Meal Planning: Step 1

It’s Friday! I hope everyone here has a fun weekend! Things around here will be pretty low-key with running, schoolwork, certification work, and of course Sunday Funday. It’s supposed to be gloomy and rainy so I’m not sure hiking will be the adventure of the week, but I sure hope it is. I need to soak in some a good dose of nature.

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Among my health coaching clients, one of the most popular goals I hear is that they want to get better about meal planning and having healthy meals throughout the week. They also tell me it’s one of the most intimidating goals, but one that could make the most impact on leading a healthy lifestyle.

What a difference having a meal plan can make! When I don’t have a meal plan, my already chaotic week feels nearly impossible to manage. Being a long distance runner and ridiculously hungry when I finally get home at 7:30 pm, the last thing I want is to look in the fridge and have no idea what to eat. There may have been some “I’m hangry” melt downs in my past before I discovered the importance of meal planning.

Because meal planning can seem overwhelming. It’s best to break it down into steps instead of just diving in all at once. So I’ll do a series of blog posts with some steps you can take to incorporate healthy meal planning into your own life.

Step 1 is to look at your week ahead. Be realistic with what kind of meals you can tackle. How much time do you really have to spend on preparing food? Another 1st step is to look in your cabinets and fridge to see what you already have on hand. Maybe you’ll even get a few meal ideas based off of ingredients you already have at home. The last part to this is to think about what meals sound good to you! If a meal doesn’t sound good to you when you’re planning it, it probably won’t sound good the night you’re supposed to eat it either.

This brings me to a step 1 tip. Start building a recipe book of go-to recipes. These are your recipes that are healthy, taste great, and you don’t feel overwhelmed by the thought of making them. If you don’t have these recipes now, don’t worry – you eventually will! The more you try new recipes and cook, the easier it is to realize what these go-to meals are. Read health and food blogs, check out recipe websites, and go through some of those cookbooks you have on hand. This will help you start compiling some easy go-to recipes for those weeks that are just too crazy to even think about cooking and elaborate new meal.

And that’s the first step. Not too overwhelming, right? I’ll be talking about the next steps next week. For now, just work on step one!

Good Morning Muffins

I would love to say I have the time to make and sit down to eat a healthy filling breakfast every day, but that’s just not true. I think the only day I have time to do that is Sunday. So, I wanted to create something that I could bring to work that’s healthy, filling, and tastes good. I worked on these muffins for a few weeks (my freezer is stocked) and came up with what I think is a great version of these muffins. I grab these to bring to work for breakfast as I’m always in a hurry in the morning. I also eat them to fuel for workouts either in the afternoon for an evening run or in the morning before a longer run.

They’re so good and healthy – packed full of zucchini, carrots, and almond flour. These are gluten-free too! I highly recommend doubling up the recipe and putting them in the freezer.

I plan to create some new versions of this that will add even more of a nutritional punch to these so stay tuned!

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Good Morning Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond flour or almond meal
  • 1 cup gluten free oats
  • 1 cup shredded carrots (about 3-4 carrots)
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini (about 1 large zucchini)
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (coconut oil could also be a replacement though I haven’t tried this yet)
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2- 3/4 cup of chopped almonds and pecans
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup of dried fruit (I used cranberries, raisins, and chopped dates)
  • Optional: These would be great with a few dark chocolate chips sprinkled in, but I haven’t added them into my muffins yet. I find they’re perfectly sweet already.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

Add the almond meal, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, add the zucchini and carrots and stir. Add the vanilla, maple syrup, and melted butter and continue to stir until well mixed.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until everything is well mixed. Add in the chopped nuts, dried fruit, chia seeds and if using the chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into lined and greased muffin cups (I recommend greasing the liners because the muffins do stick to them).

Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Or if using large muffin tins it may take 35-45 minutes. Make sure a toothpick comes out clean and then you’ll know they are ready.

Enjoy! These went fast the first time I made them so I learned my lesson and the following week doubled the recipe. These freeze well.

Enjoy!

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Quinoa Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Back over the summer, I had quinoa cakes with a roasted red pepper sauce at a restaurant and knew I wanted to recreate them. It took me awhile to get around to it, but I made these last weekend and they were a big hit at our house! I made an avocado salsa on the side in addition to sautéed spinach.

