Crispy Carnitas

Since I made this the first time a couple weeks ago, I haven't stopped telling my friends and clients they need to try it. The meat is juicy and flavorful, making you feel like you're eating out at a Mexican restaurant, without all the grease. 

It feeds a large group, and keeps well if you’re like me and plan to re-heat it throughout the week for lunches. Throw into a corn tortilla for tacos, or serve it bowl-style with rice, beans or lettuce. Top with cilantro for an extra fresh twist, and throw green chilis into the crockpot for a kick. Recipe adapted from @FeedingTheFrasers.

Ingredients:

4lbs pork butt or shoulder

3-4 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried cumin

½ cup sweet onion, diced

4 teaspoons minced garlic (or 8 cloves, smashed)

2 limes, juiced

2 large oranges, 1 juiced and 1 sliced

Directions:

  1. In the slow cooker, add pork, salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, onion, garlic, lime juice and orange juice

  2. Cover and cook on low heat setting for 8-10 hours, or high heat for 5-6 hours (until meat is falling apart)

  3. Remove pork and shred with two forks (keep the liquid!)

  4. Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add pork in batches of two or three, and sear until just beginning to crisp. Pour about ½ cup of leftover liquid onto meat in pan, and continue cooking until the juices reduce down and the meat is crispy.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Recipe: Summertime Fiesta Bowl, Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice

This dish is easy, super satisfying and tastes like a summertime fiesta in your kitchen. Oh, did I mention it’s ridiculously easy?

This serves 2-3 people with big appetites, and there’s about 3/4lb chicken left that will store great in the fridge to pair with regular rice, quinoa, sweet potato, beans or a salad for quick meals later in the week. Score!

Cilantro Lime Chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)

  • 1 packet taco seasoning mix (I used Casa Fiesta)

  • 1 16 oz jar salsa (use your favorite; I used Sprouts brand classic mild)

  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Juice from two fresh squeezed limes

Instructions

  1. In your slow cooker, place the chicken breasts first, and top with taco seasoning.

  2. Top with salsa, lime juice and cilantro.

  3. Put lid on top and cook for about 4 hours on high, or 6-7 hours on low.

  4. Move chicken to a bowl, and shred with two forks. Pour a small amount of juice from the slow cooker on the chicken to add moisture, based on preference.

  5. Set aside to put on top of Fiesta Lime Rice (below), or enjoy by itself or on top of a salad - yum!

Nutrition: Per 4oz - 8g carb, 2g fat, 24.4g protein (149 calories) and high in Iron.

Fiesta Lime Rice

Ingredients

  • 1 package Uncle Ben’s Jasmine Ready Rice (90 second microwave kind, SO easy! You also can use dry rice, you’ll need about 1-½ cup cooked)

  • ½ cup canned black beans, rinsed and heated

  • ¾ cup cooked corn (I grilled mine, but you can also get the frozen steamable kind!)

  • 1 small-medium tomato (diced)

  • ½ cup chopped bell peppers

  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro

  • Juice from one fresh squeezed lime

  • Salt to taste

Directions

Toss all ingredients in a bowl, stir, and serve warm.

*If you made the chicken, mix in with rice and enjoy! Any lean protein mixed in with this rice would be delicious. Other good toppings or mix-ins could be shredded cabbage, avocado, sour cream, onions, jalapeños and/or cheese.

Nutriton: Per 100g rice - 20g carb, .7g fat, 3.2g protein (98 calories), and high in vitamin C and Potassium. 

If you need help tracking these recipes in MFP, check out my step-by-step guide here.

 

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Recipe: You won't believe how easy (and delicious!) this spaghetti squash is

It's no secret I love spaghetti squash. In a previous blog post, I wrote about the health benefits and basically why it rocks, so check it out if you haven't already. This recipe is my latest take on the versatile vegetable, and it's easily now one of my favorites. With the perfect amount of flavor, it's a staple side or base to a main dish.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Salt

  • Black pepper

  • 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots

  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

  2. Cut spaghetti squash length-wise and scrape the seeds out with a spoon

  3. Brush the inside of the squash halves with 1 tbsp oil (1/2 tbsp each) and season generously with salt and pepper

  4. Place the halves face up on a baking sheet for about 30 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork. Then, remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to touch.

