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anskysue’s Entries

My Son, the Chef!

A hearty “Way to go!” to challenger AnskySue’s son who took on the task of preparing dinner for the family. We love that the grocery shopping trip was used as a nutrition lesson. Keeping your kids involved in the process of selecting meals, shopping for them and even preparing them is one of the best ways to instill healthy habits in them.

My son, the chef!

Tonight was supposed to be a healthy version of tuna casserole but then my son piped up and said “I want to make dinner!” I had given him a kids cookbook for Christmas with the promise that he would be responsible for choosing and helping to make one dinner each week. Unfortunately, I hadn’t followed through on that when making my weekly meal plan. We had some extra time this evening so I told him to figure out what he wanted to make and we’d do it. So he picked lasagna and snowman cookies for dessert. Off to the store we went where he helped pick out the ingredients. We talked about the different options for each one – regular cottage cheese vs lowfat cottage cheese, regular pasta noodles vs whole wheat – and tried to pick our healthiest options. He read the recipe to me on the way back home and voila, 1.5 hours later I pulled the most delicious lasagna ever out of the oven. Definitely not the healthiest meal of the week but it was better than fast food! And we met this week’s mini challenge with the lasagna’s cheesy goodness! Bonus – I am so excited that while making dinner my son found a new food that he tried and liked! There was about 1/4 cup of cottage cheese left over and he ate it while the lasagna was cooking. He said he would love to have it for a healthy snack every once in a while if I would buy it for him. I would love to know if anyone has found a kids cookbook with HEALTHY recipes. When I bought this one, there were only a few kids cookbooks at the bookstore and I should have spent a little more time to find something with healthier recipes. Most of the kids cookbooks focus on tacos, hamburgers and mac and cheese. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

It’s THAT Time of Year

We are thrilled that even when faced with a jam-packed schedule, challenger AnskySue not only made a quick and simple recipe at home, but dared to try a new one!

For our family, spring is our busiest time of the year. I work as an event planner and two of my biggest events are in the spring. My husband coaches baseball and this year my son is playing baseball. This all adds up to some very busy weeknights – we are lucky if we have one evening per week without an activity of some sort. Last week and this week had no open evenings. So that leaves a very short amount of time for dinner between work/school and the activity(ies) of the evening.

Last night was no exception but thanks to this challenge, I made it work! I scooped my son up from school, went straight home and literally threw together the Ravio-Sagne from Chef Devin’s “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Fattening” cookbook while my son worked on homework at the kitchen counter. I popped it in the oven and went for a 2 mile walk around the neighborhood. I got home just in time to pull it out and saute some spinach as a side dish as my husband walked in and we all sat down to a family dinner.

My husband and son both gave the dish two thumbs up! I can’t wait to try more recipes from the cookbook – anything that we all agree on is a definite keeper and the best part is how easy it was!


Cookbooks are a great way to encourage yourself to cook at home, as there is always something new to try. So addicted or not, we hope challenger AnskySue continues her love of cookbooks.

Alright, I admit it – tell me the twelve steps to cure myself. I am a cookbookaholic. I love them – can’t get enough of them. It’s where I inevitably end up in the bookstore and trust me, I’m just not that good of a cook but I am addicted to cookbooks. Maybe my subconscious is telling me to just keep trying and maybe someday it will become second nature. Today, my son’s request (after basketball camp) was to go to the bookstore. He wanted a Club Penguin book. Of course, I said yes but only so I could see if Chef Devin’s new cookbook was there. A friend has one of the Biggest Loser cookbooks and she loves it.

The book was there and I bought it (along with 2 Club Penguin books for my son). The clincher was the hardboiled egg recipe – I call my sister EVERY time I make hardboiled eggs because I can never remember how long to cook them, whether to boil the water first, etc (I told you I was a bad cook!). She finally bought me a hardboiled egg timer with directions on it for Christmas a year or two ago. LOL – I knew when I saw the egg recipe, that this was the book for me!

I have spent a good part of the afternoon flipping through it to see what recipes will be first and I’ve seen several I can’t wait to make (after a trip to the store). Tonight’s dinner was the first night since the new mini challenge with nothing green. It was just my son and me so he had leftovers and I had wheat toast with almond butter. Back to the book … have a great day!

Green is good

It looks like AnskySue doubled up on our go-green mini challenge. Her interpretation? Broccoli and spinach. Definitely a very healthy interpretation.

