For many of us, an electric pressure cooker has changed our lives for the better. **Raises hand**
Dry beans now cook in less than an hour. <–I’m writing this while chickpeas cook in the Instant Pot for dinner. Chicken stock is ready in just a couple of hours. This means I can make stock and soup on the same day, using the same pot. And I have more time to enjoy the evening with my family thanks to the hands-off, one-pot nature of Instant Pot dinners.
I’m an electric pressure cooker convert. Maybe more of an enthusiast at this point. That’s something I never thought I would say….
There was a time when I feared this appliance. The thought of a pressure cooker exploding on my counter was enough to keep me from even opening the Instant Pot box for over a year. Just think of how many bowls of soup and quarts of chicken stock I could have made during that time. Travesty, I know. Fear held me back.
(This sounds like a life lesson that applies to more than just the Instant Pot. Says the gal who is anxious and afraid to fly, yet boarding a plane for Iceland in four days. Fear is not going to hold me back this time.)
Back to the Instant Pot, and today’s recipe which you’ve probably guessed is made in the Instant Pot or your electric pressure cooker of choice.
This Instant Pot chicken and rice recipe is as easy as a dinner recipe can get. It’s truly a one-pot, dump the ingredients and forget about it kind of meal. That’s the kind of meal that I need in my life around this time of year (#endofschool). Okay, let me be honest. That’s the kind of meal I need in my life all year.
This meal has been my go-to on Wednesday nights, our busiest day of the week. With this meal, I don’t have to worry about adding anything to the slow-cooker in the morning, or mixing together any ingredients before heading out for the day. When we get home from work/school/life/karate, the simple ingredients are added to the Instant Pot and within 30 minutes a nourishing dinner is ready to be enjoyed. A dinner that’s enjoyed by the whole family.
One more thing…
Remember when we talked about simplifying real food with a capsule pantry? This meal is a perfect example of a capsule pantry meal. With just a few simple, multi-purpose, nourishing ingredients, a quick and easy meal can be made at home. The same ingredients can also be used to create so many other meals. That’s the beauty and simplicity of a capsule pantry.
Instant Pot Chicken and Homemade Yellow Rice (Pressure Cooker Recipe)
This Instant Pot chicken and rice recipe is as easy as a dinner recipe can get. It’s truly a one-pot, dump the ingredients and forget about it kind of meal.
1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs (sprinkled with salt and pepper*)
3 TB extra virgin olive oil (or avocado oil, divided)
1 medium yellow onion (diced (about 1 cup once diced))
1 large carrot (diced (about ½ cup once diced))
4 garlic cloves (minced, or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
1 3/4 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth/stock or water)
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice (uncooked and rinsed**)
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt (to taste)
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup frozen green peas
Sprinkle the chicken thighs with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the paprika, turmeric, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper. If you’re not using fresh garlic, also add garlic powder to this mixture.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the Instant Pot. Make sure the oil evenly coats the base of the pot. Turn on the Instant Pot to Saute, Normal.
Once hot, add the onion and carrots. Saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute, until fragrant. Add the seasonings and stir to evenly coat the veggies.
Press Cancel to turn off the heat.
Add the broth or water, 1 tablespoon of oil, and rice. Stir to combine the ingredients. Place the chicken thighs on top (do not stir).
Secure the lid and set to Sealing. Set the Instant Pot to Manual, High Pressure, for 8 minutes.
Once the rice is done cooking, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes before releasing the remaining pressure (use a hot pad holder or towel) and opening the lid.
Shred the chicken with two forks. Fluff the rice with a fork. Add the frozen green peas and stir to combine the chicken, peas, and rice. Serve once the peas are warm/room temperature.
*The photos feature chicken breasts. You can make this meal with about 1 lb of chicken breasts instead of the thighs; however, the breasts will be dry. The chicken thighs are a much better option, in my opinion.
**I wash/rinse (uncooked) rice in a fine mesh strainer before cooking it. To do this, simply pour the rice into a fine mesh strainer and run water over the rice until the water runs clear (from the strainer).
This meal would make a great make-ahead lunch. Portion the mixture into meal prep containers and serve with apple slices and nut butter (just a suggestion) for a complete meal.
For reference: According to Instant Pot, these are the time frames for cooking rice in an Instant Pot : White rice: 3-8 minutes, Basmati (white) rice: 4-8 minutes, Brown rice (long/short): 22-28 minutes, and Wild rice mix: 25-30 minutes.
Each month we chat about making the switch to non-toxic products. The goal of this series is to take things slow, making one change at a time.
So far, we’ve talked about non-toxic options for dish and dishwasher soap, toothpaste, and deodorant. I’ve also talked about my natural skincare routine. During these chats, I’ve shared my favorite products (both homemade and store-bought). If you don’t want to wait for more chats, you can also pick up my digital resource, Natural Body Care Simplified. I’ve included printable product lists at the end of each section (makeup, face essentials, body) to help you find non-toxic products from head to toe.
Today, let’s talk about a swap that is appropriate for the summer: sunscreen.
While I use a facial sunscreen oil year-round, I typically reach for full-on body coverage during the spring and summer months for myself and the kids. We spend a lot of time in the sun over the summer months, so extra protection is a must. Along with sunscreen, we also wear hats. Side note: Target has some really cute summer hats right now.
There are a number of concerning ingredients in sunscreen products. The concern isn’t chemicals (remember, everything is a chemical); rather, it’s the effect particular chemicals may have on the body (i.e. hormone disruption). The Environmental Working Group wrote an informative article about these chemicals. I recommend reading it over here.
The products on today’s list are my favorite sunscreen options. These are the products I’ve purchased with my own money and tried on my own family. I don’t write sponsored brand content, partner with brands to promote a particular product, or take free samples.
I’ve included the EWG score for each brand/product. A 1 is considered the best score for a product, and the score increases from there based on the concerning ingredients in a product. You can search how well your sunscreen scores using this link (use the search bar “search for your sunscreen”).
