“Cheat” Chinese Chicken Fried Rice

I am going to keep the anecdotes to a minimum tonight.  First off, I am blogging rather late at night, but for a few good reasons: it is Tasty Tuesday and I have yet to post; it has been a week since my last post (hello, crazy working mom mode!); I have had this recipe requested for quite some time.  Second reason to make this quick: you will want this recipe immediately.  At least, you would if you could smell the garlicky aroma wafting through my house still–two hours after we ate. Yum!  But then again, this isn’t a blog post by me if it lacks a little backstory.

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My husband loves fried rice.  In fact, he would eat hibachi almost every night.  His entire family–and I mean his mom and her seven siblings and all of their spouses and kids (and now grandkids!)–go to a hibachi restaurant every Easter.  I have always dreaded it.  I do not enjoy the oily smell that lingers on my clothes, in my hair, and on my handbag.  I seem to be the only one getting the downdraft of the giant exhaust fan–no matter where I sit.  I despise eggs, so seeing them cracked and topping all the other food on the grill just gives me the heebie jeebies. But it is always one of Mike’s favorite days with his favorite people and his favorite food.

A few years ago, Mike got the idea to try to make his own fried rice.  He’s played around with the recipe–and has even left out the eggs for my benefit–and has come up with a combo of flavors that we find ideal.  This “cheat” Chinese meal is mainly clean and mainly healthy, but it definitely not on the menu every week as it packs more of a caloric and sodium punch than we want on the reg.  It sure beats the fat and salt content of true takeout, though, so I still count it as a dinner win.

You can easily adapt this by trading out the veggies for those to your liking.  We stick to carrots and zucchini mainly because we love them, our kids love them, and we always have them on hand.  You could also trade out the chicken for steak, shrimp, pork, whatever!  It is quite versatile.  You could even add the egg if you are so inclined.  I disagree wholeheartedly, but I know my husband would gladly come make this for you and dine with you if you allowed the egg addition. 🙂

Mike preps everything in its own pot/pan, then combines everything in our large saute pan. This meal requires a lot of space and a lot of dish-washing, but to mimic the hibachi experience, you have to go there.

The portions below perfectly feed me, my husband, and my two young kids without leftovers.  We often double this if we make it on Sunday night so Mike has lunches for a few days.  Plus, our five-year old daughter always wants seconds and thirds.  This is her favorite meal.

Extra tip: I recommend chopping the veggies with a hand-chopper (I use one by Pampered Chef) to dice them to the perfect size.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups brown rice, cooked (You could use white if you prefer!)
  • 1 chicken breast, diced into tiny pieces (as small as you’d like)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped small
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped small
  • 1 tsp butter (The one and only time we use it anymore!)
  • Himalayan sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Sesame seeds, to taste
  • low-sodium soy sauce
  1. Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken and saute, moving it frequently, for approximately 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit as you prep the veggies and finish the rice.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Heat garlic for 30 seconds.  Add the carrots and zucchini and stir for approx. 1-2 minutes, or until softened.
  4. Add the rice, then the pre-cooked chicken, and combine.
  5. Lower the heat.  Add the butter, salt, pepper, sesame seeds, and soy sauce (to taste!), and then toss all ingredients together.

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This may require many pieces of cookware, but it is still quick and delicious!  Very worth the try!  I look forward to hearing how you modify this, or how tour taste buds enjoy my husband’s creation as-is!

Clean Steak & Chicken Fajitas

Want to know the worst part of my family’s new love of clean eating? Doing so many dishes and running the dishwasher daily. But do you want to know the best part? I always have fresh ingredients on hand that I can easily throw together to create a healthful, flavorful meal on a whim. This benefit far outweighs the number of minutes spent at my sink or unloading the dishwasher.

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This can save you in a pinch when your meal prep or meal plan has failed you. We are humans–many of whom are raising mini humans–and life happens! Don’t let life cause you to stop at a fast food joint when in almost as much time as the drive-thru would take you can get creative and make something yummy and clean in your own kitchen.

This pinch-hitting dinner came into play a few weeks ago. I had planned on making stuffed peppers Monday night, but ended up using the ground turkey I had on hand for a potluck recipe the day before instead.  I swore this dish would create enough leftovers for dinner but, alas, it was just too good.  Clean recipes tend to be that way. I was left, then, with a series of peppers and onion and no dinner plan on the first day I returned to work post-maternity leave.

