The Healthy Dinner Dilemma

No matter who you are, eating is something you probably do several times a day.  If you are mindful of what kinds of food you eat, it is something you probably plan out.  And if you have a family, it is something you do several times a day and definitely have to plan out, to some degree.

Planning food shopping and meals can take up a huge amount of time.  I’ve tried to find ways over the years to make the process as quick, easy, affordable, and healthy as possible.  No, I’m not perfect and my family doesn’t eat gourmet plant-based meals every day, but all things considered, I’m happy with our meals 75% of the time.

Here are a few tips and tricks I use to make mealtime easier and more enjoyable for everyone:


Find acceptance for your mealtime abilities – The reality is that Monday through Thursday, I’m tired, I have to work the next day, and I might not feel like doing much in the kitchen after a long day at work.  I have to let myself off the hook.  OK, so there are people on Pinterest or Instagram showing pictures of fabulous, tasty, healthy meals they made. Good for them, but I have to accept that 90% of the time, that’s not my reality.  It’s OK.

Use Out of Milk or a similar app to organize shopping and meal lists – This has been a major win for me.  I started using the Out of Milk app a few months ago, and it is so good that I’d pay for it.  As soon as I run out of something, I immediately put it on my shopping list.  Then, when it’s time to do my big grocery shopping trips, I add meal items to my shopping list.  The app categorizes all my shopping items (produce, bakery, frozen, etc) so that I can easily see everything I need to purchase from a particular section of the grocery store.  Additionally, I use the To-Do section of the app to keep track of all the meals I have planned.  I never have to think, “What can I make for dinner tonight?!” I simply pull up my Meal List on the app and see all the meals I planned to make.  To make things even better, I can access a complete list of all the meals I’ve ever made.  That way, if I need meal inspiration, I just look back at all the dinners I’ve previously made and choose which ones are our favorites to add back to the list.

Use an online grocery shopping service – We have used Kroger’s Clicklist multiple times now with fairly good success.  There are other similar services from other grocery stores – you go to the website to add items to your virtual cart and select a pickup time when an employee will bring the bagged groceries to your car.  This service is excellent when I don’t want to spend 1-2 hours on a grocery shopping trip.  On the website, I either browse through items in a particular category (“frozen vegetables”, for example) or I type a specific item in the search bar and go directly to that item and add to my cart.  Occasionally there will be items I’ve ordered that are out of stock, but the store will substitute an equivalent item if you wish, at no extra charge.  The fee for online grocery shopping varies, but for Clicklist it’s only a few dollars – which is worth it to us.

Rethink your approach to dinner – Does dinner have to come from a “recipe”? Must a meal include cooking/baking to be considered a meal?  Are you somehow a less caring parent or partner because the food was very simple and quick?  Absolutely not!  Sometimes our dinners are as simple as baked potatoes, frozen broccoli, and pasta.

Keep a list of the most simple meals possible – I know for a fact that at least once or twice every week I will need an incredibly simple dinner plan.  I accept that and plan accordingly.  At any given time I will have simple dinners I can put together with minimal time and effort.  Here are a few of our go-to’s:

  • Spaghetti and marinara – option of adding veggies, vegan meat, or beans
  • Taco bar – tortillas, beans, lettuce, tomato, guacamole – whatever you like!
  • Pizzadillas – tortilla with pizza sauce, cheese of choice, toppings of choice, brown in skillet
  • Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese – mix it up with different types of bread and cheese
  • Deluxe Veggie Burgers & Baked Fries – frozen vegan burgers, toppings, buns, and baked fries
  • Zucchini & Corn Pasta – sauteed zucchini and corn added to pasta; throw in some sauteed tempeh, vegan butter, and seasonings
  • Beans & Weiners – incredibly simple – vegan hot dogs with baked beans (homemade or canned)
  • Summer Salad –  I’m loving romaine topped with avocado, strawberries, walnuts, vegan chicken, and mango vinaigrette

What do you do to make dinner planning and meal prep easy and healthy?  Tell me in the comments!

Graze Snack Box Subscription: A Review

Like most families, we snack around here.  Ideally, snacks are convenient, tasty, moderately healthy, and free of bad ingredients (hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial food dyes, to name just a few).

The problem is, when someone wants a snack, they often don’t want to have to think too hard about what to grab.  Often, we eat fresh fruit as a snack, but there are plenty of times we want something else.  Then there are times when we need a portable snack that can be thrown in a bag.

Ideally, I wanted to find snacks that the whole family would be willing to eat – not just me.  I tried Graze because I had a coupon code for a free 4-snack box.  I like the idea of individually portioned shelf-stable snacks that range from savory to sweet.  They aren’t organic, but they are completely non-GMO, and they do not use artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or hydrogenated oils.

