Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Crap, I invited a vegetarian to dinner! 8 things to watch for

I know that , "crap, I invited a vegetarian to dinner" is probably something said by everyone in my family when I RSVP.  They love that I will be there but for some hosts, they stress over what I can and can not eat as a vegetarian. The truth is that it is not easy to be vegetarian these days...meat and byproducts are hidden in many of your favorite dishes- even those that you would think are safe. Take for instance something as simple as sweet potatoes...think they are safe.....they are- until you add gelatin filled marshmallows! Knowing how tough it is, I thought I would share 8 tips for cooking for those crazy veggies!

Here is the first and most important rule to remember as you read the list....we (special eaters) understand the difficulty in editing family dishes to meet our dietary needs...heck, we live it every day! We are totally fine with a plate full of amazing side dishes and desserts (thankfully, most desserts are vegetarian!). We would rather you spend your time enjoying what you cook than worrying about us....but, if you are dead set on being vegetarian friendly...here are 8 tips!

1. Know your "special person".
My tips are just for hidden items and suggestions are all vegetarian and pescatarian friendly. Vegan substitutions for vegans are a bit more work!
  • Vegetarian - does not eat beef, pork, chicken, or seafood (or any other meat that you know of). Will eat eggs, milk, cheeses, and butters.
  • Pescatarians - will eat fish and shellfish BUT no other meat.
  • Vegan - will not eat ANY animal byproduct. No eggs, butter, cheese, milk. No MEAT either!
2. Leave the dressing on the side!
So many hosts think a great salad is perfect for vegetarians...and it is...UNTIL, you dump most dressings on it. This is especially true if you are serving a vegan. Most dressings have hidden flavors,  gelatin, eggs, etc.

Here are three easy to make dressings that are perfect for vegetarians (and meat eaters).
Organic Ranch Dressing that is super yummy and super healthy..CLICK HERE!
Sweet Citrus& Onion Dressing HERE
Easy to make French Dressing HERE

3. Watch out for the breads!
Yep...I said bread. You totally thought bread would be safe right? nope. Check your package of cornbread mix.....most mixes have lard in them which is an animal byproduct. Vegetarian ones are easy to find and the same price.

4. Cheese can have meat in it!
 This is tough for me to accept because I love specialty cheeses. Sadly, many cheese ingredient lists show "enzymes" or "rennet". Some will list that they are from animal or not but others just leave it up to the imagination. For those of you wondering what "enzymes" and "rennet" are, I will spare you the details but will say that they are derived from the inner lining of the fourth stomach of a calf. It is used in the process of making cheeses and some milks. There are vegetarian options for cheese making but you do have to do some investigation about the brands that use them. I can tell you that cream cheeses are safe (they do not use any enzymes to make it) and Organic Farms Valley Organic Cheeses are as well. Everything else is a guessing game and varies by flavor.

5. Using soups for recipes....check them out too!
Sometimes the most vegetarian sounding soup will be filled with a meat flavor. Take for instance Panera's Broccoli Cheddar soup, it has beef flavor in it. Just check out the labels and ingredient lists to be safe.

6. Be on the lookout for gelatin.
Gelatin is hidden everywhere.  For those who are wondering why the jiggly stuff is a no go for vegetarians..... gelatin is “made by prolonged boiling of skin, cartilage and bones from animals.” You can sometimes find kosher gelatin, which is made from fish instead of cow and pig parts. Oops,  I should have warned you to look away first! It is true though. You will find gelatin in dressings, jello, jellies, gummy bears...anything that is thickened. There are vegetarian ways to thicken so just check the labels for the little vegetarian symbol.

7. Spices and sauces!
They are a GREAT idea but just double check the labels. Sometimes, there will be chicken flavor or beef flavor. Worcestershire sauce is usually made with anchovy and beef.

8. MOST IMPORTANTLY....Let us bring something!
We absolutely love being able to bring something to share with everyone. It kinda gives us a thrill to hear meat eaters loving our dishes that are absolutely meat  (and bacon) free! Over the past year or so, I have even watched my husband become a vegetarian because he realized that - when the food is good- you don't need the meat! It actually hides the flavors! So, let us bring a few things!

I hope that this list was helpful in some way! It is not always east but it totally can be done! The best advice is to not overthink it and just keep it simple. The more you add to something, the worse the odds are for a vegetarian. We don't mind bringing items nor do we expect you to veggify every dish. Just leave us some on the side without all the jazz added.

All of the recipes on my site are vegetarian and there are some vegan ones there too! Please be sure to check them out!

ALSO....Looking for What to make? Here are 10 amazing protein sources for vegetarians!

Here are a few of my favorites!

These red pepper and feta zucchini cakes are a huge hit! (just watch the feta)

Sweet and Savory Pumpkin Squash Enchiladas (again, Feta can be omitted)

This black bean soup is AMAZING

Thursday, November 7, 2013

LOW CARB VEGAN Chocolate Sauce - Organic!

Yes...you read it right! This chocolate sauce is low-carb, vegan, and ORGANIC!  I NEVER thought I could find a sweet chocolate sauce that was all 3!! It only takes a few minutes to make and is a fantastic frosting for cupcakes, sauce for ice cream,dip for fruits...you get the idea!

You can change up this sauce in ANY way you want! It is a very basic recipe but can be jazzed up with spicy peppers, mint, nuts, booze, etc!

