I am firmly rooted in the “I don’t like beets” camp, but last week when I did my online grocery shop I decided it would be a good idea to add them to my cart. I’m not sure why I thought this was a good idea, but knew I wanted to bring home some beets and checked out before I could change my mind. A few days later, the boys are unpacking the groceries and I suddenly realized I have to use these things. I’m going to attribute this lapse in good sense to making healthier food choices and my body craving food that’s grown in the ground.
I dug out the rotary shredder attachment for my stand mixer last night so I could stop staring at these ugly vegetables sitting on my counter. The shredder made short work of these babies, peeled and chopped first, and now I have a good size supply of shredded beets. I still don’t like them.
Later today if I find the motivation, I’ll probably attempt some chocolate beet muffins. First, I need to finish the amazing smoothie I snuck some beets into. They add a deep red hue to a refreshing – and yes, slightly earthy – concoction that includes a lightly sweetened berry iced tea I made yesterday, frozen blueberries, a handful of fresh strawberries, the remains of a rhubarb compote made earlier in the week, and some chia seeds for extra goodness.
This blend truly tastes like summer in a cup – rich with balanced, fresh, healthy flavours. So while I am still firmly entrenched in the I don’t like beets camp if we’re talking pickled, roasted, or other classic takes – pureed with complimentary flavours into a frosty summertime drink? I can definitely say I don’t mind them.
Last night, we gave Chef’s Plate a try. Someone provided us with a coupon and I thought the discount might make the convenience worth it. We chose two meals for 4 people, all delivered in an insulated box with a ton of reusable ice packs right to our deck. The two meals we chose were Spicy Thai Peanut Pork Noodles and Tandoori Chicken Naan Wraps. We started with the noodles.
J. came into the kitchen after I started prep and quickly took over using the easy to follow directions card. The meal was extremely tasty, but not anything we couldn’t pull together using our own ingredients by the time you wash, chop, mix, and cook. I’m sure Just will add the recipe card to his growing collection. We enjoyed it. Kaleb (surprise, surprise) did not approve.
My thoughts on the meal as a whole was that a 4-person kit could easily have made 8 portions for our family. Served as instructed, each meal was a whopping 1120 calories and 80g of net carbs. Yikes. I trimmed back to make 6 portions and eliminated some of the oil and eggs called for and I believe my plate still came to approximately 746 calories and I was somewhere between well-sated to uncomfortably full. (Still yikes!). Divided into 8 portions, it’s slightly more manageable at approximately 550-560 calories per serving.
If I were to prepare this meal from scratch, some small substitutions would include switching out the chow mein noodles for a whole wheat or veggie noodle. I’d reduce the amount of peanuts on top, and I’d probably add in some extra veg. I’d also cut way back on the ground pork or – hear me out – eliminate it completely. It wasn’t extremely necessary from a taste point of view and with the eggs, nuts, and nut butter, the dish had plenty of protein for a single meal.
From a budget point of view, I didn’t find it overly ridiculous WITH THE COUPON – dinner and leftovers costing approx. $15 for the meal. And there are plenty of leftovers for three of us. Seven servings at just over $2 per plate is pretty hard to complain about. At full price, I’m not sure it would make the cut. Sure, not having to think about dinner was fantastic AND it was simple enough for a young chef to follow along. Plus, they delivered the box right to my door… but for slightly more than the actual cost of $35 a meal, I could feed the family with takeout from a local restaurant and not have to do any prep or cooking.
Final conclusion… if you want the home cooked experience without having to hit a grocery store or think about what’s for dinner, this might be worth it. I am going to prepare our second meal before my menu cut off for next week and see if it feeds us as amply as the noodles did. I may try to cut back to a 2 person menu next week and see if we can stretch that to accomodate all of us and cut back on calories and cost. There’s lots to consider, but for two easy meals this week at a discount, I think it was a win. Full price? I’m not sure it will be worth it for us.
TLDR: The food was tasty and fresh. Directions were easy to follow. Nothing that you couldn’t do yourself with some meal planning and a grocery list. Likely too rich (expensive) for a regular commitment from this family.
