Food

The New Star of Thanksgiving Dinner!

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So your menu is planned and you’re all set for Thanksgiving dinner. The family is all going to be there and everyone is going to gain 10 lbs on Thursday. Tis the season to forget about calories, and enjoy the rich, starchy, creamy and fat-filled deliciousness that will grace the table as we remember to be thankful for all we have. AND NOT ONE OF YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD ABOUT THAT!! You can’t skimp on Thanksgiving foods. Go big or go home.

Everyone raves about the turkey, and the stuffing/dressing rocks your socks off. Mashed potatoes/gravy? That dish alone accounts for over half the weight of your Chinet plate as you pile it high. Some families, like mine, go nuts over the homemade noodles. (My mom is bringing my great aunt Jeannette’s famous noodle recipe to our dinner this year, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!) And I know some of you crazies out there are excited to get your hands on a huge helping of sweet potato casserole! (Not my bag, but more power to ya.) And the battle continues over which is better: homemade cranberry sauce, or sliced up disks of the gelatinous canned variety. (My vote is for the disks!)

And one dish that will likely appear on your table, but tends to take a backseat to the other more prominent features of Thanksgiving dinner, is the lowly GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE. No one ever says that’s their favorite holiday food, they just don’t. And yet, there is an unspoken obligation to include it on the menu. Well, my friends- this is the year that changes. I’m going to give you my personal secret recipe for green bean casserole, and I guarantee it will change the way you and your family feel about the oft overlooked sad dish. This takes it to a new level and skyrockets the forgotten delicacy to a family fave. AND, if you are attending Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home and looking for the perfect dish to bring and share, I’m telling you, this is the thing to take. It’s super simple, but will make you the hero of the day.

Here’s what you need: a square pyrex dish or other casserole dish
3 cans green beans (drained)
2 cans cheddar cheese soup (I use Campbell’s)
1 packet onion soup mix
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 oz french fried onions

Here’s what you do: Preheat the oven to 350. In your casserole dish, mix green beans, cheddar cheese soup, onion soup mix, and 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese. Mix until combined. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and then top with the french fried onions. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 more minutes.

IT’S THAT EASY! And you have my personal guarantee it will be well-received. It is my humble opinion that this is hands-down the greatest green bean casserole, ever. Try it this year and tell me if you don’t agree.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your friends and family. Take time to consider all that you have with a grateful heart. What a fantastic holiday!
*Don’t forget that the last episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be on ABC next Monday night. It’s the Thanksgiving Special and it features one of my best friends from college. Grab your kleenexes and don’t miss this excellent show!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish, and are you willing to share your recipe in the comments section? Some smartypants out there are still trying to plan their menus, help a girl out!!

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Yummy Chicken Curry

Bectoria here. I love eating a variety of different foods from all over the world. At the same time, unfortunately, I am not a huge fan of eating out. When I do, the quality of the food I eat is literally put in the hands of others. To remedy this conundrum, I often try to replicate flavors at home. Doing so often provides its own unique set of problems. One being that I sometimes can’t find good recipes, often making the effort to replicate a flavor very time consuming. Also, and equally as frustrating, the final product is often inconsistent. When discussing this with a dear cousin, she suggested creating my own recipes by measuring out everything I put into a dish. (Oh! You mean, like, what real cooks do? Why didn’t I think of that!) To prevent this task from becoming too tedious she offered to come over and help. Naturally I jumped at the chance and last night we took on chicken curry.

Here’s what we came up with…

Chicken Curry (yeild: 4 servings)

Ingredients:

2 Chicken Breasts

8 oz. broth

1 – 13.5 oz can Coconut Milk

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Garlic Powder

½ tsp Cumin

½ tsp Saffron

½ tsp Salt

1 Tbsp Curry Powder

2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

Vegetables of Choice

Method:

Brown Chicken Breasts in a large saucepan on both sides, removing while still a bit pink in the middle

Set chicken aside to rest

Add broth to the saucepan

When broth is heated through whisk in other ingredients

Add vegetables of choice

Slice chicken and add back to the sauce

The recipe is complete when the chicken is completely cooked through

Add the curry to saffron rice or couscous and enjoy!

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So Good For You, You Can Eat Two!

