Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fun with Fruit--Fresh Fruit Cake

This is great for those who have to limit sugar. I made one of these for one of Elise's birthday parties and honestly it was the first time the kids have actually eaten the cake. Maybe that says something about my baking skills!

So this isn't very pretty, I threw it together in just a few minutes and didn't cut my pineapple logs very squarely. But it was yummy and Miles enjoyed it! You could do tons of cool artsy flowers out of fruit.

I cut the pineapple in giant slices around the core. It would be neat if I had a pineapple corer and could do scallops, but I don't.

Anyway, then I used the giant pineapple slabs and cut those into about three to four inch logs. Stacked them like bricks, and inserted toothpicks vertically and pressed them down until they pierced the bottom layer and stuck out enough to hold the top too. Then I just filled the ring with strawberries and blackberries.

Miles was very excited and thought it was his fourth birthday. "Oh, my BIRTHDAY cake, we need fire!" So I put in some candles with the bottoms that have a pick on them, and he had fun eating the "cake" and blowing out candles.


Microwave Popcorn

My kids really love popcorn, especially with movies. The popcorn is especially yummy with orange julius drinks.

Here is a very easy way to make popcorn. It is inexpensive, and doesn't have all the junk in it that regular microwaved popcorn has.

You take a paper lunch sack, put 1/4 cup popcorn kernals in it, fold it over a couple of times and pop for 1:45 seconds. I just hit the popcorn button on the microwave and take it out 15 seconds early--but the time may vary depending on your microwave.

We melt 2 T butter and put sea salt on it too. It is yummy!
The orange julius drinks are easy too, just orange juice concentrate with 1 part concentrate, 2 parts water, 1 part ice. Vanilla to taste--depends on how much you are making obviously and our blender is high capacity. We sometimes add agave nectar, but it doesn't really need it.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Beans 101

Beans are full of protein, fiber and antioxidants. And they are cheap! You can make 12 cups of heatlhy filling food for about $1--even cheaper when you buy in bulk. No wonder people around the world are eating legumes as a staple of their diet. So if you are trying to eat healthy, and not blow your budget, legumes are a really great resource.

I love black beans. I learned to appreciate them on my Mexican Adventures. So when I went away to college, and was donating plasma to buy groceries, I bought some, and tried cooking them. I soaked the beans all night. Then I cooked them all day. It was a pain. I don't like things that take all day to cook. Mostly because I don't think that far ahead when deciding what to have for dinner.

So I learned a quick way to cook black beans. It takes 1 hr 45 minutes from start to finish. Not bad. I make a big batch of black beans, and I freeze a bunch. Cheaper than the canned beans, and they are not slimy. Plus they have the yummy spices.

Generally, I don't measure anything when I cook beans. I just throw a bunch of beans in a bunch of water and I bring it all to a boil. But, I know that it drives some people crazy not to have exact measurements. So I measured yesterday.

1--4 cups of black beans, add water to cover the beans by about 4 inches (I like to have LOTS of water when I am cooking beans, because nothing stinks as bad as burned beans, except maybe burned broccoli.)

2--Bring to a boil, then boil for 15 minutes

3--Drain the water and rinse the beans. I do this because a friend told me it helps reduce gas. :)
Just an FYI, your body produces an enzyme to digest fiber, and when you start eating a lot more fiber, your body needs a little time to start producing that enzyme. So the result is gas. But it shouldn't take long for your body to adjust the enzyme production.

4--Add lots more water--I probably cover the beans by about 8 inches of water. Bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until beans are splitting, or as soft as you'd like. It took about an hour and 15 minutes for mine.

5--Drain the water--I leave some of the water. I drain to below the beanline though. If you want a bean soup, just drain less water out. Take one or two cups of beans out, blend it up in the blender, then put it back in the beans for a creamy texture.

1 T salt
2 T cumin
1 T ground chili powder

7--Then I mix it all up again, let it stand for about an hour until cool. Then I divide it into containers for freezing and eating.

4 cups dry beans makes about 12 cups cooked beans. 1 cup cooked beans contains 227 calories, 15 g fiber, 15 g protein, 1 g fat.

My kids LOVE beans. It is an especially easy finger food for young babies. We call Simone "beaner" cause she goes crazy when she sees them, and it is pretty cute to see her covered in them. Black beans are nice and soft and small enough not to be a choking hazard.

