Tag Archives: Epicurious Healthy Lunchtime Challenge

Fun Friday: Kale Chips

21 Jun
These were a fun after school snack!

These really were a fun after school snack!

Kale doesn’t sound all that fun does it?

It really doesn’t. But, I’ve chosen it for my Fun Friday post today for several reasons.

First: We had Kale Chips at the White House for the first Kids’ State Dinner last August. That whole entire trip was fun, including trying the Kale Chips which were from Samuel Wohabe, age 9, from New York.

Second: The newest winners of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge were just announced yesterday! The Rhode Island winner, Samantha Mastrati, is from Cranston and a friend of ours! She will have so much fun on her trip!

Finally: These were a fun after school snack for the girls to try out. Although Caroline had them and enjoyed them on the trip, no one else had, so I thought this would be a fun snack to share with them.

To make these is super-easy. I bought one bunch of kale for just over a dollar at the store and it made lots of chips!

The prep instructions are minimal and the cook time is quick. Within minutes you have ahealthy, crunchy snack.

Here, according to Samuel’s instructions is the recipe for Kale Chips.

Coat, toss and bake!

Coat, toss and bake!

KALE CHIPS

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves
torn into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

On a large nonstick baking pan, drizzle the kale with olive oil, season with salt, and toss until
evenly coated.

Bake until crispy, about 15 minutes.

Monday Musings: Seize Every Opportunity

18 Mar
Hearing Olivia Culpo speak in July 2012 had a lasting impact on our girls.

Hearing Olivia Culpo speak in July 2012 had a lasting impact on our girls.

Last summer, we had the opportunity to meet Ms. Olivia Culpo, who was then Miss USA and is now Miss Universe, also an alum from my high school. The girls and I went to hear her speak, they stood with me while I interviewed her for the newspaper, and then we  stood in line for an hour for a quick meet and greet and an autograph.

On the way home, we talked about what we’d just experienced and the girls talked to me about which parts of her speech had an impact on them, as she was such a candid, animated speaker. They laughed about some of her funny stories, but we talked more seriously about one of her messages: don’t be afraid to take a risk.

Having never been a “pageant person” before, Olivia entered Miss USA despite her family’s hesitations, and won on her first time out there. A year later, she was winning Miss Universe too, and it was all because she wasn’t afraid to try something, to be a leader, to take a risk.

One of my favorite photos from our day: Caroline meeting and shaking hands with President Obama.

One of my favorite photos from our day: Caroline meeting and shaking hands with President Obama.

At the time, we didn’t know if Caroline was going to win the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge contest. We were awaiting notification, due the following week. What we did know however, was that Caroline had hesitated in entering because her sister was entering also, and she knew that only one of the two of them, if either of them, could win, and she was afraid of that. We talked that day after meeting Olivia about the fact that this too was a risk, and we’d wait and see what happened, but that at least she’d put herself out there, taken that risk.

And it turns out, she won.

With that, she’s had some of the most amazing experiences of her life, all in the past year, all because she wasn’t afraid to take a risk, to go out of her comfort zone.

She often gets asked to speak to groups of people, both adults and kids, and two of the messages that she always makes sure to emphasize when she speaks, are not to be afraid to take a risk and to always put in 100% effort into all you do.

After she won, a friend said to me,  “Your motto should be ‘Seize Every Opportunity’ because you’re always trying everything. If there’s something out there to do, you’ll do it.”

And she’s right. I think it’s important to reach for the stars, even if you miss on occasion. Most likely you won’t miss every time.

When I was in high school, with my parents’ help, I applied for a grant. I put in a proposal to go to New Zealand to study reading instruction. At the time, New Zealand was tops; on the forefront of reading and language instruction. It was a big risk, a scary thing to apply for, and ultimately, I did not get the grant. But, I’ll never forget applying for it, and receiving that letter stating that even though my proposal wasn’t chosen, it was a strong one, and one of the runners up. That gave me confidence to try again, to take a risk when another future opportunity arose.

Since that high school grant opportunity, I’ve taken on many challenges, reinventing myself in my careers again and again. Sometimes those challenges came through in my favor, and sometimes they didn’t, but each risk and result has made me stronger and more confident. As a journalist, each time I’ve won a New England or Rhode Island Press Association award, I’ve had to take a risk by submitting what I think is my best work, to be judged by others. It’s risky putting myself out there, and sometimes I win and sometimes I don’t. But I never say, “Oooh that’s too scary, I’m not even going to try,” or even “Yikes! That’s a lot of extra effort.”

