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5 Easy Weeknight Meals: Your 7 Day Family Jump Start!

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Feeding your family well on Shavuos – Simply and Sanely!

The way Shavuot falls this year (10 days from now) we are looking at a three day yuntov. Because of the length and because it starts with Shabbat, I really have to keep my menus simple to maintain my sanity. I encourage you to do the same! You’ll also want to do as much prep ahead of time as possible.

I have two suggestions to simplify your menu.

  1. Make one big dish and supplement it with a side salad and rainbow vegetable platter. For your big main dish, consider my vegan enchilada casserole or vegan gluten-free lasagna. I promise you won’t be able to tell that either dish is gluten-free or sans cheese. In addition, both of these dishes can be put together before Shabbat and yuntov and then baked fresh for lunch. You can also bake them ahead of time and reheat for your meal.

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  1. Another simple strategy is to let your guests customize their own meal. For example, see a previous year’s Shavuot blog with a “make your own” Taco Bar and Jicama Mango Salad. Two other Mexican options include a “make your own” nachos (which you can then bake fresh if you want to melt real or vegan cheese on top) or fajitas.

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Two Italian “make your own” options include pizza and a pasta (try whole grain or bean options) bar. Kids are often a focus on Shavuot. Let them enjoy their lunch and feel like they made their own meal, instead of being told what to eat. You’ll give them a number of healthy choices for toppings, such as baby spinach, sautéed mushrooms, black olives, fresh and roasted peppers, etc…

Here is an easy side salad suggestion from The Healthy Family, Healthy You Cookbook:

Colorful Company Salad

Serves 6-8

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It doesn’t get any easier than this! I’m always looking out for you – easy, healthy and fast! I love this salad and don’t think it even needs dressing. However, feel free to add some if you like. You can also feel free to play around with the proportions of ingredients.

2 cups corn canned, frozen, or fresh cooked corn (cut off the cob)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, to taste
1 red pepper, diced
1 mango, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half

Combine all ingredients, except for the tomatoes, and stir. Cover the top of the salad with the sliced tomatoes. If you really want to impress your guests, use a mixture of yellow and red grape tomatoes.

Dessert

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For dessert, let the kids make their own chocolate covered strawberries or banana bites. My sis Lani’s fig salad is also always a hit and particularly refreshing after days of heavy dairy foods.

Good yuntov!

 

Simple and Tasty! 10 ideas for your Healthy Memorial Day Menu

Hey, Healthy Mama! Whether you are hosting your own shindig or contributing to another one, the Healthy Family, Healthy You blog has all the healthy Memorial Day ideas you need.

Many of these can be used in a couple of different categories, so see where I’ve noted this. Also, many of these recipes are from The Healthy Family, Healthy You Cookbook. What? You don’t have the cookbook? Or The Healthy Mama’s Guide to feeding your family well – simply and sanely? Well, let’s just fix that right quick! Click on the titles to purchase. :)-

Appetizers

Rainbow fruit skewers. I have this listed as a dessert option below, but it is actually better for your digestion to eat fruit BEFORE anything else. Fruit is metabolized much faster than protein and grains (and even vegetables). Therefore, if you eat fruit AFTER your veggie or meat burgers, the fruit will not be able to get through your system as fast as it needs to, causing gas and bloating. Experiment with this and see how you feel. If you let the kids put these together when the party starts, they can busy themselves eating the fruit, instead of potato chips. The key is to keep the chips away until they’ve eaten their fruit so they don’t keep taking handful after handful of chips. This is a good idea for grown-ups too!

Rainbow fruit and veggie platters
My Healthy Mamas know all about my veggie platters! See below for the ones I made for Purim.

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See below for the platter I made for a recent Fruit Funshop at a local preschool. (Do your kids need to have fun with food at camp or preschool? See my workshop page and email me at natasha@healthyfamilyhealthyyou.com for more info!). We also made “lollipops.”

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There are so many ways to display fruits and veggies and provide fun food for your guests (or your host) with very little work. The best way is to let the colorful veggies make the fun for you! See below for a few ideas, including my famous baby cucumber pops. And yes, I know I’m obsessed with rainbows and rainbow food (all naturally colored of course!).

