Friday, February 5, 2016

Super SuperBowl Foods

Do you celebrate Super Bowl Sunday? Are you horrified that I just wrote that - either because you can't imagine Not celebrating it / or because you can't believe that there could be anything worse.

I absolutely LOVE it! When I was pregnant with Jett he was actually Due on Super Bowl Sunday - and I spent 9 months worried that I was going to miss the game - Thankfully he came two weeks early and we both got to watch it comfortably at home.

So if you happen to be one of the rabid millions who look forward to this all year - and plan a menu / party that is worthy of being called "SUPER" - have you thought about making some of your traditional football food a little bit better for you?

I have been thinking about what I was going to make - Everything needs to be made ahead of time, because I am not missing a second of the game to be in the kitchen. I'll go to the bathroom during the commercials.

I am not going to be sucked into old bad habits and things that food companies tell me that I "should" be eating to celebrate the world's biggest sporting event (biased? NAHH)

I plan on having a great big veggie tray. This is easy to plan, easy to prepare and a guaranteed eat. In fact, you should always have cut veggies around to munch on. They satisfy a lot of our snacking cravings, such as being crunchy and savory. There are lots of ways to get fancy with presenting your veggies, if you don't believe me, look on Pinterest. It is mind boggling, and I would be so paranoid that it was being messed up / eat improperly that any happiness I put into the effort would be wasted. I have a big platter and I just put the veggies on it. - I'm classic like that (Lazy). Make your dip with Greek Yogurt and the whole deal is guilt-free.

We are going to be having hamburgers with all the toppings. Somehow that makes it special - lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, onions, cheese, bacon, guacamole. If you buy lean meat, and pile on the veggies - hamburgers aren't too bad either - you can even get whole grain buns if you want to completely all out.

I'm gonna make Family Secret Potato Salad, Frog-Eye salad, and if I get super ambitious - deviled eggs (since I have to boil eggs for the potato salad).

Sounds pretty good, sounds pretty easy - and I bet most people won't even miss the giant bags of greasy chips and dips made with bricks of processed cheese.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Simple Edamame

A while back Edamame was something that few people had heard of on a regular basis and almost nobody made at home. It was served as an appetizer at fancy Japanese restaurant. Joseph and his boys used to eat at his sister's restaurant often and they absolutely love them. 

They are available at all the grocery store freezer aisles and lots of them even have them fresh. Edamame is as common as peas and carrots, sold in 12-ounce or 1-pound plastic bags and sold cheap.

So cheap that for four or five bucks you can buy a pound of organic edamame, and for considerably less than that, a pound of non-organic. Since I figure you’re getting a quarter-pound or less when you order them at a restaurant, and paying (no doubt) up to seven bucks per serving, this alone should be an incentive to buy a bag.

The cooking, at least for the style in which they’re served in restaurants, is along the lines of “duh.” Boil, drain, salt, serve. Literally, that’s it. Keep the cooking time short and use coarse salt. I can think of no other tricks.

There are ways to use edamame that go beyond the dead simple. One is to simply drizzle them with good soy sauce, a bit of lemon or sesame oil, or all three, and serve as usual.

Other ideas, all of which are essentially garnishes to be used alone or in combination with the above treatments (these are all good whether the beans are still in or taken out of their shells):

• Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet until they pop, and sprinkle them over the top.

• Add a few chiles or a squeeze of sriracha to the heating oil and drizzle that.

• Use a few drops of rice vinegar in place of lemon juice.

• Toast nori (dry, in the oven or a skillet) and crumble that over the beans; mix and serve quickly.

• Chop peanuts or walnuts (toast first if necessary, until lightly browned) and sprinkle on top.

• Sweat a little minced ginger or garlic, or both, in peanut oil and toss with the cooked beans.

• Grate lemon zest over all.

• Top with chile powder, curry powder, pimentón (smoked paprika), five-spice powder or, perhaps best, shichimi (the Japanese spice mix also called togarashi).

Monday, February 1, 2016

The 5 Second Grocery Money Saving Tip

I don't know too many people who can afford to not watch their grocery budget. Every little bit helps, and if money isn't tight at your house - I am sure you can find lots of things you would rather spend your money on than groceries. 

The average American family ends up throwing away 25% of the foods and drinks they buy. That is 1/4 of your whole grocery budget.  For the a typical family of four, they might as well fling $150 straight in the garbage every month!

If they could reduce their grocery waste by just half, that same family of four could chop around $75 a month off their grocery bill. (No coupons required!) That isn't even suggesting that you have no grocery waste, but that you just cut the things that we are wasting in half.  That is a really huge amount, Isn't it!?

Here’s an easy way to do exactly that.

When you put your leftovers away after dinner, do your best to store them in a clear container, so it’s easy to see what’s in there and to avoid discovering some putrid mystery food shoved to the back of the fridge weeks later.

Perhaps make a shelf, just for "ready to eat" leftovers. So when you open the fridge to find something to eat, that can be the first place that you look. You can help your family to look on that shelf or in those specific containers when they are finding something to eat. 

