By Ashley Judson, MS, Bastyr University Dietetic Intern
Winter break is finally here!
After a long fall session of classes, homework, and projects a much-anticipated winter break has finally arrived. Did you find yourself daydreaming in class about break and all the ways you were going to occupy your time? At the beginning of winter break time seems to pass with endless opportunities of sleeping in, staying up late, indulging in holiday treats, and binge-watching your favorite shows. Sounds like the perfect way to spend winter break to us! For some, the idea of becoming bored during winter break sounds well, ridiculous, until suddenly it happens. The excitement and fast pace of the holiday eventually slows down and routines grow monotonous. Just because you are bored with your activities does not mean you have to be bored with your food!
Winter Break Food Fatigue
We are often creatures of habit when it comes to food. When we discover our favorite foods, we are apt to consume them in patterns. For example, do you eat the same type of breakfast every morning? What about dinner, does your family eat the same type of foods each week. There are all sorts of reasons why we fall into these food patterns. For some, it is about consistency and daily routine. Others might be shy of trying new recipes. Though repetition is involved in many aspects of life, breaking our food habits allows us to add nutritional variety and expand our tastes for new foods. A perfect time to do this is during winter break. The holiday season is the time of year when families gather to celebrate, typically with a holiday feast. With a feast usually comes a bounty of leftovers. While this might make grabbing food from the fridge a cinch, after a few meals the appeal is usually gone. This is the perfect opportunity to put on an apron, get into the kitchen, and let your cooking creativity shine!
Get Creative in The Kitchen
If winter break has you feeling restless maybe it is time for a change of scenery. Instead of just passing through the kitchen to grab your breakfast or lunch, what about rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty, so to speak. The kitchen is a wonderful place to practice many of the academic skills that you have been learning during the school year. We know, you are supposed to be on break and school “stuff” is off limits. Just hear us out. When you make a recipe, you are engaged in academic skills like math, science, and reading from start to finish. Imagine each recipe as if it were a science experiment, each resulting in a delicious and nutritious gluten-free snack or recipe that you created. To help get the creative juices flowing, here a few ideas to get your started.
A colorful, healthy and fun way to incorporate holiday veggie leftovers.
Favorite gluten-free pizza crust
Favorite gluten-free pizza sauce
Sliced bell peppers (red, orange, green)
Sliced red cabbage
Shredded cheese of choice (optional)
*If your pizza crust is from the freezer section it is best to bake it first before assembling the pizza. For best results, follow the package directions for cooking instruction.
First start by gathering all your veggies. Here is where you can really let your imagination run wild. The ingredients listed above are just suggestions. If you have holiday veggie leftovers that are not in this list but sound awesome as a pizza topping, top away! For any fresh veggies that need to be chopped, cut them into small and evenly sized pieces. Remember to always check in with the adults in your household before handling knives.
Now to assembling the pizzas. Lay the pizza crust on a baking sheet. Use a spoon to spread the desired amount of sauce on the crust. If you like your pizza with cheese, sprinkle it over the sauce.
At last the most exciting part, arranging the rainbow of veggies! Let the crust be your canvas and the veggies be your “paint”. Get creative. A rainbow does not necessarily have to be shaped like a rainbow. This pizza is all about color, taste, texture and having loads of fun while you play with your food. You might like layering rows of different veggies or maybe combining them all together seems more appealing.
Once your masterpiece is complete, pop your pizza into a 375°F* oven and bake until the veggies are tender. Remove from the oven, slice and enjoy! Before you use the oven on your own remember to check in with the adults in your household.
*Cooking temperature and time will vary depending on the crust you choose and if the veggies used were raw or cooked leftovers.
Oodles of Noodles
Add a twist to pasta night by switching out gluten-free pasta with veggies noodles.
With an endless number of recipes to experiment with on pasta night how about having a go at making your own veggie noodles. Spiral noodles have become a popular feature of the weeknight menu thanks to a fun kitchen gadget known as the Spiralizer. The gadgets come in all shapes and sizes from hand held to larger varieties that sit on the counter. Using the spiralizer, just about any fruit or vegetable can be turned into a long curly noodle – sweet potato, squash, cucumber, radish, apple, pear, and so much more. For a change in routine during winter break suggest that pasta night be turned into a spiralizer night.
