by Leanne Ely, CNC
Whether you realize it or not, there are health benefits to all the different spices we use to add flavor to our meals. Let’s take a look at a couple of spices with a whole new eye:
First up is cinnamon. McCormick Spices states that, “cinnamon has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any spice […] You’ll find as many antioxidants in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon as a full cup of pomegranate juice or 1/2 cup of blueberries.” And that’s really saying something because we all know that pomegranates and blueberries have earned fame for their levels of antioxidants. Simply add cinnamon plain to a bowl of oatmeal, sprinkled lightly on some apples, or on a nice baked sweet potato to get the benefits. Research has also shown as little as a teaspoon of cinnamon a day will help with blood sugar issues; great news for diabetics and those wanting to keep their blood sugar levels under control.
Next up is ginger. With a considerable amount of antioxidants, it also has a similar qualities of lavender in that it can induce a sense of calm and serenity. In other words, ginger can help us manage stress; I’m sure we could all use a good dose of that in our hectic lives. Also, ginger really helps your digestive system. If you’ve noticed that you can’t digest properly and you’re experiencing stomach pains, try adding a bit more ginger to your life, you’ll see and feel the difference. Ginger tea really helped me in pregnancy with morning sickness but be sure to check with your doctor if you’re pregnant or nursing before drinking Ginger tea or using Ginger supplements.
Next time we will take a look at oregano, turmeric and garlic, so stay tuned!
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one spice with you, what would it be?
Extreme Makeover – Lunchbox Edition
By Leanne Ely, CNC
When packing a lunch for your kids to take to school, don’t even mention the word “lunchable” or I’ll cringe. I don’t care how easy it is to buy a pre-made and pre-packed lunch like that. I promise that all the junk, sugar, and fat you can find in those won’t make them worth it. So ditch the Lunchables.
It’s time for a makeover! And after those Lunchables, I want you to dispose of any fruit roll-ups, fruit gushers, and any other gummy fruit snack. Get rid of the Trix yogurt, I don’t care how often the commercial tries to convince you that “Trix are for kids.” And please, no bologna sandwiches on white bread. If I don’t even know everything they put in that so-called “meat” then it’s something that should be left untouched. And as far as chips are concerned, we should all know better with all those saturated oils.
So what should you put in your children’s lunch? Easy, I’ll give you a list of substitutes for all the items that I dismissed.
1. Instead of all those over-processed gummy fruit snacks, give your kids real fruit! Throw in a banana or some berries. Whatever fruit is in season and on sale in the store! That’ll stock your kid’s belly full of antioxidants and natural sugars that’ll quench the sweet tooth.
2. Trix yogurt is more of a trick than a treat. It’s only full of artificial food coloring, sugar, and artificial flavors. All of which are going to keep your child craving other artificial and sugary foods and make them more lazy and lethargic instead of energetic and happy the way kids are supposed to be. So grab the natural yogurts. It’s easy to tell them apart because they’ll have labels like “real fruit” attached to them. Always double-check the ingredients to confirm that, however.
3. And when you pack a sandwich, avoid white bread and mystery meats. Look for breads that aren’t bleached. I wrote an article on how to pick the right bread if you want to look that up for a more detailed guide. Also, use meat that doesn’t have any additives. How do you know if it has additives? The same way you know anything does, check the ingredients! I can’t stress enough how important it is to know what you’re consuming instead of blindly picking something off the shelf.
4. An easy substitute for chips would be whole grain crackers (again, check ingredients), or veggies! Even if you do opt for the crackers, I would include some sort of vegetable regardless. Your children are going to keep growing and developing all the way through high school and are always needing antioxidants and the vitamins found in vegetables. Don’t forget to keep it fun and colorful!
So there you go! Always remember that there is a healthy substitute for any nutritionally lacking lunchbox item.