A quick note about using non-toxic sunscreen options. Most mineral-based sunscreen products start off very white on the skin so it’s easy to tell when you need to apply more. This is only true with traditional sunscreen, not tinted moisturizers, facial products, or tinted lip balms. I’ve also found that most of these mineral-based products need to be applied a few times during the day, especially if you’re swimming.
This recipe was shared on Live Simply a few years ago. Over the years, many readers have made the recipe and loved it. Some folks have also expressed concern about making your own sunscreen at home. I get that. There are a ton of great products on the market today, so you don’t have to make your own. I’m going to add this option in case you love making “all the things.”
This is one of the easiest sunscreen options to find. I’ve used the Badger line of sunscreen products on my kids for several years. I’ve used the Tangerine and Vanilla. The products are available at most health food stores and on Amazon. The sunscreen options range from SPF 15-35.
Environmental Working Group Score: 1 (nearly all sunscreen products)
This brand makes a variety of sunscreen options, ranging from regular sunscreen to a BB cream with SPF. I’ve found Coola to be incredibly effective, although it’s not always easy to find (online only in my area). The company sells squeeze tubes, sticks, and spray options. Coola also makes a SPF 15 lipbalm (not tinted). The sunscreen options range from SPF 15-50.
Environmental Working Group Score: varies depending on product, ranging from 1-3. View the results on the EWG.
This is a new-to-me sunscreen brand, and probably the one I’ll be using this summer due to the higher SPF (50). The company sells squeeze tubes, sticks, and metal tin options. Their sunscreen butter is labeled “very water resistant” and “reef friendly.” All Good also makes tinted lip balm with SPF 15. I’m planning to try the lip tint this summer. The sunscreen options range from SPF 18-50.
Environmental Working Group Score: 1 (all sunscreen products)
This sunscreen came highly recommended by numerous reader friends on Instagram. This is the one sunscreen on this list that I haven’t used yet. The company makes both a tinted and regular sunscreen option. Just like All Good, Raw Elements sells sunscreen in squeeze tubes and metal tins. Every sunscreen product is SPF 30.
Environmental Working Group Score: 1 (all sunscreen products)
This is another easy-to-find sunscreen brand. I personally think this product performs just as good as Badger. My recommendation is to choose the option that’s easiest for you to find. One product that stands out to me as unique is the SPF Face the Day Sunscreen Firming Primer. If you don’t want to go the tinted moisturizer route, but also don’t want to use a facial sunscreen, this may be a good option. The sunscreen options range from SPF 30-50.
Environmental Working Group Score: 1 (most sunscreen options). Goddess Garden makes a few products that don’t score very well with the EWG. Stay away from the tinted lip balm and spray products.
I used BeautyCounter sunscreen (the squeeze tube) a couple of summers ago, and was pleased with how well it works. I didn’t continue using it due to the price ($32) and the fact that I can only order through the BeautyCounter website. BeautyCounter sells a variety of application options: stick (for face and body), squeeze tube, and a lip balm. The sunscreen options range from SPF 15-30. BeautyCounter also makes a tinted moisturizer called, Dew Skin. I’ve used Dew Skin in the past and really enjoyed it. The only reason I stopped buying it was the price point ($45 for a tube that didn’t last very long).
Environmental Working Group Score: 1 (sunscreen options), 2 (lip balm). I don’t know how well the new Countersun products work or how well they score.
This is the facial sunscreen I love and use year-round. I personally wouldn’t recommend this oil as all-day body protection at the beach (at least not in the tropical Florida sun), but for daily life this stuff is awesome. Plus, the fact that it moisturizes and improves my skin (due to the wonderful oils) is a huge plus–it’s almost like a daytime serum. You can read more about the SPF of this sunscreen on the product page (linked above).
Environmental Working Group Score: N/A The EWG doesn’t usually score small company products. But based on the ingredients my guess is the score would be a 1.
I use W3LL People makeup (mascara, blush, and face powder). I love their makeup and the accessibility of the products (sold at Target stores nationwide). The fact that I can run to Target to purchase this product is a huge plus (hello, convenience). I purchased this product last week and I’m in love. IN LOVE! It goes on smooth and gives me a dewy look. And the coverage is fantastic. It’s by the far the best non-toxic SPF tinted moisturizer I’ve used. My plan is to use this moisturizer and the Luminance oil all summer. I’m wearing Light.
Environmental Working Group Score: 2 (all tinted facial moisturizers)
Juice Beauty makes fantastic skincare products. The sunscreen products offered range from traditional sunscreen to tinted moisturizer. Juice Beauty is sold at most Whole Foods stores, so it’s fairly easy to find. The sunscreen options range from SPF 15-30.
Environmental Working Group Score: 1 (all sunscreen products)
I’d love to hear what you’re loving and using in the comment section below. Sharing is incredibly valuable for the community. We’re all on this journey together.
You all have been loving the one-skillet lasagna shared on the blog a couple of weeks ago. If you haven’t tried that recipe yet, you should. It’s easy, fast, and only requires one single skillet . And, of course, it tastes like you spent hours in the kitchen, laboring over your favorite lasagna. Who knew homemade lasagna could be so simple?
Today’s recipe is another one-pot/skillet meal that I’m so excited to share with you. It’s actually been sitting in the recipe files on my computer for some time.
Before we talk about this recipe, I want to note that while this meal is made in one pot, you will need to dirty a couple of extra dishes. Why? Because this recipe includes a homemade alfredo sauce, along with an optional crispy topping. I think that’s worth dirtying an extra pan, right?
This recipe is a good ol’ comfort meal. The kind of meal that reminds of the boxed casserole meals I grew up eating at home. Anyone else grow up on tuna noodle casserole and Hamburger Helper?
This particular comfort meal isn’t just some processed boxed meal. Oh no, it’s so much better in terms of ingredients and taste. This casserole is made from simple, real ingredients. No boxes, sauce packets, or fake ingredients needed.
