Back to School : Operation Lunchbox!

Back to School : Operation Lunchbox!

By: Leanne Ely


I know I’m going to get a dirty look or two from y’all for bringing this up, but its time (or past time for some of you!) to start thinking about getting the kids ready to go back to school.

With two children of my own, I am fully aware of how expensive it can be to do all of that shopping for supplies in the week or two leading up to the first day back, so I’m recommending that you start getting ready now so it doesn’t seem quite as hard on your bank account.

Operation Lunchbox Readiness

Operation Lunchbox Readiness

Times have changed since my kids were grade-school aged, that’s for sure. Back then, your options in lunch boxes were either to brown paper bag it, or use one of those hard plastic lunchboxes that had a matching thermos inside. That isn’t the case anymore!

Nowadays, we have many options for our kids’ school lunch carrier. Here, I’ll share some of my favorite choices.

Lunch containers
Compartmentalized stainless steel. If you do some Googling, you’ll find stainless-steel containers in all shapes and sizes. These are wonderful for school lunches because they’re easy to clean, they look cool and they are free of BPA and other toxins.

Bento boxes
If you can’t find stainless-steel containers, look for BPA-free bento boxes. Bento-style lunch boxes generally contain covered and non-covered compartments for food storage. They come in many fun colors and children tend to enjoy eating from them. You can find plastic and stainless-steel bento boxes online.

Must-have lunchbox accessories

Once you’ve chosen your container, it’s time to accessorize!

Reusable baggies
I love the planet, so I’m going to recommend you look for reusable cloth sandwich bags. If you search for them on Etsy, you’ll find an endless variety of colors and styles. Besides being a more environmentally friendly option in food storage, these little cloth baggies are adorable AND toxin-free. Look for a vendor using organic cotton and be sure they will hold up to multiple washings. Better yet, if you have the ability to sew straight lines, consider making your own baggies! All you need is some cotton fabric and a little velcro.

Insulated container
You can find adorable insulated containers for keeping hot foods hot during the school day. Thermos is the brand most people are familiar with, but don’t buy on simply name alone. Buy a container that is the right shape for your child to use (for younger children, you should buy a short and stout container for littler hands to reach into), and make sure it will fit in your actual lunchbox.

Ice packs
We have talked about lunchbox food safety before and I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep cold foods cold. Buy lots of ice packs and use at least two or three each day when foods need to be kept cold.

Stainless-steel water bottle
I am so happy that stainless-steel water bottles are so easy to come by. I feel they are a much safer option than plastic and when filled with water, they’re a much healthier option than juice boxes! They also tend to stay cool for quite a long time.

Cloth napkins
Save a tree or two and keep your child supplied with cloth napkins for the school year. Not only are they a more environmentally friendly option than paper towels, but if you can actually train your kids to use them over their sleeve, you might save on stain remover!

So, those are the basics. Start shopping for those lunchbox essentials now and you won’t have to worry about it again until it’s time to decide what to pack in the box. That’s a post for another day!


PS–Even though the kids are heading back to school, its not too late for you to go to camp, Saving Dinner’s BRAND NEW Online Cooking Camp that is!  Click here to learn more, and join me your head counselor for cooking camp!



A Secret High Protein Source

A Secret High Protein Source

By: Leanne Ely

If you’re a fan of Middle Eastern food, there’s a good chance you’ve eaten tahini at least once or twice. An essential ingredient in hummus, tahini is a paste made primarily with ground sesame seeds. In Middle Eastern countries, tahini is a common table ingredient.

The flavor of tahini is similar to peanut butter, but it looks distinctively different.

Tahini, hummus, tahini paste, sesame, Middle Eastern food

Tahini is a great source of non-animal protein (there are 3 grams of protein in a single tablespoon of tahini). If you have trouble getting in enough protein in your diet, mix tahini with beans and turn it into a hummus or dip. When you mix tahini with beans, you make a complete protein that offers all the amino acids your body can’t make on its own.

Tahini is also a good source of fat and contains many minerals and vitamins, including:

• Folate
• Niacin
• Thiamin
• Zinc
• Iron
• Potassium
• Copper
• Calcium
• Phosphorous

Look for tahini with the other nut butters in your local super market. It isn’t a difficult ingredient to find. As usual, buy organic if at all possible!

Now that we’re all craving hummus, it’s time for your Trick:

Mix tahini with plain yogurt for a yummy (and nutritious) sauce for your next sandwich or salad.

