New Cookbooks Are Being Delivered Which Meals New Meals Are Being Enjoyed

I’ve added yet another new cookbook to my collection. Right after Christmas I cleaned out my cookbook cabinet and found that there were not many I used anymore since going artificial sweetener free in my meal planning for my husbands health reasons. Even now, with the three new books that I recently bought, I typically get ideas from them and add my own twist to the meal I prepare. I know what will pass the test of my family and what won’t…and sometimes I wing it and hope for the best. I will say, and give a lot of credit to both my husband and my son, they have been really adjusting much better than I thought they would to a more plant based diet. Why plant based you may ask? To simply put it, fruits and veggies don’t have labels that I have to scan for things that are not good for us to consume. They are straight forward and don’t need any help being tasty.

In other news, has anyone else noticed more daylight hours? I sure have. I have also noticed that our snow here is melting and temps are slowing becoming tolerable. Mud season(Spring) is right around the corner and I for one am so ready to dive right in. My upcoming meal plans have grilled food on them, I have charcoal on the grocery list, and all this means life for me is finally turning a corner. We even went for a walk on the neighborhood streets the other night….I have not done this in months. WhooHoo!!!

So, moving on with some meal inspiration for everyone….here is what dinner time looked like at our house this past week. I accomplished five new recipes this week…wow this was amazing.

Saturday: Moroccan stew and homemade spring rolls with dipping sauce (meatless) (both new recipes and both so yummy)

***This was a mother/son meal combo. I made the stew and he made the spring rolls with dipping sauce. As for dad….he simply enjoyed the meal;-)

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Sunday: ham, peas, and pasta with garlic cream sauce and crusty bread

Monday: slow cooker beef lo mein (new recipe and oh so tasty)

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Tuesday: cheese stuffed manicotti with veggie marinara and cheese topping (meatless)

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Wednesday: Mediterranean pasta skillet casserole (new recipe that came from my own thoughts….maybe I aught to write a cookbook since this also turned out spectacular)

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Thursday: honey mustard crunch salads (honey mustard was another new recipe-fabulous!!!)

Friday: out

I am a bit afraid of what will come once the weather is really nice and I have so much less time to spend in the kitchen to prepare quality meals. Although, I know here in the midwest  summer is so short that I can surely come up with some fast, tasty meals that can be thrown together super quick after a long hot day of playing outside. The plan is to cross that bridge when I get there.

As for food prep for the upcoming week….none at all happened. I know I am going to pay the price for not doing any on Sunday but after waking up and making a trip to urgent care for an unforseen issue, I did not have the energy to do anything but sleep.

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Replicating A Recipe And Keeping Dinner Time Simple

A few weeks back a friend and I went to a local cafe for drinks and a light lunch. We both ordered the pasta salad they had in the cold case and fell in love with it. It was so tasty yet from the looks of it, so easy to replicate. So I just had to give it a try and see what I came up with. This is what I experimented with Saturday and then fed it to my family with hopes that it would be another meal to add to the meatless menu. Surprisingly, it was a total success…our son actually came back for two helpings…now that really is a success. All it consists of is cheese tortellini, dried cranberries, spinach leaves, onion, a homemade dressing, with goat cheese crumbles added before serving. Simple is often best and this is a prime example of this…. it was soooo good!

Here is what the rest of our week was like at dinner time.

Saturday: chilled cheese tortellini pasta salad with crusty bread (meatless)

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Sunday: Swedish meatballs over pasta with broccoli

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Monday: coconut veggie fried bulgar (meatless)(new recipe)

***I must admit, adding coconut to this recipe was risky, in my opinion, but it really did add so much flavor. I was happily surprised. Bonus: the next day my table food eating daycare child loved it also.

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Tuesday: BLT’s

Wednesday: quesadillas

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Thursday: veggie stir fry over udon noodels (meatless)

Friday: take and bake pizzas from our favorite organic grocery store here in the Green Bay area

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Three meatless meals this week…..all successful. And the remaining evenings were simple but tasty. Just how I like to complete a long day.

