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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This Time It Was My Turn To Pick The Restaurant

Does your family debate over where you are all going when you go out to eat a meal? I think most do…right? Well, in our family my husband is a very basic eater, my son loves going places of the beaten path so to say and I love different cuisine….like things you would not find most people eating in WI. Seriously, I am probably the only person in WI that does not LOVE beer, brats, cheese and fish fry on Friday nights. Ugggg, I would rather eat PB&J!

Well, if you recall, a few weeks ago our son really wanted us to step outside the box and try Pho….a Vietnamese soup. I was all in, dad did not argue but was not too sure, and our son said he had had it before and thought I would love it since I love soup. You can read about this experience here if you missed it. Which now brought us to this past weekend, I found a new place I wanted us all to try. Another place that had pho on the menu and so much more. I had done my research and knew what I was going to have before arriving….which was a curry seafood dish, I loved pho but it was way to much noodles for me to feel like I was not wasting it last time, so I avoided ordering this again. When our food arrived it smelled amazing.

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We all chose a different dish, which is great since this offers all of us a chance to try one anothers and essentially get to taste three things on the menu. We also got one egg roll since the girl in front of us said they were the best in Green Bay. We split it in three and yes, she was right, it was fabulous!

As we enjoyed our meal my son thought it would be fun to take us to the ethnic market he often goes to with a friend of his. Since all our errands were done and all that was waiting for me at home was laundry, I thought sure why not. This was eye opening. So much stuff….so much stuff I have never seen…..so much stuff that I would never in a million years consider eating(like chicken feet and a snout from some animal). However, amazingly enough I found something there that I just recently told my husband I wish our local grocer would start carrying. Baby bok choy….I finally found a place that has it in Green Bay. I know, for the average individual this would not be exciting, but for me THIS WAS EXCITING!!!!!

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I ended up buy an entire bag of these precious little green bundles and I started thinking immediately how I could mix them in with the dinner plan for that evening.They ended up being wonderful and oh so tasty. I will surely be returning to purchase more when I am in that area of the city.

As for the remainder of our weekend…well, let’s just say it’s better not written about and or repeated. It ended up being not so great which sometimes happens.

 

When That Solid Plan Falls Apart

Going into this week I had a pretty solid plan. However, by mid morning Monday that plan had drastically changed in more ways than one. Which ultimately meant it was going to be a wild ride….especially since I was solo this week with the hubby traveling for work. Although, looking back at the week, I still did pretty good in the meal area so it was not a total failure.

Here is what we (my son and I) enjoyed this week:

Saturday: BBQ pulled pork, homemade coleslaw, and parmesan potatoes

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Sunday: Vietnamese vermicelli bowls

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Monday: chicken breakfast sausage(recipe here), eggs, and cheese on biscuits

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Tuesday: lentil veggie chowder (recipe here)

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Wednesday: I went out with my brother for our monthly dinner together

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Thursday: one pot ham and parmesan pasta casserole with broccoli and spinach

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Friday: My son offered to prepare dinner tonight since it would just be us and I had had a long, hard day of emotional family stuff. He made an egg skillet with peppers, onions, and andouille sausage and served it with jalepeno cheese bread. YUM!!!

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Not terrible right? Could have been better but really could have been worse also. From freezing cold mornings once again which made my morning gym sessions too cold, to a death in the family which then resulted in an unexpected day off of work, to a fall on the ice…ouch, and a disaster in airports due to a major snowstorm which brought my husband home at 2 a.m. instead of the original 4 p.m.. I, for one, am so darn happy to bid this week goodbye!

As for the next week, it was a tough call. I hate throwing out food but not knowing if my husband would be traveling once again for work or not left me two menu plans. One for two people and one for four people(one serving being a lunch box serving of leftovers) which in turn made grocery shopping a free for all. So I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants not knowing exactly how much to buy or not buy. I was trying to plan for not to much veggie waste if he would be gone but also to have enough if it was cancelled and he would be staying home. What’s worse than having to grocery shop twice in one week when you don’t have enough or forgot something right? So here is what I came up with for food prep for the week.

I cooked up some cinnamon apples for my daycare child and my husband(if home) to enjoy. IMG_0378

I made some carrot coconut muffins for breakfast for everyone to enjoy. I also pre cut all veggies for the week and also threw together a quick batch of mexican quinoa for myself to have for lunch all week.

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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!!!!!

