five on friday: 5 fast dinners

Between closing on our house today (eek!), unpacking from the baby shower, and an overall case of third-trimester exhaustion, my latest focus for weekly meal planning has centered around being fast and healthy.  No Bolognese this week.  I am not running anymore in this pregnancy, as I promised myself I’d stop at 30 weeks.  Although I am still getting in some speed walking/light jogging and lots of cross-training, I don’t need as many calories as I once did.  However, baby girl still needs to eat…and she needs to eat well!

This Friday, I decided to share 5 of my favorite healthy, go-to dinners.  Some are old favorites, and some I tried for the first time this week.  Every one of them have been battle-tested by me, with minimal ingredients and maximum flavor.

[ONE]

Creamy Avocado Pasta 

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This has been a staple in our weekly meal plan for years.  I love Creamy Avocado Pasta because it is full of good flavor and good fats.  The creaminess comes from the Avocado, and I like that I don’t need to add any heavy cream or butter.  I always add chicken or chicken sausage to this dish to make it a full meal.  To make things faster during the week, try cooking the chicken ahead of time!

[TWO]

Bell Pepper and Potato Frittata

Bell Peppers

I tried this recipe from SkinnyTaste (link) for the first time last night, and it was fantastic!  “Breakfast for Dinner” is always a good way to break up weekly dinner monotony, and I love this recipe because it is light.  I added chicken sausage and onion to make it a little more filling…and between 2 adults, we couldn’t finish it.  This recipe is definitely something I plan to repeat, and I am excited to create my own variations!  I see a southwest version in our near future.

[THREE]

Chicken in a Sack

Chicken in a Sack

 

I originally saw this recipe on Rachel Ray last year, and it’s been another staple in our weekly meal plan ever since.  I started out following the recipe exactly, but as time has passed, I’ve done things like substitute asparagus for haricot vert, large tomatoes for cherry tomatoes, and fresh lemon juice for white wine.  I don’t usually use wine and/or butter to keep things extra light and fresh.  This dish is great served over egg noodles, or with a side of brown rice or quinoa.

 [FOUR]

Asian Noodle Salad

Asian Noodle Salad

This is a recipe that Jon and I came to love while marathon training last year.  I purchased the Runner’s World cookbook (link) in January, and by the time May came, I bet we’d had this meal 20+ times.  It’s simple and fresh, and another recipe to which I always add chicken.  Again, I am sure to cook the chicken ahead of time.  Sometimes, I double the recipe of dressing for this dish…it’s so good, and the noodles really soak it up!

[FIVE]

Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork

Pulled Pork

I know I mentioned this 2 weeks ago, but this Dr. Pepper Pulled Pork is one of my new fast-dinner staples!  It’s amazing how much faster the slow cooker makes dinner.  I start this in the morning, before work, and I come home to a completed meal…what’s better than that?  I wanted to share this again because, besides being an easy/fast meal, it easily makes 2 dinners for 2 adults (at least, it does for us).  I have been serving this pork on buns/wraps on the first night, and reheated over a baked potato later in the week.

With baby on the way, I plan to keep searching for quick and healthy dinner ideas that require as little effort as possible; I hear that babies make you tired.  In the near future, I’m excited to use this meal plan for a week of healthy crockpot meals in order to make even better use of our slow cooker.  I may even give it a shot this week, since we will be so busy with packing.

Let’s share more dinner ideas on Pinterest!  Find me @mywesternnest.

On our way to close on the house as we speak!  Have a great weekend.

 This Friday, I linked up with:

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unfried fried rice

One of my guiltiest dining pleasures is take-out food.  One of my guiltiest take-out pleasures is Chinese food.  I specifically love orange flavored chicken, pot stickers, egg rolls, and of course…friend rice.

A few years back, I wanted some take-out flavor without all the extra take-out calories.  I found a recipe online for healthy “just like take-out” friend rice.  I followed the recipe exactly, and I loved it.  Since then, I have been modifying and perfecting this recipe into what it is today.

Although pretty far from where it started, my “Unfried Fried Rice” has all the flavor with a fraction of the fat.  After years of testing, I feel it’s ready to be shared.

Unfried Fried Rice

  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups brown minute rice (regular rice would work, but minute rice is a lot faster)
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen edamame
  • 1 large egg
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce, divided
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
1. Bring the chicken broth, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, and 1 tsp ground ginger to a boil.
2. Prepare rice as instructed on the package and set aside.
3. In a large sauté pan or wok, sauté the onions with the olive oil and remaining Tbsp of soy sauce until they turn translucent.
4. While the onion is cooking, prepare the frozen edamame as instructed on the package (I microwaved it for 2-3 min with about 1 Tbsp water).
5. Once the onion turns translucent, add the mushrooms and edamame to the onions and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
6. Add the cooked rice to the pan/wok with the veggies.
7. In the middle of the mixture, create a hole so that the bottom of the wok/pan is visible.  Crack and drop the egg onto the exposed surface of the pan.
8. As the egg begins to fry, mix the egg into the veggies/rice so that it blends.  The finished product should be moist (but still cooked) from the egg.
9. Add the chopped green onions to the finished product.

