Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole

...with vegetables!!

HAHAHA, that title is a little misleading, isn't it? Don't be mad, just eat your veggies and simmer down.

Anyway, I've been really dying to make some comfort food.  I guess I need comfort while sitting outside in the sun looking at pictures of the ice, snow and cold up north.  I guess the theme of the day is "Obnoxious".

So here it is-  again, as with most of my recipes, it's a little bit more involved then opening a can of cream of chicken soup but I promise you, it'll be worth it.  And I promise to give you a few tips at the end for speeding things up and making the recipe a little easier!

Let's get to it, I hope you enjoy!

Cheesy Chicken and Rice Casserole
Serves 4-6

2 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded or cubed.  (2 cups rotisserie chicken)
4 cups broccoli (I used 1 cup broccoli, 3 cups zucchini...I ran out of broccoli).
2 cups cooked brown rice (or 1 cup instant rice)

1.5 cups nonfat milk, or original unsweetened almond milk
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 375. In a large bowl, combine rice, chicken and vegetables. Make sure the veggies are cut to bite size pieces.

Heat a medium saucepan to medium heat.  Melt the butter and olive oil together, then add the flour.  Keep mixing with a wooden spoon until the flour is cooked and it smells nutty.  Do not walk away!  SLOWWWWLLLY whisk the roux (flour mixture) and add the milk while whisking.  KEEP WHISKING DAMN YOU.   Keep whisking until the milk and roux are totally combined and the mixture starts to bubble and thicken.  Stir for about 3-5 minutes after all the whisking until everything reduces down and starts to look like a creamy sauce.  Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the shredded cheese.  When the cheese is fully combined, pour over the chicken, rice and veggie mixture.
Stir well to combine.  Transfer to an oven safe casserole dish and sprinkle some whole wheat bread crumbs on top.  Bake for 45 minutes.


Tips-To make this a little bit more user friendly (but certainly less tasty) just stir all the ingredients together, leaving out the flour and butter.  Stir well and add to the baking dish, bake for an hour.

(21 Day Fixers- I measured 1.5 green containers as one portion, which came out to roughly 1 green, 1.5 yellow, 1/2 red, 1 blue, 1.5 tsp)

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

One Stop Shopping-Healthy Thanksgiving!

So, I'm doing all the work for you! (You're welcome).

This year is my first real Thanksgiving alone with my little family!  It's really important to make it a good one, but I also want to try to make it with the healthiest options I possibly can.  Since I've been doing a little bit of research on my own, I wanted to share it with you as well.  Hopefully, we can do this year right, and avoid that Holiday Weight Gain!

Don't get me wrong, I fully encourage taking the day to enjoy yourself and indulge.  But, my goal with this blog is to provide recipes for healthy AND indulgent options for this Holiday Season!  Some of them will be my own recipes, some will come from other sites and sources.  Either way, I hope you enjoy them!

So- let's start with the most important part. 


Traditionally, I like to slather my turkey in an herb butter made when the butter is soft, mixed with sage, thyme, rosemary and parsley.  Ridiculously good, but ridiculous amount of butter.  

This Crock Pot Turkey Breast with Gravy recipe from Skinnytaste covers all bases.  First of all, it's made in the damn crock pot so your oven is FREE!!  One of the most annoying thing about Thanksgiving is the lack of an oven, because that turkey bird takes up all the space!

If you do decide to go a traditional route, this Herbed Pan Gravy is a really nice and low calorie way to get that gooey, delicious gravy in there! 

Now, the next most important part...


It is, just NO friggin' secret how much I love things stuffed.  I just LOVE IT. Except on Thanksgiving, heehee.  This article by Eating Well provides tons of healthier and different types of Stuffing!  I heard someone on a cooking show say that Stuffing isn't just region specific, it's Mother specific.  I prefer a traditional stuffing (whole grain or sprouted grain bread in place of the white) but just sauteeing onions and celery and mixing up with the bread and some chicken broth is where it's at for me.  

Like I said, I'm not a fan of the actual STUFFING of the bird, my mom always made Stuffin' Muffins!  Make your stuffing in whatever way you see fit, spray a muffin tin and fill it up.  Bake until crispy on the outside.  Convenient, and yummy!

Now, to the mostly most important part...


Let's be honest here- there's no way to make a REALLY low fat/low calorie mashed potato option.  They're best when simply done, no denying that.  But, this article from Cooking Light is amazing for some new ideas.  I personally really enjoy this Skinny Garlic Mash recipe.  If you're really looking to go outside the box, please check out my own Parsnip Mash recipe.  Creamy and smooth, and a great alternative to potatoes! 

This might, REALLY be the most important part...


