Fresh summer eats

Summer is finally here! I am fortunate enough to be married to a teacher who has most of the summer off, so I have been looking forward to my “holidays” from my every day cooking and meal planning. Last week my husband got an A+ for his culinary skills. He made a Chili-lime chicken and rice meal that was quick, easy, healthy, and full of fresh flavours. It was truly his best dish to date, and delicious to say the least.

He was a little hesitant to share his recipe, not because it wasn’t delicious, but because he wasn’t sure it was healthy enough for my blog. He sometimes does not give himself enough credit. He is label conscious and often tries to choose foods lower in salt and fat, he just didn’t know that would translate into healthier cooking. “Healthy” does not have to be fancy cooking that takes hours to prepare. It can be as simple as pairing 3 food groups together and making healthy choices within each of those food groups. Some of the parents that I counsel are embarrassed when they show me a food record from a summer weekend while they were traveling or away. They figure I will scold them for too many snacks. “Snack foods” can become a meal, it just depends on the snacks. Cookies, licorice, and a slurpee is NOT a balanced meal. These are considered occasional foods to have once per week, not to be used in our children’s diets every day. Carrot sticks, crackers, and cheese are often snacks foods, but in the right portions can be a balanced meal for a toddler or child (i.e. 3 food groups, healthier choices) and could be followed by a licorice at a ball game or while camping. As long as we are still doing some meal planning, reading labels, and making healthier choices at the grocery store, we can keep our summer eats healthy and easy. Cheers to Bryan for adding to our healthy summer recipe collection!

Bryan’s Chili-lime Chicken

  • 2 cups of drained canned peaches (packed in juice or water)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 3 tsp sugar or sugar substitute
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 4 tbsp lime juice

In the blender combine peaches, olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, and mustard. Blend until smooth. Add sugar, chili, and lime to mixture. Pour about 2/3 of mixture per 4 or 5 chicken breasts into a dish to marinate for 1-4 hours. Set aside remaining sauce for basting and some for dipping. You can also place the chicken and marinade in a food safe bag or container, and freeze it so it can be cooked another time.

Barbecue chicken on low for 10-15 minutes (depends on your BBQ). Baste each time the chicken is flipped. Turn up the heat on your barbecue for nice char marks to finish cooking. Serve with chili-lime rice. *While the chicken is cooking, make your Chili-lime rice. I usually make my rice in the microwave so that I don’t have to watch it on the stove while I make the rest of supper or while I watch the kids.

Chili-lime rice

  • 1 cup uncooked rice ( I usually make brown, but he made white rice)
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Cook on high in microwave or on stove top for 20 minutes.

Serve your Chili-lime chicken and rice with your vegetables of choice! Our family prefers salads and fresh vegetable sticks and dip during the summer months. We had carrot sticks and peppers, but I also made cooked carrots and peas for my little guy who doesn’t have very many teeth yet.

Happy summer eats!

Tired of the same ol’, same ol’?

Friends and clients of mine often express that they get in (what I call) a food-rut. It seems to happen most when we get busy and stop planning our meals. We pick up the kids after work, rush home, open the fridge and say to our spouse “What should I make for supper?”; they reply “I don’t care”. So then we look for a few common ingredients to make any recipe that you can think of off the top of your head: stir fry, chili, mac and cheese….sound familiar?

My first maternity leave I was so overwhelmed by having this new little person to care for that I was not very organized or adventurous with our family’s diet. We still ate healthy and I cooked from scratch, but it seemed to be the same batch of recipes over and over again. We definitely got in a food-rut. My second maternity leave, I vowed to not repeat this, and made an effort to surf the web and watch cooking shows while the boys napped. I didn’t try a new recipe every day, but a few times a week and this seemed to help keep food interesting. It also helped our oldest (Nolan) try new foods, or to try foods that he didn’t like, in a new form.

