The Sweetest Thing.

" I feel there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people" ~Van Gogh

Meal Plan. March 18, 2013

Filed under: Meal Plan — Jessica @ 6:00 am

What a great week/weekend! The stress at home has passed (for now), I got to see a lot of friends & laughed until it hurt twice! There was a lot of good healthy food, time with my nieces & nephews, job assignments I really enjoyed, good books & inspiration everywhere. Life feels really good right now 🙂

This is actually the first Sunday I have spent in proper fashion in quite sometime. I slept in & woke up to a clean house. Made blueberry peach whole wheat pancakes, bacon & french press coffee for brunch. Started homemade marinara on the stove & curled up in my PJ’s and read Gone Girl on the couch for a couple hours. Plans for the rest of the day include a good dinner, a walk with the pups (it is beautiful out) &  a bubble bath.  I am grateful to be starting the last week before Spring Break feeling refreshed & ready 🙂

Meal plans this week are pretty simple. I am really just concentrating on eating whole foods & building my meals around vegetables, healthy proteins & fruit.

Monday- “Asian” marinated salmon, baked sweet potatoes, broccoli
Tuesday- Italian sausage with onions & peppers in crockpot on whole grain rolls
Wednesday- Carrot ginger soup & oatmeal scones
Thursday – leftovers
Friday- Pork Chops, garlic greens & roasted red potatoes
Saturday- Dinner at my brother’s
Sunday- Herb roasted chicken thighs with carrots & potatoes


Enjoy the week ahead!


Lemon Dill Hummus. March 15, 2013

Filed under: Appetizer,Snacks,Uncategorized — Jessica @ 6:00 am
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This is my favorite DIY hummus recipe. The fact that it contains less fat and calories than many store bought brands is just a bonus. Hummus is great with veggies or crackers, spread in a wrap with sprouts and cucumbers or served on a salad. I don’t use tahini in this recipe because I really don’t care for it. With fresh garlic, dill, real lemon juice and lemon zest- it is bursting with flavor without the traditional ingredient. I promise. I reduce the fat & calories by using just a small amount of olive oil and letting the lemon juice and “bean juice” work to replace the rest of the oil. This recipe is super simple but you will need a food processor.


Lemon Dill Hummus

1 can garbanzo beans- drained, juices reserved
1 Tbls olive oil
2 Tbsp reserved bean juice
2 cloves garlic -skins removed
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest from 1/2 a lemon
Fresh dill- I just use a handful
Salt- to taste

1. Toss everything in food processor & process until smooth (add more bean juice is necessary)
2. Enjoy!


Maple Mustard Roasted Brussel Sprouts. March 13, 2013

Filed under: Side Dish,Vegetables — Jessica @ 6:00 am
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It is my firm belief that all vegetables are most delicious when roasted.  Roasted is pretty much the only way I like to eat brussel sprouts. Tossing halved brussel sprouts with a little olive oil, salt & pepper before roasting produces one of my favorite side dishes. So I took that idea up a notch & added some good quality Dijon mustard and pure maple syrup. These were the perfect side dish. Tonight they were served alongside an oven baked sweet potatoe stuffed with almond butter (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it) but would be delicious with chicken or salmon too.


Maple Mustard Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Serves 2

1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbls maple syrup
16-20 brussel sprouts- halved
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Mix olive oil, mustard & maple syrup together in medium bowl
2. Toss halved brussel sprouts in mixture
3. Spread on cookie sheet (I like to put them all cut side down but I’m pretty sure that is my own weird thing & will cook fine otherwise)
4. Sprinkle with salt & pepper
5. Bake at 400° for about 20 minutes (cooking times will vary based on size of sprouts but they are done when the leaves develop a few crispy bits)
6. Enjoy!



Chunky Vegetable & Lentil Soup. March 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 6:00 am
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The last few days have been quite gorgeous around here (meaning in the 50’s). Warmer weather has certainly gotten me excited about many things to come- flip flops, sundresses, hikes with the pups, cookouts & the general “aliveness” felt in the Spring & Summer months. Despite my excitement at these things, what this weather makes me really want is soup. Homemade soup to be exact. Soup is both one of my favorites things to make & to eat and I always scramble to get a few batches in before it gets too warm to enjoy it. With a refrigerator FULL of produce and my mind on creating something really healthy, this delicious soup was born.


Chunky Vegetable & Lentil Soup
Serves 6-8

1Tbls Extra virgin Olive Oil
Large onion- chopped
4 garlic cloves- minced
4 carrots- peeled & chopped
3 large celery stalks- washed & chopped (including leaves)
3 handfuls washed & torn spinach leaves
6 cups broth of choice ( I used a combination of  chicken that I had open and beef I had in the cupboard but vegetable would work to keep it vegetarian)
1 can crushed tomatoes
1.5 cups uncooked green lentils
1/2 cup fresh parsley- chopped
Fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in large stockpot. Add onion, garlic, carrots and celery & cook until soft. (About 20 minutes)
2. Add spinach & cook until bright green (about 2 minutes)
3. Add broth, tomatoes & lentils. Stir well. Cover & simmer over medium low heat for 45 minutes
4. Add parsley right before serving.
5. Enjoy!



Meal Plan Monday. March 11, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 6:00 am

So last week, I talked about a different type of meal planning where I cook up a bunch of healthy stuff to keep in the fridge for the week. This method is especially effective when trying to “get back on track”. Last week was much healthier than the one before. The sunshine and warm temperatures of the past few days has been even more motivating. I am looking forward to another good week ahead.

Since I am feeling motivated & organized this week, I went back to my traditional meal planning method. 

Monday- lentil soup
Tuesday- veggie/bean burritos
Wednesday- Tamale pie, salad
Thursday- Quiche, salad (I will have company)
Friday- leftovers
Saturday- book club goodies
Sunday- homemade roasted veggie pizza



Monthly Grocery Planning. March 8, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 7:00 am
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Doing the majority of the grocery shopping once a month requires some planning. After several rounds of trial & error, I have found a system that works well for the needs of my household. For those of you trying to reduce the number of trips to the grocery store & save some money in turn, I thought I’d share my step by step system for meal planning on a monthly basis.


1.Gather your materials- favorite cookbooks, recipes I have collected, coupons, my tablet (for pinterest, favorite websites & recipes I’ve bookmarked as well as grocery ads), pen & notebook and some good coffee.

2. Take inventory of pantry & freezers (note what you have on hand/want to use)

3. Write down meal ideas- First, I go through last month’s lists & transfer any ideas I didn’t get to but still want to try. Next, I write down anything I have been craving or new ideas that have been brewing. Last, I look thru cookbooks, Pinterest, websites & clipped recipes, keeping in mind what I already have on hand. My goal is 25-30 dinner ideas. I don’t really plan for other meals as they are made out of the staples which I am always sure to have on hand.

4. Go back through the list and cross out ideas that are too similar ( I had 3 different lentil salads written down this month). I also cross out ideas that require too many special/expensive ingredients that can’t be used in other recipes.

5. After going through the list & eliminating things, I like to end up with 20-22 dinner ideas. The remaining meals will be leftovers, dinner out etc.

6. Pick out a couple breakfast/baked good/snack recipes you want to try

7. Once I have recipes, I make my list- First I add anything I need to restock my pantry.
Next, I add regular items I buy each month (favorite produce, Greek yogurt, cheese sticks etc)
Last, I go through the recipes on the list and add whatever I need for them.

8. After completing my list, I divide the items by store & try to put them in order by the way the store is organized. Avoiding backtracking really helps me avoid last minute impulse purchases.

9. Once the list is finalized, I gather my reusable shopping bags, coupons and list by the door.

10. On shopping day, I am always sure to eat before heading to the store.

11. When planning my meals each week, I use the most perishable ingredients first and save items that will last longer for later in the month.

* we do make a trip or two to the produce store down the street, but there is only really produce & a deli there so spending temptations are limited. We will also stop and pick up milk when needed & my step dad gets us farm fresh eggs from the Amish at the auction weekly

This process takes awhile and I usually work on it over several days. We cut our grocery bill to about 1/3 of what it was by eliminating weekly trips to the grocery store, so it really is worth the time it takes to plan.


Pepper & Pineapple Stir Fry. (3pts+) March 7, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jessica @ 7:00 am
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Stir fry is always one of my go to options for a quick & healthy meal. Throw together some protein, a yummy sauce, veggies and in this case, fruit and it is easy to have dinner ready in about 20 minutes. This is one of my favorites because I usually have everything I need on hand. This particular version used up a chicken breast that was in my refrigerator, but shrimp, tofu or seitan would stand in perfectly.

Pepper & Pineapple Stir Fry
4 servings 3pts+ each


8 oz boneless skinless chicken breast (or protein of choice)- cubed
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls hot sauce
2 Tbls honey
Medium red pepper- sliced
Medium green pepper- sliced
Medium orange pepper- sliced
Medium red onion- sliced
2 cloves garlic- finely diced
1 can of pineapple (pack in it’s own juices)- drained
Brown rice (optional & not included in points+ value)

1. Spray large skillet with olive oil or cooking spray
2. Add diced chicken, oregano & pepper. Brown chicken on all sides (about 5-7 minutes)
3. Add pineapple, sliced peppers & onion, honey, hot sauce, soy sauce & garlic to pan. Stir.
4. Cover & cook about 5 minutes (until peppers are crisp tender)
5. Remove lid & let sit about 5 minutes
6. Serve with brown rice if desired (not included in pts+ calculation)
7. Enjoy!