Mix-n-Match Your Ingredients for Lunch Variety

When it comes to lunch, I am lucky if I get time to sit down and actually enjoy it. Therefore, I rely heavily on items that can be consumed or reheated conveniently. Many trends out there help with this task. Tasty Vegetarian is a great Buzzfeed app that contains a library of recipe videos that have helped me create my meal prep arsenal. These four categories keep me from the lunch rut because of variety, but they are also easy to prep on the weekends for quick meal prepping. Make a large batch for dinner Sunday night and store the rest for lunches.

Mason Jar Salads (choose as many from each category and mix-n-match)mason jar salad

Flavor Boosters

Vinaigrette – Newman’s Own is my preferred store bought brand
Green onions
Basil, mint, cilantro
Dried Italian seasoning with avocado oil
Balsamic vinegar
Nuts- roasted, unsalted
Dried fruit

Hearty Fillers

Whole-wheat orzo
Roasted squash (butternut, acorn, zucchini)
Black-eyed peas
Brown or wild rice
Roasted sweet potato
Roasted Brussel sprouts
Shredded carrots
Diced celery

Healthy Greens

Baby Kale
Spring mix
Butter lettuce
Spiraled zucchini/beets

Veggie Burgers Galore

I really like having a veggie burger on standby. Add a whole-wheat roll or bun, vegan mayonnaise (so delicious), lettuce, tomato- and you have a very hearty lunch. I can add these to my Buddha Bowls, Pastas or salads as extra protein. Most importantly, they are simple to make and this Buzzfeed video from Tasty Vegetarian makes it look just that.

Buddha Bowl or Grain Bowl(choose as many from each category and mix-n-match)

*not plant based

Flavor Boosters

Green onionsbuddha bowl
Basil, mint, cilantro
Dried Italian seasoning with avocado oil
Balsamic vinegar
Nuts- roasted, unsalted
Dried fruit
Chili peppers
Tahini sauce
Annie’s- dressing
Pomegranate seeds


Roasted sweet potato
*shredded or grilled chicken
* ground beef

Hearty Fillers- keep in mind many of these have protein

Whole-wheat orzo
Roasted squash (butternut, acorn, zucchini)
Black-eyed peas
Brown or wild rice
Roasted Brussel sprouts

Fresh Vegetables- keep in mind these have protein

Baby Kale
Spring mix
Butter lettuce
Spiraled zucchini/beets
Shredded carrots
Diced celery

Pastas (choose a pasta and 1 or 2 from each category, mix-n-match and enjoy)Steam some veggies and add protein of choice.

 This one is fun and SO EASY! Boil a large pot of water and add in your pasta. Whole grain or whole-wheat pasta is, in my opinion, the best because it is less processed. Side note: Whole-wheat pasta (1 cup) provides 23% of your fiber – love that heartiness- and 16% of your protein. Spiraled zucchini or beets are great choices as well.

17139375a3e5d2420a45104e79c0bcb6My favorite pasta recipe comes from Cookie and Kate

farfalle pasta, broccoli, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, garlic, red chili flakes, and avocado oil

If you are a Pinterest troll like me, follow my Wellness board for some of my favorite recipes. Capture

5 Easy Prep Breakfast Ideas and Tips

At 6 a.m. every morning, when I am trying to get myself ready, my two young boys up and dressed, and everyone out of the door by 6:40, breakfast is the last thing on my mind. All I really want is a cup of coffee, so it is very important that I pre-make my breakfasts on the weekend if I am wanting to stay on track and not disturbing my colleagues with stomach growls.  I have found 5 recipes and tips that have been game changers for me.

  1. Homemade Granola Best Granola Ever

I use these steps to make granola every weekend, and I use this granola oIMG_5224n almost everything. I eat it like cereal with some almond milk, sprinkle it in my almond milk yogurt for some crunch, sprinkle it on my muffins before baking them or add it to my baked sweet potato.  I have even been caught pouring some out in my hand while making dinner for a quick pick me up!

larabars2. LaraBars  (link to DA My Health.com)

I used to spend a ton of money on individually packaged Larabars – few ingredients and good for you ingredients, but expensive.IMG_5227(I am pretty sure I was just paying for the packaging), but then I discovered this great website that has every recipe imaginable.  I started making these last week, and they were easy and quick- code for Breakfast Must Haves!

