National Men Make Dinner Day on November 3rd! [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

November 1, 2016 by · 2 Comments 

national-men-make-dinner-day-banner

Did you know National Men Make Dinner Day is observed annually on the first Thursday in November? Neither did I. But the concept sounds like a good one to me. In order to learn more about this day of empowering men in the kitchen, I recently connected with Sandy Sharkey, the brains behind National Men Make Dinner Day. Here’s what she had to say:

KR: Hi Sandy! There’s got to be a story here. Can you enlighten me and share with our readers how you were inspired to create National Men Make Dinner Day?

SS: The most important thing about National Men Make Dinner Day, is a sense of humor! For years, my non-cooking husband Rob was a source of hilarity for me. On the rare occasion that he stepped into the kitchen, something was always melted onto something else. Forever.

At one point many years ago, all my girlfriends had boyfriends or husbands that would cook on a regular basis. I felt left out of the club, so I created National Men Make Dinner Day—one day a year (first Thursday of every November) set aside for NON-COOKING men, like my husband. They are fantastic guys, they do their share of chores around the house, but they are completely lost in the kitchen. I thought it would be fun to see what would happen if Rob did it all…found a recipe, bought the ingredients, made the meal, even cleaned up. Simply because it was so out of his ‘wheelhouse.’

On the very first NMMDD (Nov 1, 2001), Rob made a poached salmon that overflowed inside the oven. His pot of rice on the stove did the same thing. Everything that could overflow was overflowing, but he tried so hard to please that he did become the poster boy for NMMDD, and still participates to this day.

KR: Your good-natured idea has apparently inspired a lot of people. What can you tell me about the feedback you’ve received from folks who’ve participated?

SS: If a man (or woman) has a clear understanding of WHO this day is for AND has a sense of humor, then they absolutely love it. On my website, I have tried to be specific. I acknowledge that most men DO cook on a regular basis. This is a day for men who NEVER EVER EVER cook AND they have a sense of humor! I am thrilled that my whimsical attempt to get one meal a year cooked by my husband has spread worldwide! I have received positive messages from all over North America, Europe, even Australia. 

KR: Are there rules?

SS: Yes, there are rules, some of which include:

  • The main meal must include a minimum of 4 ingredients and require at least one cooking utensil other than a fork.
  • Man goes shopping for all necessary ingredients.
  • Must clean up as he goes.
  • Aprons are optional.
  • Have fun with it! (and keep a fire extinguisher handy)

*For the rest of Sharkey’s rules, see National Men Make Dinner Day.

KR: At BLEND, we’re always trying to find healthy, family-friendly recipes. Do you have a favorite healthy dinner dish you’d like to share?

SS: We love baked fish marinated in olive oil and garlic with basil, and grilled vegetables tossed with balsamic vinegar.

KR: Mmmmm! That sounds like a wonderful meal. You may have just inspired a future recipe for Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen.

Sandy’s interview also inspired me to “encourage” Marty (my husband) to pull out his rarely-worn apron and get busy in the kitchen. While he’s comfortable commanding the backyard grill cooking hunks of meat to perfection, he’s not particularly confident in front of the stove. His indoor cooking skills are limited to making eggs and toast. How he survived as a bachelor before we married is still a mystery to me!

——————————

Need some ideas for NMMDD?

Visit the BLEND Pinterest page or check out these previous blogs for nutritious, family-friendly recipes:

Trade-up Tacos – A build-your-own taco bar is fun for the whole family.

Mini Egg Frittatas – Breakfast for dinner is always a good idea!

Grandma Carla’s Vegetable Minestrone Soup – Way better than anything you’ll get from a can.

Brooke’s Shrimp and Asparagus Pasta – A gourmet meal in minutes.

Baked Tilapia – This blog has an entire menu spelled out, including dessert!

Feast or fail, please share with us!

If the man in your house makes dinner on November 3rd, please snap a picture and share it with us in the comment section below. We appreciate a good meal and would love to see the culinary masterpieces that come from your kitchen. If the meal is a bust, no worries. Trust us, we know it happens. Read about one of our epic fails. Instead of shaming him with a photo of charred food, send us a photo of him wearing his apron so we can celebrate his efforts.

Happy National Men Make Dinner Day to you!

Kelly

Kelly-Radi-232x300This is a guest blog written by Kelly Radi.

