Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taco Bake

If you love Tex-Mex, tacos, and enchiladas then you MUST try this recipe!  It's a lower calorie, lower fat version of your favorites!!!  You get all those delicious tex-mex flavors in a healthier package.  Plus it's really easy to make - way easier than the typical assembly of enchiladas with the added fiber and nutrition of the corn and beans.  This recipe reminds me of eating enchiladas without doing all the work.  It was delicious!  All the fresh toppings add that special touch.  My hubby went back for seconds which means it was a success!  I am definitely making this again and may even add some spinach or kale to the filling.  Perfect way to hide veggies!

Happy Cooking!

Taco Bake
recipe based on

1 small onion, diced
1 lb of 96% lean ground beef
1 pkg of taco seasoning, or 1 recipe of your own taco seasoning
1 (15 oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 oz) can of diced tomatoes and their juices
1 cup of frozen corn
1/4 cup of diced canned green chilies
8 corn tortillas
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat mexican blend cheese
fresh cilantro, chopped
taco sauce or salsa, diced cherry tomatoes, diced fresh avocado, and extra light sour cream, for topping (all optional)

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 12 by 8 pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Cut the tortillas in half and place 8 halves along the bottom of the pan, overlapping one another (4 tortillas total).

Next, brown the ground beef in a large pan over medium heat.  Be sure to break it up as it cooks.  Drain the beef and return it to the pan.

As you are cooking the beef, prepare the other ingredients.

Once you've cooked and drained the beef, add the chopped onion and continue to cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the corn, tomatoes, beans, and taco seasoning.  Stir until well combined.  Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes or until heated through.

Spoon half of the beef mixture over the layer of tortillas and spread it evenly.

Then spread the sour cream over the beef.  I know it looks like a very thin layer, but it does add some much needed moisture without all the fat ad calories as cheese.

Add another layer of tortillas and the remaining beef mixture evenly over the tortillas.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  At this point, remove the foil, sprinkle with the cheese, and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted.

Here's a side view so you can see all of the delicious really does taste like enchiladas!

Cut into 6 servings and serve immediately with all your favorite toppings.  I topped mine with diced cherry tomatoes, avocado, cilantro and taco sauce.  So delicious!!!  Enjoy!

Arugula Fennel Salad

If you've been following my blog for a while, then you know that I LOVE salad.  I could eat it everyday, twice a day.  This is my new FAVORITE salad!!!  You guys are gonna love it!  It combines all the best flavors of a salad I had at my favorite local Italian restaurant.  It's such a simple salad of fresh, bold flavors.  You are going to love it!  So next time you are going grocery shopping, add this to your list and give it a try!

Happy Cooking!

Arugula Fennel Salad
1 pkg (6 oz) of baby arugula
1 small fennel bulb, core cut out and thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
shaved parmesan cheese, to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together the fresh lemon juice and olive oil.  Add the arugula, fennel and salt & pepper to taste.  Toss to combine and top with parmesan cheese.  Serve immediately - So simple and soooooo delicious!

Homemade Baked Mac n Cheese

Is this a low-fat mac n cheese?  No - but it's a great recipe for a special occasion or cheat day when you want to make the real thing.  It just screams comfort food and it is much healthier than any store-bought version.  If you are looking for an easy recipe to try, please give this one a go!  You can add some protein and veggies to make it a complete meal, either mixed in with the mac n cheese or on the side.  Some examples might be mac n cheese with chicken and broccoli, ham and asparagus, or hotdogs and peas.  My kids LOVED it and we ate the leftovers for days.  I hope that you like it as much as we do!!!

Happy Cooking!

Baked Mac n Cheese
1/2 package (8 oz) of your favorite pasta, I used large elbows
3 T of butter
3 T all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups of 2% or whole milk
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 cups of shredded cheese, such as a mixture of mild and sharp cheddars, gouda, and parmesan  (I used a pre-packaged shredded cheese from my grocery store called "Macaroni and Cheese Blend")
1/3 cup of panko bread crumbs

First begin by cooking the pasta according to package directions until it is al dente, a couple minutes before tender.  This step is VERY important-  the pasta continues to cook in the oven so this prevents the macaroni and cheese from being too mushy.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two until the color deepens, constantly stirring.  Gradually add the milk while whisking over medium heat.  Add the additional seasonings (onion and garlic powders, salt and pepper, mustard powder).  Continue to whisk until the sauce thickens to your liking (it should be able to coat the back of a spoon).  Turn the heat off, add the cheese, and stir until it melts.  Stir the pasta into the cheese sauce and spoon into a greased 2-quart baking dish.

Top with breadcrumbs and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Serve immediately. 

