Better than Starbucks Coffee Smoothie 

I must admit, I’m more of a green tea in the morning kind of gal than a true coffee connoisseur. However, I have to admire the steadfastness of anyone who can do something daily. That’s dedication! I’m a little caffeine sensitive, but when I’m on road trips, I don’t mind an extra dose of liquid energy…so today I made a grande size serving of my favorite coffee drink. No added sugar or artificial sweeteners, but I promise you it will fulfill your frappachino craving! 


Ingredients: 

  • Equal parts whole milk & cold brew coffee (unsweetened) 
  • 1 ripe banana, frozen 
  • Optional- scoop of chocolate protein powder 
  • Optional- 1/4 cup old fashioned oats (skip if you don’t like the texture) 

Blend all ingredients until smooth, then enjoy! 

Your new favorite dressing


It’s been in the upper 80’s here all week long! These warmer temps have me craving ice cream…but in my more mindful moments, I could also go for a salad with this easy, fruity vinaigrette! Best of all, you can skip the chopping and throw all the ingredients to into a blender or food processor.

Let’s get started! 

Ingredients: 

  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh parsley 
  • Fresh chives
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 lb strawberries 
  • 3T fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 tsp pepper 
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3.5T red wine vinegar 

Blend until smooth. For the herbs, I used about 10 leaves/sprigs each. Adjust based on your taste! I used this dressing with Triple Berry Spinach salads (spinach, feta, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and sliced almonds) AND some grilled chicken wings, because…hey, its summer! 

#TastyTuesday: Zucchini & Eggplant Lasagna

Usually when I post a recipe, I talk about how it’s simple or quick. This is neither. But it is delicious, and (in my opinion) worth it. So…if you’re up for a challenge, here it is!

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 cups Italian shredded cheese
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 15 oz. container ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2T Italian seasoning
  • 4 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 24 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1T olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb grassfed ground beef or ground chicken (optional)

Directions:

  • Slice eggplant and zucchini with a mandolin (watch your fingers!)
  • Arrange thinly sliced veggies on paper towels or a cooling rack. Salt lightly. The salt with help the vegetables “sweat” so the lasagna doesn’t turn out too wet. Wait 10-20 minutes, the pat dry with a paper towel.
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Sweat it out!

 

  • While the veggies work up a nice sweat, get to work on your sauce. I was making this in bulk, so I went with a jar sauce with quality ingredients. Feel free to make your own marinara if you have more time! To doctor up the sauce, I started by sautéing onions and carrots in olive oil, adding the garlic in when the onions become translucent. Next, cook your meat if desired, and mix it all together with the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Let that simmer while you make the ricotta mix.
  • Mix ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan, spinach (tear into smaller pieces), Italian seasoning, and egg together until well blended. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Now it’s time to layer! Start with a layer of sauce at the bottom of the pan. Add slices of zucchini and eggplant. Next, layer with ricotta cheese mixture. Top this with half of the shredded Italian cheese. Add another layer of zucchini and eggplant, and top the veggies with a layer of marinara. Lastly, top with remaining Italian cheese and parmesan.
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Layering in progress!

 

  • Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the cheese starts to lightly brown. Top with chopped parsley if desired. Served with roasted Italian potatoes or a side salad.

After all that work, you’ll definitely have a big appetite. Help yourself to a couple servings!

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Tasty Tuesday: Kung Pao Chicken

This is one of my husband’s favorite dishes, but I can’t take full credit! I came across the recipe on Pinterest and tweaked it a bit to our liking. I made Kung Pao chicken this week for my meal prep clients, so we’ll see what the verdict is for them. 054The main alterations I made to the recipe are that I increased the amount of stir fry sauce and added more veggies. I used peppers, onions, and carrots this time, but feel free to get creative with snow peas, zucchini, squash etc. I’ve found that the dish reheats better with a little extra sauce, but use your judgment!

