Sunday, November 20, 2016

Healthy Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole

Thanksgiving is around the corner and I have started some cooking and baking in anticipation of this special holiday.  One area where I have been challenging myself is in taking recipes that I am used to dumping sugar and flour in and making them more healthy.

Every year for as far back as I can remember, I make my husband a dish that he likes to call "Yambo".  This recipe typically involved canned yams, butter, white and brown sugar, and flour.  

So I have been torn this year.  I want to make my husband this dish that he looks forward to every year, but I wanted to make it more fresh and more healthy.  And thus I can up with this healthier version of Yambo!

I have to say that I was very happy with this recipe.  My husband finished his plate and seems to have accepted this healthier version.  Yay!  Using fresh sweet potatoes really makes a difference.  I really enjoyed the taste and it was better than something out of a package or at a restaurant.  I personally can live without the optional step listed below, but my husband cannot.  Thus there is a "patch" of the sweet potato casserole where I did not drizzle anything - that is my little piece of the casserole!

3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup butter
1 tbsp milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 and 1/2 cup pecans
Optional: maple syrup

1. Boil sweet potatoes for about 20 minutes or until tender.  Drain.
2. Return potatoes to the pot.  Add butter and milk.  Beat with immersion blender.
3. Add salts, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Beat again.
4. Spray an 8" X 11" pan.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup pecans on the bottom.
5. Spoon the sweet potato mix on top
6. Sprinkle the top with the remaining pecans.
7. Optional step: Sprinkle the top with remaining pecans and dust with additional cinnamon, if desired.
8. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes.

Good presentation for your Thanksgiving dinner
A close up of my husband's maple syrup drizzled side
Served alongside some roasted broccoli

Sunday, November 13, 2016

One Hour Meal Prep: 4 Turkey Lunches

It seems that lately I am traveling about once a month, and I just can't bear the thought of not leaving some prepared food for the family.  I usually will prep lunches for my husband and kids before I go.  Sometimes even a dinner or two.  Yeah, I know, I am pretty nice ;)

I would like to share a very fast and easy lunch prep that took me just a little over one hour in total to pull together.  And I was also able to make a snack and prep a dinner within that time slot, so I would say this was a productive Sunday morning to me.

The point here is that it is not always bad that you buy stuff in a package or a bag!  We are all very busy people and it is ok to grab pre packaged goods to save some time, but still be healthier than going out to eat (and cheaper too).

  • 1 small bag of fingerling potatoes: as an alternative, there are many microwaveable potato bags out there that you can use.
  • 1 bag of precut broccoli and cauliflower
  • 30 oz pack of turkey breast tenderloins (from Aldi)
  • Salt and pepper (optional)

1. If you have 2 ovens, pre heat one oven to 400F and the other to 325 F.
2. While ovens are heating, line 3 baking sheets with foil and spray.
3. Wash and slice all the potatoes in half.   Place into a bowl.
4. Place turkey in a baking dish.  
5. Place turkey in oven for 60 minutes.
6. While turkey is in the oven: work on potatoes and veggies.  Open bag of veggies and place on baking sheet.  
7. Season veggies (I use salt and pepper) and spray.  Place in oven for 20 minutes.
8. While veggies are in the oven: work on potatoes.  Toss in bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Place on baking sheet.
9. Once the veggies are done, pull them out and place the potatoes in for 20-30 minutes.
10. While potatoes are in the oven, work on other things in the kitchen!  I chose to cook up taco meat for Monday's dinner and I also made a batch of my energy bars (peanut butter oat bars) for snacks.
11. Once the potatoes are done, pull them out and the turkey should be done shortly thereafter.
12. Let everything cool and then start staging your containers to package these for lunches.  I packed up 4 lunches with what I had but you could potentially stretch this out more.  

The before picture.

Roasted veggies.
Roasted potatoes.
Cooked turkey.  Everything is out, time to stage it all now!
I use Rubbermaid containers.
First go the veggies.

Then add the potatoes.

Finally, the turkey.
This looks to be a very tasty lunch!
I wish I was staying in town to eat it.
Containers are all lined up and ready for the fridge.
This was the taco meat I cooked up while waiting for the potatoes and turkey.
These are my favorite energy bars!  Also made during oven time!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Chocolate Chunk Chickpea Blondies

I used to crave sweets.  I would scrounge in the pantry after dinner, looking for candy bars.  After changing my diet, my cravings have basically gone away and when I do eat the kind of sweets that I used to, I can't even handle it.  We got a caramel apple pie for my birthday and I had a huge slice.  At first it felt great but within minutes I felt sick to my stomach.  It is interesting how long it has taken me to get over the sugar cravings and now how easy it is to say no to all the Halloween candy that is getting passed around.  It feels quite liberating!

With that being said, it still is fun to have the kind of desserts that I enjoy.  They are flourless but they are still a treat to me.  The secret ingredient that I hide from the kids are...chickpeas.  Hello, protein.  These are great to travel with as well.  I like to toss them in a Ziplock and pack them in my luggage instead of a Lara bar.

One 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup organic peanut butter
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Chocolate chunks from 1/2 of a 1.55 oz. Hershey bar - feel free to add more :)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Spray an 8X8 baking pan with cooking spray.
3. Use a food processor or a blender to add all ingredients except for the chocolate chunks.
4. Process until batter is smooth.
5. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
6. Spread batter into the prepared pan.  Pat it even.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Edges will start to brown.
8. Cool pan on a wire rack.
This recipe yields 9 big blondies.

Nutrition information:
Calories: 264
Fat: 16.6 g
Carbs: 22.9 g
Protein: 9.5 g