Too Many Chocolate Bunnies?

Did the Easter bunny come loaded with candy to your house? Or did he have some non-sugar related treats instead, such as

A milk chocolate Easter Bunny.

A milk chocolate Easter Bunny. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

new socks, new shirts, or fruits and nuts?

If your bunny was like most bunnies I know, he packed a high sugar load. As parents, how to handle the high influx of sugars into young bodies? As well as, how to get back into a schedule of healthy eating?

Studies have shown that high sugar intake not only can add pounds but plays a role in a wide range of health problems such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity. Long-term sugar addiction can also produce a weakened immune system, chronic fatigue, hormonal problems, and gastrointestinal issues as well as anxiety and depression.

There is conflicting evidence over sugar-producing mood altering swings in children. But many parents have seen the changes in their child from a sweet, fun-loving child to one of a hostile, out-of-control “brat”. Too much sugar causes different reactions in different people.

Some view the never-ending “need” many have for sugar as a powerful addiction not unlike that of alcohol. With sugar addiction, individuals are no longer able to use their body’s natural abilities to control their food intake. Reportedly, some parts of the world still keep sugar under lock and key believing it to be a narcotic.

Just as with any other addiction, sugar craving needs to be controlled. This includes cutting out artificially sweetened foods as well as natural sugar foods. Getting the sugar habit under control is especially important for children for health reasons as well as weight control.

How can parents help their sugar-craving kids?

  • Help make Easter candy less readily available. Perhaps making a game out of choosing one piece and then hiding the rest. Often “out of sight, out of mind” helps. Stock cabinets and refrigerator with fruits and vegetables that are within easy reach.
  • Start your kids off with a good breakfast. This could consist of a vegetable omelet or oatmeal with chopped almonds or quinoa flakes and fresh fruit. It could also include last night’s meal of chicken or roast beef with veggie sticks.
  • If you are the chief meal planner and preparer, eliminate sugars and any sugar derivatives (honey, molasses, corn syrup, high fructose syrup and the like) from the menu. Plan  meals in advance, shop intentionally, based on what you need, and prepare the meals at a set time.
  • Pack the meals with plant-based foods from the vegetable group, the fruit group, and high-quality protein sources from animal or plant protein sources such as seafood, poultry and lean meats.
  • Set a good example by not eating foods with sugar. This means eliminating any “diet” soft drinks and other processed, sugary foods as well.
  • Take your kids shopping and ask them to help you make dinner or prepare their school lunch. Praise them for their good choices.
  • Have pitchers of water handy so your kids can drink this anytime. Kids should drink water rather than any soda or other sweetened drink.
  • One of the biggest helps is to teach kids the value of staying active and exercising. When they are playing baseball, hiking or biking they are not as apt to want a piece of candy. Then, have some healthy snacks when they are through, such as nuts or peanut butter sandwiches on whole wheat bread, rice cakes and peanut butter, carrot sticks, apples, bananas, grapes, etc.
  • Your child may be tempted to eat sweets, just as you, perhaps, are tempted. Try to get past the temptation by focusing on another activity. Perhaps on some hobby you have, or a pleasant experience you had.
  • Some like to use visualization when this happens. They imagine and visualize how much healthier they will be without the sugar, or they will see a firm, slender body if they don’t indulge.

Getting past the sugar craving is not easy. Having candy and other sweets out of sight is the first step. Stocking up on healthy foods is the second. What your children eat or don’t eat relates to how they think, act, and feel so it is in everyone’s best interests to help them eat healthy.

To your success,

Lee Jackson
http://healthykidseatingtips.com

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Quite Simply – the Easiest Cookie Ever

Beaten egg whites

It’s been a busy week-end, with St. Patrick’s Day and other activities for warmer days. Perhaps you haven’t had time to check your cookbook or creative spirit for healthy snacks made only from the ingredients in the last post.

