Turkey, Broccoli & Spinach Spaghetti Squash Lasagna

I didn’t realize until I started writing up this post that just a couple weeks ago I stuffed another squash…but I assure you this is not a new blog theme (“101 ways to stuff a squash“? “Food cooked in other Food Food Blog”…I’ll keep brainstorming it). I can’t help it that squash are both delicious and also a perfect carrier for other food!

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I remember distinctly the first time I had spaghetti squash – I was about 40lbs or so overweight, LOVED pasta, and my “portion” for spaghetti was basically about 3/4 box…for myself. This was not working for me and my goals lol (shocking).  So I started to find substitutions for my pasta, and found spaghetti squash – I don’t know how I hadn’t had this before, but that’s besides the point.  I made spaghetti squash with meatballs, and it was delicious – and from then on, I’ve been hooked.

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This week I made a spaghetti squash “lasagna”, which I saw on a vegetarian food blog (yes, I read food blogs for free reading…), but added ground turkey to it to add a little more oomph to it. This one I had been wanting for a while, and as soon as I made it my brain started spiraling with other ways to prepare it. While this one was loaded with spinach, onion, broccoli, and ground turkey, my head couldn’t stop thinking about making a spaghetti squash chicken parm lasagna…but so as to not turn this into the aforementioned stuffed squash blog, I will table that for another blog in the fall.

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As with all the other recipes I post here, this is simple, and depending on the squash size, this can be very filling for two people as a main dish. Now, there are a couple ways you can go about cooking your spaghetti squash, some people microwave it (you can google how to do it if you choose this method – it’s faster, so if you are in a time crunch, this may be a better option), but I always prefer to take a little more time, and cook it in the oven, as I think it brings out way more flavor.

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RECIPE:
*ingredient amounts may vary depending on size of squash…but any additional filling is delicious as leftovers!

  • 1 2½- to 3-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch broccoli, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1lb Ground Turkey
  • 2c. spinach
  • 1/2c. red onion, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ¾ teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

 

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DIRECTIONS:

  1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 400°F.IMG_3914
  2. Rub olive oil on inside and outside of squash, and place squash halves cut-side down on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 400°F oven until the squash is tender, 40 to 50 minutes.  To test if it is done, gently poke the skin of the squash with a fork, it should be tender and the kin should be soft and tender when done. When you take them out of the oven, change the temp to 450°F
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add broccoli, garlic, and red pepper (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add 2T water and cook, stirring, until the broccolini is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Cook Turkey in same pan, until just cooked through, add red onion, and spinach until spinach is just wilted, then add the broccoli mix to it, stir around for about a minute until all combined then set aside again to the mixing bowl.
  5. Use a fork to scrape the squash from the shells into the bowl with the mix that you already prepped.
  6. Stir ¾ cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper into the squash mixture. Divide it between the shells; top with the remaining ¼ cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
  7. Bake on the lower rack for 10 minutes. Move to the upper rack, turn the broiler to high and broil, watching carefully, until the cheese starts to brown, about 2 minutes.

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Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your liking, taking out the meat, changing the meat, adjusting the veggies, etc.

Remember, there is no perfect diet, there is no one-size-fits-all meal plan. Healthy food is only good if you will eat it. So set yourself up for success by making meals that are manageable for you – that taste good to you! In our nutrition program, we often talk about trying to be 1% better than yesterday. This applies to our food choices (and life) – it’s not about being completely perfect all the time, it’s about finding little things that you can adjust. Is this meal perfect?  Screw perfect, but it’s not 3/4 box of spaghetti, and for me, that is a huge step forward in my never-ending journey to nutritional balance in my life.

 

Fresh Rolls

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A couple weeks ago, I was up in Vermont with my family, and my mom just whipped up a batch of these to bring to a friends house for dinner, and ever since then I have been craving them!  Fresh rolls can be SO SO easy, super healthy, and are the type of dish that looks like you put in a ton of effort because they are so beautiful!  And as if these couldn’t get any better, we are going to dip them in a peanut butter dipping sauce…which really just makes everything 10x better.  My mom used a sweet chili dipping sauce for hers, but I live and die for peanut butter dipping sauce, and the recipe below I could literally just eat it with a spoon.

