Save time in the kitchen with Just Add Cooking Boston-Based Meal Delivery Service {+ a Giveaway}

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Last night, I was lucky enough to be invited to Just Add Cooking’s media event at Sur La Table in Back Bay. It was a lovely evening filled with an interactive cooking class, mingling, and of course wine & cheese!

JUST ADD COOKING INS & OUTS

For those of you who don’t know, Just Add Cooking is a Boston-based meal delivery service, which takes the stress out of cooking! Each week, subscribers choose from 7 different recipes (ranging from pork and beef to fish and vegetarian entrees) and a box is delivered straight to your door with everything you need to cook.

The best part? Everything is pre-portioned, right down to the teaspoon of cumin or 6 oz. piece of fish so all you need to do — literally — is add cooking. Not to mention, they do their best to source everything local as best they can, which I’m obviously all for! (Note: you won’t want to miss the giveaway & discount code offered at the end of this post.)

COOKING CLASS AT SUR LA TABLE

Yesterday evening, us lucky bloggers got to tackle one of the JAC recipes from start to finish! We made the Seared Prawns with Salsa recipe, which features fresh salsa from an incredible local company: Nola’s Salsa. With prep time just 20 minutes, JAC labeled this recipe as “easy,” ideal for those new to cooking or on a time crunch! (You can take a peek at all of their other innovative recipes here.)

The lovely Chef Holly guided us through each of the steps, making cooking easy peasy as it should be. She was incredible, showing us tips like how to properly hold a knife like you mean it, get the most juice out of a lemon, or cook rice without making it a “sticky” mess.

It amazed me that dinner was on the table less than 25 minutes from when we started prepping. How freakin’ amazing is that? It made me think of all the many things you could do if you didn’t have to go grocery shopping, meal planning or deal with unnecessary prep each week.

Once the shrimp was done cooking, we assembled it onto a platter with the rice for the ultimate presentation.

{dinner is served!}

The flavor combination was unreal…and the fresh flavors of dill, lemon and garlic really shined through, marrying together just perfectly.

WANT TO GET IN ON THE COOKING FUN? IT’S GIVEAWAY TIME!

If you want to get in on the fun, you’re in luck! One lucky Boston-based reader will receive a gift card for a 3-meal, 2 person box of your choosing delivered straight to your home.

To enter, simply complete the following by EOD 10/13:

1.) Leave a comment on this post with your favorite time-saving kitchen hack, or what you would do if you didn’t have to grocery shop, prep & meal plan each week (required)

2.) Follow Just Add Cooking on Facebook here. (required)

3.) Tweet the following “Yum, @Healthy_Chicks is giving away a FREE two-person, 3 meal box to @AddCooking! Enter here: http://healthy-chicks.com/?p=6949 (Bonus point, leave additional comment below once you tweet)

Ready, set…JUST ADD COOKING! I will choose a winner EOD Tuesday, October 13th. Note: you must reside in the Greater Boston area to enter the giveaway. Check to see if JAC delivers to you here!

Big thank you for Just Add Cooking, Sur La Table & Nola’s Salsa for hosting such a lovely event! If you’d like to give Just Add Cooking a go, for the month of October you can use code HC50 for 50% off your first JAC order. New customers only, offer expires 10/31/15.

Cooking in the Bean: Just Add Cooking Review

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I have a confession: While I do love eating healthy meals + cooking, sometimes I just don’t feel like putting in the work. Ever since I started working a full-time job, I’ve found it a bit trickier to do as much home cooking as I used to do.

To be honest, sometimes when I come home from a long day, all I want to do is put up my feet, plop on the couch, grab a cup of tea (or a glass of vino) and order takeout sushi. I’m a real girl, after all.

That’s why when I heard about Boston start-up Just Add Cooking (JAC), which delivers pre-portioned meals to your door all ready to go, I was intruiged.

The Scoop

Just Add Cooking is exactly what it sounds like: a meal delivery service that takes the stress out of cooking. Instead of worrying about the stress of prepping and grocery shopping, you can really focus on the fun part, that is cooking.

You get to hand-pick which recipes you + your fam will love, and then the friendly folks from JAC deliver a box of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients directly to your door each week, chock-full of meals for the week. No meal-planning. No stress. No grocery shopping. No mess.

The Box

I was so excited when I received my first box, perfectly packaged and full of all the fresh produce, herbs, condiments and proteins needed for my 3 recipes. I absolutely loved their packaging, and the fact that each ingredient is pre-portioned for your recipe so you don’t need to worry about measuring or “messing up” the quantities.

