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Pear-Ginger Granola with Dried Cranberries

8 Apr

Granola is one of those things that often masquerades as a health food, but really is just a sugar bomb.

I love it, but I try to steer clear of those that are high in calories and, especially, sugar, and I try to aim for those that are naturally sweetened.

Homemade granola most often satisfies those requirements.

My dad and I made some hard pear cider, and we had some pear and apple juice leftover. I didn’t know how I would use pear juice, but I saved it. I had bought some snack packages of freeze-dried fruit in an attempt to get the girls to eat better, but they rejected them and so I had some freeze-dried pears leftover, too. I knew they would come in handy, so I saved them for the right occasion.

I stumbled across an apple-cinnamon granola recipe that called for apple cider and thought I easily could adapt that to a pear-ginger granola recipe using the pear juice. I tweaked a few other things and ended up with a delightfully crunchy and chewy granola that is entirely naturally sweetened and clocks in at a paltry 87 calories for a 1/4 cup serving.

It’s wonderful with vanilla yogurt, but also would be delicious with a bit of milk.

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Pear-Ginger Granola with Dried Cranberries

(adapted from Eat Good 4 Life)

Ingredients

3/4 cup pear juice

1/4 cup apple juice

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup chopped almonds

8 tsp (2 2/3 tbsp) honey

2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 cup freeze-dried pear slices, chopped

1/3 cup dried cranberries

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Directions

In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the pear and apple juices and cook until it has reduced to 1/3 cup.

In the meantime, in a large bowl, combine the oats, walnuts, and almonds.

 

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. When the juice has reduced to 1/3 cup, turn off the heat and add the honey, oil, and spices; whisk to combine. Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and toss until the oats and nuts are evenly coated.

Spread the granola onto a large baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes, tossing halfway, until the granola has browned a bit.

Cool the granola to room temperature, then add the freeze-dried pears and cranberries, and toss to combine.

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Back on Track – Week 2

1 Feb

Another decent week on the books!

  • Exercise:
    • Run three times a week, in “training” for the Yeti Trail Series. I ran 4.5 miles Tuesday, 6 on Thursday, and 6 again (outside this time) on Saturday. My cold/sinus infection reared its ugly head late this past week, so I felt pretty miserable Thursday and Saturday.
    • Strength train via BodyPump two times a week. Pumped twice this week!
    • Practice yoga once a week. I squeezed it in while the girls napped Friday.
  • Nutrition:
    • Drink a concoction of apple cider vinegar and lemon water every morning. Check! I don’t think I’m going to continue this, as I don’t really see or feel any marked benefits from it.
    • Eat a vegetable at breakfast every day. Check! Again, still not as easy as I thought. I rotated between green smoothies and a “hidden greens” chocolate oatmeal, and I made high-protein zucchini waffles for a special breakfast Friday.
    • Have higher-protein snacks in between meals; try to have a fruit or vegetable with at least one snack every day. I had a lot of fruit this week, in addition to nuts and cheese. I had a bowl of cereal a few times, too, as well as crackers, both usually as my before-bed snacks.
    • Stick to higher-protein, lower-carb lunches and dinners. Check!
    • Have dessert only once a week. I slipped a little this week: I wasn’t feeling well later in the week, so I treated myself to an oatmeal-chocolate chip cookie Friday night and again Saturday night. Dessert this weekend was creme brulee, which was fantastic and totally worth the wait. My sweet tooth, though, seemed to act up on account of being under the weather.

Overall, I’d say I did pretty well again–another solid B+ with about a B+ effort.

A few highlights from last week:

  • Pearl couscous soup: This soup was great to have on hand for lunches this past week. Tasty and filling, thanks to plenty of veggies, fiber-full red beans, and whole wheat pearl couscous. It clocked in at only 174 calories per 1 1/2 cups, with just 10g protein.
  • Asian chopped salad with sesame vinaigrette: This salad was a beast! It was ginormous and required lots of chewing because of the hearty red cabbage, crisp snap peas, and sweet peppers and carrots. We added chicken on top for an extra protein boost, and mandarin oranges for sweetness, so it came in at 357 calories, with 23g protein.
  • Hidden greens chocolate oatmeal: Real talk: Zucchini and oatmeal go together very, very well. Think bread, muffins, even baked oatmeal. But zucchini did not jibe as well with regular stovetop-cooked oats. The texture, while tolerable, was not appealing. I was glad to get my greens in a pretty significant amount first thing in the morning, so I might make these again, but next time, I’ll “shred” the zucchini more finely in the food processor.
  • High-protein zucchini waffles: These were wonderful–especially warm with a good 2 Tbsp of real maple syrup. They reminded me of zucchini bread in flavor, but had more density. They clocked in at 421 calories, with 21g protein. Maple syrup adds another 100 calories. It’s a hefty breakfast, but it’s got plenty of staying power.
  • Beef taco bowls: A low-carb twist on the typical burrito or taco bowl, these were pretty good, more so, once you get past the strange texture of sauteed cabbage and carrots in your taco meat. We served these with a sprinkling of cheese and 1 ounce of blue corn tortilla chips; I had mine with a blob of guacamole, too. Stats: 446 calories, 31g protein.
  • Chicken fajitas: These were fan-freakin’-tastic! I served them for dinner with Christopher’s parents, and they went over very, very well. The recipe is so simple: Saute a boatload of seasoned peppers, onions, and mushrooms, then sear some seasoned chicken, and combine. We served them with small soft corn tortillas and guacamole. I didn’t even miss the rice or beans!

