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    25 Romantic Dinners to Make at Home This Weekend

    You might feel a little tired of your own cooking now that we’re nearly an entire year into staying at home, but date night cooking—especially with your partner—is way different than your run-of-the-mill weeknight dinners. Add candles and dancing in the kitchen, quick kisses and a cozy dining setup, and it all of a sudden feels like flirty fun instead of a tedious chore you’re just trying to get over with. Whether you’re the world’s greatest chef or usually more into ordering takeout, cooking together can make it feel more like an ~event~. Yes, it might be different from your usual V-Day plans, but that’s part of the fun.Pour a glass of wine or mix up a batch of your favorite cocktails, turn on your favorite music, and dive into one of these recipes for 25 romantic dinners to make at home this weekend.

    Source: Two Peas & Their Pod

    Source: Foodie Crush

    Source: Supper with Michelle

    Source: My Name is Yeh

    Source: What’s Gaby Cooking

    Source: Supper with Michelle

    Source: Whisk It Real Gud

    Source: Drizzle & Dip

    Source: The Salty Marshmallow

    Source: Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

    Source: With Salt & Wit

    Source: Sweet Tea + Thyme

    Source: Sweet Potato Soul

    Source: Host the Toast

    Source: Lexi’s Clean Kitchen

    Source: Chungah Rhee | Damn Delicious

    Source: Two Peas & Their Pod

    Source: Drizzle & Dip

    Source: Whisk It Real Gud

    Source: With Salt & Wit

    Source: The Salty Marshmallow

    Source: My Name is Yeh

    Source: Foodie Crush

    Source: What’s Gaby Cooking

    Source: Sweet Tea + Thyme More

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    The Best Trader Joe’s Salts and Seasonings

    It’s hard to choose a favorite section at Trader Joe’s. The endless freezer section has definitely saved me on more than one uninspired and lazy evening. The condiments can instantly turn a boring meal into something more exciting. And then, of course, there are the snacks. I won’t even dive into how great the snack section is at Trader Joe’s because I’m sure you already know.But there is one section that holds a lot of power, and it might be one you overlook: the spices section. Spices are a simple and healthy way to add flavor to your meals without adding substantial calories. Plus, many spices offer up health benefits by just sprinkling it on your food. For example, cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels, turmeric and ginger can have anti-inflammatory benefits, garlic may improve heart health, and rosemary may prevent some allergies, just to name a few. And while you do want to watch sodium content when preparing meals for the littlest members of your family, it’s great to introduce spices and new flavors to their developing palates.
    Simply put, spices can do some pretty amazing things. And what makes them even more amazing at Trader Joe’s is the price. Many of the spices at Trader Joe’s are under $3, which makes it a no-brainer to add to your cart. And in addition, Trader Joe’s doesn’t just offer up your standard spices (though they have those too); they have really fun and unique blends. Maybe you’ve tried (and likely loved) the Everything but the Bagel Seasoning Blend, but there are many more to be explored.
    Next time you’re rolling through the aisles of Trader Joe’s, spend a few extra minutes in the spice section and try out these favorites.

    1. Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend

    If I could eat an everything bagel every morning, I would. But for many reasons, that isn’t the optimal way to start my day. This spice blend brings the same flavor to other foods, whether it’s sprinkled on top of eggs in the morning, over cucumbers and tomatoes for an afternoon snack, or with roasted vegetables for dinner.

    2. Everything But the Elote Seasoning Blend

    The obvious place to use this is on grilled corn, which is quite tasty. But you can also use this blend of chile pepper, Parmesan cheese, chipotle powder, cumin, dried cilantro, and sea salt on other snacks, like freshly popped popcorn.

    3. Mushroom & Company Multipurpose Umami Seasoning Blend

    Honestly, I can’t exactly put my finger on what flavor this brings to meals, but it does something special. Try it while cooking up meat or vegetables for a unique flavor.

    4. Onion Salt

    This is more than just basic onion and salt; the ingredient list is granulated onion, granulated garlic, minced onion, kosher salt, green onion, and dried chives. It gives the perfect boost of flavor sprinkled over a meal before serving (personally, I love it sprinkled over soup). The label suggests stirring it into sour cream for a delicious dip, something I’ll be trying ASAP.

    5. South African Smoke Seasoning Blend

    This blend is made up of smoked paprika, sea salt, garlic, and basil, and is easy to use when doing any sort of grilling.

    6. 21 Seasoning Salute

    When you’re grilling up meat or vegetables and are feeling uninspired, this is a good go-to. It’s made up of 21 different spices, so it will definitely add flavor.

