We all know it: everyone is busy. Some people just love talking about it more. Our household like many others has a lot going on but that increased this year. We added hockey and lacrosse. I was less able to control the times and days the activities were on. We also had the dreaded dinner killing 5:15-6:15 pm twice a week hockey practise time slot. I like to cook and I like to spend the time doing it, but I was less able to make it work on a nightly basis. I did not want to resort to take out and fast food (especially twice a week), so I came up with some strategies to help us eat home cooked (mostly from scratch) meals together.
I usually work 3-4 days a week, with most Mondays off. Mondays have become my food days. I drop off my two oldest boys at school and then head straight to the grocery store with my youngest son. He knows the drill now. My goal most Mondays is to cook or prep (to almost ready to eat) at least two meals. I usually kind of wing it at the grocery store when it comes to what I want to make based on a sale or what looks good. Sometimes I have a recipe or two in mind. I do have a little bit of a criteria to make things a easier:
I am also on a huge frozen and prepped vegetable kick. I grew up eating what felt like an endless supply of mixed, diced frozen veg. I wasn’t a fan, and it actually steered me away from frozen veg. There has been an explosion of frozen vegetables available in the stores so I have been a little more intrigued. Frozen fruit and veg are a great choice from a nutrition perspective as well. They are picked at peak ripeness and usually flash frozen on site. The freezing process affects the nutrients less than any other preservation method (canning, drying, dehydrating, etc.).
I also love that frozen veg is ready to go, no chopping, washing, peeling. And I can use the amount I need, I can just grab a handful and leave the rest in the freezer for another day (not going bad in the fridge crisper drawer). Now, not all frozen veg are created equal in my opinion. I am not a fan of frozen broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, the texture is no beuno. I am a fan of frozen:
I also use some prepped veggies at times:
Things I always make from scratch:
Sooooo September is creeping up on us. September brings back to school, lunch making and my middle son starting Kindergarten (WHAT?!). I’ve had a bit of jump on the lunches because my boys started day care in mid-July. So I have been packing three lunches three times a week. You may already know that it is a different game than only packing one. I loved having lots of little, cute containers to puzzle piece into Hudson’s lunch and customize as I need to. Up scaling was not fun though, you need so many containers and my dishwasher was a nightmare. It didn’t take long to look for a better solution.
I wrote a bit about this over on Instagram and there was a lot of feedback on your favorites, which I love. First off I was in the market for a bento style solution, a multi-divided container, which I could use to send mostly waste-free lunches.
The features on my wish list:
With all this in mind my first choice was the Planet Box BUT there were a few issues. It mostly came down to affordability. They do not fit into our existing lunch bags so I would have to purchase the Planet Box and the lunch bags x 3. That was going to be a little over $400 (with shipping and exchange). I know they last forever and they are stainless steel, but holy %*&# that’s a lot of money. I couldn’t do it.
Back to the drawing board, after much reading and consideration I went with the Yumbox Original. It ticks all the boxes on my wish list. After using them for the last few weeks I have discovered a few other things I like and a few I don’t love.
The good stuff first:
The less good stuff:
So there it is folks, my honest, non-sponsored recommendation. There is still time to get them delivered to your door before school starts.
Stay tuned to my Instagram and Facebook page for school lunch related ideas and give-aways!
Well, OK it's 2017. The kids are back to school, that means back to lunches. Almost every kid I know loves their peanut butter and jam. Becasue of allergies peanut butter is a no go in a lot of classrooms and day cares. I get around it by using Sunbutter. Sunbutter is sunflower seed butter and is safe for people with peanut allergies. It is free from the top eight allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, fish, shellfish, soy and is non-GMO). I think it is the best tasting peanut butter alternative by far. I use it anywhere that I would use peanut butter. My kids love it, they don't even notice a difference. So all their favorites are good to go. Hudson does not have to be peanut free but I still use it in his lunches, that's how much we love it.
My favortite place to use Sunbutter is in No Bake Protein Bombs.
1 cup oats
1/2 cup Sunbutter
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup honey
I always make a double batch, they go fast around here. You can modify this recipe in so many ways. Add in nuts, seeds or dried fruit instead of chocolate chips, use any nut or seed butter you want. I love having these on hand because they are high in protein and healthy fat so they fill tummies for a good stretch.
