Butternut Squash Soup

 

IMG_6315

 

This is a truly all-time favorite recipe.

I know I say that a lot. But this is so true.

The original version and inspiration for this recipe is Cooking Light’s Golden Winter Soup.  It’s so delicious and already pretty light and healthful that it doesn’t even need to be modified.

IMG_6311

But in my constant effort to make recipes even more nutritious and sneak in more vegetables (that my two year old just refuses to eat), a soup like this is a good go-to that makes me feel good about what we are both eating.

My version is very similar to Cooking Light’s where it has butternut squash as the base. But rather than adding potatoes, I add roasted veggies like carrots, parsnips, even cauliflower. The roasting brings out the natural touch of sweetness in the veggies and also lightens up the starchiness a bit. Not that a two year old can’t benefit from the potatoes, but this is where we are going for both of our goals here.

IMG_6316

This recipe freezes well so it’s perfect to make in a big batch, eat for a few days, and freeze any remaining portions for a later time when needed. I’m doing this a lot these days in prep for baby M #2.

IMG_6319

It also pairs perfectly with some sort of cheesey-toast. The original sliced baguette with gruyere works well. However, I tend to take some sort of whole grain toast- because it’s more fiber and nutritious – and always on hand, top it with whatever cheese is in the house, and simply grill it or broil it.

Recently, I even made a pimento-cheese like version where I mixed Greek yogurt, pumpkin puree (hidden veggies), with shredded cheese all topped on Dave’s Killer bread and toasted it.

IMG_6317

I was secretly rejoicing as everyone ate it without complaint- even the hubby- and he is by far my hardest client. Well, he and Lillian are very close rivals, but regardless he said it was good and when I hesitantly shared my secret (although rather pridefully), he continued to say how good it was and that he couldn’t taste the pumpkin! This will become a go-to now for the little one. We’ve already made quesadillas, too, and we are on 5 continuous days of some sort of vegetable consumption! Needless to say, I’ve been breathing easier and worrying a little less.

Other pureed “neutral” veggies would work well too- thinking yellow squash, zucchini, cauliflower, even leftover baby food or pouches!

And now onto the very special and successful recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup

Serves: about 8

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed

1 leek, sliced

2 cups veggies of choice

4 cups unsalted chicken stock

1 cup half and half

freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a large dutch oven melt the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the butternut squash and toss and saute for about 5-10 minutes. Add the leeks, additional veggies, and stock.

Bring the mixture to a simmer and cover. Let it cook, stirring and tossing the veggies occasionally, until the butternut squash becomes soft and easily mashed by a fork or whatever utensil you are using to stir everything.

Remove from the heat. Carefully blend the mixture in a blender or use a handheld blender to puree everything together until you reach your desired consistency (I go with a pretty smooth mixture here as I’m trying to get the daughter to not realize it’s veggies, but otherwise I might like a fairly chunkier texture).

Stir in the half and half and black pepper. Sprinkle some cinnamon or ground nutmeg with an extra touch of half and half drizzled on top.

Garnish with chives or rosemary.

 IMG_6320

Variations:

For the veggies, you can roast them (great to use up leftovers, especially after a holiday like Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas) or just throw in any veggies you like from potatoes (sweet or white), cauliflower, yellow squash or zucchini, carrots, turnips, parsnips (thinking root veggies that are in the white-orange- yellow color wheel).

For the stock, chicken or vegetable works well, especially the latter if looking for a true vegetarian recipe. If not, bone broth would be a super nutrient rich choice and adds some nice protein to the recipe!

For the half and half, I would also use Fairlife milk as an option, especially if I don’t have half and half on hand- like when the hubby puts the empty carton back in the fridge.

 

IMG_6314

Happy Fall, y’all!

xo!

Becca

Pain, Priorities, and Progress

View More: http://photographybyjami.pass.us/miller-july17

I came home last night to her and her daddy painting together in the living room. A simple task of playing with her but it teaches her so much at the same time. Love. Family. Time together. Cherished moments. The joy in her squeak as she gets a new paint color is so simple but so powerful. If only we could remember and reflect on these moments more. At the end of the day all I want is a happy, healthy, and kind baby girl, to teach her to love everyone, and to find joy in the simple things especially on dark days like these. – posted on my instagram earlier this week –

 

If you follow me on here you tend to know I post mostly about food, recipes, meal planning, and nutrition information. Sometimes I throw in some mama & baby friendly chat because that’s just the season of my life right now and it’s on my brain a lot. When I’m working with someone one on one for nutrition counseling or educating a group, I often talk about setting priorities for oneself. That could be food-related or overall wellness related like daily exercise, importance of sleep, and whole body self-care like finding things you like doing and spend your valuable time with people you love.

