Some of my favorite recipes are the most simple ones!
Delicious and comforting food is easy to cook and the only requirements really are using the ingredients and flavors that your family loves. During the cold weather season I love meals that I can prepare quickly so it won't take a lot of time to prep up on a week day. Even so there is always a way to make it prettier and to make it look festive so that at, dinner time, you can get some wow's from the kids and a round of applause from your family!
In the case of this Shepard's pie mini bowls you can simply cover the cooked meat and sauce mixture with the mashed potatoes but if you have a little bit of time and can use a pipping bag (I used a cut up Ziploc bag because I couldn't fin my pipping bag, so much for my organization skills!) to make it into pretty velvety mashed potato flowers! Just be sure to let the mash cool down a bit before doing this step so you won't end up burning your hands!
1 lbs ground beef (I used the one I got from Butcher Box)
1 medium sized sweet onion
1 garlic clove
1 medium can of natural tomato sauce
salt and pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp olive oil
I really make my mashed potatoes without measuring anything!
I'll steam my peeled potatoes in the InstaPot for about 10 minutes and, after getting the pressure out by the fast releasing method I mash them with a potato masher and add some almond milk, about a Tbsp of ghee (you can use regular milk and butter if you're not dairy-free). The amount of milk really depends on how runny or sturdy you like your mash - more runny means more milk and more sturdy requires less milk - just add a bit at a time so you can control the texture to your liking. In the end I season the mashed potatoes with salt, pepper and a bit of freshly ground nutmeg which, I think, gives it the perfect final touch. Like I said I didn't measure anything but I'd go with 1 lbs potatoes, 1 cup milk and 1 Tbsp ghee.
1 - Peel the potatoes and get them steaming on the InstaPot (use the rack to place the potatoes above the water and use about 1 cup of water) or on the stove top, depending on what method you prefer and usually go for. While the potatoes are cooking get the meat sauce going.
2 - Peel and finely dice the onion, the garlic clove and the carrot. Get the olive oil heating in a non-stick pan and add the onion first. Cook them for about 3 minutes until the onion starts changing color and becoming translucent. Add the garlic clove and the diced carrot and let cook for about 8 minutes.
3 - Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside. Heat another Tbsp of olive oil and cook up thee ground meat until it gets these little brown and super tasty edges! Season the meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
4 - Add the previously cooked vegetables to the pan and mix everything together gently. Add the tomato sauce and about 1/2 cup of freshly chopped parsley. Mix and let this simmer for about 20 minutes in low heat. If you notice that your mix looks a bit dry just add a bit of bone broth or regular chicken broth to make it a bit more loose.
5 - While the meat sauce is simmering make the mashed potatoes. Turn off the InstaPot and remove the potatoes to a non-stick pot. Use a masher to get them mashed according to your taste, more chunky or smooth and add the milk and ghee. Season with salt, pepper and about half a tsp of freshly ground nutmeg. Heat this up for about 3 minutes and set aside in a bowl so it cools down a bit while you get everything together to assemble the mini bowls.
5 - Taste the meat sauce to make sure that it's at your taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.
6 - Get your assembly line going for the mini bowls or, if you prefer, you can also serve this Shepard's pie in a big roasting pan or deep dish. Place some of the meat sauce to fill about 2/3 of the cups and then use a pipping bag to spread the mashed potatoes on top.
7 - Get the Shepard's pie in the oven for about 5 minutes under the broiler making sure that you check it after this time to see if the top of the mashed potatoes gets brown but not burnt! We must always keep whatever we have under the broiler at plain sight because it really is a very quick process.
8 - Serve the Shepard's pie with some freshly chopped parsley on top to make it pretty and even more tastier!
This is a super comforting dish and it's the perfect family meal. It is also a very versatile dish and you can add or remove some of the ingredients to make this recipe your own - just add some green peas, cut green beans, peppers or sweet corn to give it a twist or use sweet potatoes for the mash and you can get dozens of variations of this recipe! It is a great recipe to use those turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving that's just coming up next week.
It is also a very good dish to make in double batches and freeze to keep at hand for those weeknights when you don't really feel like cooking or don't really have the time to do it. Wrap up each cup in plastic wrap or aluminium foil and identify each cup with the date of cooking and the oven temperature and cooking time just to make it even more practical.
This really is a favorite at my house and the kids absolutely love mashed potatoes so I'm trying to put up some more recipes with it so we can have a bit more diversity of meals with this super comforting staple.
As for myself, I'm thinking about a sweet potato casserole with nuts...it sounds just perfect!
Until then I'll also be planning some meals to prep for mid December. We'll be having my mother-in-law visiting from Portugal and I'll be trying out some new recipes because she is always ready to try new foods and she is a really foodie like myself, which makes her visit a really exciting time of the year...besides being the holidays and getting the kids to have their grandmother for 3 weeks all for themselves!
On this snowy day be warm and eat good food - that always sounds like a good advice!
Oh, well! The cold weather that came in through last week was all I needed to get on the comforting soup band wagon! Is it just me or to face off these cold nights the best thing to have at hand is a big bowl of steaming hearty soup?!
I try to make a batch of soup every week so we can get a cup of it before our main dish. However, usually that soup is made with a vegetable base, then pureed and sometimes I add some leafy greens, like spinach or kale, and cook it down for an extra 10 minutes or so.
These days I've been feeling like having a whole meal soup!
By adding potatoes, extra veggies or pasta you can get a super comforting and satisfying meal that will work out well as a family dinner. If you feel like adding something else, a slice of garlic bread is always a safe choice and the kids are always up to it!
I was roaming around at a local supermarket by my kids' Portuguese school (they have lessons now, for a couple of hours, two days a week, since there's nothing like cultivating our mother tongue, as well as speaking English during the day, at school), last Tuesday. I couldn't believe when I got to the fresh fish stand and I saw this amazing looking salmon head! I knew I had to get it and I immediately though about making a fish soup out of it.
As I've mentioned before, we love eating fish but it is a really pricey item, here in the US. I'm always amazed at how expensive a fish meal is for the whole family and, usually, I'd pay over $30 just on salmon for a salmon dinner for the four of us. Well, for this beautiful and big salmon head I paid under $3! Isn't that a bargain?! I guess most people aren't used to eating it here and, therefore, it becomes really inexpensive. Great for me because I got this great fish portion and cooked up a really hearty soup that was enough for 8 portions.
If you haven't tried fish head you should really try it out because it's where you'll find the most tasty "meat" of the fish! It is somewhat of a task to, after cooking the fish head, take out all of the bones and get the meat aside for the soup, but it so worth it, I guarantee it!
There's nothing like trying something new and, if you never had it, how can you really say you don't like it?! That is something I always tell my kids and I also follow along those lines with foods that I haven't tried before.
For this soup I used my Instant pot and it worked out perfectly! It's so convenient to just dump all the ingredients in the pot and program it - all I had to do after that was to pick out the fish and take out the bones, after the cooking time came to an end, and add some fresh parsley to give the soup a fresh touch and that was it!
Simple, natural, quick and good tasting food!
1 salmon head (pick out a fairly big one, with a good portion of meat at the end of the head)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 big sweet onion
1 large carrot
2 small bell peppers (I used orange)
1/2 can sweet corn
1 can organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1/2 lbs red potatoes
1/2 Tbsp Primal Palate New Bae seasoning
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tbsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tbsp ground pink Hymalyan salt
1 vegetable "Bou for You" cube
filtered water to cover the vegetables and almost all of the fish head (this will depend on the size of the pot and any additional ingredients you might want to add)
1 - Prep all the vegetables so you can then dump everything in the pot! Peel the onion and the carrot and roughly chop them. Reserve. Wash and chop the peppers and add them, alongside with the onions and carrots the the bottom of the pot. Drizzle the vegetables with the olive oil.
2 - Drain the corn (if you're using canned corn, like I did) and add it also to the pot.
3 - Add the fire roasted tomatoes to the pot. Wash the potatoes and cut them in medium sized chunks. Add to the pot and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and the New Bae Seasoning.
