Food

Italian Wedding Soup with Quinoa

6

Posted on Mar 20, 2014 in Food

italian wedding soup

We started our birth classes last weekend, and it was awesome. Both Craig and I really enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot. Unfortunately though, the instructor did a lesson on pregnancy nutrition, and unfortunately, she went on for about 15 minutes about the importance of dark, leafy greens for pregnant women. And unfortunately, dark leafy greens are pretty strongly on my “don’t bring anywhere near me” list—and they have been for my entire pregnancy. I’ve managed to sneak a few handfuls of spinach in a smoothie here or there, but for the most part, my body wants nothing to do with greens.

chard garden greens

So, I’m trying to bring myself back around to eating greens again. I will not be eating any raw kale salads anytime soon (blech), but I will maybe be able to squeeze some leafy greens into my everyday eats, like into this Italian Wedding soup which is packed with four cups of kale and two cups of spinach.

italian wedding soup

Italian Wedding Soup is a favorite in our house! I love that the meatballs, veggies and beans make it feel like a hearty, full meal. Sometimes soups can feel a little light, which is awesome when it’s 95° out, but when it’s 30° and snowing (like it was on the day I made this), you want something with a little bit of heft—and this soup has some heft!

Many Italian Wedding Soup recipes have pasta in them, but Craig isn’t eating pasta right now, so I subbed in protein-packed quinoa. The quinoa was such a fun addition to the soup! Not only did it add a ton of nutrition, but it also felt a little bit like a teeny, tiny pasta.

italian wedding soup

Hopefully this is just the first step in bringing greens back into my life. Maybe I’ll eventually get back to my normal green-loving self.

Enjoy!

Italian Wedding Soup with Quinoa

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

This hearty soup is a meal on its own! By using lean ground turkey, tons of dark, leafy greens and quinoa, you get a nutritional powerhouse soup that is incredible tasty.

Ingredients

    For the Meatballs
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoons dried Oregano
  • For the Soup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can white beans, drained
  • 4 cups kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup quinoa

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients. Form into 1" meat balls, set aside.
  2. Heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Add in the meatballs and sear on all sides, remove meatballs from pan.
  3. Add in onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until just tender and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add in the white beans, kale, spinach and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the greens have wilted.
  4. Add in the quinoa and the meatballs, and continue cooking for another 25-30 minutes or until the quinoa is tender.
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What’s your favorite way to get in dark, leafy greens?

 

Greek Turkey Burgers

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Posted on Mar 18, 2014 in Food

turkey burgers

After months and months of frigid cold, we’ve settled back into our run-of-the-mill early Spring weather here. Which basically means that our days alternate between 70° and sunny (love those!) to 30° and snowy. It seems like every weekend this month has been like that—a beautiful, flip-flop-worthy Saturday followed by a bring-back-out-the-parka Sunday. I ain’t complaining. I’ll take it. It just means that we gotta make the most out of those Saturdays! And one of my favorite ways to celebrate warmer weather is by bringing the grill out of hiding.

burgers grill

These turkey burgers are an oldie-but-goodie in our house. It’s one of the very first meals Craig and I made early in our marriage. We discovered early on in our marriage that neither of us were very skilled housekeepers (more on that later in the week), and we quickly learned that grilling=fewer dishes. And fewer dishes=both of us being very, very happy. So these burgers went into weekly rotation.

turkey burgers

For some reason, they dropped off the menu a while back, and it wasn’t until I was glancing around the fridge this weekend and saw some ground turkey and feta kickin’ around that I remember this Johnston family classic. These burgers are awesome not only because they taste fantastic, but also because of all the filings, they do a great job of stretching a pound of ground turkey. We try to only buy sustainably-raised meat in our house, which can be pretty pricey, so it’s always discouraging to make burgers and see that much moolah go into only four burgers. But this recipe gets you six large burgers! And if you didn’t have monster potato buns like I had (yum.), you could easily get eight normal-sized burgers. And, they freeze awesomely. We doubled the recipe, and stashed our extras in the freezer for quick-and-easy post-baby grilling.

burgers freezer

If you’ve ever grilled turkey burgers and been left with dry hockey pucks, you know that working with ground turkey can be a bit tricky because it’s so low in fat. And low in fat=low in juiciness and flavor. The add-ins help keep these burgers flavorful, but to keep them juicy and tender, it takes a gentle hand on the grill. You’ll want to grill them on medium-high heat and only flip them once—the more you handle them, the more juices you lose. And never, ever (when you’re grilling any kind of burger) press down on the burgers with a spatula. You’re just squeezing out all the juiciness! And like you do when cooking all meat, make sure to let it rest for 5-10 minutes before you dig in.

