5 Super Bowl Menu Ideas

5 super bowl menu ideas Here’s the funny thing: I hate football, and I haven’t been to a Super Bowl party in years. But I have a whole bunch of Super Bowl idea posts on my blog… wonder what a psychologist would make of that, hmmm?!

Now if someone were to invite me to a Super Bowl party, I would be happy to attend because a party means food, and when food is involved… count me in! Especially if your Super Bowl party features any of the following menu items:

Homemade Potato Chips

1. Homemade Chips & Dip

Uh huh. I’m serious! I know, it’s way easier to buy a bag of chips and a jar of dip. But making your own chips and dip is way cooler, plus also way healthier. Double win!

Parmesan Crisps

2. Parmesan Crisps

OK, so I admit that making your own chips and dip can be a little bit labor-intensive and time-consuming, but Parmesan Crisps are a different story altogether: super easy and pretty fast! Oh, and amazingly delicious. You won’t be able to eat just one, and I’m not kidding.

Football Cake 3. Football Cake

This simply decorated football cake won’t take you anymore time than any other homemade dessert, but there’s no dessert more appropriate. Touchdown!

bbq chicken dip 4. BBQ Chicken Dip

Think of the famous Buffalo Chicken Dip, minus the hot sauce, plus some BBQ sauce, and you have BBQ Chicken Dip. It’s total yum; ya gotta try it!

Toasted Chickpeas 5. Toasted Chickpeas

Chances are, if you’re having a party, you’re going to have some guests with food sensitivities. If anybody in your party is gluten-free or allergic to nuts, dairy, eggs, or wheat, then this is the perfect snack for them! None of the afore-mentioned ingredients, and it’s delicious to boot. Plus – bonus for you, the hostess and chef – it’s super easy to make. I bring you Toasted Chickpeas.

May the best team win!

This post was originally published in 2014.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

Pumpkin Spice Granola #autumn #pumpkineverything Granola claims a colorful and circuitous history, strangely intertwined with religion, health nuts, and hippies. Odd, but familiar bedfellows, indeed. Starting with Sylvester Graham (yes, of graham cracker fame), ending up with the hippies of the ’60s, and continuing on to the modern nutrition-conscious housewives of today, it satisfies the need for a quick and healthy breakfast for bleary-eyed mornings. Pumpkin Spice Granola #autumn #pumpkineverything

There are many wonderful things about granola, not the least if which is its adaptability to the contents of your pantry, your dietary needs and desires, and even to the season and its produce. Using a background of a variety of grains and seeds, the fruits of the season can shine in their limelight and create a wide variety of pleasing tastes and textures.

And, of course, pumpkin is the star of the harvest season, and deserves its chance to hog the spotlight. When combined with the usual spices, and some honey, it creates the perfect dressing for granola, made even better by the addition of dried cranberries and apples. Autumn in a delicious handful.

Pumpkin Spice Granola #autumn #pumpkineverything

Pumpkin Spice Granola #autumn #pumpkineverything


Autumn Shepherd’s Pie

Autumn Shepherd's Pie #acornsquash #squash #autumnrecipes

So the weather outside today felt more like summer than autumn but I was still in the mood for my autumnal version of the perennial classic, Shepherd’s Pie. I had some acorn squash that I was looking forward to cooking up, and Shepherd’s Pie was the perfect use for it.

It’s a simple meal, but both my DH and I love Shepherd’s Pie. I especially love changing it up a little, as I did tonight. Enjoy!


This post was originally published in Oct 2009.

