Do you want to adventure into cooking from a different cuisine? Do you want to do some culinary traveling but don’t feel like flying yet? Are you just looking for inspiration for something different to eat?
I’ve been trying recipes from various places around the world. To get as close to the real thing as possible without going to the country or a restaurant serving that type of food, I’ve been trying to find the recipes written by people who are actually from those parts of the world. (Or in some cases, their parents are from that part of the world and they grew up cooking those recipes)
For my own future reference, I collected the websites,blogs, etc. on a Pinterest board, but I realized I could share them with you!
Some of them are recipe blogs and some are specific recipes. Enjoy! I hope you learn something new!
(Also it will continue to grow as I try new recipes and find new recipe authors, so don’t forget to follow it or check back periodically if you want to see updates!)
I originally wrote this post before a class I was scheduled to teach at The Thinkery. I’ve updated the post with my online Mini Kitchen Explorers class in mind.
I’m pretty excited because I’m going to be teaching a series of food and cooking classes for preschoolers and their parents. It’s called Mini Kitchen Explorers, and it will be online August 5 or 6 (two different times offered). Kids and their parents will use all their senses to explore different foods in many different ways in a fun, interactive, low-pressure environment.
If you’re reading this before this class takes place, and you’re interested, you can learn more or sign up here:
Now, the reason I’m excited to teach this class is that it will just be fun. I mean, it’s not going to be easy. Maintaining a semblance of order and keeping things interesting for 3-5 year olds is no easy task (even if their parents are there too).
However. Right now, I spend a lot of my time talking to people about changes they should be making, changes they want to be making, or changes they might experience as a result of their current health condition. This is often hard (because change is hard) and is not usually fun. As much as I really try to make it positive and empowering, it often feels like telling someone the rules.
This class will be preschoolers and their parents doing fun activities that involve food.
Talking about food.
Playing with food.
Looking at food.
Or not tasting it if they don’t want to. This is a low pressure, relaxed environment. The goal is to give kids and parents lots of different ways to experience food and cooking together with no pressure to EAT VEGETABLES or TRY HEALTHY FOODS.
Lots of experience with any skill increases comfort and ability with it. This is no different for eating and being around foods, including unfamiliar foods.
A kid who says broccoli is gross and yucky and won’t eat it or anything remotely like it is really different than a kid who knows they don’t really like the texture of broccoli and can express that politely and clearly and also knows that trying a food and not liking it is not that scary because they’ve done it before lots of times and it was fine.
A kid who’s messed around in the kitchen and tried some cooking techniques and recipes (even a little) is going to be more comfortable eventually cooking or preparing foods on their own.
A kid who has learned a lot of value-neutral ways to talk about food (salty, fresh, rich, crunchy, colorful, high in protein) may be better equipped to have a nuanced understanding of nutrition and avoid black and white, extreme diet mentality around food.
Being comfortable around food and cooking doesn’t mean guarantee a person will make “the healthiest” choice. It does mean making a healthy choice (if they want to) is going to be way less difficult because they already have a basic familiarity with food.
They know what they like and what they don’t and why. They know how to choose and procure food, and how to prepare it. And if they don’t, they probably feel fairly comfortable learning how. They know at least a little bit about how foods affect them and what food can do for them.
They have a foundation from which they can make choices, rather than being hindered by fear of the unknown.
So I mean, I guess that’s my hidden agenda – remove barriers for future patients and make my future job easier. Or you know, prevent that they even have to come see me, because they have a healthy relationship with food and don’t even need my help.
Plus, seeing kids learn and explore anything is SUPER fun. They have such honest questions and interesting observations.
Or if it sounds good to you but your kids aren’t in the 3-5 age group, or you have other questions – talk to me about how we can design a learning experience just for you, your family, or your group. Let’s find a solution that will work for you.
There’s a bunch of suggestions out there for ways to eat more vegetables. Today we’re focusing on the best way to eat more vegetables FOR YOU.
Not in general, not just how anyone can, but what about you?
What will help YOU eat more vegetables?
