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Sweet Summer Squash

Summer squash in basket

Did you know there were over 40 varieties of squash? Right now summer squash is in its peak season from mid summer to end of summer, buy a few different types of squash summer and try them out. These varieties of summer squash include:

  1. Yellow with a crookneck or straight neck shape
  2. Zucchini that is green or yellow, long or round
  3. Pattypan is a scallop shape

 

When selecting summer squash it is best to choose small, firm squash with bright-colored blemish free skin.

 

Summer squash has a ton of nutritional benefits- One cup of squash has a ton of nutritional benefits, it is high in vitamin C providing 25% of the DV, also contains about 17% of your DV of beta carotene to help with vision degeneration associated with aging. Also yellow squash is very low in calories with only 18 calories per cup, very low in fat and low in carbohydrates.

 

If you are interested in preparing summer squash without a complicated recipe, sautéing is an easy way to bring out sweetness of these vegetables. Chop the squash into small pieces for fast cooking, and allow it to get browned and caramelized. Turn it into a side dish by tossing with beans or cooked grain such as quinoa, a generous handful of fresh herbs and a flavorful cheese like goat or feta.

 

At MySuperFoods we always have a ton on summer squash on hand and lucky for us Katie makes the best zucchini chocolate chip muffins. These muffins are incredible, perfect for a snack or even a sweet treat, so if you have a few extra squash try this recipe https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/what-to-do-with-16-summer-squash/ and hope your friends and family love them as much as we do!

 

To try a new summer squash recipes, check these out!

 

Grilled Squash

Grilled Summer Squash

Adapted from myrecipes.com

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups baby zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 2 cups baby yellow squash, quartered length
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray

 

Directions:

 

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Combine baby zucchini and baby yellow squash in a large bowl. Add ­olive oil, kosher salt, and black pepper; toss well. Place vegetables on a grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 5 minutes on each side or until lightly charred and tender.

 

Squash with mint and goat cheese

Warm Squash Salad With Mint

Adopted from Julie O’Hara at NPR

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 medium zucchini (about 1 pound), trimmed and chopped into half-inch pieces
  • 3 small yellow crookneck squash (about 3/4 pound), trimmed and chopped into half-inch pieces
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed, drained and dried
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh mint
  • 4 ounces goat cheese

Directions:

Add the olive oil to a large nonstick skillet and heat to medium high. Add all the squash, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or until squash is lightly browned and tender (adjust the heat if squash browns too quickly). Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the beans and most of the mint to the bowl. Toss gently. Just before serving, crumble the goat cheese over the salad and finish with the rest of the mint.

 

Fettucine squash

Fettuccine With Squash Ribbons

Adopted from Julie O’Hara at NPR

Yields 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces whole-wheat or regular fettuccine
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 fully cooked chicken sausages, preferably spinach and feta or sun-dried tomato flavor
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved crosswise
  • 3 medium zucchini, trimmed, skin removed and peeled into thin ribbons of about ½ inch wide
  • 3 medium yellow crookneck squash, trimmed, skin removed and peeled into thin ribbons
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and add fettuccine. Cook according to package directions. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta-cooking water and drain.

Meanwhile, coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat to medium. Add chicken sausage and cook, turning often, until golden brown on each side. Transfer to a cutting board. Allow sausage to rest for a few minutes, then thinly slice on the diagonal.

Add olive oil to skillet and turn heat to medium-low. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook 3 minutes, or until skin is no longer taut. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Deglaze skillet with about 1/4 cup of reserved pasta-cooking water, loosening any bits from the bottom of the skillet. Remove from heat.

Off the stove, add the zucchini ribbons to the empty pasta pot, followed by the tomato mixture, the drained pasta, the sliced sausage and about three-quarters of the basil. Toss well to combine. If pasta appears dry, add enough of the reserved cooking water to coat the pasta so it looks moist, but not wet.

