Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Quick and Easy Primavera

Greetings, friends!

I hope you all enjoyed the long Memorial Day Weekend. I know I did! I spent some time at the beach, and definitely indulged in some of my favorite treats-including pizza.

I wanted to get right back on track today with some good meals, made with lots of veggies and protein. I also wanted something relatively quick and easy, because I did not want to spend my whole day off in the kitchen. I found this recipe for a Healthy Pasta Primavera and wanted to try it, with my spin on it, of course.

Recipe adapted from:

Your must haves for this include a protein (I chose chicken, but shrimp or beef would be great, too!) and a spaghetti squash. You could also choose to make this as a vegetarian dish and leave out the meat.

After that, it's up to you to chose and include any veggies you want. I did broccoli, spinach, asparagus, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, zucchini and onion. I wish I would have had some green pepper, or even some fire roasted red peppers, because I would have used those, too. Definitely next time.

The night before I made this, I marinated my chicken in a bottle of greek dressing and let it sit overnight. I also precooked my spaghetti squash so it would be ready to go the next day.

Am I the only one who doesn't cut the squash before they cook it? I just stab it with a fork all over (so it doesn't explode) and throw it in the oven for about an hour, or until I can easily stab a fork through it. I've seen and read so many horror stories of people who have cut themselves trying to cut open a squash to roast it. No, thanks. I always just throw it in the oven whole and I haven't had any issues.

I sauteed the onion, spinach and broccoli in a pan with some garlic and olive oil. I used frozen chopped spinach and broccoli.

 While that was cooking, I (safely) cut open my spaghetti squash, cleaned the yucky parts and seeds out, and shredded it.
I also cut up the asparagus and grape tomatoes. That asparagus is from Wal*Mart, and I am highly impressed. It was huge! I've been utilizing the free Wal*Mart grocery pickup and I've been super impressed by the produce they have picked out. 

Once the spinach and broccoli were defrosted and cooked through, I added the asparagus and grape and sundried tomato. I mistakenly had picked up the smoked sundried tomatoes, but I think they added a nice flavor to this, so I was glad I had those.

This was also the time I started rooting around in the fridge to see what else I could throw into this concoction.

Found some turkey pepperoni. Added that.
 Once the asparagus was soft and cooked through, I added the spaghetti squash to the pan. I totally underestimated how much this was going to make and what size pan I needed. Oops.

Once the spaghetti squash cooked down a bit, I added the mushrooms and zucchini. They don't need long to cook, and I didn't want it to get too liquidy.

I wasn't sure how to season this, so I just threw a bunch of different ones in, including oregano, garlic, pepper, a little basil and some red pepper flakes. Yum.

I let it sit and simmer and soak up its flavor for a bit while I cooked the chicken separately in another skillet.

Once the chicken was finished, I put it all together. Viola!

I had planned to have this as a dinner this week, since I have a few late nights with meetings and teaching and wanted something quick. This ended up making 5 portions! So, I have dinner for both of us for one night, and Steve will have 3 lunches.

I'm going to throw some feta on this when I eat it this week. Goat cheese would also be good, too.

This is a great "kitchen sink" recipe. Take whatever vegetables you have on hand, and throw them in. Or, turkey pepperoni, in my case. :)

Each serving came out to 226 cal/34gCarb/2gFat/14gProtein/10G Fiber without the chicken.

Enjoy! And let me know how you like it!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sassy's Kitchen Essentials

Greetings, friends! This week I'm sharing my favorite kitchen gadgets.

I love love love kitchen gadgets and appliances. I'm such a sucker for anything that promises to help make a kitchen task easier or faster. Or, just the latest craze. I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorites and what I use them for.
This post is not sponsored and I have not been compensated for my review or opinion.

