Aug 14

Turkey & Ricotta Pasta Bake + WIAW

I am a blogger and I am NOT a Trader Joe’s addict.


Please don’t pelt me with stones.

I realize that just last week I posted about chicken I like to get a TJ’s; however, I rarely buy anything else there.  Why?  I try to limit modified/packaged foods in my life (have you seen the sodium content in all those nifty frozen foods?!), and I don’t think they have the best produce.

Many of you have already seen this article warning about the GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in products from the store.  Trader Joe’s buys many of their products in bulk from suppliers.  This keeps the price down, but it means you don’t know who is making your food.  They won’t disclose that info because the companies they work with would rather not advertise that you can buy Product X cheaper at Trader Joe’s vs. the name brand from another grocer.  The article goes into more detail, but check out their list of items considered “safe” to buy and those to avoid (step away from the 2 buck chuck).



Trader Joe’s isn’t the source of the problem – this is an issue with all major grocers.  They have a place, and I 100% get that sometimes you must have quick and easy food around.  No one is perfect.  Ain’t nobody got time for that!

All I am proposing is that you know the facts and can make an educated choice about the food you fuel with. :)


This WIAW is my first one back on the competition diet.  I’m trying something new and amping up my carbs to gain more size.  What I’ve learned in the 3 days I’ve been on the plan is that it’s HARD to eat a ton of carbs.  Next week I’m just going to make a massive pot of grains and shovel it in.


Read on for my traveling food, and then check out Jenn’s link up for everyone else’s delicious days.



My favorite addiction, my morning cocktail (apple cider vinegar, water, Glutamine, and  Fitmixer Aminos) started my day out productively if you know what I mean…

Pancakes have been on my mind lately.  I tried this odd combo a couple of weeks ago, failed, and set it aside.  This morning I felt inspired to try it again.  And it worked.

Strange But Good pancakes

The recipe?  Check back Friday – I’m saving this for #strangebutgood!!!


Mid-Morning Snack:

It is a fishy week for me.  Morning snack was cod I baked during my Sunday prep with Ethiopian spices.  To take to work, I shredded it up and tossed it with fresh red bell pepper.

Eaten with a side of hummus, Ezekial bread, and a rare purchase – Starbucks green tea.

Cod and red pepper



I love it when meals feel like treats.  Sea Bass is always like that for me.  I brought a piece for lunch today and ate it with an arugula (it was ridiculously fresh and flavorful at the market this week), cauliflower, and beet salad.  My yummy carbs were a tortilla and (unpictured) hummus.

Sea Bass and salad


Afternoon Snack:

This shirataki pasta bake was based on a favorite Vegan Ricotta Pasta Bake I’d forgotten about.  I took the idea and make it un-vegan. #sorryimnotsorry

I made it for dinner and then brought the leftovers to work.  It was a great reheated with a slice of Ezekial bread.

Pasta Bake


I followed the baking instructions in the link above, but sautéed the onion and garlic, adding the turkey to cook through before baking.  These were the ingredient modifications I used:

Turkey & Ricotta Pasta Bake

  • 1/4 C red onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey, sautéed
  • 2 T fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground oregano
  • 1/2 C marinara sauce (I used low sodium)
  • 1/4 C fat-free ricotta
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 package Shirataki noodles (I used spinach Skinny Noodles, you could use regular pasta too)


I finished that off with a vegan Granola Cookie.  I was making them for the winner of last week’s bake saleI had to have one for quality control purposes.  They are low sugar and vegan!  Practically a health food.

Granola Cookies



Dinner was eaten in the form of a hearty smoothie bowl post-workout.  I made my Carrot Cake Batter Protein Shake, but added a TON of spinach.  It IS easy being green. ;)

Smoothie bowl


The toppings were kabocha, peanut flour sauce, and a really cool new granola.  I was contacted by Klara who started a company called Mix My Own.

Mix My Own is a custom website that allows you design your own granola and I jumped at her offer to try it out.  I ordered 1 for me and one for my mom (who gave it a glowing review).

Mix My Own

In My “All Mine” Mix:

  • Gluten-Free Oats
  • Organic Millet
  • Organic Kamut puffs
  • Dried Pomegranate
  • Organic Coconut
  • Pecans
  • Organic Ground Cinnamon
  • Organic Cacao Nibs


You can choose from a 1 or 2 pound bag.  The one pound bag it huge – it has about 15 servings (1/2 C each). I had a blast creating my own custom combo.  Definitely worth checking out!

