February Menus

This week our menus include some "quickie meals" like Tortilla Soup (out of the freezer) and Crockpot Chicken Burritos as well as Greek Chicken Salad for busy nights after Track practice. We also have some entertaining to do for my father-in-law's birthday on Friday night. We decided to save some moolah this year and go out for a Valentine brunch and then eat a peaceful dinner at home with the family on Valentine's Eve.

Haitian Missions Luncheon
Jasmine Rice with bean sauce
Legume (Beef & Vegetables)
Seasoned Chicken
Coconut Lemon Cake

Tortilla Soup
Green salad

Crockpot Chicken Burritos
Green peppers, onions, salsa & cheese
Guacamole & Blue Tortilla Chips

Roasted Salmon
Phyllo Spinach Pie

Greek Chicken salad
Hummus & Whole Wheat Pita Bread

fri - Larry's Birthday Dinner
Baby Greens Salad with Pears & Goat Cheese
Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Basil-Cream Sauce
Buttermilk Cheese Bread

sat - Valentine's Day
Veal Scallopine
Mushroom Risotto
Marsala Carrots
Chocolate Lava Cakes

I love February! It's the chance to try out new comfort foods with a healthy twist. It's also a great month to entertain. Between the Super Bowl and Valentine's Day, you can get out your best appetizer and dessert recipes and have a party! This week, we're making use of some fresh local produce (like purple cauliflower my daughter picked out at the market!) and fresh baby greens. We've even seen some fat, red strawberries coming over from the Coast so we're all over the chocolate-covered strawberries for a Lover's Day preview.

Superbowl Party
Chicken Salad Wonton cups
Squash & Corn Chowder
Buttermilk Cheese Bread
Chocolate-covered strawberries

Green salad with grape tomatoes and goat cheese
Crockpot Tri-tip sandwiches
Roasted purple cauliflower

Caesar Salad
Honey-whole wheat Pizza
with Black olives, yellow peppers and turkey pepperoni
Banana-Oatmeal-Chocolate Power Cookies

Chicken Scaloppine
Risotto with mushrooms
Marsala carrots

Baby Greens salad
Pesto Mini Ravioli
with Chicken Sausage and peppers

Mission Dinner

Luscious leftovers


Fresno Farmers Markets: Check out these local gold mines

(Above: This puff pastry tart was made with organic berries from our local market and mint from our garden.)

We make a weekly field trip to the farmer's market. Here's a great way to save money on produce, get local & organic quality foods and introduce your kids to fruits and veggies in a positive environment.

Our fave Fresno market is the Farmers Market at the Vineyard, located at The Arbor, Blackstone & Shaw Avenues. They are open 7 a.m.-noon Saturdays, 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays. For details, call 559.222.0182 or check out http://www.vineyardfarmersmarket.com/. We love this one because they have a great mix of organic and local produce year-round and a wonderfully friendly atmosphere. Our daughter loves to say hello to all her vendor friends and taste all the fruits. We also are able to buy raw milk there from Organic Pastures farm. They even have a french bakery that makes homemade crepes and sells breads on Saturday mornings. A special treat!

Here are some other great markets in the area:

For the cheapest produce we've found in the valley, check out...

Downtown Fresno Farmers Market at 1612 Fulton Street. They are open 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursday, and Saturdays. For details, call 559.227.8026.

For a pricier product but a fun atmosphere and live music, check out...

River Park Farmers Market at The Shops at River Park, Blackstone and Nees Avenues. They are open 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays. For details, call 559.994.9292.

Tower farmers produce market at 1501 N. Van Ness Ave. They are open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesdays, Friday and Saturdays. For details, call227.8026.

Kaiser Permanente Fresno farmers market at Kaiser Permanente Fresno Medical Center, 7300 N. Fresno St. They are open 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Wednesdays. For details, call 559.448.4367.

We're sure this list isn't exhaustive and some of you reading are from beyond Fresno. Leave a comment about your favorite farmers market and when it's open. We love to hear about farmers market finds across the country!


A quick Health-full Blog Tour

I had the chance to speak last night at the Supermoms group at Northwest church in Fresno. We talked about "8 baby steps to Healthy Living." (Click the link to the talk if you want the outline, girls.) I know some of the mamas said they hadn't really read blogs before so I thought I'd give a quick primer so you all can find what you're looking for quicker.

1. Blogs read with most recent entries first. An archive on the right hand side can give you a heads up on various topics I've written on recently.