Oh, and make sure you have a big ole bowl of 10 minute tzatziki for slathering on top.

turkey burgers

I hope, wherever you are, the weather has been at least giving you a little bit of a break. Welcome to Spring (almost), friends!

Enjoy.

Greek Turkey Burgers

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Yield: 6 larger burgers

We love serving these burgers topped with tzatziki, grilled red onions, fresh tomato slices and crisp Romaine lettuce. But feel free to doctor these burgers up with whatever tickles your fancy—grilled zucchini slices are also amazing.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • 6 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1 cup black olives, sliced
  • 3 green onions, sliced thinly
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 batch 10 Minute Tzatziki
  • Buns and burger toppings

Instructions

  1. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Oil the grates.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the ground turkey, egg, breadcrumbs, feta, black olives, green onions, lemon juice, oregano, dill, salt and pepper using clean hands. Form into six burgers.
  3. Grill the burgers over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side. Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  4. Top burgers with tzatziki and burger toppings.
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How’s your weather been? Anyone done any grilling yet this spring?

Honey Coconut Whole Wheat Waffles

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Posted on Mar 14, 2014 in Food

waffles

When I give birth in June, if Baby J comes out shaped like a waffle, we can blame it on this recipe. I’ve made three different quadruple batches of these waffles, froze them, and have been eating them nearly daily for breakfast for the past few months. I particularly love them topped with peanut butter, apple slices, raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon. But they’re also equally amazing with your standard butter and maple syrup combo.

waffles

I’ve heard rumors that there are folks out there who don’t like coconut. If that’s true, I certainly don’t understand that part of the population. Man, I freakin’ love coconut. So much so, I put it in these waffles in three different ways—coconut milk, shredded coconut and the über healthy coconut oil. Have you guys jumped on the coconut oil train yet? If not, you really should. Not only does it add an awesome, subtly coconut flavor to everything you use it on, but it’s also one of the healthiest oils you can cook with. It’s packed with healthy fats, studies have shown that it helps boost your metabolism, it’s a natural anti-viral, anti-biotic and anti-fungal, and because of how it’s metabolized, it can help you feel fuller longer. And, coconut oil isn’t just awesome in your food. It’s a great moisturizer, lip balm and hair mask!

Sidenote: if you do love coconut oil, I highly recommend this cookbook. It’s another book in the “Cooking with…” series from my publisher (if you didn’t know, I wrote Cooking with Greek Yogurt), and I designed the cover of this book. And the recipes all look incredible!

coconut oil

If you happen to not be a coconut fan (I DON’T UNDERSTAND), you can still easily make these waffles with a few substitutions. Swap out the coconut milk for cow’s milk, soy or nut milk. Instead of coconut oil, use another lightly-flavored oil or fat—like olive oil or melted butter. And just leave out the shredded coconut completely.

Or, if you’re totally coconut obsessed, you can take it to the extreme and turn your stack of waffles into Almond Joy waffles. Add some coconut whipped cream (you can find instructions for how to make that here), some chopped roasted almonds, and some raw cacao nibs or semisweet chocolate chips. Yum.

waffles

Like I mentioned above, these waffles freeze beautifully. You’ll never need to buy Eggos ever again. I tend to make a big ole batch of these, slice them in half (because my waffle iron makes waffles too big to fit in my toaster) and pop them in a freezer bag. In the morning, I just pull out two halves, put them in the toaster and breakfast is ready in about 90 seconds. I’ll be stashing lots of these waffles in the freezer for post-baby breakfasts.

waffles

If you’ve ever made whole wheat waffles before and struggled with the texture or flavor, I highly recommend you try these. They don’t taste “whole wheat-y” to me at all. Part of that is thanks to the chemistry of the recipe, but another part of that is due to the flour I use—white whole wheat flour. When I first heard of white whole wheat flour, I figured it was a hybrid flour—like half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour. But it isn’t—it’s 100% whole wheat. It’s just ground from a different strain of wheat (hard white wheat as opposed to the typical hard red wheat). You still get the health benefits of the whole grain, but without the heavy texture and taste of standard whole wheat. I highly recommend King Arthur’s organic white whole wheat flour—I use it in everything, and I can barely tell the difference between it and recipes I’ve made with all-purpose flour.

