Carrot Tahini Soup

Spring is here. I’m so excited for the warmer weather, sunshine, and vibrant colors. Even in my food, I want more color. Fast food is also key, because we want to soak up the sun while we can, right?

This carrot soup fits all the criteria. Beautiful, bright orange. Full of fresh flavor. Easily on the table in 30 minutes. Even the kids loved it. Wins all around! Enjoy!

Carrot Tahini Soup (Serves 4)

Carrot Tahini Soup

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb carrots, chopped
3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
3 tbsp tahini
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 tsp fresh thyme
¼ cup unsalted cashews or peanuts, chopped
¼ cup plain greek yogurt

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute onion for 5 minutes. Add salt, paprika, garlic, and carrots. Cook for 1 minute.

2. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until carrots are tender enough to blend. (Pressure cooker option: Cover, seal, bring to high pressure. Cook on high pressure for 7 minutes. Quick release pressure.)

3. Combine carrot mixture and tahini in a blender (or add tahini to pot off heat and use immersion blender). Beldn until smooth. Serve with a sprinkle of herbs, nuts, and 1 tablespoon yogurt on each bowl.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 237
Protein: 9 g
Fat: 14 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 1 mg
Carbohydrates: 22 g
Fiber: 5 g
Sodium: 810 mg

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Meal Planning Tips

A common complaint I hear from many people is that meal planning is hard/time consuming/frustrating/boring, etc. I told someone I didn’t love meal planning either, and she seemed shocked. “Isn’t that what you do for a living?” It’s true that I did learn a lot about meal planning in school. In ways, that only makes it harder for me, since I can think of more “rules”.

While I don’t always love meal planning, I don’t hate it. Usually my problem is having the right ideas to fit my schedule and budget at the time. Here are some tips I try to follow to make meal planning easier.

1) Don’t try to plan too much at one time. For me, a week is plenty. I plan to grocery shop once a week. Produce doesn’t last much longer that anyway. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have more ideas than one week worth. I often have more ideas than days (or ideas that won’t fit my schedule for the week). File those away in your brain for the next time.

2) Have a set time you meal plan. Find a consistent day and time of day that works. I like to meal plan during breakfast or lunch. I’m a little hungry so I can think of foods that sound good. And I can multi-task doing it while I eat. This makes it feel like less of a time drain. Also, if you have a set time, it doesn’t feel like it is taking over your life.

3) Have a few “set” days. We have a leftover night every Tuesday. Breakfast for dinner is every Wednesday. I don’t have to think about two out of the seven days. Win! Maybe you do Taco Tuesdays or Meatless Mondays. Just having some parameters will speed things up.

4) Know your categories of foods. I like to have soup generally once a week. Then I know we’ll probably want Mexican and or Asian food. Fridays and Saturdays I like to have “weekend food” – pizza, sandwiches, burgers, faster foods to cook. Having those categories helps me know which types of foods I’m thinking about.

5) At the end, double check for repeats. This is a key step. I skipped it a couple weeks ago and ended up with 4 nights of chicken in a row. Whoops! This isn’t to say I might not repeat chicken in a week, but I try to space it out.

6) Look at food magazines and blogs in your free time. I know, I know. We don’t have free time. But instead of scrolling Facebook for the third time today, go check a couple food blogs you trust. Subscribe to a good food magazine for your lifestyle. I really like Cooking Light, but there are plenty of other great options. Just browsing these will file dinner ideas away in your brain. Seriously. Years later, I will suddenly remember a blog post I saw and wanted to try. If you use pinterest, actually USE it to help you plan your meals.

7) One idea to try, which may or may not work for you. Pick one blog or one cookbook or one magazine. Find all your meals from there. It is tricky, but it can save time flipping around endless places for ideas. When I’ve done this, I usually get about three recipes from the same place. My other two ideas are recipes I know and love.

8) Don’t try all new things. Keep some tried and true recipes in your line up each week. It is mentally exhausting to figure out a new recipe every night. Keep it real. Keep it simple.

Do you meal plan? I’d love to hear what you use to help in the comments!

