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Over the years, I’ve tried to figure out the perfect most reasonable dietary balance for my kids. Of course, I want them to eat healthy, but I also want to let them be kids โ€” have fun junk food once in a while. But it is such a slippery slope. I mean, bad-for-you-food is everywhere. And because I know how harmful it can be on their bodies, it’s hard for me to allow it as often as it’s available to them which is almost daily. At the same time, I don’t want to deprive them. But we do make fun treats around here quite often. Good thing Alice likes to bake!

Anyway, I feel like there is such judgement on what we feed our kids from all sides (too much junk vs. too little). But no one knows the “perfect” answer, and you know what? There isn’t one. Each family and each child is so different.

I do think that trying to find balance with kids is just as important as the food they eat. For many of us, that balance can mean totally different things. We have to do what works for us, and you have to do what works for you and your family.

For my family, that balance got a bit tricker years ago when I realized that my son was sensitive to gluten (not celiac, just intolerance) coupled with the fact that he and my daughter have my autoimmune genes that I pray never express. So how do I control what he/they eat all the time? The answer is…I don’t. Control isn’t the goal. Tate is now 9 so it’s up to him to want to make good choice, and many times he will, but many times he won’t, and that’s okay. And the same with my daughter. They have to make their own decisions. I’m just hoping they make educated ones, and if not now, hopefully when they are older.

A couple years ago I came to this realization:

I can control what they eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner and most of their snacks. They eat well enough with me that they know what it feels like to feel good, to be able to focus their best, and have lots of energy. So when they do eat out or choose a treat, they will understand how it may (or may not) affect them.

My aim is to educate them โ€” to make sure they recognize that the foods they eat can have a quick and direct effect on how they feel, how well they perform on a test, how much endurance they have in lacrosse, and how their moods can swing. And not by telling them. They need to feel it to get it. I think this is how they will learn to make choices beyond what tastes the best.

Over the years, my kids have done food challenges where we removed certain foods for 3 weeks. After the 3 weeks, we added the questionable foods back in, one at a time, and a decent amount so we could really “test” for impact. Then we watched and waited for symptoms like:

  • stomach aches
  • diarrhea or constipation or bloating
  • heartburn/reflux
  • stuffy or runny nose or congestion
  • headaches/migraines
  • focus and mood issues(tantrums if younger)
  • fatigue and lack motivation (“mom, I’m too tired to do my homework”)
  • skin rashes, eczema

If you or your child is suffering from any of the above symptoms, this 3 week challenge can possibly give you some answers. I know three weeks might seem like a long time but it can be invaluable information.

So will my kids go off to college one day and go crazy their freshman year? Very likely. But you know what, I grew up eating lots of junk and I went crazy too (at least I was eating fat free…ha ๐Ÿ™ . But at least after they do go crazy, they will know what to do, how to find their balance, and how to feel good again. I wish I would have known back then. Real food sure would have tasted better than the Slim Shakes and fat free ranch with fat free pretzels (which only made me feel worse)! Gross….

Okay, with the kids in mind, here is a recipe that they, everyone will love!! Over the years, I’ve made many chicken nuggets but these are best by far.  I use to be such a Paleo purest when it came to food for the family that I got into the habit of just using low glycemic foods like almond and coconut flour. And while those “flours” have their merits and I still eat paleo a majority of the time. For something like “breading”, some gluten free bread crumbs go a long way. I hope y’all like them as much as we do!

 

There is an extra step at the end that makes these things nice and crispy. and at first, I really did want to skip that step because as you may know, I am a pretty lazy cook. But the extra few minutes of frying makes these nuggets, have the texture of real nuggets! And, because I don’t want to cook two nights in a row (see I am lazy!), I doubled the batch so last night we had nuggets and tonight, we will have chicken parmesan! Done and done!