What’s in your Lunchbox? Quick and Easy Lunches

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What's in Your Lunchbox? #backtoschool #lunchAs a teacher, I saw a LOT of lunchboxes through the years… and their contents, which occasionally amazed and astounded me. And not necessarily in a good way. To be perfectly frank and honest, the initial thought that popped into my head when observing my students’ lunchbox contents was often, “What were his/her parents thinking?!?!?!” Sometimes I came to the conclusion that they weren’t. Other students impressed me, though, with the contents of their lunchboxes, and those parents I mentally congratulated. I understand it’s difficult to provide a well-balanced, easily portable, easily eaten, well-liked, not-likely-to-be-traded lunch for a picky pupil every. single. weekday. Throw in that most parents barely have time to think about such a lunch, let alone actually create it, and one can easily understand how a child ended up with a lunchbox full of random odds and ends mostly full of sugar, bad fats, and far-from-complex carbs.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’ve already conquered the Lunchbox War, congratulations to you: Well Done! If you’ve been defeated though, or hardly begun to fight, I’ve come up with a few tips to save you Time, Effort, Money… and most importantly, your child’s HEALTH.

Today we’ll start with Time and Effort, probably the biggest obstacles in the fight for the healthy lunchbox. Most parents know what should ideally go in the lunchbox, but many are too discouraged by the amount of time and effort it would take to make it happen. Maybe these ideas will help you surmount those obstacles and lead you to a better lunchbox this school year.

Quick and Easy Lunches #backtoschool #lunchQuick & Easy Lunches

Create a flexible but reliable menu.

Develop a basic framework you can use every day that will save you from having to think too much. For example, plan on variations of the following in each lunch:

  • -Main Dish (sandwich, soup, leftovers, etc.)
  • -Drink (water’s always good!)
  • -Yogurt or Cheese
  • -2 Fruits or Veggies
  • -Small Dessert or Snack

This is a proven formula that will give them enough to eat every day, but is easily varied by including different main dishes, fruits, vegetables, and snacks.

Adapt this formula for your own child, one that is easy for you and enjoyed by him or her. It’s easy to change up, but the basic formula stays the same so you don’t have to think too much about what goes in the lunchbox.

Involve your child(ren).

This is easier and saves more time than you might think, especially if you have a formula like I described above. Even a kindergartener can help out with his/her lunch if they know what goes in it. In fact, I would say that from first grade up, if mom or dad takes care of the main meal (and kids can even help with this, depending on age and what it is), the child can take care of the rest. Post a checklist on the fridge, pictorial if necessary, that clearly shows what items should go in the lunchbox every day. Place those items at an accessible level, and make it your child’s responsibility to put all those items in their lunchbox every day. If you’re not comfortable leaving it entirely up to them, all you have to do is instruct them to leave it open until you check it for accuracy. Inspect each lunchbox quickly,  correct where necessary, zip it up and off they go!

Fill the lunchbox the night before.

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Make lunch the night before, and then your morning routine will be slightly less hectic. Every  night after dinner, when we clean up the dining room and kitchen, we make lunches for the next day. The lunches go into the fridge with all the leftovers and are ready for to grab the next morning. If you don’t have enough room to store their actual lunch boxes in the fridge overnight, place a large plastic box of some kind on one of the shelves, and put all the lunch contents in it every night. In the morning, just grab the contents and transfer them to the individual lunch boxes. This will still save plenty of coveted morning prep time.

Corral lunchbox items in the fridge and pantry.

This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Collect all the yogurt cups, cheese sticks, and other refrigerated lunchbox items in one big plastic container on a shelf in the fridge, or designate one of the meat/produce drawers as “lunchbox drawer”. In the pantry, place all the shelf-stable items, such as snacks (healthy ones of course!), juice boxes, fruit cups and other lunch munchies in a designated, clearly labeled, easily accessible container.

Invest in some inexpensive, time-saving tools, like an apple slicer or an orange peeler.

Tupperware Citrus Fruit Veggie Peelers set of 2 SoldCalphalon Easy Grip Apple Slicer
The apple slicer is an incredible invention that will allow you to slice up an apple for your child(ren) in seconds and is a lot easier than pulling out a paring knife and cutting board. It will make the apple easier for your children to eat, especially if they are younger. Apples will brown when exposed to air, so you can either dowse them in a bit of lemon juice and water or just pack them in an airtight container to reduce the browning.

