Vegan Mock Chicken Soup

Vegan Mock Chicken Soup, meal planning

This vegan mock chicken soup is like a hug for your insides! About a year ago, I decided to go mostly vegetarian, mainly for health reasons. I still eat fish, organic eggs, and a small amount of dairy. For the most part, I don’t miss eating meat at all. I haven’t eaten beef or pork since high school, so giving up chicken and turkey wasn’t too much of a stretch.

However, there are some dishes I do miss. And now that the weather is turning colder, one thing I find myself craving is chicken soup, aka “Jewish Penicillin.”  Whenever I’ve got a stomach bug or a head cold, the only thing I want to eat is chicken soup. So what’s a vegetarian to do?


Massel Chicken Style Stock Cubes

Thankfully, while shopping at Fresh Thyme, I discovered Massel’s Chicken Style Stock Cubes which are vegan! These bouillon cubes give your soup broth an “I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Chicken” taste! (Massel also makes Beef-Style Cubes which are great for flavoring vegetable soup.) So, I whipped up a batch of vegan mock chicken soup and it’s delicious! Now I can have my mock chicken soup in the freezer, ready to reheat when I’m feeling under the weather.


4 Grain Rice Blend, Vegan Mock Chicken Soup

I prefer rice in my chicken soup, but you can certainly add noodles instead. The rice I used took about 20-25 minutes to cook, so if you’re using noodles, add them the final 15 minutes of cooking. My hubby does eat meat, so I heated him up some rotisserie chicken breast meat which he added to his bowl. If you’re not vegan, and do eat small amounts of dairy, I would recommend one change, which I feel enhances the flavor of the soup. Replace the oil with organic butter.


Vegan Mock Chicken Soup

  • 2 ribs of celery, sliced

  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced

  • 1 Tbs chopped onion (optional)

  • 1 Tbs cooking oil of your choice

  • 8 cups of filtered water

  • 3 Massel’s Chicken-Style Stock Cubes

  • 1/2 cup frozen peas

  • 1/2 cup frozen corn

  • 1/2 cup frozen cut green beans

  • 1/2 cup whole grain rice blend

  • 1 tsp dried parsley

  • salt & pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot. Saute celery, carrots, and onion until onions are translucent (5 to 7 minutes). You can add a little water if the veggies are sticking to the pot. Add the water, peas, corn, green beans, rice, and parsley to the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes or until the rice is done. I found that the stock cubes lent the perfect amount of saltiness to the soup, so I just added a bit of cracked pepper to my bowl. Leftovers can be frozen for 3 – 4 months.


Decadent Breakfast Smoothies

Decadent Breakfast Smoothies

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day; however, many of us are in too much of a rush to eat a proper meal in the morning. With a little preparation and meal planning, this doesn’t have to be the case! When pressed for time, we typically fall into a breakfast rut, eating the same things over and over. I like cold cereal as much as the next person, but I don’t want to eat it every day. (Once or twice a week is plenty for me.) Hitting the fast food drive-thru on the way to work may be convenient, but it can wreak havoc on our wallets and waistlines.

These decadent breakfast smoothies are great for on-the-go breakfasts, or really for any meal! Below are a few of my favorites. For protein powder, I use a vegan, organic, non-GMO brand, Vega. If you’re avoiding dairy, it’s a delicious choice. If you’re choosing a whey protein powder, be sure it is organic and non-GMO so you’re not getting unwanted chemicals or hormones in your breakfast smoothie! I use all frozen fruit in my smoothies because it creates a milkshake-like texture that I love. Use more or less liquid to create your desired thickness. Which one will you try first?


5 Decadent Breakfast Smoothies:

Banana Blackberry Dream

  • 1 banana sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 cup of blackberries
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup of almond milk (or dairy milk)
  • Blend until smooth


Beet Berry Mania

  • ½ fresh raw beet, diced
  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries or mixed berries 
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • ¼ cup of unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1 cup of water
  • Blend until smooth

Chocolate Covered Strawberry

  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries 
  • 1/2 cup of mixed berries 
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tbs of almond butter
  • 1 Tbs of cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cup of almond milk (or dairy milk)
  • Blend until smooth


The Elvis

  • 1 banana sliced and frozen
  • 4 ice cubes
  • 1-2 Tbs of peanut butter
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup of almond milk (or dairy milk)
  • 1 Tbs of cocoa powder (optional)
  • Blend until smooth


Tropical Vacation

  • 1 banana sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple
  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tbs chia seeds
  • 1 cup of coconut milk (or dairy milk)
  • Blend until smooth

Looking for more tips to help you save time, money, and stress when it comes to feeding your family?

