girl cooking

7 More Side Dish Suggestions

You may have seen either of my posts 15 Grain-Free Side Dish Ideas or 10 More Side Dish Ideas. Since I do my best to keep new and exciting entrees in my meal prep workshops, it is always helpful to add in even more side dish suggestions also. So, below you will find 7 more side dish suggestions that are all grain-free, but full of flavor!

1. Bacon Wrapped Candied Butternut Squash Bites These amazing bites of heaven are worth the time it takes to wrap the bacon. You will want butternut squash at every meal after tasting this delicious side dish!

2. Asparagus Pesto I love to smear this on my burgers and fish for added flavor!

3. Sweet or Spicy Carrot Chips Rather you are in a sweet or spicy mood, there is an option for you! These tasty chips will help you to easily get more veggies into your diet!

4. Sweet Bell Pepper Saute I would add red onions (cooking for 4-5 minutes before adding peppers) to this sweet side dish and I would use sea salt, not table salt. This dish will add much needed color to your meal!

5. Oven Roasted Green Beans With Garlic A simple, tasty addition to your meal!

6. Beet Greens Sauteed with Garlic and Bacon Fat  A tasty, colorful side dish to get some beet greens into your diet!

7. Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes A great way to switch up the mashed potatoes on your plate to try something new! I mean is there really anything to cauliflower can’t do?!?



Happy (1)

How to Eat Clean and Still Enjoy Thanksgiving

When it comes to what’s already on the Thanksgiving dinner table, what’s our best bet to eat allergen-free?

Depending on how many allergies or intolerances you may have, you may need to bring a side dish or two along with you. If you have a wheat or gluten issue, you will need to ensure that no one added broth containing wheat starch to the turkey as well as avoid the stuffing, macaroni and cheese, homemade noodles and most desserts. If you have a dairy issue, the green bean casserole, macaroni and cheese, any ranch-style veggie dip, sweet potatoes with butter or milk, anything with cheese, any bread or most desserts will need to be avoided unless someone prepares them with allergy-friendly ingredients. They do make dairy-free chocolate!

Anyone with corn issues will need to watch anything that may contain high-fructose corn syrup. Those with egg issues will need to check ingredient labels on any breads, pastas, stuffing and most desserts. People with issues with soy will want to check the ingredients on any bread products. The nut allergy crowd is probably the luckiest when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner because some desserts are probably all that they have to avoid. If you have more severe issues, then you will most likely already be checking all of these things. If it is your first year, do not stress. Bring an entire plate with you if you have to; just be sure to enjoy your time with your family and loved ones.

Read my full interview, with Lauren Rutherford, from Feast Magazine . Always keep in mind at social events such as Thanksgiving, that having the expectation going in, that some people may ask silly and sometimes rude questions but not really listen to your responses is a game changer. I think your expectations make more of a difference than anything, and it’s important to understand that you aren’t going to get through to everyone.

Happy Thanksgiving! How do you navigate all of the food filled holidays when eating clean?

herbs and spices (1)

