Homemade Pizza Sauce

Pizza is pretty much the greatest food on the planet. My husband’s family pretty much lived on pizza while growing up. Even now, it’s shocking if his parents don’t have left over pizza on the counter when we come over. Before Alex’s health issues, frozen pizza was our go to quick meal.
We all have days where cooking is the furthest thing from your mind. Not sure if you ever looked at the nutrition facts on a frozen, but it’s not good. Digiorno cheese pizza has 670 mg per serving. The serving size is 1/6 of the pizza. When we eat pizza, self control usually goes out the window and we both end up eating half the pizza! So right there you are almost to your daily allowance for salt. And that’s with just cheese. Add any meat and you are way past it!

The fat intake is just as bad.

Alex was nearly depressed when learning this. Taking your favorite food away completely would be extremely difficult. Steps in the perfect wife ūüėČ

I wanted to make an easy pizza sauce with tons of flavor but as little sodium as possible.

Tomatoes naturally contain about 9 mg of sodium per 1 cup. 

My friend grows her own tomatoes and always have an over abundance. Luckily for me, that means free tomatoes! She had Roma tomatoes ripe when I went picking.

I used 9 Roma tomatoes, so that is about 81 mg of sodium.

To make the sauce, I quartered the tomatoes and threw the into a glass baking pan. I added 1 sliced red bell pepper, which contains about 6 mg of sodium. To boost the flavor up I added 12 cloves of garlic, no sodium in those! I left the cloves whole.  For the seasonings I added pepper, parsley, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes. Drizzled it all in olive oil and mixed them all together on the pan.


I threw it in the oven at 375 degrees and let them bake. I baked them until the tomatoes started getting brown on the outside.

Let everything cool for about 5 minutes. Then throw it all in a good processor. If you want a chunkier sauce, then pulse blend until you get the right consistency. I like my sauces to be more smooth so I blended it for a few minutes on my blenders middle speed.


This made about 6 cups of sauce. But it’s ready to go. You have a few options at this point. You can seal it and refrigerate for about a week. You could can it and store it away for future use. Or you can make pizza now!

I made 3 pizzas from this sauce and still had some left over.


I have not mastered pizza dough yet, so I got the pre-made ones. I went with a thin crust because those tend to have less sodium. Shop around your store though and find the crust that best fits your needs. If you have a killer pizza dough recipe let me know! I’m in search for a healthy pizza dough recipe.

I topped two pizzas with just sauce and fresh mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

  • I would like to add that mozzarella is high in fat. It has loads of other health benefits but that is a huge downfall. To me it’s not pizza without mozzarella. If you plan on eating this pizza, just watch your fat intake for your other meals that day to ensure you don’t go overboard.

I froze these two pizzas as is. To freeze, wrap in plastic wrap a few times to ensure it is completely covered then wrap in tin foil.

The pizza I made for us to eat had sauce, mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and sliced tomatoes. Basically a margherita pizza.


And boy was it good! The red pepper in the sauce really shines through and gives it a little kick in flavor. The garlic is just the right amount. You can really taste it but it’s not overwhelming.

No matter what you do, pizza will always be a little unhealthy. However, now you can enjoy it without missing out on all the flavor!

Find recipe here

No-Bake Granola Bites

My senior year of college was a hectic time in my life. I was commuting an hour and half to college, working part-time as a nanny, and had an internship with a legislature. I remember discussing with my supervisor at the internship how I never had time to eat a good breakfast. When I did eat breakfast it was usually super sugary and handheld. Something I could eat while driving! She then introduced me to no-bake granola bites. They are very easy and customizable granola bars, but made into bite size pieces. I started to make them all the time, but once the hectic mornings ended, I stopped making them as much.

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Recently my husband said that he wish he could have something quick and on the go for breakfast. Nearly everything we looked at in the store had way too much sugar, sodium, or fat. I decided to make him some easy on the go breakfast. No-bake granola bites were reintroduced into our life.

I seriously cannot stress how amazing these things are! My friend describes them as cookie dough bites, which I know I can eat endless amounts of that!

The base recipe is very simple: 

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup peanut or almond butter
  • 1/4 cup honey

From there you can go crazy! I found this great website that gives 8 different recipe ideas for this along with the nutrition facts. They also give some great tips and tricks to make them the best they can be.

