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?

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.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Back to Nature

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

On my journey to be as healthy as possible, I keep coming back to one thing – and that is getting back to nature!  When I go to the grocery store, I am spending a LOT more time in the All Natural/ Organic section.  It’s a bit of a challenge to eat this way and still stay within our grocery budget.  There aren’t as many sales and coupons for organic food, but there are some if you know where to find them!  In fact, I just printed coupons for Silk, Kashi, Cascadian Farms, and Food Should Taste Good on Coupons.com So this week’s post is all about how to save money while eating as close to nature as possible.

 

  • Grow some of your own fruits & veggies!  It’s actually not too late to plant some for a fall harvest.  Salad greens, herbs, summer squash, beans, peas, and more all have short growing seasons.
  • Patronize your local farmers.  Shop at your local farmers market, roadside fruit stand, orchard, or farm.  The food is likely to be tastier and cheaper because it doesn’t have to be transported across the country to the grocery store.  The bonus is that you’re supporting your local economy rather than the corporate food giants.  Also check to see if there is a food co-op close to you.  They can be a great source of organic and natural foods at affordable prices.
  • Buy in bulk when you can.  I called my local poultry farm and inquired about discounts for buying chicken and turkey in bulk.  I was able to get ground turkey for $2.00 per pound and bone-in chicken thighs for $2.25 per pound, buying 10 pounds of each.  I brought it all home and froze it in meal size portions.  Based on our consumption, I’ll stop by the farm and buy the same amount every three or four months.  It’s nice to know that the chicken and turkey is hormone-free AND I’m supporting a local family-owned business.
  • Buy the store brand organic food.  I regularly buy Kroger’s Simple Truth natural peanut butter, gluten-free multigrain crackers, among other things.  I’ve also bought Meijer’s organic line of beans, salsa, etc.
  • Make it yourself!  Yes, this does take a little time, but it is SO worth it!  You’ll save a ton on packaged foods like cookies, granola bars, ice cream, condiments, bread, etc. This past week, I’ve made zucchini bread, salad dressing, ice cream, and BBQ sauce.  I love knowing exactly what’s in my delicious food – no unpronounceable ingredients!  If you’re not doing any of this right now, start slow and work your way up.  Here’s two easy ones to try!

 

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Homemade BBQ sauce may seem ambitious, but it’s just a matter of tossing everything in a sauce pan and simmering it for an hour.  Most commercial BBQ sauces contain high fructose corn syrup, something we should all avoid!

  • 24 oz. bottle of organic ketchup
  • 24 oz. of water
  • 1/3 cup of Sweet Leaf’s Sugar Leaf (cane sugar & stevia blend) or 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ all-natural apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup of chili powder
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. onion powder

Put all ingredients in a large sauce pan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until desired thickness.  Once cooled, I recycled the washed ketchup bottle and filled it with the BBQ sauce and put in the refrigerator.  Any leftover BBQ sauce can be frozen.

 

Best Homemade Vinaigrette

This easy dressing can be made by the bottle or just for one salad!  It also makes for a great grilled chicken marinade.  You mix up the flavor by using red wine or balsamic vinegar and using different all-natural spice blends.  The possibilities are endless!

  • 1 part olive oil
  • 2 parts apple cider vinegar
  • Seasoning blend to taste

Do you have any tips to share on how to save money while eating organic/ all-natural?  If so, I’d love for you to share them here!

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Healthy Entertaining

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

When I ask people what their biggest roadblock is to eating healthy, many say it’s resisting temptation when at a party, event, or restaurant.  It’s definitely a challenge to eat healthy when someone else prepares the food and you have limited choices.  But I have been to parties at other people’s houses – people who I know are generally healthy eaters – and the buffet is full of unhealthy choices!  Do we think that entertaining has to include a smorgasbord of fat and sugar-laden treats?

Yes, it is possible to offer healthful and super-tasty choices when hosting your next event or party!  Last week, I hosted my first Ava Anderson Non Toxic party and Melissa, my nurse practitioner, was going to be in attendance.  Melissa has helped me clean up my diet quite a bit over the past couple months, so I felt challenged to apply what I’d learned and make sure the snacks I was offering to the ladies in attendance were both healthy and delicious!

My first snack was simple – a veggie tray loaded with organic baby carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers.  I chose an all-natural ranch dressing with no high fructose corn syrup or MSG (Newman’s Own is a good pick).

