#HappyHolidaysChallege : Healthy Stress-Free Cooking around Thanksgiving

Happy HolidaysHello there! If you’re reading for the first time or just stopping by for the fun, I’m doing a “Happy Holidays” wellness challenge to help you cultivate more health and happiness the rest of 2014. Catch up on the details on how to join and win the prizes. Or if it already sounds like a good idea, sign up below.

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Turkey sandwich. Turkey salad. Turkey casserole. Turkey loaf. Thanksgiving is in a few days, and Forest Gump’s friend Bubba is moving in for the next couple weeks as you work through your leftovers!

With Thanksgiving meal prep looming, the last thing you should have to worry about is how to have healthy food ready during the days leading up to it.

You Can Do It Challenge:  Make life easier on yourself on these days leading up to Turkey Day!

Make Your Efforts Last

One great way to minimize your prep time is to cook a large batch of food at once that can either stretch across several meals, or be used in a variety of ways.

Try this on for size. Put 3-4 chicken breasts and any desired seasoning (I love to use a barbeque rub) into your slow cooker – what’s easier than not having to cook? Add some canned tomatoes (or any of your favorite veggies). Set to medium, and let cook for 3-4 hours. Using a fork or tongs, try to pull the chicken apart. It’s ready when it shreds easily. Shred well, throw it in a Tupperware and refrigerate.

You can now use that chicken for the following:

Breakfast: Omelet. Throw about ¼ cup of the shredded chicken, a couple handfuls of spinach, and a handful of halved grape tomatoes into an oiled skillet and lightly sautee. Scramble 2 eggs and pour over sautéed ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. Flip when underside is cooked, and cook until solid. Serve with a bowl of berries and a piece of whole grain toast with a bit of butter to balance your plate.

Lunch: Chicken wrap. Using a whole grain wrap, add about a ½ cup of the shredded chicken, your favorite lettuce or greens, a chopped slice of tomato, a couple tablespoons of feta cheese, and a tablespoon of hummus. Up the vegetable content by making a Southwest variety with added canned corn (you know you bought some for Thursday), a ¼ sliced avocado, sprinkle of shredded Jack cheese instead of feta, and a tablespoon of salsa instead of the hummus. Serve with a side of fruit.

Dinner: Stir fry. Slice peppers, onions, and mushrooms for sautéing. (If you’re really pressed for time, snag a frozen bag of stir-fry veggies from the store.) Heat your cooking oil and add desired amount minced garlic to flavor it. Toss veggies into a hot skillet. Once veggies are almost cooked through, add desired amount of chicken to pan and mix to heat. Salt, pepper, and more garlic (if desired) to taste. If you want to keep the Asian flavor profile, replace the salt with a few dashes of soy sauce, and add about a teaspoon of powdered ginger. Serve with a side of brown rice.

Do the Grab and Go Thing

The store can help you save time. Stock up on your favorite grab-and-go of these foods and add them to meals and snacks this week:

  • fruits
  • veggies
  • seeds and nuts
  • oatmeal
  • canned soups (I like lentil, black bean and minestrone and I add veggies and brown rice)
  • yogurt
  • canned tuna or salmon

Stop By The Freezer Section

If your freezer is full, use up what you have in there. Combine any vegetable with any protein food and any whole grain food. If you don’t have a huge stockpile to work through, consider picking up a few items at your grocer freezer section.

I have seen many more options of frozen veggies lately. It’s a food trend. (see my quote and others from RDs at FNCE)

  • frozen lightly creamed spinach – nutrition bump up: I add my own fresh spinach, kale, and already shredded carrot (whatever I have on hand)
  • frozen brown rice quinoa and kale – yes, it exists and it microwaves in only 3 minutes. I use this in soups or mix with two scrambled eggs for a super quick and easy meal
  • frozen broccoli – already prepped for you all you need to do is roast in olive oil and salt at 400 for 20 minutes or so. Roasting adds a ton of flavor

You can’t mess it up!

This is probably my favorite saying. If you like it and you know it’s easy and satisfying then it works. Sure, it’s great when it’s good-for-you too.  Use what you have on hand, do a quick pit stop. Make it easy on yourself. You don’t have to put tons of “work” into meals this week. Save that for the “Big Day” coming up.

Adjustable to feed any number of people, or just yourself, the idea here is to take the stress out of cooking so you can focus on the important parts of the holidays!

Don’t mind eating the same thing several meals in a row? Try cooking up a pot of this Quick Slow Cooker Chili. It’s loaded with protein, complex carbohydrates, and vitamins and minerals. Add some canned corn, or diced peppers and onions to boost your veggie intake, and you can get your whole balanced plate in a bowl. The easier, the better.

Here’s to a fun and stress-free (Okay, LOW-stress) Thanksgiving!

Enter to Win a Prize Pack

cans get U cookingYou might have noticed that in several of my suggestions canned foods kept coming up. That’s because they are easy, convenient, and nutritious. Who doesn’t love that. You CAN win your own prize pack courtesy of Cans Get You Cooking (thanks for the donation) by leaving a comment below on your favorite time-saving food technique. While you are at it, check out their awesome recipes on Pinterest and Facebook. The prize pack includes fun cooking related items from an apron to measuring cups, utensils, and coupons for freebie canned foods. (Note: you have to be subscribed to the challenge to win. Sign ups on this page.)

Check In

How are you doing so far? Leave a comment on the blog or on Facebook. If you’re on Twitter, follow me and the #HappyHolidaysChallenge for even more motivation.

If you’re not “officially” in the challenge yet, what are you waiting for? Sign up below.

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Challenge Your Friends

People do better with support from friends. (It’s a scientific fact!) Ask your friends to join you by sharing on social media or just send them this e-mail with the link to subscribe to the challenge.

Facebook: Join me and Rebecca Scritchfield for a free 60-day wellness challenge.  Get healthier and happier this holiday season. http://wp.me/p2T0R-20c #HappyHolidaysChallenge

Twitter: I’m taking the #HappyHolidaysChallenge with @ScritchfieldRD. Join us http://wp.me/p2T0R-20c

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