Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Healthier Bolognese Sauce

Eating healthy does not mean bland and boring.  If I had to eat grilled chicken and steamed veggies everyday I would cry...literally bawl into my hands.  Actually, I just wouldn't do it!  I'm a foodie at heart.  I love complex flavors, textures, and ingredients - but I NEED simple recipes to incorporate into my busy life.

Ever had pasta bolognese? Its one of my hubby's favorite Italian dishes to order out.  At most restaurants I've been to, it's greasy and heavy (although quite delicious) and my stomach doesn't always  like that.  So I went on a quest to make a healthier version to enjoy in my home, even while eating clean.  The key is to drain your ground beef and also let it sit on some paper towels to soak up the extra fat.  The other secret???  An entire bottle of red wine!!!  Yup, that's full bottle.  It cooks down and adds so much flavor.  And of course you'll need an extra glass (or two) to drink while you enjoy your masterpiece. :) 

So please give this recipe a try today!  I think you will love it!!!

Happy Cooking!

Healthier Pasta Bolognese
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1lb 90% lean ground beef
1 can tomato paste
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, blended
1 bottle red wine
Salt & pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried thyme

Start off with browning your beef in a large pot (I use my dutch oven) over medium heat.  Cook until no longer pink.   Drain it on a large plate lined with several paper towels. 
Then we need to start building the sauce by sauteing the vegetables.  Saute the onion, carrots, and celery until translucent.  Then add the garlic and cook only until fragrant.  Do not burn the can happen super fast.  So be careful. 

Next, add the can of tomato paste and allow that to cook a little.  It should start to develop a darker color and deep colors mean rich flavors in the end.  Yummy!

Now you can add the bottle of wine and deglaze the pan (scrape up all the yummy brown bit stuck on the bottom of the pan).  Then add your diced tomatoes, herbs, salt, pepper, and beef back in to the pot. 

Now you have to be patient and allow this to cook down over time...I'm talking 2-4 hours.  The more patient you are, the better the flavor will be.  Here is what it looks like after 3 hours on medium -low heat. 

After 3 hours?  A nice, thick, rich, and hearty meat sauce.  Delicious!!!  If your sauce starts to get too thick, add a little water and put the cover on the pot. 
Now the pasta...for a restaurant quality pasta dish, DO NOT OVER COOK THE PASTA!!!  You are better off with aldente pasta and finishing it in the sauce, just like they would at your favorite Italian spot. 

Cook the pasta in very salty water according to the package (if it doesn't give you a time for aldente then cook it 1-2 minutes under the time listed).   Please reserve 1-2 cups of the pasta water before you drain it...this helps to bring the dish all together. 

So here we go - back to our beautiful sauce...turn the heat to low.  We will finish the pasta off in the sauce. 
Add the pasta and 1/2 cup pasta water to the sauce.  Toss it together and add more pasta water if necessary until its to a consistency that you like (and this is personal preference - please note that the pasta absorbs more sauce and liquid as it sits so keep that pasta water around just in case). 

Yummy!!!  Looks so good!  Serve with some parmesan cheese and a large salad. 

I want to eat some right now...


The 21 day Fix Review

The 21 day Fix is amazing!  I can't get over how awesomely easy this program is for anyone to follow - whether new to exercise and eating clean, or looking to step up your game, you will not be disappointed.  Honestly, I've been working as a fitness instructor for 4 years and this program did things for my body that I haven't been able to on my own.

Why do I like this program?  The eating plan is simple - lists of foods you can eat and a way to portion them out throughout the day.  Plus I am not hungry - in fact it's quite the opposite.  I have a hard time eating everything I'm supposed to.  I feel full and amazing.   My digestive discomfort and bloating is gone, I have an increased energy level, and I feel strong.  The workouts are great - only 30 minutes and totally manageable as a busy mom (or dad).  They are challenging but not too crazy, and there is a modifier for moves I need to work on.  Love it! 

If you or someone you know have questions for me about my experience with the 21day Fix please email me at .  

In the meantime, I'm getting back to my challengers on Facebook to help them stay accountable, motivated, and successful along the way.  Want to join my challenge group?  Email me or find me on Facebook.  :)

Enjoy your day!!!
My salads for the week - meal prep is the key to success!!!

Slow Cooker Vegetable Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes

There is nothing better than a warm, comforting bowl of hearty soup in the fall or winter months - unless that soup is made in the crockpot!!!  Yes!  If you haven't discovered a crockpot or slow cooker, then get yourself will change your life. 

