Healthy Fall Whole Foods Grocery Haul

Grocery bag on counter

I can’t believe we are already a month into Fall. The weather is a bit cooler, the leaves are changing, and pumpkin-flavored food and beverage items are seemingly everywhere again. While I am partial to the warmer Summer weather, Fall is definitely my second favorite season. And I am a total sucker for Fall flavors and foods like pumpkin, cinnamon, apples and squash and all the comfort foods like soups, chili, hot drinks, and hearty dishes. With Fall flavors and foods in mind, I was so excited to place my Whole Foods grocery delivery order last week.

If you have a Whole Foods store in your area, I highly recommend using their delivery and/or pick-up services. It will save you a ton of time and, if you choose delivery, your grocery items will be delivered right to your door. This comes in handy for me during the work week. I often work crazy long hours during the week and ordering my groceries online saves me from having to waste precious weekend time in the grocery store. Below are some my favorite Fall weather healthy grocery finds. (And here are some other great all-season Whole Foods healthy food finds.)

Healthy Breakfast Items

  • Nut Pods Pumpkin Spice Almond + Coconut Creamer
Nut Pods Pumpkin

Fall is the time year when I switch from my beloved cold brew to piping hot cups of coffee. While a pumpkin latte at Starbucks and Dunkin’ are a fabulous, once-in-a-while Fall treat, both companies include sugar and other suspect ingredients in their pumpkin latte recipes. Plus they don’t offer unsweetened oat, almond, and coconut milk options.

It’s so much healthier (and cheaper!) to make pumpkin lattes at home. This limited edition pumpkin spice creamer from Nut Pods is next level. It includes no sugar, is completely dairy free and its simple ingredient list includes coconut cream and almonds. For extra flavor, I also add vanilla collagen powder for a bold, pumpkin-vanilla flavor extravaganza in my morning cup of Joe. Since this is around for a limited time, grab this while you can! At my Whole Foods, this creamer was $2.25 for 11.2 ounces.

  • Honorable Coffee Creamer Mention: Laird Superfood Creamer
Laird Superfood Creamer

Although not technically a Fall-flavored creamer, Laird offers one of the cleanest creamers around for your coffee. And it includes some functional mushrooms (such as chaga, lion’s mane and cordyceps) which are immune boosters and super important as we enter the Fall and Winter cold and flu season. Coconut cream is the main ingredient of this tasty creamer. The creamer is lightly sweetened with coconut sugar, although Laird also sells an unsweetened version. I was able to purchase this on sale for $3.15; it typically retails for about $5 for 16 ounces. (Laird also makes an excellent hot chocolate, which I reviewed here.)

  • Gingerbread Larabars
Gingerbread Larabar

Larabar is the perfect on-the-go breakfast bar. I tend to grab one to eat when I have a super hectic morning schedule. It’s probably the healthiest bar available in grocery stores. There is no sugar added to the bars, it’s non-GMO and only features eight simple ingredients. I challenge you to find a better bar out there. Larabar has a lot of tasty bar flavors available, including some favorites perfect for Fall including gingerbread, pumpkin pie, and apple pie.

Note: I can usually find these bars at Target at a better price point, but they are also readily available at Whole Foods.

  • Eggs Benedict (or Sort of)

Although I eat eggs year round, Fall is the time year where I swap my basic scrambled eggs for heartier egg dishes like Eggs Benedict. I start with Vital Farms pasture-raised eggs which have more nutrients (and a brighter yoke color) compared to standard eggs. Sometimes I will fry the egg and other times I will poach the egg. Either way this recipe turns out delicious.

I use my favorite Keto bread, Base Culture, instead of an english muffin. Base Culture’s new sourdough bread is amazing and works well with this dish. Base Culture bread is a bit pricey at Whole Foods (typically around $10), but I stock up on this frozen bread when it goes on sale. (It’s presently on sale for about $8!). I place a slice of the frozen Base Culture bread on a frying pan with some olive oil and heat each side for about 2 minutes.

Once the egg is cooked to my liking. I top the Based Culture bread with the fried (or poached egg) and some Primal Kitchen hollandaise sauce (a super clean, cashew-based sauce). It’s beyond delicious!

Eggs Benedict

Lunch & Dinner Foods

  • Pacific Foods Organic Chicken & Wild Rice Soup
Pacific Foods Chicken Soup

This hearty, tasty soup from Pacific Foods will warm you up on chilly days. It’s the perfect lunch or dinner on days when you don’t have time to take a break to cook a meal. This soup is obviously not going to be as good as homemade soup, but it is darn close. The ingredients are super clean, gluten-free, and includes 10 grams of protein to help prevent afternoon snack cravings. Plus the entire container is only 230 calories. It’s a quick and healthy lunch option. (Often or when I have time, I will add some additional seasonings and fresh herbs to spice it up a bit.)

  • Rice Bowls

Rice bowls are an excellent lunch or dinner option if you have a little extra time. I usually use Whole Foods frozen “instant” jasmine rice as the base of my rice bowls. It’s one of the few heat and eat rice options that don’t include inflammatory oils or other suspect ingredients. You simply heat up the rice in the microwave or on the stove. The rice tastes great and doesn’t have the weird after taste that is often associated with instant, pre-cooked rice. (I made this rice for someone once who asked me if I made the rice in a rice cooker!)

Beyond the rice, I typically include some sort of meat such as bacon (the no-sugar Applewood Farms bacon is my go-to bacon when I am out of my Butcher Box bacon), ground beef, or organic sausage (such as the Bilinski’s organic sausage pictured or Whole Foods also makes a good organic sausage option). While the meat is cooking, I’ll typically cut up an onion or shallot and dice an avocado. I’ll then add the meat, onion, and avocado to the rice. I’ll top off the rice bowl with some arugula or cilantro and a touch of salt and olive oil. This filling rice bowl is just as good as a Chipotle rice bowl in my humble opinion.

Note: To make these bowls Paleo friendly, use cauliflower rice instead.

  • Cappello’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Cappello's Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Cappello’s makes arguably the best gluten free pasta available at Whole Foods or in any grocery store for that matter. Their certified paleo pastas feature A+ ingredients and all of their pastas are made from almond flour. I truly believe that Cappello’s pastas are closest in taste to wheat pasta.

The downside is Cappello’s pasta is that is very expensive. On a positive note, Whole Foods often offers great sales on these products. So, I tend to stock up when the price is right. (Cappello’s also makes one of the best gluten free crusts, which I rave about here. Cappello’s products are currently on sale at Whole Foods.)

The sweet potato gnocchi pairs well with a variety of sauces. I like it with my homemade tomato, roasted red pepper and herb sauce. Regardless of sauce, this is a delicious meal that cooks and will be ready to eat in about seven minutes!