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MAIN DISHES

Collard Veggie Wraps

TASHA’S TIPS: Have large collard leaves available for your Paleo guests who might be eating hamburgers or grilled chicken breast (you know, if you’re into that kind of thing… :)- ) but don’t eat buns… or use them as a healthy (and gluten-free) alternative to a wheat flour based wrap for your veggie option. You can also make smaller wraps as finger food appetizers – or a side veggie.

Stuff your collard leaves with veggies, such as roasted red peppers, sauteed mushrooms, sliced cucumber, sliced tomato, shredded carrots. Top veggies with vegan mayo, mashed avocado or hummus.

10 Tempting Meal Prep Lunches to Take to Work

Click on the picture for 10 Tempting Meal Prep Lunches to Take to Work from Beachbody.com

TASHA’S TIPS: You have a few healthy options to go along with my recipe for Portabella burgers. You can provide collard leaves (as above) for those who don’t want a bun around their mushroom “burgers.” OR….. (I’m about to blow your mind….) The Portabellas can be used as the “burger” or the bun! Here’s how all of this might look:

  • A hamburger or veggie burger with all the fixins’ inside a collard green wrap.
  • A hamburger or veggie burger where a large mushroom cap acts as the bun – just a bottom bun for an open-faced option, or both top and bottom.
  • Mushroom caps as top and bottom bun with all the fixins’, such as sliced tomato, cucumber, sprouts, spinach, avocado and hummus as the “meat” of the sandwich.
  • The mushroom can be your “burger.” See recipe below.

Portabella Mushroom “Bacon Burgers”
Serves 4

4 Portabella mushroom caps, cooked
4 whole grain hamburger buns (try Ezekiel or other sprouted buns for a new healthy option), toasted
1 tomato, sliced
4 Romaine lettuce leaves
1 package bacon tempeh
1 avocado, sliced
Sauce options: Vegan Mayo, Mustard, Hummus

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick spray. Cook mushrooms according to directions on previous page. Warm tempeh bacon according to directions on package.

Place each mushroom on a bun with tempeh bacon, lettuce, tomato, avocado slice and sauce of your choice: vegan mayo, mustard, or hummus, if desired.

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SIDE DISHES

The veggie wraps above, and/or:

Rainbow veggie skewers

Let the kids put these together. They’ll be very proud of their accomplishment and contribution to the meal/party. It will also keep them busy!

Rainbow Veggie Skewers Recipe | BeachbodyBlog.com

Mom’s Tuna Pasta Salad – Veganized
Serves 6

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Nothing reminds my sister and me of summer like our mom’s tuna pasta salad. And then I remember the guilt. The pasta. The mayo. My mom always puts twice as much mayo as I would into anything and everything that mayo could go into. However, most of the time, I have to admit that it does taste better that way!

Nevertheless, we have our health to think of, so I came up with this alternative. The good news is that since I’ve started to eat a plant-based diet I’m not so afraid of pasta. The same can happen for you!

1 16-ounce box medium sized whole grain shell or elbow shaped pasta (Brown rice pasta works very well)
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped yellow pepper
2 Tablespoons chopped shallot (leave out if your kids don’t like onions)
⅔ cup Nayonaise light vegan mayo (or any low fat vegan mayo)
1 29-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained, then mashed lightly with a fork
Salt and pepper

Cook pasta as directed. Rinse it with cold water and let it cool to room temp in a large bowl. Combine all vegetables, Nayonaise, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add the mix to the larger bowl with the pasta and stir well. Cover and place in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld together for at least an hour.

SALADS

Ginger Corn Salad
Serves 6-8

This simple salad is a no-brainer when you are having company or want to bring a vegetarian dish to a potluck dinner.

3 cups canned, frozen, or fresh cooked corn (off the cob)
1 to 2 Tablespoons (to taste) dehydrated or fresh red onion
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup shelled edamame (fresh, steamed or microwaved from frozen)
Approximately ½ cup “Newman’s Own” bottled sesame ginger salad dressing (or similar)

Mix all ingredients and serve.

OR

Summer Corn Salad

Summer Corn and Tomato Salad

Serves 4-6

A great way to use up summer bounty or inject summer into your winter!

3 cups corn (defrosted frozen, cooked and cut off the stalk; or raw if that’s  what you like!)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
Half a large or 1 small avocado, diced
Juice of half to 1 lemon, to taste
Himalayan pink salt

Mix corn, tomatoes and avocado in a mixing bowl. Add lemon juice and season with salt to taste. Mix gently. Transfer to serving dish if you like.

