Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Oh, To Have Energy Like A Kid Again...

Kids are amazing for so many reasons. One thing I find most fascinating about them is how they are able to play at such high levels of intensity for such extended periods of time... without seeming the least bit tired. I mean, sometimes I get exhausted just watching my daughter run around! 

At Kimber's birthday party this past Sunday (my baby is 3 already..wow!), the children were all pumped up! They were running and playing; just having a blast. I heard a couple people comment on their energy levels by using the popular phrase, "I wish I had that kind of energy." It got me to thinkin'. And you know what, I think we can get back some of that energy. In fact, I know we can!

When I get home from work after a long day, it can be tough to round up the energy to play. Sometimes there is just too much to do and playing around isn't really an option. You know how the chores and dinner preparations can be. But on most evenings, there is time. So when my daughter wants me to play ball with her, or go for a walk, or help her play bubbles, or her favorite game "git me" (this is where she runs and I run after her; 2-player tag), I absolutely have to say "YES"! No matter how tired I may be, this is when I need to suck it up and just play!

Forget about the exhaustion.

Forget about the stress.

Just play!

Our kids are giving us the chance to be young again. Instead of envying their energy from the sidelines, we need to just jump right in and join 'em! Once we do, our energy will go up! Why? Because we become happy and healthier by playing!

So grab hold of that infectious energy your child is exuberating and just have fun playing like a kid again. That's one fun way to be a healthier person; in your mind and in your body.

Have a great Tuesday...and just play!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Run Like a Girl

I teach elementary PE (physical education). I get to see a lot of young girls grow into great little athletes. Aside from their skill development, it is amazing to watch the effects of athletic performance on an their inner strength, confidence and self-respect. I have always been a huge supporter in the idea that being active in sports as a child helps one grow into an adult with heightened levels of determination, dedication and collaborative abilities; great team players, great leaders, great citizens.

I believe athletics were a huge motivator for me. When I watch these girls beginning their journey in athletics it just gets to me. I love sports. I love competition. I believe in their power to enlighten the lives of young girls. I look at my students sometimes and I see myself; a girl ready to take on the world and needing just someone to believe in me. All I want for all these girls is to find the inner super-star within; to know their true beauty, to know their true worth...and to kick some tail at whatever sport they decide to play! I believe in my girls.

Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives
And Mina Samuels believes in all of us, girls!

Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives (Seal Press; March 2011) by Mina Samuels. Using candid stories of nearly a hundred women, the book demonstrates how the challenges we face as women by participating in a sport, and the way we meet those challenges, translates into greater strength and the ability to overcome obstacles in our lives.

Mina Samuels:Author

On Monday, May 30th, Mina will be on the Today Show at 8:09 am, talking about Run Like a Girl and will donate 50% of all royalties from book sales that week to Girls on the Run, a fantastic non-profit, whose mission is to encourage preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running; a message that her book promotes to girls and women of all ages!

I am excited to be getting this book in the mail soon and hopefully I will have one to giveaway to you too! Anytime I hear a little boy tell one of my female students they "run like a girl", I just tell those girls to give it right back to 'em. "You bet I run like a girl! Girls are amazing runners!" To do something like a girl is a great thing. We are great. Come on boys...that just doesn't qualify as a cut down anymore. It's a compliment!

I'm sure I will just breeze right through this book! It looks like a great read and...SCHOOL IS ALMOST OUT!! (I know...a little too excited, right? What can I say. I love summer vaca!) I'll have a review and giveaway comin' your way soon!

Have a fabulous Saturday!! Go girls!

**For more information please visit http://www.minasamuels.com/runlikeagirl.htm and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

~ Lindsay

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: "Turkey" Reuben Mac N' Cheese

Reubens. One of the ultimate sandwich splurges. Now we are going to take it and make it into a pasta that's "lean"? You bet we are...and we did! I printed this Rachael Ray Reuben Mac N' Cheese recipe out weeks ago, but saved it for when my mom was up visiting this week. Mom was the one who pointed it out to me, therefore it was only right to wait to make it with her! We had so much fun! One thing I did learn was that taking pictures throughout the process is so much easier when someone else is doin' part of the cookin'.

