Healthy Cooking Tips And Tricks For Busy Families

As summer draws to near to a close, my thoughts turn toward getting my kids ready for the new school year. I love the free flow of summer, always eager for the break in routine that summer brings. By the end of summer I am also just as ready for the return to routine and structure.

As the mother of two boys, autumn also brings on a shortage of discretionary time. Between the pressures of sports, homework, quality time, and bedtime, keeping up with healthy meals can be a challenge. I know first hand what a struggle it is to put (a healthy) dinner on the table night after night. The temptation to do quick-and-not-so-healthy can be hard to resist.

Here are some suggestions, tips and tricks that will help you make the most of your time in the kitchen, save you money, and keep your family at the peak of health.

Suggestion #1 — Start the season off with a clean pantry

Take everything out –and I mean EVERYTHING and clean the space. Paint it, re paper it, or whatever. Make the space look attractive and appealing. Be selective when putting things back. Toss anything that is expired or you would not want to eat. Get rid of items that undermine healthy habits. Stock the shelves with things like beans, tomatoes, whole grains, and canned fish like tuna, salmon, or sardines. Stock the freezer with chicken, ground beef/turkey/buffalo, frozen vegetables and home made soups.

Suggestion #2 — Make your own frozen entrees to freeze for later

You can do this by setting aside a couple of hours one day a week, once a month, or by simply making enough extra to get another meal out of it. Be sure to choose recipes that will freeze well like soups, stews, lasagna, and cooked grains too. (See my recipe for gluten free hi protein lasagna)

Tip #1 — Do some meal planning at the beginning of each week

It does not have to be fancy, just some notes of what is for dinner the different nights. Each morning refer to the list and be sure you have everything you need, or need to defrost.

Trick #1 — How to defrost something in a hurry

The best way is NOT in the microwave. It diminishes the taste and texture, not to mention the healthfulness of your food.

The best way to defrost rice or other whole grains is to put them in a strainer and run them under warm water. It only takes a minute.  For other things fill a large bowl with very warm water. If the item you are defrosting is watertight, submerge it weighted down with a glass jar filled with hot water. If it is watertight, put it in a zip lock with all the air pushed out or in an empty plastic produce bag with the open end above the level of the water. Submerging it will push the air out. Change the water as it cools down. For best results, defrost meat completely before cooking.

 

I wish you a happy, healthy, and stress free back-to-school season—whether you have school aged kids of not!

 

 

Coconut Squash Soup

This is one of my all-time favorite soups. It is simple, rich, and sweet while being still light yet filling. Coconut squash soupIt was served at my local Vietnamese restaurant and I was heart broken when it closed. So, I set out to make my own soup. And who knew it would be SO easy!?

You could use any kind of winter squash although I prefer either a hubbard or a kobucha type.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 5 cups squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed into 1″ pieces
  • 1 qt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 15oz can coconut milk
  • 1 small bundle glass noodles, soaked for 10 min. in hot water and cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • pinch of salt or to taste
  • 1-2 tablespoon sliced scallion to garnish

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Peel and dice squash into bite-sized chunks.
  2. Simmer them for 10-15 minutes in broth until they are fork tender.
  3. Add coconut milk and simmer a minute or two more.
  4. Salt to taste.
  5. Turn off heat and add glass noodles and scallion.

Serves 4 – 6 people

Enjoy!