Friday, January 25, 2013

Miss Barb's Winter Warmers

It’s been a cold winter and we all are doing everything to keep warm from warm winter coats, gloves and hats to sitting by the crackling fire if you are lucky enough to have a fireplace or wood stove or just plugging in a new space heater.

Soup, the ultimate hot comfort food, is a must have meal. It starts from the cooking and simmering where fragrant, healthy ingredients fill the air with warm wonderful smells.

This tomato based fish soup is easy to make, filled with fiber rich vegetables and protein from the fish. Warm filling and delicious, this soup when paired with some crusty whole grain bread is a warming satisfying balanced meal.


Soup warms you from the inside out so when you go out in the cold again you feel warmer.
Vegetarians can substitute beans for the fish . So be sure to make enough for an easy warm quick heat up meal for later in the week.

Soups help you brave the cold .  Soups warm you from the inside out.


Recipe Link: 6 By Land and 1 By Sea Chowder

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Turning an Apple into a Power Snack

With all the press and all of the research that shows that eating healthy is the way to go people, including myself, struggle with how to have a quick , easy grab and go healthy breakfast or snack that tastes great and has eye appeal. Because we eat with our eyes 1st and lets be honest.....an apple or a container of yogurt might not have that same instant appeal - however if you can slow it down, get past that sudden impulse, and think of another choice......



So I present to you the Apple Power Snack.  Kind of looks like a doughnut don’t you think?

Apple Power Snack Recipe

1 Apple
1 tbsp peanut butter (divided)
2 tbsp Berkshire Grain Granola (divided)


Remove the Apple core using an apple corer. Next slice the Apple in ½ horizontally leaving the small hole from the missing core in the middle.  Smear on peanut butter; dip into granola..

This grab and go easy to eat and easy to make breakfast, with a glass of nice fresh juice, or why not a fancy coffee.  As a snack, which do you think will keep you satisfied until your next meal? or take longer to eat and enjoy?  The Apple Power Snack combines, fruit , fiber and protein. It delivers great taste and energy in a fun presentation.

It’s so easy to make - have the kids make their own and one for you too!

Monday, August 29, 2011

School is Coming.......So Are School Lunches

As school vacation draws to a close - for some it already has - here in the Northeast next week marks the beginning of another school year.
So it was little surprise when I clicked on Time Magazine On-line Edition to find a story - Back to School: Best Lunchboxes for Kids (and Their Parents!)

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world?xid=rss-world#ixzz1W3DrIy25http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2090274_2090267,00.html

In my travels from school to school teaching children of all ages about food, healthy eating habits, and how to cook simple foods I talk to lots of parents and teachers.  I look at this feature about buying a new lunchbox at Pottery Barn, and think of all the families struggling today.  If you're in the category of shopping for a new lunch box for your child maybe you should also give some thought to another less fortunate child in need of last years lunch box - even to donate it to the Salvation Army or Goodwill.  For everyone though I have some interesting ideas to get you thinking about school lunches.

Bento Boxes

The Bento Box has become increasingly popular offering children a great selection of their favorites fresh foods.  The following recipes I developed for Doggity, which can be viewed weekly on PBS/Sprout Network, or On-Demand is your local TV System does not carry PBS/Sprout.



Ingredients:
Dipping Vegetables ---blanched broccoli flowerettes, carrots sticks and red pepper strips

Ranch Dip( recipe below)
Prepared hummus
Small cheese cubes
Rolled sliced turkey
Pita Chips(recipe below)


Dipping vegetables
1 cup small broccoli florettes
1/2 cup baby carrots, sliced in half lengthwise, or 1/2 cup thin carrot sticks
1/2 cup thinly sliced red pepper cut in 1-inch pieces
Wash all vegetables.
Cut broccoli into small tree like pieces leaving short piece as bottom stem
Cut baby carrots in half lengthwise.
Remove seeds from red pepper and cut in thin, short strips about 1-1 1/2 inches in length.

Fill medium/large pot 2/3 full of water, bring to a boil.
Fill large bowl 2/3 full with ice water, set aside.
Place vegetables into pot of boiling water. Allow for water to return to boiling and boil for 3 minutes.
With slotted spoon or strainer remove vegetables from boiling water and put into ice water to cool.
Drain and pat dry.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
-
Ranch Dip
1/4 cup  light mayonnaise
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

In small bowl combine all ingredients. Mix with wire whisk until well blended.
makes 1/2 cup  ranch dip.

