How I Eat

How I Eat: Using Meal Planning to Cook Healthy Meals for a Family

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, Michelle: Using Meal Planning to Cook Healthy Meals for a Family

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Michelle from The Runner’s Plate. Michelle’s blog was one of the first I found (many years ago!). She lives in Alaska with her family, and always has great perspectives on running, healthy eating, and life in general. From her about page: “I also consider myself a health nut. I love trying new recipes: baking and cooking things that taste good and are healthy for my family. I am not a vegetarian, despite what many people think. My diet consists of whole grain, vegetables, fruit, lean meats/proteins, and healthy fats. I enjoy a balanced diet and eat healthy 95% of the time.” I’m so glad you guys get to hear her take on meal planning today! Also, she’s my stroller running inspiration. Can you say… 7 miles with the stroller? Wow!

How I Eat, Michelle: Using Meal Planning to Cook Healthy Meals for a Family

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

I cook for my husband and 3 year old son. I love trying new recipes and often cook vegetarian or vegan, but we also eat meat a couple times a 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.

  • 21: I make all my own food and very rarely eat out.

What is your basic meal planning method?

I sit down a few days before the week starts, assess what we already have in the kitchen, and plan out meals for the week depending upon what items need to be used up or items I already have in the freezer, our schedule for the upcoming week, and then plan accordingly.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Oh gosh, I am constantly trying new meals. Currently: Bangkok Bowls from Pinch of Yum, quinoa + sauteed veggies + a protein, and Taco Soup in the Crockpot. (Sarah’s note: this vegetarian taco soup from Well Plated is our fave these days. And it only takes 30 minutes on the stove… but you could totally make it in the crockpot.)

Two summers ago, I went on a blogger trip to Cordova, AK to learn about Copper River Salmon with @copperriversalmon. 🐟 The things I learned on that trip have always stuck with me: how passionate those fishermen and women are about their livelihood, the amazing quality the fish is, and the importance of protecting those waters and other fish habitats for future generations. 🌊 • This is the first time since that trip I actually purchased wild-caught Copper River Salmon (which I got from @costco) because the price tag has scared me in the past. 💸 But you know what, this is a high-quality product, local, good for you, and I personally met fishermen/women who work hard for their money, so that makes it worth it to me! 🎣 (⬅️ Not how they actually catch the fish.) Also, these things remind me a lot of the reasons my parents work so hard on their farm to grow food that feeds our country! 👨‍🌾

A post shared by Michelle Baxter (@therunnersplate) on

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

Eggs, quinoa + veggies + protein, pizza.

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

Free, published meal plans online (from blogs or websites)
Meal planning whiteboard or chalkboard

Is there anything you would like to elaborate on from the previous question?

I will often assess what I already have and then Google those ingredients: broccoli + chicken + rice for ideas.

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

Figure out why you want to meal plan and let that motivate you to 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, Michelle! I love the point about figuring out why you meal plan. From reading your blog and following you on social media I’m guessing that your why is all about making sure you can easily eat healthy meals–and being organized is how you do that. I also like how you often share easy healthy meal ideas on Instagram especially. Be sure to follow Michelle to see more of her ideas!

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

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Bars, Desserts, Recipes

Incredible Chocolate Marshmallow Krispie Treats #FoodBloggerLove

Seriously the BEST marshmallow krispie treats you’ve ever had. These little bars are incredible–so chocolately, so marshmallow-y, and full of fun mix-ins like coffee, pistachios, and coconut. The perfect treat for your Valentine or anyone, anytime. 

Seriously the BEST marshmallow krispie treats you've ever had. These little bars are incredible--so chocolately, so marshmallow-y, and full of fun mix-ins like coffee, pistachios, and coconut. The perfect treat for your Valentine or anyone, anytime.  #FoodBloggerLove

Hey, hey! It’s Monday… and it’s #FoodBloggerLove, organized by The PinterTest Kitchen. It’s sort of a spinoff of The Secret Recipe Club days of olde, where we would swap blogger names each month and make a recipe off someone else’s site. But, in the newest twist, #FoodBloggerLove has a little more freedom. We could make a Valentine’s Day recipe OR we could write our post to celebrate another blogger. I took the latter option, since I ❤ SRC, and was given the lovely Amy of Amy’s Cooking Adventures. So today, I’ve made Amy (and all of you awesome readers), the most INCREDIBLE rice krispie treats I’ve ever had the privilege to taste. They are chocolately and super marshmallow-y and also are studded with pistachios, coconut, and a hint of coffee flavor. Basically, they’re the best. If you’re looking for fancy rice krispie treats… look no further. You’ve found a winner of a recipe.

