Five Pro Meal Planning Tips

The key to a week of delicious meals and balanced eating is meal preparation. When I don’t prepare our weekly menu I end up overspending at the grocery store, eating out more and putting together meals that don’t excite me. There is no specific method for meal planning so feel free to create a new way of putting together meals throughout the week. To help inspire you, here are some tips from the pros on how to enhance your weekly meal planning.

  1. The Kitchn: Create a place to save recipes, and keep it SIMPLE.
    “Do whatever works for you. Don’t get caught up in a system, just use whatever works best and most easily. Personally, I like Pinterest because it’s easy to visually browse what I’ve saved.”

Note: I use Pinterest save all recipes that actually worked for me and I liked! This makes it easy to reference recipes on a weekly basis and helps me continue staple meals in our weekly meal rotations.

  1. MyFitnessPal: Create a Master Recipe List 

“Having a list of go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Consider trying one or two new recipes and use a few old favorites to fill in the gaps. Every time you find a new meal you love, add it to the rotation.”

  1. Food52Try a Theme Night (or Two)

“Assign a theme to dinner one night each week: tacosbreakfast for dinnerstir-fries – something that you’re happy eating regularly and that takes less than an hour to make. Write out 5 variations on the theme (if you choose a breakfast-for-dinner theme, your list might look like: omelets, pancakes, French toast, breakfast sandwiches, frittata) and rotate through them, adding more variations as you wish. Like it? Add a second themed dinner night each week.”

  1. Lifehacker: Prepare Tomorrow’s Meals At the End of Every Day

“… I’ve found that preparing myself for tomorrow’s meal makes the whole process much easier. Start as soon as you come home from the grocery store, though I actually perform this step every night of the week. Put anything that needs to thaw in the fridge, make sure the necessary pots, pans, and dishes for tomorrow’s meal are clean and ready so you don’t have to do it tomorrow. I’ll even get the tools and dry ingredients I need and put them on the counter, so I can start cooking as soon as I get off work.”

  1. USDA Thrifty Meals Reference: “Batch” Cooking

“Do “batch cooking” when your food budget and time allow. For example, cook a large batch of Baked Meatballs or Turkey Chili, divide it into family-size portions, and freeze some for meals later in the month.”

What are your best meal planning tips?

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Boston Fermentation Festival 2017

I was thrilled to experience my first Boston Fermentation Festival on August 27th at the new Boston Public Market. This was an ideal location to attract many people and introduce and celebrate the fantastic world of fermentation.

I’m a huge fan of fermented food and beverages like kombucha, kraut and kimchi and I do try to incorporate them in my weekly meal plans. As someone with a huge interest in gut health, these foods provide some beneficial probiotics to my diet and also add great flavor.

What are probiotics?  I learned a ton from my favorite book of the summer “I Contain Multitudes” one being the power of beneficial bacteria for our bodies. The word probiotic actually means “for life.” Probiotics introduce live bacteria and yeast to our bodies to support health, especially for the digestive system. The World Health Organization classifies them as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

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At the festival, you could sample various fermented products from 15+ vendors across New England, attend different speaker sessions and visit the science corner to learn more about the health benefits of fermentation.

Some of my favorite exhibitors at the festival included:

  1. Hosta Hill – We HAD to purchase a Gochu Curry Kraut from Hosta Hill but found it hard to pick just one when all their kraut flavors were absolutely delicious.
  2. Chi Kitchen – Chi’s vegan kimchi is one of our favorite kimchis and we were so excited to see them at the festival. When we lived in Providence, RI we frequently visited the Hope and Main Farmer’s Market in Warren, RI where Chi Kitchen was started.
  3. Maitland Mountain Farm – Besides their beautiful custom fermentation cart, their pickles were hard to stop eating. Our friends bought a jar and people stopped them to talk about the quality of Maitland picklers.
  4. Real Pickles – This was our first stop and we were not disappointed. We left with one of their turmeric krauts which was light, tasty and a very easy addition to any dish.
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Successful purchases at the Boston Fermentation Festival

5. Evy Tea – One of the highlights was trying Evy Tea’s Fermentation Festival tea special for the day.  Every Evy Tea is delicious (I’m a HUGE fan of the hibiscus) but I hope this special becomes a classic at Evy’s two locations. If you haven’t tried Evy Tea yet, you can pick a bottle up at Whole Foods or at either of her two tea bar locations in Charlestown or Jamaica Plain.

