Tag Archives: quick

20-day diet prep plan: Day 12 – No-brainer breakfast options

9 easy no-brainer breakfast options with protein

hash with chicken apple sausage

I hope you enjoyed experimenting with the hash method and the soup method yesterday! If you ran out of time (or energy), feel free to continue the experiment today.

I also encourage you to spend some time today doing some thinking and research — and maybe also, possibly some more cooking — in order to figure out what your breakfast plan is.

Breakfast is so important! One successful Paleoite says:

Ever since I started taking breakfast seriously, I have really grown to enjoy it and it’s now my favorite meal. I try to set myself up for success by eating the most nutritious meal first thing in the morning. Since I started eating this way, I’ve found that I have more energy during the day and I’m less hungry for snacks, and sometimes even have to remind myself to eat lunch (coming from someone who used to suffer from chronic hunger, this is huge!).

I think that sums it up well. Starting off with a nutritious, filling breakfast sets you up for food success the rest of the day. Your blood sugar rises slowly and ebbs slowly over the next three to four hours, carrying you through to lunch.

In contrast, starting out with a small, carb-filled breakfast, your blood sugar first spikes — which feels good, because you get energy — but then it bottoms out, leaving you foggy and hangry, and reaching for more sugar or carbs, so your day ends up looking like this:

cravings all day long

If you’re doing the 21 Day Sugar Detox or a Whole30, protein at breakfast is going to be part of the plan. Also, for those who are trying The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program, Step 1 is eat breakfast every morning, making sure it has protein in it. So this is a good idea for everyone!

If you’re like me, though, you need breakfast to be a no-brainer! So that’s why you need to plan ahead of time and figure out what your no-brainer breakfast will be. If you wait to figure this out on Jan. 1, you’ll shoot yourself in the food right at the start!

Experiment with breakfast and find one to three you can live with for a month. One is sufficient if you’re the type of person who is content to eat the same thing for breakfast every day. Find more if you want more variety.

It should contain a protein (eggs, meat, or protein-y broth), some healthy fat (butter, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil), and veggies and/or fruit. Use fruit sparingly. Some 100% whole-grain bread is fine, too, if you’re not cutting out grains. Keep it as sugar-free as possible, too.

No-brainer breakfast options

paleo breakfast options - protein smootie

Protein shakes

I’m not a huge fan of protein powder as an everyday ongoing habit, because I don’t consider it real food. But if a protein smoothie is all you can manage at this point, by all means, do that! Progress, not perfection, is what we’re after. (Just make sure it’s sugar and sweetener free.) Use banana slices or apple juice for sweetening. Don’t go too crazy on the fruit. A small amount of vanilla or almond extract can add to the sweetness, too.

Here are some recipes:

Strawberry Banana Protein Shake – protein comes from protein powder

Paleo Breakfast Smoothie – here’s one where the protein comes from whole eggs


paleo breakfast options - makeahead


Traditional breakfast proteins

Try fried, scrambled, or hard-boiled eggs. Bacon and sausage are fine if they’re nitrate free, with minimal sugar. (Though I recommend using bacon as a condiment, not a main protein source day-in and day-out.) Good smoked salmon can be a delicious breakfast option, too, if you can get some!

But if cooking up a couple eggs in the morning is not enough no-brainer for you, here are some make-ahead breakfast options:

Bacon deviled eggs – these are delish, and you can make them as hot or as mild as you want. (And they are mustard-free, for you mustard haters.)

Easy breakfast casserole – make one big batch to last you days!

Slow-cooker breakfast meatloaf – basically, sausage by another name.

Sausage-egg cups – there are a million recipes like this; experiment to find your favorite combo of veggies and meat.


Paleo cream of pumpkin soup with cinnamon, ginger + turmeric

Nontraditional breakfasts

I’ve come to love clear broth as a breakfast option, especially when my guts are not happy. Use homemade bone broth if you’ve got it! If you’re buying ready-made broth, get it from a carton, not a can. And buy the best you can afford. Check the labels, and get the one with the most protein.

