Ground Turkey Sloppy Joes with Banza Chickpea Shells

The weather has been crazy here in the Midwest. Last week, it went from 70 degrees outside to 20. Now it’s beginning to warm up a bit, the weather fronts caused a massive downpour tonight. On a dreary night like this, I crave a warm meal that really fills me up – sloppy joes fit the bill perfectly. When made with ground turkey, this meal is incredibly well-balanced and will keep you going all day.

It’s popular to serve sloppy joes on buns, but my family has always eaten them on pasta shells. I was going to eat my sloppy joes on sweet potatoes this time, since I wasn’t holding out hope for macro-friendly pasta, when I happened on Banza chickpea pasta. They sell this at my local Target, and I’ve linked them on Amazon so you can purchase them for yourself. In case the name wasn’t a tip-off, these shells are made out of chickpea flour and pea protein, giving them a balance of protein, carbs, and a bit of healthy fat.

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This recipe is excellent for meal prep. It divides perfectly in four and will keep long enough to eat across four days. Alternatively, if you feel like sharing, you can make this as a dinner for two with enough left for lunch the next day. For added bulk, add in diced red pepper or shredded carrots with the meat. I didn’t in this case as I’m not a huge fan of peppers and didn’t have carrots. However, this is a great way to add volume to your meal if you’re having a hungry day.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Banza chickpea pasta shells (or any shape you prefer)*
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. extra lean ground turkey (99% / 1%)
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp. poultry seasoning (I used Penzey’s poultry seasoning)
  • red peppers and/or carrots to add bulk, if desired

1. Prepare the pasta to package instructions.
2. While the pasta is cooking, pour the olive oil into a large pan and tilt to coat the bottom and warm over medium-high heat.
3. Add the diced onion to the pan and toss to coat. Allow to brown slightly, stirring consistently.
4. Add the ground turkey to the pan, breaking it up with your spatula.
5. In a separate bowl, mix the tomato sauce, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and poultry seasoning together, then pour over the turkey and stir. If you’re adding extra veg, now’s the time!


6. Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7. Put the pasta in your bowl first, then ladle over your sloppy joe mixture. Enjoy!

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Macros:

Calories: 392
Protein: 41 g
Carbohydrates: 45 g
Fat: 9 g

* I monetize my site with Amazon Associates; if you use my link, I will receive a portion of your purchase without any cost to you. It’s currently the only way I make any money from this site, so if you like what I write, please consider purchasing through this link! Thank you!

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Full of Hot Air (Weigh-In 6)

Sometimes, when you don’t get the results you were hoping for, you’re befuddled. Be it the denial of what you’ve actually eaten or factors like water weight affecting what you’re seeing on the scale, some weeks you just don’t know. But sometimes, you’ve been cruising along with that one little cheat that you think doesn’t really affect you. Until it does.

For me, that’s popcorn. When I’m having a hungry day, popcorn is my go-to. The high fiber makes it filling, and the tons of little pieces makes it take quite some time to eat when I have the munchies. I have air-popped popcorn, which, although low in nutritional value, is quite low-fat and low-calorie. The toppings are what cause the problems. I eat popcorn when I’m craving salt, and if you’ve ever tried to salt air-popped popcorn, you know it doesn’t stick on its own. I’ve got a fake buttery topping I use, and I usually sprinkle it on quite lightly and then toss with salt. It’s not a great habit, but it’s satisfying and keeps me from bingeing on fries, so.

This week, I cut out most processed or pre-packaged food aside from my protein powder. It wasn’t some big decision – I just had time and ingredients to cook this week, and since I’m a fairly decent cook (says my notoriously picky boyfriend, so I take it as a compliment), that’s much more appetizing than boxed frozen dinners. I cooked several batches of meals that freeze well and made my own, healthier frozen dinners. However, it turns out that what I cook tends to be very low-fat; seriously, even Lifesum (the macro-tracking app I use) was yelling at me to use more healthy fats while cooking!

