Fall.

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My yoga series this season was “fall into yoga” and my heart feels like falling in love with everything!  So I am in my kitchen this week falling into everything the season has to offer, loving the crisp air, the honeycrisp apples, and the colours of change.

This week’s meal plan:

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  • Spinach Salad with tempeh bacon and egg. (Like a chef’s salad – for a vegetarian!)

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  • Red Lentil Rotini with Pumpkin Sauce (easy as pie to make!!)  And yes the red lentil pasta is pricey…I was hoping to give it a go and then buy in bulk at Costco.  Which we will now be doing.  We LOVED this!  Did not love the $8.99 price tag for the 12oz box…but love the 21g of protein per serving.  And no, the picture does not do this dish justice.

 

  • IMG_4506Broccoli and Cheddar Soup with crusty whole grain and seed bread (This was pulled out of the freezer from when I made it 2 weeks ago – LOVE freezer days when I don’t have to cook!)

 

 

  • Butternut squash soup and crusty whole wheat bread

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I wanted to give you a better idea of how to speed things up in the kitchen (or at least my kitchen) and also a good idea on pricing…(since I’m starting to spend a little more gearing up for Christmas). Soooo….

IMG_4507I bought a butternut squash from our local grocer. Buying it whole meant saving quite a lot of cash ($0.79/pound).  I also bought some pre-cut, and on sale ($2.99/pound)  I call it the *time saver, money spender*!  The squash cutting requires a fair amount of effort, and a sharp kitchen knife.

I think it’s worth it, considering the extra effort yields a substantial amount.  I still go back and forth, as this is one of the few things I have repeatedly cut myself doing.  And it always seems to happen at the most inopportune times.  I did not cut myself today.  Hence why I have time to write about it!

I bought about 1.5lb of pre-cut butternut squash (rang in at $4.50) and then about 3.5lb of a regular squash (rang in at $2.75) So I got more than twice as much for less than half the price.  You can see the difference in the picture of my hard work of cubed goodness compared to the store’s boxed.

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I also have started adding lentils to our butternut squash soup recipe.  We are all very active in this family and being vegetarian I try to get protein in where ever I can.  This is a no brainer here, as the red lentils don’t add much flavour to the soup, but add a good amount of protein, which I feel rounds out the meal nicely.  It also keeps us full for longer…if vegetarian fare (or soups in general) are a cause for complaint in your home. (Hi Dad!)

IMG_4509To make the soup I start by heating up the butter or oil in my large stock pot.  I saute the onion until translucent and then add the cubed squash, IMG_4514lentils, boiling water, broth, salt, and pepper.  I simmer for 20min.  After simmering I use an immersion blender to process the soup into a fine puree.  Alternately you could transfer back and forth from a countertop blender to puree.  I keep the heat on low until we are ready to eat and serve with a hearty toasted bread.  Alone this recipe can feed 8.  We split it up and freeze half so it makes a freezer meal for later.  And the kids LOVE it.  Tonight my 4 year old ate two full bowls and my 2 year old ate three full bowls (plus their bread).  And yes, three toddler-bowl-fulls is more than what I ate.  It is that good.

Pumpkin muffins also made an appearance this week.  Yeah for fall!!  They are filled with a cream cheese icing of sorts and are amazing.  Worth that little bit of extra effort.

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Like what you see?  Let me know (or share).  And if you don’t, don’t.

Happy Week!

 

 

My life.

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I’ve been spending more time in my life.  And by that I mean offline.  With my kids, in the moment, doing yoga and you know, life things.  It has been great!  (But isn’t everything always portrayed as great online?  Well mostly.)  Rarely do people use it as a “look how much my life sucks” forum. Unless they are using it to process life issues…and then sometimes that’s all you hear about.  But for me, here, it’s about the happy stuff.  Yes, there are life issues in my life.  Or maybe not as many as I feel like there are in comparison to others (first world problems here, first world.)  Generally happy.  Generally good.  And generally grateful for all that I do have.

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So, first things first.  What’s been on my plate recently…  The Mexican taco bowls were a huge hit last week.  So here is the recipe:

Mexican Taco Bowls

Another fabulous meal of late was another type of taco we tried…Cauliflower and Chickpea Tacos.  Looking at the recipe I don’t think I would have ventured out to give these a go, but a close friend raved about them (and she’s never wrong when it comes to recipes) And low and behold, she was right again, keeping her record perfect.