I want to share a cookie recipe I like that has some redeeming qualities as far as nutrition is concerned. But the time factor is way off the chart as far as “right- now- eat-ability” (if that is a word) is concerned. Check it out. Kids will love making them but they won’t like not being able to eat them right away.

Dream Keeper Cookies

2 egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup nuts, chopped
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

Beat whites very stiff. Gradually add sugar until stiff peaks form. Stir in nuts and mix lightly.  Drop by teaspoon on cookie sheets. Place cookies in preheated oven. Turn off oven and leave cookies in the oven overnight. Next morning, carefully pull each cookie from the paper or foil. Enjoy.

Now I’ll put on my thinking cap for other fast snacks using these ingredients, but with a much, much shorter time-frame. What are some of your healthy snack ideas using these ingredients?

Lee Jackson
Thinking Healthy Eating
http://www.healthykidseatingtips.com

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Baking with Kids – Fun Cookie Recipe

Candy Cane Cookies

Image by janielianne via Flickr

Cooking with kids can be fun and create memories for years to come. Remember when the kids kept snatching cookie dough from the refrigerator? You finally had to put a toothpick in the dough with a note that said to not even think about eating it.

Here is a cookie recipe that will be tempting, either in the dough form (which they shouldn’t eat) and in the baked form (which will be hard to resist).

This recipe lists red food coloring as an ingredient. You may want to avoid using artificial food coloring by using natural products. You can  purée or juice a beet to get a very effective red dye. Mix a drop of this juice into the dough to make it pink or add a little more for red. Just keep your fingers protected unless you want red fingers for the next few days. You can also use a little pomegranate juice.

This cookie recipe comes from the childrens cookbook, Cooking Around the Calendar with Kids – Holiday and Seasonal Food and Fun by Amy Houts.

Holiday Candy Cane Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring
1/4 crushed peppermint candy
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Children can help measure butter, shortening, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, almond extract, and crack egg into large mixing bowl. Children can mix with large wooden spoon or adult can beat with electric mixer until well mixed.

Note: there is no baking powder in this recipe.
Stir in flour and salt. Divide dough in half. Add red food coloring (or alternative)  to one half of dough. Pinch off about a teaspoon of red dough. Children can shape into about a 4-inch rope by rolling back and forth on lightly floured board or cloth. Repeat with plain dough. Set side-by-side and twist together. Place on ungreased baking sheet, curving one end down to form handle of cane.

Repeat process, placing candy canes about 2-inches apart on baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes, until very light brown. Meanwhile, mix peppermint candy and sugar. Sprinkle on cookies right when they come out of the oven. Then remove to cooling rack.

Yield: about 4 dozen cookies

Happy baking!

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Sugars, Sodium and Fats – 3 Factors in Healthy Diets

From left to right: bottle of soy oil, canola ...

Image via Wikipedia

You’ve all heard the advice, “cut down sugars and sodium and trim the fat”. You say: I know sugar when I see it”, but do you know you’re eating sugar when any of these ingredients appear on the food label?
corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, glucose, dextrose, honey, molasses, syrup, lactose, mannitol

Any of the following ingredients indicate the food product contains sodium:
salt, baking soda, baking powder, monosodium glutamate, sodium caseinate, sodium nitrate, sodium saccharin, bouillon, meat tenderizer, and any of the flavored salts such as onion, garlic, celery.

Fats in food have received a great deal of press. “What are the good fats and the bad fats” we want to know. What about saturated and unsaturated fat? Very confusing.

Fat in food is composed of two major types of fatty acids: saturated and unsaturated. Unsaturated fatty acids are further classified as either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated. Foods contain combinations of the three types of fat. However, most foods contain a majority of one type.

Here is a list of saturated fats, which are said to be the least heart healthy as they raise the blood cholesterol more than anything else in the diet:
lard, butter, cream, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, poultry fat, bacon fat and other meat fat.

Polyunsaturated oils are: safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil.

Monounsaturated fats include: canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil.

I like to reduce or eliminate my intake of nearly all vegetable oils, including corn, safflower, sunflower, canola, sesame oil, soybean oil, and related products such as margarine and vegetable shortening.

The two best oils I believe are high-quality virgin coconut oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Although coconut oil is a saturated oil, I feel it’s good points of being derived from a healthful food, helping regulate blood sugar, causing the body to burn up more calories,  and its stability under high heat tend to outweigh its saturation concerns.

Avoid products that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil. This means that the oil has been heated to such a high temperature that the structure of the molecules have been changed to make it more stable at room temperature. This, however, makes it more harmful for the body.

Despite all the criticism of fat, it is an important nutrient and serves important functions in the body. It is a source of energy, helps protect important body organs and is necessary for growth and body maintenance.

Diets in our country are high in animal products, fat, salt and sugar and low in vegetables, fruits and fiber. Cutting down, or eliminating the big three: sugar, sodium and fats –  is a real challenge. It is worth the effort because our health depends on it.

To your good health and that of your family’s,

Lee Jackson
Health and Nutrition Advocate
http://HealthyKidsEatingTips.com

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No-Sugar Oatmeal Cookies

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to cut down on sugar. Actually, I was trying to go 3 weeks without sugar. This  is not an easy job, with sugar and corn syrup in so many of our food products, but I was still on Christmas overload when I made this ruling for myself.

Over the holidays I promised my young friends we would “cook”  together sometime. With the emphasis on healthy eating for children, even the cookies we decided on had to have reduced sugars and grains. This is the recipe we made:

Apple and Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apple pieces, chopped
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl or 4 cup measuring cup, beat egg with fork; add juice, vegetable oil, and raisins. Mix to blend. In a large bowl, add both types of flour, wheat germ, oatmeal, baking powder, cinnamon,  apple pieces, and nuts. Add liquids to dry ingredients. Mix all ingredients well.

Drop batter by teaspoon full onto nonstick cookie sheet or grease regular cookie sheets. Flatten slightly with a fork. Bake 7-9 minutes until top springs back when lightly touched. Do no brown! Cool slightly before removing from pan.

I am quite sure you will not miss the sugar taste. The apples, raisins, and nut flavors come through without an overpowering sweetness, as found in many other recipes.

I don’t use any artificial sugar substitutes in any foods, nor do I like anything “diet”. I feel these are not good for our bodies.

Hope you enjoy this recipe which satisfies the sweet tooth in a nutritional way.

To YOUR healthy goals and those of your family’s,

Lee Jackson, CFCS
Food writer and author of two apple cookbooks
http://www.imagesunlimitedpub.com

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Apple Recipe Spices up Halloween and Homecoming Week-end

Assorted Red and Green Apples 2120px

Image via Wikipedia

This past week-end I was the “apple lady” at a local grocery store. I got to set up shop beside aisles and aisles of apples and show off my apple cookbooks. It was the day before our university homecoming so the store was packed.

Both of the desserts I brought turned out to be hits with the customers. I gave out free samples and free recipes. A number of the customers, after sampling, then went to pick out their apples to make this over the week-end.

College students came through to sample, too (of course!). One said he was saving the recipe until his girlfriend came to town to make it. Another said they were to bring a dish to a homecoming party. They decided to make and bring the dessert I was handing out.

This is one of the recipes I made. It was provided for my cookbook,  Apples, Apples Everywhere – Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards by the Glennie Orchard in New Berlin, Wisconsin. This cookbook has choice recipes from almost 70 orchards across the country.

Granny Smith or Jonathan apples work well for this recipe. Other varieties that can be used include: Cortland, Winesap, Rome Beauty, Braeburn, Wealthy, and Gala.

Glennie Orchard Dutch Apple Pie

For the streusel topping, combine:

1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup soft butter or margarine

Mix together with fork until crumbly. Set aside.

For the no-roll crust, combine with a fork:

1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons milk

Divide in half and press into two 7-inch pie pans or pat into bottom of 9 x 13-inch pan (which is what I used).

