Fed Up: The Movie

Laurie David and Katie Couric's hard-hitting documentary Fed Up hit theaters earlier this year. I had seen numerous food documentaries before and wasn't sure if this one had anything new to say. Its effectiveness comes from driving home its message is key. Fed Up is shocking and eye-opening and just the sort of slap in the face Americans need to wake up and see the light about our problems with food.

What sort of problems do Americans have with food? Most people point the finger at obesity but it goes beyond that. Even people who don't gain weight but still eat poorly are at major risk for health problems. The problems we have lie in poor nutrition, an increase in sugar and carbohydrates and the food industry's unrelenting quest to keep feeding the nation cheap junk.

The topics discussed in the documentary include:

Increased intake of carbohydrates and sugar in our diet adversely affects our health. This mostly comes from a dramatic increase in processed foods which contain a lot of sugar, corn, carbohydrates, etc. Take a closer look and you'll be amazed at how much sugar there is in your diet.

All calories are not created equal. Calories from sugar and carbohydrates are processed by our body much differently that other types of calories.

Exercise is not a cure for poor eating. The exercise industry has benefited monetarily from the nation's poor diet. Think about it, if exercise is seen as a cure-all for obesity, then the food industry can keep peddling the same junk without issue. Did you eat too much of something? Just go burn it off. But it's not as easy as that.

History of the obesity epidemic and exercise movement. Kudos to Senator George McGovern for his efforts! They were quickly stifled by the food industry.

How the obesity epidemic is affecting young children and families across the nation. Including information on the role of schools and their relationships with the food industry.

Government's inadequacy in enforcing dietary guidelines and food industry regulations. Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity started off with a focus on good nutrition. Food industry made a big fuss, saying they were being bullied. The first lady's approach then changed to exercise.

Food industry's stronghold on the American public. They sponsored scientific studies (the results benefit them) and they work too closely with the government for regulation (or lack thereof) that benefits them. Are they the new tobacco industry of our generation?

There is such a thing as skinny fat; not everyone wears their obesity on them.

The popularity of cheese is a result of our fixation of low-fat. Take the fat out of dairy products and put it right back into cheese.

Some of people interviewed for this documentary include former president Bill Clinton (Clinton Foundation) , Dr. Robert Lustig (Professor of Pediatrics from UC San Francisco), Gary Taubes (author of Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It), Margo Wootan (Director of Nutrition Policy, Center for Science in the Public Interest), Michele Simon (President, Eat Drink Politics), Marion Nestle (Professor of Nutrition at NYU and author), Michael Pollan (author and journalist), Michael Moss (author of Salt, Sugar, Fat) and more.

"Sugar is a poison. It is a chronic… dose-dependant, depends on how much you eat because there is a safe threshold, hepato liver toxin." - Dr. Robert Lustig

Some controversial subjects (AKA big lying liars) were also interviewed including David Allison (Director, Nutrition Obesity Research Center University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Lisa Gable (President, Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation). Lots of companies refused to be interviewed and they are listed at the end.

Fed Up also makes a point to include families who are dealing with obesity. Hearing children talk about their health problems is heart-breaking to watch but a much needed wake-up call.

I'm not a nutritionist. I can't tell you what to eat. But I have set out to learn as much as I possibly can about proper nutrition. I try to put health above all else. But I'm a product of a generation who was not
informed about proper nutrition and was pelted with food advertising left and right. I ate a lot of junk growing up. I honestly thought healthy eating was for sick people and that normal people could eat whatever they wanted. Now with all the health problems that are the result of many years of poor eating, including hypoglycemia which basically rules my life and could become diabetes if I'm not careful, I believe it's crucial to inform the public about TRUE healthy eating.

"And every generation of kids born after 1980 has grown up surrounded by these addictive foods." - Katie Couric on sugary foods

It's a struggle for me every day to reduce my intake of sugar and carbohydrate. I try to keep sugar to special occasions only but it's really difficult. I have a sugar addiction and it's a daily battle for me to keep it under control. I count it as luck that eating too much sugar is a migraine trigger for me. Like Dr. Lustig said, there is a safe threshold and mine is very low. However, it's not easy to reduce sugar and carbs after years of developing a dependency on them. But it's worth the fight.

