True confession. My name is Thérèse and it’s been 6 months since my last post. During that time I wrote 84 recipes, created a connected meal system, helped design a mobile app, and filed for 3 trademarks and a patent.
Say That Again
Yes, I’ve been busy and although I’m still active on Instagram (@vitalityinfocus & @timechopapp) my blogging here came to a halt.
In June I embarked on a new project with my family. Over dinner one night we identified a problem, thought of a solution and then ran with it. As of Monday we have a mobile app available for download in Apple’s US App Store.
Read All About It
You can find out more about our app and innovative connected meal system on our website. Be sure to read the blog post I wrote on how the kitchen lessons I learned from my mother have shaped who I am as a cook and recipe author.
You can download TimeChop and try out the connected meal system for free. I hope it helps you live with vitality.
When I hear fritter I think of some morsel of food that’s been covered in a batter and deep fried. Think of corn fritters, hush puppies or apple fritters and the word healthy doesn’t come to mind. However, fritters can also be pan fried with a little healthy fat and made up of any number of vegetables. My aim is to find recipes that are good for you, taste great and are simple to make. This recipe fits the bill. It has just 9 ingredients that should be readily available at most stores or could be substituted. These vegetable fitters are versatile and are even good cold the next day for lunch, so double the recipe and have plenty left over. Pair them with a kale salad and you have a nutritious complete meal.
Potential Health Benefits
There’s lots of healthy goodness in this meal. The ingredients contain antioxidants, nutrients, essential fatty acids, and minerals that boast numerous health benefits. As a result your brain, skin, eyes, joints, gut and heart will thank you. In addition, a dinner like this can speed up your metabolism, increase your energy and improve your memory.
Zucchini is low in calories and high in anti-inflammatory properties. Essential nutrients like potassium and manganese are high in zucchini. In addition, it has a high water content that makes you feel full.
I grew up watching commercials for Chia Pets, and was surprised when chia seeds became a popular superfood. There are a number of reported health benefits to adding nutrient dense chia seeds into your diet. Studies have shown that they can improve heart and digestive health, boost your energy and metabolism, help you build muscle and lose weight, and prevent premature aging of the skin. They are versatile and can be added to many recipes. I’ve use them in our morning smoothies, breads and pancakes, on yogurt with granola and in these fritters. There is some evidence that soaking them in water for 30 minutes makes them easier to digest and makes the nutrients more readily available.
The list of health benefits for coconut oil goes on and on. From reducing inflammation to improving memory in addition to boosting the immune system and increasing energy and endurance it has an impressive line-up of benefits when used both orally and topically. It is important to buy cold pressed extra virgin coconut oil and avoid the refined or processed oil to ensure that you get the greatest health benefits.
These vegetable fritters are so easy to make especially if you have a food processor. My Cuisinart is about 25 years old and still running strong. It makes quick work of prepping vegetables, making hummus, chopping nuts and making smooth salad dressings. I keep mine readily available on a shelf in my pantry so that deciding to use it is a no brainer. If your useful kitchen tools and small appliances are buried in a cupboard behind other things you won’t use them. At least that is my experience, because a knife or grater is easier to grab than getting down on your knees and pulling things out to get to the food processor. Alternatively, you can use a box grater if you don’t have a food processor.
Carrots & Zucchini
You’ll want about 2 cups of grated vegetables for this recipe. You can see that I have a heaping 2 cups from 1 large zucchini and 2 large carrots. I had extra grated carrots that I then used in the kale salad. The zucchini has a high water content, so it helps to squeeze or press some of the moisture out of it before adding it to the other ingredients. After grating the zucchini put it into a colander with small holes or a mesh sieve, sprinkle a little salt on it and let it sit while you prepare the carrots and onion. Then just push the zucchini down and let the excess water drain out. Alternatively you can squeeze it with your hands. You could also use sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga, or butternut squash.
Dice half an onion to equal about 1/2 cup. Onions add immense flavor to savory recipes.
Add Flax & Chia
Put the carrots, zucchini, and onion into a bowl and add 1/3 cup of flax meal and 3 teaspoons of chia seeds.
Break two eggs into a smaller bowl and give them a quick whisk with a fork.
You can make this a vegan meal by replacing the eggs with chia seeds.
Next add a 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan pink, sea or kosher salt and 3 grinds of pepper from a pepper mill. Mix it all together.
