Tag Archive | Low-Calorie

Paleo Baked Spaghetti

I’ll admit that I go through food phases.  For a while I was all about grilling chicken thighs and I’m pretty sure I ate that every day for lunch and sometimes dinner for a good couple of months.  In the winter I get on a comfort food kick and make meatloaf, chili, and stew every week (or so it seems).  As the season changes from winter to spring and back to winter again because Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind in Indiana, I find myself wanting spaghetti (or maybe its simply because my race season has started and I always want spaghetti when I’m running.)  Either way – I’ve been playing around with using spaghetti squash, zucchini, and yellow squash as my noodles.  But all in all, it is the same variation of the same thing – squash noodles and sauce on top.  Then my friend sent me a link for baked pizza spaghetti  pie.  I thought I could do something like this but make it more like baked spaghetti and less like pizza plus add in my own favorite things.  It makes a ton and I plan on eating it for lunch every day this week so I suppose I’ll share the rest with my husband so it won’t go to waste.  Enjoy!

Lunch for the week!  Totally customizable for your specific taste buds too!

Lunch for the week! Totally customizable for your specific taste buds too!

Ingredients
1 large (or 2 small) spaghetti squash
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 cup mushrooms (your choice of kid), sliced
1 small can black olives, sliced
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 cup – spaghetti sauce (no sugar added, I used Classico)
4 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8×8 glass baking dish, or I used a 2 quart dish which is a 7×11, either one will do, and set aside.
2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and threading.  Place spaghetti squash cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the skin of the squash gives when you press on it.
3.  Using a fork, shred the squash into a large bowl and set aside.
4.  Place a large pan over medium heat. Add ground beef, bell pepper, mushrooms, and onion. Cook until pink no longer remains in the beef and it is broken up into pieces.  Add in olives and mix together.
5.  Combine the beef mixture with the spaghetti squash in the bowl.  Add 1 cup of spaghetti sauce, salt and pepper.  Finally, add whisked eggs to the baking dish and mix everything together until you can no longer see the eggs.
6.  Evenly distribute the mixture into your baking dish and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour until a slight crust forms on top of your baked spaghetti.  Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving.

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Toasted Coconut and Almonds

So today was the last day of ISTEP+ (or at least the first round of them) and I was looking to indulge a bit.  Yes, some days I can be an emotional eater.  I was looking forward to the rest of my fruit salad but with a whole lot of coconut whipped cream on top (more whipped cream and less fruit if you know what I mean).  But the whipped cream alone just wasn’t going to cut it tonight.  I wanted something more.  So I pulled some staples from my pantry and made a delicious topping for my whipped cream that tastes oh so sinful but it’s really not that bad for you at all.  I got this recipe from my friend, Z.  You can find the original recipe here.  It is so simple and it really takes your dessert to that next level.  Enjoy!

Ingredients
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
Directions
1. Mix the salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
2. Heat a frying pan over high heat, add the coconut flakes in a single layer.  Keep an eye on them because they toast quickly!
3. Once the flakes are lightly toasted, put them in the bowl with the salt and cinnamon mixture and toss until coated.
4. Next put the almonds in the pan and toast until slightly brown – again keep a close eye on them because they also toast quickly!
5. Add the toasted almonds to the coconut flake mixture and toss.
6. Allow to cool, then store.
This picture was taken a while ago but by the time I thought about it, I had already eaten my entire dessert.  You get the idea though!

This picture was taken a while ago but by the time I thought about it, I had already eaten my entire dessert. You get the idea though!

On a Budget (and coconut whipped cream)

I’m a huge proponent of eating clean (when you can) and staying on a budget.  Let’s face it, eating healthy can be expensive.  Produce isn’t always cheap and because it can go bad, you are always stocking up your fridge for the week.  The key to saving money is finding the produce that is on sale and buying that for the week.  I used to just buy whatever I wanted for each week but when my grocery bills were exceeding $100 (for just 2 people), I was thinking my spending was getting out of hand.  PLUS, I was throwing some stuff away because I just couldn’t eat it fast enough.  Now that I’ve eliminated a bunch of things from my nutrition like dairy, legumes, and gluten (not for the trend but for health reasons), I find I’m able to eat more produce because I don’t have as many choices to choose from.

