Saturday, November 8, 2014

3 Easy Family Dinner Ideas… For Days When I'd Rather Spend My Afternoon Walking vs. Cooking

I've been so focused on taking better care of myself that I haven't set aside time to write here in a few weeks. I won't lie, there is some angst that I'm not keeping up with this blog enough; that I should be posting more. But I've decided that sporadic posts are ok. It's my best effort in this moment.

That said, I came up with a few quick and EASY dinners these past few weeks, that are worth sharing. And I found myself with a few open hours today, so it's time for a new post. These recipes are for days when a lot of cooking isn't the priority, but nourishing my family still is key. So, pour yourself a glass of something delicious and let's spend a few minutes together giving you some ideas for the busy week ahead!

Easy Dinner #1 - Mediterranean Chicken

This was inspired by a recent trip to our local Whole Foods. They have this gorgeous antipasto bar, and as I whizzed through the market, I knew I was short on time to cook that afternoon/evening. So, I loaded a medium deli container with a combination of {layers, top to bottom since I know they're a little hard to see in this pic} capers, roasted garlic, roasted tomatoes and pitted kalamata olives. The other two ingredients I bought were a package of organic chicken tenders and a 15 oz jar of fire roasted crushed tomatoes. That's it. Those three ingredients.

Then, when we got home from after-school activities I preheated the oven to 350, and placed the chicken in a roasting pan, placed the contents of the antipasto tub on top, poured the crushed tomatoes on top of that, gave it all a stir, and into the oven it went until the chicken was cooked through {about 15-20 minutes, depending upon the size of your chicken pieces}. And while the kitchen was filling with these amazing aromas, the kids did homework, and I went upstairs and worked out.

Super easy, crowd pleasing dinner.

Easy Dinner #2 - Tomato-Quinoa Soup with Grilled Cheese

I have one vegetarian child, which means a few nights a week we all enjoy a veggie-based meal. And on a chilly Fall evening, really, what's better than tomato soup and grilled cheese? You can get fancy with your grilled cheese and add pesto, or you can just use good bread and some good cheese and go simple. But if I go simple on the grilled cheese, I try to make sure we're getting a protein boost another way. Easiest way I've found? Simply add a scoop of cooked quinoa to everyone's bowl of tomato soup. Usually this meal comes about when I have some leftover quinoa in the fridge. But if the request comes another night, I always have these packets in my pantry. {Oh, and I get lots of questions about my tomato soup… it's store-bought. The bowl above is Trader Joe's-brand Creamy Tomato Soup. My other favorite brand to keep on hand in my pantry is Pacific.} 

Easy Dinner #3 - Veggie Curry

Another crazy day of afternoon chauffeuring… another plant-based meal needed…. one that'll please the whole family… and can be made in mere minutes? I keep a stash of Maya Kaimal Simmer Sauces on hand in my pantry.  

On the above night, I didn't make it to the supermarket as planned after one of my children ended up home sick from school, so I had to come up with dinner from a pretty measly selection of ingredients. Normally, I like to make a veggie curry with all sorts of colors and textures, but this go round I had:
I cubed the tofu and cut the new potatoes in half and roasted them on a olive oil drizzled baking sheet, at 350, just until they had a crispy edge {about 12 minutes}. Then I popped the tofu, potatoes, rinsed and drained chickpeas and the jar of simmer sauce into a sauté pan until everything was warmed through. The result? Awesome. Everyone loved it.

So, when I am not hauling something out of my homemade freezer stash, I'm figuring out ways to get dinner on the table quickly easy and healthfully so I have enough time to take good care of myself without compromising mealtimes around here.

And it's working. I'm thrilled to share that by making more of an effort to move daily, and connecting with friends for walks a few times/week, I have lost 9 lbs in 9 weeks (!!!) in that friendly weight-loss challenge my friends and I embarked on. Want a kick in the pants too? See the small product that made a difference in my fitness journey. I truly cannot say enough good things about how something so simple has inspired me to re prioritize how I spend my days.

