Homeschool cooking: Confetti pasta salad

It took my student, Kennedy, just under 5 minutes to put this colorful beauty together. Her comments after lunch, “This is delicious! I’m gonna tell my mom to make Confetti pasta for dinner.”

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INGREDIENTS

  • 16 oz. Pkg. Bowtie pasta (cooked, rinsed, and drained)
  • Large bag (40 oz.) mixed vegetables (cooked, rinsed, and drained)
  • 2 large cans tuna packed in water (drained)
  • 16-oz bottle fat-free Italian salad dressing
  1. Mix together
  2. Refrigerate til cold
  3. Serve

Eezzy peezy

Homeschool cooking: Rainbow salad… nutritional benefits, lesson plans, and recipes to encourage healthier kids

Examples of Fruit and Vegetable Fact SheetsFirst, the freebies:

  • The University of Nebraska has a great FREE resource of fruit and vegetable fact sheets that parents and teachers can download and share with their children.
  • SuperKids Nutrition Inc. in partnership with the American Institute for Cancer Research, has a great lesson that focuses on the benefits of eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.
    Students will discuss the health benefits of different colored fruits and vegetables to better understand how they help them to grow strong and healthy. Students will have the opportunity to prepare a Carrot Slaw with Pineapple, Apples and Almonds and learn how a salad made of fruits and vegetables can help them fight off disease.
  • Care connection has some great resources including puzzles, and games such as Vegetable bingo. Seriously, if you teach Health and Nutrition to children, download this resource. It’s called, Colors of Food.

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As for today’s lunch at the TAMS and ED home front, we taught our students that just like that wonderful pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, a Rainbow salad leads to a gold mine of healthy eating options for them. Rainbow salads generate fun and excitement. They provide us with a great way to introduce kids to new fruits and vegetables. And, because every color of fruit and vegetable contains a different set of phytonutrients, Rainbow salads should be a regular on your lunch and dinner lineup. It’s important to eat from every color of the rainbow to get a broad spectrum of nutrition.

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Whenever my students build their Rainbow salads, I have one rule: Try something in every color. Today’s salad bar consisted of purple cabbage, blueberries, green lettuce, celery, and cucumbers, yellow squash, orange carrots and cantaloupe, red radishes and tomatoes. I also allowed them to top off with a dollop of tuna salad. Here is the nutritional breakdown of those fruits and veggies:

PURPLE:

  • PURPLE CABBAGE: Purple cabbage is high in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. A 1-cup serving of chopped purple cabbage provides 2 grams of fiber, or 8 percent of the 25-gram daily value as recommended by the Food and Drug Administration. The potassium content in 1 cup of chopped purple cabbage is 216 milligrams. Potassium keeps your body’s fluid level from fluctuating to unhealthy volumes, and the Institute of Medicine recommends consuming 4.700 milligrams a day to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Potassium also prevents heart muscle stress by supporting the contraction that fuels your heartbeat.

BLUE:

  • BLUEBERRIES: Blueberries help promote urinary tract health, protect against aging-related eye problems, helps keep memory sharp, and being rich in fiber, is also beneficial for constipation and digestion.

GREEN

  • CELERY is a rich source of folic acid, riboflavin, niacin and vitamin-C, which are essential for optimum metabolism.  It’s also an excellent source of vitamin K, which helps increase bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones.
  • LETTUCE: Vitamins in lettuce are varied and plentiful. It’s an excellent source of several Vitamin A and beta carotene.  Vitamin A is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin, and is also essential for vision. Beta carotene aids the process. Lettuce is also a rich source of vitamin K, which is essential to the development of bone mass.
  • CUCUMBERS: Cucumbers are high in potassium. They contain unique anti-oxidant compounds that help act as protective scavengers against oxygen-derived free radicals.  Because of their high water content, cucumbers also have mild diuretic property, which helps in checking weight gain and high blood pressure.  Last, they have a high amount of vitamin K, which has been found to have a potential role in promoting bone mass and strength.

