Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Farmer Direct Co-op, however all opinions, content and enthusiasm are my own.
Spiralizing zucchini is trend that will never grow old, but every now and then I like to turn the tide and unleash deliciously stuffed zucchini boats for dinner. I’m not talking about the old-school stuffed squash my mama used to make with our backyard garden bumper crop, it might have been a bit mushy, bland, and hard to swallow (sorry mom). Instead, my recipe for Carnitas & Street Corn Stuffed Zucchini Boats with “Ole Frijoles” Pinto Bean Sauce is totally crave-worthy and turns supper-time with spicy south-of-the-border fiesta.
With pre-shredded pork roast and pinto beans cooked overnight, this family favorite recipe can be made in just 30 minutes – making it perfect for a busy weeknight meal. It can also be prepped the night before and popped in the oven 20 minutes before dinner. I’ve used pinto beans from Farmer Direct Co-op and, at the end of this post, you can grab the zucchini recipe and also enter to win a giveaway prize pack that includes an assortment of their top-selling organic, non-GMO and fair-trade products packaged in 1lb. bags.
So, how does a plate of pasta fit in with my higher protein diet? Let me tell you! As many of you know, I’ve been eating a higher protein diet for the last several years and really scaled back the amount of carbs that come in the form of bread, baked goods, rice . . . and pasta! You may have read one or two of my posts on the importance of protein, there have been many!
A higher protein diet helps me stay lean and mean for running, Crossfit, yoga and all my other fitness endeavors. Oh yeah, and for LIFE — that especially!
As a long-time athlete, I decided it was time to take a closer look at what I’ve been eating and how wit as or was not fueling my goals. While carbs have their time and place on my plate (like leading up to and during an endurance event and, of course, pretty much any and all vegetables whenever I want), kicking up my protein intake has really helped me build some much-needed muscle I need to stay competitive as I creep up into the shadows of being 49 years old!
So, until I recently found the Explore Asian line of higher-protein pastas, I had been eating my beef ragu on top of zucchini, my stir-fry on top of spinach and my chicken noodle soup without, err, noodles – you get the idea! As much as I love the extra servings of veggies, sometimes it’s nice and comforting to have pasta to twirl around on your fork or slurp from a spoon. Explore Asian has given me back pasta options – and options that are ridiculously healthy and can be quickly cooked into a nutritious meal that fills me up and helps me stay lean and strong. I’m winning already!
All in all there are five flavors, but I especially love these three Explore Asianproducts- Black Bean Spaghetti, Edamame Spaghetti and Thai Brown Rice Noodles. Every batch is made with the finest, organic NON-GMO ingredients that are also vegan, gluten free, organic, Kosher certified and come in low on the Glycemic Index (around 20). Additionally, Explore Asian has about 400% more protein and fiber and 60% fewer carbs than other pasta making them a great option for diabetics, vegetarians or those following a low-carb, high-protein diet!
I’m sharing a yummy, easy “pasta” recipe (Edamame Spaghetti with Kumquats) using the Edamame Spaghetti from Explore Asian the pasta, coming straight out of the bag, is simply made from edamame beans and water, that’s it! One serving of this bean-based pasta offers 24g of protein in a 2 ounce dry serving – this is pretty much spot on with the recommended 25 – 30g recommended per meal. You don’t really need to add any additional protein, but I threw on a few extra edamame beans to get to the upper range and flavored it up with some zesty kumquats and feta cheese.
The pasta is so easy to boil up too! It basically cannot be overcooked and the fiber content from the beans offers a great texture that keeps this pasta in a constant state of just-right al dente! This means the pasta products will work well in a crock pot and left overs hold up beautifully for reheating the next day! Check out this other recipe I made earlier in the year with the Black Bean Spaghetti — Black Garlic & Steak Curry!
You can find Explore Asian gluten-free pastas at Whole Foods, Costco and Fairway stores as well as at http://www.explore-asian.com/. Costco is now even selling the Edamame Spaghetti in 2lb boxes!
Try this gluten-free, organic, high-protein pasta out for yourself! If you do, take a picture of your recipe using Explore Asian products and enter for a chance to win a $100 gift card to Whole Foods. Head over to the recipe database for inspiration, get cooking, and then send a photo of your finished dish to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than December 24, 2015.
Life got you jumping like grease on a hot skillet? My schedule is sizzling (that’s a good thing), but I’m often so busy that forgetting to eat (or grabbing something bad right before bed) could be a real issue if it weren’t for my three teen boys asking “what’s for dinner” as soon as we roll in from after their school activities. Geeze, all I want to do is take a quick nap.
But, that’s when the panic can start to set in about making nutritious and flavorful dinners, knowing I don’t have anything simmering all day in a slow cooker or thawing and ready to throw on the grill. I don’t want my boys to be one of the estimated 20 percent of Americans who eats at least one fast food meal a day in the car. But, now I can get my nap and still make quick flavorful dinners in a snap thanks by keeping fresh produce and healthier convenience foods on hand like Birds Eye®Flavor Full vegetables andFarm Rich® Smokehouse high-quality, high protein cuts of meat. Both of these time and sanity-saving products are recipe ready, straight from the freezer.