    7. Chili Lime Seasoning

    I’m sure there are tons of ways to use this seasoning, but my favorite is sprinkling it onto fresh-cut fruit, like honeydew, watermelon, and mango. It adds a nice zesty kick to the sweetness of the fruit.

    8. Furikake Japanese Multi-Purpose Seasoning

    This blend is made up of white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, nori, salt, and kelp powder. The label suggests sprinkling it on rice, eggs, ramen, fish, popcorn, or any food of your choice, and I agree. Recently, we’ve been experimenting with homemade fried rice, and sprinkling this on top is the perfect finish.

    9. Red Chili Pepper

    OK, not truly a blend, just a spice, but still worth mentioning. If you like to add a kick of heat to your food, Red Chili Pepper is the answer. My favorite use is generously sprinkled on pizza.

    10. Pumpkin Pie Spice

    I use this fall flavor all year round. It’s made up of cinnamon, ginger, lemon peel, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom. Sprinkle it into your coffee, onto oatmeal, and in baked goods.

    This article was originally published on The Everymom on September 18, 2020. More

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    It’s Hard to Watch the Growing Interest in Asian Food After Being Shamed for My Culture as a Kid

    Everyone has a handful of memories that are painful to remember. I have a fistful of memories that are shrouded in guilt and shame. These memories lie deep within my belly, and among these darker memories, there are several of them that are connected to being Asian American. In between the shrouds, I remember being ridiculed for my eyes and being told to “go back to where I came from.” To be frank, growing up Asian American was difficult for me. I grew up in the early 2000s; in a past world where I often felt marginalized by my classmates. While not all Asian-Americans or BIPOC share my experience, based on my candid conversations with my peers, there seems to be a feeling some of us share; this is a feeling of shame. Whether it’s shame over our bodily features or over our heritage, this feeling, I’ve felt many times, lies within the recesses of our bellies. My shame is often surrounding my Korean heritage and the “pungent” foods we eat.
    In the early 2000s, Asian food was not as popular as it is today. Anglo-cized Asian staples, such as Orange Chicken and California Rolls, were around and accepted, but Asians and their authentic food were not. I’m talking about Asian Barbeque, Hot Pot, Xiao Long Bao, Dduk Gook. I was taught by my family that if I ate Korean food in public, that people would shun me. The shame I felt started at a young age. 
    I remember the night I learned that my Korean food was not accepted. It was a cool September “school night.” I was in first grade and would be experiencing my first lunch period since graduating from kindergarten. 

    Source: Shutterstock

    My family had just finished a giant pot of Kimchi Jigaae (a spicy, tangy stew made out of sour fermented kimchi and beef). After scarfing down my bowl, I declared: “I’m bringing this to lunch tomorrow.”
    In response, my mom quickly stated that, in fact, I would not be bringing this to lunch tomorrow… or ever. Her reasoning was that my mostly white, non-immigrant classmates would make fun of me for a number of reasons. She broke it down for me pretty quickly:

    “It smells too strong”
    “It has a weird taste compared to a typical peanut butter sandwich”
    “Your schoolmates simply can’t handle it”

    In Korean culture and in many cultures, food is celebrated, and family time can mean cooking and eating together. In Korean culture, food is our culture. After all, making kimchi with your whole family in the fall is a ritual called Kimjang. 
    I had known that food was a big deal to my family for as long as I remembered, but after hearing my mother explain that our food wouldn’t be accepted, I understood something else. At the tender age of 5, I learned that society didn’t accept who I was because of my heritage and race. After all, if my food and my culture weren’t accepted, how could I be accepted? 
    As years passed, I would remain quiet as my non-POC peers laughed at the thought of Korean people making “BBQ” and would turn their noses up to homemade mahndoo (otherwise known as Korean dumplings). I would even occasionally be the butt of the joke as people asked whether I ate dogs or not.

    At the tender age of 5, I learned that society didn’t accept who I was because of my heritage and race.

    Source: Alejandra Cifre González | Unsplash

    It took until my senior year of high school for something strange to happen. One of my friends said she tried Korean food for the first time and loved it. Since then, my friends have asked me to go to Korean BBQ with them, or have asked how to use chopsticks properly. 
    Over the years it has been hard watching my friends embrace Asian culture with open arms. There lies an underlying frustration that stems from the pain of having to hide my identity for so long. More importantly, my frustration also lies in the way Asian Americans have been treated in the United States over the last 150 years.

    It has been hard watching my friends embrace Asian culture with open arms. There lies an underlying frustration that stems from the pain of having to hide my identity for so long.

    In the past, the rise in awareness of Asian cuisine has come from historic immigration waves. President Lyndon Johnson’s Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 allowed for more Asians to finally migrate to the United States, including the immigration of my family. The migrants then exposed non-Asian Americans to new cuisines. 
    The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 is something that has always made me cringe. While it’s lauded for ending a quota-based immigration system, I always felt that it’s a remembrance of wrongdoing towards the Asian community. After all it was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that did not allow Chinese immigrants to the U.S. (Later, in 1924, other East, Southeast, and Southern Asians were barred from immigrating also). The Exclusion Act, the first federal law to restrict immigration by nationality, later turned into a restriction by race. It took until 1943 for the Exclusion Act to be repealed, and during the 19th century, there was even a persisting stereotype that the Chinese ate rats. 
    Fast forward to present day, when the Pew Research Center noted in 2017 that there are 20 million Asian-Americans in the U.S., and Asian fast-food restaurant sales in the United States have increased by 135 percent since 1999. 

    Source: Matthieu Joannon | Unsplash

    This growth in Asian food over the last several years has been astounding to see. But after years of Asians being ridiculed, how can I not feel frustration towards this growing interest in Asian food? Why show interest now? What’s the point? 
    After being shunned for my Asian food and heritage my entire life, now the current exoticism and wonder towards Asian cuisine is something that makes me wince. When my friends mention that they want to try more authentic Asian food, I can’t help but feel like they are rubbing salt in an old wound. Where was this acceptance and love for this food when I was a kid.
    Given my uneasiness, I asked my Asian peers what they thought about the current rise in popularity of Asian food. Kevin Chen, a Tawainese-American, said, “People are being more aware of cultures now. It’s just hard because it’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. It’s more about bringing up the message [about Asian food] and having people be more aware of these cultures and the depth of them.”
    Chen continued, “It’s not easy. I had a coworker that said a certain type of Asian Cuisine, Sichuwan, is superior to all Asian food, and you can’t just write off a whole culture like that. You can’t just pigeonhole cultures. Each culture’s cuisine is different.”
    Chen’s cautious optimism towards the growing interest in Asian food is one that mirrors my own. It’s hard to envision a place where people are becoming more accepting towards the Asian community. Their curiosity is often one that I look at with weariness. This weariness comes from a fear of snide comments and a wall of shame. All it really boils down to is a wish to be respected for your culture and identity.

    After being shunned for my Asian food and heritage my entire life, now the current exoticism and wonder towards Asian cuisine is something that makes me wince. When my friends mention that they want to try more authentic Asian food, I can’t help but feel like they are rubbing salt in an old wound. Where was this acceptance and love for this food when I was a kid.

    Source: Filippo Faruffini | Unsplash

    Harinder Kaur, an Indian American, had different thoughts as she reflected on her childhood. Kaur said, “Growing up, I wanted to be more white and accepted. When we came to America, we didn’t even have ‘American’ clothes. I saw more racism through the way I looked, not over food. I think I’ve gotten more comfortable accepting my culture, but there’s more to it than food and racism.” 
    Kaur’s story is one that holds true for many Asian families today including my own. The attempt to assimilate to white culture shows the amount of shame we harbor towards our own Asian cultures. 
    While Kaur and Chen may not be reflective of the whole Asian American community, they share a sentiment that needs to be heard louder during these trying times. This sentiment is that Asian stories need to be heard more and accepted more into society, but more importantly, we as Asians need to be prouder of who we are. I truly believe this is the only way forward. After years of hiding and feeling shame within our bellies I believe it’s time we finally stand proud together.
    Perhaps this can be a new step towards more equality and understanding. Instead of focusing solely on our past, it’s time to discuss and reflect on what our future as a nation can be, Asian or otherwise. More

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    10 Insanely Easy Vegetarian Meals I Rely on During the Week

    One of my goals for 2021 was to make myself more well-balanced and nutritious meals at home. I want to add more fruits and veggies to my everyday diet, rely less on processed and packaged foods, and make simple swaps for healthier versions of some of my favorites (such as pasta and tortillas).Although I already enjoyed cooking for myself, I knew that I just did not do it enough. I also have been a vegetarian for over 10 years, so I wanted to challenge myself to try some new recipes. I am very proud to report that all 10 meals I’m about to talk about were made within a week—so far, so good on that goal!
    I also want to take this time to thank the four most important things in my life right now, especially when it comes to achieving this goal: my air fryer, Trader Joe’s carb-savvy tortillas, my new Always Pan, and chickpeas. 
    Whether you are a vegetarian yourself or just need some inspo for the new year, check out these 10 incredibly easy (and delicious, if I do say so myself) vegetarian meals that I rely on during the week:

    1. Buffalo Chickpea Salad Wraps

    This is a new favorite of mine! Chickpeas are a super easy way for vegetarians to include protein in their diet, and they are also incredibly versatile—making them a non-meat-eater’s best friend.
    To make these salad wraps, mash up clean and dried chickpeas in a bowl and mix in plant-based mayo, buffalo or hot sauce, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Spread on the tortilla of your choice (I love the carb-savvy ones from Trader Joe’s), and top with lettuce, avocado, onion, and feta cheese for the perfect WFH lunch.

