Triple Berry Kale Smoothie | Lighter Recipes For Summer

Back in the day when I was commuting to my first job out of college, I stopped for a smoothie on the way. I lived in the East Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago and had to take the “L” all the way to the last neighborhood bordering Evanston. In other words, it was a pretty decent hike. For some reason, I also dealt with nausea every single morning and a smoothie was the only thing that would help. No, I wasn’t pregnant but it sure felt like morning sickness had somehow infiltrated my body. Since then, smoothies are my go-to whenever I’m not feeling like eating or when it’s too hot. They’re not overwhelming like a plate of eggs and toast can be and generally the lightest meal with the most fuel.

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As an adult, my smoothie game has improved from regular stops at Jamba Juice to whipping them up at home. My wallet is thankful too, that’s for sure. Especially in the summer months, it’s not rare for me to swap a meal for a smoothie. Normally I’ll trade breakfast but some days I’ll trade lunch instead. Another way my smoothie game has improved is through ingredients. I don’t use any extra sweeteners including flavored yogurt. All you’ll find in my smoothies are fruit, veggies, plain greek yogurt and milk. Occasionally, I’ll add a nut butter - almost always peanut butter - and sometimes cocoa powder but that’s it. Fruit is naturally sweet enough. It’s not necessary to add sugar or syrups or even vanilla yogurt. If you want a dessert smoothie, make a dessert smoothie but the kind that I’m talking about are meant to fill you and avoid a sugar crash.

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For those of you who reject the idea of adding greens to smoothies, give it a shot. I wasn’t keen on the idea either when I started making them at home but it’s nowhere as bad as you think it will be. The kale may as well not even exist! If the fruit included is lighter in color, the smoothie might turn out green but with berries as the star ingredient, you get a pinkish-purple hue that’s so pretty. Even if the smoothie does turn out green, the kale flavor simply isn’t there. And if you disagree? Add more fruit! By creating a wider gap in the fruit to green ratio, you’re also diluting the flavor of the kale. I usually like to stick around 1.5 fruit to 1 veggie. Here’s the bottom line: it’s an easy way to get a serving of veggies in and kale is packed with fiber, vitamins and iron.

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Here's another tip. Freeze greek yogurt in ice trays and store them for quick smoothies. It makes portioning out the yogurt super easy and mess-free and it makes the smoothie extra thick. The yogurt will last long frozen versus refrigerated and you can store in bulk. You could also freeze the greens if you want to buy them in bulk and store them without spoiling. Everything is getting blended so it's alright if the greens get a little crumbly. Fresh fruit is certainly a great idea but I use frozen because it stores easy, it's year-round instead of seasonal and it keeps the smoothie thick. Do you have a favorite smoothie ingredient combo?

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Triple Berry Kale Smoothie
Ingredients:
1 cup Milk (of your choice, I used lactose-free)
1 cup Kale (or if you prefer, spinach)
¼ cup (or 2 frozen cubes) plain Greek Yogurt
½ cup each frozen Blueberries, Raspberries & Blackberries (you can also use the frozen mixed berries from the freezer section, just make sure to use a total of 1.5 cups)

Directions:
Pour all of your ingredients into a blender in this order: milk, kale, yogurt, berries. Blend until smooth. You may need to pause a few times to scrape down the sides and loosen the ingredients at the bottom. If the mixture is too thick, add a splash of milk at a time to loosen. Serve once blended.

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Lentil Soup | Around the World with Recipes

Hailing from the Greek islands and peninsula comes this lentil soup recipe. Lentil soup is one of those recipes that you can dump almost anything into as long as you have one main ingredient...lentils. It’s 100% vegetarian and even vegan being completely plant-based, as long as you don’t add any cheese. There will be no judgement from this side of the web, that’s for sure. Before you knock this soup because it’s vegan, give it a chance. The lentils are hearty and give the soup a meaty consistency plus all the veggies add tons of great flavor.

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Lentil soup is a great opportunity to empty the vegetable drawer in the fridge. When it gets to the point where there are only two carrots, a few celery stalks, a half of a squash, and a few other odds and ends, plan to whip up a pot of this soup. As long as it fits in the pot and you have a good liquid to solid ratio, there is no wrong answer. I went the traditional route with a bit of a winter twist. Onion, carrots, celery, garlic, and fennel join a small acorn squash, lots of fresh herbs, tomatoes, and a hint of lemon. The lemon zest gives the dish a brightness in lieu of the wintry vegetable mix. A few handfuls of spinach go in at the end for an extra boost of color and veggies.

