Cozy Quinoa Casserole

A casserole is an awesome prep-ahead meal. You can make a giant dish and eat it all week. I just love that! Plus, it’s prime for sharing! and sharing is caring, you know that!

Quinoa casserole

Cozy Quinoa Casserole
Servings: 6
Ingredients:

1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 -6 cremini mushrooms or 5 -6 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 cup acorn squash, sliced (I used acorn squash AND butternut squash)
1 lb ground turkey or 1 lb veggie crumbles
1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
6 ounces reduced-fat monterey jack cheese, shredded (I used fat-free cheddar)

Directions:
Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 50 mins

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a skillet, sauté onion in olive oil on medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until translucent.
Add mushrooms, squash, and garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add turkey (or veggie meat substitute), breaking into small pieces as it browns, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add poultry seasoning, salt, pepper, stock, and quinoa and bring to a boil. Reduce heat , cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Transfer ingredients from pan into a 9-by-9 casserole dish or baking pan.
Mix in parsley and 3 oz. cheese.
Sprinkle remaining 3 oz. cheese on top of casserole.
Bake in oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

Quinoa casserole

I had read in the reviews that it comes out a bit bland, so I doubled the garlic and onions, added hot red pepper flakes. That was a good decision, however it still came out a bit bland.
Overall though, I loved this casserole. It was super easy to make, made very little mess (yay for 1 pan, 1 dish)

Quinoa casserole

Ok, maybe it’s not a beauty queen. But I promise, it’s better than it looks. I think this is a really good base, so feel free to experiment with adding more flavors. Consider additional add-ins like spinach, eggplant, or any other veggie, really!

Quinoa casserole
(when I ate is this particular time, I paired it with asparagus and topped with some reduced fat bleu cheese)

The very best part of this casserole?
Only 320 calories for a HUGE portion!

Tell me!
Does anybody have any low-cal casserole recipes to share?

Life Alive

It seems as though there are very few places that you can go out to eat and get a healthy meal. Life Alive is a glorious exception.


This is my favorite dish, a salad called The Mystic Mountain

Life Alive has locations in Cambridge, and Lowell, Massachusetts and is self described as an Urban Oasis. And believe me, it feels like just that. The restaurant itself is covered in gorgeous handmade art and seemingly found or thrifted furniture. Everything is local and organic – from the food to the t-shirts they sell.

I love everything about this place. The food is so fresh and superbly flavored by only the purest of means.  They have the cutest bathroom (don’t judge me, I love bathrooms!) which even includes a blank journal for reading and writing in while you’re doing your other organic  business.

 


Did I mention they also have drinks? Smoothies and juices and wheatgrass shots. The little guy on the right was mine – The Ginger Crush.

 


The Explorer


Possibly my very favorite part of going to Life Alive is that I always get to go with my good friend Becky!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She’s the cutest, I know!

In short.. if you’re ever in the vicinity of a Life Alive – please go there! Go there with an open mind, an empty stomach, and a full wallet.  But just go there!

 

 

Measuring Success

You know how they say that weight loss is 20% exercise, but 80% diet?  Well, that makes diet pretty darn important, doesn’t it? But I would break it down even further… I think that your diet is 90% planning, 10% willpower.  You do need that little bit of conviction and strength to say NO to off-plan foods, but aside from that it’s all about planning.  And within that planning, the most important part is measuring.

You MUST be aware of how much of an item you are consuming.  You can’t just say – “well, I had a turkey sandwich on wheat bread with mustard” and assume it’s a low-calorie dish. What kind of bread was it? I’ve had wheat bread that is 35 calories a slice, and I have had some that are 210 a slice. Big difference!  What kind of turkey was it? And how many ounces did you have?  Was your side dish “a handful” or chips? or precisely 1 serving?  Guesses are nice… but you don’t have to guess when you have the simple science of measuring!

Get a Scale.
A food scale is the best possible investment you can buy. Better than a treadmill, better than a fancy elliptical machine… better than a weight-loss pill. It can be a $10 one or a state-of-the-art $100 one… just get one!

My little buddy!

A food scale, and a basic set of measuring cups/spoons are all you need. Then, you just need to know how to use them.

Measure properly.
There are a few basic rules about measuring –
• Under is better than over  - If 4oz of fish is to be your serving, portion it as such. if you have to err on one side or the other, err on the side of less.  So 3.8oz is a-ok. But 4.5oz? Not as much, as depending on the fish, you could be adding an extra 60 calories!

