Over the years, you've watched me stock up my freezer. I've written about why to stock it up, what a different it makes, and preached endlessly on the virtues of a stocked fridge and freezer.
And here's the perfect reason why. On our first night of family vacation, my husband got very sick. He ended up being airlifted back to Edmonton.
Between back and forth from home to hospital, I found myself at first stressing out about what to feed the kids, and how. I didn't want us to live on fast food for the week but I didn't have a lot of time to cook either. However, I remembered I had stocked my freezer for fall before we went on vacation. This made all the difference in the world for us. A need is a need, whether it's a busy autumn or an unexpected illness. We were able to eat healthy food under pressure and as a result weathered the unknowns with grace and wellness.
Over the years I've found that the first thing to get dropped under unexpected curveballs is our meal planning. We eat whatever we can find whenever and wherever we can find it. This has been true for everyone I've asked. Unfortunately, eating like this adds further stress to our complications- less healthy food equals less healthy outcomes. When we are under stress and fighting to bring our lives back to normal, we need that nutritional backbone to support us. If you haven't started stocking your freezer, let me encourage you that now is the time. Make it your intentional priority as you cook. Plan for meals that are easily doubled or broken down into starters- slice meat for sandwiches, soups, and stir frys. Double up on chili or meat sauce. Make an extra meatloaf, and put away your leftover small bits for breakfasts or lunches that can serve you when you need it.
Having eggs and oatmeal ready to eat made my daily dashes out the door so much easier. Having lasagna, chili, and meatloaf to reheat for the kids made dinners doable. When I knew I had an hour at home I hardboiled eggs and roasted sheet pans full of vegetables. You know what you like to eat, so it's ok if my suggestions don't land for you. The important thing is to pick what works for you and make it happen.
All the best, friends,
Over the years I've observed that I have a well-stocked pantry compared to many people, and I'm often surprised by what's NOT in people's pantry's. Let's chat about a well-stocked kitchen over the next few blog posts and see what all the fuss is about!
Keeping a well-stocked pantry can be the difference between whipping something up for a meal and ordering in (or going out). It's not a big deal if you don't think it is, but if you feel guilt, shame, or regret every time you go out when you would rather not, this is one of those things you can do to take control and find some satisfaction and happiness in your kitchen.
Keeping your pantry stocked enables you to run a more efficient and organized kitchen. It makes your meal planning and grocery shopping easier and quicker, and by keeping everything organized and knowing what you have means less time and money is wasted. It's so important, in fact, that I offer pantry audits as one of my services, because it's one of those places in our homes that seems to encourage chaos. I encourage you to do your own pantry audit before you run out to shop for your staples- you may find things in there you forgot you had!
We'll go over fridge and freezer stocking another time, and at the end of it all we'll put together a list of a few ideas of meals you can throw together with what you have.
Some standard pantry staples:
My stocked pantry includes items most people would probably not consider as basics, but we don't let ourselves run out. These items include all of these above plus:
There are overlaps, of course, between fridge and pantry. If we open the salsa, for example, it lives in the fridge. And we keep our ketchup in the fridge too, though I hear it's shelf-stable and refrigeration isn't required.
Here's a recipe using basic pantry ingredients to create baked beans in the slow cooker- a perfect recipe for the weather we are enjoying today in Fort Saskatchewan!
Have a comment? Want to tell me what I missed (or added) that makes my stocked pantry different than yours? Feel free to leave a note for us here or hop over to my Facebook page and start the conversation there.
Have a great week, friends!
A few weeks ago I posted about why I like to use romaine lettuce in a different way than just a salad- and this is true of swiss chard, too. I really enjoy my weekly test kitchen because it challenges me to think about food in a different way than I usually do.
This summer I’ve used swiss chard as a topping for my burgers, in a salad, sliced up and cooked into a Vietnamese Noodle Soup, and now as a rolled appetizer, stuffed with strawberries and fresh cheese, and served with a balsamic reduction for dipping.
I know it may sound complicated to try new things. It can be scary, and maybe (like I used to be) you’re a little bit worried it won’t turn out and you’ll be wasting food by throwing it away.
While that IS a possibility, I would like to pose another perspective: trying something new is never a waste, even if you have to throw it away (and that’s a rare occasion!)
Most of the time the finished outcome will not be so bad it has to be tossed, and consider the alternate outcome- you may discover something new you love!
When testing my swiss chard appetizers, I started small, making just 2- one for my husband to try, and one for me. Both of us enjoyed them, so I plated a few and brought them to a family event so I could test them on other people too.
