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The Monte Bene Blog

Farm, Fresh, Family - Cooking Soup with Kids!

Farm, Fresh, Family - Cooking Soup with Kids!

The American Heart Association recommends a child should eat at least 1 fruit or vegetable each meal. Sometimes the best trick to ensure that your kids are eating enough vegetables is to pack the veggies in a bowl of delicious soup! The soup, combined with fun pasta noodles and a side of buttered toast for dipping makes it enjoyable, while packing in health benefits and delicious flavors. 

The Classic - Tomato Basil soup and grilled cheese!

Kids love tomato soup and grilled cheese, and if you make it at home (with the help of the kids!) then you can really make it healthy. We've cooked up a recipe using our Tomato Basil sauce adding carrots for sweetness and a little whipping cream to make it thick and creamy. This recipe is so easy and you know the kids will love it! Enjoy!

 Ingredients:

  • 1 Jar Monte Bene Tomato Basil pasta sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: 

  1. Heat the saucepan over medium-high heat and saute the basil in butter.  Add carrots and onion and cook until beginning to soften, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add entire jar of Monte Bene pasta sauce along with water and heat on high about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in heavy cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

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Farm, Fresh, Family - Easy Italian Christmas Dessert!

Farm, Fresh, Family - Easy Italian Christmas Dessert!

Easy Tiramisu 

Here's a favorite Italian dessert that the kids can help make and enjoy!

Ingredients:

Serves 4 to 6

  • 8 oz. Mascarpone cheese
  • 8 oz. heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 12 ladyfingers
  • 1/2-1 cup espresso
  • 2 tbsp. amaretto liquor
  • 3 tsp. baking cocoa

Preparation:

Beat Mascarpone cheese and powdered sugar together until well blended. Add whipping cream and beat until stiff peaks form. Add liquor and mix gently until fully combined. Pour the espresso into a small bowl and dip each side of the ladyfinger into the espresso for a few seconds (dip for a longer time for softer cookies). Create one layer of lady fingers in an 8X8X2 baking dish. Top with a  layer of cream. Create another layer of espresso-dipped lady fingers and finish with another layer of cream. Sprinkle with baking cocoa. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until filling is set. Serve with fresh raspberries or blue berries and an after dinner drink.

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Farm, Fresh, Family - Rather than a Black Friday, Have a Family Friday

Farm, Fresh, Family - Rather than a Black Friday, Have a Family Friday

Did you know that REI, an American retail and outdoor recreation services corporation, is closing its doors on Black Friday in order to Opt Outside? We are inspired and encourage everyone to do the same! 

Rather than wait in lines and shop for hours, we recommend spending  time with family, whether it be enjoying the fall weather, having good conversation, or sharing a delicious meal! 

Happy #FamilyFriday, everyone!

Here are a few suggestions - 

1. Find a local hiking spot and spend a few hours outdoors. 

2. Enjoy the Thanksgiving leftovers while playing a game! Our favorite? Charades!

3. Watch a Christmas movie with the family! (No, it's not too early!)

Whatever you decide to do... enjoy it!

Sincerely,

The Monte Bene Team 

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Farm, Fresh, Family - Getting Rid of Waste in the Kitchen

Farm, Fresh, Family - Getting Rid of Waste in the Kitchen

Food waste is a growing concern in America, where 30-40% of our country’s food supply going to landfills. Various initiatives are being put into place to reduce food waste but we also believe that individual people can do their part, starting in their own homes!

  • Planning Meals and Sticking to the List - Try to figure out your meals ahead of time and stick to the list when you're shopping in the grocery store. This will help you avoid any grocery items going to waste.
  • Organization and Proper Food Storage - Keeping your food organized and easily accessibly prevents produce from getting buried in the back corners and going to waste. Most fridges also have special compartments that are designed for different types of produce, maximizing their shelf life.
  • Using Leftovers and the Freezer - Don’t forget about your freezer when you have lots of leftovers! Reheating frozen dinners are a great way to enjoy quick and easy meals during the week while ensuring everyone’s still eating healthy.
  • Make Meals from Meals - Save your leftover roast chicken carcass or beef rib bones to make a delicious and nutritious bone broth. Feel free to toss in any leftover veggies for a nutritional boost.

If all else fails -

  • Have any veggies going bad? Throw those in with the bone broth to add more nutrients to your broth!
  • Old fruits and vegetables, peels, eggshells, or even coffee grounds make a great compost for you gardeners out there!

Let us know if you have any other tips for reducing food waste!

