Monday, October 22, 2007

Easy, Healthy Dinners

Because of my mommy blogging, I was invited to a National Dairy Council event at Super Suppers in Northbrook. I like dairy and I like suppers, so on a Wednesday night I dropped my daughters off at my sister’s house and drove to the burbs during rush hour. It wasn’t so bad. I avoided construction on the Edens Expressway by taking Waukegan Rd., and when I arrived at my destination, I was welcomed into a cozy little party with wine and dairy-friendly appetizers and fun food people.

When I first heard about these dinner prep businesses, I was skeptical. Kind of like when I saw those frozen pb & j sandwiches at the grocery store. “Come on!” I thought to myself. “Where are we heading as a society?” But, I don’t know—maybe because of my 4-H roots—the dairy angle hooked me. I’m always trying to work more dairy into my daughters’ diet.

Well, it was a great event. A nutritionist was on hand to answer our questions, a cooking demonstration got us in the mood to cook, and then we all did the Super Supper thing. Which is to move from station to station following easy recipes using pre-chopped ingredients and foil pans. No cleaning, no shopping for ingredients, no reading of labels, and no thinking involved. Cover the pan, stick heating instructions on top, and walk out the door with six meals ($125 value) in two hours. I put all but one of the dinners in my freezer. I left the pan-fried ravioli in my fridge, so I could make it the next evening.

Today—three weeks later—there is one dinner left in the freezer. These meals helped me get through a very busy month, with numerous evening meetings. They freed me up once a week (or even twice, because of leftovers) from the dinner hassle.

Super Suppers sells gift cards. If you don’t want to or can’t afford to splurge on your family, do it for your parents or grandparents. I was talking to my 76-year-old father recently, giving him some hints about cooking dinners. We were commiserating about what a drag it is making dinner night after night after night. Even if you like to cook. The owner of Super Suppers told me 27% of Northbrook’s population is made up of seniors. If those seniors are anything like my dad (widowed, losing interest in cooking, flush with cash), then they would welcome this service.

So thanks, Dairy Council & Super Suppers. I left with lots of new ideas and recipes. In fact, here’s a good, fast one I’ve made for my daughters twice already. I think I'll send it to my dad, too.

Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Shake
Makes 1 serving

1 c. fat-free or low-fat milk*
½ c. frozen banana slices (about ½ banana)
1 T. peanut butter*
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. vanilla extract
sprinkle of sweet cocoa powder (optional)

*Substitute soy/rice milk or soy butter. Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Opposite of School

My friend and I took our daughters to the Chicago Botanic Garden on Monday, since it was Columbus Day, and that means Chicago public schools have the day off. It’s so gorgeous up there in Glencoe. My friend is a talented gardener and I keep trying to be one, so an afternoon among the gardens was inspirational for the two of us. But it was therapeutic for our three six-graders. It was better than a field trip. They could move at their own pace.

We didn’t arrive until noon—my girls were outside playing and riding their scooters all morning (while they waited for their friend to wake up). We arrived hungry, with the intention of eating at the cafĂ©, but it was packed, so we had to come up with Plan B. No problem! On the way to the Railroad Garden, the girls plotted out an efficient, ambitious route on the map.

They guided us to the Circle Garden, where they ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the water lilies and threw some pennies in the water. When it got too hot, they stomped in a fountain. Then they led us through the “awesome” bonsai garden (and it is awesome), before deciding it was time to eat. We grabbed sandwiches, and ate outside on the deck; and they loved hanging over the edge, looking into the water. They gathered up their crusts and ran off to feed the huge fish. For 45 minutes. Then we walked to the Waterfall Garden, and at the bottom, they sat and watched a mallard duck dip halfway under water—with his butt up in the air—as he searched for food. The girls smelled every different colored rose in the Rose Garden. In the Japanese Garden, they jumped up and down and waved their arms wildly to signal to us to come see the heron—10 feet away.

Of all the flowers in the garden, those three girls were the most beautiful.

Originally posted on Chicago Moms Blog.