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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Goldilocks and the Creamiest, Easiest Oatmeal Ever

Ahhh, I love a nice warm creamy bowl of oatmeal on a crisp, cool fall morning, don't you?  My kids and I go through love/hate phases with oatmeal.   The "hate" part for me used to be when the oatmeal exploded and spilled all over the microwave into a globby mess, or when it boiled over in the pot creating a giant mass of uncooked watery oats and a stove-top disaster.    However, a couple of years ago I discovered a way to make it "JUST RIGHT!"   In the crock pot!  It's so easy and it makes the creamiest, most delicious oatmeal I've ever eaten.  Try it tonight - I bet you'll like it!

1 cup of steel cut oats
4 cups water
1/2 cup milk (almond, soy, cow's - whatever you like)
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 TBS cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine it all in your crock pot, cover and turn it on low at bed time.  8 hours later you will wake up to the best oatmeal you've ever eaten.  Add some fresh or dried fruit and some nuts (and a little more milk if you'd like) and you'll never go back to your old way of cooking oatmeal.    Let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Free* Cooking Class at the Co-Op!

Are you searching for healthy breakfast ideas your kids will eat? 
Send them off to school ready to learn with a healthy breakfast in their growing bodies.

Breakfast, the most important meal of the day, is often our most challenging. Bring your school age child to  this hands-on, interactive cooking class at the Co-Op! 

Happy Healthy Breakfast Cooking Class
Saturday, September 10th

You will learn to make delicious healthful smoothies and other quick and easy breakfasts you will all love. You will learn simple recipes and techniques to help you and your kid get off to a great start each day! Who knows, maybe you'll all be excited about getting out of bed so early!

*The class is free for Co-Op members, $5 for non-members (child is free, one child per adult, please)

Register at the front desk at the Co-Op, or contact me (using the "contact me" button on the right side of this page)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Super Loaded Chili

Last night I threw together some chili using a bunch of the vegetables I had in my fridge (plus some cooked beans I had frozen in the freezer)  My kids totally LOVED it and asked to have it in their lunch today.  It was a great way to get them to eat a ton of veggies and love them!

Here's the recipe.  Let me know what you think!

Super-Loaded Chili

Ingredients:1 lb lean ground protein (you can use beef, turkey, chicken, or even crumbled up x-firm tofu!  If you are using tofu, be sure to press all the water out first)
1 TBS olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
1 or2 2 green peppers, diced
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 TBS cumin
2 TBS chili powder
2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
2 large (28 oz) cans diced or crushed tomatoes (for extra spice, use 1 can diced tomatoes with chilis and 1 can crushed tomatoes)
6 cups cooked beans (I used 2 cups black beans, 2 cups kidney beans and 2 cups pintos - if you are using canned beans, rinse and drain them first!)

Brown your protein in a soup pot with a heavy/thick bottom.  Once browned, remove from pot and strain over a bowl so all the fat drains off.  Discard fat, reserve protein.
In same soup pot, saute onion, celery, carrots and pepper in olive oil over medium heat until translucent (about 5 - 7 minutes). 
Add remaining ingredients plus the protein and about 2 cups of water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 30 minutes.
Serve with warm whole grain tortillas or cornbread.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to School lunches and SLEEP

So, here we are at the beginning of the school year.  Honestly, I don't know if I'm ready to start packing interesting, healthful lunches again.  I mean, how many turkey sandwich/applesauce/cheese stick/chips lunches can a kid eat?   How can I keep it interesting and healthy?  How can I be sure they eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables each day?

To make it easier to plan and to help my kids make their OWN healthy choices, I made up a chart.  On it, I have three categories:  fruits, vegetables, and proteins.  There are six boxes for each category.  On Sunday, I fill in the chart with their choices.  They then choose their favorite 3 or 4 items from each category (by putting their initial by the items they want that week).  They have now made their own choices and I know what to buy for the week!  I always add a small sweet or salty treat (popcorn, graham crackers, a small piece of chocolate or a few m&m's, pretzels, rice cakes, organic chips, etc.)

If you'd like a copy of my chart and a blank chart for you to use, please send me an email!  I'm happy to send it to you!

 (my filled in chart for this week)

  Here's a blank chart for you - contact me and I'll email a copy to you 
     (click the botton on the upper right side of the page)

Kids and SLEEP!

