veggie chicken pasta bake.

I used to make this dish a ton pre-Jack.  It’s a little more time consuming because there are so many vegetables to cut up, but it’s totally worth it for the nutritional value.  I made this the other day – thinking our family was in need of a huge veggie boost.  Here’s the super easy recipe.

 

Ingredients:

Pasta [I used bowtie but penne and rigatoni work well, too]
1 jar of pasta sauce
3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1-2 zucchini
2-3 yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper

 

Directions:

1.  Cook pasta according to directions on package – cook pasta to al dente since it will be cooked more.
2.  Chop vegetables.  I cut to fairly decent size pieces to save time and because I like to get a bigger bite of vegetable.
3.  Cut chicken into strips or bite-size pieces.
4.  Place pasta, chicken, vegetables, and sauce in crockpot.  Cook on high 4 hours or low 8 hours.

Top with low-fat cheese to serve.  This dish goes great with bread and a side salad.

 

This dish can also be cooked in the oven.  Just cook chicken at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Then mix pasta, chicken, vegetables, and sauce in a  large bowl.  Put in baking dish, top with cheese, and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes to heat.

 

Enjoy!

 

Vegetables

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comfort food.

Today was a comfort food kind of day.  Rainy all day long with a cold wind in the air.  It was the perfect  day to stay inside and eat.  I was inspired by my  usual source of kitchen inspiration– the Pioneer Woman.

She recently posted Salisbury Steak, and I knew today was the day.  It was the first time I’d ever made salisbury steak.  It was really easy, just a little time consuming my first time.  I think it really could become an easy to do meal.  Although I think salisbury steak is a once in a while kind of thing in this house.

Her recipe is super easy to follow.  I like the pictures.  I made mashed potatoes and green beans with it.  When you go comfort, go all the way, I say.  Which is why I type this from my couch in my sweat pants and super old, cozy sweater.

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Delicious goodness.  Salisbury steak, onions, and plenty o’ gravy.

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Jack’s plate.  He ate more of this meal than he has in a long, long time.  He informed me that this is a man’s meal.  Tommy agreed.

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My plate is heavy on the gravy.  Heavy.  And awesome.

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And we’re still eating our meals here.  But the table is back and the chairs are on their way to completion, so soon enough we will stop eating in the living room in front of the tv.  Also, notice our Christmas tree.  I told you this diagram really hit home.  The only safe ornaments are those 4 at the top, since our tree is so short.

 

 

*Recipe is located here.

soup full of veggies.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done any type of recipe post or talked about vegetables or nutrition on this here blog, so I thought it time to do so.

 

One of the things I love about winter is that you can make lots of soups and stews that are quick, easy, and full of vegetables.  It’s a great and easy way to get a lot of veggies in.  Minestrone soup is one of my favorites.  It’s got great flavor and before you even realize it you’ve eaten several servings of vegetables.

 

This recipe is from my CrockPot cookbook — it came with my CrockPot.  So it’s super easy.  Just get all the ingredients ready, throw them in, and let it be.

 

I needed the knife and cutting board for the onion and zucchini.  I used big chunks of zucchini.  I used baby carrots, shredded cabbage from the grocery store, and canned tomatoes, so there really wasn’t much food prep needed.

 

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Everything looked great thrown together.  And it tasted great hours later.  Add some macaroni noodles and parmesan cheese and you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Nutrition information:

–  Lots of vegetables in each serving of soup.

–  Beans are great source of protein without the fat of meat.

–  Vegetables and beans are rich in fiber which has awesome effects on the body including GI health.

–  Low-calorie, low-fat soup.

 

 

Ingredients:

– 1 onion, chopped

– 2 carrots, sliced [I used baby carrots and put them in whole]

– 1 zucchini, diced

– 1 cup cabbage, shredded

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans, drained  [I used one can kidney beans, one can pinto because I don’t like kidney beans enough to do 2 cans]

– 32 oz beef broth

– 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes [I accidentally grabbed the diced tomatoes instead, and I loved how it turned out so I’ll probably do that again]

– 1 tsp. dried basil

– 1/2 tsp. dried oregano [I didn’t have basil and oregano so I used 1 heaping tsp of italian seasoning]

– 1/2 tsp. salt

– 1/4 tsp. black pepper

– 2 cups cooked elbow macaroni

– 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

 

Directions:

1.  Combine all of the ingredients in your Crock Pot– except the macaroni & Parmesan

2.  Cover.

3.  Cook on low for 7-9 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

4.  Stir in the macaroni & Parmesan cheese.

 

Enjoy!

