Spaghetti Squash with GreekYogurt Pasta Sauce

This has been my favorite go to pasta meal for a couple of months now.   It’s so good; low carb, high protein and you can add in some ground beef or a meat of your choice to mix in.  The Greek Yogurt sounds weird but trust me, it tastes like a spicy vodka sauce…so good!

“Pasta” Ingredients

1 medium spaghetti squash (2 to 3 pounds)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F: Preheat the oven while you prep the squash.
  2. Slice the squash in half: Use a chef’s knife to cut the spaghetti squash lengthwise from stem to tail. Spaghetti squash are really tough and hard, so be cautious and work slowly I actually have an electrical knife which helps but it is still difficult to cut.
  3. Scoop out the seeds: Use a soup spoon to scrape out the seeds and stringy bits of flesh from inside the squash.
  4. Place the squash in a roasting pan: Place the squash halves cut-side down in a roasting pan.
  5. Cook the squash for 30 to 45 minutes: Transfer the squash to the oven and cook for 30 to 45 minutes. Smaller squash will cook more quickly than larger squash. Check the squash after 30 minutes to gauge cooking.
  6. While the Squash is cooking: make your pasta sauce (see recipe below).
  7. The squash is done when tender: The squash is ready when you can easily pierce a fork through the flesh all the way to the peel. The flesh will also separate easily into spaghetti-like strands. You can also taste it right now — if the noodles are still a bit crunchy for your taste, put the squash back in the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes.
  8. Scrape out the squash: Use a fork to gently pull the squash flesh from the peel and to separate the flesh into strands. The strands wrap around the squash horizontally — rake your fork in the same direction as the strands to make the longest “noodles.”
  9. Serve the squash: Serve the squash immediately, tossed with a little butter or olive oil. Spaghetti squash will also keep refrigerated for up to a week, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Greek- Yogurt Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1-2 tablespoons red pepper flakes (2 tbsp if you love spice!)
1 28-ounce can high-quality crushed tomatoes
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add garlic and onion, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes, and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Add crushed tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Cover, and turn heat down to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Add the cooked pasta to the sauce, add the Greek yogurt, and mix well, until all is combined.
  4. Plate your pasta, and garnish with 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, and basil.

Enjoy!

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What Is The Best Protein Supplement for Me?

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Many of us have been told the benefits of eating protein in the past.  Protein is one of the big three macronutrients along with Fats and Carbohydrates.  You’re probably aware that dietary protein provides the necessary components for muscle repair and tissue regeneration.  Despite our knowledge and understanding of the benefits of protein many of us still fall short of getting adequate protein on a daily basis. Protein supplementation can help to round out your nutrition and fill in any gaps.

Now, when you think about protein supplementation you may be conjuring up images of muscle-bound meatheads mixing powders in shaker bottles while calling each other “bro” at the gym.  The truth is that protein is essential for recovery and helps maintain lean tissue and body composition.  So you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to benefit from taking a supplement.  Read on to see a further break down of the different verities of protein supplements that are out there.

 

Whey Protein

Whey is the liquid material created as a by-product of cheese production.  The Whey then undergoes a process to isolate the globular proteins and this becomes the powder that can be flavored, packaged and purchased.  It is a fast absorbing form of protein making it ideal for post workout and recovery and is usually much lower in lactose than regular milk products meaning easier digestion.  Since it is a milk-based protein some brands may contain hormones and additives from the milk cow’s food supply.  Go with a Grass Fed Whey option whenever possible even if it means spending a little more.

Rice Protein

Rice protein is a vegetarian alternative to whey.  Rice protein comes from treating brown rice with enzymes that cause carbohydrates to separate from proteins.  The protein powder is than flavored and packaged for use in smoothies or on its own just like more common whey proteins.  Rice protein tends to have a very distinct flavor that can be difficult to cover even with added flavors.  Check your ingredients label to avoid artificial chemicals, sweeteners, and additives.

 

Pea Protein

Extracted from the yellow pea, this protein option has an amino acid profile similar to legumes.  This can also be a good alternative to whey.  On the downside it tends to have a slightly gritty or sandy texture.  Often times some type of oil will be mixed with the protein powder to give a smoother texture.  As always check the ingredient label to see what type of oils are being added to the protein.