Meal prep for the upcoming week:

Not much food prep needed for this upcoming week since my husband would be traveling for work all week which left just my son and I for dinners. Although, a dinner plan was still needed, just a bit less than normal. Here is the prepping I did do to make life easier on myself so I could get everything else done solo.

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I whipped up a quick dozen veggie egg cups for my breakfast for the week. Of course, cleaned and cut up the veggies needed for the week. Plus, I threw together a batch of curry lentil stew (recipe here) for myself for lunch all week.

 

 

 

Less Is More – Read Your Labels

Are you a label reader? I have been for awhile now but what I now read on labels today has changed over the years. I never paid any attention to the ingredient list…ever. Mainly just the nutritional numbers and percentages. I now, rarely read those numbers at all….now I concentrate on the ingredient list almost exclusively.

Yes, time consuming it is. Yes, tedious it is. Yes, discouraging it can be. Yes, you will be completely blown away by what you are putting into your body on a daily basis….that is if you can even pronounce it . However, I also believe it can be life changing since it has been here for us. Now, before you all stop reading, let me assure you….it is not more expensive to eat cleaner food. It just takes a bit of effort on your part. I find it absolutely astounding at what companies can and will put in our food and consider it good enough for us all to consume.

Notice these few food labels we have here at our home.

Honey Roasted Peanuts: short/basic ingredients we all recognize and can pronounce for that matter.

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Crackers: three ingredients/ all things we know what they are/ and nothing fake

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Iced tea mix- nothing fake/easy to read/short list

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Snack bar– nothing fake, easy to read/short list/and everything is food

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Yogurt– clear label/ short ingredient list/ all real ingredients/no fillers/ all food

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This is how we eat today. Simple, easy to read products with clear labels.

You will find yourself getting very creative at times, especially when something you find you have eaten forever you no longer can have or want to have. For us here, there have been a few products that have really been hard to replace by making this change. Let me tell you about a few swaps we have made.

For instance, snack crackers. So many have ingredients in them that we can’t even begin to know what it is without looking it up. So one of the things we have found takes the place of crackers is cucumber slices. They can be used for dipping, layering homemade salad mixtures on (like here) or simply snacking on when hunger strikes. They are healthy, full of water, and are a great healthy option with only one ingredient….cucumber.

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Lunch meat is another big one that was hard to replace. I searched for awhile and did find a few brands that did not contain any artificial sweeteners. However, they are twice as much as all the others and you get half as much in the package. So to replace lunch meat for my family I now buy canned chicken breast. I then make up a fast and easy chicken salad and this is what we make sandwiches with for days we need a meal on the go. It has worked out great, takes very little effort and I know we are eating something without a ton of fillers in it. A bonus is that Costco carries this product in bulk which is a win.

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The one other thing we have really struggled to find without anything artificial in it is pepperonis. We love pizza…who doesn’t right? Trying to find pepperonis with no artificial sweeteners in them was very difficult. Every single one we could locate in our local grocery had sucralose as the sweetener…frustrating I tell you…very frustrating. That is until I happen to find these at our new grocery store here in town where we now buy all our meat products.

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For $3.99 a package we can have pepperoni pizza once again and enjoy every bite.

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Eating for your health and well being is not that hard to do. It is also not as expensive as most people think. Does it take more work? Honestly, yes. However, I feel we owe it to ourselves to live the best life we can since we all only have one life to live. To me this work is minimal when you look at the big picture.

Here is a list of some items we were surprised had artificial sweeteners in them:

toothpaste

some brands of cottage cheese

some sour creams

almost all freezer potato products(ex.tater tots)

airborne/emergen C

many cold medicines/cough drops

candy

almost all gum

breads….so many breads

frozen pizza

salad dressings

sauces (ex BBQ)

anything breaded or with a crunchy coating

frozen spicy black bean burgers

and the list goes on and on….even foods in the organic isles (like the black bean burgers above)

Don’t take for granted when you see natural or organic on the package….this does not mean they did not use something that was made in a lab/test tube.