Kale Salad to Complete the Meal
This is a simple kale salad to serve along with the fritters. Plus the ingredients add to the nutritional bang of this meal. I like to use Lacinato (dinosaur) kale in salads, but I had curly kale, so I used it. There are just 7 ingredients in this salad. Wash, de-stem and chop the kale. Put the kale, the extra grated carrots, and 2 tablespoons each of pepitas and goji berries into a bowl. Drizzle the juice of a lemon and a tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil on top with a pinch or two of salt and toss to combine. When I make a kale or cabbage salad I like to make it first and let it sit while I prepare the rest of the meal. This helps to soften the kale and the flavors have time to mingle and create a more flavorful salad.
After the salad sits for 10 minutes give it a taste test and add more lemon juice or salt if you think it needs it. If you don’t have any more lemon juice then apple cider vinegar works as well.
Cooking the Fritters
Heat a griddle pan or skillet on medium heat and melt 1/2 a tsp of coconut oil on the hot surface. I love this griddle pan from Al Clad. It covers two burners and allows me to fry more fritters at a time. Measure about a 1/4 -1/3 cup of fritter batter onto the hot skillet and let them cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Flip the fritters and brown on the other side. Make sure you keep mixing the eggs back into the batter. They tend to puddle in the bottom of the bowl and you want them to cook with the fritters.
These fritters smell delicious as they are cooking and get a nice golden brown crunch on them. You’ll want to sneak bites as they come hot off the griddle.
Dinner is Ready
Plate 2-3 fritters along side the kale salad and get ready to enjoy. Save any leftover fritters for tomorrow’s lunch. One of the nice things about using kale in a salad instead of lettuce is that the leftovers don’t get limp or slimy by the next day. You can enjoy leftover salad tomorrow as well.
Remember to subscribe to my blog so you will be among the first to know when I have a new post. As a bonus, I will send you my menu planner.
2 cups grated carrots and zucchini (about two large carrots and one large zucchini)
2 eggs; whisked (organic and/or free-range if possible)
1/3 cup flax meal
3 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp Himalayan or sea salt
3 grinds on a pepper mill
1-2 tsp coconut oil
THE KALE SALAD:
2 cups of chopped kale
1 cup of grated carrots (you can use what is left from the carrots grated for the fritters)
2 TBS pepitas
2TBS goji berries (could replace with raisins, dried cherries, or dried blueberries)
Juice from 1 lemon
1-2 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Add all of the salad ingredients to a bowl and toss to combine. Let the salad sit while you make the fritters. This will give the kale time to soften.
To make the fritters combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Heat the coconut oil in a hot skillet.
Spoon about 1/3 cup of the fritter batter onto skillet and flatten out like little pancakes. Fit as many as you can onto the cooking surface.
Let the fritters fry for about 4 minutes until brown underneath.
Turn them and let them brown on the other side.
Serve the fritters with the kale salad and enjoy!
Zucchini has a high water content and it is best to drain some out before adding it to the other ingredients. After grating the zucchini put it into a colander with small holes or a mesh sieve, sprinkle a little salt on it and let it sit while you prepare the carrots and onion. Then just push the zucchini down and let the excess water drain out. Alternatively you can squeeze it with your hands.
You can make this a vegan meal by substituting the eggs for more chia seeds, 1 TBS/egg) that have been soaked in water for about 30 minutes or so. You can used ground chia or flax seeds as an egg substitute as well.
Actually, we left Las Vegas and I’m here to tell all. It was a nice change of pace for us, a re-set for body and mind. For three weeks we were able to focus on nutrition, fitness, and business. Rob and I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent with my sister and her two dogs, Zoe and Zeus. It certainly didn’t hurt that for a good two plus weeks the skies were blue and the temperatures ranged between 85-93 degrees.
Even though I was ready to ditch the suitcases and get settled into our new home in Bend, I was sad when it came time to pack, load the car, and say goodbye to Chris.
As you know, I’m working towards becoming a health coach. I offered to help my sister on a “reboot.” She wanted to become healthier, and I wanted to help someone become healthier. And on a side note, our condo in Bend would not be available until the first of April. So, off to Vegas we went.
I arrived in Vegas, or more accurately Henderson, with one simple question. Would a plant based, “real” food nutrition program help someone feel better, have more energy, and lose weight?
Nutrition with Real Food
My primary goal was to guide my sister on a path to better nutrition and to help her feel better by preparing three real food meals every day. When I say “real food” I am talking about foods that are in their most natural state possible without added sugar, preservatives, or artificial ingredients and with the least amount of human intervention. At the end of three weeks I hoped that Chris would notice a big enough difference in how she felt that she would be motivated to continue eating real foods.
In addition, the stresses of moving had thrown us off course. We were eating out more frequently, consuming fewer fresh veggies, unwinding at the end of the day with a glass of wine or a pint of beer, and my coffee consumption had doubled. Rob wanted to shed a few pounds and I secretly thought I could get him to change a few of his eating habits. I knew we needed a course correction.
