Minestrone Soup

I’ve been a bit in a slump lately. At least when it comes to blogging recipes. I’ve been making food I’ve already done on here or making other people’s recipe or even just making stuff that I ultimately deem “not blog-worthy.” (That parmesan French toast was pretty delish, though!)

I blame it on end-of-the-year laziness. I seriously get so lazy after Thanksgiving. I think I only worked out 2 times in the entire month of December. I barely do any housecleaning and the laundry starts when we are all on our last pairs of underwear. Well, it’s January now and a new year has started. I have a list of things I want to start doing. Work has been absolutely CRAZYPANTS but it should calm down in the next few days and my head will stop spinning and perhaps I can actually start accomplishing things.

First up, this soup. It’s been raining like crazy here in SoCal the past couple days. Now, I happen to enjoy the rain. I don’t like going out in it, but I do love being warm and cozy and listening to it pitter patter outside my window. I always like to think Fall weather is soup weather, but in SoCal that is not at all the case. It’s usually pretty warm until mid-December to January when it starts to get a little chilly.

Minestrone soup is a thick Italian soup made of a flavored broth and veggies with optional beans and pasta added in. There is no set recipe for minestrone since you can use whatever veggies are in season. This soup dates back to the Roman Empire, but the basic premise remains today.

This soup really hit the spot and was so easy to make. It hit my trifecta of easy, healthy, and delicious!  If I weren’t in the beginning of a Biggest Loser Challenge, I would have served this with a side of bread as well.

30-Minute Minestrone Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried oregano

Salt and pepper

1 16 oz bag frozen veggie medley (green beans, corn, peas, carrots. You can really use whatever veggies you want.)

Parmesan rind (optional)

1 28-oz can low-sodium crushed tomatoes

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 15oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

12 oz box of shell pasta (or other small pasta of your choice) *I used Banza chickpea pasta and it was DELISH! You can’t even tell the difference and it punches up the protein of an otherwise-vegetarian dish.

Add olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another minute or so.

Add the frozen veggies, basil, oregano, some salt and some pepper. I had a leftover rind from some parmesan, so I added this as well. You don’t have to.  Stir and cook for a few minutes until veggies start to soften.

Add the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes.

Add the beans and pasta and cook about 10 minutes (or per package directions for the pasta). Remove the parm rind if you used one and taste the soup for seasoning. I ended up adding more salt, pepper, and basil, but make it how you like it.

Grilled Salmon Tacos

I love salmon. It is sooooo good for you. And I love tacos. I really love tacos. So when the idea to put them together came up in a clean eating challenge I was doing, I was 100% ON BOARD! And I was not at all disappointed.  

Salmon is really easy to prepare, but until recently, I’d been doing wrong, so wrong, for a long time. I always tried to get the skin off the back before I cooked it. It worked ok, I guess, but I always lost some meat to the cause and it was just a pain in the ass. So, the last time I made salmon, I just threw it right on the grill, skin and all. And you know what happened? I’m sure you do because I’m guessing I’m the only one who didn’t know this would happen. The skin just peeled right off when it was done cooking. Easy peasy. I felt like such an idiot for doing it the hard way this whole time. Well, never again, I tell you. NEVER again. Which is good because I make salmon a lot.

Grilled Salmon Tacos

1/3 cup olive oil

juice of one lime

1 teaspoon chili powder

¾ teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika

Dash of salt and pepper

1ish pounds salmon

Corn tortillas

Guacamole for serving

Cheese for serving

Coleslaw for serving

In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, and s&p. Rub on salmon and grill for about 5-7 minutes per side (depending on thickness). You can let this be a marinade if you want, but don’t let it sit too long or the citrus and the salt will start to “cook” the fish and that won’t be good.

When the salmon is done, remove it from the grill and take off the skin. I scrape off most of that grey stuff under the skin as well. I think it’s ok to eat, but since I don’t even know what it is, I take it off. Roughly chop up the salmon.

Serve in a warm corn tortilla with some guacamole and this AMAZING mango jicama slaw I found at Trader Joe’s. 

Or whatever other taco toppings you like.


That’s not all! I had lots of leftover salmon, so I reheated it and mixed it in with some brown rice and pesto with that slaw on the side. SO GOOD! I’m going to start making that as the main meal, not just leftovers!

Chicken Fajita Bowls with Mexican Cauliflower Rice

So I’m pretty active on Instagram. I’m not the best at taking pictures of my food, so I really love scrolling through people’s Instagram feeds with beautiful food pictures. I try. I like to think I’m getting better at it, but still. Taking lovely food shots is not my forte.

