Meal Plans

Dinners this week


Last week’s Monotony Breaker celebrating Utah’s Statehood went off so well. Although it was a lot of extra work for me, it sure broke up the January blahs. So…. I am planning one more fun Monotony Breaker this week. This time we are celebrating the very beginnings of the Megan-and-Neil-Andersen Family. On January 20, 2007, Neil asked me to marry him after (*ahem*) helping to fix a delicious meal for me. (He was a bit too nervous and flustered to make it all on his own, so his very kind roommate stepped in and did most of the cooking.) I will be replicating that meal for our Sunday dinner this week. Now, if you are still reading this, I hope you will feel free to pick and choose from whatever meals sound good and plug them into your own meal plan this week. You will be glad you did!

Monday, January 14

Tuesday, January 15

Wednesday, January 16

Thursday, January 17

Thursday is recipe-testing day. My plan is to use the recipe below as a starting point and work on a way to make it in the Instant Pot. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 18

Saturday, January 19

Sunday, January 20

Engagement anniversary! I will use my whole wheat pizza crust recipe to make Chicken pillows. I’ll try to remember to take pictures and write down the recipe to share later. Below are [my variations on] the sides that Neil helped cook on that magical night 12 years ago.

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Baked GoodsGluten-FreeRecipes

Hearty Corn Bread (Gluten-Free)


Oftentimes, I am asked to take dinners to families in my Church Congregation who could use a meal for whatever reason–new baby, surgery, funerals, etc. Since I know how to cook Gluten-free foods, I often volunteer to bring dinners to those families who need to avoid wheat. This is a variation on my Hearty Corn Bread to fit those needs.

Hearty Corn Bread (Gluten-Free)

Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Keyword Gluten free, homemade corn bread
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 15 slices
Author heartysmarty


Dry Ingredients

  • 2 1/3 Cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground Gluten-Free Cornmeal
  • 2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Wet Ingredients

  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Flaxseed
  • 6 Tablespoons water
  • 1/2 Cup Applesauce
  • 2 Cups Milk or Almond Milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch cast iron pan.
  2. Place pan into the oven while preparing ingredients—no longer than 6-8 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
  4. Add wet ingredients to large bowl of dry ingredients. Mix until combined.
  5. Remove hot pan from oven and pour batter into the pan. It will immediately begin to cook the edges to provide a perfectly toasted crust.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Cut two lines down and 4 lines across. Serve with butter and honey. Devour!

Recipe Notes

I grind my own wheat and always use White Winter wheat berries when baking this recipe. Of course, if I am making this for a gluten-free friend, I use the gluten-free options mentioned in the ingredients above. You know the corn bread is done when it begins to pull away from the edges of the pan as shown:

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Meal Plans

This week’s meal plan


Anyone else feeling the January Blah? It’s hitting me hard this year. Thank goodness for a meal plan that keeps me excited about the dinner hour. This week I am making some of my favorites and trying one new recipe. (It’s from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, of course.) If you are like me, you might just need a little Monotony-Breaker to keep the Winter Blues from getting you down. I’ve got one of those coming up on Tuesday. You are 100% welcome to adopt this meal plan as your own this week, or pick and choose from what looks good. But whatever you do, MAKE YOUR MEAL PLAN TODAY! I promise you will be more calm, cool, and collected this week if you do. Happy planning!

Monday, January 7

This meal might seem pretty skimpy, but rest assured. Along with our tuna and salad, we are cleaning out the leftovers from the frige.

Tuesday, January 8

Friday, January 4th was Utah’s statehood day, and I totally missed it. To celebrate our state’s belated birthday, I will serve Funeral potatoes and green Jell-O for dinner! Ok. Maybe not green Jell-O. How about green salad instead? We’ll take a minute at the table to talk about what statehood day means and why we love our state. This ought to be a simple way to break up the monotony of January.

Wednesday, January 9

Thursday, January 10

Friday, January 11

It looks like I might be the only one at home for dinner on Friday night. Thus, I am going to spoil myself with my favorite meal. Unfortunately, no one else in my family loves these Spinach and Feta Quinoa Cakes like I do, so I save them for special occasions when I have the house to myself. Ooooo…I might even get to watch my choice of TV show, too! It’s going to be a really wild Friday night this week!

Saturday, January 12

Sunday, January 13

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Fad Diet Myth BustingFeaturedNutrition Education

Questions to Ask Before Starting a Diet


‘Tis the season of New Year’s resolutions. Whether that phrase gives you anxiety or invigoration, we just can’t avoid all the diet and exercise fodder that surrounds the New Year.  Anyone who knows me or who has read my blog knows I am not a proponent of fad dieting. Instead, I advocate for eating a balanced diet made up of mostly plants and whole grains with reasonable portions of animal products and treats. I strongly believe there is room for every food in your diet!