7 Tips For Saving Time And Money on Freezer Meal Prep

So you have heard great things about freezer cooking from your sister, your co worker and the man at the supermarket and want to give it a try? The first workshop that I hosted was over 5 hours and we only prepped 10 family sized meals! There wasn’t even any cooking required! haha (Not to mention, how high the grocery bill was!) I have learned so much this past year hosting whole food meal prep workshops, so please allow me to help you with your learning curve.
Organization and planning are ESSENTIAL for a stress-free prep day. Imagine having to make two extra trips to the store for forgotten ingredients or getting to the checkout at the store, only to find you went WAY over your budget. Neither of those things, would make freezer cooking worth the effort. In fact, they may send you running for the hills (or the nearest drive-thru)! To make things go smoothly, it is imperative for you to invest an hour or two into the planning stage. I promise it will be worth it!
1. Buy In Bulk Buying in bulk can save you tons of money and that is never a bad thing! There are two ways I achieve this with my freezer meal prep.
The first is to at least double all of the recipes I am making. There are times I make up to five bags of each recipe.
The second is to overlap ingredients when possible. For example, if I am using hamburger for recipe, I may try to find a second recipe with hamburger in order to get the hamburger cheaper per pound.
2. Stay Budget Friendly Aside from buying in bulk, there are a few other ways to keep the sticker shock a little lower for your prep day:
-Look at how many higher priced items you have on your list. If you are gluten-free or Paleo, you really need to keep an eye on things like coconut aminos, honey, maple syrup, fish sauce, almond flour, etc. as these can add up very quickly.
-Protein is always a large part of the bill, so always keep a close eye on this. Things like ground beef, ground pork, chicken legs or beef brisket are going to be less expensive than something like filet mignon, center cut pork loin, chicken breasts or a porterhouse steak. Making breakfast casseroles, using only eggs, also helps to cut down on the overall bill.
-Planning your meals around in-season vegetables and fruits can really save you some money as well. And in a perfect world, you would always purchase organic; however, many of my clients, as well as myself, use the dirty dozen verses the clean fifteen when deciding what we will purchase organic and what we won’t.
-When planning your meals, try to use up any rare ingredients that you may not use otherwise, so that they do not go to waste.
3. Cooking VS Easy Assemble Prep Some meals and entrees need to be cooked before you freeze them and some can be assembled without any cooking at all. If you plan for at least half of your choices to be easy assembly, your prep day will go much smoother! There are also some recipes which only need some cooking. For example, some casseroles will have you brown the meat, but not bake the casserole itself.
4. Variety If you are like most people, you will want to ensure that you have a variety of different types of meals. It is possible to overlap many of your ingredients and still have a variety of meals. It is all about the spices! Also, it can be helpful to have a variety of cooking types in your freezer as well, such as slow cooker, stove, oven, grill, etc. Often times I will prep one type each weekend for a month. The end result is a full variety in my freezer! It definitely helps to keep my family interested in healthier meals.
5. Check Out Your Pantry Building your meals around items that you already have on hand will allow you to use up old ingredients before they expire, as well as cut down your bill at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
6. Double Check Your Math Ensure you doubled, tripled or quadrupled the recipes correctly. If there are overlapped ingredients, ensure that you included all of them from each recipe and added the ingredients together correctly. Ensure that you converted your measurements correctly as well. Don’t forget about the storage bags or containers!
7. Triple Check Your Shopping List Needed to make extra trips to the store will not save you time in the long run. It may even cost you more money, if you are like most people, because you will pick up a few extra items while you are there, that you would not have otherwise purchased. To avoid this, simply triple check your shopping list to your recipes!
I know it is tempting to skip the planning stage, but if you just put a little effort into it, your prep day will go so much smoother (and be cheaper too)! If you would like for me to do your planning for you, check out a meal prep workshop if you are around Columbia, Missouri or email me at for help via email/skype.
Are there any extra planning tips you would add to this list? Do you have any funny stories about results of NOT planning a meal prep day? I would love to hear about it below! Good luck and Happy Prepping!
bacon breakfast

Whole30 Breakfast

One of the biggest issues that many people (including myself) seem to have when they are getting the hang of the Whole30 is breakfast! Believe me when I say I get it. Just switching to Paleo showed me how often we rely on refined carbs and sugars for breakfast.

Oddly enough, these two energy sources are actually burned up very quickly by the body. This, and the lack of healthy fats, is what leaves you feeling like you are starving a few hours later. When you eat the correct amount of protein (1-2 palm sized portions), healthy fat (a thumb size portion) and veggies (the rest of your plate), you will be amazed at your energy levels, as well as your hunger levels (or lack thereof). Remember, the Whole30 is not about restricting your calorie intake! Starving yourself may help you lose a few pounds short term, but you will not feel your best. And odds are you will eventually go back to your old way of eating and gain that weight (and then some) back!

