Sunday, January 29, 2017

Meal Prep Lunches with the Kids

I oftentimes get asked how my kids are engaged in clean eating.

Truth be told, my kids like their chicken nuggets and potato chips.  But they also recognize the importance of protein and fruit/veggies in their diet.  So we really focus in our household on achieving a healthy balance.  This can be a challenge, but what I have tried to focus on is empowering them to be able to make their own good choices.  I don't believe in depriving them but I do believe in them understanding what their bodies need.  I hope as adults they will carry on these concepts so they can be healthy and live a long life.

Lunch is a prime example of this empowerment.  The kids used to complain about me prepping their lunches for the week.  They did not always like what I packed them.  Thus, I decided to develop a system to help them and allow them to make their own choices.  It also makes our week so much easier.  I became a huge fan of lunch prepping for me and my husband and wound up extending this concept to the kids.  It makes Sunday a very busy day of prepping meals but it is so worth it to make the week run smoothly!  Also, with the kids helping, it does make my life easier for lunch prep.  

Here is a summary of how it works:

1. Every Sunday, we set up 4 bins, a bin for each day of the week.  Then we set up the kid's lunch bags for Monday's lunch.
2. I take the kitchen island and divide it into 3 sections - the protein section, the fruit/veggie section, and what I call the "potpourri" section (crackers, etc)
3. Each child takes a turn through prepping lunch.  They pick one item out of each section for each bin and for their lunch bag.  They write down for each day what they packed.  
4. Lunch bags go in the fridge upstairs, for the next day's grabbing.  The other bins of food go in the basement fridge, with their notes so they remember who is going to pack what.
5. Every night, we unpack the lunch bag from the day, and then bring up a bin from the basement to load up for the next day.
6. At the end of the week, the kids can look at the family shopping list and add any items they would like, as they begin to think about lunches for the next week.  Usually they go shopping with their dad (thank you for my awesome husband!!!) so that is another chance to grab items for lunch.

Pictures may help explain this even better:
Fruit/veggie section
Watermelon, pineapple, grapes, oranges, blueberries.
OK, so just a fruit section really.
Squeezable applesauces are a fun addition for fruit.
They are portable and easy!

On another week - here is the fruit/veggie section.
Oranges, grapes, carrots, applesauce, and seaweed snacks.
There are also some banana chips tossed in here for fun.

Protein section.
Cheese sticks, nuts, yogurt, beef sticks, cheese wedges, and ham.

Here is a different week of the protein section.
Lunch meat, cheese, and beef sticks.

The fun potpourri section.
This is a true free for all!
Popcorn, granola bars, and muffins.

Potpourri on another week.
I made Doritos using whole wheat tortillas.
There are also crepes here from an organic market.
Various granola bars are featured.
Sometimes I pre pack lunchable style items that are combo protein/carb.
Crackers and nuts.
Beef sticks and chips.
Peanut butter/jelly and crackers.

Here is what the bins look like once prepped.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Egg White Breakfast Muffins

This is becoming my favorite breakfast.  I package them in sets of 4 in containers to take to work.  These would also work to freeze for later.

Nutrition info is at the bottom of the page.

Liquid egg whites (3 tbsp per cup) 
Cherry tomatoes (1 per cup)
Spinach (a few leaves per cup)
Reduced fat feta cheese (1 tbsp per cup)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Spray a muffin tin with non stick cooking spray.
3. In each cup, place spinach leaves and tomato.
4. Place 3 tbsp liquid egg white in each cup (about 3/4 full).
5. Place 1 tbsp feta in each cup.
6. Bake 20-30 minutes.

Close up view
Nutrition Information:
Calories: 55
Fat: 1.1 g
Carbs: 2.3 g
Protein: 8.6 g

Monday, January 16, 2017

Salsa Chicken and Broccoli Lunch Meal Prep

Sunday was another meal prep day for me.  I ran out of time to post anything about it but today, after lunch, I knew I had to share this recipe because it was so darn good!

Instructions are for 4 meals.  I apologize for only showing 3 in the picture.  One walked away.  ;)

This is a lazy prep meal, where I used the microwave a lot and tossed some chicken in the oven.  But that is what I like about it.  It is easy and now I don't need to worry about lunch for the week.

