Follow along as I begin to share workouts, recipes, and meal ideas all inspired by Erin Oprea’s 4×4 Diet

It’s no secret that I’m a fitness addict and find joy in eating healthy.  Follow me on Instagram and you’ll see video clips of my workouts and the occasional post of what I eat throughout the day (see below).  Consider it my open journal to inspire others, hold myself accountable, and stay creative with meal planning and workouts!  Healthy eating doesn’t need to be chicken and broccoli everyday just like workouts don’t need to be boring!!

So…what is a 4×4 diet?

Erin Oprea, personal trainer (Carrie Underwood being one of her clients, mkay…) and author of “The 4×4 Diet- 4 Key Foods and 4 Key Exercises” developed this program.  Her program is a simple two-part philosophy, eat clean and get lean.  Eating clean consists of four key habits and getting lean consists of a four minute tabata workout.

She recently shared one of my workout videos on her Instagram feed…MADE MY DAY!! 

Erin Oprea 4x4 diet

 

I’m only going to touch on 1 of the 4 key food habits which is to cut out starches at night. Months prior to reading her book I was striving to make dinners less and less dependent on breading, pastas, and breads.  Realizing my own eating patterns included a lot of carbs in the morning and afternoon, tailored around my workouts, consuming them in the evening was overkill and sometimes left me with a heavy bloated feeling. Carbs are not the enemy as she will also firmly tell you, but the idea of cutting them at night when we’re less active has proven results for her clients and I’ve witnessed it myself.

Pictured below is an example of my “diet” on a typical workout day (snacks not shown): 

Meal 1, Breakfast: 1 egg + 3/4 cup egg whites with 2 turkey sausage links and Trader Joe’s sriracha sauce-of course-and a side of roasted sweet potatoes seasoned with cinnamon, cumin and a bit of smoked paprika (I loooove roasted sweet potatoes). 

Meal 2, Lunch: Open face sandwich featuring Trader Joe’s sprouted wheat bread and pizza burger with 1/4 avocado and a salad with Bolthouse Farms Ranch dressing (love their dressings!)

Meal 3, Dinner: 1 large zucchini spiralized into noodles topped with my #1 Homemade Sloppy Joe recipe

Snacks included: leftover protein pancake with almond butter, grapes with nut thins and 2oz low sodium turkey, bedtime snack was non fat plain greek yogurt with a touch of honey and pistachios.

What's on my plate- 4x4 diet

And another example: 

Meal 1, Breakfast: 2 eggs + 1/2 cup egg whites with 2 turkey sausage links, Trader Joe’s sprouted wheat toast with 1/4 avocado schmear

Snack 1: Raw almonds with a few dark chocolate covered espresso beans

Meal 2, Lunch: Trader Joe’s no salt albacore tuna mixed with greek yogurt, whole grain dijon mustard, 1/4 avocado, a few chopped bread and butter pickles with a bit of Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet mustard spread on a FlatOut Italian wrap + strawberries.

Snack 2, Mid-day: small green apple sprinkled with cinnamon and 1TB almond butter.

Meal 3, Dinner: Normally I eat more than this for dinner but it was a busy on-the-go-night! Costco cranberry chicken salad cup with 1 zucchini sautéed with thyme and smoked paprika.

Snack 3, Bedtime: Rice roller (bought in bulk at Costco) with 1/2 cup Trader Joe’s cottage cheese

4x4 diet meal ideas

 

The exercise portion of 4×4 is perhaps my favorite part!  I get SUPER bored REAL quick following any kind of exercise program.  You?   

Erin’s tabata style workouts consist of 4 minute rounds broken down to 20 seconds of intense work and 10 seconds of rest. I simply use a free Tabata timer on my phone set for 8 rounds (that’s 4 minutes), then hit repeat for as many total rounds I want or can complete! She explains it really well in her book and goes into a bit more depth but the idea is simple and you can adjust the workouts and rounds to meet your fitness level.

Here’s an example of a killer arm workout I created and shared on Instagram (see full description below video):

Lifting weights alone will get your heart rate up, especially Tabata style, but on arm day I like to throw in what I call a “finisher round” to really max out the intensity.

So the workout went like this:

-Tricep side push-ups (one side), 20 seconds/ 10 seconds rest

-Alternating up-up-down-down commandos (tight abs & straight back), 2o seconds work/10 seconds rest

-Tricep side push-ups (other side), 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest

-Bicep curl to press and twist, 20 seconds work/10 seconds rest

***Repeat 1 time through, so essentially 2 sets of each to complete the 1st 4 minute Tabata.  Repeat (4 rounds was enough for me!)

FINISHER ROUND: throw in 3 sets at the end or incorporate a set in between rounds if you’re getting fatigued and losing form! 

-Bent over row with twist, 10-12 reps each side + 30 seconds alternating high knees. Repeat x3.

And here’s a leg and heart burner:

5 rounds (20 minutes) and my legs were torched:

-Squats with dumbbells

-Curtsy squats

-Butt kicks with in and out arms to work the biceps a bit (keep elbows in tight)

-Sumo squats with dumbbells

 

Stick around, there’s more to come! In the meantime grab yourself a copy of Erin’s book. I’ve read it twice already and earmarked some of her yummy looking recipes.  

