Fried Green Plantains (tostones)

I grew up eating tostones as a side dish to whatever Puerto Rican fare my mom was cooking up. We didn't eat PR food every night (my dad was the main cook of the family), but when we did (and still do!) it has always been THE BEST. 

Now, I eat fried plantains at least 3x a week..I'm on a kick right now and I'll share below my favorite ways to eat them. 

Fried Green Plantains (tostones) // Natasha Red Blog

You can find plantains at pretty much any grocery store. I've seen them at all the major grocery stores around me - Kroger, Walmart, Winco, Target, etc. 

One thing to note is that tostones come out the best when they are green. They will be more difficult to peel, and harder to squash, BUT they yield a crispier, crunchier end result that I think is totally worth it. Fried yellow plantains are great too, but they are sweet rather than savory, and will fall apart more easily. Just depends what you're looking for, I guess, though the traditional way (and way I prefer) is to cook them up when they are nice and green. 

Fried Green Plantains (tostones) // Natasha Red Blog
Fried Green Plantains (tostones) // Natasha Red Blog

Ingredients:

  • 1 green plantain
  • cooking oil (I like coconut oil, butter or ghee best for these)
  • sea salt 

Instructions: 

  1. Slice the ends off the plantain and discard. Then take the tip of your knife and slice all the way down the length of the plantain. Carefully peel the skin off. It may come off in chunks, especially if they are very green. If you need the help of a knife, that's okay too. 
  2. Heat some coconut oil in a pan and slice the plantain into 1 inch pieces. 
  3. Fry both sides of the plantain slices until golden, then remove from the pan. 
  4. Using the bottom of a mason jar (or any kind of cup with a flat bottom), gently squash the fried plantains into "chips." 
  5. Add more coconut oil if needed, and fry them again on both sides until golden brown.  
  6. Sprinkle some sea salt on top and serve up in any of these ways:
  • With a dipping sauce of equal parts mayo and ketchup
  • With avocado smashed on top and a little more sea salt added
  • As "chips" for a taco salad or paleo nachos 

NOTE: Alternatively, you can cook them in my lazy method. Simply follow these steps instead:

  1. Slice the ends off the plantain and discard. Slice the plantain in half when it's laid horizontally. Slice each piece in half and peel the skin off from there. (see picture below)
  2. Fry in the same way, only use a larger flat surface to squash them before the second fry. I like to use the bottom of a small baking dish. 
  3. Fry them a second time until golden brown. 
Fried Green Plantains (tostones) // Natasha Red Blog
Fried Green Plantains (tostones) // Natasha Red Blog
Fried Green Plantains (tostones) // Natasha Red Blog
Fried Green Plantains (tostones) // Natasha Red Blog

Whole30 Stuffed Peppers

Y'all know I'm all about starting the week with meals prepped and ready to go so that my week goes smoother and I'm able to focus on my people in a more intentional way. Prepping lunches is a must for me, and something I've fairly recently made a change in. I used to not make a definite plan for lunches for myself because I'd usually wing it and throw something together from whatever was in the fridge. I started realizing, though, that this led to a lot of standing in front of an open refrigerator for way too long, hungry, cranky and dying for some food to just put in my mouth without having to think too hard about what that should be.

Enter, prepped lunches. I make my Whole30 pesto chicken salad often, and have been making this turkey larb as well. These stuffed peppers have been added to the rotation and I love them. About 1 1/2 is perfect for me, with avocado sliced on top, a drizzle of homemade ranch, and some raw veggies for dipping in more ranch (I'm obsessed, y'all). 

These make a perfect dinner also, and would be a great mama meal to bless a friend with - they are so simple! Enjoy! 

Whole30 Stuffed Peppers // Natasha Red Blog
Whole30 Stuffed Peppers // Natasha Red Blog

Ingredients:

  • 8 bell peppers (any color)
  • 1 head of cauliflower, riced OR 16 oz bag of riced cauliflower
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper 
  • 2 large handfuls of greens (arugula, spinach, Swiss chard)
  • extra virgin olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. 
  2. Using a large chef knife, slice off tops of the bell peppers, then remove the ribs and seeds.*
  3. Drizzle some olive oil on the bottom of a baking dish and place peppers inside. 
  4. Lightly drizzle olive oil inside the peppers and bake at 425 F for 20 minutes. 
  5. While the peppers are baking, start on your filling. Heat up some olive oil in a large pot. If you are creating your own cauliflower rice, you'll need to chop it into sections and shred it in a food processor. If using bagged cauliflower rice, just dump it in, along with the carrots and garlic. 
  6. Sauté the veggies for about 3 minutes, until fragrant, then move them to one side of the pot and add ground turkey and seasonings. Break up the turkey as it browns with a wooden spoon and incorporate everything together. Add your greens. 
  7. Once the turkey is fully cooked, taste the filling and adjust seasonings as needed. 
  8. Fill the peppers with filling and bake in the oven for an additional 10 minutes. 
  9. Serve with sliced avocado, cilantro, and fresh veggies with homemade ranch on the side for dipping! 