The ladies killed my second snack!  There were zero leftovers of the Greek Style Chips & Dip.  This one is so amazingly easy and tasty, you’ll be tempted to make it for every party and get-together you go to.

Photo Credit: www.KraftRecipes.com

 

Greek Style Chips & Dip

 

  • 1 pkg. (7 oz.) ATHENOS Original Hummus
  • 1 pkg. (4 oz.) ATHENOS Traditional Feta Cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cucumbers
  • 2 tablespoons sliced kalamata olives
  • ATHENOS Pita Chips Original

 

Spread hummus on the bottom of a glass 9-inch pie plate or similar sized dish.  In a bowl, combine the feta cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, and olives.  Spread the mixture on top of the hummus and serve with chips. I opted for the whole grain pita chips, and had a gluten free cracker option for dipping as well.  The great thing with this recipe is you can use different flavor options for the hummus if you so choose.

My final snack served for my party had to be something sweet – preferably chocolate to compliment the red wine the ladies were sipping!  I knew my “Healthy Candy” recipe would fit the bill… and I made it even healthier than usual by using dairy-free chocolate!  (Who knew there was even such a thing?)

Even Healthier Candy

 

  • 1 Package of Enjoy Life Mega Chunks
  • 1 ½ Cups of Kashi Heart to Heart Cereal
  • 1 Cup of Dried Cherries
  • ½ Cup of Walnut Pieces

 

In a medium bowl, microwave the chocolate on high for 1 minute.  Stir.  Microwave 1 more minute or until melted. (You can also do this on the stove top or in a double boiler).  Quickly stir in cereal, dried cherries, and walnuts until well coated.  Using a tablespoon, drop clusters on a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate for two hours or until chocolate hardens.  I store the candy in the refrigerator until ready to serve.  You can make this recipe gluten-free by using Rice Chex or another gluten free cereal.  And I must say, I am completely delighted and perplexed by the Enjoy Life products, the Mega Chunks especially.  How can anything be dairy, nut, soy, and gluten free and still taste so awesome?  (Bonus: Non-GMO!)  Judging by the lack of leftovers, I would say that my tasty treats were a big hit.

Still need inspiration for appetizers?  Another healthy entertainment option is homemade bean dip made with organic re-fried beans.  (1 can of beans + 1 cup of salsa.  Heat thoroughly and sprinkle with a little cheddar cheese if desired and serve with organic corn chips.)

What are your favorite dishes to serve that are both healthy and delicious when entertaining guests?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Meatless Alternatives to Backyard Burgers and Dogs

Today’s post is by Casey Lindberg-Coghill of Veggie and Glitter.

Summer is the season of baseball games, beach vacations, and of course, backyard barbecues. Even though sharing a meal with close friends and family on a warm summer evening is something that any of us would enjoy, it can be an incredibly stressful experience for those who have removed meat from their diets.

While most people wouldn’t think twice about tossing a pack of hot dogs or a few hamburgers onto the grill for a quick meal, vegetarians are often left stuffing their faces with baked beans, potato chips, or other unhealthy sides because there simply isn’t anything else available for them to eat.

Vegetarians, there’s no need to starve or stay at home during the dog days of summer. This week’s Meal-Planning Monday consists of cookout-appropriate meals that are big on nutrition and that are easy to whip up on a whim. With just a little bit of forethought, you can indulge in a savory and mouthwatering meal alongside your meat-eating friends at your next summer social gathering.

 

Sweet Potato Chickpea Burgers

Photo Credit: Jen of Peas and Crayons

If you’re anything like me, there’s no time that you despise frozen meatless patties more than during the summer months. When I first embraced a meatless diet, I would sneak a little frozen soy disc onto the grill and choke it down while my friends munched on flavorful burgers and hot dogs. I don’t mean to show disdain for frozen veggie burgers, but let’s face it: Any meal begins to taste absolutely terrible when you have it three times a week.

If I’m craving a burger or know that they will be served at a summer party, I now whip up a batch of homemade veggie burgers, which are much more satisfying than any store-bought variety I’ve ever sampled. This particular recipe is one of my favorites because of its unique blend of spices and the fact that it packs tons of protein and essential nutrients.

My meat-loving husband actually begs for these on occasion, so you may find that your non-vegetarian friends will love them as much as you do!

