Keep Produce Fresh

Do you ever buy a lot of produce and have it go bad before you can eat it? This used to happen all the time to me! Through research, trial and error, I found some tips to keep produce fresh longer!

Keep Produce Fresh

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We’ve adopted a new habit of washing our produce as soon as we get home from the store. It’s a little bit of work upfront but I save that time later when I’m cooking and every time my kids want an apple.

We used to be a little more lax about washing produce. I would usually do it but the rest of our family wasn’t as consistent. Then our son was diagnosed with cancer and it became a real concern. It should have been already.

Every year we hear about produce that is contaminated with e.coli, listeria, and other nasty things. It’s important to wash your produce every time!

Interesting fact, people with compromised immune systems (pregnant women, people with cancer, etc.) are discouraged from eating processed fruits, veggies, salads, etc. because there is such a high risk of contamination in those products.

There are other things on produce we want to clean off as well like pesticides and waxes.

Now, we wash all our produce before use, most of it is washed as soon as we get in the door.

Does your produce go bad before you can eat it? These tips will help keep your produce fresh.

Washing Fresh Produce

For most of our produce like apples, peaches, plums, broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes, citrus, melons,  etc. I give them a sink bath.

I thoroughly clean my sink, fill one side with cold water and sprinkle baking soda in the water and mix it with my hand. I don’t measure but I probably use 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda. When I use more water, I use more baking soda, less water…less baking soda.

Then I add my produce, all mixed together, into the sink bath. I set a timer, because I always forget, and let them soak for 15 minutes. Then I rinse them off with cold water and stick them in my dish drainer.

If something is especially dirty, I use my veggie brush to give them a good scrub.

Washing Berries

Berries require a different method of cleaning. My son could eat his weight in berries! When we have them, he will easily eat pounds of them every day! When possible we buy in bulk. If you buy in bulk, or even just small amounts that may sit in the fridge for a few days, I recommend you inspect them closely. One moldy berry will ruin the whole bunch quickly.

Washing berries is one way to inspect all our berries. The moisture can make them spoil faster so if you will not be eating them quickly, you may want to wait until just before eating to wash.

Rinsing berries under cold water will clean them. My friend Sarah at Never Free Farm gave me a great tip for berries. She fills a small basin with cold and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Then soaks up to two pounds of berries for 5 to 10 minutes. If you don’t know Sarah, follow her, you’ll be impressed!

Washing Mushrooms

There are different schools of thought on washing mushrooms. Some people just wipe them with a damp cloth. Others use a special mushroom brush. I usually rinse them just before using and carefully dry them off.

Produce Storage Containers

While foods that are stored whole like melons and apples don’t need special containers. I’ve found a few inexpensive containers that have done wonders for keeping cut food fresh longer.

Containers like these Rubbermaid Freshworks keep produce from spoiling for much longer. I have the older model but the old ones don’t have as many size options. Read the reviews and you’ll see why I love them! Containers like this make it easier to keep cut veggies ready for quick meals like this Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl.

I use these for cut cucumbers, bell peppers, carrots and sometimes fruit, like freshly cut pineapple. Many of the reviews mention people putting whole fruits in them, including berries. Berries never last long enough at my house. Most get eaten while they are drying on the counter.

I don’t have a special container that is big enough for my lettuce. When washing my romaine, I give them a sink bath, pull all the leaves off and dry them individually. Then I store the whole leaves in a large container with paper towels on the bottom, a few layers of romaine leaves, another layer of paper towels, and so on. I’ve had romaine last for 2 weeks this way! 2 WEEKS!

A salad spinner works well too. If you want to avoid the waste of paper towels, you can store your washed lettuce in a salad spinner.

Where you live plays a big part in how you store produce too. Since I live in Arizona, it is hot most of the year. Some foods that are typically stored on the counter top have to be stored in the fridge when the temperatures get high. If you live somewhere colder, you may be able to keep most of your whole produce on your counters for a long time. Check out this seasonal produce chart specifically for Arizona!

What are your tips to keeping produce fresh? Do you have a special tool that you love?

Plant-Based Meal Plan

I didn’t do any meal prep this week but I did the grocery shopping so we have plenty of healthy foods ready to prepare. Before shopping, Jim and I discussed our Plant-Based Meal Plan for the week.

