Oven Baked Tacos

The holiday season is upon us. We are all very busy and stressed. Easy dinners are the order of the day, yes? These oven baked tacos are a win on that score. They can be put on the table in about 30 minutes and are delicious. And there isn’t a big mess afterwards. I hope these help ease a little of the December stress in your life.

Oven Baked Tacos (Makes 12 tacos)

Oven Baked Tacos

12 hard shell taco shells
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 lb lean ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
½ jalapeno, seeds and membranes removed if desired, diced small
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tomato, diced
½ cup salsa
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
2 tablespoons water
½ cup shredded cheese (your preference)
Shredded lettuce
Chopped green onion
Chopped tomatoes
Sour cream
Shredded cheese (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line taco shalls in 9×13 baking dish.

2. Heat a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and ground meat. While it begins to brown, chop vegetables. Add onion, peppers, and garlic once meat is mostly browned. Saute, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and pepper soft. Add tomato, salsa, taco seasoning, and water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until thickened and combined.

3. Spoon meat mixture into the taco shells. Top evenly with shredded cheese.

4. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted. Serve with desired toppings.

Nutritional Information (Amount per taco):

Calories: 158
Protein: 10 g
Fat: 8 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 32 mg
Carbohydrates: 12 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 277 mg

Recipe notes: Don’t worry if your shells crack a bit trying to get them in the pan. Once you put the filling and cheese in, you can patch them back together. I would start checking the tacos at 5 minutes. The longer they are in the oven, the softer the shells become. Mine were in 8 minutes (convection oven) and the bottoms of the shells were almost too soft/soggy. The nutritional analysis uses ground turkey and doesn’t include in toppings. Refried black beans are a great side dish to serve with this.

Source: Adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

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Have your pie and eat it too

Thanksgiving Card

A fellow dietitian sent me that card. I found it very amusing.

I hope you are enjoying getting ready for Thanksgiving. I am now that my grocery shopping is over. And I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving full of delicious food.

How does this dietitian approach Thanksgiving? With very little thought to calories, more to strategy. My stomach can only hold so much without feeling sick. So, I prioritize foods I want. And I also keep my portions small. Why? Because I can eat more things that way. Like stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, turkey, Brussels sprouts, jello, homemade rolls, etc.

Do dietitians eat dessert? Heck yes. My annual white chocolate pumpkin cheesecake is on the menu, as are several pies. I plan to eat more than one kind. But, again, I will keep to small pieces. Again, this is more of a stomach space issue than calorie issue.

Holidays are not the time to think about calories. You’ll go nuts and be miserable. But try to focus on not gorging or making yourself sick. Feeling overly stuffed isn’t enjoyable either. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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Blue Apron Review

I have been hearing about Blue Apron for a couple years now. It is one of several meal delivery services available these days. They send you ingredients and recipes for you to cook yourself. They offer a variety of meal plans – vegetarian. Most advertise sustainability in some form or other. The ingredients are fresh and seasonal. It seems like a busy person’s dream – groceries perfectly matched to recipes show up at your door.

I looked into Blue Apron a few times, partly because I heard of discounts on a variety of podcasts. But, I wasn’t ever quite willing to take the plunge. While the meals are pretty affordably priced, I always seemed to look when my grocery budget was feeling extra tight. But last week, I happened to stop by a friend’s house right when she got her Blue Apron box AND her fridge was broken. She didn’t know how long it would take to fix it plus she was leaving town in a day or two. So, she generously gave me her box of two meals.

I thought I’d share some pictures and my thoughts on the meals for you today.

First meal: Pan-Seared Barramundi with Prince of Orange Potatoes and Spinach

Blue Apron Barramundi

I thought the recipe had the timing of steps very well planned out for you. There was generally something to be doing even if another item was cooking. I liked the efficiency of that, which I’m not the best at figuring out on my own.

I think they could have been a bit more specific on size of dice for the potatoes, as mine cooked MUCH faster than the recipe suggested.

I did find on both recipes I made that the cook time on the front of the recipe card did not match the actual cook times on the back. For example, the potatoes were supposed to roast 28-30 minutes. But the front of the card said cook time was 25-35 minutes for the whole meal. I was confused on that.

I really enjoyed the spinach. I definitely want to try and cook spinach like that again on my own. Made for a yummy side.

Overall, this meal was okay, but I wasn’t wowed by it. It seemed under seasoned overall to me. There are a lot of steps of adding salt and pepper throughout, but I felt it could use more variety in the seasonings. Even some garlic powder or something for the fish and potatoes.

I will say my kids devoured the fish and potatoes, which is always a win in my house.

My biggest complaint with this meal was the portion size. I don’t know what four small people would be able to divide the amount of potatoes I received and feel satisfied. I had to ration them between me, my three year old, and my one year old to leave ANY for my husband (who ate later).