    2. Burrito Bowl

    Looking at this photo makes my mouth water. Start by cooking onion, frozen corn, and peppers in a skillet with your favorite seasonings. When that’s finished, add the mixture to a base of brown rice and black beans (if you’re like me you’ll just get the microwave options), then add the toppings of your choice. I usually go with avocado, plain greek yogurt (as a sour cream substitute), chihuahua cheese, and a couple crushed tortilla chips. 

    3. Oatmeal with Peanut Butter and Banana

    This is a simple one! I make plain microwave old-fashioned oats with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and then mix in agave syrup and cinnamon once they are cooked. I top it off with natural peanut butter and a banana for extra protein and deliciousness. 

    4. Cauliflower Gnocchi with Pesto, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic

    A true classic and a lazy girl’s best friend: Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi. I make mine in my air fryer (if you’re not doing this yet, it will change your life) with a dash of olive oil, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning, and then simply mix it up with pesto, balsamic glaze, and goat cheese crumbles. YUM. 

    5. Tofu Lettuce Wraps

    My mom and I have been making this recipe for years, and it just continues to evolve. I’m very excited to share that I recently cracked the code on how to get your tofu as crispy as possible, and the answer is two simple words: air. fryer. Seriously, this tiny little appliance made my life 1000x better, and if you don’t have one yet, WYD?!
    To make these lettuce wraps, air fry your drained and cubed tofu with your teriyaki sauce of choice and prepare some plain brown rice. You could also make some veggies to add if you’d like. Then add everything to a butter lettuce cup, and top with a bit of sriracha mayo and crispy chow mein noodles—or don’t, if you’re feeling extra healthy. 

    6. Spicy Potato Tacos

    As if 2020 wasn’t bad enough, it was also the year that Taco Bell decided to take potatoes off the menu and break my little vegetarian heart. So if you’re in the same boat as me and still mourning that loss, this is a special treat for you: at-home spicy potato tacos.
    I make these by air frying (yes, I’m using it again) cubed baby potatoes seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic powder, chili powder, and red pepper flakes. The potatoes by themselves are delicious, but I like to put them on a low-carb tortilla and add a sprinkle of cheese, avocado, plain greek yogurt, and hot sauce to pretend I am at Taco Bell. I also like to tell myself these are a healthier version—so, you know, if they’re not, please don’t tell me that. 

    7. Lunch Snack Plate

    This is what I like to call lazy lunch. Basically, it consists of anything in my fridge that needs to be eaten. For example: on the day I took this photo, I had some leftover buffalo chickpea salad mixture on a lettuce wrap as well as a side of veggies and crackers with plant-based cauliflower tzatziki dip. 

    8. Breakfast Tacos

    I would seriously eat these tacos every day if I could. They are super simple: scrambled eggs, veggie sausage (I prefer MorningStar), goat cheese crumbles, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and hot sauce on low-carb tortillas. 

    9. Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

    Ah, chickpeas, we meet again. This very easy mediterranean salad is just a mixture of washed and drained chickpeas, avocado, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese. For dressing, I drizzle the mixture with olive oil and red wine vinegar and season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. You could also add cucumber and kalamata olives—I was just out on this day!

    10. Veggie Fried Brown Rice with Tofu

    I’m a huge fan of using leftovers, and this dish is perfect for that. I had some leftover tofu and brown rice from my lettuce wraps, so I fried up some veggies—in this case, peppers, carrots, corn, and red onion—then added the rice, tofu, a fried egg, and some more teriyaki sauce all in the same pan.  More

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    15 Items Wellness Experts Love From Trader Joe’s

    Thanks to cult-classics like Cookie Butter and Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (both of which deserve to be staples in everyone’s kitchen, BTW), Trader Joe’s doesn’t always get the health-food store reputation that it deserves. America’s sweetheart of grocery stores not only offers organic options at much more affordable prices than other stores, but they recreate genius alternatives of some of our favorite foods with cleaner ingredients and plant-based nutrients. There’s a reason Trader Joe’s is a go-to for nutritionists, dietitians, and wellness experts alike. Whether you’re plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, or just looking to make your diet a little bit healthier, here are 15 easy, delicious, and oh-so-nutritious items at TJ’s that wellness experts pull of shelves:
    1. Green Goddess Salad Dressing

    Many salad dressings (especially creamy Green Goddess dressing) contain sneaky processed ingredients, added sugars, and unhealthy creams, so wellness experts love this list of clean ingredients (avocado, fresh herbs, apple cider vinegar, garlic, etc.). Bonus hack: it’s not just for your salads. Try it as a dip or pasta sauce to sneak in some nutrients for little picky eaters (and no shame if “little picky eaters” means you).  
    Try if: you’re over boring salad dressings.

