Spin on the classics

I love comfort food. There is just something about spending some time in the kitchen cooking up a delicious homemade comfort food that makes me happy. The only thing I hate about comfort food is the way my body feels after eating it. My comfort food in mostly carbohydrate based so I challenged myself to make changes to four recipes to make them less-carb filled but with the same amount of comfort!

Mac and Cheese

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My Mom made the best mac and cheese. When I was younger it was the dish I always wanted when I needed some comfort food. But the worst part in mac and cheese are the noodles. There are 221 calories in one cup of noodles but one cup of butternut squash only has 63! So to switch up this recipe I swapped noodles for diced butternut squash.

Ingredients

1 butternut squash, diced or made into noodles if you have a spiral slicer like this one

1 cup of kale, chiffonade

8 oz of cheddar cheese (I used Flagship), shredded

1/4 cup milk (I used whipping cream because fat is my friend not my foe)

1/2 teaspoon of paprika

dash of cayenne

5 slices of bacon

Directions

Set oven to 370 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half and remove the seeds then slice off skins and largely dice the remaining squash. Place squash on cookie sheet and cover with coconut oil or any oil of choice (but you better not be using that vegetable or canola oil in this delicious meal and here’s why). Bake these until soft but not squishy! We want them to resemble noodles not mush.

If you have a spiral slicer then spiral out your butternut squash into noodles. Throw them into a pot of boiling water and let them cook until they are al dente.

While the squash is cooking, fry up your bacon in a skillet until it is crunchy! Then wait for it to cool and chop into large chunks.

Once your squash is done, place cheese and cream into a pot and turn on medium-low. Let the cheese slowly melt while constantly stirring it. When cheese is melted mix in paprika, squash and kale. The kale adds a little nutrients to this meal as well as more noodle like texture and with that much cheese you can hardly taste any vegetable!

Finally, scoop out some mac and cheese into a bowl, top with bacon and add a dash of cayenne pepper on top!

Shepherd’s Pie

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Growing up potatoes were my favorite food. If I could eat just mashed potatoes for dinner I would have been the happiest child in the world but obviously my parents wouldn’t let me so we compromised. Shepherds pie was an easy way for my parents to hide some protein and vegetables under a huge dollop of delicious creamy mashed potatoes! But as we saw in my Healthy Low Carb Swaps post, potatoes have about 5x more grams of carbohydrates than cauliflower does. So for this swap all I did was nix the potatoes and add mashed cauliflower!

Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower

2 T cream

1 pound of beef

1/2 pound chorizo or italian sausage

1 Tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup carrots, diced

1 cup peas

1 cup spinach, chiffonade

4 oz mushrooms, diced

1 cup red wine

1 cup chicken stock

1-2 T arrowroot powder

6 T butter

1 T garlic

*Optional:

1 beef/lamb liver, chopped (this meal has so many flavors and meats already incorporated it is easy to hide this amazing superfood!)

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Roughly chop cauliflower and place in bowling water until soft. Strain and place into food processor with 3 T of butter, 2 T cream and a splash of the water used to bowl the cauliflower. Mix until it resembles mashed potatoes. Set aside.

 

Melt butter in large pot on medium-low then add in garlic and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are soft then mix in tomato paste and stir for about two minutes. Add chorizo and beef and crank up the heat to medium high to brown the meat. I added chorizo because I like the spices in it better than the traditional rosemary and thyme.

Once meat is browned add in wine and chicken stock. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Then add in arrowroot powder which will thicken up your liquids. Mix in 1 tablespoon and wait if that isn’t enough add another. Adding too much arrowroot powder will make your shepherds pie have a gummy goo texture instead of a gravy feel so be careful.

Turn off heat mix in vegetables and salt/pepper to taste. Poor mixture into a casserole dish then top with mashed cauliflower. If you want you can sprinkle on some cheese or paprika. Then place in oven for 30-40 minutes of until the top is brown.

Chicken Tenders

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Who doesn’t love some crispy chicken tenders with crazy good dipping sauce?? Sometimes I catch myself dreaming of McDonalds nuggets and ranch sauce but then I remember how many ingredients are actually in those (38 according to the McDonalds website) and how that chicken doesn’t even really look like chicken anymore! So my fancy hack for this one was to get that crispy texture of the McDonalds nuggets without gluten and add something with some good nutrients in. I swapped out breading for Trader Joe’s plantain chips and added in spinach to get some of our favorite dark green vegetable!

Ingredients

1 pound chicken breast

3/4 cup shredded plantain chips

1/2 cup spinach

1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded

1/2 cup cream

zest of lemon

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice up chicken into nugget sized chunks. Try to make them all about the same size so they cook at the same speed. Place chicken into a bowl and cover with 1/2 cup of cream. Put to the side.