Another great perk is that JAC includes just the right amounts of spices + herbs so that you don’t need to buy an expensive jar or spices or large bunch of fresh rosemary that’ll only go to waste.

The Details

Since I live with my man, we opted for the 2-person meal box which included the ingredients for 3 meals. As I mentioned above, you can choose your own favorite recipes to make, and each serves just the right amount for you + your roommate/boyfriend/best friend/husband/sister/fill in the blank.

There are a variety of options available each week to choose from, so that you won’t get bored eating the same meals every week.

As for the pricing, it depends on what type of service you opt for. Currently, you can choose between four-person or two-person boxes, with either 3, 4 or 5 meals worth per box. As I mentioned above, I received the 3 meal two-person box for my man and I, but it depends on your living situation. Hate cooking + prepping? Perhaps you want to go with the 5 meal selection? Love to cook but just a bit crunched on time? The 3-meal box is probably best for you.

Pricing is as follows:

4-Person Boxes
5 Meals: $139
4 Meals: $129
3 Meals: $109
2-Person Boxes
5 Meals: $99
4 Meals: $89
3 Meals: $79

The Meals

Speaking of the food, for our 3 meals we opted for the Mexican Cod, Couscous Marrakech and Pork Loin Africana for a nice variety. Each meal comes with its own recipe sheet complete with directions, ingredients and cooking order to simplify the whole process.

While all of the meals were good, I personally liked the Couscous Marrakech the best, which was the first meal we prepared together.

It consisted of:

  • chicken
  • couscous
  • yellow onion
  • garlic
  • olive oil
  • chorizo
  • tumeric
  • chili
  • green beens
  • fresh parsley
  • Greek yogurt
  • pickled jalapenos
  • lemon
  • salt

I absolutely loved the unique flavor, especially the bold chorizo and kick of lemon. It was super filling, and refreshing to cook something a bit outside the box.

In a Nut Shell + a Surprise for YOU

In a nut shell, I really love the concept of Just Add Cooking and think it’s a great option for busy, social city-goers like myself. I also love that they source ingredients locally or organic when they can, which is important to me as someone who really cares about where my food comes from. If you’re interested in giving JAC a try yourself, you’re in luck! New customers can use promo code SPRINGBLOG to receive $20 off their first order when placed by 5/31/14.

Note: I received a complimentary meal box for review, but as always all opinions are my own.

Do you enjoy cooking + grocery shopping or does meal planning completely stress you out? What kinds of things do you do to take the stress out of cooking?

Kitchen Mishaps & Arugula Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

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Good afternoon ladies! Hope you are all having a beautiful start to your week so far, remembering to relax and take time for YOU (something we forget to do far too often).

I’m happy to finally be back in Boston, as I feel like I’ve been living out of a bag for the past week with my trip to DC and last-minute visit to my parents in CT this weekend.

On the other hand, I have to admit it was quite lovely being home for a couple days. I spent the last few days celebrating a good friend’s birthday with mimosas & brunch (the eggs with smoked salmon and asparagus were to-die-for), getting pedis with the ladies, cooking in my parent’s brand new gorgeous kitchen, and lots and lots of unplugging.

Speaking of cooking, I always have a blast cooking at my parents’ house, since The Boy and I pretty much have a box for a kitchen and no, I’m not joking (Think: zero counter space, no dishwasher, etc). The problem is: we both love to cook and do lots of it, which leads to knocking elbows, silly arguments and unnecessary stress. Not to mention, we also both love to cook with quality ingredients, fresh herbs and top-notch, extra-large kitchen tools. (Don’t even get me started on where we store our Vitamix and other oversized items). You can imagine the “Kitchen Nightmares” we deal with. Hey, maybe we should call up Gordon Ramsay?

Since The Boy knows just how much our kitchen stresses me out (to say the least), he concocted a little end table while I was gone to double as a drying rack and open up some extra counter space.

What a guy! I have to say, I’m one lucky chick. While this extra counter space is a start, it’s still nothing like the beautiful kitchen we have in CT.

[note: this was during the painting phase a few months ago]

You can bet I took advantage by cooking up a lovely home-cooked meal for the family & some friends on Monday night with my sister and mom. I was in charge of the salad, my sister and mom handled the main course (a Spring Pasta Primavera with veggies in a light cream sauce and roasted brussels sprouts on the side) and my dad manned the wine and dessert (which featured gluten-free Hail Merry Chocolate Macaroons).

