Chocolate slice and bake cookies... cardamom and orange flavors are so warm and perfect for the holiday season! I made these cookies for #Choctoberfest with the help of our Gold Sponsor, Imperial Sugar!
Recipes, Cookies, Desserts

Welcome to #Choctoberfest with Imperial Sugar: Chocolate Orange-Cardamom Cookies

Chocolate slice and bake cookies… cardamom and orange flavors are so warm and perfect for the holiday season! I made these cookies for #Choctoberfest with the help of our Gold Sponsor, Imperial Sugar!

Chocolate slice and bake cookies... cardamom and orange flavors are so warm and perfect for the holiday season! I made these cookies for #Choctoberfest with the help of our Gold Sponsor, Imperial Sugar!

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year, because #Choctoberfest is finally here! From now until the end of the week, I am joining forces with over 100 other bloggers from around the world to post delicious chocolate recipes. Every day, #Choctoberfest bloggers will be celebrating all things chocolate – milk, dark, white, bittersweet, semi-sweet, and cocoa!

Welcome to #Choctoberfest 2017!

We are starting with a #Choctoberfest prize pack from our generous sponsors. Scroll down to learn how you can enter to win. One lucky winner will receive the following:

  • A 100-Piece Cake Decorating Kit from our blog sponsors The PinterTest Kitchen. This set includes a cake turntable, piping bags, piping tips, flower nozzles, scapers, and more.
  • An Instant Pot and a 40-Pound Case of Granulated Sugar from our gold sponsor Imperial Sugar. Imperial Sugar provides high-quality sugar and sweetener products and over 100 years of time-tested recipes. Sweet things happen when people come together in the kitchen, and that’s why Imperial Sugar has been at the heart of family traditions and celebrations for generations.
  • Coconut Oil and Chocolate Silk Greens from our silver sponsor Barlean’s, your trusted source for chocolatey goodness superfood nutrition. Barlean’s has a commitment to staying ahead of the innovation curve in providing the absolute highest quality product.
  • A Chocolate Gift Pack from our silver sponsor Forte Chocolates. You’ll receive 12 of their most popular chocolate bars. With Forte Chocolates, you can celebrate life through chocolate. They also have a line of chocolate developed specifically to use in savory recipes.
  • A Chocolate Gift Pack from our silver sponsor Divine Chocolate. You’ll receive one of each of their baking bars, a white chocolate bar, and their top 5 everyday bars. Divine Chocolate is the only Fairtrade chocolate company in the world that is owned by cocoa farmers. Their baking bars are also a delicious vegan option.
  • A Selection of Sprinkles from our silver sponsor Sprinkle Pop. Sprinkle Pop’s bespoke sprinkle creations are one of a kind, just like you! At Sprinkle Pop, you can also order a custom sprinkle mix; there isn’t a sprinkle mix that you can dream up that they can’t create.

That’s a prize pack worth over $400! Open worldwide, except where prohibited. Must be 18+ to enter (21+ in some locations). See terms and conditions for more details.

To enter, simply follow our sponsors using the widget below. You can gain additional entries by following me and the other participating bloggers. A winner will be drawn on October 21, 2018 and contacted via email. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don’t forget to come back to my blog for more chocolatey goodness between now and October 20.

Check out our participating bloggers:

