Thursday:Egg Scramble & Protein Bistro Box

DAY FOUR (THURSDAY)

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BREAKFAST: Egg Scramble

Eggs are super high in protein and low in carbs and keep surprisingly well in the refrigerator once cooked! I love making omelets for breakfast on the weekends and regularly make egg “muffins” for breakfasts-on-the-go. This week I tried making somewhat of a deconstructed omelet. Really it’s just scrambled eggs with some add-ins, but making something “deconstructed” makes me sound like I’m on Top Chef, so I’m going with that.

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What you need (for two servings):

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes (or use fresh)
  • 3 slices turkey bacon
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

What you do:

  1. Cook your turkey bacon in the microwave according to instructions on package. Crumble and set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp butter until melted.
  3. Add bell pepper and sauté until color lightens.
  4. Add spinach and tomatoes. Continue cooking until spinach has shrunk and cooked through.
  5. While your veggies cook, combine eggs, milk and salt & pepper. Whisk until fully scrambled.
  6. In a second skillet, add egg mixture over medium heat. Cook about 4 minutes until eggs are solid and fluffy. Constantly use spatula or fork to stir eggs, creating large scrambled pieces.
  7. Stir cooked eggs into your vegetable mixture. Add turkey bacon. Stir well.
  8. Top with shredded cheese.

I would tell you how this tasted but my husband ate mine! So I’ll be doing double oatmeal this week. But, he gave it great reviews! Hence why he’s eating it twice this week.

LUNCH: “Starbucks” Protein Bistro Box Copycat

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Starbucks has really great grab-and-go lunch food. I’m obsessed with their quinoa salads but haven’t yet perfected my own version (lemme know if you have a good recipe!) Another one of my favorites is their Protein Bistro Box. This is extremely easy to replicate at home and the only cooking it requires is boiling an egg! I make this a lot when I’m running late and don’t have time to make anything else.

What you need (for one serving)

  • 1 apple
  • 1 large stem red, seedless grapes
  • 2 triangles of cheese (slice your own or I use Laughing Cow)
  • 1 large tbsp almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1/2 pita pocket
  • 1 egg

What you do:

Literally you just hard boil your egg, slice your pita into triangles, and throw everything into a container. I put my peanut butter in a small condiment container. I also like to eat my apple sliced and dip it into the almond butter, but I don’t slice until the day I plan to eat it, or else the apple will turn brown.

I love how much protein this meal packs, and the variety of salty vs. sweet flavors. And it beats paying the $6 you’ll fork over for one at Starbucks!

Wednesday: Blueberry Overnight Oats & Asian Sesame Salad

DAY THREE (TUESDAY)

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BREAKFAST: Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal

Overnight oats is one of my favorite things to make for breakfast! They are perfect to make for meal prep, because the longer they sit, the better they turn out. You let the oats sit overnight (or longer) and then can pop them in the microwave for breakfast or eat cold. There are many variations you can make, but blueberry is one of my favorites.

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What you need (for two servings)

  • 2/3 cup old fashioned oats (avoid instant–less nutritious and defeats the purpose of letting them sit overnight)
  • 2/3 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cup milk (or almond or soy milk)
  • Handful blueberries
  • 2 packets stevia
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds

What you do:

  1. Mix everything together, reserving several blueberries.
  2. Spoon out into airtight containers (again, I use small mason jars.)
  3. Top with remaining blueberries and sprinkle with extra cinnamon, if desired.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, your oats will be soaked through, and, essentially, “cooked.” I eat this a lot at work and my boss always comments on how delicious it smells when I heat it up. The oatmeal is extremely filling, especially when adding chia seeds, or flax seed to the mix.

LUNCH: Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

This is one of my absolute favorite mason jar salads, and I think the dressing is the key. I tried to make my own sesame ginger dressing and it was horrendous. I’ll stick with the pre-made version for this one.

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What you need: *Note, this is for one serving. However, I really don’t measure out ingredients for my salad, I just throw them together based on what looks good and fits in the jar!

