healthyish

My 2017 Healthyish Gift Guide

Is it just me, or is November totally flying by? Holiday shopping season starts in T-minus 11 days people. If you're anything like me, you always have great intentions of starting your shopping early. You might buy one or two things in October and think it's finally going to be that year, but then Thanksgiving comes and goes and you have yet to cross anyone else off your list. While I really do love buying gifts for my people, I have this annoying "need" to find the absolutely perfect thing which can sometimes drive me a little mad. I always check out online gift guides for ideas because there are so many cool things out there that I would never even know about otherwise. This year, I wanted to put together one myself! Here are some of my favorite healthyish things at the moment.

Oh and just a heads-up: This post contains some affiliate links. While these do not affect the purchase price of the item, they could result in me getting a small commission on anything you buy. Thank you for supporting this blog. Now on with the gifts!

The Instant Pot

It's probably no surprise that this made the list. I just talked about how much I love it in my post last week and I keep finding new and interesting ways to use it! Besides the ever-so-popular pressure cooker feature that the IP is known for, here are some other cool things you can make with it:

  • Yogurt

  • The perfect rice (minus all of the foam boiling over the pot and making a mess of your stovetop)

  • Anything that you would typically make in a slow cooker

  • Seared and shredded meat (with no extra pots/pans required)

  • Steamed vegetables

  • Oatmeal or other porridge

It's just an amazing all-around appliance and would open up a whole new world of cooking possibilities for the home chef in your life!

Green Chef Subscription

I have waxed poetic about Green Chef so many times over the last few months, but I'm still holding strong that it's nothing short of amazing! You can read my full review here, but in short Green Chef sends you a box of brightly colored, beautiful and creative meals along with recipe cards that explain exactly how to assemble them so 1) you don't have to plan dinners for the week and 2) you don't have to do a huge grocery shop. Perfect for post-holiday travel when you're craving plants and just can't think about what to cook. 

They don't offer a gift card option, but you can sign someone up for a box (I did this for my mom). It would be a fun gift for a couple who wants to start cooking more, or for anyone who wants to start trying some new cuisines or branch out from their usual meal rotation. 

Mediterranean Bowls via Green Chef

Mediterranean Bowls via Green Chef

Cookbooks

A cookbook is a great gift for home cooks, because while they provide new meal inspiration and are just plain fun to read, most people don't buy them "just because". I know I browse cookbooks online often but it's hard to justify spending $25-50 on one when free recipes are available all over the place. This is why they make the perfect gift. 

Here are two of my favorites, plus two that I've been eyeing but don't yet own:

Cravings, by Chrissy Teigen

Seriously Delish, by Jessica Merchant

Dinner: Changing the Game, by Melissa Clark

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

fish tacos, a la Cravings

fish tacos, a la Cravings

Apple Watch Series 3 or Accessories 

This is obviously a more pricey option, but for the active person in your life it sure is fun to wear. I have a Series 1 that I got as a Christmas gift two years ago. The main reason I love it is because I can't wear most metal accessories without my wrist getting irritated, and I really like wearing a watch. I also love the look of the Apple Watch (it matches my casual style) and you can easily switch out the band based on the season or your mood. 

Now I'm not religious about tracking my steps or anything, but I do find it helpful for reminding me to get moving at times when I'm focused on a task and it's fun to see how many miles walked while on vacation or on a particularly active day. It's also a great run tracker when training for an event if you are someone who likes to keep track of pace, distance, etc. I rarely use mine for texting and answering calls, but know that those are features as well, and with the new Series 3 you don't even need your phone nearby to do so! 

If someone on your list already has a watch, a bright and funky watch band is a less expensive option that would be really fun to receive. I love the dusty blue or bright pink options for days when you need a little bit of color in your life. 

Cocktail Making Supplies

You might be asking yourself how anything related to alcohol made the cut on a "healthyish" gift guide, but let me explain. I'm a big believer in the power of learning how to make a bomb cocktail. It's just one of those adult skills that I think everyone should have. Plus, one great tasting high-quality cocktail means it will probably be a lot more satisfying, which can be helpful for someone trying to cut down on alcohol intake. Less is more you guys!

I'm partial to Moscow Mules, but really the options are endless here. I love the idea of giving a local, craft mixer for a special add-on and you can cater it to whatever cocktail your gift-ee really loves. 

Citrus Juicer - I couldn't find the exact one I have, but this one looks similar.

Moscow Mule Mugs - we got these as a wedding gift and use them a ton when hosting company!

