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 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!
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.
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 had the pleasure of sitting next to an author at Staples on #IWD2017 and we spent some time talking about what goes into publishing a book, because I've got a cookbook going in the back of my mind. It's going to take some time and dedication. I think there's a pretty steep learning curve, too. But I'm excited to take that step down the road.
These pictured cookbooks are two of my favourites, most loved, and well-used out of all my books. But to tell you the truth, I have only used a few recipes out of each of them. Most of the recipes don't suit my family- in either taste or preparation- or I just can't be bothered to try a new recipe when we have the ones we love already, or when recipe development is such a large part of the food my family eats.
Recipe Development is the kind of work that cookbook authors put into publishing their cookbooks. It's taking raw ingredients in their basic form and creating a dish around them. It's deciding to put together certain foods with certain spices or herbs and cooking them a certain way. It's testing the recipe, altering or changing it, and testing again. It's writing everything you did from start to finish, then reading and rereading to make sure you didn't skip any steps, that people can recreate your recipe even if they've never done it before. It's starting from scratch.
I met with someone last week who was a little shocked at the price I currently charge for personalized recipe development. But I stand by my pricing- if anything, I think I still undercharge. When my clients fill out their survey, I take their likes, dislikes, nutritional needs, medication profile, the kind of time they have to work with, how likely they are to try new foods, and so on into consideration. Each recipe I develop for them starts with those basic questions. I purchase the food, come up with an idea, mix random spices or herbs together with ingredients I think will pair well, and cook them in a way they are able to recreate in their home on their schedule.
Purchasing custom-tailored recipes from me is sort of like buying a cookbook full of your favourite foods. You may not know if you like the recipes yet, but there's a better chance you will like them much more than a random cookbook purchase- because it's built specifically for you.
For a list of all my services beyond nutritional coaching, look here.
All the best today, friends. I will you a wonderful first day of spring!
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!
Today I've got a guest post from Ryan, owner of The Backyard Basket. Our businesses are a natural fit to work together, though of course you are welcome to work with each of us as before. I asked him to write to let you know a bit more about his philosophy. Welcome, Ryan!
The most difficult part of eating healthy and having a great relationship with food is to sift through the information overload we are fed everyday when we walk into a grocery store. Buzzwords like Fibre, Protein, Trans Fat Free, 100 calories, etc, often take up the landscape when we are looking to make healthy meal choices. Enter the partnership between The Meals Maven and The Backyard Basket.
The Meals Maven designs great healthy meal options and The Backyard Basket executes these meal options by delivering the best ingredients in the right portions, all pre-cut, to your door.
Recipes can be very difficult to follow or execute as you often have to buy more of a certain ingredient than you need, you need to understand how to prepare the raw ingredients into the correct form for cooking (ie chopping onions) and then follow every direction closely to create a great meal. Additionally, our busy lifestyles only allow a small window of time to get our meals made and then take our kids out the door to a sport, piano lesssons, etc. By pre-portioning all the ingredients and chopping all the vegetables/meats for each meal, we help you skip the grocery store and the tears that come with chopping onions.
All Natural Ingredients vs Processed Foods
All the ingredients we prepare are all natural and free of artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. If you can’t pronounce it, it will not be in our food. Science shows that a whole food diet of natural ingredients can help reduce blood sugar, cholesterol, risk of heart disease, risk of diabetes, reduction of eczema and overall better health. By focusing our attention on providing a balanced meal plan with all natural ingredients, we are helping provide the best fuels to help prevent the health issues above while creating a great food relationship.
When we look at cultures around the world, our western world is the most heavily influenced by Big Food Industry. They market their products with claims of high fibre, added protein, low calories. However, the reality is that these products will have no balanced nutrition and will often be full of sugars, preservatives or artificial flavours that only make the food taste good and get the consumers addicted while big food makes more money.
The best example of this is milk. We all see the commercials that sell us on the health benefits of milk…high in calcium, vitamin D, Vitamin A. The reality? Vitamin D and A are added to the milk during the pasteurization process and a serving of broccoli (100g) has more calcium than milk.
We feel the best ingredients are the ones that do not need any packaging to sell us on the benefits. Walk through the fruit and vegetable section of your grocer and you will notice they don't need to do much to sell these items. No claims of vitamins, protein, fibre, etc. These are the types of food we use to develop our meal plans to make you feel the best you can.
EAT BETTER LIVE BETTER
Ryan Sieben, B.Comm
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!