  5. Use a fork to scrape the inside of the squash, creating spaghetti-like strands. Set aside.

  6. Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and shallots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until lightly brown (about 3 minutes).

  7. Turn off heat, add cheese and reserved spaghetti squash to the pan. Use tongs to evenly coat.

  8. Enjoy!

Note: If you want to use this as a main course instead of a side dish, just add protein! Ground turkey, lean ground beef, chicken sausage, shrimp, salmon or chicken (grilled, baked, rotisserie) are all great options.

To have extras for later and/or use as the base of a meal, consider cooking 2 spaghetti squashes at the same time.

Nutrition: Per serving (about 1/4 of recipe): 3g carb, 3g protein, 8g fat - 96 calories

Recipe: Turkey Stuffed Peppers

I tend to keep my cooking pretty easy by focusing on rotating between a few staple items and mixing things up with spice and flavorful, nutrient-dense complimentary ingredients. For more on my simplistic approach, check out my meal prep strategy here. But in this case, it was a chilly evening and I was feeling creative, so I decided to try something new in the kitchen and it did not disappoint. These turkey stuffed peppers are full of flavor, perfectly satisfying and packed with wholesome goodness. Give them a try, and let me know what you think!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb 99% lean ground turkey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped 
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 large red bell peppers
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • Nonstick spray
  • 6 tbsp shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Lightly coat medium skillet with nonstick spray and turn to medium heat.
  3. Add onion, garlic and cilantro to pan and sauté about 2 minutes
  4. Add ground turkey, salt, garlic powder and cumin to pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until meat is cooked through.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of chicken broth to pan, mix well and simmer on low for about 5 minutes.
  6. Combine cooked rice and meat together.
  7. Cut the bell peppers in half lengthwise, and remove all seeds. Spoon 2/3 cup meat mixture into each pepper half and place in a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Top each with 1 tbsp cheese.
  8. Pour the remainder of the chicken broth on the bottom of the pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 45 minutes.
  9. Be careful when removing the foil. Let cool for a few minutes before eating, and enjoy! 

Nutrition:

1 serving = half a pepper, makes 6 servings. Per serving: 30.4g carb, 24.2g protein, 4.5g fat | 259 calories

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Healthy Hot Chocolate Recipe

Hot chocolate is a crowd favorite this time of year, and whether you’re bundled up at home or out looking at Christmas lights, the smooth, sweet flavor quickly warms your heart and hands.

A tall hot chocolate from Starbucks traditionally made (with 2% milk) packs 320 calories (39g carb/13g fat/11g protein), and made with almond milk it has 250 calories (33g carb/12g fat/4g protein). And both have about 30 grams of sugar - yikes!

Don’t miss out on this seasonal staple, make it at home to save calories and money. This recipe requires only four main ingredients and takes less than five minutes to prepare. Nutrition before topping options: 64 calories per serving (5g carb/3.5g fat/7.5g protein).

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tbsp collagen protein*

8 drops vanilla creme stevia or 2 regular stevia packets

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a small saucepan and whisk together until cocoa powder is mixed well. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently for a few minutes until hot. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!

Topping ideas:

  • Ground cinnamon is a great option -- 1 tbsp has only 3 calories (1g carb/0g fat/0g protein) and adds just a hint of Christmas spirit.

  • Top with 2 tbsp whipped cream for only 15 cals (1g carb/1g fat/0g protein).

  • To make peppermint hot cocoa, add 3 drops pure peppermint extract and break half a candy cane into pieces and sprinkle on top of finished drink, adds 25 cals (6.5g carb/0g fat/0g protein).

  • Chocolate lovers rejoice! Cocoa nibs have delicious flavor and great texture, and 1 tbsp is only 60 cals (3g carb/5g fat/1g protein) -- sprinkle on top or mix and melt in.

  • A classic: mini marshmallows, just 15 grams gets the job done for 45 cals (11.5g carb/0g fat/0g protein).

Notes:

You can also use cashew milk (a little creamier than almond) or coconut milk based on preference.

*Collagen protein is beef based (non-dairy). It is flavorless and dissolves in water, so be cautious if substituting for a different protein powder.

Sources:

Various nutrition facts may vary based on brand. Starbucks information from their website