6 Steps to Building an Awesome Salad

My capsule menu for the summer includes lots of salads. I use this simple salad planning system to keep our meals feeling new and fresh each time.

Step 1: Choose your theme.

Mexican, Asian, Greek, Italian, etc.

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Greek-seasoned ground turkey, cucumber dressing, Greek olives, Feta cheese

Step 2: Choose your protein, season appropriately and choose your dressing.

It’s all in the seasoning!  By seasoning your meat (Chicken, Beef, Ground Meat, Fish, Sea Food) according to your chosen theme, you give each salad its own unique flavor and it feel like you are eating a new salad each night!

Some protein choices (hard boiled eggs, shrimp, crab) may not need to (or you may not want to) season.  Then your variety in flavors comes from your choice of dressing.

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Asian Chicken Cabbage Salad

Step 3: Choose your grain (optional).

One way to make salads into a full meal and to fill up hungry bellies, is to add a grain as a base for your salad.  Choose a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, barley or organic corn chips or add a side of whole grain sour dough bread.

Step 4: Choose your leafy green.

There are many great choices for the “salad” part of your salad.  Spinach, cabbage (multiple colors), romaine, spring mix, kale…by changing up your leafy green you also keep salads new!

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Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps

Step 5: Choose your toppings.

A wide variety of toppings make (and keep) salads fun.  Seeds and nuts, a variety of cheeses, lots of fresh veggies, fruit (dried or fresh) and things like olives, pickles, mushrooms and beans add substance and flavor to enhance your chosen salad’s theme.

Step 6: Prepare all ingredients, but keep things separate!

This step is important to keep everyone in the family happy!  Everyone has at least a few foods that “are not their favorites”.  Keeping all the salad ingredients separate means that everyone can custom make a salad that they LOVE!  It also means that any leftover ingredients can be easily used for another meal (prep once, eat twice!).

Build and enjoy your salad!

6 step salads

So far so good with our summer of salads!  My kids (even the picky one) have discovered that tuna salad is good…and so is romaine lettuce!

Could your family enjoy a summer of salad?

 

Summer Capsule Menu

Even though we are a home school family, our summers look quite a bit different than the rest of the year does for us.  We spend much more time outside, we are away from home more and Tony’s work schedule changes.

I love how having a capsule menu helps me to keep real food meals on the table for my family, day in and day out, without much thought and effort.  But during the summer, I want a change.  Lighter meals filled with all of summer’s fresh produce.  I want salads instead of soup.  And I don’t want to use my oven!

Here is my school year capsule menu if you are interested.

I have some unique challenges as I plan meals for my family (and I’m sure you do too!).  My husband needs to be nightshade-free and my children can be rather picky; they are more willing to try new things if they can be tried separately.  I also often pack meals for my family to eat someplace other than at home.

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Chicken Ranch Wraps…I like to pack meals separately, then I can personalize sides to match preferences.

Rather than scheduling specific meals to specific days, I’ve listed meals according to categories.  Doing it this way gives me more flexibility to cook according to what I have on hand and according to what our daily plans are.

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Asian Cabbage Salad with Chicken (this is yummy but would be even prettier with tomatoes and colored peppers!)

Here is my Summer Capsule Menu if you are interested.

Do you have a favorite summer salad that is hearty enough for a full meal?  What are your favorite summer meals? Please share!

Herbal Multi-Vitamin Recipe

I believe good health starts with real food…but even with a diet full of real foods our bodies need an extra boost.

I’ve been making a liquid, herbal multi-vitamin for years and have been very happy with the results.   Herbs are plants full of vitamins and minerals…in rations and combinations that are easy for our bodies to use.  Herbs have been used for centuries to promote health and treat illnesses and diseases.  Thanks to the internet a wide variety of herbs are easy to obtain and often inexpensive.

These are the herbs I use in the multi-vitamin I make for my family:

Disclaimer: I am sharing what our family uses.  Do your research and make the best decision for your family.  This is not to be considered as medical advice!
  • Alfalfa contains the vitamins A, C, E, and K; and the minerals calcium, potassium, phosphorous and iron.
  • Nettle contains the vitamins A and B-6; and the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
  • Red Raspberry Leaf contains the vitamins A, B’s, C and E as well as the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc and chromium.
  • Dandelion leaf contains the vitamins A, B-6 and C and the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron.
  • Spearmint contains vitamins A and C and the minerals calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.  Spearmint also adds a pleasant taste to your herbal vitamin!