This recipe, like many crock pot recipes, can be prepared the night before.  Just chop up all your veggies and pre-measure your ingredients.  Then you can just dump everything in the crockpot the morning of and let it cook away all day.  

This Vegetable Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes is a great Meatless Monday treat and the leftovers make great lunches!  Enjoy!!!

Happy Cooking!
Slow Cooker Vegetable Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes
recipe based on

4 large carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1.5 cups chopped green beans
2 cups green, brown, or black lentils
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
64 oz vegetable broth
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp pepper

Chop and mince up all your veggies and throw them in the crockpot (a.k.a slow cooker).
Measure out your lentils...I only had a little green lentils left, then I used black big deal.  Any color should work.
Dump in the tomatoes, seasonings, and lentils. 

Then add the vegetable broth.  Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  These lentils are not pre-soaked or pre-cooked, so they need time to plump up.  Besides, I think the longer you cook it the better for soups. 

And it magically turns into this masterpiece!!!
Yummy!!!  Look at all that hearty vegetable goodness!  I love lentils!!! 
Serve immediately and enjoy!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I can't keep up!!!

I can't believe it's been over 6 weeks since I've been on here! Crazy!!! Well let's just say that this Fall re-defined busy for me and the family. I have so many delicious, healthy recipes to share and many ideas on how to make simple, small changes that will improve your health over time. I can't wait to share them all with you!!!

Now I have to run and cuddle my little girl till she falls asleep!

Happy cooking!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Week 41 - 21 day Fix Week 2

I love the 21 day Fix!!!  Honestly, I'm all about health and fitness and have been for a long time (okay, well at least the last 10 years or so).  I would never promote something that I didn't believe was rooted in proper nutrition and safe exercise.  If you are looking for something new, or if this is your very first time getting on the health and fitness bandwagon, this it the program for you!

So far, I have gotten rid of all my usual digestive discomfort and bloating that happens when I'm not eating clean.  I also have an increase in my energy levels and feel stronger already.  Plus I'm down 2 lbs!  What?!?!  We are heading in to week 2 - below you will find my meal plan.  I will need to adjust here and there, but I made notes next to each recipe as to how you adapt it the the Fix.

Have a great week and enjoy this beautiful fall weather!

Happy Cooking!
My fridge is stocked with lunches and snack for the week
Week 41 - October 12, 2014
Sunday - clean eating football foods (recipes to come) 

Monday - Vegetable, Beef, and Bean Chili

Again, tougher to measure, but I would venture to guess that 3 cups is 1 green, 1 red, 1 purple (tomato sauce), and 1 yellow…add one blue if you top with cheese and avocado

Tuesday - Baked Turkey Meatballs and Sauce

measure out 1 yellow (whole wheat pasta), 1 red (meatballs) and 1 purple (sauce).  Eat with a side of sautéed green, salad, or steamed broccoli to round out your meal. 

Wednesday - Balsamic Glazed Salmon with Snap Peas and Edamame

1 red, ½-1 green, 1 yellow, 1 tsp (you may need to add more veggies on the side, or more veggies to your stir-fry)

Thursday - Oven Baked Chicken Fajitas

I like to eat mine as a bowl with lettuce, some brown rice, some beans (my kids love to eat rice & beans for dinner, so its works for us).  Measure out 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green – 1 blue if you add cheese and avocado, part of a purple with some salsa or pico de gallo .  Be sure to count 1 tsp (as some olive oil was used in baking the chcken – use cooking spray and you don’t have to count a tsp)

Friday - Homemade pizza (either with whole wheat bagels or English muffins) and salad

Saturday - Greek Chicken with Lemon Potatoes

I served mine with roasted brussel sprouts.  Measure out 1 red (chicken), 1 yellow (potatoes), ½ cup of tomato, olive, feta mixture counts as 1 blue  and a little bit of a green…add your serving of brussel sprouts or other veggie and you have 1 green J

Week 40 - Fall Fit Fest

So my fall fit fest begins this week and I'm so excited!!!  We have a group of 10 challengers doing 30 minute workouts and eating clean together in a community on Facebook.  Most of us are drinking Shakeology and we are all following the 21 day Fix program - it's awesome!  Ive posted about it before and I just can't stop talking about how great it is.  I hope everyone has as much success with it as John and I have had. 

Below you will find the meals I shared with the group for our first week of the Fix.  Have a great week!

Happy Cooking!