And the best part: I have partnered with Sunbutter to giveaway three jars of Sunbutter! Head over to my Instagram account to enter (*this giveaway is now closed).
If you follow me on social media you see Squooshi pouches in Hudson's school lunch. I love them. First off let me tell you a bit about them. They are cute and refillable squeeze pouches that let you decide what your kids eat in a fun container they'll love to use. With a sturdy zip-lock style seal located on the bottom of the pouch and a choke-proof cap, Squooshi reusable food pouches can be filled with whatever squishy wholesome goodness you and your little ones desire for a healthy, on-the go snack or meal.
My favorite features:
Of course when Squooshi sent me a filling station with 6 large pouches to try out I was pretty pumped, when they sent a whole set to give away I was super pumped! Head over to my Instagram (tiffany_dietitian) to enter. (*Please note this contest is now closed*).
I don't think the filling station is 100% necessary, I have no problems filling the pouches from the bottom. The kids thought it was super fun to use though. We filled ours with a Greek yogurt, raspberry, banana and coconut smoothie. Some to eat now and some for the freezer to make lunch making easy. I have also been known to grab one out of the freezer in a pinch.
So get over to my Instagram and enter, good luck!
Hudson won an award yesterday at school. There was a ceremony in the gym. I was there along with my husband, my brother and my father-in–law. Now, I am sure Hudson would tell you, this award for self-discipline is his crowning achievement to date. I have learned through this mothering gig that different kids are motivated in different ways. Hudson thrives under encouraging words, praise and positive attention from adults. I share this trait with Hudson. Sawyer, my middle, is motivated by competition. He wants to win and compete, which he shares with my husband. Milo is still in the puzzle of toddlerhood, we are still figuring out what makes him tick.
Seeing Hudson’s proud little face today made me feel all the feelings. Of course I am proud of him for being chosen for the award, but mostly I was so happy to see him excel at something that means so much to him. We always talk about how fun kids are at the holidays because they remind us what it’s like to be kids again, the magic. Today brought back some of those same feelings for me. I remember winning a citizenship award in elementary school. My parents where there to watch, they told the my extended family. It felt great. School was always my thing, that’s where I was competitive. Not on the field or court or ice. It is a funny thing to see some of your traits in your own children. It’s another way nature binds us together.
Looking at my kindergartener I see endless possibilities. But the best part is that most kindergarteners see that in themselves. The idea that they could write a book, create art daily, become a garbage man, become a Jedi….all plausible, doable. I am not sure when we start telling ourselves it’s not.
Yoga was one of the things I had added to my not doable list. A while back I was telling someone (I wish I remember who) that I hate yoga and then proceeded to blather on about the reasons why (I could get quite passionate about it). She looked at me and said “it sounds like you don’t like things you are not immediately good at”. I started to say something, then stopped and had to agree. I thought a lot about it.
After a change of plans I kind of accidentally ended up in a yoga class at Flow Yoga. I didn’t hate it. At all. I wasn’t immediately super good at it, maybe not even a little good at it. But I liked that it was a challenge. It was hard. It feels like there is so much to learn. It’s like I am in kindergarten again and there is a whole yoga world to progress through. I get to progress on my own time line, not my class mates, or some ideal, just mine.
Things enter your life when you are ready. My body has been returned to me. I am no longer growing babies, laboring babies into the world or nursing them. I owe my body for doing all that; I need to care for it now. It needs to move and stretch and be challenged. For right now I have found the way to pay back that debt. Just to be clear I still get a thrill and a boost of motivation when the teacher tells me I am doing something well or have improved but I don’t need it as much as I once did.
Being on the eve of 37 has brought me closer to my five year old self. The one that is a lot less limited by fear of failure. I think I am starting to get over myself.
I am going to talk about food. I haven't blogged in a while, I guess I had a lot to get off my chest. I have found a few fun things in the grocery store (one of my favorite places).
