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Easy oven baked fried chicken

This recipe is so easy. And it is a healthier alternative to fried chicken. I’ve tried other oven baked fried chicken recipes and they usually involve buttermilk and eggs. This is even easier. It takes just a few minutes to prep, then you stick it in the oven and walk away for a half hour. Brilliant. I also like to make roasted broccoli with it, because it goes in for the exact same amount of time and temperature as the chicken!

Here’s what you’ll need for the chicken:

– 1 lb chicken breast tenders

– 1/2 cup panko

– 2 tablespoons light mayo

– paprika

– garlic salt

– basil

– spray oil

For the roasted broccoli side you’ll need:

– 4 cups broccoli florets

– 2 tablespoons minced garlic

– spray oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Put the chicken tenders on a plate. Sprinkle them with the paprika, garlic salt, and basil. I also ended up throwing on a little cayenne pepper; you can really customize this to whatever flavor you want. Sometimes I will even sprinkle some hot sauce on the tenders with my spices.

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Once I’ve added the spices, I take one tablespoon of light mayo and apply it to the tenders. Once I’ve covered them in a thin layer, I flip the tenders over and add the spices to the other side and then follow with the second tablespoon of mayo

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Put the panko into a bowl, then take the prepped chicken and dip it into the panko, making sure both sides get covered. Place into a baking dish, and spray a little spray oil on top.

To prep the broccoli, grab a second baking dish or oven pan and use a little spray oil to coat the bottom. Add the broccoli florets and then add the minced garlic. Now spray a little more of the spray oil on top.

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Now everything is prepped and ready. Put both in the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. That’s it! Delicious and healthier alternative to fried chicken.

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I love this meal because it takes such a small amount of effort and it has a comfort food vibe. Great home cooked meal that can be thrown together easily during your busy work week.

Easy oven baked fried chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken breast tenders
  • 1/2 cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons light mayo
  • ~1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • ~1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • ~1/2 teaspoon basil
  • spray oil
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Add spices to one side of chicken tenders, spread 1 tablespoon light mayo
  3. Flip chicken, repeat addition of spices and mayo to second side
  4. Dip chicken in panko, fully covering tenders, then add to baking dish
  5. Lightly cover chicken with spray oil
  6. Now for broccoli - add spray oil to an oven pan
  7. Add broccoli to pan, then add the minced garlic to the pan
  8. Lightly cover broccoli with spray oil
  9. Put both in oven and bake for 30 minutes
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One pot zucchini noodles

I have become mildly obsessed with my spiralizer. I’ve used it to make several things, but I think my favorite creation is “zoodles” aka zucchini noodles. They are so easy! Plus they are a delicious and healthy alternative to standard noodles. If you are like me and looking for way to cut out more of those tempting carbs, this is a fantastic option. It’s not quite like noodles but the texture and feel when eating them is very similar, plus you get the added benefit of tasty zucchini. My husband loves it and asks me to make it, which is honestly the biggest compliment I can give the dish as he tends to be pickier and slightly more wary of “weird” foods than I am. This is my version of one way a coworker told me she likes to make zoodles. I make it as a one pot meal, but if you want to be fancy about it you could brown the meat separate from the vegetables. I just like an easy meal – I’ve made it both as a one pot and browning them separately and honestly there is little difference. So in the spirit of keeping healthy options simple, here is a step by step one pot option. This will serve roughly 4 people. (Although I like to make it as dinner for 2 then reheat it for lunch for the next few days. Your call)

Ingredients:

– 1 package of fully cooked sausage (I prefer chicken sausage. H-E-B makes a wonderful natural artichoke and parmesan chicken sausage that goes great with this recipe)

– 4 zucchini

– 1 sweet onion

– 2 green bell peppers

– 2 cloves minced garlic (I always have a jar in the fridge, garlic fanatic here)

– Oil, preferably coconut oil (I prefer the coconut spray oil… once again very convenient)

You will need a spiralizer – there are a ton of options out there. I love this one I got from Bed Bath and Beyond, the hand crank helps make sure your fingers are protected:

Spiralizer

I like a super thin zoodle, so if you have multiple settings I recommend the smallest cut. Here you can see it collect at the bottom of the spiralizer:

Spiralizer

I cut the ends off the zucchini so they are flat, then I halve them so they fit easily into the spiralizer.

zucchini

I spiralize all the zucchini and put that aside. I chop the onion and the bell peppers, also putting that to the side. Finally, I slice the sausage.

prepped ingredients

Once I have all the ingredients cut and ready, I put a pot on the stove and spray it with my coconut oil (If you are using standard oil, just pour in about a tablespoon or more into the pot and swirl to coat). I then add the chopped onion and peppers and cook them for about 5 minutes on medium high heat until they start to become translucent. At that point, I add the minced garlic and the sliced sausage.

