Spaghetti with roasted sprouts and cherry tomatoes {recipe}

I’ve realized lately that the kind of food I enjoy most is food that is uncomplicated.  Sure, it’s awesome to tackle a difficult recipe, but there’s something to be said for the simple satisfaction of grabbing fresh ingredients from the fridge and transforming them into a great tasting meal without consulting a recipe every five seconds.

One night, while wandering up and down grocery store aisles, searching for something that might satiate me, I became increasingly agitated.  It was mega-mart overload.  I set my basket on the ground and considered abandoning the whole thing and ordering a nice hot pizza.  After a short silent debate (during which time I’m sure I got a couple woah-crazy-lady looks), I took one final lap of the produce aisle and grabbed the things that looked best:  cherry tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, a hunk of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano (which the uptown grocery store conveniently keeps in the middle of the veggies), and a bottle of red wine.  I had no recipe, just a bunch of things I eat often and love.

These days, we are inundated with recipes.  They are everywhere.  And if you’re like me, you’re constantly clipping and pinning and bookmarking things to try.  The recipe pool is big and bottomless, and while these are great qualities for a mimosa, I often find myself completely flummoxed when I try to decide which one to make for dinner.  I call this recipe paralysis.  We’ve all become so reliant on recipes, we’ve forgotten how simple cooking can be.

spaghetti with roasted brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes

When I got home from the grocery store, I poured a glass of wine and cranked the oven and some tunes (and by tunes, I mean NPR, of course).  I put the halved Brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan along with a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic, drizzled on some extra virgin olive oil, and seasoned with salt.  I roasted the veggies in a 425 degree oven for twenty minutes, during which time I cooked some whole wheat spaghetti (or was it linguine?) on the stove top.  Saving a mugful of the starchy cooking liquid, I combined the drained noodles with the hot roasted veggies, a drizzle of evoo, red pepper flakes, some salt, a little of the cooking liquid, and a generous grating of the fresh parmesan.  Dinner was served without the guidance of a recipe (what?!) and it was delicious.

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Pork with Sautéed Cider Apples {recipe}

When it comes to food, I have an extremely hard time making decisions.  I blame it on information overload, or rather, possibilities overload.  Between cookbooks, magazines, recipe sites, delicious blogs, and PINTEREST, it’s practically impossible to zero in on “the one.”

This week, like the loving gal I am, I pushed the horrible task of deciding what to make for dinner onto my boyfriend.  I handed him the latest issue of Cooking Light and asked him to pick out one recipe that we would then make for dinner.  He diligently flipped through the magazine, cover to cover, jotting down notes along the way, and then presented me with a list of not one but TEN recipes he’d like to try.

I appreciate the enthusiasm, but ten?!  So much for following instructions…

As inefficient as it sounds, this process was actually much faster than usual.  Plus, we hit the trifecta:  cheap, fast, and delicious.

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sautéed Apples

I’m not usually a big fan of mixing sweet and savory, but this combination of pork, apples, and onions was fantastic—the perfect fall meal.

 

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So simple, so tasty.

For as much as I like to go out to eat, and boy do I like to go out to eat, I too enjoy having a simple tasty meal at home. Tonight’s dinner was just that.  So simple, so tasty.  Since I talked myself out of running this morning (I guess I learned nothing from yesterday’s post), I wanted a quick and light dinner so that I could spend some quality time with my tenner shoes this evening.

After a quick fridge inventory, I decided a turkey wrap was the feature entre of the evening.  1 whole wheat Flat-out wrap, 4 ounces of Boars Head Turkey Breast, 2 tbsp Trader Joes creamy original hummus (MY FAV!!!!), some tomatoes, onions, and cucumber:

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P.S. cucumbers are my new favorite vehicles for loading up with hummus.  So friggin good… why did I not discover this combo sooner?!