Here's to us all figuring the dinner gig out, and taking even better care of ourselves along the way.

Alrighty, so if a bit of time passes before the next blog post you'll know I'm just getting my skinny on, walking around town with friends… so be sure to wave if we pass each other.

Fitbit Zip

Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links that help run the full plate blog. Thank you for helping to keep this blog going!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

crunchy lentil and sweet potato salad with lemon-tahini dressing

We've just passed the half-way mark of the friendly weight-loss competition I have going with ten friends. And {drum roll} I continue to lose weight, and am feeling more and more fabulous-- and energetic-- every day. My strategy for the second half? Keep on doing what I'm doing….

Today, after hoofing it around town with a friend, she mentioned she was going to go home and enjoy leftovers from a dinner party she'd hosted. With no lunch plans of my own, I decided to forage in my own fridge and see if I could come up with an equally delicious and healthy lunch.

Saturday, I'd made a veggie frittata with Trader Joe's Cruciferous Salad {kale, broccoli and cabbage blend} + peppers + onions. But I'd eaten the last wedge of it for breakfast this morning. Bummer.

But I did find:
  • the rest of the bag of Trader Joe's "Cruciferous Salad"
  • some roasted sweet potatoes from last night's dinner 
  • a package of Trader Joe's already cooked lentils
  • a tub of Trader Joe's Tahini Sauce
  • a bunch of lemons from the hot lemon water I have first thing each morning
  • some garlic

Crunchy Lentil-Sweet Potato Salad with Tahini Dressing

Lemon-Tahini Dressing {makes about 1 cup}:
  • 8 oz container tahini (sesame paste)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-4 cloves garlic
  • water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
In a blender, combine all ingredients, starting with 1/4 cup of water and adding water bit by bit until you get to desired consistency. 

Drizzle desired amount of Lemon-Tahini Dressing over Trader Joe's Cruciferous Salad mix. Toss to coat. Top with lentils and rough chopped sweet potato. 


Now I just have to come up with a way to incorporate the Lemon-Tahini Dressing and these leftover lentils into dinner… so the happy cycle of simple, healthy meals continues around here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

winning at losing -- the friendly weight-loss competition

If you've been following me on Facebook you know that I just wrapped up Week 3 of an 8-week weight-loss competition* I have going with 10 mom friends. And {drum roll}-- for the second week in a row-- I am in the lead, based upon % of weight lost.

So what's working?

First and foremost, for me, it's my fitbit.

Far from deprivation, my eating has been some combination of what I learned during the 10-day detox {though I no longer need to follow it to a "t"}, Bittman's VB6 {though I didn't realize I was eating this way until a friend mentioned it… more veggies = always a good goal} and Eating Rules' October Unprocessed Challenge. Food-wise, I took the pressure off myself to be perfect. Instead, I make an effort to crowd out the bad with good. I allow myself treats, and have enjoyed several meals out {with delicious beverages}... but I also log everything I eat-- both the good and the bad-- into the food journal on my fitbit dashboard. It is powerful for me to understand where I stand, and what exercise would have to happen to balance out that next glass of wine, or dessert, so I can make choices.

While I am by no means perfect, generally speaking, I feed my family well. But for me, exercise was the piece that was apparently missing. I always assumed that whatever walk I took, tennis I played, or time I spent on the elliptical was enough. But I had no way of really knowing how much I was doing. Did it matter?

Plus, I felt like the last thing I needed was another reason to be online. But then I trusted a few friends who swore their fitbits were helping them get where they wanted to be.

Worth a shot.

So, I strapped a fitbit on, committed to taking at least 10,000 steps/day, and from Week 1 it had me swooning {and losing weight}. I began to understand-- in concrete terms-- how much I needed to move if I was going to eat x, y, or z. I'm never going to give up on real, delicious food. I enjoy eating, and I have a family that needs to be nourished each day. But now that I better understand the role movement plays, I am encouraged and empowered to move more. It's simple math, not rocket science.

