You think I mean the holidays, don’t you? Well, not exactly.
This week’s post will give you some ideas to get your fridge, freezer, and pantry ready for those always-hungry “sweet cherub offspring” of yours, (or your children’s offspring) when they are home from school for winter vacation. If, however, you don’t have a bunch of kids or grandkids around, you can still enjoy the benefits of this plan because it’s ideal for healthy snacking and portion control for everyone.
Allow me to set the scene.
The date is somewhere around December 16th, 2 weeks from now, and you are joyously awaiting the return of your college kids, or the last day of elementary, junior, or high school before a nice, long break. Ahh!!! How great it will be, for the next week… two weeks… or six weeks to have them home….oh my goodness!! You know what I’m feeling, parents, don’t you? We all love, adore, even cherish our beloved young, but isn’t it true…nothing scares us more than having them home, constantly asking those words, “what’s to eat?”
Well, I can’t promise this post will create “The Walton’s Family Christmas,” or It’s a Wonderful Life”….actually at our house, it’s more like Adam Sandler’s, Eight Crazy Nights…of Chanukah that is, but I can give you a two-week head start to convert your kitchen into a healthy 7-Eleven.
The basic premise of this plan is to stock your fridge, freezer, and pantry with grab-and-go nutritious foods that contain protein, fiber, good carbs for energy, and healthy fats.
Now, I know this may sound like a lot of work, but it’s not too bad; plus don’t you and your family deserve to eat healthier food? If you start now, you’ll have two weeks to get it together, and you’ll avoid the mounds of sodium and fat that are in processed snacks and frozen meals, as well as the crazy stuff that’s in your kid’s favorite convenience store fare. Don’t ask!!!
I find, at least for boys, if it involves having to get a knife, fork or plate…it’s too much trouble. Did you ever see a boy do that? Walk up to the fridge, open the door in anticipation, only to close the door in disgust, as if rejected by Jessica Alba. Men do this as well. (Sorry guys, you know you do it.) There’s a ton of yummy food in there, foods they adore, even crave at times, but it’s just too much of a hassle to slice, peel, or open. Well, actually, the opening is okay, it’s the rewrapping that turns them off. So after watching this for years, I decided to prepare foods in individual portions, as well as always having something easy, healthy, and filling so they would eat from home more and rely on fast food less. I don’t know if I’m considered an enabler because my boys very rarely have had to slice their own leftover lasagna, but at least I know they’re eating more of my food and less of Taco Bell’s. And I can’t stress enough the healthy portion control benefit for all of us.
Here’s a list of some of the foods I like to make and keep in the house, especially during vacations when the kids are home.
Mini Wonton Lasagna
Hard Boiled Eggs/Deviled Eggs
Roasted chicken or store bought Rotisserie Chicken. But you have to slice it off the bone so they can take a slice or two. Remember; grab-and-go. No cutting involved.
Turkey, cheese and fruit kabobs
Crudite – see recent post, Crudite and The Coat Closet for a crudite plan
Celery and peanut butter (use non-hydrogenated peanut butter)
Apples and almond butter
Low-fat organic cheese sticks
Whole grain tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole
Low sodium soups
Apples and Pears
Winter Fruit Salad or Fruit Plate
Frozen banana chunks for smoothies and whips
Frozen strawberries, blueberries, etc. for smoothies
Frozen grapes (organic)
Yogurt to eat with fresh fruit
Nuts, seeds and dried fruit
Fruit and Nut Bars (Larabar is a healthy choice)
Whole grain and/or rice crackers
Hummus and Tabouli to eat with crudite, crackers, or whole grain toast
Organic dark chocolate chips or carob chips
Mini Wonton Lasagna
You can make 12 mini lasagnas in the large muffin tins – 2 (6 muffin cup pans),
or 24 in the regular size muffin tin – 2 (12 muffin cup pans.)
