HOW TO: Use EVERYTHING but the Bagel Seasoning

Everything Seasoning, Everything but the Bagel seasoning, Everything Bagel seasoning… many names, but it’s all the same. The perfect blend of salt, white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds, dried minced garlic, dried minced onion and poppy seeds.

You can buy it in every grocery store now, or make it at home. And, it can go on just about EVERYTHING! I buy mine multiple bottles at a time and keep it in the fridge (the sesame seeds can go rancid if on the cabinet shelves too long). Read recommendations below!

Everything Bagel Seasoning Cucumbers
Slice 1-2 Persian cucumbers lengthwise, scoop out the seeds (doesn’t have to be perfect), spread some cream cheese (plain or flavored) and sprinkle a generous amount of the Everything seasoning on top. Slice or eat whole.

Everything Bagel Crackers
Spray some butter crackers or saltines with non-stick spray and sprinkle Everything seasoning on top. Bake in a 300 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until crackers are slightly brown. They may not crisp up until they cool slightly on the pan. Place in a snack bowl and enjoy or serve to guests!

Everything Seasoned Salmon
Salmon filets drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled generously with Everything seasoning and a small sprinkling of brown sugar. Grilled for 8-10 minutes (depending on size of filets and preferred level of doneness). This an also be broiledif grilleing isn’t an option.

Everything Chicken Tenders
You can use chicken tenders or chicken breast cut into long strips, whichever you have on hand! Take a sheet pan and line with parchment or a cooling rack inside the pan. Spray each chicken strip/tender with olive oil or canola oil spray and press Everything seasoning onto the pieces until it adheres. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, until check in opaque throughout and temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer

Everything Avocado Toast
Toast two pieces of whole wheat Italian bread (or whole grain bread of your choice). Slice and fan out half an avocado on each piece of bread. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle with Everything seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes (pepper flakes optional). Cut each piece of toast in half and serve.

Everything but the Bagel Popcorn
Heat 1/4 c. coconut oil in a large pot. Add 1/2-3/4 c. popcorn kernels once the oil has melted in the pot. Cover and let popcorn pop over medium-low heat until you only hear a couple kernels popping over a few minutes. Dump hot popcorn into a large bowl and toss with Everything but the Bagel seasoning. Enjoy warm!

From breakfast to lunch to dinner to snacks, Everything but the Bagel seasoning is a winner in my book. How do you use this seasoning each week? Are you a fan or do you prefer a different “all-purpose” seasoning in your spice cabinet?

Tell me more and hopefully some of these recipe ideas start to make the rotation in your kitchen. If they do, be sure to take @plan_prep_pack_plate on Intagram!

Come back later this week for more discussions of food obsessions, favorite summer activities and life’s ups and downs!


It’s Been a Minute.

Hello again, I’m back after an unintended quick break. Thanks for coming back and hopefully you can relate, and maybe offer a few suggestions for the next time things get out of control.

To be honest, I had a bout of being completely overwhelmed with life. My schedule seems to have suddenly gotten back to a normal busy schedule of work, home maintenance, social gatherings and family time. And, though I’m so ready for it; I haven’t reacclimated to not having down time anymore.

I struggle to not allow side-hustles, family, friends, etc. overtake my daily plans to get to my life goals – but that’s where I’ve found myself. It’s a balance they say – but I keep putting everyone and everything ahead of myself…why? I have come to the conclusion it is because I don’t ever want anyone to feel that they are alone in the world. Having found myself without a support system to turn to many times in my life, I sometimes go into overdrive so others don’t feel that same pain.

But, back to the social aspect first (we’ll get to the emotional part later)…has anyone else found themselves going 100mph on the highway after the last 18 months on the side streets? I am having so much fun catching up with friends and family without a screen or phone in between us, though some days I do miss the endless days of going from daytime yoga pants to pajama pants without having to worry about anyone seeing me!

My meal plans have adjusted – so many more “party” foods or recipes I would never make unless there was more than 3 people around. It’s been so fun to try new food combinations, get more reactions than my parents who always tell me our meals taste good. Though, I now have to be more cognizant of how much I’m making, what kinds of leftovers they will make, etc. Which has been a fun challenge.

During most weeks, I focus on eating whole foods, lean proteins, and whole grains Monday – Friday lunch; and don’t have as strict a menu Friday night through Sunday. Generally, it’s because weekdays need to be simple and meals need to pack a punch of flavor (even during pandemic weeks, I was working 12-14 hours a day, so the time was still limited, just differently spaced out); and on weekends, I want to enjoy something if gathering socially, or just because I have more time to spend on creating a meal/experience.

