I can not believe how much we've got going on over the next few months: an impromptu out of state vacation, meetings and creating all the decor for a charity auction, concerts, running a 5K in December (and doing C25K so I don't die), 2x per week tennis lessons starting soon, my aunt is getting married in California, my husband's birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and all of the activities and travel that come with holidays, plugging away at our bathroom renovation (we've got the shower tile all up and floors prepped for floor tile this weekend), and oh yeah, it's the start of my busiest few months of the year at work. And probably 40 other things I'm not even going to think about until a calendar reminder pops up.
But all of that aside, I'm still committed to cooking us dinner nearly every night and eating healthy. I'm going for a lifestyle change, and no matter how busy life gets, I'm determined not to slip back into the pattern of just eating frozen dinners every night. And I'm back with a another recipe review post--reviews of the meals we've eaten over the past few weeks. There were some definite home runs this time around, and a lot I will be making again!
If you remember, this was the meal plan:
And here are my notes on each, the links to the recipes, photos and even the calorie counts. I've started counting calories, since going on this low-carb diet I was finding that some days I wasn't eating enough (good news, I've lost a few pounds). So I've been adding up the ingredients for each of these meals, so I can accurately account for what I'm eating. So many of the paleo/primal/healthier eating recipes don't include calorie counts, so I thought I'd share. Obviously it will differ depending on which brands you use, but at least it's something to reference!
Peach-Whiskey Barbecue Chicken and Salad
Stuffed Red Bell Peppers
These stuffed peppers were quite good, and really filling even without rice, which is how I've usually made stuffed peppers before. They did take a lot longer to cook than my 5 minute prep stuffed peppers, but were probably a lot more healthy without pre-cooked chicken and redi rice. I left out the mushrooms, and used a little less cheese than called for, and each stuffed pepper was 389 calories.
Paleo Orange Chicken and Scallion Salad
I completely loved this recipe. Quick to prep, and has a great orangy, slightly spicy flavor. My husband wasn't as into it as I was though. "Bowl of chicken" as he called it, was a little too much for him to appreciate it. Ha, of course if it was a bowl of McDonald's chicken nuggets, I bet he'd feel differently! But I really liked it, and how quick it was to make. 277 calories per serving, plus the salad made for a nice, low calorie dinner (perfect to pair with a glass of moscato wine, even though, yes, I've been counting wine calories too).
Chicken Parmesan over Spaghetti Squash
So, I had mixed feelings about this recipe. The chicken was certainly good, and it was 358 calories per serving. But I think I'm done trying to fool myself into believing that spaghetti squash is a substitute for spaghetti. I just don't like the texture that much. So nothing against the recipe, I just don't think I'll be making spaghetti squash recipes anymore. Oh well, gotta learn what I don't like by trying it a few times first!
Chipotle Marinated Kabobs and Maple Pumpkin Custard Cups
This was kind of an odd pairing, but both nights we ate the kabobs with chipotle marinade for dinner first, then followed it several hours later with the custard cups.
Both of these were super yummy. I can see the chipotle marinade (99 calories per serving/made 4 servings) working well on a lot of different types of meat. The custard cups were awesome. I'd never made custard before, but it was surprisingly easy. I didn't use fancy cups or anything, just regular mugs. They are a bit of a calorie splurge at 199 calories per serving, but worth it to get my pumpkin dessert fix!
Raspberry Butter Sauce with Crispy Salmon and Salad Greens
This salmon with raspberry butter sauce was a really surprising home run. I'd actually found the recipe weeks ago, but held off on making it at first, because I didn't think my husband would like it. But he said it was one of his favorites so far! It is super easy to make (cook the salmon about 5 mins per side in a skillet and throw together a salad and make the sauce while it cooks) and so pretty too. And at only 348 calories including the spinach and almond sliver salad, I will definitely be making this again.
Sweet Potato Cauliflower Soup with Sausage
Oops. My husband had to go out of town for a few days for work, so I never made this. I ended up eating the sausage and sweet potatoes by themselves for dinner instead. I'm going to try again next week though!