I am still working on the 6 week dairy free diet to post here.  It’s an ongoing process.  I hope to include all recipes – which requires more time than my “live in the moment” current life provides.  But it is in the works!

So this week’s meal plan included favourites (both oldies and newbies):

  • IMG_4363 IMG_4364Cauliflower and Chickpea Tacos (YUM! This will be made again soon! And my pictures don’t do it justice, go to the website via the recipe link and you’ll see it in real life colours.  We are always in such a hungried hurry to eat over here that I’m rushed for snaps before the food does a disappearing act.)
  • Quinoa with Zucchini and Ricotta Bake (Because freezer meals for later…and no picture.  I have no idea why I have no pictures, I make this dish as a staple in our house every few months.  I will take pictures this week when I make it! Yum!)IMG_2341
  • Soba Noodle Salad (In the dishes, prior to putting it all together…Such a beautiful and colourful entree.  Makes tastebuds dance.)IMG_1458
  • Black Bean and Sweet Potato Enchiladas (Also, the freezer meals thing. And the only picture I have of this beautiful dish is the sweet potatoes.  Mostly because once it is out of the oven I can’t wait to dive in, forgetting about pictures.  And slightly because I mis-timed dinner and had two VERY hungry children sitting at the table demanding food as soon as it was removed from the oven…)
  • Vegan Chili (New recipe!!! I still haven’t found a chili I like.  In my head they are all measured up against my chili, pre-vegetarian days.  I’ll let you know how this goes, but this blogger’s recipes are really, really good.  So I am hopeful!)

So you’ve likely noticed my attention this week to freezer meals.  And that’s because my husband is going away soon for a week on business.  My motivation for cooking will likely nose dive during that time, so I’m thinking ahead and giving myself plenty of options for when he is away.  These options may also include pancakes, pizza and ice cream.  I am giving myself full permission to use whatever methods necessary to maintain my sanity during that time.  Oh and also it is my birthday week.  So ice cream, cupcakes and giving in to cravings will be a big part of my plan.  Even if it means giving in to the kids to keep the peace.  Just a little.

Oh and I’ve started instagramming (is that a verb? I limit myself to it once a day so it must be…)  As much as this blog focuses on my meal plans, it focuses on my yoga practice (another huge part of who I am.)  Follow me @backyargyogi

And as always…if you like what I write or post, share it! (Or like it! Or comment to let me know!) And if you don’t, don’t. 🙂

Cheers,

Karen

Camping with small kids…vegetarian and dairy free

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We went away this last weekend, and camped, with kids!  Small kids.  Lots of people do this I know, but there are a few things that we did which I think made it easier.  And food was a big one.  Being away doesn’t mean I want to resort to eating junk, but I do want fast, easy meals that are simple to prepare…

So here was my plan! (And note we are still vegetarian and continue to be on the last few weeks of dairy free eating.)

Dinner on the first night:  Vegan sausages with wine sauerkraut and raw veggies.

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The sausages were amazing, and being vegan, only needed reheating over the fire, so took less time than actual meat to cook.  Kids loved it!  And ate most of their sauerkraut separately.  The veggies were all pre-cut and ready to go, and made for great snacking while waiting for the sausages.  Also made for great morning and afternoon snacks through the camping adventures.  Fuel for our hike!

IMG_3073The next morning we started off right with pancakes and eggs.  Solution for this meal was the pre-made pancake better.  Put it in an old, washed, ketchup squeeze bottle and voila! No mess!  And less clean up.  The chocolate, coconut pancakes were a big hit and special camping treat.  Get the recipe here!  They were so good in fact, we ate before a picture could be taken.

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IMG_3090Watermelon rounded out our meal and filled our bellies!

We only brought a small pairing knife.  The easiest way to tackle a watermelon with a small knife is to cut it in half by slicing all the way around the melon (not through it like you would with a large knife)  Then cut it into quarters.  Once you have smaller pieces to work with you can cut slices, or as we did for small kids, cut off the peel and dice it so it could be eaten with a fork (less mess and bear bait).

