Note: This giveaway is open to Canadians only.
I’m here to make a confession. To stick my stake in the ground, as it were. To be completely and transparently honest about two things:
1. I often feel guilty about the foods I feed my children, and
2. 10/10 times, I prefer to choose food with ingredients I can pronounce.
Let’s tackle the first issue: guilt. I wear so many hats that no two days are the same; I’m a writer, photographer, host, traveller, reviewer, social media influencer, etc. Unfortunately, the lack of structure also means that meals are often last-minute decisions vs. carefully planned menus. Yes, I rely on convenience foods like hot dogs, cold cuts and frozen foods, more frequently than I’d like to admit.
However, even though I heavily rely on packaged food at mealtimes, I’d still like to be able to feed my kids food with real, natural ingredients. I’m less intrigued about the science behind a product and more concerned with being able to visualize, relate to and pronounce what I’m putting on the plate.
Until recently, I thought that I’d always be stuck in an endless cycle – 1. feeling guilty about the foods I’m serving, yet 2. serving the same foods anyways, while 3. having a desire to do better. Repeat.
Today, with the help of Maple Leaf Foods, I feel better about my choices.
I recently attended a media day at Maple Leaf Foods headquarters. The audience? Moms and dads in the social space, who were open to learning about the sweeping changes in the iconic brand.
“We wanted to go back to the basics,” explained Michael H. McCain, president and CEO. “Maple Leaf has always connected with families trying to make responsible food choices. We set out on this bold initiative – to do that better than ever before.”
As we were guided through a day of presentations, food demonstrations, product tastings and even a sought-after Q&A period with Mr. McCain, a thought crept into my mind: with Maple Leaf Food’s complete overhaul of their existing recipes, rejigged to use NO artificial preservatives, NO artificial flavours, NO artificial colours, NO artificial sweeteners, and NO animal by-products – I could finally see myself breaking the cycle.
No guilt. Real, natural ingredients. YES!
After digesting (pun intended!) all the information and delicious foods presented, I feel the easiest way to sum up their commitment is to share the Maple Leaf Foods brand new manifesto:
Love what you see? Me too! In fact, I’ve found myself enjoying some childhood favourites more than usual, like Maple Leaf Top Dogs Original Hot Dogs, Maple Leaf Original Natural Bacon and Maple Leaf Original Natural Smoked Ham.
I’m so excited that I rediscovered the versatility of Maple Leaf Original Natural Smoked Ham. Fully cooked, it can be enjoyed straight from the package or warmed in the oven for a traditional ham dinner. However, at the recent Maple Leaf Foods media day, I was tipped off with another use – Fried Rice! I mean, of course! It’s perfect for adding a little protein to a tried-and-true family favourite, and since all you have to do is slice, dice and sauté, dinner can be ready in a flash.
Since you can basically add anything your heart desires to fried rice, this is less of a structured recipe and more of a suggested list of ingredients. You’ll want to grab day-old jasmine rice, sliced carrots, fresh or frozen peas, diced green onions, chopped egg omelette and of course, cubed Maple Leaf Original Natural Smoked Ham. A dash of soy sauce and you’re in flavourtown!
I like to quickly fry the cubed ham separately in a stainless steel pan over medium heat with a touch of oil. This will crisp the ham slightly and deepen the flavour, but you can skip this step if you’re short on time (or patience). After all, the ham will be sautéed with the other ingredients below, but there’s just something about the two-step method that gives me a taste and texture I love.
Add two tablespoons of vegetable oil to a large wok. Over medium to high heat, sauté carrots, peas, ham and green onion for barely two minutes. Add jasmine rice and one tablespoon (or more, to taste) of low sodium soy sauce. Stir in chopped egg.
Garnish with fresh green onion and a few red pepper flakes for heat, cause it’s fun to live on the edge sometimes, amirite?
From start to finish, I put together the entire meal in about 15 minutes. And I made it on a weeknight! I don’t want to pat myself on the back too vigorously, but after constantly feeling like dinner was an “either-or” situation (either convenient or healthy), I’m glad I can have both.
Want to learn more about real food from simple ingredients you can pronounce? Visit mapleleaf.ca.
This post is sponsored by Maple Leaf Foods. The opinions on this blog, as always, are my own.
by Lena Almeida, Lifestyle Expert, www.listentolena.com