Meal Planning Monday ~ Slow Cooker Comfort

Hello. It’s Heather popping in from Real: The Kitchen and Beyond. The dreariness of fall has hit in full force. I hear the rain falling outside as the damp seeps in. Fall is my favorite time to pull out slow-cooker meals. With school in session and fall activities starting up, there just never seems to be enough time and the first thing to go tends to be dinner time.

Besides the questionable healthiness of swinging through the fast food drive-thru, we also have the cost factor. With a family of 5, 3 of whom are growing children, fast food definitely isn’t very frugal. Having a meal plan and making it functional for busy days and evenings, ensures I hit that drive thru less. Freezer meals and slow cooked meals save the day and budget.

I have a new healthy favorite slow-cooker meal that is easy and packed with hidden veggies. After dinner I asked my thankfully not too picky eaters if they knew there was zucchini in it. (Tip one, puree it well and nobody will know.) This recipe will make two batches, filling two goals for me. One, a great healthy slow-cooker meal, and two, a freezer meal. The best part is this meal is egg-free for those who may be allergic to most lasagna dishes.

Chicken Sausage Zucchini Lasagna Casserole

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken sausage, cooked (I make them ahead of time in the oven then fridge for meals)
  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 2 – 24 ounce cans crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups diced zucchini
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 medium sweet pepper
  • 32 ounces ricotta
  • 24 ounces mozzarella, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic/3 cloved, diced
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil

Directions

  • Boil water and cook lasagna noodles to al dente, drain.
  • Finely chop sausage in food processor or blender with a bit of tomatoes, be careful not to puree.
  • Blend rest of tomatoes, zucchini, onions, peppers, and garlic in blender or food processor then mix with sausage.
  • Mix together ricotta and seasonings.
  • Put 2 cups of meat and veggie sauce mixture in bottom of pan.
  • Fill surface with one layer of noodles, slightly overlapping them.
  • Cover noodles with about 1/2 cup ricotta mixture.
  • Add another 2 cup layer of sauce.
  • Add another layer of noodles.
  • Add another 1/2 cup of ricotta.
  • Add one more layer of noodles.
  • Dot with ricotta mixture and 1/2 cup sauce.
  • Cover with 8 ounces of mozzarella.
  • Slow-cook on low for 4-6 hours. Should be ready at 4 hours.

For freezer meal:

  • Preheat oven to 325.
  • Using a 9 x 13 aluminum pan,
  • Start with a layer of noodles.
  • Add a layer of meat sauce, then ricotta.
  • Continue layering until all ingredients are gone.
  • Cover with 16 ounces mozzarella.
  • Bake for approximately one hour, or until cheese is golden brown.
  • Let cool.
  • Wrap with several layers of plastic wrap.
  • Wrap with foil.
  • Tape reheating directions to package.
  • Freeze.
  • Pull out to thaw in refrigerator about 1 day in advance.
  • Pull plastic off, replace aluminum foil, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
  • If still frozen, add 20-30 minutes, depending how frozen it is.

 

Here are four more great slow-cooker meals that will have dinner on the table almost as soon as you get home. The best part is that if you do most of the prep work the evening before or that morning it will really make dinner quick and easy.
  1. Chicken Tacos – shredded taco meat, tortillas, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and salsa
  2. Change up your traditional Chicken Noodle with this Chicken Couscous Soup.
  3. Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
  4. Slow – Cooker French Onion Soup + Slow Cooked Brats

 

Heather writes at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond where the food is (mostly) real and the making’s easy. She believes any one can cook. Just follow the steps, starting at #1. Read, follow, taste, venture out. Don’t be afraid to fail, then try again. Her other hats are homeschooling, editing fiction, ghostwriting, and culinary marketing. Oh, and she believes life is always better with dessert.

October ~ A Month of Meals

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Do you meal plan weekly or monthly?  I’ve tried it both ways and have come to the conclusion that it’s less stressful for me to meal plan monthly, since I only have to do it 12 times a year, instead of 52!  On numerous occasions, I’ve had people ask me to share my monthly meal plan so they can get some fresh ideas for their own meal plans.