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I pass Pancheros–a delicious Chipotle-style fast food joint–every day as I drive home with the “big kids” from their school. I so wanted to pull in the parking lot and get something, but I didn’t for a few reasons: 1. How much of a pain is that with two kids and a newborn? 2. We are striving to eat clean and save money! 3.I had some awesome ingredients awaiting me and my new-found kitchen creativity awaiting me in my own kitchen! I decided then to head home and figure out how to make fajitas–something I have never made before nor ever really desired to eat before.

I’ve noticed, though, that the more cleanly my family and I eat–meaning, the more whole, real foods I cook with and snack on–the more adventurous I am becoming in the kitchen.  My palate is definitely expanding.  I now crave flavors I didn’t know existed: fresh citrus squeezed onto a bed of greens, cayenne pepper tossed into a homemade soup, the differing tastes of various onion varieties.  Beyond that, I am more confident playing Martha Stewart or Julia Child as well.  I am starting to be better aware of the relationships between foods, to understand how certain spices or flavors or textures compliment and contradict one another.  I believe all of these new cooking mentalities led to my fajita-making endeavor.
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I knew I had plenty of peppers and onion, and Mike always picks up at least one steak and a few chicken breast each Sunday.  What we don’t use within two days, we freeze.  I also knew that we had Ezekiel tortillas in the freezer that could make a yummy fajita roll-up or just as a starch of sorts under and the seasoned goodness.  As soon as we got home, I got the kids set up with some coloring, began defrosting the tortillas, and began my prep.

This meal took no more than 15 minutes from start to finish: 5 minutes to wash and chop/slice and 10 minutes to saute the veggies and grill the steak.  This turned out to be a new favorite of mine.  I have made it twice in the past two weeks. Yum!

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INGREDIENTS
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 green bell pepper, sliced thin
1/2 medium sweet onion, sliced thin
1 lean steak (ranch steak is the perfect size), sliced thin
1 chicken breast, sliced thin
1/2 Ezekiel tortilla per fajita
1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (optional, to taste)
1/4 cup fresh or jarred salsa (optional, to taste)
1/2 cup Mexican blend cheese (optional, to taste)

(Ok, lots of thin slices–but the thinner the better!)

SEASONING
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin

  1. Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a deep frying pan over medium heat. Toss in veggies and stir frequently for 3 minutes. Adjust heat as needed.
  2. Preheat grill pan over medium heat. Drizzle olive oil over steak and chicken, and then grill for approximately 2-3 minutes each side.  Keep a close eye on this, though, as size and thickness make a big difference.
  3. Add seasoning spices directly to saute pan, tossing veggies to coat.  Continue cooking until onions are translucent.
  4. Break up 1/2 tortilla on plate (or stuff!), top with veggies, and then protein of choice (I had a little of both!).  I then sprinkled cheese over it all, and dolloped a spoonful of Greek yogurt on top in lieu of sour cream.  Add salsa as well if you choose.

That’s it! Simply, scrumptious, and just the right amount of spicy.  Please comment below with your thoughts or variations!

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Pam’s Specialty: Fruit Salsa

I am hosting my first fitness and nutrition challenge group and I LOVE it.  The women participating are motivating me to work harder at meeting my exercise, nutrition, and water-intake goals each day.  It is also empowering to see so many women taking positive steps towards being their best, most well selves.  It takes courage and willpower to make the decision to do something for yourself–especially for moms or working women.  Seeing these remarkable women do that is just uplifting.

While planning out my Tasty Tuesday content for this week, I considered focusing on a recipe suitable for 21 Day Fix, but during the brainstorming process, I was chopping fruit for my “famous” fruit salsa and realized I was looking my recipe right in the face.  The amazing women in my group can treat themselves to this on March 21. 😉  Next week, though, I’ll post a recipe we can all love, 21 Day Fixers and all others alike.

If you invite me to your home–be it for brunch, a 31 party, the Super Bowl, you name it–you better believe I am bringing fruit salsa. Why? A. It is delicious. B. It is easy. C. It functions as app or dessert or topping (hello, waffles or pancakes!) or, even, side dish. D. It is semi-clean and decently healthy.  If you have 15 minutes, you, too can make this and be the favorite guest. It is also perfect to throw together when you have company coming over yourself or to keep in the fridge to top off some ice cream.

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I found a variation of this recipe years ago and have played around with it since.  Raspberry preserves really work best.  There is something about the tart, tangy nature that compliments the fresh fruit and the cinnamon. You can also switched out different fruit, but this combo is my jam–pun intended.  If you must change it up, though, do not eliminate the apple or strawberries.  They make this pop for sure.

