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Vegan Taco Lasagna

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I often have the urge to head out the door to my favorite Mexican restaurant, but unfortunately my Mr. isn't a big fan. Not sure why because he's quick to eat anything Mexican inspired that I cook. So I often make up for lack of restaurant access by cooking tex-mex dishes for our lunches and dinners.  In the past, I've made lots of slow cooker type recipes that are delicious. You can even find many of them here on the website. 

This time around, I threw together a plant based taco lasagna. As per my norm, I was tasting as I cooked to make sure it would have the right flavors and the right amount. It started out a little bland so I doctored it up right away and came out with a dish that is pretty tasty. 

Ingredients

1 14oz can black beans, drained

7 cloves of garlic, minced

2 bell peppers, I used one red and 1 green

8oz cherry or grape tomatoes

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp tomato paste

Herbs of choice (think Italian seasoning, paprika, chili power, cumin, coriander)

Salt & Pepper to taste

1 medium onion, chopped

7oz Tempeh, cumbled

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup organic vegetable broth

1 Tbsp tahini sesame paste

12 whole wheat tortillas

Directions

1. Boil 1 1/2 cup of water in microwave. Add cashews and let sit for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the items.

2. Preheat oven to 390°F.

3a. Wash peppers and tomatoes. Add to foil lined baking sheet. Roast peppers and tomatoes for 45 minutes.

3b. If you have an air fryer, you can speed this process up by placing peppers and tomatoes in the basket, turning air fryer to 390, and roasting for 10 -15 minutes. Be sure to check in on them after a few minutes.

4. Open and drain black beans. Mix together with chopped garlic. Set aside.

5. Heat a pan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil.  Once oil is hot, add chopped onion and crumbled tempeh. Cook for 7-10 minutes or until tempeh is slightly brown.

6. Once vegetable are cooked, remove from oven or air fryer and let cool for 5-10 minutes (until you can handle them). Remove the skins and innards from the peppers. Add along with tomatoes to a blender or food processor.

7. To the blender add 1 tbsp olive oil, salt & pepper, tomato paste, and seasonings of choice. I used the following:

3/4 tsp pink Himalayan sea salt

1/2 tsp ground pepper

1/2 tbsp chili powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1  tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

You could also add some Cayenne pepper but we don't like a lot of heat.

8. Mix sauce with onion and tempeh mixture in pan. Allow to cook on low until you finish making the cheese sauce.

9. Cheese sauce: Drain soaking cashews, add to blender with tahini paste and vegetable stock. Taste for flavor and add salt, pepper, or other seasonings as needed.

10. Assemble the lasagna starting with a thin layer of cheese sauce, then tortilla, tempeh mixture, beans and then cheese sauce again. Finish with a later of tortillas topped with cheese sauce.

11. Bake at 360°F for 25-30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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Egg Crust Pizza

We are often on the look out for low carb options especially when it tastes like our favorite foods! This pizza was easy to make and was highly approved by both the Mr. and I. Pizza is a food that I use to eat by the box full and seems to be ever present at social gatherings. While I love it as much as anyone can, I have had to say no on more occasions than I'd like because I have goals to meet. If you're pushing towards those goals, those extra calories from refined carbohydrates aren't helping you get there. This eggy pizza crust is easy to make and can be topped with your sauce, veggies, meats, and cheese of choice.

This is by far a treat due to the eggs and cheese content.

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

8 Eggs

3/4 lb shredded cheese, preferably mozzarella or Italian blend

Italian Seasoning *Optional

Garlic Powder *Optional

Tomato Paste or Sauce of choice

Your favorite pizza toppings

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

  2. Crack eggs into blender, add in 6 oz of cheese. Blend until well mixed. * You can also add couple shakes of Italian seasoning and a bit of garlic powder for more flavor*

  3. Pour into lined baking sheet.

  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven.

