Tag Archives: dinner

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month.  It’s no wonder why there’s an entire 30 days devoted to encouraging families to eat together more often. Experts frequently tout the benefits of family meals, including better nutrition, and improved school performance and higher self-esteem in children. In a perfect world, spouses, partners, and kids would be home at the same time, nobody would be cranky, tired, or hormonal, and nobody would complain about the food.  I’m a big fan of family meals, but I also know that making them happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. Here’s why you should try anyway.

eat-1583954_1920

Why Family Meals Matter

As the mother of three, I think that sitting down together over a meal helps kids in a number of ways, no matter how often your three year-old wanders off in search of something more interesting, or your teen turns up her nose at what’s for dinner.

family-eating-at-the-table-619142

Family meals help kids develop a sense of regularity and routine that could carry into later life. A study of college students suggests eating at the same time promotes better nutrition. And, eating together allows you to teach kids good table manners and expose them to new foods.

Yet, it may not be necessary to create a soothing, nurturing environment around the table on a daily basis. Some experts and others (including comedian Ana Gasteyer, a mother of two) think the benefits of family meals are exaggerated. Her post is hilarious!

If you can’t make family meals happen as often as you like, take comfort in this: A large study that examined the effects of family dinners on children found that spending time with your kids and taking an interest in their daily lives matters most for their well-being, whether that happens during at meal times, or not.

5 No-Fuss Dinners

Interested in more family meals with less stress?  I highly recommend lowering your standards.

Keep dinner as simple as possible. Cook at home more often. Don’t worry about dining out or ordering in every so often, but try to make healthier choices.

Here are five healthy dinners you can have on the table in 20 minutes or less:

  • Stir-fry 8 to 12 ounces of lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless, boneless turkey breast with a large chopped onion, cumin, and salt and ground black pepper. Combine with 1 cup canned, drained black beans. Spoon the cooked meat/bean mixture onto 4 whole wheat tortillas. Top with shredded cheese, chopped tomato, lettuce, and low-fat sour cream. Or make this chili, and pair it with fruit.

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  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken; salad of prewashed greens, cherry tomatoes, and olives; quick-cooking grain such as whole wheat couscous, and milk.
  • Grilled cheese or tuna melt with sliced tomato; cup of lentil soup (beans are vegetables!); fruit, and a cup of yogurt.
  • Serve Brinner (breakfast for dinner): French toast made with whole grain bread, fruit, milk; pancakes made with whole wheat flour served with fruit and milk; or an omelet prepared with cheese and leftover vegetables, with fruit, milk, whole grain toast or roll.

pancake-2604822

  • Pizza prepared with whole grain tortillas or whole wheat Naan bread and store-bought shredded cheddar cheese; green salad; fruit.

Here are some additional family-friendly meals:

 

 

Beefy Mushroom Burgers

I adore big, juicy burgers, but honestly, I don’t want, or need, all that food. If you feel the same way, there are easy swaps you can make for a more nutritious burger meal, such as adding mushrooms for some of the meat, that don’t skimp on taste, and are also good for the planet. Here’s how I build a better burger, and how you can, too.

Mushrooms Matter

Recently, the Mushroom Council invited me to lunch at Alden & Harlow restaurant to learn more about The Blended Burger Project, a program that encourages chefs nationwide to create burgers using at least 25% mushrooms. (Please note that I did not write this post on behalf of the Mushroom Council and I did not receive anything from them other than lunch.)

I was particularly fascinated with some new research about mushroom sustainability, which found that it’s possible to grow up to one million pounds of mushrooms on a single acre of land, and that producing a pound of mushrooms requires less than two gallons of water. That’s good news for the environment.

Mushrooms are tan and white, and they often get disregarded for their lack of color, which is taken to mean that they’re not worth much nutritionally. Wrong! Mushrooms supply B vitamins, selenium and other protective compounds, and when producers expose them to ultraviolet rays, mushrooms are an excellent source of vitamin D. In fact, they are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle!

Mushrooms may be better for you than you realize!

Become a Blenditarian

Mushroom sustainability and nutrition is only part of what I wanted to share with you. The meeting inspired me to create an appealing blended burger recipe that’s easy to make at home, especially since it’s National Burger Month.

Blending mushrooms with meat is not new to me. Mushrooms have a meaty texture and a savory taste called umami which pairs well with meat. My Beef and Mushroom Stew recipe forgoes some meat for mushrooms.  I also use mushrooms to replace meat in marinara sauce and on pizza.

Lean ground beef, ground skinless turkey breast, and other lean animal foods, such as bison, are full of valuable nutrients, including protein, zinc, and iron.  Too many large, fatty burgers on white buns can spell trouble for your health, however.

Substituting mushrooms for some meat, no matter how fatty, increases vegetable intake – always a good idea – and naturally decreases the calories, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol in a typical burger.

Beefy Mushroom Burgers

In my blended recipe, each burger uses just two ounces of lean beef.  When I serve the burgers, I skip the chips (well, I may have one or two), opt for whole wheat hamburger buns, and enjoy a large fresh green salad topped with olive oil and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) for extra crunch and nutrition.  I like to garnish my burger with a horseradish/mayonnaise mixture, sliced tomato, and lettuce.

