Category Archives: menu planning

Healthy Snacking!

So, I’m back. I had a little sabbatical there for the month of December and most of January.  I’m sure you all can relate; sometimes the things you love the most are the things you have to give up first. Eeek! My Holidays were wonderful, action packed even! Hope yours were as well.

I do love a snack every now and again.  Who doesn’t?  I mean the SUPERBOWL is headed here in a week.  Who won’t be snacking that day?  Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but most of the time I snack to have smaller meals throughout the day.  This works particularly well on days where I work out and need to keep the metabolism going all day long.  I typically go for something savory in the afternoon—anything from veggies with hummus, a piece of protein, some dip or a little bit of cheese.

A few years back, my husband and I started making our own hummus.  It’s 100% better than anything you can buy in the grocery store.  Not to mention, our in home version didn’t have all the extra ingredients that store bought processed hummus had.  Why not make it at home?  It’s simple.  Dump in blender, blend and serve!  Done.

Last year, I discovered that beans no longer agreed with me.  Every time I ate any type of bean, even the smallest amount, I immediately became bloated and filled up with gas (I know, the thing we don’t like to talk about) with sharp pinches of pain in my abdomen.  It became so uncomfortable that I decided to take them out of my diet completely.  (Enter sad face here.)  I’m a bean LOVER.  I used to put beans in almost everything.  From soups and stews to sandwiches and salads.  Chickpeas were my favorite.  I’d eat them daily.  No joke… right out of the can.  I even stewed them at home.  I would give up meat for beans, that’s just how much I enjoyed them.  So what’s a girl to do?  Almost all kinds of hummus are made from some type of bean, mostly chickpeas.  What could possibly take the place of the beloved hummus?

I tried to make hummus out of a few other veggies like cauliflower and eggplant, but it wasn’t quite right.  And then…ARTICHOKE! Yep, artichokes.  They have a similar texture to chickpeas when blended and are full of flavor.  And even better… they are considered a SUPERFOOD packed with antioxidants and have been known to have properties to help lower cholesterol and detox the liver.  I don’t know about you, but this is a win-win for me!!!

ARTICHOKE HUMMUS
Makes six ½-cup servings

Ingredients:
1 can artichoke hearts (whole or quartered, NOT MARINATED)
2-3 cloves of garlic, cut in half  (can use roasted garlic for milder flavor)
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup olive or avocado oil
2 tbs lemon juice (more if you like the tang)
½ tsp salt
⅛-¼ tsp cayenne (optional heat)
Dash of paprika

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Directions:
Place all ingredients in blender or food processor.
Blend until desired texture is reached.
If too thick, add additional lemon juice or oil.

 

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Place in bowl and drizzle with a tsp of olive oil and dash of paprika.

That’s it. It doesn’t get any easier. You can use this hummus to snack with veggies, smear on top of fish or chicken or even put in a lettuce wrap.

And don’t forget about your Super Bowl party that’s coming up!  This would make a perfect addition to your spread!!!

Snack Happy!

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Welcome Fall! Coconut Carrot Butternut Squash Soup

So, I’ve never really been a “fall” person. I know, I shouldn’t really say that out loud! I don’t even really like Pumpkin Spice Latte. Yep, there… I said it! Don’t judge me.  There is a reason, and it makes perfect sense.   I grew up in Miami.  And the weather stayed 85 degrees all year round, for the most part.  There really is no such thing as fall there—or winter for that matter.  Drinking something hot to warm you up wasn’t a thing.  This was just something I grew up with.  I LOVE hot weather. I’m just that girl.  Warm Blooded!!!

Time went on, and I landed on the West Coast.  Funny thing, here in the OC, we still don’t get fall and winter seasons like most of the country.  But the weather shift is slight and a cool breeze does come our way.  Just today, it’s actually raining here and the temperature hasn’t gotten above 65 degrees (by the end of the week it will back up to 95) and I’m taking advantage of this.  These types of days are best for chilies, stews and baking.  But today, I’m thinking soup.