October is going to be frightfully busy for me!  I start teaching Financial Peace University tomorrow, which is a nine-week class.  I’ve also been doing more financial coaching appointments in the evening lately.  That means plenty of FFY (Fend For Yourself) days on the calendar!  I’ll be batch cooking to stock the freezer with soups, chili, BBQ, and pasta for those busy evenings.  I also plan on baking during the weekends – homemade granola bars, pumpkin bread, zucchini muffins, and plum cake!  Here’s what I’m cooking in October.

Week One

 

Monday ~ Homemade vegetable soup with grilled cheese sandwiches.  There will be plenty of leftover soup to be frozen.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Hubby will probably reheat white chicken chili for his dinner.

Wednesday ~ Breakfast for dinner: Omelets, hash browns, turkey sausage and fruit

Thursday ~ FFY – Financial Coaching.  Hubby will have to reheat a freezer meal.

Friday  ~ Spaghetti & Meat Sauce with salad.  I’ll make a double batch of the sauce and freeze the leftovers.

Saturday ~ Oven Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans.  I’ll also bake pumpkin bread sometime over the weekend.

Sunday ~ Using the leftover chicken meat from Saturday, and the chicken stock in the freezer, I’ll be making chicken soup.  Recently, I’ve been omitting the noodles and adding extra veggies, like peas, green beans, and corn.  We’ll round out the meal with crusty rolls and butter.

Week Two

 

Monday ~ Broiled or grilled chicken breasts with artichokes & tomatoes.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  I’ll put beef stew in the crock pot in the morning, so it will be ready when Nick gets home from work.

Wednesday ~ Loaded Nachos.

Thursday ~ Turkey Chili with salads.  Plenty of leftovers for the freezer!

Friday  ~ White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup with beer bread.  This is a cheap, filling, meatless meal.  Thanks to my sister, Leah, for this recipe!

Saturday ~ I’m going to try my hand at making Chicken & Asparagus with Black Bean Sauce and serve it with brown rice.  It’s a more involved recipe than most of the ones I make on a regular basis, so I’m saving it for the weekend.

Sunday ~ Turkey and gravy with mashed potatoes and a veggie.  I’ll also bake a double batch of granola bars.

 

White Bean, Kale & Carrot Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cups chopped raw kale
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans white beans, undrained
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a stock/soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onion; sauté until soft. Stir in broth, carrots, beans, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook until carrots are almost tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add kale; cover and simmer for another 15 minutes or until kale is done, stirring occasionally.

Week Three

 

Monday ~ Spinach Stuffed Chicken. My freezer is packed with frozen spinach, so I’m trying to work it into my meals this month.

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Chicken & Potatoes in the crock pot – easy and delicious!  I’ll strain the juices left in the crock pot and freeze it because it makes awesome stock for chicken soup!

Thursday ~ Out to Eat for Dinner!  A well-deserved night off for me!

Friday  ~ Meatloaf with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, and broccoli.

Saturday ~ Rosemary Lemon Chicken in the crock pot with Parmesan potatoes and a veggie.  Make 5 balls of foil from 1’ x 1’ sheets and set the chicken on top of the foil balls inside the crock pot.  This keeps the skin from getting soggy.  I rub the chicken with olive oil, sprinkle it with rosemary and stuff it with lemon wedges, and cook it breast side down.

Sunday ~ Easy Cheesy Casserole and side salads.  The leftovers from this casserole freeze really well.  I also plan on making zucchini chocolate chip muffins.

Week Four

 

Monday ~ Spicy Shrimp & Tomatoes.  This can be served over rice or pasta, or with crusty rolls to dip into the tasty juices!

Tuesday ~ FFY – Financial Peace University.  Freezer meals for everyone!

Wednesday ~ Black bean soup with tortilla chips.  Fast, vegetarian, and leftovers freeze well.

Thursday ~ BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with sweet potato fries and a veggie.

Friday  ~ Chicken and mushrooms with white wine sauce over wild rice with garlic roasted cauliflower.

