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Italian Meatballs with Penne Pasta

Italian Meatballs with Penne Pasta

As a kid, anytime my parents would go to an Italian restaurant I would beg them to get me spaghetti and meatballs. It was my absolute favorite! I always picture the scene from the Disney Movie, “Lady and the Tramp” where the two dogs were sitting at a table, music playing in the background, and they both were eating spaghetti and meatballs. To this day, our kiddos love this dish too.

Over little a year ago I had the privilege of co-creating a meal prepping business in my local area that offered healthy meals that were portioned and ready to go. It was a huge success for those busy men and women who didn’t have time to prepare their own meals yet wanted to eat nutritional dishes that would help keep their diet intact. Each meal was weighed and portioned for those who were healthy conscious and even for those that were athletes.

My Italian meatballs served with a low sodium marinara sauce over whole wheat penne pasta with a side order of garlicky sauteed spinach was a customer favorite. These meatballs are hand rolled, made from ground turkey, and are packed full of flavor. Plus meatballs make portion controlling your meals so easy and fun. I use 4 meatballs per serving and if you need more protein just make sure to add 6 meatballs to your plate. I usually make a big batch of meatballs and then freeze the extras so they are ready to go when I bring this meal together.

I love the garlicky spinach that is served on the side. It’s filling because it’s high in fiber and it’s low in calories but high in nutrients. Just like in the cartoon “Popeye the Sailor Man”, spinach helps improve your vision and strengthens your bones. Do you remember that cartoon? Be careful not to overcook the spinach (just wilt it) in order to keep the spinach from becoming slimy. If you’re not a fan of spinach, just replace it with another green vegetable of your choice.

Italian Meatballs with Penne Pasta

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8

Ingredients
  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 3-eggs
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoon ground garlic (divided)
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoon italian seasoning (divided)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • cooking spray
  • 1-24 oz jar of Gia Russa Low Sodium Marinara Sauce
  • 1-14 oz no salt added can of diced tomatoes
  • 1-lb box of whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1-bag of fresh spinach
  • 1 tablespoon minched garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat broiler on high
  2. In a large bowl add ground turkey, eggs, parmesan cheese, parsley, 1 tablespoon of garlic and italian seasoning, onion, and 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. Mix ingredients together until combined
  4. Spray cookie sheet pan with spray
  5. Roll meatballs into 1-2 inch balls (makes 48 balls)
  6. Place on pan
  7. Broil 10-15 minutes on each side until cooked and temperature reaches 165 (keep an eye on meatballs so they don't burn)
  8. While broiling meatballs, cook pasta according to instructions on box
  9. Place jar of sauce and diced tomatoes in a large saucepan and add ground garlic and italian seasoning
  10. When meatballs are completely baked, pasta is cooked, and sauce is ready then heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat in a large frying pan
  11. Add the bag of spinach to the oil (may have to do in batches)
  12. Salt and pepper to taste
  13. Wilt lightly (don't over cook or it will be slimy)
  14. Take off heat and mix in minced garlic
  15. Serve dish immediately!

 

 

Coconut Curry Chicken

Coconut Curry Chicken

I’ll never forget the first time I got introduced to Indian food. Being partially Korean, I grew up eating curry and was not really a fan of it. So I was very hesitant when our good friends asked us to try Indian. I kept thinking back to that green curry my mom used to fix us and wasn’t too sure about the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, my mom was an excellent cook and I love most of her dishes but not that curry stuff. When I sat down and ordered my Indian curry, I was so pleasantly surprised; more like fell in love with the dish! Couldn’t get enough of all the spices and creamy sauces; just delicious and totally different than what I had thought.

Indian dishes can be on the heavy side and will leave you feeling overstuffed, to say the least. I knew that in order to enjoy these delicious ingredients more often then I would need to “lighten” the dish up a bit by using cleaner ingredients without taking away the flavors that I love so much! May I introduce you to my Coconut Curry Chicken. Oh, my goodness; all that yumminess all in one big bowl.

Now you can either top this curry on steamed brown jasmine rice or I choose to make a cauliflower rice and kale mixture that is so much more flavorful. I discovered a treasure in the frozen food department that will make prep time a breeze. Have you ever tried to make your own cauliflower rice. What a mess (at least for me)! All you have to do is add the bag to a frying pan along with any ingredients and spices you like and voila, you have a low carb option for rice that is so yummy! I’m a rice lover but this stuff is so good that I really don’t miss the rice.

