Tag Archives: kristin mccaig nutrition

French Onion Burgers

Recipe: French Onion Burgers

Burgers are such an easy weeknight meal which is why they are a weekly staple on many people’s meal plans (or last minute meal decisions). But plain beef burgers can get a little boring. By adding just a few simple ingredients you can make French Onion Burgers…and take dinner up a few notches.

These are excessively simple to make but to make your dinner time even more stress free you can prep them in advance by throwing them together, shaping them and freezing them. Then you can come home after a long day and just throw them right on the grill…yes, from frozen. (You may already know I am a huge fan of Meal Prepping).

Pair them with some roasted broccoli and a salad (the quickest ones come from a bag of course:-) and you have an amazing dinner in under 20 minutes. And…you can essentially clean your kitchen while the meal cooks! It is so low maintenance.

When this recipe originated in my mind  (I thought “yum, wouldn’t sauteed onions in the burgers be delicious?”), I found out that several versions of it already existed. And the idea of using sauteed onions became less exciting because, in order to get them really sauteed, it would have taken a pretty long time.

The recipes I found on google contained Onion Soup Mix which contains unnecessary additives including MSG. I figured that dehydrated onions would do the trick as long as there was enough salt to bring in some of that salty goodness from the soup mix… it worked.

I am also a fan of fresh herbs whenever possible (because they are full of nutrients and also add so much flavour) so fresh parsley was a great addition.

If you are on a gluten free diet, you can purchase French’s Worcestershire Sauce (which is gluten free) and of course, use your favourite gluten free bbq sauce.

French Onion Burgers

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/4 cup dried onion flakes
  • 1/2 fresh onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire
  • 1 teaspoon tamari
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons bbq sauce (optional)

Cooking Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Divide into 8 equal portions.
  3. Shape into burgers.
  4. Grill 7-8 minutes per side or freeze. Enjoy on a bed of lettuce, on their own or with your favourite toppings.

Serves 4-6

If you are meal prepping these French Onion Burgers, you can freeze them individually on a cookie sheet and then transfer them to a container once frozen. Then, just cook them from frozen for about 10 minutes per side (grill or pan) until the internal temperature reaches 160ºF.

For simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.


Panang Curry with Shrimp, Chicken or Beef

Beef Panang is my significant other’s favourite dish when we go to our favourite local Thai restaurant.

I took on the challenge a few years ago to make it but I found it too spicy and the meat was tough so I wrote it off…clearly, I was doing something wrong which at the time, I had no interest to investigate any further.

But recently I had a client request Beef Panang so this time I decided to do my homework and get it right.

I watched some videos on Panang which were so helpful especially this one in particular.

In a nutshell, I learned that adding fresh lemon grass, thai basil and lime kaffir leaves would bring this dish to a whole new level. I also learned that using prepared curry paste is totally ok (instead of making it yourself) because the prepared paste is made with special grinders so that everything is the perfect texture (or perfectly combined)…all I know is they said it was ok!

I also learned that both chicken or shrimp were great alternatives to beef, however if you are going to use beef, flank steak is a great cut for it. (Take note, that many chefs agree that beef is the ultimate protein choice for panang because of it’s rich flavour).

Personally, I think there is some truth to that but I have thoroughly enjoyed it with shrimp as well.

The trick to keeping it less spicy or if you prefer, to make it super spicy, is to adjust the amount of curry paste. The more you use, the hotter it gets.

The lime kaffir leaves and thai basil should be available at your local Asian market (assuming you have one in your town) and the bamboo shoots and lemon grass may be at your local grocer. You can make this curry without all of those ingredients if necessary, but really, they take the panang to another level.

Panang Curry


  • 1.5-2 pounds meat of choice (beef flank, chicken breast or thigh, or shrimp)
  • 8 lime kaffir leaves, chiffonade (cut into thin strips)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, soft centers only, minced
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Thai basil leaves and stems, torn (a handful)
  • 1 227ml can bamboo shoots
  • 2 cans full fat coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste (1 tablespoon will make it not spicey, more than two will make it super spicey, depending on your brand of paste).


  1. Place coconut milk in soup pot over medium heat.
  2. Mix Curry Paste into coconut milk and reduce until you the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon with out running (this may take about 10 -15 minutes).
  3. You can add the lime kaffir leaves and lemon grass while the coconut milk is reducing.
  4. Once the coconut milk is thick enough add the onion, peppers, thai basil, bamboo shoots and stir.
  5. Meanwhile if you are using steak, sear it in a separate pan and slice thinly.
  6. Add the meat to the pot once the coconut milk mixture has reached your desired consistency. If using chicken or shrimp, add them to the panang sauce and cook until the chicken or shrimp is thoroughly cooked.
  7. Serve on its own or over cauliflower rice or white rice.

