Super Fast & Easy Salads!

I love a nice fresh overloaded salad. And I don’t have a fully stocked salad bar in my home. So what’s a Trim Healthy Mom to do?! I found a way to always have fresh salad, without daily chopping, cutting & that time consuming preparation. It’s super fast, super easy & fairly inexpensive (it does not involve opening a pre-cut bag of salad either!)salad supplies for quick & easy salad

I shop at Aldi’s most of the time, so I will use them as an example. Buy a variety of packaged greens. I start with a  large container of Spring Mix, Baby Kale, Baby Arugula, Baby Spinach & 3 hearts of Romaine lettuce. Get whichever of these greens that you enjoy & can easily access. In a large re-sealable container, put a couple handfuls of each type of green in the bowl. Toss gently by hand.

chopped romaine makes a fast salad when mixed with spring mixNext, cut up one romaine heart (Cut it in about 3/4″ strips, then cut about 3x lengthwise to make nice bite-sized pieces.) Add more of each type of greens until your container is full without being packed. With the smaller containers shown, I used all the spring mix, about 1/3 of each of the other greens, and one chopped heart of romaine.

Cut up as much red or white onion as you like, several radishes & maybe some peppers. Add to the blend & mix gently again. Add other vegies if you like, (celery, carrots, green onions, shaved brussel sprouts), but don’t add things that spoil easily when cut like tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts or mushrooms. This is your salad base. It’s great as is, and will stay fresh & crisp for several days.

Keep the remainder of the greens in their original containers. When the first bin is getting low, add a few more handfuls of each, and add another chopped up heart of romaine. Add a few more onion slices & some more radishes & you’re all set for several more days.

Chef salad: THM SBefore serving, I typically add several slices of cucumbers, some cherry tomatoes or tomato wedges, and possibly some mushrooms. For an S salad, I always add shredded cheese. For a dinner or lunch salad I might add some hard-boiled eggs (pre-boil 6-8 eggs when you have a few minutes one day) along with my lean protein (baked or grilled chicken leftovers, salmon, or deli meats like ham, turkey, roast beef.). I also will add left over steak, barbecue or any other meat that is cooked & in my fridge for a super fast dinner.

Another great satisfying meal is taco meat over salad. Then I’ll add avocado & tomatoes, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream. Chipotle Ranch dressing makes it YUM! Wonderfully satisfying S meal! When I do this, I often make the tacos for the kids, & giant salads for myself & my husband. We all eat basically the same thing & everyone is happy!

IMG_6601Here’s my other big tip for an AWESOME salad. Keep a container full of plan approved salad toppings in a small tote. We have sunflower seeds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp hearts, bacon bits, craisins and  croutons in a bin. Then on salad days, we just put that bin on the table & everybody tops as their little heart desires. We added lots of yummy goodness by this one simple tip, as we would always forget some of these goodies, or spend half the meal getting up and down chasing after sunflower seeds, or hemp hearts.

IMG_6604Another thing you MUST do! Learn which dressings go with which meal type. I urge you to not spend precious time wondering which salad dressing you can use. Find a few you like & stick to them! If you need to, get a sharpie and put a big E or S or FP on the front of the dressing or the cap so you don’t have to think about it! Then, stock up! I usually use Ranch (chipotle or regular) for S meals & and Olive Garden Light Italian for E meals. My husband likes blue cheese or thousand island for S. If I’m really feeling risky, I’ll use my Ken’s Honey Mustard (but that has sugar so I only occasionally splurge.) Oil & vinegar, or homemade balsamic are great too, but watch the oil, or just call them an S. I have the Walden Farms Ranch, but I find it so thin & tangy that I only use it for FP salad days.

Fast & easy Salad baseThese are my salad making tips. Aren’t they easy?!  The kids like the salads too, especially now that they can quickly throw on the bacon and croutons! Devin actually just likes the toppings (no lettuce yet) particularly cucumbers, carrots, cheese, croutons & sunflower seeds.

I hope this helps you find success in eating more fresh greens & delicious toppings! This really takes the drudgery out of making a salad & I I find that since I have begun this easy process, my salad consumption has gone way up. I eat salad several days for lunch, just grab a few handfuls of the base, add my meat of choice, toppings & dressing & it’s ready in a few minutes. We regularly have side salads for dinner & now I don’t have to spend 30 minutes every night chopping and mixing & prepping! Yay!

