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!
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.
It wasn't until I was an adult that I tried both avocado and kiwi; the former because I didn't know avocado was a food (more on that to follow), the latter because the fuzzy brown skin, bright green fruit, and tiny little seeds were a little too odd for me to move past.
In both cases, my mom was the cause behind both the food avoidance and acceptance.
As parents and caregivers, we model so much more than how to balance a bank account, fold bath towels, or make beds. The way we approach food becomes deeply ingrained in our children as well. The more we model an open acceptance to try new things, including food, the more our children will move into their own adulthood with a spirit of adventure.
When I was a child, my mom had the most amazing green thumb. She had houseplants flourishing in every corner and on every table. She was particularly fond of avocado plants and always had them rooting and growing in glasses of water on the kitchen counter.
I didn't know avocados were food! My mom would buy one, toss the meat, and root a plant. It wasn't until I was 21 years old and out for dinner with a friend that I found out what that green stuff was when I ordered a taco salad and he told me to eat it.
My mom enjoys eating avocados now! But it took a few years for her to develop a taste for them.
When I was not quite as old, around 18, she forced me to eat a kiwi. She described the taste as a cross between a strawberry and something else, which was a good enough description at the time. She told me I was old enough to try it and made me eat some with my eyes closed so the appearance of it wouldn't put me off. Of course she was right. They are delicious. But I wouldn't have tried it if she hadn't made it happen.
We're the great influencers of the people around us. Food is a journey for all of us and we don't all have to like the same things. But I want to encourage you to try new foods and expose your family to new foods, spices, flavours, and presentations. The more variety in our diet, the healthier we will be. No one food group can satisfy our body's nutritional needs any more than a single bar of soap can support a lifetime of personal hygiene.
It might help to have a routine in place to bring new foods into the house. Perhaps a "new month, new food" tradition- the first day of each month a new food comes home to be tasted. To help foster ownership, try having everyone in the household take turns picking the new food to try. Perhaps a recipe search or a call for suggestions on Facebook will help. Whatever you choose to do, it's never too late to adopt a more adventurous palate. Your health, and the health of the people around you, can only benefit.
Enjoy your day, friends.
I've been a mom for almost 14 years. We're making plans with my oldest about his high school, and that's unbelievable to me, but I can console myself that I still have a little at home to snuggle with and do the small child things. When I think about it in those terms, it's no wonder I get a little weepy when my "baby" outgrows his young-child activities and embarks on his own journey toward adulthood.
He's almost given up on baths, my 7 year old. He doesn't play anymore, and it's not a big joy to have bath time- he'd rather have a shower. And I do celebrate that, because it's not my favourite activity to lean over the tub and wash/rinse his hair while he howls about soap in his eyes. But last night he had a bath, and said the magic words I've been looking forward to ever since his older brother started having baths on his own, "Mom, you can get rid of the bath toys now. I don't need them anymore".
At first I was excited. I can't wait to get rid of the clutter than consumes my life. But then I started contemplating what that actually means. Sure, we don't step on lego or dinosaurs anymore like we used to, but that means that he doesn't play like he used to, either. His imagination is taken up with more the mature themes and ideas he's picked up from his brother. Books like "The Cat in the Hat" are replaced with Beast Quest and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And he's into clothes and hair and developing his signature "style". He's hilarious, and empathetic, and the sweetest, most tender little person. But he's not really so young, anymore.
Life is change. I know we celebrate that, marking time on our calendars and celebrating the usual annual celebrations. Without change, there would be no life. But for all these years of parenthood I didn't stop to think about what it would mean when we reached each milestone. I'm proud of our boys; they are kind, thoughtful, and respectful kids. They are learning independence, which is necessary. I've been deliberately fostering it, in fact. But I can still mourn a little when they need me a little less.
Let's file this under personal growth today, shall we? Enjoy your day, and come check in on Facebook on Friday for the recipe for Honey Garlic Almonds.