Lunch was next was pre-made and canned soup.  Not real canning mind you – just enough to seal the jars so they could sit at the bottom of our waterlogged cooler and not get diluted.  This type of canning lasts long enough for camping and is a healthy and economic way to eat.  Soo good.  I used a family recipe favourite.

IMG_3058Then more snacking – raw veggies, watermelon and pretzels dipped in hummus.  I just love camping so!  Especially when everything is already prepared at our fingertips!

IMG_2378We were off to the nearby beach for the day.  And packed along homemade granola bars.  Homemade goodness (and fibre, omega 3s, seeds, protein and love!)

Our dinner was our “cheat” night.  And by that I mean we usually get treats on occasion.  It used to be only on weekends but now it’s even less than that.  So our treat was this meal.  And consisted of walking tacos.  I didn’t get a picture because I forgot.  Maybe it’s because I was so excited about the chips!  (I’m a savoury girl and salt fiend, as is my daughter.)  This meal met all my cravings!  Most people already know about it, but you don’t I’ll fill you in (because everybody should know about it!):  Cut the top off a small sized nacho chip bag (think halloween size), then fill with pre-diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cheese (in our case diaya – dairy free cheese), and taco meat (ground round sautéed in the camping pan with taco seasoning)  Dig a fork in and enjoy.  Hardly any dishes either.  Bonus!

Dessert was a camping go-to we could not go without.  It needs no explanation.

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If you are dairy free then you MUST buy the good chocolate with no dairy and waxy additives.  I think I might be dairy free forever if it means good chocolate in my life from now on!

IMG_3075Finally breakfast the following morning:  meet my homemade breakfast burritos.  They freeze well and heat up like magic over a campfire.  And are super tasty and loved by all.  The making of them takes love and a bit of time ahead of IMG_3065the trip, but it is well worth it.  First you diced up the vegetarian sausages (2 Tofurky italian sausages in this case) and dry fry (no oil) in a hot pan until sealed.  Then scramble the eggs until just not moist, adding neccisary salt and pepper.  Then dice the red potato up into 1/2″ cubes or smaller IMG_3070(think small hashbrowns!) Boil for 5-7 min until just cooked – do not over cook! Then drain off water and transfer to a hot pan and dry fry (no oil) until browned.  Basically you are taking the moisture out of the food just enough that it doesn’t make the tortillas soggy that you will wrap them in.  Don’t fret, we add cheese (or diaya – dairy free cheese) to reclaim the moisture and fat to enhance the flavours at the end.  Put all the just made hot fillings in the fridge for 1/2hr to an hour until cold.  Then wrap these babies up in tortillas adding about 2 tsp of cheese  (or dairy free substitute) per burrito to the mix.  Wrap in tin foil and either freeze or refrigerate until later use for campfire ready food.

So that was this weekend’s meal plan.  And what great meals they were!  I’m only sad that now we’re home and my magic trick of pulling meals out of a cooler, already prepared, is over.

 

 

 

Nooner

I’ve come to the realization that all I usually post is everything to do with dinner meal planning.   The truth is that most of our lunches are our dinners (leftovers from the night before.)  But what happens when there are no leftovers?  And yes, there are nights dinner is good, there are none.  Or when picnics are planned?  Or when I send my little one to preschool with lunch?

Here are a few of my lunch solutions.

IMG_2142Here is one that is a favourite…open faced sandwiches on full grain/seed bread.  Tomatoes and avocado with a bit of mayo and salt/pepper.  Of course paired with a quick green smoothie of banana, celery, spinach, apple and frozen berries.  This is a favourite of mine because it is filled with vitamins and nutrients, or rather I can fill my kids with vitamins and nutrients.  I’ve also begun adding hemp hearts and chia seeds to our smoothies.  They add iron and omega 3s to the mix.  The vitamin C in the tomatoes helps our bodies to absorb the iron from the hemp seeds and spinach.

The thing about nutrition, or eating nutritiously is: that I am constantly thinking about it.  And by constantly thinking about it and acting on it, I hope that in the end we will be better off.

