Tag Archives: Conscious Cooking

3 Things To Make Earth Day Every Day

Today is  Earth Day. Over one billion people are participating in Earth Day events across the globe in an effort to solve/save the climate crisis. This year’s focus will be on Green Cities, mobilizing a movement to create a healthy and sustainable environment by taking action in urban populations. There are many ways you can help save our Earth, even from your own home, today and every day. Through the food choices you make for each meal, you can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint and can also benefit your own health.

Box Play for Kids Earth day_1

1) EAT MORE VEGETABLES

Simply by adding more and more vegetables and fruits into each and every meal is the first step in making the right choices. Not only are nature’s vibrant colors and flavors exciting to eat, you get a multitude of nutrients with “Eating the Rainbow” every day. Consuming this naturally colorful variety of foods can strengthen your immune system, reduce risk of diseases and illnesses, and build a strong body and mind. Follow this one simple rule, whether for a juice, salad, snack, or a soup: Check to see that all colors are included to make for a wholesome, naturally nutritious meal. For each meal, fill half your plate with veggies first to ensure you are getting enough nutrients each day. Take this even further by incorporating Meatless Mondays into your family’s life (and then maybe a second or third night too!) Vegetable proteins such as legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu and leafy greens are just as easy to prepare and just as flavorful when you set your mind to it.

Box Play for Kids Earth day_2

2) EAT LOCAL

Not only is eating local food better for the environment by burning less fuel, it’s also better for your health. The less distance a food has to travel, the fresher it is. Eating locally also means eating seasonal foods, thus naturally giving your body a healthy balance with nature. From CSAs to farmer’s markets to pick-your-own farms, by eating local, you are able to support the local economy, can truly know where your food comes from, and most importantly, reap the benefits of the freshest, most flavorful, and nutrient-rich produce. Go to localharvest.org or pickyourown.org to see what local produce is available near you. Or, if you have a few flower pots, or a little bit of land, start by growing a small herb garden, or a few vegetables, so you can reap the benefits of growing some of your own food. Not only do you reduce your environmental impact, you save money, waste less food, and enjoy the accomplishment of nurturing your own nutrients, with no question of chemicals and processing. The kids love it too!

Box Play for Kids Earth day_3

3) UNPROCESS YOUR FOOD

If meat is an integral part of your diet, then make sure to be knowledgeable and purchase meat and animal by-products (dairy, eggs) that are organic, pastured or grass-fed. Aside from all the hormones and antibiotics given to factory-farmed animals because of their cramped “living” conditions, they’re being fed GMO grains. These unnatural interventions ultimately affects the consumer, even if the taste and texture may be the same. Also, did you know that the largest contributing factor to global warming is the raising and production of the meat on our plates? Processing of all foods also damages our earth. Look at how Industry, marketing and convenience have completely changed the way so many of us eat today, so many foods come in colorful packages and have long shelf lives – it’s everywhere! Pesticides, antibiotics, artificial colorings, flavorings, modified/mutated foods, formulated to make foods convenient and addictive. As a result, we’re faced with the rise in chronic diseases, many which are now affecting our children. Avoiding “Big Food” factory products will save the earth as well as save your own health and the health of the ones you love. Unprocessing your food may go against the grain of today’s society, but in order to make a change that is not only good for your own body, but also good for the environment, this change is a lifestyle, not a fad diet.

BUY                                                                               AVOID
• Organic (avoid pesticides/antibiotics)                  • Refined grains (white flour, white rice)
• Local foods (support your farmers market)        • Refined sweeteners (sugar, corn syrup)
• Whole ingredients, whole grains                           • Factory farmed meat and seafood
• Non-GMO (why mess with nature?)                      • Boxes, bags and cans (you know the ones!)
• Plenty of fruits and vegetables                              • Refined oils (canola, safflower…)

It’s all about making smart, clean, healthy choices and being conscious of what you eat. Doing this will make the earth’s body, your body, your children’s bodies feel better, function optimally, and be vibrant.