(If you have them available to you - Mason jars are a great way to do this on a budget.)

Then, before you put the container away, take 5 seconds to grab a sticky note and write today’s date on the top. If you don't have sticky notes, use a washable marker and write on the container. 

It helps cut down on those fun conversations that go something like, “Honey, do you remember when we had this spaghetti?”

“Um I don’t know, does it stink?”

“Hmm...I can’t tell, you smell it.” (You, smell it .... No! You smell it...... ) 

“Um...better toss it,” as you see visions of all the members of your family doubled over with food poisoning fluttering through your brain.

So instead of THAT, try this trick to start saving immediately. 

You’ll be much more likely to use up leftovers in time, without the guessing game, or the waste.

Doing those simple little things to save your grocery budget doesn’t have to be complicated or cause you to spend tons of extra time shopping around or standing in the kitchen.

I am learning the greatest results can come from the smallest of shifts in habits. It’s these small changes that help you save money on groceries consistently, month after month, even when you’re super busy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

February Activity List

Are you ready for all the fun and love and fun-loving fun/love that a family can handle.... 

So much fun it is going to take 29! days to squeeze it all in!!! 

As Always, Share, Share, Share.... there can't be too much fun.

Monday, January 25, 2016

7 Easy Ways to Eat Healthier This Week

How are you doing on your New Year's Resolutions?  Have you burst into a ball of flame yet? Have you turned into Cindy Crawford?  Me Neither, but that is mostly because I didn't actually make any New Year's Resolutions - that's one way to be wildly successful, isn't it?!

The way I feel about things, is that living a healthy life takes life changes. Things that you do forever and ever, evermore, and not just for 30 days or until you reach a goal weight or until you stumble across that sleeve of stale Oreos in the back of the pantry.

In my life, I try and make the best choices that I can in the moment. That means Meal Planning when I can (because I know that makes me successful). Prepping food and snacks "before" instead of saying that I will get to it later. And making the little things count - and not giving up the whole show when something doesn't go right.

Maybe this week - Try Baking with Some Healthy Substitutions.  It is much easier than you think, and you don't have to go all out - You can cut the sugar in half, or substitute half the flour for a whole grain flour. You don't have to give up chocolate chip cookies and only eat carob. You don't even have to be so brave as to add or cut half, do half or a half. One little step in the right direction, is Still in the right direction.

Try an in-season fruit or vegetable that you’ve never had. If you like summer stone fruits like peaches and plums, you’ll probably love persimmons, too. Have you eaten fresh cranberries, or tried a new citrus fruit - what about artichokes? Eating in Season not only is so much better for you, but foods taste better when they are fresher and they cost quite a bit less.

Stuck in a Rut with Pasta or Rice - Eat Well Utah - has some amazing information and recipes on cooking with whole grains. Use quinoa instead of rice, add barley or groats to your menu. What about making some veggie "noodles" with zucchini or rocking it old school with spaghetti squash!

Make-Over a Comfort Food - Instead of frying chicken, bread it and bake it in the oven. Try a creamy macaroni and cheese recipe, you can find recipes that are for beginning healthy eaters all the way to recipes that use cauliflower to make the "cheese" sauce. Use a substitution that is better for you than heavy cream to thicken a soup, use something besides mayonnaise to make a salad creamy.

Choose Your Beverages Wisely -  One of the best things that we can all do for our bodies is to Stop drinking soda.  Choose to drink more water, eat whole fruit instead of drinking juices, make low-fat and skim milk part of your healthy habits.

Change Up Your Breakfast - Start your day by making a choice to take better care of yourself.  Start your day with a whole grain - or how about adding some veggies to your breakfast.  If you aren't someone who regularly eats breakfast, start a new habit that will make you feel great. Lots of us feel like we don't have time to make a big healthy meal in the morning, and that makes weekends great for preparing freezer breakfast burritos or sandwiches to put in the freezer. You can pop something in the microwave and have breakfast made in less time than it takes to brush your teeth.

Choose Fruit - When those late night snack cravings happen, Choose Fruit. When you get that afternoon slump or those terrible 10am "how can it NOT be lunch yet?!" feelings. Choose a piece of fruit.

Try just one way to be healthier this week, or try each time once. Try something else that you have had on your list of things you want to do - Keep being brave, keep moving forward!

Friday, January 22, 2016

When Do I Start Teaching My Kids to Cook?

Have you been wondering at what age your kids can start helping out in the kitchen?  What is appropriate and what isn’t for them to do? Have you been like me and terrified to invite your kids into the kitchen?

I have put together a list of age appropriate tasks for kids in the kitchen.  This will help you teach your kid how to cook by age.

I believe that teaching our kids a new kitchen skill should not be done during witching hours. Instead, use the weekends and non rush-hour times. I’ve found that I’m more patient (and not as critical) when I’m more relaxed.

Here is a breakdown of some age appropriate kitchen tasks:

2-3 years old – At this age, kids need high supervision. Focus on basic tasks like setting the table, squeezing lemons, learning to match the silverware as you empty the dishwasher, using the salad spinner, picking the leaves off fresh herb stems, gentle stirring, and mashing potatoes, for example.