4 - Wash and chop the parsley and cover everything with it. Crush the seasoning cube and lay it all over the other ingredients.
5 - Check the salmon head for some visible scales or bones. After doing that and removing any undesirable bones add it to the pot and add filtered water to cover all the vegetables and half the fish head.
6 - Program the pot, choosing the "soup" program for 25 minutes. After the program ends use the fast release system and take the salmon head out of the pot to remove all of the fish meat that you can. Check the pot for any additional bones and after having all the meaty parts together add them to the soup.
7 - Serve the soup in big bowls and add some more freshly chopped parsley. A slice of good quality bread is also great for dipping in the soup broth!
Apparently, for some people, seeing a fish head may be disturbing and that is why I'm posting this picture at the end of the post, so that everyone can get to read the recipe and not have to look at the piece of fish. What I really like is fresh and natural food and fish is exactly that, in its whole because it such a complete source of protein.
If you prefer you can also use fish portions or fillets to make this soup, you don't have to use fish head.
I can't tell you how good this soup turned out!
I also added some red pepper chili flakes to my steaming bowl of fish soup and it was the perfect final touch! I love spicy food, specially during the cold weather season! Next time you're at the fish market grab a good looking salmon head and try some fish head soup for something different and surprising!
As most of you, who have been following me for a while know, I'm a super fan of "meal prep Sunday".
Taking some hours off to cook and prepare everything you and your family will be having during the week really is something that can take away all the stress from cooking on weekdays or nights and give you the reassurance of having great and healthy food and snacks available at all times.
I try to think about the amount of lunches/dinners we'll be having at home, as well as school and work lunches, meals and snacks. Since doing my first whole30 I try to limit the processed food we eat and usually reserve those options for the weekend, as a treat.
We've always been used to eating mostly healthy food, cooked at home and with wholesome ingredients. Cooking was always something that was part of my life, growing up, and I've always loved to do it, either by helping my mom out when I was a kid or doing it now for my family. My kids also love to help around the kitchen and my son, Mr. J, keeps telling my that he wants to be a Chef when he grows up! Lets see if we can make the spark last and keep the kids more and more excited about food and making healthy choices.
When meal planning and prepping for your family there are some main points that you should have written down. I've writing this blog post about meal prep and I always go back to the basics when I start my plan:
What do I need to know in order to build by meal plan for the week:
After getting this essential information you must also think about the order in which your meals and food will be eaten. Some of the things that might get spoiled easily must be eaten first, as well as raw leafy greens, like arugula and spinach. I always prep my raw veggies for the week and keep them in airtight containers and they last throughout the whole week.
I just got an amazing set of clear glass food storage containers and I absolutely love them! I will be needing to buy some more of the bigger sizes and one of the reasons I love them so much is because I can see exactly what each container holds without having to open or move it! That way I don't forget about eating something that's in a colored plastic container, hidden from plain sight!
I wrote this blog post throughout the week and, at the end of the post, I'll be able to tell you exactly how many meals I got with this specific meal prep. I'll also be creating a shopping list for it and I'll be giving the option of getting some more information on my meal prep and new recipes by entering your email on the box by the end of the post so you can get all this amazing information in your inbox!
Let's move on and get into the delicious details of my family's weekday meals!
Every week I try to cook up, at least, a batch of soup. It's an excellent way to get some more vegetables in your diet because when I say soup I don't mean "hamburger soup" or "tortilla soup" but a vegetable based soup. This is also great to control the amount of food you eat because if you're having a plate of healthy and satiating soup before your main dish you'll probably be able to eat a bit less of your main dish and, this way, control the amount of food you eat in one sitting.
This week I was missing this amazing roasted tomato soup and I decided to cook up a batch that was enough to fill two tall plastic containers - I'm still midway through changing all of my food containers to glass!
I love tomato soup but I'm not a fan of a heavy version of it (with added cream) and this light but super flavorful version is just perfect! I gave up dairy since completing my whole30 and I really don't need it. The prolonged cooking process of this soup (roasting, simmering and simmering again after blending it) gives it a creamy texture and an amazing deep flavor.
I also cooked up a batch of carrot soup with fresh watercress. I made a basic vegetable soup base with carrots, onion, garlic and zucchini, blended it with my immersion blender after cooking the vegetables in bone broth for approximately 20 minutes and then added the watercress and cooked for an additional 10 minutes on low heat.
Making vegetable soup is so easy and simple and it is a great way to enrich your daily diet. Give it a try and mix your favorite veggies and get eating some delicious and comforting soups to go with the colder weather that is getting closer and closer by the day! For the colder days try this super yummy Onion soup or this hearty meatball soup that is a whole meal by itself...I love soup season!
I always like to have fresh raw veggies to have as a snack, both for me and for the kids. The notion that a snack doesn't need to come in a package is something that I've been trying to pass on to my children. Of course they eat those snacks too but I always try to make them like a weekend treat event and not a daily eating habit.
Fresh veggies are great for kids and come in so many colors that helps us build colorful and beautiful lunches that are healthy but super tasty too. Either by themselves or with some hummus or good quality ranch dip I always send two or three different kinds of veggies in the lunchboxes - I try to ask the kids if there's a preference for the next day because kids' tastes are ever changing, right?!
This week we chose celery, bell peppers, carrots, radishes, green beans and cucumber. We usually have grape tomatoes too, but this week our farmers market didn't have a good batch so we passed on those. All I have to do is wash the veggies (except the carrot which I peel), pat them dry with a "unpaper towel" (I love these ones, from Marley's Monsters and they're my secret to having gone down to 1 roll of paper towels every couple of months!) and cut them up. I store them in glass or plastic containers and they really last all week long -- the celery and carrot hold pretty good even longer.
These veggies are an essential component of the kids' lunchboxes and they're also great for a quick snack, which some hummus or cheese. Pick your favorites and include them in your weekly meal prep to make your snack time easier and quicker.
There are so many vegetables available all year long that there's no shortage of cooked veggies for our weekly menus! I love roasted and grilled veggies and this week I chose roasted acorn squash and sweet potato, grilled eggplant, boiled mini corn on the cob (great for dinner and paired with a cup of soup!), sauteed garlic kale, roasted mushrooms with thyme and garlic and boiled mixed veggies.
The mixed veggies is something that I always like to have in my freezer because they make those quick lunches doable and super easy! Mixed with a hard boiled egg and 1/2 a can of tuna they make up for a satisfying and nourishing lunch, both for kids and adults.
I also grilled some asparagus (simply seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic powder) and roasted a whole cauliflower, cut up in medium pieces and seasoned with curry powder and turmeric, which is a great anti inflammatory .
In the big glass square container there's a whole spiralized zucchini. This is a pretty expensive item to get at the supermarket, if you buy it already spiralized but it's so cheap and easy to make it at home that it really is a pretty good investment to get your own spiralizer and do it yourself. A lot of vegetables can be spiralized, like butternut squash, carrots, beets and turnip.
I use one pretty similar to this one and this even offers more blade variety so you can get different shaped veggies!
Cooked extra sides
Besides the vegetables I also cooked some quinoa and white rice to go with the prottein sources and the veggies. I also ended up coking up a batch of smashed potatoes and the kids absolutely loved it, I'll be cooking those up again a lot during the winter time!
This an extremely easy recipe for potatoes and all you have to do is boil the potatoes in salted water and after straining all the water out just lay all the potatoes in a baking tray lined with parchment paper. With a potato masher squash each potato until it gives in and spray the potatoes with some olive oil. Put the potatoes under the broiler for about 10 minutes or until you see they're getting crunchy and golden - keep an eye on them because the broiler can be really fast doing its work!
Cooked protein sources
One thing that you'll always see on my weekly meal prep is hard boiled eggs! It's such a great and portable source of protein and it's great to incorporate in almost every meal or to have as a snack - I usually cook up half a dozen and by the following day they're almost gone! Tuna or chicken salad with a hard boiled egg is usually one of the meals on repeat for the kids' lunchboxes because it's pretty easy to put up in the morning and everyone loves it.
