Posts Tagged With: healthy

Gluten Free Zucchini Bread


It’s time to start using up the goodies from your garden….or if you’re like me, the excess veggies donated from other people’s gardens!

This paleo and celiac-friendly zucchini bread is another stolen and slightly altered recipe from the wonderful Ellie at Healthy Training. I found myself grabbing chunks of it for an on-the-go breakfast and the 2 loaves I made had disappeared in less than 3 days. It’s sweet enough to feel like dessert without any added processed sugars.

 zucchini bread



  • 1 cup grated zucchini, water squeezed out
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 ½ c almond flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ c chopped walnuts
  • ½ c craisins



  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease 2 small loaf pans with coconut oil.
  2. Combine almond flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl
  3. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, banana, honey, vanilla, and oil. Mix thoroughly, then mix in dry ingredients until combined.
  4. Fold in the craisins, zucchini, and walnuts. Spoon batter into the loaf pans, filling each one ¼ full.
  5. Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden and set (check the middle with a toothpick).



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Grilled Portobello “Pizzas”


portobello pizzas

There’s something pretty fantastic about a warm summer night and the smell of charcoal in your back yard. I was in the mood to get a little creative last week so I stopped by the grocery store on my way home and picked out a few of my absolute fave ingredients.

These little “pizzas” keep things low-carb while still giving you a comfort food fix. They’re also a super simple weeknight grill meal that require hardly any prep time. Win!

Serves 2


4 large portobello mushroom caps

Organic garlic pizza sauce

Fresh basil

Sun-dried tomatoes

Goat cheese


1. Cut the stems off of your portobellos and scoop out the gills with a spoon.

2. Coat the outside of the mushrooms with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

3. Toss your bellas on the grill. Give them a couple of minutes to heat up but don’t wait too long or they will start to shrink up.

4. Spread on pizza sauce. Add fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes, and top with goat cheese.

5. Cook for 2-3 minutes covered or until goat cheese begins to melt.

6.  Remove from grill and enjoy!


These tasted absolutely fabulous. Maybe I’m a bit biased – I could seriously eat goat cheese off a piece of cardboard and think it was gourmet – but the hubs liked them too so that’s gotta say something. 🙂  Next time I’d add some protein to make them a bit more filling. Cubed prosciutto or diced chicken would be tasty!


Do you ever make anything out of the ordinary on the grill?



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What’s really in that sweetener?


I have a teensy weensy obsession with coffee (as if you didn’t already know that from posts like this one and this one).

I also prefer that my coffee taste like a candy bar, so I tend to load it up with flavored creamers and fake sugar. Naughty. Although I do consider myself a bit of a health nut, I just can’t seem to break this habit and switch to black coffee. Bitter… icky…boring…ugh. Can’t do it.

My little cancer packet of choice has always been Sweet ‘N Low, as it tends to be the sweetest of the many brands in the “fake sugar” category. I wanted to fully understand my addiction, so I did a little research on the various artificial sweeteners and their effects.

  • The artificial sweetener in Sweet ‘N low is saccharine, which is an organic molecule created out of petroleum (whoa) and introduced in the early 20th century. In the ‘70’s, animal studies found that it caused cancer in several organs and a warning was added to the label. This warning has since been removed but the stigma remains that saccharine is not completely safe for consumption.
  • If you’re more of a NutraSweet or Equal fan, your artificial sweetener of choice is Aspartame, which is a combination of phenylalanine and aspartic acid with methanol (2 amino acids). The FDA has done a number of safety evaluations of Aspartame, and reports have come back free and clear. However, other studies have shown that this sweetener may be an “excitotoxin”, like MSG, which can cause brain damage.
  • Splenda, which is made from Sucralose, may seem to be the least offensive of these first 3 little artificial devils. Sucralose is essentially sugar which has been chemically refined so that our bodies are unable to metabolize it. Thus, it’s calorie-free. Sucralose is also 600 (!) times sweeter than regular sugar.
  • Finally, there’s stevia, which is a calorie free, herb-based sweetener. There’s nothing artificial about it, which immediately gives it a vote up in my book. A number of brands have popped up, including Truvia, Pure Via, Sweet Leaf, Steviva, etc. Stevia is safe for diabetics – it will not spike your insulin levels.


