There's a new trend in town - meal prep!
Whether you're on a specific controlled diet or not it is, simply, a fact that getting ahead of things and prepping your weekly meals on a Sunday morning does make your week go smooth and stress free. The difficulty, I would say in most of the cases, is to know:
WHERE DO I START ???
Well, I just started my first Whole30 round and I took it as the perfect opportunity to explain the what's and the how's to this amazing world of domestic organization! It is not hard, it is not difficult - it just takes a few simple but methodical steps to get it done and, believe me, once you've tried it you'll never want to go back to those stressful weeknights, looking for something quick but sometimes, not so healthy, to feed your tribe! This week I achieved this (and so can you!):
Basic steps for a successful meal prep:
1 - Choosing your favorite proteins, veggies and fruits with which you'll be working on your weekly menu. Don't forget that, unless you're living by yourself, you're cooking for other people too: significant other, kids, siblings. Get everyone around the table and ask them to write down their favorites - this way, you'll be sure to come up with meals that everyone will love and eat - we all know how that can be hard sometimes, right??
Actually, while you have their attention, ask them to write down their favorite meals too! This will be a a huge help for when you'll be drawing down your menu, so to speak!
So, do you have your basic ingredients listed and are you ready for the next step of the game? Lets move on to the next step!
2 - PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!
Figure out, according to your routine, job and household habits if you're going to elaborate a weekly or a monthly meal planning. Word of advice: start slow but steady! The easiest thing to do is to try this system for a week and then move to the next one. By the end of the month you'll be able to figure out where you missed something that could have saved you time and stress during the week and you'll be able to adjust on the following one. Once you've become comfortable with the idea, I've figured out that the major stress freeing task can be achieved - monthly meal planning!
This, my friend, is the ultimate goal in terms of feeding your family and making sure that every snack and meal is accounted for! The monthly planning requires work but I assure you that you'll be collecting the gains from it until the end of the month!
Draw a menu that accounts for everything from breakfast to lunch, dinner, snacks and fruit. Don't forget specific situations like:
Everything must be accounted for in order to achieve total success! Carry around, at all times, a notebook in your purse so you can jot down some ideas or ingredients that you may be wanting to incorporate in your recipes, recipe ideas or events that just show up unexpectedly. We all know those happen all too often, right?
Been there, done that!
3 - Getting all the recipe ideas based on your favorite ingredients and writing down a plan with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack ideas for everyone in the house. At our house I always try to have fish, at least, twice a week and load up on veggies and fruit for the kids. That's all they take for school as snack - fruit is a nutritious food and it's perfect in any form (washed seedless grapes, peeled clementines, cut strawberries, homemade fruit and yogurt cups, cinnamon apples, just choose whatever they like!).
Another thing that used to happen was me forgetting about my husband! Well, not about HIM but about his lunch and snack to take to work. Buying lunch everyday can get tremendously expensive and, most of the times, the options aren't really that good. Taking his lunch and snack from home to work has become a regular practice since two years ago and it really is the best option - better quality, better taste and it cuts down on your expenses by the end of the month!
Get organized and create a spreadsheet with this planning for every single day of the week or the month, whichever it may be. Don't forget to account for any leftovers and use them to build meals on different days so you don't get bored of eating the same thing over and over again. I don't know about you but I fear FOOD BOREDOM and I think that may be the greatest risk with meal planning if we don't take it as a methodical task with a very specific purpose - building menus with flavorful and exciting meals that will save us time and stress. I feel I can't "stress" that enough! Pun intended!
4 - Now we get to the "it will take you sometime to get this done" part of the meal planning thing!
Go through every meal you planned and list ALL the indigents you'll need to prepare it - yes, all of them! Write down the ingredients and the quantity that you'll be needing of each item. Using a spreadsheet, list the ingredients and add ingredients or change them as you go. It may seem daunting but doing it like this, instead writing it down on a piece of paper really simplifies and speeds things up!
No - don't back up now! You can do it! If I can, everyone can...it's just a matter of focusing on what matters and getting it done.
Consider this a monthly task like any another: at the end of the month you get your paycheck, pay your bills, check if someone needs new shoes or new clothes and you list your meals and ingredients. It is just anther task and one that will get you feeling pretty darn good for a whole month!
I dare you to try it out and tell me that it isn't true!
5 - Choose the Sunday to be your meal prep day. You'll have to work hard on it, depending on what you're going to be cooking but you'll have the rest of the week off! Kitchen wise, at least!
Take advantage of your kitchen appliances, after all you bought them for something and that was not to sit on the counter! If you think about it, you can cook several things at the same time if you use:
OVEN - roast most of the veggies and potatoes you're going to be needing during the week and, if you're going to use chicken for your recipes get your chicken roasting at the same time - while those are cooking you get to focus on something else on your stove top!