Soup is one of those dishes that brings back memories, cures the common cold and is just a bowl of comfort.  What I love most about soup is it can be made out of almost everything, appeal to almost anyone and can hit almost every type of flavor. Chowders, Chicken Noodle, Beef and Barley, Split Pea, Broccoli and Cheddar…the list goes on and on.  My love for Asian spices tends to come out more during these cooler months for some reason.  Pho and Tom Kha soups are two of my favorite to eat this time of year.  I could eat them daily!  Both very different, but I love the subtle tastes of ginger, cilantro and lime in both.  Ahh. Love.

I’ve been messing around the kitchen, trying to create something that has that similar flair, but as a veggie option.  The great thing is the original version is Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo and Whole30!!!  A soup that will fit the needs of everyone at your dinner table!!!

Carrots and Butternut Squash are two fantastic fall veggies, and what better way to appreciate them then to make a soup. The Coconut Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup below will become your new favorite, I promise! It’s so easy to prepare, a one pot/blender wonder!  Ready in about 35 minutes you’ll have love in your bowl!!!

What’s great about this soup is that you can take it in so many different directions.  You can prepare it as shown, make the texture completely smooth, or have it chunky.  Use different types of nut butters.  Add different types of toppings.  Leave out the coconut milk.  The options here are endless.  All you need is some imagination, a large pot and a blender and a few ingredients and SOUP IS ON!

Coconut, Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 tbs coconut oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups carrots, scrubbed (or peeled) and chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
Salt and Pepper
2 cups Veggie Stock
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk, whole
1/3 cup creamy cashew or almond butter
2 tsp chili garlic sauce (use less for less spice)

TOPPINGS: Fresh basil, cilantro, or mint; chopped nuts, Siracha or chili garlic sauce. For heartier
soup, add roasted kale or Brussels sprouts and fried pancetta or prosciutto (takes it to another level!!!)

Instructions:

Heat a large pot over medium heat.

Dice onion and garlic. (Can leave whole as well.  Cook time will be a little longer).  Add to pot with 2 Tbsp coconut or olive oil. Add carrots and butternut squash and cook for 5 minutes.

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Season with a each salt and pepper, then add veggie stock and 2 cups of water and stir.

Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender.

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Transfer to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth and creamy. (Cover with a towel in case your lid leaks any soup while blending.)

Add nut butter and chili garlic sauce to the blender and blend to combine.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add ½ can of coconut milk to start. Blend. Add rest for desired taste/texture.

Add more chili garlic sauce for more heat.

Serve immediately by itself or with desired toppings.

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Enjoy!

Skip the Diet! Just eat Healthy!

Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be all salads and granola type of foods.  It doesn’t mean you cannot have the joys of indulgent foods. I hear that time and time again, I like the food that I like and that’s it. or What’s the point of eating something I don’t want. I just want to enjoy  life. But in my opinion, healthy eating is an 80/20 choice, you can have your kale and cake and eat them BOTH! Enjoying healthy options most of the time and savoring those foods that we know should be eaten in moderation, 20% of the time. For me, that’s things like pasta, NY style pizza and wine. (I’m Italian, can you tell!).

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Clean Eating has become my lifestyle of choice for the 80% (or more!) of the time. And with that, I’ve taken dieting out of my vocabulary! I no longer eat things like overly-processed foods,rice, flour, deli meats and refined sugar. Dairy is only eaten on occasion. I fill up my plate with fruits, veggies, lean proteins, seeds, nuts and minimal whole grains. For me, beans have taken a back seat as well only due to some digestion issues, but I love them and wish I could eat them. This is my lifestyle and I know I’ve gone wrong in the past over-thinking about the foods I couldn’t have versus thinking about all the foods I could enjoy all the time! It’s not a punishment, it’s a way of life. A better life. I actually feel 100% better when I’m eating healthfully and when I stray on that 20% my body knows it. I’m lethargic, cranky and completely zoned out. It’s a really bad place for me to be. I’d rather eat real, unprocessed foods that are healthful and feel good than eat French fries and feel like crap the rest of the day. Again, that’s why it’s 80/20!

