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Be warned, I'm going to rant.
A local family, connected to a friend of mine, found a cockroach in a bowl of Alpha-Getti's their son was eating. Last November.
Put aside the fact that it was canned pasta, and focus on what was found in it besides sauce and alphabet shaped noodles.
What would you do? What's your first reaction? Take a picture, contact the company, ask for an explanation, some sort of assurance that the food processing is actually up to code...
Instead, months after the fact, Heinz sent a legal letter with a "sit down and shut up" offer of $150. Pardon me? They're not looking for a settlement, and to the best of my knowledge they weren't launching a bilk-the-company-for-money-scheme. They want an assurance that the food they eat from time to time is safe. They want their kids to not balk at eating everything from now on, which is pretty much how mine would react.
When I was a kid, we sometimes made pizza from scratch. One time we opened up a can of pineapple, and found a dead worm of some sort. I didn't touch canned pineapple for quite a while after that. Finding a bug in your canned food is a pretty big deal breaker for kids.
But now, not only is the family's request being completely ignored by Heinz, but they're being ripped to shreds in the comments left by people for feeding their kids alpha-getti in the first place.
I just want to say once and for all to those perfect people who make every meal from field to table themselves, to give the rest of us a break. If you've got it all together so well, get down off that high horse and lend a hand in making our lives a bit easier, kinder, and softer.
I'm a meal planner. But sometimes I, too, need a quick shortcut meal. Life is busy. Stuff happens. Sometimes you've miscalculated the time something takes, or you forget something important, or you're just plain exhausted.
I used to be that mom with the busy, clingy, whining child who wouldn't eat anything. I was desperate for him to eat something from a can so all I had to do was use the microwave for a minute in order to get something in his belly for dinner so I could get him to bed- and then I could crash, too. Although he was so picky he actually wouldn't even eat that.
No, canned pasta isn't that healthy, but neither are a lot of other quick drive-through options. Sometimes the lesser evil is found in a can in your pantry for an emergency meal when you're on the go from game to game or practice to practice. Or when you're sick and stressed out. Or whatever.
The bottom line? Do the best you can, with what you have, in each moment. Be a little kinder to each other. And please, share this post, so that Heinz is forced to account for their role that started this mudslinging to begin with.
Can anyone relate? It feels like I've got a hundred things on the go, and while my head isn't physically whipping back and forth, both my focus and attention to detail definitely are.
I know I'm not alone...c'mon, we're all overscheduled, whether we're single or coupled, family or no kids. Life is...busy. All these conveniences to save us time seem to do little more than free up more time to cram something else into. Am I right? Who's with me?!
So my plan for the last hour of my day before the kids come home and I start my #testkitchen dinner is to write to you as if we're sitting across from each other with a cup of coffee in hand. Let's make some decisions together. What's important to you? Why do we do this thing we do; this busy, busy, busy/on all the time life thing. When I was a child, summer holidays seemed to stretch on forever...now those 2 months are gone before I even close my eyes. How do we recover when we stretch ourselves so thin? Is there something we need to let go of, or are we doing all right?
Here's what's most important to me: all the things I do with my life, personally speaking, my goals and aspirations, my dreams and hopes- I think about how they're going to impact the lives of those two amazing human beings I helped to create. The world they're growing up in is so different than the one I did. Sure, the same bad things happened, but we were slower to hear about them, and the impact wasn't as pronounced. I grew up running around the neighborhood with my little brother and neighborhood friends and played all the time. There wasn't the constant fear of someone doing something bad to myself or my brother. I didn't worry about guns at school or being home alone. I knew everything would be fine.
I want my kids to grow up in that place, where they know it's all good. They're safe, they're loved, and they can have the freedom to be kids, to run through the sprinkler during our (very short) summer, they can go biking on the green belt, they can play soccer or go to the park. They can play minecraft, watch you tube videos of people playing minecraft (does anyone out there understand that?), take lots of pictures, cook with me, read amazing books, eat amazing food, go camping, and explore the neighborhood.
