March 2014

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Healthy in the Park – Healthier Shamrock Shakes


Okay, so St. Patrick’s Day is over, but Shamrock Shakes are still a thing. I will not lie; I went to Mickey D’s and had one – a tradition that goes back to childhood. There is nothing tastier than the cool, minty shake topped with whipped cream and the elusive cherry that fights all attempts to eat it first. I am in no way discouraging any readers from taking part in that annual pleasure.

Still, many of us crave this deliciousness during the “off” season as well. Some of us really want more than one per year, but don’t want all the calories. Or you are looking for a way to sneak some extra fruits and/or veggies into your child’s diet.

This recipe, which is a modified version of one I found on (an excellent resource for healthy desserts!), was taste tested on a group of kids at “In the Park – After Dark.” Roughly 3/4 of the kids there enjoyed it, and about half of them said it tasted “just like” the real thing.

Here you go:

For one batch (serves 2), combine:

1 cup of mint chocolate chip frozen yogurt
1 small frozen banana
1 cup milk of choice (we used skim, but almond or coconut milk would taste fabulous, too!
1/2 teaspoon of mint extract
8 drops of green food coloring [*for an extra boost of nutrition, you could replace the food coloring with about a cup of spinach – kale or other greens are not recommended, as they will mess with the minty flavor!]

Blend and enjoy! If you want to make it truly authentic, add a dollop of Reddi-Wip and a cherry.

Healthy in the Park: Super Simple Chili


We may be thawing out a little bit here in Duluth, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t in store for a few more “soup-appropriate” evenings! This is an extremely versatile, healthy recipe with ingredients that are easily found in your local grocery store [and also makes use of several versions of Duluth’s 2014 Vegetable of the Year!].


3 cans of diced tomatoes [use Rotel for some or all if you like more heat!]
3 cans of your favorite beans, drained [I use black beans, kidney beans and butter beans]
1/2 bag of frozen green beans
1/2 bag of frozen corn
1 packet of your favorite chili seasoning [store-bought or homemade]

Stovetop: Mix ingredients together, bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.
Crock pot: Mix ingredients together and cook on low for 4-6 hours or until bubbly.

*If you need a “meaty” texture to your chili, add some ground beef or turkey, or meatless crumbles.

Serve with your favorite chili accompaniments: cheese, sour cream, Fritos, crackers, corn bread, etc.


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Healthy In the Park: Does Eating Well Really Cost More?


The argument I hear often is that it is cheaper to eat unhealthy foods than to eat healthy. You can buy 10 frozen pizzas for $10. Those frozen entrees go on sale all the time [and they are just so darn convenient!]. Frozen fries. Boxed dinners with all sorts of processed ingredients.

But here’s the thing: eating healthy can be economical as well.

Here’s one example: You are in the grocery store with your child and she gets hungry and wants a snack. You can spend $1 on a candy bar on the way out, or you can go to your produce section. Many times, kiwis are on sale for three for $1. For the same price as a candy bar in the checkout lane, you have purchased three separate snacks for your child, each with a healthy boost of Vitamin C.

Maybe I’ve convinced you there. Everyone wants to see their child eating healthier foods.

But what about you? You are on your way to work and you throw one of those individual frozen entrees into your bag. You know, the ones you bought because they were a good deal, and you promised yourself that you would only use them in dire emergencies? From my experience, if they are in my freezer, I am going to eat them. They are full of sodium and processed foods, and will make your entire office smell bad.

Take control! Here are some healthy and thrifty suggestions for lunches for busy people [and doesn’t that describe all of us?]:

*Salads – Wash and tear your lettuce right away when you buy it and separate it into individual containers. Take about five minutes each evening to add your favorite ingredients and you have a quick “grab and go” lunch that is just as convenient, but much more delicious and healthy than the frozen dinners!

*Not a fan of lettuce? Make an extra portion or two of whatever you are eating for dinner and immediately place that portion into a container. This works especially well for spaghetti, casseroles and stir-frys. You control the amount of fat and sodium that goes into your meal and again, you have a convenient lunch that you can grab on your way out the door.

*Beverages – Again, experience has shown me that if it is in my fridge, I am going to drink it. That includes cans or bottles of soda. Even diet soda can make you crave sweet foods and, if you drink enough of it, does not make you feel your best at the end of the day. Instead, invest in a quality water bottle and fill it up throughout the day. It is better for the environment – and for you! Mix-ins and flavor drops can help if the water at your place of employment is less than tasty, and they are much more economical than continually buying 24-packs of diet soda.

I hope that I have provided some great ideas for convenient, healthy and economic eating!

Share some of your ideas with us!