Now....since I wanted to make my sauce low carb, I used stevia instead of sugar. 1 tablespoon of this sweet chocolate has only 3 grams of carbs! If you are not familiar with stevia, it is an organic sweetener that is notably better for those controlling their sugar intake! Yes, you can use other sugar substitutes in this recipe but I prefer to avoid chemicals whenever I can. Feel free to use your favorite sugar substitute or regular sugar for that matter.

I would also like to add that this totally can be considered HEALTHY chocolate! If you use the vegan recipe and use coconut oil, you are adding so many health benefits! Coconut oil is known to lower cholesterol,  boost metabolism, fight disease.... it is a never ending list of health benefits. You can read more about coconut oil HERE. Now, don't worry if you don't like the taste of coconut. It really doesn't impart too much coconut flavor....my hubby HATES coconut but LOVES when I use it to cook, bake, and make this chocolate sauce!


  • 1/3 cup sugar (if you are making this LOW CARB by using organic stevia, start with less as it takes less stevia to sweeten)
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (if you are not vegan, use butter)
  • 1/4 cup organic cocoa powder


1) Put sugar, salt and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil then remove it from the heat
2) Stir in the butter and mix until incorporated (you may want to use a whisk)
3) Add remaining ingredients. Stir until glossy.
4) Pour into glass container.

You can TOTALLY make this in the microwave! Just follow the same steps!

If you enjoyed this easy Vegan recipe...you can check out a few others on my site! I focus on organic cooking that is easy, inexpensive, and that tastes good. After all, if it isn't good....the family isn't going to eat it. It is my challenge to prove that eating healthy does not mean boiled veggies for every meal! I actually aim to prove that healthy food tastes better!

Check out a few recipes while you are here:
Organic Vegan Chicken Salad
Healthy and EASY Organic Black Bean Soup
Healthy Homemade Almond Butter
Soy Free Vegetarian breakfast sausage

Be sure to follow me on Social media to get quick updates!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Organic Vegan "Chicken" Salad

I have been a vegetarian for 5 years and I will ALWAYS tell you that I do NOT MISS MEAT! Not one burger looks good enough to eat, not one chicken "chunk" good enough to dunk, nor a hot dog good enough to munch! That being said though...I do miss all of the things that go along with these carnivorous snacks. I do miss sauces, toppings, and condiments. I know that I can eat these on the morning star, boca, and quorn meatless options BUT have you looked at the back of the package? These meatless options are filled with chemicals and additives...things that I am trying to avoid!

So...I found a recipe from my friend over at Hoppy Bottoms for Vegan Tuna Salad. HERE IT IS . Now, I have not eaten fish since I was a young girl so I can not imagine why ANYONE would want to recreate Tuna Salad (giggle) but I know that people do! So...I basically took her inspiration and ran with it!
She has tons of Vegan options so check her out at her site Hoppy Bottoms

This got me thinking...I REALLY miss chicken salad! Something HAD to be done! I really wanted to make some vegan chicken salad BUT I wanted it to stay as organic as possible. Storebought mayo is packed with chemicals and usually vegan options are too. Neither would work. I ran to the health food store and found that there are organic vegan mayo options available. SCORE!  *I also found some vegan chicken salad in the deli - it was $10 per POUND!!! For $10 you could make tons of this recipe!

And don't worry! If you are not vegan and want to make this, it is a crowd pleaser! It will just look like a chickpea salad not a "mock meat" recipe. You can still make it organic by using my 5 minute/5 ingredient  homemade mayo recipe found HERE. The chemical list for storebought mayo is pictured there as well so it is worth a look!

This vegan "chicken" salad recipe is so easy to make and can be altered in any way you would like to fit your favorite chicken salad. Since everyone has their favorite recipe, I am leaving the amounts off. This is merely for inspiration! This recipe from start to finish takes about 15-20 minutes and that includes toasting the chickpeas!

Here is what you will need:
I noted that I use organic. Please know that you can use ANY product available to you and it will still make an amazing vegetarian salad!
  • Can of chickpeas (I use organic but any will do)
  • Organic Vegan Mayo
  • Celery (diced)
  • Sweet Relish (organic)
  • Onions (diced)
  • Apples (small dice) - my favorite part!
  • salt, pepper, seasonings

  1. Now, this step may be  omitted but I believe it is what MAKES the salad. Drain your chickpeas and rinse well. Then toss them in a bit of oil and seasonings (my favorite is chili powder, salt, and pepper). Pop in the oven for about 15 minutes. For more complete instructions on making toasted chickpeas - click HERE
  2. Try not to eat all of the toasted chickpeas! They are addictive and a great snack but you need to remember that you are making chicken salad.
  3. While the chickpeas are cooking, dice your ingredients.
  4. Mix together all ingredients (including chickpeas) and finish with a sprinkle of salt and pepper!
  5. I like to allow this recipe to sit in the fridge in an airtight container for about an hour before serving. It really allows the flavors to melt together!
That's it! It is honestly that easy to recreate something that is vegan and organic!

If you would like some other recipes that can save you money while staying vegetarian....Feel free to check these ones out!

Try my SOY FREE Vegetarian Breakfast Sausage  Even the kids LOVE this recipe and eat it - usually before I get to! :(

You can also whip up some Vegetarian "Chicken" Nuggets in no time!

Also please remember to follow me on social media for updates!

Find me on Twitter, Facebook, and my other various outlets! I am always sharing great tips on living organically, vegetarian, and FRUGALLY!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Super Easy - Healthy NO BAKE Organic Protein Bars!

Over the past few months, my husband has become hooked on a new vice. Of all the addictions in the world; smoking, drinking, gambling, etc....he picks PROTEIN BARS! I should not complain...it is a healthy problem to have BUT it is also a $3 per bar addition. Yesterday, I believe it equated to a $20/day habit.

So...as many of you know, I am a total DIY girl and save money wherever I can. I took to the internet to find recipes and was sad when the first few pages of recipes were LOADED with sugar, processed ingredients, and junk. The other portion I found called for some crazy ingredients that I simply did not have on hand. One part of how I make organic work for a busy (LARGE) family is to keep it simple. These recipes were NOT going to work!

I decided to just take a base recipe and just wing it! These bars turned OUT AMAZING! There is little to no sugar in this recipe and they  were made with all organic ingredients. I think I am now stuck making these everyday! I made a whole tray of protein bars for the price of 2 bars!!! Score

I also chose not to bake them. This means that they are more like snack packs but they were still sooo good. I have added the directions of how to do these bars both ways.

I have to apologize in advance....I really don't have too many pictures of the bars as the kiddos broke into them before I got the chance to capture them on film!

They take about 15 minutes to make and can be altered to include your favorite nuts and dried fruits! You can also toss in your favorite health supplement like flax seeds, chia seeds, etc.

Ingredients: (I used ALL ORGANIC items BUT you can still make them healthy with your choice of brands!)
  • 2 cups raw oats
  • 2 cups toasted rice cereal (any cereal..I used toasted O's!)
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of any combination of dried fruits
  • 1/4 cup of agave syrup
  • Protein powder (optional)  - I did not specify an amount as each brand requires a different amount.  Simply adjust per recipe. This made about 10 bars. 
  • optional - I added in some organic chocolate chips!
No bake -
  1. simply mix all ingredients together
  2. press firmly into greased baking pan
  3. sit in fridge to set bars
  4. Enjoy!
Baked -
  1. Mix all ingredients together
  2. press firmly into greased baking dish
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes
  4. Allow to cool then enjoy!
I hope you try them and enjoy! They are healthy and frugal way to get your protein bar fix WITHOUT all of the junk and processed foods you find in traditional bars! In case you like to grab your protein bars pre-made...check out some of our favorites!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Healthy Black Bean Soup - A Quick Recipe

Since I am a vegetarian, it is important that I add protein into my meals whenever I can. For the first 4 years of my vegetarian life, I would say I was what i called a "BAD VEGETARIAN" or maybe you prefer "COOKIE-A-TARIAN". I assumed that cookies were vegetarian, cakes were vegetarian, and so were starchy sides---so I gained weight. Not only did I gain weight, but I wasn't the healthiest that I could be. So...when I started my organic lifestyle, I decided that me HEALTH was just as important as my disdain for meat!  IMy passion for being meatless and need for healthy options is  why protein packed legumes like Black Beans and Garbanzo Beans are a staple in my home. If you have kids...you know they could care less how nutritionally awesome they are...if it isn't what they like, they won't eat it. It is soooo important that I hide these nutritional powerhouses into my foods so my oldest doesn't hear, see, or think BEAN! So far, I have hidden beans in my black bean brownies, black bean cookies, sausage made with garbanzo beans, black bean meatballs and even some other creative goodies! Even this soup made the list ---after I blended it all the way!

I have two different versions this soup. 1 is a "quick cook" recipe involving only 2 cans of ingredients! ANYONE can handle this--Eating healthy shouldn't be a chore! The original recipe takes a few more ingredients and a little more cooking time but is still a quick fix.  I make this soup in a large batch because it has so many uses! You can use it as a soup; serve it atop nachos; drizzle it on hotdogs; serve it as a taco salad; and even as a yummy dip for bread!  I even make my own whole wheat tortillas- it is so easy to do and uses only 5 ingredients! The packages of tortillas you buy in the store are loaded with preservatives and chemicals...not mine! You can get the recipe HERE.

Both recipes are easy to make and are done in less than 30 minutes. This is NOT a recipe that you have to live by!  Add additional spices if you like your food spicy or add some smokey herbs for a more smoked flavor.

HERE IS A GOURMET TIP: Okay, maybe not gourmet but it does enhance the flavor in a crazy way. Add 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder or a small handful of chocolate chips to your soup while cooking. Chocolate is an ingredient found in a traditional Mexican mole sauce and it will bring a truly amazing undertone to your soup.

  • 2 cans of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • tablespoon oil or cooking spray
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup of salsa (or canned tomatoes with chilies)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
Garnish ideas:
Cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese, tortilla strips, hot sauce,  diced onions, diced peppers, chives, tomatoes, etc.
  1. Saute onions in the oil until almost transparent.
  2. Add in the seasonings
  3. Blend 1/2 of the beans in the blender until smooth. This step will thicken your soup (if you are hiding the beans like I do for my kids...blend them all!)
  4. Add the beans and salsa/tomatoes and cook for about 20 minutes
  5. Right before serving - squeeze in the lime juice. If you don't have lime--no worries! It is just an enhancement.

  • 2 cans of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can of  tomatoes with chilies. (depending on the brand you can find chili ready, tomatoes with chilies, etc)
  1. Blend together half of your beans and the can of tomatoes
  2. Cook for a few minutes
  3. SERVE!
I hope your family enjoys this "health" based soup and can find even more ways to use it throughout the week!

PS. You can totally use this soup to make a SUPER HEALTHY TACO! Click HERE for my 5 steps to a HEALTHIER TACO!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Healthy Homemade Almond Butter

Hello, my name is Heather, and I am an almond butter..ADDICT! Okay, maybe there isn't a group for people addicted to almond butter BUT, if there were, I would need a seat and a doughnut (also an addiction).

So, you now may be asking WHY I am addicted to almond butter. The main reason is that it contains amazing health benefits! It is Naturally rich in Vitamin E and magnesium and offers more calcium, fiber, potassium, and iron than traditional peanut butter. It does ALL of this and with less saturated fat :)! It also doesn't hurt that Almond Butter is so versatile! You can use it as a dip, just as peanut butter, or even in a gourmet tasting FROSTING!

Now...for the UGLY side of Almond Butter....It is EXPENSIVE! One jar organic or All-Natural Almond Butter can cost close to $10!  As much as I love it....spending $10 for a jar that will be gone in a day is not going to happen at my house. So...I was lucky enough to have my Blogger Buddy Jelli from Jellibean Journals who recently shared a recipe for homemade All-Natural Peanut Butter.  I thought if it would work for Peanut Butter....it just might work for Almond Butter-IT DID!

I hate to say it but this is a very simple recipe - which is a HUGE plus in my house.  It is also a very CLEAN recipe with a SHORT ingredient list. We are avoiding all chemicals in our home so this is vital to us. This homemade almond butter is so easy to make that I can not believe that I did not try it before.....

Raw Almonds (500g)
1 ingredient! NO CHEMICALS!
  1. 3 cups of RAW or ROASTED almonds
Yep...THAT's IT! Feel free to toss in a hint of cocoa powder, salt, spice, honey, maple syrup, or vanilla to make a gourmet treat!

  1. Blend in Food Processor for about 10 minutes. make sure you scrape the sides down as needed.
  2. Store in fridge and always stir before you use it! The oils will naturally separate.
See...I bet you never knew it could be this easy to make homemade almond butter but after you try it....you will think it is the ONLY way to get your Almond Butter FIX!

If you enjoyed this recipe...check out a few of my other super easy organic recipes:

Super Easy Organic Ranch Dressing
Organic Peanut Butter and Chocolate Granola
2 ingredient Greek Yogurt Dough

There are many more on the site so stay a while and look around! Don't forget to follow me on Social Media! Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

Don't forget to check out Conscious Box! Tons of fantastic Eco-Friendly Items delivered to your door each month! You can earn points for Freebies by reviewing the items you receive! That's a WIN WIN!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Soy-Free Vegetarian Breakfast Sausage Recipe

I hate to admit it-I am a VEGGIE SAUSAGE ADDICT! Sounds harmless enough, right?!? Not to me. I am also trying to go as organic as possible (I am 95% of the way there) and the ingredient list on the box of my favorite veggie sausages just aren't sitting right with me.....

The brand shall remain nameless...



NOTHING about that list says organic! It may be lower in fat and cholesterol than traditional sausage but I see tons of modified foods and chemicals in the ingredient list. This forced me to go without my favorite breakfast food! Let's not even mention the price of the meatless options. It's something like $5 for 6 small patties. NOT hitting my budget line either.

So, I looked online to find something I could easily and inexpensively make at home. I found many recipes that used TVP (which is debatable by many for those who are eating organically), tempeh, gluten products, and soy. Who readily keeps these items readily at home? Okay...maybe a few of us but I was looking for a "cleaner" - less processed- version of the recipe.

This recipe can be edited and adjusted to suit your favorite type of sausage. Add Italian spices if you like or add some apples and jalapenos for a twist!  Just start with the base and party on!

  • 1 can of rinsed Garbanzo Beans
  • 1 cup of Organic Oats
  • 2 Tablespoons of wheat flour
  • 1 egg (can be omitted to be vegan)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  •  1 teaspoon of sage
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1-2 teaspoons of sweetener. I use Stevia or Organic Maple Syrup. Any sweetener will work.

  1. Add all ingredients except oats into a food processor. I like the texture of the Garbanzo beans so I sometimes mash the ingredients together with the bottom of a cup to avoid the food processor mess!
  2.  Add in the oats and stir one last time. 
  3. Form into "patties" and grill over medium high heat until golden brown on both sides.

If you are looking for some other Vegetarian recipes...Check out My vegetarian Chicken Nuggets Also made with Garbanzo beans. I try to prep these on the same day as the ingredients are very similar! You can also add an easy hummus dip to the day! The star of that heart healthy dish is also---The garbanzo bean!

Organic French Dressing - Low Carb

If you are following (and I hope you are), you may know that my family is eating at least 95% Organic these days. I am determined to keep chemicals out of our food and committed to doing it on a budget!

I was shocked when we started our journey and began looking at the back of bottles. The most surprising labels were the ones that most people consider to be "health" foods. Check out this list of ingredients taken directly from Kraft's website!

Do you know what Natural Flavor is? How about Phosphoric Acid? Why use Red and Blue Food coloring...just use real ingredients!


Anyway, that just wasn't going to work for us! I tried buying Organic French at the grocery store but paying $4-$5 for one bottle of dressing was a bit pricey (if you don't know me, I am cheap)!

So....I started looking for recipes online. There are a lot out there and many use ketchup/catsup as their main ingredient. For some reason, I have a personal vendetta against the sugary red stuff. I blame this on my younger brother who did and still does eat it on EVERYTHING! I can't smell it, look at it, or hear the dreaded plop of ketchup.

I had to come up with something! I came up with a tangy version of the dressing which is void of chemicals and overly processed foods YET super high in flavor! Feel free to edit this recipe to your liking. French dressing is like coffee, there are TONS of ways to have it: tangy; sweet; creamy; spicy, etc. Make it YOUR WAY!

  • 1/4- 1/2 cup Organic Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 White Onion (chopped)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tsp. Chili Powder
  • 3 tbsp. Stevia or use an organic sugar. Honey may be great too! Using sugar or honey will add carbs but if you aren't watching those, use whatever you have on hand!
Some optional additions: 1 teaspoon lemon juice to brighten flavor, tobasco sauce, hint of stone mustard, crushed garlic, etc. You can change this up however you would like!

 This is as easy as it gets!
  1.  Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. 
  2. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container. The longer it sets, the more the flavor develops! I like to use it the next day.
Sorry the directions were so short BUT if it isn't easy....it isn't getting done around my house! Eating organic is a lifestyle for us which means that we have to stay within our budget and we have to be able to execute it.

Here are a few more of my favorite Organic Dressing Recipes!

If you are interested in making an Organic Ranch Dressing that is super yummy and super healthy..CLICK HERE!

try my
Sweet Citrus& Onion Dressing HERE
Go all out and try some homemade mayo- only 5 ingredients!

Please remember to follow me on your favorite social media source to stay updated on all of my THRIFTY Organic Recipes!

If you have a favorite dressing you would like for me to replicate...let me know and I would be happy to do it! Thanks for checking me out!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Low-Carb Lasagna

Over the course of my life, I have been a variety of sizes and have done almost every diet in the book. I have done fad diets, tried supplements, and have even invented my own "version" of diets. Throughout it all, the quickest and easiest way I have found to loose the pounds was the Low-Carb diet. I have also found that, if I don't enjoy some of my favorites while on a "diet", I certainly am not going to stick to it. It is vital to make it a lifestyle to see prolonged benefits!

 Here is a quick snapshot of me before and me after a 40 pound weight loss ...
Which one in the before is me and which is Dora?
For those of you who shudder at the words "Low-Carb"...I may know exactly what you are thinking. You may be thinking 1 of two things....1) that it isn't a healthy way to lose weight or 2) that you can't live without your carbs. I am here to let you know that it can be done in a healthy way and that, with a few alterations, you can enjoy some of your favorite dishes without all of the carbs.

How to do low-carb in a healthy way.
I am a carb addict and to top it all off...I am a vegetarian. This means that the Dr. Atkins way of dieting does NOT work for me. I can not sit down with a plate of beef topped with bacon and melted cheese. I had to make alterations and edits to lose weight. I dropped 40 pounds in just a few months with my healthy version of the low-carb diet. You can read more about it HERE and get a few of my favorite low-carb vegetarian soup recipes HERE.  I also eat organically which means the low-carb snack bars and products on the shelves are a NO GO for me! Those are chock full of additives and chemicals.

You can't live without carbs?
Can you tell it isn't pasta under the eggplant?
YOU CAN! You just need to learn to make your favorite dishes in a new way! Have you tried using Spaghetti squash in place of spaghetti? Check it out HERE! Have you tried whipped cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes?  You can also still enjoy your carbs in limited amounts! I take a day off every 10 days and it is important to do this. If you totally restrict yourself, you won't make it a lifestyle and the weight loss will come back. Once the weight is off, you can add healthy carbs back into your diet (or enjoy a donut every once in a while).

This brings me to a recipe for one of my favorite dishes...LASAGNA! Yep, on a low carb diet-you can still enjoy a BIG plate of messy lasagna! It may not be your momma's version of lasagna but it is fantastic and a bit more of an adult "gourmet" version! This recipe can be made both vegetarian and carnivore style and is a crowd pleasure for low-carb eaters and anyone who appreciates a large plate of comfort food!

This is a vague recipe as it is just a guideline for how to make the dish. You can add, edit, and alter in any way you see fit! It is all about making it the way YOU enjoy it. The closer you make it to your traditional favorite...the more likely you are to make it a permanent replacement!

  • Zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant. Any combination or just one
  • Canned Italian Style Tomatoes - Blended (I use organic canned tomatoes vs. jarred pasta sauces. They provide a fresh flavor and no added junk)
  • Protein (I omit this but you can choose chicken, beef, or pork. The idea is to make it close to your traditional lasagna!)
  • Cheese (A layer of rich ricotta cheese is an upgrade! To make it creamy and fantastic- blend a 1 pound tub of ricotta with 1 whole egg.  Again, the idea is to make it like your favorite so use any cheese you would like)
  • Your Favorite additions: onions, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, etc.

  1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees
  2. Make your "pasta"! If you have a mandolin, this will make things easier. If you do not, don't fret! Simply cut the end off your zuchini and stand it on the cut end. Cut it into thin slices. The cuts will resemble lasagna.
  3. While organizing the rest of the dish, place your "noodles" on a cooking sheet and spray lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes on each side. Some folks do this in a skillet and some skip it altogether. I like adding the flavor into the veggies.
  4. If you are adding some carnivorous meat, prepare it however you like it best! 
  5. Remove your "pasta" from the oven and begin assembling.
  6. Layer your ingredients as you would like!Start with a thin layer of the blended Italian style tomatoes. Then proceed with your "noodles", veggies, protein, and so on. I like to switch up the directions of my "noodles" on each layer. It gives the dish a bit more stability when you cut it.
  7. Bake this just as you would your traditional lasagna. Typically about 45 minutes to 1 hour. 
  8. ENJOY!
If you have favorite low-carb swaps...I would love to know about them! It only takes a few great alterations to make a healthy meal that is low-carb, HEALTHY, and enjoyed by all.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Black Bean Brownies

If my children ever figure out the secret ingredient in my brownies, I will be in a lot of trouble. I honestly did try to convince them that there were beans inside and for some reason, they did not believe me!

These brownies are so much healthier than your typical brownie! They are more like a sweet protein bar. This recipe has no flour, 2/3 less sugar than usual recipes, only 2 tbsp. oil, and is packed with heart healthy protein and fiber.

To make these your own, you can add anything your family loves to this recipe! Try adding chopped nuts, peanut butter, cream cheese, chocolate chips, or even candies right before placing the pan into the oven.

  • 1 (15 ounce) can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of oil ( your choice, I used coconut oil)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar (your choice of sweetener-I used stevia)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  1. Add everything to a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  2. Pour the mixture into a greased 8x8 pan
  3. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes
  4. Allow brownies to cool for about 10 minutes
These brownies were a shock to both me and my family. They were extremely rich and full of flavor and best of all, a healthy alternative to a boxed brownie mix!

I hope you will check out some of our other real food recipes and organic recipes!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Microwave Potato Chips

That is right--MICROWAVE potato chips! I saw a post on this a few months ago and thought for sure it was a hoax. I don't say it often, but I stand corrected. These chips came out crispy with ZERO oil or fat!  They were so easy to make and my kids actually loved them. My husband looked at me like I was crazy (not a first time) when I told him what I was doing. After his first taste, he was the one admitting that he was wrong!

You can season these chips anyway you want to! Simple salt, bar-b-que rub,  Italian seasonings, almost anything! A batch for us was 5 potatoes this mean that a "normal bag's worth" of my "Fit Chips" cost me less than $1! If you have organic potatoes on hand...you just saved yourself a TON of money! You now have organic potato chips for less than $2!

These chips are perfect for a "clean" eating diet. There is nothing added-just a potato and some spices!

Check this out...
Normal storebought chips have 10 grams of fat per 15 chips, 
 these "fit chips" have 0.2 grams of fat per 15 chips!

Here is how you make them:
  1. Slice your potatoes paper thin (use a mandolin if you have one). Mine were a bit chunkier but still amazing.You can peel them if you like. There is so much "good stuff" in the skins so I leave them on!
  2. Wash your potatoes slices in cold water.
  3. Dry your potatoes either in a salad spinner or with towels. The drier you get them, the better.
  4. Place your potato slices on a glass plate. Some recipes suggest using parchment on top and bottom. I did not have any on hand.
  5. Microwave for about 8 minutes. 
  6. DONE

No joke! That is it! Since I was making them for my whole family, they did take a while but 8 minutes for a single serving of super healthy-crisp potato chips is well worth it! I hope you try them and enjoy!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Healthy Baked Oatmeal Muffins - 3 ingredients

Okay....This recipe is going to sound too simple to be true but trust me...it is simple and AWESOME! There is no added sugar and no oil!

I came across this recipe from my friend Christine over at Juggling Real Food and Real Life.  She and I both share a passion for giving our families "real" food so I know that I can always trust her recipes! This time, I knew that I had to try it so I ventured to the kitchen only to find that I did not have all of the ingredients. Since I am more of a mad scientist than a cook, I decided to try making them with what I had on hand..to my surprise, they worked!

These baked oatmeal muffins have been a hit with my kids - they ask for them at least 3 times a week. I certainly don't argue because they are simple, can be  made in many different varieties, and my version is totally organic!

Before I tell you about my version...I hope you will check out the original recipe from Christine HERE.

29 cents a pound!
  • 2 large bananas mashed (ripe works best)
  • 2 cups of oatmeal (any variety)
  • 2 tablespoons of milk (I use coconut but any works)
  • any fresh fruit (strawberries, blueberries, etc. - also can be made without) 
Notice that my version has no oil and no added sugar. The kids don't notice a difference and I certainly am not going to tell them!

Strawberry version next to my homemade veggie sausage!
  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix together bananas, oatmeal, and milk
  3. Gently fold in your fresh fruit
  4. Pour in greased muffin pans
  5. Bake for about 20-25 minutes
  6. ENJOY!

Can you believe that it is this easy I couldn't! I try to make a double batch but if these muffins are in the house...they are gobbled up quickly!

Thank you Christine for the inspiration! I hope you get inspired as well and create some amazing baked oatmeal muffins!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Super Easy Organic Ranch

When we started our organic food journey, I thought it was going to be pretty simple...avoid junk foods, processed foods,  high fructose corn syrup, etc....but that was only the tip of the iceberg! I knew that there would be more salads and veggies involved but never realized how processed and chemical ridden the dressings and dips I was putting on them were!

