Zucchini Bake Lean and Green

I’m always on the lookout for easy-to-make, one-batch lean and greens that don’t require a trip to the store. I’m a huge fan of zucchini and I always have a few in my fridge. When I chanced upon this recipe from Joy Filled Eats’ instagram feed, I thought it would be perfect for Optavia 5&1. With a few mods, it absolutely is!

Ingredients:

  • 170g shredded zucchini {3 greens}
  • 7 {14T} egg whites {1/2 Leanest}
  • 3/4 cup 1% cottage cheese {1/2 Leanest}
  • 2 wedges original Laughing Cow {2 Healthy Fats}
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk {1/4 condiment}
  • ½ tsp salt {2 condiments}
  • 1T reduced fat Parmesan {1/2 condiment}

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Shred zucchini {peeled or unpeeled is entirely up to you} and place in paper towels to squeeze out as much of the water as possible. Removing the water is a critical step—don’t skip it!
  3. Spray a 9″ x 9″ baking dish and then sprinkle 1/2T parmesan on the bottom. This helps to keep the bottom dry.
  4. Place the shredded zucchini in an even layer in the dish
  5. Blend your egg whites, cottage cheese, Laughing Cow wedges, salt, and almond milk in a blender until smooth. Then pour over the top of the zucchini.
  6. Top with another 1/2T of parmesan
  7. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, around 35-45 minutes.

Entire batch equals one complete Lean & Green.

A few tips:

  1. This is a really large portion, so I often make it in the AM and then eat it in two servings throughout the day. So I end up eating 7 times on those days.
  2. If you’d like to use this as a side dish, you can eat 1/2 of the dish and then supplement with 1/2 of a Leanest and 1.5 Greens.
  3. I saw a question on Joy Filled Eats’ Insta asking if you can use ricotta instead of cottage cheese. You definitely can, but as much as I LOVE ricotta, I really think this dish is better with the cottage cheese.
  4. If/when you store it in the fridge, I recommend placing a paper towel on top and then covering with foil. That way, any moisture is captured in the paper towel instead of collecting in the dish.
  5. This would make an AWESOME Thanksgiving side dish. It’s super light and goes with just about anything.

PS. You’ll see I have a few different baking dishes in the pics. I’ve made it a few times and ultimately, I like the square or rectangular dishes the best. The round one wasn’t big enough, but I had the best lighting that day, lol.


How to Enjoy Coffee on Optavia

It’s been quite a long time since I talked about coffee and it’s probably one of the most frequent questions I get. How do you enjoy your favorite coffee and still stay on plan?

To begin, I think it’s important to know how I take my coffee, so you can tell if it’s up your alley. I like my coffee creamy. I like Starbucks. I like fancy coffees. I like flavored coffees. 

What I‘ve found that it comes down to for me is three things: good coffee, good creamer, and good tools. I have, at most, one cup a day, so I like making it count.

First, I grind my beans every 2-3 days {my fave these days is BLK & Bold’s Rise & Grind blend} and store them in an airtight Ball jar. I could grind them daily, but I don’t find the time-to-taste ratio is really worth it. Second, I always steam {hot or cold—my frother does both} my creamer and the blend, to me, is what really makes it great. I combine:

  • 4 oz Unsweetened Almond Milk {1/2 Condiment}
  • 3T Nutpods Creamer {1 Condiment}
  • 3T Half and Half {1 Healthy Fat}

The almond milk gives me the volume I need for only 1/2 a condiment, the Nutpods {Winter Collection, Regular Variety Pack, or Cafe Collection} gives me the fun flavors, and the half and half gives me the creaminess I need. I use the entire portion of the creamy blend for one cup. If that’s too much for you, feel free to cut them in half of spread them across two cups of coffee. Like I said, I like my creamy. 🙂

For the coffee, I’m obsessed with my Aeropress. It makes one cup at a time and it’s amazing! I’ve owned a Keurig, a Nespresso machine, a pour over, and even Starbucks’ Verrismo machine. My favorite? The $30 Aeropress. You simply place the Aeropress over your mug of choice, add two spoonfuls {Aeropress includes a measuring spoon}, and fill the chamber to the top with boiling water. Then press and voila! Coffee’s brewed. Add your creamy concoction and you’re ready to go.

So if you love your fancy flavored coffees like I do and you want to stay on plan, give it a shot. 

One note: because it requires one healthy fat, make sure your L&G planned for the day is a Leanest or Leaner OR you can just leave the half and half out, but it’ll be a little less creamy. 