The casserole is built on a homemade alfredo sauce, which is then combined with chicken, rice, and broccoli (frozen or fresh) and baked in the oven. The end result is a creamed casserole with a hearty filling.
If you’re looking to save time and money on this casserole, I recommend going with pre-chopped frozen broccoli florets versus fresh broccoli crowns. Going this route will save you from having to wash and chop the broccoli.
If you want to make a gluten-free casserole (there isn’t a way to go dairy-free, but gluten-free is possible) I recommend skipping the panko topping or using gluten-free breadcrumbs. The topping does add extra pizazz to the casserole, but you can also get away with leaving it out, if desired. If you’re not going to include the topping, simply follow the instructions and uncover the dish for the last 10 minutes of cooking time.
casserole dish (9×13 or 2 ½-3 quart casserole dish**)
foil ( if using a casserole dish without a lid)
Prepare the Alfredo Sauce:
Add the cream, milk, and butter to a medium-size saucepan. Warm over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until melted.
Stir in the remaining ingredients (cheese, garlic, salt, pepper), and whisk until the cheese is melted.
Let the sauce thicken slightly over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Do not boil.
Assemble the Casserole:
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a casserole dish.
Chop the broccoli florets no larger than 1” pieces (or use pre-chopped frozen broccoli). Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
Dice the chicken in 1” cubes; season with salt, pepper, and paprika and add to the bowl.
Add the uncooked rice and chicken broth to the bowl. Pour the prepared alfredo sauce into the bowl as well. Stir to combine.
Pour the mixture into the greased pan and cover tightly with foil or a lid. It must be sealed tightly for the rice to cook through.
Bake, covered, for 45 minutes.
While baking, prepare the topping (if using). Add the panko, butter, and seasoning (oregano, paprika, salt) to a medium-size skillet (use the same skillet from making the sauce, just rinse it off). Saute over medium heat, stirring, until nicely browned. Do not burn.
Remove the casserole from the oven and uncover. Top with the prepared panko and shredded parmesan. Return to the oven, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
*The chicken is raw, not cooked when it’s added to the bowl with the alfredo sauce, broccoli, and rice. The chicken will cook in the oven, along with the rice. There’s no need to cook the rice or chicken ahead of time. This recipe is designed to cook everything together, in one pot.
**I use a casserole dish with a lid (this one) so I don’t have to use foil. If you use a casserole dish or a baking dish without a lid, you’ll need to cover the casserole with foil before baking. My casserole dish has been out of stock for some time now. This option and this option look very similar with great reviews.
Frozen broccoli may be used in place of fresh broccoli. This saves time since frozen broccoli is pre-chopped. Don’t unthaw before adding the broccoli to the mix.
You’re welcome to use brown rice in this casserole; however, the amount of liquid may need to be increased. I haven’t tested this recipe with brown rice since we typically stick with white rice (it’s easier to digest). Attempt this at your own risk.
This casserole is really hearty, so it can stand alone as a dinner. Or, serve this casserole alongside a simple green salad.
During my early days of real food, I was eager to make “all the recipes” and regularly found myself buying specialty ingredients. This way of cooking, and eating, was expensive. I spent a lot at the grocery store on food that didn’t carry us through multiple meals.
Over the years, I’ve learned how to shop and cook smarter by meal planning and rotating favorite meals. I’ve also learned how to stock a capsule pantry in order to simplify meals, save money, and stretch ingredients across multiple meals.
I’ve shared my meal planning strategy in the past. And I’m going to share more about rotating favorite meals in a few weeks. Today, let’s talk about a capsule pantry.
A Capsule PantryAn Intentional Method to Simplify Real Food
What is a capsule pantry?
I learned about the concept of a capsule pantry a few months ago from a friend. After she shared about this new concept, I realized that I’ve had a capsule pantry for quite some time. I just didn’t know there was a special name for this intentional method.
A capsule pantry is much like a capsule wardrobe; a term that you are probably familiar with. The capsule concept was created by Susie Faux, a London Boutique owner in the ’70s. According to Faux, a capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items that work together and don’t go out of style (timeless).
A capsule pantry is an intentional way to simplify. A capsule pantry is made up of essential foods (ingredients). Foods that you love and use. Foods that can be used to create multiple meals. While most of us think of a pantry as just dry goods, this concept applies across the board to the fridge, freezer, and actual pantry (dry goods).
In a day when food products are constantly marketed to us (by online influencers, commercials, etc.), a capsule pantry keeps one focused on the essential, the important, the foods/ingredients that actually have a purpose.
A capsule pantry simplifies not only your pantry space (goodbye ingredients that sit for years, just taking up space and not serving a purpose), but also simplifies planning and preparing meals. When you have a pantry that’s stocked with ingredients and foods you love and use, creating simple, nourishing meals is easy. A capsule pantry, to me, is essential for creating a simplified, ready-at-any-moment real food lifestyle.
How do you create a capsule pantry?
Think about the meals you regularly make. (Remember the collection of meal ideas and recipes you’ve been keeping and using to create regular meal plans? Well, this list is going to prove valuable as you build a capsule pantry.) Oatmeal? Granola? Spaghetti? Soups? Tacos? Grain-style bowls? Bean burritos? Pancakes? What ingredients do you use to regularly make these meals? What foods does your family regularly enjoy as snacks? Berries? Yogurt? Granola? Start a list and keep it going.
Now, go through your current pantry (remember, this includes fridge, freezer, and actual pantry). Take everything out. Donate non-perishable food you don’t use. I know, there was good intention behind purchasing these items, but it’s time to let it go and simplify. Toss food that’s expired. Toss condiments that you don’t ever use, or use them ASAP if they’re still good. Ask yourself, “Do I use this regularly? Can this ingredient be used in multiple ways to build meals and feed my family? Do we love this?”