Take plantain chips and run through food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. Then add in lemon zest, spinach and parmesan and mix until everything is about uniform in size and looks like green breadcrumbs.

Take each nugget of chicken and let excess cream drip off then fully coat in spinach, plantain and cheese mix. Place all nuggets onto a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Grease your aluminum foil with a little coconut butter before cooking so the nuggets don’t stick.

Bake chicken nuggets for about 20 minutes. The mixture should be crunchy and the inside no longer pink. Then serve up with some awesome sauce!

Pizza!

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I think everyone can agree pizza is a comfort food. Warm doughy crust, zesty tomato sauce, gooey cheese, spicy meat and crunchy veggies on top! Writing that made my mouth water. This one took me awhile to figure out. I have tried many gluten free pizza recipes and have always been very disappointed with the results so I went a different direction this time. I pulled out my favorite vegetable, cauliflower. Low carb and with a mild flavor can be molded into just about anything you want.

Ingredients

Half head of cauliflower

1/2 cup cheese of choice (I used Flagship but you could use parmesan, mozzarella or a combination of all three) , shredded

1 t garlic

1/4 t oregano

1/4 t basil

1/4 t red pepper flakes

1 egg

1 T coconut flour

Your favorite pizza toppings

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

Place half head of cauliflower florets into food processor and chop until it resembles wet rice. Place cauliflower in paper towel and squeeze out excess water.

Then mix in all other ingredients except for toppings. This should give you a thick mush but don’t except it to be the consistency of regular dough.

Oil up your aluminum foiled cookie sheet again and make two small pizzas (I did it this way to regulate the cooking of the crust easier but it would work as one large pizza just decrease the heat and increase baking time).  Keep pizzas thick and make sure you have a bit of a “crust” around the edges to keep in toppings.

Spread some olive oil on the top of the crust and cook for about 10 minutes or until it turns golden brown. Top with your favorite toppings and place back into the oven for another 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and toppings are warm.

 

Next time you are in the mood for some comfort food try swapping out something that is high in carbohydrates for a vegetable based carb like squash or cauliflower or adding in some dark green veggies to give it a nutrient kick! If you come up with a good swapped comfort food post it below I would love to try it!

 

 

 

 

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Gelatin: More than just jello!

Why in the world did I ever stop eating jello and gummy bears? Chewy gooey deliciousness with either a sweat fruity taste or a sour zing! YUM! 

Ingredients in JELL-O:

WATER, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SUGAR, GELATIN, CONTAINS LESS THAN 0.5% OF ADIPIC ACID AND CITRIC ACID (FOR TARTNESS), SODIUM CITRATE (CONTROLS ACIDITY), RED 40, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR.

Ingredients in Sour Gummy Bears:

 SUGAR, INVERT SUGAR, CORN SYRUP, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, TARTARIC ACID, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORING, YELLOW 6, RED 40, YELLOW 5 AND BLUE 1.

uh…now I remember why I stopped. Corn syrup, sugar, inverted sugar and high fructose corn syrup. That is a lot of sugar! Plus fake food coloring and artificial flavoring. Yuck! Even though jell-o and gummy bears are filled with added garbage they do have one very important health promoting ingredient, gelatin!

Why should you add gelatin into your diet?

First off gelatin does amazing things for your skin, hair and nails. Loss of collagen is one of the reasons for wrinkles but gelatin contains usable collagen which the body can process and to keep skin elastic and help keep wrinkles at bay! Gelatin also contains calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. These minerals help keep skin, hair, bones and nails healthy yet most Americans lack them in their diet. Secondly, gelatin contains an amino acid called glycine which helps increase hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is needed for digestion of food as well as the absorption of nutrients from the food you eat. Therefore gelatin not only helps you digest your food it also increases the nutrients you will be able to obtain from food. Finally, who doesn’t want to eat delicious, natural, nutrient-packed gummies?!

Not all gelatin is the same though. Gelatin comes from animals so buying high quality gelatin is important. I buy Great Lakes Gelatin which comes from grass-fed, humanely raised animals with no added fillers.

Great Lakes has three types of gelatin. The red can which contains bovine (beef) cooked collagen which will be the kind that gels into your wonderful jellos and gummy treats.The orange can which contains porcine (pig) and is the same as the red can except from a different animal. The green can contains collagen hydrolysate which is treated so it does not gel over. You can use this type in any hot or cold liquid and no taste/texture change is noticeable!

Gummy Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup 100% fruit juice or squeeze your own!

