Posts Tagged With: food

The New Star of Thanksgiving Dinner!


So your menu is planned and you’re all set for Thanksgiving dinner. The family is all going to be there and everyone is going to gain 10 lbs on Thursday. Tis the season to forget about calories, and enjoy the rich, starchy, creamy and fat-filled deliciousness that will grace the table as we remember to be thankful for all we have. AND NOT ONE OF YOU SHOULD FEEL BAD ABOUT THAT!! You can’t skimp on Thanksgiving foods. Go big or go home.

Everyone raves about the turkey, and the stuffing/dressing rocks your socks off. Mashed potatoes/gravy? That dish alone accounts for over half the weight of your Chinet plate as you pile it high. Some families, like mine, go nuts over the homemade noodles. (My mom is bringing my great aunt Jeannette’s famous noodle recipe to our dinner this year, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!) And I know some of you crazies out there are excited to get your hands on a huge helping of sweet potato casserole! (Not my bag, but more power to ya.) And the battle continues over which is better: homemade cranberry sauce, or sliced up disks of the gelatinous canned variety. (My vote is for the disks!)

And one dish that will likely appear on your table, but tends to take a backseat to the other more prominent features of Thanksgiving dinner, is the lowly GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE. No one ever says that’s their favorite holiday food, they just don’t. And yet, there is an unspoken obligation to include it on the menu. Well, my friends- this is the year that changes. I’m going to give you my personal secret recipe for green bean casserole, and I guarantee it will change the way you and your family feel about the oft overlooked sad dish. This takes it to a new level and skyrockets the forgotten delicacy to a family fave. AND, if you are attending Thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home and looking for the perfect dish to bring and share, I’m telling you, this is the thing to take. It’s super simple, but will make you the hero of the day.

Here’s what you need: a square pyrex dish or other casserole dish
3 cans green beans (drained)
2 cans cheddar cheese soup (I use Campbell’s)
1 packet onion soup mix
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 oz french fried onions

Here’s what you do: Preheat the oven to 350. In your casserole dish, mix green beans, cheddar cheese soup, onion soup mix, and 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese. Mix until combined. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and then top with the french fried onions. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5 more minutes.

IT’S THAT EASY! And you have my personal guarantee it will be well-received. It is my humble opinion that this is hands-down the greatest green bean casserole, ever. Try it this year and tell me if you don’t agree.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your friends and family. Take time to consider all that you have with a grateful heart. What a fantastic holiday!
*Don’t forget that the last episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition will be on ABC next Monday night. It’s the Thanksgiving Special and it features one of my best friends from college. Grab your kleenexes and don’t miss this excellent show!

What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish, and are you willing to share your recipe in the comments section? Some smartypants out there are still trying to plan their menus, help a girl out!!

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Failure to plan is… — 30 Days of Eating Vegan at Aldi

Did you miss me last week?  Wonder where I was?  I’ll tell you where I was!


With Monday marking our seventh year of marriage, there was no way we were going to stay home!  We got a sitter and dined out at a trendy little vegetarian-friendly restaurant in Akron called Crave.  Not too big a deal, right?  But see, then it was like a switch we couldn’t turn off!  Since we’d already blown the “no eating out” rule once, we then spent FIVE WHOLE DAYS in various fast food establishments.  Not good.  Not healthy.  Not cheap.  By Friday I had come to my senses and realized how my challenge had gone horribly, horribly wrong.  It was time to Mac up and learn a hard lesson:

Failure to plan is a plan to fail!

When I started this challenge, I was so set on making this uncomplicated, I thought I could just meander through it without any sort of proper meal plan.  I thought it would make things simpler, but come supper time, when I’m scrambling to work up a dish and I realized my husband has used the last of the onions, it really made things more difficult.

But, all is not lost.  With 15 full days left in my challenge, I stopped and created a menu plan, and lucky for you, I feel like sharing!  Here’s what I’m eating this week:

Jun 01 – Friday
Veggie Pasta Salad Recipe — I used this recipe from Taste of Home.  But Aldi doesn’t always have balsamic vinegar.  Just use your favorite Aldi salad dressing instead of the oil/vinegar mix.  And skip that Parmesan Cheese to keep it vegan.  Traditionally, this is a picnic side, but we loved it as a colorful, nutritious, one dish meal!

