Homemade Taco Seasoning

taco

Homemade Taco Seasoning

  • Servings: single meal or batch
  • Difficulty: easy
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Great flavor without all the salt!

Ingredients

Single Batch:
(makes approximately 2 tbsp spice mix for 1 pound ground meat)

1 Tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp or more cayenne pepper (optional if you like it spicy!)

Make Ahead Big Batch:
(makes 8 batches of spice mix; use 2 tbsp spice mix per 1 pound ground meat or poultry)

8 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried oregano
4 tsp paprika
8 tsp ground cumin
4 tsp salt
8 tsp black pepper
4 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp or more cayenne pepper (optional if you like it spicy!)

Directions

  1. Combine all the spices in a bowl (store extra in an air-tight container or jar).
  2. Brown ground meat in a saucepan. Add 2 tbsp taco seasoning per 1 pound of ground meat or poultry along with 1 cup water and simmer until most of the water has evaporated.
  3. Serve ground seasoned meat in soft corn tortillas, hard shell corn tortillas or in flour tortillas along with your favorite toppings such as shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, diced onions, diced peppers, cubed avocado, beans, salsa, grated cheese, sour cream and/or cilantro. Alternatively you can use the leftovers make a taco salad out of the same ingredients.

Olive Tapenade

olive

Olive Tapenade

A great spread if you are an olive lover! Thanks to my friend @melanieyyc for sharing the recipe...

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/2 cup pimiento stuffed green olives
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Directions

Blend in blender until mixed but still a chunky consistency. Great with crackers or a charcuterie board spread!

 

Sheet Pan Lemon Chicken with Potatoes & Spinach

sheetpan

Sheet Pan Lemon Chicken with Potatoes & Spinach

  • Servings: ”4-5”
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Our family loves this easy and delicious supper recipe!

Adapted from Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 6 medium red potatoes cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive or avocado oil
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed, divided
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper, divided
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 6-8 bone in chicken thighs, skin removed (or remove yourself)
  • 8 cups fresh spinach
  • Juice of 1/4 – 1/2 a lemon (to taste)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F
  2. Mix potatoes, onion, oil, garlic, ½ tsp salt, ½ tsp rosemary, ½ tsp pepper in a bowl until nicely coated. Transfer to a greased sheet pan (cookie sheet) Option: cover in foil for easy cleanup.
  3. In another small bowl, mix together paprika, and the rest of the salt, rosemary and pepper. Sprinkle over chicken and then place chicken in between potatoes on the pan. Roast for ~35min or until chicken is no longer pink.
  4. Remove chicken from pan and stir in spinach with the potatoes. Roast for another ~10min until spinach is wilted and potatoes are tender.
  5. Return chicken to pan and sprinkle lemon juice over entire pan. Serve and enjoy!

 

Why our Family left Competitive Sport…

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…at least for now.

I am a huge sports fan.  I am the fan that PVRs and watches every single Olympic event.  I have great respect for athletes and admire what they accomplish.

In our own family, we have 3 active sons.  They have tried out several sports (soccer, basketball, track, diving, and more) but all ended up in competitive swimming.  Partially because our oldest absolutely loved it and then I thought it would be easier if they all followed suite.  They all have the great skill of swimming now (a life-skill I might add) and have learned many valuable lessons from the sport and their coaches.

Benefits of sport that I have seen:

  • learning about leadership and teamwork
  • developing coping mechanisms for anxiety before/during competition
  • learning to deal with loss, disappointment and developing resilience
  • developing patience and perseverance
  • improving social skills and different friends
  • building self-esteem and confidence
  • discipline and respecting authority

So where did it go wrong? 

The demands of the sport as they grew older became larger and a much more demanding commitment time-wise and financially for our family.  Our oldest began practice before school, I had to leave work early to get them to the pool, dry land training began and meets spanned entire weekends.  Really between the 3 boys we only had Sundays off but not even if there was a swim meet.  We even carpooled but it didn’t really put a dent in all the driving.  There was really no time for other interests, school sports or socialization with their school friends.