I also cooked up a smoked kielbasa sausage, basically just pan searing it, with no added fat. It's also a great option to add to any plate with veggies and rice, for example. The chicken breasts I grilled were enough to make a batch of chicken fried rice and are also a perfect meal to heat up in the microwave during the week or to send in thermos containers to school or lunch.
I was in the mood for cooking some comforting meals and a medium batch of ground beef with tomato sauce was the perfect solution for that - it goes great with the smashed potatoes, over some spiralized zucchini or with the plain white rice or quinoa. As I've mentioned before I'm totally focused on keeping "food boredom" away and that's why I'm always trying to build up different meals with my meal prep items - I'm not one to eat the same meal 3 days in a row but if I have the opportunity to use the same protein base and mix it with different veggies and sides that makes it perfect!
This week the kids were asking for hot dogs so I changed it a bit and baked some pigs in blankets with some store bought refrigerated dough. Paired with a bowl of soup this make up for a great dinner and I also love to send them for lunch, with some raw veggies and fresh fruit.
How many servings/meals did we get from this meal prep?
After all of this you must be asking yourself this really important question:
How many meals did this weekly meal prep rendered?!
So you can have a very accurate idea of how many meals/servings I got out of each item on this meal prep I'll give you a full description of what we had and how we paired our main and side dishes:
As you can see we had a total of 22 meals and 14 servings of soup for the whole week, which was great for a 4,5 h meal prep work. This is one of the reasons I stick to this routine - there have been weeks when I wasn't able to meal prep and the result was a chaotic week with stress mornings prepping lunches and a lot of cooking during the weekdays which is something that I try to avoid!
I know that it might sound daunting prepping for that long in a day but, trust me, it is totally worth it!
This is an amazing way to make sure that you and your whole family have healthy and balanced meals and snacks at all time! Whenever you feel like eating something you'll be able to open the fridge and take something out that is good for you and quick to pick up.
To make this meal prep easier for you I've listed all the items used on this meal prep. If you wish to receive an email with the full list just fill out the form below with your name and email address and you'll get everything delivered to your inbox. The full grocery list needed and, as a bonus, for those of you that enter the email address I'll also be putting up a document with most of the recipes I used on this 4,5 h meal prep, so you can give it a try and test them with your family! Those will be sent separately and, probably, during the next week.
Once again I hope that this blog post is somewhat of an incentive to get you on the "meal prep train" and to also help you with some healthy and quick meal options for the whole family. I'll be publishing some more weekly meal prep posts and also weekly menus with different recipes so you can choose from a wider variety of meals and ingredients.
My whole30 journey was what triggered me to start doing this and it is something that I always try to pass on to my friends and family - eating healthy everyday is possible, it just needs time, organization and prep time!
What better way is there to welcome Fall then cooking up a hearty meal with pork chops and apples! It's a winning combination and with premium quality meat it just gets loads of extra points for flavor and tenderness of the meat!
I've recently got my first Butcher Box and I'm totally devoted to telling all about it to my friends and followers. Having a busy life is no longer an excuse for not getting high quality meat! With the Butcher Box subscription service you can get a box of 100% grass-fed, grass finished beef, heritage breed pork and free range organic chicken delivered to your doorstep every month or every other month, whatever option fits your family the best.
You can personalize your box and mix your favorite cuts of meat in order to fit it to your household and you can always choose some add on's like no-sugar bacon, which has been a staple at our house since I've done my first whole 30 program. I truly recommend this because with our busy schedule it can be hard to have the time to go to the butcher and buy great quality cuts of meat - with this service you are sure to get what you order and, if you're a meal planner like me, it just makes our life so much easier!
You know what cuts of meat you're getting so you can plan ahead and write down your meals for the week; apart from that you'll just need to make your produce list and make a run to the farmers market or your local supermarket to get the rest of your ingredients for the week's menu.
It'll come out at approximately $6/serving which is a great value for such high quality meat and, as you can see in my video that I'm sharing in the link below, the steaks are huge as are the pork chops, so you'll get a few meals out of those cuts! Also, the chicken breast comes in 3 pre-portioned packs so you can use them independently and cook them on your meal prep in different ways so you can have different options to choose from during the week. You can cook up some chicken soup with one of the packages and grill some strips for the week's lunches and lunchboxes and still be left with a package left!
On my first order, that I shared in this video, I got:
If you're interested in giving it a try and signing up to get to know a bit more about Butcher Box, just click here and, if you subscribe the service until the end of September, through my link, you'll get FREE ground beef for life!
How cool is that?
With this offer you'll get, with each box that gets delivered at your house, 2 lbs of 100% grass-fed and grass-finished ground beef for free! Just imagine the variety of meals you can cook up with ground beef, specially in the colder months: soups, chili, meatloaf, lasagna...so many options! So, don't waste a minute and click on the link above to get your offer but don't forget that you only have until September 30th to do it!
As soon as you get your first box you can try this recipe for yourself! Grab your Butcher Box now and start meal planning for the next month!
4 boneless pork chops (I used the "Butcher Box" heritage breed pork chops)
4 big white potatoes
1 small butternut squash (about 1+1/2 cup)
1 lbs Brussels sprouts
3 large Gala apples
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
a few sage leaves for the pork
1 - Preheat the oven at 400 F.
2 - Prepare the vegetables to use them cover the baking sheet. Wash the potatoes and cut them in chunks, peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds and cute it in small pieces. Wash the Brussels sprouts , remove any damaged leaves and cut them in half or in quarters if they're too large. Try to have all the vegetables in same size pieces so they'll cook evenly.
3 - Place all the vegetables in a big mixing bowl and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and fresh thyme. Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and mix everything in order to get a bit of it in all the vegetables; if necessary add some more. Add half of the paprika and give everything a last toss before transferring the vegetables to the baking sheet, previously brushed with olive oil.
4 - Wash the apples and cut them in fourths. Take out the core and seeds and slice them, keeping them in a bowl of water with lemon juice until placing them on the baking sheet, so they won't oxidize and turn brown. When the vegetables are on the baking sheet place the apple slices around the tray and between the vegetables, after removing them from the lemon water.
5 - Place the pork chops in a glass container or bowl and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and thyme leaves. Add a bit of olive oil and the juice of 2 clementines and 1/2 lemon.
6 - Place the meat over the vegetables and cover it with any remaining juice. This will help the pork chops to cook without making them dry and keeping them juicy and with a lemon/orange hint flavor. Place some sage leaves on top of the pork chops and place the baking sheet in the oven. Cook for about 25 minutes or until the meat is cooked.
7 - For plating just take a bit of everything and slice the pork chops in medium slices. the ones I used were big, so 1 was enough for 2 people. Get the vegetables on the bottom of the plate, cover with the pork chop and sprinkle some freshly chopped cilantro for a hint of green. Use any remaining juices to drizzle over the meat.
This was the perfect recipe to welcome Fall of 2018! The roasted veggies, the flavorful and tender meat, the apples and the sage were a superb combination of warm and cozy flavors.
There's so much simplicity in sheet-pan meals that they really are one of my go-to's for busy schooldays - getting all the ingredients together and popping everything in the oven while everyone gets settled from school and sports activities is perfect!
No weeknight dinner stress and mommy gets a load of compliments on the healthy and hearty meals cooked for the whole family.
Just to give you a notion of the number of meals I got from this sheet pan dinner, it was enough for one meal for all of us, another for my lunch the next day and I still got three more individual servings out of it. All in all, 7 servings which was pretty good for the price that I payed for all the ingredients. That is one of the other reasons why I love sheet-pan dinners so much, they really stretch the food out!
Give it a try and let me know what you think of this recipe!
Happy Fall everybody!
Lets talk about a very particular organ meat - liver!
I, personally, love it and have been eating since I was a child. Back in Portugal my mom always cooked several kinds of organ meat, occasionally, like tongue, liver and kidneys and I've always appreciated eating those kind of dishes.
