Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Easy Pizza Cottage Pie

Hi, guys!

As promised, here’s that recipe for Pizza Cottage (Shepherd’s) Pie and, my gosh, it’s a good one. I mean, hello, both pizza and cottage pie in one dish? It’s basically comfort food heaven.

pizza shepherd's pie

And this recipe is super easy to make since it only requires a handful ingredients and comes together in no time at all. And, of course, it’s so darn tasty. Mal raved and raved (and raved) about this dish, which is especially important because he’ll totally tell me if my cooking stinks! Haha! He’s not one to sugarcoat and that’s why I love him so much. Anyway, we’re really loving this Pizza Cottage Pie, and I hope you decide to try it soon!



  • 28 ounces mashed potatoes (I used a bag of the frozen ones from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 2 tbsp pizza seasoning
  • 1.5 cups finely chopped peppers and onions + 1/4 cup for sprinkling on top
  • 1/2 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella

Directions: Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Prepare mashed potatoes. Cook ground beef in a large skillet on the stove top. Add pizza seasoning as well as the peppers and onions. (I used frozen peppers and onions and then just threw them in my food processor for a hot second. I used the leftovers in a Hash Brown Breakfast Bake.)

Pizza Shepherd's Pie Directions

When the ground beef is finished cooking, pour it into a rectangular baking dish and then spread the mashed potatoes on top. Sprinkle the top with cheese and the extra peppers and onions. Bake for 25 minutes and then turn up the oven to broil for 3-5 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve!

Makes 6 servings

Macros: P: 20 C:24 F: 12

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Food Babe Favorite Gifts (To Give or Receive!)

If you have some friends or family on your list that would love a gift that can help them stay fit and healthy in the new year, I have some amazing last minute gift ideas for you! These are some … Continued

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How to Encode Better Choices

Young pensive businesswoman and ideas coming out of her headQuick check-in: what’s the hardest habit you’ve had to break in going Primal? Something you’re currently looking to change? What have been the challenges?

While I don’t consider Primal living particularly difficult, I think any behavioral shift can be tricky. It’s human nature to stick with what’s known. There’s a certain comfort in routine, however ill-advised our customary patterns are. And, let’s face it, some habits stick more than others. If only we were a more logical species, we might imagine, one able to simply encode the choices we know are good for us… Thankfully, our psychological blueprints are more complex than our gadgets, but that doesn’t mean we can’t optimize our settings and establish some tactical redirects.

I’ll admit I have my own “whenever I” scenarios – those situations for which I have established go-to strategies that help me stick with a healthy choice I’ve made for myself. At this point, the substitution has become pretty automatic for me: if this impulse, then that response. The automation makes life easier. It spares me the energy and hand-wringing that would otherwise go into fending off the original inclination or wondering in the moment what I should do to get my mind off of it.

The Anatomy of Human Decision-Making

Not surprisingly, the issue of “automation” is pretty key when experts talk about behavior change and decision making. Whenever we need to make a decision, it seems, we put together a cognitive representation that allows us to simplify the problem/choice at hand. Humans participate in two types of thinking when they mentally assemble that simplified model and make the final decision from there.

The more arduous and taxing of the two is deliberation, that consciously reasoning mode of problem solving we’d apply to figuring out our taxes or warding off tempting impulses. As most of us can attest to, our capacity for this kind of thinking is inherently limited.

The other mode of thinking that comes into play is automatic thinking, which we use much more often that we assume. It’s the stuff of analyzing facial expressions in a fraction of a second, of understanding language or other familiar symbols, of knowing which way to turn to drive home. Unlike deliberative thinking, we have considerable capacity for automatic thinking.

Although there’s interaction between the two modes, automatic thinking actually makes up the majority of our cognitive work – and even our cognitive selves.

Where It Fails

In the midst (or at the end) of a long day, we’re not terribly good at thinking through all of the considerations and arriving by reason at the most beneficial decision. In-the-moment reasoning, as handy as it is, can rarely get us where we want to go long-term. For better or worse, that’s how human behavior manifests in the real world.