The overwhelming consensus was “these are really good”. And if they weren’t good? I would have known before I made a bunch and brought them to the party because I started with just 2. A few ingredients and a little time means it's not a big deal if it doesn't work out.
Here are a couple of ways to introduce something new to your cooking repertoire:
Hopefully you’ve got some interesting ideas cooking up in your head now! Enjoy your day, friends.
We’re using Nasturtiums in our house this week to help make our food taste good and look pretty, but the question that I hear from people is “why?” What difference does it make HOW your food looks? Isn’t taste the important part?
Well, sure. Taste is a HUGE part of your meals. But it is not the only consideration.
Something as plain and simple as a bowl of oatmeal can look appetizing or unappetizing, depending on how you dress it up. If my kids finally eat oatmeal, I know it’s going to be because it looks like it might taste good. There’s no way they’d be willing to try a bowl with oatmeal just slopped into it. But if I top it with some delicious blueberries, a sprinkle of cinnamon and toasted pecans, and maybe a drizzle of maple syrup, I’m almost willing to bet at least one of them would be willing to give it a try. And of course, my ultimate goal is to get both of them eating it.
There are differences of opinion, of course. This is strictly mine. But I find it a fun experiment to play with in our home. My oldest son in particular appreciates how good a food looks before he tells me how it tastes.
Think about the presentation between McDonalds and The Canadian Brewhouse. Both places serve burgers. But one is wrapped sloppily in a paper wrapper or cardboard box with fries spilling out of their wrapper on a plastic tray, and the other is plated nicely with a gently arranged salad or interestingly wrapped fries. They even have their signature Canadian Flag toothpick stuck into the top of the burger. You know which one looks more appealing and which one you’d rather eat, right? Most of the time the difference in price is overlooked because the perceived value is higher, in part due to how it looks when presented.
The next time you serve dinner, consider plating it in a way that makes it look visually appealing. You might be surprised at what your picky people are willing to try if it looks nice.
For an interesting article about this with more viewpoints and discussion, click here.
Have a great day, friends! If you haven't started following me on Facebook yet, please hop over there and "like" my page. I post interesting food and nutrition stuff on a regular basis and I'd hate you to miss out on my test kitchen recipes each Friday!
This week I'm playing with the Thai Basil that I am growing in my herb garden. We're going to run a late #testkitchen this week (today rather than yesterday if all goes well!), making Thai salad rolls for dinner tonight and a Vietnamese noodle soup with chicken and vegetables for dinner tomorrow.
But why bother? Why change to a different kind of basil? Why not stick with the old one that is known and loved?
Over the years I've observed there are 2 basic kinds of eaters in the world: people who can eat the same thing all the time and be perfectly content, and people who want to eat different things all the time and rarely eat the same thing twice. I don't think either extreme is healthy or sustainable. In our family, we encourage a bit of both for a few different reasons:
By now you all are used to me talking about incorporating a variety of different colours into your food but we don't usually emphasize reasons for different flavours. I'm going to hone in on one reason this morning: "...waking up your taste buds".
Raising a family of picky children with a husband who came pretty picky himself has been a journey for us. At the beginning of parenting small children I was completely unprepared for picky eaters. The idea of it was as foreign to me as living in full darkness half a year. When I was a child, if my mom put food in front of me, I ate it. To be suddenly faced with gagging, vomiting, tears, and the rest was bewildering.
However, I firmly believe food should not be a fight. Ever. We determine what foods go on the table so we fully control what response we will get. We can talk more about this a different day.
Suffice it to say, providing different flavours to ourselves and our families can allow us to enjoy different foods while we are out and about at various times in our lives. Like it or not, most of us enjoy meals at places other than home. We can't always control what's for dinner, and so it makes sense to train our taste buds.
And that is it for today, friends. If you enjoyed this post, share it! Help me grow my business by getting my name and brand known! Tune in tomorrow on Facebook for a discussion on reverse meal planning and if you haven't "liked" my page yet, please do so- I don't want you to miss anything!
All the best!
We're talking about Romaine lettuce this week on my Facebook page, The Meals Maven.
A long, long time ago- before we had kids and were learning how to keep guinea pigs alive- we found out that feeding romaine to guinea pigs was a good idea, and feeding them iceberg lettuce was not.
The reason you start your piggies on romaine when they're young is it's full of nutrition. It turns out that piggies love iceberg lettuce, but there's not enough nutrition in it for them and they will eat it rather than romaine if they develop a taste for it.