    2. Unsweetened Açai Puree Packets

    While many açai bowls you can get at smoothie shops or restaurants contain added sugar, Trader Joe’s Açai Puree Packets are unsweetened. If “açai” sounds like a different language to you, the superfood has a wide range of health benefits and tastes delicious. Add to smoothies or make your own açai bowl and top with fruit, nut butter, and coconut shreds.
    Try if: you’re a sucker for an Insta-worthy breakfast bowl.

    3. Cauliflower Thins

    Made of cauliflower (over 60 percent), eggs, parmesan cheese, and deactivated yeast, these cauliflower thins are a delicious alternative to bread, tortillas, etc., for anyone who’s avoiding gluten or trying to sneak in more veggies. Spread avocado on top, pile on veggies and hummus, or DIY your favorite sandwich for healthy, delicious, and easy meals.
    Try if: you’ve never been able to say goodbye to sandwiches for lunch. 

    4. Organic Coconut Aminos 

    This healthy alternative to traditional soy sauce is free of gluten and soy, making it the perfect option for people with food sensitivities or allergies. It also has one-third the sodium content of traditional soy sauce, is plant-based (made from coconut), and certified organic, which are all labels that wellness experts cannot get enough of. Order it online here. 
    Try if: you’re a sushi lover who wants to make your takeout order a little healthier.

    5. Riced Cauliflower Stir-Fry

    This cult-favorite stir fry is made with cauliflower instead of rice. The plant-based rice is mixed with chopped veggies and nutritious flavors like tamari, sesame oil, and ginger. Simply reheat the mixture over a skillet, and you’re good to go! Pro tip: add egg, tofu, or chicken if you want a little extra protein.
    Try if: you don’t time/energy/motivation to cook, but still want a delicious, plant-based meal.

    6. Organic Ginger Turmeric Herbal Tea

    With turmeric to reduce inflammation and ginger to aid in digestion, this tea is basically a wellness expert’s dream tea. And it’s certified organic!? You’re going to want to stock up on this tea before all the health nuts sell it out.
    Try if: you want a warming go-to drink that doubles as an extra dose of nutrients.

    7. Veggie Spirals

    Whether you’re craving pasta with tomato sauce, pad thai, or any other noodle variation, the veggie spirals are the perfect way to squeeze in some extra nutrients. These pre-spiraled frozen packages make healthy eating easy; simply heat them up and add to any recipe or top with any sauce for a way healthier version of your favorite noodle dish. You can either use them as a replacement for noodles or add them to the noodles you already love.
    Try if: you live for a good noodle dish. 

    8. Hi-Protein Veggie Burger

    With an impressive 26g of protein, a simple ingredients list, and 40 percent of the daily goal for iron, these plant-based vegan burgers are a dream for meat-free diets. The texture is more like a falafel than a chewy burger, which means you can eat with your favorite burger toppings or put it into salads and wraps to get some extra clean protein into your lunches. Order it online here. 
    Try if: you want to add more protein in your diet.

    9. Organic Tahini

    The only ingredient in this creamy butter alternative is ground sesame seeds. High in fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, and a variety of other nutrients, tahini is officially a staple in health experts’ kitchens. Add it to salad dressings to make them creamier, use it in baked goods recipes to up the nutrition, or drizzle over fruit for a decadent (and healthy!) treat. Order it online here. 
    Try if: you want to hack your baked goods. 

    10. Kale Gnocchi

    Of all the infamous Trader Joe’s gnocchi (cauliflower, sweet potato, chocolate), the Kale Gnocchi has got to take the (very healthy) cake. With a simple ingredients list of potato starch, chickpea flour, sea salt, olive oil, and, of course, kale, it’s the perfect way to sneak in some extra greens.
    Try if: you never remember to eat your greens.

    11. Juice Shots

    You already know that fancy juice shots are a must-have in the fridges of bougie wellness experts and health influencers. The problem for us normal people? Juice shots can be hella expensive (and for literally one sip…?). Luckily, the shots at Trader Joe’s are the cheapest I’ve ever found, while still being certified organic and full of superfoods and nutrients, making them wellness-expert approved. 
    Try if: you’re looking to upgrade your wellness game.