I'm also a stickler for making sure my kids get enough sleep.  Of course, they go to bed a LOT later throughout the summer and we'll surely have an adjustment period.  Especially since my kids need to be up at 6:20 in the morning in order to get their busses on time.  Sleep problems and disorders are prevalent for elementary age kids. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school. 

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 10 - 11 hours each night for kids 5 - 12 years old.  That means my kids need to be ASLEEP between 7:20 and 8:20 each night. 

We start bedtime for our almost 5-year-old by 6:30 with a quick bedtime snack, quick bath, brush teeth and read a couple of stories.  We aim for lights out between 7:00 and 7:15. 

My 8-year-old is just behind his brother and reads (a lot!) on his own.  So he's in bed reading while I'm reading to and tucking in the little guy.  Once I'm done, I read to and "tuck in" my older son and the lights are out for him by 7:45. 

That's the plan, anyway.  It's not going to work every night (for instance, my older son's soccer games are scheduled at 7pm during the week!)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

City Chicks!

I recently wrote a story for The Roanoke Natural Foods CoOp's quarterly newspaper about raising chickens in the city. Check it out!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Millions of peaches, peaches for me!

Peaches! Nothing tastes more like summer to me than a sweet, delicious, ripe, fresh off the tree juicy peach. They are in season RIGHT NOW here in Virginia and they couldn't be any better! So, go to your famer's market and buy a whole crate of them! Eat them now, or freeze them so you can enjoy them throughout the year.

How to Freeze fresh peaches:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper
Wash peaches well and cut them up (you can peel them or not, your choice. If you are going to use them in smoothies, you should peel them before you slice them)
Place the peaches on the cookie sheet in a single layer.
Sprinkle with a little orange, lemon, or lime juice.
Place flat in your freezer.
Once the peaches are frozen, you can put them in a ziplock bag and put them bag in the freezer for 6 months.

Peach Banana Smoothie recipe:
(serves 2)
2 ripe peaches (peeled) (you can use frozen, too!)
2 ripe bananas
large handful of ice
about 1 cup of “plain” yogurt
a dash of milk/apple juice

Combine ingredients in blender and liquify !

Peach Soup / Peach Creamcicles
Makes about 12 popcicles

3 cups peaches (peeled and chopped) (you can use frozen, too!)
1/4 cup vanilla yogurt
1 cup water
1 cup oj
dash of cinnamon

Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Consider adding a ripe banana, too! Enjoy as soup or Freeze in popcicle molds!

Black Bean and Peach Salad
Serves 4

1 peach, peeled and diced (fresh peaches work best)
2 cups black beans
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
4 -6 leaves basil, chopped
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Serve as a side dish or over grilled fish or chicken.

Peach Crumble
Serves 4

2 cups peaches (peeled and sliced) (you can use frozen, too!)
1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
2 TBS vegetable oil
2 TBS brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Arrange peaches on the bottom of an 8x8 glass baking dish
In small bowl, combine remaining ingredients and stir with a fork until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle topping over peaches and bake 15 – 20 minutes, until golden brown

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Simply Delicious Healthful Meal for 4 people for about $5!

Happy Healthy Cooks makes another appearance on the NBC affiliate WSLS10 in Roanoke, VA. Check it out!

Sauteed Kale
1 TBS olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch Kale, washed and spun dry, leaves torn & stems discarded
salt, cumin


In a large frying pan, heat oil and garlic over med-high heat. Add Kale and toss with oil and garlic. Stir kale to keep it from burning (add a few drops of water if necessary). Cook for about 5 - 7 minutes, or until tender and bright green.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Can I please have more Kale?"

WOW! What a hit! Who could have ever guessed that sauteed Kale and Brazilian Black Beans & Brown Rice would be so loved by American 2nd graders. Really! They could not get enough of this dish! "Can I please have more kale?", "I LOOOOOVE this rice", "Can we make this for our end of year dinner, it's SO good!" Comments like that were heard in all the classrooms today as we tasted our meal while listening to some silky Bossa Nova music.

