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We’re planning a brunch wedding shower for my sister next month, and I needed some good food ideas (not that it’s a difficult task, brunch is my favorite meal!). Sara sent along this delicious recipe from Whole Foods that I knew I’d have to try. I did a test run recently on a rare Sunday when my husband was off work, and we both loved it.

Quinoa egg bake fresh from the oven

The dish was quick, simple, had few ingredients, and reheated well. I actually thought it was better the second day, and it was nice to have a fast and hot breakfast before work. Quinoa is a great plant source of protein, and eggs and garlic are superfoods as well.

...and on my plate!

We rounded out the brunch meal with Al Fresco apple chicken sausage (which I’d never have but highly recommend) and wheat toast with homemade apricot preserves (thanks, Eva!). Yummy way to start a Sunday, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to serving this up at the wedding shower!

– albledsoe

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My Mexican food challenge is complete! I’m happy to report that I have enjoyed 13 healthy Mexican inspired meals and tried out a total of 4 new recipes over the last 7 days. I came up short only one meal which was due to a work trip I took on Thursday. I wanted to pack a lunch in my purse, but my travel arrangements left me without any option to B.Y.O.F (Bring Your Own Fajita). Here’s a very quick recap of my menu from this week.

Fiesta Chicken Soup

Fiesta Chicken Soup

Tuesday
Lunch – Leftover fiesta chicken soup from this weekend. Mmm, mmm good. This was my go-to choice for lunch on more than one occasion.

Dinner – I tried out a new entrée. Since I wound up with so much extra food from making tamale pie on Monday, I adjusted this shrimp enchilada recipe by half. And, I know I said no refried beans, but when I saw this recipe I decided to use vegetarian beans and give it a go. I also cut way back on the cheese that this recipe called for. This turned out to be quite a delightful meal. Even though I cut it in half, this recipe still made a lot of food.

Wednesday
For lunch I finished off my soup and had a salad topped with grilled chicken, black beans, avocados and cilantro. My dinner was made up of leftover tamale pie. I think this meal tasted even better as a leftover!

Thursday
This lunch was the only meal that I didn’t get to stick to the plan. Boo. I was in TX for work, and our host arranged for a BBQ lunch. At least the meal was a local dish, but I was disappointed to have to have to stray from the challenge so close to the end!

Shrimp Enchilada

Shrimp Enchilada Bake

Dinner – I was exhausted from my trip, so instead of charging forward with a new recipe, I enjoyed one more night of leftovers. I couldn’t let the good stuff go to waste! Shrimp enchiladas – part two!

The beauty of the Mexican food challenge was that I was able to focus on eating lots of fresh goodies – peppers, tomatoes, avocados – which all top my list of favorite things to eat. I had to pass on a lot of the toppings that come along with “traditional” Mexican foods like cheese sauce, sour cream, etc. But as long as you have fresh salsa, guacamole and cilantro on hand, who needs it?

What is your favorite healthy meal you think you could eat everyday?

-Sara

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The Mexican food challenge is well underway and I’m loving the healthy and delicious meals. I was a little bit concerned that I would have a crazy craving for something other than Mexican food over the weekend, but so far, no problems in that department.

Friday
First up, lunch – I had a romaine salad with seasoned chicken (cumin, garlic powder, crushed red peppers) black beans, cherry tomatoes and guacamole. This salad was a good way to finish up some of the leftovers I had in the fridge. The beans and chicken in the salad really filled me up.

Friday night – Dinner out with friends. My friend suggested splitting her favorite item on the menu, and I am sure happy we did. Our dish was the pollo adobo, which was a chicken breast topped with a spinach sauce and served with grilled veggies, tortillas, cilantro rice and beans. As with most restaurant portions, it was huge. I’m so happy we split it. The veggie selection was made of up your usual peppers, onions, mushrooms you would expect, plus they had broccoli, cauliflower, and squash too which was a nice surprise. And, my big splurge for the night, a margarita. It was Friday night and I just couldn’t resist…

Saturday
Lunch – I worked a half day on Saturday, which put me in a bad spot around lunch time. I had several meals in mind for the weekend and coming week, but I hadn’t yet made it to the grocery store. I was very hungry (and about to get really grouchy), so I grabbed a quick burrito bowl for lunch with black beans, cilantro, rice and steak with the cheese and guacamole on the side.

