For a sweet juicy snack pick cherries!

For a sweet juicy snack pick cherries!

By Leanne Ely

 

I just love the sweet, tart flavor of a juicy ripe cherry. But really, who doesn’t? Cherries are not only delicious, these delicate little fruits are also very healthy. If you suffer from gout pain, you probably already know that cherries can help prevent flareups but there’s much more to cherries than that.

Cherries are known to reduce inflammation in the body and if you eat them on a regular basis, you’ll find they can also help reduce muscle pain. Some studies have actually shown that eating cherries on a daily basis is similar to regularly taking ibuprofen.

Cherries are also a good source of vitamin A, E and C, and they’re a yummy way to get your fiber into you.

Tart cherries are available year round, and I use them frequently in savory dishes. During the summer when sweet cherries (also known as dark cherries) are in season, I am constantly snacking on them and tossing them into salads.

So what else is there to know about cherries?

Cherries

It’s time for your Trick:

Cherries bruise easily and they are very perishable. Cherries will only stay fresh in the fridge for a few days so eat them shortly after bringing them home.

And your Tip:

When shopping for cherries, look for fruit with the stem still attached. The stem should be nice and green and not wilted. A fresh looking stem is a sign that the fruit was picked recently.

And your Recipe:
Sweet and Tangy Cherry Baked Turkey Strips
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 pound boneless skinless turkey breast meat, cut into 1-inch strips
1/2 pound black cherries, pitted and chopped (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic; cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender-crisp. Add turkey, cherries, broth, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar; blend well. Bring mixture to a slow boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove skillet lid and stir in basil; cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Meanwhile, in a cup, combine cornstarch and water; stir into sauce and cook just until thickened. Serve immediately.

I adore cherries and one of my favorite ways to enjoy them is turning them into epic smoothies! Here’s my favorite Chocolate Cherry Smoothie recipe!

 

The art and craft of cooking (nothing else impacts your health MORE!)

The art and craft of cooking (nothing else impacts your health MORE!)

By: Leanne Ely

 

The art and craft of cooking has been glorified in glossy magazines for years with beautiful shots of styled food, propped, positioned and perfectly lit, sitting on a color coordinated plate. These gorgeous pictures set your mouth to drooling and your desire to cook right off the charts.

In recent years, food bloggers have attempted the same thing with their step by step pictures of a recipe in progress, making your mouth drool and your need to chop, sauté and simmer intense!

We at SavingDinner.com have test kitchened and worked our own private culinary magic without the photographic evidence (unfortunately) for years, although that’s starting to change.

Lately we’ve been testing paleo recipes and more to capture the drool worthiness of some of our most coveted recipes (as well as a bunch of fresh new recipes). Having the photographic evidence of our culinary triumphs has been great!

cubanchimichurrimeatloaf1

And while you may not be a food blogger (or ever want to be one), if you consider cooking to be a bore, a chore and on the same level of fun as root canals and toilet cleaning, step back for a minute and try on a new perspective.

Next time you make a meal, place it carefully on the chosen plate, sprinkle with a little fresh parsley (it takes two seconds to snip with you kitchen shears!) and serve it the way it would be served properly in a restaurant (with the protein on the plate at 6 o’clock if it was in front of you at the table).

You don’t have to whip out the camera and start snapping pictures to make a meal beautiful enough to warrant a picture. You don’t have to blog about it, either. You just need to appreciate it a little bit and give your meal its due. Any meal, served beautifully becomes even better than what it was intended to be and is appreciated more (even your little ones will notice) by the family.

Join the 5 Day Cooking Challenge with Leanne and Cynthia Pasquella! Every day, you’ll get a new cooking lesson featuring a video, downloadable resources, and practice tips. Each cooking class is online so you can join us from anywhere in the world!

 

Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters

Healthy Meals for Picky Eaters

By: Leanne Ely

 

If you’re trying your best to lose weight and/or improve your health, it can be challenging to stick with it (to say the least) if your family isn’t on board with the changes. When you’re struggling to make the right food choices, negative feedback from the dinner table every night can push you back to old ways pretty quick. (What’s this? I don’t eat green things. I don’t like that. Why do you hate us?)