The PinterTest Kitchen 2 Cookin Mamas 27th and Olive A Day in the Life on the Farm A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures A Little Fish in the Kitchen addicted 2 recipes Amy’s Cooking Adventures An Affair from the Heart April GoLightly At the Table with R and R Baking Sense Blade & Barbell Blogghetti Body Rebooted Books n’ Cooks Bottom Left of the Mitten Canning and Cooking at Home Cheese Curd In Paradise Chef Sarah Elizabeth Cindy’s Recipes and Writings Coconut & Lime Cook With Renu Cook’s Hideout Cookaholic Wife Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt CopyKat.com Daily Dish Recipes Everyday Eileen Fairyburger Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice Family Around the Table Fix Me a Little Lunch Frankly Entertaining Frugal & Fit Get the Good Stuff! Growing Up Gabel Hardly A Goddess Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks Home Sweet Homestead House of Nash Eats Intelligent Domestications jenniferbakes JoAnn’s Food Bites Join Us, Pull up a Chair Jolene’s Recipe Journal Jonesin’ For Taste Karen’s Kitchen Stories Kate’s Recipe Box Kelly Lynn’s Sweets and Treats LeMoine Family Kitchen Life on Food Life, Love, and Good Food Lisa’s Dinnertime Dish Little House Big Alaska Long Distance Baking Maria’s Mixing Bowl Moore or Less Cooking Must Love Home Norine’s Nest Our Good Life Our Sutton Place OVENTales Palatable Pastime Prettysweetblog Red Cottage Chronicles Restless Chipotle Reviews, Chews & How-Tos Sarah Cooks the Books Sarah’s Bake Studio Savory Moments Seasonal and Holiday Recipe Exchange Seasoned Sprinkles Seduction In The Kitchen Simple Family Crazy Life Simply Inspired Meals Snacks and Sips Soulfully Made Stephie The Happy Mom Sumptuous Spoonfuls Sweet Coralice Take Two Tapas Tampa Cake Girl That Recipe The Baking Fairy The Beard and The Baker The Food Hunter’s Guide to Cuisine The Gingered Whisk The Heritage Cook The Mad Scientist’s Kitchen The Olive Blogger The Pajama Chef The Redhead Baker The Saucy Fig The Spiffy Cookie The Weekday Gourmet This is How I Cook Trampling Rose Turnips 2 Tangerines Walking Fruitfully Wendy Polisi Wildflour’s Cottage Kitchen Zesty South Indian Kitchen

I know you guys will find great recipes on ALL of of those fabulous blogs this week. But first, before you go check them out… let’s chat about these YUMMY cookies! I made them with Imperial Sugar. In some ways, it seems like all sugar is the same. But since I began baking with Imperial Sugar, I have noticed a definite difference in the quality of my dishes. They’ve been in business for 175 years so they know what they’re doing!! I know that sounds like an ad, but I promise it isn’t. Their regular granulated sugar is not clumpy, their brown sugar is not dry (and the resealable bags are helpful!), and their powdered sugar is so soft and perfect for blending into frosting. If you’re looking for some fun Halloween recipes, look no further. Imperial Sugar has you covered!!

Chocolate slice and bake cookies... cardamom and orange flavors are so warm and perfect for the holiday season! I made these cookies for #Choctoberfest with the help of our Gold Sponsor, Imperial Sugar!

These Chocolate Orange-Cardamon Cookies were so easy to mix together during my son’s naptime. The whole house smelled great after I zested an orange and opened up a jar of cardamom. Then, later that afternoon, my son and I sliced the cookies together and placed them on the cookie sheet to bake. <— that was interesting with a two year old. I put them on the cookie sheet, and he moved them. Sometimes into his mouth. Hahaha! For some reason I never make slice and bake cookies, but I definitely should start doing that more often. One reason why I always say cookies are my least favorite thing to bake is that they seem so tedious to scoop out, but this method eliminates that excuse!

Chocolate slice and bake cookies... cardamom and orange flavors are so warm and perfect for the holiday season! I made these cookies for #Choctoberfest with the help of our Gold Sponsor, Imperial Sugar!

If I thought my house smelled good as the cookie dough was being mixed up, it smelled even BETTER once the cookies were baked. One taste and we all were hooked! The cardamom is perhaps a little unexpected in a cookie, but the more I eat, the more I enjoy them. I think they will be a great addition to a Christmas cookie plate, but also will fit right in with fall baking because what is fall without warm spices? 🙂 Plus they are pretty, so win win! I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as we do… and don’t forget to check out more recipes below and enter the giveaway above! I’ll be back later this week with more deliciousness. Happy Monday!

Please click here for the first day’s worth of CHOCOLATE recipes!!

one year ago: Healthier Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole
two years ago: Kale and Brown Rice Gratin
three years ago: Crockpot Barbacoa
four years ago: Baked Caramel Apple Mini Doughnuts
five years ago: Baked Strawberry French Toast with Strawberry Maple Syrup
six years ago: Maple Cornmeal Drop Biscuits
seven years ago: Pumpkin Spread
eight years ago: Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal

Chocolate Orange-Cardamon Cookies

  • Servings: 3 dozen
  • Print

cut out from an old issue of Ladies Home Journal that I ended up with a random subscription to!

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup Imperial Granulated Sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed Imperial Brown Sugar
  • zest of one large orange, approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • coarse sparkling sugar or sprinkles of choice

Directions:

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cardamom.

In a separate large bowl (I used a stand mixer), beat butter, sugars, and orange zest together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg until just incorporated, and then beat in vanilla. Gently fold in flour and cocoa mixture, mixing only until combined.