Some people find it having a very strong taste and, if you do so, you can always leave the liver soaking in milk for about an hour or two before cooking. This will soften the taste, for sure. I usually don't do that because I like it just as it is and so does my husband. The kids usually like it when I make it simple, just grilled, but today I'm trying them out with a mushroom gravy, so lets hope they like it too!
Having a diverse diet is very important in order to get all the vitamins and minerals that our body needs to keep functioning well, without any deficiency. Organ meats are particularly rich and they are the most concentrated source of almost every nutrient, including important vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and essential amino acids. Even if you usually don't buy this kind of meat give it a try and start be testing this recipe and see if you want too try the other meats as well. I'm trying to get some good quality kidneys and tongue, through my usual local butcher, so I can show you some recipes to incorporate them.
I also find it curious that I tend to cook up dishes like this during the colder season. They are easy to incorporate in comforting dishes that make up for a wholesome and nourishing family meal and that's what we are suppose to look for in a season where our body may be most susceptible to imbalances. They go very well with a variety of vegetables and make it easy to use sweet potato, broccoli rabe and cabbage as side dishes to help balance things out.
For this recipe I decided to use the oven to roast the carrots, a pot to boil the potatoes and a big pan to cook up the liver and onions. Also, a small pot for the gravy! This may seem like a lot of tools and equipment to go through but if you start roasting the carrots first, you'll be able to start the liver and onions and boil the potatoes at the same time, it's just a matter of getting everything together and in the same place so you have everything you need at hand.
You can also roast the potatoes alongside the carrots and that will be perfectly fine, too! I just prefer this way to cook the potatoes and the last time I cooked them my kids asked for seconds because they came out so good. It's a very simple but delicious side dish!
1 lbs fresh liver
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 large onions
2 garlic cloves
2 mushroom gravy cubes (I used this ones, from ...)
2,5 cups water
1/2 lb Bella mushrooms
BOU mushroom gravy (check it out, here)
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
1 bunch of carrots
1-2 Tbsp honey (I used the Bee Seasonal "Aroeira" variety)
1.5 lbs small potatoes
Salt and 1 tsp garlic powder season the potatoes
1 - Start by preheating the oven to 400 F.
2 - Wash the carrots and cut out any bad buts that you might find. If you're using a bunch of carrots, like I did, take some time to wash the greens thoroughly because they can be really earthy and you have to get all of that dirt out. Pat them dry and place the carrots on a baking sheet - season with salt, garlic powder and brush or spray with some olive oil. Cook for about 35 minutes.
3 - After placing the carrots in the oven start cooking the other components of this dish. Get a medium pot filled with water, add some coarse salt and boil the potatoes for about 15-18 minutes, checking the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork to check when their cooked. Strain the potatoes and add about 2 Tbsp of freshly chopped parsley, tossing the potatoes around the pot so that the herb gets evenly distributed throughout all the potatoes.
4 - Cut the liver into strips and cook them in a non-stick pan, coated with some olive oil. Cook the liver in batches not to overcrowded the pan and season the meat with salt, garlic powder and freshly ground pepper.
5 - While the meat is cooking cook up the gravy in a small pot. Add 2.5 cups of water, 2 cubes of BOU mushroom gravy and turn on the heat, on medium, until the cubes start dissolving into the water to form the gravy. At this point you'll have to whisk it to make sure yo son't get any lumps in the gravy. Turn the heat off and return to the meat.
6 - Remove the cooked meat to a glass container or plate and add some more olive oil to the pan to cook the onions. Saute the sliced onion and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and fresh thyme leaves - I absolutely love thyme so I use a lot of it, just use the amount you're use to and you'll get a pretty flavorful caramelized onion. It took me about 15 minutes to cook the onions, in medium heat.
7 - In a big pot place the cooked liver strips, the onions and the gravy. Mix this all together and cook it up a bit more, in slow heat, for about 20 minutes. Check the seasonings and rectify, if needed. I just added a few more sprigs of thyme.
All you have left to do is drizzle the warm roasted carrots with the honey for a sweet touch and your meal is ready to plate.
I found the sweetness of the carrots to pair perfectly well with the distinctive taste of the liver meat. It is a perfect combination and adding perfectly boiled and aromatic small potatoes just makes this meal even more amazing!
This recipe will be on my go-to list for cold weather meals and I'm already thinking about some more comforting meals to whip up and show on the blog. Soup and stew season is upon us so I guess I'll be sharing some yummy suggestions for our fall welcoming in the upcoming weeks.
What about you?
Do you and your family like eating liver and incorporating it into your family meals? I'd love to know what you think and, if you happen to give this recipe a try, please let me know what you though of it!
The weather has been changing around here and the cooler days had me craving a warm and cozy bowl of rice and beans! On a rainy day what can be better than sitting on the couch with a warm meal made from wholesome and natural ingredients?
Most of the times I find simple recipes to be the best ones - they are so effortless but yet so rich and tasty! Another thing that makes me life easier during the week, and specially on the colder months, is my Instant Pot. I love it and use it all the time to steam vegetables, cook up a batch of soup or make delicious stews and dishes like this one.
Some people have been asking me about my Whole30 experience and if I'm still eating the same way now. I'm not - however, I've changed my relationship with food, which was one of my main goals by doing it as well as finding trigger foods for my chronic migraines.
I don't use food as an emotional backup and I can perfectly control what I eat without feeling pressured or deprived: I eat what I feel like eating and the only thing that still is somewhat forbidden to me are chips...I seem to have to eat them if I have them around, so the trick is NOT to have them around, it's as simple as that! It is not only because I feel like I can eat a lot of chips at once but also the fact that, after eating them, I don't feel that well and that is enough of a reminder that they are not good for me and so, I should stay away from them!
And now, the recipe for this scrumptious and simple meal.
1 pack of spicy sausages
1 cup basmati brown rice
2 large carrots
3 celery stalks
1 small can of red beans
4 cups + 1/2 cup bone broth (I used the "Osso Good Bones" classic variety)
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1 tsp Primal Palate Jerk Seasoning
freshly chopped parsley
organic fresh spinach leaves
1 - Start by peeling the carrots and chopping them into bite size pieces. Wash and cut the celery stalks into small pieced and add these vegetables to the stainless steel pot, from the Instant Pot.
2 - Add the basmati brown rice and about 1/2 chopped parsley to the pot and season with the spices, salt and pepper.
3 - Cover all the ingredients with the bone broth and give them a stir to get everything well combined.
4 - Put the cover on the pot and seal it until you hear the lock sound. Place the vent attachment in the cooking position and set the Instant Pot on the Rice mode for 15 minutes.
5 - While the rice is cooking cut the sausage into medium sized pieces and saute in a non-stick pan. I didn't use any fat because the sausage has enough fat that gets released during the cooking process.
6 - After the "Rice" program has ended use the quick release method to release all the pressure from the inside of the pot and when the valve drops it is safe for you to open the lid. Open and check that the rice is cooked; if it needs a bit more time to cook just close the lid again and let the rice sit for another 5 minutes, it should be enough to get it a bit softer.
7 - Serve up this comforting dish in a bowl and add some extra veggies if you like! In my bowl, I placed a handful of fresh baby spinach - when I placed the rice and beans on top of it the heat from the rice was enough to get the spinach a bit cooked but leaving it still with a bit of a crunch, which I particularly love! Sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley for a fresh touch and an aromatic finish which goes perfectly well with the warm spicy sausage.
After getting my rice cooked I, immediately, transferred it to a large skillet to prevent it from overcooking with the residual heat from the Instant Pot. As for the amount of food cooked on this meal, it was enough for 7 individual portions which was great for such a simple and economic dish.
That is one of the major advantages of using rice as base for a meal - it does stretch the meals and 1 cup of rice goes a long way!
This is a very nourishing meal and you can use your favorite veggies or sausages to adjust it to your family's preferences. If you'd like just keep it vegetarian, adding bell peppers or butternut squash, for example. I'me acostumed to brown rice and it's the only kind I eat now, after my Whole30 - apparently I'm getting the whole family on board which is, definitely, another WIN for this mommy!
