Souper Bowl Sunday! (Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup)

Happy Super Bowl Sunday to all!  In the midst of all of this LOVELY weather we have been experiencing, I thought a nice warm soup would be perfect.  Pittsburgh teased us yesterday with 45 degrees, and this morning wouldn’t have been bad had it not been pouring rain (we are expecting snow later). Additionally, that stinkin’ gigantic rat, groundhog, whatever you want to call  it, saw his shadow this morning.  6 more weeks of winter, because who DOESN’T love polar vortexes and snow storms all the time?!

Enough with the sarcasm.  I’m a firm believer in taking things as they are.  It’s February.  I don’t live in the tropics.  The fact that I got ANY 45 degree days is a blessing. Winter is supposed to be here, and that’s just how it is.  Time to accept it and move forward, with a belly full of Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup.  This soup packs some heat!  If you’re faint-of-heart when it comes to spice, tone down the Cayenne in this one, or you’ll feel like a fire breathing dragon.  But guess what?! Spicy food is great for you! The capsaicin in hot peppers (i.e. Cayenne) aids in digestion and boosts your metabolism (while “insulation” in the form of fat might feel great now, it won’t in a few months when it’s time to bust out the skimpy bikini).  It also has some immune-boosting factors, as does ginger!  The Cinnamon in here is a great balance for the heat of the Cayenne, and is an anti-inflammatory and helps to stabilize blood sugar levels!  Not to mention the significant amount of Vitamin A provided by the carrots, which, as everyone knows, is great for your sight.  So, basically, if you eat this soup you will be a sexy, healthy, super(wo)man with superhero vision while everyone else is fat, sick, and blind (I tend to exaggerate a bit, but hey, you never know, it could happen).

Oh, p.s., one serving of this soup is only 70 calories, so eat up and stay HOT!

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Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup

Serving size: 1 cup

Makes about 12 servings

2 lbs carrots

42 g ginger (about a palm-sized piece)

4 cloves garlic

2 large onions

1 head celery

4 tsp olive oil

1 tsp cayenne powder

2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1.5 c flax milk (or any kind of milk… If you use flax milk make sure its the unsweetened kind!  I’m not sure how vanilla almond milk would taste in this soup…)

6 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)

¾ tsp nutmeg

¾ tsp cinnamon

garlic salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cube all of the vegetables and put into a large bowl.  Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables.  Add all of the spices.  Mix well, ensuring that all vegetables are coated evenly with the seasonings and olive oil. Spread the coated veggies onto a tin-foil covered pan (I used two pans, there are a lot of veggies in here!).  Bake for approximately 50 minutes, or until they are tender, being sure to mix them around a few times during baking.  Put the vegetables into a food processor with the broth and flax milk (unless you have a gigantic industrial sized food processor you will likely have to do this in batches).  Pulse until fairly smooth.  Add garlic salt and pepper as needed, and enjoy!

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Nutrition information: 

calories: 70; Fat: 2.7 g; trans fat: 0 g; sodium: 124.7 g; carbs: 9.7 g; fiber: 1.8 g; sugar: 5 g; protein: 1.6 g

whopping 81% recommended daily value of Vitamin A! Whoop!

Build Me Up, Butternut Baby (Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash)

One of my favorite things about Autumn is the awesome variety of squashes that are available… and I pretty much love them all.  However, butternut squash is one of my favorites.  You cant take a bite of butternut squash and not immediately think of all the best things fall has to offer… not to mention it tastes really freaking good.  And I managed to somehow make it even better.

This roasted butternut squash is coated in cinnamon and vanilla.  It fills your house with the fragrance of fall, and comes out of the oven all caramelized and delicious.  It’s also filled with vitamins and antioxidants (it actually has even more vitamin A than pumpkin does…) to keep you healthy and pretty.  Additionally, with no added oils or sugar, it’s a healthy side dish that still tastes more like a dessert.  The natural sugars in the squash caramelize with the vanilla to make you feel like you’re eating something sinful.  The only sin involved here is that it’s only available in the fall… so eat up now!