This might be true for people too. What do you think?
It isn't that iceberg doesn't have any nutrition, just not as much. Here's a comparison of these 2 types.
On #foodiefriday I will be releasing the recipe I cooked last night for #testkitchentuesday- a ground turkey stirfry that incorporates stir fried romaine as one of the vegetables. It's new for me and something I will continue to do. I really enjoyed eating it as something other than salad.
And to successfully use last week's failed peanut and rosemary combination made the dinner perfect.
As discussed on #marinatingmonday, romaine is wonderfully nutritious and not an energy-dense food. As such, it's tempting to think it's the perfect food to eat a lot of when you are trying to lose weight. I want to encourage you, however, to consider colour as your guide. Eat the rainbow, whether you're trying to lose weight, gain, or maintain. A diet of romaine and not much else will quickly leave you with nutritional holes and diminished health. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen.
I leave you with what I seem to say all the time but can't stress enough: Too much of a good thing is still too much.
All the best today, friends!
In the future I hope to see, people are cooking together and eating together.
People eat meals around the kitchen table and invite friends and not-yet friends to enjoy a meal with them.
Parents teach their children and children teach their friends.
Recipes take on a treasured life of their own, cultivated and shared between people to demonstrate love and commitment to the places their history intersects. They are renewed and remade to bring traditions together, and thus different versions of the same recipes make their way across generations and timelines.
In the future I hope to see, food is valued and not wasted. We practice gratefulness and appreciation. We use only what we need and give what we don’t. Food is recognized as a sacred gift that provides us with life and allows us to bless others with it. It is respected and cherished.
In the future I hope to see, the world is a place where people aren’t frantically filling their mouths because they don’t know what else to do. They aren’t eating just because they have to just to stay alive, but because it makes them the best version of themselves. There is enough food to go around no matter where you live, and no one goes hungry.
This future is important to me. I see our health and wellness at a crossroads of incredible significance. The less connected we are to recognizing the importance of the food we eat, the less nourishment we give ourselves.
We are overworked, at times both undernourished and overfed, and our society is suffering with more disease and overall unwellness than ever before. This, at a time when we know more, understand more, and research more about food than ever before.
It’s my dream to change this, from one person or family at a time to entire groups of people. I see myself speaking this vision and bringing it into fruition, helping people to understand that they can affect this change in their own lives. They are not slaves to commercialization. They can learn how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. They can begin to view food not only as nourishment for their bodies but also for their souls.
I believe this is a future that’s possible. When my boys grow up and have families of their own, I believe the seeds of promise will have already been planted. I believe that my generation can stand up and be counted to make a difference not only in their lives but in the lives of their children and the children to come. Will you take the next step with me? Will it begin with you?
For all the years I’ve spent reiterating to my boys to pay attention to their bodies, to listen to the cues that tell them they’re tired, hungry, thirsty, upset, hurt, depressed, anxious, etc- my son told me he thought it was broken and I told him it was fine.
That was a curveball moment I wasn't prepared for.
In my defence, I’m really sick. The horrible bug that kept my boys home from their last week of school finally latched onto me. I’ve been trying to listen to my body too, but life goes on and there are things to do. Yesterday all the “things to do” ended up being way too much. Mike had a lot of work waiting for him because we were gone so much longer than we expected. We had just gotten home and I was letting myself relax into a nap when he came in from a bike ride to tell us he thought it was broken.
We figured dislocated, so Mike popped it back in place. Even after, the kid said “no, something’s wrong”. I groaned, gave him an ice pack and an advil, and said “Let’s wait and see”. Then went back to bed.
It wasn’t a complete mom fail. Instead of napping, I arranged for his grandpa to take him somewhere. After hours care is hard to find in our city, and all the walk-in’s were full to capacity, so grandpa took him to emergency. And after many hours of waiting and an x-ray, it’s confirmed…the growth plate in his thumb is fractured.
The moral of the story? Listen to your body. And if you need something at the expense of someone else, ask for help. No one can do it alone. Life is long and sometimes hard.
If you missed my email yesterday, I sent out a request for beta testers for my online course, Fabulous and Frugal in the Kitchen. Click here to join my email list.
"Fabulous and Frugal in the Kitchen" is a web based course arranged in modules you can take at your own speed, though my beta testers need to have it done for me within a day or 2 of starting. Most slides are around 30 seconds in length, and though there are several modules, they are a quick study. And because each video is short, you can pause and come back to it easily. There are supplementary videos, worksheets, and recipes included. It's all about trimming your food budget without trading good food for boring.