2. If you look under the heading "What's Cookin?" at the right sidebar, you will also find a topical list so if you're looking for something like "Healthy snacks for kids," which one of you asked about or "Breakfast ideas," you can find all the entries there about that topic.

3. Wondering what to cook this week? Check out the "Menu Planner" topic for months-worth of menu ideas. I usually post these on the weekends for the week to come. These are simply the meals our family will be eating. I'm always willing to share recipes if they are not already linked. Also, I always try to pick at least one crockpot or one-dish easy meal, one vegetarian meal and one meal for a crowd to help out the diverse families reading. I always use fresh, local produce that's in season and look for recipes that showcase these ingredients.

4. "Journey notes" are another topical feature my husband and I write about our journey. You can read our first entry about how we started this healthy living journey and subsequent updates. Here's another great place for you to leave your thoughts.

5. Also, please do not forget to leave comments. I love feedback on recipes you love or recipes that didn't work out the way you hoped. One day I dream of turning this blog into a cookbook so the more feedback we get, the better.

Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment here and we will try to help you navigate this wild blogging world.

Buon Appetito!
for the Gilmores


January Menus

January 26 - 31
A friend gifted us with a whole box of butternut squash so one our tasks for this week is thinking up creative ways to use butternut squash in our meals. According to a book we have called The Doctor's Book of Food Remedies By Selene Yeager, squash has some great healing properties to prevent lung problems (asthma) and reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. Squash is high in vitamin C, low in calories and a good source of fiber. Butternut squash is in the winter squash family, including acorn and hubbard. These squashes and pumpkin can be substituted for each other in a lot of recipes. Last week's New World Chili also uses butternut squash.

Baby Greens salad with artichokes, carrots and tomatoesw
Stuffed Manicotti
Sauce with Meatballs
Homemade Wheat Bread
Chocolate-mint No-Pudge Brownies

Lulu kebob sandwiches in Pita Bread
Quinoa with yogurt sauce

Happy Chinese New Year!
Wonton soup
Crockpot Cinnamon Beef
over Rice Stick noodles
Sauteed Bok Choy

Butternut Squash soup
Honey-cornbread muffins

Small Group Side Dish:
Butternut squash risotto

Chicken Marsala with mushrooms
Steamed purple broccoli with walnuts
Baby Greens salad

Tahoe Joe's
Missions Dinner

January 18 - 25

Lots of mamas have been asking me about one-dish meals, crockpot faves and soups. This week's menus focuses specifically on these. Let us know if you're interested in any of the recipes. Buon Appetito!

Luscious leftovers

Pecan-crusted Halibut with pesto sauce
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with pomegranate seeds

Crockpot New World Chili
Honey-Corn Muffins

Indian-spiced Chicken Thighs
Yogurt sauce
Basmati Rice
Split pea dahl

Organic blue tortilla chips and salsa
Tortilla soup with cilantro, sour cream and cheese
Salad with black olives, avocadoes and tomatoes

Family Pizza night
Artichoke & Sundried tomato pizza
No-pudge brownies

Garlic-herb bread
Salad with feta cheese, pomegranate seeds & vinaigerette
Chicken Parmesan over
Whole Wheat Rotini

January 11 - 17

This week's menus are comfort foods at their best. Consider making a vegetarian lasagna with fresh winter produce. Leftovers can be frozen for another meal on a busy weeknight or you might even consider making two and freezing the second if you have a larger family. Our Friday night meal will be a crockpot roasted turkey which will again provide great leftovers to apply to next week's soup or enchiladas.

Taco Fiesta
Crockpot shredded chicken
Refried beans
Lettuce, Tomatoes, Sour Cream
Homemade Guacamole & Chips

Grilled Mahi Mahi with Mushroom Vinaigerette
Roasted Corn
Leftover Gouda Spinach Mac & Cheese

Rainbow Vegetarian Lasagna
with Butternu squash, red peppers and spinach
Whole Wheat baguette

Roasted Salmon with Pesto sauce
Quinoa with onions
Steamed Broccoli

Dessert: Mint Cookie Trifle

Roasted Turkey
Wild Rice Pilaf with Pomegranate Seeds

Tomato-Basil Bisque
Baby Greens salad with Gorgonzola & Pears
Homemade Foccocia Bread

January 4-10

We're kicking off the New Year with some healthy dishes that are not only easy on the body but also on the wallet. One shopping tip is to purchase beans and whole grains in bulk and use them to make your meal more hearty. For example, a protein-packed meal like falafel sandwiches is very inexpensive to make, yet very filling for your family. Check out Pacific Grain & Foods on Shaw Ave. in Fresno for some great bulk deals.

