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In Blog, Dairy Free, Food, Vegan, Vegetarian on
October 15, 2018

Top 10 easy, healthy, toddler snacks

Do you ever get in a snack rut for healthy easy ideas to keep your kiddos well fed? I compiled a list of our top 10 easy, healthy toddler snacks. I hope you get some good ideas off of this list. Happy snacking!

Ruby Rockets Fruit and Veggie Coconut Yogurt Tubes

Yall! These are hands down my favorite healthy toddler snack. Yogurt in a tube is so quick and easy to hand to a little one but most are full of sugar and not dairy free. I came across these in the store over the summer and bought them because they are full of fruit, full of veggies, and dairy free and have no added sugar. What a win! They taste like a smoothie in a tube and sometimes I’ll even eat them too.

Ruby Rockets Fruit and Veggie Better Bars with Coconut Milk

These are such an awesome healthy treat for toddlers, actually really anyone! Your kiddo gets to eat a popsicle that tastes delicious and oh hey, it is full of fruit and veggies, and is dairy free and has no added sugar. Boom. What!? Best mom win and kid win ever. Ruby Rockets was so kind to send us a box of each of their four flavors to try. My toddler’s favorite is the strawberry and my favorite is the fudge. While eating these popsicles you would never know that they have beets, squash, and carrots in them!

Larabar

Made entirely of fruit and nuts, Larabar is a perfect healthy toddler snack. These bad boys are dairy free (even the ones with chocolate chips), gluten free, certified kosher, and chock full of goodness! My toddler specifically loves the Blueberry Muffin and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip flavors. These are filling and if your kiddo can’t handle holding the whole bar yet just chop them into little cubes and put them in a snack cup.

Popcorn

Popcorn happens to be my favorite snack, so naturally my daughter has developed a love for it as well. There are so many awesome healthy popcorn brands these days that can be found at most grocery stores. We love Boom Chicka Pop, any store brand organic pre-popped popcorn, or better yet when I have the time I pop our own at home. It is so easy- add some oil to a pot, I use coconut oil, once it is heated you add the kernels, it provides quite the fun activity to gather round and watch it pop, then add desired toppings. We like it simple with salt and pepper. I do not recommend microwave popcorn!

Rice cakes

There are so many different flavors to choose from. We like to buy plain rice cakes and spread peanut butter on top. It can make quite a mess letting a toddler walk around with a peanut butter covered rice cake though. If you are worried about the mess just give it to them plain!

Apple sauce

No explanation needed for this. Just a tried and true kiddo favorite through the years. Praise the Lord for applesauce squeeze pouches! Just make sure apple is the only ingredient for the healthiest option.

Picture by My Kids Lick the Bowl

Homemade Muffins

Homemade muffins take some time up front but once they are done you have quick go to snacks for the rest of the week. There are so many healthy muffin recipes online, our favorite is this ABC Muffin recipe which has apples, carrots, and bananas in the muffin. Littles eat these up!

Fresh or Dried fruit

My toddler loves grapes cut in half, apple slices with peanut butter, bananas, ok , she actually loves pretty much any fruit. If you don’t want the sticky hands try raisins, craisins, or any other dried fruit but make sure it is a good size for your child. My little one loves to walk around and eat this out of her snack cup.

Pretzels

This is a simple, non-messy snack! We love the plain pretzel rods and they provide a perfect crunch that my daughter loves. A great easy snack for on the go.

Chocolate cashew milk

One of my daughter’s favorite treats is a cup of chocolate cashew milk. This is the most sugary idea on the list but I included it because it has 55% less calories and 33% less sugar than lowfat dairy milk. It is delicious, filling, and sometimes mama has a glass as well. Just pour a small serving in your toddler’s sippy cup and voila!

In Blog on
October 8, 2018

You aren’t alone if you feel lonely

94% of the time I feel fulfilled, thankful, and happy- I have the kindest husband, an amazing miracle that I get to call my daughter, wonderful family and friends, hobbies, hopes, and dreams- nevertheless there is a persisting loneliness, a feeling of isolation, being different, a feeling of being left out, that I can’t seem to kick the other 6% of the time. There are factors that have caused me to feel this way such as the fact that in the past two years we have moved twice. Both moves were to places where we knew no one. New adventures, new cities, starting over- that can be exciting, I’m the kind of person who welcomes change, but it can also be so lonely. Or sometimes I feel lonely because I feel different or less than. I let these negative feelings isolate me. Often I wonder if I am the only one. Many days, especially as a work from home mom, can feel mundane, same ol’ same ol’. While I am cleaning up the kitchen or changing diapers I think that everyone else in the world must be having a grand old time- dinner parties, concerts, travels- and I am just at home. By myself, day in and day out, with my toddler while my husband works. The occasional play date, date with my husband,  mom’s night out, facetime chat, hang outs with childhood/college friends, are life savers and I am so thankful when I get to do those things. If you are sitting there too feeling like you are all alone in your feelings of loneliness, like life is a party or an exciting adventure all the time for everyone else- first, you are not silly or pathetic for having those thoughts, and second- more and more research shows that that is not the case.

