Eating on a Budget

Lately I have been noticing that with all the business of life, food has taken a backseat. I have eaten out lots in the past few weeks and realized this is very inefficient for my food budget. That is why recently I have started to try and make meals that I have previously bought. I thought back to meals that would be easy to recreate. For example, on the UVIC campus I purchased a wrap with cajan chicken, alfalfa sprouts, cheese, honey mustard, peppers, and spinach. I went to Thrifty’s and purchased all these ingredients, substituting honey mustard for dijon. Instead of spending $7 on one wrap I spent around $10 that will last me for at least 2-3 wraps. Long term, this is much more cost efficient and fairly easy to do. I am still trying to perfect the order in which they layer the wrap but that will come with more practice.

Another item that I took home to recreate was the quinoa salad that I also purchased on campus occasionally. This recipe included peppers, green onion, cilantro, and quinoa. I bought all of these ingredients and made a big batch. This way I could meal prep for the rest of the week by having multiple servings of it already made.

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Cooking Dinner

This week there was no focus other then trying out new recipes for meals, specifically dinner. I tackled a spaghetti squash recipe along with a stuffed chicken breast recipe. Other meals in my week consisted of pre-bagged salads.

This spaghetti squash was a great meal filled with all sorts of good nutrients that made for a very filling and satisfying dinner. I learned the recipe from my roommate who had made it for me previously. I cut the squash in half and baked it for 30 minutes to make it easier to scrape out the insides. Then I scooped the inside out and added peppers, onions, mushrooms that I had previously cooked. I finished it off with feta cheese and put it back in for 10 minutes.

The second meal I tried out this week turned out amazing! I followed this recipe for asparagus stuffed chicken and added rice to complete the meal. I used up the remaining 3 chicken breasts I had in the freezer so now I have 2 more meals for the next few days. One substitution I had to make was switching the mozzarella cheese in the middle to parmesan.

I found out that it’s ok to make pre prepped meals. This Baja salad that I got at Costco is very affordable at only $2 and when used as a side lasts for 2 or 3 meals. I realized that I was missing a protein from this to complete the meal. In the future I would add a chicken breast on the side.

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Snack Attack

This week I wanted to focus on good healthy snacks that could help sustain me throughout my long days. I think snacks are important because I know for me, when I start getting hungry it’s hard to focus on things and it’s hard to be in a good mood when you are hungry. This reinforced for me my idea of having a basket of food for students in my classroom. I think if I can help meet their basic needs they will have a more receptive mental state for learning. Here are some of the ones I’ve tried out this week. I have added additional ones as well that I found have helped me in the past.

Apple Slices with PB: This is one of my favourite snacks because it is crisp and sweet. It is a good substitution when I have a sweet tooth craving. If you want to keep it healthy, moderate the PB. For a medium size apple use 1 Tbs of PB.

Addition – You can also swap out the apple for celery.

Hard Boiled Eggs: Eggs are a perfect snack to curb that hunger. They are full of protein and vitamins. I made a few so I could “meal prep” in a sense and have them to take with me for the week. Just remember to chew some gum after. I heard a great tip so they break easier. After you have boiled them in water for about 5 minutes place them into ice water for another 5-10. The instant shock of hot to cold makes the shell crack easier when you are ready to eat.

PB banana beagle: This is such a yummy filling snack. I have this when I am really feeling hungry and need lots to fill me up. The banana is full of potassium. I used a blueberry beagle and lightly spread PB on for moderation.

Other Good Quick Snacks:

  • Almonds or Mixed Nuts (40 nuts is protein = to a meal replacement!)
  • Grapes
  • Fruit: Kiwi, Oranges, Banana,
  • Cliff Bars: I only eat these if I am extremely hungry or after a workout/ during a hike. They are very filling but quite high in calories. They are meant to sustain someone that is working out.

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The Most Important Meal of the Day

Most of us have heard of the saying “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” Personally I see a huge difference when I do not eat breakfast. Within an hour or two I get very hungry and take on the overall persona of a hangry person. That’s why this week I am focusing on breakfast. I used to religiously eat honey nut cheerios and milk until I realized that it is all carbs and sugar. On top of that, I would be hungry an hour later. It does not do the trick. That said, here are the meals I made for a hearty breakfast this week that made me feel good throughout the day!

Toast avocado ham and egg: I used sourdough bread and smashed an avocado on it. I added a little bit of lemon and salt as well to bring out some more flavour. Then I ripped up some ham and covered the top with a medium cooked egg. This breakfast left me full for hours, and was very easy and quick to make. While the egg cooked I could prep the rest for a total of only 5 minutes to make.

Total Prep/Cook Time – 5 Minutes

Greek Yogurt with Granola and Strawberries: I found this meal is perfect for so many different reasons! It can be very versatile and very quick to make. Here are some pro tips from trying this recipe a few times. I have found that greek yogurt is thicker then Activia yogurt and therefore requires less to fill you up! Likewise, it can be very personalized because any berry can go in this meal, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, and my personal favourite, strawberries. Another tip is to use fresh fruits and cut them onto of the granola until they need to be frozen. Then use the frozen berries and heat in the microwave first then add the yogurt and granola afterwards. This way you get the most out of the fruit you are buying. This meal became my favourite breakfast when I was in a hurry and needed something filling fast.