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breast, diced in small pieces
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 2T sesame oil
  • 3T soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1.5 T sriracha
  • 2T honey (optional)
  • 2T chili paste
  • 1 lb. green beans
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 carrot, sliced thin
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper

 

Directions: Heat 1T sesame oil over medium-medium/high. Salt and pepper chicken and sauté until thoroughly done. Set chicken aside. Add the remaining sesame oil and minced garlic cloves, being careful not to burn the garlic. Next, add your vegetables. Add your chicken back in, and pour in stir fry sauce. Top with tuxedo sesame seeds or roasted peanuts and serve with 1/2 c. cooked rice or cauliflower rice

link to original recipe: http://fitfoodiefinds.com/2015/04/healthy-kung-pao-chicken/#_a5y_p=3607866

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#TastyTuesday: Kielbasa Power Bowl

This meal just got me through a super long day today! Power packed with 4+ veggies, legumes (isn’t that the funniest word?!) and your grain of choice, this tasty Mediterranean inspired dish gets the job done. See below for the deats.

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Ingredients:

To make 4-6 servings:

  • 1 pkg turkey kielbasa
  • kale
  • feta cheese
  • your grain of choice (rice, quinoa, etc.)
  • 1T coconut oil
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T lemon juice
  • 1t soy sauce or coconut aminos
  • 1/2 c. cooked rice or grain of choice

You will use this recipe for the spinach lentils. The ingredients are:

  • 3 c. baby spinach
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 cups lentils (I used red and green)
  • fresh parsley and thyme
  • 1 onion
  • 2 small Yukon potatoes
  • 4 c. chicken broth or stock
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Prepare lentils according to recipe directions. Cut the kielbasa into small rounds and cook over medium-high in 1T coconut oil. Once lightly browned, turn and cook the other side (about 5 minutes each side). Set aside to drain. While cooking, remove the stem pieces from the kale and massage (yes, I said massage!) with olive oil and lemon juice until the kale has softened and is evenly coated with the oil mixture. Place kale in the warm pan you used for the kielbasa and cook covered over medium heat until the kale turns bright green. Add soy sauce, mix, and continue to simmer covered for about 2-3 more minutes.

Get your bowl ready! Fill the bottom of the bowl with 1/2 cup rice on one side and 1 cup of kale on the opposite side. Top the rice with a scoop of lentils, kielbasa, and feta cheese. Enjoy!

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#TastyTuesday: Roasted Leg Quarters

Here’s the recipe I prepared for one of my monthly meal prep customers. Smelled so good, I was wishing I made some for myself! 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 T coconut oil 
  • 2 chicken leg quarters 
  • 1/2 t. Sea salt
  • 1/2 t. Black pepper 
  • 1 t. Dried or fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. Chicken stock
  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes (cubed)
  • ~15 cherry tomatoes (halved) 

Directions: 

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Heat coconut oil over medium-high  in cast iron skillet 
  • Salt and pepper chicken on both sides. Add to skillet and cook 2-3 minutes each side, until skin is golden brown 
  • Pour lemon juice and broth over chicken, sprinkle with rosemary and place skillet in oven
  • After 10 minutes cooking time, add cubed potatoes
  • Cook for 30 minutes, then add tomatoes. Cook 10 more minutes or until tomatoes soften and chicken is completely done (juices run clear)
  • Allow chicken to rest for 10 minutes, then serve! 

Why I Stopped Shopping for Groceries

So glad you’re back! We’ve been talking over some tips to help you get ready to meal prep. So far, we’ve covered purchasing containers, creating a menu, and preparing for your shopping trip. Despite my last tip about making shopping trips more enjoyable, I must confess…I have all but given up on shopping. Let me explain…

I’m a huge fan of online shopping! Seriously, I should own stock in Amazon. If your best friend was the person who comes to your door the most, then my best friend would be the FedEx guy. So I am not sure why it took me so long to try order ahead or home delivery for my groceries. I suppose it was either my trust issues- “What if they pick bananas that are too green or too brown?”- or just not wanting to feel all pretentious as I rang the pick up bell while other shoppers dutifully pushed past with their carts. Either way, I took the plunge, and I don’t want to go back. Why? Glad you asked!

