Category Archives: Cook-In

Easy and Simple; Ingredients For Better Nutrition

Easy and Simple; Nutrient-rich meals

by donR  Revised April 16, 2018

During our first class 5 years ago, Lisa Samuel ND, one of our instructors  suggested we add foods to our meals that look like they just fell from a tree, picked from a bush or just pulled out of the ground. She called them “Real Foods.” Since that day I have heard them also referred to as “whole foods,” “natural,” “unprocessed,” “unmodified.” and “non GMO'”.

It is also common to see the words “Eat The Rainbow!” which implies that meals include a variety of colorful vegetables in its natural state (as opposed to dyed) or irradiated to kill any harmful bacteria. 

Then, of course, you have the option of choosing “organic,” which assures the buyer that the food was grown without the use of harmful sprays to kill bugs, weeds, set the blossoms and prevent wilt, and fungus.

To complicate the matter of choosing which foods to serve, you need to consider what types of nutrients are present in which variety of plants.   Here we can help you decide which plants are “nutrient-rich” yet low in calories while others are high n calories with low are some examples:

  1. Grow your own leafy green vegetables in a 4′ X 4′ raised garden bed.

    Keep some leafy greens (low in calories yet high in anti-oxidents, vitamins and minerals) like kale and Romaine Lettuce in  your fridge.  Swiss Chard, which comes in a rainbow of  colors is a popular choice for salads…. Just rinse, chop and add a simple  dressing for salad or keep leaves whole and wrap one around some meat or veggies to make a roll-up.Throw in a handful of seeds and nuts for a good source of unsaturated fats & micro nutrients,  Keep leaves whole until ready to use in order to prevent bacteria from 

Blackberries are one of the richest sources of anti-oxidants.


2. Deep colored berries like blueberries, black berries and raspberries are full of healthy micro-nutrients that fight inflammation and attack cancer-type cells in your body. The berries can be rinsed and eaten by the handful. Better yet, enjoy a bowl of cooked steel-cut oats with a few berries thrown in. For dessert or snack, warm up the Quesadilla maker and 2 tortillas. Place a tortilla on the press, put a couple of berries in each section, cover with 2nd tortilla, and close lid to cook. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. 

picture of vegetables

Having fruit and vegetables readily available for snacks is healthy and saves money.

3. A variety of colorful root  vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, beets and onions are cut in large chunks of equal size. Coat with a small amount of olive, sesame or peanut oil. Sprinkle with a little seasoning, place in a shallow baking sheet and cook (roast) until tender; about one hour. Root veggies and onions are a good source of vitamins and minerals while olive and nut oils are rich in good fatty acids when eaten in moderationl. 




Pre-schoolers made stuffed baked apples

4. kids can cut a hole to remove the apple core and fill  it with instant oats and brown sugar. Place apples on a shallow baking pan, add a cup of water to keep apples moist. Bake for about an hour to so. .Apples are rich in fiber while whole rolled oats are a natural grain.



Stuffed peppers are easily cooked in your slow cooker

We usually have extra cooked brown rice, salsa, cooked beans, mushrooms, and garlic on hand. A simple meal is made from whole bell peppers. Cut the top off the peppers and fill each cavity with a mixture of moist rice together with the other ingredients. Place a half cup of water in a large slow cooker. Squeeze up to 6 peppers in the slow cooker (1 layer) Cook on high for 2-3 hours until softened

When the above ingredients are added to meals you are offering food that are high in nutrient value and low in calories.  Next week we will include recipes for these ingredients. They can be cooked quickly and in large batches for homeless shelters and camps. stay tuned’

For more about using whole foods in your healthy meal plan read “The End Of Dieting” by Joel Fuhrman MD These foods are from his G-BOMB  list. 

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

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

April’s Cook-In: Do-It-Yourself Month

Biscuit pot pies are easy to make during a cook-in

Pizzas are easy to make during a cook-in.

With the nice weather approaching, the FMP will wait until September before hosting our next Cook-In. So, we declare April as “DO-It-Yourself Month” Spring is a perfect time to host simple Cook-Ins from your home, church, park or community kitchen. Here are some ideas for keeping your first one simple, short and fun. Continue reading

Who Said You Can’t Host A Cook-In? Not Me!

By DonR  12-20-2014


Peeling apples can be fun when making pies with friends.

Peeling apples can be fun when making pies with friends.

When I ask people if they would like to host a cook-in, I’ve heard “I don’t have the knowledge (substitute skill, experience, ability, time,  expertise,  training).” Actually anyone can host a Cook-In with the understanding that they do not need to lead it. Here are more ideas for hosting one and picking out leaders: Continue reading

Pork Shoulder: Economical, Delicious and Healthy

Gabriel Claycamp itroduced us toIntroduced us to boneless pork shoulder cushions. These 3 1/2 to 5 pound are roasts cost $1.90 per pound at Cash and Carry in Bellingham when purchased in 12 to 15 pound packages.

Gabriel Claycamp introduced us to boneless pork shoulder cushions

Pork shoulder cushions were the centerpiece for December’s Cook-In. Several people commented that they would start using more pork in their meal plan because these boneless roasts cost just $1.90 per pound at Cash & Carry in Bellingham when purchased in bags of four roasts. Pork, the other white meat not only fit their budget, they found it to be versatile and delicious. But in order to be tasty and tender, it needs to be cooked properly. Read more about two simple ways to prepare pork shoulder cushions. Continue reading