Serves 4-6

I look forward to hearing how it goes for you!

For more simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.

5 Must Have Kitchen Accessories

There are certain items that will make your cooking experience that much easier and that much more enjoyable. Today I am going to share with you 5 must have kitchen accessories that have made a huge difference in my life (and you know that I cook ALOT).

Now, before we get started I am going to say that one of the most important items that is not on this list is a good, sharp kitchen knife. This saves time and obviously makes chopping easy and you will know exactly what I am talking about when you feel the difference. I use this knife.


  1. A Good Blender

When I say good blender I mean a really good blender and these are often an investment.

When you are making homemade soup you want it to puree perfectly.

When you are learning how to make bread replacements with plantains, you want blades that are going to break those things down into a smooth paste.

When you only need a small amount of cashew butter for a recipe, you want a blender that will pulverize your nuts to a perfect paste.

And when you regularly hide spinach or other green vegetables in your smoothies, you want a blender that will break them down, so that you don’t have little tiny pieces that tickle your throat on the way down (all you pulp-haters know what I mean)!

I have used the Vitamix, Blendtec and the Ninja blenders and all worked very well. I have a preference for the Vitamix but that is likely because I have had one for almost 10 years so I know what it can do.

Hamilton Beach food processor

  1. A Food Processor

The difference between a blender and a food processor is that a high powered blender is great for pureeing things like soups, smoothies and nut butters. The food processor is great for rough chopping and blending but not quite pureeing so it is a great option when you are making salsa, dips, shredding cheese, chopping or grating vegetables.

I am currently using this food processor. I am happy with it’s capabilities and have made lots of great pesto, grated lots of cheese and made homemade marinaras in it. There is some issue with food getting stuck in a poorly designed spot on the lid, but so far I have been able to deal with it.

5 must have kitchen accessories

  1. An Immersion Blender

I love my immersion blender. I have an older Braun immersion blender that I purchased from a second hand store for $4.99.

I use it to make guacamole, puree soup (although I prefer my Vitamix for this) and to puree my mashed potatoes.

But one of my favourite uses is to make mayo or homemade garlic sauce.

If you have ever tried to make mayo in a food processor doing the “one drop at a time” method, it is time to make a change because the immersion blender allows you to put all your ingredients in a container and just blend…and voila, out comes mayo (usually…), within seconds.

You also save a lot of time on the clean up when you use the immersion blender.

I love my Braun but I also know that the Cuisinart immersion blender is at a good price point and has great reviews.

instant pot

  1. The Instant Pot

The Instant Pot is an electric pressure cooker.

Gone are the days when you have to fear that your pressure cooker is going to explode and literally blow through your ceiling (yes, that use to be a thing).

The Instant Pot is a Canadian designed pressure cooker that has multiple features aside from just pressure cooking. You can also sautee, slow cook, make rice, yogurt and more.

It has ten “fool proof” safety protections so that you do not need to fear anything going wrong (you know, like those explosions I mentioned).

And…it speeds up cooking by two to six times using up to 70% less energy.

For example, if you would usually make a stew in the slow cooker for 8 hours, you can make that same stew in the Instant Pot in about an hour and I am telling you, it will be better, more tender and more flavourful than your original version.

Note that there are are different sizes and versions…my favourite is this one.

This is one of the best purchases I have made in the past few years. And their customer service is excellent.


  1. Parchment paper

Is parchment paper an accessory? I say yes!
One of your biggest pains is cleaning up the dishes after all the cooking happens. And the worst part is cleaning baked on sauces or burnt food.

Parchment paper has basically annihilated any need to scrub baking dishes or cookie sheets because it is a paper that won’t burn under regular heat in the oven.

So you just line your baking sheets or dishes with it and after you cook, it lifts right off the dish and into the garbage, leaving you with an almost clean dish!

I buy mine at Costco.

Two notes on parchment paper:

  • Make sure to use a piece of paper big enough to go over the edges of your dish when you are cooking something with a sauce or oil so that the sauce doesn’t leak over the edge of the paper.
  • I am going to be upfront and admit that I do have some questions about the health issues with parchment paper. I am just curious to know what chemicals are in the parchment paper and if they are a concern to our health in any way so for this reason, I occasionally choose to not line a dish and accept that I will have to wash it.