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Lentils are a nutrient packed legume. They are known to help with heart health, lowering cholesterol, digestive health, stabilizing blood sugar, increasing energy, weight loss and they’re high in fiber (source: MindyBodyGreen). They add density to any dish making you feel full faster and longer. Vegetable broth keeps this dish vegetarian and vegan but if you only have chicken stock, that will work just as well. Honestly, as long as you have lentils in this dish, it’s considered lentil soup. Super easy, right? Make sure to be careful when you’re cutting up the squash. I did a mean job on my left index finger while I was cutting it up. Let’s just say that I needed a band-aid to cut off my circulation for two whole days.

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Lentil Soup
Ingredients:
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
3 Carrots, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
3 Garlic Cloves, chopped
½ Fennel Bulb, diced
1 small Winter Squash (I used acorn), diced
1 tsp. Oregano, finely chopped
½ tsp. Thyme, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Basil, chopped
¼ tsp. Lemon Zest
1.5 cups Lentils
5 cups Vegetable Stock
15 oz. Diced Tomatoes
2 cups Spinach

Directions:
1 - Heat the oil into a soup pot. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute until softened, about 12-15 minutes.

2 - Add the fennel, squash, herbs and lemon zest. Stir for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the lentils, vegetable broth and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 25-30 minutes until the lentils are tender and the veggies are cooked.

3 - Add the spinach and cook a minute or so until wilted. Serve.

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Lighter Spaghetti & Meatballs | Healthy Weeknight Dinners

Who doesn’t love a classic Spaghetti and Meatball dinner? This classic Italian-American dish is a quintessential go-to in most homes, especially for family dinner. It’s rare to hear a complaint with this favorite on the table. With hearty, cold-weather dishes becoming a regular at dinner, this recipe is a little bit lighter so there’s less guilt. A few swaps cut both calorie and fat content while also adding a little extra nutritional value. If you’d like the traditional version, keep reading for tips on swapping it back.

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Classic Italian meatballs are traditionally a mix of beef, pork and sometimes veal or lamb. Regardless of the combo, red meat is the norm. This recipe trims down the meatballs by using ground turkey instead. You can also use ground chicken but turkey holds a little more flavor. (**For traditional meatballs, substitute the turkey for equal parts beef and pork or only beef.) Flavor the meat with fresh garlic, onion, basil and oregano. Panko breadcrumbs allow the meatballs to bind without adding weight because they’re so light. Traditional breadcrumbs work as well but Panko give the meatballs an airy quality.

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A good gravy doesn’t take five minutes to make. If you want a great gravy, one friends and family will remember and you’ll long to smell throughout your home, it needs to cook low and slow. Since I am a champion for speedy and easy dinners, this recipe only needs a minimum of 30 minutes to simmer. However, the longer you leave it on the stove, the more the flavors will blend and enhance. (**Pro Tip: Add a Parmesan Cheese rind for an extra level of flavor that no one will be able to figure out or resist). When I make any gravy and I have time, I usually start it in the early afternoon or late morning so it gets a few hours to simmer low. Make sure to give it a stir every 30 mins or so so the bottom doesn’t burn.

A final touch to lightening up this dish - use a whole wheat or whole grain pasta. Go gluten-free if you don’t eat regular pasta. Any pasta of choice works. Using something in the whole grain variety will give you an extra boost of nutrition. I always prefer a traditional noodle to any others but there is nothing wrong with switching it up, even once in awhile.

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SPAGHETTI WITH TURKEY MEATBALLS
Ingredients:
1 lb. Ground Turkey
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
½ small Onion, finely chopped
1 bunch Basil, finely chopped
1 tbsp. Fresh Oregano, finely chopped
½ cup Panko Breadcrumbs
1 Egg
1 lb. Whole Wheat or Whole Grain Pasta
Salt and pepper

For the Gravy:
28 oz Crushed Tomatoes
6 oz Tomato Paste
2 tbsp. Dried Basil
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tbsp. Dried Oregano
1 tbsp. Dried Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
½ tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
1 - Prep the Gravy: In a large saucepan or medium pot, mix together the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic cloves, basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, crushed red pepper (if using), salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a low boil and let simmer covered over low heat for a minimum of 30 minutes. If planning to simmer longer, make sure it’s on the lowest simmer you can manage and still stir every 30 minutes to prevent burning at the bottom of the pan.

