The Right Start: Part One

A noted Chinese proverb says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Moms could adapt these words to say, “Give a child good food, and she will eat good food at home. Teach her how to make wise choices with her food, and she will eat good food wherever she goes for the rest of her life.

One of the first choices we make in any day is of what to eat. Breakfast is not the largest meal of the day, but nutritionists are always telling us that it is an important one.

Why Eat Breakfast?
Consider these benefits of breakfast eating, as reported by the Mayo Clinic. Those who take the time for a good breakfast (i.e. not coffee and a doughnut!) have a tendency to eat more nutritious food in general; to accomplish more before lunchtime; to keep their weight under control; and to have lower cholesterol, thus reducing certain health risks.

Kids especially can benefit from breakfast with improved coordination, concentration, and ability to think clearly. Moms want the best for their kids, and one very simple way to give them the best is to make the effort to feed them a good breakfast each day.

With today’s busy lifestyles, getting a good start can be quite a challenge. Planning ahead always helps. It starts with laying out clothes and other necessary items the night before. Then if the right food is in the pantry, and the choice for the morning already pulled to the front of the fridge, breakfast time can proceed a lot more smoothly.

What makes a good breakfast?
There are several components to any healthy meal, including protein, whole grain, dairy, and fruits and vegetables. According to UCLA Health, the magic is in the combination of elements. When we consume a breakfast with at least three of the above components, we set our bodies up to be able to regulate our blood sugar throughout the rest of the day. We also give our digestive system enough to  keep it busy for longer than a bowl of sugar cereal does.

Some suggested traditional breakfast combinations include high-fiber cereal, skim milk, and a banana; whole-grain toast with peanut butter and a glass of 100% juice; a hard-boiled egg, an apple, and an English muffin; or a smoothie made with plain yogurt, fruit, and a couple tablespoons of wheat germ. Less traditional, but still appropriate, options could include leftover veggie pizza on whole-grain crust; cut-up veggies layered in a tortilla with salsa and string cheese; or even a baked potato topped with broccoli and cheese.

There is more to this thought! Come back in a few days for Part Two, to read about how to implement good breakfast eating with the kids.

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Spiced Pecans

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 lb raw shelled pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Combine the spices, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside 1 teaspoon of the blended mixture.

Melt butter in small saucepan or in microwave. Add in spice mixture and honey.

Put the pecans in a medium mixing bowl and pour the warm spiced syrup mixture over them. Toss the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Spread the pecans evenly on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake on top rack for 45 minutes. The syrup should look dry (it will still be slightly sticky) and the pecans will have darkened to the color of mahogany. Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle the reserved 1 teaspoon spice mixture over the pecans.

Makes about 3 1/2 cups of pecans.

Warning: Highly Addicting!! Plan to make at least two recipes, one for yourself and one to share.

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My Favorite Menu

For a Christmas exchange this year, I was invited to share a full menu worth of recipes. I chickened out because I couldn’t decide at the last moment, but gave everyone my website address.

I realized it’s not too late to participate, as my friends may just stop by to check the site out. So here is my favorite, most tried and true menu.

Guacamole

Chicken Enchiladas

Salad w/ Ranch Dressing

Black California Olives

“Jimmy Crack” Corn Cake

Apple Dumplings

You’ll probably want to break out the mile-high sombrero and cha-cha music afterward, because these are party foods; nothing lean or mean about this meal! But guaranteed to taste good and please a crowd? Absolutely!

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Chicken and Dumplings

Here’s a hearty old-fashioned fall stew recipe, just like grandma used to make. I made this for my family and they loved it! I pureed the cooked vegetables and added them back into the broth for added nutritional value. Also had to add more water because the broth got really thick after the puree was added. But the taste was heavenly! Oh, I also added a fistful of fresh thyme to the seasoned cooking water, which I think made this dish taste restaurant-special.

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • ½ cup milk

Place chicken in large stock pot and fill with water to cover. Season water with poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, onions, carrots and celery. Bring to a simmer, and cook on the stovetop for 2 to 3 hours until tender. Cool chicken, remove from bone and set aside. Strain broth, if desired. Return deboned chicken to broth.

For dumplings, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in shortening. Add milk to make a stiff dough. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares, 1 to ½ inch strips, or diamonds. Sprinkle lightly with flour.

Bring chicken and broth to a boil. Drop dumplings into broth, cover and simmer about 8 to 10 mnutes. Adjust seasonings.

Serves 8.

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Healthy Granola

Dry Ingredients:

  • 6 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups of raw almonds
  • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ cup ground flax seed
  • Optional: 1 cup dried fruit (add after cooked) –date pieces, cranberries, etc.
Wet Ingredients & seasonings:

  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 honey
  • 2 Tablespoons corn oil
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the wet ingredients together, and then stir into dry ingredients. Stir well to mix thoroughly.

Spread the mixture into two baking dishes. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until evenly golden brown. Stir 2-3 times during baking to ensure even browning. If you use fruit, stir in once it has cooled. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 12 cups.

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Blueberry Crumb Coffee Loaf

Remember to check my post for Approximate Measures to see how many lemons it takes to get that much zest and juice!

  • 2 (7 oz) pkgs blueberry muffin mix
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Topping:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. Line 8″ loaf pan with foil. Lightly coat with cooking spray.

Combine muffin mix, sour cream, water, egg, zest, and lemon juice in large bowl until moistened. Spread into prepared pan. Mix flour, sugar and butter with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.

Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes, then remove from pan to wire rack and cool completely before cutting.

12 servings.

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Parmesan Cheese Bowls

Here’s a fancy trick I learned recently, for dressing up a salad. Can’t wait to surprise everyone at Thanksgiving (everyone who doesn’t read about it here first, anyway!). These bowls can be made early in the day, and filled at mealtime.

Heat a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese into skillet, creating a uniform round shape. Use less cheese around the edges so the sides of the bowl will be more delicate.

Cook until cheese is light golden underneath. Remove from skillet with spatula, and drape, golden side up, over an inverted glass or jar. Gently shape cheese to form a bowl. Allow to cool.

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