It’s What’s For Dinner

Things are, surprisingly, still going pretty well workout-wise. Yesterday was a little bit rough for me, as I had a hard time falling asleep, and that grogginess wasn’t exactly motivating in terms of being active, but! You should be proud of me, because I did it anyway. See? That new leaf of mine is already halfway turned over.

As previously discussed, though, health, fitness, and especially weight loss is a two-part operation. And the what-you-eat part is, at this point, inarguably the more important part when it comes to actively trying to slim down. So I’ve been trying to be very mindful of what I’m eating, choosing deliciousness and whole foods as much as I can.

Even though my job brings me to the farthest and most delicious regions of Northern Virginia, you guys know I love to get down in the kitchen too. And even though I have no intention of stopping eating out altogether, we all know it’s easier to keep track of what you’re chowing down on when you make it yourself. So I’ve been cooking up some delicious at-home healthy meals & snacks lately, and I figured I’d share ’em with you!

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Clockwise from top left: jambalaya with sausage & chicken, roasted brussels sprouts, and salad; my beef stew with dried plums over rice; homemade Chipotle night; plain popcorn seasoned with Flavorgod pizza seasoning

Brown sugar & soy marinated salmon, snap peas sautèed in coconut oil, and coconut rice.

All of the above noms were delicious, but the real star of this week’s meals was this salmon dinner. Super easy, super flavorful, super delicious, and nutritious — even the rice got a nutritional facelift by adding some healthy fats in the form of coconut milk!

Brown sugar & soy is my absolute favorite way to marinate salmon, and while I don’t have a super precise recipe figured out (I’m a big fan of wingin’ it in the kitchen), I thought some of you might be interested in recreating this plate of raving deliciousness at home!

Brown Sugar & Soy Salmon

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless salmon filets
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
~1/4 cup water (enough to make the marinade cover the salmon)

1. Combine the soy sauce, water, and brown sugar, and whisk until sugar is as dissolved as possible. Place salmon filets in the marinade and let sit for at least 15 minutes. Place in refrigerator if marinating for longer.

2. Heat a pan to medium-high heat with a bit of oil/nonstick spray and cook the filet for about 3 minutes on the first side and another 2 on the other (or slightly longer, depending on thickness). Enjoy!

Stir-fried Snap Peas

Ingredients:

1 package sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce

1. Heat oil in a pan to medium-high heat.

2. Cook snap peas, moving constantly in the pan. Add soy sauce, and continue stir-frying for another 5-7 minutes, or until desired doneness.

Coconut Rice

Ingredients:

1.5 cups white rice
1 can coconut milk
1.5 cups water
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
Pinch of salt

1. Combine ingredients in a rice cooker. Or, you know, if you make your rice on the stove, combine in a pot and do it that way, haha.
2. Cook. Eat. Enjoy!

And there you go! The ratios probably aren’t exact, but put all these ingredients together and you’re bound to come up with something delicious!

Any tantalizing recipes you’ve been whipping up lately? I’d love to hear about ’em!

Creamy Garlic Avocado Sauce

There is literally no food on this green Earth that I find more naturally beautiful than an avocado. When you cut into a perfectly ripe avocado, and twist the two halves apart to reveal that ombre green center… it’s just a damn beautiful fruit, okay? And luckily, it’s also one of the most amazing sources of healthy fat, um, ever. I’ve long been a vocal opponent of the idea that fat makes you fat — it doesn’t! Fat is satiating and a necessary component of healthy meals. In fact, the personal trainer that I trained with told me that a good ratio of nutrients for weight loss is 40/30/30 — that’s 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat! The same amount of fat as protein. BOOM.

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So when I came down to brainstorming for my final Almond Breeze recipe — what will hopefully be the piece de resistance — it was really quite fortuitous that I also happened to have a bulk bag of avocados from Costco ripening away (BEST VALUE EVER. It was like $5.99 for 7 avocados or some nonsense). Because it gave me a chance to revamp a recipe that I believe I originally posted back in the earliest blossoming days of this blog… but I can’t be sure, because it was so long ago that I can’t actually find the post I’m thinking about. (Whoops.)

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Aaaanywho, yes, this is the better, delicious-er, avocado-ier version of my original recipe. I actually intended to serve it over a bed of roasted spaghetti squash, but I got too impatient waiting for the squash to finish cooking, so I ended up eating it with some leftover pasta that I had in the fridge. Yep, the sauce gets done THAT fast and it’s THAT good. And would you believe that it’s UNDER 100 CALORIES per serving?! Believe me, you are not going to want to miss out on this one.