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In my neck of the woods, kids officially started school today! And all across America, collective sighs of frustrated breakfast makers and lunchbox remorse could be heard in the early morning hours by moms already frustrated with this whole process of getting the kids fed well and make them happy at the same time.
“How can I do all of this?” asks one exasperated mother after the other. Let me ask you, ever feel that way? Is that YOU?
Don’t despair, we can help! Saving Dinner might be our name, but Saving Meals of every type is our specialty, even the ones you need to pack!
Enter our Saving Breakfast/Saving Lunch Big Bundle of JOY! Yes, now you can get it done Saving Dinner style–all plans done and with an itemized list ready for you to take the grocery store. Even better, our Saving Breakfast menus allow you to do double duty–make a fresh breakfast and freeze another! What’s not to love about having a great breakfast ready to go in the freezer? Especially a homemade one, without all the additives. 🙂 We have 3 volumes of Saving Breakfast, with freeze-able recipes ranging from Breakfast in a Burrito, to On the Go Breakfast Bars, to Breakfast in a Cookie (seriously!). That’s just a few of the outstanding breakfasts you can make up in advance and freeze (or make up fresh and eat, or both! LOL).
And then of course, there is lunch. That never ending saga of having to fill that lunchbox each and every school day. Don’t worry, we have that covered too! There’s Monkey Sandwiches, Hercules Wraps, Tuscaloosa Tuna Wraps, Macho Nacho Burritos and much, much more; your kids (and you!) will love these lunches.
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8 volumes in all, our breakfast and lunch plans will save your sanity and your budget! You’ll never have to fret over getting out the door in time in the morning without an adequate breakfast or a delicious (and healthy) packed lunch!
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Tips, Tricks & a Recipe
Zucchini – The Ultimate Summer Squash
by Leanne Ely, CNC
Today’s focus is on: Zucchini!
I am lucky enough to have some zucchini planted in my garden and it’s going crazy. I’ve had about 4 zucchini so far and YUM, delish! Here are some things you need to know about zucchini:
1) massively low in calories—one large zucchini is only 16 calories!
2) plenty of phyto nutrients including beta-carotene, B vitamins, a little vitamin C and plenty o’ potassium!
Here’s a TIP:
Small to medium sized zucchinis are most tasty. Look for a smooth, unblemished skin and nice dark green color. Tasty zucchs skin should feel soft, but the zucchini itself should be hard and not squishy (that means its past its prime, yuck!)
And a TRICK:
To change things up, I grate my zucchini, sautéing it in garlic and olive oil, topping it with a little freshly grated Romano cheese and fresh ground pepper. Nice side dish and almost rice-like or pasta-like in texture.
And your RECIPE (from Saving Dinner the Vegetarian Way):
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
2 1/4 cups orzo
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
15 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, seeded and cubed
1 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded, deribbed and chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Prepare orzo according to package directions; Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain again very thoroughly. Place in a large bowl. Stir in the zucchini, olives, green onions, celery, tomato, and green bell pepper. In a small bowl, beat together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, dill, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to coat well. Sprinkle on the feta cheese and toss again. Add the mayonnaise and toss gently. Chill at least for 2 hours and bring to room temperature before serving.
Per Serving: 546 Calories; 30g Fat; 14g Protein; 57g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 28mg Cholesterol; 553mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 5 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates. Points: 15
SERVING SUGGESTION: Serve with a simple caprese salad: sliced ripe tomatoes, layered with fresh basil leaves, sliced mozzarella and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Fresh ground pepper over the top finishes it beautifully.
Want more recipes for zucchini and other fresh veggies? Check out our Vegetarian Ebooks.
Zucchini – The Ultimate Summer Squash
Food For Thought
Get ‘Em Out the Door: Quick and Easy Breakfasts
by Leanne Ely, CNC
When you’re trying to usher your kids out the door to get to school on time it’s often hard to squeeze in an adequate breakfast. Or maybe you’re not a parent but you struggle just as much with finding the time for a good breakfast before you run out the door for work. Breakfast is the meal that is most often skipped because of those reasons, or if you’re like me, you only focus on getting coffee in your system instead of something that’s actually substantial. Neither of these excuses are good enough to pardon missing breakfast.
