Last week I offered up a great little starter menu for Drive-Thru Sues who are looking to make Trim Healthy Mama possible in the midst of busy weeks when we want to minimize cooking and kitchen time. I called it a starter menu because it’s a menu that even someone starting out could use, since it requires no specialty ingredients; everything on the menu I can get at my tiny little Kroger down the street. So even though some of the ingredients may have been unfamiliar, like Wasa crackers or Truvia, they are generally readily available at most grocery stores.
That said, I’ll be the first to admit that anything that makes life easier is something I’ll probably try, so I’ve experimented with almost all of the variety of specialty ingredients used in the THM recipes. Ordering things online is much easier for me than searching all over town, so many of these things may be readily available at your local stores. But my Kroger is pretty small, and the whole natural foods section is pretty tiny, so I was out of luck.
Having ordered and tried lots of specialty ingredients, I can say that some of them I am unlikely to buy regularly, but there are a few that I use almost daily and that are now mainstays in my kitchen. So today, I’m going to share what THIS Drive Thru Sue’s essential specialty ingredients are. And then I’ll show you how I incorporate these into my menu and make my THM life even easier than that menu last week (is that even possible?!). So without further ado, here we go with Sue’s Essential Specialty Items:
(1) Whey protein powder – I like this one from Swanson, but there are several that will work (you want whey isolate, low fat and carbs – preferably fewer than 2-3 grams of each per scoop, and no off-plan sugars). Jay Robb is supposed to be good and is often available at regular grocery stores (even Kroger, but not in my tiny store!). But the Swanson one is really good – it’s vanilla flavored, but unsweetened, so I can sweeten to my taste. (Here is my affiliate link for Swanson – I’ll get a kickback and you’ll save $5 on your first order if you use it).
Why whey protein powder, you ask? Well, in addition to the protein hit it gives me, I love it because it creates a variety of different easy smoothies and treats that make my life easier. I resisted these for a while since it meant I had to clean my blender, but after I finally broke down and tried a few, I have decided that it’s totally worth the cleaning time! And that’s saying a lot about how great this stuff is cause I really hate to clean my blender! You can find lot of smoothie ideas starting on page 240 in the THM book, but my favorite is my Java Chiller – nothing beats it on a hot summer day!
(2) Extra Virgin Coconut Oil (EVCO) – it’s possible that you’ll be able to find this at your local store, but I’ve only ordered mine online (that’s not technically true, since my sister just picked some up for me at Costco, but since it’s not even in my house yet, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it!). Currently, I’m using – and loving – this one from Swanson.
Why EVCO? Well, why do you think? Because it makes my life easier! You see, I’m a bit of a chocoholic. And the hardest thing for me about removing sugar from my life is that it makes it hard to have chocolate. But with EVCO, chocolate is a possibility! Skinny chocolate and its myriad of variations help make THM doable for me. Don’t get me wrong, I use my EVCO in lots of things, but it’s a NECESSITY because I can use it to make chocolate
(3) Chia seeds – the first time I bought these was in this little market in a tiny indigenous village in Guatemala.
It was before THM, but I’d been reading about all the benefits of this superfood, and there was a gentleman selling all kinds of herbs and seeds. After a (quite extensive) little chat in which I attempted to determine if, in fact, these really were chia seeds (that is NOT what they are called in Spanish, or in any Mayan language that I know of, but don’t ask me now what it was he called them!), I bought a couple ounces to to try. I know, it’s not what everyone would do, but I REALLY wanted to try some chia! And I’d done enough research to be about 95% sure that what I was looking at really was chia (though I do admit to a few moments of trepidation as I came through customs with them).
Anyway, I love chia because it gives me energy, as well as adding great texture to all kinds of things. I often add a spoonful to my GGMS, and chia is a necessity in overnight oats, like my Peaches and Cream Oatmeal. I eat those for breakfast a lot, so I try to keep chia on-hand at all times. Chia Tapioca Pudding (see THM page 234) is another winner that calls for these little beauties, as does Cookie Bowl Oatmeal (THM page 232). In general, chia makes quick and easy breakfasts not just possible, but filling and fun, so I definitely suggest you get some!