I found these tips to be most useful:

  • Resting time in the fridge – I tried my first ones with no resting time. Not only does this give the dry ingredients time to absorb the wet ingredients, it makes rolling them so much easier!
  • Adding different ingredients you love – I added flaxseed to all of mine. I love flaxseed and it gives an added nutritional boost. I added a tablespoon to each recipe. If you add more and feel like it is not sticky enough to hold all the ingredients, add a ¬†little extra honey or peanut butter. A little bit goes a long way!

 

Tips for the Peanut Butter:

The FDA is banning all Trans Fat from food by 2018. We are currently still in 2017, so it’s still important to read the labels for this. Peanut butter is a common food that has hidden Trans Fat. If it has less than 0.5 grams, the company do not need to list it on the nutrition facts. However, it will be on the ingredient list. If one of the ingredients is¬†hydrogenated oil or partially hydrogenated oil¬†then Trans Fat is actually in there.

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Sadly, the Aldi brand we normally get has hydrogenated vegetable oils. We chucked that peanut butter out and went to the grocery. While searching we found the best peanut butter to get is the natural peanut butters. If you hate stirring peanut butter, we have found Jif Natural to the best alternative.

Trans Fat is directly related to heart disease. Artificial Trans Fat is made by a harsh chemical process by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. Trans Fat increases LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), but does not increase HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). Other fats tend to increase both, which helps balance each other out.

By avoiding peanut butter with Trans Fat you will make this delicious treat even healthier! I did not realize until we met with Alex’s nutritionist how much of my favorite foods still have some Trans Fat in it. Even when you try to go the healthier route, hidden bad ingredients still exist.

Storing the Energy Bites

The best way to store these in my opinion is the freezer. You won’t be tempted to eat all of them at once, like I want to if they are left out on the counter. They also keep for a very long time in the freezer. We usually only leave them there for about a month at most, but that is because we eat them all before them! When we want them we just pull how many we want out of the freezer bag and let them sit a few minutes to thaw a bit. They stay nice and chewy without becoming gooey messes!

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This is also one of my go to snacks for camping since they keep so well. We freeze them overnight in a ziplock bag then put them in the cooler right before we leave for our trip. As long as your ziplock is sealed tight, these babies will stay good the entire trip!

We are not huge snackers to begin with. You will have a heard time finding potato chips, crackers, or cookies in our pantry. However, once in awhile, a quick little snack is needed. Or even a quick on the go breakfast. These granola bites have been a great substitute for the not-so-healthy snacks in our lives!

My HelloFresh review 

Eating healthy and cooking your meals at home is being popular with my generation. As much as people want to do this, time and knowledge are lacked. Who has time to find healthy recipes, do all the shopping, prep all the food, and make a delicious meal! It seems even more impossible to do fun, creative meals because who wants to buy an entire package of an item when you will only need a teaspoon of it and may never use it again. That’s were these new meal delivery services come into play.


My friend had a free trial to give for HelloFresh and handed it off to me to try. The free trial was for one week and for 2 persons meal. A week is only actually 3 meals. I went on the website and found the week that best fit our diet. They allow you to choose 3 meals out of a menu they generated for that week.

The thing I loved is that it gave the nutrition facts for each meal! It made choosing our week easy. Last night we got our delivery and decided to dive in to our first meal. I loved how they packaged each meal separately. We’ve tried other meal delivery services and they usually just throw all the ingredients in the box together for all the meals. If I’m buying it for convenience then I truly want convenience!


We decided to do the Garlic Lime Chicken.

Now I’m the one who usually cooks. However, while cooking, Sammy became hungry. So I had to sit at the island and breastfeed him and handed Alex the spatula. He wasn’t too excited to do it because he’s not the best cook, but I think it shows how great this service really is for the new cook!

Alex pulled everything out and was a little upset with the waste. Why did they have to individually wrap the corn? Thankfully, their website actually promotes being green and tells you how to recycle each item.

Now I’m not going to go into details on how to make this particular meal since the website gives great details on how to do it. My husband was able to follow it easily. Although, I did have to teach him how to cut an avocado. No easy task when your hands are full and a knife is involved! We survived with no lost fingers.


