Chicken sausage and veggie stuffed manicotti

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When it comes to losing weight, I’ll be the first one to admit that it’s rarely as easy as knowing what to do and just following through. Our lives get in the way, our emotions get the best of us, and then there are these cravings that seem to come out of no where (you haven’t had pizza in years and all of a sudden that’s all you can think of, now that it’s “off limits.” <– this is of course hypothetical because I eat pizza at least once a month ;) ) So yes, it’s a journey. Sometimes on a long and winding road. We, I,  may fall and backtrack but it’s important to get back up and keep moving forward. My favorite way to do that is by preparing something crazy delicious that tastes completely sinful but is actually quite good for you!  And of course I believe that no matter your health goals, it’s really important to satisfy cravings! Always and forever. No carrot sticks for dinner in this household (although I am having carrot fries with oven fried chicken tonight)!!

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This (chicken) sausage and veggie stuffed manicotti was Italian comfort food at its best without the artery clogging or calorie busting properties (by the way, I’m back to calorie counting to get into tip top summer… or 30th birthday… shape). I started following the above linked recipe from Cooking Light but decided to cut the amount of sausage down by 1/3, and then ramped up the veggies. Italian food is good like that – once you cover it in cheese and sauce, it will all be gobbled up in no time!

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So after browning the sausage for a few minutes, in went a whole container of chopped mushrooms, one yellow bell pepper and a few minutes later – 2 cups of baby spinach. The hardest part was not eating this whole mixture before stuffing it into manicotti! I persevered (even though it was a bit time consuming) and eventually dinner was on the table. Man, this was goooood!

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My changes created even lighter manicotti (220 cals/pop) full of delicious nutrients. Between the spicy sausage, loads of veggies, tangy tomato sauce, creamy bechamel (made with skim milk!) and cheese, it definitely felt like a treat. Adam said this was the best meal I’ve made in a while (although he says it often ;) ). This dish would be a great contender for my cooking parties because it would be fun to make as a team while chatting away (perhaps with a glass of red wine!). I’m thinking an easier and quicker version may be coming next though for those of us that don’t find an hour+ of hands-on cooking relaxing.

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Oh and did I mention this meal is freezer friendly and reheats beautifully? All that time paid off for sure! :)

How much time do you usually spend making a meal?

PS- There is just one day left of the thinkThin giveaway – make sure you enter it! :)

Off the wagon

Hi hi! How are you guys? I missed you. I promise!! I realized the other day that I haven’t blogged in over a week (despite a serious back log of recipes, product tastings and events I wanted to share with you) and I figured out why. Since we’re all about honesty here, I thought I should just go ahead and over share… I’ve been struggling with my weight lately and writing about food was making me anxious. I’ve finally turned some things around (in a little sheepish way) but I’m feeling better and don’t want to feel like I’m hiding anything from you guys, so here it goes…

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I’m back on the dieting bandwagon. At least for a little while. I know I said I was done with dieting for good and maybe I forgot the struggles and ups and downs associated with restrictive measures (and need to relearn this lesson), but honestly – I got tired of the mental capacity intuitive eating requires. I still believe it should be everyone’s (including mine!) ultimate goal. I want to have the freedom to eat what my body and mind desire, drama-free. But in order to get “there,” you need to do a lot of digging and self-evaluation and discipline (yes, intuitive eating requires a lot of discipline… at least while you are learning the ropes of it) and at a time where I’m dealing with so many changes and emotions in my life, I just need a little break from all of this work.

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Leaving my job created a lot of possibilities, but also a lot of old and new emotions. I still struggle with unrealistic expectations about how much I can accomplish in one day (which bring about anxiety and disappointment), perfectionism (in every aspect of my life… which turns into a lot of discomfort when I can’t completely control everything that’s happening… even myself), laziness (yup, I said it… that carries a lot of guilt too) and loneliness (that’s a new one from being at home alone during the weekdays…hoping to change that when my business launches!). Guess what? To cope with it all, I found comfort in food. Followed by shame. Here I was, finally pursuing my dreams and still dealing with my shit in the same old ways.

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I tried pep talks and inspirational books, but like I said – it was all just too much for me right now. My weight gain was making me uncomfortable and I just wanted to get rid of it first and deal with my issues later. I know a diet is a band aid, but I feel like that is what I require right now. I own this decision. I think some of you may relate.