 

 

Double the recipe and you’ll have plenty to either add to your freezer for later or portioned meals for the rest of the week. Makes pulling wholesome food right out of the fridge easy when you need it.

Coconut Curry Chicken

Rating 

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Serves: 8

Clean version of a yummy Indian dish!
Ingredients
  • 6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder, divided
  • 1 tablespoon Garam Marsala seasoning
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 14 can Coconut milk (full fat)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 package stevia
  • Cilantro
  • 8 ounces chopped kale
  • 2 sweet salad peppers chopped or sliced
  • 1-12 ounce package frozen cauliflower rice
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Heat ½ tablespoon oil in large frying pan
  2. Coat and season chicken with ½ of curry powder and salt/pepper
  3. Brown chicken until totally cooked and set aside
  4. Heat ½ tablespoon in pan
  5. Add remaining curry powder and Garam Marsala for 1 minute
  6. Add onion and cook until translucent
  7. Add garlic, coconut milk, tomato paste, salt/pepper, and stevia
  8. Whisk until completely combined
  9. Cook 5-6 minutes until sauce thickens
  10. Add chicken and chopped cilantro
  11. Mix together until combined
  12. Lower heat and cook another 15-20 minutes
  13. While curry is stewing, heat ½ tablespoon oil in another large pan
  14. Add kale and salt/pepper
  15. Cook until lightly wilted and set aside
  16. Heat remaining oil in pan and pan fry peppers and cauliflower rice
  17. Add garlic powder to cauliflower and cook 5-6 minutes until softened
  18. Add kale and mix thoroughly
  19. Top the cauliflower and kale mixture with the chicken curry
  20. Serve immediately
Notes
You can use chicken breast in the place of chicken thighs to cut out excess fat plus you can replace the cauliflower with steamed brown rice.

 

 

 

My 5 Favorite Carbs!

My 5 Favorite Carbs!

I am a carb fanatic! I can’t get enough of pastas, rice, and bread however these items don’t do my body any good. All those processed carbs go straight to my belly making me feel bloated and uncomfortable. Sound familiar? Well just wanted to share with you my favorite carbohydrates I love to eat that are cleaner and my body can process easier.

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1. Fresh Berries:

Berries are the perfect snack/sweet treat to feed your body. I love to mix strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries together. They may be little in size but they are packed full of antioxidants which can help your body fight against heart disease and cancer. These berries are rich in fiber which in turn help you feel fuller too. I usually recommend waiting to wash the berries unless you know you will be eating them the next couple of days.

Baked spicy sweet potato

2. Starchy Sweet Potatoes:

Sweet Potatoes make such a great substitute to white potatoes. I never appreciated a sweet potato until I became an adult and now I can’t get enough of them. They are low on the glycemic index which means your body processes these carbs slowly in order to not cause a sugar crash. They are also high in beta carotene which is great for the eyes. My favorite way to serve sweet potatoes is by cubing them into bite size pieces, coating them with a little bit of olive oil, seasoning them with cinnamon, and baking in the oven until tender. Yummy!

Perfect tool to use for salads

3. Delicious Squash:

Squash is probably one of the most versatile vegetables that you will come across. There’s so many different varieties that I just love and I can prepare in so many different ways. Plus, the health benefits are amazing. They have the ability to improve the quality of your sight, boost skin health, strengthen your immune system, prevent cancer, manage diabetes, build strong bones, protect your heat, and reduce blood pressure. I love zucchini and yellow squash in any stir fry, I’ll even spiralize a zucchini to replace my noodles for spaghetti, I treat butternut squash about the same as a sweet potato, and spaghetti squash is one of my new faves. I’ll bake it, scoop out the squash, and use as noodles. Pumpkins are also considered a squash and love to use pumpkin puree for waffles. So good!

Large flake whole oatmeal with blueberries and brown sugar on white china makes a healthy breakfast

4. Comforting Oatmeal:

Oatmeal is one of my “go to” easy breakfast dishes. When I’m in a hurry I’ll take 1/2 a cup of old fashioned oatmeal to 1 cup of water, place in a bowl and microwave on high for 3 minutes (stirring frequently). Then I add sweetner, blue berries, and a little bit of almond milk. So comforting and delicious! My daughter enjoys oatmeal also (as long as I add the blueberries to her bowl). Oatmeal is a carb and protein-rich source that provides calories and energy. It is also low on the glycemic index which means it will stick with you longer because your body will process it slower. It is rich in soluble fiber which can help you feel fuller which in turn can help you lose weight. Plus because it’s rich in whole oat sources it’s been linked to good heart health.