I also had some lazy-gal’s cucumber salad on the side:

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Since I go out to eat quite a bit on the weekends, during the week I shoot to eat as healthy as I can.  The key for me is that “healthy” still has to equal tasty.  If it ain’t tasty, I ain’t eatin!

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It’s a wrap:  324 calories, 30g carbs, 9g fat, 39g protein, 13g fiber

As I sat on my balcony devouring this delicious dinner, I started thinking about how varied my meals are throughout any given week.  Tonight I was feasting on a simple wrap—and Saturday night I feasted on French cuisine.  Is it just me, or is it kind of crazy how much food there is to taste and experience in the world?  It just kind of astounds me!  I have problems.  I know.

Speaking of that French Cuisine, Saturday night after Jamie, Vanessa, and I saw Harry Potter, we took a stroll over to Café Monte to get our grub on.  I wonder how you say “grub” in French…?  Grubeaux?

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We had a bit of time to spare before our reservation, so we used a bit of it to oogle over the dessert case.

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And then their expansive breakfast menu (must come back for breakfast soon).

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Then headed to the bar for some cocktails because that’s what any self respecting lady does on Ladies Night Out.

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Hello orange dress Smile

The restaurant was really cute inside and reminded me of some of the places I visited during the week I spent in Paris in college.

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Speaking of that week, the one main thing I remember about Paris was how rude the people were and how much I hated the food.  The only French word I’d learned was “poulet” (translates to chicken).  So at every restaurant I visited I‘d scan the menu for poulet, then use the point and repeat technique to order my meals.  Poulet.  Poooooolettttttttt (insert rapid menu tapping here).  No wonder the people hated me Winking smile

Luckily, the folks at Café Monte were very hospitable and also very knowledgeable about the menu items.  Plus the menu was in English, so I didn’t have to search too hard to find the chicken dishes SmileDSCF7414

Since I had a Living Social deal for the restaurant (Boo.Ya.), we decided to get crazy and order the cheese fondue for our appetizer:

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Give me a loaf of bread, and I’m a very happy lady.  Give me a loaf of bread AND a tub full of melty cheese and I may kiss you and beg to be your sugar mama.  Do not be alarmed.

For our dinners, I went with the Chicken (poulet!  pouuuletttttttt!) and Wild Mushroom crepes, Vanessa got some crazy looking fish dish (the Trout Amandine), and Jamie got the Lobster and Crab risotto:

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I think we were all pretty happy with our meals.  My crepes were really tasty, and I especially enjoyed the juiciness of the pulled chicken breast against the creamy madeira sauce.  If the dish would of included sundried tomatoes it would have been a show stopper.  That’s probably not very “french” though, huh?

After dinner, we decided it would only be proper to cap our night off with coffee and dessert.  After nixing the desserts each of us weren’t feeling, we were left with the winner.

Carrot cake:

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I’m not sure what carrot cake has to do with French Cuisine, but it was pretty darn delicious.  Especially with the coffee!

Cafe Monte French Bistro & Bakery on Urbanspoon

On a side note, I really enjoyed the Harry Potter movie!  There were some parts that were a bit cheesy and child like–but I had to keep reminding myself that these were SUPPOSED to be kids.  Even though Harry had a 5 o’clock shadow and six pack abs and Ron and Hermione we making out every time they had five seconds to get a quick grope in these were the KIDS I’d been following for the past 10+ years… they’d just grown up a bit.  *Sigh* … haven’t we all?

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Lazy girl’s guide to stir fry

Lately I’ve had very little motivation to cook anything.  Not sure what the deal is—the heat, the sleep deprivation, the lack of time, or perhaps a missing muse—whatever the case my meals sure have been lacking.