If you know me, I’m not one for ordinary, plain iceberg salads. Rather, I like to play, experiment and create new things! Since we’ve all been loving arugula lately, I started with that and a new salad was born.

Arugula Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette

Makes about 6-8 servings

  • 6 c. arugula
  • 1 large cucumber, sliced in half vertically and then chopped
  • 2 tomatoes on the vine, diced (aim for local & organic if possible)
  • 1 large avocado, sliced into wedges
  • ½ c. blueberries
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, roasted & chopped

For Dressing:

  • ¼ c. pesto
  • ½ c.. extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ c.  red wine vinegar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tsp. each dried basil & oregano (just do a few good shakes of each)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Whisk dressing ingredients together ahead of time and set aside; Toss greens with salad ingredients and then slowly mix in dressing. Feel free to top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and pine nuts. Works great as a light lunch or as a starter for dinner.

Do you cook with your roommates/significant other in the kitchen? What’s your kitchen space like?

Spice Up Your Kitchen (& Your Taste buds)

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Yesterday, my roommate came home from a long day at work, and asked me to the usual question, “What should I have for dinner?” As I listed off a bunch of foods, she continued to say she either didn’t have the ingredients or was simply sick of that concoction. After all, she always sticks with the same exact thing: sweet potato with salad, pasta with toast or a turkey burger. After a long day of work, it’s hard to get creative in the kitchen; I hear you. I too sometimes find myself getting into the routine of eating the same exact thing every day…simply because it works. Eggs or oatmeal for breakfast, big salad for lunch, chicken and veggies for dinner. While it’s easy to get caught up in a comfortable routine in the kitchen, it’s way more fun to spice it up. And with the right tips, you can spice up your fridge and pantry pain-free! 

Try At Least One New Item Every Week: The other day, I bought spaghetti squash (something I never buy) to make “Spaghetti & Meatballs.” It was so refreshing to enjoy an out-of-the-norm, nutritious meal for a change, and it came out absolutely delicious. So trade up your pasta for some Spaghetti Squash, buy avocados for your salad if you usually go with tomatoes, try a new flavor of hummus (like spicy chipotle) or pick up a box of brown rice to experiment with. Purchase something you can’t pronounce (or have never even heard of) and give it a try. It can’t hurt, right? 

Prep Meals Ahead of Time: Of course you settle for a bowl of cereal or boring old pasta for dinner when you’re starving, and the last thing you want to do is create a feast. But if you prep meals during the weekend (or the night before) you can freeze them so they’ll be ready to eat in a jiff. I love freezing Turkey Chili, pre-made turkey burgers, chicken cutlets, rice dishes and even the pierogies my grandma just made for me. Simply place your pre-made meal in the fridge the morning you want to eat it, and it’ll be ready for you to eat when you get home from work! 

Spice it up (Literally): Play with spices and herbs to give any ordinary meal a kick. Snazz up your boring pasta with some basil, oregano and parmesan cheese. Add a kick to your morning omelet with cayenne pepper, chili powder or even a scoop of fresh salsa. Play with cumin, turmeric and red pepper flakes in your veggie and rice dishes. The possibilities are endless! Good news is most spices cost around $2 so you can grab a bunch and have them ready for any kind of meal. 

Make Your Own Creations: Quite frankly, I’ve never been a fan of “following the rules,” and same holds true in the kitchen. Recipes are great as a guide, but take them as just that. If you’re missing a few of the ingredients, substitute in what you have! If you don’t feel like buying 1,000 new sauces just for one freakin’ recipe, make something up. The kitchen is your place to be creative and let your inner-chef shine. I love the combo of mayo and mustard on my salmon, but didn’t want to load on a bunch of cals so I substituted the mayo with plain nonfat greek yogurt. Who knew it tasted just as good? If a recipe calls for walnuts, I’ll use slivered almonds or sunflower seeds. If I’m all out of broccoli, I’ll use spinach or asparagus. Play with what you’ve got and I can assure you you’ll have much more fun in the kitchen.

