“I want to cook ahead…where to start”?

If you’ve read this blog before, you’ll know I’m a big fan of doing a little cooking ahead so you can enjoy delicious, healthy meals all week without a huge effort.  I know some people have a hard time knowing where to start with that, so here are two easy tips that I use when I don’t have a ton of time to cook ahead:

  1. Cook rice ahead.  Brown rice is nutritious, low in fat, and a delicious base for any meal.  And, it’s naturally gluten-free, so if you have someone in your family who needs to follow a gluten-free diet, it’s a great choice.  Rice can take a while to cook, so if you are getting home from work and are in a rush to get dinner on the table, you are likely to skip this delicious addition to your meal.  But, if you’ve got some already made that you just need to heat up, you’ll have a lovely dinner in no time.  If you are in a huge rush, just add a tin of tuna, or some cooked chicken to the rice – or even some canned chickpeas or black beans for protein.  No time for chopping vegetables?  Have some baby spinach on hand and throw it in…it can be hot or cold.  Slightly wilted spinach is still tasty and beautiful.  Of course, you can cook any type of rice you like.  My favourite is brown rice with wild rice.  The wild rice is a little expensive, so buy it in the bulk section of your grocery store if you can.  Cook the rice in chicken broth or vegetable broth instead of water for extra flavour.  I add chopped vegetables when I have the time.  Adding the vegetables to the rice is not only nutritious, it makes the dish go farther and fill bellies more easily.  But, even if you don’t have time to do that, the brown rice and wild rice looks very appetizing on it’s own.  Take a look at the recipe and photo in this link.

2.  Unpack and bag your meat individually and marinate before freezing.  We often buy chicken, meat, and fish in large packs to create value for our hard earned dollars.  Rather than freezing the entire pack, we usually bag the pieces in servings of 4, 2 or 1 to give us flexibility for using the items in different cooking situations.  How many times have you bought a big pack of chicken thinking it was a great deal, thrown it in the freezer and then weeks later, wondering how you are going to use that pack, or unsuccessfully tried to separate the rock-hard frozen pieces?  Taking a little time to bag things in smaller quantities will save you time, frustration and money down the road.  Many years ago, my husband and I went to SupperWorks a number of times to have a fun way of cooking together.   One of the time-saving tips we learned from those outings was that you could marinate your meat, chicken or fish before freezing it.  That never occurred to us before.  How many times have you defrosted some chicken before leaving for work and then got home and thought, “now what am I going to do with it?”.  Marinating before freezing makes the decision for you and makes it more likely that you will be motivated to cook delicious, healthy meals during your busy weeks, rather than opting for take-out, or frozen food.  One of our favourite things to marinate ahead is Maple BBQ Salmon.  This recipe is my own version after searching a number of recipes on-line years ago.  Doing your own marinating and seasoning means you can control what goes into it.  Many store prepared marinades are high in salt, sugar and have other additives that your body doesn’t need.  Check out the recipe here.  We mostly do this on a cedar plank on the Barbeque, and it also works very well in the oven.

So, if you are looking to improve your nutrition by cutting down on store bought meals, start with the two tips from this blog entry  – or maybe just one!  Be kind to yourself – try it out, and congratulate yourself for the steps you are taking!  By the way, if you have a SupperWorks in your area and haven’t been, check them out.  It’s a fun outing for those who like to cook together, whether you are a spouse, friends, or with your kids.

Happy cooking!  Be well!

Soup for Cold Days – Part 2

In last week’s blog, I talked about the glories of soup on a cold day.  February is a great month to focus on soup!  Maybe you’ve already tried the Hearty Tomato and Grain Soup recipe I posted.  I hope you enjoyed it!  One of my favourite soups was always my Mom’s homemade Chicken or Turkey soup.  She always made her own broth and it was so delicious.  I always try to make some time to make a broth with the carcass of a chicken or turkey I’ve roasted.  It’s not hard to do, but you do need to have about an hour to monitor the simmering pot.  For me, this is also one of those aromas that creates the comfort of home.  Even if I don’t have a plan for the broth right away, I make it and freeze it to use at a later date.  I find it interesting that ‘bone broth’ is such a trending phrase now because my Mom’s generation and many of us have been doing this for decades!  Goodness is always in fashion and doesn’t need to be a trend!

