Chickpea Zucchini & Carrot Salad

Regular ol’ salads with lettuce or spinach can get a bit tired and boring after a while. This is a great way to still have a vegetable packed salad with a twist!

Zucchini & carrot-2This salad uses shredded carrots and zucchini as the base. I was a bit apprehensive of eating these uncooked, as I’ve never had raw zucchini before, but it actually turned out a lot better than I was expecting. After I got over the “weirdness” of eating uncooked veggies (it’s really just a mental thing) I really enjoyed this salad and will definitely be making it again!

What you need:

For the salad:
-2 zucchinis
-3 peeled carrots
-1 can chick peas
-1/4 tsp paprika
-1/4 tsp chili powder
-1/4 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp salt
-Olive oil
-Handful chopped basil

For the sauce:
-1 avocado
-1/2 cup pistachios
-Handful cilantro
-Lime juice (maybe about 1/4 cup?)
-Water

What to do:

First, roast the chick peas. Heat the oven to 400. Toss the chick peas in olive oil, paprika, chili, cumin and salt. Spread on baking sheet and bake about 15 min.
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To make the salad, you shred the carrots and zucchini with a peeler (or if you have one of those veggie spiralizers that works) and then toss in the basil.
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For the sauce, blend all sauce ingredients in food processor or blender. Add water until it’s the consistency you want.
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Then add your chick peas to your veggie peelings.
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Add the sauce when you are ready to eat. Do not do so before, as this will make your vegetables and chick peas soggy.
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Mix all together and enjoy! IMG_6786
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Fruit, Yogurt & Granola Parfait

If you’ve ever had the Fruit and Yogurt Parfait from McDonalds, you understand why I would want to make a copycat version. It’s so good! One of the healthiest things you can get on their menu. But I decided to make my own and it turned out even better!

FRUIT & YOGURT

I ate this for breakfast, but it would also make a great snack, or even a dessert. I always use Dannon Light & Fit Greek Yogurt for my flavored yogurt, I think it tastes the best out of the options I’ve tried. Their vanilla yogurt is so creamy and sweet it could almost satisfy for ice cream. You could certainly try an organic or soy brand, but this is what I had on hand.

What you need:

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– 3/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
-Handful berries or diced fruit of your choice
-Handful of granola

What to do:

It’s so simple, just top your yogurt with fruit and then the granola! Mix all up when you are ready to eat. I made our parfaits the night before and they were great for breakfast in the morning. Next time, I’ll leave the granola out until I’m ready to eat, to keep it from getting a little soft. I’m already considering having another one of these later tonight as an after-dinner treat!

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Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Salad

Buffalo chicken is one of my favorite things. Specifically, buffalo chicken dip. It’s my absolute go-to for potlucks and parties. I’ve eating it as its own meal on several occasions, and have been known to make it into a sandwich. There’s something about the spicy, tangy buffalo sauce mixed with ranch that makes it so delicious. If you’re a fan of wings, I’m sure you understand. But the dip I make is made with cream cheese, full fat ranch, and almost an entire pack of shredded cheese. Not so much a part of the healthy eating plan.

Quinoa

This recipe was a great way to satisfy my buffalo chicken craving while lightening up my lunch. I was a little apprehensive of the “Greek yogurt ranch ” but ended up impressed. It certainly is no buttermilk ranch dressing, but it does the trick. By packing this salad with quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, corn, spinach and avocados, it was not only nutritious, but also very filling! This will definitely be going into my regular rotation.

What you need:

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-Cooked, shredded chicken (about 2-2 1/2cups)
-3/4 cup buffalo sauce (more or less to taste)
-Packet of Hidden Valley Greek Yogurt Ranch
-1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
-1/2 can Rotel tomatoes & green chiles
-1/2 can black beans
-1/2 can yellow corn
-1 avocado, chopped
-2 cups spinach
-1 cup uncooked quinoa
-2 cups water
-handful cilantro, chopped

What to do:

  1. Rinse quinoa well with a mesh strainer
  2. Cook rinsed quinoa and water on stove until boiling.
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  3. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 15 minutes.
  4. In a bowl, toss chicken with buffalo sauce.
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  5. In separate bowl, combine beans, corn and Rotel.
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  6. In a third bowl, combine ranch packet and yogurt. Mix well.
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  7. Toss spinach with cilantro.
  8. When quinoa is cooked, place all ingredients except ranch in large bowl or travel container.
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  9. When ready to eat, top with ranch and stir.

I made these salads in the evening and left them in the fridge overnight to take to work for lunch. I kept all ingredients in separate corners of the containers to keep anything from getting soggy. I kept the ranch separate for the same reason.

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I actually really really loved this recipe. I love cold quinoa salads to begin with, and the buffalo chicken made it that much tastier. Plus, I have enough leftovers to make lunch for both of us tomorrow, as well!