My last blog post was about a week of school lunches for my 7 year old daughter that I'm packing on the Yumbox lunchbox. We just got it for this school year and she has been loving it - the fact that it has different compartments and colors helps her to find lunch even more exiting than before!
I'm also thinking about getting a second tray to use when sending sandwiches because they will fit better in a 4 compartment tray which has a bigger section for the sandwich. Until then we have been using sandwich cutters to make them fit in the current tray and we have also been experimenting and using different colored veggies, fruits and protein sources to make lunch fun and exciting.
This is the one that we have now and it's really easy to use and to get the kids involved in choosing what to get in their lunch and to build the lunch for themselves, which is another advantage. The tray is removable and easily washable and I haven't had any issue with it, so far so good. I really recommend it, specially if you have picky little ones because I think the drawings and the colors will help them get more curious about food and lunch time.
For my 10 year old I finally decided to go for a Rover Planetbox lunchbox. I had been hearing about it for a long time but the price tag was a bit high for me and I've always turned the idea away. I got to read a lot of reviews about it and the more I read the more I thought it would be a safe bet even with a higher price tag than other lunchboxes - it's made of stainless steel and it will last you for a lot of years instead of having to change lunchbox every other year or so and, another great plus for me, it won't get stained and it's super easy to wash.
Also the lunchbox comes with a set of magnets to place on the front of the lunchbox. My son asked for the blue ones but, a few years down the road, when it gets passed on to my daughter she'll be able to pick her own set of magnets and make this lunchbox her own, which is great.
The compartments make it also very easy to plan the meals in. Just choose your protein, veggies, fruits and snacks and place them in the different compartments. There's also a small round container with a green silicone lid (great for dips and sauces) and a medium one (great for sending some pasta salad or a snack for snack time).
Having a great, durable and resistant lunchbox is one of the main aspects to being able to make your own lunchbox prepping routine. I chose these ones and I'm super happy with them, I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a durable and reliable option. The Rover lunchbox is available on Amazon and you can get it in a kit that includes the magnets and the lunch bag to carry the lunchbox - you really need it to make sure that your children can carry that lunchbox safely and with the correct amount of space in it!
Besides choosing the right lunchbox for every children you can also make your daily chore of prepping lunch a bit easier by setting up a lunchbox station in your kitchen. I did it by re-purposing a little carrier that I got at Target about a year ago and using it to hold all my lunch prep essentials.
I use it to keep the stainless steel reusable water bottles, sandwich cutters, little plastic forks for the smaller items in the lunchboxes, cloth napkins and stainless steel picnic knifes, spoons and forks, my recyclable sandwich bags (I've been using the LunchSkins* ones for about a year now and we love them), reusable snacks bags, YoToGo insulated little pouches** (to keep yogurts cool with an ice pack on top) and the lunch bags.
Having everything in one place keeps things simpler and easier for me when prepping lunches everyday.
This is my lunchbox station and it has really helped me to get meals ready way quicker and with so much less stress than before! Get everything together in one place and you'll see what a huge difference it makes. Just find a way to get all those things organized in a way that will make your routine easier and stress-free.
For now I think those are the main things that you should focus on for your lunchbox lunches routine:
I'll now show you a week of Rover Planetbox lunchbox lunches so you can get some more ideas on healthy solutions easy to carry in the kids' lunchbox to school and maybe make them their own by adding or switching some of the ingredients by some of your family's favorites. These lunches were made for my 10 year old son who is currently in middle school - according to his own words "the amount of food was just the right one for the time they have to eat" so I guess we'll just keep it at that.
He also has a snack in the morning which is usually a piece of fruit, pretzels, yogurt or an apple sauce.
I usually prep my ingredients, like fruit and veggies, on Sunday but I like to cook or prepare my animal protein sources as I go. Except for eggs, that I usually boil and store in glass jars in the fridge, all the meat and/or fish gets prepared the day before I need it - I like it for food to keep its best flavor and texture and I might be able to do that if I properly prepare my meals ahead by planning and organizing my shopping trips correctly.
On the first day of the week we started off with this nourishing lunchbox:
As I've mentioned before I think I've found THE perfect almond butter! I'm so in love with it that I keep telling my friends to buy it too...seriously, you need to try it for yourself to understand that the texture, the flavor and the creaminess of this natural almond butter is something that you won't find anywhere else!
Find it here and let me know what you think of it after you give it a try!
Also in the Monday lunchbox I got my son a package of Seasnax roasted seaweed that he loves taking to school, either for snack or for lunch. It's super crunchy and it has an amazing natural flavor that we've learned to incorporate in our daily diet. The whole family loves it!
The lime flavor is my favorite and I can't wait to get some packs on my next shopping trip because I'm out of them and I love having them as a daily snack!
Check here the flavors and packages available:
For the second day of the week we decided on a sandwich to make things simple just by adding some fresh fruit and veggies to the mix! I like to use whole grain breads like Dave's Killer Bread which was the one I used today - I also don't cut the crust, never have never will!
It's the best part of the bread and it just seems silly to waste all that food. IF and when I use sandwich cutters to make things prettier I always have the kids eat the crusts and, if it's a gluten free bread I eat them myself.
The details on this colorful lunch are as follows:
The peanut butter, once again, is from one of my favorite brands and I'll leave you with the link to the Amazon page where you can order it and go through the other amazing products that the brand offers.
By midweek I usually try to be almost at half way of my prepped ingredients to make sure that nothing gets spoiled. Wasting food is the worst thing ever and we try to avoid it at all costs by planning ahead our meals but also by checking in everyday on what has been consumed and what we still have left.
Even though we may have a plan, life happens and, sometimes, meals get switched by a school event, family function or something totally unexpected so we must always try to check our fridge and use what we have.
My 10 year old loves sushi and, now, Miss B is also in love with it!
On Wednesday I decided to surprise them with some sushi lunch, for school - I didn't make it myself but I'll be trying it soon enough to make it easier to send this lunch favorite every once in a while.
On this simple lunchbox we have:
The idea of having the kids eat a sandwich everyday is just not appealing to me...I was trying to figure out ways to switch things a little bit and I remembered to try and make kind of an egg roll to wrap some turkey ham in it using it as a regular wrap!
Recipe tried and approved!
It's super simple and easy to make and you can prepare it the night before, keep it in the fridge and then cut the slices out and place in the lunchboxes in the morning. Let me just tell you how I did it:
The pan I use is the one that I'm posting the link just below. It is non-stick and I've been using a lot lately, to saute veggies, cook some chicken, shrimp and even to grill some fruit over the stove top.
Grilled peaches are a must while they are pretty sweet and juicy!
So, for these yummy lunchbox I used:
You may have noticed that we are trying to be as eco-friendly as possible by using reusable utensils and ditching all plastic and disposable items. I use cloth napkins, both at home, and in the lunchboxes and I got a kit of camping stainless steel utensils that are just the perfect size for the kids. With a fork, a knife and a spoon and with a washable carry case it's the perfect solution if you want to try this clean and green way to live too! There are several different colors to choose from so give it a try and let me know what you think!
The last day of the week is here and it's time for a little treat! I always like to send the kids to school on Friday with something sweet but still healthy and nutritious.
I just started trying these amazing little snacks made from nuts and dried fruits and they taste amazing and are great for packing in lunchboxes - they hold their shape and they pack a ton of good ingredients in a cute little ball that it's easily added to any kind of lunch. There are several flavors but we decided to try the "peanut butter" variety first and it was a success - they are chewy, crunchy and so delicious that I can not wait to try the other flavors too.
On Amazon you can buy the 8 pack kits or a variety pack so you can try out all the flavors and pick your favorites to become your new pantry staples - there's a flavor for everyone in your house, for sure!
