I saw a meme on Monday that said, “Just remember: it might be Monday but it’s a short week that ends with pie and shopping. We can do this.” And I’ve never felt more understood in my life. This is easily one of my favorite weeks of the year. It’s a short work week for me that involves cooking, food, and family. It’s finally ok with the world to decorate for Christmas. AND black Friday is within reach. Who could ask for more?
Today I’m sharing my Black Friday shopping tips AND my first official Holiday Gift Guide: Kitchen Edition. So, grab a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice), a blanket, snuggle in on the couch, and keep reading!
The first year my sister and I decided to shop on Black Friday was a BIG learning experience. We went completely unprepared with purses too big, shoes too hot, no game plan, and spent at least two hours in line at Kohl’s together solving the world’s problems. You live, you learn.
If you’re planning to shop in person this Friday, here are my top 5 tips for a successful Black Friday:
Speaking of shopping. I put together a few fun gift ideas for the chef in your family, including links to each. If Black Friday shopping at the store is not your jam, then you’re just one click away from starting your Christmas shopping! Congrats, and here goes:
That’s it for the very first Faith, Food, All the feels Holiday Gift Guide! I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
I wish you all a safe and Happy Thanksgiving. Travel safe, be safe with your food, and please download the app “Is My Food Safe?” to help you answer questions like “Is it done yet?” and “Time to toss?”. It’s an excellent tool for any home cook.
My final tip to you: "Stuff your turkey, not yourself." I saw this on Instagram last year and thought it was cute. Practicing mindful eating this week may help you stay on track with your health goals.
Teal probably isn’t the first color you think of when you think of Halloween but, the color’s popularity this October is on the rise. Is teal the new orange? It just might be! The Teal Pumpkin Project®, which started in 2014, is a colorful way to raise awareness around food allergies and promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters. With estimates of one in 13 children having a food allergy, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), it’s pretty likely one of those little monsters, superheroes, or princesses at your door this year will have a food allergy. Wouldn’t it be cool for them to see support from a stranger? I think so too! That’s why I’m participating in the #tealpumpkinproject and hoping you will too.
Here’s what you need:
That’s it! It’s easy, it’s fun, it's inclusive, and it adds a fun pop of color to your front porch!
Click over to FARE’s website or follow them on Instagram for more information on the project and additional allergen resources:
This week, I’m sharing my dinner menu and some fun tips to get your family engaged at meal time in honor of National Family Meals Month™! As a Mom, and a dietitian, I am so excited to be a part of this movement to raise awareness around the benefits of family meals.
Fun Facts on Family Meals (1)
I thought it would fun to share my menu this week, including short cuts or tips when it comes to meal time for our family and also some tricks to get your family engaged at mealtime.
Monica's Menu, Meal Tips and the Rules of Engagement:
Monday: Jambalaya with corn on the cob and sliced fresh veggies.
As you are settling in to your back to school routine, September is the perfect time hit the reset button on family meal time or tweak your routine just a little. No one knows better what will work for your family than you. If dinners are hectic with too many schedules to work around, maybe breakfast or lunch would be easier? Do that. Make that work. And have fun!!
I love this recipe for a family meal: appetites, eaters, food, time & place!
If you’re with me, Raise Your Mitt to Commit™ to one more meal at home per week. That’s it! For more information about this movement, follow The Food Marketing Institute Foundation at https://www.fmi.org/family-meals/our-mission
I hope you enjoyed the read and would be happy to hear any meal tips, tricks or fun things your family does at mealtime too?
(1). Food Marketing Institute: https://www.fmi.org/family-meals-month/meals-matter
Give me all the coffee memes. Every. Single. One. I love humor + I love coffee…so combine those in a million memes and I will double tap every time. I enjoy them ALL. My love of coffee has blossomed over the past several years. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but in the more recent years of my adult life I have become (gasp) somewhat of a coffee snob. The first step is admitting it, right?
My favorite coffee is Saturday coffee. Amiright?! But seriously, if we're talking brands, I'm truly a Starbucks fan as a weekly treat, a McCafe kind of girl to keep with my daily budget (their K-cups are perfect for me), but I'm truly a Joyhouse fan when it comes to local businesses. I just wish they were on my path to work. (Sigh.)
