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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: kids

Monday's Menu: Fruit Smoothies

I read a fascinating article in the New York Times this summer about dieting. Entitled, "Counting Calories? Your Weight-Loss Plan May Be Outdated," the article looks at some of the newest research about food and weight-loss. Traditional plans to cut calories and add regular exercise to your regimen may not be enough to keep off unwanted pounds. (Boo-hoo.) Research indicates there are certain foods to be avoided at all costs and others that may prove to actually help your metabolism and keep you slim. One finding is hardly surprising: French fries are a no-no. And with the french fries alone that we've consumed over this past week of travel, I'm sure I've gained five pounds.

Yogurt is our friend. Three cheers! That's why I'm featuring a fruit smoothie recipe today. I'll be making these every day this week, as penance for my bad behavior.

I do traditionally make these pretty regularly for breakfast. They also make a great afterschool snack, too (when it's not snowing!).

I buy everything from  Costco: the frozen fruit, the fruit juice (here in Canada, they have a great fruit/veggie juice blend) and the dairy products.

I have a huge 56 oz. blender, and obviously, we feed 6-7 people with this recipe. You can either trim the recipe as I've given it to you or make the whole thing and freeze the leftovers in dixie cups with popsicle sticks for a frozen treat.

Fruit Smoothies

8 oz. plain low-fat yogurt

8 oz. low-fat cottage cheese (It sounds disgusting, but don't worry, it gets blended!)

4 C (approx) of frozen fruit (We've listed our favorite combinations further down.)

24 oz. juice (Look for a fruit/veggie blend. Your kids won't know the difference.)

Add the yogurt/cottage cheese to your blender first, then the frozen fruit, and the juice last. If you're feeling really ambitious and healthy, you can also add wheat germ, protein powder, flax seed, or tofu.

Our favorite fruit combinations are:

Cherry and mango

Strawberry and banana

Mango and a berry blend

Blueberry and peaches

We'll be having these for breakfast this morning!

Monday's Menu: Roasted Vegetables

"How do I get my kids to eat vegetables?" I'm no miracle worker, and I can't promise that roasted vegetables are the answers to your prayers. But, they are a quick and easy way to prepare something healthy for the dinner table. You can roast broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes (red, yellow, white, sweet), and other root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, beets). You can also roast peppers, tomatoes, squashes, and eggplant. Oh, and I did I forget shallots? If you've never bought a shallot, it's high time to explore the world of onions! I've got some yummy combinations for you.

First, pantry items. This winter, keep extra-virgin olive oil, kosher/sea salt, and garlic powder stocked in your pantry. They're your go-tos when the dinner madness is upon you.

Experiment a bit when your oven temperature: 400 degrees tends to be where I most likely land when I'm roasting vegetables, but if something else is crowding your oven at 350 degrees (like a meat dish), you can roast your veggies at a lower temperature on a higher rack for a longer period of time. Leave the veggies in the oven for as long until they're as tender as you like to eat them.

Generally, before roasting, I toss the vegetables in a bowl with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. And depending on which vegetable I'm roasting, I might also add some garlic powder.

Ready for the combos?

Sweet potatoes: All by themselves, tossed with lime juice and chopped cilantro after roasting.

Sweet potatoes, red potatoes, yellow potatoes: Add some chili powder before roasting.

Eggplant, squash (yellow, green), and peppers: After roasting, you can stuff these into calzones before baking. What kid notices veggies inside a pizza pocket with spaghetti sauce for dipping??

Carrots and shallots: Actually, add shallots to every one of these combinations because they are THAT good when roasted.

Broccoli and cauliflower: Add garlic powder. To die for.

Happy roasting this week!

Monday's Menu: Apple Cider Muffins

On Saturday mornings, as the city is wiping her sleepy eyes awake, we pile noisily in the van. The city blocks are just beginning to stir. As we descend into the Don Valley, concrete surrenders to green (or now, gold and red), and it's hard to believe that we're anywhere urban. The car hugs a corner, climbs again, and the Toronto skyline emerges, perching the landscape of green, the urban and the pastoral juxtaposed in a surprising and beautiful way. This is something I've come to love best about Toronto - it's a city in its own right, throbbing with culture and business and always, people. But here you're also sure to find trees.

Our destination is the old Brickworks factory where the bricks of Toronto's skyline were made. It has since been converted to a historical landmark and natural habitat. Some of the machinery has been preserved, with the historical photos and captions on display. Behind the buildings, paths lead through marshland and ponds and more spectacular views of Toronto.

We come every Saturday to shop for produce grown by local Ontario farmers. The market crowds with people smelling herbs, buying flower bouquets, and tasting fresh cheeses. I'm armed with a list, but I'm in no hurry. I'm captivated by my senses.

It's at the Brickworks that I'm learning the language of food. I'm acquainted with the woman from the Niagara Valley who grew the peaches we ate this summer and the apples we're enjoying this fall. One week, she describes the wind storm that swept through her sister's orchard, destroying all seven of her peach trees. The cheesemaker from whose dairy I'm buying fresh cheese tells me that she'll see my next week and will look forward to hearing how the beef enchilada recipe turned out. Here, I've discovered that brussel sprouts grow on a stalk, pea plants create the most delicious shoots to be eaten, and Ambrosia apples are even sweeter than Honey Crisp.

In celebration of good local food, go pick yourself some apples or find a local farmer from whom to buy them. And make a batch of these yummy muffins. Your kids will thank you.

This recipe is taken from the cookbook, Earth to Table, by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann. It's a great resource if you want to try and cook seasonal foods.

Apple Cider Muffins: Makes 12 muffins


1 cup white sugar (I used 1/2 C)

I cup brown sugar (I used 1/2 C)

3/4 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil

3 large eggs

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup pure apple cider

3/4 cup sour cream (I used plain yogurt)

1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 medium apples, peeled and grated (I diced mine)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium bowl, whisk together white sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add eggs and whisk to combine.

In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a third bowl, whisk together apple cider, sour cream and vanilla.

In three additions, add flour mixture and apple cider mixture to sugar mixture, folding with a spatula to combine. Fold in apple, then pour batter into muffin cups. Fill the cups about 3/4 way to the top. Bake turning halfway, until muffins spring back to the touch, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.