Monday, July 14, 2014

Day 1: Sweet Greens Smoothie, Eating Healthy at the Office

While a lot of people will frequently eat out for lunch, I like to pack my lunches and use the lunch hour to hit the gym, or work through lunch and leave a little earlier in the afternoons. I've found that with some advance planning, "eating in" at the office is really easy. For the days that I forget a lunch or don't plan ahead, I keep some meals in the freezer and some canned soup in my desk drawers. 

I decided to start my week of smoothies with a green smoothie made from spinach and greens powder. While I've snuck spinach and greens powder into smoothies before, I have never had a GREEN smoothie.

I'll be honest, I am a little worried about the kale smoothies. I purchased pre cut and washed organic kale from Trader Joe's and when I opened the bag it had a STRONG cabbage / broccoli smell to it. I've never noticed that when I've bought stems of kale, so I'm curious to see how the smell translates to taste.

Figuring it would be the least offensive, I started with the spinach smoothie.

Original recipe found at Young and Raw

This morning I packed up my lunch and frozen smoothie bag and a quart of Silk unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I took a zumba class yesterday (have not done that in forever) and was sore when I got up. Being sore always motivates me to eat healthy and keep working out - does that happen to you too?

PhotoI cut the recipe down to 1 serving and used Rawjuvenate greens powder since I had it handy rather than buying chlorella and spirulina powder separate. Into the blender went 1 banana and 1 cup organic baby spinach (both frozen), 1 tbsp Rawjuvenate greens powder and 1 cup of almond milk.

We have a ninja blender at the office so I don't think the spinach got quite as blended up as in my Vitamix at home. However, I didn't have any chunks of spinach in there and the texture was nice and smooth. I didn't taste the spinach at all! I could detect the greens powder, but I have used it before and am very used to it.

I was surprised that this smoothie and a cup of coffee with creamer kept me full all morning. I was prepared to eat an egg white sandwich mid morning, but didn't need to. So I used it for lunch.

We are lucky to have a couple big fridges in the office and space to prepare lunch. I always keep bagel or sandwich thins, egg whites, and laughing cow cheese around for a protein rich breakfast. Lately I have been adding Trader Joe's frozen fire roasted peppers and onions to the sandwich. It is so good! But I am the type of person that could eat the same things every meal and not get bored. When I find something I really like, I stick with it.


For lunch I made an egg white sandwich (I like this cheap egg cooker from Amazon*) with the ingredients above and ate it along with a salad I threw together last night. Spring mix greens, tomatoes, some of those fire roasted veggies I heated up for the sandwich, a sprinkle of parmesan, Olive Garden italian dressing, and 1/4 avocado topped with Sriracha.

This meal was very satisfying and came in under 400 calories with 23g of protein.

I packed a nectarine and a grapefruit cup in case I need an afternoon snack. My week of healthy eating is off to a great start!

*Disclaimer: affiliate link

Saturday, July 12, 2014

7 Days of Smoothies

I'm having more travel days coming up for work, so I thought I would focus on eating really well while I am at home and working out of the office in Lincoln. We are lucky to have a nice Ninja blender at the office to make smoothies in, so I don't have to make them ahead. Smoothies kind of gross me out when they've been sitting too long!

The kids and I broke out the Vitamix this weekend and have been having afternoon smoothies. Frozen strawberries, ripe banana, a couple shakes of chia seeds, unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a few dried tart cherries and a dash of agave syrup for sweetness. Topped with whipped cream, required. (I am loving Cabot's light whipped cream in a can from Trader Joe's lately).

Before I headed to the store today, I made a weekly smoothie recipe list, just as I make my weekly dinner menu. Then, I packaged the ingredients for each smoothie in a baggie, with instructions for final ingredients on the outside of the bag. The additions are things I keep in my office - protein powder, greens powder, chia seeds, almond milk or water. Then each morning I can just grab a bag from the freezer and go!


A friend recently introduced me to the Young and Raw website, which has a ton of great recipes. Healthy. Happy. Life. is another resource for about any smoothie combination you can think of (lots of vegan recipes too).

I have not experimented too much with green smoothies - really only using greens powders, but not kale or spinach. I'm looking forward to starting my days feeling clean and healthy with these! A few of the smoothie packs are pictured above, but here is my full "menu" for the week. 

Sweet Greens Smoothie - iron rich smoothie with banana, spinach and green powders. Note this recipe serves two.

Immunity Booster Smoothie - lots of citrus to fight off colds. I am assuming this serves two, as that is a lot of fruit in one sitting. I split the ingredients into two bags to make two servings.