Brown sugar.  Marshmallows.  BUTTTTTEEEERRRRR.  Ugh, seriously, is there anything better then these?  Probably not, but they are as ridiculously fattening as they are ridiculously scrumptious.   One amazing alternative (if I do say so myself) is my Whipped Maple Butternut Squash.  You get the sweetness and the creaminess that you're looking for without all the fat and sugar.  (I won't tell if you throw a few marshmallows over it).  These are also, a lot less work! Alternatively, you can try this Light Sweet Potato Casserole from Taste of Home if you're not so into Butternuts! (Which I wouldn't understand at all.) 

Onto maybe, arguably, the least important part.  Which we all pretend is the most important but we're all filthy liars. 


I truly do love my veggies.  I actually do.  But when they're on a plate next to gravified turkey and creamy potatoes and crunchy biscuits...what was I talking about?
Try one of my own personal recipes, these Brussels Sprouts with Honey and Bacon.  They're easy, and good enough to actually make people want to eat them!  Trust me on this. I also really enjoy green beans at Thanksgiving- especially that Green Bean Casserole from Eating Well.  This is obviously the easiest category to find healthy alternatives for!  Like this Honey Glazed Carrot recipe from Damn Delicious.  I'm a little obsessed with it.  Really though, you could just stay simple.  Steam some broccoli or sautee some green beans with some onions and garlic and that'll be just as good.  (Although you probably won't eat as much of it). 

Two more tiny categories and we're almost to the REALLY important stuff. 


I'm combining these two gems because, let's be honest, they're usually an afterthought.  It's the easiest thing to get a can of cranberry sauce and a pop-open tin of biscuits.  Here are a few other options if you're willing to get a little crazy! Try these Rosemary Garlic Parmesan Biscuits from Skinnytaste or Fluffy Whole Wheat Biscuits from Food Network.  

As for the cranberry sauce, this is pretty simple.  If you don't get the canned stuff (and really, you should try this) this may be the easiest part of your whole dinner. This Sugarless Cranberry Sauce from Wellness Mama contains only fruit to sweeten it.  Or you can try this article by Cooking Light for even more options. 

Aaaaannnd we have arrived. 


Oh, sweet baby Jesus what are we going to do?  Can we get through this day without pumpkin and apple pies? Probably not, but we're going to try!  Let's start with this Crustless Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie.  Sounds pretty great to me!  We also have these Skinny Pumpkin Butterscotch Bars or Skinny Cranberry Bliss Bars.   You could also try this awesome Apple Walnut Crisp from Cooking Light. 

Here's our bottom line, folks.  Have fun with your families and eat delicious food, just try to be smart about it!  I hope you found some good ideas, let me know how it goes!! LET'S DO THIS PEOPLE!!!

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Friday, November 7, 2014

Tomato Sauces

Sauce it up!

I'm going to share the two different tomato sauces that I make  They're not as easy as opening a jar, but the problem with THAT sauce is you have no idea what you're getting.  No idea if they added sugar, chemicals, etc.

I love to make big batches of these and freeze in Ziploc bags.  They taste just as good when they're thawed out and they're so much better for you then anything you'll find in a jar!

So here they are- my favorite sauces!

Sauce #1:

2 large cans PURE crushed tomatoes (the ingredients should say: Tomatoes)
5 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons dried italian herbs (oregano, basil, parsley, rosemary)
1/4 cup chicken broth or stock (low or no sodium added)
Fresh basil and/or parsley (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large soup pot to medium heat.  When the oil is warm, add garlic and onion.  Saute until fragrant and soft (DO NOT ALLOW TO BROWN! If they start to brown, remove from the heat).  Add the herbs and stir to combine.  Next, add the chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add both cans of crushed tomatoes.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. Add fresh chopped herbs at the end.

Sauce #2:

8-10 tomatoes, cut into quarters, seeds removed
4 garlic cloves
1 onion, peeled and cut into quarters
1 tablespoon dried italian herbs
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
A few tsp of olive oil
Fresh basil and/or parsley (optional)

Preheat your oven to 400.  Toss all ingredients together in a baking dish, and mix well until everything is coated in olive oil.

Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  In small batches, add to your blender and blend until smooth.  You may want to re-heat in a saucepan to bring up to a warmer temperature.

I hope you enjoy these! Either would be perfect served with Vegetable Pasta with Mini Turkey Meatballs !

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Vegetable Pasta with Mini Turkey Meatballs

I believe that sometimes food should take some work.

Sometimes, it should take a little bit of work and a lot of love.

Do you think I'm weird now?  Oh, really?  Bite me.

The point is, that this dish is a bit involved.  I've held off on posting it (even though it's one of my ABSOLUTE favorites) because I feel that in this day and age, most people want something quick and easy.  This isn't quick and it takes a bit of chopping but I promise it is worth it in the end!

