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.

 

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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.

 

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.

 

Quinoa Sweet Potato Chili

I have been trying to find time to make my own meatless chili for some time now but knowing that neither my son or husband would eat this for a meal was always a deal breaker. However, it’s not necessarily the fact that it has no meat in it that makes it a deal breaker. Neither of them really like chili…my son is not a bean fan and my husband just plainly don’t like chili. So one afternoon I finally decided to just make a small batch and eat it one evening for dinner myself and for lunches the rest of the week. This actually turned out wonderfully and I really enjoyed this meal.

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Here is what I did. (Keep in mind I needed to keep it quite mild to be able to share it with the daycare children also.So feel free to add more spice if you wish)

Quinoa Sweet Potato Chili

2 TBSP olive oil

1 15 oz can black bean-drained

1 can of Campbell’s tomato soup

1/2 cup quinoa

2 small sweet potato-peeled and diced

2 celery stalks-diced

1/4 medium onion-diced

1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes

2 tsp chicken/veg bouillon

2 garlic cloves-finely chopped

2 15 oz cans of water(use your bean can for measurement)

2 TBSP chili powder

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 tsp cumin

salt to taste

 

Begin by adding your olive oil to the pot and saute your onion, celery, and potatoes for about 10 minutes.

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Next, add your tomato soup, diced tomatoes, garlic, spices, bouillon, and water. Mix this together, bring it to a boil, and then simmer this for another 10 minutes.

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Next, add your quinoa. Mix it together, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes approx or until your quinoa is tender.

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At this point, add your drained and rinsed black beans. Take it off the heat and leave it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. The chili will thicken up and make a tasty hearty meal. I served mine with tortilla scoops. Other tasty additions would be shredded cheese, sour cream, plain greek yogurt or avocado.

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Enjoy.

 

A Hearty Soup Recipe To Warm Your Soul

I love soup! I love an easy soup recipe even more and this is what I plan to share with you all today.

Soups at our house usually end up being anything I can find when the moment strikes to make soup. However, this one I have made numerous times now and finally wrote it down to share with all of you. Numerous friends and family have tried it and have asked for the recipe so here it is.

The star of this soup is Bob’s Red Mill Vegi Soup Mix. One cup of this mixture added to some extra veggies and no one will even miss the meat that is not in this dish. I promise.

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Ingredients:

1 cup  vegi soup mixture (as pictured above)

2 tbsp olive oil

5 tsp chicken bouillon

5-6 cups of water

1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 tsp of oregano

1/4 head cabbage- chopped

3 carrots- diced

2 celery stalks-diced

1/2 medium onion-diced

1 box of kale-roughly chopped

1 sweet potato- peeled and diced

1 small zucchini- diced

2 garlic cloves-finely chopped

salt to taste

1/2-3/4 cup half and half cream(optional)

Cooking time may vary I suppose, but if your like me, I made mine in a cast iron dutch oven and cooking time took about and hour total. I know there seems to be a lot of veggies in this soup, but if you clean, peel, and pre chop everything prior to starting the soup it all comes together pretty quickly.

To prepare:

Preheat your dutch oven and add the olive oil.

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When your oil is hot, add the carrots,sweet potato, celery, and onion. Cook these for about 7 minutes over medium heat.

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Next, add the dry soup mix, can of tomatoes, bouillon, oregano, garlic, and water. Mix well and cover to leave this cook for 7-10 minutes.

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After 10 minutes, add the cabbage and zucchini. Again, give this a good stir and cover and leave this cook for at least 30 minutes stirring occasionally. You may need to add a bit of extra water so keep an eye on it.

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After this cooking time give it a test and see if the dry peas, lentils, and such are softened to your liking. If not, cover again and leave it cook for longer and continue to test it until you are happy with the results. If so, add the chopped kale and stir.This will wilt down quickly.

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Now, remove it from the heat and slowly add in the half and half cream, mixing this in completely.

***This step is optional but I will tell you it does add so much to the soup itself that you may want to give it a try.

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This is one very hearty soup with tons of healthy additives in both the soup mix and what I have added as well. Children seem to love it, meat lovers don’t seem to miss the meat(my husbands approves of this soup) and I simply cannot get enough myself. Give it a try with your family and see if you get the same results.

Enjoy….

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