But today, as I was trying to figure out what recipe I wanted to share or nutrition topic I wanted to write about, I was scrolling through my facebook feed (no judgements please as I know there can be an overwhelming amount of negative -for lack of a better word- crap on there) and noticed a story about a young man’s marriage proposal plans ruined during their recent trip to Vegas.

And after a pretty chaotic and stressful work week, this felt like the first time I had really been able to sit down and emotionally process what terrible news we’ve all been digesting this week. It was really the first time I had gotten to sit down a read one of the stories from the victims. I shouldn’t do this. I know it will make me upset and make me cry. But I want to know these people. We spend so much getting to know the person that commits the crime and but not as much getting to know all the 58 victims.  And right now, my heart (and eyes) just burst with pain for them especially as they story shared how they had plans to start a family right away.

It makes me think about what if I had never had the chance to get married,  have kids, and to know that kind of love and joy. All that I am right now, is my family. I do everything for them. Work. Prepare food. Carve as much time as humanly possible to be with them- all while still trying to keep myself sane.

And I just got to thinking, how could someone possibly think they ever have the right or control to take that away from them?  You shoot blindly into a crowd of people trying to enjoy an evening, away from the stress and worry of their daily lives.  You are so angry at the world that you think- what? – that hurting others will make you feel better? That complete strangers are the source of your pain? Doing this evil will solve any of your problems?

We may not ever know what this man was thinking. And I realize this is a complex and emotional issue for everyone, but even above my pain and sadness for the victims and their loved ones, I am so angry.

I’m angry that these families and friends have to endure such grief. I’m angry that our country is so divided and cannot come to together on most issues a majority of the time. Sure we may be unified during these times of tragedy, but very quickly we can become separated and not have empathy or understanding for others’ beliefs, values, and opinions. I’m angry that we have second thoughts now about going out to events with our families and friends in fear that we – or our children- or may not come home.

So why do we do the things we do? Why do we stress about work; tire ourselves endlessly to put our children in the best schools, have the best food, be the best that they can be?

When I reflect on this, I find that I live the way I do for my child (soon to be children) so they can have not only happy and healthy lives, but also to be honest, hard working, KIND and LOVING people one day. So that maybe the world can be a better place one child at a time.

Is this the ultimate prevention of evil in the world- raising a world of loving and compassionate people? Probably not, but wouldn’t it be nice to just have everyone strive for something so simple that would better us all? Maybe then the world would be a better place?

All I know is that we just gotta keep doing what we can. The best we can. Everyday. For our children! Work hard, be honest, caring, compassionate, educated individuals who are willing to listen and work towards positive change for all.

This may not be directly food & nutrition related, but it’s health-related. It’s a priority. It’s our lives and our future. Change is hard; we all know this. But we must progress towards a change.

I hope you have a relaxing, enjoyable and stress-free weekend with your loved ones.

xo,

Becca

 

Brunswick Stew

When you just need a meal that’s great all week long; that’s comforting, delicious, and as healthy as can be despite it’s not-so-healthy roots, then this is a recipe for you.

IMG_6083

I had never even heard of brunswick stew until at my mother-in-law’s birthday party a few years ago! Well maybe it was more like 8 years ago, but I’m trying not to age myself. Apparently, it’s a southern thing. Like a lot of new things to me that I’ve experienced over the last 10 years.

Brunswick stews- like BBQ- will vary from place to place. Those that like it tend to like certain kinds and not others. They prefer to get it only from certain places. I’m not as picky as long as it tastes good. Am I right? But I do love anything homemade that can taste just as good, yet more nutritious then something you can buy.

IMG_6084

My brunswick stew recipe is as semi-homemade recipe; more homemade than just buying premade smoked meat of some sort and tossing it in a pot with the other ingredients.  This helps to control the nutritional value of the dish! It’s lower in sodium, and made with leaner meat (pork tenderloin & chicken rather than brisket or high fat pork cuts) all which means it’s better for your heart, waistline, and diabetes, but we great flavor!

