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This dinner’s content wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, but putting it together resulted in something cute.  Breakfast for dinner, which I’ve featured before, is a weeknight favorite in our house.  Minimal mess, fairly quick, and easy to include all the food groups- now you’re talking.  A while back, I made this meal and was struck with creativity as I made my daughters’ plates.  Just a little ingenuity leads to variety in what you can serve, and the more you can spice it up, the better for your health.  If you’re looking for something fast on a busy eve, give this a try.

Here’s looking at you

My husband, who is responsible for all of the egg-cooking in our house, whipped up some omelets (eggs along with egg whites) with low-fat cheddar and baby spinach.  This looked like a mouth for some reason, and my idea was born.  Turkey sausage and whole grain sandwich thins served as eyes, and fruit salad, of course, was hair.  Depending on the likes and dislikes of your family, you can customize this using different veggies, fruits, bread, etc.  My kids thought this was cute, and rearranging their “breakfast faces” lead to some laughs.  This was a great reminder to play with your food, especially when it leads to family conversation and nutrition.

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

It’s getting warm, but on a cool morning you can still serve oatmeal for breakfast.  More affordable, healthier, and versatile than most cold cereals, oatmeal is a great breakfast option.  Not only is it a whole grain, but a bowl of oatmeal is a fantastic opportunity to get in well-rounded nutrition in a subtle way.

To start, use old-fashioned oats (rather than instant), and low-fat or fat-free milk as your base, instead of water.  You can check calcium off the list, without chanting, “please drink your milk,” as I have to in our house.  Next, fruit.  Slightly over-ripe fruit, such as apples, bananas, pears, peaches, or berries is perfect; as is diced frozen fruit.  Next, season and sweeten away.  Cinnamon (we call it “fairy dust” here) has lots of health benefits, and rather than plain sugar, opt for a small amount of more nutritious options, such as honey, blue agave, or fruit juice. 

Fruit salad oatmeal

This breakfast came together quickly the other morning.  I had some fruit salad (peaches, strawberries, and mango) leftover from the previous evening, so I mixed it into the pot of oatmeal simmering away, along with fat-free milk and a little organic blue agave (a great sweetener with a lower glycemic index than many other options).  My kids loved it, and it kept us full for the morning.  Score!

To find out what’s new in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Sometimes my time is the kitchen is short, whereas on other days I find myself making three meals in a row. Recently I had a day during which I was cooking more than not, but it was lots of fun, as most of it was done with my daughters.  For a full version of everything that came out of the kitchen that day (there was more!), visit my blog, but here’s a preview.

A day in the life of “A Year in the life of a kitchen”

Egg cups– a great breakfast on the go, or even lunchbox treat.  Mix together four eggs, a handful of shredded cheese, ½ cup cooked veggies, and ¼ cup cooked turkey bacon (if desired), and pour into four muffin cups.  Bake at 375 for 15 mins or until firm.

Fresh veggie platter- we were craving fresh vegetables, so I quickly put this together with some low-fat dip.  My kids were eating vegetables faster than I could believe.  With some cheese on the side for protein, this was a nice, light lunch.

Ice pops- Add three cups of fresh fruit, one tbsp. of sugar, and one tsp. of lemon juice into the blender, and process till smooth.  Divide among four 5-oz. dixie cups, add sticks, and freeze for three hours.  These are really not much more than pureed fruit, but my girls were delighted nonetheless.

Finally, a pretty easy dinner.  We baked a whole grain potato bread (but any nice sandwich bread or roll would do) and topped it with grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, baby spinach, and grape tomatoes, and served it alongside some raw veggies and honeydew.

To find out what’s cooking in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but how many days in a row can one eat cold cereal?  On the other hand, what busy mom has the time to make a full, hot meal every morning?

The smoothie is a great intermediary.  The possibilities are endless, it comes together super quick, and if you do it right, you can hit many food groups in one serving.  Even more importantly, with a fancy straw, you just might get your child (or fruit-averse husband) to consume some nutrients that wouldn’t normally stand a chance.  Begin with the base of your choice (yogurt or milk are perfect for getting in calcium; cranberry-pomegranate juice is nice if you’re going non-dairy), add your favorite fruits (fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, bananas, pineapple, or mango are great), and a handful of ice for a nice, thick consistency.  For an extra kick, try a sprinkle of wheat germ or ground flaxseed, and a drizzle of agave nectar or honey.

A velvety smoothie

This PB-banana-flaxseed smoothie recipe comes from Cooking Light.  It’s rich and decadent, and allures everyone in my family.  With fruit, protein, dairy, and flaxseed (omega 3s), it stands alone as a meal, and will keep you full for the entire morning.