Carrot Cake Overnight Oats

I am a fan of oatmeal and I have been seeing a lot online recently about “overnight oats” so I couldn’t wait to try it out!

Carrot cake

The concept behind overnight oats is pretty easy. You let your oats soak in milk overnight, and by the morning, they are “cooked” and ready to eat! You can eat it cold, or stick it in the microwave for a bit to warm it up.

There are a million concoctions and recipes out there, but I decided to try carrot cake for my first attempt. It was super easy to put together and turned out pretty good. I have to leave for work at 7:30 a.m. so I love meals that I prepare the night before and grab and go in the morning as I am heading out the door.

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What you need:

-1/2 cup oats of your choice (I used old fashioned oats, but also got some steal cut oats to try out at some point)
-1/2 cup milk of your choice (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
-1/2 mashed banana
-Pinch of carrot shavings
-1/2 tsp maple syrup
-1/4 tsp vanilla extract
-1/4 tsp of cinnamon
-Pinch of nutmeg
-Small handful of chopped pecans

What to do:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a small mason jar or other airtight container. Be sure to cover all the oats in milk so they can soak up the liquid.

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  2. Place jar in the refrigerator overnight.

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  3. In the morning, add any garnishments you’d like, such as another pinch of cinnamon, a few additional carrot shavings or pecans, etc.
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That’s it! It is seriously so easy. The suggested oats to ilk ratio is 1:1, but you can play around with this to make the yogurt the consistency you desire. There are unlimited combinations you could make with this basic formula. I’m really excited to experiment with some new concoctions and flavors!

 

Spaghetti Squash “Lasagna” Casserole

Lately I have been trying to curb my carb intake. I personally don’t believe in completely carb-free diets, but I do think that limiting carbs and being more conscious of how much I eat has made my body both look and feel better. This, however, is quite the challenge for me because I love bread, pasta and potatoes! So I’ve been seeing a lot about “spaghetti squash” lately and decided to try it out. Spaghetti squash is a big oblong squash that runs about $2-3 at the grocery store and can be found just about all year long. When roasted, the meat breaks apart into long skinny sections just like spaghetti noodles! It is the craziest thing. One cup of spaghetti squash has only 42 calories and 7 carbs! Can’t beat that! You can eat spaghetti squash on its own as a side dish, with a little white wine and scampi, in Asian inspired dishes, and just about any other way you would like to enjoy pasta. I decided to try out a classic Italian spin and made a “lasagna” spaghetti squash casserole. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious this dish turned out, and how easy it was to prepare! I tried to make this as healthy as possible and used ground turkey instead of beef, and part-skim cheese.

What you need:

Ingredients
Ingredients

 

-1 spaghetti squash
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Salt & pepper
-Ground turkey
-Spaghetti sauce
-Part-skim mozzarella, shredded

What to do:

1. Slice your spaghetti squash in half. This might be the hardest part, as the skin is pretty thick!

 

2. Scoop out the insides and discard the seeds and pulp. Just like a pumpkin! Rub each half with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fill a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water and place the squash halves cut side down. Bake on 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

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3. Meanwhile, brown the ground turkey. Once browned, add spaghetti sauce and heat until bubbling.

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4. Remove squash from the oven. Use a fork to start “fluffing” the squash. It will very easily break apart into “noodles.”
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5. Start layering your casserole. Alternate layers of squash, cheese and sauce. Finish with a top layer of cheese and put back in the oven 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.
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The squash is sweeter and crunchier than normal pasta. Definitely a different consistency. So go into this expecting squash rather than actual noodles and you might just fall in love! This was so simple to make and the spaghetti squash has endless possibilities as a base.

 

Do you have any good recipes you have made using spaghetti squash?  

The Addictive World of Juicing!

Recently my boyfriend quit smoking (so proud!) and we decided to go on a mini-health kick. In addition to regular exercise and hydration, we’ve started making more of a conscious effort to eat healthy, while still not depriving ourselves of things we love. Some of my friends have gotten on the juicing kick (credit fellow blogger Evin–www.pcslife.wordpress.com) and rave about how easy it is and and how great they feel. So one night we just up went to Wal-Mart (one of our favorite night-time activities, don’t judge) to find a cheap juicer. We didn’t want to invest too much money into this thing in case it tasted horrendous or was a one-time fad. We settled on a cheapo Hamilton Beach machine for around $70.

Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juicer
juice2 Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Juicer

Then we set off to the produce section to pick out our first ingredients. I had looked up some recipes on Pinterest ahead of time, and we settled for  a “Green Machine.” Looking back, we definitely under-purchased. One thing you will quickly realize with juicing is that it takes a LOT of fruits and veggies just to produce a small amount of juice.

