January 2013 archive

Guilt-Free Zucchini Pizza Boats

I have a quick low-carb, low-fat meal that you can make in a jiffy if you are craving pizza. It’s also a great way to sneak in some veggies if you live with a picky eater. It may even be kid-friendly, but I have not tested it on kids so I can’t say that with certainty.

I try to avoid pizza altogether because I have absolutely no portion control when it comes to pizza. A large pepperoni with mushrooms and olives can disappear in 20 minutes if placed in front of me. I could never consume an equal amount of pasta, burgers, burritos, or cakes, but you put a pizza near me and I just can’t stop! I LOVE pizza, and am happy I can now get my pizza fix guilt-free.

For this recipe, I used 1 pound of group beef added to store-bought Marinara sauce and served it over regular pasta for my husband. Since pasta is on the “No” list when it comes to Paleo eating, I had to change it up a bit for myself. Technically, cheese isn’t Paleo either, but I had to cheat a little bit. Don’t tell. :) If you do not have a pasta eater in the house, I would suggest making the same amount of sauce and serving the leftovers with spaghetti squash.

Guilt-Free Zucchini Pizza Boats
Makes 4 boats (with leftover sauce)

Try these the morning after you make them and enjoy cold "pizza" for breakfast!

Try these the morning after you make them
and enjoy cold “pizza” for breakfast!

Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Your favorite brand of pasta sauce – I used about half of a 24 oz jar of Marinara
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Cut the zucchini in half and use a spoon to scoop out some of the flesh. You want to leave at least 1/4 inch thickness so that your zucchini boats hold up when you pick them up to eat them.
  2. In a pot, cook the onions and garlic for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant. Add the ground beef and brown. Add the pasta sauce and heat through.
  3. Fill the raw zucchini with meat sauce and bake in a 325˚ oven for 8 minutes.
    Note: Do not cook the zucchini beforehand. I did this the first time around and while it still tastes great, it can’t be eaten as a “boat.” Zucchini has a high water content so if you cook it too long it gets flimsy and will need to be eaten with a knife and fork.
  4. AFter 8 minutes, top with cheese and bake for an additional 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling.
  5. I did not have any fresh basil on hand, but if you happen to have some lying around, garnish with fresh basil!

Weigh-In Wednesday: January

Disclaimer: Before we even get started, please know that I am not a dietician, doctor, personal trainer, or expert in the medical, health, or fitness field. Everything I am writing is my opinion and is to not be taken as medical advice. You should consult a doctor or a professional before changing your diet or exercise routine.

We are making some healthy changes around here, and I am happy to report that I am no longer going to weigh myself for Weigh-in Wednesday. Instead, I am going to focus on my strength and overall body fat percentages. Here’s why:

I spent a little over two weeks at my mom’s house in southern California for the holidays. Since my mom does not have cable TV, I read a ton of books and blogs on weight training, diet, and exercise. The original purpose of this was to complete my New Year’s Resolution of doing a pull-up, but it actually spiraled into something more. I realized that for years, I have been doing everything wrong. My diet was wrong. My exercise habits were wrong. My attitudes toward fitness and health were wrong, and I was determined to make it right!

A friend of mine told me about a book by Gary Taubes called Why We Get FatI am in the process of reading this so I can’t comment fully about it yet, but the gist of his book is that for years we have been conditioned to think that weight loss was a calories in vs. calories out type of formula. We have been taught to avoid high fat foods like nuts, seeds, avocados, and oils and replace them with low-fat foods that are actually higher in carbs and sugars than their fatty counterparts. Many poor crash diets have taken this idea and capitalized upon it, Atkins being the most famous. Don’t worry, I am NOT doing Atkins, nor do I think Atkins is a healthy diet.

Taubes’ theories led me to Mark’s Daily Apple, which convinced me to give the Paleo Lifestyle a whirl. In a nutshell, Paleo is all about consuming nutrient-dense foods that are not refined or processed. It’s not a diet, which is the best part. It’s about consuming items that our bodies are genetically designed to recognize and process as food/energy. You can think of it as “caveman food.” Could a caveman acquire a bag of Doritos? No. Don’t eat that. Could a caveman acquire green beans and eggs? Yes. Eat that.

