lifestyle

Lately (the Summer Edition)

Every once in awhile I love writing a "lately" style post that features a whole bunch of random favorites at the current moment. It's fun to read these on other blogs because I always learn a few new things. Make sure to leave me a comment with some of your favorite summer finds!

The Perfect Beach Read

the rules do not apply

In terms of personal goals for this year, reading more was one of the big ones for me! So far I've read nine books this year and The Rules Do Not Apply is one of my favorites! It's a memoir written by a reporter from The New Yorker and it's raw and heartbreaking, and I could not put it down. Here's the first paragraph of the inside cover that lured me in:

When thirty-eight-year-old New Yorker writer Ariel Levy left for a reporting trip to Mongolia in 2012, she was pregnant, married, financially secure, and successful on her own terms. A month later, none of that was true. 

I would highly recommend this for a beach read because it's quick (I finished it in two days) and compelling. 

Road Trip Podcast

There are a few new podcasts I have recently added to my rotation but my current favorite is Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. First of all, I was totally obsessed with Parenthood and he interviews several people from the cast. Secondly, I just love that he's married to Kristen Bell.

Armchair Expert is essentially a recorded conversation between Dax and one of his friends and it's really funny, lighthearted and genuine - kind of like you are getting a behind-the-scenes look at their lives. Some of my favorite episodes that I would recommend starting with are Kristen Bell, Ashton Kutcher, Jimmy Kimmel and Zach Braff (hilarious). If you have a longer road trip coming up, definitely save some of these because the episodes are usually around two hours long. 

armchair expert podcast with Dax Shephard

Seasonal Eats

I've been feeling really inspired lately with all of the new summer produce, which has been great! Most notable are these chickpea salad radicchio cups that we'll be serving at my Summer Entertaining Made Simple event this Wednesday. P.S. All attendees will get access to the recipes that we showcase. This one is so good!

Two other recipes on my radar that I'm making ASAP: Walnut Chorizo Tacos with Pineapple Salsa and Grilled Carrots with Avocado and Mint

chickpea salad in radicchio cups

Summer Beverages

Besides water I am loving all of these mocktails... and usually an actual cocktail if it's the weekend. My go-to adult beverages of the summer are been Infinite Monkey Theorem canned rosé (the cans are so fun!), Stem Ciders Salted Cucumber (so unique and amazing), and Epic Los Locos Mexican Lager. All of these are local to Colorado so you may or may not be able to find them if you live elsewhere. 

Infinite Monkey Theorem canned rose

Warm Weather Movement

On the exercise front I'm still loving ClassPass (affiliate link) for the flexibility it offers. Especially in the summer, since I don't like being tied to a membership at one place (I would much rather get outside to walk or run). I am currently on the lowest membership level which equates to about one class per week and it's been perfect! I use it most often to go to my favorite Barre3 studio but love that I can pop in to a new place with friends once in awhile too.

Also worth noting, ClassPass just added wellness services like facials, massage and acupuncture to their schedule in select markets. I tried out my very first facial over the weekend for the same amount of credits as a class (a total steal) and had a fantastic experience at Glow Facial Bar in Cherry Creek. It was super relaxing and my skin was all dewy and glowing afterwards. Definitely a fun treat!

What are you reading, listening to, eating, moving to? 

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3 Recipes, 2 Kitchen Hacks, 1 Cookbook

It's been a minute since I last published a lately post so I thought it would be a good time to change things up. In case you missed it, I declared March recipe month around here (in honor of National Nutrition Month) and put up a new recipe every week to celebrate with some tasty plant-powered eats. I'm really wanting to get more consistent with recipe development and photography so hopefully you found those fun. 

Today is all about the behind-the-scenes of some favorite meals and snacks of late. If anything, I hope this gives you some inspiration or new ideas in the kitchen. Make sure you read all the way to the end and leave me a comment with some of your recent favorites!

BA's Best Buttermilk Pancakes

buttermilk pancakes with butter

You guys. I have been meaning to try these for ages and I finally remembered that I had extra buttermilk from when we made Irish soda bread on St. Patrick's Day. The Food Director of BA (who is frequently on their podcast) swears by these as the magazine recipe that she makes consistently, and that's coming from a chef. I made them on Saturday and they were fluffy and perfect. I still love Kodiak Cakes for the heartiness and staying power, but these are the perfect once in awhile weekend breakfast. You must make them! Find the recipe here.

Buffalo Chicken Naan Pizzas

buffalo chicken naan pizza with chickpeas

Here's a kitchen hack for you to try. We had some leftover naan to use up so Jacob had the idea to turn them into pizzas. Conveniently enough, we already had most of the stuff on hand to do the buffalo chicken thing with one small issue - we only had enough chicken for one. To bulk it up, I opened up a can of garbanzo beans and mixed them in with the chicken and sauce. And it was actually really delicious! Also, I need more naan pizza in my life. 