Another favourite an quick meal go-to is:

IMG_2160Apple sage Field Roast sausages with peas and carrots.  By the time I took this photos the steamed carrots had been eaten (oops!)  You see they are a favourite in this household.  So much so that if I don’t eat mine pronto the kids demand what’s on my plate after finishing theirs.  The sodium level is a little bit high for the kids, so I limit their intake of this type of food, both in frequency and amount at a meal.  Once in a while we serve them on whole wheat sausage buns…but not often.  I realized when my daughter was just four and asked me what a hot dog was, that a replacement for a food that seems a part of childhood needed at least an explanation.  So here it is – our ‘hot dogs’.

For a picnic lunch sandwiches are our go to.

IMG_3027 IMG_3029Note the re-useable sandwich bags!  They are perfect and easy to clean afterwards.  This time we did hummus and tomato sandwiches and utilized leftover avocado pasta sauce (similar to guacamole).  So good!

Tricks for packing sandwiches:  we freeze the bread then make the sandwiches right before leave and place them in the cooler – keeps the sandwich fresh and yet has thawed by the time we eat it.  IMG_3026The other trick with any avocado based sandwich spread: putting a small layer of water overtop.  Yes it looks messy but it keeps the avocado from oxidizing and is easy to pour off and reapply when done.  I will agree with the kids on this one – brown avocado isn’t appetizing.

Next up we pack tons of fresh fruit and usually include a few bags of assorted nuts, soynuts, and seeds (like pumpkin or sunflower).  The kids love the variety and mom loves the nutrition.

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And the other big favourite of mine are soups.  Number one because they taste so amazing!  Number two because the kids also think they taste so amazing (and nutritionally they are!) And Number three because they are cheap! (okay the cheap part only works when you make them yourself.)  There is actually a number four here too…my husband isn’t a big fan of soup, therefor if I can get my soup fix at lunch he can have a dinner he likes.  Oh and Number five I can make it once and it easily feeds us for a week…I could keep counting.  Soup is just that good.  I have both summer recipes (gazpacho anyone?) and winter ones (which also work in the spring and fall, or less than hot summer days.)  My blood tends to run cold, so soup for me is a big hit through the year.  I will someday write a whole blog about all the soups I make.  Lentil, chickpea, veggie mix… but for the most part if I’m not making a soup from a recipe I wing it.  So I’ll need to write down some of my ingredients for you to try one.  A full soup blog post is in order on this one.  You’ll likely see it down the road.

chickpea soup

chickpea soup

lentil soup

lentil soup

white bean and kale soup

white bean and kale soup

And there you have a few of our family favourite lunch solutions when we aren’t eating leftovers!  I hope everyone is out enjoying this long weekend.

Now I am stepping into the sunshine!

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This week’s meal plan has me excited!  So many new things to try…and increasingly so many challenges.  I struggle when faced with new things.  And going no dairy was great for the first two weeks, but now that I am officially out of my comfort recipes (of which I don’t seem to have as many as I had thought which are no-dairy) I am throwing caution to the wind and trying out all sorts of new flavours.  Most of which happily seem to be going well.  So here’s the plan (and yes, I’m halfway through!)IMG_2049

  • IMG_2051Moo-Shu Veggie Salad wraps with peanuts.  Aren’t those little Boston lettuces to die for!  Almost too cute to eat, and add a wonderful texture to the warm cabbage wrap filling.  I basically stir fry a little bit of garlic, add one shredded head of red cabbage a few shredded carrots, two diced green onions until the mixuture softens.  Then I add a few tbsp of hoisin sauce (yes, store bought – oh shame) and one or two tbsp of tamari.  Stir in about 1/2 cup chopped peanuts and then serve in the wrapped lettuce.  (In the picture you see I had also made a wonderful cold soba noodle salad! Yum!  And substituted the red cabbage for green, but after having tried it prefer the original.)  This recipe was adapted from The Supermarket Vegan cookbook.
  • Pinto bean sloppy joes on whole wheat buns with maple coleslaw.  The kids LOVED this recipe also from the Supermarket Vegan book above.  I need to tweak it a little before I share it with you – the joes were a little too sweet in my opinion.  And goodness knows we already have enough sugar I am trying to cut out of our lives!
  • Tomato and Basil Pasta with cashew cream sauce
  • Black Eyed Peas with Collard Greens and brown rice.  This recipe also needs tweaking, hence me not sharing (sorry!) Too spicy for the kiddos…so once tweaked I will share away and give a spicy option for adults!
  • Chickin’ burgers and sweet potato fries (using Quorn brand veggie burgers) and of course a large salad.  I have also found that surprisingly I am not above daiya cheese.  And happily it’s a great substitute!  We may even give the fries a go on the BBQ, being a long weekend and all.IMG_1419
  • Chickpea Salad Sandwiches on whole wheat seeded bread.  Mostly because this week has been HOT and cooking is overrated on these 85+F days!
  • Avocado Pasta. Still haven’t tried out this recipe yet but I feel it will be a great addition to the week’s menu for the kids!   It’s also super fast and meets my ‘hot day’ meal criteria.