Here's the recipe (pictures will come tomorrow)
Brazilian Black Beans and Rice with Kale

Brazilian Black Beans

1 TBS oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp grated ginger (or minced)
2 cups diced tomatoes (1 can, with juices)
1 TBS tomato paste (dissolved in coconut milk)
1 cup lite coconut milk
4 cups (2 cans) black beans (drained and rinsed)
¼ tsp crushed red pepper
½ cup cilantro, chopped

• Saute the onion and garlic and ginger in the oil.
• Add tomatoes, coconut milk (with dissolved tomato paste) and stir – cook for 2 minutes.
• Add the black beans and crushed red pepper.
• Stir and simmer until heated (about 10 minutes)
• Serve on top of Rice,

Brown Rice:
2 cups brown rice
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 med onion, chopped
1/2 tsp salt

Saute one chopped onion in olive oil,
add one can diced tomatoes with juices,
add 2 cups brown rice plus 1 and 1/2 cups water
bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover - cook 45 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed.

Kale Directions:
Rinse kale.
Tear leaves of Kale off stems. Tear leaves into small pieces. Discard Stems.
Saute 2 cloves minced garlic in olive oil for one minute, add kale and a pinch of salt.
Cook, covered for about 5 minutes or until kale wilts and leaves turn dark green.
Serve on side with black beans and rice.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

FRANCE! Ooh, La La!

The French take great pride in their vegetables and they are careful not to overcook them and they prefer to pick them only at the peak of their flavor. Green Beans are very nutritious. This recipe calls for French Haricot Verts (but you can use “regular” green beans from the supermarket or farmer’s market). Shallots are also available at the supermarket, but you can use a combination of onions and garlic if you’d like. A hearty one-dish meal can be made with the addition of other vegetables and served with a piece of French peasant bread. Our volunteers thought this would be a quick, simple and fabulous dish to bring to a pot-luck or block party! I agree!

French Green Bean and Potato Salad

4 cups (about 1.5 lbs) Haricot Verts (or regular Green Beans)
6 small red potatoes (about 1.5 lbs), peeled and par-boiled
6 – 8 shallots, minced
3 TBS olive oil
2 TBS fresh tarragon / 2 tsp dried tarragon (if you don't have tarragon, dill weed tastes great, too!)
1 TBS dijon mustard
2 TBS wine vinegar
1 head bib lettuce

• Steam the beans until tender. Place beans in serving bowl.
• Cut par-boiled potatoes into bite size pieces and add to serving bowl.
• Sauté the shallots in 1 TBS oil in a small frying pan.
• In a bowl, whisk 2 TBS oil, vinegar, mustard, tarragon, and shallots together (or add all ingredients in a small jar, cover and shake) Add to the warm beans and potatoes. Toss the salad.
• To serve, place some of the salad on a leaf of lettuce for each person.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


This week our lesson was about Japan. We talked about the recent earthquakes and tsunamis and the devestation the people who live their are facing. We took a moment of silence to honor the people of Japan, and to be grateful that we live in a safe place, with schools in which to learn, and plenty of food to eat and water to drink. I was amazed at the childrens' response to that moment. It was beautiful.

We made sushi - maki rolls with carrots, cucumbers, asparagus
and brown rice. We use brown rice instead of white because brown rice has more vitamins and more fiber, plus the texture is great in sushi. Our students did not shy away from the asparagus and loved to snack on the carrots and cucumbers as we were preparing our rolls! You gotta love it when you have to tell kids to STOP eating all the vegetables!

Japan is an island nation with mountains - and not a lot of space for growing food. They do grow rice, and some fruits and vegetables but much of the food the Japanese people eat comes from the ocean, including seaweed!



Prepared Sushi Rice (short grain brown rice, rice wine vinegar, honey & green onions (optional))

Carrots (cut into matchsticks)

Asparagus (steamed)

Cucmbers (scoop the seeds out and cut into matchsticks)

Nori (toasted seaweed sheets)

Dipping Sauce (rice wine vinegar, tamari (soy sauce), honey)

Pickled Ginger


Prepare Rice:
Bring 4 cups of water, 2 cups short grain brown rice, and a tsp salt to a boil. Cover and reduce heat so the rice simmers. Be sure the heat is not so high that the water continues to boil, but not so low that there is no water bubbling/simmering. Cook for about 45 - 50 minutes (or until all the water is absorbed)

Prepare Rice Seasoning Mixture & Vegetables:
While the rice is cooking, combine 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 TBS honey, and 1 tsp salt. Mix until honey and salt are dissolved.