  5. Increase oven temp to 450°F.

  6. Top with sauce, toppings of choice and cheese.

  7. Return to oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is bubbly and slightly golden brown.

  8. Cut into serving sizes and eat!

 

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Cinnamon Raisin Cloud Bread

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 Large Eggs, Whites and Yolks Separated

1/8 tsp Cream of Tartar

1/4 tsp Cinnamon

1 TBS Honey

3 Small Boxes of Organic Raisins  or 1/4 C.

3 oz. Neufatchel Cheese or Low Fat Cream Cheese, at room temp.(I use a digital scale to weigh mine.)

Directions

  1. If you're like me and always forget to set out ingredients ahead of time when the recipe calls for it, grab your nufatchel and heat it in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. It should not be melted but should no longer be cold.

  2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or SilPat. Only use one of these two methods. You risk a burnt bottom if you put it on a greased cookie sheet or a bare one. (Also, you're adding fat, and ain't nobody need extra of that!)

  3. In a medium bowl, use a mixer on medium speed to combine the egg yolks, nufatchel, honey and cinnamon. Beat until it is a pale yellow color. (Not extremely pale, but lighter than when you started.) Rinse your beaters and dry them well. The next step is where the magic happens and you need clean beaters.

  4. In a separate metal mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using a mixer on high speed beat until stiff peaks form. If you've never worked with egg whites before, you can tell when you take your beaters out if you have stiff peaks by the way the mixture will stand on it's own. It will look like whipped cream, but trust me, it's not.

  5. VERY GENTLY, mix the egg yolk mixture into the egg whites until just combined. Do not over mix or you will deflate the whites and your bread will turn out like water or crackers.

  6. Using a big spoon make 6 heaping piles of mixture on the cookie sheet. Work quickly. The longer you take, the more you risk deflating the mix. Once you have all 6 piles, top with raisins.

  7. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit on pan for 2-3 minutes to cool only slightly. Transfer directly to cooling rack using a spatula. Allow to cool until you want to enjoy them. Store leftovers in an air tight container and consume within 5 days. Seriously, you'll want to eat them all right now though.

If you want to re-crisp the bread, you can pop it into a toaster oven for a few minutes but make sure you watch it so it doesn't burn.

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Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

Much more time efficient than most chicken noodle recipes and tasty to boot.

Serves 4 (11/4cups each)  Prep time: 15 mins      Cooking time: 20 mins

Ingredients 2 tsp. Olive Oil 1/2 cup chopped onion 2 cups slices celery (about 4 medium stalks) 4 cups low-sodium organic chicken broth 3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken breast, skinless 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots (about 3 medium) 1 tsp. dried oregano 1/2 tsp. sea salt 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper 1 1/4 cups dry whole wheat pasta 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions 1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. 2. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. 3. Add broth, chicken, carrots, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add pasta, reduce heat to low; gently boil for 10 minutes. 4. Add cilantro before serving.

Nutritional Info (per serving) Calories: 357 Total Fat: 8 grams Saturated Fat: 2 grams Cholesterol: 96 grams Sodium: 518 mg Carbohydrates: 26 grams Fiber: 5 grams Sugars: 5 grams Protein: 44 grams

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Avocado Tuna Salad



Total Time: 10 min.
Prep Time: 10 min.
Cooking Time: None
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients:
¼ medium avocado, mashed
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 dash sea salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
1 (5 oz.) can solid white tuna, packed in water, drained
1 cup mixed salad greens
½ cup alfalfa sprouts
1 slice medium tomato
Preparation:
1. Place avocado, lime juice, salt, and cayenne in a medium mixing bowl; mash until well mixed.
2. Add tuna; mix well.
3. Place greens on a serving plate; top with tuna mixture.
4. Top with sprouts and tomato.

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Sweet as Sugar

Packed with Love and Sugar too.

We all love that taste of freshly baked cookies, you know like the ones mom use to make? There's nothing more comforting to walk into a house that smells of that love baked right in. While this post isn't about those cookies, there is some light to shed on sugar in the Standard American Diet (SAD) and its effects on the body. Sugar while it's sweet to the tongue, isn't sweet on the body. First you should know, sugar comes in many forms in our food. These include fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, and sucrose.