Air Fryer

If you haven't heard me rave about the air fryer, you must not have had a conversation with me since I bought it on Black Friday. I. Love. My. Air. Fryer. Seriously. I got a killer deal on it and I haven't looked back since. From veggies, to frozen meats, it's been so much fun to experiment with.
 My favorite things to do in there are cabbage and brussel sprouts. Seriously, if you *think* you hate either of these, spray them with olive oil, throw some garlic in there, and air fry them up.
Mine is the Farberware brand from Walmart, but there are plenty of options out there. This is on the smaller end, but it works for just my husband and I.

Mini Grater
This mini hand held grater is so useful for grating vegetables, like zucchini and carrots,  to throw into different dishes to bulk them up. I usually grate zucchini in anytime I'm using ground turkey. Ground turkey, especially when it's super lean, tends to be dry. Adding some grated zucchini is a great way to You can see it's much smaller than a standard sized grater.

Crock Pot (2 sizes)
I have both a mini and a large sized crock pot. The mini one is a life savor when you have to bring a dish to something but don't have a ton of time to prepare one. Just throw a dip in the mini crock and go! I also love it for cooking shredded chicken breasts. I will often times put 3-4 in there overnight and let them cook so they're ready in the morning for whatever I'm using them for.
I use my larger one in the winter especially to make large batches of chili and soup. They're a huge time saver, especially when you find a recipe you can just throw a bunch of ingredients in and let it do it's thing.

Mini Ninja Need a salad dressing, sauce, or ground chicken? "Just throw it in the Ninja!" And, I mean it. I use it to make homemade pesto, dressings, and to grind up chicken breasts to make pizza crust from them. Seriously. If you haven't done this, you're missing out. Throw a chicken breast, some mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning in, and mix it up. Then roll it out like a pizza crust and cook it.

Immersion Blender

I don't use this one as much as some of the others, but when I need it, it certainly comes in handy. I have a recipe for a healthy broccoli cheese soup, and the broth is made from mashed cauliflower. Having this handheld blender makes having to pulse up the cauliflower super easy. This is CuisinArt Brand, and it works great. Try Target or Bed, Bath and Beyond if you're looking for one.

Kitchen Shears
I can't say enough about having a good pair of kitchen shears. I use these more than probably most things in my kitchen. I use it to trim the fat off of meat, and to cut up meat and vegetables or fresh herbs. They are a huge time saver!

Kitchen Scale
In order to accurately track my macros, a kitchen scale has been imperative. Some days, I'm better than others with weighing and tracking everything, but I really try hard to be as precise as I can be in order to hit my numbers every day. I am most concerned with protein- I always, always want to hit my protein goal, so I always measure my meats. I'm a bit more lax on things like green veggies, but I do still try to measure when I can so I know I'm in the ball park.
Also, unless you're ready for a hard reality check, never ever measure what an actual serving of peanut butter looks like. I'm forever changed knowing this.

Tabletop Zoodler
Tabletop Zoodler
I actually own two "zoodlers." I have a larger, tabletop one that I find is better suited for sweet potatoes, and a hand-held one that I typically use for zucchini. They are both the Vegetti Brand, and can be purchased most anywhere, Walmart, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond should all carry them.

If you haven't zoodled some sweet potatoes, you're really missing out. I roast them in the oven and they get super crispy. I love to eat them with some turkey sausage and a runny egg. YUM!

On my wish list:

InstaPot- #1 on my Kitchen Wish List!
I've been coveting one of these beauties for a few months now. I've seen some pretty awesome recipes floating around, plus I love the idea of how quickly it prepares things, including hard boiled eggs. I've also seen chicken go from frozen to cooked in minutes. Meal Prep Sunday would undoubtedly go by much quicker! Do you have one? Do you love it? Help me convince my husband I need another gadget!

I'm on the hunt for a nice knife set. I feel like the ones I have are never sharp enough. If you have any suggestions, leave them below!

Do you own any of these gadgets? Which is your favorite? Are there any other must-haves I've missed? Tell me below!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Off To A Good Start...

One of tips I always share when people ask how to get started with meal prep is to start small by picking one meal and prepping that for a few weeks and get that process down. Once you have that meal down, add on to that. Since most people struggle with eating breakfast, I always advise that to be the best place to start.