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If you’ve ever rolled a burrito, it’s kiiiind of like that. I’m sure everyone has their own way to roll them, but this is what works for me, and I’m a bit clumsy when it comes to delicate things, so if it works for me, you should be FINE. The other night, I used shrimp, vermicelli noodles, avocado, carrots, red cabbage, mint and butter lettuce.  These can be vegetarian, they can have chicken in them – really you can roll whatever you want into these babies and they will probably be good. In my opinion it’s the noodles and that peanut sauce that make it so good,  but what do I know!  Figure out what works for you!

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INGREDIENTS (that I used, but again – add whatever you want!)

ROLLS:

  • 10 spring roll rice paper wrappers – I used Blue Dragon Brand
  • Carrots (I bought a bag of matchstick carrots…because I was feeling lazy lol)
  • Purple Cabbage (again…bought it pre-chopped – because it’s just easier!)
  • 3 scallions, sliced very thin
  • 1 ounce cooked rice noodles/rice vermicelli
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • handful fresh mint (my sister also uses fresh basil which sounds pretty delicious)
  • Lettuce leaves (I used butter lettuce), torn in half
  • 10-12 medium cooked shrimp, peeled and sliced in half length-wise (if you will be cooking them at home, poach them, and let them cool completely before using)

PEANUT BUTTER DIPPING SAUCE (a.k.a. sauce sent from heaven)

  • 1 large garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter.
  • warm water to adjust consistency
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar.
  • 1/2 teaspoon sriracha or chili-garlic sauce (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped toasted peanuts (optional)
  • key to this…mix in everything except the water, then add water to create the consistency you want.  I add more hoisin or pb, maybe less sriracha based on what flavor I’m looking for.  It should be dip-able without pulling the ingredients out of the roll.  

DIRECTIONS:

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Prepare the vermicelli noodles according to package directions – mine soaked for 10

minutes in hot water, then remove them from the water and let them cool.

Each rice paper will soak in warm water for about 10 seconds, or until it’s flimsy.  Place it flat on your prep surface and get to work!

Place all your ingredients piled up 1/3 of the rice paper wrapper. I usually put the ingredients on the bottom 1/3 of the rice paper so it’s easier to roll up. Biggest rookie mistake?  OVERFILLING THE ROLLS! This will take a bit of practice, but you will get the hang of it within a roll or two.

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Again, you are going to roll this like a little delicate burrito. Gently pull the bottom of the rice paper up and over the filling, tucking it just under the filling – don’t be afraid to pull at it a little – it should roll tightly.  Then fold the sides up, and roll baby roll.  Keep tension on the rice paper, but remember, its very thin, and can tear if you pull too hard.  Sometimes this does happen, but an easy fix is to just roll another rice paper wrapper around it!

Once rolled up, place them on a serving plate (I like to place them seam side down just so they don’t try to unravel. If you are making them in advance, just cover them in Saran Wrap, but they are best served within a couple hours of being made.

 

 

Have fun with these – they are great for summer, great for impressing guests, great for just an excuse for that peanut butter dipping sauce, great for just about any situation.  They can be made as an appetizer, lunch, dinner, you name it!

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Let me know how it goes!

 

 

 

 

 

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

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I know, I know…this isn’t really acorn squash season, but whatever – it’s delicious. This was actually a recipe I made a while back, but never posted – and thought you guys might like it! I’m a huge fan of foods that carry other foods. Soup served in bread bowls, stuffed mushrooms, stuffed peppers, tacos…lol.

I love acorn squash. It just feels like comfort food. No matter how you cook it, it’s just makes you say “mmmmm” and smile a little. It’s naturally quite sweet, but still takes on so many rich flavors. I love pairing it with earthier sides like barley, wild rice, quinoa, etc to balance it’s natural sweetness. It doesn’t need a ton of seasoning, but when done right, it elevates to a whole new level of deliciousness.

Typically, I slice up my acorn squash into cute little half moons, sprinkle them with whatever flavor profile suits my cravings – sometimes sweet with maple syrup (that’s definitely a treat), sometimes curry, or cinnamon, sometimes a kick with some chili or chipotle thrown in there.  But when I made this, I decided on stuffing the bowl with Quinoa, spinach, chopped up portobello mushrooms, onion and garlic.  Topped with a balsamic glaze, and it was pretty phenomenal.

INGREDIENTS:
1 Acorn Squash – halved, & seeds scooped out
2 Medium Cloves Garlic – minced
1/2c. Quinoa – uncooked
1c. Baby Spinach
1 Portobello cap – chopped into small pieces
1/4c. chopped red onion
1/2c. Balsamic Vinegar
Olive Oil
1T butter
*little bit of shaved parmesan (optional)

 

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DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly coat meat of the squash with 1 tbsp oil, sprinkle with pinch each salt and pepper and place meat side down on a large baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook quinoa according to package directions
  • when the quinoa is almost done, add 1T olive oil and butter to a small skillet, add garlic until aromatic, then add mushrooms until they begin to cook through, and onions until they become soft.  Lastly, add the spinach until it begins to wilt. This should all take about 5-6 minutes or so.
  • Once quinoa is done, mix this in with the mushroom/onion/spinach mix and mix around on SUPER low heat, this is just to let the flavors all mix together and stay warm.  Take off the heat and set aside until the Squash have finished cooking.
  • Remove the squash from the oven, flip them over, and fill them with the mixture, sprinkling the optional shaved parmesan on top.  Put them back in the oven for an additional 10 minutes or so.
  • While they are back in the oven, you will make the balsamic glaze.  In a small pan, add 1/2c. balsamic vinegar, and wait for it to boil.  Once boiling, lower temp and keep at a simmer for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let it get all saucy.  I found that it was almost ready after those 8 minutes – I prefer mine to be a bit runnier though.
  • Remove squash from the oven, and drizzle glaze over the top, and enjoy!

 

 

Shaved Brussels & Kale Salad

It’s around this time of the year, when Spring weather is JUUUUST around the corner, but it is the longest corner ever…when I crave a big salad (and warm weather, maybe a beach, and some kind of drink with a little umbrella in it).  My current salad obsession is adding shaved brussels sprouts mixed in with the greens for my salad.  Today’s salad combines these with chopped kale, and keeps it super simple for the rest.  I had this plain, but adding grilled chicken, some shrimp, fish, crumbled bacon (for one particular person who squinched her face at the idea of a salad of Brussels sprouts and kale….you know who you are).  I found this recipe on Lasting Ingredient, but made a couple simple adjustments and changed up the dressing.  Another bonus of this recipe?? It’s another one of those “you-might-have-all-the-ingredients-already” kind of recipes! IMG_3647

INGREDIENTS:
1c. Kale – chopped
2lbs Brussels sprouts – shaved thinly with mandolin, food processor (with slicing disc) or just finely slice with knife (which is what I did since I don’t have either of the other options 😉
1/2 Small red onion – thinly sliced
1/4c. Walnuts – roughly chopped
1/3c. Pecorino Cheese – I used shaved, but grated would probably work best!

DRESSING:
1/2t. finely grated lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1t. Dijon Mustard
1/4t. Salt
1/4c. Olive Oil
1/2t. Dried Oregano
Black Pepper to taste
1 Medium Garlic clove – minced (I lightly sautéed mine to soften the flavor a bit – just until aromatic) **Garlic is optional

DIRECTIONS:

  • For the dressing – lightly sautée the garlic in a little of the olive oil until just aromatic. In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, dijon mustard, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and oregano,  stir in the garlic, then slowly whisk in the rest of the olive oil.
  • In the same pan, VERY quickly (only about 1 minute, sautée the kale and red onion – this is optional, but I like to soften it up JUST a bit, but this is just personal preference.
  • In a large bowl, add the shaved brussels sprouts, kale, red onion, pecorino, walnuts, and toss with the dressing.

Simple, delicious, and quick!

What would you add to your salad??  Or would you keep it as is?

Zoodles with Spicy Garlic Shrimp

My goal for this week was to make a meal that I didn’t have to shop for.  Using only food I already had at home.  Challenge accepted.

