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Cocoa Dusted Peanut Butter Banana: 200- calorie snack idea

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Today is National Chocolate Day! I’m a strong supporter of all things chocolate, and at the request of one of my readers, I decided to share a chocolate recipe in honor of the holiday ūüôā

I worked with a dietician for a couple of months this summer while planning my wedding. ¬†It was a very eye-opening experience for many reasons, but the biggest was that I had not realized how many bad habits I had learned over the years from the various weight loss programs I had done. ¬†Even the revered Weight Watchers had caused me to strike some very healthy foods from my regular diet- foods like nuts, avocados, and peanut butter that are healthy, but high in points. ¬†Why spend 4 points on a little bit of peanut butter when I can have a bunch of Fiber One brownies for the same amount? ¬†When the dietician actually encouraged me to not only eat these foods, but to eat them more than once a day, I was in heaven! ¬†And I couldn’t believe what that, along with the other changes she suggested, did for my junk food cravings. ¬†I just plain did not want junk anymore. ¬†I never, ever felt that way while on Weight Watchers or any other weight loss program I’d done. ¬†What bad habits have you all picked up from dieting?

I came up with this recipe as a late night snack. ¬†I always found myself craving peanut butter and chocolate late at night. ¬†The first time I showed this snack to her, she loved it! ¬†It is under 200 calories, provides a good balance of carbs, fat and protein, along with plenty of vitamins and minerals. ¬†In addition, cocoa powder seems to be loaded with antioxidants and is linked with every positive health effect under the sun, it seems! ¬†I found this interesting article on NPR about how it works with your gut microbes to lower blood pressure and body weight. ¬†Umm, I don’t know about you all, but I like to eat things that will lower my body weight!

I have also learned this- you really want to buy good quality cocoa powder and not the cheap Hershey’s stuff. ¬†I have always bought Hershey’s, but this time when I needed more, my grocery store didn’t have any and I had to buy the more expensive Ghirardelli. Wow, what a difference in taste!! Worth every penny I spent for the higher end stuff.

Don’t worry about the cocoa powder not being sweet- bananas are so sweet that mixed with a little bit of cocoa, you get a nice dark chocolate flavor. ¬†If chocolate isn’t your thing, you could easily swap out the cocoa powder for cinnamon (also very good for you!) or pumpkin pie spice, or maybe mix the two together- that would be delish! ¬†Almond or cashew butter would also be amazing here, as would a sprinkle of coconut or a little sea salt on top.

 

Cocoa Dusted Peanut Butter Banana

  • 1 banana, peeled
  • 1 T creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 t unsweetened cocoa powder

Spread peanut butter on banana. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and eat with fork.

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

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Here’s another ultra easy slow-cooker dinner for you- I loooove this soup when it’s cold outside. ¬†There’s something indulgent about spicy food from a tropical locale on a chilly day. ¬†I found this recipe on www.paleogrubs.com, so not only is it simple to prepare and loaded with protein and veggies, it’s paleo-friendly too! ¬†I don’t follow a paleo diet (obviously, if you’ve seen my other posts ūüôā so I add a side of whole grains- either brown rice or corn- so I don’t end up craving empty carbs later.

Another great thing about this soup is it freezes very well. ¬†I like to put the leftovers into single-serving containers and freeze them to take to work for lunches. ¬†This works out nicely because I don’t have to think too hard about packing lunches during some busy week in the future- I’ve got a few ready to go, and also because frozen soup won’t leak in my bag.

My co-worker, Brenda, shared a good idea for shredding chicken with me today- put the cooked chicken in the bowl of a mixer and use the beaters to shred it. ¬†She says it really works well and will not turn the chicken into baby food. ¬†I’m sure she’s right! ¬†I know my Ninja blender is supposed to be able to shred chicken too, but I’m pretty sure I’d end up with chicken puree rather than chewable meat.

There are a lot of options for toppings here, so I’m not going to list them in the recipe- avocado, shredded cheese, lime juice, tortilla strips, or sour cream. ¬†I like to use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream- I really don’t think they taste too different, and it’s so much healthier and we always have some in the house. ¬†I put a dollop of yogurt on my bowl tonight- yum! What topping ideas do you all have?

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Enchilada Soup

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1- 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 T minced garlic
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 T taco seasoning

Add all ingredients to slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours.  Use a fork (or mixer method referenced above) to shred the chicken before serving.  Serve hot, and garnish with toppings of choice.