  • Fructose, also known as fruit sugar is found in those delicious natural sweets, fruits. This sugar is broken down in the liver and turned into glucose. This is the sweetest of all sugars and accounts for 10% of our daily food intake. It has also been linked to the rising obesity rates in the past several decades. You may of heard of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), more on that to follow. Don't be fooled, the most natural source of fructose is fruit, but he harmful effects of fructose apply to a western diet supplying excess calories and added sugars. It does NOT apply to the natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables. Period.
  • Glucose is the most common sugar and the sugar that the body prefers to use for energy.
  • Lactose, found in milk and dairy products is a hazard for some people who can not process it properly. If you have bloating or cramps frequently try cutting out dairy to see if it's the cause.
  • Maltose, is not found in the foods we eat. Instead, the body makes it when a person eats foods that contain starches such as potatoes and bread.
  • Sucrose, other wise known as white sugar or table sugar is found in the most common foods we eat such as bread, pasta, cereals, potatoes, etc.
Sugars are hidden in many foods under different names, look for the following when you're shopping the next time.
  • Agave, sweeter than HFCS.
  • Barley Malt, grain based, half as sweet as sucrose but still causes high blood sugar spikes.
  • Beet Sugar, usually genetically modified
  • Blackstrap Molasses, unsulfured is high in antioxidants but its hard to tell which kind you're buying.
  • Brown Rice Syrup, a culprit of inorganic arsenic
  • Brown Sugar, only difference from white sugar is taste
  • Buttered Sugar, butter mixed with powered sugar
  • Cane Juice Crystals, fool's gold of sugar. Labeled as healthy but still delivers the same effects as white sugar.
  • Cane Juice, often made in countries with less restrictions therefore more chance of contamination
  • Cane Sugar, can raise blood pressure, cholesterol and contribute to insulin resistance
  • Caramel, cooked sugar
  • Carob Sugar,  after being processed not much remains other than empty calories
  • Caster Sugar, fine table sugar
  • Coconut Sugar, isn't as harmful as most types of sugar but still high in calories
  • Corn Sweetener, most corn in the US is genetically modified, not something I'd want to put in my body
  • Corn Syrup, not as bad as HFCS but still not worth the lack of nutrients
  • Corn Syrup Solids, derived from corn just as those listed above
  • Crystalline Fructose, pure fructose, linked to fatty liver disease
  • Date Sugar, less processed than other sugars
  • Demara Sugar, large grain sugar with hints of caramel flavor
  • Dextran, produced by our body when breaking down starch
  • Diastatic Malt, powder produced from barley
  • Diatase,  helps your body process sugar you eat by turning it starch into maltose and then into glucose.
  • Ethyl Maltol, gives food a sweet scent 
  • Evaporated Cane Juice, derived from sugar cane syrup 
  • Fruit Juice Concentrates, this is what's left over when the water is removed from fruit juice 
  • Galactose, can raise your blood pressure and contribute to diabetes 
  • Golden Sugar, also known as unrefined sugar or golden caster sugar, retains some nutrients from less refinement. 
  • Golden Syrup, British corn syrup. Same effects as good ol' HFCS.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup, your body metabolizes this stuff in a way that encourages fat storage.
  • Honey, bees make it. It has good antibacterial properties for helping your throat heal when you're sick, but the pasteurization process takes away from the health benefits.
  • Invert Sugar, made through animal enzyme modification. If you don't know what something is, don't eat it.
  • Malt Syrup, high in carbohydrates that raise your blood sugars.
  • Maltodextrin, found in many processed foods. Can be harmful for those with celiac disease, wheat allergies, or corn allergies.
  • Maltose, half as sweet as white sugar.
  • Maple Syrup, from the trees but loses it's health properties if you use anything above grade B.
  • Molasses Syrup, good sources of iron and calcium but can have a laxative effect and trigger allergies.
  • Muscovado Sugar, sibling to brown or turbinado sugar.
  • Organic Raw Sugar, white sugar alternative with the added chemicals.
  • Oat Syrup, good source of antioxidants and can help lower cholesterol but still high in calories.
  • Panela, basically pure sugar from Latin America.
  • Panocha, combo of sugar, butter and milk.
  • Confectioners' Sugar, used in frosting and baked goods.
  • Rice Bran Syrup, B-vitamin concentrate.
  • Rice Syrup, low on the gylcemic index but high in maltose.
  • Sorghum, high in fiber but high in carbohydrates too.
  • Sorghum Syrup, no meaningful properties to be had.
  • Sugar, Syrup and Sucrose- no healthful properties. All attribute to obesity, high cholesterols, and other health issues. 
  • Treacle, a form of golden syrup.
  • Tapoica Syrup, can be used interchangeably with maple syrup. 
  • Turbinado Sugar, our bodies see this as white sugar.
  • Yellow Sugar, no this isn't sugar that has been wizzed on. It's white sugar with molasses added in.