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Creamy Garlic Avocado Sauce
Makes 6 servings of sauce

Ingredients:

2 ripe avocados
1 clove raw garlic
1 loose cup spinach
1/4 cup unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk
Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions:

1. In a food processor or high-powered blender, combine avocados, garlic, and spinach.
2. Pulse until finely chopped.
3. Add almond milk in batches and blend until desired consistency is reached. For a runnier texture, you may need slightly more almond milk.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste, and voila! Toss with pasta, top chicken or fish, or serve as a dip with crackers!

Nutritional information: 99.4 calories, 9 g fat (but it’s good fat!), 5.4 g carbs, 1.3 g protein.

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I’m not going to bother calling it a pasta sauce, because I think that it honestly has tons of possibilities. Toss with noodles, use as sauce for a rice bowl, or top chicken or fish with this creamy green deliciousness. Keep the texture a little thicker and serve it as a dip! (I’d probably add a little lemon or lime juice to maintain it’s freshness if I did that, but I didn’t have any on hand this time around and it really is delicious as is.)

My tip for preserving leftovers is the same as for making guacamole: cover the sauce with a layer of plastic wrap — as in, have the plastic wrap actually TOUCH the food in its container, and then put on the lid. Keeping the air off of the sauce will help keep the top from browning (since, even though it’s still totally fine to eat, browned food never looks appetizing). And bon appetite!

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Light ‘n’ Easy Almond Eggnog (Dairy Free!)

I know, I know. I’m pretty much the worst blogger ever now. But hey, blame it on my job or the sequel that I’m still pumping out or the fact that right now it’s holiday everything or… well, whatever you want to blame it on, really. And then rest assured that I am indeed alive, just not quite the blogging fiend that I was at this time last year, for the moment. I always bounce back to you wonderful folks though, and I’m sure that eventually I’ll be back in full blogging swing — just not right now, le sigh.

Which honestly is kind of a shame, because blogging about the holidays always just served to contribute additional warm fuzzies. I mean, you guys already know how much I EFFING LOVE CHRISTMAS, and getting to share that through pics of decorations and sweater-clad schnauzers and whatnot was always a lot of fun. Buuuut, as all of you well know, life priorities are constantly shifting, and blogging has never been, nor likely will it ever be, a full-time job for me, and thus is probably never going to be at the tippity top of my priority list. But that doesn’t mean I can’t miss it!

Aaanyway, back to the matter at hand. Though I may not be taking unrelenting photos of it all, I am indeed still whiling away in the kitchen every now and again. And since the holidays are one of my favorite times to try my hand at lightening up old recipes so that I can indulge in all the fun (with half the guilt), I’ve been doing a lot of holiday recipe experimentation lately! So thanks to my friends at Almond Breeze, who are constantly pushing me to be creative with my, er, creation of recipes, I now bring you a light and creamy (not to mention incredibly easy!) homemade eggnog recipe that won’t set my tummy a-rumblin’ because it is dairy-free! Huzzah!

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Light ‘n’ Easy Almond Eggnog
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (I used Almond Breeze Vanilla)
4 egg yolks (separate out the whites and keep them to make an egg white scramble or use in your royal icing or something!)
1 dash ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar (or sweetener of choice)

Instructions:

1. Combine almond milk, egg yolks, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat on medium-low heat, constantly stirring, until mixture begins steaming, about 5 minutes.
2. Add spices and extracts, combining gently and continuing to stir for an additional 2 – 3 minutes. Mixture should begin thickening slightly.
3. If you like a thicker ‘nog, allow to cool before consuming. You can do this quickly by immersing the pot in cold water, or by simply allowing it to come to room temperature naturally. Garnish with additional nutmeg and a cinnamon stick, if desired!

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Yup, easy as that! And I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet, which is that the grand total of calories for this decadent treat comes to… 100 calories! Ta-daaaaa! Plus the fact that it’s cream-free definitely helps those of us who are lactose-challenged (something for which my digestive track is eternally thankful!)

I hope you’re all having the most wonderful of holidays, and I certainly am going to try my best to get back into the swing of regular blogging (how many times have I said that now? Ha…!) in the New Year. After all, I’m certainly not immune to those New Year’s resolutions… and I’m sure I’ll need all the help I can get!

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Boozy Vegan* Hot Chocolate

*Well, I suppose that depending on your definition of vegan, this recipe is only vegan-ish. But we’ll get to that.

So. The government has shut down. And while Ron Swanson is probably having the best day of his life…

… a lot of people are very unsure as to what their future (and their future paychecks!) may hold. And hey, I get it! While most government contractors and federal employees have gone quite a while between shutdowns, let us remember that I used to work for the FAA. Which meant going through the emotional unquiet that is an impending, looming, potential FAA shutdown at least twice a year. I’m definitely grateful that my job now is unaffected by the shutdown, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pain of all my nearest and dearest.

