Winner, winner, healthier versions of your favorite chicken dinners!

Click here to watch our August 28 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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September is National Chicken Month, and I can’t imagine another protein more worthy of an entire month than this oldie but goodie. (Sorry, vegetarians – but you know I love quinoa, too!)

Chicken is one of my favorite lean proteins not only for how it tastes but mainly for how versatile it is. It can be prepared and paired with almost anything.

Here are three recipes for healthier versions of three of your favorite chicken dinners. These are all cheap, quick and easy, as all of my recipes are, so there’s no need to chicken out of making these!

Baked Chicken ParmesanIMG_9576

Who doesn’t love Italian food? One of the things I like best is that Italian leftovers still taste great if not better, which is what makes this a terrific main dish to cook in bulk for dinners throughout the week. Serve over spaghetti squash or whole grain pasta and with some asparagus, broccoli, green beans or mixed veggies, and you have yourself a not only well-balanced but also tasty and satisfying meal!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • Sauce:IMG_9584
    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 white onion, diced
    • 2-4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 oz. tomato paste
    • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, no salt added
  • Chicken:
    • Cooking spray
    • 6 thin-sliced chicken breasts or cutlets
    • ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
    • 5 Tbsp. egg whites
    • 1 cup whole wheat seasoned breadcrumbs
    • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese
  • Topping:
    • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
    • Basil, shredded, to taste

Instructions:

  • Sauce:
  1. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Reduce to medium heat, add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes while stirring.
  2. Add tomato paste and combine. Stir frequently to keep from burning. Add tomatoes. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer on low while you make the chicken.
  • Chicken:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with foil, coat with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Pour the egg whites in another shallow bowl. Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese in yet another shallow bowl. Dredge each breast in the flour, egg whites and breadcrumb/Parmesan cheese mixture in that order. Place on baking sheet.
  3. Place in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, bake another 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven, cover each breast with sauce, divide mozzarella cheese among breasts and bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.
  5. Top with basil.

Crustless Chicken Pot PieIMG_9587

I haven’t eaten chicken pot pie since I was a kid and ate frozen meals. (Woo, I survived!) While you won’t find me chillin’ with Marie Callender, I’m all about taking something that people eat out of taste and convenience and bringing those same two benefits to a healthier recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb. chicken breast, boneless, skinless cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Black ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 medium potato, cooked, peeled, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ medium white onion, chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 12 oz. frozen mixed vegetables of your choice, cooked (I recommend carrots, peas, corn and green beans.)
  • 3 Tbsp. flour, whole-wheat
  • 2 cups chicken broth, less sodium
  • Thyme, fresh chopped, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add chicken, season with pepper and cook thoroughly, until pieces are golden-brown. Separate with wooden spoon or spatula as chicken gets close to being done. Transfer to a plate. Rinse or wipe skillet.
  2. In the same skillet that you used to cook the chicken, add the remaining oil, and cook the celery and onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until onion is translucent and celery is softened.
  3. Add mixed vegetables and potato to pan with celery/onion mixture, and combine.
  4. Gradually stir in 1 Tbsp. flour, and cook for a minute. Gradually whisk in 1 cup broth, and cook another minute. Repeat once more, and finish with a final Tbsp. flour. Bring mixture to a quick boil.
  5. Add cooked chicken, and combine until warm.
  6. Remove from heat, and season with pepper and thyme.

Not-Fried Chicken and WafflesIMG_9591

We’re saving the best for last. This is one of my favorite foods of all time. It is literally something fried on top of something carby drizzled with sugar. With that being said, as you can imagine, I’m geeking out over the prospect of making this healthier.