Thus, as much as we can operate on automatic, the better off we are—provided our routines, assumptions and self-talk (which we can change using reason) encourage positive selections. So, what can we do to help ourselves in that regard?

We have three main options really for shifting our decision-making processes to maximize our likelihood of making good choices.

1. We can simplify our lives and choice environments.
2. We can hone the ways we judge (or redirect) options.
3. We can cultivate the associations with these choices.

The question for these proposals becomes—how?

Simplifying As Much As Possible (a.k.a. Box yourself into good choices.)

I’ve written before about selection fatigue. The more choices we have in making a decision, the more mental resources we use. It’s why a variety of options don’t always make us happier but just add more static to the day. Simplifying our choices means simplifying our choice environments—cutting out as much of that extraneous static as possible.

Likewise, the more decisions we make in a day, the more mental resources we use. The more we do in a day (particularly if we attempt to multi-task), the more run down we’ll be.

The key is to conserve mental energy by establishing rules, times, and parameters. Not everything needs to be nailed down, but if every day of the week has too many moving parts, you’re probably never going to feel in possession of your time or life.

Let’s say you’re trying to encode better choices around sleep because you’re a workaholic and can’t seem to turn off the impulse to do more—to take care of more. The work—whether job, home or family—just never feels done.

Simplifying your choice environment in this case can mean setting hard and fast parameters around your evening. Set an alarm for bedtime. But also set another for the end of all work time—maybe an hour to an hour and a half before bed. After that point, your computer and T.V. are done for the night as is your smart phone. You won’t so much as pick up a shirt off the floor or put a dish in the dishwasher. If you have to further simplify (avoid distraction) by sequestering yourself in the bedroom for that last hour to keep yourself from working or doing chores, do it. (After a couple nights of going crazy, you’ll begin to get more efficient and/or resourceful during your “active” evening hours.)

Now let’s say you’re trying to eat better. Simplifying your choice environment might mean shopping at smaller stores/markets or minimizing actual shopping trips by ordering from direct-to-consumer farms or from online stores like Thrive (you can save a “favorites” list). It can mean packing your lunch and bringing more or less the same thing every day. It can mean scheduling time each week to make a few large meals you eat as leftovers for lunches/dinners.

In short, it’s deciding ahead of time to reduce the number of choices you perceive yourself as having—and making it easier to choose what is already in front of you.

Changing the Way We Judge Our Options (a.k.a. checking in with our values)

We can simplify our way out of a lot of choices each day, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be faced with temptation. When we do need to make a decision, we’re remarkably good at homing in on seemingly random elements (e.g. excuses) or present bias (e.g. now matters more than later). Because we can’t possibly consider each and every facet and angle, we automatically narrow our considerations to a few pieces that feel “salient” in the moment. Unfortunately, these often have nothing to do with our values.

Instead of giving into the limited thinking of the moment, why not check in with your values. I’m not suggested depending on your reasoning process here. In the thick of the moment, our minds aren’t always to be trusted.

I’m reminded of the H.A.L.T. acronym (hungry, angry, lonely, tired). When we’re any of these, it’s time to stop (halt) and check-in. I’d suggest checking in with feelings first. Are you hungry, angry, lonely or tired? I’d add bored, anxious or procrastinating to that list as well—all feelings that can spur poor choices in my experience. That covered, now check in with values. For this, I believe in the power of visual aids.

Get out a sheet of paper (not in one of those moments but in preparation for them), and draw a simple grid. Across the top write your values – the main elements that make up your sense of personal health integrity, your concept of vitality, etc. On the left hand side from top to bottom, write your biggest excuses or stumbling blocks. Then use the grid to fill in the individual scenario boxes to come up with intentions for how to live your health integrity. Put this on your fridge. Keep it at work. Put it in your car. Consult it. Accept it as your automatic guide.

