Tag Archives: Healthy Eating

Pointers for Potlucks

Food often accompanies the festive winter holidays and what better way to make a gathering easier to manage than hosting a potluck? Here are a few of the tools I recommend for streamlining the scheduling and the menu planning.

Scheduling made easy:

My favorite solution to find the best date and time that works for an event is Doodle. Trying to coordinate schedules for multiple people can be a bit of a bear. Below is a screenshot of a fake poll that I set up to show a hypothetical potluck that is scheduled for April of 2016. As you can see from the user interface, folks can enter their name and availability. In this instance, Sat., April 9 at 12pm works best for everyone.

Menu planning made easy:

As for the dishes and accoutrements, this year I discovered the online tool Perfect Potluck. It is wonderful for coordinating ownership for various items. As the host you can list out what you think you’ll need; e.g.,: 3 appetizers, 4 mains, 2 desserts,  2 bottles of wine, 12-pack of soda, etc.  Then, participants can easily sign up. In the screen shot below for a summer picnic potluck, the names and phone numbers have been blocked for privacy.

 Our Favorite Potluck Dish

And speaking of the menu…perhaps you’d like to try one of our favorite recipes for your next gathering?

Meredith…My go-to potluck dish is Mac ‘N Cheese! My fiancé and I are suckers for cheesy goodness over pasta, but I don’t often make macaroni and cheese unless I’m making it for a crowd (goodness knows we’d devour the whole dish in one sitting!). I’ve tried several recipes over the years, but this Cheesy Macaroni and Cheese from Mommy? I’m Hungry! food blog is one of my favorites. Pasta, cheese, and butter…does it get any better? This dish is the homemade version of the classic bluebox from Kraft that started it all! Mac ‘n cheese is always a crowd-pleaser, and with this recipe you get it right every time!

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Kristi…Whenever a potluck calls, I immediately think salads. First, my husband is a strict Paleo so I unfortunately have to stay away from those delicious casserole dishes and decadently sweet treats (…MOST of the time). He’s a major green veggie eater, and so am I, so salads tend to meet both of our needs. What I love about bringing a salad is that you can completely ‘style’ your salad to a specific occasion or season—something with fresh citrus, avocado and romaine for the Summer, to a cranberry and roasted walnut over a bed of spinach for the Fall. I typically start with some of my favorite blogs, including Gimme Some Oven who has a beautiful gallery of salad recipes, but I do like to go off the grid and incorporate in seasonal veggies that I have on hand. Finally, salads are incredibly portable. I typically weave as many ingredients as I can and bring a small mason jar of dressing. Also, there are so many fantastic multi-functional containers that allow you to prep, transport and serve your dish.

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Bri… Seasonal fruit salad. (You can tell I’m not the chef of the group!) For a potluck this fall, I’ll likely use persimmon and pomegranate. For taste, price and environmental benefits, I prefer to use organic produce from local farmers, so shopping at my town farmers’ market makes it quite easy to put together a sweet and healthy dish for potlucks.

fruit salad

Bon Appétit!

The fight of the century: Carbs vs. Me

The fight of the century. No, I’m not referring to the #MayPac fight or Avengers vs. Ultron. I’m talking about carbs.

My relationship with them has been complicated over the years. In the early 90’s, I watched my parents and their network of friends get swept up in Phase 1 of the Atkins diet. All of the chatter about the benefits of eating as much as one liked on the no-to-low carb diet was pan-seared into my brain.

Fast forward 20 years. When I  haven’t had enough sleep or when I’m stressed out and then faced with food choices, it can sometimes still feel like a battle royale of Good vs. Evil.  “Are all donuts bad? What if they’re vegan and made of alternatives like egg replacer, almond flour, coconut flour, applesauce and pumpkin puree?”