Butternut Squash & Jalapeno Tacos 

butternut squash tacos from the pretty dish
butternut squash and black bean taco

I pre-ordered Jessica Merchant's The Pretty Dish cookbook and MAN is it a good one. As a huge fan of the How Sweet Eats blog I'm probably biased and would love anything she does, but there are so many recipes in there that I want to make. This was the first one that really stood out to me when I was flipping through the pages so we had them last week and they turned out so well. Such an interesting flavor combination with the chipotle crema and caramelized squash. We will definitely be making them again. As a bonus, the ingredients made for a legit lunch salad the next day too (I turn pretty much everything into a salad at some point). Tacos are so versatile!

On Wednesdays We Wear Pink

hibiscus lime wheat chain reaction brewery

Have you ever met a beer with a more interesting name? Whether that's the reason I ended up choosing it is beside the point. One of our neighborhood breweries has really interesting beers and a great patio, so J and I met there for an impromptu happy hour one night after having a gorgeous 70 degree day. This was a hibiscus lime wheat and so perfect for what I was wanting. At first I was hesitant because I always worry that anything with lavender or hibiscus is going to taste like floral perfume but it was awesome. Anyone else notice these floral flavors are super trendy right now in beer and cocktails? 

Morning Glory Breakfast Cookies 

morning glory breakfast cookies with kodiak cakes mix

I shared this breakfast cookie recipe last week and it seemed to be a hit! I started with Kodiak Cakes pancake/waffle mix and bulked it up for a quick grab and go breakfast with oats, walnuts, raisins and carrots. I love stuff like this to pair with coffee in the morning and it's a bonus if they actually have staying power. Find the recipe here if you missed it.

Quick Pickled Shallots

quick pickled shallots

Another find from The Pretty Dish - these were for a kale salad that we made on Saturday night. A "quick pickle" basically entails soaking something in a vinegar/sugar/salt solution (I think these only took like half an hour?). I found them to be incredibly simple and now I want to start pickling all the things. Plus could they BE any prettier?

Spring Roll Bowls 

pinch of yum spring roll bowls 

Lastly, these gorgeous Spring Roll Bowls by Pinch of Yum that are basically loaded with all of the flavors I like best.  I've been super into these really thin brown rice noodles because I find that they don't stick together as much as the larger/flat ones and it's easier to toss them with all of the other add-ins. This recipe had a tip for avoiding the dreaded stickiness - to soak in cold water, then drop into a pot of boiling water for just a minute before draining. That seemed like a lot of work to me but I did it anyway and it worked! OH, and the best part about having made this recipe was that the Pinch of Yum folks shared my photo in their Insta story and it pretty much made my day (#bloggeridol). 

What have you been eating lately? Share in the comments along with your all-time favorite cookbook (as if I need any more). Have a great week!

Eating Well Without Breaking the Bank

Eating well is expensive, right?

That might depend on what "eating well" means to you. In response to this question I often hear a myriad of responses including the following: 

More produce.

The light frozen meals/snacks or other healthified version of convenience foods.

"Primal" or paleo style staples (grass-fed meats, wild fish, ghee)

Vegan.

Organic.

Less processed food.

Kombucha, cold-pressed juice, chia seeds.

Though any of those can be healthful ways to eat, I like to bring people back to the basics for the purpose of keeping things simple, practical and sustainable. If you were to say that it's challenging to eat satisfying and nutritious food on a budget, I would definitely agree that it does take some extra time and planning to make it happen but it is not impossible. In this post I'll be sharing six ways to save some cash on your grocery bill without resorting to boring or nutritionally lacking meals. 

Eating well does not have to be fancy, but it does have to taste great.

meal plan and grocery list

Make a Plan

First and foremost, if your goal is to save money on groceries, you absolutely must make a plan. It can be simple (write down what you need on scratch paper) or super structured (by using a meal planning app) but it's absolutely necessary to prevent aimless wandering and grabbing things that don't work together. I dedicated an entire post to this so if you're interested in learning how to get more organized with meal planning be sure to check that one out.

I also like to plan some overlap of ingredients so if, for example, I won't use an entire bunch of greens in one meal, I have an idea of where I can use the rest to minimize waste. Remember to plan for breakfasts, lunches and snacks too. This will help limit the need to grab something expensive from a coffee shop, convenience store or vending machine because you need something in a pinch.


Need to plan in a hurry? Subscribe to my 'Healthy Dish' list and I'll send you a meal planning shortcut printable for free!


Shop Store Brands and/or Sales

Grocery stores sell store brands that are basically the same as their more high-end counterparts, just with no-frills packaging. In fact, most store brand items are actually manufactured by those higher end names. I typically do a quick scan of the ingredients to make sure there aren't any unnecessary additives but most of the time I find them to be identical, with a much more reasonable price tag. 