So here is our "Cookin' Lean" version of Reuben Mac N' Cheese. Or I should say, TURKEY Reuben Mac N' Cheese! ENJOY!

Serves 6-8

  • Salt
  • 1 pound WHOLE WHEAT corkscrew shaped pasta or other short cut pasta 
  • 8 WHOLE WHEAT crackers (about 2" diameter) 
  •  2 tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • A handful of fresh parsley leaves  
  • 1 teaspoon paprika  
  • 3 tablespoons WHOLE WHEAT flour  
  • 2 cups SKIM milk  
  • 1/4 cup spicy brown deli mustard, such as Gulden's brand  
  • 1 cup shredded REDUCED-FAT Swiss cheese  
  • 1 cup shredded Gruy√®re cheese  
  • 1 cup shredded KRAFT FAT FREE yellow cheddar cheese  
  • 3/4 pound good quality deli LEAN TURKEY, sliced as thick as bacon, chopped  
  • 1 pound sauerkraut, rinsed and well-drained


Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Salt the water and cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta cooks, place crackers in a food processor. Add the parsley and paprika to the crackers and process into "breadcrumbs"; reserve. **Don't have a food processor? Just toss the crackers in a plastic zip-loc and crush. Pour into a bowl and mix paprika and finely chopped parsley.

Heat a saucepot over medium heat. Add the 1 tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil to the pot and heat. Whisk in the flour for 1 minute, then add the milk. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, thicken for 5-6 minutes, then stir in the mustard. Melt two-thirds of the combined cheeses into the sauce.

Pre-heat the broiler.

Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pot. Toss the hot pasta with the chopped meat and sauerkraut to combine, then stir in the cheese sauce and coat.

Transfer the mac 'n cheese to a casserole dish and top with the "cracker-crumbs" and remaining cheese. Brown under the broiler for 3-4 minutes and serve.


This was everything I ever hoped it would be. Incredible! Even with using REAL Gruyere, we were able to save 200 calories and 20 grams of fat! The huge savings came from subbing turkey for corned beef. A simple switch that still makes a great Reuben. What made this meal complete? We paired it with a mixed green salad dressed with 1000 island dressing. I mean, what's a Reuben without 1000 island? Here is a rundown of how it panned out nutritionally. Not bad!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving/based on 6 servings):

BEFORE: 794.17 calories;  35.03g fat;  72.21g carbohydrate;  44.79g protein;  5.18g fiber
AFTER: 593.5 calories;  14.51g fat;  75.9g carbohydrate;  41.9g protein; 9.65g fiber
SAVES: 200.67 calories & 20.52g fat  ADDS: 4.47g fiber

**One thing to note about the servings is that they are HUGE! Rachael's recipe says "6", but this dish can EASILY serve 8. We had 5 adults and 1 child eating this last night with 2-3 more servings to spare. If the nutrition facts seem high, it is mostly because you are getting an entire plate full of pasta!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Eating Social

We are social creatures. It is within our human selves to possess this desire, this need, to be around others. As we grow into adults, one of the most common things we learn to love doing together is eating. A guy takes you out for a date & you are most likely having dinner together. You're playing cards at a friend’s house…you’re having snacks and drinks. A new promotion at work? Let’s celebrate with a big dinner out! If you take a moment to think about all the times you gather with family, friends or co-workers; at the center of it all is food (and hopefully some drinks too).

Never was this as clear to me as it was back in 2006 when I did my first (and last) figure competition. Following a plan for healthy eating and exercising is one thing. However getting ready to strut my stuff in what my mom refers to as the “most scantily clad” swimsuit she had ever seen me in....that is another thing. Getting ready for a competition like this takes true understanding of how the body reacts to food and exercise. It is a science. Every nutrient is counted and every “feeding time” is planned. Food is fuel and nothing more. Taste? What’s that? It really doesn’t matter when training for a figure or body building competition. What matters is how it will make you as lean as possible.