Week 40 - October 5, 2014
Sunday- heading to a friends house for dinner

Monday –grilled or baked chicken with the 21 day Fix all-purpose seasoning (making a double batch for leftovers for lunch), Fall lentil salad w/arugula, brussel sprouts, and butternut squash – make your ratio of lentils to veggies 1:3 and eat 3 cups of the salad   (1 yellow, 1 red, 2 green, 2-3 tsp)

Tuesday- ground turkey tacos or taco salad with lettuce, tomato or salsa, diced avocado, greek yogurt (mix it with salt, pepper, lime juice & cilantro for a great sour cream substitute),  steamed or roasted broccoli  (I use cooking spray so I don’t have to count it as tsp)   (1 yellow, 1 red, 2 green – just use the food charts and color containers to portion it out)

sautéed spinach, whole wheat couscous  (1 red, 2 green, 1 yellow)

Thursday-  Greens and Beans with Turkey Sausage (I plan to make it all in early afternoon and put in my crockpot,  I’m also making extra sausage for pizza night)  and 1 -2 cups of salad or your favorite veggies
(1 red, 2-3 green, 1 yellow)

Friday – homemade pizza night using whole wheat English muffins or pitas, (be sure to add a lean protein such as turkey sausage or leftover sliced chicken breasts from Monday),  served with a big salad or a bunch of your favorite veggies  (1 yellow, 1 red,  1 blue, 2 green, either 1 orange or 1 tsp for dressing)

Saturday  leftovers or take out

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week 39 - Birthday Week!!!

After planning and executing our Son's 5th birthday this past weekend, and visiting with family all week, we are trying to get back to our normal routines.  Our son's actual birthday is tomorrow, and my birthday is Wednesday.  I'm giving myself permission to take the week (mostly) off from cooking.  I made some homemade chicken vegetable soup today, and I plan to make my famous meatballs (at Owen's request) for dinner tomorrow night.  But other than that, between running the kids around, teaching, and hubby's busy schedule, I'm going to get my very favorite take-out foods for dinners this week.  Yup, I think that's okay to do every now and then. 

In the meantime, I will do my best to update the blog with some delicious recipes I've been working on.  At least, in between celebrating birthdays and trying to enjoy my own special day. ;)  And can I just say, I'm so emotional that my baby is turning 5!  He was just so very tiny 5 years ago...where does the time go?   I tear up every time I think about it...

Enjoy your week!

Happy Cooking!

Week 39- September 28, 2014

Sunday:  chicken vegetable soup

Monday:  Owen's birthday dinner - spaghetti and meatballs

Tuesday:  take-out after I finish class

Wednesday: my birthday dinner:  anything I don't have to prep, make, or clean up after is fine with me

Thursday: take-out after I finish class

Friday:  pizza and family movie night

Saturday:  date night

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Week 38 - Pep talk

As you know, I've been working hard at spreading the word about healthy habits making a difference for you and your family.  I believe that we rely too much on doctors and medicines to help our ailments rather than feeding our bodies the proper fuel to begin with.   I'm on a mission - to spread the word about all the health benefits that come from eating clean 80% of the time and doing consistent, moderate exercise.  

I know what you are thinking right now - you've heard all of this before.  Oh no, not again, right?  So have you made some changes for you and your family?  Are you still thinking about it but just haven't pulled the trigger?  What is holding you back?  I'm going to get serious for a moment...what emotions are keeping you from making the decision that could lead to a longer, healthier, more fulfilled life for you and your kids?  These are difficult questions but they are necessary.  It's more than just weight-loss, it's an emotional journey.  We all have our inner demons, the voices inside our heads that tell us we are not good enough, that we don't deserve it.  I'm here to tell you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you can do anything you put your mind to. 

Your biggest competitor is yourself!  Once you defeat your own negativity and self-doubt, you can accomplish anything!!!  Don't let your fear paralyze you...take the first step and let me help you along the way.  It's not just about weight-loss or how you look, it's about the confidence you will gain, the energy levels that spike, the inside of your body that works more efficiently for you. 

You don't have to make these changes on your own.  Research shows that you will go further, be more successful, and maintain a positive attitude if you are part of an environment that will support and motivate you.  The Home Healthy Revolution is one of those places.  Reach out to me, I am here to help you start making those little changes that add up to a BIG difference.  We can do it together. 