A bonus favourite…

squatty potty

  1. A Squatty Potty

Ok, I know this one seems not fit into the theme of cool kitchen accessories I have mentioned but this is for after you’ve enjoyed your healthy meals.

Many people suffer from constipation and while this is often caused by dehydration, poor diet and lack of movement, it can also be worsened by the position in which you poop (humans are meant to squat while we poop).

The Squatty Potty is basically a footstool that wraps around the base of your toilet. You put your feet on it when you are having a bowel movement so that your colon is in an optimal position for elimination and that means that the poop comes out more easily.

Whether you are constipated or not, this is a great accessory for the whole family that will contribute to better health for everyone. And I kid you not when I tell you, you will never want to poop without your footstool again after you try it!

Do you have a favourite kitchen accessory that I didn’t mention? Let me know which ones you love by commenting below.

For simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means that I will receive a small percentage of any purchases made when you buy through these links. I endorse products that I love…




Healthy Homemade Take out

CTV: Healthy Homemade Take Out

After I posted my recent Easy Burrito Bowls Recipe (which I posted to help you get excited about creating healthy homemade take out), CTV news asked me to come on the show and do a segment on more healthy, homemade take out ideas.

Many of you are trying to eat healthier food or have food sensitivities and allergies that make take-out a non-option. And I know that you care about food quality in terms of where your meat comes from and what oils are used in cooking…all of which are out of your control when you get take out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Homemade take-out totally defies the purpose of take-out. It is not convenient at all…it takes time. Birthday parties or having company over are often the only way to get me to work this hard to make dinner:-).

I suggest that you break up the prep my making sauces like guacamole, garlic sauce and pico in advance. Chop your veggies the day before and marinade your meat in advance. All of this will make less work the day of and it will allow you to enjoy an even better version of your favourite takeout at home for about 1/3 the price.

Watch the segment (click here). 

Here are the recipes that I demo’ed in on the segment.

  • Indian Butter Chicken (dairy free)
  • Chipotle Burrito Bowl (mexican)
  • Eggplant & Tapioca Starch pizza crusts
  • Orange Chicken with cauliflower rice (Asian or Chinese)
  • Shawarma with homemade garlic sauce

Below are links to the recipes I use and I have suggested some changes that you can make so that you are not only have “better than take out” meals…but healthier and better.

Changes to the recipe:
  • Omit the flour and cornstarch. Sprinkle the chicken with about 1/3 cup tapioca starch or arrowroot flour before frying.
  • You only need to use enough oil to cover the bottom of your pan to fry/brown the chicken.
  • Double the Sauce ingredients.
  • Omit the water, sugar and white vinegar. Instead, use a juice box of orange juice.
Changes to the recipe:
  • Rice and beans are optional.
3. Pizza (gluten & grain free)
Changes to the recipe:
  • None
Changes to the recipe:
  • I use avocado or olive oil in place of the unhealthy canola oil
  • You can substitute almond milk for the cow’s milk.
  • You can even use yogurt in place of the eggs!

Changes to the recipe:

  • None

Here is a dairy free Butter Chicken recipe that has received rave reviews from my personal chef clients.

Changes to the recipe:
  • Use a Tandoori spice mix to save time if you like (President’s Choice has a nice mix).
  • If you really prefer rice with this dish, go for white rice. It doesn’t have any nutrients (which is why I recommend Cauliflower Rice) but it is easily digested.

Here is the Cauliflower Rice recipe

5. Shawarma with homemade garlic sauce

Changes to the recipe:

  • None

Here is the garlic sauce recipe (so easy! from jocooks.com)

Garlic Sauce
  • 1 cup avocado oil
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 egg white*
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth, it should take 1 to 2 minutes. This recipe will make about 1½ cups of sauce, refrigerate leftover sauce.

*You can make this garlic sauce egg-free. Just omit the egg white!

For more simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.


7 foods for faster meal prep

7 Foods for Faster Meal Prep

Meal prepping is all about getting your food prepped in advance so that you have less cooking to do when you actually need the meals most. It’s a great concept right?

But doing all that prep takes time.

So I want to show you seven of my favourite foods that you can use for faster meal prep.

Getting all of that chopping and mincing out of the way in advance can literally change your life on weeknights when time is precious and food is needed quickly.

Now, some of these items may not be available just yet at your local grocery store but I want to give a huge shout out to President’s Choice (who are not sponsoring this post in way) for the fact that they carry many of these items.

I’ll bet someone in that company is a fellow food prepping, busy mom who understands our needs!

frozen grilled veggies

My favourite frozen veggies

1. Frozen Veggies

Frozen veggies are economical. But even more importantly, they are often more nutritious than their fresh veggie counterparts from the supermarket.