This week we received notification that a grant Elizabeth had applied for, the Disney Friends For Change grant, a proposal she’d submitted on behalf of her class, was not going to be given to them. She was so disappointed. She and several friends had started a school newspaper, and this grant was going to improve what they’d begun, take it to the next level. However, the notification didn’t just say that she didn’t get it, it said that her efforts and dedication in applying for the grant were to be commended and that she shouldn’t give up on her particular project.

It was positive reinforcement, recognizing the fact that she took a risk, went the extra mile, seized an opportunity that not many would take the time to do. The very first thing she said was, “I think there’s another one. We can try again.”

I love that.

Congratulations to Alexandra. She took a risk, entered a contest and came in second place!

Congratulations to Alexandra. She took a risk, entered a contest and came in second place!

On Wednesday night, Alexandra competed in a cooking contest of her own. She had entered the recipe for her Sunshine Salad into the Sodexo Future Chefs competition in our city. Out of 17 elementary schools, ten students were chosen to compete, making their salads and having them judged by real chefs from our community.

She took the risk, entered the recipe in February and was chosen to compete in March.

She competed Wednesday night and took Second Place. Second, out of ten, in our whole city, at seven years old.

That’s taking a risk. That’s seizing an opportunity.

And that’s a memory she, and we, will never forget.

Childhood is a journey, as is parenthood. I hope that we are teaching our kids to be confident, to be leaders, to try everything and to take risks. I hope that the bursts of success that they experience  when they take the risks will encourage them to keep going and trying again when they don’t necessarily see that success. I hope that they learn that putting in the extra effort, taking the extra time, going the extra mile, really does all pay off in the end.

Seize.Every.Opportunity.

A Great Friday Snack: Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

22 Feb
The simplest things, like these Mardi Gras masks can provide hours of fun on a week like this one!

The simplest things, like these Mardi Gras masks can provide hours of fun on a week like this one!

Happy Friday everyone!

I hope you all had a great week! We’re finishing off February Vacation week here and it’s flown by, despite the fact that we had no set plans really.

We got to see real, live raptors VERY close up on Wednesday afternoon at the library. Very. Close.Up.

We got to see real, live raptors VERY close up on Wednesday afternoon at the library. Very. Close.Up.

We had a great week it turns out, thanks to the Cranston Public Library. We went there on Wednesday to return our books and realized that there were lots of great programs lined up for this week: a great Raptor program from a local wildlife preserve (Born to be Wild Nature Center in Bradford, RI) and the showing of a movie we had not yet seen, were the two things we took advantage of.

Little things like that give the kids something to look forward to and make the week go by.  And, it gives them the chance to take out new library books. We came home Wednesday with a new slew of books for them to read. Gotta love that too.

Best of all, those activities are all free, from the reading to the raptors to the movie.

Gotta love that even more.

They sounded like rock stars on Tuesday afternoon!

They sounded like rock stars on Tuesday afternoon!

We also had the opportunity to participate in a fun recording session at Reel to Real Recording Studio right here in Cranston. The girls were singing like rock stars for the whole afternoon on Tuesday. If you’ve never been there, it’s great fun so check it out!

We had a great time talking all about our trip and showing lots of photos and memorabilia.

We had a great time talking all about our trip and showing lots of photos and memorabilia.

And finally, we made a visit to Grandma Grello’s assisted living facility, where we got the Mardi Gras masks and matching bead necklaces too, and where Caroline presented her power point presentation about the Kids State Dinner trip.  It was her second such presentation in one week’s time and she did a great job with it, as usual. Reliving that trip is always amazing for us and the audience really enjoyed the presentation. Even better, it sparked some great conversation from the residents about their memories of Washington DC., some dating back to WWII. Living history: a privilege for us to be a part of.

Below is a great Friday recipe for you, taken from the blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.  We made this on Valentine’s Day but it makes a great after school snack and actually we had leftovers and my kids put it on their homemade waffles this weekend too.

We had barely any of the awesome fruits they have in their recipe below, but we made it work anyway. I used a red apple, a green apple and a green pear and they ate it right up. It’s super colorful, and I always love colorful foods.  I think it’s a plus when you can adapt a recipe to suit what you have on hand and it still comes out great.

So whether you are looking for something for an after school snack or something for vacation week’s end, this is a great choice for you!

This was a great, healthy snack. We used fat free tortillas and sugar free jelly.