Pita Chips
2 round whole wheat pita bread
Olive oil,olive oil or canola oil non stick cooking spray
Kosher salt, garlic powder,or other seasonings of your choice.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Using Scissors cut each pita bread in half. Pull apart each half into 2 pieces. Lightly brush or spray the rough side of each half with oil or cooking spray.
Lightly sprinkle with salt and other seasonings.
Using scissors, cut each half into 6 -8 wedges.
Arrange in a single layer on large baking sheet.
Bake for 5-7 minutes or until browned.

Bento Box Containers Made Easy
Like the idea of a Bento Box Lunch or Snack for yourself and your children it's really easy - all you need is a plastic container with individual compartments and a lid.  Look and around and get creative.  You can find ideal containers in unusual places like your Sporting Goods Store, or Local Hardware Supply Shop.



DIY Freezer Pack
While most of us grownups have probably survived a lunch in a brown bag in a backpack, or a desk drawer without refrigeration it's really not a wise thing to do.  Children can be extremely susceptible and run a serious risk of severe illness from food stored improperly in the Food Temp Danger Zone 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit.


Here's a neat idea to make with your children, and if for some reason they discard the freezer pack at lunch time - just make another. 



What You Need

Materials
1 plastic zip top freezer bag (or vacuum seal type)
1/2 cup liquid dish soap (your choice)
1 glass jar (optional)

Instructions

1. Open Bag: Although this sounds like a silly first step, it's an important one. Even though it's not rocket science to squirt soap into a bag, any residual soap could end up on your lunch, so we take an extra second to roll back the lip of the bag to eliminate any chance of contact later on.
2. Add Soap: Although you can just squirt the soap right in the bag, we use a small jar to help hold the bag open and also to keep the zip-closure out of the way. This ensures that we won't have any external soap that could come in contact with our tasty lunches or picnic food!
3. Different Colors: These days you can buy Dishwash Soap in almost every color - so why not a freezer pack in your favorite color?
4. Remove Air: This is easiest done on the first try, once you flip it upright to squeeze any excess out of the bag, you'll have new found air bubbles that will need to work their way to the surface. Keep the bag flat and let it almost flow out the top and seal right before it gets to the end. You can of course choose any method you wish, this one just happens to work well for us.

5. Freeze: Your ice pack will take to whatever shape it rests on in your freezer and even though it will spend most of it's time in your lunch box as a thick cold gel, when it's first removed from the freezer it's more solid than not (depending on the size of your ice pack). Sometimes we keep them flat, other times we roll them up and store them in a glass until frozen, that way it will keep your fruit perfectly chilled, but not your peanut butter sandwich.
6. Tips On Using These packs will work forever as long as you take care of them. If you're worried about them leaking you can use a double bag or a vacuum seal bag. They're super inexpensive to make and at only a few pennies a piece, you could make one for each day of the week or different shapes or sizes.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Being Watchful of What/Who is Behind That Interesting Article

Just today I came across an article that caught my eye and since it dealt with children and children's health and nutrition I stopped.

The tile was......Milk Better Than Water to Rehydrate Kids, Study Finds

So of course I had to read this to get the scoop and see if it was worth passing on to you all.
The article goes on to speak about the virtues of milk and how milk has sodium to replace what is lost by sweating, that milk contains protein and other nutrients.

At the very bottom of the article it posted: The study is funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada.

The lesson I'm trying to share with you is not that Milk is not good for 8-10 year old children to help re-hydrating - just that based on this article and who funded it we should all seek further opinions before running out to a hot ball field in the middle of summer and forcing a glass of milk on your child's soccer team.

In searching the internet for a glass of milk I also came across a story about a Glass of Milk, that is well worth sharing with you.  http://blog.thefoundationstone.org/2011/07/01/a-glass-of-milk-shared-by-rich-albeen/

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Breakfast, Metabolism, Weight Management - How it Works

By Miss Barb

How does it all work?? Skipping Breakfast will put the pounds on.