Having more social events on weekends, and now during the week – I focus on how I can transition “party food” into weeknight or weekday meals, that are healthy and balance, instead of a dish that will leave me needing a nap in the middle of the day. I’m readjusting the meals I plan, the groceries I buy, and how to use all of this amazing summer produce when entertaining, without it being “boring” or just another veggie tray. Another element that I always went overboard on, but seem to have reigned in was the amount of food I make for social gatherings – guess what? There will always be plenty of food – and the more variety you have, the less “recipe doubling” you need to do! Don’t worry – we’ll be exploring entertaining and serving sizes in a future blog soon.

Has anyone else hit a mental or emotional wall after socializing lately? I struggled not having social things to keep me busy for all of those months, but then I fell apart after those first few gatherings because it was just so much to the other extreme. And then there’s that sneaky “FOMO” that comes along to let you know that you’re human, and not everyone is at the same place they were before, and where you fit may have changed….or you realize that the pandemic gave you the chance to see a situation or people differently/more honestly (this hurts the deepest, I’m pretty sure).

So – how did I get through this recent moment of overwhelm? I pushed through, because we have to sometimes. And then I wrote, to get some of the raw emotion out, to be able to separate what any of the “real issues” were and how I can adjust to get to these goals I’m not giving up on. This will mean re-prioritizing some of my side-hustles. This will mean I might have to choose between a couple of social events in the next few weeks. This will result in a couple of acknowledgements and conversations with those I’ve held close and been fiercely loyal to, that made the choice to cause me to question my trust of them.

Those of you who have read my posts and heard some of my stories, know that these types of moments in life can stop me in my tracks, and derail the work I’ve done to keep a safe relationship with food and activity. What I can tell you, is that I was able to rely on my meal planning and food prep process, focusing on adjusting to what I could stomach; and I’m now back to a regular eating and activity schedule. There are setbacks that I will work through, but nothing permanent or “unfixable”.

How are you adjusting to the slow roll out of post-pandemic life (I don’t think we’ll be out of the woods for a bit, but slowly things are getting back to a sense of maintainable normalcy)? How are you managing getting back to balancing social and personal time? Did you stumble recently and need to reset? How did you do it/

I want to hear from you! I want to learn about others’ experiences, especially lately, and we’ll be back with some fun food plan ideas and recipes later this week!

As always, reach out to me in the comments, via email or on Instagram!


Top 10 Items for Outdoor Entertaining

Until I had a backyard and outdoor space to use, I saw all the fun outdoor serveware, dining sets, glasses, decor, etc. and tried to find all the reasons to make the purchase….but I did not.

Last year, I moved in the middle of winter (January) and couldn’t wait until Marshall’s, HomeGoods and TJ Maxx had all the summer entertaining items….until the world came to a halt and all the stores closed for months. I got a table at Target, which was great to have for the very small gatherings we would spend the summer enjoying. To my disappointment, even when the stores opened back up, the inventory wasn’t as great as in years past, so the options were limited.

We made due, and this spring, despite many big life changes, I made sure to take time to expand my outdoor entertaining inventory. Check out my recommendations below – they’ve done me well at the end of last season (some were gifts from friends and family when they were able to finally visit) and multiple gatherings so far this year.

Ice Bucket and Stand
I recommend this one from Crate and Barrel. I received it as a housewarming gift, and I absolutely love it. You want to have something that is large enough to fit a variety of beverages, and tons of ice – in the summer, you can never ever have too much ice. I also use this for storage of outdoor items such as cups.

Rolling Cooler
You can’t really have enough, and helpful to have a few different sizes – make sure they have wheels! There is nothing fun about carrying a full cooler. They are great for keeping ice frozen during backyard parties, keeping food and drinks cool for a day at the pool, beach or on a boat. I love using them to transport freezer meals to friends and family as gifts and keeping groceries cold in the car during the summer months. I recommend keeping an eye out at warehouse stores or Target for deals throughout the year. If you can’t find a cooler, or it’s a bit out of your price range, another option is a kiddie pool filled with ice!

Insulated Cups/Tumblers
These are useful not only for outdoor parties, but for hot days all around. Keeps drinks cold longer, keeps your hands from freezing or a drink slipping out of your hands. And, they are generally different colors….built in “name on cup”…just in color form. I highly recommend these tumblers, they are multi-functional, and come in many different color sets.

