Tag Archive | Recipes

10 Tips for Eating More Fruits and Vegetables

fruits & vegetables collage

In my efforts to eat more fruits and vegetables, I have noticed that there are times when the task is very difficult and other times when it feels practically effortless.  So, I started paying attention to what makes the difference and came up with this list.  Some of these strategies are more helpful for my family members, and others are more helpful for me, but when they are in place, I find that we all eat more of the good stuff!

1.  Keep the cutting board and knife clean and in easy reach.  Most fruits and vegetables require some prep work before eating, and if the cutting board and knife are dirty or hard to get to, the preparation becomes a large barrier to eating them.  On the other hand, if they are clean and available, I find that it’s usually pretty quick to chop up whatever it is I am planning to eat.

2. Snack on fruits and veggies before meals.  Yes, you read that right!  Most of the time we hear the advice to not eat snacks right before meals.  But I find that when I’m chopping produce for dinner, my kids will often ask if they can have some.  If I go ahead and give them some right then, they eat more than they would with the meal.  I’ve actually had to start buying extra bell peppers, because my youngest has been known to ask for so many that I haven’t had what I needed for the recipe! 🙂  However, my big exception to this is berries.  We have a strict “hands-off” rule for berries until the meal is served, because everyone loves them so much!

3.  Add fruits and vegetables to muffins and other baked goods.  This is a pretty common strategy, but it definitely needs to be included, because it works!  And every little bit helps.

4.  Make smoothies.  Another common strategy, I know.  But smoothies really are a great way to get in some less favored fruits and veggies.  Spinach and greens of course, but for my family even pineapple is not very well liked among the kids.  However in a smoothie, you can’t really taste it.  It simply adds sweetness and it is so healthy.  Smoothies are a perfect way to help my family eat more pineapple!

5.  Make extra.  White potatoes, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes are all vegetables that can be prepared in larger-than-normal batches, and stored in the fridge to eat for several days.  Or, they can be stored in the freezer for longer.  I like to make soups and freeze individual batches for me to have for lunch.  It’s so easy to just thaw and eat! (I like these two recipes: Butternut Squash-Apple Soup and Nutty-Sweet Potato Soup — however, I’m the only one around here who does, so that’s why I freeze individual portions).  Smoothies also freeze well, but they don’t thaw quickly.  Sometimes  I make a big batch of smoothie and put it in small tightly-sealed containers to pack in my kids lunches.  They thaw to just about the right consistency by lunch-time!

6.  Make a little extra.  For vegetables that don’t store well for a long time after they are cooked, I’ve learned to make just enough extra at dinner to have some the next day for lunch.  This way I don’t have to prepare a vegetable when I really want to just grab something, but I don’t have so much around that I have to throw it out later.

tooty fruity salad

{click image to view larger}

7.  Mix ’em up!  I love this story from the Friend Magazine (see image on the right).  The child is hungry and wants a snack, but when offered an apple, banana, grapes, and crackers he turns them down saying that he is tired of them all.  The mom responds, “how about tooty fruity salad?”  This gets the boys attention, and he agrees.  So the mom combines bite-sized pieces of the different fruits and the graham crackers to make a fruit salad.  And, of course, now the boy is very happy with his snack!  And this trick doesn’t just work with kids; it works for adults too!

8.  Keep it simple.  While mixing it up can be a great thing, on the other end of the spectrum is planning to “mix it up” so much that it becomes too much work.  For example, if I plan a main dish and a vegetable side for dinner that both require quite a bit of preparation, I will likely want to skip making the vegetable side when it comes time to actually make dinner.  So I often plan the simplest vegetables to go with dinner, or a more complex side with a basic main dish such as baked fish or chicken.

9.  Eat ’em first!  If the fruits and vegetables being served are not my favorite part of the meal, then I try to eat them first and get them out of the way.   Then I am free to enjoy the rest of the food.

10.  Keep ’em fresh! – I have a thing for wanting my produce to be really fresh.  The longer it sits in my fridge, the less likely I am to eat it or serve it.  It’s kind of a hang-up really, because sometimes it really is still fine to eat.  But in recognizing this about myself, I’m learning that prior to shopping for new groceries it is helpful to look in the fridge ask myself, “Do I have a clear plan for eating these (i.e. scheduled in an upcoming menu)?”  If not, I take some time to clear them out…either by eating them right away, preserving them for later (i.e. freezer), or getting rid of them (in the compost pile).  This way when I bring new produce home from the store, everything in the fridge is as fresh as possible, making all of it more appealing to eat.