I’ve been asked this recipe by many family and friends over the years, so let me give it to you straight.  Little back story, just yumminess!

INGREDIENTS
• 1 apple (golden delicious is my fave in this recipe, but any variety in season will work)
• 1/2 pint strawberries
• 1/2 pint blueberries
• 1 kiwi
• 1 tbsp seedless sugar-free or all-natural raspberry preserves

1. Chop all of the fruit, including larger blueberries, into small (approx. 1/2-1 cm) pieces.
2. Combine with the preserves in a glass dish.
3. Chill, covered, for at least 15 min (or overnight) and serve with homemade cinnamon sugar tortilla chips.  Stacy’s Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips are perfect, too.

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TO MAKE YOUR OWN CHIPS:
• 4 Ezekiel tortillas, thawed
• nonstick coconut oil spray
• 1 tsp brown sugar
• 1 tsp cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray cookie sheet with coconut oil nonstick spray.
  2. Break tortillas into bite size portions and arrange on the cookie sheet.  You will have to do this in batches.
  3. Spray the chips with the coconut oil, then sprinkle with the cinnamon and brown sugar.
  4. Bake quickly–for 3-5 minutes–depending on size of the chips.

You can also add sugar to the chips if you wish.  I like them like this! 

 

Steak & Brown Rice Bowl

I began my first online fitness and nutrition boot camp–which, you know, changed my life–on January 4th. Kellen’s surgery was that Friday, January 8th. I was only four days in, but I had already noticed changes in my eating habits. I no longer craved sweets and snacked incessantly. I desired balanced meals full of protein rather than the fruit and processed foods meals I ate before. I needed my morning shake to kick off my day and rev up my metabolism. I feared that these new habits would easily slip away while we spent 3 or 4 days in the hospital. Of course Kellen’s health was my top priority, but I also knew that I needed a sense of normalcy, too, in order to mentally survive this with him. I spent the night before his surgery packing a lunchbox full with one day’s meals. I made my first-ever overnight oats; I packed leftover crockpot salsa chicken and spinach for lunch. That morning, I made my shake and added a protein bar, apples, and baby carrots to the bag. I wasn’t concerned with missing workouts. I’d make up for lost time when and if possible after our long CHOP weekend. I needed to stay on top of my nutrition, however, to stay in as much control of the situation as possible. Control gives me balance. I adore balance.


Then day 2 hit. I had spent the night at Kellen’s bedside in the NICU taking brief cat naps, pumping, and trying to assist the nurses in managing his pain. I woke that morning cramped, exhausted both physically and mentally, and hungry with an empty lunchbox. “Go get yourself some coffee. He’s going for chest X rays soon,” one nurse urged me just before 7 am. I went down to the near-empty cafeteria and bought a tea, but nothing else. The cafe was filled with hash browns and egg sandwiches and flavored yogurts and prepackaged smoothies and mini boxes of sugary cereal. No fresh fruit to be had. I knew that two days of eating like I’d been eating for years wasn’t going to set me back, but I was resolute in my control. I needed to keep my new desire for clean eating and balanced macronutrients going. I immediately text Mike with directions on making my protein shake and requested he bring along some bananas and apples. “Don’t worry.  Lunch is so much better there,” he insisted. He was right.

This is when I–or, more accurately, we–fell in love with brown rice bowls. Our good friend Andrea works at CHOP as a child life specialist (God bless her! Truly!), and she recommended we check out the Asian station for one when we went down for lunch. Oh. Em. Gee. They were so delicious that even my husband, who had only really eaten brown rice for the first time a few days prior in his support of my new nutritional goals, had one for every real CHOP meal from that point forward.

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A few weeks after Kellen’s surgery, my mother and I took him back to the hospital for his follow-up.  The desire for a brown rice bowl hit me like a pregnancy craving would have a few months before.  I played around with some ingredients we had on hand, and made it for dinner that night.  The recipe I am providing here is based on my second, and even more delicious attempt.

This version can easily be made with chicken or shrimp or the protein of your choice.  I decided to make my own ginger soy sauce as well.  I found plenty of recipes for it online, but made my own by eliminating many of the ingredients I either did not have on hand or wanted to avoid, such as sugar or teriyaki sauce.  Play around with the veggies you include as well.  The hospital served these with the option of eggplant and brussels sprouts as well, which I loved, but Mike isn’t a big fan of them so I went a more traditional route.  I selected frozen veggies for this also for two reasons: this is a good recipe to make in a pinch or when fresh ingredients have run out and second, frozen produce still contains many of the nutrients that fresh produce contains without the added chemicals that many cans can add to food.

