Kale Hash with Fried Egg (for the weekend and make extra hash for the week)
Waffles and Berries (make extra waffles on the weekend and freeze)
Omelet with Spinach or Asparagus (really easy if you have any leftover green veggies from dinner)
Whole wheat toasted english muffin with almond butter, and fruit.
Have a great spring break!
First of all, buckwheat is not another type of wheat. It isn’t even related to wheat. Though it is grain-like in appearance, it is actually a seed. It can however be used like a grain in cooking. Hulled buckwheat kernels are called groats and roasted buckwheat groats are often called kasha. Have you heard of “soba” noodles? They are made with buckwheat flour (although many soba noodle products now also contain wheat). Buckwheat is gluten free, high fiber, has a low glycemic index and is rich in minerals. Try it in this awesome Buckwheat Pancake Recipe.
January has been crazy. Crazy schedule and crazy weather. I have not been trying out many new recipes, but going back to some of my favorites including: Crock Pot Chicken Soft Tacos, Black Beans and Peanut Butter Noodles, and although I have used whole wheat spaghetti for that recipe in the past, I used soba noodles this time and it was equally good. Also, I was able to find soba noodles at Whole Foods that are 100% buckwheat, but I have not used them yet.
So, what is your favorite buckwheat recipe?
Once again I was lucky to celebrate Thanksgiving twice. The first was with The Griffin School of Austin. We had a great meal and donated much needed supplies to the Hope Pantry. The second was with “my Austin family”. I am very thankful for them and the sweet puppy who brought us much joy when she howled through the prayer. My contribution was a salad and a milk chocolate pound cake (moderation and balance). There was so much food that I came home with leftovers and I have been creatively using them up along with my veggies from Johnson’s Backyard Garden (very thankful for them). If your leftovers from Thanksgiving are gone, save this post for after Christmas.
What we have been eating this week:
Thanksgiving Dinner, Open-faced Hot Turkey Sandwich and coleslaw, Kohlrabi and Ham Gratin with sauteed Spinach, Sweet Potato Enchiladas, Veggie and Quinoa Stir Fry.
Oh my, how can it be November already? It is the most wonderful time of the year, as we celebrate with family and friends. It is also the most challenging time of the year for healthy eating. It begins with Halloween and does not stop. There is the candy, and the mashed potatoes with gravy, and the pie with whipped cream, the eggnog, and the Christmas cookies (my personal weakness). It is easy to see why weight loss and healthy eating are some of the top New Year’s resolutions every year. My challenge is to let go of the mindset of waiting until January 1st to be healthy. Really, what are we waiting for?
We had a cold front move through Austin this week, so it is finally starting to feel like November. This week’s dinners are very much cold weather foods.
On the menu this week: Spaghetti squash with Kale and Mushrooms, Black Bean Soup, Roasted Acorn Squash and Sausage, and Spinach Risotto.
How can it be the last day of September when it is still so hot outside? That is OK, we have been cooling off with lots of smoothies. One of my favorite tricks is to freeze slices of banana, cubed mango, strawberries, blueberries and chunks of pineapple. I have one baking sheet that fits perfectly in the freezer and I use it with a Silpat nonstick liner. Once the fruit is frozen, I store it in freezer bags. The reason I freeze it on the baking sheet is so it does not get all stuck together. It is so easy to make a frozen fruit smoothie this way. I also happen to think it is cheaper than buying packaged frozen fruit and the quality is better. One of my favorites is 1 cup of frozen mango with 1 cup of cold water and 1 tangerine. Have you ever wondered how to select or cut a mango? You can learn all about it at www.mango.org
This week: Crock Pot Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup, Eggplant Parmesan, Roasted Butternut Squash, Black Beans and Mexican Quinoa Bake
Green smoothies are everywhere. I’ve tried before and just couldn’t do it. What was really frustrating was that I love kale. With an abundance of Vitamins A, C and K along with B-Complex Vitamins and minerals, kale is one of the most nutritious dark green leafy vegetables. So, I kept trying with different fruits and proportions until I found what works for me. For the Kale and Berries Smoothie I use about 2 cups total of kale and spinach and 1/2 cup each of blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. I add 1/2 cup of crushed ice and 1/2 cup cold water and hit the smoothie setting on my blender. For the Pineapple and Kiwi smoothie, I again start with about 2 cups of kale and spinach and then I add 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple chunks, 1 kiwi and 1 cup cold water. For the most part, I don’t bother measuring anything except the water. So good (and so good for you!).
Need inspiration for this 1st week of school? Here is what I have been making: Veggie Platter (Roasted Asparagus, Yellow Cauliflower & Sweet Potatoes, Sauteed Zucchini with Peppers and Avocado Salad), Creamy Cashew Kale & Chickpeas, Butternut Squash Soup, Black Beans with Brown Rice and Rainbow Chard.
Many years ago, when my children were quite young, I was struggling to keep them entertained on a very hot Texas summer day. By mid-July, we were all ready for something other than going to the pool. So, I turned on the Christmas playlist and made a small batch of Christmas cookies. A new family tradition was born and we look forward to Christmas in July every summer. No holiday stress. No money spent on gifts. Just music, cookies and watching Elf. I have had really good results with this recipe and I use anise flavoring instead of vanilla extract. My Mom’s Christmas cookie recipe has anise flavoring, so that is what makes it Christmas for me. The icing is powdered sugar with milk and anise flavoring. I never measure the amounts, I just keep mixing until it is the right consistency.
On The Menu This Week: Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos, Scrambled Eggs with Sausage & Biscuits, Fish Filet with Roasted Gold & Purple Potatoes and Summer Squash, Pesto Pizza
True confessions. My family has a weakness for waffles. It all started with a Christmas gift of a Mickey Mouse Waffle iron. Since then, I have added three more waffle irons to the collection. I have the waffle sticks, the traditional round waffle and the heart shaped. It is a little embarrassing, but I really do use all of them. I often will use Quaker Oatmeal Pancake Mix, but this recipe is really my favorite. If there are any leftovers, they go in the freezer. They are just as easy as frozen waffles you would buy, but healthier and cheaper.
The menu this week: Bean & Avocado Burritos, Summer Squash with Broccoli & Red Peppers, Grilled Salmon with Rainbow Quinoa, Swiss Chard & Garbanzo Beans
Quinoa (keen-wah) is quick cooking grain that is native to South America. It is high in fiber and protein and can be used as a substitute for rice and pasta in many dishes. This week, my daughter decided to make quinoa sushi. There are quite a few recipes out there, but she kept it really simple. After cooking the quinoa per the package directions, she let it cool off slightly and sprinkled it with rice vinegar. She spread the cooked quinoa on a sheet of roasted nori, added her ingredients, and rolled it up. She used salmon, carrots and avocado. Yum!
These past two months have been hectic. Lots of lacrosse and soccer games, guitar lessons, and end of the school year activities. It has been very hard to plan meals when there is something going on every evening. I try to keep the pantry stocked with healthy and quick options. Today is officially the first day of the summer vacation and hopefully I will get back to planning meals ahead and sharing recipes/ideas.
Here’s to a great summer! Susan