As a part of my Un-Fancy Recipe series, I talked about baking protein for a main course. The basic recipe involves a package of boneless and skinless chicken thighs, your oven preheated to 375F, and a pyrex dish. You place the chicken in the dish and cover with whatever “toppings” you want to use to make it flavorful. Then bake uncovered for 35 minutes and voila! Delicious chicken!
Here are some of our family favorites for “toppings” for the chicken
Artichoke chicken: Cover with a jar of marinated artichokes. You can actually dump the entire jar on the chicken, liquid and all
Greek Chicken: Cover with a jar of pitted Kalamata olives. You can dump the entire jar over the chicken as well, but if there is a lot of liquid, you may want to drain a bit of that first
Curry Chicken: Drizzle chicken with about 2 TBSP of avocado oil. Sprinkle 2 TBSP of curry powder over the chicken. You can use your hands to make sure the spice and oil evenly coats the chicken.
Summer Herb Chicken: Drizzle chicken with about 2 TBSP of Olive Oil. Sprinkle 3 TBSP of an herb blend over the chicken (we like Herbs de Provence, Sunny Paris Seasoning, and Fines Herbes)
Italian Chicken: Cover chicken with some Italian Seasoning (Past Sprinkle Seasoning). Add a half jar of marinara sauce over the chicken.
Pesto Chicken: Cover with a jar of pesto sauce.
You can also make some great baked chicken options using chicken breasts in much the same way as you do with the chicken thighs. When using chicken breasts, I like to cut them in half first so they are not as thick. This ensures they will cook correctly in the 35 minute timeframe.
Roasting veggies is definitely a family favorite and can be the key to learning to like a LOT of vegetables that you thought you hated. Often when we were kids, we may have been served veggies that were boiled, steamed, or overcooked. They don’t take great that way! So we go through life thinking we hate zucchini when really, we hated how it was prepared. Learning to roast veggies could be the game changer your family needs to start eating more of these nutritional powerhouses.
The hardest part about roasting veggies is getting them cut into pieces that are the “right” size for roasting. You want to make sure that your veggies are cut into bite sized pieces. This helps them to cook faster and makes them easier to serve. Some vegetables are generally easy and quick to chop up (like zucchini and summer squash), some are easy but not as quick (like brussels sprouts and carrots), and others can be more challenging (like sweet potatoes and inter squashes). There are a couple of ways to approach this: if you have time to pre-cut your veggies on a day off definitely do that (they will keep for 5 days in the fridge) OR go ahead and buy the pre-cut veggies from the store.
Another great option for roasting veggies is to get frozen veggies. Yes, FROZEN. A lot of people shy away from frozen vegetables thinking that what is in the “fresh produce” section is better for you, but this is not necessarily the truth. Frozen vegetables are picked when they are ripe and frozen right away, which preserves their nutrient content. A lot of the time, the fresh produce in your store was picked when it was still green and ripened using gas on the shipping trucks/vessels on it’s way to the store. This means it can have fewer nutrients than the frozen veggies! (This is particularly true if you life in the icy north in the winter time.)
The general veggie roasting recipe is as follows: Preheat the oven to 400F. Place 2 lbs of chopped veggies into a large bowl (if using frozen veggies, you can put them in the bowl still frozen). Toss the veggies with oil (we like light olive oil for this, but also use avocado oil and extra virgin olive oil sometimes as well). Spread the veggies out of a cookie sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper or a spice blend of your choice. Place in the oven until they begin to brown slightly.
TADA! That’s it. I made a chart below with some suggested cooking times for different types of veggies. Additionally, if you are cooking a chicken recipe with the veggies at the same time, it’s ok to cook them at 375F (it just takes a little longer).
These chicken enchiladas are probably the all-time favorite in our house. They even win out over my healthy chicken tacos. They are relatively easy to make, but hand rolling the enchiladas is a little time consuming. Because of that, I will often make a very large batch of these on the weekend and freeze 2 or 3 sets for easy weeknight dinners down the road.
The key to great enchiladas is using good quality corn tortillas AND being able to roll them tightly without the tortilla ripping. Many recipes use flour tortillas instead because they are easier to roll. However, if you heat the corn tortilla correctly, it rolls just as easily as the flour ones and tastes SO MUCH BETTER.
24 oz of red enchilada sauce (it’s ok to buy a can that you like, or you can make your own)
Preheat the oven to 350F. In a large skillet, heat the avocado oil. Add the shredded chicken and the green chiles to the pan and mix until heated through. Add in the taco seasoning and lime juice and mix again until everything is evenly coated. Add in half of the enchilada sauce. Allow the mixture to simmer until most of the liquid is reduced. Remove from the heat.
Take a small pan (egg pan, non-stick works great) and heat it to about 350F on the stove top (Medium to Medium Low heat). Place one corn tortilla in the pan and sprinkle it with a little cheese. When the cheese starts to melt, add 2-3 tbsp of the chicken mixture in a line across the tortilla. Slide the tortilla onto a plate and roll it up. Place the rolled tortilla into an oven safe dish with the seam side down. Repeat this for the remainder of the tortillas.
When all 12 tortillas are rolled, pour the enchilada sauce over the top of each tortilla. sprinkle the tops of the enchiladas with cheese. Bake them at 350F uncovered for 20 minutes. Enjoy!
It’s no secret that breakfast can be a struggle with new moms. (Heck, its a struggle for MOST people.) In pregnancy, you may be dealing with morning sickness. When the baby is finally here, you may be so sleep deprived that you can’t remember if you ate or not. You only have one hand to make something with anyway, since the other arm is home to a new (and totally adorable) little resident. So maybe you grab something prepackaged to eat with one had (pop tarts anyone?) or maybe you get a few sips of (now cold) coffee down.