Sound like a little bit of torture? It kinda was. Here’s why.

Eating is a very social thing. It isn’t until restricting my eating to that level do we truly understand just how social it is. Not being able to eat what I wanted when everyone else was really stunk! It made me a little irritable and cranky at times. Fun times weren’t as fun…all because of food! Eating became a major pain in the butt instead of something that is meant to be enjoyed. Not being able to eat like everyone else actually made me slightly obsess over it. When that competition was over, I immediately downed 3 huge chocolate chip cookies in the car. These weren’t any ol’ cookies. They were left-over from a school party. I volunteered to take them home that Friday because I knew by Saturday evening, I would be "allowed" to eat them. Crazy, I know. The interesting thing is that had I been “allowed” to eat them at the school party, one cookie would have been enough. Instead,  it took 3 to satisfy my craving a day later.

So what to take from this whole experience? Here’s what I have learned…

Eating is a social thing, meant to be enjoyed with friends and family.

Restricting yourself too much leads to moments of extreme irritability, crankiness and overconsumption of chocolate chip cookies.

Allowing myself to enjoy occasional treats keeps me happy...which keeps hubby happy.

It’s OK to make eating a part of socializing, but there are other things to do that actually burn calories instead of cost calories (bowling, golf, dancing, shopping, etc.). Food AND activity can be the central focus.

Extreme dieting is not for me. I prefer a lifestyle of healthy eating, with occasional splurges. People who compete, you are awesome!

Just for fun, think about your eating this week and take note of just how socially driven it is. You might be surprised. It’s not a bad thing. It just is what it is.

Have a fabulous Tuesday!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Lean Libation: Rachael's Grapefruit Margarita

It's Friday! Who is ready for an escape to Margaritaville?!?! If I can get a Grapefruit Margarita there...you can bet I'm in! There's nothin' better than a good margarita, but sometimes they are so sweet that I can only have one (some would argue that may not be a bad thing). Well regardless, I would like to enjoy a couple. With this recipe, the margaritas are so light and refreshing that you almost have to pour a second. I absolutely recommend this beverage for the next time you decide to kick back and relax this summer. A long, hot day = time for a grapefruit margarita!

Serves 2


Combine the first 4 ingredients in a blender (that's everything but the mint).

Blend. Stir in mint leaves and pour into margarita glasses. Garnish with an orange slice and mint leaves.

I love a great margarita, but sometimes the mixes are just a little too sweet for me. And we know how "too sweet" typically translates to "too many calories", right? So with this version of Rachael Ray's Grapefruit Margarita, we are using a Light Ocean Spray juice containing only 40 calories per cup! Another little switch-a-roo was to replace the orange liqueur with fresh squeezed orange juice. More alcohol meant more calories. By using the OJ, we are saving calories AND adding some vitamin C! I promise you won't miss the liqueur. I believe the tequila shots are enough to do the trick. I know it is for me!

These margaritas are a new favorite of mine. Dangerously delicious and light; the perfect way to end a hot summer day.

NUTRITION FACTS (per margarita):

BEFORE: 306 calories;  0g fat;  37.7g carbohydrate;  0g protein;  0g fiber
AFTER: 93.5 calories;  .05g fat;  7.24g carbohydrate;  .15g protein;  .05g fiber
SAVES: 212.5 calories &  30.46g carbohydrate 
 ADDS: .15g protein & .05g fiber

A margarita under 100 calories?!?! Now that is a Lean Libation!


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: The "Cookin' Lean" Gene

Ask Lady Gaga how she stays fit and she'll probably say she was just "born that way." Ask the beautiful and talented Julia Roberts and she'll say it was Pilates that put her in a "League of Her Own". For Jennifer Hudson, she will sing praises to Weight Watchers for pointing her in the right direction. Lots of celebrities have different "secrets" to staying fit and slim; all ranging from unbelievable to completely impractical. There are flying trapeze workouts, 7-day cleanses, super-expensive trainers and well, those people that claim to just naturally keep weight off. Although I believe we are all super-stars in our own lives, we still aren't celebs with access to live-in chefs and world renown fitness experts. So how do us real people stay fit, healthy and lookin' good?