Read your labels!!!!!

 

 

Meal Recap-New Recipes Are So Much Fun

Goodness, I had a long week. Good but long….yoga Saturday is going to feel so wonderful! On that note, I am keeping it short and sweet today. Here is what we enjoyed for dinner all week…see something yummy you want to try, let me know and I will get you the recipe.

Saturday: veggie enchiladas (new recipe and surprisingly it was a hit)

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Sunday: chicken fajita seasoned brats with veggies over farrow

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Monday: Spanish chicken and cauliflower skillet with crusty bread(another new recipe and another hit…yeh)

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Tuesday: BBQ chicken from my new clean eating cookbook, pita bread, roasted carrots, and kale side salads (one more new recipe….that make 3 for three this week and all a hit)

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Wednesday: general tso’s chicken and broccoli IMG_9967

Thursday: homemade egg biscuit sandwiches with homemade chicken breakfast sausage IMG_0094

Friday: out

Meal Prep:

This week I needed to whip up another batch of homemade fajita seasoning since we can’t find any without artificial sweetener in it in our area.

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Since I knew this week would be a doozie….I made a big batch of homemade pea soup so I get to eat also. There are many times I often find myself so busy caring for the children during the day and taking care of everything else I take care of, that eating is often forgotten. That is until I have the shakes and a headache from not eating and then it dawns on me….did I eat lunch today? And sure enough, this is the perfect time for a big ole cup of hearty pea soup. IMG_0240

I also washed and pre cut any veggies that could be pre cut for the upcoming week of recipes. Then we saw that a snow storm was going to be what we woke up to Monday and Tuesday morning which meant our alarm would go off at 3a.m instead of 4a.m. so a fast breakfast was needed. Carrot muffins are healthy and a good “on the road” breakfast for these types of mornings being both my husband and son travel a good distance to get to work. And of course I made my staple, hard boiled eggs for breakfast.

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There you have it, another week of great meals and a week of meal prep ready to go.

Are you a meal planner or do you wing it and see what happens?

What’s your favorite go to breakfast?

 

 

Another Reader Request Answered: Exercise….How Do I Find The Time?

Finding time to exercise is not something I need to usually do. I will admit, at times, life gets hectic and it’s just not possible. However, finding no time to exercise, in my opinion, is 95% of the time just an excuse. Let me explain.

The gym I attend, I will often see people sitting in workout clothes, taking up space on a machine without any movement happening except for their fingers going a mile a minute on their phones. This could take anywhere from a few minutes to as long as 20 minutes on the same machine without any exercise happening at all. Now, not to be rude or inconsiderate (like they clearly are being), I feel individuals like this are simply mooching off the free WIFI while dressed like they should be dressed at a gym and taking up space where they should not be taking up space. We have tables and chairs at our gym for this sort of thing. Which brings me to my point on why having no time if often an excuse. If you are up to date and current on all your social media accounts….you surely have time to exercise, it’s simply not a priority in your life.

Another important aspect I believe is that you need to look at how to MAKE time to exercise if you want it bad enough. Either to lose weight, get healthy, for energy, or simply just to feel good, do you want it bad enough to make time in your daily life for this activity? For me, this is a no brainer, I simply feel best when I exercise so little to no thought is needed to make time.

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Let’s look at what you do for exercise. If you are a treadmill person and dread the thought of walking/running on this motorized belt everyday, of course you may find it difficult to keep at it. If your a treadmill walker/runner and enjoy the time this machine allows you to walk without the outdoor elements getting in your way, then I can see you looking forward to this activity everyday. Doing something you enjoy rather than dread is always easier. Experiment with different exercises and find one that you really enjoy, one that gives you satisfaction and then you may find it easier to continue once you begin.