Plan Special Meals: Of course we can’t eat glorious, home-cooked meals every day, or I honestly probably wouldn’t be able to afford my electric bill. But, special, extravagant meals are exciting, so save them for a special time. Maybe every Sunday you and your roommates can cook together, and whip up something fabulous? Or take turns cooking for each other once a week. My roommate and I are planning on making Eggplant Parmesan this weekend, something I haven’t had in a looong time. Decide on something ahead of time so you have something delicious to look forward to!…

Thanksgiving is Just Around the Corner…

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, but let’s be honest: I’ve been thinking about it since early October, and I’m already thinking about Christmas. Hey, it’s the malls fault for being all decorated and pretty with lights and Christmas trees. But when it’s all said and done, Thanksgiving is and always has been my absolute favorite holiday. The delicious smells, the wonderful feeling of family and the fact that I go into a turkey coma every year (no matter how much I tell myself to slow down) is all part of the joy of Thanksgiving. 

But even though I almost always have to unbutton my pants come dessert, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t try to keep my Thanksgiving just a bit healthier. After all, I’m not trying to gain 10 pounds in one sitting and feel like absolute crap the next day. That would be doing my body no good. So this year in particular, I’m working on adding a little extra healthy oomph to my favorite holiday, and that I will share with you…

#1 I’m running my first ever Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day: I’ll be running the 5-mile Manchester Road Race, but these types of Turkey Trots are all over the place, so I suggest you sign up to0! They are fun, packed with people and it takes the edge of the actual running part of it. To make it even more exciting, my sister and I are dressing up as elves with green tights, elf hats and all! To prep for the race, I’ve been running 3 miles a day with Core Fusion Body Sculpt twice a week, so it’s keeping me in shape before Turkey Day as well. 

#2 I’ll be making a side dish that actually tastes good: Last year I tried to go all, “healthy, healthy” on everyone and ended up making the most disgusting side dishes…ever. My family of course ate them to be nice, but even I could see they had little to no flavor. My gluten free stuffing I tried to invent tasted like dog food. It was that bad. This year, I’m going to concentrate on making wholesome, nutritious food instead of low-cal, “healthy” crap. I’m definitely going to trim down the classic sweet potato pie that everyone knows and loves, and am definitely going to dabble in concocting some gluten free savory cupcakes from the BabyCakes Cookbook I got last year as a gift. Red Velvet cupcakes [see above] are at the top of my list to try this year! 

#3 Or Fake it if you can’t bake it: Not everyone loves to cook, and there is no shame in that. Lots of places allow you to pre-order Thanksgiving sides and desserts so you don’t have to touch a pan. For instance, Healthy Habits Kitchen in Wellesley, MA is running an “Everything But the Turkey” Package, which includes 3 appetizers, 3 side dishes and 2 desserts. How’s that for easy and efficient? Pick ‘n’ choose between tasty apps like Goat Cheese, Sundried Tomato & Olive Spread, Spinach & Feta Triangles and Pumpkin Chipotle Hummus. Side dishes include a Butternut Squash Casserole, Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, and Traditional Stuffing. Oh, and you can’t forget dessert, with favorites like Chocolate Bark and Gingerbread Spiked Pumpkin Pie. View their full menu here. Small servings for 4 cost $59 and full servings for 8 is $99, extremely affordable in my book for the amount of food you’re getting. 

#4 Eat Slowly: Sometimes I forget that the food is not going to fly away on me. I think we all could use a few deep breaths and short breaks throughout the feast. Enjoy your food, chat with aunt Sally who you haven’t seen all year and savor every bite. This meal only comes once a year, after all. Why rush it? 

What are your healthy Turkey Day tips? 

Boston Local Food Festival THIS Weekend: Beer, Healthy Eats 'n' Fun!

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Calling all local-lovers, environmental enthusiasts, health freaks, foodies and hungry people alike. This Saturday, Oct. 2nd is the First Annual Boston Local Food Festival.  No, this isn’t just your everyday Farmer’s Market or rinky-dink fair; this is a one-of-a-kind festival to remember! The delicious outdoor festival will take place at Boston’s Fort Point Channel from Congress St. Bridge, the Boston Children’s Museum up to the Moakley Bridge at Northern Avenue. Did I mention that there’s FREE admission? Yup, not cost to come!

Still not convinced? Well I’ll let you in on some insider highlights that’ll have you drop your Saturday cartoons and lazy couch potato lounging in a jiffy. Not to mention, I am one of their featured bloggers (take a peak) and am also volunteering on the day of the event, so you should definitely come say hi! 

Some hot highlights of the event: 

1. Prime location: Yes, you saw the directions. That means a whole afternoon filled with waterfront fun…can’t beat that. Shop, eat, and laugh the day away with your friends and family in the midst of the lovely Boston fall scenery! 