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The Pegan Diet

I hear about the paleo diet fairly frequently still, but I recently heard about new variant of paleo – the pegan diet. The pegan diet is sort of a combination of paleo and vegan. At first, I thought that sounded impossible. The whole point of paleo is to eat meat, the whole point of vegan is to not. But this a unique diet that takes ASPECTS of each individual diet.

Followers of the pegan diet eat 75% of their food as fruits and vegetables. These should mostly be non-starchy and “low glycemic” fruits. All of this is to help balance your blood sugar levels.

The other 25% of the diet is made up for grass-fed, responsibly raised animal protein. Fish is especially encouraged. Healthy fats such as avocados, nuts, and omega-3s are also encouraged.

Both of these steps seem much less restrictive than the original diets to me, and mostly in line with a general healthy diet. The real kicker is eating less than ½ cup of gluten-free grains per meal and less than 1 cup of legumes(beans) per day.

The diet creators state that the benefits are reduced inflammation and better blood glucose control. There are no long term studies to prove any benefits of this diet.

Overall, I don’t see anything wrong with the diet itself. It would be difficult to follow and could be quite expensive – focusing on organic, responsibly raised foods, etc. Some sites point out dining out would be quite difficult which could be isolating to some. It does seem unnecessarily restrictive – if you aren’t allergic to dairy or gluten, there isn’t a NEED to avoid them. However, if you are diversifying your intakes, you could have a nutritionally adequate diet without them.

My final thought: compared to vegan or paleo, this is less restrictive and possibly easier to follow. But I don’t know that it is necessary for good health.

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Greek Chicken Bowl

Spring is here! Fall is my favorite season, but spring has to be a close runner up. It’s so great to have the sun out more, a little warmer weather, and feel like everything is coming alive again. I have definitely spent more of my waking hours today outdoors than in, and I love it.

Spring also feels like a great time for some lighter, faster meals. Still filling, but with a fresh feeling. I love these Greek chicken bowls for lunch or dinner. Easily adaptable to whatever tastes you have in your house. Also easy to use some store bought ingredients to save yourself some time. Enjoy!

Greek Chicken Bowls (Serves 4 at least)

Greek Chicken Bowl

1 cup quinoa
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons lemon juice
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
2 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp oregano
1 cup nonfat plain greek yogurt
¼ tsp garlic powder
2 tsp lemon juice
½ seedless cucumber, diced small
½ cup hummus
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
2 tomatoes, diced
½ seedless cucumber, diced small
½ cup feta cheese
kalamata olives, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with foil.

2. Combine quinoa, broth, and lemon juice in a pot. Cook quinoa as long as package directs. Fluff with a fork.

3. Place sweet potatoes on one baking sheet and chicken on another. Drizzle sweet potatoes with oil. Combine salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic. Toss half over potatoes, rub half on chicken. Bake for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender and chicken is 165 degrees (rotate pans halfway through cooking time).

4. Combine yogurt through chopped cucumber in a blender, pulse until combined. (tzaitziki sauce)

5. To serve, place 1/2 cup quinoa, 1/2 sliced chicken breast, 1/4 of the sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons hummus, some red onion, some tomatoes, some cucumber, and 2 tablespoons feta in a bowl. Drizzle with tzaitziki sauce and olives to taste.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 652
Protein: 54 g
Fat: 18 g
Saturated Fat: 5 g
Cholesterol: 120 mg
Carbohydrates: 70 g
Fiber: 10 g
Sodium: 787 mg

Recipe notes: This recipe looks complicated. You can simplify if you have rotisserie chicken meat on hand. Also, buy storebought hummus (any flavor) and tzaitziki sauce if you like. The toppings listed here are yummy, but you could also throw in some spinach or any vegetables you like.

Source: adapted from Everyday Reading

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Pear Cinnamon Smoothie

Starting about a year ago, I finally joined the breakfast smoothie band wagon. I would make them off and on before that. But I wasn’t a huge fan. I always felt hungry soon after or wanted more food. Something finally clicked with me though, and I’ve loved them. I think it helps that I can drink it as part of my cool down from exercising. And I can sip as I go about my morning mom duties – grabbing breakfast for kids, cleaning up, making beds, etc. It feels less time consuming.