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Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash: 

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (for info on how to do this go here)

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp cinnamon

freshly ground sea salt to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, peel, seed, and cube your squash.  In a large bowl, combine the squash with the vanilla and then the cinnamon and sea salt.  Spread your squash out onto an aluminum foiled covered baking sheet (you may need two… also, remember that the squash will caramelize and get kind of messy so I don’t recommend skipping the foil). Bake about 25-30 minutes, until tender and slightly brown, stirring half way through.  Serve as is or mash and sprinkle with some crushed pecans for a little added crunch!

Nutrition information 

serving size: 1 cup; calories: 80; fat: 0 g; carbs: 22 g; fiber: 3 g; sugar: 3 g; protein: 1 g

Fall in love with chia!

For anyone who has read any of my posts, you know that I love chia seeds.  How do they squeeze so much nutrition into those tiny little seeds?!  For anyone who has ever had a conversation with me, ever, you know that I am absolutely obsessed with all things pumpkin and/ or fall related.  I often find myself frolicking around the house singing about changing leaves, pumpkins, and hayrides.  The pure thought of fall turns me into a giddy little child.

Now that I’ve scared you all off due to the question of whether or not I am insane (clinically… probably not.  but when it comes to fall, I am just super enthusiastic), I would like to share with you my newest chia recipe.  I decided to make a fall- like twist on Chia pudding (for another variation involving chocolate and peanut butter look here). It sweet and cinnamony, and is obviously awesome because it contains… get ready for it… PUMPKIN.  Ok, so maybe you didn’t jump out of your chair and start screaming when you saw that like I would have, but I promise you, it’s really awesome.  Plus its got calcium, protein, fiber, iron, and vitamin A (you know, to promote good vision so you can see all those pretty leaves and pumpkins).

Happy Fall!

pumpkin chia

Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding:

2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp cinnamon

2 packets stevia, or sweetener of your choice (optional)

3/4 cup chia seeds

Whisk together the almond milk, pumpkin, cinnamon, stevia, and vanilla.  Stir in the chia seeds and refrigerate for 2 hours, stirring half way through (the chia seeds sometimes sink the the bottom, so be sure that you don’t forget to stir). Serve and enjoy all of the fall bliss!

Nutrition Information: 

serving size: 1/2 cup; calories: 164; total fat: 8.3 g; carbs: 14.6 g; fiber: 13.4 g; sugar: 0.8 g; protein: 8 g

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo has become one of my diet staples.  I keep a batch of it in the fridge at all times, because it adds flavor to basically anything for just 20 calories for a 1/4 cup serving.  Put it on top of eggs, mix it into salads, or slice up cucumbers and dive in for a healthy snack that still has the satisfying crunch of tortillas without all the junk.  I use Anaheim peppers for this recipe, but you can use any kind of pepper (jalapeños or serrano peppers if you can handle the heat!).

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Pico de Gallo:

Makes 2 cups

4 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 Anaheim pepper (or pepper of your choosing)

1.5 T fresh lime juice

1/3 C diced red onion

2 T cilantro, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and have a fiesta!

Nutrition information:

Serving size: 1/4 C

Calories: 20; Total Fat: 0.3 g; Saturated fat: 0 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Carbs: 4 g; Fiber: 1 g; Sugars: 2 g; Protein: 0.6 g 

Have Your Dessert, and Eat it Too! (Chocolate-Peanut Butter Chia Pudding)

I have as much of a sweet tooth as the next girl, and while I try to satiate it with fruit, that sometimes doesn’t work.  Sometimes you want something thick, creamy, and chocolatey… or even better yet, chocolatey AND peanut-buttery.  In my mind, there is no better combination than chocolate and peanut butter.  You could always go for a Reese’s cup, but I DARE you to just eat one.  Before you know it, you’ve eaten multiple king sized packs of Reese’s and added a pound of guilt right to your ass…ets.  Luckily, I’ve created a thick, creamy pudding that has enough of the chocolate and peanut butter taste that you so desire, but without all of the sugar that will leave you ravenous for more.