You can customize what types of snacks you get in the preferences of your account – you can choose to have only vegan snacks, or gluten free, or dairy free, for example.  Also, there is the option of going through the snack list one-by-one and choosing whether you want to “trash” a snack, try a snack, like a snack, or love a snack. This helps customize snack boxes to fit your desires.  In short, you don’t actually get to hand pick the snacks you’ll be receiving, but you essentially narrow the field down to a list of items you are happy with receiving – so the actual box you receive it a bit of a surprise.

As far as frequency of boxes, you can choose to receive a box once a month, every two weeks, or every week.  I currently receive a snack box every two weeks.

I know boxes like Vegan Cuts are quite popular with a lot of people, and I’d like to try that snack box, too – but the month to month subscription is $22.95.  An 8-snack Graze box is $11.99.  So for now, I’m going to stick with Graze.

One complaint I have is that Graze sends a separate Nutritional Information sheet in the snack box for just the snacks included in that particular snack box.  That means that individual snacks don’t have nutritional info or ingredients listed on the packaging.  For me this is annoying, as I attempt to monitor my calories every day and would like to see the product info on the actual snack, not on a separate piece of paper.

The majority of snacks in the Graze menu contain nuts, seeds, crackers, beans, dried fruit, or some “healthy” sweets, like “flapjacks” aka granola bars, peanut butter dippers and oat & spelt cookies.  I like the variety of flavors and spices, as it helps to keep snacks interesting instead of eating smoked almonds or plain pretzels for the 1000th time.

Another very nice focus the company has is that each snack has some kind of nutritional benefit.  Snacks are either listed as 150 calories or less, high in protein, high in fiber, or high in vitamins and minerals – every snack has a positive nutritional aspect.  I really appreciate that.  Sometimes I really need protein, but other times I just want something to munch on that isn’t too high in calories.  The snack boxes give me a little of everything.  I also like that there are some sweet treats available that are healthier than typical grocery store kid snacks. My daughter likes sweet treats, and it’s nice to be able to give her a pre-portioned Graze snack that I can easily see is 120 calories and contains no bad ingredients.

Overall, this snack box is a really convenient addition to my family’s food options.  My daughter, husband, and I all enjoy the snacks which is saying a lot – we are all picky in our own ways and we’ve all had snacks we’ve enjoyed.  So far, not one of our snacks has been thrown away because it tasted bad.  Some items we’ve enjoyed more than others, but overall I’ve been very happy with the selections.   Even if we were to receive a snack that we didn’t like, it’s simple to mark that snack as “Trash” on my Graze profile and I will never receive it again.

Do you subscribe to any healthy snack boxes?  If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it in the comments!

Current All-Natural Favorites – Skincare/Makeup/Clothes/Food


These are the things I’m really loving right now!

CV Skinlabs Rescue + Relief Spray – In the four weeks I’ve had this product, I’ve used it on a poison ivy rash, hives, on a sunburn my daughter got when she wasn’t with me, and on my face before and after makeup.  The true test will be on my dry, sensitive winter skin…but I already love this product.

Meow Meow Tweet Baking Soda Free Deodorant – So far, out of all the many, many natural deodorants I’ve used, this is my favorite.  The texture is such that I can scoop and apply with my fingers.  It smells like a delicious grapefruit.  It doesn’t irritate my skin.  And it works!  I wish it were a bit more affordable, but because of the aforementioned pluses, the cost seems to be justified…but it’s still a bit pricey for me.

Tarte Showstopper Palette – I know Tarte is snubbed by many green beauty purists – and it isn’t necessarily my top choice for clean cosmetics.  However, it’s definitely not the worst brand for cosmetics, and it is a cruelty-free company.  I really wanted some pressed makeup after feeling frustrated with loose mineral makeup and my mediocre pressed makeup, so I picked this up when Tarte was having a sale.  This palette is perfect.  The eye shadows are warm neutrals, the blush is a pretty pale coral pink, and the silvery highlighter and matte Park Ave Princess bronzer are great, too. The textures are really creamy and blend easily.  It’s also perfect for travel.  I’m smitten with this little palette and have been using it every day.




Bite Beauty Lipstick Duo in Fig & Date – I have wanted to pick up a full size Bite Beauty Lipstick in Fig for months.  When I saw this mini duo at Sephora for $14, I didn’t think twice.  Both shades are gorgeous.  Fig is a dusty rose and Date is a warm-toned nude with a touch of pink.  They are small, but they will still last me quite a while.  Also, they are perfect shades for autumn.


