Dinner Challenge – Good Meals FASTER than Eating Out

This is my dinner challenge to people who tell me they don’t have time to cook and that it is just faster to go out.

Let’s challenge that thinking.  So…first you have to decide where to go.  That usually takes about 15 minutes of “where do you want to go” “I don’t care, where do you want to go”, “I picked last time, you pick”, etc. until finally, “OK- let’s go to the neighborhood grill”.

Once the place has been chosen, you have to load up everyone, drive to the place, wait to be seated (most restaurants have a wait, even on weeknights because everyone else is eating out these days too), try to hunt for something healthy, wait to have your order taken, wait to be served, eat, pack everyone back in the car, and drive home.  All of that takes 30 minutes at a MINIMUM!

On the flip side, lets say you decide to cook at home.  You’ve used the Maximized Living shopping list and meal plans to stock your pantry and refrigerator so all you have to do is prep and chop your ingredients, cook (almost every single recipe in the book takes 30 minutes or less), eat the healthy tasty meal, and load the dishwasher (using non-toxic dishwashing detergent of course).  All of that takes about 30 minutes – maybe 40 Max.

It is time to break through the misconceptions people have about cooking and eating.  Do this challenge yourself- I’d love to hear the results.

How do I cook my vegetables?

How do I cook my vegetables?

One question we get a lot is “Why aren’t there many vegetable recipes in the Maximized Living Nutrition Plans book?”  Many people interpret this to mean that Maximized Living promotes meat consumption over vegetables.

While the Maximized Living Nutrition Plans encourage good quality, organic, free range, pasture fed meats, it also recommends a that substantial portion of you daily intake should come from fresh vegetables (and fruits if on the Core Plan).

One of the reasons there are very few recipes for vegetables in the book is simply because vegetables do not require a lot of preparation.  Typically, a light steam or sautee with some added “good fats” and seasonings is all it takes to prepare vegetables.  Therefore, no recipe is really needed.  There are many different ways to combine vegetables, spices, and sauces but it is up to personal preference.

Here are some examples of some great ways to prepare different vegetables.

Asparagus: Drizzle with avocado oil or coconut oil, sprinkle with sea salt, grill on an indoor grill pan or roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  Also great with a homemade organic hollandaise sauce.

Bell Peppers: Red Bell Peppers:  make sure you buy these organic but a great way to prepare them is to broil them in the oven until the skins are blistered and blackened- you will have to flip them several times.   Take them out of the oven and place them in a paper bag and let “steam”.  The skins will peel right off and you are left with the tender, flavorful flesh.  Eat plain or add to other dished.  You can also add some olive oil and place in the refrigerator for later use.   Green Bell Peppers:  great sautéed with sliced onions for fajitas or raw on salads or as “scoopers” for guacamole instead of chips.

Broccoli:  Lightly steam and add butter and garlic powder OR heat olive oil lightly (do not let smoke) in a saucepan and melt 1-2 anchovies – pour over broccoli.  The anchovies melt into the olive oil leaving a very tasty, salty, topping.

Brussels Sprouts: Cut sprouts in half – sautee in 1-2 tablespoons of avocado or coconut oil plus 1-2 tablespoons of butter.  Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  You can also add finely chopped shallots or onions to the sautee.  Great topped with crumbled organic turkey bacon.

Cabbage: Chop or slice thin and sautee in coconut oil or grapeseed oil and butter.  Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and celery seed.  You can also slice very thin for cole-slaw.  Just add homemade mayonnaise or vinegar, salt and pepper, lime or lemon juice and add any other vegetables you would like.   You can also use cabbage to make saurkraut or kimchi.  Great in any stir-fry or salad as well.

Cauliflower: Great sautéed or roasted in the oven with olive oil, garlic, and capers.  Cauliflower is also the perfect substitute for mashed potatoes.  Just steam the cauliflower and put it in a blender with a little organic milk or almond milk, garlic, sea salt, and pepper.

Cucumber: Perfect addition to salads.  Also good mixed with chopped tomatoes and topped with olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper, and fresh dill.

Eggplant: Slice into 1/4 “ slices (longways or in rounds) and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.


Greens: Use raw in salad and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (If using swiss chard or kale, massage the oil into the leaves.  This will make them much more tender and flavorful).  Wilt lightly in a saucepan with olive oil, crushed garlic, and a small amount of apple cider vinegar.  Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper or a couple of grates of fresh nutmeg if desired.

Green Beans: (really a legume):  For crunchy, fresh flavor:  steam and add butter, healthy oil, sea salt, pepper, and crushed walnuts.  For more tender beans:  boil in a small amount of water until desired doneness and top with sea salt, pepper, crumbled turkey bacon, etc.

Raddichio: very good drizzled with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper and grilled.

Squash – Acorn or Butternut:  simply cut the squash in half and place face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  When done, scoop out the insides and add sea salt, pepper, and any blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, stevia.

