As a busy mom, I rely on my crock-pot to get me through at least one or two dinners each week. When my kids were toddlers and I was cooking two different meals, it was easier to let the crock-pot do the heavy lifting of cooking the main meals. This gave me a little extra time to make the toddler favorites or dress up a side dish we could all eat. Freezer to crock-pot meals became my jam. I love prepping 5 meals at once and tossing into the freezer. I pull one out each night to dump in the crock pot the next day.
I love that there is less clean up and less thinking about what to make each night.
Finding gluten free meals to enjoy can be a little stressful and time consuming.
Here are five gluten free meals I foundto try this week:
This month I took on the Veganuary challenge and committed to eating vegan for 30 days. Many of you are probably asking WHY!?! Well, I am always on the hunt for healthy options and after cooking nearly every meal for a year straight, I am kind of in a food rut. I enjoy trying new things, I thought this might be an interesting way to explore. I was also curious to see if it impacts any changes in my health.
Thankfully, I truly love my veggies. After two weeks into eating all vegan, I felt great! My energy levels increased and my chronic pain issues decreased. I found some new foods to enjoy and new nutrition combinations. So, this week I am sharing some of the vegan recipes I’ve tried so far and enjoyed.
Vegan donuts are a new family favorite. This recipe calls for bananas and nut butter and maple syrup instead of processed sugar. A new family favorite!
Quinoa bowls not everyone in my family is a fan of quinoa. But, I love that I can make so many different types of dishes with it. I make up a big batch and leave in the fridge and mix into my veggie bowls or salads.
Smoothie my hands down favorite is a chocolate avocado smoothie. It is filling and chocolatey! I love this recipe but I omit the bananas because my smoothie mixer can’t handle how thick the avocado makes this drink!
Un-chicken salad on a wrap warning, this does not taste anything like chicken. But it is delicious as it’s own recipe. I highly recommend if you are not used to vegan mayo, start off by using your favorite brand. Easy to make ahead for a few lunches through the week.
Hummus wrap hummus is my new favorite go-to condiment for almost everything. I slather it on my wraps, add a dollop on my salad or quinoa bowl and I even top my baked potato with it. Adding it to a veggie wrap adds flavor and protein to your midday meal.
Portobello or veggie burger with sweet potato fries: I’m not going lie, I buy all of these premade from the freezer section to make it an easy night off from cooking. My family will eat this with me, so it’s nice when we are all eating the same meal at once.
Lentil Bolognese over pasta this one was a hit at home. No one noticed the extra veggies. I will say that I’ve also cheated by just warming up meatless crumbles into our favorite sauce and tossing it over pasta to save time.
Chickpea curry over rice this one is loaded with veggies and glorious nutrition. It is also a little more time consuming, so I make it on the weekends when I have more time to devote to cooking.
Popcorn with crunchy chickpeas and pumpkin seeds, cranberries. I just mix all of these together in a bowl and munch on them while I am working.
Apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with nut butter. This is also a new kid favorite. They don’t even complain that it’s healthy.
Orange slices with chocolate hummus is a new go-to sweet snack.
Oreos with almond milk. Yes, it’s true, Oreos are VEGAN!
If you are interested in going vegan be sure to research it well to be sure it is a diet you can follow and check with your doctor first.
Plan your meals and snacks ahead because you will be definitely be hungry more often as veggies tend to be less calorie dense.
Try to include healthy fats so your body can feel fuller longer.
Drink a lot of water and herbal teas between meals to keep all that extra fiber moving.
Don’t make it all or nothing to start. You can try one meal or new product a week, then add another and another until you are fully vegan or at a place where you feel comfortable including more plant based meals into your diet.
Also, don’t hate me. But there is no good vegan cheese substitute. There. I said it! I do add nutritional yeast in place of grated cheese for a mild cheese flavor. But, I have yet to find anything that has the same taste or texture equivalent. If you’ve found one you love, tell me in the comments below!
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer. The Whatever Mom blog is here to help other moms accept the messier parts of parenting and find solutions.
This recipe round up is just in time for our meal planning Monday!
