Summer Side Dishes

The summer months are filled with BBQ’s and gatherings with friends and family, which can make it  hard to stay on track with your nutrition.  One idea that we use when attending a gathering is to always bring at least one dish that you know is healthy so you have something to munch on and at the same time introduce that healthy food can still taste “good” to your friends and family.  Here are a few side dishes that my family has enjoyed this summer!

 

Sweet Potato & Egg Dill Salad

Ingredients:

  • 5 Sweet potatoes
  • 1 dozen Eggs
  • 1/2C MCT Oil or Olive Oil
  • 1Tb Dill (Preferably fresh)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Boil your eggs (12 min) and sweet potatoes (15 min) until cooked.
  2. Once boiled, soak eggs and sweet potatoes in cold water to cool down enough to handle them.
  3. Dice up sweet potatoes into 1/2″ cubes and toss into large mixing bowl.
  4. Peel eggs and dice, add to mixing bowl.
  5. Add MCT Oil, Dill and Salt and Pepper to bowl and mix all ingredients.  Put in fridge to chill and serve cold. Enjoy!

Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cucumbers
  • 1 Sweet Onion
  • 4 Tb Olive Oil
  • 4 Tb White Vinegar
  • 4 Tb Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 C Fresh Dill
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Slice cucumbers & onion very thin and toss into mixing bowl.
  2. Combine Olive Oil, Lemon juice and Vinegar into bowl and mix with cucumbers & onions
  3. Finish by adding dill and S&P to taste.  Serve cold.
  4. This dish gets better as it marinades.  I recommend making it 24 hours in advance.  Enjoy!

 

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Food Prep

Through experience of trial and error, I have learned that  in order to choose healthy meal and snack options throughout the week, food prep is KEY!  Choose one day a week such as Sunday and designate 1-2 hours towards preparing your food for the week ahead.  Here’s a snap shot of how I prepare breakfast and lunches for my husband and I for the week.

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STEP 1: Sit down and decide what you want to eat for the week and write it down.  Make a trip to the grocery store with your LIST.  The list is extremely important for multiple reasons:

  1. It keeps you away from items that are less healthy
  2. It keeps the budget tighter than browsing through the isles
  3. It makes shopping quick and painless

STEP 2: Unpack your grocery bags and keep everything on the counter.   This will force you to prep your meals immediately.  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees, this is an average temperature that is good to cook multiple dishes at.

STEP 3: Rate your meals in order by which item on your list takes the longest to cook and work backwards.

For me,  sweet potatoes are the first on the list.  I dice up about 5-6 sweet potatoes into small cubes and toss them in 3 TB coconut oil, onion & garlic powder, salt & pepper.  Spread onto a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.

*TIP: lining baking sheets with parchment paper cuts down on the clean up time!

Next up is my Crust less Quiche.  I dice up my veggies of choice for the week (this week was red peppers, zucchini, scallions & chives) and place in a bowl.  Crack 1 dozen eggs in the bowl and mix.  Pour into a 13×9 greased baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.

While your items are in the oven, use the remaining time to finish up stove top items or prepping fresh fruits and veggies.  This week, for lunches I chose grass-fed lean beef burgers and sautéed kale to for lunches.  I cooked the burgers stove stop and added some steak seasoning.  These took about 8 minutes total to cook.  I then diced up my kale into about 1″ cubes and sautéed in a pan with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper and lemon juice.

I also prepped the remaining veggies I had such as peppers and asparagus by washing and cutting them up so they were ready to use for dinners.

By the time the stove top items and veggie prep were complete, my oven dishes were finished.  I portioned everything out into Tupperware containers for Nick and I and stacked them in the fridge so they are ready to grab and go.  He has the left side and I have the right side so we know who’s is who’s.

From start to finish, this doesn’t need to take more than 1-2 hours and it lines up the rest of your week to be successful!

Breakfast

Breakfast

Lunches

Lunches

 

Weekend Away

Last weekend I had the privilege to travel to Branford, CT to coach 10 Masters athletes ages 40-55 at The North East Masters CrossFit Competition.   I used the trip to also touch base with a friend and physical therapist just a few more miles up the road in Greenwich, CT.  We packed up and hit the road early Friday morning for our 2 day trip.