I highly recommend watching Fed Up. Even if you feel you are already well-informed, it serves as an important reminder. If you have little knowledge about nutrition and were unaware of the topics listed above, then watch it. The information provided will be invaluable.

Weekly Meal Plan 9/19-9/25/14

Market Basket Seafood Counter Sign

Lobsters for $4.99 a lb and steamed at no extra charge? God bless Market Basket! That is truly a good deal and one I couldn't pass up.

While looking on my Feedly reader for recipes, I found a great one for a Grilled Chicken salad from Delicious Dishings and Roasted Herbed Mushrooms from Cookin' Canuck. I also saw a recipe for Chicken Pot Pie that included dijon mustard! It never occurred to me to add mustard to my Chicken Pot Pie recipe.

I've been eying pork belly after seeing so many Paleo cooks feature it regularly on their social media. I've never cooked pork belly before so I'm curious to try it. While I won't be buying it this week, I'm hoping to find a stellar recipe to into next week's plan.

If you follow my weekly meal plans you'll find that I make French Toast nearly every week. I buy a loaf of Challah Bread at Whole Foods for $7.99. That sounds really expensive but I only use half for Sunday brunch and use the rest the following week. Per person that comes out to $2 worth of Challah Bread a serving which is not bad at all! Their bread is really good and makes for amazing French toast.

Friday – Steamed Lobsters, Roasted Green Beans and Steamed Butternut Squash (previously frozen, going with fresh next time!)
SaturdayGrilled Chicken and Corn Salad  with a side of rice for Carlos and Roasted Mushrooms for me.
Sunday Brunch – French Toast with fresh Strawberries
Sunday Dinner – Parmesan Chicken and Caesar Salad
Monday Chicken & Leek Pot Pie (with the addition of Dijon Mustard)
Tuesday – Philly-style Cheesesteak Rolls with a side of Roasted Green Beans
Wednesday – Beef Chili (with three different beans, peppers and butternut squash) and Gringo Tortilla Chips
Thursday – Hoisin Chicken, Cucumber Salad, Rice/ Roasted Sweet Potato

Here are the deals that I'm taking advantage of this week:

Market Basket Deals
$4.99 per lb lobsters steamed!
Pillsbury Pie Crust
Amerlander Swish Cheese
Foxy Romaine Hearts
European Cucumbers
Bartlett Pears

Whole Foods Deals
Green Peppers
Butternut Squash
85/15 Ground Beef
Gringo Tortilla Chips

What are you cooking this week?

Weekly Meal Plan 9/5-9/11/14

Market Basket is back! And that means my weekly meal plans are back. I took a hiatus from my weekly planning during the Market Basket boycott. I depended a lot on their sales flyer and had no clue what would be affordable at other stores. Market Basket just released a new circular this week. It's modest but it's a great start!

I'm going to start looking more closely at inflammatory foods. I'm cutting out my usual intake of peanuts, bananas and cheese for a start. I'm thinking that peanuts have been at the root of my persistent knee bursitis. My chiropractor recommended I look into it so this will be my first peanut/banana/cheese free week!

Friday – Mustard Pork Loin, Asparagus, Garlic Butter Roasted Potatoes
Saturday – Lemon Sage Roast Chicken, Carrot and Parsnip Puree, Spinach and Tomato Salad
Sunday Brunch – Peach Gallette, Scrambled Eggs, Sausage and Iced Tea
Sunday Dinner – Broccoli Rabe, Carrots, Mushrooms, Pea Pods steamed in vegetable broth, Roasted Potatoes and Panko Crusted Pork Chops (for Carlos) and Ritz Cracker Haddock (for me)
Monday – Hoisin Chicken Thighs, Cucumber Salad, Rice (for Carlos) and Sweet Potato Fries (for me)
Tuesday – Market Basket Cooked Meatballs (Italian), Squash or Patty Pans with Roasted Green Beans, Alexia Garlic Bread
Wednesday – Shrimp Scampi, Roasted Spaghetti Squash (for me) and Steamed Green Beans – Rice, Steak (for Carlos)
Thursday – Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes and Applegate Chicken Nuggets (for me); Steamed Veg with Butter, Roasted Potatoes, Bunless Burgers (for Carlos)

New Breakfast – 1-1/2 eggs scrambled, 3 oz of yogurt and ½ cup berries
New Snack – Celery with Almond Butter

Here are some deals I'm taking advantage of...