In fact, I did my own tiny little “research study”( if you can even call it that) on Instagram stories. I took a 24 hour poll and asked “do you feel lonely?” I had 149 responses in 24 hours. 116 out of 149 people responded yes. That means 78% of the people who responded to my story shared that they feel lonely. I had 576 people view the story and who knows how many more would have responded yes- maybe some didn’t take the time to read the question, maybe some didn’t care, or maybe some didn’t feel the desire to be vulnerable enough to share that they too feel lonely. The latter is only a guess. Next I asked if those who feel lonely feel lonely occasionally/situationally or constantly. 151 out of 174 voted their loneliness was occasional or situational while 23 out of 174 shared it was constant.  The next question I asked was for stay at home parents or those who work from home to share if they felt lonely in this role or not. 71 out of 100 people shared yes, they feel lonely in these roles, 29 did not feel lonely in these roles. The last poll was for people who work in an office/social setting. I was surprised the most at this response- 49 out of 68 people shared they felt lonely at work whereas 19 out of 68 shared they do not feel lonely at work.

So why are we so lonely? We live on a planet with 7 billion plus other human beings? I asked people to respond to my Instastories with what triggers loneliness and many of the responses involved the following- comparing personal circumstances to others, moving, isolating illnesses such as cancer or a difficult circumstance like infertility, shame from past mistakes, having a spouse who travels or works a lot, singleness, seeing others enjoying time together without you, losing friendships, spending a large majority of time alone for work or as a parent, feeling like no one can relate, mental health struggles, and grieving through a difficult time.  I had pages and pages of responses. I was touched, saddened, and blown away by the amount of responses I got to this question. It is a very vulnerable thing to admit what causes you pain, so thank you to those who took the time to share.

Ok, the most important thing now that we have admitted that many of us experience loneliness- let’s figure out how to work through these hard feelings. First, I want to establish that there is no shame in loneliness. This is a reminder to myself as well. For whatever reason there is a stigma about being lonely, it makes us feel embarrassed to admit our loneliness. Maybe we think that sharing that we are lonely means we have no friends or less than desirable circumstances. Well, remember at the beginning of this blog I shared all the wonderful things I have going on in my life? I have some awesome circumstances yet I still have these occasional feelings of loneliness. I bet you also have some amazing things and amazing relationships in your life. Second, in these times of loneliness remember your worth- whether you believe it or not you are a beautiful creation by the almighty God who created the universe. He looks at you and smiles; after all, you were created in His image. Third, remember the things that are life-giving to you. I mean a hobby, a place you can get to easily, something you can do or look at, or somewhere you can be that brings you joy, something that breathes life into you again. Fourth, take a bold step and call someone up to hang out! Seriously, I know it sounds scary but I have a good idea that person you have in mind is lonely at times as well and maybe wishing someone would initiate a hang out. Be the brave one, call someone up and plan a coffee date, or invite them over for dinner or a play date.  Fifth, why not start up a conversation in the waiting room or if you see another person alone at a coffee shop? As people we crave connection. If you always shy away from talking to others you eliminate your potential to make new friends. Sixth, remember that you are not alone. There are 7 billion plus people on this earth and no matter what each person’s personal circumstances are each of us has emotions that lead us to feel lonely at times. Maybe you picture some celebrity living the high life or a famous instagrammer whose life looks picture perfect- I promise, their life is lonely too sometimes. Seventh, get involved with something– find a place to volunteer- this will allow you to help and meet so many new people, your church, or a church in general if you don’t go, find a group of people who share an interest of yours- a running group, an artist group, a group for moms with toddlers, etc. Branch out! The things that help me when I feel lonely are praying and giving it to God, spending time with my family, time with a friend, making a gratitude list, starting a positive and energizing conversation with someone, watching one of my favorite shows, getting outside and going on a walk, listening to a podcast, and reading.

Loneliness doesn’t have to be embarrassing. It is a human experience. Let’s talk about it. Vulnerability encourages vulnerability. If I am able to help or encourage someone by admitting something taboo about myself, than I am more than happy to do that. So today world, I tell you that I indeed feel lonely and isolated sometimes. You are not alone if you experience this from time to time as well. We cannot eliminate the feelings of loneliness altogether but we can find ways to help our aching hearts in times of loneliness.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or dread, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

In Blog on
October 1, 2018

Well Fed Weekly Meal Plan #3

IT IS OCTOBER! The best month of the year in my opinion. October means turning leaves, pumpkin everything, trading in sandals for boots, snuggles under fuzzy blankets, Halloween, and warm, comforting food! This week I am bringing to you a vegetarian (you can easily make it vegan) meal plan featuring some lovely fall flavors and comfort!