I think that’s part of why my sprinkle of buttery topping turned into a bit of a pour, though I only logged that same sprinkle into my meal tracker. And I had a big bowl of popcorn every day this week. Yeah. This week, I’m going to try to cut down on one vice. I’ll tackle caffeine at a later date, but for right now, I’m going to go one week without my bowl of popcorn. I am not going to replace it with chips, pretzels, etc. I may go back to eating it (with less butter) once the week is out, but I’d like to change it to being something I enjoy occasionally rather than a daily habit. I’ll keep you all posted on how that goes! I’m stocking up on fruits and veg tonight to replace my popcorn habit with something just as tasty.

I’m still down this week, though! Just a bit off-track from my weekly weight loss goal. Here’s how I’m doing after 3 weeks of the Fittest Loser challenge:

Weight: 276.6 pounds
Lost this week: 1.4
Lost so far: 5.4
Pounds to goal 1 (5% loss): 8.7

Oven Persian Chicken Barg

I spent about six months of my senior year of college as a waitress at an amazing Persian restaurant. The food at the restaurant centered around fresh vegetables, spices with incredible health benefits, and grilled lean proteins. Even after I left for a job more related to my degree, I still went back every time I was in town for my favorite kabobs. My boyfriend, who worked across the street, would stop in all the time for his favorite: chicken barg.

Now that I’m 900 miles away and haven’t found a Persian restaurant in my new town yet, I’m having some serious cravings! We don’t have a grill at our apartment yet, so this week, I set out to modify barg so I could make it in the oven. Barg is packed with lean protein, healthy fats, and it tastes delicious.

Serve this with basmati rice and tzatziki with cucumber slices to make it a full meal. If you’d like me to share my favorite recipe for tzatziki (a Greek yogurt dip perfect for veggies), please let me know below! If you like tomatoes, they’re traditionally served with this dish, grilled on the same skewer as the chicken. Since I don’t use skewers in this recipe, you can roast them with the chicken.

I like to sprinkle my barg with sumac. In the restaurant where I worked, this spice was found by the pound! Sumac is a deep maroon-red spice that adds a bit of a citrusy taste to food like nothing I’ve tasted before or since. It’s also high in antioxidants and a perfect addition to an anti-inflammatory diet if you’re at risk of heart disease. I tend to pile it on my chicken and basmati rice, so I’ll live forever, right? It’s not in typical grocery stores, but your local Indian market will likely have it. If not, it’s easy to find on Amazon; here’s the brand I usually use. In addition, saffron can be found at most supermarkets. However, it is quite expensive. I’d strongly recommend purchasing from Amazon to save some money. Here is the best value I found without buying a huge amount.*

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 c. nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. saffron
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. sumac for serving

1. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, olive oil, lime juice, onion, garlic, saffron, salt, and pepper; stir until uniform in color.

2. Place your chicken breasts in a large Ziploc bag and pour marinade over them. Close the bag, making sure most of the air is out, and place in the fridge to marinate overnight.


I made a little too much marinade. Don’t do this! I started with a cup of greek yogurt instead of half. Oops!

3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a sheet pan with olive oil nonstick spray.

4. Arrange the breasts at least an inch apart on the sprayed baking sheet.

5. Your cooking time will vary depending on the size of chicken breast you use. These were absolutely enormous, so I baked for 45 minutes, flipping halfway through. If yours are more normally sized, I’d start with 20 minutes each side and then check.

6. Sprinkle with sumac to taste and serve sliced with your choice of sides.

Macros:
Note – Much of the marinade does not stick to the chicken and remains in the bag. To more accurately reflect the actual macros, I’ve only included the nutritional information for half of the marinade (or 1/8th of the total marinade per serving).

Calories: 184
Protein: 28 g
Carbohydrates: 3 g
Fat: 6.5 g

* I monetize my site with Amazon Associates; if you use my link, I will receive a portion of your purchase without any cost to you. It’s currently the only way I make any money from this site, so if you like what I write, please consider purchasing through this link! Thank you!

Weighing the Confusion (Weigh-In 5)

As I mentioned before, my weight on the scale used for Fittest Loser was quite a bit higher than the scale I originally started with, and I’m unsure why. Since I started with the other (lower) scale, I’ve been continuing to weigh in on both that one and the Fittest Loser scale. Then, today, the original scale was out of batteries. Since the scale is a public one – I don’t own my own scale to avoid getting obsessive – I’m not in control of putting batteries back in it. Now that that’s out of commission for a while, I will be switching to the scale that I am in charge of, the one the team has for Fittest Loser.