 

post-thanksgiving goodness.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving full of love ones, food, and counting of blessings.

Our Thanksgiving was so sweet.  We had 1 pm dinner with my family at my parents’ house, and then drove to Tommy’s parents’ for a 6 pm dinner.  We were stuffed full of food, but what a blessing to have too much food and 2 families to celebrate the holiday with.
We spent some time playing outside.  It was a beautiful day!  Perfectly warm and sunny and perfect for family fun outdoors.  The only time I had my camera out was while we were playing outside for a few minutes, so  I didn’t get many pictures of the day.

Hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday weekend!

yum yum yum.

It’s been awhile since I posted a recipe and this is one I had to share.

 

First of all, nothing Pioneer Woman does is wrong.  Every recipe I have ever tried of hers is out of this world.  So when I saw this one the other day I was looking forward to it.

 

 

This turned out so good.  Try it.  Try it now.

 

It was even worth the having to start over when my clumsiness ruined the first try.  I dropped the plate of chicken on the floor.  Raw chicken everywhere.  My nightmare.  It was already 6:45– we usually eat dinner super early– Jack had dinner one already.  But Tommy came in and cleaned up the kitchen while I regrouped on the couch, and then I went back in, got the chicken for tomorrow night’s dinner out of the fridge and started over.  And it was so worth it.

 

I’m not even a huge mustard person but loved this.

 

via

 

 

 

Find the recipe here.

 

Enjoy!

in a pinch.

Now that I have started working a little bit again I’m having more of those “in a pinch” moments.  You know those ones where you had big ideas for dinner but it just won’t work.  Or maybe you have no ideas for dinner, it’s already 5:30, baby is hungry, husband walks in hungry, and there’s no way you’re going to pull together something decent for dinner.  Yeah, that’s more like my “in a pinch” moment.

 

We ended up going with a frozen pizza on one of those nights.  I try to add something of healthy value when we have pizza night.  Maybe it comes from my mom who would always make us eat salad with our pizza whenever we ordered pizza when we were little.  This time I took the approach of adding healthy value to the pizza.  We had an awesome tomato from the farmers market that I cut up and put on the pizza before I baked it.

 

 

Hello color.  Hello nutrients.  Hello delicious.

 

It does nothing to take away fat and calories but at least we got some good nutrients in with our pizza.  Better than nothing!

stuffed bell peppers.

This is my new go-to easy, healthy meal!  Seriously easy.  Very healthy.  Tasty, too.

Stuffed peppers are so easy to do.  They’re great because 1 large bell pepper counts as 1/2 to 1/3 of your vegetable needs for the day.  I usually eat 2 stuffed peppers when we have them, so that pretty much meets my vegetable needs in one meal!  Especially if I add other veggies into my stuffed peppers [which I do].

A few fun facts about bell peppers:

  • Excellent source of Vitamin C [more than 100% daily value]
  • Great source of Vitamin A
  • Good source of Vitamin B6
  • Full of carotenoids — which help protect your body against harmful free radicals & help the immune system out!
  • More colors, more nutrients!

More great news:  one of these peppers has less than 200 calories.  So when I eat 2 of these, which really fills me up, I’m having a healthy, vegetable-rich dinner for under 500 calories.

Calorie breakdown:

bell pepper 44 cal

¼ c brown rice 58 cal

¼ c ground turkey w/ taco seasoning 84 cal

¼ c diced tomatoes 8 cal

Total = 194 calories!

I had this awesomely colorful spread of fresh bell peppers from our CSA and had no clue what to do with this many.  Hello stuffed peppers.  And so easy they were to make.

Before you get your peppers going, start browning the ground turkey.  I use ground turkey because it’s heart healthy – lower in fat and all those things that can be problematic for the heart.  It’s a much, much leaner and healthier option than ground beef.  My store sells 85% fat free ground turkey and 99% fat free; make sure to get the 99% fat free.  Add taco seasoning to the turkey once it’s cooked.  This adds a bit of flavor and southwestern flair to the peppers.  Otherwise, they’ll taste pretty bland.
Next, cook your brown rice.

While the rice and turkey are cooking, cut the tops off the peppers and hollow them out.  Remove the seeds and inner membranes so you have plenty of room for your stuffing.

