Empowering Kids to Eat Right

 Shop Smart. Cook Healthy. Eat Right. 

“Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.” ~ Guy Fieri

Kids are adventurous. They love to learn and they love to make choices for themselves. But when it comes to food, we often limit the contribution and role children can have in the shopping and cooking process.

When I was still in my undergraduate program, myself and some other students visited several elementary school classes, with kids ranging from age 5-10. Each time we went to the schools, we brought a variety of vegetables, some familiar and some less familiar, like jicama. We didn’t go into the class and start by talking about how healthy the items were that we brought in. We simply presented them with a colorful variety of foods to eat and answered any questions the kids asked. Raw sugar snap peas, asparagus, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, jicama, and carrot sticks. I was shocked at how many kids tried each one of the veggies offered–even those they had never seen before. No questions, they just picked it up and ate it. Of course, some of them may have played with the asparagus stalk for a minute or made veggie faces on their plates before chowing down, but so what? They had fun with it, they ate what they enjoyed and left behind what they didn’t like.

Allowing children to be creative and empowering them to be involved in the selection of fruits and veggies at the grocery store will lead to fewer battles at the dinner table.

The Kids Eat Right campaign is bringing attention to the importance of healthy nutrition and active lifestyles for children and families during the month of August. The Kids Eat Right site is filled with kid-friendly recipes and tips for getting kids involved in grocery shopping and cooking in the kitchen. You can also follow Kids Eat Right on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

To help celebrate the Kids Eat Right campaign, I created this recipe for Jicama Apple Slaw–a crunchy, colorful, and slightly sweet slaw that kids will love! The Kids Eat Right team developed a video for the recipe–see just how easy this recipe is and how kids can help out in the kitchen!


Image courtesy of Kids Eat Right

Summer Breakfast Quinoa Salad

breakfast quinoa 2Keen-wah.


Now that we all can pronounce quinoa, lets learn a little more about this tiny, fluffy grain. Well really I should say “pseudo-grain”. Quinoa is cooked and eaten like many grains, but botanically is related to beets, spinach, and chard. Weird, huh? Did you know you can also eat the leaves of the plant?

Quinoa is a nutrition powerhouse–a complete protein source, heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, good source of fiber, and rich in antioxidants. No other grain provides all of the essential amino acids like quinoa does, which makes it a great addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

This recipe is great because it can be quantified easily and modified to your liking with the fruit add-ins. I like to make enough to last for 2 days and always prep the salad the night before so it’s ready to go in the morning! Quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor but can be rather bland so spice it up by cooking quinoa with a cinnamon stick, or maybe add in some ground ginger!

Have you tried any quinoa breakfast salads? What’s your favorite way to use quinoa–granola bars, casseroles, baked goods?

breakfast quinoa

Summer Breakfast Quinoa Salad

1/2 cup tricolor quinoa
1 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. chopped almonds
2 fresh apricots, diced
6 Bing cherries, stem and pit removed, cut in half
1/2 small Granny Smith apple, diced
2 Tbsp. golden raisins
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. honey
About 1 Tbsp coconut milk per 1/2 cup serving of quinoa salad, if desired

1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly with water, draining with a fine mesh sieve.
2. In a small saucepan, add quinoa, water, cinnamon stick, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat while covered, then reduce heat to medium and allow quinoa to cook for 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff quinoa with a fork and remove cinnamon stick. Allow quinoa to cool completely.
3. Mix in chopped almonds, diced apricots, cherries, apples, and golden raisins.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together lime juice and honey. Add to quinoa mixture.
5. Add about 1 tablespoon of coconut milk per 1/2 cup serving of quinoa salad prior to eating. You don’t want the quinoa to become mushy, so only add coconut milk once ready to serve. Salad will keep in the refrigerator for 2 days.

