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If the way my boys eat now is any indication of how they will eat in the future, I fear for what my grocery bill will be 10 years from now with three very hungry boys. Getting them to actually sit down and eat a meal in its entirety is challenging, but what I find instead is that they graze all day long.

It’s so easy to fall into the packaged snacks trap. I’m definitely guilty of doling out the squeeze applesauce, Goldfish, and graham crackers out of sheer ease and convenience. I don’t plan on stopping that any time soon, but it’s certainly nice to have some easy, healthy, homemade options too.

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Sometime last year I stumbled across a recipe for muffins with very few and very natural ingredients. They seemed perfect for breakfast, or an afternoon snack, and were very portable. I made them once and enjoyed them a lot. I made them again with a few adjustments and was hooked forever.

These muffins are really tasty. They’re moist and versatile, and we almost always have all the ingredients on hand. They’re also gluten-free, if that’s important to you, and VERY kid-friendly. The boys ask for and devour them regularly.

Oatmeal Banana Muffins
Adapted from Green Lite Bites

  • 3 mashed bananas, the riper the better.
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3 cups old fashion or rolled oats (not quick cooking oats)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar* (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, chopped nuts, etc., etc., etc. The possibilities are endless.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix all ingredients together except the raisins (or whichever addition you choose), and let sit while you prepare the muffin pans. (*In regards to the brown sugar: the original recipe is sugar-free. I have made them both ways and enjoy each, but I find that unless the bananas are SUPER over-ripe, they lack a little sweetness. Go in whichever direction your prefer.)

Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Stir the raisins into the oatmeal batter.

Divide batter into muffin cups. They should be just about filled. Mine have yielded 12 muffins every time, but yours may vary based on the size of your tin.

Bake 20-30 minutes until the edges just start to brown and the muffins are firm to the touch.

The muffins may stick when hot but are removed easily when cooled for a bit.Mine usually come out clean after cooling for 10 minutes. When fully cool, store in an air-tight container or zip-top bag. They never last more than two days in our house!

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I really like cheese. REEEAAALLLY like cheese. In my early post-college years my body developed a major dairy aversion and I suddenly found myself unable to eat cheese without majorly regretting it soon after. It was a sad, sad time. Oddly, when I became pregnant with Owen the lactose sensitivity disappeared. Yay, hormones! Suddenly I was back in the cheese in a big way and I haven’t looked back since.

I’m usually really good about keeping a weekly meal plan, but occasionally I find myself staring at a white board with last week’s menu and no idea what to make that night. Enter the Skillet Lasagna. Quick, easy, yummy….cheesy.

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This dish couldn’t be quicker or more versatile. Below is the recipe for the basic cheese skillet lasagna, but you can customize it in so many ways.

Skillet Lasagna
Serves 4-5

Ingredients:

- 6-8 no-bake lasagna noodles, broken to fit the skillet
– 1 jar of your favorite tomato sauce (or homemade!)
– 1/2 -3/4 cup ricotta cheese
– 1 – 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– 1 tbs garlic powder
– 1 tbs dried oregano
– 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
– salt and pepper to taste

*Optional ingredients: cooked ground beef, sausage, chicken, etc. and any vegetables you like. Great way to use up leftovers!

Directions:

- Preheat oven to 350*

- In small bowl, combine ricotta cheese and all the spices. Adjust to your taste.

- Spread a small amount of tomato sauce in a deep skillet. (If your skillet has a plastic or rubber handle, wrap it in foil to avoid heat damage.)

- Place your first layer of noodles, breaking into pieces to cover the bottom as best you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

- Add another layer of sauce, followed by ricotta mixture, (then optional ingredients, if any), then mozzarella.

- Repeat layering process until you have reached the top of the skillet, ending with the mozzarella.

- Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes until brown and bubbly.

 

That’s it! Serve with a side salad and you have a tasty dinner that took no time at all and cooked in one dish. Boom. I should note that I tend to go heavy on the spices, so feel free to start with less and adjust to your taste. I wouldn’t say this is a substitute for a true deep-dish lasagna, but it certainly works in a pinch.

Enjoy!

Confession: up until recently I had never cooked quinoa. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it. Was it more of a grain? A rice? A pasta? What exactly should I put it in?

I don’t know why I was so apprehensive about it, because as it turns out, quinoa is pretty awesome. If you can make rice, you can make quinoa.

