Southwest Stuffed Peppers

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I didn’t realize how much I loved stuffed peppers until I started focusing on clean eating back in January. Here’s why they are awesome: they are decently easy to prep in advance, they reheat well, they easily function as a quick lunch!  Stuffed peppers create a complete meal in one veggie!  That’s why I included this meal as the first dinner in my recent Clean Eating, Clean Homes 5-day push!

I have recently become obsessed with all foods with a southwest influence.  I love beans and rice and cheese and spice, all guarantees when eating foods inspired by this region. For this recipe, though, I decided to sub out rice for quinoa. The change adds complete protein to the dish without compromising the taste or texture.  Combined with the right spices and fresh/freezer ingredients, these peppers have a little kick and a lot of protein.  

I am going to cut to the recipe quickly because I know you’re all dying to get to the store to buy the ingredients.  You won’t regret that choice!

Southwest Stuffed Peppers

A clean, fiesta-fitting version of a household classic.

Ingredients

    • 3 large peppers
    • 1.25lb extra lean ground turkey
    • 1/4 C diced sweet onion
    • 1 C black beans
    • 1 cup frozen or fresh corn
    • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
    • 1 C salsa
    • 1 C chicken broth
    • 1 C dry quinoa (white, red, or a blend.  I used the Super Blend from Whole Foods)
    • Mexican cheese blend
    • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 tsp chili powder

 

 

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Prepare quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Prep the peppers by washing, cutting in half, removing the seeds and stem, and placing open-side up in a greased glass baking dish.
  3. In a large saute pan, toss the onions in a tbsp olive oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the ground turkey.  Once it browns, add in the beans, corn, garlic, salsa, and half the broth.  Toss to combine, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add in the quinoa and seasonings and combine. Spoon into the peppers and top with cheese.
  5. Pour the remaining broth around the peppers.  
  6. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Delicious–and no sides needed!

I’d love your feedback!  Please tell me your experience with this recipe or share your favorite stuffed peppers recipes!  I am always looking for new inspiration!

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Double Chocolate Protein Brownies

Yes, protein brownies.  Why?  Why not! Sure, you can save these for dessert just because, but won’t you feel a little less guilty knowing they have a healthy dose of protein and veggies? Oh, wait.  I forgot to mention the veggies part. Please keep reading. I hope I didn’t scare you away.  The batter alone is worth sticking around for–I promise!

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I made this on Saturday night for two reasons: 1. I wanted dessert BADLY. 2. My kids were sleeping so I could eat said dessert peacefully.  Moms, you know what I mean.  There is nothing like hiding by the garbage can or–true confession here–sneaking into the bathroom just to eat a cookie or spoonful of Nutella in hopes of snagging a sweet snack without your kids being aware.  They are always aware.  They will always find you. They will always throw an accusatory “What are you doing?” at you that makes you choke on your secret treat and to simply reply with a grumbly, mouth-full, “Nothing!” that sounds more guilty than your toddler does when you actually see him punch his sister. So alas, when my husband arrived back home on Saturday night from his quick kids-are-in-bed trip to Dunkin Donuts for our coffees (see, Dads hide treats, too!), he was surprised to find me mixing up some brownies. He was even more surprised to see half a zucchini on the counter.

Don’t be alarmed. These are good. Plus, they are dairy- and gluten-free and flourless.  I did use peanut butter, but if allergens are an issue, you can easily sub in sunflower seed butter.  You could also throw in the nut of your choice if you are a nutty-brownie kind of family.  We aren’t, so I left these to their fudgey goodness on their own.  You can hardly detect, let alone taste, the zucchini in the final product.

I did make it up to my kids, though. On a Sunday morning, I served these as breakfast.  Can you say #momguilt? But really, it was the only way I could keep from eating them all myself! Besides, there is no better way to treat yourself and your family than to a yummy, warm, wholesome breakfast on a Sunday.  I served them with some watermelon, scrambled eggs (for the kids–not me!), and yogurt.  Bed-and-breakfast worthy, if I do say so myself.

