Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sloppy Joes For Lunch at School

               You must know that this subject would eventually come up!  It is an inevitable subject when it comes to feeding our families’ fitness.  I could go into a long tirade about the nutrition value of school lunches and all the stuff that’s wrong with them.  In the essence of saving time and sanity, I will only share a little of what I have observed in the past few weeks. 
                Recently there was an article in our local paper about a first grader who left school at lunch time.   He realized that he forgot his lunch and he didn’t want the sloppy joes that they were serving.  He opted to walk home from school to get his turkey sandwich.  I was reading this article to my sons as we were eating breakfast.  My older son, Joe’s reaction:  “They shouldn’t have been serving sloppy joes!  They should have been serving something healthier.” 
Another bit of school lunch wisdom came, once again, from Joe who told me that after eating pasta for lunch at school he didn’t feel full.  This started the conversation about what a balanced, hearty, fulfilling lunch should be.  I reminded him that buying lunch is a treat.  I have the kids pick and choose which days they would like to buy.  Some days, the lunch is nutritionally decent.  Some days, not so much.  Yes, it is easier to send them off to school to buy lunch instead of making it in the morning, but at the end of the day, the time saved is not always worth it. 
Without doing research, I think school lunches are coming around to the lighter, brighter, healthier side.  Notice all the –er…  Not completely light, bright, and healthy, but heading that way.  This is why we need to help our children choose appropriately which lunches they will buy and which days they will bring.  Which can be difficult with a Kindergartener.   Jacob has been right along with me in the choosing which days to buy and which days to bring.  However, his account was getting depleted quicker than it should have been.  He thought he could also get a snack (i.e. chips) with his lunch.  He thought they were free!  Nonetheless, I explained to him that I am paying for those snacks and even if they were free, he was not to get a snack every day.  Again, something reserved for a treat.  Ah, the joys of innocence.  So, while I am not sure what the solution to the daily school lunch dilemma is.  I am sure that in our house school lunches get chosen once in a while and not every day.
Oh, and by the way, my kids bought lunch today – it’s French toast stick day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Picture Menus?

                My parents took us out to dinner on Friday night.  Choosing healthier options in restaurants is always a challenge for everyone in the family.  Notice I said healthier and not healthy!  Jacob, my five year old, is usually hungry and whining and asking what’s on the menu.  So I took his menu so I could tell him what his choices were.  Because he is still in the pre-reading stage, I can censor what the menu has to offer.  Not that night!!!  It was a picture menu!  I couldn’t leave out the items I didn’t want him to order.  Going through the whole menu, which was extensive and offered some decent choices, Jacob decided on the Crispy Chicken Crispers.  Apparently, this is the signature dish at this restaurant for both adults and children and is trademarked.  Of course, he ordered French fries with his meal.  We were way beyond ordering broccoli or cinnamon apples! 
                The crispers came and he loved them.  No surprise here!   I had to have a little taste and I have to admit they were good.  Mainly chicken white meat pieces, battered and fried – they tasted like good fried chicken! 
                So, the lesson learned here is that I cannot control everything – though I try!  And Jacob is okay after eating fried chicken for dinner at a restaurant once.  What’s the saying about the best laid plans…

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Hoppin' John in My Crockpot and Spinach in My Blender?

              Right before the New Year I read an article about adding beans (the dried kind) to our diet to help with weight loss and maintenance.  Then along came an article in the Post Standard, Syracuse, NY’s daily newspaper, about Hoppin’ John.  It’s a recipe used primarily in the New Orleans area for New Year’s Day celebrations.  The recipe incorporates black eyed peas (which really aren’t peas!) and kale.  Sounds like a good combo – right – that’s what you’re thinking!  Well, I am willing to try most recipes and when you put crockpot in front of it, I am really game to try it. 
                So I put everything together in the crockpot – I used the bunch of kale that it suggested and I used low fat turkey smoked sausage instead of the high fat, regular stuff.  I really do like Kale!  I was introduced to it by a friend who told me to make Kale chips with it.  Yes – chips!  Mix bite size pieces of kale with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.  Roast on a baking stone at 400 degrees until crispy.  They really do come out crispy and quite tasty.  The first time I made them, the kids were expecting potato chips for dinner!  After their initial disappointment, they really enjoyed them and have asked for them again. 
                Okay, so back to the Hoppin’ John.  The recipe went together easily and tasted great.  When the boys get off the bus in the afternoon, their first question is, “What’s for dinner.”  The night we had this recipe I explained to Jacob that it had black eyed peas in it.  Who wouldn’t want to try something named after a great band – or is it the other way around?  Anyways, Jacob (my five year old) told me that he didn’t like black eyed peas.  He had never had them – neither had I.  The recipe came out stew like and was very flavorful.  The black eyed peas were soft and the kale was sweet.  Jacob was the only one who didn’t eat much of it, saying he didn’t like it.  Joey (my ten year old) really liked it and said that the recipe was a keeper!  The recipe is attached!  Try it for yourself.  Maybe play some music from the group to get the kids excited about eating it!
                Now, another green story – from the same friend came the suggestion to add spinach to smoothies and shakes.  Right!  I was very skeptical about this and the fact that she said you wouldn’t even taste it in there.  Well, she was right.  I added two handfuls of spinach to my protein shake and it was great.  I didn’t taste the spinach and was very full after drinking it.  It made almost double what I usually get from one recipe!  Try it today and let me know what you think.