A Great Snack? It’s Like Butta!

nutbutterThese snacks aren’t just like butta, they are butta! When I get hungry between breakfast and lunch, I usually need protein so I’m always on the lookout for easy-to-carry, protein-filled, gluten-free snacks.

You may immediately think of protein bars, and of course there are some gluten-free protein bars. My favorite are the KIND Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew flavor, but let’s face it, they contain 14g of sugar, 22g of carbs and only 4g of protein so they aren’t ideal for frequent consumption. I have to treat them more like candy bars.

James likes to point me toward beef jerky, but I’m not a big fan. I find it tiring to chew. Rolled up slices of sandwich meat and cheese require refrigeration, so I can’t just throw them in my purse or car. I do sometimes carry a container of raw almonds and golden raisins with me, but they require a bulky container that I don’t always have room for.

While wandering through the store the other day, I finally studied the nut and seed butter squeeze packs standing upright in a variety of boxes near the powdered peanut butter. I’ve seen them before, but have never taken time to really investigate. After studying the packets, it became clear that these are a great option for me.

These single serving squeeze packs can be eaten right out of the pack or smeared on some gluten-free crackers, apple slices, or celery sticks. They don’t require refrigeration. They’re small enough to fit in my purse. And the butters come in an amazing array of flavors – almond, cashew, pecan, hazelnut with chocolate, and sunflower to name a few.  

There are many brands available. Some contain only 1g of sugar or less. Once Again Organic Cashew Butter contains no sugars, 5g of protein, and no sodium. I would prefer a little salt added for flavor, but a salty cracker is sufficient enhancement for this light flavored nut butter. Once Again Organic Sunflower Seed Butter has 95mg of sodium, 3g of sugars, and 5g of protein. The flavor leans toward the sweet rather than salty.

Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter reflects a well-known flavor combination. It contains 4g of protein and 7g of sugars in a 32g serving. You may be more familiar with this flavor profile in the form of Nutella which has 2g of protein and 21g of sugars per 37g (2 tbsp) serving. Justin’s has a more defined flavor of hazelnut and the hint of bitter you’d expect from dark chocolate. It does not taste like dessert, but it is pleasing on the palette and nutritious enough to put on your child’s toast in the morning.

I have a couple of favorites already that I’ve thrown in a plastic bag in my purse. (Having witnessed an exploding foil packet of mayonnaise shoot 8ft across a restaurant, I wouldn’t recommend carrying these without the added protection of a plastic bag unless you want a nut butter mess in your purse or briefcase.) Before I tear them open, I’ll knead the packets to distribute the oil evenly.

It feels comforting to know that without having to plan ahead, I have a high-protein, low-carb, gluten-free snack on hand when I need it.

Problem solved…like butta!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”






Avoid Leftovers With Component Cooking

radishesIt’s easy to cook efficiently and avoid leftovers with component cooking. I eat a lot of leftovers. I like them. I like one pot meals cold from the refrigerator. I like them warmed up again. I like to pull a pork chop out of rice, chop it up and turn it into something totally different. Of course I realize not everyone is as keen on leftovers as I am. I’ve dated a lot of men who hate them. Okay, let’s qualify that before you start calling me Fleabag (love that show by the way). I haven’t dated that many men in general, but a high percentage of those lucky gentlemen haven’t liked leftovers.

You may have experienced the same thing. If you’re in the habit of doing most of your cooking on the weekends, a week without leftovers may sound impossible. Luckily, a tiny change in approach can make cooking efficiently while avoiding leftovers easy to accomplish.

Batch cooking for the week requires some planning. If you’re like most of us, you shop with specific dishes in mind, cook those when you have a block of time and then heat them up later. For some people, this makes a dish less desirable. Instead of preparing finished entrées, I sometimes prep in the following ways. The result is my leftover averse guests are happy and I don’t feel overwhelmed.

I like to think of it as Component Cooking.
First, I start with Basic Proteins.
This component is comprised of proteins cooked with simple seasoning – salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, pork loin, and ground turkey or beef can all be cooked with basic seasoning and then further seasoned later to create delicious “fresh” meals.

For instance, chicken can be cut into strips, additionally seasoned with chili powder, cumin, and onion powder for fajitas, fajita salad, or nachos. Or you can shred it and use the same seasonings to create delicious Chicken Enchiladas.

If you love curry, Basic Pork Loin can be cut into small cubes and added to a curry sauce (the sauce can be prepared in advance as well) along with vegetables and/or rice. Basic Ground Turkey or Beef can be made into lightly baked meatballs that can later be finished in red sauce for pasta or meatball sandwiches. The same meatballs can be finished in Sweet-and-Sour Sauce, or added to gravy for a different flavor profile.