Still, I know there are scenarios that require or can be met with an even simpler action. This is your contingency plan. If this, then that. Think of your five biggest challenges right now, and create a contingency plan for each. The contingency will be your automatic response for that scenario – a single, simple substitution (no moralizing here) that will get you to the other side of an impulse without too much damage.

Cultivating Associations (a.k.a manipulating how you really feel about it)

Finally, we need to accept that our deep down impressions or associations about certain behaviors/activities/foods/etc. influence our willingness to make certain choices. If we grew up hating exercise, we need to accept that we’ll need to unwind that association over time and replace it with better connections. We’re rewiring ourselves at this point. This is a longer term process, but we can make our efforts count.

We need to identify what assumptions or associations might be unconsciously and automatically turning us off from practicing certain behaviors even if reason tells us we should. Get them out of your system to a degree by journaling, talking it through with someone. Whatever your gripe or “story” about yourself is, voice it so you can find a way to move on. Do your best to consciously put it to bed.

Then invest time and effort in creating new and genuine enjoyment of what you’ve been subconsciously resisting. If you want to eat more vegetables (but grew up eating 3 kinds of canned mush), ask around for some great vegetarian restaurants to get ideas for vegetables dishes you’d never think of. If you’re a vegan in recovery looking to expand your meat variety, spend some time at a quality butcher getting schooled in the finer points of preparing all manner of cuts.

If you’re looking to get beyond a lifelong aversion to fitness, let yourself have some fun experimenting by taking field trips to different kinds of classes, gyms centers, leagues and clubs. Rent bikes, skiis, boats and other equipment that might interest you. Document your adventures with photos and other visuals – of you actually enjoying the habits you’re trying to take on. With every step, you’re creating new associations and rewiring yourself toward choices that serve you better.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. Now for your thoughts. How have you encoded new behaviors using the techniques above or others? Have a great week.


The post How to Encode Better Choices appeared first on Mark's Daily Apple.

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Middle Eastern Spiced Quinoa Salad with Eggplant and Pomegranate

When I think of delicious Middle Eastern food, I think of the Israeli-born British chef Yotam Ottolenghi. Ottolenghi captured my heart and taste buds years ago with that gorgeous photo of roasted eggplant with buttermilk and pomegranate on the cover of Plenty, and now my kitchen shelves are lined with his cookbooks. That eggplant dish was the first recipe of his I made, and it was the first time I’d ever used za’atar spice.

Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice made up of dried thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac and salt. Deliciously nutty, it’s perfect sprinkled on roasted vegetables and meats or on yogurt or olive oil as a dip for pita.

Inspired by Ottolenghi and the upcoming holidays, I decided to make a Middle Eastern spiced quinoa salad, complete with eggplant, pomegranate and pistachios, topped with a lemony za’atar vinaigrette. This dish is vegan friendly and gluten-free to accommodate all your holiday guests. Looking for a creamy, salty component to round out the dish? Add some crumbled feta cheese on top for a vegetarian version.

Your family and friends will appreciate this flavorful, lightened-up holiday side dish. Packed with plant-based protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants like vitamin C, this salad is brimming with nutrition and flavor. Plus, it’s easy to make the day before to save you time and sanity on the actual holiday.

Middle Eastern Spiced Quinoa Salad with Eggplant and Pomegranate

Makes 6 servings



For the salad:

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (about 1 pomegranate)

1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

Optional: 1/3 cup feta cheese

For the dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice (from one lemon)

1 tablespoon lemon zest (from one lemon)

1 1/2 teaspoons za’atar

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon salt



For the salad:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Spread eggplant onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast eggplant, turning once, for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Let cool.

Meanwhile, place quinoa and water in a 1.5 quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed and grain appears soft and translucent.

Transfer quinoa to serving bowl. Add eggplant, pomegranate seeds and pistachios (and optional feta), and toss to combine.

Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.


For the dressing:

In a small mixing bowl whisk olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, za’atar, honey and salt until combined.

