So Many Thoughts…

Do you ever have those days when there are so many things to do, so many things to think about, your mind is literally swimming from one thought or idea to the next? I know this is typically a food or entertaining blog, but today I’m going to share all (ok, maybe not ALL) that is on my mind; and together we are going to make the connections and move forward from all these individual thoughts. I promise you – stay with me – we will unpack this in a way that will make sense and will hopefully bring you some personal clarity for those thousands of thoughts in your own mind, those same thoughts that may also be preventing you from moving forward. At least I am hoping the process does so for me!

  1. Why does all this matter? Because there is a reason these thoughts are on your mind, but what are you going to do about it?
  2. What is your word for 2021? Mine is DREAM.
  3. They said ‘build it and they will come,’ but what if no one shows up?
  4. What if no one likes me, or likes what I have to offer?
  5. Am I good enough? Do I know enough? What if I make mistakes? (yes, that is three questions rolled into one)
  6. When and how will I meet the RIGHT people who can help me move forward with my goals?
  7. When I fail, who will be there to help me up?
  8. What if I CAN’T do all I WANT to do?

Ok, let’s stop the list there because honestly I could go on for a really long time and I have my suspicions you may be able to, as well.

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2021 Meal Planning… Menu 9

I grew up making and enjoying a broccoli casserole made with Campbell’s soup, frozen broccoli, rice and cheddar cheese. It’s a fabulous recipe and one I would be willing to make tomorrow, if only…. Apparently rice is not in my future anytime soon, but chicken and broccoli certainly are. I was yearning for something a bit creamy and chicken sounded more tasty today than fish. Don’t get me wrong, the fish we’ve had lately has been phenomenal – except the halibut. That’s a conversation for another day, but I’m going to have to get creative with the rest of the halibut because all it did was remind me why I used to never eat white fish unless it was fried along with a whole bunch of ‘chips.’

I’m a bit off topic here, so let’s get back to the chicken and broccoli.

chicken & broccoli

While I did do a bit of recipe surfing to make up my mind what I wanted to make for dinner, this is truly my own recipe and one I’m very proud of. It was so good, I had to separate myself from the table so I wouldn’t go back for seconds. The next time I make it, I plan to try coconut creamer rather than whipping cream to ensure a dairy free version. I did use thighs because, simply, that’s what was in the freezer. Breast meat is never as moist as dark, so when I use breast meat, personally, I might opt for chicken breast tenderloins but with the sauce it is unlikely the dish will be dry unless you happen to overcook it.

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2021 Meal Planning… Menu 8

No, I didn’t get lost. No, we didn’t fall off the bandwagon.

Yes, we’re still eating more healthily and truly enjoying it! But life has been busy too. I’ve found as empty nesters, we just don’t need “daily” meal plans. There is almost always leftovers so we’ve been cleaning out the fridge for starters. We have been out of town and skiing a bit, so full kitchen prep simply hasn’t been in the cards. Making wise selections in a restaurant, or even in the produce aisle at the grocery store with some packaged salads has simply been a reality at times. Yes, sometimes life gets in the way of our meal plans but it doesn’t mean we have to give up on our goals. Another thing that has kept me focused is I know for a fact that one (minor) cheat meal out of 21 very focused meals is not going to ruin it all. Sometimes we need a little encouragement to stay the course.

Chicken Cauliflower Parmesan

Recently when we were home for an evening meal, I found an interesting recipe for Cauliflower Parmesan in the Delish online magazine, but it wasn’t going to be sufficient for us without some (meat) protein. We are not, and never will be vegetarians! Originally, all I wrote on the recipe was “add chicken!” In the end, I revised a great deal of the recipe AGAIN because of what I had on hand and what is on my “approved” food list. For instance, the original recipe called for 1 1/2 c. marinara sauce. I’m really not to be eating tomatoes at all right now, and honestly, I’m not a big fan of a ton of sauce anyway. So, reducing it to only 1 cup was sufficient. I think I could even go down to 3/4 of cup and it would be okay. If you do need the moisture to protect those chicken breasts, consider cutting the marinara sauce with some water. You’ll save money and calories, still having plenty of good flavor. By the way, it turned out beautifully and I would make it again in a heartbeat! Better yet, there’s a second meal waiting in the fridge.

Chicken Cauliflower Parmesan

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: cauliflower, chicken, parmesan
Servings: 4
Author: Tina Cusker

Ingredients

  • 12 oz riced cauliflower
  • 2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I used caramelized garlic olive oil)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 lb skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 c marinara sauce
  • 1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese divided
  • 1 c shredded mozarella cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 375° and prepare an 11×7 baking dish.
  • Layer the riced cauliflower on the bottom of the dish. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Top with thin chicken breasts (consider cutting at least in half horizontally) or chicken thighs and marinara sauce.
  • Sprinkle with mozarella and half of the Parmesan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Top with remaining Parmesan, basil and red pepper flakes.
  • Return to the oven and bake for another 20 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese are turning golden brown. Double check your chicken for doneness with a meat thermometer before serving.

