Balsamic Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner

Sheet pan dinners are a fairly easy fix it and forget it dinner. Prep everything, throw it in the oven, maybe turn things half way through, then it’s done and ready to eat without making 5 pots dirty or having to hand wash a pan because you didn’t load the dishes last night. It may have happened a few times.

Anyhoo, for this deliciousness, you will need

1.5 lb chicken breasts cubed

1 red onion cute in chunks

1/2 head broccoli cut in florets or frozen

1 lb brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved

1/3 c balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 garlic cloves minced

Salt and pepper

Small handful fresh basil

Place cubed chicken, onion, broccoli and Brussels on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

5 Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water

There are so many benefits of a simple practice of drinking lemon water:

  1. Helps digestion by stimulating and purifies the liver. Also, vitamin C is proven to decrease the risk of peptic ulcers.
  2. Supports immune function by the vitamin c reduces the risk of respiratory infection. Anti-inflammatory and used as support for asthma.
  3. Alkalize the body by the lemon containing citric and ascorbic acid allowing the minerals in lemons to help alkalize the blood.
  4. Clear skin by the vitamin c and other antioxidants in lemons free the body of skin damage. Also has anti-aging benefits from protecting skin from UV exposure and environmental toxins. Lemon juice if applied topically, can help fade scars and age spots.
  5. Promotes healing, vitamin C helps wound healing and helps to heal the bones, connective tissue, and cartilage. Vitamin C is also an essential nutrient for recovery from stress and injury.

Do you drink lemon water?

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How to eat organic on a budget

Sometimes it’s hard to buy organic when you see conventional strawberries for $2.99 and organic is $5.99. But those seeking organic do so to avoid the pesticides sprayed on conventional produce. The good news is there are ways to save. It just takes a little time and effort.

1. Meal plan. This is crucial to stay on a budget. Be clear about exactly what’s needed including staples like spices and oil to make sure you have what you need for the week. You don’t want to discover later that you are out of olive oil so you run into the store and pick up a few other things not on your list while there.

2. Shop and meal plan around weekly sales. If items you use more frequently are on sale, consider buying more and freezing it. This is great with meats and berries that go on sale less often. I try to stick to a weekly budget but I make sure it all evens out at the end of the month. Also, pay attention to sales trends. You may notice that the first week of the month organic apples are on sale, the next week avocados are on sale, the following week frozen goods are on sale in the last week grass fed beef is on sale. Planning around and noticing these trends can help you better plan and save in the long run as well.

3. Plant a garden. Even some basic things like herbs and tomatoes can help you save. I’m pretty terrible with gardening but I do pretty well with herbs like basil and rosemary. Rosemary can even come back year after year. You can even try an indoor garden.

4. Buy local, like at a farmer’s market. Many small local farms use organic growing practices but just aren’t certified. Getting certification can be extremely expensive for a small farm which would inflate the cost of organic foods. If you get to know your farmer and know they use organic growing practices, then this can be a great way to save on organic foods.

5. Join a farm co-op or CSA. This can vary by market but check out how it works around you and see if this is less expensive than the store. You can ask about growing practices or customize your box around produce you don’t mind getting a conventional version of (like those in the Clean 15 category).

6. Buy a whole, half or 1/4 cow (or pig) and freeze the meat. You can save a lot on meat costs. Of course you may need a deep freezer, but check local sales groups and you will probably be able to find one at a good price, plus you will be able to use it for years to come and freeze soups, meals, veggies, etc.

7. Go super old school and hunt! Fill that deep freezer with venison.

8. Go meatless at least one meal a week (i.e. Meatless Monday). We’ve done this with great success and even look forward to it now. We are a meat and potatoes family, so if we can do it, anyone can! Every Monday we have salads and vary the vegetable toppings we have with it, plus we have baked potatoes too.

9. Buy foods that are in season. Strawberries are often on sale and very inexpensive in the spring into early summer and in the fall and winter are so much more expensive. Apples on the other hand are harvested in the fall and are less expensive then than in the spring. Eating in season, the produce is often more flavorful as well.

10. Buy in bulk (hello Costco) and freeze or share what you can’t use. For example, go halvies with a friend for bulk greens, or freeze half the fresh berries. Instead of prepackaged individual snacks or applesauce pouches, but the bigger bags/containers and use your own reusable containers to make smaller portions.

11. Avoid processed and prepackaged foods, opt for fresh or frozen whenever possible. Stick to the perimeter of the store. Just because a processed food says organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy. This includes buying whole carrots and peeling yourself over baby carrots, and avoiding prewashed/prepared salad kits. Same with packaged broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Doing the prep work yourself will save you money.

12. Use Ibotta for in store grocery rebates. I have use this app for a couple of years and have gotten over $1,200 back in cash rebates, and I don’t use it that often. So use it religiously and wisely and you can really rack up some great rebates. There are actually a lot of good organic /health food options. And it’s free. Rakuten is another rebate app that is great if you shop online.

13. Use grocery pick up or delivery to prevent impulse purchases. I love pick up. I avoid the temptations. Even if there is a fee, you are likely to save overall by avoiding those impulse purchases.

