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Healthy Desserts? Yes, it can be done!!

We saved the best for last!  What would a healthy favorites week be without desserts?!?  We have posted 2 of our favorite healthier versions of traditional desserts that are nutritious and lack the fat and abundance of sugar that most have.  Enjoy!

Healthy Brownies

1 1/4 C Black beans (canned work well)

3/4 C Vegetable or Canola oil (I used Safflower oil, you can also use coconut oil which gives them a slightly nutty flavor)

3 Eggs

1/3 C Unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 C Sugar

3T Vanilla extract

3/4 C Semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used 42% cacao chips)

1/2 C White or whole-wheat pastry flour

3/4T Baking powder

3/4T Salt

Preparation:

1. Prepare 9×11 pan and preheat over to 350F.

2. Puree beans with oil in blender or food processor.  Add eggs, cocoa, sugar, and vanilla.  Mix well.

3. Melt half of the chocolate chips, (I used the microwave), add to the mix.

4. Add flour, baking powder, and salt to mix and stir until blended.  Pour into pan and bake for 20 minutes.

5. Let cool 15 minutes before cutting.  Makes 20-24.

Adapted From: http://www.foodnetwork.com

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

2 1/4 C Whole-wheat flour, divided

8 C Chopped and peeled peaches

1/4 C Honey or agave nectar

3T Lemon juice

3/4T Salt, divided

3C Blackberries (I actually used frozen because my market was out of fresh and it was fine)

3/4C Raw sugar

1T Lemon rind

1T Baking powder

6T Chilled butter cut into small pieces

1 1/4C Low-fat buttermilk (I have also used almond milk in this, I just reduced the amount slightly to make the batter thicker)

2T Turbinado sugar (I usually omit)

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Toss 1/4C flour, honey, 1/4T salt, peaches, and lemon juice in large bowl.  Let stand for 15 minutes then fold in blackberries.

3. Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray.  Then scoop in fruit mixture into pan.

4. Combine 2C flour, lemon rind, baking powder, raw sugar and 1/2T salt in bowl and stir.  Blend in butter until it looks like a coarse meal.  Then add buttermilk and mix until smooth.

5. Drop dough on top of fruit mixture creating 12 even mounds with dough. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar if desired.

6. Bake at 400F for 40 minutes until golden brown and bubbly on top.

Adapted From: Cooking Light

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Two Healthier Twists On Favorite Snacks

When you ask any children to tell you some of their favorite snacks, chances are chocolate pudding or rice crispy treats will be on that list.  I must admit that both of these are still two of my guilty pleasures today.  Unfortunately the traditional versions are not only filled with lots of sugar but also with chemicals and harsh dyes.  That is why I am happy that I found these recipes that will not make you miss the original versions at all.  Enjoy!!

Chocolate Pudding

3 Avocados

6T Cocoa powder

¼ C Raw honey

1tsp. Vanilla

Sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Puree all except salt until smooth.
  2. Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Source:  http://www.wholeliving.com

Crispy Rice Treat Recipe

2 T Coconut oil

2 C Marshmallows ( I made my own honey marshmallows which work well for this recipe, however Whole Foods has a great organic variety of marshmallows that are made with agave and omit the harsh chemicals and corn syrup)

2.5 C Whole grain crispy rice cereal or your favorite healthier multi-grain cereal

1/2 C Raisins

1/2 C Chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, peanuts, etc.)

1/2 C Dark chocolate chips (I omitted these and they still tasted great!)

Preparation:

1. Spray non-stick spray on 8×8 inch. square pan.

2. Melt coconut oil in large saucepan over low heat and add marshmallows.  Stir constantly until melted.

3. Mix in cereal and remaining add-in ingredients.

4. Press into prepared pan.  Cool for 10 minutes and cut into squares. (Makes 12)

Adapted From: http://www.snack-girl.com/snack/healthy-bake-sale-treat/

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Fake-Out Meatball Parmesan

Pasta dishes are always the easy, go-to favorite because they do not take long to make and it is something that we usually always have in the house.  Meatball Parmesan is a great kid friendly meal except that the traditional version is filled with lots of fat and empty calories from the beef and pork in the meatballs to the traditional pasta used.  We found a great healthy alternative that uses chicken meatballs and whole-wheat penne that is sure to please everyone!  Serve with a salad or your favorite steamed veggies and you have a well rounded meal.  Enjoy!!

