Kid Approved Spinach Cashew “Ricotta” Lasagna

By Lilian Grey

 

This spinach cashew “ricotta” lasagna is a much-loved meal in my kid approved arsenal of recipes. It’s simple to throw together, filled with healthy and whole ingredients, and kids can be easily involved in the prep process! Which I always love – my son is much more enthusiastic about a meal that he helped make. I’ll walk you through our steps!

 

First, you’ll want to prep the “ricotta.”

 

What You’ll Need

 

Water – 1 cup

Cashews – 1 cup

Spinach – 6 cups

Garlic – 6 cloves (less or more, whatever your preference!)

Olive oil – 2 tablespoons

Lemon juice – 2 tablespoons

Onion powder – 1 teaspoon

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

 

  • The cashews will need to soak in cool water for about 2-3 hours so throw them in a bowl covered with water for a few hours before you’re ready to start cooking.
  • Once the cashews are ready, lightly sauté spinach in olive oil and lemon juice, with a dash of salt and pepper. I add the garlic in the pan during this step.
  • Combine fresh water, cashews, spinach, garlic, and onion powder to blender. Blender button pushing and monitoring is a great job for kids of all ages if you have any kitchen helpers! Blend until it has reached a ricotta-y consistency you like – it doesn’t take long.

 

Now it’s time to assemble the lasagna.

 

What You’ll Need

 

Lasagna noodles – one package

Tomato sauce – (2) 16oz cans

Mozzarella cheese – 8 oz block, grated

Parmesan cheese – 1 cup, grated

 

  • In a 9 x 13 inch baking dish, lay cooked lasagna noodles in a row of 3 long ways.
  • Alternate between layers of spinach cashew “ricotta” and mozzarella cheese. I let my son handle this step (he is 5) but you can adjust to your littles level. Having him spread the “ricotta” and sprinkle the mozzarella has been a hit for the last few years!
  • Once the noodles are used up, top the layers with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.
  • Cook at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. This dish is great to make ahead of time and just throw in the oven at dinner time!

Share This:
Posted in Ag Facts, Arizona, Chicken, Cooking, Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Food, Grain, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, In Season, In the Kitchen, Produce, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kid-Approved Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Bell Peppers

By: Lillian Lin-Levitan a recent ASU Nutrition student

 

Stuffed bell peppers have always been a favorite of mine; however, they haven’t always been so popular with the kids. But that has recently changed! The trick was getting my 6-year involved in the preparation process – I’ve found he’s a much more enthusiastic eater when he’s worked to prepare the meal.

 

These bell peppers are filled with complete plant proteins – quinoa and black beans – and cheeses to make for a satisfying dish. I’ll share the recipe I use – but know it can be altered to your preference. Stuffed bell peppers are very forgiving and usually turn out great! I’ve also included tips for getting kids involved in the cooking process.

 

When selecting the bell peppers – I try to find ones that will stand up straight to best hold the filling.

 

What you’ll need

 

  • 1 large white onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 limes – juiced
  • 1 cup white quinoa
  • 1 ¾ cup vegetable broth
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 can hatch chilies (any sort of chili is good!)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup monetary jack cheese
  • 6 bell peppers – assorted colors

 

Start by precooking the quinoa. Here, I let my son measure out 1 cup of dried quinoa and rinse it in a fine-mesh strainer under cool running water. While he’s doing that, I heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Toast the quinoa for about 2 minutes, then add vegetable broth. Cook covered on low heat for about 15 minutes – then remove from heat and let sit for about 5 minutes – keep covered. Then fluff with a fork and set aside.

 

  • Preheat the oven to 400°.
  • Dice onion and mince garlic, sauté in remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add a dash of salt and pepper.
  • Add lime juice, black beans (drained and rinsed), chilies, tomatoes, and spices. I like to let my son do the combining and stirring here!
  • Cover and let cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Then add the quinoa and let cook another 5.

 

  • Cut the top of the bell peppers off and scrape out the seeds.

 

  • Layer the quinoa and bean mixture with cheese until the bell pepper is full. Filling the bell peppers is my son’s favorite part!

 

  • Sprinkle with cheese and line up in a baking dish.

 

  • Drizzle with oil and cover the dish with foil.