*Notes:

  • I make my own taco seasoning - the recipe is in my cookbook, Nourished
  • Keep the pepper tops for compost, to add to homemade broth, or for another Mexican inspired dish later in the week. You could dice up the flesh leftover and then throw away the stems at that time. 
Whole30 Stuffed Peppers // Natasha Red Blog

My Curly Hair Routine

A little back story 

When I was a baby, my curls were tight ringlets. People used to call me Shirley Temple. Somewhere along the way, about ago 5 or 6, my curls fell out. I have a hunch that my hair wasn't cut properly for the curls and so they fell out because of that, but I honestly am not sure. I had pretty frizzy, very thick hair for the remainder of my childhood and adolescence. 

In college I straightened my hair constantly, and it was even blonde! (shaking my head now)... During my senior year I was sick of it being unhealthy so I chopped it all off, dyed it back to brunette, and started growing healthy hair again. 

All during that time, if I let my hair air dry, there would be a few wavy or curly sections, and some sections that dried completely straight. It was so frustrating. Within a few days after washing, any wave would have totally fallen out. 

 

When my curls "came back"

After Reaghan was born, I started learning more about natural living and went through a process of transitioning all of our household and beauty products. I started washing my hair with Branch Basics, and after a 3 month detox period (very oily hair...this is normal, you can Google it :)) my curls started coming back! I was shocked when this started happening but SO excited. I tried briefly to wear my hair curly but struggled to find products that gave me the results I wanted, and frankly I had no education on how to care for curly hair!

Recently

I guess you could say over the last 4 years I've been searching for something that would work for me to be able to wear my hair naturally and not have to curl it every day with my flat iron. As a mom, I just didn't want to have to curl my hair to stay at home with the kids, and honestly just wanted to be who God made me to be! 

I started hearing about DevaCurl and asking around to curly girl friends. It was after talking with some friends that I realized that curls need to be cut in a certain way to not release the curl pattern and layered in a way that allows your curls to grow out nicely and not bulky. I also learned that I should ditch shampoo and wash with conditioner! This was SO overwhelming to me because I felt that leaving conditioner in my hair would make it greasy and flat (it hasn't, but more on that later). I think most women stop here because it truly can be very overwhelming and discouraging as you are re-learning how to do your hair, something that had become so second nature to me over the years. 

I scheduled a DevaCurl hair cut and to be honest, I wasn't thrilled with the results at first. I have been used to having very layered hair, choppy and with a lot of dimension, and this cut felt boring. I also didn't know what products were going to work for me yet, and was still learning how to wash my hair and apply product, so it has taken some time to adjust. Now, I am excited about how my hair looks, feeling a lot more confident in it, and REALLY love the routine I have going right now. There's still some things I want to tweak, but so far it's working well and I've seen a big improvement in my curls! 

Here are two resources that have helped me a ton - India Batson on YouTube, and this Curly Girl Method Facebook Group. Both have been really informative on how to adjust to the "curly girl method" (washing with conditioner, and using products that are silicone and sulfate free). 

My before and after DevaCut

My before and after DevaCut

My Routine

(A replay of the Facebook Live I did on my routine is at the end of my post)

  1. The first thing I do when getting in the shower is I apply As I Am Coconut Cowash on my dry hair, only on the scalp, and massage really well. Scrubbing your scalp is what cleans out the dirt and oil, not the suds of shampoo. I do use shampoo every few months if I have been traveling or just feel like I need some build up taken out. But truly my hair feels clean every week with just conditioner. 
  2. Using lukewarm water (not hot, which will create frizz), I rinse all of the cowash out, and apply Suave Essentials Coconut Conditioner all over until it's very slippery. I let that sit while I wash my body. 
  3. I detangle my hair with the conditioner still in, starting at the ends and working my way up to the roots. Once my hair is completely tangle free, I add a little more conditioner. 
  4. I use the LA Looks Sport gel (clear bottle, blue gel) right now, but will probably be looking for a new one soon. It works great, but sometimes leaves some clumps of gel on my scalp after it dries. I add a palm size amount to the underside of my hair, and the same amount to the top of my hair and smooth it all over. 
  5. Then I squish all the product in by scrunching my hair from all angles with the palms of my hands. This activates my curls and also distributes the product evenly all over. 
  6. When I get out of the shower I add two pumps of the DevaCurl Styling Cream and rub it between my hands, then smooth over my hair and scrunch some more. 
  7. I take a cotton t-shirt and only scrunch out the wetness 3-4 times... no more! I find this is my sweet spot, where my hair isn't dripping wet, but if I dry it with a t-shirt any more than this, it become frizzy and doesn't keep it's curl as well throughout the week. 
  8. Then I let it air dry! It's awkward sometimes because it dries so crunchy. It looks pretty high school 90's so I have to fight the urge to tell everyone it's drying when I'm out, haha. 
  9. After my hair is FULLY dry (no moisture AT ALL), there is a very hard cast of gel on all my curls. This locks in the moisture from the water and conditioner and keeps my curls looking good all week. 
  10. I'll rub a pea sized amount of either the styling cream or conditioner in my palms and scrunch out the crunchiness. Then I usually pin my hair back a bit so it's out of my face, and I'm good to go!

Sleeping with your Curls

To sleep, I have been putting my hair in a pineapple using a scrunchy. A pineapple is a ponytail on the top of your head. This week I actually experimented with a new method and washed my hair at night, plopping it in a t-shirt turban to sleep, and it was still wet in the morning but curls intact. I then added a quarter size amount of conditioner + water, and a quarter sized amount of gel to just refresh it and let my hair air dry as normal the next day. 

What I plan to do soon, is grab a buff from Walmart and sleep with my hair in that. You can look up videos of this in the Facebook group mentioned above. A buff is preferable, I think, because it wont absorb any moisture from your hair, like cotton does. That's why they say to wrap your hair in a silk scarf (my hair is too thick for that) or sleep with a silk pillowcase. That would freak me out sensory wise, so I'm going to go with the buff for now. I'll let you know what I think on Insta after I try it! 

my hair up in a pineapple!

my hair up in a pineapple!

^^^ My hair air dried prior to the CG Method (left) and air dried after CG (right)

2nd, 3rd, 4th day Refresh

To refresh my curls on following days I add a pea sized amount of the styling cream or conditioner and water it down with water. I smooth all over my hair with "praying hands" (just palms closed over the hair) and then scrunch a bit. Water reactivates the gel, so I get bounce back in my curls and smooth away any frizz. If I have a lot of frizz because we've been outside playing or in the wind, I add quite a bit more conditioner and water to refresh. 

I can usually get 4 good days out of my curls, then I either do a braid, or have my hair in a half up bun for days 4 + 5, then an actual bun on days 5, 6, 7 until I wash it again. I aim to wash my hair once a week. The more you wash, the more you dry out your hair, and with curls you do not want to dry it out ever. As much moisture as you can add back into your hair as possible, is what you want to do. My hairstylist says that frizz is just a curl waiting to happen, and now that I've been doing this method, I completely agree! 


Let me know if you have ANY questions and I would love to help! Hope this helps you on your curly hair journey! 

Here's my Facebook Live video going through my routine, if you would rather listen than read! ;) 

Red Shrimp + Garlicky Cauliflower Rice

Alright, friends - I've got a super simple dinner recipe for y'all today! All growing up we ate tostones (fried green plantains) with a sauce made of equal parts ketchup and mayonnaise. Sounds weird but I promise it is so good. Anytime I make this sauce for friends, they comment about how good it is! So it got me thinking if there were any other ways I could use this sauce in a meal, and I came up with this dish. 

Red Shrimp + Garlicky Cauliflower Rice // Natasha Red
Red Shrimp + Garlicky Cauliflower Rice // Natasha Red
Red Shrimp + Garlicky Cauliflower Rice // Natasha Red

If you think it might be weird to heat up mayo and ketchup, it's totally not! I was worried it would create a weird texture, but instead I was left with a creamy and delicious coating on already phenomenal shrimp. 

A bed of cauliflower rice is the perfect pairing, but you could serve this on toasted bread to make a po' boy of sorts, or even stuff them in lettuce wraps with some coleslaw....so perfect for the warmer months!

