Make-Ahead Baked Sweet Potatoes
- Heat oven to 375ºF. Pierce sweet potatoes with fork to allow steam to escape. Bake about 45 minutes or until tender.
- Cut thin lengthwise slice from each potato; carefully scoop out inside of potato, leaving a thin shell. Mash potatoes in a large bowl until no lumps remain. Beat in sour cream and milk. Beat in brown sugar, butter, and salt until potatoes are light and fluffy.
- Place shells in ungreased rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches. Fill shells with potato mixture. Cover and refrigerate no longer than 24 hours.
- Heat oven to 400ºF. Bake uncovered about 25 minutes or until potato mixture is golden brown. If baking filled shells immediately after mashing potatoes, bake about 20 minutes.
Slow-Cooker Chive-and-Onion Creamed Corn
- Place a slow cooker liner inside a 5 to 6½ quart slow cooker bowl. Make sure that the liner fits snugly against the bottom and sides of the bowl, and pull the top of the liner over the rim of the bowl.
- In a 12 inch nonstick skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Crumble bacon.
- Mix corn, bell pepper, milk, butter, sugar, salt, pepper and half of the bacon in the cooker. Refrigerate the remaining bacon.
- Cover and cook on a High heat setting for 2 to 2 ½ hours.
- Stir in cream cheese. Cook on a High heat setting for 10 more minutes. Stir well and then sprinkle with remaining bacon. Corn can be kept warm on a Low heat setting for up to 1 hour.
Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
- Heat oven to 300°F. Grease 9-inch springform pan with shortening or cooking spray. Wrap foil around pan to catch drips. In a small bowl, mix cookie crumbs and butter. Press crumb mixture in bottom and 1 inch up the side of the pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until set. Cool 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until just smooth and creamy; do not overbeat. On low speed, gradually beat in sugar. On low speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, until just blended. Spoon 3 cups of the cream cheese mixture into pan; spread evenly.
- Stir pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg into remaining cream cheese mixture; mix with wire whisk until smooth. Spoon over mixture in pan.
- Bake 1 hour 25 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes or until edges are set but center of cheesecake still jiggles slightly when moved.
- Turn oven off; open oven door at least 4 inches. Leave cheesecake in oven 30 minutes longer. Remove from oven; place on cooling rack. Without releasing the side of the pan, run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Cool in pan on cooling rack for 30 minutes. Cover loosely; refrigerate at least 6 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
- Run knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cheesecake again; carefully remove the side of the pan. Place cheesecake on serving plate. Store cheesecake covered in refrigerator.
I am a seasoned road trip veteran. We’ve taken a road trip the last four years in a row, and on the last two, we had our young daughter with us. We are either brave or foolish—even so, it’s always an adventure. While my husband tunes up the car and packs his swimsuit, it’s my job to do the other 97% of the packing, including the obligatory road trip food. The first year I loaded the back seat down with enough food to last us a month—that was my first mistake. Even worse, I forgot to pack the mustard and Tabasco sauce, which are absolute necessities for every sandwich—according to my Cajun husband—outside of peanut butter and jelly. It was a tragedy (despite the fact that I remembered everything else). Knowing how much food to pack and what works best is different for each trip and family, but I have a few ideas that can help make the road to delicious eating a little smoother and tastier.
To save time and money, eat out only one or two meals a day while planning your other meals/snacks as picnics or road meals. You might enjoy spending a little more on fewer meals rather than stopping at every fast food joint you pass; plus, you’ll probably eat a little healthier too.
Become a sandwich connoisseur. For a quick and easy meal, I love to stuff some sandwich bread, tortilla, naan, or pita with a pre-drained package of wild Alaskan salmon (other deli meats are welcome as well). If you are feeling adventurous, add some diced apple or other dried fruit. For taste, I also keep a small bottle of mustard and a few individual packs of mayonnaise.
Try to space out your snack and meal times when you’re driving long stretches; it’ll give you something to look forward to and help break up the journey. More importantly though, be sure to avoid over-grazing. An endless snack of chips can ruin your appetite for anything higher quality and more nutritious.
