These days, its possible to eat three meals a day without ever entering a kitchen and doing any sort of food prep. Unfortunately, our society’s obsession with fast, cheap and convenient is wrecking havoc on our health. I’ve never preached Canada’s Food Guide, but instead think we should be focusing on eating real food (Amen, Michael Pollan) and pushing for a ‘back to the kitchen’ movement where we prepare, cook, and enjoy our own foods. As a busy student, there are days I don’t feel like cooking, especially when I’m pressed for time during exam periods. Having said that, a little preparation, less time on Facebook Snapchat, Twitter, what have you, and an appreciation for real food can mean lots of healthy choices you can feel proud about serving yourself and others. Below I have listed five items that are readily available in all grocery stores, but I encourage you to try making on your own and tasting the difference real food makes.
Roast chicken- ah the roast chicken, so easy and convenient, sitting there next to the check-out at Sobey’s, calling at you to pick up along with some other premade sides for a quick and easy dinner. I don’t disagree that roast chicken is convenient, but it’s way healthier and cheaper to make your own at home. I wait for Blue Goose Organic chickens to go on sale, and will buy at least two at once and freeze one right away. It takes about 1-1 ½ hours to cook a whole chicken, so set aside time on a day when you’re home early enough or great for Sunday night and then have leftovers all week long. I season my own chicken with chopped garlic, sea salt, and cilantro, roast it whole with a lemon quarter which I drizzle over with some of the pan drippings at the end. The result is a crispy, delicious chicken that has much more flavour than store-bought, and way less sodium, preservatives and other scary ingredients.
Almond butter- almond butter is expensive! Especially if you buy the good organic stuff by the jar and use in baking, you can easily go through a few jars on one month. I like using almond butter in grain-free muffin and brownie recipes, and discovered that its easy to make your own using a good quality food processor. I followed directions for making homemade almond butter posted here, and made my own delicious creamy almond butter in 15 minutes. I lightly toast my almonds in the oven first for a little extra flavour, and feel free to add some spices (sea salt, vanilla cinnamon) or a little bit of natural sweetener (honey, maple syrup) and other seeds (ground flax, sesame, pumpkin seeds etc.) for an extra rich and indulgent treat. If you prefer crunchy, add a few chopped almonds at the end. Next on my list is homemade cashew butter, I bought a giant 1Kg bag of raw organic cashews by Prana at Winner’s the other day, another great foodie find! I did some number crunching and the price of the bag was comparable to buying cashew at Bulk Barn.
Admittedly, you need to have an ice cream maker or stand mixer attachment for this one, but seriously, once you try homemade ice cream you will never buy store-bought again. I love making dairy free ice cream using a combination of canned coconut milk and almond milk, and the best part is I can adjust the sweetness to taste with organic unpasteurized honey, making it taste way better and substantially reducing the sugar content of store-bought brands. Especially if you buy low-fat or fat-free ice cream, all you are doing is consuming roughly the same calories, but more empty calories in the form of extra sugar to make up for the flavor lost in fat. This peanut butter vegan ice cream was made in my kitchen stand mixer ice cream maker attachment, and poured over a date-almond-cocoa crust for a friend’s birthday party, it was a big hit!
Overpriced & dry GF bakery items and desserts
The price difference is ridiculous between regular and GF bakery items. If you look at the ingredient list, the first few items listed are often white rice flour, potato starch and sugar, all of which have zero nutritional value and will send your blood sugar soaring. Instead make your own baked goods and desserts at home. It will be cheaper, healthier and taste 100% better I promise. Here are two of my favourite dessert and muffin recipes. For ingredients below, I used PC organics unsweetened applesauce that comes in a pack of 6 individual containers.
Almond butter Banana Muffins with Cacao nibs
1 cup creamy homemade almond butter
1 mashed ripe banana and 1 individual container unsweetened applesauce (or two bananas)
2 eggs and 1 flax eggs or 3 eggs total
1/4 honey (optional, I didn't use because I don't like things sweet)
1tsp cinnamon and vanilla
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup optional mix-ins (cacao nibs, raisins, craisins, walnuts etc.)
combine all ingredients very well in stand mixer or use hand mixer. Stir in optional mix-ins, I only added cacao nibs because I am a chocolate addict!
pour into prepared muffins tins with paper liners
back at 350 for 15 minutes.
cool and eat, so good!
Makes 10-12 muffins depending on size. Freeze leftovers immediately as these muffins contain no preservatives and will spoil fast on your kitchen counter
Banana Cashew fudge squares
1 cup soaked pitted dates
1 cup raw walnuts or almonds
3 tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
1 small ripe banana, mashed and 1 container unsweetened applesauce (or two bananas total)
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup cashew butter or other nut butter
2-4 tbsp honey (depending on desired sweetness)
1tsp each vanilla and cinnamon
Combine dates and walnuts in a food processor until a ball forms. Add coconut and press into bottom of 8x5 loaf pan.
For the topping, combine banana, applesauce, cocoa powder, cashew butter, cinnamon vanilla and honey in bowl, mixing well. Pour over crust and place in freezer until firm, about ½ hour. Cut into squares and serve or store in freezer. Now get your bum in the get and start cooking!