Also, you can always heat up last night’s leftovers, if you like! Have a favorite (healthy) food you love so much you want to marry it? Have it for breakfast! Why not?

Cream of pumpkin soup – I love to make this creamy soup ahead of time, then heat it up and add some diced ham or already-cooked sausage. Diced bacon is a yummy topper, too!

My “get well soon” soup recipe – super simple!

My hash method – a great way to use up leftover veggies and meats


So there you have several possibilities. Pick one or two and experiment with them this week. Breakfast really can make or break how your eating goes for the rest of the day!

The assignments for the next couple days will be short and sweet, then we’ll take off the 23rd, 24th, and 25th. Take time to enjoy your loved ones while you have them near!

9 easy no-brainer breakfast options with protein

20-day diet prep plan: Day 13 (Part 2) – The soup method

Easy meals; the soup method


Here’s another meal template that’s an easy way to get more vegetables in your life — and quick and simple to throw together, and a great way to use up leftovers.

Hopefully, you’ve bought your groceries, and read Part 1 – The hash method. The soup method is somewhat similar.

This time, you’ll need a saucepan. A 1-quart pan works nicely for one person. Scale up as needed.

Like the hash method, the soup method has a list…

Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:

  1. Diced white or yellow onion (and/or whole green onion)
  2. Already cooked meat of various kinds
  3. Vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, green beans, carrots, celery, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, cauliflower, spinach… They can be raw, or cooked leftovers.
  4. Zucchini, if you want to make zoodles
  5. Good quality chicken broth
  6. Possible add-ins: spaghetti sauce or marinara, salsa, eggs, lemon juice, herbs

If you haven’t already read about the hash method, please do read the section under the headings “About measurements, part 1” and “… part 2.”

Sorry: I don’t have how-to pictures for this yet, but it’s not tricky — you’ll get it!

Okay, ready to cook?

Step 1:

Heat your saucepan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.

Step 2:

Meanwhile, dice or slice any veggies you’re going to use. A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use. Add them after the onions have been in the pan for just a few minutes. EXCEPT: For spinach and zucchini noodles, don’t add them in until the very end.

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are done to your liking. If you think they’re drying out too much before they’re done, add about an 1/4″ of broth to the pan.

Step 2B – If you’re making zoodles:

How to make zucchini noodles (ignore the cooking part):

Place them in a paper-towel-lined bowl, to help absorb excess moisture.

Step 3:

Add the meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. Then add enough broth to cover all the meat and veggies; it should come about halfway up the pan, in a 1-quart saucepan. Bring it up to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Step 4:

Now you can add anything else you want in it. Stir in a big spoonful of spaghetti sauce or salsa. Add a few pinches of your favorite herbs. If you want a mostly-clear soup, you can thicken and enrich it by first whisking a splash of lemon juice into one egg yolk, then slowly whisking this mixture into the soup.

Step 5:

Add the spinach and/or zucchini noodles (if using), and simmer for three or four minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Does it taste bland? Add salt and/or black pepper a little at a time, taste, and add more as needed till it tastes good. Sometimes a little splash of lemon juice helps the flavor, too.

And your soup is done!

Here are some soup combos I’ve enjoyed…

Simple chicken soup, with diced carrots and green onion.

healthy lunches: chicken soup


Sausage or hamburger, green beans, carrots, and marinara make for a minestrone-inspired soup. A little shaved Parmesan on top!

quick easy minestrone


Here’s a great example of using up leftovers! Leftover french onion soup from one day’s restaurant lunch + half a large burger patty from the next day’s restaurant lunch + a little diced squash + chopped spinach = one quick, easy, hearty soup.
easy lunch: onion soup + burger


One day, I was lucky enough to have a little leftover steak; threw it in at the last moment so as not to overcook it. There’s also bell pepper and diced zucchini in there. The green blob is from a Wholly Guacamole mini — another thing I keep on hand for easy lunches.

easy lunch: leftover steak soup.

