Healthy meal prepping – Tilapia style!

Meal prepping is all the talk now because it helps you succeed in making healthy choices. So, get yourself a large pack of Tilapia and a bunch of veggies, and you’ll be set for the week. Here’s how I did it:

Ingredients:

  • 10-12 pieces of Tilapia – a large package sold at the large discount stores works well
  • 6 Roma tomatoes, cut in half
  • 12 -15 or so spears of asparagus, trimmed to remove the thick bottom half
  • 10 – 15 Brussels sprouts, halved and with outer layer peeled off
  • 1 small onion, cut into 6-8 wedges
  • 20 – 25 baby carrots
  • 1 head of broccoli, trimmed into florets
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sprinkling of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to your liking

To make the fish:

  • Lay out the fish on two large dinner plates, so they don’t overlap
  • Sprinkle the top lightly with cayenne pepper and black pepper
  • Add a little salt if you like, but I leave it out

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  • Preheat 2 large skillets at medium-high (7 out of 10) for about a minute
  • Split 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, putting about 1/2 Tbsp in each hot skillet
  • Let warm for another minute

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  • Tilt the pan around a bit to get the olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan as completely as possible
  • Place the Tilapia, seasoned side down, filling each pan
    • Note – Don’t crowd the fish in the pan. I put 3 – 4 pieces in each pan, depending on size. I saved some fish for a second round of cooking. Don’t worry, it cooks fast!
  • Let cook for 3 minutes on the first side
    • Note, if you have a very small, thin piece, use your good judgement. It may need to cook less than the thicker pieces.

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  • Flip each piece of fish. Be careful to get the full piece of fish under your spatula. Tilapia is very flaky and will break apart when turning if you’re not careful. Don’t worry if it breaks though, it’s still delicious!

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  • Turn down the stove to about a 6 out of 10.
  • Cook on the second side for two minutes.
  • Remove from pan.
    • Note: If you need to cook an extra round of fish, add some more olive oil to one pan and repeat the process above, only cooking for two minutes on the first side this time around – your pan is REALLY hot at this point, and your fish will cook quicker!
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For the veggies:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  • Place all veggies on a large cookie sheet
  • Pour 1 – 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil over the top of the veggies
  • Sprinkle with a very healthy dose of fresh-ground black pepper
  • Sprinkle with salt if you’d like, but I leave it out

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  • Bake for 25 minutes, then remove from oven

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Store leftovers in the fridge and serve for dinner a couple of nights, or split into several containers for lunches throughout the week. Pair with healthy side choices, such as rice (I like the 90-second microwavable kind), fruits and veggies for a healthy-choice lunch!

Lettuce-wrapped leftovers

A healthy way to serve leftovers – yes please! These lettuce wraps are the perfect solution to getting rid of those leftovers that you don’t want to throw away, but aren’t enough to make a meal of… And, I bought the perfectly-trimmed and washed lettuce right from the grocery store. You can’t miss ’em – they call them “Lettuce Wraps.” You’ll want a leafier, less-rigid lettuce – romaine isn’t ideal for wrapping.

I used some leftover Tilapia and some leftover chicken thighs for these. I just cut both up into bite-size pieces and heated them up a little. I also cut carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, and onions into matchstick-size pieces. That’s what I used, because that’s what I had on hand, but you can build your wraps with whatever you have in the fridge. Leftover steak, tuna fish, or rotisserie chicken would also be really good!

To add tons of flavor, I also created a salsa with some leftover corn, about half a jalapeno, a handful of grape tomatoes, finely diced dill pickle, and a little fresh parsley – yep, all leftovers! A spicy sauce to top it off was yummy – mix these together:

  • 2 Tbsp of store-bought sesame-garlic sauce
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 Tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar

I put all of the components on a pretty platter and sat at the kitchen island with my hubby while we ate with our hands – perfection!

 

Low-fat cheese… I knew better

Today, I tried a low-cal recipe for mac and cheese with veggies. I have to admit, it was not a home run. It was more like a foul ball. But, with a few tweaks, I think it could be good. Here’s the story…

I modified the recipe from one I found when searching Pinterest. I added more veggies, and also non-fat plain Greek yogurt for creaminess – both of which I liked.

What would I change next time? I’d stay completely away from low-fat cheese, I’d use more cheese, I’d add kale, and I’d trade the gluten-free pasta for the protein-packed kind. Those changes alone could take this dish to a very good place.