Jun 02 – Saturday
Boca Burgers — YES!  Aldi sells these in their freezer!  They even sell whole wheat buns in the summer!  I don’t usually like to go with foods this processed, but Saturdays tend to be a day when I need an easy meal.  These burgers were a nice, no fuss solution.  I served them with fresh sweet corn on the side!

Jun 03 – Sunday
White Bean and Veggie Soup — You DON’T need a recipe to make this dish.  Onions, garlic, carrots, and celery make a great base for any brothy soup!  Soak half an Aldi bag of Great Northern beans in water overnight.  Add them, plus the aforementioned veggies (and any little bits and pieces of leftover veggies you have in your home) to a big old pot of water and let it simmer for a couple hours!  I throw in whatever herbs and spices I have on hand by the tablespoon full, and salt and pepper to taste!  It has yet to disappoint!  Serve with Aldi’s reduced fat woven wheat crackers and you’ve got a healthy and filling meal!  (Seriously!  Check the ingredients on those crackers!  You’ll be amazed at how healthy they are!)

Jun 04 – Monday
Black Bean ‘meat’ Loaf — I’m going to try this recipe tonight, after I finish this blog post, and I have to say, I’m a bit nervous!  My husband thinks we should mix in some pinto beans, for color, and to make it Aldi friendly, I’ll be using brown rice instead of quinoa.  I’m thinking I’ll do roasted sweet potatoes and green beans on the side.

Jun 05 – Tuesday
Vegan Pizza Bagels —  “When pizza’s on a bagel…”  Aldi sells lovely little 100% Whole Wheat bagels.  I just plan to top them with a dab of pasta sauce and veggies and toast them up in the oven.  The key to pulling this off will be sprinkling them liberally with minced garlic, basil, and various Italian seasonings. Wish me luck!

Jun 06 – Wednesday
Favorite Chili — Everybody’s got a favorite chili recipe.  Here’s mine.  It’s simple, and I used to always make it in my crock pot with all that meat, but here’s a secret:  I’ve often made a favorite ground beef recipe vegan, simply by substituting canned black beans.  Most of these sort of dishes are so heavily seasoned, you might not even notice the meat is gone!

Jun 07 – Thursday
Hubby’s not home that night so we fend for ourselves.  If the leftovers are all used up, it’s peanut butter jelly time!  

Oh, and there’s breakfasts–oatmeal, fruit, or cheerios usually.  We don’t need much of a plan for that.  And I usually just set aside a portion of dinner, so we can reheat it for the next day’s lunch!  Easy peasy!  We keep a lot of nuts and fruit around the house for snacks, too.

Would you like to steal my little plan for your home?  No problem!  Here’s your grocery list:

Carrots, 6 for multiple recipes
celery, 1 bunch for multiple recipes
garlic cloves, 6 for multiple recipes
green onions, 1 cup for Veggie Pasta Salad
green pepper, 1 for Vegan Pizza Bagels
mushrooms, 8 ounces for multiple recipes
onions, 4 for multiple recipes
red onion, 1 for topping Boca Burgers
tomatoes, 4 for Veggie Pasta Salad Recipe and Boca Burgers
spinach, 1 cup for topping Boca Burgers
zucchini, 1 cup for Veggie Pasta Salad Recipe

red pepper, 1 cup for Veggie Pasta Salad Recipe
Sweet corn, for Boca burgers side dish

Sweet potatoes for “meat”loaf side dish

Bread and Bakery
Whole Wheat burger buns, for Boca Burgers
Whole wheat bagels, 1 bag for Vegan Pizza Bagels

Frozen Foods
Boca burgers, 4 for Boca Burgers
Green Beans, for “meat”loaf side dish
Oils & Dressings
Italian Dressing, 5 tablespoons for Veggie Pasta Salad Recipe
ketchup, 2 tablespoons for Black Bean ‘meat’ Loaf
Sauces & Spices
chili powder, 2 tablespoons for Favorite Chili
soy sauce, 2 tablespoons for Black Bean ‘meat’ Loaf
brown rice, 1 cup for Black Bean ‘meat’ Loaf
Great Northern Beans, 2 cups for White Bean and Veggie Soup
uncooked spiral pasta, 8 ounces for Veggie Pasta Salad Recipe

Canned Goods
(15 ounce) kidney beans, 1 for Favorite Chili
(15 ounce) tomato sauce, 1 for Favorite Chili
(28 ounce) diced tomatoes, 1 for Favorite Chili
black beans, 3 cans for multiple recipes
Diced Tomatoes, 1 Can for White Bean and Veggie Soup
Pasta sauce, 1 jar for Vegan Pizza Bagels

Woven Wheat Crackers, 1 cup for White Bean and Veggie Soup

There you go!  Let me know if you decide to cook along!  Just remember, the meal plan is there to serve you, not the other way around, so feel free to adjust as would best fit your family and needs!
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Going Vegan: Nutrients to Consider

By Bectoria Crandall

A true smartypants is always looking for ways to improve ones personal and family health. One way we at 4smartypants are doing this is by changing to a vegan diet. When talking this over with Mac and Stephanie, I had two concerns. First, nutrients and then budget. This post is about the former.