Prepared whole wheat quinoa in a white bowl. Macro with copy space.

5. Light and Fluffy Quinoa:

Quinoa is one of my new favorites that I have replaced in some rice dishes. It is such an interesting dish and very high in health benefits. Quinoa is gluten-free and high in protein. It’s also high in fiber, calcium, and potassium. It’s actually considered a grain that is grown from a seeds. It’s so easy to prepare also. You take 1 cup of uncooked quinoa to 2 cups of liquid. I like to use low sodium chicken stock. It adds more flavor. Bring liquid to a boil and add the quinoa. Reduce heat to low and cover for 15-20 minutes until liquid is absorbed. I like to add low sodium soy sauce to the cooked quinoa and chopped green onions to add more flavor. You can spice it up any way you desire. Really yummy with salmon or tilapia.

So these are my favorite carbs that I like to add to my dishes. Rice and potatoes get boring after a while so venture out and try a different carb to substitute to bring some life to your meals. Your body will thank you!

Salt: what is too much?

Salt: what is too much?

Believe me, as a mom who loves to be in the kitchen cooking yummy food, I love seasoning my meals with salt because it enhances the flavor of food. However, too much of a good thing can be devastating to your health.

The American Heart Association recommends that people should aim to eat no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. Did you know that on average, Americans eat more than 3400 milligrams of sodium each day? Way too much! More than 75 percent of sodium that Americans eat doesn’t come from a salt shaker, it comes from processed foods and restaurant foods.

High levels of sodium can cause the body to not function properly. Kidneys, bones, heart, skin, and even the stomach are affected. Click here to see how salt/sodium can affect these areas in your body.

Traditional glass salt cellar and spilled salt on a wood background

There are times when I know that I’ve taken in too much salt and sometimes it’s necessary to flush that excessive sodium out of my body. Here are some signals that my body gives me:

  • I’m Sluggish
  • I’m Dehydrated
  • I’m Swollen/bloated

pouring water into glass from a bottle, on blue background

So what can you do to lower your salt intake to create a more balanced and healthy eating lifestyle?

  • Drink more water! Water helps to flush these toxins out of your body plus helps to keep your body hydrated. Make sure you are drinking at least a gallon of water everyday.
  • Eat whole and fresh food! Stay away from prepackaged and processed foods as much as possible. They are loaded with sodium in order to keep them preserved.
  • Cook your own meals! Reduce the amount of times when you go out to eat. This helps me so much because you can control what goes into your meals but you’re at the mercy of the restaurant when you go out to eat even if you are specific with your requests.

Salt is not the enemy here. We all need a small amount of sodium in our bodies and it’s pretty much EVERYWHERE! Just be aware of how much sodium you are consuming; it’s very eye opening!

 

 

Homestyle, Chopped Steak

Homestyle, Chopped Steak

As a child, I remember when my parents would want to celebrate. They would go to the store and grab a steak for the grill. However, it was costly to get a steak for the entire family back then so they would grab me a hamburger steak. You may say, well that’s not fair. Honestly, I loved eating hamburger steaks; what child doesn’t love a good hamburger?

I really enjoy recreating meals/dishes that I ate as a kid because it brings back so many memories and these dishes are pure comfort food to me. My kiddos also love a good hamburger steak every once in a while and that just makes me smile!

hamburger on the grill

With this chopped steak I transformed the plain hamburger steak I remembered as a child, to be more adult friendly. The lean ground meat is seasoned and grilled to perfection, topped with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions for layers of flavor plus it’s easy on the waistline. Yummy! You won’t feel guilty eating this delicious comfort food.

sauteed mushroomscaramalized onions

Since I’m not the biggest fan of raw onions, I just love sauteed, caramelized onions.  Check out my tips for getting the right consistency for sauteed onions without burning them and without using loads of butter:

  • Thinly slice two large sweet onions
  • Heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a pan over medium high heat
  • Add onions to pan and coat them with heated olive oil
  • Season onions with sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • Lower heat to medium low/low heat
  • Sautee onions for 30 minutes until tender and brown (be sure to consistently stir onions so they don’t stick and burn)
  • You do have to “baby” the onions to get them nice and caramelized

This will become a family favorite and so easy to make. Hope you enjoy!

