By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, Mom and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
As summer comes to a close, that doesn’t mean extra family time has to come to an end! Last week, my boys and I made these fun and tasty lavender shortbread cookies! A great way to get us all in the kitchen and to learn about and try a new food. An added bonus, your kitchen will smell wonderful!
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
extra sugar for sprinkling on top
1. In a medium bowl, whisk flour and salt together. Set aside.
2. In a small spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind 1 tbsp lavender and 1 tbsp sugar.
3. In another bowl, that can be used with electric mixer with paddle attachment, add butter, ground lavender mixture, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Cream ingredients on medium speed until slightly more pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. It’s okay if there are still some sugar bits at this point. Add the flour and mix on low speed until the dough comes together. The dough will have a crumbly texture, but will come together as you continue mixing.
4. Dump dough mixture out onto a clean surface and form into a ball with your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
5. Line cookies sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
6. Divide refrigerated dough into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a 1 1/2-inch round cookie cutter to cut cookies, or a pizza cutter to slice into squares. Use a fork to prick the cookies.
7. Brush the cookies very lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Make sure your oven is preheated to 350 degrees F and refrigerate cookies while oven preheats.
8. Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven. When oven is preheated, bake cookies for 8-11 minutes, until just browned on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheet for about 10 minutes then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
And we’re off! The start of the school year has descended upon us in full force. Busy school days, and just-as-busy afterschool activities, practices, rehearsals (not to mention homework!), can quickly put even the most calm and organized mom in a bit of a time-crunch tizzy. And though as I mom I aspire to be both calm and organized, keeping up with my kids’ lives, trying to manage my professional one and juggling normal day to day stuff quickly interfere with the ideal. I usually employ the philosophy of quick-to-assemble meals that can make it to the table in 20 minutes. Yet there are plenty of days that I really want to walk into my house and have food magically appear on the table. In fact, there are vivid and wonderful childhood memories I recall, coming home to the amazing smells of dinner. Mom had it covered and all was well with the world.
So the invention of the slow-cooker is nothing short of genius, bringing me back to the reality that my home really can smell nourishing and food really can be table-ready when we all roll in the door. And it’s not even a new concept, though some of the digital features on them are quite 20th century. How easy it is to forget the small kitchen appliance tucked away in my top cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind I suppose. I’ve recently resolved to more regularly reacquaint with this 6-quart beauty, and though you may associate it with only a few dishes, the possibilities really are quite vast.
And while this has obviously now saved dinner, one of my favorite slow-cooker benefits is the meals that follow. Lunch for your child’s thermos the next day, a meal you can re-purpose for tomorrow’s dinner or extra servings that can be divided and frozen for a future time crunch. Not to mention that you can confidently answer the kids’ eternal question, posed the second they see you after school: “What’s for dinner?
One of our latest favorites is slow-cooker lasagna, and while I’ll include a recipe below, don’t be afraid to play with it. Throw in some layers of diced veggies, swap out lasagna noodles with spaghetti or macaroni, mix in some fresh herbs or throw in all the little bits of cheese you have hanging out in your fridge drawer. Something magical happens when you let all these individual ingredients slowly work together over a string of calm, uninterrupted hours. They come together and by dinner, these solo players have created an orchestra of nourishment. In fact, slow cooker meals really allow you to play in your kitchen in a different, less structured way. It’s such a fun way for your children to cook with you, and see how being in the kitchen doesn’t need to be intimidating in the least.
A couple of pointers for you to consider:
Read reviews online to compare features, sizes and find the best prices.
If you’d like to brown or sauté before switching to slow-cooker mode, seek out versions that can accommodate.
Make sure it has a “warm” feature, which the cooker will automatically switch to once the programmed cooking time has ended. This ensures you won’t come home to an over-cooked meal, if you’ve had an extra long day.
Include enough liquid to prevent drying or burning.
Look for a cookbook and/or search for recipes online specifically designed for slow-cookers.
Consider “building” the meal the night before. Prep all the ingredients in the crock, put a lid on it, then store in your fridge until you’re ready to turn that baby on and leave the house.
Make certain the area around your slow cooker is free from “stuff” – nowhere that your pet can disturb and knock to the floor, and away from stray papers or plastic that may not do well around heat.
Now sit down, taste every steamy bite and relish the fact that your clean up will be minimal, you’ve saved electricity, and have warmed the hearts, souls and tummies of your whole family!
Slow Cooker Lasagna
1 pound uncooked whole grain lasagna noodles
1.5 pounds ground beef or pork
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 ½ tsp salt
1 24-oz jar spaghetti sauce
8 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato pasta
1 15-oz container ricotta cheese
6 cups fresh spinach
2 zucchini, shredded or sliced
1 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
3 Tbsp water
In a large skillet over medium heat cook the ground beef, onion, and garlic until brown. Add the spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, salt, and Italian seasoning and stir until well incorporated. Cook until heated through.