Passionate about food and nutrition, Kelly is a freelance writer, NuVal expert, former BLEND employee, and current BLEND advocate. A wife and mother of 2 teenagers, Kelly lives in Sartell where she is often spotted at Coborn’s scouring the shelves in search of the best NuVal scores. She enjoys cooking, playing tennis, and sitting down with a good book. She can be reached at radi.to.write@gmail.com. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of NuVal LLC, Coborn’s, Inc., BLEND, and the CentraCare Health Foundation. Read more “Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen blogs here.

Ghoulishly Good Halloween Dinner [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

October 19, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

ghoulishly-good-halloween-dinner-bannerHalloween is just around the corner! It’s a night of costumes and excitement, tricks and treats. But we know our little goblins can’t run all evening on candy alone. So before you head out into the dark of night, why not serve a meal that is hauntingly good, wickedly quick to prepare, and shockingly nutritious?

Try this cleverly creepy, kid-friendly menu to fuel up before a night of trick or treating fun.

Spooky Dinner Menu
Frankenstein’s Eyeballs and Brains
Witches’ Warts (Green Peas)
Jack O Lantern Fruit Plate (Recipe can be found on BLEND Pinterest page here)

Frankenstein’s Eyeballs and Brains
Ingredients:
Green Pasta (I used Ronzoni Super Greens* enriched thin spaghetti)
Pasta sauce, any kind
String Cheese (approximately ½ stick per person)
Black olives
Drinking straw

1.  Slice string cheese about ¼” thick. Cut the olives in half lengthwise. Using the straw, press circles out of the center of the cheese slices, like a mini cookie cutter. Using the same straw, cut pieces out of the olives and place the pieces into cheese circles as pupils.

2.  Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Toss with a splash of olive oil to prevent sticking.

3.  Top with pasta sauce and sprinkle with eyeballs before serving.

*You’ll note the green pasta mentioned above. I went to the store in search of spinach pasta and was pleasantly surprised to find Ronzoni has a new product called SuperGreens. It is thin spaghetti enriched with spinach, zucchini, broccoli, parsley and kale. I had no idea this product even existed! It’s a perfectly ghoulish green color and tastes good as well. The only bummer is that this product is so new it doesn’t have a NuVal score yet. I’ll be sure and let you know in a future post when I find out what the score is for this product.

In searching for frightfully fun, non-candy treat options, I came across some wonderful ideas on Pinterest. Think Play-doh, glow sticks, lip balm and school supplies. Click here to see these spook-facular suggestions.

Wishing you and your little goblins a safe and healthy Halloween!
Kelly

Kelly-Radi-232x300This is a guest blog written by Kelly Radi.

Passionate about food and nutrition, Kelly is a freelance writer, NuVal expert, former BLEND employee, and current BLEND advocate. A wife and mother of 2 teenagers, Kelly lives in Sartell where she is often spotted at Coborn’s scouring the shelves in search of the best NuVal scores. She enjoys cooking, playing tennis, and sitting down with a good book. She can be reached at radi.to.write@gmail.com. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of NuVal LLC, Coborn’s, Inc., BLEND, and the CentraCare Health Foundation. Read more “Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen blogs here.

Eight Layer Fiesta Dip Cups [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

October 4, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

eight-layer-fiesta-dip-cups-blog-bannerSavory Sunday Snacks

With football season in full swing, I’m always searching for fun, satisfying Sunday afternoon snacking options. And as I tend to get lazy on cool, autumn Sunday afternoons, I like the snacks I make to be hearty enough to double as dinner, if necessary. Today, I’m going to share a dip option that can double as a snack or a lazy Sunday supper, but is also perfect for a party. These individually portioned snacks are especially great for get-togethers during cold and flu season as people can keep their germs to themselves. No double dipping here!

Build it By the Numbers

Essentially, this is the individual version of the go-to party platter of taco dip. Only better. It’s less messy and looks great! A big tray of individual fiesta dip cups makes a beautiful presentation at a party with a large bowl of chips on the side. To get started building the foundation of this dip, find yourself a can of refried beans. Unless, of course, you’re the type who makes your own. If that’s the case, go for it! Personally, I think the canned ones work well for this recipe. And they score fairly high on the NuVal scale, too. The brand I used today scored a 54. I like to kick up the flavor of the beans by mixing in some prepared taco seasoning. It doesn’t score so well on the NuVal scale (only a 1), but it does add a lot of flavor, so I choose to add only half of a packet. The second layer is my favorite. I heart guacamole! While my preference is to make my own guac from scratch, the store bought kinds work in this case, too. Wholly Guacamole brand has several varieties to choose from—chunky avocado is our favorite and it scores a whopping NuVal 88. The next layer is pretty self-explanatory: sour cream. Of course, you can choose between light (28) and regular (24). Then comes the salsa. With so many choices lining the supermarket shelves, keep it simple and use NuVal to pick out a jar. As the layers go, next up are cheese (25), tomato (100) and green onions (100). Lastly, you have a decision to make for the top layer: black olives, black beans or both. I tend to skip the black olives (4) and trade up to black beans (85). But you can do both. I won’t judge. That’s the beauty of NuVal. It’s not about limiting your choices—it’s all about helping you make educated choices in how you feed your family.

