Good Eats: Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

Broccoli and Cheese Casserole

I love food. I love to cook, I love to eat, and contrary to what my husband might say, I actually enjoy trying new foods. I'm not eating bugs though. Or rodents. Or any animal's organs. No, thank you.

Seriously, though, I really enjoy cooking. One of the awesome things about being married to Joshua, is that he loves food, too. We frequently cook together, and we both like variety when it comes to our weekly meals, so that allows me the freedom to try new recipes all the time.

I was inspired by a post I saw on Instagram from Well Done Food, and that's how this recipe was born! It's pretty easy to make, and you'll have plenty of servings, so it's perfect for both families and large gatherings.

Broccoli and Cheese Casserole Recipe

The best part about this recipe is that you can modify it to fit your needs. Use a chicken substitute if you're a vegetarian, or unsweetened almond milk and vegan cheese if you're lactose-intolerant. Add extra cheese if you feel like it's just not cheesy enough. Make it yours! 

I hope you like it! Let me know how it turns out if you decide to try it.

Happy Friday, pals!

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

What's the Deal with Algae Oil?

The Inspired Life-Cooking with Algae Oil

Here's the deal, folks. We all need fat. Yes, you read that right. We ALL. NEED. FAT. So all of these anti-fat diet fads are totally unhealthy, because the human body needs fat to sustain itself. 

Now, the deal is, we need good fat to sustain ourselves. There is a difference between good fat and bad fat, just like there's a difference in cooking your food in a healthy way and cooking it in an unhealthy way.

That brings me to our topic of discussion today: Algae Oil.

I first heard about it a few weeks ago from my mom, and I was intrigued. I mean, I thought EVOO and Coconut oil were as good as it got, but apparently I was wrong. So, like the naturally inquisitive person that I am, I quickly researched it, bought some, tried it out, and here we are today.

The Inspired Life-Algae Oil

When I started researching this magical fatty fluid, I started to feel like I was a little late to the game. Time Magazine wrote a post on it. One of my favorite health resources, Dr. Axe, wrote a post about it. But when it comes to good health, we can never share something too much, right?

At this point, if you're late to the game like me, I'm sure you're wondering...

What are the benefits of Algae Oil?

1. Algae Oil has the highest level of monosaturated fat (the good fat) of any cooking oil. In fact, just 1 tablespoon of AO gives the same about of good fat as 1 whole avocado!

2. Algae Oil has only 4% saturated fat (the bad fat) compared to Olive Oil's 14% and Coconut Oil's 87% (yowza).

3. Because of it's monosaturated fat content, AO helps to keep your heart healthy, it helps to maintain a healthy blood pressure level, and it helps to decrease blood clot production. It also helps reduce inflammation. 

4. Algae Oil is good for pregnant women. It has a high DHA (omega-3) content, so it's great for brain development. Eat up, mama's!

5. Because of the DHA (omega-3) content, it's good for eye health and brain health in adults. It helps to improve memory, and could be good for people suffering from Alzheimer's. 

6. It's a great alternative to fish oil, especially for vegetarians and vegans. 

When it comes to cooking...

Algae Oil has the highest smoke point out of the healthy cooking oils, and you can fry with it. It has a neutral flavor (kind of like vegetable oil), so it won't impact the flavor of what you're cooking or baking. I made a stir fry with it on Monday night, and it turned out great! 

Will I still use EVOO and Coconut Oil for cooking and baking? Absolutely! Sometimes, I prefer the flavor of olive oil in my food, especially when preparing anything Italian. And coconut oil can be great to replace vegetable oil in baking. 

That being said, I still give Algae Oil an A+ rating, and it has become a permanent member of my kitchen. I come from a family with a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, and even Alzheimer's, so I need all the help I can get.

Will you try out Algae Oil? If so, let me know how it goes and what you think of it!

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

*This post contains affiliate links*

Bits + Pieces

Happy Monday, Pals! 

Here are some bits + pieces (in iPhone pics) from my life over the last couple of weeks. 