One of my favorite types of pictures are when people do food bowls. I don’t know if this is a new trend or if it just photographs well, but they are so beautiful. The food is organized so cleanly and is usually very colorful. I can’t get enough of them!

All that was said to introduce this Chicken Fajita bowl I recently made. I’ve made similar things before and I swear I posted them on here, but I guess not. Which just means I need to make them again so I can post them again and practice taking better pictures of them! See, it all works out.

This is a super easy weeknight meal that is totally family friendly and can be customized to your tastes.

Chicken Fajita Bowl

Makes enough for 2-4 bowls, depending on how much you put in them


Mexican Cauliflower Rice:

– 2 tablespoons Olive oil

– ½ onion diced small

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 bag riced cauliflower (I used the 12 oz bag from Trader Joe’s)

– 1 ½ tablespoons (or so) of tomato paste

– ½ tablespoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder

– Salt to taste     


Mexican cauliflower rice (you can use regular rice or Mexican rice if you want)

Shredded chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)

½ purple onion, sliced

½ each red, orange, and green bell pepper, sliced

Shredded cheddar cheese for topping

Plain non-fat greek yogurt for topping

Guacamole or avocado slices for topping

Place the onion and bell pepper slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with some olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast at 375 for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the Mexican cauliflower rice:

In a skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, and garlic and saute until just starting to soften. Then add the cauliflower rice and cook for about 7 minutes until cooked through. Add the seasonings and tomato paste and stir together until well mixed.


Once the rice and veggies are ready (either the cauliflower rice or whatever rice you want to use), you can assemble your bowls.


You can be fancy and do layers and sections and organize the whole thing by color or whatever. Or, if you are not planning on taking a photo and you couldn’t care less what your bowl looks like before you eat it because you are just going to mix it all up anyway, you can just throw everything together and have at it.

As long as it tastes good, who care? You do you, love.

Cauliflower Mash

Who’d have thought that cauliflower was so versatile?! I mean, Fried Rice? Check! Pizza Crust? Check! And now a legit mashed potatoes substitute? BIG FAT CHECK!

I’m going to start by saying that I am a big fan of mashed potatoes. I love them. They are so warm and creamy and just plain delicious. You can serve them as a side dish to pretty much anything. The only thing is, while the potatoes themselves are pretty healthy (full of vitamins and nutrients), what makes mashed potatoes so good is also what makes them not as good for you. We’re talking butter at minimum here. Plus milk, maybe some cream cheese or sour cream. The calories definitely start to add up. Plus, they are quite carb-heavy.

For me, the person who adores mashed potatoes so much, to say these are a totally legit substitution, is saying a lot. I feel like I could have served these at Thanksgiving and no one would have known they weren’t potatoes.

AND THEY ARE SUPER EASY TOO. They take less than 10 minutes to make. These definitely fit my “Trifecta” criteria: Easy, delicious, and healthy.

Cauliflower Mash

1 bag of Steam-in-bag cauliflower

Garlic salt (to your own preferences)

2 tablespoons greek yogurt cream cheese

½ tablespoon butter

Heavy pinch of shredded parmesan cheese

Steam the cauliflower according to package directions. It will usually give you a range (like 4-5 minutes). I did the longer time to make sure they were really soft.

Dump the bag into a blender or food processor and the garlic salt. I used quite a bit, but you can use however much you like. Start off on the low end because you can always add more if you need to. Also, add the greek yogurt cream cheese. I’ve talked about this before and it is so good. And way less fat and calories than regular cream cheese. Plus it gives a punch of protein. Finally, add the butter (it’s not that much, but it helps give the dish a more “traditional” mashed potato flavor) and a heavy pinch of parmesan cheese. The cheese is optional, but I had it out already for the kids’ dinner, so I just put in a little bit.

Run your blender or processor until the mixture is smooth and creamy. This only takes a minute or two. I would recommend stopping it at about halfway and scraping down the sides.

At this point, give it a little taste test to see if you want to add anything else. If not, then you’re done! I actually let it blend a little bit longer than I needed to at a high speed to help whip in some air and make them a bit fluffier.

I swear, this is my new favorite side dish! I can’t even wait to have them again!

Farro Stuffed Acorn Squash

Fall is here you guys!!! I know, it is sort of hard to tell if you live in Southern California right now. We are in the midst of a serious heat wave. I’m talking so hot, they had recess indoors at my son’s school. Ugh. This is not my jam. At all.

Anyway, last weekend I put up my fall decor in anticipation of this heat wave breaking and the season finally making an appearance.