    12. Chocolate Hummus

    I know what you’re thinking: chocolate…hummus? While I fully trust and respect the Trader Joe’s powers that be (AKA whoever names the genius products), I think of this less as a chocolate hummus and more of a chocolate frosting or dip that sneaks in some healthy ingredients. With a base of cooked chickpeas and tahini, dessert just got a lot more nutritious. Use as a frosting for baked goods or as a dip with apple slices when you’re craving something sweet.
    Try if: you have a serious sweet tooth.

    13. Cauliflower Pizza Crust

    Perhaps one of the most beloved Trader Joe’s products of all time, the cauliflower pizza crust revolutionizes drunk food and pizza cravings by replacing greasy crusts and processed flour with nutrient-dense cauliflower and gluten-free cornflour. Try the Margherita variety for the days where “cooking” means sticking something in the oven, or the bare crust to get creative with toppings.
    Try if: you live off of frozen pizzas (AKA everybody RN)

    14. Organic Popcorn with Olive Oil

    The only three ingredients in this delicious snack are popcorn, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt. Made with organic kernels and olive oil (instead of more processed oils or butters), this is basically as clean as a store-bought popcorn is going to get. Plus, it contains fiber, protein, and healthy fats. Order it online here. 
    Try if: you want a nutrient-dense replacement for potato chips.

    15. Vegan Kale, Cashew, and Basil Pesto

    Because even wellness experts love pesto. Not only is this option dairy-free, but it’s also more nutritious than the traditional version by incorporating kale and cashews in addition to the usual ingredients like basil, lemon juice, and olive oil. Use the decadent sauce on top of bruschetta, with your favorite pasta, or as a dip for veggies.
    Try if: you need a go-to sauce that’s as healthy as it is delicious.

    What are your go-to healthy Trader Joe’s products? More

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    8 Tips for a Successful and Easy Whole30—From Someone Who’s Done It

    Last January, I completed my Everest; the thing I’d been saying I’d do for years, but never actually pulled the trigger on: finishing Whole30. My reason for doing Whole30 was simple: I have an absolutely horrible stomach, and my doctor had been begging me to do an elimination diet for literal years. But it never felt like a perfect time to do it (newsflash: it will never be a perfect time to do it), and then one day, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time to try to figure out my food sensitivities once and for all. 
    Throughout my experience, I had a lot of highs and even more lows, but I did finish the whole 30 days and learned a lot along the way. Thinking of doing Whole30 yourself? Here’s how to survive it while suffering a little less than I did:

    1. Know why you’re doing it
    Despite what you might think, Whole30 is not a weight-loss diet. You don’t count calories or restrict carbs or anything of the sort, and you’re strongly advised to not weigh yourself during the entire process—because it isn’t the point! The point is to take a step back to evaluate how you’re eating, find out what makes you feel good, and nourish your body with real foods for a while. If you’re thinking of doing it for weight loss, it probably isn’t for you.

    2. Give yourself time to prepare before you start
    Want to know how my Whole30 journey began? The day after Christmas of 2019, I decided January was going to be the time I finally did Whole30. I went to the grocery store to get all of the ingredients I needed, and while I was at the grocery store, realized everything I had eaten so far that day was Whole30 compliant. I thought, “Why waste a day?” and decided to start right there with no preparation.
    Any Whole30 veteran will tell you that this should have been a fatal mistake. In my opinion, all of your success is going to ride on whether or not you’re prepared. If I could go back, I would have given myself a full week ahead of my start date for preparation. I could use basically nothing that I had in my fridge (condiments, butter, the works), and making sure you’re stocked with things that are compliant is absolutely key. Research recipes, come up with a meal calendar, and go into it ready to go. I can’t recommend the Whole30 Book enough to help with this.

    3. Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep
    Whether or not you’re usually a meal prepper, preparing your meals before you need them is so, so important. When you inevitably have situations where you’re hungry and ready for a meal, needing to figure out a Whole30 compliant meal is truly hell. If you really don’t like meal prepping, at least have your ingredients cut up and stored in your fridge and know what meals you’re going to be eating a few days out. 

    3. Mentally prepare for how you’re going to feel
    Think you’re going to immediately have clear skin and feel like you can run a marathon? Guess again. 
    A few days into Whole30, I literally felt like I was going to die. I was completely lethargic and could have slept all day, every day—and that’s how you’re supposed to feel. One of my favorite things about The Whole30 book is that it breaks down how you’re going to feel every day, and it’s completely spot-on. You aren’t going to feel good until at least halfway through, and getting to that point is really tough (most people quit around day 10-11 because that’s when you feel the worst).
    You’d think that eating exclusively whole foods would make you feel amazing, but your body is going to withdraw from the things it’s used to (looking at you, sugar), and there’s no getting around the slump you’ll feel those first two weeks. I, of course, didn’t know this before I started, but once I got the book and could track how I was supposed to feel each day, the process got much easier.

