Mediterranean Pasta Salad

I spent the middle of my March Madness-on-a-Saturday afternoon online looking for some new healthy recipes for the week that I could give a try. Pinterest never fails, I found this easy (and super delicious) recipe from Gimme Some Oven that I just had to prepare for my lunches. Not only does it include just a few simple ingredients – the dressing is extremely tasty and blends well with the pasta and vegetables.

Meal prep keeps me on my toes. I’ve always believed that if you don’t plan accordingly, you’re setting yourself up to potentially slide off the path. 

Luckily – this pasta salad holds well for several days. Prep away.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Serves 4
Quick take on a Mediterranean style pasta dish that's best served cold.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 12-ounce box of farfalle pasta
  2. 1 English cucumber, diced
  3. 1 pint grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  4. 4-ounces crumbled fat-free feta cheese
  5. half of a medium size red onion, sliced thin
Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette
  1. 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  3. 1 tablespoon lemon juice (fresh is best!)
  4. 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  5. 1 teaspoon organic honey
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  7. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  9. small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta accordingly. Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta can be handled.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare lemon-herb vinaigrette dressing by whisking all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a large bowl, add your pasta, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion slices. Mix well. Carefully fold feta cheese into mixture, followed by drizzling the lemon-herb vinaigrette dressing overtop. Toss salad well so that dressing is evenly spread.
  4. Divide between 4 bowls and serve with additional feta cheese if desired.
Notes
  1. The original recipe calls for olives. I don't care much for them, but if you do, feel free to add a handful to the ingredients.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Pasta Arrabbiata

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It feels like it’s been some time since I’ve done a meatless Monday post, let alone cooked a meatless meal on a Monday. While searching for clean-eating recipes for the week, I stumbled upon this one from Yummily Yours that I had to try since I’m still in the quest for finding the perfect natural (aka unprocessed) marinara sauce. 

It’s crazy how little amount of time and effort it takes to make a marinara. I like more chunks of tomatoes and less “sauce” in mine, so I don’t necessarily puree the tomatoes – just halve them and cook or bake. Tomatoes are magical like that. 

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So Arrabbiata is a spicy sauce that is made from garlic, tomatoes, and red chili peppers cooked in olive oil. I laid low on the red chili peppers and used chili powder myself because I was going to have the children try the sauce, but my husband deemed it an “adult meal” and now I know next time to actually use red pepper FLAKES, not ground chili. I left it as it’s intended to be cooked in the recipe below though. 

I was most thoroughly excited about learning how to get that “restaurant shine” you see often see in pasta dishes when I tried this recipe. The secret? Add a little under half a cup of the water you cooked your pasta in to the skillet you’re cooking your tomato mixture in. Who would have thought?!

Pasta Arrabiata
Serves 3
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 8-ounces linguine pasta
  2. 1/4 cup olive oil
  3. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  4. cherry tomatoes , sliced into halves
  5. 2 tablespoons chilli flakes
  6. 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  7. grated parmesan, for topping.
Instructions
  1. Bring a large saucepan to a raging boil and add pasta. Cook according to package.
  2. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Add minced garlic, allowing to saute; 3 minutes. Next add the tomatoes and cook until they appear softened and the skin looks slightly broken.
  3. As pasta is finished, drain all but 1/3 of pasta water if possible. Add just pasta to tomatoes and mix well, adding salt and pepper for taste if desired. Next add pasta water, stirring so that the water and olive oil are combined. This sound appear to thicken the sauce some.
  4. Garnish with chilli flakes and parsley, stirring again to combine. Serve with grated parmesan strips overtop.
Adapted from Yummily Yours
Adapted from Yummily Yours
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

BBQ Honey Ranch Chicken and Vegetable Bowl

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Monday, the first day that I actually am beginning to feel as normal as normal gets for me. After spending the majority of the past week either caring for someone sick or being sick myself, I was able to actually sleep soundly through the night with a cough here and there and wake up feeling refreshed enough. I had my entire weeks menu as well as my workout schedule all ready to go last week and so today I had the motivation to be productive. Happy to say I succeeded!