3 tablespoons gelatin from the red/orange can

Directions:

Boil fruit juice then wait about 5 minutes for juice to cool slightly. Mix in gelatin slowly! You will get nasty clumps of gelatin if you don’t and I promise it does not taste good. Once gelatin is mixed in, pour into a baking dish, mini-cupcake pan or jello mold and place in fridge until solid.

want more gelatin recipes?

Cafe Latte Gummy Bears

Magnesium Gummies (more to come on the power of magnesium on a restful sleep!)

Chocolate Gelatin Pudding

Fudge Pudding Pops

Lemon Mousse

Homemade Marshmallows

Blueberry Chocolate Gelatin Smoothie

Grain-Free Gelatin Bread

Kombucha Jello

Gelatin Hair Mask

Healthy Low Carbohydrate Swaps

There are 26grams of carbohydrates in a 1 cup of diced potatoes, 43grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of spaghetti noodles and 45grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of rice. But there are only 5grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of diced cauliflower, 3.5grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of diced zucchini and 7grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup of spaghetti squash. Thats a big difference in carbohydrate count. But can you get these low-carb alternatives to taste like your favorite carb-filled dish, you betcha!

Mashed Cauliflower:

1 bag of frozen cauliflower

1 Tablespoon Butter

1/4 cup Milk or Coconut Milk

Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Fill large pot with water and turn on high heat. When water boils add in cauliflower and boil until cauliflower is soft. Drain cauliflower. Put cauliflower, butter and milk in a food processor, blend until creamy. Might need to add more butter or milk until you reach the consistency you like. Salt and pepper and serve with your favorite steak recipe!

You can also add in some garlic, cheese or spinach into the food processor to add additional flavor and nutrients to your mashed cauliflower.

Other Cauliflower Recipes:

Cauliflower Rice

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower Tortillas

Cauliflower Falafel

Cauliflower Bacon and Jalapeño Biscuits

Cauliflower Wraps

Cauliflower Tater-Tots

Cauliflower Hummus

Cauliflower Risotto

Zucchini Noodles:

1 zucchini

Julienne peeler, spiral slicer or knife

Microwave safe bowl

Directions:

Wash zucchini. Slice zucchini into noodle shapes using either julienne peeler, spiral slicer or a good old knife (this takes awhile so be patient). Then put into a microwavable dish with a lid and cook for about a minute and a half. The water released from the zucchini will be enough to cook them like noodles so no need to add anymore water. Don’t over cook or zucchini becomes mushy and don’t work as noodle substitutes.

Spaghetti Squash Noodles:

1 Spaghetti Squash

Oven safe dish or Microwave safe

Directions:

There are two ways to make spaghetti squash. I recommend the oven because it tastes better but the microwave way is faster if you are in a pinch. Slice squash in half the long way. Zap the squash in the microwave to soften it up a bit to make this easier. Then scoop out all seeds.

If using the oven, place halves face down in oven safe baking dish and add a small layer of water. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. When squash if fork soft take out of the oven and let it cool.

If using the microwave, cover with plastic wrap and pop a few holes in it or use a lid slightly cracked off.  Microwave for 5 minutes then test to see if fork soft. Microwave again for another 3 minutes and test again. It normally takes my microwave about 8 minutes to cook a small/medium squash.

When squash is cool enough to handle, use a fork to scrape out insides. Top with favorite sauce and meatballs!

Gorge on Your Greens

Kale. Spinach. Collards. Swiss Chard. Mustard Greens. Turnip Greens. Broccoli. Cabbage. Zucchini. Brussels Sprouts. These are some powerful vegetables filled with fiber, vitamins and minerals that can protect you from heart disease, diabetes and even cancer!

What are in these magical green veggies that make them so awesome?

Kale: Vitamin A, C and K. Calcium. Folate. Potassium. Manganese.

Spinach: Vitamin A and C. Folate. Calcium. Manganese. Magnesium. Iron. (Fun Fact: Heat releases more nutrients in spinach)

Collards: Vitamin A, C and K. Magnesium.Calcium. Folate.

Swiss Chard: Vitamin A, C and K. Magnesium. Copper.

Mustard Greens: Vitamin A, C and K. Folate. Calcium. Potassium.

Turnip Greens: Vitamin A, C and K. Calcium. Folate.

Broccoli: Vitamin A, C and K. Chromium. Folate.

Red/Green Cabbage: Vitamin B6, C and K. Manganese.

Zucchini: Vitamin A, B2, B3 and C. Copper. Manganese.

Brussels Sprouts: Vitamin A, C and K. Folate.

Even though these veggies are packed with amazing nutrients for your body it can be hard to incorporate them into your diet. Most of these green veggies have a unique flavor which can turn a lot of people off or they are unsure of how to cook them.

