Healthier Summer Cookout

This weekend is Memorial Day and that means the official kick off to summer is here! That means lots of time outside, cooking out, playing in the pool and enjoying a bonfire in the evening. I love summer time and there is so many fun activities to do. I wish that I was a teacher and able to take off for the summer, but sadly that is not the case so instead I cram all the summer time activities into the weeknights and weekends.

I was on WTHR-13 this past week talking about healthier cook outs and some tips to help make sure you have a safe and healthy cook out/picnic this weekend and then throughout the summer. I thought it would be great to share some of these tips and recommendation with you all.

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Creating a Safe and Healthy Cook Out

  1. Drink Wisely - During the summer, we enjoy nice cold beverages. It is important to be aware of what is in your favorite cool drink. If you drink alcohol there are calories in that beer (154 calories/can) or wine (125 calories/5oz) and if you prefer a mixed, sugary drink there are quite a few calories hidden in there as well (455 calories/8oz for a margarita). Work to minimize the number of calories you are getting from your drinks. Make sure that you are getting enough water. Your body is made up of 60% of water and staying hydrated during the summer time is extremely important. Carry a water bottle with you or have a container of water with you at your desk throughout the day.

  2. Pick Fresh Foods - The summer time is when most fruits/vegetables are in season. That means that you can purchase fresh produce at a much cheaper price compared with in the winter time. Stock up on these nutritiously dense fruits and vegetables throughout the summer. These produce items are also low in calories and high in vitamins/minerals which helps keep your body functioning well. You can get these fresh items from your local grocery store or Farmer’s Market. You can even grow them in your backyard. That is a great way to incorporate exercise, saving money and learning where your food comes from! Plus, grilling fruits and vegetables is a fun way to enjoy more of these items at your next cookout.

  3. Check Temperatures - Make sure that you have a thermometer for checking your meat that you are grilling. Under cooking meat and then keeping it in the temperature danger zone is one of the easiest ways to create a great environment for food borne illnesses. The temperature danger zone is between 40-140 degrees F. This is the ideal zone for bacteria to grow and multiple. That is why it is important to get your chicken up to 165 degrees F, ground beef up to 160 degrees F and pork up to 145 degrees F. After grilling meat, make sure that it is eaten quickly or only stays at room temperature for 2 hours. If you know you are going to be out at a campsite or a park, bring a cooler with ice to help cool food down and keep it cold (<40 degrees F) to prevent bacteria growth. Keep cold items out for 2 hours and or only 1 hour if it is >90 degrees F outside. Keeping food safe will help to make your cookout more enjoy and prevent anyone from getting sick.

  4. Enjoy Snack Foods in Moderation - It is easy to fill your plate with those delicious snack foods that we bring to cookouts – the chips, dip, cookies and mayo heavy side salads. These can be great traditional cook out foods, but just make sure that you are enjoying them in moderation, keeping them at safe temperatures and then fill up on plenty nutritious fruits and vegetables. We also tend to enjoy grilling processed meats at cookouts (hot dogs, brats or even frozen hamburgers). These can contain lots of added salt and preservatives. If you are trying to follow a heart healthy diet, make sure that you are aware of what is in these food items and limit your consumption of them. Pick 1 hot dog instead of two and then a small handful of chips and choose seconds of the fruits/vegetables.

Hopefully you all have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend and enjoy the extra time with family and friends. If you are in Indianapolis and going to the race, have fun and hopefully it isn’t too wet for everyone.

 

Emptying Out Your Pantry

It has been a little while since I have posted about budgeting and saving money. I think the last post I did on that topic was back in July of 2018 - to see that post CLICK HERE. Since then we have been able to work towards growing our “rainy day” fund and trying not to dip into savings for any regular expenses. We did have some car repairs in the last half of 2018 for my 2008 Subaru Outback, which was stressful, but that was the major unexpected bill in 2018. We also were anticipating the arrival of baby #2 and trying to make sure we had money saved for those hospital bills. Having a baby is definitely expensive, but thankfully we changed to Chas’ insurance and that helped to decrease the total amount of the bill that we are responsible for after the delivery. We wanted to make sure we were prepared for those anticipated bills.

We started using an budgeting app on our phones - YNAB which stands for You Need A Budget, which is the truth. We needed a better way for us to own the purchases we were making and then work towards some financial goals that we have for ourselves. This app has been fantastic for us! It does cost money for the year, but I know we have saved that money we spent on the app in this first month of using it alone. Both Chas and myself are stubborn and determined so when it comes to seeing those budgeted numbers and trying to stick to them has kind of become a sort of game/challenge.

One of the areas of our budget is grocery items. This excludes any type of household items (cleaning supplies, paper towels, dish soap, etc) and then excludes alcohol as well. We use YNAB for the whole month of April and sure enough we ended up running close to out of budgeted money for food. It was our goal over that last week to eat the food that we had in our pantry, refrigerator and freezer. I am not sure if you have tried to eat ALL the food items that you have tucked away, but it can be a challenge. I managed to find the ramen noodles that were hidden in the way back of the pantry. We ate all the bread, even the heels and then to finish off the week we had waffles for dinner and finished the frozen breakfast sausage that was in the freezer. We cleaned out the refrigerator produce items and had some fruit left, but ate all the veggies but one head of iceberg lettuce. I found a container of maple syrup from a family member that was tucked away as well and we used that instead of purchasing more maple syrup. If you haven’t cleared out your pantry, refrigerator or freezer in awhile I encourage you to give it a try. Work to pull out items that have gotten shoved to the back, check expiration dates, throw out things that have gone bad and eat up some of those food items that you have forgotten you even had.

I found some statistics from The Swag and I just had to share them: Did you know American’s throw out $165 billion of food per year? 40% of food in America is wasted each year. Each year, every American throws out $2,200 worth of food and that is about 300 lbs of food.

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Using up the food that your currently have in your pantry is a great way to to economically stick with a budget and to ultimately be a food steward of the things you have. We have so much food waste in America that is it important we all work to decrease how much food we throw out and never eat. So when it comes to saving money and decreasing food waste … clear out your pantry and use up food you have forgotten about and try to eat those items before purchasing more food.