I have to give a shout-out to Cleanfoodcrush.com for this recipe idea.  I made some changes to better fit my family’s needs and also to fit the ingredients I had on hand and the end result was so yummy, I just had to share!

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Double Chocolate Protein Brownies

  • Servings: 9-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fudgey, healthy treat good enough for breakfast!

I adapted this recipe from Cleanfoodcrush.com to fit my family’s needs.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all-natural creamy peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice)
  • 1/4 pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-natural unsweetened applesauce (I made my own.)
  • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop vegan chocolate protein powder (I used vegan chocolate Shakeology)
  • 1/2 cup certified gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (do not drain/remove excess water)
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips, reserving half (I use Enjoy Life brand, which are dairy- and soy-free)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray 8×8 glass baking dish or brownie pan with non-stick coconut oil spray.
  2. In your blender or food processor, blend rolled oats until a fine powder forms.  Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl, use a mixer to blend together peanut butter, maple syrup, apple sauce, extract, and protein powder. Gently stir in remaining ingredients, minus half of the chocolate chips. (Don’t forget to add the oat powder–I almost did!)
  4. Add to the baking dish, spreading batter evenly.  Top with remaining chocolate chips.  Slivered almonds would also be delicious across the top!
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Lick the spoon and the bowl and everything in between.
  6. Allow to cool, then cut into squares and enjoy.

Please let me know how these taste!  If you want to give these a try but don’t have protein powder on hand, contact me as well and I will send you a serving size perfect for this recipe!

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21 Day Fix Fish Tacos

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I really, truly love sea food–especially white fish. And I have come to love fish even more in recent months because it can be quite healthful. The right fish can be a perfect form of protein and many varieties contain an ideal amount of healthy fats. Fish can be rather lean and can often be doctored up much like chicken without being as filling. I often like a light her meal at dinner time, especially as the weather gets hotter and hotter, so fish is perfect.

At least once a week, I stop at Whole Foods on my way home from school and see my pal Dan, the fish monger. I always have a seafood meal listed on my weekly plan–such my honey orange salmon or BBQ shrimp–but if Dan has a better suggestion or if a certain cut or type of sea food is on sale, I am always open to a new option. Last night, this happened. I planned on making fish tostadas using tilapia and Ezekiel wraps. By the time I got to the store, though, I was already prepared to make a change. First off, I overextended my yellow containers at school (I blame my Relay for Life hangover! More on that in a later post!), and since it was only day 1 of my 21 Day Fix, I knew I needed to make up for an earlier splurge. Secondly, Whole Foods did not have any fresh tilapia. What Dan did have, though, were individually portioned Chilean sea bass fillets. I’ve never cooked sea bass before, but, in full disclosure, before my foray into clean eating this January, I hadn’t made many diverse foods.  I’m a cooking work-in-progress. Dan assured me that I could grill these much like I would a steak, so I bought two and made quick mental calculations as to how I could plan the rest of the meal around this unexpected purchase.

I grabbed a few avocados, a head of butter leaf lettuce, and went to the checkout–knowing full well that some of my clean staples already in my pantry and fridge would cap off a sure-to-be successful dinner.

I was right.

I am not a taco lover. Well, that’s isn’t a fair statement. I don’t think I’ve ever actually eaten a taco. So I guess I am a taco-averse person?! I also don’t entirely love hot food–like steamy, right-out-of-the-oven food. Except cookies. 😉 I often let my meal sit for a bit before I eat it just so it cools off and I never reheat my lunch. Never. But turn a taco shell into a veggie and the ground beef into a delicious white fish while deducting a ton of the physical heat–but still leaving the spice, of course–and I am all in.

This dinner was light and full of flavor. My mom and kids all approved–though my kids deconstructed theirs.