Below is a picture of a bunch of produce that I preserved by freezing one day, prior to restocking the fridge.  From left to right (clockwise) there are cut up bell peppers (to add to soups), mushrooms (for stroganoff), celery (to make chicken stock), apples (for smoothies), orange-lime-aid (drank right away), lime zest and orange zest (for adding extra flavor to food), and spinach which I blended with water and froze in an ice cube tray (to add to soup or smoothies).

freezer food collageThese 10 strategies really do work when I take the time to implement them.  In fact, I’m glad to publish this post today, because I need the reminder!  Hopefully they can be helpful to others who may want to include a few more delicious and healthy fruits and vegetables in their diet too!!

What are your favorite strategies for eating more fruits and vegetables?

{note:  click here for top picture source…I made a collage of several of the pictures}

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Recipe: Coconut-Curry Chicken

I made this Coconut Curry Chicken on Sunday for my family and it really hit the spot!  The recipe comes from my sister-in-law who is a great cook.  She has enjoyed eating a dish called “Chicken Panang” at a Thai Restaurant, and was determined to learn how to make it at home.  So after a little research she found this recipe from “Real Simple Magazine.”

Ever since my college days I have loved curry, and when she first shared this recipe with me, I wondered what adding coconut milk would do to the flavor.  Well, I found out that it doesn’t taste *coconutty* at all, but instead it just lightens up the curry flavor, making it better.  I still love regular curry too, but I really love this dish!

DSC00041

Coconut Curry Chicken

For the sauce:

  • 1 can coconut milk (light or regular)
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2-1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine above ingredients in a small bowl.

Then, in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat, add:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (heat for 30 seconds)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy, up to 1 tsp)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
    • Stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds

Add the coconut-milk mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1-1/2 minutes.  If you prefer, you may make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the dish.

For the Rice and Stir-Fry:

  • 3 cups uncooked Jasmine rice (or your favorite rice)
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, cut into circles (optional – not part of the original recipe, but I like adding them)

Prepare rice as directed.

Stir-fry chicken in a little olive oil over medium high heat until cooked through.  Remove from pan.

Stir-fry the carrot slices for about 2 minutes.  Add the bell pepper slices and stir-fry until tender-crisp.

Return chicken to pan and add sauce.

Heat through and serve over rice.

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If you like curry there is a good chance you will like this dish. It is one of my favorites!

note:  I have made a few minor changes to the original recipe. 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

There are tons of tortilla soups floating around out there, but the recipe I’m sharing today is different from any of the others I’ve ever seen.  What makes it unique is that it is seasoned with dried basil (as opposed to taco-type seasoning), and topped with mozzarella cheese – 2 very important and tasty details!  This soup has been a favorite of mine for about 20 years now.  It was given to me by a friend when I was about 20 years old (I’ll let you do the math on my age – as long as you promise not to tell! 🙂 )

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Ingredients:
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 c. cooked chicken
4 c. chicken broth
3/4 tsp dried basil
1/8 tspg round red pepper (add more if you like it spicy)
salt and pepper to taste
1 (10-oz) can tomato puree
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes
Tortilla chips
Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Saute onion, pepper, and garlic in oil.  Add chicken broth and other ingredients (except the tortilla chips and cheese).  Heat to a boil; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Assembly:
Put tortilla chips in a bowl, ladle soup over them, then sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup 3

Place the tortilla chips in the bowl first.

Chicken Tortilla Soup 2

Ladle the soup on top of the chips.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top. Yum!

One final note:  The 10-oz can of tomato puree provides the perfect tomato-sauce consistency for this soup.  For awhile I had a hard time finding it, so I tried buying the bigger can and guesstimating the amount (freezing the rest).  Then I tried tomato sauce.  Now my stores sell the small tomato puree again, and it really is perfect.

Do you have a favorite recipe that you’ve had for years?

Recipe: Pulled Pork Sandwiches

I think I’ll start my blog off with a recipe.  I don’t create recipes; I just like to try them.  So I will almost always have to include a link to the site where I get mine from.  This pulled pork recipe is very easy and so good.  I’ve always loved pulled pork, ever since my childhood where my ward made large batches of it along with brunswick stew and hushpuppies to sell at our annual fund raiser.  Since then, I’ve often ordered it at various restaurants (always with cole slaw on top – that’s the North Carolina way!), but I haven’t made it myself.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I signed up to have the Sister Missionaries to dinner.  I was going to make my sister-in-law’s very delicious “Coconut Curry Chicken” but I needed to go to the store for ingredients.  Well, as it turned out, I did not want to go to the store that day, so I started hunting through the food I had on hand and found some pork chops.  I did a quick search on-line and found this recipe.  I also just happened to have some cabbage in my fridge (for the must-have cole slaw), a can of Bush’s Baked Beans in the pantry, and some “SteamFresh” vegetables in the freezer.  Perfect.

As it turned out, the Sister Missionaries loved my dinner!   They said so many nice things.

So, here is the link:

http://www.easycrockpotrecipes.com/recipe/pulled-pork-recipe.html

Do you make pulled pork sandwiches?  If so, how do you like to prepare it and what do you serve with it?