Tips for Using Your Leftover Produce

I always buy tons of fresh produce with the best intentions. Giant salads! Huge soups! Smoothies every morning! Vitamin-drunk must be a thing, and I think I’m a lightweight. That, or I’m just deathly afraid of getting scurvy.

We eat a ton of vegetables and fruit, so I don’t limit my produce-buying much. Still, dig into my fridge and you’ll often find a few sad-looking stalks of kale, a Tupperware of wimpy celery, or half a wrapped-up cucumber that’s lost its crunch a little.

So, what do we do with all the forgotten nutrients? There are so many reasons to reduce the amount of food waste we create, and high up on the list is cost - throwing away food physically pains me right in the wallet. We buy local and organic; wasting food is wasting money. As a result, I’ve had to get creative with last-day vegetables and fruits. Here are some of my favourite ways to use up fridge odds and ends.

 

Soup it

This is kind of a no-brainer. This potato and kale soup is delicious, and perfect for add-ins like leftover spinach, chards, celery, mushrooms, or carrots. Produce that wouldn’t hold its own in a salad will still add great flavour to a nice broth.

 

Juice it

Okay, literally any produce is good in juice. Beets? Yes. Cucumbers, celery, cucumbers, spinach, parsley? Yes. Apples, lemons, oranges, limes… You get the picture.

As a general rule, pair your veggies with at least one fruit to make everything palatable. One of my favourites is pear, spinach, cucumber, celery, and mint. Very nice. Or, try apple, orange, lemon, fresh ginger, and turmeric. (Yes, I’ve given in to the turmeric craze.)

Pro tip - if you don’t have produce that’s about to go bad, check out the discount section in your market or grocery store. I’ll often find pineapples, melons, or berries that are just a little too ripe to be called “fresh” at half price. Those are at their sweetest, and work great in a juice.

Another pro tip - you don’t need a juicer. You do need a decent blender and a strainer or cheesecloth. I’ve also saved the pulp from these juices and used them in smoothies or later juices. Reuse and recycle, all day.  

 

Roast it

Drizzle coconut, olive, or avocado oil over your veggies and toss with paprika, sea salt, ground pepper, and fresh garlic. Then roast into submission in a hot oven - around 400 degrees. This is my go-to for elderly broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, eggplant, you name it.  

Roasted veggies are delicious, nutritious, and keep well; pair with an easy protein like chicken and you’ll have lunch for the next day ready, too.

 

Use Pantry Staples

Make use of all the other staples you have in your fridge and cupboards. A wild rice salad with a vinegar and citrus dressing will mask any lacking crisp in your grapes. Or, make a little broccoli and feta pasta with feta and kalamata olives (I’ve used leftover frozen edamame, green beans, and zucchini, too). Get creative with whatever else you have in your kitchen to bolster your veggies and fruit.

With a little attention and originality, you can make sure every piece of vegetation in your fridge gets used up instead of thrown out. You’ll save money and reduce waste - plus, you can shop the grocery sales freely without worrying what you’ll do with all those veggies. After all, the possibilities are endless.

 

 

 

 

Extreme Grocery-List Makeover: Immune System Edition

 It’s happening. The days are getting shorter, the mornings chillier, and the PSL is back. It isn’t officially autumn yet - that happens on my birthday, September 22 - but it’s close.

Since Damien and I already battled one nasty cold in the last month (note my lack of posting recently), I’ve been thinking about how to best keep us healthy as the colder seasons roll around.

Luckily, I have the immune system of an ox (oxes don't get sick, right?) and rarely get ill. Damien, though, battles nearly chronic colds. As a personal trainer and CrossFit coach, he's at a disadvantage; between interacting with clients, handling equipment, and working out himself, his immune system is constantly under stress. 

I'm of the old-school camp that medication comes second to a smart, healthy diet and lifestyle. So I’m going to try and help out our natural defence systems a little more by healthifying our kitchen. That means shopping for ingredients that are focussed on overall wellness, incorporating disease-fighting fruits and vegetables wherever possible, and integrating immune-boosting supplements with our normal diet.  