One tidbit I was already familiar with is the fact that many artificial sweeteners “trick” your body into thinking it’s getting sugar. According to, fatty tissues can perceive sweetness, and although artificial sweeteners have no calories, they can cause your metabolism to slow. This tricks your brain into eating even more calories, which will then be stored as fat. So that mid-afternoon Diet Coke may not be so harmless after all.


The Verdict

Reading up on the various types of artificial sweeteners was a real eye-opener form me. Ideally, we would be able to appreciate our coffee, tea, and baked goods without the aid of sugar or other sweeteners (right!). Unfortunately for many of us, the sweetness is what makes these foods and beverages enjoyable. That tasty morning coffee is one of my favorite reasons to get out of bed in the morning 🙂

For me, it comes down to choosing the lesser of several “evils”. Given the many studies that have pronounced saccharine and aspartame unsafe, I decided to switch my daily sweetener to Stevia (or more specifically, Truvia brand). However, it’s important to read the labels carefully. Many brands contain additives (even Truvia is blended with erythritol – a sugar alcohol). If you’ve just gotta sweeten, pure Stevia would be ideal, along with other natural, unprocessed sweeteners such as honey and agave nectar. I do feel better knowing that the first thing I put in my body every morning is not chemically processed. See ya later, Sweet ‘N Low.


What’s your favorite sweetener? 

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings, More Eats | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Caldo de Camarones



Caldo de Camarones is a traditional Mexican soup that can be made by combining a number of different veggies and spices (and shrimp, of course). This was my first attempt at creating this dish. We tend to prefer our soups on the “stew-y” side, so I added what may seem like an unlikely ingredient – an entire head of cauliflower – to make the soup more hearty. Enjoy!

Caldo de Camarones

Serves 4-5


  1. 1 large onion
  2. 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  3. 2 large Guajillo chiles
  4. 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  5. 1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
  6. 3 cloves garlic
  7. 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  8. 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  9. 1 tsp olive oil
  10. 2 6.5 oz cans chopped clams
  11. 2 lbs shelled, uncooked shrimp, chopped into small chunks
  12. 2 cups chicken broth
  13. 3 cups water
  14. 1 bay leaf
  15. 1/2 tsp salt & 1/2 tsp pepper, plus more to taste
  16. 2 tbsp hot sauce of your choosing (I used Sriracha)


  1. Soak Guajillo chiles in water for 30 minutes, then remove seeds and stems. 
  2. In a food processor, combine the chiles, garlic, onion, Italian seasoning, and diced tomatoes.
  3. Add 1 tsp olive oil to a large soup pot on medium heat, then add your tomato puree. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Stir in Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce) to taste. I like things spicy, so I used quite a bit.
  5. Add the juice from the clams, 2 cups chicken broth, 3 cups water, salt, pepper, and bay leaf and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Slowly add in 3 tbsp tomato paste and stir until blended with the broth.
  7. Add carrots and cauliflower and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables reach your desired consistency.
  8. Add the shrimp and clams. Allow stew to return to a simmer, then turn off heat, cover, and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  9. Add more salt & pepper to taste before serving.


This stew was DEFINITELY a winner. We love seafood and spicy dishes, so this was a double whammy. The leftovers were 10x better once the flavors had a chance to blend, so next time I might just make it ahead of time and eat it all week long. YUM!

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Spinach & Pepperjack Stuffed Pork Chops

We’re past due for a grocery run. However, the below zero temps around here also mean we are FAR too lazy to bundle up go grocery shopping on a Sunday. Time to do a little creative cooking.

When you eat as much chicken, fish, and pork as we do, you’ve gotta spice things up every now and then to keep it interesting. Stuffing your meat makes the standard boring protein much more exciting, and far more filling. We’ve recently been experimenting with stuffing our chicken breasts and pork chops. Today’s lunch was born out of a leftover package of frozen spinach and an otherwise very bare fridge.

stuffed pork chops

Spinach & Pepperjack Stuffed Pork Chops


  • 2 fresh pork chops
  • 2/3 of a 10 oz package of frozen spinach
  • 2/3 cup shredded pepperjack cheese
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Italian herb mix
  • Salt & Pepper


  • Cut a slit in each pork chop to form a “pocket” (don’t cut all the way through)
  • Thaw spinach in the microwave, then press it into a strainer to remove excess water.
  • Mix spinach with pepperjack cheese and Italian herbs/red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Stuff pork chops with spinach mixture
  • Saute over medium heat for 6-9 minutes each side until cooked through. Season with salt & pepper.