IMG_6086

 

Brunswick Stew

Serves: 8-10

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

one 15-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes

4 cups unsalted chicken stock

1/2 cup mustard base bbq sauce (like Jack Miller’s)

1/4 cup molasses-base BBQ sauce (like Stubb’s)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

16 ounce bag frozen corn

16 ounce bag frozen lima beans

1 lb slow cooker pulled pork

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions: 

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and tomatoes. Saute until warmed through, just a couple minutes should do.

Add the chicken stock and BBQ sauces, cayenne, corn, limas, meat, and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.

IMG_6088

Variations:

Lima Beans: this is traditional in most Brunswick stew’s, and I had some on hand in the freezer. However, next time I’d probably add more protein and some darker green color with shelled edamame.

BBQ sauce: you can use any brand you like, since such a hefty amount is used, I’d recommend as low sugar brands as you can find.

Meat: you can make this vegetarian by using beans and lentils in place of the meat. Prepared meat from smokehouses or restaurants can get expensive, but make an easy swap. I, again, prefer the homemade for controlling and increasing the nutritional value (esp. the sodium content). I’ve also added leftover shredded chicken, whether that’s homemade or a rotisserie chicken that I’ve pulled and removed the skin.

Veggies: for an adventurous family some shredded kale, okra, even some carrots, celery added in when first sauteing the garlic would boost not only the nutrients but also add new flavors. This would not be traditional, but would be a fun twist some time.

IMG_6089

Now that we’ve got this delicious recipe, we’re ready for fall! Now here’s to waiting for the weather to start feeling like fall. Don’t hold your breath down here…

xo,

Becca

 

Parmesan Crusted Pork Chop Sheet Pan Dinner

Sheet pan dinners are all the rage right now- as they should be!

What’s not to love about tossing all ingredients onto one pan and throwing it in the oven to bake while you finish up doing whatever it is you need to do?!?!

I love sheet pan dinners, and often recommend them to my clients as a part of their meal plans because it can reduce or minimize dishes, makes planning easier, and can result in a comforting, satisfying, and nourishing meal the whole family can truly enjoy. The best part is that it can be super simple and easy!

That’s why this month, as a part of our recipe redux community, we are sharing our healthy twists on sheet pan dinners so you can add to your recipe collection and feed your families delicious and nutritious meals for weeks to come!

IMG_20170801_160943

Pork chops are not a normal go-to in our family’s meals. Partly because my husband is not a big fan because they can be easily overcooked, and we tend to buy pork tenderloins instead – which would totally work here!

Most people often think that you can’t eat pork healthfully-as a part of a heart healthy, weight-conscious meal plan. But you can! You just need to pick the right cut of meat- center cut pork chops or trim off any visible fat on the perimeter or pork tenderloins are great options! You just want to make sure there isn’t much marbling within the meat portion- that’s the saturated fat that we need to be mindful of consuming less in order to decrease excess consumption which can lead to plaque build up, elevated LDL cholesterol, and heart disease over time.

IMG_20170801_160947

No matter what type of lean protein you are picking for your sheet pan dinner, think about what it can be paired with and that it includes a non-starchy veggie (broccoli + beets in this case) and an optional fiber-rich carbohydrate (think potatoes, corn, corn or whole grain tortillas, etc- sweet potato in my recipe).

The non-starchy veggie provides fiber, nutrients, and volume to the meal while the fiber-rich carb is also providing benefits and fullness from fiber, but can also serve as the little sweet treat on the plate too.

If you’re planning for the whole family and have multiple tastes and preferences to consider, pick a couple options that are well-liked staples and a new option or two to encourage trying new things at the same time! My daughter will eat all of this, but not everyday and it depends on the day. This was a great meal to offer to here to try to get in all the nutrients I’m aiming for, but keeping things familiar for her at the same time. If I would have put a pan together of flank steak, peppers, onions, and tortillas (which is a great option)- I know she’d likely only touch the tortillas. So it’s considering her preferences but completely accommodating her and offering her a separate meal of only mac ‘n cheese or chicken nuggets. And don’t get me wrong, sometimes that happens too. #thisisreallife

IMG_20170801_182301

Now that you have the background of how to plan these meals to fit everyone’s needs and likes, let’s get onto the recipe! You know me, I’m not much of a measure-r when it comes to cooking quick dinners, I just tend to sprinkle things on, but here’s the specifics to start that you can adjust to your liking.

