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Healthy Taco Bake

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Dinner struggles with my two picky eaters is a very real thing in our house. The battles, they bug me so much sometimes. Part of feeling like I’m doing a good job at this whole mom thing is knowing that they’re eating nutritious foods to fuel their bodies.  Oh, did I mention the part about them having many opposite dislikes? She hates tomato sauce, he hates cheese sauce. He loves scrambled eggs with fried onions, she won’t touch it, but she’ll chomp on raw carrots if I bribe her…

This healthy taco bake though – it was a winner for us! And it’s all healthy and balanced, plus it fits into the 21 day fix meal plan perfectly.  You get 1/4 of the entire pan as a serving! (counts as 1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow, and 1 blue container). So take that, you last 10 pounds!  You can use ground turkey in place of the beef, but I wanted to make it more kid-friendly, plus our chili is with turkey, so we needed to change things up a bit.

Healthy Taco Bake

2 cups cooked brown rice
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
1 pound lean ground beef
1 bell pepper (colour of choice), diced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce (low sodium and no sugar added)

Preheat oven to 350F and spray a 9×13 inch casserole dish with non-stick spray.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Add onion, garlic and jalapeno, and sauté for about a minute. Add ground beef and break apart, browning for about 5 minutes. Add bell peppers and cook for another 3-4 minutes, until beef is cooked through.

Add lime juice and spices. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Remove from heat and add rice, 1/4 cup of the cheese, tomato sauce, and cilantro. Stir to mix well.

Pour into casserole dish, top with remaining cheese, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes covered.

Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes, or until nice and bubbly and delicious looking.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes.

Lemony Quinoa Spinach Salad with Feta

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Sometimes you really don’t want to cook, so having a big nourishing bowl of this salad in the fridge to dip into is the perfect lunch or dinner savior. Hello mom sanity!  It’s fresh and bright tasting, so I always come back to it when the sun is shining or if I want to feel more summery.  Top it with some grilled chicken to have a perfectly balanced meal.

 

Lemony Quinoa Spinach Salad with Feta
Source: Adapted from Dinner with Julie

1 cup quinoa
4 cups packed spinach – washed
1/2 red onion
2/3 cup feta cheese
zest and juice of one lemon
3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
roast chicken (optional)

Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh sieve for a few minutes.  This gets rid of the bitter coating.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add rinsed quinoa.  Boil over medium heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Drain well, return to the pot and steam with the lid on for 5 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.

Put quinoa into a large bowl.  Thinly slice the spinach and add it to the bowl.  Add the onion, lemon zest, and crumble in the feta.

Drizzle the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and oil into the bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss well.

Salad will keep for about 4 days in the fridge.

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Healthy Baked Bananas

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I have a wicked sweet tooth, and often just have to indulge, but I don’t want my treats to completely derail me from healthy eating (ok, there’s sometimes a place for a delicious doughnut from a local shop, or a slice of chocolate cake).

This healthy baked banana has no added sugar, just what’s naturally in the banana itself and some stevia-sweetened chocolate chips. You don’t need the typical marshmallows and loads of chocolate. I’ve even topped mine with a few dollops of greek yogurt that I added vanilla stevia to.  Sprinkle with cinnamon, and you’ve got the perfect indulgence.

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Healthy Baked Bananas

Serves 2

1 Banana – cut open lengthwise
Pinch of Cinnamon
A few sliced strawberries or some blueberries
2 tsp unsweetened coconut flakes
Optional: a teaspoon of chopped dark chocolate (I use Lily’s stevia sweetened chocolate chips)

Sprinkle banana with cinnamon and stuff in the rest of the ingredients.
Wrap in tinfoil and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes or bbq for 10 minutes. Top with some greek yogurt after adding in some stevia and vanilla extract.
Enjoy!

Skinny Grapefruit Cocktail

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This drink is like my magical little secret spring fairy dust.  It makes me happy in an “everything is light and airy and fruity and wonderful” kind of way. And grapefruit. Nuff said!  The only problem with it is how fast I can down a glass or two.  I can totally see myself drinking these in the sun on our patio this summer.

Skinny Grapefruit Cocktails

ice
1/5oz tequila
3oz fresh grapefruit juice (I bought fresh in a carton so I wouldn’t have to squeeze my own)
3oz diet tonic
a wedge of lime

Fill a tall glass with ice then add tequila, grapefruit juice and tonic. Stir, add a straw, and squeeze your lime over top. Enjoy!

Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

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One of the complaints I most often hear from people trying to eat healthier is that healthy food is “tooooo expensive.”  With some effort and planning, you can make eating healthy more budget-friendly, and just remember, the money you are spending on your food is worth it for the health of this body you live in!

My top tips:
– Buy in bulk and portion out and/or freeze
– Shop sales
– Buy produce seasonally
– Plan ahead
– Modify recipes
– Go for frozen fruits and veggies
– DON’T WASTE!!! (see below for tips to avoid throwing food out)

Let’s go through the different foods I eat, how to make the healthiest choices, and how I save some money on them.