Melamine Serveware
Consider getting a few platters, large serving bowls, snack bowls, chip and dip platters, etc. You’ll appreciate the variety, they are all generally dishwasher-safe so you can easily wash and use again the next time. You don’t have to worry about serveware breaking as easily when outdoors, it isn’t single-use or disposable, so you won’t waste.

Melamine Dinnerware
Same as above, there are so many different sets, so many options for designs – and somehow, they all fit together! I find having 12 dinner plates, dessert/appetizer plates and wide bowls are a good number to keep on hand at all times.

Folding Tables
These are great for outdoor and indoor entertaining. You can easily store these when not in use, they can seat an extra 6-8 people or be used as a buffet table for all your food offerings. I recommend having 2-3 on hand to use throughout the year. Think backyard BBQs, happy hours and then consider the option to use indoors for a Thanksgiving or New Year’s feast.

Outdoor Games
Have a few easy games on hand for adults and kids alike. Whether a frisbee or two, a game of tennis ball catch, bags, ring toss, etc. it keeps everyone happy, and having fun while the weather is warm. Check out sales and clearance sections throughout the year to help buil your game collection without breaking the bank.

Citronella Candles
For all the mosquitos and bugs – they get to be a nuisance sometimes – but the candles keep them at bay, and add a bit of ambience to the outdoor entertaining space.

Sunscreen, Bug Spray and Anti-Itch Spray (for bug bites) –
Keep a bin of outdoor essentials for your guests, to keep them comfortable before the sun starts beating down and the bugs start to fly around at dusk. I find great deals on sunscreen of different strengths at Marshalls, and similar stores – so that your guests have options of what would work best for them (suggested: 15spf, 30spf, 50spf). Bug spray can be found on sale at hardware stores often. Nothing is worse than getting a bug bite and not being able to calm the itching. I recommend Hydrocortisone spray or ointment for guests to be able to quickly medicate a bug bite if needed. Remember to check your supplies before each party – and if you’re not sure what to have people bring when they ask to help, you can always request some of these supplies that you want to keep on hand.

Outdoor/Washable Chairs, Blankets, Pillows
Whether plastic, wicker, metal or a combination; chairs, blankets, and pillows not only add color to your outdoor space, but provide options for all who visit Kids and teenagers can sit on the ground/blankets, parents can use pillows when sitting with their kids on the ground, and adults can use chairs or move their chairs to visit with different people throughout the party/parties. Purchase blankets and pillows that can be washed/cleaned with a hose, and same with chairs (most are easily cleaned). Makes for easy cleanup and prep for the next outdoor gathering!

What are your go-to outdoor entertaining items? What makes your summer gatherings easy to host and execute? Keep an eye out for sales and for all the cute outdoor items that will not only look great this summer, but also make your lives easier!

Don’t forget to comment below or email me with any questions or suggestions for summer entertaining!


Week 22 Meal Plan

Don’t forget to check out the current week’s meal plan here! The plan below is an archive from last week’s meal plan. Looking for inspiration for your meals this week? Be sure to take a look at the meal plans from previous weeks in the blog.

First long weekend of the summer is done and looking forward to a summer of fun, food, family and friends. This week focuses on grilled meals and outdoor eating before the heaat of the weekend.

Grilled Shrimp Lettuce Cups from Geoffrey Zakarian and the Food Network.

Spicy Bacon Fried Rice from What’s Gaby Cooking. This is back on the rotation from a few weeks ago – so good, and great for a rainy day and clearing out the fridge.

Grilled Corn Pizza. Can’t seem to get enough of this fresh and easy grilled pizza. Fresh corn is a bonus for this week’s rendition.

Grilled Chicken Kebobs from What’s Gaby Cooking. Always a family favorite on the table. And, keeping the heat outside as the temps creep into the 90s

Grilled “Everything but the Bagel Seasoning” Salmon skewers. No marinade, minimal mess – just pieces of salmon perfectlyl seasoned and grilled a few minutes on each side.

Pool Day – TBD what we’ll put on the table after we cool off from the heat.

Tomato Toast
Eggs with Everything Bagel Seasoning


Don’t Let Your Summer Produce Go To Waste!

Who else out there loves a good Farmers Market shopping spree? I am mesmerized by ALL of the fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, etc. and then I bring home the bags and bags of colorful foods….and wonder how I am going to enjoy it all….before the next week’s haul, or before it all goes bad.