Parmesan Crusted Pork Chops with Roasted Broccoli, Sweet + Beets 

Ingredients:

4-8 center cut pork chops (or pork tenderloin)

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 Tablespoons whole wheat bread crumbs

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

1 sweet potato, diced

2-3 beets, peeled & diced

1 bag of frozen broccoli

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

Directions:

Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

On the prepared baking sheet, add the pork chops and sprinkle each with a pinch of the seasonings (garlic powder to parmesan cheese).  Press the parmesan cheese lightly into the meat with your fingers.

Lay the broccoli, sweet potatoes, and beets onto the tray (or a separate tray if it won’t all fit on one without over crowding the pan). Lightly drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss well to combine and coat with the seasonings.

Add some black pepper to the pork chops.

Place the baking sheet/s in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. Checking on occasionally, and tossing as well. If the pork chops are finished cooking sooner than the veggies (internal temp reaches 145 degrees), simply remove them and place on a serving dish to rest until the veggies are finished (I like my veggies with a little more “char” on them, so they need a little longer than the pork).

And that’s it! You can enjoy your evening with a fairly low maintenance dinner. You can do the dishes, hang with your kids, do whatever is on  your evening agenda before it’s time to hit the hay and start it all over again tomorrow! =)

xo,

Enjoy dinner time with your family!

Becca


For other sheet pan dinner recipes from other recipe reduxers, check out the link below:

 
recipe-redux-linky-logo
 

Carrot Apple Salad

This Illinois girl is absolutely loving the cool front we have been experiencing for the last week or so! Over the 10 years that I’ve been living in New Orleans, one of the things I miss most about the Midwest is the fall weather. I love everything about fall, and sometimes can get down that I’m missing out on those favorite things as we don’t experience fall until October (if we’re lucky- more recently the past years it’s been November & December or even January before it cools off}!

Isn’t it crazy how much the weather can impact our feelings which can play such an important role in our mood, emotions, and therefore, even our food choices?

IMG_6279

We all most likely have associated food with feelings of comfort and satisfaction in some form or fashion at some point in our lives. The key {and challenge} is keeping this as positive and inspirational part of our day, not as a crutch to heal or numb our emotions when we are down. I didn’t say it was easy or without its struggles though.

IMG_6280

This carrot salad is an older recipe of mine that I twisted from Panera‘s carrot salad when I first started my blog.

The difference is that there’s no added sugars here and it’s rich in protein and fiber! It’s a cool, crisp, and fall-like recipe that’s nothing more than fruits and veggies.

The cinnamon adds a nice warming spice and sense of autumn while the salad itself is refreshing and crunchy. Have it as a snack on its own, or spread out the servings and use part of it with a meal that’s richer in veggies and lean protein.

IMG_6281

Carrot Apple Salad

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:

4 cups carrots, julienne (or shredded)

1 apple, julienne

1/2 cup raisins

2 Tbsp water

1/2 tsp cinnamon

¼ orange, juiced

1/2 lemon, juiced

½ cup 2% plain Greek yogurt

Directions:

In a large bowl, add the carrots and apple. In a separate bowl, combine raisins and water. Microwave the raisins for 15 seconds.

Combine the raisins with the carrots and apples. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Allow to “marinade” for a few hours or for a day in the fridge.

Nutrition facts (per 4 servings): 150 calories, 1 grams fat, .5 grams saturated fat, 95 milligrams sodium, 33 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 21 gram sugar, 5 grams protein

IMG_6282

This recipe is a good example of how you can take a recipe and make it comforting and satisfying for yourself, meeting your emotional needs, but it can also be nourishing and helping to keep your overall health and wellness goals in check.

We need to be mindful of our emotions and our needs, but learn and work towards keeping foods as nutrient rich and helpful as possible.

Enjoy!

xo,

Becca

 

Peach Kiwi Smoothie

It may be after Labor Day and all- which means the unofficial end of summer and the start of fall- but in NOLA we are likely to feel summer-like weather all the way into late fall.

And while smoothies are perfect for the summer; their cool, refreshing qualities helping to keep us hydrated and nourished in the hot summer days- they can be great any time of year!

IMG_20170801_094910_9155

I have my go-to smoothie that I use repeatedly; I most often pick a strawberry banana fruit base with plain Greek yogurt for the protein, probiotics, and calcium with a few flavor and nutrient enhancers like nut butter, flax seed, and spinach. This peach kiwi twist is a fun way to switch out colors and flavors to refresh your palate!

IMG_20170801_0654022

Peach Kiwi Smoothie

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

1/2 peach, sliced

1/2 kiwi

1 cup plain Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter

1 cup spinach

3 ice cubes (can omit if using frozen fruit)

1/4 cup Fairlife skim milk

1/4 cup plain coconut water

Directions:

In a blender, add all the ingredients and blend until well combined.

