Peanut Butter and Banana Wraps For Back To School

peanut butter banana tortilla
Peanut butter, bananas and granola wrapped in a whole grain tortilla

Now that it’s back-to-school time, I have received several requests from friends for easy after school snack ideas.  I’ll admit, sometimes we just go with a Kind bar or a Lara bar (both options have less sugar and minimally processed ingredients).  But many times it’s apples and peanut butter, guacamole and whole grain tortilla chips, a whole wheat pita with some olive oil, a piece of fruit, or some fresh veggies.  Sometimes I get creative and try new things.  The after school snack is a great time to try new ideas with your kids, because they tend to be ravenous when they come home from school and more willing to try new foods!

One of my daughter’s favorite easy but delicious snacks is a whole grain tortilla filled with banana and peanut butter.  You could also add granola in there for added “heft”, especially when using this as a breakfast or lunch idea.  These wraps travel really well, so put them in your kids’ lunch boxes, and bring them along for when you need a quick dinner between activities.  There’s great protein and healthy fats in the peanut butter.  The banana is full of potassium and fiber (you could also use apples in here).  The granola has a nice crunch, especially if it’s homemade and/or one that isn’t crammed with sugar (I really love the Purely Elizabeth brand).

Keep an eye here for more healthy snack ideas. If you have any recipes for snacks your kids like, please comment and share below!

Japanese Chicken Meatballs Are Coming Your Way!

TurkeyMeatballs

See the photo above?  That’s the wishful thinking version of how I envision my meatball will turn out.  As we witnessed with the Veggie Dumplings, my reality wasn’t really on par with the beautiful photo I wishfully posted.  That’s ok though, because they were still really tasty.

We are moving on to the second choice winner in the Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook IT’S ALL GOOD, which you might remember is the Japanese Chicken Meatballs.  These seem quite easy to make.  They were featured in “The Kids’ Menu” section.  There’s a hoisin sauce to serve on the side which includes miso paste.  Weirdly, I found some in my fridge from the time I decided I was going to make homemade miso soup and never did.  So, we will have to ascertain if that container will give us botulism or if I need to purchase a new one. Other than the ground chicken and the possibly the miso, I’m super excited to announce that I have all the ingredients for this recipe!  The ingredients include pantry staples like garlic, sea salt, ginger, soy sauce, maple syrup and Chinese five spice powder.  The last one is tripping me up a bit because I have used it before and am not a huge fan of the taste.  I’m wondering as I cook my way through the cook book if I should be allowed substitutions based on my family’s personal preference, or if I really should follow it to a “t”.  What are your thoughts?

One last thought of the night, which has literally nothing to do with meatballs or Gwyneth Paltrow (that I can reliably confirm anyway):  OLESTRA.  Remember Olestra?  It was that super creepy calorie-free fat substitute that was featured in all those potato chips and snacks back in the late 1990’s/early aughts?  It was supposed to be this super awesome ingredient that would allow us to eat snack food guilt-free?  That was until weird things started happening to people’s digestive systems .

tummy ache

I wonder when we will stop looking to quick fixes and magical products to allow us to continue to eat junk food and just realize that maybe we need to cut back on the junk food. I love chips and fries and crackers.  I really do.  But if I’m going to eat them I’m going to eat the real version, and I am going to moderate my intake.  I know they aren’t good for me and that they have no nutritional value (except I did tell a friend today her potato chips had a ton of potassium in them, which is actually true, so there. For more on why potato chips are not super villains, check out this link). I don’t believe every single thing we eat has to be virtuous.  Let’s just aim to do 80% virtuous and 20% whatever we want.  But if you are at 30%/70% I would say you can start slowly by trying to achieve 50/50.  And then 60/40, and so on.  Small changes beget bigger changes.

I will post my Japanese Chicken Meatball recipe as soon as it’s tested!  Until then!

Quinoa and Veggie Salad

Quinoa salad

Ok, so last night we were lucky enough to be invited to a private event at the Children’s Theater Company in Minneapolis which included the coolest theater experience we’ve ever had (a fully immersive and interactive performance of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) followed by a traditional lobster boil by Smack Shack.  It was amazing.

I woke up this morning feeling like I wanted to eat a bit lighter, and I had some leftover cooked quinoa and tofu from the Veggie Dumplings we made yesterday so I decided I’d make a salad for my family to have for lunch today.  I wanted something light and easy.  I had some fresh green onions and cucumbers from the farmer’s market in the fridge and peas in the freezer.  I always have garlic powder, salt and pepper, so those were no-brainers.  Below is the recipe I created, which is totally vegan.  It’s easy to sub out the tofu for another protein of your choice: beans, feta cheese, even shredded chicken.  

Quinoa super up close

QUINOA AND VEGGIE SALAD

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 3 cups cooked quinoa (I like adding a bit of vegetable Better Than Bouillon to mine when cooking)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled firm tofu
  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup parsley
  • course sea salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

  • Mix everything together (think you can manage?)