2 - Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet with tin foil. Set aside.

3 - Prep the Meatballs: In a medium sized bowl, mix together ground turkey, garlic, onion, basil, oregano, panko breadcrumbs, egg, salt and pepper. Mix together well and form into 1-inch balls. Place on the baking sheet and bake 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

4 - Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add your spaghetti. Cook till al dente according to the package directions. Drain.

5 - Toss the spaghetti with a few ladles of marinara. Leave the rest aside for everyone to add as they’d like. Some people like more gravy and others less. Fill pasta bowls with marinara-tossed spaghetti and top with meatballs. Serve.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Spring Greens & Honey-Lime Vinaigrette | Summer Recipes

One of my favorite ways to ease up on dinner duty is using the grill. It keeps the kitchen cool and cooks meat pretty quick. It’s also an easy way to add extra flavor. There something about the smoky, charred flavor a grill gives meat that is irresistible. We’ve only got about two weeks left of summer but this is a recipe that translates right into fall. The plums add an extra depth of flavor with their juicy tartness. It’s a great weeknight dinner for those looking to hold on to summer just a little longer.

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Boneless pork chops come in two different cuts: thin and thick. Thin pork chops are best for battering and frying. They cook quickly so you risk drying the meat out by cooking them too long. Frying ensures that they’re done swiftly without losing tenderness. Thick-cut chops are much more durable making them perfect for grilling. They also marinate well. This vinaigrette would make a fantastic marinade so if you’d like to add an even greater depth of flavor, make a double batch of the vinaigrette the night before and marinate the chops in half of it.

Baby greens are packed with nutrition which is why I used them often. They also offer a nice variety which mixes up the usual iceberg lettuce salad. This would additionally work with only spinach, chopped romaine or baby kale. Use what you prefer or what you can find at your local store. The plums were a last-minute decision. I bought a few at the farmer’s market and had the idea to incorporate them with this recipe. I felt that the flavors would meld beautifully, which they did. Other fruits you could try are peaches, apricots or chop up some apples and add them raw. Use this recipe as your canvas and make it your own.

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Grilled Pork Chops with Spring Greens & Honey-Lime Vinaigrette
Ingredients:
4 boneless, thick-cut Pork Chops
12oz. Mixed Baby Greens
½ Cucumber, halved & sliced
2 Roma Tomatoes, cut into wedges
4 Plums, quartered
½ cup Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp. Honey
Juice of one Lime
1 tsp. Piment d’Espelette
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
¾ cup Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Directions:
1 - Spray the with grill spray or rub with oil. Preheat to medium-high heat. Season the pork chops generously with salt and pepper. Grill on each side 4-6 minutes until cooked through. Brush the plums with olive oil and grill each flesh side about 2-3 minutes until marks are visible.

2 - Mix the salad. Gently toss together the mixed greens, cucumber and tomatoes. Set aside.

3 - Prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together the honey, dijon mustard, lime juice, piment d'espelette and red pepper flakes until emulsified. Slowly whisk in the olive oil.

4 - Pour half of the dressing into the salad and toss. Divide the salad between four bowls, top with the pork chops and plums. Finish with a light drizzle of the dressing and serve with the remaining on the side.

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Weeknight Turkey Chili with Couscous

Kick up the spice level in your weeknight dinners with a healthy chili recipe everyone will love. This recipe cuts fat content by using turkey instead of beef as the main protein. It also has a higher spice level because of the Serrano pepper and spices. So if you like a chili that’s more mild, I’d suggest removing the Serrano pepper and starting lighter with the spices, adding more in until you’ve reached your preferred spice level.

Normally, chili is paired with cornbread or just a nice crusty loaf but for a little extra heartiness, couscous makes an excellent bed for chili. It’s mild so there are no conflicting flavors and it’s light enough to not make you feel bloated afterwards. I prefer a little sour cream and cheddar or Monterrey Jack cheese on top of my chili but add whatever garnishes to the top that you prefer.

Weeknight Turkey Chili with Couscous
Ingredients:
1 tbsp. Canola or Vegetable Oil
1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and diced
1 Serrano Pepper, seeded and diced
1 lb. Ground Turkey
1 small Yellow Onion, diced
2-3 Garlic Cloves, minced
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Paprika
1-2 tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
14 ounces Black or Red Kidney Beans, rinsed and drained
14 ounces Diced Tomatoes with Green Chiles or Chili-Ready Diced Tomatoes
2-4 cups Chicken or Turkey Stock
2.5 cups Couscous, cooked
Salt & Pepper

Directions:
1. To a large pot over medium-high heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the peppers, onion, garlic and turkey. Give them a quick stir and add the cumin, paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently and break up the ground turkey as you go.