I have a super quick and easy recipe to share today for BBQ Chicken Dinner in a Jar – it’s hearty yet nicely-balanced, perfect to serve my whole passel of hungry boys in under 15 minutes! All the yummy things you’d find on a barbecue dinner plate – like corn, coleslaw, beans, smoked chicken and pickles are piled up with love in a glass mason jar.
Another perk of these healthy flavorful dinners in a jar is that they can be eaten on-the-go and in the car (gasp)! Just layer them up warm (or reheat premade jars) and the kids can eat them right out of the jar on the way to or from tutoring, sports games, band practices or what-have-you. When done, screw back on the lid and deal with the “dishes” when you get home. This quick and easy dinner recipe can also be prepped and eaten cold – it’s actually quite good on top of a bed of lettuce!
If you need a comprehensive tailgate recipe or hosting an outdoor hoedown or some other fall-season festivity, these BBQ Chicken Dinners can be assembled in plastic glasses – guests can still see the beautiful layers of barbeque ingredients, but clean-up is super easy-breezy.
Making a healthy, balanced meal like these Barbeque Chicken Jars does not have to be difficult if you have products from Birds Eye®and Farm Rich® Smokehouse. The high-protein, high-quality meats from Farm Rich® Smokehouse can be prepared in minutes; the hours of flavor-infusing smoking have been done on your behalf! I also appreciate how Birds Eye Flavor Full vegetables deliver the flavor my family wants (Buffalo Cauliflower, Ranch Broccoli, Sour Cream & Onion Potatoes, Teriyaki Broccoli and Barbecue Sweet Corn) with the nutrition they need. Find both these brands in the freezer aisle at Walmart.
For a limited time, earn $0.75 on Birds Eye Vegetables and unlock $1.00 off one Farm Rich® Smokehouse product with Ibotta while supplies last. Note: If you haven’t used Ibotta, you have to download the app available on iOs and Android. Before you shop, be sure to unlock the rebates for both Birds Eye Vegetables and Farm Rich® Smokehouse. Then, shop! Buy the products that you’ve unlocked at major retailers. Finally, verify your purchase by scanning your barcodes and submitting a photo of your receipt!
May be served warm or cold. To prepare warm, heat beans, corn and chicken in separate containers according to instructions on packages. Skip this step if preparing cold.
Using 16-ounce glass mason jars or 12 - 16 ounce "squatty" clear plastic glasses, layer ingredients in each container in this order, starting at bottom -- approx 4 oz beans, 2.5 oz corn, generous handful rainbow slaw, 2 tbs. dollop of ranch dressing, 3 oz chicken and 2 tbs. dollop of BBQ sauce.
Skewer pickle slices and grape tomatoes together on toothpick and add as garnish. Serve immediately.
May be prepared cold and stored in refrigerator (with lid or cover) for up to 3 days.
Yes, I realize that I’m opening every blog post this month with “it’s still hot in Austin.” Even as a huge fan of warm weather, I’m starting to get sick of it too. So, what do I do? I make soup and stew! Nothing like slurping up a piping hot bowl of my Wilted Greens, Beans & Meatball Stew after a run in near 90 degrees or a no air-conditioning CrossFit WOD. I’m not being snarky, I’m being serious – I’m not going to let Mother Nature infringe on the length of my soup season. And, good news, the weathermen are predicting a cold front . . . . we’ll be dipping down into the upper 70s for the high this weekend. HA!
Looking forward to Austin’s upcoming “cold front” !!
While my Chipotle Squash & Chickpea Soup is always yummy, the soup in my pot this week is a delicious, easy and super healthy Wilted Greens, Beans & Meatball Stew that I first created for Litehouse Foods. The beauty of this recipe is that you can use whatever winter greens you have on hand like spinach, kale, collard greens, mustard greens or Swiss chard – use a mixture, that’s even better. It’s always sad to say my temporary goodbyes to vine-ripe tomatoes and zucchini as the sun fades out on summer, but the farmer’s market will be brimming with all of these vitamin-packed, nutritious winter greens. According to the USDA, dark leafy vegetables are plentiful in potassium, manganese and iron. Not to mention, they are all a good source for vitamins A, C, K and E as well as calcium, folic acid and fiber. So eat up!
Wilted Greens, Beans & Beef Meatball Soup Recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped carrot
8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
6 cups beef broth
1 15-oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
8 cups of coarsely chopped mixed winter greens (spinach kale collards chard)
24 pre-cooked “mini” or “party size” lean beef meatballs
Garnish: shaved Parmesan cheese if desired
In 6-quart Dutch oven or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and mushroom and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened and lightly caramelized.
Add broth and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add beans, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, chives, thyme, pepper, and parmesan rind. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add one half of mixed winter greens to pot; stir for 2 to 3 minutes to allow leaves to “wilt” down thus providing room for remaining greens. Add remaining greens and continue to stir and cook down for approximately 2 minutes.