This dip is a wonderful example of how you can use NuVal to TRADE UP for ingredients with higher nutritional values. By comparing the beans, salsas, guacamole options and chips, you’re able to make nutritional decisions—at a glance—right at the supermarket. That’s how you can build a better bag of groceries and a more nutritious Sunday afternoon snack.

Wishing you relaxing Sunday afternoons, tasty snacks and good health!
Kelly

Eight Layer Fiesta Dip Cups

Ingredients
8-10 (9 ounce) plastic tumblers
1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
1/2 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning
1 cup guacamole
1 cup sour cream
1 cup chunky salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar
1-2 tomatoes, diced
½ bunch of green onions, sliced
1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced olives, drained (optional)
1/2 cup black beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
tortilla chips

1.  In a small bowl mix taco seasoning (or cumin) with refried beans.

2.  Assemble layers in this order, using about 2 Tablespoons of each ingredient:

refried bean mixture
guacamole
sour cream
salsa
cheese
tomatoes*
green onions*
black beans or black olives*

3.  Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

*If making ahead of time, wait to add these toppings until shortly before serving. Store in the refrigerator until serving.

 

Kelly-Radi-232x300This is a guest blog written by Kelly Radi.

Passionate about food and nutrition, Kelly is a freelance writer, NuVal expert, former BLEND employee, and current BLEND advocate. A wife and mother of 2 teenagers, Kelly lives in Sartell where she is often spotted at Coborn’s scouring the shelves in search of the best NuVal scores. She enjoys cooking, playing tennis, and sitting down with a good book. She can be reached at radi.to.write@gmail.com. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of NuVal LLC, Coborn’s, Inc., BLEND, and the CentraCare Health Foundation. Read more “Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen blogs here.

Coconut Shrimp [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

September 29, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

kellys-shrimp

A Taste of Paradise

I first tried coconut shrimp years ago on a trip to Hawaii. We ate oceanside in Maui at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. For those of you who’ve seen the movie Forrest Gump, yes, this restaurant is based on that movie. The restaurant has movie mementos everywhere, including a room decorated like Mama’s kitchen and a bench with a box of chocolates on it and red-swooshed Nike’s glued to the ground. And yes, they serve shrimp. Lots and lots of shrimp! After looking at a menu that had every kind of shrimp imaginable, Marty ordered popcorn shrimp and I ordered the crispy coconut ones.

We ate our meals as we watched crabs crawling on the rocks below. Maybe it was the salty air. Maybe it was the splashing of the waves. Maybe it was the Aloha spirit. Maybe it was the fact that I was on vacation in paradise. But I have to tell you that coconut shrimp was amazing! Those little critters were the perfect blend of from-the-sea brine with just a hint of sweet. And, of course, they were fried.

Now I’m not opposed to fried foods on occasion, and vacation is the perfect occasion to bend my nutritional guidelines a bit. However, deep fried foods are not something I choose to eat on a regular basis. I knew I wanted to try and recreate the coconut shrimp when we got home—without the fryer. I wanted the tropical coconutty flavor and crispy crust without the extra artery-clogging fat. After a few experiments with less-than-spectacular results, I’d nearly given up. Then I came across a recipe that had some merit. I tweaked it and came up with a recipe that uses a coconut flour mixture for dredging, egg whites as a binder to hold unsweetened coconut (the sweet ones are just too sweet for this dish, in my opinion) to the shrimp. While these coconut shrimp aren’t exactly like the ones I ate next to the crashing ocean waves, they’re still tasty. I hope you like them!

We eat them dipped in a spicy sweet chili sauce or a creamy guacamole. But if you want to bump up the tropical theme even more, serve them with a side of Easy Black Bean and Mango Salsa or some pineapple chunks.