Fitness Friday

Turkey and quinoa stuffed jalapeño poppers are perfect for a healthy and filling side dish or a crowd pleasing appetizer.

Stuffed Jalapeno Popper

Jalapeno poppers don’t need to wait for a party to be served.  Serve them as fun side dish or pack them for a creative and healthy work-lunch!  Each popper is loaded with lean turkey and red quinoa making these little jalapeños not only healthier (leave off the cheddar cheese which was just added for photographing purposes…) than traditional versions but more filling too!

Each popper, that’s 2 halves, (without the addition of sharp cheddar cheese or dipping sauce), has only 80 calories, 3.6 grams of fat, 5.6  grams carbs, and a whopping 7.4 grams of protein!!  

jalapeno popper appetizer

Inspiration for recipes often happens at the most random and unexpected times.  Working my way through Costco grabbing my usual staples (ya know toilet paper, rotisserie chicken, frozen cod, egg whites, blueberries, lemons, lunchmeat…) my eyes caught a package of chicken and mango meatballs but I wasn’t crazy about the nutrition facts.  My brain started spinning as I thought of creating something healthier with a touch of spiciness.  The combination of spicy and sweet is amazing… so why not stuff  a jalapeño with some lean meat and make a sweet dipping sauce (literally)?! 

So I did and it’s delicious. duh.  Double dippers grab a plate because you’ll want to dip these bad boys more than once!  The sauce is made with apricot preserves, dijon mustard and non-fat plain greek yogurt.  It’s a slight spin on the sauce I use for my Baked Coconut Chicken.

quinoa turkey jalapeno poppers

If you’ve never worked with fresh jalapeños before there’s a few things to cover:

  • wear kitchen gloves or use plastic baggies in a pinch. You don’t want jalapeño juice any where near your eyeballs, mkay?
  • after slicing in half lengthwise, as shown, keeping the stem intact if possible, gently scrape out the seeds with a spoon and the long membrane that runs the length of the pepper. Watch your eyes, they can squirt a little too.

Removing the seeds and membrane will reduce the spiciness of the jalapeños.  I prefer to keep a little bit of the membrane to ensure a bit of that jalapeño heat…ya baby. And I’ll just add, without the seeds and membrane my daughter loves these and doesn’t find them spicy.  Although she can handle buffalo wings, so you be the judge…

jalapeno popper with sauce

This and future recipes will have meal suggestions at the end of every post if applicable!  Seems it will be helpful to many so here ya go:  

Lunch: Pair 4 jalapeño popper halves drizzled with 1 TB dipping sauce with some roasted sweet potato cubes (a staple in my fridge for breakfast or lunch) and a small side salad with light dressing (my favorite is Bolthouse Farms Ranch). Healthy and filling lunch under 400 calories.

Dinner: Serve just 2 halves as a side dish to grilled chicken or baked cod with either a salad or some roasted spaghetti squash with a bit of salt, pepper and fresh parmesan cheese. Leave out the dipping sauce to avoid the sugar and carbs late evening. Season the cod with my Fish Taco seasoning (minus the panko) which would pair nicely with the peppers.

My suggestions follow Erin Oprea’s 4×4 diet guidelines- low starch and low carb in the evenings.  More on this in a future Fitness Friday post.  

Subscribe to future posts by entering your email in the subscription box located in the sidebar.   

Turkey and Quinoa Stuffed Jalapeno Poppers

Ingredients

  • 8 Jalapeños, sliced in half lengthwise with seeds and membrane removed
  • 1/2 lb. 93% Lean ground turkey
  • 1/4 cup cooked red quinoa
  • 3 TB. 1/3 less fat philadelphia cream cheese
  • 2 green onions, diced (green parts only)
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • dash of coriander (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sharp cheddar cheese (optional for melting on top, recommended for entertaining)
  • Sweet Dipping Sauce
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Apricot Preserves (I used Bonne Maman brand)
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 2 TB non fat plain greek yogurt (Oikos Brand is my go-to)

Instructions

  1. Prepare jalapeños and set aside on baking sheet.
  2. Cook quinoa according to package, rinsing first before adding to stove.
  3. While quinoa is cooking add turkey, red onion, and garlic to large skillet and cook until turkey is no longer pink. Drain any excess liquid from skillet and return to stove.
  4. Add cooked quinoa, green onions, cumin, smoked paprika, coriander (optional), salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  5. Remove from stove and add cream cheese stirring to incorporate everything. Mixture should be evenly coated and everything sticking together from the cream cheese addition.
  6. Begin stuffing each jalapeño pressing a nice mound of mixture in each. Top with cheddar cheese if desired.
  7. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 20-25 minutes or until peppers have wrinkled a bit and lightly browned. Remove from oven to cool while making the dipping sauce.
  8. In a small bowl stir together apricot marmalade, dijon mustard and greek yogurt. Serve drizzled over top, in separate little ramekin bowls, or double dip amongst yourselves...enjoy!
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Side Dish Turkey

Teaching kids to cook might sound more challenging than rewarding.  My thoughts landed there many times but I knew they were fully capable and ambitious to do more than just follow the directions on a box of brownie mix!  With a little planning and a list of recipes they were eager to create, we began working side by side in the kitchen.