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Sorry, it was so good we had to drink some before we took a picture. 

Did anybody else attend the festival? What were your fermented highlights of the day?

 

Reliable Health and Wellness Resources Online

As I learn more about how our bodies work in my science classes, I evaluate the bloggers that I follow and the quality of the information they share. I appreciate the holistic side of healing and do think individuals without licensure do provide fantastic insight and tips on how to lead a well-balanced lifestyle. Nevertheless, some of my past favorite bloggers and podcasts often share information that is not backed by substantial evidence and can sometimes steer followers, readers and listeners in the wrong direction.

To counter this, I want to share five professionals that provide incredible lifestyle, recipe and nutrition education information on their sites, blogs or podcasts. These five individuals are absolutely worth a bookmark!

  1. Kate Scarlata – Kate is a registered and licensed dietitian based in Boston and is a FODMAP and IBS expert. As someone who wants to pursue nutrition and GI health, I am fascinated by the content Kate shares online. She shares Low FODMAP recipe inspiration, the latest learnings about this subset of dietetics and tips for those struggling to find a diet that works best with their gut. A bookmark MUST for (as Kate would say) anyone looking “for a digestive peace of mind.”
  2. Healthy Aperture – I recently discovered this site and love it for recipe inspiration. This site is an image-based recipe search tool that is actually curated and moderated by Registered Dietitians and focuses on healthy eating. It’s easy to get lost in the black hole of Pinterest as you often select a recipe that is completely unhealthy for you. This site inspires you in the kitchen and points you in the right direction to find a well-balanced meal idea.
  3. Diana Rodgers – Diana Rodgers is a Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Massachusetts that not only promotes nutrient dense eating but also teaches her readers and podcast listeners all about Sustainable Nutrition and today’s food system. I listen to her podcast on my car ride to school and I have learned so much about nutrition, animal welfare, food policy and sustainability. Her passion for this field inspires me as a future professional and her content keeps me learning and questioning, which I think is important for all of us to do today.
  4. Kara Lydon – Kara Lydon is a Boston-based dietitian and yoga instructor. I love her content because she includes a more holistic approach to nutrition and talks about mind, body and spirit when improving your overall health. She also posts the most beautiful food photos!
  5. Kath Eats – Kath’s blog and story were actual parts of my journey when I was deciding to leave my career in Marketing to enter the dietetics world. I started to follow her blog and learned that Kath had a liberal arts degree and decided to also start from square one, follow her passion and become a registered dietitian. Kath also opened a bakery in the process and her story, tips and food photos are all so captivating, you feel like you know her and in turn, trust her. Thanks, Kath for your story and for helping me take my big step!

Happy reading and listening!

 

Easy Lunch/Snack: Rice Cakes, Sprouts and Tuna

In addition to eating healthier in 2017, I am trying to minimize our weekly grocery expenses. I am always looking for fun ways to spice up our meals while still staying close to a budget. The other weekend I was so bored with everything in our refrigerator and I decided to make a makeshift sandwich out of rice cakes and tuna. The end product looked pretty pinterest-worthy and also tasted great. Thought I’d share for some weekday or weeknight inspiration.

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Rice Cake, Sprouts and Tuna Ingredients:

  • 2 Rice Cakes
  • 1 Can of Tuna
  • 1 tbsp of Chipotle Mayo (Vegan – I like the Just Mayo brand)
  • 1/2 of a Celery Stalk (diced)
  • 1/4 of an Avocado
  • 1 Cup of Wilted Spinach
  • Organic Radish Sprouts (other sprouts are perfectly fine but I like the little kick that radishes provide)

This recipe doesn’t require much prep work except to warm up and wilt the spinach. This is super easy to put together on a weeknight when cooking feels like the last thing you want to do. Simply stack all the ingredients on the rice cake in the order you see fit and then you have a fun dish to eat!

