03/28/18

Pull apart keto cast-iron rolls & other keto friendly Easter dishes!

Happy spring! Happy Easter!

The weather has been GORGEOUS here in Tampa, FL- lows in the 50’s and 60’s, highs in the 70’s and 80’s. Literally the epitome of spring! It’s been the perfect weather for having the windows open and letting the springtime breeze air out the house. Last weekend we went camping to celebrate Brian’s birthday and man-oh-man, it was just lovely. I wish it would stay this way all year long!

And of course, gorgeous weather like this means it’s also the perfect time for spring cooking, spring picnics, and spring get togethers with friends and family! When I think of my springtime kitchen, I picture gorgeous trays of deviled eggs, thin slices of sweet and salty baked ham, fresh salads made with spring greens, roasted vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and mushrooms, and refreshing desserts made with citrus flavors and floral notes. 

Spring also makes me yearn for freshly baked bread. I know some people associate bread with fall or winter, but for me, the intoxicating perfume of a loaf of baking bread wafting out an open window on a sunny spring day is just heavenly.

Maybe it’s because I associate scents with good memories. For me, the scents that remind me of Easter and this time of year are all from when I was a kid- the pastel colored artificial grass from the Easter baskets my mother would make for my brother and I (what WAS that scent anyway? Whatever it was, it was glorious!), the sweet smell of malted milk and chocolate robin’s eggs (my favorite!), and the delicious aroma of pull-apart rolls baking in the oven for Easter dinner. 

I LOVED these rolls growing up.  Do you remember them? They were a party and holiday dinner staple around our house. I don’t think they make them anymore, but man were they GOOD! With every holiday, my cousins and I would steal a pack to sneakily snack on, hoping that no one would notice the missing package from the stack. They were JUST irresistible!

As I was thinking about upcoming plans for an Easter gathering with family and friends, I thought about these rolls and how I might recreate them to fit in with my clean keto, low carb way of eating. 

I already had a tried and true recipe for all-things-bread (I use this recipe for everything from pizza crusts and biscuits, to crackers and bagels!), and so I wondered how the dough would work for pull-apart rolls. I decided to try a batch out cooking them in a hot buttered cast iron skillet. I took golf-ball sized pieces of dough and rolled them in my hands until they were smooth. I was able to fit 7 into my cast-iron skillet, topping each with a brushing of melted Kerrygold butter, and some flaky sea salt. I baked them at 400 degrees F for 14 minutes, and VOILA! 

OH. MY. GOSH. YOU. GUYS. These are incredible. 

They are crispy on the top, and fluffy inside, and the butter and sea salt are just enough to make these satisfying, indulgent and just about PERFECT!

I will definitely be whipping up a batch of these for Sunday’s Easter activities along with a few more keto friendly, low carb dishes: 

Rosemary and mustard ham

Roasted radishes with fresh herbs

Lemon roasted asparagus

Strawberry butter

Deviled eggs with bacon

Greek wedge salad

Low carb Cadbury creme eggs

What is on your Easter menu?

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02/24/18

My favorite low carb, keto friendly dough recipe!

I’ve been following a clean, whole food way of ketogenic eating since August! I feel great and have experienced so many great changes happening to my body which make me SO glad I chose to dive in and try it.

My long term plantar fasciitis has completely healed, I’ve lost over 40lbs, I’ve gone from a size 24/26 jeans to a size 18/20, and I just FEEL awesome all around. I still have more milestones to hit (and smaller clothes that I hope to fit into!), but so far so good! 

In these past 6 months, I’ve definitely made a few mistakes, tried recipes that crashed and burned, eaten things with sugar and hidden carbs I didn’t know about, and, as in all weight loss adventures, the scale has gotten either gone up, or gotten stuck (thank goodness for non-scale victories like shrinking pant sizes and slack on an airplane seatbelt vs. needing an extender!). But, the show must on go, and luckily things have started moving in the right direction again. With some small tweaks, more practice in eating for hunger, instead of boredom, and getting my Orangetheory workouts in more consistently, I’m back on track and ready to see what’s next!

                                                                           February 11, 2018

People always ask me “What’s your favorite go-to keto friendly meal?” My answer is usually a few things: bunless burgers, omelettes, and anything made with my favorite low carb dough.

