Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

Happy Wednesday! First, I want to thank everyone who texted me, commented on the blog or my Instagram post, or reached out in any other way about my blog post last week. I was nervous to post it but also felt so relieved to share all that and get it all out there. I want my blog to be a positive space and I look forward to sharing much more about intuitive eating and body love in the future. I also want to post more about personal life stuff since I used to do that a lot more! Life isn’t JUST about food, right?!

Yet here I am with a recipe 😉 I know it’s summertime and all you want is cool, refreshing foods, but this is a great comfort meal for any time of the year! It was so easy and has a lot of flavor. It also made a ton so it’s a great freezer meal for busy days when you don’t have time to cook. The original recipe also gives a vegetarian option of using all chickpeas instead of chicken – I might have to try that next time!

Crock Pot Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted from: fANNEtastic food

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen spinach
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. garam masala
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 15-oz can of coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • Brown rice or naan, yogurt to top (optional)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a crock pot and stir. Cook on low for 7-8 hours.
  2. Serve over brown rice or with naan. Top with plain yogurt and extra spice if desired!

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Why Gaining Weight Has Made Me Happier Than Ever

I’ve been mentally writing this post for awhile now, ready to share some big changes in my life that have occurred recently, yet have been a looong time in the making. You probably read the title of this and thought, “Huh? Isn’t this a healthy recipe blog? Why are you talking about feelings and gaining weight?” The truth is, I want this blog to go in new directions. I want to share delicious recipes, many of which are certainly full of healthy, good-for-you ingredients. Yet I also want to spread a message of eating what your body craves, what you WANT to eat – rather than what you think you SHOULD eat due to diets, calories, or any other reasoning.

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I am going to start by saying that I clearly have not always been thinking this way about food. When I started this blog about 3 years ago, I wanted to share my love for nutrition with my newfound passion for making “lightened-up” recipes. At that point in my life, I had lost weight after college by eating “healthier” (but really just low-calorie) and exercising. I had pretty low levels of stress in my life at that time and I threw all my energy into making myself the smallest, skinniest version of myself that I could be.

At the time, this behavior seemed normal to me. I substituted all my favorite foods with the lower-calorie, lower-fat, lower-FLAVOR version. If it wasn’t “light” or “whole grain” or “low-fat” I probably wasn’t eating it. I worked out at least 6 days per week and counted calories using a tracking app. I based all of my self-worth on comments from others about my “dedication,” my thinner body, my ability to say no to dessert. I was going to school to become a dietitian, so I had all of the science and knowledge to “know” how to eat well. To others, it seemed like I was doing everything right.

But this is what my life was really like. I remember eating Oreo Thins one night because I only had about 60 calories left that day and they were less calories than an apple (clearly nutrition was NOT the priority). I once took diet pills, which were banned by the FDA for containing a powerful stimulant, because they reduced my appetite  and made me proud of being able to go until 1 pm without feeling hungry (yup, I risked heart problems to lose weight). I said no to gatherings or dinner with friends because I had my own food prepared, which was already calculated into my daily calorie allowance (my social life took a backseat to food and my obsession with controlling it).

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Over time, I let up on this rigidity as other stresses entered my life – work became more demanding, I started a rigorous graduate program, I moved into my own apartment. In this new season of my life, the opposite behaviors started happening. I began binge eating at night and when I was alone. After being gone all day at work or school, that became my one time to relax, and I began to equate relaxing with eating. At gatherings with lots of “unhealthy” foods, I would eat as if I had never ate before, stuffing myself until I was wayyy past the point of uncomfortably full. Eating became an emotional thing and not a nourishing thing. I would wake every morning thinking, “Today I’ll be good.” Inevitably, something would be “bad,” and I’d be ending the day with a binge. How could I change this mentality of all or nothing?

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Fast-forward to today, where I finally feel like I am comfortable in my own skin and food no longer rules my life, due to either restriction or overeating. I eat what I crave and what my body wants; sometimes this is pizza, sometimes this is a salad, sometimes this is chips and salsa for dinner. If I say no to dessert, it’s because I’m full or don’t want any, not because I “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have it. I go out to eat and enjoy whatever on the menu sounds good to me, without checking the menu ahead of time or looking up calorie counts. This has been a long journey, but one that was SO worth the wait. I want to share a few things that have helped me get to this place, in the hope that it can help someone else out there who can relate to my story.

Hot and Healthy Habits: This group has been LIFE CHANGING for me. I blogged years ago about being part of the Amanda Adams Bikini Body program. Basically, that program had the same transformation I did: “Here is what you should eat and how you should exercise,” “But I still don’t feel happy,” “Wait this is a diet and diets don’t work,” “Let’s change the thinking to be about healthy habits and loving yourself versus control over food.” I went to the retreat in Nashville last month and it was exactly the amazing, mind-blowing experience I hoped it would be. Hearing from speakers who embrace themselves, regardless of size, and preach the anti-diet message was beyond eye-opening. I met friends from all over the country and have new role models to inspire me daily. My favorite quote from the retreat was, “Your weight is the least interesting thing about you.” Can I get an amen?? Click here to learn more and read about next year’s retreat!

Intuitive Eating: This is something I have only started recently but it has seriously changed the way I think about food and the emotions that are often behind eating. Intuitive eating is not just about eating whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s about listening to what your body wants, stopping when you feel full, and really enjoying the eating experience. Basically, going back to the way you ate as a kid, before society and dieting and all that other crap got in the way. I recommend that everyone read the Intuitive Eating book if you’re interested in learning more about it!

Surround Yourself With Positivity: As I have gone through this journey, I had to make sure I surrounded myself with positive influences. That meant purging my social media to unfollow people promoting diets, people posting about “cheat meals,” people praising the “no pain no gain” mentality in regards to workouts, all of that. It also meant distancing myself from unhealthy relationships, removing myself from diet conversations, and moving my body in ways I love (not just because I need to burn calories). One great blogger to follow is Robyn at The Real Life RD…she discusses intuitive eating, what dietitians REALLY eat, why your weight doesn’t matter, and she’s just so down to earth – I love following her stories and her journey. I have also been trying to be an anti-diet gladiator myself by changing conversations to ENCOURAGE people to enjoy food, to love their bodies, and to make their weight the least interesting thing about them. It’s hard, but an important task that I try to work on every chance I get.

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So if you’ve read through this, I wish I could give you a hug or a cupcake or whatever for sticking with me as I describe why I want this blog to change. I want to encourage people to eat what they WANT, what tastes GOOD, what the body CRAVES. As a future RD, I am excited to preach the intuitive eating, Health At Every Size way of viewing food. Food should be enjoyed, and I for one can’t wait to keep cooking and sharing with you all. As hard as it is to get out of my comfort zone and post this, it really is important to me that I be honest and open with everyone while hopefully starting some new conversations! So to go back to the title of this post: yes, I have gained weight (although I don’t weigh myself) and I am now the happiest I have been in a LONG time. Cheers to a life free of obsession and full of sequins and sushi 😉

Baked Avocado Egg

I haven’t been able to blog in months due to school and life taking over, but it’s time for me to make a comeback! I’ve been making recipes that I’m excited to share now that I have (a little) more time. I enjoy being able to share my story and my recipes with you all, so I hope you enjoy reading these posts as well!

Since I last posted, I am excited to share that I was accepted to a dietetic internship! I will be starting my time as an intern in August, and while I am nervous to stop working full-time, I am also excited to immerse myself into my future profession full-time. Time to begin the last step towards becoming a registered dietitian!

On to this recipe…I have seen these baked avocado eggs and they look almost too pretty to eat. I love avocado toast with an egg, so I figured why not have the egg and avocado baked together? You can eat these right as they are, or scoop out and put on toast, which is what I did. I topped these with just salt and pepper after baking, but you could top with bacon, cheese, veggies, anything!

Avocado Baked Egg

Ingredients:

  • 1 avocado, halved and pit removed
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper
  • toppings!

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Slice avocado in half, remove pit, and scoop a little extra flesh out of the holes (if they are small). Set avocado halves into a small baking dish or ramekin so that they stay upright.
  2. Carefully crack an egg into each avocado half; some of the whites might spill over into the baking dish. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the egg is cooked.
  3. Remove from oven and top with desired toppings. Eat as-is or spread over toast, roasted veggies, etc!

Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

It’s winter and that means COMFORT FOOD. All day every day. I love mac and cheese and I love buffalo, so…ta da! Buffalo chicken mac and cheese it is. I found this recipe which was “lightened-up” but I tweaked it a bit based on my tastes and what I had in the kitchen. It turned out to be delicious, easy, and made about 8 servings, so I could eat plenty!