Christine Wong is the loving mother of two healthy eaters, she is also a Certified Health and Wellness Coach working with parents who want to improve the health and well-being for themselves and their families. Find out about her coaching program by scheduling a free one-hour health consultation at: christine@c-cooking.com.

Eating Nature’s Rainbow

veggies

Lately, a few moms have asked me about getting or “sneaking” the veggies into their kids’ meals. The state of the Standard American Diet and conglomerates have pushed these essential healthy foods aside. We’ve been so accustomed to a meat and potatoes (mainly in the form of french fries) diet. Most times, you’re hard-pressed to even find a fresh vegetable on a kids’ menu!
By eating fresh vegetables, especially all the green, leafy ones, you can naturally crowd out the foods that can make you sick. Nutritionally loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, there are plenty of ways to make children “learn” to love them! Toddlers are especially at a great age to start them off with healthy eating habits, and, like with anything else, setting a good example with your own diet will help encourage kids to not make a fuss.

My kids are older, and they’ve always been good with vegetables, but I’ve seen kids painstakingly eat (and dramatically almost “gag”) on raw vegetables, in order to get the dessert. Once, I challenged kids (mine and a friend’s) to see who can eat the most green beans at a Chinese restaurant – they love a bit of competition, even when it’s getting the greens in (we had to order another plate!) Even the littlest of them love a “challenge” especially when parents (my great friends) are struggling to feed them. All I do is ask if I can eat their food, and pretend to be ready to be fed. It’s like a game, and, of course, the child wins. They would rather finish up their own meal, than to share, and are proud of their own accomplishment, sneaking mouthfuls of veggies away from me. It works every time.

Cooking at home is ideal, as you have control over the quality and freshness of ingredients; the flexibility of using a variety of ingredients and flavors; and the piece of mind that you and your family are eating healthily.

If your child has an aversion to vegetables, here are some ideas to add (“sneak”) them into some favorite foods.

smoothie

1. DRINKS
Have a juicer or blender? Fresh fruit-based juices and smoothies are a great way to add vegetables in. With all the natural sweetness, adding some kale, spinach, celery, red cabbage or carrots will go unnoticed. The more you do this, the easier it will be to continue to add more vegetables in, cutting back on the sweetness.

2. OMELETS 
Veggies in the morning? Having a selection of prepared vegetable fillings to choose from  empowers kids to create their very own meal. Mushrooms, spinach, onion, peppers, broccoli, tomatoes…colorful choices for a colorful and healthy start to the day.

soup

3. SOUP
Easy to make, soup is a great start to any meal. High in nutrients, you can ensure that essential vitamins and minerals are being consumed with every spoonful. Babies start out on solid foods with a plethora of pureed vegetables, so why not continue from there and keep this as an essential part of your family’s lunch or dinner? Any vegetable will work with a simple soup base of onion, celery, water and teaspoon of salt. You can make a smooth and delicious cauliflower soup (try the purple one sometime!) beetroot, or butternut squash soup.

Chicken noodle soup is also an all-time favorite and a great stock to add any and all vegetables to. Making soup from scratch is just a matter of chopping up vegetables, adding either some chicken, plenty of water and a teaspoon of salt. I find that using the leftover carcass of a roast chicken is the best way to make use of the bones which adds a lot of flavor to the broth (using a soup bag will save you from fishing them out before serving). A good rule of thumb is to try to incorporate at LEAST five vegetables, of a variety of colors. I always add a cup or two of greens (peas, zucchini, broccoli or shredded leafy greens like spinach or kale) ten minutes before serving, so that they retain their vibrant green color and are not over-cooked.

potato pancakes

4. POTATO-VEGGIE PANCAKES
Need an alternative to the beloved french fry? Potato pancakes with chopped onion, shredded carrot, zucchini, or summer squash is already getting 4 more vegetables consumed without sacrificing the familiarity of starch and the beloved potato.

5. RAGU/SPAGHETTI SAUCE
Whenever I make a traditional meat sauce, I always add chop up a couple of carrots and celery sticks for added nutrients and flavor. You can do this by hand, BUT if you have a very picky-vegetable eater, blend the sauce, before adding the meat so that there aren’t any vegetable pieces to pick out.