STOVE TOP - grill, sauté or fry foods that you'll need later in the week, as long as they stay perfectly flavorful and appealing: breakfast sausages and bacon can be quickly cooked and stored in airtight containers to eat during the week.
INSTANT POT - if you have one of these you already know how precious they are! I can't imagine living without mine now and I use it to cook everything from pot roast, to soups, steamed vegetables, chili and even, bone broth which has become my latest but healthy obsession! I bought my Instant Pot when we got the US, almost three years ago, and I've said numerous times that it was one of my best buys of all times!
6 - Be sure to have appropriate containers to store everything that you've prepped. Making sure that the cooked food stays safe and retains its nutrients preserved in the best way possible is key to the process. We want to save time but also have nutritious and delicious food! I have plastic containers and glass containers because I use them for different foods - soups, fruit, meals. For foods that contain some fat and for fully cooked meats I always choose glass containers. I just bought these and I'm loving them: perfect size, convenient lid with a small opening for venting and clean looking, just like I like it in my kitchen!
I also like to have at hand reusable plastic containers of the perfect size to carry fresh fruit, fresh veggies for snack, nuts and granola, hummus or dips or anything, basically, that I'll need in smaller portions but that can be washed and reused over and over again. I tried several ones but I'm currently using the ones I'm posting bellow because they have the perfect size and they are resistant which makes them last for a LONG time.
About snacks: get creative with good food! Yogurt with fresh fruit or nuts and hummus with celery sticks are great options and if you get the containers with the divider, to get the ingredients separated, it's a great option, both for kids and adults. These were the snacks from last week:
If you look closer, in my fridge picture, I love to label everything! I think it gives a more organized image and I also notice that it draws the kids to the food and leads them to choose the healthy options that are prettier than they would be if they were to be on their original package! The ones I used were bought in Portugal, when we were there during Summer break, but you can choose from a vast array of cute looking labels on Amazon, just like these ones!
The best thing to do when you're finished with the cooking is to rearrange your fridge in order to get everything organized for the week. You should be able to see every item when you open the fridge - items that stay out of sight usually get forgotten about and end up in the trash can. One of the other purposes of meal planning and meal prep is to avoid food waste so, please, be attentive of that.
After organizing the fridge, the last thing you have to do is:
When you've done all that, please, DO THIS:
Take a deep breath, open the fridge and take a minute to admire your work!
Pat yourself on the back, give a high five, do a back-flip!
Whatever you though was too hard and out of reach for you to do, is done!
See how pretty everything looks? Just the look of this fridge makes me smile and, I bet, it will make you smile too!
It feels amazing to be able to conquer the "meal prep" game and, honestly, I can't imagine my life without it, anymore!
Life gets simpler, easier and so much less stressful.
I get more time to do other things during the week, like blogging, spending more time with the kids during the week days or just taking care of daily stuff, without feeling overwhelmed by the cooking chore that used to be a stressful time of the day!
I hope this inspires you to start experimenting with meal planning and prep and I'd love to know about your personal experience! Tell me if you've ever done it, how did it go? What more could I tell you to help you further along your stress free journey?
I'll be offering a free weekly menu and corresponding grocery shopping list for my followers, on Instagram, so be sure to follow my account and, whenever you see my post about it, just click the link in my bio and you'll get all that info! I'm also planning on working on more monthly plans and, again, if you ever need some more advice just send me an email or post a comment and I'll be sure to answer to the best of my abilities!
I'll be also posting a LOT of Whole30 recipes during this next month, including the ones of the meals you can see in the pictures. I've just started this new and exciting journey and I'll love sharing it with you! All the recipes are, obviously, healthy and focused on whole foods but you can always personalize them and adjust them to your household liking. For example, on my monthly Whole30 planning and shopping list I included pasta, rice, bread and dairy products that my kids and husband will be consuming. Everything must be accounted for to assure a successful meal planning!
Now, choose a day and start your meal planning/prepping journey!
This past week I've been busy gathering recipes that i'll be coking for my first Whole30, during the month of February. I think the most dramatic change for me will be not being allowed to eat bread (my staple breakfast item!) and changing that for vegetables in the morning. Besides that I'm proud to say that, in my home, we always had a pretty good balance in our diet, with fruits, vegetables and proteins in the right amounts. The issues come to when they tell you that nothing that you eat can have sugar - at that moment you're thinking something along the lines of "I'll just cut back on the sweet treats"!
Well, it's not that simple!
Almost everything we eat nowadays has sugar in it, as long as it is a processed food. Deli meats, marinades and sauces, some spices and flavoring mixes. The purpose of the Whole30 program is to eat clean and that will be what I'll be doing for 30 days; my blog posts will have to be centered on wholesome and natural recipes which will be a good challenge that I welcome with open arms! I'm doing this to get the sugar out of my system and to try and figure out which food groups act as triggers to some issues I've been having such as migraines, inflammation and joint pain.
With that in mind I've already started changing some things in my diet so that when January 29th comes, which will be the first day of the Whole30 program, the change won't feel so dramatic. I've also started stocking up on some essentials like compliant bacon and sausage! Who can live without those, right?!
I started my Monday grocery shopping at Whole Foods. This was my third time there because, although it really is an expensive place to shop, I find that some items can only be found there. I was pleased to see that they had organic rainbow carrots and I decided, right there and then, to roast some carrots and then do something bright and nutritious with them. They had such a vibrant and beautiful color that I couldn't resist! Further down the aisle I found the perfect pairing for the carrots - organic purple kale! I had never seen such kale so I picked it up and an image of a salad bowl came to my mind and that was that, a salad bowl was going to be built that morning, in my kitchen!
I hurried to finish the rest of my shopping trip and ran over to the supermarket next door for some basic ingredients that I'm going to be needing for a seafood soup. Some shrimp, monkish, fresh and frozen fruit for my morning smoothies made up the rest of the list.
The first thing I did was to roast the carrots. I stated by washing them thoroughly, brushing them with a vegetable brush and holding them under running water. I patted them dry, cut some of the extremities and left the others and placed them on a lined baking sheet. I sprayed the carrots with olive oil and seasoned with pink salt, black pepper, garlic powder and dry thyme. Baked the carrots in a 400 F oven for about 40 minutes.
After roasting the carrots it was only a mater of getting all the other ingredients prepped and I just had to assemble the salad bowl. I love easy and quick lunches that don't take much time to prepare but are packed with flavor and nutrients!
1 - The first step is to roast the carrots, according to the instructions given previously. Let the carrots cool down for a couple of minutes and slice three of them to use in the salad. I sliced all of them and reserved in an air tight container in the fridge to use during the week with some of my other meals.
2 - Wash the purple kale and pat it dry with some paper towel. Arrange it on the bottom of the bowl as it is going to be the base for the salad bowl.
3 - Add the other ingredients alongside the borders of the bowl so everything fits nicely - half of an avocado (without the peel, of course!), the tuna, the olives, the carrots, the almonds.and the hard boiled egg cut in two halves.
4 - In a small glass container mix all the ingredients for the dressing and shake them vigorously. Pour it all over the salad so every bit of vegetable gets some of this deliciously tasty dressing!
Doesn't it feel like summer just by looking at this gorgeous salad?
I love incorporating all kinds of veggies in my salads so they don't get boring - there's nothing like a boring salad! Just keep switching the ingredients, try unexpected flavor combos and you'll find a whole new universe of options out there to make your lunchtime fun, colorful and nutritiously challenging!
After the busy holiday season I was finally able to catch up with my local business spotlight! I love getting to know all these wonderful people that are an essential part of our community and that make an effort to stand out from the competition by printing their own footsteps and making their own path.
Last Saturday I met Ms Feng and we had the most relaxing and fun chat over a cup of tea! It's funny how we can get so familiar with someone who we don't know but that as something in common with us. I know what it's like to have a business and to want to see it thrive and flourish. In Ms Feng's case it is, indeed, flourishing!
Let me tell you a bit about this captivating young lady!
Ms Feng has a Bachelor of Music Degree with Distinction in Music Education on Piano and Violin from the Eastman School of Music. She was awarded the George Eastman Merit Scholarship and the Schlenkler Merit Scholarship. Continuing her education she received her Master of Music Degree in Music Education from the Eastman School of Music which also earned her the Kanable Scholarship and the Eastman Department Assistant Award. As you can see that in itself is an extraordinary sum of academic achievements.
Besides all of the academic titles, Ms Feng has extensive experience in conducting and performing music. She was in the NJ All-state orchestra Committee for five years and was honored as one of the Governor's Award Judges for five years. Her passion for music and for teaching our youth she became the Orchestra Director of the Affettuoso Tour Ensemble for three years, performing across NJ and the Conductor of the Garden State Philharmonic Prep Orchestra. Please look up Ms Feng further accomplishments over the school's website so you can get the full scope of her professional experience.
Apart from teaching music in the public school system Ms Feng felt that something was missing from her life. With the drive and passion that are a natural part of her personality she decided to open a music school where she could teach, obviously, but that could also give her and her students a greater sense of community. Here, at the Royal Stage School of Music the purpose is to bring people together, through their community and through joint efforts to help other communities even across borders. In each performance there is always the purpose to help a different organization.
When they say music comes from the heart it really means that - music can be the vehicle to achieve greater things, either through church activities, organized donations to people in need or even just focusing on ourselves and how can we become better people with music and through music.
If you go to the school's website here you can access the log of donations and charitable work that has been done since 2015.
If you're interested in knowing a bit more about the Royal Stage School of Music let me tell you that there are several classes from which you may choose:
Both Community Orchestra and Community Band practices take place at the Fanwood Presbyterian Church.
