Kittens, Peppers, and Daughters: A Simple Salad

By Nathan Chambers, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

For Christmas last year we got two kittens. If you’ve ever adopted a new pet, you know that your child is going to make you buy things that you simply do not need for the animal. Our cats have harnesses. Who walks their cat?


One item that became of particular interest to my daughter– the kittens didn’t care about it at all– was the pet grass. She checked on it every day, measuring the new height of each rapidly growing blade. It got me thinking… how can I turn this into a profit?

Just kidding. But by growing your own herb garden, you could save a few bucks on grocery trips! And if you can get your kid to do the maintenance work, hey free labor.


We wanted to pick plants that could be grown indoors with relatively little care, but we also wanted things that we might actually use.



Starting small, we chose three plants:



  1. Red Chili Pepper— Okay, so this isn’t an herb… but it can be a relatively prolific provider! Or so I’ve read. Ours has yet to produce, but it is a beautiful plant. Also, my wife loves spicy foods, so we were anxious to get some home grown peppers.


Like most indoor plants, you want to place your chili pepper plant near a window that receives ample light. Water when the soil begins to dry out, but don’t keep it soaked all the time, or you risk rotten roots.



  1. Peppermint-– Here is an herb for you! We picked mint based on its ease of care and the pleasant scent the plant gives off.


To my knowledge, our daughter never had any particular affinity for mint, but now that she is in charge of its care, she loves adding a few leaves to her lemon water.


Care for the peppermint plant is the same as for the chili pepper. Though mint does tend to do better in cooler weather than the pepper.



  1. Basil— Another herb and another one picked because it is easy to care for. Basil will also give off a pleasant scent.


Our favorite use for basil is in a Caprese salad. Though my daughter doesn’t particularly care for this use, she will eat all the mozzarella if I turn my back on her!


There is nothing to the care of this plant either. Water when the soil becomes dry, keep near a sunny window and make sure that the air around it is free of pollutants.


These plants are very easy to keep, even for someone without a green thumb.




I have found this to be an amazing tool to teach our daughter the importance of responsibility: if you don’t water your plants, and turn them occasionally, and don’t forget that they need to be fertilized… if you don’t do these things your plant will die. No more mint water!


When the plants are big and fruitful enough to produce, it is also a great way to introduce her to working in the kitchen. By giving her some basic prep work, washing the basil and gathering the supplies, for example, she learns how much work it takes to cook a meal. She is developing an appreciation for the kitchen.


Caprese Salad


If you decide to go out and buy yourself and your child, a basil plant (or five– you really need a few if you’re going to have enough to actually use), you will probably want my Caprese salad recipe.


I’ve seen Caprese salad served with just olive oil, as a literal bowl of salad with pieces of mozzarella, and as a heap of cheese balls, basil, and cherry tomatoes. This is how I like to prepare it:




1 vine-ripe tomato, sliced into ¼ inch discs

½ pound of mozzarella, sliced into ¼ inch discs

10-15 fresh leaves of basil

Olive oil for drizzling

Balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Salt and pepper to taste




Layer the sliced tomato, mozzarella, and leaves of basil alternating between the three ingredients. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lightly salt and pepper.


That’s it! A colorful starter for your meal.


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The Japanese Pumpkin

By Kat Brown, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

With fall creeping up around the corner, and hopefully double digit temperatures, it’s about to be the season of the pumpkin! Watch out because a new squash is in town. It is called kabocha and is often referred to as the Japanese pumpkin. This versatile veggie normally has a dark green skin but some varieties can also have an orange pumpkin-like skin and are a perfect medium size, usually ranging from 3 to 5 pounds. Slicing into this Asian squash you will see an orangey yellow color that makes for that perfect fall color palette when cooking.

Since they are normally available late summer to fall, if you plan on stocking up make sure that you store them in a cool dry spot. Over time the kabocha will sweeten and can be used to make wonderful holiday desserts. Kabocha is packed with benefits from the skin to the seeds. The squash itself is cfull of beta-carotene and iron, while the skin is loaded with fiber.


This antioxidant converts to vitamin A in the body and helps support a healthy immune system and good vision. Since vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin it is important to monitor intake and not exceed the UL of 3,000 ug/day. When consuming b-carotene, the body only converts what it needs to vitamin A, making it a safe source of vitamin A to consume. B-carotene is also what provides the red-orange pigment in plants and fruits.


