Adventures of Eating with dReJ: healthy, cheap, delicious

Archive for the ‘dReJ Original Recipe’ Category

Shrimp-n-Grits…and Chorizo!

In the south, it’s no big  thing to have Shrimp and Grits – it seems a common option when going out to eat. But it’s one I tend to avoid because I know it’s full of calories and fat I don’t really need. We are all about trimming down the calories and fat on some classics so you can enjoy them without the guilt!

So today – here’s our take on Shrimp n Grits. I’m actually eating it for lunch RIGHT now and it’s so delicious, I have to share.


What you need:

2-3 oz Chorizo (our grocery store had this near the hotdog/specialty gourmet chicken sausages)
1 onion (yellow) – chopped
1 lb shrimp
1 green pepper – chopped
1 hot pepper such as jalapeno (optional)
1 tbsp minced Garlic (or to taste, we are garlic lovers)
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Instant Grits (4 servings)
Salt & Pepper (pinch)
1 cup (4 servings) of 2% or nonfat shredded cheese (Cheddar or your fav)
1/2 cup chicken broth (we use the cubes of broth that you just add water to, reduced sodium!)

Putting it together:

Slice the casing on the chorizo (if any) and remove it before cooking the chorizo in a pan with no oil for about 5 minutes, it should start to crumble, if it doesn’t use your spatula to break it up.
Add in chopped onion, peppers and seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, chili powder, old bay) and cook until veggies are soft

Meanwhile, prepare the instant grits to specs on box MINUS the butter and finish with a serving of 2% or nonfat shredded cheese for each serving of grits. Mix the cheese in so it blends with your prepared grits.

Add your shrimp into the pan with chorizo and veggies along with 1/2 cup of chicken broth. Cook until the shrimp are done.

Pour shrimp, chorizo and veggie mixture over the grits and you are ready to enjoy!


Why it’s better:

So this meal is a little bit better than your restaurant version because we are not adding loads of butter and oil to the cooking process. We are also using a small amount of chorizo and reduced sodium broth and low calories/low fat cheese. If you wanted to make this even better for you, you could leave out the chorizo or the cheese in the grits. But the addition of the chorizo is a really interesting and different approach (most recipes I’ve seen do a little bit of bacon), so it’s a fun twist on a classic recipe.

Plus, you can make this meal ahead and microwave easily during the week for a delicious lunch at work! I promise it will make your co-workers jealous.





Spinach & Feta Pork Tenderloin Roll

Pork Roll Served with Brussels Sprouts & Mashed Potatoes

I’m a huge fan of pork tenderloin. It’s a lean meat  but has tons of flavor. Since the past few weekends have been nice, we’ve been on a “grilling” rampage so a pork tenderloin seemed like a good choice. Instead of just having a meat and potato kind of meal – we wanted to integrate some more vegetables. We belong to a fruits/veggie co-op so we had some fresh spinach to use this week. I’ll share a few pictures here and some general guidelines for putting this together. It was SUPER delicious, and reheated nicely for a bring to lunch meal. We picked two sides – mash potatoes and brussels sprouts – but you could easily trade out for 2 of your favorite sides!

What you need:
Fresh spinach (or thawed/drained frozen would work, too)
Garlic (to taste)
Feta (8oz package – look for the reduced fat kind!)
Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Oregano, Red Pepper Flakes
Pork Tenderloin – at our grocery store they have pre-packaged pork loin that are seasoned – we like the peppercorn & garlic seasoned one! It’s usually about 18oz

So add the spinach, garlic and a little EVOO to a pan and wilt the spinach, mixing in the seasonings (salt, pepper, oregano and red pepper flakes).

Almost ready!

Slice open the tenderloin so you can add the stuffing!

Put the spinach mixture on the meat and sprinkle the feta cheese on top

Roll the pork loin up carefully (see right). Use skewers to secure it before you grill/cook it!

We grilled ours - you want it to be cooked through to 140 degrees. Be sure to rotate it so it doesn't burn!

Once cooked - slice it up and it's ready to serve!

Turkey Sausage Pasta Bake (easy, peesy!)


Quick & Easy Pasta Bake

You are right, this does look delicious.

Lucky for you, it’s easy to make and we’re going to tell you how. We didn’t follow a recipe on this one, it’s straight out of the dReJ Original Recipe book. But it’s really just a healthy version of your standard pasta bake – so feel free to change up the ingredients to reflect your preferences.

What you’ll need:

Turkey or Chicken Sausage (we used hot Italian turkey sausages that they stock fresh in our grocery meat department). They usually come with about 5 links in a package.

