Tuesday, January 26, 2016

8 Kitchen Tools to Free up your Time

(Part II of Meal Simplicity Blog Series)

Let's be honest for a second. I hate dinner time. I hate the anxiety that comes with trying to prep a meal with my littlest pushing me so I'll pick him up, my middle child bugging me for a snack and my oldest yelling at me for something I've done wrong in the past 6 years that gets conjured up when her low blood sugar combines with fatigue after a long school day. I hate dinner preparation. For some I could see it being a peaceful time, chopping vegetables while humming a sweet melody. This is not the case for the Moms I know. Or at least, not for me. Post-school is seriously witching hour. It sucks most days. So....dinner for me needs to be quick. I don't have time or patience to spend 45 minutes creating a meal that (let's be honest again) will really only be eaten and appreciated by me. So here's the conundrum. Spending as little time as possible in the kitchen while creating something healthy that has a high chance of being consumed by the little people. Priorities. I encounter this lots with my clients, and part of my solution is to invest in some time saving kitchen tools that serve to save time or effort. Ready? Let's dig in

1. Crockpot

There's a reason this is first on the list. Using a crockpot even once a week will change your life! Just throw a bunch of stuff in it, turn it on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours and voila! Nothing easier than that. I like to throw in a few chicken breasts and cover with my favourite BBQ sauce, simplest meal ever. No excuses. Or get creative. The other day I put in 1 cup of lentils, 1 cup of quinoa and 3 large chopped sweet potatoes, added some organic vegetable broth and some spices and called it a day. You don't need to get fancy and whatever you end up with can be used for a main dish, a side dish, taco filling, wrap filling, salad topper, stir fry addition, omelet filling...get creative! And the good news is that if it ends up tasting terrible, just throw in some more spices and you're good to go. Just like painting, you just can't go wrong! If you need some more ideas, feel free to visit my crockpot Pinterest board here

2. High Speed Blender

It all started about 5 years ago with an infomercial and my love affair had begun. The word Vitamix would send shivers down my spine and eventually my very attentive and loving husband surprised me with one. It's kind of embarassing how excited I was actually. Anyway...I use her it every day, at least once a day. Throw in whatever you'd like and make a smoothie packed with goodness. Add in spinach, hemp seed, chia seed, spirulina, flax oil, matcha, blackstrap molasses...the options are absolutely endless. Nut butters, fruits, cacao powder, avocado....isn't this fun? I actually created a smoothie e-book full of information, including about 15 recipes in it for my newsletter subscribers. If you are interested just head to the home page of this site and fill out the information on the right hand side of the page.
Alternatively, I throw a bunch of ingredients into the jug to make muffins. No pulling out a large mixer, and only 1 dish to clean. Soups are a great option too as most high speed blenders produce enough heat to create hot soups without needing to dirty another dish

3. Juicer

My daily juice is created in our Breville juicer and I am very fond of this appliance. It's as simple as it sounds - throw in whatever fruits or veggies you have on hand (or follow recipes if you like to be safe) and ta-da, fresh juice! Juicing has many health benefits - balance out blood ph levels, they're high in antioxidants which can quickly enter the blood, and depending on what you put into it, can improve digestive system functioning, ease nausea and reduce inflammation. Cheers to that!

4. Citrus Press

Okay this isn't one of the necessary tools (especially if you have a juicer) but it's fun. If I don't feel like taking apart and washing the many pieces of my juicer (ie - if I'm feeling lazy), I slice an orange or grapefruit in half and put it into the press. This leaves me only 3 parts to quickly clean up. I don't buy juice from the store as it's full of extra sugar and preservatives to keep it fresh on the shelf. Fresh squeezed tastes so much better and contains so many more nutrients. Kids love to help, and they learn to appreciated the taste of fresh juice rather than store bought

5. Rice Cooker

I was actually quite hesitant to purchase a rice cooker for the longest time. I figured "how difficult is it to cook some rice?" But let me tell you, it really does make a difference! You can throw in a cup or two of rice with some water or stock and start it up. Or even better, set a delay so it will start cooking later in the day. Once the rice is finished cooking it will stay warm. No more spilling over the edge of the pot. No more burning edges. No more monitoring the stove. I have yet to attempt other grains in it but that will be a future endeavor for sure

6. Food Chopper

I used to wince at those silly informercials promoting food choppers but after receiving one as a gift from my husband one year, I fell quickly in love. Because seriously - what takes the longest when making healthy food? Chopping up so many darn vegetables, that's what. While you can't chop a ton at once, it's still quicker than hand chopping everything. I especially love this for onions, which always seem to fall apart when I cut them up. I would suggest even taking an hour to chop up whatever vegetables you have and throw the mix into a container. You can use this to top a salad with, create a stir fry with or add to your omelet. So many ways to ensure you're getting your veggies in!

