Monday, March 31, 2014

Healthy Breakfast on the Go: Reality vs Fantasy

Breakfast commercials often feature smiling families sitting down enjoying a freshly made meal, or at least slurping down a bowl of cereal, the kids with their hair combed and the mom in full make up.

The reality in our house is screaming over lost shoes, misplaced homework and coffee that just won’t drip through fast enough. The dog needs to pee, the litter box has to be scooped, a soccer uniform is dirty and no one picked up the dry cleaning.

Are we having fun yet?

So my kids grab whatever they can and run out the door.  Sometimes I have planned ahead and made relatively healthy muffins that they can pop in the microwave, but that is the kind of advance planning that would have also foreseen the dirty uniform, dry cleaning slips and overdue library books.

And maybe picked up some more coffee beans.

But for those crazy mornings, Garden Lites comes to the rescue. A new line of delicious frozen vegetable muffins, Veggie Muffins hit the trifecta - they are tasty, healthy and portable.

The muffins are also gluten free, low in calories and a good source of fiber.

And they take 35 seconds to heat up in the microwave- faster than you can say," did you find your homework, remember your gym shoes, take your lunch, bring an umbrella and oh no, step over here and avoid the puppy’s accident."

Consider the zucchini chocolate muffins. The first two ingredients? Zucchini, then carrots. One muffin has 50% of the RDA of vitamin A, and 40% of the iron. And they taste great.

My daughter loved these and I had to fight her for one post workout (much more satisfying than a granola bar).

The corn muffins don’t have quite as impressive a nutritional profile - but they are also not loaded with crap.

There are also a veggie berry oat and zucchini banana chocolate chip, both with zucchini as the first ingredient, and a carrot berry with carrots at the helm.

Veggie Muffins are sold frozen, but take about 4 hours to thaw, so they are great snacks for a road trip, or for teens who can’t stomach food first thing in the morning.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Veggies to Go: Healthy Drinks

Orange Mango Smoothie
One of the first things my kids learned to make in the kitchen was smoothies. First, they just peeled the bananas and dropped them into the blender; they gradually added skills such as washing berries, cutting mangoes and pouring in milk.

As they became tweens, they took over the whole operation (minus the clean up). But as busy teens, they don’t have time in the morning to make a smoothie.  Enter Green Mustache, fruit and veggie juice smoothies. These veggie packed drinks come in grab and go 10 ounce bottles, ideal for a vitamin packed drink on the run.

The brand was started by a NYC mother of two, VanTrang Manges, who had to sneak veggies into her younger daughter’s diet. Once your kids learn to read, though, the gig is up.

The orange mango has spinach and kale, plus chia seeds, but the fruit flavors dominate. My daughters liked the strawberry banana which had pineapple (I’m allergic) and more spinach, kale and chia seeds. There is also a mixed berry, with pear, three berries and more of the healthy green stuff; soon to come is Tropical Twist, with pineapple, guava and passion fruit.

The nutrition labels will make you happy - no added sugar, great source of vitamins A and C,  plus rich in folate, iron and fiber.

The smoothies are organic, vegan and gluten free, with no preservatives, artificial colors or flavors. They are sold at sold at, some Fairways in New York and all Gourmet Garage stores in NYC.

One oddity; the FDA requires a serving size based on eight ounces, so the bottles technically have 1.3 servings. Really?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Luvo - Lots to Love

Luvo flatbreads
Finding healthy, frozen food can be like hitting the daily double: rare, but so satisfying. Luvo, a new entry into the frozen entree business, at least in the East Coast, hits the mark again and again.

Flatbreads come with whole wheat / flaxseed crusts, but they taste delicious, not virtuous. I tried the the Caramelized Onion & Mushroom Flatbread with Ricotta Cheese, which is a perfect dinner with a salad. My daughter also sampled the breakfast version, topped with ricotta, a touch of honey & apricot jam & chopped apple; for kids who get up too late to sit down for breakfast, this is a healthy breakfast on the go. There are also more combos, including an appealing sounding mushroom, egg and spinach version.

Unlike many prepared foods, the Luvo entrees are loaded with flavor, not salt. They are also made with no GMO ingredients.

And if, like me, you feel guilty about the excessive packing used in prepared foods, you can rest easy - the meals come in recyclable paper pouches that go from freezer to microwave to recycling bin.

If you aren’t a vegetarian, you can enjoy the hormone-free animal products. But anyone can savor the vegan whole grain pilaf, with quinoa, wheat berries, brown rice and kale.

Luvo meals are available in supermarkets and are a great idea when you travel - if your hotel room has microwave, you can healthy meals on the road. And now you can also have them in the air: Delta is serving them on West Coast shuttles and transcontinental flights to and from JFK, LAX, SFO and SEA.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chef Meals for Kids? Alain Ducasse

People who eat at fine restaurants around the world often want to introduce their children to fine dining early, but don't know how. Famed restauranteur Alain Ducasse has a new cookbook, Cooking for Kids: From Babies to Toddlers: Simple, Healthy and Natural Food, that can help pave the way.

The cookbook emphasizes seasonal ingredients and suggests using only organic produce. Children raised on these recipes, which include a turnip, potato and parsley puree, pumpkin and blue cheese soup and hake with grapefruit and garden peas, are unlikely to be satisfied with children's meals at fast food restaurants.

You can help your children develop a sophisticated palate, and make food that even adults can enjoy, though the squid, cucumber and lime muffins may have lost something in the translation.  Simple dishes like risotto with pumpkin, polenta with zucchini and millet with turnip, zucchini and mint will please any age.

The recipe that really struck me was a simple to make yet rich onion soup, using Melba toast or zwieback. The vegetarian soup was hearty and a huge crowd pleaser.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Dinner to Go, From Far Away

My daughter with a Chilean empanada cook
My middle daughter spent her junior year in Chile, and she developed a passion for empanadas. These vegetable or meat pastries are cooked to order throughout the country, but in the US, they are not as common.

Luckily, Fairway Market
Fairway empanadas
has stepped into the fray. The stores just introduced a Latin Table with empanadas and tamales.

The empanadas are fine - as long as you haven't experienced the freshly made ones in Chile. We visited my daughter and had some straight from the oven, so you can't really compare But my other 2 daughters didn't go to South America, and they loved the spinach-Portobello mushroom empanadas.

Even better are the tamales, with black beans (there are also meat versions of both, but we stuck with the vegetarian). They all come with spicy chipotle dip and avocado-tomatillo sauce.

Fairway tamales
These are great for combo meals - a healthier than fast food treat, plus a salad and you have dinner. And next time I stay in a hotel with a microwave and a fridge, I will bring a pack or 2 along. Somehow my kids are always starving once we get to a hotel and the food at hotels is usually quite pricey.

The empanadas and tamales are $4.99 each, for 2 and 4, respectively, and filling enough for a meal.