This was a great, healthy snack. We used fat free tortillas, fat free cooking spray and sugar free jelly.

Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

Ingredients

    • 2 kiwis, peeled and diced
    • 2 Golden Delicious apples – peeled, cored and diced
    • 8 ounces raspberries
    • 1 (16 oz) carton of strawberries, diced
    • 2 tablespoons white sugar (more or less to taste)
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar (more or less to taste)
    • 3 tablespoons fruit preserves, any flavor (I used strawberry)
    • 10 (10 inch) flour tortillas
    • melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray
Cinnamon sugar:
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cinnamon

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix kiwis, apples, raspberries, strawberries, white sugar, brown sugar and fruit preserves. Cover and chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes.
  2. It didn't matter that we didn't have the exact fruits listed in the recipe. We used what was on hand and it was great!

    It didn’t matter that we didn’t have the exact fruits listed in the recipe. We used what was on hand and it was great!

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Coat one side of each flour tortilla with melted butter or butter flavored cooking spray. Sprinkle tortillas with desired amount of cinnamon sugar. Cut into wedges and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Spray again with cooking spray (not necessary if using melted butter).
  4. Bake in the preheated oven 8 to 10 minutes. Repeat with any remaining tortilla wedges. Allow to cool approximately 15 minutes. Serve with chilled fruit mixture. This salsa can also be served with cinnamon graham crackers or cinnamon pita chips. Best when made and eaten the same day otherwise the fruit gives off too much juice and it gets runny.

Notes

Source: Allrecipes

What’s For Dinner Wednesday: Fish Chowder

30 Jan
I absolutely loved this fish chowder last week!

I absolutely loved this fish chowder last week!

I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this or not, but a few years back I developed an allergy to shellfish. Not all shellfish, but a lot of my faves are no longer on my menu.

To live in New England, a summer oasis of ocean and seafood, it’s terribly sad for me to have this allergy. I have always loved all seafood. Luckily there’s only a handful I can’t eat, and there are still some things I can eat.

Clam cakes and chowder after the beach were one thing that I’d been missing in particular, so my heart did a little leap this summer when I was walking through Washington DC on my way to the Smithsonian Museum of American History, with the winner of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge from Virginia, Madeleine Steppel and her mom, Debra, while Caroline and I were there as the Rhode Island winners.

Madeleine's recipe was so easy to follow. Caroline made most of it by herself!

Madeleine’s recipe was so easy to follow. Caroline made most of it by herself!

The most common question we all asked each other on that first day of our trip was, “Where are you from and what was your recipe?”

When I asked that question to Madeleine and Deb, I was thrilled by their answer: Fish Chowder. Madeleine had chosen to make a chowder that I could actually eat! When I asked Debra what was in their chowder, she said that any white fish would do. I was so excited!

Unfortunately, it took me five months before I had a chance to try out this recipe, just last week. It was one that Caroline had been asking for also, and she was so excited when I said I had everything for it.

The recipe was super-easy and didn’t take long at all to make. We substituted a couple of items to suit our tastes and our diet, but overall we followed her recipe almost to a T.

And let me tell you….I was in chowder heaven. It has been several years since I’ve been able to have chowder. I savored every.single.bite.

I went to school to work the school book fair after dinner. Then I came back and had a second bowl. That second bowl was all I could think about when I was at the book fair.

I already have plans to bring this chowder with me this summer to our annual Labor Day Weekend cookout, the one that’s almost entirely seafood, so that I too, can partake in the summer yumminess that I’ve been missing terribly.

One of the best things about this recipe was that it was easy enough that Caroline could handle almost the entire thing by herself. I chopped the onions (we both cried), and she did just about all the rest.

Below are the ingredients and directions, along with any notes stating the changes I made for us. I would definitely make this again.

Soon.

And all summer long.

And on Labor Day weekend for our cookout.

And any time in between.

Fish Chowder

By Madeleine Steppel, age 9

Virginia

Madeleine’s page in the recipe book states, “‘Senator Mark Warner’s recipe for ‘creamless’ Asparagus Soup, which I found in the Celebrate Virginia Cookbook, inspired me to create a chowder recipe,” said Madeleine, who used milk in this recipe because it is the State Beverage of Virginia. She would serve this with a fruity salad of spring greens, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, dried cranberries, and a citrus vinaigrette, with whole-grain bread.”

Makes 4-6 servings

Caroline loved being able to make the majority of this herself.

Caroline loved being able to make the majority of this herself.