Happy Friday, friends!

Honey Coconut Whole Wheat Waffles

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 12 large waffles

These waffles cannot be beat! They're packed with healthy whole grains and are low on sugar. Make up a large batch and freeze them for easy weekday breakfasts.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Instructions

  1. Preheat your waffle iron to high.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, melted coconut oil, and honey until well-combined. Set aside.
  3. In a second bowl, mix together the baking soda, flour, baking powder, salt, and shredded coconut. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, working in 2-3 additions, until well-combined.
  4. Spoon batter onto your waffle iron (mine uses about 1/2 cup of batter per waffle, but it varies depending on the size of your iron). Close lid and cook for 7-10 minutes or until the waffles have stopped steaming and they are golden brown and crisp. Remove waffles from iron and keep warm in oven while preparing rest of waffles. Serve topped with butter, maple syrup, fruit, or whipped cream.
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Are you a coconut lover or a coconut hater?

freezer fill-up: mac and cheese, apple pie filling, banana chocolate muffins + apple raisin muffins

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Posted on Mar 3, 2014 in Food

freezer fill-up muffin

One of my goals before Baby J makes her debut is to get my freezer filled. I’ve talked to quite a few parents, and other than the standard “sleep while you still can!” advice, the nugget of wisdom I’ve been hearing the most is how helpful it is to have a stash of pre-made food in the freezer for those first few weeks and months with a newborn. This is especially important with where we live—it’s not like we can just run out and get takeout or order delivery—if you don’t cook in the country, you don’t eat. And since you all know that I love freezer cooking, this task seemed like an obvious one for me to tackle over the next few months.

Unfortunately though, I just don’t have the stamina or energy to do marathon freezer cooking sessions like I did pre-pregnancy. So instead of stocking the freezer over a single day, my goal is to slowly fill my freezer over the next few months by adding a few dishes every week. Some will be specially made to fill the freezer, others will just be extras leftover from doubling or tripling dinner recipes. I thought it might be fun to show you all what I’m making each week. Feel free to suggest your favorite freezer-friendly recipes and I can slot them into my plan over the next few weeks. Alright, onto this week’s work . . .

Mac and Cheese

mac and cheese

With the nasty weather we had this past weekend (please tell me that was the last winter storm of the season!), I was all about some homemade, cheesy, gooey mac and cheese. Craig isn’t eating gluten or dairy right now for health reasons, so I had a ton of mac and cheese all to myself!

mac and cheese

I used this recipe, quadrupled it and baked up a bit of it for dinner. The remainder, I popped into three, aluminum foil-covered square baking dishes. I froze them, and then once they were solid, popped out the wrapped mac and cheese blocks up and then stashed them into gallon freezer bags. They’re now ready to just pop back into the square baking dish when it’s time to cook. They’ll make a great main dish with a simple salad on the side later down the road.

mac and cheese

The mac and cheese fresh out of the oven was awesome, and I expect it’ll be just as good baked out of the freezer. I know some folks have issues with freezing pasta-based dishes, but I’ve found that just as long as I cook the pasta just shy of al dente, it ends up working just fine out of the freezer.

Apple Pie Filling

apple pie filling

Other than the mac and cheese, this freezer session was all about using up fruit on its last leg. We’ve been nursing our apple stash since the fall (did you know that in the right conditions, with the right varieties, apples can last months and months in storage?), but they are starting to turn—and no longer very good for fresh eating—so it was time to turn the bushel-or-so we had left into some cooked goodies.

apples

First on the docket for the apples was freezer apple pie filling. Pre-made apple pie filling is a pretty common beginner recipe for canning, but I really couldn’t be bothered to head to the basement and pull out all my cleaned and stored canning gear, so I instead decided to freeze it up using a double version this recipe (reducing the sugar, plus subbing in some maple syrup and brown sugar, reducing the water, upping the spices). I ended up filling five quart-sized bags—which are perfect for an 8″-9″ pie.

apple pie filling

Stashing apple pie filling may seem like a weird way to prep for baby, but since Baby J is coming in the summer, and summer and early fall in our family is chock full of pitch-ins and parties, having an easy-to-make, delicious dessert to bring will be awesome. If I’m feeling particularly advanced, I can whip up my own pie crust and have a pie in the oven in a few minutes. Or, if I’m looking for something easier, just put a crumble topping on it and call it good to go. And, if nothing else, we can use it on pancakes, ice cream or oatmeal. Plus, it’s just a great way to plow through a ton of sad looking apples.