And I am surrounded by friends doing the same. We see the steps each other is taking and challenge each other to garner more.

My kids know that badgering me to use the iPad will now, more often than not, be met with an idea to get outside and go someplace on foot.

I still love a good book by the fire, a lunch date within a friend, and the laundry isn't going to fold itself… but these days, all that happens after I meet my daily Fitbit goal. I'm hooked.

*Since many of you have asked, here are the details on our friendly weight-loss competition:
  • We have 11 moms participating, all friends and friends of friends;
  • We each put $100 into the pot, making our 1st place prize $600 and our 2nd place prize $500;
  • Since everyone came into the competition with a different amount they'd like to lose, you win based upon your % of weight-lost compared to your starting weight {vs absolute lbs, inches, etc};
  • We chose to do the competition for 8 weeks in hopes that real, lasting change could occur;
  • On day 1, we all went to one participant's house and got on her scale, which became each person's starting weight;
  • Each Monday, participants weigh themselves at home {using their own scales} and email their weight to the spreadsheet keeper before 10am. Once all weights are tallied, the spreadsheet keeper emails current rankings out to the group {just %, weights are kept private} so everyone has an idea of how they're doing relative to the group;
  • After 8 weeks, we'll regroup live at the original scale we used, and there will undoubtedly be a lot of hooting and hollering as the winners are announced!!!

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting the full plate blog. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What would you do if dinner was made?

Guess what?!! The make-ahead meal program I poured my heart and soul into last Fall is now 1-happy-year-old!

The feedback has been amazing. Every single family who has purchased the Stock Your Freezer in a Snap program has absolutely loved it. A testament that it was truly worth spending all that time making an easy-to-follow program that would help all busy parents learn to cook ahead.

What have I been up to instead of cooking dinner every night?

Reading in the yard while the kiddos play...

Spending the afternoon cheering on my kids….

Going for long, long walks with friends...

And, taking in this gorgeous Fall knowing I don't have to worry about feeding my family well-- even on the busiest of days.

In celebration of one-year, I am offering Stock Your Freezer in a Snap for only $9.99 the month of October. This is my gift to all of you. So, if you've wanted to join me in stocking your freezer with nourishing meals, now's the time! Click here to learn more about the program. Or, you can click the button below to purchase it right now for instant download.

{The button will take you to a PayPal payment page, but you can use any credit card to purchase. Once purchased, you will receive a link from SendOwl to instantly download the program… because, I know, patience isn't one of my virtues either!}

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Kale-White Bean Stew {aka: 4-hour-workman-window-and-I-haven't-gone-to-the-market-but-need-to-make-dinner-during-those-4-hours-with-what-I-have-on-hand-oh-and-can-you-also-make-it-vegetarian-please soup}

It's a well-known fact that I am not in my school groove yet. If I see you around town, or on the sidelines {of three sports x two kids}, and you ask, "how's your year going so far?", I may very well look at you like a deer in the headlights. 

We have turned a corner. Apparently gone are the days when my kids tumbled off the schoolbus, played in the yard til dinner, and we all sat down together at a reasonable time. Now, they arrive home minutes before my chauffeuring begins. Afternoon and evening activities overlap. Homework has become more plentiful. And there's still only one of me. 

Oh, and, I am not willing to forego healthy meals, or family dinners. 

Wednesdays are unique in that my children only have half-days of school. It's funny because I remember when they started preschool I used to think that 4 hours off was an amazingly long time. Now, with four other normal length school days/week, I sort of treat Wednesday as a wash.

