Author Archives: Don R

About Don R

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. Retired teacher. Multiple successful business endeavors including screen printing / sporting goods business, executive director of a Boys & Girls Club, commercial fishing, and co-founding an alternative high school. Interests include family, hiking, cooking, Parkinson's research and developing an educational cooking program.

Finally….. Doctors Are Recognizing the Value of Prescribing Cooking Classes for better health.

By donR     October 21, 2017

Leading a Cook-Ins is one way to help introduce healthy eating and cooking to your community.

According to Katherine Martinko in Living Health, doctors are recognizing the value of eating whole foods as a way to prevent chronic diseases. In fact, they are going a step further by supporting cooking classes, university courses, and clinics that teach patients how to cook with nutritious whole foods.

I have been fortunate to have doctors willing to discuss how my food choices could improve my health. One doctor recommended that big salads include leafy greens, above the ground vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruit be included in my daily meal plan.

Two thousand years ago, Hippocrates said “let food be thy medicine.”  Today, doctors take the Hippocratic oath but take few curses in nutrition. It is heartening to see that they are finally following Hippocrates’ example.

A healthy diet, plus doctor prescribed medicines, can play important roles towards a healthy life.

Planning A Cook-In: The 5 X 3 Way

picture of pork meal.

Pulled and diced chicken with rice and veggies are three key ingredients for many 5 X 3 meals. ‘K-Bobs and Stuffed pepper are pictured here.

by donR  October 14, 2016

Choosing meals for a Cook-In is made easier by creating a 5 X 3 chart. It is just a list of featured ingredients which you cook and package to use as a base for three future meals.  A well-stocked pantry provides additional ingredients to complement the featured items 

Previously, we described how pork loin roasts can be cooked  and packaged for use in many different ways. Chicken and turkey, are featured in this article. Read more about these and other versatile ingredients to  use when planning 5 X 3 Cook-Ins. Continue reading

Grow Winter Salad Greens: Build A Simple 4 X 4 Raised Garden

4-x-4-gardenby donR September 25. 2006

It may not be too late to start a family garden- the 4 X 4 way.  it’s easy to put together, care for, and makes for a great family project. Read more about how to build the garden  plus two links to helpful growers’ websites:

Continue reading

5 X 3 $10 Meals Part 2; Using Pork, Biscuit Mix, & Beet Greens

The biscuits on pot pies can be made with a master biscuit mix

The biscuits on pot pies can be made with a master biscuit mix. see video

by donR   September 12, 2016

“5 X 3 meals” means that your family can have a Cook-In to prepare 5 different foods for use in 3 dinners. You could easily assemble more but for now let’s keep it simple and use the time to play with the kids.

Our last post used pork loin roasts for several entrees. But this saves little time because you still need to prepare future meals separately. Instead, how about cooking 5 ingredients on one day with family or friends and use those for 3 or more future meals? Here is one example to give you an idea for a Cook-In.

  • Roast the pork and place in convenient packages for your first ingredient.
  • Combine 10C flour, oil, baking powder and soda, plus salt to make a biscuit master mix. You can make the biscuits ahead of time or bake them later as for pork sliders, pot pie, fruit tarts or strawberry shortcake.
  • Roasted beets can be eaten as-is or in salads. See Epicurious recipe.

    Roasted beets can be eaten as-is or in salads. See Epicurious recipe.

    Harvest 4 lbs beets with beet greens. Wash and cut greens from red beets. Cut beets, potatoes, onions and other veggies to be ready for roasting in oil and garlic butter.

  • Cook 2 lbs penne whole wheat noodles in boiling water until al dente. Rinse and divide for use in two meals: IE; 1. Penne salad with chopped celery, nuts, tomatoes and dressing. Chill before serving. 2; Penne Lasagna: Layer noodles with low fat cottage cheese, beet greens, tomato sauce, and pulled pork. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake or freeze for later meals.
  • Wash chop, slice and dice the beet greens and your favorite veggies and leafy greens. Place a damp paper towel on the bottom of several plastic or glass containers. Fill each container with salad greens, cover and refrigerate for up  to 5 days. Add nuts, seeds, pickled beets, cheese or diced pork and dressing just before serving.

Note: If your family follows the “Choose My Plate ” recommendations, simply add dairy, water  and fruit for a balanced meal.  Once your family gets accustomed to planning and cooking together they will look forward to these memorable gatherings.




$10 Meal for a Family of Six: Healthy, Tasty, and Simply Prepared


Your family of 6 can feast on five or more meals using food gathered from Our $50 spree Winco

Your family of 6 can feast on five or more meals using food gathered from Our $50 spree @ WinCo.

by donR  May 18th, 2016

The Family Meals Project originally shared ideas with health-conscious families to plan, prepare and share budget-friendly meals. The goal was to assemble family meals for less than $10 using whole foods in the menu plan. That was four years ago and it’s now time to revisit the idea of preparing a $10 meal*. Yes, it’s still very possible to keep healthy meal costs under $10. To prove it, we spent $50 at WinCo and assembled 5 family meals using these ingredients plus a few planned-overs and pantry staples.

