Loaded Veggie Tacos

IMG_2813Being from Texas, I don’t know anyone that doesn’t crave a good taco on at least a weekly basis.  Tex-Mex or some variation of it always finds its way into my weekly menus all-year round.  Instead of heading out to the local restaurant and consuming an entire of basket of chips in the first five minutes of sitting down (it happens to the best of us) before even digging in to your queso-sopped entree, stay in and  enjoy some fresh, healthy, and filling tacos.  These are a vegetarian meal, but I promise you won’t even remember that meat is normally the principle ingredient in a taco because there’s so much good going on  in every bite.  I always prefer soft corn tortillas over flour because I can usually have two for the nutritional equivalent of one, but feel free to switch things up.  Another winning point of these little envelopes of flavor is how gorgeous they look on that white plate overflowing with every color and texture of food you could imagine.  Did I mention there’s goat cheese? I know some people aren’t a huge fan, but I am a firm believer that God created goats for the sole purpose of making goat cheese.  Oh, and you can have dinner on the table in literally fifteen minutes. What’s not to love?

Serves 4 (2 tacos each)

Ingredients

8 soft and thin corn tortillas

1 can black beans, reduced sodium (drained and rinsed)

1 T olive oil

1 large onion, sliced

4 cloves chopped garlic

1 large or 2 small ripe avocados, sliced

1/2 small head red cabbage, sliced into long strips

1/2 c plain fat free Greek yogurt

Fresh lime juice

salt/pepper to taste

2 t ground cumin

1 t ground chipotle chili powder (or regular chili powder)

large handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

4 oz goat cheese, crumbled

Chipotle chunky salsa

Directions

Saute the onion in the olive oil in a non-stick or cast iron skillet over low-medium heat until very soft and lightly caramelized (about 10 minutes), adding the spices and half of the garlic the last few minutes.  This would also be a good time to add any other veggies you had on hand such as bell peppers, zucchini, or mushrooms.  Add the beans and continue to cook until everything is heated.  For the yogurt (sour-cream fake out) sauce, combine yogurt, fresh lime juice to taste, the reserved garlic, and salt/pepper to taste.  That’s it! Now load up your tacos with the onion and bean mixture, red cabbage, avocado slices, crumbled goat cheese, a generous dusting of cilantro, dollop of garlic lime yogurt and a drizzle of chipotle salsa.

Snacks for Success

I’m a big fan of snacking.  I was always that girl in school with the lunch box or backpack full of countless Ziplocs of healthy snacks to fuel those never-ending days of volleyball away games or night band practices.  You would not find me spending money at the concession stand or vending machine (since when are nachos a good pre-game fuel anyway?) buying an after-school “snack” that had more than enough calories to count as a meal but lacked any kind of balanced nutrition. To this day, I usually throw something quick together in the morning before I head out, so I’m never without a healthy nosh for in between cycling class, chemistry lab, or long hours at the library. Snacking the right way is so important to keep your metabolism humming throughout the day instead of overloading your system only two or three times a day to feel bloated and full then sluggish and hungry.  Eating smaller amounts every 3-4 hours will keep energy levels up, your brain happier and functioning at its peak with fresh glucose, and you won’t have to endure the desperate stomach growls nagging with unhealthy cravings.  If you are into counting calories, I’ve found it’s best to try to keep your snacks around 150-250 calories (keep in mind your level of workouts and if additional protein or carbs are important to you).  This will keep you satisfied and give you energy to last until a meal a couple hours later.  It’s also good to think about a balance of protein, carbs, and fats in your snacks just like you would for meals.  Whenever you can, focus your snack around a fruit or vegetable to amp up your daily count.  I thought I’d give you some snacking inspiration and make a list of some of my go-to foods.

Sweet 

Apple or banana with 1 T nut butter

Smoothie with milk (I use unsweetened almond) and frozen fruit (plus any other healthy add-ins you want)

Smart Pop popcorn 100 calorie mini bag kettle corn with cinnamon and 1 T dark chocolate chips

1/2 c nonfat plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a few chopped walnuts

1 orange with 1/2 serving cocoa roast almonds (Emerald brand)

Salty

Carrots and broccoli and any flavored hummus

1 piece of toast with mashed avocado and dash of Siracha or salsa (if you need more calories top with a fried egg or egg whites- SO good)

6 Triscuits (recently obsessed with the new sweet potato/onion flavor) and light string cheese or Laughing Cow cheese

1 serving Blue Diamond Habenero BBQ almonds (another new obsession)

Smart Pop popcorn 100 calorie mini bag butter flavor with a sprinkle of parmesan and italian herbs

1 small corn or wheat flour tortilla filled with avocado, sharp cheddar, and salsa

Banana Blueberry Protein Pancakes (plus some variations)

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I thought for my first uploaded recipe I’d begin with what we all know is the best and most crucial meal of the day (even though I’m not afraid to admit I’ll eat these at any time, anywhere).  These are seriously the best breakfast any day of the week.  They’re loaded with protein, fiber, and the bonus of healthy fat of the nut butter to keep you full until lunchtime or to fuel that morning workout that we all love deep down.  Regular pancakes usually leave you feeling completely stuffed and on a sugar high, only to crash and feel hungry shortly after.  You can play around with any fillings, toppings, or yogurt add-ins to make them your own perfect creation.  I never make them the same way twice.  When I first saw this idea, I thought no way could oats + egg whites = healthy pancake perfection. Long story short – I was wrong.  The main idea is that you use equal parts oats and egg whites depending on your caloric needs, stomach growls after a long Saturday morning run, or how many hungry friends are coming over for a quick and easy weekend brunch (1/4 c, 1/3 c, 1/2 c, etc.), and adjust the other ingredients proportionally. The banana in the batter is completely optional, but I think it really helps the texture. This recipe is my standard and will make 1 large or 2 smaller pancakes with about 1/4 c yogurt sauce.

Ingredients

1/3 c quick cooking oats

1/3 t baking powder

dash of salt

vanilla extract to taste

sweetener to taste (I’m a big fan of all-natural Truvia in all my cooking/baking, but a little sugar never hurt anyone)

1/3 c liquid 100% egg whites (I use the carton, but you can always use whites separated from your eggs)

1/3 soft banana, mashed

1/4 c nonfat plain Greek yogurt (Chobani is my favorite b/c it’s usually cheaper than other brands)

1/2 – 1 T almond butter (or any nut butter)

splash of milk (I usually use unsweetened almond, but anything’s fine)

1/2 c fresh blueberries

**Optional batter add-ins/toppings : cinnamon, protein powder, ground flax, chopped nuts, dried fruit, cocoa powder, PB2 (powdered peanut butter with most fat removed), any fresh fruit, chocolate chips, pumpkin puree (SO good)

Directions

Combine oats, baking powder, salt, sweetener, and any other seasonings you want.  Add whites, vanilla, and mashed banana.  Let the batter sit for a few minutes while you heat a pan sprayed with cooking spray over medium/high heat.   Pour the batter as one big pancake or a couple smaller ones and let the egg whites set up for 2-4 minutes.  Whenever it’s holding together enough that you can flip it, that’s when you know.  The other side should only take another 1-2 minutes.  You don’t want to over cook them, because they can get tough.  For the yogurt sauce combine yogurt, almond butter, vanilla/sweetener/spices to taste, and if you need to thin it out a little, add the splash of milk.  It should almost look like a frosting.  I like to heat it for about 20 seconds, just so it’s warm with the warm pancake.  Top your pancakes with the sauce and finish with the fresh berries on top.  Dig in with a generous cup of coffee and enjoy a plate of pancakes completely guilt-free!