  • Spinach
  • Pulled chicken (rotisserie, again)
  • 1-2 carrots
  • Handful sugar snap peas
  • Handful peanuts or cashews
  • Handful chow mein noodles
  • Asian sesame ginger dressing (I used Ken’s Steakhouse)
  • 1 clementine or mandarin orange

What you do:

  1. Peel outside skin off your carrot and discard. Continue to peel with peeler, making long, thin carrot shreddings. Or, spiralize with a “zoodler” or spiralizer.
  2. Peel your clementine and pull wedges apart.
  3. Pour desired amount of dressing into bottom of mason jar.
  4. Next, add in this order: cashews/peanuts, chow mein, snap peas, carrots, chicken.
  5. Finally, stuff the rest of your mason jar with spinach.

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When you’re ready to eat, give it a good shake and pour onto a plate.

Tuesday: Yogurt Parfait & Chicken Burrito Bowl

DAY TWO (TUESDAY)

Day two of meal prepping. Yesterday it was SO nice to come home from work, head to the gym, come back to a leftover bowl of potato soup, and spend the rest of the evening with my husband. Normally I’m spending half of my night prepping our meals for the next day, so I really appreciated already having everything ready to go for Tuesday!

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I’ve made it a point to make different meals every day. I see a lot of meal preps where people eat chicken, broccoli and brown rice every day of the week. That’s great; I’m sure it’s healthy and cuts down on cost and waste, but I cannot make myself eat the same thing every day. Well, actually I probably could (I love routine) but my husband would be taking his lunch break at Subway. So, I’ve tried to have something different for each of our meals, while not needing 10000 ingredients to purchase.

I’ve posted about both of these meals before, but it’s been a while and I’ve made some variations, so you’re getting the refreshed, better-this-time-around versions.

BREAKFAST: Fruit, Yogurt and Granola Parfait

If you love the ones from McDonalds (for only a dollar, so admittedly, you probably can’t beat their price) you’ll love these!

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What you need (for one serving):

  • 2 packs yogurt (I use Activia, but you could also use a few scoops from a larger tub of yogurt. I’ve made this with one Activia, one vanilla Greek yogurt as well)
  • Small handful of berries
  • 1-2 tbsp granola

What you do:

  1. In a small bowl or container, pour in one packet of yogurt.
  2. Pour the second pack on top.
  3. Layer some berries on the yogurt.
  4. Sprinkle with granola.

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So simple and a great breakfast option or afternoon snack!

LUNCH: Chicken Burrito Bowl

This is one of my regular go-to’s for lunch. The ingredients are super cheap and this recipe makes enough of your burrito mixture to use for a second meal. Later this week, I’ll show you how I used my leftovers to make actual burritos (hint, you just stuff it in a tortilla.)

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What you need (for ~4 servings)

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1 small can tomatoes & green chiles blend (Rotel)
  • 1 can yellow corn
  • ~1 1/2 cups pulled chicken (again, I used rotisserie)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 cups instant brown rice
  • Several stalks cilantro
  • Optional: salsa or Mexican hot sauce for topping

What you do:

  1. Cook your rice according to the package.
  2. In a large skillet, combine the first six ingredients.
  3. On medium heat, simmer ~10-15 minutes until mixture has started to heat up.
  4. In your container, spoon out as much rice as desired.
  5. Top your mixture with some fresh cilantro.
  6. Add your optional salsa or sauce if desired.

Just stick this in the microwave for several minutes when you are ready to eat. It keeps great in the refrigerator so this is a good option to eat toward the end of your week, but I went wild and had mine on Tuesday. Keep in mind that you’ll only use about half of your chicken mixture, but be sure to save that and check back on Friday to see how you can use it for another meal!

 

Monday: Almond Butter Toast & Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato

DAY 1 (MONDAY)

Almond Butter & Fruit Toast

BREAKFAST: Almond Butter, Banana & Blueberry Toast

This is one of my go-to’s for breakfast. It is so easy and healthy and keeps me full until lunch. It’s a great breakfast for when you don’t have much time to throw something together.

What you need (for one serving):

  • 1 slice of multi-grain bread
  • 1-2 scoops almond butter
  • 1/2 banana, sliced
  • handful blueberries
  • honey

What you do:

  1. Spread the almond butter over your bread.
  2. Place banana slices on top of almond butter.
  3. Do the same with blueberries, spreading out evenly.
  4. Drizzle honey over top of bread.