14. Similarly: Don’t shop hungry. Those junk food items are costly and definitely more appealing when you are hungry.

15. Check prices at Thrive or Vitacost (and don’t forget go through Ibotta or Rakuten for cash back rebates). Vitacost often has deals and they allow coupon stacking for most coupons. They have a special section on their website for promo codes on specific products. They often have overall codes (such as 15% off your total order) which will stack with other codes.

Thrive will price match. They are membership based ($60/year), but offer a free 5 year membership to teachers, first responders and more. Use this link for 40% off your first order.

16. Buy the “dirty dozen” produce organic and the “clean 15” conventional.

17. Label leftovers with the date so they don’t go to waste. Talking to myself here too.

18. Freeze produce like berries, or fresh meat (as long as it wasn’t previously frozen) if you won’t be able to eat it before it goes bad. Some leftovers can be frozen too, like soups, or lasagna. Things come up, plans change is it sometimes we may not get to cook or eat all of the meals that we planned. You can go ahead and make the meal and freeze it (especially if the meat has previously been frozen) or just freeze the meat. For ground beef, you can just brown the meat and freeze it to use later in chili or tacos.

19. You can also use leftovers in other meals. Last night’s chili could be a baked chili potato tonight. Leftover chicken breast can be used to make chicken salad for lunches.

20. Check with your local grocery store. Sometimes you can save by buying in bulk. For example, if you buy 4lbs of ground beef, they may offer 10% off the ground beef.

21. This may seem obvious, but shop around. Most stores now offer apps which can make it much easier to compare prices. Also know which stores honor other stores prices. This will save gas money from shopping around.

22. Know which stores have their own organic brands for staples like flour, sugar, bread, etc. For example, Whole Foods has their 365 brand and Publix has a Greenwise. Not everything in these brands is organic so be sure to read labels if you want a particular item to be organic.

23. Learn how to make more food items from scratch. Making bread isn’t too terribly difficult and can’t save you a lot of money. Homemade potato chips are also amazing. Mayo, salad dressing, baked goods, can be made from scratch less expensively than store bought. Granola and granola bars aren’t too difficult to make and taste amazing. There is a season for everything, so even if you don’t have time to make from scratch now, tuck the idea away for the future. You can also make this a fun family activity and get the kids involved when time (and energy) allows.

24. If you have Amazon Prime, you get special discounts at Whole Foods. They have Prime Member Only discounts and members also receive and extra 10% off yellow tag sale prices. I have saved anywhere from a few dollars to $30 each week.

How I Wash Strawberries

I’ve tried several different methods of pre-washing or not and storing berries but the one that works the best for me is a few minutes of soaking in cold water with a few tablespoons of white vinegar (confession: I totally eyeball it). I give them a gentle rub with my fingers.

After they have soaked, I lay them on a towel to dry. They must dry COMPLETELY before storing them in the fridge.

I typically store them in an open bowl so moisture isn’t trapped in. I sometimes will place a washcloth or paper towel in the bottom and cover with a kitchen towel just to catch any extra moisture. My kids don’t let berries last very long. They will devour 2 pounds in a day, easy (I have 3 kids).

I do the same for grapes

You can also use baking side instead of vinegar to help remove residue. I found vinegar is great to prevent berries from molding too quickly. Have you tried this method? What works for you?

Stay Healthy Day 30: Is cooking with cast iron good for your health

Caution ⚠️ with what you use to cook your food.

While some foods are great to cook in a cast iron, others may not be- like water. 🙅🏻‍♀️

Considering cast iron is generally safe and has been used for thousands of years, you do want to make sure you are caring for your cast iron.

I season mine often to prevent too much leaching. However, if you already have high iron levels, you may want to use a high quality stainless steel instead.

Check out this link below about cast iron and explore all the other items in your home that may also be leaching into our bodies 😱

Q. Do cast iron pans ever test positive for Lead? A. Sometimes. Q. Are cast iron pans safe? A. Mostly! Click to read more.

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Stay Healthy Day 28: Eat Healthy Fats

Fatty foods have a bad reputation and yet healthy fats are found in some of the most nutrient dense whole foods available to us. Here are some of the best fats to incorporate into your diet:

💛Avocado
💛Grass Fed Butter or Ghee
💛Extra Virgin Olive Oil
💛Coconut Oil
💛Omega-3s from fatty fish
💛Nuts and Seeds
💛Free Range Eggs
💛Grass Fed Beef
💛Full Fat Dairy, especially raw
💛MCT Oil
💛Dark Chocolate

From Dr Axe –
“Fats are an important part of the diet, but not all fats have the same effects on health. While good fats can actually lower cholesterol levels, boost brain function and support satiety, filling up on unhealthy fats can contribute to chronic disease and weight gain.