  • Squash Side Dishes

Nothing screams Fall quite like squash dishes. And Whole Foods has quite a few squash options on their shelves.

The newest and most exciting one is the Solely One Whole Organic Spaghetti Squash Pasta. This “pasta,” which has 85% less calories and carbs than traditional pasta, features only one ingredient: dried spaghetti squash. You cook it just like traditional pasta. It is a delectable, guilt-free side. While it is definitely not similar in taste to traditional pasta, adding marinara sauce or your preferred seasonings makes this a must-try side dish for your Fall table.

In addition to this pasta, I often buy the Whole Foods brand frozen, organic butternut squash in the Fall and Winter months. The organic frozen cubed butternut squash is more affordable compared to the fresh organic diced squash available in the store. Plus, the frozen squash lasts a lot longer. I use this frozen butternut squash to make creamy soup, or I roast the squash in the oven with a bit of olive oil or avocado oil and some pumpkin pie spice for a superb Fall-flavored side dish. (I love the Whole Foods brand organic spices because they don’t include any preservatives or other sketchy ingredients.)

Dessert/Snack

  • Hu Grain-Free Snickerdoodle Cookies
Hu Cookies

No Whole Foods grocery haul is complete without at least one snack or dessert option. That’s where Hu Grain-Free Snickerdoodle Cookies come in. These paleo cookies have no added cane sugar, are gluten free and dairy free, and include no refined starch. The spices and flavor of these cookies make it a delicious and guilt-free option when are craving something sweet. In addition to eating these as cookies, I think these cookies ground up would work great as a crust or sprinkled over baked apples. (Hu also makes top-notch chocolate bars and treats, which are currently on sale at Whole Foods. Their chocolate also available for typically a lower price point at Target.)

Well, those are my latest Whole Foods grocery Haul Fall finds. I’ll be on the lookout for other new items when shopping for future orders. Stay warm!

Target Grocery Haul – Paleo & Healthy Food Finds

Who doesn’t love Target? Pre-pandemic, it was one of my favorite stores to aimlessly wander on a Saturday morning and fill my cart with items for my home, pantry, fridge, freezer and more. These days with the pandemic ever present, I’m not walking around any stores; however, I am loving curbside grocery service.

Target offers one of the best contactless curbside shopping services where you can submit an order through the app, employees will do your shopping for you using your list and will bring your order directly to your car – all within a few hours of submitting an order through the app. It’s often difficult to get same-day curbside pickup slots at other stores, but Target always has curbside same day pick-up availability in my area.

Beyond convenience, Target has really upped their game by carrying many healthy items at fabulous price points. Here are a few great Paleo & healthy food finds from my latest Target grocery haul:

1. Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix – $4.99

Birch Benders Paleo Pancake & Waffle Mix

Quick, tasty and grain-free pancakes are so easy to make with Birch Bender’s Paleo & Waffle mix. You just add water! The clean and diet-friendly ingredients produce fluffy pancakes that will satisfy any pancake craving. See my full review of this product here.

2. Applegate Naturals No Sugar Uncured Bacon -$4.59

Most bacon on supermarket shelves are loaded with sugar, preservatives and questionable ingredients. That is why I normally buy bacon from ButcherBox, who offer clean, sugar-free bacon as an add-on to their monthly curated meat subscription boxes. When I run out of ButcherBox bacon, Applegate Naturals No Sugar Uncured Bacon is my favorite stand-by option. As the name suggests, Applegate Naturals adds no sugar to the bacon and as an added bonus, it is Whole30 approved.

3. Chosen Foods 100% Pure Avocado Oil – $8.49

Avocado oil is the perfect oil for high heat cooking; however, a 2020 study from UC Davis concluded that 82% of avocado oils on the market are rancid or mixed with other oils. With so many fraudulent avocado oils on the market, it’s important to do your research before adding any avocado oil to your cart. Chosen Foods and Primal Kitchen offer some of the best, pure avocado oils on the market. Although a bit pricey, this Chosen Foods oil at Target is the rare, real-deal and will last you a long time. (For additional information about the best oils for cooking, click here.)

4. Swanson Sipping Bone Broth – $1.79

Swanson bone broth

Bone broth has been all the rave for a while now. A few years ago, people used to line up at hip bone broth places in New York City to score overpriced cups of bone broth. Now there are more options to heat up some healthy bone broth at home. While it is fairly time consuming to make your own bone broth at home, quality, pre-made bone broth is now available at stores like Target. This tasty sipping bone broth from Swanson is super affordable and feature surprisingly clean ingredients.

5. Siete Grain Free Taco Shells – $5.99

Siete Grain Free Taco Shells

Avoiding corn and grain? Taco Tuesdays are now back if you can snag these grain-free taco shells at Target. The shells taste just like corn taco shells, but are non-GMO. Siete is a ground-breaking new brand who also offers delicious, grain free tortilla chips as well as clean taco seasonings, dairy-free queso, enchilada sauces, salsa and more.

6. Purely Elizabeth. Cinnamon Peanut Butter Grain-Free Granola – $5.99

Simply Elizabeth. grain-free granola

Purely Elizabeth., a relatively new and exciting brand, offers some of the cleanest breakfast foods on the market. When I am craving cereal or granola, this is my go-to choice. Although a bit pricey, this grain-free granola flavored with cinnamon and peanut butter is made from clean ingredients like almonds and seeds, includes MCT oil for brain health and energy and is satisfies both sweet and savory cravings.

7. Purely Elizabeth. Strawberry Hazelnut Cauli Hot Cereal – $2.79

Purely Elizabeth. Cauli Cereal

Speaking of Purely Elizabeth., they also offer on-the-go grain-free cauliflower-based hot cereals. Just like oatmeal (but without the grain), you only need to add water for an instant breakfast. The single serve cereals come in several varieties including strawberry hazelnut and cinnamon almond and have the same consistency of traditional oatmeal.

8. Primal Kitchen BBQ Ranch Dressing & Marinade – $5.79

Primal Kitchen BBQ Ranch Dressing

It’s often difficult to find salad dressings and marinades without gluten, dairy, soybean oil (or other seed oils), sugar, “natural flavors” and other sketchy ingredients. Primal Kitchen is one of my favorite paleo friendly brands for salad dressings, BBQ sauces, mayonnaise, oils and more. Most of their dressings, like this one, include quality avocado oil and stellar ingredients. Although pricey, Primal Kitchen dressings are a step above most others on the grocery store shelves.