Bits + Pieces One - L.J. The Inspired Life

This little guy is trying to learn to crawl! I cannot believe it. It literally still feels like he was just born yesterday, and now he's already trying to sit up and crawl. He is in such a cute phase right now! He's got so much personality and he's so fun to be around. He's already got such a sweet disposition. He loves playing, exploring, and snuggling. I can't believe I've been blessed with such a precious little boy. 

Valentine's Date- L.J. The Inspired Life

Joshua and I went on our Valentine's date the Saturday before Valentine's Day, and we had such a fun time! I haven't gotten dressed up like this in a while, so it was nice to get a little fancy for the evening. My outfit was also 100% affordable. I think everything cost maybe $55. What a steal...

Chicken Pot Pie- L.J. The Inspired Life

I've been working on creating my own scratch recipes for homestyle favorites. Recently, I made my first chicken pot pie, and it was DELICIOUS. I'll be honest, I didn't make the crust from scratch, but I can work on that later. Don't you just love it when you make a recipe for the first time and it turns out exactly how you wanted?

In other news, I'm currently...

Watching: Big Little Lies on HBO. I read the book so naturally, I have to watch the show. And Joshua and I are watching The Crown while we wait for House of Cards, OITNB, and Game of Thrones to return.

Reading: My mom's book! It's a sci-fi novel, without being TOO sci-fi. I don't want to give too much away, but it's about time travel. If you're into sci-fi, or young adult fiction, you should check it out on Amazon! I'm also reading Bossypants by Tina Fey. I love her!

Planning: An anniversary party for my in-laws! This year, they will be celebrating 30 YEARS of marriage. That's amazing, and especially so considering half of their generation has gotten divorced. I don't know about you, but I actually enjoyed wedding planning (for the most part). Party planning is so fun to me, so I'm excited to do this for them.

Wanting: A vacation! We have one planned for later this year, but I could definitely use one now, you feel me?

What have you guys been up to lately? Share!

Cheers,
LesLeigh J. 

*This post contains affiliate links.*

Get It:

Life Planning Basics: How I Plan for My Inspired Life

2016 was a rough year for my family. Lots of personal lows, anxiety, depression, and stress. And even with the amazing birth of our beautiful son, my husband and I decided we didn't want a repeat of last year. So with the ringing in of the new year, we decided we would change some things about our lives so we could live feeling more free in 2017. One of those changes was deciding to read more this year.

We also decided to get more organized. Plan for things, keep a schedule, and have a designated time every day for a couple's devotional. It's only been a month into the year, but so far, I love the changes we've made, and I thought I'd share the tools that I use to help me plan for my inspired life.

Life Planning Tools
Passion Planner in Black

The Passion Planner is more than just a day planner, though it's excellent for that. It actually helps you to strategically map out your goals for life. You can map out your future, choosing life goals for a year from now, three years from now, and so on. And you can map out each month or each week. 

It has inspirational quotes for each week, which I love. It has places to list top priorities for each week or each month. I love it because I can write little notes as I think of things, and I use brightly colored pens and highlighters to make it colorful. It really is an incredible planner, and especially for creative-minded folks!

Passion Planner open
Inkwell Press Menu Planner

Last year, I spent a good amount of time looking for the perfect meal planner. I got tired of never knowing what I was going to cook for dinner until the last minute. Plus, I'm a grocery list kind of girl and even though I had a cute little notepad I used for that, I still wanted something a little more organized and specific. 

Lo and behold, I found inkWELL Press on an Instagram add! No doubt, it was because I had just google searched planners on my phone. But anyway. This meal planner is the bee's knees, you guys. 

It has EVERYTHING! You can write out your meals for the week, then you have two pages for a an extensive grocery list. It even has pages in the back for Holiday meal planning. Plus, it has cheat sheets for kitchen conversions, and it even tells you the different cuts of meat on a cow.

I never thought I could be in love with a meal planner, but I am, and I'm never going back.

Inkwell Press Menu Planner open
Love Dare Devotional & Gratitude Journal

Joshua and I are using the Love Dare for our devotional time together. I'll be honest, I was kind of skeptical about it before we purchased it. I mean, has anyone seen the cheese that is Fireproof? No offense meant, if that's your favorite movie or something. But it just made me think the devotional would be cheesy too. 

