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!!
Why is it the last thing to get cleaned in a kitchen is the inside of the refrigerator? I know that’s true for a lot of people; it certainly was for me!
The fridge was the last frontier for me in the kitchen. I could keep the kitchen clean, unload the dishwasher regularly, keep the floors up, the pantry reasonably organized. But the fridge? I would let it go. And then it would be a bear to deal with. I had a perfectionist attitude with my fridge—it was an all or nothing proposition. I would spend an hour or more cleaning every last nook and cranny. Tossing stuff left, right and center, cleaning the rubber gasket with a toothbrush, pulling everything out, disinfecting it and making the whole thing gleam. Honest, I could see that thing shine from my bedroom!
One day it dawned on me that I did not have to clean my fridge like that. I could do it one shelf at a time! I could keep things rotated and wiped down in as little as 2 minutes at a time. But the secret for making that happen was what I like to call Refrigerator Awareness. Cleaning the fridge does NOT need to be a project!
All that means is adding Refrigerator Awareness to your radar screen and don’t let that big, old appliance turn into that nasty, dreaded cleaning project! It truly does NOT have to be that way!
Oh and lest I forget. There is a TREMENDOUS bonus that comes from picking up the RA skill (Refrigerator Awareness). You save money. Gobs of it. Your food gets eaten, not shuttled to the back to develop into a science experiment. Your produce doesn’t develop slime, wilt or become fossilized. And, you may just find something in there you didn’t know you had that needs to be used up! Isn’t that just the coolest thing ever? (pardon the obvious pun!)
To recap: 2 minutes a day. That’s all. Let’s put an end to Project Refrigerator Clean-ups. I don’t know about you, but I’ve HAD it with those big jobs!
The same awareness goes for the freezer! Is yours cleaned up enough to handle some handy freezer meals?
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!
By: Leanne Ely
It’s time for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe! And in honor of this most ultimate summer squash, today we’re giving it the attention it deserves. Sound good?
Zucchinis are packed with beta-carotene, potassium and B vitamins. They also provide fiber and a bit of Vitamin C, but a large zucchini contains only 16 calories!
While zucchini can be used in muffin and loaf recipes, I prefer to eat it in its pure form, simply stir fried as a simple side dish. Oh you know what else is good? Grated zucchini sautéed in olive oil and a bit of garlic with salt and pepper. Absolutely delicious and almost rice-like in texture.
This is one versatile and delicious veggie!
Now, it’s time for your Trick:
If you don’t know what to do with all that zucchini in your garden, grate it up and put it in the freezer, sealed individually in one-cup servings.
Select small to medium sized zucchini if you’re eating them for flavor. The bigger guys start to lose their taste after awhile. They’re okay for purposes like zucchini bread, but they won’t do much for you in a stir fry.
And your Recipe from our new 21 Day Knock Out!
Fried Egg and Veggie Skillet
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 pound zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
4 large eggs
COOKING INSTRUCTIONS: In a very large skillet over medium high heat, melt half the coconut oil. Add onion, pepper, and zucchini and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir in thyme.
Move the veggies to the outer edges of the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Add the remaining coconut oil. Crack eggs into the center and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Flip eggs over and fry for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until eggs reach desired doneness.
Carefully scoop vegetables out and top with eggs. Season eggs with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
If you want more tasty recipes to help you stay on track and get ready for summer, join me on our new 21 Day Knock Out here!
by: Leanne Ely
Who says life isn’t a picnic? It can be if you know how to pack it! And there is nothing better than a picnic al fresco on a lovely late summer day, just you, your spouse and maybe a few little ones.
Keeping your picnic/outdoor-dining safe is a concern: food poisoning isn’t fun, so here are a few safety tips for packing it safe and healthy:
Not a Lot. In other words, don’t pack with leftovers in mind. Pack what you need so you don’t need to worry about the leftovers spoiling should you decide to have a long, lazy day. Or better yet, if you do make enough for leftovers, leave it at home in the fridge to have when you return.