An interesting thing to do is to take your kids to the Parents Night Out that happens once every month at the Royal Stage School of Music and see what the kids come home with! Let them tell you all about their experience and their own curiosity and ideas about music. What's better than let them tell us what they think about music and what they feel after getting to have more contact with it? During these 2 hour events the kids get to try and play some instruments to get a notion of what it feels like. It's an interesting and fun way to see if they are excited about it and if they have a favorite musical instrument! Also, they will be with other children, having fun and the parents get to relax for a while!
Also, I must not forget to mention the prestigious awards that the Royal Stage School of Music has been receiving through the past years. The School has won "Most loved music lessons", from Hulafrog 2017 and students have won competitions and performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. Both orchestras won 1st place superior and concert orchestra and received highest overall score award out of the entire competition.
I think we've covered the basis of the school, it's values and how it is structured in different levels and classes to fit everyone. Now, it is your turn to get clicking on the website here and start looking for specific information that might be helpful to you and your children, since the school teaches both adults and children.
I hope you became curious enough to look up some more information about the music school and I would love to have someone leave a comment about their experience, either personal or with their children!
I'm missing some of the dishes I used to cook back in Portugal.
There are just some foods that we tend to crave whenever we feel home sick and I think that is the case with this recipe! We have a traditional dish called "Salsichas em couve lombarda" which consists in a vegetable stew with sausage stuffed cabbage leaves - I can't find that type of sausage here in the US but I decided to make something based on that idea but somehow with a new twist and using the ingredients I had at home! There is nothing like a food pantry and fridge check to get some ideas for new recipes, right?
I decided to try out a dish that I will incorporate in my next month's Whole30 but I added the orzo this time, so the kids will eat it too. Not that they wouldn't like it without it but I'm sure they'll be happier with a pasta dish! Next month I'll just skip the orzo and make a batch of this comforting dish which can be easily pre-portioned in individual containers and frozen, if necessary.
It's also a great dish to use up some leftover roasted chicken or bacon. Other option is to make it an all vegetarian dish, skipping the meat and loading up on the veggies - add some diced zucchini, shredded kale and more colorful peppers and you'll have a rainbow veggie dish!
It turned out to be a success! A creamy and veggie filled pasta dish that was the perfect ending for a fulfilling day of work, school and a play date!
1 - Peel the onions and finely dice them. Prep the cabbage: cut it in half and chop it coarsely. Wash it and let it on a strainer to get the rest of the water out while you're cooking up the other ingredients.
2 - Cook the onion on a skillet with the olive oil. Add the chopped garlic cloves and stir. Add the minced meat with chorizo and let the meat cook until the color has changed and the mixture releases a fragrant scent.
3 - Add the pepper, previously washed and finely diced and also the mushrooms: I used canned ones because I had ran out of fresh but feel free to use whatever ones you have at hand. Add the carrot, finely grated. Let this all cook for about 5-7 minutes and check the seasoning. It shouldn't need salt, because of the chorizo, but if you're using regular minced meat you may want to add some. Season with pepper, garlic powder and add the freshly chopped parsley.
4 - Add the previously chopped cabbage and mix everything carefully because you may end up with a big mount of food in the pan! The cabbage will wither as it's getting cooked so don't worry about it. If you realize that you had too much cabbage for your meat just reserve some and use it for something else like soup.
5 - Add the orzo and the chicken broth. At this point I used chicken bone broth that I had made the previous day - it has a very rich flavor and texture and it is far better to use bone broth that regular store bought broth. Remember, if you don't have time or aren't able to make your own broth check out the Bare Bones Broth which offers the option to buy a variety pack which is perfect for a first time try! Check out my blog post on bone broth here.
6 - Check the seasoning one last time and let this all cook for about 10 minutes. Make sure to keep checking on the liquid level so you can add some more, if necessary.
7 - Serve in individual ramekins and sprinkle on some more fresh parsley.
I made sure to reserve several individual sized meals in meal prep glass containers that I use for my husband's lunches. The overall recipe was enough for 5 portions which is pretty good for the value of this meal - I used inexpensive ingredients and got out this many meals which is definitely budget and health friendly!
This is a pretty versatile dish and you can always personalize it and add your own personal touch with some other ingredients and colorful options.
Just keep it colorful and your health will appreciate it!
I'm so excited about bone broth that I'm always thinking about what I'm going to cook and if I can use it to make some more broth! I keep recommending it to other people because it really is a powerful food and, as I'm writing this blog post down, I'm feeling under the weather - cough, chest and nose congestion have been going though our family and now is my turn! I've bought some bone broth yesterday because I ran out of my home made one and I found one that has a Thai flavor and comes in a sipping cup which is great! In the evening that's going to be my pick-me-up for a boost of natural defenses and bone strengths reinforcement! If I can use something natural to help me get better I will certainly do that!