Dinner – I seasoned some tilapia fillets with cumin, garlic, chili powder, garlic olive oil, lime juice and baked it. We had fish tacos with a salad, black beans and rice. Yum, yum, yum – I’m loving this challenge!

After dinner on Saturday night I loaded up at the grocery store for the rest of the week. (Lots of fresh veggies.) In addition to sticking to the challenge, I’m trying out 5 new recipes this week! I’m hoping it’s not too ambitious! We’ll see.

Miniature Chile Relleno Casserole

Sunday
Brunch at home. I took advantage of having some free time on Sunday morning and I spent it in the kitchen. I made miniature chile relleno casseroles with tortillas for brunch and I made a white bean fiesta chicken soup in the crockpot for dinner. The leftover soup will be great for lunches this week.

Monday
Lunch – I made a meal in a bowl out of the leftover rice, grilled fish Saturday’s tacos and black beans from this weekend. I also added some homemade salsa and avocados and it was a delicious!

Dinner – This was a new recipe for tamale pie, and it was an adventure. This was the first time I’ve ever used cornmeal to top a casserole. That stuff changes from a liquid to a solid FAST! All in all, it tasted pretty good, but I think I would have rather enjoyed real tamales for the time and preparation that went into making this dish.

That brings you up to speed! No major heartburn, I’m not sick of black beans yet and I’m really excited about the recipes for the rest of this week. Up next, two different types of enchiladas (shrimp and chicken) and I’m going to attempt to make a cilantro sauce to go along with one of the chicken recipes I have found.

P.S. – My husband is hanging in there with me on this challenge. So far, no complaints, but I’m anxious to hear his thoughts once we make it through a full seven days! Also, I’ll be traveling this week for work so I may have to make a Mexican inspired breakfast before I fly to TX on Thursday morning. Maybe huevos rancheros?

-Sara

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Many recipes for spaghetti squash are quick to load up on sugar and fat, negating any goodness you get from the veggie. Surely there are more options for this vegetable than to just top it with butter and brown sugar! So, when a reader suggested that I cook a spaghetti squash, I was determined to find a healthy, hearty recipe to share with you.

My search returned several casseroles and lots of recipes that called for a traditional tomato and beef sauce. I couldn’t find anything that really sounded perfect, so I ended up making my own white wine sauce with chicken, tomatoes and basil to accompany the squash.

One thing you do need to know before committing to making this, is that it takes a while to cook the squash. There are several ways to cook it, but being a spaghetti squash novice, I opted for the traditional oven baked method. Use a fork to pierce the skin then bake it in a shallow casserole dish for about an hour at 350 degrees. Several recipes claim that this can be cooked in the microwave, but I was concerned that it might get a little bit rubbery if I cooked it that way. I guess that will be an adventure for another day!

This squash definitely looks like spaghetti.

This definitely looks like spaghetti noodles.

After a total baking time of about 1 hour and 10 minutes, I pulled the squash out of the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes while I made my sauce. Once the sauce was completed, I tackled the squash. I cut mine in half lengthwise and then used a knife to dislodge the seeds and mushy middle. This makes it MUCH easier when scooping out all of the seeds with a spoon. Once you have removed all of the seeds, use your fork and start scraping the sides down to the skin. You’ll have a large bowl of spaghetti squash in no time!

The finished product!

The finished product!

Spoon the sauce mixture over the spaghetti squash, toss and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese. This is a delicious and filling dish that is not too heavy. Spaghetti squash is also a dieter’s dream. A one cup serving of baked squash has no fat and only 41 calories.

This is my quick sauce recipe:

2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts chopped into small pieces
2 Tbsp Minced Garlic
1 Large Tomato with Seeds removed and chopped into small chunks
1 Small Onion
2 Tbsp of Fresh Basil
½ Cup Dry White Wine
¼ Cup of Water
1 Tsp Corn Starch
1 Tbsp plus 1 Tsp Olive Oil

Season and sauté chicken in 1 tbsp olive oil; remove chicken from pan once it is cooked and set aside. Add the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil to pan and sauté 2 tbsp minced garlic and 1 small onion. As the onions become translucent, add the cornstarch dissolved in ¼ cup of water and then add the wine. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Add chopped tomatoes, chicken and basil. Reduce heat to low and simmer sauce for 5 minutes while stirring occasionally.