 

Best (GF) Crispy Chicken Nuggets
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Ingredients
  1. 1.5 lbs chicken breast, bite size
  2. 1/4 cup coconut milk
  3. 2 tbsp lemon juice
  4. Dash Pete's Hot Sauce (or whatever you like)
  5. 1 cup gluten free bread crumbs
  6. 1 1/2 paprika
  7. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  8. 1 1/2 onion powder
  9. 1 tsp garlic powder
  10. 2-4 tbsp (or more if needed) of avocado or coconut oil
Instructions
  1. Wash and cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and set in a large bowl.
  2. Add coconut milk and lemon juice and let sit for at least 10 minutes.
  3. While that is sitting, get a gallon sized freezer bag and add the dry ingredients and shake to mix well.
  4. Preheat oven to 400.
  5. After letting the chicken sit for 10+ minutes (we let our sit for a few hours in the frige), get the chicken, place a colander in the sink and pour chicken into it to let the milk and lemon juice drain out.
  6. Add a few dashes of Pete's hot sauce and mix the chicken with it (if you want or you can skip this).
  7. Next add the chicken to the bag of dry ingredients and shake well.
  8. Spray a baking sheet (use a rack if you have one and spray that) and place the chicken spaced where it doesn't overlap.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes.
  10. Get out a large pan, I used my 6 quart pot so the "frying" wouldn't splatter and make a huge mess.
  11. Heat the pan, or pot, on high and add 2 tbsp coconut oil or avocado oil.
  12. Place the chicken in the pan/pot and let cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until it's a nice golden brown.
  13. Take out the chicken, use a paper towel to wipe out the pan/pot and repeat until it's all cooked.
Notes
  1. I doubled the recipe so last night we had chicken nuggets and tonight, chicken parmesan!
Stir It Up! http://stiritup.me/

  • Viv - The best chicken nuggets recipe! Everybody liked it at home. And that’s the best reward!ReplyCancel

    • landriav - Wow so great to hear Vivian!! Thanks for sharing!ReplyCancel

I love the Paleo diet (I hate the word “diet”) because it takes out the top allergen/inflammatory foods and it also promotes foods that are low glycemic (so you don’t raise insulin levels which in turn keeps inflammation at bay), allows your body to burn fat, and it also gives you a more steady stream of energy. I also think it is a great starting “diet” template for those wanting to reduce inflammation and improve their health.  When people ask me about legumes, gluten free grains, corn and some other things that aren’t “Paleo”, I will always say it depends on you and your body. No one can say that one diet, food, or supplement is great for them so therefore it is great for everyone.  Our bodies are all so unique, each responding differently (at different times in our lives) to what we put in them. So it’s up to us as individuals, if we want to feel our best, to figure out what makes our bodies happiest by REALLY listening and paying attention to symptoms (and not just gastrointestinal symptoms) that certain foods may cause. Those symptoms are the ways our bodies tell us what it likes and doesn’t like.

So while the paleo diet is a great, after eating this way for some time our bodies have time to heal and inflammation subsides, it can be good to retest (by eating certain foods, one at a time, and looking for symptoms head-to-toe) to see how you react. But because I’m a rule follower, I sometimes forget to test and try new things by going outside of the “Paleo realm”.  So after 8 years of eating very little dairy (which has some great health benefits only when there is not any kind of intolerance) and healing my gut, I felt it was time to test it out and see. And I just so happened to be craving lasagna so all the more reason to test it out now. 

I wanted a traditional lasagna recipe but also wanted it to still be grain-free, but more importantly, for me, I wanted it lower glycemic (to still keep inflammation down), Anyway, after some playing around I came up with this Spaghetti Squash Lasagna recipe and it was AMAZING. I thought maybe it was just me since I hadn’t had dairy in so long but honestly, everyone in my family loved it! I was so excited I made it twice in two weeks…you know because I REALLY had to test this dairy!! It was just so good!!!