Artichoke & Fire Roasted Yellow & Red Pepper Sauce
Served over Whole wheat rotini
Spinach salad with chopped eggs and grape tomatoes

Crockpot Beef & Barley Stew
with potatoes, kale and carrots

Giada's Tomato & Canellini Bean Soup
Three sead Baguette Bread

Grilled Halibut Tacos
with Guacamole
Brown rice

Falafel Pita sandwiches
with Cucumber-Yogurt sauce
Greek salad with olives, grape tomatoes and feta

Caesar salad
Dorina's Eggplant Parmesan with Marinara Sauce
Garlic Bread

Deceptively Delicious Cooking Club
Baby Greens salad
Parmesan Chicken Nuggets
Gouda Spinach Mac & Cheese


Recipe of the Week: Chocolate-Banana-Oatmeal Power Cookies

Here's a great cookie for a car snack or a hike that incorporates loads of healthful ingredients. The taste is almost like banana bread meets a chewy oatmeal cookie.

3/4 cup coconut palm sugar or raw organic sugar
1/2 cup organic butter
1 ripe banana
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
3 teaspoons organic cocoa powder
1/2 cup raisins, craisins or dried apricots
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend butter and sugar. Add egg and mashed banana.
2. Add flour, coconut, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, flaxseed and cocoa powder. Blend.
3. Stir in raisins, nuts and chocolate chips.
4. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.
5. Bake approximately 12 minutes.


Recipe of the Week: Gouda Mac & Cheese & All Your Leafy Greens

We tried out this recipe for our "Deceptively Delicious" Cooking Club on Saturday. All the recipes had to include some kind of "hidden" veggies. This one is my kicked-up version of an old classic. Some restaurants might call this "Adult Mac & Cheese" because of the fancy cheese and greens. I say feed it to your kids and let them enjoy the tasty benefits of a homemade comfort food. Our family could eat off this dish for days - great leftovers for lunches.

1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs or 1 cup Trader Joe's Fried Onion Pieces (These onions are like the kind used on green bean casserole but TJ's brand doesn't use all the nasty preservatives like MSG and other chemicals found in other brands.) do.
1 8-ounce package uncooked whole wheat pasta (We love rotini - the curly noodles - because they hold the sauce well.)
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup shallots or green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups milk
3 tablespoons ground flaxseed, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup smoked gouda cheese (or cheese of your choice), shredded
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
3 cups spinach, kale or swiss chard, coarsely chopped (frozen or fresh)
Olive oil spray

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Boil water for pasta, cook and strain.

3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt butter of medium heat.

4. Add chopped shallots or green onions and garlic and cook about 1 minute until translucent.

5. Add flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in flaxseed, salt, pepper and milk.

6. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking until thick.

7. Remove from heat and add gouda and parmesan cheese. Stir until melted.

8. Spray 2-quart casserole dish with olive oil spray. Mix cooked pasta and greens in casserole dish. Pour cheese sauce over top.

9. Sprinkle top with bread crumbs or fried onions.

10. Bake approximately 15 minutes until breadcrumbs/onions are browned and sauce is bubbly.

Serves 8-10.


8 Baby Steps to a Healthful New Year

Tonight I was invited to speak at our church to a group called MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) about "Healthy Living & Menu Planning." I was trying to think about a simple tangible way to express some of the steps our family has taken over the last two years on this "healthy living journey."

My friend Brandy suggested I make a list of baby steps for moms to start taking with their families. It's not that we're leaving you dads out, but mamas do have a lot of influence on food choices. I fully recognize that each family is unique and we all have history and habits to overcome. For some, they may tackle one baby step for the whole year of 2009. Others make work at it gradually through the days and months. I'm big on baby steps. I don't believe in "cold turkey" new year's resolutions that often expire even before we change the calendar to February.

The following are 8 Baby Steps, which are actually adult-sized steps in a lot of ways, to a healthier, happier you. I don't advocate diets. My dream is to inspire people to enjoy delicious, healthful, diverse food created by God.

Here's what I shared tonight:

1. Read labels.
The first step to improving your health is paying attention to what you're eating. Check out the ingredients list on food already in your pantry, refrigerator or next time you go to the grocery store. Ingredients are listed in order from highest quantity to lowest quantity. We avoid foods that have lots of chemicals and dyes or unfamiliar ingredients. If it says, high fructose corn syrup or has sugar as the first ingredient, we put it back on the grocery shelf and walk away slowly.

