Clean Eating Blueberry Jam

I recently got a great deal on some organic blueberries. Right away, I knew I wanted to make some blueberry jam! The best benefit of making your own jam is that you get to decide what goes in it! A lot of store bought jams can have additives that you might be trying to avoid. They can also be loaded with sugar. I wanted to make this jam as low sugar as possible and it was easily accomplished!

This is one of those recipes that you really can’t mess up and can be customized to your liking. After boiling down the berries and blending, I was surprised that the jam really didn’t need any sweetness at all! It was thick, smooth and perfect to put on a fresh slice of bread. The honey is optional in this recipe. Just give it a taste as you go along and add the honey if you would like it sweeter.

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 quarts blueberries (or however many you want! You can’t mess it up!)
  • A few squirts of lemon
  • 1/4-1/2 cup honey (optional! Add if you would like it sweeter)
  • A dash of ginger (optional, just gives you a different flavor to try!)
  1. Place all of your washed blueberries in a medium or large sauce pan. Smash some of your blueberries so that there is juice at the bottom. A fork or potato masher works well for this. Add lemon and optional ginger.
  2. Slowly simmer and occasionally stir the blueberries for 10-15 minutes. If you want a thinner jam, Move on to step 3 now. If you’d like a thicker jam, continue to simmer until it’s the thickness you like. I simmered mine for 20 minutes and it’s a little thinner than normal jam but that’s how I like it! Just keep simmering and stirring if you really want a thick jam.
  3. If you have an immersion blender, (I have this one and love it! affiliate link) Just place it inside you sauce pan and blend up your jam. I like mine smooth, so I blended it really well. If you like you jam chunky, you can just smash it a little more with your potato masher. For a smooth jam and no immersion blender, wait until lukewarm and blend in a blender.
  4. Taste and decide if you would like a sweeter jam. Add honey now and enjoy!

This jam is perfect for water bath canning. If you plan on canning often, I highly recommend this kit. (affiliate link) I plan on doing a few more jars before the season is over. Enjoy you jam on toast, ice cream or on top of some blueberry cake.

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Wondering why affiliate links are showing up in recent posts? These links give Back to the Breadbox a small amount when an item is bought through the links. The items are the same price if you went directly to the website. No price hike at all! Thanks for helping keep the lights on around here! 😉

 

 

Clean Eating Green Bean Casserole

Growing up I was not a huge fan of green bean casserole. The only part I liked about it was the can on crispy onions that went on top. I HATED the little pieces of mushrooms in the dish. Mushrooms were just one of those things I couldn’t get past. Now that I’m older I will eat mushrooms chopped up and mixed in a dish, but for my green bean casserole I decided to just leave them out. Instead of mushroom, I went with something way better. Make sure to take a look below!

One thing you can never leave out are the onions. This recipe calls for 4 (yes 4!) onions. The more the better I say! Whatever you do with this recipe, whether putting in mushroom or using white flour, DO NOT leave out the onions. They make this dish!

The best thing about this recipe is that there is no “cream of yuck” soup! I promise, it’s way easier than you think to make from scratch and so much better! Now let’s get cooking!

Ingredients:

  • 2lb of green beans (I usually don’t measure. I just use a basket full or enough to fill a casserole dish half way)
  • 4- 6 Strips of bacon
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 6 TBSP whole wheat flour (white whole wheat is fine)
  • 2 Cups milk
  • 1 Cup water
  • 1/4 Cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Parm cheese
  • 2 TBSP cream cheese (optional)
  • Salt, pepper, Thyme and paprika, onion powder and garlic to taste
  • Just a pinch of cayenne pepper

Onion topping

  • 4 Onions
  • 2TBSP avocado oil, olive oil or butter. (the bacon grease would work too!)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat or panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 2 TBSP water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Start by snapping your beans to the desired size. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook beans for 6-10 minutes. Be sure to check that the beans are done! They will really stick out if they are under cooked.
  3. Heat a large skillet and cook bacon until done. set a side to cool.
  4. Using the same skillet, Add your oil of choice and saute your onions. The bacon grease is my favorite way to saute these! Saute until browned. Set aside in bowl
  5. Using the same skillet, add your butter and a little milk. Whisk in your flour until it is combined. Add the rest of the milk and water. Bring to a boil and continue stirring. Once thickened, add the Cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese and cream cheese. Heat and stir until smooth Add in your spices.
  6. Combine your cooked beans and crumbled bacon with your cream mix (tip! If using a cast iron skillet, Just combine your casserole in your skillet so you don’t have to waste a dish!)
  7. Grab your bowl of cooked onions and mix in the water, Parmesan cheese and panko. Top your Casserole with the onions.
  8. Bake casserole for 20-30 minutes. Just don’t burn those onions! if your oven has a broiler, turn it on low for the last couple minutes to get those onions crispy!