The best part about road trips is that you can pack a cooler filled with snacks and meals that you can prepare at home, rather that being limited to what’s available at the rest areas (yes, I hit a lot of those on the way) or at your hotel breakfast.  It takes just a small amount of planning and effort to eat clean while on the road.  Here’s a snap shot of our meals over the weekend:

Thursday: Food prep

Thursday was a busy day for us so we didn’t have the opportunity to pack our snacks until 9:00pm.  Still, we decided to make it happen and were able to get it done in 30 minutes by working together on some quick food prep.  Here’s a list of what was packed in our cooler for the weekend:

  • Celery sticks and Almond Butter
  • Chicken Grape Salad
  • 4 cooked Chicken Burgers
  • Hand cut Sweet Potato Fries
  • Berry Salad (Strawberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, Blackberries & Grapes)
  • 2 Bananas & 2 Apples
  • 6 Hard-Boiled Eggs
  • 2 servings of left over ground Grass Fed Beef with Peppers & Onions (Thursday night’s dinner)
  • Homemade Trail Mix

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Our hotel fridge packed with our cooler items!

Friday:

Breakfast: We hit the road at 8:00am and needed to make it to Greenwich by 12:00 so tried our best to straight shoot it there.  We ate Thursday night’s leftovers of Grass Fed Beef with Peppers & Onions for breakfast along with a couple of coffees.

Lunch: After our meeting in Greenwich, we had an hour or so to kill before making our way back to Branford so we took a drive to the beautiful downtown area filled with high-end shops & restaurants on every corner!  We happened to find a parking space near a restaurant named Leaf Line Salad Co.  It had a trendy look and the name drew me in so we popped in to check out what their menu was like for lunch.  What a treasure, this place was awesome!!!  In brief, this is a start-up franchise that began with an owner who had gluten and dairy food allergies.  He wanted to create somewhere people could enjoy lunch without worrying about limitations of their diet, and this was exactly what he did!  You created your salad by picking your greens (kale, spinach, romaine, spring mix or an alternative of quinoa,) you then chose your vegetables, a list of about 20 all which were freshly cleaned and prepped.  Next came your protein source; grilled free-range chicken or roasted turkey breast, grass-fed steak or tofu.  Finally, you choose your dressing, all of which were made with oils, fresh herbs and fresh fruit (they even had a listing of exactly what was in each and every one they offered.)  To top it off, your could choose to add nuts to your salad.  The best part was they prep- they chopped up all your ingredients into bite size pieces, and tossed it with your dressing so each bite was the perfect mix!  If you can’t tell- we LOVED this place!

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Snack:  After getting to our hotel and settling in a few hours had passed and I snacked on our homemade trail mix from our cooler.  Luckily, our hotel had a nice sized mini fridge to keep our food cold!

Dinner: All of our friends had arrived in Branford, so we went to dinner as a group to Donavan’s Reef.  They had a good-sized menu with lots of options.  I choose the steak fajita and customized my order to skip the tortillas, sour cream and cheese and to add in a side salad to start and a side of sautéed broccoli rabe in garlic and oil to my dinner.  Nick chose a salad with grilled asparagus, seared scallops, hard-boiled eggs and avocado.  It was great and the server was very accommodating to our modifications.

Saturday:

Breakfast: We woke up early to head to the competition.  The hotel included breakfast so we headed down to grab a bite.  The options were the basics in a hotel breakfast: Hard boiled eggs, cereal, yogurt, bacon, sausage, eggs, bagels and muffins with coffee or juice.  We opted for the eggs and grabbed an apple and a coffee and off we went.

Lunch: The day was very busy with our 10 athletes so meals were snuck in between workouts.  We were able to grab a few bites of our chicken grape salad along with some sweet potato fries for lunch.

Snacks: Our snacks came in handy for both ourselves as well as our friends because the competition ended up lasting about 11 hours start to finish.  We snacked on the homemade trail mix, fruit salad and almond butter along with a couple of bites of grilled chicken from friends who purchased from the caterer at lunch.  We also made a couple of runs to the local Starbucks for coffees.  I’ve recently switched to black coffee so I tried my first Americano sprinkled with a dash of cinnamon-yum!

Dinner: Dinner after an event like this is always the best!  We go out in a big group and celebrate everyone’s amazing accomplishments from the day.  In the past, I’ve been on the other side as the athlete competing and then indulge a little as a reward.  This time however, I stayed true to my Whole 30 program and we were lucky enough to be recommended a local Mexican restaurant, Chuck’s Margarita Grill, who actually provided us with a Paleo menu- how cool is that!  We started by asking for a side of veggies rather than chips to dip in the salsa and they brought out a couple plates of cucumbers and peppers for the table.  For dinner, both Nick and I chose the Chicken Fajita which were served with romaine lettuce wraps, homemade pineapple salsa and guacamole.  Nick got a side of sautéed mushrooms and I choose the baked sweet potato.  Everything was delicious and clean!