 

My recipe makes about 3 cups at about 349 calories per cup.  The edamame and egg make this dish packed with protein.  Good vegetable substitutions/additions would include a frozen carrot/pea blend, pea pods, and water chestnuts (is that a vegetable?).  You could also swap out rice of quinoa. Add some cooked chicken or shrimp, and you’ll have a full meal!

I serve this dish with Siracha and soy sauce.  It’s perfect because it shouldn’t turn out too oily.  You should add salt to your own preference, but be sure to taste before salting.

Enjoy!

 

apple mango salsa

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I can’t believe it’s actually spring!  Every day may not feel like it just yet, but I am so happy to see the weather improving.

This week I was shopping for our weekly meal plan, and I was craving something fresh.  Specifically, some kind of salsa.  We love salsa at our house!

Both Jon and I eat lots of spicy foods, vegetables, and fruit.  Many times, we eat our salsa with just a spoon.  I have made salsa with tomatillos many times before.  It’s great, but I wanted to try something new.

At the store, I walked by a stand filled with bags of small, tart green apples.  I had an idea: apple salsa!  I sent Jon and text, and we created the recipe together.  He requested mango, and I wanted to add some spice.

The recipe below is what we came up with.  It’s really fantastic!  I just ate another bowl plain.  It’s also really good with cinnamon sugar pita chips.  I was worried about the apples turning brown, but the lemon juice and other ingredients seem to keep them pretty fresh.  I’d say this recipe makes about 8 generous servings.

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apple mango salsa

  • 6 small green apples (or 3 medium/large green apples)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1-2 mangos (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 1 jalapeño (with the seeds removed)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Chop the apples, bell peppers, mangos, jalapeño, and onion into small pieces.  I used a food chopper to save time, but you don’t need one.  A food processor will work, but it will pulverize the ingredients and your salsa may end up a little watery.

2. Mix the chopped ingredients in a large bowl, and add the cilantro.

3. Add the lemon juice and stir.

4. Season the salsa with salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

I hope you enjoy this sweet and spicy treat!  Please let me know if you make any fun variations that I should try…

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mandarin orange ginger energy bars

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When my husband and I decided to start training for our first marathon, I knew it would benefit us to start eating “like runners.”  Sure, we had always eaten healthy…but I knew that serious runners ate different.  I wanted to learn about how to eat carbs that would really help us, instead of just loading up on pasta.  I wanted to learn to not enjoy my empty-calorie-filled candies as much.  I wanted to learn to not fear good fats.

So, I hit Amazon.  The cookbook I found has literally changed the way that we have trained: The Runner’s World Cookbook.

I spent days scouring the pages, and started carefully planning our meals.  However, it wasn’t just our meals that were important…it was also our snacks.  I came across a recipe for energy bars that was so perfect and easy, I made it constantly.  In fact, I make this recipe so much that we almost get sick of it!  Almost 😉

I needed new flavors, but the recipe was such a perfect base.  I started experimenting, and this is one of the best variations I have come up with so far…

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mandarin orange ginger energy bars

  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (or 1 package of coconut chips from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted almonds
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 4 oz candied ginger (Trader Joe’s)
  • 5 oz dried mandarin oranges (Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 16 oz organic agave nectar
  • 1 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the oats, coconut, almonds, cashews, ginger, oranges, and sunflower seeds into a mixing bowl (you can mix by hand or with a stand mixer).

3. Combine the agave, peanut butter, and vanilla in a microwave-safe bowl.

4. Warm the agave mixture in the microwave for about 1 minute.

5. Add the agave mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until well-blended.

6. Pour the mixture into a 9″ x 13″ pan that has been sprayed with the cooking spray.  Other size pans will work, but you’ll need to adjust the cooking time.

7. Bake until the edges of the bars are golden brown (17-19 minutes).  It’s fine if the bars appear undone in the middle, they’ll continue to cook after you take them out.  Do not over-bake your bars!

8. Wait until the bars cool, then cut.

This recipe should make about 24 bars.  They are great for providing you with sustained energy, with: 298 calories, 7.2 grams of protein, and 37 grams of carbs.

The benefits of these bars include:

  • 7+ grams of protein
  • Under 300 calories (good, healthy calories!) when cut into 24 bars
  • Natural sweetness from agave and dried mandarin oranges
  • A natural digestive aid/tummy soother from candied ginger

These bars are sweet, spicy, and a perfect quick breakfast or snack!

 

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