Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Haystacks

For Whole Grain Wednesdays this week I wanted to share a snack recipe.  This is my favorite type of snack, quick and easy!  You do need to plan a little ahead of time for this snack though, because the haystacks need at least 20 minutes in the refrigerator to firm up before you can serve them.

These haystacks were delicious!  I like the fact that they were made with nutritious whole grain cereal that has no added sugar or salt.  I think next time I will have my kids stir in some raisins for a more "peanut butter and jelly" type taste.

Note: Be sure to use the large shredded wheat "rolls" instead of the bite size variety:

2 cups of crumbled shredded wheat cereal
1 cup creamy peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1 1/2 Tablespoons butter or margarine

Have the children crumble the shredded wheat into a large bowl.  Melt the peanut butter and butter in a saucepan over low heat.  Cook and stir until smooth.  Pour the peanut butter mixture over the crumbled shredded wheat and stir until well combined.  Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper.  Put the haystacks into the refrigerator until firm.  

Crediting information:  Makes 6 servings.  Each serving creditable to meet 1 bread/ bread alternate and 1 meat/meat alternate at snack for 3-5 year old children.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- "Fried" Green Rice

Do you ever find yourself with leftover rice?  I had a bunch of extra cooked rice from dinner the other night, and since I am still working on my resolution of decreasing food waste in my home, I was looking to get it out of my refrigerator!  In my quest for a recipe containing cooked rice, I stumbled across this one.  I really like this recipe because it not only used up the rice, but was very delicious.  My whole family loved it!  

*Tip- Don't leave out the sesame oil, it makes the dish!

"Fried" Green Rice
5 ounces fresh spinach, washed (or substitute frozen spinach)
3 large eggs
1 Tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon canola or olive oil
3 cups of cooked brown rice
1 teaspoon of sesame oil

Place the spinach in a small skillet with a little water.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Steam the spinach until just wilted.  Drain off any remaining water and let cool.  Chop spinach very finely and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs, water and salt until well beaten.  Spray a saute pan or small skillet with cooking spray and scramble 1/2 of the egg mixture.  Set the eggs aside.

Heat up a wok or large skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add the oil.  Add the rice and toss to coat with the oil.  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently until the rice is hot.  Add the remaining egg mixture to the rice and cook and stir.

Add the chopped spinach and the scrambled eggs to the skillet.  Stir in the sesame oil and cook until mixture is hot.

Crediting information: Makes 12 servings.  Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate and 1 meat/meat alternate at snack for 1-5 year old children.  (Note: if serving at lunch or supper, it counts for 1 bread/bread alternate only.  There is not enough egg to be creditable as a meat/meat alternate at a meal). 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nutrition Games

What do you think about nutrition games that kids can play on the computer or on a gaming system?  Do you think that kids can learn anything from them?

I think that they can, and that they can be a fun part of a child's (limited) screen time every day.  I wanted to share a website with you that has some entertaining games that teach nutrition and other health concepts.

Playnormous (  has several engaging health games that I'll bet your kids will love.  They are aimed at children ages K-5th grade and all come with teachers guides and parents guides that have additional activities to go along with the games. According to the website,  "The Playnormous site was originally created as a way to deliver health games to the public. This process began with the creation of Food Fury, a University of Texas Health Science Center research project funded by the Aetna Foundation."  (They do have some information on the how health games can teach children about good health on the website if you are interested in the research aspect).  

The Playnormous games teach concepts such as the food guide pyramid, the importance of physical activity, and "go, slow, whoa" foods.  The website also has some healthy recipes that look pretty tasty!

Our favorite game is "Pyramid Pile Up Plus"!  What's yours?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays-Mexican Bulgur

When I was in college, one year I had a roommate who ate a lot of Rice-a-roni Spanish rice.  I would occasionally eat it with her, but I found it too salty for my taste.  I was always wishing for a Spanish rice recipe that was still quick and easy, but that I could make with my own fresh ingredients so that I could  control the sodium level.  I finally found that recipe!  This recipe not only includes a whole grain, but it has a lot less salt than the average rice mix.  This is my family's favorite accompaniment to burritos!

Mexican Bulgur (adapted from the Best of Simply Colorado Cookbook)
Note*- Bulgur wheat can be found in the bulk bins at health food stores or often in the grain section of grocery stores (by the rice). Bulgur comes in different "grind" sizes. Get the medium grind for this recipe if you have a choice.