Line a work surface with parchment paper, then roll the cookie dough into a 2 inch-diameter log. Roll tightly in parchment paper, then refrigerate for at least one hour. The recipe suggested rotating the log every 20 minutes to maintain shape, but I skipped that step because #momlife. Also, if you have kids helping with this recipe, you may want to divide the dough into two portions and roll into two logs, as one was a lot to handle when getting “help.” Two might be helpful for anyone, with or without kids. 

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Sprinkle sanding sugar or sprinkles on a plate or rimmed baking sheet, then roll log in sprinkles until coated well. You can brush an egg white over the log before rolling if you aren’t suffering from #momlife distraction like I was, but my method worked just fine.

Slice the sprinkled log into 1/4 inch thick, then place on prepared baking sheet an inch apart.

Bake for 9-10 minutes. Cookies should be set and slightly firm when you press into them, but they will harden a little as they cool so don’t over bake. Cool completely on pans, then store in an airtight container for up to one week. If they last that long!!

Disclosure: I received free product from Imperial Sugar to use in this recipe for #Choctoberfest. I was not required to review them or provide positive feedback. All opinions are my own. You can learn more about Imperial Sugar and get great recipe ideas from them on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

 

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Bars, Breakfast, Recipes

Fantastical Food Fight: Banana Breakfast Bars

These simple freezer-friendly banana breakfast bars come together in a snap and taste SO good! They’re a great breakfast or snack that everyone will love. 

These simple freezer-friendly banana breakfast bars come together in a snap and taste SO good! They're a great breakfast or snack that everyone will love. #FantasticalFoodFight via thepajamachef.com

Apparently these days all my recipes revolve around breakfast or snack time. Ha! I first made these yummy banana breakfast bars in the winter and have since made them several times because they are a) easy, b) addictive, c) pretty healthy, and d) made with ingredients I always, always, ALWAYS have on hand. All three of us love these hybrid granola bar/banana bread recipe that can be enjoyed for an on-the-go breakfast or for a healthy snack option. And my husband likes them doubly-so because they’re made in just one bowl for extra-easy clean up! Haha.

These simple freezer-friendly banana breakfast bars come together in a snap and taste SO good! They're a great breakfast or snack that everyone will love. #FantasticalFoodFight via thepajamachef.com

I’m always on the look out for easy, real-food recipes that I can make for my toddler’s afternoon snack at school… with the dreaded “nut free” caveat. I’m fortunate enough to not have a child with food allergies, so I don’t quite understand that world, though I do try to be sympathetic. But it’s hard because I love me some peanut butter and lots of my favorite recipes include it! So I have to think outside the box a bit for school snacks. We try to rotate between yogurt, applesauce, cheese, fruit, and some sort of muffin/bar recipe so he doesn’t have the same thing for snack everyday. The muffin/bar option is one of my favorites because so many recipes–including this one–can be made ahead and frozen so he doesn’t have a week’s worth of the same thing. I know he’s only two, but even so I don’t want him to get bored with the same snacks. And maybe BECAUSE he’s two, I don’t want him to get into a food rut. 🙂 So many store-bought breakfast/granola bars are made with nuts or nut butter, which is a no-go for school… so these are absolutely perfect!

These simple freezer-friendly banana breakfast bars come together in a snap and taste SO good! They're a great breakfast or snack that everyone will love. #FantasticalFoodFight via thepajamachef.com

I hope you give these easy bars a try. Read through the recipe below to see how to make them… and be sure to click over to the original recipe. If you don’t have to make nut-free snacks like I do, you’ll want to try the yummy peanut butter-white chocolate drizzle. I need to give that try sometime! 🙂

P.S. I’m linking these up with the BANANA Fantastical Food Fight this month. Check out more banana recipes here: 

two years ago: Creamy Sweet Potato and Kale Orzo
three years ago: Cantucci (Almond Biscotti)
four years ago: Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
five years ago: Autumnal Muffins
six years ago: Iced Tea with Ginger-Mint Simple Syrup
seven years ago: Roasted Vegetable Quinoa Salad
eight years ago: Spaghetti + Meatballs

Banana Breakfast Bars

  • Servings: 12 bars
  • Print

slightly adapted from Crazy for Crust

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium bananas, very ripe
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, mash bananas. Add oil, egg, and vanilla, then whisk until egg is beaten in and everything is combined. Add in oats and flour, then stir to combine. Sprinkle in brown sugar, cinnamon, and baking soda. Stir to combine.

