Chicken and Squash Garlic Alfredo

When it comes to pasta, a creamy garlic alfredo with roasted tomatoes & chicken has always been my favorite. I don’t tend to indulge in such dishes during the week. When you’re awake and moving from 5am-10pm, you don’t want a majority of your calories to be consumed in one meal and, well, I don’t want to have to reduce the serving size. So, this weekend I decided to alter a classic take on pasta alfredo by using spaghetti squash instead of pasta, and I used half & half instead of heavy cream. Of course, nervous that it wouldn’t be as delicious, I dove into the process and to my serious surprise ABSOLUTELY LOVED the outcome! Now I, and you, can enjoy this yummy alternative ANY day of the week!

Follow my process with the slideshow & more detailed instructions below!

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5 Tips for a Healthy Holiday

border1It’s a given. We’re in a gluttonous season–the holidays! For many, a topic of conversation surrounding the holidays is the food at the dinner table. And, if your family is anything like my family, we tend to think about what we will be snacking on while we do the cooking, what we’ll indulge in for dessert, and how to ensure we have left overs for the following day. Yes, of course there’s so much meaning behind the holidays we are celebrating & so much to be thankful for during this time! Nonetheless, the food is part of what we look forward to, and frankly, that’s not going to change. But, if we took a look at statistics concerning this season, we would discover that an average person spends an average of $805 during the holidays, consumes an average of 4,500 calories during Thanks Giving alone(!), and gains an average of 7 to 10 pounds by January. These are pretty frightening facts! Especially if you find that adding pounds is easier than shedding them. However, instead of living & accepting the unhealthy consequences of our gluttony, we should plan on working on a few healthy habits during this time so we can enjoy the season, but easily get back on track. You might have a plan on how to tackle this season without regret, but just incase check out my 5 tips below.

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  1. Keep a journal. Keeping a visual log of the foods you consume a day allows you to recognize what you are over consuming. Don’t keep this log on the actual holiday (my gift to you) but do keep a log all other days!
  2. Don’t skip meals but skip a snack. Don’t completely cut too many calories from your diet because you need all the nutrients you can get. We also want your metabolism to keep moving. If you know you can afford to cut one snack from your everyday routine then this will not harm you. Know that 1lb = 3,500 calories. Lets say you cut a 150-200 calories snack from your every day diet. Thats 1,050-1400 cut calories in a week and from now to January thats 7,350-9,800 cut calories, which would save you 2-3lbs!
  3. Make better carb choices! Carbs are what fuel us, so we need them. But if you’re looking to maintain during the holidays try to avoid starchy carbs or carbs higher in the glycemic index (sweets, pastas, breads, potatoes, rice, etc.). These carbs are higher in sugar, which cause your body to store more fat on your body if you’re not active. Stick to nuts, fruits, and veggies as these are lower in GI and calories.
  4. Make sure you stay active. Workout at least 2-3 hours per week. To keep you moving on the day of your event, try to enjoy a game of football or set up a competitive WII sports or dance game with your family!
  5. Tell someone. It can be a challenge to change habits we’re used to, but telling someone we trust will hold us accountable. You could even join a fitness class with a friend or set up a wager, where you might put money into a pot— the one who stays committed earns the pot of money.

With one week away from the official start of the season, it’s unrealistic to change too many habits in your life. But, one new change at a time could determine whether you get the most out of the holidays, without a negative reflecting on your health.  So keep up the work and remember, “The moment when you want to quit, is the moment when you need to keep pushing!” – (Unknown)

Happy Holidays! – Jas😉

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Works Cited
Allen, Kathy Grannis. “The Long and Short of America’s Consumer Holidays.” National Retail Federation. NRF, 01 May 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
Parker-Pope, Tara. “The Skinny on Holiday Weight Gain.” Well The Skinny on Holiday Weight Gain Comments. NYTimes, 22 Nov. 2007. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.
“Stuff the Bird, Not Yourself.” Calorie Control Council. Calorie Control Council, 03 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2015.

A Healthy Alternative to White Rice

Being of Puerto Rican descent, it’s sad that I can count in one hand the amount of times I’ve had rice in the past 3 months. I don’t mean to generalize or stereotype the Puerto Rican menu, but growing up we had rice all the time (like every day! haha)! In recent years, as most of you already know, I’ve been very careful about the starches I eat. One of those being rice. So I don’t always include it in our weekly menu (unless it’s for my husband). Of course it’s ok in moderation. Like when I hear that my pops made a pot of arroz con habichuelas guisadas (rice and stewed beans), it definitely takes me back to those childhood home cooked meals, and I WANT! So, I will have it on the occasion when I’m over my parent’s house for dinner or at an outing with friends. But like I said, I can count in one hand how many times I’ve had it in the past 3 months.

