February 24, 2014

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash with Ground Turkey and Marinara

Hi everyone!

Today I worked out my legs at the gym. It was a tough workout and I felt really drained. So I decided I needed to have a healthy dinner full of lean protein and veggies. A super easy dish to make is baked spaghetti squash. It's like pasta, but you don't even have to boil the noodles and drain them. You just roast (or microwave) the spaghetti squash and then add whatever you want to it. In my case, I had some awesome marinara from my boyfriend's favorite Italian restaurant that I wanted to use up, so I opted for Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash with ground turkey for added protein.

I know some people are intimidated by spaghetti squash. It does take a little elbow grease to cut one open and scrape out the seeds. But once you get that down, it's such a simple and versatile vegetable. Plus, there are just 42 calories in 1 cup of cooked spaghetti squash and 10 carbs. That's about 4 times less than the calories of traditional pasta. The fiber content of it helps to keep you feeling fuller longer, and you don't get that bloated, too full feeling that pasta often causes.

Once you cut open the squash length wise and scrape out the seeds, you put it cut side down and roast on 375 degrees for 60-75 minutes or until the fork easily pulls away the "spaghetti strands" from the skin. It will look something like this...

While the squash is roasting, you can prepare the sauce. I waited until the squash had about 20 minutes left. I used ground turkey, but you could substitute very lean beef, tofu, or no meat and just use sauce. I cooked my ground turkey all the way through, then added sauce and let it simmer until the squash was cooked.

I topped the squash with the sauce and cheese, broiled for a few minutes to get the cheese nice and melty, then I dug in! Mm-mmm, it's so good! And I don't feel guilty at all. It's also great for leftovers, which is always a plus for me so I don't have to worry about getting lunch ready for the next day.

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash with Ground Turkey and Marinara

1 medium spaghetti squash
1 jar marinara of choice
1 cup low fat cottage cheese
1-2 cups mozzarella cheese (or your cheese of choice)
1 lb ground turkey
Basil, oregano, or Italian seasoning for sprinkling on top

Pre-heat oven to 375. Cut squash in half length wise and scrape out seeds. Place halves cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for 60-75 minutes.

When the squash has about 20 minutes left, cook the turkey on medium-high heat until cooked through. Add your sauce and simmer until squash is done.

Once squash is tender and the strands easily pull away from the skin, it's done. Flip over the squash boats on the baking sheet. Turn oven to Broil setting. Pull spaghetti strands away from the skin of each boat and pat down so you have a nest of pasta in each boat. This will become your bowl which is very convenient!

Fill each boat with 1/2 cup of cottage cheese. Then top with 1/2-1 cup of the turkey marinara. Next top with 1/2 cup mozzarella. Finally, sprinkle a little bit of oregano and basil on top. Broil the two halves for 3-5 minutes until cheese is bubbling and just starting to brown.



February 23, 2014

Low Fat Whole Wheat & Oat Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I felt like being naughty this morning. How could I eat chocolate for breakfast without it being bad for me? Hm... whole wheat pancakes + oats + dark chocolate chips... eureka!

These pancakes are fluffy, taste delicious, and you can adapt them to meet your preferences. You can leave out the chocolate if that's pushing it for you, but dark chocolate has nutritional benefits so that was my justification this morning. :-)

They are very filling as well since they are made with whole wheat flour and they also have oats mixed in for extra protein and fiber. Greek yogurt adds a bit more protein and low fat milk keeps the fat content from being as high as regular buttermilk pancakes.

The best part -- dark chocolate contains phenylethylamine, the same chemical your brain produces when you're falling in love. And once you try these, you'll be falling in love for two reasons, the chocolate and the taste. What a great start to the day!

Low Fat Whole Wheat & Oat Chocolate Chip Pancakes
Adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg
1 cup milk (low fat, almond, soy, rice, any kind will do)
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar (or light brown)
1/4 cup Greek yogurt (soy or applesauce for vegan)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional, or you could substitute nuts, fruit, or keep them plain)

Combine flour, oats, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk egg and milk in a separate bowl until egg is mixed in. Whisk in brown sugar, yogurt, and vanilla until there are no or very small lumps.

Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, do not over mix. Carefully fold in the chocolate chips or other mix-ins. Be careful not to stir batter too much after the wet ingredients are incorporated or your pancakes will be tough and dry. Batter will be lumpy.

Heat skillet on medium heat and coat generously with butter, cooking spray, or coconut oil. Place batter in 1/4 cup additions on skillet. Let cook for about 1 minute, until bubbly and sides start to look cooked, then flip and cook for another minute or until both sides are browned.

Serve with real maple syrup, jam, or plain. They are pretty sweet already. I always suggest real maple syrup as Aunt Jemima and those other "regular" brands are full of high fructose corn syrup and other artificial additives. Not good for you at all! Stick with clean ingredients.