The funny thing was as a mom I was still willing to continue…why?  This took we a while to figure out but I’ve realized several things:

  1. Fear was holding me back from doing the right thing for our family.  Fear of my sons not being heavily involved in an activity, leading to getting into trouble as teenagers: drugs, alcohol, poor friend choices, etc.  But what I was missing that if my kids are so heavily involved in sport, I won’t have time to connect, teach or build relationships with my children which in turn can lead to the above anyway.
  2. Being different. (If families are blessed with the income for their children to participate in sport,) I think as parents we can get so caught up in helping our children finding their sport or “thing” that once they find it we can go overboard in lessons, camps, coaching, etc. that help them excel but it doesn’t teach them good life balance.  It’s so easy to get sucked into the “more is better mentality” and unfortunately this doesn’t leave time for kids to just be kids.
  3. Change is difficult.  At least for me it is.  And I guess this leads me back to fear and fear of the unknown.  It’s easier to stay in the same routine and pattern that’s familiar even if it’s destructive or not fully in line with your values.

I cannot recommend or say what the right decision is for other families but I’d just encourage you to make sure what you and your children are involved in aligns with your core values as a family.  The demands of our sport started affecting my work, my son began being tired at school, I was getting sick more often, we were rarely able to do the family activities we loved (bike, hike, ski, etc.) and it was becoming quite the challenge to find a Sunday church time that would work.  But what was most destructive was that our family meals and time together were suffering.  Research has shown that family meals are so important for connection and the health of our children.  This fact I could not ignore.

Research has shown that simply sitting down at the kitchen table and sharing family meals has a positive impact on children and teenager’s development.  Children and teens that eat regular meals with their family have been shown to have improved food choices, better nutrient intakes, lower eating disorder risk, better social adjustment and improved school performance.

Also, I have witnessed and learned in my dietitian career to be cautious when the only identity your child has is their sport.  In working with young adults and teenagers suffering with eating disorders, I have seen many young elite athletes have one sport become the one and only thing they live for.  Their whole identity seems to be wrapped up in “I’m a hockey player” or “I’m a dancer”.  Great that they have found “their thing” but I see the destructive side when they suddenly cannot play their sport anymore (ie. because of injury, age, etc.).  I see a huge loss in identity and young people feeling lost because they have nothing else to turn to.  All their time and attention has been devoted to that one sport.  I just have to say to encourage your children to diversify and have several interests, hobbies and/or sports.

This leads me to the research that shows that children should diversify… The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) put together an “Early Sport Specialization Consensus Statement” in 2016 because of concerns of this growing trend in children’s sport.  (Single sport specialization is defined as 9 months or more of one sport to the exclusion of others.)

The overall results were: “there is no evidence that young children will benefit from early sport specialization in the majority of sports. They are subject to overuse injury and burnout from concentrated activity. Early multisport participation will not deter young athletes from long-term competitive athletic success.” (AOSSM, 2016)

From a public health perspective, why isn’t more being done?  According to the AOSSM early sports specialization has actually been identified as damaging for an athlete’s future physical and mental health.    From another excellent read “Fear, greed, broken dreams: How early sports specialization is eroding youth sports”  J.J. Adams says “These days, alas, the fun in youth sports is rapidly fading, the dreams of children replaced by the ambitions of adults.”(Adams, 2018)  I’m hopeful that children’s sport leagues, coaches and parents will all pay attention and learn from this valuable research and information to affect change for the future.  My personal hopes are that there will be more opportunities for children’s recreational sport and early sport specialization will become taboo.

So I’m not sure where the future will lead my sons but for now competitive sport is on hold and I’m really excited about all the new possibilities and opportunities for our family!

 

 

Easy Shrimp, Orzo & Zucchini

An easy one-pot family friendly meal!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp avocado or olive oil
  • ½ onion diced
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 small-medium zucchini sliced
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes sliced in half (or quartered if larger)
  • 2 cups orzo (dry)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • ~1 lb (~454 g) precooked shrimp, thawed and peeled
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Green onion finely chopped (optional)
  • Grated parmesan or feta cheese as topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, oregano, zucchini, and tomatoes.  Cook until softened.
  2. Stir in orzo and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for ~10 min or until pasta is cooked through.
  3. Stir in precooked shrimp at the very end and heat until warm (do not overcook as shrimp will get rubbery). Add additional toppings if desired.  Enjoy!

Apple Pecan Bacon Salad

Salads are so delicious in the summer!

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Use any assortment of lettuce and/or other greens.  Add chopped up apple, real bacon bits (or leftover bacon cut up) and candied pecans (you can make or buy them). Combine the following for the salad dressing:

Freshly ground pepper to taste

1.5 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1/3 cup avocado or olive oil

1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar

 

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): How does it differ from other eating disorders?  