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That’s it! Seriously, so easy and one of my favorites. It’s like a better version of a peanut butter and banana sandwich. If you haven’t had almond butter before, I really recommend trying it. It’s sweeter and less salty than peanut butter. And while peanut butter certainly isn’t bad for you in moderation, almond butter has about half as much saturated fat as peanut butter, and also has more fiber and vitamins. Unfortunately, it’s quite a bit pricier, but is a great staple to have in your pantry when you just need a change from the regular ol’ PB&J.

LUNCH: Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potato

This is a new one for me this week and it turned out amazing. What’s not to like with buffalo chicken? The saltiness of the buffalo and ranch compared to the sweetness of the potato, and the tangy taste of the blue cheese is a great combination. Sweet potatoes are exceptionally good for you and rich in vitamins and minerals. I’m sure you can go a step further and make your own buffalo sauce, but I was lazy and used Frank’s in a bottle.

What you need (for one serving):

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1-2 tbsp buffalo sauce
  • 1/2 cup pulled chicken (cooked)
  • handful blue cheese
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Greek Yogurt ranch dressing (dry mix)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk (1% or 2%)

What you do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Clean sweet potato and poke holes with fork.
  3. Place directly on center rack of oven and bake ~45 minutes, flipping halfway through.
  4. While potatoes are baking, mix together the ranch dressing, according to packet, using the Greek yogurt and milk.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together chicken and buffalo sauce. Be sure the chicken is coated well, but not soaked. (I used pulled chicken from a rotisserie chicken, so there was no baking or cooking involved. You could also boil or bake your own chicken breast and pull apart, or use canned chicken.)
  6. When potato is done, remove from oven and slice in half, lengthwise. Use a fork to mash up some of the potato inside the skin.
  7. Place chicken inside the potato.
  8. Top with blue cheese.
  9. Drizzle with ranch dressing.

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As I’ve said before, I’m really obsessed with anything buffalo chicken, so I really loved this recipe. The potato is very filling so it was enough of a lunch for me on it’s own. But I could see pairing this with some carrot and celery sticks to get your fill of vegetables, as well.

Meal Prepping

The past few weeks I haven’t been so great at healthy eating. For breakfast and lunch, I’ve been alright, but dinner has been an epic fail. This past weekend, my hometown had it’s annual Apple Blossom Festival, which brings out trucks and trucks of carnival food. Friday, for lunch, I had a pulled pork bbq sandwich, and for dinner, a cheeseburger, cheese fries and popcorn. Saturday was followed up by a full spread from Taco Bell. Let’s not talk about the calories from alcohol…

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So I decided to get back on my healthy meal prep kick, partially for the nutritional benefits, and partially to save money. Eating out is quick and easy, but boy do the costs add up. It pains me to get a $50 check for dinner, knowing that could have bought a few days worth of meals. My husband and I try not to be terribly frivolous with our money, but our biggest weakness food. I normally grocery shop about once a week and try to purchase what I need for the week ahead. Yesterday I went through my pantry and fridge and tried to come up with some meals based on ingredients I already had in the house. I made a list of the few things I still needed and headed to the store. I spent around $40 or so, but again, I had most of my supplies already at home. So if you calculate 3 meals a day, times 7 days, times two people, that’s about $0.95 per meal! You really can’t beat that. My husband and I are dedicated to spending NO money this week, except for emergencies or necessities such as gas and bills. So that means NO money on food!

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One of the biggest reasons we buy our lunch or dinner is due to lack of preparation. Maybe we have healthy things in the fridge, but we’re running late in the morning and don’t have time to pack. Or I forget to take meat out of the freezer in the morning and by the time I get home from work I’m too tired and hungry to wait for something to thaw. So yesterday, I decided to prep our breakfasts and lunches for the week ahead. I normally pack our lunches the night before, but sometimes binge watching Shameless takes precedence over packing. I spent about two hours total and prepped 30 meals total–breakfast, and lunch for both my husband and I, for Monday through Friday. On weekends, I don’t normally prep–I typically use Saturday and Sunday as somewhat “cheat days” and grab a bowl of cereal or a sandwich and chips. I’ve planned out what we’ll be eating for dinner, but these are mostly crock pot meals and quick dinners that don’t really require any preparation ahead of time.

