We had a fantastic month of food. Most of our meals were enjoyed by most of our family, which is really all I can ask for. A few weeks ago I posted about what was in my fridge after a big grocery trip, and over the course of the month we not only ate all that, but needed to buy more fresh produce as well:
3 lbs apples
1 lb bananas
5 lbs of mandarin oranges
2 bags of coleslaw
5 thai green chiles
4 sweet peppers
3 green onion bunches
I was really hoping I could stretch our food for the last week of November, but I there's a possibility I'm going to have to suck it up and go shopping. We have another 4 days of meals, and are down to:
3 thai green chilis
2 sweet peppers
1/2 head of romaine lettuce
1/2 ginger root
1 green onion bunch
2 naval oranges
2 lbs apples
1/2 bag each frozen peas and corn
It's going to be very hard to cook enough variety and quantity of fresh vegetables and fruit when we're down to that. We also enjoy eating breakfast and lunch, after all!
My meal plan for the last week includes a meatless meal tomorrow- a lentil and bean casserole- with a Santa Fe salad on the side (1 thai chili, the avocado, the lettuce, some corn, most of the peppers, a tomato). Tuesday is likely a seafood chowder (including some frozen peas) with leftover salad. Wednesday my plan is for pork fried rice (I'll use some ginger and green onions, a bit of thai chili, some frozen peas, the rest of the pepper, and frozen zucchini). Thursday maybe we'll have baked breaded chicken with roasted sweet potato and a fruit plate? I think I can stretch it, at least for dinners. I consider it a personal challenge to use what we have without shopping for more- food waste is a hugely global concern. I found this great article from the National Geographic which cited a horrifying statistic-
"More than a quarter of the world's agricultural land is being worked to grow food that nobody eats."
What's left in your refrigerator here at the end of the month? What's on your menu for the week? How can you use up what you have?
Enjoy your week!
This week ran away with me. I thawed a beautiful steak on Tuesday but didn't get a chance to cook it until yesterday. However, dinner was looking busy, so I cooked it when I had a couple of hours in the afternoon and ate it as an early dinner- and heated it up for the boys later.
Keeping in line with a Mediterranean diet ideology, we made a number of side dishes. A Bruschetta-type tomato salad to be served on top of the tuna, roasted yellow peppers, and roasted/seasoned brussells sprouts. I cooked them in the Actifry, following the recipe I usually use for baby potatoes, while the peppers roasted in the oven. We ate fresh pineapple for dessert. Notice the different colours? All those colours mean different nutrients. It's always a great idea to make your meals colourful.
If you're looking for fabulous dinner ideas like this, The Meals Maven is here to serve. I will customize your meals according to your life- your preferences, your time allowances, your needs- your personal meal plan, from recipes and preparation tips to grocery lists and appropriate scheduling.
Enjoy your weekend!
It doesn't have to be Greek or Italian seasoned to be Mediterranean-style!
We enjoyed a Mexican Feast last weekend. It was super tasty and met the requirements to be a Mediterranean meal- plenty of vegetables, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and beans.
On the menu: Mexican Spinach Salad, Santa-Fe style salad, Mexican Meatball dumplings, and homemade tomato sauce salsa.
We had a lot of leftovers, too, so last night when I had an epic dinner fail- my fish refused to thaw- we ate well anyway. The less often we turn to fast food, the better!
Want to make a meal like this? Contact me to set up your customized meal plan! I include all the recipes and tips you need to make this happen in your house.
Speaking strictly as a parent of a relatively small child with a large age gap between him and my oldest, I find I have a new appreciation for the "early years"- when they are excited about everything, from tractors to turtles. They get excited when it snows, they are thrilled enough to dance when a great song comes on the radio, or can't wait to try on a new pair of shoes. My oldest somehow seems more jaded, less excited, and is likely to roll his eyes if I were dare to suggest dancing in the kitchen with his brother and I.
That being said, a little glimmer of the boy who used to be shows up sometimes, at the most curious of times. And so here is a list of things I do for our family to try to entice my first son back into those moments, and I hope it inspires you!
1. Eat something new.
-My reasoning? People generally eat the same things all the time. We may vary it slightly from day to day, but the same foods will always show up in our shopping carts and on our dinner tables. My first son is at an age where trying new flavours is kind of fun, and my second son is at the age where we need to keep encouraging his taste buds to grow up a little. It doesn't have to be that often, but once or twice a month try throwing something new in your shopping cart. You may find a few new favorites for yourself or your family, and by varying what foods you eat you are adding more nutrition to your diet.