By the way, you can use this same process for any goal you want to work on, (doesn’t even have to be nutrition-related) so if you’ve got another goal that comes to mind, just read [your goal here] instead of [eat more vegetables].
1) Start with a question: Why do you want to eat more vegetables?
To get more fiber? To lower your blood sugar? To help you lose weight? Because you want to eat fewer animal products? Because you want to broaden your palate? To have beautiful Instagram salads? Because someone told you to?
Why you want to eat more vegetables may help you narrow down the best way to go about doing it.
If it’s to get more fiber, look up some high fiber vegetables to start with – or see how many of your favorite vegetables you need to eat to reach your fiber goal.
If it’s to lower blood sugar, make sure the vegetables you are choosing will actually help you lower your blood sugar.
If it’s to broaden your palate, you will want to choose a variety of vegetables – maybe quality over quantity is your goal.
If you’re not sure why, or you’re doing it just because someone told you to, take some time to figure out why you want to.
If you know why, it’s easier to maintain long term motivation.
2) Ask the next question: What keeps you from eating as many vegetables as you would like?
Really think about this.
Is it that you get bored of eating broccoli and carrots all the time?
Is it because you hate mushy-textured boiled vegetables?
Is it because you’re intimidated by cooking vegetables?
Is it because you hate washing your cutting board?
Is it because you don’t have a place to store fresh vegetables or they are difficult to afford and go bad too fast?
Is it because your family doesn’t eat veggies and you don’t want to be/are tired of being the only one eating them?
Make sure you know your barrier (or barriers). Only then you can move onto the next step.
Guess what, it’s another question:
3) How can you solve the problem?
Brainstorming any and all ideas can be helpful, but make sure that whatever solution you choose is something you can actually picture yourself doing. Something that’s realistic and might even seem easy or too simple. Successfully completing a goal (even a small one) can propel you toward the next one, so choose a step that you are as likely as possible to do
If you’re bored of the same veggies, can you pick one new vegetable to try each time you go to the store or sign up for a CSA near you?
If you hate mushy veggies, are you ok with eating crunchy raw veggies or crispy roasted ones? (Lots of different ways to eat veggies can be found at itsavegworldafterall.com)
If you’re intimidated by cooking vegetables, can you start with those microwave-in-bag vegetables? Can you buy pre-chopped vegetables if you really hate chopping or washing your cutting board?
If you can’t store much fresh produce, can you look up some recipes for ways to use canned or frozen vegetables? Are there resources you can connect with to help you afford some more vegetables? (In the U.S. you can always call 211 to find out what local services are available near you)
Very important note: Choosing a very achievable and realistic step may not bring you to your ideal yet- your ultimate goal. That’s ok. The important thing is that this steps brings you closer to your ultimate goal
4) Do it.
Do the thing (or things) that will make eating vegetables easier for you.
Then, hey look at that! Either you’re eating more vegetables now, or you’ve realized that there were barriers you didn’t initially think of that you can now figure out how to overcome because you know what they are. Either way, you’ve moved forward toward your goal.
If you are stuck on any of these steps, a dietitian (like me :D) should be able to help you figure them out 🙂
Also sometimes just talking through these steps with a good listener (even if that’s your dog, your toddler, or your favorite houseplant) can help you realize what you already know, if you know what I mean.
What goals are you working on? What goal setting strategies work for you? What are the barriers you’ve identified? And how are you overcoming them?
Frozen fruits and frozen vegetables are good for you!
They are just as nutritious as fresh produce, and may sometimes be even a little more nutritious!
Because fruits and/or vegetables are processed (washed, cut, and frozen) very soon after being harvested, their freshness is “frozen” in place at just-picked quality! This can include ripeness (as they don’t have to be picked early to prevent spoilage on the way to the customer) and nutrition. Here’s how the process works:
Why are frozen vegetables and fruits are sometimes higher in nutrition than fresh ones?
Some vitamins and antioxidants degrade over time. Freezing a fruit or vegetable stops or really really slows down this process, so the vitamin content of frozen produce might be higher than one that has been sitting in the produce section (or in your fridge drawer) for a few days.
