The Well Fed Family

Over the past few months, I have had the privilege of working with the American Heart Association and a wonderful company located in Durham, North Carolina. In this economy when most companies are cutting back, Quintiles, the only fully integrated bio and pharmaceutical services provider offering clinical, commercial, consulting and capital solutions, cares about their employees health and makes every effort to arm them with helpful information and encouragement. Cooking with Elise partnered with the American Heart Association and Quintiles to put together an event called Our Well Fed Family.

Upon entering Quintiles last night, I was both amazed and stunned by the amount of effort these organizations put into this event. Every inch was decorated with a beautiful assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, balloons shaped like fruits and veggies and to smell my recipes cooking away in the kitchen brought such a warmth to my heart and a smile on my face. These organizations care greatly about their employees and their families and were embracing my mission – The Well Fed Family!

Take a look at the adorable recipe book put together by AHA and Quintiles for all of 170 employees who attended.

Planning a successful event for all

Kelly Hurter of the American Heart Association and Ann Skye, RN of Quintiles gave me the task of creating two healthy, delicious and easy weeknight meals that fit a strict criteria for Quintiles employees which would be enjoyed during the event. Everyone enjoyed Butternut Squash Apple Soup with Croutons, Balsamic Glazed Pork Chops with Roasted Vegetables and for dessert, a delicious Guilt-Free Pumpkin Mousse. In addition I was asked to create three snack areas for children.

Children’s Activity Snack Area

Ages under 4
Apple and Pear “Fries” with Cinnamon Dip

Kids love dips! Apples and pears were peeled and cut into “sticks.” Sprinkled with a little lemon juice to keep them from browning, the children coated their “sticks” with a cinnamon sugar mixture. A cinnamon fruit dip was served on the side in little cups. This dip can be made ahead of time and a crinkle cutter can be used to make the fruit look like fries.

Cinnamon Fruit Dip

8 ounces Neufatchel cream cheese
¼ c. raw honey, agave syrup or good maple syrup
2-3 tablespoons milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Add a little milk at a time until you reach a smooth consistency. You’re in for a treat!

Ages 5 to 8
Surprise “Sushi” Rolls

Here children created their own “sushi” rolls with healthy and colorful fruit leather full of fiber, filled with banana, honey and peanut butter (optional) and decorated with dried fruit. Eating their sushi rolls with chopsticks added to the fun!

Peanut, almond or cashew butter
Raw honey
Dried Sweetened Cranberries
Raisins or Currants
Golden Raisins
Different colored fruit leather (Trader Joes sells great Fiber Fruit leather in different colors)

Children unrolled their fruit leather and spread honey (and peanut or almond butter if they’d like) on one side of their fruit leather. They placed a banana along one side of the fruit leather and rolled it up like a sushi roll. Plastic knives were used to cut the fruit leather snack into 2-inch “sushi” rolls. Children decorated the top with dried cranberries and raisins. Chopsticks were used for fun!

Ages 9+
Colorful Vegetable Kebabs and Hummus

Assorted vegetables such as cucumber, yellow squash, colorful bell peppers (yellow and orange perhaps) and grape tomatoes were threaded onto bamboo skewers and served with hummus. Kids were creative with their kebab and taught how to make an easy hummus recipe. Sesame crackers and cheese were served alongside. Kids can even cut some of the vegetables into fun shapes.

Hummus Recipe

1 (14.5 oz) can organic garbanzo beans, drained with liquid reserved
4 tbsp. Tahini (sesame paste)
1 tsp. fine grain sea or kosher salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil

Because organic beans have little salt in the liquid, some of the liquid can be used in place of all of the olive oil found in traditional hummus recipes making a lower calorie snack and a smoother hummus. In a blender, combine ingredients well using a little liquid in the beans at a time. I only use the liquid when purchasing organic low-salt chick or garbanzo beans. You will not have to use all of the liquid.