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Food For The Poor - Donations for Victims of Hurricane Matthew

Food For The Poor - Donations for Victims of Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Matthew Emergency Relief

Hundreds of people were killed by Hurricane Matthew, and Haitian officials estimate that at least 350,000 people need help, with 28,000 homes damaged. This devastating tragedy has caused starvation, loss of crop, and a shortage of food.

Food For The Poor, a faith based charity and global movement dedicated to helping 17 Latin American and Caribbean countries, launched an urgent campaign in order to help the victims of Hurricane Matthew.

About Food for the Poor:

Food For The Poor is one of the largest international relief and development organizations in the United States. Their work is motivated by their faith in God as they minister to the poorest of the poor in 17 countries throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Food For The Poor provides lifesaving food, secure housing, clean water, healthcare, emergency relief, micro-enterprise projects and education opportunities, in order to give the poor a better future, and show them God’s love.

How Can We Help?

Monte Bene will be donating 10% of the online sales now until the end of October. Please help us assist Food For The Poor fulfill their mission and continue to provide hope and assistance to those suffering in Haiti as the country faces this tremendous tragedy.

For more information about Food For The Poor, visit here

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Celebrate Columbus Day the Italian Way

Celebrate Columbus Day the Italian Way

Happy Columbus Day!
Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy - the land of great pesto - or as the Genoese call it: pesto alla genovese


The Genoese use a specific "basilico genovese,' which is a sweet variety of basil grown in Genoa. They also use Ligurian olive oil, excellent garlic, course salt, and grated cheese such as Parmigiano-Reggiano. The ingredients are combined with mortar and pestle for about 15 minutes, and then always served with pasta.


In honor of this Italian-American holiday, we've added a basic pesto recipe that can be made in a food processor or a blender in order to celebrate Columbus Day the best way we can: eating delicious Italian cuisine from his hometown! 


INGREDIENTS
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

PREPARATION
Combine basil leaves, pine nuts or walnuts and garlic in a food processor and process until very finely minced.
With the machine running slowly dribble in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth.
Add the cheese and process very briefly, just long enough to combine. Store in refrigerator or freezer and serve over pasta. 

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Farm, Fresh, Family - Productive Mornings Start the Night Before

Farm, Fresh, Family - Productive Mornings Start the Night Before

Need help jumpstarting your day? Need help organizing your days so that you're more focused and alert for whatever comes your way? Read on for tips to be more productive throughout your day! 

Better focus at work starts with intentional planning the night before -

  • Finish your To-Do list the night before. Plan ahead and write out your to-do list before heading to bed or as the last thing you do before you leave the office. You’ll know what you didn’t get done that day and have a better sense of what needs to be done the next day.
  • Pick out your outfit ahead of time. Studies show that women spend on avg. about 12min and/ or are late for work at least once a week due to indecision about what to wear. Cut down on this anxiety by picking out your outfit before climbing into your pj’s.
  • Unplug and relax. Put away the devices at least a half hour before heading to bed and allow your body and mind to relax – meditate and do some stretches
  • The Heroic Minute. Don’t hit snooze. This leads to grogginess and wastes the last few minutes of sleep
  • Energize with Breakfast. DO have breakfast. This will help you kickstart the rest of your day with energy! Save time in the kitchen by preparing your breakfast the night before – smoothies. Or make a batch of muffins or granola (see recipe below) over the weekend for quick and healthy weekday breakfasts.

Delicious and Easy Granola

Ingredients

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1⁄2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup almonds (or other nuts, chopped)
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsbp ground flax seed
  • 1⁄3 cup coconut oil
  • 2⁄3 cup honey (raw, for maximum health benefits)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preparation

  1. Heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine oats, nuts, salt, cinnamon and flax in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine oil, honey and vanilla in another, smaller bowl.
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry - you may need to use your hands.
  5. Then spread the mixture onto two cookie sheets lined with foil or parchment.
  6. Bake 10 minutes. Then remove from oven and stir.
  7. Bake an additional 10 minutes or until slightly golden.
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
  9. When cooled, transfer into an airtight container for storage.

Enjoy with yogurt and fruit for a delicious and healthy breakfast that will quickly get you on your way!

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Farm, Fresh, Family - Cooking with Kids: Pizza!

Farm, Fresh, Family - Cooking with Kids: Pizza!

Last week we discussed the importance of cooking with kids and the many benefits it has to offer. This week, we will continue by giving you a great recipe that is super easy and fun to make with kids of any age—even toddlers!

Pizza!

Kids love pizza and it’s one simple meal that packs in a great amount of creativity!

