Food, Healthy Living, Meal Plans

5 Tips for Making Low-Cost Meals in the Slow Cooker

Most of us have a slow cooker and if you are like me you got it to create more meals and save money in the food budget. Once you start cooking more meals with the appliance, you will realize just how useful it can be. Follow these easy tips for making meals in the slow cooker.

5 Tips for Making Low-Cost Meals in the Slow Cooker

Use Less Meat and More Vegetables

 

The great thing about slow cookers is that they allow you to have a flavorful dish with even minimal ingredients. If you are trying to save money, consider starting with cuts like pork shoulder, chicken thighs and beef brisket. This are cheaper cuts of meat that pack a lot of flavor. Use less of the meat than you normally would, then fill up the rest of the crockpot with more vegetables. So much flavor can be extracted from the meat that is flavors the entire dish and you don’t feel like you are missing out.

 

Trim the Fat From Your Meat Beforehand

 

Speaking of preparing meat in the slow cooker, you don’t need to keep the fat on just for juice and moisture. There will be enough moisture without it, so it is a good idea to trim the fat before putting meat into the slow cooker. If you fail to do this, you will end up with too much moisture, most of which is oil from the meat. This can really affect the flavor and consistency of your dish. Trimming the fat also helps to make it a little healthier.

 

Don’t Overcrowd the Slow Cooker

 

A common mistake made by people cooking meals in the slow cooker for the first time is adding too much to it. Just because it is a certain size, doesn’t mean you need to fill it up to the top. Try to keep all of the contents, including meat, vegetables, grains, and water, to no more than ½ or ¾ of the way to the top of the slow cooker. If you go beyond this, you might have difficulty getting your food to turn out right.

 

Brown Your Meat First

 

When you brown your meat on the stove, it helps to boost the flavor and give you the best results. While this isn’t required for a fully-cooked and tasty dish in the slow cooker, it is often recommended. If you don’t mind taking a little extra time to brown your meat before putting it in the slow cooker, you will be glad you did.

 

Avoid Loading it With Frozen Food

 

Unless you are putting a frozen slow cooker meal that is pre-packaged and meant for this purpose, avoid putting in frozen food. Frozen food can create a bacteria-ridden environment if it contains raw meat, so avoid doing this as much as possible. Frozen fruits and vegetables might be okay, though using fresh is always better. Let your meat thaw out before putting it in the slow cooker.

 

With these simple tips, you will be able to use your slow cooker to make healthy, delicious meals in a breeze. For an easier cleanup process, use slow cooker bags so you don’t have to wash the appliance when you’re done cooking; all you do is throw the bag away.

Food, Natural Foods, Recipes

Four Ingredient Protein Cookies with Premier Protein #TheDayIsYours

I am a Premier Protein Ambassador and have partnered for this sponsored feature. Recipe is my own

 

Four Ingredient Protein Cookies with Premier Protein #TheDayIsYours

I am writing this on August 1st and this was the date I gave myself to start back into a new regimen. The past month I have been to Las Vegas, NYC and moved to a new town into a new built home and am all unpacked. Now I wipe that sweat off my forehead and get back into healthy habits. While waiting for the home build to complete we lived in a hotel for 3 weeks. I had to learn to cook with simple ingredients because of the small space and lack of food I brought to eat off of until we can move into the house. These were a favorite and so easy to make. Just 4 ingredients and we had cookies with very low sugar and packed with protein.

 

I had found similar recipes online and just gathered a few, added the ingredients I liked and this was the result. It is so easy and often can whip these up quicker than a batch of french toast in the mornings. Then we can grab and eat them out the door or pack the in our lunches.

 

Four Ingredient Protein Cookies

  • 2 Ripe Bananas
  • 1.5 Cups Oats (I like to use organic oats)
  • 1/2 Scoop of Premier Vanilla Milkshake Powder
  • 1/3 Cup chocolate morsels ( or any addition that fits for you-raisins, nuts, etc)

Mix all together and spoon into 2″ drops onto a greased cookie sheet. bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

 


Why do I recommend Premier Protein Powder? You get 30 grams of protein per scoop and only 3 grams of sugar. There are no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners and it is gluten free. Make sure the protein products you consume offer the best ingredients like Premier Protein. Other brands out there may contain artificial ingredients and synthetic nutrients so you really want to do your homework and choose wisely.

