The “I Don’t Like Cooking” Fix

The “I Don’t Like Cooking” Fix

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.

Never Let Your Kids Do These 3 Things in the Kitchen

Never Let Your Kids Do These 3 Things in the Kitchen

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!!

Don’t Be Intimidated!

Don’t Be Intimidated!

There is a true intimidation factor in cooking for some people—I get the emails from them so I know this is true. For me, having grown up in a home with parents who cooked, rarely eating out, I learned how to navigate my way in a kitchen early on.

It was (being honest here) a bit of surprise when I first started my website back in 2001 to learn that not everyone knew how to chop an onion. The cooking terms that I learned before I got my first Girl Scout badge (The Cooking badge naturally—I’ve got it taped to my bookcase, LOL!), have fallen by the wayside. Terms like dice, mince and julienne have turned into much simpler terms like chop, chop fine and chop into matchstick-sized pieces. But who cares, right? The deal is to get the cooking DONE, not worry about semantics.

Check out this testimonial we received from Heather:

Dear Leanne,

Okay, I finally decided to try your system.

Well, first I get the menu – looks good, but I’m worried, because spaghetti and sauce is about the most I do. Then I see the grocery list – there are things on there that I’ve never ever bought before!

I go to the grocery store with your list in hand. For a family of 6 my average grocery bill was always over $120/week. With Leanne’s list – I spent $67.52.

Now, I decide to prepare the meal. First thing that I discover, a fancy sounding name doesn’t mean hours of cooking. Second thing, it really only takes about 1/2 hour to cook the whole thing! Finally, I find out that my kids eat things that don’t include mounds of sugar.

Thank you for helping me save money and my family’s health!!

Heather

Me again—the trick is, as Heather wrote, was not to be intimidated! She took a tool (the menu) and dove in and did the work. She discovered that doing so saved her a ton of money, her sanity, and made her feel like a hero in her own home! Isn’t that what we all want?

Don’t be intimidated by cooking! I’ve said in a million times, this is not brain surgery and it is something everyone can do, I promise! If you need help, I’ve got it for you in every way imaginable from free daily newsletters, to recipes and tips, grocery lists, freezer cooking, you name it. Don’t lose hope and think you can’t do this thing called cooking. YES, you can!!

Ready to try Dinner Answers like Heather did?  We’ve got it right here for you.

7 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

7 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

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?

Back to Basics: Teaching Basic Table Manners to Children

Back to Basics: Teaching Basic Table Manners to Children

You know how I feel about making dinner an event in your home. I’m a firm believer in getting everyone around the table together for dinner to reconnect with each other, discuss the day’s events and to nourish our bodies with good home-cooked food.

A few weeks ago I talked about the importance of learning how to set a proper table. Today, I’m going to talk about something else that makes sitting down to a meal an enjoyable experience. Today we’re talking table manners.

My children were taught how to behave at the table from the time they were in their booster seats, so they naturally grew up knowing what to do and what not to do at the table.

This might not seem like a significant life skill to some people, but I believe that it is.

Think about it. How quickly can someone be turned off by a person chewing loudly with their mouth open in a formal dinner setting? It drives me up the wall when someone reaches over my plate to grab something at the table, rather than asking for me to pass it to them.

If you have children around your table, you have lots of time to train them in dinner table etiquette.

Teaching table manners to pre-schoolers.

It’s never too early to start teaching the basic stuff, like washing your hands before going to the table and sitting down on your chair to eat. Those things can start being drilled into a child as young as 2. Between then and kindergarten age, here are some other basic table manners you can start to teach:

• Say please and thank you
• No toys at the table
• Ask to be excused from the table
• Set your napkin in your lap and to use it when wiping your face
• Thank the person who cooked the meal
• Use utensils to eat
• Take small bites
• No running around or yelling during dinner

For children at the higher end of this age bracket, they can be taught to say nice things about the foods they like and to not make a fuss about the foods they don’t like.

Teaching table manners to grade-school children.

A child at this age should automatically wash their hands before sitting down at the table and they should already be sitting nicely at the table, and saying please and thank you. But now it’s time to teach some more adult table manners:

• Don’t slurp
• Use a knife and fork to cut food
• Chew with mouth closed
• Don’t reach over a fellow diner’s plate
• Wait until everyone is served before starting to eat

Include children in discussion around the table and make sure your child knows that you’re interested in hearing about their day.

When they have these manners down as children, it’s really just a matter of refining them through young adulthood.

Comment on their good manners when you find they’re using them. Your praise goes a long way.

Teenagers should already have these basic table manners down, but please make sure there’s a “no phones at the table” rule in place. Lead by example! Everyone should wait until dinner is over before returning to their mobile device.

What is your biggest dinner etiquette pet peeve? Come tell us on Facebook.

A Romantic Dinner at Home

A Romantic Dinner at Home

Date night doesn’t always have to mean finding a babysitter and making reservations at an expensive restaurant. That’s nice to do once in a while, but there’s no reason why you can’t have a date night in on a regular basis. Feed the kids early, put them to bed and prepare a romantic, candle-lit meal for just the two of you!

Set the mood

Part of the fun of going to a restaurant for a romantic dinner is the ambiance. Try to recreate that atmosphere at home by setting the table with some linens, flowers, candles, a nice set of dishes and beautiful glassware.

Sexy menu items

We’ve all heard that oysters are good for spicing things up, if you know what I’m saying, but they aren’t the only sexy foods out there.

• Asparagus is a natural aphrodisiac for men and women, so be sure to add some to the menu.
• Figs have been eaten to spice things up between couples for hundreds of years.
• Chiles are also known to turn things up a notch or two in the boudoir! The capsaicin in spicy foods raise the heart rate and trigger the release of endorphins.
• Chocolate-dipped strawberries. It’s cliche for a reason, people.

Dress for the occasion

Change out of the yoga pants and put on that killer little black dress and a sassy apron! Wear your heels while you’re cooking (or being cooked for!). Put on your favorite music, pour a glass of wine and have fun with it.

Reconnect with your honey over the chopping and peeling.

Serve your fancy meal in courses if you’d like to draw out the evening. Sit down to your salads while your main course cooks away. After your main course, clean the kitchen before serving dessert.

What you do after dessert is up to yourselves. 😉