I started off my morning with a Egg McFitFun, a fun and healthy version of what you can find at most fast-food restaurants and discovered via my FitGirlsGuide 28 Day Jumpstart ebook. After that, I did my BBG 1.0 leg workout (FINALLY!) and proceeded to make this fantastic lunch that I stumbled across on Pinterest that this post is mostly about. Little did I know that this meal itself was big enough and as much work as an entrée is; something it would probably be more perfect for – but what the heck, I made it anyway and stashed the extra portions in the refrigerator for the next few days worth of lunch!

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If you haven’t gone outside the box and made rice with anything but what the directions tell you, let me tell you – you are MISSING OUT! Don’t get me wrong, rice in itself can be delicious, but it’s a whole other world when you’re cooking it with broth and spices. I know you’ve probably already looked at number of instructions in the directions and thought “Whoa! That’s a lot!” and I thought that myself too, but the end result is absolutely worth it.

I think my favorite part about this recipe is the fact that it’s based on the combination of Ranch and BBQ sauce. Anyone else use to order a side of ranch and a side of BBQ sauce to mix together and dip their fries and chicken nuggets in as a kid? I still do it at 34. So this Hidden Valley Ranch dressing is like a dream come true for me.

BBQ Honey Ranch Chicken and Vegetable Bowl
Serves 4
If you haven't tried a ranch and bbq sauce combo, it's about time you did! Why not try it over this salad mix?
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced into tender size pieces
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. ½ cup onion, diced
  4. 1 ½ cups long grain white rice
  5. 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
  6. I can black beans, washed and drained
  7. 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  8. 16-ounce bottle Hidden Valley Ranch Honey BBQ Dressing
  9. 1 medium cucumber, sliced thin
  10. 1 red bell pepper, deseeded and sliced thin
  11. 2 cooked ears of corn, kernels cut off cobb
  12. 1 avocado, sliced
  13. cilantro, optional
Instructions
  1. In a large ziplock bag, add chicken pieces and 1 cup of Hidden Valley Ranch Honey BBQ Dressing. Allow marinating in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  2. In a medium size saucepan over med-high heat, add olive oil and allow to momentarily heat up. Next add onion and rice, stirring often; 3-5 minutes or until rice appears a light shade of brown. Add chicken broth, black beans and cumin. When rapid boiling occurs, lower heat to low setting, cover and allow to cook for 20 minutes. After, remove from heat , sitting for 5 minutes before fluffing rice mixture with a fork. Set aside.
  3. Using a medium size skillet, add pepper and corn with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté vegetables for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
  4. Well grease a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, allowing to cook on each side for 5-7 minutes or until chicken has grill marks. Flip and cook other side. When chicken is thoroughly cooked, remove from heat.
  5. In 4 bowls, add rice mixture followed by peppers, corn, cucumber and avocado. Add chicken, cilantro and drizzle additional Hidden Valley Ranch Honey BBQ Dressing on top.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Lentils and Potato Tacos

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What is it with the beginning of the school year and illnesses? Both kids have been sick and now I seem to have caught it, so as I type this up I am “enjoying” a cup of hot alka seltzer and praying that my throat won’t feel as awful as it does now in the morning. Talk about not much of a productive past 7 days.

Anyhow – my husband is out of town, and while I had originally planned on slow-cooking some barbacoa for this Taco Tuesday, I felt it would be a waste if I had a 3lb chuck roast all to myself. Instead of spending more money at the grocery and dragging said sick child #2 out, I worked with what I got and I have to say; I was extremely pleased with the results!

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I was introduced to lentils via FitGirlsGuide a couple years back. I haven’t met a bean I didn’t like and I’ve used potatoes in place of meat before, so paired with pico de gallo, I can totally see why this combination can work great if you’re trying to do without meat or you’re a vegetarian. Just make sure you don’t go light on the lentils! They’re high in lean protein and a great source of potassium.