Brain Boosting Lunches

I had the opportunity to teach another class at Mini Minds! I was so excited to have 4 families that signed up for the Brain Boosting Lunches workshop. I have wanted to put together a class where parents'/caregivers can attend with their child and both adults/children can participate, try new foods and learn something about food.

This has been a learning process to figure out the best way to put together a class that is worth the money, provides a unique experience and is also cost effective. The key has been to find the right price point. There isn’t another cooking/nutrition class in the Indianapolis area where parents and kids are together and get to work with a Registered Dietitian. This is a unique opportunity and I want to make sure that families know that this is available and find it worth their time! It can be challenging to put together a fun, learning filled opportunity for families. The workshop lasts 1.5 hours and costs ~$35. If you are interested in participating in the next one that I offer, let me know!

This most recent class was focused on creative ways to put together a healthy lunch for your child. Lots of parents pack lunches for their children and send them off to school. Some times it is easy to get stuck in a rut of making the same thing over and over again. Finding ways to break out of that boring routine and then making healthy meals for your child is important.

During the class we started off talking about the MyPlate model and the 5 different food groups. We talked about what foods would be in each food group and what foods the kids enjoyed or didn’t enjoy eating. I wanted to include some nutrition education so that when the kids see the MyPlate again in school, they are familiar with the concept and willing to have different food groups at each of their meals.

This workshop session occurred during lunch time and so of course all of the kids wanted to eat and make food! So we jumped right into making our lunches for the day. I provided a handout with information about the food groups and then lunch ideas including some recipes as well for the parents to take home with them! Below is the lunch that we made as a group. We did a special twist on a classic school lunch item - the lunch meat sandwich. I wanted to do something familiar that everyone would like, but have it presented in a different way. These sandwich pinwheels did just that! They worked out great and some of the kids tried some new foods, like tomatoes and hummus and others were interacting with a non-preferred food (like cutting it up) which was great. We paired the pinwheels with some fresh veggies - carrots and cucumbers with hummus as the dipping sauce. I had planned on doing a dried fruit with these as well - like raisins, but those weren’t available at the time so we stuck with the veggies and the pinwheels as our lunch for the day.

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Overall I think the families had a great time and were able to learn some things. I think this also provided a chance for the parents to interact and get to chat with one another. That can be nice to have some support from fellow parents when it comes with dealing with children. This was another successful workshop and I am excited to brain storm as other ideas for the upcoming 2019 year with Mini Minds and get some other dates on the calendar. If you have any creative ideas or have a topic that you would want to learn more about, leave that as a comment below and I would love your suggestions.

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Freezer Meals for Maternity Leave

One goal that I have set for myself over the next month is to put together some freezer meals for my upcoming maternity. Baby Busenburg #2 is due on February 16th. That is quickly approaching. I have put together a “To Do List” of things that I want to try to get done over the next month. Needless to say there is a lot more on that list than I originally anticipated. Some of those things were anticipated, but others weren’t. I have been quite busy trying to work on somethings for RD Anna and my work at Mini Minds before I take some time off for my maternity leave. That has been taking up quite a bit of my free time.

But back to Baby Busenburg #2 and my maternity leave … I want to make sure that I have some freezer meals in our deep freeze for those 7 weeks that I will be off. I learned with my first son that after having a baby, going to the grocery and cooking become extra challenging. I know how much of a struggle that was for my first son and I can imagine that having two children will make things even more challenging.

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I have decided to try to set myself and my family up for success and trying to put together meals that I can have in the freezer and use during that time off. Thankfully this time around we already have a deep freezer that is currently empty. It had been filled with breast milk from William, but it has sat empty for a little while now. Obviously it will start to get filled with breast milk again, but until then I am aiming to try to fill it up with food for us to eat starting in February.

My Freezer Meal Goals:

  • I want to aim to put together 6-10 meals that are in the freezer and ready to go for when Baby Busenburg #2 arrives.

  • I want these items to be a variety of food items (including different types of meat and vegetables).

  • If I knock out 10 recipes then I might try to work to make some sides and freeze those as well (for example - cornbread to go with chili, cinnamon rolls for breakfast, other rolls to go with soup, etc).

  • Most of the recipes listed below are main entrees that will then be paired with a vegetable or two that are fresh or roasted and that is easy enough to prepare while these items are cooking.

Recipe Ideas:

  1. Chili with meat and beans

  2. Meat Lasagna

  3. Roast with potatoes, carrots and onions

  4. Crockpot ham and potato soup

  5. Sticky Bourbon Chicken

  6. Chicken Tenders

  7. Cilantro Lime Chicken

  8. Chicken Enchiladas

  9. Honey, Soy Pork Tenderloin

  10. Broccoli Beef

Obviously these recipe ideas and freezer meals could be used for any occasion. You don’t need to be doing meal prep just for an upcoming maternity leave. Even if you put some of these food items in the freezer to have for a busy weekday meal or a weekend when you don’t want to cook, those are all great options.

The idea of having a baby is overwhelming enough, trying to be worried about cooking and cleaning is something that can wait for a little bit. That is what I hope to accomplish during my maternity, especially at the beginning. I want some time to just be ok with relaxing and getting to bond with this newest member of our family.

Healthy Holiday Creations

I had my first cooking class last week at Mini Minds. Some of you may remember that I have been starting to do some contract work for Mini Minds and made RD Anna and LLC and working to launch my own business. We finally were able to get some families to sign up for this cooking workshop that was held on Saturday. We had 4 families that participated and it was a huge success. I am not just saying that, because I helped to lead the class, but I think everyone that came had a great time and learned some things. The highlight of the day was hearing from a mom afterwards that her daughter tried a new food, green pepper. The mother was telling me how picky her daughter was and at home it can be really tough to have her try new foods and she has a lot anxiety about that. That is totally common for lots of children and that is one of the reasons why I love doing group education, because in that setting it is easier to remove some of that anxiety and use positive peer pressure to help overcome a fear. That little girl was able to choose 1 new food to try and she chose of the green peppers. She tried them and she liked them! And then the cherry on top was that she also tried yellow peppers, because myself and another mother told her if she liked the green peppers, she would like the yellow peppers even more, because they are sweeter. She did and was so happy and proud of herself! Hearing things that like make me smile and have all the hard work that goes into putting on a cooking class worth it!

