Posts tagged under Meals. Show all posts.
Back in my pre-kid days, when most of my meals were eaten in hotels, airports and client cafeterias, I didn’t have to worry about getting dinner on the table every night. That allowed me to devote all my cooking efforts to planning lovely dinner parties for our friends, on the weekends when I was home. A week or two before a dinner was planned, I would take my favourite cookbooks to bed with me and idly flip through them picking and choosing perfect combinations of dishes (with no ingredient repeats) to make for our friends. It was my hobby and a great way to relax.
Fast-forward to today and our three-soccer-practice, four-ballet-class weeks, getting dinner on the table is a seven-night a week affair and needs to be done as efficiently as possible—no relaxing allowed. But my current obsession with sodium means that I really try to stay away from prepared foods and store-bought frozen foods…which means even more cooking. So I am finding that having a copy of The Good Food Book for Families by Brenda Bradshaw and Cheryl Mutch, MD in my kitchen is like having my own nutrition consultant and executive chef all rolled into one. The cookbook is full of delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinners, snacks and desserts, and also includes menu planning tools and a host of nutritional tips and help on interpreting Canada’s Food Guide for family eating. All the basics are covered (meatball, tuna melts and more) but the recipes I like the most are for the little things like make-your-own ice cream and peanut butter hummus. Off to make dinner now!
As I wrote here a few weeks ago, my family has a new Sunday night dinner tradition where the kids take turns choosing the menu and then helping me with the meal prep. Bit by bit, they are picking up some kitchen skills and I have learned a little bit about cooking with kids too—there are some safety issues to be aware of and then there are some ‘patience and enthusiasm’ issues. But it’s definitely an investment in their (our) future so I am trying my best to impart in them some good cooking knowledge.
On the safety front, there is a lot to learn about food contamination, fire hazards and knives, and it can be a bit overwhelming. So I’ve started with a few key safety lessons:
As to keeping them enthusiastic, I’ve found a few key principles go a long way:
What have been your lessons learned from cooking with your kids?
Each week, I have a date with my best friend. Her name is Meal Planning, and we meet once a week, typically on a Sunday afternoon, over a cup of tea and stack of cookbooks. We discuss different recipes, assess the calendar for the week to come and talk about how we’re going to feed my family for the next five to seven days. For the last eight years, Meal Planning has helped me save time, fed my family healthier dinners, and reduced my food costs. We all need a friend like her in our corner, don’t you think?
In case you couldn’t tell, I am an avid meal planner. I love the act of putting together a week’s worth of meals. I often feel a little lost when I wake up on a Monday morning without a plan in place. Periodically, I fall off the meal planning wagon, and when I do, our grocery bills are higher, my fridge isn’t as full, and some days I find myself staring into space wondering what the heck I’m going to feed my family for dinner that night.
Here are a few of my favourite tips for effective meal planning:
Are you a meal planner? If so, how do you go about planning your weekly meals?
A few years ago, while in the throes of my seasonally hectic day-job, a friend called and offered to make dinner for my family so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting something healthy and delicious on the table mid-week. I gratefully accepted and four days later, a cheesy chicken parmigiana arrived at my doorstep, complete with a side dish of pasta and a crisp green salad. What a treat it was to sit down to a tasty homemade meal that I didn’t have to cook.
Fast forward three months, to her similarly busy work time, and I happily returned the favour by dropping off a vat of beef bourguignon to her family. She was ever so grateful, and to be honest I quite enjoyed cooking for her family. It was easy as I simply doubled what I was making for my family and dropped it off to her home with any required cooking instructions.
We carried on with this meal swap over the course of a few months, with no particular guidelines to follow. We ate what we were given. Some meals were bigger than others but all of them were hearty and appreciated.
I love the idea of families swapping meals with like-minded families. What a great way to expose our kids to the food philosophy of others, while trying new meals and flavours we might not otherwise try ourselves.
Would you ever consider a dinner co-op? Wouldn’t it be fun to have dinner co-ops popping up all over the place?