Next time, I’ll use these ingredients:

  • 3 cups uncooked high-protein pasta (my recipe called for gluten-free pasta)
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 orange pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup baby portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 very large handful of kale, tough ribs removed, then cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 individual-serving size tub of non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups skim milk
  • 3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese – 2 cups in the mix, and one cup on top to get bubbly and crispy (my recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of low-fat grated colby jack – 1 cup in the dish and 1/2 cup on top)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

And here are the steps:

  • Cook the pasta til al dente (remember, you’re also going to bake it!)
  • While the pasta cooks:
    • Heat a large skillet on medium-high (7 out of 10) for about a minute
    • Add 1 tsp olive oil to the skillet and let heat for about a minute more
    • Add chopped peppers and onion, and cook for about 2 minutes
    • Add the chopped mushrooms and corn, and cook for 3 minutes more
    • Add the kale and cook about a minute longer (the kale should be bright green and softened a little)

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Wouldn’t kale have looked pretty and added some healthy leafy greens?

  • Remove from heat, pour veggies in a large bowl, then add milk, yogurt, 2 cups shredded cheese, and black pepper
  • Add the cooked pasta to the bowl, then mix everything together
  • Put into a 9X12 baking dish, and add the remaining cup of shredded cheese to the top
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown and bubbly (use the broiler for a minute or two if needed to get a good crisp on top)

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This definitely needed more cheese on top!

Enjoy!

Mini vegetable pot pies…

For when you have a single pie crust, leftover roasted veggies, cream of something soup, and coffee creamer!

Nope, I’m not kidding… I accidentally opened a pre-made pie crust thinking it was crescent rolls the other night. So, I needed to use it up before it dried out. All day, I was concocting this one in my head.

I knew I had some kind of cream soup, some leftover veggies from the other night, and non-fat coffee creamer (which I often use in recipes in place of milk, which I never have in the fridge).

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A single pre-made pie crust at room temperature (or homemade for you overachievers)
  • One can of cream of mushroom (or celery, or chicken) soup
  • About a cup of milk, or coffee creamer (I used the fat-free kind, and it was yummy)
  • A couple of regular-sized potatoes or 10 baby ones (mine were baby Yukon Golds)
  • A good mix of veggies – I used broccoli, carrots, onions, corn, peas, and kale
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • A pint glass
  • A sharp knife
  • A muffin tin

Note: You could easily get 10 pies from this recipe of you have another pie crust. Or, you can have leftover filling for another night!

Here’s how you do it:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Heat a large skillet on medium high (7 out of 10) for about a minute.
  • Add a generous drizzle of olive oil (about 1 Tbsp) and heat for about another minute.

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  • Add finely diced potatoes, onion, and any other uncooked fresh veggies, and cook for about 5 minutes – I used 10 baby Yukon Gold potatoes and 1/2 of a large sweet onion, but you can use any kind of potato and onion, and the measurements don’t have to be exact – it’s fine!!! Reduce heat to medium, then cover and cook for another couple minutes to make sure the taters are softened.

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  • Add already cooked leftover or frozen veggies – I used already roasted broccoli and carrots, diced small, and a generous sprinkle of frozen corn and peas. Use whatever you like and have on hand, it’s fine!!!

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  • Add some finely chopped kale, large stems removed and cook covered for about a minute, until it turns bright green and softens a bit.

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  • Add 1 can of cream of celery (or mushroom, or chicken) soup, then use the empty soup can to measure out the milk. Use just less than half a can. Pour into the skillet.
  • Add a very generous sprinkle of black pepper and stir together.

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  • Take off the heat and stir occasionally, so it doesn’t form a “skin.” (Ewwww!)
  • Roll out your pre-made pie crust, then use the wide end of a pint glass to cut 4 large circles and about 5 long strips of dough.

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  • Take the dough leftover around the circles, push it into a ball, then roll with a rolling pin to cut one more circle with your pint glass.
  • Roll each circle a little with the rolling pin so that it will cover your muffin tin better.

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  • Spray 5 openings on your muffin tin with non-stick spray, then push 1 dough circle into each.

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  • Using a teaspoon, spoon about 2 heaping teaspoons full into each crust.
  • Trim the long dough strips (cutting the long ones in half) to make an X across each little pie. Fold the ends over, and try to push the X into the pie shell so they fuse together when cooked, making a tiny pie.
  • Crack an egg into a small bowl, beat lightly with a fork, then brush the runny yolk over the top of the pie crusts with a pastry brush.
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top and bubbly.
  • Let cool for about 5 minutes, run a butter knife around the edge of each pie, then remove very carefully. The longer you let them cool, the more they’ll keep their pie shape when you try to get them out of the muffin tin.