Lentils and Potato Tacos
Serves 2
Skip the meat! A delicious take on tacos using lentils and potatoes.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 6-inch corn tortillas
  2. 1 cup lentils, boiled
  3. 2 medium potatoes, diced small and cooked
  4. 3-4 tablespoons pico de gallo
  5. ½ cup shredded monterey jack cheese
  6. ¼ teaspoon fresh cilantro, thinly chopped
  7. sour cream, optional
  8. salsa, optional
Instructions
  1. Using a small pot, bring 1 cup of lentils and 4 cups of hot water to a slight boil over medium heat. Allow to cook 25-30 minutes, or until lentils seem tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. At the same time, using a large skillet - add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set heat to medium. Add diced potatoes, making sure to stir with a spatula to prevent burning. Cook until potatoes seem crispy. Set aside.
  3. When both lentils and potatoes are ready, assemble your corn tortilla - beginning with potatoes and followed by lentils, 1 tablespoon of pico de gallo, cheese and cilantro. Top with sour cream or salsa, if desired. Repeat step with each tortilla.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Slow Roasted Seasoned Tomatoes (Sauce)

A gas range is something I am still getting used to. No one quite understands the difference between an electric stove and a gas range until they actually go from having one to the other. I’ve always heard that a lot of food not only tastes different when using a gas stove (or oven), but also cooks much quicker. It’s still too early for me to validate the taste answer, but I can absolutely attest to the cooks quicker one! I learned just how quick after burning french toast.

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Since we are now officially in the new home, I can settle in more comfortably and get back into the swing of things – meaning actually cooking again; something I desperately missed both mentally and physically. I always feel so much better about myself when I know where my meals came from and who prepared them. Don’t get me wrong, eating out every once in awhile is nice but not only does it get expensive but it’s also most likely not healthy.

Tonight’s dinner was a late one due to schedules so it had to be something more on the simple side. It’s been some time since I made a marinara sauce and pasta can be both satisfying to all tastebuds and a quick clean-plater. I had most things already on hand, aside from the tomatoes which I happily walked over to Whole Foods to acquire. It’s awesome just how good even a basic marinara sauce can taste. Those tomatoes really do their job!

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Tomato? Tomahto? Marinara is a personal preference. I happen to like mine sweet so cherry tomatoes that were roasted in an oven were sure to give my marinara a sweet taste. I made sure to marinate them with some olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, italian seasoning, oregano and fresh basil leaves before I cooked them in the oven for a couple hours. And if you don’t want to get out the whisk and crush your tomatoes after they’re done roasting; you can puree them the lazy (and super smart) cook way – in a blender! Just make sure to pulse for less than a minute if you would like to have some “chunk” pieces to your sauce.

What would you add in your marinara sauce?

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

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I understand most would think that with it being still summer, the temperature outside may just be a little on the “too hot” side for a bowl of soup. However, just because summer is still here doesn’t mean that we can’t feel under the weather and crave some chicken noodle soup.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Yields 6
A delicious homemade version of Chicken Noodle Soup cooked over the stovetop in just 30 minutes.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. ½ cup carrots, peeled and sliced
  3. ½ cup celery, sliced thin
  4. ½ cup yellow onion, peeled and diced
  5. 1 garlic clove, minced
  6. 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  7. ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  8. ¼ dried oregano
  9. 1 teaspoon pepper,
  10. 6 ounces wide egg noodles
  11. 1 cup shredded cooked rotisserie chicken
  12. ½ tablespoon lemon juice
  13. salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons olive oil over med-high heat. Add carrots, celery and onion and allow to saute for 8 minutes. Stir continuously. Add garlic and allow to saute an additional 2 minutes.
  2. Next add chicken broth, thyme, oregano and pepper. Bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Check to make sure vegetables are softened, cook additional 2 minutes if not.
  3. Add egg noodles, stirring often for 10 minutes or until noodles appear thoroughly cooked.
  4. Throw in rotisserie chicken, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Cook an additional 2 minutes so that chicken combines with broth. Serve.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Week 1 of FitGirlsGuide’s #28DayJumpStart Food Recap

I’m sure you’ve noticed a slow-down as far as posts go. I have a good reason! You see I’m currently doing the 28 Day Jumpstart program by FitGirlsGuide. That means for the next few weeks, I will not be posting recipes unless they are ones I’ve cooked up for my family. And if I do post something that centers around me individually, it will mostly consist of notes regarding my health journey and the food experiences I’ve encountered while participating in this challenge.