We all know leftovers are the best part of our Thanksgiving dinner! Nothing compares to the ultimate turkey sandwich the very next day, or even as a midnight snack (no judgement). But, with a little creativity you can fix up something delicious and new!
I polled the moms in my Circle of Moms for their favorite leftover recipes and then I scoured Pinterest for easy recipes that do not require more than what you might already have on hand. Enjoy!
Click the pin below to go directly to my Thanksgiving Leftovers board on Pinterest.
Which one are you making first? Classic sandwich, or the egg rolls?
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and owner of The Whatever Mom blog. She shares her solutions to letting go of perfection and embracing the messier parts of parenting so other moms don’t feel alone.
Many of you know by now, I have two very picky eaters. There was a day I could feed them anything without a problem. Suddenly, they decided food wasn’t exciting anymore. They began limiting themselves to the familiar favorites of macaroni and cheese and chicken nuggets.
Before kids, I was not a meal planner nor spent hours prepping ahead. I love the joy of cooking and spontaneously creating a meal from ingredients I’ve tossed together. I love sampling the food combos I’ve dreamed up. Unless it is made entirely of cheese, my kids could care less about my craftiness in the kitchen. So, over the years I’ve learned to push passed my frustration with their picky habits. I’ve realized the main focus is getting food into the belly. Not just any food, but nutritious food. So, how do I get nutritious food into such picky eaters? Here are some lessons I’ve learned over the years.
1. PICK YOUR BATTLES: If you are tired of missing out on meals because your entire time is spent fighting a kid to eat, let it go. If that means prepping a smaller side dish that your kid will eat, then do it if it works for you. To me that is easier than missing my own meal to focus on a battle I am not going to win. I let my kids eat boxed mac and cheese and stir in a couple spoonful’s of squash or cauliflower puree. It makes them happy to eat what they love and it makes me happy they are getting extra nutrition.
2. FOCUS ON NUTRITION: Often as parents we get caught up in subscribing to the clean plate club. But this doesn’t help kids understand their hunger cues. Portion sizes vary widely for kids, some enjoy larger portions than others. I try to make sure what I am serving is so packed with nutrition that even if they take two bites, it counts for something. I have become the queen of concealing veggies in my kids’ favorite foods.
3. GET THEM INVOVLED WITH FOOD: My kids may turn their noses up to sitting at a table with a full meal before them, but they will nibble all day long on familiar favorites. I encourage them to make their own foods by putting out a sandwich bar or a “picky” tray filled with proteins and nourishment like cold cuts, devilled eggs, hummus and veggies, fruit and dip, etc. It makes things easier for me and we all win when our bellies are full.
4. CHANGE THE WAY YOU CELEBRATE WITH FOOD: Before kids, the only meal planning I did was around the holidays. I created a menu combining my and my husbands favorites from childhood. All I had to do was pull out the recipes and go shopping. But my kids really aren’t into stuffing and Ambrosia Salad. If your kid isn’t into your favorite holiday meals, move your celebration to the meal they love the most. Make a special breakfast, or lunch and enjoy a less stressful experience. You can still enjoy the traditional foods you love at dinner and let them eat smaller portions or something they will stay at the table for. Memories of being at the table together without a war will mean more to them in the future than whether or not they finished the dreaded peas.
5. USE COMPASSION: Some kids have anxiety around food, or sensory disorders, they will stick to the foods they know are familiar. Ultimately, it was this discovery in my own kids that made it easier to accept there are times I need to make two different dinners. The old school technique of forcing kids to eat, DOES NOT work for kids with anxiety, or sensory issues. It only forces them to become more rigid with their choices. It can really do more harm than good.
Let me tell you about that time I tried to replace my morning coffee with a hot lemon water cleanse. Not only did it make me dizzy and exhausted, but I literally forgot I have children. (Disclaimer: No children were harmed during this cleansing process).
Several weeks ago, I was feeling tired and run down and I thought my coffee addiction might be the culprit of my insomnia. I read article after article with cures and tinctures when I landed on an article written by an “expert,” that suggested coffee was messing with my blood sugar and cortisol levels (that’s a stress hormone). This expert also suggested removing coffee and replacing it with hot lemon water every morning for “increased energy and vitality.”