Some cooked, crumbled sausage, chicken bone broth, and assorted veggies; I don’t know what you call this soup, but it’s delicious!

easy soup: sausage and veggies

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20-day diet prep plan: Day 13 (Part 1) – The hash method

how to make breakfast hash


A few months ago, I did a cooking demo for some friends of mine, and the theme of the class was, “Easy ways to get more vegetables in your diet.” Because the only other thing that ALL diets agree on (beside eat way less sugar, and no trans fat), is that we should all probably be eating more vegetables!

This sweet potato hash was the hit of the night! They all loved it, not just because of how great it tastes, but also because it is SO easy to put together. (One mom of three little ones said she made it for breakfast the next two days!) Another great thing about this dish is that it’s a great way to use up leftovers.

And it’s a simple, tasty way to get three or more vegetables on the table, in one dish.

About measurements, Part 1

The pan I’m using here is an 8″ nonstick frying pan. A well-seasoned cast iron one would work, too. Also, it’s important to note that I’m cooking for one here — as you probably should while you’re experimenting. But once you’re cooking for real, and if you’re cooking for more than one, just scale the measurements I give you up accordingly. Double them for two people, triple for three, etc.

About measurements, Part 2

I used to not EVER cook anything without a recipe, and always measured everything. Baking definitely requires that you stick to some important ratios, but dishes like the ones I’m going to show you today are a lot more forgiving. And part of what makes these dishes so quick and easy is that you don’t have to pull out the measuring cups/spoons, then scoop, pour, and level. You just get an approximate amount in the pan and — trust me — it’ll come out okay.

You may have some mishaps as you learn. But as my childrens’ first grade teacher Mrs. Maxwell often said, “It’s okay to make mistakes!”

That’s why you’re doing this food lab today. You’re going to test this method in small batches and get a feel for what works with your equipment, and for your taste buds. You may singe one batch or put too much salt in another; that’s okay. There are no food police patrolling your neighborhood. Make the mistake, learn from it, and move on! (Good advice for life, too.)

Okay: you ready?

So, you got your groceries bought, right? And you have your two or three already-cooked meats. And if you didn’t dice your onions up already, go ahead and do that. (How-to here.)

Also, prep one or two sweet potatoes according to my method here. But you can go ahead and cut all the way through the skin for a complete dice.

If it’s not already in bite-sized pieces, you might also want to chop your already-cooked meat. (Optional, if you want this to be a side dish, or you’re vegetarian.) Sausage (have you tried homemade?), ham, pulled pork or carnitas, grilled or roasted chicken, cooked seasoned ground beef, smoked salmon — all legit candidates.

Things I always have prepped and ready in the fridge, that are essential to this dish:

  1. Diced onion
  2. Diced cooked sweet potato
  3. Already cooked meat of various kinds (optional)
  4. Baby spinach
  5. Other vegetables: a changing cast of characters – bell pepper, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms…

(See what that looks like in my fridge here.)

So, once you have those ready, you’re ready for the method.

Step 1:

Heat your pan to medium (or medium-low, if your stove runs hot), add just enough fat (olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon drippings) to evenly cover the bottom. Add some onions, about a small handful. Leave that on the heat, stirring every so often, just enough to keep them from getting brown in some places but undercooked in others.


(Sorry for the fuzzy pictures. I was actually cooking my lunch for this, and the dish goes fast, so there’s not a lot of time for second shots.)

Step 2:

Meanwhile, coarsely chop one or two handfuls of baby spinach, and dice any other raw veggies you’re going to use. (A small handful after they’re diced is a good ballpark measurement to use.) Bell peppers are a nice addition, and one quarter of a good-sized bell pepper should be about right. If I were adding other uncooked vegetables, I would add them after the onions were in the pan for just a few minutes. But if the only vegetables you’re adding are spinach and already-cooked sweet potato — as I am in these photos — wait until the onions are fairly translucent before adding anything else.

