I love good food. I love thinking about food, cooking, baking and of course, eating delicious meals. I can even remember a time — in the pre-kiddo era — when I used to love shopping for food. I’d plan elaborate dinners, lovingly select the freshest farmer’s market veggies, and craft tasty and interesting meals. Sigh.
These days, however, crazy schedules combined with constant family meal planning and preparation (not to mention picky eaters) have zapped some of my enthusiasm and energy for good home cooking. I find myself plodding along, cobbling together meals, hoping that they are relatively edible and healthy. I am sure that I am not alone. Thankfully, MOD Moms is full of talented chefs and foodies ready to offer advice and even a few recipes to help me break out of my various ruts. Now, if they could just get my kid to eat something besides carbs …
Today, I’m shining the MOD Moms Spotlight on a couple of these great food folks. Cathryn Marsh and Cammie Kenne joined me for an email chat about making meals easier for busy families. Cathryn writes an inspirational food blog, Put Your Best Food Forward, which offers gluten-free, egg-free, low carb recipes.
What do you love about cooking/food?
Cathryn: Baking is science. Cooking is art. I like cooking because you don’t have to follow the rules. I like the ability to be creative and put together ingredients in new and interesting ways.
Cammie: The absolutely endless options! Food allows for so much creativity. Recipes are great as a guide but when you’re able to navigate through them and add in your own twist on things, the magic can truly happen! But don’t over think it. Sometimes the best recipes are the ones that have the fewest ingredients.
What are a few of your favorite family meals?
Cathryn: Flank steak. We’ve developed a few recipes for the blog and we keep coming up with new ones. This is one of the few recipes that my husband enjoys cooking. Lettuce wraps of any kind. My current favorite is a Mexican one with chipotle chicken and tequila. I serve it with chimichurri sauce and lick the plate. I’ve got a little obsession going right now.
Cammie: Family recipes? Anything I can make in 20 minutes or less! I have two young kids at home, so honestly they love their carbs. Rice and pasta top the list but we also love couscous and quinoa. We eat a pretty varied diet so we don’t have family favorites per say but my grandmother’s Chicken Broccoli Casserole, my mother’s Pasta Fagioli and anything smothered with cheese top the list.
Three food items you (personally) must always have in your kitchen:
Cathryn: Half and half. I have a friend who once said she was a journalist and therefore didn’t have time to put cream in her coffee. I simply replied that life wasn’t worth living without the cream in the coffee. Chocolate. ‘Nuff said. Apparently craving chocolate is a sign of a magnesium deficiency. I take magnesium so I don’t crave chocolate, but I eat it anyway. Dark chocolate is healthy. In fact, it’s practically salad. Something crunchy. It can be jicama, potato chips, veggie straws.
Cammie: Wow. I keep a pretty stocked pantry so I can whip up meals quickly. I always have pasta, canned tomatoes and beans on hand. My veggie drawer stays full with bell peppers, zucchini, carrots and mushrooms. I typically have a few root vegetables on hand and of course onions and garlic. With these items, you can make just about anything.
Any kid-friendly hits?
Cathryn: I make preassembled homemade freezer meals for my son so that there is always something to grab, no matter how busy we are. Family favorites include tortellini and marinara, cheeseburger sliders, penne with meatballs and spaghetti sauce, and beef and cheese burritos.
Cammie: I love this term ‘kid-friendly.’ I’m a firm believer in continuing to introduce new foods to kids. If I make something that I know is spicy, then they will have an alternative choice but mostly we eat what mom makes. Maple-glazed salmon, soy-honey-dijon chicken strips and the odd one: red wine meatballs with bleu cheese are a big hit in this house.
Any tricks to help the meal planning/preparation process easier?
Cathryn: I use the food.com app for grocery shopping and meal planning. It lets you track several local grocery stores and it loads the sale items for you. For example, you can instantly compare prices on “apples” between Safeway and Sprouts. The shopping list allows you to check things off as you are shopping. You can also go into your shopping list and edit the order in which you shop. It then reorders everything so that the list is sorted in the order that you want as you walk through the store.
For recipes, you have a few options with the app. You can search for recipes based on what you have on hand. I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of their recipes, but the best feature of the app is that you can load your own recipes and/or load recipes from other websites. I’ve imported tons of things from myrecipes.com (which includes recipes from Cooking Light and some other magazines). It builds a personalized shopping list if you add a recipe to your meal plan.
When I don’t have time to shop and we are tempted to go out, I’m a huge fan of the Instacart app. For $3.99 and a tip, someone does the shopping for me at Whole Foods, King Soopers, Costco, or Natural Grocers (the last one is brand new). There’s nothing like getting your grocery shopping taken care of while you’re on a conference call. They normally deliver within a few hours, so this is the perfect solution when I’m wondering what’s for dinner at 2pm and have just realized that I have nothing in the house that I want to eat/cook. And the best part? I probably save the $3.99 by not throwing some tempting something-or-other into my cart while shopping.
