Homemade Taco Seasoning

Hey there everyone!  I think spring has officially sprung!  We had some serious rainfall last week (48 straight hours!), but the sun has been shining this weekend, the temperature is rising, and flowers are blooming everywhere.  In the spirit of summer, we had a belated Cinco de Mayo celebration today.  Instead of rushing to the store for some supplies, I opted for homemade taco seasoning from the spices in my cabinet.

In a perfect world, all of those pre-made seasoning packs would be salt-free, but unfortunately that is not the case!  With this homemade seasoning, you’re cutting out massive amounts of sodium that you’d find in your favorite packs from the grocery store.  On top of that, you can adjust the heat as needed (just reduce the red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper!).

I’m excited for the week and even more excited for the meals to come…we’ve got curry chicken and Chinese lettuce wraps on the calendar!  Hopefully I can share them with you all soon.  I’m off to go eat some of these crunchy, delicious tacos with a side of Fool-Proof Guacamole and enjoy the sunshine!  Have a great Sunday 😀

Homemade Taco Seasoning
Author: 
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 tacos
 
Skip the grocery store and make this homemade taco seasoning - packs a flavor punch! Homemade tacos are at your fingertips.
Ingredients
For the seasoning:
  • 5 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1.25 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2.5 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2.5 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2.5 tsp. cumin
  • 3.75 tsp. onion powder
  • 8.5 tsp. chili powder
  • 1.25 tsp. cayenne pepper
The rest...
  • 1 pound of ground turkey, beef, or chicken
  • 8 oz. can of tomato sauce
Instructions
  1. Combine all of your spices in a tupperware or mason jar for storage.
  2. Sauté 1 pound of ground turkey, beef, or chicken (your choice) in a saute pan until browned.
  3. Add 1 to 1.5 tbsp. of the seasoning mix with 1 cup of water and 8 oz. can of tomato sauce.
  4. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or so. You want most of the liquid to be absorbed.
  5. Enjoy on tacos! Try different toppings like avocado, red onion, cilantro, lettuce, tomatoes, and shredded cheese.

 

Strawberry Banana Protein Smoothie Bowl

Feel the Tropical Breeze!

Feel the Tropical Breeze!

This week I was feeling tired of my classic winter breakfast of peanut butter toast or oatmeal topped with cold milk – the way my dad used to make it when I was a kid, the ONLY way.  I had to introduce some fruit into my life and decided to go summer-style with a smoothie bowl.  Topped with peanut butter and chocolate OBVIIIOUSLY.

I know half the country is stuck in their house – a perfect reason to bring out the frozen fruit in the back of your freezer you’ve been *meaning* to bake into a pie all year.  I used strawberries and bananas, but any fruit combinations will do.  Add in a handful of spinach if you’re feeling healthy-ambitious.  I’m thinking a blueberry mango bowl is in my very very near future….

The protein powder and Greek yogurt will keep you feeling full and the frozen fruit factor makes this heavier than a quick drink.  If you haven’t any protein powder, add extra Greek yogurt for your protein boost.  And cacao nibs are optional – but maybe sprinkle some chocolate chips on there 😉  I gotta say, the melty peanut butter makes all the difference though!

Hope you’re enjoying your weekend – rain, snow, or sun!

Strawberry Banana Protein Smoothie Bowl
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, Smoothie
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 serving
 
Whip up this smoothie bowl for a light lunch or a filling breakfast. It'll make you dream of summer weather!
Ingredients
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 handful strawberry slices, frozen
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup cashew milk (Or your milk of choice)
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. cacao nibs
Instructions
  1. Combine banana, strawberries, protein powder, milk, and Greek yogurt in a blender. Blend until smooth and well-mixed.
  2. Put peanut butter in microwave for 15 seconds, or until melty. Be sure not to overcook or it'll turn into a weird texture
  3. Pour into a bowl. Top with peanut butter and cacao nibs.

 

Cajun Seared Salmon with Asian Spiralized Salad

How FRESH and HEALTHY!

How FRESH and HEALTHY!

