Christmas Gift Ideas

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? I have not. In fact, I’ve barely begun.

Thankfully I do a lot of my shopping on Amazon. It’s much easier to shop when my kids are in bed and I love the 2 day free shipping (I’m a Prime Member you can also Give the Gift of Amazon Prime or just sign up for a Start Free Trial).

Christmas gift ideas

The Christmas Gift Ideas

This year’s gift guide will focus on my favorite things for the kitchen so you may want to email this to your spouse or post it on your Facebook to sufficiently drop the hint. Let’s face it, most of us need a few hints.

Instant Pot

Instant Pot

Of course the newest and most used thing in my kitchen is our Instant Pot. I’ve been hearing from readers who love theirs too. The best deal is usually on Amazon. It the Instant Pot is out of your budget a Crock Pot may be for you depending on your schedule and cooking preferences.

Blendtec

We love our Blendtec Total Blender. We got ours at Costco but you can find them on Amazon. The best deal is at the Blendtec site where you can find a refurbished blender with a great warranty.

If you cannot afford a high-powered blender but need something for chopping or making dips you could go with a Magic Bullet or a Food Processor. I used those for years before investing in a good blender and they did a great job but I’ve replaced them both with my Blendtec.

Budget-Friendly Ideas

There are many low-cost kitchen items that wear out and should be replaced every few years like Cutting Boards, Silicone Spatula’s (mine are always lost because my kids use them as ninja swords) and Pyrex Containers. My Measuring Cups and Spoons are always disappearing too. I don’t know a single friend who has a good set of pot holders, while they may not be romantic they are probably much needed.

Experiences

Cooking classes, tasting events and other experiences are also fun gifts. They can be made even more special if you buy two for a couples, girls night or mother-daughter experience.

You could also look into my 31 Day Plant-Based eCourse and Challenge. It starts January 1st and would be a great gift. We have great prizes lined up (hello Pampered Chef) and some great contributors!

Most importantly remember the reason for the season. Christmas is not about receiving gifts, it is about Jesus.

So instead of spending too much money on gifts that will soon be forgotten I hope you will find ways to love others. Remember those who have less than you or those who may be alone for the holidays.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas!

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Simple Veggie Soup in the Instant Pot

I want to start by telling you that this soup can be made on the stove or in the Crock Pot as well. For those of you with an Instant Pot you can cook this soup much more quickly.

This Simple Veggie Soup (in the Instant Pot) is so easy and delicious. You can add different ingredients if you prefer but this is made with basic veggie staples that we always have on hand. You know me, I like to keep it simple.

simple veggie soup

There are a few variations on this recipe. To make this soup heartier you can add Great Northern beans. It will cook more quickly if you soak the beans ahead of time. The soup is delicious with or without beans.

I added all of the ingredients to the Instant Pot in the morning and set the timer to come on 4 hours later so it would be ready in the afternoon. This will allow the beans to soak for a while if you are using them

Simple Veggie Soup in the Instant Pot

Ingredients

  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 1 large carrots, sliced (this equaled 1 cup of carrots for me)
  • 5 red potatoes, quartered (I didn’t peel them)
  • 3 liters of water (12 cups)
  • 1 cup dry Great Northern beans (optional)
  • bullion or dry broth mix (read the label to figure out the appropriate amount)

Do

  1. Put all of the ingredients into the Instant Pot and close the lid.
  2. Press the SOUP button, then if using the timer press the TIMER button.
  3. Use the + or - buttons to select the appropriate number of hours you’d like the Instant Pot to delay cooking. (The time will be the delayed time before the Instant Pot starts.) Remember that it takes time for the Instant Pot to heat up and cool down, especially when cooking soup so you need to take that time into consideration.
  4. Once the Soup is done the Instant Pot will keep it warm until you press CANCEL. Allow the steam to release naturally or use the quick release.

Serve

We eat this soup as is with maybe a sprinkle of salt. It’s perfect if you’ve been fighting a cold or are just in the mood for warm veggies.