You can cook the peppers before you stuff them, but I prefer to wait until they’re stuffed and then stick them in the oven for a quick cooking and melting of everything together.

Stuff those peppers up!  I like to mix the rice and turkey and fill the bottom half of the pepper with that mixture.  Then I add vegetables on top.  This time I added a bunch of diced tomatoes.  Corn also goes awesome in this.  Put those babies in the oven at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Good lookin’ peppers.  We had pepper night and I served these along with some hot jalapeno poppers.

Meanwhile, while I was doing this– little man was doing this…

And apparently going in for his close up…

mr. peppers poppers.

I made jalapeno poppers last night.  I have decided that when we have our next party, I will most likely be serving up these jalapeno poppers.  Two reasons why —

1.  They’re delicious

2.  They’re a great party food

 

Nothing says festive like popping something in your mouth that’s so hot you can’t talk to anyone for the rest of the night cause you’re too busy sitting in the corner crying.  Welcome to my home!

 

Here is the real advantage to the jalapeno popper, as I see it in my dietitian eyes.  Dips need a means to get into your mouth, right?  Cracker, bread, chip, pita— whatever it may be.  If a vegetable becomes the means to get the goodness in your mouth, you’re saving calories, fat, and eating a vegetable all at the same time.  Win, win, win in my book.  Y’all, a jalapeno pepper has 6 calories in it.  Six.  So that means when you eat one jalapeno popper [half a pepper] you’re getting 3 calories from the dip-delivering-vehicle vs. 15 calories that are in a tortilla chip.  Lawyered.  [Any How I Met Your Mother Fans??]  And most of us will eat many fewer jalapeno poppers than chips and dip.  Don’t get me wrong, I love chips and dip, too, but today I’m pullin’ for the jalapenos.

 

So on to the recipe…

[I should note this is my “the-dietitian-in-me” jalapeno popper recipe.  They’re not fried and these aren’t even breaded.  I like them breaded, but I ran out of time so we’re just talking straight up pepper and cheese mixture.]

 

 

Wash the jalapenos thoroughly.  You always want to wash your produce really well– especially if you’re eating the outside like we are here.

 

Cut their tops off.   Then you want to cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds and membranes.  I forgot to take a picture of that part.

 

I also forgot to take a picture of my cheese mixture and stuffing of the peppers.  But here they are right after I slid them into the oven.   Please ignore my dirty oven.

 

Hot from the oven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jalapeno Poppers Recipe 

What you need:

–  Jalapeno peppers  [half as many peppers as poppers you want to make] [I used 9 peppers because that’s how many I had on hand]
–  3/4 cup light sour cream
–  1/2 cup to 1 cup shredded cheese [I used cheddar jack because it was what I had on hand.  A Mexican cheese mix would probably be good, too]
–  1/2 tsp cumin
–  dash of cayenne pepper
–  salt & pepper to taste

 

What you do: 

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.  Wash jalapenos thoroughly.
3.  Cut off tops to jalapenos & then slice each jalapeno in half.
4.  Remove seeds & membranes.
5.  Lay jalapeno pepper shells on lined baking sheet.
6.  Make cheese mixture by combining sour cream and cheese.  [I said 1/2 cup to 1 cup of cheese just so you can adjust it to your preference.  I used about a cup of cheese and thought that was a good combination for us but you may like a little less]
7.  Add cumin, dash of cayenne pepper, and salt and pepper.  Stir together well!  [If you like things really hot you could add some of the jalapeno seeds into this mixture.  We are kind of lame when it comes to hot stuff so I didn’t do this and they were still plenty hot for us.]
8.  Fill each pepper shell with mixture.
9.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese gets a nice golden tone to it.
10.  Remove from oven and enjoy!  Serve with salsa, if you like.

 

Hope you enjoy! 

 

planning ahead to stay ahead.

I have learned 2 things as a mother.

1.  My son is awesome.

2.  Planning ahead is key.

Ok, so I’ve probably learned more than 2 things.  It’s likely that I have.

Point #1:

Point #2:

Planning ahead makes me breathe easier, makes life go smoother, and seriously is worth the extra effort.  I plan my weekly menus ahead of time.  If I don’t, we end up eating out because I freeze like a deer in the headlights at 3:30-4 when I realize I have no clue what I’m doing for dinner.  But if I plan ahead of time, I’m good to go.

