Sunday, January 30, 2011

Menu Plan - January 31

Last week I did not have a chance to post after my menu plan!  It was a busy week and we have yet another one ahead.  I am keeping my menu simple this week but with lots of variety - it is amazing how easy preparing dinner can be when you plan ahead!  Below I have added some tips to help you get an idea for how I get these dinners done despite a busy work week. 

Highlights from last weeks menu plan:  I roasted my first whole chicken and it was INCREDIBLY easy (I cannot believe it took me that long to try doing this)!  I purchased a whole Smart Chicken from Cub which was already tied with kitchen twine and ready to go.  I followed the recipe to the letter and the chicken and potatoes turned out perfect.  I had almost enough chicken left over for the white chicken chili, which we had tonight and was SO flavorful and took only about 30 minutes to prepare (and was ready 30 minutes after that, although it tasted like it had been simmering all day long.  I also switched the beef kabobs from last week to this week - we had plenty of leftover soup from Wednesday to eat on Thursday!

Please let me know if you have any questions, suggestions or ideas.  It's fun to hear from you about the recipes you have tried from my menus - thank you for all of your feedback!  Check out orgjunkie's post for lots of other great recipes!

Monday:  Salsa Meat Loaves (sub 1.5 tbsp olive oil for eggs) with roasted squash and green beans
tips:  prepare meat loaves the evening before, wrap in plastic wrap; roast squash evening before and heat up before dinner

Tuesday:  Pennsylvania Pot Roast (I'll add potatoes and parsnips to the crock pot)
tip:  prepare crock pot the evening before and pop it in the fridge, plug it in the next morning!

Wednesday:  Leftovers with green salad

Thursday:  Enchilada Bake (from my freezer)
tip:  when making a casserole or soup/chili, freeze leftovers or double the recipe to freeze so you can incorporate these meals into future weekly plans!

Friday:  Date night!

Saturday:  Grilled beef and veggie kabobs with rice 

SundayGO PACK!    Beer Brats (Thousand Hills grass-fed beef hot dog for the little guy), sweet potato fries and green salad

Monday, January 24, 2011

Menu Plan: Week of January 24th

Happy Monday!  Last week flew by!  It was so nice having my mom in town - she left today and I already miss her!  Looking forward to trying a couple of new recipes this week and falling back on some old standbys.  On Wednesday, I will be making some beef kabobs from Von Hanson's, a great little meat shop (many locations in the Twin Cities).  I made my beef stew with their kabob meat (already cubed which makes it extra easy) and it turned out so tender.  I recommend checking out this great little shop for quick and easy dinner options (they have pre-marinated kabobs and free range chicken breasts, too!)

Please let me know if you have any feedback or questions!  I am so excited to hear that many of you are trying some of the recipes from my menu and that it is making your lives a little easier and adding some variety to your week!  Check out Orgunkie's Menu Plan Monday post for more recipe inspiration!

Monday:  Friends over - Pizza dinner
Tuesday:  Banana Pancakes, Sausage and Easy Homemade Apple Sauce (I will triple this recipe!)
Wednesday:  Crock Pot Minestrone with noodles
Thursday:  Beef Kabobs with green salad and Roasted Root Vegetables *toss veggies with appox. two tbsp apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp maple syrup and 2 tbsp olive oil
Friday:  Roasted Chicken with Carrots and Potatoes
Saturday:  Leftovers
Sunday:  White Chicken Chili (FYI, takes a few seconds for this link to load sometimes!)

Friday, January 21, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing - Week 3!

With my mom being in town, I have been enjoying evening time relaxing with her, so have not tackled my project this week - but I will be doing it this weekend and will post an update once completed!  As a preview, I plan to organize my spices!!  I am sure many of you are in the same position...  a cabinet full of spices, many that have been sitting, inactive, for over one year (or more).  I have the cabinet in addition to a whole spice rack.  Most of the spices have gone unused for a long time.  My goal is to narrow them down to ten "everyday use" spices and organize them on two magnetic racks on the side of our fridge (picture below) from the Container Store.  I am sure there will be a few that I will keep in bottles in the cupboard, but I will try to keep those down to five or less (big bottle of peppercorns, etc.).  I have found that purchasing spices in bulk is definitely the way to go - there is a Coop near my inlaws' cabin that sells spices for very affordable prices and I can pick how much I want to buy.  I also buy in bulk at Cub foods (pre-packaged, near the bulk foods area of the store).  Using your own spice containers allows you to buy in bulk and is definitely the way to go budget-wise!  More to come!  For more organizing inspiration, check out orgjunkie's weekly post! 

Spice Rack from The Container Store

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interesting (Foodie) Reads This Week!

My passion for cooking for my family (and my family's allergy-friendly cooking journey) drives me to read a lot about food and cooking - there are so many awesome resources!  I plan to share some of my favorite articles, news and sites along this vein as often as I can.  I hope that this will be a great go-to resource for you and your family, too!  You can also check me out on Twitter @elevatewellness (see my feed to the right) for some of my favorite daily posts!  Please email me or send a Facebook message with any sites or news that you think would be great additions to this type of post!

Thanks to one of my Facebook friends, Bridgett, for making me aware of this news on Subway adding gluten-free options to their menu!  Maybe the beginning of a movement towards more intolerance and allergy-friendly food choices at restaurants?!

My family LOVES Chili in the wintertime!  Check out this post from Shaina who writes a blog called Food for My Family (a fellow Minnesotan and food lover!) (via babble.) 

Check out Karina's Kitchen on Facebook here.  As she explains, her FB page (and blog!) is "a dynamic gluten-free food blog for families living well with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, ASD and food allergies. Vegan friendly."

As you know, I am a big quinoa fan - these seeds can add big nutrition to your meals!  This article elaborates on the benefits of quinoa!

Eating seasonally and sustainably - the more I learn about this movement, the more passionate I become about it!  This article (and recipes!) at Simple Bites got my attention!

I hope you enjoy these reads!  Any feedback or suggestions would be appreciated!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - January 17 (with chili recipe!)

With another busy week ahead, it feels so great to have my meals planned and grocery list made!  We actually followed our plan without any variation last week.  All of the meals turned out great, but I was most impressed with the Sweet Potato Chili.  It was a wonderful vegetarian variation and it was a huge hit with my little guy!  My mom will be visiting this week starting on Wednesday, which will relieve a bit of our day to day grind.  Looking forward to some great meals and a Saturday night out with my hubby!  As always, check out many menu ideas via Org Junkie's MPM posting.  Let me know if you have any questions or feedback! 

Monday - Homemade Pizzas
Tuesday - Coconut Curry Chicken with Rice and green beans
Wednesday - Slow Cooker Beef Stew
Thursday - Turkey Burgers (edit: NO soy sauce) with sweet potato fries and salad
Friday - Leftovers or take-out
Saturday - Night out!
Sunday - Crock Pot Chili (Football Sunday!  GO PACKERS!  See recipe below, this is a family favorite!)

Recipe for Crock Pot Chili:
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped sweet yellow onion
1-2 jalapenos, seeds removed, diced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 to 3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 lbs. lean ground beef or turkey
1 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
2 bay leaves
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes in juice (note: I prefer fire roasted tomatoes)
1 1/2 cups water
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 can (16 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (16 ounces each) garbanzo beans (or other favorite bean), drained and rinsed
grated cheese, sour cream, chopped parsley, diced avocado, green onion, or other garnishes

Heat the oil in a large, non-stick skillet and saute the onions, garlic and jalapeno. Cook 1 minute, then add chili powder and cumin and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Add this mixture to the crockpot. Brown the beef in the same skillet, drain and add to crock pot.

Add all remaining ingredients except canned beans and garnishes to the crock pot, stir well.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Add beans 1 hour or so before serving. Serve with garnishes.

Friday, January 14, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing - Week 2

This week, my goal was to clean up our guest bedroom, specifically, the book shelf.  This dresser/bookshelf has become the dumping grounds for some of the decor that we no longer have use for in another part of the house, lots of old books and miscellaneous photos (I'm sure this scenario sounds familiar to many of you, haha).  As I mentioned last week, our guestroom was also our makeshift office while we finished our basement (which was completed in early summer 2010, ugh).  Last week, I finally cleaned up the desk area and we donated the old desk to Goodwill.  This week, I rolled up my sleeves and purged or donated much of what was on the bookshelf.  It feels SO good to finally have the room back.  This weekend, we will move the bookshelf to the opposite side of the room and it will actually look like a welcoming guest bedroom again!  (Just in time for my mom to visit next week).  Yay!  (See before and after below)
It took me less than one hour this week to get this done, amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it!  I'd love to hear about any organizing projects you completed.  Feel free to post your organizing successes at I'm an Organizing Junkie, as well!





Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Elevate Wellness

As I mentioned, I am new to blogging and since I am going to take some of my (limited) down time to share information here, I want it to be focused and helpful to those who are reading it (and for me to refer back to)!!  As I thought about this, I wanted to find a way to express what I am trying to communicate overall.  Wellness is one word I could use to encompass this blog, but I think it is more than that.  In the past year and especially in the past few months, I have had to think about wellness in a whole new way - a heightened awareness around how to keep both me and my family WELL (physically, emotionally, financially, etc.)  I had to elevate wellness in my life.  So, my mission is to elevate wellness through this blog - to share this sense of awareness around wellness that has come to be a part of my day-to-day life.  Again, food and recipes that cater to kids' health, especially those with food allergies and intolerances, will be the focus.  But beyond that, as moms, dads, and busy professionals, how do we keep ourselves well while balancing our day-to-day?  I plan to write about my ongoing journey on this front, too.

What is really cool is that after drafting this blog post, I was able to secure the Twitter account @elevatewellness.  I was apprehensive about Twitter at first but have found it to be a quick one-stop resource for news, recipes, health-related articles, etc.  So, if you are a Twitter user, follow me @elevatewellness!  I will share my blog updates and any other relevant articles and information there (from time to time!) 

I had a conversation with a friend today that reminded me to remind anyone who is reading this to refer this blog and my contact information on to any parents out there that have kids with food intolerances or allergies (or who are trying to provide more balanced meals to their kids in general, for that matter)!  It can be a daunting thing and although I am not a professional, I would love to provide any information or referrals I can to help them!

Let me know if you have any ideas or suggestions, I'd love to hear what you would like to see here!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Planning Monday

As I mentioned in a past post, I have become a meal planner in the past few months.  With my son's allergies/intolerances and our busy schedule, well-planned dinners are the only way for my family to sit down to a nutritious, allergy-friendly meal by 6:00 p.m. (which is the latest my little guy can wait for his dinner and the exact time my husband can make it home from work)!

I was excited to find that the one of my new favorite (aforementioned) blogs, I'm an Organizing Junkie, also has a passion for meal planning.  So, I am joining the ranks of her blog readers as part of Menu Plan Monday (or MPM).  Check out her blog on Mondays for her meal plan and hundreds of others for some dinner inspiration!  This is my first week taking part, but I have been using some of the recipes I have found via her blog for a couple of weeks - LOVE it! 

Menu planning also allows me to take a look at what is on special at the grocery store and work meals around that, saving me quite a bit of money.

Hopefully, my menu plan (and others!) will give you some motivation to give this a try!  (You will also note that the two linked recipes come from a great crock pot recipe website called One Year of Slow Cooking, all gluten free!)

Week of January 10th

Monday: Pork Carnitas leftovers from Sunday
Tuesday:  Yellow Chicken and Rice with green beans (from one of our Kid-Friendly Allergy Cookbooks)
Wednesday: Hamburgers, baked squash and salad
Thursday:  Crock Pot Sweet Potato Chili
Friday:  Pasta cu Sugo with meatballs (my Nanny's recipe, waiting in my freezer to be defrosted!); spinach salad
Saturday:  Out for dinner
Sunday:  Enchiladas (recipe care of my sister-in-law, Lindsey Tibesar!)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Quinoa in Your Pancakes!

Since my little guy has a wheat intolerance, we have had to explore new flours for baking.  One of our favorite weekend treats is quinoa pancakes.  (This morning I made a double batch and individually wrapped about 10 of them to stick in the toaster for weekday breakfasts).  Quinoa flour is rich is protein, calcium and iron (we use Bob's Red Mill Quinoa Flour, easy to find at most grocery stores).  Next time you are making pancakes, substitute this nutritious flour for your traditional white or wheat flour to give your pancakes a nutrition boost and a really yummy, nutty taste.  Since eggs are off limits in my house, as well, we substitute each egg in our pancake recipe for 1 tbsp. flax seed meal combined with three tbsp water (Bob's Red Mill also sells flax seed meal, and this three to one ratio is noted on the back of the packaging).  You can barely taste the flax seed and it gives the pancakes another nutritional boost (fiber and Omega-3's)!  We add some fruit puree to add sweetness and yet another layer of nutrition - no guilt in eating these!  Leave a comment or email me if you have any questions about how to make these substitutions.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

52 Weeks of Organizing - Join Me!

I recently ran across an awesome blogger from Canada named Laura.  Her blog is called "I'm an Organizing Junkie" and she covers all things related to organization (of course).  She also has a little shop connected to her site where she sells some great organization products (I already ordered and received the fridge file - love it!).  Being the Type A planning and organizing kind of gal that I am, but also not having the time to be as organized as I used to be now that I have a one year old running around, this site offered motivation to re-focus my efforts in 2011!  There is a bit of clutter that has built up in my house - remnants from finishing our basement and just from being generally way too busy to even think about it.  But this is my year to take back some control!

What I love about Laura and her blog is that she keeps things simple.  One example is her new 52 weeks of Organizing concept - she created a document that you can use to jot down one thing each week that you can do to put you and your home into a more organized state!  By tackling one small task at a time, it doesn't seem so daunting.