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So what were my results of my dairy challenge? It wasn’t the typical stomach symptoms that most of us think about when we think about food intolerances. For me, my nose became stuffy and I also had some post nasal drip or something like that where I couldn’t clear my throat. The good news is my symptoms weren’t huge but the bad news is I don’t want to go back to taking allergy/sinus medicine like I did from college until about 8 year ago before I changed my diet. Also, even though they are minor symptoms, I still have to remember there is a reason my body is creating this response so rather than ignore it (which will create inflammation over time), I choose to still limit my dairy, but I just won’t be quite as stingent as I was in the past which I feel like is a nice compromise so I can enjoy this delicous meal once in awhile.
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Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Pasta
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Ingredients
  1. 1 spaghetti squash
  2. 1 jar (25 oz) spaghetti sauce (preferably a low sugar one like Muir Glen)
  3. 1 pound Italian sausage (or 3-4 good sized links taken out of casing)
  4. 3/4 pound ground beef
  5. 4 tablespoons chopped fresh or dried parsley
  6. 16 oz. organic ricotta cheese
  7. 1 organic egg
  8. 1/2 tsp sea salt
  9. 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional...I did skip this part)
  10. 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (for topping)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise.
  3. Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until the skin of the squash gives when you press on it.
  4. In a large pot, cook sausage, ground beef, over medium heat until well browned.
  5. Stir in spaghetti sauce to pot with sauage and beef and the grease, too.
  6. Simmer, covered, for about an hour, only if time permits.
  7. In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese with egg, remaining parsley, and 1/2 tsp salt.
  8. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  9. Scrap the spaghetti squash and place in big pot of meat sauce. Still until combined throughly.
  10. In your 9x13 baking dish, spread half of the meat sauce/spaghetti squash combo on the bottom.
  11. Then spread all of the ricotta mixture on top of that.
  12. Next,add a layer of mozzerala chese.
  13. Add the meat sauce back for the final layer and top with parmesan cheese.
  14. Bake for 40-45 minutes (until the cheese starts to brown).
  15. Enjoy!
Stir It Up! http://stiritup.me/

  • Amy Jardina - I just made this recipe and the family really enjoyed it! Thanks for helping make dinner less boringReplyCancel

    • landriav - Oh yay, so nice to hear Amy!! ๐Ÿ™‚ReplyCancel

Hi This is Alice, Landria’s daughter. Since I made these cookies and my mom just got needles put into her elbow yesterday (gross, I hate needles) and typing is a pain right now for her, my mom thought I should write this post, so here it goes.
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This is my mom’s blog and she cooks a lot of great food, but I do most of the baking, and I love it! Sugar cookies are one of my favorite things to bake and I wanted to share this recipe. While I love the Paleo treats my mom makes, when it comes to flours, I really prefer the Cup4Cup gluten-free flour. My mom gets it from vitacost.com or Target usually. It tastes exactly like normal flours. In my math class if we have a test then we are allowed to bake something and bring it in and no one notices that my treats are  gluten free!  So if you are new to gluten free baking this is a good way to start. 

Hope you enjoy them! Happy Valentines Day!_DSC8543_DSC8548v_DSC8603

 

Happy 9th birthday to my dorky brother Tate! I love you!

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I hope he likes the cake I made him (using Cup4Cup GF flour of course) 

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Gluten Free Sugar Cookies
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup cane or coconut palm sugar
  2. 10 tbsp soft grass fed butter
  3. 1 cup and 6 tbsp gluten free flour (Alice loves Cup4Cup)
  4. 1/4 tsp sea salt
  5. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  6. 1 egg
  7. 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Beat soften butter and sugar together.
  3. Add dry ingredients to the mix.
  4. Add egg and vanilla and mix until the batter is smooth.
  5. Place 1 tbsp cookie mix onto grease baking sheet and cook for approximately 12 minutes.
  6. Emjoy!
Notes
  1. Do NOT try to use a cookie cutter on these. In full disclosure, the ones in the picture weren't as good as the ones I typically make (that won't work on the cookie cutter). I want you to have the best tasting sugar cookies rather than the ones easiest to use with a cookie cutter.
Stir It Up! http://stiritup.me/