And there you have it, a delicious clean eating casserole that hardly used any cookware! Did you notice that?! I HATE wasting dishes while making a meal so only having to use my large cast iron skillet and pot for boiling is a huge plus with this meal. Don’t have a cast iron skillet? Get one Here and Here (affiliate link).

*Spice it up tip! Add some chopped jalapeno to the onions to add a little heat and some great flavor!

Let me know how you liked it!

 

Got Greek Yogurt?

Let’s talk about Greek yogurt for moment. I’m sure you’ve heard that Greek yogurt is better for you. I hear it all the time. John Stamos can’t stop eating it! It has more protein and less carbs than regular yogurt. It has a tangier taste then regular yogurt. But my favorite part about Greek yogurt is not just eating as yogurt! Here are 2 ways I use Greek yogurt.

  1. In place of sour cream.                                                                                                                     The first time I had plain Greek yogurt I could have sworn it was sour cream. I’m not a huge fan of eating it plain. I prefer it in a smoothie or mixed with some maple syrup, nuts or strawberries. But after that first time trying it plain, I decided to try it in place of sour cream. It was so good! I eat it on top of enchiladas, potato soup, you name it! I also use it in my cupcakes….shhhhh! It’s my secret ingredient. So now the question comes if Greek yogurt is better than sour cream. I compared it to Daisy sour cream and it’s actually better for you! I’m sure that me just saying that means nothing to you though so I’ll break it down. At first glance, Daisy looks better. Especially when you look at the calories! Whoa! But Daisy is only a 2 TBSP serving whereas the Greek yogurt in using is a cup. So here comes a little math for you! I know it’s thrilling. There at 16 TBSP in cup. Multiply each nutritional fact by 8 and that will give you a fair comparison of both. 480 calories in sour cream vs 310 in Greek yogurt, 40 grams of fat in SC vs 22 in GY and 8 Grams of sugar in SC vs 5 grams in GY. There are more you can look at but those stuck out to me.

    So have we cut out sour cream completely? No, not at all! It has it time and place-like on a burrito bowl at Chipotle! Greek yogurt is just a little bit better for  you. The ingredients on this specific kind of sour cream is only cream so it falls within our eating standards. Just not something we eat all the time.

  2. In a pinch cream of chicken soup.                                                                                                      I like to make cream of chicken on the stove starting with a roux. It’s so yummy and really pretty easy. Except when you need dinner NOW, have a screaming child on your hip that you don’t want near the stove or don’t have a clean pot. This little tip is for you then! All I do is take 3/4 cup of yogurt and start whisking in chicken broth until it’s the consistency  I want. Add a little salt, pepper and garlic (or whatever) and voila! You’ve just made in a pinch cream or chicken. And it’s still good for you without resorting to the can junk! I use this at least once a week and it hasn’t failed my yet! The only thing I haven’t done is used it in a crock pot recipe. Soooo make at your own risk.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              So there you have it! 2 ways,  besides smoothies and regular yogurt, that you can use Greek yogurt. I’m sure there are other things you can do with it but these are my go to ideas.
  • both tips are using PLAIN Greek yogurt. Make sure it’s plain. I’m pretty sure vanilla yogurt on top of your potato soup would be awful.

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Ways to Save Money on Groceries

One of the biggest hesitations to eating organic, clean foods is the price. There is this stigma that organic food is expensive. After all, you have likely seen this picture that has gone around the internet:

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Yeah, that’s pretty bad. But, here is the good news: It doesn’t have to be that way. Buying organic food is not just for the rich, elite (evidenced by the fact that we buy organic!) it is for normal people too! Granted, sometimes we cannot afford organic vegetables and so we get the normal vegetables instead, but we do a good job at getting mostly organic foods. Here are a few things that have helped us with buying clean, organic foods.