This is an extremely important meal because it kick-starts your metabolism for the rest of the day. Sure, your metabolism will start up whenever you eventually do eat, but it’ll be slowed down because your body is meant to be able to rev up in the morning. However, don’t desperately pull through a drive-thru just to get food in your system because it’s fast and easy. Even though it’s hard to find time to eat in the morning, don’t opt for a quick drive thru, that’s not going to help your body at all. There are plenty of quick and easy options are also healthy and fast.
One of my favorite breakfasts is a smoothie – full of berries with antioxidants, and protein powder, with the occasional addition of diary. That gives a well rounded and extremely filling breakfast. Still can’t swing the 3 minutes it would take to prep the smoothie? No problem. Make your own parfait! You can even do it the night before. Take a cup and layer it with organic yogurt, berries, and granola, delicious and fiber-full! Are you really in hurry to get out the door, you can make a breakfast that easy to consume even when manning a steering wheel. Whole grain toaster waffles with almond-butter spread on top. Binding your carb and protein and boosting your energy and metabolism!
All of these options are suitable for you and your children and incidentally, can easily be made gluten free. All options being quick, quicker, and quickest. I promise that you’ll notice a difference in energy when these are your go to breakfasts, scouts honor!
What is your favorite go-to breakfast during the school year?
After School Snacks That Make the Grade
By Leanne Ely, CNC
Whenever your children hop off the bus when they get back from school, one of the first things they’re guaranteed to say is “I’m hungry.” It’s very easy to supply them with a tasty and filling snack to hold off their appetite till dinner. The snacks that should be offered instead of chips or goldfish or a popsicle, are the same things that keep you satiated and happy; protein, fat and some fibrous carbohydrate.
Anything full of fiber is a great crowd pleaser because you don’t need to consume a huge amount for it to fill you considerably. So when the hints of being hungry are dropped, give your kids a handful of almonds or some baby carrots. Add some hummus and you’re good to go.
Those 100-calorie snack packs have become quite the thing. The problem with those things (besides the expense, the additives and the sugar) is they don’t cut it on any of the nutritional fronts. Make your own “snack packs” instead. Offer nut butters and cut up apples for dipping, Greek yogurt and even a smoothie.
Want more Mom-tested snack ideas? Check out our popular snack series.
Menu Makeover: Making Side Dishes Respectable
By Leanne Ely, CNC
Some of the tastiest sides to load onto your plate at a summer barbecue or any other buffet table are French fries, mashed potatoes, rice and coleslaw. Now, sadly, none of those sides are really great for you if you’re eating the classic version of the list above. However, there is a way to make these usually unhealthy sides more healthy!
French fries: I know, we all love them. My healthy solution: sweet potato fries! Sweet potatoes offer more antioxidants and vitamins than your standard spud, not to mention they’re full of fiber. How to make them: peel and cut them into your preferred thickness, brush them lightly with olive oil, sprinkle just a bit of salt, pepper, and rosemary on top, and bake (400 degrees) them until crispy. So delicious! And if you want to try a sweeter version, you could brush them lightly with unsalted butter and sprinkle with cinnamon – a spice teeming with antioxidants.
Mashed potatoes and rice: Don’t we all love love love our carbs? Your healthy challenge is going to be to start finding the carb alternatives that are just as yummy. In exchange for mashed potatoes and rice, try mashed cauliflower with a little bit of butter and cream cheese, seasoned however you season your mashed potatoes. Trust me, you may shift your alliance to that of the alternative, it’s so good. You can also refer to my own recipe of Faux-Tay-toes and Cauli-rice. For Faux-Tay-toes, steam cauliflower till tender; drain, then mash with butter, cream cheese and salt and pepper to taste till you get a mashed potatoes texture For Cauli-rice, process cauliflower in a food processor or blender till it resembles grains of rice; steam “rice” till tender; drain; salt and pepper to taste and fluff with a fork.