Last week, my family ate like the French for five days. We used the rules laid out in Karen Le Billon’s new book French Kids Eat Everything and combined them with my own personal experiences of living in the south of France, to come up with some guidelines for the what, when and how much we should consume.
I’m happy to report that we fared quite well, and only two complaints arose during the five-day trial. The first was from my husband, Rob. He confessed to feeling hungry every single night of this experiment, and found he was always craving a snack around 10 pm. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think that’s any different from any other night, but I believe he was more aware of it because he didn’t have the option of getting something to eat (one of Karen’s rules is ‘no snacking’—she believes it’s okay to feel hungry sometimes).
The second complaint came from the kids, and was related to… snacking! While they wanted to eat a little more frequently than I would let them, by the fourth day they stopped asking for something before bed, which ultimately felt like a really good thing.
Here’s a brief breakdown of what we ate last week:
Breakfast: This was the same every day. Warm baguettes (fortunately we live around the corner from a patisserie) topped with creamy butter, local honey and/or Nutella.
Lunch: This was the hardest meal to make, mostly because I was packing lunches for everyone. I included roast chicken, vegetables, leftover soups/stews, fresh fruit, cheeses, cured meats, dips, and crackers in the lunch boxes (Rob brown bags his lunch, too).
Snack (Gouter): This is an important part of the French diet and we indulged in this mini-meal every day. No one complained about the slices of cake, chocolate croissants and homemade cookies eaten after school.
Dinner: This was easy and often very simple. I made vegetable soups and served them yogurt, cheese and meats. Other dinners were made up of stew, lentils and sausages, roasted vegetables, and omelettes.
A few of Karen’s other rules include:
Could you eat this way for a week? A month? Do you agree with Karen’s rules?
Writing about ‘good food for busy families,’ Liz chronicles the culinary adventures that are the result of feeding her two daughters, Emma and Katie. Packed with pretty pictures and unique recipes (I loved her Spelt Parmesan Gougeres and Mini Pizza Buns), her blog is a wonderful source of inspiration for moms who are looking for something a little different to feed their family.
I recently caught up with Liz and asked her a few questions so we could all get to know her a little better. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Tell us, what does your typical breakfast look like?
A latte, and either a scone or some vanilla yogurt.
2. Name 10 things you currently have stocked in your fridge.
3. Which ingredient are you currently loving or using in a new way?
Coconut oil. Although I’m still trying to decipher whether it’s the miracle product that some people are saying or if it just makes everything taste better.
4. If you’re listening to music while you’re cooking, what would be your ideal soundtrack?
A little Pink Martini, Rodrigo Y Gabriela or something French cafe-ish.
5. Chocolate or cheese?
Both. And sometimes, even together (cheesecake brownies)!
Are you a meal planner? While I do admit to being a little slack with my planning over the summer months, from September to June our weekly meals are laid out every Sunday with little exception. In fact, I’ve become known for my regimented preparations and, several months ago, the folks over at Food Bloggers of Canada asked me to write a primer on meal planning. Feel free to check it out if you’re interested to see how I go about choosing our meals for the week.
In addition to saving time and money at the grocery store, weekly meal planning also makes my school-night dinner prep much easier. When I’m making breakfast, I pull something from the freezer for dinner, if necessary. I also might chop a few veggies while I’m waiting for the oatmeal to cook, or I grate some cheese for the lasagna I’ll prepare later that evening. In essence, with a plan in place I can get a head start on dinner first thing in the morning. For reasons unknown to me, taking ten minutes to do some prep work usually saves me half an hour later in the day (likely because then I’m being interrupted to help with homework while I’m trying to cook).
I’d love to know, do you meal plan or do you prefer to just wing your nightly meals? If you plan, do you do it weekly or monthly? Are you interested in any printable meal plans with an accompanying grocery list? Let’s talk!
Although we recently published a list of ideas and recipes for back-to-school lunches, it’s nice to know what other moms are packing for their kids, too. Which is why we took to Facebook to ask the question, “What is your go-to lunch to pack for school?” Thankfully we received some really great answers that included tips for hiding brown spots on apples, unique dessert ideas and character sandwiches that transform the midday meal into something out of this world.