Before you go running off right this second to find some, let me tell you that chia can be expensive, at more than $10 a pound. If you want to just try them out without buying a lot, Mexican grocery stores often sell small packets of them in their plastic spice packs – and since you only use a tsp or two at a time, a small pack will last for a lot of meals. But once you know you love them, like I do, you can get a 5-pound bag for a pretty reasonable price (around $32 at time of posting) on Amazon. And that might be easier, cause you won’t have to search all over town (warning – if you click that chia pic, it’s my Amazon affiliate link. Your price will be the same, but I might get a little somethin’ extra for it).
(4) Low carb flours like Flax meal and Almond meal or flour (or coconut flour if you can find it) – these 2 items were on my radar as soon as I read the THM book, for one reason: MIM. What’s that you ask? MIM = Muffin in a Mug, or Muffin in a Minute, or Muffin is MINE. Basically, it’s a single-serve muffin, generally nuked for 1 minute in the microwave. What I love about MIMs is that they are Quick, Easy, and Delicious. In the THM book, the master MIM recipe is on page 256, but if you look around (just ask my bff Google for help, or do a search on the THM boards), there are a TON of recipes for all kinds of flavors of MIMs. They are not exclusive to THM, and have been bouncing around the low-carb community for quite a while. There are even some master MIM mixes, which brings the quick and easy factor up an additional level since all the dry ingredients are pre-mixed. And if even a quick whisk and 1 minute in the microwave is too much in the morning, you can nuke it the night before and just grab it out of the fridge in the morning as you run out the door.
I’ll mention that golden (recommended for texture and appearance) flax meal and almond meal are available at many grocery stores, including Walmart, but they are still on my specialty list since they are a bit harder to find, and only recently (within the last month or so) became available at my local Kroger. I get my almond meal at Trader Joe’s for about $4 a pound, but almond flour is a lot pricier – I find that the almond meal works great for my purposes, though.
And my flax meal, well, I most recently bought 15 ounces of it at my local 99 Cent store, but before that I was using the Bob’s Red Mill brand, like this one (yes, these pics are Amazon affiliate links too!):
(5) Glucomannan – this little goodie is one I had never heard of until I started reading THM, but I’m so glad now that I know about it! It’s a great thickener that makes things like low-carb puddings and smoothies smooth and thick. Lots of recipes in the THM book rely on glucomannan, including the “slick trick” puddings starting on page 366, the Loaded Fotato Soup on page 294, and Slim Belly Jelly on page 411. It’s also a key ingredient in Chia Tapioca Pudding (page 234) and smoothies like the Fat Stripping Frappa (page 240).
One thing about glucomannan is that it’s really really hard – if not impossible – to find in stores. But it’s readily available on Amazon (affiliate link on the pic), as well as at konjacfoods.com. I got a large bag and it has lasted FOREVER (well, since December, anyway)! It’s definitely not a necessity for success on Trim Healthy Mama, but if you are looking for quick and easy breakfasts and snacks, it will certainly help make that possible!
So there you have it, my 5 essential specialty ingredients to make THM doable in this hectic, topsy-turvy world I currently live in. And now, to let you see how these work in my menu, let me tell you how I might work recipes with specialty items into last week’s menu. Rather than relying on items like Uncle Sam’s cereal and boiled eggs for breakfasts, I’d probably have the following for breakfasts during the week:
Overnight oats with raspberries (needs chia)
Chocolate MIM (needs flax and almond meal)
Peaches and cream oatmeal (needs chia)
Cinnamon MIM (needs flax and almond meal)
Chia tapioca pudding (needs chia and glucomannan)
And I’d completely change up my snacks to include the following:
Skinny chocolate (needs EVCO)
Fat Stripping Frappa (needs glucomannan and whey protein)
Chocolate pudding (needs glucomannan)
Any variety of MIMs (needs flax and almond meal)
Lemon mousse or nighty-night custard (needs glucomannan)
Basic whey smoothie (needs whey protein)
Plus, I’d probably fix a large batch of Loaded Fotato Soup and have it for dinner one night and lunch the next (it re-heats beautifully!). And on Saturday, when I made pancakes, I’d whip up a batch of Slim Belly Jelly. See how much variety 5 little ingredients can give you?!