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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ta-cchini

You guys! I’m so excited to tell you that the other weekend we actually took the kids to go do something fun!

Hate to spread the truth here, but a lot of Saturday mornings the entertainment for the boys is watching their dad vacuum. They legit love that though!

We drove over to Stillwater, a super charming old town on the St. Croix river.

First stop was Teddy Bear Park. OK whoever planned this totally knew what they were doing. This park is enclosed and there’s only one entrance. That means that as a parent you don’t necessaaaaaaarily have to keep an eagle eye on your kid ‘cause there’s not infinity ways for them to wander off. Both boys had a lot of fun and the only way to get them to leave was the promise of visiting the old timey candy store.








My intention was to let both boys pick out a Dum Dum from the giant barrel, but Mac is no idiot- he spotted the giant lollipops right away.

We walked down to the river to watch the boats for awhile, then headed back home. A perfect easy non-vacuum-related morning.





For the record, he got to lick the sucker on the way home, and then we took it away and he conveniently forgot about it.

*Sigh*

On a note so good note, I’ve realized I’m a pretty marginal gardener. Like, I have a large garden with a decent variety of veggies, but I’m allllllways late to the game with planting.

I’m very hit or miss with the watering.

And I’m definitely behind the curve with harvesting.



Case in point: this is the 3rd zucchini of this size I’ve pulled from the garden. Bigger is not better when it comes to zucchini. They get super watery and their seeds are huge. Not great for eating.

I’ve already made four batches of overgrown-zucchini bread/muffins this summer, so I wanted to do something different with this guy. Enter taco stuffed zucchini!

It’s  a thing, guys. Google it.

Taco Stuffed Zucchini
-Either one monstrous zucchini, or three regular sized zucchini
-1 lb extra lean ground beef
-1 packet low sodium taco seasoning mix
-1 cup (~1/2 can) fat free refried beans
-1 small can diced tomatoes with chiles
-1 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar but Monterey Jack would be awesome)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut zucchini in half length wise. Using a spoon, gently scrape out the middle. Leave ~1/2 in thickness to zucchini.

Saute ground beef over medium high heat. Once crumbled and no longer pink, reduce heat to low. Add ¼ cup water and taco seasoning packet. Pour meat into zucchini shells.

Top with little blobs of refried beans, then diced tomatoes, and lastly sprinkle the cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes if using behemoth zucchini- 20 min for normal size zucchini.





Makes six servings either way. Per serving: 300 calories, 7 grams carbs, 12 g fat, 31 g protein.

Not as exciting as a giant lollipop or anything, but still a great way to use up zucchini. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Snaaaaack baaaaars

As a dietitian I’ve noticed that people can fall squarely into one of two camps: snackers, or not snackers. I tend to not be a snacker- that’s not necessarily a good thing though, because I can have a tendency to go too long in between meals and get overly hungry. For me, overly hungry can lead to overeating. A planned snack can be super appropriate when done right. I counsel my patients to eat something every 4-5 hours. Low blood sugars and the resulting I’m-so-hungry-I-could-eat-a-horse-so-just-give-me-anything isn’t good, but neither is mindless grazing.

Bars are one of the most popular go-to snacks, and I totally get it- portable, shelf-stable- perfect to keep stashed at work, in your purse, in your car, whatever. What I *don’t* love about bars is that they can be so full of added sugars. The ones that are nutritionally balanced (KIND are one of my fave brands) are a more expensive price point.

I’ve been playing around for awhile with making homemade bars. Most recipes you’ll find online call for gobs of honey or agave. I opted to use dates instead- not lower in calories, but the sugars naturally found in dates are a bit more slowly released into your blood stream than some other types of sugars (lower glycemic index, if you’re familiar with that). One pan comes together pretty quickly and all you need is a food processor for the prep- no baking needed!

Oat & Nut Bars- makes 16 servings
-2.5 cups dry oats (does not matter which kind)
-1 cup unsalted mixed nuts, chopped
-1/2 cup chocolate chips (could omit)
-12 Medjool dates, pitted, and soaked in warm water for 20 minutes



OK so for starters, why are we soaking the dates? Mine were fresh, rather than completely dried, but I still wanted to plump them up so that they puree up better.