Craft mixer - Fever Tree makes some really interesting mixers although I've never actually tried them - I have been on the hunt for their ginger beer for weeks!

best.host.ever

best.host.ever

Bon Appetit Magazine Subscription

BA magazine is so much fun to read every month. Yes, the recipes are creative and delicious but their photography and graphic design is what really keeps me reading. They also write really funny and true-to-life articles that I find so useful. One of the columns is called "Basically" where a simple skill is broken down. As an example, one month it was on how to make perfectly roasted potatoes. Oh, and then there's the hot 10 list that I look forward to all year where they choose their favorite 10 new restaurants in the country and showcase them in the September issue. 

There are other food magazines out there, but if you're looking for one that's a little bit out of the box and will really challenge someone in the kitchen, I would highly recommend Bon Appetit. 

ClassPass membership

Anyone who knows me well, knows that when it comes to fitness I can't stay put doing the same thing for very long. Enter, ClassPass - the ultimate solution that seems like it was designed just for me! If you aren't familiar, ClassPass essentially allows you access to all sorts of fitness studios all on one membership with an app that allows you to schedule based on location, class type and/or time. This would be perfect for someone who has a hard time committing to a gym membership because of an ever-changing work schedule, or anyone who loves trying out new formats often. Classes are available in 39 cities and if you travel, you can use your membership anywhere, not just in the city you sign up. 

I recently re-joined and remembered just how much I like the flexibility. I tried out Barre3 (which I loved) and a new-to-me Cycling/Core class that was also really fun. Other Denver favorites include Core Power Yoga, Pearl Street Fitness, Fierce45 which is a pilates megaformer class and Fit36 - a super quick option near my work that I also really like. Taking classes like this as a drop-in can easily cost upwards of $25/class so CP membership is a great deal. 

Starbucks Mug

This is a classic and probably a bit predictable, but there are just so many beautiful mugs at Starbucks these days! This is another one of those things that most people probably gawk over but never actually buy for themselves. You can't buy the mugs on Starbucks.com anymore, but you can of course still find them in store, and on sites like Amazon. Check out a few of these patterns:

Pretty Pattern

Fall Leaves

Iced Coffee Lovers

And then of course their city-specific collectible mugs and tumblers are great if you want to give a souvenir type gift to a special someone. I may be biased, but I think this Colorado one is pretty cool:

Colorado Mug

Adulting: Meal Ideas for New Moms

fresh figs

There are a few telltale signs that you are becoming more of an adult: you spend your weekend mornings at Home Depot and doing what I like to call "yard work cardio", you sit out Friday night bar hopping in favor of Netflix and wine, and you start bringing new moms (who are also your friends!) food. 

One of our dear friends had a baby a few weeks ago and I was so excited to use the whole "we'll bring food" gig as an excuse to meet the newest member of their family and hang out with them at the same time (read: ask all the questions about labor and parenthood). My dilemma was what the heck to make. I thought about what I would want if I was working nonstop and sleep deprived - most likely comfort food. But I also wanted to make something plant-heavy because I feel like new moms are kind of like superheroes and need extra nutrients to fuel things like breastfeeding and staying awake for so many hours straight. Most importantly I wanted it to be really delicious and satisfying.

I decided to poll a few mom friends to get their opinion and thought it would be fun to write a recipe roundup post to add on to what they said. This way, the next time you want to bring a meal to some new parents, you can come here and rest assured knowing that these suggestions are all mom-approved and awesome. 

I appreciated fresh food after some take-out and frozen stuff. So things to make a big salad and some type of casserole or lasagna. And something sweet.  

Here are two ideas I found that fit this: Vegetable Enchilada Casserole // Whole Wheat Shells and Cheese with Broccoli 

Something they can bake or freeze depending on when they want it. Also something that makes good leftovers. One of my favorites is enchiladas with all the toppings bagged on the side, along with directions to heat or freeze. I don't cook it, it's nicer I think to let them decide since who knows what their day/night looks like. 

Here are some freezable or leftover-worthy items: Sweet Potato Black Bean Enchiladas with Avocado Lime Crema // Lazy Girl Chicken Quinoa Enchiladas // Italian Sausage, Kale and Tortellini Soup

Something that she can eat with her hands in case she's nursing. And wine. And coffee!

Here are some "finger food" meals: Smoky Chipotle Sofritas Tacos // Easy Thai Peanut Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Thanks to all of the wonderful ladies that gave me advice. I ended up doing a combination of all of the above and made the components for Chicken Pitas with Feta and Tzatziki. This was a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks (Seriously Delish) but I had never actually tried it before. I felt like it would be easy to eat (no silverware required), filling, and customizable because of all of the different toppings. Plus, it would be easy to double the recipe so there would be enough for us too.

