White Turkey Chili

Dear Reader;

One of my favorite recipes of all time calls for turkey.  Lucky that we will all have a bit of leftover turkey this week.  I make it all year long with ground turkey and it is a favorite at my house.  It’s full of healthy veggies, lean protein and beans, as well as flavor.  BONUS: it’s easy and can be made ahead of time and left warming in a crock pot!  Perfect for pot lucks, game night or any weeknight meal.

You will need to make beans the day before.   I don’t ever use canned because of the very high sodium content.  Bags of beans are so inexpensive and easy to prepare that there is no reason to use canned, but if you must…

Prepare your White Great Northern BeansIMG_4794

1-bag of great northern beans

Follow this recipe the day before you plan to cook your chili.  Make a little extra and have some for dinner!  Top with green chilies or jalapeños.

You’ll need 3-cups of beans for the chili.

Turkey White Chili

If you are using ground turkey, you’ll need 1 teaspoon of avocado oil (just enough to swirl around the pan so the turkey does not stick).  If you’re using fresh turkey, you can skip this step.

IMG_4791Brown 2 pounds of ground turkey in a sauté pan, just until the pink is gone.  Remove to a bowl and set aside. I’ve used one pound of turkey and it’s delicious, so feel free to use less meat.

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 onion, diced

1 sweet potato, diced (in this photo, I used a purple sweet potato)

1 medium carrot, diced

1 teaspoon avocado oil

IMG_4792Sauté the vegetables with avocado oil over medium heat, just until soft.  Return the turkey to the pan with the vegetables and add your seasonings.

3 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon of fresh chopped garlic

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Saute for about 3 – 5 minutes, until it’s aromatic.  Then add green chills, bay leaf and broth.  Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.

2 cans of green chills (4 oz each)

3 cups of chicken broth

1 bay leaf

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Meanwhile, mash up about one cup of the cooked beans.  This will be used to give the chili a thickened consistency.IMG_4795

IMG_4796After the first simmer, gently stir in the mashed beans and 2 more cups of beans, whole, drained if there is a lot of liquid.  Simmer for another 30-minutes.

1 cup of coconut milk (can use cow’s milk)

Add coconut milk and simmer for another 5-minutes.

At this time, you can move it to a crock pot to keep warm OR you can serve it.

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White Turkey Chili Recipe

3-cups of white beans (great northern or navy)

1 teaspoon of avocado oil

2 pounds of ground turkey

or 3 cups of leftover turkey meat

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 onion, diced

1 sweet potato, diced (in this photo, I used a purple sweet potato)

1 medium carrot, diced

1 teaspoon avocado oil

3 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

1 tablespoon of fresh chopped garlic

2 cans of green chills (4 oz each)

3 cups of chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 cup of coconut milk (can use cow’s milk)

Brown ground turkey in a sauté pan with avocado oil, just until the pink is gone.  Remove to a bowl and set aside.

Sauté the vegetables (bell peppers,  onion, potato, carrot) with avocado oil over medium heat, just until soft.

Return the turkey to the pan with the vegetables and add your seasonings (cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, garlic). Saute for 3 – 5 minutes, until it’s aromatic.

Then add green chilies, bay leaf and broth.  Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile, mash up about one cup of the cooked beans.  This will be used to give the chili a thickened consistency.

After the first simmer, gently stir in the mashed beans and the rest of beans, whole, drained if there is a lot of liquid.  Simmer for another 30-minutes.

Add coconut milk and simmer for another 5-minutes. At this time, you can move it to a crock pot to keep warm OR you can serve it.

The Layer Salad

Dear Reader;

I eat salad.

I eat so much salad that I am forced to come up with craziness in my salad bowl.  I get sick of the same ole.

So, on a day when I was really sick of the same ole, I came up with the layer salad.  I make many, many versions of this.  Here is my favorite as far as nutrient density, fuel and taste.  It is made with leftovers: veggies that I lightly stir fried the night before (al dente) and cauliflower rice.  IMG_4652

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This salad is full of vitamins and nutrients.  The high content of leafy greens makes it full of Vitamins K and A, folate and Vitamin C.  The romaine lettuce even gives you a little dose of Omega-3, which we will take wherever we can get.

