“Silly sandwiches” is What’s for Dinner

Tonight’s dinner is a family favorite.  It was about six months ago that I was trying to come up with something good and easy for dinner on one of those weeks where I hadn’t really gone grocery shopping and there was no real plan. {yes, those do happen occasionally}  I looked around and I had bread and banana and peanut butter so I said to my girls “who wants a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich” and one of them said that is silly and such the “silly sandwich” was born.

Tonight’s choices were either peanut butter and banana or apple and cheese.  The girls had grilled peanut butter and banana and Mike and I had grilled apple and cheese.  I have recently been introduced to Alpine Valley Bread.  I love that there are few ingredients, almost all organic and non-GMO.  The other thing I love is that the sugar content is pretty low for bread.  The Multi Grain Omega 3 was the base for our sandwiches.  I used Kirklands Organic Peanut Butter (peanuts and salt, you can’t get much better than that) and an organic banana for the girls.  {I have found that Trader Joes has the best price around for organic bananas, .29 per banana} For our sandwiches I thinly sliced an organic gala apple {bag from Whole Foods from the January 4th shopping trip} and some havarti cheese from Trader Joes.  I used some coconut oil on the bread as the grilling agent.  I am not opposed to butter, in fact I love Kerry Gold Butter, but on this sweeter type of sandwich the coconut oil works better.  I also sprinkled some cinnamon on the bread.  I had some avocado and cherry tomatoes sitting around so I sliced those up for a nice little side with some salt and pepper.

This meal received, a not surprising at all, 4 thumbs up.  The interesting thing about this meal is that one of my girls WILL NOT eat a grilled cheese sandwich if her life depended on it, but loves grilled “silly sandwiches”.  Go figure.  So the moral of the story is, put something “silly” on a sandwich and grill it for those picky eaters.

Until next time,

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Meal Planning January 11, 2015

Today is Sunday so that must mean I was meal planning today.  For this week’s meal plan I decided to see what I had in my pantry (and freezer) and go from there.  We are also having some favorites this week.  After taking stock of the inventory and checking my Pinterest Board and the internet I settled on this plan for the week.

Menu Board- January 11 2015

I am trying these two new recipes this week, The Italian Orzo Spinach Soup can be found here, and the Slow Cooker Teriyaki Chicken can be found here.  I didn’t realize they were from the same site until I made the shopping list.  The Stir Fry will be veggie based with brown rice.  Silly Sandwiches is something that my girls came up with and are usually grilled apple and cheese or grilled peanut butter and banana.  “Brinner” is breakfast for dinner, I usually decide the day of what we are going to have.  Sometimes its pancakes, or french toast or some egg dish.  You will have to stay tuned to see what tickles my food dreams on Thursday.  Finally on Friday we are going to have Naan Pizza. I love using Naan bread as the base for individual pizzas.

For today’s shopping, I tried out a new shopping list app Grocery IQ, I’m not in love with it.  I looked at the suggestions from last week’s post {thank you for those} and one is an apple only product {android girl here} and the other did not give me the check-ability that I love.  So I am still searching. Given what was on my shopping list today I decided that I could get almost everything that I needed at Trader Joes and then pick up the remaining items at Publix.

shopping-jan 11 15

Here is most of the items purchased.  My husband was very helpful and started putting items away before the picture was taken.  Between the two stores I spent $100 on items for the five dinners, plus some breakfast and lunch items.  Not to bad 🙂  Now on to tonight’s dinner:

ITALIAN ORZO SPINACH SOUP

There were very few modifications that I made to this soup.  I decided that my girls might like it better if it were a little more colorful so I purchased rainbow organic carrots at Trader Joes.  I also did a fifty-fifty mix of chicken stock and vegetable stock {it’s what I had on hand}.  I found a great multi-grain baguette loaf at the store {not completely clean, but also not entirely junked up} and had that for dipping.  The last difference was that I added a little grated Parmesan cheese to the top, it added a nice salty element to the soup. Overall this was a big hit in the house.  It made a lot of soup and I not only have some for lunch tomorrow, but also dinner if the Stir Fry doesn’t go over well.