However, today found me halfway though a {truth be told: disorganized} week of meals, marooned at home during a 4-hour workman window {the same 4 hours the kids are in school}, needing dinner prepared before 12:30. And I hadn't done much grocery marketing. Did I throw up my hands in despair and say we'll just go to Station Eats in between tennis lessons, a baseball game, and the first big middle school project that involves poster board? No. Because mama is trying to get back to svelte… my older child came home from camp a vegetarian…. and if you make me sit around the house for four hours waiting for you, you better believe I'm going to put that time to good use by cooking something. The result of rifling through the pantry and freezer or ingredients?

Kale-White Bean Stew 
{aka: 4-hour-workman-window-and-I-haven't-gone-to-the-market-but-need-to-make-dinner-during-those-4-hours-with-what-I-have-on-hand-oh-and-can-you-also-make-it-vegetarian-please Soup}

olive oil
frozen pearl onions {or a chopped onion}
canned white beans {drained and rinsed}
kale {chopped, fresh or frozen}
a jar of TJ's bruschetta {or a can of diced tomatoes and some garlic}
veggie broth
orzo {or couscous, quinoa, farro, wild rice, brown rice}

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot, over medium heat. Saute the onions until golden, and then add the rest of the ingredients. Stir. Lower heat to a simmer and cook until the grain you added is cooked. 

Reheats beautifully {if you need to dine in shifts}. Freezes perfectly {if you want to make a big batch and freeze some for a busy night ahead}.

I know some of you like me to be more precise with my measurements… Here is what I added today, which made 8 servings {4 for tonight; 4 to freeze}:

two 32 oz cartons veggie broth
one 12 oz jar TJ's bruschetta
two 15 oz cans white beans
16 oz frozen pearl onions
16 oz frozen kale
1 Cup TJ's Harvest Grains blend

Then, while one child was creating a math presentation and the other was systematically destroying the kitchen that had just been cleaned-- I mean, sewing a Medieval costume out of felt-- I slathered some good butter on French bread and wrapped it in foil ready to go into the oven for a few minutes, in anticipation of a quick family dinner in between practices tonight.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

the rumors are true

The rumors are true... I have my pinky toe back in the blog.

I'm still not sure if I am jumping back into blogging with both feet, but enough people have asked me to share how I am juggling healthy mealtimes {with crazy chauffeuring} this Fall / losing the summer bloat / staying sane parenting a middle schooler / dealing with one child who is vegetarian etc. that I decided at least my new weekly meal plan idea was worth a post. But, I haven't had the time to photograph and write that post. Hmm. Telling? So, for the time being, you can catch some recipe ideas, food crushes, and general rants and raves about motherhood over on my new Facebook page, swellmom. See you over there, and maybe back here soon. We'll see...

Thursday, May 15, 2014


When I started The Full Plate Blog, my goal was to combine my personal chef/make-ahead meal expertise with the daily demands of being a busy mom. I loved the feedback from all of you, sharing your mealtime success stories after you gave my recipes a whirl. More and more busy parents feeding their families well-- even on the busiest of days.

It's hard to believe that when I started this blog, five years ago, my youngest was napping 2x/day. The blog was a creative outlet, and gave me a sense of purpose beyond what I viewed as my first priority: being a balanced and happy mom. And over the years, this blog has really taken off, winning multiple awards and garnering a bigger and bigger audience. 

But the rhythm of my days has changed so much in five years.

And so, I have made the difficult decision to take a break from blogging.

Temporary or forever? I'm not sure. If I really miss it, I can always come back… or I'll find a way of sharing my recipes in a way that encourages a more healthy lifestyle for myself.

I want to thank all of you for supporting The Full Plate Blog. It's been an awesome run. Your tales of how it changed mealtimes for the better made me smile. And while I was always surprised to be stopped in the supermarket aisles, I loved helping you figure out how to encourage a picky eater, successfully reheat some masterpiece straight from the freezer, or quickly gather the ingredients for a dinner you could whip up when you got home from chauffeuring kids to and fro.