2. Budget-Friendly: You heard that right. Not only do you get to sample delectable food all day long, but you can do so at an affordable price. Many people are turned off by buying local, healthy food because of the steep costs. But now, you don’t need to worry because the event is ensuring low cost, affordable prices. Everything that’s sold must be $5 & under. Now that’s a steal if I ever saw one (and it helps with over-eating too)! 

3. Top-Chef Style Competition: There is going to be a “Seafood Throwdown”battle between two chef’s (Didi Emmons of Haley House v. Jason Bond of Beacon Hill Bistro, No. 9 Park and Bondir Restaurant) to see who takes the cake (er, fish) as top chef. Both contestants will have a certain amount of time to “shop” at the festival for local ingredients and then craft a meal from their mystery fish. This is definitely something you can’t miss! 

4. Chef Demos: On top of the chef competition, there will also be live chef demos all afternoon. From a “Whole Hog Demo” by Chef Matt Jennings to a “Crepes at Home Demo” by Chef Garcia, there is definitely something for everyone’s palate. 

5. Bring on the Beer: Yes, there will indeed be beer and wine tasting at the festival too for all of you who like a little liquid to go with all that food! Did I mention all the beer and wine is local as well? You’ll sample brews from a number of local brewing companies, including Haverhill Brewing, Cape Ann Brewing Co. and Harpoon Brewery. Tickets are available before and during the event, but I suggest you buy them now to avoid long lines! The price is very reasonable: $10 for 10 tastings and $20 for 25 tastings, so get your local drinking on folks! Purchase tickets today here. 

6. Eat On the Go: This isn’t one of those festivals where you have to wait until you get home to enjoy your eats. There will be food on-sale that you can enjoy instantly. Vendors include Taza chocolate (just tried it yesterday for the first time and it’s absolutely to-die-for), Nella Pasta, Daily Catch Restaurant, Burnin’ Love Sauces, The Best Damn Granola Co. and a whole lot more! 

7. Local…Music: Not only will there be local food, local health& wellness companies and local chefs, but there will also be local music! How cool? Bands include Kolors Band, The Lowbrow Boys, Squeezebox Stompers and Zili Misik. Be sure to check them out for a little local flavor to swing to!…

10 Kitchen Staples for the Healthy Chick

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Tonight for dinner I made one of my favorite quick and easy dishes:  Light ‘n’ Healthy Summer Pasta (or shall I call it Fall pasta?) Really, a dish like this can be made every season, with minor veggie variations of course. Anyway, back to the point: as I was running around boiling the water and sautéing my veggies, I thought about how terrible it’d be if I didn’t have some extremely vital kitchen staples. You know, the things you take for granted when cooking but it’d be a complete kitchen nightmare if suddenly you were all out. Yes, those lovely lifesavers. Anyway, I put a quick list together of my personal gotta-have-it supplies and thought I’d share with you fine ladies!

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil- The perfect “dressing” for a salad, the best and only way to cook veggies, and the most wonderful combination with pasta. EVOO is definitely a MUST in my book (er…kitchen). 

2. Fresh herbs: I always like to have a few fresh herbs around the house. Right now I have basil and dill, but I like to change it up depending on what I’m cooking that week. Other faves are cilantro, parsley, mint leaves, and rosemary. I love using them to season meats, sprinkling them into my pasta dishes, adding them to veggie entrees and mixing them into dips ‘n’ spreads. Oh, and garlic! It’s not really an herb but I’m adding it into this category. Garlic is a must in every gal’s kitchen and I add it to nearly everything. 

3. Dried herbs and seasonings: Just as important as fresh herbs are all my dried herbs/seasonings and trust me I have plenty of ’em! From oregano, basil, turmeric, parsley, ground pepper, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, chili power, garlic salt, celery salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika and mustard seed, I pretty much have them all and use them frequently. I LOVE playing around with these herbs and seasonings to kick up a boring dish or add an interesting flavor to something that you may have never thought of before. 

4. A Nut Butter of Choice: I go for Teddie All Natural Peanut Butter. If I don’t have it I FREAK. I also love all natural almond butter, and have even tried sunflower butter (although I still don’t know how I feel about it). Anyway, I need some sort of nut butter to spread, dunk, dip and indulge at any given time. If I run out of a peanut butter, I am not a happy girl in the kitchen.