(This is not to say that fresh vegetables or fruit are devoid of nutrition if you don’t eat them right out of the ground or off the tree – it is only a very small portion that degrades. I just like to illustrate that you aren’t missing any nutrition by eating frozen produce)
Besides excellent nutrition, think of the other benefits of frozen produce!
No washing, chopping, slicing, peeling, needed – ready to use!
Most plain frozen fruits and vegetable products are just that – frozen fruits and vegetables. They don’t contain any added salt, sugar, fat, or preservatives! (You can always check the ingredients list if you want to make sure)
Sometimes they are more affordable than fresh, especially if it is a seasonal item (like strawberries or peaches) or one that does not grow where you live
Some vegetables are even packaged in a bag you can microwave directly so you don’t even have to get another dish dirty! (This is easy and pretty safe and a great way to get kids helping – just be careful with the hot package when it’s done!)
Some ways to use frozen produce besides steaming or making smoothies
Add frozen fruit to baked goods – blueberry muffins anytime 😀
Top a cereal or yogurt with frozen fruit
Cook frozen fruit with a few spoons of sugar to make a syrup that you can use on whatever you like!
Add frozen vegetables into the last few minutes boiling pasta to get an extra serving of veggies
Add frozen vegetables to a soup – again you can just throw them in the last few minutes
Look. I’m tired today, so we’re going to talk about something that I had actually planned in advance, but is appropriate for a day when you are tired and don’t feel like cooking or maybe don’t even feel like eating a meal:
How to make a meal out of snacks.
The fancy version of this is charcuterie. Or a smorgasbord. Although I recently looked up what a real Swedish smörgåsbord is, and apparently it includes 7 courses and must include herring and I don’t know if I’ve ever even had herring.
Anyway, you can have snacky meals that look like this:
But they can also look like this:
They can be fancy, but they don’t have to be. Most of the time when I eat a snacky meal, it’s because I’m already tired or too hungry to cook, so putting in the work to make it fancy would defeat the purpose.
The snacky “meal” I’m writing about today is assembling a meal out of things you already have on hand, or can prepare quickly and easily (like washing grapes, cutting up cheese, or baking some frozen sausage cheese puffs)
What are the ingredients?
Ideally, a snacky meal contains at least 1 fruit and/or vegetable, at least one protein food, and at least one starch.
This can definitely be modified, but the dietitian here recommends you get all your food groups (or at least 3 out of the 4).
What do you have in the fridge/freezer/cabinets that can fit in each of those categories? See some examples below
All of my examples here are finger food, but they don’t necessarily have to be – this is a great time to bring in leftovers.
As you can see, we often eat cheese for our protein – but you can use whatever you prefer and generally have on hand: hard boiled eggs, jerky, tuna salad, leftover chicken, salami, sliced lunch meat, nuts or seeds or trail mix, yogurt, leftover meatballs, fish sticks, chicken nuggets, hummus, leftover lentil or bean salad
Best if you can include both a fruit and a vegetable – or even a variety of both, but again, the idea is to pull from what you already have, not make more work for yourself. This is a great time to pull out leftover vegetables, the bag of baby carrots, the end of the salad greens that need to be eaten, those random olives or pickles that you always forget about and the bag of grapes that nobody is eating because they’re in the fridge and not on the counter. Don’t forget about dried fruits! No prep needed for those and I know mine often get neglected as they are hidden in a cabinet.
Starches are often prevalent in pantries and readily available for snacky dinners: crackers, bread, chips, pretzels, tortillas, etc. Don’t forget about leftovers – leftover pasta, potatoes, waffles – you might come up with some odd combinations, but the bottom line is – you’re being nourished!
This is a perfectly fine way to have a meal. Kids (especially young kids) often love eating this way because there are a lot of finger foods involved, they feel like they have more choice, and there are often a lot of familiar foods offered.
It may also be helpful for adults who are struggling with poor appetite, low energy, or low motivation to make sure they are getting the nutrition they need.
What do you think? Have you ever had a snacky meal before? What type of foods do you like to include?
My New Year’s Resolution is to start writing titles that sound like Dr. Seuss books.
Haha not really.