2. Cut fast food.
Most of us know fast food is the pits but we don't take the steps to get rid of the convenience of taking the kids through drivethru on a rushed night. Watch some of the recent documentaries like "Super Size Me" or "Fast Food Nation" and you'll discover plenty of reasons to rid your diet of these highly-processed, empty calorie, heart attacks on a plate. But what can you do on a practical level? Plan ahead. We make a list of our menus on Saturdays, shop for the food on Saturday and Monday, and then have a plan for the week so we don't need those "emergency trips." If you have to make an emergency trip through the drivethru, try a healthier option like Quizno's, In 'n' Out or Chik-Fil-A. These places aren't perfect but they have some good choices.

3. Avoid processed foods.
Pre-packaged, boxed and frozen foods that have a long shelf life are generally processed foods we try to stay away from. These foods have many added preservatives and chemicals that are not good for our bodies. Not to mention that the processing of these foods removes the protective and healing factors found in foods created by God. One baby step may be cleaning out your pantry. Another step if you just have to have that boxed Mac 'n' Cheese or that frozen orange chicken is to try Annie's Organic Mac 'n' Cheese or Trader Joe's frozen orange chicken. Read the labels - less chemicals like MSG, for sure. And a good rule of thumb is "homemade is always better." When you make it at home, you can save money and incorporate more whole foods that rich in nutrients.

4. Avoid white sugar.
This is a big one especially after all the holiday cookies, candies, cakes, etc. But there is a healthier way. It's all about baby steps. If you want to cut white sugar (and a few pounds!) from your diet, start slowly. Trade homemade for store bought. Then look at your cookies, cakes and pie recipes and try cutting the sugar content in half. Train your body slowly. The next step might be looking for sweetener substitutes. For example, honey is a God-created food with hundreds of health benefits. There's also real maple syrup, brown rice syrup and even organic raw sugar, which is still sugar but at least it goes through less processing and chemicals compared to that evil white stuff. Avoid artificial sweeteners at all costs. Aspartame, which is in Nutrasweet, and other fake sugars are neurotoxins and seriously mess with your system. These are worse than white sugar. Time to put down that diet soda.

5. Avoid white flour.
This isn't about losing weight at all but if that's what you're after, chucking the white flour is the way to weigh down. The first step in avoiding white flour is to look for 100% whole wheat options. For example, trade your white Wonder bread for whole wheat varieties available at Costco or Trader Joe's. (Be sure to still check the label for sugar content and strange ingredients.) You can also substitute and use whole wheat pastas and brown rice to get more of those whole grains in your diet. When baking you might try half white-half wheat for starters or try whole wheat pastry flour, my personal fave for desserts. We buy King Arthur brand or Bob's Red Mill, which are both unbleached, unbromated flours - in other words, chemical free! A final step may be experimenting with new protein and nutrient-packed flours like spelt, amaranth and others.

6. Incorporate more fruits & vegetables.
The average kid eats one fruit or vegetable per day - at best. My husband was a Physical Education teacher and he found this to be true. Many moms have heard of the 5-a-day plan but it's much harder to get kids to comply. Our bodies need more like 9-10 fruits and vegetables a day. For our family, the first step was having fun and exploring the diversity of fruits and veggies God's created. We try to eat a variety of colors. The next step is to look for locally-grown produce, which tends to be riper and have less pesticides because it has less distance to travel. We take a weekly trip to the farmer's market and local fruit stands to fill our fridge with cheap, luscious produce. The final step, of course, is going organic. We buy organic foods like berries, lettuces, peaches, etc. that don't have a protective skin. We also try at least one to two vegetarian meals a week to help compensate.

7. Incorporate more omega-3s.
The ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s (bad cholesterol) in the American diet is 1:20 even though it should be closer to 1:4 for good health. Our diets are heavy on the omega-6s. We made the step to start incorporating more omega-3-rich foods into our menus. These include walnuts, flaxseed, dark leafy greens, soy, salmon, trout, halibut and eggs. Flaxseed, for example, is very cheap to buy in bulk (try Winco!). I grind it in my coffee grinder and throw tablespoons-full into our smoothies, homemade breads, soups, stews and sauces. It doesn't have a taste and it's wonderful brain food! We also eat fish at least once a week now and I've discovered a host of yummy fish recipes. I grew up thinking I hated fish - my taste buds have definitely changed.