Bite Beauty Lipstick: Left – Fig; Right – Date


Forever 21 Shawl Cardigan – I’ve been wearing this at the office to stay cozy – I have this in beige and it goes with everything.  I especially love the roomy fit and long sleeves that come down over my hands. I bought this in a medium and it runs large, so it’s big and comfy.  Perfect for the coming autumn weather.

Jessica Simpson Booties – Cute, comfy, affordable. These aren’t heavy-duty and would not take a beating very well.  I plan on wearing them around the house and at the office where I work, so I shouldn’t put too much wear-and-tear on them.  However, they have enough of a sole to wear around town if I really wanted to.

Pukka Three Tulsi Tea – This tea is delicious, even if there were no health benefits to it.  Though I know quite little on the subject, tulsi is purported to be an adaptogen.  From the reading I have done, I understand adaptogens as a group of natural herbs that some people say helps with stress and fatigue.  As always, everyone’s body and biology is different, so I can’t make any claims.  I’d suggest reading into the subject if you have interest.  All I can say is that I really enjoy this tea.  In fact, every type of Pukka tea I’ve tried has been delicious.

Local Bee Pollen – Another natural product touted for its health benefits.  I don’t know if this has actually been helping my energy levels, but I really love adding it into my oats for breakfast.  They look like tiny granules and the taste is earthy and slightly sweet.  It’s somewhat crunchy.  Bee pollen is very nutrient dense – it contains amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  I picked up a container of local bee pollen after hearing over and over how it is a great superfood.  I use about a teaspoon in my oats to make it last longer, because it isn’t exactly cheap.


What are your favorite natural products right now?

5 Things I Do To Make Grocery Trips Easier


I’m forever looking for ways to simplify and make things easier and less stressful. Simplifying grocery shopping is always something I’m tinkering with, and these are a few of the things I’ve learned to do to make my grocery trips less time consuming and more productive.

1.  I make a categorized shopping list.  I use a sheet of unlined paper and make columns for each section of the grocery store I will be buying from: Produce, Organics/All Natural, Grocery, Frozen. Adjust this for the sections you shop.  This makes it so much easier for me to scan my produce list and make sure I got everything I need from just that department.

2. I don’t have a budget.  I know that for many people a budget is key.  However, I am fortunate enough to be able to spend a little extra if I feel something is worth it.  For instance, if an item we use all the time (all-natural peanut butter, for instance) is on sale for only a few more days, then we stock up with several jars because we eat a lot of peanut butter.  Also, if we come across markdowns/clearance on items that we like or will use, we will grab those too, even if they aren’t on the list (toilet paper, vitamins, dishsoap, etc).  The bottom line is that, for us, it absolutely saves money in the long run.

3. I go on a bigger trip every other week, with a fresh produce trip every week.  In the past I went on a weekly grocery trip.  Over time, it just became a chore.  I would feel stressed about getting to the grocery and it was making me cranky.  We switched to going on a large trip every other week, which has simplified grocery shopping for us.  Now I only have a big trip roughly twice a month, and on off weeks, all we need to do is a super quick trip through produce to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables.

4. I plan on some snack foods or easy meals nights.  I could pretend that I make super healthy and fresh meals 7 nights a week, but it just doesn’t happen.  Ever.  With a full-time job and a little girl, it isn’t reality for me. It makes my life less stressful to accept that there will be a night or two where I just don’t have the time or energy to cook.  On those nights, I can put together something simple like frozen veggie burgers, peas, and apple slices and not worry about  the temptation to eat out.

5. I prefer to go shopping when I’m right in-between hunger and satiation.  If I’m super hungry, I’ll be much more tempted to grab everything in sight, because everything will look delicious.  On the other hand, if my stomach is really full, food looks much less appealing, which usually will result in my not picking up enough food items.  Balance is key for me.

What are your methods to make grocery shopping easier?

Food, Fads, Diets, and Eating “Healthy”


You have your way.  I have my way.  As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.

-Friedrich Nietzsche


“Healthy diet” is such a relative phrase these days.  There is an endless parade of articles constantly contradicting one another on what constitutes a healthy diet.

Bananas are bad for you and full of sugar!  Bananas are healthy!

Stay away from carbs!  Your body needs carbs, eat some bread!

Eat raw!  Raw eating is not sustainable for most people!

Paleo is the best for your body!  Paleo is totally wrong!

On and on and ON.

I had a typical American diet until I was about 15 years old – full of meat, dairy, processed snacks, and soda.  In my mother’s defense, she did cook at home a lot and we definitely had vegetables and fruit, but my diet was not nearly as wholesome as it should have been.