Divide among 4 bowls and use a vegetable peeler to shave thin pieces of Parmigiano-Reggiano over pasta. Sprinkle with remaining basil and serve immediately.

 

Sources

http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/grilled-summer-squash-50400000120703/

 

http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/in-season-yellow-squash-and-zucchini

 

http://www.livestrong.com/article/349229-the-nutritional-value-of-yellow-squash/

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92739541

 

Be sure to check out

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/what-to-do-with-16-summer-squash/

 

 

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Add A Pinch Of Flavor To Your Summer Cooking

Summer herbs

Summer is the perfect time to pick fresh herbs from your garden or purchase from the local market to add amazing flavor to any dish.  Herbs contain phytochemicals that provide disease-preventing qualities and also help lower inflammation. They are also very low in calories and add HUGE flavor to any dish!  Instead of adding salt and pepper, fresh herbs can help change a dish dramatically and limiting your sodium intake can help manage high blood pressure.

 

Here are some quick facts about which herbs best accompany common meals:

Rosemary

  • Perfect adding to a marinade for meat such as pork chops, poultry and fish or vegetables such as potatoes
  • Flavorful in soups and sauces
  • Important to remove the needles from the branch and chop before cooking (unless the recipe calls otherwise.)

 

Mint

  • Refreshing flavor
  • Great for cold salads and salads
  • Stimulating addition in summer drinks such as a sun brewed iced tea or fruit infused water
  • Works with both savory and sweet flavors

 

There are so many variations of infused waters to try, but to start out try this refreshing orange mint recipe

 

Orange Mint Water

Recipe adapted from Mary Gormandy White

Ingredients

3 large oranges, sliced

10 mint leaves

1/2 gallon of water

Directions:

  1. Place mint and orange slices in a pitcher.
  2. Add water.
  3. Infuse for two hours in the refrigerator.
  4. Pour over ice.

Serve garnished with an orange slice and a sprig of mint.

 

Basil

  • Easy to grow in a small space and has so many uses
  • Is suggested to be added at the end of cooking so the flavor is not destroyed
  • Coincides well with simple tomato and basil salad
  • Emphasized in dishes from Italy
  • Also is a great addition to strawberries and balsamic vinegar side dish

 

Dill

  • Has a huge punch of flavor
  • Is high in antioxidants
  • Perfect to be added to fish such as salmon, chicken, potatoes, salads, pasta dishes and dips
  • There is a pronounced flavor with the addition to cold salads

 

Oregano

  • Very high in antioxidants
  • Has a hint of sweetness and spiciness
  • Suggest sprinkling in a dressing, pizza seasonings or adding to a sandwich

 

Thyme

  • Added to soups, stews or braised meats for winter meals
  • Is a major French flavoring
  • For summer meals thyme is perfect for adding flavor to meat and vegetables

 

Here is a suggestion for a thyme salmon recipe!

 

Napa Valley Glazed Salmon

Recipe adapted from Mary Hess from eatingright.org

Ingredients

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon white pepper

1¼ pounds salmon, cut into 4 pieces

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Combine the honey, thyme, mustard, lemon zest, and pepper in a small bowl. Arrange the salmon in a shallow roasting pan lined with cooking foil. Using the back of a spoon, spread the honey mixture to coat the top of each fillet.
  3. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until the salmon flakes with a fork.

 

Cooking Tip:

Serving Suggestion: Slice leftover salmon and place on top of a bed of mixed greens and chopped tomatoes for an easy lunch or dinner.

Variation: Substitute your favorite dried or fresh herb for the thyme — or combine several.

Tip: To store fresh fish a day or two after purchase, rinse and place in a bag with ice. Pour off melted ice and replace with more ice chunks.