It was all lies.
The first day I was tired, but I made it through my day convinced this little coffee detox might just work.
The second day, I was so tired I fell asleep around 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon. I woke up two hours later completely unaware that I had dozed off.
The third day, I was yawning so much, tears were streaming down my face. It looked like I was crying for help and I could barely keep my head up. I finally took a nap.
The fourth day, I was driving along minding my own business and enjoying some tunes when I heard my kid from the backseat yell out how much she LOVES this song! I freaked out! I completely forgot I had a child in the car with me. I forgot I was the parent on duty! That’s how foggy my brain had become after just 4 days without coffee!
The fifth day, I gave up. I brewed a pot of coffee first thing in the morning and drank it fat. My energy returned and the brain fog lifted. I could remember words and I knew where my kids were the whole day.
I had no idea how much my brain function depends on caffeine. My morning coffee is literally the fluid holding my mind and body connection together. A mom who runs on coffee. Shocking right? I was supposed to replace my morning coffee with hot lemon water for 14 days. I bailed on day 5 and I jumped back on the coffee wagon.
Right when I jumped back on that wagon, I discovered a small coffee roasting company and sampled some of their flavored coffees. I tried three flavors, Dark Chocolate Cherry, French Toast and Maple Bacon. MAPLE. BACON. (Do I even need to tell you how good this is?). You could say, this is the coffee that saved me.
I have tried A LOT of fancy syrups and creamers in my coffee, but I am always disappointed because I end up with a chemical after taste, or a bad reaction to the amount of sugar or additives. All three of these delicious flavors are gluten and dairy free, vegan and no sugar added, yet very flavorful. Even my 9-year-old was sipping off my morning brew and telling me how good it is.
After poking around the website, I find that Reverie Coffee is a woman owned business, the coffee is roasted in small batches and they partner with local charities each moth to give back. It is 100% arabica beans that are sustainably grown. It checks off the boxes that make me feel better about a product. And did I mention it tastes really good?
In fact, I love it so much I asked for a reader discount for all of you to give it a try! Go to Take Me to Reverie fill your cart and use code WHATEVERMOM for 20% off your order! If you love the coffee you ordered, there is a subscription service available. That means the magic beans just show up at your door without you having to remember to order them!
If you love (and depend on) coffee as much as I do, you are going to LOVE Reverie coffee!
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and certified coffee addict. She will stop at nothing to find the perfect soothing cup of coffee to start her morning.
Before kids I had a major candle addiction that typically peaked as the Fall season began. I love all the scents of autumn and anything with a warm cinnamon or a hearty clove smell had to be in my collection. Those famous little spices warm my home and soul as the temperature begins to drop. Once I had babies, I learned how unhealthy burning candles can be for indoor air quality, not to mention how anxious I felt leaving an open flame for tiny exploring hands to find. Since then, I’ve discovered healthier ways to bring those seasonal scents into my home without all the toxins and worry.
Here are my favorite ways to bring the smell off fall safely into my home:
ESSENTIAL OIL DIFFUSER
You can use an electric oil diffuser without any worry of heat, flame or burning. Simply fill the with water and add in a few drops of your favorite essential oil. One of my favorites to diffuse during the fall and winter months is Germ Away Organic Essential Oil Blend by Three Sister’s Herbals. The antiviral properties of thieves oil help purify the air and won’t leave behind toxic chemicals. Plus, it is made with clove and cinnamon, two traditional fall scents. I also love to use it in my ceramic wax warmer. I add one TBSP of coconut oil ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 5-10 drops of Germ Away Oil. The light of the tealight candle adds ambiance and warmth as it diffuses the protective elements of thieves oil into the air. You can use this same recipe in an electric wax warmer to avoid the open flame around little ones. Be sure to keep it far enough out of reach the kiddos can’t pull it down.
