Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pepper and Squash Parmesan

For a variety of reasons, we decided not to take a vacation away from home this year. So instead, Jeff has taken this week off from work, and we are having our own little "staycation." We have lots of fun, family activities planned! We started the week off by going down to a local water splash park. It was good, free fun.

After a couple of hours at the park, we had planned to eat at a favorite, local pizza joint. Unfortunately, we forgot it is closed on Mondays. So we the kids ate Taco Bell instead. I waited until we got home so I could fix myself something a bit healthier. And then I proceeded to eat my weight in Muddy Buddies. *sigh*

In other news, we went to my brother-in-law's house last weekend. He has a garden, and he very generously shared a bit of his harvest. I was super excited about this spaghetti squash in particular.

I have been wanting to try spaghetti squash forever, and I haven't been able to find them (when I actually remembered to check) at our local grocery stores. Even more exciting was that I had just pinned this recipe from Pinterest last week, so I immediately knew how I was going to prepare it.

Here's the cast.

First, you need to cook your spaghetti squash. I did not follow the directions that were with the recipe for this part. Instead, I followed these instructions from Chelsea Eats Treats.

I weighed my squash by stepping on the scale with and without the squash and doing a little subtraction. The squash was around 4 lbs. First, I stabbed it with a sharp knife quite a few times. Then I put it in a microwaveable dish and cooked it on high for about 16 minutes.

When it was finished cooking, I sliced the squash in half.

Then I scooped out the seeds and the slimier looking strands.

While the squash was cooking, I sliced a couple of bell peppers. I didn't have a green one like the recipe called for, so I just used what I had on hand.

Next, I sauteed the peppers in a tablespoon of olive oil until they started to brown. Then I added the cooked squash and spaghetti sauce to the peppers.

Finally, I added the parmesan cheese and served up a plateful.

This was delicious! I questioned whether it would really be very filling, but it was great! I loved it, and I can't wait to try spaghetti squash again soon.

Fun fact: Spaghetti squash has only 42 calories per cup! AND if you eat spaghetti once each week and replaced traditional noodles with spaghetti squash, you would lose 2.5 lbs. over the course of a year! Without even trying! 

Pepper and Squash Parmesan
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
1. Using a sharp knife, stab slits in squash. Place the squash in a microwaveable dish and cook for 4 - 5 minutes per pound. The squash is cooked when you can easily press down on the outside skin. Slice the squash in half and remove the seeds and slimier-looking strands.

2. While spaghetti squash is in microwave, heat skillet on high and saute bell peppers in olive oil until peppers start to brown. 

3. Turn heat down to medium. With a fork, scoop spaghetti squash into pan with peppers. Add Parmesan and sauce. Mix all ingredients together over heat for 3 minutes, or until warm.

Question of the Day:

What's your favorite way to prepare spaghetti squash?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

Hello Friends! It's been awhile. I've been busy trying to soak up every last moment of summer vacation with my kids. Oh, and there was also this.

And this.

Cinderella, evil Stepmother, evil Stepsister and Snow White
And, of course, this.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
We had Vacation Bible School at church last week, and it was amazing! I love being part of a creative church family that brings the Bible to life in new and dynamic ways! As you can see, I played the part of Snow White. And I thoroughly enjoyed my role.

In the midst of VBS, I did try something new. You know, for Try Something New Tuesday. Except I was way too tired by the time I got home Tuesday to actually blog about it. So we'll just have Try Something New Sunday instead.

I don't think I can adequately convey how much I loved this recipe. I stumbled across it on Pinterest, and after the success of my No Flour Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites that were made with chickpeas, I could not resist another flourless dessert.

Here's the ensemble.

First, you're going to drain and rinse the black beans. Yes, you read that correctly. Black beans in a brownie. Trust me on this.

Next, put the black beans in a food processor and process until smooth.

Then add all your remaining ingredients except the chocolate chips, and process until well blended.

Your batter will look something like this.

Add 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips, and give the food processor a few quick pulses to combine.

