Over the years, I’ve received a lot of emails from various people in all walks of life who plain and simple just do not like cooking.
Cooking for them is on the same par as toilet cleaning–they’ve said as much.
So they opt to go out to dinner or do take out–healthy and otherwise.
So why write me to tell me this if what they are doing is working for them?
The deal isn’t that it isn’t working for them; it’s just not working WELL for them. They are concerned about the cost and the nutrition aspects of doing this on a regular basis.
The cost is astronomical, both financially and health wise. Most families do not have the financial means to eat out every night, period—whether it is healthy or not.
A recent study revealed that for every dollar spent on food eaten out, only 27 cents worth of food was actually served.
What does that tell you about the economics of eating out? Is going out to dinner every night a worthy investment of your family’s dollars?
Lest you think I’m dumping on restaurants, let me assure you I am not. I love going out to dinner! I’m always on the prowl for a new restaurant and new dining experience.
But the day to day of feeding a family is expensive. Very few can afford to feed everyone well (as in healthy, fresh food) if they go out all the time.
And while I do love to cook for the most part, there are days when it frankly is a chore–I’m only human. I have other things I’d rather be doing and a bunch of people (my family, friends, employees, etc.) who want or need my attention.
But I have great news for those who panic at the idea of cooking a big family meal. Most of it can be done on the grill (and these days, outdoor grills with their propane tanks make it seasonless!) then all you really have to add is a big salad and presto, you’ve got dinner! Here is a recent grilled meal I recently made and it took me all of fifteen minutes to prepare. 🙂
Marinated Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
Brown Rice (if you’re paleo or low carb, make cauli-rice)
Grilled Zucchini and Yellow Squash
Big Green Salad
Take a big gallon-sized zipper topped plastic bag and fill it with raw chicken (I like to add extra so I can get some leftovers for lunch the next day). Next, add half a bottle of coconut aminos (or soy sauce) and about 1/2 a cup olive oil or avocado oil. Squeeze a whole lemon in there, add 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, thyme and oregano. Now add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Mush the bag around so chicken is coated. You’ll want that to marinate for a few hours or overnight even. Cook your brown rice now—it will take the longest to cook or make some cauli-rice (or both if you’ve got different eating styles at your house).
Prepare your zucchini by slicing into rounds; same with the yellow squash. Throw these cut squashes into a big bowl and toss with a little olive oil (you don’t want it dripping in oil), salt and pepper and some fresh garlic pressed right into the squash (I use 2 cloves, but I love garlic and it keeps the vampires away). You can either sauté this in a pan on the stovetop or sauté it on the grill if you have a pan with holes in it. It’s awesome cooked this way and grilling pans with holes in them can be found anywhere—even the drugstore.
Fire up the barbecue and after it is preheated (make sure it’s clean, too!), add the chicken and watch it as you cook it, adjusting the heat as need be. If you’re cooking your veggies on the grill too, you will want to start them at the same time. Otherwise, cook them on the stovetop after your chicken is cooked (keep the chicken warm by wrapping the platter in foil and keeping it in a cold oven just long enough till the squash is cooked).
Set your table, get your salad together (I use already prepared salad bags from the grocery store, add some pine nuts, chopped whatever veggies I have on hand and my own vinaigrette, tossed altogether, yum!).
That’s it! You can serve your chicken on individual plates or serve everything family style—big platters in the middle of the table.
Then pass the food around, join hands and say a prayer of thanksgiving for all this wonderful food (and your family sitting ‘round the table) and above all else, relish this time.
One day they will be grown and gone and you’ll remember these days with fondness.
Getting dinner on the table doesn’t have to be stressful, and Dinner Answers can be the key to your success. Learn more here.
One of my favorite pastimes is cooking with my children. Do you have kids? If you do, I want to heavily recommend that you teach them the joys of the kitchen while they’re still young and look up at you like a superhero that has all the answers. Teaching your children how to cook is more than a rite of passage; it’s just plain fun. To me, the kitchen is like a magical land that can create a special type of community and intimacy with the simple act of making a meal.
There are some little things you should look out for when you start to integrate your children into the cooking world: the basic do’s and don’ts.
DO assign simple tasks. When starting out, show them how to wash veggies, how to stir sauces to not let the sides burn, how to scramble eggs, etc.
DON’T let your child use a knife and cutting board without supervision and being taught proper technique.
DO give them a bit more responsibility as they show they understand. Show them basic vegetable cutting, but once you pass that knife from your hand to theirs, watch them like a hawk. (younger ones can use pumpkin carving knives safely, so save yours!)
DON’T let your child remove anything from the oven. But explain how it’s done as you do it; this way, when it’s time, they’ll be ready.