I served a fresh green salad on the side with a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar and oil. Beautiful color and a very easy meal. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Blessings,
Tina

Copyright © 2021 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.


2021 Meal Planning… Menu 7

It has been a full day for healthy meals straight from our kitchen. We started off with some good, old fashioned egg salad sandwiches. Truth be told, they weren’t quite ‘old-fashioned’ but they were super healthy while still being very tasty.

Start with your bread… Manna from Heaven low carb bread. I followed “The Blood Sugar Diet” recipe, but needed to make a quick substitution due to the lack of psyllium husk powder in the grocery store. Due to a quick Google search, I opted for 2 tbsp ground chia seeds which I already had on hand. Check out my video making the bread, which I guarantee we will have again…

Next up, the Greek Yogurt Egg Salad from Damn Delicious. Instead of a crispy, warm baguette, I served a deconstructed sandwich with a small wedge of Manna from Heaven bread, a large lettuce leaf and 1/2 an avocado sliced alongside 2 scoops of egg salad.

And it’s now time for dinner…. man, we are eating well today!

Are you craving spaghetti? How about a low-carb, no sugar compromise with zucchini noodles and turkey meatballs?

Garlic Butter Zoodles with Turkey Meatballs

Course: Main Course
Keyword: butter, garlic, noodles, turkey, zoodles, zucchini

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 tbsp caramelized garlic olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb zucchini noodles (zoodles)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

Turkey Meatballs

  • Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix ground turkey, egg, parmesan, oil, parsley and spices to a large bowl using a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  • Using a medium sized scooper, portion out the meatballs on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.

Garlic Butter Zoodles

  • Melt butter in a large skillet; add minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  • Add zucchini noodles and toss in the garlic butter; squeeze the lemon for the juice.
  • Cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed.
  • Top with the meatballs and sprinkle remaining Parmesan cheese.

The only thing that would make this day better for food would be a hot, fresh chocoalte chip cookie straight from the oven…. A girl can dream, can’t she? 😉

Blessings,
Tina

Copyright © 2021 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.


2021 Meal Planning… Menu 6

The best part of this meal plan is I’m trying new recipes and adding in foods I rarely cook. I am learning something new every day and there has yet to be a bad meal, which is certainly keeping us far more motivated. How can you beat Cornish Game Hens on a Monday night, not to mention a full set of leftovers for a second day?!

The recipe I selected is from KetoDietApp.com. Aside from adding mushrooms and not opting for the orange sauce, I did a great job following the actual recipe. The riced cauliflower stuffing was so moist, the hens so incredibly flavorful, a true win for the meal plan. You gotta try this one – whether for guests or just an ordinary day needing an extraordinary dinner.

Check out my video below walking you through the recipe…

Because of the veggie heavy riced cauliflower stuffing, I recommend serving with a side salad. However, I went ahead and roasted a side vegetable as well. I had three rutabagas in the fridge, peeled and chopped them. After tossing with caramelized garlic olive oil, salt and pepper, I roasted on a sheet pan for 40-45 min at 400°. It’s been years since I’ve had rutabagas and they were awesome! Think of them a bit like a buttered sweet potato, somewhat similar to a Yukon Gold potato – but healthier. Run, don’t walk to your grocery store and get some today…

And be sure to let us know how your Cornish game hens turn out!

Blessings,
Tina

Copyright © 2021 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.


2021 Meal Planning… Menu 5

We got to go out to dinner, like a date! I was so excited. I will admit, we cheated just a bit, but it felt so good to take a night off and enjoy one meal at one of our favorite restaurants.

For meal 5, we coupled some leftovers with a new recipe for Beet and Goat Cheese Salad. This selection was inspired by a similar salad we had shared the night before, although a little less elegant than the amazing, professional Italian chef we like so much. In addition to the recipe below, please check out my inaugural cooking video featuring this very same salad.

Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

Course: Salad, Side Dish
Keyword: beet, goat cheese, spiralizer

Ingredients

  • 1 lb raw, spiralized beets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup roasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach, minced
  • 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • If you are using whole beets, wash and peel and them make them into noodles using a spiralizier. If you don't have one, you can dice them. Alternatively, you may be able to purchase pre-spiralized beets in the produce section at your local grocery store.
  • Toss the beets with 2 tbls olive oil and seasoning.
  • Place on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper, spread evenly.
  • Bake for 10 minutes and then, let cool.
  • Toss with spinach, and 2 tbls olive oil and vinegar.
  • Add your goat cheese and lightly toss before adding the pecans.
  • Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Notes

*Recipe adapted from https://mylifecookbook.com. 

An extra tip… we didn’t finish this the first night and it was actually two days later before we did. While the goat cheese was a little pink, the salad was just as good the second time around which is pretty rare for vegetables tossed with vinegar and oil. The beets hold their structure well on their own. I really like the unique texture and tang to the dish. It is fun to try something new!

Blessings,
Tina

Copyright © 2021 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.