I’ll admit that the a berry-banana-chocolate protein powder smoothie is my go to, since I always keep the ingredients around. But it is nice to liven things up sometimes. This pear cinnamon smoothie is really easy to throw together and is yummy and satisfying. Enjoy!

Pear Cinnamon Smoothie (Makes 2 servings)

Pear Cinnamon Smoothie

2 pears
1 cup vanila nonfat greek ygourt
1 banana
¼ – ½ teaspoon cinnamon, to taste
ice, as needed for desired consistency

1. Blend ingredients until smooth.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 272
Protein: 14 g
Fat: 1 g
Saturated fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 4 mg
Carbohydrates: 57 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sodium: 54 mg

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Mashed Potatoes – a showdown with a nemesis

Back when my husband and I were first married, we basically stopped eating regular potatoes. Our apartment had a VERY warm kitchen, where they always seemed to rot. And sweet potatoes were less expensive at our local produce market. We made the switch and didn’t look back for several years.

In the past three years, I’ve started moving back into the realm of regular potatoes more. My kids really like them. I have run across a problem though – mashed potatoes. They seem to be my nemesis. The only way I could make edible mashed potatoes was turn off my dietitian brain and add so much salt, butter, sour cream, cheese, etc. They were delicious, but I knew I needed a compromise.

I found this recipe and LOVED it. I will say, I don’t know that they are a good stand in for ALL uses of mashed potatoes. For a holiday dinner, I would still go for regular and just turn off my dietitian brain. It’s the holidays. It’s ok. But for a regular weeknight, these are quick and delicious!

Mashed Potatoes with Turnips and Apples (Serves 4)

Mashed Potatoes with Turnips and Apple

2-3 large turnips, chopped (1½ cups)
1 large yukon gold potato, chopped
1 fuji apple, chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

1. Place turnips, potato, apple, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes or until tender. Drain. Discard bay leaf.

2. Return vegetable mixture to pan. Add remaining ingredients; mash to desired consistency.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories:
Protein:
Fat:
Saturated Fat:
Cholesterol:
Carbohydrates:
Fiber:
Sodium:

Recipe notes: I have subbed russet potatoes here, although I did peel it then. I’ve also subbed gala and red delicious apples. All worked fine. If you are concerned, you can flip the turnip to potato ratio and gradually play with the amounts over time to find the taste that best suits your family. I’ll post the recipe that includes the gravy pictures soon!

Source: Cooking Light

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Chili Sauce Salmon

Lent season is coming soon, which for many people means Fish Fridays. We like fish at my house. Even my kids eat it well, which surprises me literally every time I make it. As a kid, I only ate fish sticks. But the mild flavor of salmon really appeals to my kids. Which I think is a win.

This salmon is super simple to grill or bake in the oven. Chili sauce is kind of a random ingredient, but I’ve never had trouble finding it in the condiment section at the grocery store. Enjoy!

Chili Sauce Salmon (Serves 4)

Chili Sauce Salmon

4 (6-7 ounce) salmon fillets
¼ cup chili sauce
¼ cup orange marmalade
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1. Combine chili sauce thorugh soy sauce. Place in a resealable bag. Toss salmon to coat in marinade. Refrigerate and marinade for at least 30 minutes, up to 4-6 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 375. Bake salmon 30 minutes, or until internal temperature is 145 degrees.

OR Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Grill salmon 5-7 minutes per side, or until internal temperature is 145 degrees.

Recipe notes: You have a couple options on the marinade. It is delicious just marinated and cooked. If you want sauce (like picture), you can save the marinade and boil it and use it as a sauce. Or make a second batch of the marinade after. I did the later to have something to picture, but I halved the amount which was plenty.

Nutritional Information (amount per serving):

Calories: 287
Protein: 36 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 79 mg
Carbohdyrates: 18 g
Fiber: less than 1 g
Sodium: 623 mg

Source: original recipe

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