1.Looking at the finances

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How many times do you go out to eat in a week? Statistics say that the average American family eats out four times a week! First off, that’s ridiculous. It is no wonder that Americans struggle with obesity and diabetes! But consider how much you spend eating out. Most of the time, you will find that you will spend less money buying organic groceries and making your own meals than eating out (unless, of course, you are eating from the Dollar Menu at McDonalds). Get a piece of paper out and do the math, you will be surprised.
Let me give you a glimpse into our finances. We try to spend under $125 a week in groceries. That is all of our food in one week. Sometimes we go over, but most of the time we stick in that range. I just cited that the average American family eats out 4 times a week. My family has 4 people in it. Suppose my family ate at the cheapest of fast food places 4 times a week, McDonalds. Suppose my wife and I both got a Big Mac (no fries and no drink, just the burger), and we got my 2 children a Happy Meal to share. That would end up being about 11.50 a meal, which would end up being 46 dollars a week! That is almost half of my grocery budget on only 4 meals, with no fries or drink, at the cheapest place around. The point is made, if you can afford to go to McDonalds, then you can afford to do organic grocery shopping.

2.Using savings apps

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Here is a fun one. I started using savings apps on my phone. For most of them, all you have to do is scan the receipt that you got when shopping and you will earn money. Here are a few apps that have been very helpful, and lucrative, for me.
Ibotta- Ibotta has been the best app. I have earned a lot of money from this app (45 bucks in 3 months). It is a rebate app, so there are certain items that you buy and they give you money back, sometimes 25 cents, sometimes a dollar. The awesome thing is that Ibotta has a lot of clean options for food. There are rebates for vegetables, any brands of milk, butter, etc, and plenty of organic brands (Larabar, truRoots, Sprout, etc.) Another awesome part is that you get 10 dollars just for signing up. Follow this link to sign up!
Receipt Hog- I enjoy Receipt Hog the most of all the apps I have. It is not a rebate app, all you do is take a picture of your receipt. It rewards you based on how much you spend. I think I like Receipt Hog so much because it is fun. The more points you earn the fatter your pig gets, there are different ways to earn points. It is a quirky app, but it is fun. It may not earn as much as Ibotta, but with patience it pays off.
Walmart Savings Catcher- This one is one that I only discovered recently. Whenever you shop at Walmart all you have to do is take a picture of your receipt on this app. Walmart will look at your receipt and price match all locations in your area. I live in a very small town, so my savings are limited, I’ve had the app for a month and have earned 3 dollars. But for a person who lives in a larger town…Boy, oh, boy, the sky is the limit!
Receipt Pal- Receipt Pal is similar to Receipt Hog with one major difference, it does not reward you based on how much you spend, it rewards you on the amount of receipts you log. So you receive 100 points for every 4 receipts you put in. A 1 dollar Amazon gift card is 400 points. It is simple, and I am good at simple!
Yaarlo- Yaarlo rewards you on how much you spend. But instead of using a “point” system, it rewards you a percentage of how much you spend. Bear in mind, the percentage is only .25% for grocery stores. But over time it will add up.

Keep in mind that you will not “get rich quick”. Using these apps is a practice in tedium. You will earn a little bit at a time but earning a little is better than earning nothing at all. Basically, if you only earn 25 cents on your grocery trip with Ibotta or another app, do not get discouraged and say, “Oh well, it’s only 25 cents!” No, a penny saved is a penny earned. Keep grinding and keep earning.
3.Shopping at Walmart

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People look at Walmart as the “poor man’s shopping”. Of course, we have all seen the “people of Walmart” pictures. Some people claim they would never be caught dead in a Walmart. It is because of this idea that some think that Walmart may not have organic options, only the cheap, chemical laced options of food. Set that idea aside! Walmart is really branching out in the organic department, bringing in many different brands to their shelves including their own Great Value Organic brand which, in normal Walmart style, is pretty affordable. You would also be shocked at the price of organic produce at Walmart. Keep your eyes open and you can get good deals, there are times when organic carrots are cheaper than regular carrots, or even onions, and every once in a while apples. Why would you not go organic when it is cheaper than regular? Of course, sometimes the organic items are a little too expensive for us, so we make do with regular items, but we do the best we can.

Here’s a small list of organic items we get at Walmart: apples, onions, spinach, lettuce, garlic, grass fed ground beef (only dollar more than regular ground beef!), tomato sauce, canned pumpkin, free range eggs, etc.

Walmart is not the only affordable place to get organic food. Aldi is another store that offers affordable options, the only reason we do not go to Aldi is because we do not have one nearby 😦 . Basically, the point is this, you do not have to go to Whole Foods, where the food is exuberantly overpriced, and grocery shop there. There are options for normal people like you and me.

4. Keeping a Budget
This really should go without saying, and it is important for life, in general, not just when it comes to eating clean. Know what you are going to spend on a weekly or monthly basis and then do not go over that amount. Figure out what your family needs to spend on food and don’t go over it. Too many times people go grocery shopping and just grab things off the shelves because it looks good to them, only to be dismayed when they are shown how much they have to pay. Watch your money. We use an app called EveryDollar to keep track of our spending, I highly recommend it.

Those are the things we do that allow us to shop organic. What about you? What methods do you use or ideas do you have to make grocery shopping more affordable?

5 Reasons Why We Cloth Diaper

After cloth diapering for almost 3 years and 2 children I thought I would share the reasoning behind our fluff addiction!

1. Money!

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It’s no surprise that cloth diapers can save you money. But really how much money can you save?

I did the math using Up and Up disposable diapers since that’s what I use if we are traveling. *Gasp* You can stop clutching your amber necklaces, my fellow cloth mommas, but sometimes we do use sposies. Very rarely, but it does happen.  A 144 count box is $25. My son uses about 6 diapers a day. That would be 180 diapers a month! $31.25 would go to diapers each month plus $5 for wipes. It would cost $435 a year to use disposable diapers. So in 3 years of diapering it could cost you $1,305 or more to diaper 1 child. I think my heart just skipped a beat thinking of all the fluff I could buy with that. Of course this is just an estimate. A newborn goes through a ton more diapers than a one year old so the cost will be a little more than that. Especially if you buy a name brand diaper.

You can easily cloth diaper a child for under $200. I personally have a large mix of diapers and have spent about $450 on diapers, wipes and wet bags for 2 children. I know it sounds like a big upfront cost but I didn’t start out with a big stash. I had about 20 newborn diapers when my daughter was born and would use a few sposies when they were in the wash. I was able to purchase a few diapers each month and build a nice stash. The best part about cloth is you can resell them! Depending on the brand you purchase and the condition of the diapers you can get at least 40% of your investment back.

3 years of disposables (cheap brand)- $1,305+

3 years of disposables (Pampers)- $1887+

3 years of cloth-$200-$450 with a 30-60% return

Some people do spend more on Cloth diapering. I’ve heard of people who spend $500-$800. But even that is still saving money! And cloth can be used for multiple children. I would have spent over $2,610 on disposables by now!! Whoa, right there is why this is reason number 1 we cloth.

 

2. Environment

It’s no secret that disposable diapers make a lot of trash. But that trash take a lot of time to decompose. It’s been said it takes about 250-500 years for a diaper to decompose! That’s a long time for a poop catcher to decompose! I didn’t get into cloth diaper to save the planet from trash but it was something that made me feel good about doing cloth. Taking care of our planet is important and it felt good to be able to help in some way. Since starting cloth, we have even started using other reusable products. Lots of other ways to keep our planet clean then just cloth!

3. No blowouts

If your tiny human has ever had a blowout in that fancy car seat you spent way to much money on, then listen up! I have never had a blowout in cloth. When researching cloth I always would hear of people happy to not have blowouts but I never realized truly how much joy this would bring me. When my daughter was a few weeks old, she was cooing at me while she lay on my pillow. Then to my horror I picked my daughter up and saw poop. Poop everywhere! She thought it was funny but I most certainly did not! But I did get a new pillow out of the deal. So….thanks kid.

Since we have switched full time cloth I haven’t had a single blow out. With a proper fitting cloth diaper, it is sure to keep all the mess in the diaper and not on any of your possessions!

4 . Very few rashes

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I want to say “no rashes” but there can be the occasional rash when using cloth. When we switched to 100% cloth all diaper rashes disappeared except for one time when my daughter got a rash. That was my fault though and once I switched up my wash routine I’ve had happy bottoms since, baby bottoms that is! I think a big reason why cloth tends be low rash is because baby skins isn’t near some of the harsh chemicals that are used in some disposables. I’m sure we have all seen the photos on Facebook of a poor baby whose diaper leaked those beads that are inside and caused some kind of burn. Of course this doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen.

