Wednesday, May 30, 2012

(more) simple breakfast ideas for active days ahead!

Summer vacation is just around the corner. I know this because my kids have started a vacation countdown, and with the warmer weather and green grass, I find myself wandering from being super organized and having a frittata at the ready, to taking a much more laissez faire attitude. Lately, I've been coming downstairs precariously close to when the school bus will be arriving, and scrounging up whatever we have on hand to make sure everyone heads off to play/work/school with a happily full belly. Here are three of our recent favorites...

(above) Van's 8-Whole Grain frozen waffles smothered in Oikos Greek yogurt and fresh, organic strawberries.

Oven-baked quesadillas: tortillas stuffed with the last of the leftover scrambled eggs + spinach + cheese (talk about making a small amount of leftover eggs go a looooong way...) baked at 350 until warmed through, lightly browned and crisp. Sliced into wedges and served with whatever fruit was kicking around.

And my recent favorite: green smoothies. I literally have been enjoying one a day since my clean eating week! Each day they are different, depending upon what fruits and veggies I have on hand. The one pictured above was made with: lime + fresh ginger + green apples + banana + ground flax seeds + Vega one protein powder + water. Mmmmmm.

little sprouts! check 'em out!!

Remember the seeds the Easter Bunny brought my boys? Yep, those seeds that took me until Mother's Day weekend to plant with the kids. Well, look at them now!! I don't know who is more excited, the kids or me? There's something simply amazing about putting a little seed in the dirt, dutifully watering the soil, and returning one day to little green sprouts. I know, I know. That's what happens. But it's so easy to forget when we have plentiful farmer's markets and the incredible produce aisle at our local supermarkets. Now we're all excited. Maybe we'll add another pot-- this one with a trellis. We're on a roll!   

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

thank you!

I hope your long weekend was filled with a bit of relaxation,

some time to run around and get fresh air,

and amazing food, wherever your weekend adventures may have taken you. Thank you to everyone who voted in the "Top Foodie Mom" contest. I am absolutely thrilled to have come in 2nd, among a phenomenal list of established and up-and-coming mom blog writers. Wow. I just want to say thank you for the tremendous outpouring of support from friends old and new, my many loyal blog readers, and new fans who have found my blog through this contest. Without you, I might still my typing away to just a few folks in the comfort of my kitchen. I'm still typing away in the comfort of my kitchen... but I am thrilled to know I am reaching so many busy parents who want simple ideas for feeding their families well. Preparing quick, easy, healthy meals is something that comes easy to me, and I am thrilled that I can share this gift with you. It is my hope that by reading this blog you feel inspired-- and able-- to whip up some of these recipes for your own families.

Monday, May 28, 2012

memorial day 2012

At the ceremony at our local cemetery, the veterans and servicemen and women spoke thoughtfully about the importance of putting memorial back into Memorial Day. I'm glad we walked two over-tired, hot, paraded-out children down to the ceremony. I, myself, had forgotten that it's not just a long weekend of potlucks, parties and playtime.

how I love a three day weekend!

I hope you are all gearing up for a wonderful day with family, friends and (of course) great food. We are excited for a day of small town parade viewing, potlucking, and a leisurely evening with my parents and kids relaxing in our yard... it's such a treat to have this extra day together.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

perfect for a potluck or picnic: simple rainbow pasta salad

As I mentioned yesterday, being offered food samples from companies is a perk of this popular blog. Companies see a blog that written by a real mom, with real kids, and a real busy life and they think bingo! Not so fast. I do not get paid to write this blog, so my reviews are brutally honest. Sometimes the product does not pass muster with me, or my family, in which case you never hear boo about it. And sometimes we don't even get to the point of me trying their wares. After all, I am a tough critic. Not everyone wants to test their luck! But this was a super easy product review. First, I love Whole Foods. Second, I love salsa. Now I sort of wish I'd taken them up on their offer to try a whole host of Memorial Day fixins, since the 365 brand salsas they sent me were delicious. But anyway, let's stick to what I made with what they sent this go round: a make-ahead, protein-packed, salsa-infused pasta salad that will make you the star at any potluck you may be attending this Memorial Day weekend! This is one of those dump it all in a big bowl recipes... my favorite kind! We test drove the salad Friday night and my kids and husband loved it as well. So, this is a keeper. Here's what went in. I'll condense the ingredients into a recipe at the bottom of this post.  