Food, Healthy Living, Natural Foods, Recipes

Lemon Chicken Edamame Spaghetti Recipe

This post is in partnership with Explore Cuisine. Recipe is my own

Lemon Chicken Edamame Spaghetti Recipe

My husband and I are month 2 into a low carb/low calorie diet. The two things I miss most is steak and pasta. The good thing about changing eating habits is that we are doing it together. I have never been so successful on a healthy change prior to having my husband jump on board. We hold each other accountable and at night discuss what we ate during the day, almost in competition form to who kept closest to the new regimen. Then we allow ourselves a cheat night once a week and look forward to our reward.

Both of us have dropped weight and I reached my goal weight this week. I also learned something else and that is how to get real creative in the kitchen. Ever heard of Edamame Spaghetti? It exists and I am so glad I tried it because I don’t have to crave actual pasta anymore.

Explore Cuisine have taken that popular soybean and created a delicious pasta noodle that I personally love better than actual pasta for more than one reason. First, it cooks in about 4 minutes in boiling water so that saves time. Second, it is delicious and that is an understatement. When I first served it my husband was a bit skeptical as if we were cheating on our diet. It is so  much like spaghetti but I handed him the box to read and we felt so good about our meal that night because it fits right in with how we are eating. We can have pasta again and not wait until our cheat night run to Italian restaurants.

This recipe was literally thrown together with leftovers in my kitchen. We are moving next week and living in transition until the home build is complete so I have to use up what we have in the fridge and freezer. It turned out delicious. The house LOVED it. Edamame is loaded with plant-based protein (25 grams per serving), fiber and iron. Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame Spaghetti is made from 100% organic ingredients and is vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO and kosher. Let’s get to the recipe!

Lemon Chicken Edamame Spaghetti Recipe
Rate this recipe
3 ratings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Category: Entre

Yield: 3

Serving Size: 1 Cup

Protein per serving:

Lemon Chicken Edamame Spaghetti Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 box Explore Cuisine Edamame Spaghetti (cooked per instruction)
  • 1 lb. Chicken Breast diced
  • 1 tsp Minced Garlic
  • 1/2 C Sliced Green Pepper (any bell pepper will work)
  • 1 Bunch fresh Spinach (rinsed and drained well)
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook Edamame Spaghetti per box instructions.
  2. Meanwhile saute chicken with S&P in olive oil and set aside.
  3. Saute sliced bell pepper an garlic in olive oil until garlic browns. Add to chicken-set aside.
  4. Cook the rinsed and dried spinach down in olive oil-squeeze some lemon into the pan with it. Once cooked down (do not overcook) transfer to a paper towel-lined cookie sheet, cool a moment then press with more paper towels until dry.
  5. Add all back into the pan and add the cooked spaghetti. Stir to heat through.
  6. Squeeze more lemon juice to taste and top with fresh parmesan cheese.

Notes

Having your ingredients pre-chopped before you start cooking is much easier for this recipe. Pre-chop peppers, chicken and clean/dry the spinach.

Nutrition label for Lemon Chicken Edamame Spaghetti Recipe
http://parentinghealthy.com/lemon-chicken-edamame-spaghetti-recipe/

I had some green peppers I needed to use up so that is what I added to my recipe. It is nice to have a crunch with this dish so you can use any bell pepper and even some pine nuts or zucchini. I just sauted my peppers in some olive oil and garlic until cooked down a bit.

Tip: When cooking down spinach remember that spinach holds a lot of water. I used fresh spinach and rinsed. Then I drain and blot as much water out as possible. Cook down in olive oil. It just takes a moment or two so don’t overcook. Then I drizzle with some lemon juice and take it from the pan and lay it out on a paper towel lined cookie sheet and cool a tad before grabbing more paper towels to absorb the water still remaining in the cooked spinach.

The picture above is the final step. Put all of your cooked ingredients back together in a large pan or wok. I have cooked chicken breast, cooked spinach and sauted green peppers and minced garlic. Add the cooked and drained Edamame Spaghetti noodles and toss. Drizzle more lemon as you toss. Plate it and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Lemon Chicken Recipe post with @explorecuisine Edamame Spaghetti. It is mouth watering! #recipes #healthyfood #glutenfree #nongmo #kosher

A post shared by Erinn | ParentingHealthy.com (@parentinghealthy) on

Giveaway

Everyone wins with a 15% promo code at Explore Cuisine with code: ECBL19 The code expires 9/1/2017. To enter to win Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame Spaghetti prize pack enter below. Open to US and ends 7/3. Good luck!