  • Michelle - Great post, Alice! Can’t wait to try these!ReplyCancel

  • Jackie - Great post, Alice! Can’t wait to make these tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry about those needles, Landria!ReplyCancel

At times, I have a sweet tooth and just want a little something, and now that I am laying off of the chocolate (see my oxylate post) I wasn’t sure what to have. I’ve also been fighting tennis elbow for a little over 4 months, and with tennis season coming up, I feel desperate to do whatever it takes to get this thing healed. Anyway, I use to make collagen-filled gummies to have around in the summer, and I thought maybe they would both satisfy my sweet tooth and help with my elbow. 

So in the past week and a half, and I’ve already made them three times! I love going to the fridge and having one every now and then. Because we used berries, they are low sugar but still nice and sweet. Tate and I are addicted. And Alice, who claims she doesn’t like cooked fruit has been picking away at them. It’s only a matter of time before she loves them. They’re in my book, Super Paleo Snacks, but we did tweak them a little and love the change. We were out of honey so instead we used maple syrup (and added an extra tbsp of maple). The collagen, which you can get on Amazon, along with my book :), has so many benefits (see my old post about collagen and gummies). Oh, and I really wanted to say, if you are one of the ones who has written a review for me on my book, I really want to thank you for the bottom of my heart. It’s funny, I see reviews come in on Amazon and each time, I just wish so badly I could personally thank the person for taking the time to write it. And then today I realized I can, well kind of, if they read this! So, truly, thank you!!! 

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Look at how cool these things are…._DSC8518

Okay, so of course the day before the Super Bowl I had to do a football food post, right? While this Spinach Artichoke Dip recipe does have dairy, it also isn’t from a packaged soup mix full of MSG, gluten and other nasties. My family and friends love this recipe!

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Okay, maybe George isn’t as innocent as I originally thought…._DSC8536

And for those of us that don’t tolerate dairy well, here are some of our other favorite super bowl recipes:

Pigs in a Blanket 

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Crispy Oven Baked Buffalo Wings 

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Grilled WingsDSC6023-c-1024x1024(pp_w672_h672)

Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato

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Cookie Cake!!

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I hope everyone has fun watching the Super Bowl tomorrow!! Go Falcons!!! 

Primal Spinach Dip
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup thawed, chopped frozen spinach
  2. 1 1/2 cups thawed, chopped frozen artichoke hearts
  3. 6 oz cream cheese
  4. 1/4 cup sour cream
  5. 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  6. 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  7. 1/4 tsp sea salt
  8. 1/4 tsp garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Thaw spinach (can put in a pot with hot water) put in a pot and artichokes and drain any extra liquid.
  2. Heat cream cheese in microwave for 1 minute or until hot and soft.
  3. Stir in rest of ingredients and serve hot.
  4. Enjoy!
Stir It Up! http://stiritup.me/

Awhile ago I was trying to figure out my breakfast meals. My main requirements were that they needed to have lots of good fat and protein, taste delicious, feel hearty and ideally, fill me for about 5-7 hours (I eat a big breakfast). Oh, and of course this meal needed to be easy to make and be even easier to just heat up come breakfast time. Who has time to cook in the mornings? Anyway, I had a tough time at first because I have an intolerance to eggs, and I didn’t really want – nor think it was good to have lots of – bacon/sausage every single day, but what else is there really when it comes to protein and good fat with “breakfast” foods. So, I was forced to think outside of the box. 

Finally, I came up with this Ground Veggie Mash. It’s been about a year (or two) that I’ve been making it and being the creature of habit that I am, I still make this once or twice a week and eat it almost daily. I love and crave it!! It is so hearty and filling. It has plenty of good fats as well as great flavor. And, the good news about this meal is that it’s easy to get some decent variety with it, too, even if you eat it year after year. 

And if you don’t love the idea of nontraditional breakfast food for breakfast, this recipe can also be a great lunch, afternoon snack or dinner.