Preparation tip: Make a double batch and freeze raw burgers individually for future use.

Beefy Mushroom Burgers

Makes 4.

12 ounces baby bella mushrooms, or any mushroom

2 teaspoons olive oil

8 ounces 93% lean ground beef

fresh ground black pepper, to taste

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs

2 teaspoons dried basil

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

4 2-ounce whole wheat buns, toasted or grilled, if desired

 

Chop mushrooms into 1/4-inch pieces.

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil to the pan and heat.  Add mushrooms to pan and saute for 3 to 5 minutes.  Season with ground black pepper.

Place mushrooms in a food processor or blender and pulse until they take on a paste-like consistency, about 10-15 seconds.

In a medium bowl, combine the mushrooms, beef, eggs, bread crumbs, basil, and Worcestershire sauce.  Form mixture into 4 patties of equal size.

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.

Cook burgers for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until they reach an internal temperature of 160˚F.

To serve, place patties on buns with desired toppings.

Per serving (burger and bun): 
360 calories; 11 grams fat (3 grams saturated fat); 141 milligrams cholesterol; 771 milligrams sodium; 40 grams carbohydrate; 5 grams fiber; 27 grams protein

 

What You Should Know About Eating Meat

Are you struggling to understand recent reports about beef, bacon, and hot dogs? You’re not alone.  Here’s how make sense of the science, and my favorite way to keep meat on the menu.

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The Beef with Meat 

A couple of weeks ago, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report suggesting that eating more processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and ham, is linked to an increased risk for colorectal cancer, the second leading cancer killer in the United States.

In addition, the IARC said a higher intake of red meat, including beef, pork, veal, and lamb, is probably carcinogenic, but the evidence isn’t as strong as for the processed kind. Poultry and fish were not fingered in this report as problematic.

Scary, right? At first glance, yes. But some perspective is in order.

Risk is relative.  While the report indicates that greater meat intake results in greater cancer risk, it’s important to note that about 34,000 cancer deaths yearly around the world are linked to higher intakes of processed meat, while 600,000 are attributable to alcohol. Smoking cigarettes causes one million cancer deaths a year worldwide.

It’s OK to Eat Meat

If you like meat, it’s OK to have it as part of a balanced eating plan.  The question is what type and how much meat is safer to eat.

While the IACR report says the risk of cancer is linked to the amount of red meat consumed, it doesn’t provide a specific level to include in the diet. However, the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) suggests limiting red meat to 18 ounces (cooked) weekly.

The IACR doesn’t ask people to stop eating processed meat, but it does makes it clear that lowering consumption can reduce the risk for cancer. The AICR suggests avoiding ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs, sausages, and other processed meat, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Processed meats contain nitrate salts that form powerful carcinogens called nitrosamines in the body.

Does that mean the occasional hot dog, ham sandwich, or bacon with eggs on the weekend causes cancer? No, but I consider processed meats, including cold cuts, as “sometimes” foods rather than everyday fare, especially for children.

The upside to eating less meat is the opportunity to include more plant foods, which are rich in compounds that help to ward off cancer and other chronic conditions. Whole grains including quinoa, freekeh, and farro, are filling and are higher in protein than many other grains. Adding vegetables to meat dishes reduces meat intake and stretches your food dollar, too.

Mushrooms and Meat: A Perfect Pair

Mushrooms blend well with meat, in part because they take on the flavors in the dish, including that of the meat.

Many Sliced and Whole Whites

I substitute an equal amount of cooked mushrooms for half the beef in many of my favorite recipes, including Mushroom Burgers, Mushroom Pizza, and Almost Lasagna. Just chop the mushrooms to match the consistency of the meat, cook, and blend into the recipe. Here’s one of my favorite beef stew recipes made over with more mushrooms and less meat. Enjoy!

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Beef and Mushroom Stew

Makes 6 servings

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

1 pound boneless beef bottom round roast or other stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces

½ teaspoon salt

2 medium onions, peeled and chopped

6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed dried thyme leaves

2 cups reduced-sodium beef broth (you can use an equal amount of red wine and broth if you like)

16 ounces sliced baby portabello mushrooms or any other type of mushroom

2 cups chopped carrots or baby carrots

1 cup frozen peas

 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and black pepper. Add the meat and coat it with the flour mixture.

In a large stockpot, heat 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over medium heat until hot. Working in batches, add the meat to the pan and brown. Remove the meat from the pan. Season meat with salt. Reserve.

Heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in the stockpot. Add the onions, garlic, and thyme. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat or until onions have softened. Add 1 cup of the beef broth and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until the browned bits attached to the bottom and sides of the stockpot are dissolved. Stir in the remaining broth.

Return the meat to the stockpot. Stir in the mushrooms, cover the stockpot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 1/4 hours. Add the carrots to the stockpot. Cover, and continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the beef and carrots are fork-tender. Stir in the peas and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Per serving:

256 calories

8 grams fat

283 milligrams sodium

20 grams carbohydrate

4 grams fiber

27 grams protein

40 milligrams calcium

 

 

3-Ingredient Broccoli Cheese Calzone

Warning: These are possibly the worst food photos of one of the most delicious meals I make on a regular basis without a recipe. Here’s why I’m posting them, and the recipe.