Have any coffee tips of your own? I’d love to know your secrets. 

Enjoy!


Cheese Taco Shells

I don’t know about you, but tacos are one of my absolute favorite foods on the planet. I love the versatility, the flavors, and I even love the way you eat them with your hands. So many of the meals we eat are with utensils. Frankly, tacos are just fun—and why shouldn’t food be fun?

The problem with tacos on 5&1 is the “shell,” so like I often do, I look to keto chefs for inspiration. The answer: taco shells made from cheese! Now, in keto, they use full fat cheese. To make them 5&1 compliant, we’re going to go with reduced fat cheese. Different fat level, same yumminess level.

Taco Shell Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C or 84g Reduced Fat Shredded Cheddar or 4-Cheese Mexican Cheese {3/4 Lean}
  • 1.5 oz Ground Beef, Chicken, or Meat Substitute from the Leaner category {1/4 Lean}

Entire batch equals One Lean. What you add inside will count towards your Greens and Condiments.

For mine, I added tomatoes and shredded iceberg lettuce and topped with nonfat Greek yogurt {you could use non-fat sour cream as well…I just had Greek yogurt, so went with that.} These shells are small though, so you’ll likely end up with a side salad to complete your Greens. Or, you can add Greens somewhere else throughout your day: grilled mushrooms on your smashed potatoes, roasted peppers on top of your rosemary cheddar biscuit, etc.

If you don’t want ANY meat at all, you can double the amount of cheese and fill them with veggies only. It’s entirely up to you. Get creative! This is the perfect opportunity to play around with your favorite taco combination!

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Measure out your shredded cheese and cook up your choice of ground meat.
  3. Once oven is preheated, place your cheese in circles {it’s important that they’re circles to create the right shape} on a parchment lined baking sheet or use a pan like mine. Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the edges turn brown and the cheese is bubbly.
  4. While your cheese is cooking, set up your “drying racks”— turn two {or more, depending on how many batches you’re making} glasses over and set wooden spoons across them.
  5. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to cool for approximately one minute. It needs to rest and firm up, but keep an eye on it. It’s important that you not let them cool too much, as they’ll need to be slightly warm to mold into the taco shell shape.
  6. Use a thin rubber spatula to remove the shells from the pan and then hang them on your “drying rack.” Allow them to harden for approximately five minutes.
  7. Remove, fill and enjoy!

Lastly, these don’t store well. For me, they lost their crispiness and you definitely cannot reheat them. My recommendation: make only what you intend to eat for that meal.

Hope these add some fun and versatility to your Lean & Green arsenal!


Instant Pot Chipotle Chicken with Ranch & Feta Slaw

A few weeks ago, I asked our Facebook group if there was any interest in Instant Pot Lean & Green recipes and the response was overwhelming! I’ve done a ton of research and found a bunch of great recipes. My plan was to take some of those recipes and make them 5&1 compliant. When I came across this one from Optavia, I knew I had to give theirs a shot first. My verdict: the chicken was awesome! The ‘cauliflower rice bowl with avocado and cheddar’? Not so much. So, here’s my take on theirs: Chipotle Chicken with Ranch & Feta Slaw.

To start, you’ll use their recipe as follows:

Chipotle Chicken Ingredients {yields four servings}:

  • 1, 14.5-oz. Can Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/3 C Salsa
  • 1 Canned Chipotle Pepper in Adobo Sauce + 1 tsp Sauce
  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • ½ tsp Dried Oregano
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1½ lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  1. Combine first six ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.
  2. Place chicken in Instant Pot, and pour sauce over top. Secure lid and close pressure valve. Set to 20 minutes at high pressure. Allow pressure to release naturally before opening. Remove chicken and shred, and then toss back in sauce.

Their recipe as above yields four servings of approximately 6 oz of chicken per serving, which is one Leaner. The condiments and greens as above would convert to 2 greens and 2 condiments.

PS. If you’ve never used these to shred chicken, you’re totally missing out. I love them!

Now, if you want to give theirs a shot, go for it. For me, it was too mushy, not enough contrast in texture, and it just felt fatty with the warm cauliflower, cheese, and avocado together.

Here’s where I changed things up:

Since my recipe removes the cheddar, avocado, and cauliflower rice, my calculations are a little different in how you finish it off.