{Recipe Redux} Port Wine & Bing Cherry Pops

A recipe with spirit! Literally. cherry pops This month’s Recipe Redux theme is a lively one as we were challenged to use liqueurs, extracts, and other alcohol in our recipes. I’ve been wanting to make popsicles (haven’t made any yet this summer!), so this was the perfect opportunity to create something a little unconventional. cherry pops2 A couple years ago, I helped out with a wine and cheese pairing class at the Salud! Cooking School at Whole Foods and tried port wine for this first time. I wish I could remember the name of it because it was soooo good. Since then I’ve been in search of a similar port, but have learned a few things along the way about the different types of port wine. I prefer the Tawny variety, which is sweet dessert wine that’s fortified with brandy. Normally I pair Tawny with dark chocolates, but when I came across some perfectly in-season cherries, I thought this would be a match made in heaven for frozen treats! The out-of-place-but-totally-necessary ingredient in this recipe is coconut milk. Just trust me on this on this one. Add the coconut milk and don’t look back. You’ll be glad you did. Besides adding a some creaminess to the popsicles, it lends just the slightest coconut flavor that will leave people wondering what it is they’re tasting as they devour the frozen treat. How many popsicles you end up with depends on the size of the molds you have. You’ll have approximately 14 ounces of liquid to use for popsicle-making.

Port Wine & Bing Cherry Pops

2 cups bing cherries, cut in half, stem and pit removed
1/2 cup Tawny Port wine
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar, divided
1 tsp. lime juice
1/2 cup light coconut milk

1. In a small saucepan, heat cherries, port wine, water, sugar, and lime juice over medium heat for 15 minutes, or until cherries are softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
2. Puree cherry mixture in a blender. This should make about 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Pour liquid into a bowl or glass measuring cup and allow to cool completely in the refrigerator.
3. Pour coconut milk into a small saucepan and add sugar. Allow sugar to dissolve into coconut milk over low heat. Once sugar is dissolved remove pan from heat.
4. Combine the cherry-wine liquid and the coconut milk in a pitcher or large measuring cup that will allow for easy pouring into popsicle molds. You should have about 1 3/4 cup of liquid total. Fill popsicle molds.
5. Let popsicles set in freezer for at least 8 hours. To remove popsicles from mold, run cool water over popsicle mold for about 60 seconds. You’ll see the popsicle start to release from the sides of the mold, then you can gently remove the popsicle.

Need more boozy recipes? Check out the other Recipe Redux submissions by clicking on the blue frog below! Stay cool!

{Meals for One} Shiitake & Avocado Sammie

Who doesn’t love a good sammie? Especially in the summer time when it’s too hot to eat anything else except salad.

Shiitake mushrooms are perfect for vegetarian sandwiches because they have a hearty texture and rich flavor. Plus, they’re loaded with good-for-you vitamins and minerals, such as pantothenic acid, vitamin B2, and selenium. The cool and creamy avocado pairs well with the shiitakes and provolone cheese.

Make sure you choose a hearty, crusty bread for this sandwich to stand up to the hearty shiitakes. Nobody likes a wimpy sandwich. Just look at it…that sandwich is fierce.

shiitake avo sammie2

Shiitake & Avocado Sammie

Olive oil
Shiitake mushrooms (about 6 caps)
1 thin slice of white onion
Pinch of garlic powder
2 slices quality bread (I used an Italian Rosemary bread)
1 slice Provolone cheese
1/2 ripe avocado

1. In a skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add shiitake mushroom caps and saute for about 5 minutes, flipping occasionally.
2. Add 1 tablespoon water, onions, and garlic powder to the skillet and allow water to evaporate.
3. While the onions and mushrooms continue to cook, toast bread lightly in a toaster oven. Once toasted, add provolone cheese to one piece of bread so it can melt slightly.
4. Spread the avocado on the other piece of bread and sprinkle just a pinch of salt over the avocado.
5. Arrange the mushrooms and onions on the avocado, then top with the cheesy bread slice.


{Recipe Redux}Lavender & Basil Summer Fruit Salad

The June Recipe Redux challenge was to make recipes bloom with floral flavors like lavender, rose, and other flowering herbs. This summer fruit salad has been elevated with the addition of lavender, basil, and fresh lime juice—you won’t be able to get enough!  You can make the syrup ahead of time and just drizzle over fresh fruit before serving. Be sure to enjoy this fruit salad within a day before the fruit becomes mushy.

