Monday, December 27, 2010

Butternut Squash

I have had two butternut squashes hanging out in my basement since about August when we got them from the CSA farm we belong to.  I had not done anything with them because I was lacking in inspiration about what to prepare.  However, every time I went downstairs recently I was reminded that I needed to make something with them soon before they started to rot!  My family likes the homemade sweet potato "fries" that I bake in the oven, so I decided to try a similar method for cooking the squash.

First, I peeled the squash and cut it in half.  Once I had scraped out all of the seeds, I sliced it quite thin and then cut the slices in half.  I placed the pieces on a cooking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Then I sprayed it with canola oil cooking spray and sprinkled a little black pepper and salt on it.  I cooked it in a hot oven (450 degrees) for about 25 minutes.  Once I had turned all of the pieces over, it went back in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they were starting to brown on the outside.  The result was wonderful and my family loved it!

As I have mentioned before, butternut squash is jam-packed with nutrients!  Not only is it a great source of beta-carotene;  it is also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, fiber, and folate.

One squash down, one to go...   Do you have any favorite recipes for butternut squash?

Crediting information: Each 1/4 cup of squash is creditable for 1/4 cup of the required 1/2 cup of fruit/vegetable component at any meal for 3-5 year old children.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Soup Night

As I have mentioned before, Monday night is "soup and bread night" at my house.  I always make the soup ahead of time on Sunday, so that all I have to do on Monday is to reheat it and make the loaf of homemade bread that we always have to go with it (plus soup always tastes way better when the flavors are allowed to develop overnight)!  Since I use my breadmaker to make the bread , dinner is a snap on Mondays.

I try to serve a wide variety of soups so that everyone in my family gets to eat their favorite at some point.  This Southwestern Soup is one of my favorites!  The best part about this soup is that you throw everything into a crockpot and let it cook all day.  As a vegetarian, I like the soup just the way it is, or sometimes I throw in some black beans.  Feel free to add cooked, diced chicken if you like too.  We also like to crush unsalted tortilla chips up and sprinkle them on top of this soup.  Enjoy!

Southwestern Soup

1 Tablespoon canola oil
28 oz low sodium vegetable broth (or you could use chicken broth)
16 oz bag frozen corn, thawed
1, 14oz can low sodium diced tomatoes, undrained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 can (4oz) chopped green chilies
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (such as Lowry's)
1/2 teaspoon Fiesta lime Mrs. Dash seasoning
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for about 7-8 hours.  Stir before serving.  Serve with tortilla chips if desired.

Crediting information (without beans, chicken or chips):
Makes 21 servings creditable for 1/4 cup of the fruit/vegetable requirement at any meal for 3-5 year old children. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Serving low-sugar cereals can encourage children to eat more fresh fruit!

Do you serve high-sugar cereals to the children in your care?  I have found that sometimes providers believe that children won't accept cereal if it isn't pre-sweetened.  If this is the case for you, a study in the journal Pediatrics may change your mind.  

A recent study shows that children not only accept low-sugar cereals readily, but they are actually more likely to choose a nutritious, well-balanced breakfast if they are served low-sugar cereals.  In the study, the children were divided into 2 groups.  One group was allowed to chose from 3 high-sugar cereal varieties, and the other group was allowed to chose from 3 low-sugar cereals.  Both groups were also offered milk, orange juice, cut-up strawberries and bananas, and small packets of table sugar.  The kids in this study who ate the low-sugar cereal were more likely to add fresh fruit to their bowl of cereal than those eating the high-sugar cereals.  In addition, the kids in the high-sugar cereal group ate nearly twice the amount of sugar as the children in the low-sugar cereal group!  What I found especially interesting about this study is that even though the children were allowed to add some sugar to the low-sugar cereals, they still added less than was found in the higher-sugar varieties.  (In case you are wondering, the low-sugar cereals were Cheerios, Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies and the high-sugar cereals were Froot Loops, Cocoa Pebbles, and Frosted Flakes). 