Produce for Plant-Based Meal Plan

This week we have planned a few easy meals, continued testing of a new recipe, and one of our family favorites. The new recipe is a quick and easy meal, less than 30 minutes, but I’m trying to get it just right. I had a friend make it and she and her family loved it. I think one more round of tweaks and it will be ready to share here.

We have also added smoothies back into our routine. I’m a big fan of hearty breakfasts but sometimes smoothies are the best thing for us. I shared my smoothie on Instagram this week. I’m hoping to start sharing more of our meals.

I’ve found one plant-based protein powder that we all enjoy. It’s from Vega.  I only use about 1/2 a scoop at a time and fill the blender with frozen fruit. My kids split a blender’s worth and I drink the whole thing, about 20-30 oz depending on the day.

Last week was Spring Break here so my kids were home with me while I worked. In my down time I started re-reading Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live book. It encourages me to focus on eating more nutrient dense foods. I’ve owned this book since 2012 and pick it back up every few years. Sometimes it helps to have a reminder to eat well. I’ve got lots of veggies ready to incorporate this week.

Plant-Based Meal Plan

Monday

Breakfast: Berry Kale Smoothie

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: New Recipe!!!

Tuesday

Breakfast: Instant Pot Oatmeal

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Broccoli Mushroom Stir Fry

Wednesday

Breakfast: Strawberry Orange Smoothies

Lunch: Mediterranean Bowl

Dinner: Black Bean Chili with Baked Potatoes

Plant-Based Gluten-Free Breakfast Cookies that are allergy-friendly and delicious. These cookies are a great choice for breakfast on the go.

Thursday

Breakfast: Breakfast Cookies

Lunch: Leftovers

Dinner: Enchilada Casserole

The Plant-Based Blueberry Muffins are oil-free and super easy to make. No one will believe these delicious muffins are vegan!

Friday

Breakfast: Blueberry Muffins

Lunch: Mediterranean Bowl

Dinner: Broccoli Rice Casserole

Would you like to see more Instant Pot recipes or more recipes that only use stove top? I try to share both versions or post two separate recipes. I’d love to know your preference!

Ultimate Plant-Based Meal Plan for Families

My goal is to make plant-based eating easy for everyone. Transitioning a family to a plant-based diet is more difficult than transitioning one person. I decided to create a meal plan that will be fool-proof for most families. The Ultimate Plant-Based Meal Plan for Families is also a short guide to walk you through what you need to know to adopt a plant-based diet, including recipes that your whole family will love!

plant-based meal plan for families

While I can’t really guarantee that every person in your family will love every recipe, these are my most loved recipes that are family-friendly and easy to adapt for individual tastes.

What to Eat on a Plant-Based Diet

When people switch to a plant-based diet, they usually wonder what they should be eating. The answer is as diverse as the person asking. Different people like different food.

I looked through all the recipes on this website and thought about all the foods we typically eat and made a list of our most loved recipes.

We typically eat a lot of beans, rice, and pasta along with an assortment of fruits and veggies. We keep it simple and eat the same basic things, branching out occasionally to try new recipes.

If you loved pasta and Italian dishes before going plant-based, you’ll probably love plant-based versions. If you loved spicy foods, or Asian foods, or Mexican foods, etc. you’ll likely love healthier versions of your favorites.

However, it can take time for your palate to adjust to a diet without meat, dairy, eggs, and the other things you cut out. Sometimes it could take a while before your favorites are your favorite again.

Instant Pot Oatmeal

Plant-Based Breakfast

Switching to plant-based breakfasts are the easiest part of transitioning to plant-based eating, at least for me. We liked oatmeal, cereal, smoothies, etc. before making the switch. Choosing plant-based milk was the biggest change for us.

Invest in a few plant-based milks to try, once you find one you like, it will make breakfast easy peasy. I like soy milk and almond milk the best but rice milk is the over all family favorite so it’s what we keep on hand.

We usually eat the same breakfast every day. Cereal, oatmeal, toast or bagels. They are all quick and easy! Here is a sample of our favorite breakfasts.

Instant Pot Oatmeal

Toast with peanut butter and fruit

Banana Nut Oatmeal

Strawberry Banana Muffins or Banana Bread

Overnight Oats

For more ideas, check out my Plant-Based Breakfast Page or my Ultimate Oatmeal Guide!

When we have company or more time on the weekends I might make my Breakfast Hash or Breakfast Tacos. They are more time consuming than I’ll normally spend in the mornings but they are both delicious savory breakfast options.