Side note/rhetorical question to parents: am I the only one with kids who LOVE to eat with their hands when not appropriate (i.e. Spaghetti or pancakes or apple sauce–spoons are for babies!) but refuse to eat with their hands when a meal actual calls for it? My 3 1/2 year-old had a near meltdown after his first bite of taco when 1 minuscule drip of salsa touched his palm. Okay, not a near melt down. A full on cry. Like a “you broke my Lego castle!” cry. Or a “You deleted all the Odd Squads!” cry. So I quickly cut up both kids’ tacos and got on with a more peaceful dinner.

I have discovered that jarred salsa is my go-to ingredient. When in doubt or playing around with a new possible recipe, I often lean on a jar or half jar of salsa to add a kick or moisture or texture. The right brand and the right variety–I love Paul Newman’s Mango or Pineapple Salsa in particular–add just the right something. I even add salsa to my turkey burgers!

After I grilled the sea bass, I layered it on a butter lettuce leaf with a slice of avocado and tablespoon of salsa. I then sprinkled a bit of Mexican cheese blend on top and served it with fresh pineapple. My mom and I felt like we were vacationing in the Caribbean with each bite. Plus, one taco was filling enough on a day in which I hit my yellow containers early and needed a light yet balanced dinner.

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Here’s the game plan! Give it a try with any white fish you’d like!

21 Day Fix Fish Tacos

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A fresh, light, Caribbean-inspired taco recipe using a lettuce wrap--perfect for a summer night!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Chilean sea bass fillet per person (1 red container)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika (smoked would be best!)
  • 1 tbsp salsa of choice per person: I used 365 brand Mango and Peach salsa (1/4 purple container)
  • 1/4 avocado per person, sliced thin (1 blue container)
  • 1 butter lettuce leaf per person (1/2 green)
  • optional sprinkle of Mexican blend cheese
  • optional tsp of nonfat Greek yogurt (in lieu of sour cream–plus it adds protein!)

Directions

  1. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.
  2. Drizzle sea bass with olive oil and spread to coat both sides. Sprinkle seasoning on top. (I only add seasoning on one side so I can still enjoy the flavor of the fish.)
  3. Grill sea bass for approximately 5-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness.
  4. Place avocado and salsa in a lettuce leaf. Add 1/2 sea bass filet. Top with cheese and/or Greek yogurt, roll up the sides, get messy, and enjoy!

**21 Day Fix Containers, per my own unofficial deductions: 1 red, 1 green (lettuce and salsa, though you may choose to count salsa in the purple container), 1 blue.  Non-Fixers can go all-out and add the cheese and nonfat Greek yogurt.

I’d love to get more lettuce wrap or fish taco recipes that are tried and true!  Feel free to leave one below!  Or, let me know if you would like to enroll in my next Clean Eating Group: Quick-N-Clean 15 minute meals!  I’m enrolling now!  I will provide 7 days of clean eating meals for both dinner and breakfast that can be on the table in 15 minutes or less.  This group is FREE, but space is limited! Don’t delay!

Raspberry Almond Power Cookies

imageThese cookies happened by accident. I was making a quick attempt at my own energy bites and failed to carefully consider proportions. When I whipped everything together, the “batter” was far too liquidy to ever evolve into a perfect ball. I considered adding more rolled oats to absorb the moisture. Nah. I questioned chucking the mix all together and starting over. No way. That defeats everything my minimal waste cooking and eating philosophy stands by. I figured I would spoon cookies, drop them on a cookie sheet, throw them in the oven, and see what happens. I am so glad I did!

I love sweets and snacks. I worried when first delving into clean eating that I would be overwhelmed by my sweet tooth and would, inevitably, fail. That is not the case. I have grown to love the flavors of real food and, as I’ve written about before, love meals now. In fact, on my daughter’s Mother’s Day story that she wrote at school, she completed the sentence “My mommy loves to…” with eat the yummy dinners she makes. In 2015, that would have read “bake cupcakes” or “snack all day” or “eat only her side dishes.” My daughter notices my healthier eating habits. I know they are more likely to rub off on her since she sees me living by this ideal, that our nutrition matters.

