Back On Track Once Again/ Breaking Records/A Healthier “Us” Anniversary

After two weeks of meal time chaos, I feel like I am finally back on track. Everyone was home and accounted for so I knew exactly how much I needed to prepare each night for dinner this week. This makes this wife/mom happy.

Things that did not make all that happy this week was the fact that we broke records here in Green Bay with our newest snowstorm. It was the biggest snowstorm in over 100 years coming in at a whopping 24.5 inches in 48 hours….I guess winter is not quite done with us yet.

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Anyhow, back to better topic, this week we tried two new recipes and one new product I have been dying to try out on the family. Here, take a look….

Saturday: grilled chicken brats, grilled zucchini, and perogies

Sunday: Lentil veggie soup and chicken pita sandwiches

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Monday: slow cooker burrito bowls(new recipe that is a keeper for sure)

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Tuesday: dynamite stovetop casserole

***This recipe was very tasty and basic. As my boys both commented during dinner, mom why did you think this would be a keeper, you can do so much better than this on your own? Well, now, didn’t that make me feel good…although, I thought the recipe itself was quite good. Yes, basic but still good. And how often do you make a recipe that actually turns out to look just like the picture in the book?

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Wednesday: chili stuffed sweet potatoes

***I loved this so much that I needed to make it again so soon after the first time so my husband could enjoy it this time also. Last time I made it he was traveling for work and missed out.

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Thursday: out….tonight plans got scrapped for some unexpected events that happened which left no time for dinner preparations

Friday: red lentil pasta with ham, zucchini, spinach,and parmesan cheese sauce

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Have you tried red lentil pasta yet? This was our first time and I must say, it won’t be our last for sure. It tastes no different and the texture is very close to regular pasta that it was very acceptable. All of us said this is a good healthier option in pasta dishes….yeah, another win for mom!!!!

Swapping something unhealthy in your diet that you have eaten and enjoyed for years is often hard and will, without a doubt, be different BUT change is hard and sometimes has to happen. Whether for health reasons, allergies, or you are just getting on the healthier eating train, I believe you mentally have to prepare yourself for the reality of what I eat now is slowly killing me and I HAVE to change to better myself. If this mental transformation don’t happen then you will never find something you can live with in place of another product you have eaten for years and is bad for you in some way. I touch on this subject because coming up here in a few days we will hit the 1 year anniversary of eating completely artificial sweetener free in our home. Yes, at the time it was for major medical issues my husband was having. However, now those issues have all cleared up and he is feeling fabulous. We now all find ourselves reading the label and often times putting a product back on the shelf to find a healthier alternative. I guess maybe one has to be miserable enough to want to make a healthier change before it can happen long term…but for us here, only one of us was suffering with issues and instead of signaling him out we all made the change as a family unit and we all could not be happier.

 

 

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Spicy Black Bean Burgers

We all love spicy black bean burgers here in our home but when my husband found out artificial sweeteners were the cause of all is abdominal issues we began reading labels on everything in our home. Believe it or not, a very popular brand of spicy black bean burgers we consumed on a regular basis had artificial sweetener in them. Which then made it yet one more food he could not eat. So I thought about it, read many other recipes, and did a bunch of research on how to make my own so we could all eat these as a family again. Then I finally gave it a try and made my own with success all the way around.

These burgers are basic, most ingredients many people will have right in there home pantry, and they literally take minutes to make.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers

4 sweet baby peppers or 1/2 of large bell pepper

1/2 small yellow onion

1 lg clove of garlic

1-15 oz. can organic black beans, drained and rinsed

1 lg egg

3/4 cup quick cooking oats

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp sriracha sauce

dash of salt

First, seed your peppers, peel your garlic, and rough chop your onion. Toss this all into a food processor and blend until finely chopped.

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Next, remove this mixture and lay it on some paper towels to squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

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In a medium bowl, take your drained and rinsed beans and roughly smash them with a potato masher or another appropriate kitchen tool.

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Then add the remaining ingredients along with the dried pepper mixture and mix this all together. When your finished, score the mixture evenly making four sections….each to form one burger.

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Form your burgers and lay them on a parchment lined baking sheet. IMG_0785

Place them in the freezer for 1.5-2 hours or until frozen firm. Next, you can either package them for later use or bake them immediately. For freezing, I wrapped mine individually and placed them in a  freezer safe container to store.

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To prepare, I took them out of the freezer, placed them on a tin foil lined baking sheet sprayed with non stick spray. I baked them from a frozen state at 450 for 15-20 minutes minutes per side.

Serving: 4 burgers per recipe

Enjoy!

 

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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Weekly Meal Plans….Back By Popular Demand/Weekend Recap

Our weekend started off as a weekend away camping…..and was changed mid week due to weather concerns. Whomp Whomp! So my husband who was suppose to be setting up our tent to sleep in, instead started preparing his ice fishing supplies by setting up his ice shack instead.

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Then I had planned a night away with a friend….and this was changed last minute due to illness! Whomp Whomp!