Rainbow Pasta Salad
(makes a large least 24 side dish servings)
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cups al dente cooked pasta (I used DeBoles brand corn elbows which are gluten-free)
  • 15 oz can black beans, rinsed
  • 15 oz can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 2 organic bell peppers, chopped
  • 8 oz frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 pint organic tomatoes, chopped
  • two or three 16 oz jars salsa (I used a jar each of 365 brand Black Beans & Corn and Tequila Lime varieties)
  • fresh cilantro (optional)
  • zest of 1 lime (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Serve chilled or room temp. May be made a day ahead. Pasta may soak up some of the liquid from the salsa, so you might like to add a bit more before serving. I hope your family enjoys this pasta salad as much as ours did!! Have a wonderful long weekend with family and friends!    -Eila

Saturday, May 26, 2012

easy appetizer for the long weekend: creamy baked salsa dip

One of the perks of having a popular blog is that every so often I am offered special food items to try with my family. Most recently, I received a few jars of 365 brand salsas from Whole Foods.  Being asked if I would share these salsas with my family and let them know what I thought did not take much arm twisting since I am a frequent shopper at, and big fan of, Whole Foods Market.... and I love salsa. 

If I were only cooking for me, the hotter the salsa the better! (But let's be serious, when am I ever only cooking for me?!) Since I was making a dip to be shared with family and friends this Memorial Day weekend, I opted to use the mild 365 brand Roasted Chipotle in this super easy appetizer. You all know that I am all about short ingredient lists, and quick assembly... and if something can be made ahead so I can sit and enjoy my family and/or guests, even better! So, without further adieu, let me share this "oldie but goodie" dip from my recipe binders.   

Creamy Baked Salsa Dip

4 oz log goat cheese
8 oz brick cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
16 oz jar salsa (I used 365 brand Roasted Chipotle variety)
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
tortilla chips, pita chips or your favorite cracker

Preheat oven to 350. Soften cheeses a bit, and blend together. Spread half of the cheese mixture in a baking dish. Smother with salsa. Dollop the remaining cheese mixture on top of the salsa. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Pop dish into oven and bake until heated through (about 10-15 minutes). Serve warm with your favorite tortilla chips, pita chips or crackers. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

a (healthy) treat that's worth the effort

I am *that* mom. The one who sees the sign-ups for the 3rd grade gathering, and picks fruit skewers instead of cups or napkins.

In a dizzying line-up of cupcakes, cookies, brownies and other sweet treats, I usually default to the healthiest choice on the list.  I've volunteered to bring mini red fruit skewers for Valentine's Day, longer ones the kids can gallop through the sand holding at beach day. My fruit skewers have graced many a child gathering in past years. And each and every time, they have been gobbled by excited children. The funny thing is, it's such a simple concept, but so wildly exciting for kids. Because really, anything on a stick is fun.

Yes, they take effort. And yes, they cost more than a package of Oreos. But they are worth it.

Worth it, because like Sally over at Real Mom Nutrition, I too let my kids munch on the snack du jour. I am a mom, and a super busy one at that. I never have, and never will, micromanage what another family provides as a treat. I trust that by modeling good eating at home-- and yes, enjoying our own fair share of treats-- my children will grow up able to make healthy choices. I let them excitedly grab cupcakes and cookies.... but you know what? They usually also grab a fruit skewer at the celebration.

And my children are not alone, when there's a healthy-- and fun-- choice. In fact, at last night's 3rd grade gathering, on a table filled with all sorts of gooey goodness, the fruit skewers were all gone.

Monday, May 21, 2012

a new batch of lunchbox ideas

Last night, I attempted to make a colonial-esque ruffle to go on the front of a white button down shirt, transforming it into part of a 3rd grade Benjamin Franklin came out looking more like "a crumpled white napkin", according to my husband. Thankfully, my lunch boxes receive more rave reviews. Here's the latest batch to give you some ideas these last few days of the school year...

Above: cucumber "swords", baby carrots, cheese quesadillas on spinach tortillas + fruit salad

steamed carrots + green beans and cherry tomatoes + cream cheese and jelly sandwich on sourdough + peas + two different kinds of cheese (cheddar and mozzarella) + Kashi Heart to Heart cereal (as a sweet treat)

chunks of melon (watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew) + roasted curry cauliflower + a yogurt smoothie + raisins + roasted sweet potatoes and new potatoes

smoothie + carrots + freeze-dried strawberries + whole wheat spaghetti with fresh tomatoes, basil and Parmesan

Saturday, May 19, 2012

easiest banana ice "cream" ever (note the quotes... it's just bananas and anything you add!)

Anyone else being asked for ice cream now that it's nice and warm? I successfully avoid the junk in the truck that greets us at most every park, but I'm with the kids when it comes to wanting a cool treat on a hot day.

We recently gave banana ice "cream" a try, and it was a huge hit, in addition to being ridiculously easy to make. I'd heard about this simple phenomenon from friends. According to them, you simply puree bananas, freeze them, and voila! Banana ice "cream". If you'd like, you can add in other treats/flavors too to make it sweeter, chunkier, etc...