The salsa we made was the most difficult part. It said mash with a fork after the tomatillos after they cooked. Alex had difficulty mashing the skin of it and it ended up just being random large chunks. Before serving I was able to cut them down into smaller bits, but they could have given more detail in the proper technique of this.


The finish product was delicious though! The best part was the honey jalape√Īo butter on the corn! We used heart healthy butter alternative and it still tasted great! It was a little sweet and a little spicy. A perfect topping for corn! I’ll probably be doing this to all of the corn I make in the future.

The chicken and salsa was also the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. These had all the ingredients I could easily find at our local grocery store so it’s a meal we can easily make again.

The plus side is that it’s only 140 mg of sodium! The killer though was the fat and saturated fat. 34 g of fat and 11 g of saturated fat. That’s assuming we used regular butter though, so we were able to reduce that by a bit.

Although, I probably won’t be subscribing to this, I would recommend it. If you have a busy life and diet restrictions, this service may be helpful to you. Every week might not fight your needs, but you can easily skip those weeks. I think this would be a great way to help you stick to your diet without spending a lot. It will also teach you knew techniques and recipes to use in future meals. It also helps with serving size control. There is only enough for 2 servings and since they are sending you the ingredients you can’t go over.

Let me know if you have any meal service recommendations other than HelloFresh’s. I would love to give some others a try!

Our Vacation in Door County

My little family and I were just on vacation. We went to the beautiful Door County in Wisconsin. This was my husband’s (Alex) first time. I went a few times as a young child with my dad, but just have a few memories of it. I think I was under 10 years old each time. This was my son’s first vacation as well!

If you never been I highly recommend it! Great views, great food, and great wine! What more can a girl ask for!


Here’s Alex and Sammy enjoying the view in Baileys Harbor. This was our first stop because Alex wanted to check out Door County Brewing Co. Worth the stop! I would recommend their Big Sister witbier. A great summer beer especially by the water.

 

Lately Alex and have been getting one beer flight to split. They come with anywhere from 3-10 little tasters. You get to try a bunch of beer without getting completely drunk. It’s perfect for a breastfeeding mom and a dad on a diet. We probably had a little less than 1 beer total since we split the flight.

We actually stayed in Sisters Bay, which is on the other side of the peninsula. We stayed at the Nordic Lodge. A little cozy hotel, with a swimming pool, the nicest staff, great cherry coffee in the lobby, and a small but filling continental breakfast! Since we had Sammy, the staff would always stop us to say hi to him! Nothing stops people like a baby!

We found that Door county is a great place for someone on the Mediterranean Diet. Fish is often the center of meals, a glass of wine with dinner is encouraged, and you get plenty of exercise just by walking around the small towns.

Our first dinner was at an outdoor restaurant called Fred and Fuzzy’s Waterfront Bar and Grill. We wanted to eat our first dinner by the open water and this place delivered on that!


We both got fish sandwiches for dinner. Alex got the salmon burger with sweet potato fries and I got the grilled whitefish bay fillet with chips. This light and delicious Coleslaw was also a side for both.

(Please excuse my terrible picture of the food! I was so hungry at this point that I took these pictures as fast as I could!)

When ordering, Alex told them no extra salt. The sweet potato fries were the healthiest option for a side sadly. We were hoping a side salad would have been an option but no such luck! Luckily the fries weren’t greasy at all!

This was Alex’s first experience with a salmon burger. He was craving a real burger and thought he would be disappointed. He found this salmon burger to be extremely delicious! The fish tasted very fresh and the fresh herbs mixed in boosted that flavor even more!

Although we didn’t know how much salt was truly in the dish, we went for the healthiest option. Becoming more conscious about what type of food you are eating is the biggest part for the Mediterranean diet. Trying to chose the healthier option and understanding what is in your food is the key. Some days you might not be able to eat perfectly healthy or follow the diet to a T and that’s okay. Making better decisions is the most you can do!

The next few days went by quickly it seemed. We went hiking at Pennisula State Park and had a picnic at the beach afterwards.


We went on a scenic guided tour with Door County Trolley. Highly recommend this! Our guide was pack full of information! Found out that Door County got its name by being called deaths door in the past. Apparently traveling by water to get here is no easy task! They have various types of tours including a wine tour and a ghost tour, both of which I plan to do in the future.