I try to recommend this to my friends and clients:

  1. Try weekly menu planning – this helps keep variety in the diet to avoid the food-rut, keeps your meals well balanced, and can save you dollars at the grocery store.
  2. Pick one day or night of the week that your family is less busy. Use this day to choose one new recipe, shop for the ingredients, and prepare it for the family. If the family enjoys the new recipe, add it to your collection of favorites.
  3. If you’d rather not venture too far outside your comfort zone, or find it difficult to set aside enough time to prepare a new recipe start to finish then kick-it-up-a-notch! What I mean is choose a family favorite recipe and try a new or modified version of it. This is sure to help keep things fresh but also practical.
  4. If you find the concept of a new recipe too much, maybe try tackling a new food preparation or cooking skill. Once you have a new skill mastered, recipes will not seem so much of a stretch.

This weekend, my husband and I decided to try a new recipe AND to kick our mac and cheese recipe up a notch or two! Our recipe of choice: Spicy Fish Tacos! We typically do not fry anything in our house, but love to watch Eat St. where food trucks often serve some delicious-looking version of a fish taco. Nolan has never really liked fish other than a tuna sandwich, so I wanted to offer fish to him again in a new way. He loved this fish taco but with mayo and a smaller amount of sauce.

Last night’s delicious find: Spicy Fish Tacos adapted from Allrecipes.com

Spicy Fish Tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup beer (we used Bud light lime)
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (seeds and ribs removed)
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill weed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper – We found 1 tsp too hot for the kids
  • 1-2 cups of canola oil for frying (so there is 1 cm of oil in your pan)
  • 1 pound cod fillets, cut into 2 to 3 ounce portions
  • 1 package of small whole wheat tortillas – I couldn’t find corn tortillas at our grocery store
  • 1/2 medium head cabbage, finely shredded
  • 2 hothouse tomatoes chopped
  • *Chopped cucumber would also pair nicely with this recipe for a fresh feel

Directions

  1. To make the beer batter: In a large bowl combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the egg and beer, then quickly stir into the flour mixture (don’t worry about a few lumps).
  2. To make the spicy sauce: In a medium bowl mix together yogurt and mayonnaise. Gradually stir in fresh lime juice until consistency is slightly runny. Season with jalapeno, oregano, cumin, dill, and cayenne.
  3. Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet or cast iron frying pan. The oil is ready when you stick the handle of a wooden spoon in it and little bubbles form.
  4. Dust fish pieces lightly with flour. Dip into beer batter, and fry until crisp and golden brown. This takes only a few minutes. Drain on paper towels.
  5. To serve, place fried fish in a tortilla, and top with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, and dollops of the spicy sauce.

Happy Canada Day!

Budget Savvy Part 1: My top 10 tips for menu planning

There is nothing like tax season to make one re-evaluate one’s finances. I am always amazed at how money comes in but never seems to be around for very long. Before my husband and I had kids, we spent a lot of money on groceries. We rarely shopped the sales, ate whatever we felt like (still healthy of course), and shopped hungry. We developed some pretty hard habits to break! Since we’ve had kids, we are much more budget conscious, flyer savvy, and try very hard to have a snack or meal before we shop. I will admit that we still struggle to keep the grocery bill down, but it is a work in progress. There are so many variables to consider that make it challenging to create a concrete shopping list, and actually stick to it!

As we approach the month of May, I am challenging myself this coming month to menu plan more (meaning actually write it down – I often “plan” in my head, but that seems to get lost when I’ve been distracted and 5:30pm rolls around and we are starving!). I also want to refine my pantry needs,  make better grocery lists, and try to stick to my new grocery budget as we try to save a little more money for a trip next year. The next few posts will discuss menu planning, grocery shopping and food budgeting. I would love to hear your tips and tricks on any of these topics as we can always learn new things, and give ourselves a pat on the back for what we already do well!

