What’s Amy eating?

Written by amy on January 28th, 2015

A choice two inch pork chop and cooking suggestion from local farmer, Marc Cesario of Meeting Place pastures, led to tonight’s delish dinner. Thanks Marc!


Roasted pork chop (slit horizontally and stuffed with sliced apples) served atop warm Pumpkin Butter and roasted Brussels sprouts

Horseradish mashed potatoes


Put the Smackdown on the Fruit Snack

Written by amy on August 21st, 2014

fruit gummieOver the past twenty years, the fruit snack has become a staple snack item in many households. And now, these colorful little balls of chewy goodness are often made with “real fruit” or even “100% fruit juice”, offering – in theory – a portable, non-perishable, super easy option for meeting the USDA recommended 2-3 servings of fruit a day. The reality is that fruit snacks, even those claiming to be 100% fruit, are nothing more than a marketing ploy that capitalizes on the almost universal belief that fruit is part of a healthy diet.

There are two main issues with fruit snacks. First, the fruit snack, in all its fun and uniform shapes, resembles nothing like the fruit from which it may have been derived. It requires so much processing that the end product is far removed from what the fruit originally looked and tasted like. This can create more confusion among consumers about what “real food” is and where it comes from. The target market for fruit snacks, kids, are extremely vulnerable to this confusion as noted in several surveys. According to a recent study conducted by the British Nutrition Foundation, one-third of elementary aged children struggled to identify where fruits and vegetables came from.

Not only does the appearance and taste change when turning a whole fruit into a fruit snack, but the nutritional value of the fruit does as well. Some fruit snacks contain added sugars, artificial flavors and coloring, and preservatives. Even if made from only fruit, some nutrients, such as fiber, are lost during processing. Fiber plays a critical role in creating a feeling of fullness and without it, it is hard to feel satisfied by that serving of fruit snacks. Experts tend to agree on one point regarding nutrition – the most important recommendation is to eat real as close as possible to its natural state and that processing itself appears to be causing more health issues than anything else.

Call it what it is – fruit snacks are a dessert. Spinning a fruit snack as a serving of fruit is the equivalent of a used car salesman trying to sell you on the idea that a used car will function just like a brand new car – even though it’s been drive cross country, and back, ten times, by a teenager, with three snack-eating toddlers in the back seat.


Frequently Asked Questions: Talking weight

Written by amy on August 15th, 2014

Scales  Q: How do I talk to my child about his or her weight?

A: Each child has a unique genetic blueprint. This blueprint dictates the bone structure, body size, and shape for your child. There is no way to know what these will be. Nor can we know the ideal weight for a child. Thus, the pattern of your child’s growth, both in height and in weight, is almost more important than the number itself. Health providers consider whether your child’s growth matches the expected pattern of growth, regardless of whether your child is considered “skinny” or “fat”. If the growth patterns don’t match, there may be an underlying issue that is affecting your child’s health status. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have concerns about your child’s growth.

Talking about weight can be a sensitive topic for people  of all ages. Even though weight and body size receive a lot of attention in the media and in society, there is still a lot of misunderstanding. Here are some tips for talking about weight with your child.

1. Talk less about weight and more about health. Using the word “healthy” instead of emphasizing physical appearance can promote a positive body image. Avoid weighing your child at home. Review with your child the benefit to being healthy, which extend beyond changes in body appearance. Being healthy can help your child do better in school, run faster, fight colds, and have more energy.

2. If your child voices concern or makes body image comments, talk about weight without judgment. This can avoid causing guilt or placing blame. Be available to help and talk honestly if you child asks about his or her weight.

3. Use the word “we” so your child knows that every family member is involved. Avoid comparisons to other siblings or children. Being healthy shouldn’t single out one family member. Everyone needs to be healthy and active every day.

4. Keep it positive. Encourage positive body talk by your child, another family member, or yourself, no matter whose body is being discussed.

5. Reassure your child – over and over again – that you love him or her for their internal qualities, such as their goofiness or caring nature.


Frequently Asked Questions: Packing Vegetables in Kids’ Lunches

Written by amy on August 6th, 2014

half plate vegetablesQ: Whenever I pack a vegetable in my child’s lunch, it comes home uneaten. Should I just stop sending it? What’s the point?

A: Vegetables are one of the most important food groups and one that is too often missing from mealtime. Less than 5% of Americans under the age of 50 are getting the recommended amount of vegetables. Here are two reasons why it is important to include vegetables at meals even if you think without a doubt that your child (or significant other) will pass them by. First, it may be the day that they don’t pass them by and actually decide to eat the vegetables. Assuming that meal patterns and preferences will remain the same is just that, an assumption. Try to increase the likelihood of vegetables being eaten by double checking the other items in the lunch bag. Make sure you aren’t giving two foods from the same food group or too large of a serving of one particular item.

A second reason to send vegetables every day is for the message you are sending in the form of those vegetables. Your child will indirectly learn that vegetables are to be included at meals because they are an important part of being healthy. This is an invaluable lesson for your child about meal planning.

A common misconception about vegetables in that they are too expensive. Actually, when considering the nutritional value of vegetables, vegetables are very cost-effective. Meal planning may sound time consuming but it is one way to decrease food costs.  Approach food costs from a difference perspective and look for other areas of spending that you can decrease to free up money. Can you spend less on impulse purchases such as beverages and snack items? Does you family only eat when actually hungry or could food be disappearing due to mindless eating related to feelings such as boredom?  Prioritizing vegetables often leads to creative solutions around food costs.


