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.

All About Black Beans [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

August 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Black Beans canvaTrivia Tuesday—Kelly’s Q & A

Q: What kid-friendly food is tiny, black and packed with protein, fiber and antioxidants?

A: Black beans!

Now you might be asking yourself, “Did Kelly really just call black beans kid-friendly? Is she serious?”

To answer your questions, yes and YES. Please let me explain…

Benefits of Beans

Not only are black beans a great plant-based source of low-calorie lean protein. They’re also rich in fiber, minerals and antioxidants, which offer many health benefits. Often less than a dollar a can, they’re an affordable way to feed a growing family. And yes, I’m serious. Kids WILL eat them!

All it takes is a little creative cooking. And, of course, your desire to feed your family foods that will fuel them and boost their overall health.  By introducing nutrient-dense foods like black beans when kids are young, you’re setting them up to make better food choices as they grow. If your child has a hard time eating meats, black beans are a great source of iron! They’ll learn to appreciate a broader menu of colors and textures and tastes. As Dr. Katz says, teach your children early to “love foods that love you back.”

5 Ways to Add Black Beans to Your Diet

To get you started, I’ve compiled a list of 5 ways to add these nutritional gems to your family menu. Click on the links for tried-and-true, family-friendly recipes.Taco1

  1. Mix beans in with the meat in tacos or burritos. Or sprinkle them on fajitas.
  2. Stir beans into soups and stews—a great way to pump up the nutritional value of your chili!
  3. Toss them in salads. Black beans add color, flavor and fiber to every bite.
  4. Serve as a side dish. Warm up a can of rinsed and drained beans with a little olive oil, garlic and cumin.
  5. Add them to salsa. Simply stir in a can of rinsed and drained black beans to your favorite jar of store-bought salsa.

Kelly Can’t Get Enough Salsa!

I have something to admit….I’m on quite a salsa kick this summer. It’s been my go-to snack at the lake and our dinner of choice when I don’t feel like cooking. There’s just something about the stuff! In my last Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen blog, I featured a fresh salsa recipe that also works great with the addition of a can of black beans.  In this post, I’d like to introduce you to a tropical variation on salsa. It’s got that awesome blend of savory and sweet that I adore. I hope you enjoy it!chili7[1]

Easy Black Bean & Mango Salsa

1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 ripe Mango, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup Italian dressing

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Serve with tortilla chips or as a topping for fajitas or quesadillas.

Canned or Dried

Black beans come dried or in cans. Both are nutritious. If you choose the convenient canned ones, please make sure to check out the NuVal scores. You’ll notice a range, usually caused by the sodium (salt) content. Shoot for the no salt added (NuVal 100!) or reduced salt. When you open the can, drain and then rinse the beans in a colander under cold running water for a couple of minutes, which can reduce the sodium further.

Serve Beans Today!

Introduce black beans to your kids and broaden their palates while fueling their bodies. Please give one or more of these recipes a spot in your family meal rotation. Then leave a comment or share a photo of your family’s favorite bean dishes. We’d love to see your kids eating beans!

Until next time, eat well.

Kelly

P.S. Come back and visit Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen in September for another kid-friendly bean recipe. Hint: It’s perfect for a fiesta!

Kelly-Radi-232x300 This 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.

Fresh Salsa- Pico de Gallo [Peek Into Kelly’s Kitchen]

August 2, 2016 by · 1 Comment 

Fresh salsa blog coverWhen I think of fresh summertime snacking, I immediately want something savory and crisp, juicy and fresh. It takes one look at my tiny garden brimming with tomatoes to know the answer to my snack time cravings. Fresh salsa is the ticket!

I received a delicious fresh salsa recipe from my friend Candice several years ago. It has become our family go-to for savory summer snacking. On occasional lazy summer evenings, chips and salsa make up our entire meal! The fresh flavors of cilantro, tomato, jalapeño, onion and cumin along with the crispy chips are oh-so-satisfying. Just remember to compare NuVal scores when shopping for chips—the higher the score, the better the nutritional content.

You can adjust any of the ingredients in this recipe to suit your taste buds. Like more kick? Then use the entire jalapeno. Just don’t skimp on the vinegar or seasonings. Because without a burst of acidity and heat, you’re just eating chipped tomatoes. Not that we mind tomatoes. After all, they score a perfect 100 on the NuVal scale! Check out our BLEND Pinterest page for some more delectable and healthy ways to enjoy the season’s tomato harvest. Or click HERE to find out how to prepare my all-time favorite tomato recipe: Caprese Salad.

Did you know?

The Spanish name for pico de gallo means ‘rooster’s beak”. It originally referred to a salad of jicama, peanuts, oranges, and onions. But today, pico de gallo is the familiar cilantro-flecked combination of chopped tomato, onion, and spicy peppers we’ve all come to know and enjoy.

Hot Hot Hot!