That sure is a lot of names for one thing! The most important thing you can do to lower and remove these from your diet is to read the labels. Better yet, stay out of the middle of your local grocery store where the boxed, canned and processed foods live. The outer perimeter of the store will typically house the fresh vegetables, fruits, and meats your body needs to perform. If your label doesn't say one of the forms of sugar listed above, the next best thing is to look at the carbohydrate count. The count is a quick way to make a decision because it takes both sugar and starch into account. Both of these effect the way the body responds regarding fat storage. 

Although sugars are not harmful to the body, our bodies don’t need sugars to function properly. Added sugars contribute additional calories and zero nutrients to food. 
Daily Added Sugar Limit GraphicOver the past 30 years, Americans have steadily consumed more and more added sugars in their diets, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic. Many studies have found that it is not fat that is contributing to high cholesterol but sugar. Reducing the amount of added sugars we eat cuts calories and can help you improve your heart health and control your weight.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance. For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day and no more than 150 calories per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men).
 
It's also worth mentioning that sugar substitutes aren't a way to circumvent sugar in your diet. These products are like a trick for your body and brain. If you've ever tried cutting sugar in your diet, you know this can be an incredibly difficult task. This is most likely because you are addicted to sugar whether you knew it or not. Sugar is the #1 addiction that is legal and widely available. 
 

Sugar hijacks the dopamine receptors in our brain and cause the effect to function similarly to drugs of abuse like cocaine and nicotine. People who are predisposed to addiction become increasingly unfazed by the amounts they intake and need more over time to achieve the same "high". 

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21 Day Fix Extreme Meal Planning - Round 2 Week 1

I've never been one of those gals who has it all together. Yes, if you ask many of my friends they might tell you differently but I have them fooled! For the second week in a row, I have successfully planed and prepped my meals for the week ahead. This is a huge step for me. When it comes to food, I keep plenty of healthy options on hand, but I don't usually plan everything this far in advance. After each item was cooked I even put it into serving sized containers so all I have to do is grab and go in the morning. 

Last week was a trial week at this for me. I will say, the first few days the lack of prepping food in the morning left me questioning if I had forgotten to do something or not. I relieved one stress only to add another!

I shared my eating plan for the week with the small group I'm working with to accomplish their goals. What goals are you working towards? Spring break is right around the corner, let's accomplish them together. Fill out the application at: http://goo.gl/vn7OJm 

The best part about 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme is that it takes all the guess work out of eating. You don't have worry about counting calories, how much to eat, or what ratio of fats, carbs, and proteins you're eating. See those colorful containers in the pic below? Those things are magical!

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Fueling Your Body Like an Athlete

It's true what they say, you have to fuel your body correctly to achieve the outcome you expect. The right foods increase your energy, promote muscle growth and aid in muscle repair. The wrong ones set you back.While foods are packaged and marketed as healthy, did you know that there are some foods an athlete wouldn't even consider as part of their daily nutrition? Read on.1. Diet Soda