Saturday ~ Salmon and Steak with twice-baked potatoes and salad.

Sunday ~ Grilled Chicken Tenderloins with Hash Brown Casserole and green beans.  I’m also going to bake my favorite cake – Cardamom Plum Cake – just because!

 

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Finger Licking Ribs

Great for the kids, tailgating parties, or just a weeknight meal.

This week’s Meal Planning Monday is by Christy Hoover of AWomanTheWorldDeserves.com.

I definitely cook for the season when planning out my meals and with the kids in the house I try to cook with them in mind as well. In the spirit of a filling weeknight meal and the wonderful season of football parties, I thought it would be fun to make some finger licking ribs.  Great for the kids, tailgating parties, or just a weeknight meal.

Now, these ribs have been cooked individually mainly due to the fact that when I cook a whole slab of ribs, my kids seem to not have mastered the importance of saving some for others. They will take half of the slab and not even think about how they have just finished off all of the meat, or that other people may be hungry.

 

Slicing Finger Licking Ribs

 

 

So to solve this problem, I have individually sliced the ribs so that they can see the portion control I have set for them. Well, I guess when it is finger licking, it is kind of hard to worry about things such as not overeating and saving some for others.

 

Sliced ribs in baking pan

Ribs are sliced and placed in baking dish.

 

 

Ribs are sliced and placed in baking dish.

Now all finger licking ribs need a good rub. Here is what I use:

  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp of granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp of Creole Seasoning (or seasoning salt)
  • 1/2 tbsp of chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp of cumin

Rub for Ribs

 

I begin to sprinkle the rub on the individually sliced ribs.

Sprinkling rub on ribs

 

Since finger licking ribs need a bit of loving, you actually have to rub it into the meat. Well, it is more of a massage method. :-)

 

Rubbing rub on ribs Ribs with rub in pan

 

The ribs are covered in foil and cooked in the oven for two hours on 350 degrees. Once they are tender, I take them out of the baking dish, drain the grease, and put the ribs in a pan on the stove with 1/2 cup of my favorite barbecue sauce and toss until all the ribs are coated. Once they are coated, I transfer for them to a serving bowl and sprinkle them with small slices of green onion. This is where the finger licking begins!

 

Ribs

 

I served these Finger Licking Robs with Pan Fried Brussel Sprouts with Bacon and Apple Cider Glazed Sweet Potatoes. Here are some other delicious and easy meals that you would love to try!!!

Marinara Meatball Sliders

Juicy Boneless Leg of Lamb with Roasted Vegetables

Easy Chicken Piccata

Best Meatloaf Recipe Ever

 

Christy Hoover is a military wife and mother of two who loves sharing her love of cooking and relationship advice with anyone who will listen. You can gather the best tips on life, building strong relationships, and making meatloaf on her website,

 A Woman the World Deserves.

 

 

 

Five Must Try Pumpkin Desserts

This week’s post is by Amy Desrosiers of Savvy Saving Couple.

Now that autumn is upon us, the air is just a bit chillier here, and I’ve been finding it hard not to be busy in the kitchen. Pumpkins aren’t just for decorating; they make a mighty delicious ingredient for baking and cooking. In my house, we love pretty much pumpkin anything!  Muffins and cookies are so versatile, but adding the secret ingredient of pumpkin to them can make them especially appealing this season. Even things like oatmeal cookies can even be jazzed up with canned pumpkin to make them one hard to resist snack!

In the mood for some seasonal baking? Check out these five must-make pumpkin desserts for this fall. I have included two gluten-free options as well since we do have an intolerant family member. Regardless of the fact that they are sans wheat, they are still equally delicious!

Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Muffins:

These easy to bake mini-muffins have a chewy, soft, yet dense texture. Rolled in warm butter, and cinnamon and sugar, they become an awesome treat!

Soft Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies:

Love traditional oatmeal raisin cookies? Kick them up a notch by adding canned pumpkin. They are soft baked, and perfect with a glass of milk.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies:

These bite sized pumpkin chocolate chip cookies may be small on size, but they are jam-packed with flavor. The almond flour provides these cookies with a soft texture and moist taste.

