Black Bean Brownies (GF)

A lot of people try gluten-free or vegan treats as a healthier alternative to desserts and sweet treats. I don’t know if it makes them healthier, but it’s good practice for friends and family with food allergies or dietary restrictions. I made brownies for a coworker, so another coworker requested an additional pan of black bean brownies. The idea is that the beans make the ingredients “stick” instead of flour. It’s a gluten-free option that keeps the brownies moist.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×8 baking dish.

2. Place all ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth. Scrape the batter into the baking dish and level the top.

 

 

Honestly there’s nothing easier than shoving everything into a food processor. If you’d like, taste it and see if it needs a bit more cocoa.

3. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top of the batter. Bake for 25-27 min.

4. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

If you don’t let them sit, they’ll be too soft to cut and just fall apart.

Final Thoughts: This was a 50-50 dessert. It’s easier to make than regular brownies, plus it’s gluten-free with extra protein! While I enjoyed the dense texture, it’s obvious it’s made with beans. About half of the people who tried mine really disliked them. The other half went crazy for them! To each their own, I guess. Which one do you guys like better – regular or black bean brownies?

Yakisoba-Style Spaghetti Squash

Yakisoba is a Japanese fried noodle dish that I became familiar with at a neighborhood restaurant called Tomo’s (meaning Friend’s). In high school, I ate there as often as I could. Most often I would order chicken or beef yakisoba. I was practically obsessed with the crunchy vegetables with the soy sauce and sesame-flavored noodles.

Recently I stumbled upon a recipe for a lower carb version of yakisoba. I haven’t had much luck with spaghetti squash in the past. I find it difficult to cut apart and cumbersome to cook. I was shocked when the recipe said I could microwave it! What a difference from baking for 40 minutes. This quick and tasty low carb meal is perfect for your dinner on Meatless Mondays.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs. spaghetti squash
  •  1 small onion, chopped
  • shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 stalks scallions, chopped
  • 1+ cup cloeslaw mix of carrots and cabbage
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp dried red chile
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • salt and pepper, to taste

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Instructions:

1) Slice the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Place it cut side down on a microwave safe plate. Microwave for 10 minutes.

 

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Prior to cooking, remember to scoop out the seeds with a spoon!

2) Mix the sugar and soy sauce together while the squash cooks.

2) Remove from the microwave. If soft enough, drag a fork across the inside to make “spaghetti.” If too hard, continue microwaving.

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3) In a large pan over high heat, add sesame oil. Cook the onions until soft (2-3 minutes). Add the coleslaw mix and red chile. Cook for another 2 minutes.

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4) Add the mushrooms. Cook for another 2 minutes.

I cooked mine separately because Boyfriend doesn’t care for mushrooms. This was not a good idea. The mushroom flavor was so strong without being properly cooked and mixed in the stir-fry.

5) Add the spaghetti squash, scallions, and sauce. Mix well. Cook for 2 minutes, then serve.

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Final Thoughts: Spaghetti squash has always been a tedious vegetable to cook. Had I known I could microwave it, I would have tried more recipes! This was so delicious and filling even without meat or tofu. Boyfriend and his brother gobbled it up without even realizing it was vegetarian. The coleslaw mix was another surprise. I’ll definitely be using it in future stir-fry recipes. Boyfriend suggests I try meat for the next time I make it. Once spaghetti squash is actually in season, expect me to be cooking more of this!

 

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Study Snack: Chickpea Cookie Dough

I listen to several of Dr. Ryan Gray’s podcasts. While driving down from Flagstaff the other day, I used the 2 hour trip to catch up on some episodes. For one episode, he brought on a guest #carolinecooksclean. Caroline is MSY2; her Instagram focuses on maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle while she works in the medical field.

This is a struggle for me. My diet habits are often the first to take a hit when I’m tired or stressed. It falls lower on my priorities (and then of course I stress about gaining weight or getting unhealthy). The anxiety from a poor diet likely stems from my weight loss journey. I have lost between 40 to 50 lbs. For the most part I maintain this weight, but the idea of ballooning up to my previous weight can still frighten me.

Naturally, the answer is not to work out to the point of exhaustion or illness. I don’t starve myself. I don’t ignore my hunger or my body’s needs. I make adjustments to my diet. I make the time to grocery shop and prepare my meals.

One of my problems starts when I get home. Even after dinner I have a tendency to crave sweet snacks, whether I’m studying or watching Netflix. So far I’ve found plain yogurt and granola with chocolate chips helps satisfy the urge to stuff my face with Ben & Jerry’s. Lately I’ve been looking for other sweet snacks.