That being said, I like the attention we give to our health through New Year’s Resolutions each year. What I don’t like is all the phony information out there about dieting. Many diets being advertised are not sustainable and may even pose a danger to your health. The diet industry is one of THE most lucrative industries in the United States. According to Marketdata Enterprises, Americans as a whole spend over $60 billion a year to lose weight. Diet companies play on consumers’ emotions to get them to buy diet books, packaged foods, supplements, powders, teas, gym memberships and more.

The craziest irony of dieting is that if it doesn’t work for the consumer, the blame is on the dieter and not the diet company. How does that make sense?! If your smartphone spontaneously combusted in your hand, you would never put the blame on yourself, but instead you would march right into the phone company and demand an explanation. Unfortunately, it’s our culture. If we don’t lose the desired weight we say to ourselves, “Well if only I was more disciplined…. “ or “If I would have stuck to it longer….” or “If I just had more self-control…” Isn’t it possible that the diet failed you and not that you failed the diet?

How can you filter through all the smoke of Fad Diets and find the best healthy-eating plan that suits your needs? Take a moment to step back from all the information that’s bombarding you, and analyze your prospective diet with the following questions:

1. Does the diet over-emphasize and/or eliminate food groups?

Here’s the honest truth: almost every diet out there requires you to cut out carbs and sugar. Want to know why? Because you lose weight doing it—at first. Yes, you actually do lose weight when you eliminate carbohydrates like breads, rice, cereals and sweets. But after even just one month of restricting carbohydrates, your body will begin to go into starvation mode and liberate sugar stores from your liver and muscles. Then, your brain tells your digestive system to hold on to as much sugar as possible, often in the form of fat, so in the event of another phase of starvation, your body will have stores for later. Starvation mode will actually make you gain more weight. It is a vicious cycle where the more you diet, the harder it will become to lose weight. Read more about this phenomenon in my article about Low Carb Diets.

2. Does the diet call for temporary changes?

A crazy thought we let ourselves have is that if we can just get our weight under control, then we can go back to eating the way we were before. It looks very appealing to do a diet guaranteed to work after just 6-8 weeks. But what happens when the diet is over? You are left to maintain the weight loss by returning to old habits, and most of the time you gain back all, if not more weight than what was originally lost.  And then…you blame yourself, of course.

3. Does the diet require the purchase of specialty foods and beverages through the diet company?

The fastest way for a diet company to make money, is to require you to purchase their carefully portioned meal-replacement bars, protein shakes, freezer meals, supplements, or a slew of other products as part of the diet plan. Not only are you boxed in to eating specific foods, you are also financially tied to purchasing expensive food products for the rest of your life. Because, if you choose to stop buying the foods, and your diet fails…the blame is on you again.

Money Diet

4. Does the diet discourage you from exercising during part or all of the duration of the diet?

Most diets which discourage exercise have an underlying reason for doing so. During a particular phase of the diet, calories from food are so restricted that the dieter will have NO ENERGY for exercising. You will feel too weak to strap on your running shoes, therefore, they discourage you from doing it. Ask yourself, “Does it really make sense that eating this way will give me LESS ENERGY?”

5. Does the diet encourage you to eat whatever and in as much portions as you want so long as you combine it with their special pill or supplement?

Please don’t fall for this one. This is the most dangerous diet method out there. Here is truth: a person can rarely overdose on vitamins and minerals if they are getting them from food sources. But you bet your bottom dollar that you CAN overdose on vitamins and minerals through supplements or pills.

In the 1990’s, a pill called Fen-Phen was available to dieters. It worked really well because it is an anoretic which suppresses the appetite, making a person not feel hungry. Fen-Phen also contains a derivative of the stimulant Methamphetamine which speeds up a person’s metabolism, giving them an “up” feeling. As we know, stimulants are addictive, and many of the Fen-Phen users developed dangerous addictions that led to using Meth, an illegal drug that destroys the body. Fen-Phen was taken off the shelves after many deaths and cardiovascular events related to heart failure were experienced by users. Sadly, it took about 15 years to get the stuff completely off the shelves.

Because of the way labeling laws are in America, there could be other pills available for sale right now which also have dangerous side-effects. Unfortunately, many men and women desperate to lose unwanted pounds turn to pills or supplements not regulated by the FDA. They either find themselves in an out-of-control addiction or with a dangerous toxicity from a supplement that was poorly dosed. Please, please, PLEASE, don’t let yourself fall for taking any pill or supplement without asking a medical doctor or registered dietitian about it first!