Banana Ice "Cream" (plain version)
makes 4 servings

4-5 bananas (preferably frozen, but fresh is ok too)
Cuisinart food processor

Blend the peeled bananas in a food processor for about 5 minutes, until pureed. Mixture should be light, fluffy and smooth. If you start with frozen bananas, the ice "cream" will be ready to eat. Yes, in just 5 minutes!! If you started with fresh bananas, then you'll need to freeze the banana ice "cream" for several hours, until it's the consistency of soft-serve ice cream.

Scroll down to see this recipe (if you can even call it that, because it's so simple!) in action, plus add-in ideas....

As you can see, we added mini chocolate chips to this batch. There are loads of options to stir in for different flavor combinations: vanilla, cocoa powder, cinnamon, coconut, almond butter, peanut butter, sunbutter, honey, slivered almonds, raisins, carob chips, raw cacao nibs.... lots of possibilities! Have fun with this simple recipe!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Real Food Side Dish: Simple Lemon Quinoa with Peas and Carrots

Oh good! I am so glad you all have arrived! For those just joining us, I am host #5 of a progressive virtual dinner party in celebration of Jamie Oliver Foundation's Food Revolution Day. I know we've been making toasts to Food Revolution Day at each of our stops, but I hope you'll join me one more time. I am a huge fan of giving busy parents the skills and excitement to get into their kitchens and cook great food for their families. Around here, every day is Food Revolution Day!! Anyway, come on in! I hope that you didn't eat too much of the Grilled Asparagus with Homemade Garlic Mayo over at Grace's because I have a delicious whole grain side dish to share with you all next. 

Hmm, my house is in state of chaos, as always. I think we'll eat outside today! Just step over the Ben Franklin school project that has taken over our foyer, and follow me into the kitchen...

You all know that I love to make really amazing, family-friendly, healthy foods... but I am all about keeping recipes simple. The recipe I am sharing with you all today has just a few ingredients: vegetable broth, quinoa, fresh carrots, lemons, and fresh or frozen peas. It's light and simple as is. Or, you can jazz it up a bit with fresh herbs, or spices, if you'd like.

This whole grain side dish takes about 15-20 minutes from start to finish. Plenty of time to set the table.

Oh! You like my centerpieces? Yes, well, they are one-of-a-kind. Every meal around here features some of my children's artwork, which often serve as great dinnertime conversation starters. 

Alright, table is set, and my quinoa side dish is done. It's nice and light as is... but a little plain for my tastes.

So, I gave the kids some kitchen shears and asked them to trim a few herbs to put out on the table.

I thought each of you could customize your quinoa. Kind of fun, don't you think?

Oh, and while I love, love, love my kids... I went ahead and fed them before you arrived.

I always give my kids some version of what we're having. They missed out on Billy's Bacon Wrapped Blue Cheese Dates, Brianne's Roasted Tomato and Pepper Soup, Jeanne's Grilled Tilapia with Mango Salsa and Grace's Grilled Asparagus with Homemade Garlic Mayo, but they really liked the simplicity of the quinoa. I had some grilled chicken leftover from last night, and chopped extra carrots as a veggie side for them. While they've enjoyed playing in the yard up until now, something tells me they are going to want to try dessert. Rumor has it that Bettina is whipping up some sort of cake with berries and cream. I know everyone is excited for that, so let me share the recipe for Simple Lemon Quinoa with Peas and Carrots, then we can all trot over to The Lunch Tray for dessert!

Simple Lemon Quinoa with Peas and Carrots
(makes 6 servings)

2 cups vegetable broth*
1 cup organic quinoa
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
3 carrots, diced
salt & pepper, to taste
fresh herbs (optional)**

Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa and lower to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add the carrots and peas, and cook covered for 5 more minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Fluff with a fork and serve warm or room temp. 

*Or 2 cups water and 1 vegetable bouillon cube. My favorite brand is Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillion. I use the "no salt added" variety, so I can monitor the amount of salt going into my recipes.

** I put fresh basil, mint and parsley out on the table so each guest could add the herb of choice to their side dish.

Oh, by the way, I doubled the recipe tonight, because we'll be enjoying it again in a day. By simply adding in some grilled vegetables, tofu, chicken, shrimp or chicken sausages, this quinoa becomes a made-ahead dinner. Perfect!

I don't know about you guys, but I am one happy eater right now. Before we head over to Bettina's, the author of The Lunch Tray, to see what she's whipped up for dessert, please leave a comment below letting me know what you are doing to commemorate Food Revolution Day, or to share your favorite simple side dish recipe. I'll use at 1pm (EDT) on Saturday, May 19th to choose one lucky winner of 4 sectioned plates. You know I love my sectioned plates!! As a busy mom, they remind me to give my children a variety of foods at each meal. These fish-themed ones are so fun for summer.

Alright, I'm ready for dessert! In case you missed any of the other courses, here are the links:
Appetizer from Time at the Table
Soup from Red, Round or Green
Entree from The Jolly Tomato
Veggie Side from
Whole Grain Side from the full plate blog
Dessert from The Lunch Tray