Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lunchbox Learning: Back-to-School Edition

As everyone gets settled into a new school year, you may be struggling on how to fill that daily lunchbox with nutrients and love! Striving for smiling faces opening their lunchboxes, we have come up with some unique MINI sandwich options to keep them satisfied and guessing each day. Here is this year's first edition of Lunchbox Learning!

Why Have You Done a Good Thing?

Packing your own lunch (or lunch for your child) is the best way to eat healthily because you can control exactly what goes into the foods you eat. Lunch is an important meal to keep your child going strong for the rest of the school day; plus, it can be a sense of comfort for children to see a loving, fun-filled lunch packed just for them. Mini sandwiches are perfect for children because they are small! The can hold them better and more easily take a good bite. For us adults, mini sandwiches can be the perfect portion controlled lunch we have been looking for, with the perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates.

Try these 5 mini sandwich ideas for you or your child:

1. Mini Bagel Monte Cristo

For your kids:            
Slice the mini bagel in half and spread a little bit of real maple syrup on each side. Place 2 slices of turkey or ham (in-house smoked meats are the best, such as at Whole Foods or Balducci’s) on one side and 1 slice of cheese on the other. Toast for 1-2 minutes until just slightly melted, then put together to form the sandwich and wrap in tin foil.

Your version: 
3-4 slices of turkey or ham and 1 slice of low-fat cheese. Top with fresh lettuce, tomato and 1-2 slices of avocado. 

2. Turkey Roll

For your kids:
When buying turkey for this, ask for it to be sliced very thick, around ¼ of an inch. Place plastic wrap down on a table or counter. Then place 1 slice of turkey down and spread about 1 tsp of low-fat mayonnaise, mustard, or honey mustard. Next, add a slice of cheese onto the turkey, followed by lettuce if desired. Roll up as you would a sushi roll. Refrigerate for about an hour, remove plastic wrap, and then slice into “sushi” style pieces.

Your version: 
Kick up the flavor with dabs of sliced roasted red peppers, hummus, jalapeno peppers or guacamole!

3. Pancake or Waffle Pieces

For your kids or your inner child: 
Lightly toast 4 frozen whole-grain mini pancakes or waffles (we like Van’s brand). Spread 1 tablespoon of nut butter or soy/sunflower seed nut butter for nut-free schools in between 2 mini pancakes or waffles with some jelly or sliced banana, if desired. Repeat for the other two.

4.  Rice Cakes

For your kids or you:
Spread 1 tablespoon of hummus in between 2 mini rice cakes (brown rice if available). Serving size is 2 mini rice cake sandwiches. Try adding sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, sprouts, avocado, and even apple slices taste delicious!

5. Spectacular shapes

For your kids:
Make a sandwich of your choice on whole-wheat or multi-grain bread. You can try any deli meats, nut butter and jelly, low-fat chicken salad, egg salad, or tuna salad, hummus and vegetable or apple sandwich, etc.. Then using fun shaped cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Try to make 2 mini shapes out of one sandwich.Check out these great sandwich cutters from Williams Sonoma

Try different variations and continue to mix it up with different side dishes. Here are just a few ideas to turn those sandwiches into a full lunchbox with one vegetable and one fruit or grain:

Vegetables: Baby carrots, Pepper strips, cucumber strips, snap peas, jicama, cherry tomatoes
Fruits: Cherries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, apple, pear, peach, plum, small box of raisins,
Grains: pretzels, wheat thins, Pop chips, baked potato chips, popcorn, 100 calorie mini cookies from Trader Joes, homemade mini muffin

We hope this gets you started on lunch ideas for the year and makes your back-to-school time a breeze! 

-Samantha Jacobs, MS RD CDN

Thursday, September 13, 2012

For a sweet new year…

As the Jewish holidays roll around, every year I hear my friends, family, clients and myself saying, here comes the gluttony! If your family is anything like mine, we treasure delicious foods on the holidays particularly the sweets. And on Rosh Hashanah, our Jewish new year, we celebrate a “sweet new year” with sweets galore! But this year, as a quickly approaching October bride-to-be, I need to keep my sweets in check! Here’s to a sweet new year, Your Secret Ingredient style…

Why have you done a good thing?

As we have discussed before here at Your Secret Ingredient, everything in moderation! Particularly around the holidays, we celebrate life through great people, good conversation, and of course delicious foods. But when you are dieting for a big event or weight loss like I am right now, the holidays can be most difficult and it can be tempting to just forget the rules. But getting through the holidays successfully can be one of the best and rewarding challenges and a great self-esteem boost.