Our bodies are like these very efficient computers. Most of us are familiar with the term “Energy Star” which is an early green technology implemented in all types of smart electronic devices that reduces power to conserve energy. In essence the computer processor shuts down non-essential activities thereby allowing basic functions to be maintained and monitored.

Biologically our body has it’s own unique “Energy Star System” – skip breakfast and your body goes into a reduce energy cycle. So, which human functions would you choose to reduce? – unfortunately when a person skips breakfast they give up those rights, and the bodies “Energy Star System” kicks in and overrides even our conscious commands. We feel sluggish, and fuzzy, rather than sharp and alert. In this state running for the school bus or commuter train, forces your body to deplete stored nutrients and throws your Blood Glucose Levels into the danger zone – and depending on one’s present health condition in these emergencies the bodies reaction can be scary.

Your body has a name for it’s “Energy Star System” it is called Metabolism. Another explanation for Metabolism is -- the rate at which your body burns calories. There is no easy way to cover the plethora of information and the dynamic correlations of Weight Management and your Metabolism – the internet is a great wealth of information -- if you have school age children sit with them and read it together.

Breakfast is essential to fuel the start of another day – research shows that those who eat breakfast lose more weight than those who skip it. Your metabolism slows down while you sleep and it doesn’t speed back up until you eat again. If you don’t eat until lunchtime?? – your body won’t burn as many calories as it could during the morning period.

Your body's BMR is dynamically affected by several factors.
• Age
• Body Type
• Genetics
• Activity Levels
• Diet
The higher the BMR the better, and sedentary lifestyles have lower BMR's which makes it more difficult to keep weight off.

Making Your Metabolism Your Friend
There are 2 biochemical processes working independently in the body called Anabolism and Catabolism. The results of these 2 processes is what we call the Metabolism. In the simplest terms Anabolism is the buildup of molecules into energy, while Catabolism is the breakdown of those "energy molecules."

A simplified example of how this works is imagine a storage bucket. Everything we eat gets evaluated in the Anabolic process -- molecules that can create energy get incorporated into larger mass and stored in this "Energy Bucket", the size of which is determined by your BMR. The Catabolic process breaks down the stored energy from the "Energy Bucket" as the body creates demand -- the more active a person is the greater the demand. If due to a combination of factors the demand for Energy throughtout the day is insufficient to empty the "Energy Bucket" and more calories are consumed the body converts the molecules in the "Energy Bucket" into fat in order to make more room in the "Bucket." Body Fat is how the body stores Energy for "Long-Term Storage." And when caloric intake is insufficient to meet the body's demand for energy it begins to consume that stored fat/energy, thereby potentially initiating weight-loss or reduction in body mass. Lastly when everything is in balance the body's weight remains unchanged.


From this can you begin to understand why a person might feel sluggish with no energy?? If you guessed poor diet offering too little sustainable energy you are correct -- this condition is almost entirely diet related.

As children we receive encouraging suggestions from adults……….eat your veggies, drink your milk……if you want to grow up to have a healthy strong body. These are good lessons to adopt -- and this loving suggestion is a life long lesson to once learned to be practiced everyday. As adults people tend to take better care of their automobiles than their bodies. They use the right grade of gasoline, the correct type of oil, brake fluid, spark plugs – it’s all clearly spelled out in the owners manual – ah-ha! No “Human Manual.”

A good friend likes to use an expression “My Body is My Temple” – that seems to work for him. Why not make Your Metabolism Your Friend? It’s a good place to start.

If we refer back to the Anabolic and Catabolic processes – the body needs good quality and correct amounts of specific food types for these processes to work efficiently. Simple Carbohydrates in the form of refined sugars (white sugar, high fructose corn syrups) enriched flours, other forms of processed grains work against the body. Processed foods have many of the vital nutrients essential to sustain our daily needs stripped away in manufacturing, and in the long-term produce the results – Obesity and Insulin Resistance (leading to Diabetes). Many breakfast cereals targeting children -- that are frosted, artificially flavored and artificially colored offer little opportunity for "sustainable energy."

Breakfast Foods that offer a good choice of Whole Grains, Quality Lean Proteins, and Healthy Fats is the best way to start the day. Feeling good is contagious and unconsciously your body and mind will begin to attract more right choices throughout the day.