Taste & See that the Lord is Good! 

Shira

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Baked Spaghetti – THM Style

Who doesn’t love spaghetti. Or baked ziti? Or lasagna? I think it is a universally loved taste. Everybody likes that gooey, cheesy, meaty, tomato-ey goodness, in any shape or form.

I bet you think you can’t have it now that you are eating the THM way! You are wrong! You can have that yummy lasagna or baked spaghetti… with absolutely no guilt & even less blood sugar spiking! How? Let me tell you….

Spaghetti SquashSpaghetti squash is the key. You maybe have looked at it many times in the store & never known what it is. It looks a bit like a yellow football. Long, oval, light-lemon-y yellow. You want to pick a large one, especially if you have a large family. If you’re a family of only one or two, you may still want a large one, this dish is THAT good. (This is so good, the last time I made it, my 9yo daughter ate it for breakfast instead of her typical creamcicle smoothie. She loves it that much!).

Sauce IngredientsCreate your meat sauce as you typically would. I use a large can of crushed tomatoes, 2-3 medium sized cans of tomato sauce, a can of tomato paste & equal part water. Sometimes I will add some marsala wine in there for flavor. (Be certain that your canned tomatoes do NOT have added sugar. I buy the organic kind from ALDI, or just check ingredients before you commit. This is key to keeping this meal on plan).

doTerra Basil

If you do use Basil essential oil, even one drop can be too much! Dip a toothpick into the oil & swirl it into the sauce for a great, bright basil flavor.

I simmer my sauce with some typical italian seasonings… salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, oregano, thyme (lately I use my basil, oregano & thyme doTerra oils).  You could skip this step & just use jar sauce if you are short on time, get 2 jars of pre-made spaghetti sauce, flavor of choice. Just be sure it has no added sugar! Read those labels!

Browned SausageAfter your sauce has simmered for a bit, add your browned meat of choice. I typically use grass-fed lean ground beef, or for a bit of a different flavor, one of those sausage rolls crumbled. Add a pound or two of meat, depending on your preference for meat-i-ness, the size of your family & your hunger!

Spaghetti Squash microwaved

This Squash was much wetter than my normal variety, & it cooked a little too long. It shouldn’t deflate like this!

While your sauce is simmering, cook your spaghetti squash. HOW? you ask. I stick mine whole in the microwave & cook on high in 5 minute increments until it is soft. Flip it over each time you add another 5 minutes. The skin will darken & possibly crack when its good and soft. CAREFULLY take this out of the microwave (use a towel or oven mitt please! It will be very hot!). Allow to cool for several minutes.

When the squash is cool enough to touch, cut it lengthwise in half. Scoop out the seeds & any of the slimy strings with a spoon. Then get a fork and scrape the insides out into a large lasagna sized or casserole sized dish (something around 9×13). The strings will be about 6-8″ long which is a nice size for spaghetti. Break them up as much as you can without breaking the strands.

Spag. squash with meat & ricottaMix in the meat and ricotta cheese if you are using that. (Today I didn’t put the sausage in the sauce because my sauce pan was too full!) Mix in the sauce mixture, a little at a time. Be gentle here, folks, the squash is somewhat delicate. Mix until your spaghetti is well coated with sauce. Not enough sauce? Add some more!

Now is the fun. For the simplest version, sprinkle some low fat mozzarella cheese on top, throw in the oven for 20-30 minutes to melt the cheese & heat the sauce up to bubbling, & serve.

For a bit more OOMPH, add a cup or two of ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, steamed spinach, and/or more mozzarella into the mix. Maybe your family likes diced peppers.. add some in! or mushrooms, or onions. Make it your own! Add your favorites, mix them in gently, then sprinkle your cheese on top & warm in the oven. If you’re really in a hurry, the additional baking is not necessary if everything is hot & ready. Just serve it like spaghetti & plop it on the plate! 