 

So that’s this week!  Happy Canada Day to all my fellow nationals.  And Happy July 4th to those around me currently.  Anywhere you are in the world I hope your week is great!

A Mini-fridge, Microwave and Masterplan.

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We’ve done lots of family trips away where I’ve planned an entire week of meals off of one master grocery list, down to spices, condiments and often including utensils (missing from the “kitchenette” rentals).  In a Las Vegas timeshare I even had to buy a pot and frying pan to accommodate us eating in.  In Hawaii a delayed oven timer saved me when meal planning conflicted with a hike we wanted to do (and dinner was ready when we returned!)  Eating in on vacations has saved us the hassle of small kid’s constant needs (milk and breakfast 30 seconds after waking…at 5:30am) and my requirement for healthy, balanced, vegetarian meals.  I can only do salad so many times guys.

I’ve realized with travel that many places don’t factor into account the required protein and iron for vegetarians. (I can’t imagine being vegan and trying to navigate!)  Sure we could opt for the “veggie burger” and fries every night.  But we all end up feeling crummy.  Trust me, we’ve done it.

Hence why I plan.

So we’re going on a (SURPRISE!) family trip. (I have yet to mention to the kids.)  And they don’t seem to have noticed my near-constant cooking and kitchen prep the last few days to prepare.

The difficultly this time doesn’t revolve around an oven timer or can opener…this time what I am given to work with is only a mini-fridge and microwave.  And 48 hours of fun in a waterpark!  Which means large appetites.  I tried unsuccessfully with my pinterest reflex to find solutions.  So I created my own.

Mini-fridge and microwave. 48 hours. A family of four.

Bring. It. On.

IMG_2397First things first…the master meal plan of what to bring…and then the shopping trip of what to buy (along with the regular weekly grocery shop, see my grocery belt lineup of food above – YUM!)

Meal One – Dinner

  • IMG_2419 IMG_2420So after arriving, checking in, and going hard at the waterpark for a few hours we will start with Homemade Cauliflower Mac’N’Cheese.  Just needs to be heated up in the microwave safe bowls I’m bringing!  Kids love it, and the extra carbs will be needed for all that swim time! Recipe makes enough for two meals (freezer meal for later in this case!) Packed in a gallon ziplock baggie so we can stuff it in the minifridge in any shape needed 🙂  The kids will also have tetra packs of almond milk.  Mom and Dad’s bevvie of choice: Bota Box wine!  Then back to the pool, slides and splash park before bed!

Meal Two – Breakfast

  • IMG_2437 IMG_2434I’m not a huge fan of the pre-packaged instant oatmeal you can buy.  But my family are huge oatmeal fans.  And I appreciate the convenience of just having to add boiling water.  Solution: Homemade Instant Oatmeal!  No high fructose anything or preservatives. IMG_2435 Only awesomeness. I made an apple cinnamon walnut kind…after finding these dehydrated apple chips.  Even more than loving the pre-made chips (because I don’t have a dehydrator and keeping my oven on for hours while continually checking chips doesn’t thrill me) is the ingredient list.  Organic apples and organic cinnamon!  Along with our oatmeal I’m bringing a variety of fruit (mangos, pears, bananas and apples). Yum!

Morning Snack

  • I caved and bought yogurt tubes.  Yes.  I know. Parent fail 😉  The kids love them and they are e-a-s-y!  And even though they are the organic, hormone free kind they still make me cringe at the level of sugar (9g – that’s 2 teaspoons of processed sugar!)  Oh well, it is vacation.  They will be served alongside apple slices and gulp…another processed item – cheddar bunnies. (Similar to goldfish but sooth my inner-health-food-gal minimally by being organic.)