Apple Raisin Muffins

muffins

Dinner seems like the thing that most freezer cooking focuses on, but I want to hit up all meals, and these muffins are going to be perfect for breakfasts and snacks. Of course, most muffin recipes are really just cake disguised under another name, so I tried to make these a bit healthified. I started out with this recipe, and changed it by using all whole wheat flour, cutting the sugar in half, using kefir instead of buttermilk, coconut oil instead of canola oil, plus adding a cup of raisins. I also added a ton more chopped apples than the recipe calls for (gotta get rid of those apples!). After doubling the recipe and adding more apples, I ended up with about three dozen regular-sized muffins. After they cooled, I stashed them a dozen to a gallon freezer bag and froze them. All they take is a quick trip in the microwave for 30 seconds, wrapped in a paper towel, to be warm and as good as fresh baked!

muffins

These are so great! Even though I reduced the sugar, by adding more apples, the muffins still taste nice and sweet. And the soft-baked apple chunks make it feel like you’re biting into apple pie. Yum.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

muffins

Another fruit I had to use up was a whole bunch of past-their-prime bananas. I sent out a call on Twitter for the best banana bread/muffin recipe out there, and got lots of amazing suggestions! In typical me fashion, I didn’t end up using one particular recipe, but kinda merging a few ideas from different places. The closest recipe I can find to what I ended up doing was this one from King Arthur—although, I used more mashed banana, less sugar, all whole wheat flour, and no cinnamon chips. I also used the leftover crumb/streusel topping from the apple raisin muffins. Because streusel is never a bad thing.

muffins

These are quite possibly the best muffins I’ve ever had! With the chocolate chips, they’re definitely more of a dessert muffin, so I’ll probably stick to the apple raisin muffins for breakfast, and keep these guys around for an afternoon pick-me-up with a mug of coffee or tea.

muffins

I think that’s a pretty good start to my freezer fill-up! Again, if you have any suggestions of your favorite go-to freezer meals, I’d love to hear them and try them out.

What’s your favorite freezer meal?

how to eat healthy on the go (giveaway)

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Posted on Feb 26, 2014 in Food

banana dates

There is more than one person in my life that gets a kick out of the fact that there is always food stashed in my purse. It might just be a few dates or a banana, but I hardly ever leave the house without something to snack on. Being prepared with healthy snacks while out and about is definitely one of my cornerstones for staying healthy. When you’re in the middle of a marathon errand-running session and you suddenly find yourself starving, it’s a whole lot easier to shy away from all the not-so-healthy items on the block if you’re prepared with a little somethin’ somethin’. But even I, Miss-Always-Pack-a-Snack, am sometimes caught off guard. Maybe an appointment runs long. Or I get stuck in traffic. Or I get a flat tire. Something comes up and suddenly my packed fruit isn’t quite enough to tide me over. Then, it’s time to implement Operation Find Healthy Eats. If I’m being honest, it took me a lot of trial and error to figure out how to healthfully navigate menus out there. It might seem like the fast eats world is full of deep-fried potatoes and greasy burgers, but in reality, there are a lot of really healthy, fast options out there—just as long as you know how to find them and how to order them. I figured I’d share some of my favorite tips for eating on the go while still staying healthy. I’ve partnered up with my friends at Panera to show you a real-world example of how I get in, out, and satisfied, without wrecking all my healthy momentum (all while still eating yummy food).

1. Find your spot (or spots).

panera

Knowledge is power. And knowing which restaurants in your area have healthy eating options available is absolutely vital to succeeding in finding a healthy meal. Chances are, you can find something healthy-ish at even the greasiest of spoons, but by landing in a restaurant that has a multitude of healthy options, you’re setting yourself up for success. I have a handful of go-to places in my area that I know I can always count on for healthy eats. Interestingly enough, back in college, when I wasn’t on the healthy-eating path, Panera was one of my go-to spots with my girlfriends. We’d down cup after cup of fancy dessert coffee drinks and enough pastries and sweets to power us through studying for finals. What I think is so cool about Panera is that now that I am big into eating healthy, I can still eat there! It’s one of the few restaurants that have made the transition seamlessly between my old diet and my new diet (and if I want to treat myself, I can still pick up an old favorite). And, because it’s nationwide, it’s one of my spots that happens to be available whether I’m out running errands at home or traveling to a new city.

