Turkey Bacon Quinoa Hash w/ Poached Eggs & Avocado

IMG_1626So on The Secrets I talk about how much I LOVE quinoa. If you’re a big rice or grain eater, it’s an awesome substitute. In my opinion, it absorbs flavor so much better than rice. So It’s great for stir fry. I wanted to do a hash, but wasn’t really interested in using potatoes. So Instead I took some liberties and decided to make and quinoa “hash” with turkey bacon and veggies. And of course a poached egg…. I do love a runny yolk. Add some avocado and I’m sold. So here we go.
Calories: 580 (It’s a little higher than what I normally post… but note this makes a TON of hash and includes two eggs and HALF an avocado. if you want to make half the amount of hash it’ll be around 440… that still includes the egg and avocado… just less of the breakfast hash. I’m working overnights right now and breakfast is my dinner, so I’m usually looking for something a little heartier when i get home from work.)
What You’ll Need:
2 eggs
1 cup cooked quinoa
2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup chopped bell peppers (any/all colors)
2 strips turkey bacon
1/2 avocado
1tbsp white vinegar (for poaching the eggs)
salt
pepper
garlic powder
chili powder
basil
oregano
(I’m not giving an exact amount of herbs/spices. It’s going to have to be pretty aggressively seasoned. So just keep tasting until you’re happy!)
In one pan, saute the broccoli and bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Chop up the turkey bacon and throw in a separate pan. Saute until done. Add the turkey bacon into the pan with the broccoli and bell peppers. Add the quinoa. Season with salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, garlic powder, basil and oregano until you’re happy with the taste… That quinoa can really suck up flavor! Poach two eggs (see below for instructions). Slice the avocado Take the hash, put it on a plate, top with the poached eggs and avocado. Enjoy!
If you’ve never poached an egg before, don’t worry it’s super easy! I was intimidated at first but it’s not that bad. Take a pot (pretty big pot. should be fairly deep), and fill with two inches of water. Add a tablespoon of vinegar and bring to a boil on the stove. Take 2 eggs, put each in a separate small bowl (I use custard cups). When the water is rapidly boiling, turn the burner OFF. Take a large spoon or spatula and stir the water until you get a whirlpool. (Don’t be shy… the water should really be spinning, the egg whites need to wrap themselves around the yolk. this is why you need a deep pot.) One at a time, take the eggs and SLOWLY lower the egg into the center of the pot. DO NOT DROP IN THE EGG. Get as close to the water as possible and slowly lower it in. Once you’ve done this with both eggs (no you don’t have to re-stir in between eggs… they should be fine) cover and let sit for 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to gently remove the eggs from the water. It’s easier if you have the hash already plated. You can just put the eggs directly on top. I promise it’s easier than it looks!

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“Peanut Butter Cup” Protein Shake

IMG_1632Okay…Okay…. it’s not exactly a peanut butter cup. It’s technically a chocolate peanut butter smoothie. But it’s essentially the same thing… and it made you click on the recipe right? Plus it’s delicious so it doesn’t matter. You can really use any protein powder (plain, vanilla, chocolate… really anything except berry), but I suggest using chocolate so you can get a better flavor. I use Vega brand protein smoothie but use what works for you!!

Calories: 225 (might make more than one glass… depending on amount of water)

What you’ll need:

1 Scoop Vega Choc-a-lot Protein Smoothie (Or your favorite brand of protein powder)

4 tbsps Peanut Butter Slim (Or any brand powdered peanut butter)

8 oz unsweetened chocolate almond milk

Water (as needed)

*1 Cup Ice

Add the protein powder, peanut butter and chocolate almond milk in a blender. Blend until smooth. If the texture seems gritty, add a little water to thin it out. *Slowly add ice and blend until thick. You may need a little less/more ice. Blend to your desired thickness.

*If you’d prefer a shake to a smoothie, just skip the ice and enjoy!

Also check out my Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake Recipe!

The Struggle

I find most diet and weight loss articles frustrating. Not because of their information, but because they make it seem like it’s such an easy process! “Just drink more water,” “cut out simple carbs,” and “use smaller plates to trick your brain about portion sizes” are just some of the common phrases and bits of advice you come across. But for so many people (like myself) KNOWING WHAT TO DO isn’t the issue. Many people know stress or our work environment can cause overeating, but it’s not like I can just quit my job or wish the doughnut shop in our building away. (Seriously we have a Dunkin Donuts in our building. It’s awesome and awful at the same time.)