The orange peeler is especially useful for elementary-aged children as it can safely be packed with their lunch and allow them to peel their own oranges, clementines or tangerines by themselves at school. If you’re not comfortable with packing the peeler, simply use it to slice through the peel before putting the citrus in the lunchbox, so at least they have a starting point and they can peel easily from there.

Quick and Easy Lunches #backtoschool #lunchWhat about that main dish?

It’s easy enough to figure out the side items: yogurt cups, cheese sticks, fresh fruit or fruit cups, etc. But what about the main dish? This is usually the biggest quandary when it comes to lunch-packing time. A little forethought and preparation goes a long way to help.

If your child has access to a microwave, make use of it!

Of course, not every school or classroom has the capability of reheating a child’s lunch, which is a bummer. Also, many people prefer to avoid overuse of a microwave. If that’s the case, refer to the next tip:

Invest in a thermos or other insulated container.

Thermos Stainless King SK3000MB4 Food Jar, Midnight Blue
Even though both schools where I have worked had ready access to microwaves for all the student lunches, some parents still opted to use a Thermos or similar container instead. And it worked great! If the food goes in hot, it keeps its temperature long enough to be deliciously warm at lunch time. This opens up SO many time- and effort-saving options for filling up those lunchboxes. Read on to see how!

Cook a double batch for dinner and send the leftovers for lunch.

I do this all. the. time. In fact, we eat leftovers for lunch more often than anything else. Usually, the lunch version is simplified, in other words, doesn’t necessarily include all of the sides, sauces, etc. Also, for small children, the food needs to be easily eaten, which means some foods will have to be cut up for them in advance. Plan your dinners ahead of time, determine which ones will easily translate into lunch, and voila! Your lunch the next day is instantly ready at the same time as dinner!

Make big batches and freeze the extra.

Whenever you cook up basic staples like noodles and rice, cook extra and freeze the extra. You can even pour spaghetti sauce over them before freezing for an instant meal, in which case you should freeze them in individual containers. The noodles and rice can be used for dinners OR even for quick lunches when you don’t have leftovers or sandwich options available. Also, extra shredded chicken, beef and pork can be used as sandwich fillers or noodles/rice/potato toppers for delicious lunches.

Make use of the crock pot.

Cook Chicken Noodle Soup (this is where some pre-cooked noodles will come in handy!), Homemade Spaghetti-os (this only gives you 7 hrs max, so it’s perfect if you’re late to bed, early to rise), or Chili in the crock pot overnight and your main dish is ready  in the morning! This concept is limited only by your imagination and the contents of your fridge and pantry: cook just about anything (cooking times vary, so keep that in mind) overnight, place it in an insulated container (or re-heat at lunch) for a delicious, fresh, hot lunch!

Always keep sandwich items available.

This is an area where I frequently fail. The idea is to keep some kind of bread, as well as sandwich filler items (lunch meat, tuna, eggs for egg salad, etc.) available at all times, so that when lunchbox-filling-time comes and there are no leftovers or other hot food available, you still have easy options without resorting to cans or packages of processed food.

Currently, I pretty much exclusively make sourdough bread, but one thing that has really helped in the past to have fresh bread available almost all the time is the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day method, and its companion, Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a DayArtisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home BakingWith this method, you can keep bread dough in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or longer in the freezer. Pull it out and bake it whenever you need fresh bread. Loaf or sandwich bread requires a 60-90 minute resting time, but flat breads, like pita for example, require no little-to-no resting time and are baked up in half an hour or less. The only prep is mixing the ingredients and storing them in the fridge once every two weeks (depending on how often you bake up the dough). No kneading, punching down, or extra risings necessary.

I hope this gives you some great ideas for lunchboxes this school year! I’d love to hear any ideas you have or things you like to do when it comes to lunchbox time.

Next Post: Saving Money

 This post was originally published in 2010. 

A Big Announcement!

