Menu Planning ,Food Journals and the Canada Food Guide

Along with preparing yummy gluten and dairy free things for my Dee’Lectables business, I have day job.

From Monday to Friday, I  shop for and prepare two healthy snacks and a wholesome nutritious lunch daily for 7 adults and 30-40 little ones.  I’m the cook for a licensed daycare centre.
At the daycare we have two menus;
A two week rotating Warm Weather Menu from end of May- Sept. 30th
A  three week rotating Cool Weather Menu for the rest of the year.

The menus were in place when I arrived.

Now that it’s almost time to switch over to the cool weather menu again, I have decided it’s time to mix things up and build a new and improved menu for the centre. Now, because we are a licensed facility, we have rules and guidelines we have to follow for everything, and the menu is not overlooked. So, to the Canada Food Guide I went to find what is recommended for my little charges.

2-5 year-olds need:

4-5 servings of Fruit & Veggies
3-4 servings of Grains
2 servings of Milk and Alternatives
1 serving of Meat and Alternatives

This got me thinking about my own daily food intake. I mean, I think I eat well.
I eat plenty of fruits and veggies and lean meats. I try to stay away from junk food, although I have my vices too. Since going gluten and dairy free, I have been more focused on what my body doesn’t need.That said, it’s been a while since I thought about what my body does need.

Canada’s Food Guide says 19-50 year old females (that’s me!) need:

7-8 servings of Fruit & Veggies
6-7 servings of Grain
2 servings of Milk and Alternatives
2 servings of Meat and Alternatives

Most of us are pretty good at keeping track of what we put in our mouths. For example, I know I had a banana and a large  rice and coconut milk cappuccino for breakfast this morning.  Because of my food issues, I’m really good at keeping track of what I put in my mouth but this time I’m more curious about how much. So,  I’ve decided to keep a Food Journal for a few days.

Day One (That’s today!)

So far I’ve had:

1 med banana
1 extra large cappuccino with 1/2 cup of steamed coconut/rice milk blend

1/2 cup mixed greens
1/2 c mixed tomatoes, cucumbers & chickpeas,
topped with 1 tsp olive oil and pinch of salt

2 cups of chicken &  sausage jambalaya
1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts
2 dates
1/2 cup fortified rice milk
1/2 cup fortified almond milk

Fruit & Veg: 3 1/4
Grains: 2
Milk and Alternatives: 1 1/2
Meat and Alternatives: 1 1/2

How do your eating habits measure up?

Check out Canada’s Food Guide to see what you should be eating.

Now, what I am I gonna have for dinner?



I Am Not Superwoman! (Don’t Hear Me Grrrrr!)

Ok, so in my last post I mentioned how much I love family dinners.

That’s mostly true.

However, thinking about it now, after having spent most of the four day long Easter Weekend bound to my kitchen in preparation of one Birthday Dinner on Saturday, followed by an Easter Dinner on Sunday, I should have been more specific. What I should have written was ‘I love the kind of unhurried, relaxed meals that allow me the time to sit and enjoy a good conversation with the company of my family’.  Sometimes, the dinner part doesn’t always include the relaxed part. This past weekend I got one good dinner and two of the other kind.

I should probably fill in a few details.

Recently, my Sweetie and I made the decision to curb household spending a bit. That’s not to imply that we’re frivolous with our cash. I tend to pinch my pennies so hard Her Majesty yelps. We’ve set a short term financial goal that requires a bit of belt tightening. For us that means no eating out or going to the movies for a little while. Not a huge sacrifice, right? Except that because we have birthdays that fall so close to holidays we make it a point to mark them as special, by going out for dinner to celebrate as a family. Which leaves me, the meal planner and grocery shopper, with a conundrum. How does one pull off a special birthday meal AND a holiday meal, on the same weekend without going crazy?

I can think of a few options:

  1. Teach my kids that goal setting, saving money or keeping your word are ideas that aren’t really all that important by taking everyone out for Sushi.
  2. Show my Step Daughter that birthdays are special and worthy of a night out…except when it’s hers and we want to save some cash by staying in and combining her celebration with one that’s been on the calendar FOREVER.
  3. Don’t celebrate Easter (aka as “The Spring Festival of Chocolate” to my gang)
  4. Make a Special Birthday Dinner one night and an Easter Celebration Dinner the next night.

I’m sure there are other options I could list, but they’re just not comin’ to me. I chose option 4.

One of these days I’m gonna have to admit to myself that I’m not Superwoman. I will come to grips with the fact that I am a mortal. I don’t have super strength or super stamina or even magic powers. I can’t bend time. I only stand 5’4” and need a ladder to reach the top shelf. One of these days, I will learn to ask for help. I will learn that it’s ok to say I can’t do everything, and that my personal best usually far exceeds what others expect. One day, I’ll ask them to help with the dishes.

Until then, I’m glad that I have a home library of cookbooks and ten years of saved magazines to turn to for inspiration.

Our Birthday Girl’s celebration was a full-on “Gluten and Dairy Extravaganza” (If she wants pasta and garlic bread and chocolate raspberry cake, she will have it! I won’t allow my food issues to keep my kid’s from their favourite foods. I just made myself a simple risotto. J) So I won’t bore you with those details.

Easter was a spiral ham I cooked with ginger ale and candied ginger (inspired by the cola cooked ham recipes from The South); garlic and thyme roasted mini potatoes; asparagus sautéed with lemon and for dessert: Baked Lemon Meringue with Lemon Curd and Raspberries.

I have a habit of cooking by feel and not always by recipe. The ham, potatoes and the asparagus dishes just kind of “came together”. If anyone wants the recipe just ask I will try to work it out for you. The exception is when I bake. I try not to mess with chemistry. That said, I am always looking for ways to mix and match elements to satisfy a craving. Initially I was going to make little meringue cookies sandwiched with lemon curd. By making one big open faced “cookie” slathered with the most amazing dairy free lemon curd, and topped with fresh raspberries, I was able to enlist the help of my lemon loving son to put the three elements together….for the price of licking the spoon afterwards. J (Every bit helps!)

Here’s the recipe:

Baked Lemon Meringue with Lemon Curd and Raspberries

For the Meringue:

3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated

For the Lemon Curd:

3 egg yolks
1 egg
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest, finely grated
½ cup lemon juice
pinch of salt

For the Garnish:

1 pint fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar,( to dust)

For the Meringue:

Preheat oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; Using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium-high speed until white and foamy, about 1 minute; With mixer running, gradually add sugar in 3 additions, beating for 2 minutes between each addition. Beat until firm peaks form, about 2 minutes longer. Add powdered sugar; beat to blend, about 1 minute.

Spoon mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Using a spatula, spoon or pallet knife, spread meringue out into a 1” thick circle. Bake meringue until dry, about 3 1/2 hours. Let cool completely, about 1 hour (meringue will crisp as it cools). DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead: Store in an airtight container at room temperature, between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.

For the Lemon Curd:

In a heatproof bowl, stir together the egg yolks, egg, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Place bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Cook, stirring often, for about 8-10 minutes, until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon and an instant read thermometer reads 71°C/ 160°F.
Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface and refrigerate until set. ). DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead.
Loosen curd with a spoon and spread over prepared meringue. Garnish with raspberries and dust with confectioner’s sugar.

Next time, I’ll take my own advice and use the “do ahead” options!

Lemon Meringue with Lemon Curd and Raspberries

Lemon Meringue with Lemon Curd and Raspberries

Hope Everyone had a Happy Easter.