Seriously the BEST marshmallow krispie treats you've ever had. These little bars are incredible--so chocolately, so marshmallow-y, and full of fun mix-ins like coffee, pistachios, and coconut. The perfect treat for your Valentine or anyone, anytime.  #FoodBloggerLove

I wish I could hang out with Amy in person today and share some of these cereal bars with her. We’d have a lot to talk about… we’re both busy working mamas (though she has two kiddos, and I just have one). And, drumroll please… we’re both librarians! She works at a school and I’m at a university, but we’d have lots to chat about I’m sure! She loves cooking healthy homemade meals for her family, desserts, bread, and carbs. Meeeeeeee too, girl, me too!

Seriously the BEST marshmallow krispie treats you've ever had. These little bars are incredible--so chocolately, so marshmallow-y, and full of fun mix-ins like coffee, pistachios, and coconut. The perfect treat for your Valentine or anyone, anytime.  #FoodBloggerLove

I know the next treat you’re going to make in your kitchen are these rice krispie treats, right?? *wink wink* They really are absolutely wonderful–I shared them with a few different groups of people and they received rave reviews. All the chocolate and mix-ins add a little extra personality, but it’s the abundance of marshmallows that truly takes these treats over the top! But, I also want you to check out some of Amy’s recipes. I made this Turkey Sausage Penne Skillet the other week, and it was amazing! The weather prevented me from taking photos but you better believe it’s a make-again recipe. 🙂 (Actually, my husband made this! Super easy!) Some of Amy’s other recipes on my radar for the future are this delectable S’mores Frappuccino, Rosemary Pan Bread, and Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies with Chocolate Ganache. Can you say y-u-m??

Seriously the BEST marshmallow krispie treats you've ever had. These little bars are incredible--so chocolately, so marshmallow-y, and full of fun mix-ins like coffee, pistachios, and coconut. The perfect treat for your Valentine or anyone, anytime.  #FoodBloggerLove

Hope you enjoy these treats–share some with your Valentine! And be sure to show Amy some love today. Connect with her on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter. She always has great recipes and fun pics of her kiddos and her latest eats to share. 🙂

one year ago: Peanut Butter Honey Oatmeal Cookies
two years ago: Tangy Sweet Potato Hash 
three years ago: Spiced Fig Turkey Mini Meatloaf
four years ago: Sweet Potato Pork Quesadillas
five years ago: Chewy Peanut Butter Brownies
six years ago: Caramel S’more Cups
seven years ago: Bacon-Wrapped Feta & Almond Stuffed Dates

Be sure to find more great Valentine’s Day recipes and tributes to other food bloggers at the linky below!

Incredible Chocolate Marshmallow Krispie Treats

  • Servings: 24
  • Print

slightly adapted from Love & Flour

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter (4 ounces or 1 stick)
  • 2 – 10 ounce bags of mini marshmallows
  • 5 cups rice krispies cereal
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or semi sweet or milk chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup unshelled pistachios
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 teaspoons ground coffee (not instant)

Directions:

Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish and set aside.

In a pot set over medium-low heat, melt butter. Reduce heat a bit and add one bag of marshmallows. Stir frequently until mostly melted, then add 1/3 of the second bag of marshmallows. Stir constantly until melted.

Remove from heat and stir in cereal.

Fold in chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, ground coffee, and remaining marshmallows. Stir until fully incorporated, then transfer to prepared pan.

Use a bit of wax paper or your greased hands to press down. Allow to cool completely before cutting and serving.

Enjoy!