Refreshing fruit ideas for DESSERT

My Mother’s Day blog idea for using melons, pineapple or watermelon as your fruit salad vessels.

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and/or

Rainbow fruit skewers. Let the kids make their own. Keep them busy with healthy activities when they’re on shpilkes and don’t want to sit at the table any longer, but you don’t want to get up to watch them outside of your eating area.

Have a great Memorial Day weekend – and don’t forgot that it is about those who serve our country, not just BBQ.

 

A Spring without Zombies!

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I’m not one to tell my kids to go outside and play. Why? I don’t like to play outside! If they’re out there, I have to be too (Call me crazy but I don’t enjoy Maryland gnats buzzing about my head). However, I recently realized that I had to do something to combat the slow screen-addicted zombie-ification of myself and my family. Discovering a sense of wonder (missing in the Google age) for something other than new toy videos on YouTube is definitely a healthy habit for children AND adults. I decided to force that discovery and took advantage of a once a year phenomena to get us out there. (You can see the results above. A lot better than fighting over the remote!)

Washingtonians are often aware of seasonal use it or lose it events because D.C.  is home to the famous cherry blossoms. They bloom once per year (we never know for sure when) and are only at their peak for a short time. Some years I make it. Some years I don’t.

This year I found a pocket of unscheduled time on a Sunday afternoon and took my kids on a drive to see the cherry blossoms. I was so eager not to miss them that I went even though I had heard news reports that it was still early in their blooming process. Alas, the trees were still in bud stage. It was quite the tease. I could clearly imagine the billowy pink canopy coming soon, but couldn’t quite feel or experience it.

Once they were in bloom, I simply couldn’t find an unscheduled hour (during daylight) to get back there. Their peak happened to fall during Purim, one of the busiest times of the year for us; filled with making and delivering mishloach manot, dressing up in costumes, attending the requisite parties (I know, it’s a hard life!) and Megillah (Book of Esther) readings, there just wasn’t time for much else.

When I saw tulips sprouting on neighborhood lawns, I started stalking the website and hotline of a local garden (Brookside). After receiving confirmation that the tulips were out, the only time I had to take my family was on an already packed Sunday.  I planned for us to enjoy a picnic lunch. Our other obligations quickly overtook the day and any window of time to go kept getting smaller. My husband, kids and mom were asking if it had to be that day, what’s the big deal and weren’t we simply too busy and tired that day? I dug in my heels. I missed the cherry blossoms this year. Last year, worse than missing the tulips at the gardens, I got there late – when they were all in various stages of decay. That was so much more disappointing than finding the cherry blossoms as buds.

After all the various, “I have to go to the bathroom” (that was me – and we were there so late the restrooms were closed) and “I need a drink of water,” and “I’m hungry” delays…I told everyone to put one foot in front of the other. We were going to walk until we saw those damn tulips. And we did. The kids, my husband and mom, were equally excited to spot and compare the different colors and varieties. 2016-04-17 18.13.51 2016-04-17 18.13.55

My children played with other kids around the pools and fountains. They clearly understood why I had pushed them to get out of the house, make the long drive and walk through the gardens. Everyone left a bit more relaxed and contented than when we arrived. They both played butterfly on the metal butterfly bench.

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Now, if only I could end the (so far) 7 year streak I’ve missed ordering and planting tulips in time to have them in my own yard for spring.

I have the (bad?) luck that my two favorite flowers, the aforementioned tulips, and Lily of the Valley, come and go in rapid succession and aren’t easily available other times of the year.

In fact, because Passover was a month later than usual this year, I was worried I would miss the Lily of the Valley due to bloom in my back yard. (No, I didn’t get it together to buy seeds and plant them. I had the good fortune to move into a house where it already grew.) I found them in full bloom the day I returned and quickly filled my kitchen with their sweet scent.

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There is some good in being able to find almost anything on YouTube or Google. I can show my children a rare animal or a plant that doesn’t grow here or grow now. However, there is something unique and valuable about savoring a tactile nature-related experience available only once per year. You can’t smell or touch flowers online – at least not yet.

We can teach our children to savor the season on a regular basis by paying attention to the seasons and their associated physical changes and rich bounties.

Now, excuse me while I go pull out my seed catalogues…