I made this recipe on Easter Sunday with our ham, mustard sauce, and roasted asparagus.  So yummy!!!  A meal I would want to eat at any Sunday dinner.  Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Cleansing Cabbage Lentil Soup

Everyone has heard of the cabbage soup diet...eating soup all day to loose weight.   I do NOT endorse this method of weight loss - I believe its unhealthy and unsustainable.  However, I do believe that there are many healing and cleansing qualities of a vegetable based soup.  So based on some ideas from the 7-ingedient cleanse (a 3 day cleanse I've done in the past ), I've created a cabbage and lentil soup designed to fill you up with healthful ingredients while tasting great.  I was honestly surprised at how yummy this soup was...yummy enough for me to look forward to the next time I could eat more!

Happy Cooking!

Cleansing Cabbage and Lentil Soup
1 T of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 tsp bullion base (pictured below)
8 cups of water (you may substitute 8 cups of stock instead of bullion base and water)
1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced and cut into 1 inch pieces (easier to eat once cooking down)
14 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup of split red lentils
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by sauteing the onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until translucent.   Add the garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds.

Add one cup of water (of the 8 cups) and dissolve the bullion base.  The water should heat up quickly which will help the bullion to dissolve faster.  Once completely dissolved, continue to add the rest of the water (7 more cups).  As mentioned in the ingredient list, you may use 8 cups of stock or broth instead of the bullion base and water.  I prefer this bullion base not only because it's cheaper, but because its all natural ingredients with no preservatives.
Once the liquid comes to a slow boil, as pictured below, add the cabbage, lentils, and tomatoes.

Continue to cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes or until lentils are tender and cabbage has wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately and enjoy!!!  So yummy!  A perfect one pot meal!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Easter Feast and Marathon Monday

Happy Easter to all those who celebrate! And Happy Patriots Day to my fellow New Englanders!

Today is marathon Monday in Boston. It's an emotional day, not just because its the anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing, but for all the runners and their families doing the unthinkable: running 26.2 miles!!! Congrats to them all! I love watching them run and I love hearing their stories.

I wish I could say I am posting my meal plan for the week, but I am not. This week is vacation week for my son and my husband is going out of town. So needless to say, I'll be flying by the seat of my pants and ordering a lot of takeout. Lol. I do have some pictures of our Easter dinner to share (roasted leg of lamb, ham with mustard sauce, homemade Mac n cheese, asparagus).

I wish you all a wonderful week! Enjoy the beautiful springtime weather!
oh and one more thing: Boston Strong!!!

Happy Cooking!

Week 17 - turbo support

This week I'm going into full Healthy Revolution mode: less take-out, more homemade cooking.  I'm doing all of this to support my hubby who expressed his desire to "get serious" and loose some weight. I've offered my assistance in the way of meal planning and prep to help him stay on track.  I've also offered my advice on fitness and exercise, although he's not quite ready to take me on as a personal trainer.

Here is my recommendation for him (a 6'2" man, built like a football player) for a simple eating plan for the week:

  • Breakfast: my recipe for a cleansing smoothie, 1 slice of sprouted whole grain bread with 2 T of natural peanut butter
  • Morning Snack:  high fiber, high protein, low sugar granola bar (we like Trader Joe's Peanut Butter and Chocolate high fiber bar).  This is the perfect snack for him to grab and eat while he's in between meetings.
  • Lunch:  a pre-packaged salad with protein that is 500 calories or less, with the dressing.  This is to control fat, calories, and sugar by being able to refer to the calorie count on the package.  Trader Joe's has great, affordable, pre-packaged salads (some are even cheaper than I could make it at home).
  • Afternoon Snack:  greek yogurt (0% fat) and 1 piece of fruit, such as an apple or orange (low-glycemic value)
  • Dinner: refer to my meal plan below
Below is my weekly meal plan for dinner, taking into account my husband's travel schedule.  I'm trying out several new recipes this week that fall right into the Healthy Home Revolution model.  I will post the recipes for them as the week proceeds.  Enjoy your week!

Happy Cooking!

Week 17: April 27, 2014

Sunday:  Lemon, Mustard and Honey Roasted Chicken with roasted potatoes and green salad

Monday:  (husband is traveling) Eating up healthy leftovers in the freezer

Tuesday:  low-calorie Mexican Casserole with a cherry tomato and avocado salad

Wednesday:  terriyaki glazed salmon with siracha sauce, brown rice, edamame, and broccoli

Thursday:  (husband has a work event)  Eating leftovers

Friday: Pizza night

Saturday: Skinny Greek Stuffed Chicken with roasted asparagus and salad

And since I didn't post a meal plan for last week, here's the link for week 16 and week 17 of the 1st year of the Healthy Home Revolution:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tips for Great Homemade Pizza

We started the tradition of pizza and movie night on Fridays.  It's our family tradition that lets my husband and I breathe a little while the kids enjoy a new movie.  I'm not going to lie, sometimes I'm just too tired to make my own pizza - we order from our favorite local pizzeria that knows our address well.  But for those times I'm feeling motivated and looking for an activity to do with the kids, we make our own pizza.