Today we tried a persimmon for the first time ever. My husband and first son ate it, but my second son did his "I'll pretend I'm so scared I'm shaking" routine and I didn't force it. It will show up in our house again, because it turns out they're really good for you. The flavour on its' own wasn't anything I loved. My husband described it as a sweeter carrot/apple hybrid fruit. However, after trying it by itself I ate it with other fruit and found the texture stood up well but the taste didn't overwhelm. I think it's going to be a favorite ingredient in fruit salad. It was a bit tricky on how to tell when it was ripe, though, so do some research before trying one yourself!
-My reasoning? Life is full of opportunities to dance, from weddings to gym class, from class reunions to block parties. I love dancing, but my husband, sadly, does not. I hope that my boys will love to dance when they're adults and their significant others are waiting to hit the dance floor with them.
Turn up the tunes and dance. We recently developed a house rule that states that once a day, each person in our house can call "dance break" to whatever song they happen to fancy at that moment and we all have to get up and dance, no matter what.
3. Go somewhere. Anywhere.
-My reasoning? At my house, we get so caught up in the daily grind and routines that we can easily pass each day in a monotonous drone state. I think that's why I love planning camping trips so much. It forces us to unplug and go somewhere to do something together. But even if camping's not your thing, or you're almost smack in the middle of winter, there are so many things you can do with your family that don't cost anything except time. Some of them are more easy to do in the summer, I know. But take these as ideas, and make them your own.
For example, you could: go to the playground and play on the equipment or in the sand with your kids (gasp! I know! I hate sand too), go to a field and kick a soccer ball or play catch, play tag, go on a nature walk, have a picnic, go tobogganing, walk to the grocery store, draw on the sidewalk with chalk, collect leaves and press them, do nature rubbings (trees, gravestones, leaves, rocks, etc), go for a family walk, and play eye-spy.
Some paid activities are fun too, and would make great gifts if people are asking for ideas, such as: bowling, rock climbing, laser tag, museum exploring, and historical sight seeing (such as Fort Edmonton, or the 1881 school house).
3. Read a book together.
-My reasoning? I still remember the first book that captured my imagination and set free my mind. It was grade 4 and our teacher had us reading in the hallway. That sounds strange, but that's what I remember. My back leaning against the wall, sitting next to the water fountain, and I was walking with Lucy through the back of a dusty old wardrobe into a snow-covered world. Until that moment, I had no idea that books could transport you somewhere else.
Reading with your family will give you a chance to explore new worlds together. It's ok if it's not your favorite genre. The point of this activity is to first of all, spend time together, not attached to cell phones or tv's, but to really just be together, in the same space, focused on the same thing, together. The second reason- and it's so important- is to foster a love of reading in your own family. Reading is an essential life skill, and this article here goes into detail.
4. Cook together.
-My reasoning? Yes, I am a meal planner, but I love actually making the meals too. Over the last year I've come to realize that that's fairly unusual. I'm encouraging my kids to help me cook dinner, not just make muffins or cookies, because even though real food doesn't come with a nutrition label, it is still loaded up with nutrition on its' own. I had an alarming vision of my boys and their spouses eating takeout or hamburger "supporter" boxed meals every day. I don't want them to depend on someone else cooking for them, and I want them to be adventurous in trying new foods and flavours. Food isn't scary, and cooking doesn't have to be stressful. I want to teach them these tools now while they're young, and hopefully it will keep them in good stead when they're older.
5. Be active together.
-My reasoning? In my recent Nutrition and Lifestyles course, physical fitness was defined as "The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy (leisure) pursuits and to meet unforeseen emergencies."
(1. Clarke, H.H. (ed). Basic understanding of physical fitness. Physical Fitness Research Digest, 1971;1(1). Presidents Council on Physical Fitness and Sport. Washington, DC.)
I admit it freely, we are a techie family. I'm a geek, I married a geek, and if there is some fabulously cool device or gadget you can bet we've probably tried it too. Unfortunately this leads to a state of sedentarism that is compounded by the fact that we live in a predominantly cold place and none of us really like traditional outdoor cold weather activities. The only way around this is for us grown ups to pull up our socks (and our ski pants, and scarves, and toques, and mittens, and winter coats, and winter boots...), get our kids trussed up the same way, and go outside. I don't think it's just enough to go outside though- we also need to act like it's fun too, or at least not so bad. My first son and I walked to get his haircut today. My excuse was something along the lines of "it will take too long to clean off and warm up the car, and it's not that far, so let's just walk there."
We survived! And he didn't even whine.
6. Give something together.
-My reasoning? It's easier to be self-absorbed than altruistic. But we are not islands, standing alone in a large sea. We are part of our city, which in turn is part of our province, our country, our continent, and our world. This global village is interdependent, whether we recognize it or not. As global citizens, it is our responsibility to try to make the world a better place.