 

 

 

Twist Bakery & Cafe in Millis, MA

Whenever a blogger from a city like LA, NYC or Denver posts about one of their amazing vegan, raw, gluten-free, whatever eateries on Instagram, I am so jealous. We just don’t have many places like that here in Massachusetts but when I do find one and a GOOD ONE, I make sure to call attention to it.

The other day my husband was looking for a fun new place for us to stop and eat. He stumbled upon Twist Bakery and Cafe in Millis, MA which is a 20-minute drive for us. Twist Bakery and Cafe is basically a dream come true for me and I could never imagine finding this place in Millis. You can’t even find a place like this in Boston!

img_3467Just like our blog, Twist Bakery and Cafe’s food philosophy is that even if their ingredient list is limited their flavor is not. Everything on their menu is ALWAYS gluten-free, nut and peanut free. For all other products, they use colored markers to label if something contains a common food allergen like soy or dairy and they make a ton of things dairy-free. They also NEVER include corn syrup, hydrogenated fats and artificial colors so you don’t even have to think about that when you place an order. Their menu is full of sandwiches, salads,  snacks and baked goods

The philosophy sounded great but of course, a food taste was the ultimate test for the location. We split a Pulled Pork Cuban and a Meatball Sandwich (which I believe is seasonal so GO GO GO!) and both were heavenly. The bread they make is phenomenal and you would never know it’s gluten-free. They said that people apparently visit their from very far away to buy their breads and freeze so they can use it at anytime.  We were also able to  make both sandwiches dairy-free which was so helpful for us to share. We asked what vegan cheese they used in the sandwiches because we were so impressed by the taste and how well it melted. The manager said they used Daiya. It looks like they use a mix of Cheddar and American cheese in the sandwiches so that might be the secret to a better taste.

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Meatball Sandwich from Twist Bakery & Cafe. Look at this picture! Tasted even better than it looked. This was definitely my favorite of the two. Gluten-Free Bread, Gluten-Free everything and vegan cheese. I would recommend the cole slaw side dish.
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Pulled Pork Cuban Sandwich from Twist Bakery and Cafe with the chickpea salad side. The sandwich was incredible. 

The staff was wonderfully helpful and even though it was very busy in there they were patient and accommodating with everyone that had restrictions and wanted to clarify if different food items were free of a certain ingredients. I usually the annoying one so I was in good company 🙂

My favorite part about the whole experience was learning that they have been kicking butt running this place for five years! Talk about being ahead of your time!

Now can you open up about six more of these in Massachusetts, please?

Even if you don’t have food restrictions AT ALL, Twist Bakery & Cafe has really good food and pastries and they also cater events. Stop by and enjoy a delicious meal.

 

 

 

 

Easy Weekday Lunch: 3-Step Potato Salad

When you’re on-the-go, it’s nice to have a lunch alternative that doesn’t require a microwave and tastes good at room temperature. Since I started my classes, I don’t always have access to a kitchen, so I try to find easy lunch options that are quick to prepare and easy to eat between classes.

I love potato salad but since I started eating dairy-free, I can’t eat traditional potato salad. I was never a big mayonnaise fan but I used to make a delicious potato and chicken salad using greek yogurt. I spent some time perfecting this potato salad recipe to make it dairy, soy, egg, corn and gluten-free and well…taste good. It’s a simple recipe that you can make during the week and eat for a few weekday lunches. This recipe is also a great dinner option to have when you get home late and don’t feel like turning the oven on.

What ingredients do you use to replace traditional “salad” recipes?

