November 30, 2015

Skinny Eggnog Oatmeal with Cranberries

Thanksgiving is over which means the winter holiday delights are in abundance. Hooray, eggnog!! It seems to be one of those things people either love or loathe. I happen to love it! That spicy nutmeg and cinnamon flavor mixed with creamy sweetness... good thing I can't drink very much of it. And luckily there are tons of "skinny" eggnog options out there. I found a lovely pumpkin spice "almond nog" by Silk that's only 50 calories per 1/2 cup. It's also dairy and egg free.


I had some of my leftover cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and eggnog and cranberry seemed like the perfect combo. Trying to lean out for our annual trip to Cabo in a few weeks, I opted to make a skinny baked oatmeal with eggnog and cranberries as the highlight. All the fun and taste of true holiday flavors without the guilt!


The tart cranberries perfectly complement the sweet richness of the eggnog for a deliciously healthy breakfast, snack, or dessert!

Skinny Eggnog Oatmeal with Cranberries
Makes 2 servings

Ingredients

1 cup old fashioned oats (can use quick oats)
1 cup Silk Almond Nog
1 cup water
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp cranberry sauce (or sub dried or whole cranberries)

Directions
1. Bring almond nog (or eggnog of choice) and water to a boil.
2. Add oats and simmer 5-10 minutes until oats have absorbed most of the water and reach desired consistency.
3. Pour oats into two small bowls and top with 1-2 Tbsp cranberry sauce.
4. Add additional cinnamon and nutmeg and/or drizzle with maple syrup if desired.

November 25, 2015

World's BEST Cranberry Sauce

Happy Thanksgiving Eve!

Did you just fail at baking a pumpkin pie like I did?* No worries! Here's a recipe for the absolute BEST cranberry sauce you'll ever eat that is impossible to mess up.


It's a perfect accompaniment to your Thanksgiving plate. And it is amazing on a leftover Thanksgiving sandwich. You could even spread it on toast. Cranberry sauce non-believers will see the light after tasting this sauce. You will be seen as a cranberry whisperer.

*Yes, I did in fact burn a pumpkin pie. The Eagle brand recipe. It was a sad time. I don't recommend making that one. Stick with Libby's or go rogue and make your own.

World's Best Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

Ingredients
1 12 oz package whole cranberries
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp orange juice
Pinch of salt

Directions
1. Empty bag of cranberries in a medium sauce pan with burner set on medium low. Reserve 1/2 cup of berries and set aside.
2. Add 1 cup of granulated white sugar and 2 Tbsp orange juice.
3. Cook on medium low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Once cranberries begin to soften and sugar starts to melt, turn burner to medium high.
5. Add a pinch of salt and stir occasionally until cranberries begin to burst.
6. The sauce should start to be thickening at this point. You can mash the berries with a wooden spoon to the consistency you prefer. I like mine a little chunky.

Wishing your and your's the happiest Thanksgiving!

Jessica

November 23, 2015

Easy Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Potato Soup

I just love the holidays! I'm always in a happy mood from Halloween until my birthday in January. There's something magical in the air, especially around Christmas time. I love the crisp air, the sparkly decor everywhere you go, and of course, that jolly bearded man in a white suit.

Not to mention, this is when I get a lot of time off. ;-)

In the winter, San Diego's sunset is around 4:30pm. And I am out the door for work when the sun is rising. So it's pretty hard for me to capitalize on that precious natural light for my blog photos. Today, however, I am on vacation!! And I have the BEST Broccoli Cheddar Potato Soup recipe for you! I made it a couple of weeks ago and Greg has been raving about it ever since. My mom is flying in today from Michigan and he requested I make the soup again "for your mom." Sure, babe, for my mom. :-)


Believe it or not, this soup is a "skinny" version. It's made with a bunch of broccoli, low fat milk, and reduced fat cheddar cheese. But you wouldn't know! I keep mine kind of chunky, but you are welcome to completely puree it if you like a smoother consistency.


This is a soup that eats like a meal. Serve with crackers or in a bread bowl if you want to be fancy like that. It takes about 30 minutes of cook time and is excellent heated up. In fact, I think it tastes better the second day. It'll go quick, so make sure to double it if you have a large family. It's the perfect quick and easy pre-Thanksgiving meal.


Easy Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Potato Soup
Makes five 1 2/3 cup servings

Ingredients
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour (all purpose, whole wheat or ap gluten-free)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 cup fat free or low fat milk
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced small
2 tsp kosher salt or to taste
1 tsp fresh pepper
4 cups (about 2 heads) broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces
2 cups reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar
1 tbsp parmesan cheese

Directions
1. Chop onion, carrot, celery, garlic in a chopper or mini food processor.
2. In a large soup pot, melt butter. Add chopped vegetables and sauté on low heat until soft, about 5 minutes.
3. Add flour, salt and pepper to the pot and stir until smooth.
4. Add chicken broth, milk and potatoes and set heat to high until it comes to a boil, then cover and cook on low until potatoes are fork tender, about 10-15 minutes.
5. Add broccoli florets, parmesan cheese, and stir well. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Cook uncovered until broccoli is cooked, about 5 minutes. Add cheddar and American cheese, stir well and remove from heat.
6. Using an immersion blender, quickly blend part of the soup for a quick second or two. If you don't have an immersion blender, remove about 1-2 cups of potatoes and broccoli, place it in your chopper, then add it back to the soup. This helps thicken it a bit.