Three Easy Ways to Get More Greens in Your Diet

  1. Smoothies: Fruit, yogurt, ice, nut butter and a handful of spinach or kale. The fruit covers up the taste of spinach and kale so add a handful then blend, taste and add more until you are satisfied with flavor.
  2. Chop it up! Add any of these greens to meatloaf, spaghetti, scrambled eggs or any other dish by chopping them into very small pieces so the taste is hidden. This is also a great way to sneak veggies into your kids!
  3. When in doubt add bacon: Although I don’t recommend eating veggies and bacon every night it can make for a quick and delicious side dish. Roast these greens with some bacon, sprinkle some salt/pepper and squeeze a bit of lemon on top post-roasting.

Kale Chips Recipe:

My favorite way to eat kale is to make kale chips. Super easy and tastes delicious! There are a million different ways you can spice kale chips so use what you like and get creative! I have used garlic, balsamic vinegar, nutritional yeast, cumin, paprika, taco seasoning and just plain old salt and pepper. The combinations are endless.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Wash and dry your kale (kale must be dry for them to crisp in the oven!)
  3. Chop kale into even sized chunks
  4. Drizzle about a tablespoon of oil on kale and mix with hands (avocado oil or grape seed oil works best!)
  5. Lay kale out on cookie sheet. Make sure kale is flat and aren’t overlapping.
  6. Sprinkle with seasoning of choice (my go to is garlic powder and a little paprika)
  7. Cook for about 10 minutes, might need to rotate sheet depending on oven. Stay close to the oven! Kale chips burn very easily and turn bitter which is gross.
  8. Once out of the oven sprinkle some salt on them and eat!

This recipe is inspired by NomNomPaleo Kale Chip

Need more inspiration?

Here are my favorite recipes so you can incorporate these powerhouse vegetables into your daily diet:

Kale Recipes:

Spinach Recipes:

Collards:

Swiss Chard:

Mustard Greens:

Turnip Greens:

Broccoli:

Red/Green Cabbage:

Zucchini:

Brussels Sprouts:

Easy Healthy Snacks

I am a snacker. I know this. I also know if I am not prepared for my snack attack I will be a vending machine junkie. White cheddar cheese puffs get me every time. So in attempts to be a healthy snacker I try to keep my kitchen stocked with easy and quick foods that I can grab on my way to work, school or when I get home.

To keep myself full and satisfied longer I try to make sure my snack fulfills three requirements.

  1. Protein: keeps you fuller longer and stabilizes blood sugar levels
    • deli meat
    • hardboiled egg (yes, the whole egg! Lots of protein and heathy fat in the yolk)
    • tuna
    • rotisserie chicken
    • steak
    • chicken breast
  2. Carbs: support brain function and activity level
    • fruit (berries, kiwi, apples, grapefruit, bannans)
    • veggies (zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, spinach, cucumbers)
    • plantain chips (from Trader Joe’s in purple package with money on it)
  3. Fats: slow burning energy source and help to absorb fat soluble vitamins
    • nuts
    • avocado
    • mayo
    • butter
    • cream cheese
    • sour cream
    • coconut oil/flakes

I look at my snacks like mini-meals. By doing so I know my body is getting a complete burst of nutrients to keep me going until my next meal. I also know if I incorporate these three things into my snack I am less likely to get extremely hangery or get so hungry I stop off at Boomers and get three burgers and some fries. The most important thing when planning a snack is making sure you pack what you like. I hate mushrooms so if I put that into my snack I am most likely going to toss them and walk to the vending machine for delicious puffs of cheese. On the other hand, I love orange bell peppers so I am satisfied eating those over junk food.

Preparation is key to successful snack packs. My Sundays and Thursdays are my least busy days so I plan to do most of my food prep on these days. I make sure my veggies are sliced, sweet potatoes are cooked, eggs are boiled, tuna is mixed and then package all these things into bags and containers. Invest in a good set of glass containers with a secure lid and your snack life with be a breeze.

Examples of my staple to go snacks are:

  • 2 hard boiled eggs mixed with pickles and mayo with a side of plantain chips
  • Steak/chicken breast and banana/apple with some almond butter
  • Deli meat wrapped in lettuce with mashed sweet potatoes mixed with coconut oil or butter
  • Tuna mixed with avocado and diced veggies with plantain chips

There are countless mixtures of snacks you can put together. Find ones that you enjoy and make it a habit to pack them. You will be surprised by how much more energy you have when you eat a snack that is well rounded instead of a vending machine meal.

Do you have a favorite snack? Post your snack creations in the comment section!