• Remember to flush - measuring cups and spoons are meant to be measured flush to the top. Unless a recipe specifically says “heaping”, you should always level off the top.

Observe :

Here’s an average 1/4 cup scoop of flour.


But check it out from the side!


Level it off with a knife or even your finger.


That’s more like it!

The difference between those was about 15g.  15g of flour is 55 calories. If you made a dish that called for a cup of flour, at that rate of overestimation, you’d have an additional 220 calories. No joke!

Guesstimating can be dangerous.
Take the “handful of nuts” conspiracy.  Yes, I think it’s a dirty conspiracy!
I’ve read many articles, and even diet books that recommend a “handful of nuts” as a healthy snack.  Well,


this handful is 49g of pecans. (I have tiny hands, I know it’s weird, don’t judge me!)
49g of pecans is 339 calories


this handful is 30g at 207 calories. (30g is the proper serving size of pecans.) That is a big difference for just a snack.

The solution? MEASURE them!

Easy as pie! (mmm pecan pie! )

Getting back to our rules to remember –
• Measure EVERYTHING.
Every splash of oil you cook with, every sprinkling of cheese. If it goes in your mouth, measure it.
• Record it.
Write down what you measured and what you ate. It seems like a hassle, but unless you are a mathematics genius and can keep a running tab in your head (and if you are. . . please teach me your magic!) then you must write it down.  A notebook works just fine, but there are also many apps for your phone or computer that you can log the numbers into. You will get used to it and it won’t seem like such a hassle after awhile. And at the end of the day or the week, it is unbelievably beneficial to have all your numbers right there in front of you to assess.

I find that logging in food also drastically cuts down on the nibbles. Though it’s easy to log your food, it’s even EASIER to just say no to the food in the first place!  I’ll be offered a cookie, and I think… do I want to eat that cookie and look up the ingredients and figure out the nutritional information and log it into my app?
Hmm, nope, easier to just say – no thanks!  And save a few hundred calories.

Tell me:
Are you a strict measurer/recorder?  Do you log your foods currently?

 

Springin’ into Summer

The summer always brings me fresh motivation, almost like it grows from the ground with the new grass. A little green blade sprouts up and says “Hey! wanna go play some tennis?”
*sprooooing*
“hello there, lets go to the park!”

I’ve always loved nature, but I never thought of myself as being outdoorsy. I don’t really like the heat, and I burn like crazy in the sun! But somehow feeling healthier and more fit seems to also make you feel…earthier, at the same time. It makes me want to be active and enjoy the outdoors, because maybe as “a fat girl” I’m not supposed to.
I am supposed to be at home, hiding in an oversized hoodie, eating ice cream with a spoon in each hand, and having no friends.
Ok, perhaps that sounds good too. ;-)  But day by day, I feel a little more worthy of that fun & sun that I always thought was just for the pretty people.


This is precisely what I mean by “the pretty people”. You should see her in a bikini! woof!

I am ready to go canoeing, cycling, hiking, swimming, playing tennis, basketball, frisbee, and trying out my rollerskates!

Tell me!
What is your favorite warm-weather activity?

FOUND : Low-calorie Chicken Tikka Masala

I was peeking over at Gina’s this morning, and came across this beautiful looking recipe for a low-calorie version of one of my favorite Indian dishes!

Low Fat Chicken Tikka Masala
Gina’s Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 4 • Size: 3 oz chicken + sauce
Calories:
190.4 • Fat: 4.5 g • Carb: 12.8 g • Fiber: 2.0 g • Protein: 24.5 g • Sugar: 5.1 Sodium: 99.3 (without salt)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp canola oil or you could use butter
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes
  • 4 oz fat free yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  • salt to taste
  • 16 oz (2 boneless) chicken breasts
  • 4 tbsp fresh cilantro (or to taste)

Directions:

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add the crushed ginger, stir for a few minutes then add the garlic and cook another minute. Add cumin, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, and salt; mix well until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, yogurt and milk. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until cooked through. Add a generous amount of chopped cilantro and serve with Bamati Rice or Naan.