Second meal: Lemongrass Roasted Pork with Braised Cauliflower and Bok Choy (sorry the picture isn’t great)

Blue Apron Pork

My husband and I enjoyed this meal a lot more than the barramundi. I think a lot of it had to do with the seasoning. This had a lot more flavor: spice rub for the pork, cilantro in the rice, a chili sauce.

I did not feel like this meal was as well timed out as the fish. I found myself standing around waiting a lot. And I found their time estimates on almost everything to be off. I braised my cauliflower almost twice as long as they said. And I live at high altitude, so it should have gone faster. My sauce and rice cooked faster than they said. And there was the same issue with the overall cook time being off like I mentioned above.

I think part of the reason we liked this meal more was I felt the portion sizes were more accurate. We all ate until we were full and even had a (very) little left over. I would expect to have leftovers from a meal designed for four, since two of our four people are toddlers.

I did enjoy the cauliflower, and especially liked pairing it with bok choy. I feel like I always want to try and use different vegetables more but never know how. I do feel like this was a little under seasoned. Soy sauce or something like that would have really made this work better for me.

The chili butter sauce was very good. Really tied the whole meal together. We are sauce people, so I would have liked a little bit more, but it was sufficient.

As an overall service, I think Blue Apron could be a great option for busy people that still want home cooked meals. The meals are balanced, well-rounded, and have a great variety to them.

I personally will not be switching to Blue Apron any time soon. And here are my reasons:

-We have leftover night once a week, every week. With this service, there are no leftovers. As odd as that may sound for many of you, just cleaning out my fridge and not really having to cook dinner once a week is a lifesaver for me.

-I’d still have to grocery shop. I need lunch, breakfast, snacks, etc for my family. This doesn’t eliminate going to the store. So for me, might as well go for everything.

-Maybe it was just the two meals I tried, but neither exactly hit the flavor profile I’m going for in my cooking. I prefer to use other seasonings besides just salt and pepper. I try to limit my salt use actually. Their philosophy seemed to be salt and pepper is the only thing you need. While that is simpler for a service like theirs, it kind of made for food on the bland end of the food taste spectrum.

-Cost. I don’t think they are unreasonably priced, by any means. However, I try to feed my family for about $10/day. Their cost is over $8 per serving. And that is only one meal. For the quality you are getting and the service, it is probably worth it for some. In my life circumstances, I can’t justify that expense.

However, those are very personal reasons. Overall, I think it would be a great idea for many people. Hope this helps anyone who has been thinking about it. If you are interested, they are usually offering $30 off your first order and free shipping when you sign up.

Happy eating!

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Drinking Water

I have been thinking about water and staying hydrated quite a bit recently. It seems like an odd thing to think about now that the weather is cooler. We aren’t out in the sun and getting sweaty. So, dehydration risk is less, right?

It is true that people are less likely to get dehydrated in the winter. However, since it isn’t at the forefront of our mind, we can easily become under-hydrated. And there are benefits to avoiding under-hydration.

First let’s look at what water does in our body. It keeps us cool, both via sweat and other mechanisms in our body. It provides the liquid base for blood and other bodily fluids (including fluid in our cells). It helps flush waste out of our bodies, through urine and in feces. Everything in your body uses water in some form. We lose it in sweat and in breathing. We gain it by eating and drinking.

The benefits of drinking enough water are bountiful. Less burden on your kidneys to flush out waste. Without enough water, they have to work hard concentrating all the waste into your urine. It keeps blood volume and blood pressure in check. It keeps your skin more soft and less flaky. It helps you not be constipated. It helps deliver nutrients throughout your body.

So, how much do you need? The general rule of thumb is most people need about 30 ml of water per kilogram of body weight. That can be a little tricky to figure out. You need to know how much you weigh (example 150 lbs), divide that by 2.2 to get kilograms (68 kg), then multiply by 30 (2040 ml). That gives you millimeters, easily converted to liters (about 2, round for simplicity). For those of us used to “cups”, you have to figure 1 cup is about 250 ml (8 cups).

That’s a lot of math and thinking for everyday. You can figure it out once, and then aim for that each day. For our example above, that came out to 8 cups, which happens to be the generic recommendation of 8 cups of water per day that we have all heard for years.

Or, you can simply avoid math all together. Watch your urine – is it dark yellow or more like pale lemonade? Pay attention to how often you urinate. If it is only once or twice a day, you should drink more. Are your lips and skin constantly dry? Drink more. Think periodically about if you are thirsty. We all ignore our thirst response so often, it takes practice to really become in tune with it again. Also, as we age, our thirst response is less and less sensitive and can’t be relied on.

Water really is the best thing to drink to stay hydrated. Calorie free and great for you. Any liquid will add to your total. Milk, juice, soda, coffee, tea, soup, ice cream, popsicle, and gelatin are some. Some foods are higher in water than others (think of eating watermelon vs eating a cracker). Mix it up, and getting enough fluid is easier.

Happy drinking this winter!