SAHM’s are always struggling to weed through the barrage of information that is constantly being published about the foods available in our market. Yes, we in this country are the lucky ones to have the luxury of being so choosey about the foods that we eat. Since we do have a choice, true smartypants would make every effort to provide a well balanced, nutrient rich diet in their homes. For me, going vegan provides its own set of challenges. If I am going to cut out a large portion of my family’s diet, what foods do I need to introduce that would provide the nutrients my growing family needs? “If we aren’t drinking milk any longer, how will my family get the calcium and Vitamin D we need?” was one of my questions during our last 4smartypants admin meeting.

Now I love these two ladies to death, but let’s face it, Stephanie, Mac and I get the majority of our information by reading reports published by the experts in the field. Instead of relying on what they have or have not yet read, I decided to go to the experts myself. To get my answers about all things nutritiony I went to my fav nturition experts Denver Wellness and Nutrition Instead of muddying up their answer, I’ll just quote what they had to say about transitioning a family to a vegan diet…

“If you’re a family that normally eats meat, then the safest way would be to ease your family into it. Start by trying out meatless Monday’s if your family is a little on the fence about it. Then ease into a full vegetarian lifestyle, and once you’re all used to that, start cutting out eggs/dairy/honey/other animal related products.
Some things to make sure you’re getting in are:
Protein – Soybean products (tofu, tempeh), chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds
Vitamin B12 – Fortified nutritional yeast, soy and rice milk.  Make sure to read the nutrition information to know how much you’re getting in!
Vitamin D –During the warmer months, you can get your fix of this nutrient just by basking in the sunlight, awesome right? But for the colder months, try getting things that are fortified with vitamin D such as some nondairy milk and juices.
Omega 3 fatty acids – Flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil
Calcium – Collard greens, kale, broccoli, beans and almonds
Iron – Black-eyed peas, lentils, oatmeal, nuts, sunflower seeds, quinoa and millet
Zinc – Grains, legumes and nuts
If you’re eating a wide variety of foods, you shouldn’t have any problems getting these into your diet.  But if you still feel that you are deficient, then these can be met with: introducing a multivitamin (if you aren’t already on one), sometimes a B-complex (if your vitamin B levels are low even after the multivitamin) and get in omega 3’s from flax seed  or vegan DHA capsules from algae (otherwise you’d be eating fish!).
You don’t want to shock your system, or that of your family. Anytime you want to make a lifestyle change, remember to ease into it.”
Armed with this new knowledge of nutrients to consider, I feel better able to make the right dietary decisions for my family. Now I can begin to investigate an answer to my latter concern… Budget. How much is this all going to cost me? I’ll keep you posted!
Categories: children, Family, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peanut-Free, Vegan Cupcakes!

By Bectoria Crandall


Class parties pose an interesting set of challenges. A true smartypants knows to take food allergies and dietary preferences into account when planning special classroom snacks. When planning for my daughter’s preschool Easter party I learned that I had to plan a snack for students with peanut and egg allergies. The solution? Peanut-free, vegan cupcakes!

Here’s the recipe…



2 tsp Baking Soda

2 1/2 C Organic Flour (Okay. It doesn’t have to be organic, but COME ON!)

1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 C Sugar

2/3 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (be sure to read the label to ensure you have a peanut-free product)

2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/3 C Vegetable Oil

2 1/4 C Water


Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. Whisk until blended.

In a separate bowl, combine all liquid ingredients.

Add liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients just until blended.

If the batter is too dry, at 1-2 Tbsp of water until you achieve desired consistency.

Line a cupcake pan with baking cups.

Fill baking cups 3/4 full with batter.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.

(Another great allergy-sensitive recipe can be found at

I recommend visiting for a really yummy vegan frosting recipe to top your sweet confection.

Remember to keep your cupcake toppings peanut and allergy free! Many candies and confections are manufactured on machines and prep supplies that come in contact with peanuts, so I recommend reading labels carefully.  