So, like all other things, I have found creative ways to use some of the produce I purchase often, and NO, I don’t change how much or what I buy, even though that might be the most logical thing to do! Take a look at my recommendations and ideas below – give them a try and let me know how it works for you.

I’m not talking the long process with special equipment and boiling water with glass jars and such. I envy those who have mastered that and took the time to perfect their process – but I’m a “quick-pickle” kind of food person. Luckily, I’ve found a few others around food blog world that have the same inclination as me, and have great recipes and processes to follow. It prolongs some of the produce for weeks or months, AND, as an extra bonus, the homemade version of pickled vegetables are crisper, fresher and are customizable to your tastes!

Whether it’s cucumbers, artichokes, onions, okra, carrots, mini peppers, or any other vegetable you prefer pickled, the method is similar and takes no time at all to make. The only things you need are white vinegar, dill, garlic, peppercorns and the preferred vegetable; and then usual household ingredients such as water, salt and white sugar/sweetener.

Try a couple of these recipes below:

Chia Jams
Fresh berries, stone fruit, melons, even tomatoes are amazing when they are turned into jam….after you enjoy all of them fresh first, of course! Making chia jam, once again, takes out the hours of labor to make a simple product, with another bonus of adding healthy protein, Omega-3s and more when using chia seeds.

Each batch only uses a couple of ingredients, and require minimal prep for the fridge. It will prolong the time you can enjoy these farmers market finds, provides a lower sugar, healthier result and it makes great gifts for family and friends. Imagine being invited to a last minute backyard party, and you have jars of jam to choose from and give as a hostess gift, or bring along with an appetizer – think brie, crackers and jam…

There are many recipes for chia jam, depending on the types of fruit you use or have on hand. Try one of these for a fresh and different flavor for your toast tomorrow morning:

Fruit Popsicles
Custom, no-added-sugar summer treats are the best. And, the flavor combinations are truly endless. There are so many recipes out there – but the base recipe I’ve always compiled is below to make 10 popsicles.

Need a popsicle mold? There are hundreds of options, but this is the one I’ve used for years and it’s easy to fill, clean and use again.

Base Popsicle Recipe:

  • 2c fresh fruit, cut into small pieces
  • 1T lemon juice
  • 1T Agave syrup

Blend ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth. Pour into a smaller measuring cup, or you can use this set which helps with the layering process, if you’d like to mix a few flavors together. Add 2-2.25oz of puree into each mold and freeze for 45 minutes. After 45m minutes, add the popsicle sticks and freeze for 6-8 hours until frozen (or up to overnight). Once frozen, run mold under warm water for a few seconds to release popsicles. I then freeze them on a parchment lined 9×13 cookie sheet until frozen again. After that, I wrap in wax or parchment paper and place in a freezer container or zipper bag for long term storage. It helps to label the container with the type of fruit(s) and date made (I recommend keeping for up to 6 months). This helps when making multiple different batches as the summer goes on, and allows for more variety when offering family, friends, or yourself a frozen treat when the sun is shining!

We’ll talk about more options for using fresh summer produce in the coming weeks and months, but I hope this gets you started as the farmers markets are opening up and all the stores are bursting with new items to try! Let me know which recipes and processes you try and how they turn out! Have something for us to try? Share below in the comments.

Enjoy the weekend and all that summer is starting to offer.


10 Favorite Summer Smoothies

Summer weather inspires vibrantly colorful meals and an inclination to snack on fresh fruit and vegetables instead of chips and cookies (most of the time!). How do I use all of the produce I buy at the store or farmer’s market, and inevitably can’t finish just by adding it as a side to meals and midday snacks? I make smoothies for breakfast, lunch, afternoon snacks and even dessert sometimes!

Here are my top tips for smoothie success, and later, my favorite recipes when I have a few extra minutes in the day. My favorite smoothie? Anything with raspberries and chia seeds…my go-to fruit and add-in every single time!