Now is also a great time to organize your pantry. I find that organizing my food spaces by category is particularly helpful. In the actual pantry, sort food into categories that make sense to you, such as: canned ingredients (tomatoes, beans, coconut milk, etc.), baking ingredients (cacao/cocoa, sugars, etc.), dried fruits, snack foods, seasonings. I keep my nuts and seeds, along with grains, in my garage fridge to keep them fresh and bug-free. Repeat this practice with the freezer and fridge. I shared my fridge organization in this post.
The ingredients and foods stocked in your capsule pantry should be carefully curated by you,based on your family’s lifestyle. I recommend keeping a list of these ingredients/foods. Use a piece of paper or a note in your Notes App. I’ve created a printable of my capsule pantry as an example (DOWNLOAD).
When you notice something is getting low, make a note on your grocery list and restock it. That way you can always make simple, nourishing meals. We have an Amazon Alexa. When an ingredient is about to run out, I announce, “Hey Alexa, add rice to my Whole Foods list.” I could also use a pen and paper, but using this convenience is a such a small win for this busy mom.
How do you use a capsule pantry?
A capsule pantry simplifies life and empowers you to prepare real food meals on a daily basis. You should open your pantry door, and open your fridge and freezer, and think, “Oh yes, there are so many meal possibilities in here. I can make pasta, black bean bowls, chicken salad, a big green salad with homemade dressing, and lentil soup.”
A capsule pantry is your source for creating simple, real food meals on a regular basis. Your capsule is the place to turn, along with your favorite meals list, to easily create meal plans. Once you know what you have in stock, what needs to replenished, and any special ingredients you may need (we’ll talk about this next), build a grocery list (you may already have a few items on that list from noticing what is about to run out).
Do you still make recipes that call for special ingredients not found in your capsule pantry?
Yes, definitely! The idea isn’t to limit meals or restrict you; rather, a capsule is meant to simplify meals and approach real food from a budget-friendly standpoint. The idea is to keep a stock of multi-use ingredients/foods that are regularly used to build nourishing meals. That’s it!
It’s okay to make recipes that call for something you may not regularly stock. These recipes aren’t going to make up the bulk of your meals, but it’s always fun and inspiring to experiment with a new recipe and special ingredients.
Here’s my capsule pantry list (CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD). I share this list to provide an example of what my capsule pantry looks like.
If you’re feeling a tad bit overwhelmed by the idea of a capsule pantry, let me encourage you. A capsule pantry isn’t built overnight. It’s a process, an intentional way to simplify a real food lifestyle. Building a capsule, along with building a list of favorite meals, takes time. If you’re new to real food, be patient. Experiment with simple, nourishing recipes. (Most of the recipes shared on Live Simply are based on my capsule pantry.) Keep a list of recipes you love making and your family enjoys eating, and the common ingredients used to make these meals. This list will help you build your capsule pantry, one ingredient at a time.
May is the last month for enjoying our CSA produce share. I’m looking forward to a break from driving down to the market often (a 25-30 minute drive on Saturday mornings), but I’m also going to miss the fresh harvest shares. If you’re new to the idea of a CSA, let’s recap.
CSA is short for Community Supported/Sustained Agriculture. Crop Share is another common term for this.
A CSA allows consumers to support local, small farms and provides these farms with the assurance (through an upfront financial commitment) that consumers are invested in their hard work and future harvest. The consumer (that’s you and me) pledges to pay a farm upfront for future harvest shares provided by the farm. The farm pledges to grow, tend to, and deliver the harvest to the customer over a certain period of time. A CSA can be strictly for produce, while others may include meat, eggs, milk, and even cheese. Of course, this depends on what the farm grows or raises, or if the farm partners with another farm in the area (think: a veggie farm partners with a dairy farm).
The CSA we joined with Little Pond Farm is strictly for veggies and some fruit (think Florida fruit: strawberries, watermelon, etc.). I’ll admit, when I first wrote the check to cover eight month’s worth of produce I was intimidated. Financially committing to that much produce (that was our CSA program, every program differs) was a new experience for me. After two months of harvest boxes, I fell in love with being part of a CSA and realized the many advantages of purchasing food this way.
Joining a CSA has been the best way to get out of a food-buying rut, particularly when it comes to produce. Joining a CSA has challenged me to find creative ways to prepare and enjoy new veggies. After all, I don’t want to waste my money or disrespect the farm’s time and effort. Thanks to our produce CSA, I’ve fallen in love with veggies that I would have passed up if the shopping was up to me. If I don’t know how to use something (like kohlrabi), I can always find helpful tips and recipe suggestions from the farm and Google.
Lately, I’ve been receiving a ton of leeks and potatoes in my CSA box. Naturally, leek and potato soup has become a regular meal on my meal plan calendar. I’ve made a number of different leek and potato soup recipes over the years, and today’s recipe is my absolute favorite.
The classic, hearty soup takes less than 45 minutes to make on the stove-top. (I’m sure it could also be made in the Instant Pot.) Sour cream is added during the last few minutes of cooking time to add that classic creamed soup experience.
Soup not only makes for a nourishing dinner, but also a great prep-ahead lunch meal. When I’m not cooking a whole chicken, or putting together a bowl-style lunch, soup (and, lately, this soup) is my go-to make-ahead lunch. Serve the soup alongside a sandwich, crackers and fruit, or a salad.
Leek and Potato Soup
A classic, hearty vegetable based soup. Serve the soup as a meal, or paired with sandwiches, crackers, or a salad.
2 TB butter
2 large leeks (* sliced (about 3 cups once sliced))
A few years ago, most of my skincare products were homemade, because it was hard to find clean products that didn’t cost a fortune. Today, most of my skincare routine consists of store-bought products.
I welcome this shift. This means that I now have more time to do other things, like make homemade meals or spend time with my family. Minutes add up!