2. Do some research to find favorites.

panera

I know this is going to sound strange, but I get serious ordering anxiety. When it’s my time to step up and give my order to the server or the person at the counter, I have to really focus and concentrate on getting my order right—especially if I’m making special adjustments or ordering something that isn’t usual for me. I’ve learned that saying “can I have a moment, please?” or letting folks go in front of me buys me some time to really peruse the options, and that helps a lot, but the ultimate weapon to squash healthy ordering anxiety is in your pocket—your smartphone!

phone menu car panera

I’ve been known to pull into the parking lot of a restaurant, whip out my smartphone and check the menu before ever stepping foot into the restaurant. Most restaurants offer their menus online now, and many of them include ingredient lists and nutritional info. Ahhhh, lots of information with no pressure, no rush, and no anxiety! I can take my time, really weigh my options and walk into the restaurant with confidence knowing exactly what healthy option I want. Bonus: you don’t even have to glance at the not-so-healthy options on the menu or in the display case. You know exactly what you want! You’re on a mission!

menu board panera

And once you’ve nailed down your favorite healthy options—you always have that in your back pocket. For example, since Panera is one of my favorite healthy stops, I have a whole list of tried-and-true noshing options at my disposal. I know I can walk in to any Panera and order a bowl of Vegetarian Black Bean Soup or a Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich and stay on track.

3. Look for smaller portions.

panera lunch

It’s no secret that the portion-sizes at many restaurants are absolutely huge—many are actually enough calories and food to serve three or more people! That’s why I always look for the smaller portion options when eating out. Look for lunch-sized or child portions (which are actually much more reasonably-sized for an adult in most restaurants). Or, think about splitting an entree with a friend. Or, if you have a good dose of will-power, plan to save half of your meal for another time. Another option is to look for combo deals. I’m not talking about the supersized #4. A lot of places offer deals (especially around lunch time) where you can build your own meal by pairing small portions of multiple menu items. Panera is one of my go-tos because I absolutely adore their You Pick Two deal. You create your own, reasonably-sized meal by picking two items from the following: half a sandwich, a cup of soup or half of one of their salads. I love this deal because not only are the portions right and the price right, but the smaller portions let you maybe splurge on something a little more decadent. You can get that cup of Broccoli Cheddar soup that sounds amazing, because the small portion size makes it a more reasonable choice than if you were to make your entire meal out of it.

4. Splurge, but in a smart way.

panera lemonade laptop

You guys know that I’m a big fan of healthy eating not being limiting. I think that life is too short to not indulge in a cookie if you’re really wanting a cookie. But I think the key to splurging in a healthy way is to do it with a plan. I rarely get the chance to go out to eat, so I almost always figure out a way to treat myself during the meal. A cookie for dessert OR a fancy coffee drink for the road OR big glass of lemonade. Notice the or. When you don’t hit up restaurants often it can be so tempting to get all the options available, but you can still treat yourself without downing 1000 extra calories of sugar. Figure out what you really want, and stick to that and only that. If it’s a cookie, get a cookie. But then get water to go with your meal and skip the post-meal coffee drink. If you really love the lemonade at Panera (I do!), then get that, but skip dessert. If you are in desperate need of a caffeine jolt, get yourself a mocha, and make that your dessert instead of a cookie or cupcake.

So how’d I do?

Well, I was in desperate need of a not-work-from-home-day (sometimes, as nice as it is to work from home, you gotta get out of the house!) and I hit up Panera to grab some lunch and set up shop for the afternoon, and I think I managed to do pretty well! Interestingly enough, I decided that it was time to expand past my healthy favorites, and try something new, so after doing some research in the car, I ended up getting the You Pick Two combination with two items I’ve never had before—a cup of their Turkey Chili and a half Smoked Turkey Breast on Country Bread sandwich. Both options were delicious, and the combo managed to keep the nutrition stats of my meal still reasonable. I think I have some new favorites to add to my list! And, because I can’t go to Panera without getting some of my favorite lemonade, I grabbed myself a regular-sized cup. panera lunch

All together, I got a very satisfying lunch and I think the nutrition stats are very reasonable: Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 11.36.35 AM

What are your favorites?