Market Basket Deals

Schrod Haddock Filets
European Cucumbers
Market Basket Cooked Meatballs (Frozen – Italian)

Whole Foods Deals

Yellow Peaches
Olivia’s Organics Baby Spinach
Alexia Sweet Potato Julienne Fries (plus Alexia Coupon)
Applegate Chicken Nuggets
Luna BarsCoupon
Alexia Garlic French Baguette

Low-Carb Dinner Idea - Pizza Frittata

Reducing carbohydrate intake is crucial to healthiness, well-being and weight management. In this series I share some of my ideas for low-carb dinners.

Pizza Frittata

Extra Light Olive Oil to taste
1 Green Pepper Chopped
10 Eggs
2 Plum Tomatoes Thinly Sliced into Rounds
Shredded Mozzarella
Uncured Pepperoni (I used Applegate)

You'll need a Cast Iron Skillet or another type of oven-proof skillet for this.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Heat up your cast iron skillet and add a little extra light olive oil. Sautee your chopped peppers until they start to become soft.

While those are cooking, crack your eggs into a bowl and whisk them only until the yolks and whites have blended together. Add them to the cooked peppers and stir only one to mix everything together. Cook on medium heat until most of the egg has set. Add the sliced tomatoes on top.

Move the skillet into the oven and cook until the top is set. Each oven is different but this was 5 minutes for mine.

Add the cheese and pepperoni to taste. Turn the oven to a low broil and add the skillet to the middle rack. Cook until the cheese is melted and starting to brown at the edges. This was about 5 minutes for me. Keep an eye on it so it doesn't burn!

Let cool for a few minutes before slicing. It's a little difficult to eat because the egg base is soft. Unless it's been completely cooled, you can't really eat it with your hands. Fork and knife are the way to go. Enjoy!

An Ode to Market Basket

Woburn Market Basket on the day of my return

On this Labor Day, I sat down to think about what Market Basket means to me.

It's been a really tough summer without Market Basket. Words cannot express how glad I am that it's back. I'm very proud of all the Market Basket employees who stood up for what they believed in and refused to give in to corporate greed. They fought even when things looked bleak and in the end they got their beloved Artie T. back. We have to stop supporting the CEOs who line their pockets at the expense of the workers below them and we have to start supporting businesses like Market Basket that demonstrate that profitability does not come at the cost of unhappy and poorly paid workers.

I've been shopping at this local supermarket chain for over 15 years. It all started when I was a teenager and worked next door to the Bellingham, MA store. My mother and I loved Market Basket's prices and the proximity to my job. It was so convenient. We didn't love the packed parking lot and the rude customers who took up precious aisle space needlessly. But those situations are inherent in any grocery shopping experience. Market Basket always seemed worse than others. I knew people who would pay more to go elsewhere for a quieter shopping experience. I learned how to navigate the craziness and avoided peak hours. It was worth it the extra effort. Why? Because Market Basket has two basic things that made it the best grocery store around: low prices and variety.

When I left my parent's home and moved closer to the city, I was really poor. I barely had enough to pay all my bills. I depended on the nearby Market Basket in Burlington, MA for my groceries. I tried going to the local Stop n Shop but those trips always proved to be disastrous. I would overpay for basics and could never find everything on my list. The hike to the Burlington store could be frustrating and that store's layout before it's renovation was not ideal but even a bad Market Basket was better than any other grocery store in the area.

There was a time I really wanted to leave Market Basket. I dreamt of shopping at Whole Foods or Wilson Farms full-time. But all I could manage was buying produce at those stores and everything else at Market Basket. Then I discovered the Market Basket in Woburn, MA. It was leagues better than the Burlington store with more product and a much better lay out. I could find everything there.

When I moved in with my husband Carlos, my grocery bill tripled. He's a big man with a big appetite and he prefers healthy food. And as we all know it's much cheaper to buy junk food than it is to buy fresh meat and produce.  Now that I had the responsibility of buying so much food, how were we going to pay for it all?

I began to hone my grocery shopping and meal planning skills. I made a menu plan and plotted out dinners for each night of the week. Dinners had to be four servings so that the leftovers could be eaten for lunch the next day. That would maximize the food as well as my time. We went out to eat a lot less and I started cooking more often at home. When finances got really tight, I started paying close attention to the Market Basket circulars. My menu plan was influenced by which meats, produce and pantry staples were on sale.