First up, I have been all over frozen veggies. I have always been a big fan of frozen fruit but wasn’t a fan of most frozen veggies. Mostly for texture reasons. I like most of my veggies with a little crunch. I am loving frozen diced butternut squash. I bought mine at Superstore but Costco also carries it. Every time I cut up squash I feel like I am going to lose a finger or sever something. No cutting, no peeling! Let that sink it for a minute. I have used it in soup, chilli and curries with great results and huge time savings. It takes some meals from not achievable in the post-work, weeknight dinner mayhem time slot to downright quick. No stitches required. Nothing delays dinner like a trip to the ER.
I found frozen chopped kale at Save-On-Foods. I don’t often use kale in smoothies because it takes time to wash is and de-rib it. My mornings can't even handle that. Throw in a handful of this and you are off and running, or off wiping up the kale smoothie your kids just spilled. Also good for stir-fries, scrambled eggs and curries. I usually keep frozen green peas, shelled edamame and corn on hand too. Great for when the fridge gets a little empty and they won’t go bad in the crisper like fresh veg can.
Frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh, and in some cases more, especially in the winter months. Frozen veggies are picked when they are fully ripe and often frozen on site. The veggies that travel to us are often picked before ripe to make the trip and are not the best quality by the time they arrive on our plate.
Next up is PB2. Powdered peanut butter. I heard about it a while back but it wasn’t available in Canada. Now it is, I picked some up at Healthy Way ($6.99). The big claim is all the peanut flavor without the fat. To make PB2 the oil is squeezed from the peanuts then what’s left is dehydrated. The result amounts to mostly carbohydrate and protein. I am a fan of the healthy fats in natural peanut butter. The heart healthy fat keeps you full and satisfied until your next meal. I do like how easy it is to scoop into the blender to make smoothies. The chunky monkey smoothie I made with PB2 tasted great and had a much smoother texture. It also mixed well into oatmeal. There is instructions on how to mix it into a spread by adding water. I can’t say I would ever do this. I would just eat regular PB with the healthy fats. Not sure if I would buy more, I think I need to play around with it some more before I decide.
Anyone else love/hate it?
If you have found something new/exciting/time saving in the grocery store let me know, would love to hear about it.
I have been posting photos of Hudson's school lunches on Instagram and Facebook. It's become a thing for me. In that I am really having a lot of fun with it all. Makes sense though, it combines food with fun little containers, all things I like. The icing on the cake is that Hudson has been enjoying it too. And eating most/all of it. I thought I would post a little round up of the lunches so far and share a few of my time saving tips and tricks. For more on where I bought all my supplies look here.
I am not often starting from scratch every morning. My freezer is my lunch life saver (also my dinner life saver). Spaghetti and chicken noodle soup are lunch favorites. I freeze lunch size portions in mason jars. I pop them in the fridge the night before, into the microwave in the morning and into his Thermos. I like using mason jars because they are great in the freezer and microwave. I also batch make and freeze things like: Sunbutter and jam roll ups, cream cheese and cinnamon pin wheels, mini pizzas, quesadillas and smoothies. I always make his lunch the night before, so things thaw in the fridge overnight. I find it takes some of the crazy out of the morning rush. I also keep homemade mini-muffins, pumpkin loaf, mini-naan breads, individual hummus portions, pancakes and waffles in the freezer, I store them in large ziptop bags so I can see what there is. This allows me to offer a variety of foods while minimizing waste. I cannot stand food waste.
I do follow a sort of formula for building his lunch. I aim for an entrée type item, a fruit, a veggie, a snacky type item and a protein food (cheese, Greek yogurt, seeds, nuts, nut butter for dipping, etc). I only send water to drink. I often include some kind of treat like food, but I keep the portions small, so he doesn't fill up on it and ignore the rest of his lunch.
Hudson was not really a veggie guy. At the start of school he only ate carrots. By adding a few things into his lunch he has expanded to celery, snap peas and raw green beans. That is enough to float my lunch making boat right there. Cucumbers are still a no go. He also added pears and raspberries to his fruit repertoire.
So onto the food:
Top left: Cheddar cubes, turkey pepperoni, apple, brown rice crackers, apple and Greek yogurt in the Squooshi. Top right: Homemade bison burger, strawberries, Babybel cheese and unsweetened apple sauce in the Squooshi. Bottom Left: Spaghetti and turkey meat balls, mozza chees string, grapes, popcorn and unsweetened apple sauce in the Squooshi. Bottom right: Sunbutter and homemade raspberry freezer jam roll-ups, banana chocolate chip mini-muffins, mozza cubes, grapes and Greek yogurt in the Squooshi.