Baked Coconut Shrimp

1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill coconut flour  (NuVal 24)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne peppercoconut-shrimp
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 egg whites  (NuVal 56)
1 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes  (NuVal 22)
1 pound large shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined  (NuVal 35)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the coconut flour, cayenne pepper, and salt.
3. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a fork until foamy.
4. Place the coconut flakes in a third bowl.
5. One shrimp at a time, dredge in flour mixture. Then dip in egg whites before rolling in the coconut flakes.
6. Place on a greased baking sheet.
7. Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and coconut flakes begin to brown.

This recipe is a great one to engage your kids in meal preparation. They can help peel shrimp and dredge and dip them. It’s a fun (albeit messy) job! Kids are more likely to eat foods they help prepare, so why not try this fun recipe? Let us know what you think. We love pictures—especially of kids in the kitchen. Send us a shot of your little one helping you prepare this hands-on dish. Also, when you’re looking for more meal inspiration, don’t forget to visit the BLEND Pinterest page where you’ll find lots of healthy, kid-friendly recipes.

Aloha!
Kelly

P.S. If you’re still embracing grilling season and prefer your shrimp marinated and grilled, try this succulent rosemary-shrimp skewer recipe.

Kelly-Radi-232x300This is a guest blog written by Kelly Radi.

Passionate about food and nutrition, Kelly is a freelance writer, NuVal expert, former BLEND employee, and current BLEND advocate. A wife and mother of 2 teenagers, Kelly lives in Sartell where she is often spotted at Coborn’s scouring the shelves in search of the best NuVal scores. She enjoys cooking, playing tennis, and sitting down with a good book. She can be reached at radi.to.write@gmail.com. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of NuVal LLC, Coborn’s, Inc., BLEND, and the CentraCare Health Foundation. Read more “Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen blogs here.

Sack Lunches Made Simple [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

September 7, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Headed to school!

Big yellow busses are rolling. Back packs are filled with supplies. Students are back in the classroom. And parents are, once again, packing lunch boxes. This task can be daunting. Trying to pack something kids will eat that’s actually good for them can feel overwhelming.

But don’t worry, folks! You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We’ve done the heavy lifting for you. In fact, we’ve compiled hundreds of ideas for you between our BLEND blogs and Pinterest page. Plus, as an added bonus, below is a printable list of school lunch suggestions. Use it for inspiration—to plan ahead so you can pack healthy meals your kids will eat and enjoy.

Keep it simple, but make it FUN!

We’ve linked many of the list ideas to past blogs, where we have recipes and nutritional information. So click away! See what we’ve got to share with you to make packing lunches both rewarding and easy. As always, our goal is to help make the healthy choice the easy choice for families.

Click HERE to go back to one of my favorite past blogs about sack lunches. You’ll learn some insider tips on how to add some F-U-N to your child’s lunch time while providing nutritionally-sound meals.

Pack a Lunch in 4 Easy Steps:

Step 1: MAIN ENTREE

  • apple sandwiches
  • tortilla roll-up
  • hard boiled egg
  • pasta salad
  • hummus and pita
  • turkey sandwich
  • cheese and crackers
  • soup
  • cold cereal or granola
  • yogurt and sunflower seeds

Step 2: VEGGIES & FRUITS

  • snap peas
  • cherry tomatoes
  • carrot chips
  • cucumber shapes
  • watermelon and cantaloupe “fries”
  • raisins
  • fruit kabobs
  • apple slices
  • fresh berries
  • banana
  • clementine

Step 3: SNACKS & TREATS

  • string cheese
  • ants on a log
  • zucchini muffins
  • popcorn
  • trail mix
  • no-bake energy balls
  • whole grain chips and salsa
  • cookie
  • pumpkin bread
  • apple crispies

Step 4: BEVERAGES

  • water
  • milk

Until next time, eat well.
Kelly

Kelly RadiThis is a guest blog written by Kelly Radi,

Passionate about food and nutrition, Kelly is a freelance writer, NuVal expert, former BLEND employee, and current BLEND advocate.  A wife and mother of 2 teenagers, Kelly lives in Sartell where she is often spotted at Coborn’s scouring the shelves in search of the best NuVal scores. She enjoys cooking, playing tennis, and sitting down with a good book. She can be reached at radi.to.write@gmail.com. 

The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the writer and not the opinions of NuVal LLC, Coborn’s, Inc., BLEND, and the CentraCare Health Foundation.  Read more “Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen blogs here.

 

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