Zeus vs Penny
I wasn’t sure we would be able to stay after our first night there. Zeus, a seven year old lab-shepherd mix, was overly rambunctious in his welcome. He was so excited to meet Penny, our small Silky Terrier, that he wouldn’t leave her alone. She was not amused and told him off quite firmly. He cried and scratched at the locked door for hours that first night. In the morning he was pouncing on Penny and chasing her all around. She lashed out and caught Zeus’s ear in her teeth. Even with blood dripping from his ear he was not deterred. As Chris left for work she said, “Please don’t drive back to Oregon today while I’m at work.” I took Penny and Zeus for a walk. With both of them on leashes and the distraction of smelling they pretty much ignored each other for the hour. When we got back to the house they were fine and soon settled on a way to coexist. It’s a good thing they did, because I did not want to leave.
My basic plan was to hydrate first thing in the morning, prepare three meals a day, include healthy snacks, and educate and motivate with video documentaries each night after dinner. I used the recipes that came with the 21-Day Food Matters Program found on the membership site FMTV. A membership also gives you access to a plethora of documentaries, recipes, yoga videos, and extended interviews. There is a wealth of information available for $9.95 a month. I felt that the motivation and education was worth it. It’s like Netflix for health-related documentaries that cover topics like:
•Food & Nutrition
•Detox & Weight Loss
•Depression & Anxiety
•Mind & Body
We started each morning with 12 ounces of lemon water. Our bodies need hydration after sleeping and before consuming anything else. Since lemons were also an ingredient in some of the recipes we probably used 60 lemons in three weeks. I wished that I had a lemon tree like my nephew has in California. Although it is recommended to abstain from coffee while on the 21-day program, I didn’t think we had to go through caffeine withdrawals to achieve the goals I wanted.
I brought my Vitamix with me and used it five mornings a week to make green smoothies for our breakfasts. There was a smoothie recipe in the 21 Day Program and I got inspiration from Simple Green Smoothies, but most mornings the smoothie was my own concoction. My basic formula is 2 cups liquid, 2 large handfuls of greens, a scoop of plant based protein, a greens powder that includes spirulina and chlorella, a healthy fat like coconut oil, 1-2 cups of frozen fruit. This is Chris’s favorite smoothie.
2 cups coconut water
2 cups greens (spinach and/or kale)
1/2 TBS coconut oil
1-2 pitted dates
1 peeled orange
1 scoop (~ 2TBS) plant based protein powder or hemp seeds
To make menu planning easy I used the Food Matters 21 Day Program for our lunch, dinner and weekend breakfast recipes. I used my menu planning sheets to map out our weekly meals and create a grocery list. After my first trip to Whole Foods I learned that I would need to shop twice a week. There wasn’t any way to fit all of the produce for an entire week into Chris’s fridge. I found that using two different colors of ink helped me know what to buy for the first half of the week and what to buy mid week.
Lunch, Dinner & Snacks
I packed a lunch for Chris to take to work with her each day. Mason jars made an easy to-go container for salads. The dinner recipes were easy to make and, with the exception of the chicken soup, took less than 30-45 minutes. We had our favorites, but everything was tasty. We enjoyed a large variety of fresh, colorful vegetables. The salad dressings, hummus and gluten-free bread were all made from scratch. We incorporated nuts, seeds, quinoa, beans and brown rice into our meals to complement the vegetables.
Off to work with her lunch bag.
What was Different?
Before I arrived this was Chris’s typical meal plan:
Breakfast – Cereal and banana
Snack – can of onion soup
Lunch – Salad or frozen Lean Cuisine
Snack – nuts or hummus with crackers
Dinner – 1 or 2 frozen lean Cuisine
Snack – peanut or almond butter or lemon cookies
Breakfast – tuna sandwich and raspberries or left-over pizza
Lunch – Take-out
Dinner – Pizza, take-out or slow cooker beans and sausage variations (Wine)
Snack – peanut or almond butter or lemon cookies
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is based on speed and convenience. It is made up of foods that come from a drive up window or are packaged up in factories with a host of chemical additives. Big food companies use chemists to create the perfect combination of sugar, fat and salt to get consumers hooked on their products. Meals are void of bright and varied colors with little that comes in it’s natural state. White flour, white rice, white potatoes, white sugar and salt are staples. It is also often lacking in variety. People will eat the same ingredients or foods day in and day out which leads to some nutritional deficiencies. What would happen if we avoided the SAD and ate more real food?