Lean & Green - funny enough, also the name of our relay team for a race this fall, this recipe calls for kale and spinach and gets a creamy boost from almond butter and chia seeds.

Natural Beauty - kale, pineapple, coconut oil, protein and greens powders

Protein Smoothie - from the Young & Raw free 3 day raw challenge, choice of fruit, choice of greens, and protein powder. Liquid isn't mentioned, but I assume you would need some.

Almond Butter Banana Shake - a simple combination or banana, almond butter and cinnamon, with options to spice it up.

Raspberry Vitality - raspberries, banana and fresh squeezed OJ

So there you go - a little prep work on the weekend that will get your days started off right. Who is joining me?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Artichoke Feta Pizza {Store-bought Crust}

Homemade-ish pizza is a super quick and easy meal, and one that is easy to customize for kids that aren't as adventurous with their toppings as I am!

I am a terrible baker - so I don't even bother anymore. Stick with your strengths and all that - right? There are a lot of great options at the grocery store these days, or you can buy dough from a local pizza joint. But when I need a quick meal on the table, I don't want to worry about rolling out dough and pre-baking.

Target sells several varieties of pizza crust and I have found this thin crust, fire roasted square cut crust to be my favorite. At $3.99 for a 2 pack, it is a good deal, and you can often find them on sale, or a Target Cartwheel offer for them. This is not a sponsored post. I really like this crust and the cartwheel app. But if Target wants to send me some free stuff - I am open  :)

Archer Farms Fire-Roasted Thin Square Pizza Crust 6.25 oz 2 ct
Thin crust is a great way to save calories, and at 180 cals and just 3.5 g of fat for a third of one square, these aren't too bad. 

The kids usually go for marinara / cheese / pepperoni, or pesto and cheese which is what they got last night. I love the Kirkland brand pesto from Costco, Trader Joe's comes in a close second. Sam's Club is a never buy again - had a really off taste to me.

But on to our artichoke pizza - all amounts are easy to customize to your taste!

1 pizza crust
thin layer of pesto - about 1/4 cup
thin layer of marinara (I just use pasta sauce that's on hand rather than specific pizza sauce) - about 1/4 cup
thin layer of cheese - I used Sargento Italian cheese blend
1 small jar of marinated artichoke hearts (quartered), drain off liquid and used the entire jar
1/4 cup very thin sliced yellow onion
handful of grape tomatoes thinly sliced
sprinkle a little more shredded cheese and some crumbled feta on top of veggies

Bake @ 400 degrees until the crust is crispy brown and cheese is melted and bubbly (about 15 min)

As soon as it came out of the oven I hit it with a few turns of my salt grinder and pepper grinder. I also sprinkled some Trader Joe's shaved parmesan flakes on top.

The crust has a slightly smoky taste, and the marinated artichokes gave it a tang. Had I actually planned this meal rather than throwing it together last minute, I would have planned on non-marinated artichokes - but I had them on hand and wanted to use them up! It definitely added a nice layer of flavor. The tomatoes and onion were not overwhelming, but contributed some nice texture. This got two thumbs up by the hubs, I loved it, but the 9 yr old was not a fan of the artichokes.

Make at home pizzas beat delivery, carry out, and take and bake any day in cost and calories. Keeping some crusts in the pantry or freezer, and some basic ingredients on hand allows you a fast and easy meal on a busy weeknight or those nights you just don't feel like cooking. Get inspired by your restaurant favorites and before you know it, you'll begin to prefer your version over going out for dinner!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fresh Veggie Summer Rolls - with Two Sauces!

One of my favorite things at Thai restaurants is their fresh spring rolls. Trader Joe's has a tofu spring roll with a peanut dipping sauce in the prepared foods case, but they aren't always super fresh.

I decided to try making them for myself - final product inspired by these two recipes:

Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

Soft Asian Summer Rolls

I ended up making 20 rolls, using:

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/2 small head red cabbage
10 shredded baby carrots (would have used bagged shredded carrots but the store didn't have them)
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 pkg Trader Joe's baked teriyaki tofu, thinly sliced, with lime juice squeezed over it
1 avocado, thinly sliced
1/2 package of mint leaves, thinly sliced
1 package of rice sticks noodles - didn't use the whole package (maybe 3/4), cooked and cooled

Rice paper wrappers - I'm not sure how many were in a package, but I maybe used about half the package? Found in the cold case at Hy-Vee near the tofu and egg roll wrappers.

This was just a small portion of total ingredients used - I underestimated how much I would ultimately need!