Pour this into a greased 8x8 pan.

And sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips on top.

Bake at 350 for 30 - 35 minutes.

Holy. Yum.

These were AMAZING!!! I tried really hard to taste the black beans in these. I mean really hard. But for the life of me I could not taste anything other than delicious, moist, dark-chocolatey goodness. The kids gobbled them up too.

These will definitely be going in lunch boxes this year. A treat I can feel good about feeding my kids?! Yes, please! And if you ever buy those Fiber One low-cal brownies, you must try these! They are a much cheaper alternative!!! I plan to make a batch and freeze them in individual servings for portion control.

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies
  • 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and 8x8-inch baking dish.

2. Place the black beans in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, baking powder and salt, and process until smooth. Add 1/4 cup of the chocolate chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated.

3. Pour the batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips.

4. Bake 30 - 35 minutes, or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before slicing into 2-inch squares. 

Makes 16 servings. 

Nutrition info. per serving: 120 calories, 5g fat, 2g fiber, 3g protein, 3 WW points plus.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Low-Cal Pasta Dish? Yes, Please!

My kids love Try Something New Tuesday. Seriously. They get so excited about tasting new foods and helping me make the dishes. As such, my 8-year-old got it in her head a couple of weeks ago that I needed to make spaghetti with vegetables. I think this stemmed from the veggie lasagna I made a couple of months ago (that she LOVED).

As luck would have it, my sister pinned this recipe on Pinterest last week. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be a good option for my girl's vision. I showed it to her, and we decided it was going to be this week's TSNT post. 

Without further ado, here's the ensemble.

First, you're going to cook your ziti according to the package directions.

Next (or while the ziti is cooking), you need to chop some yellow squash, zucchini and onion. I did this in my food processor. My veggies were somewhere between minced and chopped. Smaller veggies are usually a little easier to persuade my children to eat.

The girl with the chopped/minced veggies.
Next, chop up a couple of tomatoes.

Then you're going to heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the squash, zucchini and onion, and saute for 5 minutes. 

Then add the tomato and some garlic and saute another 3 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add your pasta, some mozzarella, herbs, salt and pepper. I failed to get a photo of this. It was pretty though. Take my word for it.

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, some salt and an egg.

Stir the ricotta mixture into the pasta/veggie mix.

Pour into a greased baking dish, and sprinkle with some more mozzarella.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or so.

I'm not sure I can adequately convey how much I loved this dish. The herbs make it. The kids loved it too. They asked if I was going to take photos of them eating it. But since I'm their mother, and even I am sick of photos of them eating and giving a thumbs up, I decided to restrain myself. 

And, although I didn't calculate the nutrition myself, the website said it was 301 calories and 16.5 grams of protein for A QUARTER OF THE PAN!!! I could totally eat a quarter of it. And I did some quick calculations in my head, and that sounds about right.

 Make this. Make it now. With all your summer veggies. You'll thank me later.

Baked Ziti and Summer Veggies
  • 4 ounces uncooked ziti (this is about 1/4 of a 16 oz. box)
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow squash (I used 1-1/2 very large squash)
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini (I used 1 large zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I used 1/2 of an onion)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used 2 tomatoes)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. basil
  • 2 tsp. oregano (I used Italian seasoning)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • cooking spray
1. Cook pasta according to package directions and drain. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan. Add squash, zucchini, and onion; saute 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in pasta, 1/2 cup mozzarella, herbs, 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper.

3. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, remaining salt and egg. Stir into pasta mixture. Spoon into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

Question of the Day:

What's your favorite summer vegetable?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

So I Actually Did P90X!!!!! (Guest post)

If you were checking up on Jennifer’s blog and you were confused by the title, have no fear-this is a guest blog entry!