So I’m trying to help in the only way I can: by giving you a recipe that makes it’s totally acceptable to start getting sauced first thing in the AM. Enter: Boozy hot chocolate. I mean, hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?

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Besides, I suddenly found myself with a couple of flippin’ adorable custom whiskey airplane bottles, thanks to one Miss–oops, I mean MRS!–Army Pants and Flip Flops, whose wedding I attended last weekend. 😀

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Boozy Vegan Hot Chocolate
Makes 1 large steaming mug

Ingredients:

2 cups Blue Diamond Almond Breeze almond milk (I used original unsweetened)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp honey (this is where the whole maybe-it’s-not-really-vegan argument can begin — just replace with sweetener of choice if you don’t want to use honey)
3 tbsp whiskey (sorry kiddos, these tricks are for adults only)

Instructions:

1. In a small saucepan, heat almond milk on medium heat.
2. Add cocoa powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. Stir until combined (the lumps in the cocoa will continue to break apart as the milk heats up.)
3. Add in whiskey, stir to combine, then pour into a mug. Top with whipped cream, if you have some available, and enjoy!

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This recipe is sure to put some warm-fuzzies in your belly, believe you me. I mean, I may or may not be a little bit buzzed while writing this post… though to be fair, I didn’t even use the entire airplane bottle in the recipe! 3 tbsp uses up about 3/4 of the bottle. But it didn’t really seem fair to just leave that little bit left in the bottle all by its lonesome, so…

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Just consider me having poured one out (into my mouth) for my government homies. Salud! You can also clearly make this a non-alcoholic (but still vegan-ish) hot chocolate simply by omitting the whiskey. If you do that, it might be fun to try adding in a tsp of various extracts — mint, almond, etc!

almondbreezelogoThe above post was sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, but all content is 100% my own.

Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Part of me is literally flabbergasted that Thanksgiving is one week away. ONE. WEEK. I don’t know about you, but Turkey Day has seriously snuck up on me this year! I know I probably say that every year, but this year really does seem like it’s flying by. Craaaazy.

Thanksgiving is my third favorite holiday (the first being Christmas, duh, and the second being my birthday because YES MY BIRTHDAY IS A HOLIDAY SHUT YOUR CAKEHOLE) so I’m definitely happy it’s so soon. I’ve taken root as the primary cook for our family Thanksgivings, which is a huge joy to me because I love to cook so much. That said, planning out Thanksgiving dinner is not without its stressful moments.

This year will be the largest group of my family members to gather for a Thanksgiving meal that I’m head chef-ing up. Luckily, I’ve got my mom and two of my aunts who are all wonderful cooks as well, so I’m sure we’ll be able to tackle everything without a problem. I can’t wait to get everyone together, but I am trying to be a smidge more proactive this year. So far, that’s included actually designing the menu ahead of time! And here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Gobble!

Turkey. Uh, duh. As in years past, I plan to use a Gretchened-up variation of Alton Brown’s Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe, which includes an overnight brine. This recipe honestly yields the best turkey ever. The brine keeps the turkey breast moist and delicious, and it seriously feels foolproof. There’s no basting, no checking, no turning of the bird. It requires the first 20 minutes on super high heat to seal everything in, and then you just turn down the heat and forgettaboutit. I always serve with pan-drippings gravy as well. Nom nom nom.

Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes

I mentioned a couple days ago that I was testing out a new mashed potato recipe, but that it didn’t quite live up to my Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes. Well, that’s because I believe few things can. I still am in love with this recipe, and I haven’t had a chance to make it for most of my family yet, so I’m very excited to. This recipe involves absolutely ZERO butter, making it far more waistline-friendly than your average taters. Instead, it uses roasted garlic, olive oil, and a splash of heavy cream. So good. So freaking good.

Stuffing with Butternut Squash and Apples

I am also planning on recreating my Stuffing with Butternut Squash and Apples recipe, which turned out truly fantastic last year. Usually there are a couple of vegetarians present at our family gatherings (my sister, in particular), but since Jenny and Dan are spending T-Day with his parents this year, I’m thinking about adding a little sausage into the stuffing as well. Either way, stuffing is my 2nd favorite Thanksgiving meal component (taters is #1), so I can’t wait!

Other meal components will include maple bacon roasted Brussels sprouts, this cranberry and pear compote that my mom and aunt made the last time we had a family dinner (it blew my jalapeno-cranberry relish recipe outta the water!), and I also want to try a new spin on kind of a green bean casserole. You know, find a way to make something with all the traditional flavor, but none of the Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom? Hahaha. We’ll see how that shakes out.

Still haven’t made any decisions on dessert yet, but you can rest assured there will be pie. OH SO MUCH PIE.

Man, I love Thanksgiving.

What’s your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal? Are you all about the turkey, more of a sides person, or seriously into dessert?