At last, the vacation had to end… before leaving we had to check out a winery! We went to Lautenbach’s. We went on a little tour and got to taste their fabulous wines and treats! We missed the cherry picking season though so next year we will have to go back early.

Remember, the Mediterranean diet is a lifestyle change. Going on vacation taught us that it can be difficult to meet the diet’s needs when away from home. Eating out can be a challenge. But you just need to relax, choose the best options available, and always enjoy a glass of wine with dinner!

Road Trip Eating

We are currently driving to Door County in Wisconsin! We are having a mini vacation there, first one with Sammy! I’ll sure to post  about the adventures from this weekend. We had to stop for lunch. We wanted a quicker lunch so that we could get to Door County in the afternoon still. 

We were driving on the highway and looking at the road signs to see what restaurants were off the exit. We saw Panera Bread and thought that was probably our healthiest option. 

I got my favorite, half a Greek salad and half a bowl of the broccoli cheddar soup, YUM!! Alex had a harder time finding something that fit into the diet. That started our conversation about perceived health in the United States. 

You always see advertisements for less fat, low calorie, or low carb, but heart health is often not mentioned. The amount of sodium in everything is truly unbelievable. I never realized how much we Americans love our salt. I knew fried food was a problem but sodium is even in things that seem “healthy”. 

There was a line when ordering, so Alex didn’t get the nutrion facts pamphlet. He got what sounded the healthiest. Apparently that wasn’t the smartest idea… you live and learn right?! 

He ended up getting the half strawberry poppyseed with chicken salad and the half roasted turkey, apple & cheddar on cranberry walnut miche sandwich. That’s a mouth full!

As a side note, it can be hard to find the nutrition facts on the restaurant’s website. We found it easier to just Google “restaurants name nutrition facts” and it will come up right away. Click here for Panera Bread’s nutrition facts. 


The salad only had 140 mg of sodium, so not bad at all! The sandwich, however, was not so good. It had 640 mg of sodium! And that was just a half sandwich! This sandwich was low calorie so it would seem really healthy. He originally was going to have a full sandwich and no salad but changed his mind thankfully. 

The reason why it had so much salt is because it had this coleslaw on it, which was not mentioned in the sandwiches name. That’s why, my friends, you can’t just go off the name when ordering. 

I ended up eating half of his sandwich so he had 320 mg of sodium on the sandwich and 140 mg of sodium on the salad. Plus the 440 mg of sodium in that small baguette! So 800 mg of sodium in the entire meal! 

We will be smarter for the rest of the trip! Going out to eat has been the hardest thing for us so far. We didn’t realize how much hidden sodium is in everything. Don’t let names fool you, look at the actual numbers before deciding! Please comment on what the hardest challenge you have had on this diet, or any other diets you’ve tried. We would like to know what the common struggles are for everyone so we know what to keep an eye out for. 

What could have been…

I’m currently sitting on my couch, breastfeeding my son. He’s a little over 2 months now. I never knew how much I would love being a mom. I’ve always wanted to be a mom and thought I would make a good one. Wanting to be something and actually becoming that are two different things. Sometimes reality is worse than you expected and sometimes better. Being a mom is a billion times better than what I could have imagined! 


It’s even better because I have such a loving husband. He is such a great father too! The few days Alex was in the hospital were tough on us. I was physically and emotionally drained at the end. The first week home, Alex wasn’t allowed to pick our son up because he was passed the weight limit. I found myself having to do nearly everything around house. I mowed the lawn, did the chores, was the only one who could watch my son, and made all the meals. 

All of this gave me a huge appreciation for single moms. I couldn’t imagine doing all of this on my own forever! Yet, that could have easily been our life. 

Alex’s doctor basically said that he’s lucky to be alive. His Left Anterior Descending Artery was blocked at least 90% and it was the artery that supplies 50% of the blood to heart. If you get a heart attack from this artery they call it the widow maker. 

Alex and I laugh at it now. Mostly because it’s easier to laugh at what could have been then than to face the truth head on. Whenever I’m sick of making each meal homemade, doing extra steps to avoid sodium, and just want to throw a frozen pizza in the oven for dinner, I think of that. It gives us motivation to change our lifestyle. It’s more for the future of our son than us. Parenthood changes your perspective on everything!!