A container of 16 Larabars from Amazon can cost 17$. – not really cost affective when I can spend $20 to make twice that amount. Place them in parchment paper or a Ziploc bag and store them in the fridge.

3. Baked Sweet Potatoes sweet pot

Yes, baked sweet potatoes.  Why? They are so versatile. sweet ptIMG_5226I can make this every week and never feel like I am having the same thing every time because there are so many ways to top them. Plus, they have great vitamin and protein benefits.

f9107e3069b14e5841a14667afd785e64. Oatmeal

Steele cut oats have become a favorite breakfast staple. And like everything else on this list, it is because it never gets old.  I can add any flavor booster, nuts of any kind, natural sweeteners and fruit.  With a side of almond milk yogurt, you can’t go wrong. Heather Barnett has a great blog about oatmeal topics that will help.  If you follow this link, you can even print the article for easy use.

5. Bread Loaves and MuffinsIMG_5225

I have always loved banana nut bread, cranberry bread, lemon-blueberry Muffins in the mornings.  As a plant based dieter, I have had to stop grabbing the premade items from the grocery and start making them ahead of time.  Good News!!!! These are easily frozen if you are wanting to make large batches.

A few tips to keep these on the healthy side and high protein.

a. whole wheat flour, coconut flour or almond flour

b. almond milk (highest protein content of the dairy-free alternatives) instead of milk

c. applesauce, almond milk yogurt or pureed pumpkin instead of the oil or butter

d. Himalayan salt (adding 84 minerals including calcium and iron)

e. fresh add-ins – orange zest, fresh cranberries, lemon zest, fresh apples, bananas, spiraled zucchini, nuts

f. Egg replacer (if you are vegan) Bob’s Red Mill makes a great replacer, flex eggs (1TBSP of flex meal mixed with 2 Tbsp of water- mix and sit until you get a scrambled egg consistency) pumpkin puree, applesauce or mashed bananas are also egg replacers in baked goods.

Cut Your Weekly Meal Prep Down by Half

If blocking out an afternoon of your Sunday to meal prep for the week sounds tragic, I am with you. With the amount of laundry that piles up all week, grocery shopping, and house cleaning that has been neglected- I sometimes feel like just sitting on the couch, binge watching Netflix and hiding from all the ‘To-Do’s”.

After choosing to become plant based, I had to start preparing my meals ahead of time to keep me from starving to death or caving to the cravings. I have been preparing breakfast and lunch for my husband and myself for the last 6 months, and within that time I have discovered some tricks that have cut down my meal prep from 2 1/2 hours to just 60 minutes. In this short time, I am able to prepare 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches for both of us and prepare batches of some key ingredients needed throughout the week for dinner.

Here are a few of the top time and $ saving tips that have given me back some time with my family.

Tip #1

Take the time to write down your meal ideas BEFORE heading to the grocery store or adding to your online grocery CART- Walmart pick up Moms Unite!

Saturday morning I sit on the couch, drink a cup of coffee and plan my meals. I troll Pinterest and some of my favorite recipe books to help keep me from a food rut. This 30-minute task allows me to organize by day of the week, meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and snacks.

Yes, I am one of those people who has the weekly dinner plan food prepon a chalkboard in the kitchen. Not only does this help me stay on budget, it keeps me from the agonizing phrase, “What am I going to cook for dinner?”, which is usually a time I dread after a long day at work. When I know what I am making for dinner, then I  usually don’t have such terrible thoughts about preparing it. (plus, if I have planned really well- most of the grains, legumes are already prepared and ready to be added)

Stick to your list. With just a few staple pantry items and herbs/spices –you can save a lot.