Homestyle, Chopped Steak

Rating 

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Serves: 4

Easy dinner that is the perfect comfort meal!
Ingredients
  • 1.5 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Pinch of Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 8 oz package of sliced portabello mushrooms
  • Pinch of Salt and Pepper for taste
  • 1 tsp dried parsley flakes
  • 2 onions sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat gas grill till it reaches 400 degrees
  2. Place ground beef in large bowl and add onion powder. Mix together well
  3. Form beef into 4 patties
  4. Salt and pepper patties on both sides
  5. Grill patties for 6-7 minutes on both sides until slightly pink on inside
  6. Let meat rest while you cook the vegetables
  7. Heat ½ of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat
  8. Add mushrooms and salt/pepper
  9. Saute until mushrooms have softened and remove onto a plate
  10. Add remaining olive oil and heat over medium-high heat
  11. Add onions with salt and pepper
  12. Sautee onions for 2-3 minutes, lower heat to low
  13. Continue to saute and stir frequently until golden brown and caramelized
  14. Plate the grilled burger and top with mushrooms and onions
  15. Serve with favorite vegetables to complete the meal.

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Chicken Taco Salad in a Jar

Chicken Taco Salad in a Jar

I’ve always struggled prepping salads. With all the chopping, cutting, and slicing, it just takes such a long time to prepare the veggies. Even though it’s a simple dish it can become complicated in reality and on top of that, the veggies and lettuce end up not lasting as long as I would want. So when I go to grab and assemble the salad, the lettuce is browned around the edges and just not quite appetizing. Has that happened to you? Frustrating right?

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I was up late one night after the kiddos were in the bed and came across a post (I don’t even remember the blog) that showed salads assembled in a mason jar. At first glance, I was like “what in the world?” I really wish I could take credit for  this ingenious idea but I have become a believer! Assembling a salad in a mason jar is not only the perfect container to carry a salad to work but the jar also helps to keep the veggies and lettuce fresh for “get this” up to 5 days! Yep, it’s true; 5 whole days. Yay!

ChickenTacoSalad-4781

Now I’m in love with chopped salads because I can take the time to prepare and assemble them then place the salads in my fridge, pull them out for lunch, and enjoy them all week long. Plus the best part, they are so pretty to look at and that helps me to look forward to and know that I’m going to be eating a yummy lunch!

ChickenTacoSalad-4783

Here’s the way to assemble a salad in a jar in order to maintain proper freshness:

  • Open the mason jar
  • Pour 2 tablespoons salad dressing
  • Place 4 ounces protein on top of dressing
  • Top with cheese (optional)
  • Place any corn or beans
  • Top with chopped tomatoes, onions, or cucumbers
  • Lastly, a cup of chopped lettuce (your choice)
  • Fold a dry paper towel on top of lettuce and close jar with lid
  • Put in refrigerator up to 5 days

When you are ready to eat your salad, just open the jar and dump all ingredients into a large bowl to enjoy!

Chicken Taco Salad in a Jar

Rating 

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Total time: 

Serves: 4

I love these salads in a jar to carry for lunch at work!
Ingredients
  • 4-1.5 pint jars
  • 8 tablespoons avocado-cilantro lime dressing (recipe attached)
  • 16 ounces of shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 4 ounces shredded sharp cheese
  • 4 tablespoons sweet corn
  • 4 tablespoons black beans (washed)
  • ½ Seedless English cucumber chopped
  • 1-pint grape tomatoes halved
  • 4 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 4 paper towels
Instructions
  1. Assembly for 1 jar in order:
  2. Pour 2 tablespoons dressing on bottom of jar
  3. ounces chicken on top
  4. -ounce cheese
  5. tablespoon corn
  6. tablespoon black beans
  7. /4 tomatoes
  8. /4 chopped cucumber
  9. cup chopped romaine lettuce
  10. Top with folded paper towel
  11. Close lid and refrigerator for up to 5 days
Notes
Avocado-Cilantro Lime Dressing: 10 ounces plainGreek yogurt, 1 medium avocado peeled and cored, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 2 teaspoons chives, 2 teaspoons cilantro, ½ teaspoon onion powder, Salt and pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons one percent milk, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add all ingredients to a blender and pulse until well blended. Add more milk for thinner consistency.

 

 

 

 

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