Busy Mom Chicken-Stuffed Peppers

I love my Fixate cookbook–I have a handful of recipes from it that I make all the time (Grandma’s Tomato Sauce and the Clean Eating Sloppy Joes are a couple of examples), and now there is a Fixate cooking show on Beachbody On-Demand that I watch every week to get new recipe ideas!  I was watching it last week and got reminded of this stuffed pepper recipe that is so good, but also a little involved and complicated.

On the show, Bobby Calabrese (the chef) mentioned that instead of buying chicken breasts and cutting them up into bite-sized pieces to cook, you could just get ground chicken to save some time and energy.  GENIUS!  I’m not sure I would ever have come up with that on my own, but it’s such a simple tip!

The original recipe calls for quinoa and corn, but I opted to leave those out because 1) I don’t really like corn, 2) I didn’t want that many carbs in this meal, and 3) I was being lazy and didn’t want to add quinoa.  If you love corn and don’t care too much about the extra carbs, feel free to add 1 cup cooked corn and 2 cups cooked quinoa to the filling when you add the black beans.

If you want to make this recipe even easier and quicker, you can skip the whole baking step and slice your peppers into large strips and use them as a chip alternative.  You could also skip the peppers altogether and just eat the filling alone, or in taco shells or with tortilla chips.  Check your grocery for pre-chopped onion and minced garlic in the jar.  That saves a few steps, as well!  Last, instead of chopping the cilantro I usually just tear it by hand as I add it to the dish and that is a lot faster, as well.

Enjoy!

Busy Mom’s Chicken-Stuffed Peppers (adapted from Fixate)–serves 4

4 bell peppers (any color), cut in half and seeds/ribs removed

2 tsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb ground chicken (can up this to 2 lbs to bulk up the filling if you prefer)

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp cumin

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp paprika

Salt, to taste (at least 1/4 tsp)

1 cup tomato sauce (I used plain canned tomato sauce, no salt or sugar added)

5 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1 tbsp lime juice

Optional: 1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

Optional: Hot sauce, to taste, for serving

Preheat oven to 375F. Place peppers skin side down on a baking dish (spray with cooking spray).  Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot.  Add onion and cook for 5-8 minutes, until soft and translucent, stirring frequently.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add ground chicken, cumin, chili powder, paprika, and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is cooked all the way through and no longer pink.

Add tomato sauce, black beans, cilantro, and lime juice and reduce heat to medium low.  Stir together until all ingredients are fully mixed and heated through.  Remove from heat and turn heat off.

Scoop a heaping 1/2 cup of filling into each pepper half.  Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until peppers are soft.  If desired, top each pepper with cheese and bake for 3-5 more minutes uncovered until cheese is melted.

Let cool about 5 minutes before serving. Top with hot sauce if desired.  Each serving is 2 pepper halves!

 

Clean Eating Orange Chicken

I love Chinese food, especially orange chicken.  When I saw this paleo orange chicken recipe, I made it just a few days later!  This is a pretty involved recipe, so it’s definitely not a quick weeknight meal, but I made this one afternoon when I was home alone and then ate on the leftovers for a few days.  This would be a good meal to make on the weekend and then save it for a quick Monday night dinner.

I did switch out some ingredients based on what I had on hand, so the way I made it isn’t Whole30 approved or necessarily paleo.  I switched the tapioca starch for cornstarch and used coconut oil instead of avocado oil because that is what I had on hand.  I served this with brown rice (the instant kind you cook in the microwave for a minute) over a bowl of fresh kale.  This would be great with broccoli tossed in, served with cauliflower rice, or with fresh spinach.  It was a great mixture of sweet and spicy!

