Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

stuffed portobello mushrooms

I love a good hearty dinner especially if it’s packed with protein and ooey gooey cheese.  However, I also try and maintain an 80/20 clean eating lifestyle every week.  Because of that of that I constantly look for ways to re-invent variations of foods I love in a healthier way so that they fit into my week and I never have to feel guilty eating them.

The following recipe is one I am still perfecting.  The flavors are great, the meatiness of the mushroom cap really shines, and oh yea of course the cheese is on point!  However where I fail is with the cooking of the mushroom cap.  It always ends up overly liquidy.  So I definitely am looking for any pointers on how to drain out some of that excess water from the cap.

However without further ado here is my recipe for Portobello stuffed mushroom caps:

Ingredients – Makes 8 servings

  • 1lb chicken breasts
  • 8 Portobello mushroom caps
  • 8oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup pasta sauce
  • 1 can diced black olives (optional)
  • 1 diced red pepper (optional)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Oregano (some to sprinkle on each cap)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Wipe off mushroom caps (check out this video: how to prepare portobello’s)
  3. Brush mushroom caps lightly with olive oil and set on parchment paper on baking sheet
  4. Place baking sheet in oven to cook mushrooms about 30 minutes
  5. While mushroom caps are cooking, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in pan, add chicken
  6. Cook chicken until no longer pink/internal temperature of 165 degrees
  7. While chicken is cooking dice red pepper
  8. Take cooked chicken and dice up
  9. Combine in a medium bowl chicken, red pepper, black olives, seasoning, and tomato sauce
  10. Spoon the chicken mixture into each of the portabella caps
  11. Sprinkle cheese over the tops of the stuffed portabella’s
  12. Pop in oven for about 10-15 minutes

I like to serve these with a side of steamed vegetables but they would also just be good by themselves.  Enjoy!

What stuffed mushroom variations have you made? I’m always looking for new, fun ways to dress these up!

 

Baked Chicken Parmesan

 

This recipe I’m sharing with you today is an awesome healthier alternative when you are craving a comforting dish of chicken parmesan.  I mean who doesn’t love that dish?  It’s cheesy, it’s got breaded chicken all place on a bed of pasta and drizzled with pasta sauce.  Bon appetite!

However, what’s not to love is the calories and fat this dish can pack anywhere from 700-1300 calories depending where you go and up to 52 grams of fat!  Yikes!  But have no fear, you can still enjoy a comfort version of chicken parmesan within your home without having to worry about it sabotaging your diet plans.

Sounds great right?  But what’s the tradeoff?  Using spaghetti squash and a reduced fat mozzarella you can still make the dish you love but significantly reduce calories and fat associated with it.  It’s a win win situation!

It all starts with a nice sized spaghetti squash.  look for one that has a deep yellow color and feels heavy for its size.

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Cut and remove the seeds from your spaghetti squash and place on a roasting pan in oven at 375 for 30-40 minutes until spaghetti squash can be separated with a fork.  Pro tip: pierce spaghetti squash a few times and microwave 3-5 minutes to make it easier to cut through squash. 

In the meantime, take thin chicken breasts and flour, dip in egg wash, and roll in breadcrumbs. Put in oiled trying pan and cook until browned and chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees. Pro tip: use chicken that’s already been breaded. I like Tyson panko breaded chicken tenders.

Pull out spaghetti squash when done and shred strands with fork. Preheat broiler. Dump spaghetti squash strands in oven safe dish. Take your favorite pasta sauce and pour some over spaghetti squash. Take the chicken once cooked and lay slices over top of squash. Add more pasta sauce and top with 1oz shredded mozzarella cheese.

Pop dish in broiler for 5 minutes until cheese melts. Let cool and enjoy!  Too bad I got so excited I mixed it all up before taking this picture…  oops!

 

 

Diet Trends: Vegetarian diet

Vegetarian diet cookbooks

Photo courtesy of mriggen

I wanted to spend some time digging into our next diet trend centralized around no meat.  now this diet is often adopted for health reasons or due to certain religious beliefs, humanitarian beliefs, etc. . So eating strictly Vegetarian isn’t a “diet” per se it’s a way of life and I have no problem with that.  Basing ones diet around wholesome fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains is a great way to ensure your body is naturally flushing out toxins, your able to maintain a healthy weight etc.  It has a lot of positive benefits.

