Dairy-free and Delish Coffee Creamer

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In my attempt to cut dairy from my diet, the biggest hurdle for me is that damn coffeemate/international delight/liquid sugar deliciousness. Just almond milk and sweetener was not thick enough. And it’s pretty hard to go from peppermint mocha to no flavor whatsoever. Except for “coffee” flavored… but who wants coffee that is just coffee flavored? (I’m sure some of you do. I’ve got you covered too!)

I found a few recipes but most were too complicated or not quite right. After some experimenting and a lot of almond milk, here’s my recipe base for the perfect dairy-free coffee creamer. The quantity is perfect for one of those salad dressing carafes that comes with the good seasonings mixes. Add-ins are listed below to make it your flavor of choice.

Xanthan gum is expensive, but… you use so little of it that it will last you forever and then some. Split it with a health conscious friend!

This is the one I picked up at my regular, local grocery store. There would probably be a better selection at a health foods store, but this was the only one I had available. It’s a good brand though!

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Basic vanilla creamer

  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (plain if you are anti-vanilla)
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Sweetener of choice, to taste (I did 4 splenda packets)

Toss all ingredients in the blender and thoroughly blend. Pour into carafe, mason jar, or a washed out coffeemate bottle! Creamer will have some trapped air bubbles that will settle out in the fridge over night.

Mix-in flavor options

  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp extracts (peppermint, hazelnut, almond, coconut, etc)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

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That’s it! Super easy. Have fun with the flavorings. If you have any specific requests, ask! I might be able to whip something up. Got a great mix-in combo? Comment below!

7 ideas for Romaine that AREN’T salad!

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I have a few things that are weekly staples on my grocery list: milk, eggs, bananas, etc. You have some of these too I’m sure! One thing I buy every week is a big fluffy head of romaine lettuce. It’s nutrient dense and yes, it’s versatile. Salad is always on the meal plan at least once a week, but I have cooked up a few ways to use it that don’t mean in a bowl with dressing.

romaine nutrients

When I bring it home on Sunday I wash and prep it to keep it fresh. Best way to store lettuce (any kind) is to wash and dry in a salad spinner, then place in a ziploc bag with a slightly damp paper towel. And poke holes in the bag! Let it breathe! Your lettuce will keep for the whole week at least!

lettuce

I always make two bags, one for the large outer leaves that I keep whole and one for pre-chopped lettuce. Why? I use it for more than salads! I used to end up with a half head of romaine every week; not enough for a whole family sized salad but enough to do something with. So I improvised and cycle in these regulars for my whole family!

  1. Use some of the chopped romaine in a wrap with leftover meat from last night’s dinner. A little vinaigrette and it’s lunch!

  2. Or if you are feeling anti-carb, use a large leaf in place of the tortilla. Stuff it with some tuna salad and cucumber. Cool and crisp.

  3. Wilt it into some whole grain pasta. Yes, like spinach or kale. Romaine breaks down more easily so turn the heat off first then dump some of the chopped stuff in there and let the steam from the pasta soften it a bit.

  4. Chop it super fine and it makes a pretty garnish. I like to roll up just a piece of the larger leaf and slice extremely thin to make ribbons. Looks nice on pretty much anything!

  5. My hubs and kids will eat it on a sandwich if it’s not too think of a layer. One way to get around this is to put a layer of two or three larger leaves between cheese on a grilled cheese. It will get softer and thinner, the taste mellows a bit, and the grilled cheese just looks prettier.

  6. Grill it! Okay, this one is like a salad, but it’s different and delicious! You actually need to leave it on the stem for this one, but take off any larger, loose leaves from the outside. Spray with a little olive oil, and toss them on the grill. They will only need a light grilling, and I put them around the outside of the grill to avoid over doing it. Rotate then remove. Perfect in summer!

  7. Keep some of the long, thin, and stiff inner pieces and use as a fancy appetizer base. A dab of crab salad and a halved grape tomato look lovely and are easy for guests to pick up and eat!

Have another idea? Comment below!

Meal prep! Failure to plan…

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Failure to plan is planning to fail… someone once said that. Various sources are pointing at Franklin or Churchill. I am not sure who deserves the credit for the quote but I love it. I know the wording is kind of harsh, but I would say that if you have a goal to eat well and save money, there is no better way to ensure your success than meal planning and prepping your food ahead of time.

I’m a teacher, so I had today off, and tomorrow is a professional day (no students). So I have a fairly easy week ahead of me, and I did my weekly prep and plan today (Monday) instead of the usual Sunday. Yesterday the kids and I took a day trip to Magic Kingdom. We live only a couple hours from Orlando, but the big one was complaining the whole ride about how long the trip was! If only you knew how good you have it, kid!

My meals this week will be clean and yummy for the whole family! I am weening myself off of dairy. I still give my kids milk and yogurt and cheese, but the only thing I am allowing myself at this point is the sugary goodness that is coffeemate creamer. Next long weekend I am going to experiment with a few homemade, dairy-free recipes but for now it’s my little treat in the morning.

  • Shredded chicken tacos in the crockpot with black beans and avocado.
  • Lemon tilapia, steamed zuchinni, and roasted sweet potatoes (yes again! I am in love with them roasted in coconut oil!)
  • Shepards pie – I found a variant using frozen cooked butternut squash in place of the mashed potatoes. Going to give it a whirl!
  • Whole grain pasta with my hidden veggie sauce and a salad

I leave one weeknight meal for Leftovers, and one night we will be out the house for dinner. This will take us through Saturday!

Sounds good right? I also prepped some things for breakfast, lunches and snacks:

  • boiled eggs
  • cooked plain quinoa
  • baked a lb of chicken breasts
  • Soaked oats for tomorrow’s baked oatmeal – with strawberries this time – that should last most of the week.
  • cut up a watermelon, avocado, and a mango
  • portioned grapes (otherwise my daughter would plow through the whole bag in 5 minutes)
  • Bagged up portions of black beans and quinoa for lunch wraps

20140120_181944 20140120_182014That about does it! I’ve been using a structured dinner plan with a few ideas for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. That’s what works best for my family and it simplifies things for us here who like to decide snacks on a whim. However, when I was on a super tight grocery budget, I planned down to how many apples I would need to buy for each person’s snack needs. It works for some, but that was just way too much micromanaging for my taste!

I had the chicken and tilapia in the freezer already (I buy extra when it’s on sale and stock up my freezer), but with this meal plan plus all the breakfast/lunch/snack foods AND various health/beauty items I needed, my grocery bill only came to $78!

Eating well does NOT have to be expensive! More on that another day, but really people, I promise it’s doable. More than doable.

Not only is it easier on the wallet, but my training for my second half marathon is going leaps and bounds better than my first. I know without a doubt it’s because I’m eating well! Fuel your body right! It will do whatever your mind decides it wants to. Promise. ❤

How is your week looking?