Clean Eating Orange Chicken (slightly adapted from Food Faith Fitness)

Serves 4-6

For the sauce:

3/4 cup 100% orange juice (I used fresh Cara Cara oranges to squeeze my own)

Zest of half an orange

1 tbsp coconut aminos

1 tsp rice vinegar

Pinch red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tbsp coconut oil

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp hot sauce

 

For the chicken:

2 tbsp coconut oil

3 tbsp cornstarch

salt and pepper to taste

1 lb chicken, cut into cubes (I used boneless skinless thighs, but you can use chicken breast or tenderloins)

 

In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, zest, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a medium skillet, melt the coconut oil (for the sauce) on medium heat.  Sautee the garlic and ginger, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Stir in the orange juice mixture and cook on high, stirring constantly.  Meanwhile, put 1 tsp cornstarch in the now-empty medium bowl and set aside.

Once the orange juice mixture is boiling, add 2 tsp hot sauce to the cornstarch and stir together until smooth. Whisk into the boiling sauce and continue to whisk for 2 minutes.  Lower heat to medium and cook until sauce is thick and glossy, stirring constantly.  Pour into a bowl and set aside to thicken while you cook the chicken.

Melt the coconut oil (for the chicken) in the skillet (or in a larger one if you prefer).  Put cornstarch and salt/pepper in a large ziplock bag and shake to mix.  Put chicken cubes in bag and shake to completely cover  chicken with cornstarch mixture.

Put covered chicken in skillet (don’t overcrowd them–you may need to cook the chicken in multiple batches).  Cook chicken until browned on the outside and fully cooked (an instant-read thermometer should read at least 165 F), 2-3 minutes per side, turning once.

Once chicken is cooked, put in a large bowl and pour the thickened orange sauce over it.  Gently stir/toss the chicken with the sauce to completely cover each chicken piece with the sauce.

Serve with rice, broccoli, cauliflower, or greens.  Enjoy!

 

Reverse Meal Planning

I love to cook.  I love looking up new recipes to try, experimenting with different ingredients, and trying to think like a chef as I throw things together.  But sometimes that causes us to spend more money than we wanted–at the grocery to get the needed ingredients, or eating out because my experiments didn’t go well.  Oops.

This month my husband and I are challenging ourselves to spend less money on food, both eating out and at the grocery.  So, I decided to try something new this week based on a tip I saw on a Facebook moms group I’m in.  Instead of making a meal plan and then going to the grocery, I went to the grocery first.

No list. No meal plan.  It felt SO backwards to me–how will I know how much food I need?  What if I don’t buy enough?  What if I buy a bunch of random things and then won’t know how to put it all together?  It was so foreign to me to go shopping without a list, but it ended up being really fun.

First of all, I needed to have a little more faith in myself–in my knowledge of the staples we use up every week and of my ability to throw foods together to make something yummy.  I’ve been cooking and following food blogs for years now, and I’ve got a good arsenal of information in my brain to help me.

So, I got the pantry staples and produce staples that we use up every week, and then I shopped for produce and meats that were on sale.  I had already looked through my grocery’s app to look at the weekly ad and their digital coupon options and downloaded the ones I thought I might use–which means I skipped the ones for highly processed, unhealthy foods.  I’m trying to save money, but also still eat healthy.  We’re not suddenly eating unhealthy foods because there are more coupons for those kinds of foods.

I ended up with the list you see below.  I was AMAZED at how much less I spent.  We got good, healthy foods (although you can see some of the unhealthy treats my husband picked up) and spent about $30 less than normal.  I saved almost $25 between sales and coupons!  I was shocked at how much I saved this way.

 

So with these ingredients, these are the meals we made this week:

Gluten-free spaghetti with ground turkey (with sauce from my freezer)

Clean-eating sloppy joes

Smoked whole chicken with green beans and roasted red potatoes (this made a ton of food that we ate off of for several meals!)

Clean eating taco bowl with ground beef

 

It was actually a lot easier to come up with these meals than I thought it would be, and we had enough food to last us almost every meal all week.  We did eat out a couple of times, but that was in our budget, too.

I’m excited about trying this reverse meal planning more to see how much I can get and how much I can save!  Do you always shop with a list, or have you tried this way of shopping before?

