Easy Tricks to Shortcut Your Cooking

Easy Tricks to Shortcut Your Cooking

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?

6 Hot Tips To Avoid Freezer Burn (and stop throwing away your $$)

6 Hot Tips To Avoid Freezer Burn (and stop throwing away your $$)

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Always use high quality zipper-style bags to freeze food, and try to wrap foods in a bag that fits just right.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!


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.

Off-The-Bus Zuppa Toscana

Off-The-Bus Zuppa Toscana

Hello hello! (Caroline speaking)


I asked our Facebook page a couple days ago if anyone would be interested in my Zuppa Toscana recipe, and there was a resounding “yes” – so here it is!

I like to call it “Off-The-Bus Zuppa Toscana” because (as some of you may know) myself, the hubs, and our two adorable husky pups, packed up in a little bus we call Henrietta and made an adventurous cross-country move! We found a dreamy little farm property to rent, but there were some kinks that needed to be fixed prior to us moving in, so our bus occupancy was extended another month (and then some).

While it was fun, and I love love love that we did it, I was ready for a house. Ready to settle in and have a real home again – kudos to those “van-lifers” out there, I just don’t think I could do it full time! One of the first things I made once I was back in a real kitchen was a huge vat of hearty and delicious Zuppa Toscana. I love it because it’s filling, and has potatoes, and a little cream, but it’s mostly broth based so it’s not too terribly rich (like a chowder would be).

Without further ado, here’s my preferred recipe!

Off-The-Bus Zuppa Toscana // serves 4-6 (give or take leftovers, depending on how often the fam goes for seconds)


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound spicy Italian sausage

1 large onion, chopped

2 pounds red potatoes, washed (peel off bruises or eyes, but I like leaving skin on for the most part) and sliced very thin

4 to 6 cups low sodium chicken broth (feel it out, it’s all up to how brothy you like it)

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups half and half

3 cups kale, chopped


In a large soup pot or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add sausage and use a potato masher to really ground it all up and cook evenly. Saute for 4 to 6 minutes, then drain any excess grease. Turn heat down to medium, add onion and cook for another 3 minutes, then add in potatoes, broth, and spices.

Bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to low and cook for 20 to 30 minutes (or until potatoes are fork tender). Stir in cream and kale, once kale has wilted some (just about 1 to 2 minutes) go ahead and serve!

What veggie can I not get enough of right now?

What veggie can I not get enough of right now?

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.

Your Tip:

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
Serves 4

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!

Top Tips for Grilled Veggies and Fruits

Top Tips for Grilled Veggies and Fruits

By: Leanne Ely


I shared some tips with you a couple weeks ago about grilling meats but there’s more to summer barbecue season than burgers and steaks!
grilling asparagus
Why turn on the stove to cook your veggies when you have a perfectly good hot grill already prepped? Never mind the fact that grilled veggies and fruits taste like something out of Heaven — if you know how to cook them properly!

Here are some of my best produce grilling tips:

Don’t use your veggie peeler. Don’t peel your vegetables before you grill them. Another reason why you need to buy organic produce! You’ll lose the nutrients and much of the flavor if you peel your veggies before they hit the grill. You’ll also get a smokier flavor if you leave the peels on. Remember the clean fifteen list and the dirty dozen when you’re trying to decide where to invest in organic produce.

Precook. Some hardier veggies need a bit of precooking to shorten the time they must spend on the grill. These types of vegetables would include: asparagus, broccoli, beets, artichokes, parsnips, carrots, winter squash and potatoes. Steam them or blanch them until they are only slightly tender, then pat them dry and cook them on the grill. That extra step will make sure the outside and inside of those sturdy veggies are cooked evenly. Vegetables like peppers, onions, eggplant, fennel, tomatoes and summer squash can be grilled raw.

Oil them. Rub a tiny little bit of olive oil (not extra virgin) or coconut oil on your veggies before you grill them. This will help prevent them from sticking to the grill, and it will also help keep them from drying out. Just a little bit because if there’s oil dripping from the food, you’ll experience flare ups.

Soak your fruits. Before grilling fruits, try drizzling them with honey or maple syrup, or soaking them in liquor. Talk about a flavor burst! Especially if you’ll be serving grilled pineapple or pears for dessert. Yes you can grill pears! You can also grill apples, watermelon and peaches. Reach for fruit that is firm and just barely ripe for your best options in fruit grilling.

Indirect heat. When grilling fruits and veggies, you want moderately hot coals or indirect heat. You may need to move them around throughout the cooking process to make sure they cook evenly.

Stick it to them. Skewers are great tools for grilling veggies. It’s tempting to make beautiful kabobs out of meat and veggies but if you want to ensure even cooking, skewer all the same type of veggie per skewer. Cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, chunks of onion and pineapple are all wonderful cooked on skewers.

Use packets. Some veggies don’t lend themselves well to skewers or grill baskets. Peas, beans, sliced peppers, etc. For these lovely foods, try making a packet out of tin foil and cook them that way. This is also a good way to cook potatoes, or to cook other veggies with a sauce or topping of some sort.

There you have it.

Have I missed anything? Do you have anything to add?