This all started with the gifts I received from my parents this past Christmas - a traditional pizza stone, deep dish pizza stone, and a pizza peel.  We began to experiment with different combinations of pizza toppings and of course our favorite, pepperoni.  The best part of making it yourself is that you can control all of the ingredients:  no nitrate added meats, part-skim mozzarella, fresh veggies, and even whole wheat crust if you want.  You get a much healthier pizza with all your favorite stuff!

Below you will find my tips for making the BEST homemade pizza.   Give it a try - nothing to fear but deliciousness.

Happy Cooking!

Nitrate-free Pepperoni and Sopressata - my husband claims its the best pizza he ever had!
Tips For GREAT Homemade Pizza

For the ingredients:

  • find your favorite store-bought pizza dough, white, wheat or otherwise (some places make herb or garlic flavors) or make your favorite pizza dough recipe in advance.  My favorite is from Whole Foods
  • experiment with different bottled pizza or pasta sauces (or make your own).  My favorite is Simply Enjoy Marinara, found at my local grocery store
  • find your favorite toppings, and healthier versions of them if you are willing and able to spend the money (organic, nitrate-free, made from part-skim milk, etc)

For the prep work:

  • preheat your oven to 450 degrees and allow to pizza stone to pre-heat at 450 for 30 min before beginning
  • get your kids involved or have a pizza making party with your closest friends and family!  As you can see from the pictures below, my kids LOVE to make their own pizza and are so proud of their creations.  (you can take one ball of store bought dough and split in 2-4 mini pizzas).  Plus they seem to have no problem eating all of their dinner when its something that they, themselves, made.  

Below are pictures of the kids pizzas they made themselves, before and after cooking.

Cooking time:

  • I swear by pre-baking your dough!   Roll your dough out, being generous with flour so it doesn't stick.  Shake the access flour off after you've rolled it out to size, the size of your pizza stone.  Using a spatula, your hands, or a pizza peel, place the dough on the stone and bake at 450 degrees for 6-8 minutes (just enough time for the dough to be cooked but not browned or crispy yet).  Remove from the oven.  Don't worry if any air pockets formed - just press them out...beware of the hot, steamy air that comes out so you don't burn yourself.
  • Place all your favorite toppings on top of the pre-baked dough.  If you don't have a pizza peel, I would use a large cutting board and a spatula to assist you with transporting the pizza on and off the pizza stone.  Place pizza back in the oven at 450 for an additional 6-10 minutes, depending on how doughy or crispy you like your crust.  

Some of our favorite flavor combinations have been:

  • shredded mozzarella, pepperoni, mushroom, black olive, and spinach
  • spinach, kalamata olives, sun dried tomato, artichokes, feta cheese (this tastes delicious with tomato sauce, pesto, or with plan old olive oil and garlic)
  • meatball, fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, and onion

Be creative!  Make it your own and you may never order another pizza again!!!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lentil Salad with Roasted Broccoli and Honey Mustard Dressing

This is by far one of my favorite recipes that I've made.  Not only is it extremely delicious, but its so healthy.  It came from the 7-ingredient cleanse and I've now made it part of my regular diet.  I like to make a batch on the weekends - my husband and I eat it for lunches and snacks during the week.  I've made it a few different ways, but below is my favorite version of the recipe.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do!!!

Happy Cooking!

Lentil Salad with Roasted Broccoli and Honey Mustard Dressing
recipe adapted from

1 pkg of pre-cooked lentils (I get mine from Trader Joe's - otherwise you can substitute the 3 cups of cooked lentils)
1 head of broccoli, about 3-4 cups, cut into florets and roasted (directions for roasting below)
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tsp honey
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 T apple cider vinegar
4 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Extra olive oil, salt, and pepper for roasting broccoli

First, roast the broccoli.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the broccoli florets with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for 15-20 minutes or until desired tenderness.

Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients for the dressing.  First combine the honey, mustard, salt, pepper, and vinegar.  Then slowly add the olive oil while whisking to emulsify the dressing.  Add the lentils, shallot, and roasted broccoli.  Toss to coat and taste for any additional seasoning.  Eat up!  So yummy!!!