This pudding is thickened by one of my favorite power foods- chia seeds!  If you’ve read my previous posts, you should notice that chia is one of my go-tos for healthy recipes– and with reason.  They’re packed with omega-3s, protein, and fiber, leaving you full and satisfied.  They are also great because when you add liquid to them they become gelatinous, making for a great pudding thickener!  So here you go, my sweet-toothed health freaks!

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Chocolate- Peanut Butter Chia Pudding:

Serves 2

1/2 of a large banana

1 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk

4 T PB2 (if you’ve never used this… get it.  It is a miracle.  It’s powdered peanut butter– aka all the peanut-y taste without the fat and calories.  I’m obsessed.  They carry it in a lot of grocery stores now but you can also order it online here)

1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 C chia seeds

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender.  Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate overnight (or at least several hours– you will know it is ready when it is thick and, well, pudding like).

Nutrition Information

Serving size : 1/2 of the recipe, or a bit more than 1/2 cup

Calories: 209; Fat: 11.9 g; Saturated fat: 0.1 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Carbs: 22.9 g; Fiber: 13.6 g; Sugar: 4.8 g; Protein: 11.9 g 

Roasted Summer Squash and Chicken with Sun-dried Tomato Sauce

One of the things I miss since going gluten-free is pasta.  Although I always knew it wasn’t very good for me, I craved it all the time.  I am a recovering carbohydrate addict (do they make rehab for that?… if so, I should probably go), and at times there is nothing that sounds more appealing than spaghetti with red sauce and a gallon of parmesan.  The other night, I started having one of those cravings, so I decided to attempt to recreate the flavors of a tasty pasta dish without all of the calories.

The grocery store had beautiful zucchini and yellow squash grown by local farmers, so I decided to incorporate it into this dish.  I have to say, it turned out quite well, and the texture of the spaghetti squash I used was enough to trick my brain into thinking it was getting something it wasn’t: delicious, fattening pasta.

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Roasted Summer Squash and Chicken with Sun-dried Tomato Sauce

Serves 6

3 cups cooked spaghetti squash*

3 chicken breasts, grilled and cubed*

For the roasted squash:

1 zucchini squash, sliced

1 yellow squash, sliced

1 red onion, diced

1/2 tsp no salt seasoning (this is the Kirkland brand from Costco… if you don’t have this then you can use any mixture of your favorite seasonings i.e. garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper, etc)

1 tsp chili powder

1 T extra virgin olive oil

Coat the onions and sliced squash with olive oil, then mix in the seasonings.  Place into a large pan and cover with foil. Roast for 25 minutes at 375 degrees, taking the foil off for the last 5 minutes

For the sauce:

1 T coconut oil

2 T coconut flour

1 1/2 C plain, unsweetened almond milk

1 tsp garlic powder

1 1/4 tsp chili powder

1 whole roasted red pepper

10 sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil

Basil, to taste (I used a handful)

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a saucepan, melt the coconut oil and stir in the coconut flour to form a roux.  Gradually stir in the almond milk.  Add the garlic powder and simmer until it has thickened slightly.  Pour the almond milk mixture into a food processor.  Add the chili powder, roasted red pepper, tomatoes, and basil, and pulse until well incorporated.

Mix the spaghetti squash, chicken, zucchini mixture, and sauce together.  Top with a bit of extra chopped basil and enjoy!

* You can cook a spaghetti squash a couple ways.  My personal favorite is making several small cuts into the squash, placing it on a microwave-safe platter, covering it with plastic wrap, and microwaving for about 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of the squash.  For the more traditional method, cut the spaghetti squash in half and remove the seeds.  Place each half cut side down into an oven safe baking dish and pour a bit of water into the dish.  Cook at 375 degrees for about 75 minutes.  After the spaghetti squash has cooked (using either method), use a fork to scrape the squash, forming spaghetti-like strands.

