Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 - Try some new habits, do something crazy, eat some good food

Happy New Year, everybody! Did you make any resolutions this year? Maybe you're sick of resolutions, but you wouldn't mind some positive changes, changes in the way you eat, read, start your day, cook, work, go about your week, etc. I think we could all use some positive change in those areas, that's just life - there's always room for improvement! But if changing these things to you means giving up tasty foods and torturing yourself for a month before giving up and surrendering, it doesn't have to! I've changed my eating habits constantly over the past few years and very few of those alterations were very drastic in my mind. So if you're looking to give your meals a make-over, but you're intimidated by gourmet magazines and the like and you've got picky mouths to feed, don't worry about it! I'm not even an adult yet and I know where you're coming from! My advice? Start slow, with a few small things and work with things you are comfortable with and then little by little, incorporate new foods into your taste bud database and every once in a while do something on the wild side, something that's too hard, too expensive, too dangerous, WHATEVER!
Here's a few ideas to help you out:

If you don't already love it, prepare to become a fan! I still remember the days when I'd grimace at half-full bags of squishy, limp spinach leaves in the bottom of my veggie drawer. Those were the days before I discovered how easy it is to get rid of all that healthful goodness! All you have to do is eat about 1-2 cups a day and you can say goodbye to mushy spinach nastiness! 2 cups may sound like a lot at first, but let me tell you my secrets.
Make a simple salad. Spinach can really up the nutritional value of a salad, but it's rather insulting if you go and drench it with dressings and crush it beneath croutons and chicken strips. Don't get me wrong, a bowl of plain spinach does not make a salad, but please don't be one of those people who like "a little salad with their dressing" Gross, okay? Gross. If a solid spinach salad is too much for you, try replacing half of your favorite salad greens with spinach. My favorite salads are spinach and romaine lettuce with come cabbage, tomatoes, and a good drizzle of homemade balsamic vinaigrette, or spinach leaves with about a scant cup of each: shredded mozzarella cheese, toasted, chopped pecans/walnuts, and dried cranberries. No dressing.
Wilt it. There are so many great things about wilting spinach it's just crazy! It's fast and easy for sure, but I think my favorite part is that you  can get in your whole serving of spinach in just a few mouthfuls! If you've never cooked spinach before, you'll be amazed at how much it cooks down so that you may find yourself wondering where it all went. I wilt spinach with eeeeverything, especially tasty leftovers! All I do is put my base in the bottom of my salad bowl, top that with a few big handfuls of spinach so the bowl is overflowing, into the microwave for a minute and presto! Instant lunch. I've done this procedure with loads of different things but my favorites are: leftover mac 'n cheese, refried beans with salsa, yogurt/sour cream, Mexican cheese and tortilla chips, lasagna, OR spaghetti with a little Parmesan and herb oil.

- Spinach Soup (I haven't found a favorite recipe yet)

To me, carrots are much like spinach in that you can do so much with them! Because of their natural sugars and slight juiciness, they automatically make great snack items eaten right from the bag or better yet, dipped in peanut butter (don't judge me, it's good okay?). I usually grab 2 or 3 big bags of baby carrots at the store for munching and a 3 lb bag of whole carrots for cooking. My rule of thumb is to eat my spinach at one meal and carrots at the other if I'm lazy and not serving a large portion of any other veggie. Believe me when I say, in the the veggie world carrots are your friends! They can be sweet or savory, dressed-up or unadorned, and they have a fairly long shelf life! I've had my carrots go 2 ways of weird on me: dry and hairy or wet and black and in both cases (if I catch it fast enough) all it takes is a meeting with the veggie peeler and few nips here and there and they will still be fine for shredding or pureeing. And when these instances arrive when I find myself with a a few pounds of carrots on the brink of death on my hands I've found a few ways to knock 'em out in one fowl swoop: shredded and added to coleslaw, salads, or casseroles, sliced and sauteed with butter, ginger, S&P, and lemon, or pureed and made into soup or souffles. If I had a juicer I would probably go that route too...but I don't so I'm not going to officially suggest that.

- Mini Carrot Souffles
- Cabbage Seaweed Rolls

If any of my friends are reading this, I can already hear the smirking...if smirking made a noise that is. As for the rest of you, I'll tell you now, I have a sort of with apples (I eat AT LEAST 1 a day) and so it's hard for me to see why anyone wouldn't keep a large stash in their refrigerator. It just makes no sense! Apples have the incredible ability to satisfy a craving for something sweet, juicy, and crunchy all at once, they are the perfect size for a single serving snack, and you can take them anywhere: school, the beach, on a walk, to a sleepover, okay you get the idea! Even if you aren't a big fan of eating, plain, raw, out-of-hand apples, it's still a good idea to keep a few in the fridge for cooking with. Try a few apples sauteed in butter with brown sugar and cinnamon and put over pancakes or vanilla ice cream.

- French Apple Galette

I have vivid memories of myself as a 10-year-old telling my mom the specific brand of white brand that I liked to eat every day in my peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches with 2% milk. Uncreative as this lunch might have been, it gave me great pleasure at that time and being forced to consume stiff, brown bread with an overwhelming grain taste would completely destroy this pleasure. However, I eventually woke up and gradually made the change over to "the dark side" (literally...haha). Now I find it ironic that my opinion of bread is completely changed from what it was not long ago. I grimace at refined white bread that is not of an artisan variety or handmade with love. Whole grains in any form will fill you up better than their processed form and if you're like me, you'll fall in love with that earthy, rustic flavor. Making this change can come in sooo many forms too! I like to add rolled oats, wheat bran, or wheat germ to all sorts of things and my muffins, quick breads, and pancakes are made with all or part whole wheat flour. For most of my cookies I like to use whole wheat pastry flour as in most cases the difference is unnoticeable so I highly recommend it if you are having trouble with your whole grain consumption rates. However, I'm not a huge fan of white whole wheat flour as the color of things is more golden and flavor not as good in my opinion so if you were hoping to fool may want to distract them as they eat. Recently I have also been discovering the great many benefits of sneaking quinoa into things! it's not technically a grain, but it IS really good for you and can go into just about anything!  I could go on forever about this subject, but that's another story that I'll save for later. For now I'll leave you with a few of my favorite whole grain recipes:

- Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes
- Fresh Orange Quinoa Muffins
- Versatile Molasses Wheat Bread 

I could name plenty of other tricks I like, but I did say to start small so these are probably my top three for you. Now even as I right this, I must remember how weird I am as I'm not your typical teenager. There are few foods I don't like and I eat a lot of strange combinations to the amusement and disgust of those around me. So basically what I'm saying is if you are brave enough to try any of my suggestions and it utterly fails...I'm apologizing in advance. I may have been successful in incorporating more fruits and veggies into my own families diet, but everyone's different so if anything, just take this as an encouragement to keep at it and find what works and when you do or if you don't, tell me about it! I'm always excited for new ideas!
Wishing you the best of luck with all of your endeavors and many blessings in 2011,



  1. I don't know about the carrots. I have a hard time stomaching those things!

  2. aaah but they are so good! cairn's the same way though. i'll have to work on you two :)

  3. it's snickering that makes a sound, not smirking. :) haha

  4. yes...but we're a family of smirkers, not snickerers