Your Tip:

When you open that jar of tahini at home, you may find that the oil has risen to the top. Be sure to give it a good stir to get those oils added back into the tahini paste. Store your opened tahini in the fridge.

And your Recipe:

Dan Dan Noodles with Vegetables
Serves 4

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups packed baby spinach
1 cup sweet green peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grated gingerroot
3/4 cup low sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoons chili oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons tahini
1 teaspoon honey
12 ounces udon noodles, cooked
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 cup chopped green onions

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add spinach, peas and garlic; cook until spinach wilts. Add next 10 ingredients (salt through cooked noodles); heat through, gently tossing blend well. Remove skillet from heat; add roasted peanuts and chopped green onions; toss. Serve hot or cold.

Per Serving: 597 Calories; 24g Fat; 9g Protein; 88g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1444mg Sodium. Exchanges: 5 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 4 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates. Points: 16


PS–speaking of protein, all of our smoothie mixes are back in stock, including our popular Perfect Paleo Protein!  I use Perfect Paleo Protein every day in my morning smoothie!  You can get yours here

6 Essentials for at Home Smoothies!

6 Essentials for at Home Smoothies!

By: Leanne Ely


Smoothies? They’re fantastic.

I drink one every single day.

Smoothies can pack in a lot of nutrition when you don’t have a lot of time to make a full meal.

Now, smoothie bars are popping up ALL over the place, but you can set up your very own smoothie bar at home for a mere fraction of the price.

Here’s how:

Equipment. The only piece of equipment you need is a good blender. I adore my Nutribullet, but the brand doesn’t matter too much as long as you buy the best blender you can afford. You need to be able to pulverize ice cubes, greens, and nuts to smith-ereens. There’s a reason these drinks are called smoothies and not lumpies. Yuck. Oh, that blender should also be easy to clean.


Basic ingredients. You need a good variety of fruit (fresh and/or frozen) and some greens (also fresh and/or frozen) on hand. You also need ice cubes, protein, fiber, and liquids like coconut water, coconut milk, and almond milk. I always have blueberries, strawberries, bananas, spinach, and avocados in the house for my smoothies. When it comes to protein, I only use Saving Dinner Perfect Paleo Protein. Don’t bother with the powders full of synthetic ingredients. If you don’t have any good protein powder on hand, use nuts or Greek yogurt for that protein punch. I use Saving Dinner FiberMender or chia seeds for my smoothie fiber add in. And my liquid of choice is always coconut water or unsweetened almond milk.


Add ins. If there are certain things you like to add to your smoothies, keep those items either close to the blender for easy access or with your refrigerated smoothie ingredients. Some ideas for add ins or flavorings? Ginger root, pumpkin pie spice, coconut oil (sounds crazy but it’s a great way to get in some good fat!), and walnuts.

Set up: Have all of your smoothie ingredients located conveniently. You know, so you actually use your home smoothie bar! Put your smoothie ingredients all on the same shelf of the freezer and have a smoothie section in the main area of the fridge. You can also put your pre-measured fiber and protein powder or nuts together in a bag or con-tainer so you can save a step by measuring them every single morning. Try taking some time once a week to put your smoothie ingredients in freezer bags (except the liquid and/or ice), so you can just dump all your smoothie stuff in the blender in the morning without having to measure/rinse/scoop.


Recipes. You will need some delicious recipes, which should be kept close to the blender. I have you covered there with some of the collections we’ve put together, and I’ve added a couple of smoothie recipes for you below.

Smoothie it. Add your liquid first, then put your other ingredients on top. Stuff the blender full with spinach leaves (you won’t even taste them). If you expect you’ll have trouble with any bitterness of the greens, start with a handful and add more as you get used to the taste.

That should be all you need to get your smoothie bar functioning. Have fun, and bottoms up!


Here are three delicious smoothie recipes.  Enjoy!

Blackberry Pie Smoothie
Serves 1

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (or more coconut milk)
1/4 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup blackberries (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup spinach
1 tablespoons chia seeds
1 scoop Perfect Paleo Protein Smoothie Mix
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner FiberMender (optional)
1 tablespoon Just Juiced Greens (optional)

In a blender, place coconut milk, water, coconut cream, blackberries, spinach, chia seeds, Saving Dinner Perfect Paleo Protein, Saving Dinner
Fibermender and Saving Dinner Just Juiced Greens (optional); blend until smooth and enjoy! It’s ok to add a tad more milk of your choice, if a thinner smoothie is preferred.


