Eating Well on a Budget

In today’s economy it can be hard to balance a budget and a well-cooked meal. Whether you have a family to feed, are a student trying to get by between classes and a part-time job, or a graduate living with six other people and waiting for a turn of good luck, it can be a struggle to keep yourself balanced and fed.
Try to plan your meals ahead of time –once a week, get together with your roommates or set aside some time to yourself where you can make a list of Eating Welleverything you’re planning to eat during the week. Remember you’re not bound to your decisions but if you match up your meal planning to your grocery shopping it will save you time and money by making sure you only purchased what you need instead of making purchases out of impulse. Make sure that you only buy the things that you are sure you will use and always remember to check your cupboards before you go shopping to save yourself from buying something you already have.

Remember vegetables are your friends. Veggies are a lot cheaper than meat –a lot cheaper –meaning it might be time to give up conventional proteins for a bit in place of plant-based ones. Shopping organic or for specialty veggies can be a bit of a challenge and can run up the bill so don’t worry too much about the organic section of the supermarket. Using ingredients like beans or chickpeas in your cooking is a great way to add protein to help keep you fuller for longer. Buying produce that’s locally grown and in season is typically cheaper and they often retain more nutrients than their transported or frozen counterparts.

If you are going to buy meat, there are plenty of cuts that are cheaper which are great for stews, chilli, and casseroles, which are great foods for leftovers. Another way you can help save yourself some money while you’re cooking is by making extra and saving some for later meals. If you find recipes that freeze well, you can separate them into meal-sized portions and keep them for longer periods of time. Leftovers make for excellent lunches or can stand in for dinner over a few nights, saving you from the hassle of making extra meals as well as some money.

Buy whole foods to save a little cash –blocks of cheese over shredded, rice, oats, etc. The less processing and packaging that goes into your groceries, the less money you have to spend on them. Furthermore, whole foods usually contain more per package and therefore you can get more servings from them. Similarly, buy in bulk when you can. Grains, flour, lentils, and other such products will all keep for a very long time so if you buy a great deal of them at once, you won’t need to restock in quite a while.

Taco Culture

One of the food trends the experts are predicting to surge this year is any sort of hyper-regionalized food, niche and specialty restaurants that focus on a particular culture. Specifically, tacos seem to be taking over, if ITacosnstagram is anything to go by, being able to intersect ingredients from multiple cultures to create some delicious fusion cooking that would appeal to almost everyone. Although the concept of the taco comes from Mexico, the traditional image is vastly different from what Americans and Canadians typically eat –a soft tortilla, never hard, and always made with corn, and rarely, if ever, made with lettuce, cheese, tomato.

The wonderful thing about tacos is that you can put almost anything in them –if you want to stay traditional, you can add fresh vegetables and Pico de Gallo, or if you want to try your hand at fusion cooking you can use sliced pork and pineapple. If meat is your thing, you can cook up some shredded pork in a slow-cooker and wrap it in a warm tortilla with radishes and cilantro, or you can try steak and plantains with some shredded cabbage if you’re feeling a bit adventurous. If shellfish is more your style, combining shrimp with chillies, cumin, oregano, and chilli powder will create a sweet and smoky flavour that will tantalize the taste buds. Something like tilapia will add a fresh, ocean spin on your tacos and pairs well with mild vegetables like cucumbers and any sort of cream-based sauce. Tacos can also make an excellent breakfast food, if that’s more your style. Eggs, bacon or cut up sausages, peppers, tomatoes, spices and some goat cheese all wrapped up in a warm tortilla make an excellent way to start the day.

Of course, tacos are nothing without the sauces. If you want to stick with the traditional, create a homemade Pico de Gallo, also called salsa Fresca, with chopped tomato, onion, coriander, fresh peppers, salt, and lime juice. You can also add things like shrimp or avocado depending on your preference. Another option if you still like the idea ‘authenticity’ but you want to be a little more adventurous, is to make a Mexican mole –pronounced mo-lay –which is a rich chocolate-based sauce with a spicy kick. If you are making anything seafood-based, a homemade Baja sauce –sour cream, yogurt, mayonnaise, peppers (usually jalapeno), garlic, lime juice, and cilantro –will complement the flavours beautifully.

No matter what your preferences, taco fever seems to be catching. Whether you’ve never really tried them or are looking for a new way to enjoy an old favourite, experimenting in the kitchen with different kinds of tacos might just be a key to spicing up your meals.

Manage a Restaurant

When it comes to running a restaurant, there are numerous course you can take both online and at a college on hospitality and management to ease your way and increase both your knowledge and ability. It isn’t enough to have an idea for a restaurant –what you want it to look like, when happy hour is,  what theme, what kind of food you want to serve – for a business to run smoothly. It takes a great deal of planning of procedures and policies to be implemented thoroughly, as well as through training and practice. A substantial understanding of finances is a necessity for success, however that is only a minor facet of running a restaurant –there is a great deal more needed in order to establish a functioning and profitable restaurant.

One of the primary focuses for running your restaurant is staffing your restaurant as the quality of your employees and their interactions with your patrons will be judged just as harshly as the food you serve. You need to know that the people who dine with your restaurant are in good hands. One way to ensure this is to make sure that your staff are well-trained –you need to be able to trust that they can handle everything when you are unable to be there. Furthermore, you should prioritize keeping your staff motivated and being supportive of them. If your employees like you they often want to work harder and do better to make you happy. That being said, I should still stress that taking an interest in the well-being and general happiness of your employees is not the same as not enforcing rules and procedures that have been implemented.