We've been able to always afford food thanks to the reliability of Market Basket. When the boycott started, I didn't know what to do and I spent most of the summer with a lot of sadness. I felt like I lost control of my life. Grocery shopping was always something I had a complete handle on.

During the boycott, I shopped at Aldi, Whole Foods, Roche Bros. and Stop n Shop while the boycott was happening. I wanted to support the workers who were fighting for what they believed in. I always thought Market Basket was cheap because they kept the overhead low and paid their workers poorly. Little did I know that Market Basket was a great place to work because of Artie T. He gave them a living wage, profit sharing opportunities and made them feel like they were contributing to the company. They weren't just underpaid peons. I wish I had known this before.

The weeks away from Market Basket were brutal. I wanted the boycott to be over so badly. It was sad to see photos of empty store shelves. And it was terrifying to see products like rotisserie chicken sold at other stores for $8.99-$10.99 when I knew I could get the same thing at Market Basket for less than $5.

The Market Basket boycott came at a time when income inequality was dominating my thoughts. I had just watched the documentary Inequality for All and was wondering if good business was a thing of the past. Now that Market Basket is back, I know that it's possible. It's restored my faith in the future.

And now, I'm very proud to call myself a Market Basket customer.

Weekly Meal Plan 6/13-6/19

I'm very excited because the Woburn Greek Festival is this weekend! My husband and I go every year (check out my previous reviews here and here). I'm looking forward to diving into a Plaki Plate (baked fish, beans, rice, salad and a roll) as well as treating myself to some Finikia cookies.

Saturday Soba Noodle Bowl 
Sunday – Ground Chicken & Herb Mini Meatloafs with Roasted Corn, Vinegar Mashed Potatoes and Lettuce Salad with Vinegar & Oil
Monday – Sloppy Joes with Steamed Green Beans & Cucumber Potato Salad 
Tuesday – Hoisin Chicken, Roasted Sweet Potato/Rice & Cucumber & Tomato Salad
Wednesday – Shrimp with Steamed Broccoli & Sauteed Mushrooms /Marinated Pork Chops with Rice and Carrot & Celery Sticks with Hummus
Thursday – Eggs, Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Sweet Potato/Steak, White Rice and Asparagus

 Here are some deals I'm taking advantage of this week

Market Basket
Ground Beef 80/20
Chicken Thighs
Sweet Red Peppers
GLAD Mega Pack Trash Bags

Whole Foods
Organic Lettuce

Green Valley Organics Yogurt Coupons

Weekly Meal Plan 6/6-6/12/14

Sloppy Joes
Last week I was on a business trip and the chaos of which led me to some unhealthy eating choices. I feel so much better now that I'm back and can take control over my meals again.

I've been feeling really good doing a low-carb diet. I've reduced my sugar intake and cut out a lot of pasta and try to only have bread or rice once a week or once every other week. My body responds well to this diet. I've been able to control my hypoglycemia, I have fewer issues with my IBS and some weight loss doesn't hurt either! I injured my IT band so if I want to continue my weight loss efforts with less exercise, diet will be the way to go!

Here's my meal plan for the week. I was very excited to find a recipe for Sheet-pan clambake! It looks very manageable and I'm going to reduce it so it works for one person.

FridaySheet pan Clambake for me and Southwest Meatball Skillet for my husband
SaturdayBaked Jalepeno Poppers  Tomato, Cucumber & Avocado Salad, Fried Thin Cut Steak/Tuna, Tostones
Sunday Sloppy Joes with Scallions and Cheese on top, Steamed Freezer Vegetables
Monday – Marinated Flank Steak, Roasted Baby Potatoes/Sweet Potato, Roasted Green Beans
Tuesday – Eggs, Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato - Hoisin Chicken, Cucumber Salad and Rice
Wednesday – Shrimp, Steamed Broccoli & Sauteed Mushrooms – Steak, Brown Rice and Asparagus
Thursday – Marinated Thick Cut Pork Chops and Steamed Mixed Vegetables

Here are some deals I'm taking advantage of

Market Basket
Pam Cooking Spray
Taylor Farms Vegetable Bags
Baby Portobello Mushrooms

