Whenever I post a recipe on my blog, you can safely assume I’ve made it a few times to ensure I not only think it’s good enough to save for reference but that I have worked to perfect all of the measurements and prep methods. With this in mind, this recipe is one I have been enjoying multiple times a week for several weeks, but because I’ve been playing with all of the different spice combinations, I couldn’t pick just one to share!
So while I have finally settled on my favorite version, know that there is a lot of wiggle room to find your favorite spice combination. I will also add that if you don’t like butternut squash, I have also recently discovered broccoli makes a great substitute to change things up.
I’ve included a photo collage below of the step-by-step process as well as the nutritional information for my favorite bouillon cubes.
Creamy HMR Butternut Squash Soup
- 1/2 cup diced onions
- 2.5 cups chopped butternut squash (I cheat and buy it pre-peeled and chopped)
- 1/2 tsp Penzeys Bavarian seasoning (yes the same seasoning from my Shepherd’s Pie recipe)
- 2 cups water
- 1 bouillon cube (I am sharing a picture of my favorite brand Massel below!)
- HMR Chicken Soup packet
Saute onions in a pot over medium high heat until they start to become translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add squash and seasoning and mix, cook for another 2-3 minutes to allow some browning of the squash and toasting of the spices.
Add water and bouillon cube. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer as long as you can stand it (I’ll admit I only let it go 15-20 minutes). Your goal is to have softened the squash and let the flavors steep.
Put contents of pot into blender and add soup packet. Be really careful when blending hot liquids! I have a Vitamin which has the ability to vent on top to release the steam. Blend until smooth and creamy.
This makes a MASSIVE portion – I usually make it and pour some in a mug to enjoy while grading or doing meal prep. I keep going back to refill my mug until it’s all gone. It keeps me warm, full, and out of trouble. In fact it’s what I’ll be enjoying tonight while I grade and pack for my school trip this weekend!
I am told some of my recipes are a little complicated. That part of the joy of the HMR Program is how simple it is. And I agree. Not about my recipes being complicated, but about the simplicity of the HMR Diet. And while I started this blog initially for accountability and also to record some of my creations to reference later, I don’t take time to write up some of the simple hacks that keep me full and help me meet my minimums.
So here are a few of my current Healthy Solutions entree & veggie combos. I will often add salt and pepper and maybe some hot sauce or roasted garlic powder to help extend the flavors, but otherwise it’s pretty basic.
I would love it if you could share some of your favorite combos as well – I am truly inspired by other people’s ideas and success, and sharing it as a comment allows others to be inspired by your ideas as well!
Cauliflower Rice – This is a staple in my household. I buy frozen bags and also fresh ones. Just about every store and brand has their version, just double check to make sure there are no added out-of-the-box ingredients.
- Steam up a bag of cauliflower rice, cook up a Chicken Creole entree, mix together and add some creole seasoning and/or hot sauce.
- Also great with the Mushroom Risotto entree. Sprinkle with some truffle salt if you want to get fancy.
- Cook it up on the stovetop and use salsa instead of water or cooking spray – let the salsa reduce in the rice (the liquid cook off) and you have a spicy rice perfect to serve under a Chicken Enchilada entree.
Zucchini – Spiralized as noodles (again fresh or freezer aisle) or just cut using a veggie peeler or slicer, this vegetable is versatile and takes on the flavor of many entrees.
- Toss with some tomato sauce and Italian seasoning and serve under the Lasagna or Ravioli entree.
- Steam it up and mix it in with the Penne Pasta and Meatballs entree.
- Slice it thin like noodles and insert it in the middle of the Lasagna entree before baking.
Jicama or Carrot or Cucumber Chips – these are great crunchy snacks that are perfect to dip in salsa. Or how about blending a 5 Bean Casserole entree with some salsa. I like measuring out the vegetable slices into one cup portions – although I usually use two with my bean dip!
One of the lessons I learned in my weight loss journey has been the bigger you cast your support net, the easier it is to stick with a weight loss program. From my original Core class starting our own Facebook group to finding fellow health-seekers to follow on networks like Instagram, from having conversations with friends and loved ones about what is supportive for me to seeking out like-minded individuals in my community, I have cast a very large net. I am also in a number of social media groups where I also find support and inspiration. And today’s recipe came from such a group – where a photo of a shepherd’s pie inspired me to play.
