5 Favorite Meat-Free Meals

My daughter was born in early November (2012) and since the holiday season immediately followed, I allowed my eating to get a bit out of control. I decided to begin eating healthier and more conscious this January, mainly for health reasons. I have been making a ton of yummy recipes, and for some reason a lot of the foods I have been drawn to lately are vegetarian or fully vegan.

Vegetarian and vegan foods are great because they tend to be packed full of veggies and/or fiber, which is so filling. I have found some of these meals to be way more satisfying and filling than some of their traditional meaty counterparts. I have been personally eating vegan for the last 3 weeks and have never felt better! I still cook meat since I have a carnivorous husband and if I only made vegan meals he would start sneaking off to Wendy’s and ordering 18 Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers!

Another great thing about going meatless is you save money! If you are anything like us, meat is always the budget breaker when it comes to the groceries. I now cook meat for 3-4 meals a week, compared to 6-7 and the savings are immense. I don’t have a problem with meat (hopefully ethically sourced), just trying to be healthier and make some better choices about food, all while saving a buck!

1. Quinoa & Sweet Potato Chili – this is a winner! My whole family loves it, it is packed with healthy stuff and it is so filling (aka – Man approved)! This chili is flavorful and comes together in less than 30 minutes. You probably already have most of the ingredients for this and it is very budget friendly. Makes yummy leftovers as well.

***Vegan***

Vegan-Quinoa-Sweet-Potato-Chili1

2. Rotini with Butternut Sage Sauce – This is a yummy pasta dish, great in the fall! I make this recipe and double (or triple!) the sauce to freeze for an easy meal later.

***Vegetarian/Vegan if you omit cheese and use vegan butter***

pastasauced

3. Curried Potatoes & Chickpeas – Love this meal, and it is one of my husbands favorites. This can be a great side-dish or also great on its own maybe with a salad and/or some naan bread or roti. Omit cayenne pepper & jalapenos if serving to sensitive taste buds🙂

***Vegetarian/Vegan if you use vegan butter and omit yogurt sauce***
FNM_110110-OOTB-008_s4x3_lg

4. Double Crunch Honey Garlic Tofu – Okay, this one may be cheating because it is a pork recipe, but it is AMAZING with tofu substituted! Make the recipe exactly the same, except use thick (1/2-3/4″) slices of extra firm tofu. Also, you will probably only need to make 1/2 the amount of flour breading, I always have too much and end up throwing some away. The honey garlic sauce is TO DIE FOR -amazing on veggies or rice! It takes a while to thicken, so I usually make it first and then let it sit until the rest of the meal is ready. I also don’t dip the tofu in the sauce, I just serve it on the side because I like it super crunchy. Great with rice or quinoa.

***Vegetarian/Vegan if you use agave instead of honey and egg substitute***
_DSC3555 550
5. Macaroni & Cheeze – This one is a go-to for me now. Whips up in as much time as it takes to boil pasta. Great for easy weekday lunches, great alternative to Kraft dinner! For not having cheese, this sure tastes great.

***Vegan***
mac-cheez2

These are my favorite meals but you can easily make a lot of regular meals veggie; spaghetti, chili, curries, pizza, soup, stir fries, pasta, let your imagination go wild🙂 Feel free to share any of your favorite meat-free recipes. Thanks again for stopping by. Why don’t you give one of these recipes a try, and try what my sister-in-law does, “Meatless Mondays” -one set day of the week without meat🙂

-Karley

PS – I won’t mind if you “like” me on Facebook and/or pin any of my posts on Pinterest🙂

Tea Party!!

Oops, I planned to post this on Wednesday as usual, but I got a little preoccupied with life! Anywhooo… BC just celebrated a newly added stat holiday, Family Day. I personally had a great day with my husband and kids and think it is a good idea. I always thought February could use a day off! We celebrated with city Lego themed activities and a free concert downtown from local band Current Swell -check them out!

In my Canadian way, I try to support a few shows on the CBC, Dragons Den being one of my favorites (much prefering it to the US counterpart, Shark Tank). After watching one night I saw an awesome pitch for  a company called Steeped Tea. It is basically a Tupperware, Epicure, Avon type of sales model but for tea! I loooovvvee tea and since I have been trying to eat healthy, a flavorful tea is so great for subduing evening sugar cravings.

I decided to look the company up, do a bit of research and then host my own tea party (complete with tea sandwiches and scones)!

Due to illness and other reasons, only a few girls were able to make it, but we still had fun, got to try some amazing stuff and eat yummy food…  and check out the beautiful cake my friend Jenn just “whipped up”!