Red Shrimp + Garlicky Cauliflower Rice // Natasha Red

And my favorite part about this recipe? It's kid approved! Reaghan and Everett both devoured it and honestly shocked me! Here's Rae's funny bunny smile showing off her plate ;) 

Red Shrimp + Garlicky Cauliflower Rice // Natasha Red

Ingredients: 

For the shrimp:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 pound shrimp, deveined and tails removed
  • salt and pepper to taste

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Cauliflower rice:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 12 ounces of riced cauliflower
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Instructions:

  1. Coat a large pan in cooking spray and let it heat up. Make sure your shrimp are completely thawed and toss them into the pan with salt and pepper, until they are pink. Stir them around occasionally so they don't stick to the pan.
  2. While the shrimp is cooking, whisk all sauce ingredients together and set aside. 
  3. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside. 
  4. Add a little bit of olive oil to the pan along with the cauliflower. Season with salt and pepper and allow the cauliflower to get tender. 
  5. Add broth and turn up the heat, deglazing the pan. (this just means getting all the brown bits leftover from cooking the shrimp off the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.) The broth will soften the cauliflower and make it nice and tender, and also flavorful.
  6. Add garlic to the cauliflower and cook for about 10 more minutes until all of the broth is absorbed. 
  7. Remove cauliflower from the pan and serve on your plates. Place shrimp back in the pan along with your sauce and stir around for about 1 minute, just to coat all the shrimp and warm everything up again. Serve and enjoy!

Pesto Chicken Salad

I've been making a quick pesto chicken salad for easy lunches during my Whole30. With a little adjusting, I created a new pesto recipe, a variation from the one in my cookbook, with all raw ingredients (the pesto in my cookbook is partially cooked), and with Whole30 compliant ingredients. 

One way I've used this chicken salad is by stuffing Swiss chard wraps. To make, remove the hard stem down the middle and boil for 30 seconds to soften the Swiss chard. Let cool a few seconds, layer 3 evenly to make a long wrap surface, and roll up like a burrito! Stuff it with avocado, compliant bacon, chicken salad and homemade ranch. Or you can top a bed of romaine with it, and throw a bunch of other goodies on top like I did here - whatever you like on your salad! 

Whole30 Pesto Chicken Salad // Natasha Red

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I buy the large package from our grocery store, approx. 4 lbs.)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Spinach Pesto 
  • 1/2 cup Mayo

Notes:

  • On my Whole30, I make my own mayo. A compliant brand is Primal Kitchen. 
  • This recipe can easily be halved for a smaller portion, but the amount made here makes enough to feed our family of 4 for a week.
  • Adjust the amount of pesto and mayo to your liking. I like mine more creamy. 
  • The pesto recipe makes more than what you will need for the chicken salad. Freeze the rest in an ice cube tray then transfer to a plastic bag for easily using in the future. 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F
  2. Line a large baking sheet with foil. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper on both sides. 
  3. Place chicken on baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. 
  4. Let the chicken thighs cool, then chop up with a large chef knife. You can also pull apart with your fingers, but I find chopping to be much faster and less messy. 
  5. Mix in pesto and mayo and store in the refridgerator for up to 1 week. 
Whole30 Pesto Chicken Salad // Natasha Red

Whole 30 Spinach Pesto

I love pesto, and always have a stash of it frozen in ice cubes to quickly add to meals. It's just one of my favorite flavors; mixing the zestiness of lemon with a kick of garlic and the creaminess of cashews creates an addicting, spreadable dip or sauce to add to any meal. See below the recipe for a few ideas of how I use pesto! 

Whole30 Spinach Pesto // Natasha Red Blog

This pesto is a variation of the spinach pesto found in my cookbook, Nourished. With a little adjusting, I created a new recipe, with all raw ingredients (the pesto in my cookbook is partially cooked), and with all Whole30 compliant ingredients as well. Enjoy!

Whole30 Spinach Pesto // Natasha Red Blog

Ingredients:

  • 2 large handfuls spinach
  • approx. 20 basil leaves (this would be two .66 oz containers from the store)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed
  • 1 cup raw cashews 
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup light flavor olive oil, plus more while puréeing 

Instructions:

  1. Soak the cashews in cold water overnight, if you are in a pinch, see note about boiling instead. 
  2. Drain cashews and add all the ingredients to a food processor. 
  3. Purée, drizzling additional olive oil in very slowly until pesto has reached the consistency you like. (think a spreadable paste, rather than a runnier "dressing" as the best consistency)
  4. You may have to scrape down the sides and continue blending to incorporate everything. 

*NOTE: You can also boil the cashews if you are in a pinch, but the pesto comes out much creamier when soaked! Place cashews in a small saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 15 minutes until fork tender and proceed with recipe. 

Use this pesto on my Pesto Chicken Salad, as pizza sauce, as a sauce over brown rice pasta and shredded chicken, or even mixed with mayo as a dip! Sounds weird, but don't knock it until you try it ;) 

Whole30 Spinach Pesto // Natasha Red Blog

Mint Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and ProYo, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #ProYoHighProteinIceCream http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV

Does anyone else have trouble with the ice cream truck coming to their neighborhood? I'm all for letting kids indulge every once in a while, but not every Tuesday when she comes to our street ;) I try to keep something, whether a homemade popsicle, ingredients for a smoothie, or ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams in my freezer so that I have a delicious, low-glycemic and high protein treat to offer Reaghan when I disappoint her with a "no" to the ice cream truck.

Since we've had some warmer days lately, I decided to stop by Kroger and pick up a few flavors to work up a guiltless sweet treat for us. ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams are available nationwide at Kroger and other Kroger banner stores. 

Mint Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl with ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams // Natasha Red Blog

I love that I can also eat ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams as a treat or snack for myself without wondering if I'm messing up the hard work outs I've done or worrying about having a stomach ache from too much sugar. 

Mint Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl with ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams // Natasha Red Blog

I'm not a fan of straight up sugar treats, and you know by now that I am trying to get protein into every meal for myself, Jordan and the kids. The high protein content (10g of protein per serving!) makes my mama heart so happy. ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams taste amazing too. Rae has loved the Coconut flavor as well as the Dutch Chocolate and LOVES this smoothie bowl too!

Mint Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl with ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams // Natasha Red Blog

ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams also packs prebiotic fiber into every container and has no hormones, artificial ingredients, soy or gluten. The reason why I usually say no to treats (or limit them at special occasions) is because of the negative impact they have on Reaghan's behavior. Mama's of 3-year-olds all know how hard behavior is on it's own, so I don't want to add any "help" in that area. 

Mint Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl with ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams // Natasha Red Blog

Every time I give Rae a processed sweet, we have major meltdowns, tummy aches, and heightened emotions. With ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams, she's never had a bad reaction. Even for me, I've never had a stomach ache after eating it. That's saying a lot, in my opinion, since I just ate an "organic" oatmeal ball at a natural grocery store the other day and immediately had a stomach ache. Not all treats are created equal, so check those labels and especially the sugar content!

Mint Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl with ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams // Natasha Red Blog

We make up this smoothie bowl into a drinkable smoothie as well if we are about to go play outside or leave the house! The rich Dutch Chocolate flavor makes this recipe so creamy and delicious. I like to mix and match my flavors so included a scoop of Dutch Chocolate and a scoop of Dark Chocolate Toffee for an extra strong chocolate flavor. I like really thick and creamy smoothies, so if you are wanting more of that consistency, add less almond milk. If serving to kids who need something a bit more drinkable (like we did in this recipe), go ahead with the entire 3/4 cup of almond milk. 

Mint Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl with ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams // Natasha Red Blog

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop Chocolate Toffee ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Cream
  • 1 scoop Dutch Chocolate ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Cream
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (optional but double's the protein!)
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 stems of fresh mint leaves, removed from the stem

Instructions:

  1. Pour everything into a blender and blend until creamy and smooth. As noted above, if you want this smoothie bowl (or plain smoothie!) more drinkable, add the full 3/4 cup. If you want the texture more thick, add a little bit less.

Take advantage of this online coupon! Buy 1 ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Cream and Get 1 Free now through 7/7, while supplies last. Use this store locator to find the closest store near you. 

Mint Chocolate Protein Smoothie Bowl with ProYo High Protein Low Fat Ice Creams // Natasha Red Blog

What's your favorite summer treat for the kids (and yourself ;)) Share with me below or over on Instagram! 

4 Steps to Cooking Dinner with Less Stress + The Benefits!

I originally heard of preparing parts of dinner in advance from one of my most beloved cookbook authors, Jenny Rosenstrach. She talks about this quite a bit in her book Dinner, A Love Story. Prepping ahead is the idea that you can take components of a meal that are simple or CAN be made ahead and do what you can earlier in the day, so as to make the dinner time hours more enjoyable and less stressful. If you get a chance, I highly recommend this cookbook. Many parts read like a memoir and it's wonderful. 