I choose to use organic herbs if at all possible because any herbicides or pesticides used in growing these herbs would be concentrated on the leaves (which is what I am using to make my vitamin tincture).

Herbal Multi-Vitamin Tincture

Place the following in a quart-sized jar:

Pour very hot water over the herbs (I use about 2 cups).  Then, fill the jar the rest of the way with food grade vegetable glycerin.  Let sit for 6 weeks, shaking occasionally.  After 6 week, strain out herb leaves with a mesh strainer and pour into a quart-sized glass jar.

As adults we take 2-3 Tbsp each day.  The kids get 1 Tbsp each day.  Tony and I each drink 1 to 1.5 quarts of green smoothie spread throughout each day (we’d rather drink our greens than eat them!).  So I add ours to our smoothies.  The kids each get a tablespoon in their morning breakfast (usually baked oatmeal or overnight oats). During the winter months I also add elderberry syrup to our smoothies or breakfast.

 

Herbal Vitamin

I order all of my bulk herbs from Vitacost (use this link to get $5 off your first order!)  I also order all of our supplements from Vitacost as well as all my “specialty” Trim Healthy Mama foods, shampoo, lotion, soap, etc.  I like that I have no trouble reaching the free shipping minimum and that my order arrives quickly.  There are also great sales, especially on Vitacost Brand products (often buy-one-get-one for buy-one-get-one-50%-off).

The initial investment for all these supplies can seem rather expensive, but these herbs will last you for a long while.  We use about one quart of herbal multi-vitamin each month, and these herbs last me over a year!  I make up several quarts at once and just strain out the herb leaves as we needed.  This takes just a couple minutes each month.

However, if you don’t want to bother with making it yourself, you can order a similar product from Earthly.

How do you ensure your family gets the nutrients they need?

 

Chicken and Gravy

I am very happy with my capsule menu and use it every day!  The beautiful thing about creating your own capsule menu is that it is YOURS…it is the recipes that are your favorites.  But as I’ve shared the process of creating a capsule menu and the many ways to organize and utilize a capsule menu, people keep asking for the recipes that are in my capsule menu.

So, I will be posting my simple (and often very basic) capsule menu recipes.  Hopefully they will be useful to some and if you already have recipes you love, stick with them!

Chicken and Gravy, the recipe that is really not a recipe…

I buy large packages of skinless, boneless chicken breasts when they are on sale.  I cook up the entire package at once (or a couple of packages at a time) and then just shredded the meat and freeze in meal sized portions.

To make chicken and gravy, I simply make my favorite gravy recipe (from the THM cookbook) and add the shredded chicken.  I cook up a pot of millet and serve it with a side of veggies and/or fruit.

Super easy and simple…just what a meal in a capsule menu should be!

 

Fun Stuff from Around the Web

Tony and I spent Saturday to the Back to Basics event.  It was such a fun time!  Tony presented on building systems in order to simplify everyday life (the thought process behind our Everyday Simple book).  I was able to present about Capsule Menus.  The process of building and following a capsule menu has made my life so much easier!

There has been some fun and useful stuff floating around the web lately, here are some of the things that have been interesting/helpful/fun to me:

Enjoy some fun (and hopefully useful) browsing!

What “new to you” things do you want to share with others?  Please leave a comment and share!

 

 

 

 

Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Converting a Recipe

Creamy chicken wild rice soup, perfect for a cold winter day.  Our friends make a yummy version, but the recipe includes two “ingredients” I choose not to use: a can of cream of mushroom (or chicken) soup and a box of wild rice side dish mix.  I was easily able to convert the recipe to be real food friendly:

Instead of the cream of mushroom (or chicken) soup, I use chicken broth, whole milk and butter and thicken with flour.

Instead of the box of wild rice side dish, I cook my own wild rice and add spices.

Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup, Real Foodie Version

In a sauce pan cook 1 1/2 cups wild rice in 3 cups water until done.

Melt 8 Tbsp butter in a large pot.  Mix in 2/3 cups flour to make a roux.  Add 6 cups chicken broth and 4 cups whole milk.  Stir constantly while heating at medium to medium high until bubbly and thickened.  Turn heat down to low.

Add:

  • the cooked wild rice
  • 2-3 pounds of chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 tsp salt (start with 2 tsp if you use salted butter)
  • 2 tsp onion powder (2 tbsp dried minced onion)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Simmer on low until ready to eat.