DSC02998

**DISCLAIMER: I am not sponsored or do not work for this company, just an honest product review**

For the party I made some adorable tea sandwiches with inspiration from my friend over at Busted Button . I interpreted her recipe, along with her original source, the Oprah website.

DSC02993

I made the egg salad almost exactly to the recipe (minus the herb garnish -couldn’t be bothered, and tarragon -none at the grocery store). This was probably one of the best egg salads I have ever had -it has BACON in it! This was one of those things that got me thinking, “why didn’t I think of that!” I mean bacon & eggs…. duh!

I made a simple cucumber and cream cheese which was yummy. I threw a tub of regular cream cheese in the mixer and added some dried dill… then it occured to me that you can probably just buy dill flavored cream cheese -oh well! I used a mandoline to slice the cukes, dried them on paper towel and spread a “healthy” portion of cream cheese on each slice of bread with a single layer of cukes.

The last sandwich I made was ham and swiss -pretty basic, I mixed up a ratio of 2 parts mayo to 1 part mustard for this sandwich.

Along with the tea sandwiches, I bought some scones from Cobs Bread and cut them each into 4 to make perfectly bite size pieces. I HIGHLY recommend the apple butterscotch scone! The bread for the sandwiches was also from Cobs and I had it sliced quite thinly.

I also made a pitcher of iced tea, ghetto style. I bought No Name brand peach drink and mixed 2 packages with half the amount of water it calls for. Then I boiled a large pot of water, added 4 tea bags (Orange pekoe), and let it steep for about an hour. I mixed the tea and the peach drink, chilled overnight and voila -peach iced tea. I call it “ghetto” because it seemed a bit white trash to serve compared to the gourmet tea we were going to be sampling!

I thought it would be nice to review the teas I purchased for you guys in case you want to try some of your own sometime:

Earl Grey de la Creme: I am a huge fan of Earl Grey and this did not dissapoint! It was smooth and creamy and not too perfumy like some teas can be. I didn’t even use milk in it, which I normally would!

Amaretto: I was not expecting to like this one because I am not generally a fan of amaretto flavored things, but this is yummy! It is a rooibos tea, caffeine-free and a really good choice for an evening sweet fix! **Note: This is the 1st tea we have run out of!**

Monks Blend: A black tea with vanilla and fruity flavors, this is probably my favorite after the Earl Grey.

Toffee Dream: A white tea with a subtle flavor. Similar to a green tea but a bit lighter, less bitter. I prefer the “Toffee Crunch” rooibos tea, which packs a lot more flavor, but this is good in a milder way.

Iron Goddess Oolong: I ordered this one because it is supposed to be good for encouraging weight-loss and appetite suppressing. To me it just tastes like a good, non-bitter green tea, not sure what the difference between green and oolong is.

Irish Breakfast: A really great black tea, perfect way to start the day.

Peppy Peppermint: Peppermint tea is one of my favorites, and is great with a sore or too full tummy. This tea is super potent and a great mint tea. I add cream to my peppermint tea which people always think is strange -what about you guys?

Along with all the teas, I also ordered a really neat glass travel mug with a tea infuser inside… glass mug and flailing 3 year old is apparently not a good combo, so I no longer have the mug. On the lookout for a similar style in PLASTIC!

Thanks again to the girls who made it out the party, and to our lovely hostess Sarah. If anyone wants any information about how to host a tea party of your own, or order product go to the Steeped Tea website.

Have a great weekend : )

il_fullxfull_281550399

Skinny Superbowl Snacks

If you are anything like me, the only NFL game you watch of the year is the Super Bowl! I normally can’t stand watching, but it sure is a great excuse to get together with friends, drink, and eat some ridiculous food!

Feb 013 (2)

Hubby & Me, 2011 Super Bowl (cheering for the Steelers)!

Normally we get together with a couple that we are good friends with (who have a new little baby only 5 weeks older than our baby girl) and eat our faces off! Since I am trying to stick with healthy, and have been experimenting with vegan food (that is a whooollllleeee ‘nother topic that I will get into later), I wanted to still get together and have fun without gaining 5 lbs. Automatic bonus for me, I couldn’t drink my calories because I am still nursing!

Here are the guilt-free recipes I made for a (Skinny) Sunday Funday that you can try at your next gathering, be it a hockey game, birthday, or just hanging out with friends. I got the Beer-garita recipe from Pinterest, and the food recipes from an article on BuzzFeed (majorly addictive time-sucker website) called “19 Delicious Vegan Super Bowl Snacks”. Forgive my pictures, I am by no means a photographer! Click the recipe titles to go to the original links.