Anyway – Kroger was having this great sale on produce: Pineapples – $1.00, Strawberry Papayas – 2 for $5.00, 5-lb. bag Blood Oranges – $2.99, and Raspberries 2 pints – $5.00.  I also picked up a package of pre-sliced mangos for $4.99 (that wasn’t really bargain shopping but I LOVE mangoes and they were really ripe this week so I couldn’t pass it up).  So I picked up all of these things, took them home, chopped them up into bit-sized pieces and made myself this super delicious tropical fruit salad.  To take this fruit salad to the next level, I whipped up some super easy coconut whipped cream.  Yes – you really can make whipped cream from canned coconut milk.  It just takes a little bit of planning and a few minutes and you are all set.

Ingredients
1 can coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon powdered sugar (optional – if you like it to be a tad sweeter)

Directions
1. Place a metal mixing bowl in the freezer for at least 1 hour.  Place your coconut milk in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight if you really like to plan ahead.  This ensures that the cream separates from the liquid.

2. Separate the solid cream from the liquid.  Save the liquid for later or pour over your fruit salad to act as a liquid.  In your metal mixing bowl, add the solid coconut cream and vanilla extract (and powdered sugar if you are using it).  Mix with an electric mixer on high for 1-2 minutes or until thoroughly mixed through and it has a creamy consistency.

3. Add a huge dollop to your fruit salad and enjoy!

A delicious and guilt-free treat!

A delicious and guilt-free treat and on a budget too!

The actual fruit salad ingredients with their prices
1 small pineapple – $1.00
2 strawberry papayas – $5.00
1 container pre-sliced mangos – $4.99
1 pint raspberries – $2.50
2 blood oranges – $.74 (8 oranges for $2.99 = $0.37 an orange)
1 can coconut milk – $2.89
Total – $17.12
Makes about 10 servings (perfect for breakfast and lunch sides) = $1.71 per serving

Just in Time for Valentine’s Day: Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Let’s face it – chocolate covered strawberries can be expensive.  You order a bouquet from Edible Arrangements and you’re looking at a minimum of $29.oo for 1 dozen strawberries.  $29.00?!  WTF!  And that is just for the strawberries and the box it comes in, it doesn’t include delivery charges.  If you want them to be delivered, tack on an extra $12.00.  So one dozen strawberries covered in chocolate (no sprinkles) will cost you an upwards of $40.00 when everything is all said and done.  If you buy them from the bakery aisle at the grocery store, 1 single strawberry can cost you almost $2.00 a strawberry, or $5.99 for a 4 count with your Kroger Shopper Reward Card.  Anyway you look at it, for a dozen chocolate covered strawberries you are still spending around $20.00.  Ridiculous if you ask me.

There is a simple budget friendly solution.  Make them yourself.  Even making an allergy-friendly version of these decadent treats are cheaper than buying them already made.  Today, this very minute, Kroger has 16 oz. containers of strawberries 2 for $4.00.  So you can potentially get 24+ strawberries for $4.00.  In addition to the strawberries, all you need is 1 package of Enjoy Life chocolate chips.  These cost anywhere from $4.59 – $4.99 depending on where you shop.  Sometimes you can get a really good buy 1 get 1 free deal from Earth Fare or $3.99 at Kroger when they are on sale.  I tend to stock up when I can so I always have a bag on hand.  Then you need a splash of whatever milk or milk substitute you drink at home.  I drink unsweetened almond milk, but soy milk can work just fine and if you don’t have a dairy allergy – regular chocolate chips and milk work fine too.

Really – that’s all you need.  $9.00 and a little bit of time and you’ve got yourself the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert, surprise, gift, etc.

Ingredients
1-2 16 oz. containers (depending on how many strawberries you want)
1 bag Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
Splash of Almond Milk (I used unsweetened vanilla but you can use whatever you have on hand)
Parchment Paper to prevent sticking

Directions

  1. Wash strawberries and pat dry, remember to leave stems as they allow easy gripping for dipping into the chocolate.
  2. Place 2 cups of water in a pot and top with a glass bowl.
  3. On medium high heat, add all of the chocolate chips to the glass bowl.  Stir gently with a spatula until chocolate is smooth.  You can add your almond milk at this time until you get achieve your desired thickness.  I found the Enjoy Life chips tend to have a thicker consistency when they are melted than regular chocolate chips.
  4. Remove the chocolate from the heat to avoid burning (no one wants burnt chocolate for Valentine’s Day).  Dip the strawberries into the chocolate and place onto your parchment paper.
  5. Allow them to cool for 45 minutes.  The strawberries will get a nice hard shell.
  6. The strawberries will keep for 3 days covered in the refrigerator.
Row upon row of chocolate-y strawberry goodness and for under $10!