The other thing that has shaped my healthy eating is creating menus for the week. Meal planning has single handedly supported my healthful lifestyle. Not only does it give me a snapshot to what I’m eating for the week, it can support my workout schedule to ensure I’m eating the best foods to give me the energy I need for my more strenuous workouts. In addition to all that, it has actually helped with food expenses in the house. Because I’m creating these menus, I only buy what my husband and I need for the week. No wasted food! It’s awesome.

So what’s in the average healthful day for me? A lot! About 1,500 calories packed with all the nutrition I need. Three meals and two snacks keep me full and satisfied all day long.

For breakfast I usually eat overnight oats. Oats sustain me on my heavy workout days and I feel completely satisfied having them. With only ⅓ cup of oats they are packed with 33g of carbs, 9g of protein and 5g of fiber. It get all those nutrients in just ⅓ cup for breakfast! I top my overnight oats with some strawberries or blueberries (right now they’re in season here) for the perfect morning meal. I add a tablespoon of chia seeds as well to fill me up and keep me fuller longer and because the chia and oats expand so much overnight, I usually split this meal pre and post workout. This is the best breakfast for me to start my day.

For lunch I’ll eat a lean protein with veggies. Usually a salad since it’s been so hot this summer. My favorite right now is arugula with sauteed asparagus and onions, an ounce of feta, tomatoes and two poached eggs. A squeeze of lemon juice tops off the salad. It’s so delicious and keeps me filled up until my snack! (Check out my instagram https://instagram.com/healthylittlesecret/ for the recipe.)

A few hours later, I’ll eat a small piece of fruit with almond butter. Just a tablespoon is all you need to give some extra protein! My other go to snack is a bean free dip that I’ll eat with tons of veggies. Either snack will keep me full until dinnertime. (Spicy Pepper Dip on blog)

Right now in OC we’ve been having a little bit of a heat wave (to put it mildly) so the grill has been my method of choice for cooking dinner. I usually cook wild caught salmon along with kale and zucchini. If you haven’t made kale on the grill you’re missing out. It’s FANTASTIC. A grill basket and a touch of olive oil, garlic powder and salt and pepper to make this easy, light and yummy dinner. (TIP: I make extra salmon for lunch the next day. Nicoise Salad! It’s on my Instagram account as well https://instagram.com/healthylittlesecret/!)

The last snack of the day for me is dessert. Yes, living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean not having something to treat the sweet tooth. For me, that’s DARK chocolate.  I’ve found many varieties that are 85% or higher and taste amazing. I usually get an organic bar and I don’t miss the overly sweet chocolates that I was eating before. One or two squares, that’s all that’s needed to end the evening. I don’t have this every evening, but at least 2 nights a week.

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Now, after reading my menu of choice, does it sound like I’m not living a life or am being deprived? I’m hoping you’re saying NO right now and agreeing that it sounded yummy!!! And you know what, healthy eating is delicious. Now actually living on this lifestyle I crave things like kale and overnight oats! It’s true. My cravings for pizza are few and far between.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately about the obesity epidemic we have in the U.S. Many things stood out while watching that I just cannot get out of my head: One, every person that is overweight knows that eating fast and over processed foods are what’s causing their weight and health issues. However, because it ‘tastes good’ they continue to eat it. Two, a man actually said he knows he’s going to die from eating they way he does, but he’d rather die at 55 and not give up his BBQ. DIE! Three, people feel that eating healthfully is too expensive and they’d rather use their money on other things. I just cannot get those things out of my head.  DEATH. MONEY. TASTE. That’s more important than HEALTH? What is going on here? Are we that brainwashed?

It’s time to break the cycle. I know it’s difficult. I was on the dieting roller coaster for 10+ years. I eventually snapped out of it and got on the road to health! 80/20, it can be done!

Skip the Diet. Just eat Healthy!