Here is how I make it through holidays, parties and social gatherings while dieting for the wedding:

1)    I exercise that morning. If I workout that day with a good sweat, I don’t want to blow it away on one meal. Exercise keeps you focused.
2)    I don’t go hungry. I stay lite and lean with all meals and snacks before I go out to save on calories but I never skip meals or snacks, eating every 2-3 hours in very small portions. I have high protein and vegetable-rich snacks before I go anywhere; this way I can make decisions with my brain, not my stomach. My go-to: rice cakes with peanut butter and carrot sticks.
3)    I negotiate with myself. I read menus ahead of time or plan ahead what special treat I will have at the party. Will it be a bite or dessert or a glass of wine? What exactly am I going to order? Planning ahead makes all the difference in the world.
4)    I bring the healthy option. If someone asks me to bring dessert, I bring a platter of fruit in addition to a homemade baked good. Everyone appreciates the healthy choice.
5)    Out of sight out of mind. At parties, I stay far away from buffets and platters of foods. I try my best to surround myself with supportive friends and family who will help me make healthy decisions (thank you MR).
6)    I keep my eye on the prize. I know that nothing will taste sweeter then looking fabulous in that wedding dress. Focus on your motivation. What is your ultimate goal?

Now enough diet talk. Let’s talk food! Here are some sweet new year treats that have been lightened up. Even if you are dieting you deserve some portion-controlled fun too!

Apple Cobbler
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oatmeal
¼ cup chopped walnuts
3 tbsp cold whipped butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
6-7 Braeburn apples, thinly sliced (with or without skin)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp corn starch
½ cup 100% apple juice
1/2 lemon, squeezed 
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. 

In a small bowl, combine the flour, oatmeal, walnuts, 1 tsp cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter and blend with a fork or pastry blender to form small pieces.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sliced apples, white sugar, corn starch, apple juice and lemon juice, and remaining cinnamon, stirring well.

Into a large pie pan sprayed with cooking spray, add apple mixture. Evenly top the apples with butter topping. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbly. Serve warm.

Lightened Up Challah French Toast Casserole (for breakfast the next morning!)
Cooking spray
1 raisin challah, cubed into 1 inch pieces
6 large eggs
6 additional egg whites
2 cups almond milk or skim milk
1 tbp vanilla
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup slivered almonds
½ cup raisins
1 cup chopped apples (any variety you like!)
2 tbsp maple syrup

Spray a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange the bread in a single layer in the baking pan. Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture over the bread in the pan. Add the apples, raisins and almonds on top evenly. Cover and refrigerate overnight

The next morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Drizzle 2 tbsp of maple syrup over the casserole and serve.

Happy New Year!

--Amy Santo, MS  RD CDN

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gluten Free Goddess!

After a long and lovely summer vacation, the Your Secret Ingredient blog returns better than ever!

We were at the Chappaqua Farmer's Market this past Saturday and had a blast! We made some delicious egg, pesto, and tomato sandwiches on freshly baked multigrain bread, using everything right from the market.

 Here's the recipe...
Sandwich Ingredients

Pam or olive oil spray 1 egg, fried
1 tbsp fresh pesto*
1 slice fresh tomato

2 slices whole wheat or whole grain bread

*Pesto Ingredients
1/4 cup walnuts
1⁄4 cup pine nuts
2-3 tbsp chopped garlic (7-9 cloves) 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
2 cups fresh spinach leaves, packed
1 tsp salt
1⁄2 tsp pepper
1⁄2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  1. 1)  To prepare pesto, place nuts and garlic in a food processor or blender and blend for 10 seconds.
  2. 2)  To food processor, add basil, spinach, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. 3)  With the processor running, slowly add olive oil until thoroughly pureed. Add parmesan
    cheese and blend for another 10 seconds.
  4. 4)  To prepare sandwich, toast bread until desired doneness.
  5. 5)  While bread is toasting, cook egg in pam or olive oil spray until desired doneness. Remove
    egg from pan and cook tomato slice for 1 minute on each side.
  6. 6)  Prepare sandwich by spreading 1⁄2 tbsp pesto on each slice of bread. Add tomato and egg.
    Enjoy for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Tip for the pesto, freeze in an ice cube tray for easy future meals! 

We also came across something amazing- gluten free brownies that taste better than most brownies we've ever tasted! Rich Brownies & Betsy's Bitties claim to have the "best brownies you've ever tasted" and boy are they right! They make everything from scratch, using all natural ingredients. They also have some other incredible creations, such as the salted caramel (AKA moaning brownie) or the chai moca brownie. Portion size, people! They are too good to pass up and just a taste does the trick.

For the best gluten free dessert you've ever had, check them out at

By the way, we will be frequenting the Chappaqua Farmer's Market a lot this fall and will be sure to let you know when. We are always making something delicious and secretly nutritious. Come by, we'd love to chat!

Stay tuned for some awesome back to school lunch box tips coming next...

--Amy & Sam MS RD CDN