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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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!!!!!

 

 

Weekly Meal Plan-Experimenting With Food And Feelings

This week for me has been an experiment of how what I eat affects my body. I have not shared much about what I have been struggling with this past month but part of what I am trying to do to deal with it all is eat less inflammatory foods. You know, things like extra sugar, flour, processed food, potatoes, fried food, white rice, etc. And after looking at this weeks meals and seeing if what I have been avoiding this past month is helping my situation, I can assure myself I am on the right track.

First, I did not regulate my meals this week. I simply made what was easy and fast and we even threw in an extra night out(Monday) which is totally unusual for us. And then we did Chinese besides which is one of the worst cuisines to go out for ever.  Add in too many potatoes, too much pasta, and all this left me with all over pain and agony by Wednesday. However, I am happy to know that eating whole grains like farro instead of rice for instance is working for my body. Next week I plan to get back on track even though I fully intended to go off track this week to see what would happen. I also wanted to see how long it would take for my body to get rid of all this inflammatory food after eating it for a week. It was a good experiment and I am happy I did it. Just knowing that what I am doing by putting a bit more effort into what I prepare every week for our health and well being is so worth the pain I suffered through this week. So with that being said I will leave you with a look at what our meal plan was this past week.

Saturday: nachos

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Sunday: chicken and sundried tomato casserole

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Monday: grilled chicken brats, roasted carrots and potatoes

we went out for Chinese instead….because its Monday,because it was a bad day for both my hubby and son, because…..well, just because!

Tuesday: lemon shrimp with capers and spinach over pasta

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Wednesday: meatloaf burgers, corn and mashed potatoes (I had mine on farro since my pain level was enough by this time of the week)

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Thursday: leek, bacon, and eggs skillet (recipe coming soon)

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Friday: out

I am not by any means “cheffy” so to say, but I do pride myself on feeding my body only what it needs and likes. There is not much I eat without knowledge of what it can do for my insides. Food is medicine and for many of us its life, so why not feed our bodies the best we can.

 

 

Family Dinners Documented-How I Find Time To Cook

I enjoy meal planning almost as much as I enjoy planning an active vacation for my family. Ultimately, they are pretty similar if you really think about it. Make sure everyone has a bit of input, know who is all going to be present at mealtime, and make sure the meal includes at least one thing everyone will enjoy. For me this is pretty basic….I love veggies, hubby and son will give me an eye roll if there is no meat, and everyone loves comfort food. Combine all this and sometimes I hit all the wishes and sometimes I learn to ignore the eye roll and the “where’s the meat” comment and they either eat what is prepared or go hungry.

So as usual here is the past week in meals at our house.

Saturday: squash ring baskets filled with bacon and eggs….OMG was this wonderful

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Sunday: greek chicken salads and toasted focaccia bread

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Monday: creamy pesto cheese tortellini with shrimp, mushrooms, and spinach, bread sticks on the side

Tuesday: crock pot creamy mushroom pork chops over garlic mashed potatoes with roasted carrots

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Wednesday: homemade baked mac and cheese and chicken bites

Thursday: bubble veggie pizza (meatless)

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Friday: out

Some of you have asked how I can find time to prepare so many meals weekly and what my weekly grocery bill ends up being. Truthfully, I can’t tell you what my weekly bill comes out to be since they differ so much from week to week. You have to remember, I also grocery shop for the daycare children I care for every day. So, if I had to estimate our portion of the weekly bill, I would say its about $100-$120 a week. This typically makes 6 nights of meals, with at least four servings per night since my husband always takes one serving of leftovers in his lunch the next day. Add in breakfast food and odds and ends for the week and this is typically what I would estimate I spend without any daycare food.

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As for how I find time….I plan my meals weekly. I only buy what I need for these meals, and follow the plan closely. I typically know what our week ahead has on the calendar for appointments, meeting, and activities. So I make sure to plan easy meals on busy nights, crock pot meals on busy days, and more elaborate meals on nights where I know I will have more time to spend in the kitchen. If something goes haywire mid week and our nightly plans change then….well…..it’s anyones guess what could happen.

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You have to remember, now with following this no artificial sweeteners diet for my husband, eating out is risky at best. So I find it just easier to cook at home and this way he is not miserable if we eat something unknown to us that could make him ill. Plus, thankfully, I do enjoy cooking most of the time and I love knowing that what my family is eating is healthy.

Food Allergies and Family Meal Traditions Are High On My Priority List This Year

With the arrival of November and then December right around the corner, I have been working on revamping our holiday meal traditions. I am determined to make them cleaner and healthier for my husband to be able to enjoy without feeling the ill affects afterwards. Since finding out artificial sweetener was the cause of all his abdominal issues for the past few years, I have been working diligently at cleaning up our diets even more than before. We no longer have food in our house with artificial sweetener BUT some of our holiday family traditions that we are not willing to give up are going to be prepared a bit differently this year.

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Take for instance the stuffing to go with the turkey at Thanksgiving. Typically, I buy the sage flavored bread cubes and prepare stuffing using these, chicken broth, poultry seasoning, celery, onion and dried cranberries. This year however, I have been reading labels like crazy trying to find a bread crumb/cubes that do not contain any artificial sweeteners. Breads are a big downer since most companies use this stuff in place of the more expensive basic sugar. Thankfully, I finally found one at Costco and we gave it a try one evening for dinner. Sweetened with real sugar and molasses, this one is perfect….now…does it taste good?

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Yeah….The trial dish came out wonderful although, I did not have any dried cranberries to add to the dish. I am however, thinking that I may go even healthier and substitute pomegranate berries instead or dried cranberries. That sounds tasty and should be even less sugar in the long run.

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Another big change we have to make is to the Christmas morning pull apart cinnamon bread we have once every year. Our original recipe is here and has been a family tradition since our son was little. It is a fabulous recipe and cooks perfectly while we open gifts and is ready to enjoy by the time the gift wrap is all cleaned up. However, this year we picked up the box of Jello cook and serve pudding one night wile grocery shopping to read the label and BAMMM full of artificial sweetener. Super big downer for us. So we made our way over to the natural organic section and thankfully found one brand of cook and serve that used real sugar and nothing fake. I don’t know who was happier, my husband or my son since this is a favorite among them both and my husband feels bad that some things we have had to give up have not been easily replaceable with an alternative yet. So this year will be using this pudding mix with all the other same ingredients and still be able to enjoy our once a year family breakfast together without illness to follow.

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I also recently had a friend tell me that Annie’s Homegrown makes refrigerator biscuits. I finally found them in the grocery store I always shop in and was very happy to see no artificial sweeteners in the ingredient label. You may wonder why I even had to read it but I will tell you for certain that not all organic products are artificial sweetener free. Seriously…can you believe this??? So as always, I read the label and smiled when I got to the end. This will be perfect for the holidays since #1 I am not fond of baking and #2 they are quick and easy. Plus, I can go back to preparing my husband favorite meal of chicken potpie that we had to give up since the original refrigerator biscuits we always used have ingredients in that we are no longer consuming.

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And then we have to issue of get togethers and parties to attend with numerous amounts of foods with any variety of who knows what in them. Much like when his employer puts on food Fridays….he rarely participates and never eats something homemade without being able to read the label first. When we go to others homes we will always bring a dish or two that he knows is “safe” food. And thankfully, for both sides of our family get togethers, we do the hosting so 90%-100% of the food is prepared by us and he knows he can enjoy what ever there is at the time.

I am still trying to figure out whipped cream since we are not able to find a single one that does not have artificial sugars in it. I may give a go at making my own with heavy whipping cream and sugar to see how it turns out. Apparently, its easy to do from what I read….I may find out for myself real soon.

It’s really is amazing the products we have found that contain so much artificial sweeteners in them since this all came about. From cottage cheese, mouthwash, to cold medicines….its in so much stuff. It’s not shocking to me anymore why we are all suffering from one ailment or another….since the food, medicine, and personal hygiene things we use everyday are tainted with chemicals instead of real ingredients. My hope for everyone this holiday season is to stay safe, read your product labels, and educate yourselves on what you and your family are putting in your bodies. It’s been life changing for our family!

Do you have food allergies to work around in your family at holiday times?

When everyone is asked to bring a dish to pass do you ask them to prepare it with out the ingredient that causes issues?

 

 

The Past Week In Eats

Here is another collection of meals we enjoyed throughout the week. Bonus week of two nights out since it fell on the week my brother and I enjoy dinner out together. I am not one to complain….no cooking means no clean up needed. Yeah!!!

As usual, let me know if you see something you think looks good….I will be glad to share the recipe with you.

Saturday: veggie pizzas (meatless)

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Sunday: chicken, kale, and mushrooms over rice with a warm vinegrette (recipe here)

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Monday:chicken and pasta with sundried tomato cream sauce

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Tuesday: BBQ  pulled pork sandwiches, couscous, roasted carrots

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Wednesday: out with my brother and husband

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Thursday: braised cauliflower with onions, mushrooms, garlic, tomatoes, and spinach over rice noodles with parmesan cheese (meatless)

Friday: out

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!