My high school cafeteria was a processed food waste land – in the 90’s and 2000’s, at least where I grew up, there was practically no emphasis on eating healthy.  Students had the option of a lunch line full of fried foods, snack cakes, chips, and soda.  I felt enormous peer pressure to eat junk food like most of the other kids.  So often in high school, my typical “lunch” was a sugar bomb fruit drink and trans-fat fries.  Is it surprising that during this time I put on a lot of weight?

When I was about 16, I became a vegetarian.  My lifestyle choice was an anomaly to everyone around me and I knew nothing about what constituted a healthy vegetarian diet.  I only knew that I no longer wanted to consume meat products of any kind.  With little education and no other vegetarians to look up to for guidance, I was on my own.  I replaced meat with more dairy, bread, cereals, and whatever I could fill up on that wasn’t meat.  It didn’t help that my local grocery carried precious little in the way of “vegetarian meat replacements” – there was tofu and maybe one type of veggie burger.

After several years of eating what I now consider a shitty vegetarian diet, I incorporated more  foods such as whole grains, legumes, tempeh, edamame, and more.  It worked well for a while.  A long while.

Over the years I also learned more about what was clearly not good for my body and eliminated these ingredients from my diet almost completely.  Artificial sugars, added sugar, hydrogenated oils/trans fats, artificial colors, artificial flavor, etc.  My eating habits seemed to be working for me and my diet was getting healthier the older I got.

Then last year, I started having hormonal issues and developed multiple ovarian cysts on two separate occasions. One cyst was so severe that it culminated in surgery.  The terrible pain that I experienced made me desperate to keep it from ever happening again.  As I normally do, I looked for a holistic approach to healing my body.  I had an “A-ha!” moment when I remembered that soy is known to mimic estrogen in the body.  I had been consuming soy on a daily basis. The reality hit me hard and fast that one of the best things I could do for my body was to drastically cut back my soy consumption to almost none, which I did immediately.

I began supplementing myself with more dairy and beans, but I experienced terrible stomach pain and bloating almost daily.  This is when I started looking into a vegan diet and did some research. I made up my mind to transition to a vegan diet both for ethical and health reasons.

What I believe at this point in my life is that every person’s body is unique.  I may not be a trained medical doctor, nutritionist, or dietician, but I question how could one way of eating perfectly serve every single human on the planet?  That is why when I see articles about the healthiest way to eat or the best lifestyle diet, I read it with interest but not as the final word on health. Obviously most people accept the fact that whole fruits and vegetables are healthier than processed or fried foods, but there are so many complex food issues beyond the easy ones.  I have to use my own body and mind as a barometer for what diet feels right to me, and so do others.

If asked about my stance, I will always advocate a diet free of animal products, specifically and most importantly, meat.  But I have never and will never try to bully others into accepting my truth as their own.  Everyone has to walk their own path in life, including making decisions about the foods they choose to eat.

What I Ate Yesterday

This is a totally random day of eating for me – it is in no way an example of perfection, nor is it intended for that purpose.  I like to see what other healthy vegetarians/vegans eat in a day for inspiration and personal interest.  Sometimes what I eat is super healthy, and sometimes not so much.  I try to find a balance. Beside my coffee with breakfast, I only drank water all day.breakfast Breakfast – approx. 8:00 a.m.

  • Cold coffee with stevia and a splash of almond milk
  • 2 slices of toasted Ezekiel bread with half an avocado, raw hemp seeds, and raw pumpkin seeds
  • Strawberries and blueberries



lunch Lunch – approx. 11:30 a.m.

  • Leftover roasted veggies (eggplant, zucchini, onion, yellow bell pepper, cherry tomatoes) on a bed of greens


snack1 Snack 1 – approx. 1:30 p.m.

  • Sliced banana drizzled with peanut butter sauce (just PB thinned down with water so that I can drizzle it), cocoa roasted peanuts, a sprinkle of hemp seeds and pumpkin seeds


snack2 Snack 2 – approx. 3:30 p.m.

  • Two Moms In the Raw Gojiberry Granola Seed Bar


Dinner – approx. 5:30 p.m.

  • We were out of town for dinner and went to The Olive Garden.  This is a perfect example of bending when necessary and trying to make the best food choices.  I had a huge bowl of salad, no croutons, no cheese.  I also had 3 – yes, 3 – breadsticks.  For my entrée, I had vegetable penne with vegetable primavera without cheese.  The sauce was a simple marinara with tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and onions.


Snack 3 – approx. 8:00 p.m.

