Fall in central Alberta means crunchy leaves and crisp evenings. It's not quite winter but you can feel it in the air. The geese rise up suddenly from the river, honking their way overhead as they travel to warmer climates, and you realize suddenly that as quickly as it came, it's on its way out.
Fall in Alberta means apples and cinnamon, pumpkin spice, roasting turkey, and cheerful cups of steaming hot chocolate while warming up from an evening stroll. It's heart-to-heart quiet conversations with friends and shared meals. It's getting ready to settle down for the cold embrace of winter.
Last weekend I spent some time walking as the sun was setting. It was beautiful, and I was grateful to see it before the snowfall over Sunday night. While the eastern half of Canada still sits in summer weather, we're back to winter already. This morning, for example, windchill makes it feel like -12!
Over Thanksgiving weekend I cooked a chunky applesauce in my slow cooker alongside the turkey dinner, and now I get to enjoy applesauce for a few days. It smelled delicious cooking and cooked down beautifully. If someone gave you apples from a backyard tree, this is the perfect way to use them up. If not, use whatever apples you've got and see how it goes!
Enjoy your week, friends.
It's always a little hard to say goodbye to our carved pumpkins. A couple of years ago we left them as "nightlights" in the boys' bedroom until they went off and then threw them away. This morning, however, our friendly pumpkins will be kissed goodbye and diced up for dinner, with good reason: pumpkins are a super source of nutrition. It's cold and flu season, and because pumpkins have their fair share of vitamin C, they help our bodies fight infection.
Sharing vegetables with kids is a marvelous way to support their nutritive needs, and the beta carotene in pumpkins will help their eyesight. They are a versatile vegetable and if hitting #halfyourplate is your goal, this is a wonderful vegetable to get you there. Preparing pumpkin ahead of time makes it a quick meal starter. Toss frozen pumpkin chunks into soup, casseroles, and stir fries. Slice fresh pumpkin thinly to make skillet chips. Add pureed pumpkin to mashed potatoes, turnip, or rutabaga. Make pumpkin themed muffins and loaves, or hide it in gingerbread cake if your people aren't a fan.
Don't forget canned pumpkin. It's just as good for you, though not quite as versatile. You can find it in the baking aisle because pumpkin pie is a seasonal favourite. Before you buy it, however, check the ingredients label. It should read "100% pure pumpkin", or something along those lines. They may tell you what kind of pumpkin is in the can, and that's fine. But many pie fillings come pre-sweetened or spiced, and you want to avoid those ones. Controlling your added ingredients is an important consideration for health when cooking, baking, and eating.
You can do a lot with a whole pumpkin. A very common way to deal with them is to place them in the oven and roast them, as I've detailed here. I also discussed dicing them and freezing them raw- that is the future of these pumpkins. In fact, I'd made dinner with pumpkin processed this way about a year ago, and that's what we're eating for dinner tonight, pictured here:
It's a good thing pumpkin is so flexible, because in addition to our carved baby pumpkins, we have a big one we didn't get to. My freezer will be full...and that means I have to start baking. I think I foresee a month of pumpkin-themed meals coming up! Perhaps a pumpkin-spice cookbook? Maybe a private Facebook group with new recipes and challenges each week. Do you have any ideas for me? Drop me a line!
In the meantime, my #testkitchen today will be a pumpkin-spice steamed milk. My lucky newsletter subscribers will be the first to receive this delicious gem. Want in on that? Just fill in your details and the rest will follow.
All the best, friends. Welcome to November!
Everyone knows we don't eat enough fruit and vegetables, but we don't always take steps to improve our consumption. Eating a rainbow of colours ensures that we hit many different nutritional markers, but sometimes we tend to eat our favourites and ignore the rest. Following are a few suggestions on how to improve your diet, one meal or grocery trip at a time.
Try to be mindful of hunger when you plan a day of errands. If you plan ahead a little, you might be able to skip out on the fast food stops. If you must stop, though, ask for vegetable or fruit sides. For example, at a place like Montana's, eat a salad instead of fries. If you're at a fast food place like Wendy's or McDonalds, ask for apple slices or carrot sticks (depending on where you live!) or a side salad instead of fries.
Above all, be patient with yourself and your family. Expecting immediate acquiescence to drastic change isn't realistic. Small changes are easier to accept and lead to better long-term follow through.
For example, start with adding extra vegetables and fruit to daily snacks.
I would love to hear some of your ideas! Feel free to share your comments with me here, or hop on over to my Facebook page!
Enjoy your day, friends!
Potatoes have a bad reputation as being somewhat unhealthy. In reality, you get a plethora of essential vitamins and nutrients that are hard to say no to when you really think about it.
And so let's talk about our friend, the potato. Naturally low in calories and high in fiber, potatoes also boast an impressive amount of potassium, which is important for nerve and muscle function- have you ever had those awful muscle cramps that wake you out of a deep sleep if you stretch too hard? That's one of the things potassium is good for. They also contain a lot of vitamin B6, which is useful for many of your body's functions- such as immunity, digestion, and muscular systems. Vitamin B6 also aids in the production of melatonin and helps with mood regulation.
Potatoes also contain a lot of vitamin C, which is something everyone needs more of. It aids in immunity and heart health, in wound healing and keeping your bones and teeth healthy.