I’ve made this recipe super easy.  It is quick and delicious!  Enjoy!  Comment below with your own adaptations. #whoneedstakeout 🙂

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Steak & Brown Rice Bowl

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

A clean, flavorful, and simple take on take-out.

FOR RICE BOWL

  • brown rice, and 1/2 cup dry per person
  • lean steak, about a 1/4-1/2 lb per person, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup frozen edamame
  • 1/2 can bean sprouts

FOR THE GINGER SOY SAUCE:

  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp ginger (I used powder, you can use fresh if you have it on hand)
  • 1 tsp green onions, diced
  • 1/2 tsp sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Cook rice according to package directions.  I added a tsp of apple cider vinegar and garlic salt to add flavor, but this is optional.  When finished, set aside.
  2. Preheat grill pan to medium. drizzle steak strips in EVOO and grill 2-3 min per side, sprinkling with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Heat corn and edamame in a microwave safe bowl with 3 tbsp water for approx. 2 min, though cooking times vary.
  4. Combine all ingredients for sauce and whisk together.
  5. Spoon a serving of rice, a scoop of corn and edamame, and a spoon-full of bean sprouts in a bowl.  Top with slices of steak.  Drizzle with sauce.

Easy-peasy and nummy-nummy. Please let me know if you give it a try and if you swap out any ingredient.  Shrimp would be delicious!

Cinnamon Banana French Toast Bake

In middle school, I had an Elmo lunch box.  I wasn’t the only one, though; kiddie characters were all the rage.  Middle schoolers in the 90s were odd like that. We passed notes in friendship notebooks, read YM magazine, wore plastic butterfly hair clips–the glitterier the better–and carried our lunches in children’s fabric lunch boxes.  We were all dressed in clothes from Delia’s and obsessed with BSB or N’Sync.  Above all else, we were all pretty predictable.

And every day that I went to school dressed like Topanga and opened that Elmo case I uncovered the same lunch: peanut butter and banana on cinnamon-swirl bread, an apple, a cookie or two, a drink, and a napkin with a handwritten note from my mom that I tried to hide from my tablemates.  I was a creature of habit; I loved it.  This lunch routine lasted for years–far beyond the coolness faded on my Sesame Street lunch box and Justin Timberlake’s rise to solo stardom took off once he outgrew those blonde tips.  I asked my best friend, Lindsey, just a few weeks ago what I ate for lunch every day growing up.  She recalled it perfectly.  Then, we jammed to “That Boy is Mine” just for old-time’s sake.

When I became pregnant with my second child, Paxton, I seemed to crave all snacks from my childhood: Poptarts, apples with peanut butter, cream cheese on crackers, and, most of all, PB and banana on cinnamon swirl bread.  For the last three years, beyond my pregnancy cravings, I’d continued to indulge on this sandwich and have passed my love for it onto my children.  This combo doesn’t quite fit into my clean-eating goals, though.  I’ve replaced many of the ingredients for healthier alternatives and am just as happy.  I’ll now toast a slice of Ezekiel bread, spread it with all-natural peanut butter or almond butter, and top that with half a banana.  It is a filling and healthful breakfast.

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I woke up this morning, Valentine’s Day, wishing to make a yummy and warm breakfast for my family, but with one problem: I hadn’t planned for this.  I spend Saturday night meal planning and my husband spends Sunday morning at the grocery store, so I woke this morning with only a few fresh ingredients.  That is when the lunch of my youth, my favorite sandwich and now favorite of my kids as well, came to mind.  All week I’ve been researching recipes and ideas for incorporating eggs into my diet–I HATE eggs–and received so many suggestions on my Facebook page that I decided to combine some of these ideas with something I know I love.  Hence, this breakfast was born.

All I had in the freezer was flax seed Ezekiel bread, so that would have to do.  I fit a few whole and a few broken pieces into a heart-shaped pie dish I have had for years and never used, added plenty of banana and cinnamon, and smothered it in scrambled eggs.  The end result was pretty good, but better for the egg lovers in my house than it was for me.  As it sat and settled for a while and the bread became crispier, I discovered that I, too, loved it after I picked off and devoured the entire top layer. Either way–piping hot and out of the oven or after an hour and a little stale–this is one to try on a cold winter morning when you want a taste of home.