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One of my goals with this class was to have an environment where the parent/caregiver is there with the child and they get to cook and make things together. We have one 5 1/2 year old, two 9 year olds and one 10 year old. All the kids were able to participate and do different tasks. It was so neat to watch them get to cook on their own. One child had never cut up a vegetable before. I worked with me and showed him how to cut up the green pepper and he totally did it! That is the overall goal that I wanted to accomplish … empower children to learn how to cook and enjoy it!

I had planned 5 different recipe items that we would make over the 1 1/2 hour class time. That ended up being overly ambitious, but I much rather have too much to do versus not enough. I saved the easiest snack/craft items for the last thing we did and I ended up doing those for the kids and they finished off the craft by drawing on it or cutting out a hat that we glued on.

I wanted to highlight some fun, kid friendly recipes that the whole family can help prepare. I was going to share with you one of my favorite recipes that we did. This one was a huge success and there is so much that you can do with this recipe to change it up and make it different, based on your own families preferences.

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Ingredients

  • 1 Pizza dough tube (you can make your own or purchase premade pizza dough)

  • 1-2 cups pizza sauce

  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese

  • ½ cup Feta cheese

  • 1 cup chopped, green peppers

  • ½ cup olives  

  • Handful of pepperonis

  • Top with parsley for additional flavor

Instructions

  1. Roll out your pizza dough on a clean surface that is lightly covered in flour. Using a rolling pin.

  2. Use the cookie cutter to cut out shapes in the pizza dough. Brush with olive oil.

  3. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper (to prevent sticking). Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes until the pizza dough is lightly browned.

  4. Top with sauce and other toppings. Place back in the oven at 400 degrees for another 5-7 minutes, until cheese melts.

If you want more information about upcoming classes with Mini Minds …. let me know! We are going to do a session on snacks and then lunches in January. I was planning on a January 12th and 26th at 11am for those sessions.

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Cooking With Your Child

I have talked about including your child with cooking before on my Facebook page and blog, but it can definitely be a tough thing to do. It takes WAY longer to include your child in the cooking process and it honestly can make a much bigger mess, when all is said and done. I still want you to encourage you to give it a try! I am not asking you to include your child with every meal, every day, but make an intentional effort several times a week to cook with your child. If you want your child to grow up and be independent and enjoy the cooking process, that love for cooking starts now.

Tips for Cooking with Children

  • Embrace the Mess. When cooking with children, whether toddlers or older school age children, messes happen. It is inevitable that things will get spilled and your kitchen will end up being twice as messy compared to it your children weren’t “helping” you. Working to embrace that mess and be ok with that “disaster” is important. We would all love a neat and tidy work space, but teaching children and having them learn things can be a messy process. Along with the mess that will happen, take them time to work with your child and have them help you clean up. That is just as important of a skill as learning how to cook is how to clean up. Being able to take the time to involve them in the measuring, the mixing, the cutting (as they get older) and the stirring helps teach them to follow directions and create something. Having your child help with the dishes, load/unload the dishwasher, dry the dishes and put them away are useful skills to teach following directions and seeing a task through to completion.

  • Be Patient. As you cook with your children, you will quickly learn that it takes LOTS of patience on your part. It is way more stressful for you to slowly walk through the instructions and slowly measure/mix the ingredients. Your child will want to be independent and try to do that task on their own. That is great, but will require an extra dose of patience when they spill the ingredient on the counter/the floor. It will take extra patience as you work with your child to unload the dishwasher as they slowly place the silverware in the drawer, one piece at a time. Teaching your children these skill is a slow process. Try to keep your cool and embrace the fact that you will need to be patient, but they are learning and that is worth the effort.

  • Assign Specific Tasks. As you are working with your child, give them specific jobs to do. Explain to them what you want them to do. For example, have them stir ingredients on the pot on the stove. Give them a spatula and tell them that their task will be stirring the ingredients. Talk through how the pot and the stove are hot and they need to be careful. Give them affirmation that they are doing a great job following your directions and they are a big helper. This specific instruction is helpful for children to know what is clearly expected from them and then gives them a sense of accomplishment.

  • Be Flexible. Nothing will go quite as you planned it. You probably anticipated being able to prepare that food item in less than 30 minutes, but working with your children can length that task out by at least an additional 10-20 minutes. Sometimes you will have an expectation of what roles they will help with and how they will be involved, but your child might have different ideas. That is ok! Be willing to be flexible and let them help you in ways that they are interested in and make the experience positive. If you are cooking a meal like pizza with different topping options, be willing to let your child pick whatever they want on their own pizza. Be willing to hand over that responsibility to the child and let them take ownership of that. If you assign your child a job task, like sweeping the floor after they finish cooking, let them do that however works best for them. Be flexible with empowering them to take ownership of a task.

  • View this Experience as a Teaching Moment. Our main job as a parent is to teach our children. Taking the time to involve them in cooking and preparing food in the kitchen is a great way to teach them the art of cooking/baking, but also following directions, helping other people, functioning as part of the family unit and creating something to share with people. These are all amazing skills and using cooking as an avenue to work on these skills and instill these qualities in our children is a great goal. Talk through each step you are doing so your child learns what all goes into making a meal for the family. Your child will get better and faster at these tasks as you work with them over time, but enjoy the learning process and embrace the teaching moments.

Enjoy working with and getting to know your child better in the kitchen. This is a fun time to work with your children and help teach them skills that they will be able to use in the years to come. It can be stressful, but work to keep the environment positive, listen and dance to music as you cook and enjoy these little moments cooking with your child.

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Meal Prep For Your Week

All of us tend to be busy. We are often running around trying to make to work on time, picking up children from day care, trying to find something healthy for dinner and then getting the children to bed at a decent hour. Lots of us barely have time to get all those things done in a day. When it comes to meal preparation for the week, this can get overlooked and not made a priority. I am guilty of this as well. Grocery shopping and preparing meals can get so old, because you have to do it week after week and something it is just not well thought out. 

