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!!
By: Leanne Ely
Fresh mint is a common sight in the summertime and today you’re going to get a tip, a trick and a recipe featuring this pretty little leaf!
I have mint growing in my garden and let me tell you, when you plant mint, you have mint for life! Really. Mint can take over so you really have to be vigilant about keeping this plant in line.
But if you can manage a mint crop it’s well worth growing! (If you don’t have a green thumb, fresh mint is a relatively easily fresh herb to get your hands on.) Mint is quite high in Vitamin A and it also contains Vitamin C, iron and manganese.
There are many uses for mint leaves. While you see it most often used as a garnish, you can add mint leaves to your smoothies for a minty kick (can you say chocolate mint?!), make yourself a cup of peppermint tea, or even flavor your water with them!
Now, it’s time for your Trick
When you’re freezing a tray of ice cubes, try adding a mint leaf to each one for a pretty (and refreshing) way to keep your lemonade or cocktails cool!
If you wish to plant your own mint, I recommend planting it in a container. This is probably the best way to keep that mint under control.
And your Recipe
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (or more coconut milk)
2 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon cacao nibs
1 scoop Perfect Paleo Protein Mix (chocolate preferred for this recipe)
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner Fibermender (optional)
1 tablespoon Just Juiced Greens (optional)
In a blender, place coconut milk, water, mint leaves, cacao nibs, Saving Dinner all-in-one smoothie mix, Saving Dinner Fibermender and Saving Dinner Just Juiced Greens (optional); blend until smooth and enjoy! It’s ok to add a tad more milk of your choice, if a thinner smoothie is preferred.
Speaking of smoothies…I LOVE Perfect Paleo Protein–dairy free, creamy yumminess and anti-inflammatory to the 10th degree! Highly recommended!
By: Leanne Ely
As far as I’m concerned, basic kitchen skills are every bit as important to teach our children as are basic hygiene skills. We brush our teeth and wash our hands multiple times every day of our lives, and we also have to eat multiple times a day, every day of our lives. So, why is it that we don’t seem to put an emphasis on teaching our children basic kitchen skills at an early age?
My children were up at the counter helping me with age-appropriate tasks right from the time they were in diapers. I never had to worry that they wouldn’t know how to put a meal on the table when they were out on their own!
If you are among the thousands of folks who love our Saving Dinner freezer menus, I hope you’re using your prep as a teaching opportunity.
The way our freezer menus work (in case you’re not familiar) is that you do all of your prep at once so that you can cook your meals fresh from the freezer on those nights when you’re frazzled and tempted to order takeout.
Not only are these freezer menus a real life saver and an essential tool in the kitchen, in my opinion, but they are also an ideal way to get the kids involved in dinner prep. Depending on the age of the child, this could give you a bit of help and we all know that when kids have a hand in the meal, they are much more likely to eat it! If you’re tempted to chase the younger kids out of the kitchen because it creates more work, remind yourself that the teaching opportunity is worth it!
The following are the ways you can involve your children in freezer meal prep:
Have the kids help with the grocery list. Meal planning and grocery shopping are essential skills! Our freezer meals come with shopping lists, so go over them with your child before you head out to the market. Have them help you determine which items you already have on hand. When you’re at the store, show them why you’re choosing those darker avocados over the light green ones. Explain best before dates and why you buy certain items in bulk. Talk about budgeting and why you buy certain items frozen rather than fresh. Grocery shopping is a giant teaching opportunity, so don’t leave the kids home—take them along!
Make your child the sous chef. When you get home and are ready to do the meal assembly prep, while you handle the protein, let the kids set up the produce required for the recipes. Depending on age, this might be simple stuff like passing you two onions or selecting the right spices from the cupboard. If your children are of chopping age, let them do some of that prep while you supervise. If they aren’t old enough to master knife skills, they can stir spice mixes and help place the assembled meal into the plastic bag, sealing it for the freezer.
Have them do the labeling. Hand your child the marker and ask them to label and date the bag for you.
When it’s time to take that meal out of the freezer and cook it, get junior back in the kitchen! Go over the cooking ingredients together and see what you need to get from the store and what you have on hand. Not only does this teach cooking skills, but it also helps with literacy and math skills.
Then, show the kids how you safely thaw the meal (in a bowl of cold water), and let them help you prepare the side dish you’ll be serving alongside the meal. Kids are great at making salads!
If you have multiple children, put someone in charge of setting the table, someone in charge of clearing it, and make sure to enlist help with the dishes—preferably someone who didn’t help with the cooking!
I am so passionate about getting the family around the table together, and having everyone pitch in at dinner table is a fabulous way to let everyone have a stake in the meal you’ll be enjoying.
