Slow cooker lentil soup

soup2This week I’m trying out some light meal planning, particularly for lunch. I never quite know what to eat and too often I end up buying fast food. My fast food lunches aren’t that expensive, usually about $3.75, but I know I can eat healthier and cheaper when I make food myself.

So for the next few days I’m going to try and have homemade soup and salad for lunch and see how that goes. Maybe a sandwich sometimes if I need some extra food.

Early this afternoon I made a pot of lentil vegetable soup in my slow cooker. I’ve never made soup before using the crockpot so it was a bit of an experiment. I just tried it and it’s pretty good! Basically you just put all the ingredients in and set it to cook for 7-8 hours, it’s very easy. Here is the recipe 🙂

Slow cooker lentil soup

  • 8 ounces brown lentils (1/2 of a one pound bag), rinsed
  • 5 cups water or chicken broth
  • 3 chicken bouillon cubes (omit if using broth)
  • Tomato paste, 2 heaping tablespoons
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme, optional

Add everything into the slow cooker and set on low. Cook for 7-8 hours.

I stirred the soup around hour 5 just to mix everything together, but this isn’t necessary.

Grocery shopping with mom

groceries.JPGHi everyone,

I’m in California for the week visiting my mom. As always I’m very happy to see her and spend time together.

On our way home from the airport yesterday we stopped to buy some groceries, which she very nicely treated me to. We went to a discount grocer so we got a pretty good deal on everything.

When I visit we are often very busy so I rely more on microwaveable foods or other foods that are very easy to prepare such as pre-washed salad greens.

In the photo is most everything we bought except for some rice, chocolate mints, garbanzo beans and green tea.

I really like frozen foods and use them a lot at home. Frozen veggies are an inexpensive and easy way to include vegetables in a meal. I also love that they are already cut and washed!

Hopefully these groceries should last me for a couple of lunches and dinners 🙂

Recipe: Simple and tasty egg salad

Eggs are one of my favorite foods: they’re inexpensive, delicious and full of high quality protein. In just one egg there is 6 grams of protein!

I had a carton of eggs at home and the other day I felt inspired to make some egg salad. It’s great in a sandwich or to put on top of a salad. Here is how I make it:

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Simple and tasty egg salad

Makes 4-6 sandwiches

  • 10-12 eggs, hardboiled
  • 3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon mustard- I used yellow mustard
  • pinch of paprika, ground pepper and salt to taste (all optional)

Hard boil your eggs. Once they have cooled peel the eggs and place in a bowl.

Finely chop the eggs and place in a bowl- I recommend a bowl with high sides that you can scrape down. Next, stir in the mayonnaise and mustard and mix very well. This step can require some patience to coat all the egg pieces.

Next, add a pinch of paprika, ground pepper and salt, to taste.

Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

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Frugal favorites: Homemade lunchbox

lunch2When it comes to saving money I believe that little things, done consistently, can really begin to add up.

Every week day I make my little household a lunch box for the day. I believe that both the cost and health benefits are very good. And it’s definitely cool to have a lunch box even if you’re a grown up 🙂

These are some benefits of a homemade lunch:

  • Less expensive
  • Healthy, fresh food
  • Proper portion size (most importantly: not too much food so it’s not a calorie overload)
  • Made with love ❤

Here is a very standard lunch box that I make: It includes fruit, veggies, a sandwich (made on gluten-free bread) and some corn chips. If I used regular bread it would be much cheaper, but health needs comes first.

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Now let’s break down the cost (I’m estimating but it should be pretty close):

Apple: .50 cents

Veggies: .35 cents

Gluten-free bread: .87 cents

Chips: .25 cents

1 Hotdog (in sandwich): .40 cents

Mustard: .03 cents

Total: $2.40

A typical takeout lunch where I live is $6.50-10, so the math here is pretty clear: a homemade lunch definitely is the best.

Here’s a nice bonus: Often a takeout lunch will come with a soda and sometimes a dessert like a cookie. By bringing a homemade lunch you can bypass the temptation to get a “free” soda with your meal. It’s all about the little things 🙂

Lunch today: Vegan quesadilla and veggies

lunchIt always makes me happy when I find a good dairy substitute that I enjoy. This quesadilla I had for lunch today was excellent: it tasted great and the cheese was nice and melty. It tasted very similar to a “real” quesadilla.

Although I love dairy, especially cheese, I have a tough time eating it too often. It gives me fatigue, headaches and doesn’t digest all that well. I don’t think I’m necessarily allergic to milk products but I’m definitely sensitive.