Whole Foods
Organic Strawberries
Organic Vine Tomatoes
Cedar's Mediterranean Hommus
90/10 Ground Beef

Green Valley Organics Yogurt Coupon

Weekly Meal Plan 4/18-4/24/14

I'm back from vacation and boy did I learn a tough lesson about health and eating. I was on a regimented diet before I left for California. It was one that my body had grown accustom to and was thriving on. I ate modest sized breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with small snacks in between and was eating more protein, dairy, vegetables and fruits and barely any carbohydrates or sugars. On my trip my schedule was so jam packed that I would have large meals (with more carbs than I'm used to) and may not eat for several hours at a time. My stomach was not happy with me and what resulted was being sick with nausea for the whole week! Once I came back and returned to my normal eating routine my body felt a lot better. Moral of the story: don't sacrifice your health on a trip!

This week I'm going to try to cook with whole artichokes for the first time. Wish me luck! And I finally invested in a cast iron skillet. I'll be making more frittatas and breakfast pizzas that used to be a struggle to make without a skillet I could put in the oven.

Friday - Date night
Saturday - Ham and Asparagus Frittata with Spring Greens 
Sunday Brunch - Cinnamon Roasted Pineapple with Macadamia Nut Cream and a side of Waffles
Sunday Dinner - Steak, Green Beans & Onion Rings for my husband, Crab Stuffed Artichokes with a side of Roasted Butternut Squash and Green Beans for me
Monday - Fried Thin Cut Pork Chops, Roasted Asparagus with Green Onions and Leek Gratin with carrots for dipping
Tuesday - Mediterranean Chopped Salad, Grilled Chicken Kabobs and Pita
Wednesday - Tacos (Lettuce Shells for me, Corn Shells for my husband)
Thursday - Pork Stir Fry 

Here are some deals I'm taking advantage of:

Market Basket
Applegate Organic Lunch meats
Love Beets sale plus coupon
Jumbo Green Peppers
European Cucumbers
Butternut Squash
Vegetable Tray with Dip
Polar Seltzer

Whole Foods
Clif Bars Coupon
Luna Bars Coupon
Green Valley Organics Yogurt Coupon

Weekly Meal Plan 3/28-4/3/14

Shaved Steak with Peppers and Onions

Friday – Date night
Saturday – Shaved Steak with Mixed Peppers and Onions, Provolone Cheese on a Roll
Sunday Brunch – French Toast with Sausage
Sunday DinnerHoney Cashew Chicken with Brown Rice plus Pea Pods and Carrots
Monday Deep Dish Breakfast Pizza 
TuesdayPicadillo with steamed green beans plus rice for Carlos and cauliflower steaks for me
Wednesday – Mustard Pork Loin, Vinegar and Oil Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Asparagus with Green Onions
Thursday – Steak, Asparagus, Brussels Sprouts, Alexia Waffle Fries, Eggs

Here are some deals I'm taking advantage of:

Market Basket Sales
Almond Breeze Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
Sundown Vitamin D (plus coupon)
Shaved Steak
Pork Tenderloin
Chicken Breast
Green Beans
Sliced Mushrooms
Russet Potatoes

Whole Foods Sales
Spring Onions
Red Field Peppers
Organic Valley Half n Half Coupon
CLIF Bar coupon
Luna Bars coupon
Alexia Waffle Fries Sale plus Coupon
Plantain Chips

What are you cooking this week?

There will be no meal plan for the following week. Carlos and I are traveling to California where we'll be enjoying the weather, eating at In-N-Out Burger and having fun at the TCM Film Festival. Catch ya later!

Vinegar and Oil Mashed Potatoes

Vinegar and Oil Mashed Potatoes

It doesn’t look like much but this is my favorite way to eat potatoes.

The Portuguese love their potatoes and my family is no exception. I’m half Portuguese on my father’s side and I grew up eating one of my dad’s favorite dishes to make: salt cod, grelos/broccoli rabe and boiled potatoes with red wine vinegar and olive oil. A common sight on a traditional Portuguese table is an oil and vinegar tray and both condiments are poured on potatoes, fish, cooked vegetables and salads. I was craving some boiled potatoes with vinegar and oil but decided to make it as chunky mashed potatoes instead. What a discovery! This is the best way to eat potatoes in my opinion. I love the tang from vinegar and the flavor of the oil. I can never get traditional mashed potatoes quite right. That balance of cream, butter, salt and pepper is difficult to attain and I always tend to prefer chunks versus a silky smooth mixture.