Some other observations:

  • I still can’t kick my TV-watching snack habit. At least most days, I made decent choices, or stuck to one serving of my snack.
  • If it’s in the house, it’s in my mouth. The mini Reese’s peanut butter cups and Hersey’s Kisses are gone. We munched on those Saturday night and Sunday.
  • I weighed in at 138.6 last Monday and at 138 this morning.

 

Here’s the plan for this week:

  • Roman-style chicken
  • Lasagna
  • Stuffed pepper soup

Here’s to Week 3!

Back on track – Week 1

25 Jan

About 10 days ago, I laid out my plan to get back on track: curb my sweet tooth, eat more protein and vegetables, and just feel better about myself.

So, how did I do with my goals?

  • Exercise:
    • Run three times a week, in “training” for the Yeti Trail Series. I missed a run because the girls and Christopher had the stomach flu much of the week, and we weren’t leaving the house.
    • Strength train via BodyPump two times a week. I missed a class for the same reason.
    • Practice yoga once a week. I skipped yoga in favor of a run Friday.
  • Nutrition:
    • Drink a concoction of apple cider vinegar and lemon water every morning. Check! I don’t know that it’s “helping” per se. I’ll continue it for another week, and I’ll re-evaluate then.IMG_20160117_122905Eat a vegetable at breakfast every day. Check! Not as easy as I thought. I rotated between a frittata with broccoli in it, green smoothies, and green overnight oats
    • Have higher-protein snacks in between meals; try to have a fruit or vegetable with at least one snack every day. I chose hard-boiled eggs, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, almonds, and cheese. I also a few times chose cereal, popcorn, or pretzels/crackers. I find it’s hard to resist grazing when the girls are munching, because sometimes, my eating prompts them to eat — and when you’re dealing with sick toddlers, well, you throw the rules out the window. I also find it’s hard to resist the traditional after-dinner snacks of cheese and crackers. I will give myself credit, though, for sticking to one serving of those snacks.
    • Stick to higher-protein, lower-carb lunches and dinners. Check, with the exception of Saturday, when I ate over a pound of fresh pineapple for lunch. I ate buffalo chicken soup and celery for lunch most days, and a chicken dish with a vegetable on the side for dinner every day but Saturday, when we went out for pizza.
    • Have dessert only once a week. On Monday, I was given some homemade chocolate-raspberry cheesecake and immediately covered it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer to save for later in the week. On Saturday night, Christopher and I split the cheesecake, and it was divine! I only slipped twice: on Friday, mid-morning, I had three Dove chocolates (and while they were good, they weren’t as good as I remember) and then, around lunch, I had 1.5 servings of Annie’s bunny cookies. I blame my run-ger, as well as a long, arduous week, for those slips.

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Overall, I’d say I did pretty well. Maybe a B+, but a definite A for effort, especially given the circumstances.

Since I forgot to post my meal plan for the week, here are the highlights:

  • Cheesy ham and broccoli frittata: Super tasty, super satisfying for 415 calories and with 35g protein!
  • Blueberry, avocado, and spinach power smoothie: Very tasty and very filling, but surprising in nutritional stats–529 calories, 21g fat and 31g protein. Later in the week, I left out the scoop of protein powder, which brought the calories and protein down a bit.
  • Stoplight mango green smoothie: Another tasty and satisfying smoothie, but much lower on the nutritional stats. It’s weird to eat smoothies in the winter. But it’s wonderful to get a sweet breakfast without any refined sugar and a boost of (green) veggies.
  • Green Monster overnight oats: A way I can eat my greens and my oats in the morning? I thought this was a nice compromise. And while it tasted fine–like a banana, mostly–it needed more oats. And while it clocked in at about 400 calories, it could have used some toppings to make it more satisfying in terms of the eating experience.
  • Buffalo chicken soup: Topped only with green onions and served with celery on the side. Pretty light, but really yummy. Nice shot of protein at 23g.
  • Tandoori grilled chicken with Indian-spiced cauliflower rice: This meal was big on volume and low in calories! The chicken was incredible–juicy and flavorful. And the cauliflower rice was subtly spiced and a nice change from white rice.
  • Hot and sweet ginger-garlic chicken with stir-fried sugar snap peas: This meal was all about flavor! The pairing of sweet and spicy chicken and salty and spicy peas is on point. (I used chicken breasts, cut in half width-wise, instead of thighs, by the way.)