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Ingredients:

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

  • 2 Red Bell Peppers
  • 1 cup almond milk (I bet this would be great with coconut milk)
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 Scallions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast

Quinoa Cakes:

  • 1 cup quinoa cooked
  • 1/2 zucchini shredded
  • 1/2 carrot shredded
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 cup almond flour
  • salt and pepper to taste

Avocado Salsa:

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

For the Roasted Red Pepper Sauce:

  1. Preheat oven to 500.
  2. Cook red peppers whole for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and wrap in foil for 10 minutes to soften.
  3. While the red peppers are cooking, saute the shallots and garlic together until golden brown. Add to a blender.
  4. Remove the skin and seeds from the red peppers and add to blender with the shallots and garlic. Add in 1 cup of almond milk, corn starch, nutritional yeast, and salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Then pour into a sauce pan and heat until thickened.

For the Quinoa Cakes:

  1. Add together all the ingredients (cooked quinoa, zucchini, carrot, parsley, eggs, almond flour, garlic, and salt and pepper) into a bowl and stir until everything is well mixed.
  2. Heat up oil in a large frying pan. There should be enough oil in the pan to fry the quinoa cakes.
  3. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop out the mixture and drop it into the frying pan. Cook about 5 minutes on each side.

For the Avocado Salsa

  1. Mix together the avocado, cherry tomatoes, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cilantro.

 

To serve, spoon the roasted red pepper sauce on top of the quinoa cakes and add the avocado salsa on the side. I added sautéed spinach to my meal for added veggies!

Enjoy!

Quinoa Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Sweet potato quesadillas are a healthy quick meal for one of those nights you just don’t feel like thinking about recipes or cooking. Last night was one of those nights for me and after a long run, I was getting HANGRY  – so it was quesadillas to the rescue! I apologize for the phone photos – I actually did take photos with my camera and then my card reader this morning decided it wanted to stop working. 😦

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Finn was pretty bummed out about it too. I’ll replace the phone photos with actual pretty photos once I get the card reader situation sorted. Until then… on to the recipe!

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Quinoa Sweet Potato Quesadillas

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 4 Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (Cheddar works great, but I used Fontina cheese last night)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 1/4 red onion diced
  • 1 small sweet potato, diced
  • 4 handfuls of kale or spinach
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Salsa (optional)
  • Avocado (optional)
  • Plain Greek Yogurt (optional)
  • Tofu/ substitute chicken product (optional)
  • Chicken or other lean protein (optional)

Directions

1.) Pre-heat oven to 425.

2.) Toss diced sweet potatoes in olive oil and roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice.

3.) In a saucepan add 1/2 cup of water to 1/4 cup of quinoa. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and let simmer 15-20 minutes.

4.) Cook your protein according to directions.

5.) Saute spinach or kale in saucepan and set aside.

6.) Once the quinoa is finished add 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp chili powder and mix together well.

7.) Remove sweet potatoes from the oven and turn off the oven.

6.) On a baking sheet, lay two whole wheat tortillas flat. Sprinkle 1/4 of the cheese on each. Add spinach, jalapeno, sweet potatoes, quinoa, red onion, and protein on top.

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7.) Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top of both and add a tortilla on top of each.

8.) Place the quesadillas in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

9.) Cut into triangles and serve with salsa, avocado, plain greek yogurt, and additional red onion.

Enjoy!

 

Healthy Meal: Veggie Pasta

When my wellness coaching clients tell me they struggle with finding the time to make a healthy meal and also trying to figure out what to make, I tell them to start off just finding one easy healthy meal that they can make. Then in another week, find another. Then another. Suddenly you have several go-to meals you can rely on when time is limited after work in the evenings.

