Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Skinny Chicken Salad

My dinner last night! Chicken Salad, 2 clementines and Kashi TLC Crackers
I was inspired by another Skinny Taste post I saw last week and so was born this version of a Healthy Chicken Salad.  I've always been a big fan of chicken salad, but I've never been a big fan of mayonnaise. I suppose that's a good thing, right?  I've always managed to get a good mix of mayo and other ingredients like greek yogurt as my "base" for other chicken salads. This post on Skinny Taste inspired me to go all out with the greek yogurt, and oh my, this is some delicious stuff!

I used this recipe which was posted by a guest blogger, Amie from The Healthy Apple. Amie has all sorts of clean, vegetarian and gluten-free recipes on her blog. Check it out!

This chicken salad has pistachios and cinnamon to add flavor and brighten up the dish.  I added substantially more than what the recipe calls for because I love both ingredients so much! I doubled up the celery, basil and scallions, because I felt it just needed a little more "oomph." I also love grapes in my chicken salad and I added a few green ones to mine for a little extra sweetness.  I did my chicken breasts in the crock pot the night before assembling the salad. Just add a little broth, salt & pepper and whatever seasoning you like and cook on low for 4-6 hours.  Shred the chicken and voila!

Chicken salad is great because it's easily customizable. Try yours with green or purple grapes, walnuts or pecans, celery, onions...I've even tried mine with a little curry powder. Delish!  I didn't miss the mayo at all in this dish and the extra protein from the yogurt is a nice added bonus. 

Pistachio Cinnamon Chicken Salad 
Serving Size 1/6th of recipe :: Calories 235 :: Carbs 14g :: Fat 11g :: Protein 25g ::

  • 16 oz cooked shredded boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 cups Fat-Free Greek plain yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
  • 1 cup pistachios, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • handful of green or purple grapes, chopped

Shred cooked chicken breast using a fork; place in a large mixing bowl.
Add remaining ingredients; gently toss to combine. Transfer to serving bowls. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Buffalo Turkey Burgers with Blue Cheese Broccoli Slaw

Just the title of this lovely meal makes my mouth begin to water! When you say Buffalo anything, I get excited because I'm a big fan of foods that make your nostrils flair and your eyes water. Spicy is a-ok in my book.  Curtis? Not so much.  He needs it a bit lighter which is why I loved this recipe. The blue cheese inside the burger (an addition on my part) + a little bit of the dressing on the bun was just the perfect way to cut down the spice in the burger. I also love the addition of some extra fiber in the way of grated carrots. I used my colorful ones from my Doorganics delivery.  Purple, yellow and orange. So much color! After dinner tonight it was decided that this was a new favorite for food prep.  They keep well in the fridge or freezer and they are absolutely delicious! I can't wait to try a burger over a salad and skip the bun. YUM! Right around 300 calories with a sandwich thin, this recipe is simply amazing all the way around!

Buffalo Turkey Burgers with Blue Cheese Broccoli Slaw 
Adapted from Skinnytaste  

1 1/2 cups broccoli slaw
1/4 cup blue cheese dressing (see below for recipe)

1.25 lbs 93% lean ground turkey
2/3 cup grated carrots (grate in food processor) 
1/4 cup seasoned whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/4 cup blue cheese

2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tbsp red onion, grated
1/4 cup Franks Hot Sauce
salt and fresh pepper
oil spray

6 Sargento Ultra Thin Slice Colby Jack or Mild Cheddar cheese
6 whole wheat burger buns (I use Ezekial buns or Sandwich thins, pictured)

In a medium bowl combine broccoli slaw and skinny blue cheese dressing. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, carrots, breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, hot sauce, salt and pepper. I was able to get six good patties out of this recipe, but you can also do 5, 5.5 oz patties too.

Heat a large skillet or grill pan on high heat. When hot, lightly spray the oil. Add burgers to the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Cook on one side until browned 4-5 minutes, then flip. Cook another 4 minutes or until burgers are cooked all the way through (keep heat medium-low to prevent burning); top with cheese and place on a toasted burger buns topped with broccoli slaw.
If grilling, clean grill well before cooking and spray with oil spray to prevent sticking.

Freezer Tip: To freeze raw, place them on a baking sheet with wax paper in between, when frozen transfer to ziplock bags.
To freeze cooked, you can fully cook them, then freeze in ziplock bags for quick meals; to re-heat you can microwave or thaw first then place on a skillet

Homemade Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing

  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 6 oz fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise (I eliminated this and it was fine without it)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mash blue cheese and yogurt together with a fork. Stir in mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, and garlic powder until well blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes 1 cup.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Quinoa: A tiny seed with a powerful punch!