As a Registered Dietitian that specializes in disordered eating, I see a wide variety of clients (both male and female and of varying ages) that struggle with food. While you have likely heard of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder, how much do you know about ARFID?

What is ARFID?

ARFID stands for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (See DSM-5 for diagnostic criteria).  Individuals diagnosed with ARFID have developed a problem with eating or feeding which affects their ability to eat enough to meet their nutritional needs.  Food intake may be restricted based on the food’s taste, texture, smell, colour or past negative experience with the food.

As a result, children or teens may lose weight or not gain weight during growth or may not grow in height as expected. Adults may lose weight and/or not eat enough to maintain basic body functions. ARFID can cause social issues because individuals may have extreme anxiety with eating around other people and/or isolate themselves to avoid social situations that involve food.  Ie. At school or work lunches, holidays with family or gatherings with friends.

Examples of possible ways ARFID may present itself (with no other medical explanation):

  • A child/teen is an extremely picky eater since childhood + not gaining weight or growing.
  • Child/teen/adult had a negative past experience with choking or vomiting followed by a fear of eating solid foods.
  • Child/teen has abdominal pain that prevents them from eating enough + height has dropped or stopped on their growth curve.
  • Client is unnecessarily avoiding a long list of foods that they claim to be triggers for digestive symptoms, are very rigid and fearful of the restricted food/symptoms + losing weight.

What is not ARFID?

People with ARFID don’t typically fear weight gain and don’t have a distorted body image which are characteristics of other eating disorders.  (However, if left untreated ARFID can develop into anorexia or bulimia nervosa.)  Also, if inadequate food intake is better explained by a medical condition or limited access to food then this is not an ARFID diagnosis.

Don’t confuse ARFID with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).  For example, an individual with OCD may not eat any raw food for fear of contamination. However, OCD and ARFID can co-occur together.

Remember ARFID is not the same as picky eating.  ARFID and eating disorders are a mental illness.  Ellyn Satter, Family therapist and Registered Dietitian says “Most problems with eating and feeding are not psychiatric disorders. They are problems, and, as such, they can be addressed by education or brief intervention conducted knowledgeably.” Therefore if you are unsure it is important to seek the advice of a health professional with good experience in the area of family feeding (for children), disordered eating and eating disorders.

Is a diagnosis needed before seeking support?

Knowing a diagnosis can be very helpful but it is not necessary nor the solution to recovery.  For example, a diagnosis can help guide which type of psychotherapy to use (ie. Cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, etc.) using evidence based guidelines for effectiveness.  However, often behaviors and symptoms are “grey” in terms of whether it is an eating disorder, type of eating disorder and/or whether other mental illness is a factor (ie. OCD, depression, ADHD, etc.).  This is why collaborating and referring to other experienced health professionals is crucial.  However, you can still successfully support someone with healthy change with or without an official diagnosis or while they are seeking out other supports and assessments.  Most important is supporting the individual and creating a plan specific to their needs and situation because even two people with the same diagnosis can have very different struggles, fears, behaviors, etc.

Treatment for ARFID:

Because ARFID is a relatively new diagnosis, the most effective treatment is still being studied.  Treatment must address any nutritional deficiencies, inadequate growth, weight loss and psychological concerns.  Some programs use nutrition counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy and/or family counseling for children/teens (and many other therapies are being explored).  Also treatment of other underlying conditions is important. Ie. anxiety disorder, OCD, ADHD, and autism are common.  This is why having a medical doctor, Eating Disorder Dietitian, and Psychotherapist (experienced in eating disorders) are all important professionals on a  support team.

Specifically when it comes to nutrition support, here are a few things I have found helpful for my clients with any eating issue including ARFID:

  1. Meet the client where they’re at. Every client is different even if they have the same diagnosis so you need to ask questions, be a good listener and individualize treatment plans with every client.
  2. Explore the home food environment and feeding relationship between the parent/caregiver and child. (Even if the client is an adult it is important to get their childhood food and feeding history.)
  3. Involve and educate the client’s supports (ie. parents, caregivers, spouses or other loved ones) in terms of eating and feeding no matter what age the client is.

Greek Chicken Skewers

Chickenskew

Our family has been making this recipe for years! It’s still one of my favourite recipes served with Greek salad, Tzatziki sauce and warm pita!

