Health & Wellness, Time Management, Uncategorized

The UnFancy Recipes

This is the second post in my Home Cooked with Takeout Effort series and it is going to focus on what I call Un-Fancy recipes. Too often, when we look for recipes online we find something that sounds too complicated, has too many ingredients, and takes too long to make. We don’t have an hour and 10 minutes on a weeknight to juillene carrots or chop up 10 different vegetables. We don’t have the time to brown the roast on all sides in ghee before cooking it for 20 minutes per pound. Then on “good days” where we actually do make a recipe we found online, we end up with too many dishes to wash, portions that were too small, and specialty ingredients that we don’t know how to finish before they go bad. So we feel like we wasted our time and money. All this often has a detrimental effect on our confidence in the kitchen “I’ll never be able to do that” or “I definitely don’t have that kind of time” or “Its ultimately a waste overall”

Here’s the secret though: most of us who cook regularly do not make things that are listed on a foodie blog. We cook in an Un-Fancy manner. We cook in a way that doesn’t seem worthy of posting online because the ingredients and steps are so simple. We use a standard “formula” to answer the “what’s for dinner?” question and go from there. It’s all very unglamorous. But it’s also very easy to learn, to implement, and to keep doing regularly.

This is my standard formula for a meal: make one protein, one starch/grain, and one veggie. I try to make sure the veggies are double the weight of whatever protein I am making. Thats it. The table below lists out examples of what falls into each of these categories.

IMG_0329

Now that we understand the formula, how do we keep it from getting “boring”? The secret here is keeping a few staple ingredients on hand and having several go-to spice blends. A huge hang up with recipes in general is that they cal for 1/2 teaspoon of 4 different spices, 1 teaspoon of 2 additional spices, and a tablespoon of 3 different sauces. Measuring out all of that (and even having all of it on hand) is a huge PITA (pain in the @#$) and time consuming. Having staple spice blends on hand eliminates this problem, while keeping your food super flavorful and delicious (and healthy to boot!). Here’s what I keep on hand in our kitchen:

IMG_0317

In addition to the spice blends, you want to have a few staple cooking ingredients on hand. These are a way to flavor your food without a lot of hassle. Keeping this list short helps you to use everything regularly. Using these regularly also has the added benefit of helping you learn how to use them efficiently and effectively to add flavor to meals. Here is a list of our family’s staple ingredients: olive oil, avocado oil, jar of minced garlic, apple cider vinegar (ACV), basalmic vinegar, lemon juice (get a glass bottle for way less hassle and many more uses than squeezing lemons), lime juice (optional, lemon works in most cases), amminos (healthy substitute for soy sauce), and avocado oil mayonnaise.

Ok, now how do we make this all work out to be easy meals that take you less time to make than takeout or delivery? Well, if you have a convection oven at home, you’ve hit the JACKPOT of easy home cooked dinners. In a convection oven, you can cook items on every rack in the oven at the same time. I will often place whichever baked chicken thighs we are having on the top rack, a pan of veggies on the middle rack, and a pan of carrots or potatoes (for the starch) on the bottom. The whole meal takes 35 minutes to be done once its in the oven, but it takes YOU only the 5-10 minutes of prep time to be actively “cooking” in the kitchen.

If you don’t have a convection oven, never fear! You can either roast your chicken and veggies side by side on the same rack and use an “instant starch,” OR you can use a steamed/sautéed veggie option. And if all else fails, a bag of salad is a great go-to option for the veggie choice (just be careful with the dressing, since they are often loaded with excess sugar).

Here are a few pictures showing how we usually combine items from the Un-Fancy Recipes. I encourage you to try this out ONE TIME this week. Swap out ONE take out or fast food run with one of these. When you do it, let me know how it worked!

Health & Wellness, Healthy Kids, Uncategorized

My Favorite #momhacks for Breakfast

It’s no secret that breakfast can be a struggle with new moms. (Heck, its a struggle for MOST people.) In pregnancy, you may be dealing with morning sickness. When the baby is finally here, you may be so sleep deprived that you can’t remember if you ate or not. You only have one hand to make something with anyway, since the other arm is home to a new (and totally adorable) little resident. So maybe you grab something prepackaged to eat with one had (pop tarts anyone?) or maybe you get a few sips of (now cold) coffee down.

Once the baby turns into a little human, aka toddler, you’re trying to keep them from dumping out the cat food while rushing around getting yourself ready and packing their bag. Or maybe you’re making them whatever they loved yesterday, only to watch it end up on the floor because clearly they wanted the thing they hated yesterday instead. ::cue tantrum::

Although we “know” that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (because they keep saying it, right?) all of the stress in a busy morning combined with not enough sleep (there will come a day when night waking is in the past, but today is not that day) causes us to either skip it entirely or rely on whatever we can grab from the pantry (hello GoGurt and cookies) or the drive through (come to me you beautiful venti caramel macchiato). Breakfast for a new mom is often an afterthought. And by letting it stay this way, we are setting ourselves up for a day of hunger, cravings, mood swings, and the like thanks to imbalanced blood sugar.