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I am hoping to encourage you to make the time meal prep for your week so that you can set yourself and your family up for success. First step is to make sure you sit down and make out a grocery list for the week. The items that you need to prepare a list of recipes that you want to make throughout the week. Then head out to the grocery and stick to that list. When you bring those food items home, set aside about a hour to cut up and get that food ready to cook with for the week. This is often the part that gets overlook. Taking the time to wash all your produce, chop it up and put it in containers will drastically increase your cooking time throughout the week. This will help you so much when it comes to making quick and easy meals at home for your family. You can even cook up some meat as well if that ends up being helpful for lunches throughout the week. I would encourage you to start with simply washing, cutting up and putting your produce in containers so that it is more easily usable throughout the week. 

Making Breakfast Ahead of Time 

I wanted to share a couple of recipes with you for some great ideas on how to make a healthy breakfast ahead of time so that you are starting your day off on the right foot. 

Overnight Oats 

I love this recipe because it is super easy and delicious. Simply mix together rolled oats, yogurt, milk and some chia seeds. This can be put in small containers and kept in your refrigerator. Then you can throw some berries or other fruit on top and take this fiber-filled oatmeal dish with you to work. 

Microwave Breakfast Scrambles 

I found this recipe from the website Budget Bytes and I love this idea that I just had to share it with you. You can place chopped up vegetables, cooked sausage or hash-browns in a wide neck ceramic dish. This can be stored in the refrigerator and then you add a raw egg on top and microwave for 15 second increments, stirring in between to carefully cook that egg and create a breakfast scramble. There are lots of creative recipes that you could follow. You could combine bacon, hash-browns, cheese or you could make a veggie themed scramble with spinach, tomatoes and feta cheese. 

Packing a Healthy Lunch 

Obviously each meal that you eat makes a difference in your overall health and eating a healthy lunch is just as important as a healthy breakfast. With work and school it can be rough to have time to pack something ahead of time and take it with you. There are a couple of ideas here that I think would be easy to pack ahead of time and take with you. 

Pasta and Sautéed Vegetables 

This can be a easy dish to put in a container, because it could look different each week depending on what leftover pasta options you might have in your refrigerator. You could do a spaghetti with a red meat sauce and pair that with some roasted squash (zucchini and yellow squash). You can top with fresh basil and then simply heat this up for your lunch time meal. If you happen to have a left over salad, you could bring that as well. 

Burrito Bowl

I love burritos and all the ingredients you can pack in that tortilla, but sometimes things can just get messy. That is why I really like this idea of a burrito bowl You can put together in one container all the ingredients you love from a burrito and then heat it up and enjoy with a few less carbohydrates sans tortilla. You can line up your meat or black beans for protein, some shredded cheese, grilled vegetables (like peppers, onions or zucchini), salsa, corn and top with green onions. You can pack some lettuce, avocado or sour cream separately. 

Cobb Salad 

For this dish you will need two Tupperware or glassware containers. One will be for the lettuce/salad mixture and the other will be for the toppings. You can put your favorite cobb salad toppings together - chickpeas, cubed cheese, chicken slices, bacon, tomatoes, hard boiled egg and then pack your favorite dressing on the side. If you do choose to purchase bagged lettuce, make sure you recognize that something this goes bad faster then whole lettuce leaves. Just plan ahead when it comes to your meal prepping so that you don't create more food waste. 

Quick and Easy Dinners 

Dinner time is often a stumbling block for a lot of people. This is why doing some meal preparation can be super helpful for dinner. The key to being success in making healthy, quick dinner at home is to not spend your whole evening in the kitchen. If you can prepare items ahead of time, cutting, chopping, cooking, etc then you are able to save that time in the evening. You can even cook meals ahead of time and then simply reheat them for dinner. That works as well. Using left-overs is a great way to save time and money as well. If you make a large pot of soup that be easily stored in the refrigerator and reheated at another time will be helpful. You can use that chili, for example, as a stand alone soup or as a topping for baked potatoes. 

There are so many recipes that you can find online with ideas for quick and easy meals. Once you find a recipe that you like, save it and print it off. That way you can keep your favorites and prepare them again in a couple of weeks. 

When it comes to meal prepping, the key is to plan ahead and then do a little of that work ahead of time to save you time later. The hardest part to spending the initial time shopping and preparing the food items. Hopefully some of these tips and recipes help inspire you to do some meal planning this next week! 

Healthy Holiday Picnic

I have been loving this summer weather. We are done with June and offically into July. That means lots of fun summer time activities and celebrating with cookouts and picnics. It is easy to some times think that there are not ways to include healthy foods at your next cookout. That is what I wanted to share with you today ... some creative ways to include healthy foods for your next picnic or cookout. 

Fresh Produce. The summer time means there are lots of fresh produce items that are in season. Your local Farmer’s Market or even the grocery store will be filled with healthy, fresh produce options that are all starting to be in season. From the berries to watermelon, tomatoes and lettuce all of these items are now coming into season. That means that you can purchase these fresh items more locally. They will be fresher and even more delicious. I would encourage your to include all of these fresh produce items into your cookout menu. They can be raw with a fun dip or you can throw these veggies or fruit on the grill to bring out different flavors. You can make a salad and combine a variety of different produce items with a delicious dressing. Lots of these fresh produce items are easy to pack up and take with you to an event. If you are looking for some good recipes - CLICK HERE for a great list from Clean Eating Magazine.

Temperature Danger Zone. When you pack up your food to take it on a picnic or when cooking out make sure that you keep your cold food cold and your hot food hot. It has been easy for cold food to start to warm up and get in that temperature danger zone. Try to keep your food outside the range of 40-140 degrees F. When your food is within this temperature range it can become a petrie dish for bacteria to grow and potentially cause food poisoning. When you pack cold food items, use ice or ice packs and keep them in a cooler. If you are bringing hot foods or preparing hot foods on a grill, make sure that you eat them right away and don’t leave them out so they fall within that temperature zone. 

Wash Your Hands. One more food safety tip, bring hand santizer. I know that sounds simplicist, but it is important to practice safe food handling, even when you are eating out at a picnic or cook out. If you are handling raw meat, ideally, use water and soap and wash your hands. Hand santizer is a good alternative, if you don’t have water and soap available. Keep your hands clean when you are preparing foods and when you are also eating food. 