If you have a cooler, pack foods that are portable, satisfying, and nutritious. Produce like apples and carrots almost always keep things wholesome and convenient. Other easy options include cheese sticks, sandwich meat slices, small packs of hummus dip, or PB&Js.
Make your own trail mix with nutrient rich goods like pecans, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, chocolate chips, and a variety of dried fruits.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a few treats—it is a vacation after all—but focus onbalancing it out with some more nutritious snacks. Cheesy popcorn, dried pea snacks, beef jerky, parmesan crisps, nuts and seed—these are great savory snacks to complement that sweet tooth. You might also check out alternative chips like black bean or naan chips.
For breakfast or a sweet snack, try dried fruit or fruit based granola bars like Kind bars or Lara bars. Individually wrapped chocolates are also a sweet way to finish a meal.
For more perishable items, stop by a grocery store intermittently to re-stock rather than trying to pack everything you need for the whole trip. That’s a great time to fuel up with fresh fruit, protein-packed yogurt (go Greek!), and a bottle of probiotic-rich kombucha tea.
Keep things clean by packing paper towels, plastic cutlery, paper plates, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer. You never know if your picnic time will be right after stopping by a random roadside petting zoo. (Special note: When your husband “graciously” offers to hold your child and hands you a bag of petting zoo food while you’re inside the pen, do not accept—unless you enjoy being trampled by livestock.)
For the little ones, a squeeze pouch can be a lifesaver (or a nightmare if they use it as their own personal volcano pouch). Try different varieties of fruits, veggies, and higher protein style pouches to balance out the nutrition. Above all, always supervise. Otherwise, they might end up painting your vehicle’s interior with sweet potatoes.
No matter if your journey is to the local playground or across the country, it can always be a healthy and delicious adventure. As for me, I always remember to pack the Tabasco now, but I might forget to bring my toothbrush. Priorities. Bon voyage!
As seen in Charm East Texas
"I want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich!”
“No, we are having steak and baked potatoes for dinner.”
“But I want a peanut butter and jelly saaaaandwich!”
Did your blood pressure just go up a little bit? I apologize. Sounds familiar, though, doesn’t it? Everyone has been around finicky eaters. Whether it’s your kids, your friends’ kids, your grandkids, your in-laws and even you, everybody knows somebody who is picky. Children are the usual culprits. Many picky children grow into picky adults, and picky adults tend to bring up picky children, and so the cycle continues.
In America, it seems to be the norm to run your dinner menu by guests in advance because many people are finicky eaters. Not every place is like this, however. My husband and I lived in a rural area in France for a year, and we had many, shall we say, interesting dinner party experiences. What did they all have in common? Dinner takes a long time — a long, long time. Another common denominator was that no one ever asked us if we liked what they were serving in advance. It was just expected that we ate everything and that everything was delicious. Same goes for the children we would dine with — they ate pretty much everything. Mushrooms? Check. Scallops? Sure. Pâté? Yum! Nothing seemed to be off limits. I always marveled at this, but had only a few clues from observing their food culture as to how it was possible that everyone seemed to enjoy such a wide variety of foods, until recently when the light bulb finally went off. I read a book by Karen Le Billon titled “French Kids Eat Everything” that shed some light on why the French seem to love food so much. Maybe by incorporating one or two of her observations into your own family’s food culture, you can get your kids to eat escargot. Or on second thought, maybe just settle for green beans.
Parents are in charge of food education.
It shouldn’t be up to Popeye the Sailor Man to convince your children that all kinds of food are yummy. It is up to you. And the best way to do that is by modeling good eating behavior by eating a wide variety of foods prepared lots of different ways. The best place to start is at the dinner table. You can’t educate your kids about good food if you only sit down and eat together once a month.
Limit emotional eating.
