Archive for ‘Lunch & Dinner’

January 13, 2012

Introducing New Grains to Your Family

I think that most of us can agree that white rice is pretty yummy.  But how do we balance that with the fact that it is nowhere near the powerhouse of nutrition that whole grains are (e.g. brown rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, and millet)?  These whole grains are not only a good source of dietary fiber, but also contain important vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.  All of these components work together synergistically to produce health benefits, which is why it is important to consume grains as a whole food rather than as a stripped version of themselves like white rice.  There are many wonderful grains out there to try, and I think I have figured out a good way to try them, while still being excited about what’s for dinner and tricking my kids into eating them as well.  It is as simple as this–cook them with white rice.  I would start out with a 1:1 ratio, and then you can lessen the amount of white rice as you become more accustomed to the tastes of the other grains.

In this picture, I cooked 1 cup white rice, 1/2 cup quinoa, and 1/2 cup bulgur wheat (totaling 2 cups).  Normally when you cook 1 cup of white rice, you add 1 and 1/4 cup water.  But when you cook a whole grain the ratio is usually more one part grain to two parts water.  So in this case, you will want to add around 3 cups of water — a little less if you are using a rice cooker and a little more if you are using the stove.  I was so impressed with how much my kids liked this that I thought I should share the trick just in case it would be helpful to you or your family.

About Quinoa: (1/4 C dried = 170 calories, 3 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 5 g protein, 10% Iron)
Pronounced keen-wah and used by the ancient Incas, quinoa is known for its high protein, soft texture, and nutty taste. Some quinoa has to be presoaked or at least rinsed; simply refer to your directions (you may have to buy a wire strainer so you do not lose any of the small seeds through holes while rinsing). You will know it is done when the germ has separated to show a tiny curl.

About Bulgur: (1/4 C dried = 140 calories, 0.5 g fat, 30 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 5 g protein, 6% Iron)
You can buy it in bulk at certain stores or from ‘Bob’s Red Mill’ near the rice or in the health food section. It looks like a broken-up wheat berry, and it is basically just that. However bulgur is usually parboiled (which basically means blanched), dried, and then ground. You can see it has a very impressive amount of fiber and protein.

About White Rice (California Calrose): (1/4 C dried = 155 calories, 0 g fat, 35 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 3 g protein, 2% Iron)
White rice is milled rice that has its husk, bran, and germ removed (to help prevent spoilage) and is then polished, resulting in a shiny appearance. This process removes so many important nutrients that the US actually requires the enrichment of all white rice with B1, B3, and iron. The California Calrose variety is known for its taste and ability to stick together and can be used for sushi.

November 13, 2011

Savory Spaghetti Squash

Our good friends gave us a spaghetti squash from their garden.  To be truthful, I had never cooked a spaghetti squash, or really tried one. The name alone should have told me what it would taste like, but still I was unprepared.  It was delicious and did not taste “squashy” but rather like a yummy noodle.  Spaghetti squash screams out savory.  I tried it many ways, but putting brown sugar and butter on it was probably my least favorite alternative.  I tried marinara sauce and butter and parmesan, but my favorite was shredded cheese and real Hormel Bacon Bits (found in the salad dressing aisle).  Your choices are endless because whatever you would enjoy on a noodle, you can also put on spaghetti squash.

From a caloric standpoint, it is a superior choice to pasta.  One cup of spaghetti squash has a mere 42 calories.  Since one cup of spaghetti has 221 calories, you would be saving 179 calories a cup. The vitamins and antioxidants it contains also make it a better choice nutritionally; it is a vegetable after all.  Also, on the glycemic index scale (how the food affects your blood sugar) it is an impressively low 2 out of 100.

I have since cooked spaghetti squash 3 times, and I have determined my favorite way to cook it.

* Set your oven to 375 degrees.

* Cut the squash in half & dig out the seeds. Sometimes I cut off the hard ends first so my knife has an easier time cutting lengthwise.

(* The seeds are similar to pumpkin seeds, so you can roast them after they have dried if you would like.)

* Lay the squash in a casserole dish flesh side up, in about 1 inch of water.

* Loosely cover with tin foil and cook for 45 minutes.

* Take the tinfoil off and cook for about 30 more minutes.  This will help dry up the water. In previous attempts, although the squash was good it was watery.  I find that cooking this type of squash for a longer amount of time helps the noodle become dryer, softer and yummier.

September 16, 2011

Meatloaf Recipe that Everybody Loves

I think it is kind of funny that I am posting a meatloaf recipe, because I actually strive to eat meat sparingly.  But I still do have it, and when I do, this might be one of my favorite recipes.  We have served this to various guests and kids (other than my own) and it always gets great reviews.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the following ingredients together thoroughly:

* 1 lb. ground beef (I prefer organic, but I am lucky and have a local farm to buy it at for a reasonable cost.)
* 1 small onion, diced
* ¼ t seasoning salt
* 1/8 t pepper
* ½ c ketchup
* ¾ t Worcestershire sauce
* 1 egg
* ¾ c rolled oats (You can add more oats if you want to stretch out your meat.)

Pack into a loaf pan and place into the oven.  Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.  Let it rest 5-10 minutes before serving.  I love this with brown gravy and green beans.

September 15, 2011

Sack Lunch Ideas: The Ever-Growing Slideshow

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I’m using my blog as a place to gather my ideas for planning my daughters’ lunches.  I’ve discovered these great bento boxes from (BPA free) and really like them.  The only downfall is that liquid leaks, so marinara sauce, veggie dip, yogurt, etc. would have to be in a separate dip container.  My plan is to continue to add on to this slide show throughout the school year.  If you have any ideas, I would really love to hear them.

September 5, 2011

Simple Sushi

I have been taught how to make sushi not once, but twice in my life, both times by friends who just happened to be half Japanese.  They tried to teach me how to make it look as beautiful as their Sushi, but mine just doesn’t.  Kamiko and Erika, I apologize from the bottom of my empty Sushi plate.  I love making Sushi, I make it all the time.  It isn’t pretty, but it is still yummy.  Let me tell you about the latest roll I have been making.  Since I no longer live within walking distance to a Tokyo Fish Market and can no longer buy sushi-grade raw fish, AND since it is hard for me to plan ahead and have cooked fish ready, I came up with another idea that actually tastes great.  That’s right, I use wild canned salmon.

You will need the following:

 * A sushi mat to roll your sushi (go to YouTube if you have never done this before; I shouldn’t teach you, it would be a gross imitation of a true art form)

* Nori (the seaweed around your sushi roll, you can order this at if you can’t find it at the store)

* White rice (if you can get packaging with Japanese writing, that will be your best choice)

* Avocados sliced lengthwise

* Cucumbers sliced lengthwise

* Cream cheese (easier to cut slices from a bar lengthwise, but this time I only had whipped and it worked just fine)

* Canned salmon, make sure it says ‘wild’

* Bowl with water to wet your fingers in to both wash them off when pressing down rice, and to wet the bottom of the nori when you roll it up to help seal the roll