Archive | November 2012

Holiday Tips to Keep the Weight Off

Happy official holiday season!  This is truly my favorite 3-4 weeks of the entire year.  I am a Christmas freak. I love everything about the tree, the lights, the smells, and even the snow (probably the only time of year I will comment fondly about snow).  I even have those ridiculous dancing stuffed animals for children that I play on a daily basis.  As much as I wish Christmas came 3 or 4 times a year, I think having it once is what makes it so special.

We lost my papa this year, and he had given me a bunch of old ornaments before he passed.  This picture is not the best, but I saved it because doesn’t the lighting here look like heaven is shining down on our tree?  <3

While the holidays are a time to indulge, there are ways to do it mindfully while not sacrificing your waistline.  I promise a recipe for you by the end of this week, but I wanted to do a special post with a few helpful tips in regards to the holidays.  After all, this should be a time of joy and not a time of fearing weight gain!

#1- Drink lots and lots of water.  This is the time of year where hot specialty drinks are everywhere.  It’s cold outside and having a warm drink to hold on to flavored with peppermint or candy cane or even gingerbread just can’t be resisted.  Coming from a girl who has ice-cold hands all year long, I get the appeal!  Well, if that drink contains caffeine (which most do- even hot cocoa!), it acts on the body as a mild diuretic.  This means that you will be left needing more water to replenish yourself than when you started that tasty drink.  As a rough rule of thumb, try to drink about 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of hot drink that you have.  Also, I know they’re delicious, but make them more of a treat then an every day occurrence to keep your calories under control.

#2- Self control.  We’ve all heard this one before.. “Now I know you’re in a room filled with plates of cookies but you need to control yourself.”  Well, isn’t that easier said then done!  Some things that I find helpful are to position yourself away from the food at a party.  If you’re the host, keep your food in one central location like the kitchen so people with dietary restrictions aren’t tempted by candy bowls right and left.  If you are engaged in conversations across the room from the food, you won’t be tempted to reach into a chip bowl mid-conversation.  If you are finding the temptations are hard to control, compromise with yourself.  If it’s 3 pm and you really want a scoop of that creamy looking crab dip, tell yourself that if you can make it to 4:30, you can have 2 scoops.  It’s OK to cheat a little during the holidays, but in moderation is always the key.

#3- Respond to true hunger. I think we can all say that we know the difference between “Oh sure, I can eat,” and “Get out of my way or I will eat YOU,” hunger.  If you find yourself about to reach into a candy bowl, literally ask yourself, “Am I hungry or am I just bored?”  I guarantee you that most of the time if will be boredom, or desire, but not true hunger.  Only put something in your mouth if you are truly hungry.

#4- Eat before the party.  Now this one might seem a little nuts to some people, but this is a theory of mine that I think really works.  A lot of times I notice that people will basically starve themselves before a big event where they know there will be a lot of food.  Bad idea.  This gives you license to justify eating whatever and however much you want at the party.  Now, I’m not saying to have a feast at 12 pm for a 1 pm party, but a snack with a good amount of fiber, protein and fat will really work to your benefit.  For example, try a piece of fruit, a small handful of nuts and a string cheese to keep your stomach from grumbling at the site of food at the party.  Fun fact… did you know that just the site of or smell of some foods gets your brain to signal your body that you’re ready to eat?  The thought of the food alone can cause your stomach to grumble and even your mouth to salivate!