Chile peppers, such as jalapeños and habaneros, contain oils that can burn your skin and eyes. Avoid direct contact with them as much as possible. When working with fresh peppers, wear rubber gloves or cover your hands with small plastic bags. If your bare hands do touch them, wash well with soap and hot water. And whatever you do, don’t touch your eyes! If you happen to get some of the oils in your eyes, flush them with cool water.fresh salsa pic

Candice’s Fresh Salsa

3-4 large, firm tomatoes
3 green onions, chopped
1/2-1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 T. vinegar
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

In a colander, place chopped tomatoes and allow to drain well. While tomatoes are draining, place the other ingredients in a large bowl. Add drained tomatoes and toss gently to combine. Serve immediately with crispy tortilla chips.

If you desire, add a can of rinsed, drained black beans for some more nutritional punch. Or stir in some lime juice and mashed avocado to turn your salsa into amazing fresh guacamole.

Wishing you a happy, healthy summer!

Kelly

Kelly-Radi-232x300 This 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.

[Guest Blog] Growing Up As a BLEND Kid

July 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

This is a guest bMolly Parries bio piclog written by Molly Parries,

Molly Parries is heading into her sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a biology major and pre-med student. She also plans to earn certificates in both global health and business. Molly is a part of the University of  Wisconsin Dance Team as well as various student organizations including Badger Volunteers, the Emerging Leadership Program, and the American Medical Student Association. As an aspiring future physician, a college athlete, and the daughter of a dietitian and a surgeon, healthy living is an important part of Molly’s daily life. An active and healthy lifestyle is something she will strive to promote throughout her journey and career in the medical field.

UW pic‘A BLEND KID’

Throughout the transition from high school to college, teens face a variety of challenges. Choosing to live a healthy life style represents just one of those challenges .For some it may be easier to adjust than others. I was a ‘BLEND kid’; my schools were part of walk-a-thons hosted by BLEND, and I started paying attention to NuVal numbers as soon as they were created. I lived in a household that made healthy living a fairly easy pursuit; my parents work in health care, my sisters and I were (and still are) constantly active in sports, we hardly ever have pop or junk food at home, and we always have fresh produce in the house. Whether a tradition of healthy living has already been set in place or not, maintaining or building the same tradition in college is a challenge for every student.

Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle in College

I know we’ve all heard of the ‘freshman 15’ that often accompanies the shift towards less parental super vision, a widening range of dining options, and a lack of time or motivation to stay active. Despite the difficulty of adjusting to a university environment, there are plenty of ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout college. As a first-year student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison this past year, I encountered a variety of obstacles in the way of maintain a healthy life style. A consistent schedule, I found, was the key to creating the right balance. Finding time to work out consistently between classes, homework, sleep, and a social life was a long process. Setting aside time to work out right after class gave me the mental break I needed, as well as the energy boost that allowed me to have a productive evening.

How To Make Healthy Choices While Attending College?

UW Madison is a great example of a campus built to support an active lifestyle. There are various exercise facilities around camp conveniently located for student use, including the Student Exercise Recreational Facility (the SERF), the Natatorium, the Shell, and the student athlete training gyms. Many of these locations offer affordable group fitness classes such as cycling or high-intensity interval training, and even promote exercise during dreaded finals weeks by offering free classes. They also host recreational sport tournaments spanning all the way from basketball to Quidditch to water volleyball.

The sheer size of the campus helps keep students active as well. Although the bus system is helpful for extra far away classes and freezing Wisconsin winters, many students choose to walk or bike for most of the year. Bike lanes are easy to use and can save precious time if you’re running late for class. Walking across campus from class to class can turn into a great work out, especially if Bascom Hill is part of your path.UW pic 3

A walk across campus, however, will also take you past a wide variety of restaurants, food carts, and dining halls. The temptation to eat out is a constant battle- warm, ready-made food sounds ten times better after a whole day at the library. Fortunately, dining halls at UW Madison post cards with calories per servingabove most food options, which helps many students make more informed choices. A grocery store is centrally located on campus, giving students the opportunity to prepare their ownfood. A large farmers market offering fresh and locally grown produce spans the perimeter ofcapital square in the fall and spring. Dorm room utilities aren’t exactly conducive to fresh and nutrient-filled meals, but all residence halls contain a shared kitchen. Resources such as The College Dish website, operated by a Minnesota college student, present dorm-friendly meal ideas that are quick and easy to prepare.

Small Simple Decisions Can Go a Long WayUW pic 2

My experience at UW Madison can easily be replicated at any university; most schools have similar amenities and opportunities to build a life of better living. Adjusting to life without healthy home-cooked meals and scheduled after school sports practices to keep you in shape is a process that takes a lot of decision making. The choices don’t have to be completely life-changing; simple decisions such as taking the stairs rather than the elevator or drinking water instead of pop really do add up. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in college depends on a conscious choice to take advantage of all that a university has to offer.

Thank you for reading,

Molly Parries
Student at University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

 

 

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