Total Prep/Cook Time – 3 Minutes

Classic omelette: Although this meal takes longer to make it is equally as delicious and is a very good start to the day. This omelette contains spinach, ham, onion, peppers, and feta cheese. I first cooked the spinach, peppers, ham and onions until they started to brown. While they were cooking I cracked 2 eggs into a bowl and added about 2 tbs of milk. Then I turned down the heat, added the egg mixture and put a lid on top. Omelettes are great because you can put pretty much anything into them, any leftovers from dinner the previous night like meats or potatoes. Omelettes are very personalized and can be made as long as you have eggs, everything else depends on what’s left in your fridge. I have tried plain cheddar cheese in the past and think that, in comparison, feta cheese makes this omelette taste a lot better!

Total Prep/Cook Time – 15 Minutes

Puff the Magic Pancakes: These mini pancakes take on a Yorkshire style for a yummy breakfast. Although this meal is not as healthy or balanced I think it is still important to balance meals. I firmly believe in the 80/ 20 rule of eating healthy! You can’t deprive yourself of sweets or the binging will start! To make this meal or other waffle/pancake meals more healthy there is always the option of adding berries on top or substituting syrup for jam.

Total Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

After this week I found that I was less hungry throughout the day so my others meals did not need to be as planned out. For my body especially I know that I need breakfast in the morning to be productive and functional. I can see how this may translate into students that do not get anything to eat before they come to schools. Knowing this, I plan to have a basket of fruits in my classroom for students to eat if they need more in the mornings. This way they are set up for a more successful day right from the beginning.

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Prepping to Meal Prep

This week was the beginning of what seemed was going to be a long process. This was the first time I had thought out my meals well in advance. My goal for this week was to start small, to meal prep just a few meals that I could eat on multiple days. I found the process to be very frustrating. Trying to see what ingredients go into multiple different meals while still having diversity is hard! On top of that, I ended up with 2 types of “salads” out of the 3 meals I had planned to make for the week. However, I know with practice and time I will become more efficient with it.

I turned to instagram to find inspiration on meal prepping and ideas. Pages to follow that I have found are very useful include:

The meals I did this week were honey garlic shrimp with rice and broccoli and Santa Fe Salad! I ended up adding a caesar salad to the shrimp dish for an appetizer and chicken to the Santa Fe salad for a more balanced meal.

I found that I had over-prepared for the week’s meals. I had originally planned on the two salads, a Santa Fe Salad and a shrimp and avocado salad along with the shrimp broccoli dish. However, I did not anticipate the meals out that I had and the multiple dishes that came out of each meal. I never got around to the shrimp salad so I will have that for the next week. Overall, this first week of meal prepping was successful and I am looking forward to developing this skill further in the weeks to come.

SKILLS LEARNED

  • Steaming Veggies: In a pan on medium heat put the veggies you want to steam and add 1 cup of water. Put a lid on the pan and let the water steam until a fork can go through the veggies.
  • Defrosting Shrimp: Boil water in a pot, throw shrimp in once water starts boiling. Turn down the heat to medium for 5 minutes

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Cooking 101

Previously I intended on doing a Southwestern Mandarine open inquiry project to prepare me for my practicum to China. However, due to recent events I came to the difficult conclusion to stay local this year for my practicum and consequently decided to change my open passion inquiry to cooking.

To start, I would like to point out that cooking and I have an interesting relationship. Usually it has takes me what should be about 30 minutes of making dinner roughly 1.5 hours… to make it better, the food is barely palatable. A prim example of this was when I cooked a box of Annie’s Noodles in 50 minutes and still somehow undercooked them so they crunched when I ate them. So I figure, better late then never! I have decided not only to learn basic cooking skills but also be able to create a balanced meal. I believe it is so important to eat right for not just your physical health, but also your mental.

In the past, I have tried to no avail to learn to cook. I believe my major downfall has been in my inability to meal prep. I find that I wait till the last minute, when I am hungry, to find food. This hinders my meals because I am not thinking of what would make a meal balanced but instead just scavenge for anything that will fill me up, usually carbs… My plan is to start meal prepping, looking into what I can make into balanced meals, and start to live a fulfilled life loving my food!!

I want everyone reading this to know that I am starting from square one, ground zero! I know i’m not the only one, and I hope that I can help others learn to cook balanced meals through this process. Below is a picture of pop tarts, I had them for lunch the other day. My knowledge has nowhere to go but up!


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Southwestern Mandarin

The YouTube video below is very informational. It did not help my speak Mandarin but I feel it was very helpful for understanding the language before I started to learn to actually speak.

Another thing that I tried was the Duolingo app on my iPhone. In the past, I have used this app to brush up of my french. The first problem I ran into was which language to choose. I knew that in the area I plan to go to their local language is Southwestern Mandarin, but on the app it only gives the option of Chinese. Due to the many languages present in China I was unclear on if it was Mandarin. I googled if Mandarin was on Duolingo and identified that it was, in fact, the Chinese option. I finished the first test on the app and gained the ability to read and say hello, good, and goodbye! This took no time at all, it took me about a total of 5 minutes to finish. I found it to be very repetitive which helped me identify the characters and pronounce the words. There is also some good information about pinyin (their alphabet) and tone. I learned that there are 4 basic tones used in Mandarin, below I list what the tones are and how the word changes based on how it is said.

THE 4 TONES OF MANDARIN

  • Neutral: Mā = mother
  • Low-High: Má = hemp
  • High-Low: Mà = to scold
  • High-Low-High: Ma = horse

WORDS LEARNED

  • Goodbye: Zai Jian
  • Hello: Ni Hao
  • Good: Hao
Photo sourced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:China_linguistic_map.jpg

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RESOURCES USED

  • Duolingo App
  • YouTube video: