The Beginners Guide to Meal Planning

With all the back to school buzz, I hear people saying, “We’ve got to get back on a schedule,” or “We’ve got to bet back into our routine.” Between work obligations, school hours, and extracurricular activities, putting a healthy, well-balanced meal on the table can fall by the wayside—and understandably so. I’m here to encourage you that this does not have to be the case!

Two words: meal planning. Now don’t freak out, I’m not saying you have to go all Pioneer Woman! There are so many resources out there to help make meal planning effective and simple.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew! When starting something new, you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. You won’t stick with it if it stresses you out .Try start with planning/prepping for 2-4 dinners the first week.
  2. Start off in your comfort zone. Are you a chicken or pork wizard? Good, start there! Pick recipes you know you can execute well. The last thing you want is to prep and cook an obscure recipe that no one in your family enjoys.
  3. But don’t forget the freshness! Pick sides that include fresh vegetables and herbs. For me, the point of meal planning is to make better use of my time at the store and in the kitchen, and to eat well. When the bulk of your grocery list lives in the produce section, that is a good feeling.
  4. Pick a resource. There are so many great resources out there for meal planning. Take some time to Google your options. Be sure to check back here on Thursday and I’ll share my experience with one of my favorites—it even generates a grocery list that is divided into categories for easy shopping!
  5. Pick a day to shop and prep. Sunday works best for me. I go to the store with my pre-generated list and shop away. I come home, round up the hubby and we prep—organizing and chopping up ingredients. You can store your preps in Ziploc bags or Tupperware, label it for the appropriate day, and your done! Include the whole family—all hands on deck!
  6. Stay up on those dishes! Maybe I’m the only one, but most the time I throw dishes in the sink, the sink gets full, and then we do dishes. More cooking at home means more dishes. Nothing is more discouraging than having to do dishes before you can even start cooking! 

Be sure to check back Thursday when I go over one of
my favorite meal planning websites!


The Easiest Salmon Recipe You’ll Ever Need

If you’re like me, then the two things you want most out of your dinner meal are: fast and healthy. We are encouraged to eat fish at least once a week. Salmon, in particular, is a pot of gold when it comes to the vital nutrients we need. The omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon are great for eye health, brain health, and heart health, as well as reducing overall inflammation in the body. While the pre-cut fillets of salmon may be enticing since they are already perfectly portioned, you will often find that it is much cheaper to purchase the salmon whole and sliced by the pound.

Simple Dill Salmon
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  1. • Salmon (fresh preferred)
  2. • Mayonnaise (I prefer my homemade mayo or you can use a store-bought olive oil mayo variety)
  3. • Fresh dill, chopped
  4. • Salt to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 450oF. Meanwhile, gently season salmon with a sprinkle of salt. Use a spatula to spread a thin layer of mayo over top of salmon. Complete recipe by adding an even layer of fresh dill on top.
  2. Bake in oven for 12-15 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork. Serve with your favorite healthy side dishes and enjoy!
Something to Chew

Caprese Avocado Salad

Some days, you just want a healthy meal that only takes seconds to prepare. That day for me was Saturday. This fresh salad was the perfect balance of healthy fats, protein and crunchy greens that my body needed that afternoon. Avocados and olive oil are some of the best fats to feed your body. Tomatoes and arugula are great sources of antioxidants, and the fresh mozzarella cheese is low in sodium and adds calcium and protein to the dish. My body requires more protein than others, so I added 2 hard-boiled eggs on the side. If you are not familiar with arugula, I highly recommend it. It has a distinct crispness that aids in the balance of textures from the soft mozzarella and avocado in the salad. The dressing is quite rich, so you only need a small amount for the flavor to go a long way!

Caprese Avocado Salad
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  1. For the Salad
  2. • Arugula
  3. • Fresh basil, about 2 leaves, cut into thin strips
  4. • Tomatoes (I used Campari tomatoes)
  5. • Fresh mozzarella (soft)
  6. • ½ small avocado, sliced
  7. For the Dressing
  8. • 1 tbsp olive oil
  9. • 1½ tsp balsamic vinegar
  10. • Pinch of sugar, salt and pepper
  1. Arrange salad ingredients to your liking. Remember there’s no textbook way to make a salad!
  2. Whisk dressing ingredients in a small bowl. The dressing is strong so I recommend dipping your fork in the dressing and sprinkling it over the salad versus pouring the dressing over the salad.
Something to Chew

Tilapia & Strawberry Mango Salsa

Healthy? Check. Fast? Check. Delicious? Check.

Personally, I think tilapia and broccoli are two pretty bland menu items; however, they are excellent sources of nutrition! Tilapia is an incredibly lean protein source and broccoli provides an abundance of Vitamin A, Vitamin K and folate. All these dishes needed were a little love from some spices and herbs, and they were instantly transformed into a flavorful dinner meal.


Baked Tilapia with Strawberry Mango Salsa and Sautéed Broccoli

For the Tilapia

  • 2-4 tilapia fillets (fresh)
  • Your favorite zesty seasoning (I used my Tastefully Simple Fiesta Party Dip Mix)

For the Broccoli

  • 2-4 crowns of broccoli, chopped
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese

For the Strawberry Mango Salsa

  • 1 pint of strawberries, diced
  • 1 mango, diced
  • 2 small avocados, diced
  • At least 2 Tbsp of lime juice (add more if desired)
  • 4-6 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425o Spray a foiled baking sheet with non-stick spray. Lay tilapia on baking sheet and generously cover with zesty seasoning. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Once heated, add chopped broccoli to oil with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and sauté for about 8-10 minutes. Be sure to move your broccoli frequently in the pan as it can burn easily. Once cooked, add brown sugar and Parmesan, reduce heat to warm and cover with lid.
  3. Mix all salsa ingredients together in a bowl. Serve over the tilapia.

4 Tips for a Healthy Game Day & 1 Superbowl Shrimp Salad Recipe

4 Tips for a Healthy Game Day

Who’s ready for some football?! Regardless if you love the sport or not, it’s always fun to partake in a great super bowl party. While you won’t be able to control the calls in the game or the final score, one thing you can control is your dietary intake. While I don’t expect anyone to eat perfectly during the Super Bowl (heck, even I know I’m going to indulge a little bit), we can take some steps to make sure our indulgences don’t spiral out of control too much on game day.

1) Don’t skip any meals! This is a point I bring up time and time again. Skipping a meal on a big food day may sound like a good idea, but this only sabotages your metabolism. A depressed metabolism can cause you to eat way more calories at the party than what you would normally consume had you followed your regular meal schedule.

2) Think veggies and protein. Preferably together! Veggies are typically forgotten about at social gatherings, especially the Super Bowl. Now there is always the classic veggie tray, but try to think outside the box. For New Year’s I made chorizo-stuffed mini peppers and turkey-stuffed mushrooms. Personally, I find veggies, proteins and healthy fats to be much more filling than starchy items like chips, crackers, pretzels, etc. In fact, it’s not uncommon for my husband and I to go through a bag of Sunchips in 24 hours (why are they so good yet so unfilling??!!)

3) Portion control. Your portion sizes can easily get out of hand when you’re distracted by the game and conversation—especially when you eat directly from the large party bowl rather than put your food items on a plate. It’s much easier to count platefuls of food than it is to count handfuls of chips. Try to eat off of smaller party plates to keep your overall portion sizes down.

3) Drink water. It’s perfectly fine to have a few social beverages but try to alternate your beverages with water. Drinking water not only hydrates you, it can also help control your appetite.

4) Have fun! Remember no one single occasion ruins your health overall. If you eat clean and wholesome foods 80-90% of the time, then you absolutely can splurge once in while on some party favorites.

Looking for a game-day side dish that includes protein, veggies and healthy fats? Here you go!

Avocado Shrimp Salad

For the Avocado Salad

  • 4 small avocado, diced
  • 2 cups cherry/grape tomatoes
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-4 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 small handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1/8-¼ c olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Shrimp

  • 1 ¼ lb fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • ¼ c. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter (organic grass-fed preferred)
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp Worchester sauce
  • ¾ tsp lemon pepper seasoning (I used Mrs Dash)
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  1. Pre heat oven to 425oF. Lay shrimp in a single layer on foiled baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients together and pour evenly over shrimp. Cook for 8-10 minutes or until shrimp is done.
  2. Meanwhile, gently mix all salad ingredients together in a bowl. Toss in shrimp when done and serve!

shrimp salad

Cooking with FIGge

Figge Pudding, Notorious F.I. G., Figge Smalls—with a unique last name, you get a mountain of awesome nicknames. Today I am embracing the fig and adding it into my main course for dinner. To be quite honest, this was my first time consuming a fig outside of the form of a Fig Newton (yet another nickname). Did you know that figs are a good source of fiber and potassium, and they also contain calcium and magnesium? This recipe beautifully combines flavor profiles with the sweetness of the fig butter and savoriness of the pork.

Balsamic Fig Pork TenderloinFigs

  • 1 pork tenderloin (1-1 ½ lbs)
  • 1 cup dried figs
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2-4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Soak figs and orange juice in medium sauce pan for about 10 minutes. Then add 2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes, causing the mixture to reduce. Stir occasionally. Once cooked, put your mixture in a food processor and blend to create your fig butter.
  2. Meanwhile, pre-heat oven to 350oF. Lightly season your pork with salt (or no salt seasoning mix) and pepper. Brush fig butter evenly over pork. If desired, drizzle additional balsamic vinegar on top of fig butter. Sprinkle dried parsley on top. Roast for 20-30 minutes per pound or until an internal temperature of 145oF is reached.

Fig Pork