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Food Prep Party

This past weekend I tried something a little different that I’ve heard for years is an awesome habit to start. I planned our meals for the week, went grocery shopping (those are both things I’ve always done weekly), and then I fully PREPPED every meal that we’re going to eat this week! You might be wondering why I decided to try this now. And that reason is because I just started a new job! That’s right! I thought some of you long-time followers might appreciate sharing in the happy news with me. :) Now that I’m a working lady I need to be much more intentional about how I use my time and how I plan things out. Last week (my first week) we ate quite a bit of takeout, and that’s not a habit that I want to let sink in. So food prep it is!

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Here’s our “menu” for the week:

Breakfasts: Overnight oats, Banana Muffins

Lunches: French Lentil Soup (for me), Chicken Cesar Salad (for Jason), Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls

Dinners: Shrimp and Tomato Pasta (for Jason)/Roasted Vegetable Pasta (for me), Chicken Jambalaya (for Jason)/Vegetable Tamales (for me), Eggpant Parmesan served with brown rice spaghetti and salad, Beef Tacos (for Jason)/Black Bean Tacos (for me)

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Some things I made to completion so that all they’ll need during the week is a quick reheat. For other things I just chopped up all the ingredients to eliminate prep time later on. Here’s the work I actually did yesterday:

  • made lentil soup
  • made eggplant parmesan (up until baking step)
  • baked banana muffins
  • made overnight oats
  • chopped veggies and meat for jambalaya
  • marinated and grilled chicken for cesar salads
  • washed and cut lettuce for salads
  • washed and cut up fruit for lunch or snacks
  • make filling for spring rolls
  • cut up vegetables for pasta

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It took a good chunk of my Sunday but I’m SO glad that I did it and I’m hoping to make this a weekly thing. It’ll keep us eating better and keep our spending from getting out of control. Just because I’m working now doesn’t mean I’m ready to give up on home cooking! Far from it.

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Some of these recipes I’m testing and tweaking for my next Facebook challenge group! Email me or shoot me a message on social media if you’re interested in joining, I still have a few spots left!

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See you later this week with a new recipe!

-Lauren

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An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

For some reason I’ve been like at oat vacuum lately. Cooked oats, raw oats, overnight oats, just GIMME OATS. Last week I started specifically craving granola and the one I bought from the store just wasn’t cutting it! I think you know where this is headed.

An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

Goji berries are really popular in America right now, but they’ve been popular in other areas of the world for a long time. The berry is native to China and is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a number of ailments. They are very nutritionally dense and have the highest concentration of protein of any fruit!

An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

When combined with the healthy fats and nutrients in the coconut (this recipe makes use of coconut oil, coconut chips, and coconut sugar), you can definitely award this a superfood granola. If you’re into that.

Coconut and Goji Berry Granola
 
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 3 T. coconut sugar
  • ½ t. ground cinnamon
  • ½ t. kosher salt
  • ¼ c. raw honey
  • ¼ c. coconut oil
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • ⅔ c. dried goji berries
  • ⅔ c. coconut chips or shredded coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Stir together the oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl to combine.
  3. If the coconut oil is solid, melt it in the microwave until it liquifies. Then pour the honey, coconut oil, and vanilla over the oat mixture. Stir well util the ingredients are evenly distributed and every oat is coated.
  4. Spread in a thin even layer on a cookie sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Stir the oats with a spatula and then even out again and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the oats are golden brown.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool undisturbed for 30 minutes to harden.
  6. Toss the goji berries and coconut chips into the granola, store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

 

I didn’t just choose the goji berries for nutrition though, they are extremely tasty. To me they taste like a cross between a raisin and a cranberry with a little touch of matcha. Yeah ok that sounds weird. It’s hard to describe but I find them to be delicious! They add a little sweetness and tang to this granola while the coconut adds awesome crunch and a tropical flavor. Add a little coconut milk and you’ve got heaven.

An easy superfood packed granola recipe!

 

-Lauren

 

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This post brought to you by Tropicana Farmstand. The content and opinions expressed below are that of A Dash of Soul.

