Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall in love with Crockpot Chicken Cacciatore!!

Happy Monday!! It's the last day of September before a new month begins and I was hoping it would actually begin to feel like fall, but of course the weather isn't cooperating and it's supposed to be almost 80 this whole week!! Figures, now that I'm back in school the weather decides to be nice. 

I wasn't about to let to the wacky weather deter me from using my crockpot!! Monday through Wednesday I am constantly on the go with classes and when I do finally get done with classes I am tired so I don't want to cook an elaborate meal. CROCKPOT TO THE RESCUE!! I've said it before and I shall say it again there really isn't anything better than coming back from a long day of classes and dinner is all ready to be served. Plus I get leftovers which is an added bonus-makes for easy meals on the go!! 

I found a new recipe for Chicken Cacciatore crockpot style and knew I had to try it out. I made a few alterations to the original recipe, which I found on Pintrest, to make it healthier. You will need:
  • 3 boneless chicken breasts, cut into pieces (you can do this after it has cooked too since the meat will literally fall apart in the crockpot)
  • 1 (14 oz) can of crushed tomatoes, go organic if you can there is no added sugar or sodium in the organic kinds, but be sure to check the ingredient listing too!!
  • 1 bell pepper of your choice, sliced (it can be green, red, yellow or orange, it doesn't matter)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup mushroom, sliced
  • 1/4 cup organic chicken broth (the original recipe called for red or white wine but chicken broth can be substituted and the flavor will not be affected)
  • 1 tbs. tomato paste (OPTIONAL, I did not include this in my recipe but you can include it if you desire)
  • 3/4 tsp. dried oregano (OPTIONAL, again I did not include this in my recipe)
  • 3/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt substitute 
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper

Place all ingredients in crockpot. Cover and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 4-6 hours on high. You will know it is done when all the vegetables are tender and the chicken should easily fall apart when prodded with a fork.

I let my chicken cacciatore cook on low for just over six hours and it was perfectly done. The vegetables were wonderfully tender, the meat easily fell apart, and all the flavors had combined together completely. The second I walked into my apartment from class my mouth started watering because it smelt so good!!

You can serve chicken cacciatore over noodles, but I prefer to serve it over 1 cup of spaghetti squash. Look at my post about Spaghetti Squash for full directions on how to cut and cook a spaghetti squash. 

To go along with my chicken cacciatore I cooked green beans, purchased from local farmers, and mixed in a pinch of garlic salt, and two tablespoons plus one teaspoon of slivered almonds, mix it all together and serve hot with chicken cacciatore!! 

The very first picture in this post is what my chicken cacciatore looked like served over spaghetti squash. This is by far my favorite recipe I have revamped and recreated and I cannot wait to enjoy all my delicious left overs!! I hope you enjoy and have a wonderful Monday!!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Conquering the Mighty Spaghetti Squash!!!

If you've never had spaghetti squash you are seriously missing out!! There are so many ways to enjoy spaghetti squash, plus it is super good for you!! I recently learned that it is classified as a fruit not a vegetable, who would have thunk?! Spaghetti squash is rich in folic acid, vitamin A, beta carotene, potassium, and it is low in calories-only 42 calories per cup. 

There are numerous ways to prepare spaghetti squash but before you can enjoy it you have to cut it. Cutting a spaghetti squash is not an easy task, but in the end it is worth the work!! You will want a very sharp knife and a strong arm to slice into the extremely hard fruit. Be careful not to cut yourself or amputate any fingers!! You can cut the squash length wise like a hot dog or cut it width wise, it doesn't matter. 

Once you have cut the squash there will be seeds and stringy membrane inside, similar to that of a pumpkin. You will want to scoop the seeds and membranes out before you cook it. Once you have scooped out both parts of the squash you will want to put it on a cookie sheet, I prefer to line the cookie sheet with tinfoil to keep it from getting dirty (less to clean up), and bake the spaghetti squash at 400 degrees for between 50 and 60 minutes depending on the strength of your oven. When you pull the spaghetti squash out it should be slightly browned around the edges and pull away from the edges with a fork easily. You will have to scoop out the squash and depending on the size of the squash you should get between four and six servings (1 cup is a serving). The squash should scrape away from the skin easily and be long and stringy, similar to a spaghetti noodle. 

After you have scooped all the fruit out you can enjoy it with a meal!! Spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, or it can be enjoyed by itself, or mixed with other vegetables. One of my favorite ways to enjoy spaghetti squash is to use it for chicken parmesan. Instead of consuming a lot of carbs (noodles) I use spaghetti squash and get an extra serving of fruit!! What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy spaghetti squash?!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Protein Cookies

Is there anything better than a cookie still warm from the oven?? How about a cookie that is guilt free and still warm from the oven!?! My latest creation peanut butter oatmeal protein cookies were inspired by a post I saw on Pintrest. I love finding recipe inspiration
on Pintrest and then revamping it to make it healthy. These cookies are absolutely delicious and the best part is they are flour free, sugar free, and egg free!! And if it couldn't get any better it does!! There is only 99 calories a cookie!! 