My name is Karen Bridgman and I am a friend of Jennifer and as luck would have it, neighbors too.  About four months ago I had a little chat with Jennifer at Publix that changed my life and my husband’s life too!  Yes, life-altering conversations at a grocery store.  I will start by saying that I had considered myself to be in pretty decent shape.  I faithfully walked on the treadmill for at least 30 minutes each day, but I had noticed that I seemed to be putting on a few extra pounds that I wasn’t able to shed. My husband had a desire to lose some weight too but no desire to get on the treadmill.  So, we began to have some talks about what we could do.  I am 37 and he is 39 so we figured if were going to get in shape it better be NOW.  We talked about doing something like P90X but we figured we couldn’t really do it.  You’ve seen those infomercials before.  Those people are ripped.

So, one day on Facebook I noticed Jeff Corvin had posted something about Jennifer’s blog and I thought I would check it out.  I had no idea I lived across the street from a fitness guru.  So literally, the next day I saw Jennifer at Publix and we talked about P90X and I made up my mind to do it.  I called my husband and he said sure so I bought it that afternoon and we started the very next day.  I allowed us NO time to change our minds.

Happy and sweaty after my workout
At first, when we started, I’m pretty sure we thought we might die but it got better and a bit easier.  The program consists of three days of cardio or yoga and three days of weights.  Turns out we probably like the weights the best.  The program is great because each person in the video is doing some variation of each move.  If you need to modify, there is someone you can watch.  If you are a fitness machine, there is someone to watch.  If you don’t want to use weights, you can use bands.  I feel like this is a great program to kick off a new fitness routine.  Plus, Tony Horton is hilarious!  But really the best part is the results…I lost 10 pounds and 8 inches overall and my husband lost 20 pounds and 12 inches overall.   WOW!!! Even better, we have made a commitment to working out.  

A few months ago I never thought any of this was possible.  I doubted my own ability to do a challenging workout.  I figured I would never lose those extra pounds.  Now I feel like I can do anything!  In fact, we started Insanity the week after we finished P90X.  Insane right???  My whole mindset has changed about working out.  I want to stay in shape. I want to be more fit.  I want to be healthier- FOREVER!

And yes, all this happened following one conversation at the grocery store.  Funny how life works…

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Black Bean Soup

The week is off to a good start! I started a new workout program, and I am loving it! It's called Focus T25, and the workouts are just 25 minutes each!!! Believe you me though, 25 minutes is plenty of time to get in a great sweat. Here are Jeff and I after our first workout. Please note the sweat. And the happy expression Jeff is wearing.

In unrelated news, we all had dentist appointments today. It was baby girl's first one. Not surprisingly, she had TWO cavities. Have I mentioned she's strong willed? The first 3 years of brushing her teeth included using my limited knowledge of wrestling moves to pin her down, force her mouth open, and cram the toothbrush inside. Apparently, that wasn't the best strategy. But she sure looked cute in the chair at the dentist's office!

Last week, my friend Karen told me about a new recipe for black bean soup she'd tried. Karen got the recipe from the back of a can of Rotel. As soon as she told me about it, I knew it was going on the blog. Here's what's included.

First, you dice 1/2 cup carrots, 1/2 cup onion, and 1/2 cup celery. I chose to chop mine in the food processor. And to make them pretty small so the kids wouldn't even notice they were there.

Next, you saute the vegetables in 2 Tbsp. of oil for about 10 - 15 minutes, or until they're tender.

Then dump in all the remaining ingredients except the cilantro. Bring it to a boil, and then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

While that's simmering, mince 1/4 cup cilantro. I did this in my food processor this time - SO much easier than doing it by hand!!!

Stir in the cilantro just before serving.

So, so good! The boy said he loved it more than pizza. PIZZA y'all!!!

The recipe says this makes 6 servings, but I would say we easily got 8 or more out of it. Even at 6 servings, that calculates to just under 300 calories each and over 12 grams of protein!

Black Bean Soup
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cans black beans, undrained
  • 2 cans Rotel, undrained
  • 1 can Fiesta corn (recipe says drained, but I did not drain mine)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
~Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrot, celery and onion; mix well. Cook 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Add all remaining ingredients except Rotel. Mix well. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cilantro just before serving.

Question of the Day:

How do you brush a toddler's teeth?