You know me, and you know that I am into simple meals.  I don’t need (or really even want) it to be very fancy, I don’t always want it to take a lot of time or energy to prepare, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to TASTE really good.  When I moved to Boston a hundred years ago, I went grocery shopping with my mom, and she said “Always make sure you have shrimp in the freezer.  You never know when you will need it” and since then, I have always had frozen shrimp in the freezer.  And you know what?  It has saved me on numerous occasions.

I distinctly remember when I was young, my Mom made shrimp scampi for dinner one night, and I thought it was just the most delicious thing I had ever had LOL.  I mean, how do you go wrong with it??  It had everything I loved!  Shrimp – check.  Garlic – check.  Pasta – check.  Little bit of a kick – check. More Garlic – check.  And 8 year old Hannah thought this was just the best thing ever.  36 year old Hannah still has it in her top 10.  One of the things I love most about it, is it is SO easy, and I usually have all the ingredients in my house every day.  A lot of times, for dinner I end up just throwing something together, or it’s already prepped, or I’m just too tired to put any effort into it at the end of a long day.  This meal FEELS like I put effort into it, but only takes a few minutes to actually cook.  So that’s a win in my book.

So this week, I took a little riff on the regular shrimp scampi.  Swapped the spaghetti for zoodles, and added some tomatoes, but other than that…kept it pretty basic!

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INGREDIENTS:
(serves 2 – I was just cooking for myself so I halved this recipe – ingredients pictured above)
2 Medium Zuccini – spiralized
1T Olive Oil
1.5 T Melted Butter
4 Cloves Garlic – Minced
6-8oz. Shrimp – tail on. pref. Jumbo – I only had little ones 😦
1/3c. White Wine
1t. Chili Flakes
1/2t. Lime Juice
1/2 tomato (I used about 5 cherry tomatoes)
Salt to taste
3-4 dashes Ground Black pepper
Optional: Chopped parsley garnish
Optional: Lemon wedges

DIRECTIONS:IMG_3562

  • Heat skillet on medium heat, add olive oil, butter and garlic until aromatic (but NOT browned).
  • While heating up the garlic, butter and oil, in a separate pan, heat 1T olive oil, and toss in the zoodles.  These do not need a lot of time, just a couple minutes to soften up a little.
  • Add shrimp and stir a couple times until they are about half cooked.
  • Add wine, chili flakes, salt & black pepper.
  • When shrimp is almost all the way cooked, add lime juice, tomatoes, parsley, then toss the zoodles in for just a moment to let some flavor absorb into them.
  • Plate the zoodles and shrimp – a bowl is sometimes best to hold some extra delicious sauce!

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I squeezed a little bit of fresh lemon on top once it was plated, and it was DELICIOUS!   If you like it extra spicy, toss in a bit more chili flakes, I did…and I loved every spicy bite of it!!  Hope you enjoy this week’s recipe!

What to do with boring shredded chicken

My favorite protein to prep?  Shredded chicken.  Boring, shredded chicken.  Nothing fancy, just simple chicken.  Why, you may ask, is this my favorite thing to prep?  Because it is a blank canvas.  It’s just the base that I can play with throughout the week.  One thing that holds so many people back from meal prepping, is the fact that they think if they meal prep, it will be the exact same thing every day for a week. That it will be dried out and hard to stomach by the end of the week. Well, sometimes it is, so what we need to do is to figure out how to make these meals something that you will actually enjoy and look forward to throughout the week.

This week, one of my ProCoach cohorts is working on eating protein at every meal, hitting their protein goals throughout the day, and keeping an eye on portion sizes to make sure they stay on track. Eating protein at every meal is not necessarily difficult, but I wanted to incorporate this habit into this week’s recipe.  So this week, I have several meals made up with the same base shredded chicken breasts.  Now – these are only three of the hundreds of meals you can create with this.  These are just a few that I played with this week.  So listed below are recipes for:

Crock Pot Shredded Chicken Breasts (BASE)
Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bowl
Pesto & Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich
Chicken Tacos

First up, we have the recipe for the base, which is the basic crock-pot shredded chicken.  This recipe is super easy, and the shredded chicken, when stored properly, does not dry out over the course of the week, which is key!

