April 2016 - Simply Samantha

April Favorites

8:29 AM

April seemed to have gone by SO fast. It's probably because, for me,  2 out of the 4 weeks was spent preparing for the end of my college spring semester. Phew..

Now that my mind is clear of school, I'm looking forward to what the summer brings.
April Favorites

I don't have many favorites this month as I have had in the past. Mostly because I didn't have as much time as I usually do to discover new things this month.
 But I do have a few!

Hampton Creek Just "Dressings'
I was THRILLED to find these at my local target this week! I've been waiting to get my hands on some since I heard they were coming out with dressings. I love Just Mayo and the dressings did not disappoint. I'm amazed all 3 were dairy and gluten free. My ONLY issue was there was modified food starch in the dressings. Something I wish could be changed. BUT overall I am super impressed and can't wait to see what they come out with next!

Organic Black Tea
This is the time of year that my southerness really starts to come out and my sweet tea cravings grow stronger. I was DETERMINED to make any sweet tea this year with organic black tea. I found the small black box at TJ Maxx for $2 and then I ordered the other Newman's Own box via Vitacost for $4. Super cheep right!! And not to brag, but I made some super tasty sweet tea thats sitting in my fridge right now ;)

Dog Bandana's
Bruno could care less what you put on him. Which is nice for me because I like to put him in bandanas! We have accumulated a lot over the past year and half. My favorite shop to buy them from is Lucky Dog Love. She's made collars for our pup and also makes the cutest bandanas that I pick up at a local market every now and then. The Star Wars one he is wearing is my favorite by far.

Honorable Mentions
Movie: Star Wars EP VII (obviously)
NetFlix Binge: IZombie
Social Media Tool: Klout


When You Can't Buy Organic.....

9:00 AM

Sometimes I think there is a misconception that when living a healthy, natural food lifestyle, organic is the ONLY way you can purchase anything.

While Organic is definitely the best choice there are some exceptions or other options when you are tight on money.

My rule of thumb when making food purchases is if it's not organic, make sure its Non-GMO.

This is so helpful because with the growing push for companies to be more transparent and introduce Non-GMO labels to their products, finding Organic and/or Non-GMO products is becoming easier and easier.

So here are some of my favorite products you can buy that are NOT Organic... *GASP*

Side Note: Like I said before Organic is always better but sometimes not an option.

Orange Juice
OJ is SO EXPENSIVE organic and my husband LOVES it, making it a horribly expensive combination.

So, I was so excited to hear Tropicana was adding Non-GMO to some of their juices. Now I can buy OJ without feeling guilty.

Nut Milk
I'm a little biased cause I love nut milk. Almond, cashew, coconut, you name it I love it. I was reading an article that talked about how choosing milk really comes down to taste and whether or not you have a tolerance to regular milk.

I love nut milk because of the taste. I find it a bit sweater and I while I don't drink it straight up from a glass, it makes for some awesome smoothies....and the kind I buy, are Non-GMO.

Peanut Butter
Just like OJ, Peanut Butter can be expensive organic too. My favorite brands to buy from that are Non-GMO are Smart Balance and Earth Balance. Both have great Non-GMO options that won't break the bank.

Did you know its better to buy local honey then organic? Local Honey will contain pollen to help with allergies common in your area.

Organic honey is kind of controversial. As I was doing research, there really wasn't anything I could find that says that organic honey is better for you. Mostly because it is VERY hard to control the bee's and what flowers they go to to pollinate.

I did see that local RAW honey is the best of the best because the bee's would be pollinating local plants and the harvesting is less processed.

I buy mine from a local family at the farmers market who uses a raw method when harvesting.

Its so good I can't get enough of it.

If you are curious here are some articles I found

I grew up on tuna. I actually shared my grandma's/moms recipe for Tuna Burgers here on the blog.

Tuna tends to get pushed to the side in terms of healthiness when there is actually a lot of awesome benefits to Tuna fish. However, I am a firm believer WILD CAUGHT fish is the best type of fish. Mostly because, I believe, fish should be caught in the wild in their natural habitat like they have been for hundreds of years. (article)

So if you are ever going to have fish or shellfish, make sure it is wild caught and sustainability rated.