Meal Plan 3.27-4.2

It’s my first full week post-Whole30 and I’m so excited!!!!  It’s so freeing to know how foods make me feel and to be empowered to make good choices.  Here are a list of meals I’m planning on this week, in no particular order:

Paleo Meatloaf (from Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso)

Garlic Bacon Avocado Burgers

Paleo Mexican Chicken Soup

Broccoli Cashew Chicken

I’m leaving a lot of space here for leftovers and potential eating out days.  I’d rather need to go to the store again during the week than have way too much food!

I’m also going to make gluten-free blueberry pancakes for breakfasts as I venture back into eating non-gluten grains, as well as experiment with adding oats back into my daily Shakeology like I used to do to see how it affects my body and how I feel.

I’m keeping avocados and fresh veggies like carrot, cauliflower, and sweet peppers around for snacking and as fresh, healthy sides for my meals.

For my fitness plan, I’m still following Insanity Max:30 for another week and a half, so I’ve got intense, 3o-min workouts Monday-Friday and rest days each weekend.  It’s getting close enough to the end of the program that I’m starting to wonder about what I should do next!  I never thought I’d be so committed to such a long program, and I’m really proud of myself for doing it.  I’ll have to evaluate how much closer I am to my goals on day 60 to know what my next steps should be.

What are you planning on for food and fitness this week?  I’d love to hear your meal plans, too!

 

 

Tips for Eating Clean on a Budget

In every 5-day clean eating group I host, people are always concerned with the cost of eating healthy.  And they are right to be concerned–healthy eating can be really expensive.  But the key word there is CAN be–it doesn’t have to be, and there are many ways that you can eat clean and still be on a budget.  Ya’ll, I’m a stay at home mom–we have a budget, too!

These are my top 10 tips for eating clean on a budget in terms of grocery shopping–if budget AND health are priorities, you need to be eating at home.  The cheap restaurant foods are almost exclusively unhealthy, so that isn’t a solution for you if optimal health is one of your goals.

  1. Drink more water. It’s free!  You don’t need to buy sodas or energy drinks or coffees out on a regular basis–they will not help you get healthier and you will save up more than you may realize over the course of a month.
  2. Make a meal plan/grocery list before you go to grocery. If you know what you’re getting before you go, you’re less likely to randomly buy stuff you don’t need and spend more money than you wanted to.
  3. Look at the sale ads to make your grocery list so you can take advantage of the lowest prices. This is a huge one because you can use these sales to make your meal plan to ensure you are getting the good deals.
  4. Utilize online coupons. If you shop at Kroger, you can load digital coupons directly onto your Kroger Plus Card to get more savings. If you shop at Target, you can use the Cartwheel app to get more coupons. Other stores have similar apps, so check the store you shop at.
  5. Aldi’s and Trader Joe’s has some great prices on fresh produce and other products–if you have one local to you, take some time to check them out and price compare. If it’s a better deal, go for it!
  6. This one is HUGE: Be willing to be flexible—if you wanted burgers but chicken is on sale, save some money and switch your plan around a little. You can do this with meats, veggies, fruits, etc. Pay attention to sales and be willing to switch up your plan to save money.
  7. Be willing to do some work in the kitchen! If you can learn how to chop your veggies instead of buying them pre-chopped, cook and butcher a whole chicken, etc., you can get your food cheaper. The more a store has prepared the food for you, the more expensive it is (pre-chopped veggies, salad mix instead of whole lettuce, chicken tenders instead of a whole chicken, etc.)
  8. Buy frozen and canned fruits and veggies. You can get them cheap and they last much longer than fresh, so you don’t have the worry about them going bad before you can use them and having to throw them (and your $$ away).
  9. Find some meatless meals you like—meat can be expensive and making 1 or 2 meals a week without it can help your spending.
  10. Ask around at your store to find out what kind of regular deals or bargain bins they have.  For example, at my regular grocery, there are produce bargain bins with produce that’s on its way out–you can buy that produce at a really low price, and then chop and freeze it yourself to keep it fresh.  My grocery also offers boneless chicken breast directly from the meat counter at $1.99/lb, which means I can get chicken at around half the price of the prepackaged chicken breast.  Do some digging at your store to see what kind of regular deals you can take advantage of.

