Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Using up Leftovers

Tonight's dinner was another quick one! We had to do a big grocery shopping trip this evening since we were away the last two weekends, and by the time we got home we were starving. I still had some sea bass left in the fridge, so we decided to finish it off by making California-style grilled fish sandwiches.

When I cooked the fish for last night's dinner I realized the fillet was way too big for one meal, so I cut it in half before adding the coconut and breadcrumbs for the fish tacos. Tonight we just popped the other half of the fish in the toaster oven to warm it up while we prepped the fixings.

While at the grocery store, I nabbed some delicious-looking whole wheat ciabatta rolls from the bakery. They were huge, so we decided to just split one tonight and save the other one for some shrimp po' boy sandwiches I have planned for later in the week. After toasting the roll (a must!), we topped our fish sandwiches with a bit of olive oil mayo, sliced tomato, yellow onion and half an avocado. Such a simple but good dinner, and full of protein and good fats.

And now, it's time for birthday cake Oreos! I've been seeing these in the store for a few weeks now, but after reading about them on How Sweet It Is and Bake at 350 today, a craving started that I just couldn't shake. I literally stood in front of the Oreo display at the grocery store today for about 5 minutes debating whether I should get them. I finally gave in and threw them in the cart. We try to limit the junk food in our house, but hey, sometimes you just need an Oreo!


At Home Workouts

This morning's breakfast was a good one! When we were visiting my family in Vermont a few weeks ago, we made sure to pick up a few of our favorite goodies at the local shops, including some amazing handmade whole grain bread at The Red Hen Bakery and some freshly ground cashew butter at the Hunger Mountin Co-Op - my favorite healthfood store of all time. They came together for a quick morning meal today.

I toasted one slice of the grain bread and topped half with cashew butter and the other half with some homemade organic blueberry jam I made last summer. We're on the last jar of blueberry jam :(, so I'm planning to do some canning this weekend. I'm thinking some homemade orange marmalade may be in order?

On the side I had a glass of skim milk for some extra protein, as well as a cup of Green Mountain coffee. My fav! My mom actually picked up a bag of eggnog flavored coffee for us at the Green Mountain outlet when I was home, so I tried that for the first time this morning; even though it's a holiday flavor, I'm still in winter mode and I thought it might be good on this dreary morning. Unfortunately, it wasn't that great. It was a little too spicy and eggnog-y for my liking. I managed to drink the whole cup since I was too lazy to brew another batch, but I don't think it'll be making another appearance any time soon.

After breakfast and some playtime with Riker and the pup, I put Riker down for a nap and got started on my workout. Since it's raining this morning, I stuck with an indoors exercise routine. I started with a quick whole body workout I found on Pinterest to get my heart rate going. There was no "Wednesday" routine, so I did Tuesday's instead:

Note: I actually had never heard of Russian Twists (I've done the exercise a million times, just never heard it called that), so I looked it up on YouTube. Here's a great video explaining how to do them properly if you're interested: Turns out my technique was a little off and I needed a tutorial!

After that, I completed an upper body workout that I based on a P90X shoulders & arms routine I love. I changed up some of the exercises and did two rounds of each move. I used to be able to do all these exercises with 10 or 15 pounds, but I had to reduce a lot of my weights when I was pregnant with Riker (carrying an extra 20 pounds during the third trimester really got my heart rate going even with small weights), so I'm still working on building up my strength. I thus did each move with only 5 pound weights, except the triceps - I still have strength in those muscles, so I was able to use 10 pounds.

I put my gym membership on hold and am doing all my workouts at home right now since I have Riker with me. I'm scraping the barrel for new workouts since they took Exercise TV off cable, so if you have any at-home workouts you'd like to share, I'd love to hear about them!

Coconut Fish Tacos

Another beautiful day in Jersey! It was nearly 60 degrees again yesterday (February, what?), so rather than staying indoors for my workout, I loaded up Riker into his jogging stroller and set out on a little jog through the neighborhoods. I streamed some Pandora tunes through the stroller speakers and before we knew it, 3 miles was done! Pushing Riker while jogging is no joke and I still get some soreness in my abs from delivering him a few months ago, so I'm not able to push myself as hard as I would like; I'm hoping to get my endurance back soon!

When we got home, it was dinnertime. We had an appointment last night to start going over life insurance and other fun things we need to take care of now that we have a baby to look after, so I needed a quickie dinner, and we were in the mood for something summery. Thanks to some prep work the night before, dinner came together in a flash!