This has been an incredibly busy week already but we managed to work green into our meals on the last two evenings. Monday night was grilled chicken breasts with tortellini (my son’s favorite dinner food) and steamed broccoli. The broccoli was farm fresh and kept it’s vibrant green color after being steamed. My husband said it looked like play food it was so green!

Last night was my favorite spinach salad from Sam’s Club. If you are a member, you must try it! It’s fresh spinach packaged with dried cranberries, sliced almonds and feta cheese plus a vinagrette dressing. All the ingredients are packaged separately so they stay fresh and you can add as much or as little as you want. It’s so good – and the whole package is just over $5. It is much larger than the prepackaged salads in the grocery store and will last us about a week using it every other night for a side salad. Last night it was the main course along with some italian wheat bread.

Looking forward to trying a couple of new recipes on the visiting in-laws over the next few days – I’ll keep you posted!

The Big Purge

Challenger AnskySue is after Chef Devin’s heart with this major pantry clean out and makeover. It’s a smart first step and making your kitchen a haven for healthy cooking. We’re also thrilled to hear how much this challenger’s son is enjoying the challenge! See Chef Devin’s post here at about How to Stock a Healthy Kitchen.

This was the weekend of the big purge! I tackled the kitchen cabinets and pantry. I organized everything and ended up taking 3 trash bags full of expired and just plain bad for you food directly to the trash can! My pantry and fridge are now stocked with mostly whole, natural foods and I have all the ingredients needed to cook at home all week long! Feels so good to be ready for the week and not have that panicked “what will I make tonight?” feeling towards the end of the day!

We ate most of our meals at home this weekend – including a repeat of the Quaker oatmeal pancakes (my son asked if we could have them every weekend!). We also did a 2 mile walk/bike ride where my son exclaimed “I didn’t know riding my bike could be so fun!” So great to see him taking part in the challenge with us!

Another Mini Challenge Done!

Also accepting this week’s mini challenge is AnskySue, who not only braved cooking with fruit but also took on dinner without a recipe. The result? Cleaned plates, happy family and leftovers for lunch!

Another Mini Challenge Done!

Those of you who know me know that I never ever ever cook without a recipe. I am just not that talented in the kitchen. But tonight? Well it was a thing of beauty as I stirfried my way into the mini challenge for the week. I started with Birds Eye steamed brown rice (find it in the freezer section – brown rice is 4 minutes away from perfection. And the ingredients? Brown rice and water. Couldn’t ask for an easier way for a quick and tasty whole grain!).

Then I stir fried some chicken in olive oil and added in edamame, broccoli, carrots and cauliflower with just a splash of teriyaki sauce. When everything was cooked, I tossed in a cup of diced pineapple and cooked it long enough to heat the pineapple. I served the stirfry over the brown rice. Voila – fruit included in our healthy and delicious dinner! Bonus of enough leftovers for two lunches! And my son and husband both cleaned their plates!

Hitting the Mini Challenges

Challenger AnskySue took us up on one of our mini challenges in week one – swapping white grains for whole grains. It looks like her family found a winner; it’s worth the trial and error with your family to find the whole grain products that taste best to you. Look in your Cook at Home Challenge weekly update email for more mini challenges!

Hitting the mini challenges

I wanted to make sure our family was fully participating in the challenge so we decided to try and tackle at least two of the mini challenges in the same meal. Eating a whole grain food in place of a non whole grain food seems easy enough but we already eat whole wheat bread, tortillas, brown rice. As I was wandering around the grocery aisle, I came across an oatmeal pancake mix. I don’t make pancakes often – in fact, the last time I made them, my son refused to eat them because they didn’t taste like McDonald’s pancakes. And I have never made whole grain pancakes so this would fit the bill for the mini challenge. My son was with me and agreed that he would be willing to try them (with the caveat that if he didn’t like them, he didn’t have to eat them). I checked the ingredient list on the mix and found out that I could actually pronounce every ingredient (Quaker brand). So this morning was the big day! I was in the middle of the batch when my son came in to see how it was going and whether they looked edible. He decided they weren’t colorful enough – so we colored the last 1/3 of the batch with red food coloring. The red pancakes became “his” pancakes. The mix came with both a heart healthy prep and a traditional prep – I went one better using the heart healthy prep but switching fat free milk for the skim it recommended and egg substitute. The pancakes were great and we had a fantastic Sunday morning breakfast together as a family. I can see this becoming a fun tradition!

