Dig In: Nut Free Basil Pesto (52 New Foods, Week 27)

Posted by Jennifer Lee on July 09, 2012 3 Comments
nut free basil pest


This week we dirty up our diets with nut free basil pesto made straight from our garden. Dig in!


Our new food adventures this week continue to focus on dirtying up our diets. Overflowing in our tiny kitchen garden is fresh basil. A distinct and refreshing partner in soups and pasta dishes, basil is one of our favorite garden herbs. With a hearty crop on our hands, we decided it was time to try basil pesto!

Basil Pesto (Without the Nuts)

basil pesto pasta

Most basil pesto recipes call for pine nuts, or walnuts, but Susan from Our Family Eats had a creative twist on this simple recipe: sunflower seeds. Our school is nut free, so I am always looking for delicious and easy recipes that can be equally featured on our dinner and lunchbox menus. Nut free basil pesto was the ticket!

Nut Free Basil Pesto

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Makes about 1 cup of pesto, enough for 2 to 3 meals

Ingredients:
1 cup garden fresh basil, packed
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1) Harvest your fresh basil! Wash thoroughly with water. Give your hands a good wash too, with soap and water.

basil pesto harvest

2) Load your ingredients into a food processor.

basil pesto load

3) Blend it up! Add salt and pepper to taste. We added a little extra olive oil to give our pesto a smoother texture.

basil pesto blend

4) Enjoy!

basil pesto enjoy

Tip: If you want to freeze your basil pesto, leave out the cheese. It doesn't freeze well. Portion the cheese-free pesto into an ice cube tray, cover and freeze. Once frozen, remove from the tray and store in a freezer bag. When you’re ready to use your sauce, defrost and add the grated Parmesan.

Crunch a Color Kids Vote: Let’s dig in!

What we liked: This recipe is so fresh and easy! It’s also super flexible. We featured our basil pesto on homemade pasta. It would also be tasty served over chicken, or on a fresh, crusty French baguette. The possibilities are endless!

* What is your favorite way to prepare pesto?

Craving more new recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s recipe: Butter Lettuce with a Side of Dirt.

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 and she’s giving back to support non-profit kids' nutrition programs including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and FoodCorps. Watch her picky eaters tell the story of how they turned into healthy eaters playing the game. Follow @crunchacolor on Facebook Twitter and Pinterest to tune into Crunch a Color's healthy eating adventure and Jennifer’s tips and kid-friendly, easy recipes.

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Butter Lettuce with a Side of Dirt (52 New Foods, Week 26)

Posted by Jennifer Lee on July 04, 2012 3 Comments

Dirt (along with butter lettuce) is our new food of the week. It may be what we need to stay healthy.

A recent article in The New York Times on the merits of dirtying up our diets ignited a lively discussion at our dinner table. Could dirt help us ward off the germs that lead to the inevitable sniffles in the first weeks of school? Or reduce the itchy, watery eyes that plague our outdoor summer adventures? If what these researchers are arguing is true -- that a little dirt in our diets can improve our health by strengthening our immune systems and reducing allergies – then getting down and dirty might be a fun and inexpensive way to stay healthy.

Butter Lettuce

 

Digging Deeper

Before we decided to dig in, we needed to know, “What kind of dirt is good dirt?” Is dirt from our garden just as healthy as the dirt found lining the shelves of the grocery store? Certainly I had to provide some guidelines to my new food adventurers out of fear that they might throw all of their hygiene cares to the wind. Jeff Leach, science and archaeology writer and founder of the Human Food Project, offered this practical guidance:

No matter worrying about the soil in your local grocery store, as there is almost none (aside from the occasional potato and mushroom). Dirt from your local sources (yard, farmers’ market, etc) would be best. Importantly, the simple act of playing outside will expose our kiddos to a vast microbial community - so, from Angry Birds to Dirty Birds.”

With those simple rules as our guiding principles, we headed out to the garden to add a little dirt to our diet.

Butter Lettuce Wraps with Sunbutter

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 0 minutes
Makes about 12 wraps

Butter Lettuce with Sunbutter

 

Ingredients:

1 head, garden grown butter lettuce
¼ cup, sunflower butter

Directions:

1) Harvest your butter lettuce. Have fun getting your hands dirty!

Harvest the Butter Lettuce

 

2) Wash the lettuce thoroughly with water. Give your hands a good wash, too, with soap and water (don’t kill all the good bugs with super zapper hand sanitizer).

Wash the Butter Lettuce

 

We found a teensy chameleon critter, the same vibrant green as the butter lettuce, which we gingerly placed back in our garden.

Critter

 

3) Keeping the leaves intact, spread about a teaspoon of sunflower butter into each piece of lettuce.

Spread Sunbutter on the Butter Lettuce

 

4) Wrap and enjoy!

Enjoy Butter Lettuce

 

5) Then plant a new crop.

Plant a New Crop

 

Crunch a Color Kids Vote: Diggin’ it!

What we liked: Anything grown from our tiny kitchen garden seems to taste better. The kids thrilled at enjoying the lettuce they planted as seeds and grew into a nourishing meal. Harvesting the lettuce inspired us to plant another crop of new vegetables to try, and gave us the wonderful opportunity to spend more time outside, soaking up the beautiful sunshine and soil that makes us healthy. The experience even inspired our first family food challenge – more to come on that soon!    

* What will you plant in your garden this week?

* How do you dirty up your diet?

Lettuce is a super easy crop to grow. If you don’t have any growing in your garden right now, plant a few seeds and you’ll have a feast before the end of summer.

Craving more new recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s recipe: Healthy Zucchini Muffins.

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 and she’s giving back to support non-profit children’s nutrition programs including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and FoodCorps. Watch her picky eaters tell the story of how they turned into healthy eaters playing the game. Follow @crunchacolor on Facebook Twitter and Pinterest to tune into Crunch a Color's healthy eating adventure and Jennifer’s tips and kid-friendly, easy recipes.

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Healthy Zucchini Muffins (52 New Foods, Week 25)

Posted by Jennifer Lee on June 28, 2012 6 Comments

Healthy zucchini muffins were the pick of the week in our new food adventure. A tasty treat for kids (and adults)!

I’m a sucker for a warm basket of fresh baked muffins. Everything about them feels cozy. They are fun to make and even more fun to enjoy cuddled up with my kiddos on a leisurely Saturday morning. You can imagine my absolute delight when my new food adventurers decided to make zucchini our new food of the week. A perfect opportunity for healthy zucchini muffins!

Feature Recipe: Healthy Zucchini Muffins

Finding an easy recipe for healthy zucchini muffins was a snap! I took a wonderful family recipe for zucchini bread from The Naptime Chef, and tweaked it a little – adding whole-wheat flour and grapeseed oil. My 5 year old loved these tasty little tidbits, but my daughter didn't like the texture of the grated zucchini in my first batch. So I whipped up another version with pureed zucchini. My strategy wasn’t to “hide” the veggie, she cut and pureed the zucchini herself, but rather to change the texture to get my daughter to give it a try. It worked!

Healthy Zucchini Muffins

healthy zucchini muffins Adapted from The Naptime Chef
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: about 20 minutes
Makes 24 muffins

Ingredients:
2
cups whole-wheat flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
3 ½ tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
½ cup grapeseed oil
½ cup applesauce
1 ½ cups sugar
2 medium zucchinis, pureed
2 tsp vanilla extract


Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with baking cups. I have fallen in love with silicon baking cups – they make perfect muffins (every time!) and are a breeze to use. When using the silicon cups, spray lightly with oil.

healthy zucchini muffins step 1

2) Sift together your dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon.

healthy zucchini muffins step 2

3) Chop then puree the zucchini.

healthy zucchini muffins step 3

4) In a mixer, stir together your wet ingredients – eggs, oil, applesauce, zucchini puree, vanilla, and sugar.

healthy zucchini muffins step 4

5) In small batches, pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir gently.

healthy zucchini muffins step 5

6) Pour batter into muffin tins. Fill each cup about ¾ of the way.

healthy zucchini muffins step 6

7) Bake about 20 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched lightly.

healthy zucchini muffins step 7

Crunch a Color Kids Vote: Mmmarvelous muffins!

