There is a LOT of comfort food in this week’s collection of recipes…some more indulgent than others. However, all are made at home, which already gives them a huge advantage over packaged or fast food. To add a little balance, I’ll start things off with a couple of fresh salads, which can be somewhat hard to come by during the winter! Enjoy :)

kale, avocado, tangerine, + sesame salad

and here’s another winter salad: broccoli + butternut squash salad with orange vinaigrette

slow cooker smoky white bean soup

this chickpea minestrone soup is loaded with good stuff

sun-dried tomato + spinach baked pasta

there just can’t be too many sun-dried tomatoes in my opinion :) sun-dried tomato chicken + cream sauce

somewhat familiar but with a twist, these indian turkey meatballs over rice will surely be a hit at the dinner table

these individual tamale pies are so cute and filled with all of my favorite things!

chicken quinoa lettuce wraps can lighten things up a bit but still taste great

spotlight + surviving food holidays

Happy Thanksgiving week!! There’s no doubt you already have the menu planned, but here are some healthy additions…as well as some other fun recipes from this week.


One thing to keep in mind during this season of food holidays: just as one day of eating vegetables can’t make a person healthy, one day of more indulgent food than usual can’t make you unhealthy! Don’t starve yourself before a big meal but don’t feel like you need to avoid all the amazing foods your friends and family prepared. Here are some quick tips to keep in mind before we get to the recipes:

1. Eat normal, healthy meals throughout the day before a big gathering. “Saving up” calories for a feast isn’t a thing. You’ll just end up ravenous (and likely hangry!) by the time you get to the party and end up eating far more than you would have if you’d just eaten normally through the day.

2. Focus on balanced, healthy meals on days in between food events. A few days of indulgence here and there aren’t going to add on the pounds, but a 2 month long endless buffet of indulgent foods will.

3. Portion control! Enjoy a reasonable portion of each food and enjoy it.

4. If you don’t love it, skip it. You will not find me wasting plate space on a bland carboard roll or that pink fluffy mystery “salad” I don’t love just because it’s a holiday. I’d rather have extra space for stuffing and pie!

5. You can always bring a healthier dish so you know you’ll have something you can load your plate with and crowd out some of the less healthy options.

I will definitely be trying these cinnamon roll overnight oats

there is a lot of heavy comfort food this time of year. make room on your table for this festive kale salad with apple + pomegranate too!

polenta is one of my favorites and these polenta stuffed poblanos look incredible

I LOVE yukon gold potatoes. imagine them combined with garlic, chives, and sweet potatoes!

if you want to add some sweet potatoes to your Thanksgiving table without 10 lbs of marshmallows, I suggest this sweet potato casserole with sweet and savory bacon pecans! roasted sweet potatoes are also a favorite

deep dish pancake in the microwave!

homemade cranberry sauce is almost as easy as opening the canned variety


meal planning: week 2


So, did you try out any of the recipes on the meal plan last week? If so, I want to hear about it! Leave a comment here, or you can tell me on twitter @realfoodfirst.

Here is another round of healthy recipes for next week. Again, the shopping list is included! For the pizza, I just included the crust recipe so you can choose whichever toppings you like best, but you’ll need to add these to your shopping list.

Pizza is a great way to sneak in veggies – I love one with artichoke hearts, banana peppers, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and spinach. You can also add some chicken or Canadian bacon, which is lower in fat than sausage or pepperoni. Chickpeas are also a good addition if you want to add a little protein but don’t eat meat.

Another good pizza combo is leftover chicken tossed with a little barbeque sauce (I like Gates or Stubbs brands for their recognizable ingredients). I also add green onion and tomatoes to this one. The possibilities are endless really :)

week 2 shopping list

coconut water


Coconut water has become all the rage in recent years as a more natural form of hydration, especially surrounding exercise. If you’ve tried coconut water, you may have discovered that it also has a pretty steep price tag. So, is it worth it?