A month or so ago (while still in this cooking rut), I made stir fry for the first time.  I’m talking FOR REAL stir fry. Wok and all. (courtesy of five well spent dollars at Ikea)

I wasn’t really sure where to start with the stir fry.  So I kinda just went with what felt right.  Lucky for me what felt right was a super fast, super easy, super tasty lazy girl stir fry Surprised smile

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Minced garlic and or green onion (obviously I prefer both)
  • Pre-packaged stir-fry veggies (I like FRESH not frozen)
  • Some sort of meat (shrimp, chopped chicken, beef, etc)
  • Some sort of sauce (something low sugar/low sodium.. teriyaki, Szechuan, or whatever your heart desires)
  • S&P
  • Minute Brown Rice

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Ok, so first up, you get the water boiling for the rice.  I usually go with 1/3 cup of rice and then overdo it on the veggies – but it’s really your call, lazy girl.. Your call.

Cook the rice according to the package instructions (aka, dump rice in boiling water, simmer 5 min, remove from heat 5 min, FLUFF!).

Meanwhile, heat up a wok (or sauté pan) on medium high heat.  Get that baby HOT!  Coat with nonstick cooking spray, toss in your garlic and/or onions, and then cook up your meat.  I like to season the meat with some pepper and garlic salt.  When the meat is cooked through, remove it from the wok, and toss in your veggies, and season with S&P.  I use half a bag (6 ounces) of the Eat Smart vegetable Stir Fry mix for one serving.

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I use a little spatula to toss the veggies about and get them slightly crisp.  I’m still working on my wok-toss, so the spatula will have to do for now.

Occasionally add 1 tsp of water to the wok to help the veg get their groove on while simultaneously making you feel like a wok-BAMF.  The pan should SIZZLE when you do this.  I know you’ve got it in you!

When the rice is just about done, add the meat back to the wok, and add in about 2 tbsp of your sauce of choice.  Give it a nice stir (or a few tosses if you’ll feeling crazy), then pour into a bowl along with the rice.

Then eat your face off.

Schezuan Shrimp:

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Teriyaki Chicken:

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Good wok, lazy girl. Good wok. Smile

Stats on 1 serving (1/3 cup rice, 6 ounces veggie mix, 4 ounces shrimp, 2 tbsp Szechuan sauce):  300 calories, 40g carbs, 5g fat, 27g protein, 5g fiber

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Chicken Larb

Reasons why you should never judge a recipe by its cover.. err title:

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Chicken Larb!

Say whaaaaa?  What the crap is “larb”?  Google tells me “larb” is a type of meat salad.  Good to know, Google.  Good to know.

Had I known this fun fact, I might not have hesitated to clip the recipe for “Chicken Larb” out of one of my issues of Cooking Light.  But lucky for my belly, I looked past the gag-reflex-prompting title and filed this puppy away in my big black book.

I tweaked the recipe slightly and scaled it down to one delicious serving.  First up, toss the following in a food processor:

  • 4 ounces chicken breast
  • 2 tsp red curry paste
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • sprinkle of black pepper

Give it a quick buzz in the food processor, and you’ll end up with this crazy orange colored ground chicken:

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I’m still amazed that I can make my own ground meat at home.  It’s the little things, I guess!

Saute the chicken in a pan coated with nonstick spray over medium heat.  I occasionally added a tbsp of water to the pan to help moisten things up.

Meanwhile, combine the following:

  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • The juice of 1/4 of a lime

Thing of beauty:

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Once the chicken is cooked through, combine the chicken with the cucumber mixture and then spoon onto romaine lettuce leaves, and juice a quarter lime over top:

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Looks crazy good, am I right?  I had a big serving of roasted broccoli on the side:

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This was super tasty and SUPER healthful.  I decided mid-meal to grab a tablespoon or so of fat-free plan Greek Yogurt to dollop on top.  It really was the icing on the larb 😉

This was my first time using red curry paste, and the paste along with the cilantro really made for a tasty combo.

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There’s a recipe on the back of the paste bottle for Red Curry Shrimp.  I need to try that STAT!