Step 3:

Add the coarsely chopped spinach. Salt it lightly — this helps break down the cell walls, and also flavors the spinach, which is sort of bland. It will begin to cook down quickly. Once it’s about half-wilted, add your meat. A good guideline is for your meat to approximately equal the size and thickness of the palm of your hand.

Today, I had one leftover chicken thigh, and one taco’s worth of carnitas, so I diced those to bite-sized pieces and threw them both in. Stir that around and let it warm for a minute or so.

Step 4:

Add your sweet potato, and leave it just until the potato is heated through, stirring once or twice, gently. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper — or another seasoning mix or herbs according to your taste. On this day, I added a little taco seasoning.

sweet potato hash

I often make this dish with sausage and/or bacon for the protein. In those cases, you really don’t need any other seasoning besides a lighter sprinkle of salt (since there’s a lot of salt in the meat) and black pepper to taste.

Another thing I like to do is serve this with a Wholly Guacamole Mini on the side. (This isn’t a sponsored post; but hey, WG, if you’re reading, let’s talk! 🙂 )

sweet potato hash - the hash method

Now, what makes this dish so versatile is that you can add any number of veggies and use various meats, and come up with numerous combos. Here are just a few I’ve done…

breakfast on vacation - eggs + hash

With diced breakfast sausage for the meat, chopped avocado, and a couple of fried eggs, this makes a hearty breakfast — or any meal, really!


hash with broccoli

Broccoli, broken into small florets, is another yummy addition. Chopped asparagus would be another nice option.


Is fat healthy? Yes - eggs + bacon for breakfast!

Here, the hash is in the background, and includes some bacon and mushrooms!


Whole30 Paleo breakfast: easy with make-ahead prep!

Sometime, I scramble an egg or two, chop that up and add it to the hash.


hash with chicken apple sausage

And yes, you can make it without sweet potatoes. In the photo above, chicken apple sausage is bringing a slight sweet note to the mix. Sliced avocado (in the background) adds some healthy fat.


hash with a side of green beans

As you can tell by all the eggs, I’ve made this for breakfast a lot, but with enough meat and maybe another side, it’s also hearty enough for dinner. Sausage and mushroom, show above. (Find this simple green bean dish here.)

I also sometimes make this with just the onions, bell pepper, and sweet potato; season with taco seasoning (or just a bit of cumin and ancho powder); and serve it as a side dish when the main dish is Mexican-ish.

So, I hope you’re inspired! Get out your frying pan, and start experimenting! I’d love to hear your comments or questions.

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Quick pork tenderloin with seasoned rub


Pork tenderloin is one of my go-to meals when I want something simple to prepare. It’s also one of my go-to meals for special occasions, because it’s delicious and elegant.

(I first posted this recipe more than two years ago, but it’s worth a re-post because it’s so simple and so successful.)

Originally, I was just going to salt and pepper it and rub it with a little olive oil, but I always have to remind myself approximately how long it takes to cook a tenderloin, and when I googled for that I ran across this recipe from Ellie Krieger on Food Network for Pork Tenderloin with Seasoned Rub.

Now, doing a lot of thinking (i.e., measuring and multiple steps) is what I was trying to avoid, but since this recipe uses one teaspoon of all the spices, that speeds things up a little bit. Also, I like that there’s no sugar in the rub. Yay for low carb! (And Paleo, and Whole30!)

I also nixed the fresh garlic, because this would have added time to peel, chop, and fry. And with all those flavors in the spice mix, I really didn’t miss it one bit.

Also, I don’t trust any meat recipe that calls for a specific number of minutes. The secret to perfectly done meat of any kind is knowing what temperature it needs and hitting that. (I highly recommend using a digital meat thermometer like this one.)

And lastly, she didn’t specifiy how much salt to use. I took a guess and missed the mark, so I’ve remedied that here.