Peel and slice approximately 8-10 medium baking apples and place on top of the crust slightly mounded. Sprinkle with:

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Dot with 1/2 tablespoon butter, if desired

Stir the streusel mixture to break it up into small pieces and cover all apples with the mixture. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in pre-heated 425° F. oven for 20 minutes. Reduce oven to 350° F and bake for another 50 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 25 minutes to brown the streusel. Cool.

It puffs up on baking but then settles down after it begins to cool. This pastry is good warm or cold; with or without ice cream.

I hope you have been able to take advantage of the year’s bumper crop of apples as we count down to Thanksgiving.

Lee Jackson
Author: Apples, Apples Everywhere – Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards
From the Apple Orchard – Recipes for Apple Lovers
The Littlest Christmas Kitten
Careers in Focus: Family and Consumer Sciences

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What’s an Apple Betty?

Apple Crisp
Image by DavidErickson via Flickr

I call this recipe an Apple Betty. But the earlier versions use browned bread cubes and brown sugar layered with apples. I’m guessing someone named Betty had some leftover bread and combined it with apples. Voila, Apple Betty!

I love this recipe for two reasons:
1) it tastes absolutely delicious and
2) you don’t have to grease the pan! I don’t know why, but that is a real plus for me.

Favorite Apple Betty

4 cups cooking apples, peeled and sliced
1/4  cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4  cup water

Combine apples, sugar, cinnamon, and water. Simmer 5 – 10 minutes just until apples are beginning to get tender. Pour into ungreased 9-inch pie pan. Sprinkle the following crumb topping over the apples:

Topping
1/2  cup brown sugar
1/2 stick butter, softened
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4  teaspoon salt

Blend brown sugar and butter. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Mixture will be crumbly. Sprinkle over apples.

Bake at 350° F for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Serves 6

Others might call this an Apple Crisp, although it really doesn’t get crispy on top nor does it have any oatmeal. It is a simple recipe well worth trying.

Best to you,

Lee Jackson
Author of From the Apple Orchard – Recipes for Apple Lovers
Apples, Apples Everywhere – Favorite Recipes From America’s Orchards and Littlest Christmas Kitten
http://www.imagesunlimitedpub.com

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Drive to an Orchard

Apple Trees
Image by WxMom via Flickr

I drove 75 miles to deliver apple cookbooks yesterday. Nebraska City, Nebraska is having an Applejack Festival this weekend, September 18-19, and Tree Adventure at Arbor Day Farm needed more books. I wanted to make sure they had them in time.

Arbor Day Farm is owned and operated by The National Arbor Day Foundation which is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting tree planting and conservation throughout the United States. There are lots of signs at Arbor Day Farm to “Plant Trees”.

While there I stopped to buy some apples and had a piece of apple pie. The pie was absolutely delicious. (I don’t usually do this, but they looked and smelled very inviting)!

It was a beautiful fall day. As you drive into the area you see many, many apple trees still loaded down with fruit. That is what fall is all about! That is why I love what I do.

In one of the apple cookbooks I delivered, Apples, Apples Everywhere – Favorite Recipes from America’s Orchards, there is a write-up about the Orchard at Arbor Day Farm and one of their favorite recipes.

I now share the recipe with you that was shared with me for the cookbook:

Apple Pie A’Plenty

Filling
8 cups sliced apples (Jonathan makes great pies)
2 – 2 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Topping
1 1/2 cups flour
2/3 cups sugar
12 tablespoons butter or margaring

Make pastry for a double crust pie. Pat pastry into a 9 x 13 inch pan, forming and crimping edges as usual. Peel and thinly slice enough apples (about 8 cups) to fill pastry lined pan. Combine apples with sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Place this apple filling mixture in pan and sprinkle with topping. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 1 hour or until done. Servings: 15-18

I hope you get  to visit an orchard this week-end. If you are at the Applejack Festival in Nebraska City, make sure you visit Tree Connection at Arbor Day Farm and ask for my apple cookbooks!