DO explain how when you’re using a pot or pan that you need to turn the handle to the side so it’s not sticking out so no one can run into it or accidentally knock it over.
DON’T allow them to handle meat until they’ve had a couple seasoned years under your training, but explain the safety issues and demonstrate thorough hand washing after you touch it.
ALWAYS let them sneak tastes of their labor in the kitchen. One of my favorite things about cooking is that I get to taste along the way, and I can guarantee that it’ll be a favorite among your children as well.
Well folks, there you have it! Show your children what a kitchen is and how to use it. My daughter is a college graduate now and she tells me all the time how surprised she is that hardly anyone her age knows how to cook. Regardless, your children are going to love learning this new skill! For them, it’s like finally getting to know the secret behind a magic trick. Have FUN!!
Hands up if you ever questioned your parents when they told you not to waste your food because there are people starving in Africa.
As a child this really doesn’t make a lick of sense. How can the food I don’t eat help a starving person? Are we actually going to ship our leftovers to them?
We all know as adults that this was our parents’ way of trying to encourage us not to waste our food. But the truth is, if our ancestors could see how much food we’re wasting day in and day out, they would be absolutely appalled. And you know what? It really, really makes me mad; it doesn’t have to be this way!
1.3 BILLION tons of food gets wasted per year by people from all over the world. That’s billion, with a B.
To put this all into perspective, that is roughly one third of the food this planet produces. ONE THIRD. Wasted. And this is happening while 925 million people on the planet are suffering from hunger.
This is just not right and it’s not doing our planet any good. Food disposal is hard on the environment and it costs money. Not only is good money wasted by throwing out food we paid for, but roughly a billion dollars is spent on getting rid of wasted food in the United States each year.
And while we can’t stop the world from being wasteful, we can put an end to wastefulness in our own homes. Here are a few ideas:
1. Make meal plan each and every week (all of our Dinner Answers menus come with a categorized shopping list) before you go grocery shopping. You’ll only buy what you need.
2. Avoid buying in bulk unless you know you will eat the food you buy, or unless you plan to donate some of that food to a food bank or soup kitchen
3. Serve smaller portions to your family so food isn’t scraped into the garbage
4. Plan leftovers from today’s dinner for tomorrow’s meals (I do this all the time!)
5. Check expiration dates of everything you buy, so you’re not putting your groceries directly in the garbage when you get home
6. Take a cue from the grocery stores and rotate the food in your fridge. Put newer produce towards the back and bring older food to the front so it doesn’t rot back there
7. Use your crisper drawers for items you eat a lot, like carrots and apples. It’s not called a crisper, not a rotter, so don’t put easier-to-forget-about items down there to languish where it will just turn to a nasty mess.
How do you try to prevent wasted food in your home?
I get asked all the time for ways to make dinner faster. I get that; we’re a microwave society. We want it quick, dirty and hassle-free. This is why convenience foods are so popular (and expensive and 99% of the time, full of chemicals and lacking nutrients).
Here are a couple of things that I do that helps me get dinner done quickly and efficiently:
1) Shear Strength. I use my kitchen shears as much as I use my knives. From snipping fresh herbs, to opening bags of frozen berries, to cutting up chicken, I have two pairs and one in always in the dishwasher!
2) Foiled Again. To prevent my celery from going limp and nasty (and listen, having to run out to the store to buy fresh celery in the middle of cooking is total buzz kill) I wrap it foil. It stays fresh for weeks this way!
3) Garlic Getaway. I use these little garlic ice cubes (Dorot is the brand) that I buy from Trader Joe’s to shortcut the fresh garlic pressing stuff. The garlic is better (in my opinion) than that of the jarred variety and it’s so easy and convenient, love them!
4) Spin on Spinach. I buy triple washed tubs of organic spinach at the warehouse store. I saute it for a side dish, add it to salads, make it the salad, stir it into soups, eggs and quiches. It’s amazing and versatile and cuts my prep work way down.
5) More Spin. I use a salad spinner for my lettuce to get it nice and dry. Wash it, throw it in the spinner, take it for a quick spin and voila, lettuce that’s washed, dried and ready to go for your salad!
These are just a few of my shortcuts. What about you? Do you have some tried and true ones you’d like to share?
Have you ever removed a tray of meat from the freezer only to find discoloration and ice crystals? If you’ve forgotten about a carton of ice cream in the freezer for any length of time, you may have opened it to find its surface covered in ice. Freezer burn, we tend to call it.
Freezing food is a great way to extend the life of our perishable items, but when you freeze foods, you stand the chance of having your food become freezer burnt.
Freezer burn presents itself as discoloration on the surface of frozen foods such as bread and meat. Ice crystals are another sign of freezer burn, which we can find in frozen produce and ice cream.