I promise they are super easy to make and you probably have all the ingredients already in your pantry. You will need:

2 ripe bananas, mash them up
1/3 cup reduced fat peanut butter
2/3 unsweetened applesauce, I like to use Meijer Brand Organic unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cup quick or old fashioned oats
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 scoop of chocolate or vanilla whey protein powder 
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
a few raisins to top the cookies with before they are put in the oven

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with tinfoil or parchment paper (helps with a quick and easy clean up).
 Mix together the mashed bananas, peanut butter, applesauce, oats, vanilla, and salt (and the protein powder and chocolate chips if desired). Combine ingredients well the batter should be semi-thick. 
Scoop two tablespoons of batter onto the baking sheet for each cookie. You can top the cookies with raisins if desired. You should get between 20 and 30 cookies unless you make monster cookies in which you will get fewer cookies. 
Bake for approximately 22 minutes (bake between 20-30 minutes depending on the strength of your oven). When the cookies are done the tops should be golden and the edges should look
crispy. Allow a few minutes to cool and harden up then you can enjoy a warm cookie guilt free!!

I like to have a peanut butter oatmeal protein cookie after my workout between breakfast and lunch. The cookie is packed with protein so it helps keep me full until lunch plus it's delicious!! ENJOY :)

Lunch On the Go!

The first lesson I learned as a college student was that time management is crucial to success. Cooking healthy meals takes time, and sometimes I don't have a lot of time between classes so I need a quick and easy lunch that will keep me full for a long time. 

One of my go to lunches is cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is a wonderful source of protein, which helps keep you full longer and prevents mindless snacking. I always go with Meijer brand 1% low fat large curd cottage cheese. There are many options of cottage cheese out there, but I highly recommend reading the nutrition label as calories, sodium, and fat intake vary between brands.

I have always been a person who needs something with their cottage cheese. Most people I know eat cottage cheese and chips. CHIPS ARE A BIG NO NO!! They are packed with sodium, high in saturated fats, full of fake chemicals, and you mine as well be eating garbage and chug a beaker of chemicals with your meal. I prefer crackers with my cottage cheese. My go to crackers are Ritz Whole Wheat crackers. They are lower in calories that the traditional Ritz and they also contain less sodium, in my mind the less salt the better. Triscuits are also a good option as wheat thins tend to contain lots of calories and are high in sodium. I always follow the serving size, which for Ritz is five crackers (always check the nutrition label and following the recommended serving size, it really will help you cut down on calories consumed).

Along with my cottage cheese and Ritz I had a peach and a greek yogurt parfait as dessert.  For the parfait I used Dannon Light and Fit Greek Yogurt (only 80 calories per container!!), three frozen strawberries, about eight frozen blueberries (when buying frozen fruit always buy unsweetened no sugar added frozen fruit), and one tablespoon of all natural granola (if you buy Quaker granola don't buy it with honey it only adds sugar and calories). 

This is an easy lunch to pack up in reusable containers to eat between classes, or on break between classes. What is your go to healthy lunch for a busy day? Have an amazing day and enjoy the beautiful sunshine!!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Healthy Crockpot Chicken Tacos

It would be nice if the weather decided to either be fall or summer. The whole temperature switching back and forth between freezing and sweltering is getting a little old. I couldn't wait to break out my crockpot that I had purchased of the summer and test out a bunch of healthy recipes! Finally one day that it was in the low sixties I broke out my crockpot to make chicken tacos.

Traditionally chicken tacos in the crockpot are loaded with sodium, high in fat and sodium, and generally just a health nightmare. I decided to clean up the recipe and make it healthy but I wanted to keep the delicious flavors that tacos are known for. 

For my healthy chicken tacos in the crackpot I put one jar of organic low sodium salsa, I prefer the Meijer brand its sodium content is far less than that of other brands. I poured 3/4 of the jar into the crockpot, next I put three organic free range chicken breasts into the crockpot on top of the salsa. The rest of the salsa I poured over top of the chicken breasts. Then I turned the crockpot on low for 6.5 hours, you can leave it in the crockpot for up to eight hours. When I came back from class dinner was ready and it made my entire apartment smell heavenly!! The chicken should literally fall apart when you poke it with a fork, if it does then you know the chicken is done. I shredded the chicken up to make it more like a taco. I decided to forgo the traditional "taco shell," instead I used a LA Tortilla Factory Smart and Delicious low carb high fiber tortilla. On the tortilla I used one cup or organic spinach and kale. Next I piled on between 4 and 4.5 ounces of chicken from the crockpot. Finally I sprinkled a little mozzarella cheese, literally a pinch of cheese, fold the wrap together, and voila the healthy chicken taco was ready to be devoured!! 