So excited to share a great product with you guys today! I’m big on fruit and vegetable juices, but to be honest I don’t usually have the time to take out my juicer and make a fresh one myself. Sometimes you just need a more convenient option! So, when Tropicana reached out to me about their new Farmstand juice line I was interested to learn more. tropicana-1 The ingredients in this are really great! There’s juice from apples, bananas, mangoes, sweet potatoes, kale, and more! And there’s no added sugar which is awesome. tropicana-2 I love how all the yummy fruit juices make it really just taste fruity, you can’t tell there’s even veggies in there! I asked my little sister Ashley (she’s 12) to try it and she said it tasted like a strawberry-banana juice. Then she asked for another glass! It’s definitely delicious and a great option for people on the go to get in an easy serving of fruit and vegetables. tropicana-3 Tropicana has generously provided me with TEN VOUCHERS to give away to you all so that you can try their Farmstand Tropical Green Juice for yourself! Comment BELOW and tell me your favorite fruit or vegetable for a chance to win! Winners will be chosen at random.

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A New Running Method

I took a little “spring break” off from blogging last week and I feel quite refreshed and ready to catch up with you all! Race training has been going much better lately (in other words, I’ve actually been sticking to it lately), here’s what I did in the past week:

  • Monday- Rest and stretching
  • Tuesday- cross train (Hip Hop Abs)
  • Wednesday- 30 minute run
  • Thursday- cross train (Piyo Sweat)
  • Friday- 30 minute run
  • Saturday- Yoga
  • Sunday- 8.5 mile run

I’m still on cloud nine that I finished an almost 9 mile run yesterday! I honestly cannot believe that I can run that far. It’s amazing to me how many of my limitations were in my own head.

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I ran down to Piedmont Park and it was glorious! The weather was amazing, sunny and warm but with a lovely breeze, and I just kept thinking how amazing it was that I actually ran to a place that we would normally spend at least 15 minutes driving to!

fitness post 3-16-15-2I was feeling really tired the first couple of miles but then once I got in a groove I felt amazing! I actually switched to a new running method a couple weeks ago called the Galloway method. It’s essentially interval running, where you run for a certain number of minutes and then walk for a certain number of minutes. I decided to switch to this for a couple reasons. 1) I know a lot of people who have injured themselves or had joint problems from running. I have NEVER had an injury of any kind and I’m not about to start now. The run/walk method is a lot easier on your joints and greatly decreases chance of injury. 2) I’m a beginner and I’m taking on a pretty long distance with a half marathon. I want to make sure I can finish and finish strong, which this method will help me do. I was already taking SO many walk breaks with the Hal Higdon plan that I figured I should learn how to do it correctly. So far I’m loving the Galloway method! It makes my time slower, but it’s well worth it for how much better I feel during and after the run.

fitness post 3-16-15-4 Another new thing I introduced a couple weeks ago is some new kicks! My parents got me a gift card to a specialty running store called Big Peach Running Company for my birthday. I’ve never actually had my feet/gait assessed so I was really excited about this! They used video gait analysis and determined that I do overpronate (tilt my foot inward) on my left side and I have high arches, so the guy helping me recommended stability shoes. I went with the Brooks Ravenna 4 and I love them so far! This picture doesn’t even do them justice but they’re so bright they practically glow in the dark!

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I’ve been really committing myself to the healthy lifestyle lately and I know that’s helping to support my running. I’m doing my best to eat clean (with the occasional treat) which is going really well! This my #WhatIAteWednesday from last week (Starbucks added a coconut milk option to their menu!):

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I’m also sticking with some good low impact cross-training which I think is building my strength! I did an ab routine on Tuesday with my mom and then on Thursday my sister and I did Piyo Sweat together. Piyo just about killed me, in a super awesome way. We were both sore for days!

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And yoga has been something else I’m incorporating! I have a dedicated day for it on Saturday but I do a short practice almost every day to help keep me loose and flexible.

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I’ve got a 10 mile run on the books for this weekend! Another big milestone I can’t wait to reach!

-Lauren

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Healthy Dessert Nachos

A healthy take on dessert nachos! Thinly sliced apples drizzled in deliciousness!

I’ve got another cooking video today! I think Jason and I are slowly getting the hang of making these videos, it’s definitely a new challenge. I’ve been seeing this recipe idea all over Pinterest and thought it was such a fun idea. Hope you enjoy the video!