If you would like to check out Chef’s Plate for yourself and form your own opinions, I have a coupon code to make your first week a little more budget friendly. Copy and paste referral code HS-UQG4Z1KJR at www.chefsplate.com for $40 off your order, and a $40 credit for me. Sharing is caring. If you do select a box to try, let me know in the comments if you agree with my review.
I am NOT a breakfast person. I am NOT a morning person. One of the nice perks about being home is the chance to hit a snooze button or forget to set an alarm entirely. Then I can putter upon awakening, give my tummy time to catch up, and then indulge in breakfast of sorts. Unfortunately, I often decide breakfast isn’t worth the effort and make unwise choices later in the day.
I am making a concentrated mindful effort to improve this one aspect of my diet. As a whole, I’m trying to be more thoughtful of the food I’m eating, but I’m still going to choose a glass of grape juice and probably a cookie or granola bar if my sugar is crashing even if I’ve made other not-so-nutrient dense choices up to that point. Staying conscious and – you know, alive – will beat counting calories every time.
That said, I’ve been working with my health care team to align a number of (I hate using this word but it’s all I have at the moment) issues and find the balance I need to improve my overall health. Movement, mental health, medication, and diet all have a role to play without getting into the complexities of keeping this incredible, dynamic, important machine running.
Back to breakfast… I’ve been experimenting with a lot of smoothies. Some are better than others (don’t ask me about the one that curdled in my glass!) and I’ve been making small swaps for certain ingredients to see if they help me feel better. (i.e. less milk, more almond or coconut milk options; less animal product, more plants.) I’ve also been trying to eat 40 different plant-sourced foods in a week. It’s a fun challenge and helps keep me from getting into a rut… but I’m not beating myself up if I don’t make it, you know? Again… balance. Smoothies have been a great way to play up the plant aspect and finding what works without spiking my glucose levels or leaving me hungry has been interesting. Unfortunately, smoothies can start to feel a little… the same.
When I’m dreading the thought of another smoothie, I’ve been turning to overnight oats instead. I know this is not a groundbreaking discovery, but hear me out. I don’t love the cold oats, but I either a) pull up my big girl pants and eat them anyhow or b) give it a reheat in the microwave or stovetop. For extra nutrients, it’s easy to throw in some chia seeds, flax, or hemp hearts without greatly affecting the taste and if you don’t have a certain ingredient, it’s so versatile (like the smoothie) that you will rarely go wrong. I mean you CAN go wrong (and I have) but usually, at worst, it’s just a little lacklustre. I think I finally found my favourite flavours combination this morning: mixed berry and cardamom. It reminded me of fresh berry pie, but healthy!
This was my exact recipe, prepared last night. I found it to be a bit too filling this morning, so I reduced the oats a bit for tomorrow and eliminated sweetener altogether. (P.S. it was higher in carbs than I anticipated, BUT because it was mostly “good” carbs – I say that as a diabetic and yes, I know a carb is a carb is a carb – I found my calculated insulin dosage actually surpassed what I needed. Even though I was full, my blood sugar dropped a bit too fast and quite a bit lower than I was comfortable with. I’m talking 2.4 post-meal. Yikes! Tomorrow I’ll reduce my insulin to carb ratio and see if that helps.)
All the yummy details…
In a glass container with a lid, add 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries. Top with 1 tbsp chia seeds. Add 1/2 cup dry quick oats. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tbsp maple syrup, and a pinch of salt. Add 2 tbsp cultured coconut milk (yogurt substitute). Top with another 1/2 cup mixed berries. Add 1 cup almond milk, give or take, knowing the oats suck up all the liquid. I like mine really creamy and loose. Sprinkle with ground cardamom to taste (I think I used about a teaspoon, but really just eyeballed it.) Cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, dump into a bowl and mix (or mix in the jar) and eat – or – mix, heat, and eat. Seriously – it’s an awful lot like berry pie for breakfast, but a bit leaner, with protein and heart-healthy ingredients. Win. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo… I ate it too fast, proof in itself that it was just that delicious.
I’m going to make a confession today: I don’t enjoy midweek breakfast. When the kids are is school, it means we rely on cereal, or breakfast bars and fruit, or sometimes family habits make an ugly appearance, and just like Mom, they skip. Give me an hour or two post wakeup and I’m ready for something, but I have a really hard time eating when I first wake up.