 

Health-Boosting Grocery List

Berries: Full of antioxidants and Vitamin C, which triggers the production of antibodies.

Oranges & Grapefruits: Again, high levels of Vitamin C. Keeping your Vitamin C high will also help your body absorb iron; plus, any excess will be urinated out.  

Sweet Potato: Sweet potatoes (and carrots) are high in beta-carotene, which is converted into Vitamin A. That helps keep your immune system strong and protect you from infectious disease.

Carrots: Vitamin A also strengthens your mucosal lining and your skin, preventing bacteria and viruses from taking hold. 

Kale & Red Pepper: Vitamins A and C.

Spinach, Arugula, & Swiss Chard: Spinach, especially, provides all the fibre. Plus, leafy greens may boost your body’s white blood cell count, which helps prevent disease. They’re also full of zinc, which helps prevent inflammation and stops the growth of bacteria and viruses.

Shiitake Mushrooms: Shiitakes contain lentinan, which may have anticancer properties. All mushrooms contain potassium, B vitamins, and fibre.

Fennel: This liquorice-like veggie (wait, fruit?) can help clear congestion and soothe a cough. It’s best as a tea, but can be eaten raw or roasted, as well.

Onions & Garlic: Both have antiviral effects. Garlic contains allicin, which has antioxidant effects when it breaks down. It’s best eaten raw to prevent colds… But luckily, retains many beneficial qualities when cooked.

Lean Ground Beef: We don’t eat much beef, but we may start. It’s stocked with zinc, iron, and B-12. Iron keeps your red blood cells healthy by providing hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your cells. B-12 also helps with hemoglobin creation, neurological function, and fat and protein synthesis.

Salmon, Tuna, & Mackerel: Omega-3s, which can help reduce chronic inflammation by helping your immune system get back up to speed.

Beans & Lentils: Lots of zinc, and added proteins.

Flaxseed: Especially ground flaxseed, to help get enough omega-3s.

Almonds: Full of Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage.

Almond & Peanut Butter: Both offer magnesium, potassium, and Vitamin E.  

Kefir: Probiotic that helps with gut health by replenishing strains of healthy bacteria, promoting stomach health but also lowering the risk of respiratory tract infection.

Oats: High in beta-glucan, which helps reduce cholesterol and boost white blood cell count.

 

This is by no means exclusive; there are tons are other foods that are also packed with superhero qualities. Ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, coconut oil, the list goes on…. And you should include them all. I chose these because their benefits are conducive to long-term health, and they’re easily accessible and affordable.

Keep in mind, normal grocery trips will also still include things like almond milk, lots of eggs and egg whites, apples, cooking vegetables like eggplant/zucchini/broccoli, chicken, wild rice, whole grain pasta, herbs, etc.

 

Recipe Plan

  • Chili with lean ground beef, beans, dark leafy greens, carrots, and sweet potato

  • Fish coconut milk curry with red peppers, chopped kale, mushrooms, onions, and garlic

  • Salad with braised kale, raw shaved fennel, orange segments, almond slivers, and diluted apple cider vinegar dressing

  • Smoothies with apples, almond butter, flaxseed, cinnamon, kefir, and protein powder for sweetness

  • Overnight oats with berries, kefir, almond butter, chia seeds, and chopped nuts as a topping

  • Baked sweet potatoes filled with tuna, avocado-oil mayo, chopped veggies, onions, and garlic

  • Homemade nut-based granola bars, without added sugar.

 

Yes, I already make variations of these recipes… And we still get sick. However, the goal is to consciously combine immunity-boosting foods, and provide backup for our natural protective systems.

Plus, those combinations just sound delicious. I’m all about the smoothies. Yes.

Don’t worry, details will be on the blog as soon as this goes into effect (starting with the weekly grocery shop on Saturday). I’ll keep you updated!


In the meantime, are there any habits or tricks you guys use to stay healthy during flu season?

