Sigh. It’s a weeknight. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You’re out of dinner ideas. Never fear! I have a quicky, easy weeknight meal for you to try. Today, I am going to introduce a meal that is versatile, quick, and easy to cook. The technique – “en papillote” – is one you can use over and over with a variety of ingredients. Continue reading Quick, easy weeknight meal: Baked Salmon en Papillote→
Great! You have some free time to go on a date. But, you are on a budget. Don’t worry. Whether you have a significant other, want to enjoy a “friend” date, or would just like a special night to yourself, here are 17 ideas you can use: Continue reading 17 Budget-Friendly Date Ideas→
I’m going to share a secret about one of the most productive ways you can get the latest news and information: listen to audiocasts. Why? Because you can do other tasks while listening, you can access the content easily if you have a smartphone, and it prevents you from reading from a screen. Continue reading How to be Productive→
This week, I am dedicating my blog to a person who had a warm, generous heart; a keen, artistic eye; and a remarkably green thumb. My grandmother passed away last week, and I regret not writing a blog post about her sooner. She is deeply missed by me and all who knew her. Continue reading Remembering Grandma→
It’s a rainy day (welcome to spring), and you aren’t quite sure what to do with yourself or (if you have them) with your kids. Here are 15 ideas for a rainy day.
Ideas for a rainy day: Get creative
Turn off the TV. Some folks turn to the TV when they are faced with a “stay inside” kind of day. My advice? Give up the TV – even if it’s just for that afternoon.
Learn a new song. If you play an instrument, take the time to perfect a song. If you don’t play, learn the lyrics of a new song or even try a new dance. If anything, turn on Pandora in the background – music can bring more joy to the most mundane activity.
Try a new craft. That can be something as simple as coloring (for adults and kids), or as complex as a new sewing project. A quick trip to the craft store presents endless possibilities.
Forage for usable trash. Not interested in leaving the house? Never fear! Forage through your house for usable trash. Kids love this activity. You will be amazed at the games that come from a few toilet paper rolls, a box, some string, an egg carton, and a pile dried elbow macaroni. As an adult, try covering an old shoe box with fabric or leather to create an expensive-looking container. Or, create a mosaic from broken dishes, shells, or tile.
Ideas for a rainy day: Be productive
Eat that frog. In my post to help you stop procrastinating, I talk about “eating the frog.” What does that mean? Tackle your “frogs,” those ugly items that haunt your to-do list, first thing. 1 How can you tell a task is a frog? Maybe the task that has been sitting in your queue for over a week, or you have danced around this task by completing related tasks.
Grocery shop on the budget. Take the afternoon to buy affordable groceries. And, if you follow my tips, you’ll also be buying healthful food. It might not be the most glamorous activity, but it will set you up for success throughout the week.
Do some spring cleaning. This might be the perfect time to clear out and clean up that fridge, the pantry, or the closet. Just a reminder to use green household cleaners for your health and your wallet!
Focus on Joy. Lift your spirits by practicing gratitude, brightening your thoughts, and observing the world around you. Check out my post on how to bring more joy to your day.
Ideas for a rainy day: Enjoy relaxation
Journal. Taking the time to jot down your thoughts in a journal can be (in my experience) the key to creative productivity. For me, the act of taking a pencil to a blank page opens up endless possibilities in my mind. Sometimes when I journal, I write about my day. Sometimes, I compose my to-do list. Sometimes, I sketch a drawing. A journal is a judgement-free zone.
Practice Yoga. A rainy day doesn’t mean you can’t be active! Yoga can be a relaxing exercise that not only helps you physically, but also can give you emotional space. Here’s what happened to be when I practiced yoga every day for two weeks . And, yes, you can do this with kids – try the kid’s yoga deck to start.
Read. What a luxury it can be to pick up a book and read quietly. If you have kids, this is a great time to choose a classic story and act out the voices the characters as you read. If you are by yourself, this might be a good opportunity to develop your knowledge of holistic health and wellness. Snuggle up in your favorite chair with a cup of tea and enjoy!
Ideas for a rainy day: Focus on health and wellness
Cook a bunch of healthy food. I tend to make meals “in bulk” once every 6-8 weeks. These meals sit in serving-size portions in my freezer, ready to be warmed up for a quick lunch at work or a simple dinner at home. Here’s how to get started cooking in bulk.
Enjoy spring veggies. What an amazing time to enjoy butter lettuce, tender asparagus, spicy radishes, and sweet young carrots. Here are some ways to prepare spring veggies.
Practice Gratitude. It’s amazing how good you can feel if you let yourself look out the window, daydream a little, and feel thankful for your life. Take a minute to observe those little things. Then, write a thank you note to someone in your life for whom you feel thankful. You can get the kids involved here too!
What types of eggs should you buy? Let’s clear up that “farm fresh” label.
You’ve been there before. You are in the dairy aisle, facing 20 different options for eggs. The aisle is cold, so all you want to do is move your cart along so that you can begin feeling your toes again. So, you compare prices (quickly), choose a brand that’s recognizable, and maybe you choose a carton that says “farm fresh.”
In this post, I’m going to talk about what all of those labels mean on your eggs.
It was a Sunday evening. My spouse and I had been tilling the garden all afternoon, and we hadn’t had time to visit the grocery store. What were we going to make for dinner?
Luckily, I had roasted a chicken (yes, a sustainable one) earlier that week and we had some left over. And, I had a bag of chopped kale in the fridge that was on its way out. So, I decided to make a kale and chicken soup with white beans.