Leftovers crescent wrap

The list of ideas for this one is long…

But, here are a few: Try this with leftover veggies, cheese, or cold cuts from a party tray; leftover meat; pizza sauce and toppings; leftover goulash or mac and cheese… Yum!

Here’s how I did it:

  • Cube one chicken breast from a rotisserie chicken
  • Dice 10 or so raw asparagus stalks
  • Dice 1/4 of a red onion
  • Grate a 2″ X 2″ block of sharp cheddar cheese (or use a couple of handfuls of shredded cheese)

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You can judge amounts based on the size of these piles vs. my hand.

  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat (7 out of 10) for about a minute
  • Drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil into the hot pan, and heat for about a minute more
  • Put asparagus and onion in the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes to soften
  • Add cubed chicken to the pan
  • Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick spray
  • Roll out a whole package of crescent roll dough onto the sheet – DO NOT separate
  • Pinch the seams together to help them stay closed
  • Slice diagonal strips along each long side, about and inch wide and 2 inches long
  • Pile on veggie and chicken mixture, then top with cheese
  • Starting at one end, bring the dough strips over the filling, alternating sides and being sure to tightly wrap the ends (you don’t want to lose any cheese!)
  • Bake according to crescent roll instructions (about 375 degrees F for 10 minutes)
  • Enjoy with a salad, or by itself!

Note: Recipe based on this one: http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/ham-and-swiss-crescent-braid/7ca00a43-2dce-4c69-8cd5-fd9b963b2b6d

Comfort-ish food

For the adult who knows better, but wishes she didn’t care

I was starving after work today, and all I really wanted was some comfort food – creamy pasta and beer. I’d have felt too guilty after a heaping bowl of ooey, gooey, crusty-top mac and cheese, so I went for something a little less sinful.

Start boiling water for your pasta – any shape you want – and cook according to cooking directions while you complete the steps below. Pull off of heat and put into a colander when done.

Heat a large skillet on medium high (7 out of 10) for a minute, then drizzle some olive oil in the hot pan. Heat for another 1-2 minutes, then add 1/4 of a diced sweet onion and 1-2 cups of largely diced mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add 3 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1/3 cup white wine, 2 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp plain coffee creamer (I used fat-free because it’s what I had in the fridge, but any plain liquid coffee creamer, half and half, or heavy cream will work), a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper, and 1 tsp fresh time (or 1/2 tsp dried). Turn heat to simmer, then let cook for another couple minutes.

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Put the pasta in the skillet and fold everything together to coat all of the pasta with the creamy sauce (tongs work well for this).

Serve, making sure you get some of the yummy, saucy goodness on the bottom of the pan.

Top with Parmesan cheese, parsley flakes, crushed red pepper, and a tiny drizzle of olive oil. And drink some Crabbie’s ginger beer with it if ya like – YUM!

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Egg cups by Kathy

The perfect breakfast, lunch, or snack for low-carb loving meal planners!

I spent the weekend with my pal Kathy. I awoke Sunday morning to an air thick with the smell of sausage, and it was very, very good. Here’s what she was making…

Please note – Kathy’s version was prettier and a little yummier than mine. She used raw ground sausage, 2 small asparagus spears, and pepper jack cheese. I should have snapped a pic, but I was too busy scarfing down these bad boys!

Ingredients:

  • non-stick cooking spray
  • raw ground or fully cooked sausage – a regular sized package works well, with some left over for sauces or another breakfast
  • 12 eggs
  • 12 lightly cooked (not mushy) broccoli florets, small enough to fit in a muffin cup OR 24 short-cut, lightly cooked spears of asparagus, with two to each egg cup
  • a few dozen very thinly sliced pieces of pepper jack or sharp cheese – just get a brick from the store, slice it as thin as you possibly can, then refrigerate the rest in a resealable plastic bag
  • ground pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Generously spray each cup of a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick spray
  • Put a small amount of sausage in the bottom of each muffin cup, then add an egg and either one broccoli floret or two short asparagus spears to each cup

     

  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes; pull out of the oven and sprinkle with pepper

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  • Top with sliced cheese – just enough to lightly cover the top of each egg

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  • Increase the oven temperature to 375 and bake for another 5-7 minutes
  • Take out of oven and top with crush red pepper, if desired
  • Run a butter knife around each egg cup, then gently lift out of the muffin pan
  • Enjoy!!!