Let’s take a look into some of the proclaimed benefits of a Vegetarian based diet:

  • Supports weight loss
  • Increases longevity
  • Plant foods are rich in nutrients
  • Reduced risk of type-2 diabetes

Not so “pro”:

  • Can be difficult to meet daily protein requirements
  • Iron levels if not supplementing can plummet
  • Too much soy products has shown to increase changes of cancer especially in women
  • You can also gain weight if you choose to swap out meat for grilled cheese and fries on the reg 😉

All those pro’s sound great right?  Well, if you execute this diet correctly with ensuring you are getting enough sources of protein, iron and other essential vitamins and minerals then yes it’s a great healthy lifestyle to embrace.  However if you don’t know what you are doing and just cut out meat from your diet without backfilling your daily requirement things may not go exactly as planned.  Take it from my personal experience.

A couple of years back I decided to give up for Lent meat.  No biggie I thought, this is easy and good for me! So I cut out meat and filled my diet with veggies of all kinds, beans etc. Life was good.  Well a few weeks in I started feeling tired all of the time, my skin grew pale, rings under my eyes started to show and i just felt like crap.  I chalked it up to “I must be getting sick”.

Few weeks after I had to go in for blood work and my results showed something was funky in my bloodstream.  In fact so funky the doctor’s made me go to a Cancer Research center to get a deep look into what was going on in my blood cells.  That was scary!  Luckily all came back clean other than low nothing fishy going on there.  By this time Lent was just about over and my mom (who aside from being a nurse seems to know everything) mentioned that i was looking anemic and insisted that eating a steak would fix me.  And so I did, in fact I re-embraced all meat again.  And you know what?  It was like a freakin miracle, my bags disappeared, my energy levels returned and I just felt so much more, me.

Turns out I had depleted my body of the necessary amount of iron it needed to continue functioning correctly.  I hadn’t even thought about that!  In addition my energy levels returned as I increased the amount of protein and other vital minerals in my diet.

So why am I telling you this?  Well, I just want you to be cautious in your health decisions.  Not everything is right for everyone.  Being a vegetarian can be a wonderful thing, I know many people who do it well, but if you don’t know what you are doing it can hurt you as well.  This is true with any type of diet so if you try something and it doesn’t feel right or you don’t feel right stop and think about it.  Tae time to listen to your body and what it wants, needs, craves.  Bodies are so smart they know what we need and when we need it you just have to learn to listen.

Have you tried a Vegetarian based diet?  How did it work for you? What are some things you learned along the way that may help others looking to embrace this way of life?

 

 

Diet Trends – Fat Free/Low Fat Craze

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I wanted to take some time to do a series of blog posts on various diets out there.  I know when faced with the goal of losing weight or getting healthy that there is so much information out there it is to our detriment. I also know that there are many “quick fix” diet plans and crazy low carb, no carb, high fat, low fat, high protein variations. With all these choices it is bound to drive a person crazy….  and fact of the matter is what is right for you might not be right for someone else.  So I’ll take you through some of the biggest fads and leave you to decide but ultimately a well rounded diet based on whole foods and exercise will always ensure long term success.

Fear of heart disease, high cholesterol, and an increasing waistline spurred this diet fad to emerge in the late 70’s. Can you guess what it is?  Yup, the reduced fat phase.  At this time in history all we knew was that some preliminary studies showed that egg yolks, red meats and other fats had shown an increase in heart related issues which was enough to declare a war against fat and in turn pro carbs (sigh).

The introduction to this diet spurred the food industry to start making tons of changes to remove whatever fat they could from their products and you started seeing Reduced fat cheese, low-fat cookies, fat-free butter… the list goes on.  However, one problem with this diet is that by stripping out fat from our diets we added in a bunch of sugars and chemicals to mimic that “fat” component.  High carb low-fat was for sure the way to go! Then of course in the 90’s the trend diet took full hold of America and we were avoiding fat at all cost.  Peanut butter, nuts, avocado’s, cheese and full fat yogurt and milk got the boot as did all those cooking oils.