Father's Day, Food, Natural Foods, Recipes

Easy Grilled Pork Summer Salad with The Spice Lab

Thank you The Spice Lab for partnering for this feature

Easy Grilled Pork Summer Salad

Summer is almost here and not only do we look forward to longer days and family vacations, we also get to pull that grill out and do some outdoor cooking. My husband and I changed our diet 2 months ago to cut carbs and no processed foods. We are doing very well with that and feeling the difference in our bodies and health. But, with grilling season approaching our typical grilling meals are not what we are eating now so I need to create healthier grilling recipes. I made this Easy Grilled Pork Summer Salad with The Spice Lab and it was a hit with my husband and son.

Garlic Flake

First of all, I would like to thank The Spice Lab for partnering with me to create a fun grilling recipe. The Spice lab is a woman-owned, family-run business. They provide artisan salts, premium spices, seasonings, teas and gifts. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day nearing they offer fantastic gourmet gift packages. All of their products are processed and packed in the US (Florida). You can find their products in grocery, gourmet stores, some major retailers and on Amazon.

seasoned pork

The best part about this recipe is two-fold. First, there is no marinating needed. I simply salt with 3 of my favorite Himalayan salts form my Spice Lab collection and grill. Second, You can make enough to create this recipe and save leftovers for a delicious stir-fry on night 2. That’s how I cook this pork up.

BBQ Smoked collection

A sample of the available salts are above. For this recipe I used Cyprus Wild Garlic Flake, Smoked Chipotle and Herbs de Provence Blend. That’s all! I seasoned both sides, set on a medium high gas grill for about 8 minutes per side and the meat thermometer reads done for pork. I cook these in the afternoon, slice and refrigerate until ready to create my dinner salad.

Grilled pork

Make ahead meals are so fantastic on busy days and this is why I like this recipe. Because I grill earlier in my day and then take the sliced pieces from the fridge when ready to make my salad it makes dinner prep so quick. I even pre-slice and make my toppings.

sliced pork

 

Easy Grilled Pork Summer Salad with The Spice Lab
Rate this recipe

Easy Grilled Pork Summer Salad with The Spice Lab

Ingredients

  • Grilled seasoned pork (I season with The Spice Lab garlic flake, smoked chipotle and herb salts)
  • Spring mix lettuce
  • Sliced green onions
  • Hard boiled eggs-sliced (1 for each serving)
  • corn
  • black beans
  • Italian dressing

Instructions

  1. Season pork and grill. Slice chop into strips and cool for only a few moments. You can also refrigerate right away and pull when ready to make the salad. Plate the lettuce, add corn, beans and top with sliced pork, Add sliced egg and sprinkle with chopped green onions. Top with a light or low carb dressing like Zesty Italian or your favorite dressing.
http://parentinghealthy.com/easy-grilled-pork-summer-salad-spice-lab/

Grilled Pork Salad

Spice Lab collection

Above is one of the salt collections offered my The Spice Lab. Not only does this BBQ salt collection make a great gift for the griller in your life, they have more products like I mentioned above such as loose teas.

georgia peach tea

Food, Giveaways, Recipes

The Easiest Healthy Protein Bite Snacks Recipe #ThisIsYourDay

As a Premier Protein Ambassador this post is sponsored. Recipe and opinions are my own

The Easiest Healthy Protein Bite Snacks Recipe

As a Premier Protein Ambassador I want to share what I have experienced and learned as I share this fantastic brand with others. There are many protein shakes, powders and bars out there. Many are loaded with unhealthy preservatives and sugars. Once you take the time to understand the best preservatives and sweeteners you narrow down the best choice brands by a lot. Then you can look at value and flavors. Premier Protein offers plenty of both without artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors.

Protein Bites

I do not have a large stomach for big meals so I find that I cannot consume an entire bar in one meal. I want the full amount of protein recommended to start my day so I now drink 1/2 shake and eat 1/2 a bar at breakfast and save the other halves for the next day. That is my breakfast regimen with Premier Protein bars and shakes. These go on sale often at my Costco so I stock up when they are on special every couple of months.

healthy snacks

I find myself out of time and sometimes ingredients to make large shakes. This is why I like the pre-made ones I mentioned for breakfast. So, with my Premier Protein powders I make these energy bites once a week and my family will grab one or two throughout the day for a snack. It literally takes me 10 minutes to whip these up and no baking is required. I refrigerate them on a sheet for about 30 minutes then put in an air tight container for storage. We love them!