This guideline is so tough to follow. It means that ideally, food shouldn’t be used as a reward for good behavior, as a punishment, or as a baby sitter. Food is for enjoyment and nourishment within the context of meals, but when it is used as a means of manipulating your behavior, “treat” foods may become even more desirable and “healthy” foods might seem like a punishment. Eating this way can also teach you to ignore your hunger and fullness signals.
Parents plan the menu and kids eat what adults eat.
No short-order cooking for the picky eaters. It’s helpful to lay out what will be served in advance so meal time isn’t always a surprise and complaining might be able to happen prior to the meal rather than at the dinner table. It’s also helpful to serve at least two different foods at each meal so that your children have some control over what they want to eat, but it’s important not to prepare a separate meal if they don’t like what’s being served. When introducing a new food, always make sure there’s at least one familiar food served as well. If kids decide not to eat much at that meal, they can wait to eat at the next scheduled meal.
Eat family meals together without distractions.
In the world of cell phones and social media, it’s important to unplug for a few minutes each day and just enjoy each other’s company. Talk about your day. Talk about the yummy food. Talk about those awesome food articles by the dietitian in Charm. Just talk. This does, however, require that you actually eat together, so do your best to make that happen.
Eat your veggies — variety is key.
Instead of eating the same veggies week after week, try something new, or even try a familiar veggie in a new way. Roasting is my favorite way to make veggies delicious. A sheet pan, some olive oil, salt, pepper and a high oven temperature can make almost any veggie delicious in a matter of 20-30 minutes.
You don’t have to like it but you do have to taste it.
Amazingly, children eat their best when they are actually hungry. Who would have thought? Grazing and snacking will spoil anyone’s appetite, so make meals and any appropriate snacks predictable and scheduled as much as possible. My favorite schedule is one afternoon snack at least two hours before dinner time to get everyone through until supper is ready.
Eat slowly. Savor. Listen to relaxing music. Don’t rush through cooking and eating but stop to actually think about what you’re doing and experiencing.
Eat mostly “real” food.
There is a place in the world for hot dogs, chicken strips, cookies and candy, but the majority of food should be simple foods that nature provides. Even so, all food should be savored and enjoyed, no matter what it is.
Relax. Eating is joyful.
This principle is my favorite of all. If you could describe good eating in a nutshell, that’s it. So stop stressing about calories, vitamins, fiber and achieving nutritional perfection, and just enjoy. Relax. Savor. Eat.
Applying a few of these ideas is worth a try for a few weeks if you want to nudge a finicky eater in the right direction, even if it’s your husband. I, for one, would never try to coax my husband into eating things he doesn’t enjoy. Believe me? I didn’t think so. Bon appetit.
Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.
The tans may fade, but the memories will stay. As summer begins to wrap up, spend time with your family and take a last minute vacation! We make vacation planning easy so you can hold on to summer's daylight as long as possible.
Fortunately, living near the coast allows for easily planned beach vacations. However, for our non sand-loving friends, there are many parks, lakes, and rivers that we have access to. And finally, for the adventurous family who loves to travel, there are countless memorable sites to see. Whichever vacation week you choose, let us give you advice on how to make it the best "Summer Send Off" Vacation possible!
Every vacation centers around what meals are going to be consumed throughout the week. Check out these family friendly snacks and meals:
- Fruit Kabobs - Assemble these the night before you leave and pack in tupperware container in your cooler. These will keep the entire family snacking until you make it to your final location!
- Just for the campers: Build a campfire and make s'mores with a twist... Try S'Mores on a Stick
- For the sun-kissed beach bum: Take advantage of the fresh seafood available! You'll love this idea... Grilled Shrimp and Scallop Kabobs
- Road trip warriors: Don't stress about keeping your cooler full of ice. Limit your stops and keep your hunger at bay by trying your hand at homemade granola bars! Raspberry Granola Bars
What to do
- For every vacation spot, there are local attractions that can be discovered. Talk up the locals to find out the best places to visist.
- Have family time. Don't get bogged down with the itenerary. Spend the day having no plans!
Wrap up summer and enjoy the relaxation of laughter, sun, and fun. Happy vacationing!