Do you need a meal plan?

You might be wondering if you really NEED a meal plan. There are a few questions you can ask yourself (see the image below) to see if you might need a meal plan, but it really boils down to whether you WANT a meal plan or not.

We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to meal planning and feeding our families. That is why I created the Feeding Busy Families Masterclass, a four-week group accountability program to help busy families like mine, tune in to their current habits and make them work for their family. If you’re wondering if this masterclass is a good fit for you, I’m breaking it down for you in this post.

Are you busy?

The word “busy” can have different meanings for everyone, so in your opinion, do you feel busy? Do you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish the things you want? If you answered yes, then you are busy.

In week 1 of the masterclass we talk about your meal planning goals and how your busyness hinders you from feeding your family on your terms. Are you working late? Is your spouse working out of town? Do your kids have a lot of after-school activities? Most of these events have a huge impact on feeding our families, but can’t be adjusted. You CAN adjust your meal plan to work with your schedule, and that’s what we cover in weeks 1 and 2 of the Feeding Busy Families Masterclass.

Are you scrambling to make dinner?

This question plays into your busyness but can also be affected by kitchen organization and general time management skills. In week 2, we discuss how to organize your kitchen for efficiency so that you can get meals on the table quickly on busy nights. In week 4, we create a routine that works for YOUR family and YOUR schedule and explore strategies to make changes to it as your family’s needs change.

Do you have a hard time deciding what to make?

In week 1 of the masterclass we talk about family favorites, likes and dislikes so that in week 2, you can create a Meal Planning Bank to eliminate decision-fatigue and have ideas ready at your fingertips, every time you sit down to make your meal plan. We also talk about how to strategically choose meals to work with your family’s schedule. The 100 page workbook also comes with over 50 meal ideas to help you if you feel uninspired.

Often, having a hard time deciding what to make boils down to trying to please everyone in the family. In week 2, we look at creating a meal plan that works for your family and that includes planning with picky eaters in mind. My Feeding Picky Eaters E-Book is included in the resource package you will receive for this masterclass.

Do you want more time to yourself?

My goal as a parent is always to squeeze in as much time for myself as I possibly can. If you have this goal too, we cover time-management strategies in weeks 3 and 4, to ensure that you are maximizing your time in the kitchen, to get that much needed rest and relaxation when your kids go to sleep. In week 3, we focus on meal prep strategies and techniques that will save you time while prepping and cooking. In week 4, we look at time-management as a whole, and focus on ways to carve out time to do the activities you love.

Do you want to save money?

For two years, we were living on one income with four kids because we couldn’t find daycare for four kids under four. This made us get creative with our spending and find ways to save money. It’s actually very easy to save money in the kitchen, and in week 3 we talk about grocery budgeting and foods that you can make at home that will reduce your grocery spending.

Do you waste food?

Wasting food can be frustrating. Preparing too much, buying the wrong ingredients for the week, not having a plan and feeding picky eaters can all play into this. In week 2, we discuss how to plan and prep for meals to avoid food waste, as well as what to do with ingredients that tend to spoil quickly or tend to be wasted often.

Do you want to eat healthy?

This is often one of the reasons why people want to create a meal plan and have prep strategies to help them achieve this goal. “Eating healthy” can look different for all families. It’s important to consider food availability, accessibility and budget when making a meal plan that works for your family. In the week 1 one-on-one call, we discuss your meal planning goals, which could include eating healthy. In week 2, we take it one step further and look at ways to create your meal plan with your goals and priorities in mind.

Focus on your goals

Whether you answered yes to all of these questions, or just one, the Feeding Busy Families Masterclass focuses on all of these topics. The small group (5 people) encourages interaction with other parents who are in the same boat and allows for individualized meal planning strategies. The initial one-on-one call in week 1 helps me learn more about your family’s needs and goals so that I can highlight strategies that will work specifically for YOU during our group sessions.

What else is included?

The Feeding Busy Families Masterclass includes the following:

  • One 1:1 Zoom call
  • Three one-hour group Zoom calls
  • Access to the Facebook accountability group with past and present masterclass students
  • Detailed 100-page printable workbook

Register before September 30th and receive the following additional bonuses:

  • Extra one-on-one follow up call one month after the masterclass to check on your progress and fine-tune your routine
  • 52-page planner with a detachable grocery list to write out your meal plans and save them for the future.

Still have questions?

Send me an email if you have any questions about this masterclass or other ways that I can help you achieve your meal planning goals.

Test Kitchen – Battered Cauliflower

I’ve been on the hunt for a baked, crispy battered cauliflower. I tested out a few different batters to see which one would satisfy my requirements.

The criteria I wanted to fulfill was:

  • Baked
  • Stays crisp in a variety of sauces
  • Uses basic pantry ingredients

It turns out, all of the batters I tested turned out crispy but paired better with different sauces. I was inspired to try this test when I saw Half Baked Harvest’s recipe for Beer Battered Cauliflower Nuggets, which look amazing as well and I will definitely be trying. I had also purchased a bag of rice flour to use and hadn’t found enough uses for it, until now!