This is a super yummy soup…but not at all inline with THM weight loss goals.  When I started following the THM lifestyle, I changed this recipe to be more THM friendly:

Chicken Wild Rice Soup — THM “E” friendly

In  a large pot cook 1 cup wild rice.  When fully cooked, add 6 cups chicken broth.  Blend 4 cups unsweetened almond milk (plain, NOT vanilla) with 3-4 tsp glucomannan, then add to the pot.

Add:

  • 2-3 pounds chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp onion powder (2 tbsp dried minced onion)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Heat on medium-low or medium until hot, stirring occasionally.

The THM cookbook has a great recipe for Chicken Wild Rice soup that uses pureed cauliflower to achieve the “creaminess”.  I’ve tried this recipe and it is really good (I substituted my spices mix for theirs…thyme is not a favorite spice of mine).  It is really good and my kids even ate it without complaining about the cauliflower (they didn’t now it was in there!)  So, this is a great recipe, just not as quick and easy because you have to cook and then puree the cauliflower…but if you have the time, added veggies!

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Adding carrots and celery makes the whole thing prettier to look at…but my family won’t eat cooked veggies, so veggies on the side for us!

Do you have any favorite recipes that you would like help converting…either to real food or to THM?

4 Real Foodie Misconceptions About THM

I am a dedicated (though realistic) real foodie.   I’m also a Trim Healthy Mama convert — I’ve adopted it as a lifestyle because I just.feel.good when I eat this way.  I feel that most dedicated real foodies see the THM lifestyle as a “fad diet” full of franken-foods.  This is just not so and comes from some misconceptions about THM.  So, to offer some clarification, here are five objections real foodies have with the THM lifestyle and some further information about each topic.

Myth #1: THM is a low carbohydrate diet and carbohydrates are needed by the body for energy.  Carbohydrates are needed by the body for energy, but THM is NOT a low carb diet.  It is a lower carb diet (lower than the Standard American Diet).  It is a smarter carb diet.  It advocates eating only whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal) and in moderation.  It uses very few flours made from grains (oat flour and spelt flour only).  Following the THM plan means eating some E (energizing meals and snacks) because your body DOES need carbohydrates!

My body does best when I eat an E meal for breakfast.  I feel more energized for my day and I am a happier person.  I eat soaked overnight oatmeal made with Jigglegurt instead of Greek yogurt.

Myth #2: THM is a low-fat diet.  Fat is needed for your body to absorb essential nutrients.  Fat is needed to produce hormones and for healthy brain function.  Plenty of healthy fats ARE needed by the body to function properly.  The THM diet encourages S (satisfying) meals and snacks, especially coconut oil, olive oil and grass fed butter (if not dairy free), nuts and seeds.  Even when eating an E meal or snack (low fat), it is emphasized to include a small amount of fat to aid in the digestion and absorption of fat-soluble nutrients.

THM is not a low fat or a low carb diet.  If you are looking to loose weight, it emphasizes the separation of fats and carbs so the body can completely use up each fuel and therefore not have extra fuel to store as fat.  (Read this for more information.)

Myth #3: Following THM may work to loose weight, but what about for pregnant/nursing women, kids and people who are at a healthy weight or who have very physically demanding lifestyles.  Crossovers (S meals/snacks that include a healthy serving of carbs) are an integral part of the THM lifestyle.  My husband and kids eat crossovers almost exclusively.  All serving sizes (for weight loss or not) are based on hunger levels and even suggested serving sizes are generous.  Calorie counting is considered a “no-no” in the THM lifestyle.  This lifestyle can work for all ages and stages of life and activity.

Many people also think that they need to made two separate meals, one THM meal for themselves and one meal for the rest of the family.  This is not true!  It is easy to convert family favorite recipes to be THM friendly (S or E and/or crossover).

Myth #4: using their recipes to make treats involves lots of “franken-foods” instead of real food ingredients.  They are just trying to sell their own specialty foods.  If you look carefully at their “specialty” ingredients, you will see that they are all “real foods.” (See my definition of real food here.) 

You can source the same ingredients from other companies but the quality from the THM brand can’t be beat.  For most things the price of the THM specialty ingredients is the same for even lower than other brands!  For convenience sake, I buy most of my THM “specialty foods” from Vitacost because I regularly order from them anyway.

4 THM misconceptions

The main reason most real foodies have a problem with THM is that they don’t understand the program or the science behind it.  (Many people that try to follow the THM lifestyle don’t understand it and then don’t follow it correctly and then don’t loose weight).  It really is not complicated, just very counter-cultural to many main stream thoughts/beliefs.

What are your thoughts and questions about THM?