A good rule of thumb is to steer clear of highly-processed fats that are pumped full of additives and unhealthy ingredients. Refined vegetable oils, processed meats and snack foods like chips, crackers and baked goods are generally high in disease-causing, artery-clogging trans fats that should be avoided at all costs.”
https://draxe.com/nutrition/healthy-fats/

A fantastic resource on healthy whole foods and nutrient dense, full fat dietary choices is the Weston Price Foundation. I love checking their site for recipes and information. Here are details on fats from their website.
https://www.westonaprice.org/know-your-fats/

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Stay Healthy Day 27: Benefits of a Whole Foods Diet

The term ‘whole food’ is normally applied to vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains that have gone through minimal processing, but it can apply to animal foods too.

It’s not as simple as neatly dividing foods into two groups – either whole foods or processed foods. Most foods we eat have undergone some degree of processing, whether it’s washing, chopping, drying, freezing or canning, and that’s not always a bad thing. For example, freezing and canning food gives us access to a variety of foods all year round.

Not all processing is a problem. However, there’s a big difference between ‘ultra-processed’ and ‘minimally processed’ healthy foods that are close to their natural state. Whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are all close to the state they were in when harvested and come loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre and other essential nutrients. But as the degree of processing and refining increases, the food’s nutritional value decreases.

With more processing, the likelihood that less-beneficial ingredients like fat, salt and sugar are added goes up and the likelihood of vitamins and minerals being present goes down. The US-led National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that 90% of the added sugar in our Western diet comes from ultra-processed foods. 😱

Nutritional research consistently shows that a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes brings health benefits. A 2014 analysis by Yale University researchers found that the claims of health benefits for many popular diets such as low glycaemic, Paleo and vegan were exaggerated. The one consistent finding was that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention”.

The benefits of a whole food or a minimally processed diet include lower rates of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes. Another advantage of eating mostly whole foods comes from the vast array of nutrients acting together.

Whole foods such as fruits and vegetables are packed full of phytochemicals and, according to a study by the Institute of Nutrition Sciences, Germany, these natural compounds can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular and other diseases. Fruits and veg also contain nutrients and fibre, and the best way to make sure you’re getting these beneficial elements is to eat them in their natural form.

Another benefit is that when you eat a diet made up mostly of whole foods, it’s easier to eat less of the unhealthy fats – such as trans fats and saturated fats – often added to ultra-processed foods and fast food. At the same time, you’ll be boosting the amount of healthier fats such as omega-3 oils from fish, nuts like walnuts, and plants like linseed and chia; and monounsaturated fat from plant sources such as avocado, and nuts such as almonds, cashews and peanuts.

Nutritional information can sometimes be confusing. But there’s no need to try the latest food fad, as eating healthily boils down to having a balanced diet of foods in their natural state, or as close to it as possible. This way you are getting foods in the package of nutrients that nature intended.

Source: https://www.hcf.com.au/health-agenda/food-diet/nutrition/what-are-wholefoods

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Stay Healthy Day 24: Benefits of apple cider vinegar

Some people are not fans of the smell of vinegar but did you know it is actually really good for you?

I personally like to use it as a salad dressing or in my water with a little lemon juice.

Apple cider vinegar has various healthful properties, including antimicrobial and antioxidant effects. What’s more, evidence suggests it may offer health benefits, such as aiding weight loss, reducing cholesterol, lowering blood sugar levels, and improving the symptoms of diabetes.

Apple cider vinegar has shown great promise in improving insulin sensitivity and helping lower blood sugar responses after meals.

Vinegar can also help kill pathogens, including bacteria. People have traditionally used vinegar for cleaning and disinfecting, treating nail fungus, lice, warts, and ear infections.

Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used vinegar to clean wounds more than 2,000 years ago.

Vinegar is also a food preservative, and studies show that it inhibits bacteria like E. coli from growing in and spoiling food.

https://www.organicfacts.net/apple-cider-vinegar.html

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Stay Healthy Day 19: Avoid natural flavors

Or should we say “natural flavor.”

This is another term companies use to make something sound healthier than it actually is. If you knew where & exactly what “natural flavors” are derived from, well you might 🤮.

Take raspberry flavor for instance. It’s made from a beavers anal glands. Yes, you read that right.

Typically, natural flavors are made up of 80-90% chemical solvents & additives! Learn more here.

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Naturally colored candy

Traditional candy has a lot of artificial colors and ingredients. But peanut M&Ms are so good! I found this Unreal brand at Whole Foods. They have versions of plain M&Ms, Snickers, Recees Cups and something like an Almond Joy. YumEarth has a yummy Skittles and Sour Patch kids alternative, all free of artificial food dyes.

Did you know artificial colors are banned in Europe and other countries because of the known health and behavioral effects they have. My oldest get very hyper with food dyes and artificial sugar, and my youngest was having some urinary issues and one of the things we were told to avoid was artificial food dyes, specifically red #40. Makes me upset food companies make artificial dye free versions for other countries and sell the artificial color containing versions in the US. We deserve better!

Side note, I prefer this natural version to the “real” one. 😉

Unreal has naturally colored versions of peanut M&Ms, plain M&Ms, Snickers, Recees peanut butter cups.
Giggles by YumEarth. A natural alternative to skittles.

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