Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Apple Fries

Most kids love french fries, but french fries are filled with bad fats and don't have much to offer nutritionally either. Why not give apple fries a try? Quick, easy and packed full of vitamins, what do you have to lose? You can make up a batch of apple fries in less than 5 minutes. Serve them as healthy snack alternatives or pack them in lunch boxes.

 What's needed
• Apples
• Lemon Juice
• Cutting Board
• Knife
• Mixing Bowl

• Wash apples and dry
• Core apples and peel off skin
• Cut apples into 2-3 inch long sticks. They should be thick enough so they wont' break when transported. Simply cut them so that they resemble french fries.
• Add a teaspoon of lemon juice and the apple fries to the mixing bowl and toss (prevents browning)

Did you know?
Apples are high in fiber and health-promoting phytonutrients, including plant-based antioxidants. Apples come in many different varieties, shapes, and colors. Some are tart, while others are super sweet. Check out the apple chart at pickyourown.org

If I'm making a huge amount of apple fries I like to use The Apple Machine. It was actually a Christmas gift from my parents, and I just love it! My son loves to help Mommy prep apples with it too. It's the best apple peeler/corer I have ever owned, and I have been through quite a few. The suction cup bottom is a nice feature, my old ones just had the clamps, this comes with both so you can use whichever you prefer.

Simple Summer Picnics

Picnics are so fun in the Summer. Kids seem to love eating outdoors, regardless of the location. We picnic under a large tree in our yard nearly everyday for lunch. I'd love for everyone to send me some pics of their Summer picnics to post on the blog.

Picnic Necessities
• Basket, large bag, cooler, or lunch boxes
• Reusable bottles for drinks
• A source to keep perishable items cool such as gel ice packs
• Plates, utensils, napkins
• Wipes
• First aid items (bandaids, bug spray, sunscreen, etc)
• A big blanket

Picnic Fun to bring along
• Books
• Bubbles
• Kites
• Balls
• Bug supplies (jars, butterfly net, magnifying glass, binoculars)

Picnic Activities
• Read a story
• Tell jokes
• Bird watching (try to name them by sound or sight, take along a bird book!)
• Play ball
• Pick flowers

Picnic Food 
• Fruits and veggies
• Snack mixes
• Simple sandwiches and wraps
• Salads
• Water, iced tea, lemonade

Three Simple Kid Friendly Picnic Menu's

Peanut Butter Wraps- Whole grain wraps spread with peanut butter and a dab of honey, bananas optional.
Apple Fries
Baby Carrots with Dip
Raspberry Lemonade

Chicken Finger Salad- Chicken fingers, romaine lettuce, veggies, sesame seeds, dressing of choice.
Whole grain crackers and cheese
Cantaloupe Chunks
Lemony Iced tea

Taco Roll-Ups- Leftover chicken or ground beef heated w/ taco seasoning, lettuce, tomatoes, shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa- add to wrap and roll tight.
Cherry Tomatoes with Dip
Watermelon Slices
Flavored Water

My Picnic Picks

ECO Lunchboxes are absolutely great! I love love love mine. I take it everywhere. It's very safe and durable.

I really like the Picnic Time Metro Basket as well. It has tons of room and makes for easy lugging of all your picnic gear.

This LifeFactory water bottle is my favorite bottle. I have two of them. The opening is large enough for big ice cubes to keep your drinks nice and cool. The actual bottle is glass, but it's a very strong durable glass, I've never broken one yet. It can go in the dishwasher no problem. The outer cover provides great grip.

Where are your lunch boxes headed this Summer?

I'd love to get some pics coming in of everyone's favorite lunch boxes being put to good use this Summer. Lookout for mine soon as well! Email me your pics and I will post them here.

Thanks everyone!
Have a great Summer

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Six Summer Salads

Tomato Salad with Honey Vinaigrette

2 pounds of tomatoes sliced- use a variety to include different colors and flavors
(think cherry, grape, heirloom, beefsteak, etc..)
1/3 cup fresh basil thinly sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onions (optional)
Coarse sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 apple cider vinegar
garlic lovers- add 1 tablespoon minced garlic

1) Wash and prep tomatoes, onions, and basil 
2) You can arrange on a platter or toss in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
3) Combine evoo, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl and whisk gently until mixed well. 
4) Drizzle desired amount of dressing over the tomato salad. Enjoy!

Cornbread Salad

2 packages cornbread mix
1 bag frozen whole kernel corn
1 each- red, yellow, green, orange pepper chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
1 pound lean ground beef
1 16 oz container sour cream
1 package ranch dip mix or make your own
1 package taco seasoning or make your own

1) Set corn out to partially thaw. Chop peppers, halve tomatoes and set aside
2) Brown hamburger add taco seasoning then drain and set aside to cool. 
3) Mix sour cream with ranch dip mix. Prepare cornbread according to directions and bake. Cool and crumble.
4) Once you have everything cooled your ready to layer in a large serving dish. You could use a glass 9X13 cakepan, or any other larger serving dish you wish. Simply arrange the crumbled cornbread in the bottom, spread the meat mixture over cornbread crumbs, add the corn next, then the shreddeded cheese, then the ranch dip mix, sprinkle the peppers over the dip, and lastly arrange your halved cherry tomatoes on top. Cover and chill in the fridge. The longer it sits, the better it gets! If you would rather make your own taco and ranch seasoning mixes visit our spice up lunch seasoning guide.