Lucky for you, there are some tricks you can use to help your picky family be part of your changes, without them even realizing it (sneaky).

Chicken salad with roasted vegetables and mixed greens.  Delicious healthy eating.

Don’t make an announcement. If you sit down at the dinner table one night and tell everyone that you’ll all be eating healthy from now on (huge mistake), your family is going to convince themselves that meals are going to be bland and yucky.

Increase veggies gradually. If your family members are not fans of vegetables, start by serving the ones they do enjoy, and find new ways of cooking those they do not. Add a salad at the center of the table for every meal, and let everyone choose their own toppings or dressings. If you know they like broccoli, try kohlrabi one night (they taste similar). If your family makes a face at brussels sprouts, try sautéing them with a bit of bacon. This makes it less about your lifestyle changes, and more about getting everyone a bit healthier.

Make small changes. If you live with other people, you may not wish to throw away all of the packaged foods, sugary salad dressings, and frozen entrees all at once. A big dramatic act like this will scare them and will make your life difficult. Start slow by making little, barely noticeable changes. Once you run out of a certain salad dressing, for example, don’t replace it with the same kind (make your own or buy a healthy version). Make everyone’s favorite lasagna, but add more vegetables to the sauce and add a bit less cheese. Serve with a salad instead of garlic bread.

Make a healthy version of familiar recipes. Let’s go back to the lasagna example. If you’re giving up gluten but the family isn’t, go ahead and make your world-famous lasagna, but make your own serving with zucchini noodles instead of wheat. Let everyone try a small piece of yours so they see how delicious it is.

Find healthier ways of preparing things. If you normally fry your chicken, use the same recipe, but bake it in the oven instead. Cook foods in coconut oil instead of vegetable oil. Bake muffins with whole wheat or coconut flour instead of white. Halve the amount of sugar in all recipes and substitute with honey. Little changes like this all add up, and it isn’t going to be a huge shock to your loved ones’ systems.

Involve them. If you’re making fajitas, provide everyone with healthy topping options: red onions, tomatoes, peppers, refried beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa, etc. Place everything on the table, and make a rule that everyone has to either choose three toppings (or three different colors) or eat their fajita with extra salad. You can do something similar with a variety of healthy foods like chili, soup, and pasta. Put all of the options on the table and let them choose what they want. Then you can eat as many vegetables as you want without forcing it on them. (Directly!)

Experiment with salads. When you’re trying to increase the number of salads your family is eating, it’s going to take trial and error. A bowl full of ice burg lettuce is not going to make anyone your friend. Prepare a big bowl of greens and serve with a variety of meats, colorful veggies, boiled eggs, avocado, nuts, dried fruits… see what everyone gravitates towards.

Make notes. Keep a bit of a food journal so you can remember which meals your family enjoyed, and which they did not. Allow everyone to choose one or two foods they will not eat. Promise that you will do your best to avoid those foods in your meals, if they promise to be open minded about what you serve.

Be creative, and you’ll be surprised at the gains you can make with your picky family while eating a healthier diet!

Making resolutions you can live with. Really!

Making resolutions you can live with. Really!

By: Leanne Ely

 

It’s that time of year again. The New Year. A time to reflect on the year we’re leaving behind and make promises to ourselves about how we may live better for the next twelve months.

If, when the clock struck twelve at the beginning of 2017, you made some resolutions that involved living a healthier life, I want to make sure that you start out nice and slow so that you don’t get all overwhelmed, with your good intentions discarded by the time Valentine’s Day rolls around.

When you resolve to live healthier and you’re starting out with a lifestyle that has lots of room for cleaning up, there are tons of tiny changes you can implement that will add up to greater health for you by this time next year.

If you know me at all, you know I’m about keeping things simple. So that’s where we’ll start. The following are five simple things you can start doing today that will make you and your family healthier:

1. Get friendly with vegetables. You don’t like leafy green and/or dark colored vegetables? Too bad. You have to eat them anyway. Vegetables are key in weight management and we need them to make ourselves healthy and to get in all of those nutrients and minerals that are essential for our bodies. If you think that peas and carrots are enough, you are sadly mistaken. Sure they count as veggies, but we need a diet varied in fruits and vegetables in order to get what we need out of the foods we eat. The next time you go to the grocery store, shop the rainbow. Buy purple cabbage, dark green spinach or kale instead of regular green cabbage and iceberg lettuce. Fill your cart with sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes. Try a new vegetable every time you go to the grocery store and do some research on Google to figure out the best way to cook it. Vegetables are not only full of nutrients that fight disease, but they aid in your digestion process (can you say fiber?), they fill you up without loading you up with calories, and they just make you feel good! Train yourself and your children to like vegetables. It’s the best thing you can do for your family’s health.