9. Rao’s Homemade Sensitive Marinara – $7.39 (on sale)

Rao's Homemade Sensitive Marinara

One of the best tasting marinara sauces in the market has to be Rao’s Homemade. While you can find countless others at lower price points, none will rival the taste and clean ingredients of Rao’s. And Rao’s is one of the few tomato sauces that does not contain added sugar. Rao’s offers an assortment of sauces, including this sensitive formula which does not contain onions or garlic – which is unheard of with marinara sauces.

10. GimMe Organic Sea Salt Premium Roasted Seaweed – $1.99

Roasted seaweed snacks

If you are craving a salty, healthy snack on-the-go, these roasted seaweed snacks are a great option. With only three ingredients and no added sugar, these non-GMO and USDA certified organic are low in calories and include nutrients like iodine, calcium, potassium and iron.

This List is Just the Tip of the Iceberg

In addition to the great finds above, Target is an excellent place to shop for nuts (slivered almonds – $3.89), organic fruit (organic raspberries – $3.99), organic salad (organic spring mix lettuce – $2.59), organic canned pumpkin – $1.99 and so much more.

Paleo Pancakes – Birch Benders Pancake & Waffle Mix Review

Every once in a while, I crave pancakes for breakfast. It’s usually on the weekends and after a more intense morning workout. I always find this craving to be somewhat odd because I was never too fond of pancakes growing up. (The sames holds true for bagels; while everyone else in my family looked forward to “Bagel Sundays”, I was never a fan … probably due to gluten sensitivity which wouldn’t be diagnosed until many years later.) These days, my diet is (mostly) Paleo and pretty clean. When I do get these random pancake cravings, finding quality pre-made Paleo pancake mixes with clean ingredients has always been always challenging.

Sure, I could always whip up some pancakes from scratch using gluten free flours, eggs, baking powder, salt, oil, almond milk, etc. And I’ve done that many times. Not all recipes or flours are created equal, though. And I often got mixed results. With all of the ingredients and preparation apparatus required, my kitchen was always left in disarray afterwards. (But hey, if you have time and don’t mind some clean up, check out my tasty pumpkin pancakes recipe here.)

I have also tried pre-made mixes before from some of the better known brands (Bob’s Red Mill, Kind Arthur, Stonewall Kitchen, etc.). Some required added ingredients like eggs or (dairy free) milk which really didn’t save much time (or mess) compared to making pancakes from scratch. While most of these mixes tasted great, I was not always thrilled with the less than stellar and sketchy ingredients in some – which include cane sugar, rice flour, potato starch, artificial additives, natural flavors, oils, etc.

Finally a Clean Paleo Pancake Mix!

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a video posted by FlavCity (who provide paleo and keto shopping tips and content on YouTube), which featured the Birch Benders Keto Pancake and Waffle Mix variety. I was impressed by the clean, simple ingredients. Although the Keto mix is not an option for me since I avoid dairy, I researched the brand and discovered that they also offer a paleo-friendly version.

As the name implies, the paleo version is grain free and contains no added sugar. The ingredients are clean and simple: cassava starch, organic coconut flour, almond flour, eggs, salt, monk fruit (a natural sweetener that does not impact blood sugar levels), and spices.

Ingredients are so clean!

Preparation is Easy

In addition to the amazingly clean ingredients, what I love most about this pancake mix is that you only have to add water. That’s it! You simply mix 3/4 cup of the Birch Benders paleo pancake and waffle mix with 2/3 cup of water and it is ready to go.

I typically add two large spoonfuls of the mixture it to a large frying pan at a time with a tablespoon or two of avocado oil. I flip the pancakes after about 2 minutes and give it a good 2 minutes to cook evenly on the other side. The mixture is enough to make about four small to medium-sized pancakes.

How Does it Compare to Traditional Pancake Mixes?

I am impressed. The pancakes come out fluffy and cook just like regular pancake mixes (including those both with and without gluten). They are slightly lighter in color compared to other pancake mixes. The texture is identical to traditional pancakes, though.

In terms of taste, the pancakes are absolutely delicious. I promise that they will satisfy any pancake craving. I do find the pancakes to taste a bit sweeter than traditional pancakes, which is likely due to the cassava starch and monk fruit natural sweetener. So, your taste buds will notice a bit of a taste difference. In the future, I will likely experiment with adding some vanilla collagen powder and/or canned pumpkin to the mix.

Due to the heightened sweetness, I recommend limiting the amount of maple syrup that you pour on the pancakes and possibly pair it with a less sweet fruit like berries. To balance out the sweetness of the pancakes, consider adding a savory side like a piece of bacon.

My overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Where Can I Purchase Birch Benders Paleo & Waffle Mix?

Birch Benders is a bit pricier than most traditional pancake mixes, but many health minded people like myself are likely willing to pay more for top quality, clean ingredients. The cheapest options that I could find are at:

Amazon ($4.88)

Walmart ($4.88)

Target ($4.99)

Click on the links above to try some for yourself today!

A Total Game Changer for Your Barbecues: Coconut Aminos

It’s officially barbecue season! If you are looking to elevate the food at your get-togethers this summer, look no further. Coconut Aminos is the browning sauce/marinade that you didn’t know you needed in your pantry.

I first discovered this gem while scrolling through Instagram a month ago. My interest was piqued when a zoomed-in picture of this mysterious bottle made an appearance on my feed. This sauce was described right in the caption as a flavorful alternative to soy sauce without the bitter soy aftertaste. I needed to find this sauce!

So during my next shopping trip at Trader Joe’s, this bad boy earned a spot in my cart and journeyed home with me. Since then, I have poured this sauce on just about everything … and I have yet to be disappointed. Here are some of the best ways to pair this sauce with your favorite barbecue fare:

1. Grass-Fed Beef Burger Marinade

Wow! Using coconut aminos as a burger marinade will take your everyday barbecue burgers to the next level. Kick it up a notch further by pouring an extra bit of marinade on the burger after you take it off the grill. Your palate will thank you!

2. Fried Plantains

Fry some thinly sliced plantains in some of this flavorful sauce for a tasty and nutritious dessert. Expect compliments from your family and friends after they dive into this sweet and savory treat.

3. Brussel Sprouts with Paleo Bacon

This recipe couldn’t be easier. Add some brussel sprouts and 2 tablespoons of Coconut Aminos to a frying pan. Cook on medium heat until tender, remove from heat and place the brussel sprouts in a bowl. In a separate pan, brown two slices of paleo (sugar free) bacon until crisp. Break the bacon into small pieces and sprinkle the bacon on the brussel sprouts. Add more Coconut Aminos to taste, if preferred. Enjoy!