How I Eat

How I Eat: Relying on Staples to Make Cooking for Two Easy

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: Relying on Staples to Make Cooking for Two Easy

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Colleen from Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice. Colleen is a Virginia food blogger who specializes in serving her recipes for feel-good southern comfort food with a side of sarcasm and a little bit of cat hair thrown in for good luck. Colleen and her adorable yet extremely neurotic Bengal cat Brenna are known for their not always successful, but often dare devilish food endeavors in the kitchen together. Things don’t always go as expected, but in the end there is always a delicious recipe that will make you wish the two of these girls were your neighbors, because not only do these two love to share their story, but they love feeding anyone who should just happen to stop by for a visit. To learn more about Colleen and Brenna, or just to find a delicious recipe for mouth watering cookies, flaky southern biscuits, sinfully delicious deviled eggs, or numerous other scrumptious treats you’ll just be dying to try, please stop by Faith, Hope, Love, & Luck Survive Despite a Whiskered Accomplice for a visit.

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

Most days I cook for two people, me and B.O.B. Bob, however, I do have people over often fairly regularly, which gives me the opportunity to cook larger meals.

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.

  • 14-15: I eat out almost everyday.

What is your basic meal planning method?

My best meal planning method doesn’t exactly involve having a plan other than always making sure certain staples are in our house to create last-minute meals.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Breakfast for dinner is a real favorite. Salads with anything and everything thrown on top are a huge hit too. Soup, however, is the ultimate weeknight meal…it can be made ahead and takes very little time to heat up. My Soup Saturday Swappers page has links to several soup recipes perfect for weeknight meals.

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

Grilled cheese, scrambled egg soft tacos with whatever fixings we have on hand, and grilled sausages are a real favorite with our neighbors when we get together as well because we can defrost them in a few minutes.

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

  • Freezer or batch cooking
  • Weekend meal prep

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

I find that I do most of my cooking on the weekend when I have more time.

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, Colleen! Your reminder that having a meal plan doesn’t always have to be super formal is so important. If you can keep staples of your favorite ingredients on hand, dinner can be so easy! Relying on staples is key. And I love having people over too–it’s fun cooking for a crowd on occasion. Thanks for your perspective on meal planning!!

Connect with Colleen for more inspiration via Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.

Breakfast, Oatmeal, Recipes

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

Easy and always enjoyed, this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal is almost constantly in our fridge! My toddler can’t get enough, and the adults in our house think it’s pretty tasty too.

Easy and always enjoyed, this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal is almost constantly in our fridge! My toddler can't get enough, and the adults in our house think it's pretty tasty too. 

Baked oatmeal is standard in my house. My toddler takes his breakfast to school everyday, and it’s a great choice because it’s a) made in bulk, b) pretty healthy, c) pretty filling, d) a pretty much guaranteed hit. I almost wanted to make that a quiz by adding “e) all of the above” but it’s too early for quizzes, is it not? *insert laughing/crying emjoi here* Ha! Anyways this Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal is a recipe I’ve made time and time again. Last time, I finally got it together enough to take a few pics for the blog!

Easy and always enjoyed, this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal is almost constantly in our fridge! My toddler can't get enough, and the adults in our house think it's pretty tasty too. 

I’ve tweaked the original to suit our tastes, and let me tell you… this baked oatmeal is absolutely delicious! Just a few things I want to mention:

  1. The binder in this recipe is made out of flax. Yes, flax. You can use regular eggs if you like, but flax eggs work equally well in recipes like this, so why not? It’s a step towards a vegan and/or allergy friendly recipe, which I always appreciate.
  2. You can choose your milk and fat. Sounds weird, but use whatever you like! Regular milk, almond milk, soy milk… anything goes! Same with the fat (by this I mean butter or oil). I like to use a little butter plus a little applesauce. I wouldn’t recommend all applesauce due to the texture and taste.
  3. As it is written, this recipe is for apple oatmeal. However, you can use many other fruits. Pears! Berries! Bananas! Dried fruit! The sky is the limit.

Easy and always enjoyed, this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal is almost constantly in our fridge! My toddler can't get enough, and the adults in our house think it's pretty tasty too. 