I know there will be approximately 70,000 blog posts or articles about making New Year’s resolutions and why you should or shouldn’t, etc. I’m not here to convince you about whether you should make a resolution or not.
What I do know is that the beginning of a new year causes lots of people to think about goals and aspirations. And a lot of those goals will be related to nutrition, so I’m here to tell you what I know about nutrition goals.
Nutrition goals are hard.
Changing anything is hard. If you’re trying to start doing something that you’re not used to doing, it’s going to be hard. If you’re trying to stop doing something you’re used to doing, it’s going to be hard. It’s just the nature of making changes.
There are surely psychological and behavioral studies that will explain the how and why it’s hard, but look – you probably know that from experience. I know it from my own experience and from the experience of working with probably thousands of people trying to make nutrition changes.
So here’s two things I want you to remember:
Choose 1 or 2 small things that you are confident you can do. And by confident I mean, you are like 95% sure that you will do it. (I know I said not 2 in the title, but it just rhymed, just don’t choose too many) Something that even seems a little bit too easy is fine, especially if you are just starting this change.
If you have a big goal like “eat healthier” or “lower my cholesterol” or “cook at home more” or “run a 5k” – that’s good! You set those big goals as your end game and use them to decide what your small goals are.
Choose small goals that will move you toward your big goal.
Eat healthier -> eat a fruit with breakfast every day
Lower my cholesterol -> find a whole grain bread you like to eat instead of white bread
Run a 5k -> Commit to walking 10 minutes 3 days per week
Making these small goals gives you a hit of accomplishment along the way, before you make it to that long term goal. Kind of like a save point in a video game. This gives you more confidence and motivation to make new goals (a cycle of accomplishment) instead of making large unrealistic goals and feeling bad when you don’t reach them (a cycle of defeat)
Remember what I said just a few paragraphs ago? Making changes is hard. So give yourself credit when you’ve made a change, even if it’s a small one!
Did you hear that?
Give yourself credit for making even a small change!
If you eat a fruit with breakfast most days when you didn’t before, or you now cook two meals at home per week instead of one – good for you! You made a change! You are progressing in the direction you want to go.
If you’ve made progress – you eat more veggies, you drink less soda, you walk more often than you used to – give yourself a sticker*, or a pat on the back, or a little dance in your kitchen, whatever helps you celebrate
*The stickers thing is working for me right now. It gives me a small bit of childlike delight when I can mark that I exercised or completed a blog post with a pretty sticker hehehe
Then take that celebration energy and decide the next change you want to make!
Sometimes knowing what small steps to start with can be difficult – this is where a professional can be helpful. A good dietitian (or other professional if your goal isn’t nutrition related), can help you figure out the first steps to take to reach your big goal.
Hope you get to enjoy some festive and special foods today and tomorrow! (Or some tasty foods regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas)
Also on my heart this year are those who don’t have access to enough healthy and nourishing foods. Recently, I have been learning more about how complicated and widespread this problem is as well as how much it can impact people’s health. I’m also seeing it firsthand in my work. While there is a lot of big work to be done and nothing will be solved tomorrow, these are some organizations that are working hard to get more good food to more people who need it.
No Kid Hungry – they work in different channels, including school meals, nutrition education, and public policy to make sure kids get fed. (It’s a sister organization to Cooking Matters which provides free culinary and nutrition education to families to get the most out of their food budget. I have volunteered with them before and they are awesome, but in the current season limited in their ability to do cooking classes right now due to safety and health guidelines.)
Project Angel Heart or God’s Love We Deliver – both are organizations that provide free, medically-tailored meals to those who have life-changing diseases and can’t afford or have trouble preparing the type of foods they need. The meals they provide greatly improve the health of the recipients – if you like to see measurable results, both of these organizations have encouraging statistics about their work you can read on their website!
Samaritan’s Purse – provides international disaster relief, some of which includes providing food in various forms – supplies for refugees, hot meals to children, or farming or business assistance so poor families can more effectively provide for themselves and escape the cycle of poverty
These are just a few of the organizations working in this area. If you know of another one, feel free to share in the comments! If this is a cause that touches your heart, please consider donating your time, skills, or money.
