Mason Jar Salads | My Favorites

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photo 2-1This summer, up until September I have been eating salads that I take to work in Mason Jars for lunch. I was able to eat a different salad each week, which kept me from getting bored and happy to try this again next summer. I thought I would just share some of my favorite ingredients for those who want to get into Mason Jar Salads.

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Protein:
Chicken
Roast Beef
Quinoa
Black Beans

Veggie’s:
Heirloom Tomatoes
Green Onion
Yellow, Red, Orange Bell Pepper
Cucumber
Avocado

Fruit:
Strawberries
Grapes
Dried Cranberries

Nuts:
Slivered Almonds
Pecans

Cheeses:
Gorgonzola
Blu Cheese
Herbed Feta

Lettuce:
Spinach
Organic Girl Power Green
Romaine

I tried other ingredients, but the above are my favorites. My salad ingredient ratio combo is usually:
Protein
2 Veggies
Optional Fruit
Tablespoon Nuts
Tablespoon Cheese
Serving of Greens

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I never put my salad dressing in the jar, so I will do a separate post about my favorite salad dressings. Plus I always use quinoa and beans together for a great dose of protein. I kept a box of plastic forks and paper plates at work all summer, and was asked just about every day what salad and dressing I was eating that week.  These salads are quite high in good, healthy, sustainable calories. They are multi-vitamins in a jar, they are filling, they look gorgeous and are very easy to take to work.  Give it a try! What are your favorite’s?photo 3-4

The Refrigerator | 90 Day Challenge

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I have decided to take on the idea from my last post for 90 days. Every week I will religiously prep and plan (which I do for grocery shopping anyway).   I plan to use Mason Jars and Glass Lock containers like these:

 

The meal prep containers will contain exactly that, preparatory food for the week. That means that these containers will have the ingredients that I usually use in my dinners plus whatever I need for meals that week, the usual prep ingredients will include:

  • sliced red onion
  • pre-cut broccoli (sprouting lid)
  • pre-cut cauliflower (sprouting lid)
  • cubed bell pepper
  • cubed sweet potato (in filtered water)
  • red cabbage (sprouting lid)

In the eat containers, I plan to keep my regular fruits and vegetables, which include snacks and lunch sides. I LOVE fruit, so I will keep some fruit in my fruit basket on the counter as usual, but I also plan to keep a seasonal berry and another fruit that needs to be refrigerated in the fridge, these include:

  • celery sticks (in filtered water)
  • sliced bell pepper
  • berries
  • pineapple (melons, etc.)
  • boiled eggs

Lastly, the ready to go portion of my refrigerator will include:

  • Curry Sauce (homemade)
  • Vegetable broth (homemade)
  • 5 oz leafy greens
  • Pesto
  • Hummus
  • Lunch (which is often left over dinner)
  • Greek Yogurt

My crisper drawers will hold overflow for refilling, cheese, and herbs. Combined with the changes I have made to my pantry, this should work quite well to keep my eating clean. I tested this idea yesterday for snacks and dinner, I have tangerines and apples lying around, so I snacked on them and nuts (homemade granola recipe review coming soon). My tester began Sunday when I made an Indian curry sauce and put it in my fridge:

curry sauce

I took it out of my refrigerator, a can of beans and my pearl couscous from the pantry. I set the couscous to cooking and threw the beans in a pan covered it in curry sauce for warming, and 5-10 minutes later, I had a complete meal. Next time I will add bell pepper and record the process.

meal prep

It was so easy!!!!!!! My snacking was pretty brainless, and dinner included a grain and protein, next time I will add a veggie for a completely nutritious meal in no time. The great thing about curry sauce is that it can be used on beans, meat, and veggies and I use curry sauce often, so its something I feel safe keeping in my refrigerator. Plus I can make many different types of curry sauces thus keeping things interesting.

I was on the fence before last night, but now, I am pretty sure that this is a good step for me. Anyone else wanna join me and tell me your experience with this method along the way? The original blog that I found this pic on that explains the premise behind this idea is “Our Mindful Home.”

The Verdict | Dry Bulk Goods

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I am constantly re-evaluating my bulk goods usage. Using my bulk goods to determine whether or not its worth keeping things in my pantry and recently conclusions have been reached. Let’s begin with the Mason Jars.

