I know I am a little late to the bandwagon, but I must say that I am loving these Zoodles (zucchini noodles)! I have a hand-held spiralizer which works well to make beautiful spirals of zucchini squash into zoodles. What a great way sneak more vegetables into your diet and cut a few carbs out for people like diabetics who need to watch their intake! Tonight, I made zoodles into an Alfredo dish that was delicious. My 7-year-old was inhaling the stuff as he told me I needed to take a picture and put this on the website. So, here it is. Enjoy!
This is a classic Alfredo sauce recipe that I use at least twice a month in my cooking. It’s fast, easy, and a bit lighter than most versions. Any dish I make with this sauce is always a hit at our dinner table. Thus, I attribute many of my dinner successes to Sara and Kate over at “Our Best Bites.” You can find their original recipe here.
This delicious smoothie has probiotics for gut health, ginger and lemon for an immunity boost, and a whole serving of vegetables. I thought it was going to be one of those smoothies that tasted terrible, but I drank it anyways because it was “good for me.” Boy, was I wrong. This smoothie is so yummy!
I was shopping in Costco last month when I walked past the freezers with lasagnas in it. I was tempted to pick one up for a future dinner to save myself some time and energy. When I checked out the ingredient label, nutrition information and price, I realized that with a little work I could make a more nutritious version for about the same price. Below is my cost comparison and nutritional analysis of the Costco lasagna vs. my homemade lasagna:
The biggest obstacle to eating healthy usually comes at the dinner hour when you are faced with no plan and no time to cook a homemade meal. Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar:
You walk in the kitchen after a busy day and you have exactly 30 minutes to make and eat dinner before you need to be out the door again for little Johnny’s soccer game. Assessing the contents of the fridge, you have lots of fresh food but no idea how to throw something together on time. Thus, you resort to hopping in the car and zipping to the drive-thru for a burger. You and the family scarf down your meal in the car as you drive to the soccer field. And there your dinner sits like a brick in your stomach while you cheer on little Johnny.
Maybe your scenario looks a little more like this one:
The dinner hour is fast approaching, and everyone is starving! You flip through Pinterest and find something that looks quick and easy. Unfortunately, half way through the meal prep, you realize you don’t have any onions for the white sauce. You cannot eat an onion-less white sauce, so now you are running to the store for an onion. Meanwhile, the kids are at home ransacking the snack cupboard and filling up on crackers and cereal. You are so hungry that you grab a bag of chips from the check-out line. As you finish the homemade Pinterest-worthy meal, you munch on the chips to satisfy your growling stomach. Now you nor your family is really that hungry for the dinner you just made. You all eat it anyways and go to bed feeling overstuffed and not all that content with your dining experience. And then tomorrow, it happens all over again.
We have all been there! Early in my marriage and as a young mom learning the ins and outs of homemaking, I used to be an emotional wreck by the time I got dinner on the table. I was frantically trying to pull ingredients together to make a meal each night. I can’t promise that I never get a bit frantic in the kitchen anymore, but the agony over what to make each night has been removed from my life. Ever since I started meal-planning, our family eats healthier, more diverse, and less expensive meals than before. Now, I am going to show you how it’s done in five simple steps.
1. Theme each night.
It’s easy to get stumped when planning meals, so I assign a theme to each night which I know my family will enjoy. It helps me have a place to start when deciding what to make. Here’s how I set up our week:
Sunday: Crockpot Comfort Food
Monday: Baked Dishes (Winter) Grill (Summer)
Thursday: Chinese or Soup
Saturday: Breakfast for Dinner or Dine Out
2. Plan your meals.
I don’t do anything fancy with my meal planning. I just have a note in my phone with the meal plan on it. This is what ours looked like this week:
3. A meal is never complete without a FRESH vegetable.
A fresh vegetable includes cooked veggies whether they were raw or frozen to begin with. It does not include ketchup or potato chips… Many times I plan the salad or veggie first and then the main dish to go along. Other times I plan two or three salads and we have side dishes for dinner. Here is our final meal plan with recipe links:
Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli Salad Mix
Whole Wheat Pizza and Salad
4. Make your grocery list out of the ingredients needed for your meal plan.
I have an ongoing note on my phone for things I notice throughout the week that we are out of. Then, on Saturdays or Mondays when I sit down to meal plan, I add the ingredients we need for each night’s dinner. After that, I log into my online grocery store account and order all my groceries online. This is totally optional, but it saves me a LOT of time and grief, wrangling my toddlers in the grocery store. I order my groceries at least four hours before I need them, and schedule a pick-up time that works for me. The grocer comes to my parked car, reviews my order, swipes my credit card, loads my groceries in the trunk, and sends me on my merry way. The process takes less than 10 minutes. And it has changed my life.
5. Each evening, check out what is needed for tomorrow’s dinner.
Spend 15 minutes chopping veggies, marinating meat, assembling your crock pot, or whatever you need to do to be one step ahead for dinner the next night. Put your prepped ingredients back into the fridge. Yes, you can even put your entire crock pot bowl in the fridge so the next morning all you need to do is place it inside the heating element and plug it in. You will come home to dinner either totally cooked or half-way finished, and that is a lovely feeling!
Now, unless you accidentally burn your quinoa to a crisp while you are distracted helping someone with an equally important task (happened on Monday…), you have no excuse for eating out more than once this week. Happy meal planning!
Happy President’s Day! Aren’t Monday holidays the best? I slept in, read in bed for an hour, and then finally came downstairs to find this:
Yep. Those are my cuties who had already spent the morning making paper flags for the mantle while I was lazing in bed. I totally missed the breakfast hour, so we combined our breakfast and lunch into a Brunch late this morning. On the menu was Breakfast Burritos with a huge bowl of fresh fruit to complete the meal. (I also often make this as breakfast-for-dinner when I need a quick fix.) Happy brunching!
|Hearty Breakfast Burritos
8-10 Cooked Flour or Corn Tortillas
Double Recipe Veggie Ranch Eggs
1 Cup Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 Avocado, diced for topping
Salsa for topping
Cilantro, for garnish
2. If necessary, cook or warm your tortillas.
3. Spread about 1 Cup burrito mix onto tortilla. Top with avocado, salsa and cilantro. Fold into burrito.
Makes 8 to 10 burritos.
My kids eat their broccoli the best when it’s topped with cheese and bacon! This dish is a complete meal with protein, fat, and whole grains. You will feel great about all the Folate, Vitamin K, and other nutrition you are getting from the broccoli. This is a perfect casserole to warm yourself on a chilly winter’s day. Enjoy!
|Broccoli Quinoa Bake
3 Cups Quinoa, cooked
1 Recipe Hearty Cream of Chicken Soup
1 Cup Chicken, shredded (see tip here)
1 Tablespoon Real Bacon Pieces
3 Cups Broccoli, frozen
1 Cup Cheese, shredded*Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Cook Quinoa according to package directions, and set aside in greased pan.
2. Prepare Hearty Cream of Chicken Soup. Pour the soup over the quinoa and mix it well.
3. Top quinoa mixture with shredded chicken and sprinkle with chopped bacon pieces.
4. Chop the frozen broccoli and place on top of the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes
5. During the last 5 minutes of baking, remove the dish, sprinkle with cheese. *I like to use sharp cheddar, but crumbled Feta or fresh Parmesan is also delicious.* Return to the oven until the cheese is evenly melted.
6. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Martha Stewart inspired this recipe, and I have changed the original so many times that now it has my stamp on it. I have tried in the past to use all whole wheat pasta, but the texture is a little too coarse for my family. Thus, you will notice I use half whole wheat pasta and half white pasta. No one has ever made a fuss about it, so it stays! You will love the simple combination of sweet roasted squash and red onions with fresh garlic and parmesan cheese. You will also love that this dish takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish! I like to make enough so there will be left-overs for tomorrow’s lunch. Enjoy!
|Roasted Butternut Penne
2 Cups Dry, Whole Wheat Penne
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cubed squash and onion with half of the olive oil (2 tablespoons) and salt and pepper. Mix until the vegetables are well coated.