Per serving (6 servings, including optional feta cheese): Calories 300; Fat 19 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 5 mg; Sodium 280 mg; Carbohydrate 28 g; Fiber 5 g; Sugars 6 g; Protein 7 g

Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, is a registered dietitian nutritionist, yoga teacher and self-proclaimed foodie. She is the author of Nourish Your Namaste: How Nutrition and Yoga Can Support Digestion, Immunity, Energy and Relaxation and The Foodie Dietitian Blog, which features seasonal vegetarian and vegan recipes and simple strategies to bring more mindfulness and yoga into your life.

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Tips For A Healthier Holiday Party


No one wants to spend the holiday season deprived of its delicious abundance. But no one wants to end up piling on the pounds either.


“Eat before the holiday party”  //  “Skip the eggnog”  //  “This 50 calorie skinny cocktail is the lightest”

Conventional diet advice means you’re missing out on the most wonderful time of the year. There is always so much chatter about ways to make your holiday dinner healthier. One dinner will not make you fat. 365 dinners will. So rather than stressing out about how you’re going to say no to Grandma Vivian’s coconut pineapple cake, spend your mental energy on the Squiggly Line Effect.


Here are a few tips that work well for me to tackle the holidays with both enthusiasm and mindfulness:


When I eat before the holiday party I end up having two dinners, which is even more calories then if I’d just eaten at the party alone! I used to have a big salad before just to ensure that I got vegetables with my dinner in the event that the party had no crudités. But that fills up valuable stomach space! I have decided that having a salad for lunch and no vegetables for dinner is perfectly healthy a few times a year (or month…). Vegetables rule but like I said above, we’re talking about very few days of the year. On days when I have a big night ahead, I try to have a smallish lunch followed by a small afternoon snack so that by the time the party or Christmas dinner arrives I’m hungry but not famished. Hunger IS the best sauce, you know!

holiday-party, healthier holiday party


Everyone knows eggnog is one of the most calorie dense drinks on the planet. But what would Christmas be without it? I actually find the lighter versions of nog to be just as delicious, but make sure the ingredient list is still recognizable. You don’t want to trade calories for chemicals. For Thanksgiving I actually found some grass-fed nog and it was wonderful after dinner the night after Thanksgiving – when I wasn’t so full. So with eggnog or pie or the cheese plate – enjoy a little. Just make sure you keep your portion on the small side.


Maybe a light beer is less calories than a White Russian, but if you have 5 of them because they taste like water, you’re not saving very much! {That was probably a terrible example because I doubt many of you drink 5 Buds on Christmas!} Anyways, my point is drink what you want most and what you will savor. My drink of choice – red wine divided into a few small pours. Some before dinner and some with dinner. Sometimes I try to branch out and try a new beer or cocktail, but really I just want the wine, so I end up drinking that on top of my experimental drink. Figure out what you love and stick with that – even if there is zero alcohol involved.


I don’t mean for this post to sound preachy – more power to you if you can say no to nog! The bottom line for me, and perhaps most importantly, is to focus on how I feel. And this includes keeping the threat of a hangover close to heart! Sort of like how intuitive eating will even itself out over time, if you focus on how you feel you aren’t bound to eat so many calories that you gain permanent pounds. Enjoy the evening just enough so that you sleep well that night and wake up refreshed in the morning. The older I get, the easier it is for me to know when I hit that point. Your body will tell you when the holiday is over.


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Clean Eating Candied Pumpkin Spice Walnuts Recipe

Clean Eating Candied Pumpkin Spice Walnuts

Candied walnuts are wonderful for snacks or even salads. They make a fun snack for the kids after school or even a nice, healthier dish to share at the office.

Truth be told, you could absolutely do… Read more →

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Episode 347 – Jonathan Levi – Super Learning


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jonathan-leviWe have guest Jonathan Levi on for this episode of the podcast. Jonathan is an entrepreneur, outspoken “lifehacker,” avid speedreader, author of a bestselling book, a podcaster himself, and one of the top-performing instructors on Udemy, with an audience size of over 73,000 students. Listen in as we talk about accelerated and evolutionary learning, speed reading, learning languages and everything else, and more good stuff! If you’re at all interested in learning in general, you need to check it out.