In exchange for a free run through my course, my testers need to provide me with a review (for my sales page), feedback (what you like, don't like, suggestions for improvement), and comment on pricing. I know what I'd like to charge- I want to see if you all agree.
My newsletter people are the ones who get first dibs, but you are all awesome. I have a spot left for just 1 more person. Interested? Hit reply and let me know, then sign up for my newsletter.
All the best today, friends
Why use Herbs and Spices?
Strictly from a food lover’s perspective, herbs and spices add life and flavour to food. You can cook a chicken breast using the same oil and the same method, but changing up the herbs and spices used creates a different meal each time. It’s a way to travel the world without even leaving your home! It keeps food exciting and new which helps us to feel satisfied.
Creating your spice blends in your own kitchen allows you to control the ingredients, right down to the last grain of salt. As you adjust the blends you’ll find different combinations that become your signature flavour. In this way you can start your family recipe traditions and/or be the best cook you know.
From an economic perspective it’s cheaper to make your own spice blends than to buy ready-made ones, from chili or burrito seasoning by Old El Paso™ to a shaker of Old Bay® seafood seasoning. And because you made them yourself you’ll never run out or worry that your child’s favourite meat sauce and pasta will taste “funny” one day when the company you buy from decides to adjust its blends.
There are a plethora of health reasons too. Herbs and spices used to be the only medicines we had to keep fever down or recover from illness. Here’s an interesting article about the health benefits.
It can seem overwhelming to start creating your own blends. But start small, taste as you go along, and experiment. Most spices are fairly inexpensive, and the end result will make you proud. You can do it!
If you want a little bit of help starting with fresh recipes and spice blends, each of my coaching clients receive 14 custom-developed recipes as part of our coaching program- you can take those spice blends as a starting base and reconfigure them to make them your own. I look forward to helping YOU find the magic in your kitchen!
Have a great day, friends.
To know them is to love them.
Not convinced? Let me try.
Aside from the rhyme we learn as children, beans and other legumes are not as well loved in North America as they are in other parts of the world. Legumes make up a large part of diets around the world, from Africa to Israel, and are especially useful in regions where religion or poverty play a role in the kinds of food people eat, such as India.
If you do a quick google search you will find out many reasons why you should or should not eat legumes. I leave the final decision up to you.
In my role as a nutrition coach I stand firmly behind “common sense nutrition”. I think any food in excess is detrimental to your health and well being.
Pulses are part of the legume family. Pulses refer to beans and lentils (the seed part of the plant). Common legumes are alfalfa, soy, and peanuts.
I use both pulses and legumes as a whole often in our cooking. As a family we enjoy meals that are made strictly vegetarian but also enjoy meals where legumes complement traditional meat-based meals. For example, chana masala was my latest test-kitchen dinner for a client, and that’s a vegetarian dinner. My oldest son loved it in spite of it being a new recipe for all of us, and even went for seconds. We also eat chili a couple of times a month that incorporates both beans and meat.
Lentils can be pureed and added as filler to meatballs, meatloaf, or burgers. They add bulk with nutrition so the meat goes further, and they also give an extra boost of fibre and iron. Beans can be added to salads and soups. Roasted beans are a fantastic snack to keep with you to enjoy when you’re on the run and you know you’ll be hungry. They’re packable, require no special care, and a small amount is very satisfying. My roasted bean recipe will be posted on my Facebook page this week on #foodiefriday. Come check it out!
It's almost summer. Eating meals based on legumes and pulses makes sense in the summer because they can require no real effort beyond opening a can, rinsing them, and eating them cold. When cooking a hot meal with them they really only need to be cooked long enough to heat all the way through- much less cooking time than meat.
*Important Note: Beans and legumes usually require soaking, draining, and boiling. Always follow the package instructions or they can be toxic.
One of my final reasons to eat and enjoy this variety in our diet is a financial one. You get amazing nutrition from pulses and legumes at a fraction of the cost of meat. As someone who is the grocery shopper and meal planner for the family, I know I can attest to the cost of meat on the rise. It makes sense to branch out to seek our nutrition from a variety of sources if nothing else then to stretch the grocery budget further.
Fortunately for us, it’s not a hardship to enjoy this branch of the meat and alternates food group. Do you eat legumes and pulses on a regular basis? If not, I encourage you to schedule a few meals this summer that incorporate beans or other pulses into your regular meal.
Stuck for ideas? I’m only a message away.