6. DUMPLINGS or EMPANADAS
Anything wrapped up and sealed in a sheet of dough are also great flexible and veggie-friendly vehicles. Just add, cook and season your vegetables, the same way you would the meat.

fried rice

7. FRIED RICE
Using rice as a base, it doesn’t take much to make a substantial meal. Usually I chop up whatever meat that is left over from a previous dinner, and add a variety of freshly chopped leafy green and cruciferous vegetables as well as a few handfuls of frozen ones. In most Chinese restaurants, the ratio of rice to other ingredients is 90:10, but at home you should aim for 50:50, or even try to go for 60% good stuff to 40% carb.

baked treats

8. BAKED TREATS
I wouldn’t say it’s the ideal way to hide veggies, but adding carrot, pumpkin, zucchini and even beetroot to homemade muffins and cakes is a sweet way to integrate the vegetables, no questions asked.

For kids who love vegetables, here are two great all-veggie recipes that they will have fun helping to prepare. At any age, kids always feel a sense of accomplishment and pride when they have helped make food for themselves and the whole family.

kale

KALE CHIPS
They are deliciously light and crunchy, full of vitamins and a far better alternative to any factory-processed snack. Kids, even toddlers can help every step of the way.

Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
Wash and dry the leaves. Make sure they are thoroughly dry! Tear leaves off from the center rib, and tear into 3″ pieces &-8cm) pieces.
Put the pieces in a large bowl, pour in 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1/8 tsp sea salt. Using your fingertips, toss and coat each leaf (all the nooks and crannies) evenly.
Place on baking trays lined with parchment paper, without letting any pieces touch each other.
Bake for 9-12 minutes, until lightly crisp. Rotate the baking trays after 5 minutes (top to bottom, front to back). Keep an eye on them for the last few minutes, and take out the pieces that have turned crisp. If the leaves turn brown, it can be very bitter, so keep checking them! Serve immediately or let cool completely and store in an airtight (if you have any left!) for up 1 day.

ratatouille's ratatouille

RATATOUILLE’S RATATOUILLE
Yes, from the brilliant Pixar film. It’s impressively beautiful and your toddler will learn how to follow a pattern at the same time! Best for you to do the chopping and the children to assemble this one.

3/4 cup (180ml) Pomi tomato puree
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp dried basil or oregano
1⁄2 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 Asian eggplant/aubergine
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow/summer squash
2-3 small plum tomatoes
1⁄2 red bell pepper
Few fresh basil or parsley leaves
Sea salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
Pour tomato puree, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the dried thyme into a baking dish. Stir in the chopped onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.
Using a mandolin, thinly slice the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes and red pepper (clean out the seeds). Of course you can use a very sharp knife and lots of patience to do this. Just try your best to make them thin, about 1/8′ (3mm) thick. The thinner the slices, the more delicate this dish is.
Make mini-stacks of the slices in sequence: Eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, red pepper. Eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, red pepper….
Arrange a few stacks at a time into prepared baking dish in a concentric spiral from the outer edge to the inside, fanning them out a bit so that you can only see the slightest bit another. “Stand” them up a little, so you can fit as many vegetable slices in as possible, but you may still have some leftover veggie slices. Save the smaller rounds for the middle.
Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with fresh thyme, basil or parsley leaves.
Cover the dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside the dish, on top of the vegetable. You can easily do this by placing a parchment sheet on top and tracing out the appropriate size with a pen. Make sure to cut inside of the line!
Bake for 40 minutes-1 hour (depending on how thick your vegetable slices are), until vegetables are soft, but not limp.
The best way to ensure using vegetables is to buy them, lots of them. Buy everything, in a spectrum of colors and flavors. Ideally it’s best to buy organic or local, but as long as you’re buying and incorporating them into most meals, it’s a great start!

Christine is a mom of two veggie-loving kids (who, yes, it’s true, sometimes fight over green vegetables). She will become a certified Holistic Health Coach in August 2014. Follow her blog or instagram for the recipes and more ideas and tips.