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How to Make Green Smoothie Freezer Bags

One of the biggest changes I have made to our family’s diet in the last few years has been to increase the number of vegetables that we eat – specifically leafy greens. I have done this by aiming to include vegetables (and greens) in every meal. A green smoothie is a great way to do this for breakfast. And knowing how to make green smoothie freezer bags has been such a time saver. There isn’t really an excuse if making the green smoothie takes less than 2 minutes to make.

Enjoy a healthy, fast and nutrient dense breakfast by making a green smoothie. And - speed up that process by prepping green smoothie freezer bags. They will make your mornings even easier and healthier!

Having a smoothie for breakfast is a really fast option for those mornings when I just don’t have the time to cook and then eat a meal. Sometimes there are mornings when my little one needs more Mama cuddles than usual – or when I just need those extra few minutes of sleep. We all have those mornings, right?

But a green smoothie means I am still getting all my nutrients, it is filling and healthy. And if I add some extra boosters like protein powder – I am getting even more nutrition that simply munching on some toast.

Green smoothie freezer bags make this process even easier. I prep these a week or so in advance and they are almost always part of my meal plan. I buy a heap of bananas, a huge bag of spinach and just make about 5-10 bags in a sitting. These then last me a couple of weeks.

I simply grab one from the freezer, throw it in the blender and add milk. At this point, I also add extras like protein powder or collagen powder or whatever I am needing that day. Whiz it up, pour it into a glass or drink bottle to go – and voila! Breakfast is served.

Keep reading for the step-by-step guide to making your own green smoothie freezer bags.

Decide what “greens” are going to be your base

I think baby spinach is the best choice for newbies. Kale is a great option but can be a bit of an adjustment if you are new to the green smoothie vibe.

Choose your sweetener

I use medjool dates and bananas. Bananas add a creaminess to the smoothie, and dates make it a little caramel-like.  You could use fruit – like an apple or pear (assuming you have a high speed blender).

Choose any other flavours

I like to add a few of these: blueberries, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, ginger. Whatever you think you might like. Just remember that they need to be able to freeze. You can always add flavours when you actually make your smoothie.

To prepare your green smoothie freezer bags

  1. Grab a few ziplock bags (I use the sandwich size). Label them if you like.
  2. In each ziplock bag pop a handful of spinach, banana, and a couple of dates (pips removed). Add any other flavours that can be frozen (blueberries and cinnamon are my favourite).
  3. Seal up the bags (removing any excess air) and pop in the freezer.

To make your green smoothie

  1. Grab your green smoothie bag from the freezer
  2. Empty the contents into your blender
  3. Add 1-2 cups liquid (I use coconut or almond milk)
  4. Add any protein powder, collagen powder or other non-freezable ingredients
  5. Blend. Pour. Enjoy.

 

And there you have it – breakfast is prepped and ready for the week ahead. Comment below and tell me if this works for you. Or share your green smoothie bags via social media and tag #theempoweredcook so that I can see them. Enjoy!

Simple Greens Recipe

I can honestly say that the best thing I have ever done for my health, and the health of my family, is to eat more greens. This Simple Greens recipe is a staple in our home. It is just as its name suggests – simple.

We have this as a side dish, often next to a meat and veg dinner. For example, sausages and mash or meatballs and pasta. It is a versatile dish to include on your weekly mean plan by trying to include more vegetables in your family’s routine.

This Simple Greens recipe is also delicious as part of breakfast. Serve them alongside some sauteed mushrooms and with a poached egg on top. A really great way to get vegetables in at the start of the day!

Looking for a way simple way to eat your leafy greens? This simple greens recipe is for just what you've been searching for - delicious, fast and versatile.

Note

Any leafy greens will work in this Simple Greens recipe. My favourite is to use tuscan kale, but we also often have silverbeet.

Recipe: Simple Greens
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch leafy greens kale, spinach, silverbeet
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
Instructions
  1. Start by prepping your greens. Wash and dry them - ideally in a salad spinner, but if not - dry on a teatowel. Then we need to trim out the some of the hard stems. We want the leafy greens - and only a few of the stems. 

  2. If you are including some of the stems (you definitely can!), chop these rather fine. Keep the leaves chopped large and consistent. Set aside.

  3. Finely mince the garlic and set aside.

  4. Heat a large fry pan on over medium heat. (Note: only start cooking right before you want to serve. They don't take long to cook). 

  5. Add olive oil to the pan, and the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds. 

  6. Quickly add the leafy greens to the pan. Stir and mix through the oil and garlic.

  7. Keep stirring the greens - you'll need to do this until they start of wilt and cook. This should only take a few minutes. 

  8. Once the greens are almost ready, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. This is completely up to personal taste, of course. 

  9. Serve immediately. 

 

 

5 Ted Talks on Feeding Your Family

I find watching Ted Talks incredibly inspiring. And there are so many. And they are short. So I devour them readily.