Tip #2

(This kind of goes a long with #1) Lean on Fall Back Meals

lentil soupI am a sucker for soup!!! I love making soup because I can just throw together a bunch a veggies, legumes, and veggie broth in no time. Plus, it is always a hit at my house- throw a grilled cheese together and everyone is happy (even my 4 and 6 year old). I actually made lentil soup last night, which also became todays lunch. https://pin.it/777l3uzm5enasi   From CookieandKate.com

Bake sweet potatoes – they can be used for breakfast (a little bit of nut butter, cinnamon, chopped nuts and a banana) or with black beans and roasted broccoli for a quick lunch.

Roasted Veggies is also a go-to meal that I prepare almost weekly.

This allows for so much variety, and it isroasted veggies so easy and FAST.

Chop up all your veggies (especially roots), add garlic salt, balsamic vinegar,

And roast at 375 for about 30-40 minutes.

  • Many of these items can all be cooked at the same time, which can also Save on time.



Tip #3

Icontainersnvest in quality containers and food storage totes.

Enther makes great containers that are BPA free, airtight 2 or 3 compartment containers that are microwave and dishwasher safe. I actually have 3 other people at my work already using these to meal prep. A set of 20 is only $16.50.


Or buy mason jars of all sizes to store your batches and Lunches.

Tip #4

Prepare Batches of…




Buy a Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot!

These are great ‘Go-To’ items to add to soups, Buddha bowls, oatmeal, sides etc…

These are just a few tips that have helped set me up for success.   I am always looking for more ideas, more quick ‘go-to’ recipes, so please leave any ideas in the comment section.

A New Year, A New Vision

visionI am sitting in the San Jose airport waiting for our small puddle jumper to Tambor typing on my phone . (Hastily) so be understanding, this may not have the same quality as my other posts done in the comfort of my home) We are on our way to our 10 year anniversary Yoga Retreat. ( a goal of ours since last year) which made me start to think about he new year that is just around the corner and all the new goals we are setting for ourselves.

As the new year comes upon us, I can’t help but to start making lists, visions boards of things I want to accomplish. The best part of the new year is the idea of a new start, a new beginning to put away all the old ( or in my cast, toss out the old) and start new.

I have already taken Christmas down, cleaned out the junk draws and rearranged the kitchen cabinets, kids’ playroom, went through toys to give- away and their bedroom has been rearranged in the process of purging.

Now it is time to start NEW or fresh!

I had a dear friend over the other night to create a 2018 Vision Board- we took magazine we’d been collecting ( glad I could find another use for them before tossing them in the recycling), bought posters, glue, markers, stickers and opened a bottle of wine.

We planned first, of course, six different areas we wanted to focus on…

– family

– marriage

– health

– fitness

– career

– mind

Then we Stalked the pages of every magazine for words, pictures, quotes that represented our goals/Vision for the year. Did we get snickers from the other room from our husbands ? of course, but they will be happy when our minds are focused on what we consider as our best year…YET.

With this same mentality, I started watching the Danica Patrick documentary/interview the other night. I was hooked. She had a woman cave filled with quotes, vision board, meditation area, and positive affirmations. She might be my Spirit Animal. The one thing that made her vision board different from mine was that it was VERY specific. Instead of general ideas she took those same areas and created specific lists of things, items, tasks she wanted to accomplish.

So, of course, I woke up the next day on a mission to complete mine – still a work in progress and full transparency, but I think you can get the idea.

One of my goals is to create original recipes to post about- I cook all the time without much thought- here is my first attempt ( very unpolished)


If you have the urge to try this recipe- let me know how it went for you, what I should change etc. feedback is greatly appreciated .

Have a wonderful new year filled with goals, setting goals and ( as always) reflecting over some of those failures.

From Eating “Dis-order” to Plant-Based Peace

I was 12 years old the moment food became the enemy.  It has taken 22 more years to realize that food, the right food is the ally.

I remember the very moment my opinion of myself changed.  I was sitting in my middledownload school health class, watching a movie with Calista Flockhart- The Secret Life of Mary Margaret. Before this movie, I didn’t even think about my body or the way I looked. I didn’t even know I was supposed to be ashamed of my looks until this movie was shown to my class.  This movie was a ‘How-To” for eating disorders.