Disclosure: I was provided a coupon for a free trial.  As always, my opinions are all my own.



I made an kickin’ combo in effort to hit my carbs.  I was still low… but this was a tasty effort.  I made my Zucchini Bread Protein Batter, but added 1T of cocoa powder and eliminated the protein powder in favor of more cottage cheese.

That deliciousness was topped with 1/2 a baked brownie-flavored Quest bar (350 degrees for 10 mins), a dollop of TruWhip, and cherry on top.  Some days just deserve a cherry, ya know?

Chocolate Zucchini bowl with baked Quest bar


It feels like it should be Friday… but it’s all good.

Do you try to avoid GMOs? 

What would be in your custom blend of granola?



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  1. Amanda @ .running with spoons.

    Carbs are hard to get in? Whaaaat? Girl, you crazy :P But no, I agree that sometimes they can be. If I didn’t have cereal and oats, my carb count would definitely drop by a significant amount. And GMOs skeeve me out. I try to avoid all the major culprits and buy organic when it comes to those, but I hate how sneaky companies are with disclosing that kind of info…

    1. Laura

      I should have said that “good” carbs are hard to get in. I can eat cake all day long. ;)

  2. lucie@swissfitchick

    Wow, I was always so jealous of you guys having Trader Joe’s there…..maybe not so much anymore now that I know about this.
    Competition!! When is it? So exciting. Your dessert looks superdelicious and I need to make this Shirataki Bake!

    1. Laura

      November! Either the 2nd or the 16th… or both.

  3. Angela @ Happy Fit Mama

    I love TJ’s for certain things but their produce is not one of them. GMOs and companies are so sneaky. It’s scary what goes on behind the scenes with our food.

    Glad you are back into competition mode!

    1. Laura

      It is scary! Brought me back tot he pink slime expose. *shudder*

  4. Khushboo

    I’ve never been to TJ’s but it sounds fab- almost tempted to say that it sounds even better than Whole Foods ;)! It’s been far too long since I’ve whipped up granola but my ideal batch would include oats, coconut flakes, orange juice for flavor, lots of cinnamon, hazelnuts and choc chips….mmmm!

    1. Laura

      Noooooo…. Whole Foods is the best. Really. ;)

      I want you to make my next granola blend. That sounds like perfection!

  5. Arman @ thebigmansworld

    Hurry up Friday, those pancakes look amazing! Guess what I will be making tomorrow…..http://www.sprint2thetable.com/2012/08/chick-less-nuggets/

    The TVP arrived from iherb and after stalking your recipage (seriously it kept me busy in my 4 hour lecture today..oops..procrasti-stalking) whilst the person next to me ate mcdonalds chicken nuggets sealed the deal!

    1. Laura

      Hooray!!! I can’t wait to see your spin on them. :)

  6. Linz @ Itz Linz

    you don’t like trader joe’s!?!?!? GASP!!!!!!!!! i don’t buy a lot of their prepackaged food but i still love my tjs!

    1. Laura

      I don’t dislike them… they just aren’t as amazing to me as everyone seems to think. I fail as a blogger. LOL!

  7. Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers

    After Baby E makes his appearance, I’m totally stealing your morning cocktail recipe. :) Oh, and I totally agree about TJs. I shop there regularly, but it’s not my favorite. The product at my TJs is pretty crappy, and since I cook most of my meals, the frozen and pre-cooked options aren’t that great for me. (I still love the cheese and wine though…)

    1. Laura

      The non-2 buck wine is a steal. ;)

  8. lindsay

    brother from another mother.. yes, you said it. Know the source. No diet can be perfect. Just choose wisely, when you can.

    loved my mix too!

  9. Meg @ A Dash of Meg

    i thought your late night snack yesterday was the best looking one yet! also, it’s funny that you said you upped your carbs because as i was following your IG photos yesterday i was like oh laura is having more carbs today lol. as i type that out that sounds incredibly creepy and stalker like, but hey i noticed!

    love you girl

    1. Laura

      Awwww… thank you!!!