A few weeks ago I pinned a recipe for tilapia tacos with kiwi salsa from Jessica at How Sweet It Is, which looked delicious. I had planned to make it on Monday night, but didn't realize I needed to marinate the fish overnight. Since I had already thawed the fish, I made the marinade and threw the fish in the fridge. The marinade called for 1/3 can light coconut milk, so I used the rest of the coconut milk on Monday night to make my yellow coconut curry instead. Love double duty recipes!

I followed Jessica's recipe loosely, but made some of my own tweaks and additions. For one, I used striped bass rather than tilapia. Matt loves fishing and last fall he caught a huge striped bass; we gave a good part of it away and have eaten most of the rest, but we've had one lingering fillet in the freezer for a while now and I've been meaning to use it up. I love this fish. It's thick and meaty, but also has a really nice flaky texture and buttery flavor, so it's perfect for tacos.

I coated the fish with panko breadcrumbs and shredded coconut flakes to give it some more flavor. I highly recommend this step! I also changed up the kiwi salsa a bit and topped the tacos with some shredded cabbage...we are all about crunch on our tacos in this house!

These tacos are also packed with protein (44 grams!) and have lot of fiber as well. I always figured cabbage was mainly water and kiwi just offered antioxidants and nutrients, but when I looked up the nutrition stats before making this I was pleasantly surprised. Who knew kiwi and cabbage had so much of the good stuff?

I ended up only eating one taco, but had an extra serving of the lime coleslaw on the side. That stuff is good! The only thing missing was the margarita ;-)

Coconut Fish Tacos with Kiwi Salsa and Cilantro Lime Coleslaw
Adapted from Jessica's recipe

Serves 2

1/3 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 low carb tortillas (I use Tumaro's Gourmet Low in Carbs tortillas)
9 oz. striped bass (or any flakey white fish)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp. shredded coconut
1 tsp. olive oil
2 small kiwis, diced
1/2 small white onion, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Lime cilantro coleslaw (recipe below)

At least 2 hours before serving, pat fish dry and add to a large ziplock bag. Combine coconut milk, lime zest, salt, pepper and garlic in a bowl, stirring to combine, then pour over the fish, shaking the bag to coat. Let marinate for 2-24 hours.

Combine the kiwi, onion and salt & pepper in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a nonstick pan with some cooking spray over medium heat and add fish. Cook 4-5 minutes per side, until fish is opaque and flakes with a fork (if using a more delicate fish like flounder or tilapia, cooking time will be less). While fish is cooking, combine panko breadcrumbs and coconut in a bowl; once the fish is cooked, remove from heat, cut it into medium-sized chunks or flakes, and add to the bowl. Evenly coat all the fish pieces with the coconut mixture. Put the pan back on medium heat and add the olive oil; once oil is hot, add the fish back to the pan and allow to sear for about 1-2 minutes, until the coconut and breadcrumbs are toasted. Remove from heat as soon as they are browned so the fish doesn't overcook.

Warm the tortillas and then build the tacos by layering lime coleslaw on the bottom, then coconut fish, then kiwi mixture. Top with hot sauce if desired.

Quick Cilantro Lime Coleslaw

Makes approx. 4 cups

1/2 small green cabbage, shredded
3 tbsp. sour cream
1 lime
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl, combine the cabbage, sour cream, juice of one lime and chopped cilantro. Stir to fully mix. Serve over fish tacos.

Nutrition Facts** (Two tacos with 1 cup slaw): 510 calories; 17 grams fat; 55.5 grams carbs; 21 grams fiber; 44 grams protein

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tofu That Will Change Your Mind

We eat curry at least a few times a month. Whether it's mild or spicy, Thai or Indian, at a restaurant or at home, we love it all ways. I really enjoy cooking it at home because you can be creative and change it up based on what you have in your pantry. Sometimes we make green curry, sometimes red, sometimes we top it with peanuts, golden raisins or bean sprouts, and sometimes we serve it over rice noodles instead of rice.

