Homemade Granola Bars (52 New Foods, Week 34)

Posted by Jennifer Lee on August 31, 2012 7 Comments
homemade granola bars


Homemade granola bars are an easy and tasty lunchbox treat. This nut free granola bar recipe is made with lots of love and no refined sugar, because your little ones are sweet enough as they are!

Do the math. How much do you spend on the packaged organic granola bars that regularly appear in your kids’ lunchboxes? Conservatively, it’s about $100 per child per year. Then stop and look at the ingredients list. It’s less healthy than you think. “Convenience!” you reply, and I completely understand. As a busy parent, I need a grab and go solution some mornings too. But when I discovered this simple recipe for homemade granola bars I was surprised at how easy, tasty and simple it is to make your own granola bars at home for a fraction of the cost.

Homemade Granola Bars

This nut free, homemade granola bar recipe is fun and easy for kids to make. Although it’s a sweet treat, it is free of refined sugars. It can easily be modified to feature your favorite fixings. My kids added dried cranberries. Raisins or dates could easily be used as well. Have fun mixing it up!

Ingredients:
4 cups oats
¼ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
1 cup dried cranberries (or any other dried fruit)
½ tsp kosher salt
½ cup grapeseed oil
½ cup honey

*Cooking tip: Add the oil, then the honey, using the same measuring cup. The oil will make it easy for the honey to slip right off into the mixing bowl.

Directions:

1.     Preheat the oven to 325 F.

2.     In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, coconut, and salt.

homemade granola bars add oats


3.    
Add the oil, then the honey to the dry mixture. Stir to combine.

homemade granola bars add honey


4.    
Add the cranberries and mix well.

homemade granola bars add cranberries


5.    
Grease a baking sheet (or add parchment) and press the granola mixture into the pan.

homemade granola bars press into baking sheet


6.    
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

7.     Cool, then cut into bars.

homemade granola bars


Crunch a Color Kids Vote:
Grab and go!

What we Liked: These homemade granola bars are crunchy and crumbly. When you’re done cutting them, the baking sheet will be filled with tasty chunks of yummy granola. Perfect for sprinkling over yogurt parfaits!

* Do you have a favorite recipe for making homemade granola bars?
* What ingredients do you like to add to your mix?

Craving more new recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s recipe: Easy Spanish rice.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color -- the award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods! Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun, easy and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.  

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Easy Spanish Rice (52 New Foods, Week 33)

Posted by Jennifer Lee on August 18, 2012 0 Comments
easy spanish rice


Easy Spanish Rice: Transform a few simple ingredients found at a convenience store into a tasty side dish.

Last week we took our healthy eating challenge to the convenience store. Our goal was to prove that with a little effort (and creative thinking) you can eat healthy on the road even when healthy choices are few and far between. Along with black beans we served up a side of easy Spanish rice and mixed veggies.

Easy Spanish Rice

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Makes about 6 to 8 servings

Since we were limited to the ingredients found in a convenience store, and the only fresh produce we could find was a lonely banana, we had to work in a few extra spices to infuse flavor into our Spanish rice recipe. The convenience store only offered canned tomato paste, but if you can find them it’s always better to use fresh tomatoes and onions when making this dish.

Ingredients:
2 cups medium grain rice
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1) Heat a saucepan over medium high heat, then add the olive oil and heat for a minute or two. Add the rice and cook until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.

easy spanish rice step one: sautee the rice


2) In a separate saucepan, whisk together the tomato paste, chicken broth and garlic powder, then add the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes.

easy spanish rice step two: add broth


3) Serve with a side of black beans and colorful veggies.

easy spanish rice


What we Liked: We could certainly make this meal healthier by eliminating the BPA-laden cans and using farm fresh tomatoes from a roadside stand. Better than a corn dog and a soda? You bet! It was encouraging to show my kids that even when fast food choices seem like the only option, there is always a way to eat healthy if you try.

*What are your favorite, easy ways to serve Spanish rice?

Craving more new recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s recipe: How to cook black beans.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color -- the award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods! Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun, easy and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

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A Convenient Meal: How to Cook Black Beans (52 New Foods, Week 32)

Posted by Jennifer Lee on August 17, 2012 4 Comments
how to cook black beans


Stopping at a convenience store on our road trip, the healthy food choices were scarce. But nestled between the canned spaghetti and corn chowder we found a healthy friend: black beans.

Convenience stores are a frequent stop on any road trip. Notorious for their unhealthy food choices, they are usually a place I try to avoid. But we were on a different mission this vacation. Amongst the candy bars and cranked up sodas, we were determined to find a healthy choice. Our goal: prove that if you try, you can cook a healthy meal even if you’re limited to foods found at a convenience store.