Star wars cookie cutter deli meat sandwiches with fruit, cucumbers and some homemade banana bread as a treat and water to drink!! He always comes home and tells me it was the BEST lunch ever! – Laura Lindsay
Turkey wrap, apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon (tastes yummy and hides the ‘browning’ by lunch), a thermos of water and a treat (cookie, granola bar, etc.) – Elizabeth Barone Russell
Leftovers in a thermos. Chocolate milk in a thermos. I make mini pumpkin pies for his dessert. – Abby Allthatmakesyou
My daughter has been enjoying cold cheese quesadillas with a small Tupperware of sour cream. – Elizabeth N. Harvey
She LOVES tuna sandwiches with dill pickle minced in. Must have something chocolate like a brownie and juice boxes, with grapes on the side. – Sharon Marie Cosby
Dinosaur shaped butter & jam sandwiches with cucumbers, marble cheese, yogurt and apple sauce. Water to drink. – Jennifer Fabian Gibbs
If you didn’t get the chance to share your answer, please do tell us what packed lunches your kids like best and which ones are the easiest for you to make—just comment below.
With the first few weeks of school successfully (I hope!) under our belts, I think it’s time to turn our attention to breakfast. I’ve been trying to slip a few ideas your way over the past month, but if you’re anything like me, you still wake up every day wondering what to feed your hungry people.
So this week, I’m giving you a breakfast meal plan of sorts. Five suggestions that you can either print or write down, along with the recipes, in order to be ready for the next week to come. I’ve tried to break up the carb-heavy mornings with ones that are more protein packed and fruity good.
The Savvy Breakfast Plan for Weekday Mornings
Day 1 – The Very Best Breakfast Loaf, hard-boiled eggs and fresh fruit
Day 4 – Frittata and yogurt with fruit
Day 5 – Baked Oatmeal and fresh sliced fruit
Alternatively, you could always try eating like the French for a week. We did it as an experiment, and while lunches were a bit challenging, my kids loved their European-style breakfasts each morning.
How are your mornings going? Have you found a breakfast that your kids just love to eat? Please share!
I turned the page of my paper calendar this week and couldn’t believe I saw the word ‘October’ written across the top. Can someone please tell me where 2012 went? I’ve already handed in an article dedicated to Christmas baking, and my Pinterest board is a flurry of holiday activity, which just further proves that this year is in fact speeding by.
So, this weekend I’m committed to getting a lot of rest and relaxation—after I cook dinner for 20+ people, of course—and while I do, I plan on catching up on some of the great reading I’ve been neglecting. If you’re inclined to do the same, I think you might enjoy the following articles:
1. If you’re still unsure of what to cook this weekend we have a list of 20 reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving that might help you out.
3. I think I might want to be a pomologist when I grow up.
4. There really is such a thing as a banana slicer. Just read the comments. Hilarious.
5. Could your family go an entire month without eating anything processed? 4,000 people have pledged to do just that.
6. Let’s not forget about the other white fruit.
7. So many people are going gluten-free. This article is a fascinating look at gluten and sourdough and heirloom wheat.
With all the pumpkin-infused foods we’ve been eating lately, I thought it might be nice to make my own puree this year. Doing it was far easier than I expected, and the instructions are the same whether you decide to roast one pumpkin or ten.
For starters, make sure you’re using the right variety of pumpkin. Start with a ‘pie pumpkin.’ They are smaller, sweeter, have more flesh and less seeds. They’re found in the grocery store and can also be called ‘sugar pumpkins.’
When you’re ready, here’s what you do:
If you’re in a pinch, feel free to use sweet potato or butternut squash puree in your recipes if you don’t have pumpkin on hand. They are almost interchangeable in most recipes and pair well with the spices that often accompany pumpkin.
What is your favourite way to use pumpkin?
Squash season is officially here and I couldn’t be more pleased. From soups and salads to main courses and desserts, this versatile gourd is practically an essential ingredient for fall. High in fibre and low in fat, plus rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, vitamin A and vitamin C, winter squash is the perfect way to add a burst of colour to the family table in the coming months.
