Dinner SWAP

A few years ago(wow has it really been that long), pre-marriage, when I was living it up in Boston, I lived with 3 fabulous roommates and had some very close friends that lived next door to us.  We decided to have a little friendly healthy Biggest Loser competition amongst ourselves. None of us were extremely overweight, but we all had a few pounds we wanted to lose.... and more than anything we wanted to get healthier!  I love a good competition, but what made this so rewarding was that we all supported each other-- I don't think it would have mattered who won... cause we worked super hard and all came out as winners in the end. (we each lost 10-25 pounds--and we looked dang good). We encouraged each other to go to the gym.... to eat healthy snacks.... and what I want to focus on today is one thing that I really think helped us stay on the right track.
We did what I want to call a "Dinner Swap."
There were 8 of us total, so each of us was assigned a night (Mon-Thurs), every other week.  On our assigned day we were in charge of dinner for the night--- to be prepared for the 8 of us girls. So basically you were assigned to make dinner twice a month.  It was so fabulous. I mean really, who wants to cook a meal for just yourself? Not fun at all. If I am cooking for myself, I tend to grab something unhealthy--- or go out cause it is so much more convenient. 

Here were some of the major perks to our Dinner Swaps: 
1. Saved Money (we were only having to spend money 1 time over 8 days)
2. Practiced our cooking skills.  We are all going to be pros at making dinner for our future families now. :)
3. Having a delicious, hot, healthy dinner ready to eat when I got home from work was awesome. 
4. Helped reduce stress of having to decide what to make. 
5. Tried new foods that otherwise we would have never eaten.
6. Accumulated some great recipes.
7. Great social time to be able to chill with great friends... even if it were for only a few minutes each night.

This idea is definitely easiest when geared towards roommates and those in college, but I have heard of families doing it with their neighbors and friends and it being a success as well.
Click here for an article with some great tips on how to get started with your own Dinner Swap.

Have any of you done a dinner swap before and have advice for others? 


Blueberries- Yum Yum

You hear all the time how AMAZING and SUPER HEALTHY Blueberries are. They get the credit for being one of the healthiest or maybe even the most beneficial fruits when it comes to antioxidant power and ability to destroy all those nasty free radicals.
Even with all health benefits of blueberries I have tried to LOVE blueberries---- but it hasn't been that easy.  I love the flavor and especially when they are in an item like pancakes, muffins etc. I guess what always turns me off to fresh blueberries is the texture. They often seem too mushy. I like things crisp... so unless blueberries are perfect and so fresh that they still have that bite to 'em, I usually turn them down.

So instead of complaining about the nasty texture--- and not eating them, my very simple solution is to FREEZE them.  I load up when the fresh ones are on sale in the summer.... wash and bag them-- and for the next few months I have fresh-frozen blueberries anytime I want. Now I can say that I LOVE blueberries.
I love them in my morning cereal (whether cold, oatmeal, cream of wheat). In cold cereal I love that they start to freeze the milk and make a little slush.  This way I get my 'Fruit-in' for the meal and get the added flavor and nutrients from blueberries.  They are also great to grab a few to snack on when I get home from a long day while I am preparing dinner. No mush and very refreshing. So go grab some blueberries today!

Here are a few highlights about the nutritional benefits of Blueberries.  
-Rich in Vitamin C (your Antioxidant powerhouse that may help in preventing cancer-causing cell damage) 
-Very high in fiber (about 4 grams in just one cup) 
-Low in calories (only about 80 calories in one cup)
- NO fat or cholesterol 
-Also packed with Manganese and Vitamin K 


Easy, Delish, Pasta Dinner

 This meal started as one of those desperation--- I need something quick and easy--- and ended up not only being quick and easy, but delicious and healthy. Who says you need your pasta to be drenched in sauce to be delish?

Savory Chicken Pasta with Peppers

Whole Wheat Pasta- I like to use Rotini but any noodle works
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Boneless, Skinless Chicken- fresh or frozen, cut into 1/2 - 1 inch pieces (If I wasn't also making this for the Mr. I would have probably just left the chicken out)
Seasoning Salt- TT
1/2 each Red and Green Pepper sliced into strips then cut in half
1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes (we like just a little heat--- you don't have to add this if you don't want) 
1/4 c. Parmesan Cheese

Boil pasta according to directions. Drain water and put noodles back in pan. While pasta is cooking heat medium skillet with 1 T EVOO.  Add chicken and cook until done-- I usually just salt and pepper or use seasoning salt to season the chicken.  Once chicken is cooked, remove onto a different plate. In same skillet add cook peppers just a few minutes until they start to get tender.  Add chicken back in and stir to warm.  Now combine all the ingredients back into the noodles--- start by adding a splash of EVOO to the noodles. Stir and then add in chicken and peppers, red pepper flakes, and parmesan cheese.