Stay Hydrated. If you are spending an extended time outside, make sure that you bring plenty of drinks. With this warmer weather outside now, staying hydrated is very important. If you enjoy an alcoholic drink, that is fine, but remember that may lead you to getting dehydrated faster. Bring plenty of water or other healthy beverages. Watch out for sugary drinks, because those are often filled with unneccessary calories. 

Enjoy the summer and this chance to get outside and grill out. Try some new recipes and remember to keep your food at safe temperature to avoid any unwanted foodborne illness issues. 

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Taking Back Your Kitchen

The holidays are over and we are now well into 2018. In fact we are half way through the month of January. I am not sure what your resolutions were for the New Year, but odds are that you have already ditched those resolutions. I am not sure if "cooking more at home" was one of your resolutions, but I want to help encourage you to take back your kitchen. All of us are busy and we have so much competing for our time. Finding time to cook is often difficult. 

What are some obstacles that keep you from preparing meals in your kitchen? For me, it often involves lack of time and if I don't plan ahead, there is no way I will be able to make dinners at home. Identify whatever obstacles that are keeping you out of your kitchen. Then let's work on overcoming those challenges. 

Take Back Your Kitchen 

  • Meal Prep - Taking the time to make out a list of what you want to prepare at home for the week is a must. Think through what food items you love to cook or you have time to prepare and get those recipes. Make out your shopping list using those recipes. That will help ensure that you purchase only the food you need to cook those meals. Making out a list ahead of time can also help to save money when you go to the grocery store. Once you go to the store and purchase your food items, when you get home, take the time to prep some of those foods. Taking the time to cut and prepare your fruit and vegetables can be helpful during the week. Sometimes that cleaning and prep work takes too much time during the week. Doing it on the weekends can help ensure you are able to cook these meals at home. 
  • Realistic Recipes - When you pull recipes for the week, make sure that they are realistic. If a recipe will take you 2 hours to cook then that might not be a recipe to make during the week. If you work or have evening plans the sticking with 30 minute recipes will help ensure you are successful in cooking foods at home. Also during the week, make sure that ingredients are also easy to get. Some times if you forgot an ingredient and if you can't easily pick it up during the week, you might not prepare that recipe during the week.
  • Clean Up - Whenever you cook there is often a mess. Lots of dishes and clean up afterwards. Taking the time to tidy up your kitchen at the end of the day is helpful for the next day. I hate cooking in a dirty kitchen. Each night I try to take the time to clean up from dinner and from putting together lunches for the next day. I like walking into a clean kitchen in the morning and then preparing dinner the following night in a clean kitchen. Is that is something that is an obstacle for you cooking at home, find ways to remove that obstacle. If your spouse enjoys dishes or is able to help with one part of the cooking/cleaning that teamwork is great! 
  • Use the Left-overs - Don't throw out the food that you took the time to cook. You can save these left-overs and use them for lunch the next day. If you have enough left, you can even use it for another dinner that week. If you have taken all that time to prepare the meal, it would be a shame to throw out that food and some what wasteful. 

Think about what stands in your way from cooking in your kitchen. Do you want to take back your kitchen and start preparing more meals at home? Hopefully some of these tips and tricks will help you be successful and accomplish this goal! 

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Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana Camp 2017

This is my third year attending Diabetes Camp with the Diabetes Youth Foundation of Indiana. The camp is located up in Noblesville, IN and each year for a week I spend my time preparing foods for campers with food allergies. Lots of Type 1 diabetic patients also have food allergies or other autoimmune related diseases (such as Celiac disease). For their week at camp I work to help prepare "safe" foods for them to eat. My week at camp was crazy busy. We had 10 campers that had celiac and had to be gluten free. Then we had several vegetarians and one dairy free camper. With each meal I had to make sure that they had substitutes for the food items that were being served. I had to heat up and prepare 11 gluten free mac n' cheese diseases one meal and then make a pasta with red sauce dish for my dairy free camper. That basically summed up my week. It was great though, because I get to do something different for a week and I love being able to give of my time in that way. 

What I love about DYFI Camp? I think it is so great that these campers (all of which are Type 1 diabetic) can come to a place for the summer and get to feel "normal." Everyone else there as diabetes and checking your blood sugar/giving insulin is the norm. I also love that we support them with food that they can eat as well. We make sure that their food allergies are accommodated for and they are able to eat family style at meals. That is wonderful because they can choose what they want to eat and then their insulin bolus is given accordingly. Having a place where these campers can be just kids having fun is something that is so special.

Another exciting moment for this year was that we were able to donate the extra food to a food pantry/shelter in Noblesville. I was so excited to take the extra dry goods and fresh foods over to Third Phase Christian Center. These food items wouldn't have kept in the freezer until fall camp and so if we didn't take them somewhere they would have to be thrown out. I was so happy that they were able to be given to a group that could use the leftovers. They were very excited to receive the fresh food as a donation. They even were able to take opened food items that they used in their kitchen on site and whatever was unopened they could give away in the food pantry. 

It was a great week at camp. Everyone had a wonderful time. The weather was great. The kids got fed and I would call it a success! 

Cool Off With These Summer Treats

It is that time of year where the sun is shining, the temperature is creeping up and you want to find ways to cool off. I know that this time of year I like to come up with refreshing snack ideas to help beat the heat. These recipes are kid friendly as well, so grab your youngster and give them a try! 

Frozen Fruit 

There are so many different fruit items that you can freeze. You may have heard of freezing your grapes. That is a easy and delicious treat. Simply wash the grapes, dry them and then place them in the freezer. They are so cold and refreshing. You can also freeze watermelon slices. Cut your watermelon, remove the rind and then place in the freezer. This is super easy and totally delicious. This is a great alternative to a popsicle. Don't get me wrong, you can still enjoy a popsicle, but this will be a healthier option.

Fruit Pizza

Start with your crust. This can be anything ... a tortilla, pita or flatbread. You can choose a whole wheat version for a healthy twist. Then top with your "sauce" which in this case is a yogurt. Pick your favorite flavor, plain, vanilla or flavored. Then top with whatever toppings you think sounds good. You can add nuts (almonds), sliced fruit (kiwi, apples, bananas), any type of berry or grape, coconut, chocolate chips or granula. The list can go on and on. Then enjoy! Making your own fruit pizza can be that simple! This can make a great snack or even part of your meal.