Saturday mornings, on the other hand, are a smorgasbord of delight. Crepes with fresh berries, waffles with fresh berries, bacon and eggs, whatever – I enjoy putting in the time to make a heartier meal, mostly because it becomes brunch. We like to sleep in and I’m not even going to feel guilty. There were years when wake up was 5:30 a.m. or earlier with the oldest boy raring to go the minute his feet touched floor. He’s 14 now and sleeps in the basement. Some days I don’t see him until after noon.
With the change in our schedules we haven’t been up to race out and meet school buses. The kitchen has been a bit of a graze crazy zone and the kids still reach for a granola bar or yogurt before they pick carrots to snack on. One of the ways we find balance without the work of full meal prep has been smoothies… which are definitely not new, but a challenge as I find many carb heavy and they cause my blood sugars to spike like crazy.
My naturopath made some suggestions on easy smoothie changes and I’ve got to admit, they’ve been helpful. Less fruit and more veggies has been the big one… and now smoothies chock full of avocado, cauliflower, and spinach are the norm.
This morning we had a bacon and egg wrap just before noon but I knew we wouldn’t be having lunch so I wanted to amp up the vitamins and fibre to cut down on snacking. Kev and I enjoyed a mocha smoothie and when he tried it, he said it tasted like a chocolate shake “kinda”. It was a smooth and rich shake-like smoothie but it was full of good for you ingredients: almond milk, frozen cauliflower, frozen avocado, frozen banana, frozen spinach, cocoa powder, instant coffee, and maple syrup for a little bit of extra sweetness. We top it off with a dollop of whip cream to make it seem more decadent, but it’s a lower-carb, higher fibre substitute to any ice cream shoppe treat.
Does it taste just like a chocolate shake? Absolutely not. Does it take a bite out of any cravings for chocolaty goodness or coffee shop sugar-laden concoctions? Indeed it does and I can feel good (which leads to feeling better!) knowing that we’ve made some little changes to balance our diets.
What is your go-to smoothie recipe? I’ll admit that I’m a bigger fan of berry-based smoothies (still balanced with frozen veg) than my mocha concoction this morning, but one of my children consumes frozen fruit as if it’s ambrosia and even though my freezer stash is now empty again, I can’t really complain about that, can I? Besides, there’s nothing wrong with a little variety!
In the midst of vying for a valuable spot in the online ordering queue for our local grocery store and a few tears cried because my husband doesn’t quite know how to do buy groceries to my liking, meal planning has taken an adventurous turn. I’d usually post on a Monday, but lately my meal plan is constantly evolving and who even knows what day it is, anyhow? I’m still attempting to create a menu, but it’s hard to plan a week’s worth of meals when you have a 12 year old and 14 year old constantly grazing and grocery store roulette leaves you with some glaring holes on your grocery list.
I am limiting my time out in public significantly and that’s leaving Kevin to fetch and pick up for us. He’s amazing and doesn’t complain until I complain about the wrong deli meat he’s picked up. (I’ve been craving a good corned beef or smoked meat on rye for weeks… No, ham isn’t going to cut it!) We get our grocery spot and he’ll pop out once in awhile to fill in the gaps.
I’ve been getting online slots about two weeks out, but it’s always a surprise to see what doesn’t make the final cut. Some weeks it’s been meat, other times veggies, and never ever junk food. This past shop we didn’t get certain dairy, meat, pantry, or produce I had hoped for. This means meal times are reinvented or we look at alternate sources. The farm store near us still had flour and they had great (more expensive) cuts of meat from their farm to table butcher.
Tonight I finally had my Caesar salad with thanks to a local restauranteur who provided me with a bottle of dressing when she read I didn’t successfully get one in my last shop. She also kept us well-stocked for whipped cream. It’s the little things, people!
Over the last few weeks we’ve made substitutions and taken shortcuts, believing that “fed” is often more important than stressing over the “what.” We’re still looking at balance, but not sweating the fact that the pulled pork came prepared in a frozen box. (Hint: M&M Food Markets have great selections of prepared foods… including desserts!)
Some of our meals have included:
Chicken strips (frozen), caesar salad, cucumbers, and potato wedges (fresh)
Take out (when I’ve had just about enough!)
Breakfast for dinner (always a hit!)