What is your favorite spaghetti squash recipe?

– Sara

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Do you have leftovers staring at you in the fridge that need to be used up? Me too! This is a quick recipe that turns leftover chicken into a flavorful lunch option.

Chicken Curry in a Hurry
Give this recipe a try the next time you have at least a cup of leftover chicken. This is one of my favorite quick lunches. It’s easy to make and it tastes great. I usually make it with the leftovers from a baked or rotisserie chicken.

•  Remove skin and chop chicken into bite sized pieces
•  Add the following ingredients: 1 ½ Tsp curry powder, 1 Tsp light mayo, 1/3 Cup of dried cranberries or raisins, 1 Tbsp sliced green onions, 2 Tbsp chopped celery
•  Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use
•  Serve over a romaine salad with tomatoes, a dash of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar to taste
•  The grab it and go option: add your chicken and lettuce to a pita pocket

What is your favorite meal to make out of leftovers?

Salmon Patties
Salmon Patties used to be a staple in our house; it was an inexpensive entrée that my Grandma often served. I honestly didn’t realize there was any other way to cook salmon until I was in my late teens. After I had my own kitchen and began grilling, baking and broiling salmon I decided to re-vamp the salmon patty from my childhood. My main goal: cut the fat. The salmon patties I remembered were fried to a crispy golden brown in at least a cup of oil. Yikes!

Here’s how I make mine, minus all of that oil:

•  2, 7 Oz. pouches of salmon
•  1/4 Cup of green onions
•  1/2 Tbsp freshly snipped dill
•  1/4 Cup of whole wheat bread crumbs
•  Mix all ingredients and form into 4 patties
•  Heat 1 Tsp of olive oil over high heat. Cook patties over medium heat for 5 – 6 minutes until brown
•  Serve with brown rice and your favorite steamed veggie

This is a much healthier way to enjoy the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids and protein salmon packs in each serving. This meal takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish. It’s perfect for a lunch on the weekend or a dinner entrée when you don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen.

Do you have any unhealthy recipes that you would like submit for a rewrite? Submit your suggestions and I’ll give it a go!

– Sara

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My Burrito Addiction

Until about 6 years ago, I never really cared for burritos. The ones I knew of were filled with ground beef and refried beans then topped with tomato sauce. Then, like a beacon of light, I was introduced to the fajita burrito at New York Burrito. Even though it was a little big for lunch, I would still order it when I had business to take care of near the closest NYB location.

My new found love for the burrito was only kindled further when Chipotle came to town. They have burrito assembly down to a science. Here’s the drill: you select your meat, add rice, choose the type of beans you prefer, select the type of salsa you like and then decide whether or not to add extras (cheese, sour cream, guacamole and lettuce). Yes please!

The ultimate burrito indulgence

The ultimate burrito indulgence

It’s honesty time…I’ve stood in line for three different ‘free burrito days’ at various Chipotle grand openings. In addition to that, I’ve done my fair share of burrito purchasing. My personal favorite is the burrito with: carnitas, rice, black beans, tomato salsa, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. This burrito probably weighs two pounds, and, oh my god, it is delicious! That is where the good news ends.

This custom made burrito racks up a whopping 1120 calories.  Yep, you read that correctly. “OH MY GOD!” is once again what I thought when I found this out. How many burritos have I had? What about the time I actually ate the whole thing? And, what I was probably the most upset about, I knew could no longer allow myself to indulge in this meal.

So, when I found myself hungry for a burrito with no place to go, I knew it was time to find an alternative. I found a recipe for a chicken burrito on SELF.com, and I’ve been devoted to it since the first day I had it.  It’s filling, full of flavor and light on calories – only 330 calories per serving!  Best of all, it has all of the goodies I love: black beans, salsa and sour cream. What a treat!

This recipe can be completed in 30 minutes and makes generous portions. If you are only cooking for two and need to cut the recipe in half, my tip is to make extra chicken and save some to use on salads, etc. during the week. The extra chicken will go well with the second half of the can of black beans the recipe requires.

The next time you want to indulge in a burrito, consider making it yourself. You don’t have to divorce the burrito completely, just try out a new version!

– Sara

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