4. Chicken Marinade

Coconut Aminos also makes a sensational marinade for chicken. Add a handful of fresh cilantro with a pinch of sea salt and pepper to the marinade and you won’t be disappointed.

5. Dressing for Salads

Take a break from your usual go-to salad dressings and toss your salad with a mixture of Coconut Aminos and olive oil instead. It’s bound to be a crowd pleaser!

6. Glaze for Strawberries

Feeling adventurous? Drizzle some sliced strawberries with this delectable sauce. It’s an awesome substitute for balsamic vinegar.

Trader Joe’s Must Haves: The Best Finds!

Well, it’s been a minute since I updated my blog. In reality, it’s been more like 481,800 minutes (which equates to 11 months). Yikes! Starting a new job this year, planning a large celebration and more have unfortunately kept me focused on things other than this blog. I can’t think of a better topic to reemerge from my hiatus, though, than one that involves one of my favorite stores: Trader Joe’s.

My obsession with Trader Joe’s is almost two decades in the making. When I think of Trader Joe’s, I am always taken back to my college years spent in Fairfield, CT. My friends and I would flock to the Trader Joe’s on the Post Road a few times a month and stock up on essentials and the latest unusual finds. Back then, Trader Joe’s was one of only a few alternatives to traditional grocery stores.

When I moved to New York City years later, my regular weekend routine would include walking 17 blocks to the Trader’s Joe’s in Union Square. At the time, it was the only Trader Joe’s in NYC – so the lines were beyond insane and would literally wrap around the entire store. It was not unusual to have to wait 45 minutes or more (gasp!) on the checkout line. Despite the crowds and lengthy checkout wait, shopping there was always an experience. I would often head into the store with the intention of buying 3-4 items, and leave with about 20 or more. At that point, walking the 17 blocks home was not an option; so my bags were often taxied home in the trunk of a yellow cab.

Fast forward several years and another state later, and I am still a Trader Joe’s regular.  The best thing, in my humble opinion, about Trader Joe’s is that they are always changing things up. They update their stock with the seasons and are quick to embrace the latest health trends. As an added bonus, Trader Joe’s always stock their stores with many healthy, gluten-free, dairy-free and other options. Plus, they have some of the best prices around on organic produce.

When it comes to my favorite products at Trader Joe’s, I can easily think of 20 products to feature in this blog post.  But, in the interest of not losing your attention, I will limit my favorite things list to just seven. Well, without further adieu, here are my Favorite Things: The Trader Joe’s Edition:

DBD96077-A201-4849-82E8-D310289DFA181. Organic Coconut Oil Packets To Go – Trader Joe’s sells these amazing coconut oil packets that you can take with you on the go. Every store it seems these days sells coconut oil containers; however, these packets take things to another level of cool.  Instead of practically breaking my spoon attempting to retrieve some coconut oil from the containers, I just grab one of these packets. I use these packets in smoothies, on sweet potatoes and even use it as a make-shift lip balm in the winter months. You can’t beat the convenience! Check out 101 ways to use coconut oil here.

142CA78A-93ED-4A83-9EB2-2841C6E071112. Frozen Cauliflower Pizza Crust  – Oh my goodness! This frozen crust made of cauliflower and corn flour is absolutely amazing. Let’s face it; gluten-free pizza crust is usually pretty dreadful. (In fact, cardboard is probably more flavorful.) But, this pizza crust is delicious. My favorite “pizza” to make using this crust is topped with pesto (see next item) and arugula. On Christmas, I used this crust to make an appetizer with tomato sauce and veggies – which received rave reviews from my family of taste testers.

E991E68D-3E26-4D0F-AA57-BFC25D5DAB303. Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto – While I am definitely not a Vegan (see next item for proof), this pesto is mouth-wateringly good. It is next to impossible to find a pesto made without some form of cheese. Finding this pesto, which has a tendency to sell out quickly at Trader Joe’s, has saved me from having to make my own dairy-free pesto.  Try this pesto as a dip with vegetables, with chicken or turkey, as a burger topping or on a cauliflower crust pizza. It can be found in Trader Joe’s hummus section.

1ED5F327-E1B2-4230-B392-E698CE75086B4. Grass-Fed Angus Beef Burgers – Quality beef can be expensive. Trader Joe’s, however, sells these tasty grass-fed burgers for a reasonable price compared to their competitors. I don’t eat beef too often, but when I do, this is my go-to burger.

IMG_0289

5. Unsweetened Golden Oolong Iced Tea – Unsweetened iced tea can sometimes be a bit bitter and unappetizing. This tea, made from oolong tea leaves, has a natural bit of sweetness without any added sugar or artificial sweetener. This tea is a staple in my refrigerator.

IMG_03816. Organic Ginger and Turmeric Tea – Speaking of tea, Trader Joe’s has a fabulous assortment of tea bags that often change with the season. My pantry currently has about six or more different varieties of Trader Joe’s tea boxes. At the moment, my favorite is the ginger and turmeric tea. It is surprisingly sweet with a just a hint of spice. And ginger and turmeric are both soothing on the stomach and help combat inflammation. (My honorable mentions for tea are Trader Joe’s Winter Wake Up Tea and the Bed Time Tea. The Bed Time Tea is an effective cure for insomnia!)

DC833244-95FE-4880-A84E-2B18E2562E2C7. Colorful Carrot Coins – I am always looking for new foods to try in my air fryer, which I have had now for just over a year. Trader Joe’s sells a ton of great fresh and frozen vegetable options. These colorful carrot coins are my go-to veggies at the moment. I heat these in the air fryer as a side dish or on the stove as part of a stir fry. These carrot coins are also great on a pizza (see #2 above).

Well, I could go on and on about my love for Trader Joe’s and ramble on about their fabulous products all day. In closing, they also have some pretty excellent bath, face and body products too. (Check out their Coconut Body Butter…it’s considerably cheaper and arguably better than any body butter/lotion around.)

Getting Your Veggies In … Even on Super Bowl Sunday!

vegetables-1736170__340

So, it’s Super Bowl Sunday – an unofficial national holiday practically devoted to Americans gorging our faces with wings, nachos, burgers, chips and beer. At first glance, it’s probably not the most fitting day to run a blog post about adding more vegetables into our daily meals. On second thought, though, I think we can all benefit from sneaking in more vegetables daily – even on days like Super Bowl Sunday. So, here we go!

As many of you are aware, the standard American diet typically falls short of the recommended servings of fiber-rich vegetables. Vegetables not only contain fiber, which is super important for gut health, they are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy and ward off disease. Yet, many of us are skipping these healthy vegetables for tastier, empty calorie comfort foods. Let’s face it, we could all use more veggies in our lives.

