Thursday, December 1, 2016

Pumpkin Quesadillas

Photo courtesy of Purple Asparagus

We asked Melissa Graham (who has made helping kids eat better her life's work), why she thinks healthy eating is so important. It's a topic so near and dear to our hearts as well, and yet one that seems elusive and challenging for many folks these days. Here's what she had to say...

Why should we eat well? Or more accurately, why did I found Purple Asparagus, a non-profit whose goal is to teach children and families to eat well? I could quote a host of statistics that show that children who eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains have lower body mass indices (BMI) and are thus less likely to develop obesity related health issues, like Type 2 diabetes and even depression related to the social stigmas associated with being overweight.

I could, but I hate doing so.

I prefer to leave the stats and the scary consequences of obesity for doctors and dietitians. For me, eating well is a simple proposition. If you include lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains in your diet and get the processed food out, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy lifestyle. To do this, we at Purple Asparagus seek to introduce joy and adventure into eating well by celebrating fruits and vegetables.

Purple Asparagus’ mission is to educate children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. What we really do is make good eating fun. We introduce a new healthy ingredient to our students each month by tasting it, learning about it and finally cooking with it so that kids will be excited to try new fruits and vegetables. We’re kind of like the tour guides for the produce world.

Ultimately, we believe that every child should have the chance to discover new-to-them wholesome foods that will change the way they think about eating. We also believe that food should be fun. If not, healthy eating is just another chore. Our goal is to get kids away from thinking about fruits and vegetables only as healthy food but instead as interesting and worth exploring. Moreover, we want to show children and families that good taste and good for you are not mutually exclusive.

Food isn’t simply a source of nutrition, but it is also a form of nourishment for heart, body and mind. By sharing food, we can create bonds that transcend age, race and gender. By eating close to the ground, eating lots of fruits and vegetables and buying directly from the farmers themselves, we can create a bond not just between the people with whom we share our food, but also with the people who produce it and the earth itself.

Pumpkin Quesadillas

1 T extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Salt to taste
1 can pumpkin or 2 cups roasted, pureed pumpkin
6 whole-wheat tortillas
2 cups grated Monterey Jack

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened and golden brown. Add the cumin, and salt to taste, and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in pumpkin and cook for an additional minute. Cool slightly.

Spread a thin layer of pumpkin on to one half of each tortilla. Top pumpkin with cheese, and fold tortilla over filling. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Cook in a non-stick skillet on both sides until golden brown. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings

What Kids Can Do (with appropriate tools & adult supervision)
*Chop onion
*Measure cumin
*Sprinkle salt
*Grate cheese
*Assemble quesadillas

Many thanks to Melissa Graham for this recipe delicious Pumpkin Quesadilla recipe, and insight into the whys and hows of getting kids to eat healthy. Purple Asparagus, an award-winning non-profit that educates children, families and the community about eating that’s good for the body and the planet. Melissa lives in Roscoe Village with her husband, Mike, and 12-year old son, Thor.

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