Greek Yogurt Parmesan Chicken Dinner

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I first saw this recipe on a Miracle Whip commercial when I was like, 13, and I’ve been making some version of it ever since. ¬†This is a chicken dinner everyone will ask for again and again, I promise- even your pickiest eaters. ¬†I know it doesn’t look the best, and it sounds even worse when I tell most people what’s in it, but tasting is believing. ¬†I’ve made it for tons of different people over the years and every one of them has loved it, even the ones who were sure it was going to be disgusting! ¬†All I can tell you is to give it a shot, even if you aren’t convinced right now.

The original recipe called for Miracle Whip, parmesan cheese, oregano, and garlic, I think. ¬†I don’t like Miracle Whip at all, so I immediately switched it to mayo, and I also didn’t like the garlic in it so I removed that right away too. ¬†I’ve experimented with substituting different amounts of mayo with Greek yogurt to make it healthier, and I’ve finally decided a 1:1 ratio gives the best flavor and texture.

This chicken tastes wonderful with brown rice cooked in chicken broth, and a simple side of veggies with olive oil or butter and salt and pepper.  This recipe will make lots of extra sauce because I like to put some on my rice, too.

 

Greek Yogurt Parmesan Chicken Dinner

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • 3/4 cup mayo
  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 T dried oregano
  • 1 cup brown rice cooked in chicken broth according to package directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. ¬†Spray a 9×11 casserole dish with cooking spray and put chicken breast halves in dish. ¬†In a medium mixing bowl, mix mayo, yogurt, cheese, and oregano. Spread evenly over chicken and spread any excess on bottom of casserole dish. ¬†Bake 35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. ¬†Serve with brown rice cooked in chicken broth, and top rice with excess sauce.

4 Ingredient Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

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This is my husband’s favorite dinner, and it couldn’t be any easier to make. ¬†Just throw four ingredients (unless you add the optional mushrooms, then it’s 5) into your slow cooker in the morning, let them cook all day while you’re at work, and your delectable meal will be waiting when you walk in the door at night!

I have used several different cuts of beef roast for this and they all work just fine. ¬†To make this as healthy as possible, I buy whole grain bread for the sandwiches. ¬†I also wait for sales on grass-fed beef roasts and buy a couple at a time since grass-fed beef has more omega-3 fats and is widely regarded as healthier than grain-fed beef. ¬†I usually serve these sandwiches with a green salad of some kind. ¬†We love the bagged kale salads with the dressings and toppings provided- they are so convenient and always taste great ūüôā

I usually buy a package of sliced baby bella mushrooms to throw in the slow cooker with everything else. ¬†If you don’t like mushrooms or don’t want to add them, leave them out. ¬†I love mushrooms and I think they are a nice addition to the mix. ¬†Plus, mushrooms are very nutritious! ¬†They are a good source of B vitamins, selenium, antioxidants, and may even fight cancer. ¬†You can read more about their nutritional value here:¬†http://m.mushroominfo.com/benefits/

 

4 Ingredient Slow Cooker French Dip Sandwiches

  • 1- 2 lb beef roast
  • 1 packet Lipton onion soup mix
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 1 t black pepper
  • 1- 8 oz package sliced baby bella mushrooms (optional)
  • 1 loaf hearty whole grain bread, for serving

Place beef roast, onion soup mix, broth, black pepper, and mushrooms in slow cooker.  Turn heat to low and cook for 9 hours or until roast is cooked through and meat pulls apart easily.  Shred beef in slow cooker using two forks.  To serve, use slotted spoon to separate beef from au jus and pile onto sliced bread for sandwiches.  Serve with a cup or bowl of hot au jus on the side for dipping.

Spinach Tortellini Pesto Soup

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This is a super fast soup, perfect for a quick weekday dinner. ¬†It’s hearty and filling with a side salad on a cool day. ¬†It freezes and reheats well if you have leftovers. ¬†If you want a nice veggies-only side dish to go with another main dish, just leave out the tortellini- the broth, tomato, spinach and pesto make a great soup on their own.

The original version of this recipe was posted on damndelicious.net, and you can view it¬†here. ¬† I have simplified the recipe by adding the pesto and scrapping several of the other ingredients. ¬†If you don’t want to buy pesto, use the original recipe.

Spinach Tortellini Pesto Soup

  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1- 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 t minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup prepared pesto
  • 1- 9 oz package prepared refrigerated cheese tortellini
  • 4 cups spinach leaves
  • grated Parmesan cheese for topping

In a large stockpot, bring chicken broth, diced tomatoes, garlic, and pesto to a boil.  Add cheese tortellini and cook according to package directions.  Remove from heat and immediately stir in spinach until wilted.  Serve hot, and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Apple Chicken Sausage Butternut Squash Casserole