If you like anything you see, by all means go check FitGirlsGuide out for yourself! Not only do they put together a wonderful meal-plan for you with daily exercises, but there’s a community of supportive individuals who are doing the same challenges as your with similar goals – and best of all, they’re SUPER encouraging. Sometimes that’s what we need most.

I’m only mid-week but since I’ve already experienced each meal that is scheduled for the entire week, I’m going to do a little recap on each entree today. Usually it helps to hear others experiences with food before you know for sure if you want to try something out for yourself. 

Week 1 Food Recap:

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Cherry Pie Fridge Oats

I always look forward to breakfast during week 1 of this challenge because I love Cherry Pie Fridge Oats. They’re delicious, extremely healthy and easy-as-pie to assemble the night before; perfect for those who are on the go super early! I eat mine cold and with a hot cup of coffee after finishing a session on the elliptical. 

Roasted Veggie Power Bowl
Roasted Veggie Power Bowl

For lunch, you’re given the freedom to pick and choose your vegetables. I like to sample a variety of ways of preparing the Roasted Veggie Power Bowl and in the past have came up with dishes similar to a burrito bowl at Chipotle or chicken fried rice (above)… However, if you like to just follow the ingredients and instructions to ensure you’re doing the challenge just as it’s been laid out for you; the main recipe is still fantastic! 

Little suggestion – make your own homemade hummus. While store bought hummus is the quick way to go, there’s nothing like the taste of freshly grounded chickpeas and tahini sauce. 

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Sweet Potato Street Tacos

I remember the first time I scanned the Week 1 Menu, I was hesitant at first on if I was going to like the Sweet Potato Street Tacos. Before FitGirlsGuide, I didn’t really eat sweet potatoes. I guess you could say I was a regular stuck up Russet potato kinda-gal. There is truth that you don’t know what you’re missing out on if you don’t actually “get out there” – and the same goes for food tasting. These tacos are delicious! 

So I guess that means sweet potatoes are pretty special; you can’t throw just any ingredient in a corn tortilla and pass it off as a “taco.” 

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Pita Pizza

Truth be told, I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like pizza. So I have a hard time believing that someone is going to read “Pita Pizza” and think “Ew, there is no way I am going to like that.” Think of them as individual pizzas on a flat piece of round pita bread that you get to add healthy ingredients to and then cook in the oven for a few minutes. Sound good? No. It sounds GREAT.

Creamy Tuna Noodle

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I always purposely plan meals that I know my husband or children will not eat on days when they aren’t home so that I may enjoy them for myself. It’s totally worth it, even if cooking what could be considered a big meal for just one individual sometimes doesn’t seem like it. 

No one in this house likes tuna fish but me. Actually, I don’t think I’ve met a kid who likes tuna yet. But this is a meal that I can remember my mom making every once in awhile. Definitely not the same recipe, but the same concept is there. 

Aside from waiting for your egg noodles to cook, this entree really doesn’t take long to make. And I love the fact that instead of traditional tuna noodle recipes that use cheddar cheese, you’ll be using parmesan. It gives the meal a lighter taste to it so you aren’t left feeling heavy and full when finished. That’s always a good thing 🙂

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Creamy Tuna Noodle
Serves 4
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 6-ounces wide egg noodles
  2. 1 cup cooked sweet peas
  3. 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  4. 1 medium onion, diced
  5. ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  6. 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  7. 1¼ cups whole milk
  8. 5-ounce can solid white tuna
  9. ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Bring a large saucepan full of water to a rapid boil and then cook egg noodles accordingly.
  2. In a medium saucepan over med-high heat, add butter and stir until it has melted. Add onion, garlic and black pepper; stirring frequently until combined well. Next add milk. Continue stirring frequently and allow to cook until sauce has thickened and is bubbling. Remove from heat, adding both tuna (drained), cooked peas and parmesan cheese. Stir well.
  3. Add tuna sauce to your large bowl of drained egg noodles. Combine well until all noodles appear to be lightly covered with tuna sauce. Serve warm.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole

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Whenever I think of macaroni and cheese, I think of comfort foods and a meal made in the middle of winter that has been slowly cooking inside my little side-dish of a crockpot. Neither of those things apply to this post; it’s the middle of summer and EXTREMELY hot outside. Also, this entree was cooked on the stove.