So here is my simplified version of Ellie’s recipe…



1 t. garlic powder
1 t. dried oregano
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. ground coriander (you could omit if you don’t have this)
1 t. dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/8 t. table salt (Use up to twice as much if you like things salty.)
1 to 1.25 pounds pork tenderloin
olive oil for coating pans

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In separate bowl mix the seasonings: garlic powder through salt. Stir until all the ingredients are well combined. Sprinkle the rub over the tenderloin with a dry hand; cover the entire tenderloin. If you have some  seasonings left, continue to sprinkle it until it’s all gone. Then pat the pork all over so the seasoning adheres well to the tenderloin. (If you have other dinner prep to do, you could also let this sit at room temp for up to 15 minutes. That will add to the flavor and tenderness.)

TIME-SAVING NOTE: If you want to cut the prep time down further, you could skip the searing step, cooking it in the oven for the entire time. This is what I usually do. Jump right to the paragraph with the asterisk.*

Heat a nonstick skillet, over medium-plus-one-notch heat. Generously dribble olive oil in the pan and give it a minute to heat up. Then place the tenderloin in the pan; let it sit for three minutes and check the color on the underside. If it’s nicely brown, rotate and do the next side the same. If not, let it sit for another minute and check again.

Repeat until all sides are nicely browned. We’re just looking to sear the outside; not cook it through. (That happens in the oven.) This may be two or three sides, depending on the shape of your cut.

* Grease the bottom of a 9×13″ (or so) baking pan with olive oil and place the tenderloin in it. Place the pan in the oven.

Approximate oven time will be 15 – 25 minutes. But don’t go solely by the clock; use a quick-read thermometer to check the interior temp at 15 minutes, and then as needed till it reaches 143-145 F.

When the thermometer reads about 143-145 F, pull the pork from the oven. Please note: Most sources will tell you it’s not safe to eat at this temp, but the temp will continue to rise as the meat sits. If you wait till the recommended 160 F to pull it, you will have dry, chewy pork. (Note the photo above is not of this recipe, and is probably pinker than it will be at 160 F.)

Once removed from the oven, let the pork rest in the pan — thermometer still inserted — until the temp reaches 158-160 F. This will be approximately five minutes.

Cut in slices 1/2″ to 1″ thick. Do not slice until just before serving. This is best served right when it hits that 159-164 F mark, so if possible, time the rest of your meal around this.

Here is Food Network’s nutrition info:
Per Serving:
Calories: 209;
Total Fat: 9 grams;
Saturated Fat: 2 grams;
Protein: 30 grams;
Total carbohydrates: 2 grams;
Sugar: 0 grams
Fiber: 1 grams;
Cholesterol: 92 milligrams;
Sodium: 221 milligrams


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Easy freezer burritos – with diet options

meal prep: freezer burritos

meal prep: freezer burritos

Freezer burritos are one of the handiest things you can have stashed in the freezer, for easy meals or snacks any time! They were my go-to lunch last year while I was on my way to losing 33 pounds. Back then, this was a plain ol’ beef, bean and cheese burrito recipe, but I’ve since modified it to accommodate Paleo and other diet restrictions. I’m providing notes here so you can make it as traditional or as Paleo as you like it. It’s very customizable!

First, a few notes about the ingredients…

The tortillas. If you’re not gluten-restricted and you want the easiest option, just pick up your favorite brand of soft wheat tortillas from the store. Or better yet, stop by your favorite locally-owned Mexican restaurant and get a to-go order of tortillas.

If you’re eliminating gluten and/or grains from your diet, pick up your favorite ready-made gluten-free tortillas, or try this crepe-like recipe from Stupid Easy Paleo (this is the one I use), or this egg-free, cassava-flour based one from Eat Heal Thrive.

Beans vs sweet potatoes. There’s some debate as to whether beans are really good for you or not. The Paleo/Whole30 camp says that the proteins in legumes may mimic some of the body’s proteins, potentially kicking off auto-immune issues. To make a Paleo version, I swapped out mashed sweet potatoes for the same texture — and I ended up loving the sweet note they bring to the dish.