Breakfast for Dinner

Thanks to challenger AnskySue for sharing this story of how even her son is involved in the Cook at Home Challenge, not to mention the great idea to simplify dinner plans by preparing meals from a different time of day.

So, yesterday was one of those days that would have been a fast food dinner any other time. Thanks to this challenge (and my son) for helping to keep me on the straight and narrow! Picked up my son from school and headed to watch a doubleheader that my husband was coaching. We left the game around 6:15 and I’m thinking we still have dinner, homework and a bath before an 8 pm bedtime – how will I get it all done in such a short amount of time??

So, I start to crumble – I can’t handle the pressure! I mention to my son that maybe we’ll stop at a fast food place on the way home but he chimes in that he wants scrambled eggs. What? I can’t believe what I am hearing! He asks “Aren’t we supposed to be cooking at home for that challenge?” So, not only does he want to help me stick to the challenge but he’s offering up one of the quickest, easiest solutions for dinner. Scrambled eggs? Oh yeah, I can make those (and without a recipe even – lol)!! We head home and I scramble up some eggs and egg whites and throw some wheat bread in the toaster. We ate a delicious meal of scrambled eggs/egg whites, toast and cherry tomatoes. Awesome! What a great reminder of the support we can receive from the ones we love if only we’ll remember to lean on them when we need it!


Hearty Baked Oatmeal – Great way to start to the day

It’s not quite spring yet, so it’s OK to talk about how cozy and warm this oatmeal picture and recipe make us feel. Challenger AnskySue has it right, oatmeal is one of the best foods to start out your day. A lot of wholesome and tasty ingredients in there!

Hearty Baked Oatmeal - Great way to start to the day

Thanks to my weekly newsletter from the American Institute for Cancer Research for this great recipe for Hearty Baked Oatmeal. I was up early at 6 am to get it into the oven while I got ready for work. It was so good – I can see this becoming a weekly tradition. It tasted more like a dessert than breakfast and who wouldn’t be a fan of that? The nuts, raisins and apricots gave it some texture and the oatmeal was simply the best. I added a teaspoon or so of cinnamon which was not the in the recipe and I used fat free milk so hopefully I saved a gram of saturated fat (out of the 2 in the recipe). And AICR says it’s easy to reheat so I am already looking forward to finishing up the leftovers tomorrow morning too!

Baked Oatmeal

  • 1 3/4 cups low-fat (1 per cent) milk
  • 2 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 Tbsp. lightly packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 Golden Delicious apple, peeled and cored
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In 2-quart microwaveable, oven proof casserole, heat milk and butter until milk steams, about 1-2 minutes. Mix in salt and oats and set aside.

Chop apricots. Mix apricots, raisins and 1 Tbsp. of the sugar into oats. Shred apple into oats and mix to combine.

Bake oats, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir, then top with remaining sugar and nuts. Bake 15 minutes longer, or until oats are chewy. Divide oatmeal among four bowls. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 Servings. Per serving: 280 calories, 8 g total fat (2 g saturated fat), 45 g carbohydrate, 9 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 280 mg sodium.

Courtesy of:

Confessions of the Spinach Variety

Challenger AnskySue returns to tell us how her family’s first meal of the challenge went. The story involves her young son trying not one but two new vegetables, and eating them!

I must have been channeling my inner Jessica Seinfeld last night when I was making the Spinach Pasta Bake. While I didn’t exactly try to hide the veggies in the dish, I wasn’t exactly forthcoming when my son asked me what the green stuff was. I knew answering “spinach” would cause an immediate and not so pleasant reaction. So I told him it was “dark leafy greens” – not exactly a lie, right? The amazing thing? He was okay with it and kept on eating! It was also the first time he ate mushrooms. They weren’t his favorite food but he didn’t avoid them. Thanks to DIR for the challenge – last night typically would have been a “grab something on the way home” night but instead it was a “family around the dinner table” night!

We ate the Spinach Pasta Bake. It was pretty good although a little dry. Not sure if I made too much pasta or if it’s because I used a whole wheat pasta. Next time I will either put slightly less bisquick or slightly more milk to make it a little more moist. My husband (who hates cooked spinach with a passion) actually liked it but said he would have liked some salsa on top (he would top toast with salsa if he could get away with it).


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