Tips and Prep:

  • If you only have fresh fruit on hand, just add ice to the smoothie – it will mimic using frozen fruit
  • If you have fresh fruit that is starting to go bad, cut it up into 1″ dice and freeze for 30-60 minutes on a parchment lined sheet pan. Once frozen, store each fruit in freezer bags or containers, marked with the month/year and type of fruit.
    • If you prefer a specific blend of fruit, feel free to make your own frozen fruit blend in your freezer bags
    • If you want to speed up your smoothie prep and have a specific recipe you follow, just freeze all ingredients, except for the liquid in a bag in the freezer.
  • Add ingredients to the blender with the lightest items in the bottom, with the heavier items on top – such as: milk, spinach, seeds/nuts, frozen fruit, any other add-ins.
    • If you are making smoothie packs to freeze, add ingredients in reverse order, heavy items at bottom of pack and lightest ingredients on top
  • Powerful Blenders are essential to making smoothies. If you are able, use a Vitamix or similar. If your blender is not as strong, you may need a bit more liquid for everything to blend up without too many tears! I use this one.
  • Use reusable smoothie straws – I recommend these smoothie straws!
  • Insulated tumblers with lids – great for working at home or taking smoothies on the go. I recommend these tumblers!
  • Smoothie ingredients – see suggested shopping list/pantry list below

Suggested Shopping / On-Hand List:

  • Unsweetened Frozen fruit (home frozen, or from the store) –
    Make sure, if you’re purchasing a bag of frozen fruit, that it is only the fruit, no added sweeteners or ingredients
  • Dairy or non-Dairy milk of choice
    I find that Unsweetened Almond Milk works best
  • Baby Spinach or Chopped Kale (fresh or frozen) –
    You can purchase the large containers/bags of spinach or kale and divide them into individual portions
  • Protein source
    • Protein powder of choice
    • Homemade mixture of flaxmeal, chia seeds and hemp hearts (1:1:1 ratio) – I purchase in bulk, and make in batches as needed. Just store in freezer for longest/maximum freshness
  • Optional Add-Ins
    • Nut butters
    • Agave Nectar (most needed if fruit isn’t in-season or frozen fruit is bitter)
    • Raw Nuts: Cashews, Pistachios, Walnuts
    • Seeds: Sunflower, Pumpkin
    • Pitted dates

Recipe Recommendations:

If I’m in a hurry or don’t have the energy to make a specific recipe, I follow the below ingredient ratios – and sometimes they become part of the weekly rotation!

  • 1c Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1c Fresh or Frozen Baby Spinach
  • 1c Frozen Fruit
  • 1/2c Fresh Fruit (optional)
  • 1T blend of Flax meal, Chia seeds and Hemp hearts
  • 1T Almond Butter (depends on fruit combination)

Blend for 1-2 minutes and pour into glass, serve immediately.

Enjoy a morning smoothie on your pre-work walk, or sitting outside during your midday conference call or on the sports field while your kids are playing their 10th game of the week. Know that you’re fueling your body with nutrients and gaining energy.

Tell me what smoothies are your favorite in the comments and let me know what you think if you try any of the recipes/combinations above! As always, I’m here to help with any recipe ideas, food prep and meal planning – don’t hesitate to reach out!


Week 21 Meal Plan

Pool is up and running, just in time for the early season hot temps. Sunshine, grills and water are my summer plans, how about you? See my Week 21 meal plan below with all of the Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook for my in the moment results, adjustments and ideas!

Fork and Knife Salad – after a weekend of house guests and BBQs, I need a simple, fresh, and minimal prep dinner. Knife and Fork Salads are hearty, tons of add-ins and large lettuce leaves. Sit down with your platter of vegetables, some of that double-batch vinaigrette you made during your large prep day and maybe a leftover piece of grilled chicken from the weekend and dinner is done.

Quinoa, Corn and Avocado Salad from What’s Gaby Cooking. Late evening work presentation/meeting means I need to have dinner ready or when I arrive back home. This make-ahead salad/bowl is always so refreshing and a meal that is summer comfort food.

Grilled Corn Pizza. Can’t seem to get enough of this fresh and easy grilled pizza. Fresh corn is a bonus for this week’s rendition.

Chicken Sandwiches with Gojuchang Sauce from Jeff Mauro and the Food Network. I’ve been waiting or weeks to make this recipe, but it’s for the cold weather nights, not the ones on the grill! So, I think today will be the day. All the random ingrediens have arrived from y online searches, so I am set.

Spaghetti Night. I’m leaviing this one up to the crew for what kind of paste and sauce we have, so stay tuned! It’s a real test of my need to be in command of our meals!

Backyard BBQ Potluck – check my Instagram feed for what everyone brings to the party!

Family Party for some of my family that will be in town – we’ll be making grilled chicke nand some fun sides!