One of my personal goals for 2017 is to try to eat a healthy serving of vegetables with each and every meal. Yes, even breakfast. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been tough to accomplish every day, especially with a brand new job and a lot going on since the beginning of the New Year. I have been pretty successful in meeting this goal thus far, though.

The good news is that I have found a lot of easy and crafty ways that you too can get your “veggies on” every day. Here are three suggestions to help you add more vegetables on the sly with minimum effort:

1. Make Vegetables the Focus of Your Smoothies

green-juice-769129__340

I’m all for juicing, but sometimes drinking cold pressed juices gives me a bit of a sugar rush. And the juicer is a giant pain in the neck to clean. These are just a few reasons why I usually blend vs. juice. One significant reason as to why I prefer smoothies to juices is because smoothies also contain fiber – which is lacking from most juices.

Smoothies are not always healthy. The biggest mistake that many people make is adding too much fruit to smoothies. I try to make vegetables the star of my smoothies and the fruit has much more of a supporting role.

The fabulous thing about smoothies is that you can really think out of the box when adding vegetables and make up recipes on the spot. I rarely make the same recipe twice. And my smoothie is always dependent on what I have in stock in my fridge or freezer at the time. Here are some vegetables that I regularly add to smoothies:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Beets (usually frozen)
  • Celery
  • Squash (whichever kind is in season)
  • Parsnip
  • Turnip

I usually add a bunch of vegetables from the list above to my blender, along with a 1/2 cup of coconut, almond or cashew milk. For a slight bit of sweetness, I add a small amount of wild frozen blueberries, pineapple or acai. To give my smoothies an added boost, I often add:

  • Fresh or powdered ginger (for a little spice)
  • Organic cacao powder (for a healthy chocolate kick)
  • Green Superfood powder (you can never have too many greens)
  • Cinnamon (for a warm flavor)
  • Fresh aloe (helps with digestion)
  • Collagen powder (helps with the gut, skin, hair and more)

As always, consult with your physician before incorporating any of the supplements above.

2. Consider Purchasing an Air Fryer for Quick, Healthy Vegetable Frying

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If you don’t yet own an air fryer, you don’t know what you are missing.

This past Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised when I received an air fryer as a gift from my sister Katie. At first, I thought it might be a fun new appliance that I would tinker with only on occasion. It turns out, though, that I use my air fryer several times a week these days.

Like the name suggests, an air fryer uses air as opposed to oil to fry/cook foods. So, what results is healthy, flavorful fried vegetables. (You can use a smidgen of oil if you prefer in the air fryer, although none is required for most foods.) You can actually cook meats, fish and other foods in the air fryer as well – although I haven’t been that daring yet to test the air fryer with these kind of foods.

I have cooked a number of vegetables (kale, butternut squash cubes, carrots, etc.) and starchy foods (shredded potatoes, sweet potato chunks, etc.) in the air fryer. Most vegetables and potatoes take less than 15 minutes to cook in the air fryer. And the air fryer tray is super easy to clean and maintain.

I typically will put a large portion of vegetables in the air fryer in the evening, eat some with dinner and reserve the rest for lunches I prepare for the next few days. I pair the veggies/potatoes with some form of protein for healthy, nutrient-packed daily lunches.

The best news is that you can snag an air fryer for less than $100. The model I use, pictured, is available at Amazon for $81. Trust me, it will change the way you cook.

3. Substitute Carb-Heavy Sides with Vegetables

When you eat out at restaurants, entrees are most commonly served with sides such as white rice, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pasta, fries and other heavy foods. These options are definitely comfort foods that you almost expect to see on your plates when eating out. Many folks think of sides in the same way when cooking meals at home. But these carb-heavy sides can make an otherwise healthy meal significantly less healthy very quickly.

On a positive note, many restaurants are offering healthier, less heavy side options that focus more on vegetables and herb ingredients rather than empty carbs. At home, you too can incorporate more tasty vegetable sides into your daily menus. One such substitute is cauliflower rice. Below is a tasty cauliflower rice recipe that incorporates turkey bacon and herbs that will make you forget about white rice (I’m serious).

Savory Cauliflower Rice with Turkey Bacon, Herbs and Balsamic Vinegar

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If orange is the new black, than cauliflower rice is the new kale. Cauliflower rice seems to be everywhere these days – even on the menus of fancy restaurants. For the longest time, you could only find riced cauliflower in stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Nowadays, even Walmart carries frozen cauliflower rice. And it is very affordable in all stores.

Back on Christmas day, I wanted to make a new, healthy vegetable side recipe to accompany the usual Christmas sides. So, I devised the recipe below. It is a very flexible recipe so you can use the herbs and seasonings that you have on hand at home.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 strips of uncured turkey bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado oil)
  • 2.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water (if fresh cauliflower rice is used)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Fresh herbs (In the past, I have used a couple of fresh basil leaves or some fresh rosemary. Use what you have on hand.)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Over medium heat, add saucepan with 1 tablespoon oil to stove.
  2. Stir in two cups of cauliflower rice (if using frozen cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water; if using fresh cauliflower rice, add 1/4 cup of water).
  3. Add balsamic vinegar to sauce pan. Add thyme, parsley, Cajun seasoning and rosemary. Add fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Stir regularly
  4. On a separate pan, cook two strips of turkey bacon until crisp. Add pieces of bacon to the cauliflower rice.
  5. Continue to cook over medium heat for 12-15 minutes and stir often – until cauliflower rice is tender.
  6. Add additional seasoning to your taste preferences

Enjoy and Happy Super Bowl!

 

One Last Pumpkin Recipe for the Season!

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Wow, Thanksgiving was already over a week ago! Tis the season that time truly does seem to fly.

Presumably like you, I spent the holiday weekend consuming heaps of Thanksgiving leftovers, spending time with loved ones and shopping up a storm. Also like many of you, I had a ton of ingredients left over from my holiday baking and cooking feats. So, I put on my thinking cap and began to concoct some new recipes to ensure the ingredients did not go to waste! Here is one recipe that I devised, which uses one of my favorite ingredients of all time – pumpkin:

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Beginning in September, manufacturers, coffee shops, juice joints and restaurants seem to add “pumpkin spice” to just about everything. It’s ubiquitous! As the calendar moves into December, most of the population seems to be “over” the pumpkin craze and already have moved on to December flavors like peppermint, cinnamon spice, gingerbread, etc.

Not me! I consume pumpkin all year round. It’s a staple ingredient in my smoothies, baking and other recipes. Pumpkin is actually one of the healthiest vegetables around. This exciting vegetable, which is part of the squash family, is low in calories and packed with fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and flavonoids galore. These nutrients are why I try to use pumpkin as much as possible in my cooking/recipes. Click here to learn more about the amazing benefits of pumpkin.