Dare I Say It? #bebold #speaktruth Dear Friends and Readers,

I cannot even begin to express my appreciation to all of you who have faithfully followed me on this blog for some time. To you, I am so excited to announce my newest project (Well, one of them anyway. I have a couple more in the works that should be exciting, also!)! It’s one that’s been on my heart for some time now, and I hope you’ll do me the honor of joining with me. 

Want to know more? Read all about it here

PS. The new blog design is not 100% finished but I couldn’t wait any longer to share! So be prepared for more beautifulness soon!

DIY Coffee Shop Drink: Maple Pecan Latte

Maple Pecan Latte #diycoffeeshop #natural #norefinedsugarI have a serious confession to make.

*Deep breath.*

Ok. Here goes.

The truth is. I’m addicted to fancy coffee shop coffee.

{insert shocked emoticon}

I know, right? The fact that it’s crazy expensive and that I would never consider spending that much money on anything else so trivial and transient does not deter me. The fact that it’s hardly good for me does not deter me. The fact that it doesn’t satisfy me as much as I think it will does not deter me. NOTHING deters me!

So I put myself on a coffee shop fast. I did it earlier this year in January, and it actually really helped! But then I fell off the wagon and I’m back to my usual tricks again.

{insert tragically sad emoticon}

So another coffee shop fast for me.

Thank goodness I have this amazing little diy coffee shop trick up my sleeve. It makes withdrawal so much easier. 

Maple Pecan Latte #diycoffeeshop #natural #norefinedsugar

Maple Pecan Latte #diycoffeeshop #natural #norefinedsugarAre you also addicted to coffee shop drinks? Try my other DIY Coffee Drink recipes: 

Chocolate Orange Coffee #diycoffeeshop

Chocolate Orange Coffee

Lavender Sy Lavender Iced Coffee #diycoff Lavender Iced Coffee #diycoffeeshop

Lavender Iced Coffee #diycoffeeshop


Cold Brewed Coffee #diycoffeeshop

Cold Brewed Coffee #diycoffeeshop

Brazilian Chocolate #diycoffeeshop

Brazilian Chocolate #diycoffeeshop


Crock Pot Greek Chicken

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Authentic Simplicity!Crock Pot Greek Chicken #freezercooking #crockpot #cleaneating #chicken

This is one of my go-to recipes (if I have such a thing… that means I’ve made it more than once!) from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, that crockpot classic, “Fix it and Forget it“. All kinds of crockpot recipes and variations for everything from roast beef to mac and cheese to cake.

The one I picked today was called “Greek Chicken”. I don’t know what makes it Greek, except for maybe the oregano? At any rate, it’s a good basic recipe with few ingredients, but reliable, and, of course, tasty. Can’t go wrong with chicken, oregano and olive oil!

Note: You’ll want to use dried oregano in this recipe because it provides the most flavor. However, if you have fresh oregano from the garden, you can add a little extra of it (maybe 1 TBSP chopped) towards the end of the cooking time.

Crock Pot Greek Chicken and Potatoes #crockpot #chicken #cleaneating

The potatoes are delicious all by themselves! They alone are reason enough to make this recipe.

Crock Pot Greek Chicken and Potatoes #crockpot #chicken #cleaneating

This post was originally published in 2009. I’ve updated it and included a printable recipe card and made the instructions on this popular recipe a little more clear.

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Fresh Mint

5 Fresh Ways to Use Fresh Mint #garden #mint #cleaneatingGot a mint plant (or two) that’s going crazy? Not sure what to do with it?

I hear ya! Mint is famous for flourishing whether or not you want it to, which can be good (Hey, it’s yummy! And good for you!) and bad (There’s only so much mint one person can handle at a time.). It’s kind of tricky trying to find different ways to use fresh mint when it’s coming out of your ears. I’ve done all the usual things with my fresh mint so far:

All of those things get old, though, after a while, so I put myself on a mission to find some fun and creative ways to use my mint plant. I’m looking forward to trying out these five fresh ideas for my fresh mint!