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Hummus Pasta

Today is a quick post about a quick, delicious lunch I discovered last week. I was looking at a fridge full of random leftovers and needed something new to eat. I gave this random idea a try, after some googling to make sure I wasn’t insane, and it was crazy good. And it got tons of veggies in me, which always makes me happy at lunch.

Hummus may sound like an odd “sauce” for pasta, but it works really well. It gives flavor and creaminess with no added work. This is more of an idea recipe than exact instructions. And as the idea was for lunch, I’m giving a single serving. Feel free to scale up each portion for more people.

Please pardon the slightly blurry picture. Apparently I was in a hurry to eat!

Hummus Pasta

Hummus Pasta

1 ½ cups chopped vegetables (broccoli, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, grated carrots, zucchini, etc)
1 cup tortellini pasta
2 tablespoons hummus (I used roasted red pepper, but use whatever flavor you like)
2-3 ounces shredded meat, optional
handful of cherry/grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons feta cheese

1. Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add vegetables and cook for 3-5 minutes or until basically as tender as you want them.

2. Add in pasta and meat. Cook according to pasta package directions.

3. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water. Mix hummus into pasta and vegetables. Add cooking water a teaspoon at a time as needed to thin the hummus to coat everything. Top with tomatoes and cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes: Use whatever vegetables you have on hand. A frozen blend would work well here as well. Just make sure it isn’t something that will cook for a long time, like big hunks of carrots. You could also use regular pasta, rather than tortellini. I’d just put the noodles in at the same time as the vegetables then. You want everything to finish cooking at about the same time.

Source: original recipe

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Kitchen Safety

Short post today. Yesterday, I had a bit of an accident in my kitchen and nearly chopped the tip of my finger off. Four stitches and a bunch of bandages later, I look like this:

img_4804

Not exactly conducive for cooking, which is pretty essential for healthy eating. (Nor is it conducive to typing, hence my brevity today). People come up with a lot of reasons why they can’t cook, but I think lack of “skill” is lumped into many of them. If you don’t know what you are doing or aren’t very good, cooking can be intimidating. Here is an awesome video from Jamie Oliver (one of my favorite celebrity chefs) on cutting skills. Watch it so you don’t end up in the ER like me. And listen to what he says. We all have accidents. We all have to start slow. But with the right techniques, you can gradually speed it up and have fewer accidents. Enjoy!

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Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Confession: I love sweet potatoes. Maybe even more than regular potatoes. But I prepare them about 3 ways: mashed with brown sugar, casserole, or roasted as fries. And I have never felt bad about that. Those three are delicious, so why fix something that isn’t broken?

After my second baby was born, I rediscovered stuffed baked potatoes as an easy dinner. I figured sweet potatoes could work too, right? But everything seemed kind of strange and not appetizing enough to try. But I finally picked one and tried it.

Guys, it was delicious. Very different than you typical dinner, agreed. But very yummy. And with fall starting, sweet potatoes are in season and abundant. Go grab some and try this dinner soon. Your bravery will be rewarded.

Enjoy!

Stuffed Sweet Potatoes (Makes 4)

IMG_7770

4 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon paprika
¾ tablespoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground turkey breast
3 cups torn curly kale
¼ cup golden raisins
½ tablespoon lemon juice
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Pierce each potato with a fork a few times to prevent exploding. Wrap potatoes individually in foil. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a fork easily slides into potato. Let cool slightly.

3. Combine vinegar, 1 tablespoon oil, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, and garlic in a bowl.

4. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey to pan and cook 7 minutes or until done, stirring to crumble. Drain any excess liquid from pan; return to medium-high heat. Stir in vinegar mixture; cook 2 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Remove meat from pan.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add kale; cover and cook 4 minutes. Stir in turkey, raisins, and lemon juice.

5. Cut each potato lengthwise. Spoon about ¾ cup kale mixture onto each potato; top each with 2 tablespoons cheese. Serve.

Nutritional Information (per stuffed potato):

Calories: 407
Protein: 29 g
Fat: 18 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 95 mg
Carbohydrates: 36 g
Fiber: 5 g
Sodium: 577 mg

Recipe Notes: You could also microwave the potatoes if you don’t have an hour in the oven. I do think the flavor of the potatoes is a little better from the oven, but not essential. The original recipe for this was trying to make a “chorizo” like mixture out of the meat, but healthier than using store bought chorizo. While yummy, I don’t think it ended up tasting like chorizo. You could sub in chorizo for maybe half of the meat. All chorizo would be very fatty, sodium rich, and kind of overpowering (I think, and I like chorizo). I used smoked paprika and it was tasty. The original recipe called for sweet paprika, which is what you generally find in the store. The original recipe also called for goat cheese. That would be yummy as well. I just had feta, and figured it is a kind of goat cheese and went for it. If you aren’t a sweet potato lover, this would be yummy on regular potatoes too.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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