The one recipe I’ve always wanted to tackle is a pumpkin pancake recipe. It’s been years since I’ve eaten pancakes, although I have often craved them. I have never been a fan of the pre-packaged, gluten-free pancake mixes due to some of the suspect ingredients added to the mixes. My only alternative to ever enjoying pancakes again was to make my own.

So, I experimented and came up with the recipe below. Since this recipe is a bit rich, I only suggest reserving it for special occasions, holidays or to satisfy a fierce craving. I also tend to make the pancakes on the smaller side – to prevent from over-indulging.

Pumpkin Spice Pancake Recipe with Toasted Pecans Recipe

What you’ll need:

  • Baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Mixing spoon
  • Griddle/skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup coconut or almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk or cashew milk or blend)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 teaspoon real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (Trader Joe’s has an excellent one)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Spread pecans on an ungreased baking/cookie sheet. Sprinkle olive oil over pecans and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the almond milk, eggs, canned pumpkin, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Mix together.
  4. Stir in coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice and the pinch of sea salt. Mix until lumps have disappeared.
  5. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Add coconut oil to the skillet or griddle. Once coconut oil melts, add pumpkin pancake batter to the skillet or griddle at the size that you prefer.
  6. The first batch will take longer than subsequent batches. Watch the first batch closely, when the bottom appears to lightly brown (typically takes about 4 minutes with the first batch), flip the pancake until the second side is lightly browned. With subsequent batches, it should take about 2-3 minutes for each side to lightly brown. Add more coconut oil if needed.
  7. Once finished, sprinkle each pancake with a few toasted pecans and drizzle the pancake with real maple syrup.
  8. Enjoy!

I may be late to the Pumpkin Spice party this year, but this is a recipe that can be enjoyed all year round! The pumpkin transforms these pancakes into a recipe that packs a healthy dose of nutrients. Now, that my pumpkin pancake craving is satisfied, I am suddenly craving peppermint….hmmm.

Say What? Affordable Organic and Healthy Food Options at Aldi

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It seems like Aldi is kind of hip now. Last weekend, one of the largest newspapers in NYC, the New York Daily News, featured an article called, “8 reasons why you should shop at Aldi.”

While I hadn’t shopped at an Aldi store in a few months, the article convinced me that I needed to hop in my car and head back there ASAP. In fact, I literally drove to my nearest Aldi within a few hours of reading the article. And I’m glad that I did! Upon perusing the Aldi aisles, my eyes almost popped out of their sockets when I saw all of the new organic and healthy food options – at beyond amazing prices. To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

The Aldi Experience

For those of you who are not familiar with Aldi, it is a “no-frills” German supermarket chain that seems to be popping up everywhere. In fact, at least 10 stores are now open within 10 miles of my home. Go back a few years, and maybe there were only two stores in my area. You can even find an Aldi in Manhattan! Beyond my immediate area, Aldi stores seem to be expanding in most U.S. states and throughout Europe.

The author of the Daily News article says it best when he described Aldi as the “Jan Brady of supermarkets.” When you first enter an Aldi store, you kind of have to get used to the “no-frills” concept of the chain. You are not going to see the beautiful produce displays and neatly stocked shelves of supermarkets like Whole Foods, Fairway or Trader Joes. In fact, most items are haphazardly placed in cardboard boxes or containers at Aldi.

Aldi has some interesting quirks. Shoppers must insert a quarter to gain use of an Aldi shopping cart. (You get the quarter back upon returning the shopping cart, though.) Also, the store charges for all plastic shopping bags. This policy, though, encourages shoppers to bring their own reusable shopping bags (which I remember to bring with me most of the time).

Aldi stores also carry mostly unique brands. They offer several brand lines that you can only find at Aldi stores, such as Simply Nature (natural and organic products), Fit & Active (food and beverages for healthy lifestyles), liveGfree (gluten-free line), Friendly Farms (dairy and dairy alternatives), Never Any! (meat without antibiotics, hormones or by-products), Little Salad Bar (vegetables/salad items) and more. Aldi stores also carry a limited and rotating stock of name brand items found at traditional supermarkets.

While kind of odd for a supermarket, these unique policies, unstructured looking aisles and limited brand options help Aldi keep overhead low. For example, they don’t need to hire as many employees for stocking shelves and no employees are needed for parking lot cart retrieval. The money they save on overhead translates into better prices for us consumers!

The “New” Aldi

Aldi had somewhat of an undeserved bad rap a few years ago. Back then, Aldi’s brand game wasn’t as strong and their shelves featured less healthy options. However, most notably there seemed to be somewhat of a stigma associated with shopping at Aldi a few year back. I remember shopping at an Aldi store in 2012 and overhearing a conversation between two neighbors who ran into each other unexpectedly at the store. Both ladies were acting somewhat embarrassed to be “caught” shopping at Aldi and were overtly making excuses as to why they weren’t shopping at the “regular” supermarket instead. Their exchange was almost humorous.

Back then, Aldi stores were not very crowded. Fast forward a few years later and Aldi stores are now super popular. Parking lots are jam-packed and the aisles are crammed with frugal-minded shoppers. Shopping at Aldi definitely seems more mainstream today.

Aldi’s low prices (especially when standard supermarket prices continue to rise) along with the expansion of healthy and organic food options continue to attract new shoppers and keep returning customers like me satisfied. As we all know, it’s very expensive to eat mostly organic and healthy foods – so Aldi’s incredibly low prices make healthy eating more accessible for everyone.

And there are so many great finds available at Aldi now! I am excited to share some of the organic and healthy items purchased at my recent Aldi shopping run:

Organic Arugula

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Arugula, which is hands down my favorite kind of salad green vegetable, is only $2.49 at my Aldi store. And it’s organic! Most supermarkets seem to offer organic arugula (with the exception of rare sales) at a price point of $3.99 or greater. My savings: at least $1.50

Organic Spinach

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Spinach is my go-to green veggie for juicing and smoothies. Organic baby spinach at Aldi is only $2.49 (compared to over $3.99 at standard supermarkets). My savings: at least $1.50

Organic Frozen Blueberries

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Blueberries are packed with antioxidants. Frozen organic blueberries are a regular staple item in my freezer. While packages at standard supermarkets could cost you around $4.99, Aldi sells frozen organic blueberries for only $2.79. My savings: around $2.20.

Organic, Antibiotic Free Chicken Breast

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This one is a total steal. It is hard to find affordable organic chicken at grocery stores. While some chicken will be marketed as antibiotic-free, the chicken will often not be organic. Aldi sells organic, antibiotic-free chicken breasts for an incredibly low price. The large chicken breast that I purchased (enough for two full servings) was only $5.33. I have been unable to find anything similar in standard supermarkets for under $10. My savings: approximately $5.