The concept itself is very simple. Mash some cauliflower and spread it over an HMR Lentil entree and bake. I played around with it a bit and would encourage you to do the same. I’ll include a list of ingredients I used at the end, but you should have fun with it and try different profiles. And if you really hate the lentils, I bet this would also be awesome with the chili entree!
For starters, I don’t fancy the lentil entree plain. So I added some salt, pepper, Penzeys Bavarian spice blend, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Mixed in two lentil entrees and spread evenly along the bottom of a silicon pie pan.
Then I steamed a bag of frozen cauliflower. There were five cups of cauliflower in the bag. After it was reasonably soft (about 5 minutes in the microwave), I drained the cauliflower and put it in the food processor. I added HMR-approved butter seasoning, smoked paprika, and Penzeys roasted garlic. Then turned on the food processor. I added fat-free vegetarian broth to help make it a thick but creamier consistency (you only need a couple of tablespoons – I recommend adding only one tablespoon at a time to avoid making it runny!).
I put the creamed cauliflower in a pastry piping bag. Because I felt like it and for no other reason. But it did allow me to make a fun spiral design and create a consistent layer relatively easily. You could also just spoon and spread the cauliflower on top.
Bake for 20 or so minutes until the cauliflower has started to brown and has a light crust. You could continue baking, or broil to brown the top more to increase the texture variables.
I let my pie rest overnight in the refrigerator, which made for easy portioning in the morning. Half of the pie is an entree and 2.5 cups of vegetables (and very filling!) but you could portion it into quarters or have the whole pie if you wanted!
Ingredients I used: 2 HMR Lentil entrees, 1 5-cup bag of frozen cauliflower, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, Penzeys Bavarian seasoning, Penzeys roasted garlic, smoked paprika, Molly McButter, one vegetarian bouillon cube made into broth
As the semester wraps up at the school where I teach, and I enter final exams into the grade book, I notice some familiar occurrences. Students figuring out the minimum work they need to do in order to maintain their current grade in the class and those who worked extra hard on the final in order to compensate for missing work earlier in the semester.
I used to be one of those students. In middle and high school, I hated turning in homework for many of my classes. It wasn’t that I didn’t love learning, it’s just that the process of doing homework seemed silly to me and I felt like my time was better spent in other areas like extracurriculars or reading some non-course literature. I always attempted to learn the material, often scoring incredibly well on exams, which balanced my grades much to the chagrin of my teachers and parents.
However over time those bad habits began to take their toll. Now as a teacher, I have come to realize that homework is an important component of learning, providing continuing opportunities to strengthen your knowledge and skills in an area. And I learned that lesson the hard way, when in one high school class I fell so far behind that I eventually needed a tutor to help me learn the material so I could pass the final exam.
Why did it take getting to near failure before I caught myself? It wasn’t until a recent HMR class, when an instructor said something relating to weight management, that I made the connection. I had become complacent in my success. With every slip in my grade, I would readjust my goals, lowering the bar to make the falling grade more acceptable. Until eventually it got so low, I couldn’t figure out how to do the work by myself to bring my grade back up to where it needed to be to pass the class.
As a teacher, I have made it a goal to ensure students I work with don’t fall into these same bad habits. And as a student entering the HMR program in 2013, I was determined not to let myself slip. I did every homework assignment. I studied my own behaviors as well as paying close attention to every lesson my teachers and fellow classmates shared. And I found myself excelling at something I had failed at so many times in my adult life. I lost weight. And a lot of it.
I had successfully practiced the behaviors of the Decision Free Diet to the point it had become second-nature. My brain learned to appreciate and thrive in this structured environment full of homework and accountability. And I eventually “graduated” to the next step, Phase Two. Managing my weight and maintaining my new lighter body.
It was in Phase Two where I met my own personal nemesis again. I found myself slacking off on healthy behaviors, choosing to skip a serving of vegetables and having a an unmeasured serving of fried rice instead. And as I saw small gains on the scale, I kept readjusting my healthy weight range. When I got worried about the gains, I found myself holding “cram sessions” where I would jump headfirst into weight loss behaviors in an attempt to adjust for gains, without making a plan to sustain that loss (much like a student crams for a test and then forgets all of the material the day after). And over time, I became complacent. Until I had gained so much of my lost weight back, that I felt like a failure.