So yes, I’ve conquered my sweet tooth and often have carrots with peanut butter or nonfat Greek yogurt with berries when I do have a snack. I still, however, love a good cookie and know its place in my life remains.

imageEating clean doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a decadent treat once in a while. I value balance. Balance means redefining your expectations each day to align with your own priorities. Forget anyone else’s expectations; focus on your own priorities and let go of the rest. That is balance. Most days, my priorities are self care, serving my family, and building my business. On any given day, I may spend more time on one of these tasks than I will the others or I may add something to the list. Some days, self care means fitting in my fitness and eating well all day. Once in a while, though, Mama wants a cookie–or 3–and that’s ok! These raspberry almond power cookies fit into this balanced lifestyle. Plus they are clean, they are full of fiber and healthy fats, and they are chocolatey.

Yes, chocolatey. Delicious, ooey-gooey, sweet and semi tangy, soft and kind of crunchy (pun intended) chocolatey cookies. You and your kids will love these when you want a different but home baked dessert or when you want a treat without much guilt. These also take little time to prep and bake and are one of the many ways to use those last few bananas before they turn.

You can easily up the ante and add protein to these cookies by trading out the cocoa powder for chocolate protein powder, but once in a while it is nice to eat a treat that is just that: a treat. You could also trade out the freeze-dried raspberries for freeze-dried strawberries. They would be equally delicious.

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These cookies are dairy free, contain no added sugar, and can be certified gluten free if you need. Yum!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 overripe bananas, smashed with a fork
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (certified gluten free if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup all-natural almond butter (or butter of choice)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup freeze dried raspberries, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped small
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life dairy free)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a cookie sheet with nonstick coconut oil spray.
  2. Smash two bananas in a mixing bowl. Add all ingredients except chocolate chips and mix well with a spoon. Sprinkle in a pinch or two of oats if too liquidy.
  3. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.
  4. Spoon teaspoon-sized portions onto the greased cookie sheet. Cookies will not expand, so you do not need too much room between them.
  5. Bake 12-15 minutes or until firm. Allow to cool for one minute on the cookie sheet then for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.
  6. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

These unique flavors make for a scrumptious snack and a little pick-me-up when the days get long. Enjoy as is or alter to your liking. Please share your thoughts in the comments or send me your feedback. And don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter by leaving your email below! You’ll receive a free 5-day clean eating menu just by subscribing!

Mixed Berry Streusel Overnight Oats

Overnight oats is a game changer. (Trust the grammar here. I’m an English teacher.) 😉

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Yes, I am aware of how lofty this statement is, but it is not hyperbole. It is truth. I am not an egg-eater (something my followers have come to learn), yet I know the importance of a breakfast packed with protein. After years of cold cereal or muffins from DD, I noticed an immediate shift in my energy levels, hunger, and cravings once I unprocessed my first meal of the day and upped my protein intake.

When I was on maternity leave, I explored various breakfast options that provide balanced macronutrients and are, well, yummy. These are some of my faves:

  • A slice of Ezekiel bread (full of protein and flourless!) topped with a quarter avocado and a slice of turkey bacon with a side of berries (raspberries provide healthy fiber!). image
  • An Ezekiel cinnamon raisin English muffin toasted and smeared with all-natural peanut or almond butter and banana “coins.” You can add a side of berries or even scrambled eggs–but I won’t!
  • Boiled rolled oats mixed with a splash of unsweetened almond milk, a shake of cinnamon, and some fresh berries (okay, yeah, I love berries with my breakfast!).
  • Shakeology, especially for mornings that get away from me! image

I dont often have have the time to make my actual breakfast each morning. My husband and I both need to leave the house by 6:45 am to get the kiddos to school and the sitter and be at our respective jobs on time. Most mornings I do wake up early to work out, but I am able to shave 5-10 minutes off of my morning routine and inches from my waistline by having overnight oats at the ready and avoiding the processed sugar rush of cereal or baked goods.