And, of course, Basic Ground Beef can easily be converted into taco filling for tacos, taco salad, enchiladas, chili, nachos, Frito chili pie or stuffed bell peppers.

Other fantastic options for Basic Chicken include: Chicken Alfredo, Lemon Parmesan Chicken, Chicken Caprese, Chicken Spaghetti, Pesto Chicken, Chicken Burgers, or any salad topped with chicken.

squashMy second component is Vegetables.
I sometimes like to prep all the vegetables in the fridge when I have a meal in the oven. Let’s say I’m cooking pot roast. I’ll have already chopped some potatoes, carrots, and onion to cook with the roast. While I have the cutting board out along with the vegetable wash and a good knife, I’ll peel any potatoes I may want to use later in the week, wash the broccoli and remove the large stems, clean and cut some summer squash into medallions, and core a red bell pepper and cut it into long strips. If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll also peel and chop a couple of onions.

I’m finished in time to clean up my mess and have a glass of wine before the roast comes out of the oven. Then I store the ready-to-use vegetables in airtight glass containers with tight-fitting lids in the refrigerator.

While the oven is hot is also a great time to roast Spaghetti Squash and Butternut Squash, or bake a Sweet Potato. Later, I can combine any of these Basic Vegetables with my Basic Proteins to create dishes like Pasta Primavera with Chicken or I can serve them unadorned steamed, sautéed, or grilled.

Finally, I fill in the blanks with starchy items.
My morning routine is to drink coffee, read the paper, and watch the news. This gives me plenty of time to cook a pot of pinto, black, or navy beans that I soaked overnight. It’s also plenty of time to boil potatoes or cook some rice. By the time I go upstairs to shower, all I have left to do that night is mash some potatoes or add some beans to my chili.

Using only basic seasoning allows me to turn any of these items into anything I want without really planning ahead. The family wants Chinese – I’m ready to stir-fry the veggies and add some pork or chicken; Mexican – I can whip up tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, chili, or fajita salad; Italian – I have the components for pesto chicken, pasta primavera, and meatball sandwiches at my fingertips.

You could argue that beginning with cooked protein isn’t the same as starting from scratch on the day it’s served. While that’s true to some degree, once I’m finished with the meal most people won’t know the difference and the end result has more fresh ingredients, less additives, and is much tastier than a meal at any chain restaurant or fast casual outlet. And I don’t precook halibut, salmon, scallops, or steak.

If preparing components is the difference between eating fresh food or processed food, components win in my book. If preparing components is the difference between spending $240 per month on lunch (5 lunches at $12 each for 1 person) and a $2880 vacation budget, components win in my book. If preparing components is the difference between me feeling overwhelmed and feeling happy to be in the kitchen, then components win again. And component cooking pleases my leftover averse friends and family.

I love it when a plan works for everyone!

My Grandmother’s Kitchen

I’ve been thinking about my grandmother’s kitchen. My first grandchild is 10 weeks old. He spent the afternoon with me yesterday. For the first time, he didn’t want me to put him down. Other than during a few minutes of tummy time and a walk in the stroller, he fussed every minute he wasn’t asleep unless I carried him around.

I remember being able to do most household tasks with a baby in hand, but it’s been a long time since I used that skill. Nonetheless, we managed to water the plants, fix his bottles, and take clothes out of the dryer without benefit of a baby carrier. I didn’t attempt cooking. We´ll save that for later.

recipe boxMy grandmother never seemed to miss a beat whether or not we were around. She made play dough for us using flour, water, salt, and food coloring and let us use her cookie cutters to cut it into shapes at the kitchen table. If we behaved, she’d offer us an oatmeal cookie or ginger snap from her ever full cookie jar. (Speaking of, we always behaved because when she stomped her foot in irritation, we knew she meant business and stopped all shenanigans immediately.) She made lunch and dinner with us underfoot sending us to the refrigerator to fetch whatever she needed.

When I was 8 or 9, GranGran started teaching me how to cook. I was already reading recipes and baking at home, but my grandmother rarely used recipes. Or at least, she rarely pulled a recipe card out of the box. She may have had them all memorized. Her beef and noodles always tasted the same whether she used a recipe or not.

I loved being in my grandmother´s kitchen and I love reminders of it today. I recently went through the recipes in my mother’s kitchen and found recipe cards in my grandmother´s handwriting. On these cards, there’s no list of ingredients at the top. Instead, they appear as you add them to the mix. It’s like each recipe was dictated by the cook who was making the dish and someone wrote it down. I find this charming.