I’ve been dreaming of other ways to use this simple honey-based floral syrup. It’s just begging to be used in a cocktail. What do you think?

fruit salad3


Lavender Summer Fruit Salad

Lavender-Basil Syrup (makes about 2 oz. of syrup)
1/4 cup lime juice
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. dried lavender buds (food grade)
1/2 tsp. Aristotle basil or finely minced sweet basil (see note)

1 cup watermelon cubes
1/2 cup blueberries
2 fresh peaches, diced
1 cup grapes

1. In a small saucepan, heat honey and lime juice over medium heat until combined. Allow to heat through for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and add lavender buds and basil leaves. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
2. In a medium bowl,

*Note: I have this cute little Aristotle basil plant in my kitchen that I’m in love with. Yes, I’m in love with a plant. The leaves are so tiny that they don’t require chopping before adding to dishes, but have all the same flavor as the standard sweet basil plants with large leaves. You can certainly use the larger basil leaves in this recipe, just be sure to chop very fine.

fruit salad2

The Greek Peach

the greek peach

Summer seems to be in full swing, even though we technically still have two weeks until the official first day of summer. The days have been hot and humid in Nashville. With summer comes many great things in Music City: Musician’s Corner at Centennial Park, Live on the Green, Tomato Art Festival, neighborhood farmer’s markets, and the Peach Truck. Each week, I faithfully pick up a bag of sweet Georgia peaches from the Peach Truck.

My preferred method of peach consumption is Peaches & Ricotta on Toast, or just a good ‘ol peach by itself. Absolutely delightful. But if I have a few remaining peaches that are slightly past perfection, I throw them into a smoothie like this one. It’s a sin to waste a peach as good as these.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy summer peaches?

The Greek Peach

2 fresh peaches, diced
1/4 cup honey flavored Greek yogurt
2 fl. oz. Orange Carrot juice, or 100% orange juice
1/2 cup crushed ice (optional)

1. In a blender, combine all ingredients until smooth. Serve immediately.

{Recipe Redux} Green Tea & Goji Grahams

goji grahams

This month’s Recipe Redux theme is all about tea–bubble tea, flavored teas, baking/cooking with tea. It’s TEA TIME!

I’m always down for a good cup of tea, but I’m partial to green teas. And my favorite variety of green tea of all time? Matcha! There seems to be a Matcha madness going around at the moment. Just read Janet Helm’s post about food trends at the National Restaurant Association show that took place last weekend on her blog, Nutrition Unplugged.

Matcha has a strong, vegetal flavor and when it’s whisked with hot milk, is just absolutely heavenly. Starbucks serves Green Tea Lattes, which are made with Matcha powder, but I would suggest requesting half the amount of simple syrup to spare yourself from a sugar-overload.

Have you tried Matcha or used it in baking? I think this will be my next Matcha mission. For more tea-infused treats, click the blue frog below to see the full collection of Recipe Redux creations!

You can make as many of these guys as your heart desires and add the berries and Matcha to your liking, so there are no exact servings or measurements for this recipe. Just have fun with it!

Green Tea & Goji Grahams

Graham crackers
Dark chocolate chips
Dried Goji berries
Matcha Green Tea powder

1. Break or cut the graham crackers squares into halves and chop the dried Goji berries into small pieces. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Set up a double boiler by placing a small glass bowl on top of a small saucepan filled with water. Water should not be touching the bottom of the bowl. Heat water to a simmer, allowing the steam to keep the glass bowl evenly heated.
3. Doing one graham cracker at a time, dip half of the graham into the chocolate and smooth out the chocolate with a spatula. There is no need to coat the underside of the graham.
4. Sprinkle a few Goji berries on the chocolate and set the graham on the parchment paper, allowing chocolate to cool before sprinkling with Matcha powder.
5. Keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Creamy Peach Habanero Dip

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.


This is one of the easiest, most delicious dips on the planet. My mom has been making a Hot Pepper Peach Cheeseball for years now, and it’s the only cheeseball I’ll even consider eating. Let’s face it, they typically are not the healthiest party appetizer because in addition to the cream cheese, you’ll usually find bacon and more shredded cheese mixed in.