We've all heard it; Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I tend to agree with this. I find that if I don't eat a good, solid breakfast, I'm hungry the entire day. I inevitably overeat later in the day trying to catch up.

For the past few months, I've been eating the same breakfast every morning. The great thing about this option is that when I get sick of it, I change it up- I use a different meat, or switch out the veggies.

I bring you, The Egg Casserole!

Like all of my meals, I strive to get 25-30g of protein in with my breakfast. This egg casserole has been perfect. It's easy, and quick and a great way to get in both a large amount of both protein and veggies. It's a great way to get a solid start to the day. Win, win!

I've varied the amounts of eggs and egg whites I've used. Some weeks, I'll use just egg whites, while others, I've added anywhere from 2-6 eggs. Eggs will add both fats and protein, while egg whites are just protein. Adjust accordingly to meet your needs.

Some people find it helpful to make these in a muffin pan. I'm lazy and hate washing the muffin cups, so I've found the 9x13 dish works best for me. Some weeks I do 6 pieces, while others I cut it in 8. I put each piece in an individual tupperware container, and they're easy to grab and go in the morning to reheat at work.

Like I mentioned, the great thing about this is you can change it up depending on what you're in the mood for. It's also easy to track the macros/calories, because you can create a recipe in my fitness pal, enter all of your ingredients, and then divide by number of servings. Easy peasy!

Here are some of my favorite combinations:

Turkey Sausage, Potato/Pepper/Onion, Broccoli (even with the potatoes, cut into 6 servings, it only has 13g Carbs a serving, which also includes the carbs for the other veggies.)

Ham, Cheddar, Spinach, Broccoli
Turkey Bacon, Broccoli, Spinach, Feta

Add whatever veggies/meats you want! This is what I like to call a nice "kitchen sink" recipe. You can just throw whatever veggies you have on hand.

You could also make this like a pizza- Put your eggs/eggwhites in the bottom of the dish (Don't forget to spray it!), and let cook. When it's just about solid, pull it out and top like a pizza. Add some turkey sausage, veggies, pizza sauce and cheese. Viola!

This does take a while to cook- usually close to 45min-hour at 425. Keep an eye on it, and when it's no longer liquidy in the middle, it's done! This is ALWAYS the first thing I make when I meal prep, because I just throw what I have in the pan, toss in the oven, set the timer, and go on to something else while it cooks.

Don't forget your spices! Garlic, onion powder, salt, pepper are staples. I also like to top with either some reduced sugar ketchup, or salsa after heating.

Here's a pro-tip: to prevent the eggs from getting rubbery when you reheat them, add a few teaspoons of baking powder to the casserole.

What's your favorite breakfast? Tell me below!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Don't forget to enjoy the ride...

"I'll be happy when I lose 20 pounds." "I'm going to sign up for a race when I lose this weight." "By the end of the year, I want to lose 50 pounds." "Life will be so much better as soon as I get to my goal weight."

Does that sound like you? I know it sounds like me.

With my weight loss, undoubtedly has come many great things. My quality of life has improved; I have more energy; I sleep better; I have found a love of all things health related; I enjoy cooking and eating healthy.

But, despite the feat I have accomplished, I still want more: I'm not at my "goal weight." I realize now that that number, that elusive number, may never happen. I know I need to be okay with that, but I'm not.  Having never hit that number, I feel like I've failed. I know that sounds crazy, but I do.

One thing I've found to be really helpful is to celebrate one #nsv (non-scale victory) every week. I try to find something not related to my weight or the scale to be proud of. It might be burning more calories during Fit Camp, upping my max weight doing a lift, or hitting my macros perfectly, I try to put my focus on how I'm feeling, fueling my body appropriately, and not on my body's relation to gravity. It's hard. Really hard. And something I will most likely need to continue to work on every day.