An example of what you wouldn't want to do with this method would be to cut up white potatoes and let them sit (they will brown), or cook collard greens and let them sit (they will be terribly soggy and wet). What you can do is cook some brown rice ahead of time or chop up most vegetables for a meal so it's done in advance, for example. 

I cook this way all the time and it has been such a blessing to our family and to my own sanity! ;) 

I realize this is going to look different for everyone depending on what season of life you are in. When I was a single working woman, I often would have my mornings free and would work on campus until just before dinner. I'd have a short window for dinner, then back on campus for more ministry. During this time I very well could have prepped dinner in the morning, but for some of you, doing it the night before would be a better use of your time. As a stay at home mom of two who also runs a business, most of the time I'll get things prepped in small chunks throughout the day versus doing it all at once in the morning. Either way, here are my 4 steps to cooking dinner with less stress. 

1. Cook simple

The first thing you need to do is an inventory of the meals your family loves. You've heard me talk about it before, but set yourself up on a seasonal rotation - where you pick 16 dinners per season to rotate through. These should be simple meals your whole family loves, with few ingredients and ingredients you're used to. I'm not saying to never branch out of your comfort zone, but if you're wanting to save on money and stress at dinner-time; cooking simply is the first place to start. 

2. Get kids involved

I honestly think dinner prep goes better when I get Reaghan involved. She LOVES to help anyway, and it provides a fun activity for us to do together. It also means that I don't have to take up time while the kids are napping to cook, since that's the time I usually try to work or rest. This may not be possible for everyone, and some of you may not have kids! 

3. 10 minute chunks

I mentioned above that preparing dinner ahead usually looks like doing it in smaller chunks throughout the day for me. I've noticed that in this current season, Reaghan is especially needy most mornings. If she's busy playing or eating quietly, I try to get it done, but if she's really needing me, then I may do a bit during breakfast time, a bit mid-morning, and a bit around lunch time. Being a mom at home, I usually only have about 5 minute chunks to do things anyway, so this makes things fairly simple for me. I feel like I can accomplish anything if it's a small task rather than being overwhelmed by the big task, so give this a try too if you can! 

4. Do what you can

Instead of prepping day by day, maybe you cook up a whole bunch of meat over the weekend to add to meals throughout the week, or maybe you chop up all the veggies you need in advance. It never needs to be perfect and you don't have to do everything all at once. Just focus on doing what you can and then be grateful that it's done! Some days I don't get anything prepped ahead, and that's okay. Some days I really blow it and unexpected things happen that make me too tired to cook, and we end up eating out. It's all a balance that shifts with every season. 

 

Benefits

 

Saves time during the late afternoon

I hate the feeling of needing to leave the park or a friends house early to go home and make dinner. There have been countless days when I have gotten to have that deeper conversation with a friend, or just linger longer outside playing with the kids because I wasn't rushing us home to cook. My kids also need a ton of attention at about 5 o'clock - anyone else? I've learned that this is not the time to tackle a new project or be productive. It's really just a time for me to be still and play with them - whether it's cooking in the play kitchen (HA!), swinging outside, or legos on the floor - they just like to be close to me and I like it too! I hate saying "not right now" or "wait a minute" over and over. I'd rather be free to love on them how they need. 

For those working mama's, the LAST thing you want to do is start cooking a full meal when you get home. You want to spend that precious time with your family! I get that, and I think this method is perfect for you too! 

Lowers stress

We never know what the day will throw at us. We may need to deal with an unforeseen problem at work, an unexpectedly sick kiddo, or may just use that extra time to bless someone else! For me I find that I am able to spend time with friends and linger a bit with the kids - filling up their love tanks during a time of day where they truly need me the most, instead of beating them off me so I can make dinner. 

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I also notice that when I cook dinner earlier, I enjoy it so much more. Cooking has always been enjoyable for me, but when it's done at 5 o'clock with screaming demanding hungry babies on my feet, I like it a whole lot less :) This enables me to actually like feeding my family, which I know that for a lot of you is a real struggle, and also include my kids (well just Reaghan for now) in on the process! 

Saves money

We are more likely to eat at home if things are already cooked or well on their way to being fully cooked. Often times when we go over our miscellaneous budget, it's because we ate out more than we anticipated. The two main instigators of this is when we don't have a stocked fridge or when life throws us a curve ball and we're just too emotionally spent to do one more task like cook dinner. 