The television, internet blogs and social media flood our senses with how easy it is to lose weight. (see: #transformationtuesday) But for me it’s not easy. I’m writing this blog, and having really great progress.. but I can honestly say the last week has been a struggle. I’ve been under a lot of stress, and as a result, my diet has suffered. I know I shouldn’t be eating the things I have been, but some days I can’t quite stop myself.

Sometimes relapses happen. Sometimes we have stretches where we don’t eat what we should. I don’t want anyone to feel bad because they don’t have the perfect before/after photo in two weeks. I know having a bad day can make you feel like a failure. Becoming healthier is a journey, and what’s important is how you bounce back.

I’m not going to give up. I’ve hit a road bump, but part of finding out what works for you… is finding out what DOESN’T work for you. Maybe this whole post seems cheesy. I was personally struggling with eating well, and wanted other people to know that even for someone writing about healthy food, it isn’t easy.

So keep up the good work! I know I will.

Kara

Butternut Squash Corn Cakes w/ Turkey Bacon, Spinach & Sunny Side Up Eggs

eggs & butternut squash corn cakeI love breakfast, I love a runny egg and I love eggs benedict. I wanted to find a way to make recipe that was as satisfying, but offered something a little different. It combines eggs, spinach turkey bacon The cakes have jalapenos in them, so it has a little heat. Although if you don’t like jalapenos, just take them out. And if you’re not a fan of runny eggs… just make a fried egg and put it on top. (if you’re a Hollandaise fan, I apologize I left it out this time to make it a little healthier.) The corn cakes are really griddle cakes, and are not fluffy like a pancake. But they’re very satisfying… just know that that intention is for the cake to be more dense. It definitely makes it a heartier dish.

A couple things to note before we begin the recipe. First, The recipe will make about 3 corn cakes. the calorie count and recipe only accounts for two. Just like pancakes… you always want to leave a little extra batter in case the first one doesn’t come out. Second, you won’t need a TON of butternut squash. Unless you plan on eating a lot of butternut squash in your future, I suggest buying frozen or already chopped butternut squash. To have to break down an entire butternut squash and cook it just for these corn cakes seems excessive… but hey if you’re up for the challenge… go for it!

Calories: 360

What you need:

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 cup butternut squash cubes (cooked… at least to the point where a fork can easily poke though the cubes.

3 tablespoons skim milk

1 tablespoon egg whites

1 tablespoon chopped jalapenos

1/4 teaspoon salt (extra salt for seasoning)

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

2 slices of turkey bacon

2 cups spinach leaves

Dash of chili powder

Ground Pepper

Here we go. In a bowl add the salt, baking powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cornmeal. Mix together well. In a separate bowl, mash the butternut squash to the best of your ability. Add the milk and egg whites. Mix together. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. stir until smooth. (will be a little gritty looking because of the cornmeal.) fold in the jalapenos. Heat up a skillet sprayed with olive oil or cooking spray. make two medium-sized cakes (You should have leftover batter. This is just as a buffer. Feel free to use how you please. But you should have just enough batter to make three.) Cook over medium heat until the bottom is brown. Flip until the other side is brown and cakes are done. remove from heat.

In a separate pan, throw the spinach in a pan along with salt, pepper and a tablespoon of water. Cook until water has burned off and the spinach is cooked/slightly wilted. Remove from heat.eggs and corn cakes 2

Spray another pan with non-stick spray (olive-oil). Cook two pieces of turkey bacon in a skillet, along with two eggs. Eggs should be sunny side up (fried on the bottom, but egg yolks still runny. When both the eggs and bacon are done, remove from heat.

On a plate, put down two of the corn cakes. Top each one with a slice of turkey bacon (cut in half or thirds so it has a nice bed of turkey bacon, and it’s not just one long strip), the spinach and finally the egg. Top the egg with a dash of salt, pepper and chili powder.

Goes great with a side of avocado.

Vegetable Cauliflower “Fried Rice”

FullSizeRender(8)I’ve been fairly vocal about my love of quinoa as a substitute for rice, but one thing I didn’t consider was that cauliflower could be a substitute… and still taste delicious! Once I realized you could make cauliflower rice, I decided I needed to make a healthy fried rice! Generally considered to be unhealthy, you can make this “fried rice” for about 300 calories… and I can promise you won’t be hungry at the end of it. It makes a HUGE portion. (In fact you probably can eat half as a meal!) The consistency is a lot softer than a traditional fried rice, but I find it amazingly delicious and a great substitute.