Download a copy of my free Ebook “Raising Little Chefs,” with full page image layouts showcasing some of the tasks suitable for kids (of varying ages) to handle.  I share helpful tips along the way with layouts designed to encourage and engage the little chefs in your life while being suitable for any level cook to enjoy.

cooking with kids ebook

We’ve provided a foundation of easy and delicious recipes to encourage you to cook with your children!

  • Watch your child’s confidence grow with each completed recipe
  • Witness new skills and techniques develop
  • Help them gain an understanding to kitchen preparation and organization 
  • Teach valuable skills like sharing, measuring, and patience to name a few

Inside you’ll also find 11 exclusive recipes to the OSH blog, a win-win for everyone!

Why an eBook?

As passionate as I am about sharing recipes and passing down skills to my daughter, there’s an equal love for documenting them.  Just as you might be inspired to try one of the recipes from our Ebook, we hope it EQUALLY inspires you to get involved with your little ones (whoever they might be to you) and photograph your time together in the kitchen. 

I recently read an article in a magazine, while waiting for my son to get his haircut, that researchers believe when kids are regularly involved in mealtime preparation (which includes joining their families at the table), they’re more likely to try new foods (ahem, veggies) and develop healthier eating strategies.  Of course I would add allowing them to photograph some of the recipe process provides a new level of involvement, curiosity, and genuine love for being in the kitchen.

teaching kids to cook

However, no fancy cameras required.  Selfies are totally acceptable as is sitting on the kitchen counter.  This Raising Little Chefs eBook is dedicated to my beautiful, kind-hearted, sweeter than pie daughter, Grace.  Inside your download you’ll find a letter I wrote to her recalling some fond memories of my childhood in the kitchen in hopes we’re creating the same for her.

in the kitchen with kids

Simply CLICK HERE (or the image in the sidebar) to download your free copy and be inspired to start preparing something yummy with your little one today!

ebook pdf image

Uncategorized

  Semi-homemade mexican hamburger helper with zucchini is perfect for an easy and extremely versatile weeknight meal!  

homemade mexican hamburger helper

Some of my fondest memories grocery shopping as a newly-wed was picking out which Hamburger Helper dinners we would have in our rotation of meals!  Thankfully those are a thing of the past and home cooked meals now regularly fill our menu board!  Of course we still enjoy boxed macaroni and cheese (Trader Joe’s brand of course) on occasion which is what makes this *semi* homemade.

Would you agree that zucchini is one of THEE best vegetables?  It’s capable of being added to virtually every dish and either stand out in flavor or go undetected.  If you haven’t given my Low Sugar Zucchini Bread a try, you really should!  I add shredded zucchini to my morning oats, sauté it for a quick side, roast it for pasta dishes, and of course steam it with homemade mexican beef to name a few! taco hamburger helper

Why are the simple meals the ones that always get the most praise? My original intention was to make stuffed zucchini with the ingredients on hand but realized I didn’t have enough zucchini’s to stuff!  Good thing because this dish couldn’t be any easier and it got RAVE reviews from my family! Perfect for a busy weeknight meal and it’s extremely versatile!

Every household is different with their rules or philosophy on making multiple meals to appease everyone at the table.  Our household is not hardcore with the “eat it or starve” mantra.  This dish was actually served *4 different ways but cost me no extra time and everyone was happy.

Previous posts there’s talk of making meals less frilly for the man in your life which served as the inspiration for this dish. (*1) Serving this over a bowl of macaroni and cheese was just the ticket to make this a hearty man-approved filling meal.

mexican hamburger helper(*2) Then there’s my healthier choice that was filled with just meat and extra zucchini topped with a little cheese (just how I love my #1 Homemade Sloppy Joes too- a big bowl of meat with veggies!) (*3) And luckily for the kiddos there were some tortilla chips in the pantry and they happily gobbled theirs up with some macaroni on the side.  (*4) Leftover meat was tossed onto an italian flat-out wrap and made into a quick satisfying quesadilla, zucchini and all.

With summer weather coming be sure to add this semi-homemade version mexican hamburger helper to your menu line-up!  Our garden will be bursting with zucchini soon and quick and easy meals like this one are perfect when you just want to get back outside!

taco beef bowl with zucchini

Homemade Mexican Hamburger Helper with Zucchini

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced and halved
  • 1/2 medium chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped red pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10oz. rotel with mild chiles
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • prepared macaroni and cheese (we love Trader Joe's brand!)
  • tortilla chips (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet saute ground turkey,onions, and red pepper.
  2. Drain off any grease, return to stove and add zucchini, garlic, hotel, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper stirring to combine.
  3. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer about 10 minutes or until the zucchini is crisp tender.
  4. While the meat and zucchini is simmering prepare macaroni and cheese.
  5. To serve add a helping of macaroni and cheese to a bowl topped with the meat and zucchini and additional cheddar cheese on top if desired.
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Turkey