Details on this Friday lunchbox:
I usually make my own salad dressings but I like to have some good quality store bought ones at hand for those days when I really need something quick to put in the lunchboxes and just head out the door as quickly as possible! For those moments I choose the Primal Kitchen salad dressings and I've tried several of them including some Whole30 compliant and also the honey mustard which I really love - I usually just use 1 Tbsp per person which keeps the caloric count a bit down and I think that's perfectly reasonable for a single portion salad. The kids like ranch dressing once in a while so we decided to try it out and it was good, they liked it!
If you choose to buy the variety kits they come a bit cheaper than buying each dressing on its own and you can choose to either buy a whole30 compliant variety pack or other packs that contain some dressings that you can always use off round or in your everyday diet once you get to food freedom stage.
These were suggestions of school lunches based on what I pack for my own children. I'll try to continue to build up weekly lunchbox meal plans and I'm think about having the option to receive the ingredient list to every week of lunches, would that be useful to you?
Please, let me know in the comment section what would you like to see on the blog, school lunch related or not. Would you benefit from a week of work lunchboxes for yourself? After all, most of us take our own lunch and sacks to work nowadays and making the right choices is not always easy. However, if you take some time over the weekend to plan and prep, it's just as easy as to do it for the kids!
Most of the days I send my husband a packed lunch to work so I think that would be a great idea to share some of the meals that are easy and practical to pack for a work lunch.
This week the kids are off from school today and tomorrow so my meal prep will be done tomorrow, Tuesday, which will keep things a bit easier and light for me. Take some time to go over the lunchbox lunches I just showed you and try to plan for, at least, 3 days and then just see how you go from there.
Feel free t also check the ideas from my 7 year old lunchbox that I've posted previously here.
Once you start doing it you'll see the benefits and time saving advantage and you'll keep doing it every week, you'll see!
If there's something that makes me happy during the school year mornings is knowing that I have the kids' lunches ready to go and filled with good and healthy food! I need my time in the morning...to wake up, have my breakfast and drink my coffee without rushing or running around getting everyone and everything ready in time for school.
I always wake up way earlier than I really need just to make sure that I get some morning time for myself. I don't do chaos - I hate hectic mornings which usually give me a headache and a bad day, overall. I rather wake up earlier and be able to have a scheduled routine with everything prepared. This doesn't mean that the lunchbox is completely packed and ready to go, it may only need some finishing touches, I'd say 5-10 minutes to get them filled and complete to go into the lunch bags and then everyone gets breakfast before heading out the door.
The only way to make this happen is to meal prep on Sunday. We can go around this issue and try to figure out other ways to make it work but it really is the only way to do it...honestly, I'd rather take a couple of hours on Sunday than put that stress on me on the weekdays.
It's more than worth it!
My husband usually takes his lunch to work too, so I have three lunches to make for the day. As for me I always make sure to cook something extra and loads of veggies that I can always pair with some cooked protein from the previous night's dinner or I can just have a vegan bowl which has been happening a lot lately!
Basics on lunchbox meals
I've always made a single meal for all of us, since the kids started eating "regular food". Cooking two different meals just didn't seem right, or possible, and I believe it is the best way to expose children to different foods and ingredients. They won't like everything we give them but they will start to get used to a diversified diet and that will help them to keep being curious about food.
I never get angry at them if they don't like something, which rarely happens. My 10 year old son loves to eat so there's no problem there! My 7 year old daughter is a bit different...she usually doesn't like spicy food, a lot of fresh herbs on her food or new things, in general. I usually have a couple of veggie options for lunch/dinner so there's always something for everyone.
This might seem a lot of work, having two veggie options at every meal but with meal prep Sunday things get way more easy and manageable. As you know, since I did my whole30 I've maintained the habit of meal prepping which allows for a smoother meal routine.
The basics for lunchbox meal prep are basically the same as for the regular meal prep:
1. First go over your fridge and pantry to make sure that you don't have fresh produce that might be about to go bad, in order to incorporate it on your meal prep. I usually do this on Friday night or Saturday morning and I use whatever I got leftover from the week to cook our weekend meals.
2. The second thing will be making a list of your kids' favorites - write down a list of proteins, veggies, fruit, grains and snacks. After this first time all you have to do at the beginning of each week is go back to this list and match some perfect pairings to have the weekly lunchbox menu done. After that week try to switch the meals to a different day of the following week and change the sides so that you can always give them something different. Kids get bored easily!
3. After having that list done go back to your pantry to check what you've got and what you'll be needing to shop for the week. Make your shopping list and remember to stick to it when you're at the grocery store! A great trick to save you time is to try and make some family meals from a meal that they like, this way you can prep their lunch and a weeknight family meal at the same time just by doubling the recipe!
4. Check what lunchboxes are still good from the previous year or if someone needs a upgrade! Older kids need more food and younger kids might eat a bit less so try to consider that when choosing your lunchbox. This year I took the leap and got my 10 year old son a PlanetBox Rover lunchbox - I can't wait for him to start using it! I've heard wonders about this product and I can't wait to try it out. They are expensive but very durable and spacious. I'll leave the links for the lunchboxes so you can choose which one will suit your needs the best.
I always find Amazon to be the best site to look through and compare different products because it also allows you to read the reviews written by other people that have already bought the item you're thinking of buying. That is an extremely tool for me and I always find the information that I'm looking for! The Rover PlanetBox can be found here:
For my 7 year old daughter I have the Yumbox that she totally adores! The different compartments with the drawings and writings are perfect for kids and make them even more excited about lunchtime! Find it on Amazon:
For me and my husband I have a BentoGo which works perfectly for carrying the meal and the fruit/salad in the adjacent compartment: the size is good and the lunchbox is pretty functional and pretty. The fact that the fork, spoon and knife fit inside the containers is also pretty neat and useful.
5. Check if you have adequate containers to do your meal prep. The amount and the type of container is also important - I've decided to switch to glass storage containers since I've become interested in a greener way of life. Also, besides the good option of ditching the plastic I was shocked about the amount of bacteria and other harmful stuff that can get stuck in plastic containers! No wonder we can't wash them properly...even when we think we do there's always something left there due to the porosity of the plastic itself! So, just check if you need to buy some containers and head on to the next step!
6. Do your shopping trip, preferably alone! This way you can be sure to get JUST what was on your list and not another toy, snack or candy that wasn't there...we've all been there, haven't we?! Don't forget to also shop for snacks - I'll be also making a post about healthy school snack options. It's extremely important in what regards snacks to make sure that your kids' school has a "safe school snack list" to make sure that you don't send anything that they might not be able to eat.
7. Now that you have everything you need to make your lunches for the week, just get prepping! Wash and cut the fruit and veggies yourself because buying them pre-cut is way more expensive and, most of the times, you don't even know how long the produce has been in that container...also, less plastic, less waste!
I've placed below two pictures from my fruit and veggies meal prep. Having this items already washed and ready to place in the lunchboxes is a life saving hack! I can't stress enough how this is the foundation of a smooth week in what comes to packing lunches for kids and adults! To be able to take and go anything from these containers makes a huge difference and it shows us that preparation leads to a healthy lifestyle and good choices. EVERY, SINGLE, DAY.
This veggies are some of the staples at our house. Both the kids love them so we always go around rotating them throughout the week. Whatever I see that's being leftover I usually try to incorporate in our dinner meals to make sure that nothing goes to waste. The only thing missing is the cherry tomatoes that I forget to buy on Sunday and had to rush and pick up on Monday morning.
For example, this week I saw that the carrots weren't getting as much love as the other veggies so I decided to throw them in the soup pot and make a creamy carrot soup with lentils, turmeric and spinach, which is a leafy veggie that I always have frozen to use in a situation like this. Who doesn't like a creamy, rich and delicious soup?!
It's always a matter of choosing your family's favorites and try to incorporate them in the daily meals in a fun and different way. As I've already mentioned kids get bored really fast!
So, put up a list and just start trying out the meal prep game, I assure you it will be something that will stick with you for good!
I've also written this blog post about meal prep when I was doing my whole30, so be sure to check it out too because it has really great tips for a weekly meal prep for the whole family. I assure you that, at first, it may seem a bit daunting, it also did feel that way to me, but now I can not live without it and it's what makes me feel in control of my family's meals and good choices!