This recipe and MANY more amazing ones can be found at www.skinnytaste.com

 

Making Goals

By nature, I am a dreamer. And because I like to dream, I also like to make goals!
Goals are dreams that are attainable.
Most of us need goals to stay motivated. A sense of competition, even with ourselves or with time can really keep you on track.

Making a goal should trace the following steps :

1. Assess your current ability.
If your goal is to lose weight, think about your current plan and how it works for you. Are you losing but want to lose more? If so, you need to evaluate your progress. Distinguish what it took to get to where you are now. And determine how to expand on that. Are you wanting to run a half marathon? Think back to how you worked up to a mile or a 5k. Essentially, you need to think about where you are now in relationship to where you’d like to be.

2. The happy ending.
Think big now. Imagine the most perfect outcome to this big project. If it’s weight loss, think about your ideal body, how it looks and how it feels. If it’s fitness, think about that ultimate race, event, or accomplishment. Living in that moment, then hit the rewind button. Imagine the inbetween stages. The weight you’d be when you’re halfway there. Running the 10th mile of the ultimate 26.2. These are your goals… the flagposts along the way.

3. The timeline.
Say you’re 35 years old, and it’s been your dream to reach your goal weight by the time you’re 40. Five years and however-much weight is really daunting, isn’t it? So you’ve thought about your ultimate goal, and you rewound from there. Now you’ve got a good sense of where you should be by 36, 37, 38, and 39. All the flagposts. The first flagpost is your first goal. Write this down, make a solid timeline of where you should be by a certain date or event.

4. Tell the world.
Tell your friends and family about your first goal. Nothing is as motivating as trying to not look stupid! No one likes to fail, but even less so when others are looking. Start a blog, choose a buddy, hire a trainer. . . you need to feel like you’re being watched and counted on.

5. Post reminders.
Leave yourself reminders of why you made this goal and how good it will feel to reach it. Write notes to yourself or post images that you know inspire you to keep going.

Inspiration Board
I made this inspiration board to remind me of all the things I am reaching for. I keep it in my workout room.

The thing to really remember is that goals are NOT to-do lists. They are not meant to be daunting and scary and feel unreachable. Goals are not chores and errands. Goals are dreams that with hard work are brought to reality. They are to assess progress and keep striving for those things you truly want. They are not must-haves, but must-wants!

I have met a number of my own goals so far on my journey, but I’ve got so many left to reach for. I still want to be able to say I’ve lost 75lbs, then 110lbs, then be able to say I am at my goal weight. I have a goal to do 100 jump ropes in a row (I am up to 76!) I even have a goal to do just one unassisted pull up.
I’ll get there. And so will you!

Tell me :
What is your next big goal?

 


Rainbow Chopped Salad

This is a perfect summer time dish. It starts with salmon, that you can cook any-which-way-you-like.
I marinated mine for a few hours in miso, cilantro, scallions, garlic, and lemon juice and then baked it for approximately 25 minutes.

Salmon salad

While the salmon was cooking, I chopped and tossed together my salad fixings.

RED : tomato
ORANGE : carrots
YELLOW : mango
GREEN : lettuce, avocado
BLUE : gorgonzola
PURPLE : purple onion
PINK : salmon

Salmon salad

When the salmon was finished, I plopped it right on top of my beautiful rainbow, and the whole thing was then drizzled with an organic orange miso dressing.

Calorie Breakdown
4.5 ounces salmon : 215
1/2 med. avocado : 135
1/4 med. mango : 32
1.2 med. tomato : 8
1.5 cups lettuce & shredded carrots mix : 15
1 tbsp. crumbled gorgonzola cheese : 37
2 tbsp. store-bought orange miso dressing : 65
Total calories : 507

Welcome to SweatyGirl

Oh wow!  My very first SweatyGirl post!

First of all, let me welcome you to my new site!  I sincerely hope you can find something useful here and enjoy visiting!  My door (um, comment portal?) is always open to you.

If you don’t know who I am, we can get acquainted HERE.

I guess I should start with a bit of a Mission Statement.  The point of this site is to not only chronicle my own weight loss/fitness journey, but more importantly to provide resources to help others struggling with the same. You will see recipes, exercises, music, reviews, and some random silliness of my everyday life.

I’m pretty sure you’d like to come back and visit me every day, so bookmark me right now!  (it’s ok, go ahead, I’ll wait!)

. . .

. . .

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Ok, good job! Now that we’re buddies… I can’t wait to get started!