One pot

I continue to cook at medium high heat for about 5 more minutes. I usually end up turning the heat up high and brown it for another couple of minutes – be careful to keep an eye on it so nothing burns, and you just get nice browned edges on your onions and sausage.

browned meat and veggies

Once the mixture is browned to your liking, turn the temperature back down around medium or medium high and add the zoodles. Stir those in with the browned meat and veggies. The zoodles warm and cook pretty quickly – within 3-5 minutes. Zucchini tends to sweat out a lot of moisture as it cooks, so make sure you keep stirring this while it’s on the stove to coat.

That’s it. It’s really easy – basically the only time consuming part is chopping veggies and spiralizing which really takes no time.

Zoodles

You might want to add other vegetables to this, or a different meat, or no meat at all — really the sky is the limit. I personally feel like there is a lot of moisture produced by the zucchini so I don’t think a sauce is necessary. For me, the moisture mixing with the flavors of whatever else you have in there, which then coats the zucchini noodles is more than enough. But feel free to play with this! If you try something different and want to share, please feel free to leave a comment, I’d enjoy learning other things that folks love with these tasty vegetable noodles.


 

One pot zucchini noodles

One pot zucchini noodles

Ingredients

  • 1 package of fully cooked sausage
  • 4 zucchini
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp oil, preferably coconut oil

Instructions

  1. Spiralize zucchini, set aside
  2. Heat pot with oil, medium high heat
  3. Chop onion and bell pepper, sauté about 5 minutes
  4. Chop sausage, add sausage and garlic to onion/pepper mixture
  5. Cook until sausage is hot and browned to your liking
  6. Add zucchini and stir, zucchini will cook within a few minutes.
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Greek marinated chicken with orzo

There is a restaurant near my home that makes Greek chicken wings, they are delicious. My husband and I crave them often, they are a hard to resist cheat meal. When I came across this Greek marinated chicken recipe on Budget Bytes I had to try it since it looked similar to the wings. It was an easy recipe – I added a little to it and paired it with orzo and it turned out absolutely amazing. Definitely rivaled those wings from up the street!

Side note: I love the Budget Bytes site, I have made quite a few recipes they’ve shared and I have yet to be disappointed.

You can make the chicken without the orzo, but I have to say they paired perfectly.

Greek marinated chicken legs with orzo

Greek marinated chicken legs with orzo

Ingredients:

– 1 cup plain yogurt (regular yogurt is fine, doesn’t need to be Greek yogurt)

– Italian parsley (fresh, chop about 1/3 of the bunch)

– 1/2 – 1 Tbsp Oregano (dried)

– 2 – 4 cloves garlic (minced)

– Salt & Pepper (about a 1/2 tsp each)

– 1 lemon

– 3 1/2 – 4 lbs chicken drumsticks

– 4 Tbsp butter (for the orzo)

– 1 16 oz. package orzo

– Feta for sprinkling on the chicken/orzo

 

In a bowl combine the first 5 ingredients, the yogurt through the s&p. Grab your lemon and grate lemon zest into the marinade. Then cut the lemon in half. Squeeze half of the lemon’s juice in the marinade. Save the other half of lemon for later.

Greek marinade

Once you’ve mixed everything together get a freezer bag and place the chicken legs in, then cover them with the marinade. Squish it all around, make sure the chicken is fully covered and try to get the air out of the bag as best as possible. Place this in the fridge for at least a half hour. I left mine in the fridge all day, I prepped in the morning and it turned out awesome.