Beef chili (made with stewing beef)
Beef chili “enchiladas”
Pulled pork tacos
Soup of different varieties (with bread and cheese)
A pot roast that no one liked
Spaghetti (which everyone liked but me)
I’ve been flexible with the grazing and I’ve been flexible with the dinner time complaints. (Someone didn’t eat his wedges tonight and you know what, that’s fine! I didn’t eat my cucumber.)
Overall, I don’t even think I’ve had to be too creative either. If you look at older meal plans, there’s nothing too different on the list. I’m sticking to things I know for the most part and finding some comfort in that. Switching out the odd meat or vegetable o make things work isnt huge sacrifice. There’s a bit of control in the kitchen with the ingredients I do have and in a world that I have very little control over right now, that works for me!
What’s cooking in your kitchen these days? Are you baking up a storm? Taking out your frustrations on your bread dough? Sticking to the classics or trying to keep things fresh and creative? Whatever you’re doing… stay healthy and have fun!
Being home the last little bit has transported me back to my coveted days as a SAHM. I’ll be honest, I’ve missed it. While the kids are older and come with a whole separate set of concerns now, my time is pretty much my own, even though I’m working remotely and our youngest really likes company.
I’ve puttered around the house. Dishes are done. The neverending pile of laundry is slowly dwindling and doesn’t seem to be growing at the same exponential rate as usual. I feel more rested (even though I also find myself a little tense and stressed by end of day – too much worry and social media. My bad!)
Thankfully, I’ve also spent more time in the kitchen. My boys haven’t magically become appreciative of home cooked meals. There are definitely still complaints around the dinner table. However, I’m able to try things and make things stretch and even laugh at my disappointments. I really, really do miss this.
On Monday night, I had a flattened Portuguese chicken available. I had picked it up at the grocery store in shrink wrap packaging and with a discount sticker a few weeks ago. Threw it in the freezer as a shortcut meal and refused to feel guilty about it. (Lies… shortcuts still tend to make me feel guilty. Something I know I have to figure out for myself.)
Monday, I made the chicken with roasted mini potatoes and a spinach salad. After dinner, I simmered the carcass into a beautiful, flavourful broth.
On Tuesday, I used some of the broth as the base for a quick and easy tomato soup – broth, a can of whole tomatoes, half a red onion, a couple handfuls of spinach, some almond milk for creaminess, a generous sprinkling of dried basil, and a medley of various spices. (But not cumin…. that fell out of the cupboard and spilled all over my floor last week. Note to self: remember to add cumin to your next shopping list!) It was a tasty comfort food dish that was simple to prepare if you didn’t count the hours the broth simmered the night before.
I’ll admit that Wednesday, I had been out (but still social distancing) and saw my husband (who ordered a huge lunch for us.) By the time dinner rolled around, I was still stuffed. It was a fend for yourself night that included nachos and cheese, waffles, grapes, cereal, etc. Not our healthiest shining moment.
Thursday, as I glanced in the fridge for lunch options, I saw my mason jar with leftover tomato soup. I put it on to simmer while I wrestled some bread dough into submission. (I don’t think I was the victor in this case. It never seemed to rise properly.)
To jazz it up, I added a handful of frozen corn with jalapeno (to the simmering soup, not the bread dough.) Topped it with cheese and some leftover tortilla chips to give it a new taste profile. I had one generous bowl of yumminess awaiting my delight! As I’m about to dig my spoon in, the youngest finds me. (Between Justin and Diesel, someone always knows when there is food available.)
“Oh, that looks good! Can I have a bowl?” and eagerly he wanders to the stove. Sorry kid – there’s none left but I’ll share with you. (Often, this approach means that I’m allowed to partake of my entire meal. He doesn’t like mom-germs and I get points for generosity – it backfired today.) Off he goes to grab a bowl and I begrudgingly kindly part with half my soup.
But he ate it and raved about how tasty it was and shared some genuine appreciation and comfort from the same pot that’s served us well multiple times this week. I don’t have the opportunities or time generally to feed my family like I ought, (excuses, excuses) so I’m enjoying these moments as blessings in disguise and taking the compliments as gold.