If you have heard of the ketogenic diet, then you have probably heard of “fathead dough.” Basically, fathead dough is a low carb dough base made with a couple of things: cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, a low carb flour, eggs, and seasonings. It first appeared a few years ago on the Fat Head blog, and low carb followers around the world have been using it help curb carby cravings ever since. Fathead dough can be used for SO many keto-friendly treats: crackers, biscuits, flatbreads, focaccia, bagels, breadsticks, pizza crust, croutons, avocado toast, empanadas, and even low carb cinnamon rolls- all with one recipe! Once you find a fathead dough recipe that you love, just do a Google search for recipes and you’ll see all of the yummy things you can make with a batch of this dough! 

I’ve tried a lot of fathead dough recipes out there, but I always go back to this simple, yet delicious recipe that is so versatile, I use it for everything. My recipe uses blanched almond flour for tenderness, olive oil for a golden crunchiness, my rich and delicious backyard eggs (good, organic eggs are a must for this dough!), and something called oat fiber, which is a flour type substance that has no calories, no fat, and no effective carbs! Not only do I love to bake with oat fiber, but it’s also great as a binder for meatloaf and meatballs! Not to be mistaken for oat FLOUR, oat fiber is the only insoluble fiber out there. 

Here’s the 101 on oat fiber:
From this website: Oat fiber is made from grinding the non-digestible oat hull… It’s made from the hull or husk that the oat was harvested from. Nutrition wise, oat fiber is really more akin to sawdust than to oatmeal. It does contain some nutrients, but because it’s essentially non-digestible, it does not provide any nutrients or carbs for the body to burn. But that’s OK, because it’s not used for its nutritional properties. It’s used in low carb baked goods as a flour sub either on its own or in a blend of other lower carb flours. It’s very affordable and very absorbent-oat fiber is capable of absorbing a lot of liquid in a recipe and can be used to add moisture to baked goods. Since oat fiber doesn’t break down in the digestive track it also helps to prevent constipation by bulking up the stool.

My dear friend Kristen is the one who introduced me to oat fiber. She has been following a ketogenic way of eating for over two years now and has seen great success- not only in weight loss, but also in managing her MS! She is my go-to for all-things-keto and has patiently been there every step of the way in helping me get my footing. She has cooked up some amazing low carb goodies, including some things using oat fiber!

I’ve been experimenting with oat fiber for a few months and have learned that it’s a great ingredient to use to reduce the amount of coconut or almond flour a recipe calls for, but to not completely use it to replace it as a 1:1 substitute. For example, if a recipe calls for 2 cups of blanched almond flour, you can use 1 cup of the almond flour and 1 cup of oat fiber to reduce the carbs in the recipe. It’s practically tasteless, so it will take on any flavors you pair it with. 

A few days ago I made a batch of my favorite fathead dough and turned it into a few individual-sized pizza crusts, 2 flavors of bagels (everything and onion), and some buttery biscuits! This crust is my favorite because it’s crispy, but also has a great chew to it- just like real bread/pizza dough/bagels! The oat fiber gives the dough some bite, and the addition of xanthum gum gives it its chew. I turned the pizza crust into a delicious pepperoni, tomato, and parmesean pizza for dinner! It was DELICIOUS! 

I topped the crispy and chewy pizza crust with freshly grated parmesean cheese, a couple of sliced tomatoes, pepperoni, italian seasoning, and cracked red pepper. You’ve GOT to try it! 

So are you ready for this dough recipe yet? Well here it is! 