What’s Amy eating?

Written by amy on August 1st, 2014
It’s a deck night! A beautiful summer evening that screams for dinner on the deck.  So, dinner tonight was centered around the grill – and this also means easy cleanup night!
Grilled split chicken breast
Grilled squash, zucchni, tomatoes, seasoned with garlic, salt, and pepper
Grilled corn on the cob, seasoned with Old Bay seasoning
Watermelon chunks

What’s Amy eating?

Written by amy on July 30th, 2014

Summertime doesn’t usually lead me to soups but I found myself in soupland tonight, perhaps due to the rainy, cool weather and garden harvest. I usually try to make this soup a day or two ahead so that the flavors intensify but that would have required foresight – an item that was not on the menu for today!

Tonight’s menu:

Crusty bread
Green salad with carrots, celery, red bell pepper, and slivered almonds
Sliced Strawberries

What’s Amy eating?

Written by amy on February 13th, 2014

These chilly, single digit temperature day just scream for something a little more substantial in my side items than basic rice and green salad.  On these days, I often find myself turning to risotto for a heartier addition to dinner.  Risotto may seem to be more time-consuming but it should not take more than 30 minutes to prepare. It does require a bit more attention so don’t try this on a night when you have “Mommy, can you help me with….” coming at you every five minutes.  I usually enlist the help of my rugrats when making risotto – adding the ladle of warm broth incrementally every few minutes is simple but busy enough for little helpers.

Tonight’s menu:

Roasted Chicken

Roasted root vegetables

Risotto with sautéed mushrooms and cherry tomatoes


Peanut Butter

Written by amy on February 12th, 2014

Peanut butter is a staple in 90% of households in the United States. What could be more American than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Peanuts butter and other nut butters are all a good source of protein; the benefit to choosing a nut butter other than peanut butter is that they offer more vitamin E, iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper. Look for nut butters without added sugars and salt.


Amy’s top picks:

       Any brand, unsweetened and unsalted

       Sunbutter Organic Sunflower Seed butter

       Justin’s Classic Almond or Peanut butter


Parsnip – pasty but tasty!

Written by amy on February 2nd, 2014

parsnip  The parsnip – that pale and pasty relative to the carrot and the celery root.  They remind me slightly of a Vermonter’s legs during the winter months.  But, don’t let this straggly appearance fool you.  This winter vegetable has an intense, sweet, herbal flavor that lends a unique taste to dishes.  Parsnips pair well with pork, other root vegetables, and dark leafy greens.  When roasted, they caramelize on the outside and turn creamy within. Parsnips can also be used in baked good to give a spicy sweetness.

When buying parsnips, keep in mind that the small ones aren’t necessarily more tender. Choose fairly big ones (less peeling!) that are sweet-smelling, firm, and free of blemishes or soft spots. Avoid ones with a sprouting top. Parsnips will keep for weeks when stored in a crisper in a ventilated plastic bag.

To cook, first peel and trim as you would carrots. If you find one with a woody core, remove the core with a paring knife.  Parsnips are softer and quicker cooking than carrots.

So head to the store, grab yourself a bag of pale Vermonters’ legs, and give one of the following recipes a try!


Beef Stew with Potatoes and Parsnips

¼ cup all purpose flour

2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch pieces

3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium

4 garlic cloves, chopped

¼ cup tomato paste

1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise

1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into ½ by 2 inch pieces

1 tbsp white vinegar


Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, season flour with salt and pepper. Coat beef in flour, shaking off excess. In a large heavy ovenproof pot, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium. In batches, brown beef on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon oil, onion, garlic, and tomato paste and sauté until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Add beef and any accumulated juices, potatoes, parsnips, 1 ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is fork-tender, 1 hour. Stir in vinegar and serve.



Spiced Parsnip Cupcakes

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tsp ground cardamom or 1 ¼ tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp fine salt

¾ cup packed light-brown sugar

2 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp vanilla extract, divided

2 cups grated parsnip (from 1 large peeled parsnip)

8 oz cream cheese, room temperature

½ stick unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup confectioners’ sugar


Preheat oven to 350. Whisk together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, eggs, oil, 2 tsp vanilla, and parsnip. Stir in flour mixture.

Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners. Divide batter among cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

In a large bowl, with a mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, and remaining vanilla until combined. Spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

To store, refrigerate cupcakes in an airtight container, up to 2 days.


Thinking outside of the can – with orange juice concentrate

Written by amy on January 22nd, 2014

Orange juice concentrate has been a staple in the freezer section of grocery stores for decades. The product, which is made by removing some of the water from orange juice, has uses far beyond just reconstituting it back into juice. The orange flavor is three times stronger in frozen concentrate, making it a great way to add a lot of flavor without a lot of liquid. This potent flavor booster can be used as a glaze for meat and fish, as a fast marinade or dressing, and more.  For best flavor and nutritional value, choose a brand with a “100% juice” label. This will ensure that you are buying only orange juice without any additives or extra sugar.

  • Mix with tahini and toasted sesame oil to create a salad dressing
  • Stir into sliced carrots sautéed with grated ginger
  • Whisk with soy sauce to make a marinade for pork or other meat
  • Blend with strawberries and yogurt for a smoothie
  • Stir into whipped cream and serve over pound cake