INGREDIENTS

3 white potatoes (about 12 ounces total) peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes.

1 pound bag of frozen peas and carrots, thawed (We skip these.)

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 small onion finely chopped

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (we use gluten free Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 flour as of 2015)

4 cups low fat milk (we used skim)

1 1/2 to 2 pounds skinless white fish fillet, such as bass, tilapia, or flounder cut into 2″ pieces (I used 2 one pound bags of frozen flounder from Aldi’s.)

Salt and white pepper

(I also sometimes add in 1/2 tsp dried dill weed for color and flavor, which is what my dad always does when he makes his chowder every summer.)

There's nothing like a pot of hot chowder on the stove!

There’s nothing like a pot of hot chowder on the stove!

DIRECTIONS

1. Place potatoes in large glass microwave safe bowl. Add enough cool water to just cover the potatoes, and microwave on high for 4 minutes. Add the peas and carrots and microwave on high until the vegetables are tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the vegetables and set aside (or boil the vegetables until soft, about 8 minutes).

2. In a large saucepan over moderate heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and the garlic, and saute, stirring occasionally, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Lower the heat to moderately low, add the flour, and whisk for 2 minutes to make a roux. Gradually whisk in one cup of milk and stir until hot and creamy, making sure to whisk out any lumps. Gradually whisk in the remaining three cups of milk and cook, whisking, until steaming hot, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the fish and the cooked vegetables, and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until the fish is cooked through and flaky. Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Quinoa Muffins

25 Jan
These muffins are hearty, healthy and taste great!

These muffins are hearty, healthy and taste great!

I’ve mentioned previously that I really love getting ideas from Pinterest. I first had quinoa at the White House when I had lunch there for the first Kids’ State Dinner. After that I was hooked on quinoa and I searched for lots of different ways of cooking it.

Today’s recipe was originally a Pinterest recipe for Martha Stewart Quinoa Muffins.

We had to healthify it a little bit. I’ve put the link to the original recipe above, and I’ll make notes to tell you how we changed the recipe to suit our needs.

Everyone in our house likes these muffins. I’ve made them twice now, once following the original recipe back in the fall, and once a few weeks ago with our modifications. If you haven’t cooked with quinoa, I encourage you to try it. I like having another ingredient option for my cooking and baking. The last time I used it, I cooked up a big batch and used some for the muffins, some for a side dish with dinner another night, and some I ate like oatmeal in the mornings for my breakfast. It’s quite the versatile ingredient.

QUINOA MUFFINS
INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, such as safflower, plus more for pan (We used 1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt.)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan (We used 1 cup wheat flour, 1 cup white flour.)
  • 3/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins (We used craisins for half the batch and chocolate chips for the other half the batch.)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (We used skim milk.)
  • 1 large egg (We used egg substitute.)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Splitting the batch in half allowed for using both craisins and chocolate chips as filling options.

Splitting the batch in half allowed for using both craisins and chocolate chips as filling options.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring quinoa and 1 cup water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cover, and cook until water has been absorbed and quinoa is tender, 11 to 13 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, brush a standard 12-cup muffin pan with oil; (we used fat free nonstick spray) dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, raisins, and 2 cups cooked quinoa; reserve any leftover quinoa for another use.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together oil, milk, egg, and vanilla. Add milk mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined; divide batter among prepared muffin cups.
  4. Bake until toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool muffins in pan, 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Sam’s Sizzling Tofu with Green Onions and Sugar Snap Peas

31 Oct

I’d never had tofu before, and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved Sam’s recipe!

One of the cool things about our DC trip for the Kids’ State Dinner in August, was being exposed to things we hadn’t had before. Some things were regional, some things were just new and different for us, but so far there hasn’t been one thing I haven’t liked that I tried from that trip.

Sam’s Sizzling Tofu is my latest winning recipe to try.

I’ve slowly been going through the cookbook making a new recipe every now and then, and Sam’s Sizzling Tofu recipe was next up on my list, simply for the fact that I’d never had tofu before and this sounded good to me.
Sam is ten and he’s from Maryland. His mom, Paula, makes him this recipe for lunch often because he doesn’t like sandwiches. Paula is also the person who made the Pumpkin Soup that I posted a couple of weeks back.

Sam and I have something in common, if you remember my post last spring, because I don’t like sandwiches either, which makes lunchtime a tough time for me each day.  I do however, like brown rice, scallions and sugar snap peas, so if I liked tofu, then I’d like this too.