Fresh Veggie Salad

This is a great recipe for a summer, vegetable salad, because you can add whatever produce you have available. Don't feel like you have to follow the recipe. Use veggies that you like and you think sound good together. I love this dish because it uses beans as the protein source, which is cheap and delicious. This is also a colorful salad. Keep that in mind as you are choosing what veggies you want to include. Reach for items that are colorful. Aim to eat the rainbow! 

Grilled Veggie Kabobs

I am a sucker for grilled vegetables. It is my favorite way to eat veggies in the summer time. I love how fresh they are and now over cooked when on the grill. This Kabob recipe looks amazing. It uses corn, sausage, green peppers, onions. These veggies are coated in Italian dressing and then sprinkle mustard powdered over them. This is a fun way to spice up your grilled vegetables and try something new. 

Hopefully you are able to try some of these tasty treats this summer. Find some new recipes and try to my food. There is so much fresh produce that will be in season and tastes delicious this time of year! Happy Cooking! 

The Art of Cooking with a Baby

Can I just tell you that finding a way to juggle holding a baby and preparing dinner is one of the toughest things I have done. It takes special talent to figure out how to get dinner prepared and then balance that the eating schedule of a newborn. Of course, the baby wants to be held during the time when dinner needs to be prepared. I have been working on acquiring my skills of balancing this act of motherhood and the need to make food to feed myself and Chas. 

Things I have learned and skills I am cultivating: 

  • Do what you can while they are sleeping. As soon as William falls asleep I take advantage of that time to figure out what I need to get done. I have also learned that I need to prioritize my to do list. For example, being able to eat something for lunch should always trump working on the computer or some times even showering. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is in full affect. If I am not trying to feed myself I am normally trying to prepare food for the next meal. 
  • I am learning to operate within a 2-3 hour time window. So if I have to run errands I know that if I feed William I have a solid 2 hours and possibly 3 hours before he is hungry again and needs to be fed. This means that I am left prioritize where I need to go and what I need to do so I can get home before his next feeding. This is a total change of pace for me, but I am learning and getting better at it each day. Often that means only 1-2 stops while I am out at a time. Gone are the days and being out to ALL the errands done at one time.
  • I have learned that crock pots, bread makers, etc are amazing devices ... use them! I have fell in love with my crock pot again. Being able to chop up ingredients or get the meal prepared ahead of time and tossing it into the crock pot = the best thing ever. That way it is done and can be ready to be eaten whenever. 
  • I have embraced the fact that as soon as I think I can get something done, like chopping the veggies to go with the roast, the baby starts to wake up and crying. I have walked away from all the veggies that I have pulled out and gotten them ready to cut up, to feed the baby. I have just left this mess to come back to it when I have a moment to finish that task at hand. 
  • Master the one arm hold. I have been practicing and I have become much better at being able to carry William around in one arm and then do things with that other arm. I have been able to make some coffee, toast bread or stir soup. I have been proud of myself and I know that this skill will continue to improve with increased practice. 
  • Cook with the baby. I have brought William into the kitchen and put him in his Bumbo seat and let him watch me cook. It is normally content for a little bit to hear all the noises and stare at the lights. This way I can be reassured that he is fine and I can work on actually doing some productive things, like get a meal prepared. If having in next me to isn't making him happy enough the next thing I have learned to try to to attach him to me. He likes to be carried around in a wrap and that allows him to feel comforted and me to use both of my hands to get things done. 
  • I have discovered online grocery store ordering via Kroger. This is quite exciting that I can place my order online and then drive to store and pick up the things that I need. How neat is that! I am excited to use this and I think this will be become something that I do quite frequently in the months ahead! 

Healthy Dinner Ideas: Homemade Soup

This is the time of the year when the weather is chilly outside and it is often cold and gray. Nothing warms you up at the end of a long day like a delicious, bowl of homemade soup. I love cooking soups at home during the week, because more often than not, they are quick, make a complete meal and there are left overs to take to work for lunches. 

Perks To Preparing Soup From Scratch: 

  • Healthier - I love that you can find just about any type of recipe online and you can make a traditional soup recipe even healthier. There are so many substitutes you can make to any recipe that you find. For example, if you need to watch the amount of sodium in your diet then you can consider using fresh tomatoes or no salt added canned tomatoes. You can make your own broth or use a lower sodium broth option. You can choose fresh or frozen vegetables compared with their salter, canned counterparts. There are so many easy ways to tweak and make recipes even healthier. If you need to increase the amount of fiber in your soup and your overall vegetable intake, consider adding kale or spinach to the recipe. This is also a great source of Vitamin K and antioxidants. 
  • More Cost Effective - Preparing your own soup from scratch will end up saving you more money compared with purchased an already prepared canned soup option or even a dried soup packet option from the store. There is obviously more prep work involved to make the soup from scratch, but you will get a larger volume of soup and you can use it for left-overs later in the week. This larger quantity is a perk if you have a large family to feed as well. You can pair other sides with the soup as well to make it a complete meal - have bread on the side with another fruit or vegetable offering. 
  • Customization - When you take the time to put together a recipe from scratch there is a lot of areas where you can change the recipe to fit what you or your family likes. If someone in your family really dislikes corn, then in your minestrone soup recipe, make sure that you avoid adding corn and instead use another vegetable like squash or lima beans. If you have a family member with a food allergy, then preparing your own soup from scratch can allow you to accommodate their specific diet needs. 

My Favorite Soup Recipe - White Bean and Sausage Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 cup baby carrots, cut in half 

  • 1 cup onion, chopped 

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 

  • 7oz turkey sausage/keilbasa, cut into 1/2 inch pieces 

  • 4 cups chicken broth, fat free and reduced sodium 

  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning 

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 

  • 2 cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed (15.8oz cans) 

  • 1 bag of spinach, fresh (6oz) 

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat a saucepan, coat with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and cook until tender. Add the onion, garlic and the sausage. Saute the vegetables for 3 minutes and stir occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, Italian seasoning, pepper and the beans. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  2. Place 2 cups of the soup in the food processor or blender and mix until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the pan. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Remove soup from the heat. Add the spinach, stirring until spinach wilts. 
  3. Substitutions - You can substitute the spinach for kale if you would prefer. 