The recipes are much like my grandmother — simple, to the point, and easy to understand. Here´s one I found:

Porcupine Meatballs (Serves 4)

Mix 1/4 cup Campbell’s tomato soup with 1 lb. ground beef, 1/4 cup uncooked rice, 1 egg (slightly beaten), 1/4 cup minced onion, 2 tbsp minced parsley, 1 tsp salt.

Shape into balls about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Brown in 2 tbsp shortening with one small minced clove garlic in large skillet.

Blend in rest of can of soup and 1 cup water.

Simmer about 40 minutes or until rice is tender stirring now and then.

Now, I can´t vouch for the results of this recipe. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. That pipsqueak of a grandson of mine thinks I should hold him instead.

Perhaps you could try it for me and let me know what you think!

The Devil, as they say, is in The Details

faceAin´t it the truth…the devil is in the details! I have a friend who´s starting a business with a partner. My friend has no funds, but provides the talent & is a draw for clients. The two have formed an LLC, but have no operating or member agreement. When I ask questions like: Who will keep the records for the required (in his state) annual report; do you have to pay franchise tax; are you insured; are you going to file your federal taxes as a corporation or individual; how much compensation will each of you get and how will it be distributed; what duties are expected of you for that compensation; or can you work for other entities simultaneously, I am met with an angry, irritated stare. That would be no big deal except that my questions are in response to his request to help him get the business off the ground well.

His response is not that uncommon. It sounds exciting to talk about having your own business. You´ll be in control, you can decide when you’re going to work and when you´re not, you can create the kind of product you´d want to buy, you can be the boss you´ve always wanted to have, and you can make a lot of money…. And all of that is true.

What´s also true is that it make take a long time to make a lot of money and when you do, it will be subject to self-employment tax of 15% right off the top of your profit or to an employer social security, medicare, and unemployment contribution. Then there´s income tax that has to be paid in quarterly estimates eating into your cash flow. If you are in a service business, you will have to make some tough choices regarding accepting business vs taking time off, how hard to push when you´re collecting unpaid invoices, when to hire, and when to fire. And inevitable market or regulatory changes and/or competition will force you to innovate to remain relevant and continue to profit. While it may sometimes look like it from the outside, coasting never lasts long.

So while it feels really good to say you´re starting your own business, the actuality of being in business may turn out to be less appealing. There is no way to know whether you are well suited to the entrepreneurial world if you choose to ignore the details of running a business. The best way to ensure success, is to be willing to look at both the good and the bad, outline the details of agreements up front, negotiate in specifics, make deliberate choices in which you decide how much you are willing to lose in the short term in order to gain in the long term.

I mention this because it is the same with a workout program, a dietary lifestyle, a friendship, or a relationship – the devil is in the everyday reality of the details.

I love to swim. A couple of years ago, I swam 3 or 4 days per week for about a year-and-a-half. This meant getting up early to beat the other lap swimmers to the pool, jumping in cold water before I was even awake, and dealing with a less than friendly facility staff. For many months it was worth it. Then the pool became so crowded I always had to share a lane. That was enough to take the joy out of it for me. That one little detail made me dislike the effort it took to pack my bag, make the drive, postpone coffee and the newspaper to the extent that I quit swimming as a workout.

This isn´t uncommon. According to Statistic Brain, 67% of people with gym memberships never use them. The question is, do those gym members find a different workout and stick to it or are they lacking a commitment to finding a workout that fits them? That commitment is the critical detail that will affect their health.

Deciding to give up dairy because it makes your face swell may sound easy until you realize how many foods you eat with cheese. Planning to give up sugar may seem like no big deal until you start reading the labels on your favorite cereal, protein bar, chili seasoning, or chicken stock. Limiting carbohydrates may sound easy until you realize that all fruits and vegetables are carbs. Then you have to determine whether you really want to limit all carbs or just specific types of carbs.

Obviously, you can never know everything up front and you can over think anything to the point of paralysis, but in general exploring the details up front leads to more informed decisions. When I make an informed decision I find I can accept any resulting negative consequence, failure, or difficulty with much more ease. Accepting undesirable results as a risk I signed on for, allows me to let them go immediately because I am at peace with my decision. I don´t have to be at peace with the results.

Since we can never control the outcome of anything with certainty, being at peace with our decisions can reduce the stress in our lives. We just have to be willing to stare down that little devil – the details.