Whether it's hitting your step goal everyday, drinking more water, fitting into a smaller size clothing, finally starting that couch to 5k app, eating more vegetables, or prepping a meal, be sure to celebrate those victories along the way. Yes, it's exciting to see those scale numbers go down; but, its just as important to celebrate the other victories that are helping you live a full and complete healthy life.

Your life is happening now. Right this moment. Don't forget to enjoy and appreciate where ever you may be on your journey.

On to meal prep:

I absolutely, love a salad (especially eating it out of large mixing bowl), and love all the fresh produce in the spring and summer. However, I find that during winter, I do a lot better with a hot lunch. Now that the weather is starting to get warmer, I'm excited to start switching it up and adding salads and some other lighter options back in the rotation. 

This week I'm doing Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps. They're similar to what you might find at PF Changs. Super easy, super tasty and the perfect lunch.

Brown a pound of ground turkey (or chicken) in a pan with sesame oil and onion.

I added some green, red, yellow and orange bell peppers.

I seasoned with the following: Liquid Aminos, Rice Vinegar, Ginger, Garlic, Sriracha, and Hoisen Sauce. Go easy on the hoisen, there is a lot of sugar in it. I used about a tablespoon.

I added Water Chestnuts at the end, and let simmer.

I'm pairing the wraps with Pasta Zero Shirataki Noodles and Green Beans.

Romaine lettuce leaves for wraps.

Recipe adapted from:

Remember, you are allowed to be a work in progress and a masterpiece simultaneously. Share your #nsv this week below!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Live from Bowls on a Roll....

Coming straight from the kitchen of Fayetteville's Own Bowls on a Roll Healthy Gourmet Food Truck. Today we are cooking up a Delicious Vegetarian Dish & Yummy Dessert with no other than Jennifer Taft aka "In the Kitchen With Sassy" Check her out in action as she guides you through some of her favorite Meal Prep Dishes.

Posted by Turks Von on Sunday, May 7, 2017

Cauliflower Fried Rice:
Sesame Oil
1 bag frozen cauliflower crumbles
1 bag frozen peas & carrots
Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce or Liquid Aminos to taste
Grated Ginger
Green Onions
2 eggs
Protein of choice-Chicken, Shrimp, Edamame, Tofu, etc.

Optional add ons:
   bok choy

In a large skillet, heat sesame oil. Add frozen cauliflower rice and spread in a thin layer. Season with ginger and garlic. Cook for about 5-7 minutes. Stir in peas and carrots and any other add ins. Cook until heated through. Keep the mixture spread thin in the skillet so that the rice browns. Mix in soy sauce or liquid aminos to taste. Spread rice thin in the skillet, creating a hole in the middle. Crack 2 eggs and scramble yolk into the rest of the rice mixture. Serve with protein of choice.

Protein Angel Food Cake

7 Egg Whites
1tsp Cream of Tarter
1 Scoop Protein Powder
1tsp Vanilla Extract
Toppings of choice: Strawberries, Cool Whip, Peanut Butter, PB2, Chocolate Syrup, etc.

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients, except the protein powder together. I use the kitchen aid mixer, but a hand-held mixer should work well, too. Beat until mixture forms high peaks, then fold in protein powder. Do not over mix. Place mixture in a non-stick spring form pan, or in a cake pan and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool and add your favorite toppings!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

It's been a long time coming...

I've had a few people ask me about putting a blog together with my meal prep tips and recipes, and I finally decided it was time. I'm not really sure where I'm going to go with this, or if I'll keep up with it, or how often I'll post, but for now, it is what it is. My goal right now is to do a once a week post with my meal prep for the week. Y'all keep me accountable, ok?

If you don't know my story, in a nutshell, I'm just a girl who got sick of how things were and decided to go for it. Over the course of 18 months, I lost 150+ pounds, naturally. No surgery. No "magic pill." Just good old fashioned diet, exercise and hard work. There were good days, and there were equally as many bad days. Heck, there still are. I have to work every day at this. It truly is a lifestyle change, as cliche as that sounds. There's nothing special about me. There's nothing I did that any of you can not.