There are more than twenty different kinds of squash, some more popular than others. Here is a brief guide to the more familiar types you might like to cook with:
Acorn: Usually 1–2 pounds in size and shaped like an acorn. It doesn’t hold its shape well so it’s usually best baked or steamed. It’s light on flavour but adds a hint of sweetness to any dish.
Butternut: Averaging between 2–5 pounds, this bell shaped squash is sweet and nutty and can be steamed, sautéed, baked or braised. It also makes an excellent replacement for pumpkin in baked goods and desserts.
Delicata: This small, cucumber shaped squash is pale yellow with green stripes. The skin is soft so it doesn’t need to be peeled and the flavour is similar to sweet corn, with a texture not unlike summer squash. It slices easily and is best when steamed or baked. It holds its shape well and is great for stuffing.
Spaghetti: This yellow squash is names for the spaghetti-like strands that separate from the skin when cooked. It doesn’t have much flavour on it’s own but is an excellent vehicle for assorted pasta sauces.
When you purchase squash is should be firm to the touch and the skin shouldn’t have any give to it. Designed for storage, most squash can be kept in a cool place for up to six months. Delicata and spaghetti squashes are an exception, and they should be eaten within three weeks.
Three Ways to Savour the Flavour of Squash
Here are three delicious ways to serve squash to your family this fall:
This season we’ve been consuming pumpkin in a variety of ways that don’t include pumpkin pie. To be honest, I’m not much of a fan, and neither is one of my kids, so if 50% of our family isn’t into it, it doesn’t seem worth the hassle. Plus, I think there are enough sweet treats being passed around these days that we’re okay without the pie.
But we do love other pumpkin flavoured foods, so I’ve been adding the pureed gourd to plenty of dishes whenever I have the chance. Did you know that half a cup of pumpkin only contains 42 calories and is the equivalent to a full serving of vegetables? Not only that, but it also provides 14% of your daily quota for fibre. Basically, it’s too good to pass up, and the kids love it.
I started incorporating pumpkin into our mornings last year when I came up with these pumpkin and quinoa muffins. Vegetables and quinoa for breakfast? Yes, please! It was such a hit with the kids (and our SavvyMom readers!) that I wanted to create another pumpkin-based breakfast, and granola fit the healthy bill perfectly. This version uses no refined sugars, and calls for the add-ins to be incorporated after the cooking. The people in my house can never agree on how they like their granola so we start with a bare bones version and customize it just before eating.
Find the full printable recipe here: Pumpkin Granola
Putting a fun spin on an already favourite food is a great way to get the kids in the kitchen, and recently I did exactly that when I asked my 10 year old to make grilled cheese sandwiches in our waffle maker.
The genius of using the waffle iron to cook a grilled cheese is that the stove top isn’t required, making it safer for smaller children to start working in the kitchen. The sandwich is cooked evenly on both sides, not only saving you time, but also the hassle of flipping the bread over—not always an easy task for small hands.
I’m not going to lie—I was completely charmed by these myself, mostly thanks to the perfectly golden and crispy bread filled with oozy melted cheese. Served alongside a bowl of soup, it just might be possible to get the kids to make your dinner tonight.
Find the full printable recipe here: Waffle Grilled Cheese
Let’s take a break from the sugar cookies, gingerbread men and holiday entertaining for a minute to talk about clementines. These juicy beauties are typically sold by the crate or 4 lb bag, and can be found at almost every supermarket this month.
Loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, fibre, folate and potassium, these golden orbs kick off citrus season, which runs into the late winter—and can make for a sweet snack to give to the kids this season.
While clementines are easy to tuck into a coat pocket for a quick peel and eat, they also taste great in nearly any recipe that calls for the addition of lemon/orange juice or zest. Just swap equal amounts of clementine for whatever citrus is called for and your dish will instantly have a seasonal vibe to it.
Here are some other ideas for using clementines this month:
And lastly, this clementine cake from Nigella Lawson is on my to-make list for the coming week. It’s gluten free and only requires five ingredients—making it totally doable for the busy holiday season.
Have you been buying clementines? How do you like to eat them?