Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

I need protein in the morning.  As much as I would love to eat four donuts every morning for breakfast (I’m not exaggerating), my body needs more.  If I don’t eat protein for breakfast – and a lot of it – I am hungry no less than 1/2 hour after I finish eating.

My Body Pump instructor will often announce as we’re doing our cool down stretches to make sure that we eat lean protein in the next 30 minutes to help with muscle recovery.  Which is great, in theory.  But who has time to whip up scrambled eggs in the very tiny window of time I have between getting home from the gym and when my kids wake up?

My husband is rarely home from work for supper, so breakfast is our family meal time.  I used to be good about making scrambled eggs with veggies in the morning, but would end up making them while my husband and kids ate and then finally sitting down to eat as the three of them were finishing up.  Hardly the family sit down meal we were going for.

In Minnesota, there’s something called ‘Egg Bake’.  In most other parts of the world, it’s called Egg Casserole and I had made one a few weeks back for a function and had some leftovers.  The next morning, I heated up the leftovers and it was the fastest protein and veggie loaded breakfast!  I realized that I could make an egg casserole on the weekend and have breakfast ready for the entire week.

So, that’s what I do.

I’ve stumbled upon two tricks to having a quick and lean protein packed breakfast and I’m pumped to share them with you.

Let me first say that I am NOT a food blogger, and have no intention to become one.  But these “recipes” fall under the category of “Here’s something that has made my life easier (and healthier), so you should try them too”.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning Trick #1 – Turkey Bacon

Each week, I buy two packages of turkey bacon and cook them according to package instructions on sheet pans in the oven until they’re about 75% done.  The bacon I buys says to cook for 12 minutes, so I cook it for 8 minutes and then let it cool on the pan.  Once it’s cooled, I put it in a leftover container in the fridge.

In the morning, when I get back from the gym, I put 4 pieces of bacon on a napkin and microwave it for 45 seconds.  This finishes cooking the turkey bacon.  I haven’t even been home for 2 minutes, and I’m already getting one serving of lean protein.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning Trick #2 – Egg Casserole

This recipe is SUPER flexible.  The measurements are just to give you an idea.  Adjust to your preferences.

The “recipe” calls for sweet potato fries because I cannot get enough sweet potatoes.  You can use any kind of frozen potato that you prefer.  If you choose one that doesn’t already have some seasoning (i.e. hash browns), I would suggest adding more seasoning for flavor.  Or, if you like bland food, then just go with the hash browns.  But, if you like bland food, I’m not sure what about this recipe is appealing to you…. 🙂

I pretty much end up pulling out whatever is in my fridge that sounds good.  We had some bacon that I had overcooked and was already crumbled from taking it off the pan, so I decided to throw that in there.  My sweet peppers & 1/2 an onion were on their last legs, so I cut up what I had left of those.

Veggie Egg Casserole

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Add sweet potato fries, chopped veggies, bacon & 4 oz. shredded cheese to a large mixing bowl.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Toss to combine

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Spray 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray

Pour potato mixture into baking dish

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

In a large bowl (or, if you’re lazy like me, an electric mixer bowl), whisk the eggs.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Add milk, garlic powder, basil, salt & pepper

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

The seasonings will sit at the top of the egg mixture.  That’s okay.

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Pour the egg mixture over the potato and veggie mixture

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Top with remaining shredded cheese

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Bake for one hour.  The center should be set and the edges should be golden brown

Quick & Lean Protein in the Morning - Veggie Egg Casserole :: maximizingdaysblog.com

Veggie Egg Casserole Recipe

  • 1/2 bag frozen sweet potato fries
  • 4 cups chopped veggies (onion, mushroom, sweet peppers, spinach, etc.)
  • 6 strips bacon, cooked & chopped (opt)
  • 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 15-18 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Add sweet potato fries, chopped veggies, bacon & 4 oz. shredded cheese to a large mixing bowl.  Toss to combine.
  3. Spray 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray
  4. Pour potato mixture into baking dish
  5. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs.  Then add milk, garlic powder, basil, salt & pepper
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the potato and veggie mixture
  7. Top with remaining shredded cheese
  8. Bake for one hour.  The center should be set and the edges should be golden brown

I do steps 1-7 on the weekend and then put a lid on the baking dish and stick it in the fridge.  I turn the oven on when I leave for the gym on Monday morning, and my husband sticks it in the oven (without the lid on!) when he gets up.  By the time the kids walk upstairs, I’m pulling the casserole out of the oven and our house smells divine.

The leftovers go in the fridge and breakfast is ready for the rest of the week.  While getting the kids’ breakfast ready, I pull out a piece or two of egg casserole and microwave it for 2 minutes.  Then we all have a family breakfast together and it’s like the Cleavers.  Not quite.  But, we do all eat a healthy breakfast together, and that is the goal.

