The More You Use Your Cutting Board, the Better

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Carin Vogelzang is a mom on the go. Between various athletic events, music lessons and more, dinner can become a pit stop at the kitchen table instead of sit down family time. But Carin won't sacrifice her family's health or time together. She has a secret recipe to feeding her flock cheap and healthy meals.

"Don't even allow picking up fast food or pizza. Remove cash or credit cards from your wallet if you know that you are likely to stop at those places. Have everything ready to go in the morning and thawing so that when you get home you can start right away," Carin says. "I think healthy eating is a mental battle–if you have nothing prepared or ready to go, you will make bad decisions. I know this from experience."

Carin has four kids ages 10, 8, 6, and 3. The three oldest are involved in two things each per week, and the youngest is along for the ride–for now. Preparing a healthy meal every night of the week makes Carin sound like a super mom, and she's the first to admit that she doesn't have all the time in the world to prepare dinner, but she sticks to her guns and gets the kids to help in preparing the meals. Because healthy eating has become part of the Vogelzang family routine, it's getting more easy to make sure the meal is well rounded.

"If I want the best to come out of my family, I have to put the best stuff into them. I buy and cook the best foods for them so that their bodies have the energy and health they need to enjoy every aspect of life," Carin says.

That said, elementary-aged kids don't always understand how vegetables can translate into essential vitamins and energy. To encourage her children to eat their veggies, she mixes up the menu.

"If it is on the plate, my kids know they will have to eat it," says Carin. "I do try new things once a week or so and they get mixed reviewed, and so I try to mix new with the old–something I know they will like with a new veggie or something. I give them a realistic portion and they have to eat it. Oh, and it helps that we do offer a 'dessert' every night around 7:30 p.m. That is my first bargaining tool, and it works every time."

Carin's favorite place to find new recipes is 100 Days of Real Food. Check out some of her family's favorites:

Fajitas: Here is a killer fajita rub that I put on chicken:

One tablespoon cornstarch
Two teaspoons chili powder
One teaspoon salt
One teaspoon paprika
One teaspoon sugar
Three fourths teaspoon crushed chicken bouillon cube
Half a teaspoon onion powder
One quarter teaspoon garlic powder
One quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper
One quarter teaspoon cumin 

Please consider switching to whole wheat tortillas. There are some good ones out there-my favorite are the South Beach Diet ones. Add whatever fresh toppings you can. I serve this with canned black beans which I season with some freshly pressed garlic and salt. I also make fresh guacamole–Chicken, black beans, whole wheat anything and avocado are all fantastically healthy foods.

Stir Fry: During the season of Lent, our family ate stir fried rice and veggies three times a week as part of a spiritual journey. We were all surprised at how much we all liked it. Now stir fry is part of our weekly meals.

Here is the sauce I use:
One and a half teaspoons sesame oil
Half a teaspoon garlic
Half a teaspoon ginger (minced)
One cup of chicken broth
One tablespoons soy sauce
One tablespoons brown sugar
Half a teaspoon salt
One fourth teaspoon pepper

Heat all of these in large wok or pan. In small bowl combine and slowly add to the above sauce.
One and a half teaspoons lemon juice
One tablespoons cooking sherry
One and a half teaspoons corn starch

Now add whatever meats or veggies you want. I add bok choy, broccoli, and carrots most night. Sometimes I throw in pineapple for fun, and most nights I throw in peanuts because I like the crunch!

Serve over brown rice–please consider brown rice. It is literally contains 100 percent of Vitamin K, Fiber, Thiamin, Niacin, Magnesium, Iron, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Potassium, and Protein. White rice doesn't come close. Yes, the taste is different but it is something that with repeated exposure kids will get used to.

Grilled Chicken Legs and Roasted Red Potatoes:

Chicken leg marinade:
Three tablespoons fresh lemon juice
One tablespoon dried oregano
Three garlic cloves pressed
Two tablespoons olive oil
One tsp salt
Little bit of pepper–few shakes
About twelve drumsticks–skin removed

Whisk all of the ingredients in a bowl. Pour marinade into a large Ziploc bag and add the drumsticks. Marinate all day or however long you have.

Roasted red potatoes:
Rub a cookie sheet with olive oil. Cut red potatoes in half. Place cut face down on the cookie sheet. Drizzle olive oil over potatoes and sprinkle with oregano (the more the better in my opinion). Place in over at 400 degrees for forty-five minutes.

Add a fresh veggie of your choice. We like green beans.

Written by: Erika Fifelski is the West Michigan Woman magazine editorial coordinator. She was born and raised in West Michigan, and after a brief stint on the sunrise side, she's home and loving it. Erika enjoys cooking, vacuuming, and discovering new ways to live sustainably and support local businesses. Photo provided by Carin Vogelzang.

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