But I'm also doing this for me. I'm a wife and mom, and still my own person. While I am passionate about good food, I need to do more than just sit around and eat it. I want to teach people about making healthier choices, take classes and get degrees to increase my knowledge, experiment with different food flavours and pairings, travel and expose the kids to the foods, flavours, and cultures of people around the world. I want to improve the quality of our life, and ultimately leave something of myself behind that's enduring, whether it's the recipe book collection I've started working on or the indelible impression all these #testkitchen meals are leaving behind in my kids' minds.
I want to show off a bit too, demonstrate to the kids that being an adult isn't all work and no play, that you can have hobbies you love, enjoy your job, and still be a responsible grown up. I discovered last fall that I'm a dancer. I loved my first foray into tap, and I plan on dancing until I'm no longer capable of doing it. The first competition last weekend was a terrifying and amazing experience, and I'm so proud of myself for doing it. I think at 40 I've finally started figuring out what I want, who I am, and who I want to be.
So that's my story. Let me refill my coffee cup, and I'll wait to hear yours when you're ready to share. I'm all ears.
I knew it was coming, but nothing could prepare me for how suddenly it happened. Just yesterday I received an email informing me that my first son has 3 soccer practices this week, and that games begin next week. I'm waiting with baited breath to see if there were enough coaches for my second son to play this spring too- We can't volunteer for game coaching, because the husband and I take turns going to each game for each boy.
I take the older one to his "away" games, and stay in town to watch the younger at his when the older is "home"- and schedules aren't up yet for me to commit to either team. That's what you get when you wait about 6 years between babies, and I shouldn't be surprised. It also happens that my dance class is on a game night each week, so that will likely further complicate our scheduling. However, I think with a little planning ahead we can make this work for us this spring. I just have to stay on top of things.
Have you noticed that the so-called "shoulder seasons"- spring and fall- seem to snowball towards something? Spring snowballs to summer holidays, and fall snowballs towards Christmas. Or maybe I'm the only one who feels that way.
At any rate, with the melting of the snow comes the first rush of scheduled outdoor activites, end-of-the-year school functions, and the very important summer holiday planning. With my dance competition this past weekend and coming up next weekend, plus all the extra-curricular for the boys, working on my book, taking my diploma in nutrition course, normal life busyness, and other stressors, if I don't plan ahead, I find myself falling behind in a big way. I know by the last day of school at the end of June I am ready to stop scheduling and take a break from it all.
One of the most important things to remember to do when you're busier than not is to plan ahead for quick, healthy meals. Don't assume you'll figure it out when you get there, or you will probably end up taking a lot of unplanned trips to fast food joints. If you have a few hours in a week where you can block out some preparation time in the kitchen you will undoubtedly be able to squeeze in some healthier snacks and meals for the really busy times when you're just passing through.
Here's a few things you can do if you have some time to prepare:
Life always throws curveballs. Sometimes physical or mental health issues strike us or our family members unexpectedly. Sometimes job issues happen, like layoffs or overtime. There are pleasant surprises, like friends coming to visit, and unpleasant ones, such as car accidents, or the loss of loved ones. The important thing to do is to accept your limitations, know what to let go of, and when. Do the best you can with the resources you have, and don't be afraid to ask for help. None of us are completely capable of holding it all together, all the time. There will always be dishes and laundry to wash, places to go and people to see, but if you live on fast food you won't have the energy to keep up with everything on your list and scheduled on your calendar. It does take time and effort to plan your meals in advance, but the health payoff is so worth it in the long run. You don't need to make all your changes at once- start small, make it a habit, and then move on to something else. For example, if you're eating at the golden arches or a similar establishment 5 dinners a week, commit to eating there one less night. If your go-to snack is a bag of chips, try a handful of salted almonds and an apple instead. If you're guzzling a few litres of pop (soda) before bedtime everyday, try filling your empty pop bottle with water to finish before drinking a new bottle.
I'm going to edit this post and add that while I do know unsalted nuts are the best choice, if you're craving a bag of chips I think a handful of unsalted nuts may not quite meet your need. The key here is to, again, set your habit to nuts over chips, and then once that's done you can work on substituting half the salted nuts with unsalted, and so on. Keep moving toward healthier choices.