We just happen to have the perfect Sweet Potato “Pasta” recipe in the Celebrate Gluten-Free December e-magazine edition. This will be the perfect winter introduction to spiral noodles and a recipe the whole family will enjoy eating. Sign up here to get your free magazine!
Curly Cinnamon Fruit Salad
Turn that apple a day into fun tasty treat.
Do you have a fruit basket full of apples, pears, and oranges? This sounds pretty typical of a winter break fruit basket. How many times a day do you walk by that fruit basket barely glancing at it before choosing something from the fridge or pantry? Fruits are incredibly tasty and nutritious – full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Sometimes they just need a little extra pizzazz. With a spiralizer, you can turn that apple or pear into a curly and scrumptious afternoon treat.
1 apple or pear
1 Tbsp nuts of choice (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
sprinkle of ground cinnamon
Use a spiralizer to make fruit noodles. Directions will depend on the type of spiralizer your family has.
Add the apple, clementine wedges, and nuts to a serving bowl. Toss to combine. Sprinkle with a touch of cinnamon. Voila! You’ve created a delightful and healthy treat!
Dazzle your family and friends with a bit of microwave science and food experimentation with this chocolatey, good for you delight.
You read that right, we said good for you delight. It is not often that a brownie is described as good for you food, but this little morsel has a secret ingredient that makes the recipe a triple threat – it is gluten-free, has added fiber and protein, and cooks in 90 seconds! Turn the kitchen into a science lab with this whacky yet delicious recipe. Serve your family an after-dinner surprise and see if they can guess the secret ingredient. We bet they will never guess you used black beans instead of flour!
¼ cup black beans, canned (drained and rinsed)
¼ cup packed brown sugar
Pinch of salt
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp apple sauce or vegetable oil
1 Tbsp milk (cow or dairy free)
Use a microwave safe cup – a small coffee cup is perfect. Use a fork to mash the beans. The mash does not have to be smooth, just make sure each bean is mashed and no longer in its whole form. To the mashed beans, add brown sugar, cocoa power, and salt. Stir together until combined. Next, add in the apple sauce (oil) and milk (water) and stir until the mixture is smooth and looks like cake batter.
Microwave on high for 60 to 90 seconds, checking on it after 30 seconds. The batter will bubble and puff with air while cooking, be careful not to let it overflow. Every microwave varies so keep a close eye on the brownie so it does not overcook or burn. The brownie will be done when the top is sticky but the center is still gooey. Right out the microwave this brownie is a ooey, gooey chocolate sensation. Let it come to room temperature and it turns into a fudgy brownie cake. Either way, yum!
Host a Themed Dinner Night
Week two of winter break rolls around and maybe the excitement is starting to wear off a little as routines wind down and daily activities become repetitive. Do you like to act, direct or produce? In a way, hosting a themed dinner night is like producing your own film. You design and create the menu, star as the chef, and direct each course (scene). Your adult family members will not only adore your performance, they will also be so grateful for your dinnertime support.
Here are few weeknight ideas that might help you create your own themed dinner.
Veggie Burgers with Portabella Mushroom “Buns”. Plenty of veggies are perfect for using as a “bun” with your favorite meatless burger. Romaine lettuce leaf, grilled eggplant, slices, roasted potato rounds, or bell pepper halves are just a few suggestions.
Taco Stuffed Squash Boats. Combine your favorite taco filling and garnishes and host a taco bar filled fiesta. A festive and fun alternative to the typical tortilla shell; squash is scooped out, stuffed and baked. Just about any winter squash will do – acorn, delicata, butternut, even spaghetti. Make sure you do not toss out those insides. They are great to add to your taco filling or save as an ingredient for another fun dinner night. Every squash is unique in color and texture so it is fun to use one or two different types. As an added bonus, you can save the seeds and roast them for a deliciously nutritious snack!
Wacky Noodle Night. Show off those spiralizing skills and cook up a fun new dish for your family pasta night.
Travelling the World, One Cuisine at a Time. Grab a globe, pick a country and learn a bit about their cuisine in your very own kitchen. The library is full of cookbooks that offer recipes from various world cuisines.
Movie theme dinner. Pick out a movie for your family to watch together on Friday night and plan a fun movie themed meal. You can really use your imagination with this production. Inspiration for your dinner just might be found in the movie title. Here are a few examples that caught our eye – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and My Life as a Zucchini.