Well, I was pleasantly surprised when it came in the mail and I thumbed through it. It actually goes pretty deep, and I love how it's challenging us so far. It was the only 365-day couple's devotional I could find  that had good ratings, but it really is good.

I picked up the Gratitude Journal in Barnes & Noble one day. I never have been good at the "daily quiet time" sort of thing, so I wanted something that would ease me into that. I like this journal because the devotionals are short and sweet. They're topical and give you something specific to pray about, and then when you're done you can journal and color! Coloring and journaling are both therapeutic for me, so this was an excellent buy.

I hope these resources have been helpful! Let me know if you decide to try any of them out.

Happy Wednesday, Pals!

Cheers,
LesLeigh J. 

My Favorite SuperBowl Snack Recipes

Now that it's Friday, it's officially game day weekend, and you know what that means: FOOD! Hosts and hostesses all across America will be preparing finger food spreads large enough for an army, and as I will be hosting a SuperBowl Party myself, I thought I'd share some of my favorite tried and true crowd pleasers.

1. For the Men/Meat-Lovers

Bacon-Wrapped Smokies

Who doesn't love meat wrapped in meat, and smothered in brown sugar and butter? These may not please the vegan/vegetarian crowd, but they are most likely to please everyone else. Warning: You can't eat just one...

2. The Popular One

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

I don't know about you, but I've never met a person who doesn't like Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Most recipes call for a crock pot, but this one from Food Network is the easiest one that I've seen. Pair it with some pita chips or plain old tortilla chips, and you've got yourself another snack that's sure to please your guests.

3. The "Healthy" Option

Brown Sugar Apple Dip

Oh, my goodness, this stuff is SO good! You literally will not be able to stop eating it. Just head to store and buy the already prepared apple slices, and you'll be on your way to a yummy, and kind of healthy snack for game day.

4. The Layered Dip

Individual Seven Layer Dip

These are adorable, and so yummy! I haven't made this exact recipe, but I've made one similar that I just put in a large casserole dish, and my guests loved it. I think these little individual servings are such a fun take on the seven layer dip, and if you have the time to prepare them, I'm sure guests will enjoy them. 

5. For the Kiddos

Rice Krispie Treats

Devon's yummy take on this classic dessert will have any kids at your party begging for seconds, thirds and fourths. I made these for some college students a while back, and they couldn't get enough of them.

What snacks are you guys making, and who are you rooting for this weekend? Let me know!

Cheers,
LesLeigh J.

Cooking with Essential Oils: Lemon

I desperately want to become one of those meal-planning mavens who plans their breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus weeks in advance, but that goal is still a work in progress. In the meantime, I am still a throw-together-a-last-minute-dinner kind of maven, and that's exactly what I had to do the other night.

Joshua comes home from work, asks what we're doing for dinner, and I'm like "I don't know, what are we doing for doing for dinner?" He throws out some suggestions, and because I'm pregnant, all of them sound utterly repulsive.That's when I look in the freezer and see that we have shrimp. Immediately, my Pinterest food board flashes before my eyes, and I think of a recipe for Shrimp with Lemon Garlic Butter!

Now, I live in an apartment, so I'm not yet cool enough to own my own Meyer Lemon tree, nor do I keep lemon juice on hand because I pretty NEVER have a need for it. But I do keep my Young Living Lemon Essential Oil in the cabinet, and best believe I busted that baby out for this recipe.

In order to make the Lemon Garlic Butter, I melted about 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. I then added about 1/2 a teaspoon of Garlic Powder, a dash of pink salt, and 3-5 drops of Lemon Oil. 

Add the mixture to the shrimp as you sear it in a nonstick skillet, and voila! Shrimp with Lemon Garlic Butter! For the sides, I prepared some fettuccine alfredo and some lightly-salted sauteed broccoli. 

Joshua loved this dish, and it was really easy to prepare, especially for it being an on-the-fly meal. Cooking with essential oils can make meal preparations really easy, especially if you don't have certain dried/fresh herbs or spices on hand. Just keep in mind that oils are really potent, so you'll always want to add one drop at a time and "season" to taste.

Let me know if you try this recipe out, and feel free to share how you cook with essential oils!