Now, I can walk into Target (just one example) and find some incredible skincare options. Target! A store that once sold only toxic skincare products now proudly sells brands like W3LL People (lovely makeup), Meow Meow Tweet (natural deodorant), S.W. Basics, and Acure (fantastic products, ranging from facial products to shampoo).
With that said, I still love dabbling with homemade products and sharing them on the blog. Knowing how to make something, along with knowing how to purchase clean products is a gift. A gift that empowers the consumer (that’s you and me). A gift that I feel strongly about sharing here on Live Simply.
If you’d like to take the homemade route with skincare (which can be more budget-friendly), I recommend downloading my body care book. I poured all my knowledge into this resource–thanks to experimenting on my own skin, receiving feedback from reader friends, and exploring research.
If you want to go the store-bought route (which can be more of a time-saver), know that there are amazing products out there that make this 100% possible. You don’t have to use toxic skincare products. In my book, I created lists detailing my favorite products, from shampoo and toothpaste to makeup and cleansers. It’s all in there.
I’ve also been sharing a monthly series on the blog called, Switching to Natural Products. In this series, I share my favorite natural products (homemade and store-bought). So far we’ve talked about deodorant, toothpaste, dish and dishwasher soap, all-purpose cleaner spray. Along with sharing my picks, reader friends also chime in with product suggestions. I love that!
Will you step inside my bathroom and let me show you what I’m currently using on my skin? After I share, I would love to hear about your skincare routine via the comment section below this post.
My Skincare Products
I have three favorite store-bought cleansers right now. Each one varies in price and accessibility. It’s not uncommon to find me switching between these cleansers, because I truly enjoy each of them.
True Botanicals Clear Hydrating Cleanser: This one is expensive, along with every True Botanicals product. But the True Botanicals line is simply amazing. I love the gentleness of this product and the consistency (a cream-like cleanser). The only thing that keeps me from using this cleanser consistently is the price.
Evanhealy Blue Lavender Cleansing Milk: I just recently purchased this product after looking for a cleanser at Whole Foods. I have tried a number of cleansers from retail stores, and just haven’t found anything I love. This product is different. It reminds me a lot of the True Botanicals Cleanser (a creamy consistency and gentle feel on the skin). This is what I’m currently using.
Cleansers don’t fully remove makeup, so if I’m wearing full-coverage makeup I use a makeup remover before cleaning. I go between two makeup removers: 100% oil (usually olive oil) or these makeup remover pads.
If you’ve been around Live Simply, you know that I’ve experimented with a number of different toner options. A toner helps to balance the pH of the skin after cleansing. I love rose water and (non-alcohol based) witch hazel. Quality rose water is expensive, so to cut back on my skincare expenses I’ve been using witch hazel (Thayer’s brand) as a toner.
My favorite moisturizer is from Luminance Skincare, Hydration. This moisturizer is lightweight and hydrating. I also love the Acure line of Day Cream and Night Cream (Target or Whole Foods).
Homemade masks are my jam. (It’s still okay to say “my jam” in 2018, right?!) My goal is to mask once or twice a week. I have three favorite masks at the moment:
Honey, Aloe, Clay Mask: This is my go-to mask. It’s all the things I want in a facial mask. And I always have the ingredients in my pantry and bathroom closet.
Spirulina Mask: I usually combine spirulina powder (found in the herb section at health food stores, or purchased online–also great in smoothies) with honey and aloe. I love the brightening power of this mask.
Yogurt and Honey: Clearly I have a thing for honey in face masks, and for good reason. Honey can help hydrate the skin, and it offers antibacterial properties. Plain yogurt is a probiotic-rich food, and probiotics are a tremendous way to boost any skincare routine. Plus, yogurt is rich in lactic acid (alpha hydroxy acids), which is a powerful ingredient used to combat acne and signs of aging.
I live in Florida, the sun capital of the world. For this reason, I use a sunscreen every single day. I haven’t always used sunscreen on my face, which is very evident by the darker spots speckled across my forehead. Live and learn to do better.
Since turning 30 a few years ago (and taking the pledge to take care of myself), I’ve been taking my skincare routine very seriously. I’ve also been working on adding or taking away products based on my skin’s current needs. I just recently ordered two new products to complement my skincare routine. I don’t know if I’ll continue using these products, as I haven’t even received them yet (they should show up at my door this week). I’ll definitely keep you posted on these products. For now, I’ll share what I’m going to try…
Mahina Evening Replenishing Elixir from Leahlani Skincare: I’ve read so many great reviews about this small company. I’ve been wanting to add a serum to my nightly routine, so this is my first product try. This is the best rated and least expensive serum product I can find on the market (there are many $100+ serums out there).
MotherDirt AO Mist: I’m so excited about this product. Again, I’ve read so many great reviews about this mist. This spray is live bacteria that’s applied to the skin in order to restore the natural bacteria that should be found on the skin.
My Skincare Routine Putting It All Together
Now that I’ve shared the products I’ve been using (and a couple that I plan to use in the future), here’s what my routine currently looks like:
Morning: Upon waking, splash face with water. Apply moisturizer and sunscreen oil. Apply makeup, if wearing. You can peek inside my makeup bag over here.
Evening: Before bed, remove makeup (if wearing), wash face with cleanser, apply toner with pad, apply elixir/serum (that’s my plan once it arrives) and moisturizer. Finally, apply MotherDirt AO Mist (that’s also my plan once it arrives).
Extras: Once or twice a week I apply a mask or exfoliate after cleansing my face in the evening and then follow-up with the remaining steps in my skincare routine.
Earlier this week, we talked about how to simplify dinner, in particular a favorite Italian dinner, with just one skillet and a few ingredients. Now, let’s turn our attention to breakfast.
Mornings are by far the busiest part of the day for my family. I’ve taken measures to simplify this time with morning routines. Even with these routines in place, our mornings always feel full and on the verge of being slightly crazy. Need an example?