Actually bone broth is a natural multivitamin: it has over 2 dozens of essential and non-essential amino acids, it is rich in collagen and gelatin which help form connective tissue and bone bone broth also contains nutrients essential to the digestive, immunity and brain health.
Taking bone broth on a regular basis can benefit you in a lot of different ways:
So, why not try it? Bones and marrow, skin and feet, tendons and ligaments are things that you don't usually eat as they are but you can easily boil them and simmer them for a very long period of time specially if you have a slow cooker. As you can read on the recipe below, I cooked my marrow bone broth for 21 hours!
This slow cooking process allows the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine which are all powerful compounds that can help us heal from a variety of different conditions. Bone broths contain minerals in the forms that your body can easily absorb them: calcium, magnesium, phosphurus, silicon, sulphur and other. They also contain chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine compounds on a natural form...why buy pricey supplements that you don't even know where they come from if you can get the same or even more benefits from a natural source? These compounds help reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain.
All these advantages should be enough to get you curious enough to, at least, buy some bone broth and try it out, right? Nowadays we can find several brands of bone broth in supermarkets and you can choose from different natural flavors too. Once you try it you don't go back! If you feel good enough to try it at home, please do - that way you'll have your personal stock of broth and whenever you run out of it you can always buy a pack or two to make up for it!
I've been using the Bare Bones broth and I highly recommend that you start by doing it too! They have different flavors which will, allow you to try the simple flavor to sip and the flavored ones to cook. They are truly amazing and I'd love to know that some of my followers would try them out!
1 - Preheat the oven at 400 F.
2 - The first thing to do is to prep your bone barrow. Place it on a baking sheet and bake it in the oven for about 30 minutes to bring out the flavor.
3 - While the marrow is roasting prep your vegetables: peel the carrots and cut them in big chunks and do the same with the celery and the onion. Add the onion peel too, for extra flavor and color.
4 - Put the roasted bones on the Instant Pot and add the vegetables which should be already prepared.
5 - Add the fresh herbs, the peppercorns and the apple cider vinegar. Cover everything with filtered water up to the point where the vegetables are all submerged.
6 - Close the lid of the Instant Pot and set it up on the "slow cooker"mode. Program for 21 hours and let the pot do its magic!
7 - When the program comes to an end and the pressure has vented off open up the lid and take all the solids out. Use a mesh strainer to strain all the liquid and reserve on a big container. Let it sit for, at least, a couple of hours for the fat to accumulate on top, in the form of a thick film.
8 - After that time has passed remove the fat film with a spoon and collect the broth in glass jars. I kept mine in the fridge and also froze some of the jars to use later on. If you do that make sure to let the bone broth defrost overnight in the fridge so you won't have sudden temperature shocks and broken jars!
This was the most rewarding experience ever! To have such a precious broth that I was able to cook at home was amazing. I have been using it in soups and other recipes to boost our joint and bone health and have also been sipping on it, once in a while.
The other broth I tried was turkey broth. It was perfect to make the most of the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers that we had! We roasted a huge turkey just for 5 people so I had a lot of bones to work with! Also, I froze a lot of diced turkey and I've been using it to cook up some delicious meals such as chili, pot pies and soup.
This turkey was cooked by me and my mother in law, who was visiting at the time. It was super delicious and juicy and we took all the bones apart from the meat to be able to prepare the ingredients for the broth. For the turkey broth I proceeded almost in the same way as for the bone marrow broth.
The exceptions were:
Now you must remember - whenever you're roasting a chicken or a turkey or if you're having big chunks of in-bone beef (preferably grass-fed) cook up some bone broth and try it yourself. You may be surprised! It's delicious and good for you so go and have a cup! If you prefer remember you can always order the Bare Bones variety pack and give them a try!
I'm not going to start talking about "new year's resolutions" and fresh starts or other cliches that we are all fed up with and know that it's just something we say because we've just been costumed to. It has become a habit and, as most of our habits, it doesn't live long...we get to the second or third month of the year thinking that we don't have enough time, enough energy to do it but, essentially, what we lack most of the times is COMMITMENT.
It takes strength to commit to something and STAY committed for a long time, lets say...a lifetime!
As far as food goes I've always tried to eat healthy during my post-kids life and I do my best to pass on to my kids my love for food and cooking. This didn't always happen. Growing up I always ate what I wanted and it showed on the outside. I was "the chubby girl" in the classroom and with that came the body shamming and the whispers by the boys (and girls! let's not blame it all on the boys). I practiced sports until I was a teenager - I did ballet, judo, swimming and aerobics when that was a hit! But the one thing I didn't think about changing was what I was feeding my body with. I started gaining weight and cellulite showed up to the party! I started having issues with showing my body and looking to my body and I finally got to a point when, after having my son I weighted almost 220 lbs.
Wow! It's the first time I share this out loud and it feels good...I'm not ashamed, embarrassed or sad.
