Apr 30, 2012

Freezer Burritos

I love my freezer. I love that I can buy bulk perishable foods (hello costco), stash it in my freezer, and not have to worry about waste. I also love having frozen back up meals in the case where, let's say, I don't feel like cooking. Anyone....anyone?
This week I made a batch of freezer burritos. These little gems are the perfect addition to a don't-want-to-cook weeknight or perhaps if you're expecting a little one soon and want to stock up (OK, that last one is just me).

It does take some time, but the results just blow my socks off. Imagine this: dinner in less than 5 minutes. Aaah, serenity. Thankfully, the word "burrito" is not necessarily a synonym for "unhealthy". Choose nutritious ingredients and - as always - keep portions on the small side.

Step 1. Gather your ingredients
I went the bean, cheese and avocado route.

Step 2. Assemble and stack.

Step 3. Wrap in foil and freeze

My goal was to make these for "emergencies", but in truth they're so delicious I don't think they'll make it that long. Oh well, I'll just have to make more.

Apr 24, 2012

How I Plan Healthy Menus

I'm back in the land of the living; a land with internet and the comforts of modern life. We've been settling into the new house and enjoying life as homeowners. Trees were climbed, flowers were smelled and more prego pics were taken.

Even with the stress of moving, I tried to stick to my usual meal prep/menu schedule. I won't deny there may have been a cosco pizza run and a possible in-and-out stop, but apart from that we made food at home. I like to make sure my family eats well, and it all starts with a healthy menu. My first priority in planning a menu is to make it balanced and healthy. My second priority is cost.

It surprises a lot of people when I say that eating healthy can be affordable so long as a few simple rules are followed. The first rule is to plan a menu (yes, this can save money). The second rule is to shop smart. Here's how I do it:
  1. Think about your health goals. Do you want to see your family eating more fruits and vegetables? Or maybe trying more whole grains? Create a few goals for yourself and your family and then write them down. This will help determine what types of foods you buy at the grocery store (i.e. reaching for whole grain pasta instead of white).
  2. Take inventory (i.e. check out your pantry and fridge). I try to choose recipes that allow me to use up whatever is left from last weeks shopping trip. That way, there is less waste and more money saved.
  3. Select your recipes for the week. Typically, for me this means choosing about 5 dinner recipes, leaving the other 2 for our standard weekend fare: veggie pizza on Saturdays and soup and popcorn on Sundays. I try to serve fish 1-2 times per week, limit red meat to once per week, have at least one "meatless" meal and include poultry a couple times per week.
  4. Write it down. Once I've got the recipes selected, I write them down on my menu board. I used this idea to create a menu that I hang in my kitchen. It's just fun.
  5. Organize recipe favorites. I'm absolutely addicted to organizing my recipes on Pinterest. If you haven't tried it, seriously what are you waiting for? You'll find a ton of healthy recipe ideas that are absolutely delicious.
  6. Create a list of ingredients. Write down only what you need and put the list in your purse or wallet a.s.a.p. so you don't forget it. Can you tell I've done that a few times?
  7. Shop sales. I know - trust me - I'm a mom of a toddler and I certainly don't have time to drive around creation looking for the best deal on pot roast and green beans. But it doesn't have to be that bad. Just browse your local grocery store adds and go to the store that offers the majority of your ingredient list on sale. I usually shop between two grocery stores and save money that way. 
  8. Know your price points. If you want the best price, you've got to know the average price. This is particularly useful for higher priced items like meats, yogurt, fruits, vegetables, etc. 

There is so much more to say on this topic, but I think I should stop at 8 points. Seriously, that's enough!  

I'm interested to know what YOU have to say. What tricks do you use to plan a healthy, affordable menu?

Apr 21, 2012

From Another World

I feel like I'm living in a parallel universe. Allow me to explain. I'll start with the good news: we moved to a new house and we're loving it. Bad news: said house is unable to get internet service. We're on day 10 of no inter-web. Catastrophic.

Thanks to the generosity of one of our new neighbors, I am able to post a little note to you all. The problem will hopefully be solved soon, but in the meantime I wanted to drop a line, and say hey-o! 

Maybe this can be my unofficial blogger spring break? Does that exist? It does now. See you soon, folks. 

Apr 12, 2012

Q & A with the Dietitian: Which Bread to Buy

If you're like most people, choosing the healthiest foods at the grocery store is no simple task. After you consider all the different products, sort through the health claims on the label, factor in price, and tell your 2 year old for the twentieth time to sit still, it can get a little very overwhelming. Bread is one example where there are a LOT of choices and knowing the best can be challenging.