Continue reading

Assemble a Family Dinner For Under $10? Yes. And Here Are 5 Suggestions To Make It Healthier

Winter squash is easy to prepare and a good source of vitamins A and K

Winter squash is budget-friendly in season, easy to prepare and a good source of vitamins A and K

by donR May 5, 2016

Cooking wholesome meals on a limited budget can be challenging.  By “wholesome” we mean the meal satisfies the nutritional needs of family members. The $10 meal price is calculated by keeping  the cost of the main ingredients under $8 and simply add $2 for the pantry items like flour, condiments, planned-overs, and spices.

So, if at the end of the month, you have spent, on average, $10 per main meal and have eaten a rainbow of whole foods, you deserve a “Gold Star” and are welcome to share your ideas with the rest of our audience! Continue reading

The Family Cook-In Part 5: How To Carry On A Meaningful Conversation

Families use good listening skills and add to the conversation

Families use good listening skills and add to the conversation

by donR    March 6th 2016

The Family Dinner Project website has “tons of conversation starters” appropriate for any age level and on a variety of topics. These prompts can be written on cards and shared during the family dinner. This is just one of their many strategies  for promoting thoughtful conversation and this is the easy part. Yes, I repeat: “Starting a conversation is easy” …compared to “Carrying On A Meaningful Conversation.” Read more about how to keep a conversation going. Continue reading

The Family Cook-In Part 4: Having Fun With Games & Challenges

Kids young and old love mentally challenging games.

Kids young and old love mentally challenging games.

Playing games is one way to have fun. Creative elementary school teachers use them to fill in time or give kids a break from the regular routine. They are equally useful on long trips in the car and at the family dinner table while food finishes cooking. Visit The Family Dinner Project website and download game ideas categorized  by age levels.

Another way to have fun is to challenge your family with riddles, mental tasks and  interesting puzzles. Here are three types of challenges I used while teaching at all levels:

Riddles:  Browse the internet to find interesting scenarios like the

Man In Apartment 5C”

“On rainy days a man grabs his umbrella and hat, leaves his fifth-floor apartment at 7:30 AM, rides the elevator to the first floor lobby and walks to work. He returns at 5:00 PM, rides the elevator to the fifth floor and retires to his room.

However, on sunny days he grabs his sunglasses, leaves his fifth-floor apartment at 7:30 AM, rides the elevator to the first floor lobby and walks to work. He returns at 5:00 PM, rides the elevator to the third floor, takes the stairs to the fifth floor and retires to his room.

Challenge: What does the man look like?.

Procedure: One family member can keep asking questions until getting a “no” answer. Then it’s the next member’s turn and so on until they solve the challenge. (The answer is somewhere on page.)

Riddles: ” How far can a puppy walk into the woods?” or

“What do they call a home for several puppies?”


  1. Find an interesting photo and  cut it into six pieces with the most interesting part completely on one of the 6 pieces.
  2. Number each 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 and save 6 for the interesting piece.
  3. Place each piece in separate numbered envelopes.
  4. Procedure. Place part #1 on table and ask your family: “What is the whole picture about?”
  5. Put #2 with #1. Now what’s the big idea?
  6. Place #3 on the table and so on.

d and d gameHere is the whole picture and you “Now know the rest of the story.”

answers: Man: He’s very short. (needs the umbrella to reach the 5th floor button)

Puppies:  A)   an apupment or pup tent

B: half way  when the middle is reached the puppy is walking “out” of the woods,

Note: It’s often  more fun to encourage any answer for a week or two to prolong the discussion and find better answers.



The Family Cook-In: 25 Tips For Quick Meals

Slicing & dicing is fun but food procesor saves time while bagged produce saves $. It's your choice

Slicing & dicing is fun but a food processor saves time while bagged produce saves $. It’s your choice

by donR March 2nd 2016

Preparing the meal during a Family Cook-In is fun. However it is just one of several activities planned for the gathering. Prep and cooking needs to unfold in a short amount of time to allow for lots of game activities and meaningful conversations.

There are ways to assemble a nutritious meal without resorting to highly processed foods like Uncle Ben’s Instant Rice or Jello Instant pie filling. Here are 25 ways to cut prep and cooking time: Continue reading

The Family Cook-In Part 3: Food.

Freshly steamed veggies and chilled fruit are favorites with most children.

Freshly steamed veggies and chilled fruit are children favorites.

by donR February 29, 2016

Okay, you’ve set goals and the agenda for your “Family Cook-In, aka Family Meal Series.” Now it’s decision time as you plan the food menu, a fun game, and age-appropriate conversation starters. Let’s start with a simple food menu and save games and conversation for another day. Choosing the right food for a Cook-In can be difficult but here are a few tips to make meal planing easier. Continue reading