One thing is for sure. If there is a "naturally thin and fit gene" out there, I sure as heck didn't get it! Don't worry Mom and Dad, I ain't mad at cha. I love who I am and I have found a way to stay happy and healthy on my own...just as you have. I wasn't blessed with a "skinny" gene, but I guess you could say I created my own: The Cookin' Lean Gene.

Getting ready to cook with Paula last June.
To bless myself with this Cookin' Lean Gene, I had to begin teaching myself how to cook; becoming more familiar with cooking techniques, trying new foods and experimenting with recipes by making them...well, you know...lean. The more I played around with recipes, learned more about healthy ingredients, cooked at home and ate out less; the stronger that Cookin' Lean Gene got. It was a flippin' miracle! Well, not really. It's just about smarter cooking and eating. The great thing about the Cookin' Lean Gene is that anyone can develop it. It loves people of all sizes, shapes and ages. Not happy with your genetics? Just invite a new one in.

The Cookin' Lean Gene has worked for me; better than anything else I have ever tried. Before learning to cook, I was about 15 pounds heavier. Not much has changed with my workouts, but a lot has changed with how I prepare food and "indulge" in my favorite dishes. It's not a gimmick or a fad diet. It's a way of life...a new way of life for me and my family. I can easily say I attribute my weight loss (and maintenance) to the Cookin' Lean Gene! I feel better, have more energy AND my meals are a whole lot more exciting!

Next time anyone asks how you look so fab, just tell them you've got the Cookin' Lean Gene!

 Have a fabulous Tuesday!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: French~Style Tuna Melts

Tuna is a staple in my weekly diet. It is low in fat, high in protein, cheap and easy to whip into a sandwich or salad. My typical tuna salad is made with a light mayonnaise base. This recipe by Rachael Ray for French~Style Tuna Melts is a bit different in that sense. Instead of mayonnaise, we are going to be using heart-healthy olive oil and a tiny bit of tomato paste. It's a pretty nice alternative to the ordinary tuna salad melt. Plus, this version has Kalamata olives! Love those things!!

Serves 2

  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (6 ounce) can chunk white tuna in water
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 6 slices of tomato (1 large or 2 medium tomatoes)
  • 3 slices Sargento REDUCED FAT Provolone Cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine onion and juice of lemon in a mixing bowl. In the same bowl, add  tomato paste, garlic, pepper and EVOO. Stir together well. Add the tuna, olives, capers, parsley and mix to combine and break up tuna slightly.

Place 6 slices of tomato on a baking sheet and lightly salt and pepper.

Divide the tuna mixture between the 6 slices of tomato and top with cheese; 1/2 slice each.

Toast in oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the tuna heated through.


To save calories, I opted for tomato slices instead of thick brioche bread. This cut calories and carbs, plus adds vitamins for a nutritional boost. Since the tomato slices are smaller than bread slices, it takes 6 slices of tomato to fit all the tuna mixture. This means each serving includes 3 tuna-topped tomato slices instead of 2 bread slices; giving the illusion of eating more food. A little trick to keep your tummy happy while actually eating less.

And the nutritional breakdown...

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving/ 3 topped-tomato slices):

BEFORE: 786 calories;  51.2g fat;  43.85g carbohydrate;  37.97g protein;  1.75g fiber

AFTER:313.5 calories;  16.73g fat;  9.65g carbohydrate;  30.64g protein;  1.6g fiber

SAVES: 472.5 calories;  34.47g fat;  34.2g carbohydrate

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Paula Deen's Lean: Individual Strawberry Shortcakes

Strawberry Shortcake has been a summertime dessert favorite of mine for as long as I can remember. There was a restaurant in Elon (where I went to college) called The Village Grill, where they had fabulous strawberry shortcake. Each spring they would let the town know it was shortcake time by posting word of it's arrival on their sign. Those were happy days...college and the shortcake!