Employees were also encouraged to submit healthy recipes for a contest. I was sent all recipes to review and the three winners were as follows:

1. Heather’s Pesto with Tomatoes – fastest
2. Kim’s Butternut Squash Soup – healthiest
3. Pamela’s Eggplant Spinach Parmesan- most creative

All winners received a Cooking with Elise apron and got up on stage with me to demonstrate how easy and delicious these recipes were to follow.

Three cheers for Heather, Kim and Pamela! Here are their recipes:

Heathers Pesto with Tomatoes
Category Winner: Fastest

Basil Leaves (2 large handfuls about 2 cups – fresh, washed)
Garlic (2-4 cloves)
Pine nuts or walnuts or slivered almonds (one handful – about 3 oz)
Salt (pinch)
Olive oil (1 tablespoon)
Water (about 1/3 cup – use as needed)
Parmesan Cheese (fresh grated, if possible. 4 tbsp total –use about 1 tbsp per serving)
Grape Tomatoes (6 per serving) washed and sliced
About 1 oz of toasted pine nuts or toasted slivered almonds divided into 4 servings
Pasta of your choice (about 2 oz per serving)

Boil water for pasta. Cook 8 oz. of pasta of choice (linguini, spaghetti, rotini, etc.) using instructions on the package.
Take fresh washed basil leaves and blend in blender or food processor with garlic, nuts, salt and oil. Add water a little at a time until mixture is a smooth paste. Scoop out and heat on stove in a pot on low until hot. About 10 minutes.
For each serving, start with about 2 oz of pasta and then scoop a spoonful of pesto on top of pasta, and sprinkle on or mix in parmesan cheese. Toss together a minute until pasta is covered with the sauce and then top with the halved tomatoes and a few toasted pine nuts.
Serve with French bread and a green salad, if you like.
(Note: Pesto mixture can be made in batches and kept frozen for up to a year)

Kim’s Butternut Squash Soup
Category Winner: Healthiest
Serves 4-6

1 Butternut Squash from The Produce Box
2 Red or Green Apples from The Produce Box
1 Red Pepper from The Produce Box
1 Jalapeño Pepper from The Produce Box
3 Cloves Garlic
1-Teaspoon Ginger
1-Teaspoon Cinnamon
1-Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (more if you like it hot)

Peel and seed butternut squash, cut into squares. Core apple, cut with skin into squares. Seed red pepper, cut up into squares. Seed jalapeño and dice. Mince garlic.

Boil enough water just to cover above ingredients. Once water is boiling, add all ingredients together. Boil 20-25 minutes until apples and squash are soft and break when poked with a fork.

With a large spoon transfer 1/3 of the ingredients into a blender just adding enough juice to help puree the contents. Transfer pureed soup into a clean saucepan and continue blending ingredients until everything is pureed. The less juice the thicker the soup. Discard extra juice.

Cook soup on low until you are ready to eat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

and last, but certainly not least:

Pamela’s Eggplant Spinach Parm
Category Winner: Most Creative

2 Eggplants
1 container part-skim ricotta cheese (15 oz)
1 ½ cups low fat italian shredded cheese
¼ cup of italian bread crumbs
½ box of frozen spinach (thawed) squeezed dry (more if you like lots of spinach)
2 cups of marinara sauce

Cut Eggplant length wise (approx. ¼ inch thick) put in boiling water for approx. 1-2 minutes (just until soft enough to roll)
Combine: Ricotta cheese…..spinach……1 cup shredded cheese….breadcrumbs……..(in mixing bowl)

Preheat oven to: 375 degrees………spray baking dish with nonstick cooking oil

Spread each eggplant slice with the mixture……roll up the eggplant
Place a small amount of marinara sauce in bottom of baking dish
Place each eggplant (rolled up side down) in baking dish
Put remaining sauce over eggplant

Bake approx. 40 minutes…….remove and sprinkle remaining shredded cheese over and bake another 5-10 minutes

Each serving has approx. 230 calories