To find out what’s cooking in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy blending!

I don’t know about you, but a lot of times I’m stumped with what to make for lunch.  Cooking a full meal is usually too much in the middle of a busy day, but I don’t like giving my kids the same old, same old.  Yogurt, cottage cheese, or a hard boiled egg with fruit, veggies, and some crackers is a decent alternative to kid staples like PB&J or grilled cheese, but sometimes we’re looking for something a little heartier.

A twist on a typical lunch

Anyone who follows my blog knows I put apples into just about everything, and this meal was no different.  Starting with leftover some shredded chicken (last night’s chicken, or even canned will do) I added a little light ranch dressing, chopped celery, and diced apples, making a healthy chicken salad on whole wheat.  I took some steamed carrots (also leftover from dinner), a handful of strawberries, and lunch was fresh and appetizing.  I was happy to find that with a little creativity and a few seconds longer than it would’ve taken to whip out peanut butter, I had a lunch that everyone happily ate.

Share what’s for lunch in your kitchen, stop by ours, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

I’m not a big fan of fish, personally, but I include it in our meal rotation in order to reap the health benefits.  The newest dietary guidelines recommend eating fish twice a week, which means we need get creative, or it’s going to get boring.  A while back, I happened upon a tilapia recipe in Parents magazine that was fun and very kid-friendly.  It’s an easy way to hit a few food groups at once, and the presentation is appealing to little ones.

A present for dinner

I called my children to dinner by telling them to come open the “present on their plate,” and they were very excited.  In each of four 12 inch squares of parchment paper, arrange one tilapia fillet, four trimmed asparagus, two halved orange slices, and a handful of carrot sticks.  Sprinkle a little garlic powder and kosher salt over the fillets, drizzle lightly with olive oil, squeeze the orange slices over the top, and wrap tightly.  Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 for 12 minutes, or until fish flakes easily and veggies are crisp-tender.  I left the packages wrapped on each plate so my kids could have the fun of opening them, and served with a side of wild rice pilaf (with pureed cauliflower mixed in), steamed cauliflower, and some fresh fruit.  There were no leftovers.

To find out what’s happening in our kitchen, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

It can be tricky to use produce before it becomes past its prime, and heaven knows most children (and plenty of adults) won’t eat a bruised piece of fruit, or less-than-crisp vegetable.  What’s a girl to do?

Less than desirable produce has a few options in our kitchen.  Vegetables get pureed or shredded, and blended into another dish, such as meatballs, pasta sauce, or meatloaf; or tossed into soup.  Fruit can go in the blender with some yogurt and become a smoothie, get diced and stirred into oatmeal, or become the star of the show.  If I’m ready to bake, I’ll take those slightly aged apples, blueberries, bananas, strawberries, peaches, pears, or really any fruit, and chop it up.  It spices up pancakes, waffles, muffins, or a quick bread.  If I’m not ready to bake, it’ll go into the freezer.  When I’m ready to use it, I’ll thaw it on the counter, or in the microwave.

A recent fruit revival

The banana bread is the oldest trick in the book when it comes to browned bananas, but there’s no reason to stop there.  On this day, I had a carton of strawberries getting mushy, so I used those as well.  It gave the bread even more moisture, and I had enough fruit to make two loaves, so one went into the freezer.

In a large bowl, combine ½ cup of applesauce and ¾ cup of sugar.  Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time, until smooth.  Blend in 1 cup (about 3 medium) mashed bananas and 1 tsp. vanilla.  Add in any other fruit you’d like, such as blueberries or strawberries; even a handful of chocolate chips.  In a second bowl, combine 2 cups of flour (use at least half whole-wheat pastry flour, no one will ever know!), 1 tsp. baking soda, and ½ tsp each baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add dry ingredients into the banana mixture, mix only until moistened, and pour into a greased loaf pan.  Bake 50-60 mins at 350, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Fresh fruit really jazzes up pancakes or waffles, so try mixing it into the batter the next time you’re making a weekend breakfast.  To find out what we’re doing with mature fruit at our house, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

Quiche is a dish I’ve been making for years.  One reason I love it, similar to why I love so many recipes, is that you can really change it up with quiche.  I have a tried and true version (spinach and cheddar) but whenever I have different veggies or cheeses to use up, this is an easy way to do it.  I have a few friends who always buy their quiche because they think it’s difficult to make, but it’s actually one of the quickest dishes to assemble.

A Classic Quiche

Starting with the crust: In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of flour (whole wheat gives it a nice taste and crunch), 3 tbsp of cold water, and 3 tbsp of oil.  Blend until a ball forms, adding more water if necessary, and then press into 9 in. greased pie plate.