Now, as we know, there was nothin' lean about that good, southern strawberry shortcake I used to enjoy in NC. Even the fresh strawberries were covered in tons of sugar. Then it was OK, 'cause I was younger and in college; able to get away with eating more "bad" food then than I can now. Gotta love that aging metabolism, right? So since I refuse to let go of the foods I love, we are going to make a lean version using inspiration from Paula's Individual Strawberry Shortcake recipe. After the first bite, I closed my eyes and was right back in NC, enjoying my favorite summertime, southern dessert. Everything I enjoy about this dessert is there. Everything my body doesn't like about this dessert is not! It rocks! 

Makes 8

  • 1lb. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup Smucker's SUGAR FREE strawberry preserves
  • 2 cups Bisquick Heart Smart baking mix
  • 2/3 cup FAT FREE milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 16 tablespoons Reddi Wip FAT FREE topping (2 tbsp./serving)
  • Fresh mint (optional garnish)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix Bisquick, milk and sugar. Drop onto a prepared baking sheet, making 8 "shortcakes". Bake for 10-12 minutes.

In a small glass bowl, turn the preserves into a syrup by microwaving on high for about 20 seconds; until it becomes a syrup.

To assemble shortcakes, slice the biscuits in half. Place sliced strawberries on the bottom half of the biscuit, then top with 2 tbsp. Reddi Wip cream topping. Place top of the biscuit over the Reddi Wip and strawberries. Drizzle each biscuit with about 1 tbsp. warm preserves and additional fresh strawberries. Garnish with fresh mint (optional).



BEFORE: 354.75 calories;  16.91g fat;  45.26g carbohydrate;  5.04g protein;  2.64g fiber

AFTER: 157.13 calories;  2.08g fat;  34.69g carbohydrate;  3.29g protein;  1.89g fiber

SAVES: 197.62 calories;  14.83g fat;  10.57g carbohydrate

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Carrots 'N' Cake

Life is about balance. We balance work and play, friends and family; everything from the "cheat days" in our diets to the checkbooks in our purse. One of the places I think this balancing act most certainly applies to is with food and exercise. Calories in, calories out. Finding that perfect balance where our bodies and our souls find true health and happiness can be tough. But as fellow food blogger and author Tina Haupert shares in her new book, Carrots 'N' Cake, there is a way! It is possible to have your cake and eat it too!

This adorable book is full of more than just great recipes. It has REAL stories that come straight from Haupert's heart and touches yours. Healthy living doesn't just happen for everyone. Sometimes we have to go through life's little experiences before we figure out how to make it all work in a healthy way. There are going to be happy hours and drive-thrus. It is how you handle them that allows you to live a healthy life; beer and burger included.

I love this book because...

  • It is real! I can connect with the stories.
  • The recipes rock!
  • Tina loves running and beer; two of my favorite things!
  • It is a way of living, really living, not a diet.
  • And because of lines like this (taken from Chapter 6 of Carrots 'N' Cake) ~ "Nowadays, after another Saturday night with a heavy meal out and one too many glasses of wine, I'm once again looking to get myself back on track. I'm fine with getting a little off track every now and then. I want to enjoy life, and sometimes I do that through food and drink. I'd rather be happy than miserable because of a diet that restricts me from my favorite foods."  AMEN to that! This is exactly my take on it!
In the last chapter of Carrots 'N' Cake, Tina opens up a little more about how she stays happy and balanced. Most importantly she emphasizes the importance of having fun. This book is a great read and one that just makes you feel good. I haven't met Tina, but I kinda feel like I have. She connects with readers through her writing; just one of those gals that loves life and would be a blast to hang around. Her grasp on the balance of food, exercise and life is one that is healthy and sure to bring happiness to all those who read her writing.

Looking for more on Tina and Carrots N' Cake, visit her blog http://www.carrotsnckae.com/ !