Here we go!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • Chicken:
    • Cooking spray
    • 6 thin-sliced chicken breasts or cutlets
    • ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
    • 5 Tbsp. egg whites
    • 1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
  • Waffles:
    • 4 cups old-fashioned or quick oats
    • 2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium baking powder
    • 2 tsp. stevia
    • 12 Tbsp. egg whites or 4 eggs
    • 16 oz. almond or fat-free milk
    • ¼ cup applesauce
    • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
    • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil
    • Cooking spray
  • Topping:
    • Honey, to taste

Instructions:

  • Chicken:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with foil, coat with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Place flour in a shallow bowl. Pour the egg whites in another shallow bowl. Place breadcrumbs in yet another shallow bowl. Dredge each breast in the flour, egg whites and breadcrumbs in that order. Place on baking sheet.
  3. Place in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Turn chicken over, bake another 10 minutes.
  • Waffles:
  1. Grind oats in a food processor or blender.
  2. Mix the dry waffle ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the remaining waffle ingredients in a medium bowl, and add the mixture to the dry mixture to create waffle batter.
  4. Turn on the waffle iron, set it on medium and spray with cooking spray.
  5. Let the batter sit for about 10 minutes to thicken, spoon about ½ cup batter onto pan and allow to cook until golden.

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charm

Why I’m taking a break from bulk cooking: 2 meal prep myths

I started meal prepping on a somewhat regular basis after moving to a city that doesn’t have a Chipotle.

ha, I know.

Plus, what health and wellness blogger doesn’t have copious amounts of photos displaying plastic containers of pre-portioned meals – with the hashtags #mealprep and #cleaneating, of course – on their Instagram feed?!

Few things used to make this recovering obsessive-compulsive perfectionist and control freak feel more accomplished than turning a refrigerator full of groceries into a refrigerator full of perfectly stacked equally sized plastic containers holding food that will feed me for the entire week!

Recently, I decided to break out of this pattern, because I realized that the reasons I went into it are either false or no longer apply to my life.

The healthy meal delivery service experiment

Last month, Nate and I tried Blue Apron. The only reason we did this was that we received a voucher for three free meals attached to a sleek mailer.

Good marketing will getcha!

We were super impressed by the flavor and fanciness, and I was reminded of how therapeutic cooking can be. Here are photos of what I made…

Week 1:

 

 Week 2:

However, I ultimately decided that the meals were a bit too high in calories for my liking. Plus, the service doesn’t even share the rest of the nutrition facts, which makes it impossible for me to track – a deal-breaker for me.

After I did some light research on healthy meal delivery services, we landed on HelloFresh. As soon as I placed the order in mid-late July, during which point I was finally able to see the meal selections and nutrition facts, I cancelled all subsequent orders and started researching lower-calorie options. And…

Nothing.

Except I almost enrolled in a similar service by Weight Watchers – in AUSTRALIA.

*shakes head*

At that point, I gave up on the idea of subscribing to a healthy meal delivery service, and my HelloFresh order hadn’t even arrived yet!

When the order arrived Sunday, I had already made up my mind about it. Then, to my surprise, over the course of this week, I realized how much lighter the meals felt than that of Blue Apron, both based on the ingredients used (at least they don’t send two tablespoons of butter!) and how I felt physically.

However, after just having finished my four-day order, I’m missing it and longing for another order. I gave a coworker one of the discount cards that HelloFresh sent with the box, and she told me that she signed up for the “fit” option.

*rewind sound*

Why wasn’t I informed of this option when I cancelled my initial subscription, citing that I was cancelling due to the service only accommodating vegetarians and not the calorie-conscious?!

Apparently, you can only do so under the two-people, three-day subscription – oddly, not the two-people, four-day subscription that we had.

Meal prep myths

As I move toward HelloFresh and away from meal prepping (not indefinitely but at least for now), I think about the beliefs I held that got me into this a few years ago. And then I think about why I’m putting the plastic containers on a shelf.

  • “It saves me time during the week.” It’s no secret that the only true way to take control over what you’re putting in your body is to cook it yourself. However, this can be time-consuming – not only with the cooking but also with the meal planning, grocery shopping, etc. With that being said, I thought that I was getting more time back in my weeknight evenings by cooking in bulk on Sundays, but, in reality, I was giving myself more time to do things that don’t contribute to what’s really important: fueling my body, doing something nice for my husband and spending time enjoying something together, which brings me to my next point…
  • “It gives my husband and me something that we can do together.” No kitchen is large enough for two people to cook separate meals for the next five days. Especially two people who exercise and eat accordingly. Aside from fitness, Nate and I have different interests, so we tend to bond through doing things parallel or, at the very least, talking about what we did that day. Since we both couldn’t get anything done while the other was cooking, we found ourselves cooking alone, if the other wasn’t sitting at the kitchen island.