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

It's been a while since I did one of these! I was pretty lazy with our meal prep for a few weeks, which means we had a lot of tuna salads and leftovers (it happens, what can I say). 

Luckily, I was a little more organized this week. This meal prep is one my favourites. It covers all the bases; it's nutritionally dense, easy to prepare, satisfying, and very tasty. Win-win-win-win. 

 

Greek Skewers & Salad Bowls

1 package Greek Skoulakis Pork skewers (I'm not a huge fun of preseasoned meats, but the portions on these are so perfect that, in a pinch, I'll use them). 

2 cups white jasmine rice (literally any rice that you like to eat) 

1 large cucumber 

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

1/2 red onion 

1 head iceberg lettuce (I just love this for crunch and volume. I know traditional Greek salads don't include lettuce. Sue me.) 

Several tablespoons black olives 

Several tablespoons feta cheese 

Avocado oil 

Dried basil & oregano 

Salt & pepper 

Preheat your broiler. Get the rice cooking. 

Toss the skewers on a sheet pan, and get them under the broiler for 9-10 minutes per side. (COULD THIS GET EASIER?!) 

In the meantime, chop up all your veggies. 

In terms of Tupperwaring these for lunches during the week, I like to pack the meat and rice separately from the salads. Then I can heat up one Tupperware and mix it in with the cold, crunchy salad. So good. 

I drizzle about half a tablespoon of avocado oil in the bottom of the salad containers, then fill them with veggies. Each portion gets a handful of black olives. Mine are topped with 1 tbsp of feta cheese; Damien's are topped with 2 tablespoons, for some extra fats. 

As for meat and rice: my lunches get one skewer and about 3/4 cups of cooked rice. Damien's get 1.5 skewers and the remaining rice (about a cup and a half. 

These lunches keep well and provide a good hit of protein, carbs, and fat. Plus - so many veggies. All the micronutrients. Between this and the morning shakes I make us (protein powder, mixed berries, kale/spinach, ice), I think we're covering the veggie bases pretty well. 

To go alongside, we've got tons of fruit (mandarins, fresh strawberries, apples). Damien's client gave us some KIND bars awhile back, so we're still working through those. We have Babybells, too. 

I'm still not totally on top of the snack game, so let me know if you have favourites! 

 

 

 

 

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

Between visiting family, soaking up the rare Vancouver sun, and training, meal prep was seriously neglected this weekend. I’ve got two ~~recipes~~ (loosely termed) for you. These are our lunches for the next few days. 

 

Slow Cooker Salsa Pulled Chicken

5 chicken breasts

1 can organic salsa (I use black bean and corn, mild)  

1 can pineapple chunks

Turn slow cooker on high. Add salsa and chicken breasts, and turn to coat.

Cook for 3.5 hours, then remove chicken breasts. Pull apart with two forks. Return to slow cooker, add pineapples, and let sit for another thirty minutes.

That’s honestly it. See why I said this wasn’t really a recipe?

Just to make myself feel fancier, I sprinkled this with some fresh cilantro when it was done. I plated (read: Tupperware’d) it on top of….

Roasted Cauli + Sweet Potato 

1 head cauliflower

2 large sweet potato

Coconut oil

Preheat oven to 400. Chop the potatoes and cauliflower, toss in coconut oil with salt and pepper, and roast for ~45 minutes or until nice and soft and brown. I didn't flip or shake or do anything to these while they were cooking, and they ended up really beautifully caramelized on the bottoms. 

These were the only two vegetable-like things I had in the house, so that’s what I used. The pineapple salsa pulled chicken went on top, and ta-da! Meal prep for the next three days was sorted.

Snacks for the week include KIND bars (which Damien’s client gave us), apples, mango, Babybell cheeses, and lots of strawberry-mango-spinach smoothies.

To be honest, I was kind of embarrassed to post this meal prep. It’s basically just me cooking the leftover ingredients I had in my fridge.

Sometimes, though, life gets in the way of making fancy dinners and Instagram-worthy lunches. Recipes like this are how I stay on track.