In a large bowl mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, grated Parmesan cheese, and 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese.
Spray the crock with nonstick spray. Spoon a layer of the meat mixture onto the bottom of the slow cooker. Add a layer of the uncooked lasagna noodles. Break to fit noodles into slow cooker. Top noodles with a portion of the cheese mixture. Next layer 2 cups spinach and 1/3 of the zucchini. Repeat the layering of sauce, noodles, cheese and veggies until all the ingredients are used. Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella. Drizzle water around the edges of the crock.
Cover, and cook on LOW setting for 5 to 6 hours.
Let sit for 30 minutes or more and then slice and serve.
Banana bread is a favorite to bake, eat and share with friends; zucchini is also a favorite that has been abundant in farmer’s markets this summer. So, with some extra zucchini and slightly browning bananas on hand, I decided to combine these two for one hopefully yummy experiment, and it worked! This is an easy (and tasty) way to incorporate fruits and veggies into your little one’s or your own day. Mashing a ripe banana, measuring dry ingredients and mixing are all tasks perfect for getting kids involved in the kitchen!
Yields ~15 muffins
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup milk
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup shredded (or made into noodles and then chopped*) zucchini
½ cup dark chocolate chips
¾ medium ripe banana, mashed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F, and grease or line muffin tin.
In medium bowl, combine dry ingredients of flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In a separate large bowl, mix beaten egg, oil, milk, mashed banana, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Stir wet ingredients into dry until incorporated and moistened.
Prepare zucchini using a shredder or by spiralizing into thin noodles and then chopping into ¼ inch pieces, for similar effect. Measure your 1 cup of zucchini now. Wrap measured zucchini into paper towel and squeeze out excess water–there will be a lot of it.
Fold zucchini and chocolate chips into rest of mixture. Pour to fill muffin tins 2/3 of the way.
Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean, about 25 minutes.
To prepare for the upcoming school year, I’ve been trying to focus on finding meals I can make ahead and then have ready to heat and eat during the week. This yogurt marinade recipe is my recent favorite because in addition to a marinade for chicken, I’ve also used the recipe as a sauce or even dressing for other meals and side dishes. It keeps chicken moist–whether grilled or baked–and is a tangy and fresh compliment to seasonal veggies and sides!
Makes 4 servings (marinates 4 chicken breast fillets)
2 cups Greek yogurt, plain
2 tbsp honey
1 medium lemon, juiced
1/4 cup cucumber peeled and diced, finely
2 medium strawberries diced, finely
1/4 medium onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, made into paste
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1. In medium bowl, stir to combine yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice and honey.
2. Dice onion, cucumber and strawberry. Paste garlic. Combine all with yogurt mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
For Marinade: Pour into gallon-sized ziplock to cover chicken breasts and squeeze bag to coat chicken. Allow to marinade in refrigerator overnight. Grill or bake chicken to desired doneness, checking for an internal temperature of 165F.
For Sauce: Chill yogurt mixture in airtight container and enjoy with veggies, grains, salads or proteins as a dipping sauce or dressing.
By Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, Author of The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Book
I’m excited to be sharing another recipe from my book, The Diabetes Comfort Food Diet Book! This is an easy, and tasty granola recipe that you can make ahead for the week, for breakfast, snacks and on-the-go!
1. Preheat oven to 350F and spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, millet, cranberries, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, maple syrup, cinnamon, and cardamom. Stir well to combine.
3. Spread evenly onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 35 minutes or until golden brown, stirring carefully once or twice. Remove from the oven and break up any large pieces of granola while it’s still warm.
4. Cool completely before sorting into airtight containers. You can store at room temperature for up to 1 week. Enjoy!
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar and mustard. Add apples, lettuce, spinach, celery and onion. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with blue cheese, set aside.
For Pork Chops:
Season each pork chop with salt, thyme and garlic. Heat a large skillet with cooking spray over medium heat. Cook the pork chops for 8 minutes, turning once or until lightly browned and a thermometer inserted in the center of the chop reads 145F and the juices run clear. Serve with the apple salad.
By Brenna O’Malley and The Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
In search of a meatless option for a crowd or just an alternative to packaged veggie burgers with lots of extra ingredients? This easy make-ahead recipe is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, a salad or lunch topper, or a great way to get some protein and veggies into your day! These are crowd pleasing veggie burgers because your whether your friends are meatless, gluten free or particular about the veggies or ingredients they like, these burgers can be adapted to fit your guests’ palates!