While dates soak, combine oats, nuts, and chocolate chips in a LARGE mixing bowl.



In a food processor combine half of the dates with 2 or 3 tablespoons of the water it was soaking in. Add to oats. Repeat with remaining dates.



Stir together well, evenly coating the oats with the date puree.

Press mixture into an 8x8 square pan. Press down HARD- you want these to be nice and dense when you cut them rather than crumbly. Let refrigerate for at least an hour- ideally overnight. I make a batch of these on the weekend and divvy them up between my husband and I throughout the week. Per bar: 174 calories, 28g carbs, 6 g fat, 4 g protein, 4 g fiber.



Yes a serving may seem small when you’re cutting these, but they are so nice and dense and chewy with a little bit of crunch from the nuts. They’re an awesome portable snack made in your own kitchen!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Hints of what's to come

I have a confession to make.

It started last week when I ran to the craft store for some spray paint. There is was- in the middle of the main aisle...




HARVEST STUFF.

Then yesterday morning I checked my junk Gmail account- you know, the address you give stores when you want coupons- and there it was- an email from Bath and Body Works advertising...



PUMPKIN SCENTED CANDLES.

And then last night when I was scrounging through our beastly zucchini patch and I caught a glimpse of a behemoth zucc that should have been picked probably a week and a half ago...I decided to make...

ZUCCHINI BREAD.

Ugh, I'm *this close* to looking forward to fall.

Have I ever shared my zucchini bread recipe? This has become a go-to for me because a good deal of the time I'm 'neglectful with timely picking, and I always have a ton. I like to make mini loaves and freeze them for months to come. We like to have them with breakfast in the fall/winter along with a side of eggs. Truth be told you could easily swap in some overripe bananas for the zucchini if that's what you have on hand.

Zucchini Oatmeal Bread
-1 cup unsweetened applesauce
-1/4 cup vegetable oil
-1/2 cup white sugar
-2 eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-1 cup whole wheat flour
-1 cup all purpose flour (yes, putzy, but I prefer the texture of a blend rather than just all whole wheat flour)
-1 cup dry oats (does not matter what variety- I used quick oats)
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-3 cups shredded zucchini, with excess moisture removed (just give a good squeeze with a paper towel)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray either 1 9x5 loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Combine applesauce through eggs in a bowl. Stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients, except for zucchini. Slowly incorporate dry mixture into wet. Lastly stir in zucchini. Pour into pan(s). My mini loaves took about 30 minutes. To check if they're done, insert a sharp knife into the center. If it comes out clean, you're good. Let cool for five minutes before inverting onto a rack to cool.



Per mini loaf: 300 calories (I get about 8 slices out of a mini loaf and we all get two).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Diggin the hash

You've likely noticed that many of my recipes are variations of each other. I know I'm not the only who does that. It's easy to get bored of certain dishes, so why not mix it up?

Last night I was in the mood for my go-to hash browns with black beans and roasted veggies, only I had a bag of sweet potatoes instead. Game on.

Sweet Potato Hash
-6 medium to large sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and grated (this is your cardio for the day, btw)
-1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
-3 tbsps olive oil
-1 bag baby sweet peppers, seeded and cut into strips/quarters
-1 large onion, diced into small-ish pieces
-1 1/2 cups fresh corn (can sub frozen)- this was 2 large ears for me
-Salt and pepper to taste
-1/2 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
-Fresh cilantro
-Plain nonfat Greek yogurt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine peppers, onions, and 1 tbsp olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake for a total of 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, get a large pan heated up over medium-high heat. Add shredded potatoes. Stir every few minutes.


Once peppers and onions are starting to get browned, add corn, beans, and a few pinches each of salt and pepper, and chili powder if desired. Stir well and return to oven for 5-10 minutes.


After being in the pan for 10-15 minutes, the sweet potatoes should be heated up. They're not going to get totally crispy like regular potatoes because we're not using nearly the amount of oil/butter used for traditional hash browns. It's ok though- the crunchiness of the corn will compensate.