We tried Sam’s recipe on a Sunday afternoon and I loved it, I even had the leftovers for lunch during the week following.

Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle…..

I wish I could have photographed the way Sam’s Sizzling Tofu really did sizzle. It was so cool!

Here is what Sam had to say in the cookbook about his recipe:

“Well, I don’t really eat sandwiches very well, so my mom has to find other things for me to eat for lunch,” says Samuel.

“One day I tried tofu and I liked it, so my mom got it. Then my mom was asking me what I wanted for lunch, and I asked her for the tofu. She made it and put it in a thermos. My friends wondered what it was, and a couple of them tried it and really liked it too!”

I’d definitely make Sam’s Sizzling Tou with Green Onions and Sugar Snap Peas again, and if you’ve never had tofu, I encourage you to try it too! If you are already a fan, then this recipe is for you as well. Give it a try, it’s a great side dish for your dinner and a great lunchtime recipe!

SAM’S SIZZLING TOFU WITH GREEN ONIONS AND SUGAR SNAP PEAS

Tofu…got it!

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ pound firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 garlic clove, minced
2 scallions, white and light green parts
only, chopped
1 cup sugar snap peas, cut into thirds
½ cup cooked brown rice
DIRECTIONS

1. In a large sauté pan over moderate heat, warm the oil.
Add the tofu and cook, stirring often, until golden brown,
about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, scallions, and sugar
snap peas, and cook 5 more minutes.

I served mine with a squirt of soy sauce on top too, yummy!!

2. While the vegetables are cooking, warm the rice in the
microwave for 1 minute on high, then serve the sizzling
tofu on top.

What’s for Dinner Wednesday: Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Salad by Haile Thomas

3 Oct

Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Salad was on the menu at the Kids’ State Dinner at the White House in August.

Ever since our trip to DC for the Kids’ State Dinner, I’ve had a list a mile long of things I want to make that we either had on the trip or are recipes in the cookbook (free download here) we received from epicurious showing all the recipes from the other winners. One of the things I’d heard about but had never tried til DC was quinoa. It was in one of the dishes we ate at the White House, and it is now today’s recipe.

A few weeks ago I picked some up and I spent some time reading about what it is, how you cook it (has to be rinsed first in most recipes) and what kinds of things you eat it with. Even though I had the recipe for today’s dish, I actually used it first to make muffins, which four out of five of us liked, so you’ll see that at some point in the future too.

Caroline was so excited that we were finally going to try out this recipe, it’s been at the top of her list too!

Last week we tried out Haile Thomas’ recipe. Haile is from Arizona and Caroline and I both loved her dish when we had it in DC. Haile is 11, and the cookbook blurb states that they began experimenting with quinoa when the family gave up eating white rice when her dad learned that he was a diabetic.

“The secret to [the recipe’s] success is that ‘all the kids love it, the ingredients are affordable, it’s easy to make and it’s just plain good,'” Haile’s mom says in her quote. They say it can be served hot or cold and I agree. We had ours as a side dish with quesadillas and again, the same four out of five of us loved it. I guess quinoa is now going on Alex’s Don’t Like List.

Coincidentally, just as I finished typing this, I found out that Haile is featured in this month’s Food and Flourish Magazine. In fact, she’s not only featured on pages 26-31, but she’s ON THE COVER!

If you haven’t tried quinoa before, I highly recommend it. I’m thrilled to have another healthy option for side dishes with our meals and I’m glad so many of my family members love it!

**Any modifications I had to make for this recipe I have put in parentheses. **

Haile’s Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Salad

Serves 6

I love all of the colors in recipes like this. We definitely “ate a rainbow” with this dish!

INGREDIENTS

2 (15 ounce) cans of organic black beans (ours weren’t organic) drained and rinsed
4 cups fresh corn (we used a bag of frozen, cooked but not hot)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered (I chopped up a large tomato)
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 medium red onion, chopped (I used half, it was large)
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley (I used dried parsley)
2 avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into cubes
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon halved (mine was bad so I used lemon juice instead)
Sea salt

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, tomatoes, quinoa, cilantro or parsley, red onion, avocados, and olive oil.

Squeeze the lemon halves and add their juice to the bowl.

Toss to combine, then season to taste with salt and serve.

Cook’s note from the Thomas family: To make this dish hot, warm it on the stovetop of in a microwave, or saute all the ingredients together and add the avocados and cilantro or parsley after it’s plated.

This was a perfect side dish for our quesadillas last week!