Plant-Based Lunch

I usually eat dinner leftovers for lunch. It’s easy and saves time. My work day is busy and I don’t like to take time off to make food and eat so I stick to foods that I can heat and eat or just graze on throughout the day.

If I don’t have any leftovers available for lunch, I’ll eat something easy like a sandwich, hummus with veggies and maybe crackers or pretzels, beans with chips and salsa. In the summer when we have a lot of fresh veggies prepped, I might make a quick salad or my Mediterranean Bowl. Baked Potatoes are easy lunches but depending on where you eat lunch, it may not be an option.

Instant Pot Minestrone Soup may just be the perfect plant-based soup! Veggies, beans, broth and pasta create a hearty and healthy soup!

Plant-Based Dinner

I feel like plant-based dinners are the most difficult transition point for families. Often, this meal was full of meat and dairy before switching to a plant-based diet. For some families, it may be the only meal they are eating together and they want it to be peaceful.

These are our absolute favorite family friendly meals.

Minestrone Soup

Mexican Casserole

Veggie Pad Thai

Veggie Pasta

Lentil Tacos with Mexican Rice

Our 8 year old loves these more than our 10 year old. If they don’t like our dinner, we will let them having something else. Usually they choose one of their normal breakfasts like oatmeal or cereal, sometimes it’s a PB&J. Sometimes they will have other leftovers.

Often they will have the meal but pick out what they don’t like. This is normal childhood behavior, it doesn’t mean they won’t eat healthy foods. My son might eat the Minestrone but leave the tomatoes and celery. They both love the nachos but only the chips and beans, they don’t like the peppers or salsa.

When encouraging my kids to eat well, I’m not interested in a power struggle. Some kids will never be happy with their meals! Kids age, disposition, and preference all plays into it. It takes time to get used to eating healthy, it may take your kids longer than it takes you.

 

Would you like to be able to print off the dinner meal plan with an easy to follow shopping list?

I created a Dinner Only version of this meal plan that includes step by step recipe instructions and a shopping list. It takes some of the work out of clicking through the links, printing the recipe and painstakingly creating your list.

This Dinner Only version of the Ultimate Plant-Based Meal Plan for Families is available for $5.00!

Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl

Every once in a while I get on a kick where I only want to eat one thing, fortunately for me that one thing is a super simple, whole food, Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl!

Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl

The temperatures in Arizona area finally on the rise. I’m slowly putting my soups aside and embracing fresh, raw veggies! If you are still frozen I’m sorry! Maybe you can enjoy this bowl in front of the fire and think about warmer days ahead!

The great thing about Mediterranean Bowls is that you can easily adapt it based on what you have and what you like.

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Gluten-Free Mediterranean Bowl

Most of the Mediterranean Bowls I’ve seen use quinoa but some use rice or no grain (or pseudo-grain) at all. Quinoa is great because it’s gluten-free, easy to cook, and I always have some in my pantry.

While the quinoa cooked, I got the veggies ready. Romaine lettuce is my favorite but you can choose your favorite greens. I love red and yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and red onion. Chickpeas were the perfect addition because I also made hummus! My Cilantro Jalapeno Hummus was perfect in this but I may try my Red Pepper Dip next time.

I set out all the veggies, chickpeas and quinoa and my son made his own bowl. His was pretty much the same except he added apples and cuties and left out the hummus and peppers.

After cutting up all the veggies, I have enough for lunches all week plus some snacks! I’ve been able to make a quick salad with the veggies too. It’s so much easier to eat healthy meals when they are prepped and ready to go!

There are endless combinations you can choose for your bowl if this one isn’t exactly your thing.

  • Sweet Peppers
  • Artichokes
  • Avocado
  • Pickled Onions
  • Carrots
  • Sprouts
  • Micro Greens
  • Roasted Veggies
  • Fresh Herbs
  • Spinach

The list is endless! Please leave a comment and let me know what you want to eat in your bowl!

Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl

Oil-Free Mediterranean Bowl

Most Mediterranean Bowls are topped with oil or and oil and vinegar type dressing. The hummus does a great job replacing the need for oil and the extra squeeze of lemon gives it an extra boost of acidity. You do not need the oil!

My boys love balsamic vinegar, if you are a fan, you could try it in this bowl. I didn’t think it would mix well with the hummus so I left it out this time.