Fruits and vegetables:
– Shop in season – Tomatoes in the middle of winter are twice the price AND they just don’t taste good. Buy the produce that’s in season right now where you live.
– Buy it on sale and stock up.  Some fruit can be frozen for later (hello bananas for smoothies!). If you end up with broccoli instead of the $6 head of cauliflower your recipe calls for, well just change it up. It won’t be the same, but it’ll still be delicious.
– Often frozen fruits and vegetables are less expensive, and bonus: they’re usually picked at their very best quality and flash-frozen to maintain optimal freshness. Win win!
– canned vegetables aren’t my favourite at all, but canned corn occasionally shows up at our house, and sometimes you can find some good cost-effective options there.
– Sign up for a weekly produce basket. These are often huge money savers, and you usually get some new items to try.
– grow a garden – ok, so most of us don’t have the space or don’t want to put the time into it. I’ve found a few things are super easy to grow though – lettuce, kale, and arugula. It’s also so worth it to grow some herbs. My top herb garden choices are the super hardy ones like mint, rosemary, thyme, and chives.

Meats:
For meats you’ll want to aim for 90% or leaner. You can buy several whole chickens to roast at a time, just make sure you remove the skin before eating. Again, shop the sales and freeze.
– Canned fish is absolutely a great choice, and much less expensive than fresh. Canned tuna is one of my favourite easy proteins to add to a salad. Just don’t go eating multiple cans per day.
– buy family packs (or shop at Costco). You can then portion out smaller amounts and freeze for future use.
– buy local – sometimes farmers will give you much better prices than in the stores

Dairy:
Aim for 2% fat or less, and low sugar. When you’re buying milks and yogurt, opt for plain unflavoured. You can always flavour your own yogurt at home with some fruit and a bit of honey
I’m again going to tell you to shop sales and stock up. Guess what – most dairy actually freezes and defrosts really well, especially the lower fat versions. You might need to fully let it defrost and then give it a stir or a shake, but it should still taste great.  Cheese does get pretty crumbly after defrosting, so just crumble a bit into your morning omelet.

Carbs:
I buy brown rice, whole wheat or brown rice pasta, beans, and quinoa for dried carbs.. and occasionally some whole wheat breads or cereals.
Once again, go for sales. These items keep really well in dry cool areas, so you can buy in bulk.
Beans – I have a pressure cooker, so I can do a giant batch in like 30 minutes and freeze for later. No time? Canned is a great option too, just stock up when they’re on sale.  And be flexible! When a recipe calls for black beans but all you have is red navy – doesn’t matter!

Shakeology:
Every day I make sure I have my Shakeology to meet my nutritional requirements. I find it’s the best value for the quality of the nutrition I’m getting per serving.  It’s my healthiest meal of the day.

How I avoid wasting produce that’s about to go bad:
I try to check on my veggies every day in case something’s extra wilty or about to melt into its surroundings. This is the most annoying way to lose food and is just like throwing money into a black hole. Don’t do it!  Use those veggies up before they have to be chucked out.
Make a big stir fry
Vegetable omelets with whatever needs using
Throw them in soups (even lettuce can be cooked.. think of it as an extra fancy spinach)
Freeze it (I’ve been known to chuck whole bendy carrots and wilty celery into a freezer back and use it for chicken stock a month or two later.

Easy Paleo Friendly Wraps

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I’d been searching for gluten free wraps at my grocery store and could never find anything that I really liked, so I was curious when I came across this recipe. I’ve modified it a bit to make it easier (blend it all in your blender instead of whisking like crazy).  It’s easier than I thought it’d be to whip up a batch of wraps, and they freeze well too, so you can double it and be set for a while.

We used these for shredded chicken tacos, but you could use them in place of crepes for a yummy breakfast or dessert.. Bonus – they’re *kinda* healthy.

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Easy Paleo Wraps

Recipe adapted from Stupid Easy Paleo
Makes 8 6-inch tortillas

2 eggs
2 teaspoons melted coconut oil
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons coconut flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Blend all ingredients together on high until smooth.

Heat small nonstick skillet (mine was a 6-inch, but 8 works too) over medium heat. When hot, pour in about 1/8 cup of batter and swirl to coat the bottom. Flip when it starts to bubble like the top of a pancake – about 30 seconds). Cook the other side for about 20 seconds and remove to a plate.

Repeat with the rest of the batter.

To freeze, allow to cool completely, then wrap tightly and lay flat.  Defrost in the fridge overnight before using.

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Healthy Homemade Tomato Sauce

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I love comfort food, and in the winter this easy homemade tomato sauce has been a life saver.   I made a double batch and have used it for zoodles and meatballs (above), as a base for a yummy taco sauce, and in a super simple tomato soup with tons of depth of flavour.  It’s super easy to freeze in portions so you can pull one out whenever you need a bit.