Right now, Panera is asking folks to share with them their favorite menu items (and I encourage you to figure out your favorite healthier Panera item for extra credit) on social media, all for a chance to win one of many $25 Panera gift cards they’re giving out. To get entered to win, just tag a post on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter about your favorite meal from Panera with the tag #PaneraFaves. I’d love to see what healthy combos you guys come up with! You can also vote for your favorite menu item at Panerabread.com – MyPanera members will get a chance to win their favorite free for a year!

Win a $100 Panera gift card

Panera has provided me a $100 Panera gift card to give to one lucky Back to Her Roots reader (yay!). To get entered, all you do is answer the simple question: Which Panera Bread menu item is your healthy favorite?

Sweepstakes Rules

No duplicate comments. You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  • Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  • Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  • Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  • For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected. The Official Rules are available here. This sweepstakes runs from 2/26/2014-3/30/2014. Be sure to visit the Panera Bread brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

two-week healthy eating meal plan: february 2014

8

Posted on Feb 14, 2014 in Food

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! Regardless of if your single, attached or anything in between, I hope you have an amazing day full of love. Craig and I are keeping it low-key this year, partly because we’re getting yet another snow storm today. Granted, even if we weren’t getting snow, we’d probably stay in. We’re so boring. And we like it.

My gift to you lovelies on this holiday is another two-week meal plan! Last month’s plan was a big hit, and it’s inspired me to keep coming up with these plans each month. I’m desperately hoping that this is the last month of real winter weather, so to honor that, I’m including lots of hearty, cozy and comfy meals. Just maybe, we’ll be grilling and having picnics by next month’s menu. Maybe?

If you’re new to my meal plans: below you’ll find two-weeks of ideas breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinners (including links to recipes). I’m a big fan of meal prepping, so this menu assumes that you’re willing to devote a little bit of time on a weekend afternoon to prepping some recipes in advance. Trust me, a few hours on the weekend can add up to big time savings during the week! To help along with your meal prepping, you’ll find a Food Prep section at the beginning of the menu that lists out what preps you need to make. And at the bottom of the post, you’ll find a free printable menu for you to print out and hang up on the fridge for easy reference. Don’t forget to pin this post so you can easily reference the recipes throughout the two weeks.

header

Food Preps

The key to making my meal plans run smoothly is meal prepping. This keeps healthy, prepared foods right at your fingertips without depending on processed, convenience foods from the grocery store. I do my meal prepping on Sunday evenings, but any day of the week that you can carve out a few hours is a great time to do it. Here’s what foods you’ll need to prep ahead of time for each week:

  • Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies—stash these cookies in a zip-top bag in the freezer once they are cool. They’ll keep for the entire two weeks (and even longer). I recommend doubling the batch if you’re a family of two or more. When you’re ready to eat, wrap one or two in a paper towel and then microwave on high for 30 seconds to warm.
  • Homemade Fruit on the Bottom Yogurts—feel free to streamline this by using low-sugar jam and store-bought yogurt. Or, if you find a good deal on single-serving yogurts at the store, sub those in.
  • Herbed Egg and Turkey Cups—you can mix these cups up with all kinds of different flavors. Try ham slices with cheddar and chives!
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs—HBEs are an amazing, all-natural, protein-packed, grab-and-go snack. We make up (at least) a full dozen of them ever week.
  • Whole Grain Waffle Mix—You can either just make up this mix, and stop there. Or, if you’re feeling particularly over-achiever-y, go ahead and warm up your waffle iron and make a big batch of waffles while you’re doing food prep. When they’re finished, stash them in a zip-top bag in the freezer, and then they’re ready for a trip in the toaster on a busy morning. Take that, Eggos.
  • Greek Quinoa Salad—This salad is one of my absolute favorite vegetarian main dishes. Quinoa is one of the few vegetarian sources of complete protein. It’ll stash in the fridge for 4-5 days, so make a big batch and eat on it during the work week.
  • Black Bean Burgers—These are great for both quick lunches and quick dinners. Just go ahead and bake as the recipe suggests, then as soon as they cool, freeze them in a zip-top bag. To heat them up, nuke on high for about a minute.
  • Salads-in-a-Jar—Its not a food prep day in our house without making a whole bunch of salad jars! Make both side salad sizes (pint jars) and full-meal sizes (quart jars) when you prep. In the full-meal sizes, make sure to add some sources of protein—chicken, tofu, beans, quinoa, etc.
  • Coconut-Pistachio Stuffed Dates—These are a great snack for when you’re craving something sweet. They’ll stay fresh in the fridge for a week or more, so stock up.