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Meal Planning for Picky Eaters

meal planning for picky eaters

Meal planning for picky eaters can be a nightmare! How do you meal plan when the members of your family have different eating restrictions or preferences? Maybe you have kids who are picky eaters, a family member with a food allergy, or you’re the only vegetarian in your house.  This can create extra work for you, but most of the time it’s not necessary for you to cook two completely different meals.  Here are tips to ease your frustration when you’ve got family members who don’t want to eat the same thing.

4 Tips for Meal Planning for Picky Eaters:


  • Focus on the common denominator. Does everyone love pasta, tacos, or baked potatoes but not exactly the same kind?  Set up a pasta, taco, or baked potato bar!  Make several sauces or toppings on the side and let each person customize their own plate.

  • Make the “disputed” ingredient on the side. Since I eat mostly vegetarian, many times I will heat up cooked, diced chicken breast in a separate small skillet for my husband.  I will make our main dish vegetarian (Stir Fried Cashew & Broccoli, Cheese Ravioli with Artichoke Hearts, Veggie & Grain Bowls, etc.) and Nick can add in chicken.

  • If you’ve got kids who only eat 3 or 4 things, meal plan those out on your calendar alongside the adult meals.  See if you can at least correlate some side dishes.  For example, if your kids love hot dogs and mac & cheese, make the adult meal something that will pair well with the mac & cheese. Or make the grown-up version of their meal. In this instance, maybe some gourmet sausages sautéed with green peppers and onions.

  • Use freezer meals for the “odd man out.”  Sometimes there’s a meal that everyone – except one holdout – loves.  In this case, have the odd person out choose a freezer meal that they like and heat it up for them.


By using the above tips, meal planning for picky eaters doesn’t have a to be so stressful! What do you do to make mealtime with picky eaters easier for your family?


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Get more meal planning tips and family friendly recipes with my new e-book,

Mindful Meal Planning: Eat Healthy While Saving Time, Money, & Stress! 


Meal Planning for Vegetarians

meal planning for vegetarians, christine luken

Meal planning for vegetarians can be complicated for two reasons: 1.) It seems like much of meal planning revolves around the main protein dish. 2.) You may be the only vegetarian in your family of carnivores.

I admit there was an adjustment period when I made the decision to eat mostly vegetarian for my meals. My husband still eats chicken and beef so I had to make changes to the way I did my meal planning.  I thought it would be helpful to include some considerations and meal planning tips for vegetarians, in case there is one in your household.


Meal Planning for Vegetarians:

Cook large batches of quinoa, brown rice, and other grain blends once a week. I will cook a large pot of grains with a vegetarian bouillon cube and some herbs. Freeze leftovers or store in the fridge. This makes it east to throw together grain and veggie bowls or add some to a salad.

When you get home from the grocery store, spend a little time washing, cutting, and prepping your fruit and veggies. This will save you time when you want to make a quick stir fry, salad, or Buddha bowl.

Find some meatless meals that you whole family enjoys, such as Easy Black Bean Soup, Quinoa Chili, and pasta with marinara and veggies. I’ve got tons of vegetarian recipes pinned HERE.


Make the vegetarian version of whatever your family is eating. Examples from my household:


  • When I grill a beef burger or pork sausage for my husband, I’ll grill a black bean burger or vegan sausage for myself. All of side dishes will be the same.

  • I’ll make big salads and make the base of greens and veggies the same, customizing my husband’s with grilled chicken and bacon bits, and mine with garbanzo beans and extra vegetable.

  • I’ll bake potatoes and steam broccoli and other vegetables. My hubby and I can choose from a variety of toppings: diced chicken, chili, cheese, veggies, etc.

  • When I cook steak for Nick, I make myself mushrooms in wine sauce. Here is the easy recipe: Slice or quarter a package of portobello mushrooms. Combine 1/3 cup of red wine with 1 Tbs of olive oil and 1 tsp of Tuscan seasoning. Marinade mushrooms in wine sauce for 15 minutes. You can either saute them in a skillet over medium heat or thread the mushrooms on a skewer and grill them. I like the mushrooms served with wild rice so that it absorbs all of the yummy wine sauce.