2. Add one new healthy food to your diet each month. Hearing about all the health benefits of coconut oil lately? Resolve to incorporate it into your diet this month. Next month, perhaps you’ll want to give salmon a good honest try. Start eating flax in March. Swap sugar for honey in April. You see where I’m going with this. Slowly start incorporating super foods into your diet and by this time next year, you’ll be laughing! Also, vowing to add one new food per month is less overwhelming than trying to do it all at once . . . it’s all about baby steps! Every week, I feature a different healthy food here on the blog. Search through the archives and keep your eyes peeled for lots and lots (and lots!) of ideas.

3. Drink more water. This one is key. I believe that if we all ate six or seven servings of vegetables a day and drank our daily recommended amount of good old fashioned H20, we would be a much healthier (and leaner) nation. If you’re not a water lover, too bad. You have to drink it anyway. How do you figure out how much water you need to be healthy? There are calculators all over the Internet that will help you determine your hydration needs based on your weight and activity levels, so do a simple search and you should soon know your optimal water intake. One important piece of advice is to pace yourself. Don’t drink all of your water in the morning or before bed. Spread it out over the day and just drink drink drink! Water is the ideal beverage for all of us. Swap out the juices and sodas for this simple thirst quencher.

4. Cut out packaged foods. Stop buying processed foods and resolve to cook more meals for your family from scratch. This will likely be the one item on this list that makes the most folk cringe, but it is an important one. I wish that everyone could experience the joy that comes with putting a nutritious, homemade meal on the dinner table every day. Start by not buying anymore of those “helper” meal kits from the dry food aisle as well as the frozen meals from the freezer sections of the grocery store. These are highly processed foods, chock full of GMOS, chemicals, sodium and other ingredients that nobody without a science degree can pronounce. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and make meals from the vegetables and meats that you buy.

5. Stop baking. Have a weakness for cookies? Quit baking them. Have a tendency to sit down to a couple of muffins every time you bake a batch? How about not baking them anymore? I see these recipes all over the place for healthy muffins, paleo-friendly cookies, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free desserts, and I have to ask myself . . . why? Our diets should be based on high quality vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish. Do you really need another muffin? Snack on nuts, fruit, eggs, raw vegetables and berries.

There you have it. Follow these five little nuggets of information and by the time 2018 rolls around, you’ll be feeling amazingly healthy and resolving to never go back to that old lifestyle ever again!

Make it super easy on yourself and make sure you have Dinner Answers. This is the easiest way to get Dinner Diva approved recipes, meal plans, and shopping lists. Click here now.

Healthly food on the table

 

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Mindless Meals (when you’re too tired for anything!)

Mindless Meals (when you’re too tired for anything!)

By: Leanne Ely

 

The kiddies are all back to school, and after a summer where the routine was willy nilly at best, here you are facing the rush of homework, piano lessons, laundry and everything else that goes along with the onset of the new school year.

It’s going to happen plenty of times where you’ll be faced with one of “those nights,” where you just feel like you can’t seem to get it together.

But let me tell you a little secret:

Dinner does not have to be an event, every single day.

I want to do everything in my power to keep you from turning to food that isn’t food. I want to keep you out of the drive-thru. So I’m going to give you five ideas for meals that do not require any sort of recipe when you just can’t turn it on, know what I mean? 😉

Beef fajita in the pan with tortilla bread.

Mindless meals for harried school nights

Burgers. You can’t get much more basic than a burger. Bonus points if you prep your burger patties when you get the meat home from the market! Then, you can keep a supply of frozen patties on hand to pull out on busy nights. Keep it simple with your burgers so you can taste the beef. All you really need to add is some salt and pepper, some people like to add in an egg but sometimes I’ll shake things up with some garlic, mustard and chopped raw bacon.