Week 15 - running on low

Maybe it's because I'm trying to do too much, maybe it's because my husband has been working late almost every night, maybe it's the kids, but I'm running on empty.  So I'm here, but I'm not - I'm in survival mode.  Here's my plan for this week.

Happy Cooking!

Week 15 - April 13, 2014

Sunday: cleansing lentil and cabbage soup

Monday: parent/teacher meeting with dinner (and childcare)

Tuesday: tacos with roasted broccoli and salad

Wednesday: book club dinner for me, making pasta and meatballs for kids and hubby

Thursday: takeout (I teach cardio)

Friday: homemade pizza

Saturday: Greek marinated chicken
with Greek salad and couscous

And here's a link to recipes from week 15 from the 1st year of the Healthy Home Revolution.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Week 14 - Spring has Sprung

Happy Monday everyone!  I'm so happy that Spring has finally Sprung around here!!!  And with the Spring comes Spring cleaning and organizing.  I spent this past weekend going through all the closets, dressers, toys, and stuff in my kids rooms and the playroom.  We took down the crib, packed away all the baby toys and stuff, and even re-docorated both kids rooms.  Lots of work, but also a great time.  Plus now I feel SUPER accomplished.  Honestly, I can't even believe I did all that!  I spent Saturday morning and early afternoon consignment shopping for things to use for the redecoration of my kids spaces, and most of Sunday sorting, packing, moving furniture, and decorating.  A HUGE thank you to my amazing and wonderful husband for distracting the children as much as possible and assisting with the process.   It might sound a little sick, but being organized and tidy makes me super happy.

Needless to say, operation Spring Clean will continue this month.  I'm hoping I'll eventually get to unpack the last few boxes from our move two years ago.  Hahaha!   On the agenda this week?  I'm going to attempt to tackle the office space, a scary mess of a project.

Between spring cleaning, the usual daily grind, and the fact that we've all had cabin fever and are trying to be outside as much as possible, I'm planning a few simple and quick meals for this week.  I'm getting some help from my supermarket and I may even order out a day or two.  Below you will find my weekly plan (including yesterday) as well as a link to week 14 from last year.  Have an amazing week!

Happy Cooking!

Week 14 - April 6, 2014

Sunday- thai and sushi (take out)

Monday - simple grilled salmon with tzaziki sauce (premade sauce), lentil salad with broccoli and honey mustard dressing

Tuesday - spaghetti and meatballs, fennel and orange spinach salad

Wednesday - grilled italian sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions, sauteed zuchinni and yellow squash

Thursday - leftovers or takeout (I teach cardio over dinner time so no cooking)

Friday - homemade pizza night

Saturday - dinner at a friend's house (we are bringing the wine)

And week 14 from 2013:

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Chicken Yakisoba

I'm excited about this one, mainly because it was super easy, my kids helped, and they loved it!  They ate it all leftovers to be had!  If you are looking for a delicious, healthy, and easy weeknight meal, this is a great alternative to the norm and an excellent way to get your kids to try something new.  You won't be disappointed!

Happy Cooking!

Chicken Yakisoba
recipe adapted from

1(10 oz) pkg of shredded green cabbage
1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, shredded
2-3 cups of small broccoli florets
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated (peel with a spoon and use a micro plane)
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast cut into thin slices for stir fry
2 T vegetable oil
1 (3 oz) pkg of ramen noodles, noodles only (discard the seasoning)
1 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 T ketchup
1/2 tsp sriracha hot sauce (add more if everyone in the family likes spicy, but I just served some more on the side)
1 T sugar

Before you begin to stir-fry, be sure you have a large pot of water boiling for the ramen noodles.  You will want to cook them as you are stir-frying the vegetables, but not quite yet.  At this point, prep all the vegetables and whisk together the ingredients to the stir-fry sauce:  combine the soy sauce, Worcestershire, ketchup  sriracha, and sugar until well combined.  Set aside for later.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the grated ginger and saute for about 30 seconds (don't let it burn).  Add the chicken and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pan.  Heat the other tablespoon of vegetable oil along with the sesame oil.  Add all of the vegetables, stirring and cooking until wilted, about 5-10 minutes.

At this point, before the vegetables are ready, add the noodles to the water and cook just until tender.  I like to under cook the noodles a little bit and let them finish cooking in the sauce.  As the noodles cook, add the sauce and chicken back to the pan and allow the sauce to come to a boil.  The noodles with soak up the sauce after you add them - this makes it so yummy!

Once al dente, drain the noodles and immediately add them to the pan with the vegetables, chicken and sauce.
Stir to coat everything and heat through, just 1-2 minutes.  Serve immediately with extra sriracha for those who want to spice it up.  Enjoy!