What we liked: I was thrilled that the pureed version of this recipe turned out to be a winner for my picky eater. The muffins were a wholesome treat, and will make a great lunchbox snack.   

* Do you have a favorite recipe for healthy zucchini muffins?

* What other ways do you like to prepare zucchini?

* Have you ever tried zucchini flowers?

Next up: Next week marks the halfway point in our 52 New Foods adventure. Be sure to tune in to see what fun new food ideas we have in store.

Craving more new recipes to try? Catch up on last week’s recipe: Friendship Garden Soup.

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 and she’s giving back to support non-profit children’s nutrition programs including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and FoodCorps. Watch her picky eaters tell the story of how they turned into healthy eaters playing the game. Follow @crunchacolor on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to tune into Crunch a Color's healthy eating adventure and Jennifer’s tips and kid-friendly, easy recipes.

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A Winning Recipe Inspired by Michelle Obama

Posted by Jennifer Lee on June 17, 2012 0 Comments

Inspired by Michelle Obama’s garden book, American Grown, a group of elementary school kids create a community lunch that brings together garden fresh veggies, good friends, and a healthy meal even picky eaters will love.

Friendship Garden Soup Friends

One of the most effective ways to get kids eating (and enjoying) vegetables is to get them out in the garden: growing, picking, and preparing their own food. That’s old news for many, including my picky eaters. For months our food adventures have focused on finding new foods to try from our garden or the local farmers’ market. It’s been an effective strategy for getting my picky eaters to eat healthy and try new foods, and a great source of Crunch a Color™ bonus points at our family table.

A call to action from First Lady Michelle Obama brought a new twist to our weekly food challenge, and sparked an idea for my 8 year old.

As part of her mission to get kids eating healthy, Michelle Obama issued a healthy lunchtime challenge to kids across the country. The goal: design a kid-inspired, healthy lunch recipe. Like most kids, there’s nothing more fun for my daughter than spending an afternoon with friends, so she decided to turn Michelle Obama’s challenge into just that.

Friendship Garden Soup Chopping Cauliflower

The invitation to each child was simple: bring a favorite fresh vegetable from your garden and join us for an afternoon of cooking “Friendship Garden Soup.” In a garden get-together worthy of the classic tale, Stone Soup, my daughter’s friends gathered for an afternoon of chopping, dicing, sautéing, simmering and sipping a delicious soup together. For the recipe she created, check out Friendship Garden Soup.

“My idea for Friendship Garden Soup came from a book I read when I was little. The book is called Stone Soup and tells the story of villagers who bring food to make a soup with a stone in it. They learned to make something by sharing everything they had. So I thought that it would be nice to invite my friends to share vegetables from their own gardens. When you share it makes everything better” – Catherine, age 8


The best part of this activity was how a community of friends came together to create something special – and each person’s contribution (no matter the size) was important. One brought oregano from her garden, infusing a beautiful herbal flavor into the dish. Another found rainbow carrots at her local farmers’ market, adding playful color and crunch. My daughter added cauliflower, a new food favorite from our school garden.  My son added a “magic leaf” – a small bay leave that we ceremoniously add to all of our homemade soups to magically turn our ingredients into a tasty dish. Each child contributed something different to the soup to add to its unique flavor, in the same way that each friend brings something unique and special to my daughter’s life.

Friendship Garden Soup Friends 2

Who knows whether my daughter’s recipe will win Michelle Obama’s healthy lunchtime challenge. But in the end, the journey was worth every minute. Bringing friends together for a laughter-filled afternoon, enjoying fresh vegetables (familiar and new) grown from our gardens, and celebrating the joy of cooking and eating together. That’s a winning recipe in my family cookbook.