The End Results
At the end of three weeks the results were in. Rob and Chris completed before and after surveys that showed a positive change in their perceived wellness. Chris found that she felt better, and she lost 8 pounds. She reported that she felt healthier, happier and wasn’t struggling with hunger. One of the things we learned in the documentaries is that you can eat and eat and eat, but if you aren’t feeding your body the nutrients and minerals it needs you will still be hungry. She said that with an increase in energy she was starting to think of things she wants to do instead of thinking, “what can I put off.” What did she learn? “Eat better to feel better, to live longer, and to live healthier.”
Rob had more energy and lost 9 pounds. He’ll tell you that he didn’t go hungry or have cravings that couldn’t be cured with a healthy snack. His biggest aha was learning that more exercise was not the answer to weight loss. When he gave his body better fuel he was running faster than he has in years and his recovery time was significantly shorter.
What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Stay in Vegas
In the end it was an awesome three week re-set. Rob and I joined a nice yoga studio called Hibs Yoga in Henderson. We succeeded in going two times a week. Thank you Roxanne, Joey and Rachel for the great training! We found a bike trail to run on and a killer hill route. We even ran in a 5K race out near Hoover Dam where we finished 5th and 7th in our age groups. Rob could have done better than his 7th place finish if he had cut loose from me, but he says he was there to run with me not break any records. You’ve got to love a husband whose running goal is to run with his wife.
Two Saturday day trips took us into the Red Rock Canyon and Grand Canyon West. Both were beautiful areas to hike and take pictures. I made multiple trips to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s for groceries. Chris was amazed at how I filled her refrigerator with fresh produce. Thankfully there was time left in our days to get some work done as well.
The three weeks in Vegas slipped by quickly, but the balance we felt is something we want to hang onto. We want to take this with us and not leave it behind in Vegas.
On the Horizon
As I continue to coach Chris remotely and continue to experiment with new recipes and menus I am starting a list of potentially interested friends for a small beta (trial)? group that I can coach through a similar 21 day healthy eating experience. Leave your name below in the comments or send me an email if this intrigues you.
I can think of 6 reasons why I create a weekly dinner menu, but first let me give you a little background on how cooking dinner became important to me. I’ll also share my planning tool that you can get when you subscribe to my blog.
I’m the baby in my family, but I was raised as an only child. My two sisters were a sophomore in college and a senior in high school when I was born in September of 1963. They were 20 and 17, and my mother was 40. It wasn’t common for women to have babies in their 40’s back then. I wasn’t an “oops” baby, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I guess my parents weren’t ready to embrace the empty nest and for that I have always been thankful.
Family photo from Christmas 1965
By the time I was born Mom had 21 years of cooking experience under her belt. She made cookies, cakes and pies from scratch. I loved the frosted Halloween cookies that she cut out into ghosts, witches and pumpkins and decorated with colorful sprinkles. We were even featured in the Medford Mail Tribune in a story about baking cookies with children.
From August 1970 newspaper story. My nephew and I are helping make cookies while my niece takes a taste and my mom looks on.
LIKE MOTHER LIKE DAUGHTER? YES AND NO
Family and friends thought of her as an expert; a gourmet cook. My parents hosted elaborate dinner parties for their friends, serving fancy dishes like Coquille St Jacques in scallop shells. Mom would plan the entire menu and cook everything from the appetizers to dessert. When I was old enough she employed me to help her serve. I walked among the elegantly dressed guests offering a delicious selection of appetizers, brought plates filled with perfect portions of food to the table and then cleared them away at the end of that course. She used the china she inherited from her mother and had special soup bowls and spoons. The compliments flowed from the 4-5 couples lucky enough to be included that evening. Sometimes she sent out invitations in the mail, but most of the time I remember her calling friends on the phone. There weren’t any kids at her dinner parties because none of my parents’ friends had children still living at home. Her example of a dinner party is something I’ve never followed, but I do love to entertain and have friends to our home for dinner. Over the years our gatherings have been organized through email or texts. We usually include the entire family and they bring something to contribute to the meal. We use our regular every day dishes, and the meal is served buffet style. Even though our dinner parties are more casual, socializing with friends over a good meal has continued. I learned that dinner was important whether it was a special occasion or a regular family meal.
Me and my mom delivering a homemade blackberry pie to a friend. Food was something we shared with others.
CONTINUING WITH A FAMILY TRADITION
As I grew up I saw my mom spend a lot of time in the kitchen on a daily basis. She made breakfast, packed my lunches when I went to school, and always had a home cooked meal for me and Dad at the end of the day. My dad came home for lunch and she’d have it waiting for him when he got there. She didn’t use Hamburger Helper, Rice A Roni, or pull a TV dinner out of the freezer. She collected recipes and tried new things. Dad and I were Mom’s guinea pigs. When she was planning a dinner party she tried new recipes on us first. I learned from the best so, it’s easy to believe that I would follow in her footsteps when it came to preparing a meal for my family at the end of the day.