What really made this dish excellent was using dairy-free pepper jack cheese. It gave the quesadilla extra flavor and helped it to really sing 🙂

I rounded out today’s lunch with some raw veggies including cucumber, mini tomatoes and radishes for a veggie nutrition boost.

Although I only made one serving, you could easily make more if you’re serving several people.

Awesome dairy-free quesadilla

Serves 1

2 corn tortillas, 6-inch

2-3 heaping tablespoons non-dairy pepper jack cheese, shredded

1 teaspoon non-dairy butter or vegetable oil

Salsa (optional)

Sliced veggies served on the side; such as red pepper, cucumber, radishes, tomato, or carrot sticks

Warm a large skillet on medium heat and add the non-dairy butter. When butter begins to melt place a corn tortilla in the middle of the pan. Let the tortilla warm for a few seconds and then top with the non-dairy pepper jack cheese.

When the cheese begins to warm and melt slightly top with the other tortilla. Press down with a spatula. Take a look under the top tortilla and when the cheese begins to look melty flip over. Continue cooking until the cheese is thoroughly melted.

Tortilla should be slightly browned on each side.

Total cooking time is about 5-6 minutes.

Serve with salsa and sliced veggies

Making a salad bar at home

I love salad bars because they help to make healthy eating easy especially when I’m on the go. As nice as they are, salad bars can also be quite expensive and they require having to travel to a store or restaurant to visit one.

Today an idea came to me: why don’t I try and make my own salad bar at home?

I eat a lot of salads and making them at home I can benefit from the variety available at many salad bars while keeping my costs down. Packing the salad in a to-go container makes them easily transportable to work, the park, or other places.

The key to a home “salad bar” is preparing in advance! Set aside 30 minutes to an hour to do all your washing and chopping and you’ll be set for a few days or a week. This ends up being a great time saver and stress reliever because all the hard work is done and you can easily put a salad together in just a few minutes.

The basic how-to for a home salad bar is very simple:

  • First, decide how many salads you want to eat for the week (or half a week). I usually eat 4-5.
  • Purchase and/or prepare your lettuce and toppings and place them into individual containers and refrigerate for up to one week. Please note: it’s best to not keep animal protein around for more than 3 days, but vegetables can keep longer.
    • Chop vegetables and fruit such as red pepper, carrots, broccoli, cucumber, pineapple, apples, cauliflower, etc. into bite size pieces. Note: chopped tomatoes don’t always keep very well for me so I prefer to use cherry tomatoes.
    • Adding a protein(s) helps to keep me filled up for longer. I like to add beans, sliced chicken, baked tofu, tuna fish, or sliced eggs. But grilled beef, cold cuts, salmon, or salami are also good choices.
    • Special add-ins, in small amounts, can give a salad extra sparkle such as bacon, olives, marinated artichoke hearts, blue cheese, dried cranberries, raisins, Parmesan cheese and more.
  • For dressings I often use a very small plastic container or ziploc bag and put it in with the salad if I’m taking it on the road with me. Otherwise if I’m eating at home I just lightly pour the dressing right on. My favorite dressings are: balsamic vinaigrette, Italian, oil and vinegar, or Thousand Island.

A couple of pictures are always helpful 🙂

My lunch today! My first salad bar style lunch at home. I included: romaine lettuce, cucumbers, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, corn and carrots.

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All the veggies ready to go for the rest of the week 🙂

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Cooking up some hard boiled eggs ,which I’ll be able to use in salads and also for snacks.

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If you enjoy salads or are looking for healthy eating ideas I hope you found this article helpful!

Feel better garlic soup

I have a bit of a sore throat today so I thought I’d try some home remedies to see if they help me feel a little better. Garlic is one of my go-to foods to help me feel better, so I thought I’d try and make some veggie garlic soup!

This soup is definitely not a beauty because I barely have any vegetables in the house only green beans – but it is full of garlic! It’s a very simple recipe so feel free to add in any vegetables you’d like.

The nice thing about this soup is that it’s quick to make, only has a couple ingredients and is very tasty!

I forgot to chop my green beans, but it is easier to eat if they are bite size 🙂

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Feel better garlic soup

Serves 1

1.5 cups water or chicken broth

1 chicken flavored bouillon cube (leave out if using chicken broth)

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup of chopped vegetables, your choice

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

In a saucepan warm the oil on medium heat. Add the garlic and stir until garlic begins to cook down and turn very slightly brown, about 1-2 minutes. Add the water, bouillon cube and vegetables. Turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until garlic and vegetables are fully cooked.

Note: If you are using delicate vegetables such as peas, add them in after the garlic has been simmering for about 5 minutes so they don’t over cook.