There are lots of different types of beans. Here are a few that I have experience withand keep on hand:

Adzuki beans are very small red beans, and they have a great antioxidant content. Adzuki beans are used a lot in Asia. If you've had bean dessert, it was probably made with Adzuki beans. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azuki_bean
Black beans are also high in antioxidants. These are used a lot in Latin American Cuisine.
Kidney beans are a great finger food. My sister opens a can of them, rinses the beans of the slime, then puts them in a baggy and her dairy allergic son eats them as a snack. They are great on salads!
Mung beans are small green beans that are easy to sprout. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mung_bean
Pinto beans are common in mexican food and are what refried beans are generally made of. They are also used to make baked beans.
Great Northern beans are white beans and are delicious in soups and can be ground into flour to use as a thickener. I have a delicious cream of broccoli soup recipe with ground great northern beans.

Beans are also great for food storage. They last a long time. Costco has big bags of Pinto beans for about $12. 330 servings in those bags comes out to about 3.5 cents per cup. That is as cheap as it gets!

I love to put about a cup of beans in a bowl and add cheese, lettuce, tomato, avocado, cilantro, onion and lime. Hmm. Very quick and tasty. You can put them in burritos. Blend it into a dip or spread. Add beans to your quesadillas for more nutrition and fewer calories.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Greek Salad (Pasta Optional)

I love this salad! It is one of my favorites. Very light, fresh and lots of flavor. I use this Athenos dressing, but there are lots of other great homemade greek dressing recipes that are wonderful with lemon juice, olive oil, and herbs.

The ingredients are:

2 chicken breasts grilled with lemon pepper and sliced
4 cups spinach
2 English cucumbers (no peeling necessary)
3 tomatoes
a few slices of onions
roughly 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, 28 to be exact! (also from Costco)
roughly 1 cup artichoke hearts, or 12 (the marinated ones from Costco)
1/3 cup Athenos Greek Dressing with Feta cheese (Wal-mart)
Pasta optional--not included in servings, calorie and nutrition info.

If you need a good pasta salad, you can add pasta to it. I put the pasta in for my kids, but I like it better without. I do not recommend the brand that is pictured--Hodgson Mill--I think it tastes terrible. But there are other great whole wheat pastas out there. Wal Mart has one that is better than this stuff and it is really cheap. Its called Heartland.

First, we grilled the chicken on our little indoor grill then sliced it. We chopped the onions, tomatoes and cucumbers in a bowl, put everything else in a bowl and mixed it up. It was very quick and easy. I cooked the pasta separately and added it to the kids servings.

Without the pasta, this makes six large servings.

Each serving contains:
208 calories
12 g fat
11.5 g protein
4.2 g fiber


Chicken Vegetable Curry

I loved this recipe. I crave curry, and have never figured out all the spices and ingredients to make it. A few weeks ago we went to dinner at my friend Ashley's house and she made a curry with just a simmer sauce. I was at Wild Oats and saw this one, and thought I'd give it a try. It was really tasty. It wasn't tooy spicy or hot either, so my kids could eat it. Surprisingly, they liked it pretty well. Although Elise or Jared don't eat the bell peppers, they can pick them out. The sauce has a hint of coconut, which I love.

Here are the ingredients:

2 Boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized chunks and sauteed.

1.5 jars of Seeds of Change Simmer Sauce that I buy from Wild Oats (Good Earth will order it in if you request it--I just went to Wild Oats and stocked up).

You can use all kinds of different vegetables: carrots, summer squash, celery, etc. I used what we had on hand: broccoli, sweet peppers (these are just the mini peppers that taste like bell peppers from Costco--they are not hot), onion (only about 1/3 of the onion), sugar snap peas. I ended up doubling the broccoli and peas from what is pictured, because they shrink so much.

I cooked the chicken first, added sauce, then added all the veggies totally raw.

I normally like my broccoli just bright green, still slightly crisp--but I added some water to the sauce to help the veggies steam and needed to let it thicken up. So if you add any water to the sauce, don't add more than a couple tablespoons. It is thin enough without it. This sauce is excellent, and the ingredients are really good.

It was a very fast meal, probably only took 20 minutes. You can also omit the chicken and serve it over brown rice.

The recipe as listed makes four large servings. This was enough for my family of six, but my kids eat smaller portions. The picture above is of the recipe doubled. I like to have leftovers.

Each servings contains:
205 Calories
6 g fat
15 g protein
3.5 g fiber

Related Posts with Thumbnails