I cut up a peach to have as a side with my chicken taco. The bonus of this recipe is that is it simple with minimal work involved (seriously putting two ingredients in a crockpot could not be easier!), and I had enough leftovers for four more meals!! My crockpot is quickly becoming my new best friend in food prep!! I hope you enjoy my version of healthy chicken tacos and let me know how you enjoy healthy chicken tacos :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Guilt Free Pizza!!

Who doesn't love a good pizza?! I have to admit I love a good pizza, but most pizza's are a calorie loaded nightmare. The fat content, not to mention the horrid fake ingredients used, is enough to make my arteries hurt just thinking about it. I do love pizza, but not just any pizza. Vegetarian pizza is my favorite, and the best part is it's totally guilt free!! 

The vegetarian pizza I make is super quick and easy to make, and you probably have most of the ingredients already in your kitchen!! For my vegetarian pizza you will need: 

  • one or two organic portobello mushrooms hollowed out (I like to make two because I can heat one up the next day for lunch)
  • 1/4 cup kale or spinach (I prefer earthbound organic)
  • left over stir fry, pick out the chicken (I told you I love using my left overs) 
  • If you don't have left over stir fry cut up 1/3 a cup of mixed veggies for each portobello mushroom. I prefer a mixture of red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers, with green pepper, broccoli, and onion. I like to sauté the veggies before I put them on the mushroom, it just gives them added flavor but you don't have to. 
  • and a pinch of all natural mozzarella cheese, it is best to grade it yourself there are less chemicals in the cheese then. (OPTIONAL) 
Be sure to scrub the portobello mushrooms well before scooping out the underside and filling them with veggies. You want to be sure you are not ingesting any residual pesticides, even if they are organic! 

Portobello mushrooms are the giant mushrooms
 you have probably seen at the grocery store.

Once you have scrubbed your mushroom and scooped out the underside lay the kale or spinach down just like you would with pizza sauce on a regular pizza. 

Always look for the USDA organic label. Also look for sales! 
Often my local grocery store has earthbound products 
on sale for 2/$4 or half off. Can't beat a good sale!

After laying down the spinach or kale next scoop out your veggies or left over stir fry on top of the spinach you just laid down. You can also top with a pinch of cheese if you choose.

Now your vegetarian mushroom pizza is all ready to be cooked! Bake it at 400 for twenty minutes. Once it is cooked allow it to cool for a few minutes before serving and eating. While my pizza is cooking I like to cook green beans to go with it. When the pizza is done and my green beans are all ready I serve it up and dig in!!

This is making me hungry just looking at it!!

Totally delicious and it won't brake your 
calorie bank, or your wallet!

I love to top my green beans with a tablespoon of slivered almonds. 
Almonds are a wonderful source of protein which help keep you 
full longer, plus they are totally delicious!

I hope you enjoy your healthy vegetarian mushroom pizza!! If you have any favorite foods that you have made a healthy version of I'd love for you to share so I can try it out!! Have a wonderful and healthy night :)

Stir Fry Fun!!

Stir fry is one of my favorite dinners and it is super easy to make. Besides, being easy I love stir fry because I love that I can make a big batch of it and then heat it up throughout the week or use it in different ways in various recipes. I made my stir fry a few nights ago and class (and homework) have been keeping me busy so I haven't had time to blog like I would like, so I apologize for being delayed in posting this! 

I love having TONS of veggies in my stir fry. For this stir fry I used red, yellow, and orange sweet peppers, some green pepper, 1/4 of a small onion, three small baby carrots, three slices of sliced tomato, and a little bit of cut up broccoli. The more color and variety among your veggies, the better for you!! I like to cut up all my veggies before I start cooking anything so when I do have the pan all heated up everything is all ready to be thrown in. 

All of the yummy veggies in the pan ready to be sautéed!  

If you cover the veggies as they sauté and stir 
occasionally the veggies will cook faster.

I also had cooked a chicken breast and cut it up into small pieces to throw into my stir fry once I had sautéed the vegetables. I also cooked one cup of brown rice before hand as well. I find that cooking the chicken and rice before sautéing the veggies is easiest and saves me some time. Once the veggies are starting to brown I quickly add the already cooked chicken and rice, and a little all natural teriyaki (low sodium) sauce to give it a delicious flavor! 

Allow everything to brown together for a few minutes and so the flavor 
will be spread throughout the delicious mixture.