Cover pot with lid and keep heat on low. Reheat meatballs according to manufacturer’s instructions in microwave or oven. When reheated, drain on paper towels, if needed, and add to stew. Use a spoon to remove any remnant of the parmesan rind.
To serve, ladle among four bowls and top with shaved parmesan cheese if desired.
Please visit the Living Litehouse blog for lots more yummy and convenient recipes that will work with your healthy lifestyle.
To help you work up a sweat, I’ve got a Tabata workout that will definitely make you earn that piece of cornbread with your soup. If you’re not familiar with the Tabata concept, it’s basically 20 seconds of high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest and then repeat, repeat, repeat for four minutes. Tabata workouts are meant to increase the capacity of both your aerobic and anaerobic systems – do a couple per week and you’ll be a machine! However (disclaimer), my Tabata workout kicks it up from 4 minutes to 15 minutes – I must really like to suffer. If it’s too much for you, please stop and catch your breath with extra rest in between exercises.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Hum along now. There’s fresh produce for shopping with vine-ripe goodness a popping, to nourish my family held dear. Yes, it’s the hap- happiest season of all, with foods so darn delicious and purposefully nutritious, for friends come over to call. Okay, while I might not be a songwriter at heart, I certainly am a natural-born lover of warm weather and the wonderful bounty of byproducts the spring season brings – namely an abundance of fruits and vegetable, beautiful flowers and the invitation of mild mile upon mile on the running trails.
Today I’m so happy to share a trail running tempo run I created for CorePower.com (and awesome, high-protein recovery shake I frequently drink) and a rainbow-inspired dinner idea for Confetti Veggie, Fruit & Bean Lettuce Wraps – perfect for a #MeatlessMonday!
Now, onto the food! I love this healthy recipe because it uses more fruits and vegetables that can be counted on two hands. Gobble up a few of these lettuce wraps for lunch or dinner and you’ll be well on your way (if not exceeding) daily consumption goals for fruits and vegetables. Did you know, according to the Center for Disease Control, only a third of American adults report eating two servings a fruit a day and less than 27 percent consumed three or more servings of veggies, the minimum recommended daily amount (RDA)? Notice how I bolded the word minimum? That’s because the RDA sets forth only the lowest level of nutrients needed for the average, already healthy person to keep from becoming malnourished. The minimum.
Much more than the MINIMUM in this healthy salad recipe!
I truly believe we should all be eating more fruits and vegetables, as opposed to the minimum. I wrote a post for Living Litehouse about how, as Americans, we are blessed to live in a country with easy access to high-quality, fresh foods that are reasonably affordable in the scheme of things. If you don’t agree, put your Starbuck’s latte or iPhone down and think about it for a minute — I’m taking a soapbox stance here.
Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables!
I recently gave an affordable healthy cooking demonstration in a 300+ packed auditorium in the lower-income part of town. The participants were friendly, engaged and open to learning my healthy cooking tips. Many approached me afterward talking about the woes of chronic health conditions (created by being overweight). I got home and, at first, thought it unusual that I had about 250+ more “direct” referrals in my Google Analytics for the day – that is, until I realized that as I was on the stage, all these low-income people were hitting my blog from their smart phones. This argument that eating healthfully is too expensive gets a reality check. Remember, you don’t need to shop at Whole Foods (unless you have money to burn) to eat well. Put down the $6 fruit cup and buy a sale-priced 10-pound bulk bag of the grapefruit (or whatever) for half the price at the “regular” grocery store.
A recent Harvard study reports it only takes $1.50 per day to eat a “healthy” diet as opposed to the processed, packaged and convenience diet that has become a way of life for many – I’d even say it costs even less if you know how to shop sales. So, in the end – it’s a priority, do you want a data plan or to die? Okay, I know that’s a little extreme – but you know what I’m saying.
Confetti Veggie, Fruit & Bean Lettuce Wraps Recipe.
½ cup seeded and diced cucumber
½ cup grated carrots
½ cup chopped red onion
½ cup diced strawberries
½ cup diced pineapple
½ cup diced papaya
½ cup diced mango
1 15-oz. can black beans – drained and rinsed
1 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp. diced fresh Jalapeno
2 tbsp. green onions, sliced
2 head washed and dried baby romaine lettuce leaves
*You can use any “sweet-ish” vinaigrette you prefer like a poppy seed, honey Dijon, balsamic, etc. I just love the Huckleberry Vinaigrette by Litehouse Foods because it is so fresh and flavorful, not too sweet – and has actual whole huckleberries in the bottle!
In large bowl, toss together cucumber, carrots, red onion, strawberries, pineapple, papaya, mango, black beans, cilantro, jalapeno and green onions.
Stir in Huckleberry Vinaigrette (or dressing of choice) and allow mixture to sit for five minutes so herbs rehydrate.
Add a spoonful of fruit and vegetable mixture to the center of lettuce leaf. Repeat for remaining lettuce leaves and mixture.
Sprinkle feta cheese on top of mixture and garnish with snow pea shoots.
Serve with additional Huckleberry Vinaigrette for dipping
Also makes a great topping for fish, pork and poultry!