BBQ Chicken & Quinoa Bake

I have had this blog on my to-do list for about a week. I’ve actually had a lot of tasks on my to-do list for about a week.  It is that time of year: summer is ending and a new school year approaches. I am excited to meet my new students in exactly two weeks, but I still have to accomplish quite a bit before I’ll feel ready for my 11th year of teaching.  Wow.  Now I feel old.  Here is a look at some of the task to-be-accomplished in the coming weeks:

  • I need to lesson plan/create my calendars for September for my 5 different classes.
  • I need to set up my 3 classrooms.
  • I need to finish our One Book, One School text (Brothers Forever) and finalize my class discussions and assignments for it.
  • I need to meet with my new co-teacher (probably my favorite list item!) to lesson plan and brainstorm a great year.
  • I need to coordinate drop-offs, picks-ups, and childcare for all three children who, for the first time, will be attending three different schools/facilities.
  • I need to continue meal prep.

You read that right: meal prep.  I have been doing two or three simple meal prepping tasks a week to help me find success and ease this coming school year–especially during those chaotic mornings when five people and 2 dogs need to be settled for the day.

I’ve made batches of clean pancakes and muffins that are now sorted and in my freezer.  I’ve made an assortment of meatballs–traditional turkey, Kung Pao chicken, etc–that are portioned and frozen as well. And I’ve started experimenting with meals that can be made ahead or that yield abundant leftovers.

One such winner is this BBQ Chicken & Quinoa Bake.  It is a simple casserole filled with fresh, nutrient-rich ingredients. It is clean comfort food, so to speak, that will be perfect on a fall night when you long for a taste of summer but crave the warmth of a wholesome dinner.

What is quinoa? Quinoa is a grain discovered thousands of years ago by the Incas.  It has gained popularity recently because it is a complete protein, is higher in fiber than most other grains, and is naturally fortified with vitamins and minerals.  You can use it like you would rice or even oatmeal. My son and I even like it cooked and turned cold with milk–a deliciously filling cereal! It adds bulk to this casserole without adding empty calories.  You won’t need a large portion of this meal to not only feel full, but to reach your nutritional goals for the day.

I used a rotisserie chicken for this recipe.  I’ve become slightly obsessed with rotisserie chicken because it is so easily shredded and turned into awesome, easy meals.  You could easily throw chicken breasts in the crock pot and shred those if time allows!  Whatever you choose, this dish will not disappoint!

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BBQ Chicken & Quinoa Bake

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A hearty, healthy one-dish dinner!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked to package directions (makes about 3 cups)
  • 6 cups shredded chicken
  • 1 cup baby bella mushrooms, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth, plus more for baking if you prep ahead of time
  • 3/4 cup your favorite BBQ sauce
  • Mexican cheese blend, as much as your little heart desires

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. Spray an 9×13 in casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Prepare quinoa per package directions. While it boils, shred your chicken and dice your veggies.
  3. Once quinoa has cooked, spread it evenly throughout the baking dish.  Top with shredded chicken, then all of the veggies and beans.
  4. Pour the chicken broth evenly over the entire casserole. Give everything a gentle toss, then top with BBQ sauce and cheese.
  5. Bake for approx. 25 minutes.  Serve immediately!

Tell me what you think of the recipe and if you change it up in any way.  I may make it another time Hawaiian style, with pineapple!  This can easily be prepped on Sunday and baked a day or two later, just add more chicken broth to make sure the quinoa and chicken do not dry out.  Quinoa absorbs so much water!

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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!

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!