8. Incorporate more quality meats in your menus.
One of the biggest steps for us (since I grew up in a carnivorous family) has been eating less meat and buying more quality. Our first step was cutting the amount of meat we eat in half and getting used to other sources of protein like beans and whole grains. The next step was looking for grass-fed, organic and cage-free options. Since we cut our meat intake in half, we used the same amount of money and applied it to buying these quality meats. One day we hope to buy a whole or half organic cow so we can save by buying in bulk. The final step is cutting "unclean meats" from your diet entirely. For us, that meant saying bye-bye to pork and bottom feeders like shrimp, clams, crabs and lobster.

Again, these are baby steps. Be nice to yourself. Take a few seriously and tackle them together with family members. Make a game plan. Try to think of ways to make eating healthy foods fun. My friend Michelle said she hosted an apple taste-testing night with her family. She bought 10 kinds of apples, sliced them up and let the kids debate. You could do this with veggies, fruits and more. My friend Cindy strategically keeps sliced veggies like "trees" (broccoli) and carrot sticks out on her kitchen counter all the time so her kids get the idea that these are snacks that are always available.

I'd love your feedback. Are you taking baby steps in 2009 with your family? What steps have you already taken? Success stories and hard journey stories are welcome. Questions that provoke research are also welcome. That's how I learn. Thanks for joining us on the journey as "honor God with our bodies" (1 Cor. 6:19) in this new year.


Recipe of the week: Marinara Sauce

This sauce is great over whole wheat pasta or tortellini and also what we use as a base for our Eggplant Parmesan.

Salsa de pomodoro

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
3 large cloves garlic
1 28-oz. can organic whole tomatoes with juice (when tomatoes are not in season) or 4 cups fresh tomatoes, quartered
1 28-oz.can organic crushed tomatoes with juice or 3 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
4-5 leaves fresh basil

Other necessities:
Large saucepan or stock pot
Wooden spoon

1. Add three tablespoons olive oil to a large saucepan or stock pot. Heat oil at a medium-high temperature over the burner.
2. Chop onion and mince garlic. When oil is hot, add ½ chopped onion. Sauté until onion becomes translucent. Add the two cloves minced garlic. (Do not add the garlic before the onion because it will cook faster and may burn.) When the garlic begins to turn a golden color, add one can of whole tomatoes with juice to the onions and garlic.
3. Add one tablespoon salt and one teaspoon honey to the tomato mixture. Add one pinch (approximately ½ teaspoon) crushed red pepper. (Crushed red pepper can be found with the spices at most grocery stores. This type of pepper is commonly served at the tables of most Italian pizzerias as a topping for pizza along with parmesan cheese.)
4. Wait until the mixture comes to a boil and then turn down to low and allow it to simmer approximately 30 minutes.
5. You can taste the sauce throughout the cooking process and add salt and red pepper, depending on your own tastes. When the mixture comes to a furious boil, cover the saucepan and lower the heat further.
6. After the sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, add 4-5 basil leaves. Tear with your fingers or crush in an herb grinder.


Dorina's 5 Penny-Saving Shopping & Cooking Tips

Looking to save a few dollars? Wondering how to make fancy meals on a fixed budget? Feeling overwhelmed about what to make on the weeknights? I hear what you’re saying! I often hear my friends say, “How do you make all these great meals without grocery shopping every day?” Bottom line is: I don't grocery shop every day & I plan ahead.

1. Make a shopping plan:
-I make a list of menus for the new week on Saturdays. Then I write out my shopping lists and head for the store. (Check out the Menu Planner at www.health-full.blogspot.com for daily and monthly ideas for meals. I always love to share recipes if you don’t find them on my blog.)
-I go to Trader Joe’s and my local farmer’s market (Shaw & Blackstone) once a week for my regular groceries. I buy weekly staples (I’ve compared prices) and local specials (always a cheaper option). I try to go for ingredients that are in season.
-I frequent Costco once a month for bulk items like organic meats, shredded cheese, Organic tomato sauce and paste, honey, oatmeal and some spices.
-I go to Winco once a month for healthy bulk supplies like nuts, seeds, dried fruit, honey, fresh peanut butter and spices.