Best to you,

Lee Jackson
Books for cooks and apple lovers
kids, families, and parenting professionals
http://www.ImagesUnlimitedPub.com

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How to Use Peaches

Peach Jam

Image by Carmyarmyofme via Flickr

When considering how to use peaches, some people immediately think of peach pie or peach cobbler.

I think of home canned peaches. This is a practice of preserving peaches for the winter months, quite out of style in this day and age.

But I remember when my mother canned peaches.We would buy a crate or a bushel of peaches and spend all day peeling and canning.

I’m hot just thinking about all the additional heat required to blanch the peaches, sterilize the jars in boiling water, and then place the jars of food in a kettle for canning. There they were covered with boiling water and processed, or allowed to boil again, the required number of minutes. This is to prevent the food from spoiling.

Did we remember the time spent in their preparation when we ate them in the winter? Probably not. They were mighty tasty, though, when served as “sauce” or in other dishes. Do you know anyone who continues this practice of home canning peaches?

Other than this quick flash-back to an earlier time, I want to share 2 things today about peaches: how to easily remove the skin from peaches and how to make an easy peach jam.

How to blanch or scald peaches to easily remove their skin.

This should only be done by an adult: With a slotted spoon, lower  peaches into hot, boiling water for approximately 1 minute or until skins begin to loosen. Then cool peaches quickly by plunging them into icy water. The skins should slip off easily.

Here is a recipe for Easy Peach Jam I make every summer in memory of my dear neighbor who gave me the recipe. The recipe can be doubled or even tripled.

2 peaches
1 orange with peeling
1 cup sugar

First prepare the fruit. Adult needs to scald peaches to remove the skins. When making jam with children, they can skin the peaches when cool, cut into quarters and remove pit. Wash the orange and cut into smaller pieces (orange is not peeled). Add fruits to a food processor and chop until of desired consistency.

Measure 1 cup fruit pulp and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan (or equivalent amounts if doubling or tripling). Bring to a boil. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly to break up fruit and to prevent scorching.

Remove from stove. Cool and refrigerate. The next day, spoon into jars with covers. Freeze. Use within 6 months.

Actually, this should be labeled a peach “marmalade”. Jams, marmalades, conserves and fruit butters are basically alike. Their individual characteristics depend on the kind of fruit, the way it is prepared, and the method of cooking. Jams are made of crushed fruits, mixed with sugar and boiled rapidly until thick. Marmalades are made from  a combination of fruits, including a citrus fruit. (In this recipe, it is the orange). Conserves often include raisins and nut meats with the fruit and sugar. Fruit butters have the fruit pulp pressed through a sieve and slowly cooked with sugar and spices until thick enough to spread. An example of this is apple butter.

No matter what these spreads are called, they are a delectable treat when served on toast in the morning.

Lee Jackson
Home and Family Living Writer

Lee invites you to go here and check out her cookbooks for sale on this site. You will find lots of end-of-summer recipes here.

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Simple Rhubarb Recipe Kids Will Love to Make

Rhubarb stalks
Image by net_efekt via Flickr

Here is an easy dessert kids will love to make for their Mothers this week-end. The only difficult part is having the rhubarb. Hope you have a plant or two in your backyard. If not, stores should have it for sale. Then it is a quick job to put together, bake, and enjoy. It’s colorful, too.

Rhubarb Dessert

4 cups rhubarb, chopped in 1/2 to 1- inch pieces
1 cup sugar
1 package strawberry Jello
1 yellow Jiffy cake mix
3/4 cup water
1/2 stick butter, cut in small pieces

Grease a 9 x 9-inch pan (NOT 9 x 13-inch). Place chopped rhubarb in bottom of pan.

Sprinkle sugar over the top of rhubarb.

Sprinkle 1 package strawberry gelatin over top.

Sprinkle cake mix over top.

Dribble water over top.

Place dobs of butter on top.

Bake 30 – 40 minutes in 350 degree oven

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