The Crust:

  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cup water (warm but not hot)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 3 1/2 cups flour

(to save time, instead of making your own yeast dough, you can also use a can or two of Pillsbury pizza dough)

 Preparation:

  • Add yeast, salt, sugar and water to a bowl and stir to combine.  Allow the yeast mixture to begin bubbling and add the Extra Virgil Olive Oil, and start adding the flour until a sticky mass forms using a wooden spoon.
  • Once the dough separates from the side of the bowl, take it out and place on a floured surface.  Knead by hand for 5-10 minutes or until you have a smooth ball

 Kids love kneading the dough! It’s fun to get a little messy with the flour, too!

  • Place ball in a bowl that has been oiled, and add a little more olive oil to the top of the ball.  Cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm place for an hour.
  • After an hour, punch the dough down and get all of the air out.  Cut the dough into 4 pieces if you want to make 4 kid-sized pies.

Dress the dough with any one of the Monte Bene Cooking Sauces!

 The Toppings:

The possibilities are endless! This is when the kids can get really creative! Breakfast pizzas, dessert pizzas, the list goes on! 

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Farm, Fresh, Family - Cooking with Kids

Farm, Fresh, Family - Cooking with Kids

As summer comes to a close and we get ready for fall and cooking all of the lovely foods it has to offer-- why not have your kids join in? Cooking with kids is an enjoyable experience for both the child and parent, and a wonderful learning experience!

With endless recipes to choose from, here are a few of the many benefits to cooking with kids:

  1. Communication: the kitchen is a wonderful place to talk with your kids and teach them about the joy of cooking, tell fun stories, and remind them about the importance of sharing meals. Cooking with them gives them an opportunity to learn about the different ingredients and the cultural background of foods.
  1. Math: cooking involves math. Ask your child to double the recipe, or subtract to make less, in order to practice math skills in an enjoyable way.
  1. Reading: reading a recipe and understanding the steps help the child practice reading comprehension. Adding in sequence and paying attention to detail are crucial when following a recipe.
  1. Cleanup: It’s fun to get a little messy in the kitchen, but once the meal is prepared, you can help each other clean up.
  1. Goals: the goal is to finish the recipe, so your child will feel accomplished when he has finished cooking and has achieved his goal--even if it isn’t perfect! And he will learn that it takes patience to achieve it.
  1. Fun: it’s fun to build memories and bond with your kids, while encouraging creativity.

Go ahead and pick out a recipe and enjoy all the benefits of cooking with kids!

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Farm, Fresh, Family - Take the Drama out of Sweets

Farm, Fresh, Family - Take the Drama out of Sweets

Parenting can be full of several challenges, and one challenge is raising kids with a healthy attitude and appreciation towards food and nutrition—particularly sweets. Kids love sweets, but it’s important to practice a healthy balance.

“The most important thing to remember when it comes to giving or not giving your kids sweets is: don’t make them a big deal,” said Dr. Lianna Bennett, Psy.D, a Clinical Psychologist from Northern Virginia. “We know from a neurochemical perspective that sugar can be very addicting. Parents are crucial in helping their child form a healthy relationship with food— including sweets and treats.”

In order to practice a healthy relationship with food, here are a few tips on how parents can help their children form a healthy attitude toward sweets. It’s also worth noting that every child is different, and for some kids managing the sugar in their diet is a crucial part of keeping them healthy!

It’s not a bribe: When we use the promise of dessert to get our child to eat broccoli, we teach them that broccoli is bad and only dessert is good. We teach them that sugar and sweets are a reward for normal behavior. Food can sometimes be an appropriate reward, for example giving one or two M&M’s for toilet training. But we want to make sure that we vary the rewards we use and that they are not primarily food based. “We already have such an emotional connection with food, so we don’t need to be creating connections for kids that could be unhelpful later in life,” Dr. Bennett explained.

It’s not number one: Ice cream is a fine and delicious treat, but we don't want to make treats the highlight of their day. We should be aware of how we talk about our food. It’s normal to delight in the food we eat, and meals can be a wonderful time for bonding and companionship, but dessert shouldn't be the only food we are excited about. “Kids pick up our attitudes toward food, so show your kids that exploring new and different foods can be exciting,” Bennett recommended.

Teach coping that doesn’t involve sugar: Most trips to the doctors end with a lollipop for good behavior. This creates the idea that if we experience something stressful, food makes us feel better-- but this can create an unhealthy attachment. “Food should be something that adds pleasure to life, not our means of coping with life,” she added.

Don’t deprive either: It’s the Romeo-Juliet effect; when you tell a kid that he can’t have something, he will suddenly want it more than anything in the world. Using sweet deprivation as a punishment can lead to kids to connect the loss of sweets with a bad attitude.

The bottom line? Cut the drama out of the sweets. Sweets are wonderful, but in order to have a balanced appreciation for the treats, it’s best to cut the drama and help kids realize that they’re not that big of a deal.

 

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