#5- Watch (don’t eliminate!) your carbohydrates.  Now, gaining weight definitely comes from many places.  It can be high fat intake, low activity level or overindulging, but more often than not it’s people’s lack of control when it comes to carbs.  Here’s the bottom line- You NEED carbs to survive.  Glucose (broken down carbohydrate) is the primary source of fuel for your brain, and if your body doesn’t get it in your diet, your brain panics and will break down lean body muscle to get it.  Hence, the dangers of a low carbohydrate diet for too long.  Not to mention, with higher amounts of fat and protein in your diet, you increase the strain on your kidneys to clear the broken down protein and increase the damage to your heart from higher fat/protein meat sources!  Ok, I’ll get off my soapbox now.  So we understand that we need some carbs in our diet, now here’s where the lack of control comes in.. when carbs are digested and absorbed by the body they pass through the stomach and are absorbed in the small intestine.  If the carbs are not paired with a protein or fat source, your GI motility is not slowed and your reaction to feel “full” comes much later then it should.  As I’m sure I don’t need to explain, this results in weight gain.  In addition, when you ingest these simple carbs, it causes an increase in your blood sugar, which triggers insulin to be released, which then causes your blood sugar to plummet.  Because of this insulin response, your blood sugar won’t remain steady and you will be back to being hungry again within 2 hours.  The lesson here is not to cut out carbs or go on some crazy diet, but rather to choose healthy sources of complex carbs; such as oatmeal, fruit & skim milk over simple carbs; such as candy, cookies and crackers, whenever possible.  Choosing balanced meals or snacks including protein and fat will help slow down your stomach emptying and steady your blood sugar to create that feeling of “fullness.”

I hope these were some helpful tips, and if you have any to share yourself, please comment.  I’d love to hear them!


Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken & Brown Rice Bowls

I love my crock-pot, but I have to admit that I’ve struggled with finding really good crock-pot recipes.  Meaning they taste good and they’re healthy.  Maybe I am looking in the wrong places, but I haven’t had much luck.  Finally, we have a winner.  As much as I enjoy cooking, it is the best day when you know you will come home to a hot meal and zero dishes [If you’ve done them after the morning prep!].  This recipe may be useful to you as you do Thanksgiving prepping and planning this week.  At least you can save yourself one extra night of cooking before the big day!  I will be taking a little blog hiatus as I travel home to celebrate the holidays with family so don’t expect another recipe until probably next Thursday.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken & Brown Rice Bowlsadapted from chocolate broccoli

Serves: 6 [I had a little less then 2 lbs of chicken though so you may be able to serve 7 if you have the full 2 lbs]

1.5 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 (15 ounce) cans low sodium fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can low sodium red kidney beans
1 (15 ounce) can low sodium black beans
1 (10 ounce) bag frozen corn
3 cups uncooked quick-cooking brown rice
2.5 cups low sodium vegetable broth
Juice of 1 lime, divided
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
6 oz plain Greek yogurt
1/4 diced red onion
2 fresh jalapenos, diced with all seeds and ribs removed
  1. Place chicken breasts in a single layer on the bottom of your slow cooker.  Sprinkle with chili and garlic powder, cumin, oregano, both black and cayenne peppers. Pour tomatoes, beans, and corn on top of the chicken.  Cover and set to LOW for 8 hours.
  2. Five minutes before the crock-pot is set to be done, bring the vegetable broth, olive oil and 1/2 of the limes juice to a boil in a medium sized pot.  Once boiling, add rice,  cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until rice is cooked. Remove from heat.  Squeeze remaining 1/2 of the lime juice over rice and mix in as you fluff.
  3. After 8 hours of cooking, removed the lid of the crock pot and stir with a fork to shred the chicken (it should shred easily).
  4. Build the “bowls” by placing rice on the bottom, then the chicken mix, then the garnishes.  Garnishes listed above should be divided evenly between all 6 bowls.
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 563 calories, 9.6g fat [2.9g saturated], 63g carbohydrate [14g fiber!], 56g protein!

Thai Peanut Turkey Burgers

These were yummy and unique.  I really enjoy Thai flavors, I think mostly because I love incorporating peanuts or peanut butter into everything I can.