Conversely processed foods offer too few essential nutrients if any in comparison to their
calorie count, and so the body doesn’t convert these to energy. Unfortunately starting your day with poor choices and your body will push you towards further, like choices throughout the whole day -- pushing you further into low energy, irritability, depression, lack of focus and worse. Ever feel thirsty and just can't quench that thirst? ah-ha! same thing keep feeding the body sugar and processed foods.

The following plan is an example of poor habits that is almost guaranteed to result in worsening health issues, which wil be discussed in the 3rd part of this 4 part series:
• Eating lots proceesed foods with little nutritive value
• Little or No Exercise
• Skipping Meals (not just breakfast)
• Eating too close to bedtime

The above plan will over time develop High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, Insulin Resistance. Without any remediation these conditions will lead to Inflammation in the body , sometimes referred to as “Heat”, and Oxidative Stress and Free Radicals, “Rust.”
Likewise here is the list of good practices to support a “healthy” weight management system.
• Eat a balanced good quality lean diet, balanced between protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats.
• Eat Small meals every 2-4 hours through out the day
• Reduce your caloric intake
• Exercise 3-4 times/week (every other day) a combination of cardio fitness exercises like walking/running/swimming, and weight resistance approximately 40 minutes in duration.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

D.I.Y., Fat-Free Greek Style Yogurt

If you love any kind of yogurt, and especially Greek style yogurt, then this is going to be a treat from the heavens.  If you have some spare time this week-end, invite some friends over and make yogurt together. You'll be dealing with fresh dairy, which contains live acidophilus cultures from yogurt, and you'll need to follow some simple but essential procedures – so it's a bit of a throwback to middle school chem class. Right up front I want to assure you that making yogurt is virtually foolproof – even for those lacking confidence in the kitchen. Just follow the three easy steps below.

Some purest strongly advocate the use of whole milk for Greek style yogurt, but I've adapted this recipe using fat-free milk and assure you that it is rich and creamy. (It also doesn't have the tartness that may turn some off.) If calories and fat are not an issue for you though, feel free to use any grade of milk you like. 

Basic Yogurt Facts
Many have heard that most (not all) store-bought yogurt contains a friendly bacteria called acidophilus, yet few really know why it is good for us. Acidophilus keeps the intestines clean, helps eliminates bad breath and flatulence, improves the complexion and can be effective in reversing the intestinal damage caused by antibiotic treatments. 

Yogurt is also great source of calcium, protein, and vitamin B.  Some people with digestive problems with Lactose common in dairy products can find some relief from eating yogurt because it the process of turning milk into yogurt transforms the lactose into lactic acid. This means your body doesn't have to process the sugars in the original milk product.

Personally, I've found that eating 8-12 ounces of yogurt not only aids in my digestion but helps me to lose weight.  Don't try and eat all that yogurt in one sitting, however. Break it up into 2-3 servings throughout the day and it can be quite sustaining.  It is thick, rich, and goes well with combinations of fresh fruit, granola or other ready-to-eat cereals. There are also a number of other uses for yogurt. For instance, it can be used in salad dressings, as a substitute for sour cream on your baked potato. Play and invent on your own and if you have a tip, please do share by leaving a comment at the bottom of the blog post. 



Easy 3-Step Homemade Greek Style Yogurt

Equipment and Supplies
digital thermometer (recommended)
4-qt stainless steel pot
glass or ceramic type bowl (preferably with a lid)
hemp bag or cheese cloth (used to strain the developed culture)



Ingredients
1 liter fat-free milk
2 tbsp fat-free plain yogurt with live active acidophilus cultures






  • Step 1
    Heat milk to 200-205°F – just under boiling point. (I like to heat the milk on medium-high heat.) Be sure to stir the bottom of your pot several times to prevent milk from scalding and burning on bottom of the pot. Once the milk reaches proper temperature remove immediately and transfer to a glass or ceramic bowl.

    While the milk is cooling, prepare the yogurt culture by taking 2 tbsp of good quality, plain, fat-free yogurt and mix with 1-2 tbsp of milk. Let this sit out at room temperature until the "cooked milk" is ready.