5. And…Nuts! As much as I love nut butter, I also love nuts. I snack on raw almonds usually, but sometimes have walnuts and sunflower seeds on hand too. Pine nuts are also a favorite, especially when cooking veggie and pasta dishes. You can also use walnuts or pine nuts to make homemade pesto too : )

6. Eggs: I use eggs every week, whether it be in my morning veggie egg white omelet (or special Caprese omelet) or baking some healthy muffins. Eggs are simply a staple to every healthy chick’s kitchen.

7. Seasonal Fruits ‘n’ Veggies: Every week at the grocery store, I purchase fruits and veggies that are in season, fresh and (ideally) local. This week I stocked up on spinach, cucumbers, zucchini, squash and tomatoes. Last week I played with eggplant. I also always have some red and sweet onions on hand to add to omelets, salads and many homemade dinners. As for fruit, I always have apples and bananas for a go-to snack, but I also buy what’s fresh and in season, like berries, watermelon and cantaloupe. 

8. Lean Meats: You’ll never catch my freezer bare of lean meats. In particular, skinless boneless chicken breast and lean ground turkey. You can do so much with them, and are both healthy proteins to jazz up any dish! (This Squash ‘n’ Turkey Burg Medley is one of my favorites). I buy them fresh, use it the day of and then freeze the leftovers into plastic baggie portions for future use. Just take it out of the freezer the day of, plop it in the fridge and you’ll be good to go by dinner time!

9. Whole grains: Whole grains are just oh so good for us, as women have finally come to realize carbs are not the enemy! I always have a stock of Ezekiel bread I keep in my freezer (I like the original and cinnamon raison variety), gluten free rolled oats, brown rice, quinoa, brown rice pasta, and some whole grain wraps on hand. I honestly don’t know what I would do without these kitchen essentials. 

10. Dark Chocolate: I gotta have it! Just a few dark chocolate chips after dinner does the trick for me every time, and dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants good for heart health. It’s a win win situation : ) 

EXTRA: 11. Greek Yogurt: I can’t believe I left this favorite out. I’m eating it for dessert now with fresh veggies, so this is my extra #11 must (sorry I left you out greek yogurt). Hey, why not save the best for last? 

What are your gotta-have-’em kitchen staples? 

You Asked for it: Homemade Eggplant “Lasagna”

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You asked for it, so here it is! I modified a fatty recipe my aunt had given me for eggplant lasagna, using eggplant instead of noodles. Nifty, huh? Anyway, after some big changes to the recipe (i.e. using tofu instead of ricotta cheese), this recipe turned out to be a winner! Note: it’s not the “prettiest” looking picture but boy does it taste amazing. Serve with a side salad. 

*serves 3-4 

-1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced very thin (think: substituting for lasagna noodles)

-8 oz. frozen organic spinach

-2 TB olive oil 

-2 cloves garlic, crushed

-1 egg, beaten

-1/2 block firm tofu, chopped and mashed

-4 to 6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded

-1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese

-2 TB dried basil

-1 c. of your favorite tomato sauce (with garlic and/or spices)

-salt and pepper to taste 

1. Prepare eggplant, cutting extremely thin slices. Lightly saute on medium heat for a few minutes in a large pan with olive oil. Remove and set aside.

2. Once removed, saute spinach and garlic in same pan in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Combine egg, cheeses, and bail and mix together until blended. Note: the tofu should crumble up making a ricotta cheese-like texture. Shake in some salt and pepper to give the mixture a little more flavor. 

3. Star layering! Begin with 1/2 c. tomato sauce. Then add half of your sliced eggplant. Top with half the cheese mixture. Then add another layer of eggplant, cheese mixture and finally top with an additional 1/2 c. tomato sauce. Sprinkle top with additional parmesan or mozzarella cheese. 

4. Cover with tin foil and bake on 350 for 40 minutes, removing the foil for the last 10 minutes. Enjoy!…

Dinner for One, Please: Eating Healthy on a Budget

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As of this week, I have officially been living in Boston for one year. ONE YEAR! I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by. I also can’t believe that while living in the exciting city on a budget (let’s just say I won’t be rolling in the dough for quite some time), I’m still able to manage my money. People ask me all of the time how I survive in this expensive city. “Dinner out, cafes everywhere, pricy bars…how do you possibly do it?” 

While I talked about eating healthy on a budget in my interview with Lifestyler last fall here, I thought I’d share some new tricks of the trade now that I’m truly a savvy Bostonian (yay, I can finally call myself that, although I still don’t have the accent). Anyway, back to the point: now that I’ve lived in a city for more than a year and have been able to eat, live and sleep, I think I can offer some valuable advice to you fine folks looking to do the same. 