Dinner rating: 3 out of 4 thumbs.

Until next time,

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“Velvety Macaroni” is What’s for Dinner

When I was making the meal plan for the week, Lily said that she wanted to have Macaroni and Cheese and I was happy to oblige.  I mean who does not like macaroni and cheese?  Since we started our real food journey I have found that boxed macaroni and cheese (the stuff that I and everyone I know grew up on) is bad.  Not just a little bad, but why are artificial colors and food dyes needed?  I will occasionally buy the Annie’s Organic Mac and Cheese for pinch, but there is something really satisfying about making food from scratch {at least it is to me}.  Mike found the recipe I made tonight on Forks Over Knives.  I was intrigued about the use of butternut squash as the base for the cheese sauce.

When I was doing my weekly shopping, my Whole Foods did not have whole butternut squashes, but they did have some that where already cut up. I try to buy organic produce as much as possible, but since butternut squash is not on the dirty dozen list, I was okay with buying it even though it was not organic.  Now, for cost reasons buying the whole vegetable and cutting yourself is going to be more cost efficient that purchasing pre-cut items.

Since the butternut squash was already cut, I had to adapt the recipe to work with that ingredient.  So I placed the cubes in a ziplock bag (you could also use a bowl) and added some salt, pepper, garlic powder and olive oil.  Coated the squash and then baked for 30 minutes.  I love that the recipe used brown rice pasta (which I had some on hand).  It is a great alternative to regular pasta.  I don’t know about your family, but mine is not keen on the whole-wheat pasta, so this is a great option.  I purchase my brown rice pasta at Trader Joes.

Since I roasted the butternut squash, I skipped step in the recipe that calls for streaming it with garlic.  Instead while my pasta was cooking I added the steam basket to the top and steamed the broccoli.  {great time saver}  Making the “cheese” sauce was very easy, I added the roasted butternut squash, almond milk, nutritional yeast, salt and garlic powder to a sauce pan, plugged my immersion blender in and that’s when I remembered that it no longer worked.  Hello Amazon 🙂 So I put the mixture into the blender and it worked just as well.

I was very pleased with how the meal turned out and it was given 3 and 1/2 thumbs tonight.  That’s pretty good for 5-year-old critics in my book.  It will definitely be going into the dinner rotation.

Until next time,

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Meal Planning January 4, 2015

Sunday’s are my meal planning days around here.  Sometimes I decide on the menu for the week, but most of the time I ask Mike and the girls what they want to eat for dinner during the week.  Today when I asked Mike immediately said he wanted Stroganoff and Lily said she wanted Macaroni and Cheese and Tacos.  We have a few evening events this week so instead of trying to make five meals, I decided that I would stick with three, knowing that at least two of them, if not all three would produce leftovers.

Since now that I have a plan for the week, I need to find either tried and true recipes or something new.  I love adding at least one new recipe to the mix every week.  For the stroganoff, I knew that I would use Mike’s mom’s recipe and make some real food changes to it.  For the Macaroni and Cheese, I ventured to Forks Over Knives and found this recipe that looked interesting (http://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes/velvety-macaroni), the test will come later in the week when I make it (stay tuned for the verdict on that one), and finally I decided to try out a new slow cooker recipe, (http://therecipecritic.com/2014/11/slow-cooker-chicken-fajita-soup/).  I love using the slow cooker, especially on night where we have extra-curricular activities in the evening.

I had previously used ZipList for the shopping list, but since they shut down I am on the search for a new one if anyone has any suggestions. So today I just created a list with my Google Keep app.  I mainly shop at Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Publix,  and occasionally Fresh Market.  About once a month we go to Costco for some great staples (stay tuned for post on my favorite Costco items).  Today the weather was pretty crummy so instead of going to multiple stores I only went to Whole Foods today.  I did really well and stuck to my list (with only a few splurge items that ended up in my cart, I mean who can pass up the mini chocolate croissants. 80/20 remember).  Our grocery bill was $130, but it included some once a month staples such as protein powder and pure maple syrup.  I try to keep our costs to around $100-$125 per week.  Since I only went to Whole Foods there are some items that I purchased that I can find for a better price at the other stores, but the weather was not in my favor today.  So next week hopefully I can shop around.

