Monday, November 25th, 2013
It is, quite literally, a once on a lifetime moment (unless scientists finally resolve that whole mortality): Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, two very wonderful events, happening simultaneously. The next time that the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving will be in 79,043 years. So, of course, this confluence has its own name: Thanksgivukkah.
At our house, we’re extra-super excited, because Thanksgiving/Hanukkah Eve, the night we light the first candle, is also my oldest daughter’s seventh birthday. Happiness abounds! Of course, she’s doubly thrilled because of the multiplicity of presents this brings. (Among the things I am thankful for this year: Thanksgiving is not a present-giving holiday.)
How to celebrate? Buzzfeed’s got a mouth-watering Thanksgivukkah menu, for starters, and this Thanksgivukkah Pinterest board can keep you occupied for hours. Here on Parents.com you can find these fun Hanukkah crafts and recipes, and a wealth of activities, crafts, and recipes for Thanksgiving. And don’t miss these Thanksgiving printables.
Personally, the double holiday doesn’t affect my family much–we’ll celebrate both as we always do. But I much prefer the mash-up of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah to the more routine lumping together of Christmas and Hanukkah. Giving thanks–for the miracles in our lives and the freedoms we enjoy–are central themes of Hanukkah, and of course, Thanksgiving. So perhaps the best celebration we can have on this day is to enjoy ourselves and take the message of these holidays seriously by giving thanks for all the blessings in our lives. I know that’s what I will be doing.
Still looking for great holiday-weekend activities? Find great around-the-house crafts.
How to Make a Thanksgiving Centerpiece
Image: candle and pumpkins via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 7th, 2013
Rounding up the family together for Thanksgiving (and having them get along) is already hard enough without the added worry of creating dishes to satisfy certain diets and picky eaters. And if you have family members who have certain food allergies and sensitivities (especially to gluten), you might feel even more overwhelmed.
But don’t throw in the towel yet.
Hosting a gluten-free Thanksgiving feast is possible — and Udi’s Gluten Free has simple and delicious recipes that can even convert gluten lovers (like me). Recently, another editor and I were invited to a special Udi’s Thanksgiving luncheon, along with other Meredith editors, to sample gluten-free takes on classic holiday dishes. As a foodie and someone who believed going gluten-free meant eating pale imitations of “real” foods, I was surprised by the versatile spread and even more surprised by the delicious flavors.
On the menu was a whole course that incorporated gluten-free bread, chips, and cookies:
I could definitely see the sweet potato hummus and roasted beet salad on my own Thanksgiving table, which usually has some gluten-free (and dairy-free) dishes made especially for my little nephew, who has a few food allergies. Even if no one in your family has gluten allergies, there are still some benefits to going gluten-free, like taming tummy troubles and maintaining a healthy weight. And some studies have shown a gluten-free diet could possibly help kids with autism, though research results are inconclusive.
Best of all: these gluten-free dishes could easily substitute Thanksgiving mainstays (without sacrificing tastiness) and be worth repeating for Christmas, perhaps served with an additional dessert like ice cream sandwiches made with Udi’s maple pecan chocolate chip cookies. So now that you have some new recipes, I hope this year’s dinner planning will be just a little easier!
More Gluten-Free Foods on Parents.com
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Food, food allergies, food allergy, gluten allergy, gluten-free, holiday dinner, holiday foods, holiday recipes, Holidays, meal, meal planning, menu, recipe, recipes, thanksgiving, thanksgiving dinner, udi's | Categories:
Food, GoodyBlog, Holidays
Wednesday, October 16th, 2013
Blogger Jessica Fisher is a meal-planning and food-prepping guru. On weekends you’ll find her cooking up a storm, making up to 30 dinners to freeze and then reheat as needed throughout the month. This freezer-cooking method inspired her first book, Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead & Freeze Cookbook, which hit bookstores recently. Fisher also shares tips for managing meals, home, and family on her two websites: LifeasMOM and GoodCheapEats. We asked the mom of six (!) how she gets dinner on the table in a flash so that you can, too.
What inspired you to share your cooking and home-making experiences in a blog?
I have always been a home cook, starting when I was about six or seven years old. My mom let me have free reign in the kitchen, so I was primarily self-taught. Many of my jobs as a teen and in college were food-related, including catering and waiting tables in restaurants. Over time I learned about food, from prepping to eating.
GoodCheapEats is all about food for families: how to get dinner on the table in a timely manner, make it fun for kids, and remain economical. I started it because, at the time, our family was in debt. By cutting back and being smarter about spending and saving, we paid off $18,000 in about a year and a half.
How does freezer-cooking fit in?