The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iron is 8mg/day for men and 18mg/day for women ages 19-50 years old. This mineral is used to make hemoglobin that allows your red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. Iron deficiency can result in anemia and while it is not common in the United States when present it can have serious health consequences.


Fiber is a crucial part of a healthy diet and consists of insoluble and soluble fiber. The skin of most winter squash consists mostly of insoluble fiber which means it does not dissolve in water. Studies show that people with higher fiber intakes have a reduced risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and gastrointestinal disorders. This is partially due to insoluble fibers ability to bind and remove carcinogens from the intestines.

Just like pumpkins, you can roast your kabocha seeds. The seeds provide omega 3 fatty acids which can provide many health benefits.

Here is my favorite seed recipe:


3 cups kabocha squash seeds, cleaned and dried

1 Tbsp coconut oil

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sea salt



Preheat oven to 180

Toss seeds with oil.

Combine sugar (if using) and spices and toss with seeds, coating evenly.

On parchment-lined cookie sheets, place seeds in a single layer.

Roast 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking for doneness.

The good news: kabocha does great in drier climates! Many types of squash are available year round in Arizona, so no matter what, you can always find delicious and local squash near you! Visit Fill Your Plate to do just that, and find local growers of squash and other fruits and veggies!

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My Picky Eater

By Nathan Chambers, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student

I have an eight-year-old daughter who is a picky eater.

Her mother and I struggle daily with this, especially at dinner time. We got back from a study group one night– it was a little late– and I didn’t feel like doing all the prep work for cooking the chicken my daughter asked for, so I asked her to pick something else.


You know what she picked? Scrambled eggs. For the first 4 years of her life, she ate scrambled eggs at least 3 times a week. Since then it has been, “I don’t like eggs.”


And now, out of the blue, she wants scrambled eggs for dinner.



If you’re like me and have a child who can’t decide what he or she likes to eat, there are some steps you can take to make it easier on yourself and your child:



  1. Start their nutrition education early.


One study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior this year suggests that picture books can have a positive effect on children’s eating habits and behaviors. It is important to understand that fictional books do need to be evaluated for correctness; the study indicated that there was a correlation between behaviors and what is observed in books, regardless of the quality of the book.



  1. Respect your child’s appetite


If your child isn’t ready to eat right away, or if she is ready but you aren’t, you shouldn’t force it, either way, says the Mayo Clinic. Pushing your child to eat, or not eat, can reinforce negative meal-time behaviors such as shunning certain foods or overeating.


Young children are self-regulators: they will eat when they need to. It is up to you to provide healthy, delicious, and interesting foods for them to try.



  1. Don’t reinforce pickiness


This should be obvious, but if your child refuses to eat what you’ve fixed for dinner, don’t prepare a whole separate meal for them. On the flip side of that, if you’re trying to get your child to try a new food, make sure that the other portion of the meal is something that they enjoy.



  1. Keep to a schedule


Even if your child hasn’t learned how to tell time yet, her biological clock is still ticking away. Try to serve meals at the same time every day. That way the child will be expecting to eat, and if they are mentally prepared for mealtime, they may be more willing to try the broccoli this time around.


Didn’t I just say that children are self-regulators? Yes, young children are! But as they get older, especially if they are picky eaters, they begin to rely on their eating habits and that internal drive becomes less vocal. That is why it is of utmost importance that, as early as possible, you begin teaching your child good eating behaviors.



  1. Make it interesting


You don’t have to cut all of their food into fascinating shapes (though that may help sometimes), but a little bit of creativity can go a long way. Refer to their food as something interesting, creative, fun names for new or boring dishes. For example, I will refer to my hummus (prepared with peanut butter instead of tahini), as peanut butter dip.


Which brings up another way to keep it interesting: try substituting ingredients in recipes with those you know your child appreciates.




The Goal:


Remember that the goal is to convince your child to eat new, healthy foods. It doesn’t have to (and likely won’t) happen all at once. If you can be patient and encouraging over the long-haul, the end result will be a child who isn’t afraid of the strange green or orange bits on their plates.