You can make this ahead, just like a lasagna, & just reheat when you want to eat it. I have not frozen it, and probably wouldn’t recommend that, because I think the wetness of the squash would create a bit of a mess when frozen. But make it in the morning for dinner, or for the next day would work fine.

Baked spaghetti SquashMy family devours this main dish. I make a huge salad to go along side (choose your dressings carefully!). It actually can range from a FP to an S, depending on what add-ins you use, how lean your meat is, & how much you eat! My diabetic husband eats a plate or two full of it an has no noticeable blood sugar spike. That is amazing for him!

It’s easy, delicious & a super replacement for everybody’s go-to meal. Even the picky eating kids don’t mind the texture, LOVE the taste & beg for me to make it more often. Get that funny yellow football squash off your counter & into your bellies! You will thank me for this one!

Taste & see that the Lord is Good! 

Shira

 

Depending on your meat & how much cheese you add, this meal can be either an S (with sausage, and lots of cheese) or a FP (with lean drained beef and a light hand of low fat mozzarella.) Just don’t eat too much or your FP will spill over into the E category from the carbs in the tomato sauce.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my super quick way to always have fresh salad on hand… without chopping lettuce for every meal!

Eleven Heavenly Smoothies!

Sorry for the cliffhanger yesterday, but I had to put ALL this Smoothie goodness into it’s own special post. It’s much better after a bit of suspense, anyway, right? Our THM smoothie of choice is a  Kickin’ Kefir Elixir/Big Boy Smoothie Combo. We typically have home fermented Kefir on hand so we use that as the base of our smoothie. If we don’t, I will substitute cottage cheese for the kefir, or just lean towards the Fat Stripping Frappa & use water. It takes about 5 minutes to make, tops, once you memorize the vanilla recipe. Then the variations are up to you! (Actually, I had my daughter write it out on an index card that is on the cupboard above the blender. That way she can get them started without the… “MOM! what’s next?” litany we were having daily!)

Standard Vanilla SmoothieIMG_6573

1 C. home-cultured 2% or skim milk Kefir

1 C. unsweetened Almond Milk

1-2 big cups crushed ice (I’m talking 4-5 measured cups)

2-3 shakes stevia blend

dash vanilla (or almond)

dash sea salt (couple grinds on the salt grinder)

dash or 2 glucomannan (I have transferred my gluc into an old spice container with a shaker top, so I just shake a little out instead of measuring this… faster!)

1 big scoop protein powder (1/2 if its a single for the kids, or heaping if its for all 3 of us!)

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Blend well. This makes a LARGE blenderful and is usually enough for at least 2 of us. Add a little more of everything if you can fit more in your blender & you have more kids! You can also add a Tablespoon of coconut oil like it says in the book, but my kids balk at the texture of those little oil globs, so we typically make our smoothies E or FP.

 

IMG_6572If you don’t have fresh kefir, you can use a cup or so of cottage cheese. Be sure to properly choose your fat content in the cottage cheese depending on your desired E/S/FP. It does make the smoothie a little gritty sometimes so blend well. I suppose you could also substitute greek yogurt for the kefir as well.

If you haven’t tried fresh kefir, I say… do it! It’s super easy to do, is awesome for your digestive flora & adds a nice texture to the smoothie. It can be used in many recipes in place of cream, sour cream, milk or buttermilk. Ask around and see if a friend can split a grain, they grow quickly & you want to get rid of the babies! Or you can purchase the seeds online too! 

 

For other Smoothie flavors, we will add one of these options to the blended vanilla smoothie: 

adding peppermint oilCreamcicle: 3-5 drops wild orange oil (for the full mix. use 1 drop for a single serve!)

Peppermint: 1-2 drops peppermint oil (for the full mix. use 1 drop for a single serve!)

Peppermint Patty: 1-2 drops peppermint oil, use Chocolate Protein Powder instead of vanilla, and add a rough Tbsp  of cocoa before blending. (might need extra stevia as well to counter the bitterness of the cocoa).

IMG_5636Chocolate Peanut Butter: use Chocolate Protein Powder instead of vanilla, add a generous shake or two of PB2, add some cocoa to taste.

Chocolate: swap the chocolate protein powder for vanilla, add a spoonful of cocoa, maybe a bit more salt & sweetener

Raspberry/Strawberry: Add a handful of fresh or frozen raspberries or strawberries after the initial blend. SOO good!