The thing is, you don’t have to go from eating a stale doughnut from the break room at work on the regular to organic, pasture raised egg frittatas with a side of heritage pork sausage (nitrate free, of course) over night. There are plenty of small and sustainable changes you can make wherever you are along the spectrum to make breakfast a better meal for you overall. Once you’ve mastered one change (swap out that doughnut for a greek yogurt), you move on to the next step (swap the yogurt for eggs). Through step wise implementation like this, you will be able to make long and lasting changes.

Even with a minor swap, you can begin to feel the benefits of a good breakfast right away. Getting great nutrients into your body for your first meal sets up your body chemistry to either support you or fight against you for the remainder of the day. Solid nutritional breakfasts can help you control cravings all day long, prevent that 2pm slump, and even help you get to sleep better at bedtime. With that in mind, here are the top 3 things to be working towards for a great breakfast:

  • Eliminate (or greatly reduce) added sugar in breakfast
  • Choose foods that are nutrient dense
  • Make sure there is a balance of protein and fat in the meal

If you are going to be reducing sugar in any place in your life, breakfast is the place where you will get the most “bang for your buck” When you have a lot of sugar at breakfast, you start the day off pumping a ton of insulin into your body to metabolize all the sugar you just ate. This creates a chain reaction where you have blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day. This also stops you from burning any stored fat for energy and can mess with the hormones that tell you if you are hungry or full.

Here are examples of typical grab-and-go items that are often used for breakfast that have a ton of extra sugar in them: nonfat flavored yogurt, granola, granola bars, cereal with nonfat milk, instant oatmeal packets (flavored), premade meal replacement drinks (think carnation instant breakfast or slim fast), a special k bar or similar, etc.

Do not feel bad if these are your staples! But do try one or two of the healthier options on this list: full fat greek yogurt (vanilla if you need a flavor), plain full fat yogurt (better choice than flavored, add frozen berries), plain instant oatmeal (again add berries), Kind bars (the ones that are 5g of sugar or less per bar), a protein shake, a green smoothie, hard boiled eggs, and/or a piece of whole fruit.

 

Once you have swapped to the healthier items above or if you are ready to take your breakfast nutrition even further try some of my favorite #momlife breakfasts listed below. These all meet my personal breakfast criteria: they can be made in advance in a batch for the week or can be made in less than 5 minutes (including dish cleanup), they can be eaten with one hand, they are a great balance of nutritionally dense food and will keep you full, they taste amazing, and they have no added sugar.

So go ahead and try some (or one) or these for a week (or day). Pay attention to how you feel after a few days. Do you have fewer cravings? Are you full for longer? Do you have more energy? If you experiment let me know how it goes!

*to make the Paleo Protien Pancakes, we use this pancake mix and add one scoop of this protein powder. You get 10g of protien per pancake, and they are delicious! I like to make a large batch on Sundays so I can give the kids 2 cakes (no syrup) during the week for an easy breakfast for all of us.

Recipes

Veggie Heavy Pasta Salad

This recipe is absolutely perfect for the end of the week during the summertime. It’s a light, refreshing meal so it goes over great on those extra hot summer days. It’s also an amazing way to use up leftover veggies from earlier in the week. I love this recipe because it packs a good amount of veggies into it without having to cook a ton of different things.

The recipe calls for 6-8 cups of chopped veggies. You can split these up in whatever way you prefer (and use whatever you have on hand). This allows you to throw together a healthy dinner without any additional trips out for special ingredients. I like to choose several different colors for the veggies, so the salad looks as great as it tastes.

Here is a list of the various veggies we have used: artichoke hearts, asparagus, baby spinach, bell peppers (raw or grilled, any color), broccoli (blanched), carrots (blanched or cooked), celery, cucumber, egg plant, fennel, jicama, olives, onion, grape or cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini. You can use any kind of veggie that is a family favorite as well!

Ingredients

  • 1 16oz bag of pasta (we like roti best, because the dressing and spices stick well to it)
  • 6-8 cups of diced vegetables (the more variety the better!)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 TBSP of avocado oil mayonnaise
  • 3 TBSP of avocado oil
  • 1 TBSP apple cider vinegar
  • 1 TBSP of Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • salt to taste

Instructions

Chop any vegetables that need to be diced and set aside. Juice and zest the lemon. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drain using a calendar and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. (Pro tip: if you have any hard raw veggies that need to be blanched like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower you can place them in a bowl and pour the boiling pasta water over them to do the job while you are rinsing the pasta).

In a large bowl, whisk the avocado oil mayonnaise and the apple cider vinegar together. When the mixture is smooth, add in the avocado oil and lemon juice and blend thoroughly. Add the Herbs de Provence, pepper, and salt and whisk the dressing until everything is well blended.

IMG_0236

Add the shredded chicken to the bowl with the dressing and stir until the chicken is well coated. Add the pasta to the bowl and stir until the chicken is evenly distributed and the large chunks are broken up. Mix in the veggies. Add the lemon zest over the top and enjoy!

Recipes

White Bean Chicken Chili

Chili is always a favorite in our house, especially in the winter. I love it because it’s simple to make and I can hide extra veggies in it for the kids. The kids and hubby love it because it’s delicious. This is a twist on a traditional chili recipe that is mild but flavorful. It’s also relatively easy to make in a double or triple batch. If you do this, you can freeze a portion so that you’ll have an “instant” home cooked meal on a hectic weeknight down the road.

The recipe below makes a mild chili (not spicy at all). If you want more kick and flavor, you can double the amount of spices and add another can of green chilis to the pot. My husband and I prefer the recipe with the spices and chilis doubled, but the girls like the mild version better. Either way, I hope you love this one as much as we do!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 parsnips, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 15oz cans of white beans, drained and rinsed (we like one can of white kidney beans and one of great northern beans)
  • 1 4oz can of roasted green chilis*
  • 1 1/2 cups of shredded chicken
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of chicken bone broth (if you like a thicker chili, use 1 1/2 cups. You can use chicken stock if you don’t have bone broth available)
  • 3 TBSP of lime juice
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin*
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper*
  • 1/2 tsp salt*
  • 1/2 tsp paprika*

*double these ingredients if you like your chili flavor to be stronger

Instructions

Add the olive oil, garlic, spices, and chopped onion to a large pot and place over HIGH heat. Cover the pot for 1 to 2 minutes and then stir the onion and spice mixture frequently, until the onions are soft and well coated.

Add the shredded chicken to the mixture and continue to sauté with the onions until the chicken is coated with the spice mixture (about 2 minutes). Next, add the broth, the green chilis, and the parsnips to the pot. Reduce the heat to a MEDIUM level, cover and allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Finally, add the lime juice and the remaining ingredients to the pot. Stir the mixture until evenly mixed. Cover the pot until the chili is boiling, then reduce the heat to LOW. Stir the chili and scrape the bottom of the pot with the spoon to make sure no portions of the chili are stuck to the bottom. Recover the pot and allow the chili to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

That’s it! This chili can continue to simmer on the stove top on LOW heat for up to an hour, as long as you stir it occasionally.


You can serve this alone, with some shredded cheese or a dollop of sour cream, or over rice or baked potatoes. It is also great if you garnish it with a bit of chopped cilantro. How do you love to eat this?

Recipes

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

This is a favorite in our house for a couple of reasons. First, it’s really easy to make AND it’s easy to make double/triple batches of it. It freezes well so you can easily cook once and stock up on your freezer ready meals. It hides a ton of delicious veggies and our kids LOVE it (who doesn’t love a meal where kids eat broccoli without complaint?) and finally, it’s a “one pan meal” so cleanup is super easy.

I hope you enjoy this one as much as we do!

Ingredients

  • 2 C of rice (we like to use 1 1/3 C of brown rice and 2/3 C wild rice in ours)
  • 4 C of chicken stock
  • 3 C of shredded chicken
  • 2 Bags of Frozen Broccoli Floretts (about 32 oz)
  • 2-3 C of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 3 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1/2 TBSP of Fox Point Seasoning*
  • 1 TBSP of Shallot Pepper Seasoning*

*if you don’t have these, you can substitute salt, pepper and onion powder to taste


Instructions (non-freezer meal)

Preheat the oven to 350F

Add the rice and the chicken stock to a pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the moisture is absorbed and the rice is cooked. (Or, cook this in a rice cooker.)  When the rice is finished, add the olive oil and fluff the rice until it is thoroughly coated.

While the rice is cooking, chop the broccoli florets into small pieces. This can be done while the broccoli is still frozen.

In a large bowl, combine the oil coated rice, the broccoli, and the shredded chicken. Mix these together until they are evenly distributed. Add in the seasoning and stir again until it evenly coats the mixture.


Place about 1/3 of the mixture as a layer in the bottom of an oven safe dish (we like pyrex for these). Sprinkle a layer of cheese over the casserole. Repeat layering the mixture and cheese in the dish until it is used up (about 3 layers).

Bake in the oven uncovered for about 20 minutes, until warmed through and the cheese is melted.

Enjoy!


Freezer Meal Instructions

To make this into a freezer meal, follow the instructions above but layer the casserole in a freezer AND oven safe dish (we still like pyrex for this or you can use an aluminum pan). Then seal the pan and freeze until you are ready to eat.

To prepare after freezing: heat the oven to 400F. Cover the casserole tightly with foil and place in the oven. Cook for 50-60 minutes. For the last 10 minutes of cooking, remove the foil.