The water content in this salad bowl also gives it star quality.  Did you know we get most of our hydration from our foods??  Not our drinks.

There is a bit of probiotic benefit too, with the kefir giving you some of those powerful beneficial bacterial strains.  Most of us have an imbalance in our gut bacteria and anytime you can give it a boost, it’s a positive thing.

This bowl is a good source of Calcium, Vitamin D, manganese, iron and copper.

I gauge my own foods based on one question: is this giving my body nutrients?  The answer should be YES and this bowl provides nothing BUT nutrients.  This is one of those awesome post or pre workout meals that nourishes and satisfies.  Don’t skimp, make it HUGE!  Feel free to add more of any of the ingredients.

Layer each of these ingredients from the bottom of the bowl, up.

1 cup baby spinach

1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped

1 cup of sautéed zucchini, carrots, cabbage and kale

1/2 cup cauliflower rice

1/4 cup yogurt cucumber dressing (see below)

Because of the sautéed veggies making a sort of “seal” around the lettuce leaves, you can actually put the dressing on top, ahead of time and it doesn’t reach the bottom to wilt the leaves.  I packed this salad in the morning and ate it at lunch time and it was fine.

Yogurt Cucumber Dressing:

1/2 cucumber chopped tiny

1 cup organic kefir

1 teaspoon garlic

1 teaspoon dried dill

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and black pepper

 

Since I missed last weeks nutrient dense food posting, here is another great idea for lunch.  It doesn’t have to be eaten as a salad, all together.  Put a little bit of salad greens with your favorite vinaigrette on the side with your favorite vegetables chopped up.  Serve it with 2-tablespoons of your favorite humus.  Lunch doesn’t have to be complicated, only nutritious.

IMG_4479Pictured above clockwise: cucumber, jicama, heirloom tomatoes, snap peas, carrots, radishes from the farmer’s market and Cedar’s Garlic Lovers humus.

My kids love this kind of lunch.

 

Tuscan Kale and Beans

Dear Reader;

As a trainer, I see first hand the biggest problem that faces anyone embarking on a new healthy lifestyle change.  It’s difficult to come up with meal ideas that are both nourishing and weight loss friendly while providing you efficient energy to work out and plow through your day.

Super-nutrient combinations can be a great way to kick-start the body into health and so, on that note:

Once per week I am going to highlight a super-nutrient dense meal that you can make for yourself (feel free to tweak it).

Buy all the ingredients before your prep day!  And make sure to let me know if you liked it.

Today’s meal is what I’ll call the anti-inflammatory power bowl.  It is a perfect choice for anyone who is looking to lose weight – inflammation is the root cause of weight gain.  Weight gain doesn’t happen without inflammation unless you’re pregnant.

The body is capable of absorbing a lot of additional calories, chemicals and sugar, but once it reaches a certain point of inflammation, its response is to store fat in those ever active fat cells.

Well, this is an anti-inflammatory meal, rich in vitamins and minerals and a perfect choice as flu season approaches since it kick starts the immune system too.

Vitamin C

This meal is very high in Vitamin C as kale and tomatoes are both excellent sources and beets are a good source too.

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant within the body.

Antioxidants (overused buzz word!) are basically forms of molecules that help maintain balance of the chemical reactions that take place all over the body.

It’s damage control!

The reason I talk a lot about inflammation with my clients is because of how detrimental it is to our entire life.  If inflammation gets out of control within the body, cancer happens.  Weight gain is a HUGE symptom of inflammation.  That is but one of the reasons that overweight people have greater risk of cancer than normal weight individuals.

This vitamin is super important in the beginning of a healthy lifestyle change because Vitamin C plays a very large role in keeping inflammation in check.  Inflammation is the enemy!

Getting enough C is paramount for good health and I don’t mean supplement forms of C.  Get it from food!  Try eating this meal once per week for the first month.