Here’s a nutrition comparison of the two (their fat and calorie profile are similar, so I left those out):

nutrition; sweet potatoes vs refried beans

Note that the sweet potatoes are higher in sugary carbs and lower in protein, but that they have tons of Vitamin A, while beans have none. (If you’re using the crepe-like tortillas, you’ve omitted a good deal of carbs right there, so it’s still not a carb-heavy dish.)

Feel free to use whichever you prefer for taste or nutrition — or maybe get crazy and use both!

The cheese. Feel free to include cheese if it fits into your healthy eating style. Omit it if it doesn’t.

The bell peppers. These are here to add fiber and Vitamin C. There’s really no downside to them, unless you just hate them (or can’t eat nightshades).

The meat. I believe that hormone-free, antibiotic-free red meat is a good thing. (I am from Kansas!) If you have an aversion to beef, feel free to sub ground turkey or another protein of your choice.

The salsa. Use your favorite. To keep it healthy, check the label to make sure there’s no sugar or corn syrup.

The taco seasoning. Sure, you can buy some ready-made. But check the label to make sure there’s no sugar, maltodextrin, corn starch, or other unnecessary fillers. Cheaper and healthier: make your own.

The guacamole. While not essential, it makes a nice visual finish, as well as adding flavor and healthy fat! If you happen to have some homemade, by all means use that! However, I usually just keep some Wholly Guacamole single-serve packs in the fridge; one is the perfect size to spread over a couple burritos.

Finally, a note about servings: Because there are so many variables in this recipe, I can only give you an approximation of how many burritos it will make. I get six or seven; your mileage may vary. Also, once you’ve made it once or twice and tuned into how you like to make it, you can certainly double or triple the recipe to really stock up.

Beef and sweet potato freezer burrito recipe

1 or 2 T. olive or coconut oil

1 small (or half a large) yellow onion, diced

1/2 large red bell pepper, diced

1 pound ground beef

1 medium sweet potato, already cooked and diced

(or sub half a can of refried beans)

1 cup of your favorite salsa (or more, to taste)

2 teaspoons taco seasoning (or more, to taste)

3/4 cup shredded cheddar or monterrey jack cheese (optional)

several 6″ tortillas


Dice peppers and onion, and saute in olive oil until they are soft. Leave in the pan but push them off to the side.

freezer burritos in the making

Brown the ground beef, drain excess fat if you want, and add in the taco seasoning; stir it all together till spices are distributed. Then add sweet potatoes (or beans) and salsa, and stir till evenly combined. Taste, and add salsa and/or taco seasoning till you’re happy with the flavor. Remove from heat.

Lay out several squares of waxed paper or parchment. These should be two or three inches wider than the diameter of your tortillas, and long enough to wrap around one two or three times. Lay a tortilla on each. Spoon the desired amount of filling down the center of the tortillas, in about a 2″-wide line from one edge to the other. Sprinkle with cheese, if using. Roll the burrito into a tube; no need to fold in the ends. If your filling isn’t sticky enough to hold the tortilla closed, secure it with a toothpick.

freezer burritos - roll 'em up

Then wrap the paper around it. Again, no need to fold in the ends. Repeat till filling is all used. Place wrapped burritos on a cookie sheet or other flat surface, setting them down in such a way that the weight of the burrito holds the paper in place. Then place this in the freezer till the burritos are firm.

freezer burritos, ready to go in the freezer

Then put them all into a large plastic baggie and return to the freezer.

To reheat a burrito, remove the wrapper and place seam-side-down on a plate, and microwave for 30 seconds. Then turn it over and microwave till heated through. I use the “reheat” button on my microwave; every machine is different, so experiment to find what works for you, and make a note of that. Be sure to remove the toothpick before topping with guac!

Make up a batch of these on the weekend, and you’ll have healthy, easy lunches — or dinners, or snacks — on hand for a quick, few-minute meal!


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beef + sweet potato freezer burritos


New to eating gluten-free? Or thinking of going Paleo?

Check out my 20-Day Countdown to a New Way of Eating!