And remember, operate under the 80/20 rule. If you want to indulge a little for breakfast with a treat like chocolate chip pancakes, try to eat lean protein and veggies the rest of the day.

Happy Sunday!


February 22, 2014

Flavorful & Nutritious Chicken Tortilla Soup

Good Morning!

I started working, interning, and am taking two classes, so I haven't had time to write a post in a couple of weeks. But I wanted to get up this Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe, even though it's about 7:30am :-). My boyfriend had been asking for me to make some, so I finally did based on the Pioneer Woman's recipe. This one is tomato based with lots of veggies, which means yummy AND healthy, just how I like it. It's also really easy and cooks pretty quickly.

Flavorful and Nutritious Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 chicken breasts
1 Tbps olive oil
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced onion (I like sweet vidalia onions, but you can use whichever kind you like)
1/2 cup diced red or green bell pepper (or both colors!)
3 cloves garlic, minced (I cheat and use pre-minced garlic to save time)
1 can Rotel tomatoes with green chilies (10 oz size)
32 oz low sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3 cups hot water
2 15 oz cans of black beans, drained
3 Tbps corn meal
5 corn tortillas or tortilla chips

Sour Cream (which in my world always means plain Greek yogurt)
Grated Cheese (I left off the cheese to save calories and fat)

Preheat oven to 375. Mix the cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt together in a small bowl. Lay chicken breasts on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle each side with the spice mix. You will have some left over, so just set that aside to use later. Bake chicken for 20-30 minutes depending on thickness of the chicken breasts, until cooked through. Once it's done, shred with two forks or place in an electric mixer to shred.

Heat the second Tbsp of olive oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, peppers, and garlic. Begin sauteing, then add the rest of the spice mix. Once almost soft, add chicken, and combine.

Next, add in the Rotel, chicken stock, tomato paste, hot water, and black beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes, uncovered.

Mix cornmeal with a small amount of warm water. Pour into the soup, then simmer for an additional 30 minutes. This adds a nice toasty corn flavor.

Continue to check the flavor of the soup. I ended up adding about an additional 2 tsps of salt and it really helped bring out the flavor. Remember, we're already using low sodium chicken broth, so adding salt may be necessary. You may also want to add more chili powder, etc, depending on your personal taste.

Turn off heat, and allow to cool for 25 minutes. Ladle into bowls while still hot, and add tortilla strips or tortilla chips. Add avocado and any other toppings you like. Keep them healthy and you have a great, low carb meal that's also good for leftovers! And everyone in your office will be wondering what smells so amazing when you reheat it. :-) Enjoy!


February 5, 2014

Protein Packed Mayo-Free Poppy Seed Chicken Salad

Hi everyone!

I have an addiction to the Food Network, I'll admit it. The Pioneer woman's Blackberry Cheesecake Squares look divine! And I have no doubt I could eat half the pan in one sitting. But as I keep reiterating, everything in moderation!

With that said, Trisha Yearwood demonstrated her homemade chicken salad with grapes and almonds on her show. It looked perfect, but I knew I could healthify (word? who cares!) it a bit so I could get the nutritional value without the fat and calories from mayo. To me, mayo = Greek yogurt! Greek yogurt is one of my favorite foods on earth. I absolutely LOVE it. As in, I eat it basically every single day. :-)

This recipe has a triple protein punch as it incorporates chicken, almonds, and 2% fat plain Greek yogurt, which is super high in protein. It's a great after workout meal you can feel great about eating. Eat without bread for a gluten-free, super low carb meal.

Another great feature of this recipe is you can adapt it to your taste. You can use walnuts or cashews in place of almonds, apples instead of grapes, and any combination of spices your heart desires. Personalize to your taste, but try to keep it healthy by leaving out mayo or flavored yogurt which can have up to 30g of sugar per cup.

Protein Packed Mayo-Free Poppy Seed Chicken Salad

1.5 lbs chicken breast
1 c 2% plain Greek yogurt
1 c sliced almonds
1 c red seedless grapes, halved
3-4 stalks of celery, diced
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

To keep your chicken really moist, boil in water for 30-45 minutes. Depending on the thickness of your chicken you may need to boil less or longer. I used thin sliced breasts, so I only boiled mine for 30 minutes. Be careful not to over cook so the chicken isn't chewy. Once it's done, use two forks or an electric mixer with the paddle attachment and shred chicken into bite size pieces, or dice chicken with a knife. Set aside to let it cool. I put it in the freezer for about 25 minutes because I was hungry. ;-)

When chicken is cooled, place in a large bowl and mix in the remaining ingredients. Use salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy your super healthy, uber protein packed meal!


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