Some other observations:

  • I crave sugar and carbs most when I am tired.
  • I can’t kick my TV-watching snack habit. At least most days, I made decent choices.
  • I weighed in at 140 on Tuesday and at 138.6 this morning.

One more thing:

I used the Mayo Clinic caloric needs calculator, which takes into account age, height, weight, and activity level. I am 30, 5’4″ and about 138 pounds, and I selected:

Active: Include at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week, or 20 minutes of vigorous activity at least three days a week.

The result was a whopping 2050 calories. I was literally shocked! I guess it’s no surprise that MyFitnessPal’s suggestion for about 1400 seems low, even on days I don’t exercise. My body needs about 2000 calories just to function most days…

I used another calculator, and selected that I do intense (45 min. with elevated heart rate) activity 5 days a week, and the result was 2174 calories, or 1739 to lose weight.

Another said 2081.

The takeaway is that I probably realistically need about 1900-2100 calories most days. That’s quite a change from aiming for 1300-1600! And maybe that explains why I’m still hungry, even after dinner a lot of nights.

So, here’s the meal plan for this week:

  • More of the hot and sweet ginger-garlic chicken with stir-fried sugar snap peas
  • Asian chopped salads, topped with leftover ginger-garlic chicken
  • Beef taco bowls

Plus, a pearl couscous, vegetable, and bean soup for lunches.

Here’s to Week 2!

Getting back on track

15 Jan

I know, I know. I’m two weeks late for the New Year’s resolution train. And I’m full of excuses reasons as to why that train came and left the station without me aboard.

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Until today. Well, until Sunday, when all of this “getting back on track” truly starts for this girl.

Here’s my plan to kick curb my sweet tooth, eat more protein and vegetables, and hopefully, feel my best from the inside out:

  • Exercise:
    • Run three times a week, in “training” for the Yeti Trail Series, which has two remaining runs — a 15K on Feb. 6 and a 20K (almost a half marathon) on March 5.
    • Strength train via BodyPump two times a week.
    • Practice yoga once a week.
  • Nutrition:
    • Drink a concoction of apple cider vinegar and lemon water every morning.
    • Eat a vegetable at breakfast every day.
    • Have higher-protein snacks, not sugary granola bars, in between meals; try to have a fruit or vegetable with at least one snack every day.
    • Stick to higher-protein, lower-carb lunches and dinners.
    • Have dessert only once a week — and truly look forward to it and enjoy it!
      • Say no to treats leftover from events at work. Say no to packaged/processed goodies.
      • Say yes only if the treat is homemade and try to save it for my once-a-week dessert.
  • Accountability:
    • Sign up for the Pact app.
      • Commit to working out five days a week with a $5 charge per missed workout.
      • Commit to logging my food via MyFitnessPal seven days a week with a $5 charge per missed day.
      • Commit to eating 20 fruits or vegetables a week with a $5 charge per missed serving.
    • Create and share weekly meal plans on the blog; share weekly recaps on the blog.

I don’t really have a goal to lose weight, although I’d like to shed those few holiday pounds that crept back on. I really just want to feel better — feel healthy, feel strong, feel capable, feel proud of my choices, feel like a role model to my family and friends (especially my girls, who even though they are only 2 years old, do notice and follow in my footsteps), feel downright good.

If you’re interested in joining me, leave a comment here on the blog, or find me on Instagram (@kaylabee0418). I’d love the support, and I’d love to support you.

Let’s talk about food

18 Mar

It’s been a while since a recipe has graced these pages…

Pinky swear we’re still cooking (and eating) here. We plan our meals weekly from cookbooks and Pinterest. We haven’t done too much original stuff in some time.

But, we have been developing some new food content!

Christopher and I together are working on a new feature for the local newspaper: Foodtorials, in which we give you the knowledge and techniques to tackle some cooking basics. Christopher does all the production, and I do all the on-screen work–and write the accompanying copy.

Our first one was on homemade, from-the-bones chicken stock. Watch the video and read the article here.

Stock on the stoveOur second one was from-scratch pie crust. Watch the video and read the article here.

Pie out of the oven

Christopher also has launched a feature on easy, wholesome recipes for toddlers.

His first one was about pizza monsters–whole-wheat bread slices topped with tomato sauce and cheese and decorated to look like monster faces with black olives. Read the story here.