You may notice that these burgers look a little teeny in their buns.  The original recipe called for 8 semi-small burgers, but since it’s hard to find buns other then sliders or regular size, I altered the recipe  to be 6 instead of 8 semi-small ones.  If you follow the recipe below, yours will better fit your buns ;)

Thai Peanut Turkey Burgersadapted from Prevention RD

Makes: 6 Burgers

1 lb 97% lean ground turkey
2 medium carrot, shredded
2 large scallion, minced
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup creamy natural peanut butter
freshly ground salt & pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
6 whole wheat burger buns
6 small handfuls mixed greens

Garlic-Parsley Mayo:
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp sweet chili sauce
1/2 tsp. garlic powder


  1. Combine the burger ingredients, turkey through ginger, in a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly.  Spray a large non-stick skillet or grill pan with cooking spray and heat  over medium-high heat. Form the turkey mixture into 6 patties.  Cook burgers for about 5-6 minutes per side, until cooked through
  2. Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for the garlic-parsley mayo in a small bowl and mix well.
  3. Toast the buns if desired and serve the burgers on buns with dollop (about 1.5 tsp) of garlic mayo and small handful of mixed greens.

Nutrition Facts (per burger): 230 calories, 12g fat (1.5g saturated), 22g carbohydrate, 24g protein

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip “Ice Cream”

Did the title entice you?  Do me a favor and scroll down to the picture.. does it look like ice cream to you?  Well…it tastes like it too!  Allow me to geek out for a second.. it’s made of bananas.. a FRUIT!  Now, I know what you might be thinking, “Oh, I don’t like bananas.”  I hear you, I can take them or leave them and certainly wouldn’t consider eating them for dessert if I had the choice.  As a test.. I made this ice cream for my innocent victim boyfriend and didn’t allow him to see me cooking it.  I handed him the bowl and asked what he tasted..

Him: Peanut butter?

Me: What else?

Him: Umm… Greek yogurt?

I win!!

The bottom line is, it’s not a scary banana flavor.  Unlike real ice cream, this “ice cream” will actually leave you full after the 1/2 cup serving because you’ve got fiber from the bananas that you wouldn’t have in your typical peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream.  Another selling point is that there’s less fat, which is mostly unsaturated fats from the peanut butter.  I’m very excited to try this out with some frozen berries for an even healthier spin in the future.

Did I sell you on it?  I hope so!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip “Ice Cream”slightly adapted from use real butter

Serves: 1 pint (or four 1/2 cup servings)

4 medium bananas

2 tsp. Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tbsp. natural peanut butter (I used Smart Balance)

2 tbsp. dark chocolate chips


  1. Slice bananas into 1/2 inch slices and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place in freezer for about an hour until bananas are frozen.
  2. Put sliced, frozen bananas into a food processor and blend until it becomes creamy.  This will take a few minutes, and you’ll have to wipe the sides down with a spatula a few times.  Be patient, it will get there!
  3. Once bananas are creamy, add cocoa powder and peanut butter to food processor.  Mix another minute or so until well blended.
  4. Remove “ice cream” from the food processor and stir in chocolate chips.
  5. Serve as soft serve or freeze for a later time.

Nutrition Facts (per 1/2 cup serving): 193 calories, 7g fat (3g saturated), 35g carbohydrate (4g fiber), 3g protein

Three Tasty Recipes in One

So here’s the thing, I not only use this blog to share recipes that I alter or create on my own, but I also use it to reference when I make my weekly menu at future dates.  A lot of times I make really good recipes that are not mine and I don’t feel the need to alter them.  The thing is, if they don’t go on my blog, then they get lost in time!  In the past two weeks there were 3 of these recipes that were delicious and I don’t want to forget about them.  So here they are for you to enjoy, and for me to remember!

Sausage & Pumpkin Pasta

Recipe by: Prevention RD

I love love this blog.  She always makes such delicious yet healthy recipes and the pictures are mouth watering!  This was another favorite, and I EVEN got my pumpkin hating man to admit he loved it as well.

My Changes: I omitted the sage and used spiral pasta instead of bowties

Mushroom Kale Lasagna

Recipe by: skinnytaste

This meal was a very satisfying vegetarian lasagna, I loved it.  I will note that it is a little time consuming because kale takes a while to clean and trim down and then the baking time was 40 minutes on top of all the prep, so you might want to save this one for a weekend.  Don’t let that discourage you though because it was nutrition packed and delicious too!