Fajitas. A bit of thinly sliced chicken or steak, cooked with onions and peppers in a Mexican-spice blend (try cumin, chili powder and paprika!) is all you need to make a meal of fajitas. Add lime juice and oil olive if you want. Top with sautéed onions and peppers and pop them in a tortilla or use a lettuce cup to lower the carb count.

Eggs. The lifesaver of the food world. If you have eggs, you won’t go hungry. Poached eggs and bacon or sausage will make a fine supper. So will an omelet, or a frittata . . . the list goes on.

Chef Salad. I love making salads as meals because they are so healthy, beautiful and filling! I like to use boiled eggs, crisp bacon, creamy avocado, grilled chicken, tomatoes and red onions in my chef salad. Serve it all on a big bowl of greens and some homemade vinaigrette. How easy is that?

Meatloaf. Remember how I said earlier that you can’t get much more basic than a burger? Well, you can: meatloaf is more basic than a burger. You don’t even have to make patties. Just mix your meat with whatever seasonings you like and put it in a pan. I like to put slices of raw bacon on top because, well, yum.

4 Steps to Quick Meal Prep

4 Steps to Quick Meal Prep

By: Leanne Ely

 

It’s 5pm. Songs of “What’s for dinner?” ring through the house, and you realize you have no idea. You have nothing thawed, nothing planned, and you have a house full of hungry people.

This is one of the reasons why I’m big on meal planning, but this exact scenario happens to all of us from time to time.

While meal planning is the real life saver (check out Menu Mailer, seriously!), if you take a bit of time every week to prep your fridge, you’ll be surprised at how much easier it will be to feed your family.

Here are some tips to help you get your food and fridge (and life) under control.

Organize your fridge.

There’s something about a clean, organized refrigerator that makes cooking a more enjoyable experience. If you’re just stuffing your groceries in the fridge so that they fit, you will never know what’s really in there. Besides that, a refrigerator is designed to store your food so that everything stays as fresh as possible.

The crisper drawer is meant for produce, so that your vegetables stay nice and hydrated. Eggs should be deep inside the fridge where it’s even and cool. Don’t store them (or anything perishable) in the door of the fridge where the temperature fluctuates every time the door is open. The door of the fridge can be used to store condiments. Your fridge probably has a meat keeper drawer. That is the coldest part of your fridge, so use it for your meat (which is likely the most perishable item in there anyway). You can keep fish in there, too.

Prepping fresh vegetables for cooking in the kitchen with diced zucchini, tomato, white onion , green capsicum or bell pepper and eggplant arranged around a wooden chopping board with a knife

Prep your produce.

It’s going to be much easier to get a meal on the table if your fridge is full of prepped veggies. When you get home with your produce, take a few minutes to wash/chop/and bag your food. Here, I’m talking about washing the salad greens and putting them in a zipper bag so it’s ready for you. Wash and slice the cucumbers. Wash/trim/chop the broccoli and cauliflower. Wash and slice the bell peppers. Clean and chop the mushrooms. Get the pineapple diced and peeled. With all of that done ahead of time, you’ll be able to quickly pull together at least a salad or stir fry on the fly!

Chop the meat.

If you’re buying chicken breasts for a stir fry, slice them when you get them home. While you’re at it, why not make up the marinade and store the sliced chicken with its sauce? If you have a favorite rub or marinade for your pork tenderloin, prep it when you have a free minute. Buying ground beef for burgers? Make up the patties ahead of time, and dinner will get on the table that much quicker the night of. (Bonus tip: When you freeze meat, try to freeze flat in a single row so it will be quicker to thaw in a pinch.)

Starch prep.

Why not roast up all your sweet potatoes at once for the week? (If you have your oven on to roast chicken or something, take the time to roast up some veggies or potatoes while you’re at it.) If you’ll be having quinoa or rice a couple times through the week, cook it in batches, and portion it out ahead of time.

Once you get into the habit of prepping meals, you’ll start to naturally find short cuts for the types of meals you like to cook. You’ll be amazed at how much a bit of prep can change your life!

PS–Did you hear about the BRAND NEW 21 Day Knockout?  This will be our third knockout, and the success stories from the first two were amazing!  Click here to learn more