Crispy Rosemary Sriracha Chicken Thighs and Roasted Carrots
Like, ohmygawd. Can we please talk about these carrots from the Pioneer Woman? Because I want to marry them. Seriously, I've never had such good carrots before! I don't like raw carrots because they taste too bitter to me, and the only way I've really ever cooked them is by steaming them. Which means they lose a lot of flavor and you have to smother them with butter to make them good again. But these. THESE! It's like carrot candy. I have no clue how just olive oil (I used garlic infused), fresh thyme, salt and pepper could make carrots so good. But they are. Love! And only 80 calories.
The Siracha chicken was really good too. Just not as good as the carrots. But good, and 187 calories per thigh.
Hawaiian Barbecue Bacon Burgers and Broccoli Salad
Yep, broccoli salad made an appearance again. See this post if you're interested in the recipe that I got from my mom. It's 169 calories per serving, but still pretty healthy with all of that fresh broccoli. The bacon burgers were pretty good too. Reminded me a lot of the 50/50 burgers I made earlier this summer. although of course this time I used pineapple instead of a bun. My husband got to eat a bun though, but honestly, I didn't miss it, I just ate with a fork. And at 286 calories for 1 patty, 2 slices of pineapple and bacon, they were pretty diet friendly.
Spicy Mango Mahi Mahi and Broccoli with Warm Bacon Vinaigrette
This mahi was really, really good. I seem to have a thing for meat sauces that are both sweet and spicy. Plus, it was another easy to prep, easy to cook meal. The broccoli side dish was kind of an improv, but it was just steamed broccoli that I tossed with this warm bacon vinaigrette that Layla posted about a while ago. 140 calories for the mahi and 162 calories for the broccoli with vinaigrette.
Maple, Mustard Grilled Chicken and Steamed Veggies
I like the sauce for these chicken thighs, but I think next time I might do it with diced chicken. The sauce is good, but just not super flavorful, so having it coat more of the chicken would have made it better. But definitely not bad at 381 calories for two thighs. The veggies were nothing special, just steam and serve balsamic glazed veggies at 110 calories.
Brown Sugar and Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin with Carrots
This recipe wasn't on my meal plan, but I just made it, so I'm going to go ahead and include it too. It was pretty amazing! Not quite as healthy (I used Splenda brown sugar mix and tamari instead of soy sauce though), but the glaze was oh so yummy! Totally worth the 405 calories per serving. And I told you I was obsessed with those carrots! Couldn't resist having them again. Drool...this may be one of my favorite meals I've made so far!
So that about sums up what we've been eating for dinner for the past few weeks. Not 100% all healthy, but a big improvement over tossing a frozen dinner in the oven each night!
For breakfast, I'm still just having lower calorie homemade caramel macchiatos and yogurt. For lunches I've been eating things like chicken sausage, tuna with cucumbers or gouda cheese, salmon and sweet potato patties (super yum, kind of like a crab cake, but with salmon. They freeze well and are 130 calories per patty), or just a big spinach salad with chicken. Snacks have been things like beef jerky, almonds, pistachios, hummus on cucumbers and cheddar cheese rice cakes. Or my current favorite snack of 8-10 cherry tomatoes, a 50 calorie string cheese all cut up and this minced basil. I just stab the tomatoes and cheese pieces with a toothpick and dip it in the basil and it's Easy Caprise!
And I have to say, counting calories is a pain, but really is worth the effort. I had stopped tracking everything I eat for a while, but it really is so useful. Especially when I'm not relying heavily on carbs for my main calories--some nights it's ok to have dessert or another glass of wine, just so I meet my goal calories for the day. And that's a definite win in my book!
Anyone else counting calories? What program do you use? I've used the Livestrong My Plate, Fitbit, and now I've switched to MyFitnessPal. I really like that I can save recipes there, which was how I had the calorie counts handy for all of these recipes in this post.