 

 

Going Meatless Is Getting Easier

I don’t know if my family is just agreeing with me to shut me up or actually converting over to meatless meals because I will not give up on this mission. However, I am happy to report that so far they have been very agreeable to what I have been trying. Since they ultimately are my guinea pigs at dinner time, I try and keep my new meatless recipes to our weekend dinners so we always have the option of ordering out if they fail. So far, we have never ordered out…success!!! And I am still getting over the shock of my son trying my veggie burgers and eating two of them without complaining, gagging, or throwing them out. I even got a,”hey mom, you can make these again.” YEEEHHHH!!!!!

So once again, here is what we enjoyed for meals this week.

Saturday: homemade veggie burgers and side salads (meatless)

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Sunday: pita chicken and veggie sandwiches, side salads

Monday: beef stroganoff over pasta with roasted green beans and carrots

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Tuesday: roasted seasoned pork tenderloin, corn, and roasted potatoes IMG_0313

Wednesday: ground turkey and pasta stove top casserole and sauteed zucchini and onions

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Thursday: grilled cheese sandwiches and homemade tomato basil soup (meatless)

Friday: out

Sunday meal prep for the upcoming week included:

A new banana muffin recipe and I also threw together Sunday nights meatballs so I would not have to prepare them later that evening.

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I pre chopped all our veggies for the week, cooked up chicken breast for wraps which my son takes for his lunch, and made up 6 veggie egg cups for a fast breakfast before I head to the gym at 4:45 a.m..

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The only thing I did not do for the upcoming week is make something for my lunches but I know the menu I have planned will offer plenty of leftovers and this is what I plan to eat during the week.

 

Icy Adventure With A New Lunchtime Cuisine To Follow

Our weekend ended up being pretty interesting. Going into the weekend I had plans but they quickly fell apart when a friend got sick, my son ended up almost working Saturday which would ultimately cancel our mother/son date we had planned, and my husband changed up his ice fishing day because of the wind forecast Saturday. Then Friday evening everything fell into place and we had a plan.

Saturday morning I mentioned I wanted to see the ice shoves in Oconto that were being mentioned all over the local news channels. Ice shacks were being swallowed up by this and men were scrambling to move their trucks in time to also not be swallowed up or destroyed by the big ice bergs being pushed around. Sounds interesting I thought, so I had planned to take a drive and go see. However, being the city girl I am, I had no idea where I was headed so my husband said he would also come with and take a look. Last year my husband and son took a drive but I had already made other plans so I did not go. The pictures they brought home were spectacular and I wished I had been there. Now, this year when we arrived my husband said they were nothing like last years on the Winnebago side where they had went. Although, they were still pretty cool looking(literally being it was ice and all).

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The wind was fierce but the sun sure did feel good on our face while we walked around watching the ice melt away.

After that we took a small detour home and went to our favorite spot to see bald eagles hoping they would be out watching the open river. With no luck finding any to view, we walked across the icy bridge to make our way back to our vehicle and head home to pick up our son for lunch.

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This is when the day got even more interesting. Wisconsin does not have a whole lot to offer (in my opinion) in cuisine variety. It’s definitely getting better but other places we have visited have so much more variety than WI but we are slowly catching up. And my son loves to take me to places that offer different cuisine. My husband surprised me by also saying he would join us so it was an unexpected family outing. I finally got to try pho….a Vietnamese soup. We arrived, placed our orders, and were quickly served ultimately the biggest bowl of soup ever.

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Amazing, simply amazing that my husband actually finished his entire bowl. We both ordered the same beef pho which came with basil, bean sprouts, and jalapenos on the side. The serving size bowl was so big I don’t even think I finished half of mine. It was  tasty, very soothing, and definitely a good comfort food type of meal. However, I wish they had smaller versions…since we were not headed home afterwards so I was not able to take the left over amount home with me. Even though I did enjoy the soup I have to say the highlight of my meal was my drink of choice. I ordered a jack fruit smoothie and oh my goodness it brought me to a tropical island somewhere warm while I sat eating my soup with my winter jacket on and a scarf wrapped around my neck. Again, you rarely, if ever, see jack fruit on any menus in WI so I just had to try this. Will I return, yes for sure? Although, next time I will probably have a Vietnamese vermicelli veggie bowl instead, since the soup is simply to much to eat for me personally.

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After lunch my son headed home and my husband and I walked a nearby trail for a few miles before returning home for the evening.

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I am now on a mission to make this pho dish at home and possibly even a Vietnamese vermicelli veggie bowl also. Ahhhh, time to do some research……