When I was pregnant, my friend and I decided to try freezer cooking for the first time. We spent the whole weekend cooking up a bunch of meals, packaging them, and then freezing them. That week, it was incredibly nice to come home and reheat a dish the oven, on the stove, or in the microwave. To have that luxury for a month was totally worth the two days I invested!
That was 17 years ago. Since then, I’ve conducted personal research and it’s been all trial and error. My family is used to my experiments, many of which have led to culinary adventures and memory-making!
You have six children ranging in ages from 5 to 16. How do you manage such a large dinner table while staying on budget?
We typically serve buffet style up at the counter. I will plate for little ones and everyone else serves themselves—it’s so much easier this way.
By planning and cooking everything in advance, the cost-savings are huge. This way, I can buy in bulk and then make a month’s worth of dinners for about $300. That means each meal for eight people costs about $10—that’s a great ratio. Plus, I’ve saved on energy bills from using the stove and other appliances less often.
What other benefits might families see from using the freezer-cooking method?
Saving time, keeping a healthy diet, and having peace of mind. Once I fill my freezer, I don’t have to think about, “What’s for dinner?” until next month. Freezing is my sanity saver. Plus, it saves us from going for fast food when we’re in a pinch—that’s why I always keep burritos or soup in the freezer!
So what exactly can we put in the freezer?
There is so much that can freeze, that it’s more about what can’t: soft cheeses, anything with mayo, deli cheese or meats, and obvious items like salads. The “What Can’t You Freeze?” section of the book goes into more detail.
How does your freezer-cooking method work?
Choose recipes that have common ingredients. When chopping onions for one dish, you’re doing so for multiple dishes—just like a larger commercial kitchen that has a prep cook. Once everything is prepped, you simply put the items together in different ways. This is what cuts down on time and hassle.
To save time, get as many things as you can. I call it getting my “maids” working: my two slow cookers, bread machine, and stock pots on all stove burners. Use the technology at your disposal to help get your timing right.
When you’re ready to freeze, plastic zip-top bags are good options, but I love heavy-duty plastic containers with lids. Just be sure all food cools completely before stowing it away. Chilling dishes in the refrigerator first works well.
Label dates and names clearly, not only for food-safety reasons but also to avoid mistaken identities. One night, my husband thought beef gravy was chocolate ice cream. Yuck! And don’t forget to rotate your stock—all items should be used within two to three months.
So can moms combine pre-made, frozen items with fresh items?
Of course! I highly recommend stir-fries: freeze your choice of protein prepared in a sauce. Then, when you’re reheating, add fresh peppers, onion, and snap peas.
How can moms who’ve never cooked in bulk get started with make-ahead freezer cooking? What are good learning curve tips? What about easy first recipes?
It depends on how comfortable you are with cooking to begin with. If you’re a home cook with a little experience, it can be a smooth transition. If you haven’t cooked from scratch very much, it can be overwhelming.
I always suggest that if you have a favorite meal, start with that. This way, you know your family likes it and you simply make a double or triple batch. If you’re only freezing two meals during your week of cooking, you can experiment with how you package it and how your freezer responds. Then, move on to making short meal plans.
To get started, choose a couple of recipes and just go for it—it takes practice so try, try again. You can’t really lose with the plans in the book, especially because I’ve already made grocery lists for you!
Does this mean mom has to sacrifice her entire weekend cooking to make the weeknights easier?
There are shorter ways to cook in bulk. Sometimes I make several dishes over the course of a few weeknights, after kids are asleep. If you don’t want or need to do a full 30-day prep, it can be as easy as doubling or tripling dinner.
Or try recycling menu plans. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every week. Try having a meatloaf night on Monday, or tacos on Tuesday. That takes the guesswork out of it. With things like pizza, you can vary the toppings each week and keep it healthy with salad and veggie dippers on the side.
Okay, so you had a crazy weekend and your freezer stock is out. What is your go-to recipe during the week?
If worse comes to worse, I always have red sauce frozen and pasta in the cupboard. Having a back-up plan takes the pressure off—because sometimes, we just don’t have the time or energy!
Interview has been edited and condensed.
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cookbook, cookbook Q&A, cooking techniques, cooking tips, Food, food prep, freezer, freezer-cooking, good cheap eats, GoodCheapEats, Jessica Fisher, life as mom, LifeasMOM, make-ahead meals, not your mother's, recipes, Rheanna O'Neil Bellomo | Categories:
Food, GoodyBlog, Your Life
Friday, May 10th, 2013
I am lucky not to have any food allergies, but I still want to make so many of the delicious-sounding recipes in Elizabeth Gordon’s new book, Simply Allergy-Free: Quick and Tasty Recipes for Every Night of the Week. Just looking at the gorgeous photos in the book, you’d never know that ever recipe is free of gluten, dairy, soy, eggs and nuts. Author of the blog My Allergy Free Life and owner of the online allergen-free bakery Betsy & Claude Baking Company, this busy mom of two girls has multiple food allergies. She says, “I like to think of these recipes as the little black dress of my pantry—simple and economical fare that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion.”