 

Cilantro

  • Pungent flavor
  • Best served fresh just before a dish is added
  • Probably have seen it added in guacamole but can also be added to salsa and other summer other dishes such as sprinkled on fruit salad or vegetables

 

Sources-

http://www.eatright.org/public/slideshow.aspx?id=6442470269 – 11

http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/visualguidefreshherbs

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Fresh Picked: August Produce

Summer vegetables

August is here, and to make sure you get the most out of it, we wanted to provide you a quick list of in season produce to look for when shopping at the local farmers market or supermarket. Superfoods is located in New Jersey but if you are not from this geographical region, check out this link so you can see what produce is best by you!

http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap

 

Fruits

  • Apricots
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries
  • Grapefruit
  • Kiwi
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon

 

Vegetables

  • Avocado
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Corn
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

 

Also be sure to explore a little more about this August produce, here is a great article

https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/apricots-the-seasonal-fruit-you-must-try/

 

Sources:

http://www.womansday.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-shortcuts/seasonal-foods-august-82492

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Un-BEET-able

Beets are now in season, and it is the perfect time to start incorporating this summer vegetable into a few dishes! If you are not sure where to start, or have never cooked with beets this quick article will help to get you started. First lets explore some nutritional facts about why beets are a great addition to any diet!

 

  1. Beets are a low calorie vegetable that are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants
  2. They are a great source of naturally occurring folate or folic acid, which is important for a healthy pregnancy. For a woman of childbearing age, one should consume 400 micrograms of folic acid and a pregnant woman should consume 600 micrograms. By consuming the recommended amount of folic acid this will allow for healthy neural tube formation and brain development of the baby.
  3. Consuming beet juice can help lower high blood pressure and help increase stamina when working out due to the amount of nitrate

 

Some beet preparation tips are:

  • Grate raw beets for a colorful addition to salads or decorative garnish
  • Steam beets for 15 minutes to ensure they retain their maximum nutritional value and flavor
  • Marinate steamed beets in fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh herbs suggest to Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and bake them at 400˚F for1 and 2 hours, or until the blade of a knife slides easily in and out. After they are cooled slightly, the skins easily rubbed off with a paper towel. Cooked beets are like sponges, so soak in vinaigrette of woodsy sherry vinegar and virgin olive oil.

 

 

Here are a few recipes to try out

 

Beet Tahini

Adapted from Inventive Vegetarian

Ingredients

2 beets

Juice of 2 lemons

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 cup tahini

Salt, to taste

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F

 

1. Wash and trim, but don’t peel, the beets, then wrap each one in tin foil and toss it in the oven for 45-60 minutes, until a knife can easily pierce each beet.  Once the beets have cooled enough to handle, rub them with your thumbs and the skins should come off easily.

 

2.  Roughly chop the beets and the garlic and put both in the bowl of a food processor.  Give them a quick pulse to start breaking down the beets.

 

3.  Add the tahini and lemon juice and puree until smooth.  Taste and adjust salt as desired.  Serve cold or room temperature with crackers or raw vegetables.

 

 

Quinoa Salad Recipe with Roasted Beets, Chick Peas, Baby Spinach and Orange

Adapted from Gluten- Free Goddess, Serves 4.

 

Ingredients

3 cups cooked quinoa

2 beets, trimmed and quartered

Olive oil

Sea salt

1/4 cup fruity olive oil

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

2 teaspoons organic gluten-free tamari sauce

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or rice vinegar

1 tablespoon organic raw agave nectar or local honey

1 cup drained rinsed chick peas

2 big handfuls of baby spinach leaves

Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste

1 fresh orange, peeled, trimmed, cut into bite sized pieces

 

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

 

2. Here’s how to cook quinoa in a rice cooker. While the quinoa is cooking, roast the beets in a medium size roasting pan, by combining the beets with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt. Place the pan in the center of the oven and roast until the beets are tender (roughly 45 minutes). Remove the beets from the hot pan and set them aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, rub off the skin. Cut the beets into bite sized pieces.

 

3. To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, orange juice, GF tamari, vinegar, and agave in a glass measuring cup and whisk. Set aside.