Cammie: Hire me! Kidding! There are so many great resources available for all of us busy families. I’ve found a fantastic company that I chose to partner with about 2 years ago. It’s called Wildtree and focuses on organic, non-GMO, high quality spice blends, sauces and infused oils. Wildtree has made my life and prepping meals so much easier! The reason I chose Wildtree was the company’s commitment to keeping up with the demand of current food needs and trends. For example, we are now certified gluten free and we will be getting our kosher certification as well. To top it off, we have a ton of great workshops where we make 10 freezer meals in 2 hours that are then ready when you are! It’s such a life-saver. I don’t have to think about it what’s for dinner when I have those meals on hand. You don’t even need to attend a party to participate. If you are interested in checking it out, simply contact me and I can send you all the instructions. It’s more fun with other people around but it’s not a requirement.
What kind of food challenges do you regularly work with? Any tips?
Cathryn: I have a wheat/gluten intolerance and I’m allergic to eggs. Turns out that this combination makes eating out of certain cuisines a total nightmare. For example, most gluten free items contain eggs… Rather than see this is a challenge, however, I decided to take on the challenge of focusing on what I can eat.
Cammie: I’ve been personal cheffing for almost 5 years now and feel like I have really seen it all. But, just when I think nothing will surprise me, things always change. I really like working with challenging allergies, taste buds, etcetera as I know that these are client swho really need help. Whether it’s been a life-long struggle or a new diagnosis, with healthy, homemade meals that are customized for them, they can finally feel great about enjoying their food again.
Allergy-friendly recipe favorites?
Cathryn: There are so many things that you can do with spices. I’m a huge fan of both Penzeys Spices and Wildtree products. You can add so much flavor when you are using good spices or spice mixes.
I have only 20 minutes to get dinner ready and I don’t know what to make — do you have any ideas?
Cathryn: It really depends what you’re in the mood for. Here are some different ideas. Paleo-ish Beef Tacos (uses lettuce wraps), Viola’s Garlic Chicken with frozen rice (buy three per package at Trader Joe’s and keep them in the freezer) and some simple steamed veggies, Honey Balsamic Chicken with some simple steamed veggies. All of these are on my blog and require very little time.
Cammie: Open your pantry and your fridge. What jumps out at you? Is it the veggie drawer? The meat you put in there to thaw? The pasta sitting on the shelf? I let that be my guide when I’m short on time. With the help of Wildtree, anything I make in 20 minutes has so much added flavor — with a splash of Rancher Steak Rub, Garlic Galore, or Adobo Seasoning, I can really kick it up a notch. Utilize your oven for roasty toasty vegetables and your stovetop other items in order to get the meal done fast!
Favorite local places to grab a bite out?
Cammie: We don’t really go out to eat that much so my experiences are limited but I absolutely ADORE Leaf in Boulder.
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Thanks so much for the advice and tips. And just for fun, here are a few of Chef Cammie Kenne’s favorite family recipes:
Salsa Rice Enchiladas
1 jar 24 oz. thick and chunky salsa
1 tsp chili powder
1 package ready-to-go brown rice
1 can 15 oz black beans – rinsed and drained (or use the kind of beans that are flavored with a sauce and then don’t drain)
Tortillas, cheese, black olive, sour cream
Oven at 375 for 15-20 minutes. Steam the rice, per the instructions on the bag. Meanwhile heat 1 1/2 c. salsa and chili powder to boiling. Stir in the steamed rice and remove from heat. Cover and stand for 5 mins. Stir in beans. Spread some salsa on the bottom of a sprayed rectangular baking dish. Roll up filling in tortillas and place them seam-side down. Top with salsa and cheese. Bake till bubbly.
*If extra time is available – I will add in sautéed veggies (peppers, mushrooms, zucchini). For extra protein, leftover shredded chicken, browned beer or turkey would be great additions to this dish.
Freezing instructions – Save out cheese and salsa toppings in a separate baggies. Place atop tortillas and wrap up tightly with plastic wrap. Freeze. To cook – Thaw. Cover with salsa and cheese and cook as directed.
Quick & Tasty Chicken Tenders
2 lbs chicken tenders – ideally the white tendon is removed
1⁄4 c. soy sauce
2-3 T dijon
2 T honey (could also do maple syrup)
A few pinches of garlic powder
A few pinches of onion powder 1-2 T coconut oil – raw, unrefined
For easy cleanup, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Rub a bit of coconut oil on the foil. As you prep your tenders, toss onto baking sheet. Measure ingredients directly over chicken. With hands, mix together until the chicken is coated. Bake at 350 for 10-15 mins or until chicken reaches 165. This dish is easily doubled and frozen. Place tenders and all other ingredients into bag and freeze. To cook: Thaw. Place on baking sheet and cook as directed.
Shawarma Burgers with Cucumber Dill Sauce
1 lb beef
1 T Shawarma seasoning
1⁄2 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of ginger
1⁄2 diced onion – or use minced and dried – about 2 T
1⁄4 c. almond meal
1⁄2 c. Diced English Cucumber
1⁄4 c. Nonfat Greek Yogurt – Plain 2 T Mayo
1 tsp dill
1 tsp garlic powder
1⁄2 tsp onion powder
pinch of Salt & Pepper
Prep the sauce first and place into refrigerator. Then prep burger patties. I let these sit for about 10 mins before cooking. Sear over medium high heat till desired doneness has been reached. While grilling chop up some lettuce and tomatoes. I serve this in a pita pocket but you could easily serve wrapped in lettuce and topped with avocado and tomato or on a regular bun. Top with the sauce and serve.
These recipes provided by Chef Cammie Kenne, Round the Table – Personal Chef. 307.690.9984, firstname.lastname@example.org.