Notes

If you are cooking it immediately you do not need to select the TIMER button.

If you are using dry beans they need to be soaked OR you may need to increase the cooking time, check the cooking time chart to be sure.

If you are making this in the Crock Pot just cook it all day or for about 6 hours.

If you are using beans and cooking this on the stove it will take about 90 minutes to cook soaked beans, if the beans haven’t been soaked it will take longer. I recommend you cook the beans first then add them to the soup.

The soup will take about 30 minutes without beans or with previously cooked beans.

Do you ever just make a simple soup? What are your “must” have ingredients? 

Eating Healthy at Holiday Parties

How many parties will you attend between now and the end of the year? I have 2 on the schedule so far. Take the Christmas parties, special dinners, New Year’s and birthday parties (we have two birthdays coming up.) Some years, we have had celebrations every week.

Indulging at every party can take its toll. Especially if you mindlessly graze all evening.

eating healthy at holiday parties

Eating Healthy at Holiday Parties

The following tips for eating healthy at holiday parties will save you a few calories but you will still have to remain diligent if you want to avoid holiday weight gain.

1. The Veggie Tray is your Best Friend

Almost every party I’ve attended has had a decent veggie tray but you should still be careful about the dips. Most dips are high calorie and may contain lots of dairy or oil. You can ask to read the labels but if they aren’t available choose salsa and hummus over Ranch or cheese dip. I’m a big fan of guacamole when it’s available but it can add a lot of calories if you aren’t careful.

2. Keep a Drink in your Hand

Preferably water or seltzer but feel free to add lime or other fruit. If you’re at a party where you are mostly standing and mingling the drink in your hand will make it difficult to continuously shovel food in your face.

Alcoholic drinks are high in calories and should be limited or avoided.

3. Avoid the Creamy Dishes

If you are at a fancy dinner there may be course after course of decadent items covered in sauces. That pasta Alfredo may seem innocent but all of the cheese and cream will probably make you sick if you’ve been eating a plant-based diet and may derail you all together if you’ve been struggling to stay the course. The same goes for queso, spinach-artichoke dip and any other creamy sauces.

4. Finish with Fruit

Most of the parties I’ve attended included beautiful desserts with a fruit garnish. While I enjoy a little of the accompanying cake, I also grab the fruit. Most places can easily put together a fruit plate for you.

5. Coffee

I usually feel like coffee is enough of an indulgence. It can be the perfect end to a nice dinner. If you are indulging in a decadent dessert make sure you choose a coffee that isn’t loaded with extra calories.

6. Be Mindful of the Snack Foods

Some parties are more casual and have bowls of chips, nuts, and platters of sweets sitting around. Although one or two might not do too much damage, repeated trips will. If you must indulge in these snack foods do so after a real meal and a stop at the veggie tray. If they have small, dessert-sized plates use those instead of a larger dinner plate.

7. Enjoy the Party

Remember the reason you are celebrating. Have fun, enjoy the people in your life and even the food. Don’t feel like someone else’s eating rules are imposed on you. Just make sure you aren’t getting too far off course.  If you over do it just start fresh tomorrow.

If you see me at a party I’ll have some chips, cookies and maybe even cake. I’m celebrating after all but I’ll pass on the creamy dishes and the bowl of nuts. I’m comfortable with my choices.

The next day I’ll eat a bowl of soup or chili and focus on healthy eating.

If you need some help recovering from all of the celebrating sign up for the 31 Day Plant-Based eCourse and Challenge starting January 1st. It’s a great way to get back on track. The eCourse portion will teach you what you need to know to be successful on a plant-based diet while the Challenge portion will help keep you motivated to meet your goals.

31 Day Plant-Based eCourse and ChallengeDo you have a tip to share?

 

For the Love of Lentils Meal Plan

This will be the last Meal Plan of the year! Let’s face it, this time of year I’m not so good at following a plan anyway. Besides, I’m getting the Meal Plans ready for those participating in the eCourse and Challenge starting January 1st so I won’t be posting Meal Plan here for a while. Feel free to look through the Meal Plan archives.