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We’re all watching our weight. My family and I have been eating like hippies for some time, now. We’re so granola. But have you noticed how scary it is to read labels? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the Nutrition Facts label on something healthy I’ve been eating and feeding to my family for months only to find out that it wasn’t really any better for us than a Big Mac and large fries. So disappointing. Seemingly healthy food can be very deceiving. 😦 Just when I’m patting myself on the back for having made such a healthy choice, reading the label often throws a wet blanket on my enthusiasm. Not sure what I mean? Ever read the label on the whole wheat bread you buy? How about the tortilla chips you chose over the Sour Cream and Onion Lays? I stood in the grocery aisle comparing the nutritional information between regular saltine crackers and whole wheat saltines of the same brand. One would assume the whole wheat version would be an improvement in terms of health. And one would be wrong. They had IDENTICAL nutrition info. How about Wheat Thins? Sorry, just a lot of processed carbs- you might as well eat Doritos.
But, it’s a learning process, and we are weeding our way through the confusion and are determined to make good choices.

One thing I’ve realized is that pre-packaged store-bought foods that seem like a healthy alternative rarely are. I gave up on my go-to lunch item: MorningStar Spicy Black Bean Veggie Burgers. Although the stats they tout regarding the calorie and fat difference between their burgers and the average beef burger are true, I had to sign off on eating and feeding my family ingredients that shouldn’t really be classified as “food.” Ever notice “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” on an ingredient list? Well, it’s in a lot of things, and you need to know what it is. Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is soy, wheat, or corn that has been boiled in HYDROCHLORIC ACID and then neutralized using SODIUM HYDROXIDE. Yum. A similar process provides us with another ingredient in MorningStar black bean burgers: autolyzed yeast extract. And what meal wouldn’t be complete without a dose of textured vegetable protein (the main ingredient, which is actually filler, attained by another unnatural process), xanthan gum, disodium inosinate and artificial flavors?
After giving up pink slim or anything containing it for my family (mechanically separated chicken, if you’re unfamiliar, please Google it) months ago, I have determined to also give up hydrolyzed vegetable protein, which is the pink slime of the vegetarian world.

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You may not be as concerned about such things, and that’s ok. But regardless of your stance on chemically processed and concentrated vegetable protein, I have a recipe that will please meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. It’s super easy and you can whip it up in minutes. My Spicy Black Bean Burgers are a winner. Filling, fresh, made from whole foods, and low-cal/low-fat, to boot!
Give these a try and tell me you don’t love them. Challenge extended.

“Me, personally? I loved them! I could eat them everyday for 2 days.”
-Caleb

Rinse and drain 1 can of black beans, put in medium bowl. Dice 1/4 red onion, 2 green onions, 1/4 bell pepper, 1 fistful cilantro leaves and add to bowl. Add 1/4 cup old fashioned oats, and 1/2 tsp all seasonings shown, or according to your taste. (I make mine pretty salty, so add less than 1/2 tsp each if salty ain’t your thang.) If you don’t have one of these seasonings, pretend it isn’t on the list, it won’t hurt to omit something. Mash with a fork and form into 5 patties. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side in a non-stick skillet on med/high heat, no need for added oil. Dress a whole grain bun (I used Brownberry SELECT Wheat Sandwich Rolls)with cilantro leaves and red onion, (avocado slices or guacamole would be fantastic, too, but my avocados weren’t ripe!)

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I like to eat 1 (or 2!) and freeze the other 3 between layers of wax paper in a ziplock to use for a quick lunch for the next couple of days. They are DELICIOUS! Nothing hydrolyzed, autolyzed or “textured” in these. Ready in minutes, no food processor required. You’ll be hooked. Full of flavor and super-healthy. My nutrition facts include the bun, by the way!
Let me know what you think! Happy cooking….

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Going Vegan: Nutrients to Consider

By Bectoria Crandall

A true smartypants is always looking for ways to improve ones personal and family health. One way we at 4smartypants are doing this is by changing to a vegan diet. When talking this over with Mac and Stephanie, I had two concerns. First, nutrients and then budget. This post is about the former.