IMG_4740Ingredients for the 3-Step Potato Salad: 

Salad:

  • One bag of small potatoes – I love these multi-colored ones from the supermarket
  • Asparagus – 1 bunch
  • 2 Yellow Squash
  • Olive Oil – 1-1.5 tbsps
  • Salt – 1 tbsp

Dressing: 

  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard (I get Annie’s Lite Honey Mustard)
  • Honey, fresh oregano, salt and pepper to your taste

How to Make the Potato Salad:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1. Chop small potatoes into quarters, skin and dice the yellow squash and chop up the asparagus. Grease the baking tray and then put down all the vegetables. Lightly salt and add olive oil across the vegetable covered tray. Bake for 20 minutes. Make sure vegetables are fully cooked and potatoes are crisping. (Note: If the tray is too packed, use two different baking trays)

IMG_4743IMG_47642. While the vegetables are cooking, make your dressing. Add all the dressing ingredients to a bowl and whisk together. If you make extra, this is a great dressing to have in your fridge for another weekday salad. Taste as you whisk to see if you should add more salt, pepper, honey or oregano.IMG_47613. Once the vegetables are cooked, add them to a bowl and pour the dressing on top. Make sure to mix the salad up and coat all the vegetables with the dressing. You can eat this delicious potato salad warm or put in the fridge for a few hours and eat it cold. IMG_4765

Marissa’s Pantry Staples

For the second part of our Pantry Series, I (Marissa) am giving you a glimpse into the five items that are essential to my kitchen pantry. After discovering several food intolerances last year, I currently follow a diet free of gluten, dairy, eggs, corn and soy. I also try to stay away from processed food as much as I can for overall health and wellbeing. Because of these limitations, I am very loyal to the foods I like and can eat because well…they’re limited!

I used to hate the idea of repeating a food item several times a week but now I look forward to the foods I like and can eat. Here are the five items I use almost every week, even sometimes several times a week.

Are any of these items also staples in your pantry?

  • White Quinoa –  When I cut out gluten, I was looking for something to replace what typically accompanied my main dishes. Quinoa, which is actually a seed, is one of my favorite food items. It’s incredibly versatile because you can eat it for breakfast like an oatmeal and they even sell quinoa flakes so it has more of an oatmeal breakfast consistency. It’s also a great food for lunch, hot or cold and I of course love it for dinner to accompany the center of my dish. I prefer white quinoa over red quinoa but a mix of the two has a nice taste and consistency. I usually get the Nature’s Promise version but I really like Ancient Harvest as well. Quinoa can be expensive so look for coupons and when it’s on sale, grab a few bags or boxes.                                                                  IMG_1256
  • Chicken Broth –  It’s really frustrating when you find a recipe that calls for chicken broth and there’s none to be found in your home. I learned that the hard way and now I make sure our pantry is stocked with at least one box at a time.  So many recipes call for a good chicken broth or stock and a simple soup is an easy fix when you have broth on-hand. I was sad to see that so many broths had flour, soy and other preservatives but I get the organic version from Nature’s Promise which fits my food limitations.                                                                                 IMG_1255
  • Oat Flour/Quinoa Flour (Bob’s Red Mill) – I have both oat flour and quinoa flour in my pantry and the combination of the two work well for so many recipes. I use these primarily to coat chicken or fish and to bake snacks and desserts. I usually mix quinoa and oat flour which are both gluten-free and from Bob’s Red Mill to give it a more well-rounded flour combination. Gluten-free flours can get pricey but you never use too much of the flour so they last you a long time.                                                     IMG_1258
  • Chickpeas (Organic) –   Garbanzo Beans aka Chickpeas are heaven sent. I use them to make hummus during the week and throw them into the food processor with garlic, lemon and tahini. I often use them in salads to make our lunches more substantial and filling and I have heard people use the chickpea juice as an egg replacer. It’s a great versatile food that’s always good to have in your pantry. Please also note that like most canned goods, the regular garbanzo beans often have ingredients I can’t eat. I go for the Organic Nature’s Promise chickpeas.                     IMG_1257
  • Ener G Egg Replacer  – Giving up eggs was extremely difficult. Although this Ener G Egg Replacer box won’t make up for my loss of omelettes and quiches, I can use this powder mix when I bake chicken or fish and use flour. You can easily use this mix when baking and need a quick egg replacer. You simply measure out the powder and mix it with warm water. I am not sure where to grab this in-store but I ordered this one from Thrive Market.                                                IMG_1259