Roasted broccoli Smile

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A delicious dinner enjoyed on my newly assembled patio furniture:

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It’s nice to have a little helper.  Or a 6’4” helper… either way Smile

Stats on the Chicken Larb + 1.5 cups broccolee broccolye brocco-lee-hee:  221 calories, 19g carbs, 1g fat, 27g protein, 4g fiber

I can’t believe how outrageously low cal yet still tasty that meal was – next time I may beef it up with some beans or avocado.

Soooooo did you catch the broccoli reference?!?!  PLEASE take 4 minutes and watch this.  You won’t regret it.  And as an added bonus you will now know the song I sing to myself every time I chop up broccoli Laughing out loud

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No recipes, just deliciousness.

After work today, I went for a walk with  my sister through the park near her house.  I have to admit, walking and talking with someone is a whole heck of lot more fun than running by yourself.  Just sayin.

After the walk, I headed to the BF’s to make up some dinner.  That’s 2 times in one workweek!  GASP!  Anyway, I had no recipe in mind–I just wanted something TASTY and simple.  And I had a crap ton of veggies to use up in my fridge.  When all else fails, make fajitas.  That’s my life motto actually 😉

First up, I chopped up a green pepper, red onion, a small zucchini, and some white mushrooms and tossed them with a little extra virgin olive oil, garlic salt, cajun seasoning, and black pepper:

Next I made some pico-de-gallo out of some fresh cilantro, tomatoes, red onion, lime juice, garlic salt, and black pepper.  Pico-de-gallo.  PICOOOOO-de-GALLO…  Have you guys seen that Wendy’s commercial??  Makes me laugh every time.

I let the veggies cook for about 15 minutes on the George, then loaded up 1 Mama Lupe low carb tortilla and a big bed of lettuce with the veggies, PIIICCOOOO-de-GALLO 😉 ) , banana pepper rings, some shredded grilled chicken (which I cooked up Sunday night), some Tostitos salsa (leftover from last night’s Mexican Meatloaf), and some Stonyfield Farms Plain Fat-Free yogurt:

Fantastic. 

Side note – Have you checked out the ingredients on Tostito’s salsa?  It’s all natural, and I didn’t even realize it!  Props to Frito Lay!

BTW – I’ve found that Stonyfield Farms Plain Fat-Free yogurt makes an EXCELLENT substitution for sour cream.  This makes me very happy indeed 🙂

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Dinner in under 10 Minutes

Change of plans!  Due to the torrential down pour that’s being dumped on us in northeast Ohio, there was no cooking out today.

Instead, I was left with the task of cooking myself a dinner using only ingredients I had in the house.  I opened up the pantry to find a bag of Carba Nada pasta begging to be eaten:

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I also happened to have some grilled chicken breast leftover from Tuesday night’s cookathon, and in the deep dark depths of my freezer I was lucky to find a single serving of Classico Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic pasta sauce.  Just another perfect example to validate my love and obsession for freezing foods in individual servings 🙂

Batch cooking your meats saves a TON of time throughout the week, but towards the end of the week the meat (especially chicken) can start to get a little dry.  When I make pasta sauce with any sort of meat, I like to steep the meat in the sauce, which makes it nice and juicy and tender.

So, while I was waiting for the pasta water to boil, I put the pasta sauce in small pan and added about 3 ounces of grilled chicken and my typical  pasta sauce barrage of spices:  S&P, Red Pepper Flakes, Dried Oregano, Dried Basil, Onion Powder, and Garlic Powder.  All you really need to do is open up your spice cabinet and toss in a few shakes of whatever sounds good to you 🙂

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Once the water was boiling, I dropped a serving of the Carba Nada pasta into the pot.  Carba Nada only takes 5 minutes to cook (awesome!) and is only 140 calories (AWESOMER!), 24g carbohydrates, 12g protein, and 6g fiber.  And it ACTUALLY tastes good.

While the sauce and pasta were getting their grooves on, I made a small side salad with some lettuce, tomato, onion, and Ken’s Steakhouse Light Balsamic Dressing.

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Dinner is served my friends!