      I love that you noticed that I ate more carbs. We spend so much time looking at what everyone is eating…. LOL!


  10. Ksenija @ Health Ninja

    I love carbs :D don’t think that they are hard to get in, I slack way more on the healthy fat part! Gimme some granola, fresh fruits, whole wheat bread, banana bread, steamed rice or muesli bar and I am a happy girl – damn, now I made myself hungry, haha. I guess it’s all about being used to a certain type of diet. If we are used to eat high protein, high fat, low carb meals and suddenly try to add a ton of carbs it seems hard at the beginning.

    1. Laura

      I can do the unapproved carbs SO easily… just need to make a giant bowl of grains and start eating. LOL!

  11. Lee

    Honestly, I don’t really pay attention to GMOs and eat a lot of packaged food from TJ’s that has tons of salt. But I do agree with you that their produce sucks!!!

  12. Fran@BCDC

    The pasta bake sounds tasty and since I FINALLY found the TVP in Maine of all places, I could sub it in. Have a great day, Laura!

    1. Laura

      In Maine?! Haha! I can’t wait to hear how you like it. :)

  13. Heather (Where's the Beach)

    I am not as mindful of GMOs as I should be. I do try to pay attention, but not super strict about it. I do try to get non-GMO tofu, tempeh and cut out TVP b/c of GMOs and then never really made an effort to find a brand that was non-GMO.

    And as for the carbs? Girl, I wish I could say they were hard to get in LOL. Though, I think that with the amount of running and cycling I do, my body starts to really crave the carbs to re-fuel so it’s easier for me to reach for them. I struggle with keeping my protein high enough.

    1. Laura

      I’m like you… it’s starting to come on my radar though.

      Carbs are easy for me when they are cake and pizza… the “clean” carbs are where I struggle with volume. There’s only so much oatmeal I can shovel in. Time to get more creative. :)

      Protein has become second nature to me… we need to switch! LOL!

  14. Sam @ Better With Sprinkles

    GMOs are something that I definitely need to start paying more attention to. Although I have to admit, I would love to have a Trader Joe’s around here – I’ve only been once but I loved it.

    And even if it’s more difficult to get in all your carbs, at least it’s delicious? ;-)

  15. Kat

    Did you MAKE the ricotta?? ;) I’m becoming increasingly GMO-phobic!

    1. Laura

      NO! I’m waiting on your special brand. ;)

  16. Debbie @ Live from La Quinta

    Thanks for the link so I can make the pasta bake vegan again :-)

    Trader Joes is one of my stores on my regular route. Each one serves a different purpose. TJs, Sprouts, Clark’s (Nutrition center, they have a huge selection of vegan and organic choices), even Vons. TJs is good for a quick stop for tofu, tempeh, almond milk, and soy creamer. Oh and wine (NOT two buck chuck!).

    1. Laura

      I loved the vegan version too! Been using all y tofu in smoothies lately though. Sooo good and creamy!

      I have a “route” of grocery stores too. I hit 3 on Sunday and one yesterday. :)

      P.S. You’re right about TJ’s non-2 buck wine.

  17. Samantha @ 10,000 Squats

    You definitely got fishy this week! Lol :) I’ll have to check out that mix my own granola, it sounds like a really good idea. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Kierston @candyfit

    I love Kamut puffs! Definitely carob, coconut, cranberries :)

    Choosing wisely…no one is perfect :) I do my best and my best is the best I can do!

    1. Laura

      You do a great job! I’m loving seeing all of your “fun” eats these days. :)

  19. Audrey @ In Shape Cupcake

    Your pancakes look so good! Mouth watering!
    And yes! I avoid GMO! I check like everything now. Love the NON GMO project

  20. Kaila @healthyhelperblog!

    Girl, you need to take a chapter out of my book LOL! I FREAKING LOVE CARBS! I don’t think I could ever have a problem getting them in….maybe getting too many could happen though! But eh, I’m okay with that ;) Everything looks delicious! Loving the pasta bake! Ground turkey’s the best for that type of dish!

    1. Laura

      LOL! I love them… but it’s SO much easier to eat them in the form a cake and bacon bread. :)

  21. Jess @ JessieBear

    Mmm that pasta bake sounds great!

    1. Laura

      Thank you!