Vitamin K

This forgotten vitamin is provided in large amounts any time you eat Tuscan kale.  It’s one of the reasons that I choose this vegetable to eat.

Vitamin K works hand in hand with Vitamin D, meaning if you are deficient in one, the other doesn’t work well within the body.  So without both of these vitamins, you are deficient in both.

K is harder to come by than D.  D is mostly absorbed straight from sunlight and in my part of the world, that’s pretty easy.  K is another story, you have to eat it.  Not only that, you must eat it along with a little bit of fat.

Vitamin K aids in bone health (BIG deal when you’re working out regularly) and helps the blood to clot.

Almost everyone is K deficient.

It also helps the body with insulin sensitivity which is another thing we talk a lot about in our training. Vitamin K is helpful for weight loss.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a complex vitamin that should be called Vitamin A GROUP.  It comes in many forms and all play different roles. Animal sources provide Retinoids and plant sources provide Carotenoids.  Both are necessary for optimal health of the body.

Collectively, they provide benefits in your immune system, inflammatory response, pregnancy and blood cell production, just to name a few.

Kale is one of the very best sources of A – carotenoids. Tomatoes are another great source. Double WHAMMY.

A is considered anti-cancer and anti-aging because of the powerful effects on the inflammatory response in the body.  Vitamin A aids in cell-to-cell communication – think overgrowth of cells which translates into cancer.  This is one of the components of anti-inflammatory that helps to prevent cancer.

When you eat a diet rich in antioxidants, cell buildup  and overgrowth are less likely.  Therefore, cancer is less likely.

Tuscan Kale

Great source of Vitamin K, A, C, B6 and 45 different flavonoids.  It’s known to help lower cholesterol levels (probably because of it’s really high fiber content), is recommended to anyone who is battling cancer and is only a 3 on the glycemic index.  With only 33 calories for an entire cup, you cannot go wrong adding this into your diet on a very regular basis.

White Northern Beans

Can you say FIBER?  This is true fiber, unlike whole wheat bread and oatmeal that our government has brainwashed everyone into thinking is fiber, beans are one of the very best sources in the food supply.  1/2 cup of these beans will give you 10 grams of protein too.  Also a great source of maganese, phosphorus, thiamine, folate and B6.  This is the part of the plate that will keep you feeling satisfied until your next meal.

Beets

So trendy right now that I almost hate to even blog about them.  They are a super source of folate which means they are an antioxidant powerhouse. Great source of vitamin C, potassium, and even offers 2 grams of protein in only 4 pieces.

Heirloom Tomatoes

This american favorite offers a rich source of lycopene and vitamin A and C.  The list is long: biotin, vitamin E, beta-carotene and it’s only a 2 on the glycemic index.  With only a few calories and plenty of flavor, tomatoes should be a staple on your plate of healthy foods.

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Tuscan Kale and Beans

1 cup Tuscan kale

1/2 cup cooked white beans (I used white northern)*

4 ready to eat beets, cut into bite size pieces**

6 grape heirloom or regular tomatoes, sliced in half

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

salt and pepper

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the beans and stir often just until warmed; 1-2 minutes.  Add the garlic and stir around.  Add the kale and stir until kale has wilted and beans are hot.

Serve with tomatoes and beets.

Remember organic is best.

*I used beans that were leftover that I cooked from scratch; I show you how in this blog post.  If you don’t have leftover beans, use canned, but please rinse thoroughly.  AND remember, canned beans will add a ton of sodium so try really hard to make this when you have leftover beans.  I make a pot of beans to use for a variety of dishes.

**I used a package of steamed and peeled baby beets from Trader Joes.  This is fine as long as you read the ingredient list.  It should say: beets.  That’s it. They are really easy because you just open the package and they taste great, if you like beets.

Why You Should Have a FOOD PREP DAY

Dear Reader;

One of the secrets to eating well and living a healthy life as a family in this chaotic world is a prep day.  It literally keeps me sane in the midst of a crazy schedule with both of us at work, 2-different school aged kids at 2-different schools, 2-different kid’s sports schedules and the never-ending family chore list (yes, we are washing soccer uniforms the day of the game too).

