We’ve all been there before:
You’ve had a crazy week at work or home. You’ve been driving your kids to their activities but midweek the car is broken into and you now have a broken passenger window. You’re now busy week has become even worse since you’re forced to add a repair.
Your little one is sick as a dog and you’ve spent the night with them rubbing their back between barf duty. Since this happened when your fridge is completely empty, you’ve talked your mom or neighbour into watching your little one for a couple of minutes while you desperately grocery shop for the rest of the family.
You’ve finally taken that step and decided to go on a warm, relaxing holiday. You can’t wait to get outside and your kids can’t wait to swim. You need to stop at the grocery store because it’s on the way to the hotel and you need some quick and easy meals that will keep you relaxing at the pool instead of cooking.
These are just 3 of a million scenarios that could make a food allergy mom short on time. But no matter what amount of time we have, one thing doesn’t change: we need to have safe food available for our family. Enter SIMPLE SAVERS...
How to make cooking for your special diets easier
Simple Savers are what I like to call whole foods that focus on flavour so you don’t have to add a lot of extra ingredients to make them delicious. They’re usually top 10 allergen free, or can be made to be by omitting or exchanging one ingredient. But even better than what they are, is what they do. Simple Savers save:
Time. No need to read more than 1-2 ingredients on a label and no need to go to several speciality stores to find the ingredients.
Effort. No complicated recipes or methods.
Money. No expensive allergy friendly pre-made meals.
YOU. Simple Savers help you through those times when you’re really stuck.
Now that we know how great Simple Savers are, let's go into a bit more detail about how to create a Simple Saver dinner.
How To Create Simple Savers
1. Choose a meat.
Cuts of meats usually work better than ground meats, but any type will work: steaks, pork, chicken, fish (if safe) etc.
2. Make sure you have your base ingredients:
Every base should include salt, pepper, fresh garlic and/or onion powder to enhance the natural flavours of whatever you’re cooking.
3. Choose a flavouring for the meat.
This flavouring is added to the base to make it unique. It could be almost any safe spice or herb or combo of the two. You get this from either the spice isle OR the produce department. Ideas could be basil, ginger, cilantro, cumin, dill, lemon, cayenne pepper, chilli powder, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, mint. Add the flavouring to the base and add to the meat up to 1 hour before cooking. Keep a bit of flavouring aside for your rice or quinoa or bean side dish.
4. Decide whether the meat needs to be marinated.
Up to this point, the base and flavouring are dry, but you may also want to marinade your meat if it’s a tougher cut. You can also do both to add flavour, if you want! If it’s a tougher cut of meat you should marinate a minimum of 3 hours - overnight. If you're marinading just for flavour you could marinade for just 30 min - 1 hour before cooking. To make a marinade, add 1 part acid to 3 parts oil to the base and flavouring (see below for recipe). Keep a bit of extra marinade aside for your rice or quinoa side dish (if applicable).
5. Choose a vegetable or fruit side dish.
These don’t have to be boring green beans or broccoli (unless you want it to be). You can get really creative by grilling or broiling your favourite fruit such as peaches, pineapple or plums. Start by slicing them and flavour with a little maple syrup or honey and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill or broil to make the cut side caramelized. A favourite side in our house is fried mushrooms flavoured with the base ingredients of salt, pepper, garlic, butter (or oil) and flavouring of lemon juice. Delish!
6. Add a grain or legume.
Choose rice, beans or quinoa as your final side. Add your base and flavouring ingredients from step 3. If you are using beans, make a quick dressing with 1 part acid to 1 part oil, a touch of sugar, garlic, and/or onion powder and the herbs you chose for your meat.
a quick marinade/salad dressing/dip mix:
1 part acid (your favourite citrus juice like lemon, lime, orange or vinegar like apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or wine vinegar) to 3 parts oil (your favourite) mixed with 1-2 Tbsp of spice or herbs. Don’t forget 1-2 cloves garlic, and/or 1/4 - 1 tsp onion powder (or minced fresh onion). Adding garlic & onion add a fuller base of flavour. Taste as you go to see if it has the right amounts for your palette.
Play with the different acids and spices to see what you like best. One of our family’s favourite marinades is apple cider vinegar, oil, garlic, onion powder and oregano with cut up pork cubes. Grill this on a skewer or in a stir-fry with base seasoned pineapple, peppers, onion and zucchini and it's soooo good!
SAve Time Even when cooking allergy eats
Keep in mind that Simple Savers are not meant to be a long-term dinner solution (although, they are yummy enough!). They're meant to offer short-term relief from reading labels, shopping, preparing food and expensive pre-made options during busy times.
I can’t wait to hear what “Simple Saver” you come up with! If you try this, please take a picture of your creation and post on Instagram under #simplesaver #friendlypantry. Please tag @friendlypantry so I can see it too! I look forward to seeing your creations!