Now, when I do make rice at home, I use brown rice. But I also recommend quinoa or barley. White rice gets stripped of much of its nutritional value during processing. These alternatives are packed with fiber, protein (quinoa providing complete amino acids), iron, potassium and many more essential vitamins and minerals. But, if you’re a snacker like me, your carbs probably add up pretty quickly throughout the day. And if you’re moderating the starches you eat, then sometimes brown rice or quinoa aren’t even on the list of options.

Lucky for me, I’ve been able to find a substitute that is lower in carb calories & I’m able to now include similar childhood dishes EVERYDAY (if I wanted😉 )! How? By making my rice out of Cauliflower! I know what you’re thinking…Cauliflower? That veggie that has also been used by many bloggers to make pizza crust, which for certain could never ever replace a Chicago deep dish from Giordanos or Lou Malnatis! So how could it replace rice? I know. I know. But I wouldn’t be writing a blog if I didn’t enjoy it! Seriously, if you’re ever looking for a lower carb/lower calorie alternative to white rice, this is it! In my opinion, when I pair my cauliflower rice with beans, it tastes the way our traditional rice dishes did growing up, which definitely gave it two dumbs up! Will I still eat my dads rice, yeah! But have I found a substitute I can enjoy more often? For sure!

How to make your own Cauliflower Rice:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Clean & rinse a head of cauliflower, and cut off the florets.
  3. Blend the florets in a food processor until they’re rice like. Make sure you check it every few seconds to avoid it getting too mushy or creamy.
  4. Layer it onto a non-stick baking sheet or aluminum foil. Make sure you spread it across evenly.
  5. Place the cauliflower spread into the oven for 10 min. Mix it around, re-layer it, and place it back in the over for another 10.
  6. Once complete, pair it with your favorite sides and store the rest in the fridge! Enjoy😉

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Meal Prep Creativity With FitMenCook

Like many of you, I find that sticking to the same old “chicken and veggies” prep can get boring. So this weekend, it was definitely time to find some new recipes to add to our home menu.  So, I put my new FitMenCook application (app.) to work! I quickly scrolled through the recipes, found two new recipes that I believed I could manage without going over the grocery budget, “Sweet Potato Lasagna Meal Prep”  &  “Budget Spicy Turkey Chili,” and headed to the grocery store.

The app. was definitely easy to use as I could take it with me to the store. Each recipe provides the ingredient list, instructions, and nutrition breakdown. One can easily select the “add to shopping” button, where the app. will then add the recipe’s ingredient list to a separate shopping list. So, if one were shopping for more than one recipe, all ingredients could be found on one list & each ingredient could easily be “checked off”. The app. further separates the ingredients by isle or recipe for an easy find at the grocery store!

While following the steps to recreate these dishes, the instructions were very easy to follow. It’s cool that Kevin adds his own warnings about certain items. For example, being careful with sodium content in foods and pushing for the purchase of BPA containers–details that some might not naturally pay mind to. Also, for those who aren’t so keen on reading every detail, or might just be confused by the steps, the app. provides very short videos with the basics to recreate each recipe.

While planning for these meals for my own family, I did substitute some items, so I’ll quickly provide my take on them.

The first recipe was based off Kevin’s “Sweet Potato Lasagna Meal Prep.”
IMG_9975This recipe calls for lean ground turkey, but you can definitely use ground chicken or ground beef. I opted for the beef since Eric is not a fan of turkey & I wanted to get away from “chicken, chicken, chicken.”😉

To season, I simply used salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of thyme & oregano.

Instead of using cottage cheese, I used what I had: plain greek yogurt. This did not affect the overall flavor as Eric literally cleaned his plate!  YAY!

Instead of sautéing a red onion w/ garlic paste, I used what I had: yellow onion, garlic clove, and a tbsp. of olive oil. I sautéed these together before adding the meat (just like the original recipe).


I built the lasagna & baked as instructed in the FitMenCook app. It was sooooo yummy & like I said, ERIC CLEANED HIS PLATE! Those close to him know he’s a picky eater, so the unexpected “this was good!” without having to ask (or inspect his plate out of the corner of my eye) was a relief and gave this recipe a guaranteed spot on our menu! =)
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The second recipe we decided to try was the “Budget Spicy Turkey Chili,” except we chose to make it a “Budget Spicy Chicken Chili.”

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As mentioned, we opted for ground chicken since Eric doesn’t like turkey & I’m also not too keen on the flavor of ground turkey.

To season the meat, the recipe calls for ground cumin, smoked paprika, onion powder, cayenne pepper, pepper, garlic powder, ground coriander, and a packet of McCormick Chili Seasoning Blend (low sodium). Woah! I read this and said, “Wow…great…interesting…I have a few of these at home, but naaaaa’ no thank you!” So, I opted for a simple gluten-free chili mix I found at the grocery store.