Pour batter into prepared pan, then bake for 18-22 minutes until edges are golden brown and center is cooked through.

Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze (in bags for easy lunch packing, if desired) for up to a month.

The original recipe has a yummy peanut butter-white chocolate drizzle on top if you want to try that! I needed to keep these nut-free for my son’s school, but that would be a fun addition. Enjoy!

Easy and delicious, these peanut butter chocolate protein poppers are a fun healthier snack option that taste like dessert!  thepajamachef.com
Breakfast, Granola, Recipes

Peanut Butter Protein Poppers

Easy and delicious, these peanut butter chocolate protein poppers are a fun healthier snack option that taste like dessert! 

Easy and delicious, these peanut butter chocolate protein poppers are a fun healthier snack option that taste like dessert!  thepajamachef.com

It’s Fridayyyy! And I’m sitting in my office, eating lunch and hoping no one comes by and thinks I’m not working when really, it’s my lunch break. Does anyone else ever get like that? Paranoid, I mean… it’s my natural tendency. Ugh. But anyway, I shouldn’t be all “ugh” because it’s almost the weekend!! What does your weekend look like? These days, mine are filled with running, playing Duplo trains with my toddler, reading, going to church, and then MAKING ALL THE THINGS to eat on Sunday afternoons because marathon training makes me hungry.

Easy and delicious, these peanut butter chocolate protein poppers are a fun healthier snack option that taste like dessert!  thepajamachef.com

I’m not a hardcore meal prepper by any means, but I do like to be strategic in my weekend cooking: preparing breakfasts, snacks, and a dinner for Monday night make the whole week go so much smoother. Monday night dinner already made? Sign me up! Making a breakfast dish (baked oatmeal, egg casserole/muffins, or a batch of overnight oats) saves me in the mad rush out the door in the morning. Running at 5 am and trying to be out the door by 6:45 am is a little crazy some days, so having a prepared meal that I can easily heat up or take to go is fantastic. Likewise, I need snacks to enjoy at work. My coworkers and the students in the library probably think I eat all day long, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Haha! I do lots of the usual options: veggies and dip, apples and nut butter, cheese, nuts… but my new favorite thing is homemade granola bars and little bites, like these amazing Peanut Butter Protein Poppers! I know you can buy things like this but there’s just something so fun about homemade treats that are on the healthy side.

Easy and delicious, these peanut butter chocolate protein poppers are a fun healthier snack option that taste like dessert!  thepajamachef.com

These little peanut butter bites are made with protein powder, which isn’t something I consume regularly, but I had some samples to use so that was fun to throw in here. Aside from the protein powder, these bites have pantry staples that I use all the time in the kitchen. Oats! Cinnamon! Peanut butter! Honey! Coconut Oil! They are SO easy to make–just stir everything together, shape into balls, and chill for awhile. Then, melt some dark chocolate and drizzle on top. Presto! Tasty little protein poppers that are almost like dessert. I like to eat a couple of these in the afternoon as a snack, but I think they could also be great before/after a workout or even as a healthy dessert. Hope you guys enjoy!

Easy and delicious, these peanut butter chocolate protein poppers are a fun healthier snack option that taste like dessert!  thepajamachef.com

one year ago: Honey Sweetened Banana Berry Oat Muffins
two years ago: Creamy Pesto Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken
three years ago: Red Cabbage, Raisin, and Apple Slaw
four years ago: Healthy Crumb Topped Zucchini Bread
five years ago: Pumpkin Coconut Soup
six years ago: Chocolate Mousse 
seven years ago: Pumpkin Granola
eight years ago: Pizza Sauce

Peanut Butter Protein Poppers

  • Servings: 20 poppers
  • Print

slightly adapted from Kelly Lynn’s Sweets and Treats

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup protein powder – I used half vanilla, half plain
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter – I used a no-stir natural peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips – for drizzling (optional, but not really!)

Directions:

In a large bowl, stir together oats, protein powder, and cinnamon. In a measuring cup, whisk together peanut butter, honey, and coconut oil. If it is too thick to mix well, microwave it for 15 second bursts until easily stirrable. Pour over oat mixture, then quickly stir to combine. The texture will be similar to cookie dough, and if stirring is difficult, use your (clean!) hands to mix together.

Use a medium cookie scoop (or your hands) to roll into balls. Place on a silicone mat or wax paper lined baking sheet, then refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to set.