2. Cut down your meat. Buy more quality:
-Consider doing one to two meals a week with a vegetarian flair. Don’t worry. You don’t have to make it a meal of brussel sprouts. Make it something fun like Veggie Pizza, a Homemade Soup with farmer’s market finds or Pancake Night.
-I know what you’re thinking. “Dorina, I’m not into that vegetarian stuff.” I grew up a staunch carnivore so I feel your pain. Our decided to take it gradual. We kept our meat budget the same but substituted for about half the amount in organic and grass-fed meats. There’s something to be said for the hormone-free beef and free-range chicken. Let’s pump our kids with good stuff, not the hormones, chemicals and preservatives that will be harmful to them down the road.
-Then my husband suggested (yes, he did!) we go for one vegetarian meal a week. Because we changed slowly over a longer period of time, it didn’t feel like a fad diet that gets old. It became a habit!

3. Buy local & bulk when you can:
-We live in the Central Valley of California, which happens to be full of the nation’s finest foods. (No bias, really. Our produce and goods are shipped all over the world.) There’s no reason to spend your loot buying expensive foods shipped in from other parts of the country. Check out your local farmer’s markets and fruit stands for deals.
-I love the Orange Store on Shaw and Maroa. (Feel free to find your own local farm stand.) They have fresh fruits and veggies every day of the week at reasonable prices. I often go for the “sale boxes” of peaches or plums or apples. These are sometimes the smaller or ripest specimens so they need to sell fast. Use them right away or cut them up and freeze them for smoothies and desserts.
-Buying in bulk is also a great way to save. I take advantage of the bulk foods bins at places like Winco, Whole Foods and Pacific Grains & Foods on Shaw. Plan a once a month stop at these bulk bonanzas, store your goods in bags or jars in the freezer and save a ton of moolah! You might even consider buying a whole cow (no joke!) and freezing the meat if you have the space.
-Be open to experimentation. I love to go the Shaw & Blackstone Vineyard Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings and talk to the vendors. They have great ideas for recipes. And there are always some dishes like quiches, soups or stews that can be improvised with whatever ingredients are on sale and in season. This style of cooking is creative, flavorful and cheaper!

4. Plan leftovers:
-I make at least one meal a week that can go a long way (as in into the freezer for later in the month or into a casserole dish for alter in the week.) For example, I do big versions of Tomato-Meat Sauce, Pesto Sauce, Enchiladas, Chili, Pecan-Crusted chicken that can double for Chicken Parmesan or a Chicken salad on another night.
-Use your weekend time for cooking these big meals. Weeknights can be stressful. Maximize time on a day when you might be home cleaning or gardening or resting anyway and let that pot of tomato sauce or stew sit on the burner.

5. Put your kids/family to work:
-Most people are afraid to let their kids hang out in the kitchen when they are cooking because they don’t want them to a) get hurt b) make a mess. I say teach your little ones to cook with you – even doing simple jobs – to make your cooking more fun and less of a chore.
-My 2-year-old daughter and I make the family granola recipe every Sunday or Monday. She loves pouring all the oats, nuts, seeds and such into the bowl and mixing them with her hands. The textures are fun for her.
-Yes, we have an occasional “ingredients food fight” in our kitchen but I always choose to cook with her the day BEFORE I do my mopping.
-Build these habits now with your kids and in the future they could be making YOUR dinner.


Recipe of the Week: Classic Banana Bread with a Healthy Twist

My friend Kristi requested a healthier banana bread recipe. We concocted this one by reading a few classic recipes and adding our own substitutes. If you have an abundance of bananas at home, try it out.

1 cup organic evaporated cane juice (or honey or sugar)
1/2 cup butter, softened (or 1/4 cup butter & 1/4 cup plain yogurt)
2 large eggs, cage-free
1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed (approx. 3)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or other flour of your choice)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Garnish: chocolate chips, chopped nuts, various seeds

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease bottoms of 2 loaf pans (8 1/2 x 4 1/2 or 1 9x5x3 or 4 mini loaves) with butter or olive oil spray.
3. Mix evaporated cane juice and butter/yogurt in large bowl.
4. Stir in eggs until well blended. Stir in bananas, buttermilk and vanilla; beat until smooth.
5. Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon until moistened.
6. Divide batter evenly among pans. Sprinkle chocolate chips, chopped nuts or seeds on the batter for garnish. Bake 8-inch loaves for about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf for 1 hour & 15 minutes and mini loaves approximately 45 minutes. Use toothpick inserted in center to test. Make sure toothpick comes out clean to determine if it's done.
7. Cool 10 minutes in pans on wire rack. Loosen sides of loaves and remove from pans. Cool completely.
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