Mushrooms: great raw in salads or sautéed with any other chopped vegetables for a stir-fry type dish.

Zucchini & Yellow Squash: These are great cooked together.  Heat coconut oil and butter in a frying pan to medium heat.  Add chopped zucchini and yellow squash to the pan and do not stir until it is slightly browned.  Add preferred seasoning blend with sea salt and pepper.  Stir and cook until desired doneness.

Fresh Green Beans from the Garden

My son and I went out to the garden yesterday and hunted through the tangled bean vines and came in with a whole pot full.  There is nothing more satisfying than eating food that was grown in your own back yard.  My husband graciously build up a fenced in garden area so that the monstrous rabbits that co-habitate with us can’t eat everything.  My mother in law runs the planting operation, and my kids and I are on picking duty.  Even if you just grow 1 tomato plant, it is worth it!

I steamed these beans and put some salt and butter just before serving.  Delicious!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

One of my friends inspired me to try my hand at a great, healthy ice cream.  My favorite ice cream when I was young was mint chocolate chip.  I would never consider ordering anything else.  However, since sugar doesn’t work for me anymore- mint chocolate chip ice cream is just not an option anymore- or is it.

A couple of years ago, I purchased an inexpensive 2-Quart ice cream maker.  I never really got brave enough to try making ice cream without the traditional sugar, milk, and cream until recently.  I mastered vanilla and chocolate using coconut milk, xylitol, stevia, vanilla, and cocoa powder.  I was pretty amazed that the coconut milk turned into a nice creamy ice cream.  The best part is that it is dairy free and sugar free!

Last night, I thought I would get a little more daring and attempt a mint chocolate chip ice cream.  The result was just what I needed to bring back those childhood memories of the ice cream shop.

Here’s the recipe:

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream- Sans Sugar and Dairy

4 cups full fat coconut milk

1 cup xylitol

1 teaspoon peppermint flavored liquid stevia

1 1/2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

2 handfuls cocoa nibs

Mix the first 4 ingredients with a hand mixer until xylitol is dissolved.  Add cocoa nibs and put into the ice cream maker (follow your machines instructions).  Mine took about 25 minutes and came out with a soft-serve type texture.  Transfer to a glass container, cover, and freeze for a firmer ice cream.

Kale Chips- Unbelievably Yummy!

I’m not sure I would have ever believed that Kale chips would be a good replacement for potato chips but these things are awesome.  The trick is to use a dehydrator to get the crispy texture.  I made these as samples at our Total Food Makeover last Saturday and I had so many comments about how good they were.  Here you see my kids “massaging” the kale to get it prepared for the dehydrator.

Dehydrated Kale Chips

2-3 bunches of fresh kale (lacinato/tuscan or curly)

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Sea Salt to taste

Any other spices you would like:  garlic powder, chili powder, red pepper, etc.

#1 – Prepare the kale – I prefer to leave most of the stems in but if you are preparing for kids or skeptics, you may want to cut out the hard stems.  Chop into bite sized pieces and put in a big bowl.

#2 – Add the rest of the ingredients and here’s the trick:  massage the kale to incorporate all of the flavors and to soften the texture.  It should be about 1/2 the size of where you started.

#3 – Spread on the sheets of a dehydrator.  (I use an Excalibur that I bought refurbished for about $150- it has 9 dehydrating shelves).  Set dehydrator for 115 degrees – this keeps all of the enzymes in tact meaning it is still considered a raw food.  The dehydration process takes about 8 hours.  I usually put it in before bed and it is ready to go first thing in the morning.

ALTERNATE METHOD:  You can bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes but you lose the raw status and they are definitely not as crispy.

Saving unused produce

I get a lot of vegetables from my CSA and there are times when I just don’t use them in time.  Instead of letting them spoil, here is a quick and easy way to save them for future use.  Nothing is worse than having to throw away organic vegetables.  (See below for instructions on fruit) 

Although fresh and raw or lightly steamed is best, this technique will help with freezing.  Blanching vegetables only takes a few minutes in boiling water.  Blanching helps kill the bacteria and stops the enzymes that cause the food to go bad.  By cooking them quickly and immediately freezing them, most of the nutrients are preserved. 

Just prep the vegetables by cutting or trimming them.  You want everything in “ready to cook” mode.  The best thing to do is to blanch the item, then spread them out on a baking dish for freezing.  When frozen, you can transfer them to a parchment lined bag or other container (don’t put food right next to the plastic).  Freezing on a tray first prevents the entire contents from sticking together thus allowing you to take out only what you need when you are ready to reheat them. 

Most vegetables take 2-3 minutes of blanching time only.  It is a quick and easy way to preserve your fresh veggies for future use.  They are great when you have to pull together a quick meal. 

To reheat, simply sautee them or steam them for a few minutes. 

For fruits, there is no need to blanch first.  You can freeze any kind of berry and stone fruits like peaches and plumbs – just remove the pit and cut in fourths or sixths.  Frozen berries are great for smoothies later on.