If you need help with having enough food for yourself or your family, this page has a lot of great resources, and in the U.S., you can always call 2-1-1 to speak with someone who can help connect you with local community services!
My grandma always made this type of applesauce for Christmas breakfast. We’d have it alongside buttery biscuits, cranberry orange bread, eggs, and bacon for everyone else (not a fan, personally). It’s so chunky, cinnamonny, and sweet, it’s basically apple pie filling.
She would always make a big pot, so there would be leftovers for future breakfasts and lunches too.
Hey, if you like to do a ham or roast for Christmas dinner, this would be a great side for that too. I had it with some roast beef for lunch today!
This recipe is made even easier because you don’t even peel the apples. My grandpa maintains that this is the only real kind of applesauce, any other kind is “babyfood”.
Certainly if you want to peel your apples you can, but leaving them on is less work and nearly twice the fiber!
Coffee has no sugar, fat, calories, carbohydrates, sodium, gluten or dairy
All that stuff everyone is worried about these days? Coffee doesn’t have it. No need to worry.
(Coffee has a tiny amount of calories and sodium but one 8-oz cup of black coffee will have at the most 5 calories and 5mg sodium which is honestly not even worth counting)
Coffee contains antioxidants
Why are antioxidants good? All the time, molecules in our cells are becoming damaged through oxidation from our own metabolic processes, radiation, the sun, various chemicals. This damage (when it is accumulated) can lead to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, aging, etc. Antioxidants protect against this damage.
Coffee has been studied a lot and the consensus is it’s mostly fine and might actually be good.
There are some studies showing that people who drink coffee have certain diseases more often, but there are way more studies showing that people who drink coffee have no more risk of disease than people who don’t drink coffee, and some studies that show that people who drink coffee have a lower chance of getting certain diseases (like type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease)
It’s important to remember that correlation does not equal causation. These studies were done in people who all had different lifestyles, family histories, diets, smoking and exercise habits, etc., so while researchers try to make sure they are only looking at the effect of coffee, they can’t say for sure that coffee was the thing making the difference in who got diseases and who didn’t.
Depending on how you take your coffee, it might enhance your nutrition
If you add milk (or a fortified alternative milk) to your coffee, you will get some calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin A! And depending on what type of milk it is, some protein, fat, and carbs – not enough for a meal of course, but maybe enough for a snack.
This of course can be a double-edged sword. If your preferred regular coffee format includes a lot of sugar and high fat ingredients, the benefits of drinking a lot of coffee might be outweighed by the drawbacks of drinking a lot of sugar and fat. Not that you shouldn’t enjoy cream, sugar, or flavored syrup in your coffee, just take the nutrition they provide into account.
Some nuance about coffee
Like anything, too much coffee can be harmful, and just drinking a ton of coffee will not magically make you super healthy. There are some people who should be cautious with coffee (e.g. pregnant women) and I mean, definitely don’t drink it if it makes you feel bad or interferes with your sleep or makes you anxious.
Many of the harmful effects were associated with more extreme amounts of coffee. Coffee made as espresso, French press, or boiled can slightly raise cholesterol when drunk in large amounts.
The bottom line: coffee, in moderation, is pretty harmless and might have benefits.
If you don’t like coffee, don’t feel like you need to start drinking it for the health benefits.
If you do like coffee, enjoy it and feel good about it!