SAHM’s are always struggling to weed through the barrage of information that is constantly being published about the foods available in our market. Yes, we in this country are the lucky ones to have the luxury of being so choosey about the foods that we eat. Since we do have a choice, true smartypants would make every effort to provide a well balanced, nutrient rich diet in their homes. For me, going vegan provides its own set of challenges. If I am going to cut out a large portion of my family’s diet, what foods do I need to introduce that would provide the nutrients my growing family needs? “If we aren’t drinking milk any longer, how will my family get the calcium and Vitamin D we need?” was one of my questions during our last 4smartypants admin meeting.

Now I love these two ladies to death, but let’s face it, Stephanie, Mac and I get the majority of our information by reading reports published by the experts in the field. Instead of relying on what they have or have not yet read, I decided to go to the experts myself. To get my answers about all things nutritiony I went to my fav nturition experts Denver Wellness and Nutrition www.denverwellnessandnutrition.com. Instead of muddying up their answer, I’ll just quote what they had to say about transitioning a family to a vegan diet…

“If you’re a family that normally eats meat, then the safest way would be to ease your family into it. Start by trying out meatless Monday’s if your family is a little on the fence about it. Then ease into a full vegetarian lifestyle, and once you’re all used to that, start cutting out eggs/dairy/honey/other animal related products.
Some things to make sure you’re getting in are:
Protein – Soybean products (tofu, tempeh), chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds
Vitamin B12 – Fortified nutritional yeast, soy and rice milk.  Make sure to read the nutrition information to know how much you’re getting in!
Vitamin D –During the warmer months, you can get your fix of this nutrient just by basking in the sunlight, awesome right? But for the colder months, try getting things that are fortified with vitamin D such as some nondairy milk and juices.
Omega 3 fatty acids – Flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil
Calcium – Collard greens, kale, broccoli, beans and almonds
Iron – Black-eyed peas, lentils, oatmeal, nuts, sunflower seeds, quinoa and millet
Zinc – Grains, legumes and nuts
If you’re eating a wide variety of foods, you shouldn’t have any problems getting these into your diet.  But if you still feel that you are deficient, then these can be met with: introducing a multivitamin (if you aren’t already on one), sometimes a B-complex (if your vitamin B levels are low even after the multivitamin) and get in omega 3’s from flax seed  or vegan DHA capsules from algae (otherwise you’d be eating fish!).
You don’t want to shock your system, or that of your family. Anytime you want to make a lifestyle change, remember to ease into it.”
Armed with this new knowledge of nutrients to consider, I feel better able to make the right dietary decisions for my family. Now I can begin to investigate an answer to my latter concern… Budget. How much is this all going to cost me? I’ll keep you posted!
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Peanut-Free, Vegan Cupcakes!

By Bectoria Crandall

 

Class parties pose an interesting set of challenges. A true smartypants knows to take food allergies and dietary preferences into account when planning special classroom snacks. When planning for my daughter’s preschool Easter party I learned that I had to plan a snack for students with peanut and egg allergies. The solution? Peanut-free, vegan cupcakes!

Here’s the recipe…

Cupcakes…

Ingredients:

2 tsp Baking Soda

2 1/2 C Organic Flour (Okay. It doesn’t have to be organic, but COME ON!)

1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 C Sugar

2/3 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (be sure to read the label to ensure you have a peanut-free product)

2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/3 C Vegetable Oil

2 1/4 C Water

Method:

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until blended.

In a separate bowl, combine all liquid ingredients.

Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients just until blended.

If the batter is too dry, at 1-2 Tbsp of water until you achieve desired consistency.

Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.

Fill baking cups 3/4 full with batter.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

(Another great allergy-sensitive recipe can be found at www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gluten-free-vegan-soy-free-nut-free-corn-free-fudge-mint-and-raspberry-cupcakes-recipe)

I recommend visiting www.thedustybaker.com/2011/04/08/fluffy-vegan-frosting for a really yummy vegan frosting recipe to top your sweet confection.

Remember to keep your cupcake toppings peanut and allergy free! Many candies and confections are manufactured on machines and prep supplies that come in contact with peanuts, so I recommend reading labels carefully.  

I know that the influx of food allergies in recent years has been a bit of a drag but that doesn’t mean the fun is over. A true smartypants will meet this challenge head on with a little savvy and a smartypants of a recipe to make sure no one has to miss out in the fun.

Because our cupcakes were for an Easter party, we used some peanut & egg free candies as toppers and made them look like Easter baskets. Small items were used as the treats and licorice ropes were used for basket handles. The kids loved them!

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