Zoodles! Woohoo!!

IMG_4931.JPGYes, yes and MORE YES! Finally got the opportunity to actually try out my new spiralizer and the thing is awesome! It’s the same one my girlfriend in NY has, the Paderno World Cuisine Spiralizer Pro and I love it! So it has these feet that are suction cups, and yeah… you need to make sure those little feet are 100% stuck to the counter, haha. I did not make sure to do that and the thing was moving all the over place. I was thinking well this is stupid.. then I reread the directions and OH! There are suction feet! Ha, oops! So once I got the feet suctioned to the counter (took a whole 2 seconds) the spiralizing went smoothly. I know, I know, always read the directions in their entirety before starting to use something new. I did read the directions, just not very thoroughly I guess, lol.

IMG_4933.JPGWe will be eating these zoodles tonight with chicken meatballs and homemade tomato sauce. Last time we had “spaghetti” we used spaghetti squash, and I really think it’ll be better with zoodles. Plus, spaghetti squash is a pain to properly cut in half length wise, or maybe my knives are dull, but either way, this was super easy and I know it’ll be delicious! It would be super cool if our 8 year old likes the zoodles too, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

Now that I have spiralized a zucchini, what else can I spiralize! I found this great website today, inspiralized.com and it has a ton of great ideas! Fries, noodles, salads, tons of stuff to make! I cannot wait to get spiralizing more! Hopefully I’ll be able to add to my recipes and make even more easy and delicious recipes! As I use my spiralizer more, I will be posting new information about it, which veggies worked well and were yummy and which didn’t work so well or didn’t pass ours and our kids’ taste bud tests, and lots of pictures! 🙂

Spiralize. All. The. Vegetables!

never underestimate the awesomeness of leftovers!

tupperwareSeriously, leftovers rock! I hardly had to cook at all today, all thanks to leftovers. I did make another batch of Whole30 chicken meatballs which have become a bit of a staple in our home. The kids love them, hubby loves them, and I love them. The chicken meatballs from the Whole30 book is definitely a killer recipe! I know, we’re technically done with our Whole30 program… today is the 36th day we’ve been eating according to the program… but we like how we feel so much that we just don’t want to stop eating this way.  Considering how busy I was today, and knowing that our Whole30 is over, pizza did cross my mind. But I also have no interest in dealing with the heartburn and other issues we used to have again, so we opted to just finish up everything in the fridge.

I barely managed to get my workout done today because it was a busy day and things kept coming up and pushing my timeline back. Having healthy leftovers to eat made it easy for us to heat them up and stick to our healthy habits without much effort. Love it!

Bummed I didn’t get to try out my spiralizer yet, but I will tomorrow and I can’t wait😀😀

Leftovers… Making healthy eating on a busy day easy! 

in the kitchen… barefoot:)

My hubby mentioned that to me today, he laughed, me in my frilly apron, barefoot in the kitchen, literally all. day. long. It was the perfect day to cook up a storm and prep some things for the week ahead!

My day started off eating healthy.. I had some frittata leftover from the other day. I then made some awesome Whole30 chicken meatballs (check out some other awesome Whol30 recipes here!).. Followed by making mayo and then ranch dressing. 

Break for some family time and a great salad for lunch😀

keep-calm-leftoversBack to the kitchen! Cooked some perfect bacon, made 4 small jars of clarified butter, and started on my new creation, Bacon & Ranch Chicken. This recipe is delicious! Hubby liked it, the kids liked it, our dogs would have loved it if they’d gotten any (sorry boys!), and it was fantastic over some steamed broccoli. Kale or salad would have been great too. We have some leftovers so I will most likely be having the chicken and bacon on a salad for lunch tomorrow.. Love me some leftovers! Makes eating healthy for lunch super easy.. Total no-brainer😀

Today was definitely a busy day in the kitchen, but it was totally worth it! I have enough mayo to make ranch for at least a few more days and clarified butter that should last a nice long time. Now that I have some staples done I can relax a little and just enjoy cooking (and eating!) for the next few days without needing to do anything in particular.

If you can make time to spend a whole day in the kitchen and get some of your main staples for the week ready, it makes eating healthy much easier and less stressful in terms of must do things each day. Love it. Love how I feel. Love that my family now enjoys healthy food.. Couldn’t ask for more!

healthy snacking

Snacking is a wonderful thing that gets so many of us into trouble when we’re trying to stay healthy or lose some weight. In my mind, snacks are supposed to be quick and easy, which often leads to terrible food choices. I know from my personal experience that I would grab just about anything for a snack as long as it took virtually zero effort to prepare. For me this meant open package, shove junk in face. Totally not a healthy way to eat. I’m talking pre-packaged peanut butter crackers, pre-packaged “health” bars (read the labels recently, so much unnecessary added sugar!), pre-packaged fruits (another attempt at health, but they have preservatives that fresh fruits don’t)… there’s a pattern here. PRE-PACKAGED.

broccoliI now create my own “pre-packaged” snacks that I can grab quickly without thinking. Carrots peeled and cut into sticks and/or broccoli chopped into bite sized pieces, put into snack size Ziploc bags are just as easy to grab as a pack of peanut butter crackers! Mandarin oranges, peeled, broken into nice pieces, also placed into snack size bags, another quick and easy to grab snack. And of course, these are FRESH fruits and vegetables. I am now putting a lot more effort into food preparation so I can make sure our family has healthy snacks to grab without all the added sugars, preservatives, and who knows what other junk!

I find that all my preparation has been especially important for our kids. Hubby and I don’t snack since doing The Whole30… we don’t really need to with three great Whole30 meals a day. But we do have two growing boys and even with three solid, healthy meals a day, they still snack. They need more food to fuel their constantly growing bodies and I am now doing my best to ensure the things they snack on are healthy foods. Don’t get me wrong, slowly swapping to way healthier snacks hasn’t been a smooth road. The kids didn’t jump for joy at the prospect of eating less junk. However, they are getting used to eating healthier. For our family, we’ve decided to get the kids into it at our own pace, not trying to make a bunch of changes all at once. This is working for our family, though something else may work for another family. It all depends on personal preference.

Trying out different types of healthy snacks will highly benefit everyone in your family in the long run. Take the time to prepare snacks ahead of time and keep them on hand. Our goal has been to make the healthy snack choices easier to grab than the unhealthy ones 🙂

Healthy snacking… the extra effort is worth it!

healthy carnitas.. and the kids LOVE them!

  Yep, HEALTHY carnitas!!! We ate them over kale with guacamole (a recipe I made up and will be posting soon) and the Whole30 salsa recipe (I excluded the jalepeno for the sake of our youngest). The dinner was amazing! It is easy to eat grass-fed meat, organic fruits and vegetables, AND have it taste amazing!

Today was really busy! My grandparents came by and dropped some awesome looking homemade cherry jam and some homemade mango jam! Unfortunately for me, jam means sugar:( But the kids can have some, which they will love!

I also went grocery shopping today. Got enough meat for 3 full days of all meals and enough vegetables for the week. Thinking ahead and shopping smart is what makes eating healthy work for me and my family. 

If you’re trying to eat healthy and stay in shape, keep it up! Remember, it takes planning, support and motivation!!! You can do it:)

eating healthy can be delicious AND easy!

Today was a pretty normal day as far as eating goes. We’ve “finished” our Whole30 but are sticking to the overall idea (and grocery list) because we really love the food! Hubby’s dad was in town last night and this morning, and he had Whole30 compliant dinner and breakfast with us. He really enjoyed the meals. Our kids enjoy the meals. Everything is super healthy and yummy. Changing the way we’ve been eating just because we’re done with our 30 days seems silly to us.

homegrown-organic-veggiesI made some guacamole this afternoon to have with my salad (super good!) and I made a pot roast for dinner tonight. What I did tonight was insanely easy. That’s the point of this post… it’s super healthy, it’s delicious, kids like it, and it’s EASY and FAST. I was actually very lucky that the yellow squash I used for dinner tonight was straight from my father-in-law’s garden, so it was 100% organic, no pesticides, and super yummy! They actually had a bit of a sweetness to them 🙂 I also got 2 giant zucchini (seriously, those suckers are BIG!) and some sweet peppers. This will definitely put a nice little dent in my grocery bill!

Here’s the approximate time frame, just 10 TO 20 MINUTES OF TIME SPENT ACTUALLY DOING ANYTHING (depending on whether or not you do the first cooking part):

  1. Prep Work – just 10 minutes – keep in mind non of the copping needs to be pretty, which is why it’s so quick!
    1. Chopped a white onion, fairly large pieces – 1 minute
    2. Peeled and chopped up 3 of these awesome yellow squash I was given – 2 minutes
    3. Peeled and chopped up 2 cloves of garlic, not tiny, just not whole – 1 minute
    4. Peeled and chopped up 3 large carrots (you may want more carrot) – 2 minutes
    5. Prepped the beef roast (just chopped off a little fat and cut it into about 3 inch pieces) – 2 minutes
  2. Cooking (time spent actually paying attention) – just 10 more minutes – **NOTE: you could skip this step if pressed for time, it’ll still taste good
    1. Heated ghee on medium/high the stove in my dutch oven (this can be done in a skillet if you’re making this dish in a crock pot) – 2 minutes
    2. Added onions, cooked them for about 5 minutes, stirring on and off – 5 minutes
    3. Added garlic to the onions, continued cooking for about 3 more minutes, stirring often to avoid burning the garlic – 3 minutes
  3. Cooking (time spent without touching the meal at all) – 3-10 hours, not that it really matters because you don’t have to touch it during that time 🙂
    1. Throw all ingredients (meat, squash, carrots, onion/garlic mixture) along with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp thyme (I use the leaves, if using ground, 1/4 tsp), and 1/4 tsp paprika (gives it a KICK) in dutch oven or crock pot – 2 minutes
    2. DUTCH OVEN: Cook at 350 for 2 to 3 hours, depending on how much you want your meat to just fall apart when touched 2-3 hours
    3. CROCK POT: Put on low and cook all day – 6-10 hours (depending on your day)
  4. EAT. If you want, you can add some kale to the pot for the last 15 or so minutes and it will end up steamed and sitting on top of everything else, making it easy to serve.

A fun little tip when doing dinner prep… I like to chop all vegetables first, then chop my meat. This allows me to continue using the same knife and cutting board throughout if I want to, without contaminating any veggies with raw meat before they should be combined.

So that’s it. Really just 10-20 minutes of actual time spent cooking. The rest is either in-oven, ignore time or plug-n-play, walk away time. I may actually write this recipe up at some point in the near future (hopefully later tonight or tomorrow). If I do, I will certainly update this post with a link to the recipe!

Eating healthy can be delicious AND easy… it really can. Just get creative!

making apple sauce at home

IMG_4754.JPGThis isn’t a crazy complicated recipe or anything, but I need apple sauce for the Whole30 recipe I’m making for dinner tonight and I don’t have any. It’s also super hard to find it without added sugar!!  

So.. Apples. In a pan. With water. Simmer. Stir. Add 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice. Simmer. Mash. Done and done. Don’t waste time at the grocery store searching for that one brand that doesn’t add unnecessary sugar. Use the apples you have (even bruised ones) and make your own apple sauce. I personally don’t like to put mine in a blender or food processor because I like it to have a little chi lines to it. But that’s literally how I make my apple sauce these days:)

I’m also going to indulge you with an image of the final product… IMG_4757.JPG

eating healthy on a budget

funny-bananaEating healthy on a budget can be difficult sometimes (or all the time). Fast food restaurants all have the dollar menu… the produce section (very unfortunately) does not. We’ve been doing Whole30 for about 3 weeks now and the list of food we can eat is pretty long, Whole30 even has a shopping list to help us all out, but it’s all healthy and fresh (yay healthy!)… therefore it’s more expensive (frustrating). However, there are a few things we can all do to make healthy eating cheaper.

Aim to purchase vegetables that are in season. If food isn’t in season, the price goes up… you know, because there isn’t as much of a supply when it’s not currently being harvested. Some fruits and vegetables can be very easily canned and stored for use during their off season which can give you more choices later in the year without having to spend more on the same item. Canning fruits and vegetables can save quite a bit of money. Especially if you shop at your local farmer’s market and buy the “ugly fruit” – you know, the peaches that don’t look perfect, yet they’re perfectly edible? Yeah, buy those. They’re fine, and you can cut them up, can them, and have awesome peaches all winter long!

I also use two apps on my phone that help me earn money when I go grocery shopping… I’m sure there are a lot more, but these are the two I use:

  1. Ibotta – Ibotta is a great app. You just unlock rebates and go shopping! It allows you to link your store loyalty card for some stores so you don’t have to upload a receipt. I’ve also seen some “any brand” rebates for things like eggs or bacon, both of which are allowed (bacon only if it doesn’t contain sugars) on Whole30 (the diet program I’m currently on). Ibotta also tends to have a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables on the rebate list, which is fantastic since we’re eating a lot of those!
  2. SavingStar – SavingStar has at least one healthy offer of the week. It’s usually a fruit or vegetable. Pick the item, go shopping, upload your receipt, DONE. You can also link some of your store loyalty cards to this app, making it a no-brainer!

The great thing about these apps is that they give you either a set amount (maybe 20 cents, sometimes more, sometimes less) per item on your list. So if you manage to find a coupon for healthy food (it’s hard but occasionally I find one for eggs or bacon), then you can use the coupon at the store and you’ll get the rebate for the item through the app. It’s a total win-win!

I know there are other ways to eat healthy without breaking the bank, but these are the ones (along with coupons when I can find them for fresh fruit and veggies) are the ones I use. It does help, and it’s awesome to get a little extra money every once in a while for doing almost nothing!

kitchen essentials

 IMG_4711.JPGAll the things kitchen! Or at least all the kitchen essentials that I need, haha. I quite obviously did not include things like skillets, pots, or baking sheets. If you have a kitchen (which I am guessing you do), you probably already have those items on hand. Pots, pans, and baking sheets are really all about personal preference and I can’t vouch for one brand over another as I have several different brands of each in my cupboards!

This Totally Bamboo 5-Piece Utensil Setis a great deal and it’s what I have at home. I actually have 2 of the sets and then a few extras of just the spoons. There’s something about the thick, kind of flat handle that I really like. I think for me it’s because I tend to leave spoons near (let’s be real, often IN) a pot while I putz around the kitchen doing other things. The thicker handles don’t get as hot as fast as thinner ones. That’s why I really like these types of spoons, haha. I do love spoons and these ones are awesome!

I actually bought this Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Ovenabout 3 weeks ago. So far, I don’t see any staining on the inside enamel which is good. I would be insanely annoyed if the dutch oven got stained quickly. Several of the recipes in The Whole30 cook book utilize a dutch oven. I have also found that many can be replicated in a crock pot… and using a crock pot means you don’t have flip the meat or do anything as often. Either way works.

Hubby and I were actually given this exact set of Calphalon Knivesfor our wedding. I am not really the best at sharpening knives (quite unfortunate fact), but they’ve held up great and because I actually own them, I can tell you they’re good. I’m sure there are massively more expensive sets (and way cheaper ones) out there, and it’s really just personal preference and what works for you. But I use most of the knives in the set every day or 2 cooking on Whole30.

Must have all the mixing bowls! Honestly, I have so many mixing bowls, it’s not even funny. I use them for just about everything and having lots of different size options and extras of the smaller ones makes prepping super easy. I have one set like this Cook N Home Mixing Bowl Setthat has lids, which I love. I most certainly don’t needs lids for all my mixing bowls (geez, where would I even put them?!), but having a few bowls with lids is great for prepping the night before… especially a crock pot meal that will all be thrown together in the morning 🙂

This is the exact blender I have. It’s called the Osterizerwhich I find rather amusing, lol. This is probably not the most amazing blender on the market, but I’ve had it for years, it still works, it’s easy to clean, and it mixes mayo like a champ! Like I’ve said before, we don’t eat much of the mayo, but it’s the first step to making the Whole30 ranch recipe, and our family loves some ranch! I think if the family had their way, ever single meal would somehow involve the inclusion of ranch dip or dressing.

Ok, so this isn’t the grater I have, but it’s really close. Looks like maybe the KitchenAid Graterhas gotten a bit of an upgrade since I got mine. I like the slicer on the side of this one… now I’m jealous. This one’s cooler than mine! Anyway, it’s a super important part of our Whole30 experience, as we (or at least hubby) have sweet potato hash browns with breakfast every day!

This is the kind of cutting board I have. It’s a Dexas 6-Inch by 10-Inch Red Jelli Bar Boardand there are other sizes too. I think you can buy them at Target too, but I honestly can’t remember because I’ve had them for a long time, haha. I also have a wooden cutting board, but it’s big a bulky. In my personal opinion, there is no such thing as too many cutting boards!

I keep a variety of mason jars on hand all the time. I have some 4oz Ball Mason Jarsthat I use for small amount of leftover sauce, extra coconut cream, etc. I have some 8oz Ball Canning Jarsthat I generally use for storing my clarified butter, jarring applesauce (yes, I can stuff) and keeping carrot sticks and other things in. And then I also have some 16oz Ball Mason Jarsthat I use for large amounts of dressings, like when I make a big batch of mayo or something, and I use them for canning carrots and other things throughout the year.

Adding this is an UPDATE to our Kitchen Essentials. This gadget is now my NEW FAVORITE THING! It’s called the Oster 2-Speed Hand Blender with Cup and the thing is AWESOME! My model is red, which is pretty cool, but it’s the same thing and I definitely do NOT want to be without it now! I have never made mayo so quickly before I used this! And thankfully, it’s not all that expensive, so I can get a new one if mine breaks 🙂

And of course, there’s The Whole30book, something that I use on a daily basis, usually more than once. The book that is guiding my cooking and making it so that what I cook is no longer the same boring and bland junk I’ve been cooking for years. I’m not even sure you can call what I was doing in the kitchen before “cooking” really, as nothing ever tasted all that good, hahaha!

I can make the assumption (safely, I believe) that I have missed some things. If I think of anything else, I will add it here or mention it elsewhere on the site. I believe that having the right kitchen essentials and having enough of certain things is important when it comes to how easy and quick you can get through cooking a meal. Eliminating the need to wash your one and only cutting board every time you swap from meat to vegetables can save valuable time. Given how busy we all are these days, time savers are a must!

why bother making clarified butter?

That question was recently posed to me by a family member. Why make it when I can just buy it? Well, I looked up some pricing online, to get a general idea, ounce for ounce, of the pricing of ghee versus butter. What I found from Walmart was that butter costs about $0.18 per ounce. Ghee, on the other hand, is a whopping $1.13 per ounce (again, at Walmart)! That is a huge price difference and one that I am not willing to pay.

homer-simpson-butterMmmm… BUTTER! Butter is so awesomely delicious!

Yes, making clarified butter can take a while, especially when I do it because I tend to make a lot all at once. The stuff is good for about 3 months left out on the counter and about 6 months in the fridge. So when I make it, it just makes sense to get a whole lot of it done all at once. Not to mention that running out of clarified butter would be a nightmare for us on Whole30!

IMG_4710.JPGTo make clarified butter, I simmer the butter on the stove until everything separates and I can scoop the junk off the top and/or bottom of the pan. I then strain the remaining liquid through a coffee filter or cheesecloth and I am left with see-through yellow clarified butter. I then pour it into small mason jars and leave it on the counter to harden up some. Once hardened, I usually leave one out on the counter for use right away and put the rest in the fridge.

If, however, you simply don’t have time to make clarified butter or you just don’t want to (sometimes I don’t want to!!) you can buy Purity Farm Organic Ghee, Clarified Butter, 13-Ounce for just $10.99 – $0.85 an ounce… still more expensive than making it yourself, but not as expensive as Walmart and if there’s no time, it’s worth it!

The Whole30 website also has a good read about better butter, and whole9life.com has a butter manifesto that was interesting to read.