Meal planning for vegetarians doesn’t have to be difficult, even if you live in a house full of “meat-atarians!”   Do you have any tips to share? If so, please post them below!

Crazy About Kale

I know that the kale craze has been in full swing for a while now, but I must admit that I’m a relatively new convert to its virtues.   For the past several months I have been eating mostly vegetarian meals.  I’ve had three people very close to me diagnosed with various forms of cancer within the last year, so I’m really trying to up my healthy eating game.  Kale is high in vitamin K and iron, and overall has a great nutritional profile, so it’s a no brainer to add it to my diet.


Kale and Mushroom Sautee

Mushroom and Kale Saute

My massage therapist, Julie shared this super-easy and delicious recipe for Mushroom and Kale Saute.  It has only four ingredients: olive oil, red onion, mushrooms, and kale.  Rinse and chop the kale, then lightly coat it with a bit of olive oil and “massage” it.  Chop the red onion and slice the mushrooms.  Heat some olive oil in a skillet.  Add the onions and mushrooms.  If you like your kale on the softer side, add it with the onions and mushrooms.  If you prefer it a bit crunchier, add it for the last 2 or 3 minutes of cook time.  I served mine over quinoa.


Sweet Potato Kale Fried Rice

Caramelized Sweet Potato and Kale Fried Wild Rice 

I found this delightful recipe on Pinterest from Iowa Girl Eats.  She classifies it as a side dish, but this is also a perfect main dish for vegetarians.  I used Minute Rice’s Multi Grain Medley, which is a staple at my house.   Since I didn’t have pepitas (pumpkin seeds), I used chopped pecans instead.  This has become one of my new favorite dinner recipes!



Cucumber, Kale, & Pineapple Juice

Two months ago, I bought a juicer and many of the recipes I found on Pinterest had kale as an ingredient.  My favorite is super easy: juice one cucumber (peel it if you are not buying organic), 1 cup of pineapple chunks, and 2 cups of kale.  Even my hubby, who usually shuns my healthy juices, likes this one.

Do you have a favorite kale recipe?  If so, leave it for me in the comments!


The Meal Time Box Giveaway ($100 Value) Easy Meals For Busy People

The Meal Time Box Giveaway ($100 Value) Easy Meals For Busy People #MealTimeBox


You know that I am a huge advocate of meal planning, but sometimes folks are too busy to cook for themselves.  That’s why I’m super excited to bring you this giveaway to receive $100 worth of meals delivered right to your front door!

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How Meal Planning Saves You Time, Money & Stress

Meal Planning Saves Time Money and Stress

I started meal planning over five years ago when I was coupon queen.  At the time my sole motivation to start planning my meals was saving money.  I wanted to make better use of the food that I was buying at a fraction of the cost with my couponing strategies. I instinctively knew meal planning would cut down on the amount of food I threw away, and my family would eat out less. 

However, I quickly realized that the benefits of meal planning went far beyond just saving money.  I was saving time in the kitchen, which meant I was less stressed out at dinner time. These days, I’m lucky if I remember to load my digital coupons to my Kroger app!  Meal planning, on the other hand, is one habit I’m sticking with because it never fails to save me time, money, and stress. 

Meal Planning Benefit #1: Save Money

The average American family throws away up to $30 of every $100 they spend on food.  It’s just like throwing dollar bills into the trash can every time we scrape off our plates or throw away leftovers!  Planning your meals in advance allows you to manage your food resources wisely so there’s less waste and more money in your pockets.

Meal Planning Benefit #2: Save Time 

Everyone has jam-packed schedules and cooking dinner can feel like another time consuming chore to check off your list.  For many of us, it seems easier to just pick up carry out or order a pizza.  However, with a small amount of time invested up front, you can ensure that you’ll have everything ready to go for a delicious, nutritious dinner in 30 minutes or less. 

Meal Planning Benefit #3: Reduce Stress

Think about it: the last thing you want to do when you get home after a long day is stress out over what to make for dinner! Wouldn’t it be great to come home to the wonderful smell of dinner in the crock pot, ready to eat?  This way, you can actually enjoy connecting with your family over a nice relaxing dinner.  The only thing you’ll have to stress over is who’s going to the dishes!

Meal Planning Bonus: Healthier Eating

As a bonus, you’ll also eat healthier when you meal plan.  Just by reducing your restaurant meals, you’ll slash your calorie intake by about 30%.  You’re also more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan if your meals are prepped and ready to go.

New to Meal Planning?  Check out my FREE Mindful Meal Planning course inside of Vigoroom!  (Find it inside of the Money Wellness Room on the home page once you’ve registered.)

Summer Meal Planning Tips (Video)

Summer Meal Planning Tips

Like me, do you dread turning on the oven to cook dinner when it’s sweltering hot outside? Sure, you can use the grill and we do use ours quite a bit during the summer.  But what if it’s raining?  Here are some meal planning tips to keep your kitchen cool this summer!


  • Pan Frying Meats or Stir Frying Veggies on the Stovetop

  • Toaster Oven – Bake a single piece of salmon, a small batch of sweet potato fries, or a few dinner rolls.

  • Crock Pot – Use it year round!

  • Veggie Steamer

  • Of course, the grill!  Try batch cooking a whole bag of frozen chicken breasts.  Dice up the extras and toss it onto salads for those nights you don’t want to cook at all.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Taco & Nacho Night

Taco Night

With Cinco de Mayo being this week, guest poster Kim Bergeron of Extreme Coupon Professors bring us some Mexican flair to add to May’s meal plan.  Here’s what she has to say:

Am I the only one who goes to a restaurant, reads the menu and says, I’m going to try making this next week?!  Well, once in awhile I do and with great success when the family loves what I bring to the table.

This week we brought our taco dinner up a couple of notches. We do have a large family, so quite often we need triple the amount. I came across taco casserole kits, which comes in handy on a busy night, but I wanted to add more to the table.

Recently, I was away in Mexico and had shrimp salsa. I had it twice a day, it was so amazing. Tonight I picked up a mild salsa seasoning packet and mixed it in a bowl with 4 chopped tomatoes and 1/4 of cup of red onion.( I can’t wait for summer garden tomatoes!) I added 1 cup of cooked medium shrimp to the mix. I sliced up an avocado and served a bowl of multi-grain scoops to go with the shrimp salsa. YUM! I was back in Mexico.

Chicken Nachos

One night I was able to meet a friend for dinner and we had chicken/feta nachos. Perfect for me to add to my taco night and it’s a huge favorite. I make the basic nacho which consists of the chicken, cheddar cheese and feta. Everyone has different likes and dislikes so I offer the black olives, peppers and onions on the side for anyone to add. It was a nice change-up and everyone enjoyed it!

As always, tweak the recipe to your liking! Use ground turkey, sliced steak tips, and/or ground chuck. Something so simple, changes the menu and you don’t feel like you’re having the same thing all the time. There is no right or wrong.

I have a couple other easy Mexican recipes that I like. One of them is from the Food Network site here!  I often like to have a side of rice and have found this recipe super easy and quick.

Recipes are endless, but I really have been enjoying looking at restaurant menus and seeing what I can put together that is easy and tasty!

Next week on our menu we’re having a Pizza Bar night! I’ll have to share that with you next time! It’s fun and everyone can have their favorite crust and toppings.

Enjoy these great Mexican favorites for Cinco de Mayo or your next Taco Tuesday dinner!

Kim Bergeron and family

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!


Beet Mania

Beet Mania

I have to be honest, as a kid, I did NOT like beets at all.  In fact I’m a very recent convert to this nutrient-packed gem of a vegetable.  According to health expert, Dr. Mercola, beets lower your blood pressure, fight inflammation, boost your stamina, contain anti-cancer properties, properties, support detoxification, and contain valuable nutrients and are a good source of fiber. 

Frozen Beet Berry Smoothie Ingredients

I’ve taken to tossing in half of chopped beet into my berry smoothie, which I have a few times a week.  I add a scoop of vitamin packed Daily Lift to my shake which almost completely masks the earthy flavor of the beets.  Here is my recipe:

  • ½ fresh raw beet, diced

  • 1 cup of frozen mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries are in my blend)

  • 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder.  I’m currently crushing on this brand: Vega Clean Protein.

  • ¼ cup of unsweetened cranberry juice

  • 1 cup of water

  • Optional: 1 packet of Berry Flavored Daily Lift

Beet Berry Smoothie

Not into smoothies?  I recently made this recipe for roasted beets with a honey balsamic glaze.  I think you’ll enjoy it too!  You can also grate a little fresh beetroot onto your salads.  And don’t waste the beet greens!  They pack more iron than spinach and can be tossed into salads, smoothies, or lightly sautéed in a little bit of olive oil and fresh minced garlic.