Lately I’ve been strugglin’ with getting into a serious routine.  Which is a *Grade A Problem* because soon I’ll be back in medical school, doing rotations, and my life schedule is largely determined by -NOT- me.  AKA…I show up no matter what day and what time if the doctors need me to help out.  Don’t get me wrong!  I’m super excited – I miss medicine.  Which is good or else I totally picked the wrong profession.

BUT I feel like I need to train myself back into being super efficient.  Which means waking up early to go to the gym before the day starts, Sunday food prep days, assembly line laundry sessions, you catch my drift?  Any tricks of the trade would be greatly appreciated!  Since I can’t live off of Easy Mac, I’ve got to gather an arsenal of quick, easy, healthy meals I can make after a 12 hour shift.  And what’s quicker and easier and healthier than salmon and a bomb-diggity-not-boring salad?  NOTHING!

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Healthy Zucchini Noodle Ramen

Delicious nutritious soup - a remake of an old classic!

Delicious nutritious soup – a remake of an old classic!

I’ve had this a draft of this recipe written since September – but for various reasons I haven’t posted it yet.  The only pictures I had were in a purple bowl and I’ve decided purple is an unappetizing color.  I thought people would find the egg + soup combination strange.  Using the college, orange-wrapped noodles seemed like cheating.  But, *ALAS*!  I have found just the tweak this recipe needed!

I finally bought a spiralizer and have completely fell in love.  I started with the classic spiralized veggie – ZUCCHINI!  The “zoodles” ended up great – they didn’t get mushy in the soup and added a *crunch* component to the soothing broth that turned out really well.  I couldn’t be happier!  And now I can’t stop spiralizing.  I couldn’t fall asleep last night because I was trying to come up with something to spiralize for breakfast — Update: I still haven’t thought of anything.

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Chicken Noodle Soup

Steaming soup with crunchy crackers

Steaming soup with crunchy crackers

Thanksgiving is over and the winter holidays are in full swing! As we all know so well, with the holidays come cookies, cakes, and Christmassy cocktails.  In between the dinner parties and bring-your-own-wine get togethers, it’s important to try and stay on track with eating healthy, nutritious food.  Otherwise, things can go haywire – fast!

One of my go-to magazines for day to day cooking is Cooking Light.  They have a TON of easy recipes for weeknights, sweet treats, and even comfort food like macaroni and cheese in every issue.  In fact, I actually subscribed to it and get so excited when it comes in the mail – total old school style.  In their November issue, they had this delicious, easy chicken noodle soup and I had to try it.

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Healthy, Slow Cooker Beef Stew

Hearty Stew!

Hearty Stew!

Despite a week of crazy November weather – 70’s!? – we’re back to classic fall.  Rainy, cold, and cloudy.  Call me crazy, but at this point, I can’t wait for it to snow.  Plus, I can’t wait for Gino to see his first snowflakes!  Knowing him, he’s going to go nuts.  No better time to try making beef stew than now – especially when your slow cooker does all the heavy lifting.

If you’re like me, the holidays are a time for cheat meals galore.  I don’t skip a single dish at Thanksgiving, and no pie dish goes unturned.  I like to stay healthy on days surrounding the holidays, and beef stew is the perfect way to do it.  Hearty, filling, but low on calories and high on protein, this dish will keep you full all afternoon.

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Easy, Healthy “Bi Bim Bop”

Finished, Delicious Bi Bim Bop!

Finished, Delicious Bi Bim Bop!

I’m sure when everyone looks back on their college years, they have a few “Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” moments.  For example, I wish I woulda snuck onto the Big House field like a few of my senior year companions.  I shoulda went to a Michigan hockey game.  I wish I coulda attend a few more biology classes – that would have helped during medical school.

But one of my biggest regrets is never going to the small Korean restaurant below my apartment sophomore year.  Every day, multiple times, I’d walk by Kang’s Korean Restaurant with its giant red sign.  My roommate, Hannah, LOVED Kang’s.  She’d frequent the restaurant, bringing back leftovers that smelled delicious.  But I never once took her word for it.  And I seriously regret it.

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Roasted Spaghetti Squash and “Albondigas” – Meatballs in Garlic Tomato Sauce

Healthified "spaghetti" and "albondigas"!