It took a few tries but I figured out that the best formula for this recipe is a 1:1:1 ratio. 1 boiled russet potato, 1 tablespoon of red white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. You can modify this if you like. Less vinegar if you don’t like how tart it is, more olive oil if you want it to be less dry. I like the 1:1:1 formula the best and that’s what I’m using!

Vinegar and Oil Mashed Potatoes
5 Russet Potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
5 tablespoons of Red Wine Vinegar
5 tablespoons of Olive Oil (I use Extra Light)
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Put the peeled and diced potatoes in a pot of cold water. Enough water so that the potatoes are covered. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Uncover and cook 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are done.

Add potatoes to a strainer. Add the vinegar and oil to the bottom of the pot. Return the strained potatoes to the pot. Add salt and pepper and the stir carefully to incorporate all the ingredients. Serve hot and enjoy!

Vinegar & Oil Mashed Potatoes, Chorizo, Roasted Tomatoes and Asparagus

Weekly Meal Plan 3/21-3/27/14

Soba Noodle Bowl
Sunday is my husband Carlos' birthday! So I have his favorite brunch, his favorite dinner and his favorite dessert planned for that day.

I'm also going to try my hand at making my own Taco Salad. I'm adding rice for my husband but no rice for me. I saw Smitten Kitchen's taco recipe and was inspired to make something similar but as a salad instead. I love cooking with ground chicken thighs which I get at Whole Foods at a good price. I prefer that over ground turkey or ground white meat chicken now! Plantain chips are on sale at Whole Foods and I thought it would be neat to add them on the top of the salad like croutons.

Friday – No cooking tonight!
SaturdaySoba Noodle Bowl

Carlos' Birthday!
Sunday BrunchChallah French Toast and Jones' All Natural Sausage
Sunday DinnerPastel de Choclo
Sunday Dessert - Hello Dolly Bars 

Monday – Ground Chicken Taco Salad (Ground chicken thighs, black beans, corn, chopped tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, mixed peppers over brown rice and topped with crushed plantain chips) Inspired by Smitten Kitchen 
Tuesday – Chicken Vegetable Stirfry with Teriyaki Sauce
Wednesday – Oven Roasted Pork Chops, Salad (Olivia’s Organics Spinach, Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Mushrooms), Roasted Potatoes
Thursday – Alexia Onion Rings, Steamed Green Beans and Lloyd’s Smokehouse Ribs

Here are some deals I'm taking advantage of:

Market Basket Deals
Ghirardelli Squares
Center Cut Pork Chops
Lloyd's Ribs Coupon
Olivia's Organics
Baby Portobello Mushrooms

Whole Foods Deals
Steaz Iced Tea
Tribe Hummus
Plantain Chips
Alexia Onion Rings Sale plus Coupon
CLIF bar coupon
Luna Bars coupon

What are you cooking this week?

My Favorite Breakfast

I've been working with a nutritionist for several months now and she suggested that I incorporate more protein into my diet. I ditched my morning Rice Chex, which proved to be empty carbs that made me crash later, and switched to a yogurt parfait bowl. I love the different textures and flavors: the creaminess of the yogurt, the tartness of the fruit sauces and the sweet crunch from the granola. The protein from the yogurt keeps me full longer than cereal did. I wanted to switch from cereal to oatmeal but I just can't bring myself to eat that daily. My yogurt parfait bowl proved to be the best bet for me and I look forward to eating it every morning. I use Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Yogurt (Plain) but you can use whatever yogurt you like. I do suggest using a plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt to avoid making this breakfast too high in sugar. The fruit sauce and granola add plenty of sweetness.

I sometimes use fresh fruit instead of sauce in this parfait. Mango, blackberries, fresh strawberries and kiwi have all worked beautifully. I've also used Whole Foods Coconut Almond Granola too and that works great with the more tropical fruits.

Raquel's Yogurt Parfait Bowl
6 oz of Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Yogurt (Plain)
2 spoonfuls of homemade strawberry sauce
2 spoonfuls of homemade peach sauce
1/4 cup of Whole Foods Vanilla-Almond Granola

Makes 1 serving, about 240 calories with 12 grams of Protein.