Friendship Garden Soup

Are your kids more likely to try new foods when they come from the garden?

Does a visit to a local farmers’ market result in the same positive changes in eating habits?

If you only have space for a small planter, which vegetables would you plant with your kids?

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 and she’s giving back to support non-profit children’s nutrition programs including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and FoodCorps. Watch her picky eaters tell the story of how they turned into healthy eaters playing the game. Follow @crunchacolor on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to tune into Crunch a Color's healthy eating adventure and Jennifer’s tips and kid-friendly, easy recipes. 

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Friendship Garden Soup

Posted by Jennifer Lee on June 17, 2012 0 Comments

Inspired by Michelle Obama’s healthy lunchtime challenge, my 8 year old daughter created this simple recipe that brings together garden fresh veggies and good friends for an afternoon of kid-style cookin’! 


Friendship Garden Soup Friends

Invite your friends to bring a favorite vegetable from their garden (or local farmers’ market). This recipe is wonderfully flexible; it can accommodate pretty much anything you can throw at it! Just be sure to have at least onions, celery and carrots as your base.  The best part of this recipe is that each person adds something unique to the pot, in the same way that each friend brings something unique and special to your life. Enjoy cooking and eating healthy together!

Friendship Garden Soup

Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 20 min
Servings: 6 to 8

Ingredients:

2 cups cauliflower, diced (see our tips for how to prepare cauliflower)
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup rainbow carrots, diced (use regular carrots if you can’t find the multi-colored variety)
1 cup fresh English peas, removed from the pods
½ medium onion, diced
1 handful fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
1 cup cooked chicken, cut into ¼” cubes
2 32oz boxes of low sodium chicken broth (use homemade broth if you have it)
2 cups cooked pasta (macaroni or penne work the best)
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1)   Wash and prepare the vegetables. Give each child one vegetable to prepare.

Peel and dice the carrots and celery...

Friendship Garden Soup Peeling Carrots 

 and the cauliflower. Here's a quick tip for how to prepare cauliflower.

Friendship Garden Soup Chopping Cauliflower 

Remove the peas from the pods.

Friendship Garden Soup Fresh Peas

Dice the onions (remember to light a votive to stop the tears!).

Friendship Garden Soup Chopping Onions

2)   Heat a large stockpot, add the olive oil, then add the onions. Sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes.

Friendship Garden Soup Saute Onions

3)   Add the cauliflower, celery and carrots. Cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes, or until the veggies are slightly browned.

Friendship Garden Soup Saute Veggies

4)   Add the chicken broth, cooked chicken, a few handfuls of oregano, and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil.

Friendship Garden Soup Bay Leaf

5)   Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

6)   Add the fresh peas. Simmer 2 minutes more.

7)   Add the cooked pasta. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Friendship Garden Soup

8)   Enjoy with friends and family!

Friendship Garden Soup Friends 2

“I brought oregano, which grows wild in my garden. My family planted seeds a few years ago and now it just keeps growing. The oregano added familial flavor. My family grew up eating lots of Italian food and oregano is in all of it, so it reminds me of my Grandma, who makes the best pasta sauce.” – Elli, age 10

“Celery is one of my favorite vegetables. I like it cooked in many different ways, including soup.” – Carissa, age 8

"I brought rainbow carrots and peas. I chose them because they are really good in soups and the colors were so pretty." - Marina, age 8

"I put a 'magic leaf' in because it makes soup taste good." - James, age 5

Have you hosted a cooking party with your friends? What did you prepare? Share your comments!

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 and she’s giving back to support non-profit children’s nutrition programs including Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and FoodCorps. Watch her picky eaters tell the story of how they turned into healthy eaters playing the game. Follow @crunchacolor on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to tune into Crunch a Color's healthy eating adventure and Jennifer’s tips and kid-friendly, easy recipes.

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