Healthified “spaghetti” and “albondigas”!

Given that it’s Halloweek, I am going to tell you a horror story about these delicious meatballs.  Like any horror movie, there are several plot twists when you *think* something terrifying is about to happen, but it’s just the cat, or a gust of wind.  This story is no different – I dodged quite a few disasters before the TRUE horror hit my kitchen!

Potential Scary Moment #1:  When I decided to try and copy Dan’s mom’s meatballs.  They’re awesome and cannot be beat.  But I think these turned out well!  They’re definitely not “made-by-mom” quality, but they’re great for a first attempt.

Potential Scary Moment #2: I wanted to try roasting spaghetti squash for the first time.  This is scary for two reasons – I knew Dan wouldn’t eat it because it’s a weird vegetable, and I had no idea what I was doing.  But after a quick Google search, I found a fool-proof method for great spaghetti squash every time!  And I was impressed with how it soaked up the flavors in the sauce so easily.

Real, True, I-Can’t-Believe-This-Happened Scary Moment:  I was beaming with pride after successfully making meatballs and a new, delicious vegetable.  I had tripled the recipe to have leftovers for days to come!  I woke up the next morning, ready to pack up some lunches, and…*duh duh duuuuhhhhh* I LEFT THE FOOD OUT ALL NIGHT.  RUINED!!!  I was incredibly upset.  And in a bad mood for about 23 minutes.  I think a tear rolled down my cheek as I threw my beautiful-gone-bad meatballs down the garbage disposal.

Mix, Mix, Mix It Up!

Mix, Mix, Mix It Up!

The good news, after this scary-spooky-horror-story, is that I can’t WAIT to make these again.  They’re AWESOME.  And relatively easy to make in a big batch so you can throw some in the freezer or have leftovers for a few days.  They’re extremely versatile.  I added them to spaghetti squash – which is a great healthy alternative to pasta.  But they’d be just as good in a meatball sub with some mozzarella, mixed with veggies, or plain as a protein-filled snack!

Waiting to be browned!

Waiting to be browned!

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Muy Delicioso!

I came across this simple meatball recipe at a wine tasting party thrown by my friend, Karen.  She took us on a culinary, wine-filled tour of the Iberian Peninsula and paired these delicious “albondigas” with a Rioja wine (featured in Wine and Popcorn pairings earlier this year!).  They were so simple, with a basic red sauce, but every bite was better than the last.  Then, after trying Dan’s mom’s meatballs recently, I knew I had to try and make some of my own.  So I fused her recipe with the Spanish albondigas and added some lean ground turkey for a health kick!

Meatballs simmering in red sauce.

Meatballs simmering in red sauce.

I urge you to make these ASAP – but maybe after Halloweek so you don’t experience a horror story of your own!

Good luck!  And remember to follow @anappleadayonline on Instagram!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash and "Albondigas" - Meatballs in Garlic Tomato Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
 