WHICH CAME FIRST THE GROCERY LIST OR THE DINNER MENU?
I remember that she made grocery lists and cut recipes out of newspapers and magazines. She had cookbooks that she used and marked up with her notes. There were also meals she just knew how to make like fried chicken with mashed potatoes and a salad, or pork chops with apple sauce and steamed broccoli. Surprisingly, I even liked her liver and onions with lots of ketchup! However, I don’t recall seeing her write out a weekly menu. I recently asked her how she planned our dinners before going grocery shopping. She reminded me of the newspaper ads she would look through each week. She looked to see what was on sale, clipped the coupons, and planned around those items, but she didn’t write a weekly menu down on paper. This is where our system is different. It was probably my experience as a teacher, where I made and followed plans all day, that made me feel like I needed to be organized and have a plan at home as well. So, I make a weekly menu first and then make a grocery list. Like Mom, I do all the shopping, and most nights of the week I cook for my family.
Keep reading and you will find the 6 reasons why I create a weekly dinner menu. However, let me focus on my number one reason first.
THE FAMILY DINNER
Sharing dinner together is what I learned from my mom. Our process may be different, but preparing a meal and coming together at the dinner table has remained the same. For my family, eating dinner together has always been important. It hasn’t always been possible, especially when sports interfered with the dinner hour, but it was something we have done most nights of the week.
Our last dinner together before the boys head back to college after winter break.
THE WEEKLY MENU
I started creating a weekly menu soon after I was married. I was scribbling notes and lists on bits of paper until my wonderful husband created a menu and shopping list template using our old Apple Macintosh computer. It was a tool I could print and fill in each week before going to the grocery store. We lost the file for this planning sheet years ago when we made the switch from the Macintosh to a PC. However, I’ve been able to keep making copies and I’ve been faithfully using this wonderful tool nearly every week for 25 years.
the weekly meal and grocery planning sheet I used for 25 years
Above is the tool I use to plan menus and make a grocery list. It lost its complete heading long ago, and the food categories don’t match what I purchase most frequently. Just this week I finally gave it a new look and updated it with more current shopping preferences.
GET MY MENU PLANNING TOOL
Subscribe to my email list and I will send you a pdf of this revised menu planner and shopping list. You will also receive a blank version so you can fill in your own categories and customize it to fit your needs.
6 REASONS WHY I CREATE A WEEKLY DINNER MENU
The family dinner is important and planning the week out keeps me organized. There’s no trying to figure out what to fix for dinner at 5pm. It keeps us from falling back on take-away meals.
With dinners planned out we eat more healthfully. I find it is easier to stay true to my nutritional values while shopping.
I make better use of ingredients and have less waste. How often do you buy something, use part of it and then find the remaining portion has spoiled before you found a use for it?
I can shop once for the whole week. Ever since I quit teaching 18 years ago, Monday has been my shopping and errand day. My menu starts on Monday, but in the blank version you can write the days of the week in any order that fits your schedule.
Over the years of trying recipes from magazines, cookbooks, and websites we’ve had our share of variety. Planning a menu has made it easier for me to follow recipes from different sources. I’ve found dishes we love, and those become favorites that make it to our table again and again.
I’ve learned a lot about cooking through the experience of following recipes. As a result I have developed a passion for experimenting with ingredients and flavors. Now, more often that not, I find myself “winging” it in the kitchen. I’ll leave some days blank and, when I get to the store I can make choices based on what’s on sale and what’s in season. If there’s a new local product I’ll buy it and then figure out a way to use it. When I get home I fill in the blanks on my menu so I don’t forget my ideas for that meal.
SOME CONFESSIONS FROM ME
That all sounds great, doesn’t it? I have to admit that there are times throughout the year when trying to decide on a menu for the week is difficult. I get tired of making food decisions, or nothing sounds good. During those times my menu doesn’t look like much when I head to the store on Monday. That’s when I really rely on my experience to buy what grabs my attention and then come up with a way to fix it. We also have a great grocery store here in Portland, called New Season’s. I love their meat market. They have a good selection of quality meats and they have a variety of them that are already prepared in a sauce and just need to be cooked. It’s pretty easy to come home with some marinated chicken skewers, throw them on the barbecue, and make a salad to go with them.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
I’m curious to know how many others plan a weekly menu? How do you plan your dinners?
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