color us healthy

It’s a new school year, and I’m trying to start the school year with #goals. As a family, we have worked all summer to cook together and try new foods… Mainly produce items and colors but we tried cooking some new dishes, too.

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This pic here is my attempt to track our efforts. Tracking has become a norm for me since starting weight watchers. This is just a tweak of what I’m doing on my own, really.  Every month we will use this board to keep tabs of what we cook and eat- the proteins and colors we use. We will either color in or write in what we eat… The goal to keep it balanced and get all the colors in.  If we are lacking somewhere, then we will hunt through my  cookbooks or Pinterest to find something we could try.  I have come to love having our girls in the kitchen with me.  It won’t be easy with all of our schedules, but I’m hoping this board will be a visual for me to make more of an effort.  We had some good bonding this summer over peeling, grating, sautéing, and stirring the roux FOREVER.  You can have some pretty awesome girl talk in the kitchen!  Sometimes they’re more willing to talk when you’re doing something while you chat. 😉

But in all honesty, in thinking this through, I realized I need to keep a focus on health being all-encompassing.  Because it is so much more than salads and smoothies, right?   So, we also added a workout pyramid that I adapted from the bible study “Fit to Serve”. It will be a guide to follow for how often we do different types of activity during the week.  I can already tell this will need tweaking as we go… But it’s a good place to start.  It should get them thinking a little less about couch time with candy crush and a little more about getting out and about with Pokemon Go!  Fingers crossed …

We also added a big noticeable part to focus on:  random acts of kindness.  There is a grid of ideas to get us started, but also blank squares where we can write our own onto sticky notes. In an effort to live well, it can become pretty easy to become self-focused. That is understandably so, but it really should be in balance. Getting yourself healthier is really just a basis to live and serve in the world better. My goal is to have us, as a family,  point our eyes outward into the world and see where we can add just a little drop of goodness towards others in our day to day lives.

And at the top… We will each pick a scripture for the month. Faith needs to be the foundation to it all. Each of us will choose one bible verse that we all will reference. So that means six bible verses for us as a family to learn about, talk about, and practice over the course of a month.

My hope and prayer is that we will stay focused and interactive with this. It’s a visible way to keep track of what we talk about often. We have four daughters that each learn in their own way.  Talking through things is good, but the visual of this is just another way to try and teach them how to live better…. to live well. I hope this helps develop healthier habits for all of us. It’s a way to be intentional, which is something I have been working on for awhile now.  I will follow up at the end of September with how we did.  #squadgoals in a mind-body-spirit kind of way.☺️

family produce project-purple and white asparagus

Our second week of family bonding over veggies proved to be just as fun as the first.  No, seriously.  It has been so much fun for all of us to just hang out in the kitchen, cooking and laughing together.  There may be a few moments of everyone trying to take charge and be the boss of everyone else, but honestly, if that didn’t occur in a kitchen of four daughters and a mom, I may have to look out the window for flying pigs.

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The veggies chosen this week were asparagus.  However, we didn’t choose the regular green vegetable that my girls are decent fans of.  We found both the purple and the white variety and thought we would check out how they compare to what we already know.

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In their raw state they are actually quite pretty.  I never think of white when I think of produce.  I think of bright green and deep reds and warm oranges and yellows.  Seeing a bundle of cauliflower colored stalks is just different.  They definitely have a clean, crisp Spring vibe.  If they weren’t five dollars a pound, they would even make beautiful centerpieces- the tidy bundles placed in bunches down the table’s center- tied up with pretty twine or ribbon. What a simple, rustic, natural look.

But this is a food post, not a decorating how- to, so back to the veggies. The purple stalks are just as pretty.  They are a deep, dark hue with a gorgeous texture.  And, to our surprise, once you cut into it, the inside is green!

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When we got these home, we had to figure out how to prep the stalks for cooking.  The purple aren’t too different than regular green asparagus.  You simply wash them, snap off the ends, and chop them to the desired size.  And this really not a sad step in the produce prep, as my daughter would have you believe with her expression.  In reality, I think she’s feeling like her sister is taking too long with the we-haven’t-used-it-in-a-while carrot peeler (see below) and that she has waited longer than enough for her turn.

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The white asparagus, having a tougher outer skin, do require peeling.  The girls took turns using the vegetable peeler and got them all trimmed up.  These needed the ends snapped, too, and are more fragile to work with.  They are also smaller so we were careful to not waste too much of it in the prep. More often than not, when we got to peeling, the stalks would break at some point.  It really wasn’t a big deal since we were chopping anyway, but it was a bit of nuisance to chase rogue pieces when you’re in your peeling groove.  And our hopeful dog goes for rogue pieces of most anything, but asparagus are not one   (Note the purple piece, untouched, on the floor next to him.)

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While a couple of the girls are peeling and chopping,  the other two are looking up how they want to cook these.  They all decided sautéing was the way to go.  So, they found a simple recipe of using part olive oil, part butter, garlic powder, salt and pepper, and sautéed each color separately.  They started with the purple first.  Once we got it cooking, we learned that they don’t stay purple- they turn green!

