Dear Judith…

Last week I asked the group what food questions they have. I’m no “expert,” but I have been making family meals for almost 13 years and I have a small arsenal of ideas to keep everyone happy. Boy did you deliver. Over the next few weeks, I’ll answer those questions the best I can; I welcome your feedback, comments, and additional questions.

Can you help me with some recipes for healthy meals?

There’s an old saying that a home contractor can be affordable, timely, or do high quality work. Now choose two. Cooking is the same way. Ideally, a meal should be healthy, easy and tasty, but rarely can one get all three. Food being a highly subjective matter, it’s impossible to accommodate every taste all the time. Here are some of our favorite healthy dinners, tried and true from our family of five.

Salmon Teriyaki: Couldn’t be easier, and the sweetness of the sauce appeals to lots of kids. Cover a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Get some fresh or defrosted salmon fillets and lay them skin side down. Cover with teriyaki sauce and bake at 350F for 20 minutes. The flesh should be cooked through but soft and the skin may stick to the foil but you should be able to lift the fish away from the pan intact. Serve with white or brown rice, baked potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes*, or whole wheat pasta with an olive pile and garlic sauce. Add some steamed spinach or broccoli to round it off.

Tacos: Tacos are a great way to stuff veggies into a meal. Kids love them because they can choose their own stuffing and eat with their hands. Use ground turkey, shredded chicken breast, veggie-based crumble, beans, or even leftover salmon teriyaki for protein. For toppings you can use the classic lettuce-salsa-cheese combo or experiment with Asian slaw** (great with leftover salmon), or apple and avocado slices. Corn-based shells are gluten-free — check the box to be sure — and soft shells add minimally to the meal’s carb load. If you really want to be carb free, gather your protein and toppings in lettuce leaves, wrap them up, and eat like dumplings. Or throw everything in a bowl and make it taco salad.

Turkey, veggie or low-fat beef burgers: The classic American meal can be made more healthy by using a low-fat patty. I recommend ground turkey (85% lean, more if using ground chicken or turkey breast), ground sirloin (93% lean), or veggie burger (varies by brand). You can use a whole-wheat or multigrain bun and load up on healthy toppings. Some ideas include lettuce, tomatoes, baby spinach leaves, sautéed mushrooms, onions, pickles, guacamole, cucumber slices, and feta cheese. Skip the fries and serve with fruit, salad, or sautéed onions and mushrooms.

Chili: Whether you use a mix or make it from scratch, chili is great for winter and fundamentally healthy as long as you watch the salt. Throw all ingredients in a slow-cooker in the morning and let the flavor mix all day. Add black and kidney beans, onions, extra tomatoes and bell peppers to increase the nutrition. I like my chili with meat, but some use soy ground or bulgar for texture. Serve over rice, pasta, with tortillas or wrap in lettuce as above.

Soups: Soups*** are a great venue for added veggies, just watch out for sodium. Most soups are easy to make at home and slow cooker friendly. Serve with a crusty whole grain bread to complete the meal. It’s usually better the next day and you can freeze the leftovers for a quick healthy meal.

Kabobs: Grab some skewers and put the kids to work threading meat and veggies. With infinite variations, kabobs are a great way to build a healthy dinner. The classic preparation uses marinated lamb as the protein, but you can use beef, chicken, tofu, fish or none. Onions are a great compliment to whatever you choose, and I usually add bell peppers, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. You can also add any produce item that can be threaded and cooks quickly in small pieces (or good raw): eggplant, zucchini, baby corn, pineapple, etc. serve with white or brown rice, couscous, or pilaf.

*Mashed sweet potatoes: Poke a hole in the skin of 2 large sweet potatoes. Microwave until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Scoop flesh into a bowl and mash. Taste and add a pinch or two of salt and a pat of butter if you think it needs that.

**Asian slaw recipe: http://www.food.com/recipe/awesome-asian-slaw-61492

***My mom’s soup au pistou: combine two cups each of chopped onions, carrots and potatoes. Cook over medium heat until soft, about 30 minutes. Add a can of beans (kidney, white, or navy), a cup of green beans, crumbs from two slices of bread, and 1/3 cup pasta. In a small food processor grind together six cloves garlic, two tablespoons tomato paste, 1/8 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Grind these well then add to soup while it’s hot.

____________________

Judith is our Active Mama’s Munchie Maven and Yoga Maven. That means she teaches Active Mama’s Cooking Basics Chef classes, and is also our instructor for Active Mama’s Mommy Yoga with Judith.

Judith is refreshingly laid back, exceptional at what she does, and is the able mother of 3 beautiful children.

Judith comes well-accredited. She earned her Masters of Public Health and her passion is helping people find ways to make their lives healthier.

If you have questions for Judith she can be messaged through http://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas

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