Today, I braved my oven (with the AC on) and made my first “Fall” dish of the season: Stuffed Acorn Squash. It was so easy and delicious and healthy just very… FALL.

You should be able to find farro at any grocery store, but if you can’t, I’m sure you can substitute brown rice. Same with the garlic herb sausage. I got this at Trader Joe’s and I know I’ve seen similar varieties at regular grocery stores too. You could probably substitute just about any flavor you like.


Serves 2 (1/2 squash each. About 360 calories per serving)

1 medium acorn squash
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 chicken sausage links (see note above), cut into small pieces
1/2 leek, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup COOKED farro
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (you can use dried as well, just cut the amount in half)
1 teaspoon dried sage

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise (or, if you are deathly afraid of cutting winter squash and are scared you are going to accidentally stab yourself, enlist someone else to do it). Scoop out the seeds in the middle and coat with a little olive oil and salt and pepper.  Roast for about 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your squash. Just until slightly fork-tender.

While the squash is roasting, make your farro according to package directions.

Make the rest of the stuffing (you can actually make the stuffing ahead of time, a day or two, and just use it when you are ready).  In a skillet, saute in a little olive oil the leeks, garlic, sausage, thyme, and sage.


I don’t know why this picture is upside down, but I’m pretty sure you get it…


Drain the farro and add it to the sausage mixture. Then put half in each half of the squash. Put back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Funny story… When I was coming up with this recipe, I had planned on adding a diced apple to the stuffing (include it in the saute). I even bought the apple. I completely FORGOT!!  If you make it, try it with the apple and let me know how it goes. Next time I will include the apple! (I was going to use a Fuji, but any should work).

This was really yummy and quite easy. Perfect for a fall dinner. Now, someone send me pictures of changing leaves and sipping apple cider because I’m melting over here!

Slim Down: Week 3

It’s weird that I’m 3 weeks into this thing already. I don’t think I’ve ever stuck with a weight loss plan even close to this long before! I’m definitely seeing results, so there’s no way I’m quitting now!

So, my husband showed me how to do squats with weights and deadlifts. Ugh… They seem to be working, somewhat, but they are not my favorite. At all. I did figure out how to set workouts on the elliptical to maximize my use of that machine, and I love it! It adjusts the resistance and incline throughout the time on the elliptical that you preset and it burns so many calories. It is hard to believe that less than a month ago, I could barely do a mile with no resistance and now I’m getting in 3+ at various resistance levels. I guess it’s true when they say to keep it up and it’ll get easier! I will admit, though, if it weren’t for Netflix on my tablet, there is no way I could be doing this!
From here on out, my food reviews will probably be more minimal because I’ve tried most of the things that Nutrisystem offers and weeded out what I did and didn’t like. 

Progress Report: 1.4 lbs lost this week, for a total of 7.8 lbs lost since May 1.


  • Pancakes: I don’t know why I waited until week three to try these… I love pancakes! These were really good and the perfect size. Again, you can add some sugar-free maple syrup (which doesn’t sound good to me), but you don’t need it. There is a slight maple flavor already in the pancake. I just gave each one a couple sprays of my zero calorie butter spray and was good to go.

  • Egg and Turkey Sausage Sandwich: Another one like the McMuffin, but this was actually decent. If you remember, the Canadian Bacon one was not good. It was bland and had no flavor. This one was much better. The sausage made a world of difference.

  • Bagels: This was a surprise option because bagels are supposedly so bad for you. It was definitely smaller than a regular bagel, but it did not lack anything else. It was really good! 


  • Tuna Salad: So good! Perfect lunch. I’ve always been a big fan of tuna sandwiches and this did not disappoint. I’ve never put water chestnuts in mine and Nutrisystem apparently does, so the crunch was something I had to get used to, but it was good. I toasted some whole grain bread from Trader Joe’s and put the tuna on top of that. Then I sprinkled a couple tablespoons of lite shredded cheese and put it in the microwave for about 20 seconds to melt the cheese. It was just like an open-face tuna melt that you would get from a diner, but it was only 240 calories!

  • Pepperoni Melt: This was a pizza version of the broccoli cheese melt I had last week. Basically a Nutrisystem Hot Pocket. My review of this one is pretty much the same: the outside crust was fine, but dry. The filling was good. This one tasted just like pizza.
  • Red Beans and Rice: The problem with this meal was there just wasn’t enough! It was so yummy, I wanted more! The flavor was spot on, the sausage was good, and the rice was perfectly cooked. My next month’s order already shipped or I would have added more of this one. I will say, though, it leads me to wonder how this rice can be so delicious, but the rice that comes with the enchiladas is so wrong.