  • Step 2
    Let the milk cool to about 104°F and pour the yogurt/milk mixture into the milk carefully without disturbing the skin that may have formed on the surface of the milk. Cover. If your bowl doesn't have a lid, any pot cover will do – or even a clean towel.  Next place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for 10 to 12 hours or overnight.  I use my oven for this part, and have found the interior light when left on creates enough warmth to help grow the culture. Likewise if you cook by gas and have a gas pilot that is constantly burning this will work well too. This part is important: do *not* disturb to allow the cultures to develop and the yogurt thickens.

    Step 3
    Remove bowl from its warm spot and remove the skin on the surface of the yogurt. Traditional methods call for pouring the yogurt into a muslin or cheesecloth bag. Hang the bag over a bowl and let drain for about 2 hours or until the desired thickness is obtained.  I have found that a hemp bag works best as it is much more durable and should last indefinitely.






  • Please help support Miss Barb's Kitchen by purchasing your digital thermometer and hemp bag through our Amazon Affiliate links to the left of this blog.






  • Good luck and, as always, please leave us a comment below and share your experience. My guess is that if you give this a try you'll be hooked. Remember: yogurt is a healthy snack for children too, one helpful way to get kids to eat well is to include them in the process of making and preparing the foods they eat.

    Friday, April 8, 2011

    Homemade Soup ~ Made Easy

    Lately, I've been inspired to make soup. In fact, I've been making two big pots of soup every week over the past few weeks – it makes for tasty, healthy and easy lunches, and a small cup staves off my appetite if I'm starving while cooking dinner. Soup is also a wonderful way to warm up a casual evening with friends. It's unpretentious, non-messy and popular.

    There's no reason not to have homemade soup on-hand for any occasion. Canned soup may appeal to our urge to buy pre-made, convenient items, but it is just as easy to portion out your homemade soups into recycled to-go containers and reheat as needed. Besides, I like the fact that my soups are made with healthy, natural ingredients that are low in fat and sodium.

    All my soups contain fresh vegetables – it doesn't matter whether it's bean, beef and barley, tomato, cream or clear broth.  The following is just my basic soup-making method. Use this as your starter and once you've got the basics down, feel free to use your imagination and try a new varieties to spice things up.

    Basic Soup Recipe

    2 tbsp olive oil, cold pressed or extra virgin
    1/2 lb baby carrots
    4 large stalks of celery
    1 medium onion
    1 qt of low sodium stock (vegetable, chicken or beef)
    1 qt of water
    1 tsp thyme
    salt and pepper to taste

    I like to use baby carrots because I can just toss them right in the pot (versus peeling and chopping whole carrots). It's a convenience factor and in most markets today baby carrots are reasonably priced when compared to whole carrots.

    Place all the vegetables in a food processor and pulse until your mixture of vegetables is coarse. This is a technique you'll need to perfect for personal texture preference. I find that if your vegetables are processed too much, they disintegrate and disappear in the cooking process. On the other hand, if they are left too large it is difficult to saute them gently down to size. After a few soups you'll have figured out the right amount of processing. After the vegetables have been sauteing in the pot for a few minutes, add the water, and the prepared stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on a low heat for two hours and...Voila! You're done.

    Remember that this is only a basic soup – it might be rather plain for many.  But it's only offered as a 'starter'. When you're ready, use the recipe below for one of my slightly more complex and very popular soups.

    Tomato Lentil Soup Recipe




    2 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
    1/2 lb baby carrots
    4 large stalks of celery
    1 medium onion
    1 qt of low sodium vegetable stock 
    2 qt of water
    1/2 pound lentils
    1/3 pound pearl barley
    1 tsp thyme
    1 tsp chili powder
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 small can tomato paste

    Dice or process vegetables into coarse-sized pieces, place in soup pot with olive oil over medium-high heat and saute the veggies for two to four minutes to soften them. Add stock and water to pot, cover and bring to a boil.  Once the base ingredients are boiling, add the lentils, barley, herbs and spices. Reduce to low heat and simmer covered for approximately two hours. Then uncover and add tomato paste, give it a good stir to evenly distribute the paste and continue to simmer the soup uncovered for one more hour.  Cooking the soup longer with the pot uncovered will cause some of the liquid to evaporate, which will make the soup thicker in texture.

    When it's ready, enjoy a bowl and, after the left-overs in the pot have cooled, store your soup in plastic serving containers. It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for a week, or in the freezer indefinitely.

    Come back next week for my Italian Wedding Soup recipe!