Gluten Free Pumpkin Chip Muffins:

Love traditional pumpkin chip muffins but want a delicious gluten free alternative? Try these super moist “bumpy” pumpkin muffins for a convenient breakfast option.

Pumpkin Ice Cream:

Want to try the ultimate fall ice cream? You must make this pumpkin ice cream recipe because it is so easy, and oh my gosh good! The velvety texture and pumpkin spice taste are enough to make you want more!

Pumpkin Ice Cream Ingredients:

  • 1 can of pumpkin-not pumpkin pie filling
  • 1 & 2/3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cups of brown sugar

In a mixer, or large bowl mix all your pumpkin ice cream ingredients until well blended. Add the mixture to your ice cream machine, and blend until you reach a soft serve consistency. This recipe serves 8 people, and would make a wonderful addition to a slice of pumpkin pie.

Regardless of which recipe you try, they are all very easy and do not require a culinary degree. I hope you enjoy the start of the fall season with some good old pumpkin comfort foods.

 

Family Feast Giveaway!

We know that feeding your family can put a strain on your budget, especially when it comes to dining out.  If you’ve got growing kids with big appetites, buffet restaurants are the way to go!  That’s why Your Strong Tower and an awesome group of bloggers are excited to team up with TableclothsFactory.com to bring you the Family Feast Giveaway!  Win one of three gift cards to family-friendly buffet restaurants, plus great items from Tablecloths Factory.  Because dining out is so expensive, hubby and I don’t do it very often.  But every time the commercial comes on for Golden Corral, he reminds me that they have chocolate fountains on the buffet!

Our first winner receives a $50 Gift Card to the Golden Corral Buffet + 90 x 132” Grandiose Rosette Rectangle Tablecloth.

 

Our second winner will score a $40 Gift Card to Old Country Buffet + 120” Round Lamour Satin Tablecloth + 108” Round 100% Cotton Tablecloth.

Our third prize winner will win a $25 Cici’s Pizza Buffet + 108” Round Pintuck Tablecloth + 117” Round Taffeta Crinkle Tablecloth.

TableclothsFactory.com has high quality table linens at wholesale prices!  They carry a vast selection of colorful linens and décor items for all of your fall festivities, including business conferences, Halloween and Harvest parties, or fall weddings.   If you need chair covers, tablecloths, runners, sashes or simply table napkins, TableClothsFactory.com has you covered with gorgeous fabrics in a rainbow of colors. And don’t forget, they also carry great party supplies such as favors, balloons, LED lights, and cake stands to fulfill all of your entertaining and decorating needs.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway runs from Wednesday September 10th to Monday, September 15, 2014. Contest is open to US residents age 18 and up. (Sorry, prizes cannot be shipped to Hawaii or Alaska.) Your Strong Tower is not responsible for prize shipment. Winners will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to respond to claim the prize, otherwise another winner will be chosen.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Veggie Spaghetti

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

As summer gives way to fall, I naturally start thinking about adding heartier dishes to my Meal Plan.  When it’s sweltering hot outside, rarely use the oven and depend on my grill, crockpot, and steamer.  So, as sad as I am about summer’s inevitable departure, I’m looking forward to giving my oven a good workout this fall and winter.  In fact, I’m baking a double-batch of yummy pumpkin bread as we speak!

Pasta is one of my all-time favorite meals, and I have quite a few variations I can choose from for my meal plan.  The only downfall of pasta is all those pesky carbs!  So, I was intrigued when I saw a review for the Super Swizz Spiral Slicer, or as I like to call it the “Veggie Pasta Maker”.

This handy little tool cuts zucchini and other veggies into thin spaghetti-like strips so you can sub them in for your carb-laden noodles.  I decided to try it and do half gluten free pasta and half veggie “noodles” with a nice hearty chicken and mushroom marinara sauce.  It was delicious!  Once you make your noodles, pour hot water over them to cover and let sit for 10 minutes.  Drain and serve like regular spaghetti!

As the weather cools down, I love making hot sandwiches with a nice cup of soup as a filling meal that chases the chill away.  I’m a big fan of the Hungry Girl website for healthy makeovers of my favorite restaurant dishes.  Nick and I both loved these Turkey & Artichoke Panini sandwiches!

I made the recipe even simpler by using the Laughing Cow cheese variety with the garlic and herbs already mixed in it. Nick’s not a fan of pepper and onions, so I used a thin slice of one of our garden fresh tomatoes instead.  Then I melted a little bit of butter and mixed in the rosemary to coat the outside of the sandwich before cooking.  Pair these sandwiches with a cup of soup for a bistro-worthy lunch or quick and easy supper!

For a great snack or as a part of your healthy breakfast, try some Blueberry Chia Pudding.  I found this great little recipe in First For Women magazine.  Take 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, 2 tablespoons of quick oats, and ½ cup of almond (or coconut milk) and combine.  Put in the fridge for ten minutes, and then mix in ¼ cup of fresh blueberries.  Chia seeds are rich in fiber and protein, which means they really fill you up!

The great thing about this recipe is that you can change up your add-ins and make it however you want.  You could add cinnamon, chopped apples, and pecans.  Or raisins, walnuts, and a dash of vanilla extract.  As the weather gets cooler, I’m going to try this as a hot cereal and heat up my almond milk on the stove before combining it with my oatmeal and chia seeds.

Nutritional Info:  Calories – 170; Carbs – 21; Fiber – 9; Protein – 5 grams

 

What are your favorite cool weather recipes?

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Back to School Lunch Remix

This week’s post is by Kim Bergeron of Extreme Coupon Professors.

We have 180 days of school, that means 180 days of packing school lunches times 5 kiddos for me. Hmmm, how fun does that sound? With that being said, I plan on posting several tips this school year along with some creative, easy recipes. Hope it will make your school year a bit easier.

Let me get you started with a video HERE where I explain how to pack the lunches for a week in about 30 minutes. I get so many great emails by the middle of the school week from many happy moms.  Here are a few out of the P&J box ideas for you to try:
-Peanut Butter and Fruit Sandwich: replace jam with fresh sliced strawberries, bananas and/or blueberries. We like to use fruit swirl bread too.
-Peanut Butter and Jelly Ritz Cracker Sandwiches
-Make your own Uncrustables
-Peanut Butter and Jelly Waffle Sandwiches: replace the bread with your favorite flavored waffles or even pancakes
-Peanut Butter, Raisin and Granola Apple Sandwich
Let’s get away from sandwiches here and there, instead pack a child’s favorite- Homemade Chicken Nuggets. My kids love finding these in their lunches and it’s an easy lunch to put together.
Recipe: Cut your chicken breasts into cubes, bread them with Shake N Bake. We used the Pretzel Shake and Bake-the kids love it. Bake according to directions.  Slice Cheese Sticks in half the long way, core out an end of the cherry tomato and fit the cheese stick on top.
Another idea is to make Lunch Kabobs: cube the cheese sticks, rotate the chicken nugget, cheese cube and cherry tomato on the skewer.  Invest in a good thermal thermos for soups. We make Chicken Soup all throughout the school year.
Here’s my quick simple recipe: Use leftover chicken or cook up a couple chicken breast or thighs. Pour a carton of chicken broth in a pot and warm on the stove. Add your cooked chicken. Add veggies. I use diced carrots and usually 1/2 cup of corn. You can add some frozen mixed veggies if you choose. Then add your fun noodles such as alphabet pasta, bow ties or wheels. Cook until pasta is done.  Make your soup as hearty as you like it.  Pack a roll, soup crackers, goldfish crackers or Cheez-its. My kids like to add goldfish to their soup.
This is a tasty lunch for kids and it’s quick and easy to put together. We call these Inside Out Sandwiches.  We used Pillsbury Bread sticks, bake according to directions. When completely cooled, spread cream cheese on one side of the bread stick. We used veggie and chive cream cheese. We then take a slice of turkey, slice in half the long way, and twist it around your stick. I use one half of deli meat on each stick. Pack in a container and pack it in the lunch box.
One of my favorite pieces of advice is make it easy on yourself. Repeat the meals a couple times during the week and rotated your lunch menus every two weeks. This makes your grocery list easy for you, too.
I’m a wife, mommy and a lover of life enjoying everything from playing board games to cooking to traveling. Finding deals for our family has allowed us to do the fun things in life with enjoyment and less stress. When I find a deal I’ll always share it on my blog, Extreme Coupon Professors. Hop on over to see all the ways to save!

Meal Planning Monday ~ Fill Up on Fiber

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Most of know we should be getting more fiber in our diets.  Fiber fills us up, helps control blood sugar, and is great for weight loss and digestion.  But many times the word “fiber” conjures up visions of tasteless fiber cereals and prune juice.  So I’ve rounded up some super-tasty recipes that help you and your family get in your daily fiber requirements.

 

Fig & Banana Protein Shake

 At the co-op last week, there was a lone package of fresh figs on the shelf.  Since I was feeling adventurous, I bought them and brought them home. Then I stared at them for a while, wondering what the heck I should do with these fresh figs.  After some searching on Pinterest, I found several interesting recipes like Figs with Honey, Ricotta, and Balsamic, Clean Eating Fig Butter, and Fig and Almond Butter Smoothies.  Since I love having a good smoothie post-workout, that sounded like something I would love.  I chopped up my fresh figs into quarters and froze most of them.  I ended up making my fig smoothie with ½ cup chopped frozen figs, 1 frozen banana, a scoop of chocolate protein powder, and a cup of Silk’s Coconut-Almond milk.  It was delicious!  Turns out that fresh figs are pretty healthy, too!  They’re high in fiber and minerals like calcium and potassium.  4 small figs provide almost 5 grams of fiber!

I found this recipe for “Scoopable Chinese Chicken Salad” on the Hungry Girl website.  It is super easy to make on busy nights when you’re short on time and don’t want to cook.  Last week, I batch-grilled several pounds of chicken breast meat, most of which I cut into chunks and froze in 1-cup servings.  I had been purchasing Tyson’s Grilled and Ready Chicken Breast Chunks, but a quick calculation showed I’d save close to half off if I went the DIY route.  I added some edamame and dry roasted peanuts to the recipe.  You could also use this as a filling for Asian lettuce wraps.    1 ½ cups of this simple, tasty salad provides 4.5 grams of filling fiber.

 

Grilled Chicken with Artichokes & Tomatoes

My husband loves artichoke and spinach dip, but I avoid turning on the oven  in the summer if I can help it.  So, I decided to figure out something tasty to make with my canned artichoke hearts without the oven.  I ended up sautéing some minced garlic in olive oil in a skillet on the stove top.  Once the garlic turned golden, I added a can of petite diced tomatoes, a can of artichoke hearts (drained and chopped), and a teaspoon of Italian herbs.  I covered the mixture and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, I had some chicken breasts that I had brushed with Italian dressing cooking out on the grill.  We put the chicken on our plates, topped it with the artichoke and tomatoes, and sprinkled it with some mozzarella cheese.  It was so tasty and filling, we didn’t even miss having a starch like rice or potatoes with it!  ½ cup of cooked artichokes provides 7 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein for only 45 calories!

 

 


 

Yes, Black Bean Brownies!  I know – “Yuck!” was my first reaction, too.  But in all honesty, they are very tasty.  The original recipe called them “Amazing Flour-less Brownies,” and that does sound more appealing.  But the fact of the matter is that this brownie recipe has a whole can of black beans in it.  I’ve been trying to limit my intake of wheat, so I’ve been scouring the internet for some good gluten free recipes.  I did make some substitutions to the original recipe.  I replaced the sugar with ¼ cup Sugar Leaf stevia/ sugar cane blend.  Instead of a cup of chocolate chips, I used ¾ cups of Enjoy Life’s Mini Chips (dairy free) and ¼ chopped walnuts.  I cut them into 9 squares, ate one, and froze the rest of them.  This way when I have a chocolate craving, I can satisfy it without crashing my blood sugar.  Because each brownie has 5 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein, they’re very filling!  (My variation, 9 servings, nutritional info: Calories: 220, Carbs: 28, Fiber: 5, Protein: 7).  My recommendation is to serve them to your friends and family without revealing the secret ingredient until they’ve raved about how good your gluten-free brownies taste!

What is your favorite way to get more filling fiber in your family’s diet?

Win One of Three $50 iTunes or Google Play Gift Cards!

Attention Gamers!  Your Strong Tower along with a great group of bloggers are super excited to bring our fans this awesome giveaway from Big Fish Games!   Three winners will receive their choice of either a $50 iTunes or a $50 Google Play gift card!  I’ve always been a fan of fantasy games – castles, elves, trolls and princesses.

Big Fish Games is the premier creator of online games for your smart phone, tablet, and computer. In Awakening Kingdoms, a newly released game for iPhone and iPad, you’re chosen by Queen Sophia to restore her kingdom back to its former glory through fun mini-games and beautiful hidden object scenes.  It’s fun for the whole family!

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This giveaway runs from Wednesday, August 13 through Monday, August 18, 2014.  Contest is open to US residents age 18 and up.  Your Strong Tower is not responsible for prize shipment.  Winners will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to claim their prize, otherwise another winner will be chosen.
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Meal Planning Monday ~ City Shake Down

Today’s post is by Bee Mandelberg of Style Island.

One of the most popular drinks or liquid meals to make in the summer is a cold, refreshing shake of some kind. Everyone has their own preference; some like a sweet concoction for a treat, while others go the more health or diet focused route. As for me, I always loved making fruit shakes. Growing up, my mom and I would go to the Union Square green market, buy all fresh fruits and veggies and then come home and try out different recipes.

Today, this industry has changed drastically and expanded leaps and bounds. Detoxes that include all kinds of veggie and fruit shakes are a dime and dozen, and there are all kinds of new things established that can turn into a drink. We blend kale, cucumbers, ginger, and become master chefs in our own kitchen, trying different blends, and seeing what tastes the best. Personally, I haven’t quite upgraded to the very expensive and ever popular Vitamix blender, but I have become a tad obsessed with trying new mixes. This summer I’ve spent many mornings like a mad scientist, putting things together from inspired Pinterest boards, and blending varied ingredients to see what different kinds of breakfast drinks I can create. While I am still mastering this, I have managed to come up with some delicious morning treats. Some only vary by a few ingredients, but it’s amazing how different they can taste, just by adding or removing one simple thing. In one week, I made a slightly different shake every day, and was surprised by just how much I could shake it up. Pun intended. Here are 5 recipes to try this week.
1. Strawberry orange semi protein shake.
1 cup orange juice. 1/4 cup frozen strawberries. 2 tbsp Greek yogurt. 1 tbsp flaxseed. pineapple chunks.
2. Banana protein shake.  Similar take on the first shake, but only with banana for a different kind of flavor. Flaxseed is optional, but good to add.
3. Strawberry banana shake. Again, a very slight variation can change the whole flavor and taste of the drink. Here, I put strawberries and banana together for a burst of fruit flavor, while taking away the Greek yogurt, which makes for a thicker shake.
4. Strawberry Protein shake. This is a more focused protein shake, because I added Protein Powder. (Not pictured). This makes for a great drink before or after a workout because it also acts as a meal. Add lemon for fat burning and detox factors and re-add the Greek yogurt for consistency and to complete the drink as meal substitute.
5. Strawberry Lemon Detox. The simplest of all the shakes, but with detox boosters and it tastes absolutely delicious! Just add fresh strawberries, half a lemon, 1 tbsp honey and lots of ice. Then enjoy!
Bee Mandelberg is a lifestyle blogger and writer at Style Island.
A New York City native, she adores rifling through her mom’s closet for vintage
clothes, pretending to be Parisian and obsessively watching horror movies. You
can find her carrying a Vogue in one hand, and a cappuccino in the
other.