Having a Gluten Free Holiday

Celiac disease is no joke. It’s an autoimmune condition that affects how your body reacts to gluten which is found in some grains. It can be a tough diet because many food products are made with a gluten containing grain or has gluten as an ingredient. I cannot overstate this…CELIAC DISEASE IS NOT A DIET FAD. Gluten free diets, because some individuals believe it is better for you, have been a fad for a few years now but I promise having Celiac disease is not the same. In fact if a person with Celiac disease eats gluten it can be detrimental to their health to the point of severe vitamin and mineral deficiency and even cancer. This is not to scare you but to shine light on how serious it is for people with this disease to remain gluten free for the rest of their lives.

This brings a whole new challenge when the holidays come around…or any time other people are making food and bringing it to share. Those with Celiac know exactly what I’m talking about and those of you who don’t have the disease, this is a good learning point because you may know someone who has it. You see, Celiac Sprue (as it’s formally called) is a serious condition that impacts the small intestine whenever someone with the disease eats gluten. Gluten is a protein found in some whole grains (like wheat, farro, rye, barley) that causes a severe reaction in people with Celiac. Gluten damages the small intestines which makes it unable to do its job; that is, absorb vitamins and minerals.

So what do you do, especially around the holidays, if you have Celiac disease or are cooking for someone who has it? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve been giving gluten free diet recommendation for many years and I’ve also asked the experts…those who have this disease and are able to give real life advice. Here’s what we have to say:

  1. Let people who are planning a party know that you do have Celiac disease. Many individuals want to accommodate guests as much as possible.
  2. Bring a dish that is gluten free and label it as such. Also bring a special utensil that is labeled. Let the host know how important it is that this dish not be combined with anything else and the utensil not to be used for anything else. Need dish ideas? Check out my Christmas Quinoa SaladLayered Taco Dip, and Spinach Kale and Artichoke Dip
  3. If you are the host, have color coded utensils or signs indicating if a food is gluten free. Let your guests know to look out for that and make sure they do not use utensils from other dishes.
  4. Cross contamination is a big deal. This means that gluten has been passed to a gluten free food by using the same knife, cutting board, unwashed hands or utensils. For instance: the host was slicing bread and then used the same knife and cutting board to slice cheese before washing. Gluten is now on the cheese. The person with Celiac thinks they’ve eaten gluten free and later that evening they become ill. Cheese was the culprit and they would have never guessed.
  5. If you have Celiac, don’t go to the party on an empty stomach just in case. Bring gluten free snacks with you as well.

img_5200

Celiac disease does not have to ruin your holiday fun and hosting someone with Celiac does not have to ruin your menu. Here are 10 naturally gluten free foods you can serve this holiday season!

  1. Fruits
  2. Veggies
  3. Cheese
  4. Nuts
  5. Potatoes (mashed and sweet)
  6. Corn and rice are naturally gluten free
  7. Meats (as long as they are not stuffed with bread stuffing)
  8. Gravy can be gluten free as long as cornstarch is used instead of flour
  9. Green bean casserole (made with gluten free mushroom soup)
  10. Gluten free stuffing (either a box [check the label] or homemade from GF bread)

img_0021

Baking or planning on indulging in some delicious cookies but don’t know where to find them? My good friend Jaemie has some tips and tricks she would like to share:

  1. Gluten free baking requires patience and practice. Baking with gluten free flour is not the same as baking with all purpose (wheat flour). Gluten gives baked goods (and things like bread, pizza dough, and pie crust) elasticity and chewiness. When you take that out it is very hard to replicate and replace!
  2. Jaemie recommends Krusteaz Gluten Free All Purpose flour because of it’s neutral taste and having similar texture to regular all purpose flour. Pamela’s Ultimate Baking Mix is a great substitute flour for baked goods like cookies because of its nutty flavor (uses almond so be careful if you have a nut allergy).
  3. If you’re not a baker but you love cookies Jaemie suggests: Mi-Del’s GF Candy Cane Cremes and Gingerbread Men, Goodie Girl Mint Slims, Trader Joes GF Candy Cane Joe Joes, and GF Cookie Tray from Cheryl’s Cookies.

Here are two GF cookie recipes to try this holiday season!

Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

Drop Sugar Cookies

Feel empowered to continue leading a normal life filled with holiday parties, delicious treats, and normal food all the while treating your body with the care it deserves. Have a wonderful holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

If you or someone you love has Celiac and need more information check out: The Celiac Support Association, National Institutes of Health, Celiac Disease Foundation, Beyond Celiac, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Christmas Quinoa

In the mountains of Western Pennsylvania it gets cold. I mean, really cold. This past weekend was no exception. It was cold, blustery, snowy, and icy. Did I mention that the day before was sunny and 70? At any rate, it’s good weather (the cold stuff) to have the church Thanksgiving dinner because it gets you in the mood for the warmth and comfort Thanksgiving brings. It is one of my very favorite holidays where friends and family can gather, talk, eat a meal, and enjoy one another. The time spent with loved ones is a treasure to be held and cared for. Do me a favor, don’t talk politics or other controversial topics…just be in the moment and enjoy the company of those around you.

At any rate, our church’s Thanksgiving dinner is a wonderful time of feasting, fun, and fellowship. Many bring a covered dish and the church provides turkey, ham, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. This year I decided to bring quinoa salad. I have a few favorite quinoa recipes in my holster and this may be one of the best! It is fresh and light while bringing in some holiday flavors.

img_0012

Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a whole grain packed with nutrients. It is best known for having tons of protein and even more than that it is a complete protein meaning it has all of the amino acids (what makes up protein) that you need! Cool huh?! Besides protein, quinoa also contains fiber, iron, omega-3’s, and many vitamins and minerals. It’s fairly flavorless unless toasted which helps it to pair well with most food. Because it is gluten free, you can substitute quinoa for pasta, barley, bulgur, or farro in other dishes.

This ancient grain is one of my favorites to make and as a bonus, it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. Warm or cold quinoa can be eaten warm with a meal or as a cold salad. Like this recipe, it goes well with fruit or can be part of a tangy or savory side dish.

One of the most important steps to this dish is super simple but adds so much flavor. Toasting the quinoa. I was told by a seasoned chef that you can toast any grain to bring out a nutty, more flavorful version of that grain. There are a few things you should know about toasting any grain; first you need to warm the pan over medium high heat. After the pan is warm simply add the grain, in our case quinoa. The grain will warm up and start to smell nutty. Quinoa will let you know when it’s toasting by hearing “pops”. Simply let it pop for a minute and then add broth or water (see instructions on the back), turn the heat on high, and allow the water to boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and let the quinoa cook and soak in all of the liquid which takes about 15-20 minutes.

img_0010 img_0008

The rest of the recipe is chopping, mixing, and pouring. Easy peasy and tastes amazing!

img_0018

Christmas Quinoa (keen-wah)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups red quinoa (if you can’t find red, white is fine)
  • 5 stalks celery chopped (cut up the leaves as well)
  • 8 green onions chopped (if you can’t find them use 1/2 red onion)
  • 1 cup parsley finely chopped (flat leaf or curly)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped dried cranberries

Lemon Poppy Seed Dressing (use this on everything…it’s sooo good!)

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup canola or olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons

img_0006

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Whisk together and set aside until the quinoa salad is ready. This marries all of the flavors together. Yum!
  2. Toast the quinoa. Place a large pan over medium high heat until the pan is warm (not hot). Place quinoa in warmed pan and wait until the quinoa starts popping. Stir continuously until the quinoa pops for a minute or it starts to smell nutty. Do not leave the quinoa during this point or you will burn it!
  3. Once the quinoa is popping and nutty add 4 cups of water, turn the heat to high, and allow the quinoa to boil. Once it starts boiling turn down the heat and let the quinoa simmer for 15-20 minutes until the quinoa soaks up the water. (follow the package directions minus the toasting and letting the water boil before putting the quinoa into it)
  4. Let the quinoa cool for a few minutes and then place in a large bowl. Add the celery, onions, parsley, walnuts, and cranberries.
  5. Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss lightly until the dressing is distributed evenly.
  6. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

img_0021    img_0022

NOTES:

  • This is definitely a good make ahead dish. You can make it ahead the day before and the flavors will marry and become irresistible!
  • You can make this salad with any number of grains including (but not limited to) brown rice, wild rice, barley, bulgur, wheat berries, and farro.
  • Nut allergy? Not to worry! Try sunflower seeds or shelled pumpkin seeds instead for an added crunch.
  • Like a little more dressing? Just double the batch and save excess for salads later on!

FOOD ALERTS: Contains nuts. Gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free.

Try it. Let me know how you like it or if you did something to make it your own!

