Monday, August 27, 2012

(nut-free) snack ideas for school, camp, hikes and road trips!

Whether you're packing snacks for day camp, day care, school or the day's adventure, I don't think you can ever have too much packable snack-time inspiration. So, here's a round-up of  hearty + healthy snack ideas! (All are nut-free too, in case that's a contingency in your family/camp/school/daycare.)

Before we launch into my photos of kid snacks, I just have to quickly share my latest food crush. These Beanfield's Bean and Rice Chips are soooo good. To add some veggies to this snack, I serve them along with my pea dipspinach dip, or an edamame hummus. At the party above, I brought them along with my go-to yogurt dip

Here's what the packing looks like, when you're standing there in the chip aisle, looking at a dizzying away of choices! And here are a bunch of other recent snacks to inspire you...

Above: cucumber "coins" + red peppers "swords" + one child wanted some of last night's shredded chicken and the other wanted apples (sprinkle with a bit on lemon juice/water mixture to prevent browning) + organic strawberries

Back to Nature Crispy Wheat crackers + Earthbound Farm's carrots + ranch dip (can you tell this is a day when I was short on time and hadn't prepped my own fruits and veggies?...)

apple slices and puffed corn cereal (again, i hadn't taken the time to prep, so store-bought it was that day... costs more, but at least they're still getting their fruits and/or veggies)

chive cream cheese (make your own by mixing chopped chives (or any other herb/shredded veggie) with organic whipped cream cheese... or buy) on celery + cucumber "coins" + one of my kids wanted yellow pepper "swords", the other wanted as many celery sticks as would fit in his tin...

last night's (leftover) spinach pizza + a kefir smoothie

carrots + organic berries + a handful of Beanfield's (bean and rice) chips

this day, I forgot our snack and we picked these "Buddy Fruits" up at our park snack bar

mini pitas (or multigrain "slider buns" like we found at the market) filled with hummus

and you can never go wrong with good old raw veggies... with or without dip!

Monday, August 20, 2012

this summer's (red) gazpacho!

Chances are, it's either hot, hot, hot where you are.... or you're feeling the (achem) social nature of summer catching up with you, and you're wanting to indulge in something healthy. I've got you covered on both fronts with this cooling, refreshing, and flavorful soup. Earlier this summer, I posted a recipe for "green gazpacho" which is soooo good if you haven't tried it yet. And, a few years back, I shared my recipe for a chunky gazpacho, made with all sorts of shredded veggies. That one was good, but this summer's version is even better! I am listing the ingredients below, but I'll leave the amounts and ratios up to you, as this should be made to taste and take into consideration what you may have on hand...

Summer of 2012's Red Gazpacho
(not to be confused with Summer of 2012's Green Gazpacho!)

(2-3) organic bell peppers (I used red + yellow), seeded and rough chopped
(1 small) fennel bulb, white part only, rough chopped
(1-2) organic cucumber(s), peeled and rough chopped
(5-7) medium organic tomatoes, rough chopped 
(1/4-1/2 cup) kalamata olives, pitted
salt + pepper, to taste

optional: corn relish (which I found at our local Whole Foods in the produce dept) as a topping

Pulse everything in a Cuisinart, until desired consistency. Will store for several days in the fridge. In fact, it's even better day 2+ because the flavors really start to meld. 

Here it is in photos for those who like a visual....

Before everything is pulsed, it takes up much more room in the food processor....

So, I filled my bowl to capacity, and pulsed the first batch of ingredients until well-blended.

Then I added a bunch more tomatoes, and blended it again, until it reached the thickness I desired.

Voila! There you have it! So easy, so healthy and so delicious.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

we have winners!!

Thank you so, so much to everyone who completed my recent survey, giving me feedback on what else I can do to help you all quickly, easily-- and enthusiastically -- get nourishing, delicious meals made for your families. You all know I am a fan of family meals... but I know the thought of cooking (let alone daily!) causes many moms to run for the hills (or perhaps the closest drive-thru or freezer case). Based upon your feedback, I am absolutely thrilled to start work on my first make-ahead meal plan and shopping lists, perfect for the busy back-to-school season. Being able to efficiently cook healthful meals is an invaluable skill, and I cannot wait to share my tips, recipes and plans from my personal chef days (where I was the queen of make ahead meals for my clients) + the cooking rhythm (a.k.a. method to the madness) that I employ in my own home with two young children... and a very busy schedule.

Now, I also promised to pick three winners from all of you who filled out the survey. So, without further adieu..... {drum roll} the winners are:

And, since I was overwhelmed by your responsiveness (and my kids were wildly excited about picking winners), I decided to give not three-- but five-- of you access these simple, healthy meal plans before they go public. So, the two bonus winners are.... {drum roll #2}:

I'll be emailing each of you who won to give you the scoop!

a toast to Julia

Julia Child would have been 100 today. She was amazing. In celebration of her birthday, I hope you enjoy this PBS remix as much as I did, and raise a glass to an incredible woman. (Here's the YouTube link in case the video does't show up on your device.)  I also highly recommend Appetite for Life, which chronicles her life. (And an absolutely incredible one it was!)

Monday, August 13, 2012

2 (fabulous) uses of leftover yogurt dip

I have tucked the rest of the meatballs from last week into the freezer, along with the rest of the stash I am leaving for my parents as a thank you for a superb month in the mountains of Idaho. But, I still had a bunch of the yogurt dip on hand, and that won't freeze. Lucky for us, we enjoyed the last of it two ways today, both of which I highly recommend:

For brunch, I placed a dollop of the yogurt sauce on each person plate, then topped it with a poached egg (or two). It was creamy deliciousness spread on the accompanying rosemary bread.