Here are two more questions stemming from scripture which I like my friends and family to consider before starting a diet.

1. Are you using “judgment” and not “excess” when caring for your body?

In a book of scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants, it says:

“Yea, all things which come of the earth, in the season thereof, are made for the benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart;

Yea, for food and for raiment, for taste and for smell, to strengthen the body and to enliven the soul.

And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man; for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion.” D&C 59:18-20

2. Do you plan to continue this way of eating/exercising for life?

In the Book of Mormon it reads:

“I would that ye would be diligent and temperate in all things.” Alma 38:10

Also in Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord Promises us the following:

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” D&C 89:18-20

This year, instead of starting a restrictive diet, I encourage you to set just two or three simple and positive goals for eating and/or exercising healthier this year. Some examples you could choose from are listed below:

I sincerely wish you the best as you navigate the Fad Diet Season. Happy New Year.

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Intuitive Eating

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Meal Plans

What’s for Dinner this Week?


While all the Christmasing may be over, we still have our lights and decorations up at the Andersen house. We just can’t let the Christmas season go quite yet. Since school doesn’t start until Thursday, we are just going to keep celebrating. However, we are going to get a little more structure back with a meal plan. Here’s what’s on tap for this week:

Monday, December 31

As a kid, our family always ate chili and cinnamon rolls on Christmas Eve. After marrying Neil, we decided to adopt his family tradition of eating a “humble supper” on Christmas Eve, similar to foods the people in Bethlehem may have eaten on the night of Christ’s birth. Tonight, I get to host my side of the family for New Year’s Eve game night, so I am doing things our way. Complete with a relish tray full of vegetables and pickle wraps. It’s going to be a trip down memory lane, Wyoming style. Yum!

Tuesday, January 1

Wednesday, January 2

Thursday, January 3

Friday, January 4

Saturday, January 5

Sunday, January 6

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CasserolesRecipesVeggie-Lover Dinners

Creamy Butternut Mac and Cheese


Everyone’s favorite dinner at the Andersen table is this homemade Mac and Cheese. It’s so popular that each member of the family (including Dad) requests this for their birthday dinner. It is just that good. I believe there is nothing wrong with sneaking a little extra nutrition into classic dishes. The butternut squash in this Mac and Cheese goes almost undetected. Best of all, it adds a good dose of vitamin A, carotene, fiber, folate and antioxidants to an otherwise not-so-nutritionally-dense food. Also, the bright orange squash provides a beautiful natural food coloring. Enjoy!

Creamy Butternut Mac and Cheese

Classic mac and cheese from scratch with a punch of nutrition

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword butternut macaroni cheese
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 355 kcal
Author heartysmarty


  • 2 Cups Elbow Macaroni Noodles dry
  • 1/2 Large Butternut Squash
  • 1 Recipe Hearty Cheese Sauce see instructions
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Dash Black Pepper


  1. Slice butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds. Roast in a rimmed baking sheet filled with water, cut-side down, at 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until the skin can be punctured easily with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the macaroni noodles until soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Drain noodles and return to large pot.
  3. Once the squash is cooked, scoop the meat out of the skin and add to the pan of cheese sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an immersion blender, puree the squash and cheese mixture until smooth and creamy. (You may also scoop the squash into a counter-top blender and puree it for about 2 minutes before adding it to the cheese sauce.)
  5. Pour the butternut cheese sauce over the drained macaroni, season with salt and pepper, and stir well to combine.

  6. Serve immediately.

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Lifestyle EatingNutrition Education

Holiday Eating Challenge


Judging by the title, you might be thinking I’m going to challenge you to eat “clean” or “healthy” or “whole” this Holiday, right? Wrong. This is a different kind of challenge.

My eyes have been opened to the struggle that many people experience during the holiday season. Food is such a large part of our festivities that we sometimes forget that not everyone can physically, mentally, or emotionally eat the way we do. Some have legitimate health problems that prevent them from enjoying many foods (diabetes, kidney failure, celiacs, irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, to name a few). Others are recovering from an eating disorder and holiday parties trigger their disordered eating behaviors. Some are trying to lose weight while others are trying to gain. Some folks might be nauseous due to pregnancy or medication. There are a slew of feelings and emotions surrounding why we do or do not look forward to eating during holiday parties and gatherings.

As hard as it is for me to admit, my personal struggle with food is my comments about it. The mother-nutritionist in me is always making comments to my children and husband about their food choices. Those comments might sound like, “that’s way too much ice cream,” or “you’ve had enough,” or why don’t you eat some REAL food?” So there you go. It’s out! I try so hard to let my family eat intuitively the same way I let everyone else, but I struggle. I am not perfect at allowing the people closest to me to be their own person when it comes to eating– particularly sweets. Even we dietitians and nutritionists have a few things to work on.