I also use the Germ Away Hand and Surface Essential Oil spray to wipe down high touch surfaces like light switches, doorknobs, faucet handles and countertops. It safely adds a scent of fall to my home while keeping germs at bay. And because it safe to use around babies and animals, I can hand this job off to one of the kiddos without any worries.
LIGHT A FIRE
Nothing feels warmer or more soothing in the fall than a crackling fire. Unfortunately, I do not have a fireplace in my home, but I have found a way to recreate the scent and feel of a warm fire, without an actual fire. A friend of mine gifted me Palo Santo sticks to burn like incense in my home. The scent made by this tiny stick of wood is as comforting as any fire. Simply light it, let it burn for 30 seconds before blowing it out and leaving to sit in a fire safe dish (I use a ceramic saucer). This burns cleaner than store bought incense which can be full of chemicals and respiratory irritants, plus there is no open flame to worry about. You can use other wood sticks like cedar, hickory, and pine to fill your home with that feeling and scent of a warm fire.
I find that a simple cup of chai tea (which uses cinnamon and cardamom) elicits a feeling of warmth and coziness. Other flavors I love are cinnamon apple, pumpkin spice, citrus and cinnamon spice, and cranberry. The health benefits of drinking tea are well documented but stopping long enough to enjoy a cup of tea is a great way to relax. Simply allowing your tea to steep a few minutes before drinking will surround you with a familiar fall fragrance.
How do you fill your home with the smells of the season?
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, coffee addict and freelance writer. She will write about almost anything you want her to for a small fee. Just check out her about me section to find out how to hire her.
My kids have fought me on eating any kind of veggies since their toddlerhood. Now, they are almost ten. These picky eaters dominate our meal time choices, but they aren’t always winning the war. I sneak veggies inside of their favorite foods undetected all the time. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. They have no clue.
I typically meal prep our breakfast for the week ahead on Sunday. I like stuff I can freeze for a quick reheat in the morning. Now that my kids are older, this method makes it easier for them to make their own breakfast. This is a huge time saver for us all!
So… this weekend I made sausage stuffed French toast with some hidden sweet potato in there. I tried to make it two ways, the traditional frying method vs. baking in the oven. Even though making one big batch in the oven at once is convenient, frying the rolls individually made for a better texture. And it hid the miniscule pieces of orange potato better.
Here is what you need:
12 of your favorite sausage links
12 slices of your favorite bread
2 TBSP of sweet potato puree
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple syrup
Dash of cinnamon
2-4TBSP coconut oil
* If you do not have sweet potato puree on hand, you’ll need to start by peeling and dicing a sweet potato and boiling until soft enough to mash before adding to the egg mixture. I made the sweet potato puree while I pre-cooked the sausage links in the oven. You can also use summer squash puree which you can find in the freezer section of your grocery store.*
Once you have your puree and cooked sausage you are ready to begin!
Crack open 3 eggs and dump into a shallow dish. Add sweet potato, vanilla, maple syrup and cinnamon. Whisk together until well mixed and no large clumps.
ASSEMBLING ROLL UPS
Use the rolling pin to roll flat each slice of bread (I did four at a time because it’s an easier amount to work with and it is faster than just one at a time). Place a fully cooked sausage on one edge of the flattened bread and roll together. Next, dip the stuffed bread roll into the egg mixture and lay seam side down on a plate.
I fried in batches of four to make assembling easier and to leave enough room in the pan. Heat 2 TBSP coconut oil in frying pan. Place each roll up seam side down into the pan. Let cook 2-3 minutes before turning. Be sure to cook all sides.
I stored the rolls in a flat layer in a freezer bag for the family to grab what they need and make for their breakfast. This made one dozen rolls which my family gladly enjoyed with a favorite fruit and glass of milk.
What do you think? Would you hide veggies in your kids favorite foods?
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom and freelance writer, also known as The Whatever Mom. She is on a mission to connect struggling moms with little ones with her community to laugh, grow and embrace the messy parts of parenting so that they feel empowered and confident in their mom choices.
Now that back to school is here and life is a little chaotic with a new schedule to work with, I find meal prepping a giant life saver. I actually get a little excited to see my hard work stacked up neatly in the freezer. Knowing that most of my meal prep work is done takes a lot of stress off of my plate, especially on those crazy days where everything else seems to be going wrong, or I am running behind.