yogurt jars

Breakfasts

  • Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Cookies, Homemade Fruit on the Bottom Yogurts, Fruit—Short on time? This is a great grab-and-go breakfast. And the whole grains in the breakfast cookies will keep you full for hours.
  • Herbed Egg and Turkey Cups, Fruit, Whole Wheat Toast with Peanut Butter—I like to mix up my breakfasts between sweet and savory. These turkey cups are one of my favorites for when I’m craving a savory meal to start off.
  • Apple-Date Steel Cut Oats—Don’t think you have time to make steel cut oats? Wrong! I make mine in the rice cooker (it does the work while you’re getting dressing, putting on makeup and getting ready) or you can make it overnight in the slow cooker.
  • Orange Pom-Berry Smoothie, Hard-Boiled Eggs—Whipping up a quick smoothie is a great way to get lots of nutrients fast in the morning. This smoothie is so packed with flavor, you could add in a big handful of spinach and you’d never taste it.
  • Whole Grain Waffles with Peanut Butter, Cinnamon and Apple Slices—You can either make your waffles from scratch on a more leisurely morning, or pull some pre-made waffles out of the freezer and pop it in the toaster.
  • Egg, Bacon and Cheddar Cheese English Muffin Sandwiches, Fruit—It’s hard to beat a classic egg sandwich. I like to serve mine on whole grain English muffins, but feel free to sub in bagels or whole wheat bread.
  • Pear and Cheddar Breakfast Quesadillas—These sound totally weird, but the combo of sweet and savory is to-die-for.

quesadillas

Lunches

  • Greek Quinoa Salad, Whole Grain Crackers—This salad is an all-in-one meal. You get whole grains, you get complete proteins, you get veggies, you get healthy fats. I like to serve it with a handful of crackers for a little crunch.
  • Black Bean Burgers, Salad in a Jar (side/pint size)—Skip the drive-thru and instead pack your own, super healthy burger. Pack your favorite burger toppings (I like cheese, lettuce, and tomato) in separate container and stack on your burger once it’s warmed up. Eat it with a whole grain bun, or without.
  • Salad in a Jar (full/quart size), Whole Grain Crackers—Make sure to pack in lots of proteins and healthy fats into your full-meal salads in a jar. If you just use veggies, you’ll probably be hungry an hour later (which is never fun).
  • Soup in a Jar,  Salad in a Jar (side/pint size)—You’ll be making a number of soups for dinners over the course of the next two weeks. Leftover soup makes a perfect lunch! Just fill up a pint Mason jar with your soup and another pint jar with your salad, and you’ve got a great lunch. Bonus, take the lid off, and the soup Mason jar can go straight into the office kitchenette microwave.
  • Leftovers—Learn to love ‘em! You’re going to be cooking 14 different dinners over the course of this two-week plan, you’re bound to have delicious, healthy, ready-to-eat leftovers for lunch. Embrace ‘em! Promise me you won’t let all that delicious food go to waste, k?

greek quinoa salad

Snacks

  • Ants on a Log—Kids and adults alike love these. Fill celery stalks with peanut butter and top with raisins. Crunchy, creamy and sweet! Plus, the fat and protein in the peanut butter goes a long way to help your belly feel satisfied between meals. You can also sub in cream cheese or another nut butter if peanut butter ain’t your thang.
  • Veggies with Hummus—Dipping carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, and cucumbers into hummus is a great way to get in some veggies and some protein. Just watch your hummus portions! Those dips add up fast. I like to measure out an amount of hummus into a bowl instead of dipping straight from the container. You can also make your own hummus and adjust it to be lighter by going easy on the oil.
  • Hard-Boiled Eggs—You can’t beat the protein and grabability of a hard-boiled egg.
  • Coconut-Pistachio Stuffed Dates—Around 3pm, do you start seriously craving a candy bar or a donut or something else sugary? If so, these dates are perfect. They’re a great way to get a natural boost of sugar. I like to pair a few of them with a mug of hot tea.
  • Fruit—Fruit is the original grab-and-go snack! Make sure you stock up on your favorites at the store. Grab some fresh pears, apples, bananas, clementines, or whatever else fruit looks good to you and reserve it just for snacking.
  • Air-Popped Popcorn—You might be used to salty, buttery movie theatre popcorn, but the plain air-popped stuff is actually remarkably flavorful and at only 30 calories per cup, a great filling snack! It’s also crazy cheap. A bag of kernels runs about $2 and will last you forever. Don’t have an air-popper? No worries, just put 1/4 cup of kernels in the bottom of a small brown paper back (think lunch size), fold the top down, lay flat in the microwave and microwave at 100% for 2-4 minutes, or until the popping slows down. For a special treat on movie-night, you can also make homemade movie theatre popcorn.