  •  Athletes see each meal as an opportunity to refuel—How much protein can I fit into this meal? How can I add more good fats? —because it’s what drives their performance. Nutritionally void foods like artificial sweeteners have no place in their diet. Not only do they offer no health benefits, but consuming artificially sweetened foods like a can of diet soda per day could significantly increase your risk for health problems and weight gain, says a study out of Purdue University. Artificial sweeteners trick the body into thinking it’s consuming real food, and because they’re over a hundred times sweeter than the real thing, your body starts producing insulin (the fat storage hormone). You’re better off consuming the real stuff in moderation.
2. Canned Soup
  • Canned soups might be convenient, but most of the time they’re no healthier for you than other highly processed snacks—their long shelf life should tip you off. “Some soups are so processed and high in sodium that it trumps over the health benefits. I would opt for low-sodium or homemade instead,” says Jim White, RD. The body needs sodium to function properly, but too much can lead to high blood pressure.
3. Rice Cakes
  • Rice cakes have long held a “healthy” reputation, but the staple diet snack is practically empty—nutritionally speaking. Yes, they do boast a low calorie count, but athletes need calories to keep up their energy levels. Not to mention these crunchy little snacks will send your blood sugar soaring. Rice cakes can have a glycemic index as high as 91, not far off from pure glucose, which has an index of 100. For better carbs, grab an English muffin or some fruit instead, suggests White.
4. Sugary Cereal
  • Artificial sugar is a definite no, but chowing down on too much of the real thing is just as bad. While active guys can afford to take in more calories than the average man, it doesn’t mean they’re scarfing down sugary foods on the daily. No athlete gets to the top of his game, and stays there, by starting his day off with a big bowl of oat cereal and marshmallows. Too much sugar also causes a spike in insulin, priming your body to store more fat.
5. White Bread
  • Says White, “White pastas, rice and breads are OK, [but not ideal] because they are stripped of their nutrients and fiber.” Refined white flour is made from stripping the fiber, wheat germ and essential B vitamins from the wheat kernel—what’s left is a highly processed food product, and when consumed, raises insulin levels and contributes to dips in energy and weight gain. Stick to whole-grain products; those made of white flour are not going to give you lasting energy.
6. Microwave Popcorn
  • Whether from the concession stand or popped in the microwave, this movie staple has got no place in a fit man's diet. Saturated with unhealthy fats, unearthly levels of sodium, and in some cases, laced with chemicals, popcorn does not fuel an athlete's body for a strenuous training session, nor does it encourage recovery after a long workout. Microwave popcorn bags are also lined with something called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), a chemical which is also found in Teflon pots and pans—yikes. There is a flip side, however. If you air pop the corn or pop it on the stove with a small amount of coconut oil, it turns into somewhat of a superfood, boasting high levels of antioxidants and a hearty dose of satiating fiber.
7. Granola
  • Before you roll your eyes, listen up. Granola might seem healthy, with fibrous oats as the base, but it’s not exactly all it’s cracked up to be. Most versions of the cereal come stacked with high amounts of sugar, unnecessary fat, and an excess amount of calories. Does anyone ever stop at the ¼ cup serving? While highly active guys need the calories and fiber, the downsides of granola outweigh the benefits. A bowl of oats with a giant scoop of nut butter is a much better alternative.
8. Alcohol
  • Maintaining a superior level of fitness comes down to consuming everything in moderation—especially alcohol. What serious athlete do you know shotguns beers or throws back shots on a regular basis? Alcohol inhibits your physical fitness in a number of ways. Too much booze slows muscle recovery, impairs motor skills, and decreases strength and sprint performance. It’s also a diuretic, so it dehydrates you. Research published in ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal also found alcohol depresses the immune system and slows the body’s ability to heal, which could increase your risk of illness and injury.
9. A Meal Without Protein
  • An athlete needs his protein. “Protein is important for repairing and strengthening muscle tissue. I would advise to add protein to every meal to maintain adequacy, balance, and variety, while also helping lower blood sugar levels and increasing satiety,” says White. Oatmeal may be the breakfast of champions—but not without a side of egg whites or a big scoop of nut butter. 
Do you see a trend? Low sugar (real or artificial), high protein and some healthy whole grain carbs. Do you know the right mix? Have you ever struggled with portions? I've got some options to help you on your way to fueling your body like an athlete and helping it look like one too. Use the contact form to set up a time to talk to shoot me an email to see which option might be best for you!

To your health,

Sarah

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