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Robinsbite: August 2010

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hello Crock Pot-It's Been a Long TIme

With all of this talk of back to school, healthy lunches and the like, I couldn't help but realize dinner STILL needed to be addressed-each and every night. With the hubub of school activities, increased traffic flow, earlier bed times and all the other minutia that comes with "back to school", I decided that a slow cooker recipe was in order. Out came one of the best pieces of kitchen equipment (in my opinion) from the top cabinet above the microwave where it had been vacationing for the summer.

Enter the Whole Foods Market meat department. Sailing through the arctic chill that houses the beautiful proteins, I stopped to check out the recipes (as I always do) that were atop the warmer that contained fresh BBQ Brisket. A few of the recipes made it into my purse which will all be used in due time however, this one in particular made me salivate just because 1. it sounded so good and 2. I had nearly all of the ingredients at home!

Slow Cooker Hoisin Beef Stew
1/2 cup low sodium beef broth
1 (10-ounce) bottle hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I love sriracha sauce)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 (1-inch) piece peeled ginger, grated
1 1/2 pounds cubed round or chuck beef stew
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 cup baby carrots
2 ribs celery, roughly chopped

Whisk together broth, hoisin, hot sauce, garlic and ginger in a wide, shallow dish or bowl. Add beef, onions, carrots and celery and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Transfer meat mixture into a slow cooker, cover and cook on a low setting until beef is very tender, 6-8 hours. Alternatively, cook on a high setting for about 3 hours. Ladle into bowls and serve. Serves 4.

The perfume of the marinade was so delicious! I could smell it when I opened the refrigerator after letting it marry overnight. It was even more incredible when entering the house at the end of the day!

I served this with a baked few red potatoes-smashed and topped with a bit of Smart Balance, Parmesan cheese and pepper. It was a huge hit for the following reasons:

1. What beats a meal cooked in a slow cooker? Just throw it in and go on with your day

2. Easy clean up-all that is needed is one of each of the following: cutting board, sharp knife, bowl, gallon plastic baggie, slow cooker pot & large spoon

3. Everyone in the family loved it-including my it's-a- challenge-to-eat-vegetables husband and our I-eat-like-my-mommy 11-month old

4. Great leftovers-extending the recipe by adding more carrots, onions and celery allowed five adult servings and one kid serving from one recipe

Make your life a whole lot easier this year and vow to crock pot at least one meal a week. Go on-find your crock pot-dust it off and give it a kiss. It will be your very best friend this year-I promise!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Kids Are Back at School---Now, What's For Dinner?

I know, I know-you just got the kids back to school-new backpack, lunch sack, locker decorations, school clothes, shoes, school supplies, a new haircut, perhaps. Your job is done, right? Not a chance.

See this picture above? Look familiar? I didn't think so--the days of June Cleaver-esque family dinner are a think of the past--or are they?

With her insatiable humor and dramatic storytelling, my friend and colleague Jessica A. Bowhall, MBA, RD blogs about the importance of bringing the family back to the dinner table. Welcome, Jessica!

Growing up, I remember eating dinner as a family every night – Sunday through Saturday. Because our dining room was basically connected to the living room, we could watch TV while we were eating and as a child that was the best thing in the world! Eventually, as my sister and I got older, the TV was moved to the family room and we had to stare at each other while we ate. At the time, I didn’t see the point. We lived together so we could stare at each other whenever we wanted. But as I look back, I can see what my mom was doing. By taking the TV away, we started communicating more at dinner. Checking in with each other to see how our days went. If I was struggling with a math technique that day, dad would offer to help after dinner. This was also a time for us to just be together. Enjoying each other’s company and sometimes laughing so hard we cried when mom tried to tell us some of the jokes she heard that day.

