Zucchini & Sausage “Baked Ziti”

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Mmmmmm…..just say that with me. Mmmmmm….

Now that we’ve established our favorite noise for the day, let’s get on with the good stuff.

Food. Be still my beating heart.

I will never be able to give up my passion for food. I may be on a journey to healthy, but that doesn’t stop me from creating good real food that both my stomach and heart purely enjoy.

They say weight loss is approximately 75% diet, 25% exercise. They also say that the 90/10 rule is a pretty good guide for eating healthy. Eating healthy and on point 90% of the time seems pretty decent, if you ask me. I believe in a cheat meal a week mentality. I don’t think anyone can be perfect 100% of the time, because let’s be real- who wants to live that life? I don’t.

That being said, I am all about changing what is meant to be a cheat comfort meal, into a healthy meal I can eat whenever I want!

For example, in walks pasta, dives head first into a steamy jacuzzi of sauce, then welcomes a cozy blanket of cheese. That is my love language.

I can’t have pasta though. So instead we use our trusty zucchini and spiralizer to make dreams come true. It’s amazing and my life is forever changed.

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Zucchini & Sausage “Baked Ziti”

Ingredients

  • 2 large zucchinis, spiralized
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 lb italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 tbsp italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on level of heat you like)
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese + more for topping
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese + more for topping
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large oven safe sauté pan, brown and crumble sausage.

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When cooked, add diced onion and pepper to pan. Saute 5-7 minutes until vegetables start to become tender. Add minced garlic and saute 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

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Then add diced tomatoes and marinara sauce.

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Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, italian seasoning and crushed red pepper flakes. Add 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese to sauce. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes and for sauce to thicken. (When zucchini is added and cooked, it will give off water).

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When sauce has thickened, add 1/2 cup ricotta cheese and mix into sauce.

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Pour in zucchini noodles and mix into sauce.

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Top with dollops of ricotta cheese and shredded mozzarella.

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Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Set oven to broil on high for 3-5 minutes until cheese is browned and bubbling.

 

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This dish is full of so much flavor! The zucchini noodles are cooked just right with a little bit of bite, leaving your palate feeling like you are eating al dente pasta!

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The cheese, oh the cheese. No description ever needed. I heart cheese, hard.

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Please make this. The husband told me he’d eat it once a week from here on out. That’s a big ole’ compliment in my book!

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Happy eating my friends!

 

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Cajun Chicken & Cheddar Zucchini Skillet

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There are so many resources out there to inspire delicious, homemade meals. Between the internet, social media, magazines and cookbooks, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to make all the things I want to. But man, I am going to try 🙂

I can spend hours just looking at recipes and often get sucked in when I should be doing something that really needs my attention, like laundry. Life is short though, and laundry happens every day. So what if we don’t have socks, isn’t that why they made sandals? I believe so!

While cruising along Pinterest one night, I stumbled across this recipe for White Cheddar Chicken and Zucchini, and immediately I knew I had to make it. Like all other recipes I find, I needed to make it and in doing so, make it my own. Hands down, I give all recognition for the inspiration of this dish to the original blogger, but I made some changes to better suit our tastes and current eating habits.

Which means, I added some spice, garlic and the almighty food that makes every recipe better- BACON! I also omitted the panko bread crumbs due to our low carb lifestyle.

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This dish has so much flavor, and is easy to make! I hope you try it!

Cajun Chicken & Cheddar Zucchini Skillet

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut into large chunks
  • 1-2 tbsp of Cajun seasoning {depending on taste}
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1  tsp black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder, divided
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into rounds
  • 1 medium yellow squash, sliced into rounds
  • 4 oz of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 6 slices of cooked bacon, diced

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare zucchini and onions but cutting them first.

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In a bowl, season chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Add Cajun seasoning to your liking, between 1-2 tablespoons.

In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.

Saute chicken on each side for 4-5 minutes until browned. Remove from skillet and place in a separate dish.

To the same skillet, add diced onions and sauté for 2 minutes until starting to soften. Add minced garlic, and sauté until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.

Then add zucchini and yellow squash to skillet, season with remaining salt, pepper and garlic powder. Combine zucchini and onions well. Place chicken on top of the zucchini and squash and place into the oven.

Bake for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through and zucchini is tender. Then top with shredded cheddar and bacon. Place back into the oven and broil on high until cheese is melted and bubbling.

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This is a meal full of amazing flavors and I highly recommend you try it!

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There is something spectacular to be said about dinners made entirely in one pan because who likes to wash dishes after dinner?! Nobody.

Happy Eating!!

Baked Pepperoni & Bacon Pizza Chicken

Life lately has been full of some wonderful but busy moments. We laugh quite often how just a few months ago we were talking about how bored we were. That is certainly not the case now.