My favorite store brand is the Whole Foods Market 365 brand but every store has a generic option (and if you prefer organic, most grocery stores are responding to an increase in demand for these products and carry an organic version as well). 

When products you buy often are on sale, stock up! Consider purchasing more than one if the item isn't perishable. Think nut butter or canned items like beans and tomatoes. This will also make improvising in the kitchen a total breeze. If you keep some key pantry staples on hand, you should always be able to throw together something simple and healthy. 

365-carrots.JPG

Go More Plant-Based

Meat and poultry are usually the most expensive items on your grocery list. On the other hand, plant-based staples like beans, lentils, tofu, and whole grains are a total steal and can be just as delicious if you take the time to learn new and interesting ways to prepare them. 

I'm not suggesting that you should go full-on vegan tomorrow, but you might consider making meat more of an accompaniment on your plate as opposed to the main entree. For example, you could flavor an entire pot of soup with a couple of slices of quality bacon, or make burgers 3-4 oz instead of 8. You could also use half the meat in spaghetti sauce and bulk it up with some diced mushrooms or lentils. The result will still be full of flavor at a more reasonable price (the environmental benefits are a nice bonus too!). 

In addition to plant proteins, several lesser known items in the produce section are magical when it comes to flavor. Who said you need to buy expensive condiments to make a dish pop? Fresh herbs like cilantro and parsley usually cost less than a dollar per bunch and add freshness to just about anything. Other examples: citrus (such as lemons, limes and grapefruit) and aromatics like onion, garlic, ginger, chiles and chives. All of these can add an extra wow factor that makes people say "what is that flavor?" and are all really inexpensive. 

While going veg even just some of the time can be an economical lifestyle change, be cautious of imitation products like frozen veggie burgers and meat alternatives, nut-based cheeses, yogurts and milks, and any other processed plant-based foods. These can actually end up costing you more than the traditional versions - sometimes a lot more. Just something to keep in mind as you peruse the grocery store aisles!


Want to start cooking more plant-based meals but not sure where to start? Check out my cooking challenges!


aromatics cilantro, onion, limes, cauliflower

Scope Out the Bulk Bins - Compare Prices

The bulk bins are your friend. 95% of the time when in need of nuts, seeds or dried fruit I find that they are less expensive in the bulk bins than if I were to buy a whole package (just be sure to compare the price per pound to make sure because this isn't always the case).

Bulk bins also allow you to purchase the amount you need rather than a large amount of something expensive that might not be used as often. Example: I once needed almond meal for a baked good and a 1 lb bag was nearly $16.00! Since I knew this wasn't going to be a staple in my kitchen, I found it in the bulk bins for significantly less and bought just the one cup that I needed for a few bucks. 

These also come in handy for expensive dried herbs and spices. If you need a teaspoon of a more obscure spice, keep in mind that that flavor tends to fade at about the one year mark so buying an entire canister might not be the best idea. If your grocery store carries these in bulk, you can save a lot of money by taking advantage of these. 

Homemade Snacks

Years ago I relied heavily on store-bought bars (either boxed or individual ones) almost every week for an on-the-go snack option. One day I actually thought about how expensive they are compared to homemade versions and realized that I have all of the ingredients at home anyway (and it takes less than an hour to make them). Now I usually try to throw together muffins, snack bars, oatmeal balls or something similar on Sundays so I have a high-fiber snack to grab all week without spending extra cash on a packaged option.

Here are a few favorite snack recipes that I make often and modify based on my mood or what I have on hand:

Peanut Butter Snack Squares

Oatmeal Energy Balls 

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

cooked muffins.JPG

Use a Rebate App 

I have been using a smart phone app called Ibotta for over a year and find it to be a great way to get cash back on items I would be buying anyway. I find Ibotta to be extremely user-friendly and I love that they are local to Denver. 

So what is it? Ibotta is an app that you can use to "unlock" rebates on certain products (unlocking might entail watching a 30 second video, or answering a product-related question but sometimes you don't have to do anything). You purchase said items and once home, scan the barcodes and take a picture of your receipt. Money is then automatically added to your Ibotta account!

When you earn at least $20, you can either deposit the money to PayPal or Venmo, or use it to buy gift cards. I typically let it build up for a while before transferring to PayPal and then my bank. It's kind of like an extra little savings account that's out of sight and out of mind.

It does take some extra effort to browse rebates, select the ones that look good, unlock them and then remember to scan the barcodes when you get home. But if you seek out the bonus opportunities (where you can earn extra cash for redeeming certain combinations) I think it's totally worth the time. I actually think it's kind of fun and can gameify grocery shopping in a way. 

Just a note: if you sign up for Ibotta using the link above, I'll get a little bit of cash. 

What are your favorite tips for eating well on a budget or alternately, do you set a food budget?