Homemade Strawberry or Peach Sauce
1 bag of frozen strawberries or peaches
3 tablespoons of water
1-2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla (optional)

Add the frozen fruit, water and sugar to a pot. Add the vanilla if you are using it. I tend to not use vanilla because I like to taste the true flavor of the fruit.

Cover pot and turn up heat to medium. Stir occasionally. Bring sauce to a boil. Remove lid and bring heat down to low. Continue cooking for 10-15 minutes stirring occasionally. You can make the sauce as thick as you want. The longer you cook it, the more liquid will evaporate.

You can opt to make this without any sugar at all. I've gone from 3 tablespoons of sugar down to 1 and I find that my palate has grown accustomed to the natural tartness of the fruit.

The sauces will store in the fridge for up to two weeks. I make two batches of sauce every two weeks and provides me with 12-14 servings.

Weekly Meal Plan 3/14-3/20/14

Peanut Butter Cookies based on this recipe

Last week's meal plan included the peanut butter cookies shown above. I burnt the first batch because since these cookies only have three main ingredients, which are all-natural, are very delicate. The second batch came out much better. I definitely want to experiment with these!

Since St. Patrick's Day is just around the corner, a lot of "Irish" foods are on sale so I'm definitely take advantage of that. Also, I want to perfect a few recipes so I'm working on a couple of repeat meals so I can get some new recipe posts up in the future! One of my favorite recipes to make is Coconut Chicken with Pineapple Fried Rice which is inspired by a recipe I saw in Southern Living magazine.

Here are some of the deals I'm taking advantage of:

Market Basket Deals
Gaspar's Chorizo
Newman's Own Salad Dressing
Lloyd's Barbecue Coupon
Leidy's Uncured Ham Steak
Grimway Farms Carrots
St. Pat's Fixins (mixed vegetables)

Whole Foods Deals
Green Cabbage
Grape Tomatoes
New Zealand Lamb
Organic Valley Half-n-Half Coupon
CLIF Bar coupon
Alexia Onion Rings sale plus coupon

Friday – Meatloaf, Corn, Roasted Potatoes and Cucumber Salad (inspired by my Meatloaf Plate )

Saturday – Steak, Cucumber/Tomato/Avocado Salad and Tostones

Sunday BrunchFlourless Carrot Cake Muffins (via Simply Real Health) and Bob’s Red Mill Waffles

Sunday Dinner Lamb Stew via Cooking Chat

Monday – Oil and Vinegar Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Chorizo with Tomatoes (via FoxLife - in Spanish), with Steamed Broccoli and Asparagus

TuesdayHam and Lentil Soup via Closet Cooking

Wednesday – Coconut Chicken with Pineapple Fried Rice

Thursday – Lloyd’s Ribs, Alexia Onion Rings, Steamed Green Beans

What are you cooking this week?

A Biannual Trip to Zaftig's in Brookline

My husband and I go to Zaftig's Delicatessen in Brookline, MA twice a year. It's a biannual ritual which coincides with our dental cleaning appointments every 6 months. Our dentist happens to be just down the road in Brookline and knowing that a delicious meal at Zaftig's is on the horizon makes our dental appointments something to look forward to. Zaftig's also has a Natick, MA location. When I was planning my wedding, I made a habit of visiting that location after my bridal gown fittings at David's Bridal next door.

Zaftig's is a Jewish Delicatessen with an impressively large and varied menu. They serve breakfast all day and offer unique items including Cheese Blintzes, Challah French toast, grilled Banana Nut Bread with Date Butter, enormous Omelets, Salami or Pastrami with Scrambled Eggs, Lox and Matzo Brei. They have traditional Jewish dishes and sides including Kugel, Knished, Latkes, Gefilte Fish, Kasha Varnishka and more. Zaftig's also has specialty sandwiches (I recommend The Lupo which is brisket in between two potato pancakes!), burgers, wraps, salads, fish plates and grill & fry plates.

When I visit Zaftig's, I like to get the Create Your Own Omelet for the basic price of $7.95 plus $0.95 for each meat, vegetable or cheese filling that is added on. My perfect Omelet is Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Chives (or Green Onions) and Muenster Cheese. I ordered this and it was perfection! It came with a side of whole wheat toast, potatoes and fresh fruit. Divine!