  1. I forget fewer items. I order straight from my list, so there’s very little chance that I’ll miss something.
  2.  I save tons of time that I can use for my actual meal prep.
  3. I save money by buying only what’s on my list instead of getting distracted by sale signs and well-placed displays. Also, some stores offer incentives to online shoppers like free items or online only offers.
  4. I often get “upgrades” when they are out of the item I ordered. I’ve gotten upgraded to a larger package or name brand item before, and they’ve given me salad mixes, yogurts, etc. for free when they are expiring soon.

Many stores offer deals for the first time you try online shopping, so give it a shot. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Southwest egg rolls with jar salad

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One of my faves! I have to start making a double batch; because, I am always so sad when they’re gone. Great pre-workout snack or light lunch.

Buffalo chicken stuffed sweet potato with sauteed kale

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The only change I made from the recipe was seasoning the chicken with ranch seasoning before cooking it in my Instant Pot. This was perfect with a side of Greek yogurt based ranch (if you missed that recipe, I linked it up here)

Parmesan crusted tilapia with roasted red potatoes and broccoli

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Somehow the tilapia escaped being photographed…this is what the finished product looks like, but I made it with different sides this time. The point is, this is a versatile recipe that’s great with made side combinations! lol

Pan fried London broil with roasted veggie mix and sauteed kale

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The green stuff is chimichurri. It’s kind of a tangy, spicy sauce made with cilantro and parsley that’s really good with steak/beef. Substituted carmelized salmon for my non-beef eaters.

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Stay tuned for next week’s installment and menu with recipe links!

Featured image photo cred: Vibrant Photography

Drama-free Grocery Shopping

Welcome back to Kell’s Kitchen! In the last post, I shared a few tricks that helped me master planning a weekly menu. After the menu comes… (dun, dun, duuuunn!) grocery shopping. Grocery shopping isn’t always dreadful. Sometimes I have a nice leisurely trip to the store at a time when I’m not rushed, the store isn’t crowded, and I can casually peruse the contents of each aisle while comparing nutrition labels and unit pricing for the best value…Haha! who am I kidding?? That happens like once a decade when all the stars align. Usually my trips to the store include varying degrees of crazy from the traffic in the parking lot, to dealing with overzealous, handsy kids (usually my own!), to remembering I forgot the milk when I’m already in line to check out and the subsequent internal debate about whether I should go back for it or tough it out and come back later that week…whew! I’m tired already! Clearly, I haven’t mastered the shopping process yet, but here are a few things I hope will help along the way.

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  • The list

Having a physical list (written or electronic) is imperative for a successful shopping trip. Making only one trip to the store is part of what makes meal prepping for the week so much more efficient! Decide how you will organize your list before you start writing to minimize the chance of leaving something off. I usually either write mine from my menu- going through each recipe and writing the ingredients I need- or by department (produce, meat, frozen, etc.). I also visualize my daily routine- what foods do I want for breakfast? What will we have for snacks? What will the kids need for their lunches?

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When your daughter borrows your phone at the grocery store
  • Plan for drama-free shopping

What makes your shopping trips dreadful? Identify that thing and proactively plan to eliminate the drama. If you’re not be on crowds, try to avoid peak shopping times like right after work or Saturday afternoon. Remember to bring snacks if you have multiple stops to prevent “shopping while hungry”. If you’re shopping with kids, make shopping more fun by giving them a job or making it into a scavenger hunt. Visualize what a great shopping trip would look like for you, and plan to make that happen.

