Nibbles & Noshes

Changing your family’s eating habits in a world filled with processed food is not easy. Where do you even begin? I say start small and take one step at a time. Trying to completely overhaul your family’s diet at once is near impossible. Why not just start with the snacks?

We here at the House of Bedlam spend the majority of our waking hours at ice skating rinks. Which means we encounter lots of vending machines and snack bars with wonderful assortments of decadent treats. Did you know vending machines speak in high pitch voices that only children can hear? The voices are saying “drive your parents crazy until they give you some change!” This has not been scientifically proven – YET…

That vending machine full of colorful chips and candy is hard to compete with. To be honest, I have a hard time walking by without gazing into the glass to see what the choices are. If I gave in every time they asked, my kids would gladly live on vending machine fare. I try and stick to the 80/20 plan and have healthy snack alternatives for the times I don’t cave in.

One of my go to snacks is granola and I’ve come up with a recipe that satisfies their sweet tooth and need for something crunchy. Our secret is to add in steel cut oats for an extra crunch.

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This recipe can be tailored with your family’s favorite nuts or dried fruits. Make a huge batch and have some on hand when that vending machine starts talking to your kids!

The Crunchiest Granola Ever

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

2 Tbsp. honey

¼ cup maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 ¼ cups Old-fashioned oats (not instant)

¾ cup steel cut oats

1 egg white (optional)

¼ cup dried cranberries (optional)

¼ cup raisins (optional)

– Recipe by Elaine Studdert

Method

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and salt. Add both oats and stir until coated.

IMG_2061Add the egg white and stir until well combined. The egg binds the granola in large clusters which is great for snacking. Just omit if you want the granola to be more like cereal.

Spread the oat mixture on the baking sheet in a single layer, spreading it with a fork to leave clusters. Do not press down.

IMG_2064Bake for 40-45 minutes until browned. The granola will be soft when you remove it from the oven but will crisp as it cools. After granola is cooled break into chunks and mix in the cranberries and raisins.

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Store in airtight container for up to two weeks. If it lasts that long…

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “I like the flavor”

Liam (age 5): “Tastes like cereal”

Dylan (age 5): “Too crunchy”

 

For my local readers:

Upcoming talks w/Jen Dorf, Integrative Holistic Health Coach

Tues 3/3 Central School 7:30pm

Thurs. 3/12 Athleta in Scarsdale 6:30pm

How To Make Meal Time Connections With Your Family:

Do you feel overwhelmed by the thought of getting a meal on the table while juggling numerous activities with the kids?  Have you fantasized about enjoying a meal together as a family around the dining room table rather than at the counter or in the car?  Imagine the entire family sharing the mealtime duties so you can all enjoy one another with no distractions. Kids yearn for the family meal and studies show that there is a lower incidence of eating disorders and alcohol/drug abuse when families dine together on a regular basis.  Many of us have never learned how to make this happen! Join Jen Dorf as she shares simple and fun tips to connect with your kids at meal time.  Quick and easy recipes to satisfy the pickiest of eaters, and age appropriate duties will have the entire family engaged at mealtime happy to participate in the process.  You and your family will enjoy each other around the table more regularly.

To learn more visit: Jen Dorf Wellness

Thanksgiving Fever

We’ve managed to use the kids as an excuse for the last seven years but now our time has come. Thanksgiving will be at our house this year and we’re definitely getting Thanksgiving fever. I’m receiving an email every hour with a mashed potato recipe or reading a blog post boasting of the perfect brining method. The chatter is endless. The momentum that surrounds this day, the holiest of cooking holidays, is mind boggling.

Finally, I sat back, took a deep breath and broke it down.

Turkey, gravy, some form of potato (sweet, mashed or both), vegetable, another vegetable, stuffing, and cranberry sauce, which I count as optional since hardly anyone even eats it. Appetizers are fairly easy, we’re just talking some cheese, dips, and chips. Most guests can be counted on to bring a dessert, so I’m not even stressing about that.

Since I can do the sides ahead I’m fairly confident I can pull those off. If I screw a dish up I can remake it, not a problem. It’s really all about the #$^%$^% turkey. Sink or swim, there are no dress rehearsals. But before I even cook one I have to figure out all the other stuff. To brine or not to brine? Wet brine or dry? Organic, heritage, locally grown, antibiotic-fee? How many pounds??? Well, I did what any self-respecting home cook would do – let the experts do it for me! Some might say it’s a bit of a cheat but if the turkey can come pre-brined in a roasting pan already done for you – why not???