The moment this movie was over, I remember thinking that I wasn’t attractive enough, that I wasn’t pretty enough, and I needed to be ‘skinny’.  I was 12 years old! Why in the world was I even thinking these thoughts? I remember starting to deprive myself whenever I was around the other kids at school, drinking Slim Fast chocolate shakes and starving myself until I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I will never forget the feeling of my heart stopping dead in its tracks when I saw my dad walk into the Middle School Counselor’s office.  She had called him to talk to her about my eating ‘disorder’.  I use this word lightly -not because I truly believe I had an eating disorder- in the term we are all used to- but in the way I describe my sons’ playroom – The playroom is in disorder.

Once I started high school, I remember running, running A Lot.  I hated running.  But,  I remember the guilt that came with it.  I remember feeling guilty if I didn’t workout longer than 45 minutes or run that day.   The guilt got ahold of me so strongly that it became unbearable. I remember the feeling of being out of control. I remember the negative self-talk and the feeling of not looking like my friends. I remember my own body shaming and disappointment in the way I looked.

In college, I remember buying my first cookbook. I remember listening to my first podcast (if that is what it was called back them) about nutrition and health by Dr. Andrew Weil (now known as the Origins guy). I also remember watching my first documentary, Super Size Me; the legendary documentary by Morgan Spurlock.  At this point, I started to really use my body and treat it like it was the only one I was ever going to get. No more McDonalds! I signed up for my first of 13 triathlons.  I trained and ran my first half marathon. I remember cooking a lot, learning a lot about food, and starting to troll the local book store for nutritional advice, and grocery shop at the local Whole Foods.

6fd84b896347cf8a58625ad3397f7e80Moving in with my husband had us both learning together. We became Clean-Eaters after watching Food, Inc the documentary from 2008. I started cooking from Tosca Reno’s cookbooks as much as I could-  from scratch; mostly fish and chicken because of the horror stories I was hearing about red-meat at the time. This was probably the time in my life where food started to actually make sense.

I became a personal trainer and aerobic instructor for the local gyms leading at least three classes of either cycle, yoga or a weight lifting class 3 times a day.  I look back at this time in my life – I should have felt great.  I should have been in the best shape of my life. I should have been flaunting my toned body all over the place, but I don’t remember being or even feeling that great.

  I do remember being taken to the emergency room for severe dehydration and exhaustion.

Once I became a mom, I remember trying to make the best decisions I possibly could forIMG_4807 our family.  I started reading about the effects of sugar in the system; liver disease, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity. My husband and I decided that limiting the sugar in our diets to fruits and the occasional treat was the best and one of the most important Food decisions we could make.  I still get a lot of laughs because my boys think Pedialyte popsicles are delicious and Pedialyte is ‘juice’.  I have happy, healthy boys that believe in the value of food, know that there are foods that aren’t good or healthy for them and they think about how their food decisions can effect their bodies. I am proud of that. Now, do they get excited to go hangout with friends because they might get something they normally don’t- of course– They are kids! But, they are the kids that ask for broccoli, ask questions when there isn’t a vegetable on their dinner plate, eat a salad and they know when their food choices don’t make them feel good.

I know this recap makes me sound crazy, but keep in mind this has been 22 years of growth toward understanding my wants and needs.  I am finally comfortable enough to share this personal, outrageous summary.

Why am I sharing these very personal moments with you all?In the last 22 years, I have never felt better about myself. I have never felt more confident in my own skin.  I made the researched decision to become plant-based (no animal products; focus on vegetables, whole, unprocessed grains and fruits, nuts) to start caring for myself and for my family in the most primal way.  I want to live for a long time, enjoying all the moments without being or feeling sick from hypertension, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.  If I can prevent it, I want to try.  It is important to me to be as active as I possibly can in the life that I am currently living.  I want to be around when my son cures cancer 🙂 I want to be able to travel the world with my healthy husband when we retire.