Am I a culinary goddess with unknown powers at my fingertips? Not a chance. Yesterday I made a smoothie for breakfast and it literally made me gag… as in my kid told me to run to the bathroom because he thought I was going to puke based on the wrenching noises as I tried to get it down. Also, that bread? It was one dismal tasty disaster.
My routine is looking a little different these days and while I’m not sleeping the day away, I may be sitting in my pajamas. Connection is all being done digitally (because I still don’t like the phone) and sometimes we go for a drive just to get out of the house. Streets are very quiet, many stores are closed, and life just feels uncertain.
One thing that remains is food. My boys seem to be constantly snacking and a trip to the grocery store is something I’m avoiding for health reasons. My husband has been the primary, list in hand shopper, but many times the needed items aren’t in stock yet because people still don’t understand that our food supply chain hasn’t shut down. Regardless, we’re spending time in the kitchen, cooking out of creativity, eating out of boredom, grazing a million times a day because food is there.
I’ll admit that the first reason I selected this title was the cover. The colours stood out and it piqued my interest. Reading more about the content intrigued me even more. Last night, after a meal that was less meal and more snack, I thought I’d dive in, not entirely sure what I’d be reading.
I’ll admit that the author’s name meant nothing to me, although in hindsight I’ve probably seen her one of the random times we’ve binged the Food Network. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read non-fiction but I just kept coming back to this title.
Wow. That’s all I cansay (which is obviously untrue as I’m going to say a lot more below.) I read this in one sitting and will be buying a copy to read again, to highlight, to make notes in. I’ll be recommending it to a ton of friends and family members who are about food or passionate about people. That’s how much it spoke to me. My hope is that the tagline reads as true for them by book’s end as it did for me: Discovering the Power of Food to Connect Us to God, One Another, and Ourselves
I’m not entirely sure I interpreted each chapter in the spirit it was given and there were a few statements that made me pause – not in a bad way, but more of a I need to think about this a bit longer. Each chapter includes an invitation at the end, drawing the reader into a real-life application of this refreshed viewpoint on food. I thought of them as little morsels of food for thought – and in all honesty – much of the book itself was food for thought.
Part autobiographical, part motivational inspiration, D’Arabian tackles subjects of acceptance, grief, success, value, identity, connection, and so much more. For such an easy-to-read book, it’s chock full of anecdotes and reflection on a variety of topics relevant to our relationship with food, society, and more. It’s not a follow this diet tome at all, but a gentle encouragement to reshape your connection with food and others.
Throughout, I found myself copying statements that aren’t new, but that hit me with their transparency and how I could relate to them. I felt as if I was having a kitchen conversation with a good natured, down to earth friend.
Overall, Tasting Grace provided a unique perspective into food and spirituality. It’s a gentle call to authenticity and connection, written in a captivating tone as it invites conversation, introspection, and most importantly, a call to accepting grace. I’ll be contemplating this further while I attempt the author’s Potato Bacon Torte.
My thanks to WaterBrook & Multnomah for the complimentary copy via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own.
This title is available through your favourite bookseller now. It published in September 2019. Go pick up a copy for yourself and let’s compare notes.
It’s late Tuesday evening and my boys don’t yet want to call it a night. Meanwhile, I’m in my jammies, already in bed because my body is craving rest and my mind is craving quiet. I know the next 4 or 5 days are going to be out of the ordinary and I’m taking advantage of the mundane moments while I can.
I put together a meal plan over the weekend and then put together a whole new one yesterday when the first one just wasn’t ticking all the boxes for me. There was a lot of prep involved in the very tasty options I selected the first time around and simplicity is the name of the game for us in order to not rely on takeout this week. I’m only here for a couple dinners, with busy, busy, busy days, and then the guys are doing the bachelor thing.
I’ve decided I enjoy simplicity. Quick and easy meals. Comfort food. Dinners that don’t require hours of prep but that also don’t come from a tinfoil tray in the freezer. Savoury soups. Fresh salads. A sandwich or stew or stirfry.
This evening’s menu called for sandwiches – fresh buns and a variety of deli meats, cheeses, veggies… but I wanted more. And by 4 pm my 12 year old was asking for dinner and he really wanted soup. We put together a quick and easy tortilla chicken soup. He filled up. I filled up. There’s plenty left for lunch and dinner tomorrow. Two meals out of the way although I’ll add a salad to my plate tomorrow night.