Row upon row of chocolatey strawberry goodness and for under $10!

Tom Yam Gung (Shrimp and Lemongrass Soup)

Do you ever have those days where you simply crave something from your childhood?  That is exactly what happened to me.  Most of the time people crave some type of comfort food like mom’s mac & cheese or meatloaf or even an apple pie.  But today, that wasn’t the case.  Today I was seriously craving something Asian and not your average run of the mill Chinese takeout (which is completely Americanized).  I wasn’t something that you really can’t get at a restaurant.  You can only get it from someone’s house who knows how to cook authentic Asian cuisine.  Since my mom lives in Pennsylvania and I live in Indiana, my only solution was to call her up on the phone, ask her what I needed, and take a trip to the local Asia Mart.

The freshness from the lemongrass make this probably one of the most popular Thai soups out there.  And if you really want to eat it authentically, you pour a little on your jasmine rice as flavoring.  But if you don’t eat grains, you can eat a big bowl of this broth-y soup either with your meal or as a light meal by itself.  Due to the pungent flavor of the lime leaves and lemongrass, this soup is perfect for all seasons.  It’s a refreshing summer soup but since it’s hot it makes a great winter treat too!  I’ve made it with shrimp but my mom said you can also make it with chicken if you’d prefer.

For any of you who do Whole30 or follow the Paleo diet, I’ve made sure that this recipe is 100% compliant.  Enjoy!

Serves 4

Ingredients
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
4-inch piece of tender lemongrass, roughly chopped (you don’t want to eat this)
1-2 limes, freshly squeezed to taste
6 tablespoons fish sauce (I use Red Boat which doesn’t have sugar)
1-2 small fresh red or green chilies, roughly chopped (optional – I don’t like the heat so I don’t use them)
16 straw mushrooms, cut in half (canned mushrooms will do)
1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Directions
1. In a pot, heat the stock and add the lime leaves, lemongrass, fresh lime juice, fish sauce, and chilies (if you are using them).  At this point I would taste the broth to determine if it has enough lemon/lime flavor to the broth.  If not – add more lime juice.   Bring it to a boil and simmer for two minutes.  Stir in the mushrooms and shrimp and cook for a further two to three minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through.  Be sure not to overcook your shrimp!

2. Pour into soup bowls and serve.

A little taste of home

A little taste of home

Coconut Water Review

Anything coconut is all the rage these days.  As I’m sure most of you know, coconut water has many health benefits.  The first thing (which is the sole reason I tried drinking it in the first place) is that it is filled with natural electrolytes.  It is a great way to replenish your electrolytes after an intense workout without any added sugar, preservatives, or ingredients you can’t pronounce.  It is all-natural and who doesn’t like that?  Drinks that are filled with natural electrolytes, like coconut water, are a great way to help lower your blood pressure.  For all of you people out there who watch your carb intake, it has low sugar and carbohydrate levels.  Plus it helps promote healthy skin, fat loss, and weight loss.  If those aren’t reasons to start drinking coconut water, I’m not sure what is.

Naturally, I went out and started buying up coconut water.  Who knew that there were so many coconut water options out there?  I certainly didn’t!  I’m not going to lie, the first time I took a swig of the cold, refreshing drink I about spit it out all over the place.  NASTY!  Eventually, I branched out a tried other brands.  Some are better than others and I haven’t tried them all, but here is what I’ve found.

Brand - Zico Retailer - Walmart Price - $1.89  Taste - Horrific This was by far the WORST tasting coconut water I've ever had.  Too bad for me I bought 4 bottles of it because it was cheap.  It has a funny flavor and it is not refreshing in the slightest.  I do not recommend it.

Brand – Zico
Retailer – Walmart
Price – $1.89
Taste – Horrific
This was by far the WORST tasting coconut water I’ve ever had. Too bad for me I bought 4 bottles of it because it was cheap. It has a funny flavor and it is not refreshing in the slightest. I do not recommend it.