    4. Stock up on compliant condiments
    Whole30 has been around for quite some time, which luckily means that many health food companies have gotten on board and created condiments and sauces that are made exclusively with Whole30-compliant ingredients. 
    My personal favorite compliant brand is Primal Kitchen—a year later, I still use mostly their condiments because they taste so good and are an easy, healthier swap. (Pro tip: their chipotle mayo was my favorite thing throughout the entire process!)

    5. Have snacks ready in case of emergency
    Yes, one of the rules of Whole30 is that snacking isn’t allowed, but sometimes, things happen, and you literally just need to get something into your stomach. It is absolutely vital to have things on-hand for when that happens. It’s probably going to be a handful of nuts or an Rx bar (not all Rx bars are compliant—I’d recommend researching which ones are beforehand and ordering yourself a full box of them).

    6. Get a handle on what’s allowed—and what’s not
    Hours and hours of your Whole30 are going to be spent reading nutrition labels. I cannot tell you how much time I spent on Whole30 looking at the labels of everything I picked up and then needing to research specific ingredients to see if they’re allowed. Of course, you aren’t going to memorize an entire list of allowed ingredients (especially since some are so weird and sound forbidden), but getting a handle on the common ones will save you loads of time throughout the journey.

    The 30 Whole Days app is magic for one reason: it has a function where you can scan the barcode on a food container, and it will tell you whether or not it’s allowed. It doesn’t have every food under the sun, but it also has a search bar where you can research a specific ingredient and it will tell you whether or not it’s approved. It is so much easier than constantly turning to your book or going through Google trying to figure out if something is allowed. 

    8. Remember that it’s only 30 days
    Whole30 is tough—really, really tough. I struggled quite a bit through mine and am adamant about never doing it again. But it helped me figure out my food sensitivities, and it’s important to remember that it’s only 30 days of your life—and you can do anything for 30 days. Doing Whole30 once changed my relationship with food and knowledge of what makes my body feel good so much, and even though it was a struggle, it was very much worth it.  More

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    8 Expert Tips That Make Meal Planning a Breeze

    When you see the word “meal prep,” do you automatically get stressed? Perhaps you add “preparing healthy meals ahead of time” to the category of adulting tasks you never seem to be “adult enough” to get to. Maybe you’ve tried and tried (and tried) to meal prep, but because you’re bored/busy/unmotivated, it hasn’t become a habit. While I feel your pain, meal prepping is a key part of a healthy diet because it ensures we can make healthy decisions and opt for nutritious foods, even during busy or stressful weeks (AKA every week).Here’s the good news: you don’t have to spend your entire weekend grocery shopping and chopping, and you don’t even have to put a lot of time and effort into it to get your meal-prep game strong. Using a few expert tips, meal prepping can not only be easy, but it can be so streamlined, you won’t have to give it a second thought. Here are eight expert tips that make meal planning a breeze:

    Source: @blueapron

    1. Go the delivery service route
    We get it: some weeks are just so busy that you don’t have time to plan, prepare, and cook your meals. If you find yourself opting for takeout every night or you check Uber Eats more than you check Instagram, a meal delivery service might transform your eating habits and lifestyle. Blue Apron offers health-conscious options like vegetarian, carb-conscious, 600 calories or less, etc., so not only can you select meals that you’ll look forward to all day, but you’ll be eating meals that help you achieve health goals. With 23 weekly recipes, there is quite literally something for everyone, no matter your tastes or diet preferences. 
    Plus, Blue Apron is now offering a variety of customizations since they know everyone (and their tastebuds) are different. For example, you can now swap, add or upgrade proteins on select meals to ensure that everyone in your home can enjoy the meal, no matter preferences or diets.. In other words, even your vegetarian roommate, meat-loving significant other, or picky kids will love it (insider tip: look for the “see options” box under the meal’s image after signing up to see if it is customizable). 
    Thanks to more customization, it’s like you really are your own gourmet chef, except with a lot less hassle and a lot more ease. When you’re doing all the “prepping” online, the groceries show up at your door with a recipe and perfect proportions, and you can customize to your personal tastes or preferences, cooking becomes a no-brainer. Blue Apron removes all the pain of meal prepping: you’ll have delicious, fresh, healthy meals every night and won’t even feel tempted to order a pizza.
    New customers: click here to save over $60 on your first 3 boxes!