3. Pour the vegetables onto a tin foil-lined baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, stirring once during the cooking process.
4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and prepare the penne pasta. Drain pasta and leave it in the strainer during the next step.
5. Heat remaining olive oil over medium heat in the large, currently empty, pot. Sautee the minced garlic for just 1-2 minutes to release its flavors.
6. Return the pasta to the pot and add the roasted vegetables to the mix. You might choose to add one additional Tablespoon olive oil here and that is just fine. Fold in 1/2 cup of fresh grated parmesan and leave the rest for topping individual servings.
Makes 10 servings.
Sunday Dinners call for something delicious, comforting, and easy to prepare, which is why most of my Sunday dinners are cooked in a slow cooker. There’s nothing that says “home” better than walking into the door after a day of Church worship, Church choir practice, and other Church meetings to a kitchen filled with the delicious aroma of our savory dinner. Sunday meals are heavier than those we eat the rest of the week, and that is just as it should be! This Thai Peanut Chicken is best served over Coconut Jasmine Rice. And, because a meal is never complete without a fresh fruit or vegetable, I usually pair this with a salad or roasted zucchini squash. Happy eating!
|Crockpot Thai Peanut Chicken
8 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1 1/4 Cup Pace Picante salsa*
1/2 Cup Natural Peanut Butter
1/4 Cup Lime Juice
1 Tablespoon fresh grated Ginger
1 1/2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
1/2 Cup shelled Peanuts
1/4 Cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
*Use your salsa of choice, just make sure there is no sugar added.
Makes 8-10 servings.
Has the February Fizzle arrived for your New Year’s resolutions? Did you set a goal to exercise more and eat better this year, only to find that after a few weeks in January you are back to old habits? I am not a proponent of dieting. Instead, I advocate for eating a balanced diet made up of mostly plants and whole grains with proper portions of meat and animal products. There’s 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 heath! 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 eating no 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. So now, 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.
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?” The whole point to dieting is to be more fit and gain energy, right? It is supposed to be desirable to move our bodies in a fun way.
5. Does the diet encourage you to eat whatever, however, wherever, 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.
For a while, 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 they 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 registered dietitian or medical doctor about it first!
Here are two more questions I like my friends and family to consider before starting a diet. You will like these ones.
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 Alma 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
There really is wisdom to eating a balanced diet. I believe God is at the helm of all we do in this life. It only makes sense that if He created this Earth and He created our bodies, He would provide proper nourishment in the earth for us to care for our bodies. And He wants us to stick with it! I don’t think He intended us to care for our bodies just in the month of January. If we want to have the strength and energy to live life to its fullest–serving others and spending precious time with loved ones–we need our bodies to work properly.
This year, instead of starting a restrictive diet, I encourage you to set just three simple and positive goals for eating and/or exercising healthier this year. Some examples you could choose from are listed below:
Positive Lifestyle Goals
-Eat 3 to 4 servings of fresh vegetables daily.
-Eat 2 to 3 servings of fresh fruit daily.
-Make at least half of my grains 100% whole grain.
-Eat meatless meals one day per week.
-Be more conscious of what goes into my body by reading the ingredient label first.
-When enjoying a treat, savor it slowly.
-Try to make wise food choices 80% of the time, and don’t stress out about the other 20%.
-Find an exercise buddy and go [running, swimming, play ball, weight lifting, snow shoeing, etc.] 3 times per week.
-Eat one square meal, sitting down at the table each day.
-Eat regular meals and snacks throughout the day to avoid famished hunger and binge eating.
-Listen to my body’s hunger and satiety cues.
-Try out a new exercise video just for fun. Check out my Pinterest board “Exercise at Home” for FREE and CLEAN videos.
-Cook at home from scratch 5 days per week. Explore the “Recipes” tab for lots of ideas.
-Enjoy treats on special occasions without guilt, then get back to healthy food choices once the occasion is over.
-Live in the moment—enjoy the company of and conversation with loved ones without focusing on what is in the food offered at parties.
-Have gratitude for your amazing body which God created for you.
-Pray for strength to make healthy choices.