Beef Protein Isolate

Ever heard of gelatin?  It’s the throwaway parts of the cow, essentially joints, ligaments, hide, ears, and any other parts left over after the butcher is finished.  Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?  It might sound gross and bizarre but gelatin is usually the primary ingredient in most Beef Proteins.  They take the gelatin, turn it into a powder, add creatine and BCAA’s along with flavoring and PRESTO: Beef Protein Isolate.  Considering the origin of this protein source not being the highest quality to begin with, you’d be better off eating 6-8 oz. of sirloin.

Soy Protein

Here you have the isolated protein from soybeans.  It is made from soybean meal that has been dehulled and defatted.  I’ve written before about the potentially negative side effects of soy protein including increased estrogen levels, hormonal imbalances, and possible increased risk for some types of cancer in women.  I recommend staying away from this form all together.  Although soy is extremely common in most packaged protein bars, some whey powders will include a soy/whey blend to cut costs.  Be careful and always read the labels.

 

Overall, whey protein tends to be the most popular of protein powder supplements due to it being a high quality, complete, and fast absorbing protein.  If you are sensitive to whey or have GI distress as a result of taking then I am partial to pea and rice alternatives.  As always go with the highest quality possible.  If using whey select a grass fed option.  When using vegetarian protein go with organic as much as possible.  Check your labels.  This may sound redundant but most protein supplements contain a laundry list of artificial chemicals, preservatives, and additives.  If you can’t pronounce it you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

If you are looking for a recommended brand, I personally am partial to Thorne Research Products.  They are a reputable company with high purity standards.

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Chocolate Protein “Latte”

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There are two different coffee lovers in this world; the one who loves coffee because they need it and if they could inject it in their blood every two hours they would.  These coffee lovers usually enjoy the taste of black coffee. Then you have the other kind of coffee lover who could careless about the taste of coffee and may even not get any energy from it, but love all the sugary ways you can have it. It’s like a sweet warm drinkable desert…Mmmm…

If you haven’t figured out I am the second kind of coffee lover and sometimes I will purposely avoid buying coffee creamer because I know I don’t need my morning coffee and should probably chill out on all the sugar.  I constantly struggle finding ways to satisfy my sweet tooth with my coffee desert until now!

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Ingredients 

about 3g of carbs / 6g of protein / 6g of fat

About 1/3 cup of Cashew Milk

About 1/4 of a scoop of Chocolate Protein or Vanilla if you prefer

1/2 Tbsp of Butter

1 cup of Coffee

Cinnamon and Stevia to taste

The measurements aren’t exact and you’ll have to adjust to your taste. I use Cashew Milk because I can’t have Coconut or Almond but feel free to substitute. I also didn’t use espresso but if you can do that at home this would make for a better latte.  Blend your milk, protein, butter and stevia  while your coffee brews.  I suggest heating this up for a few seconds in your microwave to keep the drink hot.  Add your coffee to the mixture and blend. Poor into you cup and top with cinnamon.

Enjoy!

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Crackin’ Good Bell Pepper Eggs

 

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Ingredients:

1 large bell pepper (Cut into rings)

4 medium cage free eggs

1 medium tomato (Sliced)

1 jalapeno pepper (Sliced or diced depending on how big you want it)

1 clove garlic (minced)

2 tablespoons grass fed butter

1 tablespoon diced fresh cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

 

This is a quick and easy breakfast idea that looks great too!  The end result will be similar to an individual omelet.  Plus, it’s gluten free and low carb.  Carbs are nothing but sugar, and although they have their benefits, it’s not the fuel you want to start your day with.

Eating sugar first thing in the morning primes your body to burn sugar throughout the day.  Eating quality protein and healthy fats in the morning will prime your metabolism to burn fat throughout your day.  If your health and fitness goals include some form of body fat lass it is important to fuel your body in the right way to ensure that your metabolism functions properly.

Protein and fat also keep you feeling fuller, longer.  Adding these essential macros to your breakfast will help you power through your morning.  Feel free to alter recipe and add other ingredients that you may want: onion, bacon bits, etc.

 

  • HeatIMG_5738 butter in large skillet.
  • Clean and slice bell pepper into rings.
  • Place rings in the skillet.
  • Slice tomato and jalapeno pepper and place in the center of the bell pepper ring.
  • Add mined garlic on top of tomatoes and jalapenos.
  • Crack one egg into the bell pepper ring.
  • Use a spoon to scoop hot butter from the pan and baste over the egg.  You want the white of the egg to be cooked but the yolk to be slightly runny.  Cook egg yolk to your preference.
  • Use spatula to scoop cooked egg out of pan.
  • Top with diced cilantro and salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

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Homemade Chicken Gyros

Every now and then I try to get a little domesticated and put together a real meal
Don’t get too excited.  Ok, well do because this meal was delicious!  I present to you….