Organic Baby Carrots

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Baby carrots are fabulous in the juicer, in smoothies and are the perfect afternoon or anytime snack. Aldi sells a 16 ounce bag of organic carrots for $1.89. Compare this to $2.49 at a nearby standard supermarket, and I saved 60 cents by shopping at Aldi. Below is a juice that I made with these carrots:

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Pure Coconut Water

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Stores like Whole Foods sell pure coconut water for about $3.99 a pop. (Pure coconut waters need to be refrigerated and aren’t as widely available compared to the shelf stable coconut waters.) Trader Joes offers a great deal for pure coconut water for $2.99 a bottle; however, Aldi offers even a better deal at $2.29 per bottle! That is a saving of at least 70 cents per bottle. Needless to say, I stocked up on these coconut waters during my last Aldi shopping trip.

Unsweetened Almond Milk

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I love almond milk. The unsweetened almond milk varieties are a must for my smoothies and protein shakes. I can’t believe that unsweetened almond milk is only $2.29 at Aldi! The brand I typically buy at other supermarkets is at least $3.29. My savings: $1 or more. Note: They also sell coconut milk at Aldi, but I didn’t see any unsweetened varieties available.

Other Sweet Deals at Aldi

  • Slivered Almonds $2.99 – These almonds are usually very expensive at standard supermarkets. I am talking at least $5.99 at other stores. I use these almonds in many recipes including my carrot slaw and Asian salad recipes.
  • Bag of Lemons $3.29 – I use lemons often in hot water and to dress my salads. Lemons can be pricey at regular supermarkets. This Aldi bag featured a whole lot of lemons at a great price!
  • (Whole) Pineapple $1.99 – Wow! The cheapest price I have found outside of Aldi for a whole pineapple is $2.99.
  • 24 Pack of Spring Water $2.49 – I love the taste of Aldi spring water and the water comes in BPA free plastic containers. As an added bonus, the water bottles are made of recycled plastic.

A Word of Caution

While I have focused on the healthy food and beverage items that I have purchased, keep in mind that Aldi also carries a lot of junk and heavily processed foods also at great prices. Just like any supermarket, these not-so-healthy foods are definitely abundant at Aldi. I encourage all shoppers to carefully read labels of products before purchasing them. I tend to stick to certain Aldi brands, such as Simply Nature, Friendly Farms (for unsweetened almond milk only), Little Salad Bar, etc. to ensure that I am selecting only healthy and/or organic items.

Keeping Aldi in Mind for Future Shopping Sprees

While I can’t rely on Aldi for everything on my shopping list, it is a fantastic spot to save money on the healthy items above and more. I’m definitely going to try to shop there more often! Aldi is also a great store to shop at for large parties or holiday meals – which can often set you back hundreds of dollars at other stores. You can definitely save a bank load of money on key staples and ingredients at Aldi compared to traditional supermarkets.

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Some of the fabulous organic and healthy food finds that I picked up at Aldi.

 

 

 

 

 

Becoming Less Reliant on Microwave Cooking

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A few weeks ago my microwave oven stopped working. I was attempting to heat turkey meatballs quickly between meetings while working from home when my microwave flatlined. Basically, it was completely dead; the time started blinking and the buttons refused to work.

I must admit that I began to panic a bit when my microwave stopped working. Would I have to (gasp!) use my oven to reheat my food? How long would that even take? With limited time for breaks due to my hectic work schedule, I had definitely become reliant on my microwave over the years to reheat or cook food in a pinch. In fact, probably too reliant!

The broken down microwave didn’t cause a total disaster. In reality, the meatballs only took a few minutes to heat up in the oven. And they tasted a million times better than they would have in the microwave. Most importantly, I still had plenty of time to prep for my next work meeting.

While my food was heating up in the oven, though, I began to ponder if it was necessarily a bad thing that my microwave oven seemingly went kaput. After all, as an otherwise healthy person, I knew that I used my microwave way too often. I began to think for a moment that maybe I wouldn’t even replace my defective microwave at all. I even daydreamed about what I would do with the extra counter space – as my microwave took up prime real estate in my tiny NYC area kitchen.

My daydream was short-lived, though. Later that evening, I noticed a small piece of paper towel wedged in the microwave oven door. I swiftly removed the paper towel piece …and my microwave came back to life again.

While my microwave is now in working order, I have decided that I am going to make a concerted effort to try to use it less often.

The 1980s: Where it all Began for my Family

I remember my family’s first microwave oven. My parents purchased it in the early 80s on the way home from a visit with family in New York. It was an enormous contraption that was so big that it wouldn’t even fit on the countertop. At probably two to three times the size of a microwave today, my parents had to buy a large stand to hold the darn thing.

For the longest time, the microwave oven remained pretty much idle. It was rarely used – almost as if we were slighly skeptical of it at first. Then, seemingly overnight, it became the most popular appliance in our kitchen.

By the mid to late 1980s, microwave cooking became a hot trend. All of the ladies in the neighborhood, like my mother, had cupboards filled with microwave cookbooks and recipes. There were even cake mix kits that allowed you to make entire cakes in the microwave. (They tasted pretty dreadful, had a sponge-like consistency and didn’t last too long on the store shelves, though.) During this time, grocery stores started carrying TV dinners galore, microwave popcorn, soup that could be microwaved and so much more.

Almost everyone had a microwave. And it also became the go-to appliance for reheating food for families – moving ahead of even the regular oven.

Sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, word seemed to spread that microwave cooking was probably not the safest method of cooking. I remember being told repeatedly by my mother to step back from the microwave while it was in use. The words “radiation” and “potentially dangerous” became synonymous with microwave oven use. However, that didn’t stop most people from using microwaves.

Fast forward 30+ years, microwave ovens are now much smaller and sleeker than the 1980s models, and most of us still use them at least once everyday. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t use a microwave for at least some form of cooking/reheating.

In fact, I have only met one person in my adult life who didn’t own a microwave. A former boyfriend lived life microwave free and cooked all of his meals strictly on the stove or in the oven. He would even buy TV dinners, transfer them to oven-safe dishes and heat them in the oven. I used to think it was kind of unusual that he didn’t own a microwave (and had no desire to ever own one), but now I think he was kind of on to something!

How Does a Microwave Oven Work?

A microwave oven heats food through microwave radiation. Rather, than boring you lovely readers with my attempt at scientific speak, I found a few articles that explain the science behind microwave ovens succinctly:

How Do Microwaves Work?