As you can tell, I use lots of apples in this oatmeal but add them to your preference. Sometimes I will grate the apples so my son eats more, but I do like him to eat various textures and try things on his own without having  them hidden so I don’t always do that. He eats this oatmeal with his cute little chubby fingers at school, but I like to eat it in a bowl, with a spoon. 🙂 I enjoy spreading some natural peanut butter on top, warming it up for a minute in the microwave, and then pouring some vanilla almond milk on top. Soooo good! Enjoy, friends!

one year ago: Mocha Oatmeal Cookies 
two years ago: Grapefruit-Walnut Sheet Cake 
three years ago: Caesar Salad with Fried Chickpeas
four years ago: Chili Relleno Casserole
five years ago: Baked Jalapeno Popper-Ranch Dip
six years ago: Fried Eggs on Pesto Parmesan Toast
seven years ago: Mini Meatloaf

Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal

  • Servings: 10
  • Print

adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds + 5 tablespoons water (or 2 eggs)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk, any type
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil (canola, coconut) or butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened natural applesauce (or additional 2 tablespoons oil or butter)
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large apples, such as Gala or Fuji, diced or grated

Directions:

Grease a 9×13 pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a small bowl, whisk together ground flaxseeds and water to make an “egg.” Set aside for 5 minutes to combine and thicken.

In the meantime, whisk together milk, oil, and applesauce in a large measuring cup. In a large bowl, stir together oats, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. After flax is thick, fold in flax “eggs.” Pour wet ingredients into the dry ones, then stir to combine. Fold in apples, then pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve warm or room temperature, with milk or maple syrup on top. A dab of peanut butter is also delicious!

Notes:

I usually make this with 2% or skim dairy milk, or plain or vanilla unsweetened almond milk.

Instead of the cinnamon and nutmeg, sometimes I use an equal amount of pumpkin pie spice.

For the apples, you can peel them if desired, but I don’t. #lazy But, sometimes I do grate the apples so my toddler eats more of them. Haha! Other fruit works in this recipe too, like berries (keep ’em frozen til you stir them in!) or sliced bananas.

How I Eat

How I Eat: Cooking on a Budget for an Easy to Please Husband and Two Picky Toddlers

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, Morgan: Cooking on a Budget for an Easy to Please Husband and Two Picky Toddlers

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Morgan of My Confetti Life. Morgan lives in the Nashville area, and is a fellow contributor to Nashville Moms Blog. She’s also married to a Ben, her college sweetheart, and is mama to three cute kiddos. Through her blog she shares her life, family, food, faith, and more. It’s my pleasure to share her approach to meal planning today!

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

I am cooking for an easy to please husband and two picky toddlers, ages 3 and 5. My husband came from a family where his mom would fix a entrée and two or more sides and a dessert. Our weekly grocery budget does not allow for that, so I pick meals that have low cost ingredients or meals that I know we will have leftovers from. I am a stay at home mom and I love being in the kitchen so I do not mind a little prep work.

What meals do you plan?

  • Dinner
  • Snacks, Desserts, etc.

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?

I write down the days of the week. I fill in meals that we plan to eat out. I then scroll through my Pinterest for dinner ideas. I usually make 3 classic meals then try something new for the other 2 or 3.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

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

Grilled cheese! Sometimes with bacon.

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

  • Paper meal planner of some type

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

Weekly meal planning is amazing, it takes a little effort to get the hang of it. I base the order of the meals we eat off of the produce and its shelf life.

Anything else you want to add?

Kroger ClickList is an awesome meal planning tool. I plan my meals and order the groceries all at the same time.

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, Morgan! I like your tip about planning menus while thinking of the produce/ingredient shelf life. For that reason I’ve lately been planning meals with frozen veggies for the end of the week, or choosing to have our weekly meal out on Friday night when we’re almost out of groceries. I also agree, ClickList is great! I don’t use it every week but occasionally it is a lifesaver. Great idea to plan and shop simultaneously! Thanks for sharing your strategies with us!!

Connect with Morgan for more inspiration on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!