 

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How I get it done

I wouldn't be able to cook this way if I didn't already have a plan for our meals previously set up. I use our Seasonal Meal Planner to keep me organized so that we lower the stress in the area of meals for our family.

The SMP allows you to plan your meals for the week in a simple way, while prompting you to use food as a means for building relationships and blessing others. It's also set up seasonally so you can make that seasonal rotation and not keep spinning your wheels each week when you go to make a menu plan! 

Right now we are all sold out of the SMP's, but the new editions will be coming out this fall! Sign up for our newsletter and follow along on Instagram to stay up to date with when they will release! 

Living Whole: My Health Routine

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Weave Made Media® and Hyperbiotics, but all my opinions are my own. #weavemade #HealthiestDaysAhead   http://my-disclosur.es/RgFrEH.”

In my quest for healthy and whole living this year, there have been three things that have made a world of difference: exercise, vitamins, and food choices. These three things have helped me wean off of my PPD medication, have more energy throughout the day, a stronger digestive system and more stable moods. 

First, let me start by explaining what I mean by "whole" living. Last year our family underwent some major life changes that hit all at once. My husband lost his job twice, we bought a house and moved, had a baby, and I was suffering from PPD. As the year came to a close and January approached, I felt a pull towards pursuing my health in a more whole way - mind, body, soul, spiritual, and emotional.

My Health Routine - exercise, vitamins + good food! Featuring Hyperbiotics probiotics // NR Blog

My word for this year is rooted and this seeps into every aspect of living - building a firm foundation of healthy living for myself and prioritizing that. It probably goes without saying, but this is an ongoing journey for me that has lots of ups and downs. Regardless, I wanted to share what's been working for me in hopes that it would get you thinking about your own health! 

This journey has taken many forms, but in the mental, emotional and physical aspect, there have been a few changes I've made that have been key in changing my overall health for the better. 

My Health Routine - exercise, vitamins + good food! Featuring Hyperbiotics probiotics // NR Blog

Exercise

I have never been an exercise girl. In fact, I've always hated it! But something shifted in me this year when I committed to exercising for 30 minutes a day for a whole month. I was surprised at how much my body needed that movement and benefited from the endorphins. Now, if I go a few days without it I feel super sluggish, bloated and all around less happy. It's crazy!

In order to prioritize exercise into my day while still being able to run my business, blog and raise two kiddos at home, I wake up very early in the morning. I wake up with my alarm at 4:45 am, make myself some tea and a snack and read for about an hour. At 6 am I change into my work out clothes, lay out my yoga mat and turn on an exercise video on my laptop. I work out for 30 minutes, tops, then get myself ready for the day in the last 15 minutes or so before my kids wake up. 

There are so many days where I want to spend longer lounging in bed reading, or would rather stay up later at night (making it near impossible for me to wake up at this hour), but I have learned that sticking to my morning routine sets me up for success for the rest of the day. I can actually pinpoint other unhealthy choices throughout the day when I skip this simple step. It's like a domino affect - when one piece falls, they all fall. For me, I know that if I've invested in myself before I ever have to meet the needs of my family, then I am much more energized to take care of others throughout the day. 

This Andy Stanley quote sums it up perfectly:

"We don't drift into good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there."

...and I'll add, with grace ;) 

My Health Routine - exercise, vitamins + good food! Featuring Hyperbiotics probiotics // NR Blog

Probiotics 

I have many different vitamins I like to take on a daily basis and to support immune health during sickness, but the vitamin I want to focus on talking about today are my Hyperbiotics. These support my body's ability for proper nutrient absorption, energy, and mental clarity. 

My Health Routine - exercise, vitamins + good food! Featuring Hyperbiotics probiotics // NR Blog

One of my goals this year has been to slowly wean off my PPD medication. Medication definitely served it's purpose and I am so grateful for it, but I was sensing that the time was approaching where I could get off of it. I started doing a lot of research about vitamins and supplements that I could add in to support my mood, patience, hormones and energy. This may come as a surprise to you, but in order to see positive changes in all of these areas, even the non-physical ones, I needed to go back to building up great gut health. 