5 Unexpected Ways to Use Fresh Mint

  1. Fresh Mint Iced Coffee – You know me, I’m always up for a good cuppa joe. So much the better if it’s made with an unexpected twist and an unusual ingredient. (Remember my Lavender Iced Coffee?)
  2. I never in my life would have thought to put fresh mint into cookies or cupcakes, but these bloggers totally went there! I’d like to try some Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies or Fresh Mint Chocolate Cupcakes!
  3. And while I’m baking, I think I shall have to whip up some Cranberry Mint Scones, which not only use fresh mint, but fresh cranberries, too! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
  4. It’s admittedly not that odd for baked goods to incorporate a fresh mint flavor, but savory foods? This Moroccan Spiced Potato Pizza doesn’t have any cheese… but it does have fresh mint!
  5. Another yummy-sounding savory option is this Honey Mint Glazed Chicken. I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t already prepped all my chicken in marinades before putting it in the freezer!


How to Wash Produce

How to Wash Produce #ygbt #oams #cleanfood Don’t you just love a tip that saves you time and money… and is good for you in the process? You can’t beat that, right?! Well, that’s the sort of tip I’ve got for you today.

  • I’ll save you TIME by showing you how to wash your produce all at once (and if you only go grocery shopping once a month, it saves you even more time).
  • I’ll save you MONEY by showing you how washing your produce all at once will make it last longer and stay fresher.
  • It’s GOOD FOR YOU because washing your produce and having fresher produce means fewer pesticides entering your body and more nutrition.

It’s a win-win all around, my friend! Here’s how to wash produce in big batches to save you time and money.

How to Wash Your Produce (and save time and money in the process)

First of all, I want to highly recommend that you go grocery shopping once a month if you’re really interested in saving yourself significant time and money. It might sound crazy, but trust me, it’s totally doable and it works. You’ll find all the info you need to get started in my eBook, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox.

Once you’ve gone on your monthly shopping trip, you’ll have a mountain of produce that you want to last as long as possible. There are a lot of ways to do that, and many of them are discussed in the book, but one of the best ways is simply to wash all the produce before you put it away. So pile up all the produce on the counter next to the sink, and then get started!

1. Fill the sink with water and some vinegar.

You can also add a couple drops of Thieves oil for added cleaning power! You don’t need a huge amount of vinegar; I just add a few generous splashes and call it good.

Place your produce gently in the water. Be sure not to put things like apples and blackberries in at the same time, because that could be seriously bad news for the blackberries. Depending on how much produce you have, you may need to do several batches.

Let the produce sit in the water for a minute or two.

2. Rinse the produce in a colander.

Remove the produce from the sink and place in a colander. If you have a double sink, you can rinse it right away; otherwise, you might need to wait to rinse until you’ve run all the produce through the vinegar bath.

Be sure to rinse the produce very thoroughly to get off all the remaining pesticides and bacteria, as well as all the vinegar.

3. Place the produce on a towel to dry.

Set out some towels on your countertops and put the produce on the towels in a single layer to dry. I sometimes leave it on the countertops overnight, depending on the time I get started with it, but generally it will take only a couple hours.

Carefully store the produce in the appropriate spot in the fridge or pantry.

This whole process takes 10-15 minutes plus drying time and saves you a lot of money in the long run! You’ll find that your produce lasts significantly longer when you wash it this way before storing it, which means less produce dumped in the trash. And, of course, your produce will be cleaner and fresher for you when you go to eat it, which is good for your health as well.

