The number one way I like to spend time with my kids is with them in the kitchen creating nourishing food. It’s sometimes about the food, but its mostly about the time together we share that I love. I think of our kitchen as a classroom. The countertop is our learning desk, cookbooks are our school books and of course there is the teacher (usually me) and the students (my kids). Of course, good teachers never stop learning which means we learn a lot together! And while Labor Day weekend is upon us, make a plan to spend time with your kids in the kitchen. Use this really cool infographic from my friends at Cabot Cheese to try three different recipes to make with your kids. Preschool – elementary – tweens/teens! Cabot has it all covered.
More and more, schools across the country are hiring registered dietitians (i.e. nutrition experts) to support and create healthy options in the schools, provide interactive nutrition education and encouragement in the cafeterias and classrooms and support wellness programs in schools. I’m proud to say that I am now a part of that trend.
After a lot of thought, I decided to make the change from being a supermarket dietitian – where I’ve been the last 6 years – to a registered dietitian working for Austin (MN) Public Schools. I love new challenges. I love learning something new! (Strength Finder 2.0 revealed this.) This opportunity presented itself at the perfect time. (I believe God had a hand in that!) I am excited to focus my energy on kids in our community. And with my new schedule and focus, I believe I will be a better mom to the two most important kids in my life.
Change is never easy. And it can be anxiety-provoking. But here’s a great tip I received from a friend: Write down all the reasons why you want to make the change and refer to it when those crazy thoughts appear. Clarity provided.
I’m learning a lot as this is the beginning of my third week in my new role (I’m literally going back-to-school!). And I’m reminded of all the reasons I need to eat breakfast to boost my learning and of course, this is a great reminder to make sure our kids eat breakfast before school too.
• Breakfast boosts brain power. Research shows that kids who eat a morning meal have better memory, attention and behavior; and score higher on tests. Check out this full report: The Wellness Impact.
• Breakfast leads to better nutrition. Children who skip it don’t typically make up the nutrients they miss at other meals throughout the day. In fact, numerous studies suggest children and adolescents skip breakfast more than any other meal of the day. For some, skipping breakfast means going 15-17 hours without food. Check out my grab-and-go breakfast basket.
The best food groups for breakfast: Dairy, whole grains, and fruit. Dairy is essential because:
• Dairy and breakfast go hand in hand. With so many types of milk, chees and yogurt available, it’s easy to find breakfast combinations for everyone to enjoy.
• Dairy is a must for breakfast. It delivers a unique package of nine essential nutrients in a variety of tasty options. Dairy boosts protein in breakfast making us feel fuller longer too.
Many schools offer grab-and-go breakfast options as kids are getting to school. If mornings are crazy at home, take advantage of school breakfast. It’s healthy and will fuel your child’s day of learning.
½ cup shredded low-moisture, part-skim Mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven broiler to low.
Split English muffin in half and toast; set aside.
Heat small non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, green onions and bell pepper. Cook, stirring continuously for two minutes or until vegetables are softened. Stir in eggs, black pepper and oregano into vegetable mixture. Cook, stirring continuously until eggs are set, about two minutes.
Spread 2 teaspoons of pizza sauce onto each English muffin half. Spoon a quarter of the egg mixture over pizza sauce and top with a quarter of the cheese. Spoon the remaining egg mixture and cheese evenly on top of the muffins. Place the muffins on a baking sheet and broil for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.
For this Recipe ReDux back-to-school lunch bites themed post, I want to introduce my intern, Megan. Going back to school, i.e. college in Megan’s case, requires the right mix of passion and fun, and a lot of great food. Learn a little about why she decided to pursue nutrition and try her favorite guacamole recipe!
Here’s Megan’s story: As a junior in high school, I was taking a careers class and we were given an assignment to research a career of interest to us. Having no idea what I wanted to do, my teacher suggested that I research dietetics. Never did I think that 5 years later I would be declaring my major in dietetics. Dietetics is a lot of chemistry and I asked myself, “How in the world would I get through college chemistry when I had to drop out of high school chemistry?”I came to find out, my high school careers teacher knew me better than I knew myself. I grew up, built some self-confidence, and realized that I am capable and smart enough.
I have always had a passion for food. I love to cook, garden, and if I could travel around the world sampling different foods, I would. Health is also of huge importance to me. In my earlier years of college, I would find myself googling how the foods I ate was beneficial to my health. I had a desire to learn what happened to food after I ate it, and I wanted to know how I could maximize my health through what I was eating.