IMG_20170731_072224

xo,

 Becca

Meal Planning: Families with Tots and Particular Tastes

Sometimes it’s hard to get your kids to eat anything healthy. And it can feel overwhelming to to try plan and prepare meals that will meet everyone’s nutritional needs and also taste preferences.

This is my current and ongoing struggle {as mentioned in a recent previous post}. Add in fatigue and boredom and it can make dinner time down right challenging.

This week I decided to plan a menu completely catered to my child’s taste preferences, while sneaking in nutrients as much as i could. And you know what, it’s easier to cook for my kid than it is for me and my husband.

It’s less time consuming, easier to prepare, and perfect for a quick weeknight dinner or something you can really work on over the weekend and use through the week as needed.

IMG_20170831_110408

soup + grilled cheese: start with a soup that has some veggies and/or protein in it (vegetable, tomato, black bean, even broccoli cheese). Cut the grilled cheese into fun finger-friendly shapes (can use cookie cutters) and let the child get whole grains from the bread, protein from reduced fat/2%/light cheese, and hopefully some extra nutrients with the veggies in the soup.

pizza: for shortcuts use mini whole wheat bagels topped with a homemade or jarred marinara topped with part skim mozarrella cheese, and again sneaking in veggies. The red sauce or marinara can count for your veggies, but if you can add artichokes, mushrooms, thinly sliced spinach, it’s all good efforts.

spaghetti: whole wheat pasta and marinara with meatballs or meatsauce. I prefer to make my own marinara because it’s an opportunity to add veggies that my daughter will not eat, even ones that my husband won’t eat. This week it was sliced mushrooms and zucchini, but I’ve also added carrots and you could add bell peppers, eggplant, etc

quesadillas: whole grain tortilla + reduce fat cheese + sneaking in veggies when can (think: pureed pumpkin, squash – even from the can – or shredded zucchini, in my case it was just a side of salsa, hoping she would dip it. Small steps, remember).

breakfast: whether it’s smoothies, pancakes, muffins, you can sneak veggies into all of these. Just have to be a little creative or experimental – or have reliable blog recipes – to play around with recipes that also have whole grains and low sugar.

pinwheels: whole grain tortilla wrapped around sliced veggies, protein, and a spread of something like cheese, hummus, guacamole. Slice it up and it’s like kid-friendly sushi.

crudite platters: assemble a mix of whole grain crackers, finger-friendly veggies, fruit slices, nuts, cheese, spreads like hummus, and some protein (think hard boiled eggs, chicken or tuna salad, guacamole). Switch our your types of fruits, veggies, crackers, protein etc. next time to keep everyone interested.

{For older kids who want and could benefit from more decision-making and involvement, I love taco bars, pizza bars, build-you-own burritos, etc to give them options of what they are adding in. As long as whole grains and veggies are made available, it’s a great opportunity for kids to pick what they want to try. If it’s nothing at the present moment, maybe next time they’ll be more adventurous.}

IMG_20170821_152451_316

{yes, I know I’m missing a veggie in this photo- it was a quickly thrown together afternoon weekend snack platter}

Your goal is to offer a protein, a veggie, and a whole grain {fiber-rich} option at each meal. If fruit and milk or yogurt also ends up on the plate, that’s fine too, and can often count towards the fiber and protein needs, respectively.

I find it helps to also include a small amount of something you know they’ll love. While my daughter didn’t try the salsa or the edamame here, she did eat more of the chicken quesadilla than anticipated simply because she was reassured by the 100% whole grain sun chips also included. Again, baby steps.While she really only ate grains/fiber and protein in this meal, next time I prepare it I can try to add a veggie to the quesadilla  OR replace the sun chips with my homemade brussels or kale chips {it depends on the day if she’ll eat these}.

IMG_20170826_122909

Just try to remember and reassure yourself no matter what your struggles are with nutrition, as with many things in life, it’s about progress over perfection. Yes, we want to offer the most healthy foods (whole grains, fiber, lean protein, healthy fats, vitamins/minerals), minimize added sugars, empty calories, and junk but we don’t want to foster a stressful and negative environment around food. Whether that’s for ourselves or for our children. Food is fun and comforting and that’s okay. We just also need to work towards it nourishing us as much as possible.

Happy meal planning!

xo,

Becca