Monday (Memorial Day)
BBQ to kick-off the summer season – it’s unofficial, but it’s real!

Tomato Toast
Eggs with Everything Bagel Seasoning


Back to Summer Parties

Did anyone else learn that they enjoy being social more than they realized over the last 12-15 months? And, now have a slightly harder time getting back into socializing with more than your “bubble” of people as things are starting to go back to pre-pandemic “normals”?

I never thought I relied on having people over and seeing people (in person) as much as I realized I did. And, thankfully, last summer we were able to do some small backyard BBQs during the later summer/early fall months. Though there was some trepidation by all, even though most of us had been staying home, etc.

As the weather has improved over the last few weeks, I’ve been waiting for the moment to have people over, to enjoy being around more than the 6-8 people I considered my “bubble” over the last 12 months. And, then….I became quickly overwhelmed by the sudden pressure of having everything ready and together, being with company and preparing food; being engaging and welcoming but not being overwhelming; suddenly unsure of if everyone would be comfortable and relaxed, or expected something different from me, and then the exhaustion that set-in as soon as everyone left and all was put away…it honestly felt like what I/we always referred to as the “first event of the year”, all sorts of clunky and getting our “sea legs” under us. I can’t be the only one, right??

I thrive on making meal plans and party plans – and there was a new motivation I had with this fresh start of getting together again after so long, finding creative new recipes to try for the right crowd, making new appetizers and snacks for everyone to enjoy over a beer, glass of wine and around the firepit or pool. Plating colorful dishes on crisp white plates, watching everyone enjoy.

With the first family gathering under my belt, I’m looking forward to a fun summer or weekends in the backyard, family and friends coming and going, without a thought of time or schedules. And, don’t forget unexpected happy hours that just happen, and meeting new people as we all just take in the summer weather out and about. It’s the “picture perfect” way I expected to spend summers in this new house of mine (that I moved into right before the pandemic, who knew…) – and so this needs to be the beginning, for my sanity, for my meal plans and food testing (for all to enjoy) and for the fulfillment and contentment I have been searching for all this time.

And so, here we are, Memorial Weekend upon us in a couple of days…and I have a full schedule of Farmers Markets, friends over, family parties and BBQs to plan, execute and enjoy – and I can’t wait! What’s on your menu(s) this weekend?

I’m making the recipes below if you need or want any ideas! Make sure you comment below or on my Instagram posts about what you’ve tried and how it turned out!

As always – keep in touch about what you make and how you like any recipes I’ve recommended in the blog or on my Instagram account – and let me know what you’d like to see next up on here!

There’s more to come this week, before everyone heads off to a long weekend of warm weather, friends, family and fun – if you need any help planning your weekend and prepping for a weekend off from all the cooking, email me or comment below!


Family Dynamics and Meal Planning

Do you ever find yourself struggling to keep everyone happy and meet everyone’s dietary needs at the dinner table, especially when you’re trying to please children, partners and parents alike?

I plan meals, workouts and “quiet time” each week, because I am a planner and a “to-do list” kind of girl; but also because it provides the structure I need to keep things moving forward. To remove some of the emotion from the day to day, the kind of emotion that can throw off weeks or months of work, and can be the guiding compass of what to do when I’m too overwhelmed to think too hard.

I’ve had my struggles with food over the years, and I am constantly working on my relationship with food, fitness and self-care. During quarantine, I was inspired after coming across a new chef (to me) on Instagram, What’s Gaby Cooking, and I was drawn to her approach to food preparation, flavor combinations and the focus on enjoying what you make and sharing food with those you love. I found peace and happiness in the focus on mindful eating, and how to incorporate that to help repair some of the challenges I have with what to eat, how to eat it, etc. when there is so much noise about what is right/wrong to eat, etc. in society.

I didn’t grow up in a house that we had a specific type of cooking or food preparation that we all followed, we did mainly ate homecooked meals my mom generally prepared (except grilling and Sunday breakfast – that was all my dad). Our meals were balanced, with protein, carbs and vegetables. I, like many, thought I would be so different about how and what I ate once I lived in my first apartment and could cook/eat/order whatever I wanted. And, I did test the limits – but I also always came back to preparing and eating meals for myself/family/friends at home, just like I grew up around.