Last night I made us a batch of yellow curry over sushi rice, cauliflower and tofu. Curry usually calls for coriander, but I was all out, so I just threw in curry powder, turmuric, cumin and ginger. I usually prefer to serve the curry over brown basmati rice, or at least regular long-grain brown rice, but over the weekend we had a moth emergency (gross!) and realized we had moth babies making themselves nice and comfortable in our cupboard - this was after a week or so of Matt breathing curse words and grabbing moths out of the air with his bare hands like Mr. Miyagi. Once we realized where they were coming from, we sadly had to throw out all - I mean ALL - of our grains. All of my rices, polenta, grits, buckwheat, oatmeal, barley, wheatberries and bulgar wheat was tossed out. Cereal too. Such a bummer, since many of my grains were gathered during sporadic trips up to Trader Joe's (someone please tell me we are getting a TJ's here soon!). Sushi rice was the only thing salvageable since it was stored in an airtight container. Anyway, this is all to say that you can really make curry with whatever you have around. Although the one I made last night was not traditional, it was deliciously creamy, a bit sweet and had a slight kick, and the sushi rice had a nice chewy texture.

Finally, if you're really not a tofu person, you can always make it with chicken or shrimp. But, before you shy away from the soy stuff, check out the recipe below. I've made a tofu believer out of more than a few omnivores using this recipe - including my husband and sister, who were once avid tofu-haters and now sneak into the kitchen to steal pieces of this from the pan every time I make it. It's the coating of nutritional yeast that makes all the difference...this yellow, flakey powder has a really unique flavor and actually creates a crust on the tofu. No slimy, jiggly tofu here! Tofu is packed with protein but has only a small amount of fat, so it's a great food to add to your rotation; this recipe is very versatile, so once I cook the tofu we use it in stir-frys, over salads, and even in burritos or sandwich wraps. Give it a try!

Nutritional Yeast

This is what the tofu should look like when finished

Ginger Garlic Pan Fried Tofu

Serves 5 (or 2-3 very hungry people)
Serve with stir-frys, salads or burritos/wraps

1 package light firm tofu (I use Nasoya)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. tamari (soy sauce is fine if you don't have tamari)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast (you can find this at any healthfood store, and some grocery stores are carrying it now as well)
Cooking spray or canola oil

Coat a large nonstick pan with cooking spray or canola oil and set on medium heat (the oil makes a nicer crust, but if we're having fat elsewhere in the dinner, I just use cooking spray). Drain the tofu, pat it dry and cut into medium-sized cubes. A serving size is 1/5 a package, so cut it in fifths. Once the pan is hot, add the tofu and sprinkle it with the salt. Do not crowd the pan or the tofu will steam rather than fry. Let it cook for about five minutes, then turn; you know the tofu is ready to turn when it sticks a bit to the pan and has a golden brown color. Continue to cook until most sides are brown, adding more oil or cooking spray as necessary. Once tofu is brown, sprinkle it with the ginger and garlic powder, then toss so it's evenly coated (do this quickly or the garlic will burn). Then pour in the tamari and immediately turn off the heat. The tamari will simmer in the pan; toss the tofu again so it's all fully coated. Then add the yeast and toss again. Serve immediately, or chill to serve over salads.

Nutrition Facts** (no oil): 40 calories; 1.5 grams fat; 1 gram carbs; less than 1 gram fiber; 7 grams protein

Yellow Coconut Curry with Tofu

Serves 2

1/2 cup sushi rice (any rice will do)
2 servings ginger garlic tofu (recipe above)
2 cups cooked cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. yellow curry
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. turmuric
2 dashes crushed red pepper flakes
2/3 cup light coconut milk
1 tsp. shredded coconut flakes

Cook rice according to package directions. While rice is cooking, heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, garlic and salt; saute until golden brown. Add the curry, ginger, cumin, turmuric and red pepper flakes and stir for about 1 minute. Then add coconut milk and stir everything to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer gently for about 15 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes, until tomatoes heat through and start to burst. To serve, split the rice between two bowls; top each rice bowl with half the cauliflower, half the onion/curry mixture and half the tofu. Garnish with coconut flakes.

Nutrition Facts**: 380 calories; 12 grams fat; 59 grams carbs; 3 grams fiber; 12.5 grams protein

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunset Walk

Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining, the air was warm and it was the kind of day you open all your windows, burn linen-scented candles and blast the music while spring cleaning the house. After a day filled with loads of laundry, kitchen-cleaning, making calls and eating quick meals of Kashi with bananas and leftover penne with marinara from last night's dinner, I figured it was time to get out of the house and get some fresh air. I bundled up Riker, grabbed the dog's leash and headed out to meet up with Matt as soon as his school let out. After a quick stop by the inlaws', we went to the park for a leisurely jog and a great view of the sun setting over the cranberry bogs.

Butters loves the park

Now we're home and I'm about to throw together a quick curry for dinner. Recipe to come tomorrow!

