The Quintanas, Week 16: Wow, What a Meal!

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

Unfortunately, I think most people mistake healthy for lack of flavor and texture.

If that will keep me from having to share the food I just experienced tonight, then yes, I'm telling you all, it is true.

I don't want to share. I want these awesome dishes all for me.

The Healthy Families Challenge introduced us to Su-Nui Escobar. She started out as our nutritionist, but now we consider her a real friend. Tonight, we added to her list of credentials: We just found out she's an incredible cook.

I don't know if all nutritionists are as awesome in the kitchen as she is, but wow!

Let me start out by giving you the menu. Turkey burgers on multigrain flatbread topped with pico de gallo (a traditional Mexican mix of tomatoes, onions, cilantro, green peppers and lime juice -- we left out the chiles because of the kids) and fresh-made guacamole, with a side of oven-fried French fries.

Su-Nui also brought an extra small dish for me to try -- Ginger-Honey Tofu Stir-Fry Rice Bowl -- because I had told her I was not a huge fan of tofu. The recipe turned me around. I loved every bite. Yes, even the tofu. Not only was it full of flavor, it was economical -- and, most importantly, easy to make.

Here's what prompted this very special meal: I was running out of things I could cook that were healthy. I told Su-Nui that I felt like I had hit a wall -- I was making the same set of meals every week. Even working with my menu-planning strategy, I felt hopeless. I felt as if I was incessantly repeating meals, and with each new round, they were losing their flavor even more.

This meeting with Su-Nui taught me that the mistake I was making. I was once again staying away from the foods I like most (burgers and fries, anyone?) instead of searching for ways to make them healthy. Su-Nui had shared with us on our first meeting how to eat correctly without suffering. Apparently, we needed a refresher course. I had been so focused on making sure we didn't exceed our calorie count, and that we skipped the stuff we were supposed to eat less of, that I took out all of the calories, carbs and, apparently, all the taste.

Dinner with our kitchen-wizard friend was, however, low calorie and full of flavor. Su-Nui prepared the turkey burgers with the pico de gallo inside, then grilled them to perfection and topped them with low-moisture, part-skim cheese. For me, as I am still eating vegetarian, she replaced the turkey with a Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger. Instead of mayonnaise, she spread a little guacamole on each flatbread bun, topped each cooked burger with additional pico de gallo, and set it on the plate with a side of crispy oven-baked fries.

quintana family picture

Some yum in the making. Credit: Nory Garcia

Instead of the usual 600-800 calories that a burger-and-fry meal can easily contribute to a day's intake, we consumed around 400 calories, and everyone in the family was satisfied.

As for the tofu, I confess -- even in my "vegan" phase, I had never tried it out of my fear of what it would feel and taste like. Neither had my mother, Nory Garcia, who I had invited to join us to get a couple of pointers for my dad.

We were both very skeptical.

My dad, who also came for dinner, had eaten tofu prepared in a similar way, and had really enjoyed it, so he was looking forward to the tasting. I embraced my fear and dug in it right away -- and loved it so much that I quietly told Su-Nui that it was incredible ... and told everyone else that it was horrible.

As I mentioned, I had hopes that they would stay away and leave it all for me.

Unfortunately, David, my husband, and my mom both LOVED it. Ugh, I had to share. The children did not taste it, all saying that was just a little too much of a stretch for them.

Sad for them, happy for me.

I am proud to report that Chloe tried a heaping serving of the wonderful, veggie-packed pico de gallo on a tortilla chip, to which she cringed her nose and made a face. But she tried it!

Important tip for the week: Don't focus on the can't haves. Find ways to incorporate the can haves into new, fun, creative, delicious foods.

I'm a believer. It works.

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.