Cherry Chip Smoothie
Serves 1

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 to 3/4 cup water (or more coconut milk)
1/2 cup dark cherries (frozen or fresh)
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 tablespoons cacao nibs
1 scoop Perfect Paleo Protein Smoothie Mix
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner Fibermender (optional)
1 tablespoon Just Juiced Greens (optional)

In a blender, place coconut milk, water, cherries, frozen spinach, cacao nibs, Saving Dinner Perfect Paleo Protein, Saving Dinner Fibermender and Saving Dinner Just Juiced Greens (optional); blend until smooth and enjoy! It’s ok to add a tad more milk of your choice, if a thinner smoothie is


Vanilla Blueberry Smoothie
Serves 1

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup frozen blueberries
4 ice cubes
1 scoop Saving Dinner All-in-One Vanilla Smoothie Mix
2 teaspoons Saving Dinner Fibermender (optional)

Blend together almond milk, frozen blueberries and ice cubes until almost smooth. Add Saving Dinner All-in-One Vanilla Smoothie Mix and Fibermender; blend until combined.


Too Many Tomatoes?

Too Many Tomatoes?

By: Leanne Ely


I’m expecting another bumper crop of tomatoes this year, and I know exactly what I’m going to do with my harvest. How about you? Do you know what to do with all of those excess tomatoes? If not, here are some ideas for what you can do when you find yourself with an abundance of tomatoes. By the way, I have not included canning as an option here because I think there are less time-intensive ways to preserve tomatoes.


Tomato sauce.

Make a giant batch of tomato sauce and freeze it in portions (you can obviously can it if you want, but freezer bags, doubled up, work just fine). While you’re at it, you can even divide the sauce and turn some right into pizza sauce (I like to add a bit of balsamic vinegar and tomato paste to my pizza sauce).

Frozen tomatoes.

Toss those whole tomatoes in a freezer bag, and pop them in the freezer. Take them out as you need them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce, or chili.

Tomato salsa.

Tomatoes plus peppers plus onions plus lime juice plus salt plus cilantro equals delicious salsa. You may have to chop until you drop, but the fresh flavor will be worth it, I promise! Taste test until you get it just right. Once you have the basic formula down, have fun with it! Separate your salsa into separate little batches where you can add all kinds of things. Add in some avocado, mango, strawberries, pineapple, black beans . . . you’re limited only by your imagination!

Tomato paste.

All tomato paste is, really, is tomatoes that have been reduced down and down and down some more. To make tomato paste, peel and seed your tomatoes, and then dice them into little pieces. Put tomatoes in a single layer in a medium-large sauce pan. Toss some salt over the tomatoes and cook at medium heat, uncovered, stirring once in a while, until you have tomato paste! Be patient because it can take a couple of hours for this to happen. Keep the heat low enough that the tomatoes aren’t boiling, but high enough that there’s steam coming from them. If you have too many tomatoes to stick to a single layer in a sauce pan, put your oven to work. Cook the toma-toes, with a good couple of shakes of salt, at 300 degrees. Cook uncovered in a roasting pan or dutch oven, stirring every 30 minutes until you’re left with tomato paste.

Food bank.

If you still have more tomatoes than you can possibly eat, your local food bank might wish to take the extras off your hands. Or perhaps your local day care or high school would love to practice making sauce?

Produce exchange.

Look for a produce exchange in your neighborhood. In many areas, you can find things like this, where excess produce is swapped. If you have too many tomatoes, maybe someone with too many zucchini would love to trade.

Hopefully, you now have no shortage of ideas for those extra tomatoes. Really, we’re lucky to have such first world problems, aren’t we? 🙂


PS–Time is running out to join me for the 10-Day Paleo Blitz!  The Blitz features 20 delicious smoothie recipes, and 10 new dinner recipes, including Orange Mahi with Tomato Cucumber Salad!  You get the entire plan and access to the private Facebook group 100% FREE with your purchase of Perfect Paleo Protein!  Get yours today, so you can start with me on August 16th!

Are you eating this superfood?

Are you eating this superfood?

By: Leanne Ely


Few things can raise as many “I’m not eating that” and “eew! Disgusting!” reactions from the dinner table as liver, but that’s too bad because the nutrition found in organ meats is unbelievable!