Pinterest has an almost endless supply of healthy meals for people on a tight budget–utilize that to your advantage!  If you can be persistent in researching and finding meals you love that fit your budget, the planning and prep work will become like second nature to you.  It’s a lot of effort at first, but you get better and better at it, and soon it won’t seem like a big deal.  Keep going and keep focusing on how your healthy eating is making you feel better–that is great motivation!

What are your favorite healthy eating tips for people on a budget?  I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

Whole30 Lifesavers

Today marks day 19 of my Whole30 (plus Shakeology) experience, and so far it’s been great!  The biggest challenge outside of feeling terrible on day 2 has been preparing foods–ideally you would be eating at home with all foods you’ve prepared yourself, and that is just a lot to do for anyone!  Even though I stay at home, it’s not super realistic for me to have time to prepare tons of food every day.  Enter these products that I refer to as my Whole30 Lifesavers–condiments, packaged foods, and restaurant meals that are tasty, easy, and Whole30-compliant!  Where appropriate, I’ve linked the corporate pages for products so you can check them out and see where they are available around you!

Primal Kitchen Chipotle Lime Mayo–I’ve been using this for tuna salad, chicken salad, egg salad, lettuce wraps, and a portobello mushroom BLTA that I made (YUM). It’s got a little spice to it, which automatically makes it awesome to me.  And it’s super easy to dump some hard-boiled eggs, cooked chicken, or a can of Whole30 compliant tuna with a spoonful of this stuff for a quick meal.  It’s a little bit of a splurge compared to regular mayo, but I’m 2/3 of the way done with my Whole30 and I still have a little over half a jar of it.  If it lasts the entire 30 days or beyond, to me that’s worth it!

Tessemae’s Dressings/Marinades–specifically Lemon Garlic and Ranch–these have been amazing during my Whole30!  I have used the ranch in mashed potatoes and as a dip for my baked potato fries, on burgers, and as a dip with other veggies.  The Lemon Garlic has been a great marinade for my homemade potato fries–I just slice up a potato, toss it in the dressing, and put it in the oven.  It’s so easy.  I found these on sale at my local Kroger, too, and they will have lasted me the entire 30 days with some leftover.

Wellshire Farms Paleo Bacon–I was dismayed to see that EVERY SINGLE PACKAGE of bacon at my Kroger–even the ones labeled “all-natural”–had added sugar.  Once I did some digging, I found this brand that is sold at Whole Foods and it’s fantastic.  It’s considerably more expensive than regular bacon at the store at almost $1/slice, but frankly it’s totally worth it if you want bacon on Whole30.  There are other brands out there that will deliver Whole30-compliant meats to your house, but those are expensive, too.

Larabars–these are great for a fast, portable snack, but you have to be careful with these.  Larabars are not intended to be an everyday snack for you on Whole30, and not all of the flavors are Whole30-compliant: anything with chocolate is out, and some of the other flavors have vanilla extract, which is also not compliant.  I like Cashew Cookie, Coconut Cream Pie, and Lemon Bar.  These are perfect to carry in your car or purse to have if you need something and there are no other options.

Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Milk–I hesitated to include this because it’s kind of an iffy product.  Technically, it’s compliant with Whole30, but the monk fruit extract makes it a little sweet, which kind of takes away from the spirit of Whole30.  For me personally, I’m not worried about this iffy-ness because I’m already not doing a “true” Whole30 with my Shakeology, so this isn’t doing any damage.  If you are doing a very strict Whole30 with no Shakeology, then I would stay away from this particular flavor and use the Califia Farms Unsweetened Almond Milk instead.

Aidells Chicken Apple Sausage–these are awesome.  This helped me make a super quick breakfast that helped me get my days started with good flavor and protein, so that set me out on some good momentum.  It’s important to note that the entire BRAND is not Whole30 compliant–just this particular product.  Read your labels and double check EVERYTHING to make sure you are following the program to the strictness you are aspiring to.