 

4. Combine the warm, cooked quinoa in a mixing bowl with the chick peas and baby spinach leaves. Pour in the salad dressing and toss lightly. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

 

5. Gently add in the cut up roasted beets and fresh orange pieces. Do not over mix or your entire salad will turn beet red. I think it’s more attractive to keep the staining to a minimum.

 

5. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh goat cheese, or slivered almonds, if desired.

 

 

 

Orange-Glazed Beets

Adapted from VegKitchen, serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

6 medium beets (or any size, as long as it adds up to about 2 pounds)

2 teaspoons arrowroot or organic cornstarch

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2/3 cup fresh orange juice

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Grated orange zest for garnish, optional

Minced fresh dill or other herb for garnish

 

Directions

  1. To cook the beets:Rinse the beets and cut away all but an inch of the stalks. Combine in a large deep saucepan with water to cover; bring to a boil, then simmer until just tender. How long this will take varies greatly upon the size of the beets; start checking after about 20 minutes, but don’t poke too many test holes into them, or they’ll bleed like crazy! When done, drain.
  2. No matter which cooking method you use, let the beets cool (you can plunge them into a bowl of cold water to speed things up), and when cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into bite-sized chunks.
  3. Combine the cornstarch and vinegar in a small container and stir until dissolved. Set aside.
  4. Heat the orange juice in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Whisk in the cornstarch and vinegar mixture, stirring carefully to avoid lumps.
  5. Stir in the diced beets. Cook over very low heat until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a serving bowl.
  6. If you juiced an organic orange, I highly recommend using grating some of the zest to garnish the beets, along with a sprinkling of dill or other fresh herb. Serve at once or cool until just warm.

Sources:

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442470253&terms=beets

http://theinventivevegetarian.blogspot.com/2013/03/beet-tahini.html

http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/2011/01/quinoa-salad-with-roasted-beets-chick.html

http://www.vegkitchen.com/recipes/orange-glazed-beets/

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6808&terms=folic acid

Be sure to check out for more about beets https://mysuperfoods.wordpress.com/?s=beets&submit=Go

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Super Strawberries

Are you looking for a refreshing summer snack that pairs perfectly with breakfast, lunch or even dessert?  Strawberries are one of our favorite summer foods that we love to incorporate into snacks and with so many health benefits, what isn’t to love?  Strawberries are best eaten when their pinkish-red color is most vibrant.  This bright red color of strawberries is perfect to brighten up the aesthetic display of any meal, so get create and see what you can create! If you are looking for a strawberry that has a greater intensity of flavor, choose a smaller variety because larger ones tend to have greater water content and therefore the flavor of the fruit is diluted.  It was also found that these berries are best eaten within the first 2 days of being picked because they have a major loss of vitamin C and antioxidants; to receive the highest amounts of these vitamins and minerals be sure to buy fresh local produce.  Another tip for keeping your strawberries fresh in the refrigerator is to place them in a cold storage bin or drawer to help boost the humidity in the space and reduce the cold air circulation around the produce. Strawberries have many antioxidants, which we know helps decrease the aging of cells, and also the polyphenols in strawberries play a major role in helping regulate blood sugar response, therefore shown to be a low glycemic index food.  As strawberries are now in season, pick some up at the farmers market and enjoy these flavorful berries! Strawberry fish Strawberry butterfly Stawberry Breakfast

Strawberry flowers

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Edamame On The Rise

So…what is edamame?

Have you recently heard the term edamame, and wondered exactly what it is?  Edamame is a soybean, and soybeans are legumes, defined as a plant source protein.  If you have never seen endamame it has a bright green shell with small edible pea like pods inside.  Edamame has an array of nutritional benefits including high protein, fiber and a variety of minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, magnesium and copper. Soybeans are one of the few types of plant proteins that are a complete source of protein.  A complete source of protein a sources of protein that contains an adequate proportion of all nine of the essential amino acids.  The same protein as meat or an egg, which makes it a great option for vegetarians. Edamame is a complete protein that is a much healthier substitute for other protein sources that are higher in saturated fat and cholesterol.