Want to get a copy of Carrots 'N' Cake? Buy one right HERE, on Amazon!

Have a great Tuesday...and perhaps a slice of carrot cake!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lean Libation: Giada's Aloha L.A. Cocktail

Happy Saturday!!

The weekend means it is time to relax and kickback. It is time to reward ourselves for the hard week of work we just put it. It is time for a cocktail! This Aloha L.A. Cocktail from Giada De Laurentiis has "summertime" , "fun" and "relaxation" written all over it! Packed with fresh fruit and topped off with some diet ginger ale, this cocktail qualifies as a finalist for the "Lean Libation Hall of Fame!" So, get the blender out. It is time to set this cocktail makin' session in motion.

Serves 8

  • 1 ripe pineapple; peeled, cored & cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons honey (or agave nectar)
  • 1 cup light rum
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2-3 limes)
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 (1 liter) bottle diet ginger ale

Garnish: 2 limes, cut into wedges

In a blender, combine the pineapple, rum, honey (or agave nectar), and lime juice. Blend until the pineapple is almost pureed. Pour the pineapple mixture into a large pitcher. Add the ice and stir. Slowly pour in the diet ginger ale.

Pour the cocktail into glasses and garnish with lime wedges.


While writing this post and looking outside at the beautiful day we are having, these just might be the drink of choice this evening. They are light and fruity, yet no overly sweet. Cutting down the amount of rum saved us some calories. I know what you are thinking. Boooo! I took the fun out of it. But really, a serving of liquor is about 1 fl. oz. So we really only need about a cup for 8 people. I also subbed diet ginger ale for the real thing. In the end, we were able to save around 60 calories per cocktail!!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving):

BEFORE: 183.75  calories;  .08g fat;  27.29g carbohydrate;  .36g protein;  .88g fiber

AFTER: 124.38 calories;  .08g fat;  12.58g carbohydrate;  .38g protein;  .88g fiber

SAVES: 59.37 calories & 14.71 carbohydrates

Those are some pretty sweet savings! Now you know that you can always leave out the rum for a non-alcoholic summer cocktail, right? That will save tons of calories too. It just all depends what you want this cocktail to do for you!

Oh, one little tip on making this drink; buy the containers of already peeled and cut pineapple in the produce section. It saves a little time and it is all the same.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cooking Light with Giada De Laurentiis: Asparagus Lasagna

I feel like every family has their "go-to" vegetables they like to have at dinner. Our favorite veggie of choice around here is asparagus. We just throw it on a baking sheet with a little EVOO, salt, pepper and garlic; then toss it in the oven. It is simple and guaranteed to be a hit every single time! Because of our love for asparagus, Giada's recipe for Asparagus Lasagna immediately grabbed my attention. We love asparagus and we love lasagna, therefore there is no doubt we will love the two together. My instincts were right! Even "The Caveman" (aka, my husband) was happy with making dinner that night a meatless meal. Now that is sayin' something!

Serves 8

  • 9 WHOLE WHEAT lasagna sheets OR 1 medium egg plant**
  • 1/2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 (8.5-ounce) tubs sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil;found in produce section)
  • 1-1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 (15-ounce)  container FAT FREE Ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups REDUCED FAT  (2%) shredded mozzarella cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes for dried pasta or 2 to 3 minutes for fresh pasta. Drain pasta.

**If using eggplant, skip the above step. Instead, slice the eggplant lengthwise into very thin sheets. Try to slice them as thin as possible. Use the eggplant slices in place of noodles for the remainder of the recipe.

In a food processor combine the sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Pulse until the mixture is combined. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup Parmesan. Set aside.

In a large skillet , add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, onion, and garlic and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add asparagus and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the ricotta, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 by 13-inch baking dish sprinkle some of the sun-dried tomato mixture on the bottom of the casserole dish. Place some lasagna (or eggplant)sheets, then half asparagus mixture. Next sprinkle some mozzarella cheese and some of the remaining Parmesan. Continue for 1 more layer. Top with lasagna (or eggplant) sheets, some sun-dried tomato mixture, mozzarella, and Parmesan. Bake until the ingredients are warm and the cheese is melted, about 25 minutes.