4-5 years old – Motor skills are more defined and they can focus better. This is a frustrating age for many parents because many kids will be doing the 2-3 age group while others the 6-7 -it depends how involved and interested they’ve been.

6-7 years old – Fine motor skills are developed so they can take on more detailed work, like using measuring spoons and forming meatballs. They still need a lot of guidance and reminders of where to keep their fingers during grating and peeling.

Some of the things you can teach them to do at this age are: dicing and mincing vegetables (use a pairing knife and start with soft foods like strawberries), peeling raw potatoes with a peeler, slicing and scooping avocados, greasing pans, using a microplane zester, draining and rinsing canned beans, pouring liquids into containers, and decorating dishes.

8-9 year olds – This is my favorite age group. They can read! They can take on every task prior to this age group and teach new things based on their interest. You’ll have to decide if they are mature enough to work at the stove; but you can start with easy toaster oven type of recipes if not.

This age group can use a pizza cutter and can opener, scooping batter into muffin cups, scraping down the batter and using the stand mixer, putting away leftovers, rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher, pounding chicken, skewering food, make sandwiches and wraps, and chopping most foods (nothing much bigger than a paring knife or small serrated knife).

10-12 years old – This age group can usually work independently in the kitchen. Make sure they have learned basic kitchen skills and moved on up on skill level before they are left to make meals (even under supervision). Rules still apply (and often need reminding) like wash hands after touching chicken, can do basic stove tasks like scrambling eggs and flipping pancakes.

What if I haven’t taught my kids kitchen basics in each age group? Don’t stress.

My suggestion is that regardless of when you start; teach with patience and be careful to not talk down to your kids when they are doing it wrong (I’m guilty of this). Talking “down” can be as simple as “let me show you” and… “hurry, let me take over” or as simple as our tone.

If you aren’t “feeling it” then skip the teaching moment. We can do it quicker and avoid any hurt feelings -trust me.

If you’ve got teenagers in the house they can make nearly any recipe they can read. Win-win.

I want to encourage you to teach your kids one skill each month. Just one.

Cooking along side our kids is a great opportunity to talk about life. It gives us the opportunity to connect and teach our kids about the things we find important (like our food and health).

If you want some more ideas about cooking with kids and what tasks are great to start with - I have written about it...

Cooking with Kids - a Teaching Moment

Recipes for Specifically Cooking with Kids

Basic Cooking Skills

Littlest Kids in the Kitchen

Teaching Kids to Cook Safely

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How I Handle Leftovers

Whether you are in love with leftovers because you are a busy mom, or because you are environmentally conscious - if you are a penny saver or an earth saver - leftovers are the best!

What is nicer than a home-cooked meal that you didn't have to cook?

I didn't used to like leftovers at all, this has been a huge change in my thinking since starting Food $ense and begging to change my ideas and habits. 

We are starting a new little system that Joseph thought up one day when he was watching child after child open and close and open the fridge and then complain that there was nothing to eat. 

We have lots of notepads on the fridge that we keep track of things on - Menu Planning, Grocery Lists, assigned chores - all sorts of things. 

We are now trying to keep a list of the things that are in the fridge that are just waiting to be eaten!

Despite feeling crunched for time, Please Please take care to treat your food in a way that protects you family from foodborne illness.

There’s much more to the safe handling of leftovers than most people realize, and following a few simple tips can save you—and your loved ones—from illness.

Put leftovers in shallow containers to cool quickly
The center of that big pot of chili you stick in the fridge isn’t going to cool down within 2 hours, and that warm spot in the middle can allow bacteria to grow. The smaller the portion size, the faster it will cool in the refrigerator. And when you go to heat it up in the microwave, it will heat much more quickly and evenly too. [USDA recommends packing leftovers so that they are less than 2 inches deep.]

Putting leftovers into smaller containers or into individual serving containers means that there is less heating / cooling / reheating cycles and therefore less danger.

Refrigerate within 2 hours
Bacteria grow rapidly at warm temperatures, and after just a few hours can reach levels that can cause illness. Refrigeration slows the growth of bacteria.  The recommended temperature for your fridge is 40 °F or below (use an appliance thermometer to see how cold it is).

Foods should be refrigerated within 2 hours of preparation. Even though it may seem energy efficient to let foods cool down on the counter before sticking them in the fridge, there can be a risk if they are left out too long.

Reheat thoroughly
The microwave is just another way to heat food. The microwaves bounce around and literally “excite” the food. However, the microwaves may not hit every part of the food evenly. In foods with multiple ingredients (like a casserole) some ingredients may get more “heated” than others.

It’s really important that all parts of reheated food reach 165 °F before they are eaten. There are a few ways to ensure this happens:

  • Stir the food in the middle of heating;
  • Let the food sit for a few minutes after it finishes in the microwave to ensure the food cooks evenly. During this “standing time,” the cold parts of the food will absorb some heat from the hotter portions. Many microwave meals recommend this, so pay attention to microwave instructions.
  • After the “standing time,” check the food with a food thermometer.