When set, drizzle with melted dark chocolate. I like to melt chocolate in the microwave, using 50% power for 15 second bursts. Stir between bursts until chocolate is completely melted. Drizzle chocolate over Peanut Butter Protein Poppers, then return to refrigerator for at least another 10 minutes until chocolate is set.

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Notes: my protein powder had chia seeds in it, but if yours doesn’t, you could add a little in place of a little protein powder or oats… maybe like a tablespoon or so.

Reviews

Book Review: Falling for You

Looking for a sweet romance with some mystery thrown in for good measure? Be sure to read Becky Wade’s Falling for You!

Looking for a sweet romance with some mystery thrown in for good measure? Be sure to read Becky Wade's Falling for You! #bookreview thepajamachef.com

description of the book from the publisher:

Willow Bradford is content taking a break from modeling to run her family’s inn until she comes face-to-face with NFL quarterback Corbin Stewart, the man who broke her heart–and wants to win her back. When a decades-old missing-persons case brings them together, they’re forced to decide whether they can risk falling for one another all over again.

As usual, my five point review:

  • I absolutely loved this book! The characters, the setting, the mix of love and mystery… this was a fabulous book. Though I don’t read very much Christian fiction anymore, Becky Wade is always at the top of my to-read list because her novels are always so well written and NOT cheesy! Elements of faith were present but not in an overbearing sort of way.
  • Falling for You is the sequel to True to You, which I also reviewed on my blog. Though these books are related and feature the same family, you could read them out of order and not miss anything. I personally enjoyed Willow’s story in this novel over her sister’s previously. This was a shocker to me because Nora, Willow’s sister, is a library-type like me… and Willow is this model in love with a football player! Who’s more like me? Not Willow, but I was enthralled by her story anyways.
  • The best part of Willow and Corbin’s romance is the fact that their love story is a second-chance sort of love story. They previously dated and suffered a painful (and very realistic) breakup, and this book explores their journey to get to know one another again… and maybe end up together too. Only time will tell, right?! 🙂 The content of their story, as well as both of their personal histories, does make this a little more of a mature-readers book instead of preteens or early teenagers… so parents, be aware of that. Nothing is graphic though, but there are some difficult situations to process through.
  • My favorite part of this novel was something completely unexpected… a little mystery! Corbin and Willow team up (along with Corbin’s precocious niece, Charlotte) to search for Charlotte’s long-missing great-aunt Josephine. That journey, coupled with everyone’s personal ups and downs, was fun to read about even though it illustrated painful family stories in the process. That journey gave Corbin and Willow something to focus on besides themselves and really helped the story develop.
  • All in all, this is a great book to read–I breezed through it in just a few days, and if I didn’t have other responsibilities, this would have read it in a day. It was that good! Any of Becky Wade’s novels are wonderful, but this one may very well be my favorite.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

How I Eat

How I Eat: Eating Well in Pregnancy and Beyond

Welcome to How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People. (If you missed it, click over to read more about this series on The Pajama Chef.) This series is meant to inspire readers (and myself!) with tips and tricks for meal planning and getting dinner on the table. Whether you’re cooking for one or a crowd, I firmly believe that good food shouldn’t be sacrificed just because life is busy.

How I Eat, Shannon: Eating Well in Pregnancy and Beyond

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Shannon. Shannon is the genius behind Pregnancy Plate, a unique meal planning services focusing on getting mama, baby, and the whole family the nutrition necessary for each stage of pregnancy! Read through this post for more about Shannon’s journey, food background, and also a coupon code to get you set up with this great service!

Tell us about yourself. Who are you cooking for? What else influences how you get meals on the table?

I just started a new business so I am busy getting it off the ground before the baby. I cook for my husband and our 2-year old daughter. We also have a newborn (a June baby!). Our daughter eats separately from us because of work schedules. She eats leftovers from our dinners or I will make her separate food like tilapia and reheat it through the week. I cook dinner for my husband and myself after she goes to sleep. When I’m pregnant,I look for what’s easy but healthy. Luckily, my business is an online meal plan for pregnant women, so I’ve use that to guide our meals. When I’m not pregnant, I like to try new recipes every week. I usually run a search on Epicurious or browse my cookbooks focused on a protein that’s not planned yet that week or that my husband suggests (ex. let’s have shrimp this week).

What meals do you plan?