Not only did I take a major risk with my husband by leaving out the pancetta, I replaced the lasagna noodles with eggplant too! It was a noodle-free and meat-free lasagna. And guess what? The Caveman ate it AND liked it! This dish is great if you are into "Meatless Monday" or if you are vegetarian or gluten-free. Even if none of those things apply to you, it is still a satisfying, light dish. I took this lasagna to the extreme by leaving out the noodles, but if you replace regular noodles with whole wheat, you are still doin' your body a favor. It's a smart swap that hardly anyone will notice.

Here is how the "Cookin' Lean Version" compares to the original:

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving/prepared using eggplant):

BEFORE: 528.75 calories;  30.61g fat;  40.33g carbohydrate;  30.28g protein;  9.78g fiber

AFTER: 239.5 calories;  7.2g fat;  26.34g carbohydrate;  25.25g protein;  9.68g fiber

SAVES: 289.25 calories;  23.4g fat;  13.99g carbohydrate

Want to add a little more nutrition to this meal? Have it with a nice glass of red wine! You can bet I did! ENJOY!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: How to "Spike" Your Dishes

One of my reasons for starting "Cookin' Lean" was to see if it was possible for healthy food to taste great. I didn't want it to just be so-so. I wanted healthy food to be "so good-you don't miss the real thing-maybe better than the real thing-good". That's what I was shootin' for. I am very excited and proud to say that after almost two years, I believe to have proven this concept to be possible. Healthy food can be exciting and delicious! But it doesn't just happen. You gotta use the right tricks and the right ingredients; sometimes even the right brands.

A lot of my tricks include; substituting low-fat or fat-free variations of the original ingredients, using whole grains and finding fresh ways to add flavor through vegetables and herbs. Another trick I like to throw in from time to time is the "Spike-It-Up" technique. Unfortunately for me, it's not anything that is going to leave you in admiration of my cooking abilities. This particular secret to adding fat-free flavor comes in a little glass jar. All I do is find the best Spike Gourmet Natural Seasoning to fit my dish and I sprinkle it on. Simple as that!

Spike Gourmet Natural Seasoning was developed by acclaimed nutritionist Gayelord Hauser. He wanted to share his philosophy that gourmet taste and good nutrition go hand-in-hand. Each seasoning blend adds a variety of delicious tastes without adding fat or calories; some ranging from salt free to very low sodium! And all of the seasoning products are made from the earth's purest, most natural ingredients, without additive, preservatives or fillers. For a woman that is trying to add excitement to healthy foods, these Spike seasonings have been wonderful to have around. What I love most is the variety of spice blends available. It seems like there is a Spike for everything. Here are the Spike Seasonings I have tried:

  • 5 Herb
  • Lemon Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Hot N' Spicy
  • Vegit
  • Tenderizer
  • All-Purpose (Original & Salt Free)

"The SPIKE® family of seasonings, featuring SPIKE® ORIGINAL MAGIC! are all-natural; made without preservatives or additives, and have ZERO calories per serving – so you can FLAVOR your meals, SAVOR your meals – with no guilt. A dash of any SPIKE seasoning will add ZIP and ZEST to your favorite foods – and save you the trouble of adding one more item to your “food database”! Forego the fat and go with SPIKE®! THE Healthy Lifestyle Seasoning. SPIKE® Seasonings are available at your local health/natural food stores and many select grocery stores." ---taken from www.spike-it-up.com.

It can be tough to add flavor to food sometimes, especially when you are cutting out things like bacon and butter! Having something natural and guilt-free like SPIKE® Seasonings is helpful in making up for lost flavor.

So I guess you can say that when it comes to seasoning your food, don't just spice up... SPIKE®  it up!

Have a great Tuesday!

** For more information on Spike Seasonings, visist www.spike-it-up.com and www.modernfearn.com.


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