Spinach Strawberry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

Flat leaf spinach
2 pints strawberries sliced
1/2 cup walnuts chopped

1/2 cup mayonnaise
5 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/8 cup sweet white onion
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
3/4 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/4 cup canola oil

1) Mix all dressing ingredients in blender on high except for oil and poppyseeds 
2)Switch blender to low and slowly add oil and poppyseeds a little at a time. 
3) Serve alongside the salad. Store extra in fridge, keeps for quite awhile.

Apples, madarin oranges, and sliced almonds make great additions to this salad as well.

Cucumber Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette

4 large cucumbers thinly sliced
1 red onion thinly sliced

1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablesoons honey
1 tablesppon dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup fresh ripe raspberries
1 teaspoon lime juice
coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1) Mix all dressing ingredients in the blender (or processor) until blended well 
2) Toss with cucumbers and onions in a large bowl, store in fridge

Fruit with Honey Lime Dip

Fresh cut canteloupe
Strawberries halved
Kiwi slices

1 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
zest from 1 lime
2 tablespoons honey

1) Mix all dip ingredients will and chill overnight or 4-6 hours. 
Many fruits go well with this refreshing dip.

Chicken Pasta Salad with Garlic Vinaigrette

1 box (16 ounce) whole wheat pasta of choice
1 pint halved cherry tomatoes
1 cup each broccolli and cauliflower florets
2 cups cooked chicken breast cut thin into bite size strips
Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1) Cook pasta until tender, rinse under cool water 
2) Wash and prepare vegetables. Toss chicken, tomatoes, broccolli, cauliflower in a large bowl
3) Mix dressing ingredients well and add to the salad.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Turn ordinary water into extraordinary

Water is the ultimate thirst quencher, and something our bodies need to function properly. Yet, many people and moreso kids prefer sugar filled juices and soda. Below are some simple ideas liven up water and hopefully get your family drinking more!


• Add citrus slices
Orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, tangerine, and kiwi slices add a little citrus zing to water

• Toss in some herbs
Mint, lemongrass and peppermint in particular are very tasty in water

• Cucumber
A spa favorite, cucumber water is very refreshing

• Berry delicious!
Strawberries, blueberries, boysenberries, raspberries and so on add sweetness and flavor to plain old water

• Spritz up your water
If you really need fizz, add a dab of soda water with some fruit

• Pears, peaches, and plums
Yet more fruit additions to water, the riper the fruit the sweeter your water will taste

Kids will love experimenting with flavors and helping find some great natural flavored water combinations!

Check out your local farmers market this Summer for fresh finds

Lead found in drinks boxes and canned fruits

Yes, you read that right..Lead in food products that many kids consume daily! I simply cannot believe this. Yet, it's one of the main reasons I always encourage people to keep away from store bought packaged foods. Between poor nutritional value and safety issues we're all much better off using alternative methods for packing lunches and everyday use.

The Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) recently sent food items marketed for kids to an independant EPA certified lab for testing. The result was levels of lead that exceeded California State law and in some cases, Federal law as well. These products included grape and apple bottled juices, juice boxes, single serving fruits and applesauce. Several well known household brands contained levels of lead that is considered unsafe for children 6 and under.
Many scientists and The American Academy of Pediatrics have stated that no level of lead is safe for our children.

View the complete list of products tested for lead that exceed regulations 

My website LunchSaks.com has a great article on the hidden dangers of lead

Alternatives to juice boxes and bottles
Iced Tea- See Drink to your health this Summer
Flavored Water-See  Turn ordinary water into extraordinary for some great ideas

Are you a juice box parent? Why not try out reusable bottles? They are a much safer option for your family as well as eco-friendly.

1 Minute Snack Mixes

Homemade snack mixes are a healthy alternative to packaged chips and other snack items that offer zero nutritional value. Keep an abundance of the below ingredients on hand and ready to mix at a moments notice.

• Whole grain cereals
• Nuts- Be sure to check with your school first, some kids are allergic to nuts, also a choking hazard
• Raisins
• Dried Fruits- pineapple, banana chips, mixed fruits, blueberries, cranberries,  apple chips, and so on
• Pretzels
• Sesame Seeds
• Pumpkin Seeds
• Fish shaped cheese crackers
• Chocolate chips
• Coconut
• Cinnamon
• Homemade spice mixes such as ranch

Some snack mix recipes call for prep using the stove or oven, but simplifying these sort of recipes and omitting the need for cooking will save time. You can mix up your healthy combinations and store in a large airtight container to have on hand all week. Another idea is to store the ingredients seperately in airtight cotainers and stack them in your pantry. Simply pull out the stack then pick and choose which ingredients to use, add to a big bowl, mix, and pack! Kids will also enjoy making their own snack mixes.

A few of my sons favorite combinations

Toasted honey o's (whatever brand you like)
Apple chips
Dash of cinnamon

Dried pineapple chunks
Banana chips
Coconut flakes

Pretzel sticks
Dark chocolate chips
Dried cherries

Kashi Honey Puffs
Banana Chips
Dried Blueberries

The possibilities are endless, hopefully this list will inspire you and your family to create your own yummy snack mixes!

Have some snack mix ideas you'd like to share with everyone? Simply leave a comment.