Skinny Beer-garitas
These “beer-garitas” were pretty darn good. The only complaint was that they came out a bit too sweet, I used Splenda, which I don’t really like, but happened to have on hand. Next time I think I would use less sweetener and sub for Stevia or some agave syrup. DSC03001Also, I would recommend straining out the lime zest from the limeade before freezing. Other than that, it worked out super well. I made it the night before and kept it in the freezer and it stayed the perfect slushy consistency. I used beer my husband had bought, Phillips Blue Buck, a great easy drinker from a local brewery. Give these easy refreshing drinks a try and let me know what you think! (Did I mention it is only 4 ingredients?!)

DSC03007

Stuffed Jalapenos
Yum! This recipe will fool anyone into thinking they are eating something to feel guilty about, just make sure you don’t eat the whole plate like I almost did! These are great for a party, easy to eat, and are a great offering for carnivores and vegans alike! The recipe suggests you use Daiya dairy-free cheese, which I did and it is an awesome substitute! Don’t worry about the heat with these either, the longer you bake, the less spicy they get.

DSC03009

Spinach & Artichoke Dip
This dip is normally one of my favorite appetizers to order at restaurants, although it is probably one of the most fattening. I decided to try a dairy and (almost) fat-free version and it turned out great. The only problem was that I don’t have a food processor so it could have been a touch smoother, but other than that it was delicious and quite filling as it was basically my Super Bowl supper! I even added a touch of the Daiya cheese and it was perfect.

DSC03011

Thanks again for stopping by. If you give any of these recipes a try, let me know how it goes. Also -feel free to share any of your favorite “skinny” party foods!

-Karley

Taming the Toddler

Wow! First off I just have to say how happy I am with the response to my first post! It sounds like a lot of people are looking for ways to save money or get back on track financially. I got a ton of private messages with people asking me all sorts of questions and seeking advice. I will definitely revisit the money issue.

This week is about a behaviour chart I made and implemented for my 3-year-old son. This was a child who was an angelic baby, rarely cried, the 2’s were a breeze… then he turned 3 and things started to change drastically. We couldn’t get through basic daily tasks (getting dressed, eating, shoes on, etc.) without major whining or a meltdown. After a few months of nothing else working, my husband and I decided we needed something revolutionary to get him back on track to being the wonderful fun-loving kid we know he is.

I turned to the place where I go for all my needs these days, Pinterest! I did a search for “behavior charts” and began scouring pages until I found something that fit what I was looking for. What I finally decided on was this. Bear in mind that every child is different, and what works for us may not work for you.

DSC02748

“BIG BOY” BEHAVIOR CHART

Now I can’t take credit for this chart in any way, shape, or form and the lady who came up with it is brilliant, but I will tell you simply how it works and how it has helped our “spirited” child function a bit more calm and reasonable.

Here is a simple breakdown of how the behavior chart works:

1. Your child has 6 coins to start the day (created with your childs input on characters to make it extra fun).

DSC02749

CHARACTERS CHOSEN BY MY SON – GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH IS YOUR BEST FRIEND

2. When they misbehave, you take a coin. Example: Refusing to get dressed or put shoes on.

3. When they do something good they can earn a coin back. Example: Put their dishes away without being told.

4. If at the end of the day they have all 6 coins they earn a sticker. 10 stickers, ie. 10 days of good behaviour = a treat (determined by your child). We keep the treats under $10, and it has included things like going out for frozen yogurt with the family, a toy of choice from the dollar store, a small Lego set, etc.

5. If at the end of the day they have no coins left, they must face a consequence. In our house this means a day without Lego. For some people a day without TV or screens would be a more effective consequence.

We end the day at the chart -if he has gained a sticker we praise him for his great day and then we count down how many days left until we can earn the next treat. If he doesn’t earn a sticker for the day, we go over some of the reasons why he lost some coins and try to think of better ways he could have dealt with the situations.

Since implementing this chart over a month ago things have been progressively getting easier. Our son is starting to really get it and he truly wants to exhibit good behavior to get the precious sticker at the end of the day.

My favorite part about the chart is how it helps us be better parents. Before it was so easy to use empty threats like “get dressed or _____” and usually we would never really follow through. Now we can remain calm and remind him that if he doesn’t do what he needs to, he will lose a coin. Sometimes he will lose multiple coins in one elevated instance (although this is becoming more and more rare as we go on), but I find it so nice to have a go-to instead of spouting out some crazy-ass consequence in the heat of the moment (I may or may not have threatened to throw all his toys in the garbage once!)