1. Cook the Perfect Amount: Don’t let food go to waste! I know for me, if I cook too much food, I’ll save it for “leftovers” and half the time end up forgetting about it. There’s nothing tasty nor practical about rotten food! Instead, cook according to your party size. For me, it’s mostly cooking for one ’cause I’m a single girl in the city (unless I treat my roomies here and there). They say “one is the loneliest number” which is true to an extent, but when it comes to cooking on a budget the number one couldn’t be sweeter. Instead of making extravagant 8-serving size pasta dishes, I simply use 1/2 a cup of brown rice pasta just for me. I buy 4 oz. servings of salmon at the market, and sauté just one chicken breast when I’m making a chicken entree. If a recipe calls for 6 large chicken breasts, but you know you’re only cooking for one or two, change things up accordingly!

2. Make Use of What You Already Have! The biggest mistake people make when trying to save money is going on grocery shopping binges, and buying nearly everything in the store. Be sure to check what you have in your fridge before you buy, buy, buy! You’ll be surprised by what kind of ingredients you can find in your drawers, cabinets and freezer. Oooohh yea, I froze soup a few weeks ago! Seriously, whenever you think you have NO FOOD IN THE HOUSE, look a little deeper…I’m sure you do. On a larger note, be creative with what you have in the house as well. Yesterday was the perfect example of a savvy budgeting decision. I planned to make eggplant lasagna (you can find the recipe here) and was going to use a little ricotta cheese for the spinach filling. However, I didn’t have ricotta in the house and quite frankly it would be a waste to buy it because I’d never use it again. That’s when it hit me. I saw the leftover container of tofu from a few nights ago sitting in the fridge. A-ha! I then substituted crumbled tofu for ricotta cheese and honestly couldn’t taste the difference. My roommate even tried the finished product and absolutely loved it (I didn’t tell her there was tofu in it…shhh!). Anywho, I do this all of the time. No walnuts? Use slivered almonds. Ran out of oil and want to make muffins? Use applesauce. The possibilities are endless!

3. Learn to Shop Smart: I have to be honest: when I first moved to Boston I wasn’t the smartest shopper. Of course, I ate healthy, but I’d spend tons of money on healthy meals to go, organic veggies, and pricy fruit. I actually bought a bundle of grapes for $7 once. RIDICULOUS. Never again. Now I like to think I’m much smarter when it comes to grocery shopping. In fact, I keep my weekly grocery budget around $25 to $40 a week, quite impressive considering I rarely eat out. The trick? First, never go shopping when you’re starving or in a “weird” mood. You’ll end up buying things you don’t need or even worse…buying the whole store! My roommate once went to the grocery store with me after a long night out and ended up buying gummy fruit snacks. The next day, she was like “What the hell was I thinking?” The thing is: she wasn’t. On another note, look for SALES. If grapes are $7, obviously go without grapes that day and buy the bag of apples that’s $2.99 for a dozen. If cucumbers are 2 for $1, skip the carrots and use cucs for your hummus dipping this week. Play it by year day. 

4. Check Out Local Farmer’s Markets: I swear by Farmer’s Markets (or any kind of market in fact as you can see)! They are my absolute favorite thing to do. The browsing and sampling alone get me every time. But even better: many of them have sweet sales. I bought my eggplant for my yummy lasagna at yesterday’s Farmers Market and it simply tasted soooooo much better than usual. You can also find cheap, locally grown veggies, fruit, herbs and baked goods galore! The best part about the markets is you can talk to the local farmers and find out exactly where your food is from, what’s put into it, and how it’s made. A guy I met yesterday explained to me that locally grown carrots, for instance, are much healthier than those grown in California because when baby carrots are packaged they add tons of sugar to keep them fresh. Makes sense. Buy what’s local and you’ll not only enjoy the fresh taste, but you’ll also hopefully save a few bucks. 