As I said last week, prepared and condensed soups you buy in grocery stores can be tasty, but read the labels.  There are many things listed on those labels that should make you think before using this food as a regular part of your weekly meals.  Focus on eliminating salt and additives in your diet little by little and your palate will adjust to healthy food that is tasty too!

This week’s soup, pictured below, was made using the broth I made from the turkey we roasted at Christmas.  There are no big secrets to making delicious, healthy broth from chicken, turkey or beef bones that you have collected after a lovely roast.  Here is the recipe for delicious, healthy broth that will turn into a lovely soup or stew: Continue reading “Soup for Cold Days – Part 2”

Cold days call for soup!

I love soups, especially in this cold, wintery weather.  I love how they warm my tummy on cold days and give a sense of comfort when we are feeling unwell.  There are many options for prepared soups, from simple, old-fashioned condensed canned soup to the more gourmet fully prepared type in today’s grocery stores.  These products can be tasty, but read the labels!  Most are quite high in salt, and other things that are best not to put into your body on a regular basis.  I love making soups at home.  These healthy alternatives fill your body with the goodness of a number of food groups and nutrients at once, and if you keep the recipe fairly simple, it doesn’t take much time at all.  If you make a big pot, you can have it for more than a few meals.  Soups are also something you can involve kids in making by having them collect all the ingredients for you and add to the pot, or by chopping the vegetables if they are old enough to handle a knife.  While the soup cooks, your house will be filled with that great aroma that brings a sense of home to everyone.  If you have been in the habit of eating prepared or store-bought soups for a while, your palate might take a little adjusting to enjoying your food with less salt, but in no time, you will prefer the taste of your own creations!  Stick with it, and you will do yourself a lot of good by reducing your intake of salt and additives, no matter what your age!  

I have been making soups for many years and really love them.  Today’s recipe is one I found last winter and it couldn’t be easier!  It’s also hearty enough to be a full meal, if you like.  And, it’s gluten-free and can be vegetarian if you use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and cooked chicken.  So it can be a meatless crowd pleaser for a skating party, Grey Cup party, Super Bowl party, your staff soup day at work, or the differing dietary needs of your family and friends.

Hearty Tomato and Grain Soup

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: very easy
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Hearty Tomato Grain Soup

I found this recipe on the package of PC Blue Menu Soup Mix in the winter of 2017 and I could not believe how easy and tasty it was!  I also add chopped carrots and celery in the last 15 minutes of cooking, and if I have some cooked chicken bits in the freezer that I saved from my last roast chicken, I add that too.  But the recipe is very delicious on it’s own, so go ahead and enjoy this easy, hearty dish!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mixed grains/legumes (brown rice, barley, split peas, lentils)
  • 1 – 20 ounce can diced tomatoes  (I prefer the no salt version)
  • 1 litre (4 cups) low salt chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • Half to one tbsp Olive Oil
  • ¾ cup chopped carrots (optional)
  • ¾ cup chopped celery (optional)
  • ¼ cup cooked chicken shredded or finely chopped (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in pot; add chopped onion and cook until fragrant and translucent
  2. Add the mixed grains/legumes
  3. Add the can tomatoes
  4. Add chicken broth
  5. Add water
  6. Bring to a boil
  7. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 60 to 80 minutes.  Grains should be tender, but not too soft
  8. Optional:  In the last 15 minutes of cooking add chopped carrots, celery chicken, or whatever vegetables you prefer!                

posted by: everydayhomegourmet.blog/