So, one day a week is helpful to plan out what we are eating for the next school / work week.  I can’t stress the importance of this enough if you are trying to lose weight or maintain your weight; if you can develop this habit, your success will be guaranteed.  This is something that I am writing for the benefit of my clients because  I am always talking about how vital it is to have a prep day.  Well, here’s how I do mine.

Don’t skip the tips at the bottom of this post!

There are some major benefits:

  • Eliminates the 6:00pm sinking feeling as you walk in the door and go “what am I feeding everyone”.
  • The above elimination allows for some joy during the week nights.  Bonus!
  • Eliminates the stress of the home cooked weeknight meal as most of your ingredients will be prepped ahead, allowing for a true 30-minute meal that’s healthy (sorry Rachel, but yours are not so much).
  • Removes takeout from the diet.  Think of how much sodium and sugar you will not eat.
  • Gives you meals you are proud to write in your food journal and proud to bring in for me to see :).
  • Keeps you from making decisions when you’re starving, which is never a good idea.  What is awesome is coming home starving and having a plan already laid out for you so you can whip into action like some kind of kitchen ninja!
  • It saves in grocery money a few ways.  #1  you have a plan for every single ingredient and it gets used up before it goes bad. No more throwing it out. #2 when you prep yourself, it’s less expensive. Think whole heads of romaine vs. bags.  Think bags of beans vs. canned (plus the sodium is less and it’s way more nutritious too).
  • It inspires me to try new things like fruits and veggies we’ve never had because I know I have the time to figure out what to do with an ingredient.
  • Takes one more stress out of the day! Enough SAID!

Choose your prep day:

Oddly enough, I grocery shop at several different stores and I shop all week-long as I have time; an hour here or an hour there.  So, by Sunday, I should mostly have all the ingredients to make a good prep day.  Sunday for me is standby day but it varies.

Think about which day works for you.  It will cut into fun time a little, that is a given because yes, it takes effort and yes it takes time but it will save you so much stress during the week that I guarantee everyone in your family will agree it is an asset and not a detriment.  Don’t get hung up on the negative.  Life sucks some.  You have to make the most out of it and prep day is a fine example of a chore that can actually be quite fun.  DON’T let this be another excuse. “I don’t have time” is just really not true.

If you have a day of the week that’s obvious, then there it is. For those of you with a mixed schedule, it may be a different day each week.  That’s the way it is for me since my schedule can change drastically based on a dozen other people’s schedules.  This week it was Tuesday, last week it was Sunday.

Make A PLAN in 3-Easy Steps! 

Step 1:

List your ingredients:  the way I do this is simple and old-fashioned and WORKS like a charm.  I have a spiral notebook and I go to the fridge and pantry and make a list of all the ingredients that I have and need to use.  Staple pantry items don’t need to go here.  These are perishable items that will need to be used before they go bad.

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I like to do step 1 the day before the actual prep day.  It takes a little time to do the planning steps and if you combine the planning with the prepping, it can be too much.  PLUS this ensures that I can pick up last-minute, unanticipated ingredients ahead of prep day so I know I have everything.

This is how my list begins:IMG_4636

Fancy, isn’t it?  All this newfangled technology at my fingertips and I use a good ole spiral.  If you can figure out a way to make something work, go for it.  Phone apps, websites, notebooks, whatever you can rely on.

Step 2:

Make the paper work for you.

I grid the paper somewhat like a calendar for the dinner meals.  Then I add in the “other” food needed along the left hand margin.  I also go into my calendar and make notes so I know that I have to work late certain days (which means crock pot or easy for Dad to do) or notate dates I know we have plans to have our meal out of the house (which means no plan needed).  Notate things like sporting events and practices, family plans or any other reasons you wouldn’t be home for a meal.  No need to plan where you don’t need it!

Step 3:

Based on your ingredients and schedule, plan meals for Monday – Sunday.

As I look at the ingredients, meals come to life.  This allows me to cook a little more extravagant than if it were not planned out.