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2. Once the turkey is cooked through, add the beans and tomatoes. Give the pot a quick stir and add the stock. Bring to a boil, turn the heat to low and let simmer about 15-20 minutes.

3. While the chili simmers, cook your couscous according to the package directions. Make a bed for the chili in the bowl with the couscous, add a hearty spoonful of chili on top with any garnishes you prefer. Serve!

What’s a hearty weeknight meal that you like to make that doesn’t break the calorie bank?

Starting The New Year On A Healthy Note: Truly Supplements Review

The new year comes with new resolutions. For some people, that means traveling more. For others, it’s all about their career. For many people, more often than not it has something to do with health and wellness. Gym memberships are bought without a second thought. Diets are pursued and junk food thrown away. NYE is the one last night to binge before embracing cardboard bread and watery milk. I wish all of you the best on your new year resolutions and I support all of your endeavors if it makes you happy. But me? I’m starting a healthier new year by eating chocolate every single day. Yes, you read that right. Chocolate! And you know what? You can join me.

*Lattes, Life & Luggage received products included in this post complimentary for an honest review. No additional compensation was received.

Truly is a family owned and operated company rooted in the Midwest that “truly” encompasses the entrepreneurial spirit. The delicious delivery method of daily nutrients - the trubite - was conceived in Wisconsin and all supplements are produced right here in the U.S. With nearly three decades of combined experience, the principals at Truly understand what you want. You want to feel and look your best...so you’re taking vitamins and supplements to enhance your daily intake of essential nutrients. You want to be good to your body...but you won’t give up taste to be healthy. You want all-natural products that contribute to your overall well-being. Trubites deliver all this...and more.

From biotin that helps boost your energy to melatonin that eases you to sleep, from collagen that keeps you looking youthful longer to probiotics that balance your digestive system, trubites are truly good for you...all natural, free of GMOs, gluten free, organic, kosher and made in the USA. What is a trubite? A trubite is an all-new chewable supplement “bite” that provides the perfect balance of nutrients and melt-in-your-mouth dark chocolate for a moment of pure pleasure. Truly’s proprietary formula includes 70% dark chocolate and only the finest organic ingredients: cacao nibs, cane sugar and cocoa butter. Together, they merge to create a delectable balance of deep, dark chocolate flavor with just the right touch of pure sweetness.

I had the pleasure of trying all four trubites. Each bite is a delicious piece of dark chocolate that makes you feel like you’re indulging rather than feeding your body nutrients. If I had to choose a favorite, which is difficult in this case, it would be a tie between the melatonin and the biotin. I never have an issue growing my hair (it grows at warp speed) but I did notice a difference in the strength of my nails since taking the biotin. My nails are a bit of a sore spot for me because I’m a stress nail biter (I know, gross) so the biotin has done a great job fighting against my self-imposed fragile, short nails. The melatonin was the easiest of the four supplements for me to notice results. I’m not a bad sleeper but it takes a minute for me to get there. Taking the melatonin 30-60 minutes before bedtime has really helped me relax and settle in for the night.

Collagen seems to be all the rage for 2017. I’ve read several articles how biotin and collagen are the supplements for the year. According to Truly, collagen plays a significant role in the health of your connective tissue, providing cohesion, strength and elasticity throughout the body. It helps maintain normal skin appearance with aging, promotes skin’s natural elasticity and supports natural youthful skin radiance. I can’t say that I have any noticeable changes from the collagen but the more I read about it, the more convinced I am to continue taking it daily. Finally, the Probiotic is all about the gut. According to Truly, it keeps your digestive system in balance. Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that help keep your intestines healthy and assist in digestion and nutrient absorption. They promote healthy bacteria balance in your gut for proper digestion and help you maintain a healthy heart and proper metabolism. This particular supplement I haven’t been as consistent with as the others but I do notice a difference in my *ahem* regularity after taking it a few days. In the last month, while I’ve been trying these supplements, I got sick twice which caused me to pause taking them and having experience with probiotics, you need consistency for them to work at their best.

Truly Supplements are available at various Walgreens and Shopko stores. Find them at your nearest location or use their locator to find a store carrying them nearest you.