Today in the US, we see a growing trend of busier lives, children on their own, and less family time. As a Registered Dietitian, I hear many clients talk about less time to shop, less time to cook and less time period. Along with less time usually comes less money. There is no money to eat healthy, eating at fast food is cheaper and quicker, and sometimes my clients just don’t like to cook. When they talk of their families, it is usually in a stressed tone as they aren’t quite sure what their kids have been up to and they feel their spouses aren’t taking their share of the responsibility.

Eating dinner together doesn’t have to feel like moving mountains. My parents’ commute from work was at least 45 minutes – one way. My sister and I were 4 years apart and had different schedules for after school sports and activities. We lived in the middle of nowhere, so finding a neighbor to help “carpool” was a bit tricky. However, despite all of this, we made it work.

Here are some benefits of bringing the family back to the table:

  • Syracuse University studies show that eating together as a family is associated with happier marriages, improved childrens health, and stronger family ties.
  • Family meals can hone a child’s social skills and teach them table etiquette and good manners.
  • Dining together makes for healthier eaters. Kids who regularly eat with their families tend to have healthier eating patterns. They consume more fruits and vegetables and fewer fried foods, sodas, and saturated fat than kids who don’t share family meals, says the American Dietetic Association.

If fitting a family dinner into your schedule seems impossible, just try one day. Set one day a week with your family that you will all sit down and eat dinner together. One day is all it takes to start a trend. If you don’t have time to cook, look to restaurants that provide healthier options for take out. You’ll soon see that once you make the time to sit as a family you’ll be able to make the time for preparing the meal with your family.

Jessica is relatively new on the blogger scene. Follow her here at Forever Wellness and/or on Twitter @Foreverwellness.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oppressive Heat and An Abundance of Tomatoes

After tending to my precious patio tomato plants all summer, I harvested my one and only ripe tomato today. I came in from the sweltering heat completely deflated. At first glance, it looked deformed, malnourished and far from beautiful. At second glance, it looked exactly the same. I hesitated to take a bite, and much to my chagrin, it was sweet, juicy and delicious! So came my inspiration for today's post-a recipe for gazpacho. Inspiration comes from many places and for this recipe, it actually came from more than my one little tomato. Actually, I have my colleagues Wendy Jo Peterson, Penny Wilson and Ellie Krieger to thank today. Wendy sent this pictures of her recent harvest which nearly brought me to tears. (I was so jealous) Penny then posted on her Facebook status that in honor of the 100 degree heat (she's in Houston), she made Ellie's recipe for Gazpacho with Shrimp from her book, So Easy. With it being a steamy sweat box here in airless Dallas, this was a perfect combination for my own concoction for my Oppressive Heat Gazpacho recipe. Yes, yes, I had to go to the grocery store to get more tomatoes...but it was no bother, believe me. They blast the AC in the grocery store to the point it feels like the arctic. Nice and refreshing.

Oppressive Heat Gazpacho

1 quart Mr. and Mrs. T's Bold and Spicy Bloody Mary Mix (can use any brand of tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix-low sodium version is best)
1/2 white onion, rough chop
1 1/2 English cucumber, peeled and rough chop

1 large red bell pepper, seeded, cored and roughly chopped

1 large yellow or orange pepper, seeded, cored and roughly chopped

1 pound tomatoes, rough chop
2 Tablespoons olive oil

3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Salt (if using low sodium version of Bloody Mary Mix or Tomato Juice), to taste
1/2 pound cooked shrimp

1/2 avocado for garnish

In a heavy duty blender or food processor, combine 1/2 of the onion, 1/2 of the cucumber, 1/2 of each of the peppers, 1/2 of the tomatoes and 1/2 of the Bloody Mary Mix. Blend until well blended and there are no chunks of vegetables in the soup. Pour into stock pot or very large container for storage. Repeat. Once all vegetables have been blended, add olive oil, red wine vinegar, pepper and salt (if using). Stir very well until combined. For service, pour into bowls and garnish with chopped or whole shrimp and slices or chunks of avocado.

If you want it spicier, add a few drops of hot sauce!

Makes 4 servings.

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