I stumbled upon chickpea “cookie dough” on Lauren Conrad’s website. The idea is that instead of eating cookie dough, blended chickpeas serve as a faux-dough. I figured I’d give it a try! I used this recipe from Buzzfeed’s Tasty. I wanted a recipe that included similar ingredients to regular cookie dough.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained (liquid reserved) and rinsed
  • ¼ cup (60 g) peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) chickpea water
  • ½ cup (85 g) chocolate chips

Instructions:

1) Drain the chickpeas without getting rid of all the liquid from the can.

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2) Spread the drained chickpeas onto a towel and pat dry.

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3) Remove the outer shells from the chickpeas.

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This part was tedious, but I felt it was worth it for the proper consistency.

4) Place the chickpeas, peanut butter, vanilla, honey, and salt into a food processor.

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5) Mix halfway. Add the chickpea water. Process until smooth.

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By “process” I mean use the food processor to mix the ingredients.

6) Add chocolate chips to the mixed dough. Stir but not with the food processor!

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Final Thoughts: Adding salt may not have been the best idea with canned chickpeas. The consistency was surprisingly close to the real thing, but I missed the mark on flavor. I do like the idea of this treat so I think I’ll play with other recipes in the future. Anyone have any good recommendations?

 

 

Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet

What a flashback! Right when I started this blog, I picked a healthy recipe off of Pinterest and gave it a try. I consider this to be the first delicious meal I ever made. Yes, I forgot an important ingredient, but I cooked this all on my own. My first triumph: this Ground Turkey Sweet Potato Skillet.

I forgot to buy peppers at the grocery store. I scrambled to defrost the meat. I remember struggling to chop vegetables. My very first attempt was a complete mess, disorganized from the start. Remaking this dish really gave me the chance to measure my progress.

Ingredients:
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lbs. extra lean ground turkey
  • 1 tsp garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup onions, diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet potato, diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a pinch of red chili flakes (I left this out because I’m a wimp)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
  • parsley for garnish

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Something to note about the ingredients. Be sure to defrost your meat before you get started. If it’s been in the freezer for a while, place the whole package in a bowl or bag and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. It should be thawed by dinner time.

Instructions:

1) In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.

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2) Add the ground turkey and garlic. Use a spatula to break up the turkey while it cooks. Stir occasionally, cooking for about 5 minutes.

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3) Add the onions and yellow peppers. Cook until the onions are soft.

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Both vegetables will look translucent (see-through) as they soften.

4) Add the sweet potato, chili pepper, salt, and pepper.

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5) Cover the skillet and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

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At this point I drained much of the fat off. I used more meat than the recipe required, so there was quite a bit of leftover fat. I didn’t drain it before hand to let the fat flavor the dish as it cooked.

Here the recipe offers 2 options. Either:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the cheese to the skillet and place the pan in the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. OR

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Add the cheese to the hot skillet. Place the lid back on the pan for 5 minutes.

Personally, I am terrified of the broiler so I sprinkled cheese on top and covered the pan.

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I was actually disappointed by this. The food was plain despite multiple attempts to season. I think it would have packed a better punch if I hadn’t accidentally minced my onions. I still love the sweet potatoes, but the turkey seemed like it would be better if it had been marinaded prior to being cooked, or if it was served with a sauce. Still, this is a healthier dish and, provided there isn’t extra salt in your turkey, a low sodium option as well.

 

 

 

Happy, Healthy New Year!

Looking at me, you would never guess that I used to weigh nearly 200 lbs. My parents have always lived healthy, active lifestyles and encouraged this lifestyle for my siblings and myself. Beginning in high school, my interests turned from sports to theatre and music. I spent less time exercising, and even as a swimmer my diet was never the greatest. This is me just before last Halloween. I weigh between 150-155 lbs. I’m a dress size 8 instead of the 16 I wore to prom.

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I was the fat kid in my family. We would go on vacation, and I would be the one lagging behind on the bike ride or huffing and puffing my way up the stairs. I’m tall, so it never seemed like obesity was a problem. Most people tell me that they can’t picture me heavier than I am now. Here I am in 2013 on the left, 2010 on the right.

One of the most common New Years’ resolutions is to lose weight or get healthier. Now that we’ve reached the end of January, it’s a good time to check-in with your goals. I heard on the radio that 80% of people give up on their resolutions by the end of January. Making these lifestyle changes isn’t easy. Many of you have probably noticed that diets fail and shortcuts don’t produce results.

Slowly, over the course of three years, I made changes to my diet and general lifestyle that contributed to my weight loss. Today I’ve lost nearly 40 lbs. Everyone is different, so what works for me may not work for you. Also note that even though I want to be a doctor, I am not a doctor; this is not medical advice.