Carlos got The Lincoln Wrap which had falafel, cucumber-yogurt sauce, radicchio, lettuce, tomatoes and red onion. He chose their homemade potato salad as his side and got some extra of their special pickles to go with it too.

Zaftig's only has a beer and wine license and Carlos really wanted a Bloody Mary to go with his meal. Luckily they had an option! They make Bloody Mary's with Saki Wine instead of Vodka. Carlos was pleasantly surprised and pleased with his drink. I got plain iced tea and the waitress was very generous with refills. We were too stuffed by our meal to contemplate dessert but we were seriously tempted by their Challah Bread Pudding. They also have New York style cheesecake, rice pudding, grape nut custard and lots more.

Zaftig's is consistently amazing and I love going there. The service is excellent, the place is always buzzing with regulars and the food never disappoints.

If you are in the area and want to work off your Zaftig's meal, make sure you walk around Coolidge Corner. You'll find the historic Art Deco Coolidge Corner Theatre, the famous Brookline Booksmith store is on the same block and just down the road you'll find the John F. Kennedy Birthplace Historic Site & Museum.

Weekly Meal Plan - 3/7-3/13/14

Lentil and Sausage Soup

Lately I've been putting a lot of time and effort into weekly meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking. I cook dinner every single night and always make enough so that there are leftovers for lunch the next day. Each week's meal plan is different from the next which prevents me from getting bored with any particular dish. The only constants are one easy Thursday dinner that I only alter slightly depending on my mood and my weekday breakfast. Otherwise each week is a new culinary adventure!

I've been closely following the weekly circulars and coupons in order to get the biggest bang for my buck. My focus in the last few months has been healthy eating and I've cut down our carbohydrate intake, limited my baking and focused on real whole foods. Eating lots of meats and vegetables and specialty products (like my favorite Green Valley Organics Lactose Free Yogurt) can get expensive. That's why shopping sales and using coupons is essential for keeping costs down. My grocery hauls are still pricey but I shave off a good $20-$50 off my weekly grocery bills with careful planning. More on that to come!

Below is my plan for the week. I grocery shop on Fridays and Saturdays and I split my purchases between Market Basket and Whole Foods.

Here are some of the deals I'm taking advantage of:

Market Basket sales:
Ground Turkey
Applegate Bacon
Market Basket Pasta (just for my husband, I don't pasta anymore)
Petite NY Sirloin Steaks
Chicken Legs
Green Beans
European Seedless Cucumbers
Polar Seltzer 1 Liter Bottles (2 for $1 which is unheard of!)

Whole Foods Sales
Broccoli Crowns
Red & Yellow Bell Peppers
CLIF Bars coupon
Organic Valley Cheese coupon
Any sales on fresh fruit (Grapes and Red Gala apples this week!)

Most of the recipes I cook during the week are inspired by ones I find online. I usually modify them to my taste! All of these are dinners except for my special Sunday Brunch.

FridayClean Eating Magazine Southwest Turkey Meatball Skillet

Saturday - My Colombian Recipes Ripe Plantains with Chorizo and Cheese topped with Cilantro and Cucumber, Tomato, Avocado Salad with Lime Dressing

Sunday Brunch – Bob’s Red Mill Waffles (I previously got a Bob's Red Mill Waffles baking mix on sale plus extra savings with a coupon, this will last me for a few brunches) and Jones All Natural Sausage

Sunday DinnerChinese Chicken Salad via H3Daily with Grilled Asparagus on the side and Peanut Butter Cookies via Simply Real Health with melted chocolate and chopped peanuts inspired by Taste the Rainbow (this is a rare baking treat!)

Monday – Orange Soy Chicken Drumsticks and Steamed Mix Vegetables (Green Beans, Broccoli, Carrots, Red & Yellow Bell Pepper) Inspired by David of Cooking Chat

Tuesday – Cauliflower Steaks (for me) Pasta (for my husband) topped with Lemon Cream Sauce, Parmesan, Scallions and Mushrooms and Bacon (inspired by Instagram Frugal_Living)

WednesdayLentil and Sausage Soup via Food52. (I made this last week and it was a huge hit! See photo above)

Thursday – Steak, Fries, Roasted Green Beans, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Fried Eggs

What are you cooking this week?
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