My Changes:  Use whole wheat lasagna noodles if you can find them

Bruschetta with Shrimp, Tarragon and Arugula

Recipe by: Giada De Laurentiis

As always, Giada delivers.  This was actually my first time using mascarpone cheese also.  I was surprised that it wasn’t any more expensive then mozzarella, and it had a nice creamy texture.  It did, however, pack quite a bit of fat.  Definitely more of a treat then a staple.

Apple Walnut and Pumpkin Butter Oatmeal

This one is really simple, you can easily make it on a weekday morning.  It also screams “fall!” and the fiber it contains will fill you up for longer then some other breakfast choices.  This will most likely prevent you from reaching for a unhealthy mid-morning snack.  As a side note, be careful when choosing a store-bought pumpkin butter.  They can be very high in sugar, very unnecessarily.  Mine is 5g sugar per tablespoon with only 4 ingredients, which is acceptable, but feel free to make your own or use canned pumpkin with a bit of brown sugar to substitute.  Enjoy :)

Apple Walnut and Pumpkin Butter Oatmeal

Serves: 1

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

3/4 cup water

1 tbsp. pumpkin butter

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 small gala apple, diced

2 tsp. walnuts, finely chopped



  1. Combine oats and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 2 minutes and 10 seconds until water is absorbed.
  2. Add diced apple, pumpkin butter and walnuts.  Sprinkle ground cinnamon on top.
  3. Mix and serve.

Nutrition Facts: 273 calories, 8g fat (1g saturated),  45g carbohydrate (7g fiber), 6g protein

Cheesy Butternut Squash & Spinach Pasta

So I was sitting down to plan my weekly menu like I always do…which by the way, is probably my favorite time of the week.  I take an hour to sit down with a tea or coffee, my google reader, and a cooking magazine and get to planning.  I also love it because having a shopping list saves me time and money at Wegmans.  Good god, if I was let loose in there with no list, I would be living on the streets, in a box, surrounded by all the food I’d buy to try.  Anyway, this week I knew that I needed to get butternut squash in the line-up again. After that delicious couscous I made last week, I’ve become a bit.. obsessed with it.  Obsessed.  I can’t believe it took me 25 years to roast a butternut squash.  What planet was I living on?

I was getting frustrated because I wasn’t finding the recipe I was looking for after an hour of blog/pinterest/magazine hunting.  I then decided to draft up this recipe, adding a little of this and a little of that of some of my favorite things.  The result was a success!  I actually didn’t get my portions right this time (too little squash and spinach compared to pasta), but the recipe below reflects the changes that will make it more proportioned. So no need to adjust and enjoy!

Cheesy Butternut Squash & Spinach Pasta

Serves: 6

1 tbsp + 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

2/3 white onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

8 oz. whole wheat spiral pasta

2.5 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

9 oz fresh spinach

5 oz Gouda cheese (18 month aged), shredded

2 lb butternut squash, cubed into bite-size pieces

3 tbsp. reduced fat parmesan cheese, grated

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 450 F
  2. Arrange diced butternut squash on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and make sure squash is coated.  Bake for 40 minutes, mixing around about every 10 minutes.
  3. While squash is roasting, heat 2 tsp. olive oil in a large skillet or pot over medium heat.  Saute onion 5-7 minutes until translucent.  Add garlic and cook an additional minute.  Add in chicken broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Once boiling, add pasta and reduce to a simmer.  Cook 11-12 minutes until pasta is cooked through.
  4. While pasta cooks, heat remaining 2 tsp. olive oil over low-medium heat in a large non-stick skillet.  Saute spinach about 6 minutes or until wilted down to half the original size.
  5. Add butternut squash, spinach, and Gouda cheese to pasta mixture.  Mix well.
  6. Reduce oven heat to 350 F
  7. Pour mixture into a 9 x 13 baking dish and top with parmesan cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes so the top gets slightly crispy.

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 385 calories, 15.5g fat (7g saturated), 46g carbohydrate (9g dietary fiber), 18.5g protein