Most New Years resolutions revolve around food! Whether you want to eliminate dairy, have more energy or feel better in your body, the solution starts in the kitchen. But cooking every night can be tough—and time consuming. Next thing you know, you’re ordering pizza and giving up on your resolutions by Valentine’s Day.


But I’m going to let you in on a secret… the key to staying on track is to plan ahead! And the first step to great planning is to find great recipes. When I create menus, I turn to my collection of cookbooks. Since most of my clients are sensitive to gluten, dairy and other allergens (like me), my cookbooks focus on turning real, healthy, whole-foods into delicious, stress-free dinners.


So whether you’re a master chef or a home cook, set yourself up for success by earmarking recipes that excite you, recipes the whole family will love and, of course, recipes that don’t take all day to prepare!

Also, start to think about when you can put time aside to do some cooking for yourself. A popular time for most people is Sunday afternoon.  Spending a little time cooking on a weekend helps you to have snacks and food in the fridge so that you have something healthy to eat on a weeknight when you are tired and completely uninterested in cooking.  I sometimes make a big batch of meatballs and then freeze them in sandwich size ziplocs.

For example, I LOVE this asian take on the meatball as a quick and easy snack by Simone from Zenbelly Catering.

I make these when I have a little extra time, so that when I come home at the end of a long day and I am starving, I have a healthy protein to reach for instead of the bag of corn chips. These can also become part of a larger dinner, if you add some rice and a veggie stir fry.

I’ll be back soon with Menu Planning: Part 2. For now, check out my favorite cookbooks for a little food-spiration:

Giada's Feel Good Food Cookbook

Giada’s Feel Good Food, Giada De Laurentiis

This book is filled with plenty of resolution-worthy recipes for juices, smoothies, healthy lunches, vegan meals and much more.

Best Recipe: Whole Roasted Chicken with Vegetable Bolognese

The chicken part is really not the important piece here, you can cook your chicken any way you want. The Vegetable Bolognese is the gem. This becomes a substantial, tasty red sauce without needing any meat.  The bulk of the sauce is made up from carrots, onion and bell pepper, chopped up in the food processor and then sautéed with mushrooms, tomato paste and red wine.  I add another ¼ to ½ cup wine to my sauce and an additional tbsp tomato paste.

Against All Grain CookBook

Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well and Feel Great, Danielle Walker

I wouldn’t consider myself Paleo, but I love the delectable Paleo recipes from Against All Grain blogger and cookbook author, Danielle Walker. Whether or not you follow the Paleo diet, you’ll find some gems in these pages.

Best Recipe: Macadamia-Coconut Crusted Ono with Mango Coulis

This recipe works well with any white fish, it doesn’t have to be Ono. I have made it with Seabass and Halibut. This recipe is dairy and gluten free (as is her whole book), and uses really simple ingredients and techniques.

How Can It Be Gluten Free Cook Book

The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook, America’s Test Kitchen

America’s Test Kitchen takes recipe development seriously—hence the name! Since these recipes are tried and true, you can rest assured they’ll turn out right, every time.

Best Recipe: All-American Meatloaf

*I enjoyed this recipe so much, I adapted it to create my own Gluten-Free Turkey Meatball recipe using potato flakes.

I have been cooking gluten free for 11 years, so I wasn’t sure what new techniques I was going to learn from this book. But I have never been let down by a recipe I have tried by America’s Test Kitchen. I was really pleased with the tip about using potato flakes instead of breadcrumbs to make a moist meatloaf. They also have great recommendations for flour blends to help make the best of your gluten free baking. Most of them contain dairy though, so if you are staying away from dairy, you still have to make substitutions with this book.

I hope you find this information helpful and that it spurs you into thinking about menus for you and whoever else you are cooking for in your household.