To make the quiche filling: Combine 1 ¾ cups of milk; 4 eggs (beaten first); 10 oz cooked, diced vegetables (spinach or broccoli work well), 1 cup shredded cheese; 1 diced onion; 1 tsp paprika; 1/2 tsp salt; 1/4 tsp pepper; 1 garlic clove or 1/2 tsp minced garlic.

Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until set in the middle.  Try varying the vegetables, cheeses, and even add meat, if desired. 

To find out what’s for dinner at our house, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

This weekend’s visit to an avant-garde art museum has my family talking about what constitutes art, and how art is created.  After looking at a pile of broken glass that was artfully displayed as an exhibit, I concluded that something is considered art when it is prudently constructed, and provides the audience with a unique and thought-provoking experience.  I began to wonder how often we view food as an art medium.  Some prepare food solely for nourishment, whereas others savor the process, beginning with preparation and culminating to presenting and tasting the first bite.  I tend to cook intuitively, often creating meals from a handful of ingredients; based loosely on a picture I saw; or shaped by a meal I had in the past.  Even when I follow recipes, I’ll omit or substitute items, using ingredients that are healthier, or more appealing.  Some people don’t feel comfortable taking liberties, either because they don’t trust their own judgment, or feel that the integrity of the recipe is compromised (my mother!), whereas I cannot imagine being in the kitchen without the freedom to experiment.  Yes, sometimes the results are less than stellar, but other times they are fabulous.

Artistic pizzas

These two pizzas are ones created with an artistic hand.  Similar to going to an art museum and seeing a painting of flowers, it’s been done before, but no two are alike.  We’ve all made pizza before, but each time there is a variation, and this dinner was no different.  The first pizza is chicken-spinach-alfredo on a whole wheat crust.  My daughter and I made the dough earlier in the day, but you could start with a pre-made crust.  We covered the dough with alfredo sauce, raw baby spinach, chunks of rotisserie chicken, and slices of fresh mozzarella.  The second pizza is half bbq-chicken spinach, and half pizza margherita.  Both sides start with marinara sauce; one side has chicken, slathered in barbecue sauce, layered over spinach and under mozzarella; and the other side was simply basil and mozzarella.  Other times we’ve used grilled chicken rather than rotisserie, different types of cheeses, or extra toppings.  In making pizza, as with so many other foods, it’s fun to follow your mood, cook with what you’re craving, and see where it takes you.

To find out what’s for dinner at our house, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

One of the greatest meals I recently cooked was a seven lb. turkey breast.  The reason it was so great was because we ate from it on and off for the next five days!  Every time I thought we’d finish it, there was more for the next meal.  Enjoying leftovers makes a cook’s job worth it: it gives the opportunity to keep the kitchen a little cleaner, and get a break from dealing with ingredients, pots, and pans.  Leftovers, however, are tricky.  While some look forward to the marrying of the flavors that occurs overnight, others eye Tupperware with disdain.  I have some friends whose husbands won’t touch leftovers, not even if they come from the finest restaurant.  The key to not getting bored with leftovers is to do different things with them.  If we’d eaten a plain plate of turkey day after day, we’d have gone crazy by day two.  If you’re looking for something that will make your life easier for the next few days, get a turkey breast from your local grocer and give this list a try.

A crunchy turkey sandwich

The actual preparation of the turkey breast is quite easy.  I’ve made it twice recently- once roasted in the oven, which is the traditional preparation, and once in the crock pot, loosely following the directions of Make it Fast, Cook it Slow.  The author recommends a stick of butter and two cups of white wine, but to keep it a little healthier, we did half a stick of butter, one cup of broth, and one cup of wine.  The first night we had it with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and fruit, and it felt like a mini-Thanksgiving.  After that we got creative.  At times it felt like the turkey would never go away, but when it did, I was sad to know the bounty had come to an end.

If you’re feeling stumped, here are the top 10 ways we use up extra turkey:

  1. Piled on a toasted crusty roll, with melted cheese (as above)
  2. Chunks of turkey in vegetable/rice soup
  3. Tetrazzini casserole
  4. Wrapped in a tortilla with your favorite fixin’s, rice, beans, salsa, and cheese are all good ones
  5. In between two pieces of bread (my husband’s first choice: All-American with mayo, lettuce, tomato, and bacon)
  6. Mixed with some ranch dressing and eaten with whole wheat crackers
  7. Atop a homemade pizza
  8. Stir-fried with some veggies in a terriyaki sauce
  9. Added to a bowl of pasta
  10. Under the crust of a bubbly pot-pie

What does your family do with your leftover poultry?  Share your ideas and top 10 lists.  To find out what’s for dinner at our house, stop by, or become a fan on Facebook.  Happy cooking!

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