Sliding through 9.5 miles with an Italian-inspired turkey burger slider!

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Good afternoon, friends! Because I’m running a 15K next weekend (9.3 miles, baby!), I had to start my Saturday with a training run. I was all set to do 9 miles on Thursday morning, but when I woke up at 5:45 am, it was pouring, complete with thunder and lightning. So, I did something I never do — I went back to bed!  I ended up running a 6 miler later that night, but knew I still needed to fit in a good long run before my race next Sunday, so today was the day!

I slept in a little bit, got up and had a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter and flaxseed (mmm!), and was off to run right after 9 a.m. I was feeling great and ran sub 8:00 miles until the final mile where I lost some steam and dropped back to 8:05. However, after completing 9.5 in 1:16, I feel confident that I can reach my goal of running under 75 minutes next weekend!!

After coming back home, eating a real breakfast of steel cut oats with almond milk, chia seeds, cinnamon, and peanut butter (I’m obsessed!), I hung out, cleaned, and finished up some emails and such that I needed to get to. Then, after a trial run of this recipe last night, I put together the real thing to share with you. It’s super flavorful, VERY easy to make, and has lots of protein to keep you full for hours!

Balsamic Mozzarella Turkey Burger Sliders

(Serves 6)

Mmmm…balsamic mozzarella turkey slider with some steamed broccoli!

  • 1 lb. Lean ground turkey (I used 93% lean)
  • Spices to taste: Oregano, basil, pepper, fresh garlic, onion
  • 6 slices of mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh spinach
  • 6 slices of tomato (I used roma)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 6 whole wheat rolls, sandwich thins, or slices of bread
  1. In a large bowl, mix 1 lb. lean ground turkey with assorted Italian spices. I recommend about 1 TB each of oregano, basil, pepper, and dried onion (I used Tastefully Simple Onion Onion). Add 1 clove of fresh garlic, or equivalent minced garlic.
  2. Divide meat into six portions; form into patties.
  3. Grill patties until cooked. (I used a George Foreman, but you could also use an actual grill, grill pan, or even your stovetop.)
  4. While burgers are cooking, slice your tomato. Place sliced tomato, cheese, and spinach on bread.
  5. When burgers are cooked, place on bread/roll. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

I wanted more of a melt, so once I put everything together, I actually put it in a pan on low and waited for the cheese to melt. It was incredible!

How to level up this recipe:

  • Use leaner meat, like 99% lean ground turkey.
  • Add chopped spinach (frozen would likely work best) in with your meat mixture. This won’t alter the flavor and help get some added veggies into your meal!

How to level down this recipe:

  • If you’re not a fan of ground turkey, try ground beef (lean is still best).
  • Omit anything you don’t like! Remember, make everything your own. Not a fan of spinach? Swap it for regular lettuce, or no lettuce at all. Hate tomato? Take it off! Cooking for someone who hates vegetables? Just make the actual slider and melt the cheese on top — boom, a veggie-free meal!

Additional tips:

  • If you’re cooking for one, I suggest that you don’t add the cheese, vegetables, bread, etc. until you’re ready to actually eat it. Cook up your sliders and store them in an airtight container to enjoy throughout the week!

Lighten up with Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

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Welcome to my food and fitness blog! I want to jump right in, so if you want to learn a little more about me or why this blog is called “Levels,” go ahead and search around now! Done? Okay, let’s jump in!

If you know me at all, you know that I have an obsession interest in making any recipe I find healthier. When I was at a cookout this summer, a friend made a chicken Caesar pasta salad. Chicken? Pasta? Caesar dressing? Mmmm, mmm, mmm.

She used regular bowtie pasta, a little bit of romaine lettuce, parmesan, and regular Caesar dressing, and I couldn’t wait to replicate her dish for lunch — with a healthy twist. I made enough to last me for three days of lunch — and with my easy homemade croutons (recipe below), it was a really satisfying lunchtime dish!

Healthy Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta, cooked
  • 3 cups of romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion (I like red.)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and cubed
  • Sprinkle of parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 c. low-fat Caesar dressing
  1. Season your chicken breasts with a little salt, pepper, and garlic to taste. Cook (or grill) until completely cooked inside. Chop into cubes.
  2. While your chicken is cooking, mix your whole wheat pasta, romaine lettuce, onion, and cheese in a large bowl.
  3. Once chicken is cooked (and fairly cool), add to lettuce & pasta and mix well.
  4. Add 1/3 cup (or more if desired) of dressing to coat and mix.
  5. Let sit overnight and serve with homemade healthy croutons. (Note: You must let this sit overnight to get the desired taste. Like any other pasta salad, part of the appeal is the melding of flavors. Trust me — I tried this once without letting it sit, and it didn’t taste anywhere near as good!)

Homemade healthy croutons
In less than five minutes, you can have your own homemade healthy croutons! I discovered this a few weeks back and use this recipe all the time. Who doesn’t love guilt-free cubes of crispy bread goodness?!

  • 1 slice of whole wheat or multigrain bread
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • Seasonings of your choice (I recommend garlic, basil, oregano, and salt)
  1. Cut your slice of bread into small cubes and put into bowl.
  2. Add olive oil and seasonings to taste. Mix well.
  3. Pour bread cubes into a frying pan and put your heat on low. Gradually turn the cubes and cook until desired “crispness.”

How to “level up” this recipe: 

  • Try it with a homemade Caesar dressing. I like to use 1/3 cup plain, fat-free Greek Yogurt, 3/4 t Anchovy Paste (trust me; it makes this dressing!), 1/2 t. lemon juice, 1/2 clove of garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix in small bowl and pour over salad. (I love knowing what’s in my dressing and it’s very simple to make!)
  • Add veggies. I’ll add cherry tomatoes, spinach, or even asparagus to my salad to pump up my veggie count.

How to “level down” this recipe:

  • Use a regular or white “smart taste” pasta instead of wheat. To make this a little more substantial, use 2 cups of pasta and only 2 cups of lettuce.