 

Healthy Dessert Nachos
 
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Author:
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 apples
  • 2 T. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 T. peanut butter
  • 2 T. plain greek yogurt
  • 2 t. honey
  • 2 T. toasted macadamia nuts, chopped
  • chocolate sprinkles (optional)
  • other topping ideas: almond butter, fruit jam, butterscotch chips, toasted coconut, nutella
Instructions
  1. Core and slice the apples very thinly.
  2. Arrange the apple slices on a platter.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave until they are a drizzling consistency, do the same with the peanut butter.
  4. Stir together the greek yogurt, honey, and enough water to make it a drizzling consistency.
  5. Drizzle the apple slices with the peanut butter, chocolate, and yogurt mixture.
  6. Sprinkle on the macadamia nuts and sprinkles and serve!

I love this idea, I can’t wait to make it for friends. You’ll be surprised at how delicious these are with just a few very simple toppings!

A healthy take on dessert nachos! Thinly sliced apples drizzled in deliciousness!

 

-Lauren

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I’ve missed the last couple “training posts” and there’s a couple reasons behind that. The main one is that I’ve been thinking hard about exactly HOW I want to incorporate fitness tips and encouragement into the blog. In the past I’ve focused on the food and on providing people great recipes and (hopefully) drool worthy pictures during a quick visit to this site (the average visit time is about 1 minute and 20 seconds I believe! y’all are speedy!). And while I still want to focus on the food, because that’s where my heart is, I want this to become a place where I’m more engaged with YOU the readers and we can form a relationship. Which brings me to my big news–I’m now a health and fitness coach with Beachbody!

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Yeah that’s me randomly flexing in the kitchen. This is ME we’re talking about…where else would you expect me to flex?? :)  Beachbody is an awesome company that provides a lot of awesome products (ever heard of P90X or Shakeology?) and I’m SO excited to be working with them. Not much on this blog is going to change, the company has nothing to do with this site and is not sponsoring any of my content. The only difference you might notice is me being happier and getting stronger and healthier! And every once in a while I’ll post a referral link when I’m mentioning the things I love or information about challenge groups that I’m running on Facebook to give you all the opportunity to join them if you’d like. I just wrapped up a free 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge (make sure you follow me on Facebook to learn about ALL the challenges I run in the future) and I can’t even tell you how much fun I had! It felt amazing to encourage and motivate other women to strive for their best. Plus it helped me to clean up my diet too!

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Now I’m filling up the last couple spots in my next group, which is a full-on 3 week fitness and healthy eating challenge group. If you are looking to really get a jumpstart and see some awesome results, please comment below or email me to let me know! Not only do you get the great workouts, but this group includes a full meal plan that I have developed myself that has recipes which have never been published here on the blog. There’s still a day left to sign up and I’d love to have you and get to know you!

spring into shape last call collage ig

And then of course I’m still training for the half marathon! This is the schedule I made for the upcoming month.

March-2015-training calendarI’ll be honest with you, the extremely gross and cold weather here in the past few weeks has made me skip several runs in favor of doing workouts from the comfort of my apartment. BUT with a new month I’ve got FRESH motivation and I’m ready to kill it with my training in March! Today was a cross train day and I did a Turbo Fire workout, which was so high energy and fun! And then I had a vegan chocolate Shakeology after my workout for recovery–delicious!

turbo workout

See you tomorrow with a cooking video!

-Lauren

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Udon Noodle Salad

A healthy and delicious cold noodle salad with vegetables and a savory peanut dressing!

The inspiration for this one is a little random! Jason and I ended up being stuck at the airport for a while the last time we flew home from visiting his family in New Jersey. We were in the international terminal, aka the one with the awesome shopping and delicious food. I was thrilled to see a huge variety of vegetarian and vegan options, so many that I could hardly choose what to get! I asked Jason what I should get (he’s always better at picking what I’ll like than I am…#marriage), he said I should go for the noodle salad. Good man.

A healthy and delicious cold noodle salad with vegetables and a savory peanut dressing!

So I’m that crazy food blogger who tucked the container away in my carryon and then copied the ingredient list down when I got home. And it worked! Delicious tender whole grain noodles coated in a savory peanut sauce and tossed with fresh crispy vegetables. YUM.