It was pretty easy to roll the ingredients - soak the wrapper in warm water for about 10 seconds until soft and pliable. Lay out on flat surface, add all your ingredients in a pile in the middle. This is a picky detail, but in terms of process found it easier if the ingredients were in a horizontal line in front of me. I started with lettuce and cabbage, layered on two slices of tofu and cucumber, one slice of avocado, sprinkle of carrot and mint, and then topped with rice noodles. Folded both ends in, then grab the edge closest to me, folded it over the ingredients and tried to keep things tight as I rolled. While I was putting them together, I didn't feel like I was getting them tight enough. However - they sat for about an hour and a half before I ate them, and they tightened up as they sat there.

So pretty!
The dipping sauces were super easy to whisk together, and not spicy. I added extra sriracha to my plate after to kick up the heat!

Peanut sauce:
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup Trader Joe's chunky peanut butter
couple squeezes of juice from a lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar

whisk water with peanut butter til smooth, then whisk in other ingredients. I added a couple more tbsp of water because I wanted thinner consistency

Sweet & Spicy sauce:
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tbsp sriracha
juice from half a lime
1 tbsp soy sauce

For the twenty rolls I made, I think I would actually double the recipes above - we didn't have quite enough sauce for the leftovers, but it's certainly easy to make more.

The rolls were SO good! I just love the fresh, clean flavor of spring rolls. The avocado got a bit lost in there, and I don't think it was necessary (this coming from a huge avocado lover!). So next time I would add more, or leave it out all together. The benefit is if you wanted a little healthy fat in there. The fresh mint brought the whole thing together - do NOT skip the mint! It's expensive but worth it.

These are pretty economical to make.

Rice wrappers - $3($6 for the whole package, only used half)
Rice noodles - $3.50
Avocado - $1.25
Lettuce - $1.00
Cabbage - $1
Cucumber - $1
Carrots - $0.50 ($1.50 for package, only used 10)
Tofu - $3
Mint - $3

I had everything on hand for the sauces, but let's say it works out to about $1.50 / roll. My husband ate 5, so there is a $5 meal. Who says it's expensive to eat healthy? You can eat these delicious rolls filled with all sorts of healthy ingredients for less than a fast food meal.

Nutrition stats: assuming no sauce, I plugged these in to My Fitness Pal and for 3 rolls came out at 320 calories, 8 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein. Yes, these are carb heavy and protein light. Meat eaters can easily add shrimp or chicken to these!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Husband Approved: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes by Averie Cooks

I've been working on trying out new recipes to put in the weekly rotation. Our weekly meal plan usually includes:

1 fish night
1 pasta night
1 salad night
1 "ethnic" night - mexican, indian, stir fry
1 other meat night - usually chicken
1 leftovers night

and then a casserole, breakfast for dinner, pizza, etc - whatever sounds good

I'm not a big sweet potato person, but I remember that my mom used just to microwave sweet potatoes and eat them for dinner. It always seemed so weird to me! I do love sweet potato fries, sweet potato casserole at holidays, and sometimes home made roasted sweet potato slices.

When I saw this recipe on Pinterest, I thought I would give it a try - seemed easy enough!

Cheese, Black Beans, and Corn-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Avocado Crema (vegan, GF) - A healthy meal that's easy, ready in 15 minutes, satisfying & doesn't taste like health food!

Find the full recipe at Averie Cooks

This simple recipe uses roasted sweet potatoes, cowboy caviar, cheese, avocado, sour cream and a lime. Super easy!

I roasted an entire bag of organic sweet potatoes from Trader Joe's in the oven. Two of the smaller sweet potatoes I set aside for the kids - one was eaten plain and the other with a little cheese on it. These potatoes were so sweet that my nine year old proclaimed some honey from the potato had squirted on his hand and it was SO good! But it wasn't honey - just some liquid from the potato. I usually get sweet potatoes from the bulk bin at Hy-Vee so I will have to get them again from TJ's to see if they are consistently this sweet - my mom always used to say they tasted like candy - and it was definitely true with this batch.

After roasting the potatoes (there were a couple big ones and a bunch of smaller ones, bigger ones went in the 400 degree oven - after scrubbing and poking with a fork - for about an hour and the little ones were in the for half an hour), I sliced them in half and ran the back of a spoon down the middle to create a well. Spooned in the cowboy caviar, and topped with a tbsp each of TJ's quattro formaggio and lite mexican shredded cheeses. I used the whole jar of cowboy caviar on this batch of sweet potatoes (minus the two for the kids) but you could use a little less in each potato and stuff all of them easily.

Back in the oven under the broiler until the cheese was brown and the edges were crispy.