This would be great with the chicken as well if you wanted to go the vegetarian route!! Also adding any veggie you have lying around would work great!


100 Calorie Candy

It's October or shall we call it Candytober... (ok so that didn't really make sense. haha) But if there is any one thing that comes to mind when I think of October, it is Halloween Candy.  It is everywhere. So educate yourself how many calories really are in a bite or two of your fave candy.  

Here's a portion-control guide of some of the most common Halloween candies.  
100 Calories really doesn't go very far does it?!  **

5 Starbursts

13 1/3 pieces Brachs Candy Corn

8 Dots

28 M&Ms

60 Smarties

2 Twix minis

3 Milky Way Midnight minis

1 1/4 fun size Snickers

4 mini Musketeers 

4 1/2 Tootsie Roll midgees

Trust me everyone--- this is one of my HUGE weaknesses.  I loveLOVElove soft sugary candies. Candy corn, tootsie rolls, starbursts....  it always more than a measly 4 1/2 tootsie rolls or 13 candy corns.  So I am working on this too.  Remember this is the start of the holiday goodie season.  Let's not start packing on the pounds this early.  If I can limit myself I know you can as well.  :)

**Info taken from Women's Health Magazine October 2009 article '100-Calorie Halloween'


Healthier Chicken Nugget Alternatives

The other day I mentioned Dino Chicken Nuggets--- and it made me think of all the easy- healthier versions of chicken strips that I make. Me and the Mr. find that chicken is our go-to item quite often and when we want something simple chicken strips it is.

Making your own chicken strips(or nuggets) is super easy.

(Sorry no pics for this, I never make things unless there is a pic--- but trust me that these are great-tasty-healthy and easy.)

Oven-Fried Chicken Strips
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
3 T. Parmesan cheese  
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1 lb. skinless boneless chicken breast halves-- (I tend to use tenders as well. That way they are already cut into perfect sizes. Really whatever you have works)
3 T. Plain nonfat yogurt or Light Mayo

(you can change these up to have any seasonings or flavors that you/your kids prefer- I like to use Italian seasonings with garlic salt, and red pepper flakes to add just a little spice)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Combine bread crumbs and seasonings. Cut chicken into desired size strips. Brush chicken on all sides with a light coating of mayo(or yogurt), then roll in seasoned bread crumbs to coat thoroughly.
Line cookie sheet with tinfoil- place cooling rack on top and spray with nonstick cooking spray.  Arrange chicken pieces on rack. Bake for 15-20 minutes(depends on size of chicken) or until fork tender and juices run clear.

-Makes 4 servings.

Here are some links to some other great chicken strips.
Baked Crisp Pecorino Romano Chicken  from Sweet and Savory Tooth.
Crispy BBQ Chicken Fingers  & Whole Wheat Breaded Crispy Chicken from How Sweet It Is.

Really the possibilities are endless. Whatever flavors you like--- you can make happen.  
Do you have a favorite oven baked chicken strip/nugget recipe? 


Is that for REAL?

What are your thoughts about this  quote?
I think in general it is a great rule to live by, 

“Don’t eat anything your great-great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. There are a great many food-like items in the supermarket your ancestors wouldn’t recognize as food (Go-Gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Twinkies?); stay away from these.” -Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma
So look at your food-- ask yourself, 'would Great-grandma know what this is?' if the answer is no, maybe you shouldn't eat it.  
Kid's have so many options for food these days. It's no wonder that kid's won't eat 'normal, healthy, whole foods.'  They are so tainted with their Dino shaped chicken nuggets etc.  
Does food have to entertain the kid? 


Just Toss It

If you are anything like me, there are some days where I have ZERO control on resisting certain foods.... so for days like that, 
I have one simple idea--
Go to your cupboard, fridge, freezer and see what is sabotaging your plan to get healthy....  You know the item..... your go-to item that you have no self-control for. 

Now simply get rid of it.  
Toss it.  (or better yet don't ever buy it)
You really don't need it... Do you?  
If it's not there, you can't eat it.  
..... and if you feel guilty about tossing a pound of candy- would you rather feel guilty about having that 1 pound on your thighs?


F or V at EVERY meal.

Ya it's been while. I know. But I am back.
I am hoping that my posts are more consistent. I'll do my best.

Here is my tip for today.
**Make sure that you have at least one produce item (fruit or veggie) at every meal**
Yep... breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  
It doesn't sound very hard, but it will make a difference. Not only will you get the healthy vitamins and antioxidants but you won't eat as much as the higher calorie-fatty items.