Simply put, this diet is extremely flawed.  Unless you have super high cholesterol or another specific health reason to have to restrict fats from your diet this fad can actually do your body more harm than good.  Bodies need fat, it is essential to body energy, cell growth, your immune system, and reproductive systems.  Fat is not the devil! Without it our immune systems weaken, vitamin deficiencies can occur and because of the added chemicals in fat-free foods you can actually increase your risk of cancer!  Fat helps keep us feeling full throughout the day and squashes sugar cravings.

But all that said, eating the RIGHT type of fat is what is essential.  Yes fat can still be bad if by “fat” your brain automatically goes to pictures of fried food or rich desserts.  Those fats are still bad and yes they will always be bad… But fats occurring in natural, whole foods will not.  Those are the one’s you want to surround yourself around within your diet: avocado’s, cheese, egg yolks, nuts, coconut and olive oil.

Why do you think the Mediterranean diet is such a huge success all through the decades?  It’s based on a high fat diet but with the right fats and on that diet people are maintaining their healthy lifestyle, losing weight, protecting their hearts and are not walking around sugar-crazed and starving all day!

So to help you make the most of your healthy habits including exercise try incorporating a fat of some sort in every meal.  Eating a balanced diet (fat, carb, protein) diet is always essential to success but definitely don’t give fat the cold shoulder.

On a personal note, I have avoided fat for years.  I remember in my teens (90’s) jumping on that fat-free bandwagon and for years I stuck to my butter sprays, fat free rubber cheese, diet breads, and faux spreads/dressings.  But now I’m in my 30’s I have issues with my immune system, I’m always freezing and my reproductive health isn’t in A+ status. So my mission has been to add fats back into my diet in moderation from the right sources.  I have already noticed by adding in fats that I feel more full, i’m started to not feel as cold and I just seem to be in a better state of mind.

Here’s an example daily food log of mine:

Breakfast –  1/2 cup 2-4% cottage cheese with berries, 1 piece of sprouted bread with 1 tbsp chia flax peanut butter (I’m obsessed)

Snack – apple with 1/2 tbsp peanut butter

Lunch – Kale salad with chicken or tuna, red peppers, tomatoes, croutons, parmesan cheese, and 1/4 avocado with Champaign vinaigrette dressing

Snack – popcorn (Skinny Pop) and almond mix

Dinner – Salmon or chicken breast, lentils, and kale sautéed in coconut oil with mushrooms, lemon juice and red pepper

Dessert – Halo top ice cream (1 cup) with a rice cake smeared with 1 tsp peanut butter

Total calories: About 1800

Total Fat: 60 grams

Total Protein: 100-120 grams

What is your take on fat?  Do you incorporate enough fat in your diet or find success another way?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

Take your meal to the next level with fresh herbs!

Creating the perfect meal isn’t just a matter of following a recipe, but knowing what and how to combine them.  Part art, part science, the culinary arts are truly a melding of style and substance, and the right ingredients are the first substance you need to concern yourself with.  The herbs you buy at the store are dried out, losing much of their natural flavor, and often they are months old when you buy them, and then sit in your cupboard for up to years later.  Over all this time you’re losing flavor and quality, and in some cases they end up with little more flavor than wood-shavings.

 

The barrier that stands in the way of many people taking advantage of the delight of fresh herbs is a lack of a place to grow them.  While you can buy fresh herbs in many produce sections, they don’t last long once brought home and placed in the fridge, so what to do when you want to start cooking with them on a regular basis?  Why, grow your own of course!  Whether you live in a house on a small plot in town or an apartment in the big city, there are lots of ways you can grow your own fresh herbs in your home.

 

jar of herbs with water

Photo courtesy of Flickr by  Linh H. Nguyen

 

For instance, if your apartment has windows, you can grow all sorts of herbs in small window boxes.  These are often available from local home and garden stores, and can be hung from the window frame without the use of screws or any other invasive securing hardware.  Then you can take a few choice herbs and plant them in the window, with a simple daily habit of watering them and a little care, you can have fresh herbs growing right by your window, ready to prepare some of the most delicious food you’ve ever put in your mouth!