So, according to that scale, I am 11 pounds higher than the weight I posted last week. I’m trying not to see this as a setback. After all, I did actually lose weight this week. On this scale, I was 282.0 when this challenge started 2 weeks ago and 280.6 last week. I’m down quite a bit this week, but it’s weird and embarrassing to write a higher number down, even when I have lost. Hence not owning my own scale; I know I’d spiral a bit on this.

The important part is how I’m feeling. I walked a few miles every day this weekend (mostly to play Pokemon GO, but hey I caught a 1300 CP Slowbro so #nonscalevictories). I thought I didn’t have time to cook or meal prep, but now I’m making time as part of my self-care. I enjoy cooking, so (in case you can’t see from the recipes I’ve been posting) I’m experimenting more in the kitchen and making food I truly enjoy. Sure, I still eat a lot of the same meals every day, but it’s because I want to. I’ve eaten that Southwestern BBQ Pulled Chicken Quinoa Salad Bowl almost every day for the past two or so weeks because it’s delicious and that’s what I’ve been wanting to eat. Right now, I have some chicken marinating in the fridge for a new recipe I’ll be posting later this week, and I’ll probably have that for several meals in a row too.

I’m going to adjust the numbers to show the weight I’ve lost according to the Fittest Loser scale since the beginning of the challenge 2 weeks ago. That means my starting weight has changed to 282, and I’ve lost a total of 4 pounds in the last two weeks. Still hitting my target of 2 pounds per week, just a bit of a different starting weight! My weigh-in posts will now come in the afternoon moving forward, as I’ll be weighing in at lunch with my team.

Thanks for sticking with me! I’ve put the adjusted numbers and goals here:

Weight: 278.0 pounds
Lost this week: 2.6
Lost so far: 4.0
Pounds to goal 1 (5% loss): 10.1

Hungry Days

Yesterday was one of those days when I just felt endlessly hungry, and today is shaping up to be similar. It can be hard to handle times like this – being so hungry feels like a failure in a way, maybe because that is what it has so often led to. I used to binge, so the knot of hunger in the pit of my stomach makes me anxious.

But I’m not the same person. I’m taking care of my body and sometimes, that means giving it what it needs. The macro tracking app I use (which is iMacro Plus at the moment) provides extra “points” each week for a reason. I haven’t touched them for the past several weeks, but I may today if I’m feeling hungry. I’ve also drastically increased my activity level, from next to nothing to 4 days a week. That isn’t a lot for some people, but for me, that’s a big change, and my macros are still set to a sedentary lifestyle.

I’m not boredom eating, for once, nor am I emotionally eating. I’ve been too busy to boredom eat! Yesterday and today, I thought before each bit of food and waited to ensure I was really hungry. I ate slowly and paid attention to my food, starting with less nutrient-dense food to fill me up (carrots, air popped popcorn), but was still very hungry.

I was listening to the “Half Size Me” podcast yesterday, and one point really stuck with me. We talk about fitness being a lifestyle change, but sometimes lose sight of what that really means. It means what I do to lose weight, I will need to do for the rest of my life to maintain it. While in an unhealthy way, I’m willing to be hungry to lose weight (working on that), I’m not willing to do that for the rest of my life. Constant hunger is what leads to bingeing, and I’m definitely not willing to do that for the rest of my life.

So, what am I willing to do for the rest of my life?

I’m willing to track my eating if that’s what it takes. I’m willing to find the kind of exercise I like and move my body. I’m willing to keep fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet, and I’m willing to enjoy treats more occasionally instead of as a normal part of my diet. I’m willing to keep saying no when someone offers me a treat that I don’t actually want.

I’m willing to commit to this. For good. For the rest of my life.

So I will be conscious of what I eat, but I will also make sure I’m feeling nourished instead of hungry. I will forgive myself for bingeing in the past and take care of myself for moving forward. What do you do on hungry days? And how are you taking care of yourself on your fitness journey?

 

By the way, the pink oatmeal that is the header on this page is my usual breakfast! Steel cut oats with chia seeds, honey, and cinnamon, plus raspberries swirled through for a bright breakfast. Let me know down below if you’d like some oatmeal recipes!