Paleo Food Pyramid. Photo Source: Fit Bomb at http://www.fitbomb.com Paleo Food Pyramid.
Photo Source: Fit Bomb at http://www.fitbomb.com/caption

I have been interested in the Paleo Lifestyle for a while, but since I do not eat a ton of meat, it was hard for me to wrap my head around the idea of eating as much lean protein as Paleo calls for. However, the scientific studies behind Paleo intrigued me and everything I have read about it makes logical sense, which is why I decided to give it a whirl.

I have been living a Paleo Lifestyle for about 5 weeks, and I am amazed at the results so far! I am sleeping better, I am getting stronger, and I am fitting into pants that I couldn’t squeeze into in the fall. I am never hungry, my cravings for bad food have practically disappeared, and I feel amazing!

For my workouts, I have been focusing on High Intensity Interval Training (also knows as HIIT). I have seen fantastic results and my favorite part is that HIIT only take 20-30 minutes. I usually do my HIIT workouts in the pool 3 days a week and then do weight training on the other 3 days. I am still adjusting and building the best fitness routine for my schedule, but this is the basic idea I stick to for now.

Like I said above, I am tracking progress with measurements, body fat percentage measurements, increased strength, and pictures. I would like to accomplish my goal of doing a pull-up before my birthday in May. :)

Current Body Fat Percentage: 28.2%

I was going to post a photo here, but I am not ready for that yet! You can see the before when there is completely different after. :)

My Favorite Paleo Resources

My favorite HIIT Resources
None of the sites below require a gym. They can all be done at home!

Chunky Chicken Soup

Good Morning!

I apologize for being off the radar for a while. I have been traveling, battling the flu, and getting back into the swing of school. I have a very tough quarter ahead of me preparing for student teaching, but I am so incredibly excited! For those of you that don’t know, I am a full-time Graduate student working towards my M.Ed in Elementary Education. When I graduate, I will also have endorsements in English Language Arts, Social Studies, and (hopefully) Art. Since my school does not have a film program, I have to work with the state of Illinois to see if they will count my film and photography undergraduate classes towards and art endorsement. When I graduate, I hope to be a middle school English/Social Studies teacher. I love middle school aged kids, I can’t wait to work with them.

For my student teaching, I have been placed in a Kindergarten classroom, which I am really excited about. When I am observing in upper grade classrooms, I tend to see the following pattern a lot. The teacher teaches a lesson, students to an activity, students are told if they finish early they can read silently at their desks or work on an unfinished assignment. Now there is nothing necessarily wrong with this pattern, but this type of structure wouldn’t work in a kindergarten classroom because not all kindergarteners can read. Many kindergarteners can’t work independently either. Many still need a ton of guided instruction. Therefore, I will have to design lessons and activities that take the entire lesson time. It is both intimidating and exciting. I honestly feel like I am going to learn so much about classroom management and lesson planning in this classroom!

Wait. Isn’t this post called Chunky Chicken Soup? You’re right. It is!

It seems like everyone I know came down with or is coming down with the flu. The most popular home remedy for the flu is chicken soup. I love soup! It’s quick to make, easy, inexpensive, and comforting.

I have to be honest with you. The recipe below is my best guess as to how I made this. I rarely tend to measure when I am making soup. I will be better about that in 2013!

Chunky Chicken Soup
Serves 4

This can be made with or without gluten-free pasta. Oyster crackers are not gluten-free so do not serve with them if you are avoiding gluten.

This can be made with or without gluten-free pasta. Oyster crackers are not gluten-free so do not serve with them if you are avoiding gluten.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free, brown rice pasta (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 3-4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 scant tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 packet chicken bullion
  • Olive oil
  • 6-8 cups water (use and adjust according to how chunky you want your end product to be)

*You can cook and shred the chicken yourself or buy pre-cooked chicken and shred it yourself. You can also buy pre-cooked chicken and cube it. Either way, make sure your chicken is pre-cooked as this saves a ton of time.

Directions:

  1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook onions and carrots until onions are translucent.
  2. Add garlic and celery, stir, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add water (start with 6 cups and add more if you think you need it), bullion packet, and oregano and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and add chicken and pasta. Cook for about 6-8 minutes or until pasta is cooked through.

You can serve with bread or oyster crackers if you are not gluten-free or enjoy as is!

I hope everyone is having a happy 2013 so far! We will return to our regularly scheduled blogging next week. :)