Pumpkin Pie: add about 1/3 can of canned pumpkin, 1 drop spice blend oil, dash cinnamon, dash nutmeg, dash ginger, 1 TB or so of ground flax seeds gives a nice ‘crust’ texture if you like that too!

Key Lime: splash of Key Lime juice or 1-2 drops lime oil, 1T or so of ground flax seeds

Banana Pudding: add 1/2-1 soft banana, 1T ground flax seeds. You can also add a drop or two of sugar free maple syrup to this… so delicious, but definitely an E (or worse).

Birthday Cake: add a dash of butter flavoring to the mix, swap cottage cheese for Kefir

 

These are our top ten add-ins to our favorite vanilla smoothie. It gets my kids moving in the morning, they can think straight, they aren’t full of sugar & they love to pick their blend for the day. I’ve served this to lots of their friends & everybody says they’re a hit!

Keep all your supplies right near where you keep your blender & you’ll save lots of steps in the morning. Make one big one, or split the ingredients in the smaller cups. Or, just make the vanilla, then split, then add in the flavor of the day! Super easy!

I hope these help make your mornings a little easier & your kids a little less grumpy.

Taste & see that the Lord is good!

Shira

 

If the creamcicle and peppermint smoothies sound good (trust me, they are!), and you are interested in learning more about essential oils, or how to purchase them, I can help you out! The oils I use are certified pure & taste great in all kinds of cooking. PLEASE be sure that the oils you are using in recipes and cooking are safe to ingest. To learn my choice of food safe oils, message me & I will share which company I choose. Comment on this post (use the little talk bubble at the top of the post to chat) if you have questions, or contact me through my website if you are curious about the oils.

 

BTW… you can usually find extra fat smoothie straws at Big Lots or IKEA!

 

13 easy steps to Meal Planning: THM style

I have found that one key part of success in the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle is meal planning. I have had varying levels of success with meal planning in the past, but usually I do well for a few months & then get busy, so forget to plan, then the meals start to become more and more last minute, while becoming equally less and less healthy.

I encourage you to JUST DO IT! I have found that Sunday afternoons are best for my meal planning. Right after lunch, I sit with my calendar and my iPad, and my book and set up my meals for at least 2 weeks at a time. I still am not fully consistent, but when I am, my life is MUCH smoother, less stressful, & more healthy!

Here’s how I do it, Step by Step!

1. Get your phone, calendar, day planner or whatever else you use to track your appointments.

IMG_65482. Get a calendar that is dedicated to meal planning. I use this one that I found at Target in the Office Supply section. I like this particular calendar because I use the 3 colors of sticky notes to signify my S, E & FP days. I see at a glance what the fuel for the day is, which I find much easier to do than mixing it up within a day. I am beginning this year with a 2-week fuel cycle, so I also mark what days need to be what fuel types.

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3. Get your THM book, other recipe books & whatever device you normally use for Pinterest, (awesome resource for meal planning!). And a shopping list!

4. Make a quick mental (or written) list of the proteins you have in the fridge or freezer. For our family, we usually have on hand: Frozen boneless & bone-in chicken breasts, & thighs, whole chicken; grass fed hamburger, steak, stew meat; pork chops, butt or loin; salmon, tilapia, trout, shrimp & sometimes bass; turkey breast or ground turkey. I also will add the meal in a box options such as frozen eggplant patties, ravioli, frozen burgers (beef, turkey, veggie), etc. I usually have most of these on hand, but sometimes I use up my last one without realizing it.

5. Make a secondary list of your staple pantry items: quinoa, pasta, flours, canned goods, etc. I usually have these on hand, including: variety of tomato products, spaghetti sauce, progresso light soups, variety of dried beans, almond flour, coconut flour, flaxseed meal, etc., coconut milk, evaporated milk. Just your stuff you usually cook with.

IMG_6549_26. On your calendar, pencil in your activities, big & small. From things like regular meetings, to dentist appointments, anything that affects your day & your time allowed to cook.

7. Start to look at when you have busy or on-the-go days that you need fast meals & pencil in CROCKPOT (or Leftovers). Then look at days that you have quite open & pencil in COOK!

