Meal Planning Monday ~ Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

             Last night’s new side dish was a complete and total failure!  I was attempting to make mashed cauliflower.  “Your family won’t know the difference between this and real mashed potatoes,” the recipe declared.  Yeah, right!  The texture was all wrong – more like sauerkraut than mashed potatoes.  The taste was okay, but hubby and I thought it would be a waste of good gravy, and made some instant mashed potatoes instead.  The failed kitchen experiment went into the trash.

            Mistakes and flops are a part of life, even in the kitchen.  Sometimes it’s the cook’s fault and sometimes the cause is a bad recipe.  I’ve resolved to try at least one new recipe per week this year.  I’m sure I will find some new favorites, but I expect that some will be mediocre and a few will be total flops. I used to take failure in the kitchen very personally, but I’ve realized there’s no point in beating myself up over it.  My new motto is: Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

            I’ve actually been trying quite a few recipes and cooking methods to go along with my recent Detox Drop and Carb Stepping process with the Diet Free Life methodology.   So I have been searching for some yummy recipes that are lower in carbs, thus the mashed cauliflower experiment.  I’ve even created a Pinterest board for those low carb recipes I want to try.  Below is my meal plan for this week.

Monday ~ Mmmm Chicken, sautéed mushrooms, and parmesan baked zucchini.  This chicken is a new recipe, and it looks easy and delicious.  Put four boneless chicken breasts in a glass baking dish.  In a small bowl, combine ½ cup of sour cream (I’ll use reduced fat sour cream) and ¼ cup of parmesan cheese.  Spread over chicken breasts in a baking dish.  Sprinkle Italian bread crumbs on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

Tuesday ~ Eggplant Rollitini with a spinach salad.

Wednesday ~ Out to dinner with a friend to one of my favorite restaurants – BoneFish!

Thursday ~ Fish tacos and refried beans.  My version of fish tacos is very easy.  Season some tilapia with Mrs. Dash’s Fiesta Lime seasoning.  Pan-fry it with some olive oil cooking spray.  Divide among tortillas, and top with mixed salad greens, shredded cheese, some salsa or hot sauce, and guacamole.

Friday ~ Portobello Mushroom Pizzas

Saturday ~ Pesto Chicken Thighs in the crock pot with garlic roasted asparagus.

Sunday ~ Lately Nick and I have been eating Mexican carry out on Sundays.  If not, I will make my “grown up grilled cheese” sandwiches and vegetable soup.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Mix It Up

We all need to shake things up occasionally to get ourselves out of a rut.  This is also true for Meal Planning!  If you keep eating the same meals over and over again, you’re going to be tempted to ditch the meal plan and order takeout.  You don’t have to try strange and exotic recipes – unless you want to – to mix things up and inject some variety into your dinners.  Here are some easy ways to do this.

  • Buy in-season fruits and veggies and devise your meal plan around them.  I love going to my local co-op and seeing what’s on sale.  I just bought four pounds of blueberries for $7 this week, so there will be blueberry pancakes, muffins, and berry smoothies on my breakfast menu.  I’ll be freezing a good portion of them for later use, too.
  • Mix up your meats.  If you typically make spaghetti with meatballs, try a different pasta dish like lasagna, chicken cacciatore, cheese ravioli, or eggplant rollitini.  The same thing goes for tacos.  If you usually make them with ground beef, try using canned chicken, pork cooked in the slow cooker, ground chicken, or even some fish tacos.
  • Mix up your cooking methods.  Usually grill your steaks and chicken breasts?  Try pan searing steak or broiling chicken this week.  Do you always cook your rice or potatoes the exact same way?  Try adding different seasonings or beans to your rice.  There are so many ways to prepare potatoes, so pick one you don’t usually do – baked, mashed, boiled, oven fried, hash browned, or fried in a skillet with onions and butter.
  • Incorporate a new side dish into a family favorite.  Instead of having mashed potatoes with your meatloaf and green beans, try some parmesan potatoes or mac and cheese.  Instead of rice and beans with your tacos, try some spicy quinoa instead.

            Be adventurous and work a few new meals, side dishes, or cooking methods into your meal plan in the next few weeks.  What are some of your tips and tricks to keep boredom from infecting your dinner time?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Cold Weather Means Comfort Food

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

I am not a fan of winter, but I am a fan of cold-weather comfort food.  Cold weather makes me want to eat chicken and dumplings with cherry cobbler for dessert.  Here are some of my favorite comfort foods.

  • Chicken and Dumplings ~ I especially love the fact that I can make these in the crock pot!
  • Chili ~ I’m a fan of chunky chili, with lots of meat, lots of beans, and lots of tomatoes.  I’ve recently started making black bean chili for my husband and it’s growing on me.
  • Cobbler ~ When I think of comfort desserts this is at the top of my list.  Blueberry and Cherry cobbler are my favorites.  Not only is it delicious, it’s easy to make!
  • Chicken Noodle Soup ~ I make some mean soup!  I’ll share my easy recipe below.
  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup ~ This is one of the times it’s completely okay to use Velveeta cheese.  I’ve tried recipes with and without Velveeta and the recipes with it always win hands down.

We still have two months of winter left, so warm up your family with some comfort food favorites tonight!


Chicken Noodle Soup

  • Shredded Rotisserie Chicken
  • Diced Carrots
  • Chopped Celery
  • 2 Cartons of Chicken Broth or Homemade chicken broth
  • Italian Seasoning


Throw all these in the crock pot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high 4 hours.  30 minutes before you serve put in a cup of egg noodles.  Remember noodles expand!  I learned that the hard way.


Debt = Financial Cancer

Debt can be as dangerous to your finances as cancer is to your body!  See why I think this is so and learn the  steps to start turning your situation around with my guest post for the Healthy Time Magazine!  (Article is found on page 14.)

Slim Down with Meal Planning


            Happy New Year!  Now that the holidays are over, many of us are making resolutions to eat healthier and lose weight.  I believe that Meal Planning is a valuable tool in that process.  Let’s look at how Meal Planning will make it easier to keep those weight loss resolutions!

  • Proper Meal Planning assures that you have all of your ingredients on hand to make those healthy recipes you’ve been collecting and vowing to try.  You are less likely to call for pizza delivery if everything for tonight’s dinner is ready to go in your fridge and pantry.
  • If you pack yourself a nutritious meal to take to work or school, you won’t be as tempted to hit the drive through on your lunch break.  It’s a good idea to make extra servings of your healthy dinners to take for lunch the next day.
  • Having some healthy snacks – such as fruit, nuts, or protein bar – in your car, briefcase, or purse will satisfy the “munchies monster” without derailing your healthy eating plan.
  • Planning meals and shopping for food when you are NOT hungry will help you lose weight.  Think about it – if you make decisions about what to eat when you are starving, you are more likely to make poor choices.

            If you need a refresher on meal planning basics, check out my e-book, “The Coupon Sisters Get Cooking: Discovering the Magic of Meal Planning.”  (Use coupon code LEAH to save 10%!)  By being prepared with healthy food on hand for your meals and snacks, you will set yourself up for success!

            I am starting a new blog with tips on eating and exercising in a way that’s totally doable (no crash diets or insane exercise plans).  I am also very excited to announce that I am an Ambassador for Diet Free Life (DFL).  What I like most about the Diet Free Life system is that it really is an anti-diet.  I learned how to eat and exercise in a way that revs up my metabolism and keeps it running on high.  I can eat all of my favorite foods; no food group is labeled as “bad.”  Now I just know how to eat food in the right quantity and in the right way so that my metabolism continues to hum along.  If you’re ready to ditch diets for good and adopt a healthy eating and exercise plan that you can live with, click here for more details.  Here’s to a healthy and happy 2013!