We chose to use mostly natural fibers for our diaper, the exception to that is fleece. I like to use that at night so my kids don’t feel wetness against their skin while they sleep. I have found natural fibers to be the best route to go when avoiding rashes; but if your baby doesn’t have sensitive skin then certain diaper materials make work fine for them.

5. Cuteness!

Okay, so maybe its not the most important reason but, come on, a little fluffy butt baby crawling around it just to cute! You can customize your baby’s bottom to anything you wish. Lions, tigers, tardis’, whales, donuts, chickens and bears, OH MY!! There are even ruffles on some diapers. Etsy has pretty much any diaper you can image. And, of course, some of the big name company companies have amazing prints. Bluberry and smartbottoms are two of may favorites. They can be pricey so I usually wait for a sale or a grab bag of random prints. My favorite diaper that is easy on the wallet are NCDCo AI2. LOVE LOVE LOVE these. I wont even confess how many I have. But be warned when getting into cute cloth prints, it is a deep, dark hole that is almost impossible to get out of. Good luck with that!

 

In conclusion, WE LOVE CLOTH DIAPERS if you couldn’t already tell. But do think everyone should cloth diaper? No, I will say its not for everyone. I will say everyone should consider it! Just like with every other choice we make when having a baby, cloth or disposables is one of them. And it doesn’t just have to be one of the other! You can do a mix of both of just do cloth for the newborn stage where they go through what seems like a millions diapers! You have lots of options and I hope this list was help to someone.

There are others reasons I could list for why we cloth diaper but these were the 5 that stuck out to me. Let me know  your reasons in the comments!

 

 

 

Tips for Running with Toddlers

I never thought that I would take up running. Growing up, the biggest part about sports that I hated was running, which is probably why I never made it off the bench in any sport I participated in! That makes it hard for me to fathom that in just a few weeks I will be running my first 5k! I decided back in January that I was going to run one, and then my wife decided to join me, and we have had a blast. The only problem with both my wife and I running is that we have to take the kids with us. Three times a week we put the kids in a stroller and we train for our 5k. In the last few months of running while pushing my children, I have learned a few tips that may help you.

I know what you’re thinking. Stop laughing at my running!

Watch Your Posture
I already told you that I originally hated running. Because of that, when I would run pushing my children in the stroller, I was tempted to lean on it a little bit, or bear down on it. I was not very diligent about my posture and my second time running I started to feel it. I had never pulled a muscle in my back before that day, and boy was it painful! If you are not careful with your posture while you run, you will suffer the consequences. When running with a stroller (or just running in general) remember to keep your chest up and your belly button drawn in.

Get A Good Stroller
I know that not everyone is able to do this. Strollers are super expensive. We actually got our double jogging stroller as a gift, and we love it. It is comfortable for the kids, and allows us to make longer strides while we run. The one we have is a little clunky, but other than that, we love it! It has speakers so that the children can listen to music, it has a swivel wheel in the front for turning. If you are able to invest in a good running stroller, I highly recommend it! Here is a link to a really good.

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Entertain the Children
Here is a truth, if your children are screaming, yelling, and are generally miserable when you run, you will not be doing it for long. You have to keep those kids entertained. We make our runs fun for our children by doing a few things. First, we run by the lake near our town. There is a running track along the lake, and my daughter especially enjoys pointing out the water and the geese. Make sure that your route is scenic. Second, we play Disney music and other songs that they know. I know that “Let It Go” may not be the most motivational song to play when trying to run, but if it keeps the kids happy, then it will pay off. Get out your phone and turn on Pandora, and then play some of their music. Third, we give them snacks. If the kids mouths are full of food then they can’t yell! Fourth, interact with the kids. We use a program called C25K, and when it comes time to run, I count down from 10 out loud, my daughter loves this and has started to count with me.

Dried strawberries and puffs were today’s delicacy 

Reward Your Children
One main reason my children put up with sitting in a stroller for our 30 minute runs is because they know that after the run is over they are going to get to play on the playground. There is a slide and swing set just walking distance from our running trail, so when we finish we just walk over there and let them play for 15 minutes. It has become part of our routine and is a special treat for them.