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Green Machine

Green Machine:
2bundles of kale
2 Granny Smith apples
2 green pears
1 lemon

This particular machine boasts that its wide mouth can fit and juice whole apples! I was skeptical at first, but it really worked. You can juice fruits and veggies whole as long as they will fit, being mindful to peel any rind that may not be edible. For example, you can put in a whole cucumber or apple, but be sure to first peel a lemon, orange, or papaya. Small seeds are fine to include, but large pits as in peaches and nectarines must first be discarded.

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juice5photo 1 Finished Green Machine

I was surprised at how easy the whole process was! It only takes a few minutes of your time to get a delicious concoction. Yes, I said DELICIOUS. I couldn’t believe how great it tasted to drink KALE!

Long story short, we have become JuiceHeads (and no, not the steroid type.) Since purchasing the machine about three weeks ago, we have each had at least one juice per day. I personally don’t use the juices as meal replacements, per say, but I do drink one every morning for breakfast. Before juicing I typically never had anything for breakfast except for coffee (BAD, I know!) so this has been a great addition. It starts my metabolism and keeps me (almost) full until lunchtime. I’ve cut out coffee almost completely, except as a treat every now and then. The juice wakes me up and gives me all the energy I need.

Now, let’s talk NUTRITION! Juicing is incredibly HEALTHY! Thinking about all of the vitamins and minerals you pack into one pint of liquid. My new favorite Google search is “what are the health benefits of ______?” So many cancer-fighting, vision enhancing, heart healthy benefits in each little fruit or veggie. My office has been passing bugs around all winter, and I (knock on wood) have yet to get sick. I definitely attribute this to all of the vitamin C and other nutrients in my juice! Throughout the week, Itypically stick to alternating between green kale or spinach based juices and orange carrot and ginger based juices. Several of my favorite recipes are listed below.

But first, a few words of advice for new juicers:

1. Buy MORE produce than you think you will use! Per week, we typically go through anywhere from 7-28 apples, 10 pears, 3 bunches of kale, 1 large bag of spinach, 2 bags of carrots, 1 ginger root, and 12 oranges. These are our “essential” ingredients. We more sparsely purchase “enhancer” ingredients, such as melon, cilantro, mangoes, and beets. I try to shop once on Sundays to avoid going to the store throughout the rest of the week.

2. Juice right before you want to drink. Juices lose nutrients the longer they sit. Something about oxidation or…I have no idea.

3. Don’t be afraid to try new combinations or be turned off by weird colors. Brown juices can be delicious! Get out of your comfort zone and use ingredients you don’t really like. I am not a huge fan of celery, but I try to hide at least one stalk in each of my green drinks to reap the health benefits.

Happy juicing!

Green Monster:  2 Granny Smith apples 1/2 cucumber 1 celery stalk 4-5 large leaves of kale (Add a handful of cilantro to kick up the flavor!)
Green Monster:
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cucumber
1 celery stalk
4-5 large leaves of kale
(Add a handful of cilantro to kick up the flavor!)
Beets Me! 2 beet roots (peeled)  1 sweet apple 2 carrots 1 inch ginger root 1 orange 1 lime
Beets Me!
2 beet roots (peeled)
1 sweet apple
2 carrots
1 inch ginger root
1 orange
1 lime
Mango Madness 1 mango (peeled)  4 carrots 1 inch ginger 1 orange 1 green apple
Mango Madness:
1 mango (peeled)
4 carrots
1 orange
1 green pear
1 inch of ginger root

 

Baked Fries (Is This an Oxymoron?)

We all love french fries but all know how terrible they are for you with all that nasty fat and oil! This is a quick and easy way to get the same fry taste, without actually being fried. Guess we should maybe call them “french bakes” instead?

(Disclaimer–Okay for some reason all of my pictures turn out yellow and awful looking. Actually that “some reason” is two things–terrible camera, and terrible lighting in my kitchen. Bear with me until I get a better camera–I promise these things look much better and more appetizing in real life!)

What you need:

Russet potato(es) extra virgin olive oil, seasoning salt, garlic powder, pepper.
Russet potato(es) extra virgin olive oil, seasoning salt, garlic powder, pepper.

-Russet potatoes (I used one large one–feeds two.)
-Extra virgin olive oil
-Seasoning salt
-Garlic powder
-Pepper

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Peel your potatoes and cut your potato into thin slices.  I typically start by cutting a potato into thirds, and then each third into halves. I then begin to make my slices. Next spread onto a baking sheet.
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Next, drizzle potatoes with olive oil. Sprinkle on seasoning salt, garlic powder and pepper to taste. Toss the slices around to make sure they are all evenly coated with oil and seasoning.

Finally, bake in the oven approximately 40-45 minutes or until golden. Enjoy with ketchup, mustard, or just plain by themselves!

Do you have a healthier way to enjoy french fries?