Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Meals to go

The end is in sight for our busy, busy season.  As I look at the calendar, I see that there was not a single day in the last two weeks that someone wasn't off somewhere doing something in the evening.  Getting a home-cooked, fresh and nourishing meal into a youngster before he hops on his bike at 5:15 pm to head off to a ball game, or packing a supper for the rest of the crew to enjoy at the game, can be a challenge.  I thought that today I would write about a few discoveries we've had while adapting to a schedule that has been sped up faster than we've experienced before, in hopes that I can return to it next spring for a refresher.  Hopefully they can provide inspiration for your family too.

1.  Love thy slow cooker:
I really didn't think I would be leaning on our slow cooker now that we are out of the cold, frigid months of winter.  But we are.  And it's been a great way to get a flavourful, nourishing dish on the table right when it's needed.  Plus, the roasts we usually make will provide leftovers for lunch the next day.  Luckily, we've had an opportunity to experiment with new recipes when cooking our grass-fed beef "low and slow".  Below is a recipe for a simple dish I've made several times.  Check out Long Way on a Little for other slow cooker and grilling inspiration.
Slow-cooked roast beef:
 ~ Gather your ingredients:  roast, 2 cups stock, 2 bay leaves, freshly ground pepper, sea salt, thyme leaves, chopped garlic, and rosemary (to taste), 1 tablespoon olive oil
 ~ Place stock and bay leaves in slow cooker.
 ~ Place pepper, salt, thyme leaves, garlic and rosemary in a mortar and grind until it forms a paste.  Stir the olive oil into the paste.
 ~ Rub herb paste over roast.  Place it in the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.
 2.  Cook extras:
We've had a few days where we've transitioned from an afternoon activity straight into an evening activity.  Having extra leftovers waiting for us has helped us to ensure our meals are balanced and provide all the nutrients and energy we need to do our activities well.  We have a couple of standby recipes that we love and that are easy to double.  Our tomato and bean salad from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian is one of them.  Cabbage salads also require relatively few ingredients, can be stretched for more than one meal, and require no cooking time.  We usually slice our cabbage thinly, then mix in some sliced carrots, peppers, scallions and raisins (to increase the allure of the dish for our littlest one).  We often finish our cabbage salad with an oil-based vinaigrette, or we will mix mayonnaise, yogurt, salt, pepper, poppy seeds and a wee bit of vinegar to make a creamy salad dressing.  Another unusual but popular option is popcorn - check out my favorite recipe here.  This recipe makes a lot - enough for lunch and an afternoon snack. 

3.  Love local:
Our local farmer's market already has quite a selection of veggies that we stock up on.  Cherry tomatoes and cucumbers are incredibly versatile and require little prep work.  A wash, a couple of chops with the knife, and a snack is prepared in less time than it takes the little ones to clear off the table.  Add a freshly baked loaf of bread and some market chevr√©, and we have the makings of meal - all we need to add is some fruit.  And there is very little that is quicker to cook than asparagus quickly stir-fried with butter and garlic.  Salad greens can easily be tossed with any of these ingredients to ensure we get a serving or two of veggies in our meals.  Yum!

4.  Preparing ahead:
When we are in a true rush and there are really only moments to grab and go, we send our little ones out the door with something we've prepared ahead of time.  Granola bars from Homemade Pantry and hard-boiled eggs are two items that have walked out in the hands of our little ones this week as they head out to ball games.  As an added bonus, the kids can make their own hard-boiled eggs, and they seem extra motivated if they can dye them, too.  Other ideas that have been popular in our house include homemade trail mixes or granola, combined with some type of fruit.  I make sure to stock up on dried fruit and nuts so the children have plenty of ingredients to choose from when they make a big batch.

5.  Soul food:
Most people need some down time...the folks in my household included.  While soul food isn't something we can literally eat, it is just as important for nourishing and reenergizing our bodies.  I can tell when my little ones have had enough and need to retreat from the rest of the world and the busyness.  And I earnestly try to make sure they get it.  They may hole up in their room or sit on the couch and read for the better part of the day.  They may take up a craft and work with their hands.  Whatever it is, I trust that my children know what they need to balance themselves and I try to give them the space they need to recalibrate during the day so they are ready to go if need be in the evening.

What do you do to nourish your family when you're on the go?

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