  • Dinner

In a typical week, approximately how many meals per week do you plan to eat at home or prepare to take with you (e.g., to work or school)? No shame… curious minds want to know! For this, I would include any food purchased at the grocery store (e.g., rotisserie chicken, bagged salad mix, etc.) but not takeout.

  • 16-18: I eat out 3-5 times per week, maybe a few days for lunch or so.

What is your basic meal planning method?

Typically, on the weekend, I outline the meals for the week (factoring in our schedules), take inventory, and shop for the ingredients. I focus on getting a healthy variety during pregnancy because it is so important for the baby and myself. I used to order what I could from Amazon Fresh and then go to the store for just a few things, but they stopped delivering in my area. As I get further in my pregnancy, I’ve been less rigid with the shopping on the weekend, because I find a large and involved trip to the stores exhausting. Some weeks I go to the store several times to get stuff just for that night.

How I Eat, Shannon: Eating Well in Pregnancy and Beyond

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

I love this turkey quinoa chili from Well Plated. I made it last night and will have it for lunches and also freeze some for later. It was a go-to freezer meal for my first baby and I’ve made it for some friends who were pregnant as well. I try to eat a lot of salmon during my third trimester for DHA, and there are a lot of different ways to make it so it’s been fun experimenting. I love the lemon risotto from the “Giada’s Kitchen” cookbook (Giada De Laurentiis), topped with shrimp, scallops or chicken piccata, asparagus or broccoli on the side.

What are your “no-brainer” meals? Or what meals do you make when there’s “nothing” to eat?

Homemade pizza is always a good option because it’s easy, cheap, and tastes better than ordering out. We live in LA so it’s a fast drive to get some pizza dough, or my husband can stop on his way home from work. I also keep a stash of frozen cheese ravioli that I can quickly make for an easy meal with jarred sauce.

Do you use any tools to help you create your meal plan and/or execute it?

  • Paid meal planning service like eMeals
  • Paper meal planner of some type

How I Eat, Shannon: Eating Well in Pregnancy and Beyond

Can you share more about Pregnancy Plate?

I’m using Pregnancy Plate, a meal planning service for pregnant women (it’s my business). It’s been so helpful during my pregnancy to have my meals planned already and to know that they are well-balanced and healthy. Every week focuses on a key nutrient, like Iron, Choline or Omega-3’s, which is based on the baby’s development and week of pregnancy. There are 5 dinner recipes that include ingredients containing that nutrient. It’s helped me eat a healthy variety during pregnancy, and I’ve eaten or increased certain foods that I don’t normally eat because they are in the plan (lentils, beans, more leafy greens, etc.). It’s also fun to learn about how certain nutrients help my baby develop. I created the content so long ago, combined with my pregnancy brain, it’s practically new to me each week when I read it!

What is your best advice for someone who is just starting to meal plan?

  1. Set realistic expectations and take baby steps (pun intended!) – start by planning and buying ingredients for 1-2 meals for the week and add more as you get into the habit. It’s unrealistic to go from no planning to suddenly planning 5-7 days. It’s discouraging to spend a bunch of time planning and money shopping, and have it go to waste. So start with something that you know you can do, don’t put a bunch of pressure on yourself, and feel good about the little changes you make.
  2. Make a list of 5-8 meals that you like, and rotate through them monthly (ex. beef tacos, fish tacos, garlic shrimp with pasta and salad). Be specific. Then, each week, you can pull 1-2 meals from that list. It takes some of the pressure off the weekly planning. It’s easier to plan 3 meals each week from scratch than it is to plan 5. By using the list, the “planning” for those meals is done and you have just a few left to figure out!
  3. Be patient. If you’re new to cooking in general, it takes a lot of time to learn. It might take you an hour to make a meal with all the chopping and prepping at first, but as you get better it will take you 20 minutes. Don’t let it discourage you…practice is the only way to get faster. So stick with it!

How I Eat: Meal Planning for Normal People - a new series on thepajamachef.com inspiring YOU in the weekly routine of meal planning!

Thank you, Shannon! I’m so intrigued by your Pregnancy Plate meal planning service. Though I’m most certainly NOT pregnant now (ha!) it sounds like a great way to focus on healthy eating during that time… in a very easy way!

To get the word out about Pregnancy Plate, Shannon graciously set up a coupon code for readers of my blog… for $5 off a 3 month membership, use coupon code is 3pjchef5. Hope you check it out!!

Connect with Shannon on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook for more inspiration.