If you find that you are getting hungry within a few hours of eating breakfast, then you should look at your choices and ask questions. You may need to make some adjustments. Please note: It may take your body a few days to fully adjust to having adequate fat intake for breakfast, before you see the full effects; however, some difference should be noticed even with the first breakfast.

Here are a a few tips that I use to get me through a Whole30 breakfast:

  1. Find some quick Whole30 approved breakfast options that you like. Here are some of the big hits at our house:
    1. No-Egg Breakfast Bowl
    2. Butternut Squash, Kale & Ground Beef Breakfast Bowl
    3. Egg Cupcakes– If you do not have complaint bacon, then you can sub the meat for homemade sausage or any meat of choice. There are many veggie substitutes that will work as well.
    4. Throw some veggies and a meat/eggs in a skillet with some fat like in the picture above! Just make sure that if you use bacon or sausage that it is complaint.
  2. Keep it simple when you need to! A few hard boiled eggs, some avocado slices and some sauteed or raw veggies and you are good to go.
  3. Find some Whole30 approved breakfast options that you can freeze, preferably into individual portions. Two of my favorites are:
    1. Slow Cooker Breakfast Meatloaf– I omit the maple syrup and add 2 peeled and lightly sauteed apples, as well as 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary. I also cut the red pepper flakes in half, because I am not super big on spicy. Since I am not awake 3 hours before breakfast, I prefer to make this ahead and freeze it into individual portions.
    2. Carrot and Apple Hash with Cinnamon & Ginger– I love to cook these ahead and flash freeze them for easy access on serving day.
  4. Lose the breakfast label all together. It took me awhile to prefer “dinner” for breakfast, but one of my favorite things to do is to put a meal into my slow cooker at bedtime and wake up to a tasty breakfast. I often eat roast and soup for breakfast! Pan-Seared salmon and veggies is one of my favorite things to eat when I first wake up.
  5. No matter what you eat, know what you are going to eat before you are hungry, especially when it comes to breakfast! I personally plan my breakfast the night before. I know if I wait too long to eat or eat an inadequate breakfast, it can really make the rest of my day a struggle.
    Breakfast Tip

    Always know what you are going to eat BEFORE       you are hungry! Especially for breakfast!

    I know that mornings can be hectic, even without adding in preparing a healthy, balanced breakfast, but I promise you won’t regret it! What is your favorite Whole30 complaint go-to for breakfast?

    DISCLAIMER: I am not a nutritionist or here to give you any health advice. Nothing that I say is meant to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or illness. Always seek advice from your trained medical provider. I am simply a whole food advocate and food lover, that wishes to help you get back to cooking with whole foods, in hopes that it will help you as much as it has me. I believe the things that I share to be true, because I have lived them! Everyone’s body is different and there is no one size fits all diet for anyone.

herbs and spices

How to Make Simple, Delicious, Healthy Meals Without All of the Extras

When I asked people on my support group, “What do you struggle with the most when it comes to your healthy eating goals?” I received a variety of answers. Several of them were similar in nature, in the fact that they all were struggling to find affordable, simple recipes:

“$ (Money) it’s hard to find things here and when you can it’s marked up double or triple what it was back in CA.”

“Money-it’s so much more expensive to eat healthy.”

“Finding good recipes that aren’t overwhelming.”

“Quick, easy recipes that don’t require 30 different specialty ingredients. I know I need to be better about prepping on the weekend, but we only have so many hours in the day to get things accomplished!”

This was certainly a struggle of mine as well, when I first started out eliminating so many foods and cooking from scratch. Things like coconut aminos and toasted sesame oil are amazing, but they are also hard on my budget if used too frequently! So why don’t I struggle with this anymore?

Along with starting freezer meal prep, these five things keep simple, delicious, healthy meals on our table (with a little time and effort):

  1. Fresh Herbs
  2. Fresh Spices
  3. Dried Herbs
  4. Fresh Spices
  5. Practice

Learning to cook with herbs and spices has taken me from someone who used recipes every time I attempted to cook anything, to someone who can just throw “whatever” together! In fact, this is when I have created some of my tastiest dishes that so many people enjoy in my cooking classes and workshops. And as an added bonus, the ability to improvise using herbs and spices, can save you tons of time and money in the long run!