Any recipe I add in these meal plans are my own or recipes that I have found over the years and have been tried and true winners for our family. Next to the recipe I will note any changes I made and any dietary specifications. Of course, you know the size of the crowd you’re cooking for, so if you plan to follow this meal plan, look at the portions to decide if you will need to double/triple/whatever the recipe.  This meal plan includes dinner, lunch, and  breakfast. Yes, we eat a lot of leftovers, yes we eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch 7 days in a row (usually) but it saves money and time and that’s why I spend so much time looking for recipes and coming up with recipes we love. I hope you enjoy!

Hey, stop. Before you go any further, if you haven’t read how I meal plan, you might want to check it out to understand this a little better. Cool, thanks.

Picture by Pinch of Yum

Dinner 1 (M/TH): Pinch of Yum’s 15 minute lo mein

This is truly one of the quickest healthy meals I have ever cooked. We love it and it is perfect for a Monday when you are starting out the week and don’t have much time to be in the kitchen. I do not use light and dark soy sauce, just regular soy sauce and it turns out great each time. You can get creative with the veggies in this and if you need gluten free, use rice noodles.

Dinner 2 (T/F): Well Fed Familia’s Vegetarian parmesan and thyme shepherds pie

I know I am biased because I came up with this recipe BUT this has got to be one of the coziest most comforting meals I have ever eaten. My husband agrees with me on this one too. It is officially fall and temps are cooling, so why not get cozy with this delicious recipe?

Photo by Camille Styles

Dinner 3 (W/Sat): Camille Style’s Tostadas with butternut squash, black beans and avocado

What says fall more than butternut squash? ok, pumpkin does, I know… but butternut squash is super festive for fall as well. We love this recipe. The spiced, roasted butternut squash is on point and topped with all the goodies- avocado, pepitas, and a greek yogurt sauce? I use regular corn tostadas or have tossed the crunch factor all together and done this on top of quinoa. Good times, fam.

Photo by Minimalist Baker

Dinner 4 (Sun)Minimalist Baker’s Sweet Potato Chickpea Buddha Bowl 

This has been a go to meal for us for years. Spiced and roasted chickpeas, check. Spiced and roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, red onion, and kale, check. Slightly sweet, lemony, tahini sauce, check. Y’all, it really is a simple, cheap, and delicious meal. You will love it, I swear.

Photo by Cookincanuck

Lunch for husband: Cookincanuck’s Crockpot Italian Chickpeas

I doubled the recipe and made a big pot of rice which makes this meal really filling. I also add a handful of spinach and top with parmesan cheese. My husband loves this recipe and it is cheap, filling, and healthy!

Photo by Isabel Eats

Lunch for Adrienne and Evy: Isabel Eats’ Mexican Street Corn Tostadas

To make this more nutritious I add a good amount of chopped spinach onto the tostadas. I also make my own black beans and puree them with salt, pepper, cumin, and lime juice instead of using refried beans.

Breakfast for all: Old fashioned rolled oats with berries, bananas, and peanut butter every dang day because it is cheap, filling, and nutritious.

I hope this helps give you some ideas for your weekly menu. Whether you use just one of these recipes or the whole meal plan, I wish you happy cooking and eating. As always, stay well fed my friends!

In Blog, Mama, Mi Familia on
September 24, 2018

How to enjoy being a stay at home parent

If you aren’t a stay at home parent you might fantasize about how wonderful it would be to be the director of your days, to choose if you want to sit on the couch all day watching Netflix as your child plays quietly on the floor with their toys or to head off to the shops for a lovely afternoon. As a stay at home parent you know this is the opposite of the truth. Stay at home parenting is no joke- being woken up early, dressing someone, diapers, potty training, cooking, cleaning, feeding, holding, comforting, having someone demand almost every second of your time when they are awake, cleaning, breaking up fights, taking deep breaths when your child slaps you in the face, etc. you get it. Being a stay at home parent can feel incredibly mundane- day in and day out, the same. Some days it’s easy to want to roll back over in bed because you know exactly what to expect and you’re bored with stay at home parent life. Well, here are my 10 best tips for how to actually enjoy your days as a stay at home parent! As they say, the days are long but the years are short. Take advantage of this special time you get with your kids and make the most of it!

  1. Get out of the house at least once a day

This is the most helpful for me. I am the kind of person that cannot stay a whole day at home without feeling a little sad or wondering what the rest of the world is up to outside of my little home bubble. Also, keeping a little human occupied at home for a whole day is quite difficult. By the time naptime is over (if you are lucky enough to have one that naps) the kids have already played with every toy they own, read every book on the shelf, had snacks upon snacks, and now they are just whining out the wazoo. Ok. Let’s get out of the house! It could be as simple as a walk down your street, a trip to a store even if you don’t need anything, a park, the library, a friend’s house. The options are endless but getting out of the house even for an hour helps keep everyone sane!

  1. Get a hobby you can do at home

Having a hobby gives you something to look forward to when your littles are napping, or during those rare quiet moments when they are entertaining themselves. My main hobby is my Etsy shop. I make dried flower crowns and boutonnieres. It has become mindless work for me after 4 years of doing it but I genuinely enjoy sitting down to create whenever my little one is asleep. I also love cooking, blogging, working out, and reading. My hobbies help keep me sane and we all know mama needs to be sane to effectively raise a small human. Playing on your phone and watching TV should not be considered a hobby. Find a hobby that genuinely stirs your affections for life!