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  • 6 slices Ezekiel bread, frozen
  • 2 bananas, sliced into coins
  • 2 tbsp. cinnamon, divided
  • 4 whole eggs, 4 egg whites, scrambled
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup natural almond butter, warmed in the microwave for 30 seconds.
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a pie dish with non-stick cooking spray (I used coconut oil).
  2. Line the dish with three slices of Ezekiel bread, breaking up and fitting together as necessary to cover most of the dish.  (Today, I used flax seed bread, but any kind would work.  Cinnamon raisin would probably be divine.)
  3. Layer bread with banana coins and sprinkle with one tbsp. cinnamon.  Repeat with a second layer of bread and the remainder of the banana and cinnamon.
  4. In a mixing bowl, scramble together the eggs, egg whites, almond milk, and extract. Pour evenly over the bread.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes uncovered and then 15 minutes covered with foil.
  6. Plate individual servings and drizzle with warmed almond butter. Enjoy!

Of course, this is just as yummy with syrup or even drizzled with honey instead. Let me know your favorite egg or French toast recipes below, or how you altered this one to your liking.  I am always looking for new ideas! Feel free to also share your middle school memories.  Those are always fun!

Happy Valentine’s Day! XoXo

 

Lick-the-spoon Protein Cookies…and a Salad

I’ve missed cookies.  Cookies and ice cream are my two biggest weaknesses.  Since I’ve started drinking Shakeology every day, I no longer miss having a bowl of ice cream.  I have found so many recipe ideas online and just by playing around that I pretty much start each day with a chocolate or coffee milkshake.  This shake, though, is full of super foods and vitamins and the protein my body needs to burn fat, build muscle, and feel properly full.  But I’ve missed cookies. IMG_6953

Thank heavens for Pinterest and Facebook.  Between these two sources, I’ve found various recipes for energy bites and clean cookies that I am starting to satisfy these cravings with healthful, whole snacks.  Yesterday, I stumbled upon my favorite yet while mixing ideas from a few other recipes–and a faulty ingredient leftover from the weekend.

I am calling these Lick-the-Spoon Protein Cookies because you will do just that: lick the spoon clean after you finish portioning them on your cookie sheet.  They are eggless, so the batter is safe to eat raw, and they are gluten free if you use the right kind of old fashioned rolled oats. Plus, these took maybe two or three minutes to prepare.   Combine that with a 15 minute bake time, and I was munching on a few in less than 25 minutes.

What inspired the cookie creating?  I am currently running a Clean Eating Accountability group on Facebook and am on the lookout for some clean snacks to share with the ladies and one gentleman participating.  I found a basic recipe for banana oatmeal cookies that seemed simple and yummy enough alone, but the recipe lacked protein.  I have found protein to be so beneficial to my overall health and fitness that I wanted to make the cookies more worthwhile for me, my goals, and my participants.  Plus, I had just finished eating the most delicious and clean citrus chicken salad that I knew I could afford a cookie or two–the right cookie, anyway.

To up the protein ante, I added two ingredients: raw homemade almond butter and a little bit of chocolate Shakeology.  The almond butter addition came out of my desire to really live a clean lifestyle.  I attempted to grind down a cup of almonds for a Super Bowl Sunday snack, and my first attempt didn’t go well.  Instead of turning into a crumbly topping like I envisioned, the almonds became moist, dense, and chunky in my Nutribullet.  I succeeded on a second cup of almonds by using my blender instead, but the initial serving of almond “buttery” something just sat on my counter unused.  When I was mixing together the ingredients for the cookies and took a jar of almond butter out of my fridge, I remembered the forgotten blend from the day before and used that instead.  This added a crunch to some of the cookies as well, which I am not complaining about.

I added the Shakeology, and just a little bit, to add a chocolate flavor and some more health benefits, but this step can easily be left out or even subbed for cocoa powder if you aren’t interested in additional protein.

I’ll get to the actual recipe in a minute, but first, you have to earn it.  Here is the recipe for my clean citrus chicken salad.  I combined ingredients from various meals from the week to create an unplanned, accidental, delicious lunch that I cannot wait to have again today.

CLEAN CITRUS CHICKEN SALAD INGREDIENTS

I combined all ingredients in a bowl and enjoyed every bite.  This didn’t need any dressing, but if you find it to be dry, squeeze the juice out of one of the orange segments.  Keep it clean and light. 🙂  This salad will make you feel like you are vacationing in California–something my parents are currently doing–which this Jersey girl appreciated on a gray February afternoon.