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I gathered all of my ingredients and handled the prep several steps at a time. I had the rice boiling and the sweet potatoes in the oven while I was chopping peppers for my eggs. There really wasn’t a method to my madness, and my kitchen was certainly a wreck in the process. I just tried to think logically about what I could multitask. The key is having a lot of portable containers! I like to use generic Ziploc plastic containers, and I reuse them until the fall apart. I use the small rectangle “entree” size, and the small round twist & lock variety for most of my lunches. I also utilize small mason jars for things like yogurts and oatmeal, and large mason jars for salads. It’s also a good idea to have the mini seal-able condiment containers for things like hummus and peanut butter. I know a lot of people use glass containers for everything, since plastic isn’t the safest to microwave, but I just haven’t yet gotten there. Plus, my husband is notorious for mysteriously loosing his containers, and the plastic ones are cheap to replace.

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Here is the result of my hard work! I felt so productive and accomplished after finishing, and it’s a great feeling to know I won’t have to do any other preparation until next Sunday! Throughout this week, I’ll be blogging about each meal, including my recipe and how it turned out, so check back every day for more. I don’t claim to be an expert, just a cheap girl trying to healthy it up:)

Strawberry Feta Salad

I have been eating mason jar salads several times a week for about two months now and I have some “regulars” that I always throw into my meal rotation. I felt like I needed a new option for a spinach-based salad (my favorites) and I wanted to try to some feta cheese instead of my standard blue.

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I decided to tackle making my own dressing for my new salad creation. This idea actually originated because I couldn’t find my favorite sweet balsamic dressing on my latest grocery store trip. I’ve never before attempted my own dressing because I figured it’d be labor intensive, expensive, and just downright difficult. Boy, was I completely wrong! I was shocked by how easy it was to throw together my very own strawberry red wine vinaigrette.

What you need:

For the dressing:
-1/8 cup red wine vinegar
-1/4 cup olive oil
-pinch of salt & pepper
-pinch of sugar
-3-4 strawberries

For the salad:
-Spinach (or mixed greens)
-Strawberries
-1/2 pear (diced)
-Unsalted almonds
-Walnuts (chopped)
-Feta cheese (crumbled)

What to do:

For the dressing:

  1. Mix the first 4 ingredients together.
  2. Add strawberries and crush with spoon (or mortar and pestle)
  3. Mix well.

For the salad:

Layer everything in a mason jar in this order: dressing, almonds, walnuts, feta, pears, strawberries, greens.

Shake and pour onto plate or eat directly from jar.

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The dressing turned out really well! It is not as sweet as what I am used to in a dressing, but umpteen times healthier. I am going to keep experimenting with dressings to see what other varieties I can whip up.

Berry & Blue Cheese Salad

I’ve been making mason jar salads several times a week for lunch lately. There really are so many options and varieties! This berry & blue cheese salad is another favorite of mine. I prefer spinach salads over lettuce, and the spinach with a sweet dressing and fruit with the tangy taste of blue cheese is amazing.

Berry Blue Cheese Salad

Another great dish to prep the night before and take with you to work for lunch the next day!

What you need:

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-Spinach
-Blueberries
-Raspberries
-Walnuts
-Blue cheese
-Raspberry vinaigrette dressing

What to do:
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Layer your salad in the following order:

  1. Dressing
  2. Walnuts
  3. Blue cheese
  4. Berries
  5. Spinach

Shake well and pour on plate when you’re ready to eat!

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Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad, but all that mayonnaise isn’t exactly healthy. So I decided to try to find a way to lighten it up. This chicken salad uses Greek yogurt instead of mayo. It gives the same consistency, but it is rather sweet, so I played up that aspect by adding apples, raisins and pecans. I ate it in a whole grain pita to keep with the healthy trend.

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

What you need:

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-Cooked, pulled chicken breast
-1 cup plain Greek yogurt
-Handful raisins
-1/2 chopped sweet apple
-Handful chopped pecans
-Pinch of salt and pepper
-1/2 whole grain pita

Mix the first 6 ingredients together and add salt and pepper to taste. Stuff into a half of a pita. This is a great quick, healthy option for lunch!

