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Healthy

Cooking with Kids, Healthy, Vegetables

Healthy snacks for the back to school frenzy

August 18, 2015

Recently, my friend Katy asked if I had any suggestions for healthy snacks for young people. Her high school aged daughter is a dancer, and finding lunchbox and afternoon snacks that offered nutritional value and not just empty calories was a challenge. I’ve got two swimmers and a runner in my household, and now that school has resumed, I’ve been asking myself the same question. Truly nutritious snacks take more thought than that oversized box of Sun Chips from Costco, and it’s not easy when you’re operating at break-neck, back-to-school speed.

For advice, I shot an email to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, an international leader in nutritional research and a sometimes overlooked local resource here in Baton Rouge. In addition to ground-breaking metabolic research, Pennington also has lots of easy recipes and healthy eating tips. PBRC staff members Alisha Prather and Stephanie Malin fired back a list of kid-tested snacks that don’t require a ton of ingredients.

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4th of July, Farmers Markets, Fresh produce, Healthy, Local, Tomatoes, Vegetables

5 fast and easy uses for summer tomatoes

July 8, 2015

Fresh local tomatoes are ripening in full force around the country, and at no time during the year will they taste this authentic, this juicy and this meaty. But the pressure to enjoy each and every precious one is killing me. I bought a bunch last week at our farmers market, and then my mother-in-law plied me with a big bag — an overrun from her brother’s wildly productive garden. We’re using tomatoes as fast as we can around here in BLTs, cucumber and tomato salads and tomato sandwiches on shamelessly squishy white bread. I love them diced over morning eggs, and nowadays, a simple plate of sliced tomatoes replaces a requisite green salad at dinnertime.

But what else can you do with fresh juicy summer tomatoes? Plenty. Here are a few ideas to make sure none of those tasty beauties goes to waste.

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4th of July, Corn, Farmers Markets, Fresh produce, Healthy, Herbs, Local, Louisiana, One Pot, Soups, Squash

Corn and squash soup brims with summer goodness

July 1, 2015

One of the easiest ways to use fresh summer produce is in a luscious seasonal soup. I know, it’s hot outside, but your AC is probably on full blast, and soup is an inside dish. Corn soup (…and its many versions) is a longtime favorite around South Louisiana, but adding squash to the mix creates depth and wholesome goodness. Thanks to the Red Stick Farmers Market for planting the seed with their annual Corn & Squash-tastic event last Saturday celebrating the summer bounty. The idea of combining the two got stuck in my head and led to this simple recipe, which gives me a chance to do something different with yellow squash. I admit to getting stuck sometimes on expanding my use for it.

This soup tastes rich, but it’s really pretty healthy. A portion of the corn is pureed with a little broth to create a creamy consistency without actually using cream.

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Healthy, Herbs, Pasta, Salads, Seafood

Backyard basil pesto a fresh blast of summer

June 17, 2015

OK, it may sound so nineties, but pesto remains one of summer’s tastiest and most versatile condiments. Made fast with homegrown basil, mint, spinach or other seasonal green stuff, it’s useful spread on sandwiches, drizzled in soup, tossed in pasta or draped between thick slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. By now – mid-June – the basil many of us planted this spring is high, lush and screaming to be harvested. And f you live in a hot climate like I do, the leaves you pick today will quickly replenish throughout the summer, because basil is an herb that likes to be used.

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Desserts, Healthy, Hungry for Louisiana, Local, Louisiana, Southern, Strawberries

From the fresh strawberry file…mmm…sorbet

April 16, 2015

I live with four people who love gooey, chocolate-y, creamy desserts, dense cookies and brownies and oversized bowls of ice cream. No shortage of SweetTooths in this house. But I admit to preferring the palate cleanser, something cool, light and nuanced that rounds out a meal without making me lose consciousness. And as the weather has started to warm up, I’m thinking sorbet is the thing.

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Easy, Fruit, Healthy, Local, Louisiana, Strawberries

Strawberry salsa bursts with spring flavor

April 14, 2015

I’m a huge fan of salsa. I love a green salsa with tangy tomatillos. Gimme fresh tomato salsa, heavy on the cilantro and garlic. And I’ve always loved fruit salsas. Mango is the workhorse and is one of my favorite toppers for cedar-roasted fish. Pineapple salsa also works great on grilled fish, pork and fowl. And now with strawberries in full seasonal swing in Louisiana and elsewhere, it’s a great time for strawberry salsa.

This past weekend, I had a chance to sample fresh strawberry salsa made with local berries at a pop-up event held outside Alexander’s Highland Market, a gourmet grocer here in Baton Rouge. World renowned obesity and nutrition research center, Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC), also located in Baton Rouge, had a booth at the pop-up along with several local food entrepreneurs. I was there signing copies of Hungry for Louisiana. PBRC Communications Director Alisha Prather and respected research pathologist Jennifer Rood were handing out samples of this healthy fruit salsa, which you can also make with fresh blueberries. It’s light, flavorful and versatile and was developed in-house at Pennington.

Louisiana Spring Salsa

Makes 2 cups

1 pint strawberries, washed and diced, or ½ pint blueberries, washed and sliced in half
¼ of 1 medium red onion, finely diced (I used ¼ cup)
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
Juice from ½ lime (about 1 tbsp.)

Combine all ingredients and serve on salads, fish, chicken, chips or cheese and crackers. Use within a day.

Nutrition facts per ½ cup serving

Calories: 35
Protein: 0.5 g
Carbohydrates: 8 g
Fat: 0.5 g
Fiber: 2 g

Maggie’s variation with avocado and jalapeño

Being an avocado junkie and a fan of heat, I added the following to Pennington’s recipe.

Half of 1 ripe avocado, diced
1 tbsp. chopped fresh jalapeno pepper
Juice from remaining half lime

For additional healthy recipes developed by Pennington, click here.