Yellow mustard–pretty much all yellow mustards are compliant, but double check the label to be sure.  I’ve used this as a condiment with burgers, potatoes, eggs, veggies, etc.  Pretty much everything goes with mustard as far as I’m concerned, and it’s a great way to get more flavor in!

Coconut Secret Organic Coconut Aminos–this is the only Whole30-compliant soy sauce alternative, so it was important to me to find because I love Asian dishes and wanted to continue making stir fry during my Whole30.  I was only able to find this online or Whole Foods.

 

For those times where eating out was needed (okay, I just didn’t want to cook):

Panera Bread–you have to stick with salads and either bring your own dressing or use lemon juice, but you can customize any salad to be Whole30 compliant if you check the ingredient list for your favorite salad.  I’ve been ordering a Seasonal Greens salad with no dressing, then adding my own shredded chicken, pecans, other veggies, and Tessemae’s Lemon Garlic dressing.

Chipotle–this one has been a true lifesaver!  The only compliant meal here is the bowl with carnitas, pico, and guacamole.  I’ve just been asking them to give me as much pico as they can without getting into trouble.  You can also take it home and add your own fajita veggies to bulk it up.

Five Guys–hamburger patty in a lettuce wrap with their fresh veggies–tomato, green pepper, jalapeno, and onion–with mustard.  I got this and realized when I got home that they had given me ketchup instead of mustard, and you better believe I got back in my car to get it fixed.

Mexican–grilled chicken with chopped avocado and pico.  Our favorite neighborhood Mexican place has a guacamole salad that is just avocado, tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and lime juice.  I have gotten that with some grilled chicken and it’s to die for!

I’m sure that there are many more compliant restaurant meals out there, but these are the ones I’ve researched for myself. Do some digging and researching your favorite restaurants to see if there is anything you can customize for your Whole30 journey!

 

 

Whole30 Meal Plan and Update

This week will mark the halfway point of my Whole30 (plus Shakeo)!  I am past the point of feeling yucky from sugar withdrawals and I’m feeling GREAT!  I haven’t suffered from acid reflux at all, I am not experiencing cravings for foods I used to eat, I’m fitting better into my pants, and I’m seeing a big difference in my body composition already.  I’m anticipating cravings hitting me sometime in the next week (according to the Whole30 timeline, days 12-15 are the days people typically start to experience cravings and crazy food dreams.  I’m interested to see if that affects me).

I’ve been really enjoying trying out different recipes during this process.  I am a very adventurous eater, but I love some flavors that my family doesn’t enjoy, so I usually don’t get to cook those more adventurous meals.  Since I’m already eating different meals than my boys, I’m taking advantage of it and making whatever I want!  You’ll see some more adventurous meals in this week’s meal plan—try them out!  They are so tasty and nutritous—and Whole30 compliant!

Monday: Leftover Coconut Curry Chicken Meatballs over cauliflower (recipe to come this week)

Tuesday: Taco Bowl (or out—there are a few restaurant meals that I’ve found to be compliant)

Wednesday: Crockpot Pork Carnitas

Thursday: Tandoori Chicken (I’m using the red curry paste I have already for the sauce instead of all the spices in the recipe)

Friday: Leftovers or Taco Bowls

For breakfast, I’m making a Paleo breakfast casserole with sweet potato, bacon, and eggs that I’m looking forward to trying.  If it’s good, I’ll share the recipe for how I’m making it!  I’ve been struggling to get in my potatoes—with the Insanity Max:30 program, I’m supposed to have 2-3 carbs a day, and on Whole30, potatoes are the only carb I can have.  I don’t really like potatoes when they are leftovers, and it’s hard to cook a couple of potatoes fresh every single day.  I’m hopeful that having this casserole with sweet potato will help me keep up with those carb servings to keep me energized for my workouts.

I’ve been doing Whole30 for 12 days, but I’m on day 29 with Insanity Max:30!  My nutrition wasn’t on point for the first half of the program (hence the Whole30), but I’m already seeing some small changes in my body!  The scale hasn’t moved much, but that just goes to show you that the scale isn’t the most reliable way to keep track of your progress.  Take pictures so you can really see what true progress you’re making!

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