  • Ravioli Formaggio: During the first week, I had a ravioli meal that was not frozen. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. The pasta was so-so and the sauce was somewhat lacking. This ravioli dish was frozen and much better tasting. The pasta was a good al dente and the cheesy filling was nice and creamy. The sauce was still somewhat lacking, but it was much better than the shelf-stable ravioli because it didn’t have the beef in it. Shelf-stable beef is a bit weird to me. Overall, I liked this one.

  • Meatloaf Sandwich: I’m not going to lie, I don’t remember selecting this when I placed my order! My husband says he remembers me adding it, so I must have, but still. It wasn’t bad. It was very similar to the hamburger, but a little bigger and the seasoning was a little different. I used one of my “extras” and added some ketchup. Not bad at all. (PS Those tomatoes you see are from my local farmer’s market and they were delicious! Just a sprinkle of salt and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Yum, yum!)


  • Orange Cream Pop: OOOOOOHHHHHHH this was a real treat!! It tasted like a creamscicle! I immediately went into my account and made some adjustments to get more of these. So good! Even my kids liked it!
  • Vanilla shortbread cookies: Eh. Same as the small chocolate chip cookies from last week. The flavor is fine, but the texture is off. It felt very stale. Like I said before: I don’t think they are stale, I just think it has something to do with the preparation.
  • Fudge ice cream bar: This was good, just like a fudgecicle. Pretty much what you’d expect. Actually, if you’ve ever had a Healthy Choice Fudge Bar, you’ve basically had this.

Slim Down: Week 2

I knew it!! Week 2 was soooo much better than week 1. I actually get to eat real food along with my Nutrisystem stuff, so I’m not hungry all day long. And the frozen foods are WAAAAAYYYYY better than the shelf-stable stuff. If anyone decides to do this plan, pay the extra few dollars and get the plan that allows the freezer foods because you will be much happier. I mean, some of the shelf-stable stuff is still good, but so far what I’ve had is just a bit ‘eh’ for me. Maybe that will change since the only shelf-stable stuff I’ve had is from the Turbo Takedown box and it wasn’t necessarily things I had chosen. 

Before I move on to the food for this week, I feel like I need to give a special shout out to the desserts here. Who would have thought a diet plan—any diet plan—would have desserts on the menu? And these ones are actually good. No seriously. Really good. This is my favorite part of the whole thing because my sweet tooth is larger than I am and I am powerless to stop it. I don’t know how they make these so good but still diet-friendly and maybe I don’t want to know, but keep ‘em coming.

Progress: 2.4 lbs lost this week for a total of 6.4 lbs lost since May 1.


  • Turkey, Ham, and Cheese Omelette: Frozen eggs reheated? I was a bit leery, but then I remembered that I make frozen breakfast burritos with eggs and they are good, so relax, Abby, and eat your food! It was good! I added some hot sauce to mine because I was afraid it may be a bit bland, but it wasn’t at all. I didn’t really need it.

  • French toast: Mmmmm… French toast! I cooked it in the microwave and then popped it into the toaster to make sure the outside had a bit of a crisp to it. The inside was nice and soft. I couldn’t add syrup to it (well, I technically could. I am allowed 1 tablespoon of sugar-free maple syrup. Um, thanks but no thanks.) I did, however, use a few sprays of some 0 calorie butter spray. It wasn’t real butter, but it was close enough.

  • Buttermilk Waffles: Do you like Eggos? Me too! That’s pretty much what these are: Nutrisystem’s answer to Eggos. I’m supposed to get a “Power Fuel” with my breakfast, which I rarely do, but for this one I added a little bit of all-natural peanut butter.
  • Canadian-style Turkey Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Muffin: Sort of like an egg McMuffin at McDonalds, but with much less flavor. The packaging says that it is egg white, but they are yellow, so I’m guessing there’s some food coloring deception going on here. This wasn’t the greatest. It was very bland. Maybe it could benefit from some salsa or ketchup. I’ll try that next time and see what happens.


  • Broccoli & Cheese Melt: They have a few different kinds of these “melts” that are more-or-less Hot Pockets. The outside crust is a bit on the dry side, but not terrible. The broccoli cheese filling was surprisingly really good, though. I was expecting it to be just “fine.” I was expecting sort of limp broccoli and a fake cheese sauce, but it was actually pretty fresh tasting. The cheese seemed like real cheese and the broccoli was still tender-crisp.