Once the baby turns into a little human, aka toddler, you’re trying to keep them from dumping out the cat food while rushing around getting yourself ready and packing their bag. Or maybe you’re making them whatever they loved yesterday, only to watch it end up on the floor because clearly they wanted the thing they hated yesterday instead. ::cue tantrum::
Although we “know” that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (because they keep saying it, right?) all of the stress in a busy morning combined with not enough sleep (there will come a day when night waking is in the past, but today is not that day) causes us to either skip it entirely or rely on whatever we can grab from the pantry (hello GoGurt and cookies) or the drive through (come to me you beautiful venti caramel macchiato). Breakfast for a new mom is often an afterthought. And by letting it stay this way, we are setting ourselves up for a day of hunger, cravings, mood swings, and the like thanks to imbalanced blood sugar.
The thing is, you don’t have to go from eating a stale doughnut from the break room at work on the regular to organic, pasture raised egg frittatas with a side of heritage pork sausage (nitrate free, of course) over night. There are plenty of small and sustainable changes you can make wherever you are along the spectrum to make breakfast a better meal for you overall. Once you’ve mastered one change (swap out that doughnut for a greek yogurt), you move on to the next step (swap the yogurt for eggs). Through step wise implementation like this, you will be able to make long and lasting changes.
Even with a minor swap, you can begin to feel the benefits of a good breakfast right away. Getting great nutrients into your body for your first meal sets up your body chemistry to either support you or fight against you for the remainder of the day. Solid nutritional breakfasts can help you control cravings all day long, prevent that 2pm slump, and even help you get to sleep better at bedtime. With that in mind, here are the top 3 things to be working towards for a great breakfast:
Make sure there is a balance of protein and fat in the meal
If you are going to be reducing sugar in any place in your life, breakfast is the place where you will get the most “bang for your buck” When you have a lot of sugar at breakfast, you start the day off pumping a ton of insulin into your body to metabolize all the sugar you just ate. This creates a chain reaction where you have blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day. This also stops you from burning any stored fat for energy and can mess with the hormones that tell you if you are hungry or full.
Here are examples of typical grab-and-go items that are often used for breakfast that have a ton of extra sugar in them: nonfat flavored yogurt, granola, granola bars, cereal with nonfat milk, instant oatmeal packets (flavored), premade meal replacement drinks (think carnation instant breakfast or slim fast), a special k bar or similar, etc.
Do not feel bad if these are your staples! But do try one or two of the healthier options on this list: full fat greek yogurt (vanilla if you need a flavor), plain full fat yogurt (better choice than flavored, add frozen berries), plain instant oatmeal (again add berries), Kind bars (the ones that are 5g of sugar or less per bar), a protein shake, a green smoothie, hard boiled eggs, and/or a piece of whole fruit.
Once you have swapped to the healthier items above or if you are ready to take your breakfast nutrition even further try some of my favorite #momlife breakfasts listed below. These all meet my personal breakfast criteria: they can be made in advance in a batch for the week or can be made in less than 5 minutes (including dish cleanup), they can be eaten with one hand, they are a great balance of nutritionally dense food and will keep you full, they taste amazing, and they have no added sugar.
So go ahead and try some (or one) or these for a week (or day). Pay attention to how you feel after a few days. Do you have fewer cravings? Are you full for longer? Do you have more energy? If you experiment let me know how it goes!
*to make the Paleo Protien Pancakes, we use this pancake mix and add one scoop of this protein powder. You get 10g of protien per pancake, and they are delicious! I like to make a large batch on Sundays so I can give the kids 2 cakes (no syrup) during the week for an easy breakfast for all of us.
This recipe is absolutely perfect for the end of the week during the summertime. It’s a light, refreshing meal so it goes over great on those extra hot summer days. It’s also an amazing way to use up leftover veggies from earlier in the week. I love this recipe because it packs a good amount of veggies into it without having to cook a ton of different things.
The recipe calls for 6-8 cups of chopped veggies. You can split these up in whatever way you prefer (and use whatever you have on hand). This allows you to throw together a healthy dinner without any additional trips out for special ingredients. I like to choose several different colors for the veggies, so the salad looks as great as it tastes.
Here is a list of the various veggies we have used: artichoke hearts, asparagus, baby spinach, bell peppers (raw or grilled, any color), broccoli (blanched), carrots (blanched or cooked), celery, cucumber, egg plant, fennel, jicama, olives, onion, grape or cherry tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, summer squash, zucchini. You can use any kind of veggie that is a family favorite as well!
1 16oz bag of pasta (we like roti best, because the dressing and spices stick well to it)
6-8 cups of diced vegetables (the more variety the better!)
Chop any vegetables that need to be diced and set aside. Juice and zest the lemon. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. When the pasta is cooked, drain using a calendar and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. (Pro tip: if you have any hard raw veggies that need to be blanched like broccoli, carrots, or cauliflower you can place them in a bowl and pour the boiling pasta water over them to do the job while you are rinsing the pasta).
In a large bowl, whisk the avocado oil mayonnaise and the apple cider vinegar together. When the mixture is smooth, add in the avocado oil and lemon juice and blend thoroughly. Add the Herbs de Provence, pepper, and salt and whisk the dressing until everything is well blended.
Add the shredded chicken to the bowl with the dressing and stir until the chicken is well coated. Add the pasta to the bowl and stir until the chicken is evenly distributed and the large chunks are broken up. Mix in the veggies. Add the lemon zest over the top and enjoy!