One thing that kept me from pursuing running for a long time was the fear of dragging the kids along. But we have made it so that it is actually enjoyable to have them come along. There are plenty of benefits to having your children ride along when you run: You are spending time with your children, they are getting out of the house, and you are teaching your children the importance of fitness by modeling it. Don’t let a toddler hold you back from running, take your kid with you and have fun with them! Happy running!

A Candy-Free Easter

Easter is a great time of year. It is an incredibly refreshing time of year as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and new life. There is a dark underbelly to this wonderful time of year though…. jelly beans. Before we began our lifestyle of clean eating, jelly beans were my vice. So were chocolate Easter bunnies, Cadberry eggs, Reese pieces, and pretty much any candy around the Easter season… except for Peeps, Peeps are nasty. If you set a pack of jelly beans in front of me, I would devour them really quickly.
But here is the big problem. Candy is often extremely unhealthy. With all of the “sugar” (high fructose corn syrup), food dyes, and artificial flavors. It is not good for me to eat candy, and truthfully it is not good for me to give that candy to my children. We had to figure out a way to make Easter exciting for our children without giving them candy. This really isn’t a big problem for us because our children rarely eat candy! A few Hershey kisses and a few jelly beans were pretty much the extent of their candy consumption before we made the switch to clean eating.
This year, we made an Easter basket for our children and I think that they are going to love it! I am going to allow you to peak into our Easter basket so that you can get some ideas for your own Easter.

  • Bubbles
  • A bucket and shovel
  • A kite
  • A book
  • Chalk
  • Chalkboard mat
  • Frisbee
  • Stickers
  • Glow-sticks
  • Play dough

Target has a great dollar section where I purchased some awesome Easter find. I even got some carrot and bunny hair clips! For my daughter of course….even though I could so pull them off. The stickers even have eggs that are scratch off, because who doesn’t like to do that?! Walmart had the kites, bucket, Frisbee, eggs and bubbles.

I hope that gives you a few ideas. By the way, our family may not do candy, but we still do eat something fun. This year we are going to bake a delicious dessert for the kids (we may eat a little bit ourselves). You can eat great food without sacrificing your health, and that is the whole point. Have a great (and clean) Easter!

Home made almond milk

IMG_9367picmonkey.jpgI had a dairy sensitivity for years (which by the way cleared up when we changed to clean eating) and was always looking for a good milk substitute. Almond milk was my favorite! My family always has whole milk in the fridge now but I still love Almond milk. Its delicious in smoothies, cereal or whatever you like!

Almond milk is so surprisingly easy to make! I used to buy the premade kind for the grocery store but as we have been cutting out processed food/additives almond milk was one that had to go. Have you looked at the ingredient list of your current almond milk? I was really surprised by what I found: sugar, carrageenan and vitamin A palmitate just to name a few. Almond milk doesnt have to be so complicated! The only thing in your almond milk should be almonds, water and maybe a little sweetener like honey or maple syrup.

All you need to make almond milk is:IMG_9299picmonkey

Almonds, water, nut milk bag or flour sack towel and a good blender. Vanilla, honey or maple syrup is optional.

Its that easy!

Instructions:

1. Soak 1 cup of almonds in a bowl of water for 12-24 hours.

2. Drain water and place almonds in blender with 4 cups of water

3. Blend for several minutes and strain mixture through your nut milk bag or flour sack towel. squeeze as much milk out as you can. Don’t throw out the almonds! Make some almond flour to use in recipes later.

And that’s it! You are done. Add a little honey or maple syrup if you like it sweeter or maybe even a little vanilla. Store in the fridge for up to 7 days and just give it a shake before serving.IMG_9332picmonkey.jpg If you are like me, then you will store it in a mason jar. Do yourself a favor and get a recap! The are amazing. I always have one on my almond milk jar and my honey jar. They come in regular and wide mouth so you can fit them to any jar! Makes pouring a breeze!

Enjoy!