I stumbled across this recipe for a vegan quinoa chili and it looked simple and intriguing. Turns out, it was also delicious.

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Confession number 2: I didn’t make it vegan. I added in spicy sausage. And topped it with cheese. I do not regret these decisions.

Sweet Potato Quinoa Chili
Adapted from Milk Free Mom

Ingredients:

1/2 pound spicy sausage
one 29 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
one 6 oz can tomato paste (or if you’re out like I was, about 1/3 cup of tomato sauce)
32 oz chicken stock
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized chunks
1 cup dry quinoa
salt and pepper to taste
avocado, cilantro, cheese for garnish  (optional)

Directions:

In a medium pan, crumble sausage and cook until browned. Drain grease and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium low heat. Add onions, and cook until soft and they start to turn brown (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste/sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic powder  and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the beans, stock, sausage and potatoes, and season with salt and pepper.

Raise heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low and add the quinoa. Continue cooking for about  30 minutes, stirring frequently, until quinoa and potatoes are cooked and the chili has thickened. Top with garnishes.

~

This chili surpassed my expectations. It was SO good! I’m glad I added the sausage, though, as I think it might not have enough kick without it. If you’re looking to keep it meat-free, I might suggest adding a small can of diced chilies, or a small jalapeno. We put away about five servings and I froze at least two, so it makes plenty!

Happy eating!

Find me on Pinterest here.

Despite the fact that it’s 60 degrees here today, it really is winter and winter food means all things hearty and warm. I’m a big fan of lasagna, but I’ve never been big on assembling it. All the components take a while to make and it’s messy to layer and then if we don’t finish it right away, it tends to get soggy in the fridge.

Enter: Lasagna Soup. I’m pretty sure this is one of my earliest pins, and also one of my favorites. It has all the things I love about lasagna, but half the work.

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Tomatoes, meat, noodles, spice, cheese. And then some more cheese. Nom.

Lasagna Soup – Adapted from A Farmgirl’s Dabbles

Check out the link for the full recipe, but here are the changes I made:

- I don’t like too much onion flavor, so I used just half of a large yellow onion, not 3 cups. I found it to be plenty.

- Omitted the bay leaves because I never have them on hand.

- I was out of chicken stock so I used water instead. I have made it both ways and to be honest, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in flavor. If you don’t have stock, water will do!

- In my most recent batch I added a couple of handfuls of fresh spinach and wilted it down before adding the liquid. It’s a great base to sneak in some extra veggies.

This soup is a winner in our house and is really customizable to your taste. If you would put it in a standard lasagna, put it in your soup! I happen to like the spicy sausage in it, but a ground beef/chicken/pork would work just as well.

 

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Mmmm, look at the goodness right there. Serve with crusty bread because, why not?!

Happy eating, friends!

Find me on Pinterest!

 

As much as  I’d like to point you all to the Challenge page this week and rave about everyone’s results…I can’t. Because you see, I spent a very.long.time. updating it and when I hit publish, the whole thing went blank. I tried to retrieve it to no avail, and I have no idea how current the version is that’s up there now.

There was some yelling.

So this week, please leave your results in the comment section of this post instead of emailing me. Check back frequently during the day to see how everyone is doing. If you did email me already and wouldn’t mind reposting here, that would be great. And next week — our FINAL WEIGH-IN OMIGOD — I will make sure we are current.

It doesn’t look like I’m going to make my goal of a 5 lb. loss in four weeks. I’m down another half-a-pound this week, but I’m not dropping as quickly as I thought I would. I’m pretty much OK with it though, because what I am achieving is a healthy routine that includes regular exercise and healthy eating. So if I keep it up, I assume eventually I will lose those full 5 lbs. I hope!

Tonight I’m starting a new group exercise class that I’m excited about. I hear that the class changes every week so it doesn’t get stale and it’s an hour and a half, three times a week. I hope I can make it through!

I wanted to share with you a healthy Mediterranean-style meal I made for dinner last night. It was so tasty, I almost forgot we were eating so healthy.

Make a salad of greens, one chopped avoacdo, one can of black beans (rinsed), half a cup of corn and one grilled chicken breast, chopped. I lightly seasoned the chicken with salt, pepper and chili powder. The combination of flavors, textures and temperatures was just so yummy. I’ll probably be making it for lunch again this week.

OK my loves, let’s make this last week count. Seven days!!!!

GOOD LUCK!

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