Well this is a slight improvement from a standard cheeseball. The main component is still cream cheese, but by choosing the 1/3 less fat variety rather than the full fat, you can save a total of 250 calories and 40 grams of fat.  To make a creamier, easier-to-spread-on-your-cracker dip, I added plain Greek yogurt. And there is no need for salt. I repeat…no need for salt.

I served my Creamy Peach Habanero Dip with Breton Gluten Free Original with Flax crackers and Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic crackers. If you missed my last post about gluten, read it here. These crackers are perfect to take to a gathering because anyone who follows a strict gluten free diet can enjoy them, and those who eat gluten will enjoy them just as much as regular crackers! Everyone is happy and all is well.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers in the world (especially my Mom!) :)


Creamy Peach Habanero Dip

8 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Peach Habanero Jam
1/8 tsp. garlic powder

1. Allow cream cheese to soften by removing from refrigerator 1 hour before making dip.
2. In a small bowl, cream together the cream cheese, Greek yogurt, jam, and garlic powder until smooth.
3. Serve with Breton Gluten Free Original Flax Crackers or Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic crackers.
4. Keep dip refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Gluten Free Southwest Turkey Meatballs with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce

By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by Dare Foods Incorporated and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.


May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month, so Dare Foods and some of the Recipe Redux crew have teamed up to create delicious, gluten free recipes using Breton crackers.

breton crackersOverall, gluten free products have come along way in recent years, which is good news for individuals who are on a gluten-free diet to avoid the terrible side effects of Celiac disease. But even as a wheat-eater, I was impressed with the texture and crispness of Breton gluten free crackers, and my friends had no idea they were gluten free until I told them (surprise!).

So what is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat that provides dough with elasticity, giving bread a chewy texture. Gluten can also be found in non-food products like cosmetics, hair products,  crayons, and some medicines. Alternative flours, like chickpea flour, potato flour, rice flour, and many more, are used in place of wheat flour to create gluten free products. The Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic crackers are made with arrowroot flour and green lentil flour.

These Southwest Turkey Meatballs are the perfect party appetizer, and could easily be made into patties to create turkey burgers for the next backyard BBQ. Just remember the gluten free buns for your gluten free friends!

Have you tried any gluten free recipes that you love? Please share below and be sure to click the blue frog below to see more gluten free recipe ideas featuring Breton Gluten Free crackers!

Southwest Turkey Meatballs with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce

1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey
1/4 cup black beans, rinsed and roughly chopped
6 Breton Gluten Free Herb and Garlic crackers, chopped fine
1 large egg
2 green onions, sliced thin (white part only)
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Avocado-Cilantro Sauce
1 ripe avocado, mashed
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
2 tsp. 2% milk
1 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1/2 tsp. lime juice
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 400°F and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs.
3. Once the meatball mixture is mixed well, roll into 1″ diameter balls and place on baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 165°F is reached.
4. While the meatballs are baking, mix together ingredients for the Avocado-Cilantro Sauce. The sauce should have a smooth consistency.
5. Remove the meatballs from the baking sheet and place on serving platter along with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce. Serve immediately or just reheat in microwave for 45 seconds.


{Meals for One} Mediterranean Spring Salad

I’ve already made this salad about 10 times in the past month. I LOVE it. I CRAVE it. What makes this salad so good in my book? It’s all about the “dressing”. The kalamata olive juice, feta cheese, creamy avocado, olive oil, and black pepper combine perfectly to make a heavenly dressing that I can’t get enough of. No need to add any Ranch, Caesar or Italian dressing–they would over power all of the wonderful flavors happening in the salad bowl.

This will make one large dinner salad, but you can easily quantify this recipe for a family or to take along to upcoming summer BBQ’s and picnics!

Mediterranean Spring Salad

1 heart of romaine, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 small cucumber, quartered
4 kalamata olives + 1 Tbsp. olive juice
1/4 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/2 small, ripe avocado, cubed
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Black pepper, to taste

Add each prepped ingredient to a large mixing bowl. Using salad tongs or a fork, combine ingredients, making sure that the avocado becomes slightly mashed to create a dressing.