 

 

5 Veggies That You Can Put In Almost Anything!

How many of you love eating veggie? Chances are, not many of you said yes to that question. The truth is, many people think vegetables are gross! Most children think vegetables are gross and most adults think they are gross! In the last few years I have grown to truly love eating vegetables. In fact, it is a rare dinner that vegetables are not a central, important part of the dish. The reason is because I believe that in most cases, vegetables are not meant to eat raw, they are meant to be incorporated with other things to enhance flavor. I always used to see eating vegetables as if you have to eat raw broccoli dipped in ranch, and then when I heard that ranch wasn’t necessarily good for you, I gave up on it altogether! Who wants to eat raw broccoli? Not I! A question that seems to be on parent’s minds is, “How do I get my kid (or even my spouse!) to eat their veggies?” To answer that question, I put together a list of a few veggies that you can put in pretty much anything.
Spinach

Let’s be honest about spinach. When you were a kid and watched Popeye eating his spinach and it making him strong, they really didn’t make spinach look very appetizing. The spinach that Popeye ate looked like sludge! Nobody wants to eat that. Would you believe that for years I believed that is what spinach was?! I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer… Spinach (for those of you who still do not know) is a leaf, it is a dark green color. By the way, when it comes to leafy greens, the greener the better. A lot of people use iceberg lettuce for their salads, but really they should use spinach or some other dark green leaf. There are a ton of nutrients packed into spinach (Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K, calcium, potassium, fiber, etc). But a great thing about spinach is that it is practically tasteless, it will take on the taste of whatever you pair it with. Here is what I enjoy doing with spinach: I blend up a cup of spinach until it is very fine and then incorporate it into my soups. It adds practically no calories, but tons of nutrients. When you put blended spinach in soup it makes it look like a seasoning instead of a veggie, your kids will not be able to tell a difference. I also will take a cup of spinach and put it into my smoothies that I drink as a snack. The smoothie will turn a green color, but would you believe that you really cannot taste the difference!

Zucchini

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Ok, I LOVE zucchini! I started eating zucchini about 4 years ago and I have been loving it since! In fact, I might just go ahead and say that it is my favorite vegetable. Do people normally have favorite vegetables or am I just weird? I digress. My wife and I incorporate zucchini into a lot of meals. My favorite meal (you will probably get the recipe for this pretty soon) is mostly zucchini. Zucchini, again, is mostly tasteless and requires seasonings to enhance the flavor. So really, it serves as a blank slate to test out different types of flavor. We also make noodles out of zucchini, and they are delicious. Sometimes I will even dice one up and add it into some tomato sauce whenever we have spaghetti. Zucchini chips and zucchini cakes are a real winner in our family. Also, did you know that chocolate and zucchini make a very good pairing?! Next time you make chocolate cupcakes, add a little bit of grated zucchini, it will make your cupcakes more moist, but will not change the flavor. What in the world! How can a vegetable taste so good in so many different ways?!? Try it, you will never, ever regret it.

Broccoli

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Can I be honest with you, I dislike broccoli almost as much as I love zucchini. But broccoli is so good for you! It is rich in many vitamins and other nutrients such as Vitamin D, A, and K (basically the whole alphabet!) also magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron and a bunch of others that I do not know the name of or how to pronounce. Here is a way that we incorporate broccoli into our meals: if you are eating a casserole, blend up 8 ounces of broccoli until it is very fine and put the broccoli into the casserole before stirring. I promise you will barely (if at all) be able to taste the difference. My wife’s favorite meal has 8 ounces of broccoli in it, we eat this dish every week, and it tastes the same as it would without broccoli, but it is much more nutritious.

Avocado

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I remember my first encounter with avocado. When I was in college, I worked for a sandwich shop that was not very clean and did not have very good customer service. We had several avocado’s lined up on top of the sandwich making station in order to entice people to put some on their sandwich. I tried a sandwich one day and put some of that avocado on it. Little did I know (since I had never had an avocado before) that it was not ripe. If you do not know, unripened avocado’s are not very tasty, they are hard and are very difficult to eat. My first experience with avocado was horrible. Several years later I found myself working at Panera Bread. They require at Panera Bread for each person on the team to try every food on the menu. One day, I had to eat the Turkey Avocado BLT (this may not be the healthiest thing to say, but avocado and bacon work VERY well together) and I was worried. “I hate avocado!” I told myself. But once I took a bite, I fell instantly in love. Ripe avocado is the best thing in the world (hyperbole much!) Ever since that day, I have consumed ungodly amounts of avocado, be it in the form of guacamole, incorporated in meals, or just sprinkling some salt and pepper on it and eating it as is. Sadly, some people do not have the same love for avocados as I do, and this is sad because avocados are rich in “good” fat (more on that in a different post), fiber, vitamin C, Potassium, and others. How can you get avocado into a meal? Well first, let me be honest about avocado’s tastiest offspring, guacamole. Do you know why most people say they do not like guacamole? Because they have never tried it! They look at it and think, “Ew! It’s green and chunky!” And never try it. Do yourself a flavor (see what I did there!) and try it before passing judgment on it. Chances are, you will like it. But if you do try it and don’t like it, then blend some avocado into a smoothie, it will go well in a fruit or a chocolate smoothie, and, unlike spinach, it will not greatly effect the color of your smoothie. Also, consider just putting small slithers of avocado on top of tacos, enchiladas, and inside burritos. The avocado will add a burst of creaminess, but will not greatly effect the taste. Go ahead and give it a try, and when I am proven right and you run to the grocery store to buy ALL THE AVOCADOS, let me know so I can gloat in the fact that I was right (for once).