If you can’t figure out what to make with the ingredients, google the ingredient and go wild.  Google butternut squash and see what comes up.  You’d be surprised how easily you get inspired with a great new recipe to try!

This is what it morphs into:

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Hopefully you can read my writing.

Remember some prep work can’t be done ahead and will need to be squeezed in the day before you plan to make it or that night as you’re making dinner.  You can’t cut some things ahead because they brown or turn to mush.  Don’t panic, once you remove the bulk of prep, cutting a few pieces of fruit before dinner is a breeze.

Tools for Success:

IMG_4642From top left corner, clockwise.

salad spinner (pictured below in more detail)

salad dressing carafe

basket lined with produce bag from the grocery store for trash

large stainless bowl and colander (I also have a large colander in the sink not pictured)

cutting board

onion goggles (don’t laugh!!)

Julienne peeler

regular peeler

paring knife

my “knife”

You cannot have a good prep day without good tools.  Obviously, you may need more than this.  A few more things that I utilize pretty much every week are my food processor, muffin tins, crock pot and baby chopper (the mini food processor – I think I paid $9 for it).  You’ll also need storage for all these prepped ingredients.  I use ziplock bags and glass storage containers for most of it.

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Salad spinner isn’t fancy, but it sure is a huge help!!

READY?  Let’s go!

Start with any baking.  Down my left hand side, I have listed a blueberry pumpkin muffin breakfast bar.  We are grain free, so the baking at my house is a bit harder.  It’s also necessary because we happen to be grain free.  I like starting with the baked items because the sometimes take a few steps and I can do other things while it bakes and then cools.

While something’s in the oven, move on to day 1 in your handy dandy notebook.  If you get that reference, high five!  For this week it was grilled chicken breast on Tuesday and a romaine salad. I left the veggie blank because it was one of those, decide as you go kind of things.  I ended up roasting leftover red potatoes, FYI.

Note: I do not stick to my notebook all the time. I change things as needed because sometimes it just makes sense.

I buy the large bag of romaine lettuce heads (usually a pack of 3) instead of already chopped because it’s a huge cost savings.

When you’re prepping, keep in mind lettuce will wilt.   To ensure this doesn’t happen, I chop, then I wash, then I spin it completely dry.  Put in a ziplock bag and seal 9/10 of the way, leaving a bit open for air circulation.  Use within 3 days – don’t prep yet if later in the week or move it up so you can prep on prep day. There is a method to my madness on prep day: whatever takes the most work, gets put on the menu first so I know it’s prepped!  Unless it’s a weekend meal.

IMG_4639Work your way down the list and do ANY AND ALL prep work that can be done ahead.  Save things that will brown easily like fruit cutting, guacamole making, potato slicing for the day of…

Prep day is quite messy.  Be prepared for your kitchen to need a good solid clean up when you’re done.

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My island often looks like a war zone in the middle.

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The Julienne peeler is a lifesaver.  Pictured is Julienne zucchini.  It literally takes 3-minutes to sauté because of the size.  I use this method for most things for weeknight.  I cannot tell you how easy it is to dump this out of a bowl into a sauté pan with a bit of spray on a pan and 1/2 teaspoon of avocado oil and sauté.

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I prep WHOLE BULBS of garlic all at once.  I hate messing with garlic so doing it like this works for me.  I peel an entire bulb of anywhere between 10 and 20 cloves.  Put them all in the mini chopper and done.  Store in fridge in an airtight container.  This will need to be used within a week.

IMG_4643Cook a pan of chicken sausage to eat for breakfast during the weekday.  It’s easily heatable and this is all natural, organic chicken sausage with a tiny list of ingredients that I approve of.  It can be found!  These take 40 minutes to cook, so it’s not something anyone in my family would see on a weekday without Prep day. PS this little trick saves huge on cleanup; just don’t forget to spray the foil.

These are the kinds of things that come from prep day:

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This is what we call the layered salad.  Easy and delicious lunch!!

From the bottom of the bowl to the top of the bowl: All cold: baby spinach and chopped romaine lettuce; cauliflower rice; cooked zucchini, onion, carrot and cabbage; homemade yogurt cucumber dressing.