  1. Keep a clean house

Now,  I know everyone’s SAHP situation is different pending how many kids you have, if you have a spouse, if your spouse travels, if you homeschool, etc etc. BUT this tip goes out to all the people that are in a situation where they can handle this. Clean your house! Like actually keep it clean. Being a stay at home parent means you are likely at home a lot so why not keep it clean? I know for myself I feel yucky and more irritable when my house is dirty and unorganized. I have the time to keep things clean and organized and everyone is happier when it is kept well so that is what I do. Of course some days are busier than others and sometimes the dishes don’t get done or toys don’t get picked up, but as a rule of thumb, I do my best to keep a clean house and it is a positive thing for the whole family.

  1. Go on an adventure with your kids

You and your kid are forced to be together all day if you are a SAHP so why not make the most of it? Go on an adventure. Who cares that it is 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon, go find an orchard and pick apples, go find a beautiful trail to hike, go on a treasure hunt, or drive to the next town to have a special treat. Find an adventure and take advantage of the fact that you have the availability to go do something fun and make memories with your child whenever you want!

  1. Build friendships with people in your same season

We were not meant to do life alone! It is wonderful to have a spouse to share in the hard realities of parenting but you need to find a friend who is in the same season as you. As an adult I know it is hard to make new friends but suck it up and put yourself out there and get to know another parent who has a child that is a similar age to yours. It is so beneficial to spend time with someone who GETS it. Drink a cup of coffee while your kiddos play and share about the good, the bad, and the ugly of your days and I promise you will feel so much better knowing you are not alone.

  1. Have structure to your day

Your days will be so much easier if everyone in the house has an idea of what they can expect for the day. Wake up at a similar time each day, do certain activities at a similar time each day, get out of the house at a similar time each day, eat your meals at the same time each day, and have nap and bedtime at the same time each day. Kids thrive when they can have a good idea of what the day will look like and when your kid is thriving your day is better too. Now I am not a planner and I don’t schedule playdoh at 9 am and blocks at 9:30 am, I simply mean have some sort of structure so that everyone can have a good idea of what the day to day looks like.

  1. Take advantage of all of the free activities in your community

Did you know that there are wonderful, free activities just about anywhere? I live up in the tippy top middle of nowhere upper peninsula of Michigan and guess what!? There are still plenty of free things I can find to do with my child. Library story time, playgrounds, safety days, free nature hikes, community festivals and fairs. Sometimes it takes some researching but there is always something you can put on your calendar to take your child to.

  1. Commit to a minimum of an hour a day to play with your child

You might be thinking well that is crappy to only give your child an hour of your time each day…Well that isn’t what I mean. If you are a stay at home parent you know that most all of your time is dedicated to your child in some shape or form each day, what I mean is for at least one hour a day put your phone away, turn away any distractions, get down on the floor with them and invest in them and how they want to play. Read books, build blocks, play outside, whatever- but give your child your full attention. I know I enjoy playing with my daughter so much more when I choose to turn away any other distractions and find the joy in the moment of truly spending time with her.

  1. Playing outside is good for the soul

When your kids are whining and you feel crazy, just let everyone loose outside! Go out with them of course unless you have older kids who can keep themselves safe (or go out with the big kids too and have fun). Whether you just sit and watch your kiddo play as you take some deep breaths of fresh outdoor air or get in on the action, there is something magical about getting outside. Blow some bubbles, dig in the dirt, play in the sand, go down the slide for heaven’s sake, don’t take yourself too seriously. I know my daughter and I feel 10x better after spending even just 20 minutes outside. We are able to come back inside with fresh minds as we get on to the next thing.

  1. Playdates for the win!

Invite friends over to play! If you haven’t made good friends yet be the brave one to be the first to invite them over. The kids will hopefully entertain each other and wear each other out while you can bond with a fellow parent who is also in need of some adult conversation. Again, we are not meant to do life alone and being a stay at home parent can sure as heck be lonely. Build friendship, build community, go play at other people’s house, and be brave and invite other people to your home.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Life as a stay at home parent can be enjoyable, so make the most of it! Don’t ever undervalue the incredibly difficult job you have raising your child up to be the best person they can be. You rock!

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Lunch, Recipes, Vegetarian on
September 17, 2018

Baked Falafel Salad with Tzatziki Dressing

In junior high school I had a friend who would bring a delicious looking homemade lunch every day. I would stare longingly at her lunch as I ate my daily peanut butter and honey sandwich. My mom made a lot of homemade meals, we weren’t deprived, however I was raised in a sandwich for lunch everyday kind of family. One of the things that always caught my eye was when my friend would have pita bread with vegetables and these odd little circular patties. I remember one day I asked what they were and that is the day I learned about falafel. Now I didn’t go on to try falafel for several more years, but once I did, I knew it was something I needed in my life regularly!