If you want to read about how my journey here began, please read my original Healthy Home Revolution post:

If you want to get started now with extra accountability and resources, you can sign up for a free health and fitness account through Beachbody with ME, Sarah Barker, as your coach.  You will have access to recipes, workouts, advice - all for FREE.  Once you join, you can also be a part of one of the many Facebook challenge groups available for motivation, accountability and support.  Just go to

So now to my usual Sunday update - the weekly meal plan...
My husband is in China on business and my parents are here for the week helping out with the kiddos.  My brother and his wife will be joining all of us on Thursday so that we can celebrate my son's 5th birthday on Saturday.  So excited to all be together!  With all of these events going on, I don't feel the need to plan out my week, but rather accommodating my guests and being a bit more spontaneous (having extra help around allows me to do that - <3).  If you need some meal inspiration for the week, check out the links below...a great start to clean eating.  I've also included a link to my first Healthy Home post, a list of essentials for anyone just starting out.

Lastly, Please share this place with your friends who value health and nutrition.  And please pass this message along to anyone who may need to hear my message.  Together we can begin a Healthy Home Revolution and inspire others to join us.   Let's take the first step together. 

Happy Cooking!

Motivational quote

Healthy Home Revolution Tips to Starting Off

A few of My favorite quick, easy, healthy recipes:

Turkey Meatballs

Shredded Buffalo Chicken (for tacos or sandwiches)

Greens and Beans with Italian Sausage

Grilled Salmon with Cucumber Salad

Chipotle Black Bean, Sweet Potato and Quinoa Burgers

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Protein Packed Banana Muffins

Okay guys...these are my new favorite muffins.  They are moist and delicious, but not too sweet.  I love healthy muffins, full of clean ingredients, to grab and go in the morning or to feed the kids at snack time.  This recipe is an adaption of a recipe I found in a kids cookbook I got out of the library.  I wanted to beef up the protein (no pun intended) and make it a more well rounded snack for myself to enjoy.  Feel free to add chopped nuts or blueberries.  You could even substitute pumpkin puree instead of banana.  So good!

This recipe makes 12 muffins, and according to the original recipe and my approximate calculations, each muffin should have 110 calories, 2 g fat, 18 g carbs, 5 g protein.  Slather on some almond butter and you have a quick breakfast or snack - Awesomeness!

I hope your family enjoys them as much as we do!

Happy Cooking!

Protein Packed Banana Muffins
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder (or one serving, depending on serving size of at least 16g)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup quick rolled oats
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
3 T honey
1/2 cup of milk
1 T coconut oil
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix wet ingredients in one bowl until well combined.  In other bowl, combine the dry ingredients.   Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir together only until just combined.  Over-mixing will create a tough muffin.  Put paper liners in the muffin tin and fill 3/4 of the way with batter. 

Bake at 400 degrees until muffins are slightly brown, about 18-20 minutes. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Week 37 - first cold of the season

The weather has really changed in the last few days - it really feels like fall.  I love it!  Apples picking, cider donuts and apple cider, hayrides, pumpkin lattes...all those quintessential New England fall activities that white girls do.  Ha! 

Along with all those wonderful things also comes cold and flu season.  Unfortunately, we've been struck with our first cold of the year and it's slowly making its way around the family.  Since I have a house full of whiny, sick kids and a husband who is traveling on and off this week, I'm planing some more crockpot meals for the week and a few quick skillet recipes.   And to help me along, I plan to prep all the meals today or tomorrow.  For the freezer meals I will be placing ingredients in freezer bags, and some straight in the freezer until I need them.   The others I will be prepping the veggies so I don't have to chop stuff up in the morning.  So here's to trying new things that will make our life easier!   Have a great week!

Happy Cooking,

Week 37 - September 14, 2014

Sunday:  leftovers

Monday: easy skillet meatsauce with whole wheat pasta and steamed broccoli

Tuesday:  Crockpot Chicken Fajitas

Wednesday:  Slow Cooker Beef Roast with Potatoes and Carrots

Thursday:  Potluck Family Picnic at my son's school (I'll bring a HUGE green salad)

Friday:  pizza and movie night

Saturday: Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie with homemade "clean" biscuits

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Crockpot Chicken Chili Verde

The crockpot is my best friend this week!  I've gone ahead and and gave up trying to cook at the most chaotic time of the day.  Especially during these first weeks of September - when we are all finding our new normal with the start of the semester for my husband and I, and the start of school for my oldest.  Its even an adjustment for my little one who doesn't have her big brother home with her every day.   Instead, she's been helping me make dinner each morning - she does love that she doesn't have to take turns using the measuring cups with her brother.  Ha!