My particular favourite area of research and learning is about food, and about how I can feed my family better.

One of the first Ted Talks I ever watched was Jamie Oliver. His talk is incredibly moving and passionate – and therefore so inspiring. That easily makes it on to my list.

But there are others too – some that simply offer an alternative viewpoint, or they explain a scientific concept in simple and easy to understand language.

The speakers are all passionate about their particular niche – and they easily captivate the audience: including you.

Ted Talks are motivational and inspiring. These are my Top 5 Ted Talks on how to better feed your family - including the captivating Jamie Oliver.

Here are my Top 5 Ted Talks – all about feeding your family.

#1 – Jamie Oliver

This is perhaps my favourite Ted Talk. I love his passion, his nervousness, his enthusiastic plea for us to feed our children better. His talk is captivating – and it will make you think about what you feed your child.

You can see it here.

#2 – Sam Kass: Want Kids to Learn Well? Feed them well

I love the connection here between education and food. Sending kids to school with a full belly is critical – but it is more about what we feed them. Getting them nutrient dense food – and giving them the best start as they open their minds to all that knowledge.

It does have an American slant – because it does mention their infamous school lunches – but the message is still clear: feed them well.

You can see this Ted Talk here.

#3 – Mark Bittman: What’s wrong with what we eat

This is just an eye-opener. Mark Bittman is great to listen to – and he has a strong statement to make. He links food to the climate, and to the environment. He takes our kitchens global – and really gets us to consider the impact our food choices have on the world. Be prepared to be shocked. And be prepared to be asked to change.

You can watch this one here.

#4 – Tristram Stuart: The global food waste scandal

Something that is ‘current’ due to the recent documentary “War on Waste” – this Ted Talk is right on the money. Another eye-opener. Such an incredible point – that food is produced but we actually don’t need it. The talk is fact based – and those facts will blow your mind. Why do we produce so much food, if we do not need it?

Watch this Ted Talk here.

#5 – Graham Hill: Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian

There has been a meatfree movement for a while now. Do you adopt it in your house? Meatless monday, vegetable heavy meals, or just vegetarian completely? This talk might just make you rethink your intake of meat.

Watch this one here.

What about you? Do you have others to share? What other speakers do you love to listen to? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Recipe: Sausages in the Oven

I grew up with the humble sausages, mash and veg being a family dinner staple. This has continued into my adulthood. My family and I love sausages. We eat them every week. This recipe for how to cook sausages in the oven has meant that we can enjoy these often, but without the hassle of a greasy kitchen! And they are a set and forget kind of meal – an added bonus with a hungry toddler at your feet.

Are sausages a family favourite in your house? This recipe for how to cook sausages in the oven is fast and easy. It also keeps your kitchen splatter free!

I used to fry my sausages on the stovetop. Just a little swizzle of oil, and fry away. This method worked well when I could keep my undivided attention on the frypan, and had an uninterrupted leisurely cleanup at the end of dinner.

Now – with a toddler running around, frying anything on the stove is really just not an option. Plus, our after dinner routine needs to be quick and easy – our priority is to get our little one in the bath, and in his pajamas so that bedtime can happen.

So I came up with this method to cook sausages in the oven. We experimented a couple of different ways – but this is my favourite way to cook them.

Note

The addition of the leek is interchangeable with other onions, but also you can just as easily leave it out.

Recipe: Sausages in the Oven
Ingredients
  • 1 leek
  • 6 thick sausages
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius.

  2. Cut both ends from your leek. Because we're effectively roasting the leek, we can use both the green and white parts. Make sure to rinse the leek really well (I slice it long ways and then rinse under running water). Slice into 1cm wide slices. 

  3. In the bottom of a baking pan (or casserole dish), drizzle a couple of tbsps of olive oil. Scatter the leek over the oil.

  4. Lay your sausages over the leek. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. 

  5. Pop into your oven, and cook for approx. 45mins. You will need to check these and turn the sausages over at least once, half way through. The cooking time will depend on the thickness and size of your sausages - so keep an eye on them. 

  6. Serve with mashed potato, and steamed vegetables. 

 

Recipe: Chicken and Spinach Pie

It is getting colder here. The autumn coolness is giving way to the chill of winter. This is my favourite time of year – not just for the great layers of clothes and scarves, but also for the cooking. I do my best cooking in cold weather – hearty, wholesome food. This Chicken and Spinach Pie is no exception – it is tasty, easy, and a family favourite.

The Empowered Cook shares her Chicken and Spinach Pie recipe - a hearty, wholesome pie made with leftover chicken and silverbeet, topped with puff pastry.

I make this using leftover chicken. Often this is as a result of making chicken stock – where I’ll be able to use the stock and the chicken to make this dish.

