Food & Fitness After 50: It’s a Good Time to Pass Along Kitchen Tips and Family Recipes

Keeping our social distance, my neighbor, Amy and I were talking (well, sort of shouting) across our yards and she said she had an idea for this blog. After listening to her ideas, I am posting a Q&A to share her great suggestions for passing along her favorite kitchen hacks and family recipes to the next generation. Thank you, Amy Clark!

fuel-nutritionMost of us value family meals and for good reasons. A recent systematic review confirms that family meals improve fruit and vegetable intake and improve family connectedness, communication, expressiveness, and problem-solving. And, sharing family heritage through cherished family recipes and teaching children some easy kitchen tips and tricks can improve the bond between the generations.

Question: What made you think about sharing recipes with your family at this time?

Self-isolation and family lock-down is a perfect time to teach kids some kitchen basics that they can use for a lifetime and help to instill the love of cooking. I also think that showing our children how to master simple tips can help making cooking more streamlined to save time in the kitchen. This can help them realize that cooking isn’t a daunting task.

Question: What are your top tips to engage younger kids in the kitchen?

For the younger kids, get them to help with some easy tasks. We probably all know that overly ripe bananas can be peeled and frozen and used in banana bread*, muffins, or pancakes, but another use for bananas is this trick that I use. Have kids peel ripe bananas and slice into ½-inch to 1-inch slices and lay them on baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Slide the tray into the freezer for an hour or two and then transfer to a gallon-size freezer bag. I like to stack the layers on top of each other inside the freezer bag by reusing the parchment or wax paper. They don’t take up much freezer space and it prevents food waste of those tasty bananas.

The kids can pull out the slices when they want to make smoothies, put on cereal, or make pancakes. I like to use them for a breakfast bowl.

Amy’s Breakfast Bowl

½ cup uncooked oatmeal

1/3 cup pomegranate juice

1 Tablespoon of shelled, raw sunflower or pumpkin seeds

Handful of frozen blueberries

4 or 5 sliced frozen bananas

Mix together in microwave safe bowl and microwave for 40 seconds. Remove from microwave and stir and microwave for another 40 to 45 seconds.

LemonAnother kitchen hack that is easy to pass along to kids is how to save time by having lemon zest and juice at the ready. Wash lemons and grate the zest. Show kids how to use a cheese grater (carefully, of course!) by grating the lemons on the side of the grater with the smallest holes. If you have a zester, that works well, too. Wrap the zest/peel from each lemon in a piece of parchment paper and store flat in a sandwich-size freezer bag. Once zested, cut the lemons and squeeze the juice into a measuring cup, removing seeds in the process. Pour the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. (Your kids may have never seen an old-fashioned ice cube tray!)  Once frozen, remove the lemon cubes and store in freezer bags. One of my absolute favorite recipes for lemon zest and juice is a Lemon Dutch Baby, which the kids will love. If you’ve never tried it, search online and you’re bound to find several recipes using lemon juice and zest. Kids can easily help with this recipe. I like making it in a cast iron skillet because it crisps the crust and some of the iron from the skillet gets absorbed into the food, making it a richer source of dietary iron.

Question: You said that this is also a good time to pass down recipes from one generation to another. What treasured recipes do you have that you want to share with your sons?

I get concerned that some family recipes may be lost over time.  All three of my sons enjoy cooking and grilling but would rather come up with something on the fly or go online to look up a recipe. I want to not only share family recipes but teach them how to make them. My favorite recipes are those passed down from my husband’s grandmother, Estelle.  Grandma Estelle was an amazing woman and fabulous cook who lived to be 99 years old. Maybe she got her love of cooking because one of her first jobs was working at a dairy farm testing the milk for safety. My two favorite recipes are her amazing pie crust (for her famous Coconut Cream Pie) and chicken and dumplings. Both comfort foods to be sure, what we could all use a little comfort right now!

Homemade pie crust is easier to make than you might think. It is cheaper than buying a frozen or refrigerated crust and the taste and flakiness is unbeatable. Pie crust is a good recipe to make with your kids and watching them learn to use a rolling pin is priceless! The crust can be used for pies, of course, but also for homemade chicken pot pie. Once made, the dough can be frozen in individual balls until you are ready to thaw and roll out, which saves you time.

Chicken and dumplings
Amy’s version of Grandmother Estelle’s chicken & dumplings

Our family’s favorite is Estelle’s chicken and dumplings. To make the recipe a bit less daunting, I substitute a large rotisserie chicken for a raw broiler chicken. I remember watching her make it when she would visit us in the summer. I’m sure many of her generation cooked and baked the same way and trying to pin down the exact measurements was a challenge. She would say, “just use a little of this and splash of that.” But even though she didn’t measure a single ingredient, it always came out just right.

Even at 50+, I am still discovering unique family recipes that I can pass on. Last summer, when my husband Randy and I were visiting his parents, I saw his dad cutting up the entire rind of a watermelon. When I asked him what he was doing, he shared another family recipe I did not know about. My mother-in-law showed me how to cook the rinds down and create Watermelon Preserves. She learned how make the preserves from watermelon rinds when she was young from her mother-in-law! The preserves have a unique flavor and we really enjoyed it. When I got home, I made a batch and shared a jar with my son and his fiancé. (See photos below.) I told her the story and she was excited for me to teach her how to make them…another mother-in-law inspired recipe! I love how that recipe, which was created to use every part of the watermelon, is now something preserved (pun intended) and is being passed down by to another generation.