Because many delicious dishes involving potatoes tend to lend themselves to adding high amounts of fat, sodium, and other less healthy ingredients, we tend to toss potatoes out entirely. However, potatoes are inexpensive, and given that the cost of groceries is on the rise, I encourage you to find some potato recipes to enjoy that you can add to your meal rotation. As with all foods, portion control is essential- too much of a good thing is still too much! 1 medium whole potato, or 1 cup mashed, is considered one serving. We use our Actifry once or twice a month to make fries, and 20 fries is considered a serving.
Here's one recipe to start you off!
Sometimes you want Greek potatoes. And sometimes you don't have time to babysit the oven. These potatoes let you get on with your day and still enjoy them for dinner.
My slow cooker tends to run hot, and they were cooked by the 3 hour mark- so adjust the time on yours accordingly. This recipe is lower in salt, as it's easier to add salt to taste when you serve them. Enjoy!
And that's ok.
There are days when all there is left in the pantry and fridge is ingredients for breakfast. There are days when the only energy left in me for cooking is something simple, like pancakes. Sure, they aren't the most nutritious of foods, but they are a crowd pleaser. And when the plague hits your house the very last thing you want is to do engage in a complicated what's-for-dinner dance with your whiny, cranky, sick family. I did make it slightly more nutritious...half whole wheat flour. And look- there is fruit. In fact, we ate a lot of fruit that night. Vitamin C, baby.
Or Rice Pudding for Breakfast...
Rice pudding for breakfast sounds decadent, right? And it is. It's been the best part of my week, this week. It's crafted in the slow cooker, so all you have to do is mix everything together, turn it to high, take a nap, top it, and eat it. My recipe made a good 5 cups of pudding, so I did share a little with a friend because I am the only person in the house who enjoys it.
My recipe uses my favorite brown rice, and the best is topping it with a drizzle of milk, sliced fresh bananas and toasted walnuts. SO good, so filling, and very nutritious. It feels decadent, but there are all 4 food groups involved, and it's very satisfying. If you don't have that much leftover rice, use what you have, and cut the recipe in half. Or make more rice!
This is an exclusive recipe created by The Meals Maven! Please share but give credit!
So when you try it, let me know what you think! And feel free to share your favorite decadent, nutritious meal. All the best to you today, friends.
This is my all-time favorite food group! We have so much to choose from, and the methods to prepare them are endless.
Luckily, this is the food group we can pretty much eat as much as we want from; unfortunately, most of us don't eat enough of them. If you're hungry, reach for some fruit or vegetables. Your body will thank you.
Today, we focus on Fruits and Vegetables.
First, why worry about it?
Fruits and vegetables provide a plethora of beneficial vitamins and minerals. They are naturally low in fat, high in fiber, relatively low in calories, and have no added sugar- and for all that they are nutrient dense, the perfect kind of snack or basis for your meals.
The key to this food group, like others, is variety. No single fruit or vegetable contains exactly the same kind of nutrition, so your best bet is to change them up, and change them often.
Fruits and vegetables can reduce your risk of developing certain kinds of cancers and heart disease, can assist in maintaining healthy vision, and can help assist with weight loss.
The Canada Food Guide determination for servings of Fruits and Vegetables is age dependent. From 2-3 years old, both boys and girls need 4 serving of fruits/vegetables per day. From 4-8, that jumps to 5 servings per day for both sexes. From 9-13, they recommend 6.
From 14-18, girls need 7 and boys need 8, and while it varies slightly with adults, it basically hovers around the same as you age, with an extra serving or two for men until age 50, and drops to an equal 7 per day for both sexes after that.
What constitutes a serving?
Simply put, a medium fruit or a half cup of fresh, frozen, or canned is considered 1 serving. For those times of life when you don't have much fresh in your fridge, it's good to know that canned or frozen counts, right? Just try to buy food that's not canned in syrup- fruit juice or water- and watch for added sodium on canned vegetables. I find frozen fruit works best in smoothies, and frozen vegetables taste best if they're steamed before serving.
Some specific examples include:
One thing to note about dried fruit- because it's been dehydrated, it's very calorie dense, for a fruit. Try to eat dried fruit with some protein to help lessen blood sugar spikes. Sometimes commercially prepared dried fruit also contain added sugar, so do keep an eye on the labels.
In this picture, 1 peach, half the bowl of cubed watermelon, 2 plums, half that huge gala apple, the strips of bell pepper, all those green grapes, 1 banana, all the cucumber or zucchini, grape tomatoes, or carrots, or all that cantaloupe equals one serving of fruit.
For your school lunches, pick one fruit and one vegetable. Serve fruit and vegetables with every snack and meal, and make it easy and quick to eat when it comes to school lunches- remember, if they don't have time to eat it, they'll likely throw it out. When I was a lunch supervisor at school, I used to see all sorts of food hit the trash can.
Well friends, that's it for the school lunch series. What do you think? What do you want to see more of? There will be some blogging later in October on how you can pack multiple food groups into school lunches. In the meantime, I wish you healthy and happy lunches, and look forward to hearing how lunches are making a healthier shift.
Please like and share! Peace, friends.