Birthday Chicken Parmesan

Yesterday we had Matt's family over for his mom's birthday dinner. Her birthday was actually last week, but this was the first time we were able to get everyone together. His mom's favorite meal is chicken parmesan and we thought that would be a great thing to serve on a Sunday evening, so we decided to create our own version of the traditional Italian dish.

Since I'm a pescatarian and don't eat meat, I made my own mini "chicken" parmesan with a Morningstar Farms chik patty. Super tasty! Other changes included baking the chicken rather than frying it, using part-skim mozzarella cheese, and making our own marinara sauce, both because we think it tastes better than most jar sauces and also so we could control the sugar, salt and oil content. Homemade sauce is so easy to make and really doesn't take that long, so even though we went to the Poconos this weekend, we were still able to whip some up for the Sunday dinner - we just started it first and let it simmer on the stove while we were prepping everything else. We had a lot left over so we froze some to use another time.

A note about tomatoes for the sauce: We've recently become aware of how the food supply chain negatively impacts the environment (for example, shipping tomatoes from Italy to the U.S. consumes a lot of fuel and other forms of energy), so we try to be cognizant of this and choose local foods whenever possible. If we're buying jarred sauce, we try to buy brands that use Jersey tomatoes or that at least make and ship their sauces from New Jersey to minimize the travel distance. When making our own sauce, we try to use homemade canned tomatoes from our garden. Once our own canned tomatoes are gone though, we use Tuttorosso tomatoes; my mom always used them when I was growing up, and we just think they taste better than any other brand - and when you're making something that's basically all tomatoes, it definitely matters!

After some light appetizers, we enjoyed the chicken parm alongside whole string beans tossed with fresh garlic and sea salt, homemade garlic bread and a salad of mixed greens and veggies, gorgonzola cheese and dried cranberries dressed with Ariston balsamic vinegar. We topped it all off with a Baratta family birthday tradition - a Dairy Queen ice cream cake! It was a simple but delicious dinner, and it's always great spending the afternoon with family. :)

Note: We actually don't use recipes for making sauce or chicken parm and just "eyeball" amounts and adjust things as we go. I've done my best to recreate our methods in the recipes below, but feel free to add more or less of the seasonings and things to your own liking.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

Makes approx. 16 cups

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 large cans (32 oz. each) whole peeled tomatoes
1 large can (32 oz.) crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 large carrots, peeled and left whole
1 tsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. oregano
1 bunch fresh basil, torn
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. When warm, add the onions and garlic and allow to sweat for 5-7 minutes until translucent and fragrant (do not brown). Add tomato paste and stir; then add all canned tomatoes and stir mixture to fully combine. Add carrots, bay leaf, oregano and salt and pepper; bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for at least one hour. Then add sugar, crushed red pepper and additional salt and pepper if needed. Let simmer for another hour or so (the longer the better, but two hours will work. If you aren't able to simmer for a long time, you may need to add more sugar since the natural sugars in the tomatoes and carrots will have less time to develop). When the sauce is done, turn off the heat and remove the carrots and bay leaf. Add the basil and stir it through.

Serve immediately, or can or freeze it for up to one year.

Nutrition Facts** (1/2 cup):  39 calories; 1.3 grams fat; 6 grams carbs; 1 gram fiber; less than 1 gram protein

Chicken Parmesan

Serves 6

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 breasts, approx. 5 ounces each)
3 eggs, beaten
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
3 cups marinara sauce
12 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (it's best to use a whole block of cheese and grate it fresh, rather than buying it pre-shredded. It melts better and has more flavor).

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the chicken breasts on a large cutting board and cover with plastic wrap. With a meat mallet or rolling pin, pound the chicken out until it is about a half inch thick. Dip each breast in the eggs and then the bread crumbs; shake off excess crumbs and place chicken on a sheet pan sprayed with cooking spray. Bake the chicken approximately 30 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Remove from oven and increase heat to 400 degrees. Place the cooked chicken in a casserole pan and cover with warm marinara sauce, then top with cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted; then increase the oven temperature to broil and cook for 3 minutes more, until cheese is brown and bubbly (do not leave the chicken unattended at this stage, it can burn quickly).