Also while your rice is cooking, cut your vegetables and prepare your dipping sauce. (Combine 3 TBS rice wine vinegar, 2 TBS tamari (soy sauce), 1 tsp honey, sliced green onions/scallions)

Put the hot cooked rice in a large bowl (a really large bowl). Begin to fold the rice over and sprinkle the seasoning mixture over as you fold.

Place a towel and a small bowl of water at your work space.

Place a sheet of nori (shiny side down) on a flat surface (or bamboo rolling mat) keeping the perforation lines horizontal.

Spread a thin layer of rice on the nori, leaving a 1" margin on each edge.

Your fingers will be VERY STICKY! Dip your fingers in the water and rub them together, then pat dry on the towel. It is good to keep them slightly damp, but not wet - the rice will not stick as much that way.

Next, at about 1 inch up from the bottom edge of the RICE, place each vegetable in a horizontal line. Do not put too much, or you will not be able to roll it up.

Now take the bottom edge of the nori and roll it over the vegetables, keeping it tight as you go. Continue to press and roll the nori up, slightly squeezing as you go.

Once you have a nice tight roll, slice the rough ends off. Now slice the roll into 1" pieces (do not make them too small or they will not hold together and if they are too big, you won't be able to fit it into your mouth!)

In Japan, it is important to present food beautifully. Make a beautiful arrangement of your maki pieces and any leftover slices of vegetables on a small plate or platter. Arrange your dipping sauce, ginger, and wasabi as well.

Take a moment to admire your work. Be grateful for all that you have. Smile. Breathe.

Now it's time to eat your maki roll! Place a dab of wasabi paste on your roll, dip it into the sauce and pop it in your mouth! MMMMMMM!!!!!!

Take a taste of the pickled ginger in between bites (or place a small amount on your maki roll and eat them together!)

We ended the week with another appearance on "Our Blue Ridge" on our local NBC station, WSLS 10! Check it out:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our Happy Healthy Cooks LOVED today's lesson on India!

Today we made Curried Red Lentil Dahl, and we had a special guest, my friend Shashi Jain. She came dressed in traditional Indian clothing and brought a beautiful selection of clothing, toys and jewels from India. She told us about her life growing up in India and shared bindi with all the girls. Bindi is the jewel or red mark married women in India wear (it is also becoming popular to wear the bindi even if you are not married... fashion trumps tradition!) We listened and danced to Bhangra music, too! (check out bhangra dancing on you tube when you get a chance) It was so much fun!

The kids LOVED the Curried Red Lentil Dahl, I mean LOVED it!

Red Lentil Curried Dahl

Dahl is the Indian name for any member of the legume family—lentils, split peas, chick peas, and beans. Dahl recipes are traditionally made fairly thick and may be served over rice or with flatbread and a vegetable side dish. Many people in India eat with their right hand (instead of utensils), and flatbreads are served with meals because they can help scoop up all kinds of food. (Remember in North Africa, people eat with their thumb and pointer finger, but in India the entire hand can be used.)
Indian cooking features many delicious fragrant spices. There are more than one hundred spices used in Indian cooking! In traditional Indian cuisine, whole spices are roasted, and then ground, and then are added to the dahl. A simpler method is to use already ground spices to make your own curry blend.
Many people in India do not eat any meat (they are vegetarians). They enjoy lentils, beans, grains (especially rice), vegetables and fruits in their traditional recipes.

Here's the recipe:


1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger root
Curry Spices:
8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp Salt
(Alternatively, you can use “Curry powder” instead)

2 small potatoes, peeled and cut in very small cubes
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, with juices
3 cups red or brown lentils or yellow or green split peas
4 cups water

Fresh cilantro, minced (optional)

Directions :
* Saute onions, garlic, and peppers in oil unitl soft, about 5 minutes.
* Add spices and saute for 1 minute.
* Add potatoes, tomatoes, water, ginger, and lentils.
* Cover and bring to boil.
* Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils and potatoes are soft.

The dahl should be fairly thick; if necessary add more water. Chop the cilantro while the dahl is cooking. Put cilantro in a small bowl for an optional topping once the dahl is served. Eat with Indian Flat bread.