As I was prepping I stopped quickly to take a few pics of what I was making to show you how easy it is to make two different chicken dinners ahead of time to stash in the freezer for later in the week. I made Honey Mustard Chicken to serve with rice pilaf and I made Thai Chicken Soup. One package of chicken split between two different recipes and I was done in minutes.
HONEY MUSTARD CHICKEN
1 lb. chicken breast (I use thighs because it’s usually cheaper and tastier)
1 bottle of your favorite honey mustard dressing or marinade
1 package of French cut green beans
Salt and pepper
1 gallon zip seal freezer bag
Place chicken pieces into bottom of the bag, pour one half of the bottle of honey mustard dressing over the chicken and then dump the frozen veggies on top. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper. Press all of the air out of the bag before you seal it and stack in the freezer. That’s it for prep!
When you are ready to cook, remove the prepped meal from the freezer and place in the fridge overnight to thaw out. Empty contents into the crock-pot and be sure to arrange with green beans on the bottom and chicken on top. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. *Every crock-pot heats differently. Mine cooks really fast, so I only need 3 hours for this meal.* Serve with rice, pasta or roasted potatoes (you can get prechopped potatoes in the produce section or in the freezer section to save more time).
THAI CHICKEN SOUP
1 lb. chicken breast (thigh definitely is best for this recipe, but either works)
1 jar of salsa
1/4 cup peanut butter
1 TBSP soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
1 can coconut milk
1 gallon zip seal freezer bag
*optional serve over cooked rice, or rice noodles.
Place chicken pieces in the bottom of the bag. In a separate bowl add peanut butter, juice of one lime, soy sauce and the jar of salsa. Mix until it is all combined and pour over chicken in the bag. Seal and freeze.
When you are ready to cook, remove from the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight. Put the mixture into the crockpot and allow it to cook on high 3-4 hours. *Crock-pots may vary in cooking times. Mine will cook this meal in 2.5 hours.* The last half an hour of cook time, shred the chicken and add in can of coconut milk. Allow to simmer for remaining 30 minutes. If you chose to serve over rice, you can get those really quick 90 second microwave rice packs that will bring this meal together quick. You can even delegate that small part of dinner to a helper.
That’s it! Two recipes to prep this week that will take you as much time as it takes to read this post. Enjoy! Oh and don’t forget to prep those breakfast smoothies too! If you try any of these feel free to comment below, or stop by The Whatever Mom Facebook page to share, or find me on Insta.
Roxanne Ferber is twin mom and freelance writer doing whatever it takes to find extra sanity in the day.
Going back to school this year looks vastly different than any other year. Many of us are working from home, while also teaching our kids at home. We are not sending our kids off on the bus and our back to school traditions may have changed.
At least this time around we are not feeling the last-minute scramble of a complete shutdown, we are starting day one at home. Thankfully, we learned what worked and did not work and we can use that to plan this year.
The one big thing I learned during our shutdown in the spring, is that I am over standing in my kitchen all day making meals on demand. Scrambling to prepare food in between Zoom classes did not work well for me. I spent a lot of time making fresh meals three times a day for picky eaters and it was exhausting. So, to free up that time this year I am ramping up my meal prepping.
Since becoming a mom meal prepping is my go-to sanity saver and number one-time management technique. It does require a one to two-hour time commitment in the kitchen, but the amount of time it saves me from clean up and standing in front of the stove the rest of the week is worth it.
Here are my quick tips for planning and prepping for each meal of the week. Maybe it will help you save some time/sanity around remote learning this Fall.
I use the weekends to prep ahead a few different breakfast options that my family can grab and go or warm up for themselves. I wake up an hour before the family on Sunday morning to have the kitchen to myself. You can check out my Pinterest board for ideas, but some of our favorites are breakfast burritos, protein pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, hidden veggie muffins and smoothie blender cups. I make two options for my family to choose from and then I make the blender cups for myself. I have them preloaded and stacked in the freezer to make my mornings easier. My family can reheat their breakfast sandwiches and pancakes on their own or grab a muffin from the fridge.