So the focus at our house will be coming up with some delicious sides that hopefully will become tradition. And I’m even getting the boys in on the action, they are responsible for a desert. More on that later in the week…

Sweet Potato Crumble (recipe serves 8-10)

Ingredients

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

3/4 cup mascarpone cheese

¼ cup maple syrup

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 stick butter, cold

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup walnuts, rough chopped into small pieces

Method

Place sweet potatoes in large saucepan and cover with water. Boil until they are fork tender. Drain and place in a large mixing bowl. Add mascarpone cheese, maple syrup, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mash or blend with a food processor until smooth.

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Spread the sweet potato mash in a large shallow baking dish and set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the butter, flour, brown sugar, and chopped nuts until the topping is a crumbly texture. The best method is to use your fingers to work the butter into the sugar and nuts. Arrange the topping evenly over the sweet potatoes.

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At this point you can refrigerate the dish until the big day or bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until edges are bubbly and topping is crispy, about 35-40 minutes.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 7): “The top is quite good”

Liam (age 5): “I kind of like it”

Dylan (age 5): “Not sure – top’s okay”

Hmmmm, hope the family likes it a bit better!

 

 

Stew Leonard’s Brussels Sprouts – Product Review

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We are big into food shopping around here and one store I always love to shop at is Stew Leonard’s. If you’re looking for a weekend activity with your kids, this store is the place to be.

Walking into Stew Leonard’s is very much like walking into a casino. There’s so much going on you don’t’ know where to look first. Buttons to push, food to taste, cows mooing, singing chickens, and a great assortment of groceries stocked on the shelves.

Being asked to taste test one of their products was like winning the roulette wheel. And if going to a supermarket to pick up Brussels sprouts gets your kids excited how awesome is that? The minute we walked into the store the boys were anxious to hit every demo food station there was. They pushed every button and sampled every dish. We ended our shopping excursion with a picnic lunch at the Little Farm (yes, they even have a tiny petting zoo!) followed by some complimentary ice cream.

What makes Stew Leonard’s Brussels sprouts so different from any other market?

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I’ve cooked Brussels sprouts before but the difference in buying them at Stew Leonard’s versus another market is that they sell them washed, cleaned and shaved for you. Not only is most of the labor done for you they also provide a great Brussels sprout recipe on their website. I loved the convenience of this because there are many nights that I don’t have time to slice and dice.

The day we picked up our sample groceries there was also had a station demonstrating a Brussels sprouts recipe (different from the one featured on the website). And to make it even easier all the ingredients needed to cook the demo dish were stocked conveniently at the same station. You don’t have to run around the store looking for all the components, they are all in one spot, ready to go.

The recipe we followed was developed by the chefs at Stew Leonard’s and is featured below:

Not Your Mother’s Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients

4 strips premium bacon, diced

1 Tbsp butter

½ red onion, diced

2 8oz pkgs Stew Leonard’s Shaved Brussels Sprouts

1 oz water

¼ cup maple syrup

Salt & Pepper

 

Method

Add bacon to a large saute pan (very large!), pre-heated at medium-high heat. Render bacon till crisp. Add butter. When melted, add onions and continue to cook until onions are translucent.

Add Brussels sprouts and water. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. (Note: We needed to add a few more tablespoons of water. It also took a lot longer than 2-3 minutes to cook down)

Add maple syrup and cook an additional 2-3 minutes and serve.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 6): “It looks disgusting but tastes pretty good”

Liam (age 5): “How many do we have to eat?”

Dylan (age 5): “Brussels sprouts are good but where’s the bacon?”

Would we buy prepackaged, prewashed Brussels sprouts in the future?

Besides the recipe above, there are so many ways to use this product. Simply sauté with olive oil, garlic and salt. Add them to a pasta sauce. Toss them in a salad. Use them as a healthy pizza topping. To be honest, the recipe we made was a little too sweet and rich to eat on a frequent basis but I would definitely stock these in our fridge, especially since my kids did eat them! The convenience factor is always welcome at our house and this product definitely fits the bill. Priced at 3.99 for an 8oz. package.

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Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated for this post. I did receive complimentary products to sample.

The Bus is Here!

It seems like only yesterday that the bus pulled up to our house on the first day of camp. And now we are in week 5! Where did the time go? What happened to all those projects I promised myself I was going to tackle? I should really get started on those.