Put a scoop of potatoes in a dish, top with corn/bean mixture. Add yogurt and a few cilantro pieces if desired.



This is SO filling and satisfying- I love a sweet-spicy combo like this.

What I DON'T love is looking over to find my 3 year old giving himself a yogurt facial and leg-cial.


Makes six servings. Per serving: 425 calories.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Weekend Pictorial

Summertime weekends in Minnesota are intense. It's like all winter we're mostly indoors, so then when it's hot and nice out, WE MUST DO ALL THE THINGS.

Fortunately ALL THE THINGS are fun. Here's our weekend in pictures.


This kid loves watermelon that much. I've learned that I need to make him go shirtless. You guys, watermelon leaves stains. I found that one out the hard way. 


Treat yo'self @ #katespade


We took the boys to the Ramsey County Fair. Smart move on our part. Now we can skip the state fair 'cause, well, they won't know the difference. Mac said this- the "steering wheel" was his favorite ride.


Umm for the record- my figurative heart wanted the sampler bucket of curds. My literal heart said for the love of Pete don't clog me up with that. 


My husband went on this ride. He is more of a man than I am. 


This kid- you guys- he kept steering a hand-over-hand left turn THE ENTIRE RIDE. Good thing he takes his driving seriously. You got only 13 years to practice, little dude.


"Hey! I see her udders!"





Ugh, I definitely should've thrown at least half of this away without him looking. Kid had waaaaay too much sugar and blue #4.


Ok so maybe I did as well.



Sunday best? More like Sunday good-enough. 




Sunday afternoon homemade slip and slide. With our yard biffy in the background. We are those classy neighbors.




Treated myself with some homemade strawberry frosé. 

Backtracking to Friday night's dinner- I needed something quick, meatless, and easy. Though don't "quick" and "easy" kind of fall in the same category? In any case, enter spinach and black bean quesadillas!

I had about 2 cups fresh spinach on hand so I just tossed that in a pan with 1/2 inch water boiling water on high heat for a minute, then let cool/dry on a towel. You could easily use frozen spinach, but my method was faster than thawing.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray one side only of 12 whole wheat tortillas with butter (or other) flavor nonstick cooking spray. Spread beans out evenly among tortillas (I had two sheet pans going).


A shprinkle of this adds a nice kick.


Layer cheese on top- I had an 8 oz block of Monterey Jack that I grated up. Top with remaining six tortillas, spray with additional baking spray.


Bake at 400 for 5-8 minutes, then flip and bake for another few minutes. Serve with salsa or a nice big blob of plain Greek yogurt. So good! So easy! Would've paired well with that frosé.


Per whole quesadilla- 400 calories (without yogurt). 

Hope you all had a lovely summer filled with LOTS OF THINGS. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Semi-Homemade

Do you guys know of Sandra Lee? In tabloid world she’s the girlfriend of Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York. In TV world she’s on Food Network as a chef/cook. Her schtick is “semi homemade” which I totally dig. I’m always down for from-scratch cooking, unless I don’t have time. Or ingredients. Or patience.

I recently created a SUPER easy semi-homemade hotdish that I have to share. It’s a great way to take a box side dish and create a whole meal.

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and Veggies

-3 boxes scalloped potatoes

-1 ½ cups skim or 1% milk

-4 tablespoons butter

-1 teaspoon ground black pepper

-1/2 teaspoon onion powder

-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

-1 cup diced ham

-2 cups chopped vegetables of your choice (can be fresh or frozen). I swung by my workplace cafeteria salad bar and grabbed broccoli, shredded carrots, and peas. Add whatever sounds good to you! Next time I make this I want to try chopped spinach.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat milk and butter and seasonings together until
almost boiling. While milk heats up, coat a 9x13 glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Layer dehydrated potatoes in the dish. Pour the packets of cheese powder over the potatoes (yep, we’re going there). Pour hot milk over potatoes. Stir in ham and veggies.

Bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender and mixture is bubbling.






Makes six generous servings. Per serving: 440 calories, 60 g carbs, 9 g fat, 26 g protein.