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Drum roll, please. It’s cookie time.

Lick-the-spoon Protein Cookies

  • Servings: 12-18
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cookies so good, you'll forget they are healthy!

Ingredients

  • 2 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup organic old-fashioned rolled oats, certified gluten free if necessary
  • 2 tbsp. almond butter
  • 1 tbsp. chocolate Shakeology
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (I used dark mini chips)

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Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray  (I used coconut oil spray and the aroma is to-die-for and also vacation-like!).
  2. Combine the bananas (I mashed mine with a fork), oats, and almond butter until smooth.  If you are adding the Shakeology or cocoa powder, combine that now as well.
  3. Fold in the chocolate chips.  Spoon even rounds onto the cookie sheet.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until firm.  Allow to cool for one minute on the cookie sheet and then for 3 minutes on a cooling rack.
  4. Store in an air-tight container in your fridge–if you have any leftovers!

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This is an easy and yummy dessert that even your kids can enjoy.  A cookie without butter and eggs isIMG_6957 my new favorite kind of cookie.  Share your thoughts below or of any changes you made to the recipes.  Cooking and baking should allow for creativity.  Have confidence to play around with recipes and you will find true joy in the kitchen!
If you do not want to make your own almond butter, I have found this brand works very well for baking, for my Shakeology, on apples, and on Ezekiel toast.  It does have a rather nutty flavor, but it spreads well and doesn’t separate.  

If you like this recipe and want more healthy lunch and snack ideas, join my next FREE 5-day clean eating challenge!

 

One-Skillet Weeknight Chicken

Made one of the easiest meals I’ve managed to cook last night!  My husband was working late and I had a special shrimp meal planned that he loves but it does not reheat well. I knew I would make that once he got home for the two of us, but I needed something quick for the kids.  I had planned on making this while the kids were at school to have as grab-and-go lunches, but in a pinch it made the switch to dinner. This dish was a victory all around! My kids loved it, it was clean and nutritious, and it all happened in one skillet.  This recipe also yielded plenty of leftovers that I plan to eat over baby spinach for my 21 Day Fix lunches this week.

I am going to keep the monologue to a minimum with this post.  The meal is simple; the blog should be as well.  Here goes!

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INGREDIENTS

  • Two tomatoes (I used tomatoes-on-the-vine) chopped, ribs discarded
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 lb lean ground chicken
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut in thin spheres
  • 1 medium yellow squash, cut in thin spheres
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium organic chicken broth
  1. Chop tomatoes and place in a bowl.  Top with one tablespoon EVOO, sea salt, and basil leaves.  Stir to combine.  Set aside.
  2. Heat remaining tablespoon EVOO over medium heat in the bottom of a deep skillet. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
  3. Add the ground chicken and cook until brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go. Once browned, add the zucchini, squash and chicken broth, stirring to combine. Add tomato mixture, toss once more, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover, and allow the juices to combine for approximately 5 minutes.  Then serve over greens or as-is.

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This dish has basic, fresh flavors, but could easily be doctored for your family’s preferences.  You could add chili powder or cayenne pepper for some kick or even add eggplant to make it even more hearty. I sprinkled it with part-skim shredded mozz when I served it to my kids.  Let me know in the comments how you made this your own. 🙂

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Baked Chicken ala Yummy

I have a confession to make: I love chicken. That’s right, folks.  I am obsessed. This may seem like no big deal to you, but up until about a month ago I would have told you I don’t eat chicken.  I have never had the taste for it–unless if was processed and formed into a nugget and half-eaten by one of my kids and I snatched it up before scraping it into the garbage disposal.  When I’d make chicken parm for my family, I’d make eggplant for myself.  Chicken or fish at a wedding?  Fish, please.  This all changed at the start of 2016.

I am currently 2 1/2 weeks into an online fitness boot camp in an attempt to do the dreaded “lose the baby weight” thing.  I love working out and I love eating fruits and veggies, but I’ve also let being a mom–especially a working mom–break so many of my disciplined habits.  I became a perpetual snacker who hardly ate real meals, a woman who felt guilty leaving the house for even a 20 minute run, and a person who heard the slightest child-whine or baby-cry in the distance and immediately turned off any workout DVD I had managed to begin. Yes, I would have still considered myself fit and healthy, but I wasn’t as fit and healthy or happy as I could have been. I’d play outside with my kids and run with them in my double-jogger and enlist them to help me blend my morning green smoothie.  But, I was often tired. I lost my patience rather easily. I resented my husband’s longer hours at work. I was pretty normal.