 Take for example the lengthy ingredient list for Kraft Ranch Dressing.... can you pronounce or identify all of the ingredients? And I am totally not knocking Kraft - they don't profess to be organic and many other ranch dressings have the same ingredient list. I just wonder why you would even bother with the salad and veggies!

Size: 16 FL OZ
Upc: 2100064361

I mean c'mon, I am no "conspiracy theorist" but my body is real...why would I load it with ingredients that are modified and labeled as artificial?

So I went on a quest to find an amazing ranch dressing! Here is what I came up with!  It has only a few ingredients and is so versatile.....You can make  this dip/dressing SUPER healthy by making it with greek yogurt or you can make it non dairy with some Tofutti and soy milk! The choice is yours but no matter which way you make it...you will love the results!

  • 1 16 ounce tub of your favorite sour cream, plain greek dressing, or even cream cheese (for a stiff dip or spread)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Dill
  • 1 Tablespoon of Chives or Green Onions
  • 1 Clove of Crushed Garlic (you can use garlic powder if you like)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A teaspoon of lemon to brighten the flavors
  • Add your choice of milk to thin it out  for a dressing
How is that for an ingredient list? Looks WAY better than the bottled dressing label and tastes so much better too!

Toss all of the ingredients in a bowl and stir! That's it!

You can use this one recipe to create so many different dips and dressing!
 Toss in a diced jalapeno for a spicy kick, tomatoes and peppers for a southwest punch of flavor, or creamy avocado for a rich and creamy treat!

Even if you are not eating "clean" or "organic" it is still an awesome dip to serve to friends and family at get togethers and it is certainly a better option than the ones in a bottle!

It is now safe to resume dipping your broccoli and dressing your salads! Enjoy

Thursday, June 13, 2013

10 Crusty Recipes

I have no clue why, but my children will NOT eat the crust of bread! I hear this from other moms as well so I am assuming that it isn't just me who throws away the crust from each sandwich I make for my little ones. I am all about stretching my money. Especially when I am feeding my family only organic and splurge a little on the organic bread at the grocery. In the beginning...when there was 1 child, it didn't seem  so wasteful. Now, with 5 kids, we use a whole loaf of bread at each meal and this leaves A LOT of left over crust. It seemed so wasteful to throw it away so I got creative and used my restaurant management brain to find some fun and exciting ways to use them!

 Simply cut the crust off BEFORE you make the sandwich and the possibilities are endless!

Here are 10 ways to use that crusty goodness!

1 Bag of Crusts!
1. Croutons - okay....not the most inventive but great garlic croutons are always a great thing to have around the house!  Dice up your crusts and toss them with melted butter and garlic salt. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.

2. Panzanella - Toss your homemade croutons in some olive oil, vinegar, and veggies and you have a fantastic summer salad (I used fresh basil from my garden..YUM). To your croutons, add things like sliced onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and olives ---actually whatever you like to build your base. Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings and let it sit for an hour or so in the fridge before serving! It is FANTASTIC! I actually made my "dressing" in advance including the veggies then tossed everything while preparing for my daughter's party! It was a great way to pre-make an awesome side dish! And no judgement...I didn't dice my bread up as well as I should have...I was in a hurry!

3. Bread Pudding - who doesn't love a great warm bread pudding!

4. Stuffing/Dressing - call it what you want to....it is always an awesome addition to dinner! Everyone has their favorite version so I will leave that to you!

Warm berries and greek yogurt!!
5. French Toast Bake - This is a favorite at our house! It is just like a bread pudding only a bit more bread-y! Chop your crust into small cubes. Fill a large greased baking dish with the cubes and top with a mixture of 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cup of milk, a bit of butter, and your favorite seasonings (i.e. almond, vanilla, cinnamon, sugar) then press the bread until it is all good and coated. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and toss it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. This is an extremely versatile recipe and can be made the night before and placed in the fridge over night! Add fresh fruit and a dollop of yogurt for a real treat!

Pic of the Johnsonville Bake
6. Breakfast Casserole - Everyone has a favorite version of this one! 1 calls for cut up English muffins, another french bread.....no matter which variation you like, you can use your diced crusts! Basically, take the diced egg crusts and add 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of milk, cheese, and your favorite savory seasonings & veggies (peppers, onions, tomatoes) , and cooked meats. This is a GREAT way to use up leftovers!! Ham, sausage, bacon, and even chicken all work well in this dish! Here is a recipe from Johnsonville....I make mine with all organic items and it is still super tasty!

7. Breadcrumbs! Why buy them when you already are throwing enough bread away to keep you in crumbs for life?!? Toss your crust pieces in some butter and garlic and then bake in the oven at 150 degrees until they are extremely crunchy. Run these guys through a food processor or blender and wah-bam...you have homemade breadcrumbs! Store in a sealed container!

Ina Garten's recipe! MMMMM!
8.Ribollita - I haven't made this personally but think it is about time! It is basically a soup were the bread acts like dumplings! This is a picture of Ina Garten's recipe found HERE. I would need to alter it a bit for myself but it gives me so many ideas of ways to use up other leftovers!

 9. Meatloaf & Meatballs - Instead of using fresh bread...use something you were going to pitch! Try dicing your crusts and using them instead. Using your homemade seasoned breadcrumbs here is also a great trick!