 Savory Corn Tart with Heirloom Tomatoes

Photo Credit: Casey of Veggies and Glitter 

One of my best summer memories involves sitting on the back steps of my childhood home with my sister, husking sweet corn gathered from my great-uncle’s farm. Not much has changed, as one of my favorite things about summer is the increased availability of fresh, local produce, especially sweet corn and tomatoes!

This delicious corn tart, topped with juicy heirloom tomatoes, contains simple ingredients and is a breeze to put together at the last minute and pop in the oven for only 45 minutes. Hearty enough to serve as a main dish for those who don’t eat meat, you could also bring it to a backyard barbecue for friends to enjoy as an accompaniment to whatever they are tossing on the grill.

Grilled Veggie Banh Mi Sandwiches

 Photo Credit: Kiersten of Oh My Veggies

I tasted my first Banh Mi sandwich when I decided to order one on a whim from a vendor at last year’s Southern Ground Music and Food Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept, a Banh Mi sandwich has Vietnamese origins and typically consists of veggies, tofu, or cold cuts soaked in a vinegar-based marinade and served on a baguette.

While I personally loved the tofu-filled concoction I devoured in Charleston, this vegetarian version is more likely to sound appealing to those who would typically load up their sandwiches with meat, making it a great recipe to share with friends who unexpectedly show up on your doorstep. Because the veggies can be prepared on an outdoor grill, it would also be incredibly easy to serve this dish up as a vegetarian-friendly alternative to burgers or hot dugs at any backyard shindig this summer.

 

Three-Bean Salad with Quinoa

Photo Credit: Whole Foods Market

 A pile of fresh fruit, a leafy salad, or a handful of chips may be enough to get you through a cookout at a friend’s house, but it will leave you feeling starved and protein-deprived by the time you leave for the evening.

The next time you’re invited to a backyard burger party, bring along this chilled salad. Because it’s filled with protein, whole grains, and delicious veggies, you can enjoy it as a main entrée, while your buddies can enjoy it as a side.

To add even more essential nutrients to the dish, try cooking your quinoa in low-sodium vegetable stock instead of water and toss in any extra veggies you may have on hand!

Grilled Veggie Pizza

Photo Credit: Marie of Proud Italian Cook

 This recipe is the ideal solution when you’re in the mood for a weekend grilling party but you’re also having a hankering for pizza. Perfect for using up veggies from the farmer’s market that you may not have used throughout the week, this fresh summer meal takes only a couple of minutes to cook on your backyard grill.

In addition to running her wellness blog Veggies and Glitter, Casey Lindberg-Coghill is a freelance writer based out of Charlotte, NC.  Aside from being  a writer, Casey is also a huge bookworm and fashion enthusiast who has rather  unhealthy obsessions with Justin Timberlake and anything pumpkin-flavored.

Meal Planning Monday ~ Get Creative with Cauliflower

Today’s post is by Bee Mandelberg of Style Island.
As I get older, eating better and planning out my meals gets more and more important to me. In the old days as a single, social woman I would rely on take-out, a busy dinner social calendar, and a rotation of tuna fish sandwiches, pasta, and soup. Now, however, what I eat and when I eat is has become not only a focus, but a priority. I food shop and eat not for one, but for two now, and I love cooking for us… most nights. But thinking of what to make, and mapping it out can sometimes prove challenging. One of those biggest challenges can be figuring out how to provide variety in your meals. Ground turkey with vegetables is delicious, and boyfriend approved, but not exactly worthy of 5 nights of dinners. But, one of the simplest ways to create that variety is by exploring different ways to cook one food. A spin on an already tried and true success that performs both change and a twist. Case in point? Cauliflower. Not only a healthy option, but a delicious one, and easy to implement into any meal, even five nights worth of them!
Cauliflower Au Gratin
  • 1 head Cauliflower
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
Roast cauliflower in oven at 400 degrees w/ olive oil, black pepper and salt for a few minutes. At same time, make sauce with all the ingredients in a pot and simmer. Pour over done cauliflower and put back in oven for 15 minutes until brown.

 

Cauliflower Potato Salad
This is my personal spin off on one of my favorite recipes from the South Beach Diet. I always have it in my rotation because it’s easy, healthy and delicious!
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 3 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt / pepper
  • paprika
Cook cauliflower until soft and put in a bowl. Mix with all the remaining ingredients and then sprinkle with paprika and lemon juice. Refrigerate for a few hours, serve cold.

Roasted Garlic Cauliflower

Cook cauliflower for  8-10 minutes until soft. On pan, cover in 2 tbsp Olive oil, 3 garlic gloves, salt, pepper, and lemon. Cook in oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until crispy.
Cauliflower & Turkey Meatballs
I bought pre-made turkey meatballs from Fresh Direct and cooked them with cauliflowers and tomato sauce for my own take on a hearty dinner.
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.

Meal Planning Monday ~ The Dairy Debacle

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

If you’ve been following my Meal Planning Monday blog for any length of time, you know how much I love cheese!  So, you can imagine my dismay when my natural health practitioner told me that I was sensitive to dairy and if I wanted to see real improvement in my allergy symptoms, I need to cut way back on milk products.  (My biggest allergy is mold… and cheese is essentially moldy milk, so this definitely stands to reason.)

I was glad that my health practitioner recommended a gradual replacement of my dairy products with alternatives rather than going cold-turkey.  She had me keep a food diary so we could pinpoint potential problems.  The first week of keeping the food dairy was an eye-opening experience!  I didn’t realize how much dairy I was eating every day: half & half in my coffee, whey protein in my post-workout smoothie, a slice of cheese on my breakfast sandwich, string cheese for a snack, cheese on my taco salad for lunch, cheese on my turkey burger for dinner, and Greek yogurt for my evening snack.  Yes, that is a LOT of dairy on a typical day for me.  So, one by one, I’ve started replacing all of that mucus-producing dairy with other options.

 My coffee is extremely important to me and I like it to taste good!  I normally sweeten it with a little stevia or coconut sugar, add a dash of cinnamon or cocoa powder, and some half-and-half.  I began replace ½ of the half-and-half with vanilla coconut milk until I worked up to all coconut milk.  I also liked the chocolate almond milk as a coffee creamer, but my husband drank most of it because it is that delicious.

Finding a replacement for my protein powder was a little more challenging.  I’m doing Shaun T’s Insanity program right now, and I feel better post-workout if I have a good protein shake.  My stomach is sensitive to artificial sweeteners, so I had to find one that was whey-free and sweetened with stevia.  I finally settled on PlantFusion which is actually a vegan protein powder.  It is slightly grainy, but blended with a frozen banana and berries, it’s very tasty.

I’ll admit, I had a lot of heartache over finding a replacement for my favorite evening snack – Greek yogurt.  It took me a while to warm up to coconut “yogurt” (cultured coconut milk).  I also realized that I don’t HAVE to have yogurt as my final snack of the day.  I could have some berries, nuts, or a little bit of Enjoy Life’s dairy-free dark chocolate chunks.  Or… some of this awesome Cookies ‘n Cream coconut “ice cream”!

Here are some other things I’ve learned during this process of culling out dairy from my diet:

  • I’m not alone in my quest to avoid dairy.  As I’ve talked to friends about it, I was surprised how many others were avoiding  it because of allergies, stomach issues, or a desire to avoid added hormones.
  • Butter doesn’t affect my allergies at all!  Yay for butter!!  The one dairy product I can eat with almost abandon!  (Grass-fed, organic butter is best – which thankfully I can buy that at my co-op).
  • By putting turkey bacon on my egg sandwich – instead of on the side – I don’t miss having the cheese.  Also, using hummus or pesto as a spread on my sandwiches serves as a good replacement for cheese.
  • I feel weird about asking the waiter to “hold the cheese” when ordering in restaurants.
  • I wonder, “Is it possible to OD on coconut products?”  I hope not!

Do you have any food allergies?  If so, what do you do to avoid your triggers?

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ 4th of July

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Summer is my favorite season, and 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays!  What better way to celebrate America’s birthday than with exploding fireworks and great food!  This year my husband and I carry on the tradition of celebrating the 4th of July with our good friends.  Their fireworks show rivals the professional ones put on by the local cities.  So while the guys are bonding over the impending pyrotechnics display, the ladies are in the kitchen “oohing and aahing” over the delicious dishes lining the dinner buffet.  This year, I’m bringing a twist on traditional potato salad, Southwestern Potato Salad.

Whether you are hosting the 4th of July festivities this year, or bringing a dish to someone else’s party, my blogger friends and I have banded together to give you some patriotic dessert inspiration.  No doubt, your friends and family will be “oohing and aahing” over your contribution to America’s birthday celebration!  There’s also a patriotic jewelry craft tutorial for those of you want to add and a red-white-and-blue touch to your outfit.

Strawberry Kool-Aid Pie

 Check out this easy and patriotic pie from Cyndie Norell at Reviewz & Newz! Who wouldn’t love a slice of this great-tasting pie?

 

Patriotic Strawberries

 If you’re short on time, but still want to wow everyone with your 4th of July dessert contribution, whip up a batch of Amy Desrosiers’ Patriotic Strawberries!  With berries being in peak season right now, these are sure to be delicious.

 

Patriotic Star Chocolate Cupcakes

 Another great dessert recipe from Amy Desrosiers’ other website, SizzlingEats.com!  Kids and adults alike will love these All-American cupcakes.

Red, White, & Blue Earrings

Feeling crafty?  Learn how to make these earrings in a jiffy from Rachel Furlong of The Philosopher’s Wife.  A great finishing touch to your 4th of July party outfit!

What are your plans for the 4th of July this year?

Meal Planning Monday ~ Grillin’ Favorites

This week’s post is by Rose Siders of An Exercise in Frugality.

Summer is FINALLY here!  Ok maybe not quite yet, at least not officially, but in my house, Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer. And you know what summer means? GRILLING!

This is our first year in a house where we can actually have a grill. All the apartments we lived in previously, we either couldn’t have a grill at all, or it was only allowed at the end of the driveway (so inconvenient when your apartment isn’t attached to your garage!). So this year, I begged…nay…I insisted that we would get a grill as soon as possible.  We didn’t have the money to spring for one of those fancy ones, so we got the little $20 table top version.

Now, grilling goes far beyond just plain ol’ burgers and hot dogs. Sure we all enjoy a barbecued frank or brat every now and then, but grilling is so fun and so flavorful, sometimes you gotta just branch out and try something new and unexpected!

I discovered Sriracha the other day. I know, I am totally late to the party as usual. I was at a restaurant and they had a Sriracha burger and I was curious, so I tried it. I loved it so much, I went out and bought a bottle of Sriracha and have been looking for different recipes to use it in. I thought a nice sweet flavor would pair well, so I got to tinkering and I came up with a version of a Honey Srirarcha Glaze that I wanted to share!

You can do this glaze on chicken breasts, legs, wings, or you can do like I did and do kebabs. I was feeling like a spicy yet sweet Asian vibe and so I went with chicken and shrimp. MAN were the shrimp spectacular!

If you like the spice, let’s turn up the heat!  For the kebabs, choose what you like. Mine were chicken, shrimp, mushroom and red pepper, but you can change the contents to what suits you. Sriracha is pretty versatile.

 

For the glaze:

5 Tbsp butter
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup Sriracha sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp lemon juice
dash pineapple juice
sesame seeds (optional)
1 tsp ginger (optional)
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Fire up the grill, and while it’s heating up, assemble your skewers. If you’re using wood skewers, don’t forget to soak them in water for 20 minutes before using them on the grill or they will burn.  Arrange your skewers on the grill, and brush liberally with the glaze. For extra heat, turn over and brush the other side too.

These turned out so yummy, but a warning that the mushrooms REALLY absorb the spice, so expect those to be spicier than the meat. Wooooh! I love the spicy, sweet, Asian infusion vibe from these spicy skewers. Play around with the meat and vegetables too for endless options. This recipe would also be great on chicken legs and wings!

If spicy isn’t your game, I totally understand. Here’s a few other great grilling recipes that I enjoy:

Grilled Pineapple Porkchops

Grilled Bacon-Wrapped Corn

Paleo Chipotle-Lime Chicken Kebabs

Grilled Peaches with Vanilla Cream and Walnuts

The thing I love about kebabs, is the inclusion of vegetables. Not only are they healthy, but often veggies like mushrooms are inexpensive and can stretch your meat further. So rather than everyone just filling up on expensive beef, you get more mileage out of your meat, and the flavors meld beautifully on the grill. It’s a great way to stretch your budget, AND get your family to eat more healthy veggies. Vegetables like zucchini, various bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, and even asparagus would be excellent when used as a part of your kebabs. Use whatever is in season at your local market for the best bargain!

What’s your favorite go-to grill meal?

Rose  Siders is no stranger to pinching pennies. She writes her blog An  Exercise in Frugality as a way to teach others how to get more while  spending less. When she’s not blogging, she can usually be found  cooking, playing video games with her husband, or spontaneously  crafting.  You can find An Exercise in Frugality on Facebook and Twitter.