Now if you are like me in my junior high days wondering what the heck is falafel, let me tell you! Falafel is a Middle Eastern staple made out of chickpeas, fresh herbs, garlic, spices, and onion. Falafel is filling, full of protein, and is absolutely delicious paired with tzatziki sauce (we will get to that later), or thrown in a pita, or on a salad. Today I am going to teach you how to prepare falafel with a salad and tzatziki dressing. Traditional falafel recipes call for uncooked chickpeas, I prefer to use cooked or canned chickpeas in my falafel because I prefer a more moist falafel.

Now about that Tzatziki dressing- first, for those who have never heard of this or maybe you’ve seen it on a menu or another recipe and you thought how in the world is tzatziki pronounced, here you go: “Tah-see-key.” Tzatziki is a tangy yogurt sauce with cucumber, lemon, and dill. It is so creamy and is typically served with Greek gyros.

My recipe today will combine a green salad with crisp veggies, my baked falafel, drizzled with my tzatziki dressing, and topped with feta. Well enough is enough, let’s get cooking!


Baked falafel salad with tzatziki dressing ingredients:

Green leaf lettuce

Cucumber slices

Grape tomatoes halved

Carrot slivers

Red onion

Falafel (recipe below)

Tzatziki dressing (recipe below)

Feta crumbles

Instructions:

Chop salad vegetables, prepare the baked falafel and tzatziki dressing. Plate everything together, drizzle with tzatziki dressing, and toss on feta if you like.


Time: 20 minutes to prepare

           30 minutes in the oven

Yield: 18 falafels

Falafel Ingredients:

3 cups cooked chickpeas or 2 cans chickpeas drained

½ C fresh parsley leaves

½ C fresh cilantro leaves

1 small yellow onion (chopped in half)

4 small cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

¼ C flour

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp paprika

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

Instructions:

1)      Preheat oven to 375 F.

2)      Combine chickpeas, parsley leaves, cilantro leaves, small yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil together. The easiest way I have found to do this is by using a magic bullet and using the largest cup option. If you do not have a magic bullet use a food processor. Everything combines easiest if you do it in 2-3 batches. If you try to stick all the ingredients in it will either not fit or it will give you a ton of trouble trying to blend it together. Just work with it, you will get everything well combined eventually. If some of the chickpeas and herbs are still a little chunky, no worries.

3)      Once you have the above ingredients combined put it in a mixing bowl and add the baking powder, flour, cumin, paprika, turmeric, salt, and pepper and stir together.

4)      Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or oil it up to prevent sticking. Scoop out 1 ½ inch balls of the falafel dough and roll into a ball, set it on the baking sheet in rows (they do not expand so they can be close together), then flatten each ball slightly with your hand.

5)      Bake in the oven for 30 minutes on 375. Check to make sure they are not getting brown.

Tzatziki Dressing Ingredients:

1 C Greek yogurt

1/4 of a cucumber

Juice of ½ of a lemon

1 tbs dried dill

2 tbs olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

1)      Combine all ingredients in magic bullet, blender, or food processor. Enjoy!

 

In Blog, Food on
September 10, 2018

How to eat well on a shoestring budget

If you couldn’t tell already, food is one of my favorite things in the world. Food connects people, food is creative and vibrant, it is comforting and exciting, and trying new foods can bring you a sense of adventure, and so on and so forth. I am a foodie through and through and one of my greatest joys in life is making sure that my little familia is well fed.

Another important thing about me is that I live on a very tight budget. My husband is working on his doctorate degree and also as a research assistant which means we are on a student income. I work part time from home which also brings in some income, but not much at the moment. So how do we eat as well as we do when we actually barely make enough money each month to cover our bases? Today I will share 8 of my best tips with you so that you too can eat well on a tiny budget!

1)      Plan out your grocery list in one week increments

Pick a day to sit down and plan out everything you are going to put into your and your family’s mouth the next week. If that sounds overwhelming to you, it might be the first and second time you do it but in the long run it will save you so much money because you took the time to plan it all out. It works best if you plan to eat the same breakfast all week long, eat the same or similar lunches each day for that week, and cook enough dinner that you can split it between two nights (less time cooking!), and plan to make or buy a few snacks everyone can munch on in between meals if necessary. You can read how I meal plan right HERE.

2)      Buy one specialty item a week

I titled this how to eat well on a shoestring budget because I want you to literally feel like you are eating an exciting variety of foods and trying new things week to week. Each week pick one special or more expensive item to incorporate into your weekly cooking/eating. For instance that could mean a fancy cheese to eat with crackers, or an organic chicken to cook for dinner that will last two nights, or perhaps you want to try an intriguing Asian dish that involves forbidden (or black) rice. These items are a little bit more of a splurge, but if you buy only one item a week like this it makes your cooking more exciting and keeps you on budget.