We received a couple of requests from 2 equally deserving organizations in Edmonton that prepare Christmas dinners for homeless and less fortunate families. I had my first son read both letters, and then pick the one we'd help, and the amount we would give. I explained to him that the money would be coming out of our Christmas budget, and that starting this year, Christmas isn't just about us, but others. This is something we have talked about before, but we only recently started actually budgeting our monthly income, and this is only our second year in using cash, not credit.
It doesn't have to be money, and if you can swing it, time is such a welcomed gift as well. This summer we volunteered for the Inner City Housing commission on a fundraising event. This Christmas I am going to try to arrange to have our family assist with food hampers. It's as simple as looking for a need, and doing your best to fill it.
Here is a great article on how we are raising a generation of self-absorbed kids.
Here is a great video on learning to let go of the "drama of desire".
Here is a link to the gift giving guide through World Vision.
Thanks for checking out my list of ideas. I hope there is something here to inspire you, and I invite you to add to my list as well! Enjoy your weekend, and may your meals be marvelous!
Life is busy. As a mom, I tend to make sure everyone, even the husband, has everything they need or want, before checking in with myself. I doubt I'm alone in that tendency. Do any of you find yourself, at the end of a long day, just falling into bed without having done much of anything for yourself over the course of that day, that week, or even that month?
I've tried to be more mindful of myself, lately, because I find myself acting, shall we say, cranky. Who needs a time out? I do!
Here's my started list:
1. Give my feet a massage after every shower with a deep moisturizer.
-My reasoning? My feet bear the literal burden of a busy life every day without a second thought on my part, until they start to hurt, which they really did this past weekend after the culmination of several distinct projects. It's been 3 days of massage, and instead of hurting today, they feel ready to go.
2. Have a second cup of coffee.
-My reasoning? Lately my first cup is gulped down so fast I don't even notice I'm drinking it. My second cup reminds me to slow down and enjoy it.
3. Read something frivolous.
-My reasoning? I've been studying for my online courses, for personal growth, for business growth, for helping the kids in school, for helping the husband finish our basement. It's time to give my brain a break and read something for fun that doesn't require anything from me in return.
4. Go out with an old friend.
-My reasoning? Old friends know you best, warts and all. Your childhood friends saw you and loved you when you hit your awkward growth spurts and developed emotional rollercoasters during puberty. Your college or university friends saw you make bigger choices, from career path to bad dates to spouse, and even if you didn't see eye-to-eye, they wanted what was best for you, and were there for you after bad breakups or job losses.
Sometimes you lose touch for a few years when you hit adulthood, but when you meet again it's like no time has passed, and the older you get the more you realize that life is short, shorter than we thought when we were kids, not enough time to do everything you thought you could, or be everything you wanted to be. But old friends reconnect us with ourselves, and help to keep us whole as we ourselves grow older.
5. Make a new friend.
-My reasoning? Relationships are always evolving, and sometimes you lose touch with old friends. New friends also help to teach us new things about ourselves, maybe take us out of our comfort zone. And down the road, new friends become old friends.
6. Do something new and scary.
-My reasoning? Stepping out of your comfort zone is scary, but it helps you grow and mature. I've joined an adult tap class, and I have never tapped in my life. I joined a local mom's group, and I didn't know if anyone I knew would be there. I watch myself take on these activities and I am amazed that I'm actually doing it. I'm proud of myself for being a bit freaked out and doing it anyway. Here's an interesting article from Huffington Post with some specific reasons to go for it.
7. Eat well, and eat often.
-My reasoning? I'm a meal planner, and I love food. From helping to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, to enjoying a healthier life with adequate nutrition, eating well encompasses a wide range of recommendations. Start with the basics- drink lots of water, eat vegetables and fruit with every meal and snack, and enjoy a wide range of protein sources. Don't limit yourself to the same foods every day, because eating a variety of foods ensures you ingest a variety of nutrients that are needed to function in everyday life- not just to get by, but to function well.
I hope you've enjoyed Part 1. Do you feel inspired to try anything on my list? What can you add to it? I know it's far from complete.
Part 2 will explore doing something nice for your family. Stay tuned!
Remembering all our soldiers and veterans, families and friends. We live in freedom and stand in solidarity with you who serve to keep our country free.
Last night my first meal without chicken, fish, or beef was met with "It's missing something. Is there any meat?" "No," I told my family, "This is it. Enjoy!"
They weren't overly impressed. To be honest, it could have been better, and I'll work on it.