When we are out of the house and we have a behaviour problem I just simply remind him that he will lose a coin if he continues. When we get home I take away or reward coins based on things that happened while we are out.

When my husband gets home from work in the evening, he can look at the chart to see how many coins are on the chart and it gets a dialogue going instantly and we can all talk about our day and what went on. The chart is meant to be based on positive-reinforcement not discipline, which I love.

I won’t say things are perfect, he is still a high-energy 3-year-old boy, but we sure have noticed a change in his behaviour for the better. If you are having problems, why not give something like this a try -what have you got to lose?

DSC02745

HAPPY CAMPER NEXT TO HIS NEW “BIG BOY CHART”

Tips:

-Let your child have all the imput on choosing the coins and let them decorate the chart with stickers and pictures, make it fun!

-Keep it positive, we want to build up our children to begin making good decisions on their own.

-The reward doesn’t have to be expensive, it could even be something free like a family trip to a neat park or a nature house -just something that your child would like, that is a bit out of the norm.

-You may feel silly at first talking to your child about the coins in public, but who cares! If anyone asks, refer them to the original website for reference🙂

-Read the original website, there is a ton of details that I am leaving out, but I really just wanted to simplify to show how easy it is.

-Use velcro. Our chart is velcroed to the door (makes it easy to rip off to take to a sleepover at grandmas), the bag of stickers is velcroed on, and the coins are velcroed on. There is something about the audible rip of the coin off the chart that really impacts our child and makes him whip into gear pretty quickly!

Supplies List:
Big poster board, or large piece of cardboard
Printer & Paper (for the coins, and any other decorations your child may want)
Markers
Cardboard to make coins
Packing tape to cover coins (Or a laminator)
Scissors
Velcro
Stickers for rewarding

Thanks for reading, feel free to leave any tips you have for dealing with toddlers and let me know if you try this chart -I would love to hear how it works for someone else🙂

-Karley

10 Budgeting, Saving & Spending Tips

First thing is first: I am NOT an expert on anything, just a practical person who has a bit of experience in living life. I am going to share with you 10 of the best ideas I have been trying to implement in my life that help to ease the financial woes.

We are a young family of four and we want more than anything to get out of the renting cycle and buy our own house (I have this vision of me having a farm with chickens for our own eggs, a goat that I milk and make cheese which I sell for a bit of side money, the kids running naked through the fields…. this will more realistically be a townhouse in the city with a postage stamp for a yard). I have been feeling extra stressed about this because the boy starts kindergarten in a year and a half and I want us to be settled by then so he isn’t moving schools.

1. KNOW WHAT YOU OWE: It is impossible to save efficiently, pay down debt, or move on unless you know how much the looming sum is. Figure out exactly what you owe on all debts and add them up -there, that is the number you can work down from. I made a simple spreadsheet in Excel (Debt Spreadsheet Example) which tells me each debt, how much I owe, what the interest is & what I pay monthly). I update the spreadsheet once a month to see the progress even one month can make. USUALLY the big total number goes down, but almost always around the holidays we end up incurring a bit of debt (which I am trying to eliminate -the holidays are about family, not increasing your debt load)!

2. GET RID OF THE SMALL DEBTS WITH BIG INTEREST: Somehow my husband and I ended up with several small debts, some with crazy high interest, some with 0% for 36 months. These were for purchases we didn’t have cash for such as TV, laptop and engagement ring, plus I had racked up a small load on a department store card. I know they always say to pay down the debt with the highest interest first, but for me it was so much more rewarding to get rid of the tiny things fist, and then focus on the bigger amounts (credit cards, line of credit, loans). Another benefit about getting rid of these types of things first is that they look especially bad to creditors. The minimum payment for these debts is usually small (they want you to drag it out and pay as much interest as possible) so find a reasonable amount you can pay towards it and get rid of it!

credit-cards

3. INVISIBLE SAVINGS: The way we have managed to save a few thousand dollars in less than a year is through what I call “Invisible Savings”. This means we save money off a paycheque before we ever see it. We have an account set up with ING Direct which is a free online savings account that you can easily transfer your money between. We set up a TFSA (tax-free savings account) that has no fees and $50 from my husbands bi-weekly paycheque is automatically deposited into savings without any thought. It doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice because it is almost like the money never really existed. My husband works a job that provides a lot more hours and overtime in the nicer weather. Another way that we save “invisibly” is by saving everything off his cheque over a certain amount. We picked a number that was enough for us to be comfortable on and we automatically save everything over and above that. One last way to save is by setting up a savings program through your chequing account. Everytime we perform a transaction with our debit card $0.50 is transferred to our savings, this may not seem like a lot but it adds up! Everytime it reaches $50, I transfer it to our TFSA. Doing this is so easy and it also helps you think twice before making a purchase -you can choose to have more taken out as well, we may upgrade to $1 per transaction soon!