I let the rice, veggies, and chicken, sauté together for an additional four to five minutes and then I scoop out 3/4 a cup and enjoy!! A side of green beans with slivered almonds and mixed berries goes excellently with stir fry. Enjoy!!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Snack Time!!

Snacks are a great way to fuel up on protein to hold you over until your next meal. Especially for me being a college student I don't always get to eat at regular times because I am running between classes. I like to pack a few day of snacks in advance so I can just grab one on my way out of my apartment and run to class. Today I packed two days worth of snacks for Tuesday and Wednesday because I know those are my busiest days on campus. I packed my favorite snack, plus it's healthy and nutritious, and it gives me something to look forward to between class. I packed a handful of almonds and mixed in a few dried cherries (my fav!!) so I can not only get protein to hold me over and boost energy but my sweet tooth is satisfied with the sweet cherries.  

Two days worth of snacks. Something quick and easy to eat while running between classes.

I always keep almonds and dried cherries on hand and in little bags so when I have the urge to snack I don't just wander into the kitchen and eat.

Dried cherries and almonds are a must have in my pantry!

 Plus having a little bag of it helps me to not eat too much, its just the right amount to hold me over between meals and give me a quick boost. What is your favorite healthy snack to eat? 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Leftovers Galore!!

I am delayed in getting this up because my darn college classes have give me way too much homework (anyone else miss summer?!). I got to go home for Labor Day weekend (sadly the college I go to starts before Labor Day so we got a Holiday weekend) and enjoy my mom's delicious cooking but the best part about going back to school is she always sends me with leftovers! 

I love leftovers because there are so many different ways to use them. One of the things my mom sent me back with was baked ham. I am by no means a huge ham lover but once in awhile I will eat it. I heated the ham up in the oven (350 for ten minutes in the oven and be sure to put it in a pan with a little bit of water so it does not dry up) and then cut it up and topped my salad off with ham. 

This was the yummy salad I made.

For my salad I used 2 cups of Dole Organic Mediterranean blend lettuce, three baby sweet peppers (one red, one yellow, and one orange) cut into small pieces, two slices of tomato, and 1/4 cup of broccoli. On the side I had three chunks of cauliflower and one tablespoon of Marzetti light ranch. 

Totally delicious salad! Yay for leftovers!

I got my fill of veggies, but I was sure to include my fruit too!! I had my favorite (and totally healthy) fruit treat that perfectly complimented my salad. I sliced up half of a large banana, mixed one scoop of PB2 together, and put the PB2 on top of my banana slices. Seriously it is so delicious!! You have to try it!!

Bananas and PB2, a match made in heaven!

Have a great rest of your night and I hope you try banana topped with PB2 if you haven't already, I promise you won't be disappointed! 

Meal Planning

I am an obsessive planner and organizer, I blame genetics because my mom is the same way. Being a natural planner I plan out what I am going to eat every meal for a week. It may sound like a ton of work, but actually it isn't. I plan out my meals for a week and make my grocery list in 30-40 mins once a week and it makes grocery shopping so much easier. Meal planning not only makes grocery shopping easier, but it prevents me from buying food I do not need. I stick to my list and only get those items, no wandering the store and buying food that isn't healthy and I don't need.

I have a chart that I made up on word that I print out every week that I use to plan my meals. It has a space for meals for each day as well as spaces for snacks. I do write what I plan on eating in pencil incase I feel like switching two days meals around.

This is what the meal planning chart I use looks like. 

This is what my actual meal plan for this week looks like. I don't always plan out what I will have for a snack because some days I'm not hungry between my meals. I always keep healthy snacks ready for when I do get hungry though.

If planning out an entire week of meals seems too daunting of a task for you plan out three or four days at a time. Making your grocery list will be a breeze and you will be more focused when you actually go grocery shopping (remember to stick to the perimeter of the store!). I hope you have a fabulous week of healthy meals :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Welcome to my blog!!

Welcome to my brand new blog The Simple Life!! I have been working very hard writing content for all the pages, coming up with recipes, taking pictures to go along with posts, designing the blog, and getting content loaded onto the blog. It has been a lot of work but it has been something that I have enjoyed immensely and it has been a great way for me to escape the stress and endless homework of my college classes. I hope my blog inspires you to embark on a healthy lifestyle because it is doable and it doesn't have to be extremely complicated. 

Please be sure to check all the pages of my blog, leave comments on anything and everything, and follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Pintrest!! I want you to share your thoughts, favorite recipes, favorite workouts, and hear any and everything you have to say (please keep it clean)!! Enjoy my blog and I hope you visit it again soon!!


P.S. I am still working on getting recipes and content up on the blog so please be patient with me!!