 

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Calories: 441 kcal

Fat: 18.3 g
Carbs: 39.3g
Protein: 30.3 

Serves about 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1 (16 ounce) container Greek yogurt

1 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill weed

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

salt and ground black pepper to taste

 

 

  • Place Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill weed, 2 cloves garlic, white vinegar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and black pepper in a blender. Blend until smooth and set aside.

 

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Chicken

4 cloves garlic, minced

lemon, juiced

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cut into strips

 

 

 

  • Whisk together 4 cloves minced garlic, juice of 1 lemon, red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and oregano in a large glass or ceramic bowl. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  If it taste too bitter/salty then add more pepper!
  • Stir in chicken strips and toss to evenly coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.  It’s important to give it the full hour.  I didn’t plan well the first time and cut my time short and the chicken came our bland.
  • Preheat the oven’s broiler.  Remove chicken from the marinade and shake off excess.  Place chicken on a large baking sheet.
  • Broil the chicken in the preheated oven until lightly browned and no longer pink in the center, 2 to 4 minutes per side.
  • Transfer cooked chicken to a plate and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and place each pita bread into the skillet until warm and soft.

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Putting It All Together

6 (6 inch) pita bread rounds

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 tomato, diced

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped

 

 

 

 

  • Serve warmed pita bread topped with chicken strips, yogurt sauce, tomatoes, onion, and lettuce.

Enjoy!

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How Much Protein Do I Need?

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This is a common question that I get asked almost everyday.  Protein intake varies depending on the individual and a plethora of other factors such as age, activity level, type of activity, and how much lean mass you have.  Individuals with higher activity levels or who engage in intense, heavy lifting and/or high volume endurance training or who have a high amount of lean mass obviously need to eat more protein.  All individuals need to intake a minimum amount of protein for normal bodily needs and functions.

A general rule of thumb is to intake protein based on body weight.  The majority of textbooks and research that I have come across state that individuals need anywhere from .37-.50 grams/lb of body weight.  Since I am a 130 lbs (129.9 lbs to be exact) I need to intake anywhere from 48-65g of protein per day just to maintain normal health and function.  This method is not exact at all, however, due to the fact that it does not take into consideration activity level or lean body mass.

Why is it important to consider lean body mass?

A more specific method of calculating how much protein you need is using your lean body mass.  Lean body mass is defined as all the tissue in your body other than fat (bones, muscles, water, organs).  Lean body mass requires more protein because, unlike fat mass, it is metabolically active.  To calculate this you need to have your body fat measured either through bio-electrical impedance or skin folds calipers.  Once you know your body fat you can calculate how much lean tissue you have.  I am 130 lbs and 15.4% body fat.  This means that of the 130 lbs that I currently weigh I am storing 20.02lbs of fat and the other 109.98 lbs are lean mass.  This is the number you will use to calculate your protein needs based off activity level.

Why is activity level important?

During activity and exercise we stress the skeletal muscle of our body.  In fact we actually damage the tissue by causing small micro-tears in the contractile proteins.  Skeletal muscle is comprised mostly of protein and we need dietary protein to repair and rebuild existing skeletal muscle or even build new muscle mass if this is part of your goal.  Use the amount of lean tissue you have to calculate protein requirements:

Sedentary – multiple lean body mass by .5

Light activity (e.g. walking) – multiply by .6

Moderate (30 minutes of vigorous activity 3 days per week) – .7

Active (1 hour per day 5 days per week) – .8

Very Active (10 hours of vigorous activity per week – .9

Athlete – multiply by 1.0

Since I have 109.98 lbs of lean body mass and I am considered to be Very Active during a normal week of exercise and daily activity I need to be eating roughly 99g of protein per day.  This is more than double the minimum 48g of protein recommended prior to considering lean body mass and activity.  So you can see why it is extremely important to take these additional factors into consideration to ensure that you are getting adequate protein. Lack of protein can leave your body unable to repair and recover from exercise.  Rather than constantly being consumed with counting grams of protein, focus on adding protein to every meal and snack.  In taking even a small amount of protein will help to reach the levels you need for your body on a daily basis.

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