This has not been an easy post to write. Nor has it been an easy lesson to come to terms with. Through my complacency with the ever-upward creeping scale and my desire to focus on “extracurriculars” instead of foundational lessons, I have found myself failing in weight management. I made choices to ignore the lessons I learned in Phase One and Phase Two classes that would allow me to be successful, and instead I felt shame and a loss of so many health benefits I had worked hard to earn, like climbing stairs without feeling winded or sleeping without feeling acid climbing up the back of my throat.
Maintaining weight loss is a course you cannot graduate from. It is a course you are enrolled in for the rest of your life. There isn’t a final exam you can hire a tutor to prepare you for, where you only need X% in order to pass your class and maintain your weight on your permanent record. And this has been a difficult lesson for me to come to terms with. In order to be successful in this lifelong lesson, I will need to be consistent in practicing my healthy behaviors. I will need to stop adjusting up what is a “passing grade” for a healthy weight range to justify continued weight gain. And I will need to stop being complacent in the world of the gap.
Much like a student who struggles in an advanced academic class, I am going back to my foundational coursework. I have accepted that I need to work on my relationship with fruits and vegetables. And I need to lose the weight that I have allowed myself to put back on my body. So I have started again as a student in the Core classes of Phase One, enrolled in Healthy Solutions this time from the beginning. I know this means I will be faced with making more decisions during weight loss, which I found difficult in my transition to Phase Two. So this will be important for me to focus on during the weight loss phase. It also will mean I am eating a higher calorie minimum prescription, which will mean I lose at a slower rate, but will also mean more time to practice these behaviors during weight loss. I am back in my late night Wednesday classes and surrounded by a number of new and returning HMR students. I am determined to be successful again, this time not just in weight loss but also in the lifelong class of managing that loss. I know the HMR Diet works. I just need to make sure I am also doing the work.
With this in mind – I’d love to hear your favorite HMR Phase One recipes. Decision Free and Healthy Solutions. Please share or link in the comments!
The new HMR Program Penne & Meatball entree is great on it’s own but sometimes you just want to shake things up to keep it interesting. Adding the soup and some additional spices can make for a delicious and easy pasta bake.
Creamy Penne Pasta Bake
- HMR Penne & Meatball Entree
- HMR Chicken Soup packet
- Penzeys Roasted Garlic (several dashes worth – you can also use your favorite garlic powder or crushed garlic or leave this out)
- Crushed Red Pepper (1/4 tsp optional for a nice kick)
- 3 ounces water
Mix all ingredients together in a casserole dish until fully combined. Bake in oven at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes until top has browned. Oven times may vary depending on how shallow or deep your baking dish is as well as your oven’s calibration.
When I was in Phase One of the HMR program, I rarely ate soup. Odd because it seemed like that’s what all of my classmates were doing – turning entrees into soup. But it just didn’t appeal to me.
Since entering Phase Two, I have realized how useful broth-based soups are as high-volume, low-calorie meal options. And so I have tried to increase my soup intake.
This is a very simple but delicious Decision-Free way to use the new HMR Diet Lentil Stew. If you don’t want the spice, cut the Green Dragon Sauce.
Spicy Lentil Soup
- HMR Lentil Stew Entree
- 1.5 cups broth
- Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Sauce (I use about 1.5 tsp)
- Garlic salt, just a dash
- Black pepper, just a dash
Stir all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally while heating. Once soup comes to a boil, turn off heat and enjoy while it’s still steaming!
The weather has turned colder in sunny California and that means more hot HMR shakes to stay warm and full during the holiday season.
This one is easy and perfect to sip from a thermos while heading out in the evening to see holiday lights.
Toffee Apple Cider
- 1 ounce Torani Sugar-Free English Toffee syrup
- 1 packet Alpine-Spiced Sugar-Free Apple Cider mix
- 1 serving HMR Diet Vanilla Shake
- 15 ounces hot water
Put everything in the blender and blend on low to help everything dissolve and come together (always be careful blending hot liquids). Pour into a large mug or thermos for a warm and filling beverage!