Fast-forward 16 years, I now look at food for nutrition, enjoyment, and balance. But, some habits die hard. Just this weekend, I made a huge dinner salad for one of the hot nights we had while I had family staying with me, to which someone commented “this is a nice light meal for a change”. It was meant truly as a compliment due to the overwhelming heat, variety of ingredients, but nothing too heavy while we all enjoyed the A/C blasting around us, but I was transported back a few years and it was hard to finish eating what I had on my plate.

Having grown up around some family members who passively-aggressively commented at every family gathering about their workout that day which allowed them to have an extra potato, and critiquing a salad choice for nutritional value, etc., I felt judged, even as a child, for my food choices, and it was always in the back of my mind.

For me, our dinner salad was just what sounded like a good dinner when it was 90 degrees at 8:00pm. But, it was suddenly a time machine that transported me back to those formative years, and my unhealthy relationship with food all those years ago. No one else would know that a simple statement would be such a trigger, it was a kind acknowledgement.

And so, I had a small step backward, but instead of sliding further and further back, this time I took it all in and then woke up the next day to push forward again. It’s not seamless or easy, but it’s better than feeling that everything was derailed and I’d have to start all over again. Progress. Which I credit not only to the work I’ve put in, but also that I have these solid plans that I put together on a weekly basis and follow them. Trusting that I am doing what is best for me, and not what is best for everyone else.

With so many family and friends in and out of this house and backyard every weekend, I am constantly coming up with different ways to create meals that will satisfy everyone’s dietary preferences and taste profiles. Many times it’s a creative challenge that actually come together perfectly and become part of our permanent rotation. What do you consider staples of your family dinners? How do you satisfy everyone’s preferences and dietary needs?

There is an unspoken rule in my house (based on my earlier food relationship struggles) that everyone is here to enjoy time together and a relaxing meal. I don’t want to feel the pressure of causing someone a “splurge” when it’s what I planned to serve and let everyone know ahead of time. I don’t want to feel the let down of putting time, energy and care into making a family meal that is met with nutritional content critique, etc. Because I do put time and energy into creating balanced meals every day – and yes, sometimes we have pizza with no vegetables and other times we have grilled chicken with potato chips. But, it’s not a decision that is made lightly or without every consideration and thought.

Who else out there has had a long-standing work in progress relationship with food? Who is reading this, with a positive relationship with food, and how do you manage it? I want to be the person who doesn’t always think about food, and who doesn’t constantly have that voice of those more discerning family members in my head when I prepare and enjoy something that isn’t the epitome of perfect nutritional content, but I want to learn from those who have already found the way.

Long story short, meal planning and family dinners can sometimes not go hand-in-hand; but if you keep putting time into planning meals and keeping everyone aware of what will be served so they can quietly plan accordingly, progress can happen, and I look forward to continuing to share the progress we make, while also hearing about yours!

You know my offer continues to stand – if you want or need help with planning meals, using what you have at home, saving money at the grocery store and finding new inspiration when you’re preparing meals, email me, comment below and follow me on Instagram – I look forward to connecting with everyone however I can help!


Week 20 Meal Plan

From Last week….Week 20 Meal Plan

Ready for all the colorful and fresh food that will be at the farmers markets this weekend, but in the meantime, I’m working up a few meals that will be simple, full of color, and prepared outside as much as possible! The pool goes up this weekend and it’ll be a weekend full of family and friends (in small groups) to enjoy the backyard. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook for my in the moment results, adjustments and ideas!

Miso Marinated Cod, from What’s Gaby Cooking, served with Charred Broccolini – quick and flavorful marinade, fast sear or grill and the broccolini chars under the broiler or on the grill in minutes. Perfect for a Monday night dinner to start the week off right.

Pretzel-Coated Boneless Chicken Wings from Jeff Mauro’s new cookbook, Come On Over and a green salad. It’s a great rainy day meal for a small familyl dinner.

Crispy Salmon, another recipe from Jeff Mauro’s cookbook, Come on Over
Charred Eggplant, from Eat What You Want, 125 Recipes for Real Life cookbook from What’s Gaby Cooking

Chicken Tawook Quinoa Bowls, another one from What’s Gaby Cooking! Busy and warm day, but everything will be prepped ahead, just gril chicke nand bowls done!

Grilled Shrimp Diavolo from Bobby Flay’s cookbook, Bobby at Home. Grilled and a one-bowl meal.

Happy Hour in the backyard – pool time, sunshine and grilling whatever we decide. We’ll figure out the snacks and appetizers later this week.

Burgers with all the topping choices!

Tomato Toast
Eggs with Everything Bagel Seasoning


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