If you will not eat an entire 9×13 pan of egg casserole in a week (I eat a lot of food…), cut the recipe in half and use an 8×8 baking dish.

P.S. Check out how to organize leftover containers here and how to make room in your fridge to store a 9×13 pan here.  

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Online Coupon Organization

We ordered our Christmas cards from Tiny Prints last year, and they took three weeks to get them to us because their printers broke.  It was no big deal because I got them in plenty of time to send them out before Christmas, so I didn’t think anything of it.

In February, I received a $50 gift card from Tiny Prints as an apology for taking so long to get our Christmas cards to us.  This was not the typical $50 off $150 order – it was just a $50 credit. Woot.  Woot.

The code for the credit expired on July 31st – which seemed like forever away.  I remember thinking that I would use the credit to order my kids’ birthday invitations and/or thank you cards.

And I completely forgot about it until last week when I was cleaning out my InBox on our desk.  I was so frustrated.  I just let $50 get wasted.

I am a firm believer in not buying something just because you have a coupon or it’s on sale.  The only justification for purchasing something is if you need it, and if you are able to save some money when buying it, well done.  For this reason, I throw approximately 90% of the coupons we receive in the garbage.   The big one right now is 20% off at Carters or OshKosh.  I think we get that coupon once a week.  But it can’t be used on most of their sale items, and only 20% off at Carters is still more than I spend on my clothes, so those go in the trash right away.

Every once in a while, we will get a keeper, and I have a tray on my desk where I keep stuff like that.  Because coupons aren’t the only items in that tray, they get lost in the shuffle.  At this moment, other items in said tray include: Cards that I received that I need to respond to, a list of dates of my daughter’s milestones in her first months (for her baby book that I’m just now starting), tickets to the Iowa football game Josh and I went to last fall, my dream house layout and some Bible study notes.

I can’t imagine how that $50 voucher got lost in that mess. #sarcasm

I have this sorter on our desk (similar), which I purchased in college to create a spot for my messy roommates to put the mail.  It hasn’t had a purpose since moving to this house and was just sitting on my desk.

Don't let those online coupon codes expire because you forgot you had it. A quick & easy way to see your offers and use them! - maximizingdaysblog.com

Don't let those online coupon codes expire because you forgot you had it. A quick & easy way to see your offers and use them! - maximizingdaysblog.com

I decided to pull all of the coupons out of my tray and put them in here.  Separating and putting them in a visible spot is the first big step in not forgetting about them.

Don't let those online coupon codes expire because you forgot you had it. A quick & easy way to see your offers and use them! - maximizingdaysblog.com

I also decided to write the expiration dates of each coupon a neon post-it and adhere it to the coupon.  Then I sorted the coupons by date, with the nearest expiration date first.  I’m at our desk once a day, so I catch a glance of those bright pink notes each day.  I’m reminded that they’re there and how long I have to use them.

Don't let those online coupon codes expire because you forgot you had it. A quick & easy way to see your offers and use them! - maximizingdaysblog.com

This doesn’t mean that I use all of these, because I don’t always have something to buy, but at least now I don’t lose the chance to save money because I was unorganized.

Don't let those online coupon codes expire because you forgot you had it. A quick & easy way to see your offers and use them!

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Coffee Pod Storage

I have a love/hate relationship with our Keurig.  I love that I can easily and quickly make my one cup of coffee each day.  I hate how bulky the pods are to store and the waste they create after being used.  I haven’t come up with a solution for the waste part, but I’ve found a means of storage that works pretty well.

We’ve all seen these pictures on Instagram or Pinterest, and while they’re cute, it’s not sensible enough for me.

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I don’t have the space for a “coffee station” and I don’t feel like my one cup of coffee a day justifies the space the station takes.  Add to that the need to have all the “gear” (mugs & spoons) separate from all my other dishes (translation: annoying to put away when unloading the dishwasher), and it’s just not my thing.

When we bought our Keurig, my husband immediately started looking online for pod storage.  In his sensible nature, he started with the standard countertop options (a drawer option and a stand option).  There’s a reason that most people who own a Keurig use one of these, but I did not like them.  They seemed inefficient to me, but most of all, I didn’t want something on my countertop.  I hate countertop clutter.  Sure, it doesn’t start out as clutter – i.e. appliances, utensil crocks, decorations – but the totality of it once it all takes up precious countertop realty becomes clutter in my mind.  Add that to the fact that those storage systems don’t allow for flexibility of storage and that they don’t store anything else except the pods, and they were vetoed.

But we still didn’t have a solution.  So, our temporary solution became keeping the pods in their little boxes and keeping them in a cupboard.  Talk about inefficient.

Until I found this post on a blog to which I subscribe, I Heart Organizing.

I’m not sure why this stuck out to me in a way that so many similar things I’d seen hadn’t, but I really liked the idea of using a general purpose container to store the pods.  Her storage of a few items in the small bowl in her cupboard above the coffee station was the real light bulb moment for me.