Here are some of our bindi-wearing girls!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Africa and the American South

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our lesson this week was on Africa and the American South. The students entered the classroom to the sound of music traditionally sung by American slaves in the south.

I was happy to learn that many of the students in Mrs. Gunter's class at VA Heights had a great understanding of the history of African American slaves, and of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's peaceful work for civil rights.

Our lesson was based on the following excerpt written by Dr. Antonia DeMas:

African Americans first came to the United States as slaves. The slaves had “owners” who usually fed them the foods they did not want. But the African Americans were very imaginative with the foods given to them. This food was called Soul Food.

African Slaves brought okra, black-eyed peas, peanuts and sesame seeds with them to the United States on the slave ships. Okra is still very popular in the American South.

Most slave families were given a small plot of land on which to grow their own vegetables. Turnip and collard greens, black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes were among their favorite foods to grow and eat. Black-eyed peas are high in protein, taste delicious, and are easy to dry and store for later use. Molasses is made from sugarcane. Sugarcane is one of the plants that sugar is made from. Molasses is made by boiling down the sugarcane and squeezing the liquid out. African Americans used molasses because it was a sugar by-product and not viewed as desirable as white sugar. Molasses is a good source of calcium, potassium and iron.

For a black slave family, living on a plantation and working in the fields all day, mealtime was something to look forward to at the end of the day, a time to share food, singing and socializing. Soul music is a heartfelt expression of feelings intertwined with the process and smells of cooking.

Soul Food and Soul Music evolved as a way to make you feel good all over and to speak to your very soul.

Many of the students LOVED the Soul Stew we made together! Quite a few eeven asked for seconds!

Soul Stew

1 TBS canola oil or olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green or red pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
2 cups pre-cooked or canned black-eyed peas (drained and rinsed)
2 cups corn (frozen, thawed)
2 cups collard greens, washed and chopped or frozen, thawed
1 cup okra (frozen, thawed)
2 TBS molasses
Tabasco sauce (optional)

Saute onion, garlic, and pepper in the oil.
Add the tomatoes. Simmer for one minute.
Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over medium heat about fifteen minutes.

Serve with Tobasco sauce, if desired.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Delicious Black Bean Chili Recipe!

(serves 6, recipe from Williams-Sonoma "Winter" cookbook)

2 1/4 cups dried black beans (rinsed and picked over)
3 TBS olive oil
3 yellow onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped
6 TBS chili powder
3 TBS ground cumin
1/4 cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cans crushed tomatoes (28 oz each)
salt and pepper
cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans or impurities. Rince and place in a bowl. Add water to cover generously. Let soak for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and set aside.

In large heavy saucepan over low heat, warm the olive oil. Saute the onions, peppers and garlic until onions are soft (about 10 minutes). Add spices and saute, stirring, about 2 minutes longer. Add beans, tomatoes and water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are very tender and begin to fall apart, about 2 1/2 - 3 hours. Add more water if the beans begin to dry out but are not yet cooked.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve garnished wtih cilantro and shredded cheese or sour cream

Serve at once

Friday, January 14, 2011

Black Bean Salsa

Black Bean Salsa
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed), or two cups cooked black beans
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1 small jalepeno (seeded and chopped) (optional!)
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 cup corn (thawed)
2 TBS chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
Juice from 1/2 lime
pinch of salt

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl to serve. Great with tortilla chips (be sure to choose chips made from NON-GMO corn!) as a side dish, in a burrito with brown rice and hot sauce, or on top of grilled fish!

Homemade Hummus

Happy Healthy
Homemade Hummus

(Use a food processor or blender)

1 - 2 cloves garlic
1 can Chick Peas/ Garbanzo Beans (drained and rinsed - reserve liquid!)
2 TBS tahini
2 TBS olive oil
Juice from 1/4 - 1/2 lemon
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp salt
Reserved chick pea liquid

Process garlic first, to mince.
Add the rest of the ingredients and process/blend for 2 - 3 minutes, adding some of the reserved liquid to make a smooth consistency.

Serve as a dip with baby carrots, celery sticks, red pepper strips, or whole grain pita pieces. Also great as a sandwich spread!

Saturday, January 1, 2011