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As tough as it may be sometimes to make the right choice in the heat of the moment, it is just as simple to make the clean choice and be able to walk away with a free conscience, full belly and enjoy the moment!

Homemade Trail Mix Recipe:

Equal parts of unsweetened coconut flakes, raw almonds & freeze dried berries.  I tossed mine all in a gallon sized bag and was good to go!

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Hand Cut Sweet Potato Fries:

These are one of our all time favorites and have become a regular in our house.  That being said, I think I have finally mastered the recipe and make a darn good batch if I may say so myself!!

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 whole sweet potatoes
  • onion powder
  • garlic powder
  • chives
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

Preheat over to 350.  Starting with a DRY sweet potato is very important so I would recommend if you are going to wash them, do it right after you buy them, before they go in the fridge.  Washing immediately before using keeps the potato moist which will leave you with a soggy patch of fries.  Slice up sweet potatoes in strips about 1/4 thick.  Toss into large mixing bowl and add in enough olive oil to lightly coat the potatoes, mix with hands.  Now add your spices- I don’t take exact measurements on these but its about 1/2-1 TB of each; onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, chives.  Mix again with hands and toss onto baking sheet.  Make sure the potatoes are laid out into one thin layer without overlapping each other.  Bake for 20-25 min until soft all the way through.  Finish by broiling on high for 5 minutes (they golden up quick so keep an eye on them so they don’t burn.)  If you have 2 racks of fries, make sure each gets broiled on the top rack for their 5 minutes.   Enjoy!

Sweet-Potato-Fries

Homemade Ketchup (Paleo & Sugar-Free)

In my house, no sweet potato fry goes eaten with out being dipped.  When we started the Whole 30, I was on a quest to find out how to make homemade ketchup so Nick wouldn’t go through dipping withdrawals. (He’s the: “I put ketchup on my ketchup” guy!) After a couple of attempts, here is the recipe we now use and always have in the fridge.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to buying ketchup again.  It’s super easy and clean!

Ingredients:

28oz Can Organic Tomato Puree

1/4c White Vinegar

Onion Powder

Garlic Power

Salt

Directions:

In a small pot on the stove, bring the tomato puree to a simmer, be sure to keep a lid on the pot or you will have a big splatter mess.  Add in the vinegar and 1/2 TB of each of the spices.  Mix and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so it will not stick to the bottom.  Let cool then place in a container in the fridge.  It lasts about 2 weeks.

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What’s in the fridge?

My weekly shopping is done 2x week at Trader Joes and my house is always stalked with the following:

Veggies: peppers (red, orange and yellow), sweet onions, broccoli, asparagus, celery, tomatoes, avocados, green beans, spinach, kale, carrots, cucumbers & sweet potatoes

Fruit: grapes, strawberries, black berries, blue berries, apples,  kiwi & bananas

Oils: coconut oil, ghee, olive oil

Nuts: raw unsalted almond butter, almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts & walnuts

Protein: eggs (lots of them!), frozen bison, turkey & beef burgers, shrimp, mussels, a white fish, ground turkey & chicken breast

Misc: coconut milk, tomato sauce, kale chips, fresh herbs & seltzer water

TraderJoesYikes

I do my standard grocery shopping each week and replenish the items from the list above.  Through out the week if I come across a new recipe I want to try I may stop at the store to get 1 or 2 items on my way home that weren’t on my standard list, but besides that I tend to brain storm my next meal idea based off of what’s in the fridge. 

When planning my next meal, I start with a protein that I am in the mood for, then pair it with a vegetable or fruit and finally a fat.  Once I have my 3 main ingredients, I start to ponder how I can combine them such as with a sauce or into a casserole.  I often browse Pintrest for some new ideas by searching with my ingredients list something like “paleo chicken, grapes, almonds” and can almost always get a good size list to choose from.

I have been loving grapes lately, so today I was inspired to use those as the main ingredient in my lunch.  Here’s what I came up with, it was amazing! Nick and I gobbled up the entire bowl, no chance for leftovers today!

Chicken & Grape Salad

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Ingredients:

1 lb Grilled or Roasted Chicken Breast, cooled  (I used the pre-cooked from Trader Joes, it is a good staple to have in the fridge for quick snacks or meals)

1c Purple Grapes

1/4c Slivered Almonds

1/4c Balsamic Vinegar

1/4c MCT Oil

Handful of Fresh Cilantro

Seasonings to taste (about 1/2 tsp each): Salt, Pepper, Allspice, Coriander

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Directions:

Chop chicken & cilantro very small, slice grapes in half, then combine all ingredients into bowl.  This recipe literally takes 5 minutes if your chicken is already cooked!