*For a vegan alternative, skip the chicken

Nutrition information:

Serving size: 2 cups

Calories: 325; Total fat: 17.9 grams; Saturated fat: 4.1 grams; Trans fat: 0 grams; Carbs: 10.9 grams; Fiber: 1.8 grams; Sugars: 2.6 grams; Protein: 25.1 grams  

Fitness Friday… 4 Days Late

My best friend since before I could walk is here visiting from South Carolina, so I haven’t had a chance to post the awesome workout we did the other day.  Since we only get to see each other once or twice a year, we weren’t exactly looking to spend tons of time working out, so we did this super quick, yet effective workout.  It targets your buns and abs, and gets your heart rate going for efficient calorie burning.  Here it is!

Format : 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 of:

double unders (put a jump rope under your feet twice per jump)

butterfly sit ups (see here)

jumping lunges (see a demo here)

If you prefer to do singles with the jump rope, multiple the number by 3 (so do 150 jump ropes, 50 sit ups, and 50 thai squats… then 120 jump ropes, 40 sit ups, and 40 thai squats… and so on and so forth).

The best part about this workout is that each round gets easier!  Stay focused and you’ll be done in 15 minutes!

Bruschetta!

There was once a time when I used to walk into the kitchen and start drooling over the smell of store bought bruschetta on store bought french rolls baking in the oven.  That’s right, not too long ago I was a cheese and oil covered bread addict (and by not too long ago I mean a few months back).  While I may no longer have the desire to stuff my face with something that I know will weigh me down and make me feel like total crap (processed french bread, that is), I still love bruschetta.  Rather than buying the large vat of it from Costco, however, I prefer to make my own.  Using fresh ingredients and preparing your own food is a wonderful alternative to buying pre-packaged processed foods. If you put the work in to make something from scratch, not only are you more likely to appreciate it, but you know exactly what is in it.  You can control what you put into your recipe, and subsequently, your body.

Since I had tons of fresh basil growing in my garden, I decided to make this awesome bruschetta.  It’s slightly spicy and slightly sweet, and goes great with eggs, chicken, or salads.  I added a touch of cinnamon to balance out the heat of the pepper, and the results were wonderful.  If you don’t like heat, simply use ground black pepper in place of the crushed red pepper, or nix it all together.

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Bruschetta

Makes 2 cups

4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

1 T extra virgin olive oil (I used a garlic and chili infused oil and it is delightful!)

1/2 T balsamic vinegar

2 T (roughly) finely chopped basil

1/2 C diced red onion

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and enjoy!

Nutrition information:

Serving size: 1/4 cup

Calories: 38; Fat: 1.8 g; Saturated fat:0.2 g; Unsaturated fat: 1.2 g; Carbs: 3.8 g; Sugars: 2.2 g; Fiber: 0 g; Protein: 0.5 g 

Is your salad making you fat and sick? (Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing)

When you start watching what you eat, you are surely going to try to add more greens to the mix.  You head to the supermarket, get a big bag of organic baby spinach or kale greens, then walk to the salad dressing aisle.  You pick up a bottle of your classic Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch dressing, knowing somewhere in the back of your head that it’s probably not going to meet the requirements for your new healthy eating plan.  If this scenario sounds familiar, then you’ve probably already discovered that your assumptions were correct.  This salad dressing contains 130 calories and 14 grams of fat for a 2 tablespoon serving, and half of the ingredients are names that are unrecognizable (what the #!@* is disodium inosinate? Oh and just a bit further down is the infamous monosodium glutamate, aka MSG.  Look here for a full list of ingredients and nutrition information).  “So, what’s the big deal?” you ask, “I’ll just get a lighter, more natural salad dressing and all will be well.”  Sure, get the “natural” and “light” dressing, but don’t expect much better results when examining the nutrition information and ingredients list.  Newman’s Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger dressing only contains 35 calories and 1.5 grams of fat, but guess what they replace the fat with? Sugar!!! For 2 tablespoons of this supposedly healthy dressing, you get a 4 gram dosage of the sweet stuff.  They can call the dressing “all natural” because, technically, all of the ingredients are natural (check here for a full ingredients list and nutrition information).  The caramel coloring found in this dressing is made through a chemical reaction involving sugar and ammonia.  Both of those things are technically “natural,” one just happens to be a common ingredient for household cleaning products.  You wouldn’t squirt Windex on your salad, would you?  So why pour another ammonia-containing substance on it?  Not only does caramel coloring contain ammonia, it is also potentially carcinogenic.  One article by the Center for Science in the Public Interest discusses the linkages of caramel coloring with multiple different cancers (see here).  So, why not skip the fat and the carcinogens and make your own, super simple, creamy salad dressing?