5. Try to Cook For Yourself As Much as Possible: I actually adore cooking, so this step is easy for me. But for those of you not so fond of putting on the apron and cranking up the stove, start slow. Maybe have a Potluck dinner with your  friends in the area, or make homemade healthy pizza with your boyfriend. Once you start cooking a few nights a week, you’ll realize how enjoyable it is. I love cooking for myself especially because I know exactly what’s going into my food (no hidden surprises or fatty cream sauces snuck in). If you’re not ready to cook a whole meal (or simply don’t have the time) cook half of it. Buy some fresh bread or cheese from your local market, and make a yummy homemade salad with field greens, veggies and olive oil. This way you’re at least saving money on the salad. To be honest: restaurant and pre-made salads just aren’t worth it. They taste old and I usually find them boring. To go with this point, it’s also practical to make your own coffee and tea, etc. I had a major Starbuck’s addiction when I first moved to Boston, which costed me lotsssss of money. Now, I make a few cups of freshly brewed coffee in the morning with breakfast. Best part? My most recent coffee (a cinnamon hazelnut blend) costed only $5.99, and I’ll probably get a good 20+ cups out of it. 29 cents a cup? Not too shabby and beats a $3 cup of coffee any day. 

6. But do Treat Yourself Too! I’m not trying to suck all the fun out of you! If you’re invited to a fun dinner out, of course go and enjoy. Get take out from your favorite cafe when you’re craving it. Have that special drink only your bartender knows how to make! Just make sure to keep in check with your budget when doing so! I loveeee sushi, so allow myself to have it every so often. Better yet? I just found out that the sushi place down the street from me does 15% off Tuesdays. I’M IN! Tomorrow, I’m also treating myself to a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte as I catch up with a friend. It’s almost fall and they’re back. How can I resist? 

Hope you found these tips useful! Please share your personal advice for eating healthy on a budget…What are your money-saving secrets? 

Friday Shenanigans: What's On My Mind

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Today was a pretty random day, hence making for a pretty random blog post. I started my day off amazingly with a nice 3-mile run in the sun with my best friend, followed by an even more amazing breakfast that consisted of an egg white omelet with veggies and feta and two pieces of Ezekiel toast (I guess it was more like brunch since we ate at 11 a.m.) Anyway, I then threw on my cute, new sundress for a meeting at Panera, only to be graced by rain later this afternoon. (Go away Earl!) Now I’m sitting here on my couch half-soaked, hair a mess but still ready to write, write, write. Random, I know. Alas, five random thoughts on my mind this lovely, rainy Friday evening…

1. People Watching : Seriously, I think this is one of my favorite hobbies of all time. This afternoon I went to a cafe, ordered a large iced coffee, then parked myself on a window-side stool facing the busy streets of Boston. I not only got to write and enjoy my deliciously perfect coffee, but I also got to observe hundreds of interesting people walking by. From construction workers who stared at me through the windows and adorable elderly couples to families sprinting to get away from the rain (quite amusing) to little girls dressed in cute Little Mermaid outfits, I got a little glimpse of everything. I always find it interesting to observe other people’s habits, styles and conversations. Call me weird or a stalker, but I’m telling you it’s so much fun, especially when you’re writing and need some extra inspiration!

2. Vodka:I know, I know…I call myself a “Healthy Chick” but even us healthy chicks have to treat ourselves to a good drink once in a while. And this has been quite a long, stressful, hectic week so I think I deserve a drink…or three. Since I don’t drink beer (I’m weird and think it tastes like stale bread), I am planning on making some Vodka seltzers tonight (with maybe a splash of Crystal Light) to enjoy with friends before we head out to face the rain. Earl, you are not stopping us from having fun!

3. Dinner-In: Last week, I went out to dinner with my family nearly every night. Of course each meal was delicious, but my single, budgeting city-gal self couldn’t handle the HUMUNGOUS portions. Of course I cleared my plate most of the nights because hey, I’m going to take advantage of free food while I could. But, this week I’ve never been so happy to cook single portions at home for myself. I’ve had some delicious dinners this week, including fresh salads, vegetable stir-fry, and a yummy Thai-style Lime Rice with tofu (you have to take a peak!) What’s on the plate tonight? Homemade turkey burger topped with sauteed onions, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. YUM! 

4. Boys: Honestly, is the entire city of Boston taken, married or just plain un-datable? Really, I could use a date or two…While I may have it together with health and fitness, dating may just not be my forte…Guess “it will happen when you’re not looking for it.” (I’ve been hearing that since I was 15.)

5. My Recipe Book: As some of you know, I’m in the process of publishing my very own healthy recipe book, filled with simple, nutritious dishes to make from home. Anyway, I put a lot of thought into it today and am so excited to get this baby going (still have some tweaks to figure out). Be sure to stay tuned for updates on this exciting project of mine!

TGIF!!…

 
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