The Empowered Cook shares her Chicken and Spinach Pie recipe - a hearty, wholesome pie made with leftover chicken and silverbeet, topped with puff pastry.

Recipe Note

I have a square casserole dish that I use – mainly because it is the perfect shape for a single piece of puff pastry. Obviously you don’t need to have one like this, but you’ll just need to find a dish that works well with the puff pastry that you have.

Now – on with the recipe!

 

Chicken and Spinach Pie
Ingredients
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions diced
  • 3 sticks celery diced
  • 1 bunch parsley chopped (stalks kept separate)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups cooked chicken shredded
  • 4 cups silverbeet chopped
  • 1 sheet store bought puff pastry
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius. 

  2. Heat a large pan on a medium high heat. Add your olive oil.

  3. Add onions, celery and parsley stalks to the pan. Sweat (stirring frequently) for around 8 minutes, until soft. Add salt if starting to brown.

  4. Add the bay leaf and garlic, and cook for another minute or two (careful not to burn the garlic). Note: at this point, you can also add any leftover chicken skin (cut into small pieces). This gives it a chance to get a little crispy. 

  5. Add the butter to the pan and give everything a good stir, as the butter melts.

  6. Add the flour to the pan, and cook it out for a few minutes. Stir constantly. 

  7. Next, add the chicken stock and continue stirring. The mix should thicken at this point - so feel free to add a little dash or two of water, if it starts to get too thick. 

  8. Season with salt and pepper and give it a taste to adjust. It should be full of flavour at this point. 

  9. Add your chicken and stir through. 

  10. Add your silverbeet and continue to stir. Remember that silverbeet will wilt down quite a lot, so don't be alarmed at the amount at the beginning. Just keep stirring, and it will wilt down to nothing. 

  11. Finally, add your chopped parsley leaves. Taste again and adjust seasoning if needed. 

  12. Place this filling in your chosen pie dish, and cover with the puff pastry. Remember to pop a little hole in the middle of pastry too. 

  13. Place your pie in the oven for around 25-35mins - until the pastry is golden brown and puffed. 

Recipe Notes

Serve this pie with mashed potato. It's also just good by itself though - and super delicious reheated the next day. 

Surprisingly, it also freezes well. Just portion up any leftovers and freeze. Alternatively, freeze the pie filling once cooked - and then simply assemble the pie with the puff pastry on the day of cooking. 

Recipe: Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

This recipe for Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta came from a ‘challenge’ week in our house.

When we returned to work following our Christmas break, I had stocked the freezer to the brim with dinners, lunches and snacks.

This was more helpful than I ever thought it could be – and I doubt we would have eaten as well had I not done this. With both of us working outside the home for 3 days a week – dinner is almost impossible, unless it’s a simple heat and serve.

After the last few months though, that freezer supply is dwindling. We’re starting to see the bottom of the freezer again.

We need to restock. But before we do that – we need to eat the last of everything.

The Challenge

Eat from the pantry and freezer – without buying anything new.

It wasn’t as hard as you might expect. We were able to eat the last of a few frozen dinners, as well as knock together some quick and easy meals using whatever ingredients we had on hand.

The Recipe

This Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta is one of those meals. I literally had: a packet of pasta, a jar of sun-dried tomatoes, and some chicken breast. Voila – this dish was born. It was delicious. And it will be on our meal plan again soon!

The Empowered Cook shares an easy, fast recipe for chicken and sun-dried tomato pasta. A delicious weeknight dinner recipe the whole family will love.

Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic diced
  • 500 grams chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp oregano dried
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes optional
  • 1 jar sun-dried tomatoes chopped
  • 375 grams pasta
  • 1 head broccoli chopped
Instructions
  1. Fill your pasta pot with water, and bring to a boil on the stove top.

  2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat. I used a big cast iron casserole dish for this. The pan needs to fit the cooked pasta at the end of cooking - so choose something big. 

  3. Once the olive oil has heated, add the onion and cook for a few minutes.

  4. Add the garlic and chicken breast to the onion. Continue cooking until the chicken breast is just cooked. 

  5. By this time, your water should be boiling. Add your pasta and give it a good stir. 

  6. Once the chicken is cooked, add your dried oregano (and chilli flakes, if using). Give it all a good stir. 

  7. Add your sun-dried tomatoes to the chicken also. Give this a good stir. Once these have heated through, you can remove from the heat.

  8. A few minutes before your pasta has cooked, add your broccoli to the pasta water. This will cook the broccoli at the same time - and save dirtying another pot!

  9. Once cooked, drain your pasta and broccoli. Add this to your chicken pot. Give everything a good stir - you may like to add a little more olive oil to the pan at this point. Or even better - use the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. This will give an even better flavour hit. 

  10. Serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

This recipe is also delicious the next day as a cold lunch. Simply pack up any leftovers, and refrigerate until lunch time. 

