How I Eat

How I Eat: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

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, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Emily from A Nutritionist Eats. I’m so excited she was willing to stop by in the midst of her family’s transition from LA to Minnesota! She has two cute little girls and a healthy, simplified approach to eating–not just for adults, but for kids as well. I wish we lived close by–I think playdates together would be a blast. Read on to learn more about Emily’s simple, old-school approach to meal planning (that totally works! It’s very similar to my method, that I should share with you too.). She’s got great ideas, delicious recipes, and a fun new meal planning service launching soon. I think you’ll love hearing from Emily!

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

I’m a Nutritionist and mom so I plan meals that are nutritionally balanced – and of course, family-friendly!

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?

In an ideal world, I check out what we have in the freezer and/or pantry and try to build a meal around that and I always start by figuring out what nights we need dinner – or what nights we’re going out/have something going on. I always have a huge list of recipes I want to try and test, so I’ll usually use weeknight dinners as an opportunity to test recipes that I’m working on. I also mix recipes that are super fast with ones that take a little bit longer – it seems like there are always nights when dinner needs to be on the table in 15 minutes.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Panko Crusted Fish – This easy fish takes about 15 minutes and is SO tasty!

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

Easy Baked Ziti – My easy baked ziti is a super satisfying and comforting meal. And who doesn’t love pasta?

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

One Pot Mexican Quinoa – I love when meals come together in one pan or pot – less dishes and mess! This one is full of flavor and little ones will have fun topping their bowl!

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

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

I always (or hopefully!) have sprouted bread, eggs, pasta, and a jar of pesto in the cupboard, so I’ll often make fried egg sandwiches or pasta with pesto. In meals like this, the veggie might be as simple as baby carrots!

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

  • I use old-school paper and pen!

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

I like to sketch out meals and grocery list on the same sheet of paper! It’s old-school, but it works for me! I think that’s the important piece too, find a method that works for you!

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

I would suggest to start simple, you don’t need to strive for perfection! Start by planning three dinners a week and some breakfast and lunches.

Anything else you want to add?

I’m launching a meal plan service soon – let me know if you need any help when it comes to meal planning or want to try it out for free! Read more about this service here… and get the yummy recipe for Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken and two meal ideas for it! (Sarah’s note: I think Emily’s meal planning service sounds AWESOME and fills a great niche… cook once, eat twice – simplified meal plans for busy families.)

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, Emily! I love your approach to simple, balanced, healthy eating. You always inspire me to introduce new foods to my son. Your tips about feeding kids (that appear regularly in your Instagram stories, for my readers who haven’t met you before today) are always so helpful! Your oldest daughter is just a little older than my son so it’s great to see that example and get ideas.

How I Eat, Emily: Nutritionally Balanced Meal Planning for Families

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

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A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill! #bookreview #reading
Reviews

Book Review: The House on Foster Hill

A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill!

A suspenseful debut novel from Jaime Jo Wright. Read on to learn more about The House on Foster Hill! #bookreview #reading

A description of the book from the publisher:

Kaine Prescott is no stranger to death. When her husband died two years ago, her pleas for further investigation into his suspicious demise fell on deaf ears. In desperate need of a fresh start, Kaine purchases an old house sight unseen in her grandfather’s Wisconsin hometown. But one look at the eerie, abandoned house immediately leaves her questioning her rash decision. And when the house’s dark history comes back with a vengeance, Kaine is forced to face the terrifying realization she has nowhere left to hide.

A century earlier, the house on Foster Hill holds nothing but painful memories for Ivy Thorpe. When an unidentified woman is found dead on the property, Ivy is compelled to discover her identity. Ivy’s search leads her into dangerous waters, resurrecting painful memories and forcing a reunion with the man who broke her heart. Can Ivy unravel the mystery and find a renewed hope before any other lives–including her own–are lost?