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We did a little research right then, and that is a fact of cooking purple asparagus.  They turn a green to bronze color but keep some purple accents when cooked.  There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, but if you want to retain the beautiful contrast of the purple skin and green flesh, you can eat them raw. They would look oretty to just slice them in thin pieces and add to a salad.  Never peel the purple skin off or you’ll lose the phytonutrients and antioxidant power that it’s color provides!

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All in all, both of these were a keeper.  The girls all agreed they would eat these again, so yay!  It was fun to see them try each one and do their best to decipher the different flavors and textures each provided.  The purple were preferred, maybe because they do have a slightly sweeter flavor.   The white had a slightly tender, more crisp texture to them.

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Aside from the prep and the cooking, here are a few fun facts we learned:  white asparagus are grown without light.  It’s a process called etiolation.  The dirt is kept mounded up around the emerging stalks, to keep the light away.  This prevents photosynthesis from occurring.  The plant will not produce any chlorophyll, which is what would turn it green. This is obviously labor intensive for the grower and adds to the cost of the product.  White asparagus are considered a delicacy in Europe as well.  And nutritionally speaking, one cup of asparagus provide 3 grams of fiber, 4-5 grams of protein, and antioxidants.  They are high in vitamins A,B, C and K and are a good source of copper and iron.

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After just a couple of weeks of intentionality in the kitchen, my girls do seem more at ease with using basic kitchen tools and following a simple recipe’s directions without asking me 85 questions before each step.  They seem more confident.  They’ve also already picked out the next produce we will try next week.  I can take that one of two ways:  either they secretly enjoy their mother’s food nerd tendencies and kitchen lessons, or they are appeasing me in hopes that they’re scoring brownie points to keep in the bank for the future.  Either way, we get time together doing something productive and fun and are making memories along the way. Bon appetite! 🙂

 

 

 

family produce project- rutabaga

In an effort to learn about other foods, learn kitchen skills, and practice working together, our family has taken on the weekly “Family Produce Project”.  Every week we will seek out a new fruit or vegetable that is either completely unfamiliar to us or that we haven’t done much with before.  We will scope out the produce sections of our grocery store(s), agree on a new item to try, research how to clean and prepare it, and find a yummy recipe to try our hand at cooking it.  Anything goes- from the most obscure to a rather known fruit or veggie, keeping in mind that our goal is to try new things and get out of our food comfort zone.

The first week has been fun.  I initially thought we would make a special trip to find the perfect subject to get us out of our box.  Week one already proved busy, so in our Wal-mart run for camp things, we decided to check out what the produce department had to offer.

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I was actually pretty impressed with the selection and the display.  There were rows and rows of every color you could look for.  The girls had to determine if they wanted to try a fruit or veggie, decide what color they were looking for, and figure out if they were going for something they sort of knew or something that they had never heard of before.

Not too long in the hunt, they found the rutabaga.

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I love how Wal-mart gives the shopper a brief blurb about the produce.  High in vitamin C, sort of tastes like a turnip, good to cook stews or soups with, and look for one that is not mushy or decaying.  We figured two would feed our family of six in a side dish, so we bagged them up.

This will be our Monday night gig.  All the girls have to plan to be home and all have to work together in the kitchen and on the computer (or their phones) to figure out a recipe that sounds good to everyone.  They have to determine how you clean and prep the food to eat (skin, de-seed, peel, slice, etc.) and will have to gather all the ingredients and tools to make the dish.  After a few hits on Pinterest, it didn’t take long for them to agree on making rutabaga fries.  That pretty much meant ketchup, too.  I’m sure they saw that as a necessity to trying to eat something that looked like an huge, dirty, rock.

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We first had figure out how to cut into the rutabaga.  Did it have a seed or pit?  Can you eat the skin?  They determined it’s best to start by slicing the whole veggie straight down the middle, so you can work then with each half.  You lay each half flat-side down, then slice 1/4″ all the way through (much like you would slice a loaf of bread).  You then take each half-moon shaped piece, cut the skin off, and slice 1/4″ slices, very much looking just like raw French fry pieces would.

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Once both are cut, you simply toss with olive oil and spices, lay out flat in baking pan, and bake.  Pretty simple prep for limited cooking abilities in the kitchen.  The finished dish smelled yummy and each of the girls seemed genuinely interested to and willing to try it out.  When we sat down to eat, we looked up what we could on rutabagas.  Did you know that we are the only ones that call them that name?  In just about everywhere else in the world they are called Swedish turnips, or Swedes for short.  And they are actually a cruciferous vegetable- just like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage to name a few.  They are an excellent source of Vitamin C, potassium, and manganese.  They have fiber and other vitamins and minerals that promote healthy functions in the body.  They are antioxidant and beta-carotene rich and help protect from heart disease and cancer.

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So, this will be a goal for summer.  Every Monday night is family night, girls night in if Brad has to be gone.  We will cook and learn and laugh and hopefully make some healthy memories in the kitchen.  Healthy for our bodies and healthy for our souls.

Rutabaga Oven Fries: (adapted from a recipe on cookinglight.com)

2 medium rutabagas

1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons rosemary

1 teaspoon garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Slice up the rutabaga into matchstick size pieces, similar to the cut of thin French fries.  Either in a baggie or just in the jelly roll pan, toss and coat the fries with the oil and spices covering the pieces evenly.  Roast in a 425 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, or until tender and browned.