A few years ago, on a trip to Haiti, I touched my lips to the most delicious cup of coffee I had ever had (pictured). I initially wasn’t sure if it was the coffee or the sugar cane that I was enjoying the most, because I am usually a Splenda girl, not a sugar girl, but I can say without hesitation now. It was certainly the coffee that I was enjoying! During that trip, and subsequent trips after, I bought several bags of Haitian coffee to bring back to the U.S. I stored them in my freezer until eventually, those bags ran out. Funny how that works. Brew coffee, drink coffee, run out of coffee.
Lucky for me, Joyhouse, a local coffee shop, sources their coffee from Haiti. If you’re in my area, go in, have some coffee and thank me later. If you’re not in my area, order the coffee online, brew it at home, and thank me later.
Not only is this coffee delicious, there’s an amazing story behind the business model. “Drink coffee. Change a life,” this is the mantra for Joyhouse. Their coffee creates jobs for people in Haiti and a portion of the profits go back to Haiti by supporting organizations that provide “shelter, nutrition, education, medical care, and sustainable jobs”, according to the Joyhouse website.
I love the model for this local business. I love their Haitian coffee. I love helping others. So, join me in celebrating National Coffee Month and go check out this coffee and the story at https://joyhousecoffee.com/ .
I'm always up for trying new coffee, so send me the name of your local favorites! I would love to try them if I can. Cheers to the upcoming weekend, Saturday coffee, and coffee memes! Here are a few of my favorite. Happy Friday!
For me, nothing tastes more like summer than fresh cut watermelon. It’s easily one of my favorite summer foods and brings back sweet (pun intended) childhood memories like fork fighting with my sister over the biggest, juiciest pieces, and seeing who could spit their seeds the farthest.
July is national watermelon month and I can’t think of more deserving summer fruit. Packed with water and phytonutrients that give it that beautiful red color, my favorite melon is shining bright this July. According to the Watermelon Board, 80% of Americans buy watermelon because it tastes good but less than half of those folks know much about the health benefits of watermelon (1).
If you fit into that statistic, well then, prepare to be informed! Watermelon is delicious and nutritious, so cut yourself another slice and pull up a chair.
It’s summer. Which means it’s hot and humid here in Arkansas. Appropriately named, watermelon, is 92% water, making it an easy food to quench your thirst this summer. Pack some up for the park, a hike, the lake, the pool, or anywhere you’re planning to work up a sweat or soak up some sun. Speaking of sun, that brings me to my next point.
Watermelon contains high levels of lycopene, an antioxidant carotenoid that gives it its red color. Lycopene has been studied for various health benefits including possible roles in reducing the risk of heart disease and various cancers AND…protection to skin from harmful UV rays (2). As a redhead who loves watermelon, this is fantastic news to me! Lycopene levels in watermelon are higher than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, giving it the fun title of Lycopene Leader.
So, add another slice to your plate, throw some on your salad, or drop another piece in your smoothie! In addition to lycopene, you’ll be adding potassium, fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and for a 1 cup serving…only 45 calories.
While peak watermelon season is considered April to October, July is National Watermelon Month and August 3rd is national watermelon day! Next time you’re in the grocery store, find the perfect melon without dents or bruises, look for a creamy yellow belly (no need to thump it) and put it to your cart!
If you have questions like “How do I pick a good watermelon?” or “Why is my seedless watermelon full of white seeds?”, you can visit the Watermelon Board’s website for answers AND really more than you ever thought you needed to know about watermelon, from fun recipes to fun facts! (i.e. Early explorers used watermelons as canteens.) Nature’s canteen sounds heavy to me! #wimp
Because watermelon is naturally sweet, there are millions of ways to serve it up deliciously. Here are a few of my favorites:
Bonus for my dietitian friends, check out the toolkit the Watermelon Board put together. It's full of awesome content, including recipes and cooking demonstrations.
Happy July, friends. Go enjoy the rest of your summer and share your favorite watermelon recipes with me! I would love to try them!
(1)2017 Watermelon Purchaser Survey, conducted by MyPoints.com, Inc, August 2017.
There are 22.6 million posts on Instagram using the hashtag #plantbased. And millions more if you combine other hashtags for plant-based food (i.e. #plantbaseddiet #plantbasedmeal #plantbasedrecipe…you get the point). At my grocery store, shelves seem to be transforming weekly with new plant-based choices that didn’t used to exist.