1. Two bags (12 oz each) broccoli florets
2. Two bags of ready to serve rice - I prefer whole grain or sometimes a quinoa blend.  We are talking about those microwaveable bags that you peel and nuke.
3. 20 ounces chicken (or 4 chicken breasts)
4. One jar salsa - read your labels - I always choose an organic brand that does not have sugar - many salsas do have sugar in them
5. Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray a 9X13 baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Place chicken in baking dish.  If you are an engineer like me, you can weigh your chicken by 5 oz portions, or you can chill out and just lay down the chicken in the pan.
3. Season chicken to your liking - I have salt and pepper in the ingredients list but you can use chili powder, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, or whatever you like best on your chicken.
4. Place chicken in oven for approximately 25 minutes, depending on how thinly cut your meat is.  I usually have mine cut up going in to the oven so that it is easy to eat in my lunch.  But you can also cut it later very easily.
5. While chicken is baking, microwave the broccoli and rice.  It likely is only 2 minutes to microwave each bag of broccoli.  And 1-2 minutes for each bag of rice.
6. Set out your 4 lunch containers for the week.  In each container, lay down half a bag of rice from each bag.  This is about a cup of rice.  Then lay down half a bag of broccoli.  This should be about 1.5 cups of broccoli.
7. Once the chicken is out of the oven and cooled, you can then layer it on top of the broccoli and rice in each container.  So each container has 1 chicken breast or 5 ounces of chicken.  At this step, you can cut up the chicken if you had baked it whole.
8. Spoon 4 tablespoons of salsa on top of each chicken.  And you are done!

Nutrition info for my mix is at the bottom of this page.  You can always add on to jazz this up with some onions or some cheese.  You could eliminate the rice to take out about 22 g of carbs.  
Staged containers
Close up view

This was what lunch looked like today.
I got to be home so I was able to plate it fancy ;)

I am a huge fan of microwaving broccoli.
Some weeks, I just don't feel like chopping up anything.

These are examples of the rice that I like.
I used the Mediterranean feta this week.
Most portions average about 120-170 calories per cup.
Nutrition info (per lunch):
Calories: 338
Carbs: 35 g
Protein: 39.9 g
Fat: 4 g

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fudgy Avocado Brownies

All right, Facebook and Pinterest tempted me over and over again and I had to try and make avocado brownies.

They came out very fudgy, which I loved.  My husband prefers them cake like, so he was not as excited.  He also thought it should be sweeter.  Meanwhile, my son thought it was too sweet.  I thought it was just right.  So you will just have to try to make it and see what happens!

Pro tip: don't tell anyone that you put an avocado in your brownies - chances are, they will not be willing to eat them.  After the fact, I did reveal my secret ingredient to my husband.  At least he was surprised, and even commented that he could not taste the avocado at all.  However, I don't think he is going to let me experiment on him again.  Oh well, next time I guess I will just have to keep all the brownies to myself...darn... :)

Another pro tip: don't substitute out the coconut flour.  It is designed to absorb and other flours won't perform the same function.  You will be very, very sad.  You should be able to find coconut flour at your local health foods store.  It is quickly becoming my favorite flour ever.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Nutrition info is at the bottom of this page - you save a ton of calories by not using butter or oil!

1 ripe avocado, small 
3 eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 to 1/2 cup cocoa (I used 1/4 cup due to the very rich cocoa I had)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray an 8X8 pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Combine the avocado, applesauce, syrup, and vanilla in either a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth.  Make sure there are no chunks of avocado in there.  
3. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Pour contents of the mixture from #2 into the bowl.
4. Mix it all together and pour in to the 8X8 pan.
5. Bake for about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

After baking, I let them cool before eating and I stored them in the fridge.  I found them even tastier when cooled.  They also tasted even better the days after baking.  
Before baking.
I used a very rich cocoa that I got.
Yours may look lighter.
Just for reference - here is what it looks like with a lighter cocoa!

Back to the dark cocoa.
Here is the finished product.
Another angle.

