Recipe: Make-It-Your-Own Couscous

by Cate on February 27, 2013

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When I was at the hair dresser this weekend, we got to talking about eating habits and diets. She wanted to lose weight (although I don’t think she needs to), and I mentioned clean eating to her. It’s a good go-to because it doesn’t require any counting calories or reading labels or keeping track of anything. You just eat food. Not products. Good food that is good for you.

She said that it must be hard, with the kids, to make separate meals for everyone, and that’s when I stopped her. Because I am not a short order cook. There is none of this “separate meals for everyone” business. For the most part, other than a few individual things that someone likes or doesn’t like, we all eat the same thing. Because whether I’m clean eating or not, I’m all about introducing the kids to as many new foods and flavors as possible.

Our kitchen counters always have fresh fruit, and the cabinets, refrigerator, and freezer are filled with the good stuff. But there is the infrequent “trashy” item here and there too. Sure there are Oreos. But it’s the exception, rather than the rule. 80/20, if you will. On the weekends when the kids are with The Ex, one of my phone conversations with Nick and Madeline will routinely revolve around what they want to put on the grocery store list.

This weekend? Nick asked for his favorite yogurt (the vanilla one from Light and Fit) and frozen strawberries (because he makes smoothies for us). Madeline asked for fresh strawberries and blueberries, and chocolate chips (for pancakes).

They came home on Sunday night and complained that there was nothing healthy to eat at The Ex’s house. That when they were there, they went to the store to buy snacks, but it was all junk.

And they didn’t like that.

And man, how that made my heart soar.

They know the difference. And continue to make the right choices on their own. I suggested that perhaps they could put some granola bars, nuts, bananas, and applesauce packets in their backpacks so they had something better for them if they needed it, and we agreed that could work. Along with a conversation with The Ex about maybe laying off the junk a little bit. And how he was trying to make them happy and buying them the fun stuff, and then, well, you know how those conversations sometimes go.

I don’t think making healthy food choices is necessarily something that should be taught to kids. I think it’s more in the seeing and doing. Seeing me make the right choices. Seeing the right food available in our kitchen. Putting good food in front of them time and time again. It was years before Nick tried an artichoke, and these days, they’re a favorite for both of the kids. I ate them. He watched. They were available. And eventually he tried it with an open mind. They were both that way about broccoli. Going from the you-must-try-a-bite to they oftentimes request it on their own.

Keep making the good stuff available. Keep changing how you cook and serve something. Keep reintroducing foods that they might not have liked before. And eventually, kids will make the good decisions on their own. It’s what they know.

On Monday, Madeline and I were out for a quick bite while Nick was at a Boy Scout meeting. I opted for a vegetable wrap, but wanted something healthier than the french fries that came with it. As the waitress rattled off the choices (black beans, refried beans, rice, mixed vegetables), Madeline immediately piped up “We’ll take the vegetables!” The waitress laughed and then looked at me for my approval. You know, since it was my entree that Madeline was deciding for.

And, of course, she made the right choice because she knew what it was.

Couscous is a great go-to when I’m packing my lunches (the kids have yet to warm to couscous). I like it because it’s healthy, and it’s e-a-s-y. Once it’s cooked, you can mix in whatever you want. Make a Greek version with kalamata olives, feta cheese, chopped cucumbers, and oregano. A Mediterranean version with sun-dried tomatoes, green olives, and roasted red peppers. Make a version with whatever you need to use up. The possibilities are endless.

Make-It-Your-Own Couscous
Guidelines courtesy of Cate O’Malley

1 package of Near East couscous, prepared using package directions (I used the Roasted Garlic one for a little extra flavor)
feta cheese, crumbled
can of chick peas, drained
lemon juice
Mrs. Dash salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning

Mix and serve!

*Although not in the picture, I later added Kalamata olives to this one after discovering them in the refrigerator. Which is an awesome way to add a little bit of salty taste to your couscous, without adding extra salt.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeri February 27, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Love couscous salads. My go to lunch for a work week. It’s simple and quick. Great way to use up leftovers in a new way. I found a no-cook way to make them by soaking the couscous in olive oil and lemon juice for about two hours before eating. It softens them as the grains absorb the liquid. Bright and very lemon-y. I add capers and chicken to make a ‘piccata’ version without all the butter.

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Joanne February 28, 2013 at 7:25 am

I read a blog post yesterday about how instead of trying to change the world’s obsession with junk food and using it as a food reward, we should just try to teach our kids to say no to it…and you’ve done it! Proof that it’s the best way to go.

I really don’t eat enough couscous…it’s so easy, I really should keep it on hand!
Joanne recently posted..Recipe: Spice-Roasted Squash with Walnut-Green Harissa {GIVEAWAY} {eat.live.be}

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patsy February 28, 2013 at 6:24 pm

I haven’t made couscous in such a long time! Now, I’m going to make sure it’s on my list this week so I can have some great go-to lunches for next week.
patsy recently posted..Cookies & Cream Birthday Cake (and a Halo Fondant topper)

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