Top left: Left over Mac and Cheese, Triscuits with Sunbutter to dip, pear and mandarin oranges. Top right: Carrots and snap peas, pretzels to dip in hummus, mozza cubes, apple and Cheerios. Bottom left: Low sodium pickles, turkey pepperoni, marble cheese, brown rice crackers, sunflower seeds and strawberries. Bottom right: Homemade chicken noodle soup, raspberries, dye-free marites, pretzels and strawberry yogurt in the Squooshie.
Top Left: Mini-nann bread, carrots and snap peas, hummus, raspberries, yogurt and sunflower and pumpkin seed mix. Top right: grilled cheese with ketchup, cucumber slices, plain potato chips, yogurt and banana. Bottom left: Ham, cheese and pickle kabobs, carrots and snap peas, Triscuits, strawberries and Shreddies. Bottom right: whole wheat mini-bagel with Sunbutter and honey, carrot coins, roasted pumpkin seeds, chocolate covered pretzels and unsweetened apple and pomegranate sauce.
Top left: Cinnamon brown sugar steel cut oats (made with milk), Babybel cheese, banana chocolate chip mini-muffin, strawberries and strawberry banana smoothie in the Squooshi. Top right: Whole wheat Sunbutter and honey mini-bagel, roasted pumpkin seeds, carrot coins, unsweetened apple and pomegranate sauce and chocolate covered pretzels. Bottom left: Stawberry cream cheese waffle sammie, mozza cubes, seed puck, strawberry and orange combo and unsweetened apple sauce in the Squooshi. Bottom right: Mini-naan with Sunbutter and homemade raspberry jam to dip, grapes, banana chocolate chip mini-muffins and a raspberry, banana, pineapple smoothie in the Squooshi.
Top Left: Homemade chicken chow mien, Cheerios, Sunbutter celery boats, orange and raspberry combo and cheddar blocks. Top right: Smoked salmon and cream cheese pinwheels, grapes, mandarin orange, pistachios, Babybel cheese and pumpkin loaf. Bottom left: Spaghetti, watermelon and raspberries, sunflower seeds and Green peas crisps. Bottom right: Marble cheddar and mustard bunwhich, raspberry almond poppers, carrot sticks, yogurt and alphabet pretzels.
Top left: Salami provolone roll ups, Christmas crackers, carrots and celery, hummus, yogurt and chocolate coin. Top right: Cheese and micro layer of refried beans quesadilla, Babybel cheese, tortilla chips, fruit salad, Greek yogurt topped with cinnamon. Bottom left: Make your own pizza with mini-naan breads, honey mandarins, nuts & bolts and yogurt. Bottom right: Lasagna, garlic toast, apple, cheddar bricks and celery sticks.
I am hoping this post helps as one stop spot for lunch ideas, for those days when you are stuck or feeling uninspired. I love to hear what you are making and what your kids are loving too. All ideas welcome. Enjoy the winter break from school and lunch making. I will be back to posting school lunches in the new year.
Fall is back. Back with all things I love: slow cookers, back to school, scarves, the desire to get cozy and a new sense of routine (with a few bumps along the way). When I was asked if I would like to try out one of Ricardo’s slow cooker recipes I jumped at the chance. When I saw slow cooker rice pudding I was sold. I used to think both rice pudding and tapioca pudding were gross. Once I tried rice pudding I quickly changed my tune. Rice is normal food, tapioca ball things are not. Still in the gross category for me.
Now that my oldest is in school I have more time with my middle, Sawyer. He was the perfect assistant to help with this recipe. Middle children are sneaky. They grow up when you aren't looking. Everything is anticipated with the oldest: walking, talking, school. The middle is who they are right now, I am so much more in the moment with him. So he surprises me when I notice the passing of time. My husband picked him up yesterday, he was so long. We were both gob smacked. So sneaky. The third is a whole other story. He has three molars. We just noticed them. Yikes. We catch on, eventually.
