Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Soup

I read somewhere that most people have about 8-10 standard main dishes that they eat all of the time.  I wonder if that is true?  I could see the appeal of doing that, it would make it much easier to shop for groceries!  I might be tempted to eat that way if I was only cooking for myself, but I really like to mix things up when feeding my family.  Variety really is a good thing when it comes to optimal nutrition, because greater variety in the foods that you eat ensures that you are getting all of the nutrients that you need.  With this in mind, I am always looking for new recipes to add to our recipe "rotation" so that we don't eat the same thing more than once per month. 

I found a yummy new recipe that I made for our weekly "soup and bread" night that would be a great recipe for a child care home.  I always try and make Monday's soup on Sunday so that the flavors have a chance to mix together when sitting in the refrigerator overnight.  I really think this improves the flavor of most soups!  This soup is called "taco soup" but it really reminded me more of chili than tacos.  It might be more like tacos if you choose to use all of the suggested garnishes, but I just served it with the shredded cheese.

Note: You can find bulgur in the bulk bins at Sunflower Market.  I have also seen it in the cooking aisle at my local King Soopers.

Taco Soup
4 cups water
1/2 cup bulgur
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon minced jarred garlic)
1 medium bell pepper, finely diced (you can use any color)
4 cups cooked pinto beans  (or 2, 16oz cans pinto beans drained and rinsed)
1 28oz can tomato puree
1 4oz can mild chopped green chilies
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Garnishes (optional)
shedded lowfat cheddar cheese
thinly shredded romaine lettuce
finely diced fresh tomatoes
tortilla chips

Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the bulgur and stir.  Reduce the heat and cover the pan.  Simmer, covered for 15 minutes or until the water is absorbed.  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot.  Add the onion and saute until translucent.  Add the garlic and the bell pepper and continue to saute, stirring, until all are golden.  Add the remaining ingredients (except the garnishes) plus the previously cooked bulgur to the pan.  Add the remaining 3 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes, then remove from the heat.

Serve warm topped with garnishes as desired. 

Crediting information:  Makes 10 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 meat/meat alternate and 1 fruit/vegetable at any meal or snack for 3-5 year old children. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Avoiding Food Waste

I don't know about you, but I am a little apprehensive about recent reports that food prices will continue to rise in the next year.  I have a certain amount of money budgeted for food every month and I am sure many of you do too. So, I am not really thrilled about having to stretch my budget even more.   I do try very hard not to waste food and use up what I buy, but unfortunately most weeks I do end up throwing a little rotten food in the compost pile.  So, my new goal is to try and use up all of the leftovers in my fridge before they go bad!

My kids love the macaroni and cheese recipe from the Wildwood website recipe section.  This recipe calls for cottage cheese, which is something I don't use very often, and I always have about a cup leftover after I make the recipe.  My family doesn't like to eat cottage cheese by itself, so I am always looking for ways to use it up.  I went looking for a recipe this week to finish off the cottage cheese sitting in my fridge and I found a great one!  My family loved this recipe.  I love the fact that it contains nutrient-rich brown rice and is quick and easy to make!  This is also a great way to get some  whole grains in your childrens' diets so that they can "make half of their grains whole".  

Note: The cheapest place I have found to buy brown rice is in the bulk bins at Sunflower Market. 

Cheesy Brown Rice Casserole (adapted from Potpourri magazine)
2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
4 green onions, chopped
1 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1/2 teaspoon dillweed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Stir gently until well mixed.  Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Crediting information: Makes 10 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 1-5 year old children. 

How do you use up leftovers?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Blast From the Past!

I recently had a provider email me to say that she had lost one of her kids' favorite muffin recipes that was published long ago in a Wildwood newsletter.  I was so happy to be able to dig up the recipe and send it to her.  Turns out it was originally published in 2001! 

I thought that I would share the recipe with all of you today.  You will have some leftover pumpkin after you make this recipe.  I like to use our pumpkin "leftovers" to stir into oatmeal for breakfast or for adding to soup or sauces.  These muffins would make a great snack, and they contain nutrient-rich pumpkin and "good" fats. 