To cook, I added a tbsp of olive oil to my cooking pan, the meat, the gluten free mix, diced onions, and diced jalapeños.

Once the meat is fully cooked, add in the tomatoes, tomato sauce (organic is only about 50cents extra & worth it), black beans (Chicagoans, I found cans of organic for $1 at Mariano’s), and steamed corn (I always get frozen veggies from Target as they’re $1 a bag, but bulk bags also help the budget). Let it all cook for an extra 10 min & done!

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Once served, we garnished ours with greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), a bit of cheese, and slices of avocado. We also chose a side of plantain chips for an alternative to crackers. Delish!

Prepped for days!

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I recommend trying a new dish this month! This app. is definitely worth the $2 price and very helpful–especially for those who are new to cleaner eating and prep work. BTW, don’t forget to hashtag & share your final products. -Jas😉

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Time to Get Yo’ Shake On!

If you logged your meals into an online food journal like MyFitnessPal, would your daily intake exhibit a balanced diet? Are you intaking enough carbohydrates to fuel your energy demands; fat to support cell signaling & the absorption of nutrients; and are you intaking enough protein to aid in muscle growth and repair? If you are, then YIPPE! HIP HIP HOOORAY!

But, what if your intake is not as balanced as you thought? From experience, I’ve learned that the dialogue post journaling usually includes one of these responses:

  • I already eat 3 meals a day, how do I squeeze another?
  • I’m not big on breakfast.
  • I’m never home, have no time to make balanced meals, so usually grab food or snacks while out (that aren’t usually the healthiest), so how can I fit nutrition into such a busy lifestyle?
  • I don’t like vegetables.
  • Will a protein supplement make me fat?
  • I don’t want to drink protein because I’m allergic to cow milk or simply don’t like it.

My go to answer: Make a Super Shake!

What is a Super Shake? It was introduced to me by the Precision Nutrition coaching system. You simply add what you’re lacking — carb (veggie or fruit), protein (powder or yogurt), healthy fat (nuts, chia seeds, flax, etc)— into a blender with other added ingredients and make a yummy shake!

  • With a Super Shake, one can either replace a meal that might not provide much balance or nutrients. You can have half of the shake as a snack today and the rest tomorrow or as your second snack (if needed).
  • You can easily grab your shake and go to work or run urgent errands.
  • You can add kale or spinach and mask the flavor or texture by blending it with fruit, yogurt, milk, & a protein powder.
  • If you’re allergic to cow milk or don’t like it, simply add tea, water, or use an alternative like coconut milk, soy, or almond. If you’re allergic to whey protein (milk based) or don’t like it, try a vegan/plant based protein powder, rice protein, egg protein, etc.
  • And no, a protein powder will not make you fat! It’s a supplement. You are protein. Your organs, hair, skin, nails are all made of proteins. Protein is needed for normal bodily functions, replaces old cells, are used as transporters in the body, and will help with protein synthesis (growth and repair of muscles). If your body needs protein just to live, but you’re not taking enough to even supply this demand, how do you expect your body to also grow lean mass?

Need a step by step guide? Check out this cool Super Shake infographic provided by Precision Nutrition!

Want to read more about the Super Shake? Check out these related links:

Lastly, two recipes following the PN Super Shake Guide to get you started! 

No more excuses. I know this recommendation will help you progress within your fit journey, so get your ingredients, blender, etc., & start SHAKING!!!! =)

-Jas😉

**Please note, this is not juicing. I am not encouraging you to replace all meals and snacks with a shake or juice. This is just a remedy to ensure you are intaking adequate amounts of macro and micronutrients, if not supplied through your whole food meals & snacks.

Simple (slightly dirty) Desserts for Valentines Day!

I have to admit, Valentines Day is definitely one of my favorite holidays! Call me cheesy, but it comes with so much love!!! And it shouldn’t be limited to a holiday shared between you and your partner. If you’re single, you can still enjoy Valentines Day! My husband (although he surprises me with flowers & a gift every year) absolutely hates it. But, I simply cannot pass up a time to tell a friend or family member how much they mean to me. In college, my sister and I would (seriously!) bake for hours and deliver cookies to family & friends at school and back home. So, use the week to show some love to at least 1 person. It can be a note, email, food/sweet treat, a complement or a kind gesture. While you’re at it, please treat yourself to some of the clean but dirty treats I’ll be posting throughout the week! You deserve it😉

avocadodip

mugcake

strawberrybanna

lavacake

Much Love,

Jasmin

***What do I mean by Dirty? Well, some might think clean means healthy, therefore, they can OVER ( I mean over over) indulge. Enjoy these semi-cleaner😉 treats but know (like all desserts) they still come with calories.