PS–We just released our first BRAND NEW Freezer Meals of the year! 6 amazing new menus and we have them on sale for over half off this week! Click here to learn more
By: Leanne Ely
You hear all the time that you should eat your fruits and vegetables. That they contain important minerals and vitamins essential for good health. So, you probably feel that you’re doing something good when you sit down to your daily salad and whatever other vegetables you can cram into yourself and/or your family members. And you are. Don’t get me wrong! But you might be surprised to know how nutritionally deficient much of the produce we have available to us really is today.
According to the American Food Pyramid, adults need roughly 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day for optimal health. But I personally feel that this number should be higher because I don’t believe that a couple cups of today’s produce can provide us with all of the minerals we need.
One study conducted by a research team out of the University of Texas discovered that six out of thirteen nutrients in a sampling of 43 different fruits and vegetables were significantly depleted between 1950 and 2000.
In 1950, broccoli contained an average of 12.9 milligrams of calcium per gram, but in 2003, broccoli was shown to contain only 4.4 milligrams of calcium.
The soil is depleted. Farm lands have become severely depleted of minerals. Even many organic farms have soil that has been over farmed to the point where the food that’s grown in that dirt is not as nutritionally dense as you might expect it to be.
The soil simply isn’t healthy anymore. With the GMOs, the pesticides and fungicides . . . we’re lucky if the fruits and vegetables that get harvested today have any nutrition in them at all by the time they get put on store shelves.
But there’s another thing.
Travel Time. Produce loses nutritional value at a steady rate after it’s been harvested. When you’re eating fruits and vegetables that have been shipped from across the country, how much nutritional value do you suppose it has by the time it reaches your table?
So how do you get all of the nutrition you need?
Here are a couple of ideas for you.
• Eat a lot of organically grown fruits and vegetables and consider supplementing with a daily multivitamin.
• Start growing your own food and ensure that the soil you use is properly nourished with organic compost matter and safe fertilizers.
• Preserve the nutrients that are in your produce by cooking them properly. Heat can destroy 30% or more of the nutrients in raw fruits and vegetables so don’t overcook them. Steam or saute your vegetables to prevent nutrient loss or, better yet, enjoy your produce raw. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. When you cook spinach, tomatoes and carrots (not overcooked into a pile of mush, mind you), you actually increase the amount of available antioxidants found in the foods in their raw state.
• Choose fresh or frozen over canned. Canned food has little nutritional value left after all of the processing it has undergone to get to you. Frozen food, however, is generally frozen immediately after being picked and it is possibly more nutritious than the food you get fresh at the grocery store if it’s been shipped to you from half way around the world, being exposed to all kinds of heat, light, air and who knows what!
So what’s the moral of the story?
Even if you think you’re eating enough produce, chances are you’re not. I’ve written articles in the past that will help you get more veggies into your diet. This might be a good time to reflect on one such article! Read it here.
By: Leanne Ely
It’s time once again for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe. Today you’ll learn a trick, a tip and you’ll get a great recipe to try it out with. Neat, huh?
Today’s focus is on: BANANAS
You’d have a difficult time finding a home in North America without a bunch of bananas sitting on the counter.
Bananas are harvested all year long from trees, where they grow on the banana plant in clusters of 50–150 other bananas.
Delicious, nutritious, and so darn versatile, all wrapped up in their own biodegradable wrapper, there’s a lot to love about this sweet and creamy fruit.
Did you know that bananas are so loaded with potassium that they can help you balance out a sodium overdose? If you’ve gorged on Chinese food or something very salty, eat a banana and you’ll find yourself all fixed up in no time. That’s because each cell in your body has a little sodium/potassium pump inside, and there’s enough potassium in a banana to make things right.
Besides potassium, bananas are high in manganese, fiber, biotin, copper and vitamins B6 and C.
I eat bananas every day, right out of hand or tossed into a smoothie. Don’t go so bananas over bananas that you go overboard, though! They are still high in sugar and should be enjoyed in moderation. One a day is fine.
Now, it’s time for your Trick:
When your bananas are getting too ripe for your liking, peel them and toss them in a freezer bag. Then, when you need a banana for your smoothie or a batch of banana bread, you have them at the ready!
If you’re hungry for a banana and the ones on your counter are still green, wrap them in a paper bag with an apple and they’ll ripen up quicker.
And your Recipe from our current 10 Day Blitz!
Strawberry Banana Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (or more coconut milk)
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 small banana, peeled
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1 scoop Saving Dinner Perfect Paleo Protein
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner Fibermender 2.0 (optional)
1 tablespoon Just Juiced Greens (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS: In a blender, add unsweetened coconut milk, water, strawberries, banana,
pineapple chunks, Saving Dinner Perfect Paleo Protein, Fibermender 2.0 (optional) and Just Juiced Greens (optional); blend until smooth and enjoy! For a thinner smoothie, add more unsweetened coconut milk.