 

The Food Diaries: Monday Meal Prep

Chicken Taco Salad

3 medium yams 

6 chicken breasts 

3-4 tablespoons avocado oil 

1 large head lettuce 

1 large bell pepper (I prefer orange or yellow) 

2 avocados 

1 small can black olives

1 can black beans 

1 package taco seasoning 

1 lime

Cilantro, for garnish

This is one of my favourite recipes to meal prep, mainly because it's super simple - and as you guys know, I'm generally a sloth on Sundays. I've made this with shrimp, ground turkey, ground beef, and chicken. It's always turned out great. 

First things first: preheat the oven to 425. Chop your sweet potatoes to similar sized small pieces, toss with half the avocado oil and salt and pepper. Spread 'em on a baking sheet and get them in the oven. I like mine just soft for this recipe, no crisp, so I usually aim to have them in for 30 minutes.  

Get a pan on the stovetop and add the rest of the avocado oil. If you don't use non-stick pans, you may need a bit more. Season your chicken breast with salt and pepper, and make sure the pan's hot; then add them in and leave them for 4-6 minutes (depending on thickness) before you flip 'em. 

In the meantime, roughly chop your lettuce and vegetables (leave the avocados, for now). I usually start assembling the salads in Tupperware at this point. Lettuce goes on the bottom, then peppers, olives, and black beans. I add 1/4 avocado to my three portions (and 1/2 an avocado to Damien's) then make sure I squeeze lime juice over everything. 

When the chicken is just about cooked, I add the taco seasoning. That's because the brand I use asks you to mix it with water and then pour it over the meat. I like to do that as the last step so that it's all nice and hot, bring it to a nice bubble and then reduce the heat for the last few minutes of cooking. 

I recommend letting the sweet potatoes and chicken cool before adding them to your salads. This'll just help keep all your veggies nice and crunchy. 

Occasionally, I'll skip the sweet potatoes and use rice instead. Totally depends on what we have available, and how carbed up I want to be. 

Paleo chipotle mayo is a great topper for this recipe. Drizzle a little bit on right before you dig in, and you'll be a happy camper. 

PS - This makes 3 large man-adult-sized portions and 3 medium girl-adult-sized portions. I generally give us both a similar main protein portion (because gainz), but Damien gets more sweet potatoes, beans, and everything else. 

 

Creamy Rice Pudding

1/2 cup arborio rice

4 cups Almond Milk 

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt 

Cinnamon 

Vanilla 

1/2 raisins, cranberries, or other dried fruit. 

Damien's been asking for rice pudding for close to six months now, so I bit the bullet and made us some for this week's meal prep. There's nothing fancy about this recipe. It's an old favourite of my Mom's - and considering she's literally the best cook I've ever met, I figured I would trust it. 

In the interest of ~health and fitness~, I subbed out whole milk for Almond Milk. I avoid dairy, but feel free to use whatever substitute suits you best. 

Add rice, sugar, salt, and milk to a saucepan over high heat. Bring to just a boil (keep an eye on the heat and a wooden spoon in the pot, because this will overflow quickly) then reduce heat. Stir in cranberries or raisins or whatever the heck you're using. Simmer very gently like so gently it's barely bubbling, for 50 minutes. 

Take off heat, stir in vanilla, and let sit. Top with cinnamon. 

I'm just keeping this in a giant glass container in the fridge, and we're portioning it out as we see fit; I know that if I actually store it in my little jars, I'll just eat them because they look so cute. Yes, I am easily manipulated by cute food. 

I also made us some Kodiak protein banana bread, but I'm not sharing that with you guys for awhile as it turned out a bit dense. The mix is for muffins, not bread, and I don't think I cooked it long enough (impatient, sorry not sorry). It tastes great, but the center was a bit pudding-esque and so has cooled to be very dense. Also, the middle fell. #BakingFail. Oh well, at least it's filling! 

Along with these snacks, we're having apples, BabyBells, pears, and hardboiled eggs. Allllll the snacks, all the time. 

Happy Monday, guys!