I look forward to winding down from a day in the office and at the gym with some time mindless measuring and mixing and glorious instant gratification…to not washing so much G-D Tupperware…and, most of all, to serving Nate fresh meals after work and enjoying them with him while seated across from each other at our kitchen table.

charm

Cooking on vacation: 4 tips and 3 recipes

Click here to watch our July 24 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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My “joy of cooking” isn’t what I’d consider a pure joy of cooking. I do it to support my healthy lifestyle – to have total control over what I’m putting in my body. Sure, in doing so, I’ve discovered and developed a fascination in making healthy cooking cheap, quick and easy, but I don’t love it so much that I want to spend what little personal time I have in the kitchen – especially while on vacation.

Last month, my husband, Nate, and I went on vacation with my family and stayed in a lovely home in a beautiful, remote lake town, so we ate all of our meals at the house. As I planned for the trip and drafted my grocery list, I found myself facing the following challenges:

  • Not really wanting to cook on vacation.
  • Few grocery stores with limited options at the lake.
  • Cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen with unfamiliar or few gadgets at the rental home.

Vacation is all about striking the perfect balance between fun and relaxation and minimizing the things that we don’t really want to do – which, for me, was spending time in the kitchen instead of being either on the lake or looking at it with my family. Since cooking on vacation was totally new to me, I kicked off the process with what I do best: planning!

I’d like to pass along a few tips that I discovered leading up to and during the vacation:

  1. Plan your meals, and grocery shop in advance. Pack all refrigerated or frozen items in a cooler with lots of ice.
  2. Plan to cook things that require as few kitchen gadgets as possible, and bring those gadgets that you need with you.
  3. Prepare food as much as you can ahead of time without sacrificing freshness.
  4. Make sure that all meals, whether prepared in advance or on site, are low-maintenance!

Note: I was only responsible for shopping for and cooking dinner one night!

Per the challenges and tips listed above, I’m sharing three recipes, each representing one of the following conveniences:

  1. A meal to make ahead of time that travels well.
  2. A meal to fix and forget on site.
  3. A *quick and easy* meal to make on site.

Make Ahead of Time: BBQ Turkey MeatballsIMG_9194

When I say “make ahead of time,” I mean make way ahead of time. The meatballs can last in the freezer for about two months, so, if you’re making them that far in advance, I recommend holding off on making the BBQ sauce until closer to when you plan to enjoy it.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • BBQ Sauce:
    • 2 cup unsweetened ketchup mixture:
      • 2 Tbsp. water
      • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
      • 2-6 oz. cans tomato paste
      • ½ tsp. garlic powder
    • 1 cup molasses
    • 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp. onion powder
    • 2 Tbsp. hot sauce
  • Meatballs:
    • Cooking spray
    • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 white onion, diced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
    • ½ cup unsweetened almondmilk
    • 1.25 lbs. 93 percent lean ground turkey, raw
    • 6 Tbsp. egg whites
    • 1 Tbsp. oregano, dried
    • 3 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, shredded
    • ¼ cup BBQ sauce
    • Ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

BBQ Sauce:

  1. Place all ketchup mixture ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Once it starts to simmer, back it off to low so the tomato paste doesn’t burn.

Meatballs:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line two medium or large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and coat with cooking spray.
  3. Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, and cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Add garlic, and cook for another minute or two.
  4. Mix bread crumbs and almondmilk in a small bowl, and set aside.
  5. Combine onion/garlic mixture, turkey, egg whites, oregano, Parmesan cheese,¼ cup of the BBQ sauce, and add bread crumb and almondmilk mixture. Once mixed thoroughly, place in the refrigerator for an hour.
  6. Form turkey into about 35 1-inch balls, and place on lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes. Roll them over, and bake for another 5. Remove from oven to cool.
  8. Once cool, place in two gallon-size zip freezer plastic bags, and freeze for up to two months.
  9. When you’re ready to eat them, place them in a large pot with just enough water to cover the bottom of the pot in order to thaw the meatballs, and simmer over medium-high heat. Once thawed, add the BBQ sauce.

Fix and Forget: Pulled Chicken Ranch Lettuce WrapsIMG_9198

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 lbs. or two chicken breasts
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almondmilk
  • ¼ tsp.+ ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder, divided
  • 1 tsp. onion powder, divided
  • ½ tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
  • ¼ tsp. oregano
  • ¼ tsp. cumin
  • 2 cups reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • Cilantro, to taste
  • 18 leaves of Bibb or Romaine lettuce

Instructions:

  1. Place chicken breasts in a crockpot liner, forming an even later, and pour in water. Cook on high for four hours or low for eight hours.
  2. Ranch dressing: In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, Dijon mustard, almondmilk and ½ tsp. of the garlic powder and ½ tsp of the onion powder, and add some ground black pepper to taste. Cover and place in the refrigerator.
  3. Taco seasoning: In a small bowl, mix the remaining ½ tsp. garlic powder and ½ tsp. onion powder and ¼ tsp. ground black pepper with the chili powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika and cumin.
  4. Once chicken is cooked, transfer to a separate dish, and shred with two forks. Mix in taco seasoning.
  5. Divide the lettuce leaves among six plates, and place the pulled chicken on top of the leaves. Then drizzle with ranch dressing and other toppings.

On-Site: Baked Tilapia with Georgialina SalsaIMG_9200

Augusta is right on the border of Georgia and South Carolina, so this area is often referred to as “Georgialina.” Since the state fruit of both states is the peach and the pineapple serves as a symbol of hospitality and friendship – two wonderful things – in South Carolina, I thought it would be perfect to make salsa with both fruits! The peach and pineapple are very sweet, but the combination of shallot, jalapeno, lime juice, cilantro and garlic cuts the sweetness. Together, they make a rather refreshing combination!

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 peach, ripe, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup pineapple, diced
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • Your choice of one of the following peppers:
    • 1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined and finely diced
    • 1 red or green bell pepper, seeded, deveined and finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 tilapia fillets
  • Olive oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place all ingredients – except for the tilapia and olive oil! – into a food processor, and pulse about 10 times or until the pieces are diced small and mixed.
  3. Transfer mixture into a bowl, cover and place in the fridge for about an hour so the sweet and spicy flavors have the opportunity to blend.
  4. After the salsa has been marinating for at least 45 minutes, lightly coat pan with olive oil. Place the tilapia on the pan, and flip them a couple of times to lightly coat them with oil. Bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove tilapia from oven. Once cool, divide among six plates, and top each fillet with salsa.

charm

Never underestimate the power of a greeting card

I’ve always been a sucker for a good greeting card.

I think that this comes from my appreciation for the written word; it takes more effort to communicate through writing and feels more permanent – like a promise. I love promises. Plus, I’ve always felt most comfortable expressing myself that way.

Two months into my relationship with Nate, he received military orders to move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for five months of training there, immediately followed by a month of training on the West Coast. I missed him terribly, but we saw each other at least every other weekend. I’d send him little treats here and there to comfort him, along with a card. And not just any card – but a thoughtful one that I hand picked after poring over every word on every card in the store.

How much I truly love greeting cards didn’t click with me until Nate took notice of how the people in my family and I respond when given one. Not all cards can move me to tears, but the anniversary card that he gave me in April did. The front reads:

“I love the way you can read me before I even say anything,

The way you do so many nice things for me just because that’s how you are,

The way you live life with all your heart…”

It was the third line that really got me, considering what has been going on in my life.

What do you see in me?

Rewind to about three years ago, when Nate and I were planning our wedding. When we were planning the ceremony, in particular, our officiant had us go through the exercise of answering questions about us as individuals and as a couple. Not only did this serve as a little bit of “premarital counseling,” but it also primarily gave her insight regarding who we are so she could write about us and our relationship.

In the early stages of our relationship, it felt very uncomfortable for either of us to talk about our feelings. Actually, it just didn’t happen. It was unnatural for Nate, and I felt guarded. So I used the wedding ceremony planning exercise as an opportunity to understand why this wonderful man wanted to marry me.

Receiving this anniversary card and wondering what it was that inspired him to give this particular one to me was another one of these opportunities to learn what it is about me that Nate loves – not to stroke my ego but so I can focus on bringing more of that into my marriage.

Self-love and support

Nate told me that he noticed how committed I’ve been to my health – not just through healthy eating and exercise but also through all of the doctor appointments and medications. That felt like the biggest compliment I’ve ever received, both because of how hard I work to live a healthy lifestyle and also because it reminds me that, despite hardship, I know how to love myself and look forward to the future, especially with Nate by my side.

After experiencing some changes in April 2014 that threw me for a loop physically and emotionally… After months and months of not settling for feeling just “good” or “fine” but “GREAT”… After a lot of resources spent on treatments (and Nate never complaining, questioning, or losing faith in me)…

That anniversary card was just what I needed.

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Thank you for always supporting and encouraging me. I love you, Nate!

charm

3 reasons Dad doesn’t have to grill this Father’s Day

I grew up in a household where only Dad did the grilling. While working hard to support a family of six, he still had it in him to grill burgers, hot dogs (in our household, it was Nittany Lion Franks – it’s a Penn State thing!), steak, chicken, you name it. I even remember him making tuna steaks that he caught on a fishing trip to the Chesapeake Bay.

If dad is the grill master in your household, and you want him to take a load off – AND, like me, cooking over an open flame isn’t your thing, unless it involves holding marshmallows on a stick and sinking your teeth into a gooey…

Ahh, FOCUS!

…anyway, then you might want to consider incorporating these three lightened-up versions of Dad’s favorite foods into your Father’s Day feast.

  1. Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers with Feta
  2. Pulled Chicken with Homemade BBQ Sauce
  3. Turkey Meatloaf

I’m sure he’ll appreciate not having to stand outside in the summer heat over a fire!

Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers with FetaIMG_8787

As soon as I went off camera during my WJBF appearance in April and made it back to the control room to return my mic, I received an email from a reader who was interested in a healthier hamburger recipe that doesn’t involve turkey. I was stumped – until I thought of the store-bought black bean burgers that I eat sometimes.

I tested these on my friends at a Memorial Day cookout, and they loved them! In terms of nutritional value, between the black beans and quinoa, this burger is packed with plant-based protein!

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup red quinoa
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small red onion onion or shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 15-oz. can reduced-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ of a 15.25-oz. no-salt-added corn, rinsed and drained
  • 3.5 oz. reduced-fat feta crumbles
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • Optional: 8 whole-wheat hamburger buns

Instructions:

  1. Cook quinoa per package instructions.IMG_8785
  2. While quinoa is cooking, heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion or shallot, and cook for about 5 minutes or until onion or shallot is translucent. Stir in half of the black beans and the garlic, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for about a minute, just long enough to warm and soak the beans in the oil for easier mashing.
  3. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and mash with a fork. Add cooked quinoa, and stir in remaining black beans, corn, feta, chili powder and cumin.IMG_8786
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and generously coat baking sheet with cooking spray.
  5. Shape bean mixture into 8 patties, and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes, or until patties are crisp on top. Allow patties to cool for about five minutes.
  6. Coat the top side of a spatula with cooking spray, and carefully flip patties. You’ll likey need to reform them a bit with the spatula and with your hand. Bake 15 minutes more, or until both sides are crisp and brown.

Pulled Chicken with Homemade BBQ Sauce

I love pork BBQ – so much, in fact, that we served it at our down-home wedding in rural Virginia. I think that the best pork BBQ sandwich I ever ate was at a tractor pull that Nate took me to just a couple of weeks after we moved to Augusta. However, I choose to eat this very rarely due to the fattiness in the cut of meat used to make pork BBQ – anything from the shoulder to the belly – and calories, sugar and carbohydrates in the sauce.

Serves 8

Ingredients:

BBQ Sauce

  • 1 cup ketchup mixture (from turkey meatloaf recipe below, minus the stevia):
    • 1 Tbsp. water
    • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
    • 6 oz. can tomato paste
    • ¼ tsp. garlic powder
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. hot sauce

Pulled Chicken

  • 2 lb. chicken breast, trimmed
  • Water

Instructions:

BBQ Sauce

  1. Mix all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, and allow to simmer while you prepare the chicken.
  3. Serve by spooning on top of pulled chicken.