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Ultimately, for me, exercise is made a top priority in my life. I feel better, my body hurts less when I exercise, my mind resets, and I know it makes me stay healthy enough to enjoy the things I love to do.

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It helps me reach my goals and get to some of the most magnificent destinations a person could ever hope to see.

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Without daily exercise my body would never allow me the pleasure of reaching some of the crazy places I wish to see before its too late. And for this I am so thankful.

IMG_9503For me working out is a way to work everything out…..try it and you may find it life changing. I sure did.

 

Reader Question Answered: How Do I Manage To Cook Every Night? Meal Prepping-It’s A Time Saver

Over Christmas break I had a few requests from some readers for some specific blog topics. Meal prepping and daily exercise were the two most asked about. Today I am touching on meal prep since, for me, it’s takes very little thought and is priceless.

Many of you are parents and are very busy but still want to prepare healthy meals for your family. I too am a parent but my son is much older now, although, I am a childcare provider and care for very small children 10+ hours per day 5 days a week which is exhausting some days. IMG_8059

However, I still manage to prepare meals nightly for my family which I share with you weekly (like here, and here)  to inspire you all to get in the kitchen and cook. Today I am touching on meal prepping and why it is such a time saver for me.

First, let me give you a bit of insight into my life. Monday- Friday I religiously work on routine….a tight routine. Wake up at 4a.m., pack two lunches and make two breakfasts, eat breakfast with my husband, and leave the house to workout by 4:50a.m. every single morning. Trust me this takes planning. I then return home by 6:15a.m., shower, and begin to prepare for my daycare children to arrive from 6:30a.m. on for breakfast and the day. We have a normal day, they all get picked up at 4:30 or there about and I immediately go into dinner mode and begin preparing dinner for my family. Dinner is served at 5:30 when our son arrives home from work and dinner is then cleaned up and either I do yoga or go back to the gym for a second time with my husband depending on what day it is. We then return home at 7:30p.m, I shower again, and I am usually in bed by 8/8:15p.m.. Yes, routine for me is crucial!!!

OK, with that being said, this is why meal prepping can pay off for everyone. Spending an hour…maybe a bit more can allow you to pre chop any veggies for weekly meals.

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It can allow you to prepare healthier lunches for yourself, children or spouse instead of some processed wrapper covered convenience food, and can allow you a bit of breathing time if your day is thrown into a tailspin and you have to readjust on the fly.

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Now, don’t think that even with this tight routine things still dont go wrong because they do. And sometimes they do often. Especially being a parent…if kids are involved things can go wrong very quickly. However, having options like pre cut veggies and easy to grab healthy options that are ready to go makes it much easier to pick up the pieces of a failed plan and not call the takeout restaurant for delivery. Dinners for us during the week are far from gourmet…but they are healthy and fresh.

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And believe me, having a major food allergy in our home as of the last few months makes calling for takeout almost impossible, so I do know how hard it is to think fast and come up with something instead of takeout.

The easiest way for me to meal prep is to plan a weekly menu and stick to it. Do this on the weekend, then grocery shop, then prep anything you can on Sunday before the beginning of the week. For me, Sunday works best, first thing in the morning so nothing else becomes more important. I usually will also make some go to foods for me for during the week also. Boiled eggs are a favorite….you can grab and go, smash them in seconds and make egg salad or stuff them with hummus and avocado with a drizzle of balsamic glaze and have a healthy fast lunch. I am never without hard boiled eggs in the frig. IMG_0170

Also if you have a sweet tooth make sure you plan for this. Having something sweet but healthy in sight is always better than grabbing that bag of candy and forgetting to stop eating them until you find the bag is empty. I keep a well stocked fruit bowl in sight at all times.

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I also was amazed when our son started his new job a few months ago to hear him ask me how he could make a healthier lunch but not buy expensive processed lunch meat. I suggested cooking up some chicken and making sandwiches or wraps with this instead. So he has been taking my idea and making this ever since starting his job. It easy, filling, and does not need heating up since he does not have this option like his dad does who takes leftovers every day. Plus, he can easily change it up with different meats or add ins.