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It’s kind of hard to believe a casserole could be a quick dinner, but it’s true! This one takes an hour in the oven, so in that regard, it isn’t quick. ¬†But as far as the amount of hands-on work, it only takes about 10 minutes. ¬†I like dinners like this because I can put it in the oven and go on a run while I wait for it to cook, and when I get back, it’s ready. ¬†This is very fall-flavored dish, is balanced, full of nutrients and tastes great reheated for work lunches ūüôā

I found the apple-gouda chicken sausages I used at Costco, but I’ve bought apple sausage at Hy-Vee and Target before too. ¬†My Hy-Vee store sells bags of fresh pre-washed and torn kale. ¬†The butternut squash also came pre-peeled and chopped for $5 at Costco. ¬†You can also buy fresh or frozen chopped butternut squash at most grocery stores. ¬†For this ingredient, just use whatever amount you can get your hands on pre-peeled and chopped. ¬†I got a big tub of it at Costco, so I used it all. ¬†If you get 2 cups at the grocery store, use 2 cups. ¬†If you can’t find it anywhere, and don’t want to buy a whole squash and cut it up yourself,¬†which takes forever, I don’t blame you. ¬†I’d honestly just skip the squash altogether in that case. ¬†There are plenty of other goodies in this casserole without it.

Apple Chicken Sausage Butternut Squash Casserole

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • peeled, chopped butternut squash
  • 2 cups fresh kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large shallot or 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 T rice vinegar
  • 1/2 T dried sage
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 6 apple chicken sausages, sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread quinoa in bottom of casserole dish.  Pour 2 cups chicken broth evenly over quinoa.  Spread squash, kale and onion over quinoa.  In separate bowl, mix 1 cup chicken broth, apple cider, rice vinegar, sage and pepper and pour evenly over vegetable mixture.  Spread chicken sausage slices evenly over entire casserole.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until quinoa is fully cooked.

White Chicken Make-Ahead Skinny Enchiladas

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These enchiladas are soooo good. ¬†The best comfort food. ¬†Enchilada sauce, chicken, and cheese… all the best flavors right there together in one pan. ¬†Enchiladas are a little more work than some of my dishes, since you have to roll them up, but I cook the chicken in the crock pot to save some time. ¬†I like to make a pan of enchiladas on Sunday and freeze them when I have a busy week ahead. ¬†Then on the day I want them, I just put them in the fridge the night before¬†so they’re thawed and bake like usual. ¬†I really like to have something like this for nights I have plans right after work, because my husband can put them in the oven, go off and do his own thing for a while, and¬†dinner is ready¬†when I get home. ¬†He and I once got in a fight over the last two enchiladas when I’d made a pan of these. ¬†I thought they were for me but he ate them. ¬†It was ugly. ¬†That’s how good these are.

When I make these, I like to throw an extra chicken breast or two in the crock pot to shred and eat on my lunch salads.

For tortillas, I use corn because when I’ve compared them to flour, they’ve been lower in calories and I prefer the flavor. ¬†Flour tortillas are easier to roll, however, and the corn ones will probably split when rolled. ¬†I don’t worry about the splitting too much, as it won’t matter a whole lot once it’s baked. ¬†When comparing corn and whole wheat tortillas, the nutrition seems to be an apples and oranges comparison- they each have their own benefits, so choose which one is best for you. ¬†White flour tortillas aren’t anywhere near as nutritious as corn and whole wheat, so I never buy them. ¬†For the cheese, I use Irish Kerrygold cheese, as it is grass-fed, known to contain omega-3 fatty acids, and is generally considered healthy by nutritionists.

 

White Chicken Make-Ahead Enchiladas

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/2 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
  • 3 cups¬†chicken broth
  • 10- 6 inch corn or wheat tortillas
  • 2- 10 oz cans green enchilada sauce
  • 3¬†cups shredded cheddar, Monterrey jack, Mexican blend or crumbled queso fresco cheese, divided
  • Ranch dressing of your choice for serving, if desired

Place chicken breast, chicken broth and ranch dressing mix in crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours or until chicken is no longer pink in middle. ¬†Remove chicken from crock pot and using two forks, tear chicken to shreds, and mix with 1 cup cheese. ¬†Spray 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray. ¬†Roll 1/4-1/3 cup chicken and cheese mixture into each of the tortillas and place in casserole dish. ¬†Pour enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas. ¬†Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top. ¬†At this point, you can either cover and freeze or bake.

If freezing: cover the dish with a freezer-proof cover.  The night before you want to cook, place dish, still covered, in fridge.  Cover dish with foil.  Bake at 350  degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbly and enchiladas are heated through.

If baking: Cover dish with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 15 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbly and enchiladas are heated through.

Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Pasta

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This recipe is every sort of awesome. ¬†It has pesto, fresh mozzarella, marinara, and it’s super fast and easy, making it a perfect weeknight dinner idea. ¬†I first saw the recipe, ¬†titled “Baked Pesto Chicken Parmesan” on one of my favorite food blogs, Iowa Girl Eats. ¬†Once I tried it and made a few minor tweaks to the original recipe, it was instantly in heavy rotation at my house and has now become my old standby dish. ¬†Whenever I don’t know what to make, I make this. ¬†It’s quick, easy, healthy, and everyone loves it. ¬†I add a lot more marinara sauce than the original recipe calls for, then serve it with whole wheat pasta and a green salad on the side.

Pesto Mozzarella Chicken Pasta

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded flat and cut into 2 pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup prepared basil pesto sauce
  • 1-24 oz jar marinara sauce
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced into 8 1-oz
  • 2 cups uncooked whole wheat pasta

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. ¬†Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. ¬†Place chicken breast halves in baking dish. ¬†Salt and pepper both sides to taste. ¬†Spread breast halves on both sides with pesto. ¬†Pour marinara into dish, covering chicken. ¬†Top each breast piece with a piece of cheese. ¬†Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink in center. ¬†Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. ¬†To serve, divide cooked pasta into 4 bowls. ¬†Ladle excess pasta sauce over pasta, then place 1-2 pieces of chicken over pasta in bowls.

 

 

 

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

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On Sunday mornings, I love to have something special for breakfast. ¬†Of course, most brunch foods are full of sugar, or grease, or something that will leave us feeling sluggish for the rest of the day. Enter carrot cake oatmeal: the perfect fall and winter treat that tastes decadent, but is actually pretty healthy. ¬†It also only takes about 10 minutes to make. ¬†You could also easily swap the carrots for an equal amount of pumpkin puree and make this pumpkin spice oatmeal if you’d rather. ¬†This recipe makes two servings, so I can start my work week on a happy note with the leftovers ūüôā

Note that you have options with the carrots here- I usually have a big bag of baby carrots from Costco so I throw some in the food processor and grind them up that way. ¬†You could also use shredded carrots or finely chop them yourself. ¬†It took about 2 cups of baby carrots to get 1 cup of chopped for me. ¬†The amounts aren’t terribly important. ¬†I’m most concerned about getting a full serving of veggies. ¬†Do whatever is most convenient for you. ¬†Also, adding the yogurt is totally optional here. ¬†I always add yogurt to my oatmeal¬†because I like to have some protein in the morning, and I like the creamy texture it adds. ¬†If you don’t want it, skip it. ¬†You can also use whatever oats you like- quick, regular, steel cut, Irish, it doesn’t matter. Just follow the cooking instructions and amounts on the container for 1 serving of the oats you have, and cook them in the vanilla almond milk. ¬†I used quick oats here.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

  • 1 cup carrots, finely chopped or shredded
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla ¬†almond milk
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3/4 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/3 cup unflavored Greek yogurt*
  • 1 t vanilla extract *
  • ¬†1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Place carrots and water in medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, until carrots are softened.  Add almond milk, oats, and salt and cook oats according to package directions (1 minute for quick oats).  Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin pie spice, yogurt, and vanilla.   Divide into two serving bowls and top each serving with half of the walnuts and half of the cranberries and serve.

*Yogurt is optional. If you omit the yogurt, you can reduce the vanilla to 1/2 t.

Adapted from http://www.anediblemosaic.com/carrot-cake-oats/

Pumpkin Spice Green Smoothie

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I love smoothies. ¬†They’re a super fast, easy, tasty way to fill up and get a lot of nutrition. Unfortunately, cooler fall days don’t always leave us craving a big frozen drink, which means this mainstay of my diet suddenly becomes a lot less appealing. ¬†Enter, the pumpkin spice green smoothie: because pumpkin spice anything is totally appealing in the fall. ¬†What makes this smoothie even better than most is pumpkin puree is crazy filling, and it does a great job covering up the spinach taste too. ¬†Note that I use plain, unflavored Greek yogurt here. ¬†I do that mostly because it’s cheaper for me to buy big containers of that and then I can use it for recipes, or to replace sour cream, etc. and if I want it for a smoothie or just to eat, I add my own vanilla and sweetener. ¬†The real, high quality vanilla and maple syrup give it a very rich, delectable flavor that you don’t get from pre-made vanilla yogurt, but of course it does add some extra steps. ¬†If you use vanilla yogurt, you can omit the vanilla and some or all of the maple syrup.

 

Pumpkin Spice Green Smoothie

  • 1/2 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 3/4 cup unflavored Greek yogurt
  • 1 t vanilla extract*
  • 1 T maple syrup*
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1.5 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup ice

Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth.

*If using sweetened vanilla flavored yogurt, you can omit the vanilla extract and reduce the maple syrup to 1/2 T