Adventures of Eating with dReJ: healthy, cheap, delicious

Posts tagged ‘dinner at home’

Pork & Plaintain Enchiladas

Ours actually looked pretty similar to this even though it's not our photo!

Alright – so despite the lack of posts, we have still been cooking up a storm. I just haven’t had much time to share the recipes. We’ll get caught up soon. One that we tried this week is from one of our favorite mags, Cooking Light.

They did a whole series of healthier Mexican food this month – so you know we were excited as that is one of our fav foods! We picked an enchilada recipe this week. You can find the ingredients and instructions here:

They were seriously delicious. There is something about pork tenderloin that I love so much! I never even used pork tenderloin in my meals before I started cooking with my husband – but you can buy them pre-seasoned or plain and add your own. So easy! And it’s a pretty lean cut of meat, so you don’t add all the excess fat/calories.

Would definitely recommend this recipe if you want to try a new healthier version of enchiladas! It also heats up well so you can bring it to work for lunch.

I will try to take some more pics of our meals this week and get you some more healthy recipe ideas! Happy cooking!


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!


Watch out for Chinese Food…try this instead!


Shrimp, Water Chesnuts, Bean Sprouts, YUM!


Last week at work, a few of my coworkers and I got into a discussion about calories. I found it interesting that a few of them were pretty off base on how many calories they assumed food had – particularly when it came to eating out at a restaurant. My rule of thumb is – it’s ALWAYS more than you think it is when you go out to eat. That’s why it’s so hard to count calories and stay on track when your actively trying to lose weight but you still want to have a life and enjoy lunch or dinner out.

I would say that Chinese food is one of those areas that are commonly underestimated when it comes to calorie content.  For instance, did you know that a typical egg roll has 200 calories and 400 mg of sodium? How many people start out their meals with an Egg Roll? Hands up, people!

Think a spring roll is a better choice? It typically saves you about 100 calories, but still rings in with 300mg of sodium.

So – if you are like me, you are thinking…soup can’t be that bad for me. And calorie wise, choices like Egg Drop, Hot & Sour or Wonton Soup aren’t terrible…about 100 calories per servings….but sodium content can be over 100mg!  Bad for your blood pressure, right?

RJ’s favorite meal to get when he eats Chinese is General Tso’s Chicken. 1,300 calories later along with 11 grams of saturated fat and 3,200 mg of sodium…..maybe it’s time to find a new favorite.

All the more reason to create healthier versions of the things you love at home. The recipe we found for Fried Rice (one of my favorite things to get) was in Cooking Light’s magazine in March but you can get it here:

We subbed the pork for shrimp since we had some left over from last week that we needed to cook up, but this is a super easy recipe and lots of easy switch outs to make it your favorite. We skipped buying the ingredient, Mirin. For those who want to search it out … it’s a sweet cooking wine made from rice. Sake can be used as a substitute for mirin (with an added pinch of sugar). Or – you can just leave it out and I promise it will still be delicious 🙂

As i mentioned – we used shrimp instead, so when you look at the calorie exchange (rough estimate)…the pork alone would be about 66 calories per meal, and when you switch to shrimp, you are look at more like 120 calories for 4oz. So just make sure you are counting every switch!

This meal with the pork is about 400 calories, about about 460 with the shrimp instead. Not bad considering our brief lesson on how many calories Chinese food can have!

Happy Eating!

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.

Classic Revisited: Gourmet Hot Dogs

Remember when you were little and hot dogs were so delicious? If you are like me, that was the result of ignorant taste buds! Now I have a hard time eating a generic hot dog because I think of all the terrible things (read: ingredients) in them. Somehow, that childhood magic got lost.

But a few years ago, I started rethinking the hot dog situation (I don’t know why, too much free time I guess). Why couldn’t I just forget all those terrible things and enjoy one again? I ran across organic chicken hot dogs and after some research I decided to give hot dogs another chance.

The result has been a few years of childhood relived via my dinner plate – except now I’m grown up enough to want grilled or sauteed green peppers, mushrooms, and onions on top of it. Oh, and sauerkraut. Bring on the veggies.  And of course now, I’m a complete potato bun freak – anytime you put me in charge of bringing buns – just expect potato buns. Potato hot dog buns. Potato rolls. They are awesome, and for once in my life – they are actually pretty darn healthy for you compared to other options! How about that. This hot dog journey has been a total revelation for me.  You can take something you loved when you were little – and make it healthier and maybe even a little gourmet. (more…)

Shrimp Fra Diavolo: Italian Recipe Makeover


Spicy and filling without the guilt!

So I turned once again to the Cook This Not That cookbook for inspiration for this weeks meals. We still have a ton of shrimp from the last special our grocery store had – so I’m looking for something that is cheap, delicious, healthy and includes shrimp. I stumbled upon the Shrimp Fra Diavolo which is Cook This Not That’s answer to Olive Gardens’ Grilled Shrimp Caprese.

It’s a pretty big calories and wallet saver. The Shrimp Fra Diavolo packs a lot of flavor and weighs in at 430 calories compared to Olive Gardens 900 calories shrimp pasta! The Shrimp Fra Diavolo also rounds out to about $3.16 per serving – which is a heck of a lot cheaper than most meals “out.” (more…)

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