The reason for this is that these veggies are frozen sooner after being harvested which means that they retain more nutrients than veggies that have had to travel across the world in their fresh state, to sit on a truck and then wait in the produce section, before reaching our dinner plates.

And most importantly, frozen veggies are prepped ready to be cooked. They can be thrown into a pan with some olive oil, salt and pepper or roasted and topped with a little goat’s cheese or they can be added directly to soups and stews with no washing, peeling or chopping!

2. Cauliflower Rice

When you are maximizing the amount of nutrients you get from your food want to be eating lots of vegetables.

Compare the nutrients in rice with those in vegetables and the veggies are going to come out on top every time so a simple substitution is to use grated cauliflower instead of rice.

Now, don’t get me wrong, cutting up a head of cauliflower and putting the florets into the food processor is not really difficult work but it is messy…the cauliflower seems to get on everything when you try to wash your dishes. And don’t even get me started on trying to do this with a hand grater!

So finding these bags of prepared cauliflower pearls (aka rice)  was definitely a win because I know it will save many heads of cauliflower from going to waste in well meaning peoples’ fridges.

avocado3. Frozen Avocado

Did you even know that avocado could be frozen? Yes!

In fact, it freezes so well that you can take it out, defrost it and create a guacamole that is so fresh and creamy you would never know it had been frozen.

And honestly, the price point for a 400g bag is similar to what I would pay for a bag of five avocados that I would still have to peel myself and the amount of guacamole was possibly even more than I would get from all of the fresh ones!

So frozen avocado it is with the exception of days when I am prepping guacamole to freeze (which now you know you is possible)! In that case, I buy fresh avocados.

butternut squash4. Frozen Butternut Squash Cubes

This one is a huge time saver.

Yes, it is a frozen vegetable and could have been left in that category.

But if you have ever peeled a butternut squash, you know that having it peeled, seeded and cubed, ready to throw on a cookie sheet for roasting or into directly into your soup or stew, is priceless. So it gets it’s own category.

garlic 5. Peeled Garlic

I guess it depends on how much garlic you use but if you find you don’t use a lot, I recommend you use more:-).

Garlic is known for its antifungal properties in the human body as well as its usefulness is supporting the immune system. Plus, it tastes fantastic and can bring a dish to the next level.

If a recipe calls for two garlic cloves, I use four. You just can’t get enough garlic.

So this peeled garlic comes in handy because most of the work is done for you. I can just take it out of the bag and chop it. And the only ingredient is garlic!

At such a low price point, although I do not condone wasting food, I am ok if I do not get though the whole bag.

shrimp6. Raw Peeled Shrimp (when it is on sale)

Shrimp is not cheap. I get that. And buying “Easy Peel Raw Shrimp” is less expensive but when it comes to meal prep for four, peeling up to 80 individual shrimp is just not a great way to spend your time.

Shrimp makes such a great meal prep option because all you need to do is make whatever sauce or marinade you plan to cook it in and once it is cool, add it to the frozen shrimp and put it right back in the freezer (in a sealed bag or container).

And then, when you want to enjoy the shrimp, you just defrost it and throw in a pan with a little olive oil or butter until it is cooked through. Better yet, pair it with cauliflower rice!

I’m telling you, there may be nothing easier than meal prepping shrimp.

So every now and then your grocery store will put the peeled raw shrimp on sale and that is a time to grab a bunch of bags. We use two bags per meal, which is about two pounds for a family of four.

salad7. Bagged Salad

And finally, bagged salad.

You want about three quarters of your plate to be covered in vegetables and one of the easiest ways to do that is by having a salad with every meal.

And although salad can be very easy to put together, that whole washing the lettuce part and cutting up the veggies task usually leads to everything just rotting in my fridge because I don’t do it.

So I generally like to meal prep one salad and then buy a bagged salad to tide me over once the first salad is eaten…(and as a side note…sometimes I just go through two bags of salad instead of making any myself)!

In closing…

We all know that meal prep can be a big task if you make it that way and the bigger your meal prep, the bigger the payoff in the week ahead but if you keep your out eye out for hacks like these, you can make a big meal prep day go even faster.

What are some of your favourite foods for faster meal prep? Please comment below.

For more simple By Design recipes why not pick up your copy of the Eat By Design Cookbook. I’ve created it in the form of a 28-day meal plan (plus grocery lists!) so you don’t need to think about what’s for breakfast, lunch or dinner for the next month. Or you can grab the first 7 days FREE by clicking here.