The thing I love about this recipe is it’s versatility. This time around I’ve made it very simple, with just a couple of vegetables. But it’s so easy to expand. Chop up your favorite vegetables or protein (next time I’m going to add some shrimp!), and throw it in. So here’s a base to start with. Jazz it up with your favorite ingredients!

Calories: 300

What you’ll need:

1/2 head of cauliflower

1 large carrot

1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup chopped onion

1 teaspoon of olive oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup egg whites

Powdered garlic

Basil

Salt

Pepper

Using a kitchen grater, grate the head of cauliflower on the standard grating size. Chop up the carrot. Set both aside.

In a pan cook & scramble the egg whites, remove from heat, and set aside.

Add the peas, carrots and onion in a pan. Add a splash of water to let the vegetables cook, but avoiding any additional calories. Add a couple dashes of salt and pepper. When vegetables are slightly tender, remove from pan and set aside.

Add the olive oil to a pan and heat. Then add the cauliflower, soy sauce and vegetables. Stir together. Season to taste with the garlic, basil salt and pepper (probably don’t need additional salt considering the added salt from the soy sauce). Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix the egg back in and you’re done!

Hope you enjoy!

Healthy “Fried” Fish Tacos w/ Jalapeno-Lime Vinaigrette

FullSizeRender(6)So I’m a little late for Cinco De Mayo, but I think this recipe will be good all summer. It’s a really filling taco, but also tastes extremely fresh. A flakey fish works best for this recipe. I used red snapper and it was AMAZING. The fish is coated in cornmeal and baked to get a crunchy texture like frying, but without all the fat!

Each taco is about 270 calories (give or take a few depending on how many toppings you actually put on the tacos.) Recipe makes 5 tacos.

What you’ll need:

red snapper filet- or whatever white fish you decide to buy. (I suggest buying at least a pound if not a pound and a half. I bought an entire half of a snapper. I had some left over but that’s ok! more for later.)

1/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup egg whites

salt

pepper

adobo seasoning

chili powder

1 jalepeno

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves of garlic

1 lime

1 avocado

8 oz queso fresco

1 ear of corn

1 cup of shredded cabbage

1 cup of fresh mango

5 La Tortilla Factory Low-Carb Whole Wheat tortillas (check out my review in The Secrets)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. cut the fish into strips (about 3 ounces each). Put the cornmeal in a bowl. Mix in a few dashes of chili powder and generous dashes of Adobo seasoning. In a separate bowl mix the egg whites and a tablespoon of water. Taking a baking sheet and spray with olive oil or a non-stick spray. Dip the fish in the egg wash, and then in the cornmeal. Cover the fish completely, and place on the baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. (watch fish closely. cooking time may vary based on how thickly you cut fish. Overcooking will cause fish to dry out.

For the vinaigrette:

Mince the jalapeno, removing all seeds and veins. Mince the two cloves of garlic. In a bowl, mix the olive oil, lime and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Whisk all the ingredients together. If you have time, make ahead of time and let sit overnight, so the flavors can meld together. (This is pretty spicy… even though you remove the seeds and veins. So if you’d like to make it a little milder, use half a jalapenos, and add more lime juice.)

For the toppings:

Take the ear of corn. Wrap in foil. Grill the corn until it gets a little char.  If you don’t have a grill you can put the corn directly on the burner (gas or electric is doesn’t matter… but watch it to make sure you don’t start a fire.) The popping sound is normal, but rotate the corn about every two minutes. Cut the corn off the cob and set aside.

Brown tortillas on the stove. (or oven if you prefer them a little softer) Put the tortilla in a pan and heat until it’s warm, and a little brown. It shouldn’t take very long. flip the tortilla and do the same thing on the other side. set aside.

FullSizeRender(7)Take the shredded cabbage, put in a bowl and add a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette. mix together so it’s just slightly dressed.

Chop up the mango and avocado.

Take the tortilla, top with the cabbage,  and fish strip. sprinkle with corn, mango, avocado. Add another teaspoon of the vinaigrette and crumble some of the queso fresco on top.

