Meal Planning Monday ~ I Love Cheeses!


Fill in the blank: “The one food I could NEVER live without is ________.”  For me, the answer is easy – Cheese!  Yes, I would give up eating desserts, fried food, chocolate… and even red wine before cheese.  I’m so glad that I have a Diet Free Life mentality, so I never have to give up any of the foods that I love, including cheese!

I love most any kind of cheese, with very few exceptions (Swiss being one of them).   At our house, we always have feta, Parmesan, sharp white cheddar, string cheese, and a variety of shredded cheeses on hand.  Sharp white cheddar is far and above my favorite.  My co-op sells Amish cheeses and their sharp white cheddar is to die for!  I use it on grilled cheese and egg sandwiches, with crackers, or just plain with a good glass of wine.

Since I’ve been Carb Stepping, I’ve been snacking on string cheese on a regular basis.  It’s a great snack because two of them have only 160 calories, no carbs, and 12 grams of hunger-curbing protein.  The only problem with string cheese is that we can never have enough in house!  My husband loves it, and so does my cat, Peanut.  When she hears the plastic peel back on one of those, she comes running to beg for a piece!

I love Parmesan cheese because it adds so much great flavor with a small amount of fat and calories.  Just this week, I tried a great roasted salmon recipe with a Parmesan-mayo topping that Leah posted in our recipe group on Facebook.  Oh my word, it was hands-down the best salmon recipe I’ve ever made at home!  (See below for recipe.)  If you don’t like fish, the Mmm… Chicken recipe I shared a few posts back is similar and equally delicious.  I also make Parmesan-crusted grilled cheese sandwiches.  All you do is sprinkle a bit of parm on top of the buttered bread before you cook it.  I’ll also shake some on top of roasted veggies for extra flavor.

Some people – like Leah – are crazy about goat cheese, but I’m definitely a feta girl.  It’s my cheese of choice for salads.  I love making a huge Greek chicken salad for lunch – salad greens, chicken, garbanzo beans, olives, cukes, pine nuts and feta.  Sometimes I’ll mix it up and do salad greens with turkey, walnuts, Crainsins, and feta.  When it’s warm enough to fire up the grill, my hubby and I love to make Chicken Bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, feta, and basil.

What are you favorite cheeses?


Oven Roasted Salmon with Parmesan-Mayo Crust



  • 16-20 ounces salmon fillet(s), skin on
  • Kosher salt/ freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • additional Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • a few dashes of sweet paprika

Preheat oven to 425F.  Line a shallow roasting pan with foil.  Rinse the salmon with cold water and dry thoroughly with paper towels, and place in roasting pan.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Mix the mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl.  Spread completely over the salmon.  Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese on top, and add a few dashes of sweet paprika.

Roast for 12-14 minutes (depending on thickness of salmon).  Remove from oven; carefully slide a wide spatula between the skin and meat to separate from the skin, and serve!

Meal Planning Monday ~ More Soup for You!


          One of my favorite things about autumn is having a nice bowl of hot soup on a cool day.  Lately I have been the anti-“Soup Nazi,” declaring, “More soup for you!”  Once every week or so in September, I made large batches of soup and froze the leftovers in individual servings.  One of the reason I did this, besides the fact that I love soup, is to have easy meal options on hand for busy days.  I have eight classes this month that I am scheduled to teach, so it will be great to heat up some soup with a sandwich or grilled cheese on these nights.

            This has also saved me money over buying canned soup.  I am very picky about my canned soup, because so many varieties have too much sodium and other additives that I’m trying to avoid.  Plus, many of the canned soups really don’t taste very good.  My brand of choice is Wolfgang Puck’s organic soup line, which is delicious but expensive.  It’s also a rare thing to find a coupon for that brand.

            This week, I am going to give you several great soup ideas and recipes that you can make and freeze.  If you’ve got a big family, you’ll want to double or triple the recipes so you have plenty of leftovers to stock your freezer.  You may need to add plastic freezer containers to your grocery list this week if you don’t have enough on hand.  Pretty soon, you’ll be able to say to your family (with an accent, of course), “More soup for you!”


Tomato Basil Soup ~ In my opinion, there is nothing better than tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich when it’s cold and rainy outside.  One of my friends recently turned me on to parmesan-crusted grilled cheese, and it is SO good!  Just sprinkle a little parmesan on top of the buttered bread and make as usual.  I’ve been making mine with turkey, pesto, and sharp cheddar cheese – pure heaven!

Taco Soup ~ This soup is a crowd pleaser, and can be made with either ground beef or turkey.  It’s a nice alternative to chili and perfect for tailgating!

Vegetable Soup ~ I consider myself a vegetable soup connoisseur.  Frisch’s vegetable soup has always been my favorite.  I was completely delighted when one of my Facebook friends, Lori Wagner, shared her homemade version which is even better!  I have a feeling that this soup will be the first one that needs to be replenished.

Chicken Soup ~ There’s something so comforting about a bowl of chicken soup when you’re feeling under the weather!  I was so glad that I had some in the freezer when I got sick with a sinus infection recently.  The recipe, which I got from my Mom, is below.

Black Bean Soup ~ Lately I’ve been adding some shredded chicken to this recipe, which is really good when served with crushed tortilla chips and a sprinkling of cheese.

Chili ~ It freezes very well and it’s so easy to double a chili recipe.  That makes it a no-brainer to make extras for freezing.


Mom’s Chicken Soup

  • 2 Large Bone-in Chicken Breasts, or 1 whole chicken
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots
  • ½ cup of sliced celery
  • ¼ cup of diced onions
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 – 2 TBS of dried parsley
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3 cans of low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • ½ package of egg noodles (I use whole wheat egg noodles)

Place all ingredients, except for the egg noodles, in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer (covered) for 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot.  Cut into the breast and ensure there’s no pink in the middle.  Peel the skin back from chicken and allow to cool slightly.

While the chicken is cooling, return the broth to a boil and add the egg noodles.  When the egg noodles are tender, turn off the heat.  Remove chicken from the bone, chop and add to the soup.  Remove the bay leaf and garlic cloves from the pot, and serve.