Balsamic-glazed salmon

balsamic glazed salmon

balsamic glazed salmon

If you like balsamic vinegar, you’ll love this salmon recipe! This one has been in my meal rotation for years, and for good reason. It’s a really simple dish — and like most really simple things, it’s also beautiful!


For the balsamic glazed salmon recipe, visit my guest post at Faith, Food and Fitness!

(The green beans and pine nuts are another one of my long-time faves — also super easy! Recipe here.)

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Green beans & pine nuts

easy green bean side dish with nuts

easy green bean side dish with nuts

This is one of my favorite veggie dishes, and if you’re looking for an easy green bean side dish, you found it! This is SO easy to throw together, I actually sometimes make it for a snack! (nom nom nom!)

But it feels just a bit more elegant than an everyday dish. There’s something about the mingling of these four simple ingredients that just works. And it goes great with so many main dishes: fish, grilled steak, pork chops, roasted chicken. Plus, if made with ghee, it’s Paleo and Whole30 friendly!

And when I say it’s simple to “throw together,” I mean it. You won’t need to dirty a single measuring cup or spoon!


Green Beans and Pine Nuts (or Almonds, Pecans, or Walnuts)
Serves 2; scale up as necessary

2 generous handfuls of fresh or frozen green beans

a splash or two of olive oil

a tablespoon or two of butter or ghee (just eyeball the amount)

1 handful of pine nuts — or your choice of slivered almonds, pecan or walnut pieces

several shakes of salt

If using fresh green beans, snap off the ends and break them into pieces of whatever length you like.

Pour water into a small saucepan, to a depth of about 1″; bring to a boil. Add the green beans. If they’re frozen, stir till the water returns to a boil. Turn the heat down a couple notches and simmer until the beans are done to your liking. Recommended: while they are still bright green, but pleasingly tender when you bite one.

Tip: To safely test whether they’re done to your liking, pull one out, lay it on a dish or cutting board, and tap it a couple times with the back of a spoon or another flat utensil, before you taste it. This will force out the steam that may be on the inside and keep you from burning your mouth!

Drain the beans and leave them in the colander for the moment. Return the saucepan to the heat and pour in a bit of olive oil; add the butter and the pine nuts to that. Stir over medium heat, until you can smell the pine nuts, or until they begin to turn toasty brown.

Add the beans back into the pan and stir to coat them with the sauce and the nuts. Add a little salt. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


10 healthy lunches: my go-to meals when cooking for one

leftovers: taco salad - an easy way to eat healthy at home

I work from home and my kids are grown, so lunch is usually just me. Before I got serious about taking good care of myself, lunch was likely to be mac ‘n cheese or leftover pizza. Healthy lunches – not! (And I wondered why I was hungry again two hours later!)

Since starting to eat low carb several years ago then experimenting with the Paleo diet and Whole30 this year, I’ve taken to heart the idea that eating healthy is a form of self respect. But let’s get real: I still don’t want to do anything too complicated when I’m just cooking for one. Here are some of my go-to strategies for eating a healthy lunch with minimal prep but maximum taste! (There are actually 12 now, with some bonus links at the end.)

10 12 Quick, Easy, Gluten-free, Paleo and Whole30-friendly, Healthy Lunches

My summer mainstay: Variations on tuna salad

easy lunch; tuna salad with tomato, avocado + peppers

I’ve done a whole post on this one already. Basically, it’s a mayo-free tuna salad with a core set of ingredients, and the flexibility to switch out whatever veggies you have on hand or that sound good to you on any given day. If you do a little veggie prep every few days — just chop up some onions, peppers, cucumbers, etc. — this becomes super easy to throw together. Another meal prep tip: keep some chopped parsley in a baggie in the freezer. It’s key to the flavor of this salad, but once you realize what a fresh flavor it adds to anything and how easy it is to keep it stocked in the freezer, you’ll want to keep it on hand all the time. I do!

Click over to the detailed post; there are lots of photos and ingredient suggestions.