My local Publix just started carrying Wild Selections who I've heard has the best canned tuna out there. While its not Organic (you really can't get fish organic ;) ), its certified sustainable! And caught in the way nature intended.

Like I've said before, organic is the best option overall, but when its not doable or affordable, go with Non-GMO. Also! Know the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen when shopping for veggies and fruit.

crock pot meal

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken and Potatoes

9:00 AM

This recipe is SO good! I couldn't wait to share with ya'll!

I made it this last week with all intentions of documenting the end product but, in true Samantha fashion, I forgot.

I did get pre-cooked photos so you can what it looks like ;)

Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken and Potatoes

Like most of the recipes I share this is very simple and super delicious.

I've tweaked the recipe to be gluten free and you can also make it less cheesy if you would like. 
Mix of Chicken Thighs and Legs (I use a 3 legs and 2 thighs)
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 large red potatoes, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
Poultry Seasoning
One 10.75 ounce can cream of chicken soup (Pacific has a GREAT GF cream of chicken)

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten free)
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

  • Coat the inside of your slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray or liner. 
  • Remove ends and seeds from bell pepper, and dice. Wash potatoes and cube. Place the peppers and then potatoes into the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Sprinkle paprika and some poultry seasoning over the chicken thighs, and rub to spread the seasoning evenly.
  • Layer 3 of the chicken pieces on top of the potatoes and peppers. Portion half the soup over the pieces and spread to coat. Layer the remaining pieces on top and then coat with remaining soup.
  • Cover the slow cooker, and cook for 3 to 4 hour on high or 6-8 hours on low
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken, potatoes, and peppers to a dish; set aside.
  • This part is optional: Add flour to cooking liquids, and whisk until there are no clumps (its hard to do this with GF flour, so try your best, I always seem to still have small clumps) Add cheese, and stir until melted. Add Worcestershire sauce, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Plate the chicken, potatoes, and pepper. Spoon sauce, if you chose to make it, over the chicken
 Simple is my forte! 

Ball Mason Jar

Why Glass is Better

8:45 AM

My husband and I were walking through target the other day and I stopped at an end aisle admiring the shelves full of Ball Mason Jars.
My husband quickly stated...

"We don't need any more mason jars" 
to which I replied "You can never have too many mason jars".

Using glass to drink, eat, and store things in is a crucial part of healthy living, in my opinion. Many of the plastic items you use on a daily basis have harmful BPA chemicals within them, which can in turn, mess up your hormonal imbalances, effect your brain, and much much more (more information).

While there are BPA free products, you need to research them because they are sometimes just as bad as the ones with BPA(source).
Why Glass is Better
So why is glass better?? 

Well, there are a number of reasons but the top reason is this.

Glass Containers are not made with harmful chemicals that can make there way into your food.

While those plastic containers are handy, they are laced with harmful chemicals. Glass is not. I don't know about you but I'd prefer to not have harmful chemicals in my food.

I love this infographic that Lakewood Juice posted a week ago. They use glass for all of their products which I think is amazing! I wish more companies would do the same.

Now you are probably thinking.
Where do I start??
isn't glass more expensive??

Well, where to start is up to you. I'd say your best best is to start with storage and drinking glasses and go from there. Mason Jars are great for drinking AND storage. I find good deals on Mason Jars at the store. Just keep an eye out.
Also I find stores like Big Lot's and TJ Maxx have great deals on glass storage containers. I've been buying mine over time with I have the extra cash or I find a good deal.

I found some good deals on amazon, I might have to buy some more glass soon!

Is glass more expensive? Yes and no. If you buy it all at once than yes, but don't feel like you have to rush. I'm doing it when I can and when I have the money. I know when I see a good deal and I take advantage of it. Keep your eyes open and start building that glass collection.

The good thing about glass containers is that they last forever. No fading or food stains.

I still have some plastic containers and I'm in the hunt for some good stainless steel or glass coffee travel mugs.

I'm enjoying the challenge of switching to glass. Glass is becoming my best friend and I hope it becomes your best friend too!

Small discloser *Lakewood is not associated with this post in anyway. Their graphic just inspired me to write my own post about glass :) However, we are big fans of their juice in this house! :)