Each night after dinner, I have the kids pack a lunch just like they did when going to school. And my husband and I pack up our own lunches. This saves me the headache of making two different sandwiches or rummaging around for leftovers to reheat every day. Preparing all of our lunches each night saves enough time for all of us to take our lunch break together, and it encourages my kids to be self sufficient.
Before I even go grocery shopping, I make a dinner menu for the week. My meal plan for the week includes a DIY pizza night (or take out) and a leftovers night to give me a night off from cooking. On my grocery shopping day, I like to wash all the produce before putting it away and I prepare as many meals ahead of time that I can. I am especially fond of freezer meals that I can toss together in a freezer bag and dump into the crock pot later. This is a huge time saver and way less mess to clean up during the busy week. I am also a fan of one sheet pan meals to make in the oven. And on really busy nights, I’ll make a charcuterie board that fits everyone’s picky favorites. You can find some of my favorite go to meal pins here.
I discovered my kids will eat through a bag of chips like its an Olympic sport. So, I stopped buying bags of chips that literally disappears within minutes and leaves my kids crabby. I set up bins in the fridge with grab and go options like cheese sticks, baby bell cheeses, yogurt tubes, mini oranges, hummus cups and bags of veggies. Don’t get me wrong, chips are delicious, and I do not judge anyone buying them for their kids. I just know my kids stay fuller longer (and stay less moody) when they eat protein and fruits.
It took me a little while to make these prepping hacks a routine. So, don’t think you have to do all of the above to be efficient. Pick the toughest meal of the day and prep it in advance to help make that time of day run a bit smoother for you.
What’s the toughest meal for you to prepare each day? Mine is breakfast, so I will always prepare breakfast in advance. I like sleep more than I like to cook.
If you have any great meal prep hacks or recipes, feel free to share in comments below or send them to [email protected]
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, fur mom, wife and freelance writer just trying to eek out as much sanity as she can from each day.
Yes, it’s another deconstructed pizza recipe from me! I can’t help it, my family loves pizza! You may have enjoyed our Easy Pizza Rolls for family pizza night or even our Pizza Cookie for dessert. But, this gluten free pizza pasta casserole is just for me because I can’t have gluten or (most) dairy. So, finding anything resembling a real pizza is near impossible. I am from New York, home of the best pizza and there is no substitute. However, this easy recipe brings the same flavors and makes me feel like I am not missing out entirely.
This whips together in under 30 minutes and FYI, it is a great recipe for school lunch boxes! Make it on a Sunday, reheat to put into a thermos and pack in a lunch box.
Pizza is simply crust (base carb), cheese, sauce and favorite toppings.
Our deconstructed pizza uses gluten free pasta as the base carb, mixed with sauce and favorite toppings like pepperoni, sausage or favorite veggies and of course cheese. We use a gluten free pasta from the grocery store that everyone in my family likes and suddenly we are all eating one meal! Since I can’t have most dairy, I use grated parmesan cheese, affectionately known in my house as “shaker cheese.” It isn’t the hot gooey mess of melted Mozzarella, but it still tastes so darn good!
Cook 1 pound of pasta according to directions on package.
Add in one jar of your favorite sauce.
Stir in favorite pizza toppings (I sliced up pepperoni, black olives, green pepper and red onion).
Sprinkle with grated parmesan, or add in shredded mozzarella. (The mozzarella will melt into the hot pasta and sauce, so no need to bake to melt).
Give it a good mix before serving! This goes great with a salad or a side of wings. Anything you’d normally eat with your pizza!
It’s a super easy meal to make on a week night when the kids are hungry and you need something fast, or as a quick side dish for your picky eater who only eats pasta, pizza and cheese.
Roxanne Ferber is a twin mom, freelance writer and wannabe foodie. Food tastes better when other people cook it, or when kids aren’t complaining about it, but she doesn’t have a lot of time to cook it fancy. If you have a recipe to share email it to [email protected] or share it over on The Whatever Mom Facebook page.