Pulled chicken

  1. Place chicken breasts into a saucepan, and pour in enough water to cover.
  2. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce heat, and simmer until chicken is cooked and no longer pink, about 10-15 minutes.
  4. Transfer chicken breasts to a separate dish, allow to cool and shred with two forks.
  5. Serve on top of a whole wheat bun.

Note: You can also cook the chicken in a crock pot set on high for 3-4 hours or set on low for 6-8 hours, but I find that this approach makes the chicken shred too finely.

Turkey Meatloaf

IMG_8784My husband, Nate, loves the turkey meatloaf I make. In fact, it started off as a Christmas tradition that lasted two years, until we decided to do something different for our first Christmas as a married couple, in 2014.

This recipe is lighter than the traditional beef meatloaf recipe and even most turkey meatloaf recipes all the way down to the ketchup mixture. Here’s how:

  • Meat: lean ground turkey breast instead of ground turkey and beef to cut back on fat
  • Filler: wheat flour or oat flour instead of bleached flour
  • Binder: egg whites instead of egg with yolk to cut back on calories, fat and cholesterol
  • Ketchup mixture: easy-to-make homemade mixture instead of ketchup to cut back on sugar and sodium; ketchup contains 4 grams of sugar and 190 milligrams of sodium per tablespoon

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Ketchup mixture

  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 8 Tbsp. or packets stevia
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2-6 oz. cans tomato paste
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder

Meatloaf

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 white or yellow onion
  • 1 tsp. or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.25 lbs. lean ground turkey breast
  • ¾ cup wheat bread crumbs or oats, ground into flour
  • 2 egg whites
  • ⅛ cup ketchup mixture

Instructions:

Ketchup topping

  1. IMG_8783Pour water into medium saucepan, and set heat to medium-high until boiling. Add stevia, stir and reduce heat to medium.
  2. Pour apple cider vinegar into same saucepan.
  3. Add tomato paste and garlic, stir and reduce heat to low.
  4. Mix well, and remove from heat. Set aside.

Meatloaf

  1. Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and generously coat loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Saute for about five minutes or until onions are translucent and slightly golden, then transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
  3. Mix together onion/garlic mixture, turkey, wheat bread crumbs or wheat flour, egg whites and ketchup mixture (just ⅛ cup!), place in loaf pan and bake for 30 minutes. Spread thin layer of remaining ketchup mixture over the top of the meatloaf, and bake for an additional 30 minutes.

Links to Other Recipes for Dad

charm

Summertime, and the linking’s easy

I abstained from publishing this post yesterday, because I believe in giving Memorial Day its much-deserved own space. I didn’t want to make it share the day with the cliched “unofficial first day of summer” – you know, when BBQs, pool parties and white-wearing commence. All of those things are wonderful, but I love our veterans, which includes my husband, even more.

I have a few trips planned this summer. The first involves staying at a family member’s home, the second involves a vacation rental and the third involves a hotel. All of them will involve a lot of food and beverages and not enough exercise. While vacations are meant to be relaxing and a deviation from the day-to-day, exercise and healthy eating are vital to my feeling well physically and emotionally. That’s why I make both a priority in my everyday living and make an honest effort to take them on the road with me.

As you get back to the office today from the glorious long holiday weekend, you’re probably catching yourself daydreaming about summertime. So here are a few links to blog posts I’ve written that may come in handy during this time of year, especially as you travel.

  1. No-mayo grilled potato salad
  2. 5 exercises you can do anywhere
  3. 3 ways bouncing back from vacation is easier than you thought

charm

How to fix a fit-friendly fiesta

Click here to watch our May 15 segment on WJBF News Channel 6!

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The celebration of Cinco de Mayo earlier this month got me thinking about ways to lighten up Hispanic cuisine, which is one of my absolute favorite kinds of food. Before my weight-loss journey began, two dishes I made often consisted of tostadas and stuffed peppers. I loved impressing my husband with them. So, I’ve lightened up my original tostadas recipe as well as a classic chiles rellenos recipe. I also included recipes of substitutions like cauliflower tortillas and quinoa taco meat. Like most, if not all, of my creations, these incorporate complex carbs instead of simple carbs, lean meat instead of fatty meat and plenty of veggies!