Hidden at the back of a dusty, low shelf was the ticket I was looking for: black beans. Packed with protein, and budget-friendly, we decided to make black beans our new food of the week. Bonus points for trying a new food and managing to find a healthy choice among a raging sea of salt and sugar.

How to Cook Black Beans

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours

Luckily, the place we were staying on our trip had a well-stocked kitchen, so we decided to learn how to cook black beans in the slow cooker. You can just as easily use a good ol’ fashioned stockpot.

Ingredients:
1 lb bag, dried black beans
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1) Sort the black beans, removing any debris or broken beans. Soak in water overnight. Be sure the water fully covers the beans.

how to cook black beans step one: soak


2) Drain the beans, then add to your slow cooker along with the chicken broth, the garlic powder, and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

how to cook black beans step two: add to slow cooker


how to cook black beans step three: add chicken broth


3) Set the slow cooker to low and cook the black beans for about 8 hours, or until the beans are tender.

how to cook black beans step four: set the slow cooker to low


4) Serve warm with a little bit of corn and a sprig of parsley or mint for garnish.

how to cook black beans step five: serve with corn and parsley


Crunch a Color Kids Vote:
Hello Mr. (Black) Bean!

What we Liked: Learning how to cook black beans was easy and made a healthy, inexpensive meal. They would also make a great addition to a healthy lunchbox. We served our black beans with a side of mixed veggies and Spanish rice. Tune in next week when we show you how we transformed a few other simple ingredients we found at the convenience store into these healthy side dishes.

* What are your favorite recipes featuring black beans?

Craving more new recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s recipe: Eating Healthy on the Road.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color -- the award-winning nutrition games that make healthy eating fun. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods! Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun, easy and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her weekly recipe blog at crunchacolor.com.

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Road Tripping: Eating Healthy On the Road

Posted by Jennifer Lee on August 04, 2012 9 Comments

eating healthy on the road

Our family may be taking a vacation, but our healthy eating habits are not. How we plan to keep eating healthy on the road.

Camera. Check. Sunscreen. Check. Blankies. Check, check. We’re geared up and ready for our big summer adventure. But as much as we want to take some time off for summer fun, we don’t want our healthy eating habits to take a vacation. Eating healthy on the road is notoriously difficult, with unhealthy choices at seemingly every turn. How to resist? Make it a game! This month, our new food adventures are all about finding the healthiest food on the road.

Eating Healthy on the Road Tip #1: Pack Your Own

eating healthy on the road tip: pack your own

You know how you’re always better at eating healthy in the morning? Same goes for eating healthy on the road. You need to start on the right foot! We packed a healthy lunch in our nifty PlanetBoxes for the first leg of our journey. Green beans with nut free basil pesto for dipping, a cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread, and blueberries and strawberries for dessert. Three colors, plus a protein and healthy grains earns us lots of Crunch a Color points! The objective: resist the lure of fast food joints at the airport. We also packed some reserves – whole-grain bread sticks, natural peanut butter, almonds, some fresh fruit, and water – so if we’re in a pinch we can still choose a healthy snack. We’ll just need to remember to take a break from all the exciting sights and sounds to power up!

* What are your tips for eating healthy on the road? Share your comments.

Craving more new recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s recipe: Strawberry Lemonade.

About the author: Jennifer Tyler Lee is a mom of two children and the creator of Crunch a Color™ -- the award-winning game that makes healthy eating fun. Like most parents, she struggled to get her kids to eat healthy, balanced meals, so she decided to make it into a healthy eating game. Winner of the Dr. Toy and Parent Tested, Parent Approved awards, Crunch a Color has been featured by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Laurie David’s Family Dinner, Kiwi Magazine, Dr. Greene, and Yum Food & Fun For Kids, among many others, as a simple, fun and playful way to get kids to eat healthy and try new foods! Jennifer’s passion is making mealtime fun, easy and healthy for busy families. Her easy recipes, quick tips, and new food adventures are regularly featured at Pottery Barn Kids, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, The Huffington Post, and on her website, www.crunchacolor.com. 

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Reduce Reuse Recycle: Green Your Lunchbox

Posted by Jennifer Lee on May 29, 2012 0 Comments

Kids lunch boxes can be the worst offenders when it comes to waste. But a few simple changes can help you green your lunchbox. Swap disposable plastic baggies for BPA-free, reuseable lunch containers. Use cloth napkins instead of paper. Only pack what you really think your kids will eat to minimize food waste. 

A Few Reasons Why We Need to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Did you know...

On average, Americans use 20 million plastic baggies a day.

100,000 sea turtles (and other marine life) die each year by ingesting plastic bags.

According to the EPA, each child generates 67 pounds of waste each year.

Packing a bag free lunch saves over $2000 per year.

You and your kids can make a difference with a few easy changes and by keeping the 3 Rs in mind: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

good reasons to reduce plastic bag usage

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