I also try to plan ahead for Jack food.  In general, I try not to make a dinner for him and another for us.  It doesn’t always work, but I like for us to all eat the same foods.  But for lunch and snacks, planning ahead for him is KEY!

I spent 5 minutes quartering grapes for Jack, and now there are several containers that I can easily grab out of the fridge when we need them.  It makes it so much easier than rummaging through the fridge for something right in that moment of hungry toddler-ness.

It also helps me to have easy to grab snacks and lunches.  The other day I was able to reach in and pull out these 2 containers, which had black beans in one and fruit in the other, for a nice Jack lunch.  Easy, peasy.

How do you plan ahead?  Does planning ahead work for you?

the story of spaghetti and hidden veggies.

I have been a fan for awhile of sneaking in vegetables.  I’m not hardcore about it, but I figure there are a lot of places we can add vegetables to boost our intake of them– so why not do it?  For instance, there aren’t too many kids who will eat peppers plain, or even in a mixed veggies dish, but if they’re mixed in with their baked spaghetti, maybe they will.

We all know we need vegetables, but here’ s a little recap of why they’re so good:

1.  Fiber!  A dietitian mentor of mine often uses the phrase “FIBER IS YOUR BEST FRIEND”.  Fiber does so much good.  I think more than we even know.  Fiber has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.  That is seriously awesome.  Bring on the fiber!

2.  Lots of good nutrients.  Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants– vegetables are rich in these.

3.  Low in calories and fat.  Vegetables are always a good choice.  We get way more bang for our buck with vegetables.  For example, one cup of macaroni and cheese has around 335 calories.  1 cup of carrots has 50 calories, no fat.  I don’t know about you, but I can down a cup of mac and cheese in about 1 minute.  It takes me awhile to eat a cup of fresh carrots.  And if you add 2 tablespoons of Ranch dressing for dipping those carrots, that only adds 48 calories [if you use reduced-fat dressing].  So for under 100 calories you can have a healthy snack or side dish thanks to vegetables.

Enter baked spaghetti.  This is a perfect place to sneak in some veggies.  I hadn’t planned for this, so I had to look around my kitchen to see what I had.  I came up with some tomatoes and a pepper.

One of the great things about a CSA is having lots of vegetables on hand to throw into dishes.  One of the bad things is having lots of vegetables on hand to stare at you in the face when you don’t throw them into dishes and they start rotting on your kitchen island and stinking up your house.  But I wouldn’t know about that.

I cooked my noodles and cooked my meat.  I went to the grocery store yesterday, and they had ground chicken on sale for 99 cents because the expiration date was in two days.  So I snagged that up because I knew I would be using it that very evening.  99 cents!  I usually try to use ground turkey or ground chicken in spaghetti.  Occasionally I use ground beef, but always try to make sure it’s 93/7 on the fat.  The 80/20 is cheaper, but it’s no good for the heart, or gut, or rest of the body for that matter.

I sprayed a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and poured the noodles in.  Then I added the chopped veggies on top of the noodles.

I only added veggies on half because I was nervous about how it would turn out.  No need to be nervous, friends.  It was delicious!  No I’m going to be really disappointed when we get to the “plain” half with our leftovers.

I poured the sauce over top.  I used a jar and a half because I don’t like my baked spaghetti to come out dry.  And then I added cheese.  Mozzarella would be perfect, but I didn’t have any, so I went with a cheddar jack mix.  I’m big on using what I have on hand.

I love this because kids would never know by looking at this that it’s full of vegetables.  Not that I’m totally into tricking kids.  I think it’s so important to talk with them and involve them in their food so that they want to eat vegetables and feel included in the meal process.  However, if you have really picky kids, this works.  If they are into helping, this is a good dish to ask them what vegetables they would like to add to the spaghetti.  Pretty much any vegetable works, so let them be creative.  They’re way more likely to eat it if they chose the vegetables that went into it.

I was ready to bake it.  I put it in the oven, and as I was closing the oven door I looked up and saw the skillet with the cooked ground chicken.  Fail.  I pulled the spaghetti dish back out, added the chicken, another layer of sauce, and some parmesan cheese on top.

I baked it at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until everything was warm and the cheese was gooey.

I always love tomatoes in anything, but the bell pepper in there was fantastic!  I will definitely add more bell pepper next time.  And I served this up with some texas toast– you know, to make up for all the extra vegetables we were getting.  Oh, texas toast, you are so hard to resist.