Thursday and Friday is up to the guys. They have a variety of choices. Breakfast for dinner, pasta, chicken and veggies. They’ll make do. Their meals may not end up as well-rounded as when I’m in charge, but I know they won’t be starving. Saturday, half of us are walking with The Coldest Night of the Year. Dinner should be provided after the walk. Sunday will be whatever piques my interest when I open the fridge.
Some weeks, fed and family time feels more important than what’s actually on the menu. Three out of four loved the soup tonight – it’s one of the meals that always tastes delicious even though I don’t follow a recipe and the seasonings and ingredients change each time. (Tonight the pot featured red beans, jalapenos, tomato, corn, and spinach.) A different three out of four enjoyed some sandwiches tonight. We all enjoyed eating. At home. In the comfort of each other’s company. And that’s what all this menu planning is about – a fed family grateful and fortunate to have enough to eat, even when it’s simple.
It’s been a long weekend – meh (not to be confused with a long weekend – yeah!) We are looking ahead at a week that is going to require some creative juggling again. You know what those look like.
Work will include helping to facilitate a busy visitation and funeral, sitting down to discuss wedding plans with an engaged couple, and some Annual General meeting prep plus all the usual… with one less day to do it all. Parenting this week will include accomodating teacher strikes, exams, another hospital visit with the youngest, and all the usual chauffering. A book review is due Tuesday as part of a publisher’s blog tour. Come back and read it!
In an effort to stress less, I’ve put my meal plan and grocery list together tonight, and, hopefully, included easy, no-muss meals. I’ve started marinating my chicken drumsticks for tomorrow’s dinner. Let me tell you… it’s going to be delicious. Now I just have to make sure I’m home from work on time to throw them in the oven and be out the door again to get the boys back to town for 6:30. It may not have been the best pick for tomorrow, but it’s going to be worth it, taste-wise.
On this week’s menu:
chicken braised in coconut milk, served with carrots, potatoes, side salad
creamy coconut chicken and rice soup (using leftovers)
a dinner out or takeout depending on timing after the visit to SickKids
cashew ginger stirfry with sweet potato spirals
grilled cheese and fresh veg, maybe soup
pesto bruschetta pasta
We may be busy this week, but as long as my energy remains, we’ll be eating fairly healthy, tasty meals. Wish us luck as we juggle the rest…
I know it’s Monday… but it feels like March and it’s only January and it feels like these days I’m not sure whether we’re coming or going. I’m trying to juggle clinic appointments for myself, business as usual, oldest son’s high school exam schedule, out of town early morning clinic appointments for the youngest, business as usual, and well all the other fun stuff with life. I’ve written a meal plan the last 3 weeks, than made it to the grocery store and thrown it out the window to some degree. We’re calling it flexibility.
Last week was an incredibly rough week. I wasn’t feeling well and there were mornings it was difficult to roll out of bed. One morning in particular, I made it as far as the shower, dropped a million things, spilled grape juice on myself (and the bed) and had enough of the twitchy eye and shakiness that I crawled back into bed and tried to find my normal. I slept most of the day and hid most of the evening and by daylight the next morning, felt like a human again. Many days last week resulted in a full day of work and a nap the minute I got home. It was rough, y’all. These are days that I can have the healthiest meal plan on the planet, but if I don’t have the energy to cook it, it doesn’t do me much good.
Our quick grocery run yesterday took that into account and had some easier, less prep meals. Better for the overall budget than take out, not so great for my food budget in general, and of course, a bit less healthy. However, it’s not everyday and I think a fed family is important. No judgement, please.
My first version of this week’s meal plan involved some great soups, lots of veggies and from scratch comfort cooking. My actual version involves a box of chicken wings (what a rip off) and some potato wedges from frozen. Meh.
Our menu for the week, in no particular order:
frozen chicken wings, potato wedges, and apple slices
some sort of soup and sandwich combo
pasta (using whatever remnants are in my pantry and whatever jar of sauce I can find.)
hot dogs – probably wrapped in Pillsbury dough because I found both hiding – one in the freezer, one in the back of the fridge.
burger date night… if the kids have their drop in program this week.
What are your cheat meals and do you feel guilty about them? Why do I feel so guilty about them? Food should not be something that triggers guilt.