So ultimately, I was home all weekend. I started Christmas shopping, I ran some errands, I got in two awesome workouts at the gym, I took care of some daycare business, and the hubby and I hiked a nearby trail together.

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Not the weekend I had planned but you know, life happens and plans change and you sometimes just have to roll with it.

Anyhow, lets move on. I have had a few requests for our weekly meal plans again. I used to post these but never really thought anyone followed….I guess I was wrong. And now that we follow an artificial sweetener free diet, my meal plans have been changed up and I have found myself revamping many recipes I have prepared for years to be much cleaner than before. So back by popular demand, I will be posting my weekly meal plans for you to read. I will not be including recipes but if you find something that looks yummy, don’t be afraid to ask what the recipe was. I will be happy to share anything with you.

Saturday: dill caper farro, grilled salmon with lemon and onions, and baked squash.

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Sunday: fajita brats with onions, peppers, and mushrooms, over quinoa

Monday: mexican tortilla stack(meatless)

Tuesday: stuffed manicotti with cottage cheese, spinach, mushrooms and pesto, with marinara sauce and melted cheese over the top. served with bread sticks (meatless)

Wednesday: cowboy caviar filled wonton cups and side salads

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Thursday: egg frittata(recipe here)

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Friday: out

You will find that two nights a week we try and eat meatless meals….more if I can get away with it but my husband and son like their meat. And every meal is made strictly without the use of artificial sweeteners so my husband does not feel ill. If you missed why this diet change happened you can read about it here.

I will try and post our weekly meal plan on Sundays. Our week typically runs from Saturday to Friday since I almost always grocery shop on Fridays for the following week. Let me know if you see something you like. And by all means, if you prepare something yummy please share it with me….I am always searching for meals to prepare that are as clean as possible so everyone is happy.

 

Recent Eats….Still Adjusting To Our New Way Of Eating- Artificial Sweetener Free

If you recall back in May of this year we changed up our diets completely free of artificial sweeteners to hopefully help with some of the issues my husband was experiencing with his health. Read about my first update here. The change has been remarkable but you may wonder how this has changed life for me…the main cook in the house. Well, it’s hard at times but I just need to think back at how frustrated I used to be when we would be ready to go somewhere and I would have to wait once AGAIN for him to use the bathroom. So ultimately, I’m happily adjusting.

One downfall I face is we can’t eat out just anywhere anymore.We have no more delivery to our home. No matter how tired I am, how much I don’t feel like cooking or simply don’t want to clean up the kitchen once again….I need to cook 99% of the time. Take for instance the evening we went out with my brother to Red Lobster….my husbands favorite restaurant for crab legs.

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He had plain old crab legs, one biscuit and two chips of the artichoke appetizer with water to drink. He then woke up in the middle of the night miserable and for two days later he was miserable. We think it was probably the biscuit but it could have been the dip or both for all we know. Two days of misery for crab legs….not worth it in my opinion and he agreed after the fact. This is typically how eating out goes. He tries to pick healthy, sometimes can’t resist his favorite things, and sometimes all is good after and sometimes not. However, I will say since this big change we have been venturing out a bit and trying new organic restaurants in our area and we have found one nearby that is a big winner. It has the best ever reuben sandwich and has passed the test since he felt no ill results after we ate here together.

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Salad dressing/sauces are still a battle. I am using more fresh herbs and spices than ever before and experimenting with recipes I find online and some I make up as I go. Some are winners and some are not but I am not giving up yet.

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I’ve even invested in a dressing shaker bottle since making dressings in a jar with a lid tends to be a bit messy which drives me a bit crazy.

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I am giddy to report that I can once again put meal salads on the menu and he can eat them with no adverse effects. I have to believe its the dressings that caused the bad reaction but with his stomach so messed up trying to process the raw veggies that are often in salads it had to be torture on his insides. All this is in the past and we are once again enjoying salads…yeah!!!!

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We have even been using our spiralizer more since before I found it a waste of time being I was the only one eating the veggies I spiralized. Now, I can make a whole dish and we both can enjoy it.

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Casseroles were, by far, the hardest adjustment with the most changes. Probably since sauces often combine the casseroles together and as I said above, sauces and dressings are terribly tainted with artificial sweetener. Cheese and half and half make a great sauce when simmered together with other herbs, spices, and ingredients. I have done this mixture with a number of different dishes and seems to be one of our favorites.Take for instance this dish pictured here.

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The ingredients are simple: deboned roasted chicken, sundried tomatoes puree, garlic, half and half, pasta, kale, and parmesan cheese. Mixed all together makes a fabulous meal and goes a long way to feed a crown…in my case, my family(three adults) and three kids for lunch the next day, plus lunch for my husband once again the next day. How is that for a hearty, fast, easy meal?

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Or chicken piccata with leek and pea pods was also a big hit recently. So yummy, yet so easy to do with a few ingredients. Just the way I like it on a busy weekday.

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And when I am really just not feeling in the cooking mood or simply need a break….I lay out the ingredients, leave directions, and he prepares the meal while I escape to venture beyond to new tasting adventures. I did this once this week with a friend and tried Ethiopian cuisine for the first time. I can’t wait to tell you about this experience in an upcoming post. HINT: It was fabulous!!!!!!!!!!

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All in all, I would say we are adjusting quite well to our new lifestyle of no artificial sweeteners in our food. Was it difficult….yes! Was it worth it….for sure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Has Been Open Less Than A Week And….

It’s finally open and I have been there twice in less than a week…..Fresh Thyme Farmers Market in Ashwaubenon,WI had it’s grand opening last Wednesday and I was there!!!!

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A friend of mine joined me for the first visit here and to say it was packed with people would be putting it mildly. Our area (Ashwaubenon is minutes from our home and is where the store is located) has no organic healthy grocery at all. So for those of us that have always wished and hoped for a Whole Foods or a Trader’s Joe’s, this may be as good as it gets and in my opinion it’s pretty nice.

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I have never once braved the crowds and went to any grand opening of anything but this one was different. Upon arriving I knew it would be busy but wow, our area clearly needed a grocery store like this. I did not get to enjoy looking around as much as I would have liked but what I did see made me very happy. I found a few new items that my husband can enjoy since going to an artificial sweetener free diet.

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And I also found a kombucha flavor he has been searching for…win for him.

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I’ve already made another visit since this grand opening night and crowds are much more manageable. I love the meat/seafood, bakery, and fresh veggies/fruits selection. I have also found some other amazing items that we have all fell in love with. In my opinion, it’s a great addition to the Green Bay area.

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Talking about my husband being artificial sweetener free…..he is doing wonderful. He is feeling great and has surprisingly lost his big sweet tooth. He still enjoys candy here and there but before this he loved candy and could not live without it. He has also since lost his taste for coffee….go figure. How odd is that? Cooking is getting easier and I have been working on getting creative so everything he eats does not have to be so basic. Like one evening we had Korean BBQ pork sandwiches, zucchini, and corn on the cob.

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And another evening we had homemade BBQ chicken pizza. The only difficult thing about this meal was finding a store crust without artificial sweetener. Our normal grocery store had only one out of at least 10 different brands so we tried it. He loved it….win for me!

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This weeks menu has two new meals on it for us to try. Slowly but surely I am finding meals he enjoys and that are easy to prepare now that we have revamped our pantry. I am just so happy to see him happy again and not always so miserable with stomach aches.

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Leek, Mushroom, and Chicken Stir Fry Over Rice With Homemade Dressing Drizzle

Since becoming artificial sweetener free in our home cooking has changed drastically. I always felt we ate fairly healthy but now I know without a doubt we eat very healthy and consume copious amounts of veggies.

Here is a recipe I tested on myself before passing it by my husband and thankfully he enjoyed it as much as I did. It uses fresh veggies, pineapple for a bit of sweetness, and can be served over any choice of things…from rice, farro, barley, couscous…really whatever you prefer. My husband is a rice guy…so rice it was for us. And don’t get scared that it calls for making your own dressing to drizzle over the top….it is super easy and most items can be found in any home pantry already. It mixes up in seconds and can be used on a number of things throughout the week.

First, for the dressing you will need:

1 garlic clove-finely minced

1 tsp honey

2 TBSP lemon juice

1 Tbsp dijon mustard

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2/3 cup olive oil

In a glass jar, add these ingredients and give it a good shake to mix well. Store this in the refrigerator for up to a week and use it on this meal along with many others.

Next, for the stir fry you will need:

either chicken breast, thighs, or tenders diced to bite size pieces(enough to feed 4 people)

3 TBSP olive oil-divided

2 leeks-cleaned and diced (read below how to clean a leek)

1/2 vidalia onion-diced

1-8 oz. package of sliced mushrooms

1 garlic clove-finely minced

cooked white/brown rice, farro, couscous….whatever your family prefers to put stir fry over will work

10 oz.can drained pineapple tidbits or fresh pineapple if you have it on hand

salt and pepper to taste

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Directions:

In one pan toss the chicken with 2 TBSP olive oil and cook until no longer pink in the middle.

In another pan saute your leek, onions, and mushrooms with 1 TBSP of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. When they are just about done add the garlic and pineapple and saute another 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, have your rice cooking nearby.

To serve, add rice to your dish, top it with the leek mixture adding some chicken pieces to the top. Drizzle some of the dressing over all this and enjoy.

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This is such an easy dish and the dressing truly makes the whole thing come together. Easy, cheap, and fast is how I cook in the summer months and this is a perfect way to achieve all this and enjoy a meal.

****How To Clean A Leek: Cut the majority of the green part off the leek. Peel away any hard or woody parts of the outside leaves. Take your knife and from the root side cut slits the long way leaving the root intact to hold the leek together. Now take the leek and run it under cold water separating the leek leaves with your fingers. This will keep the leek all held together but enable you to also run it under water removing any dirt or sand left from the growing process. When your leek is clean dice it up to the size you prefer.

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