What do I do with it?

Edamame can be purchased frozen either shelled or unshelled steaming creates.  A fun finger food snack to help prevent the loss of nutritive value, sprinkling with a dash of sea salt and eating the beans straight out of the shell. Another great option is to make  guacamole.  In order to do this mash the beans out of the shell, combine with fresh-diced tomato, minced garlic, cilantro and lime juice to make what we call “edamole”. Other dishes that can enamame can be included in are in chili, soups, stir fry, and salads and side dishes, below are a few ideas to try!

Try it out
 
Edamame and Corn Salad
Recipe Adopted from Diana De Cicco from http://www.sheknows.com
Makes 4 to 6 servings

 

Ingredients
•10 ounces frozen edamame, shelled
•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•1 white onion, chopped
•1 red bell pepper, chopped
•1 (16 ounce) can corn kernels, drained
•2 leeks, thinly sliced
•1 garlic clove, minced
•1 tablespoon fresh basil, minced
•1 tomato, diced
•salt and pepper to taste
•1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Directions
1.Sauté edamame in olive oil for a few seconds, then add onion and cook until translucent.
2. Add red pepper, corn, leeks, and garlic and sauté until vegetables are just tender.
3.Spoon vegetable mixture into a bowl and stir in basil, tomato, and salt and pepper.
4.Top with feta cheese and chill until ready to serve.
Broccoli Stem, Quinoa, and Edamame Salad
Yields: 4 servings
For the salad:
•1/4 cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
•1/4 teaspoon salt
•5 broccoli stems
•3/4 cup frozen, shelled edamame
•1 small head of radicchio
•1 pomegranate
For the dressing:
•3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
•1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
•1 tablespoon shallot, minced fine
•1 teaspoon grated ginger
•1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard
•1/2 teaspoon salt
•1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Directions
1. Add the quinoa, salt, and 1/2 cup water to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes. When finished cooking, all the water should be absorbed and the grains will be cooked and fluffy.
2. Using a chef’s knife, trim away the outer layer of each broccoli stem to make a rectangle of only the soft inner flesh. Place one stem flat on your cutting board. Using even strokes of a vegetable peeler, shave off thin ribbons of broccoli. Continue with the rest of the stems. You should have 21/2 to 3 cups of broccoli ribbons when you’re done.
3. Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Place the stems and frozen edamame into the boiling water. Blanch for 2 minutes. Fill a large bowl with ice water to create an ice bath. Using a large strainer, drain the vegetables and then immediately place the strainer with vegetables in the ice bath. Drain and pat dry with a clean tea towel or paper towels.
4. Cut the stem end off the radicchio and remove 5 nice leaves. Tear these into bite-size pieces in a large mixing bowl. Add the broccoli stems, edamame, and cooked quinoa.
5. Cut the pomegranate in half. Grasp one half of the fruit in one hand, cut side down, over a large bowl. Take a large wooden spoon with the other hand and hit the back of the pomegranate. This will release the seeds into the bowl. Continue until you have about 1/2 cup. Add to the salad, saving a few for garnish.
6. In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and toss well. Taste and adjust seasoning with a little salt and pepper. Divide evenly onto four salad plates and garnish with additional pomegranate seeds. Serve immediately.
Spaghetti With Edamame, Parsley, Garlic and Olive Oil
Recipe adopted from Martha Rose Shulman 
Yield: 4 servings

 

Ingredients
•1 large garlic clove, finely minced to taste
•Leaves from 1 bunch parsley
•2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
•1 1/3 cups organic frozen shelled edamame
•3/4 pound whole grain spaghetti
•1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Directions
1. Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, turn on a food processor fitted with the steel blade, and drop in the garlic. When it’s chopped and adhering to the sides of the bowl, stop the machine and scrape down the bowl with a spatula. Add the parsley to the bowl, and process until finely chopped. With the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil. Transfer the mixture to a large pasta bowl.
2. When the water in the pot comes to a boil, salt generously, add the edamame or peas and cook five minutes. Remove from the pot with a strainer or a slotted spoon, and place in the bowl with the parsley.
3. Add the spaghetti to the boiling water, and cook al dente following the timing instructions on the package. Checking for doneness about a minute before the stated cooking time. When the pasta is cooked, remove 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add to the bowl with the herbs and edamame or peas. Drain the pasta, and toss with the mixture in the bowl. Add Parmesan if desired, and serve.
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TEST KITCHEN: Ice Cream Bar