This Creamy Chipote Lime dressing is just that: it’s creamy, has just a touch of spice, and is all natural!  No, really, no cleaning products here!  It also contains no added sugar and is just 50 calories for 2 tablespoons.  It can be made ahead and refrigerated for several days so you always have it on hand when hunger strikes.  I made it and put it on a spinach and strawberry salad and it was DELISH.

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Creamy Chipotle Lime Dressing:

Makes 8 servings

Juice of 1 lime

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1/2 of a medium sized avocado

1/2 tsp chipotle powder

scant 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/4 tsp garlic granules (or garlic powder)

Palmful of cilantro (about 1/4 to 1/3 cup)

A bit less than 2/3 C water

Put all ingredients into a blender.  Blend until smooth.  This dressing can be stored in an airtight container for up to several days (although I suggest using it within the first few days). Pour some over your salad or drizzle it on chicken for a bit of extra flavor!

Nutrition Information

Serving size: 2 tablespoons

Calories: 50; Fat: 4.9 g; Saturated fat: 0.7 g; Unsaturated fat: 3.7 g; Carbs: 2.3 g; Sugars: 0.3 g; Fiber: 0.5 g; Protein: 0.5 g

Beauty is only spoon-deep… (Chia Banana Berry Breakfast Scramble)

Sunday morning, the air is crisp and chilly.  As I sip my coffee, I begin to reminisce on Sundays past where I would eat entire stacks of pancakes with my dad.  How delightful were the days of childhood when I could eat pancakes worth my weight without adding a reminder of a different breakfast treat onto my body (cue corny joke about muffin tops…). So this morning I decided to try to make a gluten- free, paleo, vegan version of my old favorite breakfast.  All started out well.

This is what it looked like at first:

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I thought it was looking pretty awesome.  I psyched myself up for some delicious, healthy pancakes!  Then, this happened….

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Yeah I know, not pretty.  My heart sank as I let go of the notion of pancakes for Sunday breakfast.  I added the rest of the batter to the pan, threw in some more berries, and scrambled it up.  What happened next cheered me up a bit.  I took a bite of my scramble and, to my delight, it tasted WAY better than it looked!  It was sweet, the berries were juicy, and it had a satisfying texture.  What originally started out as a pancake will likely become a future contender for the age old question, “what the heck should I eat this morning?”  This scramble is filling (largely due to 14.5 grams of fiber), delivers a dose of healthy fats and antioxidants for flawless skin, and is a good source of calcium and iron.  The coconut oil in this scramble has endless benefits, from healthy skin to easier weight management (for explanations and a list of additional benefits go here).  So, while this scramble may not be the prettiest concoction you’ve ever seen, it might end up making YOU a little prettier and skinnier.  So close your eyes and enjoy!

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Chia Banana Berry Breakfast Scramble:

Serves 1

1 T chia

3 T boiling water

1/2 banana, mashed

2 T coconut flour

1/2 C unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 T coconut oil (plus a little more for the pan)

1/2 C frozen wild blueberries

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Put the chia seeds in a mixing bowl and add 3 T boiling water.  Stir until a gel has formed.  Add the mashed banana, coconut flour, almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla, and 1/2 T coconut oil.  Mix well.  Heat a frying pan and lightly coat with coconut oil.  Pour the banana-chia mixture into the pan and sprinkle with frozen blueberries.  Let the mixture cook until bubbles begin to form and the blueberries start to thaw (rings of blueberry juice will appear around the blueberries).  Using a spatula, scramble the mixture while it is cooking the rest of the way, then serve.

Nutrition Information:

1 serving (full recipe)

Calories: 300; fat: 14.5 g; saturated fat: 8.3 g; Unsaturated fat: 5.3 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Carbs: 37 g; Sugars: 14.5 g; Fiber: 14.5 g; Protein: 6.5 g

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