The liver is a storage organ for vitamins A, B12, D, E and K, as well as copper, iron and other essential minerals, so it’s literally a nutritional powerhouse.

Yep, there’s a reason why your mother made beef liver, and there are multiple reasons why you should be eating it. Let’s examine a few . . .

  • Iron.Whether it’s pork liver, chicken liver or beef liver, liver is a tremendous source of iron. For best iron absorption, cook your liver in a cast iron pan!
  • Vitamin A. Liver contains a ton of Vitamin A, which is essential for many bodily processes, in addition to regulation of blood sugar, protection from environmental toxins, and overall hair and skin health.
  • Brain function. Liver contains a high amount of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), which leads to higher brain function and visual acuity.

Beef liver is cheap, amazingly good for you, easy to cook and, believe it or not, delicious.

When you add liver to your diet, you’re providing your body with some of the key tools it needs to rid itself of toxins and preserve your good health.

Buying beef liver

When buying liver and any other organ meats, it’s very important to look for pasture-raised liver, free of antibiotics, hormones or commercial feed. There is more nutrition in pasture-raised animals than their commercially raised counterparts.

Cooking beef liver

Beef liver is quite tender, especially compared to pork liver. It also has quite a mild taste.

Liver and onions is a classic dish for a reason. Here’s how to prepare it:

First, if you bought a whole liver from a farmer, you’ll need to remove its thick outer membrane, as well as the veins. I prefer buying the liver already prepared and sliced for me. That’s not such an easy thing to find when you’re dealing with grass-fed animals, though, so prepare yourself to have to do some of the not-so-nice prep.

Slice the liver in slices about a quarter inch thick.

In a cast iron or stainless steel pan, cook sliced onions in butter until they’re nice and soft and golden brown.
While the onions are cooking, dredge your liver a mixture of flour, salt and pepper. (Buckwheat flour will work well if you’re avoiding gluten.)

Remove the onions from the pan, add more butter and fry your coated liver slices. When the slices of liver are golden brown, add the cooked onions and enough beef or chicken broth to half cover the contents of the pan. Cover and cook on medium low so that the liquid is at a nice simmer.

The dish should be ready in about thirty minutes. You’ll know when the liver is done as it will no longer be pink in the middle.

Bon appetite!

Pan fried chicken liver and onions

Cuckoo for coconut water

Cuckoo for coconut water

By: Leanne Ely

Like most Paleoistas, I’m nuts about coconuts. Coconuts are relied on quite heavily for those of us following a Paleo lifestyle. I cook with coconut oil, I drink coconut milk and I add coconut water to my daily smoothie.

Coconut water is the liquid you find inside a coconut. The water of the coconut contains just about 50 calories per cup and no fat. Coconut water also contains magnesium and potassium. With its natural sugar (simple carbs), minerals (electrolytes) and water, you might consider coconut water to be nature’s Gatorade.

Coconut water promotes kidney and heart health and can even fight aging.

I love the taste of coconut water, and because it only contains a scant amount of natural sugar, I don’t worry about the daily dose I add to my morning smoothie.

And don’t worry. I don’t collect coconuts and crack them open each morning. You can buy coconut water in cans or in tetra packs.

But before you go shopping for coconut water, it’s time for your Trick:

When shopping for coconut water, you MUST read your labels. Coconut water is only Paleo if it’s 100% pure coconut water. Some companies like to add sugar to their coconut water and some are “from concentrate.” Avoid those. I like the Amy & Brians Naturals brand of coconut “juice” because it contains pulp and makes you feel like you’re drinking from a coconut.

Your Tip:

Add coconut water to your smoothie instead of almond milk! The mild flavor of coconut water won’t overpower the flavor of your smoothie, and the minerals it contains adds more nutrition to your smoothie than plain old drinking water.

And your Recipe:

Tropical Blend Smoothie

Serves 1

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut water
1/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1/4 cup frozen mango cubes
2 scoops Saving Dinner All-in-One Vanilla Smoothie mix
2 scoops Saving Dinner Fibermender 2.0 (optional)
1 tablespoon unsweetened shredded coconut

In a high quality blender, add in the coconut milk and water. Dump in the frozen pineapple and mango. Blend until mostly smooth and then add in the Saving Dinner All-in-One Vanilla Smoothie Mix and Fibermender 2.0 and blend once more. Pour into a glass and sprinkle the shredded coconut over the top to garnish.

Tropical Blend Smoothie