Just last week, after enjoying a fairly smooth morning (AKA: lunches were packed, everyone ate breakfast, everyone woke up on time, and we left the house on time), we arrived at school only to find out that one of the kids left their shoes at home (20 minutes away from the school). Need I say more? Life with kids is always full of surprises.
Mornings are smoother and calmer, even with shoes left at home, when there’s food prepped in the fridge. Since both breakfast and lunch need to be prepared and packed in the morning, that’s what I focus on during my weekend food prep time.
Let me just pause for a moment, because when it comes to food prep I think there’s a misconception floating around. It’s easy to think that prepping food in advance means “making all the things.” It’s not. That makes for a great Instagram photo, but can also lead to overwhelm and burnout. <–I know that from experience.
Food prep is about intentionally making food that will simplify the week based on your schedule. That’s it! Food prep is a way to simplify life. It’s not something that’s meant to feel burdensome or complicate life.
Our schedule is the fullest in the morning and through lunch; evenings are more relaxed. This is why I focus on prepping breakfast and lunch on the weekend. What is prepped is always based on our schedule and my meal plan. Sometimes this looks like making one simple breakfast so Monday and Tuesday are smooth and manageable. Other times this means doing a bit more due to an upcoming busier season.
One of my favorite make-ahead breakfast options is overnight oats. There are so many different overnight oat recipes online. Today, I want to share my favorite recipe. A recipe that was created after trying many different overnight oat interpretations.
My favorite recipe starts with the typical overnight oat ingredients: rolled oats and milk. Steel cut oats are added for extra texture. Yogurt is added for the probiotic benefits. Yogurt also adds “heartiness” to the oats. Cinnamon (ceylon cinnamon), a warming spice, is added to help circulation (hello, early morning) and add a delightful flavor. Maple syrup is added for a touch of natural sweetness. The recipe makes enough for 2-3 breakfasts, and will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
The oats may be enjoyed cold (my favorite) or warmed up in a saucepan with a bit of extra milk. I like to top the cold oats with fruit (bananas or berries), nut butter, and hemp seeds (for extra crunch).
My Favorite Overnight Oats (Meal Prep Option)
My favorite (make-ahead) overnight oatmeal. The recipe makes enough for 2-3 breakfasts, and will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup steel cut oats (also known as, Irish oats)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups nut milk (such as: almond or cashew milk)
¼ cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 TB pure maple syrup (or honey, to taste)
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
quart-size storage jar (with a lid )
Optional Serving Suggestions:
chopped apples (sprinkled with cinnamon if prepping ahead)
fresh or frozen berries
nut butter (such as: almond butter or peanut butter)
seeds (such as: pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds)
Pour all the ingredients into a quart-size mason jar (except the “Optional Serving Suggestions”), starting with the rolled oats and ending with the vanilla extract. Stir until well combined. Refrigerate the oats overnight. The oats may be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days.
To enjoy, spoon the oats (as much as desired) into a bowl or smaller to-go container. Add any optional serving suggestions to the top of the oats. I personally like to top my oats with a nut butter, banana or berries, and hemp seeds.
*Coconut milk may be used, but it may require more liquid since it may thicken in the fridge.
If you prefer warm oatmeal, the oats may also be warmed before serving. Pour the refrigerated oats (as much as desired) into a saucepan, over medium heat. Add a small amount of liquid (water or more milk) to keep the oats from sticking to the pan or drying out. Cook and stir the oats until warm.
Almost 13 years ago, Dustin and I were married in my hometown, Safety Harbor (Florida). We were young (I was only 20 and he was 23), completely broke, still in college, and lacking just about every domestic skill an adult should possess. But we had one thing going for us: love.
I was eager to assume the cook role in our new family, despite my lack of basic cooking knowledge. And I’m talking about basic knowledge. This certainly didn’t stop me.
I remember my excitement over visiting the grocery store for the first time as a married lady. I created a grocery list using the recipes from the one cookbook in my possession. I’m pretty sure that was some sort of Betty Crocker cookbook. That was 2005, so using the internet for recipe ideas, or scrolling Pinterest, wasn’t really a thing yet.
The first week of cooking for the two of us didn’t exactly go well. I don’t think the recipes were at fault; rather, I didn’t exactly consider the time or skill level that the chosen recipes required. I didn’t exactly choose beginner recipes. Oh no, the overachiever in me went for the multi-step, speciality-ingredients, magazine-worthy meals.
Most of the recipes were failures, including Dustin’s favorite dish, lasagna. To add to the kitchen offenses committed that week, I didn’t realize how much food the recipes would yield. Most of the edible leftovers ended up rotting in the fridge. Dustin was nice about the failures, asking for lots of water at the dinner table and assuring me that our domestic skills would improve over time.
That, my Friend, was when I realized that I had a lot to learn about food and meal planning. Although, at the time, I didn’t know about the term, meal planning. It would take me several years to fully “stretch my wings” in the kitchen and learn to cook and be resourceful with ingredients. You can read our real food story, here.
Years later (almost 13 years in August), I still have my reservations about cooking lasagna. And don’t get me wrong, I make really good lasagna these days. But, for some reason, I still have this mental image of failing at making Dustin’s favorite dish that first week of our marriage. In fact, because of this, I don’t make lasagna very often. Plus there is the complexity factor to making traditional lasagna. Who needs more complexity in life?
Traditional lasagna requires a lot of time and effort. If you’ve made lasagna before–from-scratch lasagna (well, except the noodles because, hello, let’s at least keep that part simple)–you know just how much work is involved. Not only are there multiple steps involved, there’s usually a lot of dishes involved. That kind of lasagna, in my mind, is a special treat; not weeknight dinner material.
Today’s recipe is a total lasagna game-changer, and it’s Dustin-approved and multi-family approved. Helen worked to perfect the recipe, my family has been loving this recipe, and another Live Simply team member (Chardea) has been making the lasagna for her own family.