Southwestern BBQ Pulled Chicken Quinoa Salad Bowl

I love barbecue. In the middle of a Chicago winter (albeit a mild one right now), it’s reminiscent of smoky summer nights in the backyard and eating outside around a fire. Pork shoulder isn’t the most macro-friendly, though, so I began experimenting to find a lightened up (but still delicious) way to enjoy my Sweet Baby Ray’s.

A few weeks ago, we went to a restaurant nearby called Kinfork. It was right after I started my fitness journey, and I was a bit nervous about sticking to my goals while eating out. Luckily, I picked out a salad that was so filling and satisfying, I didn’t feel I was missing anything at all without my usual mashed potatoes and corn bread.

I was craving it so much after, that I decided to make it for myself with a few changes. I nixed the fried onion strings and added some extras to really make this a power bowl. With quinoa for protein and fiber and avocado for healthy fat, this balanced bowl will keep you going all day long.

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For 4 servings:

Ingredients

Olive oil non-stick cooking spray
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3 breasts)
1 tbsp. paprika
1/2 c. Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Chipotle Barbecue Sauce (plus additional for serving if desired)
4 c. romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
1 c. cooked tricolor quinoa
1 medium avocado
1/4 c. shredded Colby jack cheese

Optional additional toppings: corn, cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers, Tabasco chipotle hot sauce

  1. Check to make sure a large saucepan will fit between the racks of your oven; if not, remove the top one (I forget this almost every time and then have to go in with three layers of oven mitts to carefully remove a burning hot oven rack). Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Spray a large saucepan with olive oil cooking spray and add your onion and garlic. Stir to coat. Sauté until onions are translucent, 2-3 mins.
  3. Add your chicken and paprika, then stir to combine.
  4. Add your barbecue sauce and stir to coat. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Cover your saucepan and place in the oven. Cook at 350 degrees for 90 minutes.
  6. After 90 minutes, remove the pot from the oven. Transfer your chicken breasts to a large bowl and use 2 forks to shred. Pour liquid left in the saucepan over the shredded chicken and stir.
  7. Quarter your avocado, then slice. If you want to be extra fancy, slice almost all the way through to the end, then fan out your avocado slices.
  8. It’s time to assemble! Layer 1 cup romaine lettuce, 1/4 cup cooked quinoa, 1/4 of an avocado, 1 tablespoon of shredded Colby jack cheese, and 1/4 of the chicken in each of 4 bowls. At this point, you can add any additional veggies. I like to add a bit of Chipotle Tabasco sauce to give mine a bit of an extra kick, as well as a few tablespoons of corn when I have some left over.
  9. Enjoy! This recipe is perfect for two people to eat for dinner with leftovers for lunch the next day. Just squeeze a bit of lemon or lime juice on the avocado slices so they don’t go brown overnight.

Macros (without additional toppings):
Calories: 302
Protein: 30.5 g
Carbs: 23.25 g
Fat: 9.15 g

What will you top your bowl with? Have you ever found a lightened up version of a favorite comfort food is just as delicious as the original? What was it? Let me know!

Journey Goals (Weigh-In 4)

Okay, so the CrossFit helped maybe a bit. This is the first week of the Fittest Loser, and I’m excited to check in with my team this week! We had lunch together on Thursday to plan out the events we’ll be attending. I’m really excited to start up Couch to 5k again, and over the course of this 12-week challenge, I’m going to participate in a 5k.

I’m also going to work out at least twice a week each week. I know that may seem low, but for me, that’s a big increase as I don’t yet work out regularly. I’m going to do cardio and some body weight strength with a friend during our lunch tomorrow. Erich and I are going to look for a gym where we can do some weights so I’m doing more than just cardio.

Today’s update is a little short as Erich seems to have given me whatever had him all feverish last week. I slept from 3 PM yesterday all the way through to this morning, only waking up for an hour to have some cereal. Here’s hoping some light exercise after work wakes me up!

I’m trying to shoot for a 2-pound loss each week, so this was a bit less than I wanted. However, after Thursday’s CrossFit misadventures, I was stuck mostly sedentary this weekend. I was hoping it was just post-workout soreness, but I really did injure myself. Sigh. Regardless, I’m still losing weight and heading in the direction I want to!

