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Superfoods help us 'eat the rainbow'

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies (By Sherron Watson, Carroll County Times)

"Eat the rainbow." I don't know who coined this phrase, but it's one I tell my kids often.

I want them to understand that their diets should be filled with an array of healthy and brightly colored foods. To be exact, I'd like to see them eat more "superfoods."

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As a busy mom with a new baby, it's important for me to provide healthy meals and snacks for my family. Today I'm sharing a few of our favorite recipes that incorporate some of the superfoods recommended by a variety of online sources, magazines and health care professionals.

Eating a balanced diet filled with foods packed with nutrition is important to having a healthy lifestyle. I believe if we can educate ourselves about the food we eat, especially those with extra benefits, then we'll be more likely to have reduced health concerns, thrive to stay active and find great comfort in eating the right types of foods.

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Our mornings start with a smoothie that combines several superfoods. What I love about morning smoothies is they're quick to make and often are filled a number of nutritional ingredients.

For lunch we make a huge salad. Salads are another great meal combining an array of ingredients that give you energy, nutritional benefits and flavor.

At dinner we try to include a protein, more vegetables from the rainbow and whole grains. An example of what I might make is this bacon, spinach and blue cheese quiche. A quiche can be made with all kinds of flavors -- we just happen to like this combination!

I love to make my own granola, and this pumpkin spice granola is crunchy, full of beneficial ingredients and easy to make. I use it on yogurt, as a cereal or as a topping for frozen yogurt. On my blog at Simply-Gourmet.com you can find several other flavors for homemade granola.

I've included two recipes that are considered treats: Dark chocolate pumpkin cookies and gluten-free blueberry muffins. These are two of my favorite recipes because they're made from scratch, I use organic/whole ingredients and both can be made gluten-free or with regular flour. They also include some superfoods; secretly, this helps me enjoy them a little bit more!

I hope that you enjoy the recipes I'm sharing this month. I love hearing from my readers and look forward to the emails I often receive after each issue. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, comments and pictures with me!

Super Smoothie

Makes 6 cups

Prep Time: 5 minutes

1 banana

2 handfuls fresh spinach

2 cups frozen fruit

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1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup almond meal

1 tablespoon flax meal

1 cup orange juice

Enough water to blend

Optional: Honey, chia seeds

Combine all of the ingredients in a large blender.

Blend until smooth.

Serve.

Spinach, Blue Cheese and Bacon Quiche

Servings: 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 25 minutes

1 pre-cooked pie crust

4 large eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups raw spinach

1/2 cup bacon, cooked and diced

1/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled (You can use any cheese you like; I would increase the amount to 1/2 cup if not using blue cheese.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Roll pie crust large enough to fit into 9-inch pie pan.

In a small bowl mix eggs, salt, pepper and cream.

In a prepared pie crust, layer the spinach, bacon and cheese.

Add the egg mixture.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

The quiche should be firm to the touch.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup light extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Dash of salt

2 tablespoons pumpkin spice

2 tablespoons pumpkin puree

5-6 cups uncooked oatmeal

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup blanched almonds

Dried cranberries (optional)

1/4 cup brown sugar (optional)

NOTE: With granola you can add a variety of seeds or nuts. I add dried fruit after it's prepared.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl combine oatmeal, nuts and coconut. If adding seeds, add them now.

Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add syrup, oil, vanilla and salt. Bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin puree and pumpkin spice.

Immediately pour over oatmeal mixture. Toss.

Pour granola onto a cookie sheet with rimmed sides.

Every 15 minutes, gently toss granola. After about 45 you should start to smell the granola and see a change in color. It will start to darken. I let my granola bake for 1 hour, stirring it every 15 minutes.

Remove from oven.

Cool and store in tightly sealed container. This can be stored for up to one month.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Makes 3 dozen cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 egg, beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a tabletop mixer; add pumpkin, eggs and vanilla. Beat cookie dough for 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Mix well.

Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture.

Fold in the chocolate chips.

Prepare cookie sheet with spray or lay down a piece of parchment paper.

Scoop cookie dough two inches apart onto cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Visit my blog for a gluten-free version of this recipe.

Gluten-Free Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

1/2 cup almond meal

1 cup fine white rice flour

1/2 cup tapioca starch

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2/3 cup white sugar

1/2 cup soft butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 cup fresh blueberries

For the topping:

1/3 cup white rice

3 teaspoons tapioca starch

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

2 tablespoons soft butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake/muffin tin with 12 liners.

In a medium bowl, combine all the dry ingredients; stir with wire whisk until well combined, set aside.

In a large bowl, combine sugar and butter. Blend on medium speed until butter is light in color.

Add eggs one at a time and blend; add vanilla and milk.

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir to combine.

Add blueberries and gently fold them in. If you over-stir the batter the blueberries will break apart and turn your muffins purple.

Add batter to liners. Fill to the top.

To make topping:

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Using a pastry cutter, cut in butter until mixture is crumbly.

Add topping generously to the top of each uncooked muffin.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are firm to the touch.

Remove and transfer to wire rack. Let cool.

If you don't want these to be gluten-free, substitute the above flours with 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.

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Toasted Quinoa and Wild Rice Salad

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1 small box wild rice, make about 3 cups (brown rice can be substituted, but the flavor may change slightly)

1 small box quinoa, make enough for 3 cups

1/4 cup finely chopped green onion

1/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 whole zucchini, chopped small

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil to toast salad

Make your quinoa and wild rice according to the directions on your box.

While they are cooking, prepare the veggies and add them to a large bowl.

When rice and quinoa are done, add roughly 3 cups of each to your veggies.

Stir to combine.

When you are ready to serve the salad, heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the salad and toast for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring gently a few times.

Serve warm.

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