As usual, my five point review:

  • Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was so suspenseful and full of mystery that it was hard to put down! Gah. Those are the best (and worst) books to read because you don’t want to do anything else but read! Haha. Unfortunately, that’s not really possible as an adult. Sigh…
  • While reading this story, I connected most with Ivy and her story. Her character was compassionate, compelling, motivated, and sad. But reading about her transformation throughout the novel was wonderful and even though she’s “just” a character in a story, I have high hopes for her future!
  • It was harder for me to connect with Kaine’s story. She, like Ivy, is no stranger to hardship. But–and maybe this is a reflection of our modern life–seemed to have a harder time dealing with her pain. She wasn’t very likable and I just felt there was too much going on with her story for me to feel for her. It was just… complicated.
  • One complaint I had about this novel was that there was SO MUCH going on. Romance. History. Suspense. Mystery. Thriller. Contemporary. Stalker. Murder. Trafficking. Genealogy. There was a lot to keep track of in the moment. Reflecting on the story now… I think it worked, but in the future the author may want to narrow her focus a bit because I could see how that could be off-putting to some.
  • All in all, I highly recommend this book if you like novels that take place in two different time periods and settings, or if you like mysteries/romances/historical fiction/contemporary fiction, etc. The House on Foster Hill is a fast-paced, intriguing read. It does have some Christian elements, but nothing too heavy or religion-focused. I liked that there was a definite creepy/mystery element that is, in my experience, rare in books from the traditional Christian fiction genres. Please check this out, and let me know what you think! 🙂

What are you reading lately?

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: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your 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, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Polly, one of the lovely ladies who runs Thriving Home. She does a little of everything including: photography, baking, repurposing furniture, sewing, deal-hunting, gardening, and bird watching (yes, bird watching). She regularly feeds crowds of hungry college students at her house and keeps her children (6, 4, and 1) busy outdoors. She’s a go-getter who isn’t afraid of a challenge. I think you’re going to love her tips on meal planning using freezer cooking!

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

I cook for a family of 5. Kids are all under 6 years old. My priorities in the recipes I choose are: whole foods, easy, and tasty! Bonus points if they are freezer friendly.

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.

  • 19-20: I eat out once or twice a week.

What is your basic meal planning method?

On Friday or Saturday, I look at the week ahead to see what nights we are home. I then look in my freezer to see what I have to build around. From there I use my cookbook, From Freezer to Table, and Pinterest to build my menu plan.

How I Eat, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

Anything from From Freezer to Table!

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

Pasta with marinara. Grilled cheese. Pancakes. Peanut butter & Jelly. Mac and cheese. Quesadillas.

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

  • Meal planning whiteboard or chalkboard
  • Freezer or batch cooking

I have made freezer cooking part of my lifestyle. I almost always double a meal each week and freeze it (before cooking).

How I Eat, Polly: Using Whole Foods-Based Freezer Cooking to Feed Your Family

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

Take small steps. Don’t try to completely overhaul your norm or it won’t last. Simply try to plan a few meals a week at first. Double one meal a week and start reaping the benefits of freezer cooking. You’ll be hooked!

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, Polly! Freezer cooking is such a game changer. I did a bunch before my son was born and it truly has become a habit! I love your tip to double one meal per week… starting small with these things is the way to go! Your cookbook is a great resource.

Connect with Polly and Thriving Home for more inspiration on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.

Reviews

Book Review: Tell Me About Easter

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick!

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick! #Easter #bookreview

description of the book from the publisher:

Is it Easter yet?

Rhyming text fills this short-and-sweet die-cut board book that helps toddlers celebrate the true message of Easter—Jesus! Plus, foil and flocking will engage little readers’ senses as they spot and pat each fuzzy animal. Welcome, Easter!

Looking for a simple, fun way to introduce Easter to your toddler? This is a great pick! #Easter #bookreview

As usual, my five point review:

  • This a short and sweet book about Easter–both sweet spring animals and Jesus. It is absolutely perfect for toddlers! Aside from the content, we’ve been able to use it as we teach our son about colors and animals–asking him questions about what he sees and whatnot.
  • We love the illustrations in this book. It’s not just your average everyday board book–many of the animals (lambs, chicks, bunnies), flowers, and leaves are covered in soft felt flocking. A great tactile way for your kiddo to interact with the book. There is also gorgeous foil in this book as well. Both elements make this book very engaging to young readers. And a pretty book is fun for adults to read, too!
  • The book rhymes, but not in an obnoxious way like other books can. Apologies for using the word obnoxious to talk about books, but please tell me you know what I mean here! 🙂 This rhyming is sweet and sing-songy… it’s precious to see my son nodding and grinning along with the text. He even claps at the end!
  • My husband and I value good theology for books–especially kids’ books. This one is great–very straightforward and simple. You can see the majority of the spiritual content on the page above.
  • All in all, I would highly recommend this book for a way to prepare your kids for Easter, especially for the little crowd (under 3-ish?). It’s simple and sweet. My almost two year old son loves it, either when we read it aloud or when he “reads” it to himself. I could see this book being fun for older siblings to read to their younger siblings as well.