On a more personal note, I also have issues with food. I have struggled with binge eating in the past. I often times found myself eating to the point that I was uncomfortable on a regular basis. I would eat dinner and then continue to snack all night even though I wasn’t hungry. This led to feelings of guilt. I am a runner, so I could totally get away with it and still be skinny, but it wasn’t necessarily good for me. I have friends and family members who have similar feelings and issues. One of the things that I would like to do as a dietitian is help people with similar issues, develop a better relationship with food.
I would love to one day work in a clinic doing outpatient work. I have job shadowed a couple of dietitians who work in outpatient and I loved seeing the different personalities of the patients. I loved listening to how and what they eat, their struggles and motivations, and everything else they had to say.
I am going into my senior year of school and then I have to do an internship before I can take the national exam to become an RD. I look forward to seeing where these next two years take me and what route I go with dietetics. There are so many possibilities.
Here is a favorite recipe of mine that my brother shared with me. I was never a fan of guacamole until I tried homemade guacamole. I like it extra spicy so I use two Serrano chilies instead of one.
There is one special restaurant my husband and I try to get to once a year. And when we do, we definitely order: Cranberry and Walnut Greens. The ingredients include baby greens, sun dried cranberries, spicy walnuts, balsamic vinaigrette and amablu cheese. Amablu cheese is a local creation. It is the first blue cheese made and marketed nationally here in America – and it’s cave-aged!
But the star of that salad is the cranberry. And did you know all these fun facts about the little cranberry?
• Scientists have shown that flavonoids give fruits, like cranberries, and vegetables most of their antioxidant properties and that a flavonoid-rich diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease?
• Drinking 8–16 oz. of 27% original, low- or no-calorie cranberry juice cocktail each day is recommended to maintain urinary tract health and prevent urinary tract infections?
• Dried cranberries are a good source of fiber?
• ¼ cup dried cranberries is a serving and equal to ½ cup of fresh fruit?
Here are some fun salad combinations that include cranberries. A must-have ingredient for any summer salad.
• Dried cranberries, garbanzo beans and carrots
• Dried cranberries, orange slices and chopped broccoli
• Dried cranberries, cucumbers and feta cheese
• Dried cranberries, green peppers and black beans
• Dried cranberries, black beans and corn kernels
• Dried cranberries, chopped pears and celery
Place cranberry juice and dried cranberries in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in vinegar and Dijon mustard. Gradually whisk in canola oil so the mixture becomes a dressing. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Rinse spinach and frisée; spin dry. Remove thick stems and cut larger leaves into bite-size pieces. Add avocado and onion slices.
Gently toss salad ingredients with the dressing and serve.
A quick and easy way to mix up the dressing is to use a Mason Jar, just put a lid on it and shake.
Growing up on a farm meant doing a lot of farm chores. And since my family finished pigs (got ready for market) while my grandpa farrowed pigs (bred the mamas – sows – and helped them through the birthing process until the pigs were ready to be on their own), that meant I spent a lot of time in the barn, feeding, cleaning the pens, and even getting my pig ready to show for the county fair every summer. But it also meant we ate a lot of pork. It was a staple on our Midwestern plate. And it was always something I looked forward to after a long day of chores.
Pork is something I still love. It’s lean. It’s tender. It’s juicy. And it pairs well with so many other foods. Did I mention that the most flavorful, tender and juicy pork should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit? That’s the new recommendation with a three minute rest. (Ground pork should always be cooked to 160 degrees).
Why is pork leaner? Farmers have made dramatic improvements in how they raise their pigs over the past few decades:
Enhanced protection from harsh weather and predators
Better genetics and animal care
Improved diets to better match animals’ needs
And even beyond that, today’s farm efficiency means that pound for pound of pork, farmers are now using far fewer of our earth’s precious resources than they were in 1959. 78% less land, 41% less water and 35% smaller carbon footprint. Impressive.
I continue to be impressed by our food system in the United States, our farmers, their dedication, the families that support them, how safe our food system is and how we have so much variety each time we shop in the supermarket aisles.
Because this month’s Recipe ReDux blog link up included the topic of cooking with “spirits”, matching pork and spiced rum couldn’t be a better fit. Thanks to my intern Megan for preparing the recipe! (Don’t worry about the alcohol in this recipe – it’s reduced and cooked out!
And get even more inspired with one of my favorite websites: Pork – Be Inspired! www.porkbeinspired.com. It’s full of great recipes, how-to’s and much more. And check out their Pinterest Board too!