My favorite fathead dough
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
12 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
12 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 3/4 cup blanched almond flour
  2. 1/4 cup oat FIBER (you can get it at Netrition.com (search for Lifesource brand)
  3. 1 tbsp. baking powder
  4. 1 tsp. sea salt
  5. 2 cups freshly grated full fat mozzarella cheese (from a block- not fresh mozzarella) (I have also had success with Monterrey jack cheese!)
  6. 1/4 cup finely grated parmesean cheese
  7. 2 oz. full fat cream cheese
  8. 2 large whisked eggs
  9. melted butter for biscuits or olive oil for pizza crusts/bagels
  10. toppings for bagels (everything but the bagel seasoning, dried onion flakes, parmesean cheese, pretzel salt, etc.)
Instructions
  1. Stir together the almond flour, oat fiber, salt, and baking powder- set aside.
  2. Combine the shredded mozzarella and cream cheese in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes, stirring with a spatula halfway through the cooking process.
  3. Remove from the microwave and stir until the cheeses are well combined. Set aside to cool just a little bit (if you put the eggs in right away, they will scramble- so wait just a few seconds!).
  4. Stir the flour mixture and eggs into the melted cheese mixture. Oil your hands with butter or olive oil, and while the mixture is still warm, knead it until a ball of dough forms (adding extra grease to your hands if the dough begins to stick to your hands).
  5. At this point you can use the dough for a variety of creations!
  6. >>>To make bagels- divide the dough into 8 sections, form a cigar shape by rolling and pulling the dough in your hands, then form bagels by pressing the two ends together. Brush with melted butter or olive oil, top with your favorite topping (I love Trader Joe's everything but the bagel seasoning!) and bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes on a greased baking sheet, or until the bagels are golden brown.
  7. >>>To make biscuits- divide the dough into 8 sections, form biscuit shaped discs, brush with melted butter, top with a sprinkle of sea salt, and bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes on a greased baking sheet, or until the biscuits are golden brown.You can also place these in a small hot cast iron skillet coated in butter for pull apart biscuits/rolls!
  8. >>>To make pizza crusts- place the warm dough on a floured (use a little oat fiber) cutting board and roll out to desired thickness, size, and shape. Brush with a little olive oil. For thin individual sized pizzas, bake at 350F for 10 minutes on a greased baking sheet then add toppings and broil under high heat for 1-2 minutes to melt toppings. For a large pizza crust, adjust the baking time to 12-15 minutes, depending on thickness.
Notes
  1. Remember to search for other fathead dough recipes! There are TONS out there! Have fun exploring and experimenting!
Adapted from Inspired by all of the fathead recipes out there!
Adapted from Inspired by all of the fathead recipes out there!
http://orangespoken.com/
Enjoy!

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12/29/17

Low Carb, Sugar Free Flan de Queso (Cheese Flan)

Flan was one of those things I never liked as a child. I remember my grandmother and great aunts making it often, but it would always turn my stomach for some reason. I think it was the texture and the overall “look” of it. But with age, I’ve learned to like traditional flan, and have learned to LOVE Flan de queso! 

Flan de queso is like flan and cheesecake got together and had a dessert baby. It has the flavor of traditional caramel flan, but with the texture of a creamy cheesecake. It is DIVINE!

I was watching a hilarious video about flan the other day when it hit me- flan (and flan de queso) can TOTALLY be made to be low carb and keto friendly! With a few tweaks to the batter, and making the caramel sauce out of a healthy sugar substitute, this modification might actually work!

And it did, my friends… it totally DID.  Continue reading

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12/23/17

Perfect low carb, sugar free chocolate chip cookies

Happy Christmas Eve Eve!!!

I’m SO excited about the upcoming holiday!

The stockings are stuffed, the presents are wrapped, the food is prepped (or ordered!), and the cookies are baked!

A few days ago I posted about all-things-CHRISTMAS COOKIES. Well I’m back to add one more cookie to the list!

There’s still time to bake up a batch of these chewy, crispy, buttery, chocolately, low carb, sugar free, keto friendly chocolate chip cookies to share with family and friends this holiday! These cookies are a winner. They’re SO delicious you’ll think you’re snacking on the real thing!  Continue reading

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11/26/17

Low carb Fiddle Faddle (or Poppycock if you’d like!)

When I was around 7 or 8, my grandfather, Abuelito, built me a treehouse. 

It wasn’t fancy or elaborate, just a big wooden platform, about 7 feet off of the ground with a ladder to get up to it. He even added green indoor/outdoor carpeting over the wood to add a little extra something, but other than that, it was a super simple design (unlike my life-size, walk-in, air conditioned playhouse him and my dad built me when I was a toddler which WAS elaborate, but I’ll save that for another post). Continue reading

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10/22/17

The New Earth Fare in Oldsmar (and a fall recipe!)