I prep 3-5 days worth of overnight oats every Sunday when I am meal prepping. It is essential for me to have a healthy breakfast ready to go. This habit lowers my stress levels in the morning, eases my nighttime routine (praise be the moms who can do the crock pot overnight breakfasts! They are yummy! I just ain’t got time for that!), and meets my nutritional needs.

You can Google and pin hundreds of overnight oats recipes with varied proportions and varied ingredients and varied flavors. I encourage you to play around until you find your perfect texture and some flavor combos that work for you and for your family. The base blend that I’ve stuck to for the past month or two really works for me. It contains protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and fiber, so I confidently set my macros in balance right from the start. This blend also fits perfectly into the 21 Day Fix or 22 Minute Hard Corps meal plans–which is an added bonus for me as a healthy lifestyle coach win Beachbody.

This recipe grew out of my Saturday goal of using up as many perishable ingredients as  possible. I don’t like to waste the fresh fruits and veggies that we may not have gotten to during the week. This past Saturday, a half pint of overripe strawberries and a handful of blueberries sat pathetically in my fridge, uneaten and hours from being replaced by newer, fresher versions when my husband went to the grocery store the next morning. So, I made a note in my meal planner to make pb&j overnight oats when meal prepping.

The next morning, I began to prep while Mike shopped, knowing that making my oats early would make room in the fridge for the fresh produce of the day and save me time later. I opened the cupboard to get a new jar of organic all-natural peanut butter and noticed something else: a bag of pecans. That’s when this idea hit me.

You can easily make this recipe your own. I will break down the ingredients for my ideal overnight oats base blend and the add-ons that make this recipe what it is. I encourage you to give it a try but to also venture into your own flavor combos. Comment below with a recipe that makes you look forward to breakfast!

INGREDIENTS

BASE BLEND (per serving):

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/3 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats (1/2 yellow container)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (1/2 orange container)
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seed (1/2 orange container)

ADD-ONS FOR STREUSEL:

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup, plus 1/4 tbsp
  • overripe strawberries, diced
  • overripe blueberries, diced (these equal one purple container)
  • 1/2 blue container, approx 2 tbsp, chopped pecans
  1. Make the base blend by combining all ingredients. Add the cinnamon and 1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup. Mix well and place in air-tight jar.
  2. Top with fruit and pecans. Overripe berries will emit juices that make this really sweet and dessert-like.
  3. Drizzle with remaining maple syrup.
  4. Seal, refrigerate, and enjoy within 5 days!

My Meal Prep Pointers

My biggest piecIMG_8824e of advice is this: take time NOW to save time later!  The more effort and planning you put into your weekend,the easier your
weeknights–and mornings!–can be! I spend Saturday night meal planning while my husband and I catch up on our DVR and then I spend a good amount of time on Sunday meal prepping.  I take time for family activities and fitness, but I make sure I get as much done now as possible. My weeknights and mornings are better for it. 🙂

 