Find an appropriately sized container for leftovers
Count out ingredients
Play with non-breakable bowls and spoons
When I was a toddler, my mom had one low cabinet that had the metal mixing bowls and pots that I was allowed to play with and I totally thought a two piece bundt/angel food cake pan (like this one) would make a great snowman costume if I put the pointy part on my head like a top hat and wore the round part around my neck as a…scarf? I’m not sure what I was thinking. But I definitely got stuck in the round part and panicked and my mom had to help me get out and it’s one of my earliest memories
Suggest a meal or side dish
Choose a meal or side dish
Look through a cookbook or cooking magazine together and choose some recipes to try
Choose a recipe from a cooking show to try (even if it is just used as an inspiration)
Follow a video tutorial together
Some limited physical coordination required
Many of these tasks can be done by very small toddlers who have an adult helper. Very small kids probably won’t be able to complete the task by themselves, but they will be able to participate, which is the important part. Check out the ADORABLE Chef Kobe here for some visual proof that toddlers can do these types of tasks
Sprinkle toppings on a salad
Sprinkle cheese or breadcrumb topping
Rinse lettuce leaves
Add pre-measured ingredients to a mixture
Mix spice mixtures/sauces/batters
Put ingredients in a pot to cook
Collect bowls/measuring cups/measuring spoons
Move dirty dishes from the table to the counter or dishwasher
Get out toppings/condiments and put them on the table
Mash potatoes, bananas, or squash
Shake a jar or container of dressing or seasonings to mix it (just make sure it is fully closed!)
Throw skins/peels/package wrappers in a garbage bowl, trash, or compost bin
Carry dirty dishes to the counter/sink/dishwasher
Wipe off a table or a counter
Toss veggies in oil and seasonings by shaking them in a closed container
Cut out dough with cookie cutters
Decorate cookies with sprinkles/frosting
Top pizzas with cheese and toppings
Somewhat higher coordination or level of strength required
Will still require an adult supervisor and possibly an adult helper
Help put away groceries
Find and collect ingredients as you read them from the recipe
Put away ingredients as they are used
Remove husk and silk from corn on the cob
Pull garlic cloves from a head of garlic
Peel garlic cloves that have been smashed
Use a garlic press to press garlic
Use a measuring cup or pitcher to add water to a pot
Press buttons on a mixer, blender, or food processor
Crush nuts or bread crumbs in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, pot, fists, or Hulk hands if you want to make it extra fun
Put plates, cups, silverware, and/or napkins on the table
Peel an orange or banana
Use a lettuce spinner to dry lettuce
Dry lettuce by spinning it in a towel or mesh bag
Tear up lettuce leaves
Toss a salad
Toss veggies in oil and seasonings for roasting using a bowl and spoon/fork
Use a cookie scoop to portion out cookies/biscuits/meatballs
Shape meatballs, rolls or other doughs
Turn on slow cooker
Peel an onion that has been cut in halves or quarters
Put spreads on bread or toast
Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher or sink or on the counter
Reading skills required
Preheat the oven
Read recipe out loud
Read the ingredients list out loud
Find a recipe
Write ingredients on a grocery list
Search for and add foods to an online grocery order
Read the grocery list and cross items off the list as they are bought
Follow directions to prepare microwave food
Write and decorate a menu (although, they can just decorate a menu and “write” if they don’t actually know how to write. No one actually needs to read it 😊)
Find a recipe that they want to try in a cookbook
Search for and find a recipe to make online
Follow a simple recipe
Sharp safety skills required
Use your best judgment as a parent
Use scissors to cut fresh herbs
Use scissors to cut pizza or quesadilla that has cooled
Use an egg slicer
Use a cheese slicer
Use an egg slicer to cut strawberries
Wash and cut grape bunches with scissors
Put vegetables/meat on skewers
Add ingredients to a food processor or blender
Press the buttons on a food processor or blender
Kids can start to learn knife skills earlier than you might think! Here are two really great resources on how to start helping kids use knives safely and in an age-appropriate way (superhealthykids.com and happykidskitchen.com/) Might as well start teaching them safe skills early! (Besides, the earlier they learn, the earlier they can help!)
Chop lettuce with a lettuce knife
Chop soft vegetables or fruits (banana, cucumber, zucchini)
Chop dough (to section for rolls)
Chop or slice vegetables
Heat safety required
Steam frozen veggies in the microwave and then season
Make a microwaveable food
Stir a pot or pan
Add ingredients to a pot or pan on the stove
Follow a simple recipe that involves using the oven or stove
Please note that these are ideas meant to empower you to involve your kids in the cooking process. You are the one who best knows your child’s abilities. Use your best judgement to choose activities that will be appropriate for your child. Please make sure you supervise your children during these activities, especially those that involve heat or sharp blades!