4. BUDGET: This one seems obvious, that is because it is! I am not perfect at this and I give into temptations for sure, but I have found the best thing to do is to go to the grocery store with cash in hand. I try to get groceries once a week, and go to the store with $80-$100. This usually covers the necessary food for the week, but I will occassionally need more if I am buying anything household (laundry soap, toilet paper, etc.). Set a monthly budget for these things as well. If you go shopping with just cash, you can’t spend what you don’t have! I have been using a really handy app for my phone called Mint that has all my debt inputed, allows me to set a budget for every expense throughout the month and keep track of where I am spending too much.

5. SWAP & SAVE: This is something I just started at the beginning of the year. I am trying to be more green and environmentally aware. This includes selling and buying used items. I am a part of a facebook group that is a local moms swap & shop. I decided I will only buy things when I have sold things of my own to get the money. I keep a “swap & shop” jar where my money goes from selling clothes, toys, household items. This is the only money I will use to purchase new things. Doing it like this almost feels like free money and it is two birds with one stone. You de-clutter AND get cash which you get to use for things you really need (ie. selling my 3 year olds too-small clothing for new baby items for my 2 month old!) This could include money from consignment or yard sales as well.

DSC02979

6. COMMUNICATON: If you are in a relationship this is key! If you are anything like us, one person predominantly deals with the household finances. In our family that person is me. It naturally fell onto my lap pretty early on because I am organized (and maybe a bit of a control freak); however, “with great power comes great responsibility”. Being the person who deals with the money also means the stress of it usually falls on you. For years my husband had no idea where we were really at financially, so it was easy for him to drop a few bucks here and there for a coffee or a burger. Once I confronted him with the total debt and started to throw some facts at him (like how much interest we pay in just one month) he realized how important it was to make better decisions about spending. I still deal with the money and the bills but I try to give him an update about once a week or so to let him know how things are going or if we have to penny-pinch a bit till the next payday. This also takes 100% of the money stress off me and puts us in the same boat.

7. HANDY DANDY NOTEBOOK: Last year I kept a word file with each bill we had to pay and the dates etc. It was great except sometimes I just plain forgot to look at it, or I goofed up and didn’t add something. This year I went back to my old tried and true method. I keep a small pocket planner and clip on a pencil and a highlighter. I write in all the bills and income we are expecting on the appropriate date in pencil. I highlight it when it has been paid or money has come in. I find this method easier than a document and more accessible as I can take it with me when we are away from the computer to make it easy to know which bills are coming up. I wrote in all the bills and the amount (or guesstimate) for the entire year and then I correct the amounts if they change. It is a really easy way to look back and see what you paid in previous months (ie. comparing hydro bills).

DSC02983

8. THINK TWICE: This one is pretty straightforward. Think twice before you buy. I started asking these questions. Do I need it? It is on the list? Could I get it second-hand? Could it wait? Enough with the impulse buying and start re-thinking your purchases. Sometimes our “wants” get a little bit confused with the things we actually need to live and survive (which is really quite little).

9. REUSE & REPURPOSE: Instead of running out to buy something, see if you can come up with something to use that you already own. A recent example of this in my own life happened the other day when I needed to organize my 3-year-old’s crayons, pencils & markers that were all over the place. I was about to run to the dollar store, which would have inevitably ended up in more than $1 being spent, to grab an organizer. Then I stopped to think if there was anything around the house I could use instead. I had a large can that was clean and just sitting in the recylcing bin. I grabbed it and got my son to decorate it with stickers -voila, a new holder! Ideas like this are great for saving money and the environment.

10. DON’T FORGET THE FUN: As important as it is to get your financial situation in check -don’t forget to have fun! If you try to cut out everything and just save, save, save you will break down, trust me! Set aside some money in your budget for fun. This could be something as simple as going for frozen yogurt with the family, ordering a pizza once a month, renting a movie. Find an amount that works for you and make the most of it. Even $10/month could be enough to do something that feels like a bit of a splurge. We try to do something fun with the whole family every Sunday, but before I spend a dime I try to think of any free options or community activities going on.

Thanks for reading, hope you learned something new. Feel free to comment and add your best ideas for saving a few bucks!

-Karley