Udon Noodle Salad
 
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Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. whole wheat udon noodles (you can use soba noodles instead)
  • ½ c. peanut butter
  • ¼ c. lime juice
  • ¼ c. warm water
  • ¼ c. liquid aminos (you can use soy sauce or tamari instead)
  • 1 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 t. sesame oil
  • 1 t. garlic powder
  • ½ t. ginger powder
  • ½ c. sliced scallions
  • 2 c. diced cucumber
  • 1 c. sliced bell peppers
  • 2 c. thinly shredded cabbage
  • 2 T. sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Boil noodles according to directions.
  2. While noodles cook, whisk together the peanut butter, lime juice, water, liquid aminos, vinegar, sesame oil, garlic powder, and ginger powder until it forms a smooth dressing. It will start out lumpy but just keep whisking, it will come together!
  3. Drain the noodles and rise with cold water.
  4. Toss the noodles with the dressing, scallions, and vegetables. Refrigerate for for at least 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with sesame seeds for garnish if desired.

A healthy and delicious cold noodle salad with vegetables and a savory peanut dressing!

This the pretty much the best lunch ever. It’s cold so you don’t have to worry about reheating anything, but the noodles really make it stick to your ribs which is perfect for a mid-day meal. Plus the dressing is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I had to stop myself from continuous “taste tests”!

See you soon for a fitness update!

-Lauren

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A simple and delicious dip for fresh fruit than any kid will LOVE!

 

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I’m SO excited to share today’s post with you! I’m going to be collaborating with my beautiful friend Val to bring you guys some awesome healthy recipes geared toward little ones. Val is an Army wife and a mom to two adorable little boys, Conner and Jackson. We’ve known each other for years because we’re part of a special group of women (HIII KNOTTIES, I LOVE YOU!!!) who all got married in the same month. She happens to also be a mommy blogger so when she had the idea that we could work together of course I said yes! For our collaborations I’ll be developing the recipes and Val will make sure that they’re kid approved. Without further ado, here’s our first recipe!

from Lauren's kitchen

Val told me that she likes to make sure her son’s meals are nice and colorful! That’s great because eating the rainbow is one of the best ways to make sure that we’re getting good nutrition in. Since everyone loves fruit salad (right?), it seemed like a great choice for our first recipe. But I wanted to make it a little more fun and interesting for kids, so I thought a dip would be the perfect thing!

A simple and delicious dip for fresh fruit than any kid will LOVE!

This dip is so good that I may or may not have been eating it with a spoon…but it makes the perfect pair with any fresh fruit that your kids love! I thought this would go great with some whole wheat flatbread and a soft-boiled egg for a quick and easy lunch or even dinner! But of course you can serve it with whatever you like.

Here’s the recipe:

Fruit Salad with Creamy Dreamy Dip
 
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Author:
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 c. sour cream (you can use a low fat or fat free if you prefer)
  • ⅓ c. light brown sugar (can be subbed for honey or agave syrup)
  • ¼ t. orange or lemon extract
  • ½ t. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Stir all the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve.
  3. Stir together again to fully incorporate the ingredients.
  4. Serve with mixed berries or any type of fruit that your kid likes! Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 2 T. Calories: 92 Fat: 7 Sugar: 5

 

A simple and delicious dip for fresh fruit than any kid will LOVE!
And that’s it! I was so excited to see how it would go over with Val’s little one.
from Val's kitchen
I started beforehand by prepping our fruit. For our salad, we used fresh kiwi, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and green seedless grapes. I washed them, gently dried them and sliced the fruits up into toddler friendly bite-sized pieces.
Then I brought in my little helper! Conner loved dumping the fruit into a large bowl and mixing them together. He also loved sampling each fruit before he dumped them…
While C Man dumped and mixed the fruit, I prepped the Creamy Dreamy Dip. I absolutely loved this recipe because it was SO easy. In addition to kid meal time and snacks, I would (and will!) totally make this for parties, BBQs, potlucks etc. This dip is definitely a crowd pleaser!
I served up our fruit salad with a dollop of dip on top. How beautiful is this?!
And we have a winner!
Conner ate THREE helpings of this in one day. Three! He loved dipping his fruit pieces in the “cream”. This will be a healthy snack staple for us now! OH. Bonus?! Try a little leftover fruit and Creamy Dreamy Dip on top of a waffle for breakfast. You’ll thank me later :)


I hope you guys enjoyed it! Keep an eye out for more good stuff coming soon from Kid Kitchen! ;) And don’t forget to check out Val at her blog This Whole Mommy Thing!