Cameron wrote: "When I'm buying bread I'm overwhelmed with the amount of options there are for BREAD! Options vary from whole grain, whole wheat, seven grains, cracked oat, rye, white, buttermilk... are just a few off the top of my head. My question is... When making a sandwich... does it REALLY matter or make a difference? If so, which is best??"

Making the switch to whole grain bread totally matters. Why? Because it's one of the easiest ways to increase your intake of whole grains, which should comprise at least half of the grains you eat during the day. 

Most Americans don't eat enough whole grains, which provide so many health benefits such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein and fiber to help keep you fuller longer. They also may help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases and promote a healthy weight. Good stuff, right? Sorry Wonder bread; you lose. 

Now onto which bread you should buy. Stick with those labeled "100% whole wheat bread", as seen in the picture above. The first ingredient of 100% whole wheat bread will be "whole wheat flour". Check it out!

Thankfully, most major brands carry this option and you'll probably want to try a few different brands to see which one you like the best. I got mine this week from Target and really like the texture and quality. I can honestly say though that I've had to shop around because they all taste a little different to me. See what works for you.

Other whole grain options to include in your diet throughout the day are brown or wild rice, oatmeal, whole grain crackers, whole wheat pasta and popcorn. 

Thanks for your question Cameron!

Apr 9, 2012


My latest tech-obsession is instagram, or as my friend appropriately calls it "insta-crack". I know, I'm a little behind the curve on this trend. I initially wasn't really into it, but after some prompting I decided to give it another try. Success! It's totally addictive, which is both a blessing and a curse. Yay for mom having an outlet to decompress. Boo for being glued to my iphone. Yes, I'm becoming THAT person. 

For April, instagram has a photo-a-day challenge that includes prompts. Many of them have either been directly food-related or I have made them food-related. Here are a few of my instagram food pics that also happen to be my current favorite recipes (thank you Pinterest).

Sweet Potato Hash from Cookin' Canuck

Artichoke Pasta Bake from Budget Bytes

This last recipe is my own. We do pizza night every Saturday and this one definitely won me some mom-points. I spread the dough out thin and go light on the cheese so the calories aren't outrageous. Pair it with a side salad, and we call that dinner!

Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Pizza 
(see recipe below)

  • Whole wheat pizza dough
  • Pizza Sauce 
  • Low-fat Mozzarella Cheese, Shredded
  • Red Peppers, chopped
  • Goat Cheese
  • Dried Oregano
  • Dried Basil
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt

Preheat oven to 425 F. 

Saute chopped bell peppers in about a teaspoon of olive oil. Roll out pizza dough and place on pan greased with a little Pam. Spread on pizza sauce, top with shredded mozzarella cheese, sauteed bell peppers, goat cheese and dried oregano, basil and garlic. Sprinkle with a little salt. Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Apr 3, 2012

Coconut Oil: Miracle Food or Food Fad?

One thing's for sure in the food world: coconut oil is in. Maybe coconut oil is the new kale? Or kale is the new coconut oil? I don't know. 

Seems like coconut oil has generated a lot of hype lately, but are the health claims based on science or is it just another food fad? 


Recently, a reader sent me the question: "Could you do a post about coconut oil? I've heard conflicting opinions about whether it is a healthier alternative or not... What have you seen about it?" -- Lauren

This is a great question, in large part because it's so relevant right now. I can't even count the number of health claims I've seen and heard associated with coconut oil; from things like malnutrition and liver disease to baldness and stomach pain. Quite a spectrum, huh?
 These types of claims can be found from a simple google search as well as "health/nutrition" books, but are they true? Meaning, is there ample scientific evidence to support these claims? 

According to current reputable health sources, no. Many of the health claims are simply not well-substantiated by research. Here's what we know to be true about coconut oil: it has no cholesterol but is high in saturated fat, which should be limited in our diets. Instead of cooking with coconut oil (or eating it by the spoonful, which I no joke have witnessed), I recommend using heart-healthy oils low in saturated fat like canola oil, olive oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, etc. 

Here are some helpful, credible references on coconut oil that summarize the consensus of current research:

Whenever you're wondering about the latest miracle food or supplement, I encourage you to look towards these types of reputable organizations for information in addition to your doctor or registered dietitian (RD). 

Thanks for your great question, Lauren!