This recipe is also great as standard lasagna in a 9×13 pan using the Wonton Wraps. No need to boil noodles.
1 12- ounce package Won Ton Wraps (Nasoya makes a good one)
1 10- ounce box frozen spinach, thawed
1 15- ounce container ricotta cheese (low-fat is fine)
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 lb. lean ground beef or turkey
1 15- ounce can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
1. Drain and squeeze water from the thawed spinach.
2. Place spinach in a medium bowl.
3. Add ricotta cheese, oregano and egg.
4. Mix and set aside.
5. Brown meat in a pan over medium heat until cooked through.
6. Drain fat from pan.
7. Add tomato sauce and salt and pepper to ground meat and stir to combine. Set aside.
8. Spray muffin cups with cooking spray.
9. Place a wonton wrap in each of the muffin cups.
10. Add about a tablespoon of the spinach-ricotta mixture on top of each wonton and flatten slightly.
11. Add about a tablespoon of the cooked ground meat on top of the spinach.
12. Sprinkle a bit of shredded cheese on top.
13. Add another wonton wrap on top of each of the cups.
14. Repeat process until you have 2 or 3 layers, depending on the size of your cups. I find that 3 layers works well in the large muffin cups, and 2 layers works better in the standard muffin cups.
15. The last layer should be a wonton and then shredded cheese.
16. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until the wontons are cooked and cheese is melted and golden brown.
1. Try to buy organic meats, poultry, eggs and dairy which come from animals that were not given antibiotics, bovine human growth hormone (rbGH), or unnatural feed.
2. I like to include spinach along with the meat in this recipe for extra iron. In order to fully absorb the iron from our food, combine it with a food that contains Vitamin C. In this case, it’s the tomato sauce in the recipe and the oranges served on the side.
3. Feel free to adjust the quantity of meat and cheese in this recipe, and in all recipes for that matter. Everyone is different and has different dietary needs. The amount of protein for one person, may not feel right for another. In addition, many people choose not to eat animal protein, so this meal can be made vegetarian simply by eliminating the meat. If you are dairy allergic, or sensitive to dairy, skip the ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and use a non-dairy cheese alternative along with the spinach. I’ve been using a brand called Daiya (www.daiyafoods.com) recently and find it very satisfying.
Makes about 24 kabobs
This recipe is from Ellie Krieger, Registered Dietitian and chef on the Food Network. You can make this vegetarian by eliminating the turkey sausage and adding a cheese cube instead. It also makes great finger food for Super Bowl Parties.
12 ounces fully cooked Italian-style poultry sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup lightly packed fresh basil
1 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces if large
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat; mist with cooking spray. Add fully cooked chicken or turkey sausage; cook, turning 2 or 3 times, until warmed through and browned, about 8 minutes.
2. Thread 1 small or ½ large basil leaf onto a small wooden skewer. Add a piece of roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, artichoke and sausage, arranging them on the skewer so that it can stand up on the sausage end. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make about two dozen skewers.
So my friends, I want to thank you once again for spending some time with Figs and Function. I hope this post will be helpful as you get ready for some welcome visitors this holiday season. Remember, these are just suggestions, not a “must eat” list. We are not the “food police.” What feels right for our bodies may not necessarily feel right for our kids. Our goal as parents, grandparents and caregivers is to educate the young; to provide the food and information to them, and to teach by example. So, why don’t we all try this week to stock up on some nutritious items to keep around for healthy meals and snacking?
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I will respond promptly. Also, thank you for all of your thoughtful comments and positive feedback. I truly appreciate your kind words.
Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you next week.
P.S. Would you like to add any of your friends or family members to the Figs and Function blog e-mail list? Just send me their e-mail address, or have them go to www.figsandfunction.com and send me a note under “Contact.” They too will get weekly nutrition and organization tips.
P.P.S. Do you want to be removed from my mailing list? Just e-mail me and I will remove your name. But I hope you hang around for awhile. Starting in January…it’s All About You!