I'm a brown rice fiend. I love the stuff so much and could find a way to fit it into my day without much effort.  As I've trekked along on this healthy journey, I'm discovering new and amazing foods to eat. One of those is quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). You've probably heard of it or maybe you've even tried it before.  Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain like many think it is. It's high in magnesium, iron, protein and fiber and it's also gluten-free. Quinoa has all 9 essential amino acids making it a complete protein. It's also a complex carbohydrate which means you will be feeling fuller longer after eating it.  In simple terms, quinoa is ridiculously healthy and very good for you! Move over brown rice, there is a new face in town!

I'm going to share with you a super easy, no-fail way to prepare your quinoa and we'll even add a little spice to the recipe as well.  I've found that quinoa is really easy to spice up in all sorts of delicious ways and you can do it before you actually cook it! I included this recipe in my mason jar salads in last weeks prep, and all week long my belly has been so full after eating just a small amount mixed into my salad.  No animal protein needed, folks!  

This post was inspired by Kathy over at Healthy.Happy.Life. Her vegan blog inspired my mason jar salads and she has a lot of great info over there. Check it out!

What you'll need:
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of dry, unrinsed quinoa
1 2/3 cup water or broth

dry spice mix:  
(I'm sharing Kathy's but you can use cajun seasoning, Spike seasoning or any other combo of spices that you like)

sea salt (salt to taste!)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne (I went up to 1 tsp because I like mine extra spice-ay!)
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp garlic powder

A very important Step 1:
You'll want to rinse your quinoa very well.  Quinoa has something called saponins covering the outer shell to protect from pesksy predators.  Us humans don't want this bitter taste either, so be sure to rinse VERY well. Even if it says it is pre-rinsed, I suggest you give it a good soak before you cook it. If your quinoa sort of foams up while you are rinsing, you know you are getting rid of this natural detergent.  I like to use a fine mesh sieve to rinse mine, but you can also get a bowl of cold water, soak, drain, soak, drain until the water is clear and not dingy-looking.  

Step 2:
Bring 1 and 2/3 cups of water or broth to a boil in a small-medium saucepan (I just use my small, 1 quart saucepan

Mix your spices and then gently fold them into your rinsed quinoa.  

After the water is boiling, add your quinoa.  Bring both water and quinoa back to a boil, and then set your stove to low, cover with a lid, and set your kitchen timer to 12-15 minutes (I do the full 15). Now, walk away! Resist the urge to peek at it :)  

When the timer goes off, turn off the stove, keep the lid on and walk away again.  (I know, it's tough! :wink:)  After 5-10 minutes, take the lid off and fluff your quinoa with a fork.  Boom! Perfectly fluffy ready-to-eat quinoa.  

This method totally changed my life because it always seemed as if the quinoa I was making was super watery.  Kathy mentions the ratio of quinoa to water should be about 1 part quinoa to 1 1/2 parts liquid, instead of the 2 cups of liquid suggested on most quinoa packages.  1 cup of dry quinoa yields about 3 cups of cooked.  

If you can't get it right try these troubleshooting techniques:
*Leave the lid on longer after cooking.
*Cook for a few more minutes.
*Add less water.
*Rinse your quinoa more.
*Keep trying!

Serve it as is or if you're like me, add in some nuts, beans, rice vinegar, liquid aminos, EVOO, veggies...whatever you like! You can also serve it cold as I did in my mason jar salads (Just be sure to let it chill completely before adding it to the jars).  


Do you like quinoa or have a favorite recipe? Share in the comments section!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Mason Jar Salads = Yum In My Tum!

If you're on Pinterest at all, there's no doubt that you've read all about the latest salad craze. Mason jar salads! You all know how much I love to prep my food on Sunday and I've been wanting to give these a try since before the New Year. With my January accountability group in full swing, I thought this would be a perfect time to share this idea with all of them and you as well!

So, salads in a jar.  Trust me when I say that I was skeptical at first.  Wouldn't everything get soggy? Would it be a waste of my precious Sunday prep time? Well, I just enjoyed my first salad for lunch and it was delicious. A wonderful meld of flavors and colors to tempt my palate? Yes please!! I have a full and happy belly as I sit here and type. So, skeptics, a challenge for you! Give this a try and see how it goes for you. 

Before I got started, I sat down and read over some posts by a couple foodie bloggers, The Yummy Life and Healthy.Happy.Life  Both of these ladies had some wonderful ideas. The best part about these is that there are no rules or recipes to follow.  Creativity definitely took over and I had a lot of fun prepping these.  I used the items I had in my pantry and to cut down prep time, I used the veggies I was already planning to use in my other prep recipes. The result was 6 beautiful jars, 2 each of a different blend of nuts, beans, vegetables and pasta or quinoa. Yum!