Nutrition Facts** (1 breast with sauce and cheese): 519 calories; 16 grams fat; 22 grams carbs; 3.5 grams fiber; 55 grams protein

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Poconos Weekend

I love winter. Growing up in Vermont made me really appreciate a brisk snowy day - the crunch of  packed snow under my boots; the serenity of driving on a back road with the sun shining through the trees, hitting the intensely bright white hills; and the cozy feeling you get drinking coffee in your PJ's in a warm house with the snow gently falling outside. We haven't had much of a winter in Jersey this year, but we wanted to make the most of the few weekends we have left before spring is officially here, so Friday afternoon we packed up our gear and headed to the Poconos.

Matt's friends from work have a beautiful rustic cabin near Camelback Mountain, and usually once a year we spend a winter weekend with them and their two little girls. The cabin is super cozy and quiet, and there's no TV, so it forces us to just relax and and enjoy the simple pleasure of chatting over some good beer and card games. I love these weekends and look forward to them every year.

This year we did a little of everything. We had beers and handmade pierogies (very different from what I'm used to - these ones were made with puff pastry and stuffed with creamy potatoes and mozzarella cheese, so good!) at Pocono Brewing Company, did a little shopping at the American Candle Company, which is actually a little indoor village of shops (birthday present for Matt's mom + old fashioned candy for us), played card games at the cabin for a good part of the afternoon, and did some night skiing.

We usually eat out at a local brewpub once while we're there, which is always delicious, but the rest of the time we often make our own meals. Homemade cinnamon rolls, pizza, and rigatoni with garlic bread were on the menu this weekend - comfort food to the max! We made sure to get in some fruits and veggies too and not gorge on carbs and sugar, but we don't worry much about nutrition stats when we're away.

Beer grains cinnamon rolls with coffee stout glaze - we need to work on our rolling skills, but omg the flavor. Recipe coming soon! 

This is my kind of Saturday.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Science Fair + Veggie Quesadillas

Last night we had grand fair at Matt's high school! ;-) Normally I wouldn't attend this annual school event, but Matt's been dying to show off our new little guy to his coworkers, so off we went. It was actually kind of fun to walk around the school library and check out all the projects. Seeing the hallways filled with lockers and those old high school bathrooms really brought me back. Ah, the good old days of Lip Smackers and drinking Zima in the woods!

We had to be leave by 6:00 to make it to science fair on time, and getting out of the house with Riker and all his stuff is quite the process. So, dinner had to be quick. After looking at my dinner list, and looking at it again, and then one more time, we decided nothing sounded appealing. So instead I scrounged around in the fridge and came up with a quick fix - quesadillas!

I needed to bulk up Matt's a bit, so while I was prepping the veggies I cooked a Morningstar Farms spicy black bean burger for him, which I cut up and stuffed inside his quesadilla. I served the 'dillas with some sour cream and salsa verde we had on hand, as well as half an avocado diced up with lemon juice and salt & pepper for some good - and delicious! - fat. I always try to include a healthy fat with dinner, so if we didn't have avocado I would've sauted our veggies in a teaspoon of olive oil. On the side we had a simple salad of arugula with cherry tomatoes.

I try to make all of our dinners healthy (at least the weeknight ones), so these are a lightened up version of a typical quesadilla, but they are still gooey and flavorful. If you get the right brand of tortillas - which usually requires sifting through a bunch of options at the grocery store and reading all the labels - they also have a ton of fiber and protein, so they're filling as well. Quesadillas really don't require a recipe, but here's how I make mine:

Veggie Quesadillas

Serves 2

4 low carb 8 inch tortillas (I use Tumaro's Gourmet Low in Carbs Tortillas)
1/2 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 green pepper, sliced thin
2 The Laughing Cow Light cheese wedges, original or chipotle queso flavor
2 ounces extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cumin
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Saute the onions and peppers with some salt and cooking spray over medium-low heat until tender and caramelized (note: If not including avocado or another healthy fat with the quesadillas, I use a teaspoon of olive oil per person to cook the veggies). Once they begin to brown, add garlic powder, cumin and cayenne pepper and cook a bit more. For each quesadilla, spread one Laughing Cow cheese over a tortilla, top with half the veggies and half the cheddar cheese, then top with remaining tortillas and cook on the stovetop until golden brown on both sides.

Nutrition Facts** (one serving): 265 calories; 14.5 grams fat; 25 grams carbs; 21 grams protein; 14 grams fiber

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quick Lunch

When I'm home during the day, I prefer to cook something for lunch rather than heat up a can of soup or something else boring that I would normally bring to work with me. When I'm home alone with Riker, though, it's sometimes tough to find time to whip up a good lunch. Couscous veggie bowls are the ticket!