(*optional: I added some of my favorite habanero hot sauce to add an extra kick. If you’re a fan of tomatoes I’d suggest add some pico de gallo. I don’t like raw tomatoes, so I didn’t initially add it in… but it would be a great addition for salsa lovers.)

You can also make this into a great taco salad! just lose the tortilla, toss in a few black beans and extra cabbage and voila!

Getting Healthy

I am not by nature, a person who loves to exercise. I enjoy doing active things, like hiking, playing sports and my occasional yoga class…. but getting several workouts in during a wee614423_10151205567412667_984806910_ok is a challenge. I have a high-stress job, and when I’m tired (which I am 90% of the time), I’d rather just be on my couch with some ice cream. So what is it that motivates me? I’m very competitive. If I sign up for a race, I’ll get to the point where I can run it. This method has somehow gotten me to the point where I can at least run a 5K without a ton of effort. I do enjoy yoga. I currently take a hot Vinyasa class in my neighborhood, and they don’t mess around. And while yoga is a lifelong practice, it makes me want to work harder every time I go. These small things, combined with one small gadget is a big reason I’ve been successful.

Cue my fitness tracker. I know many people who use a fitbit… At the moment I’m using Jawbone’s UP24. I love this thing. It hones in on my competitive nature…. and exploits my love of food.

I filled out a bit of information about me on the iPhone app, anIMG_1585d it created a plan. If i didn’t move a muscle all day… i could eat roughly 1,200 calories. (using my current plan. It will vary for everyone) But, every single step I take throughout the day counts. Your goal is 10,000 steps. I don’t reach it every day, but even if I walk 1,000 steps, it counts extra calories for the day. If I have a really intense yoga class, it could add hundreds of calories a day. It’s showing me a direct link between burning/consuming calories. And yes… I know this is common sense. Of course the more you exercise, the more calories you burn. This is Health 101. But seeing it visually made a big difference for me. I work in television, visual mediums work a lot better for me.

The tracker also appeals to my competitive nature through it’s “Today I Will” goals. “Try to get to bed at x time,” “take 1,000 extra steps today,” “you’ll beat your monthly average if you take a 9 minute walk.” All of these things, little motivations, and feeling like I’m exceeding someone’s expectations of me, (I realize its a little computer… but still) keep me going. And no, not every day is a win. Some days I go all out and watch movies and eat Ben & Jerry’s until I can’t move anymore. But every day feels like a new day.

This may not b325241_10151178966082667_362257535_oe the method that works for you. I’m not telling anyone to go out and buy anything. This is what’s kept me on track. But I have several friends that use Weight Watchers, or just count calories. Some people naturally like to exercise more, and they don’t need the same motivation. Hot sauce gives me endorphins… I’m just waiting for running to do the same.

Everyone always says it… but it took a long time for me to listen. Just go out and find something you like to do. Maybe it’s just walking to lunch with a friend instead of driving (if you can), or trying a new sport or activity. I really like hiking, and I’m going to try and do it more this summer. (If you’re in the Philadelphia area and want to go hiking let me know! I’m looking for people to go with haha.)

Just keep going. I’m not a fitness expert. I’m not a nutrition coach. I am a normal person who loves food too much and struggles with exercise. So I know, everyone can find something that works… even if it’s something small.

Garlic Rosemary French Fries

IMG_1574French fries. A favorite, and one of the first foods to give up when your’re on a diet. But there’s no reason you have to, especially if you use your oven instead of a fryer. And I’m Italian, so I have a special love of garlic. 30 minutes in the oven and you’ll have great fries that are satisfying, and a little healthier. This is a single serving recipe for when you need a great side, but if you’re entertaining or making it for your family, just multiply the recipe by the number of people you’re serving. These fries would be a great side for my Turkey Burger w/ Avocado & Roasted Red Peppers!

Calories: 180

What you need:

1 medium sized potato.

1 clove of garlic

A couple dashes of dried rosemary

A couple dashes of salt

Olive oil (preferably in cooking spray form)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray (or drizzle with olive oil). Chop up the potato into standard fry shapes (about a quarter inch thick.) I use a mandolin. Makes it a lot easier. But knives work just as well. Spread out the potatoes on the baking sheet. sprinkle the garlic, rosemary and salt on the fries. Put the fries in the oven. After about 15 minutes, flip the fries. Bake for another 15 minutes.

They won’t be quite as crispy as they’re fried counterparts, but they do get a nice little crisp on them.