Pumpkin Muffins (Wildwood newsletter October 2001)
1 1/2 cups enriched all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup lowfat or skim milk
1/2 cup pumpkin
3 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease the bottom of 10 muffin cups.  In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until moistened.  The batter will be lumpy.  Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Remove muffins from pan to cool.

Crediting information: Makes 20 servings (10 muffins).  1/2 of a muffin is creditable as one bread/bread alternate for 1-5 year olds at any meal or snack. 


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

One Important Way Home Child Care Providers Make a Difference

I love working for Wildwood because it is so rewarding to work with home child care providers!  One big reason for this is that home child care providers have such a great impact on the eating habits and diet of the children in their care.  They can help children learn about nutrition, and expose them to a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods that they might not have the opportunity to try at home.  Providers on our program teach children to have healthy eating habits that last a lifetime!

A couple of years ago we did a workshop addressing the influence of a child's diet on brain development in early childhood.  We know that a child's brain is growing the fastest in the first three years of life.  That is why what a child eats during this time is so important!   A new study that was recently published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health  gives more evidence to support just how important a healthy diet is.  The researchers found that if a child's diet was high in processed food (high in fats and sugars) at the age of 3 it caused a lower IQ later on in that child's life.  Surprisingly, even if a child's diet improved after age 3, there was no benefit to the IQ score (dietary patterns between the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on the IQ).   The authors of the study suggest that these findings were due to the fact  that "good nutrition during the first three years of life may encourage optimal brain growth".

I just wanted to share this article and congratulate all of our providers who are participating in the Wildwood Child and Adult Care Food Program.  It helps to remind ourselves that while it may take a little more effort sometimes to prepare a healthy snack or meal rather than just serving more processed choices,  it is worth it for our kids' health and quality of life.  You are making a difference every day!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Quick Snack

I know that when I was a home child care provider, a quick snack was handy to have on a busy day.  If that snack also allowed the kids to be creative, even better!

Here is a quick snack idea that doubles as an art project.  I got the idea for these "egg heads" from Family Fun magazine:

These are super easy to make!  Simply slice a hard boiled egg and place each slice on a round cracker.  (We didn't have any round crackers so I used a cookie cutter to cut shapes from a whole wheat tortilla).  Then, allow the children to decorate their egg slices with eyes, noses, mouths, etc. made from whatever you have handy.  We used olives, chives, carrot bits, cherry tomatoes, celery leaves, and nuts. 

Use whole grain crackers if possible for a nutrient-rich snack!

Crediting information:  This snack is creditable for 1 meat/meat alternate and 1 bread/bread alternate at snack.  (using at least 1/4 of an egg and 10 grams (0.4 ounce) of crackers for 1-5 year old children).

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Blueberry Muffins

Baby it's cold outside!  Both of my kids were home today because school was cancelled due to the cold weather.  We keep our house on the colder side, so we decided to warm it up a little by making some muffins.  I had bought some fresh blueberries on sale this week at Sunflower market so we decided that blueberry muffins were in order!

We tried a new recipe for our muffins.  I really like this recipe because it doesn't have a lot of sugar in it, and it has nutrient-rich whole wheat flour in it.  We used whole wheat pastry flour because I find that it makes a more tender muffin, but the original recipe called for regular whole wheat flour so I am sure you can use either.  The recipe also says it makes 1 1/2 dozen regular muffins but we made 12 mini muffins and 12 regular muffins.  *Note: If you make some (or all) of the muffins mini, just remember to check on them sooner, ours were done in about 12 minutes.

The verdict was unanimous.  These muffins were delicious!

Blueberry Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
sprinkle of ground nutmeg
2 eggs
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen blueberries do not thaw them)

In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.   In a smaller bowl beat the eggs, buttermilk and oil together.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until just moistened.  Fold in the blueberries gently.

Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to cool on wire racks.  Serve warm.

Crediting information: Makes 38 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate for children 1-5 years old at any meal or snack. 

Next time I will probably try and replace more of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and see how it works out.

What is your kids' favorite muffin?