This would be an easy salad to double the recipe and keep it around for lunches and side dishes all week.

EAT WELL!

Vegetable Dumplings — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

veggie dumplings

Remember those beauties?  Vegan Dumplings were the big winners in the poll for the first recipe I would test from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good cookbook.  You’ll remember from a previous post that I received the book as a birthday gift, and that Gwyneth and I have a long, complicated history.  Mostly it’s me not being sure if I should love her or loathe her.  It’s so hard to decide.  Regardless, I love the look of many of the recipes in her cookbook and so I decided I would cook my way through it and report back. What I want to find out are:  Are her recipes approachable?  Can a middle aged busy mom without a nanny, a cook, a housecleaner and other household help actually find the time to make the creations within?  The only way to find out is to try.

I accumulated the ingredients for the dumplings pretty easily (you know what, I like to say potstickers better, and I think the way I made them are more like potstickers, so let’s go with that from now on).  It wasn’t a crazy list with lots of expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. 

My kiddo has been in camp all week and I really wanted her help with this one, so I waited until today to make these.  You’ll notice in the photos she’s wearing her Angry Birds pajamas.  In this house, we cook in our pajamas.

The end result is that they turned out amazing.  They were really delicious and perfect and we couldn’t stop eating them.  They might not be as beautiful as the stock photo I used above.  I’m thinking I should invest in a food styling course.

finished potstickers

The downside is that they are really messy to make, including a lot of splattering if you choose to pan fry them (which we did, because PAN FRYING IS AWESOME). The cleanup wasn’t fun, but then again it never is.  My best piece of advice is to always try to clean up as you go so it isn’t so overwhelming at the end.  Here is my kitchen at the end of everything.  SO. MUCH. MESS.

dirty kitchen

So here’s the recipe, adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Vegan Veggie Dumplings (I can’t legally reprint the whole recipe here without her permission, and even though I emailed last week to ask for it, I’m guessing her people have better things to do, which may or may not include sourcing local and organic tomatillos for her kids’ lunches.)

Vegan Potstickers Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups green cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 small red or yellow onion, or even two or three green onions, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled firm tofu (I haven’t tested this but I bet you could use ground chicken, turkey or other animal protein in place of the tofu.  You know it wouldn’t be vegan anymore, though, right?)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa (I love adding a bit of vegetable Better Than Bouillon to my quinoa when it’s cooking.  It adds flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (I used olive oil which technically isn’t a neutral oil but it worked out fine.  You could also use canola)
  • Pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 48 square wonton wrappers found in the refrigerated section, typically near the tofu
  • Dipping sauce for serving (see below for recipe)

Vegan Potstickers Directions:

  • Pulse the cabbage, onion and garlic in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped.

potsticker filling in food processor

  • In a large non-stick skillet heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the cabbage mixture with a hefty pinch of sea salt.
  • Cook and stir occasionally until the veggies have softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.

potsticker filling on stove

  • Add in the tofu, peas and quinoa and continue cooking until the peas are soft, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Use a potato masher to smush up the mixture until it sticks together.  We allowed some of the peas to stay whole because we wanted a bit more texture.

mashing poststicker filling

  • Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
  • Make an assembly line of several wonton wrappers and put 1 teaspoon of the filling mixture in the center of each wrapper. Wet your finger in a small bowl of water and use it to moisten the edges of each dumpling. Carefully fold the corners over making a triangle, making sure you press all the edges to form a good seal.

filling potstickers

  • Heat a bit of the neutral oil (like canola) in a large nonstick skillet set at high heat. Cook the dumplings for 2 minutes, or until they are golden brown on the bottom.

potstickers in pan

  • When the potstickers are browned to your liking on the bottom, add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet, putting the lid on and allowing the dumplings to steam until the wrappers are completely soft, about 2 minutes. Serve with the dipping sauce recipe below. ***Make sure if you are using a skillet that isn’t non-stick that you pay close attention to the potstickers because they will cook a lot more quickly than in a non-stick skillet. (See the photo below for what happens when you don’t pay close enough attention.)

burnt potstickers

  • Vegan Potsticker Dipping Sauce Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (I use lower sodium)
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Combine all ingredients with a fork or a whisk and serve alongside the potstickers.

EAT WELL!

Perfection Is An Illusion

Gourmet_hot_dogs,_corn_dog_and_home_fries

This morning I was scrolling through my newsfeed when I saw, for about the 3,654th time, a headline that said “THE 10 FOODS THAT DIETITIANS WILL NEVER EAT” .  I have a problem with headlines like these.  For one, all dietitians and nutritionists are not exactly the same.  They are a huge community of people who have very different belief systems about food.  It’s not like they all got together at some huge conference and decided “Hey, let’s vote on whether pretzels are evil, ok?”.  It doesn’t work like that.

Secondly, I am willing to bet that a vast majority of nutrition professionals indulge in “no no” foods all the time.  Not constantly.  But once in a while.  I’m willing to bet they have the same philosophy as I do, which is that life is too darn short to not have an ice cream cone once in a while.