Clean Scene. When you’re preparing your picnic, make sure you wash your hands before you start preparing the food and keep your cutting boards separate. It might not be a bad idea for us to all be a little more kosher and keep separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables.
Chill Out. Remember that foods cooked ahead need to be cooked in plenty of time to get thoroughly chilled in the refrigerator (so do the cooked stuff the night before). When you do pack it up, use an insulated cooler and plenty of ice packs to keep your food at 40 degrees. Food from the fridge should go immediately into the cooler.
Safety to Go. If you decide you want some take-out chicken or somethingelse prepared and all ready to go, make sure you eat it within two hours of picking it up. Otherwise, buy it the night before and thoroughly cool it down as per the step above.
Cooler Car. On the way to your picnic destination, make sure you keep your cooler in the car with you. Everything else can go in the trunk, but the cooler will get too hot in the trunk, compromising your food. The cooler will stay cooler in your air-conditioned car.
An Even Cooler Idea. Use a second cooler for the drinks. That way, the open and close action that the cooler gets from everyone fishing out their favorite drink every five minutes won’t cause your food to get warm. (I wish we could work that out with our home refrigerators!)
Toss the Sauce. And toss anything else left out for more than an hour, or in less time than that if it’s really hot outside.
No Doubt. If you are even questioning how long something has been left out or if it is any good, give it the old heave ho — it’s definitely not worth getting ill over!
Now that you understand the ground rules, you’re ready to pack away. Make sure to take plenty of bottled water to keep yourself hydrated — soft drinks are fun, but won’t keep you adequately hydrated. Also, some fresh fruit (anything but bananas — they just don’t travel too well) and some easy and packable veggies make for a well-balanced picnic. To make it easy, check out the produce section of your grocery store — there’s a veritable produce stand, washed, bagged and ready to go. Choose your favorites to nibble on to get your nutrition kicked up a couple of notches.
It wouldn’t be a picnic without some fabulous food — so here is a terrific picnic recipe for chicken — enjoy!
By: Leanne Ely
It seems like the more you do to feed your family properly, the harder it is to keep the grocery budget in check.
Using the crock cooker is a great way to stretch a dollar for several reasons.
• You can use tougher, less expensive cuts of meat
• Traditional crock cooker meals like chili and soup tend to go a long way
• The convenience of this appliance saves you from spending money on take out
• Crock cookers use less electricity than stoves
Today, I’m going to share some tips with you to help you save even more money with this beloved kitchen appliance.
Make your own stock. If you know me at all, you know I’m pretty big on making stock. With a slow cooker, you shouldn’t ever have to buy canned or boxed broth again. Simply save up bones (I keep one zipper bag for chicken bones and one for beef), trimmings and juices from your roasts and freeze them until you have enough to fill your crock pot about half full. When you have enough, put them in the crock pot, fill the crock 3/4 full with water and let it cook on LOW for 8 hours or so. Then, you can use this homemade broth in your crock cooker recipes and for other uses.
Cook more than you need. Buy a very large, inexpensive chuck roast. Even if it’s much more than your family needs—as long as it will fit in your crock pot, bring it home with you. Put it in the crock pot, fill the crock cooker half way with water (which I would do only for cheap cuts of meat), and let it cook on LOW for 8 hours. Portion the meat and use it throughout the week in lunches and dinners. You can even freeze some of the meat to take out later in the month.
Buy from the Clean 15 list. Even if you make an effort to buy organic whenever possible, you can save a little bit of money on your grocery bill. Use crock cooker recipes that call for ingredients from the Clean 15 instead of the Dirty Dozen list so you can buy the less expensive, conventionally grown option over organic. (You can learn more about the Clean 15 at ewg.org by the way.) Many Clean 15 items are great for slow cooking, including onions, sweet potatoes and cabbage.
If you’re coming up short on crock cooker meal inspiration, are you in luck!
We have a great promo going on right now on our Crock Cooker Classic and Paleo Menus. Find out more here!