7. Garlic Press

My Mother in Law gave me a garlic press many years ago and it's a go-to staple. I've actually never chopped a garlic clove in my life but I envision it being terrible. All you do is place a clove inside the opening and push. The garlic squeezes out the other side and the clean up is simple. And perhaps this will inspire you to eat more garlic. It is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and boasts many benefits to your cardiovascular system, such as managing blood pressure. Eat up!

8. Dehydrator

This is another luxury item that's completely unnecessary but fun. We use it to make apple chips (just sliced apples) or banana chips (just sliced bananas) or by blending some fruit in your high speed blender and pouring it into the trays to make fruit leather. Kale chips are awesome too and while all these things can be made in an oven, the dehydrator cooks foods more evenly so you don't end up with burnt edges and gooey middles.

I hope you find that helpful. One of my goals as a Holistic Nutritionist is to help families eat healthier with as little effort as possible. I would love your feedback - which appliance(s) do you rely on to keep you and your family healthy?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Simple Meal Planning (part 1 of Meal Simplicity Blog Series)

One of the most common questions I get from my clients is "how can I make meal time easier?" When we are in a rush and hungry (or have kids crying, screaming, tugging at our leg), we reach for the easiest and quickest thing we can find. Which...let's be honest, is not usually the most nutritious choice. Sometimes we sacrifice health for sanity. But do we need to? No!!! Welcome to Part 1 of my Meal Simplicity blog series: Simple Meal Planning where I have included some easy to follow tips to claim your sanity back when it comes to meals

1. Create a weekly theme

This is the basic starting point I use with my clients. The simplest of the simple. I'm a visual person so here's what I mean:

Sundays: Take out or miscellaneous
Mondays: Taco night
Tuesdays: Soup & Wraps
Wednesdays: Pasta
Thursdays: DIY Pizza
Fridays: Casserole
Saturdays: Crock pot meal

This way you have a basic template for the week. Feel free to create your own themes based on your family's preferences. There are so many variations within each category and easy to make healthy. For example:

Taco Night:
You can use sprouted grain wraps or shells and lay out a bunch of ingredients for your family to choose from: chicken, peppers, cucumbers, shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole

Soups & Wraps
Soup options are totally endless. It's easy to make a huge batch of homemade soup in a crockpot using whatever leftovers you have and adding spices and stock. Use sprouted grain wraps and again lay out ingredients for your kids to choose from or pre-make their favourites: peanut butter and honey, chicken and cheese, tuna, egg salad (tip - use hummus instead of mayo)

I love using edamame or black bean noodles or even better yet use a spiralizer with zucchini to make zucchini (or sweet potato) noodles. Top with a healthy sauce (ie - one that has 5 or less ingredients) and sprinkle on some hemp seed. You can vary the toppings - mushrooms, lentil balls, chicken, shrimp, etc. Super simple

DIY Pizza
Make your own quick crust from cauliflower or sweet potato. Easier yet use a sprouted grain wrap. Let the kids spread on pizza sauce and ask which toppings they want - the more veggies the better!

This can be a veggie lasagna, a lentil or meat loaf, sweet potato casserole, even a quiche or tuna casserole. To make life easy, I like to go to Pinterest and type in "quick healthy casserole" to get some inspiration

Crock Pot
I like to do crock pot meals on Mondays, the day I know I'm the busiest. Simply throw a bunch of ingredients in a crock pot and turn on low for 8 hours or high for 4. The next blog in this series will be all crock pot recipes so I'll be rounding up some of my favourites

2. Use a tool
My favourite tool in this case is Plan To Eat Basically it's a site to collect your recipes and drag them into a monthly calendar. With a simple click your grocery list will appear, which you can bring with you via your mobile as the perfect check list. Here's a blog post and video I made with some of the benefits and how to use it. You can take advantage of a free 30 day trial to make sure it's a good fit for you

3. Write it all out on a calendar
First, find a super cute template you can use to fill in meals each week - like the 30 found here. We are drawn to visually appealing things, so get motivated however you can!

4. Collect recipes
Pinterest is the Queen for recipe collection. Create specific boards (like crockpot meals) to keep them all in one place. Here is my board for food (I clearly need to work on organization. Ideally I would have a board for healthy snacks, a separate one for healthy dinners, etc). Having recipes accessible all in one place makes it much easier to peruse through for inspiration

Hope you find those tips helpful. Let me know if you implement any of them!