Sometimes on a Sunday evening, I'll cook a batch of couscous to use during the week. It's healthy and super fast to make - just boil water, add the couscous and seasonings, shut off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes. Most couscous recipes call for butter or olive oil, which makes it silkier and a little more fluffy, but I really don't think it's necessary so I never add it unless we're serving it for guests. I do, however, often add Laughing Cow cheese...35 calories, creamy and delicious. I love these things and put them in pretty much everything.

Here's a simple recipe for a quick couscous bowl. You could subsitute pasta or orzo if you don't like couscous, and you can of course change up the veggies based on what you have lying around. This is a good way to use up leftovers in the fridge. I usually have some chopped up vegetables in the fridge, but I've made this with frozen veggies as well - just throw them in the microwave for a few minutes instead of sautéing them in a pan.

It doesn't look pretty, but it's tasty!

Pin It

Quick Couscous Veggie Bowl

Serves 1

1 cup cooked couscous
1 cup red pepper slices
1/2 cup baby carrots, julienned
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 wedge The Laughing Cow Light cheese, original flavor
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. garlic
Splash lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray

Heat a small saucepan on medium heat, spray with cooking spray and add red peppers and baby carrots. Reduce heat to medium low, add a few pinches of salt and let cook until veggies have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir often to avoid burning. Add the cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic and cook about 1 minute more. Add a splash of lemon juice and stir. Add couscous and cheese; use the back of a spoon to break up and melt the cheese. Once the cheese has melted, stir everything together and serve!

Nutrition Facts**: 225 calories; 3.5 grams fat; 38 grams carbs; 3 grams fiber; 9 grams protein; plus 2 servings of vegetables.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Healthy Southern Dinner

Today was a beautiful day, so we decided to take advantage of the 60 degree weather by packing up the dog and the baby and heading up to Allaire State Park for a bike ride (Matt) / jog (me). When we got home, we were in the mood for something hearty, but not heavy, for dinner. After a quick scan of my weekly meals list, we decided on shrimp and grits!

This meal hit the spot. The grits were creamy and cheesy and the shrimp were juicy with just a little kick. I dug through my freezer for a veggie to have on the side, and came up with a bag of frozen collard greens we'd forgotten about. I figured it'd be a perfect complement to this healthified Southern meal, so I cooked them simply by boiling over medium heat with a little water, and finishing them with a bit of olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

The best part about this meal is that the whole thing was on the table in about a half hour. Can't beat that on a weeknight!

Healthy Shrimp and Grits

Serves 2

Ingredients - Grits
2 cups water
1/2 cup yellow grits (not quick grits)
1 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1 tbsp. parmesan cheese
Splash of fat free milk
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Ingredients - Shrimp
6 ounces shrimp (I used 31/34 count)
Sea salt
Cajun seasoning (if you don't have Cajun seasoning, you can substitute garlic powder and cayenne pepper)
1 tsp. parsley
Cooking spray

In a small saucepan, bring the water for the grits to a boil. Once the water is boiling, slowly pour in the grits, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the grits have thickened. Add the cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese and a splash of milk; stir until the cheeses have melted. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the grits are cooking, heat a skillet over medium heat and spray with nonfat cooking spray. While the pan is warming up, peel the shrimp and pat dry on a paper towel. Sprinkle with sea salt and season liberally with the Cajun seasoning. Add to the hot pan and cook about 2 minutes on each side, or until the shrimp are opaque and slightly pink. 

Pour the cooked grits into bowls and top with the cooked shrimp. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Note: I actually doubled the amount of shrimp for Matt's serving, since 3 ounces of protein doesn't cut it for someone his size. Feel free to adjust the amount of shrimp as needed!

Nutrition Facts** (One Serving): 293 calories; 6.75 grams fat; 25.5 grams protein; 33 grams carbs; 1 gram fiber

**I am not a registered nutritionist. Nutritional facts are based on my own calculations and may not be completely accurate.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine's Dinner

**Rather than deleting this intro by Matt, I'm going to leave it up as the first post - thanks, Matt for starting my blogging journey!** Today Matt and I are going to our local favorite semi-fancy, semi-casual, all delicious Italian restaurant to celebrate our 11th Valentine's Dinner together. This is where Matt will hand over the keys to this blog so I can erase all the crap he wrote and begin my blogging journey. We are bringing a bottle of bubbly and I will surely post pictures of the AMAZING deserts minimum.