10.  Feed the Birds - Okay, so this isn't a recipe for food but it is a recipe for FUN! I am sure someone will argue that this is a bad idea to feed the birds...if so, sorry. It is always a great family experience to sit at the park and feed the ducks. It is FREE to do and the kids LOVE it. The ducks are already being fed so it isn't like we are ruining their natural hunting instincts...right?

So....maybe I have taken this frugal thing too far.....well, maybe not! Look at all of the amazing things I can do with the "wasted" crusts from my children's sandwiches! If you have other ideas, I would LOVE to hear them and try them!  Please share any tips, recipes, and tricks you may have for saving money using bread crusts!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013


Hi everyone! I am Cathy and I blog over at A Peek Into My Paradise. I would love for you to take a peek and poke around my blog. I am sure you will find something you will love. If you like what you see, please stop by my FacebookPinterestTwitter, or Bloglovin. I love to make new friends! I am honored to be sharing at Frugal Fit Family. Thank you Heather for inviting me! 
A few weeks ago I noticed the strawberries were popping up in produce departments. Have you seen them this season? The strawberries I bought at Costco are HUGE and a beautiful deep red! 

Strawberries are tied with bananas as my favorite fruit! However, for my family of four, I have two children (adults now) but when we were a family of four, strawberries were the one fruit we all loved. During the summer Strawberry Shortcake was a popular dessert. My mom always made fresh biscuits with Bisquick for our "shortcakes", so of course, I did too. No spongy foam cakes in our house. Yuck! I know they are popular, probably because they are quick and easy, but they don't hold a candle to a fresh baked biscuit.

I cut the strawberries into slices a few hours before serving. Piled them in a bowl and sprinkle with a little sugar (and later a little Splenda when I joined Weight Watchers) to bring out the juices of the fruit and make a sweet natural syrup. 
When it was time for dessert, Strawberry Shortcake took minutes to assemble. Cut a biscuit in half, pile up the strawberries and plop a healthy scoop of fat free cool whip on top! I was a happy girl - and so was my family!

I thought I would share some of the strawberry tips I have compiled over the years.....
  1. Make your own soda. Puree 2 cups of strawberries with 1/3 cup of sugar, press through a sieve. Stir into lime seltzer. 
  2. A refreshing treat - Toss sliced strawberries with chopped mint and balsamic vinegar. (This was a favorite while I was getting to goal weight on Weight Watchers!)
  3. How about a grown-up milkshake? Whirl vanilla frozen yogurt and strawberries in a blender (I use my Vitamix) and mature that sweet drink with a shot of berry liqueur!
  4. My family discovered a favorite strawberry dish on a Carnival Cruise way back in 2001; Strawberry Soup. We enjoyed it SO much, I bought the Cruise Lines cookbook just for THAT recipe! My version now: Blend 4 cups of strawberries, 1 cup vanilla yogurt and a squirt of honey. Heaven in a bowl!
  5. Forget the flavored cream cheese in the grocery store! It is SO much better making it yourself! Beat a brick of cream cheese, pureed strawberries and a couple packets of sweetener or sugar. Spread on a bagel - delish!
  6. About 15 year ago, my girlfriend Julie, introduced me to Strawberries dipped in sour cream and rolled in brown sugar. OH MY! How did I make it to 30 and never had eaten strawberries this way!? If you have not experienced strawberries this way - trust me - try them! 

    One cup of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange!

    I know what your thinking?
    What time does Costco close?
    Can I go get a big pack of strawberries right now so
    I can make a few of these yummy treats?

    Here are a few more....

  7. Puree strawberries in a blender; warm them a minute or so in the microwave. Spread brownie batter in a non-stick sprayed baking pan. Pour the puree on the batter. Drag a knife through the batter to swirl. Bake as directed by the brownie recipe. 
  8. Crumble one of the brownies you made in number 7 above and sprinkle over frozen vanilla yogurt. OR put the frozen yogurt in a blender, add a brownie, mix it up for a wonderful Strawberry Brownie Milkshake! 
  9. Stir strawberry puree into vanilla greek yogurt. Tip: I puree 4 cups of strawberries at a time and it keeps in the refrigerator 3-4 days; but it rarely lasts that long!
  10. When your taking A Peek Into My Paradise you will see I have quite a love affair with bananas! And Peanut Butter.... So put them together! Make a peanut butter, sliced strawberries and banana sandwich! Better yet, yes even better - grill that sandwich!
  11. For a wonderful summer dinner, blend strawberries into vinaigrette, then toss with arugula, chopped berries and grilled chicken. A warm baguette and dinner is served!
  12. If the Grown-Up Milkshake sounded good...how about starting the summer with a Strawberry Margarita? Blend 3 cups of strawberries, 1/4 cup lime juice, 1/2 cup tequila, some sugar and ice. Kick your feet up and watch the kids run through the sprinklers! Oh, I miss those carefree summers when we could play all day and not go to work.....ok...back to the strawberry ideas. 
  13. Remember these? Make ice pops. Puree 4 cups strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup orange juice. Fill up the molds (or kitchen size dixie cups) and freeze.
    Well, I could go on and on about strawberries! Oh - chop some up and toss them into your favorite pancake mix. Yum! Ok, I'm done for now. 

    Heather, thanks again for having me! I hope you are having an awesome vacation! I can't wait to see the pictures and hear all about! Say, over a Strawberry Milkshake and Skype?

    Have a terrific weekend friends! I hope you take A Peek Into My Paradise and when you do, leave me a note in the comment box. How exciting! New friends!