Great beginner meatball recipe - few ingredients and even fewer steps! These can be added to the roasted spaghetti squash, a pasta of your choosing, or thrown into a meatball sub. Throw your spaghetti squash into the oven first, then mix up your meatballs and sauce so everything finishes at the same time!
Ingredients
For the spaghetti squash:
  • 1 whole spaghetti squash, cut lengthwise
  • Water (enough to fill pan up ½ inch)
For the sauce:
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, low sodium
  • 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
  • 1.5 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1.5 tsp. dried basil
For the albondigas:
  • 1½ pound lean ground turkey
  • 1 pound ground beef (I used 80/20 ratio)
  • 1 green pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • ⅔ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
Instructions
For the spaghetti squash:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash lengthwise.
  3. Using a baking dish (a lasagna dish works perfectly), place squash cut side down into the dish.
  4. Fill dish with ½ inch of water. Cover with aluminum foil
  5. Cook for 45 minutes. Remove squash and flip over (cut side up). Be careful when removing foil - steam is hot!
  6. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until squash is very tender.
  7. Allow to slightly cool. Remove seeds using a spoon. Then, using a fork, shred the remainder of the squash into "spaghetti-like" strands.
For the sauce:
  1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add 1 tsp. olive oil.
  2. Saute garlic until fragrant - about 4 minutes.
  3. Add whole tomatoes and tomato sauce. Gradually break up large pieces using a spoon.
  4. Add pepper, salt, oregano, and basil.
  5. Turn heat to low and allow sauce to simmer and thicken while you prepare the albondigas.
For the albondigas:
  1. Add ground turkey, ground beef, green pepper, onion, nutmeg, parsley, and bread crumbs to a large mixing bowl. Combine using a large spoon or your hands. (It's much easier with your hands!)
  2. Form meatballs using a spoon. Each meatball should use up about 2 tbsp of the mixture. I ended up with about 35 in total.
  3. Heat large saute pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil (you may need additional oil with several batches).
  4. In batches of 12 meatballs, brown on all sides. Turn using tongs to brown evenly. This should take about 5 minutes per batch.
  5. Add meatballs to tomato sauce.
  6. Cover, with heat on low, and allow to simmer for 25 minutes.
To complete the recipe:
  1. Combine spaghetti squash and albondigas - with plenty of sauce - on your plate. Top with additional parmesan cheese or fresh parsley.
Notes
This was the method I used for cooking the spaghetti squash if you need clarification. Thanks Emeril! http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/herbed-spaghetti-squash-recipe.html
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1 cup squash and 6 meatballs Calories: 525 Fat: 28 g Saturated fat: 10 g Unsaturated fat: 5 g Carbohydrates: 31 g Sugar: 10 g Sodium: 577 mg Fiber: 6 g Protein: 36 g Cholesterol: 120 mg

 

Wednesday Wisdom: What’s In Your Pantry?

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread I made for my Dad when I saw him last month!

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread I made for my Dad when I saw him last month!

I went grocery shopping yesterday after a long day of exams, student panels, and puppy-watching.  When I walked in my normal grocery store, nothing was where it was supposed to be.  I know Kroger said, “Pardon our dust while we remodel!”, but man.  Running through 12 aisles to find canned beans by themselves next to the lightbulbs and forgetting to buy peanut butter because my flow was off was NOT what I wanted to do yesterday.

Alas!  I was on a mission.  I’m truly terrible at the whole “New-Year’s-Resolution-Get-Healthy” thing.  Because the last thing I want to do when it’s -10 degrees outside is leave my house (and my Netflix).  Every year, during the fall, I decide to go on a bit of a health kick.  Last year, I found an awesome yoga/barre studio and it was my saving grace during the throws of my second year of medical school.  This year, since I have much more time during the day, I’m focusing on healthy cooking, and Dan and I are joining the gym down the street for some accountabili-buddy workouts when Gino wakes us up at 5:30 AM (like this morning…)!

I think one of the most important things about cooking healthy foods – and avoiding eating out all the time – is to have a well stocked pantry and fridge to whip up some basics or to spice up something bland.  Here’s what I make sure to have on hand…along with some of my latest life pictures!

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Asparagus, Red Pepper, and Bacon Frittata

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A make-ahead frittata for a savory breakfast choice!

We’ve had Gino, our 9-week-old Golden Retriever puppy for 11 days.  I haven’t posted on here in 11 days.  That pretty much sums up what the last 11 days have been like.  Puppy bite marks on my hands, the carpet covered in towels and blankets, an entire bottle of cleaning spray gone, 4 pounds of puppy food eaten.  I found myself yesterday talking to Buckeye cable on the phone to fix our bad internet, holding Gino in my arm, and cleaning up poop with my other hand.  Now I know what moms feel like.

But, I can’t complain.  I have more videos and pictures of this fluff ball and his big sister cuddling, rolling around on the floor.  I’m greeted with pure joy when I get home at night.  And I now have 8 feet pitter-pattering behind me every single step I take.  I usually am living by the mantra of, “When he sleeps, you sleep!”, but I decided to fill you all in on this fantastic frittata instead.  Because if I make this on the weekend, I can sleep for 10 more minutes during the week, knowing breakfast is ready in the fridge.

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