Now, when I say diet, I simply mean what I ate. In it's simplest form-calories in were less than calories out. No special "plan."  And, because I knew was limiting my intake, I had to make those calories count. Cause your girl likes to eat. Keep in mind, there is no "one size fits all" approach to this. What works for me, most certainly may not work for you. So, please keep that in mind as you follow along. I follow a IIFYM style of "dieting." IIFYM=If It Fits Your Macros. Macros=macronutrients; Macronutrients=Proteins, Fats, Carbs. I have a specific number of grams of each that I aim to hit each day based on my age, height, weight and activity level. I have a trainer/coach who has set and adjusts these numbers for me as needed. In addition, I also throw in a bit of carb cycling, so I have higher and lower carb days based on my workouts. Again, this is what works for me.

I've said from the beginning one of the things I attribute to my success has been meal planning/prepping. I know you've heard it- fail to plan, plan to fail. And it's true- when left to our own devices, and hangry, we aren't going to make the best decisions. Having a plan for the week helps me stay on track, even now, 3 years later. 

So, let's kick off this blog with how I go about meal planning/prepping for the week.

1. Write down the days of the week and include any events/activities going on. This will give you a visual of how your week is going to look and anything you might need to plan for/around.

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How I plan my week- I use my planner and write down any events/activities/meetings and plan meals around those. I make a list of things I'd like to eat for dinner for the week and plug them in (late nights=quick meals).

2. Keep it simple. I aim for a lean protein/green vegetable at every meal, and if it's a "higher carb" day, a starchy carb at dinner, or around my workout. Remember that your veggies are a great "volume food." You can eat a lot of them for very little calories. They're also how you get your fiber. Fiber helps to keep you full. You don't need a fancy recipe, but if you're looking for some, Pinterest is a good place to start. Just simply type in "healthy chicken recipes" and viola, you have about a million choices.  Or, follow me on Instagram (@inthekitchenwithsassy) where, in addition to this blog, I post lots of food ideas (and shameless selfies!).

3. Plan your menu! I try to take foods I enjoy and make simple substitutes to make them "healthier" or more "macro friendly." (Mini pepper nachos, anyone?) I also try to give myself a nice variety of different lean meats throughout the week (Chicken, Turkey, Fish) and vegetables. It's easier (and much more enjoyable!) to eat that prepped meal on day 3 and 4 when its fun and something I enjoy. No chicken, broccoli and rice everyday for this girl, but if that's your thing, you do you, boo. 

4. Once your menu is planned, create your grocery list. This will also help you save a few dollars, because you're making a list and shopping for the things on that list. No more picking up random ingredients at the store only for them to die a slow death in the back of the fridge. 

5. Realize it's going to take some time. I spend about 2-3 hours on Sunday morning meal prepping for the week. But, that's the only time I cook during the week. By the time I'm done Sunday, all of my breakfasts, lunches and snacks are prepared, and all of my dinners are at least started, if not, ingredients are prepared and ready to go in the oven/on the grill/in the air fryer. So, while it is time consuming, to me it is so worth it. I get up Sunday mornings, start the coffee pot, and hit it.  Usually, my husband is grading papers at the kitchen table, and it's a nice chance for us to catch up and chat. Or, my niece will Face Time me from NY and ask me a million questions about what I'm making.  By noon, I'm usually done, kitchen cleaned, floors mopped, and I have the rest of the afternoon to do what I want (which usually consists of Booty Camp at Crave!).

I hope this has been helpful for those of you wondering just how to do it. I know it can seem overwhelming at first. My advice would be to start with one meal, whatever meal you struggle with, usually that's breakfast or lunch for most people. Prep your breakfasts or your lunches for a few weeks. Once you have that down, add in a second meal. Then, start to add in snacks. You'll have it down to a science in no time!

Thanks for stopping by! Leave me a comment and let me know what you'd like to see featured here.