Here’s what you’ll find in an 8 oz serving of coconut water: 45 calories. 30 mg sodium. 470 mg potassium. 11g carbohydrate. 0 g protein.

While the ingredients may be “all natural” (just coconut water + vitamin C), there are a few issues when it comes to using coconut water for rehydration during/after exercise. The main one being sodium.

Most sports drinks heavily promote their ability to replenish electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, that are lost in sweat. Here’s the thing: the main electrolyte you lose and would need to replace is sodium. There is about 1000 mg sodium lost per liter of sweat, compared to about 200 mg of potassium per liter. When you compare this to the daily recommended amount of sodium (1,500 mg) and potassium (4,700 mg), you can see that it is much easier to replace potassium that sodium after exercise.

As you can see above, coconut water mainly provides potassium, with very little sodium. This makes it an inadequate form of post-exercise rehydration.

So, is coconut water a miracle rehydration beverage? No. Is it fine to drink because you like it? Of course – just be mindful of the calories it adds to your daily intake, as with all caloric beverages. If you’re exercising for greater than 60-90 minutes, in a hot/humid environment, or are a heavy or salty sweater (you have visible salt on your skin or clothes after working out), then I would recommend a sports drink for hydration surrounding exercise. Otherwise, water is more than adequate!

meal planning: week 1


I talk a lot about meal planning, mostly because it is a great way to set yourself up for success when you’re trying to eat well and/or save money. But I get it – actually setting aside the time to plan your meals for the week ahead is HARD. When you have some spare time, you might not want to spend it browsing recipes. Plus, there are billions of recipes out there and it can be overwhelming.

So, I thought I’d do a series of posts with actual short meal plans for the week ahead. Since today is Friday, you’ve got the weekend to head to the store and get everything you’ll need – and the shopping list is included! I only included three recipes since not everyone eats at home every night or you might have leftovers, etc.

The shopping lists include every ingredient needed for all 3 recipes, so take a quick glance in your pantry to see if you can cross anything off that you already have before heading to the store. Things that people might already have (olive oil, spices, etc), I put in the “other” section at the end of the list and I assumed everyone has salt and pepper, so they’re not included; everything else is arranged by general section of the store.

Let me know if you try it out and be on the lookout for another week of meals next Friday!

week 1 shopping list


It appears that winter is upon us. I am not a fan of being cold, so prepare for lots of recipes that will warm up both you and your home! Also, if you like checking out all the recipes but just can’t quite get yourself to put them into a meal plan, you are in luck. Check back here on Friday for the start of a 5 week series of meal plans complete with shopping lists!

sometimes you  just want warm food the second you walk in from the bitter cold and I can’t think of many things better than slow cooker chicken fajitas to have ready and waiting for you

healthier (but still delicious) oat + pistachio crumble topped sweet potatoes for your thanksgiving menu

shepherd’s pie, but easier

this maple bourbon pumpkin butter would make a fun holiday gift! or you could add it to these pumpkin spice overnight oats.

roasted broccoli is a staple in my house. it is such a quick, easy, flavorful way to make sure you have veggies on the table. plus, broccoli is usually only 99 cents/lb this time of year!

simple roasted carrots with salt + pepper are also a favorite of mine, but here is a slightly fancier version if you need a little more flavor. or you could always make some carrot fries

I guarantee that this homemade pineapple chicken is much healthier than anything you’ll find on the chinese buffet

if you haven’t tried homemade applesauce, I highly recommend it. you barely even need a recipe. my most recent batch was: 3 lb bag of jonathan apples (peeled + cored) in the slow cooker with 1/4 to 1/2 cup water or apple cider, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a dash of ground nutmeg. set on low and it was done within 5-6 hours. it’s good by itself, on pancakes, on yogurt, on oatmeal….on ice cream? you should make some.

this one isn’t a recipe, but if you like looking in people’s refrigerators, you will probably also find this photo gallery incredibly interesting