The avocado crema was super easy to make and the perfect amount to cover a whole batch. I am way too lazy to get out equipment like a food processor for something like this, so I just mashed a ripe avocado with a fork, added in 4 tbsp TJ's lite sour cream, the juice of one lime, and mixed well. I added maybe 2 tbsp of water to thin it out to the desired consistency. I also hit it with a little salt.

In review - the sweet potatoes themselves were crazy sweet and the kids loved them. I've never tried the TJ's cowboy caviar before and it is awesome! Nice hearty consistency with just the right amount of spice. I am already thinking up all the ways I can use it. The blend of cheeses was great, and using the light cheese option helped the calorie and fat count a little. Lite sour cream lightens up the crema, but this would probably be good with greek yogurt in place of the sour cream for some added protein. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kid Approved: Tofu "Steaks" with Coconut Rice and Crispy Kale

Inspired by this recipe

Extra firm tofu on a bed of creamy coconut rice topped with crispy kale and coconut flakes. Flavored with my coconut in a sauce of coconut oil, soy sauce and a hint of sriracha and sesame oil.

Start with the rice - this makes TONS extra, so you may want to halve the recipe.

2 cups jasmine rice
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk
Salt to taste
Stir - bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. I stirred it before putting the lid on and about every five minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for at least ten minutes.

You can use any firm / extra firm tofu based on what is available to you and your tastes. I find Trader Joe's extra firm tofu to hold up the best! Cut the block into four slabs - how you cut it up is totally up to you, I wanted a steak like feel of cooking big pieces but you could easily slice or cube into smaller pieces.

Marinade / sauce - melt 1/3 cup coconut oil in the microwave, add in 2 tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp sriracha, 1 tbsp sesame oil. Mix together well (I whisked with a fork, worked great).

Melt some coconut oil over medium heat in a skillet. Lay the tofu in the skillet in single layer (I was able to cook two pieces at a time). Drizzle a spoonful of marinade over each piece. Cook until it gets crispy (about five min) and then flip. Repeat in batches until done - you may need to add more coconut oil for subsequent batches - make sure there is enough so that the tofu doesn't stick!

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove ribs and stems from kale and cut or tear into small pieces / strips. I used half a bag of kale from Trader Joe's that I had on hand from a recipe last week. It was the perfect amount but didn't give us any leftovers. Half the bag fit well on one large pan, I drizzled the marinade over it, added about a cup of unsweetened coconut flakes, and tossed to combine. Cooked in the oven for about 20 minutes, stirring about three times during the cooking. Once it wilted down I tried to keep it in a single layer so it could crisp up well.

Once again, I wasn't sure how this would be received. The same bag of kale in pasta last week had kids crying at the dinner table. But when Gavin saw the "crispy lettuce things" he remembered me making kale chips a long time ago and remembered he liked them. I served the meal with a little more marinade on the tofu right before serving.

He even asked for seconds! The little one fell asleep before dinner time, so I wasn't able to get his review.

I didn't end up trying it but it got two thumbs up from the hubs!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Kid Approved: Chickpea of the Sea Sandwiches

Sometimes I really don't give my 9 yr old enough credit. 

Tired of falling into the habit of the same meals every week (salad night, pasta night, fish night, quesadilla night, pizza night - repeat), I've been browsing Pinterest for some dinner inspiration.

This recipe from caught my attention, but I wasn't sure how the kids would like it. 

I made some adjustments to the recipe since I wasn't able to find the vinegar originally called for, and I forgot to buy celery seed. I also doubled the recipe.

2 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed - pulse a few times in processor

then add:
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 giant scallions, whites and greens, sliced
1/3 cup olive oil mayo
2 tbsp yellow mustard
2 shakes cayenne pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp capers with liquid
couple turns of fresh ground pepper

pulse or food process on low until desired texture - I wanted mine to get the celery and onion pretty well chopped up so it wouldn't set off the kids ick radar.


Then served on oatnut bread with thin slices of avocado, tomato, and a leaf of romaine lettuce.

I made up one sandwich and cut it into small pieces to let the family taste test. I was waiting for my son to go screaming from the room - an over reaction that happens perhaps once a week when I offend his taste buds. I really did not expect him to like this, although I thought it was great - a hummus texture with egg salad flavor. He took a bite and said "I want a WHOLE sandwich of this!"

I was really happy with how it turned out - took no time to throw together in the food processor, I made enough to last a couple meals, and it is super versatile. Use it in wraps, sandwiches, on toast, in "unwich" style lettuce wraps. Highly recommend!