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 4

Have I told you before I eat primarily beef? I am even happy to go bunless on a burger or wrap in lettuce to reduce the calories and carbs, as long as it is beef. Since the rules haven’t changed and beef is still off limits, I am compromising for a turkey burger. I started this menu using some inspiration from https://oursaltykitchen.com/paleo-turkey-burgers/, but chose to simplify life a bit by purchasing the Butterball all-natural turkey burger patties at the grocery store and therefore created my own version of keto, low-carb turkey burgers.

Served alongside the burger are zucchini fries and string beans. I’m not going to share my recipe for zucchini fries because, let’s just say, they weren’t very good. To be honest, the flavor was fine, but they look weird and the texture was odd, I believe because the almond flour was simply not fine enough. I would have rather cut the zucchini fries – just like fries – and roasted them in the oven, or even pan fried in a bit of avocado or olive oil. They would have been just as good – maybe better. The breading of an egg, almond flour and seasoning was to trick the mind and make us think we were eating french fries, but it is time to just be honest… they are either french fries or they aren’t. Tricking the mind into thinking we are eating something we are not only lasts so long. Eventually you just desperately want a stupid french fry – who cares how much fat, starch and calories are in it!? I am not encouraging any of us to go on a french fry binge, but honestly, I would rather have 2-3 really high quality french fries once a month than outcast them for life. Moderation, people, moderation.

In the meantime, I will do the best I can to eat what I should and how I should to get my body as healthy as possible. Just don’t tell me I’ll never again taste a grain of sugar, a bite of the best tenderloin steak ever, or in this case, a hot, glorious oil laden french fry.

Turkey Burgers

Course: Main Course
Keyword: keto, low-carb, turkey
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sliced portobello mushrooms
  • 1/2 med sliced onion
  • 1/2 bell pepper
  • 4 tbsp olive or avocado oil divided
  • 4 turkey burger patties Paleo or Keto version
  • 4 slices Vegan provolone cheese
  • 4 fried eggs cooked in ghee butter
  • 1-2 smashed avocado(s) (season with salt & pepper, add a tbls lime juice)
  • 4 lg lettuce leaves
  • salt & pepper

Instructions

  • Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add two tbls oil and heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy about 10 minutes.
  • Add the peppers and onions to the skillet. Continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until the peppers and onions soften, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove the vegetables from heat and set aside.
  • Add the remaining oil to the skillet and cook the turkey burgers over medium heat. Season with salt & pepper. Cook until browned on each side, about 5 minuter per, or until a meat thermometer reads 165°.
  • Top each patty with a slice of provolone cheese and melt.
  • Build your burger. Place lettuce leaves on a plate, then add an equal portion of smashed avocado, add the burger with melted cheese, top with vegetables and a fried egg.

I know what you’re thinking… She’s about ready to crack. It’s barely been one week and the woman is going to lose it. Listen to her talk about french fries! Truly, I am just trying to be real. I can do this because I want the benefits on the other side of it, and honestly, I am enjoying alot of these meals. I am cooking things I rarely do, or maybe have never even tried, and they are really good. However, I will be the first to say, in many cases it is taking more time and is more work to get all these vegetables prepped, cooked and everything on the table at the right time.

Overall, I would say we can adopt many of these low-carb principles forever. We could stand to eat far less rice and potatoes, we can easily remove buns from our burgers, add two-to-three times as many vegetables, and eat much smaller portions. We will be healthier, stronger, and more than likely, thinner. Here we go, quickly moving into week 2 and looking forward to it!

Are you interested in checking out the weekly meal planner? Download your copy today… (this file will keep updating as we move throughout the 6-week program)

And remember, please let us know how you are doing on your 2021 healthy eating goals!

Blessings,
Tina

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


2021 Meal Planning… Menu 3

Most of us have experienced days that take on their own identity, their own schedule. That was Day 3 of our new meal plan, so leftover fish was the only option for dinner, pushing the promised Chicken Fajitas to day 4, but menu 3.

I think its safe to say, it was worth waiting for!

Breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled, mixed with chunky chicken sausage, sautéed spinach, mushrooms and onions. Add some chopped avocado on the side and you will be full for hours! This can be cooked as a scramble or an omelet, your choice.
Decaf Tea

Lunch: Left over salmon and roasted cauliflower

The cravings were pretty strong today. I should win a gold medal for passing right by the Christmas caramels in the pantry! I tried to keep the urges at bay with extra water and some cashews for snacking. I have to admit, the touch of salty seemed to do the trick for an hour or two until I was again wishing for a little sweet treat. There is something about being told you can’t have something and therefore that’s all the mind wants.

Dinner: Chicken Fajitas with a sprouted corn tortilla shell
Smashed avocados, lettuce & vegan shredded Mozarella cheese

chicken fajitas
Low Carb Chicken Fajitas, Keto Approved
I made some tweaks to the fajita recipe, simply to keep them more mild for my personal preferences. I did not include any chili powder and maybe only a 1/4 tsp of cumin. Due to the fact we aren’t supposed to have any condiments right now, I elected for the ground mustard rather than the Dijon, and instead of chicken thighs I used breast meat. The meat was incredibly tender and flavorful – pretty much perfect with the adjustments. No cilantro – it’s one of the herbs this family does not eat at all, and only 1 pepper, 1/2 red and 1/2 orange. Gosh, I guess I made more changes than I thought… I also never use red onion because my husband doesn’t care for them, and my preference is vidalia sweet onions, but it was less than half. As a result of all these edits, I’ve provided my altered recipe below…

The fajita is layered with cheese on the bottom, topped with a dollop of smashed avocados (mixed with a bit of lime juice, salt & pepper), lettuce, chicken mixed with peppers and onions and topped with a tablespoon more cheese for color.

Low Carb Chicken Fajitas

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: fajitas, keto, low-carb, mexican
Servings: 4

Ingredients

Fajita Seasoning

  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Fajitas

  • 2 tbsp garlic olive oil
  • 2 tbsp ghee butter, divided
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 1/2 lb chicken breast, chopped (for stir fry)
  • 1/2 med bell pepper, red
  • 1/2 med bell pepper, yellow or orange
  • 1/2 med Vidalia sweet onion

For serving…

  • 1 1/2 small avocados, smashed
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • lettuce, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Vegan (non-dairy) mozarella, shredded

Instructions

  • Combine all the ingredients for the fajitas seasoning.
  • In a medium bowl, combine olive oil, lime juice, mustard and fajita seasonings. Toss in chicken chunks until well coated. Let chicken marinate while you prepare the vegetables.
  • Slice the onions and peppers.
  • Heat 1 tbls. butter in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and cook another 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Melt the remaining 1 tbls. butter in the same skillet and brown the chicken. Cook for 5-6 minutes or until heated through. Return the onion and pepper to the pan to heat.
  • Compile the fajitas in the corn tortillas; avocado, lettuce, cheese, chicken, onions and peppers.

I can honestly say the meals are really superb – flavorful and filling – which is so important to keep me focused and on-target. I hope you’re finding the same success if you’re following along with us. We would love to hear how you’re doing!

Blessings,
Tina

Copyright © 2020 Montana Mountain Maven / Tina R. Cusker. All rights reserved.