Yogurt Cucumber Dressing:

1/2 cucumber chopped tiny

1 cup organic kefir

1 teaspoon garlic

1 teaspoon dried dill

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

salt and black pepper

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These are the bomb.  Simply heat up on weekday mornings.  They are simple and easy.  Just spray your pan, put veggies of choice in cups (pre cooked a little – love that Julienne peeler…), add beaten eggs (I estimate) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until set and cooked through the middle.  The trick is a very low temp oven so it doesn’t brown – 300 degrees works well.

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This is a salad bowl made with baby spinach, leftover grain free turkey meatballs, tomatoes, cauliflower rice (recipe link above), leftover steamed asparagus and yogurt dressing (recipe above).

IMG_3793This is tuna salad served in a lettuce wrap – make it with avocado instead of mayo for a way healthier version.  Great source of protein without the crackers or bread that slow us down.

A Few Tips (okay, more than a few) For a Successful Prep Day:

  • Have some good music on low volume!
  • Remember to do it your way.  All this is my way and just suggestion.  Do what works for you.
  • Organic vegetables need to be double washed (especially greens) because there are bugs, bugs, bugs.  I take special care to wash the lettuce and spin until totally dry.
  • A word about non-stick sprays.  Canola spray is GMO because all canola corn in the USA is.  To avoid GMO, I use olive oil spray and coconut oil spray – they work equally awesome and you cannot taste coconut.
  • Have a folder for printed recipes that you’ve collected to try to keep it handy.
  • During the week, keep your master page out so you can remember what’s going on.  DO NOT throw it out!
  • Use my favorite EVER app called Pocket.  I use it of store recipes that I want to try on my phone and iPad.  I gather whenever I’m perusing social media, newspapers and blogs.  Then I take a look as I’m collecting ingredients.
  • Invest in a good quality chopping knife that fits your hand properly.
  • Set reminders on your smart phone.  Common ones on mine are: thaw meats, soak beans, load crock pot…
  • Make it fun.  Try at least one new and exciting recipe.  Weekday meals don’t have to be boring!
  • Keep your pantry stocked with often items like broths, boxed tomatoes, cans of green chili’s, coconut milk, nut flours, nut butters, etc…
  • Keep raw nuts and seeds in your freezer.  They will go rancid if left at room temp for more than two weeks.  They are a natural, unprocessed fat, remember.
  • Try to choose a variety of color assortment for vegetables during the week.  It ensures you get the vitamins and minerals you need.
  • Chop once.  For instance, if your spiral notebook has onions in the ingredients a few different places, chop them all at once and set aside.
  • Clean all tools after handling meat or seafood.  YUCK.
  • Keep the weather in mind.  No one wants soup in July.
  • Purchase kitchen grade gloves for use with things that require hands on like meatball rolling.
  • Keep your hair pulled back.  There is nothing worse than hair in the egg muffins.
  • Buy in season vegetables and fruits to save money on your grocery budget.  Eat the same thing cooked two different ways the same week.
  • Try to avoid sugar and grains in your meals.  You will be so much healthier.
  • Don’t hesitate to make popular items on a rotation.
  • Vegetable soups are awesome leftovers for lunches.  I make soups in the crock pot and it’s healthy and easy – use tomato or broth based.
  • DO NOT take this awesome prep day and turn it into an opportunity to bake junk.  If you make it you will eat it.  Stick to healthy foods!
  • Remember, the healthiest ingredients are: meats, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits.  Therefore, the healthiest foods are made from these things.

Lemon Poppyseed Grain FREE Granola

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Dear Reader; This post was written for those of you who finally realized cereals are TERRIBLE for you.  Enjoy the same ease, crunch, texture, satiety and portability as a box of cereal or a bar.  The BIG difference is what it … Continue reading

Do You Eat Bananas?

This is how I freeze the banana mash

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Dear Reader; In recent years, I’ve come across blogs, diet plans, people and fitness gurus who have claimed we shouldn’t really eat bananas or at the very least, bananas are not the best choice.  Like this one, and this one … Continue reading