Meal Three – Lunch

  • IMG_2438I really, REALLY wanted to bring my homemade soup.  I know, crazy right.  Mini-fridge I fear your small size!  So I bought the best darned canned kind I could find.  Amy’s Organic Lentil Soup (in the BPA free can).  This is actually a staple in our pantry for emergency lunches when we have nothing else.  The kids LOVE this soup.  I LOVE this soup. Heck everybody must LOVE this soup, half the time I go to buy it there aren’t any left on the shelf.  And as a side I made jello fruit cups. IMG_2439 My daughter has somehow been lured by marketers before ever having even had jello.  So she will be happy to have her wishes fulfilled for the elusive jello that mommy never buys/makes (except this vacation).  Oh and I stuffed those darned little cups full of as many berries as I could before pouring the sugar/gelatin mixture in!

Afternoon Snack

  • IMG_2378Cheese Strings.  I lie, they aren’t stringy at all.  They are the whole foods brand organic colby cheese in pre-packed singles to look like cheese strings 🙂 hehe sneaky mommy! Fruit squeezes and homemade granola bars.  When planning these snacks I thought I would be allowed to bring them along with us to the water park.  Sadly I learned after prepping everything that isn’t the case.  Had I known, we would have done real fruit and cheese, rather than spend the extra on less-mess and easy-to-pack foods.  The granola bars are Ah-mazing!  Filled with oats, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, almond butter goodness.  Travel well wrapped in foil.  I don’t feel right about giving out the recipe, as it comes from a fellow blogger’s recipe book (which is also Ah-mazing!  Really, every recipe I’ve tried scores an A-plus in my book, and my kids) Find it here.

Meal Four – Dinner

  • IMG_2424IMG_2422Sweet Potato and Spinach Lentil Curry  and rice (made and bagged separately).  All pre-made in gallon baggies, again stuffed into that small mini-fridge!  Everything can be divided into the microwave safe bowls and heated up! (And enough leftover for another freezer meal for later.) Nice hot meal filled with protein, iron and love to fuel our activity!  And again with the tetra packed almond milk for the kiddos and wine for Mom and Dad.

Meal Five – Breakfast

  • A repeat of the same family favourite instant oatmeal! And more fruit!

Morning Snack

  • whatever is leftover and not already eaten 🙂  I also packed a few extras for night snacks (which we don’t normally do, but this is vacation!) Microwave popcorn, raisins and cherry tomatoes.  So whatever isn’t already gone is game on our last day!

Meal Six – Lunch

  • IMG_2440Egg salad sandwiches and jello fruit cups.  Again the egg salad was pre-made and bagged to fit in the mini-fridge.  We brought the bread and will make the sandwiches right before check out time at 11am.

So all in all it will be a fabulous time!  What a great Mother’s Day gift.  And I’m happy I could give it to myself, because the best thing in the world I could get on mother’s day is family memories.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Recipe. A. Day.

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Tonight’s dinner was a variation of Cashew Paella from The Vegetarian Bible.  If you don’t already own it I would suggest a purchase!  99% of the recipes are amazing.  And I source it regularly for base recipes that I build on.

Recipe Vegetarian Paella

The finished dish

The finished dish

Cooking...oh the anticipation

Cooking…oh the anticipation

I know some days it’s hard to get the stars to align to come up with and prep healthy meals. In my world this is one of my top priorities so I MAKE time.  

The dicing and prep work often happens hours before the actual meal.  The grocery shopping is limited to once a week.  (I give myself an hour and a half for all my meal planning and grocery prep time.  In that time all our meals are planned for that upcoming week and a dinner list is made.  It is time well spent.)  I will often include 2 ‘fast’ meals a week which take 20min or less to prep and have on the table, for the nights when the stars aren’t aligned…because we all know that happens.  I will often combine prep work, i.e. if I’m dicing onions I will do the next couple of days worth and bag it.  Or chopping veggies/ washing lettuce etc. The more I can do when the time is available makes sense for making up for the times I don’t.  Eating healthy isn’t only about choosing the right foods, its about organizing myself so I can succeed.  Oh and the grocery shopping only once a week limits impulse buys, which saves cash and time.

 It’s just cruel the things they put by the cash registers and on end caps isn’t it?