Later in the day, I marinated chicken breasts in the rest of the yogurt dip + lemon juice + olive oil (everything into a big zip-loc for about 30 minutes), and grilled it for a quick and easy summer dinner. As you can see with the kids' plate above, I also made good use of the rest of the grilled veggies we'd had with the meatballs (adding them to a boxed Seeds of Change blend I found in the pantry out here)... tomorrow it'll be back to cooking, as I think I successfully used everything up on Sunday!

Friday, August 10, 2012

aiming for a month of dinners outside

I think this is a family record: as of August 1, we have yet to have enjoyed a meal indoors. So fun eating breakfast outside in the light chill of mountain air, the sun beating on our backs at lunch somewhere out on a trail, and the mellow fresh air and tales of the day at dinner.

Children's dinner above: lamb, grass-fed beef & pistachio meatballs + Greek yogurt dip + roasted sweet potato + cucumber salad + organic strawberries

Monday, August 6, 2012

just call me "the fairy godmother of simple family cooking"

Ever wish you had a fairy godmother would would magically pop a healthy, scrumptious dinner on the table each night? Ha! Well, I used to be that person... back when I had my personal chef service! Now, my goal is to help busy parents get comfortable cooking healthful, delicious meals for their families... no personal chef required. The trick is to keep it simple, and to get into a rhythm. It's most certainly not about perfection. And, it's not about getting all fancy with your cooking. Nope, it's about have a repertoire of solid, stand-by recipes that you feel capable of whipping up, even on the busiest of days. As a new school year is around the corner, I've put together a survey to see what would help you get more comfortable in the kitchen? Several of you have asked for meal plans, and other have asked for cooking lessons (both live, and recorded). Is there something I can put together that would make cooking more enjoyable-- and doable-- for you? If so, please take a moment to answer this brief survey, or feel free to leave a comment on this post. I'll be taking both to heart as I plan my Fall cooking, writing, speaking and teaching schedule.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

(raw zucchini) spaghetti with sun-dried tomato pesto

It's hot this time of year, and I'm craving healthy, delicious meals. I want meals I can either make ahead, or whip up quickly... and ideally, things everyone will enjoy. The other afternoon, I set aside some time to cook for a few meals. One thing I made was the sauce for this raw "spaghetti". With that done a few days ago, dinner came together quickly tonight.

There was no measuring, just adding + tasting to arrive at this delicious combo, so steer clear if you're someone who likes a detailed recipe.

Here's what went into the sauce:

Raw Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

about 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (re-hydrated in water for about 15 minutes... save the H2O)
about 1 cup raw cashews (soaked in water for about 15 minutes too, toss that H2O)
1 white onion, chopped
about 3 cloves of garlic
about 6 (pitted) kalamata olives
zest of one lemon
enough water (from the sun-dried tomato soaking) to arrive at desired consistency

Pulse all ingredients in a Cuisinart, until desired consistency and taste. Will store for several days in fridge. Makes an excellent pasta sauce, raw zucchini "spaghetti" sauce, dip or spread. (I added enough water to ours until it was the consistency of hummus.)

We had our sauce over raw "spaghetti" (thinly shredded zucchini), because the zucchini was fresh and cheap at the local market. Plus, I invested in a random kitchen tool that I thought looked super cool during my raw week... and it is! Pop a few inches of whatever veggie you want into the spiralizer, crank with your hand, and voila-- either spaghetti-like strands or pretty ribbon-like pieces ready to enjoy. Pretty neat!

I gave everyone some of the raw zucchini "pasta" (which I did not peel... the instructions tell you to peel your veggies, but I never do)....

topped it with a hearty dollop of the sun-dried tomato sauce...

and topped each dish with some fresh tomatoes and pine nuts for texture and flavor. It was delicious. Everyone raved.

And yes (since I know you're wondering), I did make this the kids' dinner too...

and they loved it. I definitely encourage you to give this recipe a whirl this summer. It's packed with nutritious goodness, and is so, so delicious!

Friday, August 3, 2012

a few of the (healthy + quick) meals we've been enjoying this week

In between biking adventures...

I made a batch of this gingery meat filling (with local beef... easy to get out here in Idaho) and turkey. We enjoyed it on cabbage leaves this time. Delicious.

Then, before heading up to a local lake for a day of hiking, kayaking and swimming I gave this fresh berry-filled, flourless pancake a whirl. It was ahhhhmazing. Of course I was too busy packing our picnic lunch and backpacks to remember to photograph it in progress. So, I'll have to make it again (oh shucks) so I can share it with you guys. (The photo above is out of the fridge, day, not very pretty but it's really good the next day too. Trust me.)

Today we enjoyed....

the last of the Asian-inspired meat filling as a quick lunch. (This time we ate it cold... again, delicious, and so nice to have a yummy lunch in minutes!)

Then tonight, after a day of scrambling up rocks....

I made a (from memory) version of the raw "spaghetti" I remembered enjoying the week I did the raw cleanse. I didn't have my recipe, but winged it and everyone loved it-- grandparents and kids alike. This is definitely worth sharing! Will do so this weekend!!

Hope you are all spending August enjoying food and activities that nourish you too. We'll all be getting into the back-to-school groove before we know it, so I am relishing this time! I have my pinky toe in Fall planning though, so, if you haven't shared your thoughts on what you might like meal-planning/ebook/video-wise, you have a couple more days to do so (and to possibly be one of three winners of whichever product I launch first!).