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After my first 5k! The Color Run

Here are some small changes that can add up for big results!

1) Drink Your Coffee & Tea Plain

Real talk. Caramel macchiatos, vanilla frapuccinos, and chai lattes are packed with sugar. Some of those drinks can have over 300 calories! Add a muffin or a breakfast sandwich and you’ve already pushed past 600 calories for one meal.

I know cutting back on sugar is difficult. I still struggle with resisting candy and other sweet treats. Some people may not care for coffee without the sugar and cream. If that’s the case, start cutting back. Use some honey instead of sugar. Use plain milk instead of sweetened creamers. Cut back on the number of creamers or sugars you add in.

Black coffee is between 2-5 calories. No fat, no sugar. Tea is about the same. You can get your caffeine without adding on the unnecessary.

2) Stop Drinking Your Calories in General

I’m convinced soda is poison. The amount of sugar in soda should be criminal. I’ve known plenty of people who have dropped 10-15 lbs. just from cutting out soda! Diet soda is still soda. Though there’s no “sugar” there are additives that create a similar insulin response. Bottled teas, juices, and drinks like “Smart Water” can have between 20-40 grams of sugar. That’s as much as a candy bar!

Check your labels. If your drink has more than 15-20 grams of sugar, drink water instead. If you can, replace as many beverages as you can with water.

3) Check. The. Labels.

If you’re trying to cut back on salt, sugar, fat, or calories in general, read the labels. You might be surprised by which foods aren’t as good for you as they seem. Check the serving size! A bag of chips that you’re used to eating in one sitting may actually have 2 or 3 servings. Without knowing it, you’re eating twice as much food as you should.

4) Take the Stairs

The stairmaster and I are not friends. I used to despise taking the stairs because I got easily winded. Now that I take the 4 flights of stairs up to my office every day, I’ve gotten better. Take the stairs whenever you can. Start with one flight a day, up and down. Take them at the mall or the airport, whenever the opportunity arises.

5) Track Your Food

You’ve heard the expression “watch what you eat.” There are a couple ways to track your food. I use the free app, My Fitness Pal. If you have a Fitbit or similar device, the app should allow for diet tracking as well. I’ve met people who just write down everything they eat; this way they don’t get too caught up on the numbers. I’ve also met people who take a picture of everything they eat in a day, then post it online for accountability.

6) Make Your Cheats Small

I think that you have to make room somewhere in your diet for the unhealthy things you’ve come to love. Denying myself makes me more likely to binge. I don’t recommend a full cheat day, but at least one cheat meal or treat in a week isn’t going to kill your progress. That is, as long as you don’t go overboard. Some people take cheat meal to mean they can eat whatever you want. You still have to exercise some self-control. If you buy a candy bar, don’t buy the King size bar. If you miss those frappucinos, order a tall and maybe skip the whip. I’ve found that over time there are fewer junk foods that I like to eat anymore.

7) Walk 30 min. Every Day

Walking is a seriously underestimated form of exercise. I first began losing weight with a brisk walk after work. Though it isn’t as intense for me anymore, it is excellent for your heart and for weight loss. Work your way up to 30 minutes if you don’t feel ready. Start with 10 minutes. Walk at a pace that allows you to talk, but not to sing.

8) Beware of “Health” Foods

While reading the news the other day, I came across this article listing the 100 Unhealthiest Foods of 2018. The list includes the obvious choices: candies, fast food, chips, etc. Shockingly, it also includes items from Weight Watchers, Special K, Power Bar, and Muscle Milk. I stopped eating many protein bars including Power Bars, Balance Bars, Cliff Bars, and Think Thin once I read the label and realized how much sugar they have in them. Even natural peanut butter was listed. Marketing is not always honest. Read the labels and get to know the nutritional content of the food you eat every day.

9) Don’t Change Everything at Once

It’s great that you want to make changes, but if you get carried away, you’re less likely to keep your resolutions. Start small. Cut out soda, then once you’ve kicked the habit, cut out candy. If you work somewhere you need to take the stairs, take a few flights or take them once to start.

10) Eat at Home

I swear one of the reasons I lost so much weight is that I could eat at home. When I cook for myself, I eat smaller portions with less salt and sugar. I often eat more protein and vegetables, instead of packaged foods high in fat and salt. I don’t buy candy and cookies and other junk, so when I eat at home there’s less temptation.

Losing weight isn’t easy, but I hope even small changes like these will help you on the journey. Have you made a resolution to lose weight? Have you already lost weight? Share your tips on getting and staying healthy! Even better, share a healthy recipe!