Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Week 6, Fat is Fat......

In a country like ours, where healthy food is easily accessible, where our media outlets are constantly feeding (no pun intended) us information on how to live healthy lifestyles, even celebrities have gotten on the band-wagon and are creating websites on how to "nourish the inner aspect". Case in point, Gwyneth Paltrow's "Goop" website. It is a very real concern that the number of overweight children in our country is on the rise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 percent of children (over 9 million) 6-19 years old are overweight or obese -- a number that has tripled since 1980. In addition to the 16 percent, another 15 percent were considered at risk of becoming overweight. (Source: "Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity Among Children and Adolescents: United States, 1999-2002"; Oct. 6, 2004). The rise in obesity among children has a great socioeconomic impact on our country. Obesity-associated annual hospital costs for children and youth more than tripled over two decades, rising from $35 million in 1979-1981 to $127 million in 1997-1999. (Source: "Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance, 2005," Institute of Medicine.) Experts agree that inactivity and poor eating habits contribute to obesity.

Nearly one-third of U.S. Children aged 4 to 19 eat fast food every day, resulting in approximately six extra pounds per year, per child. Fast food consumption has increased fivefold among children since 1970. (Source: "Effects of Fast-Food Consumption on Energy Intake and Diet Quality Among Children in a National Household Survey," Pediatrics, January 2004.) Part of the reason why I think that we are consuming so much more fast food is because we have very busy lifestyles. Both parents work in most American families-it's easier to buy fast food then to make dinner. Also, most people believe that fast food is cheaper then food you buy at the store and prepare yourself.

This is one of the reasons why I created this blog. You have the time to make healthy meals for your family during the week, if you are organized and plan ahead. Not only will you save time, but you will save ample money by skipping the fast-food lines!

As parents we are the greatest role-models for our children. Kids aren't going to eat their broccoli if we don't, and they aren't going to live a healthy, active lifestyle if we don't. Don't think that we are off the hook either. Results from the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), using measured heights and weights, indicate that an estimated 66 percent of U.S. adults are either overweight or obese. It's just common sense: eat healthy, exercise more.

That being said, every once in a while indulging in a "Big Mac" and french fries or a piece of chocolate cake will only help keep you from going insane!

Get me the step ladder, time for me to get off my soap box and talk about the meals for this week: Chicken and Dumpling Soup, Vegetable and Polenta Lasagna, Slow Cooked Pepper Steak and Thai Chicken.

Items already in the pantry or fridge:
cornmeal, corn starch, salt, black pepper, bay leaves, nutmeg, flour, sugar, ground ginger, cayenne pepper, butter, 3 eggs, milk, soy sauce, olive oil, peanut butter, white wine vinegar, rice

Shopping List:**
2 1/2 pound chicken
2 lbs beef round steak
4 boneless chicken breasts
3 onions
1 bunch of scallions
4 cups fresh mushrooms
5 medium green bell peppers
3 medium red bell peppers
4 tomatoes
1 bulb of garlic
1 bunch of carrots
1 bunch of celery
1 fennel bulb
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 bunch of fresh tarragon
1 bunch of fresh parsley
1 bunch of fresh dill
1 ginger root
1 cup of broccoli
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup unsalted peanuts
1 bag of egg noodles
1 jar of favorite marinara sauce

**Most recipes are for 4-6 servings. If you are making more, or less, you will need to adjust the shopping list accordingly**

Chicken and Dumpling Soup (8 servings)

2 1/2 pound chicken
2 tbsp unsalted butter
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup of celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
3 cups chicken stock
6 cups of water
1 tbsp fresh parsley choped
* 1 cup milk
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
*black pepper to taste
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 3 eggs
* 2 tbsp tarragon

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, carrots, celery, fennel and a large pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add 3 cups of chicken stock and 6 cups of water, thyme, dill, and bay leaves; bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and simmer for 2 hours. Remove the chicken and let cool. Pick off the meat in shreds and set aside.

Combine the milk, butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 of the tarragon in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and add the flour; stir vigorously until the liquid is absorbed. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, to make a thick dough.

Bring the soup to a boil. Form the dough into large dumplings using an ice cream scoop. Drop them into the soup. Cover and cook the dumplings, without peeking, until they float to the surface-about 10-15 minutes.
Add the shredded chicken meat, parsley, the rest of the tarragon to the soup. Divide among bowls.

Vegetable Polenta Lasagna (8 servings)

4 cups cold water
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups fresh mushrooms, halved
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 medium green sweet peppers, roasted and chopped
3 medium red sweet peppers, roasted and chopped
1 1/4 cups marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

For the polenta, in a medium saucepan bring 2 1/2 cups of the water to boiling. In a medium bowl combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups water, the cornmeal, and 1 tsp of the salt. Slowly add the cornmeal mixture to boiling water, stirring constantly. Cook and stir until mixture returns to boiling; reduce the heat to low. Cook about 10 minutes or until mixture is very thick, stirring occasionally. Pour the hot mixture into a 3-quart rectangular baking dish. Cool slightly. Cover and refrigerate about 1 hour or until firm. (Or cover and refrigerate for 24 hours).

In a large skillet cook onion in hot oil over medium hear for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add mushrooms, the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and black pepper. Cook and stir about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Remove from heat; stir in the green and red roasted peppers.

Spread the marinara sauce over chilled polenta. Top with the vegetable mixture and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Bake, uncovered, for 10 to 15 minutes more or until the edges are bubbly.

**Note: to roast the peppers, quarter the peppers lengthwise; remove the stems, seeds, and membranes. Place peppers, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast in a 425 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until skins are blistered and bubbly. Fold foil around peppers to form a packet; seal. Let stand for 15 minutes to loosen skins. Peel and chop sweet peppers. (Or substitute two 12-oz jars roasted red sweet peppers, drained and chopped, for the green and red sweet peppers.)

Slow Cooked Pepper Steak (6-8 servings)

2 lbs beef round steak
2 tbsp cooking oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground ginger
4 tomatoes, cut into eighths
2 large green bell peppers, cut into strips
1/2 cup cold water
1 tbsp cornstarch
cooked egg noodles

Cut beef into 3 x 1 inch strips; brown in a skillet. Transfer to a slow cooker. Combine the next seven ingredients; pour over beef. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until the meat is tender. Add tomatoes and green peppers; cook on low for 1 hour longer. Combine the cold water and cornstarch to make a paste; stir into liquid in slow cooker and cook on high until thickened. Serve over cooked noodles.

Thai Chicken (4 servings)

2 cups rice
4 boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, chopped
1 tbsp ginger, minced
3/4 cup scallions, chopped
1 cup of broccoli
1/3 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp peanut butter
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Cook rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the chicken, garlic and ginger and cook 5-7 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and add scallions, broccoli, peanuts, soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar and cayenne pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring well. Serve over a bed of rice.

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