  • Meal plan with a purpose!
    • I’ve written about clean eating on a budget and have shared some of my weekly meal planning ideas. I cannot stress how important meal planning is for effective meal prep. Meal prepping without forethought is like going to Magic Kingdom without Fast Passes.  Yes, you’ll enjoy the experience, but you will spend a lot more time waiting and figuring out what could have been done ahead of time. 🙂
    • I meal plan on Saturday nights.  I look at a few recipes I’ve pinned or bookmarked and see how any ingredients may overlap with faves from the the past.  For example, Monday night I am serving Colby Jack Chicken Roll-ups (which I’ll make today!). I’ve added Taco Zucchini Boats to Thursday’s Cinco de Mayo dinner menu since it uses the same cheese. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday’s dinner all use various types of peppers as well.  I am going to have Kung Pao meatballs over spinach for lunch each day, which will overlap the spinach from the Roll-ups as well.  I’ll use leftover onion from the meatballs in Tuesday’s crock pot meal. You can save money and time by overlapping ingredients. When you eat clean and get to know food’s natural flavors as well as the deliciousness that exists in natural seasonings, you won’t even think twice about ingredients showing up again and again. When paired with something new or prepared even slightly differently, new flavors take center stage.
    • When meal planning, I also consider the method and equipment with which I will need to prep the meals. I may plan on Salsa Chicken for lunch for the week since that uses my crock pot and saves the stove top and over for any other meal. Today, I know that the meatballs and roll-ups bake at the same oven temp, so that makes prepping them simultaneously easy. This may seem a little too-focused, but as you get more comfortable with the recipes you love and with coming up with your own spin in the kitchen, this will all become second nature.
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This week’s menu
  • Chop and dice as much as you can!
    • It is important to rinse and fully dry any fruits and veggies before prep. Do this as early as you can. Then, an hour or so later once you really are ready, you can get in there and prep.
    • When you chop and dice, think about all of the meals you are prepping today AND all of the snacks and meals you’ll need later in the week.  If I am making fajitas on Tuesday night, I will still slice the peppers and onion on Sunday, seal them in an air-tight container, and have an even easier time making one of my quickest, yummiest meals on a very busy night.  I will also chop up and portion those peppers for school lunch snacks (with hummus!) and add these to my snack drawer. When packed appropriately and when allowed to air-dry, these veggies will hold-up for the week.
  • Don’t forget breakfast!
    • Cliche or not, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is too easy for us working moms to skip eating it ourselves and to rely on packaged goods for our family.  Try meal prepping breakfast and you and your family will truly eat and be well. I’ve shared plenty of overnight oats recipes and cannot say enough about how delicious and easy they are. Feel comfortable playing around with the various recipes I’ve posted or to mixing flavors of your own to come up with the portions and ingredients that work best for you. With the perfect air-tight container (mason jars are awesome for this, though I use my BabyBullet canisters!), these will stay all week for the perfect breakfast on the go for any member of a busy family. Plus, Greek yogurt or protein powder (I prefer Shakeology) added to these gives your family the protein it needs to fuel the day.
    • Your crock pot and griddle are also great for meal-prepping breakfast.  You can make various bakes in the crock pot that set while you sleep. You can also double any batch of pancakes or french toast or waffles that you bake for the family Sunday morning, freeze them, and have them on hand. Leggo my Eggo? No. Leggo my homemade protein pancake, thank you very much!
  • Find reusable containers that work for you!
    • This is a bit of a duh, but it makes all the difference. I like using Pyrex glass dishes to keep my made-ahead meals ready to go.  Be sure to let them sit at room temperature before you bake or reheat, though, so as to not shatter the glass!
    • Mason jars and BPA free Tupperware are easy to clean and to grab and go. If you use plastic baggies for snack portions, don’t be afraid to wash and reuse once or twice.
  • Have clean meals and snacks accessible!
    • Life happens!  Sometimes I may need to take one child to the doctor or am nursing or bathing an exceptionally fussy baby.  That is why you need to consider snacks when meal prepping as well. Having a snack drawer my toddlers can reach and having meals prepped in advance allow anyone–from my five year old to my husband to a grandma or babysitter–to get a healthy snack or meal ready. This saves time and saves money since we won’t be ordering pizza or hitting up Chick-fil-A…at least not as frequently! Plus, kids will eat what is available to them. Placing yogurts and fresh fruit and veggies and homemade granola bars or energy bites where your kids can easily find them makes these the go-to snacks, not bags of Goldfish.
  • Involve your kids!
    • Getting your kids busy in the kitchen is the easiest way to ensure they will eat what you want them to. My daughter now LOVES chicken because I have let her help me prepare it.  We all learn our eating habits, and I want to role model healthy ones for my kids at every turn. On Sundays, I involve my  kids in at least one level of meal prep. Depending on the weather (hey, I’d want to be outside riding my bike, too!), I may have them help throughout,but I want them to get outside and get active and be creative as well.  One way they help is to portion our snack bags. I’ll ask them to count out grapes or baby carrots or slices of peppers.  I can also ask them to help chop.  They are young so I keep it to items like bananas and strawberries, but they are learning kitchen safety and having a hand in our family’s health.  They will help me measure out ingredients or stir up batters and mixtures.  They will help me portion meals into our lunch containers.  They will stock with snack drawer.  Now, my kids even come up with their own recipes for overnight oats or ways we can doctor our protein bars a bit differently.  Their help is a big time saver and also a lot of fun for all of us, and I am confident they are learning invaluable lessons!
  • IMG_8486Use a garbage bowl!
    • This seems like a silly tip, but to me, it is a big time-saver. I keep a larger mixing bowl on the counter that I use for trash: onion and garlic skins, thick asparagus stalks, yogurt lids, apple cores, paper towels, you name it.  Saving myself constant trips to the trash can allows easier multitasking and quicker meal prep. When it fills up, I throw it away, but otherwise, I keep chopping and prepping and cooking away!