Much hard work, fun, good eats and happiness have been going on around these parts, and I hope you all are enjoying this current season in your lives, just as much.

I thought I’d share some random things today, that have made my heart happy. This life is short, so no matter what it is, do what you enjoy!

Recent Eats

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Doggie approved treats! Made with whole wheat flour, carrots, applesauce, peanut butter and coconut oil. Healthy fats for my little pups!

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Those ears! Be still my beating heart. Now on to some people food!

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Memorial Day weekend was spent sweating and doing manual labor with an outdoor project, so easy meals was the plan. A glimpse into our weekend of food- Grilled chicken and steak with a delicious, simple vegetable side. Red onions, red bell peppers and zucchini always taste amazing with some garlic and italian seasonings. Not pictured was the other days of hotdogs, hamburgers, antipasto salad, BBQ pulled pork and spaghetti squash au gratin. So good!

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Oh sunny days, how we all love thee. More grilling goodness = less mess in the kitchen! I needed some Mexican flavors in our lives so this dish completely satisfied my mister. Grilled Carne Asada with Spicy Pico de Gallo, Cheesy Green Chile Cauliflower Rice and Roasted Onions, Peppers and Corn. Oh my, was this delicious.

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Last week, I was craving pizza in a big way. Pizza doesn’t agree with me though. I always feel like I have eaten the whole thing, even if it’s only been two slices. So this low carb alternative was made and it was a huge hit with the family!

This recipe is so versatile, I am hesitant to even write out a real recipe so this is what I did.

I marinated chicken breasts in 1/4 cup italian dressing, olive oil, salt, pepper, granulated garlic and italian seasonings for about four hours.

Then I took two shallow dishes, added two beaten eggs to one and grated parmesan cheese to the other. Dip the chicken in egg, then in parmesan cheese to coat. When all chicken was coated, I heated olive oil in a large sauté pan and sautéed for about 4-5 minutes on each side just so the coating was a crisp golden brown. Place chicken into baking dish.

You can use your favorite homemade or jar sauce for this dish. If you have some leftover from a previous meal, even better!

I love sauce mixed with onions and peppers, so I sautéed some up and added a tomato basil flavored marinara that was low in carbs. I topped each parmesan chicken breast with about 1/2 cup sauce mixture.

Then I layered with a mix of shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheese. I ended my creativity with pepperoni and bacon.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until internal temperature of chicken is 160 degrees. Broil on high to add some nice bubbling color to the top.

The things you could do with this dish- different vegetables, cheese, meats, and sauces. I look forward to experimenting with different ingredients!

Made Me Smile

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My new friends. I just love animals and we talk about moving to the woods with a lot of land all the time. Just watching them enjoying their day, munching and hanging in the water, really made my day.

My new health journal. I am always on a mission to better myself. I always want to be the best version of myself and I love reflecting on each day. It makes me think of all the wonderful things I am grateful for, allows me to be positive towards myself and inspires me to keep motivated toward my goals!

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I will end this very long post with these beautiful yellow flowers I am loving! I can’t wait for all the flowers to open up! Fresh flowers are a must in my house! They seem to brighten up every day!

Wishing happy, sunny and beautiful days to you all!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

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You know those days that just keep on giving, even when you’ve asked the man upstairs to please stop?

I have the solution to those days.

Chocolate. Dark, rich, gooey, delicious chocolate.

It’s right up there with ice cream, which would probably be my first choice to dive my face into, but I’m trying to be healthier in my indulgences.

Because any dessert that you make with fruits and vegetables is considered a summer salad, right?

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These babies are ready for baking!

Not quite. A girl could dream though, and dream about these, I will!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Yields 8 muffins

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Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup nut butter**
  • 1 ripe medium-sized banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sweetener (swerve, honey, agave or sugar)**
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup zucchini, shredded and squeezed of excess liquid
  • 1/4 cup of dark chocolate chips

**I used this brand of peanut butter (amazing! but rather thick) and swerve sweetener (to make lower carb) but it didn’t allow recipe to have enough liquid so I added 1/8 cup of coconut oil, melted and 1/4 cup of water to recipe. If using honey or agave, you shouldn’t have that issue. It depends on the nut butter you use too, so if feeling that the batter is too thick- add 1/4 of water! (It won’t dull the taste, I promise)

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I used the chocolate coconut peanut butter and it’s yummy!
Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place nut butter, banana, egg, sweetener of choice, cocoa powder, ground flaxseed, vanilla extract and baking soda into a blender. Blend until smooth.

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Fold in shredded zucchini and chocolate chips.

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Spray a muffin pan with nonstick spray. Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cavity.

Place a few chocolate chips on top if desired.

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Bake for 20-22 minutes until tops of your muffins are set and a inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Then enjoy!

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These muffins may be little, but they are fierce! Have fun trying to stop at just one!

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Happy eating!