Hyperbiotics actually has several different formulas designed to perfectly fit your needs. Nursing or pregnant mom? You want to be taking Pro-Mom to support a healthy growing baby. Reaghan takes the Pro-Kids and loves it! They are tiny chewable pearls that quickly melt in her mouth. I personally bounce between the Pro-15 (a great probiotic for anyone!) and the Pro-Women when I need some extra womanly support at certain times of the month ;)

My Health Routine - exercise, vitamins + good food! Featuring Hyperbiotics probiotics // NR Blog

The Pro-15 promotes daily relief from gas, bloating, and irregularity, while also re-populating your probiotic colonies. As you can see above, it's a super small pearl that is easy for me to swallow. They also carry an advanced formula of the Pro-15 which I look forward to taking to boost immunity during cold and flu season. 

I'm excited that Hyperbiotics can be found at Target, making it so easily assessable. It's just a good feeling to know I wont have to worry about running out or having to wait a long shipping time to get my probiotics. 

My Health Routine - exercise, vitamins + good food! Featuring Hyperbiotics probiotics // NR Blog

One of the reasons I love Hyperbiotics so much is because they use a patented manufacturing process called LiveBac® that enables them to guarantee the viability of their formulas for 18 months after the date of manufacture with zero refrigeration. This means I can throw them into my vitamin holder like the grandma I am and not worry about forgetting to take them daily! Yay!

And here's why I feel like their quality is superior to others out there: Hyperbiotics formulas benefits release over an 8-to-10-hour period and cause the probiotics to survive past stomach acids, which other probiotics cannot do. This means longer lasting and more concentrated benefits for my body, which I love. If my family is going to spend the money on supplements, I want to know they are the best. Visit hyperbiotics.com to learn more about this amazing brand and #followyourgut to Target to pick up a bottle of your own. 

My Health Routine - exercise, vitamins + good food! Featuring Hyperbiotics probiotics // NR Blog

Food

The gut has been called by some as the "second brain" and is known as the center of our health. It may seem bizarre to think that our emotions are tied to food and supplements, but they totally are! For instance, sugar is a huge culprit in negative mood swings, headaches, sluggishness or the feeling of "fogginess." I've seen that wheat can even have this kind of affect on me as well. For this reason, I've noticed that when I cut out all refined sugars and grains + limit my intake to a few carefully selected sweeteners, my mood is stable and my mind is clear from the fog!

I still struggle with the self control to say "no" when I could indulge in a little something that is processed. This is especially true at family gatherings. But as I learn more, small changes are taking place to plan ahead for those times. 

Here's an example of my breakfast as of late, and you can also check out this insta post to see a typical full day of food for me. 

My Health Routine - exercise, vitamins + good food! Featuring Hyperbiotics probiotics // NR Blog

How do you take care of your health and what are your top priorities? I'd love to hear!

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Probiotics support many facets of overall health when taken regularly as part of a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Spring Recipe Inspiration

Happy Spring! This beautiful weather in Texas is giving new life to our little family, and we are spending hours and hours outside enjoying it! I have to soak it up as much as possible before the sweltering temps take over, ha! I have been asked on Instagram for some go-to recipes for the Spring, so I thought I'd share a few favorites here with you! 

All of these recipes would also be great for the summer months. A lot of the produce in the spring and summer overlap, but for a full list, check out our Seasonal Meal Planners! 


Honey Roasted Whole Carrots from The Speckled Palete

With simple ingredients...these look divine. I'm a big fan of throwing a meat and veggie on a sheet pan and baking it for a simple dinner option. I bet you could marinade or glaze some chicken thighs with the same sauce as these carrots have and it would make a super yummy meal!

Berry Acai Bowl from My Cooking Spot

Oh my gosh does this look delicious? Just the ingredients list makes me hungry for one! Perfect refreshing snack for the Spring. 

Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken Sandwiches with Mustard Coleslaw from The Speckled Palate

Oh my gosh this is so yummy...this went on my slow cooker night rotation as soon as I saw it. I already have most of these ingredients in my pantry/fridge and I bet you do too! I love to grab a bag of pre-made cabbage and carrot coleslaw and then make THIS RECIPE later in the week with it! 

Spanish Quinoa Stuffed Peppers from The Minimalist Baker

These are super easy to make and actually very filling even without any meat! Definitely a budget-friendly meal. I actually make 8 pepper halves and the stuffing makes enough to fill them all up! Perfect for leftovers for my husbands lunch and sometimes my breakfast ;) 

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Sheet Pan Shrimp Boil from Damn Delicious 

Um yes, this is damn delicious ;) Haha! Though this does take a few extra steps in the kitchen (simply boiling the potatoes and corn for about 20 minutes first) it's not that big of a deal and the flavor of the spices + shrimp + sausage make everything worth it. 

What are your favorite spring recipes? I love getting new ideas from readers!