Whole Foods purchases

Whole Foods purchases

About six months ago I created a command center of sorts for our kitchen area, that accomplished two items.  One to keep the clutter off my counters and two, to serve as a menu board for the week.

Menu Board January 4

As you can see from the board, there are only three dinners planned for this week.  For tonight’s dinner I adapted Mike’s mom’s “Hamburger Stroganoff” recipe into a “LLRealFood” version.  Here are the original ingredients with my modifications in blue:

HAMBURGER STROGANOFF

½ C minced onion

1 lb fresh mushrooms sliced  (or 1 can 8 oz sliced, drained)  (i used 1lb of organic baby portobello mushrooms)                                 

1 clove garlic, minced  (Organic minced garlic from Costco)

¼ C butter or margarine   (Kerry Gold Butter was used, but only 3 tablespoons)

1 can (10 ½ oz) cream of chicken soup  (This was made from scratch from this recipe, http://pinchofyum.com/homemade-cream-of-chicken-soup 

1 lb ground beef   (I used Organic Ground Chicken)

1 C sour cream (8 oz) (I used Organic Valley Sour Cream)

1 T flour (Organic White-Whole Wheat Flour)

Parsley (omitted)

1 t salt

¼ t pepper

Noodles or rice (I used wide egg noodles from Whole Foods.  Whole wheat noodles just don’t work well with this)

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It turned out amazing!  I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, but I think that the baby portobellos work well with this.  They are a bit meaty and not slimy like some other mushrooms taste to me.  We sometimes like to rate the dinners by a show of thumbs up…tonight’s dinner was 3 out of 4.  I call that a success.

Until next time,

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Happy New Year

Happy New Year and welcome to Living Life with Real Food (LL Real Food)  If I can inspire just one person to change the way they eat, my job will be done.  Our family journey started about 3 years ago. I remember it was right after our girls’ third birthday that my husband started watching some food documentaries and said “hey you should check these out” and I did.  I remember watching “Forks Over Knifes” and it completely changed my way of thinking about food.  We didn’t eat a lot of meat, but we ate some and for some time, we cut out all beef and pork (over time my husband started to eat it again and my girls eat both, but I have not had any since then).  Then came January 2012 and I really wanted to make a change so we started with a meal planning site that offered fresh meal plans with a low number of ingredients and we did that for several months religiously.  I loved cooking and trying new ingredients and knowing that what we were eating was “real food”.  That was such a big shift for me.  From that point on, I was dedicated to “real food” as much as possible.  I cleaned out our pantries of all processed foods, white sugars, white flours and non-organic products.  I started making as many things from scratch as possible (ranch dressing, pancakes, breads, cookies) you name it I have probably tried making it over the past two years.  It has evolved into a real joy and passion for me.  I love the feeling of making a simple meal (or sometimes complicated) and knowing that I have used “real” ingredients to the best of my abilities.

Not only have I seen a change in my own self, but the change in my girls is pretty amazing.  Do I wish they would eat everything that I put in front of them…well what parent does not wish that, however when they tell me that they did not have Cheetos at the school party because it is junk and does not make our body feel good, or when we pass by a fast food restaurant and there only concept is the occasional tea that their dad or I get, that makes my heart happy.

What I hope to share is how we do what we do through meal planning, honest reviews of the meals, where to get the best prices on food items, what works for us and some other tips that I have come across.  We are your everyday family that has decided that “Real Food” is important for us and we will do whatever we can to eat that way.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we do eat out and some choices are not the best, but I subscribe to the “80/20 rule”.  Meaning that 80% of the time I (we) will eat “real food” and 20% of the time I will eat what I am craving or what I want.  I do not believe in depriving myself or my family of anything food wise on an occasional basis.

Until next time,

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