This is a great recipe, because you can easily make this in about 30 minutes. I enjoy having dinner together within 30 minutes during the week, because after working all day, walking the dog, and exercising, I hate spending way too much time in the kitchen cooking/cleaning. Cooking Light has a great assortment of soup recipes that you will have to check out! 

Food Safety Tips for the Holidays

All of us, enjoy all the food that is associated with the Holiday Season - everything from the cookies to the turkey. It is so much fun to gather with family and friends, celebrate another year and eat delicious food. For all of the time that goes into making a gorgeous holiday spread, you want to make sure that your meal or appetizers do not end up making your loved ones sick. That is why food safety is so important, especially this time of year. There are some great handouts and information available from the CDC and FDA. Food borne illnesses are a serious issue in the United States causing ~76 million people to become sick each year. The most common food borne diseases associated with meat, poultry and fish are Salmonella, Campylobacter and E coli. Pregnant women, older adults, infants, young children and those with a weakened immune systems are at higher risk for severe infections. 

4 Steps to Food Safety

  1. Clean - Always wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before touching or preparing any food. This is the best way to prevent the spread of food borne illnesses. This also applies to all your kitchen equipment and utensils - clean them with warm water and soap, especially in between working with meat and produce.
  2. Separate - Keep your meat and produce items separate. Use a separate cutting board for raw meat, poultry and seafood and then use a different one for fresh produce. This helps to prevent cross-contamination. Remember to keep the juices of these fresh meat items away from any already prepared foods as well. 
  3. Cook - When you are cooking your meat and poultry items make sure that you are getting the internal temperature of those food items to a safe level. This will ensure that all the microorganisms are killed. Use your food thermometer and make sure that you insert the thermometer correctly into the food item. The AND has a great page on how to properly calibrate your thermometer and use it correctly! 
    • Turkey, stuffing, casseroles and leftovers to 165F 
    • Beef, veal, lamb roasts to 145F 
    • Fully cooked ham to 140F 
    • Fresh ham, pork and egg dishes to 160F 
    • All leftovers should be cooked to 165F 
  4. Chill - Once your meal is over, getting your food put away and properly cooled is important. Your refrigerator should be kept at 40F or below to prevent bacteria growth. Any type of egg dish always needs to be kept in the refrigerator. Get your leftovers in the frig within 2 hours of them being out on the table and never defrost your food at room temperature.

Packing A Healthy Lunch

I had the opportunity this past week to give a Lunch and Learn presentation to a local Indianapolis business. It was for National Healthy Lunch Day and it was on behalf of the American Diabetes Association of Indianapolis. I have done a variety of things along side the ADA here in Indy over the past couple of years. They are a great resource in the greater Indianapolis area and I was happy to put together a presentation about Packing a Healthy Lunch. This is a topic that affects everyone, because all of us have to eat and all of us should be eating something for lunch. The goal is to make that food we put in our mouths, a healthy choice. 

Goals for Packing a Healthy Lunch
Include at least 3 food groups …
•Fruit (sliced apple, fruit salad, banana)
•Vegetable (salad, cut raw veggies, steamed veggies)
•Protein (meat, nuts, peanut butter)
•Grain (pasta, bread, pizza, etc)
•Dairy (slice of cheese, yogurt) 

Plan a snack
•Include one of the food groups you didn’t have at lunch.
•Pair protein with a carbohydrate
•Peanut butter and an apple
•Greek yogurt with granola

•Prepare enough at dinner for left-overs and portion out the left-overs for lunches.
•Make a large batch of lunches on Sunday: Cut and bag all of your fresh veggies/fruit for the week. Portion out the chili for the week into individual lunch portions.
•Keep healthy staples on hand. Always have some lunch meat, lettuce and tomato in your refrigerator for a sandwich, if needed.
•Pack what you like - Don’t force yourself to eat something you hate.

Taking the extra time to pack something healthy for lunch can really have a big impact on your health. If you are bringing healthy food to work, you are most likely going to eat it and consume healthier food choices. You will also save money, because eating out for lunch on a regular basis is more expensive. There is a little time in preparing those meals, but it is worth it! 
 

Holiday Food Makeover

It is the time of year. The holidays are under way. Halloween has just wrapped up and now November has started. That means that Thanksgiving is coming at the end of the month and then Christmas next month. I love the holidays and all the festivities that come with the holidays (the food, the family get togethers, the travel, etc). One of the big ways that Americans celebrate is with food. That means that most get-togethers include food and normally the options aren’t the healthiest. This can be overwhelming for people to know how to navigate that holiday spread and know how to make smart choices. 

If you have the opportunity to cook food for your Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday get together then consider making some healthy swaps to those recipes. 

  1. Tweak the sweets – This incorporates making healthy options available for desserts. You can definitely include your traditional pumpkin pie, but also put together a fruit salad, which is a healthier option. This is going to have less added sugar compared with the pie and will have more fiber from the fruit, making a much friendlier diabetic choice. 
  2. Cheers to good health – Make sure to watch out for added sugars and calories in festive holiday drinks. This includes regular soda, sweet tea/lemonade, and alcoholic drinks. There can be a lot of added calories hiding in these beverages. Make sure to space out your drinks with glasses of water. Set a goal to make every other glass, a glass of water versus only drinking sweet tea or that delicious mixed drink.
  3. Bake healthier – If you are in charge of cooking food for your next holiday party then consider some healthy swaps you can make when baking. You can substitute applesauce or bananas for the fat source (like the butter or oil) in various dessert recipes. You can also use greek yogurt in place of sour cream. These simple substitutions can help to decrease the overall calories in the dish you are putting together. 
  4. Spice it up - Lots of us love to use salt to enhance the flavor of the food that we are preparing. This isn’t always the best thing for our heart health. Consider using over spices to add flavor that don’t contain salt, like sage, garlic, pepper, Italian seasoning or cumin.  
  5. Brighten your meal – As you load up your plate, make sure to fill your plate with ½ fruits and vegetables. Your plate should be colorful and not just filled with starches like white potatoes, yellow corn and a white roll. Brighten up that plate with over colors from the rainbow such as orange carrots, green salad, red cranberries and yellow squash.  
  6. Skim the fat – When your recipe calls for a full fat item like heavy cream, butter or whole milk, consider using skim milk, low fat cheese or margarine instead. This will help to decrease the overall fat being added to the dish and cut the overall calories. If you feel like the flavor would be jeopardized with this change, then add in some extra spices that are not just salt. 
  7. Swap the grains – If you just have to have your dinner roll with your holiday meal, consider using a whole grain roll in place of just a white roll option. This is more diabetic friendly, because the whole grains will break down to simple sugars slower and this will help prevent a sharp blood sugar spike. This can be applied to crust of pies even. You could use half the flour in your pie crust as whole grains and then the other half white flour. This might change the texture of the pie, but might be a fun, new way to make a traditional recipe a little healthier. 
  8. Go easy on the gravy – When you ask for the gravy to be passed over to you, make sure that you don’t send your turkey swimming in it. Use the gravy in moderation. If the meat or potatoes have good flavor, they might not even require gravy poured over them. This is just an extra calorie source and not always necessary if you are trying to make healthier choices.