This summer Dylan and Liam were finally old enough to follow Matthew to big boy camp. Instead of waving goodbye from the driveway as Matthew heads off; they are all boarding the bus together, my little gang of three. Initially I felt sad that first week when the bus whisked them all away. But as I laced on my sneakers and headed out for a run that feeling miraculously disappeared! Funny how that happened…

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Although the little guys are ready for camp, they only go half day so they miss out on camp lunch. And since they want to do EVERYTHING their big brother does I promised I would make camp lunches for them – same as Matthew was eating. I pulled out the camp menu and was glad to see that camp fare really hadn’t changed much since I was a kid. For the month of July they had chicken five times, pasta five times, pizza five times,  the obligatory hot dogs, burgers, carrots (I suppose to make the parents happy), and the ubiquitous fruit cocktail.

One of the “specials” was Brunch for Lunch. On the menu that day was French Toast Sticks. Sounded like a potential winner –

French Toast Sticks w/ Fruit Cocktail

Ingredients:

French Toast

6 slices Texas toast

2 Tbsp melted butter

3 Eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1/4 tsp salt

Confectioner sugar (optional)

Maple syrup, for dipping (optional)

 

Fruit Cocktail

1 peach, diced

1 cup pineapple, diced

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 lemon, juice of

 

Directions:

French Toast Sticks

Stack the bread and trim off the edges. Then cut the bread into 1” sticks. Yield: 18 sticks.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush half of the melted butter onto a large baking sheet.

In a shallow mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon sugar, and salt. Dip the bread into the egg mixture to coat.

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Do not let the bread sit and soak up the egg, they will fall apart, just make sure the bread is coated and then place onto prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar onto the sticks and place in oven.

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Bake 10-12 minutes. Turn and brush topside with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake another 10-12 minutes until crispy.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with a side of maple syrup for dipping.

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Fruit cocktail

Combine the peach, pineapple, and dried cherries in a small mixing bowl. Add fresh lemon juice and let sit in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes until the cherries plump up. Serve cold.

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And the VERDICT is: (since Matthew was at camp I happily sat in on the tasting)

Liam (age 4): “These raisins taste like pickles. Don’t eat them Dylan”

Dylan (age 4): “Eat the raisins first. I heard a guy talking about these French toast sticks at camp – I love these”

Me (age N/A): “I wish I could eat at camp too, these are so good”

They never even asked for syrup….

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Gluten-free ain’t that bad

A few months ago my good friend told me that her son had been diagnosed with Celiac disease; a digestive disorder involving intolerance to gluten. That same weekend we were at a birthday party together and I remember thinking it was going to be a bummer that he wouldn’t be able to eat birthday cake. From a 4-year olds perspective that’s a pretty big deal. But no worries, she had gotten him a huge gluten-free chocolate cupcake instead. To be honest, it looked a lot better than the cake!

The other day, that same friend and I were hanging at the park, and I asked how the food situation was going. Surprisingly, she said that in some ways it was the best thing that had happened to her family. As a result of the diagnosis, the entire family was now eating better. And since she was doing more cooking it meant they were having less processed foods.

It got me thinking – what would I do if one of my own kids developed gluten intolerance? Beyond the birthday cake dilemma, what would the day-to-day menu be? How would we live without bagels???

We’ve been fortunate not to have to deal with any food allergies. I have little experience cooking gluten-free recipes but after doing some research, found tons of great options. It made me realize; going gluten-free really isn’t all that bad.

This recipe was highly recommended by a friend – she said it made salmon converts out of her kids; it couldn’t be easier and is entirely gluten-free.

Maple-Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

1-cup Nama Shoyu soy sauce or tamari*

1 clove garlic, grated

1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated

1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1-cup pure maple syrup

4 salmon fillets, well rinsed

  • tamari is a naturally fermented soy sauce

 

Directions:

Mix the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and maple syrup in a bowl.

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Spread the soy mixture over the fish in a baking dish. Marinate the fish in the refrigerator for at least one hour or overnight.

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Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake salmon for 15-18 minutes, until fish flakes easily with a fork.

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And the VERDICT is:

Matthew (age 5): “Yeah, it’s good”

Dylan (age 4): “Yuck – fish is yucky –it swims in water”

Liam (age 4): “Yum – you don’t even have to TELL me to eat it!” “Dylan, it isn’t slimy”

A Yeah, a Yuck and a Yum – could be the lyrics of a new hit song!