Disclosure: As a local member of TBB, I was invited to attend this event at Earth Fare for free, and receive compensation in the form of a gift card in exchange for my honest review of the store. All foodie-inspired opinions are my own. 

Hey friends! I hope things are well with you and that you had a super weekend! My weekend was a restful one, which was a welcomed sight after a few whirlwind work trips last week. I worked out, grocery shopped, did some cooking, and spent quality time with my main squeeze my husband (still love saying that!) Continue reading

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08/26/17

Flourless Cherry Almond Muffins

It’s no secret that I love to cook. But my heart is really attached to all things baking related. 

It’s why I started this blog back in *gasp* 2009. 

The first name of this blog way back in once upon a time-time was “Stretch: Stretch your Budget, not your waistline”. It was a way for me to share the healthy sweet recipes I was creating, and to document my journey as I attempted to start exercising and train for 5k races to lose weight.  Continue reading

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08/15/17

Healthy cooking for beginners

Out of all the searches that drive readers to my blog, one of the top search phrases has always been “healthy cooking for beginners”. I get lots of questions about how to meal plan, how to shop, and how to, well, cook! I’ve had people tell me that their eating habits are horrible because they “can’t cook”, and so they resort to pre-packaged foods, fast food, and dining out way too often. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that healthy cooking is EASY! No seriously, I promise! Here are my tips for getting started in a healthy at-home meal prep and cooking routine… and making it a life-long habit! 

PicMonkey Collagecooking

First things first
What does it mean to “eat healthy”? For me, it’s eating whole, unprocessed foods, low carb and low to no sugar foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins, dairy products, nuts, healthy oils (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil), butter, stevia sweetener, etc. Yes, I eat full fat items. Typically foods labeled “fat free” come with a price typically in the form of high sugars, corn syrup, added preservatives, and other yucky stuff. My motto? Keep it clean, fresh and natural. Before you begin diving into the world of healthy home-cooking, you will need to do some research and figure out what healthy eating means to you, so that you have a starting point for shopping. I will be focusing this blog post around how I fuel my body, but it will apply with other plans as well. 🙂

I cook 4-5 days a week, and on the weekends, we dine out. I do all of my shopping and meal prep on Saturday or Sunday morning, but if those days don’t work for you, find and commit to a day that does! You don’t need to shop AND prep on the same day, so divide the time into two separate days if necessary. 

But before you dive into the world of shopping and prepping, let’s consider the following:

  • What is in your fridge and pantry right NOW? If your goal is to eat and cook healthier meals (and you’ve defined what that means to you), start with an analysis of your current food supply. Take an inventory of what you have in your fridge and pantry and identify anything that doesn’t align with your healthy living goals. Pre-packaged items that have 5+ ingredients can be the first to go. Anything that contains MSG, high fructose corn syrup and/or giant words that Siri wouldn’t even be able to pronounce shouldn’t be going into your nor your family’s bodies so those can go too. Take a look at your spice cabinet as well and look for the same kinds of words on those labels. If you’re feeling guilty about throwing those items away, consider donating them to a food pantry or soup kitchen. 
  • What are some of your (and your family’s) favorite foods? If you live alone, think about what you enjoy eating. Make a list and cross off the items that are prepackaged, processed crap. Grilled chicken? Keep. Pop tarts? Cross it out! Focus on what’s left uncrossed on the list and keep that list handy when planning meals. Have children or a spouse? Consider giving them the same survey and collecting info about what their favorites are. Are donuts making an appearance on your list? Instead of scratching these off, think about how you can make treats like this from scratch with whole ingredients. Give yourself permission to think outside of the box. Almost ANYTHING (bagels, waffles, cookies, pizza) can be made to fit your healthy cooking goals! I make these low carb, no sugar, keto friendly chocolate chip cookies that are out of this world good! It’s not about restricting what you’re eating, it’s about rethinking what you’re eating. 
  • What tools do you have in your kitchen? Keep it simple. All you really need for healthy prep and cooking is a sharp cutting knife, cutting board, vegetable peeler, can opener, saute pan, baking sheet/jelly roll pan, food processor OR blender, a simple slow cooker (think $20 at Target), a somewhat deep pot, your oven (of course), a spatula and a wooden spoon.
  • What’s your weekly grocery budget? This is a big one, as healthy eating sometimes comes with a higher price tag if you are unfamiliar with how to shop smart. Consider shopping at a local farmer’s market or joining a co-op to save money on fresh produce. Look for BOGO deals and other sales on meat at local supermarkets and stock up (if you have the space) when you find a good deal. Join a rewards club or a bulk store membership. Check out stores like Aldi and Trader Joe’s that are both significantly cheaper than other grocery stores. Plan meals that are heavier on vegetables (like stews) which will stretch your dollar further since vegetables are cheaper than proteins. 