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You will need to preheat the oven to 375. Put the chicken + marinade into a 9×13 pyrex and put that in the oven. It needs to bake for about 45 minutes – 1 hour. It will be golden brown when it is ready. Near the end of the bake time, prepare the orzo per the package instructions. Once the orzo is done, squeeze the other half of the lemon over it, add butter, and sprinkle some feta on it. Once the chicken comes out of the oven, sprinkle a little feta on that too and put it back in the oven for a couple minutes to get the cheese to melt a little over the chicken. When you make your plate, pour some of that delicious marinade from the bottom of the pyrex all over the orzo. Makes the orzo ridiculously rich and delicious!

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You can make this even healthier and use less butter on the orzo, use fat free yogurt, or even skip the feta. But even if you make it as listed above, it’s not an especially naughty dinner. I finally found a healthier version of those naughty wings we love to splurge on. Score!

 

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Grilled portobello fajitas

I just can’t get enough grilled vegetables. Matt and I have made grilled portobello fajitas a few times now and they are becoming a favorite of ours. I’m pretty excited that my husband agreed to try completely vegetarian fajitas, especially since they have these giant mushroom slices. It’s only been very recently that he’s come around to liking mushrooms. Since I love mushrooms I’m pretty excited we get to cook with them more often these days.

You will need a grill pan for this recipe. I guess it would be possible to use skewers, but this seems like a lot of extra unnecessary work. Get yourself a grill pan if you don’t have one – it’s worth every penny.

The ingredients are pretty flexible, but here’s what we used:

– 1 package of sliced portobello mushroom caps

– 1 bell pepper (we used red)

– 1 white onion

– 2 jalapeños (we deseed ours. Once again go by your own tastes, this can be spicy or you could leave them out completely)

– Fajita seasoning (you can buy this as a packet or you if you have this spice in your kitchen you can just add a tbsp or more depending on your preference)

– 2 tbsp oil (we use coconut)

– 2 tbsp vinegar

– 4 tortillas (depending on how large they are, the vegetable mixture could fill more)

– Optional – avocado to add at the end

First you slice the vegetables, keeping them in long thin strips (aka: Julienne). Put the vegetables into a resealable bag or Tupperware. Add the coconut oil, the vinegar, and the fajita seasoning, shake to coat. Place the veggies in the fridge for at least an hour or more to let them marinate. It isn’t crucial they marinate, but it does make it tastier! When you are ready, heat the grill to a medium high heat.

First, grab those big mushroom slices and put them in the grill pan.

mushroom

Grill the mushrooms until they are soft, they will shrink down some in size. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and temporarily set aside. Add the rest of the vegetables to the pan and grill them.

grilling

Once all the vegetables are cooked, add the mushrooms back in to the pan for another minute, just to get them all back to the same temperature.

That’s it… seriously it’s so easy. When we made ours we used the uncooked tortillas (like these) and heated them on a griddle to cook them right before assembly. I also mashed an avocado up to spread on there as well (because I’m extremely addicted to avocados).

Final result may not look gorgeous, but it was so good. And really easy!

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You honestly don’t notice there isn’t meat. It’s hearty and flavorful.

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Cookbooks

A big part of my path to healthier living has been the choice to cook more at home and to make healthier choices in ingredients. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I love food. Eating out is easy (and we used to do it a lot). Before we joined the gym and started exercising, my husband and I decided we wanted to eat out MUCH less and make more of our own food. It was our ‘step one’ in this whole lifestyle shift. We had a lot of recipes that we liked, and we started by tweaking some of those with slightly healthier options. For example, my spaghetti sauce was updated to use ground turkey sausage instead of standard. My husband updated his meatloaf with a mixture of turkey and sausage instead of beef and sausage. Little tweaks.

We wanted more options though. That led us to go to the bookstore and check out some recipe books. We started with one Cooking Light book, and since the first one we have bought two more. We own Fresh Food Fast, Fresh Food Superfast, and The Essential Dinner Tonight Cookbook. Incredible. The recipes are usually quite easy, and they are low in fat and calories. And as you can infer from the titles, some of them are very quick to put together, so they are perfect for people like us who both work and don’t have hours to dedicate to cooking.