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Pastalicious

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Chow time!

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Dinner in under 10 minutes… sure tastes good! 

Stats on dinner:  398 calories, 48g carbs, 8g fat, 32g protein, 13g fiber

If you are interested in trying out the Carba Nada pasta, I recommend ordering from Netrition because they have $4.95 flat-rate shipping.  (I also order my Mama Lupe low-carb tortillas, PB2, and Joseph’s Bakery products on this site)

 

QUESTION:  What’s your favorite done-in-under-ten-minutes dinner? 

 

 

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Shrimp & Bean Tostado

YOWZA!  Delicious dinner alert!  In my continued effort to use of more of the leftovers from last night’s dinner, I decided to make a tostado for dinner.  A Tostado is an “open-face” enchilada that you can order at pretty much any Mexican restaurant.  The base for the tostado is a flat hard-shelled taco shell, and it is topped with a variety amazing traditional mexican ingredients. 

First thing first, I need to crisp up my tortilla.  I sprayed a little cake pan with some cooking spray, and then tossed a Mama Lupe low carb tortilla into the pan.  I rubbed the tortilla around in the cooking spray on both sides, then popped into a 415 degree oven.  I cooked the tortilla for about 6 minutes, flipping halfway through. 

Mama Lupe gone crispy:

Meanwhile, I got to work on the shrimpies.  I sprayed a saute pan with cooking spray, seasoned both sides of the shrimp with McCormick’s Mexican blend seasoning, Cayenne pepper, and some black pepper.  Then I tossed them into the pan with a few drizzles of lime juice, and cooked them until opaque.

Next I heated up a 1/4 cup of Old El Paso Fat-Free Refried Beans in the microwave and smeared them on top of the crispy tortilla. 

Come to mama… Mama Lupe that is 😉

I also heated up some of the leftover grilled veggies from last night’s dinner (this was approximately 1/4 cup red onion, 1/4 of a green pepper, and 1/4 cup zucchini).  Once heated, I added the chopped up shrimp and about 1 tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro and gave it a good mix. 

Poured the veggies and shrimp onto the bean loaded tortilla and topped with 1 Sargento Light Mozzarella string cheese that I had cut into sticks:

Into a 415 degree oven for 5 minutes until the cheese was nice and melty… Try not to drool on your keyboard 😉

Ohhhhh yes.

But that’s not all! 

I topped the tostado off with some shredded lettuce, 1/4 chopped red onion, 1/2 a plum tomato, a few banana peppers, and 2 tbsp fat-free breakstones sour cream

Yeah that’s right.

Check me out:

Soooooo f.r.i.g.g.i.n. delicious…

The entire time I was eating this I kept thinking “why does this taste SOOOO good?”  

A.)  Cilantro

B.)  Spicy Shrimp

C.)  Beans?? 

D.) VEGGIES GALORE??!?!?

Nope.. It’s actually E.)  All of the above! 😀

Stats on dinner:  323 calories, 36g carbs, 6g fat, 29g protein, 10g fiber

  

Time to get my pack on for the HLS!!!  Anyone have tips for packing light??  I’m trying to avoid checked luggage fees at ALL costs…

 

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Turkey Meatball Sub

The other day I made some jokes about how crazy people get about the meat sale in my hometown.  But this really is no laughing matter.  It’s a serious matter, well a matter of serious savings that is!  Check out this post from my friend Allison–make that posts.  One post was not enough for the meat sale 🙂

 

I was thinking about the meat sale last night when I pulled the frozen ground turkey out of the freezer to defrost.  I had bought it at the LAST meat sale (was that back in tax season??), and conveniently froze up individual servings of the ground turkey for future  use.  I’m so dang smart sometimes 😉

I decided to make a meatball sub for dinner.  I didn’t have a recipe in mind, I just sort of started adding things to a bowl.  Here’s what I ended up with:

  • 1/4 package of 99% lean ground turkey breast (about 5 ounces)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup chopped white onion
  • S&P
  • 1 sprig fresh oregano (shout-out to the backyard garden 🙂 )
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • Sprinkling of marjoram
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp quick oats

Meatball mixins:

 

I mixed everything together, then used a small cookie dough scooper to scoop out 6 meatballs.  I placed the meatballs on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray, and popped them into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Then I flipped the meatballs over and cooked for an additional 5 minutes.