  • Execute the plan

You have your list, you’ve eliminated common shopping annoyances, and now it’s time to get out there! Stick to the perimeter of the store where they stock fresh produce, meats, and dairy. Don’t be lured in by sale signs and flashy displays that lead to buyer’s remorse and throw you off your plan to eat clean. Be confident and mindful as you make your selection. You’ve got this!

Here’s what my latest shopping trip produced:

Mojo pork over cilantro lime rice with plantain patties and roasted asparagus (962 calories)029.jpg

 

I must say, the plantain patties left something to be desired for me. Still looking for a good way to prepare plantains that produces leftovers as yummy as the fresh version…open to suggestions!

Oven “fried” chicken thighs with mashed sweet potatoes and lemon-garlic green beans (419 calories)024

One of my “go to” meals. Simple, quick, and the skin on the chicken is so crispy and delicious! I add paprika and oregano in addition to the spices in the recipe.

Bang bang shrimp with cilantro lime rice and lemon butter sauteed kale

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My husband asked for this two nights in a row. If you knew him, you’d know that this rarely ever happens. This recipe is a keeper!

Quinoa chicken Parmesan bake with roasted asparagus (510 calories)

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Another one of my favorites- mostly because you can put all the ingredients in a lasagna pan, kick back for an hour, and it comes out perfectly every time! If your chicken breasts are thick, I would suggest cutting them in half butterfly style to make sure they cook thoroughly.

Maryland style crab cakes with veggie quiche (618 calories)

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Made these with almond flour and Greek yogurt instead of flour and mayo. First time broiling instead of pan frying crabcakes, and I loved them this way!

Become a Menu Master

Hey, y’all! Glad you came back this week for tip #2. Just to recap, I’m Kelly and my meal prep journey was born out of my frustration with trying to balance working, family life, doing my Crossfit workouts AND cooking dinner each night. Preparing meals for the week allows me to have fresh, nutritious meals without the daily stress of cooking a meal every night. When I started sharing about my meal prep on social media, I got a lot of support and encouragement from friends and family, which led me to start small meal prep service and this blog to share my weekly menu with recipes and some meal prep wisdom I’ve learned (and am still learning) along the way.

Last week, meal prep tip #1 was to buy sectioned containers that are washable, durable and affordable to help with portion control and encourage us to fill the extra space with veggies. Now that we have our bowls on deck, let’s talk about the next step- creating your menu for the week. In order to cook for a week, you need a written plan. This can be intimidating, because often it’s hard to have a plan for what I’m doing tomorrow, much less what I’m eating three days from now. When I’m deciding on my menu, the three factors that usually drive my thought process are: value, craving and variety.

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Before I start crafting my menu, I consult the weekly sales. It’s crazy how quickly I can “catch” a pork loin craving when I find out it’s BOGO! If you find a great deal, look for ways to incorporate that ingredient into more than one dish on your menu. Also, since stores tend to rotate their sale items, shopping the sales encourages variety. Looks like I made all my points in one!

Craving

I try not to deny myself if there’s something I’m craving. If there’s a dish that’s been on my mind all week or it’s really cold and I just want soup, I make it. If it’s an “unhealthy” dish, I brainstorm ways to make it more consistent with the way I normally eat. Sometimes this leads to some fun new recipe discoveries!

Variety

Lastly, as the saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” My menu consists of 4-5 meal options that I switch out for lunch and dinner so it never feels boring and repetitive. I make sure I have  a few different types of protein: chicken, beef, pork, seafood, beans, etc. and vary the sides I’m pairing with the meals. Finally, I write my menu in my calendar so I can look back and see what I haven’t had in a while (or what I’ve got stuck on repeat) to keep it fresh.

Here’s what I had last week:

Jambalaya, spicy roasted okra and Cajun red beans

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Bruschetta chicken, lemon orzo with spinach and pesto roasted Brussels sprouts

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I made the orzo with spinach instead of asparagus, and it was delicious! I like asparagus, but I opted for spinach  to keep things light since I wanted to try these Brussels sprouts!