 

pots on ledge with herbs

Image courtesy of Flickr by Maggie Hoffman

 

If your home has a  sunroom in it, you’ve got an even better option.  There is nothing that brings life to a room like lots of natural light and that hint of the outdoors that comes with vibrant indoor plants.  Along with a warm and comfortable environment with plush furniture and rich verdant soil, you’ll be able to grow a ton of herbs in your home, safe from insect infestations and the vagaries of weather.  Herbs grown in a conservatory add a rich and delicious tapestry to the dishes you can serve, and it certainly allows you to grow a respectably sized herb garden in your home.

 

Never underestimate the boost that quality fresh herbs can bring to your cooking, the difference it makes to your palette can be truly astounding.  Fresh herbs have brighter flavors, fresher taste, and even add a wonderful visual element to the food you prepare.  In the case of herbs like rosemary and thyme, even the slightly woody nature brings something to the dish, giving a bit of mouth feel you won’t find with the crumbly and flaky herbs you find in your seasoning section at the grocery store.

 

That said, I would now like to share with you one of my favorite recipes, that would not be half as delicious without the freshly picked herbs that go into it. It is very little work, smells incredible, and is low in cholesterol and high in protein, to boot! Who could ask for more?

 

Aromatic Oven Roasted Trout with Herb Butter

 

trout prepared with herbs

Photo courtesy of Flickr by epicxero

 

Ingredients:

4 trouts, cleaned and gutted

Sea salt, pepper

4 tablespoons softened butter

3 large garlic cloves

2 tablespoons each fresh coarsely chopped thyme, sage and parsley

1 tablespoon fresh coarsely chopped basil

Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sweet paprika

 

Instructions:

  1. Rinse the fish, then rub salt, some basil and pepper well into each one, inside and out. Divide the remaining herbs evenly and stuff each fish with them. Cover pan or dish with foil wrap, and put in refrigerator for one hour.
  2. Put garlic though garlic press, then add to softened butter; combine well.
  3. Put a tablespoon of garlic butter inside each fish and drizzle fish with lemon juice, dust lightly with paprika if desired.
  4. Wrap each fish tightly in foil wrap and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes. If you like, you can tie the fish with a bit of string (not plastic, natural!) to keep them from coming open when you wrap them in foil.
  5. Unpack each fish carefully, serve with a slice of lemon, a baked potato and a simple cherry tomato salad.

 

 

– Article By: Contributing Writer Nicole Nowlen

The Secret to Gorgeous Abs

 Ever heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”?  Well it’s true, seriously!  Abdominal definition goes beyond doing a billion crunches or even just “eating healthy”.   Don’t get me wrong your abs and body very much do need at LEAST the minimum amount of daily/weekly activity recommended BUT the biggest change you can make when you are not working out is in your diet way of life.
 healthy foods
Photo via Flickr by Aria Ziai
It’s not about the amount of food you eat (within reason of course).  Nor is it about starving yourself with just smoothies or salads to reach your target weight.  Do you have a plan for after you hit that number?  How will you sustain?  This is how the vicious cycle of lose some, gain more is achieved.  To really make a difference you need to create a workable way of life that you will stick with long after bikini season comes to a close.
One of the biggest areas of impact you can have in the kitchen is the quality of food going in your mouth.  Don’t be shy, raise your hands… how many of you look at labels for the items you buy BEFORE you buy them?  That’s what I thought… the fact is most people don’t nor do they know when they do what they are looking for.  Below are just a few basic guidelines to help you avoid those bloating, artificial junk foods that call your name loudly when you are perusing the grocery aisles at your  local Target or Mariano’s etc:
Mantra in life and while grocery shopping: I have standards!
Rule 1. If it has more than 5 ingredients do NOT buy it
Rule 2. if the first 3 ingredients aren’t even related to what the items it’s a big NO (ex tomato sauce should not have #1 ingredient sugar it should be tomato, water, salt that’s about it maybe some seasoning).
Rule 3. NO yellow #5 (aka Kraft mac and cheese… switch to Annie’s brand or another alternative).  Yes may cost your family $.15 more sense but the health benefits outweigh that price.  Simple put, yellow #5 is crap and it’s been known to cause hyperactivity in children.  Yellow #5 is even in goldfish!  So not kid friendly…
Rule 4. Corn syrup, palm oil, high fructose corn syrup -is you see these ingredients ditch it they are just garbage.
Rule 5. enriched white enriched wheat enriched anything NO (this one is least of all but is a reason for belly bloat).  I think this is the hardest one as it’s really in everything.
Look for cane sugar, honey, agave as sweeteners. Corn is good too so cornmeal, corn chips, tortillas if corn not flour all good.  All natural ingredients skip the sugary enriched crap.  Lots of veggies quinoa, brown rice, lots of protein but not modified protein.
Here’s some of my favorite brands you can go to as alternatives to what you are using today:
  • Ezekiel bread products
  • Amy’s Brand
  • Annie’s
  • Rudi’s
  • Skinny Pop or Angie’s
  • Skinny Sticks (great flavors)
  • Trader Joe lentil chips…yum. Actually trader joe is a fantastic inexpensive way to eat healthy on a reasonable budget.
  • Applegate
  • Boar’s Head Natural
  • Most Kashi
  • Honest