3)      Don’t be afraid of clearance food items or discounted produce

Just because food or produce is in the clearance or discount section that doesn’t mean it’s gone bad or it is going to make you sick. In fact stores would not knowingly mark an item down that has gone bad to sell to a customer because then they might get in legal trouble. If it’s bad, a store will toss it. I have found specialty olive oils that the store maybe just isn’t selling well marked down from $20 to $5, organic seasonal tomatoes marked down from $5 a pint to $2 because they are getting a little bit soft, and coconut milk yogurts that will have their sell by date coming up within the next couple days for 50 cents instead of $1.78 each. You can find some nice quality, normally expensive items for a great deal if you just look.

4)      Eat seasonally as much as possible

Seasonal items, most specifically produce, is cheaper because there is more of it to go around during its season, thus stores sell it for a cheaper price. For instance zucchini and squash will likely be cheaper in the summer because that is the best season for it to grow. Butternut squash and pumpkin will be cheaper in the fall because that is their growing season. Another great option is to find a local farm/orchard that has open picking hours. It is berry season right now up in the upper peninsula of Michigan and we have berry farms all around where we can go pick a pound of berries for a fourth of what they would cost in the store. It really is so fabulous!

5)      Buy staples in bulk

It is often cheaper to buy basic staples in bulk. The cost upfront will be more but over time you will save a lot of money. Many stores will have not only the price of the product but the price per ounce. For instance a 1 pound bag of rice might cost you $1.48 and a 5 pound bag will cost you $3.32 which means the 1 pound bag costs .0925 cents an ounce and the 5 pound bag costs .0415 cents an ounce. What will save you money in the long run? I buy rice, beans, nuts, honey, and dried fruit in bulk and we save money each year because of this.

6)      Look for the cheapest option and compare the ingredients to the most expensive option

Let’s say you are looking for a can of coconut milk for a recipe. You get to the store and there are four options of canned coconut milk. Is there a difference in ingredients that makes it worth it to buy the more expensive one or will the cheapest one work? Sometimes the cheaper option will include a filler or an undesirable additive, but often times the cheaper option is the exact same thing as the expensive option. Look at labels, look at ingredients, and don’t just assume the more expensive one is better.

7)      Set a budget and ACTUALLY stick to it

Sit down and analyze your income and what you can spend on your groceries each week. Pick a budget that works for you and stick to it. It is as simple as that!

8)      Try to make half of your meals plant based each week

When you eliminate the cost of dairy and meat you end up saving a lot on your grocery bill. If you are open to trying a more plant based diet try planning at least half of your meals to be meat free and dairy free. There are so many wonderful plant based recipes for every meal of the day that you can find online.  Cooking with beans, nuts, vegetables, grains, fruits, and spices is healthiest for you, the environment, and your budget!

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian on
August 30, 2018

Vegetarian Parmesan and thyme Shepherd’s pie

Happy Thursday Folks! What are your thoughts on meatless “meats?” My thought on this is that if I am going to make a meatless meal, I typically embrace the creativity of working with vegetables, legumes, tofu, and grains, etc. because we don’t miss the meat so why try to fake it with a look alike? Ok, well while that is my typical line of thought with meatless meats, I recently discovered Gardein’s Beefless Ground and it is AMAZING! It has the color and texture of beef and it is comprised of minimal and recognizable ingredients, mainly water and soy protein. We eat a lot of beans at our house and when you eat a lot of beans you typically get the toots and such (why am I sharing this with you?!) so I am excited to find a bean free option to throw in the mix from time to time!

Today I am sharing with you my tried and true Shepherd’s Pie recipe. I typically make it with lentils but this time I used Gardein’s Beefless Ground. This dish incorporates veggies that have sautéed in butter and red wine,  then the beefless ground and fresh thyme come in to add an amazing aroma, lastly it is topped off with fluffy, buttery, parmesan red potatoes. Can you just feel the joy in your heart thinking about how comforting and delicious this dish is?

I have full confidence that this Vegetarian parmesan and thyme shepherd’s pie will become one of your family’s new favorite meals. It comes together quickly in one pan and bakes for 15 minutes in the oven and then voila, dinner is served, laughs and good conversation is shared, everyone is happy and then everyone has the best sleep of their life that night. What a dream, eh?

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

3 lb bag of red potatoes

1 package Gardein Beefless Ground ($3.97 at Walmart!)

1 yellow onion

2 carrots

4 cloves garlic

4 tbs butter (can use vegan butter if desired)

1/4 cup red wine

1 tbs Worcestershire sauce

1 tbs tomato paste

1.5 cup vegetable broth

6 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen corn

1.5 cups shredded parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: 

  1. Boil the red potatoes until soft and penetrable with a fork.
  2. While potatoes are boiling add 1 tbs butter to a large skillet over medium high heat. Chop onion and carrots and add to skillet with butter, sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Chop garlic cloves and add to skillet with the veggies. Stir together for 1-2 minutes then add in red wine, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, vegetable broth, 1 sprig of fresh thyme leaves, and a dash of salt and pepper. Let this all come to a boil and then reduce down to a simmer.
  4. Add in beefless ground, peas, and corn and stir. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  5. While everything is simmering on the stove drain your potatoes. Put into a stand mixer bowl if you have one, if not just a regular bowl and fork to mash, add in 3 tbs of butter, 1 cup parmesan, 2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste and then mix together.
  6. Add the potatoes on top of the veggies in the skillet. Top with the remaining parmesan and thyme sprigs.
  7. Put in your preheated oven for 15 minutes.
  8. Let cool and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Lunch, Vegetarian on
August 27, 2018

Summer squash and lemon rosemary goat cheese empanadas

A few months ago I posted a picture of these wonderful little summer squash empanadas on my Instagram and the crowds went wild! And what I mean by that is I had a small handful of messages asking me to share the recipe. I am excited to be back in the blogosphere and delighted to be sharing this as my first recipe after a 3 month break.

So what the heck is an empanada, you might ask? An empanada is a Spanish or Latin American pastry filled with wonderful things, either savory or sweet. Today, my empanada recipe is a savory one. It is the end of summer and any good summer gardener has a garden overflowing with happy summer squash (yellow squash and zucchini) ready to be eaten. The only problem is, you have too many! What to do with all of the summer squash? Well friends, here is an idea- you make my delicious summer squash and lemon rosemary goat cheese empanadas. Wow, that is a mouth full of a recipe now. And it will be a delicious mouth full in about an hour from the time you read this to the time you have one of these lil guys in your mouth.

With empanadas you can go big or go easy. By that I mean you can make the empanada dough yourself or you can buy frozen ready to go in a nice flat disk empanada dough at your local grocery store. I have always bought Goya frozen empanada dough and never had an issue finding it in Texas because, well, Texas. But since we moved up to the tippy top of Michigan I haven’t found it. So sad! So I made my own empanada dough for the first time and it was more time consuming, sure, but it was straightforward and tasted great! I will link the recipe I used for that for any brave empanada dough making warriors.

Alright, let’s get on with the recipe now! Wonderful roasted summer vegetables along with warm goat cheese and the most pleasant rosemary and lemon flavors bursting out of a crisp baked empanada along with a side of my 5 minute hummus for dipping- let’s go!

Yield- 10 Empanadas

Time- 50 minutes

Ingredients:

1-2 zucchini depending on size (1 if its giant, 2 if they are smaller)

1-2 yellow squash (same rule applies as above)

1 yellow onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary

2 cloves minced garlic

*juice of 1 lemon OR Meyer lemon infused olive oil *see note

olive oil to lightly coat veggies

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

4-6 oz goat cheese (depending on how goat cheesy you like it)

Make my 5 minute hummus for dipping. I promise it will add SO much to these!

*note: I found a delicious Meyer Lemon infused olive oil which I used instead of adding lemon juice. You can find it HERE or you can use any lemon infused olive oil. Otherwise juice 1 lemon and lightly coat with olive oil. I have done it both ways and it always turns out great.

Instructions:

  1. If you are making the empanada dough, click here for the recipe I used.
  2. If you are using frozen empanada dough, set it out to defrost.
  3. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  4. Chop onion, zucchini, and yellow squash into small pieces.
  5. Toss onion, zucchini, and yellow squash with lemon juice, olive oil, chopped rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper and lay on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  6. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 18-20 minutes.
  7. Once vegetables are done pull out and let cool for 5 minutes. Then add in the goat cheese and mix.
  8. Now it is time to assemble the empanadas. Scoop a hearty amount of the veggie/goat cheese mixture onto the empanada disk but make sure you don’t overstuff it. It will be hard to seal if you put too much in. To seal the disk carefully fold in half and press the edges together with your fingers. Fold and twist the dough as nicely as you are able or use a fork to press and fold the edges over.
  9. Put the assembled empanadas on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and put in the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes.
  10. Let them cool for 5-10 minutes before digging in. Don’t forget to make the hummus because it adds so much to these yummy empanadas!

 

In Blog on
August 15, 2018

When it rains

Would you believe me if I told you that in one year’s time we moved from south Texas to north Texas, moved into a fixer upper, I watched my dog get attacked and killed in front of my eyes, adopted our miracle daughter, my husband dealt with a threatening boss who had zero regard whatsoever for him or our family’s wellbeing,  found out I had a giant tumor on my ovary and had surgery to remove it, was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer, by the grace of God quickly overcame ovarian cancer, found out my husband lost his job which thus resulted in him to not be able to continue his schooling, helped sell earlier said fixer upper, and then we got a crazy opportunity only the Lord could have cultivated and it moved us up to the tippy top of Northern Michigan, in the Keweenaw Peninsula, straight across from Canada. Would you believe that? I mean I don’t blame you if you don’t because I lived it and I can hardly believe it myself.

This was a year straight from H-E-double hockey sticks. And by that I truly believe it was a year that Satan tried to weasel his way straight in to our lives to screw up good things. A healthy marriage, healthy bodies, belonging to a healthy and thriving church, adding our daughter to our family, and growing new vibrant friendships and community in our new North Texas town. He saw a good thing and tried to mess it up because that’s what he does. But we trusted God, we leaned so hard on our faith because that is THE ONLY THING that can get you through a hell year. Well, faith and community- family, old friends, and new friends- our community- they came in and prayed over us, cooked for us, cleaned for us, and spoke words of life and encouragement into our aching and tired hearts.  But the other part of the honesty is that it did break us in some areas, not so much in ways that couldn’t be repaired- but it brought a lot of stress and tension into our marriage and that led to so much of our conversations being strictly business trying to work through all of the mess that this year caused. It led to me working through some super low self esteem, feelings of worthlessness, and depressive thinking. It led to me not working out for a little over 6 months. It led to having less patience in my parenting. The cancer didn’t shake my faith one bit but the job loss and uncertainty of our future caused me to feel so angry and confused with God and why he was “letting” this happen to us. It’s only fair to share that while we made it, we didn’t do it beautifully all the time.

We have been in our new home here in Michigan for a little under three weeks. I already feel like we are taking a big long breath. I have to choose if I will look at the past year with sorrow and anger or if I will use it to grow into a better person. I choose the latter. I choose to share our story of this past year because it is a testament to the fact that while it sucked and we wondered why the heck it was happening, God was there each tiny step of the way. He was there lovingly. He didn’t “let” this happen to us, He wasn’t mean and making us suffer- no, He loved us. We live in a fallen world and this is why crap happens. The Lord knew this was going to happen and he prepared beautiful community for us and the most loving family to walk beside us during this. He arranged Evy’s adoption to happen in the most perfect time before the crap hit the fan. He held our hearts and heard our cries and he sat gently with us and whispered “you’re gonna grow because of this. You’re gonna shine and make a difference in this world for me.”

I heard this quote recently that I am kind of obsessed with right now from Glennon Doyle “first the pain, then the rising.” Now it is time to take every ounce of pain I experienced this last year and feel gratitude that it helped to mold me into who I am capable of being. Now it is time to rise.

There is beauty after the storm.

 

In Blog, Dinner, Food, Recipes, Vegetarian on
May 2, 2018

Naan Pizza

I grew up with a mom who made homemade pizza- we rarely did pizza delivery from big chains- no, she made the most amazing dough from scratch, chopped tomatoes and herbs and simmered homemade tomato sauce on the stove, cut fresh veggies, and baked the pizzas to perfection. I would definitely say I have high pizza expectations because I was spoiled in this way! Homemade pizza has actually become our family’s Christmas eve tradition. My mom preps the pizzas, we leave for Christmas eve service at church, and we come home and bake them, chow down, and then watch Elf. It is one of my very favorite traditions.

Well, about a year ago I had a hankering to make homemade pizza but I don’t have a bread machine to make the dough like my mom does so I googled and googled for recipes but didn’t find one that satisfied. I have been making a homemade naan bread for years now and I had a brilliant idea to make pizza with my naan bread and boy it did not disappoint!

Pizza is fun because you get to be as creative as you want with it. So many options for sauces and toppings etc. I am going to share my naan recipe below and how I like to build my pizzas. Once you’ve made the naan you can pick and choose how to dress it all up.

Get ready to unbutton your top pant button cause you’re gonna want to eat a lot of this, folks. Enjoy some photos and scroll down for the recipe.


Ingredients: 

Naan-

1.5 C warm water

1 tbs sugar

1 packet of active dry yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp)

1 tsp salt

3 cups whole wheat flour (or regular flour)

Pizza-

A jar of your favorite tomato sauce (I love Bertolli or DeLallo)

Pesto adds a beautiful, bold flavor

Fresh chopped veggies- I love bell peppers, onion, artichoke, pepperoncini’s, tomato, spinach

Cheese- I love using fresh mozzarella, asiago, parmesan, feta, or goat cheese

a small drizzle of olive oil + dash of salt and pepper on top is amazing

Instructions:

Naan-

  1. in a bowl combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. No need to stir. Let it sit for 5 minutes and when you come back to it, it should be all foamy.
  2. add salt and flour. Mix. Once all of the ingredients are incorporated turn out onto a floured workspace. A silpat baking mat is best. Knead dough into a ball and add back into an oiled bowl which prevents the dough from sticking to the sides. Cover with a damp towel and leave to rise for 45 minutes (not necessary but helpful to be in a warm area).
  3. once 45 mins is up the dough should have risen about 2-3x it’s size. Turn it out onto your floured workspace and separate into 3 even balls. With a rolling pin roll out the 3 dough balls to a circular shape (sometimes they are misshapen and that is totally fun. It still tastes the same, I promise).
  4. Add a small amount of olive oil to a stove top skillet and heat over medium heat. Add one thing of dough and cook about 1-3 mins on each side.

***If you have a stand mixer with a bread hook use this once all ingredients are incorporated!

Pizza Assembly-

  1. add a nice layer of tomato sauce to the naan and dot with pesto if desired.
  2. add on your veggies
  3. add on your cheese
  4. add salt and pepper if desired
  5. Bake on 350 F for 15-25 mins or until cheese is melted and slightly golden/beginning to brown.
  6. ENJOY!