Some cereals that contain several teaspoons of sugar are indeed creditable on the Child and Adult Care Food Program, but that doesn't mean that they are the best choice for breakfast for kids.  Most children get way to much sugar in their diet and this study shows that serving low-sugar cereals is an easy way to cut out some of the sugar!  To be a creditable cereal on the CACFP, the first ingredient must be a whole grain or whole grain flour, or an enriched grain or flour. You need to read labels carefully though because some of the cereal companies have started putting more whole grains into their cereals, but are still adding a lot of extra sugar too.   Look for cereal varieties that have whole grains and little added sugar, and then take a tip from this study and put out bowls of cut-up fruit for children to add to their bowls!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fire Safety

How long has it been since you have practiced your  emergency and/or fire escape plan?  If you need to practice, or if you want to add some fire safety information to your child care curriculum, check out this free activity book available to child care providers.  It has coloring pages, connect the dots pages, word searches, and lots of other activities to teach children about fire safety.  Go to the U.S. Fire Administration website to request a free copy to be sent to you, or download a copy immediately on their website.

Mindful Eating

I love reading about mindful eating and find it fascinating that our environment can influence how much we eat.  I really like all of the research that Brian Wansink  has done, and continues to do, on this subject at Cornell University and through his Smarter Lunchrooms program.  It is very interesting, I think, that just about all of the people who have been involved in his research studies are convinced before the study that the environment has no effect on their eating habits.  Dr. Wansink has found the opposite to be true for the majority of people.  He has found that you really can influence how much someone eats by giving them a different size plate, by giving food a more descriptive name, or even by serving a brownie on a napkin instead of a plate. 

So, I read with interest this new article about how imagination can trick the brain into eating less.  Contrary to popular wisdom that if you crave a certain food for a long period of time you will eat more of it, the participants in this study actually ate less of a food after repeatedly imagining eating the food before they actually ate it.

And finally, today on the Fooducate blog, an interesting article on how being aware of the number of times you chew your food can help you eat less.  Taking a moment to slow down and savor our food can be an easy way to have a more enjoyable and satisfying meal.  

If you are interested in mindful eating, be sure to check out Dr. Wansink's websites (by using the links above) or go to your local library and check out his book Mindless Eating.  It is quite a compelling read if you are curious about how changing your meal environment can help you eat less.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

More cranberry recipes!

Since fresh cranberries are abundant in the store right now, I would like to share another of my family's favorite recipes using fresh cranberries.  This bread is very delicious and makes a great snack!

Cranberry Nut Bread
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
2 Tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 egg, well beaten
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or 3 mini loaf pans.

Mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl.  In another bowl stir together the orange juice, orange peel, canola oil and egg.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until blended.  Stir in the cranberries and nuts.  Spread evenly in loaf pan(s).

Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 25 minutes for mini loaf pans).  Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.  Remove from pan; cool completely.

Crediting information: Makes 34 servings.  Each serving is creditable for 1 bread/bread alternate for 3-5 year old children at any meal or snack.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Helpful Holiday Links

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension website has compliled a bunch of their holiday food and nutrition tips in one place to make it very easy to find what you are looking for fast!  Visit their holiday links page and you can find information about topics such as preparing foods ahead of time, ingredient substitutions and cooking terms, food safety, sending food gifts to the military, holiday weight management tips (with a great video by Brian Wansink), and a Kid's Corner section that has some great games and websites to keep the kids busy.  Check out it out to get quick answers for all of your holiday food and nutrition questions!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Safety

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Envrionment issued a press release today about Christmas trees that also contains some great reminders about safety during the holidays.  Sometimes we forget about all of the potential hazards that holiday decorations can contain.  Take a minute and read through their press release and make sure that your child care home does not contain any of the hazards that they warn about so that you can have a healthy and happy holiday season!