Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Reducing Food Waste One Apple Peel at a Time

Apple Dirt

I prefer to peel my apples and pears prior to dehydrating them for a softer (more kid and tooth friendly) treat. Until 2 years ago I dreaded the pile of unused and nutrient dense peels, but then I came across a brilliant idea on the internet for apple dirt! Rather than throwing out your apple (and pear) peels, dry them along with the apple slices and then blend them for a natural sweetener full of vitamins and fiber. My two year old daughter will attest that this, combined with thawed frozen berries and almonds, is the perfect match for hot cooked oatmeal. Make sure to store unused apple dirt in an airtight container preferably in the freezer.

Step 1: Dry the peels until crisp
Step 2: Blend until crumbly
Step 3: Top or stir into oatmeal

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Reducing Food Waste One Seed at a Time

Roasted Winter Squash Seeds

It took producing a garden of volunteer squash following the composting of our squash seeds for me to realize that like pumpkin seeds, butternut, acorn, carnival and many other winter squash varieties produce seeds that make a delicious and healthy snack.


  • Remove seeds from squash and rinse seeds under cold water removing squash strings/pulp. 
  • Pat dry for immediate roasting or lay out on baking sheet until ready to bake (the longer they dry the faster they cook; typically I bake all of the seeds from 1-2 weeks worth of squash at once).
  • When ready to roast, preheat oven to 275 degrees
  • Toss seeds in small amount of olive oil and garlic salt to taste
  •  Bake for 10-15 increments. Stir and continue baking until lightly browned. Finished seeds should taste similar to popcorn, may literally be starting to pop and will have a crunchy outer shell easy to eat without a woody texture. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Homemade Condensed Soups

I've ended my search for recipes for Condensed Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken Soups with these delicious, quick, and freezable recipes inspired by Simply Scratch*! Making your soups from scratch allows you the ability to decrease fat, sodium and preservatives as needed and saves you a trip to the grocery store.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

1-3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup onions, minced
1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, minced
2 1/2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute until they begin to change color. 
  • Add mushrooms and continue cooking 2-3 minutes. 
  • Sprinkle with the flour (wheat flour works just fine) and cook for another minute or two. 
  • Whisk in the milk and broth until smooth. 
  • Simmer until it has thickened, 5-8 minutes. 

Yield: 1 "can" condensed soup
Total Time: ~15 minutes

Cream of Chicken Soup

1-3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 Tbsp Flour
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

  • Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds. 
  • Sprinkle with the flour (wheat flour works just fine) and cook for another minute or two. 
  • Whisk in the milk and broth until smooth. 
  • Simmer until it has thickened, 5-8 minutes. 

Yield: 1 "can" condensed soup
Total Time: ~15 minutes

*Recipes were adapted from Simply Scratch allowing for greater variation. If adding soups to a full flavor casserole already high in fat and sodium decrease the butter, use a lower fat milk and add less salt. For recipes in which full flavor is needed follow her original recipes with 3 Tbsp butter, whole milk and salt to taste. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bean and Rice Burritos

When life gets in the way of homemade dinners here's an idea for something quick and easy. Make sure to plan for cooking the rice (rice cookers are a great hands-off approach that allow you to be flexible in timing) or use minute brown rice. Once the rice is cooked you can whip up the rest in about 15-20 minutes!

Bean and Rice Burritos

1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked according to package directions
1 medium green pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup salsa
8 whole wheat tortillas, warmed (homemade version)
Grated cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream, optional 

  • In a large skillet, saute green pepper and onion in oil for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in chili powder, cumin and pepper flakes until combined. 
  • Add beans, rice and salsa and cook 4-6 minutes or until heated through.
  • Spoon about 1/2 cup filling onto each tortilla; top with desired toppings. Fold sides and ends over filling and roll up. 
Recipe adapted from Taste of Homes 2012.

Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas

In the event you wish to save money on tortillas and you have the time (about 50 minutes), here is a quick and easy recipe found online.

2 cups whole wheat flour
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup warm water

Mix flour, oil and salt. Slowly add water. Knead 2 minutes. Let rest 20 minutes. Cook on each side about 1 minute per side. Use within 1-2 days or freeze.

Tip: I live in an exceptionally dry climate and I found that you need to cover the dough while resting.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Pumpkin Bran Muffins

Fall is here and winter squash is in season! If you are looking for something wholesome, moist and delicious to do with pumpkin here is one idea for Pumpkin Bran Muffins revised from the recipe found at Full of fiber and not too sweet this is a great muffin for snacks, breakfast or a dinner side.