Meal planning
Whether you’re completely new to cooking or cook regularly, plan to prepare 2-3 healthy meals each week to start. You can easily double most recipes, giving you leftovers that you can freeze, take to lunch or serve for another dinner option that week. Most recipes can be used in other ways as well (think slow cooker pork roast becomes pork tacos another meal). 

Before you start your weekly meal plan, think about what you currently KNOW how to do. 

  • Can you grill? Think grilled chicken, steaks, burgers, veggies (wrapped in foil with salt, pepper and a bit of oil)
  • Can you roast? Think roasted veggies and roast chicken or turkey cutlets. 
  • Can you saute? Think sautéed chunks of chicken and veggies for stir fry, mushrooms and onions for burger, steak and chicken toppings, fish filets with a little butter, lemon and fresh herbs, ground meats like chicken and beef for tacos, lettuce wraps and meat sauces over veggie noodles (like thinly sliced ribbons of zucchini). 
  • Can you bake? Think baked whole chickens stuffed with lemon wedges, fresh herbs and drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, homemade meatballs lined up in a dish and baked until golden brown, and homemade frittatas with eggs and veggies like spinach, onions and fresh herbs, for breakfast options. 
  • Can you turn ON a slow cooker? Think slow roasted pork loin, brisket, chili, soups, shredded bbq chicken, chowder. 
  • Can you boil? Think boiled sweet potatoes topped with ground beef, veggies and shredded cheese, thinly sliced ribbons of squash or zucchini (as a pasta replacement), hard boiled eggs to add in salads, and cauliflower, rutabaga or parsnips boiled then mashed with milk and cream cheese. 

Think about what you CAN do and build on those strengths. Sure, there will be times when you might try a recipe that’s a big fail (I’ve done it PLENTY of times), but it certainly doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Cooking is a science. It’s all about exploring and testing different flavor combinations that work and please you and your family. Don’t be scared to play around. And, try being a little adventurous during each trip to the market! I like to try and purchase 1 new item at the market each time I visit. Maybe it’s a new vegetable, or a fish I’ve never tried. This keeps things interesting in the kitchen, and teaches me to learn to like new things (and not be scared to cook them!). 

Once you’ve established what you know how to do as far as technique goes, grab a pen and pad and get to work on a list. I try to never complete a big grocery trip without a list. If you’re thinking about going low carb, low sugar, and ketogenic (like me), feel free to use and print the list I’ve made with foods that support this way of eating which you can find in any local market. You can find the list here. If you just can’t seem to give up carbs completely, consider trying to whip up meals that use quinoa as a rice or pasta replacement. You can click on this link to learn all about purchasing and preparing this ancient seed. You can also try using cauliflower as a rice replacement! It’s delicious! Here is a recipe for cauliflower “rice”. Squash, zucchini, and spaghetti squash also make a great pasta replacement. Check out Rachael Ray’s recipe for zucchini noodles, this recipe for spaghetti squash and sausage bake (think baked ziti!) and my recipe for unpasta lasagna with squash and eggplant instead of noodles! 

