School is out and schedules aren't as hectic, but preparing weeknight meals remains a time-consuming chore.
And, as childhood obesity continues to be a concern for many families, it's important to prepare healthful meals at home. If you think of kids' foods in terms of chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and hot dogs, you might want to experiment with recipes that will improve your family's eating habits.
The new Weight Watchers book Eat! Move! Play! A Parent's Guide for Raising Healthy, Happy Kids (Wiley, $19.95) offers five simple rules to help children stay active and eat right:
■ Focus on wholesome, nutritious foods. Create a love of whole grains, water, low-fat milk, vegetables and fruits by making them household items. Most of these foods are high in vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients and low in calories. These foods must become the mainstay of a family's diet, meals and snacks, in order to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
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■ Keep the treats. Treats are low in nutritional value and shouldn't be used as snacks. An important part of kids' eating habits, a treat adds enjoyment, reduces feelings of deprivation and supports a realistic, sustainable eating pattern.
■ Cut the screen time. Aside from homework, parents should plan for their kids to be in front of the TV for only two hours or less a day. Numerous studies show that the daily number of hours in front of the television is linked to weight gain.
■ Try to be active one hour or more each day. An hour a day might sound like a lot, but it helps to understand that the recommendation includes all kinds of activity, structured and unstructured — and that includes playing outside after school and riding a bike to the store.
■ These rules apply to everyone in the home. A healthy lifestyle isn't just for those who have or had weight problems. It's important that everyone in the family follow these rules because that provides kids with consistent expectations and helps to make the rules stick.
Cucumber ranch steaks
1/2 cup finely chopped seeded cucumber
1/4 cup prepared ranch dressing
1 tablespoon garlic-pepper seasoning
4 beef shoulder center steaks (ranch steak), cut 3/4 inch thick (about 5 ounces each)
1 small tomato, seeded, diced (optional)
Combine cucumber and dressing in a small bowl; set aside. Press garlic-pepper seasoning evenly onto beef steaks. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 9 to 11 minutes for medium rare (145 degrees) or medium (160 degrees), turning once. Serve steak with cucumber sauce. Garnish with tomato, if desired.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 263 calories, 15 g. fat, 75 mg. cholesterol, 539 mg. sodium, 2 g. carbohydrates, 0.4 g. fiber, 29 g. protein.
Source: Kentucky Beef Council
Grilled garlic bread
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon paprika
1 loaf Italian or French bread, cut in half lengthwise
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 to 450 degrees). In a medium bowl, mix the butter, garlic, salt and paprika until evenly incorporated.
Spread the butter evenly over the cut sides of the bread. Grill the bread, cut sides down, over direct medium heat, with the lid open, until toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the grill and cut the bread into pieces, each about 2 inches thick. Sprinkle parsley over the bread just before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Source: Weber's on the Grill: Steak & Sides
3/4 pound cod fillet
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup whole-wheat cracker crumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 mini whole-wheat buns
Cut the fish into 4 equal squares. Place the flour in a shallow bowl and the buttermilk in another. Stir the crumbs, parsley, salt and garlic powder together in a third bowl. Coat each piece of fish first with the flour, then with the buttermilk, then with the crumb mixture.
Heat oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook, turning once, until browned and just opaque in the center, about 8 minutes. Place each piece in a bun.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 277 calories, 8 g. fat, 34 mg. cholesterol, 621 mg. sodium, 34 g. carbohydrates, 4 g. fiber, 19 g. protein.
Oven-baked sweet potato fries
2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and skins left on
11/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a non-stick baking pan with non-stick spray.
Quarter the potatoes lengthwise. Cut each quarter into 4 wedges; you should have 32 wedges in all.
Toss potatoes with the oil, salt and allspice in a large bowl. Arrange in a single layer on the pan and bake until the potatoes are cooked through and crisp, about 35 minutes, turning them once halfway through baking.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (8 fries): 108 calories, 2 g. fat, 0 mg. cholesterol, 297 mg. sodium, 22 g. carbohydrates, 3 g. fiber, 2 g. protein.
Source: Eat! Move! Play!
This is essentially a cross between a burrito and a chimichanga; all the good filling of a burrito and the crispness of a chimichanga, but with none of the deep-frying.
3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 cup jarred red salsa, the chunkier the better
1 4-ounce can diced green chilies
4 flour tortillas, burrito size
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup jarred red enchilada sauce
Shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and cilantro, for garnish
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a mixing bowl, combine the chicken, salsa and green chiles, and mix well. Heat the tortillas a little, just to make them pliable. Use a dry non-stick skillet or a microwave.
Spoon some of the chicken mixture onto each tortilla. Roll them up burrito style — bottom over the mixture, sides in, and then roll away from you. Place on the baking sheet and rub the top of the burritos lightly with oil. Bake until golden brown, abut 20 minutes.
While they cook, heat the enchilada sauce in a separate small pot or in a bowl in the microwave. To serve, spoon warm enchilada sauce on a plate, lay a chimichito on top, add a spoonful of sour cream, and sprinkle with cheese and cilantro.
Source: Sam the Cooking Guy by Sam Zien
Grilled polenta with spicy steak
4 teaspoons canola oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-pound) flank steak, trimmed
1 (18 ounces) tube of polenta, cut into 8 slices
1 ripe peeled avocado, sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled queso fresco
1/2 cup refrigerated fresh salsa
Lime wedges (optional
Note: Tubes of prepared polenta are in the refrigerated part of the produce section.
Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Combine 1 teaspoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the cumin, chili powder and pepper; rub evenly over steak. Add steak to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or to desired doneness. Remove steak from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices.
While steak rests, brush remaining 1 tablespoon oil over both sides of polenta slices; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add polenta to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Arrange 2 polenta slices on each of 4 plates; divide avocado evenly among servings. Top each serving with about 3 ounces steak, 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, 2 tablespoons queso fresco and 2 tablespoons salsa. Serve with lime wedges if desired.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 397 calories, 19.2 g. fat, 41 mg. cholesterol, 24 g. carbohydrates, 737 mg. sodium, 28.9 protein, 5.1 g. fiber.
Source: Cooking Light
Southwestern cobb salad with avocado ranch dressing
1 small head romaine lettuce, chopped (6 cups total)
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked chicken breast or black beans
¼ red onion or red bell pepper, finely diced (1/2 cup onion or bell pepper)
1½ avocados, peeled and diced
1 cup corn kernels, fresh, frozen or canned
½ cup diced or shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
1 egg, hard-boiled, sliced
3 tablespoons non-fat sour cream
1 to 2 limes, juice only (about ¼ cup juice)
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil
Hot pepper sauce (optional)
Place lettuce in the bottom of a large serving bowl. Top it with the remaining salad ingredients (chicken or beans, onion, 1 diced avocado, corn, cheese and egg).
In a blender, make the dressing by blending together the sour cream, half an avocado, lime juice, salt, honey, olive oil and hot pepper sauce. Just before serving, toss the salad with about half the dressing, then add more to taste.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving: 380 calories, 19 g. fat, 95 mg. cholesterol, 290 mg. sodium, 33 g. carbohydrates, 11 g. dietary fiber, 6 g. sugar, 24 g. protein.
Source: SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue by Aviva Goldfarb