Fall Has Arrived ... Everything Pumpkin!!!

Fall has officially begun as of September 22nd; however, at least here in Indiana the weather is still behaving much like summer. Fall happens to be my favorite time of the year. The cooler weather, crisp breezes, cute clothes, warm drinks and fun activities like apple picking, trick or treating and Thanksgiving have me all excited. This is also the time of year that pumpkins have exploded onto the food scene. You can find everything pumpkin flavored now ... from your coffee to your cereal. Have you ever wondered, besides the delicious flavor of the pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, is there a health benefit to pumpkin? 

The beauty of the pumpkin is that it is a simple food item. It doesn't have an overly strong flavor so using spices blends can create delicious and unique dishes quite easily. You can make pumpkin sweet or savory and there are tons of recipes online that can help you incorporate this festive gourd into your weekly menu. 

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

  1. Helps with your eyesight. Pumpkin contains over 200% of your daily value of Vitamin A and this fat-soluble vitamin is important to help your eyes work appropriately. They contain beta-carotene which is a carotenoid - this creates the orange color and produces Vitamin A in the body. 
  2. Helps with meeting weight loss goals. Pumpkins contain a lot of fiber and this helps you to feel full and eat less with meals. There are 3 grams of fiber found in 1 cup of pumpkin puree for only 49 calories. Produce tends to be high in fiber and that is helpful in weight management. 
  3. Heart healthy seeds. The pumpkin seeds contain heart healthy fats, which can be helpful reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. These seeds do contain more calories compared with the puree due this fat, but in small amounts this can easily fit into a healthy diet. 
  4. Improve your mood. Besides containing healthy fat, these pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan. This amino acid breaks down to another amino acid product called, serotonin, which is helpful for sleeping and this can help your mood. This can help you rest and taking that time for you, can help to improve your outlook on life. 
  5. Loaded up with potassium. There is a lot of potassium found in 1 cup of pumpkin puree (564mg) and this is more than what you would find in a banana. This is an electrolyte that your body replaces after working out to help keep your hydration status in balance and feeling good. If you have a tough work out in the heat and sweat a lot, consider some pumpkin puree to help replenish your potassium stores.
  6. Boost your immune system. There are lots of vitamins and minerals found in pumpkin, another vitamin is Vitamin C that is found in high quantities. This Vitamin C is helpful in boosting your immune system and helping your body ward off disease. One cup of cooked pumpkin puree contains 11mg of Vitamin C or 20% of your daily value (if you are a woman). 
  7. Skin protection. The carotenoids that we mentioned earlier, help to keep your skin healthy, smooth and strong. This is a great added bonus as we head into the fall and drier weather and we all want to protect our skin from the elements. 

So as you reach for your pumpkin flavored whatever ... consider picking up some pumpkin puree and using it in a new recipe this week. Unfortunately all of these health benefits can only be achieved through consuming the pumpkin puree itself and just the pumpkin flavoring that is often added to food items. Go ahead and Google/Pinterest some pumpkin recipes and try to incorporate some of this amazing fall superfood into your next meal! 

Healthy Weeknight Meals

If you are anything like me, you kind of dread cooking dinner during the week. With a full time job, after work activities, trying to stay up on your fitness, the Olympics on TV ... there is so much vying for our time in the evenings. Sometimes the last thing we want to do is sit down and cook an elaborate meal. I thought it would be fun to put together a list of some great recipes that you could print and maybe implement in your weeknight dinner rotation. Here are some of the criteria that I was looking for when I compiled this list: Meals taking < 30 minutes to prepare, easy to use ingredients, using healthy ingredients (variety of vegetables, fruits, lean protein) and minimal clean up afterwards. 

List of Recipes to Try: 

Vegetarian/Summer Recipes

  1. Orecchitette with Roasted Peppers, Arugula and Tomatoes
  2. Grilled Tempeh Skewers
  3. Two Bean Soup with Kale
  4. Seared Tofu with Sweet Chili Sauce
  5. Chipotle Black Bean Burrito
  6. Carrot and Black Bean Crispy Tacos
  7. Sweet Potato Kale Frittata

Sandwiches

  1. Waffle Iron Turkey Melt
  2. Pulled BBQ Chicken with Coleslaw
  3. Caprese Sandwiches
  4. Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
  5. Chicken Parm Sub

Meat Recipes

  1. Couscous with Chicken and Root Vegetables
  2. Sriracha Teriyaki Meatball Bowls
  3. Balsamic Steak and Berry Salad
  4. Creamy Salmon Chowder
  5. One Pot Lasagna
  6. Bacon and Brussel Sprout Penne
  7. Thai Shrimp Soup
  8. Corn and Ham Risotto

Hopefully you find this post helpful in at least exposing you to some new recipe ideas. Take them, try them and see what you or your family think about them. I always love encouraging people to try new foods and new recipes. Cooking should a fun experience and during the week I think if you stick to simple, quick meals that helps to make the whole process of preparing healthy meals fun again!