I realized I had to change and a few months after I birthed my son I seeked help through acupuncture to loose weight. I started the treatments which involved acupuncture sessions and diet. On the first week of the diet I though I was going to die! No, really, I was so sad and started feeling depressed because I felt hungry all the time but I knew I had to go on because I, finally, wanted to succeed. I carried on and by the second week it became easier and little by little I started changing my daily diet and it all became easier. When I finished the treatment I as happy with my weight which had come to about 147 lbs. I'm a tall girl with a strong bone structure and any less than that it shows on my face and I really don't look good at all. Besides, I think we all have to feel good to feel happy and spending life counting calories doesn't make me feel happy at all!
I changed my lifestyle in the way that I broke a relationship I had with food. I used it to console me, to give me comfort whenever I was going through something or if I simply was feeling bored. It's easy to grab that snack, it takes a strong willed power person to say NO and just grab a cup of water or warm tea and get busy!
Even though we try to eat healthy in our daily life when we really look at it we don't do that much. Everything we have in the pantry has an ingredient list that, usually, consists of dozens of ingredients most of which we can't even pronounce! That means that we are eating too much processed foods, too much sugar, too much additives. Starting to read the "Paleo Manifesto" by John Durant was a turning point for me. I don't like extreme measures and I don't know if I'll ever eat Paleo all my life but I believe in trying to eat the most naturally possible and that's what I'm going to do for me and for my family. It has been a truly rewarding journey and I've been learning a lot about several issues that I had never tough of and I have learned a lot about what modern society medicine and brands have imprinted in our mind about what we should or shouldn't eat.
With that being said I started reading about the Whole30 program in December. I thought it was pretty interesting, specially to me, because it comes out as a way to know my body in a way that I never though possible. By removing a lot of food groups I'll be able to reset my body and then start to experiment and document what changes I sense in my body. For example, I suffer from migraines everywhere from 2 to 8 times in a month and it will be extremely interesting to learn if food, or certain kinds of foods, are a trigger to that. Also, inflammation and joint health are a concern to me as is my bone health. I had spine surgery almost three years ago and once in a while I do still have back pain and that will also be interesting to observe when I start reintroducing the food groups in my diet.
As some of you know, the basis of the Whole30 is to trust whole natural foods and eliminate the following groups:
Well, that is a pretty long list of ingredients, if you go one by one! To be honest, the thing I'm going to miss the most is BREAD. I love bread and I'm used to having it in the morning - without even thinking about it I'll just grab two pieces of bread and will have it toasted with some butter on it (oh, boy! I can't have that either!).
The issue here is that I need to know how what I putting in my body is affecting me. I can't thing of this as a life-time sentence for bread or pasta or for any other food group. After the 30 days reset I'll try a weekly reintroduction of each food group and document what I feel different, how I feel and decide what I'm going to do from that week forward.
Did that make me feel any different from when I cut it back?
Did I notice a difference in my skin, in my energy levels, any mood swings?
Did I feel more/less joint pain or aches?
Were my migraines more or less frequent than when I was doing the Whole30?
I'm really interested in this and it will be like a case study. I'm going to be documenting a daily food journal on my Instagram account so anyone can make me accountable for what I'm choosing to do! If you come across my posts please give me some input - that would be deeply appreciated! I think this is the first "personal" post I share but I think having a blog is so much more than, in my case, sharing recipes and shopping trips! I love having a space where I can write my thoughts and feel like I've shared something that I need to get out! I hope that it can also inspire others to follow a healthier and happier path.
These are the basic steps I'm taking until the day when I'll start the program which will be on Janurary 29:
So far I've been feeling pretty excited and encouraged to do this. It will definitely be a test to my will power as long as food goes. I don't think it will be easy but I think I'll be successful with the support of my family and the Whole30 community.
And now, let me get back to studying all the theory behind the program and get this February month all planed out in terms of meals, snacks and shopping lists! Just to give you an example of what I'll be doing on my meal prep on a weekly basis, this was the veggies that I roasted last Sunday. They were great to build my meals throughout the weekdays - I just had to cook my protein of choice and add it to the veggies and season with some fresh herbs. It also worked perfectly for the whole family because we all love vegetables and I appreciated the downsizing of the workload during the weekdays!
I've been thinking about cooking up a breakfast bake since last year! This ended up being more of a "lunch bake" and it's loaded with delicious "Man Cave Craft Eats" jalapeno and cheddar sausage, which gives the eggs a spiciness and hot hint that turned out to be the perfect pairing for the feta cheese that I crumbled at the end.
As usual, I had a package of Clever Foodies Scramble in the fridge. I always have these packs at hand because they can make your life extremely easy - just add some veggies and protein to your scramble and you're good to go! For this recipe I used the Mediterranean flavor because the veggies I had to cook up go really well with the ones that come on the package.
I hope you like the recipe as much as we did. My husband helped me devour this and I'd gladly make anther one over the weekend!