1 package spinach (we thawed out a package of frozen spinach because it’s cheaper than fresh!)
1 small container (15 oz) of Fat Free Ricotta Cheese
4 servings of a whole wheat pasta noodle (we went with rotini)
1.5 cups (you can do more or less depending on your preferences ) 2% skim shredded Mozzarella cheese
Seasonings (we went with Salt & Pepper + some Italian ones like oregano, parsley, etc.

3/4 – 1 cup Low Sodium or Low Calorie Marinara Sauce – pick one that is not loaded with sodium, fat and sugar! Check your label!

What to do with all that stuff:

Cook up your sausages – you can do this on the stove or grill them, use your George Foreman, etc. Once they are cooked, slice them into thin bite size pieces.
Cook your pasta and drain, add the marina sauce and stir until coated.

Meanwhile, put the spinach (make sure you’ve drained it so it’s not wet if thawing), ricotta cheese, 1/2 of the shredded cheese and seasonings into a large bowl and mix it up. It will be a little hard to stir, but you want it to be pretty mixed up. Once you have accomplished that, add the sausage (a little at a time) until everything is mixed together.

Pull out a casserole dish (something that is 9×13 will work – but you can work with whatever you have) and spread the pasta/marinara into the casserole dish evenly. Spoon the spinach mixture on top. Sprinkle the rest of the shredded cheese on top and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 375 or until it’s nice a bubbly.

We used a pretty big casserole dish, so when we cut it up, we actually had 2 thin layers. So when I put in our to-go containers for lunch, it sort of felt like lasagna because I stacked it. If you have a smaller casserole dish – you may end up with just one thick serving and that’s okay, too.

It all goes down the same way, anyway – right?

If you plan to bring this to work and heat up later, I recommend adding a tiny bit of water to the dish prior to microwaving it. It just helps everything stay good texture wise.

This meal was super easy to make, and took maybe a half hour total. You can make this dish healthier by using less cheese and leaner cuts of meat – or you can add on the  calories by doing the opposite. But since this is a healthy, cheap & delicious website, I won’t be encouraging that!


Whole Wheat Hawaiian Pizza

Pizza is one of those meals that I grew up eating every week. My brother’s two favorite food groups are Pizza and Hamburgers. So growing up – our choices were pretty limited one what we ate for family dinners or going out to eat. And it seemed like ordering pizza to be delivered continued to be a constant thing among friends in college or even at events we’d go to – there was always delivery pizza. RJ and I were on the same page about delivery pizza from the beginning…it’s just something that is never an option. We were both “pizza’d out.” Since 2008, we have ordered delivery pizza ONE time, and that was because friends were over who wanted it.

SO – some of the reasons we don’t enjoy delivery pizza is due to the greasiness of the pizza and all the calories you consume with just one little slice in most cases. But we do enjoy the occasional meal out to a place that does what we like to call “gourmet pizza.” They are usually really thin crust, fresh ingredients, and healthy toppings. But it’s even more likely for us that we’ll make our own at home, and today I’ll share one of our  recipes in case you’d like to borrow some of our ingredients for a good base level pizza at home.

The first thing is to find a good base. We’ve tried a lot of different approaches to this, and a lot of recipes will tell you to make your own crust. But we like to keep this meal simple and quick, so we use a pre-made whole wheat crust by Mama Mary’s. It’s easy, delicious and still really thin crust so you don’t get a bunch of additional calories from the base layer. Our pizza crust options in the grocery store are usually over in the refrigerated section…in like a “end of the aisle” area. Be sure to check out the calories for whatever crust you choose, because they add up quickly if you are planning on eating half the pizza! It’s a 12″ pizza, so you are looking at 6 slices per pizza. We make ONE 12″ pizza to share for dinner, and that is 100 calories/slice JUST for the crust. So make sure you keep this in mind as you are picking your toppings to still keep this light!

1 12″ Whole Wheat Pizza Crust (like Mama Mary’s)
3/4 cup shredded mozarella cheese (choose a Part Skim or 2% option here)
2/3 cup marinara sauce (we used Classico brand Fire Roasted Tomato & Garlic)
1/2 Fresh Pineapple, cut into small pieces
1 lean ham steak, diced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic
1/2 Diced & seeded jalepeno (use as much as you can handle spice wise, if you like it spicy use more and don’t seed it!)
4 oz mushrooms chopped (pick your favorite kind)

What to do:
Dice the onion first so you can saute the onions & jalapeno with a LITTLE bit of olive oil and minced garlic (if you are a garlic lover)
Spread the marinara sauce onto the pizza crust evenly
Sprinkle half of your shredded cheese onto the marinara
Add your pineapple, ham, mushrooms and cooked onions/jalapeno (it will be piled high with pineapple!)
Put the rest of your shredded cheese over the toppings
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until crispy!