  • Huge handful of banana chips from the all-natural store I shop at…they are so addictive


I tried to do a very rough estimate of my calorie total for the day and I think it was in the ballpark of 1900 calories.  As far as my carb-fat-protein ratio, I don’t know, I try to have a balance, honestly.

What are some of your favorite easy, healthy meals?


Simple Vegan Apple Pie


I love making homemade apple pie.  When we first moved into our home, I was ecstatic that we have apple trees in our backyard.  The problem is, traditional apple pie takes a healthy apple and loads it up with sugar, flour, and butter.  Now that I am transitioning from vegetarian to vegan (more about that in the future), this is the perfect apple pie substitute.  Also, I’ve modified this recipe in the past with blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries with great success.

A lot of raw vegan pie recipes will give you exact measurements and tell you to do things like pre-soak your dried fruit or even the nuts – which is great and fine…but I like shortcuts and this turned out beautifully without any presoaking or measuring at all.  I like to eyeball ingredients and just look for the right texture.

You can use a springform pan for this recipe, but I don’t have one so I used a regular cake pan that is around 8-9″.  This is a delicious guilt-free pie…just remember to share!



  • About 2 cups dried fruits – dates, raisins, cranberries
  • About 2 cups nuts – any type you prefer
  • 4-6 organic apples, depending on size
  • Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, etc.
  • Vanilla bean, vanilla bean powder, or pure vanilla extract
  • About 1/2 cup pecans for the topping, optional


For the crust:

1. Use about 1 cup total of any combination of pitted dates or raisins. I also used some cranberries. This will act as the binder. You want a sticky consistency.  I put the fruit in a food processor with enough warm water to create a paste, almost syrupy in consistency.

2. Now add a combination of nuts that you like – like almonds, walnuts, pecans, or cashews.  Add a handful or so at a time.  Add enough nuts so that the “dough” starts to form – it will start to roll into a ball when the fruit-to-nut ratio is right.  It should be a somewhat formed sticky ball.

3. Transfer mixture to your cake pan and smooth out into a crust.


For the apple pie topping:

1. Repeat step 1 of the crust directions – again, this will form the binder for the apple pie to hold together.

2. Roughly chop up a few apples – I used 4.  I think any variety of apple would work well except a super sweet or mealy variety.  Add the apples to the processed fruit along with either apple pie spice or a combination of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, or whatever you like.  Definitely add some vanilla bean or pure vanilla extract!  Combine until it is the texture of a very, very chunky applesauce – you do not want to over-process!

3.  Evenly spoon apple pie on top of the crust.  Top with pecans and an extra sprinkle of cinnamon if you like.

4. Refrigerate the pie long enough for it to firm up – or, you can stick it in the freezer for about an hour.  And if you really don’t care, you can scoop out some immediately, although the texture will be quite soft, it will still taste delicious.

For even more yumminess, you could top a slice of pie with coconut milk whipped cream!

Have you ever made a raw pie?  What is your favorite vegan summer dessert?

Simple, Healthy Meal: Creamy Peas & Mushroom Veggie Pasta

peasmushroomsNeed a simple recipe that’s healthy but also a bit on the “comfort food” side?  Try this!  It’s a union of health food and comfort food.

I am a vegetarian, and I try to eat very little sugar, starches, and dairy.  However, a couple of times a month I will indulge in pasta.  If I do have pasta, I really enjoy the varieties that include vegetable puree – the one I used for this recipe included pureed spinach and pureed zucchini in the ingredients.

I don’t use exact measurements, so feel free to adjust the amounts based on your preferences.  I used:

  • 2 cups fresh mushrooms, thickly sliced
  • 2 cups of frozen peas
  • 2-3 T organic unsalted butter (you could also use an oil but I used butter for creaminess)
  • 1 small block of Parmigiano-Reggiano or similar vegan cheese, preferably organic
  • 1/2 cup of milk of choice (organic dairy, unflavored nut milk, etc)
  • 2 cups vegetable pasta (look for one that says it includes vegetable puree)
  • Pink Himalayan salt, to taste
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste



  1. Boil water, add a bit of salt to flavor the pasta, and cook pasta until al dente.  Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. In the same pot, melt the butter and add mushrooms and some salt and pepper.  Saute until tender.
  3. Add the peas, milk, and cooked pasta, stir until heated through.
  4. Grate the cheese and add to the warm pasta, stir until melted.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  That’s it!

I think it would be excellent to add spinach and/or zucchini, but I didn’t have any on hand.  Additionally, throw in some chopped up organic tempeh for added protein and you have a one-pot meal.  So simple and so satisfying!