Medical News Today (2016). Analyzing Picture Books for Nutritional Education. Retrieved from



Mayo Clinic (2014). Children’s nutrition: 10 tips for picky eaters. Retrieved from






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Three Steps to Going Low-Carb

By Kevin Dietmeyer, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student

Slow carb, no carb, carb cycles and planned carbohydrate re-feeds.  What’s right for you?

Low carb is certainly nothing new and recently there has been an entirely new wave of low carb curtailers that have given the nix to carbohydrates.  Ketogenic and high-fat diets are dominating the dietary domain of high-performance athletes and weekend warriors alike.  The premise is that fat is a preferred form of fuel for your body and even more exciting, there are these little gems called ketones that your body is ready and excited to use as a primary fuel.


Using up all of that extra tummy fat for energy sure sounds a lot more appealing than using the pancake breakfast sticking to the lining of your gut from the weekend.  The low-carb lifestyle promises to short cut, “Burning that off,” and encourage your body to reach into the stubborn reserves of fluff around your waist.


Maybe you’ve tried the low carb thing before and perhaps all was successful.  If you’re like me though, great new weight-loss endeavors don’t always go according to plan and going low carb is no exception.  Low carb starts out like a great idea for many, but it soon comes to an abrupt halt when cravings and hammering stomach pangs take over.  A recent article posted on Medical News Today presents evidence that hunger may be a stronger motivator than fear itself.


A lot of people make the move to low-carb for a variety of reasons but not many do it right.  What about you?  Are you doing low carb the right way?  Or are you fighting with ravenous cravings, dietary failures, and mood swings?


This article will introduce you to a few low-carb basics that can help any prospective carbohydrate curtailer cut out those inflammatory and insulin boosting buggers.  Here we will discuss the importance of vegetables, healthy fats and living lean when it comes to long-term, low-carb success.


  1. Vegetables are a must

If you remove the carbs from your life without replacing them with something else, you’ll be miserable and you may find that the scale just won’t budge.  Restrictive diets live up to their namesake by causing restriction and that’s why diets don’t last.  When you remove or restrict yourself from a particular nutrient you must find a suitable replacement and one of those nutritious replacements are vegetables!


  1. Fear not fat

You are what you eat…usually.  Eating fat doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be fat.  Here’s something to remember: fats are flavor and fats keep you full.  Healthy fats are the driving force behind many of your bodies’ fat burning processes and they also curb a lot of those cravings you can’t ignore.  Remember that craving can be more influential than fear and healthy fats will help keep them under control.


  1. Don’t fill up

This may come as earth-shattering news to you, but you don’t need to eat until you can’t eat anymore, and you don’t need to finish everything on your plate.  Eating low-carb for the long-term is all about learning to live lean.  Living lean means you don’t eat until you’re about to burst.  Make it a habit to stop eating when the tank is about 70% full even if there are still some remnants on your plate.



Healthline. Retrieved on 10/8/16.


Medical News Today. Retrieved on 10/8/16.

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Crust-less Broccoli and Cheese Quiche

By Laura Slatalla, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

Quiche is a really versatile and hearty breakfast dish, which you can pack full of lots of vegetables. We can skip the crust and egg yolks to shave off some calories and lower the amount of fat too! My favorite version is made with broccoli and cheese, so you’ll have a filling breakfast with protein, folate, vitamin c, and calcium. It’s a great idea to make this in advance, so you can reheat a piece in the morning. It can even be frozen in smaller batches.

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 teaspoons of olive oil

½ cup of chopped onion

1 minced clove of garlic

5 cups of chopped broccoli

Cooking spray

1 and a quarter cup low fat milk

1 cup of reduce fat swiss cheese

2 tablespoons of parsley

2 teaspoons of dijon mustard

½ teaspoon of salt

¼ teaspoon of pepper

4 large egg whites

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon of parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil for 2 minutes. Use a skillet and medium-high heat.
  3. Add the broccoli and sauté for another minute.
  4. Coat a 9 inch pie pan in cooking spray.
  5. Spread the sautéed mixture on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Combine the rest of the ingredients, besides the parmesan cheese.
  7. Pour the milk and egg mixture into the pan. Sprinkle the parmesan on top.
  8. Bake the quiche for 40 minutes, and let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
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