YELLOW SQUASH

  • Yellow squash is an excellent source of vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin A , fiber, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus. It is also abundant in potassium, which is a key electrolyte in the balance of fluids and also provides muscle energy.  It’s also high in manganese, a mineral which helps the body process fats, carbohydrates, and glucose.

CARROTS:

  • Carrots are root plants that are rich in carotenes that convert into vitamin A in the liver cells. Beta-carotene is the major carotene present in these roots. Beta carotene is one of the powerful natural anti-oxidant that helps protect human body from harmful oxygen-free radical injury. In addition, it also carries out all the functions of vitamin-A such as maintaining good eye health, reproduction (sperm production), maintenance of epithelial integrity, growth and development.

CANTALOUPE

  • This sweet melon is fat free, cholesterol free, sodium free, packed with vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin A. Nuff said. 

RADISHES

  • Radishes are cruciferous root vegetables that are rich in anti-oxidents. A word of advice. Once you bring your radishes home, cut off the green tops as they rob the radish of essential vitamins and minersals.

TOMATOES

  • Tomatoes are in the fruit family, but they are served and prepared as a vegetable. They are one of the most popular vegetables eaten by Americans. They can be eaten raw or cooked (baked, stewed, grilled or stir-fried). They are wonderful to eat alone. Many Americans add tomatoes to salads and sandwiches. soups, salsas and sauces. Tomato sauce is used in many pasta dishes such as spaghetti and on pizza. Ketchup is made from tomatoes. They are fat free, cholesterol free, and a good source of vitamins A and C.

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Homeschool cooking: Spinach quesadillas

20150808_103856This grab-and-go breakfast is filled with spinach and feta cheese. The quesadillas take about ten minutes to cook: three minutes to assemble and however long it takes to melt the cheese and heat them through.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Chopped spinach  (cooked and seasoned your way. To save time, cook this the night before. Drain well…really well).
  • Feta cheese
  • Flour tortillas
  • Cooking spray

20150808_104454ASSEMBLE 

  • Spread about 1/2 c. spinach on a flour tortilla.
  • Sprinkle feta cheese on top.
  • Place second tortilla on top.

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  • Spray a skillet with non-stick spray.
  • Cook on low heat until cheese melts.
  • Flip once.
  • Cut into fourths.
  • Enjoy!

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Homeschool cooking: Cobb wraps

Kids will enjoy this cold meal option that simply takes the ingredients that one would normally find in a Cobb salad and wraps them in a flour tortilla. Packed with protein and plenty of fresh veggies to choose from, this make-ahead meal is sure to be a hit with every member of your family.

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Because this Cobb wrap has so many different parts, you should prepare your ingredients either in the morning or the night before.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • Avocado  (chopped)
  • Bacon
  • Baked chicken  (chopped)
  • Boiled eggs (chopped)
  • Black olives  (chopped)
  • Fiesta cheese (shredded)
  • Flour tortillas
  • Green onions  (chopped)
  • Lettuce  (chopped)
  • Tomatoes  (chopped)
  • Salsa (optional)
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Cobb wrap. Photo credit: TAMS and ED Homeschool

Allow children to select the items they want to include in their wraps. Top with some salsa and enjoy!

Back-to-school: planning healthy snacks and meals

20150204_133130James and I have added a new dimension to our 2015-2016 home school program: We will begin serving our students breakfast, lunch, and snacks. For the past five years, our students brought their own lunches. Now, preparing and providing healthy meals and snacks are our responsibility. Our goal is to enhance the educational experience by teaching our students the importance of healthy eating. We will lead by example.

We turned to several resources that would teach us how to prepare and provide healthy meals that children would actually eat and enjoy. First, we turned to ChooseMyPlate.gov where we discovered a vast array of games, activity sheets, videos and songs, and healthy recipes from children around the world.