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Another great help when it comes to spicing life up a bit in the kitchen or adding flavor to dishes is to utilize your freezer. I will blend sundried tomatoes in olive oil and freeze in small containers. When you are ready to use in a dish simply take it out and toss it in. It unthaws in seconds and adds so much flavor.

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You can also do this with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Simply toss the entire can into a food processor and blend until smooth. Spoon tablespoons onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and toss it in the freezer. Wait until its frozen (2 hrs or so) and easily remove them and put them into baggies, containers or wrap each in plastic wrap. Place them back in the freezer and take one out when you need to add a bit of spice and get a deep smokey flavor in any dish. We love this in chili at our house.

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For upcoming weekly meals posts I will also include what I prep for the upcoming week according to the menu I have in place. Some things will be for meals and some things will be for work lunches. Maybe this will help and maybe it will not. Although, I do believe if you all give it a try and a bit of dedication you can really make your life a bit easier and find that making a meal after a long day is not always as hard as it seems. It’s kinda like going to the gym…..getting there is often times the hardest part. Just like starting meal preparation after a long day…once you start you might as well finish.

 

Leek, Bacon, and Eggs Skillet

Fast, healthy, and easy are always a must during the week for me. My days are long, my workouts are top priority, and when things fall apart and I don’t get my movement time I get pretty darn cranky. Alright, maybe I should be honest and just say I get plain old bitchy. So while trying to figure out one evening how to come up with a meal since the original meal plan was not going to happen for various reasons I decided to give something new a try.

I am someone who loves eggs. I eat them every single day for breakfast and almost never eat the yolk. I honestly would live on them if I were single and not a mom. No such thing on either aspect there, so once in a while I will try serving my boys eggs for dinner and neither really complains….if its only once in while.

What I did this evening was superb! It turned out way better than expected. And to my surprise, my son ate it and said it was good. Thank goodness I was sitting down for this comment since I knew this meal would be a long shot for him to give approval on. Here is what I did.

Leek, Bacon, and Egg Skillet

1/2 lb bacon-pre cooked to save time

eggs-I prepared two each but this number is optional

4-5 oz. box of fresh spinach-roughly chopped

3 medium leeks-cleaned and diced

1/2 medium onion-diced

1 garlic clove-minced

8 oz of sliced mushrooms-diced

parmesan cheese-shredded

pinch of salt

hot sauce if desired

In one large skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray add your spinach, onion, leeks, mushrooms and garlic. Sprinkle the pinch of salt over this which will help draw out the water from the veggies and help in the saute method without adding extra fat.

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When the liquid is cooked off(about 15-20 minutes) add your pre cooked bacon and stir together evenly letting your bacon heat up.***NOTE: I pre cooked my bacon in the oven at 400 for about 20 minutes the morning I made this dish. I knew time was limited and did not want the hassle of cooking bacon along with the rest of this meal all at dinner time. So upon adding my bacon, it was refrigerator cold. If you prepare your bacon while your leeks are cooking you simply would add your hot, chopped bacon to the pan directly.

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About the time this mixture is finished, spray another pan to prepare your eggs. Crack the amount of eggs you will need and prepare them until they are sunny side up. Unless you prefer them fully cooked….go for it.

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While these are cooking, which only takes a few minutes at the most, begin serving your leek mixture into bowls. Then, lay your eggs carefully over the leek mixture, sprinkle it with a bit of parmesan cheese and a shake of hot sauce if you prefer.

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When your ready to eat, break your yolk and let the creamy filling mix with the leeks. I served mine with Annie’s Homegrown refrigerator rolls on the side to soak up all the creamy goodness at the bottom of the bowl.

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This was a filing, easy, and  delicious dinner enjoyed by all. I hope it will inspire you to think outside the box and try new things.

Cleaning a leek: If you need help on how to clean a leek click here. Then scroll down to the bottom of this recipe and directions will be located there.