Carrots

Now is honesty time: Nobody likes carrots. I used to watch people eat their little “baby carrots” with Ranch Dressing and see the misery on their faces get worse and worse with every bite. Nobody enjoys carrots, and if someone says that they do, then they are liars and should not be trusted…
Author’s note: I would like to make an apology to all of those people who actually do like eating carrots, including my wife. You are not liars, you can be trusted, this was an attempt at humor on my part, I have been told in the past that I am not very funny, and this may be one of those instances where I failed at joking.
But the truth is that, again, carrots are very good for you. What can you do with carrots? Our family puts carrots in just about every meal, would you believe that carrots may be our second most used veggie! It is true. We add carrots to casseroles and to soups. The carrots greatly enhances the flavor of our chicken noodle soup in particular. A word of warning though, when it comes to carrots, I like mine to be very soft in a dish. When I eat my chicken noodle soup I do not want to be chomping on a carrot. So in soups, be sure to put the chopped carrots in very quickly so that they have plenty of time to soften up in the soup (normally it takes about 45 minutes for our soup to be finished). In a casserole, I will sauté my onions and carrots in a separate skillet and put a lot of water into the skillet until the veggies are almost completely submerged, stirring it periodically. Often once the water has mostly evaporated from the skillet the carrots and onions have an incredible tenderness to them and go very well into a casserole. You can also make nice, little snacks with carrots: carrots fries and carrot chips. Or, you know, you could always just chomp on a carrot raw and do your best imitation of Bugs Bunny.

As you can see, there are plenty of creative things that you can do with vegetables. I used to hate vegetables, but I have learned that you can do great things with them. You don’t have to drink carrot juice from a food processor or eat a raw stalk of broccoli, you can do things to those veggies to make them enjoyable. How about you? What ways are you able to incorporate veggies into your meal?

Our number one weight loss tool

What if I told you that our most important weight loss tool costs under $10? Would you believe me? Well you should! We grab for this tool everyday and use it almost every meal. What is it you ask?

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A kitchen scale. That’s right, a little scale. Portion size is a huge issue in the US, and our family is able to combat that problem with a simple kitchen scale. There are plenty of people who eat good food, but they eat too much of it, and you know how the saying goes, “Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing.” You may have good intentions by snacking on some almonds but that 1 ounce serving you guessed at could easily be 4 ounces!  That 4 ounces of almonds that you just ate are roughly 640 calories! Wow! You just blew a whole meal’s worth of calories on what you thought was a light snack. Controlling the amount of food we eat is what keeps us on track with losing weight. We measure or weigh everything we eat.

 

If you have a smartphone, a great way to keep track of this is with an app called My Fitness Pal. It requires you to log in everything that you eat throughout the day. Just by using our kitchen scale, my fitness pal and clean eating, together we have lost over 80 pounds! When we track what we eat we are able to enjoy 3 meals and 3 snacks a day. No skipping meals or meal replacement drinks, ever! We are all about eating real foods. While we still have some more weight to lose, we continue to follow our routine and hope in a few months we will be at our final goal. We have seen great results so far!  It amazed us that by simply being aware of our portion sizes we started losing pounds! So next time you throw a handful of cheese into your meal weigh it out first; you will be happy when you do!

 

Somethings to consider

1 oz of almonds is 160 calories

1 oz of cheddar cheese is 110 calories

1 oz of whole wheat pretzels is 110 calories

1 oz of raisins is 85 calories

1 oz of banana chips is 147 calories

 

These are great, healthy snacks but only when eaten in moderation! Don’t eat all your calories in just a few snacks.

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