Monday, January 16, 2017

Top 6 Meal Planning Tips

How many of you reading this are currently meal planning or have tried it in the past? It can be difficult to plan meals while working, going to school, and managing other activities. You may even feel like you prepare the same meals over and over again, which may get a bit boring. Planning your meals can be such a great tool to help you eat a more well-balanced diet! Planning can also help you to be less tempted to order out, which can get quite expensive. Today, I would like to share with you my top 6 meal-planning tips, in case you're feeling stuck or in a dinner rut!

1. Take some time to look for different recipes. 
Don't be afraid to try something new; it may even make it into your weekly meal rotation! Check out websites like Pinterest, Allrecipes, Food Network, etc, for a plethora of recipes for every cooking level and food preference. 

2. Ask your family what they would like to it. 

They may have some ideas or new favorites that they would like to see more on the kitchen table. This can take some of the pressure off of you, while cooking up something delicious you know your family will enjoy.

3. Take advantage of grocery store sales and ads. 

Don't throw those ads to the wayside while you sifting through your daily newspaper. Browse through the ad for some meal inspirations that won't break the bank. Remember to aim for a non-starchy vegetable (like broccoli or brussels sprouts), protein, and high-fiber carbohydrate (like sweet potatoes or quinoa) for each meal. 

4. Create a theme for some days of the week. 

Meatless Mondays, taco Tuesday, pasta Wednesday, and so on and so forth. Creating a theme will give you a starting point when planning meals. Even if you are making a familiar recipe, try switching up some of the ingredients. For example, on taco Tuesday, try swapping in beans for ground meat or using ground chicken. For pasta Wednesday, try a new low sodium pasta sauce, higher fiber pasta or even a new vegetable. 

5. Repurpose leftovers. 
When planning out meals (or theme-nights), remember to designate a day of the week (or two) for leftovers. Those leftovers can really add up and you want to utilize them before they end up going bad. If you don't have enough for a whole family meal, use leftovers in your lunch box for work or incorporate them into a new dish. Let's say you made a baked chicken (or tofu for my vegan/vegetarian friends) recipe on Sunday, but there isn't enough to make another full meal with it. Instead, dice it up and add it to a casserole with extra veggies, a low sodium broth, and some quinoa or brown rice. Or, use leftover proteins on a fresh bed of greens. Get creative with those leftovers!

6. Utilize your freezer. 

If you find that you can't cook a lot during the week, try to double your recipes when you do cook. You can freeze whatever isn't eaten and defrost it at a later time when your stuck on a meal idea or don't feel like cooking.

Leave a comment and let me know how your meal planning/prepping is going and if any of these tips have helped you to step up the variety!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Happy New Year! It’s amazing how quickly the new year came upon us! Have you all made your resolutions yet? 

Previously, I wrote a post about some of the winter fruits and vegetables available. Today, I’d like to focus more on the tasty butternut squash. Butternut squash is a good source of fiber, potassium, and magnesium. It is also naturally fat and cholesterol free! A half-cup contains only 50 calories, yet, provides you with 260% of your daily value for vitamin A and 40% of your daily value for vitamin c, which can help support your immune system. 

Now, after reading those quick facts about butternut squash, it sounds pretty enticing, doesn’t it? Makes you want to put it in your shopping cart during your next grocery shopping trip, huh? But, you may worry that you won’t be able to cook it right away or you’d like to find a recipe first before you cook it. Worry not! Butternut squash is a hearty vegetable that can be stored up to about a month in your pantry. When choosing butternut squash, pick one that is heavy for its size, is free of bruises, and is more tan in color than white. Below is a delicious recipe for homemade butternut squash and apple soup. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Butternut Squash & Apple Soup
Total Time: 60 minutes (stovetop), 5-7 hours (crockpot)
Yield: 3.5 quarts
Servings: 6

1 butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (I used a flaxseed oil variety)
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 cup water
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth 
2 large onions, chopped 
2 medium apples, chopped 
Dash of salt and pepper
*Roasted butternut squash seeds (optional)

Directions- Stove Top
1. Sauté butter, olive oil, and onions in a large pot for about 5-10 mintues, stirring occasionally.
2. Cut squash into chunks and add to pot with apples, salt, pepper, water, and broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over low heat for about 30-40 minutes.
3. Remove soup from pot and puree in a blender or use an immersion blender right in the pot!
4. (Optional) Top your soup with a sprinkling of roasted butternut squash seeds.

Directions- Slow Cooker
1. Sauté butter, olive oil, and onions in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer onions to the slow cooker.
**You can also lightly cook the onions in the bottom of your slow cooker. 
2. Cut squash into chunks and add to your slow cooker with the apples, salt, pepper, water, and broth. Cook for 5-7 hours on high heat.
3. Remove soup from slow cooker and puree in a blender or use an immersion blender right in your slow cooker. 
4. (Optional) Top your soup with a sprinkling of roasted butternut squash seeds.

Nutrition Information (approx. 1 cup) 120 Calories, 3.5 g Fat, 68 mg Sodium, 445mg Potassium, 23g Carbohydrates, 5.5g Fiber, 1.5g Protein, 170% Vitamin A, 38% Vitamin C, 16.5 % Vitamin B-6

*Roasted Butternut Squash Seeds
Instead of discarding your butternut squash seeds, set them aside and use for a soup topping or quick snack! Simply rinse your seeds in a small bowl of water (to remove stringy flesh) and pat dry on a towel. Spread the seeds on a greased baking sheet, drizzle them with a splash of olive oil, and sprinkle on seasonings of choice. Bake for about 10-15 minutes at 300 degrees F.  Keep an eye on the time for smaller seeds so that they do not burn. 

Seasoning Blends: 
-Sweet: Cinnamon, nutmeg, maple syrup
-Savory: Paprika, garlic powder, salt, and pepper

Post is guest written by Christine Farinella - Current dietetic intern with the University of Delaware that holds a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition & Dietetics from West Chester University. Recipe credit to Felicia Porrazza of PorrazzaNutrition. 

References -