To understand freezer burn a bit better, it helps to know more about how the freezing process works. When food is frozen, most of the water content of that food is converted to ice. Some of the water, though, is converted directly to water vapor and is released from the food all together. This process is called sublimation.
This water loss causes food to become dehydrated over time, like ice cubes that eventually shrink when they’re left in the freezer. So, in essence, this process freeze dries parts of foods, resulting in freezer burn.
In air-tight containers (like ice cream), that water vapor forms frost on the insides of the container and/or on the surface of the food. In open containers or containers that aren’t perfectly sealed, the vapor that escapes actually leads to that build up of ice on the inside of non-frost-free freezers.
And what we’re left with is food with strange flavors that’s difficult to chew.
When you have freezer-burnt food on your hands, you should do your best to discard the areas that have been affected. But you know I just hate food waste, so let’s talk about how to prevent freezer burn all together.
Tips to prevent freezer burn
- Remove as much air as you can from packages you freeze food in. The closer your food is to its packaging, the less chance there is of it losing water.
- Don’t leave your food in the freezer longer than you have to. The longer your food is frozen, the greater the chance of it becoming freezer burnt.
- Set your freezer at the lowest setting that you can in order to help avoid sublimation from occurring, as it’s less likely at lower temperatures.
- Always use high quality zipper-style bags to freeze food, and try to wrap foods in a bag that fits just right.
- Don’t place hot food in the freezer. You risk increasing the temperature of your freezer, and some of your frozen foods may even start to thaw.
- Avoid opening the freezer door more than it needs to be opened. This will help keep the freezer temperature from fluctuating, which can lead to freezer burn.
Making meals out of the meat/poultry/fish and produce you buy as soon as you get them home from the grocery store is another way to ensure that your food doesn’t get wasted and forgotten about at the back of the freezer.
We have just the thing to keep your freezer full of great healthy meals so you never have to wonder “what’s for dinner”. Click here to learn more!
Do you remember that nursery rhyme about uncooperative Mary? It goes like this:
Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.
I don’t know what a cockle shell is and right now my garden is in need of a cleanup, but my pantry is also looking a little bleak. Let’s not be contrary and really get things cooking, shall we? As we get ready for Spring, we need to get down to brass tacks and start cleaning house… and the pantry for that matter!
How’s your pantry looking? Do you have 5 cans of tuna scattered about the cupboard instead of all stacked up together. Can you find cereal boxes here, there and everywhere? How about your staples, like flour, sugar, baking powder, cornstarch, etc.? Are they grouped together into a baking center or do you have to go on a pantry scavenger hunt to find them all?
Let’s do a little pantry perk-up, shall we? Set your timer for 15 minutes and start getting your dry goods in logical order. Like goes with like. You’ll want a shelf for the canned goods (and put the same thing all together, too). A big basket to hold your bags of dried beans, a smaller basket to hold envelopes of spice blends, mixes, etc. (look around the house, I bet you have what you need), and if you haven’t done it already, big containers (I like big glass jars) for your flour, sugars, oatmeal, etc. Putting dried goods like flour etc. into containers will keep the bugs out!
Getting your pantry together will help you get your meal planning in order, too. Don’t forget to declutter your pantry if necessary. Get rid of the stuff you don’t use (donate it to a food bank if it’s good, usable food) and watch your pantry take shape. I want to challenge you to make a meal out of something in there this week!
Here’s a wonderful easy dinner recipe (from one of our low-carb menus) to get you in the mood for a good pantry routing:
Heat 1/4 cup of the wine (or chicken broth) to boiling in a skillet. Cook chicken in wine, turning once, until brown. Remove chicken and keep warm.
Add garlic, onions, olive oil, Italian seasoning, bell peppers, olives and remaining wine (or broth) to skillet and heat till boiling. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add chicken back to the skillet, reducing heat to medium low. Cook 10 to 15 minutes until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
Per Serving: 212 Calories; 5g Fat; 27g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 66mg Cholesterol; 117mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat. Points: 4
LC SERVING SUGGESTION: Serve over cauli-rice alongside sauteed green beans. (To make cauli-rice trim cauliflower and cut into piece small enough to feed through food processor tube. Process cauliflower till it is grainy and resembles rice. Steam ‘rice’, and fluff with a fork.)
SERVING SUGGESTION: Add some brown rice instead of Calui-Rice.
VEGETARIANS: Skip the chicken and opt for a Boca Chikin patty or another veggie patty. Cooking time will be less.
KOSHER: None needed.
Now that your pantry is all perked up, let’s make a meal plan and shopping list and get it stocked up for your week!