I intend to leave all of the recipes-to-date up so you can continue to access your favorites, either by typing an ingredient into the search bar, or scrolling down the right hand column to access the various categories. And, the instant download to help you master make-ahead meals will still be available for purchase {at the sale price} through the summer months, so fret not about what the heck's for dinner.

Here's to "bonus hours" all around and continued mealtime success!       - Eila

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cooking Light's Dinnertime Survival Guide review + giveaway!

One of my all-time favorite food bloggers {and mom extraordinaire}, Sally, just released her "Cooking Light's Dinnertime Survival Guide"… and it's fabulous

Oh, and in case you were wondering if Sally is as cute, peppy and knowledgeable in person as she is in the pages of this cookbook? She is. But, of course, I had to try several of the recipes to make sure they were as awesome as the ones on her blog, Real Mom Nutrition. As you may recall, we have a bit of a mutual love-fest going on. She loves my make-ahead meals, and I love her RD expertise, coupled with her real life, simple solutions to getting dinner on the table, since she's a super busy mom like all of us. 

Deciding which recipe to try first was the hardest part. 

I ran a few by my kids, and we gave the "Black Bean Soup" {page 235} a whirl first. After all, it was Cinco de Mayo….

Gotta love those recipes that take mere minutes to make...

dump this in, dump that in… give it a stir...

add some veggie broth… pop the lid on….

and voila! Or, "ole!" might be more apropos in this case.

Yum. So easy, and everyone loved it. 

Next up? A few friends were raving about the "Peanut Butter-Coconut Chicken Fingers" {page 122). I like recipes that only have a few ingredients, and this one fit the bill. The outer coating is a mixture of panko breadcrumbs, unsweetened coconut and ginger.

And before you roll it in that crispy coating, you simply dip the chicken tenders into a blend of coconut milk, eggs, and in my case, almond butter.

I doubled the batch, knowing this was a meal that would reheat well. Oh, and I also baked them instead of sautéing or pan-frying them. To go this route, simply spray your rimmed baking sheet with your choice of cooking oil and bake them at 425 until cooked through, about 10 minutes, flipping them halfway.

Another winner!

Then tonight, I had a request, by my one child who is currently {and maybe forever} vegetarian, for a hearty meatless meal. It was a drizzly and gray spring day here in CT, so a perfect night to give the comforting "Curried Carrots and Lentils" {page 75} a test drive.

I usually have carrots in the fridge and lentils in the pantry, making this one of those great "what can I make for dinner with what I have on hand" recipes. I made a few modifications: three cloves of garlic {instead of one}, no ground red pepper {trying to keep it tame}, and smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika {which I highly recommend-- it gave the dish even more depth}.

Oh, and I used veggie broth instead of water, added a whole quart instead of 3 1/2 cups of water…and I added everything to the pot instead of taking things out and adding them back in {because I believe in shortcuts… and because I'm not very good at following directions on recipes}.

This is another one of those "bonus hour" dinners, where it's got to do its' thing for about a 1/2 hour…

and if I didn't have 1st grade reading homework to oversee, I might have used that cooking time to kick back and read a magazine. But it was nice to be able to offer my undivided attention tonight.

The verdict? My vegetarian-leaning son said it was "delicious!", my self-proclaimed "meatatarian" son said, "yum, it tastes like it has sausage in it" {thank you smoked paprika}, and my husband kept making cracks about us now having "Meatless Thursdays" but you'll note that all the bowls were basically licked clean... 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that yours truly has a mention in the cookbook too! Check out page 37 for one of my freezer tricks. 

And {drum roll}, as a thank you for being a part of her cookbook, Sally has given me a copy to share with one of my readers. To be entered to win, please leave a comment below letting me know why you need this book! For a second chance to win, "like" Real Mom Nutrition on Facebook, and leave me a comment letting me know you've done so! A lucky winner will be chosen on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 8am Eastern Time by May the most desperate mom win! {Just kidding.}

Please note: I was sent a complimentary copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own. I wouldn't tell you it's great if I didn't really think so!