The Nighttime Binge

It’s 9:00 at night, you have just put the kids to sleep and it’s finally quite. You’re able to sit down and mindlessly watch your favorite shows on T.V. Before you sit down you go out to the kitchen, grab some popcorn and now you’re ready to go. At first it is a smart choice and a healthy portion but then something happens. Perhaps you saw a commercial for a deep dish pizza, maybe you skipped lunch and that’s catching up to you, or worse…you’ve had a bad day.

Before we go on: if you feel you have a binge eating disorder PLEASE go get help. Check out the National Eating Disorder Association website on Binge Eating Disorders (BED) or the American Psychological Association AND talk to your doctor, counselor, or psychologist/psychiatrist.

Otherwise let’s go through some simple tips to avoid the nighttime binge so you can keep with your health and wellness goals!

Tip 1: Decide if you are truly hungry. Nighttime eating can be a multi-dimensional issue so breaking it down and asking yourself a few questions can help. The first and most important question is “Am I hungry?” If yes then pick a smart snack! If no, then go on to tip 2.

img_8872

Tip 2: If you’re not hungry, then why do you want to eat? That leads us to the next question to ask yourself. “What happened today that is making me want to eat when I’m not hungry?” Most of the time you had a “day”. One of those terrible, awful, no good, very bad days are 9 times out of 10 the reason people binge at night. S-T-R-E-S-S. Instead of finding a healthy outlet we resort to food but the problem is, the foods we binge on usually do not make us feel better and in fact can lead us down the guilt cycle which increases our stress. Many times “binge worthy foods” are also highly processed, have little to no nutritional value and are loaded with either sugar, fat, salt or a combination of the three.

Tip 3: Find something else to relieve that stress. Take a bath, read a book, knit, crochet, exercise, take a walk, pray, meditate, just do something other than waste calories on mindless eating (drinking too much alcohol is not an option either).

Tip 4: Keep “binge worthy food” out of the house. Hear me out…you don’t NEED ice cream, potato chips, cookies, cake, candy, chocolate, doritos, etc, etc, etc. You NEED nutrients that are not coming from any of the above for-mentioned foods. When you’re grocery shopping, don’t even go down those aisles…they aren’t for you. If the nuts, frozen vegetables, or other awesome foods are unfortunately placed in these areas, put your blinders on and go, otherwise steer clear.

Tip 5: It is actually ok to eat at night. In fact, I recommend eating every 3-4 hours so if you ate supper at 5:00 pm and you are physically hungry at 8:00 or 9:00 please eat! Limit yourself to 100-200 calories (see my snack article that was highlighted in tip 1) and choose a smart snack!

img_8868

Tip 6: Ask yourself one final question: “Is this food/Are these foods (whatever you want to eat) going to help me with my nutrition goals?” If the answer is yes, you’re probably going to eat a smart snack in a portion controlled environment. If the answer is “uhhh…ummmm…errrhhh…no” then really think about what you are wanting from your nutrition and goals.

I hope these tips were helpful to you. Eating too much at night is a problem for many people but we can combat that by stress reduction and asking ourselves those few questions.

Again, if you feel that you need help with a binge eating disorder (or any other eating disorder or disordered eating thoughts) please get help.

Souper Easy Wellness Soup

Lame title, I know but it truly is super easy!

It’s fall and where I live, the leaves are gorgeous! Vivid colors that pop out of the green landscape and the cool weather that makes you want to eat warm soup. Here’s a picture taken on a walk last week. Simply beautiful.

img_8778

Listen, eating well and homemade cooking does not have to be hard, time consuming, or tasteless. That’s the theme of this blog. I want to show you how to eat well, simply; without having to buy rare ingredients at a specialty store, recipes that take minutes, and taste delicious! This recipe is what I call a “dump” recipe. I dump all of the ingredients into the pot with very little prep time. Easy peasy!

I have spun this soup recipe many ways but I must admit this one may be my favorite. It’s vegan which means it is entirely animal product free! I wanted to do it in October because you could also call this anti-cancer soup or anti-inflammatory soup but wellness soup fits more peoples wants/needs.

You cannot get too many veggies. If I’m missing a vegetable that you usually use in a soup or stew, add it. If there are leftover veggies in your freezer or refrigerator and you want to use them, throw those kids into the pool! Same thing with herbs and spices…use what you have and what you think will taste good together. You can’t go wrong with veggie soup, add what moves you!

To quote my dear friend and fellow dietitian Heather Tressler “Baking is a science, cooking is an art” meaning that when you bake something you probably should follow the recipe or it may not turn out well. Cooking however, is an art meaning that it is up to interpretation. Add, subtract, make it your own piece of art!

Let’s get down to it because I know you want the recipe!

Amanda’s Wellness Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (or more up to you)
  • 1 medium chopped onion (shortcut: use frozen chopped onions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more if you want to really spice it up)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (surprise ingredient)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoons basil
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 64 oz vegetable broth
  • 32 oz frozen soup vegetables (microwave for 5 minutes in a glass bowl)
  • 7 oz frozen corn
  • 10 oz shredded cabbage (you can shred yourself (about 3 cups) or use already shredded
  • 7 oz can of mushrooms (or any type of mushroom you like)
  • 5 oz frozen chopped kale
  • 1, 32 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Heat a large stock pot over medium high heat, pour canola oil in and follow it up with garlic and onion. Allow the onion to cook until for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add black pepper, turmeric, cayenne pepper and balsamic vinegar and allow the vinegar to cook down slightly (about 2 minutes)
  3. Add bay leaves, basil, oregano, lentils, and quinoa. The pan will be fairly dry but that is ok! Allow the lentils and quinoa to toast for about 1 minute before pouring the veggie broth.
  4. Place the soup veggies, corn, cabbage, mushrooms, kale and diced tomatoes into the pot.
  5. Allow soup to cook down (I had mine in the pot all day on low/simmer) or put in a crock pot on low all day.
  6. It’s ready to go right after all of the veggies warm up but I like to let the flavors marry for a few hours.

5 Quick Nutrition Lessons (from this recipe)

  1. Frozen veggies are just as awesome as fresh. In fact when vegetables are not local/seasonal then frozen is actually better than fresh. After veggies are picked they begin losing antioxidants within hours. Frozen vegetables are picked and flash frozen soon after harvesting which saves those amazing antioxidants. So this winter go for frozen vegetables!
  2. Turmeric is amazing (as you notice I have it in almost all of my recipes). It doesn’t work as well by itself so you need to make sure that you are pairing it with black pepper, garlic, and/or ginger for the anti-inflammatory properties to come alive. It’s also not as effective in supplement form. Cook with it! Enjoy that subtle smoky flavor in most of your cooking!
  3. Herbs and spices help improve the flavor of food without having to add a ton of salt. I do add some salt (not a lot by most standards) and let people shake it on if they prefer. We use way too much salt as a society so sometimes it takes a while to get used to the flavor without a ton of it in our food. If you (or someone you cook for) has high blood pressure, congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney disease, and some other diseases you may have to cut back. Reduce the salt and increase those delicious herbs and spices!
  4. Lentils, quinoa, peas, and corn are used as protein in this dish. You don’t need meat in order to eat protein…at all. All of these are actually less expensive than meat but more nutrient rich. So eating well doesn’t have to cost more, especially when you use these plant sources as protein. This soup is a meal in itself…protein, starches/carbohydrates, and vegetables all wrapped up into one delicious dish!
  5. This is a great soup for cold and flu season as well. It has been shown that garlic and onions are natural antibacterial and antiviral foods. They can help your body fight off these nasty viruses and bacteria! Remember when mom made chicken soup for a cold? There’s something to be said about that especially if she used garlic and onion. Tomatoes are rich in vitamin C which is a building block for your immune system and cayenne pepper has also been shown to ward off illness.

img_8816

Basically you cannot go wrong with this soup! From chronic disease prevention to common colds this soup has you covered!

I had leftovers that I wasn’t able to eat so there will be delicious leftovers in a few week!

img_8831

I’d like to hear from you! What would you add to this soup to make it even more healthy and delicious?

 

Healthy Kitchen Must-Haves

Eating well requires meal preparation. That means I need to have quality foods in my pantry and the ability to prepare them. There is a list of food and kitchen items that are essential in my kitchen and I wanted to share. If you are new to the cooking world or maybe are wondering what a healthy kitchen could have to offer, here are some of my favorites.

Food Must-Haves (besides the typical foods on a grocery list…)

  1. Fats and oils. This is number one because they get a bad rap but these are essential for healthy living. From canola and olive oil to organic butter and vegan butter spreads these are a staple in my kitchen. The best oils include canola and olive but also include grape seed, avocado, and walnut oils. I like canola oil for its mild taste, high omega-3 content, high cooking point, and price tag. Grape seed oil is a close second but the price tag makes me shiver a little. It’s great for a special occasion or recipe. Olive oil is a power house in the heart health world packed with mono-unsaturated fatty acids. Great for finishing dishes like salads and pastas, not so great for cooking at high heat. Organic butter (or pasture raised/free range if I can find it) is an essential in my house. It works great at higher heats, wonderful for adding a pop of flavor to dishes, and doesn’t have the additives that some butter-like spreads have. Vegan butter spreads are also a staple in my house but mostly for buttering breads and throwing a little in steamed veggies.
  2. Herbs and spices. I cook with herbs and spices daily whether it goes into eggs for breakfast, salad dressing for my lunch, or any number of them flavoring dinners these are a staple. The top herbs I use are parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, and basil. My spices of choice are black pepper, turmeric, paprika, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger.
  3. Variety of vinegars. I. Love. Vinegar. Balsamic, white balsamic, red wine, white wine, apple cider, rice, champagne, the list can go on! I haven’t met a vinegar I didn’t like! I use vinegar daily. Mostly in salad dressings, marinades, and pops of flavor in sauces. There are specific vinegars I use depending on my mood and the dish. Apple cider is my most used. This is so versatile and so good for your body! Balsamic is more for sweet/savory dishes. Red wine is used a lot in Greek and Italian cuisine. Rice is a sweet vinegar that I like to add to salads and various Asian dishes. For a fancy vinaigrette dressing I’ll pull out the white balsamic, white wine, or champagne vinegar and add some fresh herbs!

Kitchen Must-Haves

  1. Sharp Knives. A good set (3) of sharp knives can be the difference between quick preparation and keeping all of your fingers and tedious cooking and stitches. For real you just need 3…a chefs knife, paring knife, serrated knife. They must be sharp, if not buy yourself a sharpener. Hand wash to keep sharp. You’ll thank me, I promise!
  2. Stainless steel pots and pans. Get rid of your non-stick stuff. As soon as it scratches the non-stick companies do not promise that it is safe anymore…take a look. Is it scratched? Then it’s probably not safe. Replace one pot at a time unless you have a budget for a new set of pots and pans. I have a variety of different brands of stainless steel pots/pans and I like them all for different reasons! It may not look fancy but I’m a simple kind of girl 🙂 Use healthy oils to cook with and if the pot gets burnt on the bottom (which it shouldn’t if you are paying attention while you cook) just use a bristled brush or a scour pad to clean.
  3. Wooden cutting board(s). Instead of the plastic stuff or the glass cutting boards that can make your sharp knives dull invest in some good wooden cutting boards. These do not dull knives and they stay a lot longer than plastic. Sure you can’t wash them in a dishwasher but a little soap and brush will get them clean quick. Side note: I do not cut meat. If you do just have 2 cutting boards an animal protein one and a plant one.

Those are the six items that I truly cannot live without in my kitchen. I build my healthy meals around these items every day!

Final thoughts: make sure you have some staples in your pantry and basic kitchen tools so that you have the ability to cook a variety of healthy meals for you and your family. Shop for discounts, head to a thrift store or yard sales for kitchen tools…I have found some great deals! I have a can opener that I got before graduate school at a yard sale and she’s still opening cans of beans for me 10 years later!

Challenge: think about the staples that you have in your pantry. Are they beneficial for your health?

Quick Family Dinners

I do not have children in school yet but as a stay at home mom with 2 babies and a preschooler I need quick dinners. Let’s be honest, all the moms out there, we are surviving! I had a goal when I first became a mom and that was to feed my children the best that I could as often as I could. You see, as a realistic dietitian, I know that sometimes a fast food meal is completely acceptable because we are surviving but I don’t want to give my kiddos fast food as a norm. I also cannot afford to spend hours in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals because I have 3 kids 4 and under. So what do I do? I cook quick and healthy. I thought I would share some tips for making quick and healthy family meals along with a few recipes.

  1. Set it and forget it! Slow cookers are incredible. I swear a working mom had to invent this thing. When I’m doing a slow cooker meal I put the meat and the marinade in the crock the night before and then throw the crock in the refrigerator until the morning. My most recent slow cooker recipe was chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, and a McCormick spice mix (mojito lime) made like the directions on the pack. It was superb! The spice mix was great and except for the corn syrup was all spices and salt. I served it with corn on the cob and creamy cucumbers (sour cream and vinegar…more on the vinegary side).
  2. You go grill! I love using the grill…actually I love making marinades for the meat and veggies that my husband takes and grills. I make a wonderful adobo pork tenderloin that gets grilled. I use the adobo sauce from the canned peppers, lime and orange juice, splash of red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, turmeric, some fresh herbs (whatever I’ve planted that season) and salt/pepper. I adapted my recipe from Eating Wells chipotle pork and I must say, since playing with the recipe I cannot give the precise measurements that I use but, wow…delicious every time! I would serve that with red skinned potatoes in olive oil and fresh herbs cooked on the grill and a delicious summer salad.
  3. Turn around turkey. Ground turkey is versatile. We add canned sloppy joe mix, taco seasoning (without hydrogenated oils), make turkey burgers and turkey meat loaf . I also add ground turkey to spaghetti sauce for a nice meat sauce and even do turkey meat balls. However you make turkey remember to incorporate whole grains and/or veggies to your meal to round it out.
  4. Fast cooking fish. Most fish cooks very quickly. Baked fish can be done in less than 30 minutes. Shrimp, mere minutes. Select only wild caught and sustainable. We’ll talk about more specifics on why in a later post but wild caught is better for the environment (and your body) and sustainably caught means we’ll have more fish in the future. In my usual meal planning holster I shoot for haddock, cod, tuna, salmon, and shrimp.
  5. Survival night. Yep we have a survival night. That can be anything from left overs to PB&J with cut up veggies or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be gourmet. Make sure your meal is balanced with proteins, grains/starches, and vegetables…even if that means it is a salad and sandwich night.

Final thoughts: make sure your quick and easy meals have a protein (animal or vegetarian), grain or starchy vegetable, and a non-starchy vegetable. Fill your plate with that non-starchy vegetable and check out my blog on having a balanced diet for more information on what that means!

Challenge: make a meal plan this week using recipes that are quick, easy, and healthy!

Healthy Kitchen Shortcuts

I have 3 kids, 4 and under. Don’t be alarmed, two of those are twins. My goal as a wife-mom-dietitian is to provide the best food I can for my family. That means making healthy, homemade meals in between diapers, spit up, and toddler problems.

Cooking dinner tonight I came up with this blog post. You can read about me in my bio section but I like to get as fresh and as local as possible. But let’s get real, sometimes we are looking for healthy AND quick. Taking shortcuts has been my go-to since having children.

Here are the 5 quick and healthy items I keep in my kitchen always:

  1. Minced garlic. Yep, I buy the garlic in the glass container and I LOVE IT! Almost everything I cook has garlic in it. Any time I need a clover or two I get in my refrigerator, grab a spoon and boom, it’s done! Fresh garlic is delicious but when I need a time saver (which is daily at this point) I go with it!
  2. Diced frozen onions. Similar to the garlic, I could grow my own onions, dice, and freeze them and someday I will. But right now I need diced onions without having onion juice all over my hands when the babies are screaming. Frozen diced onions it is! This only works if you’re cooking, if you are making a dish that isn’t cooked (summer salsa, salads, etc) then use fresh onions.
  3. Frozen veggies of all types. When I’m making vegetable soup in the winter I buy frozen. If I have any fresh then of course they go in the pot but frozen is so much better than fresh in the winter. All year long I keep frozen broccoli and cauliflower bulk bags in my freezer. Corn isn’t a veggie but that’s also a staple frozen food that we keep on hand.
  4. Lemon and lime juice concentrate. There’s nothing better than fresh lemons or limes but in a pinch, concentrate can be a recipe saver. You can use the concentrate in any recipe that calls for lemon or lime juice so it works well in fish and chicken dishes, salsa, sauces, and tea.
  5. Quick grains like quinoa, farro, and brown minute rice. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and farro (pronounced fare-oh) are whole grains packed with fiber, protein, and nutrients. All three of these power packed grains cook completely in about 15 minutes unlike regular brown rice or other grains that may take about an hour to cook. To flavor these up toast them in a dry pan first and then cook with vegetable or chicken broth or stock.

I’ve learned, after having twins, that sometimes shortcuts are A-OK and you have to be A-OK with the shortcuts. Cooking healthy doesn’t have to mean preparing a gourmet meal, using tons of ingredients or ingredients that you have to find at a specialty food store, or spending hours in the kitchen.

Final thoughts: We unfortunately do not live on a cooking show set where there are tons of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs/spices, and any ingredient we so desire. Sometimes we need shortcuts to make our lives easier especially when cooking for our family day in and day out. Use some shortcuts to make your life simpler!

Challenge – if you are overwhelmed with cooking and menu planning for your family, figure out which shortcuts would work best for you and run with it! Share your shortcuts with us!