      P.S. I have to tell you that I am LOVING your blog. :)

      1. Jess @ JessieBear

        Awww thanks love!

  22. MassachusEATS

    I’ve never heard to that granola company but that sounds really fun!

  23. Heather @ Better With Veggies

    How I wish those quest bars were dairy-free, I still try to avoid that. Your eats look delicious! I definitely try to avoid GMOs, that’s one of the reasons I switched to Silk, who is one of the few companies that uses only non-GMO soy.

    And I need to try that granola. I held off until I knew more about my diet. ;)

    1. Laura

      Awwww! you would love them. Maybe they will expand?

      You can customize the granola to fit the diet perfectly! Mine is totally accpetable. :)

  24. Megan (The Lyons' Share)

    Thanks for making the non-judgmental point about knowing what we’re buying/ eating! I went to the TJ’s opening in Dallas this weekend, and was sooooo excited … but in the end, I was a bit underwhelmed! I spent a lot of time looking through the frozen items (I love cooking when I’m at home, but my mom doesn’t, and I’m trying to help her feel a bit more empowered about making healthy choices in an easy way). Anyway, we came out with literally ONE frozen thing, because a lot of it seemed deceptively unhealthy to me! That said, I WAS pretty excited by the cheap produce (now I’ll be more careful about the GMOs!), and there are some great items here and there that I do like. But I appreciate the extra info, as always!

    1. Laura

      The fact that it’s deceptively unhealthy bothers me about a lot of things… I wish people were better about reading labels rather than seeing brown packaging or with word “organic” and thinking that equals “eat all the foods!”

      1. Megan (The Lyons' Share)

        Amen, sister. Misleading marketing about nutrition is really sad, and part of the reason we need REAL education about nutrition in order to solve our health crisis! So thanks for providing us with some of this education! :)

  25. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I am SORRY I AM NOT SORRY but I will UN-VEGAN ANYTHING!!!! ANYTHING I tell you! I need me some MEAT in my life.

    1. Laura

      “I need me some MEAT in my life.”

      That’s what she said…

  26. Christine | OatmealBowl

    I just whipped up my mix my own bag. can’t wait for it! better stock up on some almond mylk to go with. or yogurt. those pancakes look yummy! Now you’ve done it, made me hungry… but its lunch time for me. all is good. i forgive you. ;)

    1. Laura

      LOL! Pancakes for lunch?

  27. morgan

    my last batch of home made granola was lots unsweetened coconut chips (not flakes- chips are where it is at!), Bob’s GF oats, a few dark cocoa roasted almonds, a handful of dried cranberries, chia seeds & flax meal :) love my granola!
    and we don’t have Trader Joe’s in Alaska so I guess I am not missing much ;-)

    1. Laura

      Mmmmm… do you deliver? ;)

  28. Jody - Fit at 55

    Thx for the links to the TJs article. I really don’t buy too much packaged or even frozen but I am bookmarking to read!!!! If I had $$, I would but everything the way I want it but it just does not work that way in this house.. :)

    I so remember eating the carbs for bulking for my bodybuilding days – as much as I love carbs – it was hard! ;)

    1. Laura

      It’s funny that people perceive pacakged foods to be cheaper… nothing better than natural, whole foods!

  29. Alex @ therunwithin

    mix my own sounds awesome!!

  30. Eating 4 Balance

    So I already try to avoid GMOs as much as possible by buying basically everything organic… but I’m a sucker for a good article ;)

    Hmmm… Those pancakes don’t look strange but I’m always astonished at what you manage to pack into your recipes!

    1. Laura

      Any excuse to be strange! ;)

  31. purelytwins

    we think you will find a way to get your carbs in ;)
    and it is scary sometimes what you can find and learn at grocery stores. we do our best to avoid GMOs. but probably not perfect

    1. Laura

      Haha – I need to work that out. Doing better today. It’s much easier when those carbs can be things like cookies. Apparently that’s not acceptabe though. ;)

  32. Katie

    That pasta bake looks amazing!!

  33. Laura @ Mommy Run Fast

    I’m with you on the GMO struggle- it’s tough! TJ’s is the closest grocery store to us right now… I do like how small it is, makes it easy to get in and out quickly, and there are some basic items we’ll get there and a bit of produce. But the first time I was at one, I was amazed at the amount of packaged goodies all over the store, making it appear like they might be healthier for you… it’s unfortunate.
    Back to competition diet eats- how exciting!