A week of healthy school lunches
Now that you have the basics for planning your kids' school lunches lets get to work and build those satisfying and healthy meals that will nourish them and put a smile on their face whenever the time comes for them to open the lunchbox at the school cafeteria!
We must remember something here. It's the beginning of the school year and we're all excited for school to start - kids are eager to get together with their friends, learn new things or get to know a new school and a new daily routine and the parents are off to their regular dairy routines too. At first we're all going to be able to get those sandwiches really pretty with those cutter we just bought from Amazon but by December we may feel like this is too much and that's OK! Just keep prepping and making sure that what's in the lunchbox is healthy and it's something that the kids like, none of us is perfect and a regular sandwich is totally fine! Don't put too much stress on you or everything will become harder and stressful. All you need is some time over to weekend to plan and, knowing the time you have available to get the lunches finished in the morning, just use what you have and the time you have to make it work.
These are some ideas from lunches that my kids like. Some of them have something that my daughter likes the most and some of them are my son's favorites. I hope they inspire you to build your own weekly lunchbox menus and, if you need any help, feel free to email me with your questions and I'll make sure to try to get back to you as soon as possible.
Lunchbox 1 - Ham wrap and fresh veggies and fruit
Take the fresh fruit and veggies from your pre-cut essentials that you have from Sunday meal prep and add some chopped walnuts (or any other nut that your kid may like) for healthy fat and all you have to do is make the wrap which you can prepare the night before and keep it in the fridge until putting it on the lunchbox in the morning!
I chose cherries and green seedless grapes to have some more color which is something that always gets the kids' attention. Trying to make things appealing really does pay off and encourages them to eat what they think is pretty and exciting!
I smeared some avocado mayo on a wrap and added some romaine lettuce leaves, carrots sticks and 3 slices of oven roasted ham. Rolled it up, holding everything very tightly and sliced it so I could fit everything in the lunchbox. If you prepare the wrap the night before, keep it in a sealed container and you just need to slice it in the morning.
I think these lunchbox cards are just adorable! There are a lot of printable options too, if you look them up online. It's something that I love to send to school everyday so that the kids feel like their lunch really is important to me and that I care that they like what I prepare for them. The kit I got is super cute, gender neutral and has a super price as of now - get it while you can!
That's it! Easy and peasy - one lunch down, four more to go!
Tuesday - Grilled shrimp with sticky rice balls
Don't go thinking around that I cooked the shrimps specially for the lunchbox! That would be going overboard, indeed!
We had them grilled the night before and I added some extra so I could have some leftover for the kids' lunches! That's something that I always think about - what protein can I cook extra the night before to incorporate in the lunchboxes for the next day. That's way prepping is SO important!
The fruit and veggies are from the meal prep containers that are sitting in the fridge just waiting for me to pick them up when I'm assembling the lunches. This time I chose fresh cucumber slices, carrot sticks, black olives, diced pineapple and blueberries.
The sticky rice balls were a new experiment and it worked out really well and both the kids loved them! I prepared the sushi rice according to the instructions on the package and then transferred the cooked rice to a glass bowl. When the rice was still warm but manageable by hand I used a table spoon measure to scoop out a rice ball and, with my hands slightly wet I molded the rice just a little bit. I placed the balls on a tray and after finishing them all I placed them in an air tight container and kept them in the fridge. These sticky rice balls are perfect for lunchbox lunches because the kids can just hold them by hand and eat them with no need for forks or any other utensil. Also, they are really cute!
I sprinkled some sesame seeds on some of the balls and I'll be sure to look for black sesame seeds for some color, that should be fun! The little toothpicks are perfect for holding small foods and I'm sure I wouldn't mind having some for myself. Even though I'm an adult I sometimes find myself looking for those cute animal picks to have some blueberries too!
Wednesday - Meatballs with pasta, green beans and mushrooms
The other day I decided to make some meatballs using the Mighty Spark Food ground bruschetta mix. I love this brand because it has the most delicious and creative meat products I've ever seen and I haven't tried one that I haven't liked!
With 2 lbs of ground meat I did a batch of meatballs which I separated in two portions - I froze one of the portions for quick weeknight dinners and I cooked the rest of the meatballs to have during this week. I was even able to get two hamburger patties out of this amount of meat and I decided to freeze them in my Tupperware container that I used for my "Salmon cakes two ways" that you can find here.
For this lunch I sauteed some mushrooms in olive oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper and fresh thyme. I had some leftover cooked pasta and I added some cooked green beans - to make sure that the pasta wouldn't become sticky in the container I decided to give it a toss in a pan adding just a bit of olive oil.
After everything was cooked it was just a matter of assembling everything in the little lunchbox compartments. I also added some tomato sauce as a dip for the meatballs, fresh carrots and some black olives. Honeydew melon was already cut up so I just added that too.
Thursday - Black eyed pea tuna salad with a hard boiled egg
My son LOVES this salad! Although this is my daughter's lunchbox I'm using some favorites from both of them so I can give you a better notion about the meals we eat as a family. It's such a simple recipe and it keeps pretty well in the fridge for 3-4 days, just make sure to season it when you're serving it and not before.
I used one can of tuna and that was enough for four portions of salad, which is pretty good! In a large bowl I added the tuna, a can of black eyed peas, some freshly chopped parsley and diced peppers (I used a mix of orange and red to keep it colorful).
At the time of serving or putting the salad in the lunchbox add a bit of olive oil and salt. I added extra protein with a hard boiled egg and also kept the salad theme with some romaine lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes, black olives and fresh cucumber. I used a cutter to get that fish shape and it just took me a couple of minutes, using the already sliced cucumber that I had in the fridge.
For fruit today we chose two clementines.
Friday - Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with veggie chips
The last lunch of the week was more a mainstream one! The kids weren't used to having sandwiches for lunch back in Portugal but now they like to have them for lunch, once in a while. Today I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some whole grain seeded bread and used a puzzle shaped cutter to cut out little pieces of the sandwich. I really have to get the accessory sandwich tray for this yumbox because it is way more spacious to fit a whole sandwich than this one!
I added some veggies chips from this brand that we like. I always look at the ingredient list and try to choose a snack option that represents "the less of two evils"! I limit the processed food my kids have in a week but they need to have some chips that they can have and as long as we take note of what is eaten and in what amounts, I think it is perfectly fine. A balanced diet is the final goal, not total deprivation!
I'll be working on a blog post about snacks that I buy for my family and what options you have if you're looking to get your kids on a healthier lifestyle. It's good to have, at least 4-5 options from which they can choose what to have in their lunch.
For veggies today I added fresh celery sticks with ranch dressing. That's another important issue - choosing dressings that are made with all natural ingredients and no added sugar, so that we and our children can enjoy them without not only the guilt but also the unhealthy consequences. I like the Tessamaes "Organic Creamy Ranch" which I buy maybe 2 bottles a year. We don't use much as you can tell but the kids like to dip their veggies on it, once in a while.
For fruit we had green seedless grapes and also some mixed nuts.
I hope you liked my suggestions and that this post was an inspiration to get some freshness and healthy ideas in your kids' lunches and yours too! I would love to get some feedback from all you moms and dads out there that struggle with packing lunches for school:
What information do you need to get your packing routine smoother?
Would you like to see more of our weekly menus?
What about a shopping list with all the ingredients needed for this or other week of school lunches?
Let me know about your ideas and questions in the comments below or send me an email with all this questions! I can't wait to read them and find out all about your needs so I can try to help you through some very simple and easy tips that we can all do in our homes to make our children eat better but without too much stress!
If you follow my blog you must know, by now, that I love salmon!
I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to sample the Virgin Bay Seafood Co. wild caught salmon, from Alaska. It really does pay off to spend a bit more for great quality protein that is sustainable caught and that has, indubitably, more flavor and a texture that will leave you wanting for seconds after each meal you prepare with it!