On a side note: moving forward most of my blog posts will feature iPhone snaps. I realized that I was blogging less because in the chaos of my life the simple act of grabbing my digital SLR camera was too much. I don’t think you are here for the beautifully styled food photos anyways. You are here for ideas and my undeniable wit and charm, right?
So onto the rice pudding recipe...
1 cup (250 ml) arborio or other short-grain rice
1 cup (250 ml) 10% half and half
4 cups (1 litre) 3.5 % milk
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup (125 ml) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
Cinnamon to top
In the slow cooker, combine the rice, cream, milk and salt. Cover and cook on high heat for 2 hours. Add the sugar and vanilla and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Let cool partially. Serve warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, or cover and chill.
Turned out beautifully; creamy, perfectly sweet and cozy. I prefer it a little warm, it is easy to reheat in the microwave. All my kids liked it and I may of even converted my husband to the “not the gross food I thought it was" category. Of course you can add raisins or nuts or whatever you feel like. I took it to work for breakfast one morning with almonds and raspberries thrown in. I played around with the milk and cream in the recipe to use what I had on hand. I also decreased the sugar a bit, because why not. As you can tell by the brief directions, this is simple. Great chance for your kids to help out.
So I hope the start of your fall has brought good things with it.
Here we are....the eve of the first day of kindergarten. Big day for Hudson tomorrow. I could say all the usual stuff: time flies, he was just a baby, etc. But really I am just excited for him. I had such a postive experience at school and I am hoping the same for him too. It is going to be an adjustment for sure. The Monday to Friday, the driving, the lunch making.
Knowing what I know about Hudson I think his biggest challenge will be focusing enough to eat his lunch. All the other kids around, so much more fun to make farting noises than eat. My goal is to send mostly finger foods that are quick to eat and easy to handle.
I wanted to share what I bought to prepare for the long haul of lunch making. I feel like being prepared is half the battle. I have been purchasing things over the summer so Hudson had time to practice opening and closing. Plus I am a wee bit weird and want things to match.
Everything, unless otherwise mentioned, was purchased at Superstore. I didn't want things to be too precious. If and when they get lost I don't want to be out $30 per piece. I did label everything.
So top left is his zip up insulated lunch kit. beside it are two mini-icepacks. Middle right are two reuseable, velcro food bags. Good for foods like crackers, apple slices, grapes and sandwiches. Bottom right are silicone muffin liners. These are great to put inside other contains filled with dips (hummus, guacamole, nut butter) or little items like rasins, cubed fruit, veg and cheese. They are flexible so they can be molded around whatever else is in the container. Bottom left is re-useable squeezie bags. These are great for smoothies, yogurt and applesauce. I ordered these online from a company called Squooshi.
Top right is a thermos. I will be sending mostly spaghetti and homemade chicken noodle soup, his two faves. Middle right is two straw based water bottles and finally some fun shaped containers.
Again we have some larger assorted containers. Bottom left is a dinosaur bread/sandwhich cutter.
I re-purposed an old tote to store all this gear together. It is in a low cupboard. Hudson knows to return his empty lunch kit back into the bin at the end of the day.
We have been doing some chatting about what he would like to bring in his lunch. He is by far my most unadventuresome eater. I have frozen portions of pizza and chicken noodle soup at the ready.
I will share some of his lunches on Facebook and Instagram so make sure you follow along. Feel free to share your ideas too.
Tomorrow, the big day. Good luck my son, I know you are more than ready. And good luck to all your kids, and of course to you. We are going to need it.
Have you seen those pins on Pinterest? You know the ones: “20 Freezer Meals in One Hour for under $100”. There are always accompanying photos of a bunch of neatly stacked and labeled Ziplock bags filled with food. The posts promise a shopping list and a host of other tips. I decided I wanted to try this. I rounded up a group of five willing friends with the promise of wine and leaving with six slow cooker meals. I offered to do the recipe selection and grocery shopping. I asked for a volunteer host with a large kitchen.
I thought my task would be easy. There were so many freezer meal plans to choose from. No big deal. Well upon closer inspection a lot of the recipes called for a can of cream of whatever soup, ranch dressing powder, processed cheese product, etc. Not things I cook with. So that was kind of a letdown. I quickly realized I was going to have to choose my own recipes.