Recipes

Vegetarian TostadasIMG_8473

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans reduced-sodium black or pinto beans
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 fajita whole wheat tortilla
  • 4 cups reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 ½ cups guacamole
  • 1 ½ cups pico de gallo and/or salsa
  • 6 cups lettuce
  • Optional: Lean ground turkey or quinoa

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Drain black beans, and mash.
  3. Coat muffin tins with cooking spray.
  4. Place wet paper towels between every couple of tortillas. Place on a plate, and microwave for 30 seconds to soften.
  5. Place tortillas in compartments of muffin tin. Portion black beans in each tortilla – about enough to fill the muffin tin – and carefully pressing the beans down as you go so the tortilla doesn’t rip. The packed-down beans will help the tortillas to take on the shape of the muffin tin and, therefore, stand up on their own once baked and they come out of the muffin tin. Portion cheese in each tortilla shell, and bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven, place two tostadas on each of the six plates, and top with remaining ingredients of your choice.

Baked Chile RellenosIMG_8474

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 6 poblano chiles/peppers
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
  • 1 cup egg whites
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • Optional: Stuff with pork or ground chicken or turkey

Instructions:

*Note: I recommend wearing rubber gloves while handling the poblanos.

  1. Cut poblanos vertically down the side, and seed and devein them.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil, and coat with cooking spray. Place poblanos on baking sheet, and broil until blackened and blistered, for about 8 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand 15 minutes. Carefully peel the blistered portions off and whatever else will easily peel off, and discard skins.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Spoon ⅓ cup Jack cheese inside each chile.
  6. Place egg whites in one shallow dish and cornmeal in another. Dredge poblanos in egg whites then cornmeal.
  7. Place stuffed chiles on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes or until cheese melts.
  8. Portion tomato sauce on plates, and place one poblano on each plate on top of the sauce.

Click here for a healthier taco recipe!

Recipes of Substitutions that Suit Your Dietary Needs

Cauliflower TortillaIMG_8471

Ingredients:

    • Cooking spray
    • 1 head cauliflower
    • ½ cup egg whites

 

Instructions:

  1. Boil water in the pot you use to steam vegetables over high heat, and place the steamer basket on top.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Chop cauliflower into florets.
  4. Pulse in food processor until looks like couscous or grits.
  5. Steam for about 10 minutes, or until cauliflower has translucent/greenish tint. Don’t fret if your steaming basket has holes that appear to be a little larger than the grain of the cauliflower; it will clump up, keeping it from falling through. Mix frequently so cauliflower steams consistently.
  6. Lay dish towel that is tightly woven (essentially with no holes in it) flat on countertop. Once cauliflower is boiled, transfer onto dish towel to get rid of moisture that cauliflower soaked up during steaming. Once it cools, pick up the edges of the towel with the cauliflower still in it to form a sack. Over the sink, squeeze the sack remove water from the cauliflower.
  7. Once moisture is removed, transfer cauliflower to a bowl. Add egg whites and spices of your choice, and mix thoroughly.
  8. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and coat with cooking spray. Roll cauliflower/egg white mixture into six balls, and place on a large baking sheet. Flatten balls into circles, no larger than 6 inches in diameter (or else they’ll fall apart when you flip them).
  9. Bake for 8 minutes. Carefully flip tortillas, and bake for another 5 minutes.
  10. Heat skillet over medium-high heat, and cook tortillas for two minutes or until golden.

IMG_8472Quinoa Taco Meat

I often use quinoa as a protein-packed filler for chili – so why not use it for taco meat? This is simply my ground turkey taco meat recipe with quinoa instead of ground turkey.

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups quinoa, uncooked
  • 4.5 oz. can green chilies
  • 1 cup tomato sauce

Instructions:

  1. Cook quinoa per package instructions.
  2. Place oil into skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  3. Once heated, place onion into skillet, and allow to cook for a few minutes minutes, until golden and translucent.
  4. Reduce heat to medium, and add the cooked quinoa, green chiles and tomato sauce. Mix thoroughly, and cook until heated throughout.

Other healthier swaps:

  • Flour tortilla: Whole wheat tortilla; for tacos and burritos, lettuce makes a great substitute
  • Sour cream: Nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • Ground beef: Lean ground turkey
  • White rice: Brown rice

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