I don’t know that I would cook macaroni as much I do if I didn’t have children around; it seems like a entree dish fit for little mouths and just screams “CARBOHYDRATES” to me. But if I do, it’s either using this recipe that is baked overtop the stove or my son’s personal favorite that slowly cooks in a crockpot.

Here’s a recipe for your own mac and cheese lovers: 

Homemade Mac and Cheese Casserole
Serves 12
No more boxed mac n' cheese! Cook this homemade macaroni overtop the stove and add to the oven to give it a breaded top, if desired, and watch how fast kids ask for this version over Kraft.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 16-ounce box elbow pasta
  2. 10 tablespoons butter, or 1 butter stick, divided
  3. 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  4. 3 cups 1% milk
  5. 12-ounce shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  6. 4 tablespoons italian bread crumbs
  7. pinch of salt
  8. pinch of pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook elbow pasta according to package. Drain in a strainer. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Well grease a 8x8 casserole pan.
  3. In a medium size saucepan, add 8 tablespoons of butter. Melt, stirring often with a wooden spoon to speed up melting process. Add flour and stir well until brown. Begin to add milk, slowly, whisking while doing so. Allow to come to a boil and remove saucepan from heat.
  4. Add cheese, stirring continuously so that it is well combined. Slowly add elbow pasta, mixing well until pasta is entirely covered with cheese. Add to greased casserole pan.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of melted butter with 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Add evenly as possible overtop macaroni. Add to oven and bake for 30 minutes.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/

Parmesan Chicken Casserole

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Have you ever wanted to take the same meal you enjoy immensely, but switch it up just a little bit? Same ingredients and hopefully the same taste; it’s just prepared a little differently. That’s what this casserole reminds me of. The list of items just scream Chicken Parmesan, you’re just giving it a whole new look!

I had spotted this recipe while browsing my Pinterest feed quite some time ago and was intrigued. I’m not quite sure who came up with this fun recipe, as I quickly jotted the ingredients down and added it to my list of potential meals. I can see how this can be either a family favorite or something you bring to a potluck party at work.

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Unlike the original recipe for Chicken Parmesan, you’re using creating a base for bake (breadcrumbs) last instead of coating the chicken in it before adding the marinara sauce and cheese. It gives it a crispier outer shell, while enjoying a more moist italian taste when you bite in. I recommend using rotisserie chicken if you’ve got it, but any leftover shredded chicken will do.

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I allowed my casserole to bake for 25 minutes, but that can always vary depending on your oven. If your breadcrumb topping has begun to take on a golden brown shade, there’s a good chance it’s ready.

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Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Serves 6
Craving something hot and easy to prepare? This Chicken Parm Casserole is a great bake for when you've got leftover chicken and an extra jar of marinara sauce.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 2-4 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  2. 28-ounce jar marinara sauce
  3. 1½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  4. ½ fresh parmesan cheese
  5. 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  6. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  7. 2 tablespoons italian seasoning
  8. 1 tablespoon oregano
  9. salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Use cooking spray to well coat an 8x8 casserole pan. Add chicken to bottom followed by marinara sauce. Mix well, evenly spreading throughout the pan. Cover with mozzarella cheese and parmesan.
  3. Add panko bread crumbs, olive oil, italian seasoning and oregano to a medium size mixing bowl. Stir well and add a pinch of both salt and pepper. Spread bread crumb mix over-top cheese layer, covering well.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes.
fitgirlnic http://fitgirlnic.com/