Question: What do you think is a good way to pass along the family recipes?

tgn_080918_nfmm_consumer_infographics_-14-outline_002Some of us have a little more time at home right now so it is a good time to clean up your recipe files and pass along your favorites to your kids…. you can create a recipe box, a recipe book, or more likely for this generation, a digital file shared on a flash drive! Along with each recipe, write a little history of the origin of the dish or why you like it. No matter which way you choose to share the family recipes, I think your kids will appreciate them for years to come.

Banana bread

 

*One of Chris’ favorite recipes for banana bread comes courtesy of California Walnuts, Old Soul’s Banana Walnut Bread. After baking and cooling the banana bread, it freezes well. I have a loaf in my freezer right now! Click here for the recipe.

 

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Foods for a Healthy Gut: Part 2

onion_home_graphicLast week in our interview with Jo Ann Hattner, gut health expert and author of Gut Insight: Probiotics and Prebiotics for Digestive Health and Well-Being, we covered basics about the gut microbiome. This week we get down to the application: prebiotics, probiotics, and fermented foods. And, we’ll dispel some myths about pre-and probiotic foods.

Can you describe the difference between a probiotic and a prebiotic?

A formal definition of probiotics is “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” What that means for us is that when we take in foods with probiotics, either in foods or drinks or supplements, they should have a health benefit for us.

What does confer a health benefit mean?

It means that a particular strain of live bacteria has been studied and demonstrated to have a positive health outcome. “Demonstrated” is an important word because research is required to show it has a health benefit before it can be considered a probiotic.  For example, stains of bacteria called Bifidobacteria (pronounced biff-ah-doe bacteria),a group of lactic acid bacteria that live in your gut, confer a health benefit by alleviating constipation and reducing the symptoms associated with irritable bowel syndrome, to name a couple of demonstrated benefits.

One other benefit is worth mentioning. Probiotic has an opposite…antibiotic. When we take an antibiotic for an infection, it can have a side effect of disturbing our healthy gut bacteria. Ingesting probiotic foods or supplements when we take antibiotics can help push out the bad bacteria. Bad bacteria don’t like to live in the same space as healthy bacteria.

yogurt bowlPrebiotics and probiotics are easily confused. They both contribute to the population of good bacteria in our gut. Think of prebiotics as foods that feed the good bacteria. In other words, once you have a good population of bacteria, it needs to eat! And, it’s nourishment comes from prebiotics. Another term you might hear is synbiotic. That is a food or combination of foods that contain both pre and probiotics. For example, when you eat yogurt (a probiotic) with fruit (a prebiotic) you are doing something good for your gut bacteria. A recent study demonstrated consuming yogurt and fruit is a good combination for a healthy gut.

How do fermented foods affect the gut microbiome?

Fermented foods were traditionally made by taking a food, for example cabbage, and allowing the naturally occurring microbes on the food to grow. This changes cabbage to sauerkraut, and it was originally done for food preservation. Fermented foods can naturally ferment or be aided by adding probiotics. The big question is how many of these new, trendy fermented foods actually contain probiotics that help your gut microbiome? For a probiotic to survive, it can’t be heat treated or pasteurized and it is hard to tell by looking at a food label if it contains live probiotics. Sauerkraut in a glass jar or pouch found in the refrigerated case is more likely to contain probiotics, than canned sauerkraut which is heat treated when it is canned.

One of my favorite fermented foods, and a good source of live active cultures, some of which are probiotics, is kefir, or fermented cow’s milk. It comes in lots of flavors, but you can try the plain kefir and flavor it with fruit or honey until you get used to the sour taste.

Kombucha, a fermented sweetened tea, is made with bacteria and yeast. It is sour-tasting (some people love it, and some describe it as vinegary-tasting dish water). And while it is popular and seemingly sold everywhere, documentation that is an effective probiotic is lacking.

What are some common pre-and probiotic foods that you recommend?

1008p40-live-active-seal-mYogurt is probably the most commonly consumed probiotic food. With so many choices on the market, look for a yogurt that contains the seal “live and active cultures” to make sure you are getting the right strains of bacteria. I prefer yogurt that doesn’t have a lot of added sugar; I would rather eat plain yogurt or Greek yogurt and add my own fruit or toppings, like granola.

Walnuts-in-Dish_Marble-Surface_hi-resMany fruits and vegetables contain fibers that are prebiotics.  Inulin is a prebiotic fiber found in banana and is one of the first foods we feed infants. Inulin can also be extracted from chicory root fiber and is well documented to be an effective prebiotic. Many foods, including yogurts and energy bars are adding inulin for its prebiotic fiber. Fiber-rich foods, like whole grains, contain prebiotics, as do some nuts, like walnuts.

The most important thing to remember is to include probiotic foods every few days (every day is ideal) to replenish your healthy gut bacteria. Include prebiotics at every meal; fresh fruit smoothies, veggies and salads, and whole grains all contain fibers which are good for your gut.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the gut microbiome?

The biggest misconception is that we have a profile of what the gut microbiome should be; we know there are healthy bacteria, but how many bacteria and how much diversity do we need?  As we get older the number of good bacteria decrease. Without good bacteria, we are more susceptible to illness.

We are still in the infancy of understanding the gut microbiome and the relationship to human health, but by eating pre- and probiotic foods every day, we can get on the right path to a healthy gut.

Where can people find more information on prebiotics, probiotics, and fermented foods?

There is helpful information on the International Scientific Association of Probiotics and Prebiotics (ISAPP) website.

On my website, Gut Insight, there are resources such as frequently asked questions and a shopping list of probiotic and prebiotic foods.

For those looking for a cookbook, check out The Well-Fed Microbiome Cookbook.

Learn more on a healthy gut, eating well, moving well, and being well, Food & Fitness After 50.