A super simple and protein-packed Sunday lunch. Win.


What creations have you come up with with limited ingredients?

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Asparagus pee (and a reci-pee!)

asparagus pee

We eat a fairly decent amount of asparagus in our household. And why not? It’s a fabulous source of vitamins A, C ,E, and K, as well as fiber, folate, and chromium. It’s also a great detoxifier and is full of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals. Score. Plus it tastes yummy with butter and sea salt.

The only downside I can think of to this killer veggie?  Smelly pee. I was genuinely curious as to the cause (and I’m confident that now you are too), so I hit up Google for some answers.

According to WebMD, only about ¼ of the population has the special gene that allows them to smell the specific compounds our bodies create when digesting asparagus. This was news to me.  So everyone creates smelly asparagus pee, but not everyone can smell it. Lucky folks.

The actual smell, according to, is caused by a metabolite called methanethiol. As your body breaks down asparagus, it produces this chemical and tells your kidneys to transport it to your bladder. “Methanethiol is composed mostly of sulfur with a splash of hydrogen, plus some carbon, a brew famous for its effect in rotten eggs, cabbages, and paper mills” (, 2013). All stinky stuff. Makes sense!

Regardless of smell, we’ll continue to regularly eat asparagus, since I’m pretty sure it’s health benefits outweigh this particular shortcoming.  And now that you’re super pumped about asparagus too, how about a simple, tasty reci-pee!? (please humor me, it’s Friday).

Easy Sautéed Asparagus


·         1 bunch fresh asparagus

·         1 tbsp butter

·         2-3 cloves garlic

·         Sea salt & pepper

·         ½ lemon

·         ¼ c shredded parmesan cheese


1.     Break off the bottom 2 inches of each asparagus stalk and discard.

2.     Cut each stalk into 1-2 inch sections.

3.     Melt butter in sauté pan on medium heat – add garlic and heat until golden.

4.     Add asparagus & sauté 3-4 minutes until bright green and tender but still a bit crunchy.

5.     Add ½ a lemon worth of juice and cook for another 2-3 minutes until asparagus reaches your desired consistency.

6.     Remove from pan and toss with parmesan cheese, sea salt, and pepper. Enjoy.

7.     Think about how tasty it was the next time you go to the bathroom.

For those of you still reading…thanks for sticking around to learn about this somewhat un-PC (but quite fascinating) topic.

What other strange bodily functions should I research?

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Easy Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake


Eating paleo, sometimes you’re limited in the amount of easy, comfort-style foods you can create. Enter the spaghetti squash – just like noodles and you can find them everywhere this time of year.

I stumbled upon this recipe and decided to give it a try. Chock-full of healthy veggies and ooey gooey cheesy goodness. Bonus – it’s super simple.


Easy Cheesy Spaghetti Squash Bake


1 large spaghetti squash
Olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 carrot, shredded
2 cloves garlic, pressed
16 oz tomato sauce
4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese


1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.    Poke your spaghetti squash with a knife all over. Microwave for 8-12 minutes until soft.

3.    While squash is cooking, add oil, garlic, pepper, zucchini, and carrots to a pan and cook over medium heat

4.    Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and scrape the flesh from the peel with a fork. Place the spaghetti-like squash flesh into a casserole dish. Add the veggies, diced tomato, sauce, and most of the cheese and mix well.

5.    Sprinkle the leftover cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

5.    Allow to cool for 5 minutes. Serve. Say Mmmmmm.



What’s your favorite thing to do with spaghetti squash?  Do you think it makes an awesome substitute for noodles too?

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Healthier Alternatives to your Coffee Shop Obsession

News flash: I am a coffee FREAK. And one of the vices I just can’t seem to break is that I love it laden with sugar and cream. Although I’ve limited myself to just one Caribou Coffee run per week, I have also learned that there are several lower-calorie options for those of us that just can’t lay off the caffeine.

The next time you’re at the coffee shop register, try one of these alternatives instead:

You Love: Frappucinos
Then try this: Order an iced coffee with a sugar free flavor. Most coffee shops have at least 3 or 4 sugar free flavors such as vanilla, hazelnut, caramel, etc. Also, ask for it without whipped cream and chocolate on top and save yourself about 100 calories!