Meat-a-ball-ay:

Next, I cranked the oven up to 415 degrees, and prepped some brussel sprouts for roasting.  I swear I must have bought the never-ending basket of brussel sprouts last weekend.  I feel like I’ve eaten them every night, yet haven’t made a dent in the basket!  Check out this post for how I roast brussel sprouts

While the brussel sprouts were cooking, I stacked up the turkey meatballs on a Joseph’s Low Carb pita, topped them with 1/4 cup Classico Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic sauce, and sprinkled with S&P and Red Pepper Flakes. 

Then I wrapped it all up in some foil, and tossed into the ovenfor the last 5 minutes or so of the brussel sprouts cooking time.  Anytime I’m trying to make a healthified sub, I make sure to do this step.  It gives all the flavors a chance to marry and the pita gets nice and warm and soft.

Brussel sprouts make a comeback:

Altogether now:

Delish!  I love when I can make a healthier version of a food that’s typically on the do-not-eat list!

Stats on dinner:  369 calories, 36g carbs, 6g fat, 51g protein, 14g fiber

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Spinach Caprese Quesadilla

While at work yesterday, my mind kept drifting to dinner–but nothing was sounding good to me.  Since I have an abundance of tomatoes and basil (thank you backyard garden for your fruitfulness 🙂 ) I decided to do something caprese inspired. 

Caprese is one of my all-time favorite Italian dishes, and it typically consists of tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.

Before diving into to the caprese, I got to work on some brussel sprouts.  I halved 10 brussel sprouts, trimmed down any rough ends of the stem, and then made a small slit down the core of each sprout half.  I read that making this little slit on the rougher part of the sprout helps to ensure even cooking.  I put the sprouts on a cookie sheet that was liberally sprayed with cooking spray, then seasoned them with S&P, and gave them a good toss before throwing them into a 415 degree oven for 17 minutes.

Brussel sprouts!

Now onto the caprese!  First, I sliced up 1 roma tomato and 1 Sargento light mozzarella string cheese and put them into a bowl:

Then, I drizzled the tomato and mozzarella with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and a 1/2 tsp olive oil and sprinkled with some salt and pepper.  Next I added 3 sliced up fresh basil leaves and tossed everything to coat.

Meanwhile, I topped a Mama Lupe’s Low Carb tortilla with some fresh spinach and topped with the tomato mozzarella mixture:

I topped this off with a second Mama Lupe’s low carb tortilla, then I popped this baby onto the George foreman grill for about 5 minutes (until the tortilla was crisp and the cheese was melty):

None of these pictures do the quesadilla justice!  If you like caprese, you will love this:

I’m hoping I get some tips on taking pictures of food indoors at the Healthy Living Summit!  I can never seem to get indoor pictures quite right!

By the way, if you love caprese too check out the recipe I tried for hot caprese! I also added a “rating” scale to my recipe page :mrgreen:

Stats on dinner:  325 calories, 43g carbs, 12g fat, 20g protein, 14g fiber

 

A few hours after dinner, it was time for my night time snack.  I was craving a green monster smoothie, so I put the following into the blender:

  • 1/4 cup Stonyfield Farms Fat Free Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 cup fresh frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh frozen blueberries
  • 1 packet Truvia
  • 1 ice cube

Green Monster:

This guy was so much GREENER in person than in these photos… my camera was being stubborn last night!

Stats on the green monster:  119 calories, 24g carbs, 2g fat, 8g protein, 6g fiber

 

Question:  what’s your favorite “healthified” Italian dish?

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