I say “Bravo!” to more plant-based options because you all know by now (as I’ve said it before), we as a population aren’t getting enough fruits and veggies in our diet. BUT fruits and veggies aren’t the only thing we aren’t getting enough of. Dairy products are on that list too (milk, cheese and yogurt), which puts us in quite the conundrum. With new plant-based dairy options in the marketplace, right beside those familiar foods we are used to seeing, is it common knowledge that they are nutritionally different?
Here's why I ask. The perfect example fell right into my lap a couple of weeks ago, or rather right into my grocery cart. My online grocery order came with a substitution for the yogurt I normally purchase. I ordered a whole-milk vanilla yogurt. And the substitution that was chosen for me was a vanilla almond milk yogurt. A vegan, dairy-free, gluten free, soy free “milk yogurt”, according to the package.
I could have turned down the substitution when I picked up my groceries, but I was so intrigued by it (Why would they give me a dairy free sub for a dairy item? Do they not know the difference?), and I was too lazy to go in and pick something different if we are being real, that I opted to accept the sub, compare the nutrition, and give it a try.
You are on the edge of your seat awaiting my thoughts. I can tell.
Let’s talk nutrition facts first. I’ll let you have a look at the differences here:
Siggi's Whole Milk Vanilla Yogurt (serving size 1 container 125g):
Cal: 130, Total Fat 4.5g, Sat Fat 3g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 20g, Sodium 60mg, Total Carb 11g, Fiber 0g, Sugars 8g, Protein 12g, Vit A 4%, Vit C 0%, Calcium 10%, Iron 0%
Kite Hill Almond Yogurt (serving size 1 container 150g):
Cal: 160, Total Fat 10g, Sat Fat 0.5g, Trans Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0g, Sodium 10mg, Total Carb 22g, Fiber 2g, Sugars 18g, Protein 3g, Vit A 0%, Vit C 0%, Calcium 4%, Iron 2%.
While there are several differences in the nutrients, personally the three that impact my purchase decision the most are these: sugar, protein, and calcium. While Siggi’s is lower in sugar, high in protein, and a good source of calcium, the plant-based option disappoints on all of these. In a slightly larger container, the almond based version is over twice the sugar, one quarter the protein, less than half the calcium.
That makes this plant-based substitution very different from a nutrition perspective. And nowhere near an adequate substitution for me personally.
One thumb down from me for nutrition.
I know what you’re thinking. Maybe what it’s lacking nutritionally, it will make up for in taste! I’m sorry to say that’s not the case either.
Make that two thumbs down.
With sugar as the second ingredient (and coming in at 18 grams per serving), it was too sweet for me. I did like the vanilla flavor, but the sweetness was too overpowering…and then there was texture. It was runny, kind of like a melting milkshake and my banana slices sank right to the bottom. For comparison, my spoon will stand straight up in my favorite yogurt. I am giving it the benefit of the doubt that it could make a great smoothie ingredient given the texture and sweetness.
At the end of this experiment, my takeaway is this: All yogurt is not created equal.
Items placed side by side on shelf, doesn’t make them equal. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans notes that “Other products sold as “milks” but made from plants (e.g., almond, rice, coconut, and hemp “milks”) may contain calcium and be consumed as a source of calcium, but they are not included as part of the dairy group because their overall nutritional content is not similar to dairy milk and fortified soy beverages (soymilk).”
Did you hear that? Their overall nutrition content is not similar to dairy. While some substitutions may be a better fit for your diet or lifestyle, make sure you know what nutrients you’re looking for, not what hashtag they fit into.
My tips for you this week: read package ingredient statements, use the nutrition facts panels to look at nutrient content, and don’t allow substitutions for your favorite yogurt when you order groceries online (ha ha!)! You never know what might end up in your cart!
Thanks for stopping by! While we’re on the subject, what’s your favorite yogurt? I’m a Siggi’s #fangirl myself and they’re not paying me to say that. It's just that delicious in my book.
You need to know this about me, if my birthday falls on any day besides the weekend, I’m a “birthday week” kind of girl. (Birthday month, is a little too extra for me, just so we are clear on where I stand.) In my opinion, you can’t truly celebrate your birthday on a Wednesday. It’s just not fair. It’s a work day. And it’s a bit boring.