My meal started with Black Bean Spaghetti Noodles. Ingredients: organic black beans and water. I followed a recipe in my Vitamix cookbook for a creamy roasted garlic tomato sauce to top it, a toasted multigrain thin bun, and a platter of fresh fruit on the side- grapes and oranges- the vitamin c in the fruit needed to help with iron absorption.
Did I like it? Yes. I even ate seconds. Was it bland? Very much so. The recipe was a decent base to carry flavour, but it needed a lot more spice and seasoning to really work. I'm not going to share the recipe, because it wasn't that memorable. I'm going to keep playing with the black bean pasta to see what I can do with it.
The sauce recipe, unfortunately, was a pretty big recipe. However, I don't throw out food if I can avoid it, so tonight it lived a second life as a feta and fresh dill dipping sauce for grilled cod.
Here's a picture!
Tonight's meal was awesome, however, and I'll post about it tomorrow. In the meantime, let me remind you to never do what I did when making dinner tonight- licking a stainless steel spoon that had boiling honey on it. All I can say is "ouch". It's amazing I could even taste dinner tonight!
In our world, the transition to Mediterranean-style eating isn't too hard, because we already like and eat a lot of the required foods. The biggest change I've found is rearranging our current understandings of the Canada Food Guide into different orderings.
The rule of thumb for the biggest food consumption at the bottom of the pyramid is whole grains, fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, olive oil at every meal and snack. The next two levels are seafood and poultry. How I am interpreting this is to minimize the consumption of typical protein sources and increase consumption of alternative (beans, nuts, etc) and not worry too much about healthy fats such as olive oil. That being said, I'm still watching portion sizes. Nuts are delicious, but very high in calories and fat. Portion sizes still matter, even when eating healthy options.
We're definitely in for an interesting month!
We had a guest for dinner last night. We had Greek Chicken Pitas with a Greek Salad on the side. Between 5 of us there were 7 chicken thighs in the meal, cut up into bite-sized chunks, cooked with a lot of vegetables. Whole wheat pitas were stuffed with fresh spinach, a little bit of feta cheese, and topped up with the chicken and vegetable mixture. On the side was a generous helping of salad, of which there are plenty of leftovers. Those will be eaten over the next couple of days. As our friend and I discussed the Mediterranean food pyramid, he remarked that the meat is more like a side dish. I concur, agreeing that vegetables and fruit are the "star" of the meals.
Today looks like this:
I'm excited to share our month of Mediterranean-inspired eating with you. Can you think of one healthy change you can make to how you eat? I'll post soon about simple changes everyone can make to how they eat and drink to get on the road to being healthier.
Have an excellent Monday!
That's probably not a real day, but I'm sticking with it.
Today I got to refill our fridge with and freezer with nutritional goodness. In October I made a goal for our family to consume every vegetable in our fridge by the end of the month. And...we were down to a couple of stalks of celery and 3 beets by dinner on Thursday. I can't believe we actually ate all the carrots- we had a huge bag- but now that we have I'm upping the ante.
For the month of November, we're pseudo-adopting the Mediterranean diet. We're going to put the focus on where the Mediterranean pyramid does- fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts, seeds, etc. We're really increasing our seafood from where it was- a couple of times a month- to twice a week. I'm also testing out a couple of vegan and vegetarian recipes too.
Bearing the massive quantities of fruit and vegetables in the pyramid in mind, I brought home:
6 lbs. of apples
2 lbs. of bananas
1 fresh pineapple
10 lbs. of carrots
1 lb. of snap peas
18 sweet bell peppers
2 lbs of brussells sprouts
2 lbs of fresh spinach
5 heads of romaine
2 whole zucchini
4 lbs of tomatoes on-the-vine
There are a few specific fruits and vegetables on our meal plan that I will buy closer to when we need to eat them, because my fridge is very full. I don't know if I could actually fit anything else in there.
And now on to meal prep. It occurred to me that while today and tomorrow we are having different meals with different flavour profiles, the vegetables that make up the base of them are the same, so why not cut up all the vegetables we need for the next couple of days at the same time? That will be quite a time-saver tomorrow night! And then I thought about my commitment to eating vegetables for every meal and snack, including breakfast...that got lost somewhere in October, but I'd like to get it back. And so while chopping up dinner for tonight and tomorrow, I also chopped up about 4 cups of vegetables to make my oven omelettes for breakfast sandwiches. Then while dinner was cooking on the stovetop, the oven did all the work on those eggs.
It's so much easier to cook at home and not eat out or order in when you plan your meals in advance, and shop off of your meal plan, I encourage you to take that step to get started! I promise I will do all the work for you, except of course, the cooking.
I feel very productive tonight. So while I sip my glass of red wine I will work on my nutrition course and on a meal plan for a client, and bid you goodnight. May your refrigerator be full and your meals be tasty!