The beauty of this lasagna recipe is that everything, and I mean everything, is cooked in one single skillet. Just one! The lasagna takes less than hour to make (if you’re fast, then you can probably make this in about 45 minutes), from start to finish. Now that’s a lasagna I’ll make even on a weeknight. In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
I hope this recipe helps you simplify an oftentimes complicated meal, allowing you to enjoy it even on the busiest of weeks. Maybe even add this meal to your regular meal rotation.
One-Skillet Weeknight Lasagna (Gluten-Free)
The easiest lasagna you’ll ever make! The beauty of this lasagna recipe is that everything, and I mean everything, is cooked in one single skillet. Just one!
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1/2 medium yellow onion (diced (¾ cup once diced))
3 garlic cloves (minced)
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes (diced tomatoes also work)
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
1 3/4 cups water
9 ounces brown rice lasagna noodles (*)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (4 ounces)
2-3 packed cups baby spinach (2-4 ounces, depending on preference)
4 ounces “pearl” mozzarella cheese balls (or fresh mozzarella torn into smaller pieces)
fresh basil (optional)
shredded parmesan cheese (optional )
deep skillet (or 3 quart Dutch oven*)
Set a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Once hot, add the olive oil. Brown the ground beef, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the onion and garlic, and saute for 2-3 minutes.
Add the seasonings (salt, pepper, oregano, basil), diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water to the skillet.
Break the lasagna sheets into 2-inch pieces and add to the skillet. Make sure the noodles are submerged in the meaty sauce.
Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover for 18-20 minutes, or until the pasta is just about done and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Gently stir in the spinach and shredded mozzarella. Top with pearl (or torn) fresh mozzarella and cover for 5 minutes to melt.
*This recipe has only been tested with brown rice noodles (so it’s gluten-free approved). If you choose to use another lasagna noodle (wheat-based), you may need to adjust the cooking time and water ratio (?).
I use this casserole dish with a lid. The casserole dish has been out of stock for some time now. This option looks very similar. Just like any lasagna this meal only gets better with age (meaning a day or two), so make sure you save and hide the leftovers for later ;).
Last summer, Dustin and I watched a documentary (Sustainable on Netflix) that motivated us to make a small, impactful change in the way we purchase food.
The film touches on the many aspects of growing and eating real food, from the importance of sourcing local food to the rebirth of ancient grains in modern society (think: einkorn, spelt, kamut). The in-depth discussion about sourcing local food compelled us to get out of the grocery store and find a local source for produce.
Up until this time, most of our produce came from Whole Foods or big grocery stores. Let me just pause for a second and say: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. If you’re reading this post and that’s how you currently shop for produce, please don’t feel like that’s “not good enough.” The goal of this chat isn’t to make you feel overwhelmed or as though you’re not meeting some kind of food standard; rather, my goal is to share about one more way to source real food.
After watching Sustainable, we both agreed that supporting local farms, in particular through Community Supported Agriculture, was a new priority for us. I already knew about a farm, Little Pond, that sold produce at the market via a CSA program. The next day, I found the farm’s contact via Google and sent an email asking for information about the CSA program. The farm replied with a cost sheet, as well details about what to expect and how the CSA works.
Within a couple of weeks, we sent a check to the farm. Within a couple of months, we were picking up produce shares from the farm.
We’ve been receiving produce shares from Little Pond for over 7 months now. I usually share my harvest goodies on Instagram Story. The stories have garnered a lot of interest and curiosity from reader friends with questions like…
What is a CSA?
What’s the advantage of joining a CSA versus just shopping at the grocery store or going to the market?
How much does it cost to be part of a CSA?
Does the farm choose what produce you receive, or do you get a choice?
Will you join a CSA again next year?
How do you find a CSA?
Let’s chat about each of these questions.
Community Supported Agriculture 101
What is a CSA?
CSA is short for Community Supported/Sustained Agriculture. Crop Share is another common term for this.
A CSA allows consumers to support local, smaller farms and provides these farms with the assurance (through an upfront financial commitment) that consumers are invested in their hard work and future harvest. The consumer (that’s you and me) pledges to pay a farm upfront for future harvest shares provided by the farm. The farm pledges to grow, tend to, and deliver the harvest to the customer over a certain period of time. A CSA can be strictly for produce, while others may include meat, eggs, milk, and even cheese. Of course, this depends on what the farm grows or raises, or if the farm partners with another farm in the area (think: a veggie farm partners with a dairy farm).
What’s the advantage of joining a CSA versus just shopping at the grocery store or going to the market?
I’ll admit, when I first wrote the check to cover eight month’s worth of produce I was intimidated. Financially committing to that much produce (that was our CSA program, every program differs) was a new experience for me. After two months of harvest boxes, I fell in love with being part of a CSA and realized the many advantages of purchasing food this way.
First, joining a CSA provides the local farm with upfront finances to begin a growing season. Farming isn’t cheap. I learned that from having a backyard garden. You need tools to garden. And when your garden is big enough to feed hundreds of people (or more) each week, you need some major tools, seeds, seedlings, labor, and more to get the job done. Paying a farm upfront for the future harvest, via a CSA, provides the farm with assurance that they can financially sustain themselves. Along with supporting a local farm financially, a CSA is a way of supporting the local community.
Second, joining a CSA provides the customer with the freshest, most seasonal food. By joining a CSA, you’ll be enjoying food that’s essentially grown in your backyard. Talk about fresh!
Third, a CSA is the best way to get out of a food-buying rut, particularly when it comes to produce. Joining a CSA has challenged me to find creative ways to prepare and enjoy new veggies. After all, I don’t want to waste my money or disrespect the farm’s time and effort. Thanks to our produce CSA, I’ve fallen in love with veggies that I would have passed up if the shopping was up to me. If I don’t know how to use something (like kholrabi), I can always find helpful tips and recipe suggestions from the farm and Google.