Helping you save money on your groceries is one of my favorite things to do ever, so I’m super excited about my latest project. I’m working on updating and slightly revising the ebook I mentioned earlier, Your Grocery Budget Toolbox. It’s going to be an even better resource to help you keep your money in your pocket while purchasing the highest quality  of food possible for your family. Once the second edition of YGBT is released, I’ll be working on a spiral-bound print copy as well! And on top of all that, pretty soon after that I’ll be releasing an eCourse that personally walks you through the process of saving money on your groceries. I’m not a squee-in’ kinda girl normally, but I’m so excited about what I’ve got in store for you that I’m about to do just that! So make sure you sign up for email updates so you know when all of this brand new awesomeness is released. Here’s to healthy food… and more money in your pocket!


Better than the Box – Chocolate Pudding

This post was originally published in 2009.  Better Than the Box Chocolate Pudding One of my main goals on this blog is to prove to anyone who doesn’t believe me that cooking healthy foods from scratch is neither difficult nor time-consuming. Too many people think that cooking is either a great mystery they could never solve, or so time-consuming they would always be stuck in the kitchen. Instead, they rely on boxes (or bags or jars, or packages, you get the idea) that are quick and easy, but expensive and chock-full of unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients.

There’s a better way!

You don’t have to be a gourmet and spend hours over your creations in order to serve healthy delicious meals to your family. So throw away the box and make something from scratch for a change. If I can do it, you can do it!

For example, chocolate pudding. For a long time, I never even ate pudding because I didn’t want to use the mix found in a box, but I thought that home-made pudding was too time-consuming and difficult. Then my diet was forcibly changed because of my son’s allergies: there were so many foods I couldn’t eat, that I began to think outside the box (literally!) for foods that I could eat. I thought I had kissed chocolate good-bye for a while, until I found an allergen-free recipe for chocolate pudding. And I realized that it was so quick and easy, I could make it any time I needed a chocolate fix.

Once I discovered that, I branched out and made all kinds of pudding: butterscotch, vanilla, coconut, etc. I used them to make trifles and parfaits for desserts to serve to guests. And the best part was, it was every bit as easy as using a box!

But not as QUICK, you say. Almost as quick, I say. It took me approximately 10 minutes, start to finish. Anybody can find 10 minutes in their day to fix themselves a chocolate treat!

I thought home-made pudding was hard, but it’s actually quite EASY. What makes it difficult is using an egg, because the egg(s) has to be tempered, or gradually heated so that it doesn’t cook before it’s thoroughly mixed in. That problem is easily avoided by not using an egg! You’ll find most pudding recipes require an egg, but as I discovered, vegans and food-allergic folks know that pudding without an egg is every bit as good. An egg adds richness to pudding. So if you want your pudding a little richer, go ahead and fuss with the egg. But if you just want some pudding, forget the egg. You won’t miss it!

It’s CHEAPer than buying the box. I bet you don’t believe me because those boxes are pretty cheap. Aside from the milk (which is not included in the box anyway), the ingredients in this chocolate pudding cost less than $0.40, even if you don’t buy them on sale.

It may not be HEALTHY, but it’s certainly healthier than what’s in that box. Have you ever looked at the ingredients? Sugar, modified food starch, cocoa, disodium phosphate, natural & artificial flavors, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, monoglyceride, diglycerides, Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 1, Artificial Colors, citric acid, BHA. Yum. I don’t even know why they need all those food colorings, because, as Matthew McConaughey says in “The Wedding Planner”, “Chocolate’s already brown.”

Have I convinced you yet?

Once it’s reached the right consistency, remove from the heat and add the 100% chocolate bar and vanilla. At this point, you can get creative and try adding different things. For example, chocolate chips instead of the chocolate bar. Or different flavorings instead of vanilla. I have also used a mixture of coffee and milk to make a mocha pudding. Mmmm, that was yummy.

Pour the pudding into serving dishes and place in refrigerator to cool. If you plan on serving to guests, you may want to consider placing some plastic wrap tightly on the surface of the pudding while it cools to prevent a skin from forming. I don’t bother when it’s just for myself, or if I’m going to stir it up and use it in something else. Garnish as desired:

Better Than the Box Chocolate Pudding Sharing at Try a New Recipe Tuesday