I use to use one bag of veggies and then add sausage or leftover fajita meat, steak or hamburger. But then I got tired of trying to think about what protein I could add to the veggie mash. So now when I make it, I add ground meat to the dish to make it a complete meal.  I love it with ground chicken thigh (dark meat) or grass fed ground beef. I am on a dark meat chicken kick lately (even though the grass fed beef is better for us than any kind of chicken…yes even lean breast). I know, but eww, dark meat ground chicken is kind of gross to some people. It use to be kinda ick to me too. But guys, I am telling you, trust me, use the dark meat, if you’re using chicken. It is 100% better in this dish!

So I will typically pick 2 bags of veggies to cook (see veggie samples below) to start. For example, I’ll use a bag of Trader Joe’s Shredded Brussel Sprouts and a bag of Cauliflower Rice, or a bag of Cruciferous mix and Organic Cabbage (probably my most common combo) or Trader Joe’s Organic Broccoli Slaw and Trader Joe’s Organic Tuscan Kale mixture. Many times I like to use pre-cut veggies from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. 

A friend recently asked about some of my staples from Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s for their convenient pre-cut veggies more than anything. Are the foods ALWAYS organic? No. But we doing the best we can and what works for our family and eating more veggies because of it. You have to do what works for you!

In addition to the veggies in the picture below, I also love and use often Trader Joe’s:

  • Organic pre-cut Tuscan kale
  • Frozen organic cauliflower rice
  • Organic broccoli slaw

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I also love the pre-cut cabbage from Whole Foods. If I am in a pinch and don’t have time to either cut up veggies (which is almost always; I’ve become spoiled and lazy, whatever you want to call it when it comes to cutting up veggies for this particular weekly recipe) or run to Trader Joe’s down the streeet, I’ll get the Kale Salad Mixture. We do throw away the salad dressing but keep the sunflower seeds and cranberries for a different recipe. Oh, and Whole Foods also now has frozen organic cauliflower rice!
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So here is my large 6 quart pot of veggies and ghee for step 1. I use to use a pan and only 1 bag of veggies and a little meat and then realized, why not make more? There is no extra work involved. ALWAYS MAKE MORE FOOD WHEN YOU CAN.  99% of the foods you make can freeze really well!

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Now, I do LOVE to add this Quinoa & Kale mixture (big bag pack of 5 from Costco or individual bags from Publix and some Sprouts) most of the time but it is definitely not mandatory. Sometimes, I’ll use the Kelp Noodles (see below) instead. I like the added carb-y feel from both but also love the extra protein from the Quinoa & Kale mixture. By the way, if you try the kelp noodles, they will seem super odd and feel like plastic when you open the bag, but they will soften completely when cooked. Just be sure to cook them early on with the veggies and add enough oils, or Tamari or Coconut Aminos (great with ground beef and stir fry) so the noodles will soften. Liquids are key to well prepared kelp noodles. My whole family loves them. They soak up flavor so well!

Thanks girls for holding these up. I couldn’t prop them well so the girls were happy to help out…

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Here is the kale quinoa mixture once the veggies are cooked… 

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Mix together with your ground meat, spices and of course good oils…

While this goes into my recipe, I always like to add some extra Tessemae’s (online, Whole Foods, Kroger, and Publix) Lemon Garlic or good ol’ olive oil. Adding the extra Tessemae’s can make a world of difference!!! Don’t skip on this flavorful fat! Sometimes I’ll use some of the other oils but most of the time, I’m going with my Lemon Garlic and/or more Kasadrinos (from their site). 

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And wahlah! I promise it probably takes less time to make than it took to read read this long post!! 

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Oh, and last but definitely not least… I LOVE to add these seeds to my mash. The crunch is so satisfying. Plus, they are nutrient dense and filling. I get both of these on vitacost.com. If you shop of Vitacost, wait on the coupons and then stock up. 