I hope these tips are helpful!  Share a go-to tip in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you. And if you subscribe to this blog or to my email list by leaving your email below,  I will share one week’s worth of clean eating recipes that are kid-friendly and family-approved. Happy Sunday, y’all!

Sweet Potato Mac & Cheese

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Who doesn’t love a good sweet potato? Well, my husband doesn’t. My dad doesn’t. My daughter doesn’t quite love them. But other than those three, I imagine everyone else in the world feels the same steadfast devotion to the sweet potato that I feel.

My go-to lunch since I graduated college has been a shrink-wrapped sweet potato, zapped in the microwave for 7 minutes, ready to eat. This is a healthy and clean meal, but as a teacher, I frequently do not have the time to waste 7 minutes microwaving my lunch.  Besides, no one person in a faculty room should commandeer any one appliance for that long.  Because I haven’t been getting my sweet potato fix at lunch time as frequently, I’ve tried to incorporate sweets into our dinner menu a few times a month.  I’ve fallen in love with Eat Yourself Skinny’s Turkey and Sweet Potato Hash and often add sweet potatoes to the mix when I roast veggies. But that wasn’t enough.

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I wanted a way to show my daughter that she actually loves sweet potatoes.  That’s when I came across a sweet potato mac & cheese recipe that enticed me.  It wasn’t as clean and healthful or as easy (too many pans!) as I liked, so I adapted it and came up with a recipe my family–and yours–will love! Plus, you can rest assured knowing the orange coloring in this cheese dish comes from a sweet potato and not from food coloring.  This pairs perfectly with a small salad and my turkey meatloaf muffins. 🙂

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box whole grain or brown rice elbow macaroni
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 cups milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Colby Jack cheese (or cheese of your choice) +1/4 cup to top
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, slightly thawed
  1. *Preheat oven to 350º and spray a deep baking dish with nonstick coconut spray.
  2. Prepare macaroni per package instructions.  Drain and set aside in the baking dish.
  3. Remove the skin from the sweet potato, stick with a fork in various places, and add to a pot of boiling water.  Boil for 8-10 minutes, until very tender.
  4. Drain the water from the sweet potato pot and remove the sweet potato.  Cut into large chunks and return to pot.  Add one cup of milk, flour, half the cheese, and the garlic and simmer on low-medium heat.  Continue to the add the rest of the milk and cheese until the mixture mostly liquefies.
  5. Blend contents with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender and combine into a sauce.
  6. Pour over the pasta, add in the peas, and stir to combine.
  7. If baking and serving immediately, top with a sprinkle of cheese and place in the oven for 7-10 minutes, or until cheese melts.  Enjoy!

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*If you are not serving immediately and prepping ahead, skip the baking until the night you plan to eat this. You may need to increase baking time to ensure dish is heated through. 

Enjoy this ooey, gooey, hearty dish!  I love reheating this and placing it in a thermos for my kids to have as a school lunch.  Add a protein–like a cup of Greek yogurt–and a sliced apple, and you have a pretty complete lunch!

Please let me know below if you try this recipe.  This recipe is also featured in my Clean Eating with Kids menu.  If you’d like the full menu–recipes and shopping list included!–please leave your email below and subscribe!  Thanks!