A few years ago when I moved to Oahu I joined an all women’s gym. More than just a gym where ladies gathered to take high-intensity training classes a few times a week it was a community and a great place to make friends and learn about nutrition and healthy choices.
At first, I was super intimidated. Not by the intensity of the workouts, I was used to those. But, by their organized meal swap groups, their knowledge about food, and their posts on social media. The ladies would post pictures of the food they were swapping for the week and the different recipes. I was feeling overwhelmed, and I thought I was never going to fit in. I wasn’t feeling the pressure to make meals, after all that was optional. However, I wanted to learn and take advantage of such a great habit. Who wouldn’t want to cook one simple meal, make 4 potions and come home with 3 different meals for the week? Sounded like a great deal to me, and I wanted to be part of it. All the meal swapping groups were full, so I decided to ask around and make my own group. It was much simpler than expected and all we did was follow a few easy steps to make it successful and stress-free.
Steps to successfully meal swap:
1. Find friends with goals and habits close to yours. Friends that you meet on a regular basis and have similar schedules. The last thing you want is to stress out about meeting up with people you rarely see. Make sure to select a time and day that works for everyone in the group.
2. Once you have your group ready, talk about food preferences and allergies. I had a girl in my group who couldn’t stand cooked carrots so we all kept those out of our recipes. Decide on what kind of meal you want to swap. Best to do is anything that could be eaten for lunch or dinner.
3. Plan the menu in advance and text each other your recipe for the week to avoid cooking the same stuff. This is meant to be for variety and you don’t want to end up with similar dishes.
4. Get feedback from your group and never take it personally. Be open to suggestions. It’s a learning process and it is supposed to be fun.
5. Decide how often you want to exchange meals. We did it every Monday for 6 weeks and then took a break. I think that exchanging
every other Monday or even one Monday a month would still be fun and give you a break in the kitchen.
My favorite meal exchange recipe:
This is one of my favorite recipes because it is delicious and makes a large amount. It is freezer friendly and can be easily stored and swapped in mason jars.
Cozy Butternut, Sweet Potato, and Red Lentil Stew
Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free
Recipe from Oh She Glows
For the stew:
* 2 tablespoons (30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 medium onion, diced (about 2 cups/280 g)
* 3 to 4 large garlic cloves, minced
* 3 cups (400 g) peeled, seeded, and diced butternut squash*
* 1 large sweet potato (450 g), peeled and diced (2 1/2 cups/340 g)*
* 3 cups (750 mL) low-sodium vegetable broth
* 1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can diced tomatoes
* 1 (14-ounce/398 mL) can light coconut milk
* 1/2 cup (100 g) dried red lentils, rinsed**
* 3 tablespoons (45 mL) tomato paste
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
* 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
* 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more if you like heat
* Fine sea salt, to taste (I use 1 1/2 teaspoons pink salt)
* Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
* 3 teaspoons (15 mL) apple cider vinegar, or to taste
* 1 bunch chard, stemmed and finely chopped***
1. To a large pot, add the oil, onion, and garlic. Stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, until the onion is softened.
2. Add the squash and sweet potato and stir to combine. Add a pinch of salt and continue sautéing for a few minutes longer.
3. Add the broth, diced tomatoes (with juices), coconut milk, lentils, tomato paste, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt, and pepper. (If you are spice-shy, feel free to add half the amount to start and increase from there after cooking, to taste.) Stir well to combine.
4. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, stir again, and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash and potato are fork-tender. Reduce the heat if necessary.
5. Add the apple cider vinegar to taste. Adjust the other seasonings if desired.
6. Optional step: Using a handheld immersion blender, blend the stew for only 2 to 3 seconds (any more and you’ll blend too much of the veggies). This thickens the broth.
7. Stir in the chard, and cook for another couple minutes until the greens are wilted.
8. Scoop some cooked rice onto the bottom of a bowl and then ladle the stew over top. Garnish with minced cilantro or parsley and a good dusting of garlic and chili powder, if desired.
9. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, and they freeze beautifully too.
by Maricela Urcuyo, Siren Luminary
Follow Maricela on Instagram @mariurcuyo1