Fake-Out Meatball Parmesan

Meatballs

1 Package ground chicken

¼ C Whole-wheat breadcrumbs

1tsp. Jarred garlic

2 Egg whites

Salt and pepper to taste

Pasta

Whole-wheat penne (up to half of box)

2 Boxes frozen spinach

Jarred garlic to taste

Basil (fresh or dried)

½ C Parmesan

1T Olive oil

2 15oz. Cans of tomato sauce

Preparation:

  1. Combine chicken, garlic, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Add eggs and breadcrumbs to mixture.  Use your hands to incorporate all ingredients.  Make into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet.
  2. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes.
  3. While meatballs are baking, cook pasta for 7-9 minutes.
  4. Heat oil in large pan and add frozen spinach.  Cook so water evaporates.  Add garlic and let cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomato sauce and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Mix together.  Combine pasta and spinach sauce together in baking dish.  Nestle in the meatballs, top with cheese and put back in oven until bubbling, approximately 10 minutes.

Source:  http://www.doctoroz.com

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Fake Out Shrimp “Fried” Rice

Chinese takeout has always been an easy go to for many families.  Fried rice has been a favorite of mine.  What most people do not know that 1 cup of shrimp fried rice has about 500 calories!! On top of that since it is made with white rice, it does not keep you full as long.  We found a great healthier version that is made with quinoa to give you that added fiber and protein boost to keep you and your family satisfied longer!!

Fake Out Shrimp “Fried” Rice

2tsp. Canola Oil

¾ Pound Frozen shrimp, defrosted

3 Cloves garlic, chopped

1 Chopped red pepper

1 C Chopped asparagus

½ C Shelled edamame

3T Ponzu sauce

1 Egg and 2 egg whites whisked together

2C Quinoa cooked in water

Sriracha sauce and additional Ponzu sauce to taste

 Preparation:

  1. Cook quinoa in water.  Bring 2 cups of water and 1 cup dry quinoa to a boil.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. In a large non-stick pan, heat oil on medium heat.  Add shrimp, garlic, pepper, asparagus, and edamame.  Cook a few minutes until vegetables start to wilt.
  3. Add Ponzu sauce and cook for 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  Move all ingredients to one side.
  4. Scramble eggs and cook in the pan.  Add cooked quinoa and mix together.
  5. Add Sriracha and Ponzu sauce to taste.

Source:  http://www.doctoroz.com

 Other tips to make your Chinese favorites healthier:

1. Trying making your own baked egg rolls.  Easy to make and you can add your favorite fillings!!

2. If using soy sauce, make sure you stick to a low sodium version.

3. If using rice, make sure to always use brown, it has more fiber and whole grains!

4. Substitute fried dumplings for steamed dumplings.  They still taste amazing and have less fat and calories!


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Crispy Chicken Bites- The Healthy Twist On A Universal Favorite

 

If you ask any child what their favorite chicken dish is, chances are they will tell you chicken nuggets.  Unfortunately most of the chicken nuggets we buy at the store are battered and fried and most are filled with the infamous preservative, filled mystery meat which claims to be chicken, but can you really be sure it’s the best quality for you and your family?  This is why we love our crispy chicken bites. These oven baked chicken bites are low in calories and fat. They are a healthy, fast way to serve this family favorite, not to mention they are packed with lots of protein and nutrients!!

Crispy Chicken Bites

3 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

¼ C oat bran

¼ C wheat germ

1T coarsely ground flax seed

¼ C coarsely ground almonds

½ tsp sea salt

½ tsp pepper

Pinch garlic powder

½ C water or low sodium chicken stock

1 large egg, lightly beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 400.  Prepare baking sheet by lining with parchment paper or coating lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Cut chicken breasts into nugget-sized pieces: about 1 ½ inches square.  Set aside.
  3. Next combine all dry ingredients in a large container with a tightly fitting lid.  Shake well.  This is your coating mixture.  Combine water and egg in a medium bowl.  Dip each chicken piece in the water/egg mixture and then place in the coating mixture.  Make sure each piece is well coated.  Place on the baking sheet.  When all of your chicken has been coated and your baking sheet is full, place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Nutritional value for 3-4 nuggets:

Calories 100, calories from fat 32, Fat 3.2g, Saturated Fat 0.5g, Trans Fat 0, Protein 12g, Carbs 7g, Dietary Fiber 2g, Sodium 370g, Cholesterol 0g

Source: The Eat-Clean Diet for Family & Kids

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Everyone has their favorite comfort foods.  After taking the first bite most of us start to feel guilty because we know there is little nutrition in the meal but we still eat it and for that moment forget about the calories, fat, etc.  We are determined to reinvent comfort foods to still make them comforting but much healthier.  That is why we are making this week “Healthy Favorites Week.”  Each day we will give you new recipes and ideas on how to make some of the traditional comfort foods healthier for you and your family!  Today is all about everyones favorite, Mac & Cheese.