Before you create a shopping list, start with your meals. Here are some “norms” that show up in our house each week:

  • Breakfast: Try blending fruit and almond milk with unflavored whey protein for a smoothie. Want something warmer? How about mini fritattas and crust-less quiches? I make them ahead of time, freeze or refrigerate them, then warm them up throughout the week for breakfast. You can add your family’s favorite veggies, cheeses and meats. They’re easy, portable, healthy and delicious!  Low carb cream cheese pancakes are also an easy make ahead breakfast item that you can refrigerate or freeze, then warm up when ready. 
  • Lunch: I split my time working from home and traveling for work. When I’m at home, lunch is usually dinner leftovers or snack plates (cheese, deli meat, olives, pickles, fruit, veggies). We try to grill out on Sunday evenings, giving me an opportunity to grill up extra chicken (breasts or boneless/skinless thighs) and burgers then pack those for lunch (think grilled chicken salads and burger salads). When I’m traveling, I’ll pick up pre-made salads from the grocery store, or purchase items to make snack plates on the road so that I’m not leaning on fast-food.  
  • Snacks/Dessert: I love munching on celery with almond butter (ingredients should just be nuts+salt), energy balls, cheese cubes, pork rinds, guacamole, fresh salsa (in the produce section or make it yourself!), raw nuts (like walnuts, macadamia nuts, and almonds), 85% or higher dark chocolate, and fresh whipped heavy cream with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger with fresh berries. I also like to boil a dozen eggs at the beginning of the week for hard-boiled egg snacks, or to toss into salads. 
  • Dinner: I plan on grilling once a week (grilled chicken, burgers, steaks, fish wrapped in foil with veggies). Once a week I make a roast in my slow cooker (pork loin, brisket). Sometimes I’ll bake a whole chicken  (great for chicken salad with the leftovers!). I’ll use leftover grilled chicken or homemade meatballs paired with one of the pasta alternatives mentioned above. Big pots of chili or soup are also great go-to dinners that make for delicious leftover lunches. Some of my favorite sides are mashed cauliflower or rutabaga, butternut squash, roasted veggies, and sweet potatoes.
  • Beverages: Water with lemon or lime and fresh mint, coffee with half and half and cinnamon powder. I love to flavor water with berries, citrus, and fresh herbs like basil and mint. My latest craze is sparkling water (Think LaCroix!). It’s such a satisfying treat! 

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This is just a sample of what my week looks like as far as meal planning goes. Remember, build on your strengths in the kitchen, and food likes to help create your own family favorites that are healthy, and you can feel good about cooking each week! 

When you head to the market, stick to your list. Try to shop the perimeter of the store (produce, meat/poultry/fish and dairy. Head to the center aisles only for things like nuts, healthy oils (coconut, olive oil), dried fruits and seasonings. And never shop on a hungry stomach. Let your list guide you, not your brain! 

Prepping and cooking
Plan to dedicate time to prep everything when you get home from the market. Two hours on a Sunday afternoon will save you TONS of time during the week. Wash and chop all of your veggies ahead of time (keep in mind things like apples and pears will brown if pre-cut). Utilize gallon and sandwich/snack sized bags for cut veggies for roasting and snacks. Pre-wash greens and fresh herbs, then keep them dry and long lasting by wrapping them in paper towels before placing them into Ziploc bags. Do not freeze fresh greens, however, a great idea for herbs is to chop them, then freeze them in ice cube trays filled with chicken or vegetable broth. They are an easy way to add flavor to soups, slow cooker recipes and so much more. Pre-season roasts and meats, then place them into gallon sized bags to marinate (they can be easily frozen in the marinade), then defrosted the night before you plan to cook them. Post a list of everything you plan on preparing that week for dinner as a reminder of things like what to take out of the freezer ahead of time (and of course, to keep you motivated and organized!) 😉

Want to save even more time? If you find that you have extra time on those weekend prep days, consider roasting veggies, baking sweet potatoes and steaming cauliflower for sides! Store them in containers, refrigerate or freeze then warm up when needed throughout the week, that way you’ll only need to focus on cooking your protein on busy weekday evenings. Stews, chilis, cooked beans and soups also freeze well ahead of time, so when you have the time, whip up these dishes in advance and store them in your freezer for when you’re in a pinch and are dangerously close to hitting the drive thru. Get into the habit of labeling containers and Ziploc baggies before you store them away in the freezer. When times get really crazy, you’ll be glad you did! 

I’d love to feature some of YOUR tips for healthy meal planning, prepping and cooking! Comment with your great idea below and I’ll add it into the post, with a link to your blog (if you blog!). 🙂

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