How to Eat Real Food While Travelling

We are big travelers – both my partner and I get restless if we don’t travel often. We will travel for short weekend trips fairly regularly – but will always choose to travel overseas as often as we can. How to eat real food while travelling is also very important to us. Yes – we’ll eat some treats, but ultimately, we need our diet to stay pretty much the same. That is: whole foods, fruit and vegetables – minimal processing.

That being said – room service is very, very tempting. Especially with a toddler.

The real goal for us is to be consistent with what we usually eat – but to allow ourselves a couple of special treats. Convenience is important – but a picnic on the floor of the hotel can be just as convenient as buying some fast food, and is certainly far healthier!

Today I’ll share our top tips for eating real food while travelling – including how we do it with a toddler!

The Empowered Cook shares her family's tips on how to eat real food while travelling: packing snacks and enjoying the hotel buffet.

#1 – Live the 80/20 rule

Eat real food 80% of time, and for the other 20% of the time – eat what you feel like. For us, this will mean that breakfasts will be whole foods – the hotel buffet is always a good choice. There will be fresh fruit, toast, eggs, etc – and we can choose what we would like to eat.

Lunches while travelling can be just as easy – we will sometimes buy things like crackers and cheese, fruit, cut vegies, dried fruit. It can just be like a picnic – lots of little snack items.

Dinners are usually where we do our 20%. We’ll eat out at a restaurant – or we’ll order room service. I will often take the opportunity to order a good steak or something else I don’t cook very often at home. We will make sure that our little one still has something vegetable heavy too. But we won’t be too strict on this. Usually we will have had a big day – so he’ll be tired. It’s better to focus on him getting lots of vegies at breakfast and dinner – rather than trying to tackle dinner with a cranky toddler.

#2 – Pack your own transport snacks

Avoid the airline food. Avoid being hungry while on transport. You won’t be so easily enticed to buy junk if you’re not hungry.

Pack your own snack items. Try a variety of different items. Have something crunchy, something sweet, something filling. That way – you can make sure that you have a good variety to choose from.

We will pack: sultanas, carrots, fruit, crackers, dark chocolate, trail mix. We’ll also include some minimally processed items like wholefood muesli bars or maybe some homemade bliss balls.

None of these items are too messy to eat and they don’t require cutlery. I’ll pack these into snap lock bags (which I will reuse for the trip home). I will also pack a few napkins, just in case.

#3 – Drink water (sparkling for a treat)

Sparkling water is what I choose when I have a treat. It has been a long time since I’ve had any form of soft drink – and it has made such a difference to my health. It also makes such a difference when I am on holiday. If you are anything like me – the lead up to a holiday can be really exhausting. I used to get quite run down just before my holiday – and then wham! As soon as we arrived at our destination, I would get sick.

I’ve found now though that if I keep myself really hydrated – and don’t overload on sugar – I do much better.

Keeping hydrated is much easier if you carry a water bottle. I have one like this. Drinking from a glass bottle is so much nicer than plastic. And it is better for you – and the environment.

#4 – Enjoy the Buffet – but don’t go crazy

As I mentioned above, the buffet breakfast at a hotel can be really delicious. But before you go devouring a huge hot breakfast of bacon, eggs and sausages – or worse, eating muffins and croissants – try and have something healthier first.

I like to start with some fruit, yoghurt and muesli. Just a small portion. I will also have a small juice and a big glass of water.

From there  – I then have another small portion of a hot breakfast – sticking to bacon and eggs, with the occasional sausage. Skip the highly processed hash browns, and choose whole foods as your sides: mushrooms, spinach, for example.

Coffee or tea is also nice to include – but always have another big glass of water at the end of the buffet. This gives you such a good head start on your sight-seeing day.

For my little one, he enjoys the buffet too. He gets to have a taste of many different foods – and we’ll share everything we eat. Fruit, toast, bacon, sausage, juice. But he’ll also have water, just like us.

#5 – Eat in

Eating out at restaurants each night you are on holidays can be expensive – but it can also be a very easy way to over indulge on not-so-good food choices.

How about eating-in? It is possible – even in a small hotel room.

There are loads of crazy Pinterest ideas to cook in your hotel room using your kettle – but I would skip those.

We just have a little picnic on the floor. Some things we include are:

  • a baguette
  • cheese (try something a little fancy, like brie or Camembert)
  • fruit (something with little preparation – like grapes or apples)
  • sliced meat (avoid the nitrate and chemical heavy options, but a few slices of ham off the bone, or fresh chicken, is lovely)
  • nuts (raw or roasted, without salt)

All of these can be easily bought at a local supermarket. They don’t require much preparation or cutlery to eat. It is finger food, easily eaten – and easily cleaned up. And – mostly, very healthy.

It is completely possible to eat real food while travelling. Will you try these tips for your next getaway? What else do you do for your family while travelling?