I helped a friend and in the process proved something important about managing my grocery budget. My good friend, humor columnist and author, Lori Duff, was in a pickle. She was neck deep in planning her son’s bar mitzvah. Like many other mom’s she also had to attend to the normal actions to keep her family on track while practicing law full time and making her writing deadlines. I’ve been in her shoes--not that exact pair but a similar one--and I know how uncomfortable they can be.
Like any friend would, I wanted to help. But I’m not an attorney so I couldn’t help her out in her law practice, and I’m not an event planner, so I couldn’t help with the bar mitzvah preparation. We live across a large metro area from each other, so I couldn’t realistically even help her out with shuttling kids around.
The only thing I could think to do for her was to take some of her family’s meal preparation off of her hands. So I offered to make her a week of meals and hand them off to her. Naturally she demurred, not wanting to inconvenience me, but I insisted. Heck, I can whip off a meal faster than a blog post. And I’ve gotten pretty fast at doing that!
So I flipped through the electronic pages of one of my touchscreen cookbooks--the one for busy moms--and I found 3 easy recipes that would be easy to double. Usually I suggest that busy people make nested or ensemble meals. That means making a second, third, or even fourth meal from one base meal. That way new flavors are introduced to keep from boring eaters’ taste buds. And lots of times I switch cuisines so that a meal that started out Italian may reincarnate as Asian inspired later in the week, and then again maybe as Mexican.
But Lori was in such a pinch that I didn’t think she had even the 10-20 minutes it may take to play around with leftovers. So I decided to just double three old favorites:
· Baked Rigatoni With Meatballs with a Caesar Salad and Ciabatta Bread
· Rosemary Chicken With Mushrooms, Brown Rice, and French Beans
· Sweet ‘N Spicy Chili with Cheddar Cheese and Ciabatta Bread
I planned to pack them up in covered foil pans with instructions to spoon servings onto plates and reheat in the microwave.
And then I got curious. Could I make an entire week of healthy and well-balanced dinners for a family of four for under $100, I wondered? (I figured there’d be more than six nights’ worth of food, and Lori confirmed that assumption, so I decided to just call it seven.) And if I could do that, how long would it really take me to make the food?
I carved out three consecutive hours in my Saturday schedule. Then I bought Lori’s groceries. The total bill was $ 84.49. A huge Caesar salad and two loaves of bread from Costco would add $14.00 to the tab, making a total cost of $98.49. Dividing that total by 7 showed that each night’s dinner cost $14.07, or $3.42 per person, per meal. Yes! Mark the first goal as achieved. Next I got to work on making the food. I set the stopwatch feature on my phone and timed myself cooking at a normal pace.
The chili takes the longest because it’s got the most ingredients in it, but mostly because it takes 2 full hours to cook on the stovetop. Once I had all of the ingredients in the pot, though, all I had to do was stir it occasionally. The Rigatoni also had to bake in the oven once assembled, so I made that next. Rosemary Chicken takes 20 minutes. The French Beans took 10 minutes more. I finished all 3 double meals in 2 hours and 43 minutes.
That means the family cook, whether it’s Mom, Dad, Grandma, or an adult or teen child could spend about 3 hours on a Saturday cooking meals for the entire week. Dividing the 163 minutes it took me to cook by 7 meals shows that each meal took an average of 23 minutes and 28 seconds to cook. Not bad for seven balanced, healthy, and delicious dinners.
Time and cost aside, it would be nice to know if the Duff family liked the food as much as I seem to like boasting about it. So I decided to ask them to find out. Here’s what Lori had to say:
“The truth is, I was so busy that if Colleen had dumped a few cans of Spaghetti-O’s in a pot for me it would have been helpful and welcomed. As it was, my family – even the picky eater – loved what we got. I liked the chili a lot – very different and unexpected flavors and textures stewed together in a big pot of yummy. My son loved the rosemary chicken. My daughter picked out everyone’s meatballs from the rigatoni and popped them in her mouth. My husband threatened to leave me and chase Colleen to the ends of the Earth. When I told him I had her cookbook on my phone, he quit packing.”
All in all, I’d say they liked the meals.
If you’d like to feed your family and realize the same kind of time and money savings, check out my YouTube channel and pick up one of my touchscreen cookbooks. Then figure out how to spend your savings!
If you like to pig out October is the month for you. Many of the world’s great cuisines have interesting pork dishes to recommend them. French jambon is used in lots of interesting ways. One of my favorite easy dishes from France is croque monsieur, which is kind of like a fancy cross between French toast and grilled cheese. Many Spanish tapas dishes are based on pork too. Tapas menus make for a fun way to taste lots of little bites of different flavors.
German cuisine contains many notable “schwein” dishes. Oktoberfest can be celebrated in a casual way with brats and beers or in a more “sit-down” fashion with sauerbraten. When made properly the pork is marinated for 2 days and the finished product melts in your mouth.
But if you don’t have the time or desire to deal with a lengthy prep period a quick and easy Asian-inspired stir fry can be the best way to get a little piggish this month. My Quick and Sticky Stir-Fried Orange Pork takes 20 minutes or less to make and yields a yummy and healthy meal on busy fall evenings. Make a double batch if you’d like a quick way to enjoy some leftovers later in the week. A 5-minute zap in the microwave is all it takes. Take a look at my quick how-to video:
And while you’re on my YouTube channel please help me out by giving my videos a “thumbs up” and take a minute to subscribe! New videos to save you time in the kitchen are landing there every week.
Apples and October go together like Twitter and hashtags. So it’s not surprising that October is National Apple month. My love of all things Apple is well known. I’ve written about my passion for Apple computer products and Apple records more than once. This year I got to celebrate National Apple month with my family at McCartney’s “Out There” concert making it an especially happy apple season for me.
But I really love just plain old apples, the fruit. If you haven’t tried my easy recipe for baked apple slices you should. They make wonderful toppings to meats or cake slices and are delicious as a stand-alone treat too.
Lately I’ve been into heirloom apples. Like heirloom roses and tomatoes, they are older or antique varieties that have not been hybridized. Their shapes, colors, and flavors tend to be more natural and less perfect than the few types traditionally available in American grocery stores. It’s nice to mix it up a little with these “new” flavors.
I didn’t get my hands on too many sweets when I was a kid. My mom never had many unhealthy snacks around and since my parents didn’t give allowances I had no source of income to buy candy. So when apple season came along each fall our house was full of fresh apples. I loved their crunchy sweetness. And when they’d been around awhile the luscious red orbs were peeled, pared and turned into homemade applesauce, which makes a wonderful side for pork dishes.
When I think about apples and October I also think about Halloween. As a kid I hated the healthy households that gave out apples instead of candy. Like I said, we had lots of those at home. And while I was terrified by the stories of awful people inserting razor blades and pins into the apples they gave to trick-or-treaters there was one good thing that came out of it--I noticed a drop in the number of houses giving out fruit the year after those stories came out.
My Dad worked for Kraft Foods in those days and he always brought home bags of their caramels to give to the kids who arrived on our front porch on Halloween. Thoughts of those two October treats have prompted me to try lots of apple and caramel combinations, like caramel apples on a stick. I’ve never had great success with those. And I’ve learned that lots of people can’t eat them anyway. Anyone with braces, permanent retainers, or crowns should probably eat their apples sliced.
So I came up with some yummy caramel (or other candied) apple slices that will work for people across most dental situations.
Candied Apple Slices
· 2 Apples, washed
· 2 T Fresh Lemon Juice
· 2 T Honey
· Cooking Spray
· 2 T Flour
· 1 tsp Nutmeg
· 4 Caramels, unwrapped, or 4 T Caramel syrup, or 2 T Heath Chips
· Preheat the oven to 375°.
· Slice off the top 1/4 of the apples, and about 1/8” off of their bottoms to make them level.
· Scoop out the core but leave 1/4” of the bottoms intact.
· Slice the apples lengthwise, down to 1/4” from the bottom and 1” apart around the entire base of each apple.
· Place the apples on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray.
· Fill apple centers with 1 or 2 caramels, (depending on apples’ size) or other filling listed above.
· Emulsify lemon juice and honey.
· Sprinkle each apple with half of the flour.
· Pour the honey and lemon mixture over the top of the two sliced apples.
· Sprinkle each with a little nutmeg.
· Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve on a platter.
· Pull slices away from apple base and eat.
If you like this recipe, please share it using the Facebook and Twitter buttons below, or pin it on Pinterest for your friends!
If you love pretzels you’re in luck. October is National Pretzel month, and pretzel companies are promoting their products with coupons. I did a Google search of “pretzel coupons October 2014” and found several deals. If you like to go to Wetzel’s Pretzels you can get a $1.00 off coupon by liking their Facebook Page. It’s good through October. RetailMeNot has some pretzel coupons, too, and I found some for Auntie Anne’s and several other restaurants and stores. Try doing a similar search and be sure to search coupons for your local supermarkets, too. Most of them have downloadable or printable coupon systems in place and they’re sure to have a pretzel sale this month.
Whether or not you find a bargain it’s hard not to like pretzels. They are delicious in every form. I love soft pretzels and crunchy pretzel sticks. The kind I used to be able to buy from a counter top tin in small, neighborhood stores when I was a kid. But my most favorite one is Snyder’s of Hanover’s Homestyle type. They’re deep, dark, and delicious. The espresso of pretzels. Since I love robust flavor I decided to try using these pretzels as meat breading a few years ago. And I got great reviews from taste testers and then readers of my recipes.
You can use any kind of pretzel you like, although it being Oktoberfest time and beer being extra rich in flavor, I recommend the Hanover’s Homestyle ones.
If you’re in a rush grab some great flavor by breading either chicken or pork cutlets. Put 4-6 oz of whole pretzels into a Ziploc bag. Set the bag onto a cutting board and pound it with a kitchen mallet to make coarse pretzel crumbs. Then simply spread some Dijon mustard onto both sides of your cutlets, put them into the bag of pretzel crumbs and shake until the cutlets are coated. Bake or sauté until done.
But if you’ve got some time try making my Pretzel-Coated Stuffed Chicken Breasts, the most succulent and flavorful chicken entrée you’ll ever taste. And if you want the full Oktoberfest effect, pair them with the scrumptious root vegetable medley in the picture, using this recipe:
Oktoberfest Vegetable Bake
· 1 Turnip, peeled and cubed
· 1 Carrot, peeled and cubed
· 1 Parsnip, peeled and cubed
· 1 Granny Smith Apple, cored and cubed (leave the skin intact)
· 1/2 Onion, coarsely chopped
· Olive Oil Cooking Spray
· 1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· 1 T Honey
· 1 T Fresh Lemon Juice
· 1 tsp Ground Thyme
· 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
· 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
· Salt and Pepper to taste
· Preheat oven to 400°.
· Coat a roasting pan or cookie sheet with cooking spray.
· Spread the onions across the pan bottom.
· Emulsify the oil, honey, lemon juice, and spices in a large mixing bowl.
· Put apple and vegetable cubes into the bowl and stir to coat.
· Pour over onions.
· Season with salt and pepper to taste.
· Bake in preheated oven about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables have a light crunch but the insides are soft.
· Serve with chicken or pork.
And for a quick and easy dumpling-esque side, try using premade gnocchi with my Autumn twist. Their gooey insides will be encased in a lightly crunchy shell.
· 16 oz pkg of Gnocchi (I like Gia Russa)
· 1 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· 1/2 C Chicken Broth
· 2 T Apple Cider
· Pinch of Ground Nutmeg
· Salt and Pepper to taste
· Cook gnocchi according to package directions.
· Mix broth and cider together.
· Heat oil in sauté pan over medium temperature.
· Add gnocchi and brown lightly on all sides, flipping quickly with a spatuala.
· Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
· Pour broth mixture over gnocchi and stir it all together. Let liquid thicken a bit and then serve with pretzel-coated meat, and Oktoberfest Vegetable Bake.
Enjoy a robust October meal as you celebrate National Pretzel Month.
Photo Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals
The first week of October is National Chili week and although the weather isn’t usually too chilly this time of year, any time is a great time to dig into this dish.
Chili can be enjoyed lots of different ways, but one of the oldest American versions is Chile con Carne, which means chili peppers with meat. Most current recipes for this dish include beans, tomato sauce, chili peppers or chili powder, and ground beef or cubes or strips of chuck. Back on the American frontier, settlers made a chili dish out of dried beef, dried chili peppers, a little suet, and salt. The ingredients were mashed together and made into dried bricks that could be stored and used throughout the winter. Yum, right? Or not!
Since I love chili, and I’m always playing around with different versions of it I was glad to learn that my hometown played a significant role in chili’s current culinary prominence. The 1893 Columbian Exposition hosted in Chicago featured a food stand serving San Antonio Chili. This style of the dish contained beans and was tasted by exposition visitors from around the globe.
Today loads of varieties of chili exist, and everyone seems to have their favorite. I make several types, depending upon whom I’m serving. Sometimes I use ground turkey to reduce calories, or leave out the meat altogether, as I did in my Sweet 'N Spicy Chili recipe from Easy Weekly Meals For Moms on The Go, featured below. I keep the fat content low in that version. But Coney Island Chili Dogs or Chili Cheese Fries may call to those who like to throw caloric caution to the winds.
Lately I’ve been playing around with a chili recipe that uses roasted red bell pepper meat in place of tomato sauce. The resulting purée imparts a slight sweetness to the chili that doesn’t cloy. Other fun ingredients to try in chili are onions, garlic, and mole sauce. When you’re in a hurry you can get mole’s slightly chocolaty flavor with a little unsweetened cocoa powder. And since chili freezes well it’s a great dish to make in large quantities for reheating and recycling during busy weeks, or freezing to use in subsequent ones. Frozen portions can be kept to one-dish size and pay homage to the old chili bricks used on the American frontier.
The nuts in this sweet and spicy dish provide protein and rich flavor, but you can add meat if you like. See the substitution note at the recipe bottom.
Sweet 'N Spicy Chili
· 1.5 Tbls extra virgin Olive Oil
· 1 C shelled, blanched Pistachios, coarsely chopped*
· 1/2 C blanched, raw Cashews
· 1 small Sweet Onion, chopped
· 2 Red Bell Peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
· 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
· 1 C Yellow Raisins
· 2 cloves Garlic, minced
· 3 C Tomato Puree
· 2 Tbls Chili Powder
· 2 Tbls Honey
· 1 tsp Red Pepper Powder
· 1 tsp Ground Cumin
· 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
· 1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
· 2 Tbls fresh Lemon Juice
· 2 C Water
· Salt and Pepper to taste
· Heat olive oil in Dutch oven over medium heat.
· Sauté onion, bell peppers, pistachios, and cashews about 5 minutes, until vegetables soften.
· Add raisins and garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.
· Blend in tomato puree and stir to coat well.
· Stir in honey and spices and blend thoroughly.
· Stir in lemon juice and allow mixture to bubble on stovetop. Then reduce heat.
· Simmer for 1 hour, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
· Add water after chili cooks 1 hour, and cook 1 hour longer.
· Serve hot with brown rice or tortilla chips.
Substitution: Carnivores can add 1 lb browned Ground Beef or Ground Turkey with the nuts, and double the tomato puree.
*If you must blanch nuts yourself to remove their skins retain the water, strain it, and use it when the recipe calls for adding water. This will add flavor to your chili.
What’s your favorite chili dish? Be sure to enjoy it this week and share your recipes with our readers. However you eat your chili, have a happy and satisfying National Chili Week!
Photo Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals
A never-ending stream of activities began with the annual return to school and will continue through our December holidays. It’s a challenging time of year to keep our engines running on healthy food. Using “stacked” meals, or meal ensembles is a great method for making two, three, four, or even five different meals out of one base meal. It makes food prep easy, and helps you use all your leftovers in ways that don’t repeat the same flavors all week long.
If you made my 20-minute meal, Rosemary Chicken With Mushrooms you’ve got a head start on another quick, easy, delicious, and healthy meal. You can make it with the leftovers from that dish, and have it on the table in 20 minutes. If you missed the Rosemary Chicken recipe, go back and watch the short How-To video and whip up a double batch for dinner tonight. Then, use this yummy risotto recipe later in the week.
Quick Chicken and Mushroom Risotto (Use Leftovers from Rosemary Chicken With Mushrooms)
· Leftover Brown (or mixed-brown) Rice (About 2 C)
· Leftover Mushrooms and Sauce (About 1-1.5 C)
· 1.5 C Chicken Broth
· Leftover Chicken Cutlets, sliced into 1" x ¼" pieces (About 1-1.5 C)
· 1 C Shaved Parmesan Cheese
· Salt and Pepper to taste
· Blend the rice, mushrooms, and sauce in a mixing bowl.
· Warm a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the rice mixture to the pan.
· Stir the mixture until it warms and the liquid is absorbed.
· Add 1/2 C chicken broth and continue stirring until liquid is absorbed.
· Add chicken slices and another 1/2 C of broth and continue stirring until liquid has been absorbed.
· Season with salt and pepper to taste.
· Add final 1/2 C broth and continue stirring until liquid has been absorbed.
· Add 1/2 C cheese and stir until cheese is melted throughout, binding the mixture together, to complete the quick risotto.
· Remove risotto to serving bowl, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 C cheese, and serve with crunchy green salad.
Keep your cooking quick and easy this season and enjoy the healthful benefits of nutritious meals and reduced stress.
Photo Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals
When school starts again and the streets grow quieter it may seem like life has slowed down for most people. In fact, that's when schedules crank up to full speed. Accomplishing life's basic demands gets harder to do.
Are you a working professional? Moving toward fourth quarter results can add extra hours onto your work week.
Are you a college student and new to cooking for yourself? It can be hard to find the time to source recipes let alone cook them!
And if you're the family chef you know that putting healthy food on to the table so it gets into your family's tummies can be a real challenge. Especially if you're also chauffeuring kids to and from their many extra-curriculars, running the family laundry, acting as the homework proctor, and like so many parents working a full or part-time job.
I can't take over your workload, car-pooling, or studying for you. But I can give you a delicious recipe that you can make in 20 minutes or less. It's healthy, it's loaded with nutrition, and if you double the batch you can make a great leftover dish of Chicken and Mushroom Risotto later in the week.
Watch this brief how-to video, and then make this delicious Rosemary Chicken dish.
Find a copy of the recipe here.
Photo and Video Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals
Why are Americans on a sprouts kick?
It’s simple. We’re a nation of faddists. From 1920’s beaver coats and twenty-three skidoo, to 1950’s hula-hoops, 1960’s lava lamps, 1970’s disco dancing, 1980’s Rubik’s cubes, 1990’s Pokeman cards, or twenty first century Crocs, we love things intensively for a short period of time and then put them down.
Fads are a part of our collective personality and they seep into every aspect of our lives including leisure, education, business, and even childrearing. With the attention span of fruit flies we flit from one craze to the next. And our national short memory allows us to revive fads and bring them back again, as in the case of the linebacker shoulder pads of 1940’s women’s power suits which reappeared in the 1980’s to prove that recycling is not always a good thing.
We embrace food faddism too. In the 1950’s and 60’s food fads concentrated on making our chores quicker and easier. So premade, powdered, and frozen foods were all the rage. Healthy properties have dominated our food trends in more recent decades, as baby boomers became the over-thirty pariahs they’d demonized and tried to stare down their mortality with food and lifestyle fountains of youth.
These days America is definitely on a sprouts kick. And that’s a good thing because sprouts are delicious and filled with good nutrition. So I fully embrace buying and eating them and using them to make yummy food. But, as with everything, I like to caution moderation. Don’t assign miraculous properties to sprouts. Eat them along with lots of other clean, fresh foods like preservative-free proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Check out some of the nutritional properties of sprouts here, along with a yummy sprout salad recipe, and then give the following delicious recipe a try. It’s a good way to have some fun with brown or other unprocessed rice, and a clever way to use rice leftovers while enjoying the health benefits of sprouts.
Brown Rice and Sprouts Salad
· 2 C Brown or Mixed Unprocessed Rice, cooked and cooled (Lundgren Countrywild or Jubilee mixes work well)
· 2 Scallions, cut into 1/8” slices
· 1/2 C Fresh Edamame, shelled
· 1/2 C Sunny Creek Farm Organic Crunchy Mix of Adzuki, Lentil, and Pea Sprouts
· 1/4 C Alfalfa and Radish Sprouts
· 1/4 C Clover Sprouts
· 1/4 C Broccoli Sprouts
· 1/3 C Sesame Ginger Dressing
· Toss rice, scallions, edamame, and all sprouts in a large mixing bowl until blended.
· Drizzle dressing over bowl ingredients and toss to coat.
· Serve as a salad entrée, or as a healthy and delicious side.
Sprout up a new food fad in your household by enjoying the fabulous flavor and good nutrition of this versatile dish!
Featured Image Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals
Do you ever think about our strange sounding month names when you write the date? What is a February, for example? With most things in our lives going digital, wouldn’t it just be easier to dispense with the names and use each month’s number? That's exactly what many of our month names were designed to do, and they come from their original places in the old Roman calendar. September is one of those. It came from the Latin word “septem” meaning seven because it was the seventh month prior to the acceptance of the Gregorian calendar.
Seven is an interesting number. We have 7 days in our week, seven notes on the musical scale, and seven rainbow colors. Geographically earth has seven continents and seas. There is much to recommend the number. So even though September is now our ninth month, I like to think of it in terms of seven.
So I’ve made a list of 7 hot food trends to be sure to try in September.
1,300 professional chefs and members of the American Culinary Federation were surveyed by the National Restaurant Association to rank the hottest food trends for 2014. Their results are extensive so I’ve culled top-ranked trends in seven categories to recommend here.
Start your engines with a spicy ethnic-inspired breakfast. Chorizo scrambled eggs can rev your engine on a cool autumn morning.
Kebobs and ethnic dips like tzatziki sauce and baba ghannouj are big this year. And luckily they go together! Find them in mom and pop and even chain-style Mediterranean restaurants, food trucks, and your local supermarkets.
Black (forbidden) rice packs a big nutritional punch. You can find it in specialty stores and some supermarkets, but it’s easiest to find in rice mixes like Lundberg’s Jubilee bags.
Heirloom apples are older or antique varieties that have not been hybridized. Their shapes, colors, and flavors tend to be more natural and less perfect than the few types traditionally available in American grocery stores. Find them at local farmers’ markets. Whole Foods and Sprouts have some heirlooms, and online sources such as Frieda’s, can be an apple bonanza.
Arctic Char is a fish from the trout family that is farm raised in Canada and Iceland. It’s flavorful enough to require little spicing and meaty enough to stand up to grilling without being chewy.
Hybrids rule the dessert realm this year. Cronuts™, a cross between croissants and donuts, marry the flaky texture of the pastry with the robust flavor of our most dunkable breakfast item.
Experimenting with the food of different cultures will put you right on trend this year. One of the hottest ethnic cuisines continues to be Peruvian. Eating it will expose you to several other types of food, too because it is a fusion cuisine. Peruvian food combines Spanish, Incan, Basque, African, Asian, French, and Italian flavors and ingredients. It features seafood, meats, tropical fruits, and unusual types of potatoes and grains.
Keep this list handy and pull it out when you’re scouting the grocery aisles or the restaurant reviews so you can stay on trend in September, seven ways.
Featured Image Courtesy of Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Are you looking forward to a little rest over the 3-day weekend? Labor Day is the closing bookend to our summer and a day off of work. But it’s a holiday that grew out of labor unrest. A labor day holiday was proposed by a man named Maguire. Or McGuire. We don’t know for sure because the matter of who had the idea first remains in dispute. But whether it was Peter McGuire of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, or Matthew Maguire of the International Association of Machinists we got a holiday out of his brainchild.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in New York City on September 5, 1882, according to the US Department of Labor. Its main feature was a large parade. After Chicago’s Haymarket Massacre in 1886, Grover Cleveland championed the holiday to help tamp down labor tempers. By 1894 23 states had already legislated a Labor Day holiday and it became a national holiday that year.
The first Labor Day set the example for 100 plus subsequent ones: A street parade to show the spirit of US laborers, speeches by notable local citizens, and festivals or picnics. Most large US cities (and countless smaller communities) continue this pattern. This year air shows, parades, music fests, and carnivals are among the holiday events of some of our metropolis’s.
And for dedicated shoppers, this is one of the largest sales weekends of the year. Which is especially handy for the areas of the country where school still starts after Labor Day.
For those who like to keep the picnic tradition alive, here are a few free recipes for traditional Labor Day:
But if you’re looking for a quick and easy main dish that’s low in calories, too, try my grilled salmon recipe.
Be sure to check out a few tips to having a successful picnic or backyard barbeque.
Whatever you do, relax and keep it easy in the original spirit of the day.
Photo Courtesy of debspoons / Freedigitalphotos.net
Have you ever gone on a diet to lose weight? If so you’re in good company. Most of us have tried a fad diet here or there to drop a few pounds. Keeping your weight within a healthy range, relative to your height and age, is a good idea. And there are certainly lots of diet options available that boast of quick results. But the most important ingredient to a healthy weight reduction program is patience.
Taking time to eat in a healthy and consistent way allows you to gradually melt pounds away without harming your body with too much or too little of particular foods or ingredients.
Here are a few tips to make your patience pay off with lasting results.
Know What You’re Eating
Always, always, always take the time to read food labels. A majority of prepared foods are loaded with unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients that add poundage while providing no nutritional benefit. Chief among these is high fructose corn syrup. It is an intense form of converted glucose that sweetens foods and can cause adverse side effects, especially when consumed in large quantities. When I started reading food labels I was shocked by how prevalent this additive is in the foods we buy.
Take Time to Prepare Clean Foods
The best way to avoid highly caloric and unwanted ingredients is to buy “clean” foods that don’t contain additives. Make your own marinades and use fresh herbs and spices to flavor food. Keep the fat content of your meats low, and eliminate butter with these healthier cooking ingredients.
Listen to Grandma
My grandmother used to remind my family and me to chew our food carefully. Slowing down the chewing process gives your brain time to register what your stomach has already taken in. Try to place a forkful of food into your mouth and then set the fork down. Chew and swallow that small portion before picking up your utensil to fill it again. You’ll find you eat much less by putting on the brakes. And if you can do it, set your silverware down when you’ve eaten half of your meal. Wait five minutes before eating more. You may find you are full enough and don’t need to eat the food remaining on your plate. This technique works especially well in restaurants where portions tend to be large and can provide you with tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.
Postpone Immediate Gratification
Eat a few mouthfuls of vegetables before you touch your bread or pasta. Filling up on complex carbs and proteins will cut down on your intake of simple carbs, which have little nutritional value. I like to eat a crunchy green salad as a first course. It satisfies my hunger and makes it easier to eat slowly.
Commit to the Long Haul
Drastic changes in weight can harm your body. The healthiest way to lose weight, and also the best way to keep it off, is to take your time. Don’t starve yourself! If you do your body will suffer cravings and quickly pack the pounds back on. Instead, change your eating habits to reduce your fat intake, eat more complex carbs, eat clean foods, and eliminate snacking. Allow yourself months, rather than days or weeks, to lose weight. By reducing gradually, your body will adjust to your downsizing as you go, and won’t fight to return you to your starting size.
Take your time when taking off weight for a healthy and permanent reduction.
Photo Courtesy of Serge Bertasius / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
There’s nothing worse than dorm food!
Except maybe the food you make for yourself when you’re suddenly in charge of cooking your own meals. And eating better food to help you save money and keep you healthy made your “Top 10 Reasons to Get a College Apartment” list, right?
Now that you’re in your own place you’d like to make eating good food a reality. And, if you’re like most students, you want the process to be easy.
If you’re about to purchase cookware, take a look at these 2 articles, which can help you buy what you need without breaking the bank:
· 15 Critical Tools For A“fore”dable Cooking
· Getting Onto Greens Without A Wedge
And check out some ways to save time and money on an ongoing basis, too.
Are you new to cooking? Unsure of how to plan meals? Want to use all of the food you buy? You may want to spend $3.99 to download a copy of the app-like touchscreen cookbook for college students.
Inside you’ll find info about staples for stocking your kitchen, how-to links to glossaries and technique demos, instruction and tips. You’ll also find a semester’s worth of weekly grocery lists, meal plans, and the recipes to cook them. You can download it to any smart device, but if you keep it in your phone it will be with you wherever you go.
Do you have roommates? It’s a good idea to talk about how you’ll handle food right from the get go. Do you want to share the expense and the workload of eating group meals? It can be nice to have company in the kitchen and at the table. But be sure you agree upon a budget and a task list so you avoid arguments about whose turn it is to cook and bickering over who ate more than his or her share of the lunchmeat!
If you find you want different types of food, or different amounts of it, try going it alone. Be sure to each label your food, though, so it is clear what belongs to whom.
Whichever system you decide to use, respect each other’s budgets and belongings and you’ll have a deliciously easy year.
Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles / Free Digital Photos
How much time do you think the average person spends in the grocery store? According to the Time Use Institute each of the 32 million adults who shop in the grocery store each day spends an average of 41 minutes there! That does not include travel time to and from the locale.
How much of your week do you like to dedicate to grocery shopping? I love to look at everything available, but don’t always have the time. And when I balanced the caregiving of young children, my job, and our family meal prep I had very little. For those with tight schedules, tight budgets, or little interest in perusing the supermarket shelves I offer seven heavenly ways you can save time and money in the supermarket.
1. Shop From a List. Using a list is the number one way to save you both time and money. If you stick to your list, you will go right to the items needed, and be less likely to buy unnecessary items. You’ll also be less likely to forget things you need, which will save you a return trip. If you don’t want to take the time to make a weekly menu plan so you can make a good list, check out samples of the ones in my touchscreen cookbooks.
2. Eat Before You Shop. Shopping with a full stomach will help you avoid impulse buying. I come home with way more than my household can eat when I shop hungry.
3. Fly Solo. Whenever possible leave your partner and children home when you shop. You’ll find far fewer unnecessary things are put into the cart (by kids) and taken out by overly thrifty spouses (like mine.) And you’ll realize time savings by breezing through the store without an entourage.
4. Buy Store Brands. Most store brands are actually made by the big name-brand producers of foods. Shoppers who buy the name brand products are paying more for the pretty package.
5. Buy in Bulk. You can save as much as 40% when you buy “family packs” of meats and veggies. Meats are especially easy to break into smaller sized packages and freeze for later use. But if you precook your veggies, you can freeze those and zap them for serving at a later date to save time, too.
6. Use Coupons. I used to hate smearing newsprint all over my hands to clip coupons. It cost me more in time than it was worth. But today most couponing is done electronically and from smart phones. Just be careful not to go coupon crazy. Stick to your grocery list and redeem coupons for items appearing there so you don’t stock pile things you don’t need or like just to save money.
7. Employ a One-Stop-Shopping Methodology. Taking time upfront to find a store that delivers bulk packaging, couponing, and store brands, along with the usual products you like to purchase, will save you down the line. The reduction in gasoline and time spent should outweigh the cost of running around town to redeem coupons. Be sure to evaluate the relative value of your various savings possibilities before you hop into the car.
Photo Courtesy of Easy Weekly Meals