popcorn

Dinners

  • Creamy Vegan Carrot and Apple SoupWhole Wheat Garlic Knots—These knots will stash in the fridge for a few days, so make up a batch and save the leftovers for other soup nights. To reheat, just pop in a 350° oven for 5-10 minutes.
  • Baked Falafel Lettuce Wraps—This is one of my favorite Meatless Monday meals! If you’re missing the bread factor, serve it with some warm pitas and hummus as a side.
  • Zuppa Toscana, Whole Wheat Garlic Knots—This soup is a little more decadent that a lot of the other meals on this list, so serve it on day when you need the extra calories (maybe after a big family hike on a Saturday morning).
  • Lentil Sloppy Joes, Sweet Potato Fries—Who doesn’t love sloppy joes? This meatless dinner is a definite crowd-pleaser.
  • Broccoli, Cheddar, and Potato Soup, Salad—An oldie but a goodie recipe. It’s a creamy, thick, cozy soup that feels like it’s packed with cream, but it’s actually really light—under 300 calories per serving.
  • Portabella Cheesesteaks, Roasted Brussels Sprouts—This weeknight dinner is in weekly rotation at our house. It takes about 30 minutes total to make the cheesesteaks, which happens to be the perfect amount of time to get carmelized, roasted Brussels sprouts.
  • Slow-Cooker Fall-Apart Chicken, Cheesy Cauliflower and Farro Bake—Never made a whole chicken in the slow-cooker? Well, you should. The end result is tender, juicy and it literally falls off the bone.
  • Drunken Beef Stew—I love one-pot meals, and this is a favorite in our house. You can also make this in the slow-cooker for a yummy weeknight dinner. Grab a piece of whole wheat buttered bread to sop up the leftover gravy in the bowl.
  • Shrimp and Cheddar Quinoa with Bacon, Salad—Rushed for time? This dinner comes together in 15 minutes. You might not even have time to put the salad together!
  • Cheesy Baked Penne with Spinach and Italian Sausage, Salad—This casserole is a great comforting dinner for a snowy Saturday evening.
  • Homemade Pizza with Whole Wheat Crust—Customize this pizza to suit your family’s likes and dislikes. Our favorite combo: pineapple, feta and bacon. Yum! We have pizza once a week in our house.
  • Leftover Night—Each week, schedule in a leftover night. If you haven’t used up your leftovers for lunches, now is the time to clear out that fridge. Bring out all the 1/2 cups of this and one serving of that, heat them up and let everyone pick their poison. Today is also a great time to freeze and meals that you have a lot leftover.

shrimp and quinoa

Treats

  • Dark Chocolate Squares—You can buy individually wrapped dark chocolate squares or break a full-sized bar into squares for individual servings. These squares are a great way to add a little bit of a treat to your workday lunch.
  • Gingered Hot Chocolate—Spring is (hopefully) coming soon, so make sure to get in your fill of hot chocolate now.
  • One-Minute Peanut Butter Cake—This is one of the most popular recipes on my blog, and for good reason! You can go from no-cake to cake in under two minutes. And it’s got inherent portion control!

peanut butter cake

I’ve also put this menu plan into a printable for you to download and hang up right on the fridge for easy reference (and make sure to Pin this post so you can access the recipes easy on your smartphone or tablet when cooking in the kitchen). I went ahead and slotted the recipes into the standard workweek format (so longer, more time-intensive recipes on the weekends), but feel free to mix it up if your schedule isn’t typical. If this doesn’t work for you, you can at least get an idea of how I’d pair everything together, and use it as a base to make your own menu (maybe using this blank menu planner).

printable-graphic

Are you a big fan of menu planning? What are your go-to weekly dishes?