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

How I Eat

How I Eat: Blending Creativity with Reality

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, Andrea: Blending Creativity with Reality

Today’s feature on How I Eat is Andrea! We’ve known each other for more than 10 years now, since I worked with Cru at Ohio University. (I can’t believe it’s been that long!! #old) Though it’s been awhile since we got to catch up in person, it’s fun to keep up with her on social media. When I started this blog, Andrea always commented about my recipes. Lately I’ve been seeing her post more about cooking online and wanted her to share her perspective on meal planning, food, and all those things with you!

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

My roommate and I take turns cooking dinner for each other so we can try new recipes and not eat alone. My roommate sometimes likes cooking more complex meals, but when I’m cooking I’m looking for something I can throw in a crock pot or that can be done in around 30 minutes and still taste great. Its been great having a taste tester to give me feedback on my 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.

  • 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?

Because we are fans of leftovers, my roommate and I each plan one or two dinners a week, leaving us with leftovers for other dinners and some lunches as well. During the week, I write down the basic things I’m getting low on in the notes app on my phone, and look through recipe ideas online, mostly Skinnytaste, for inspiration for my two next meals, and put those ingredients in the notes app as well, so everything is accessible when I do my Sunday afternoon grocery run.

What are your favorite weeknight meals?

My roommate and I are both trying to hone our cooking skills, so neither of us has made the same thing more than a couple of times. One thing that will definitely stay in my recipe bank is a chicken tortilla soup I made by combing through a few different recipes to create my own. Very easy, dump and go and the flavor is fantastic! I gravitate toward soup when I’m cooking most of the year, as I find it is a great way to get vegetables in while not SEEMING to get vegetables in. Again, I rely on Skinnytaste to give me healthy alternatives to what I might otherwise make that still taste fantastic.

How I Eat, Andrea: Blending Creativity with Reality

Some of my favorites have been Crock Pot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili and Baked Potato Soup. I’m also trying to get her Quick Marinara exactly to my liking and I LOVED her Skinny Chicken Enchiladas.

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

If I’m in a rut but want to cook something that will give good leftovers, I grab the ingredients for tacos. Recently I made spaghetti and meatballs using frozen Italian meatballs, cans of crushed tomatoes and Italian seasoning. And we always have frozen pizza and cans of soup around for those nights neither one of us wants to/has time to cook.

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

Andrea talked about her system above, and adds: on weeks that my roommate is away, I always pick out a few recipes that I want to try that she may not like or can’t eat, see how many servings each one is and “map out” a plan in my planner. Knowing what I’m eating and when I’m cooking helps the food not go to waste and allows me to not get bored eating the same thing for EVERY meal because I made too much. I haven’t perfected this, but I hope to use this method if I ever live alone or am responsible for cooking for a family.

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

Think about who you are cooking for and what your goals are for cooking for each week. Do you just want to cook a few times and have leftovers or do you want to have something different every night? What is your schedule like that week? Do you want to spend time in the kitchen creating (me some weekends) or do you need to be able to eat dinner almost immediately after you get home (me most weeknights). I’m no expert by any means, but these questions have almost become second nature to me now.

How I Eat, Andrea: Blending Creativity with Reality

Anything else you want to add?

I love being in the kitchen, but I don’t want my time to be laborious, or to spend a lot of money on ingredients I’m not going to use up in the recipe or have other uses for. I try to blend creativity with reality.

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, Andrea! It’s so fun to hear how you partner with your roommate at times to make yummy dinners together/for each other. But it’s equally great that you can take the time and make recipes you enjoy! My favorite part of this interview is hearing how you try to blend creativity with reality. That’s so evident in your desire to make great food but not spend a zillion hours or a zillion dollars doing so. Great advice, friend!