What substitutions have you made in your life's journey toward a healthier you? Do you have any suggestions to pass along? I know keeping my home and papers organized is my nemesis, so feel free to pass along any advice.
And by the way, we got gold in our adult dance competition last weekend. It was a great night!
Enjoy your week, friends.
This was a meal my second son ate for lunch last week, half one day, and half the next. Those are lean ground turkey asian-flavour meatballs with peaches and cream frozen corn and raw carrots. This is a very big deal, and let me tell you why.
Right around the age of 2 he became very picky, and about this time a year ago I was despairing about kindergarten snacks for the coming fall. The only thing my son thought was an acceptable lunch was a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of apple juice. The only acceptable snack was some variation of the same. Because I gave him a bit of a granny smith apple once, he'd decided he didn't like apples anymore, which meant fruit was off the menu. He ate very limited vegetables, and drank water only when he was playing soccer.
I kept offering healthy old and new foods. One time I was even desperate enough to cut his apples into heart shapes while I reminded him that he liked red apples, not green ones, and he gave apples a second chance. Somewhere along the way I came up with a phrase that somehow made him more likely to try anything: "You don't have to like it".
Over the last year it's been a constant upward trend. Sure, there are foods he used to love that he no longer will touch, such as vanilla yogurt and roasted potatoes. On the other hand, last night he tried a bite of steak. He didn't like it, and my response was "that's ok, maybe next time". I didn't force him to try it, but I think in getting permission not to have to enjoy it makes him braver.
He eats what we eat. There's always something on the menu that he likes, so he never feels left out of dinner. Whether it's raw carrots, apple slices, whole grain bread, actifry potato strips (we call them fries), chicken, fish, ham, or soup, he will find something he enjoys eating with the rest of us. If he wants seconds, he gets them. And if he doesn't, that's ok too. I have never wanted food to become a battle with the kids, because I know what kind of future challenges ensue between food and body image.
I'm teaching the boys why we eat the way we eat. They are learning about food energy, exercise, proper nutrition, and healthy bodies. They know about the different vitamins and minerals found in different kinds of foods. They are learning that different colours in food mean different benefits, and that a balanced meal consists of several food groups.
There are so many strategies employed when dealing with picky children. Most of the kids I know are picky at one time or another, and some of them grow up to be picky adults too. My goal is to raise the boys to appreciate and enjoy good and healthy food, and to not be scared to try something new.
I found this interesting article about different mistakes we as parents tend to make when dealing with children and food. It's worth the read, and I know I've been guilty from time to time of making some of these mistakes.
Enjoy your weekend, friends!
Good morning, and happy Friday!
It's a glorious day in the Edmonton area...a high temperature of 19*C (66*F for all you Americans!), lots of sunshine and blue sky, and an altogether "feel good" kind of day.
Aside from the usual housework and errands to run, I've got some baking to do for some amazing new neighbors that need some thanking. And while I'm at it, I think I'm going to try another #testkitchen sort of day. I have zero room in my freezer for the grocery shopping I need to do, but I have some ideas in my head that need trying out, so I took a few things out this morning. I'm determined to do something awesome with my black bean spaghetti noodles, and while I'm working that out my slow cooker can make some rice pudding with a bag of frozen leftover brown rice that's been waiting for inspiration, which I found this morning:
I plan on doing it a little differently, but I will definitely post the recipe if it turns out as pleasantly as I think it will. There's something about the joint flavours of bananas and nutmeg that are calling to me today.
Enjoy your day, friends, and happy weekend to you!
Probably the single biggest reason I won't cook dinner is when I get started on prep work too late in the day and I'm just too tired. I seem to have to make room for that "sweet spot" where I'm excited about what's for dinner, if the kids are home from school they aren't too demanding yet, and I've got a clear vision of what I want to make happen.
The meal prep on the left shows you what time I typically start cooking at. We eat early in the day- usually between 5 and 5:30- because our boys are early risers (5:30am- no kidding!) so they're also early to bed (until soccer season starts up, and then we have a very grumpy house until summer holidays begin).
This photo also shows you at what stage I typically begin cooking. Everything is washed, sliced, and prepped as required, from rinsing the beans to mixing up the spice blend. That way, the whole process flows smoothly from one step to the next, and I'm not scrabbling to find something I forgot.