I seasoned all of the batters in the same way, with onion and garlic powders so that they will pair well with almost any sauce. Each recipe should be enough for one head of cauliflower. I love that these recipes use basic pantry ingredients. I ended up using lime flavored sparkling water because that is all we had, but I didn’t notice the lime flavor at all in the battered cauliflower.

Top row: Flour batter, middle row: rice flour, bottom row: cornstarch.

Flour batter

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sparkling water
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

Flour batter results

The flour batter resulted in a thick all-around coating for the cauliflower. It had maximum coverage and was crispy, yet puffy, almost like a crispy pancake. This one would work best for a “wing” style cauliflower, with buffalo or BBQ sauce.

Rice flour batter

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 cups sparkling water
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

Rice flour batter results

The rice flour batter had a loud, hard crunch. It has great coverage, similar to the all-purpose flour battered cauliflower. It reminded me of tempura, except not as light and fluffy. I enjoyed this one with a light, soy dipping sauce.

Soy dipping sauce for rice flour battered cauliflower

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 tsp ginger, chili, garlic paste (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (add more if you like a sweeter sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

Cornstarch batter

  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup sparkling water
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

Cornstarch batter results

The cornstarch batter was light and dripped off of the cauliflower, pooling at the bottom. This resulted in a roasted cauliflower with a crunchy base. With that said, the coverage was minimal, so if you’re looking for a light batter with a bit of crunch, this one is for you. I enjoyed this one with a sweet and sticky sweet chili sauce.

Top row: Flour, middle row: rice flour, bottom row: cornstarch.

Baking the cauliflower

I baked all of the different batters at the same temperature (425 degrees F) for the same amount of time (20 minutes) and the crispiness was quite similar. I did not flip them, as I didn’t want any of the batter to crumble off if it wasn’t yet fully cooked. If you like your cauliflower soft, I would extend the cooking time to 25-30 minutes.

Meal prep tips for battered cauliflower

The reason I wanted to find a battered cauliflower that bakes well, is because baking is what I like to call a “hands-off” cooking method. Which means, while the cauliflower is baking, I can use my hands for prepping other meal components or completing other tasks while I wait.

If you were going to make this on a weeknight and wanted to prep the ingredients ahead of time, you could chop the cauliflower, and measure out the dry ingredients for the batter to speed things up.

If you’re making this as an appetizer and don’t use the whole head of cauliflower, you could add it to this mac and cheese, or these lunch bowls.

Chicken Caesar Salad

This post was written in a paid partnership with Manitoba Chicken Producers. As always, all opinions are my own and I only promote products and services that I use and love.

When dining out, you’re almost guaranteed to find a chicken Caesar salad on the menu.  This classic is the perfect meal for lunch or dinner and is my personal favorite for easy meal planning, due to its versatility.

You can make this salad with mostly store-bought ingredients, or you can take it up a notch and make a more elaborate homemade version.  Let’s take a look at all of the components.

Greens

Traditionally, Caesar salad is made with romaine lettuce.  You can use a pre-washed bagged romaine from the grocery store, romaine hearts, romaine from your garden and even kale.

Serve torn lettuce, halved romaine hearts, or try grilling halved romaine hearts brushed with a bit of olive oil and seasoned with salt & pepper, like Manitoba Chicken Producers did here in this Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad recipe. I personally love grilling the lettuce because the smokiness from the grill adds another dimension of flavor. If it’s your first time grilling lettuce, watch this 60-Second video to see how it’s done.

Chicken

Use boneless skinless chicken breasts for your salad. You can take some shortcuts and meal prep the chicken for an easy meal. Here are a few different ways to prepare the chicken.

  • Pre-cook boneless skinless chicken breasts and slice them for quick and easy lunches or dinners
  • Season chicken breasts with lemon pepper
  • Crush croutons and use as a coating for a crispy baked chicken breast
  • Marinate chicken breasts in caesar vinaigrette
  • Use slow-cooked shredded chicken
  • Use frozen popcorn chicken or chicken fingers
  • Serve homemade Crispy Parmesan Chicken Strips on or with your Caesar salad

Toppings for your chicken Caesar salad

Typically, chicken Caesar salads are adorned with bacon bits and croutons, but you can up the ante by making your own croutons from a loaf of crusty bread or topping your salad with pancetta, prosciutto or capers. 

Meal Prep Tips for Chicken Caesar Salad

If you’re making chicken Caesar salad for dinner, it’s never a bad idea to make an extra one for lunch the next day.  I like to use mini mason jars (125 mL) to portion out the dressing. Alternatively, use large mason jars (1L) and do a salad in a jar, by layering the dressing, chicken, lettuce and bacon bits, then add the croutons just before serving. You could also use a tortilla, naan or pita to serve your chicken Caesar salad as a wrap.

Tearing the lettuce by hand versus cutting it with a knife will prevent it from browning and it will last about two days longer than it would if you cut it.

Finally, I’ve already mentioned ways to meal prep the chicken, but to elaborate on that, batch cooking several chicken breasts and freezing them, guarantees that you will have cooked chicken available for a quick meal anytime, even if it’s not Caesar salad. Use your cooked chicken in any of these recipes from manitobachicken.ca.