My son had his first bite of mac and cheese last week and it was as if he had  discovered the meaning of life.  He must have said, “mmmm, sooo good” one thousand times during the course of dinner.  He was singing, bopping his head, it was the happiest I’ve seen him during any meal, ever!  I didn’t intend to give them mac and cheese, my plan is to hold off on those ‘yummy but not so good for you’ foods for as long as possible, but with a newborn at home, we were short on options and Whole Foods was short on variety that day, so I got a roasted chicken, broccoli and yes, mac and cheese.  Ever since that day, he asks if we’re having mac and cheese before every meal and looks so disappointed when I say, “no”, that I had to find a recipe that I could make at home and feel good about giving them.

After searching and searching, I found one!  While many claim to be healthy, this one actually is because its made with roasted butternut squash (and I doubled the amount of squash in my version). To roast the squash, I halved it lengthwise, then cut those pieces in half, drizzled with olive oil and baked in the oven at 425 for 40 minutes. I also used whole wheat elbow pasta and I used less cheese and more milk to cut the fat.  It was delicious.  Even my husband and I had some for dinner.  Next time, I’m going to add chopped, cooked broccoli and ground turkey (sautéed with onions and garlic) and will make it a casserole, an entire meal in one.  If your family loves mac and cheese, you have to try this!

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

½ Medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped

1T Olive oil

Salt and pepper

½ Pound elbow macaroni

2 ½ C Milk, divided

2T Butter

3T Flour

1/8 tsp. Nutmeg

1T Fresh chopped rosemary

1C Shredded white cheddar cheese

1C Shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¾ C Whole-wheat breadcrumbs.

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.  Place squash on large cookie sheet and drizzle with oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 20-30 minutes until tender.  Turning once.
  2. While squash is roasting, cook macaroni according to package.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Add squash to food processor and puree until smooth.  Add ½ C of milk and puree again.
  4. In large skillet, over medium heat, add butter.  When melted, whisk in flour.  Add nutmeg and cook 2-3 minutes continuously whisking.  Add rest of milk and whisk until smooth.
  5. Turn heat to high and bring to boil.  After thickened, turn to low and whisk in squash mixture.  Stir in rosemary.
  6. Add macaroni to the pan and stir until all noodles are well coated.  Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Great 2-quart casserole dish and pour half of noodles in pan.  Sprinkle half of each cheese over noodles.  Add remaining noodles and top with rest of cheese.  Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cheese is bubbling.  Remove and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Source:   http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/butternut-squash-mac-and-cheese/

 

 

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Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken

One of my favorite things about the spring is throwing BBQ chicken on the grill.  I found a great BBQ chicken recipe from Eat Well that is perfect for those days when grilling is out of the question but you still want to have that taste of spring.  Since it is done in the crock pot, it makes the perfect weekend meal and require little preparation.  The chicken is pulled and made into sandwiches which will help cut down on the messiness of traditional BBQ chicken at the kitchen table with your little ones as well!

Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken

Ingredients

(1) 8oz. Can tomato sauce

(1) 4oz. Can chopped green chilies

3T Cider Vinegar

2T Honey

1T Paprika

1T Tomato paste

1T Worcestershire sauce

2tsp. Dry mustard

1tsp. Ground chile

Salt (to taste)

2 1/2 Pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, fat trimmed

1 Onion, finely chopped

1 Clove garlic, minced

Preparation:

1. Add all ingredients to crock pot, except chicken, onion, and garlic.  Stir until smooth.

2. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Cover with lid.

3. Cook on low for about 5 hours or until chicken can be pulled apart.

4. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and shred all chicken.  Then transfer back into the pot to stir into sauce. Mix well and serve on your favorite bun.

**Tips: Can be refrigerated for 3 days and frozen for 1 month.

Source: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/barbecue_pulled_chicken.html

 

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Quinoa Salad with Pineapple Salmon – YUM!

Someone recently asked me, “quinoa sounds great, but where do I find it in the store?  I looked everywhere!”  Unfortunately, not all stores are on-the-ball when it comes to carrying this super grain.  But more and more, I’m seeing it in major chains across the country, so hopefully you won’t have too much difficulty.  It’s usually located near the rice, cous cous, pasta, and other grains (super, or otherwise).

One of my family’s favorite ways to eat quinoa is in this adapted version of a delicious recipe from Shape Magazine’s July 2011 issue.  It’s easy, flavorful, and blends several delicious flavors into each bite.

Smoky Pineapple Salmon With Quinoa Salad

 (serves 6)

For the salmon:

1/2 C fresh orange juice

1 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

3 T pineapple juice

1 1/2 lbs salmon fillet

3 1/2-inch thick pineapple rings

For the quinoa salad:

1 C quinoa

2 1/2 C water

3 T dried currants (or cranberries)

1 tsp dried cinnamon

1 T smoked paprika

1 tsp sea salt

2 C diced cucumber

1. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, olive oil, paprika, and pineapple juice.  Place in a plastic bag with salmon and let sit for 30 minutes at room temperature.

2. Rince and drain quinoa.  Place in a large saucepan with water, currants (or cranberries), cinnamon, paprika, and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

3. Place quinoa in a bowl and fold in cucumbers.  Set aside.

4. While quinoa is cooking, heat grill to medium-high.  Place salmon skin-side down on a piece of foil and grill for 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.  Slice into 6 portions.

5. To serve, divide salmon among six plates and top with a piece of salmon with pineapple.

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Crock Pot Chicken Curry

The weekend is finally here once again.  With the warm weather, longer days, and plenty of sunshine, the last thing any of us want to be doing is spending our evening in the kitchen when we could be outside playing with our kids.  This is why make ahead crock pot meals are perfect for this time of year since you can just pull them out of the freezer and put them in the crockpot.  I found this chicken curry recipe that I cannot wait to try this weekend!

Crock Pot Chicken Curry

Ingredients

3 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1.5-2 pounds chicken thighs, or breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces.
2 C chopped peeled sweet potatoes.
2 C baby carrots.
2 C coarsely chopped mango.  Or 2 cans of chopped mango.
1 C chopped onion.
1 zucchini chopped, about one cup.
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chicken bouillon, one per bag.
1/2 C raisins (for garnish)

Preparation

1. If making ahead put all ingredients into freezer bag, shake well and store until ready to use.

2. To cook, take out of freezer, and let thaw out on counter for 30 minutes.

3. Pour all contents of bag into crock pot.

4. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.

Source:  http://mamaandbabylove.com/2011/04/05/freezer-cooking-with-slow-cooker-recipes/

 

 

 

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The Importance of Vitamin C

With the weather slowly changing from the winter days to the sunny spring afternoons, the inconsistent temperatures often lead to the thing that all parents dread, the common cold.  This is one reason why making sure that you and your family are getting enough Vitamin C is important.  Vitamin C also contains collagen, which is essential in helping prevent bruises and healing wounds.  As a parent, we know that the spring calls for more bike rides, play dates, and playground visits which some times can result in falls so making sure they have their Vitamin C will make them heal faster.  It is also a vitamin that is essential to growth and development so it is extremely important for children.

Most fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin C, however oranges, red peppers, kiwi, strawberries, and broccoli offer the highest amounts of the vitamin.  What most of us do not know is that when we cook or boil our vegetables, they lose a lot of their nutrients.  To get the maximum nutrient value, raw fruits and veggies are better, however if you make sure to incorporate a variety of fruits and veggies into the meals you prepare for your family, you will be receiving enough Vitamin C.  1 cup of berries or orange juice provides the daily requirements of Vitamin C that we need each day, so it is very hard not to consume enough!

Ways To Add Vitamin C To Your Meals

-Make a fruit salad with strawberries, kiwi, oranges, and cantaloupe.

-Make your own fresh squeezed orange juice in the morning.

-Buy ready-to-eat veggies such as baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, and throw them in a zip lock bag for the perfect lunchbox treat.

-Orange slices, pineapple chunks, and berries make the perfect afternoon snack for your little ones since they are easy for them to pick up.

-Sliced bell peppers and hummus is a Vitamin C packed snack.

Sources

http://vitamins.lovetoknow.com/Facts_on_Vitamin_C

http://www.livestrong.com/article/199350-vitamin-c-information-for-kids/

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