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Buffalo Chicken Mac and Cheese

Adapted from: Prevention RD

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups dry whole wheat pasta
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp ranch dressing (or ranch dip mix)
  • Garlic powder and dried dill, to taste
  • 1 cup Mexican blend cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ⅔ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 lb cooked chicken, cooked and shredded
  • ¼ cup panko

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet (I used a Dutch oven) over medium heat. Once hot, add flour and stir, then add milk and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, stir in hot sauce, ranch, garlic and dill, and shredded cheeses. Mix until cheese melts; remove from heat and stir in the yogurt, mixing well. Mix in cooked pasta and shredded chicken.
  3. Transfer pasta to a greased baking dish and top with panko [I ended up needing an 13 x 9 AND a 9 x 9 pan because it made a lot!] Bake for 20-30 minutes or until bubbly. Broil for 1-2 minutes or until panko is browned.

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

Welcome to the enchilada casserole – the perfect busy girl’s Mexican comfort meal. By turning the enchiladas into a casserole, you save tons of time that you would have spent rolling each enchilada individually and can better use that time to do homework, do your hair, vacuum the living room….all those things I wish I had more time to do. Basically you take all the ingredients, layer them in a baking dish, and throw it in the oven. So easy and relatively mess-free. This is also a great vegetarian meal; since it’s so hearty and filling, you won’t even miss the meat! But don’t worry, there’s plenty of cheese. You always need cheese. 🙂

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Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Casserole

Adapted from: Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 20 oz enchilada sauce
  • 18 small corn tortillas
  • 1 1/4 lbs butternut squash, peeled and sliced into small cubes
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can green chilis, diced (not drained)
  • 3 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • Salsa, hot sauce, and sour cream for toppings, if desired

Directions:

1.) Heat oven to 375 F. Spread 1 cup of the enchilada sauce in the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish and top with 6 tortillas, evenly spaced (might overlap). Top with one more cup of the sauce, a third of the squash, a third of the beans, and 1 cup of the cheese, spreading all evenly. Repeat this layering two more times, saving the final cup of cheese. The baking dish might be full but that’s ok!

2.) Cover with foil and bake for one hour or until squash is tender. Then uncover, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese, and broil for about 2 minutes or until cheese is bubbling. Let stand for about 15 minutes before serving, then top with desired toppings.

Pork Chops with Herb Goat Cheese Butter and Asparagus

So confession time: this is the first time I have cooked both pork chops AND asparagus. I really have no explanation for why I’ve never cooked either, other than that I always thought pork chops were nothing special and asparagus seemed too hard to cook (I know, I know, lame excuses here). But this recipe looked too good not to try! And I found asparagus on sale and decided they would be the perfect side for my (hopefully-they-turn-out-well) pork chops. Everything was so good and also so easy. This recipe will definitely be on repeat!

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Pork Chops with Herb Goat Cheese Butter and Asparagus

Adapted from: Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • 3 boneless pork chops, about 1 lb.
  • Desired pork seasonings – I used adobo, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and salt and pepper
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 400 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and layer asparagus evenly, ends trimmed. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

 2.) While asparagus is baking, combine butter, thyme, lemon juice, goat cheese, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

3.) Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle one side of pork chops with desired seasonings and place pork, seasoning side down, in the skillet. Let cook for 3 minutes and season the uncooked side, then turn pork over. Cook for about 4 minutes and remove from pan.

4.) Top each pork chop with 1/3 of the goat cheese butter and serve with a side of asparagus.

Crock Pot Burrito Bowls

Nothing better than a burrito bowl! This is a super easy recipe too, since the chicken, corn, and bean mixture is made right in the crock pot. That way you can come home from work, make some quick-cooking rice, and build this bowl in less than 15 minutes. It’s also great for packing for lunches during the week! Customize it with whatever toppings you love and enjoy a quick and filling Mexican meal.

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Crock Pot Burrito Bowls

Adapted from: Skinnytaste Fast and Slow

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups medium chunky salsa
  • 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper
  • 2 tbsp cilantro

Directions:

1.) Season the chicken with salt and add it to the crock pot. Top with the salsa, corn, black beans, garlic powder, cumin, and red pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 8 hours.

2.) Once cooked, shred the chicken and add the cilantro. Pile into bowls on top of brown rice and top with any desired toppings.