ChooseMyPlate.gov provides practical information for individuals, health professionals, nutrition educators, and the food industry to help consumers build healthier diets with resources and tools for dietary assessment, nutrition education, and other user-friendly nutrition information. On their website they say, “Americans are experiencing epidemic rates of overweight and obesity, the online resources and tools can empower people to make healthier food choices for themselves, their families, and their children.”Family eating at a table

They suggest the following food tips on helping children develop healthy eating habits:

  1. Set a good example.
  2. Offer a variety of foods
  3. Start small with portions
  4. Help them know when they’ve had enough
  5. Follow a meal and snack schedule
  6. Make mealtime a family time
  7. Cope with a picky eater
  8. Help them try new foods
  9. Make food fun

MyPlate illustrates the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet using a familiar image – a place setting for a meal. Before you eat, think about what goes on your plate or in your cup or bowl.

 

ChooseMyPlate has a variety of posters and and other and other tools that parents and students can download. My favorite is this race car made of broccoli, carrots, blueberries, celery, and more. 

fruit and veggie race car poster

In In addition, the  site offers curriculum resources for the following grade levels:

The USDA Department of Agriculture has a great meal planning worksheet that parents and other food providers can print and use to plan weekly menus that meet the requirements for various age groups.

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James and I also took an online course called Creating Healthy Lunchrooms offered by Cornell University. They suggested some basic principles for creating a positive lunchroom environment. Those principles are:

Bento Boxes make mealtime fun
  • Manage portion sizes.  In other words, avoid buffet style food service that allows children to serve themselves.
  • Increase convenience. Make it easy for them to select healthier options by simply removing the unhealthy options. Rather than have cookies and chips to choose from, allow them to choose between apple slices or orange slices. In other words, if the unhealthy option isn’t available, there’s no discussion.
  • Improve visibility. While we may not have time to assemble the creative rice pandas (photo above) on daily basis, we can use tools-such as cookie cutters-to create heart-shaped sandwiches, put grapes or carrots in colorful cupcake papers, or top a sandwich with a cheese smile and quinoa freckles.
  • Enhance taste expectations with flavorful dips, such as honey-mustard or yogurt.

Another way to make lunchtime healthy and fun is to find ways to keep mealtimes interesting and fun.  Offer a small amount of many different foods in a variety of colorful bento-style containers. Pick a theme that will tap into your student’s creative sides. Here’s a few ideas.

  • Mexican food Mondays can be days that students can build their own burritos or top their own nachos with chopped lettuce, olives, and tomatoes,
  • Do da dip! Cut a baked chicken breast into strips. Serve alongside a small bowl of honey mustard or bar-b-que sauce for dipping. Add carrots and broccoli or kiwi and strawberries to dip in a honey-yogurt dressing.
Inside Out
Inside Out
  • Inside out: Make Inside Out place mats and use them to serve inside out sandwiches such as turkey lettuce wraps.
  • Cut sandwiches into fun shapes, add colorful fruits and vegetables in different sizes, and pack yummy dips such as fat-free or low-fat yogurt or hummus. Hummus is packed with nutrition and easy to prepare. There are also many store bought varieties.

Salad bar BOOM! Keep fresh vegetables, fruits, and grains available as a main course option.

My favorite hummus recipe 

hummusIngredients

  • 4 clove garlic
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 2 tbsp. tahini
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Pinch ground red pepper (cayenne)
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Pita bread wedges
  • Assorted fresh vegetables

Directions

  1. In 1-quart saucepan, heat 2 cups water to boiling over high heat. Add garlic and cook 3 minutes to blanch; drain.
  2. From lemon, grate 1 teaspoon peel and squeeze 3 tablespoons juice. In food processor with knife blade attached, combine beans, tahini, garlic, lemon peel and juice, oil, water, salt, and ground red pepper. Puree until smooth. Transfer to platter; cover and refrigerate up to 4 hours. To serve, sprinkle with paprika and cilantro, if using. Serve with pita bread wedges and fresh vegetables.