I know that the influx of food allergies in recent years has been a bit of a drag but that doesn’t mean the fun is over. A true smartypants will meet this challenge head on with a little savvy and a smartypants of a recipe to make sure no one has to miss out in the fun.

Because our cupcakes were for an Easter party, we used some peanut & egg free candies as toppers and made them look like Easter baskets. Small items were used as the treats and licorice ropes were used for basket handles. The kids loved them!

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Hello Dark, Dead of Winter. Meet Winter Wonderland!

So here we are. The middle of January. For many living in North America and parts of Europe this time of year can be described as dismally dark and miserable. Unless we are willing to relocate by taking a permanent vacation somewhere exotic, we’re stuck with the icy-grey hand father winter has dealt us. We can endure this time of year as we always have, bumbling and grumbling our way through the wet, the cold and the grey, but why not, instead, celebrate it? I know what you’re thinking. “Whimsygirl’s at it again with her hairbrained delusions! Where to now, Captain Crazypants?!” Allow me, for a moment, or at least for the remainder of this post, to shine a new light on the darkest time of year.

If you’re like me, and you live in the type of  climate described above, you probably already make lifestyle changes during the winter months that you may not even realize. You might change your eating habits or the way you spend your time. The cold weather and lack of light tends to keep most indoors. Being the comfort-seeking creatures that we are, we also tend to eat more hot meals to warm us through. We savor this hearty comfort all the while swearing we’re going to eat more salads. The list of changes we make during the winter months can go on and on. We can go ahead and blame ourselves for everything that’s wrong with this practice, but I recommend that instead we embrace these changes as coping mechanisms.

As a way of coping through the winter months, I make every effort to celebrate all aspects of inclement weather. No, I don’t go driving around hoping icy accidents will happen! I do, however, make it my personal mission (obsession, if you will) to make the types of changes that will bring optimal wintertime comfort to myself as well as all those gracing my doorway. How does a smartypants go about accomplishing such a task? Glad you asked!

For me, adding the whimsy of wintertime is a happy marriage of cozy bed and breakfast meets winter wonderland. I put this philosophy into practice first by decorating my home by making it as warm and inviting as possible. I use scented candles, warm quilts and other decorations to make my home a winter retreat (dare I say lodgey-minus the road kill hanging from the walls!). My kids get into the spirit of making our home a winter wonderland by cutting out snowflakes and making white, paper chains to hang throughout the house. These decorations help fill up the emptiness felt once the Christmas decorations are taken down.

SELF DISCLOSURE ALERT!: It is just in my nature to go overboard with any theme. This is why I do my best to make not every common area cozy but I make each bedroom a warm and cozy retreat as well. I do this by placing bottled water and an extra soft blanket next to every bed. Warm slippers can also be found at the foot of each bed for extra cozy comfort. My little ones like finding extra books to snuggle up to so I am sure to leave a new printed adventure each day on their pillow accompanied by a stuffed animal that somehow fits the theme.

With the main living areas all warm and welcoming and the bedrooms equally as cozy, all that is left for inviting wintertime comfort is the kitchen. To stage my kitchen for this time of year, I delve back into the ski trips I took in my yesteryear. Remembering how welcoming it was to come back to a ski lodge loaded with hot chocolate and munchies, I am always sure to incorporate these favs when stocking my own home.

While I’m always sure to have plenty of hot chocolate and homemade cookies prepped and ready to go, I also have a number of healthy options ready for the taking. I keep the fridge stocked with munchies like veggies and hummus, cheeses, yogurt and fruit combos. I also always have a big bowl full of the easy-to-peel citrus that my kids go for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the laziness that often accompanies the cold weather cuddlies. Which is why I keep my freezer stocked with a few ready-made meals on hand, in the event we feel too cozy to flex our culinary muscles. We also have popcorn ready to be popped at a moments notice for those inevitable wintery movie nights.

Wintertime meal planning in my home embraces the season while also making attempts at health and wellness. There’s something to be said for tucking in to a meal of a nice hearty soup, cheese and baguette on those nights that are cold and unwelcoming. For other great menu options that include the use of vegetables and less fats and starches, I recommend visiting or

How will you show off your smartypants in coping this winter? Chances are, the more saavy you use in this cold, dark weather, the more you will savor it!



Categories: Activities, children, Family, Food, Home, Home Decor, Uncategorized, Whimsey | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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