As the weather gets warmer, the kid in all of us crazes ice cream and popsicles. While we are big ice cream fans, we do not always like all of the sugary toppings that are paired with it. To try and fix this problem, we created our own ice cream bar featuring toppings that were a bit healthier and more natural. Check it out!

For ice cream, we picked Whole Food’s 365 Vanilla, but you can pick any other flavor that your family would enjoy. We also love a good pint of Ben & Jerry’s, which is newly non GMO!
As far as toppings go, we put together a medley of fruits, as well as some unexpected offerings such as maple syrup and cinnamon.
Toppings we used: banana, strawberry, dark chocolate, almonds, maple syrup, cinnamon and coconut.
Our Creations

#1: Maple syrup, cinnamon, and dark chocolate
#2: MySuperFoods chocolate chip granola bar and strawberry (for a similar version, try our Granola bites!)
#3: Coconut, dark chocolate, almonds and bananas
#4: Bananas, strawberries and dark chocolate

 

How do you style your ice cream? Are you more of a fruit family, or do you opt for chocolate and coconut?
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Yes, Even Our Dryer Sheets Are Toxic!

Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 10.07.57 AM

When my kids were born, I switched to unscented, all natural, blah blah blah dryer sheets.  I thought I was doing the right thing, but apparently, I wasn’t.  Dryer sheets are loaded with chemicals, even the unscented ones. You can learn about the 7 toxic chemicals in dryer sheets here, but to sum it up: they are pretty scary, causing everything from headaches and nausea to central nervous system damage.  Yikes.  I love soft, fluffy towels, but I love my central nervous system more.

Though I haven’t read it, the book “Brain Wash” provides detailed information on the toxins in our environment and how they are linked to brain disease.  It’s impossible to rid our lives of all toxins overnight, but I have taken the approach of making small changes over time.  I have tackled most of my household cleaners, though I still use dryer sheets, conventional make-up and lots of other not so good stuff.  So my next baby step is to try a few of these dryer sheet alternatives:

1. Wool Dryer Balls – these work by lifting the fibers and softening clothes through gentle friction.  You can also add a scent by adding drops of an essential oil into the balls and replacing when needed.  You can use 3-4 in each load and they should last up to a YEAR!  Yes, ONE YEAR!  If you’re super crafty, you can even make your own — like this gal did.

2. Vinegar – Some people prefer to pour a bit of white vinegar onto their clothes during the washing machine’s rinse cycle. As with fabric softener, vinegar can soften clothes, and it has a mild anti-static effect. As a bonus, vinegar works well to get rid of mildew. (source: http://home.howstuffworks.com/dryer-sheets3.htm)

3. A ball of aluminum foil – Yep!  It worked for this blogger.

Hope this info helps!

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9 Tips For Feeding Little Kids

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 3.01.50 PMAs the co-founder of a healthy children’s food company, I am often asked what I feed my kids and how I deal with typical issues such as pickiness, requests for too many snacks etc.   Funny thing is that I totally do not have this feeding children thing under control…at all!  I often ask other people for advice and spend countless hours reading blogs and nutrition articles for ideas on how to do it.  This was all much easier when my oldest (twins) were young toddlers, but once they hit the big 3, it was an entirely new world, for all of us.  My son suddenly hated oatmeal, my daughter suddenly hated eggs, they both hated cooked carrots, but would eat them raw.   They started complaining about food while it was still in the process of being cooked by entering the kitchen and making comments such as “that smells yucky!” and “what’s that yucky poo poo smell?”.   Nothing like a toddlers sarcasm, while you’re trying to simultaneously  care for three kids under 4 and cook a meal, to throw you over the edge.