Coleslaw: my summer solution to this side is very simple. Examine your coleslaw recipe, you may notice that it calls for a creamy dressing or a good chunk of mayonnaise. Some recipes even call for sugar. Instead of using those dressings and mayonnaise that are full of way too much fat and calories, make up your own dressing. I would recommend mixing together olive oil, apple cider vinegar, a touch of local honey, and salt and pepper to taste. The honey will replace the sugar, and while mixing just keep in mind you need enough to cover the shredded cabbage, not drown it. You can add a touch of Greek yogurt if you’re missing the creaminess!
So try out these healthier alternatives solutions and watch your family enjoy them just as much!
Check out our great summer menus for more ideas!
Menu Makeover: Making Side Dishes Respectable
It’s the time of year that has you scurrying to pick up school supplies, backpacks and lunchboxes. Yes, School, capital S, is just around the corner!
And believe me, I know you’re putting out some cash getting your kids outfitted and ready to head back. It’s not an inexpensive proposition! But let’s get YOU ready to take on the family’s dinnertime needs and keep your budget. Sound like a plan?
Back you go to carpools, after school care, kid’s sports schedules and doing homework after dinner. But just what kind of a dinner do you want to make? How about EASY? Let’s add cost effective and ample use of the crockpot and freezer meals, too. After all, you’re going to be busier than everyone else!
That’s why we threw together our Super Back to School Value Package–to get you the help you need to get the family back into routine and back to the dinner table as well. Here’s what you get:
*Our entire Frugal eCookbook with 12 weeks of frugal menus for each season (that’s 48 weeks of menus, with the grocery lists to go with them. That’s 288 seasonal recipes with nutritional information, serving suggestions, exchanges and even Points! ($37 value) The Frugal eCookbook might be about saving you money, but it doesn’t lack on flavor! How does Chicken and Pepper Stir Fry sound? Maybe you’re in the mood for Saucy Pork Chops or Italian Cube Steak for dinner? Remember, the recipes are just recipes without a plan and this eCookbook delivers with 48 weeks of menu plans!
*Our entire Crock Cooker eCookbook with 12 weeks of crockcooking menus for each season (that’s 48 weeks of menus; 288 seasonal recipes. All with weekly grocery lists, nutritional info and serving suggestions, exchanges and Points. ($37 value) In the Crock Cooker eCookbook, the recipes will blow you away–Crock Stroganoff, Crock Au Vin, Lemon Garlic Chicken Breasts, Mac and Cheese Casserole, all delicious and yummy and in your crockpot when you walk in from a hard day. Those are only SOME of what you’ll find in the Crock Cooker eCookbook, there’s 288 recipes!!.
That’s a LOT of menu plans and a whole boatload of delicious, time saving dinners! But don’t take our word for it; check out what a few of our raving fans have said:
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“I just wanted to let you know you have a new fan! I used to frequent the “assemble your dinner and freeze it” places, but I knew there had to be a cheaper alternative. When I tried finding freezer recipes on the Internet, all I could find were casseroles! A friend suggested your web site, and I am so thankful she did. Thank you so much!” -Kristy (20 for the Freezer)
All in all, this Super Back to School Value Package would retail for $94, but today, $27. That’s right, $27!!
Take action TODAY and we’ll pull out our Money Saving Tips from the vault and give them to you as well! WEDNESDAY ONLY, it’s going back in the vault first thing Thursday morning!
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Tips, Tricks & a Recipe
The Perfect Peach
by Leanne Ely, CNC
Today’s Focus is Peaches
Peaches are synonymous for summer. You see abundant peaches everywhere this time of year, in grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and local produce stands. Bag after bag spilling over with a plethora of sweet and fuzzy fruit.