1. Red Lentils: Keep

I constantly make a dish with red lentils once a month. They are easy to make, can be used in many ways and are great fillers for meals. I have been through two jars, I currently only have a 1/3 of a third jar left, so I will continue to keep Red Lentils as  part of my bulk food storage.

2. Chickpeas: Re-purpose

I do not soak and cook beans enough to justify their place in a Mason Jar. I more frequently use canned beans because I usually make beans on impulse. I do eat beans a couple of times a month, all different kinds. Resultantly, the beans in my jars rarely get used. Meaning, it makes more sense for me to keep canned beans in my pantry.

3. Popcorn: Keep

This one is a must!  really do eat quite a bit of popcorn and I may buy a large Mason Jar for popcorn storage because I find myself filling my current Mason Jar quite frequently. Its definitely a must have for me.

4. Kidney Beans: Re-purpose

Its the same story here. I like beans and eat them frequently enough, but I rarely soak and cook beans. I will keep canned Kidney Beans on hand, but once these are done, I will put something else in this jar.

6. Wasabi Peas: Keep

I consistently put Wasabi Peas in my homemade trail mix. Its a must! No way will I stop eating this sweet treat, so I will keep my little jar stocked up.

7. Pasta & Rice: Keep

I have brown rice, brown Basmati Rice, and brown rice pasta. All of these work well for me. When I make saucy chicken dishes, Basmati Rice is ideal. When I make dishes where I just need a filling grain side, I read for brown rice or quinoa. I make a pasta dish every couple of weeks with whatever type of pasta I have, and I always try to keep red sauce and spaghetti on hand for last minute food ideas. I also keep Egg Noodles on handle for my frequent impromptu Chicken Noodle soup.

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8. Israeli Couscous: Re-purpose

This jar is just about as full as it originally was. I need to purposefully use that couscous and then not purchase it again. I simply find myself going for the Semolina version of Couscous with much more frequency than I do the large round ball option (Israeli option). Thusly, I will replace that with hemp hearts once I run out.

9. Couscous (Semolina): Keep

I like this version of couscous because it truly takes flavor quite well. Just needs the addition of hot water to be ready for consumption and lasts longer because it is such a fine grainy substance.

10. Quinoa: Keep

I had tri-color Quinoa, and then I move to just one color, but either way, Quinoa is a must in my pantry. Its a great grain that soaks up flavor, is packed with nutrition and is filling. Yep, I will keep this stocked in my pantry.

11. Rolled Oats: Keep

Yea, I need these in my life. Its funny because I do not Oatmeal. Cooked oats does not appeal to me, its a consistency issue. However, raw oats in Yogurt equals breakfast perfection, lunch ease, and a tasty sweet snack. I have yet to get the courage to put oats in my smoothies, maybe one day.

12. Milled Flaxseed: Re-purpose

I prefer to get my flax in Omega pills or by chewable vitamins. I rarely put this in my smoothies because I do not like the affect it has on the taste of my smoothie. Its not nearly as cheap as everything else in my bulk food storage, so I am going to use that jar for something else in the future.

12. Chia Seeds: Keep

I almost always add a tablespoon of Chia seeds to my cream of wheat and my green smoothies. They are so filling, filled with nutrients, and, are for the most part, flavorless.

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So I’m keeping a little over half of the items in my bulk storage and re-purposing the jars for the rest of the items. If I see anything else I want to try, I will, but of the moment, the only swap will be hemp hearts.

 

 

My Pantry Staples

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I have spent a good portion of the year developing MY pantry staples, determined by what I actually eat. I mostly refill my pantry from the bulk foods section of my local health food stores. I refill the spice containers with spices bought from my local Indian Store as well as the bulk food section of my local health food store.

M y Pantry

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Left to right: Quinoa, Milled Flaxseed, Israeli Couscous, Rolled Oats, Semolina, Chia Seeds

Once I run out of Milled Flaxseed I will replace it with Hemp Hearts. I prefer to get my Omegas from nuts and fish oil pills. I put the milled Flaxseed in my smoothies, plus it does take away from the great taste just a little.

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Top From left to right: Red Lentils, Chick peas, Popcorn, Kidney Beans, Wheat Farina, Wasabi Peas
Bottom From left to right: Brown Rice Rotini, Egg Noodles, Brown Basmati Rice, Brown Rice, Brown Rice Spaghetti, Brown Rice Angel Hair Pasta

You may have noticed that I now have a brown rice arsenal! I enjoy pasta and brown rice is often a perfect side dish, so I keep it all stocked. I am in love with brown rice pasta as a healthy tasty alternative that just soaks up sauce.

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Canisters: All purpose flour, brown sugar, rock sugar, tea. Lazy susans: spices, sauces, vinagrettes, Coconut oil, Olive oil. Bottom: Spices

There really isn’t anything more important in my kitchen than my spice arsenal. There is no better way to compliment your meats, vegetables, soups, stews, etc than with spice. Like I stated above, I buy a spice from the grocery store and once that container is empty, I replace it with spices from my local indian grocery or health food store. I find that those spices have more intense flavor and the containers provided at the grocery store last forever. Plus I do not have to buy separate expensive spice jars, nope, I recycle and reuse. About a month ago I did a spice overhaul in which I wrote down my most used spices and got rid of the expired ones. If I need a spice that I rarely use, I just go buy a tablespoon or two in the bulk foods section and use it up, so that no spice in my pantry expires. Let me know if you want a full listing of my spices and how I use them.

Not pictured are my stash of nuts, and cans. The cans include tomato paste, whole tomatoes, curry sauce, garbanzo beans, black beans and vegetable broth. The current nuts are sunflower seeds and almonds.

I am so happy with my pantry now, it truly supports healthy habits. There is no candy stash, no sugary cereal stash, no juice stash, no cans of soup, no cans of fruit, etc. It took over half of a year, but I now have a pantry that supports healthy eating habits. I am still working on my refrigerator staples, just when I think I have a good base, I change something, that may take all year.

A Quick and Easy Couscous Dinner Review

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One night last week I was trying to decide what to eat for dinner, and instead of being proactive and walking into my kitchen, I procrastinated by hopping on my computer to watch Youtube videos. During my perusal, I came across a new Zuzka Light video in which she shared a new recipe:

As I was watching I realized that I had almost all of the ingredients for this recipe sitting in my kitchen, as a result I decided to get off of my bum and make this Sexy Abs recipe. The only ingredient I did not have was canned tomatoes, but I did have half of a tomato in my fridge which I had previously used for a salad, so I simply substituted half a real tomato for the canned tomato. I would have used a whole tomato if I had one, but it did not make a difference in the recipe. I even mixed together her spice mixture because I like to follow the recipe the first time, and then make any necessary changes the next time if I decide to make it again.  Well, of course I made the dish and was pleasantly surprised.

couscous

form my Instagram (Missmusic12)

This dish packs great flavor, and its not that healthy food type of flavor, no its just good flavor in general. The spice mixture is really quite delightful and I did not even realize that there was no additional salt in the recipe until I was half of the way through eating because it did not need any extra salt. I made four portions from this recipe, I ate it twice as is, and I added the mixture along with lettuce for a wrap the next two times. It was so delicious! As far as quick goes, well once you start cooking, it is quick, but I have to say its not a 10 minute meal, more like 20, so its still quick, just not as simple one pot meal quick. Was it easy, quite so, I mean there were no special techniques involved, which makes this ideal for any level cook. I will make this again and I encourage you to give it a go and tell me what you think!

Recipe Review: Tuscan Couscous Stew

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I made this wonderful recipe this past weekend, and all I can say is holy food batman, its delicious!!! I only made half of her recipe and I used chicken thigh’s for meat. This dish is so flavorful for one with only a few spices, it has tons of veggies, beans and protein plus semolina meaning its an incredibly healthy, yet tasty meal. I have never made couscous in this manner before, so I was quite surprised at how great the semolina came out without going through the whole boiling in water process. I really think its the mixing of spices with the semolina that takes this recipe over the top!!! I only made half of the recipe, but the veggie portion came out to be so much that I froze half for another batch of the full stew in the not so distant future. I ate it that day and Monday-Thursday this week for a total of 5 servings from half the veggies, the full meat portion and the full portion of semolina. This recipe is definitely going in the favorite’s column. After adding the recipe to myfitness pal, each portion that I ate came out to 315 calories, plus each portion is a very filling full meal, so no sides were necessary, making this an A+ recipe.