Wednesday is International Women's Day, and our local Staples store is showcasing some female entrepreneurs- come on out and visit me! I was lucky enough to get a table, and I'll be there between 10 and 2. In the spirit of meal planning and home cooking, I've got a draw set up to win those goodies and that gorgeous pot. If you can't come to my table, I'll be drawing my online guests a gift card for Walmart- so you can update your kitchen too :) Follow me on Twitter to attend virtually, ask questions, and enter the draw. I haven't done a twitter party before, but I'm excited to try! I'll be using #themealsmavenstaplesparty.
Elsewhere in the news this week, food prices are increasing...which isn't surprising to me, and has long been a driving force in why I so strongly encourage meal planning. Registered Dietitian Heidi Bates was on global news this morning, discussing some ways to eat well and save money on groceries. Here's the video.
As #themealsmaven, I'm excited to finally articulate my business as what it has always been, and expand what I love to do to include more of it. Client-centered nutritional coaching services with an emphasis on personalized meal planning and custom recipe development. I love watching people light up and reach their goals regarding food and nutrition, and offering a coaching dimension gives my clients the opportunity to really make long lasting and positive changes to their relationship with food. It's complicated, and different for everyone. That's why I am so excited to work one on one with each of my clients. We all eat, but it's a different path for everyone.
If you're ready to partner with food and change your relationship with nutrition but aren't sure where to start, it's time to ask for help.
Email me today to set up a free confidence call. Let's talk.
When it comes to improving our "eating in experience", one of the easiest ways to pull ourselves out of our boring meal route is to try something new.
This came up in a recent Facebook conversation. When I asked about what it would take to improve our eating in experience, Shelley and Chantel both commented, "Being more creative with menus; sometimes we get caught in a rut and eat the same things!!", and "How to make my own sauces and dressings taste as good as in a restaurant!"
It's surprisingly easy to stay with what you know when it comes to food. Trying new flavours or textures isn't always a guaranteed hit, and it's hard to make the effort when you're pretty sure you'll hear "eww, gross" or "that looks weird" or "I hate this so much!". The truth is, not everything you try will work. Honestly, I've heard it all before from my family. But don't let the fear of failure prevent you from trying. It's not a failure if your family doesn't like it- it's a win for being brave enough to even put it out there.
Sometimes the simplest changes can make a boring meal plan a little more exciting. And if you don't like it, the worst that will happen is you will make a note not to try it again. RIght? In the larger scheme of things, a failed meal isn't the end of the world. Trying new foods and flavours can broaden your sense of taste or your enjoyment of texture. It can transport you to a new place. You will further your nutritional edge when you experiment with new foods, and maybe discover new favourites. There's not a lot to lose, and so much to gain.
10 Ways to Try Something New
Another way to try something new is to hire a meal planner such as myself. You will receive recipes that use the foods and flavours you like, but are put together in different ways. You may receive something completely new to you, too. Grocery lists are included to make it even easier. Why don't you take my meal planning for a test run today?
Enjoy your week, friends!
Yay! It's me!
I get to be a part of a really interesting start-up that launches on February 1! For my first class I'll be doing an echo of the planners class that I'm speaking at next week. I'm so excited!
Check out The Adulting School if you want to see what kinds of courses they offer, or if you know anyone who needs a little help figuring things out- it's only going to grow and will be a fantastic resource. I can't wait to see where it goes and how I get to be a part of it!
All the best today, friends. Stay warm and take care!
...but also a little intimidating! There are so many changes coming up for The Meals Maven, all of them good ones, but all of them a little scary anyway. Thanks for sharing this journey with me! You're an important part of it.
You won't miss out on blog posts, survey opportunities, free offers, or any of my exciting news stories coming up in 2017 when you're subscribed to my new newsletter! I can't wait to share any of it with you! The best part is, you can customize what you want to hear from me. Over the course of the next few days I'll be learning the ropes and making my contact with you much more specific and manageable. I am so excited for everything that's going to be happening in 2017, and so thankful that you're with me along the way.
Enjoy your day! It's a short week for our American friends, and in honour of them I'm cooking a turkey dinner on Thursday. Today's question: What's your favourite side dish to serve with Turkey?
All the best, friends. More will follow soon!