Something else I do to make it easier on myself is to combine the ingredients together that get cooked together. For example, in this photo, I have the onions and garlic together, because those get started cooking before adding anything else.
Of course, there are times when I'm not going to have the time to merrily chop my vegetables and rinse my beans at leisure. I mentioned soccer season above, and that's definitely a more complicated time for dinners at home. Luckily, my family likes simple foods, such as soup, sandwiches, wraps, and leftovers, so planning ahead now to have some quick meal starters in the freezer is an essential part of my "soccer mom" prep work.
I find meal planning to be one of the simplest ways to always know what you have to eat, and when you can eat it. Becoming a meal planner for my family has saved us a significant amount of time and money. The amount of food we used to waste- buying with good intentions, but not knowing when (or sometimes how!) to use it- makes me cringe. I'm happy I'm now able to contribute to the well-being of our family. Planning ahead means your leftovers get put to use, rather than thrown away, so you are always saving money on your food budget.
The prep-work photo, as well as this image above, is of a basic baked bean curry pot. This was one of my #testkitchen recipes and both my family and my local taster enjoyed the results.
If you find yourself staring into your fridge or cupboard and doing a drive-through run instead of cooking, consider allowing me to plan your meals for you. If you're already a meal planner, I salute you, kindred spirit!
There are always a day or two in the month where I don't cook dinner. Sometimes we have meals out as part of an extended family gathering, and we usually plan one purchased meal somewhere else (either with or without the kids!). If we don't go out, we'll usually pick Subway rather than the other fast food places in town. Being a meal planner doesn't mean you never eat out again, it just means that you enjoy your home-cooked meals as much, or more, than the ones you eat elsewhere.
Enjoy your week, friends.
Growing up, I have fond memories of enjoying a special breakfast on Easter morning. It always involved homemade hot cross buns and fruit salad, along with stolen bites of chocolate bunny. My kids aren't so lucky. Easter morning breakfasts are usually the same thing they eat most other days with a few bites of chocolate thrown into the mix.
This year we have been particularly busy, with both spring break and our second son's birthday to celebrate. I found myself wanting to get back some proper nutrition after eating the birthday party food yesterday at Chuck E Cheese.
Having recently organized my fridge and pantry, I knew exactly what I wanted to eat and where to find it. I was able to put my breakfast together, from start to finish, in 15 minutes. I stir-fried some sweet potato, mushrooms, spinach, and grape tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil. Towards the end of cooking, I squeezed in some lemon juice and minced in a garlic clove, and added a couple of twists of black pepper and sea salt. I also enjoyed a cup of coffee, a slice of whole grain toast, and (of course) a couple of bites of chocolate my boys were kind enough to share with me.
What do you do for Easter breakfast? Do you have routines and traditions you enjoy each year with your family?
We cooked a turkey, made stuffing, roasted potatoes, had a guest over for dinner, and still have lots of leftovers. I love that, don't get me wrong. It's just that we ate dinner with my husband's family one night this week, enjoyed our Charcuterie one night, and tonight ate leftovers from our second son's birthday party today at Chuck E Cheese. So what to do? I won't willingly throw out food, but I won't eat leftovers more than a few days old either. My husband's a bit more leery than I am about just how long food is good in the fridge, so rather than argue about it I just don't leave it in the fridge.
I found this terrific article on freezing common foods we make during special holidays. I am so glad to read I can freeze stuffing. I have big plans for it- some sort of savoury bread pudding, and a layered casserole, I think. It looks like roasted potatoes don't thaw and reheat well, though, so it looks like that will need to be used up at lunchtime tomorrow.
What plans do you have for your leftovers?
I just learned what "charcuterie" was, and it is such a fun word to say. Being The Meals Maven, and obsessed with making sure vegetables and fruits are something eaten for every meal and snack, my version of charcuterie involves more than just meat and pickled things.
It's an easy enough meal to prepare, and one my family really enjoyed eating. We brought out our Avengers divided dinner plates to make it easier to eat lots of the healthier choices.
From top of picture, and then left to right:
Do you have a Good Friday dinner tradition? This might become ours.