We only have a limited few weeks of this hot season to really enjoy peaches, so let’s take advantage of that! But first, let me trot out the list of health benefits: thiamine, potassium, calcium, and beta carotene (the precursor to vitamin A). The beautiful color of a peach lets you know that the beta carotene is working overtime and I’m sure you know that the might anti oxidant qualities of beta carotene help ensure healthy hearts and eyes. The darker the color of the peach, the richer it is in beta carotene – not only that, but it’s usually more ripe and sweeter! It’s a double whammy; the taste and nutritional perks are both better.
Because peaches have a hefty amount of potassium and fiber, they’re helpful for digestive conflicts and well as kidney disease. So if you have any problems with indigestion, try adding more peaches to your diet!
Here’s Your Tip
There are several different ways to eat peaches. You can boil them, cook them, bake them, or just eat them raw. Though the best way to eat them is raw because when cooked/boiled/baked they lose up to 80 percent of the nutritional perks they have to offer.
Here’s Your Trick
When you cut open a peach you need to eat it or cook instantly because once the flesh is exposed to air, they’ll darken and go bad. However, if you want to prevent this after chopping up a peach and can’t manage to consume the whole thing, just dip the cut pieces in a bit of citrus or pineapple juice, and it’ll prevent the process.
And For Your Recipe
8 peaches, peeled and diced
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated
1 small yellow onion, minced
1/2 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 small banana pepper, also seeded and diced
1/4 cup of dried cranberries
1/4 cup organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup organic (and preferably local) honey
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
Simply mix all together! For finer blended chutney, blend all the ingredients in a food processor. Easy as that!
What are some of your favorite summertime peach recipes?
The Perfect Peach
Starting Your Kids Off Right
by Leanne Ely, CNC
We typically focus on eating healthier only after we’re old enough to understand the consequences of what happens to our bodies when we don’t. Whether it’s through weight gain, lack of energy, or addictions to sugar and saturated fats, we do eventually figure out that our eating habits can have a negative effect on our bodies and minds. But just because you learned the hard way doesn’t mean your kids have to!
In fact, it should be just the opposite. If you’re capable of teaching your children the life lessons you’ve learned after the bumps and bruises gained from trial and error, then you should be able to give them a higher foothold in their own lives. So, start from the beginning! While they’re infants, begin a diet structure that they can carry with them even through adulthood. I can promise you from my own personal experience that it works. While I had friends whose children would throw a tantrum at the sight of any green vegetable, my children ate, sometimes grudgingly, everything I placed in front of them. Even today, in their early 20s, they’re making healthier decisions on their own because they’ve developed habits and preferences based on how they were raised.
So how do you choose the right formulas and baby food? Easy. It starts with knowing what your baby needs nutritionally. Much like adults, babies require fatty acids to help them grow and develop fully. Now, you’ve all probably heard my diatribe on omega-3 fatty acid, and have no fear, I’m not going to start down that path. In fact the fatty acid needed by babies is docosahexaenoic acid – quite the mouth full, so it’s shortened to DHA acid. Now, as far as formulas are concerned, many will contain DHA acid because it has become quite loudly stated that it’s necessary. You should be able to get all the DHA your little one needs with the right formula.
But how about when it’s time to move onto solids? One of the biggest problems with prepared baby foods available on the market today is that many of them are loaded with sugar. Not many people pay attention to the little details of nutritional facts because calories don’t matter as much to babies since their growth and development is at its peak. However, if you start giving them lots of sugar, the addiction and craving for it will start to develop because it isn’t something they’re born with the taste for. Salt and food coloring also follow the sugar rule. So look out for those sneaky dietary stumbling blocks.
Keep your eyes open and stay aware when shopping for your infant’s food. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try your hand at making your own baby food (which I highly recommend), but sure to check out our Baby Food Menu.