The most amazing thing about herbs and spices, is that they can make the EXACT same ingredients taste like completely different meals! Example, saute some chicken and veggies with:

  1. A Mexican Seasoning Mix
  2. A Thai Seasoning Mix
  3. An Italian Seasoning Mix

Even if you use the same vegetables for every dish, you will end up with 3 completely different tastes! This is why I feel the key to long-term diet change (for those who bore easily) is to know how to use herbs and spices. This does not even get into all of the health benefits of these amazing creations! (Which there are a TON!)

I am working on my first cookbook, which will have a more comprehensive guide for those who do not have the time to experiment in the kitchen. However, I don’t want to leave everyone hanging until then, so I thought I would type out a few herbs and spices to get you started on your journey!

Fresh Rosemary, Apples and Pork are always a winning combination. Also, be sure to try it out with some roasted lamb!

Cinnamon is most known for adding sweetness to your dish; however, it can also add a savory flavor that your dish is needing!

Fresh Basil is a useful herb to get to know as well. It is used to flavor things like sauces, soups and salads and goes particularly well with tomatoes.

Cumin can add a Middle Eastern, Mexican, Indian, North Africa or Southwestern US flavor to your dish; however, it is also used by some to sweeten their dish and even as a pickling spice. If you have never used this tasty spice, I highly encourage trying it out!

Fresh Parsley should be found in every refrigerator, since it can go into just about any dish you prepare! Flat leafed parsley is preferred for cooking since it holds up to heat the best, while curly parsley is used for decorative purposes most of the time.

Turmeric will add a yellowish color to your dish, as well as a mild woodsy flavor. It can be used in place of saffron for those on a budget and is great for making tea. Just be careful, as it can stain your dishes and clothes!

I prefer fresh herbs when possible, but here a great rule of thumb when they may be hard to find or if you are trying to use up what is in the cabinet:

1 teaspoon of the dried herb = 1 tablespoon of the fresh

Don’t be afraid to experiment and if you mess up, it isn’t the end of the world! I know it is hard to waste food, but it is all a learning experience! (And trust me, if you have to throw the food away, you will learn! I know. lol) Throw in some citrus fruits from time to time for that extra zest and you will be unstoppable! In the long run, it will save you money AND time, since you will be able to throw an amazing meal together from what you have on hand without all of the extras!



kara meal week 1

10 More Side Dish Ideas

I often refer to my post 15 Grain-Free Side Dish Ideas during my meal prep workshops for Back 2 Basics Cooking, but I wanted to add some more options. So here are 10 more ideas for clean and super tasty grain-free side dishes.

1. Mango Avocado Salsa-You can always use this salsa to top salmon with as suggested in the post, but I love to use it a simple side dish that my with happily eat.

2. Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Red Onion and Avocado This is one of my favorite side dishes, except I typically roast everything in the oven except the avocado and add it last.

3. Amazing Homemade French Fries You have never had french fries until you have had fries made in lard!

4. Watermelon Fruit BowlA quick, fun idea for fruit salad!

5. Green Olive, Walnut and Pomegranate SaladCan we say yum?

6. Paleo Apple ColeslawColeslaw made Paleo with a little twist!

7. Apple Bacon ColeslawBecause everything tastes great with Bacon!

8. Carrot and Parsnip FriesGreat way to get in more veggies!

9. Strawberry Spinach Salad with a Berry DressingTasty, simple side dish! Sub raw honey for the agave nectar.

10. Bacon Wrapped Caramelized Sesame Asparagus –A nice spin on the classic bacon wrapped asparagus side dish!

If you are around Columbia, Missouri and would like to learn some simple, but great tasting entrees to accompany these side dishes, check out the meal prep workshops! Happy Cooking!