Here is a pic of my salad station.  During yesterday's prep, as I typically do, I started with all of my fruits and veggies and set those aside for the recipes I had on my list. This also made the salad prep EASY! In this pic, you'll see chickpeas, black beans, corn, whole wheat penne pasta, spicy quinoa, cucumbers, green onions, lots of red and green peppers, celery, toasted pine nuts, ground chia seeds and a blend of spinach and arugula all to fit into these 6 lovely jars. 

For the dressing, I used a mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, ground chia seeds, sea salt and fresh ground pepper.   (*Note: You can also use whole chia seeds and they will absorb up some of the dressing to prevent sogginess. I think next time I'll use whole on the salads that I know are going to be eaten later in the week)

And now for the layering! 

From Kathy at Healthy.Happy.Life: 

1) BOTTOM - dressing/liquid
2) Heavy ingredients that hold up well when submerged in dressing - beans, cucumbers, radishes, onion..
3) Heavy items that you may not want directly touching the dressing when stored.
4) Leafy greens/light ingredients that take up a lot of space - spinach, kale, chard, arugula..
5) A small amount of heavy accent items - nuts, seeds, dried fruit, croutons, accent spices
6) TOP - colorful ingredients to perk up your taste buds when you pop open the jar - fruit, edible flowers, herbs...

Grains are also a good add in.  I used spicy quinoa and whole wheat penne pasta in my jars.

Jar 1: We'll call this my fiesta version!  
I started with my dressing mixture and then added my spicy quinoa (recipe to come later on today!) to the bottom of the jar.  Then I layered beans, corn, a few unsliced tomatoes (don't slice them before hand), green onions, a huge pile of my greens and a few toasted pine nuts. 

Jars 2 and 3 are identical except that 2 of them have the penne and 2 have the quinoa.  My husband is still learning to love quinoa, so I made up the pasta especially for him.  
In these jars I mixed up my dressing, and added a generous handful of chickpeas to the jar.  I then added a nice pile of cucumbers, green onions, peppers, celery and stuffed in the greens. Topped off with quinoa and toasted pine nuts in one jar and penne and pine nuts in the other.

Absolutely DELICIOUS! I highly recommend you give these easy salads a try on your next prep day. It was incredibly simple to assemble these and it was even simpler to grab one out of the fridge for my lunch today. Isn't it pretty? What would you put in your mason jar salad?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Comfort Zone

I was watching Biggest Loser last night, and if you haven't heard already Jillian Michaels is back on the show. When I say she's back, I mean it! She was in full "Jillian" force last night! Yelling, cussing, and kicking (for real!) the contestants butts.  A lot of people think she's too mean. I agree to an extent that she can come off as demeaning when she's in the gym.  BUT, as they moved into the heavy stuff outside of the gym, my love of her became very evident. Many of the people on The Biggest Loser have never had anyone talk to them like that in regards to their weight.  You don't go on the show because you want to be coddled. You go because you know you need a total transformation and for some people to really make a change, you have to be able to get into your own head and get REAL with yourself. You have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone!

This past weekend I went to the mall with my best friend, Meg.  Meg and I have known each other for over two decades. She's the one friend that has seen me at my best and seen me at my worst.  She's also the one that can get into my head and make me THINK.  While at the mall, we went into Forever 21.  I'm sure you've heard of this store, but if not, it's a store full of all things trendy.  We have a new Forever 21 at our mall and it's HUGE. Forever 21 was always more like FOREVER-Nothing-Fit.  I could never squeeze into even their largest "large" tops.  And good luck with anything that was supposed to fit my bottom half. HA! No way.  I walked into the store and didn't know where to start. I touched a few things and felt immediately drawn to the shiny jewelry section in the back.  Typically that's what I buy at Forever 21.  The shiny jewelry.  I see Meg across the store and she chucks a couple pairs of jeans at me and says she wants me to try them on. They were a size 30 waist. HA, right, what is she thinking? Is she trying to pull some kind of cruel joke on me??  I'm emphatically telling her that they won't fit and she talks back and says, "Emily, YES THEY WILL. PLEASE TRY THEM ON. TRUST ME." (I even bet her $100 that they wouldn't fit. ;)   Well, I trust her and so I rallied myself up to the changing room line and waited for a room to try on these jeans that surely would not fit me.  I slipped the first pair over my leg and was surprised that they even went past my kneecap. Hmmmm, interesting. Then I slipped them over my booty and wow, I might be out $100. Then BOOM, they button. