Taco Tuesday

You know what the worst part of the day is – it starts around 3:00 on and lasts for the next few hours – all that time you are thinking, “what in the heck are we going to have for dinner?”

Professionally, I have written menus for assisted living centers, for group homes, for a hospital, for a behavioral health center, and for a large day care center. I know how to plan menus to match budgets, comply with nutritional guidelines, meet government regulations, and that taste good enough to keep everybody happy. So why is planning dinner at home such a challenge?

Well…I’ll tell you why. We have this unrealistic expectation that we should come up with a fresh new idea every night of the year.

I remember a period of time when I was going to school full time (Dietitian school where they teach you lots of good things including how to plan menus) working two part time jobs, and being a full -time wife and mother of four. I decided to apply some of that book learning to the real world. I planned a 5-day cycle menu. That’s right; we ate the same thing every Monday, every Tuesday…every day. It worked; it got me through a very busy time while still feeding my people.

It dawned on me recently (another season of busy-ness) that it was time to bring back the 5-day cycle menu and…here it is:

Monday – Soup and bread day

Tuesday – Taco Tuesday

Wednesday – Spud Day

Thursday – Left-overs (this is our late night)

Friday – Pizza or Pasta night

Weekends – Clean out the fridge, try new recipes, Whatever!

There is still room for creativity and flexibility. One Monday night might be Smoky Lentil and Potato soup with sour dough bread. The next Monday night be Taco Soup with Crispy Tortilla Strips. Taco Tuesday includes Enchiladas, Burritos, Tostado, Quesadillas… Turns out I can do lots of productive things between 3:00 and 6:00 pm now that I am free again!

I posted a pic from Taco Tuesday and you asked for the recipe for the quinoa taco “meat” so here it is. You will like it. A lot.

Quinoa Taco Meat



1 cup tri-color, white, or red quinoa

1 cup vegetable broth

3/4 cup water


1/2 cup salsa (slightly chunky is best)

1 Tbsp nutritional yeast

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp each salt and black pepper


Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add rinsed quinoa and toast for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add vegetable broth and water and bring back to a boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce heat to low, cover with a secure lid, and cook for 15-25 minutes, or until liquid is completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork, then crack lid and let rest for 10 minutes off heat.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Add cooked quinoa to a large mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients (salsa, nutritional yeast, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and oil). Toss to combine. Then spread on a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet.

Bake for 25-35 minutes (range depends of water content of salsa). stirring/tossing once at the halfway point to ensure even baking. The quinoa is done when it’s fragrant and golden brown and a little crispy in spots. If it gets too dry, just sprinkle with a bit of water before storing.

Adapted from Minimalist Baker.

Quick tip – substitute 5 teaspoons of your favorite taco seasoning for the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.

Sent from my iPhone

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It’s St. Patrick’s Day – Could this green food get a little respect?

I hear and read all the time that iceberg lettuce has no nutritional value or that it is simply crunchy water.  I beg to differ.  One large head of ice berg lettuce provides a very respectable 9 grams of fiber and  …. wait for it….7 grams of protein!

It also  provides 76% of a day’s requirement for Vitamin A , 35% of a day’s requirement for Vitamin C, 14% of a day’s requirement for Calcium and 17% of a day’s requirement for Iron.  It is also a good source for thiamin, Vitamin B6, potassium, folate, and manganese and is low in sodium and has NO saturated fat, trans fats, or cholesterol.  In a nutritional target map, it ranks at the top of the “more filling” range and at the top of the “more nutritious” range.

If you were to get all of your day’s calories  from iceberg lettuce alone (even if we use a very conservative total of 1200 calories) you would get 84 g of protein and meet or exceed the recommended daily intake for nearly every other nutrient.   Okay, Okay, you would need to eat 12 large heads of lettuce to do that but hey Iceberg lettuce is no nutritional lightweight – Help me clear its reputation while you enjoy the crunch!

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Winging it…

This coming Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday, a day anticipated by many (and some of them are actual football fans). I enjoy a good commercial break myself while some are looking most forward to the buffet of Super Bowl snacks.

One of the classic Super Bowl snacks -wings (hot wings, Buffalo chicken wings) has grown particularly popular.  Did you know that if we lined up the wings eaten each Super Bowl Sunday wing tip to wing tip they would circle the earth more than twice or reach a quarter of the way to the moon?  Did you know that it takes 600 million chickens to produce that many wings?  That is two chickens for every American man, woman, and child!

My super Bowl gift to you, my recipe for Buffalo Chick’pea Roll-ups – no chickens lost their lives in the making of this snack.

Buffalo Chick’pea Roll-Ups

Just 5 ingredients (well 6 if you count the tortillas) and a little more than 5 minutes. That’s all it takes to make my favorite new roll-up!

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 c Nutritional yeast

1/4 c hot sauce (yes, it sounds like a lot…but trust me)

2 stalks celery, diced fine

1/2 small red onion, diced fine

5-6 small flour tortillas (6″ size or 3 larger tortillas)

Throw those chickpeas, the nutritional yeast, and the hot sauce into the food processor and process until all mushed together (a little bit chunky us okay, not trying for hummus smooth). Hand stir in the celery and onion and spread on the tortillas and roll up. Wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap or parchment paper.  If time allows, refrigerate for an hour before slicing to set the shape.  Slice each roll into 6 pieces.  Pop the irregular end pieces straight into your mouth:)

Enjoy the game!

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Little slips lead to big consequences

Harvard Researchers took a look at nearly 125,000 adults, none of whom were diabetic at the beginning of the study. The quality of each participant’s diet was monitored initially and periodically for 20 years. Yes 20 years – this is a long term, large study (so…hey, pay attention!)

The quality of their diet was measured using the AHEI score (Alternate Healthy Eating Index) where eating vegetables and fruit and cereal fiber increase the score and where including red meat, saturated and trans fats and alcohol decrease the score. 

The results are in – a decrease in diet quality of more than 10% over 4 years was linked to a 34% increased risk of developing type 2 Diabetes.  However, when diet quality increased by over 10% over 4 years, the risk of type 2 Diabetes was reduced by 16%. That is a 50% difference in diabetes risk between those who made moderate improvements (10%) in their diet quality and those who let the quality of their diet slip by 10%. 

Now you might be thinking that those whose diet quality decreased, gained weight and that explains their increased risk of diabetes. Not that simple. BMI (body mass index) explained less than a third of the new cases of Diabetes; showing once again that people can develop type 2 diabetes even at lower BMI level when they consume a poor quality diet. 

Moral of the story – Even small changes can make a difference!  Plant your plate now for a healthier tomorrow!


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Kid meals…happy meals

Since I’ve been lucky enough to babysit some of my favorite kids this week I’ve been thinking more about kid meals and how to keep them happy meals.  At the  same time I like to think that perhaps I could have a small healthy influence too.  Lots to  think about and balance and rethink and re-balance.

I remember  when  my  kids were the ages of their kids when I instituted the “two food rule”.  Everyone was  allowed to not like two foods but only two foods.  There was a chart where each person’s choice of  their two foods were posted.  The foods of  choice could  be  changed at  any time  but  had to be done in writing.  Complaints in general also had to be submitted on a written form.  Worked well and made meals pleasant and some people learned to like some surprising foods along the way. 

Saw this idea today.  

“I came up with an idea to help with mealtimes a few weeks ago and it’s been working really well, so I wanted to share it with you–not as someone who thinks she’s better than everyone or whose kids are perfect, but as another mom in the trenches just trying to make her home a better place. So with that said… introducing the Picky Pass! I give this to my picky eaters at the beginning of the week. They only get one for the whole week (though you could certainly shorten the time frame, like they get one a day or extend it so they get one a month, it’s just dependent on the kid, their attention span, what reward you choose–read on–, etc.) If, during that time frame, the child is offered something they just don’t want to eat, they don’t have to whine or complain or throw a tantrum, they simply give me their picky pass and they don’t have to eat it. They know that is their right and that it’s ok. They won’t get something else, but they don’t have to eat whatever it is they don’t want to. But once they’ve used their picky pass, it is gone until the next week (or day). So if they use it on their zucchini casserole Monday, they can’t use it on Tuesday for roasted asparagus. The best part of this, though, is if they DON’T use their picky pass, they get a reward at the end of the time frame. In our house, that reward is the kids get to pick a special dessert. But it could just as easily be getting to stay up past bedtime, or get to pick out a fun toy at the store, or get to watch a TV show, or even have a little basket of their favorite candy that they can choose from. Obviously that’s something that each parent could tailor to their child and make it appropriate to the time frame being used, bigger reward for a longer time frame. This new Picky Pass method has really helped me, as a mom, relax and just let my kids be. I make sure that there’s plenty of options on the table so that they still have food, but I’m not as restrained in only preparing meals that I know they’ll eat and never trying anything new (I love trying new foods!). Before, mealtimes were a battle of wills. Now, if they choose to use the picky pass, I’m ok with that. And they know that they’ve used it, and they can’t use it again. I was a bit worried that we’d get a second picky meal in a week, and am not super sure how to handle that, but so far, all I’ve had to say was “You’ve already used your picky pass on ___, so I need you to eat your dinner today without complaint. You’ll get your picky pass back on Sunday.” And (in the few weeks we’ve been doing this) the complaining has ended. SO nice”!  Lisa Shefer

What do you think of the two food rule and of the picky pass?  What are your favorite tricks?  

Happy meals to all!

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Thai Quinoa Salad with Peanut Lime Salad

As promised…here it is…the salad recipe of the summer!  It’s SO good.Take it to every pot luck or picnic where you want to become famous!  Or make it at home and hide it in the back of the fridge in an opaque container!  You choose…

Thai Quinoa Salad

serves 4-6 or just me


1 c uncooked quinoa, rinsed

2 c chopped red cabbage

1 c shredded carrots

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1/4 red onion, finely diced

1/2 c dry roasted peanuts

1/2 c chopped cilantro


1/4 c peanut butter or nut butter of your choice

2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger

3 T soy sauce

2 T maple syrup

2 T seasoned rice vinegar

Juice of 1 big fat lime or 2 small wimpy little limes

1 T fish sauce (there are plant based options available)

1 t Thai chili paste


Rinse quinoa with cold water in a mesh strainer until water runs clear.  (This removes the bitter coating.)  In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/4 c water to a boil.  Add quinoa and bring mixture back to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat to low and let it simmer for 12-15 min till quinoa has absorbed all the water.  Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.  

Make the dressing.  Put peanut butter is microwavable bowl and heat in microwave for 30 seconds.  Add in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, maple syrup, fish sauce, lime juice and Thai chili paste.  Stir till smooth.

Add dressing to quinoa.  Fold in cabbage, red pepper, carrots, onion, peanuts and cilantro.


inspired by love well blog

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Blog under construction

In the meantime…we could keep in touch over on Facebook (Plant your Plate page and group.)  Thanks for your patience:)

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Some days you just need to dip…

Is tomorrow likely to be one of those days?  Looking for something a little different, tasty enough for the hot wings crowd, but “sorta crunchy” enough for your whole foods friends?  I got you covered, right here!

4 ingredients that I bet you don’t even have to go to the store for

4 minutes or faster

4 real! 

Sweet and a Lil’ Spicy Mustard Dip

1 c garbanzo beans, drained, no need to rinse (save the drained fluid, just in case)

1/4 c your favorite mustard

1/4 c real maple syrup

2 t your favorite hot sauce

1-3 T garbanzo bean fluid (aquafaba)

Blend till smith, adjusting texture as needed with the saved aquafaba.  Serve with your favorite dippers.  I like pretzel thins, thinly sliced jicama, very thinly sliced sweet potato (yes, raw), seedless cucumber, cabbage triangles…I could go on and on…

Dip in!  And may the best commercial win!

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Fruit and Vegetable Focus – Time for Week 3 and some SOUP

Our week 2 Fruit and Vegetable Champion ….drumroll…. is Heidi Christensen with 43 points!  This fabulous prize (a citrus zester) is on the way to Heidi’s kitchen.  

And it’s officially Week 3, grab your tracker and join us for some friendly competition!

January is flying by – some days have not felt like January but today …. Well its the kind of day thats calls for a crockpot full of soup, a fuzzy blanket, and a good book!

Here’s a quick soup recipe that I found in Runner’s World a couple years ago.  Definite keeper.  Gets points for being quick and easy,  nutrient dense, and DELICIOUS!  You’ll have to find your own fuzzy blanket.

  Tomato Chickpea Lentil

Dice 1/2 medium onion and sauté in a saucepan till softened.  Add 1 minced garlic clove and cook another 30 seconds. Add a 28 oz can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes and 1/3 c water and bring to a boil.  Add 1 t sugar, 1/2 T salt, and a dash of black pepper.  If you like smooth soup, transfer to a blender and purée till smooth.  Transfer back to saucepan and add 1 – 15 oz can of drained chickpeas.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  

Enjoy!  And … Did you know that a study published in 2010 in the journal Appetite reported that participants who added a half can of chickpeas to their daily diet ate less junk food and felt fuller compared to days when they didn’t eat chickpeas:)

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T C in a B?

 Weeknights get busy.  My people still get hungry.  This can be a problem.

One of my favorite solutions has a very catchy name – I call it a” bowl.”  Mrs. Plant of Mrsplantintexas.com  has a similiar dish – she calls it TC in a B (“throw crap in a bowl”).

Here’s how it goes.  Start with a cooked grain, typically guinoa or brown rice at my house.  Once in a while I get more creative.  I really like this rice mix that Florence Johnson found at Trader Joes that has these crunchy little radish seeds mixed in.

 You can picture me cooking up a creative blend of grains but the real life version is that this meal usually starts with whatever leftover grains are in the fridge.

The next step is called clean out the veggie crisper.  When I did this Tuesday night, I put out thinnly sliced carrots, chopped green onions, kale torn in small bite sized pieces, diced celery, and frozen green peas (that I ran hot water over for a few secs.)  Other times it has included asparagus, broccoli, purple cabbage, spinach, sweet potato, green beans, garbonzo beans, black beans, red onions, mandarin oranges, pineapple…and the list goes on…and on.

The all important last step is to stir up a simple tasty sauce.  Here are two I recommend:

Simple Spicy Peanut Sauce

1/2 c peanut powder (I buy the big package of PB2 from Amazon), 2 T soy sauce, 1 t Sriracha sauce (or your favorite hot sauce), 2 T maple syrup, 2 T water

Mix together.  That’s it.

Teriyaki Sauce

1 c water, 2 T cornstarch, 1/2 c low sodium soy sauce (if you only have regular soy sauce, use 1/4 c soy sauce and another 1/4 c water), 3 T maple syrup, 1 t crushed garlic, 1″ piece of fresh gingerroot, grated (or 1 t powdered ginger)

Whisk cornstarch into cold water.  Set aside.  Combine rest of ingredients in saucepan over medium heat.  Pour in the cornstarch mixture and whisk to combine.  Bring mixture to a simmer, whisking regularly till it begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving (or risk losing taste buds.)

So here’s how dinner goes.  Cook or reheat the grains.   Slice and dice the veggies and put it all on the table with some big bowls.  Let everybody create their own bowl, starting with the grain and then topping with veggies of their choice and drizzling with sauce.

The pictures above are not mine.  When I serve this meal, time is tight and people are hungry – both factors make taking pictures tricky and possibly even dangerous.

BONUS:  2 bonus points today for sharing your favorite quick weeknight meal idea and an extra bonus point for a pic to go along with the idea.




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More food …. less calories

 Need another reason to plant your plate?  It’s the best way I know to get less calories while eating MORE food!
Check out this video on YouTube:http://youtu.be/IkGV9cNnRnY

BONUS:  Having company for a meal this week?  Taking dinner to a friend or neighbor?  Serve fresh fruit for dessert and don’t apologize.  I dare you…and I’ll give you 3 bonus points to do it!  

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Kicking off Week 2 – If you’ve been with us for the past week, I hope you’re all warmed up and ready for more.  If not, it’s never too late to join in and  focus on the goodness of fruits and vegetables.
Remember there is compelling evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. The largest and longest study done followed 110,000 people for 14 years and found that, compared to those who had the lowest intake of fruits and vegetables (< 1.5 servings/day), those who averaged 8 or more servings a day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.  

Today’s Tip – 3 simple ways to eat vegetables:

1. Pile them on your plate – don’t think “what vegetable shall we have for dinner?” Think “what 2 or 3 vegetables shall we have for dinner?”

2. Cram them into Casseroles – making a Mexican casserole -add extra onions peppers, tomatoes and squash. Making eggplant Parmesan – double the eggplant, onion, and tomato part of the recipe.

3. Stuff them into Sandwiches – go ahead with the usual tomato and lettuce but how about adding thinly sliced zucchini, shredded red cabbage, and some kale?  Or how about trying my personal favorite sandwich stuffer – thin slices of Granny Smith Apple (uh….ya I know it’s not a vegetable but try it, thank me later!)

3 BONUS points today for posting a pic of one of your veggie  rich meals in the comments.

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Fruit and Vegetable Focus – January 2016 – Week Two

  Week One is over and abulous prize is on the way to our Week One Fruit and Vegetable Champion.  Heidi Heming Christensen earned 42 points and one of my favorite kitchen utensils.  I call it a crinkle cutter and it makes chopping veggies fun and the results CUTE!   What more could you ask for?

  Highlights of the week –   you ate vegetables for breakfast (carrots were the most popular choice), you ate fruits and vegetables from the white group (potatoes were the most popular), you snuck in fortified familiar dishes with vegetables (like pumpkin in oatmeal or soup),  you ate humongous colorful salads, and made soups that contained at least 7 different vegetables.  I call that success!

Ready to join in for week two of our January 2016 Fruit and Vegetable Focus, complete with more challenges, more tips, more recipes, more fun and even more fabulous prizes?

Here (see link to PDF below) is the tracking form you can print and use to re-focus on one of the most important parts of a healthy diet – including lots of colorful, nutritious, delicious fruits and vegetables. Just couint the number of servings of fruits and vegetables you eat each day and watch for daily posts for ways to earn bonus points.  

Along the way, I hope you will share your questions, successes, inspirations, and ‘funny failures full of learning.’  At the end of  the week share your total score for the week and you could become the Fruit and Vegetable champion of the week and receive a fabulous prize.

fruit and veggie tracking form

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Fruit and Vegetable Focus – Jan 2016

Ready to join me for a January 2016 Fruit and Vegetable Focus, complete with challenges, tips, recipe, fun and fabulous prizes?  Here (see link to PDF below) is the tracking form you can print and use to re-focus on one of the most important parts of a healthy diet – including lots of colorful, nutritious, delicious fruits and vegetables.  I’ll just ask you to count your servings and I’ll try to help by sharing daily tips, fun facts, and some recipes.  I’ll even throw in a few challenges worth bonus points.  At the end of each week you can share your score and maybe even win a fabulous prize!
fruit and veggie tracking form

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What’s so great about pomegranates?


  Since it is pomegranate season (September -January) and since I bought some beautiful ones last week for just $.49 each, let’s talk pomegranate power.  

Pomegranate facts:

  • Each 4″ fruit provides an impressive 11 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.
  • And … contains a compound called punicalagin, which has known heart and blood vessel benefits.  Studies have shown it decreases cholesterol levels and blood pressure and even helps heart blockages dissolve.  When heart patients were given just 1 oz of ponegranate juice daily for a year, their blood pressure decreased by 12% and they had 30% less plaque in their arteries.  The control group who didn’t get the juice had 9% more plaque at the end of the year.
  • And… has been shown to inhibit breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and leukemia.
  • And … is snackingly delicious!

So buy a few pomegranates this season and ENJOY!

Here is my best trick (thanks Jake) to get into one:

  1. Cut around the crown (the blossom end that sticks out).  Just cut around in a circle about 1/2-1″ from the blossom.  Then carefully remove this patch of pomegranate skin by using your thumb much like you would peel an orange.
  2. Lightly score down the ribs that extend from the crown area to the other end of your pomegranate.  There should be 4-5 of these barely noticeable ribs.
  3. Now use your thumb to pull each section apart.  You should be able to do so with minimal mess since the ribs are the natural dividing points.  I said minimal mess not no mess; wouldn’t wear white clothes or do this over your new carpet.
  4. Try to share.
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‘Minutes’trone Soup

 ‘It was a cold and windy night’ is the way the story usually starts but actually it was a cold and windy and busy night and I learned you can make really great soup without a recipe.  I love to try new recipes.  I do it for fun…when I have time.  But I need to eat more often than that.  I had saved several Minestrone soup recipes onto my “Gonna make that someday” Pinterest page but no time to go there.  So…I just started to combine what I had, throwing into the pot as I sliced and diced, opened a few cans, and discovered treasures in the back of the produce drawers.  And…if I do say so myself it was Deeeeeeelicious!  I thought about trying to capture the recipe after the fact but decided to try to capture the concept instead.  I have tried it on several other occasions, varying the mix, and loved the simple and GOOD results every time!   

 So here you have – (insert drumroll) -my UNRECIPE for ‘Minutes’strone Soup.  No running to the store allowed; use what you have.  The below formula made a small batch (2 dinner servings and 2 generous lunch servings).  Increase amounts to fit your crowd.

 1. Start with some zing.  I usually use some onion and garlic, about 1-2 cloves garlic and 1/2 onion, chopped.  Place in a medium dice pot over medium high heat.  Let them start to make your house smell like dinner is coming…

2.  Add something red or orange, about 1/2 cup of something like tomato paste or sauce, canned tomatoes or pumpkin, or those grape tomatoes that are starting to wrinkle a bit, it even some salsa.  Add a little more or less as taste or supply dictates.

3.  Turn it into soup by adding 3-4 cups of veggie broth (4 cups for soupier soups, 3 cups for stew’ier soups.)

4.  Make it ‘stick to your ribs’ by throwing in some potato, sweet potato, cooked grains (like rice, quinoa, barley, etc.). I use about 1-2 potatoes or sweet potatoes or combo or 1 c cooked grains.

5.  Clean out the veggie crisper.  Slice, dice, chop, and toss in some zucchini, carrots, celery, cabbage, or whatever treasures you have.  I really don’t measure but aim for about the same total volume as the ‘stick to your ribs’ ingredients 

6.  To prevent after dinner munchies (and to add protein and fiber and more) throw in a can of beans or about 2 cups leftover cooked beans.  I usually drain and rinse canned beans to remove 50% of the added sodium, but have just thrown in an underdrained can at times too.)

7.  Add then to make it more ‘Olive Garden’ like, add a handful of small pasta, like little shells or bow ties or even broken whole wheat spaghetti.  Up to this point just add ingredients in the order listed and let things cook as you work.  Once you add the pasta, you will want to set timer for the shortest time listed on the package.

8.   For a last minute touch, toss in about two hands full of baby spinach or kale and possibly a few fresh herbs when there is 2 minutes left on the timer.

And when that timer goes off….tada ….. ‘Minutes’trone is ready.  Serve with a fresh salad and some crusty whole grain bread.  Enjoy!


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4 ways to make eating better, easier

Eating better.  It’s something I work at every day.  Along the way, I’ve learned a few tricks that can make all the difference.

You may be wondering what this picture has to do with making eating better, easier.  Well…that is a heaping half cup of freshly cooked steel cut oats being scooped into a silicone muffin pan.  Why would I do that?  And why would I take a picture of that?  Well…cooking steel cut oats takes about 45 minutes.  At my house morning doesn’t start 45 minutes before “breakfast and out the door” does.  So I cook a big batch of steel cut oats as part of a  “have time to cook” night and freeze them in ready to go portions.  After a few hours in the freezer, they pop right out of the muffin pan and get stored in a gallon size zipper bag, ready for their turn for a quick 2 minute reheat.  Add fresh berries and a splash of almond milk and ….tada….better breakfast made easier!   Just an example of one of my 4 favorite ways to make eating better, easier.

1. Have a Plan -First decide what eating better means to you. You will have the most success, if you focus on those things you want to eat more of (like say …planting your plate) and less about the things you want to avoid. If someone asked you to describe your diet I hope you’d say “I love eating fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes” rather than “I don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs, GMO’s, processed foods, refined sugars, preservatives, additives, chemicals, hormone disrupters, etc. etc. etc.”

Next think about the specifics of what you will be eating for the coming week.  KISS – Kiss it simple sweetie-pie -It’s okay to eat a simple baked potato and some steamed asparagus and enjoy every bite. That’s what everyday suppers look like – Be okay with that. And If you have time to cook roasted sweet potato baby kale sun dried tomato lasagna with homemade faux mozzarella cheese with artisan bread on the side on a weeknight, I have one thing to say, “can I come over for dinner?”

I don’t plan a day by day, meal by meal menu. What works for me is plan 4 entrees for the week (3 are tried and true favorites and 1 is a  “gotta try that” new recipe.) There are 2 of us eating at my house, so I plan to make 6 servings of an entrée. That means we can have it for dinner once, enjoys some leftovers (or planned overs) for lunch once, and freeze 2 portions for dinner/lunch on some future busy day. In addition to the planned entrees, I have a few Desperation Dinners up my sleeve – things that I can throw together very quickly from pantry ingredients.

2.  Buy what you want to eat and what you want your family to eat. Consider…not buying what you don’t want to eat. So simple to say, huh? I know that you may not share the same high eating standards with all of the people you share silverware with. But if you are the one with the planning and cooking responsibilities, you have the power!  At least strive to make the bulk of what you buy consistent with your definition of eating better.

3.  Cook ahead – the time to cook is when you have time and will enjoy it not when you’re hungry now.  I love to cook but I can’t spent a lot of time doing it every day. If it is a “time to cook” night, while I am in the kitchen I’ll cook more than the planned entrée. I’ll likely cook some quinoa (done in just 15 minutes), throw some brown rice in the rice cooker (takes over an hour in my rice cooker), and start some beans in a mini crockpot (I cook them for 24 hrs on low.) Since I will also have a cutting board and Chef’s knife all warmed up, I will likely prepare a few vegetables for future meals. If I am slicing carrots for a soup, I’ll probably also cut a carrot or two into carrots sticks for lunch tomorrow. I’ll make a big fresh vegetable salad (more than we will eat that day.) I might have soup going on top of the stove and a casserole in the oven. While the oven is on, I might roast some vegetables. This makes it so easy to fill a lunch bag and when it is definitely NOT a “time to cook” night, I can quickly assemble a meal with little clean-up.

4.  Packaging leftovers (or planned overs) in portion sized containers makes eating better really convenient. I know you are trying to avoid convenience foods but I am telling you if you make eating better really convenient you are lots more likely to succeed. Put the foods you worked hard to prepare where you will see them. I keep a tray right at eye level in the refrigerator. This tray is full of ready to eat portions of food that can be thrown into a lunch-bag or a backpack, reheated for a quick meal or eaten as is.

If you will be using the food within the next 4 days you can safely store it in the refrigerator. Just be sure to know what day is day 4. Easiest way I know to do that is to just use day of the week stickers that you can buy at any office supply store. I find it works best to sticker the food with it’s use by or discard date rather than its preparation date.

I like to store foods in glass containers for two reasons – it is just plain easier to find what I need when I can see it and I feel better about reheating food in glass rather than plastic. Foods that I know I won’t be able to use within 4 days, need to go in the freezer. I do use some plastic for freezing but don’t reheat in it. Be sure to label and date freezer items – they can be hard to recognize once they get a bit frosty and my memory ….. (what was I going to say?)

So that is all there is to it. Woops – I don’t want to make it sound easy. I only promised “easier.” I have spent most of my professional life helping people learn to eat better. It’s not easy. Changing the way you eat takes the same degree of skill as learning to play a musical instrument. You wouldn’t decide that tomorrow morning you will be a concert violinist (unless you already are one tonight) . Yet sometimes we do decide that tomorrow morning (or Monday morning) we will eat perfectly. We all know it takes years of dedication and practice to learn to play a musical instrument. It also takes dedication and practice (and doing dishes) to feed you and your family better.

So…Define the ways you want to eat better and make a simple plan to begin to do it.  Be sure your buying is in sync and cook and package with tomorrow in mind.  As you do these 4 steps you will find eating better getting easier – I promise!

How do you make eating better easier? I’d love to hear.

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Feed your Friends some Freaky Fun Food

I was lucky enough to do some recipe testing for Kathy Hester, cookbook author extraordinaire, and can now announce that her Halloween Dinner Party e-book, ‘The Ghoulish Gourmet, a bewitching collection of Vegan Halloween recipes’ is ready to order!

Sharing a recipe here for some chocolatey graham cracker-like Halloween cookies, especially good with the Spooky Sweet Potato Oatmeal Cookie Dip (included in the e-book as well.)


Another favorite was the Ghoulishy Green Potato Soup with pumpernickel croutons.

If you love October and feeding friends freaky fun food, you will want to order your copy fast!


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Strawberry Fluff

1960’s Strawberry Fluff – In the early days of summer vacation, sleep in while your mother picks fresh strawberries from the garden.  Get up just in time to see her clean some and whip them up into a tall glass of “Strawberry Fluff.”  The recipe as I remember it was 2 c strawberries, 2 c whole milk, and 1/3 c sugar.  Sweet times!

Today’s Strawberry Fluff – I picked the strawberries myself from the community garden we have been working in each Saturday.  In my morning rush I threw a handful into the blender (green tops included – not entirely because of the rush, also the years have brought greater respect for green things.). Then I added 1/2 c unsweetened almond milk, 2 Medjool dates, and about 3/4 c crushed ice.  Blended till sounded and looked smooth.  Served 2.  Slurped down on the drive to work.   Prefer the 1960’s schedule but the Strawberry  Fluff is better than ever!   SWEET TIMES!

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Beanie Ca’Weenies

 I usually prefer to buy my carrots whole with the skin still on.  They cost less per pound and seem to taste better  even if  they require peeling, slicing and dicing.  But when baby carrots were $.49/lb. recently I bought a couple bags.

Seeing the last bag in the crisper drawer with its freshness clock ticking, I decided to try something…and Beanie Ca’Weenies were born.

I started by stirring up some basic baked beans (not sure I should call them that.  No ove was involved, but simmered beans just doesn’t sound right.)

The onion and jalapeno were dry sautéed.

Till it smelled like walking past a food truck.

Then the beans and sauce ingredients were added and the mixture was covered and left to simmer.

Meanwhile over in the refrigerator, the baby carrots had been marinating since the night before.  Out came ‘the George,’ and the were lined up on the preheated grill.  The lid came down and the timer was set for ten minutes.  The goal – cute little grill marks.  Goal achieved.


The cute little Ca’Weenies were added to the beanies.

  “Tasty,” I said.

“Very tasty,” I said the next day when I had leftover Beanie Ca’Weenies in my lunch.

“I smell barbecue” said someone in the next cube over.

#potluckpossibilities #funsummersidedish

Beanie Ca’Weenies
Adapted from two Happy Herbivore recipes, combined as a fun remake of a classic (but not gourmet) dish.

YIELD 6 side servings

1/2 onion, diced
1/2 jalapeno, very finely diced
15 oz can Navy beans, drained but not rinsed
4 T catsup
2 T soy sauce
2 t prepared mustard
4 T real maple syrup
Few drops liquid smoke
Dash of your favorite hot sauce (I’m partial to Tabasco Chipotle)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb bag baby carrots
1/4 c cider vinegar
1/4 c water
2 T soy sauce
1/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t liquid smoke

Night before – Bring pot of water to a boil. Add carrots and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 10 minutes. Goal is to just barely cook the carrots, not to mush them.
Put vinegar, water, soy sauce, garlic powder, and liquid smoke in gallon size ziplock bag.
Drain carrots. Rinse in cool water. Add to zip-lock bag that is full of marinade.
Place zip-lock bag in a 9×9″ pan and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hrs. The longer the marinating is, the stronger the vinegar taste becomes.

Serving day – Dry sauté onion and jalapeño till onion is translucent and till the mixture smells really good. Add remaining Beanie ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and allow to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
Drain marinaded baby carrots, saving marinade.
Preheat ‘George Foreman’ type grill for 5 minutes.
Place drained carrots on hot grill, placing so as to create grill marks. Pour reserved marinade over carrots. Lower the grill’s lid and let cook for about 5 minutes, or till desired grill marks appear.
Add Weenies to Beanies. Toss together and serve.

Kid Tips – If preparing for young children, may want to eliminate jalapeño and hot sauce, may also want to chop onion very finely.

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