Cut into 6 slices and share with a friend, or eat the leftovers the next day!

This meal works out to be about 600 calories for the whole thing, which isn’t too bad considering it’s pizza, the slices are pretty big and the toppings are GOOD FOR YOU! Feel free to change up the recipe to make it match your favorites!


You can see our emphasis is on fresh toppings!

Mediterranean Inspired Shrimp Gnocchi – a dReJ original


Mediterranean Inspired Shrimp Gnocchi

 We felt a little inspired to create our own dishes this week, so here’s our take on Gnocchi with a Mediterranean spin. We didn’t make our own gnocchi or anything – and it’s easy to find delicious pre-made types and this recipe is easy to interchange to include your favorite fish or meat.

Look for the pre made gnocchi in the pasta section of your grocery store. I know that is weird, but it IS there among all the boxes of pasta. Ours was a little plastic pouch type container!

Ingredients  (serves 4)

1 12oz package of pre-made Gnocchi* (we used Del Cecco)
1 yellow squash (sliced thin)
1 green zucchini  (sliced thin)
1/2 yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1 15oz can Fire roasted diced tomatoes (do not drain!)
1 15oz can artichoke heart quarters (roughly chopped)
4oz green olives
1/4 cup red wine
1 lb shrimp (or sub your fav meat) 
1/2 Tbsp oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste


Boil gnocchi until done (al dente)
Meanwhile, saute in a sauce pan the squash, zucchini, garlic and onion until the onion is soft.
Next, Stir in tomatoes, artichokes, olives and cook until the tomatoes are broken down (2-3 min)
Stir in wine slowly and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. 
Stir in shrimp and cook until just pink.
Add the gnocchi, salt pepper and oregano and simmer until shrimp are done. 

Serve and eat (we topped it with a touch of Kraft Parmesan cheese mix that we love)

*Pro Tip – Pre-made gnocchi is the same nutritionally and will save you about an hour of work

We did a rough estimate of the calories, and this meal was right under 400 calories. One trick to keeping the calories down for pasta is to not use as much of the actual pasta, and rely on other ingredients such as healthy vegetables and lean meats or fish to make up for the difference. The gnocchi we used was actually 3 servings but we spread it out across 4. It was still a very filling meal – and delicious, too! This also reheated very well in the microwave for lunch at work.

Barbeque Chicken Salad – a dReJ original recipe


We had a cookout last weekend and our only instructions for our friends who were coming over was to “bring your own meat.” We started up the grill and were ready for whatever they brought us. It’s funny that sometimes the most delicious thing is the most simple….our friend brought over some chicken breasts and some barbeque sauce for them. One of the breasts were left over after everyone had eaten and gone home, so RJ & I were thinking about how to incoporate the leftovers into our meals for the week. We quickly agreed that a barbque chicken style salad would be great. But not like a salad on greens – sort of like a tuna salad, but sub the grilled chickecn with barbque sauce!

It turned out to be delicious. Here’s what we used:

Chicken salad (Serves 4)
2 large chicken breasts (about 1 to 1.25 lbs)
bbq sauce (i used sweet bubba ray’s) just enough to cover when brushed
1/2 red onion (diced)
1/2 green pepper (diced)
1.5 T light mayo (we use KRAFT Free)
5 cherry tomoatoes halved
1 t tarragon
1 t oregano
pinch of salt and pepper
Remember to pick out some bread to eat this on! We used some leftover whole grain bread slices, but you could use anything!

What to do:
Grill the chicken, brushing with bbq sauce when about 2 minutes from done, turning once. (If you don’t have a grill, you could use a george forman, or cook them up in a pan and add the barbeque sauce to them as directed)
Saute or grill onion and peppers until tranlucent
Dice the chicken and put in medium to large bowl along with onion and peppers let cool
Once cool mix in the vegetables and seasoing and eat! 

dReJ Tip: If you are going to make this “ahead” then make sure you add the mayo the morning that you plan to eat it, or else it can get a little runny. So just mix everything EXCEPT your mayo – and store it!

Enjoy! We served this up with a 1/2 cup of baked beans and RJ’s soon to be famous Blue Potato Salad.

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