Healthy meals don’t have to be complicated. This meal is one of my go-to meals and it’s so easy to mix it up. Again apologies for the iPhone photo. My runner’s appetite usually takes priority over a food photo shoot. 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • Brown rice noodles, quinoa noodles, veggie noodles (carrots, zucchini, or sweet potato), or a combination of all three!
  • Kale or Spinach
  • Onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Fresh Basil
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Optional: Pasta Sauce or Pesto
  • Optional: Chicken and/or tofu sausage or another lean protein
  • Optional: Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. If using, prepare your protein of choice.
  2. Boil pasta if using rice or quinoa noodles and set aside. If you’re using veggie noodles saute them in a pan and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, saute  onions and garlic until the onions are almost translucent. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and kale or spinach. Once the tomatoes have started to juice a little bit, add the pasta and basil into the mix and cook for about 2 more minutes.
  4. Take off the stove and serve immediately with your protein, sauce, and Parmesan cheese if using.

This is a super quick and easy meal, but healthy and long distance runner/tae kwon do master and also vegetarian/carnivore approved!

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Quinoa Tacos Recipe

I bet when you started reading this blog you thought these recipes would all be healthy salads. Ha! Think again. Healthy meals incorporate veggies and I do love a good salad, but as a long distance runner, I often need something more substantial.

These quinoa tacos are a favorite in our house and the leftovers make for a super easy and healthy lunch the next day!

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Recipe serves 4:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup, dry quinoa
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 yellow or red onion, diced
  • Optional: 2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
  • Romaine lettuce, chopped
  • If in season, fresh corn cooked and cut from the cob or frozen corn
  • 1 Avocado, sliced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  •  4 tsp chili powder, divided
  • 4 tsp cumin, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 TBSP nutritional yeast
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • Tortilla chips, taco shells, or corn tortillas
  • Optional: plain greek yogurt (sour cream substitute), shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole
  • Optional: Lean protein such as chicken or meat substitute

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425f.
  2. Peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Toss in olive oil, 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp chili powder, and garlic. Spread out on a baking sheet and put in oven for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. If using, prepare your protein (chicken or meat substitute) according to directions.
  4. In a sauce pan bring quinoa and veggie broth to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and add the remainder of the chili powder, cumin, nutritional yeast, and a little olive oil to the pan.  Add in half of the black beans and add in the jalapeno peppers. Stir.
  5. Spread the quinoa mixture on a greased baking pan and bake in oven for about 10-15 minutes
  6. While everything is baking, chop up the onion, lettuce, tomato, and avocado. Also prepare the corn if using.
  7. Remove the quinoa and sweet potatoes from the oven. You can either make a taco salad, tacos, or buritto/wrap. I always start with the tortilla chips, add sweet potatoes, quinoa, chopped up vegetables, and optional toppings.
  8. Enjoy!

Baked Pumpkin Ravioli

Happy middle of the week!

I’m still struggling a little bit with lingering cold symptoms, but I’m hoping to be back to my old self by this weekend.  I’m still trying to hit my running mileage this week, but won’t be devastated if it doesn’t happen.

One of my favorite fall/winter recipes to make is baked pumpkin ravioli. It’s one of those comfort food meals that warms you up and keeps you full for a long time. It’s easily improvised too if you want to add or do something different!

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Sorry for the phone photo – I was too hungry to wait to pull out my real camera!

Ingredients:

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

1 package of won ton wrappers (should be about 48 to a package)

1 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 egg, beaten

1 – 1.5 cups spinach, sauteed

2 cups kale, de-stemmed and torn into smaller pieces

1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes

1/2 onion

2 cloves garlic

Pasta sauce or tomato sauce to make your own pasta sauce

Optional: Tofu sausage or chicken sausage

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 350f .

2.) If using, cook sausage according to instructions.

3.) Mix together the pumpkin, ricotta cheese, nutmeg, sea salt, and sauteed spinach.

4.) On two parchment lined baking sheets, lay out half of the won ton wrappers. In the center of each wrapper place a large dollop of the pumpkin mixture.

5.) Brush the egg around the outer edge of the wrappers and then place another wrapper on top of it. Then press down with a fork along the outer edge of where you placed the dollop to seal the ravioli.

6.) Lightly brush olive oil on top of each ravioli and then place in oven to bake for 7-10 minutes. 7 minutes will have a more pasta like texture and 10 minutes will have a crispier texture.

7.) In a skillet saute the garlic, onions, cherry tomatoes, and kale until the onions are translucent and kale is wilted.

8.) When the Ravioli is finished, take out of the oven and serve with the sausage and kale mixture. Then top with tomato sauce.

Enjoy!!!