 

  • Cook for about 35 minutes – uncover – and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

 

 

This dish is rich in nutrients, easy to make ahead of time, and has minimal clean up!

Share This:
Posted in Ag Facts, Allergies, Cooking, Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Focus on Agriculture, Food, Green Matters, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, In Season, In the Kitchen, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are Superfoods Superfake?

 

Image by Sarah Alinejad

 

 

Sarah Alinejad a recent ASU Nutrition Student

 

If there was a certain food that contained a plethora of vitamins and minerals, including high levels of vitamin C and A, vitamins B6, K1, and E, folate, potassium, and contained only few calories, some might call it a superfood. If I said that food was a bell pepper, some might be less impressed. “Superfoods” are thought of as exotic and unique—the be-all-end-all of healthy foods. What we don’t realize is that there are a lot more “superfoods” out there than we realize. They just aren’t touted as such. Why is that?

 

This impression of them is intentional done by marketing campaigns and is also a result of culinary colonialism. There’s this hyper focus on a specific property or nutrient of the food and because of this, justifies a higher price point. What isn’t recognized is that these foods have actually been around for centuries in their native cultures. They have cultural significance and meaning—however, that is erased and rebranded to appease western markets, which claim to value health so much.

 

Breaking food down to its simpler components is one way to decipher if it’s healthy or not. If something has high levels of saturated fat, best to stay away from it, while something with more fiber would be a healthier option. Something with high levels of antioxidants and phytochemicals would be healthier than a highly processed food that was depleted of valuable nutrients. However, this should be considered guidelines only because this can turn into a very gray area very quickly and teeters on reductionism. Reductionism can be useful, but doesn’t consider the whole picture, which tends to be more beneficial in the long run.

 

Another point worth noting is companies may use a “superfood” in their product, but it’s an incredibly refined version of that, to the point where the beneficial nutrients may  have been removed. For example, açaí puree may be present in a food product, but combined with tons of added sugar. Juices contain lots of vitamins, but filter out other beneficial properties that a whole food would otherwise have, such as fiber and water. This doesn’t always invalidate the potential health benefits, but realizing a refined product and a whole product have significant differences creates a clearer picture on the implications of said food product.

 

Some of these “superfood” trends within the past few years have been açaí berry, matcha, and kale. They’ve been so popular because of their high antioxidant levels—specifically polyphenols, which are known to improve a variety of health issues such as diabetes or heart disease. The harsh reality is, there is no such thing as a “superfood”. It’s another word on the list of marketing terms that was created to help sell products. In fact, all whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts or seeds contain vast amounts of nutrients, all in varying degrees. This includes herbs and spices, which have also been known to be useful in Eastern medicine.

 

Don’t get me wrong—the movement towards healthier snacking has good intentions. The shift in wanting to eat healthier has created many opportunities, from new product ideas to culinary creation, and my guess is that it’ll continue that way as people continue to become more aware of their eating habits.

 

So to sum it up, yes, these “superfoods” individually contain high amounts of beneficial things like high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants. However, our bodies don’t run solely off those micronutrients. Our bodies are so much more complex and they need complex carbohydrates, sufficient amounts of protein, and healthy fats. That being said, balance is absolutely essential when it comes to a healthy diet. (Really, balance is essential when it comes to almost anything).

 

Açaí and matcha are great to incorporate into the diet, but also not necessary for one to be healthy, nor are they the answer to every health ailment. It’s also important to remember that these foods existed in their own cultural worlds, outside a western, capitalistic society and should be paid homage as such. We can and should still enjoy and appreciate these unique types of foods, keeping in mind that there’s more to them than fake buzzwords and pretty packaging.

Share This:
Posted in Ag Facts, Allergies, Arizona, Cooking, Diet Tips, Farm Facts, Focus on Agriculture, Food, Food Facts, Fruit, Green Matters, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, In the Kitchen, Produce | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exercise and Building Immunity

By Gabrielle Hungate a recent ASU Nutrition Student

With the world experiencing a pandemic, unlike anything we have ever seen in our lifetime, many people are focusing more on their immune system than they ever have before. Many people around the globe are grasping at anything they can get their hands on to build their immune system. There are many important ways to do, such as a healthy diet and vitamins, washing hands and keeping stress levels down.  A very easy way to help build a strong immune system is a simple exercise. In light of this pandemic, all of the gyms that most of us frequent, have closed. The hardest time to exercise are times like now, we are not motivated to get up and go.