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INGREDIENTS:
3lbs Chicken Breast (about 4 large)
1c. Chicken Broth
1t Salt
1t Pepper
1t Garlic Powder
1t Onion Powder

DIRECTIONS:

  • Place chicken breasts in crock pot, pour chicken broth and seasonings over chicken.
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 2-4 (low usually keeps the chicken juicier)
  • Remove chicken from crock pot and shred chicken with two forks.
  • Allow chicken to cool and store in an air tight container in the refrigerator

 

BUFFALO CHICKEN QUINOA BOWL
Using the shredded chicken that you so conveniently already have in the fridge…putting together the rest of this bowl is a breeze!

INGREDIENTS:
4oz. Shredded chicken
IMG_34871/3c. Black Beans – cooked & drained
1/4 Avocado – medium
1/2c. kale (I lightly sautéed mine in a little coconut oil to soften it up)
1/4c. Corn – Steamed
1/2c. Quinoa – cooked (I used quinoa brown rice blend)
1/3c. Cherry Tomatoes -chopped with red onion, s&p
Garnish: Shredded Cheese & chopped cilantro
Frank’s Red Hot
1T Butter

This made for a HUGE bowl, obviously you can cut the amounts in half, I had some leftovers from this.

DIRECTIONS:

  • Sautee Kale in pan, once it starts to soften up & wilt a little, set aside.  Add the chicken to the pan with butter & Franks and toss to mix together.  Heat on medium to low to reheat chicken with the sauce.
  • Steam corn, rinse beans, slice up avocado and set aside.
  • Prep tomatoes – quarter them, add finely chopped red onion and season with S&P, set aside.
  • Cook Quinoa, add to the bowl, add the rest of the ingredients which have already been prepped
  • Garnish with cheese and chopped cilantro.

Here’s my trick with this – it seems like a crazy amount of prep work, but I find success by having a lot of this stuff prepped ahead of time, or finding little shortcuts.   Here are two of my no-so-secret tips that make recipes like this really easy – and just a matter of scooping things into a bowl.

  • I usually have a couple cans of black beans rinsed and ready to go & also a jar of chopped super chunky “Salsa” (like the one above) in my fridge at all times- I put them with my eggs, on my salads, in bowls like this, burritos, just plain as a snack, the options are endlessproduct_rts_organicredquinoa
  • I buy individual quinoa cups that microwave for 1 minute…because it’s one ofthosethings I despise cooking, and I love eating it…this makes it easier for me to stay on track!

 

Pesto & Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwich
I made this as an open-face sandwich that I melted cheese on, but I have also had this as a cold chicken sandwich in a pita pocket, which works well when bringing it on the go, or even mixed into a salad!

INGREDIENTS:IMG_3490
4oz. shredded chicken
1/3 avocado – medium
1T finely chopped red onion
2T Basil Pesto
2T Whole Grain Honey Mustard (homemade)
1/3c. Kale – chopped (very lightly sautéed if desired)
2 slices Ezekiel bread – toasted
Sliced Cheddar Cheese – optional

DIRECTIONS:

  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Add Chicken, pesto, red onion, avocado to bowl and mix until completely combined.
  • Toast bread, spread honey mustard, then stack kale, and then chicken mix.
  • Top with cheese if you want
  • Bake in the oven until cheese starts to melt – about 3-5 minutes, then broil for 1-2 minutes to finish it off.
  • As mentioned above – this chicken salad is delicious, and is so yummy warm or cold!  A great alternative to a heavy mayo chicken salad!

 

Chicken Tacos

So I’m not going to write up a recipe for tacos…because I assume you have made them
before, but I AM going to include a recipe for homemade taco seasoning that I’ve been using for years.  Tacos are pretty simple – add what you like, keep it fresh and delicious, and enjoy them – because tacos are one of the greatest things ever created, and always feel like a fun, exciting treat, even when they are SUPER healthy! I’ve never met anyone who isn’t amped up when they talk about having tacos for dinner.  So if you haven’t already, start making your taco seasoning!

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INGREDIENTS: (this will last you for a while…not just for one night of tacos – well, maybe, I don’t know how many tacos you plan on eating)
2T Chili PowderIMG_3499
1/2t Garlic Powder
1/2t Onion Powder
1/2t Crushed Red Pepper
1/2t Oregano
1t Paprika
3t Cumin
2t Salt
2t Ground Black Pepper