My fellow TK bloggers and I believe that carbs are an important part of a balanced diet and that some carbs are better than others. Today, we’re sharing a few of our favorites. Starting with…

Bri… Months ago I was at the store looking for sprouted whole grain bread. I wasn’t looking for low-carb/low-calorie, but I came across this gem and decided to give it a go. At 50 calories and 6.5 net carbs per slice, this flax seed bread is now part of my breakfast almost every morning. The first five ingredients: sprouted organic whole wheat berries, filtered water, wheat gluten, flax seeds (see this article on benefits of flax seeds!), and oat fiber. Toasted with a tablespoon of almond butter, it’s a delicious part of my day.

bread

Kristi… I have had a lifelong friendship with starchy carbs! Nothing beats mashed potatoes, creamy mac n’ cheese and the delicious crunch of fresh French bread. Unfortunately, my 30-something life now includes a slower metabolism and a husband that doesn’t eat many carbs at all. The compromise? A blossoming friendship with sweet potatoes. Sure it’s not completely the same, but it’s a fairly good substitute, and it has become a staple in our household. In addition to just roasting sweet potatoes in the oven, I love cubing them into a breakfast hash to accompany fresh veggies and over-easy eggs, and mashing them with a dab of non-fat Fage Greek yogurt to make a creamy, yet flavorful, dinner side.

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Meredith…I live with a man who would choose to the eat simple carbs for each meal (if I let him). We’re big pasta fans in our household, but with a wedding on the horizon and the need to be healthier, we have found a perfect alternative to white pasta: Brown Rice & Quinoa Pasta from Trader Joe’s. This pasta has no “bad carbs” and instead has a blend of 20% organic quinoa flour and 80% organic brown rice flour—so we still get our pasta fix without the sugar-rush that comes with a simple carbohydrate. This pasta can be used for an easy weeknight meal—top with marinara sauce or olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and you’re ready to go! For a quick protein addition, sauté chicken or shrimp and serve on top.

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If you have a favorite carb, let us know what it is and how you like to prepare it.

What We’re Reading This Holiday Season

For my entire life, I have always been an active reader. For me, it’s been a nice, relaxing escape from reality—something that I have come to appreciate much more as life gets busier.  However, with a packed schedule, I’m lucky if I get through a few pages (or maybe even a chapter) a night. The result is that it takes me quite a long time to get through a book.

One thing I enjoy about the holidays is having more time to curl up with a good book. In my family, we oftentimes have a good amount of downtime as food is being prepared or people are lounging around and enjoying each other’s company. As such, I always stock up my Kindle with a few good reads, in the hopes that I’ll be able to knock one (or hopefully two) out during my week away from the office.

Here’s what we’re reading:

Kristi: I am currently reading Insurgent by Veronica Roth. For those not familiar with the Divergent series, this is the second book of the trilogy. I always get sucked into book series and often keep reading “just to see what happens.”  I am not particularly raving about this young adult sci-fi read, but it does keep me flipping through my Kindle.

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I recently finished reading Winter of the World (yet another trilogy series) by Ken Follett. This is the second book of a trilogy series that covers a number of characters over a century of time. Not for the faint of heart, this 960-page beast (and its companion books) requires a major reading commitment.

I like to diversify what I read, and jump from different genres and writing tones. For me, it keeps me interested.

Meredith: The holidays are the perfect time for me to catch up on my favorite magazines–LA Magazine, Bon Appetite, and Cooking Light–to name a few. During much of the busy year, I’m often able to flip through magazines and fold over pages of recipes I want to try and articles I want to come back to later. But during the holidays, life slows down a bit and I finally get to catch up. I look forward to the moments when I can cozy up on the couch and actually read the articles (rather than skimming) and pull out recipes to test on family and friends. This holiday, I am eagerly awaiting the chance to break them open!

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Bri: This month I’m reading Strengths Finder by #1 NYT bestselling author Tom Rath. So often people focus on improving their shortcomings or ‘areas for improvement.’ This little book is big on identifying strengths and making the most of them. As you might’ve guessed, this is a work-related read, but it’s also a fun one.  This book is actually a holiday gift that was sent from my manager to his team. At the end of the book, my colleagues and I will take a Strengths Finder online assessment, and then we’ll discuss our various strengths and how we can use them to increase team productivity.

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Outside of work, I just started reading the Dresden Files series of contemporary fantasy/mystery novels written by Jim Butcher that tells the story of Chicago’s first Wizard P.I. I love books about magic. If you do too, then I would also recommend the Harry Potter series and The Magicians series.

Let us know if you have a good read that you are focusing on for the winter holidays!