There are so many options. We already plan to buy more of those books, the ones we own get used practically every day. They are covered in splashes of sauce from cooking and post it notes from our weekly meal planning. It’s fun to meal plan with them too, each recipe has a photo so we browse through before our big grocery store trips as if it’s a delicious restaurant menu. The recipes are good as well; they aren’t misleading and they are easy to follow. Aside from one or two semi-lame ones, all the ones we have tried have been so yummy. Bonus: most of the recipes from these books are already preloaded into MyFitnessPal‘s database. Tracking the food remains simple.

Pinterest is another place I find recipes. Have to be honest, these can sometimes be hit or miss. But it’s a great resource for inspiration, and sometimes a real gem is found there. One of my favorite sites for cheap and easy recipes that I found as a result of pinterest is Budget Bytes (The dragon noodles are one of my favorite recipes!).

This takes effort, but the effort is more in the meal planning. My husband and I set aside a few minutes once or twice a week to plan out a few meals and hit up the grocery store to buy everything we need. If we are both tired after work, we already have the ingredients – that way there is no excuse.

We both like the way we feel after cutting out a lot of the over-processed fatty foods we had been eating regularly too. It’s funny, because now even when we do eat out we tend to try to find healthier options. When we have a random fast food meal we both get kind of sick afterwards. Not going into details, but it’s not pretty. Our bodies are clearly rejecting that junk. I feel like my body is running more efficiently, and even though I view food more as fuel these days it’s very tasty fuel!

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Soyrizo

I am not into dieting. I don’t like feeling like there are strict rules or guidelines for what I am allowed to eat. Instead, I look at the big picture and try to make smarter choices and replace ingredients with healthier options when possible. This really works for me. I love delicious food. I am not into starving myself, or cutting things out that I enjoy!

For example, I LOVE Mexican food. Chorizo is glorious. When my husband was excited to tell me about a tasty chorizo substitute that was VEGAN, I was doubtful. But the mere fact that my husband was stoked about a meat substitute had me intrigued, since that’s not usually his bag. I figured what the hell, let’s give it a try. Amazing! I couldn’t taste a difference, other than it was less heavy and greasy. You can really make this however you’d like. If you’d like a little inspiration, here’s the burrito we put together for dinner:

soyrizo

For this particular combination, you’ll need:

Soyrizo (the mister and I used half of the soyrizo for two burritos)

– Eggs (1-2 per burrito)

– Avocado (I mash mine and mix in a little of “that green sauce” from HEB for tasty kick, and we used half avocado per burrito)

– Refried black beans (I prefer Pacific organic)

– Tortilla (I prefer the uncooked tortillas you can get at the store, such as Nana’s uncooked tortillas)

– Spray oil, like Pam

Scoop out and mash up avocado, set aside (add heat, like “that green sauce” or your favorite hot sauce/salsa). Heat up refried black beans. Heat a pan around medium-medium high heat and spray with Pam. Squeeze the soyrizo out of the casing and cook. Add egg to the soyrizo after you’ve cooked it a few minutes, and essentially just scramble the eggs with the soyrizo mixed in. Put it all onto a freshly heated tortilla and you’ve got yourself kickass burrito.

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Grilled wedge salad

Ever since visiting Joe’s Farm Grill and trying their famous grilled wedge salad, my husband and I figured we’d give it a try and make it ourselves. I think we pretty much nailed it!

Behold, the yummy results of the bacon/blue cheese grilled salad goodness my dude and I made:

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Damn. And man, it was good! I love standard wedge salads, but the addition of applying the lettuce to the grill really adds some depth to the flavor.

Here’s what you will need:

– Iceberg lettuce (1/4 of the head per serving)

– Bacon (3 slices per serving)

– Tomato (1/2 per serving)

– Green onion bundle

– Low fat blue cheese dressing (I like Marie’s Lite Chunky Blue Cheese, but really you can use whatever you’d like)

– Lemon

– Spray oil, I prefer grapeseed oil

 

Dice the tomato and chop the green onion. Cook the bacon per the directions on the package and then chop that as well. Chop the iceberg lettuce head in half and spray each half with a light layer of oil. Once your grill is up to a high heat, you will put the lettuce halves directly on the grill for about 2-3 minutes. Once you pull those grilled salad halves off the grill (there should be satisfying grill marks), divide them up into quarters. Each quarter gets a happy covering of a couple tablespoons of the lite dressing, and the chopped bacon, tomato, and green onion all over the top. Finally, cut the lemon into quarters and squeeze fresh lemon over the top of your salads.