After 22 years of focusing on food (what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat, when to eat) I have finally found something that doesn’t stress me out, doesn’t consume me, and makes me proud to share with others.

A Plant-Based Dieters’ 6 Must Haves

I have tackled this life-style change for just for 5 months, but I have discovered so many wonderful things even within the first month of my journey.  (previous post about those discoveries)

Omnivore 2 Herbivore

in the last 20 or so weeks, I have survived…

  • spaghetti and meatball cravings (for the most part, I only gave in twice)
  • Thanksgiving dinner (never was a HUGE fan of the turkey anyway, I usually come for the sides)
  • staff luncheons
  • brunch with the girls
  • lunch out with my two favorite
  • boys  dinner with omnivores
  • Just for that, I should give myself a pat on the back.  As I look back over the last few months, I have learned a lot about the staples of plant-based eaters that has made my life a lot easier than I had ever expected.
  • There is an entire section at Barnes N Noble for Plant-Based Cookbooks!!!

My two favorite so far include…

thugThug Kitchen by Davis and photos by Holloway

  • This is not your normal cookbook as they use a lot of cursing, which is probably why I gravitated towards it over all of the other cookbooks. Their tag line on the cover is “Eat Like You Give a F*ck” There are beautiful photos of the food, simple recipes, and it only cost me around $16.

fokForks Over Knives by Del Sroufe

  • This book made my transition from meat eater to plant-based eater simple. There aren’t a lot of photos, but the recipes are easy to follow, enough for every part of the day, and gave me a starting point.

Thank goodness for Pinterest!!!

I am not sure how vegans survived without this wonderful app because it is my go to when I am in a funk. There are so many recipes out there that are plant-based. This life-style is no longer about the salad bar—- It goes BEYOND.

There is a true purpose for lentils.

In just 1 cup of lentils you can get 17.9 grams of protein with just 230 calories. Plus, the added bonus of calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin C, and B-6!!! This is a staple.


Lentil burgers

taco ‘meat’ substitute

sloppy joes


  • Quinoa!!! No wonder they call it the ‘Worlds Healthiest Food” (Thank you Dr. Axe for the photo)Quinoa-Nutrition

Move over Kale, you’ve got a new contender.

  • “Beans, Beans, the Magical Fruit- The More you eat, the more PROTEIN you Consume!!!!”

1 Bag of Black beans costs (on average) $1.57

1 can of Black beans costs (on average) $ 0.74

1 bag of black beans can last an entire week if you need it to – thank goodness for the Insta-pot

1 can of black beans can be added to just 1 recipe.

Do the math people!!!!

Let the Nutritional Chart speak for itself. (Thank you to thefitorfatbypbs.blogspot.com for the photo)


Last, but certainly not the least because without this final ‘must-have’ I would not be able to go out with friends, my son’s, or co-workers at any restaurant.

The Sides’ Menu

Check it out- baked potato, black beans, side- salad or steamed broccoli can make for one heck of a meal while the rest of your group enjoys a juicy, mouth watery steak! ( yes, I still remember how good they used to taste).  It will fill you up, it won’t break the bank, and most waiters don’t even notice how strange it seems.

I am so thankful for these ‘Must-Haves”- my ‘must-haves’. I can be very honest and say that without these I would be at a loss, and I would have never survived the 5 months’ journey without these discoveries.

Omnivore 2 Herbivore

I am taking a break from my usual posts about teaching pedagogy to confess something:  To teach about another Tough Topic.

“My name is Aubrey Steinbrink, and I am a whole food, plant-based eater.”

Now what would make a meat-eatin, Kansas kid turn to a plant-based diet? It ultimately came down to health. I want to wake up without a fog. I want to be able to spend time with the boys and have energy to keep up, and I want to be able to live a healthy life that allowed me to forgo all of the pills/chemo/doctors that I saw lurking in my future.  I’m not swearing off all animal products- I will still sit in a car with leather seats, and I am sure my banning red meat won’t  hurt the cattle industry one little bit. I am not trying to make a statement. All I know is that once I started focusing more on vegetables, fruit and legumes, my body responded in a way I was not expecting (in a good way).