Explain that Stuff – How Microwave Ovens Work

What are the Dangers?

Well, the good news is that most experts agree now that the radiation that emanates from microwave ovens is not as dangerous as originally thought. Back in the day, it was widely believed that microwave ovens could cause cancer through excessive radiation exposure. No studies related to modern microwave oven models seem to suggest that this is a valid worry, though. Many experts still recommend standing a few feet away from a microwave that is in use, as a small amount of radiation exposure is possible.

All of the news about microwave oven use is not positive, though. Research indicates that microwave ovens can alter the nutrients of food, heating food in some plastic containers could be dangerous as toxins from plastic could leach on to food during the heating process and microwave ovens heat larger food items inconsistently which could result in some food borne illnesses. And that’s just the beginning. For more details about potential microwave oven dangers, check out the articles below:

The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking

Why You Should Never Microwave Your Food

Tips for Using the Microwave Less

As I previously exclaimed, I am now committed to using my microwave less often based on the articles above and my own belief that microwave cooking is probably not the healthiest heating/cooking option. I have done a pretty good job so far of weaning myself off regular microwave use. It can be done! Below are tips that may help if you too are ready to give your microwave a bit of the cold shoulder treatment:

  1. Plan your meals and snacks for the day: The simple task of planning your meals will help you avoid using your microwave so often. For example, I will often have a sweet potato with lunch or dinner. I’ll now factor into my schedule that I need to place the potato in the oven about 45 minutes before I plan to eat. This planning also helps to curb mindless eating throughout the day or in the evenings.
  2. Consider buying an inexpensive electric kettle for heating liquids. This was the best $22 I’ve spent in a long time! Instead of plopping a mug in the microwave and having some of the liquid explode all over the place (not to mention having to use a towel or oven mitt to handle the scorching hot mug!), I now heat liquid in my stainless steel electric kettle. The kettle only takes about 2-3 minutes to heat liquid and shuts off when it is done. I no longer have to worry about being burned by a hot microwaved mug when making tea again. Here is an electric kettle for only $20 and change at Amazon!
  3. Use small/medium glass storage containers for leftovers. Transfer your restaurant or home cooked meal leftovers into versatile glass storage containers. These glass containers make reheating food in the oven super easy. Just make sure that your glass containers are safe for the oven. Here are affordable Pyrex glass storage containers for under $20! (If you must use your microwave, these glass containers are also a much safer alternative than most plastic containers.)
  4. Keep more raw foods and snacks handy. One way to use the microwave less is to keep your fridge or pantry stocked with fruits, salad ingredients, nuts, nut butters and snacking vegetables. I always keep some protein handy that I can to salads. If I make grilled chicken or meatballs for dinner, I will often refrigerate the leftovers and add them cold to my salad. These meals are quick, easy and don’t have me going anywhere near my microwave oven.

 

Tips for Eating Healthy During Chaotic Times and a Simple Carrot Slaw Recipe

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This week got the best of me! It was likely the sweltering heat, the multiple deadlines at work, the mid-week concert in Central Park, the dinner celebration for a family member and the general running around like a headless chicken that all contributed to me feeling more exhausted than usual by the end of this week. I haven’t welcomed a weekend with the enthusiasm as I did today in a very long time.

We’ve all had those weeks! For some reason, these action-packed and exhausting weeks tend to happen most often in the balmy summer months. It must be something in our blood that makes us want to spend as much time outdoors as possible in the summer and fill our calendars during these months to the max.

During these frenzied weeks, the last place most of us want to be is spending hours in our kitchens preparing meals. For some, increased stress and crazy schedules are the perfect excuse to veer off the healthy eating path. This doesn’t have to be the case, though! Plenty of quick, easy and most importantly diet compliant options are available even when time is of the essence.

My Healthy Eating Tips for Hectic Weeks

Unfortunately, most of the convenience foods that do not take long to make tend to be the most unhealthy for us (TV dinners, prepared foods from stores, etc.). And hectic weeks seem to give some of us an excuse to hop in the car and head straight to fast food joints for our meals. Don’t be tempted, though!  During the weeks when I am running around like a mad woman, I try to keep the following healthy items stocked in my kitchen instead of any unhealthy “convenience” foods:

  • Natural and Organic Rotisserie Chicken (from a local store)
  • Ground turkey or chicken (for a simple stir fry, burgers or meatballs)
  • Eggs (for quick and easy scrambled eggs or hard-boiled eggs)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach, arugula, carrots and other salad fixings
  • Plenty of fruit (for snacking and smoothies)
  • Nut butters (click here for information about how to find healthy nut butters)
  • Dairy-free and gluten-free protein powder
  • Rxbars

Also Keep Simple Recipes Handy for Snappy Cooking

During crazy weeks, I also rely on my quick and easy recipes that encourage the use of only a few staple ingredients and pre-diced or cut vegetables (which cuts down food prep time immensely). I have shared some of these speedy recipes in previous blog posts, including:

Beyond my recipes, there are many fast and delicious recipes that you can browse in other blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and food-related websites. Keep them simple, though. I recommend focusing on recipes with only a few ingredients that can be made in under a half hour. Any more elaborate recipes just lead to more stress and post-cooking clean-up – which is the last thing we need when we are frenzied. Save the fancy recipes for quieter weeks.

Before I go put my feet up, slap on a facial mask and officially kiss this crazy work week goodbye, I wanted to share one more quick and easy dish: Carrot Slaw. This colorful dish is fabulous as a side dish or you can add grilled chicken for a full-on entrée.

Recipe: Carrot Slaw

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This recipe is so incredibly simple! This dish will literally be ready in about ten minutes, including prep time. This recipe below yields 2 servings.

Kitchen Items You Will Need:

  • Frying pan/skillet
  • Measuring cups and spoons

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons oil (olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil or coconut oil all work well with this recipe)
  • 2 cups of shredded carrots (I recommend buying the pre-shredded carrots available at most grocery stores.)
  • 1/3 cup of slivered almonds (unsalted)
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon dried thyme
  • Some fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or parsley (optional)
  • A pinch of sea salt (I use fine sea salt for this recipe.)
  • A pinch of black pepper
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Set the stove heat to medium.
  2. Add the oil to the skillet/frying pan.
  3. Pour in the carrots followed by the slivered almonds.
  4. Add the cayenne pepper, dried thyme, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
  5. Mix all ingredients well until all carrots and almonds are coated in oil.
  6. Add the fresh herbs if applicable.
  7. Stirring regularly, cook on medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes (or until you begin to see a bit of brown on the carrots).
  8. Serve as a side or add grilled chicken if preferred.

Enjoy! And Happy Weekend!