The past year has certainly presented itself with more food/feeding challenges than I was expecting, but I have learned a lot and now that they are about to turn four, it seems like we may have weathered the worst of the storm (well, at least that’s I hope).   Here’s what I do to stay sane.

1. Though I said I would never ever ever do this, I have made different foods for one meal.  I don’t do it often, but my son really dislikes oatmeal now, he has actually gagged when I asked him to taste “just one spoon” recently. Though, my daughter loves it and could eat it everyday.  So, there have been days where I feed two kids oatmeal and let the oatmeal-hater have a yogurt and a banana.  This was the only way to feed 2/3 of my kids oatmeal and prevent one from throwing up, soooo, I went for it.

2. I talk to them often about the food they eat, why they need it, what it does for their bodies etc.  I have found that while they are still unable to make the best decisions  (ie. if given the choice between salmon and a lollipop for dinner, they would choose the latter), they are aware and do question things more, like what is cotton candy made of and why is it blue.

3. Dips are my friend.  There is nothing like a dip to get kids excited about eating, so I use them often in order to get the job done.  I will cut an apple and serve with strawberry yogurt in a cute cup, cut a carrot into thin straws and serve with hummus or guacamole, I have even allowed them to put whip cream (organic only) from that crazy can on a bowl of berries, and they were over the moon.  It.works.everytime.

4. Though this sounds illogical, I do not use dessert or treats as reward for eating the healthy stuff.  I want to. I really do.  But all the research advises against it, so I have just trusted it and so far, it’s been ok.  We have had dinners where my daughter has eaten two spoons of pasta for  and is suddenly “sooo full she can’t eat another bite”, and while I may ask her to try to eat a little more so that her belly is not hungry at bedtime, I never threaten her with dessert; and even if she doesn’t eat any more, I still let her have dessert if she wants it (and she usually does).  I was afraid that this would become a habit and she would cease eating dinner and only eat dessert, but that has never happened.  The very next day, she ate her entire meal.

5. Soup is also my friend.  My kids are definitely not the pickiest eaters I have seen, but they (like most kids) have cut back on the list of the vegetables that they will eat in their whole form.  Soup allows me provide a variety of vegetables in a way the avoids texture and consistency issues.  I try to use seasonal vegetables and change it up every week so they a good variety, ie. butternut squash & kale; beets and sweet potato; cauliflower and corn.  I also add lentils to every soup I make in order to boost the fiber and protein.

6. Pestos – Pestos are a great alternative to traditional tomato sauce and you can make them easily with a variety of greens to pack them with nutrition.  Typically, I heat some olive oil in a pan, add a few cloves of garlic, add my greens (collard greens, kale, spinach, chard…whatever you prefer) and cook for 5-7 minutes.  I then place that mixture in a blender, add 1/4 parmesan, some walnuts or pine nuts and puree.  If too thick, I add chicken stock.  Pesto freezes really well too.

7. Baked goods – I am a much better cook than a baker.  I really didn’t bake much pre-kids, but now I bake weekly.  Kids love sweets and baking them at home allows me to control the sugar and boost the nutrition.  I add chia/hemp/flax seeds to nearly everything, including pancakes.  I replace white flour with whole wheat pastry flour, cut the sugar by at least 1/4 and replace any oil with coconut.  I feel much better about giving them a homemade chocolate chip banana muffin for dessert than anything store bought.

8. Tomato Sauce – Kids love tomato sauce and I always try to make super nutritious by adding pureed lentils.  It boosts fiber, protein and adds folate and many other vitamins.  If I am extra desperate for vegetable consumption that week, I also add pureed spinach…both are completely undetectable.