The boys and I enjoying our summer before Mom has her nap.

I was in Kansas visiting our family; Fourth of July, cousins, FOOD galore, and pool time.  It got to the point where the thought of food made me uncomfortable.  My husband and I have been clean eaters since I can remember, so the value and quality of food has always been important to me, but it wasn’t until this summer that I started to read more about the effects of an animal based diet; linked to cancer risk, hypertension, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.    At this point, I can honestly tell you (if my


google image

family is reading) they are either laughing at me or shaking their head in disgust.  I am sure there is even a comment about being a ‘hippie’ being said out loud.

Through this journey of about two and a half months, I have went through many different emotions and struggles.  To start…

  1. I didn’t know what to Cook.

My meal prep before this journey consisted of animal protein and two vegetables or EGGS!!!  The Forks over Knives Plan, cookbook and app have helped me navigate my path. To be honest, food prep is so much easier because I don’t have to thaw anything, I don’t have to break down the meat to be edible/tender.  Roasting vegetables or grilling a portabella mushroom takes no time at all.  I have started to understand the love for eggplant, purple onions, mushrooms of all shapes and sizes, quinoa pilafs, sweet potatoes and beans, beans, beans!!!.

2.  My body didn’t know what the heck was going on.

WARNING: For about three weeks, I was bloated and gassy.  I thought there was no way I was going to be able to continue this. But, after the third week of my body getting used to the food changes, NO MORE GAS!!!!

3. There were moments I could have eaten a COW ! or a ‘Chicken fried steak”

At first, I was starving.  Starving all the time.  There was not enough food in the world that could sustain me.  I wasn’t used to grazing throughout the day because the animal products I was eating were taking so long for my body to digest, I didn’t need to eat as much. My body got used to this change quickly, and I became a smarter lunch packer as well.  I meal prep on Sundays and Silk brand yogurt made with almond milk is so much better than any yogurt I have ever had.

4.  Energy, Mood Swings, Focus, and Stress

Before July of this year, I was lacking energy and prone to quick mood changes (just ask anyone).   I was juggling my career change, masters courses, parenting, and on going focus on my well-being. (who knows 🙂 )  Stress got the better of me on most days. Instead of  being able to pull myself away from the moment and look at the situation, I overreacted and tried to stress out about things I had no control over.

I  currently have more focus (clarity) and energy than I have ever had. I am able to wake up in the morning for a quick workout before school- and that has been unheard of for quite some time.  I have also been able to run for longer distances without allowing myself to quit or needing to quit. I am so excited for my half marathon in December  (I believe it will be my best. )  I am convinced I owe all of this to my new plant-based diet.

Other Benefits that I have noticed…

  • Happiness- now that my husband is supporting me and eating a plant-based diet – we are both on this ride together and have seen our relationship improve in ways that we didn’t think would after 10 years of marriage and two small boys.
  • positive- As a previous cynical cindy (not that I don’t revert back to that some times) it is so nice to see the rainbow at the end of the rainstorm.
  • Losing weight (10 Lbs in total)- Not that I needed to lose weight or this my primary focus- it was a really nice surprise
  • more time with my boys- not slaving in the kitchen, and not laying in bed feeling terrible has helped us use our time more wisely
  • Feeling great- after dinner, I used to crawl into bed (since I was already in my pajamas at 530) I get to do the things I have been missing out on.
  •  ‘Regular’ (if you know what I mean)
  • taste buds are stronger – I have really started to love sun-dried tomatoes and all the ‘real’ flavors of food
  • meditation is clearer and more focused
  • Yoga practice is more frequent

(okay, maybe I do sound like a hippie)


Lunch and Breakfasts that I prep on Sundays to help me stay focused throughout the week.  (it only took me 1 hour )

I wanted to feel better, and I wanted to live a healthier life.  I am not on my soapbox trying to convince anyone to jump on my bandwagon.  It has just made all the small things in my life that I used to take for granted or parts of my life that I just thought were parts of ME, so much BETTER.

Here is a link if you want to know more