So, this past weekend I kicked off my birthday week. Saturday evening, I had friends over to watch the Razorbacks play baseball, eat barbecue, and really just hang. We watched our kids play. We ate chips and dip. Talked. Caught up. Had birthday cake! It was all so nice (except the part where we lost the game). But nice enough to make me think, “Dang, we don’t do this enough.” And then wonder why. “Why don’t we do this enough?”
The next day, Father’s Day, was a break in my birthday week. You other mid-June babies know what it’s like, having to share your birthday week with a Dad or husband. So, anyway, it wasn’t my day. It was his and I let him have it. Sort of.
What I actually did on Father’s Day was say “yes” a lot. “Sure, that sounds great.” “Yes, let’s do that.” But I also said yes to myself. At lunch, I said “yes” to a mimosa and a brownie sundae (#birthdayweek)! After lunch, I said “yes” to a nap on the couch. And then a movie after the nap. After dinner, I said “also yes” to leftover birthday cake. You guys, it felt amazing and a little weird because I don’t say “yes” as often as I should. Especially to myself.
I decided a few months ago to approach this birthday the way I approach life in general. With a list. On this list, you’ll find things like “take a girls' trip" and "have more 'yes' days” because, in the words of one of my favorite artists, “you just get so many trips 'round the sun, yeah, you only, only live once.” Thank you, Kacey Musgraves.
This list is about growing, learning, connecting, having fun, and knowing that life is short, y'all. Who is going to push me to do more and be more if I don’t push myself?
So here it is. In no order. My 40 things…before I turn 40!
I am looking forward to this year and forty more if I am so lucky. I’ll leave you with this quote that I am in love with right now: “When you’re on your path, the universe will conspire to help you.” - Paulo Coelho
Cheers to my birthday, more "yes" days, and finding your path!
If you asked my friends to describe me, I can guarantee the word “festive” would come up. It’s my second favorite F-word. (Fun is the first, come on.) Every holiday and every season is clearly labeled inside a Rubbermaid tub in my attic. Except for Christmas. That one is clearly labeled in about 12 Rubbermaid tubs in the attic and three tubs in the guest room closet because I am just that extra. In addition to holidays, I love themes, birthdays and truly any excuse to celebrate! And by celebrate, I mean decorate or travel. Those easily give me #allthefeels.
Another word that would probably come up is “organized”, and if you asked my best friends, sister, or husband I wouldn’t be surprised at all if “easily overwhelmed” made the list.
These traits that make me, well…me - came in super handy for our latest vacation. Take festive, fun, and the need for organization, shake it all around in a Yahtzee cup and pour it out into a single trip. Add one birthday, some matching t-shirts, and a sprinkle of magic dust. And, Ta-Da! You’ve got yourself a trip to Disney World. Sign. Me. Up! And pass me some Mickey Mouse ears while I plan it!
Only here’s the thing. I had never been. Neither had my husband. Cue overwhelmed feeling. Where exactly do I start?
Luckily, we have friends who have been and there’s also this thing called the internet where about one million blog posts and articles exist for planning such a trip. You can find pack lists, tips and tricks, and more than you really care to know about planning a trip to the happiest place on earth.
If you’re a hands-on learner like myself, a lot of the advice, tips, and blogs likely won’t mean much until you experience them for yourself. But I’ll take a chance that you’ll keep reading in hopes that I can explain it in a helpful way. Here are my top 10 rules to help you with planning your next Disney World vacation:
That’s it. Follow these rules and you’ll be in a great spot. At the end of the day, the fun outweighs the lines. If you are an old lady about theme park rides, like me, the joy outweighs the fear.
The walking overrides the calories (Disney calories don't count)!
And the pictures and memories, those are priceless.
Have a magical vacation! Thanks for stopping by!
My husband laughs at me for always grabbing what I call a “snack for the road” as we head out the door. Maybe it is a little bit funny but it’s also practical. Part of my obsession with having snacks at my fingertips comes from knowing how I act and feel when and if I get too hungry. “Hanger” is real. The other part I would say is a “Mom thing.” When kids are little, their little bodies need to eat more frequently (with their small tummies), so I ALWAYS made sure I had snacks with me when our daughter was little! I remember cups of cheerios in the diaper bag, a squeeze pack of applesauce in my purse, crackers in the car and honestly, I’m still that way today. At this moment, I have a package of pistachios in my purse and a package of almonds and some crackers in the glove compartment of car. My desk at work – same. Oatmeal, nuts, peanut butter…and my favorite spare can of Diet Dr. Pepper. All there if I need them.