Another important step in running your own restaurant is managing your inventory along with your finances. Keep count of your costs and income daily as well as set aside time to count and record your stock once a week. It is a good idea to train two or three individuals on your staff to complete this task and have the same ones complete it consistently while following up as necessary. You should monitor the quality of both food and service periodically, more so at the beginning of your venture than you will need to after your restaurant has been established, but still trust your employees to do their work over micromanaging.

Lastly, and perhaps chiefly, it is important to make certain that you are following all necessary regulations, specifically in matters of health and safety. These regulations can differ between places so it is fundamental that you understand the protocols for your area specifically.

Health Food Trends of 2017

As we enter the beginnings of February, there are trends starting to emerge in the health food community. Where previous years brought us gems such as kale, coconut oil and healthy fats (gotta love popcorn), this year foods both already known for their nutritional benefits and those that seem fairly new to the market are gaining in popularity –spices, chocolate, vegetables, and plant-based waters among them.

spice TurmericThe spice Turmeric, which has gained popularity as an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant, is predicted to become one of the leading ingredients in cooking this year. With numerous health benefits beyond those previously stated, such as protecting the heart, soothing arthritis, and improving cognitive function, it is no surprise that health foodies are looking to this strange plant. One of the recently popularized uses of turmeric is in a beverage dubbed “golden milk”, “golden latte”, or “turmeric tea”. While this drink is not a tea per say, it is a mixture made from spices, milk (whether dairy, nut-based, or coconut) and sometime a sweetener. Sometimes you can add a pinch of black pepper which will increase the absorption of the turmeric, making it easier for your body to process.

Another health trend that made an appearance in 2016 and is becoming increasingly popular in 2017 is the “vegetable butcher”. These shops that have begun appearing in metropolitan areas across Canada have the incredible skill of substituting plants in place of meat. From coconut bacon to beet burgers, meatless meatballs and ribs, the almost-meat miracles will have vegetarians and carnivores alike clamouring for them.

Plant water is another such food that is swiftly gaining in popularity, specifically maple water and birch water. Birch water is a naturally sweet, syrupy type of beverage that contains vitamin C, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, sodium, zinc, and iron, and has a number of nutritional benefits. It can lower cholesterol, improve liver function, aid in weight loss, clear skin and brighten the complexion, relieve joint pain, and even reduce cavities. While nutritionist believed that birch water would hit its peak in 2015, it seems as though it will come back into focus during the year. Maple water is similar to birch water and is from the sap of the maple trees. It has several of the same health benefits and nutrients as birch water and contains polyphenols, plant-based compounds that can have a variety of health-promoting effects in the body.

Another recent development in health food science that is expected to take off this year should make almost everyone happy –chocolate for breakfast. A recent study by the University of Syracuse has shown that the consumption of dark chocolate improves cognitive functions such as focus, memory, and retention. Therefore, if you consume a little bit of chocolate in the mornings, your brain will function at a higher capacity throughout the day.

Event Buffet Planning

Planning any sort of meal that is going to sharing amongst a large group of people will always have its unique challenges – if you’re planning a wedding, you’ll see that even more importantly than picking up the right wedding rings there is choosing the appropriate buffet format. You have to consider the multiple flavors and colors of your food and avoid anything that clashes as people will often pile a little bit of everything on their plates. One struggle that is extremely common is taking various dietary restrictions into account. If your event is of a smaller scale and you know everyone who will be attending, it is easier to know every individuals food allergies and preferences –who is a vegetarian, who is vegan, who can’t have shellfish, who eats gluten-free food, etc. However, any sort of event banquet is usually on the larger scale and so it is impossible to know everyone’s dietary restrictions. Therefore, it is important to provide a variety in what you are serving so that your guests are satisfied.

gluten-freeOne of the problems with gluten-free cooking for any occasion is that, while there is an abundance of recipes out there, it can be a problem trying to separate the good from the less-than edible. Often, when one is attempting to substitute foods that do not contain gluten for those that normally would, the flavor and texture both leave something to be desired. You may need to try out a few different things before you find ones that you like or that you would be willing to serve to other people. I should also suggest the importance of providing both sweet and savory options to your guests –making sure you have something for everybody, although still make sure that the flavors don’t contrast too much.

While it would behoove you to provide options that contain meat for the more carnivorous of your guests, a great deal can be achieved through cooking vegetarian options beyond a simple veggie tray. Something like combining spinach with goat cheese can be a classic and killer combination –you can wrap it in pastry and bake it for a simple finger food or you can cook it in a skillet with some mushrooms and garlic for a delicious side dish. Of course, if you don’t want to go through the hassle of cooking hot food and keeping it warm while everyone picks away at it (which is especially tricky if you don’t have enough equipment or room to maintain such as setup), a simple cold fork buffet will be just as good at half the hassle. Using salads for a variety of color that will please the eye and contrasting them with a nice deli plate and an assortment of breads. Add a lovely centerpiece and you’ve got an instant buffet with as little stress possible.