Holy Salt! The Honey Soy Salmon Challenge

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Asian foods are some of my favorite food! Especially Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. However, soy sauce is often used in them. Sadly soy sauce is basically just salt. The Pioneer Woman has a great recipe for Honey Soy Salmon. It is quick, easy, and delicious! I decided to attempt to make this recipe, but using less salt. A challenge, but a fun one!

Aldi is our go to grocery store. We often shop there for pantry, meat, and frozen items and then go to our local farmer’s market for produce.  Most of the food used in the recipe and that I will be showing will be from Aldi.

First thing first, the salmon.  I was told growing up the wild caught fish is always better than farm raised fish. However, this is highly debated. I tend to agree that wild caught is better for most fish, but there are arguments for farm raised. Nutritionist, Monica Reinagel , wrote an article outlining the pros and cons for both sides. I found it to be a great source to find the arguments for both sides and help you decide what is best for your family.

 

 

When buying remember to look at the nutrition facts. The first thing I check is the ingredient list. Pink Salmon is the only ingredient with these. Sometimes, frozen meat have added salt to help preserve it, so I make sure that we don’t buy anything with unnecessary salt. The next area I look at is serving size. Each piece of salmon is one serving. Then I look at the Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat, and Sodium. The goal is to be less than 20% for all of these. Salmon has a lot of healthy fat and very little saturated and no trans fat. You need healthy fat in your diet to help raise the HDL, aka the Good Cholesterol.

Since the goal for this recipe is to lower the salt, that is what I will be highlighting. There is only 75 mg of sodium in the salmon, so pretty low. The FDA recommends having less than 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

To season the salmon, the recipe calls for pepper and salt. I use pepper and then paprika instead of salt. Look at that color!

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The recipe then called to cook the salmon in butter and olive oil. We have an oil shop in my town called The Oilerie . If it sounds familiar, it is because they were featured on Shark Tank. They have a great selection of olive oils that are infused with different flavors. This is a great way to cut salt without losing flavor. The olive oil I used for this recipe is called Fior Fiore Italian E.V.O.O. This particular olive oil has a butter flavor to it. We are trying to use less butter in cooking, so this olive oil was a great substitute.

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Next is the sauce for the salmon. There are only 3 ingredients in the sauce: soy sauce, honey, and limes. I used reduced sodium soy sauce. If you see the words “reduced sodium”, beware! It means there is a lot of sodium in the original product. The reduced sodium product has less than the original, but still a lot. If you look at the soy sauce in the blue label, it has 940 mg of sodium per 1 tablespoon. The reduced sodium soy sauce, the green labelled bottle, has 630 mg of sodium per 1 tablespoon. Still a lot! I was using the sauce for to coat 3 salmon pieces and used 3 tablespoons total in the recipe. That means, so far there is 705 mg of sodium per serving.

Luckily, that’s it for sodium. For the rice, I made quick brown rice. The brown rice has no sodium! I used the zest of the limes to season the rice. The vegetable for the meal was steamed green beans and I used the olive oil above to season it. No sodium was added to this either then. I then chopped cilantro and added it to the top of the salmon.

 

Alex is not a huge fan of salmon, but he said this dish was delicious! It had a sweet and sour taste from the lime and honey. The soy sauce helped season the entire dish as well. The paprika added a little zip to the salmon as well. The sauce was nice and gooey and coated everything perfectly. It didn’t feel the need to add extra soy sauce to the dish as I often do whenever I have take out Chinese food. It is one of the highest in sodium dish I have made since going on the diet with a total of 705 mg. However, since we knew that it would be higher in sodium Alex made sure the rest of his meals had limited sodium. For the entire day, he had less then 2,000 mg of sodium. As stated earlier, the sodium recommend by the FDA is less than 2,300.

There you have it! A way to make a dish with tons of sodium a little healthier! The most important thing to keep in mine is to keep sodium low for the entire day if you know you will have a meal with a little higher sodium amounts. Also, remember to read the labels!

And don’t forget to wash down the meal with a nice glass of wine!

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Recipe for the Honey Soy Salmon can be found here.