 

These are just a few of the brands I like.  Some of your favorite brands can be still enjoyable as a lot of these companies do have less evil alternatives to the foods you love it just takes quick research in the aisle initially.  Once you find your favorites it should be easy weekly just to pick these up and add into the mix.  You and your family’s health is worth it!

 

By Kimberly Hale

 

Would You Like Toast With That Sugar-free Jam?

One of the first things to perish out of a person’s diet when they are attempting to lose weight, or have discovered some health condition that prevents them from having sugar, are jellies and jams.

It has long been believed that without added sugar, there is no way to create that wonderful texture and flavor that is so well-loved. Today, here I’d like to prove that concept false with some recipes that let you cut out those ingredients either in whole or part, and replace them with healthful alternatives that produce near, if not the same, effect and flavor.

 

strawberries and jam

 

This isn’t to say that this process is without its tricks of the trade, after all, there is a reason that sugar is such an intrinsic part of the normal process. There are some well-known alternatives, things such as freezer jam, but sugar serves the role of preserving the delicious treat. Freezer jam must either be kept in the freezer where it’s difficult to enjoy easily, or kept in the fridge at most a week or two.

Pectin is another big factor in the preservation process, and with some fruits you can get away without adding any. Plums, for instance, are free from this burden by an abundance of natural pectin, but other jams and jellies have commercial pectin put in, which contains sugar.   Sugar free is available, but not easily or readily, you’d have to plan ahead to get this from a supplier before you begin. Note that adding pectin is of particular importance with berries, which generally are completely lacking in this vital preservative.

 

blueberries

 

A particularly clever approach is using sugar-free gelatin, which you can get unflavored to preserve the natural taste of your mix. You’re going to want to experiment with this one, as strawberries, for instance, just don’t seem to want to play. There are bound to be other issues, but blackberries seem to play nice with this as one of the only berries to have a bit of their own natural pectin. Blackberries come out with a very believable rendition of jam, enough that it’s still a solid favorite.

When you’re in the process of deciding which methods to try or what substances to use, a bit of research can help save a frustrating batch. You’ll be wanting to pay attention to the natural sugar and pectin content of the fruit base, as these can make a huge difference in your final consistency. There are other alternatives, some of them clever tricks, others are playing with chemistry, and as a result, the flavor of your final product.

Ph levels are important in inhibiting bacteria growth, to this end you might want to consider adding some lemon juice to the mix. It’s a tried and true method to increasing the pH, and will help you keep the bacteria from bubbling up in your delicious jam. It’s yours after all, and we’re not making alcohol! In these cases, be aware that you’re going to be dealing with a much thinner jam, not the hard set of the commercial stuff. But that just makes it an amazing topping for things like pancakes, ice-cream or even other fruit!   Sliced peaches covered in sugar-free blackberry jam now that’s an amazing dessert!

 

lemons

 

These are just some of the techniques that have been tried by experts throughout the years, and there’s always room for more experimentation and creativity. If you manage to hit on a blend that’s just about perfect, you can always consider packaging it up, putting a cute little label on it, and knocking people’s socks off when you give it to them as a gift. And don’t forget to share that recipe with of us other jelly and jam enthusiasts!

 

Contributed by Nicole Nowlen

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