My top 10 tips for MENU PLANNING

  1. Take inventory of your cupboards so you know what you have to work with to start menu planning. This will help create your grocery list later and help reduce food waste by using what you already have paid for!
  2. Check for weekly sales. Our grocery flyers tend to come on Friday, so I often use my weekend to plan and shop based on what is in the flyers.
  3. Plan your menu incorporating vegetables and fruit that are in season. In season vegetables and fruit are usually cheaper, more available, more local, and the quality tends to be better. If you really like those blueberries in the months when they are not in season, you will pay a pretty penny unless you buy frozen when they are on sale!
  4. Consider your family commitments for the week. You are not likely to make that meatball dinner when both kids have soccer that evening. You just won’t, so don’t kid yourself! Instead, plan a lighter meal for the nights you have less time, or utilize your slow cooker! I probably use mine once per week on my busiest night. As mornings are busy, I don’t usually pre-plan what we have for breakfast. I always keep cereal, bread, peanut butter, eggs, and a variety of fruit on hand and let my boys choose what they would like to have.
  5. Consider the likes and dislikes of your family. I have a whole room of picky eaters here, so it is rare that you will find mushrooms or honeydew on our menus, but that being said I have still offered them to my kids in hopes that they will like them even though my husband and I don’t.
  6. Think about texture, taste, and colour. A white fish served with potatoes and steamed cauliflower is nutritious, but it lacks varying texture, colour and plate appeal. Kick things up with colour!
  7. Variety. Need I say more? There is nothing worse than a menu that has chicken every day. We love chicken in our family (so there is a lot of it), but even we can get sick of it if it is every day. Variety is especially important to make sure that the menu provides a variety of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat, protein, fibre, and all the micronutrients too!
  8. Try new recipes. Even when we menu plan, we can easily get stuck in a rut if we use the same menus over and over and over. Pick a day of the week when you can try a new recipe to keep things fresh! I usually try new recipes on Saturday or Sundays as I am more organized, more relaxed, and have more time to get the kids involved.
  9. Once you have a rough draft of a menu (even if it is only supper meals you plan for), there are a few things you should try to check. The key to developing a healthy family menu is to think about BALANCE. My rule is always to have 3 or 4 of the food groups per meal, and 1 to 2 per snack. Even if I don’t formally menu plan, I always think of balance for every meal I offer my family. With 3 well balanced meals and a few healthy snacks daily, this can help ensure your family members get the nutrition they need for the day.
  10. The last check: consider the needs of your family members in comparison to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating. With Create My Food Guide, you can customize your guide to your likes/dislikes                                                                 i.e. My needs: 8 Vegetables/Fruit, 7 Grain products, 2 Milk products, 2 Meat/Alternatives.
Breakfast 1-2 Fruit

1-2 Grains

1 Milk products

½ Meat/Alternative

½ cup cantaloupe

1 or 2 slices whole wheat toast

1 cup soy milk

1 tbsp. peanut butter on my toast

AM Snack 1-2 Grains

0-1 Fruit

1 homemade muffin

½ cup strawberries

Lunch 1 Fruit

1-2 Vegetables

2 Grains

½ Meat/Alternative

1 Milk product

½ cup grapes

Sliced chicken breast on 2 slices whole wheat bread, with tomato, lettuce and cucumber

 

1 cup soy milk

PM Snack 0-1 Fruit

1 Grain

1 small orange

4-5 crackers (*amount depends on the brand/type)

Supper 2 Vegetables

 

0-1 Fruit

1 Meat/Alternative

1-2 Grains or other starch

 

0-1 milk products

1 cup spinach salad

½ cup steamed asparagus

½ cup strawberries (dessert!)

1 small lean pork chop

1 medium baked potato

1 small whole wheat dinner bun

¾ cup yogurt (with my fruit!)

Night Snack Whatever I didn’t get that I need, but only if I am hungry. optional

A great resource put out by Dietitians of Canada is Eating Well Together Meal Planner. The first pages discuss menu planning with toddlers in mind, but there is a sample menu and a blank menu planning sheet included. Print it off and give menu planning a try this week!

Stay tuned next week where we will put your menu plan into practice by discussing grocery shopping tips and making your menu jive with your budget.

Happy planning!

 

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