When I made this bowl I bought olives to go with it. Our grocery store has an olive bar that I’d been wanting to try. My kids and husband love olives so I thought this would make the bowl a little more fun for them.

I, however, do not like olives. I’ve never found an olive I didn’t want to spit out! HA! While I put a few olives in my bowl I didn’t actually eat them. I loved my bowl so much I couldn’t risk it. More for my family.

Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl

Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl

This Plant-Based Mediterranean Bowl is gluten-free, nut-free, and perfect for the veggie lovers in your house. This meal is easy to make ahead during meal prep and take for lunch or enjoy it at the end of a long day. These measurements make 4+ bowls.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 head romaine lettuce (or your favorite lettuce).
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1-2 bell peppers (I used 1 red and 1 yellow)
  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes (or equivalent fresh diced tomatoes)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lemon
  • Kalamata olives to
  • 1 cup hummus

Do

  1. Bring 2 cups water to boil, then add the quinoa and cover with a lid. Turn pot down to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes or until quinoa is done and water is absorbed. Fluff quinoa and set aside.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, prepare the veggies. If you haven’t already, wash and dry them. I prefer to peel the cucumbers, dice the red onion, tear or slice the lettuce, and dice the bell pepper. I like to leave my bell peppers in pretty big chunks but its just a personal preference. I’ll leave the tomatoes whole if I’m saving the bowl for later and cut the tomatoes in half if I’m having it now.
  3. Create an assembly line with all the veggies. Drain and rinse your chickpeas.
  4. If you are making hummus from scratch, make it now.
  5. Assemble your bowls.
    1. Make a bed of lettuce with 1 cup romaine.
    2. Scoop in 1/4-1/2 cup cooked quinoa.
    3. Arrange fresh veggies on both sides of the quinoa.
    4. Add a dollop of hummus. Since it’s oil-free, I used about 1/4 cup.
    5. Spoon in about 1/3 cup of chickpeas.
    6. Garnish with lemon wedge and olives.

Serve

This Mediterranean Bowl is perfect for a weekend meal prep that can be enjoyed all week. It tastes just as good coming out of a lunch bag as it does when it’s freshly made, you can’t say that about most lunches!

Do you eat Mediterranean Bowls? What are your favorite ingredients?

Plant-Based Meal Plan

I’m convinced that the best way to successfully adopt a plant-based diet is to follow a Plant-Based Meal Plan, at least in the beginning.

When we first started eating plant-based, it was completely new. Every single thing we ate before going plant-based had meat or dairy in it. I was nowhere close to being a healthy eater. To transition, I had to be deliberate and plan every single meal.Instant Pot Oatmeal

Making the move to a plant-based diet payed off and I was able to reverse illness. That’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about meal planning and sharing meal plans with you.

This Week’s Plant-Based Meal Plan

Monday

Instant Pot Oatmeal

Sandwiches, Veggies and Hummus

Plant-Based Nachos

Tuesday

Toast with peanut butter and banana slices

Leftover Beans, Rice and Salsa

Spaghetti and Asparagus

Instant Pot Breakfast Rice

Wednesday

Instant Pot Breakfast Rice

Leftover Spaghetti and toast

Orange Tofu Stir Fry (I showed a sneak peak of the sauce in my Instagram stories)

Chipotle Black Bean Chili

Thursday

Overnight Oats

Sandwiches, Veggies and Hummus

Black Bean Chili and Instant Pot Baked Potatoes

Friday

Strawberry, Cherry and Kale Smoothie

Leftover Chili and Baked Potatoes

Instant Pot Mexican Casserole

Instant Pot Mexican Casserole

Tips for New Meal Planners

If you are brand new to meal planning or following a meal plan someone else creates, it’s important to start small. It can be overwhelming to cook three meals a day if you aren’t used to it. That’s one of the reasons we eat leftovers for lunch.

I also give myself the option to skip any dinner and eat leftovers when possible. We don’t usually have leftover spaghetti or tofu because my kids love them, but we always have leftover chili because it’s too spicy for my kids. Yay, more for us!

We don’t need a lot of variety for breakfast or lunch but like to eat something new for dinner. Some foods lend themselves to being leftovers. Like beans and rice, we have it early in the week so we can use the leftovers in several different recipes like nachos or burritos.

Do you follow a meal plan? What are you eating this week?