Download Episode Here (MP3)


Guest: Jonathan Levi

Website: http://jle.vi/

Courses: http://ift.tt/2hsq9Gg

Twitter: @entrepenewer


30 Day Guide to the Paleo Diet

Want some extra help? Have you been trying Paleo for a while but have questions or aren’t sure what the right exercise program is for you? Or maybe you just want a 30-day meal plan and shopping list to make things easier? We’ve created a getting started guide to help you through your first 30 days.

Buy the book


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Monday In Meals + Winter Activities for 2 Year Olds

Good morning, friends!

It’s time for another edition of Monday In Meals where I recap what I ate throughout the day with a few random adventures thrown into the mix. It’s really been a hit with you guys, so it’ll likely become a regular feature on CNC. Ok, here we go!


I started the day with a piece of Healthy Broccoli & Parmesan Hash Brown Bake and cinnamon raisin toast with butter. Ok, I actually started the day with an iced coffee with coconut cream and collagen, but I’m sure you knew that already!

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Mid-morning, Qman and I headed to CrossFit. He played with the “kiiids” white I worked out. I used #85 for the workout below, and, whoa, it was deceivingly hard!

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Post-work, I drank a protein shake made with SFH vanilla Recovery. Then, Quinn and I headed out for a morning adventure. We didn’t have Early Intervention, so I wanted to do something fun with him. But when I was searching online on Sunday night, so many things were closed on Monday. Ugh. I mentioned this to a friend at CrossFit, so she suggested The Christmas Place in Abington. Perfect!

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We drove straight there, but not before swinging by the drive-thru at Marylou’s! I ordered an eggnog iced coffee with milk and, truthfully, it wasn’t as amazing as I remembered from previous years. It was actually pretty watery. Mehhh. I still drank the whole thing.

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Qman loved The Christmas Place. There was a toy train, soooooo many things to look at… lights! trees! ornaments!

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And… Nutcrackers! He thought they were the coolest thing ever, so now we are the proud owners of a sparkly (and semi-creepy) Nutcracker. Haha!


After our morning adventure, we headed home for lunch. I reheated the final piece of Pizza Shepherd’s Pie, which was a huge hit in our house. I can’t wait to share the recipe on CNC later this week. It’s definitely a winner! I also ate a few bites of Quinn’s tomato soup.

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My lunch concluded with the other half of Quinn’s glazed donut from the Marylou’s drive-thur. Tis the season!

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After that, Qman went down for a nap, and I broke out my laptop to work. After a couple of hours, I took a break for a snack, which included two rice cakes (only one pictured) with peanut butter and sliced banana as well as a mug of Dandy Blend with a splash of eggnog.

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Dinner was baked chicken breast with onion marinade, rice pilaf, and green beans.


After dinner, we headed out to complete Day 12 of 24 Days of Togetherness: Get in the car and look for Christmas lights. FYI for the local readers: We visited Lilah Lane in Pembroke, and it was amazing! Every house was DECKED OUT for the holidays, and the light show (I’d definitely consider it a “show”) went along to music that you could tune in on the radio. Oh my gosh, we all loved it!!


I finished off the night with a small bowl of Peppermint Joe-Joe’s Ice Cream, which is the bomb!! I wish Trader Joe’s had it year-round. It’s pure perfection!

peppermint joe-joe's ice cream (768x1024)

Question of the Day

Toddler parents: What are your favorite adventures/activities to do with your little one when it’s cold outside? 

This is more for the local readers, but thought I’d share… We’re big fans of our local library, but it’s closed on Monday mornings, so we’re going to explore some neighboring towns. We also like the South Shore Natural Science Center, South Shore Children’s Museum (also closed on Mondays), Story Hour at Whole Foods, and Jungle Jake’s (closed Mondays). If you’re on the South Shore, I’d love to hear your favorites. We’re always looking for fun stuff to do!

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