 

 

Exercise is not only good for your immune system but also helpful with other issues like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Currently, scientists are trying to figure out the next step in whether exercise affects someone’s susceptibility to infection directly, it will indirectly affect your immune system as well. Exercise helps to alleviate stress, and this is a key factor in assisting the immune system. When we are chronically stressed out, the immune system struggles to fight off antigens and this makes us more susceptible to viruses and infection. This stress can also cause unhealthy coping strategies such as drinking and smoking, which also can compromise our immune system.

 

 

Right now, many of us are homebound and not many places to go to and the last thing on our minds are getting on a bike or going out on a walk. This is a more crucial time then ever. With the lingering crisis evolving, stress levels and depression are skyrocketing. Throughout the day, it should a focus that sometime throughout the day you will do something active. This also enables us to get out of our homes and feel as though we are still part of a greater picture.

 

 

In the morning, after breakfast, take a 30-minute walk to prepare you for the day, listen to music watches the birds and feel the wind on your face. Use it as a time to connect with yourself and the world around you. After dinner, take another 20-minute walk to end the day and watch the sunset. This will elevate your heart rate and get you in the world. If walking is not an option, get on a bike and start riding a bike again, put music on at home and dance for 30 minutes. All of this healthy and will do nothing but benefit your health, physically, mentally and spiritually.

 

Looking for more articles to help boost your healthy living? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the recipe section on our website.

Share This:
Posted in Arizona, Cooking, Diet Tips, Fill Your Plate, Food, Food Facts, Fun and Games, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, In Season, Just For Fun, Kids | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Copper in Your Diet – Why You Need It and Where to Find It

By Lilian Grey a recent ASU Nutrition Student

 

Copper is an essential nutrient.

 

Essential nutrients are nutrients that your body can’t make on its own – you must get the nutrient from outside sources (think foods or supplements), and your body must have the nutrient to function.

 

Copper acts as a cofactor – cofactors are helpers that are required to unlock (catalyze) biological functions that are happening all throughout your body.

 

Copper has many jobs and starts working from the very start – as in during fetal development. Copper helps link together all the connections that make up your brain and nervous system – and helps create (plus maintains) connective tissue, cardiovascular tissue, and bones.

 

Along with shaping our entire body, copper is also responsible for helping fuel it – because it is a cofactor for cellular energy (ATP) production. ATP is the energy molecule that drives the function of every cell within your body.

 

And coppers influence doesn’t stop there – it also helps protect your body. Copper is essential to keeping your immune cell count high, which enables you to fight off invading bugs.

 

Copper stays busy working throughout our whole body – building, maintaining, connecting, and protecting.

 

Once we see the essential role copper plays in our body, it becomes clear as to why we have to ensure our diet contains enough of it.

 

(Office of Dietary Supplements – Copper. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Copper-HealthProfessional/)

 

 

Make sure you’re getting enough copper by eating foods rich in copper such as

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grain products
  • Shellfish

 

 

Looking for more articles to help boost your healthy living? Check out our Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some recipes that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the recipe section on our website.

 

 

References

 

Ravven W. Copper: A new player in health and disease. Research UC Berkeley. https://vcresearch.berkeley.edu/news/profile/chris_chang. Published May 17, 2016.

 

Uriu-Adams JY, Scherr RE, Lanoue L, Keen CL. Influence of copper on early development: prenatal and postnatal considerations. BioFactors (Oxford, England). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20232410. Published 2010.

 

Xu W, Barrientos T, Andrews NC. Iron and copper in mitochondrial diseases. Cell metabolism. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3594794/. Published March 5, 2013.

 

Percival SS. Copper and immunity. The American journal of clinical nutrition. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9587153. Published May 1998.

 

Office of Dietary Supplements – Copper. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Copper-HealthProfessional/.

Share This:
Posted in Ag Facts, Ag in the Classroom, Allergies, Arizona, Cooking, Diet Tips, Farmer's Markets, Fill Your Plate, Focus on Agriculture, Food, Food Facts, Food Safety, Green Matters, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, In Season, In the Kitchen | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment