Back to School

Somehow I blinked and the summer of 2018 has ended.  What a great summer it has been with so many days of sun and fun.  Now I need to prepare to return to a full work schedule and longer days.  I work all summer, so there’s no worries about coming back from an eight week break.  That long break, though I loved it, used to make it so hard for me to get back into a routine.  During the summer, the pace is definitely much easier and there is far less stress on me.  Mainly, I am planning for the upcoming year, organizing, learning and working normal hours.  What will be missed the most by me is having more time to workout in the morning without rushing to be at work super early and getting home before dark.  I’m also worried about keeping my nutrition clean once stress comes barreling my way again.

I’ve been testing out some easy, quick, nutritious recipes these past few weeks of summer to prepare for the return of my full schedule.  If I am to keep my nutrition in line, I need to have an arsenal of healthy and quick meals that I can get on my table in 30 minutes or less.   There are so many websites offering healthier versions of recipes and its been fun searching out new ones to try.  We’ve had some winners and some losers in the recipe category and I’m so thankful for my Plant Paradox community for their networking and sharing of recipe makeovers.

This week’s winner was a quick, easy shrimp recipe.  Shrimp is high in protein, about 20g for 3 ounces.  It is also very low in fat and carbohydrates, making it a nice weekly choice for lean protein.

Shrimp & Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients:

  • 15 pieces raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I like a little more)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Add the olive oil, red pepper flakes, smoked paprika and garlic to a bowl.
  2. Add shrimp to the bowl and toss to coat.
  3. Pour the shrimp into a skillet and sauté.  (I like cast iron)
  4. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Turn shrimp over.  Sauté  another 1-2 minutes, until pink.
  6. Squeeze juice from 1/2 lemon (1tbsp) into skillet and stir to evenly coat.  Cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
  7. Season with salt & pepper.
  8. Serve immediately over cauliflower rice.

I found a package of organic cauliflower rice that I steamed quickly and topped with a little garlic and oil.   The meal was delicious and the paprika gave the shrimp a beautiful color and smoky flavor. If smoky is not your thing, just eliminate the paprika.  It’s just as good without it. This meal from start to plate took about 15 minutes.6BEA921F-1231-4EC5-8F0E-A4198E52CE76.jpeg

 

Good luck to all school personnel returning to work this week.  With a little planning, we can and will maintain our healthy eating habits this year.  If you have a plan for the year ahead that you’d like to share, please leave me a message below and I’ll contact you.

 

 

 

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Homemade Revisited

As I sit here watching the morning news, I’m reminded of why I prefer to make my food from scratch.  This morning there are several recalls of food products.  Some are more disturbing than others and should be a reminder as to why it is important to have control over what goes into your food.  Apparently, there are golf ball pieces in packages of frozen hash browns, salmonella on chips and what the soup can says is not what was found inside.  These issues serve as a stark reminder of why taking back control over our food sources is critical.

I work long hours and totally understand the appeal of purchasing frozen foods for ease of cooking.  But when I hear of these types of situations, it increases my commitment to control as much as I can when it comes to my food.  Hash browns, for instance, are merely made from potatoes, onions and peppers.  Super easy to cook yourself and then freeze for later use.  Doing this would avoid the large production plants in which ready made versions come from, in which we wonder this morning about the quality control.  What else is in our food that we are totally unaware of!

Recently, I read about someone who found a bat inside a popular salad mix.  I would literally die if I opened my bag of salad and found a dead bat!  This morning, I’m hoping we all consider what we are buying for convenience that could possibly be replaced, like bagged salads, canned soups and frozen hash browns.  All of these items are easy enough to assemble at home to avoid mass production assembly lines.

Here are my suggestions for making this type of change to your food pantry.

Canning Food

Items like soup that come in cans are generally filled with sodium and lord knows what else.  Soup is such an easy meal to prepare at home, but not something you might have time for after a long day at work.  Luckily soup is an easy to cook ahead store meal.  You can purchase glass food storage jars and seal the soup for months in your pantry.  Or, you can place it in freezer safe storage containers and store in your freezer.  Making a large pot of soup on the weekend is super easy as it’s they kind of meal that can slow cook in the crockpot, or on the stove.  Once cooked, you divide the soup into several glass jars, seal and store.

The process of canning is fairly simple. You fill a clean jar with prepared food, apply the flat lid and the threaded ring to the jar and submerge the filled jar in boiling water.  The time for boiling depends on what you are canning and is the process that creates an airtight seal, keeping food safe for extended periods of time.  These are the jars I purchased when I was canning tomatoes.  This morning I went down the basement and brought them back up.  I plan to wash, sterilize and prepare for use again.

Ball Pint Regular Mouth Jars and Lids BPA Free, 16 oz, Set of 12

DIY Prepared Frozen Food

Open your freezer and look at what types of frozen foods you are purchasing.  Are there any, like the hash browns on recall, that you could possibly make yourself?  Hash browns are a perfect example of an easy to make and freeze food.  Cooking these at home and placing in freezer storage bags or containers when cooled give you homemade goodness ready to grab and heat.  I took stock of my freezer this morning and I have lots of frozen organic vegetables and fruit for use in smoothies.  I started purchasing them when I got tired of throwing out food that we didn’t eat fast enough.  I also have baggies with cut up banana and fresh blueberries.  This reminded me that I can purchase and freeze fresh vegetables to avoid waste.  I just need to invest in some extra freezer storage bags to place them in.  They may not store quite as long as the store brought variety, but I don’t need to store them long.

I have seen food storage machines at Costco in the past and am wondering if I should pick one up for freezing vegetables and fruits. I think this would help them maintain their crisp color and avoid any danger of freezer burn. This one looks affordable and might be an investment I make.

FoodSaver V2244 Vacuum Sealing System with Starter Kit

Thankfully, if I am the person putting the fruit and vegetables in the bag, I’d be completely sure there are no extra critters inside my bags!

Make Your Own Salad Bags

The reason most of us purchase ready made salad bags is convenience.  I’ve had many a morning where I didn’t bring salad to work because I didn’t have time to wash, chop and assemble it.  Food prep will avoid this, but once you wash salad it begins to go bad if you don’t eat it.  I used to have a salad spinner that dried the salad after washing.  I may have to dig that out of my basement as well.  This way I would wash it, spin it, assemble it and store it.  Purchasing the Romaine lettuce whole is also more cost effective.  I could purchase my lettuce, wash and inspect, dry and assemble for the week in separate containers.  The trims can be added as needed to ensure freshness.  Most of the trims are easy enough to grab and go.  This is the type of spinner I have and I think I’m going to see if it dries it enough to stay fresh for the week.

Westmark German Vegetable and Salad Spinner with Pouring Spout (Green)

I’m excited to get back to my routes and rethink some of my food preparation practices.  I wish I had the time to grow my vegetables again, but I know I can’t maintain the garden properly.  Making these simple changes will get me closer to that and hopefully avoid unknowingly eating items such as golf ball pieces in my food.

What are your thoughts on these recalls?  Are you as sickened as I am?  Will you give these types of suggestions a try?  If you do, let me know how it works out for you.

Thursday Tips & Tricks

Healthy living doesn’t have to be hard.  When we make it complicated, we are setting ourselves up for failure.  Let’s face it, most of us lead busy lifestyles and struggle to fit everything in as it is.  We need to find ways to make it easier to meet our goal to live healthier, or we may end up failing.  Every Thursday, I will share with you one tip, or trick I currently use to ensure that I keep my life simple.

I love to cook and want to eat healthy dinners, but I work a full time job that requires long hours.  I’ve had to learn some new tricks to ensure I get healthy food on my plate each night.  Realistically, I can’t walk in the door at 6:00 PM and start cooking a full meal as we would be eating dinner way too late.  I need quick, healthy, home cooked meals on my plate in 30 minutes or less.

I want to eat home cooked food each night, but usually arrive home hungry.  My meals need to be simple, quick and healthy because if they aren’t, I’m going to go down that rabbit hole of eating junk instead.  Gone are the days of ordering dinner in each night, or picking something up on my way home.  That only led to unwanted weight gain and feeling just plain lousy.

This week’s tip is to invest in a well made, easy to clean grill.  If you live in a climate that allows outdoor barbecuing all year round, lucky you!  If you don’t, and don’t mind standing outside in the freezing cold, or rain, more power to you.  If you’re like me and prefer to cook inside, you should invest in an easy to clean indoor grill.  This will become your most used kitchen tool, that will enable you to have a healthy dinner on your plate in 30 minutes or less.

I’ve tried so many different grills and the sticking point for me was always the clean up.  I don’t want to eat fast and then struggle to clean the mess.  I also don’t want something that spritzes up my kitchen, so prefer a closed grill.  I want something compact, preferably portable, that comes apart for cleaning.

I have settled on the Optigrill for many reasons.  First and foremost, the food tastes amazing and there is no more cutting into it to check it’s doneness.  The machine has an automatic setting that tells you when your food is ready.  No turning or bothering with it once it’s on the grill.  Second, the whole grill comes apart and goes right in the dishwasher.  No scrubbing at all and it comes out perfectly clean each time I use it.  Third, if I forget to take something out, I can use the frozen setting and cook without defrosting. Great for quick hamburgers or turkey burgers.  Finally, grilled vegetables or panini come out so good.

The possibilities for cooking on this grill, or any grill you own, are endless.  Our favorites are grilled chicken and salad, or quinoa, or spinach, etc.  Today, we had hamburger with lettuce, tomato and avocado and a side salad.  Easy and on the plate in under 15 minutes.  There’s also a fish setting that allows you to grill delicious tuna steak or salmon.  I’m not a huge fan of fish, but it does come perfect anytime I’ve tried it.  I’ve also never had a bad filet mignon grilled on it.  Just set it and watch the color coding for the finish you want.

For all of these reasons and to ensure I can cook dinner without relying on a microwave oven, my tip is to make sure you have a working grill ready to use in your home.   It may seem like an expensive investment, but I’ve had mine for 3 years and use it at least 4-5 nights a week to cook.  It was worth every penny and I’ve certainly saved money not ordering in so much anymore.  Here’s a link to see what the Optigrill looks like. (*I don’t work for Optigrill and was not paid to recommend it.)

T-fal GC722D53 1800W OptiGrill XL Stainless Steel Large Indoor Electric Grill with Removable and Dishwasher Safe Plates, Silver

What’s your tip for healthy eating during the week?  Please consider leaving a comment below.