NOTE: As with any nutritional products, consult with a medical professional before taking supplements. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Please consult a medical professional if you have questions before starting to take supplements or any other questions regarding your health.

Any opinions expressed were from our personal experience and are not guaranteed. You should not rely on the information in this nutrition guide as an alternative to professional medical advice from your doctor or healthcare provider.

Chicken Packets - Light Recipes For One

When I lived on my own, I mastered the art of cooking for one in foil packets. I have since found the beautiful invention that is parchment paper so now I use that instead. The brilliant thing about cooking in individual packets is that the are literally made for one. There's no extra thinking about it. They're also easily customizable meaning you could throw whatever you want together for a new dinner every single night. 

Chicken is an easy go-to. You can buy the chicken wrapped in individually packets which is nice for solo cooking. Or, you can use the old trick of separating the raw meat before you freeze it at home. We have a really nice butcher in my hometown that used to pack all my meat in individual portions so that I didn't have to deal with it myself. This recipe is one of my favorites. I threw it together one night after a long day at work and it became one of my weekly constants. 

Chicken doesn't have to take as long to cook in the oven as you probably would think or are used to. Cooking chicken breasts at 450 degrees not only gets them to cook quicker, it also makes them juicier because it allows less time for the heat to dry them out. The only caveat is the vegetables. The carrots and potatoes need a little longer to cook normally. You can get around that by cutting them small, really small. Cutting them into sticks works best and then you can just make sure they're thin. That will ensure they are nice and tender by the time your chicken is ready to go. A little seasoning everyone has in their pantry goes a long way. It's no-nonsense and delicious.

CHICKEN PACKETS
Ingredients:
1 skinless, boneless Chicken Breast
1 tbsp. Olive Oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 Red Potato, sliced into sticks
2 Carrots, sliced into sticks
Salt + Pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

2. On a piece of parchment paper, drizzle a chicken breast with olive oil. Season both sides with Italian Seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Arrange the potatoes and carrots around the chicken. Drizzle with a tad more olive oil and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Fold the parchment paper and twist the ends like a tootsie roll. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes until the chicken's internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Serve.

What are some go-to dinners you make on weeknights?

Slow Cooker Series: Vegetable Barley Soup

Hi guys! I want to take a second and thank everyone for entering the giveaway to win the eCookbook Bundle from New Leaf Wellness. The cookbooks in this bundle have become a huge help for busy weeknights and are my go-to when I don't need to whip up a recipe I created. I am so thankful to Kelly for giving me a complimentary bundle and I can definitely say, it is being well used. 

The final book in the bundle that is home to this week's featured meal is the 15-Minute Freezer Recipes. This cookbook contains meals that can each be prepped in 15-minutes or less. So if you use recipes only from this book for a whole week of meals, that's only an hour and fifteen minutes of dinner prep. With back to school happening and vacations becoming a thing of summer past, these are exactly what we all need to get back into a routine. The cookbook includes 3 breakfast recipes, 6 dinner recipes and a dessert recipe along with nutrition info, freezer labels, a grocery list and freezer meal prep tips. 

I chose to whip up the Vegetable Barley Soup (event in the heat of summer) because I wanted to show how vegetarian dishes can also be hearty and satisfying. This one in particular was incredible. I ate it for lunch days later and even had it cold. Serve it with crusty bread and you've got yourself a delicious, comforting dinner that took almost no time to prepare. 

VEGETABLE BARLEY SOUP from 15-Minute Freezer Meals
I must have a super slow cooker because everything cooks much faster for me than recipes say. This soup could have cooked on low for 10-12 hours on low which is what I was planning for but nope. It was ready 4 hours early. So my soup became more of a stew or creamy barley and vegetable mixture. I'm pretty sure everyone preferred it thicker so it was a win but it's always good to have a heads up in case your slow cookers are as super-powered as mine is. Here are the ingredients:

  • Yellow Onion
  • Carrots
  • Frozen Peas
  • Frozen Chopped Spinach
  • Cannellini Beans
  • Barley
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Chicken Broth

Before I forget, congratulations to Joan K. on winning the eCookbook Bundle! I have sent you an email to get you in touch with Kelly for your prize. I hope you've all enjoyed the slow cooker series featuring cookbooks and recipes from New Leaf Wellness! This is sadly our final post but I will have original recipes coming this fall. Make sure you check out the previous four before you leave!

Chicken Fajitas
Honey Bourbon Chicken
Sloppy Joes
Taco Chili with Cornbread Topping