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Last week, I was making one of my go-to, get-it-done, dinners (which also happens to be delicious) and I decided to document the process.  There was no natural light in the kitchen, and I was too tired to style the food. The result: instructional photos, not food porn.

If you like pretty pictures of food, you may want to look away now. If you’d like to get dinner on the table using just three ingredients (OK, four, if you count the olive oil), and you can tolerate some reality, keep reading.

Let’s get started.

You need 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided; 10 cups of chopped 1-inch broccoli florets; 1 pound of prepared white or whole wheat pizza dough; and 16 ounces of block cheddar cheese. That’s it.

Heat oven to 400˚F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Steam the broccoli.  While the broccoli is cooking, slice cheddar cheese into ¼-inch slices. (You can substitute packaged shredded cheese.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into a rectangle of about 10” long by 16” wide.   Place half the cheese on the pizza dough lengthwise to within a half inch of the edge of the dough. The cheese forms a barrier between the dough and the broccoli to keep the calzone from getting soggy.

 

When broccoli is fork-tender, rinse with cool water. Drain well and blot with a clean towel to remove excess moisture. Arrange broccoli evenly over the cheese.

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Cover the broccoli with the remaining cheese.

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Fold dough in half over the broccoli and cheese filling. Seal edges with tines of a fork. Using your hands, gently scoop up the calzone and transfer it to the baking sheet. Brush with remaining olive oil.

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Cook for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Allow the calzone to rest for at least five minutes before cutting. Makes at least 8 servings. Serve with fruit and milk for a balanced meal.

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If there’s any leftover, warm for about 7 minutes in a 300˚F oven, or for about 30 seconds in the microwave. The oven is better, but I’m usually in too much of a hurry to wait!

Here’s the nutrition information using regular pizza dough. Whole wheat pizza dough will increase the fiber. Use reduced-fat cheddar cheese, such as Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar (no, they are not a client), to reduce calories and fat.  (Serves 8)

Per serving:

399 calories

22 grams fat

825 milligrams sodium

32 grams carbohydrate

5 grams fiber

22 grams protein

460 milligrams calcium

5 Stress-Free Family Meals

September is National Family Meals Month.  It’s no wonder why there’s an entire 30 days devoted to encouraging families to eat together more often. Experts frequently tout the benefits of family meals, including better nutrition, and improved school performance and higher self-esteem in children. In a perfect world, spouses, partners, and kids would be home at the same time, nobody would be cranky, tired, or hormonal, and nobody would complain about the food.  I’m a big fan of family meals, but I also know that making them happen on a regular basis can be overwhelming. Here’s why you should try anyway.

eat-1583954_1920

 

Why Family Meals Matter

As the mother of three, I think that sitting down together over a meal helps kids in a number of ways, no matter how often your three year-old wanders off in search of something more interesting, or your teen turns up her nose at what’s for dinner.

family-eating-at-the-table-619142

Family meals help kids develop a sense of regularity and routine that could carry into later life. A study of college students suggests eating at the same time promotes better nutrition. And, eating together allows you to teach kids good table manners and expose them to new foods.

Yet, it may not be necessary to create a soothing, nurturing environment around the table on a daily basis. Some experts and others (including comedian Ana Gasteyer, a mother of two) think the benefits of family meals are exaggerated. Her post is hilarious!

If you can’t make family meals happen as often as you like, take comfort in this: A large study that examined the effects of family dinners on children found that spending time with your kids and taking an interest in their daily lives matters most for their well-being, whether that happens during at meal times, or not.

5 No-Fuss Dinners

Interested in more family meals with less stress?  I highly recommend lowering your standards. Keep dinner as simple as possible. Cook at home as often as you can, and don’t worry about dining out or ordering in every so often, but do make healthier choices.

Here are five healthy dinners you can have on the table in 20 minutes or less:

  • Stir-fry 8 to 12 ounces of lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless, boneless turkey breast with a large chopped onion, cumin, and salt and ground black pepper. Combine with 1 cup canned, drained black beans. Spoon the cooked meat/bean mixture onto 4 whole wheat tortillas. Top with shredded cheese, chopped tomato, lettuce, and low-fat sour cream. Or make this chili, and pair it with fruit.

dsc_0522

  • Store-bought rotisserie chicken; salad of prewashed greens, cherry tomatoes, and olives; quick-cooking grain such as whole wheat couscous, and milk.
  • Grilled cheese or tuna melt with sliced tomato; cup of lentil soup (beans are vegetables!); fruit, and a cup of yogurt.
  • Serve Brinner (breakfast for dinner): French toast made with whole grain bread, fruit, milk; pancakes made with whole wheat flour served with fruit and milk; or an omelet prepared with cheese and leftover vegetables, with fruit, milk, whole grain toast or roll.

pancake-2604822

  • Pizza prepared with whole grain tortillas or whole wheat Naan bread and store-bought shredded cheddar cheese; green salad; fruit.

Here are some additional family-friendly meals:

 

 

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