So this chili...I love traditional chili, and I love tortillas soup.  This is sort of combining the both of those together.  You might see it as white chicken chili on a menu (because its using white beans instead of red) or you might see it as chili verde because of the green broth base.  Either way, it's delicious!!!  And completely nutritious too!  I added some shredded carrots and lots of baby spinach to boost the veggie factor.  The kids won't even notice the vegetables in there because its so good.  Its truly a one pot, fix-it-and-forget-it meal that the whole family will love!

By the way, if you are worried that your kids won't like it, sell it as something familiar - something they like.  For example, I tell my kids that it's chicken taco soup because they LOVE tacos and it has all of those familiar flavors.  Call it whatever you have to to get them to try it and never look back.  It doesn't hurt that they get to decorate their own soup with crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheddar, and avocado (if they like that stuff too).   The cheese and chips are a big hit with my kids!

So let me know if you give this a try!  I would love your feedback. Enjoy!

Happy Cooking,
Crockpot Chicken Chili Verde
my version was based on 

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 3, but kept one of them out after shredding it all up...I wanted extra shredded chicken for chicken salad)
2 -15 oz cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 large carrots, shredded
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 - 4 oz can diced green chilies
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 T chili powder
½ tsp salt
½-1 tsp red chili flakes (depending on your heat preference)
***please note:  if you like it spicy, you can add 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced - I didn't not use one because I have young children and I wanted them to eat the soup too
3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
4 heaping cups of baby spinach
crushed tortilla chips, diced avocado, shredded cheddar, and cilantro for topping 
Place everything in the crockpot except for the spinach (no spinach yet!!!) and cook on low for 6 hours (you can cook it for up to 8 hours if you won't be home).  It's so easy, even a toddler can do it! 
And after!
Take out the chicken and set aside.  Meanwhile, using an immersion blender, blend some of the chili to thicken it up, but be careful to leave some chunky.  You want the right consistency.  If you don't have an immersion blender, just place 1 cup of the beans into a regular blender until smooth and add it back to the chili.  (It's totally fine if the onions and chilies are in there too...its the ratio of blended to non blended that's important). 
Now, take the chicken breast and shred them with a fork.  Add the chicken back to the chili along with the baby spinach. 

Cook on high for an additional 30 minutes or until the spinach is wilted.  You can taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.  
Serve immediately topped with your favorites!  Enjoy!  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Healthy Crockpot BBQ Chicken with Vegetables

This recipe is a winner - not only because it's delicious and healthy, but because it makes two meals out of one recipe.  Plus you have the option to freeze them, or make one today and freeze the other for another week.  Love that!!!

I played around with the healthier BBQ sauce so that it would taste more like the BBQ sauces I am familiar with.  I left out any spicy ingredients because my kids were going to eat it, but if you like spicy things, you should add some red pepper flakes.   I loved it!  I served it over some whole wheat couscous, but it would be delicious over brown rice or quinoa too.

Please let me know if you give this one a try and give me some feedback.  I would love to hear from you!

Happy Cooking!

Healthy Crockpot BBQ Chicken with Vegetables
 my version of this recipe was inspired by

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces, about 2 cups
1 large green pepper, roughly chopped, about 2 cups
1 large red pepper, roughly chopped, about 1 cup
2 small to medium sized zucchinis, roughly chopped, about 2 cups(I usually chop these really small since my entire family has themselves convinced that they don't like zucchini - I have, however, successfully sneaked it into several dinners with no one the wiser).
2 medium onions, chopped, about 2 cups
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of all fat
28 oz can of tomato sauce
4 T brown sugar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T plain yellow mustard (not the powder, the kind in your fridge)
1 T garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 T of corn starch (or any thicker you would like to use)

Chop up all your veggies and divide them evenly among two freezer bags, or between 1 freezer bag and your crockpot (as I did in the photos).  Quick tip: be sure to label and date your bag before you start filling it up.

Place 1 pound of chicken thighs in each container.  Now mix up the ingredients for your healthier BBQ sauce.  Combine the tomato sauce, brown sugar, Worcestershire, apple cider vinegar, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper with a whisk until well combined.  Add the corn starch and whisk until it disappears.  Pour half the sauce in each container. 

When you are ready to cook it, you can just place the contents of your frozen bag in the crockpot.

 Cook on high for 4-6 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours depending on your slow cooker.

 I served mine over some whole wheat couscous.  Enjoy!!!