As for Week 1, I tackled a desk that is still sitting in our guest bedroom (we had a makeshift office there until our basement was completed) - it had piles of stuff sitting on it.  I purged most of the papers and junk and put the rest in its rightful place in our house.  We plan to take the desk to Goodwill today!  I feel SO good about completed this one little task (which literally took me a half hour to complete!)  I will continue to highlight some of my organizing successes here.  I'd love to hear about some of your projects and what you think of Laura's blog!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Make Ahead Dinner with Moroccan Flair

About four months ago, when my little guy starting eating dinner with us, it was important to me to plan healthy, nutritious meals for our family to sit down and eat together.  Since we found out about Ben's food intolerances, meal planning has become critical.  I will be spending more time on meal planning in future posts.  Today, I want to share with you an awesome make-ahead meal that all three of us love.  If you and/or your kids are a fan of beans - garbanzo beans in particular, you will love Spicy Moroccan Chickpeas!  This one-pot dish is featured in November's Cooking Light magazine! 

Some changes I made to the recipe:
  • Substituted 1 tbsp. of curry for the Ras al Hanout (a Moroccan spice blend) - they are very similar and I had curry on hand!
  • Substituted chopped spinach for the escarole
  • Eliminated almonds to make the recipe allergen friendly
  • I did not have cilantro or mint on hand, but it turned out wonderful without it!
  • Another allergen-friendly change - substitute brown rice for couscous
I made this the night before, but it in a Pyrex dish and warmed it for 30 minutes at 350 degrees when I got home from work!  Easy clean up and so delicious!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The fitbit!

I was really excited to receive my first product from Best Buy to review - the fitbit!  I loaded it onto my computer last night and set it up.  It was very easy and straightforward.  Here are some of the features that initially caught my eye:
  • The device syncs your data wirelessly - you just have to come within a few feet of the base that is plugged into your computer!
  • You can log specific activity separate from your normal daily activity (workouts, sleep, etc.)
  • The fitbit tracks steps, distance and calories burned
  • There is a fitbit community on their site that includes groups and forum to motivate you towards your goals.
  • In addition to the activity that the fitbit logs for you, you can also journal food consumed, your weight, etc. for more accurate information.
  • There is a Premium paid subscription that allows you to connect with friends to "compete" or meet goals together, in addition to ranking you against the general user base.
Tomorrow will be the first full day that I will wear the fitbit.  I wear it on the waist of my pants and am able to push a button on the device to check how many steps I have walked, push it again for miles walked and again for calories burned. 

At $99, the fitbit is a pricey pedometer.  However, if you are looking to meet new goals or overcome a fitness plateau, this defintely goes beyond a traditional pedometer by helping you set goals beyond steps per day.  If you have further questions about the product, feel free to email me!

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Healthy Revolution!

As a member of Lifetime Fitness, I receive a copy of Experience Life Magazine on a monthly basis, and have been an avid reader for many years.  This magazine is much more mainstream now - if you have not been introduced to it, I'd recommend picking up a copy (I believe you can find it at Barnes and Noble and natural food stores) or subscribing!  I am really excited about a new revolution highlighted in the most recent issue, started by the editor of this magazine, Pilar Gerasimo.  As the site explains, the revolution "calls for a movement of health-motivated individuals to reclaim their well-being, and in the process, change the world for the better."  I cannot think of a better way to kick off 2011 than to join this Revolution at  Check out the Revolutionary Act manifesto and tons of other health-full resources there.  There is no better example that you can set for your family than to commit to making healthy changes in the new year and this is a great place to start!

On that note, check out this recipe from Real Simple Magazine that I made last night.  This is going into rotation - quick and simple, my little guy and my hubby both loved it.  The flavor combination was amazing!  I used skin-on chicken breasts (Trader Joe's) rather than thighs, then pulled the skin off and carved the breast meat - it was so juicy and tender!  I substituted dried herbs that I had on hand and added some chopped spinach to the bean mixture, as well.  Here is the link to the recipe and the recipe is also below!

Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes
Serves 4| Hands-On Time: 10m | Total Time: 50m



  1. Heat oven to 425° F. In a 9-by-13-inch (or some other large) baking dish, toss the beans and tomatoes with the thyme and oregano sprigs, garlic, red pepper, 1 tablespoon of the oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  2. Pat the chicken dry and place on top of the bean mixture, skin-side up. Rub with the remaining tablespoon of oil; season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.
  3. Roast until the chicken is golden and cooked through, 35 to 45 minutes. Sprinkle with the oregano leaves.
By Vanessa Seder,  January 2011