Meal Makeover: Food Network's Catherine McCord's Family-Friendly Tweaks Will Make You Excited to Cook

Exclusive: Food Network's Catherine McCord offers tips on how to shop smarter, spice up your pantry and get your kids excited about cooking

By Tierney Bricker, Alli Rosenbloom Mar 30, 2020 5:00 PMTags
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So, anyone else stress-eating right now? 

We don't know about you, but as we continue to practice social distancing amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, we're spending a lot more time in the kitchen. Sure, sometimes we're cooking, but we're also taking more than a few trips to our pantry to grab snacks even when we're not hungry, and it sounds like we're not alone. 

"When we're home or anxious or scared...we want foods that are band-aid-ing us," Food Network chef and Weelicious founder Catherine McCord said, "but what we really, really need—if you're going to be shopping—is the produce, fruits and vegetables because you need the vitamins. Even for your mood."

But healthy and delicious don't have to mutually exclusive, with Jennifer Garner and Sarah Michelle Gellar both believing in McCord's food as medicine approach to mindful eating, which she writes about on her popular Weelicious website.

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"I really rely on Weelicious," Garner wrote of McCord on her Once Upon a Farm website, "that Catherine McCord knows what she's doing! Fast, fresh and easy recipes for the whole family are her thing and her school lunch recipes are a hit in my house!"

McCord, who recently published The Smoothie Project, provided E! News with some of her tips for how to make your grocery store purchases last, spicing up what's already in your pantry and the secret to actually get your kids interested in cooking as a way to spend time together in the kitchen. 

Plus, she offered up one of her most popular smoothie recipes that will boost your immunity and is sure to become a household favorite.

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How to Shop and Store Smarter: With everyone trying to make less trips to the grocery store, it can be overwhelming to plan ahead to stock up for at least two weeks' worth of food for your household. While McCord advised stocking up on anything frozen or canned, she also stressed the value of freezing fresh food or meals properly. 

 "I think things like proteins, chicken, ground meat that you can freeze, soups and stews and then freeze. I do feel like people's freezers are getting overly stocked with things but even today we had some fruits that were getting to their end so we're shooting a video right now on how to store fruit, if you can't buy it but you have some on hand to freeze it so that you can then add it to smoothies or add into oatmeal."


So if you are eyeing those browning bananas on your counter right now, McCord has you covered.

"Instead of chopping them into slices, you put your finger down the middle of the banana so they split into three and then you just put it on a baking sheet. You line the bananas and do a layer of bananas, parchment [paper], a layer of bananas, parchment, and once they're frozen you can put them into zipper bags so that they take up less space in your freezer."

She continued, "That way you can then make banana bread, smoothies or an ice cream or anything like that."


How to Have Fun With Your Kids in the Kitchen: I think this is the time that we all [as] parents have the opportunity to model good eating for their kids, create game and challenges for their kids like what's one new healthy food, or new fruit or vegetable that we could eat today," McCord said, providing making green smoothies for St. Patrick's Day as an example.

"I think there's so many Aha! moments for kids right now and especially cooking with them, we're all buying time.," she said. "You know, 24 hours entertaining kids—it's super real right now. So I encourage them getting into the kitchen and turning everything into a game as much as possible."

Three Staples to Rely On: In addition to antioxidant-rich berries—fresh or frozen—and immunity-boosting bee pollen, McCord advised stocking up on greens for their versatility.

"It's funny because I went to the grocery store a few days ago and there was nothing – no produce –but there were tons of greens. There was like swiss chard and lettuce and kale," she said. "I mean, literally there wasn't an apple to be found but there was tons of greens. So whether you're adding your greens to your smoothies, you're sautéing them."

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How to Spice Up Your Pantry: If you want to avoid making a trip to the grocery store this week, McCord had a big tip for how to stop your own pantry to make small tweaks for a big impact when it comes to nutrition and flavor. 

"Anytime you have these unusual spices where you're like, why did I buy that?" McCord explained, "I think it's a good time to be using those spices, dig in your spice drawer and add it. Even if you have the most simple food you can make it really interesting and exciting depending on the kind of oil you use and the kind of spice you use."

Think pumpkin pie spice, usually a flavor reserved for fall, in your oatmeal or adding cumin or Indian spices to your go-to soup or stew recipe. 


Immunity Booster Smoothie
Serves 1

 "As soon as fall begins, I start preparing for that time of year when everyone seems to fall prey to cold and flu season," McCord wrote of this nutrient-packed smoothie. "Instead of stocking up on bottles of vitamins and kids' multi-gummies, I start reinforcing our immune systems with tons of resistance-building foods. This smoothie is loaded with vitamins, antioxidants, and superfoods that kick your immune system into overdrive, improve your gut health, and even help you feel better if you've already succumbed to the worst the season has to offer."



1⁄2 fresh or frozen banana, peeled

1⁄4-inch (6-mm) piece fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped, or 1⁄4 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons plain or vanilla yogurt (preferably Greek)

1⁄2 cup (65 g) fresh or frozen mixed berries 1 handful fresh spinach

1 dried date, pitted or 2 teaspoons honey for added sweetness, if desired

2 teaspoons hemp seeds

1 teaspoon bee pollen

1 tablespoon almond or another nut butter 1 crack black pepper

1⁄2 cup (120 ml) almond milk

Directions: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

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