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!

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!

Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

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I am going to skip the commentary and get right to the recipe!  These are kid-approved, easy to make, and perfect for someone who meal preps as they can be made ahead and reheated with ease.  Plus, they are perfectly portioned and do not need any condiments!  My kids love these for dinner and they make a perfect school lunch as well!

Turkey Meatloaf Muffins

  • Servings: 6-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A quick and kid-friendly take on a childhood favorite!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 shredded zucchini (with the water dampened out with a paper towel)
  • 1/2 cup salsa of choice (I used Newman’s Own Mango Salsa and reserved the rest of the jar for Crockpot Salsa Chicken)
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I make my own out of Ezekiel bread that I blitzed in my Nutribullet)
  • 1/2 sweet onion chopped small
  • garlic powder, onion powder, and chili powder (all to taste)
  • one egg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin tin with nonstick coconut oil spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients and divide evenly among 12-count muffin tin.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, though cooking time varies.  Monitor closely.
  4. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes before attempting to remove from tin.  You can serve immediately or store in an air-tight container in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

What do you think?  Let me know below!  This recipe is featured in my Clean Eating with Kids Week.  Want the full menu?  Submit your info below and I will email you the newsletter.