Fourth, a CSA actually simplifies my life. On CSA weeks, I pick up my share from the CSA pick up location, and then come home and Instacart the rest of my groceries. The farm picks the produce; I just have to show up and pick up the harvest. I love not having to think about what veggies I need to purchase from the store that week.
Fifth, a CSA is budget-friendly. I know, joining a CSA feels expensive but it’s not. If you breakdown the amount, the price per harvest share is incredibly inexpensive when the quality (super fresh and nutrient dense) is considered. With that said, let’s talk about the cost…
How much does it cost to be part of a CSA?
The produce CSA we joined consists of a 34-week growing season. For a full share (weekly harvest) the cost is $1,190. And for a half share (every other week harvest, 17-week share) the cost is $595. I know, that’s a lot. But let’s breakdown the cost per share.
The total cost per produce share/box is $35. That’s $35 for 2-3 full bags of organic, locally-grown, seasonal produce. This is just an example since every CSA is different. Most CSA programs are incredibly affordable when the actual cost per share is considered. Some farms require a deposit, allowing the customer to pay the rest of the money at a later time. Other farms require a one-time, full payment.
Does the farm choose what produce you receive, or do you get a choice?
Some farms allow the customer to pick the veggies and fruit (for a CSA share) before or at share pick up time. Other farms choose the produce for the customer, based on the current harvest. With our produce CSA, the farm picks the goodies. With our meat and egg CSA, I choose in advance (there’s a four month commitment for this CSA) what I want in my bi-monthly box: 2 dozen eggs, a whole chicken, chicken breasts (1lb), and ground beef (1lb). I absolutely love the surprise of the produce CSA.
Will you join a CSA again next year?
A big ol’, YES! Absoutely. No doubt about it. I will sign up for the half share again with Little Pond Farm since the pick up spot is about 25 minutes from our home (pick up is actually at the farmer’s market since the farm also sells produce at the market). On the off weeks, we usually have some leftover produce from the last share (thanks to good storage containers and super fresh produce) and we purchase any extra produce needed from the grocery store.
How do you find a CSA?
I hope you’re feeling inspired to check out CSA options in your area. There are a few ways to find CSA programs:
Visit a farmer’s market. Ask around at the farm booths. Plus, a farmer’s market is a good way to acquaint yourself with the produce sold by various farms. I chose Little Pond Farm after purchasing produce from their stand for over a year.
Ask a (local) health food store. Smaller health food stores or food cooperatives may know about local farms and programs.
Search the Local Harvest online database. I just searched my area on Local Harvest and was shocked to find 16 CSA programs. That’s incredible. I had no idea that many CSA programs existed in my local community. You may be surprised at how many options are in your area, too.
Remember, every farm and CSA program is different. So shop around. Ask about cost, what to expect (some will offer photo examples on the farm’s website), how long the growing season lasts, how often a share will be received, how long the farm has been growing/raising food, and if anything other than picking up food is expected from the customer.
We talk a lot about meal prep around here. And it’s all for good reason.
Adding the intentional act of meal prep to my life has been the key to simplifying real food and enjoying a full life (work, kids, etc.). As we all know, enjoying real food requires planning and time–ingredients just don’t make themselves into a meal. Prepping food in advance helps ensure that we actually eat the ingredients purchased, no matter what our schedules may look like.
I don’t typically have the time or patience to prep every meal in advance (well, except for a super easy lunch and breakfast). Instead, I usually focus on prepping meal components that may be used in multiple ways throughout the week.
For example:Pancakes are a food I can easily prep on the weekend, freeze, and use throughout the week alongside hard boiled eggs for breakfast or sandwiches with jam for school lunch.
Another example is chicken. I like to spatchcock a whole chicken once a week. The shredded chicken is used, based on my plan, for sandwiches, quesadillas, enchiladas, salads, and soups. The bones from the chicken are made into stock/broth and used to make soup.
Making a container of chicken salad is one of the ways I typically put shredded chicken to use throughout the week. Rotating between a few different chicken salad recipes keeps this staple from feeling boring: turmeric chicken salad, deli-style chicken salad, and dill and sour cream chicken salad.
When I shared the sour cream and dill chicken salad on Instagram a few weeks ago, reader friends asked for the recipe. By the way, I absolutely love that friends request recipes over on Instagram. The blueberry muffins from the other day were another Instagram reader request. And if we’re not friends yet over on Instagram, we should be. We can talk about meal prep, what we’re making for dinner, capsule wardrobes, simplicity, natural cleaning and beauty, and more food.
Now, Friend, let’s make some chicken salad…
This chicken salad is made with sour cream instead of mayonnaise, which adds a subtle tang to the salad. I like to add dill to the salad for a fresh taste, but another herb will also work. The salad keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days. I like to portion the salad in my Prep Natural containers alongside crackers for an easy, grab-n-go style lunch. The salad may also be enjoyed with bread or a tortilla, or served over greens and a dressing (maybe this tahini dressing?).
Fresh Dill and Sour Cream Chicken Salad (Meal Prep Option)
Make this herb-rich chicken salad in advance for an easy, ready-to-go lunch (or dinner) throughout the week.
2 cups shredded chicken (*)
2 TB chopped fresh dill (up to 1/4 cup, depending on taste)
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup sliced celery rib
1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder (to taste)
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
1 TB dijon mustard
meal prep storage containers (or a storage jar )
In a large bowl, combine the chicken, dill, green onions, celery, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I’ve found that a fork works best for combining the ingredients.
Add the sour cream and mustard, and stir to combine. Store the chicken salad in the fridge, in a storage container with a lid, or divide the salad into meal prep containers.
Serve the salad with crackers or on bread, or in a tortilla for a wrap (with spinach or lettuce), or on top of a salad. The salad will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.
*I like to cook a whole chicken on the weekend to use for meals throughout the week. Another option is to cook 1-2 chicken breasts, or purchase a rotisserie chicken.
If you don’t love dill, try another fresh herb. Cilantro would also work well in this salad.