Jacob and I worked together to do all of the prepping the night before and I packed up all of the fixings separately including pitas, cooked diced chicken breast, butter lettuce, diced tomato, thinly sliced red onion, sliced cucumbers, the tzatziki sauce, plus some hummus. Then I included a little handwritten note with the (incredibly simple) steps for assembly:

1) Warm the pitas

2) Stuff the pitas with the things

3) Add some sauce 

I think it was a hit! And more importantly, we had a great visit with our friends. Tell me about your go-go meal for new moms in the comments!

How-to Make a Healthyish Snack Board

Snack Board.JPG

I have a new favorite word as of late and you may have seen me use it around my corners of the internet – that word is healthyish, and I wanted to explain why I like it so much, then give you a healthyish game plan for making a bomb snack board for your friends this weekend.

As most of you have probably gathered by now I’m mildly obsessed with Bon Appetit magazine. They have the most beautifully designed pages and food styling, they tell interesting stories and most importantly, they publish the most creative and delicious recipes, all with this fun and unique sense of humor wrapped around everything. The BA Foodcast is also in my top three favorites (which says something because I’m subscribed to at least 10-15). If you haven’t listened to it, I would highly recommend it for learning about new cooking techniques and the fun interviews with foodies from all sorts of backgrounds. 

Earlier this year, BA launched a subset of their brand called Healthyish. The editor-in-chief once described it as, "We’re thinking about food in new ways, we’re being more conscious about what we eat, but we’re also not losing sleep over it." Um, hello perfect word to describe my approach to eating.

All that being said, I wanted to give a little tutorial on how I make my all-time favorite healthyish appetizer (or sometimes dinner) – the snack board. Make this to impress your friends when they come over, for an appetizer at a dinner party, or for a lazy dinner when all you can really fathom is arranging a bunch of random things on a tray.

Be sure to check out my free resource at the end of the post - a printable shopping list and how-to guide so you don't have to remember all of this or take notes as you go (although I wont' judge if you do). 

Here’s what you need:

1. Veggie(s) + Dip

Carrots or celery sticks work great for some added crunch/texture but I also like radishes. You can see in the photo above I used the tri-color carrots because I think they are just beautiful. Hummus is the easiest and probably the most traditional dip choice, but there are also some really great Greek yogurt based dips and dressings available now, like this one from Sabra. Bean dip or guacamole are other fun options.

2. Smoked salmon is a must

It can be a little bit pricey, but usually at least one brand is on sale and a small piece goes a long way so most people won’t want to load up on this stuff. I think it's fun to serve because most people don't eat it all the time, so it's a nice treat and just plain delicious. It also pairs great with a creamy cheese. 

3. One or two cheeses

Go for one sharp/hard cheese and one soft/creamy option like brie to please multiple taste preferences. The cheese pictured above is a merlot soaked bellavitano and it's one of my all-time favorites. If you don't have a great cheese selection where you live, you can probably still find an extra sharp cheddar and this works well too! 

4. Crackers

Add one grainy/seedy option and one light and airy cracker or pretzel. I like Carr's water crackers because the flavor is so neutral and they are good for "cleansing the palate" if you will. I can't believe I just used that phrase. For the other option, try the Blue Diamond Artisan brand or even a basic Triscuit for something heartier to add variety. 

5. Fruit

I love grapes because it’s easy to grab a few without making a mess and the sweetness usually pairs well with the other flavors. They add a great pop of color too. Some other options might be sliced granny smith apples or pears when in season. Just avoid anything too juicy/messy because this is finger food after all. 

6. Something briny (like kalamata olives)

If you like 'em stuffed with blue cheese or something similar, you go. If you don't like olives, try pickled vegetables. Again, make this as easy as possible to grab and provide some sort of toothpicks/cocktail skewers to go along with these.

7. Optional: another meat or protein like proscuitto or salami

I only buy one of these if there's a good sale or if I sample something that is just too good to pass up (happens to me quite often actually). Go for something extra flavorful like dry salami or capocollo and serve a smaller amount as a compliment to the other items. 

Ready to venture into the world of snack board making? Be sure to grab the shopping list and how-to guide below so you can stop at the store on your way home today. It's even organized by section of the grocery store (you're welcome). 

If you give this a try, be sure to share photos with me so I can see all of your epic creations! On Instagram use #SpiceUpYourCookingGame and tag me (@LeanneRayRDN). 

Snack Board Shopping List + How-to Guide

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