    1. Laura

      The fact that they try to pacakge junk as healthy is the part I really hate. But, ultimately its up to the individual to read labels and make their own decisions… sigh.

  34. Court Star @ StarSystemz

    I try my hardest to buy ORGANIC, during my surgery recovery I went NUTS on Netflix and watched all the foodie documentaries. After that I have been EXTRA cautious! I always get nervous eating out now so the hubs and I stick to a handful of restaurants that we know use organic ingredients because GMO’s are SOME nasty SHIZ! I am not big on granola because it becomes like popcorn to me, once I pop I just can’t stop so I try to stick to eating it when I order Acai bowls at the Urth Bar near me :) I would LOVE one with gluten free oats, cacao nibs and pumpkin seeds YUM! Hope you have a great week :) Love + shine CourtStar

    1. Laura

      When I saw a few of those documentaries I went vegan! Clearly that didn’t last, but it made me MUCH more aware.

  35. Meghan@CleanEatsFastFeets

    I’m pretty sure I could eat carbs all day…come to think of it, I do. I have no idea if I’m eating too many, too few; I just eat and it works for me. Competition training starts again…are you getting a little pumped?! Working on that booty!
    No surprise here, but I absolutely try to avoid GMO’s. I think it’s utter bullshit they are even allowed in our food source, much less a complete and total failure to disclose it. I probably shouldn’t get started on this topic because it’ll turn into a full blown rant.
    Know where your food comes from; stopping trusting the marketing, grocers, latest trends because they’re all full of it. Just know the source. Alright, I’m done.

    1. Laura

      I could eat “fun” carbs all day… ;)

      What makes me sad is that so many people don’t care enough to know the source of their food.

  36. janet @ the taste space

    Interesting article, Laura. I actually really like Trader Joe’s but as you know, it isn’t for the prepared stuff… I love their coconut oil, tofu, tempeh, almond milk (it is my favourite), and peanut butter. Rob likes their beer selection, too. Once in a while, we’ll grab a treat like their vegan ice cream, though (ok, we had to stop that obsession pretty quickly, hehe), but Rob seems to be addicted to their cowboy caviar for now. ;)

    1. Laura

      I’ve never tried their almond milk… will have to check it out! And yes, their PB rocks.

      Cowboy caviar? He’s really embracing the TX thing, huh? ;)

  37. Lauren @ Dash of Soul

    Hmm, interesting article! I understand why people would be skeptical about TJ’s and the GMO claim, but having worked for them and understanding how the inside of the company works, I 100% trust the statement that their brand is GMO free and hope others do too. Do I think they should go the extra mile and get it labeled as GMO free? Yes! Absolutely! But it makes me sad that people think the absence of labeling amounts to a lie. And I think that they will end up getting it labeled soon since that’s what customers want. Just my two cents from a different perspective! And this reminds me that I’ve been meaning to write a post about GMOs!

    1. Laura

      That’s so cool you worked there! Thanks for the “insider” scoop. I’d be really interested to read your GMO post.

  38. Sarah @ The Smart Kitchen

    I just found out recently that G.T.’s Kombucha is made with a GMO SCOBY. Shocking, for sure.

    The movie/documentary, DIVE, about food waste in America, talked a LOT about Trader Joe’s, but I forgave them (him?) because they are trapped by a lot of regulations and policies that need to be changed. However, I am not obsessed with TJ’s either…in fact, there are a few staples I used to get there, but I’m not sad to be without it. I agree about the produce, and, as you sort of implied, I had a realization that TJ’s is really a place for people looking to entertain, or who don’t cook.

    1. Laura

      Noooooo… why are you telling me this?! :P

      I’m going to have to check out Dive. And you are so right about TJs… it’s the place for people who don’t cook to get entertaining food.

  39. Kait @ ChickadeeSays

    I had no idea about Trader Joes! I’m partial to Sprouts for their produce but have been known to pop over to TJ’s for bags of peanuts and a ridiculous amount of wine. I’m glad i’m not the only non-addict!

    xx Kait

    P.S. I always want to steal ALL of your food. Yum!

    1. Laura

      I have been know to purchase the wine. Not the 2 buck though. ;)

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