Brand - O.N.E Retailer - Walmart Price - $1.99 Taste - Okay I found this brand to be a bit bland.  It was okay and for the price, I was hoping for something better.  I will say it was a step above Zico, but you get less in this juice box style drink.

Brand – O.N.E
Retailer – Walmart
Price – $1.99
Taste – Okay
I found this brand to be a bit bland. It was okay and for the price, I was hoping for something better. I will say it was a step above Zico, but you get less in this juice box style drink.

Brand - Earth Fare Retailer - Earth Fare Price - On Sale $1.00 Taste - Pretty Good Out of all the plain coconut water I've tasted, this was the best.  I actually like it pretty well and the fact I got it on sale for a $1.00 was an added bonus (especially since I bought 5 cans).  There are 2 servings per can but at 110 calories, I think it's pretty worth it.

Brand – Earth Fare
Retailer – Earth Fare
Price – On Sale $1.00
Taste – Pretty Good
Out of all the plain coconut water I’ve tasted, this was the best. I actually like it pretty well and the fact I got it on sale for a $1.00 was an added bonus (especially since I bought 5 cans). There are 2 servings per can but at 110 calories, I think it’s pretty worth it.

Brand - Coco Retailer - Earth Fare Price - $1.99 Taste - Sweet and Refreshing I found this brand while perusing the aisles of Earth Fare.  It is gogi berry and lychee flavored which added to the overall light and refreshing taste.  However, it does have pulp in it so after I got over the shock of slimy pieces of clear stuff floating around in my water, I thought it was pretty good.  If you are not down with the pulp, I'd pass on this one.

Brand – alo Coco
Retailer – Earth Fare
Price – $1.99
Taste – Sweet and Refreshing
I found this brand while perusing the aisles of Earth Fare. It is gogi berry and lychee flavored which added to the overall light and refreshing taste. However, it does have pulp in it so after I got over the shock of slimy pieces of clear stuff floating around in my water, I thought it was pretty good. If you are not down with the pulp, I’d pass on this one.

 

Brand - Vita Coco Retailer - Walmart Price - $1.99 Taste - SO GOOD! This is by far my favorite flavor of this brand, probably because it is tropical and it makes me feel like I should be sipping it out of an actual coconut, kicking my feet up, and catching some rays - not finishing up an 8-mile run.  The bottle is a bit larger and so you have to pour it out in a cup otherwise end up drinking more than 2 servings (which I end up doing anyway).

Brand – Vita Coco
Retailer – Walmart
Price – $2.79
Taste – SO GOOD!
This is by far my favorite flavor of this brand, probably because it is tropical and it makes me feel like I should be sipping it out of an actual coconut, kicking my feet up, and catching some rays – not finishing up an 8-mile run. The bottle is a bit larger and so you have to pour it out in a cup otherwise end up drinking more than 2 servings (which I end up doing anyway).

So now you know – if you know of other brands please feel free to add to the comment box.  I’d love to know what brand you love (or hate).   If you’ve never tried coconut water before, I challenge you to go ahead and give it a try.  Your body will thank you for it!

Grilled Chicken and Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

As you probably are aware by now, I’m totally gluten-free and dairy-free.  I’m going on roughly a month and a half and I feel awesome.  I am sleeping through the night, I have energy throughout the day, and I literally have ZERO cravings for candy, chocolate, cookies, and the like.  It’s really crazy because I used to be the Queen of Cupcakes.  Last summer, I literally went to Gigi’s Cupcakes every week and probably tried everything on their menu at least twice.  They knew me by name.  During the school year, I couldn’t make it a day without popping one if not two Lindt chocolate truffles into my mouth by lunch time and who knows how many after that.  I had a secret stash in my desk that my students kept replenishing around Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Teacher Appreciation Week.  But since I began eating clean, the cravings for these things have vanished.  Sure I smell a donut and think to myself, “Man, that sure does smell good.”  But then I remember how it made me feel and it just totally isn’t worth it.