I Heart Organizing

Instead of a glass jar, I could repurpose an old basket that I had and I could put that in the cupboard next to the mugs.  The basket would fit a lot more pods, of varying types, than separate K-Cup boxes, and they could all be easily accessed.  The basket would also efficiently store hot chocolate packets as well.  Storing it next to the mugs would mean having everything in close proximity to the Keurig itself, which means that I had everything that I needed.  It doesn’t look like a Pinterest-worthy coffee station because 2/3 of it isn’t visible, but it does exactly what I need.

Please forgive the unfinished drywall behind the Keurig.  The white subway tile backsplash is the last project for the kitchen.  But, because it is purely aesthetic, it has taken a back seat on the priority list to many other more pressing projects.

I’ve used this storage method for two years in four different residences, and it has worked really well.  I keep extra pods (mixed together) in one big box in a lower drawer and refill it every couple of weeks.

Nothing fancy or mind-blowing, but like most storage solutions, it’s the simple ones that are best.

What methods have you found that work well for storing K-Cups?

Making a Grocery List

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a huge proponent of menu planning; for a multitude of reasons, one of them being the money it saves.

Once I finish my menu planning for the week, then comes the making of the grocery list.

I pull out a sheet of paper (old-school, I know) and make 3 columns: FRIDGE, FREEZER & PANTRY.  I go through each meal on my calendar and write it’s ingredients in it’s corresponding storage column.  By doing this, everything I need to make everything I have planned for the week is now on my list.

Next, I go through each the fridge, freezer and pantry and check for what I already have and what I need.  If I have it, it gets crossed off, and if I need it, it gets circled.  Once I’ve gone through all three places, I make my grocery list from the circled items.

I do make the list on my phone, so I’ve safely exited the stone age and am now back in the beautiful digital age.

It’s not rocket science, but it’s a nearly fool-proof way to make sure that you get what you need on your list.

Menu Planning – When There’s More Month at the End of the Paycheck

My husband is  UPS driver, which means that he only works when they have work for him.  This can make budgeting a little tricky.  There are definitely weeks where we don’t drive far because we are out of gas money and where I am very limited in my grocery buying options.

I’m not complaining.  It’s real life.  And living within our means, learning to appreciate everything little thing we have and seeing how God takes care of our needs every.single.time has taught us way more than ease and comfort ever could.

However, we do have to eat.  No matter how sparse our grocery budget is, it is my job to make it feed our family.

I’ve talked about this a little before, but when I menu plan, I start with “shopping our deep freezer”.  This is simply looking at the whiteboard on our deep freezer where it’s contents are written.  But, on the leaner weeks, I go a little further.

Start by going through the deep freezer, kitchen freezer, fridge and pantry and make a list of anything that is already a meal or only needs one or two more ingredients to become a meal.  (Don’t step reading here because you think you don’t have anything like this.  Go to the places in your house where you store your food.  Try this.  I think you’ll be surprised).

Take your list and make it like a game with the object being getting everything on your list on your menu planning calendar.  Fill the calendar with as much of the food that’s already under your roof.  Be creative.  These meals may not be combinations that you usually have, but that’s okay.  They may also not be Instagram-worthy.  That’s really okay.  You bought this food at some point because you thought it would be good to eat it.  So, follow through with that.

The goal is to fill the menu planning calendar with as many things as you already have in your house and limit the amount of items that need to be purchased in order to fill stomachs.

Here is my list from a few weeks ago:

And here are the meals that we got from that list: (Items listed in coral were found in my house and didn’t need to be purchased)

 

Whether we realize it or not, most of us are storing a lot of food.  We open the fridge and don’t see anything that is appealing to us at the time or that can be prepared quickly and resort to “We have nothing to eat”, or “I need to go grocery shopping”.  But, the truth is that, unless your shelves are bare, we do have more than one thing to eat.

Honestly, the hardest part of this is attitude.   It’s accepting that this is sometimes necessary, which requires humility.  It’s also accepting that there are times that you aren’t going to eat something that you absolutely love.  That’s the hardest part for me.  I love food.  And there’s a lot of food that I really love.  So, when I see something on our menu planning calendar that isn’t exciting to me, I don’t want to cook it.

That’s when I remind myself of why we’re doing this:
Everything we’ve been given, including food that I don’t love, is a gift, for which I should be grateful;
Not spending money that we don’t have for temporary satisfaction will lead to a much fuller satisfaction down the road when we’re not burdened with debt;
I want to be a good example to my children of making responsible decisions with what we’ve been given;
Wasting is not good stewardship.

And if you just can’t stand the thought of eating something that you found, give it away or throw it out.  It’s doing no one any good by just being stored.

You can’t do this every week because, at some point, you will diminish your supply.  But, it is great for feeding your family in a pinch.  As you can see, my one trip created almost 3 weeks of suppers.