Yields ~8 patties
1 can black beans, mashed
½ medium onion, diced
1 large carrot or 1 cup baby carrots, grated or diced finely
1 (8oz) pkg of mushrooms, diced
1 medium red pepper, diced
1 cup oat flour (can be made by blending 1 cup oats)
½ cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked
½ cup sweet potato, diced and cooked
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, minced and made into paste
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup sautéed spinach or kale, 2 tbsp chopped almonds, 1 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
Preheat oven to 350F
If you do not have roasted sweet potato or rinsed and cooked quinoa ready, prepare those now. Sautee onions, garlic paste, mushrooms and red pepper with tbsp. olive oil until veggies are soft.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and any optional add-ins you choose. Season to taste and mix well.
Prepare a baking sheet, moisten hands with water and begin to tightly pack and shape patties for baking.
Bake patties in oven for ~25 minutes, if your patties are thicker, flipping halfway through may promote even baking.
Can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen to have on hand for the week. Enjoy!
By Nutrition Student, Deanna Ronne and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
These light, refreshing, and nutritious summer rolls are simple and fun to make, easily packed for lunch, or stored for leftovers, and even your kids will love them! Try keeping them in the refrigerator and eating them cold after a long hot summer day. Packed with protein and healthy fats from salmon and avocado, this roll will satisfy your hunger without making you feel too full.1
Rich in vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids, Salmon has many health benefits. One omega-3 in particular, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is the brain’s favorite fatty acid. A diet rich in DHA is associated with improved learning abilities and disease prevention.2,3
rice paper wrapper (find them in the ethnic foods section of your health food store. I recommend brown rice)
spinach/spring mix/ lettuce
¼ cup soy sauce (reduced sodium)
1 tbs honey
siracha sauce (to taste, 1 tbs for a mild sauce)
In a bowl mix the soy sauce, honey, and siracha sauce. On medium heat, add the sauce to a pan with the salmon. Once cooked, set the salmon aside to cool off.
Wet paper towels large enough to cover the bottom of your plate. Place a wrapper on the paper towel and dab it with another wet paper towel. (You don’t want to get the wrappers too wet, because they will break easily.)
Place a handful of spinach in the middle of the wrapper and the rest of the ingredients on top.
Wrap the roll: start by folding the shortest sides in. Fold the bottom up and roll up to the top.
Enjoy! The optional sauce can also be used as a delicious dipping sauce.
III, V. L. F., Dreher, M., & Davenport, A. J. (2013). Avocado consumption is associated with better diet quality and nutrient intake, and lower metabolic syndrome risk in US adults: results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001-2008.
Kris-Etherton, P. M., Harris, W. S., & Appel, L. J. (2002). Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. circulation, 106(21), 2747-2757.
Horrocks, L. A., & Yeo, Y. K. (1999). Health benefits of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Pharmacological Research, 40(3), 211-225.
By Laura Cipullo RD, CDE and Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team
From ready-made breakfasts to kids’ camp snacks, granola bars are a go-to choice for on-the-go moms and dads. What better way to enjoy granola bars, than making them yourself? They’re also a great way to get your kids involved in the kitchen!
Time: 30 minutes cooking, 15 minutes cooling
Yields: 10 bars
2 cups oats
1 cup almonds
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup honey
¼ cup nut butter
½ cup dried fruits (raisins, craisins, dried cherries)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Toast oats on baking pan for about 5 minutes, shake or stir the oats on the pan once or twice. Pour into a bowl and set aside.
3. Coarsely chop the almonds and place onto the pan with the shredded coconut and place in oven for about 8 minutes, the coconut will start to turn golden and have a light aroma.
4. While the nuts and coconut are in the oven, pour the honey and nut butter (I used creamy almond butter) into a small sauce pan on medium-low heat, stir occasionally. Simmer the mixture for 3-5 minutes until it is a medium golden.
5. Remove honey and nut butter mix from heat and stir in oats, almonds and coconut. The mixture may seem dry, but should be evenly coated.
6. Sprinkle in dried fruits (I used a mix of raisins, dried cherries and cranberries) at the end of mixing.
7. Pour whole mix onto parchment lined baking pan or 8 x 12 cake pan and spread evenly.
8. Compress the granola mix so that there are not any spaces (this will prevent your bars from falling apart when you cut them). You can use the bottom of another pan covered in parchment paper to flatten out the mix.
9. Wait about 10-15 minutes for mixture to cool before cutting into 1 x 4in bars.
10. Store in air tight container and enjoy!
Fun Adaptation: This recipe also makes a yummy granola! Just crumble the mix after it cools or chop into smaller pieces for a fun yogurt topping!