But anyway, you aren’t here to read about my vanishing cravings, you are here to get a yummy recipe.  I promise I shall not disappoint!  As I was mentioning earlier, I have been on this clean-eating thing since July 1.  The only major thing that I’ve noticed is that I have to do a lot more cooking which means a lot more weekend prepping.  But let me reassure you that a few hours spent in the kitchen on Saturday or Sunday is well worth it mid-week when you are running late from work, you have to run the kids to and from practice, and you still need to get to the gym.  Dinner can literally be done in under 20 minutes if you do all the prepping beforehand.  Such is the case with this cauliflower fried “rice”.

On Saturday, I took an entire head of cauliflower and trimmed the florets away from the stems.  I put the florets in the food processor and pulsed them about 10-15 times until the cauliflower resembled pieces of rice.  It took me about 3 batches because I didn’t want to end up with mashed cauliflower.  Mashed cauliflower fried rice sounds nasty.  I put it all in a tupperware on Saturday and didn’t think about it again until Monday night.

Fast forward to Monday night.  I get home from school around 4 PM, my husband is still working, expense report needs to be done, and I need to balance the checkbook.  It is now 5:15PM.  I have to get my run in for the day and the dog needs to get walked.  Fast forward to 7 PM.  My husband is finishing up mowing the lawn and I’m getting ready to prep dinner.  Literally this meal is ready from start to finish in 20 minutes and that includes prep time.

The first thing you need to do is heat up the grill for about 10 minutes.  While that is going on, take 2.5 pounds of boneless, skinless, chicken thighs.  Place the chicken on a large baking sheet or platter smooth side up.  Then brush each chicken thigh with olive oil and generously sprinkled each one with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a touch of sweet paprika.  Then flip them over and repeat on the other side.

I like to put foil down for easy cleanup!

I like to put foil down for easy cleanup!

Set those aside.  Go to the refrigerator and take out the cauliflower you prepped a few days earlier and pop it into the microwave for roughly 2-4 minutes so it’s slightly heated through.  Trust me, you want to do this.  In a large saute pan, heat a teaspoon of coconut oil (olive oil works if you don’t have coconut oil).  Add 1/2 of a chopped onion to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent.  Add to the pan 1/2 chopped zucchini.  (At this point in time, go ahead and put your chicken on the grill)  Turn up the heat on your saute pan to high, add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and let it melt.  Add all of your cauliflower and stir, stir, stir.  To that, while you are stirring, add 2 tablespoons of coconut aminos and some salt.  Keep stirring for about 3 minutes.  Boom – done.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

Don’t forget you have chicken on the grill, go ahead and flip those over and let them grill for another 3-4 minutes or until the juices run clear.  Bring the chicken inside and let them sit for a hot minute while you prep your “rice”.

So at this point your rice can be done, but if you like to be fancy you could sprinkle a little bit of sesame seed oil on top, toss in a few toasted sesame seeds for grins, and garnish with chopped green onions.  Top it off with 1 or 2 pieces of your grilled chicken and VOILA your meal is done!

This meal has plenty of options.  If you’d like (which I did) go ahead and beat 2 eggs with 2 teaspoons of coconut aminos.  Scramble them ahead of time and set aside.  After you add the cauliflower to your pan, mix those in at that time as well.  Don’t like zucchini? Steamed broccoli and sliced carrots also work well in this dish.  Don’t have a grill or don’t know how to use one?  No problem!  Heat your oven to 400 degrees and bake in a single layer for 30 minutes or until the juices run clear. (Of course that ups the time it takes for the meal to get on the table.)  Thawed frozen vegetable medleys would probably work in this too.  Whatever you choose – just make it work for you.

I ate it with one piece of chicken, my husband had 2.  Completely your choice.

I ate it with one piece of chicken, my husband had 2. Completely your choice.

Grilled Chicken Ingredients
2.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs
salt
pepper
garlic powder
sweet paprika

Cauliflower Fried “Rice” Ingredients
1 large head of cauliflower
2 large eggs (optional)
2 teaspoons of coconut aminos (for eggs)
2 tablespoons of coconut aminos
coconut oil for sautéing (or olive oil)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup fresh zucchini, chopped
2-3 scallions, dark green tops only, thinly sliced (optional)
2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil (optional)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Made enough for me to make 2 school lunches for the week, plus a ton of extra chicken to do other fun recipes with!

Made enough for me to make 2 school lunches for the week, plus a ton of extra chicken to do other fun recipes with!

**Recipe was adapted from the Well Fed cookbook by Melissa Joulwan**