Barbacoa burrito bowls with Cuban-style black beans, and cilantro rice

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Also made some chipotle lime shrimp bowls and fajita chicken bowls for my non-beef eating friends! Ps. If you don’t have an instant pot yet, get one immediately! More on that in future posts!

Chili-lime tilapia with avocado cream sauce, Cuban-style black beans and Southwest sauteed red cabbage

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See you next week with meal prep tip #3 and a new menu with recipes. Happy prepping!

It’s All About the Bowls

Last week, I shared a bit about how I came to the decision to start preparing my meals ahead for the week. The first step is deciding, so if that’s where you are, it’s a great place to be! Over the next few weeks, I hope to share some tips and time savers that helped me get started, along with my menu and recipes for the week.

Tip #1 is invest in some sectioned containers. Yeah, I know it all mixes together in your stomach, but the compartments help in many ways aside from creating boundaries against food miscegenation. Compartments virtually take all the guesswork out of portion control. I know that the small section on my 3-compartment bowls fits about 1/2 cup of any substance comfortably…maybe 3/4 cup if I’m tamping it down and sitting on the lid to get it closed. I still weigh and measure if I want to know the exact amount, but I have a pretty good estimate even without going to those lengths. Secondly, I’m betting that most of us who decide to meal prep have enough compulsiveness in our personalities that we will not leave an empty section. Therefore, we have a ready made reminder to add more veggies to our diets to fill that empty space on our plates.

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Now that we’ve established that we need containers, a word on choosing wisely. Choose washable containers (for reuse) with clear lids (for easy identification) that are stackable and sold as a 10-pack or more. This is not the time for fancy glass bowls. I have those, and I love them. However, my meal prep containers are the variety that are sturdy enough to go several rounds with the dishwasher but cheap enough that there is no weeping when constant use causes inevitable wear and tear. Here’s a link to some containers that have worked for me. I purchased 3-compartment bowls, 2- compartment bowls, and rounds (for burrito bowls and “one pan” dishes).

Now, here’s the menu for this week:

Thai Chicken Thighs with jasmine rice, sesame ginger bok choy & steamed edamame

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This was my first time using baby bok choy outside it being including in salad mix. As advertised, it’s similar to cabbage with a slight twist. It steamed easily and paired well with the sauce.

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Miso Salmon with jasmine rice, stir fried kale and red cabbage & steamed edamame

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I asked the staff at the meat counter to cut the salmon to about the size of your palm…I should have specified whose palm I meant! The salmon filets ended up being about 8 oz, when I was shooting more for 6. They almost didn’t fit in the compartment!

Chicken Cobb Salad in a jar with Lentil Soup

Jar salads are easy to make and keep your greens fresh and crisp for nearly a week. For these salads, I made a Greek yogurt based ranch dressing, then layered bacon, boiled egg, grape tomatoes, and avocado with mixed greens at the top. As long as you have “wet” ingredients near the bottom, you’re good to go!

Spinach Spaghetti and Meatballs with Parmesan roasted broccoli 

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Ingredients for meatballs:

  • 1 lb grassfed beef
  • 1 lb mild Italian Sausage
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 chopped red onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 1 container of marinara sauce

Directions: Mix all the ingredients above except the sauce. Roll into 1-2″ balls and place on grease broiler pan. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, turning once. Add fully cooked meatballs to a pot and simmer in your marinara sauce of choice. Sometimes I get fancy and make sauce…this time I used Prego Farmer’s Market Marinara. Affordable, fast, only 7 grams of sugar, and full of ingredients I can pronounce!

Ps. I also make these with ground chicken or turkey sometimes, but you make need some bread crumbs to hold it together and get the right consistency.

Parmesan crusted tilapia over jasmine rice with Parmesan roasted broccoli

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Have a great week, and stay tuned for next week’s menu and meal prep tips!