This boot camp is changing all of that.  It allows me to find accountability, motivation, and mindfulness through a group of women all embarking on a virtual fitness journey.  It encourages me to workout and to invite others to join me, like my husband, sister-in-law, and my kids.  It inspires me to pay attention to my eating and to really make the most of it by eating clean.  I have lost 3 1/2 pounds since I started the boot camp, and I attribute this to a combination of regular workouts, a true support system, and smarter eating.

What does this have to do with chicken?  Just about everything.  My online fitness coach helped me realize that I was lacking protein in most of my meals. This caused me to feel hungry, to be sluggish, and to crave sweets. As I did my own research on foods rich in protein and lower in fat, chicken repeatedly appeared.  Turkey, beans, lentils, nonfat plain Greek yogurt–these were already favorites of mine.  But chicken? Bleh. I sucked it up, though, and found that when stripped down and incorporated into healthful, clean recipes, chicken may be my new favorite thing.  Need proof?  I am lunching on crock pot salsa chicken over mixed greens and avocado right now.

I am now a meal-eater.  My husband and I were revealing in that fact last night. I have nearly cleaned my plate at every meal since January 4th when this began.  I know my metabolism is revved up, but I am also not filling myself with needless snacks. I am incorporating protein in every meal as well, which keeps me fuller longer and helps my body break down the fats and carbs I do consume.  Last night’s dinner–which I am calling Baked Chicken ala Yummy–was a perfect example of all of my new habits coming together. I ate chicken. I finished my meal. I woke up still full. 🙂

In full disclosure, this is an old recipe I happened upon years ago, maybe from a cooking show or online, that I tweaked to make my own.  I hadn’t cooked in ages, though. When Mom doesn’t want to eat chicken, Mom hardly cooks chicken.  Perhaps the best part of this dish is just how yummy your house smells while you bake it, hence the name.

I served this with a side of zucchini spaghetti, so I’ll include those directions as well.

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Baked Chicken ala Yummy

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A tasty, simple chicken dinner the whole family can enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut thin (or 4 cutlets)
  • 1 slice nitrate free turkey bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, thinly slice
  • 1 tomato on the vine, diced
  • 1/3 cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lemon for juicing, halved.
  • 1 large zucchini, spiraled into spaghetti (I use the Veggetti)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray the bottom of a large baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. Place the 4 cutlets into your baking dish. Top with bacon, tomato, and garlic slices.  Sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Squeeze the juice of one-half of the lemon over the chicken.
  3. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes uncovered, then cover with foil for another 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and your home smells good enough to eat.
  4. During the second phase of baking, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add zucchini spaghetti and boil for 6-8 minutes, depending on the consistency you prefer.  Drain, and top with the juice of the other half of the lemon.
  5. Serve warm.  Enjoy!

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You can play around with this recipe in countless ways: use traditional bacon, eliminate the lemon juice and drizzle everything with olive oil, add onion as well, you name it!  Before I was eating clean and trying to avoid as many processed foods as possible, I would serve this with a side of pre-packaged mashed potatoes or refrigerated crescent rolls or something of that sort. I have really been able to eliminate much of these types of foods and feel less bloated and overall much healthier. Give it a try and I am sure you will have similar benefits.

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Please comment below with ways you made this recipe your own! Happy cooking!

Grilled Pork Chops with Caramelized Pears & Onion

I am having the most exhilarating day. The baby slept well. My “big kids” stayed in their beds until morning. I started today with my sun salutation.  Baby Boy and I ventured to Target and I had a non-fat vanilla latte from Starbucks. Now, I’m writing while listening to The Killer’s Sam’s Town album. And I’ll continue this happy feeling with a good total body HIIT workout and delicious lunch when I finish this post. But what I must also contribute to this day’s bliss happened last night: I made a yummy, easy, clean dinner.

Growing up, my younger brother often joked that I was a “fruitarian,” as I rarely ate much else. I’ve expanded my palate since childhood, but fruit remains a staple in my diet. That’s why this dinner is one of my favorites.  I am sure there are countless recipes for pork chops with or without onions and pears, but I make a stripped-down version that is simple to throw together in a pinch that also contains lots of protein and fiber, healthy fats, and a slew of potassium while being low in sodium.