9. Mac & Cheese – I always have Annie’s Organic mac and cheese on hand for a quick fix. I make it healthier by adding either frozen chopped broccoli or pureed winter squash (Cascadian Farms).

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“What The Heck Is Beet Sugar” & “Why Is Corn In Everything”?

Guest post by Kelly CavanaughScreen Shot 2013-12-30 at 9.09.23 PM

There are two compliments I can receive as a high school teacher that tells me I am doing something right.  The first can come from a parent or other family member of one of my students, “my child has told me all about the things we are doing wrong at our house”.  Normally, this comes in the form of a half-joking, half-serious comment.  Although I have provided their child with one more thing to complain about (and being a former high school student myself, there is a lot of complaining), I have also somehow managed to get their child to speak to them AT ALL about what is happening in their life.

The second comes from any student.  High school students are inundated by violent movies and video games, R-rated movies, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube, drama among best friends and boyfriends and the current events of the world.  It is practically impossible to shock them.  So when one of them says, “Is that true?!” or “Are you serious?!”, I know I’m on to something.

This year, the week before Christmas break, we spent time in my AP Environmental Science course researching where our food comes from.  I had my students make a list of 20 foods they (or their family) ate over the course of a couple of days, and asked them to bring the list in.

Day 1: We spent the day searching for which company produces the products they eat.  Not just the company, but the parent company that owns them.  Turns out, most of our food comes from 10-15 major companies. PepsiCo being the biggest.  PepsiCo owns smaller companies such as Quaker, Dole and Frito-Lay.  Day 1 there was a good deal of shock and awe in the room.  I am continually amazed that my 130 highly educated, very bright AP students do not know some of the common happenings of the world.

Day 2: Today, we checked out ingredients.  I gave the students a list of various names for corn, soy and wheat, and had them compare these lists to the ingredients in their products.  They also had to check to see if the products contain beet sugar or canola oil.  85-90% of corn, soy, wheat, beet sugar and canola oil are genetically modified.  While you can’t be sure which products have GMO ingredients, if it’s not organic, you have an 85% chance there are GMOs in it. (Insert more shock and awe here)  The two most common comments in Day 2: What the heck is beet sugar?! and Why is there corn in everything?!  Very good questions.

Day 3: By Day 3, the students are starting to catch on to the point of all this.  I only had them research 10 foods for Day 1 and 2.  What should have taken us roughly 45 minutes in total, is now pushing into Day 3.  They are infuriated at how difficult it is to find this information.  These are tech-savvy teenagers, and yet the information is elusive.  Today’s best comments include things like, “why does this website give me Facebook, Twitter and 35 Pinterest links, but no ingredients?!” and “This is impossible!”  My favorite, though was, “so, is the point of this to show us that everything comes from the same 5 places and same 5 ingredients and that none of this should be difficult to find?”.  Day 3 was a success.

Day 4: By day 4, I’d heard from a few parents via email, or running into them in the grocery store.  Continued reinforcement that the kids were paying attention.  Today, I had them look up five videos on Factory Farms.  Again, most of them don’t know where there food comes from, except in very general terms.  So this was eye-opening (if you don’t believe me, YouTube Factory Farms or “from Farm to Fridge” – pretty sure farm videos shouldn’t come with an explicit content warning).  By now, the comments had evolved into, “I’m never eating again” – always a classic.  Yet, what I continue to see happens…the shock wears off after a few days, and it becomes easy to go back to the usual food.  I encourage small changes to maintain awareness.

Day 5: Time to bring it all together.  I had students research non-GMO or organic alternatives to the foods on their list.  Once they found them, they had to view images of the packaging of both their product and the alternative, and choose which one they would prefer to eat based on packaging alone.  The students finally saw what I have been complaining about – it’s all marketing and packaging.  The websites that have fun activities, but no ingredients are listed.  The companies that are against GMO labeling.  I’m hopeful that at least a few will come back in January and tell me about their food-related conversations with their families over the holidays, and perhaps a few small changes along the way.

 

 

 

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