This recipe is perfect for big families.  It only uses half the box of penne, 1 lb of ground turkey and some veggies but it stretches out into a very large finished product.  I really hope you'll try it, and enjoy!

Vegetable Pasta with Mini Turkey Meatballs 

1 lb. ground turkey
1/4 cup (1 blue) parmesan cheese
1/8 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 egg white
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons grated onion or 1 tsp onion powder
2 teaspoons minced garlic or 1 tsp garlic powder
Handful of chopped parsley

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Preheat oven to 375, measuring with a tablespoon drop onto a sprayed, foil or parchment lined cookie sheet. (They should be small) Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Pasta and Veggies-
1/2 box whole grain penne

4 cups (4 green containers) of your favorite veggies. I used sliced carrots, zucchini, kale, spinach and broccoli. You can always use more veggies!)
1 sliced onion
1 cup (1.5 red containers) of ricotta cheese
2 cups (2 purple containers) of your favorite tomato sauce-- I use my own personal recipes.

Prepare pasta, drain and set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Sautee onion and veggies. Add a bit of water and cover, allowing to steam through. Add vegetable mixture to pasta with ricotta and tomato sauce. Mix in meatballs and stir all ingredients together. Serve immediately with 1 blue container of parmesan.

2 yellow
2 green
2 red
1 tsp

1 blue 


Tip: You can replace the turkey in the recipe with ground beef, or chicken.  They would be just as good!

(21 Day Fixers- You may have to eyeball this, but I counted 2 green containers full as 2 yellow, 1 green, 1 red, 1 tsp and 1/2 blue)

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Honey Lemon Chicken

I was really nervous this chicken would taste like a cough drop.

It did, a little bit, but a DELICOUS and MEATY cough drop! (I'm totally kidding, it didn't taste like a cough drop).

Anyway, I just wanted something clean, light and fresh for dinner.  I was having a rough day and I just wanted to keep it simple and this recipe was born!

I hope you like it!

Honey Lemon Chicken with Roasted Thyme Potatoes
(serves 2)

2 chicken breasts
1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon honey

2 large russet potatoes, cubed and soaked in cold water for 10 minutes, then allowed to dry
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
Sea salt and pepper to taste

To start, combine lemon juice with garlic and honey.  Place in a ziploc or large bowl with chicken and allow to marinate for an hour or so.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a pan to medium high heat with 1 tsp olive oil.  Place the chicken breast and allow to brown on each side.  Remove from the heat and pour the rest of the marinade over the chicken and transfer the pan to the oven.  (If you don't have an oven safe pan, transfer the chicken to a foil lined baking dish and pour the marinade on top then place in the oven)

Combine potatoes, olive oil, thyme and garlic powder and mix to coat.  Place potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil.  Roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.

The chicken and potatoes will be ready at the same time if you get them in the oven together!

Tip- This marinade is beautiful, fresh and clean and works perfectly with fish or pork!

(21 Day Fixers- For the chicken count 1 red (1.5 depending on the size).  For the potatoes, count one yellow and 1 tsp).


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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Almond Crusted Cod

Farro is the new Quinoa.

Mark my words on that.

But this post is about FISH!  I love finding new ways to cook fish (I'm getting pretty good at it, if I say so myself) and tonight was the first time I made this particular recipe.  I can tell I'll be making it pretty frequently though, it was amazingly delicious and easy.

Truthfully, I had a hangover today.  I just wasn't in the mood for heavy duty dinner but I wanted something yummy and fried and greeeeeezy.  I served this Almond Crusted deliciousness with this Lemony Farro. (I used less olive oil and didn't use the arugula). But you could easily serve this with plain quinoa, brown rice, whatever tickles your pickle.

 I discussed farro in my Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe.  You need to get yourself familiar with this grain.  It's so yummy, and every single person I've prepared it for became addicted immediately and always called me for the recipe so they could make it at home!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!

Almond Crusted Cod
serves 2

1/2 cup unsalted raw almonds
1/8 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
Two 6 oz pieces of cod
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Coconut oil cooking spray (or whatever you have)

Preheat your oven to 400.  Pour almonds into a food processor and pulse until they resemble bread crumbs.  Pour onto a plate and mix with actual bread crumbs.

 Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.  Spray with coconut oil.  Brush fish with Dijon (or use your hands and get dirty) then coat with almond/bread crumb mixture. Place on cookie sheet, sprinkle some of the remaining almond mixture over the top.

Spray lightly with coconut spray and bake for 20-25 minutes.


Tip- This trick would work with chicken, and would also work with any other kind of nut.  Pecans would be delicious.

(21 Day Fixers- For one piece of fish I counted 1 red, 1 blue)

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