I often cook roasted chicken with other items in my fridge that were left over from the week (like my mediterranean chicken salad). Chicken is a pretty versatile protein, and pairs nicely with many different herbs, spices, and veggies.
And, I also love to make bone broth from the chicken as well. I make stock from any meat that we cook on the bone, and then I freeze it for later. Thankfully this weekend, I had a quart of chicken stock in the freezer that was ready to go.
As I mentioned last week, I keep some pantry essentials for circumstances like this. My pantry already had canned beans, dried barley (brown rice or quinoa would have been delicious), onions, and dried herbs/spices in stock.
PS – Wanting to make this soup a vegetarian or vegan option? Never fear! You get a complete plant-based protein when you combine a whole grain with beans and veggies. So, feel free to ignore the chicken, sub the chicken stock with veggie stock, and enjoy!
How to make Kale and Chicken Soup with White Beans
This recipe makes about ten servings of soup. We loved it for dinner and then for lunches throughout the week. It was hearty, filling, and oh-so nutritious!
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
2 cups diced, roasted chicken
1 can (about 2 cups) white beans… go for no salt added if you can find it
1 cup dry, pearled barley
6 cups chicken stock
6 cups chopped kale
1. Take out a large stock pot and add olive oil over medium heat. While the oil is heating, chop the onions. When the oil is shimmering, add chopped onion.
2. While the onion is cooking, chop garlic, carrot, and celery. When the onion becomes slightly translucent, stir in chopped garlic, carrot and celery. Cook for about 5 more minutes.
3. Add your spices: oregano, nutmeg, and red pepper flakes add Mediterranean flavors. If you would prefer French flavors, use rosemary, thyme, and black pepper instead.
4. Deglaze the pan with a cup of white wine. This adds a depth of flavor, and don’t worry, the alcohol cooks off 🙂
5. While the pan is deglazing, dice your your leftover roasted chicken (about 2 cups) and stir into your pot.
6. Open a can of white beans, and rinse (that gets the excess sodium that could be in your beans). Add to the pot.
7. Add 1 cup of dried barley. As I mentioned before, choose a grain that you already have in your pantry. Brown rice, quinoa, or any whole grain would be delicious in this recipe. A whole grain will complete the protein when paired with the beans and veggies in this soup.
8. Pour 6 cups of stock to the pot (or pour in stock until there is about two inches of liquid over the veggies, grains, and chicken). Bring to a boil and cook until your grain is cooked (took me about 30 minutes with barley).
9. Once the barley (or whatever grain you choose) is cooked, turn off the heat and add the kale. The kale will gently in the soup because the liquid is still hot.
Makes about 10 servings
Approximate nutrition information per serving:
Saturated Fat: 0.5 g
Sodium: 369 mg
Sugar: 2.8 g (no added sugar)
Fiber: 6.4 g
Protein: 15.7 g
What soup do you like to make on the fly? Let me know by commenting below!
We’ve all been there. You come home after a long day and the last thing you want to do it cook. So, you begin thumbing through the same-old takeout menus for dinner.
What if that could be different? Instead, you start a pot of water boiling on the stove. You mosy over to the pantry for some essentials: onion, garlic, canned tomato, and whole grain pasta. While the water comes to a boil, you sauté chopped onion and minced garlic, then pour in canned tomatoes. You add whole grain pasta to the pot of boiling water. Voila! You have a homemade dinner filled with veggies and whole grains that you cooked from pantry essentials in 25 minutes (about the same amount of time it would have taken to order and pick up dinner).
Cooking at home can be:
1. Healthier (you have control over your ingredients)
2. Less expensive (many meals you can do in less than $4 a serving)
3. Faster (yes, faster!) than takeout
Don’t we all want to cook more at home? Cooking at home is so much easier (and do-able!) if you have some of these basic ingredients in your kitchen. Even if you are behind on grocery shopping, having a well-stocked pantry can save the day. Here are 32 pantry essentials I keep on hand for those nights when I haven’t had time to go to the grocery store.
(here are some ideas from my kitchen…I think some of these items are pretty to keep out of the pantry)
32 Pantry Essentials to Cook more at Home
Spices and Herbs (if you don’t have fresh herbs)
Legumes – I choose low-sodium canned or dried
7. black beans
8. garbanzo beans
9. pinto beans
Oil and Vinegar
10. olive oil
11. canola oil
12. sesame oil
13. balsamic vinegar
14. apple cider vinegar
Fruits and Vegetables
28. pineapple (canned, in own juice)
29. tomato (canned, low sodium)
BONUS! I also keep a number of fruits and veggies (and mixes) ready to go in my freezer. This way, I am getting a good serving of fruits and veggies available to me at all times. Here’s what I like to keep
• Greens. I add frozen spinach or kale as a side for any meal. And, I also incorporate into sauces and soups.
• Bell peppers. These get added to eggs, rice and beans, or chili.
• Asian veggies. There are many mixes out there. I personally love the mixes that have broccoli, snow peas, water chestnuts, mushrooms, carrots, and red bell peppers. Stir frying with fresh onion, garlic, and ginger is delicious with brown rice.
• Frozen strawberries. These tart and sweet fruits blend well into a smoothie with plain low-fat yogurt and orange juice. They are also a great topping to french toast or pancakes.
• Mixed berries. I love frozen mixed berries in my oatmeal, in a smoothie, or warmed as a dessert.
What pantry essentials do you keep stocked in your kitchen? Let me know in the comments!