Fork view.
Nutrition Information (9 servings, info per serving using 1/4 cup cocoa):
Calories: 123
Fat: 4.2g
Carbs: 18.1g
Protein: 3.7g

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Rice Cake Snacks

Recently, we have discovered an awesome snack.  I never thought that I would be a fan of rice cakes, but...I now totally am.

Here was the scenario: kids are on their way home from school, and I know they will be coming in hangry.  What's a mom to do?  I scavaged the cupboards and found a pack of rice cakes.  1 rice cake is 40 calories, but only 1 gram of protein.  I searched Pinterest and found some awesome ways to jazz these bad boys up to get some great protein staying power and created a variety plate for the kids.  

Let me tell you, the plate got demolished and I had to make 5 more rice cake snacks!

The possibilities truly are endless, but here are the varieties that I made, with calorie counts based on what I used - recall that I quoted 40 calories per rice cake, which factors in to the totals below:

1. Skinny Elvis: spread 2 tbsp organic peanut butter (200 calories) and slice half of a banana (50 calories) on top.  TOTAL: 290 calories.

2. Pizza party: a big favorite - spread 1/4 cup of pizza sauce (30 calories) with 1/4 cup of mozzarella (70 calories) and pop in the toaster oven until cheese is melty.  TOTAL: 140 calories

3. Nana: spread 2 tbsp nutella (200 calories) and slice half of a banana (50 calories) on top.  TOTAL: 290 calories.

4. Chunky monkey: spread 2 tbsp organic peanut butter (200 calories) and sprinkle 1/2 tbsp mini chocolate chips (35 calories) on top.  TOTAL: 275 calories.

5. Porky: spread a light cheese wedge (25 calories) and place two slices of ham (30 calories) on top.  TOTAL: 95 calories.

Super easy!  I would recommend the rice cakes that just contain whole grain brown rice.  A pack of 14 cakes should only run you about $2 so it is a pretty sweet deal.  In the future I would like to try spreading hummus and topping with cucumber and peppers.

The entire sampler platter.
This was gone within 10 minutes of placement on the table.

The Skinny Elvis.

My daughter tends to be picky about bread.
But she had no problem eating these!

Monday, January 2, 2017

White Whole Wheat One Bowl Quick Bread

I spent some of my holiday vacation experimenting with bread recipes.  I wanted to find something that would allow me to use white whole wheat flour, only require one bowl, be quick to make, and...taste good.

Yay, this meets the bill!

4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp active rise yeast
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp honey
1 egg
2 cups warm water

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9" loaf pan.
2. Stir all ingredients together in a bowl.  Cover and let mixture sit for 30 minutes.
3. Pour mixture into pan.  Bake 45-60 minutes.

Fresh out of the oven.
Who doesn't love warm bread?
Tastes great the next day too.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Microwave Grain Free English Muffin

I have been experimenting with different types of flour, and I especially am enjoying almond and coconut flour.  They are both awesome!  They are grain free, low carb, and very satisfying.

One of my most favorite products are Amy's Organic Sandwich rounds.  They are gluten free, low carb, and tasty.  However, they are quite pricey at about $8 for a pack of 8 rounds.  I have been trying to create a healthy and cheaper alternative and though this recipe does not exactly recreate the rounds, it meets my desire to have something with my morning breakfast.

The basics that you need for this recipe is a microwave, a toaster oven, and a small dish with a flat bottom.  Mine is a Corningware dish that measures about 4"X8".

There are versions of this recipe out there that use whole eggs and butter.  Feel free to substitute for more taste.  I preferred to lighten it up and so I use applesauce instead of butter and egg whites instead of one whole egg.

1 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1/2 tbsp coconut flour
3 tbsp almond flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch salt

1. Spray a flat rimmed dish with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Either in this dish or in a separate bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well.  I usually use a bowl and then pour the batter in to the dish.
3. Microwave for 90 seconds.
4. Carefully remove with oven mitts and let the muffin cool slightly.  
5. Slice in half and place into toaster oven for a crispy treat!

This is what it looks like after microwaving.
You could eat it as is, but toasted is oh so yummy.
After toasting.

Crispy goodness.

You get a lot of muffin for under 200 calories.
Close up view of the yumminess.  
Nutrition Information:
Fat: 11.1 g
Carbs: 8.6 g
Protein: 12.2 g