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich: This was about the size of my palm and comes plain. I thought it was going to be too small, but it was actually enough for me. I was able to add a slice of tomato and some green leaf lettuce (unlimited veggies) so it really tasted like a regular grilled chicken sandwich. I could have used an extra, like mayo, ketchup, or bbq sauce, if I wanted, but it didn’t really need it. Maybe another time just to shake things up a bit.

  • Pulled Pork with Sweet BBQ Sauce: I was a bit nervous about this because it is one of the shelf-stable meals, and really, how good could shelf-stable pulled pork be? Pretty good, actually. (Not quite as good as this, but I wouldn’t expect it to be!) The sauce was really yummy and the pork was nice and tender. It is supposed to be served on a whole grain roll, but I couldn’t find one with low enough calories, so I just bought some Trader Joe’s whole grain bread, toasted up a slice and serve the pulled pork over top, open-face. This was a surprisingly good lunch option and I even ordered extra for next month.
  • Hamburger: I will admit I am a big sucker for a really good cheeseburger. I LOVE Cheeseburgers, so my standards are pretty high. This wasn’t bad for what it was. I mean, it’s a diet-plan frozen burger…what do you want? It could have been really bad but it wasn’t. The patty was actually nice and thick and it wasn’t dried out. I added lettuce and tomato (I forgot the ketchup at home). It was more filling than I’d expected since it was so small, so overall, I was happy with this one.

  • White Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese: Oh you know the way to my heart, Nutrisystem. This was really good. I was worried at first because after it came out of the microwave, the noodles looked like they were WAY undercooked. But after leaving the container covered for about 5 minutes (like the directions say), it was perfect.
  • Cheesy Broccoli Rice: I liked this one, but it was a bit salty tasting and I wish there’d been more broccoli in it. It was a dry cup that you add water too, so I guess I could see why there wasn’t more broccoli. Maybe next time I’ll just bring some on the side and add it in myself. It’ll stretch the dish, too, because there wasn’t very much in there at all.


  • Chicken Enchiladas: Some might call this one an enchilada… some might call it a taquito masquerading as an enchilada because it was about the size of one. It was small, but tasty. The sauce was good, the chicken filling was very flavorful. There was a Spanish rice on the side that was just OK. The rice wasn’t soft like I like. It was actually sort of crunchy (i.e. undercooked) which is not how I like my rice (unless you are talking about mixing it with butter and marshmallows and calling a treat!). I would have almost rather had two of the tiny enchiladas and skipped the rice, but whatever.

  • Chicken and Bacon Ranch Pizza: OK, this was good. I mean, really good. I made mine in the oven (since I had it on anyway for the kids’ dinner), so the crust was perfectly crispy. For a microwave option, there was a little tray in the box that has some sort of silver lining on it which is meant to give your pizza a crispy crust in the microwave. I can’t yet attest to whether it works or not since I didn’t use it, but maybe I’ll try it on another pizza.

  • Stuffed Shells: I had high hopes for these, but they were just alright. That Parmesan roasted broccoli you see there was pretty dynamite, though, if I do say so myself.

  • BBQ Shredded Chicken: After how much I liked the pulled pork, I was optimistic about its poultry counterpart and I was not disappointed. The pork was a sweet BBQ while the chicken was more of a tangy/slightly spicy BBQ. It was good. I ordered extra of this for the next shipment.
  • Chicken Parmesan: This was really good. Some of these meals remind me a lot of Lean Cuisine meals (well, the way Lean Cuisine used to be. They changed something recently and not for the better) and this is one of them. I will definitely be adding more of these for future orders.

  • Broccoli Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast: This was really good. I mean it. So good. Great flavor and the chicken wasn’t dried out at all, which is what I had expected. Like everything else, it isn’t a big portion—and it isn’t supposed to be—so I served it up with some roasted veggies, which I’ve become sort of obsessed with on this diet.


  • Fudge brownie: It didn’t look like much when I took it out of the package, but it was oh-so-good! It was moist and fudgy and tasted exactly like a fudge brownie should taste.
  • Chocolate Brownie Sundae cup: Any diet that lets me eat something called Chocolate Brownie Sundae is alright in my book. It was really yummy too. Mmmmmm…. Ice cream…. :0)

  • Chocolate cake: Very similar to the Fudge brownie, except more cake-like and a bit bigger. Delicious!
  • White Chocolate chip cookies: These were good, except the consistency can only be described as a bit stale. I don’t think they were stale, I just think that however they are made to be “healthier” made for a more chewy/dense cookie.
  • Chocolate chip cookies: Same as the White Chocolate chip cookies.