Beefy Artichoke Dip Salad (+ Easy Roasted Broccoli)

It's not possible to eat too much broccoli, is it?

The answer is yes.  Yes, you can eat too much broccoli.  Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable - which are famous for being extra healthy... and extra hard to digest.  Tummy troubles can outweigh the nutritional benefit at a certain point.

And I am not cool with this fact.  I love broccoli, like, a lot.  If I've compared my love of fruit to that of a fruit pterodactyl, my feelings for broccoli are probably the same if not stronger. 

I think raw broccoli stems, chopped up and plain, are simply delicious.  Raw broccoli tops dipped in hummus are a delicacy.  Roasted broccoli straight out of the oven, with coconut or olive oil and garlic sprinkled across it - pure crack.  Even cold, the next day, straight out of the refrigerator, I'll munch on that shiznit like potato chips.

Okay - this is not really meant to be an entire ode to broccoli.  But honestly, I've been really digging it lately!  I could eat entire roasted bunch every night and not get tired of it.  And I think the fact that it's a good addition to any clean-eating program (like what I've been doing for bikini-competition prep) is all the more reason for me to give in to this addiciton.

But yes.  It is possible to eat too much broccoli.  That's why, partly to save me from myself and my lack of willpower to resist eating an entire pan of roasted broccoli instead of dinner, I make sure to add it to a more... rounded out meal.

Hence the meat and the cheese in this fantastic, low-carb, protein-stuffed meal.

Beef and cheese?  That doesn't seem very FitCakes-style... Does it?

Well, when I told you about my diet (and these fantastic pancakes) last time, I mentioned I was cutting down on carbs for the last few weeks of my bikini competition prep (check out my first video!)  

This is true.  I am approaching my meal plan a bit differently than many competitors, for a couple reasons.  One is that the combination of carbs + small meals tends to make me constantly hungry.  Even doing the healthy, balanced, six-little-meals-a-day regimine I heard so much about, complete with oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and with the same amount of calories as I'm eating now - I couldn't really deal.

So I tapered off, really slowly and really carefully, until I got to this point.  "This point" being where my body is more used to burning fats than carbs.  At any rate, I am feeling good, still have my energy for workouts, and am - very importantly - not feeling hungry all the time!  (Higher fat/lower carb diets seem to do that!)

What I like to do for my current plan is to stick to eating healthy fat such as coconut oil, and protein such as lean meat, for most of the day, adding in fibrous veggies like broccoli and spinach anywhere I can.  Usually, my biggest meal will be sometime in the middle of the day, when I am always the most hungry.  And sometimes, this calls for a little extra.  Like cheese.

This meal here fits the bill as far as high-fat, low-carb diets go.  But think about it - we all find ourselves craving pizzas and artichoke dips from time to time, no?  I'd say this right here is a craving-crusher, and much healthier than what you could get into no matter what your overall diet goals are!  Plus, it's really filling.  I doubt the chips and dip would sound half as good after this salad anyway.  

Besides... do you even know how good that roasted broccoli is?

Beefy Artichoke Dip Salad (+ Easy Roasted Broccoli)

Makes 1 dinner salad or 2 side salads

Nutrition for entire recipe: 451 calories; 25 g fat (9 g saturated); 15 g carbs; 7 g fiber (for 8 g net carbs); 41 g protein

3 oz lean beef, cut into strips
2.5 oz chopped baby spinach (enough to fill a dinner plate)
3 artichoke hearts, chopped - if packaged, look for ones packed in water rather than oil
2/3 c. or about 100 g roasted broccoli (see recipe at the bottom)
28 g part-skim shredded mozzerella cheese
5 g grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. evoo
1 T. white wine vinegar
Season with: garlic powder, Italian herb blend or oregano, onion powder, red pepper flakes, black pepper

In the microwave or on a stovetop, cook (or reheat) the beef strips until done.
Meanwhile, roast the broccoli, if you haven't already done this.  

On a large plate, layer the salad, then the beef, artichoke hearts, broccoli, and finally the cheeses.  Microwave the whole thing - yep, really! - for 30-60 seconds, until the cheeses start to melt and the spinach is slightly wilted.  

This short cooking time really will NOT affect the nutrition of your meal, so have at it!  However, if you prefer crunchy rather than wilted spinach, melt the cheese over everything else first, and then layer it on top of the spinach.

Finally, drizzle with the tsp. olive oil and the white wine vinegar.  Season with garlic, herbs, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and black bepper to taste. (Around 1/4 tsp. each, generally, but I usually don't measure and just shake a bunch of each on!)

Easy Roasted Broccoli:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Prep one or two large baking sheets by spraying or lightly coating with canola oil/avocado oil or other good (high heat) baking oil.

Wash and chop 2 heads broccoli (or as much as you like), removing the bottom inch of each stalk.  Make sure to chop up and use the remaining stalk, and even the leaves, of the broccoli - they're the best!  

Scatter the broccoli florets and pieces evenly across the prepared baking sheets.  Spritz the broccoli generously with the cooking oil.  

Evenly coat the broccoli with onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  Of course, you can always switch it up by adding or subtracting any seasonings you like!

Bake the broccoli for 10-15 minutes on the middle rack, or until the broccoli is tender, and the tips start to crisp or brown just slightly.

Enjoy immediately, hot - OR later + straight from the fridge, cold!