I’ve simplified the recipe from the Fixate cookbook (farourite cookbook right now!). It’s low sodium and packed with healthy things.
Get the cookbook in Canada here.

Healthy and delicious homemade tomato sauce

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6oz) can tomato paste (no salt added)
2 cans (28-oz each) whole peeled tomatoes or organic crushed tomatoes, pureed in a blender
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried basil or 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes, until onion’s translucent.

Add garlic and tomato paste. Cook, stirring constantly for about 2 minutes.

Add tomatoes, honey, salt, an dpepper. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Reduce heat to low and stir occasionally for 1 hour.

Enjoy!

Seared Tuna Bowl

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I have to share, oh yes I do! I had an idea of making this Asian/Hawaiian inspired bowl of awesome, and it turned out so well in my opinion.  There’s an awesome ginger miso sauce that’s the bombay.  I’m semi-scared of raw fish for some reason, especially when I buy it at the grocery store and prepare it myself. Learning to be done! So I seared it, which adds some awesome flavour anyhow, so no harm done!

You really have to try this. It’s got lots of ingredients, but is easy to make! Rice, splash of vinegar. Chopped up veggies, fish, and sauce. boom!

Seared Tuna Bowl

Serves 4

For the sauce:
1 1/2 teaspoons miso paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce or aminos
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger*

Mix everything up and set aside

For the bowl:
4 cups cooked brown rice
4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar (or other vinegar)
2 cups diced cucumber
2 cups grated carrot
4 thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup thinly sliced seaweed**
1 avocado, cubed
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh ahi tuna

Heat coconut oil over high heat. Sear Tuna on all sides (like 10 seconds per side, max), then slice into bite sized pieces.

Mix rice wine vinegar with rice. Assemble bowls by adding to each one: 1 cup rice, 1/2 cup each of cucumber and grated carrots, 1/4 avocado, some seaweed, and green onions. Top with tuna and drizzle over some sauce.

* try freezing the ginger whole, then grating with a microplane
** Check the foreign section of your grocery store. Costco also carries little packs of seaweed sheets

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Easy Sheet Pan Asian Pineapple Chicken and Veggies

pineapple chicken

Oh my goodness, you guys, GAME CHANGER right here.

Busy moms? I’m right there with you. Yes, I love love love to cook, but I’m not always so excited at spending a ton of time making dinner every night.  This is a recipe I love for chicken skewers on the bbq.. but I’ve modified it to be super easy. You can cook a big batch all at once in the oven.

Plop this onto a bed of greens or rice, and you’ve got a super quick and easy YUMMY dinner. boom.  Do my kids eat it? Well, all they’re happy with right now is fruit and bread, so that answers your question.

pineapple chicken salad

I can’t even handle it.. the chicken stays all nice and juicy.. the pineapple adds this sweet amazingness..

Easy sheet pan Asian Chicken and Pineapple with veggies

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/3 cup soy sauce, braggs liquid aminos, or coconut aminos
3 tsp sesame oil
3 tsp grated ginger
1 can pineapple chunks in juice, drained
1 orange or red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large red onion, cut into chunks

Preheat oven to 4ooF.

Stir together soy sauce, sesame oil, and ginger.  If you have time, marinate the chicken in this mixture for half an hour (or up to a day ahead if you wanna get a jump start on dinner).

Dump everything onto a sheet pan and mix up a bit

Bake for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Serve on a bed of greens or rice.

Recipe adapted from Fixate cookbook by Autumn Calabrese

gluten free paleo English muffins

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This is a breakfast game changer right here, especially if you’re avoiding gluten or are trying to stick to a paleo diet.. Not to mention they’re EASY to make. All you need is a microwave and a toaster! You can make one or a bunch of them. You can change up the seasoning. Brilliant! I’m thinking of making some for my 3 year old when she gets off her oatmeal bender, but I’ll have to pretend it’s “raisin bread” since that’s apparently an acceptable thing to put in her mouth. Most picky eater!

These ones are cinnamon raisins, but you could do an herb mix, or add garlic powder and pop an egg on top.. Add some sugar free bacon, and you have my heart!

Thanks so much to Erin over at Living Lean With Erin for this great recipe. Check out all her super healthy recipes!

gluten free paleo English muffins

1 1/2 Tablespoons Almond Flour
1 Tablespoon Coconut Flour
1 Tablespoon Almond or Coconut Milk
1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Apple Sauce
2 Tablespoons Liquid Egg Whites
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon oil or ghee
pinch of salt
pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of stevia
8 raisins, chopped

Stir everything together in a small bowl. Transfer to a ramekin that’s been sprayed with non-stick spray. Microwave for 30 seconds then remove when it’s cool enough to handle. Slice in half and toast. Top with almond butter, have a party, make it with other seasonings, add an egg.. the sky’s the limit!

I hope you make this!

Enjoy!

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