Weight: 267.0 pounds
Lost this week: 1
Lost so far: 6.0
Pounds to goal 1: 17.0

CrossFit: Not Even Once

Okay, actually, once.

I tried my first CrossFit class yesterday and I am struggling. I have a lot of respect for people who train well this way but suffice to say it’s not for me. Halfway through a set, my legs seized up and I fell. It was embarrassing, but the trainer was pretty good about helping. I rolled it out and kind of stumbled home. Today is rough.

The mentality there was that if you feel like you can’t breathe and are about to throw up, that means it’s working. I’m unsure if this is true of CrossFit as a whole, or if this was just not a great place. If your muscles give out and you throw up, that is a bad sign, in case that was unclear; don’t do what I did!

What struck me, though, was that I was able to push to that point. I try to run a lot and always back off when I start breathing hard. I’m not talking dangerously hard. You should always slow down if you’re really struggling. However, I don’t usually get to that point. I generally turn down the intensity the minute I start to feel uncomfortable. Some part of me broke through that yesterday. It definitely wasn’t in a healthy way at that point, but I’ll take that lesson going forward.

Some part of me broke through that yesterday. It definitely wasn’t in a healthy way at that point, but I’ll take that lesson going forward. I can pick a spot on the wall and push through that discomfort. I feel proud of myself still for that. Despite the way my back, legs, arms, abs…entire body is feeling today, I am proud that I pushed through and did not give up. At this point, it was definitely because I was in a class with others watching, but I want to take the knowledge that I have that mental resolve inside of me and put it to good use. Over the course of the Fittest Loser challenge, I’ll have the chance to participate for free in several 5k runs. My goal over the next 12 weeks is to take advantage of at least one of them. Even if I have to walk for part of it, I will push through the discomfort to find my stride.

For today, I’m resting. I’m going to take plenty of ibuprofen and eat well to repair my muscles. I need to catch up a bit on my macros – I stuck my finger into my boiling hot oats this morning and promptly dropped them on the floor! That’s pretty much how my day is going. I think that means yummy Quest Bar cookies later (pro tip: break your cookie dough Quest Bar into little round cookie shapes and throw in the toaster oven. You’re welcome). Tea and hot rice packs and fluffy blankets today.

Do you all have any recommendations for exercises to improve strength at a bit of a lower intensity? And have you ever tried a type of exercise that definitely wasn’t for you? What was it?

 

P.S. In case you are wondering, the set I was working on that I struggled so much with was:

10 Lunges
10 Sit-Ups
10 Kettlebell Swings

In CrossFit (again, at least at this gym), your back knee should bend down to touch the floor during each lunge. That’s what I couldn’t get back up from and what caused the leg issues. I made it through 4 sets before falling during the lunges.

 

On Not Giving Up (Weigh-In 3)

I know I said I was going to wait until my Fittest Loser official weigh-in tomorrow to post a weight update, but I was too curious today. I stepped on the scale this morning, and I’m so glad I did.

Last week, I was feeling pretty discouraged. I only lost 0.2 pounds in my first week. When losing previously, the first week had generally been a pretty big loss. I know that’s mostly due to water weight, but still, it was always a nice little boost. I mentioned I was dealing with a log of fatigue, and I felt pretty crappy that whole week. However, instead of giving up this week, I worked harder. I had a couple good workouts (still working on making that more regular) and ate yummy food that kept me full and satisfied. I tried new things. And I even ate out twice. Twice!

Instead of saying “screw it” and eating all of my boyfriend’s fries (this is what dating me is like), I found healthier options on the menu that still made me feel good annnnnnnnnndddddddd (drumroll)…I’m down 4.8 pounds this week!

I’m kind of glad I had this experience. When I have tougher weeks in the future (because they do happen), I’ll be able to remind myself to look back on these two weeks. It all sort of evens out in the end, and a less than stellar week can be the set up for an amazing one.

Weight: 268.0 pounds
Lost this week: 4.8
Lost so far: 5.0
Pounds to goal 1: 18.0

Progress pictures! Since I only started mid-January, not seeing much difference yet. However, I wanted to make sure I had pictures from every month so I can see my journey.

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