1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green or red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup bulgur wheat
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (low-sodium if possible)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil. Add onion and green pepper; saute over medium heat for 6-7 minutes (or until soft), stirring occasionally.

2. Add bulgur and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the grains.

3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer slowly for 15 minutes or until the liquid is all absorbed.

4. Serve hot, garnished with salsa if desired.

Crediting information: Makes 12 servings. Each serving creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 1-5 year old children.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Do you know your veggies?

Here is a link to a interesting quiz about some uncommon vegetables.  Some of the pictures are from odd angles which can make it harder, but I'll bet you'll learn something you didn't know!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays- Rachel's Banana Bread

When life gives you overripe bananas, make banana bread!

We eat a lot of bananas in our household.  I buy about 3 bunches every week, but they are typically gone by the weekend so I don't often have brown bananas sitting around waiting to be used.  This week, though, for some reason I did.  So, I mixed up some of our favorite banana bread. :) 

I love this recipe for two reasons.  First, because it is made with nutrient-rich whole wheat pastry flour but still comes out moist and delicious.  And secondly, because it is so easy- you pretty much just dump everything into a big bowl and stir!  You can also add chopped nuts if you like, and sometimes we even sprinkle a few mini chocolate chips on top.   

Rachel's Banana Bread
3 overripe bananas
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup enriched all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
dash of salt
1 large egg
3 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mash the bananas in a large bowl.  Add the flours, sugar, baking soda, salt and egg.  Melt the butter in the microwave and add it to the bowl.  Stir until just blended.  Pour into a greased loaf pan (9 x 5).

Bake for about 45 minutes or until  a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Crediting information:  Makes 22 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any snack or meal for 1-5 year old children. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Whole Grain Wednesdays-Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines that came out in January recommend that Americans aim to replace the refined grain foods in their diets with whole grain foods.  You might remember that the slogan for the grains group of MyPyramid (which came out in 2005)  is to "make half of your grains whole".  The problem is that most Americans are still not doing this.  On average, Americans eat less than 1 serving of whole grains per day.

What's so great about whole grains?  I have addressed this in previous columns.  Whole grains are another nutrient-rich food!  There is also evidence that whole grain intake may reduce the risk of heart disease, and is also associated with lower body weight.  People who eat more whole grains not only tend to have less body fat but also have less of the dangerous type of abdominal fat too.  Some evidence has even shown that eating whole grains is associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes. 

Sometimes it can be hard to make the switch to whole grain foods if you are used to eating the more refined grain foods.  In an effort to make it easier for you to serve more whole grain foods, I will be providing you with a new recipe each Wednesday for our "Whole Grain Wednesdays" columns.  My goal is to make these recipes quick and easy because I know that many of you are sometimes pressed for time.

I chose this first recipe because it is quick, easy, and also quite tasty.  My children love these biscuits and they love helping to cut them out.  The recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour which you might not be familiar with.  I love baking with whole wheat pastry flour because it gives the final product a much lighter and fluffier texture than regular whole wheat flour, and so it is perfect for breads, muffins, pancakes, etc.

I use the Bob's Red Mill variety which I buy at Sunflower Market.  I am sure there are other brands available though.

The other great thing about this recipe is that some of the butter has been replaced with canola oil, but the biscuits still come out tender and flaky. This simple substitution lowers the saturated ("bad")  fat content in the biscuits.  The canola oil has more of the "healthy" fats that we need in our diet.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup enriched all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup lowfat buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly grease a sheet pan and set it aside.

Combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Cut in the butter and the canola oil with your fingers or two knives until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Pour in the buttermilk and stir it with a fork until the dry ingredients are evenly moistened.  Lightly flour a counter, and scrape the dough out onto the counter.  Pat the dough into a circle (you may need to knead in a little flour if the dough is too sticky).  The dough should be in a circle about 3/4-inch thick.  Cut the dough into rounds using a small glass or cookie cutter.  Reassemble the scraps and cut them out as well (you will have about 12-16 biscuits).  Place the biscuits on the baking sheet and bake until they are light brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Crediting information:
Makes 30 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate at any meal or snack for 1-5 year old children.