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So anyways, I tried going back to calorie counting. I couldn’t do it this time. It was too flexible. I was good for a few days, then I would totally blow it the next day (of course stopping tracking once I was over my daily allowance)… and starting over seemed harder and harder each time until it gave me so much anxiety I would start overeating right away (this is why I decided that I was done with the diets in the first place – it created this vicious cycle!). So I’m now doing something that’s a lot more restrictive just to shock my body a little and take certain trigger foods (chocolate, I’m looking at you!) out of the equation. On Monday, I started the 2-week phase I of the South Beach Diet. For the next 2 weeks, I am restricting my sugar intake and eliminating most starches from my diet (basically, it’s a low carb diet for the first 2 weeks) and then I can bring back some whole grains, fruit and booze back. This first phase is the one I’m most excited about because it is already teaching me that discipline I’ve lost (and the scale has finally reversed direction!). Because the foods I normally would turn to in my discomfort are not available to me right now, I am forced to find solutions that don’t involve food. And that’s the best “side effect.” I really am feeling better already! By the way, Adam is doing it with me so I’ve been extra motivated. There will be no cheating here!! We are in it together.

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PS – Even on a diet, I refuse to eat “diet food.” This chicken cacciatore recipe from Cooking Light was incredibly delicious, diet or not. Skinless chicken thighs are well seasoned and beautifully seared, then baked over a medley of peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms. I omitted the shaved parmesan topping because I was lazy and the meal was fantastic without it, but I think the cheese could add a nice sharp bite to the dish. Highly recommended! Smile

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Are you an effortless healthy eater or do you sometimes need the kick your own butt and get a little more “serious?”

Ultimate healthified buffalo chicken dip (+few extras)

 
 
***Welcome Pinterest visitors!! So glad you liked my healthified buffalo chicken dip (it IS as good as it looks – maybe even better ;) ). I have lots of other juicy content on the blog so I hope you stick around and do a little digging. For other fun healthy appetizers, you may want to try roasted red pepper, tomato and anchovy crostini, tofu and mushroom lettuce cups, double tomato bruschetta or chipotle-lime two-bean hummus. And for something a little indulgent, the pizza monkey bread is always a HUGE hit! For more ideas, check out my favorite recipes page on top. Thanks again for coming!! :D ***
 

Onto the post…

Hi y’all (I’m currently in the airport on the way to New Orleans, so I’m getting myself in the mood). Happy Friday!! I am obviously in a great mood since vacation is just hours away. The weekend is just around the corner for you too, so I wanted to share a quick and easy recipe with you before I shut my computer down for a few days.

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Buffalo sauce. OMG, I love buffalo sauce. If I didn’t worry about killing my taste buds, I’d be totally cool with covering everything in it – breakfast, lunch and dinner. Something about how acidic and spicy it is. LOVE.

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Luckily, it’s football season so instead of bathing myself in it (gross + I don’t have anything to wear with neon orange Smile with tongue out), I can just show up to a football-watching party with a buffalo sauce covered concoction and be the most popular person in the room. Win-win. Smile

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A lot of buffalo chicken dip recipes call for canned chicken (eww) and butter (totally unnecessary). I came up with this on a whim the other day and it was the best buffalo chicken dip I’ve ever had. It’s not exactly health food but it’s just a little lighter.

Ultimate healthified buffalo chicken dip (serves a crowd)

  • 2 poached chicken breasts, shredded
  • 2 packages (8oz ea) neufchatel (low fat cream cheese), softened
  • 1 cup low fat sour cream
  • 3/4 cup Frank’s RedHot buffalo wing sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1.5 cups shredded reduced fat cheese (I used 1/2 mozzarella, 1/2 cheddar), divided
  • Baby carrots and pita chips for dipping

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven, or toaster oven, to 350*.

2. Mix all ingredients together, hold 1/2 cup cheese. The Kitchen Aid with a paddle attachment does an amazing job of creaming it all together. Super easy!

3. Transfer to 9×5 loaf fan (or another baking dish), sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.

4. Bake for 15 minutes.

4. Broil for 1-2 minutes to get the cheese extra golden on top.

Enjoy!!

Creamy, buffalo-saucy, cheesy. Dig in!

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For a few extra snacks, consider making the Eat, Drink and be Vegan two-olive sundried tomato hummus.

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And Trader Joe’s blueberry goat cheese is perfect for those craving something a little sweeter… or  those that may just be goat cheese obsessed Winking smile [I’m both!]

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This stuff seriously tastes like cheesecake. Crazy awesome!

One of my 2011 goals (btw, I should really look at those again) was get into sports watching. I may not be a die-hard football fan just yet, but I’ve got the game day snacks down for sure! Smile

Do you love buffalo sauce? Any favorite game friendly snacks?

*Last reminder about the Pomi giveaway. I’ll be announcing the winner on Monday.*

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