I feel that statements like these set everyone up for failure.  Imagine you are someone struggling with healthy eating, just trying to do your best.  Maybe you are at the very beginning of cleaning up your diet.  Maybe you’ve ditched Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for some whole grain pretzels, and you’re feeling pretty good about it (as you should!).  Now imagine you read an article like the one above in which a dietitian says she will only consume a pretzel if she is quite literally starving.  What does that say to you?  What I’ve heard time and again by people who are working on eating healthier is that when they hear statements like these, the first thing they think is something like “Screw it, I’ll never be good enough and so I might as well go back to my Flamin’ Hot Cheetos”.

Blanket statements as they pertain to nutrition just aren’t helpful, in my opinion.  When I hear a nutritionist say that they would never ever in their whole entire lives eat a hot dog, I feel sad for them.  I love hot dogs.  I don’t care that they might contain weird animal parts.  Isn’t part of being ecologically responsible using up all the parts of the animal so we produce less waste?  And I just really love the way they taste.  So when I’m at a BBQ and that’s what’s served, I am ok with that.  I will throw some sauerkraut, pickles, onions, mustard and ketchup on that thing and enjoy every bite.  

Is 80% of my diet healthy, nutrient-dense foods? You bet! Do I love deep fried pickles once a year when I go to the state fair?  Oh heck yeah! You see, I think eating a healthy diet is what helps me walk 18 holes of golf (about 8 miles) while carrying my bag.  It is what allows me to keep my kidneys and brain and heart healthy so I can hopefully live a very long and contented life.  But if I subsisted only on chia seeds, kale, salmon and blueberries my whole life (all things I love by the way), without any of the added extras, I think it would actually decrease my quality of life.  There is something to be said about joyful eating, especially when it’s with people we love, and its affect on our happiness.

These are just my opinions.  Everyone is different.  But one thing I do know is that perfection is an illusion.  The perfect diet, the perfect marriage, the perfect job.  They don’t exist.  And while we are all chasing our perfection, we might be missing out on the best parts of life. 

VEGGIE DUMPLINGS!

veggie dumplings

Thanks to everyone who participated in helping choose the very first recipe I’ll test from the It’s All Good cookbook.  The big winner was Veggie Dumplings followed very closely by Japanese Chicken Meatballs. So no one feels left out, I will make the meatballs next, okay?

I am planning on making the dumpling with my 10.75 year old’s help (she would really want me to tell you she’s ten and three quarters).  She truly is my sous chef.  I started cooking and baking with her when she was about one.  First, she “helped” (i.e.: made a huge mess and caused a lot of havoc but had a great time).  Now she truly helps.  For real.  She reads recipes, measures, chops, cracks eggs, blends, toasts, and can even make some recipes by herself start to finish.  It’s a revelation.  After all the hard work of incorporating her into my kitchen endeavors, even on days when it would be so much easier to do it by myself, she now truly makes cooking and baking easier on me!  It only took about 10 years, but here we are. So anyway, the picture of the dumplings above are what they would look like in my dreams.  The end result will surely be delicious but maybe not so pretty.  Regardless, I will post the real photos of our finished product.

On a separate but related note, I started my classes for my Nutrition Consultant program yesterday.  I am enthralled already by the material so that’s a good sign.  My favorite takeaway from yesterday’s reading was this: “Being in conflict over what to eat, when to eat, how to eat, and with whom to eat may be a greater problem than what to eat, as distress sends a major stress message to the nervous system, inhibiting robust digestive response”. — Ed Bauman.  I find this to be so true.  I know so many people who are on special eating programs, or who just feel really stressed about eating in general.  I think it’s so important to remember that being relaxed about eating, whatever it is you are putting in your mouth, is so important.  Stress surrounding eating just messes up your insides.  I truly believe that when you are relaxed about it, your digestive system works better.  Remember though, I’m no doctor, so if you are on some sort of medically required eating program, you should stick with it and listen to your physician.

Until next time, eat well!

It’s All Good?

Gwyneth_Paltrow_avp_Iron_Man_3_Paris_2I recently decided that I’m going to cook my way through the It’s All Good cookbook by Gwyneth Paltrow. I have a love/hate relationship with that woman, and mostly it’s not love because my perception of her is that she gives off an aura of smugness. However, the recipes in her cookbook look really good, healthy, and in keeping with my culinary goals. She’s kind of anti-gluten (I’m not) and anti-dairy (I have trouble with milk but looooove cheese), but for the most part I think her recipes look yummy. As a busy mom with no household help, I’m interested to find out how approachable the recipes are. Of course, I will blog about my experience, providing you with photos and links to recipes.

I need your help choosing the first recipe I make! It’s from the section on kid-friendly foods. Should it be:

I’ll make the choice with the most votes!  Feel like cooking along with me?  You can find It’s All Good at any bookseller.  I’ll post what I’m going to make and we can share our experiences together!