I recently purchased a fruit and veggie wash that I used on the pear.  It only takes a few spritzes before you would do the normal washing of the fruit.  This rinses away the dirt and chemicals that may linger.  The pears I cooked with were not organic, so the spray gives me peace of mind, if nothing else.  Plus, pears always look dingy to me regardless of how delicious they are inside!

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Before I threw together this recipe, I had never eaten a pork chop in my life.  After having my daughter five years ago, though, I was tired of pretty much making two dinners each night–one that would satisfy my husband’s food loves and one that satisfied mine.  We were both stuck with the staples of our childhoods and the fear of what we convinced ourselves we did not like.  Having a baby and being a working mom gently nudged me towards more adventurous eating, and that meant trying pork. Serving it with my all-time fave, fruit, was the perfect first step.  Give this recipe a try–even if your house isn’t full of pork lovers.  The flavorful combination of the onions and pears enhances the “other white meat.”  It sure worked for me.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups brown rice
  • 4 pork chops, the thinner and leaner the better
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • black pepper, to taste
  • garlic salt, to taste
  • 2 pears, sliced 1/4-inch thick (I used 2 green D’Anjou pears as the hold up well.)**
  • 1/2 Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
  1. Prepare the brown rice according to package directions.
  2. Heat 2 tbsp. EVOO in a non-stick pan. Add onions and pears, tossing frequently. Cook over medium heat for 5 min., then lower the heat to low for another five or until both take on a caramelized brown color at the edges.
  3. Coat the pork chops with EVOO and season to taste with black pepper and garlic salt. Grill 3-4 min. per side, depending on thickness.
  4. Plate rice, then top with a chop and the onions and pears. Serve immediately.

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You could easily trade out EVOO for the oil of your choice and use regular salt instead of the garlic salt.  We enjoy the simple flavor each provides.  If brown rice is bland for you, try preparing it in a low-sodium chicken or veggie broth for some added flavor. This recipe is quite basic, so you can easily make it your own.  Let me know how you enjoyed it, or if you have any changes you found work.

**Don’t have pears on hand?  I’ve made this with apples and it is equally yummy!

Quinoa Veggie Soup

I love soup. The funny thing is, I didn’t realize how much I love soup until I started raising a family.  Soups are hearty, easy meals or sides or bases for bigger dishes. Plus, homemade soups often translate into a busy mom’s favorite word: leftovers.

I can make a pot of soup on Sunday and have a dinner accompaniment for a few nights. I can knock out a quick soup for dinner and be sure my kids have hot thermoses ready for school lunch. Soup reheats easily and seems to grow its flavors the longer it sits.  What’s not to love?

As I embark on this clean journey and my husband even embraces our fresh-food lifestyle, I have had to let go of an old stand by.  You all know what I am talking about: canned soup.  While my pantry isn’t bare of it entirely, I am working my way to a canned-soup free home.  This easy recipe will make that a possibility.

My husband shuttered when I first said “quinoa” as if I used a four-letter word during a family game of Frozen Trouble. I assure you, though, any person who has enjoyed a barley soup in his or her lifetime will enjoy this soup.  It is flavorful, filling, and full of nutrients–and my five-year old daughter returns from kindergarten with an empty Hello Kitty thermos!

This recipe can easily be adapted to fit a vegetarian diet by substituting veggie broth for the chicken broth, and you can easily doctor it up with grilled chicken breast or tofu for even more protein.

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Quinoa Veggie Soup with grilled chicken and sauteed spinach

INGREDIENTS

4 cups organic low sodium chicken broth, plus an additional cup for reheating**

1 cup dry quinoa (I upped the ante and used Super Grains from Whole Food’s 365 brand)

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 small tomatoes, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 pinch red pepper flakes (to taste)

2 handfuls of fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped

1/2 cup organic cannellini beans – no salt added

In a medium sauce pan, add the broth and quinoa.  (If your quinoa requires a pre-rinse, be sure you do that as well!)  Bring to a boil, then add the next four ingredients. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 15-20 min, or according to the quinoa directions.  During the last five minutes, slowly add in the spinach. Drain the beans and add those when the quinoa is cooked through.  Serve immediately.

**Quinoa absorbs liquid as it sits.  I keep an additional cup or so of broth on hand in case I need to add it to the soup when reheating leftovers.  Water will work as well, but it will dilute the overall flavor.

This soup alone is packed with protein, but it can be used as a side for grilled chicken or even grilled fish. Share in the comments below how you have played around with the recipe.