Depending on what dressing you use it’s reasonably healthy. The bacon is a small amount of naughty in an otherwise low guilt meal. And bacon isn’t that bad as long as your not eating it excessively, in my opinion… For example, check out the nutritional info for a serving of the bacon we buy. One serving is 2 pan fried pieces and as mentioned before, we use 3 slices for this recipe per serving.

SUCH an EASY recipe. We have already made plans to make this again.

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Shrimp & avocado salad

Simple fresh salad. You can customize it however you want.

shrimpsalad

I usually make this in order to meal prep and bring a healthy lunch to work for 4 days (I chop and mix the veggies each day and only precook the shrimp, but you could also just view this as enough for 4 servings). Add or subtract veggies from this recipe per your tastes, but here’s what I do:

– 1 lb uncooked shrimp

– 2 avocados

– 2 cucumbers

– 2 tomatoes (I like the ones still on the vine!)

– head of iceberg lettuce (spinach would also be excellent)

– dressing (I use about a tablespoon of sesame oil, or about a tablespoon of poppy seed dressing per serving. Once again, this can be totally customizable.)

I saute the shrimp, either with cooking spray or a pad of butter if I feel like splurging. Once they are cooked through, I generally sprinkle them with some pepper and garlic powder (no need to go overboard, just a little). Now stick them in the fridge, this is meant to be a totally cold salad. I like to meal plan with this, so I add 1/4 of the total veggies listed above to 1/4 of the cooked shrimp to bring to work for lunch each day. I precook the shrimp, but I chop the veggies each night or morning before work so they don’t get gross being chopped up for too long by the time day 3 or 4 rolls around. When I’ve chopped veggies and added the shrimp to that portion, I drizzle a little dressing on, shake it up… and boom. Delicious, fresh, reasonably healthy lunch!

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Roasted veggie sandwich

This is my new favorite sandwich. Like, ever. And I LOVE sandwiches. I also love roasted vegetables, so this is pretty much perfection right here. This is my own set of instructions, the sammich was inspired by a now closed sandwich shop near my house that had the greatest veggie sandwich (before now). What I loved about their sandwich, was that there was broccoli in it. Surprisingly good. I like to pair it with a side of cucumber. I swear I’m not a vegetarian, I just love a good veggie meal.

veggie sandwich

Here’s what you need per sandwich: (To be really fair, I make enough so that there is a spill over of veggies on my plate, because who doesn’t want that??)

– About 1 tbsp Cooking oil, I use olive oil

– Either one clove garlic or you can be lazy like me and scoop a spoonful of minced garlic (which I always have a jar of in my fridge)

– About 4-6 Button mushrooms (any kind would work)

– 1 Broccoli crown

– 1 Jalapeño

– 1 Small tomato (either Roma or one of those smaller ones that are on the vines)

– 1 Roll

– 2 Low fat/fat free swiss cheese slices (I like the fat free Kroger ones)

– *Optional* 1 Cucumber (not for sandwich, just for side)

– *Optional* Favorite hot sauce, I prefer Sriracha (for the cucumber)

 

Dice the mushrooms, chop up the broccoli, and slice the jalapeño. Dump the chopped veggies into a freezer bag or tupperware and pour the olive oil and the minced garlic over it. Shake it up so the veggies are coated. Put the veggie mixture on a foil lined baking sheet, and place into a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. During that 10 minute span, slice the tomato. After the first ten minutes are up, pull out your partially roasted veggies and chuck the tomato slices in there. Put that concoction back in the oven for 15 more minutes. Take the two slices of low fat swiss and place them on either side of your roll. If you have a toaster oven, melt the cheese on the bread. If you don’t, use your oven to warm the cheese a little in the last few minutes the vegetables are roasting. (Trust me, this is worth it)

Once the vegetables are done, get a big spoon and smush the veggies into that gooey cheesy goodness.  Enjoy.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I like to pair this with spicy cucumber. All I do is slice a cucumber and drizzle Sriracha (or cock sauce, as I like to call it) all over. Like so:

cucumber

 

Low fat. Low cal. Totally customizable. Go destroy your own amazing veggie sandwich now.