1 - Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2 - Get all your ingredients prepped: wash and cut the peppers and the onions into slices. Trim the mushrooms, wash them and cut them in chunks and do the same thing with the mustard greens. Cut the sausage into big pieces and open up the eggs on a large bowl.
3 - Melt the butter on an skillet and add the onions and the peppers. Let the vegetables cook in a medium heat until they're soft.
4 - Add the mushrooms and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and the red pepper flakes.
5 - Cook the vegetables for about 7-10 minutes and add the mustard greens mixing everything together to get the seasonings all over the greens.
6 - Add the Mediterranean scramble, the eggs and some of the feta cheese, reserving some to add in the end, after taking the egg bake out of the oven. Add the sausage slices and transfer the skillet to the oven to bake.
7 - Let this bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until the eggs are golden and crisp around the edges. Turn the oven off and sprinkle over some chopped parsley and some more feta cheese on top of the breakfast bake and enjoy!
This recipe was enough for 3 whole meals for and my husband and also a light snack so these ingredients do go a long way.
I'm loving the Man Cave Craft Eats handcrafted meat products and can't wait for them to be sold all over the country so that everyone can get to try them out. Every item is unique and you can make so many different recipes with them that you won't be bored with the products.
Have you tried them yet?
Oh, well, here we go again - soup is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter day, is it not?
This past week we went through a rough end of week and weekend with the temperatures getting in the single digits and things were pretty cool, literally! So, I cooked up a batch of this delicious soup and decided to do a whole pot of it so I could have enough leftovers to freeze in Mason jars to keep for those days when I don't feel like cooking or just want to get something truly satisfying without being in the kitchen for a long time.
Freezing food is an option that is always on my mind when I do my meal prep over the weekend. If I have something that I can cook in a bigger batch I'll do it and that will save me money, time and sanity!
Now, for the recipe!
1 - The first thing you have to do is soak up the beans or, as I did, boil the beans in two cups of water for about 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it rest for about 1 hour. Strain the beans and run them through cold water for a while. Reserve.
2 - Prep all your veggies and be sure to get your turkey out of the freezer, if your using frozen turkey. There's no need to defrost it ahead of time because it's going to cook for a long time in the slow cooking mode which will be perfect to get the turkey more than ready! Peel the onion, the carrot, the garlic cloves and the sweet potato and dice them finely.
3 - Get the onion on the bottom on the Instant Pot and add the olive oil. Cover with the drained reserved bean mix and the chopped garlic.
4 - Add the sweet potato, the carrots and the frozen diced turkey. Season with salt, pepper and the red pepper flakes.
5 - Add some chopped parsley - about a Tbsp should be enough. Some more will be added at the final stage, when the soup is to be served, to give it a fresh herbs taste. Cover with the fire roasted tomatoes.
6 - Add the Bare Bones broth and the vegetable broth, just enough to cover all the ingredients that are already in the pot.
7 - Closed the lid and seal the Instant Pot. Turn on the "slow cooker" mode for 5 hours and set the pressure to high.
8 - When the time is up check the soup consistency and adjust the seasonings. Add a small can of pureed cannellini beans (just blend the beans without the liquid that comes in the can and use some of the soup liquid to help it blend easier), the kale and the orzo. This will thicken up the soup if you cook it for another half an hour so, which was what I did. If you like your soup more on the liquid side just skip this part.
9 - Serve the soup in big bowls and garnish with lots of fresh chopped parsley for a burst of flavor.
This really is a meal in itself because it has everything you need - you've got the veggies, the satisfying beans, the protein form the meat, the greens and the orzo. What more do you need? At the most a fresh loaf of bread would be great to have with the it!
I've been loving my winter soups and there will be more to come until the end of the moth, for sure!
Keep checking the blog's Facebook page so you know when there's a new recipe up on the blog!
Keep safe and keep warm!
As I must have said already along my blog posts I LOVE bread! It's one of my soft spots and I love having it toasted in the morning, with some good quality butter and a hit cup of coffee. Also grilled toasts are a hit around here and with so many possible ingredient combinations you can never get bored!
I decided to give bread pudding a try because, oddly enough, I have never cooked it before. Now I'm already thinking about this sweet, soft, cozy bread pudding on a snow day, like the one we're having today. here in Scotch Plains, on the day that I'm writing this blog post! We're having a snow storm today so the schools are closed and the kids are eager to bake something...I'm hping for chocolate chip cookies!
Well, after trying this out I must say thta we all loved the end reuslta and it will be something that I will be baking again, for sure! It's like dessert and breakfast in one spoonfull! I'm sue there are a lot of different recipes but I just went with what I like and add it to the mix!
As for the bread I chose Challah because I love the slightly sweet flavor and the soft, fluffy texture. It worked perfectly and I'll use it again for other desserts that include bread.
1 - Measure you ingredients and get them all on the counter to simplify the assembly process.