Elise pizzaHis second one was on PB&J sushi–flattened slices of whole-wheat bread spread with peanut butter and jelly, then rolled and cut to resemble sushi. Read the story here.

Elise feeding Anna sushi

So that’s what we’ve been up to lately! Happy cooking (and eating)!

Baked Butternut Squash and Sausage Ravioli

14 Oct

It’s been a while since a recipe (a post, really) has appeared on this here blog, but this one is a good one and worth the wait.

The other week, I made a Pinterest board dedicated to things I want to cook or bake this fall. It includes a recipe for pasta with a butternut squash sauce and sausage. I thought I might make the dish as an accompaniment to our Thanksgiving dinner. But I craved that sweet, autumnal butternut squash flavor now.

Last week, I picked up a jar of butternut squash pasta sauce at Aldi on a whim. I figured I would pour it over cheese ravioli for a quick meal, either for us or for the girls.

This week, I combined the two ideas into a unique and delicious, warm, comforting and hearty meal.

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Baked Butternut Squash and Sausage Ravioli

(Inspired by Skinnytaste and adapted from Damn Delicious)

This hearty bake with sweet Italian sausage and autumnal butternut squash pasta sauce is on the table in about 30 minutes, thanks to a package of frozen cheese ravioli and a jar of pasta sauce. Plus it’s covered in gooey mozzarella cheese. In the words of Ina Garten, ‘How bad can that be?’

Ingredients

1 package frozen cheese ravioli

20 ounces fresh sweet Italian turkey sausage (I used turkey sausage links and removed the casings. You easily could substitute pork sausage, in bulk or in links.)

2 cups butternut squash pasta sauce

1 ounce Neufchâtel cheese (or cream cheese)

2 cups spinach, roughly chopped

8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Cook the ravioli according to the directions on the package, then drain them and set them aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, cook the sausage until browned. Add the pasta sauce and cream cheese and cook for just a few minutes, until the cream cheese is melted into the sauce and the sauce is warm. Add the spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted.

Spread the ravioli in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Pour the sauce and sausage over the ravioli. Arrange the sliced mozzarella over top.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the mozzarella is melted.

 

Christopher and I really enjoyed this dish. It was so delicious – sweet from the sauce (hooray squash!), savory from the sausage and creamy from the cheese ravioli – and hearty and just plain good. It was perfect for the rainy nights so far this week.

Spicy Pepper, Potato and Bacon Frittata

1 Jun

Breakfast in our house is a scramble.

(Ha! Get it? I’ll wait…)

We need to prepare food for two active, hungry little almost-10-month-olds, and two active, often post-morning run, and hungry adults.

We usually stick to the basics: a scrambled egg, a pancake and some fruit for the girls, and a fried egg and toast or a green smoothie for the adults.

But we sometimes, usually on weekends, make something more special for ourselves—what Christopher refers to as “big breakfast”. This morning, we took our big breakfast and stuffed it in a frittata.

Frittatas are great because they come together in a flash and completely customizable. (See my bacon, green bean and Gouda frittata or my onion, herb and Swiss frittata.) Got leftovers? Stuff it in a frittata. Got some on-their-last-legs veggies? Stuff ‘em in a frittata. Got a bountiful garden? Harvest those fruits of your labor and stuff ‘em in a freakin’ frittata!

Alright, enough dilly-dallying. Here’s the recipe…

20140601_101306 Spicy Pepper, Potato and Bacon Frittata

With hearty potatoes, sweet peppers and salty bacon, this scrumptious egg dish makes a filling and well-rounded breakfast, lunch or dinner! And really, what could be bad about eggs and potatoes covered in spicy, gooey pepper jack cheese?

Ingredients

1 tablespoon butter

2 large red potatoes, cut into quarter-inch cubes (We use this fancy schmancy chopper to get them perfectly uniform every time.)

1 medium bell pepper

1 small jalapeno, diced

5 eggs

4 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded and divided

6 strips bacon, pan-fried or baked and chopped

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a nonstick, oven-safe skillet with nonstick cooking spray. In the pan, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the potatoes and cook until starting to brown, 5-7 minutes; then add the bell pepper and jalapeno and continue to cook until the potatoes are tender and browned and the peppers are soft and their bite has mellowed, another 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese (leave a few tablespoons for the top) and bacon.

Pour the egg mixture over the cooked potatoes and peppers, making sure to evenly distribute all the ingredients. Top with the remaining cheese, and place the pan in the oven. Bake the frittata for 15 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked through and the cheese is starting to brown.

20140601_101431This incarnation of my favorite baked egg dish was the bomb! Just a little spicy, just a little sweet, just a little salty, just a little ooey-gooey, and 100 percent satisfying.

Give this one a try. It’s a winner.

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