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So my dog is actually really good when it comes to setting food on the ground and having self restraint. He will lay beside the food while I photograph it. This time he was left alone for a few minutes, and my big bowl of mash (pic above) was on my desk with a chair beside it pulled out, which I guess he thought was an invitation to hop up and help himself. But for a dog that is not really into people food (and especially vegetables), he sure scarfed this bowl down. And it was a big new fresh bowl. Grr!! I guess at least even he liked it….

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Ground Veggie Mash
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Ingredients
  1. 2 bags of pre-cut veggies (or about a pound or so of veggies)
  2. 2 lbs of ground dark meat chicken thigh or ground beef
  3. 3 tbsp of ghee
  4. 2 tsp onion powder
  5. 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  6. 2-3 tsp of salt (or to taste)
  7. 1.5-2lbs ground meat
  8. 1/3 cup Tessemae's Lemon Garlic (or whatever you prefer)
  9. 1/4 cup good olive or avocado oil
  10. Bag of Kale Quinoa mixture OR Kelp noodles (not necessary)
Instructions
  1. In a large 6 quart stock pot, melt 3 tbsp of ghee and then add 2 bags of veggies (and kelp noodles if you decide to try them).
  2. Cook until the veggies start to brown and soften. Add Tamari or coconut aminos if using the kelp noodles so they soften.
  3. Then add the kale quinoa mixture (if you have it), onion powder, garlic powder and salt and stir well.
  4. Cook until kale quinoa mixture is no longer frozen so for about 5-7 minutes.
  5. Set aside in a large bowl.
  6. Then wipe down your pan and cook your ground meat until it is no longer pink in the middle.
  7. Pour your cooked veggie mixture back in your pot with the ground meat.
  8. Stir it all together
  9. Then add Tessemae's dressing, the Lemon Garlic is my favorite, and some good quality olive oil.
  10. Top with some pumpkin or watermellon seeds and guacamole if you'd like, and enjoy.
Notes
  1. You can easily start with 1 bag of veggies (or about 10 oz of any veggies you cut) and 1lb (or less) of ground beef or chicken and then of course half all of the other ingredients. I just like to make things in bulk so I either have enough for the week or I can freeze some for later on.
  2. If you use the kelp noodles you'll want to add lots of oils/liquids so they become soft. I typically use the kelp noodes when I am making a stir fry type dish with ground beef, Tamari and or coconut aminos.
Stir It Up! http://stiritup.me/

  • Leah - I love this recipe! I can’t wait to try it out. Thanks so much for posting.ReplyCancel

    • landriav - Thanks Leah! I hope you like it!ReplyCancel

  • Whitney - Yum! Going to make this week. I have a question on olive oil. Have been looking for a good quality oil so definitely going to try this one. How long would the 3L can be good for? I have been researching and did not realize olive oil went bad/lost nutritional quality over time and with exposure to heat and light. Argh!ReplyCancel

    • landriav - Hey Whitney! I think a good one, that is not exposed to artificial light or heat, can last a few years. But I am sure it also depends on which kind, how it was processed, etc. The Kasandrios is a great quality oil!ReplyCancel

  • Erica - This looked delish, so I just made it for my lunches this week. It’s amazing! I used Cruciferous mix and Organic Cabbage, but can see how any other blend would also be great. I just made quinoa and added it since I didn’t have the frozen bag. I used chicken thighs and shredded them (since I don’t eat beef). I couldn’t find kelp noodles, but would like to add those next time. Tessamae’s lemon garlic is the perfect finishing touch. My husband also declared it to be delious! Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

    • landriav - SO great to hear Erica!!! Thanks so much for sharing!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - Thank you thank you! I am gluten, dairy and egg sensitive. I struggle with a breakfast but I struggle no more. This is DELISH! I may live on this for the rest of my life.ReplyCancel

    • landriav - Kelly, I am so happy to hear it!! Thank you for taking the time and I’m so glad you love it as much as I do!!!ReplyCancel