I hope you enjoy it! What are your Thanksgiving plans this year?

November 15, 2015

Skinny Turkey Spinach Meatballs

Good morning!

Well, it's finally gotten cold in San Diego. And I am happy to say I have been using my central heat the past couple of weeks. I have been sleeping much better under several blankets and instantly putting on my robe and slippers upon waking. What's more, cooking warms me up, so I've been doing more of it. Yay for me, yay for you! ;-)

I also changed up my workout routine the last couple of weeks. Fall is my favorite season and I seem to get more energy once the seasons change. I'm always the most fit during the holidays, which is probably very unusual. However, I am usually the least fit after summer, which is not that lucky! Swim suit season persists in San Diego for months. For whatever reason, the holiday season peps me up and gives me more motivation. And being a school counselor, I have a lot more free time for working out during the winter months.

So I recently started doing reformer Pilates at a place near my work and it is tough! It doesn't look like it's doing much, but holy moly, it burns in places you didn't even know could burn. What I like about Pilates is that it is very core focused. Core workouts are my favorite. The core muscles repair the fastest, so you can see progress quicker and you can build muscle easier than other body parts. The secret to a flat core, however, is your diet. You can have all the muscle you want on your abs, but a bad diet will cause a layer of fat to conceal all your hard work. So that's why I put more focus on my diet recently and also invested in a heart rate monitor. I've been alternating between Pilates for resistance training and HIIT (high intensity interval training) for cardio and fat blasting. I went to a Grit Strength class (HIIT) at 24 Hour Fitness that was 30 minutes, followed by a 30 minute core conditioning class, and I burned 550 calories. Not too shabby. With my heart rate monitor, I'm able to see how high I get my heart rate and how many calories I burn.



I got this heart rate monitor on Amazon and I'm very happy with it. It's easy to use and it inspires me to challenge myself. If you feel like your workouts are stale or you've reached a plateau, just change up your routine or try something new. Remember: if it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you. ;-)

I've been trying to eat cleaner, home made meals lately after slacking a bit because I get so tired after working so early during the week. So, the other day I decided to experiment with some meatballs. Generally they're pretty easy to make and there are a million variations. But I was quite pleased with how these turned out. They were flavorful, hearty, and gluten free. Plus, for picky eaters, they have finely chopped spinach hidden within them.


I regularly buy ground turkey, so I had all the ingredients on hand, which was nice and convenient. You could use ground beef if you want. This recipe is very versatile.


You could use regular pasta, gluten free pasta, or even just have the meatballs by themselves with veggies on the side. I ate leftover meatballs with a side of my easy roasted zucchini and carrots and it made for a delicious and healthy lunch.

What new workouts have you tried out or been wanting to try out?

Skinny Turkey Spinach Meatballs
Makes ~5 servings

Ingredients
1.25 lb package of extra lean ground turkey
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. paprika
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small handful spinach leaves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato sauce or marinara

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F
2. Lightly coat large baking sheet with spray; set aside
3. Combine turkey, salt, seasoning, paprika, egg, oats, garlic, spinach, and tomato sauce in large bowl; mix well by hand
4. Roll mixture into 15 1.5-2 inch meatballs. Place on prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle.

Optional: Place meatballs in a sauce pan and add a jar of marinara until sauce is warmed through. Top pasta or a roll with the meatball mixture.

November 9, 2015

Autumn Harvest Salad


Last weekend, Greg and I traveled to Charleston for a mini vacation. Neither of us had ever been to the Carolinas and we heard fall was the best time to go. We stayed right downtown in the Historic District and I fell totally in love with the city's charm. We ate sooo much delicious food and one thing that stands out, oddly enough, is a delicious salad I had at Verde. This salad post isn't a complete copy cat, but it's pretty close.

The first couple of days we spent in Charleston (where we saw a Thomas Ravenel impersonator on Halloween) and the second half of the trip we drove to Charlotte to see the Colts take on the Panthers. Sadly, the Colts lost and it was pouring the whole time, but we still had a great time. We both wore super cool blue panchos, but somehow Greg wasn't wearing it at the time of this photo. :-)


The salad I had at Verde had a sweet tea vinaigrette which I wasn't ambitious enough to try today. However, this one does have a delicious tangy sweet apple cider poppy seed vinaigrette you're sure to love. I threw in some autumn accouterments like sliced apples, pecans, and dried cherries on top of bright green baby spinach. I added gluten free pasta to bulk it up, but you can leave it out and/or add any protein of your choice.


I hope you enjoy it! What city do you find charming?

Autumn Harvest Salad
Makes 5-7 side servings

Ingredients
5 oz baby spinach (half a 10 oz bag)
1 cup small pasta of choice (cooked according to package directions and cooled)
3/4 cup dried cherries (can sub cranberries)
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 Braeburn apple (or apple of choice)
1/3 cup pecans

Dressing
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
4 Tbsp white sugar
1/8 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp poppy seeds

Directions
1. Add all dressing ingredients except poppyseeds into a blender or food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds. Pour liquid into a resealable container and add poppyseeds. Shake to combine.
2. Add all salad ingredients into a large bowl or several small containers. Slice up apple if necessary.
3. Pour 2 Tbsp of shaken dressing onto each portion of salad and serve immediately.
4. Store dressing and salad separately if eating at a later time.

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