Pumpkin Bran Muffins

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup wheat bran
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (unpacked)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh or canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk*
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12-cup** muffin tin with paper liners or grease well if not using liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, wheat bran, granulated sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, eggs, buttermilk, and oil.
  4. Fold the pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture just until combined. Divide the batter among the lined muffin cups (about 1/3 cup each) and bake until a wooden pick inserted into the middle comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
* Buttermilk can be substituted with regular milk mixed with 1 Tbsp lemon juice per cup of milk.
** Makes 48 small muffins. Bake for 8-12 minutes. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Are Dietary Changes Necessary During Breastfeeding?

I have never experienced such intense hunger or thirst as I did during the first month home with my oldest child as I adjusted to exclusive breastfeeding. Now Baby #2 is due to arrive any day and I have been stocking up on easy to eat snacks and meals available at a minute's notice. None of these snacks or meals are different than what I normally eat, but the frequency and amount that I will be eating in the days to come will vary drastically from my normal intake.

What Should I Eat?

Breastfeeding requires only a well balanced and varied diet, with slightly larger portion sizes or additional snacks to provide approximately 300-400 extra calories per day to support adequate milk production. This is not a time for weight loss attempts via calorie restriction or intense exercise, which could decrease your milk production and drain yourself of energy.

There is no worry about counting calories to ensure you are getting enough either. If you are hungry, eat! Your body will tell you through hunger or decreased energy levels that you are not getting enough food to meet the needs of you and your baby. When you promptly and adequately respond to those signals with healthy foods, the enhanced need you have for vitamins and minerals will also be met. For although your body is fairly sufficient at ensuring adequate vitamin and mineral levels in your breast milk using your own nutritional stores during the production of milk, your breast milk will in part mirror your own dietary intake. Therefore an adequate diet will make sure you avoid unnecessary nutrient deficiencies such as iron and calcium in yourself, while enhancing the vitamin, mineral, and fat composition available to your baby.

Need Food Ideas?

For practicability, don't try and follow unfamiliar meal plans when you have a new baby as this is a stressful time already. Make small changes to your diet if needed such as:
  • Switch out a few refined grains such as white bread, refined pastas or white rice with whole grains. Whole grains include wheat, brown rice, oats, corn, barley and rye in which the germ and bran remain intact. Whole grain breads, pastas, tortillas and even crackers/chips are typically easy to find.     
  • Add a side of eggs or yogurt with whole fruit to your breakfast routine to enhance protein and fiber content of potentially high carbohydrate main dishes with syrup (such as pancakes or waffles).
  • Add yogurt or milk in place of juice in smoothies. 
  • Drink milk in place of soda pop at meals to provide calcium and protein, and quench thirst with water between meals.
  • Have healthy snacks on hand such as:
    • Homemade muffins (pumpkin muffins are a favorite)
    • Yogurt with fruit and/or granola
    • Nuts and seeds 
    • Hummus with vegetables
    • Cottage cheese with avocados, crackers, or tomatoes 
    • Tuna fish or peanut butter sandwiches
    • Plain vegetables and fruit (carrots, celery, bananas, apples, etc.) with peanut butter
    • String cheese

A Word on Dietary Restrictions

As I was nursing my firstborn, she developed a chronic diaper rash and I soon found myself swamped with well meaning family and friends suggesting elimination of dairy, wheat, eggs, soy and nuts from my diet. After much stress and with some variation to their recommendations, I discovered the underlying problem was excess consumption of apricots (we had a tree in season and I was eating a lot of fresh apricots), and a skin sensitivity to the diaper cream I was using. The solution was merely eating apricots in moderation and discontinuing the use of the cream with no further problems. On the other hand, I have a friend whose son had chronic eczema which only cleared up after she eliminated eggs from her diet under a doctor's direction. 

So yes, if there is a true food allergy, a mother's consumption of the allergen will negatively affect the baby as manifested in eczema, rashes and projectile vomiting. Yet, food allergies are not the only cause of these symptoms in infants, and it is best to work with a pediatrician to determine possible causes and treatments. If a food allergy is suspected, a good place to start is the elimination of known food allergens in the family. Be cautious of mass food group elimination as this causes difficulty in meeting nutrient needs. If the baby's reactions are severe, speak to your doctor and if food groups are to be eliminated reintroduce as quickly as possible to restore adequate nutritional intake. 

Another piece of advice I've heard countless times is to avoid gassy vegetables and spicy food as they can upset your baby's stomach or cause gas and colic. Although I have not taken the time to research this fully, there appears to be little evidence that these foods in moderation cause any significant changes in the baby's ability to digest your milk or impact their demeanor. In fact, variety in a mother's diet creates variety in the breast milk that may decrease picky eating later in life. 

Samour PQ, King K. Handbook of Pediatric Nutrition. 3rd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers; 2005.