Herein lies my motivation for this year’s Holiday Eating Challenge. With all the hard stuff our society has to go through, food should not be one of them. So this holiday, I am challenging myself to let this go. Let go of the comments about treats and holiday foods. Along with that, I am going to spend more time making memories instead of hovering in the kitchen. And, when another treat shows up on the doorstep from one of my (amazing) neighbors, I am going to let myself and my family members enjoy as much as they want–without guilt.

Now, does this mean I am encouraging a free-for-all junk food frenzie at the Andersen household? No way. I am still making all the same meals I have outlined in my weekly meal plans. I will still make my family a balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner. You better believe that for the parties I am hosting there will be plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables offered. But, when it comes to all the holiday treats that come home from school, work, church, family, neighbors, parties– mum’s the word from me.

As I have been challenging myself the last few days, I have already noticed a few things. First of all, it is really hard to watch my kids eat so much candy between meals and, in turn, eat smaller portions of their meals. However, as the day rolls along, they have asked for fresh fruit or vegetables. That tells me their bodies are already craving nutrition after not getting much out of the junk. So, maybe this will be worth it? Surely, just letting my family enjoy the holidays without a food-nazi Mom will make this challenge a success.

Has anything I have said here inspired you? Or are you totally disgusted with my challenge? (I promise I wont be offended if you are feeling the former!) However, if this sounds like a challenge you would gladly take on: DO IT WITH ME! Comment here or on any of my social media outlets (facebook, instagram, twitter) on what you are learning or experiencing as you try to 1) Focus on making memories 2) Refrain from commenting on what is/is not on another person’s plate, and 3) Enjoy your favorite foods without guilt. I will anonymously publish your comments and we can enjoy helping each other along until January 1.

Let’s do this!

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Meal Plans

What’s for Dinner this Week?


Christmas is just 8 days away and I am REALLY looking forward to spending more time with my husband and kids. This month has been busier than I had planned. It has also been more expensive than I had planned (broken furnace). Christmas shopping is all done and I am looking forward to spending all my time on things that matter the very most instead of worrying whether all the presents I bought from Amazon are going to be delivered on time. There are so many people around me who need a kind word or a nice gesture around me. I hope to do more of that this week. And of course, we will be keeping things pretty simple in the meals department in order to make more time for Christmasing. Here’s what’s on tap for dinner this week:

Monday, December 17

Tuesday, December 18

Wednesday, December 19

Thursday, December 20

Friday, December 21

Saturday, December 22

Sunday, December 23

I am off the hook! My Mother-in-Law is having us over for dinner and Christmas Caroling.

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Appetizers/ DipsMeals for OneRecipesSandwiches & Wraps

Bean and Cheese Crisp (Quesadillas)


The Andersen household rarely lets a week go by without consuming Bean and Cheese Crisps for at least one meal. (That’s what they call them in Arizona, where Neil was raised.) This is a go-to meal for our babysitters to make when we are away, Sunday afternoons after church, or week days before school. The beans add a bit of nutrition and fiber to an otherwise calorie dense food.

Bean and Cheese Crisps (Quesadillas)

Course Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword quesadilla
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author heartysmarty


  • 15 oz canned black beans drained
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 6 flour tortillas
  • 2 cups sharp cheddar shredded


  1. Prepare beans by adding beans, garlic salt, and cumin to a small mixing bowl. Use an immersion blender or pastry blender to mash the beans.

  2. Spread about 2 tablespoons of beans on one half of a cooked tortilla. Top with 1/3 cup cheese and fold tortilla in half.

  3. Cook cheese crisp on an electric griddle or stovetop on medium-high heat for about 3 minutes on each side.

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Meal Plans

What’s For Dinner This Week?


Man alive! Last week turned out to be totally nuts! I was looking forward to a slow week to enjoy some seasonal activities with the kids. Instead, our furnace was condemned and my oven randomly surged power and went out on me. That was fun! It all ended well with a new furnace, two new AC units and a fairly easy repair to the oven. Santa Claus may not be bringing as many toys as he originally planned for Christmas this year, but the Andersen will be warm and well-fed this winter. At the end of the day, what more could you really ask for? However, I am sure hoping this week is a little smoother… Here is what’s on tap for dinners this week:

Monday, December 10

Tuesday, December 11

Wednesday, December 12

Thursday, December 13

Friday, December 14

Saturday, December 15

Sunday, December 16

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