8. Roughly plan the dinner proteins first. Using your list of proteins from the fridge or freezer, schedule the proteins for your evening meals.  I like to rotate my proteins so that I have a variety throughout the week, and a variety in cooking styles. For example, we have basketball practice on Monday nights, so that is a crockpot day for us. I don’t want to always do chicken crockpots, so I might add crock-beef, crock-chic, crock-soup.

9. I now know that our Monday is a crockpot S day. I pull out my iPad, pinterest open, search THM Crockpot S chicken (or beef or whatever). Fabulous! So much to choose from. Plug in your crockpot meals first, remember to vary your proteins so the kids don’t complain too loudly. Pencil it in on the YELLOW sticky note, bottom half. Stick it on the calendar in the right day. (Now, I know you could just write it on the calendar you use for everything else. But the sticky notes become very useful on month 2, trust me!)

IMG_655010. Continue in this manner for your dinners, switching up fuels, proteins & cooking styles as desired. If we have a very free afternoon, I will plan a casserole or something that requires longer prep or longer baking (like a whole chicken), while on our busier days, I try to schedule faster meal options (fish or crockpots). I’m usually pretty loose on what fuel types, unless I’m doing a fuel cycle. The sticky notes make it easy to switch as needed, until you find a good balance for your meals. I also plan at least one breakfast for dinner each month (usually the last Friday of the month), but eggs, sausage & sprouted toast are always a super fast dinner when needed.

11. When you are happy with your dinner variety, add in the breakfasts. I tend to fall back on eggs & frozen sausage patties for S breakfasts, Smoothies on FP days & oatmeal or cereal on E days. Sometimes I mix it up, and often we’ll do THM pancakes on Saturdays, but these are my main breakfast staples. I can’t think in the morning so I need easy! (Morning tip: I’ve copied the FP smoothie onto an index card & attached it to the cupboard above the blender. Including options. This makes it easy, no book necessary & my daughter can make her own smoothies too!)

IMG_656212. Lunches again may vary by the day & the scheduled activities. I usually have a sandwich on Joseph’s flatbread or maybe a Joseph’s ‘pizza’ with cheese & pepperoni. A light soup option, salad or leftovers are also my go-to lunches. Sometimes a smoothie if I haven’t had one for breakfast & we are headed out the door. I loosely schedule the kid’s lunches too and rotate between: soup, sandwiches, salads, leftovers, & their Friday indulgence: chicken nuggets.

13. Go through the recipes, and make sure you have marked the page number or pin name on the sticky too. That way you know which recipe you were intending to make. On the left hand side of the calendar, make a grocery list of items you will need each week.

You’ve done it! Two weeks, or maybe a month of meals ready to go! YAY!

Now, if you’re like me, I have the first two weeks quite detailed, and the last few get a little sketchy. I will add to them as I get closer, as we have leftovers, or when I have more time. Typically 2 weeks of planning, with an additional 2 weeks of loose planning are all I can handle in one sitting before my brain starts to explode. But those other 2 weeks are all the recipes that I found while searching for the first two weeks & want to try but I may not have the ingredients or sides planned out yet.

Also, be sure to use the plan to look ahead to remind yourself to take things out to defrost. I usually look 2-3 days ahead at breakfast, and put the food in the fridge to defrost, so its ready by the time I want it. My BIGGEST defeat in cooking healthy for my family is in NOT taking the food out to defrost, having to change plans last minute & then throwing something together. Then I have a meal I need to cook before the ingredients spoil & my plan gets all wonky. BUT with the sticky notes this does make it easier, just pull & swap & move things around. Super easy.

After you have done this method for a few months, you will have a stockpile of menus planned for each meal type. I save my stickies & re-use them, maybe not each month, but every other month for sure. So after about 6 months, this process should not take nearly as long as it does the first month. Or, you could be super lazy (or is it smart?!) and just re-use the entire month’s menu, no switches required. This would definitely work if your schedule is uber-consistent, and if your family doesn’t mind eating the same things frequently.

Good luck & God Bless! I hope you can find the success we have found using this system for planning your THM meals!

Shira

 

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