You Love: Mochas and their creamy, chocolat-y goodness
Then try this: There’s really no getting around this one, as a mocha has got to contain chocolate. But you can reduce the calorie count by ordering it with skim milk, no whip, and a sugar free flavor. And you know how there’s always extra chocolate at the bottom of the cup? Order it with ½ the amount of chocolate – you probably won’t even notice the difference, but the scale will.

You Love: Lattes and/or Cappuccinos
Then try this: These are not quite as bad as the two above options, as they contain just espresso and steamed milk. Ask for it with skim or soy milk instead and save up to 10 grams of saturated fat and 100 calories.

You Love: Chai Tea Lattes
Then try this: Chai Lattes contain whole milk and honey. Reduce calories and fat by ordering it with skim or soy. Or better yet, try green or black tea instead for a boost of antioxidants.

You Love: Coffee with cream and sugar
Then try this: Coffee doesn’t have to be all bad, even for those of us with a sweet tooth. Add a dash of skim milk and a packet of Truvia/Stevia to your daily brew, and you’ll only take in a negligible number of calories. Bonus: a cup of coffee 1-2 hours before exercise has been shown to increase performance!


What other coffee shop hacks am I missing?  Let me know in the comments below!

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Turkey & Veggie Soup

Sometimes you have a VERY busy week coming up and you need to make something that you can “grab and go” all week long. This is our go-to choice for times like that. Credit for this recipe goes to Ellie at Healthy Training. I saw this recipe in her e-newsletter awhile back and we decided to make it right away.

We like to call it “crack stew” because for some reason, we never get sick of eating it. Even if we have it for lunch and dinner several days in a row, it never seems to get old. From a health perspective, this soup has so much going for it. It is broth-based rather than cream-based, and doesn’t have any added carbs in the form of noodles, rice, or potatoes – yet it is still extremely thick and satisfying.

We altered the recipe a bit for our personal tastes and threw in even more veggies than the original recipe called for.




  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch of carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 1 package mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1.3 lbs lean ground turkey
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 1 (14.5oz) can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (15oz) can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 ears of corn, kernels sliced off
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • dash of salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large skillet heat the olive oil. Add garlic.
  2. Add chopped carrots, cover for 5 minutes.
  3. Add onions, celery and fennel. Sauté until soft.
  4. Remove from pan, then add mushrooms and bell pepper. Sauté until soft.
  5. In another skillet, cook the ground turkey over medium heat until fully cooked, stirring often. Drain off excess fat.
  6. Transfer the veggies to large soup pot and add the remaining ingredients, and the cooked turkey. Cover and cook over low heat for 40 minutes. Add extra water as desired.


Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 119 calories, 1 fat, 336mg sodium, 10g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, and 15g protein.

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Chicken & Vegetable Tahini Stew

The urge to find a use for my jar of tahini finally won over. The weather is starting to cool down here in MN, which means lots of stews and chili recipes floating around our house.  I decided to create a soup recipe that was both healthy and hearty, and would last as leftovers for several lunches throughout the work week. I tweaked a vegan soup recipe I had found online by adding in chicken, subbing out the veggie stock for chicken stock, adding a little heat, and packing it with even more veggies. Enjoy!


Chicken and Vegetable Tahini Stew


½ c tahini

2/3 c water

6 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp dried basil

3 cloves garlic, pressed

7 c chicken stock

4 carrots, chopped

3 c broccoli florets

2 leeks

3 tomatoes

1 orange bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

¼ c roasted red bell pepper

½ tsp Chipotle pepper sauce

3 chicken breasts



  1. Blend together tahini, 2/3 c water, soy sauce, lemon juice, cumin, and cayenne. (I used our Magic Bullet blender to ensure no tahini chunks were left over)
  2. Put the vegetable stock and chopped carrots in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, chop chicken breasts into small pieces and sauté with a drizzle of olive oil on the stovetop.
  4. Chop the broccoli, leeks, tomatoes, and peppers and add to the pot. Stir in basil, garlic, and chipotle pepper sauce.
  5. Cover and return to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are at your desired tenderness. Stir in the chicken.
  6. Add in the tahini mixture and stir until combined.
  7. Bring to a simmer and serve.


I have to say, this recipe turned out pretty stellar! The tahini adds a distinct nuttiness to the stew, and it makes it somewhat creamy without the need for dairy. Packed with veggies, it’s both healthy and super filling at the same time.

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