Ranch & Feta Slaw Ingredients {per serving}:

  • 1 C Shredded Red {green is ok, too} Cabbage {1 Green}
  • 2T of Hidden Valley Original Ranch Homestyle Light {1 Healthy Fat}
  • 2T Reduced Fat Feta {1 Condiment}

Mix cabbage, dressing, and 1T of feta in a bowl. Plate and top with 6 oz of chipotle chicken and sprinkle remaining feta on top. For me, the ranch added a coolness {yet still creamy} factor and the cabbage added amazing crunch. Lastly, the feta added the perfect amount of saltiness to balance the chipotle.

Feel free to double, triple or quadruple the slaw as needed. I make one serving at a time and freeze the remaining chicken for future meals. The meat freezes/defrosts beautifully!


Zucchini Rollatini

Creamy, cheesy, tomatoey goodness! If you love lasagna like I do, you will absolutely LOVE this dish! Like I’ve said before, I love great food, but I love when it’s simple to make. This one couldn’t be easier. It looks and tastes beautiful, but anybody can make it.

The ingredients list is super simple, too.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C Rao’s Marinara {3 Greens}
  • 180g Zucchini* {3 Greens}
  • 1 Egg {1/3 Lean}
  • 2/3 C Reduced Fat Shredded Cheese {2/3 Lean}
  • 1 C Low Fat Ricotta {1 Lean}
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning {1 Condiment}
  • 4T Reduced Fat Grated Parmesan {2 Condiments}

Entire batch yields two servings. Each serving equals 1 Lean, 3 Greens, and 1.5 Condiments

*Equivalent to 1.5 C, but since you’re slicing on a mandolin, it’s important to weigh your zucchini.

One last thought: I saw a similar recipe online that yielded five servings, 1/2 Lean per serving, and 3 Condiments per serving. Personally, I don’t like to make a Lean & Green with so many servings. I prefer to eat a meal no more than two days in a row {and I don’t like to freeze meals}. I also like my Lean & Green recipes to be complete meals {1 Lean, 3 Greens} and I try to constrain the number of Condiments so I have room for almond milk in my daily shakes. That said, you could absolutely double or triple this recipe if you’re serving a family and/or you could add lean ground turkey if you want to add meat. In that case, I would suggest adding 7 oz of COOKED 98% fat free ground turkey {1 Lean} to the ricotta mixture, 120g Zucchini {2 greens} and 1/4 C Rao’s Marinara {1 Green}. I wouldn’t change the cheese proportions. That would turn the entire dish to three complete Lean & Greens and only 1 Condiment per serving.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Slice zucchini using a mandolin.*
  3. Mix 2T parmesan, ricotta, Italian seasoning, and egg.
  4. Place marinara at bottom of pan.
  5. Roll zucchini with ricotta mixture and line up in dish.
  6. Cover with shredded mozzarella and remaining parmesan.
  7. Cook for 30 minutes or until toasted brown and zucchini is tender. 

PS. I so highly recommend using these gloves when working with a mandolin. Zero cuts. Zero worries. And so cheap. I will never use a mandolin again without them.


Mini Crock Pot: a worthy addition to your kitchen

You know the saying, “Mom’s always right”? Well, in honor of Mother’s Day, I’m sharing this recipe that came about because of my mom.

My parents started Optavia in January and are rocking it SO hard! I can’t even tell you how happy I am about that!!! A few months ago, my mom saw a post in the FB group about the Mini Crock Pot. Since I always pulverized my pastas/soups and turned them into muffins or wafffles, it wasn’t even a consideration for me to buy one. Well, she kept telling me how awesome they were in the Crock Pot, so I broke down and bought one. The results? AMAZING.

Of course, I always add a twist, so I combined the pasta fueling with spaghetti squash. Here’s how I did it:

For two fuelings {you can make up to four at the same time in the mini Crock Pot}:

1. Add two packets of Spinach Pesto Mac {or any pasta you like} to the crock pot
2. Add 1C of water {4 oz per fueling ~ same as packet instructions}
3. Mix well
4. Plug Crock Pot in and cook for one hour and fifteen minutes 
5. A few minutes before that’s ready, add 1.5C cooked spaghetti squash to a pan and heat up
6. Add pasta to pan and cook until the remaining liquid/consistency is to your liking
7. Split into two fuelings and enjoy!

PS. The cheese on top is NOT necessary. It just makes for a prettier picture. 🙂 PPS. Link to the mini Crock Pot in my bio.

NOTE: if you just want to eat the pasta as-is and NOT add it to a pan with spaghetti squash, leave it to cook for an additional 15 minutes so more of the liquid absorbs.