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Meatball & Vegetable Slow Cooker Soup

We are right in the middle of a major blizzard here in Virginia! They’re calling for 24-30″ of snow. So what is better on a cold, snowy day than a crock pot full of warm, delicious soup?

Veggie Soup

This soup is packed with veggies and simple to prepare the night before, or even freeze ahead of time. It is a “tomato based” soup, so to speak, but it cheats with spaghetti sauce, rather than crushed tomatoes or tomato paste. To me, it tastes very reminiscent of Olive Garden’s minestrone soup with I absolutely LOVE. This was a real hit, and we have TONS of leftovers to keep us full and warm throughout this snowstorm. Let’s just pray we don’t lose power…

What you need:

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  • 1 lb small frozen meatballs, thawed
  • 3 cups frozen green beans, thawed
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 can kidney beans
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 24 oz. pasta sauce
  • Onion flakes and salt & pepper to taste

What to do:

Just thaw your frozen items the night before in your refrigerator, and dumb everything into your slow cooker. Give it a good stir. Cook on low for 8 hours.

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I channeled my inner Olive Garden and sprinkled a bit of cheese on my bowl, and even considered eating it with a side of garlic bread. My husband loved this soup too, and so did our spoiled little dog. To those of you experiencing “The Blizzard of 2016,” stay safe, warm, and full!

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La Croix Lovin’

I’ve never been much of a soda drinker so cutting it out of my diet has been no problem at all. Growing up my parents always drank water, and so that’s what I drank too. I’m not much into juice, milk, tea, Gatorade, or anything else. Nine times out of ten I stick to regular ol’ water when choosing a drink. But every now and then I do like the bubbly feel of a soda when I’m eating a meal. It almost feels like it helps wash things down–cleanses the palette a little more than water.

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On all the healthy blogs, Pinterest and Instagram accounts I follow, I’ve been seeing people rage about La Croix. It comes in a cute little colorful can and a variety of flavors and people seem to think it is a Godsend. La Croix’s claim to fame is that it is a sparkling, flavored water with zero calories, zero sugar, zero sodium, zero artificial flavors. The water is flavored with the natural oils of fruits. It is apparently “Whole 30 Approved” which I think is part of why I have been seeing so much of it lately on social media. So I picked some up at Food Lion the other day to see what all the fuss is about. They had a few flavors in stock, but I chose Passion Fruit. It came in a pack of 8 for about $3.69.

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I have to be honest, it was not what I was expecting, at all. I’ve had flavored waters before, with a very sweet and strong fruit flavor. This was not that. It tastes mostly like seltzer water, with a hint of fruit flavoring. It is certainly not sweet. To tell you the truth, I was a little put off by the taste at first and wasn’t sure I’d finish my case. But as I continued to drink it, it started to grow on me. A few cans later and I can say I’m falling in love! It has a very refreshing quality with the carbonation and almost makes me feel as if I am “treating myself” by drinking one. I’ve been taking a can to work with me every day and look forward to it as a late-in-the-day pick-me-up, although this is purely mental as La Croix contains no caffeine or sugar.

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A few days ago I went back to the grocery and saw some generic sparkling flavored water for $0.79 a liter. I thought I was beating the system and getting a generic version for much cheaper than La Croix! But when I poured a glass after getting home, I found it was overwhelmingly sweet, way too much after getting used to the subtle flavor of La Croix. I looked on the nutrition label, and although the front of the bottle boasts “calorie free! sugar free!” it is loaded with aspartame and about 8 other ingredients, some of which I can’t even pronounce. That’s another thing I like about La Croix–it’s ingredients are literally carbonated water and natural flavoring.

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So far I’ve tried Passion Fruit, Cran-Raspberry and “Cerise Limon” aka Cherry Lime. All have been very good! I think I’m a little bit addicted now and can’t wait to try other flavors. I hear Target has the best selection (we don’t have Whole Foods and the like where I live)…as if I need another reason to go to Target! There are many recipes and concoctions online for mixing La Croix with booze for a lower-calorie drink. I think that liquor and the water may be a little too harsh, but I’d definitely like to try some Berry La Croix with some red wine for a refreshing wine spritzer!