Last month I started working a full-time job, which I love, but I have a lot less time to cook. I’m been making all of my old favorites in my Instant Pot to save time. This weeks Meal Plan uses lots of Lentils. I love lentils. They taste great, are very versatile, so easy to make, are inexpensive and super healthy. If you haven’t given them a change yet do so this week.

Plant Based Meal Plan

Plant-Based Meal Plan

Quinoa-Lentil Tacos with Mexican Rice

Hearty Lentil and Barley Stew (I’ll substitute a different grain for the Barley)

One-Pot Pizza Pasta 

Green Chili, Cilantro and Lime Soup or Lentil Taco Muffins if you want to keep up with the lentil theme

Lentil Pot Pie

All of these meals are perfect for winter. Comfort food that will fill you up! I’ll probably be the envy of the office when they smell my leftovers each day.

The Meal Plans included in the eCourse will be much more in-depth than these. There will also be a section in the eCourse that will teach Meal Planning. The last Meal Planning Class was $30 and only open to people who could attend in person. The eCourse will cover so much more for the same price. It’s 31 days of Plant-Based training! Sign up today!

Dinner in Minutes

As I mentioned last week I’m now working full-time. Gone are the days of slow cooking beans on my stove or making dinners in the early afternoon and reheating them in the evening. Our schedule is much busier now so I’m much more strategic with our dinner plans.

I still have my favorite go to recipes that are really quick like my Veggie Pad Thai. If you haven’t made it yet you really should. I can have it ready in about 15 minutes.

Dinner in Minutes: Strategies for Quick Dinners

dinner in minutes strategies for quick dinners

If your schedule is tight and you need dinners with minimal prep time I think you’ll appreciate these ideas.

Use your Slow Cooker

Many of my recipes can’t handle the slow cooker all day. Six hours would probably be the longest for the casseroles but the Potato Soup, Taco Soup, Enchilada soup, and chili will work fine in a slow cooker. Baked potatoes (and Baked Sweet Potatoes) can also be cooked in the Crock-Pot all day. (The one linked is programmable.)

Batch Cook on the Weekends

You don’t have to prepare every meal but I’m a big fan of cooking items like beans, grains, potatoes, etc. to be reheated during the week. I usually try to have 2 or 3 things cooking at one time. Then throughout the week I can mix and match those items with other items that cook quickly like pasta.

Have Back Ups Ready

I keep canned beans for those days I’m not prepared and don’t have time. Just this week I pulled out a can of beans to make Unfried Black Beans for my family. It was much healthier than anything else we would have eaten on such short notice. I also keep frozen veggies on hand for those days when I have no time and I’m out of produce. I can add them to soup, stir fry or steam them.

Oatmeal is also a great, quick and healthy meal. Sure, it’s breakfast but it is filling and hearty.

Eat Simple Meals

Like the oatmeal mentioned above, choose meals that are easy to prepare. Pasta with marinara, Baked Potatoes, Veggie Wraps, Bean and Grain Bowls, Bean Burritos are all simple meals. Save the complicated meals for the weekend. If you’ve done some batch cooking most of these things can be ready in less than 15 minutes.

Instant Pot

Use a Pressure Cooker

As you probably know I recently bought an Instant Pot. I love it. I can quickly cook dry beans in about 30 minutes. My favorite thing lately is pinto beans cooked in my Instant Pot, brown rice and diced potatoes. I’ve been using it’s timer so I can set it up before I leave in the morning and dinner will begin cooking just before I get home.

I’ve also used it to cook brown rice, lentils, chili, veggie soup, potatoes and sweet potatoes and several of my casseroles. It’s been a lifesaver for us and well worth the investment.

Do you have fool proof ways to get dinner ready in minutes? What are they?

This page contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using a link I earn a small percentage at no additional cost to you. 
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