She shows you how to use (and where to buy!) key ingredients like xanthan gum, agave nectar, superfine rice flour, powdered vanilla rice milk, and sorghum flour, which can make gluten-free and allergen-free foods taste like “the real thing.” The recipes I can’t wait to try include chicken tikka burgers, chickpea French fries, beef tostadas, corn quinoa salad, herbed biscuits, and chocolate pretzel pie. Yum!
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allergen-free, allergy, cookbook, family dinner, food allergy, gluten allergy, gluten-free, recipe, recipes | Categories:
Food, GoodyBlog, Health & Safety
Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
Big news, you guys. You know that delicious bowl (or, um, sometimes pseudo-bucket) of olive oil they give you at every Italian restaurant? The one you sometimes feel a little guilty about sopping up with tons of gorgeously crusty bread? Well, scientists have just proven that indulging in a bit of olive oil as part of a Mediterranean diet can dramatically reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death from heart disease. And? It’s a smart diet to borrow from during pregnancy—minus the recommended glasses of vino, of course!
Along with a focus on olive oil, the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet studied included servings of fish every week (make sure it’s not a high mercury fish!), including plenty of nuts and legumes, and avoiding processed meats and snacks. No calorie counting. No cardboard-tasting diet foods. Just a delicious “diet” that can save your life.
The really cool thing is that the Mediterranean diet has extra health benefits for pregnant women and their babes-to-be: olive oil (and the olives it comes from), fish, and legumes all contain healthy fatty acids, which are vital in developing your baby’s nervous system—including her brain. Add in a bunch of fruits and veggies for balance, and you’ve got yourself a smart and scrumptious pregnancy feast!
Can’t wait to try the Mediterranean diet? Try this Grilled Greek Salad or Tilapia with Lemony Herb Salad. Yum!
If you’ve got any other good recipes that would go with the Mediterranean diet, put them in the comments.
Image of olive oil via Shutterstock.
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fatty acids, fish, Food, health, Mediterranean diet, Nutrition, olive oil, Pregnancy, pregnant, recipes | Categories:
Thursday, October 4th, 2012
Kids (and parents!) need whole grains all year round, and autumn is the perfect time to incorporate these nourishing ingredients into your family meal plan. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that children consume at least 2 to 3 servings of whole grain daily. In addition to lowering the risk of many chronic diseases, fiber-rich whole grains have been proven to keep you feeling full for longer, so you’ll eat less and feel energized all day long. There are plenty of fun ways to get kids eating nutritious and tasty meals, so what are you waiting for?
We spoke with Karen Mansur, program manager of the Whole Grains Council about how to help your family make the switch to whole grains. Here are a few of her tips:
1. Host a family taste test
Make three different whole grain pastas (brown rice, whole wheat and quinoa are some popular possibilities) and vote on the family favorite. Next time you make pasta, use the newly crowned whole grain favorite. Do the same with breads, cereals, pancakes mixes, etc. until you’ve switched out all of the classic meal components with whole grain options. And if your picky eater just does not like one particular grain, don’t worry—there are plenty of others to choose from.
2. Cook whole grains together
“Studies show that cooking with children encourages them to be more adventurous with flavors and textures,” Mansur says. Little ones can help out with simple tasks like measuring and stirring. “Getting their help in the kitchen also creates a bonding opportunity and best of all, teaches an appreciation for the effort required to put together a meal,” Mansur adds.
Here are some easy recipes that incorporate whole grains:
You can also adapt your current recipes by simple substitutions like switching from white to brown rice, or by replacing half the white flour with whole wheat flour for foods like cookies and quick breads.
3. Pack healthy lunches for school (or work)
Switch out potato chips for popcorn, make trail mix by combining whole grain cereal with dried fruit or nuts, or select an oatmeal cookie for dessert. Best of all, the whole grains will help kids stay full and focused for the rest of the school day.
4. Look for the Whole Grain Stamp
If you’re having trouble locating whole grains at the grocery store, just look for the Whole Grain Stamp. Food packages with more than a half serving of whole grains are eligible for the black and gold seal, making it easy for shoppers to identify nutritious options.
Image: Various rye bread via Shutterstock.
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