bites recipe

The Easiest Healthy Protein Bite Snacks Recipe #ItsYourDay
Rate this recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Category: snacks

The Easiest Healthy Protein Bite Snacks Recipe #ItsYourDay

Ingredients

  • 1 C Oats
  • 1/2 C Peanut Butter (we use chunky)
  • 1/2 C Coconut flakes
  • 1/3 C honey
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 TBSP of Premier Protein Powder (I use any flavor I feel like)
  • 1/4 Tsp Cinnamon
  • **Optional: this is a great recipe for adding your health seeds like chia, flax, hemp, etc.. just add about 1/4 C or less to the recipe

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients. Shape into balls and refrigerate on a cookie sheet for about 30-45 minutes. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.
http://parentinghealthy.com/the-easiest-healthy-protein-bite-snacks-recipe-itsyourday/

healthy protein treats

Did you know that on Mondays at the Premier Protein Facebook page, they give away gift boxes in the Motivational Monday post? Check it out! Make sure you follow them on FB so you don’t miss out on such giveaways and promotions. Want to learn more? Visit the Premier Protein website. Like shopping Amazon? You can also find Premier Protein on Amazon and it is a Prime qualifier.

Premier Protein Powder

Giveaway

Enter to win a Premier Protein Prize Pack of samples. Ends 5/31 and open to US! Good luck!

Food, Natural Foods, Recipes

Dairy Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust Recipe featuring T-Fal

Thank you T-Fal for partnering with Parenting Healthy for my recipe feature. Any opinions are my own

Dairy Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower. It’s the newest health alternative to rices and bread recipes. Mixing cauliflower with herbs, cheese and oils can transform a recipe from carb loaded to healthier. Substituting with cauliflower is easier than you think. Most recipes need you to rice the cauliflower which means you take the flowerets off of a head and pulse it in a blender a few times. This recipe is a dairy-free cauliflower pizza crust.

cauliflower Head

Not only is my crust dairy free, the entire pizza is as well. To make riced cauliflower crust ready you would transfer from the blender after pulsing it to a pot of boiling water. After you stir the cauliflower into the boiling water, turn off the stove and cover pot. Let sit 10 minutes to soften the cauliflower. Ring out well through a strainer and then using clean towel to remove as much water as possible.

dough herbs

Now you can’t just use the cauliflower itself and expect it to cook like a crust so we need to mix it with a few ingredients. You can mix with parmesan if you want dairy or you can just mix your 1 cup of cauliflower with 1 egg, a pinch of salt, 1/4 teas. basil, oregano, thyme or any herbs you choose and a meal or yeast (this will become a personal size pizza so if you want a large pizza adjust ingredients like I did, I doubled all using 2C of cauliflower).

cauliflower crust

Lay parchment paper on a pizza pan and form cauliflower mixture into a circle using a spatula. Bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven and raise the temp to 450 degrees while you prep your baked crust.

pesto sauce

Brush on sauce. I used pesto. Top with your ingredients. I used leftover cooked chicken breast I had and some leftover veggies- red onion, mushroom and tomatoes. I love recipes that help you use up the meats and veggies in your fridge. Bake 10 more minutes at 450 degrees. Let cool and slice!

pesto chicken pizza

Dairy Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust Recipe
Rate this recipe

Dairy Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 C Cauliflower (riced)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 C Water
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Almond meal/nutritional yeast flakes
  • pinch Salt and garlic powder
  • 1/4tsp herbs like oregano, basil, thyme to taste

Instructions

  1. Rice cauliflower flowerettes in a blender by pulsing. Boil 1/2 C water and add riced cauliflower. Turn off heat, cover and let sit 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a bowl combine egg, yeast or meal, herbs and spices until blended. Pour cauliflower through a fine strainer and then ring water out further in a cheese cloth or clean towel. Remove as much water as you can. Add cauliflower to egg mixture and combine. Cover a pizza pan with parchment paper and shape the mixture into a circle using a spatula. Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove and raise oven temp to 450 degrees. Top baked crust with toppings and place back in 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Let cool and slice!
http://parentinghealthy.com/dairy-free-cauliflower-pizza-crust-recipe-featuring-t-fal/

T-Fal was generous enough to send me all I needed for my pizza night. I used the following tools and they are Prime qualifiers on Amazon. Sometimes you just have to refresh your utensils and I needed to do just this in my kitchen.

T-Fal pizza night T-Fal pizza pan