I know I’m not alone. According to the International Food and Information Council’s (IFIC) most recent survey, most consumers are snacking at least twice a day. Government data, looking specifically at teens, shows this age group is getting 24% of their calories from snacks (up from 14% in 1978). We are snacking, our kids are snacking, we’re replacing meals with snacks…it’s a whole thing.
Data available from NHANES supports American’s increased snacking habits.
There is even data on what we are snacking on. According to NHANES data, the majority of our snacks come from the following categories: alcoholic beverages, sugar-sweetened beverages, savory snacks, candies, cakes/pastries/pies, fruit and fruit juices, dairy desserts, nuts/seeds, cookies, and milk/milk drinks. I see room for improvement here!
If you peek into my pantry right this minute, what you’ll find is most likely several items that fit precisely into the categories mentioned above. You might also find it’s a bit of a mess. A few times a year, (Spring is perfect), I take everything out and toss things that are expired or stale and organize it by shelf. I am always up for cleaning and organizing, and it is the perfect opportunity to look at what I’m buying, what my family is eating (or not eating), and where we can adjust – for health, budget, and food waste prevention.
Here are things I think about when buying snacks or snack supplies:
If it’s time for you to Spring clean your pantry, those are my questions that may be helpful for you. Can you focus on fruits and veggies, watch out for added sugars, and find foods your family will enjoy! Don't be afraid to try something new!
If you need some inspiration, try these simple swap ideas.
There are so many simple swaps we could talk about! I would suggest to take it one snack at a time. Find some swaps that work for you and focus on foods that you love to provide the nutrients your body needs.
As always, thanks for stopping by! Happy Spring (almost summer) cleaning!
I have a terrible memory. It’s on the list of things I wish I could change about myself…BUT I’ve figured out how to make do with this brain that I’ve got. For me, writing things down (especially stories) really helps my memory…and maybe that’s one of the reasons I love writing so much.
After my Mom passed away, I found a scrapbook she made showcasing my elementary school accomplishments. Taped inside to one of the yellowing pages was a handwritten note that said this, “MOM I CAN’T HELP IT BUT I LOVE YOU”. It was written in all caps without any punctuation on what used to be my favorite stationary that my grandmother had given me.
I am not sure if my love of writing started with that blue and black cat stationary or if it just correlated with learning to write, but either way, my first profound quote as a writer came in first grade. “MOM I CAN’T HELP IT BUT I LOVE YOU”. I don’t remember writing that sweet note to my Mom. I don’t remember if I wrote it for Mother’s Day. Or wrote it just because. Or maybe I wrote it because I was grounded and stuck in my room with nothing to do but write? But what I do know is this. No matter the relationship we have with our mothers, we love them. It’s beautiful. And summed up adorably by a first grader, we can’t help it, it’s the way things are supposed to be.
Even though it’s been almost ten years since I heard her voice, I can recognize and appreciate some of her strengths that I truly couldn’t see before I became a Mom. I am grateful for the lessons she taught me then and the new things she is even teaching me now.
She always used to tell me, “everything happens for a reason”. This was her “go-to” phrase when I came to her with a problem and often times, even when I didn’t. During my parents’ divorce, I heard this phrase. As a tearful teen with a broken heart and through harder times as an adult, these were always her words. This phrase that’s followed me my whole life. I see it now as wisdom.
I recognize now what she was saying all along. You have to have faith, sweet girl. No, life isn’t fair. No, life isn’t always kind. For the negative experiences life brings your way, there are 100 positive ones. Without challenges, how do we build character? Can you know what true love is without feeling what true love isn’t? For all the pain and suffering and sadness you will experience there’s usually another season right around the corner filled with smiles and laughter and if you are so lucky, a cup of coffee on a back-porch swing on a Saturday morning with your Mom.
As I encounter new challenges that I don’t understand, her words ring loud in my ear. Everything happens for a reason. Have faith.
And I do.
I’ll leave you with some of my favorite Mother’s Day quotes and my favorite verse on faith.
Happy Mother’s Day! I hope it's filled with joy and laughter and a day of celebration for that Mom you can't help but love.