-Lauren

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My Family’s History

This post brought to you by MassMutual. The content and opinions expressed below are that of A Dash of Soul.

I am excited to join MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month by sharing my very own #JourneyOfYou story. Black History Month is always a great reminder for me to reflect on where I am today and where those before me came from. As a Black American my family has a such a rich history and I am so glad to have the opportunity to share a glimpse of that with you today. Let’s start from the beginning!

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Those are my parents, David and Marlil. They were both raised in California and got married there in the 80′s. Their union brought together two families with very different stories and histories. My dad’s side of the family is very diverse, with roots everywhere from Jamaica to Germany!

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Above is a photo of my dad’s family before he met my mom. His entire family is still in California where he was born and raised.

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That photo is of my dad’s parents, Irene and Clarence, with my brother and I in 1997. My grandmother Irene was born in Louisiana, and both her parents were a mix of Native American, African, and Caucasian. My grandpa Clarence on the other hand wasn’t born in the States! His parents, who were Jamaica-born, actually moved to Panama where his father worked on the construction of the Panama Canal at the turn of the century. My grandpa was actually born there in Colón, Panama in 1910, but conditions in Panama were rough. After a little internet research I learned that over 5,000 workers died from disease and accidents during the canal’s construction. Even though most of the workers were Blacks, housing wasn’t provided to Black workers and so most of them lived in tents and tenements in the area. To provide a better life for my grandpa and his sister, their mother ended up moving them to California. In California he met my grandmother, whose family had moved there from Louisiana. Which brings me to my mom’s side of the family, who also had Southern roots!

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On the left in that photo is my maternal grandmother Dorothy and her mother Mary, whose family was from Alabama. The South didn’t have many opportunities for Black families at that time and so my great-grandmother’s family moved to the Midwest during the Great Migration. If you’re unfamiliar with the Great Migration, it was a period in the early 1900′s during which 6 million Blacks moved from rural areas in the South to more industrial cities in the Northeast, Midwest, and West. My great-grandmother moved to Cleveland, Ohio where my grandmother was then born and raised. Granny moved to California and became a missionary to Haiti, where she met my Haitian grandfather Anthony! And she raised all her kids in California, which is how my mom and dad ended up living in the same city. After I came along in 1988 we stayed in Southern California for a few years.

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That’s me with my Granny around 1990! I think they loved California, but my parents wanted a safer and quieter place to raise a family than Los Angeles, so we all (including Granny) moved to Georgia! A few years after moving here they had my brother David, and then several years later came little Ashley.

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It’s amazing to me to look back and think about how many journeys my family members took that led to me being were I am today. My grandparents have all passed away now but we will keep their stories alive through our memories and the great photos that we have of them. I’m happy to still call Georgia my home and I can’t wait to teach my children all about their Black heritage and their family history one day! Our history makes us who we are and I feel so grateful for my beautiful family.

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I hope you’ll join me and MassMutual in celebrating Black History Month this February. Follow along and share your own story in the comments section below or on Facebook/Twitter with MassMutual using #JourneyOfYou.
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Happy Valentine’s Day! Forget the whole “Hallmark holiday” thing, I’ll take any excuse to celebrate love! This is the 9th year that I have Jason as my valentine! And it also marks 2 years living a lifestyle of compassion and going meat-free! There are SO many great reasons to go vegetarian for love. If not for love of the animals or love of the planet, do it out of love for yourself! You deserve a long and healthy life, and reducing or eliminating your meat intake will help get you there. To honor the holiday of love I’m sharing some of my favorite meatless recipes with you today! Pretty much these ALL belong on your dinner table. :D

10 awesome vegetarian recipes for your dinner table!

Recipes shown above:

Spaghetti with Sorrel, Eggplant, and Tomatoes 

Tropical Black Rice Salad

Teriyaki Tofu Bowl

Epic Cheesy Quinoa Burger

Teriyaki Zucchini Noodles

Rainbow Nori Rolls with Creamy Peanut Sauce

Zucchini Noodles with Roasted Red Pepper Marinara

Bok Choy and Shiitake Noodle Soup

Cheesy Broccoli and Brown Rice Casserole

Loaded Greek Yogurt Mashed Potatoes

 

Spread the love! Don’t forget to pin this photo on Pinterest! :)

-Lauren

 

 

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