Salmon cakes

healthy lunches: salmon cakes with soup

I cook salmon for dinner once a week (for example, salmon with avocado salsa, herb-crusted salmon, or ancho-crusted salmon), and whether I plan for it or it just works out that way, there’s often a little left over. A little is all you need for salmon cakes! But if you don’t have leftovers, canned salmon works fine, too.

I’ve never measured — that’s part of what makes this kind of cooking quicker! — but I’m guessing I usually start with around 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of already cooked salmon. (A little more would be fine, too.) I mash it together with one raw egg yolk, some diced onion — already prepped, from the fridge. If I have it and feel like it, I might add some diced celery and/or bell pepper, too. Stir in some cracker crumbs if you’re not gluten-averse, mashed cooked sweet potato if you are, and let that sit for a minute or two. Heat and grease a small frypan over medium heat, then form your mix into one or two patties and fry briefly on both sides, till golden-brown and delicious! Sometimes it turns out more loose and eggy, like a frittata — no worries; it’s still good!

healthy lunches: salmon cakes with zoodles

The recipe for the “zoodles” shown above is here.

Getting creative with leftovers

Think outside the box of just reheating leftovers…

A stir fry is a great way to combine and use up leftovers! For example, last night’s pork chop gets chopped up and tossed with the leftover green bean and mushroom side dish to become a stir fry:

healthy lunches: leftover pork chop


Turning a main dish into a salad is another approach. Leftover taco meat becomes a taco salad:

leftovers: taco salad

That “dressing” is just yogurt, salsa, and a little homemade taco seasoning I keep on hand. You can find the recipe here, but again, there’s no need to measure; just eyeball it, taste, and adjust if necessary.

A desperate, “what’s in the fridge” day was the birth of my antipasto salad:



Lettuce wraps are another great template for lunch. Leftover hamburger or crumbled sausage can make an impromptu gyro wrap, if you have some cukes and tomatoes on hand:

quick easy lunch: gyro wrap - paleo, gluten free


My winter mainstay: soup

Some day I’m going to do a whole post (and maybe a cooking class) on my soup method, but here are just a few examples of the kind of easy-to-throw-together soups I make almost every day, once the weather turns cool. If you have some broth, some prepped veggies in the fridge, and little leftover meat, it’s not hard to turn them into a wide variety of healthy lunches, like…

Simple chicken soup:

healthy lunches: chicken soup

Sausage, spinach, broth, and marinara make for a minestrone-inspired soup. (Forgive the filter; I was an instagram newb!)


Leftover french onion soup from one day’s restaurant lunch + half a large burger patty from the next day’s restaurant lunch + a little diced squash + chopped spinach = one quick, easy, hearty soup.

 easy lunch: onion soup + burger

And one day, I was lucky enough to have a little leftover steak; threw it in at the last moment so as not to overcook it. The green blob is from a Wholly Guacamole mini — another thing I keep on hand for easy lunches. (This photo makes me hungry again!)

easy lunch: leftover steak soup

Some cooked, crumbled sausage, chicken bone broth, and assorted veggies; I don’t know what you call this soup, but it’s delicious!

easy soup: sausage and veggies

Sausage and sauerkraut

I know not everyone likes sauerkraut, but if you do, keeping a jar on hand in the fridge along with some healthy sausages or hot dogs can be a great, super-quick lunch option! Sauerkraut has tons of Vitamin C, and may be beneficial to gut health.

Just slice the meat, fry it till slightly browned, add the sauerkraut and cook till heated through. Additions are optional.

In the pic on the left, I used gourmet, uncured, sugar-free hot dogs. I added some diced apple with the sliced meat, so that the apples cooked till slightly tender. Another day, I was using chicken and apple sausage, and added some chopped avocado right at the end. Both days I added a sprinkling of celery seeds and black pepper, but there’s plenty of flavor without them!

easy lunch: sausage + sauerkraut

I hope I’ve inspired you to think beyond reheated as-is leftovers and the usual boxed or canned options, to create some healthy lunches of your own!

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10 easy healthy lunches