Ingredients:

4-5 large chicken breasts cut into 1 inch cubes

Marinade:

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 Tbsp liquid honey

1 Tbsp avocado or canola oil

1 Tbsp dry oregano (or 2 Tbsp fresh oregano minced)

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1/2 tsp black pepper (freshly ground is better)

Directions:

  1. Combine marinade ingredients in a glass bowl. Add chicken, stir and marinate in fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  2. Thread chicken onto skewers and discard marinade. (Metal skewers are easiest because they do not burn.) Spray or grease a large piece of tinfoil and lay out on BBQ.  Cook until chicken is no longer pink in the center (turn occasionally).  OR broil on high on greased foil-lined cookie sheet in oven for approximately 4 minutes on each side (when broiling watch carefully because the chicken can burn fast).  Be careful not to overcook or chicken will be dry.

 

 

 

Cilantro Lime Chicken Bowls

bowl

An easy family-friendly recipe that won’t disappoint!  Either dish out bowls or take a “build-your-own” approach and place all the ingredients out for your family to decide!  (FYI: If you are looking for a different homemade salad dressing – try this dressing recipe – it’s my favourite!)

Ingredients for Marinade and Dressing:

1/2 cup                             Lime juice

4 tsp                                  Balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup                             Olive or avocado oil

2 cloves                            Garlic, minced

2 Tbsp                               Honey

1/2 cup                             Cilantro leaves (stems removed, finely chopped)

Ingredients for Bowl:

~4                                      Chicken breasts

1 cup                                 Grape tomatoes, halved

1 (341 mL) can                Corn, kernels (or frozen corn heated)

1 (540 mL) can                Black beans, rinsed

1                                         Avocado, sliced

2 cups                               Uncooked brown rice (cook as per bag directions)

Optional                           Shredded cheddar cheese (as a topping)

 

Directions:

  1. Mix marinade/dressing ingredients by hand or in a blender/food processor. *Use ½ for chicken marinade and save the other ½ for the dressing.
  2. Cut chicken breast into 1” cubes. Place in a glass dish or Ziploc bag with ½ of the marinade mixture. Marinate for at least 1 hour in the fridge.
  3. Meanwhile cook rice and prepare all your other bowl ingredients.
  4. Sauté chicken in a large pan on the stove over medium high heat. Cook until no longer pink.
  5. Layer rice, chicken and then other ingredients. Drizzle desired dressing on top!

 

Wild Game Nutrition

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I’ll be honest, I actually didn’t even like the taste of meat growing up… let alone experimenting with eating wild game.  As an adult, learning to cook and season meat to my preferences has helped me to now enjoy meat dishes but I do love some meatless meals as well.

After getting married, my husband started hunting and providing wild game meat for our family.  I’ve grown to feel more connected to our food source and really appreciate knowing where our meat is coming from.  Also, we have learned to process the meat and I actually feel better doing this ourselves as we waste very little, we are overly cautious with sanitization, we choose the cuts we prefer and what goes into the ground meat.  We have an extra deep freeze for the meat and I rarely have to buy meat from the store.  We have processed deer, elk and moose meat so far.  Currently, I have to say our family favourite is Elk meat as it is so lean and tender at the same time but also it has a milder flavor than other game so it is so versatile for any dish.

Since I didn’t grow up eating game meat, I have been challenged with the task of learning how to cook it.  (Actually I tried poorly made deer sausage once when I was little and thought it was gross.)  I think it’s important to note that wild game does not have to taste “gamey”.  You just need to know the best way to prepare and cook it depending on the type of game and different cuts.  I have made stew, burgers, tacos, spaghetti sauce, roasts, steaks, kabobs, chili, chorizo, smokies, jerky and pepperoni so far.

Nutritionally wild game meat is a great source of lean protein which is typically lower in total fat, saturated fat and calories than other red meat (See Nutritional Comparison below).  It’s suggested that the nutritional difference is due to game animals eating their natural vegetation and being more active in their wild habitat compared to farm raised animals.

Nutritional Comparison:

Meat

Quantity Calories Protein Fat

Saturated Fat

Deer (venison), roasted

100g

158 kcal 30.2g 3.2g

1.3g

Elk, roasted

100g

146 kcal 30.2g 1.9g

0.7g

Moose, roasted

100g

134 kcal 35.0g 1.3g

0.3g

Beef loin, sirloin, lean roasted

100g

178 kcal 29.3g 5.9g

2.4g

Beef loin, tenderloin, lean roasted

100g

194 kcal 30.9g 6.6g

3.0g

*Data from the Canadian Nutrient File

If you don’t hunt (or know someone that does), many farmers markets, specialty butcher shops and local restaurants carry game meat if you want to give it a try!