I mean, just take a look at this perfect and beautiful salmon portions:
How could anyone be tired of eating food like this?!
Oh, well, I can't have this fish every week but I'm making sure to take some time and do proper research about the quality and sourcing of our family meals' protein sources. We really should pay more attention to what we feed our bodies and, specially after the whole30, that has been a concern of mine.
Not only for my health but for all of my family's.
By the time I did this recipe I was also able to try out some veggie kits I got from Urban Roots - even though I had to eliminate some of the seasonings that weren't whole30 compliant I had a great time trying these kits out and sampling the different condiments that come with each package. I loved the experience and I'm really glad to know that there's a company that makes eating veggies easier and simpler - if you have a busy life and not a lot of time to spend cooking you should really look into these!
Check out their website and all their veggie kits!
Here's a picture of what I got, alongside some amazing olive oil which continues to be a staple at our house.
I used the butternut squash and the cauliflower kit as a side for another meal and they were delicious! I usually buy all my veggies at the farmers market and prepare them yourself but, like I sad, if you're running low on time and want to make sure that there is always a veggie option in your fridge, make sure to grab some of these packages and try them out as soon as you can.
You won't be disappointed!
The recipe is pretty simple and that's one of the things that I like about cooking. You don't need to over do it, just choose good ingredients, simple flavors and you're off to a good meal, for sure!
2 wild caught salmon fillets (I used the Virgin Bay Seafood Co. - Copper River Sockeye Salmon)
1 big sweet potato sliced
1 brocolli crown
1 lbs small yellow potatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp capers
1/3 lemon juice
1 Tbsp (total) garlic powder
salt and pepper
a bunch of cilantro
2 Tbsp pitted kalamata olives
1 - Preheat the oven at 400 F.
2 - Prepare all the veggies that are going into the oven - wash the potatoes and cut them in half. Wash the broccoli and separate it in florets. Place each vegetable in a different bowl and add the seasonings.
3 - On the potatoes and cherry tomatoes mix I used olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. The broccoli had olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. The sweet potatoes just had olive oil, red pepper chili flakes and garlic powder.
4 - Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and line up all your veggies making sure that they are not overcrowded in order to cook evenly. I ended up mixing the salmon with the veggies but next time I'll cook them separately!
5 - On a different baking sheet lined with parchment paper place the salmon fillets and season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the fish and vegetables for about 20 minutes or until you see they're cooked through. The time may be a bit off if you choose thicker fillets or bigger chunks of veggies - if that is the case roast them for another 5-10 minutes.
6 - When everything is cooked, transfer to a serving plate and make the sauce to cover the salmon: in a bowl add the lemon juice, about a tsbp of olive oil, the chopped and pitted kalamata olives, the capers and some freshly chopped cilantro.
I love cilantro so I really got a good amount in there!
This was a meal for 4 and the whole family loved it!
I must say that sheet-pan meals are my favorite for weekdays because they make everything so easy and simple - one pan (or two, in this case!) and everything gets cooked at the same time. It's also perfect to cook chicken breast/thighs (might need a bit more time to cook) or shrimp!
Take a look at what you got on your last shopping trip and figure out what protein and veggies you can combine to make yourself a full and satisfying meal like this one!
I would love to know if you also have the habit of doing this kind of sheet-pan meals! Let me know in the comments!
Summer break is here and I've been struggling with adjusting to our new routine!
Well. the issue is that there is not an actual routine, which I must have to get some order in my daily life - the kids are having summer camp in alternate weeks so I'm with one of them all the time and the pressure of feeling like I have to get them out of the house for outdoor activities or other interesting things to do, instead of giving into TV and Ipad time is high!
I also have to teach them how to figure things by themselves and try to occupy their own time without needing me all the time. Adding to this a lot of home chores, recipes on hold, reviews to write down and organizing our trip back to Portugal by the beginning of August...well, I'm just a mess all around.
I know things will get better and summer really is a hard season for me. The constant reminder that I have to be perfect and that the house has to always look good, the cloths ironed and the kids well fed takes a toll on me and I'm trying to find a way to keep it all together.
We all have bad days or weeks, it's just a matter of pushing through and trying to do the best we can.
After all, we're just humans.
Another thing that I've been struggling with, due to everything I've mentioned before, is creativity in the kitchen. I'm always trying to think of new dishes to cook and make them a bit more elaborate than everyday cooking looks like. To tell you the truth, I'm realizing that food doesn't have to be over complicated, it just has to be good, delicious and nutritious.
Most of the times I think about putting some ingredients together in the most simple way, with basic condiments and spices and, if it works out it really is a great idea to publish it on the blog because, sometimes, people just need to get an idea of foods that go well together - specially in the summer, no one want to spend hours cooking a meal, right?
We simply want to enjoy good food and spend time with family and friends, so choosing easy and quick meals is the right way to go!
I've been sticking to a mainly whole foods diet and I'm looking into plant based diet too. I don't think I'll ever give up fish, meat and eggs completely but I'm seriously considering lowering down my animal protein consumption. I already try to have 2 plant-based days a week and it has been a great experience - I feel amazing and healthier than ever! I'm also educating myself and learning more and more about nutrition because there's nothing like getting information from clinical studies and educated people that have been studying the subject for decades. I'm currently devouring "The China Study", by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and his son Thomas M. Campbell II, MD. I'm trully enjoying this learning experience.
So, yesterday I decided to cook up a delicious lunch bowl. I just opened the fridge, took a look at what I had in there and put this super yummy and nutritious lunch bowl together in just about half an hour. It rendered my about 4 meals which was pretty good for the amount of time I spent cooking.
I decided to keep every cooked ingredient in a separate container because, I could combine it with different sides I had already cooked. That way I'll change up a bit my bowl every time I pick something from the containers!
As you know I hat food boredom!
I opted for spiralizing the butternut squash at home but you can buy it already spiralized it at the supermarket. It's more expensive to buy it already prepped but if you need convenience it's, obviously, the way to go.
1/2 a whole butternut squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper and garlic powder
2 Tbsp freshly chopped basil leaves
3 Tbsp "The new primal" spicy marinade/cooking sauce
1 bunch kale
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup pepitas
1 Pederson's Farms no-sugar added smoked Kielbasa
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1 - Start by trimming the kale, chopping it roughly and washing it thoroughly. Reserve.
2 - Spiralize the butternut squash, which can be a bit of a hard task if you got a big one, like I did! You've got to cut the end of and peel the long part of the squash, which is the one that you'll be spiralizing, with a vegetable peeler. Reserve the remaining squash and dice it, store in a freezing bag and freeze to use in a different recipe.
3 - In a non-stick pan cook the sliced Kielbasa, in a Tbsp of olive oil, until it starts to get a brownish color. It's delicious when it starts to kind of caramelize, which is not the case because it doesn't have any sugar in it, but it's delicious!
4 - Reserve the cooked sausage and add the kale to the same pan to just toss it in the remaining fat. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder and keep moving the kale around so it doesn't get overcooked. When the kale turns a dark green color add the pine nuts and pepitas and give it a final toss. Reserve the kale mix in a glass container.
5 - Add the second Tbsp of olive oil to the pan and cook the squash noodles. These will take about 7-8 minutes to get cooked in medium to high heat. Keep stiring them once in a while and when they start getting cooked add the cooking sauce/marinade. Cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, add the chopped basil and reserve.
6 - All the ingredients are cooked and you just need to assemble your lunch bowl.
7 - In a large bowl add some of the butternut squash noodles to form a base. Add some of the kale and pine nut mix and some sausage slices. Add some extra pine nuts on top and some fresh blueberries for a burst of antioxidant goodness.
This is a great option to include on your weekly meal prep. Also, cook additional protein sources and veggies so you can build lots of different bowls throughout the week - having it all prepped and cooked on a Sunday night will, surely, make up for a stress free cooking week!
Just assemble your plate and bowl every time you need a meal and enjoy the different flavor combos - also, add some more fresh herbs to spruce up those flavors! Nothing like the scent of fresh herbs on a hot and delicious plate of food!