    Source: Eating Bird Food

    2. Organize your fridge
    Have you heard the saying that your life is only as organized as your fridge? OK, even if it’s not a real saying, I’m saying it because it’s true. If you can’t even see what’s in the fridge (we all have that one jar shoved to the back) or it’s so full that you don’t have room for anything new, you’re making your life (and your healthy diet) a lot harder. Reorganize your foods by first cleaning out anything expired, and then store the oldest foods in the front and newest in the back (grocery-store style) so you remember to eat those first. This will highlight what foods you have, but most importantly will reduce food waste. Finally, label foods and invest in the right containers (preferably sustainable glass containers that are clear so you can see what’s inside) of all sizes to store prepped veggies, easy-to-grab snacks, and leftover meals.

    3. Make extra sauces and grains
    Casserole is great, but it can only ever be casserole (and who really wants casserole every day?). If you get tired of meals and are never a fan of leftovers, cooking one dish to reheat through the week may not be the best plan of action. To eat brand new dishes but still utilize the convenient power of planning ahead, cook more of a sauce or grain than you need for your dish. For example, if you’re making a pesto sauce for pasta on Monday night, make extra, so you can keep it in the fridge to put a pizza on Tuesday, drizzle over roasted veggies and chicken for lunch on Wednesday, and spread onto avocado toast on Thursday. Likewise, if you’re making rice, a big batch ensures you’ll have a basic grain to repurpose into risotto, lunch bowls, or stir-fries.

    Source: @notyourstandard

    4. Make a meal schedule
    Meal prepping only works if you know what you need for the week. In your daily planner or weekly calendar, plan out breakfast, lunch, and dinner to get a rough idea of what meals you’ll be making all week long. Planning it out in your calendar also means you can see if any busy days or late nights are coming up where you won’t have time to cook and can either plan on takeout, food delivery, or prepping the whole dish ahead of time. Once you have a plan for your week, make a grocery list based on the recipes.
    If the hardest part for you is finding recipes (first of all, check out some meal prepping recipes like here, here, and here), you can instead make a list of all the produce, pantry items, and meat/dairy you love and know how to prepare first. Once you have a good idea of your go-to’s, then come up with some recipes. Starting with the grocery list of your basics and then find or think of recipes based on the list ensures you won’t try any difficult recipes or have to buy items you don’t otherwise use. 

    5. Do a different step on different days
    Many people prefer dedicating an entire day to grocery shopping, washing produce, chopping or prepping, and batch cooking for the week. For others (especially meal-prepping newbies), fitting so many tasks into one day can feel overwhelming. If you fall in the latter category, try separating meal prepping steps into different days. For example, go grocery shopping on Saturday (bonus points that it will be less crowded); chop easy-to-prep produce like cucumbers, onions, and carrots on Sunday; and bulk cook a grain or roast veggies on Monday. Tackling one task at a time might make meal prepping much more manageable and help you form habits.

    Source: Allyson Trammell

    6. Use spices, dressings, and sauces
    Prepping ahead of time doesn’t have to mean foregoing cravings. To adjust to what you’re craving, update basic grains, veggies, and proteins with spices, dressings, or sauces. For example, try a store-bought tomato sauce, DIY a creamy dressing, or play around with spices like turmeric, cumin, or garlic powder to elevate ingredients. You can also sprinkle on herbs like basil, cilantro, or parsley to diversify tastes. A bowl of rice and veggies could become a sushi bowl with a little soy sauce and pickled ginger, or a Mexican dish with some taco seasoning, lime juice, and cilantro. The good thing about meal prepping basics is you can transform them into whatever flavors or foods you’re craving at the moment.

    Source: Love and Lemons

    7. Prep produce right away 
    Sure, you can wash and prepare produce as you need throughout the week, or you can make your life a lot easier by washing and prepping before putting the groceries away. When you get home from the grocery store and unload all your new goodies is a key time to put all produce in the sink to rinse, wash, and dry before putting them away. Also, doing a little light prepping will not only save a lot of room in the fridge, but will save you time during the week. Try chopping tomatoes, dicing onions, separating celery stalks, and slicing lemons as soon as you get home from the grocery store. Keep in reusable containers to easily access ready-to-go produce throughout the week.

    8. Pre-bag smoothie or soup ingredients 
    If your days are so busy that even making a smoothie or homemaking soup feels like too much time, consider freezing ingredients at the beginning of the week. Try adding fruits, leafy greens, and nuts and seeds to reusable bags and store them in the freezer to keep them fresh. In the mornings, simply add ingredients to a blender with some water or almond milk. This smoothie hack can work for lunchtime with a simple soup. Portion out veggies, protein, and spices or herbs (like garlic, ginger, or thyme) to individual bags, and store them in the freezer. At lunchtime, simply add all ingredients to a pot with your stock of choice, and let simmer until fully cooked.

    This post includes a sponsored mention of Blue Apron, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board. More