2 - Preheat the oven to 425 F.
3 - Slice the Challah bread and cut them in medium size cubes. Drop them on a baking dish.
4 - Get the wet ingredients mixed up: on a big cup or bowl add the milk. the cream and the eggs. Mix everything together until all the ingredients are well incorporated. Add the ground cinnamon and stir the mix again.
5 - On top of the bread lay all the other ingredients: the brown sugar, the sultanas/raisins, the cranberries and the pecan nuts, reserving some to add after pouring the liquid ingredients over the bread.
6 - Bake the bread pudding in the oven for about 35-40 minutes, making sure to check by the end to prevent burning. By this point the wet ingredients should have cooked and not be runny at all, but the pudding will still be moist enough.
7 - I covered it with some simple icing, just powder sugar mixed with a bit of water and lemon juice and it was the perfect final touch. Just a drizzle, not to be over powerful.
This turned out to be a delicious dessert and even my youngest, Miss B, which is usually not a sweet treat fan, loved it! Success accomplished! I''m already thinking about different breads I can use and different toppings to give this recipe a twist!
What about you, do you like bread pudding? What are your favorite add-ons?
Before I forget, again, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
With the rush of everyone getting back to their school and work routine I forgot about this special occasion on the previous blog post, which was the first of 2018! I hope everyone had a great Holiday season and that a lot of baking has been done! We had a great time, just the four of us - we headed to New Orleans to spend the Christmas week and we had the most amazing time ever. The kids loved it, specially because there was a Christmas Fest, involving rides and fun activities! We loved getting to know someplace different from where we live (New Jersey).
Everyone was so nice and we had a great time tasting all we could from the Creoule and southern cuisine. Well seasoned food and great quality seafood! We had to get a po'boy (of course!) and the gumbo, which are the typical dishes around NOLA. You can find them everywhere and we had them on the French Market, where we could also experience the true flavors of the South!
This BBQ po'boy was the best! The spicy seasoning, the shrimps, the bread, everything was amazing! We had these two dishes at "Liuzza's by the track" which is THE place to go for a delicious and mouthwatering meal if you are ever by the city park, in NOLA.
This gumbo was so tasty that we had to ask for another bowl my 9 year old son! Being that kids tend to be picky with "non-familiar" foods I was so glad that he liked it and that he wanted a bowl of his own...yes, because I wanted mine for myself, too! Spicy alligator sausage, shrimp, tomatoes and gold old seasonings...hoe can we not love that??
Now, back to the cake!
I was feeling like baking a cake on a cold day. Baking is such a great satisfying hobby when you have cold weather outside and everything's covered in a white blanket of snow. It just makes sense! I always liked simple cakes, like teacakes and I usually try to sneak in some fruit for a moist texture and fruity flavor.
This time I decided to use pear, both inside the cake and on the top of the cake, for extra natural sweetness. I naturally crave for sugary foods on cold weather, so I rather have my sugar cravings satisfied with fruit and honey than with something not as natural, as artificial sweeteners. I also used the Savannah Bee Company whipped cinnamon honey and it was the perfect addition to the cake: the final result was a super moist pear cake with a touch of honey and cinnamon that were the perfect flavor combo to pair with some chopped walnuts that I decided to add at the last minute!
1 - Start by getting your ingredients measured and prepared.
2 - Preheat the oven at 375 F.
3 - On a standing mixer beat the softened butter with the sugar until you get a fluffy mixture. Add the eggs, the milk and the honey and continue beating until everything is well incorporated.
4 - Add the sifted flour and the baking powder and mix the batter up just to get these ingredients well incorporated.
5 - Peel and dice one of the pears and add it to the cake batter. Add the chopped walnuts, reserving some for decoration.
6 - Spray your cake pan with nonstick spray or use butter to coat it. Drop the cake batter on the pan and use the other peeled pear and the remaining walnuts to decorate the top of the cake, as seen in the picture.
7 - Bake the cake in the oven for about 45 minutes, until the batter is cooked through and with a golden color. Time may vary according to the oven so, please, check it from 30 minutes on, so you can keep the baking level of your choice.
8 - Turn the oven off and let the cake cool down on a cooling rack, still on the pan. When the cake has cooled down a bit turn the pan upside down, onto a plate and turn the cake over again onto a serving plate.
Doesn't that cake look delicious? I think I'm going to have to bake another one soon! I bought some delicious apples and they would be perfect for this cake, too! Also, I used the cinnamon honey to whip up a honey cream topping - I heated 1 Tbsp of cinnamon honey and 1/2 cup of cream in a saucepan and let it warm up until it was bubbly and thick.
It was perfect to drizzle on the cake and it gave it an extra quick of sweetness and sticky yumminess!
I'll be baking some delicious cake again, to face off this cold winter days that we've been having.
here's nothing like a warm cup of tea with a still warm slice of cake by the fireplace to warm up the soul!