I decided on a bit of a criteria:
-nothing that needed per-cooking, browning, searing. This eliminated the prospect of using any ground meat. I couldn’t imagine browning 12+ pounds of ground meat, then putting warm meat into a bag (I am making the bletch face right now)
-I tried to vary the type of meats and types of dishes (not all soups)
-aim for a variety of flavours (I would go for all Mexican)
I settled on Chicken Fajitas, Beef and Broccoli, Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, Chicken Enchilada Soup, Vegetarian Chili and Thai Chicken Coconut Curry Soup (click for recipe). I compiled a master grocery list and did the shopping the day of to keep things fresh.
I told everyone to bring a cutting board, their favorite knife, a can opener and some measuring spoons. I prepped the Ziplock bags by writing the contents, date and instructions (i.e. cook on low for 6-8 hrs). Then it was time to get to work….well drink wine too.
It took us about three hours to prep all 36 meals. Not bad. By far the most time was put into chopping peppers (30 of them) and onions (24). It could have been a lot faster if I had of thought of getting someone to bring a food processor. Grating ginger was a huge chore too (sorry Stacey). I thought to buy a jar of minced garlic but not ginger….next time. It worked well to do assembly line style; one person adds meat, another veg, another spices, etc. Less room for error that way.
When all 36 meals were done we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Boom, six dinners we don’t have to worry about. It worked out to $12/meal. The meals are quite generous, for sure enough for dinner and left overs and in some cases two dinners.
The meals need to be thawed before cooking. I recommend putting the bag in your slow cooker insert in the fridge. There is a good likelihood that the bag will get punctured in your freezer while you are digging around in there. Having it leak all over the fridge = not fun. If it is not fully thawed just increase the cooking time a little.
Everyone was so happy with the process that there are plans to do another in early September. Plus it is a great excuse to hang out with your girlfriends. Of course this can be done in your own kitchen, but friends make everything better. There were suggestions that this should be my side project, facilitating groups of friends in bulk meal prep. Might be fun?
There have been a few changes in our house as of late. The biggest is that my middle, Sawyer, is lactose intolerant. He has been for a while. I only recently got around to investigating the reason that my three year old could fart like a 50 year old man after a chili eating contest followed by a few pints of draught beer. For real. It was a good source of entertainment, but the tummy pains were not. Basically lactose intolerance occurs when the sugar that naturally occurs in milk, lactose, can’t be broken down. This sugar then ends up in places it shouldn’t. The healthy bacteria in our gut have a total feast/party resulting in a lot of gas, bloating and pain. It is a good time to be lactose intolerant because lactose free milk, cheese and yogurt are widely available. A huge upside is that if Sawyer does want to have something containing lactose he can take a chewable pill that helps him digest the lactose. For the most part we aim for avoidance at home and have the pills for when we are out and about.
It does put a bit of a new spin on holidays like Easter. Milk chocolate = lactose. I decided this year to have a less candy/chocolate Easter basket. Not because I am a total candy Scrooge (or whatever the down on Easter version of that is). The kids are attending three Easter egg hunts. Plus two Easter dinners. There are going to be so many treats. Four day treat and lactose extravaganza. I feel I can easily pull back on the candy in their baskets without inciting feelings of hardship.
So I have decided to share with you what I did put in their baskets. The two older boys were essentially the same:
- spring t-shirt
- skipping rope
- An Elephant and Piggie book
- six pack of mini Play-Doh
- a fun rubbery egg that looks like a splattered broken egg when you throw it at a hard surface
- locally made little chocolate bunny (dark chocolate for Sawyer as good quality dark chocolate is lactose free)
For baby Milo:
- a sippy cup
- two t-shirts, one says "messy hair don't care" but I wish it said "fluffy hair don't care"
- a felted egg shaped rattle
- the cutest pair of Vancouver made Minimoc leather moccasins that I have been lusting over for a while
There are endless filling ideas: colouring books, crayons, little toys, stickers, puzzles, gift certificates for activities like a swimming pool visit. Endless.
On another note, I started this little blog four years ago today. I might not get to it as much as I once did but it still provides me with a creative outlet. I like that. A lot.
Happy Easter all, hope you are inspired to create a less candy Easter basket too.
Tiffany McFadden, RD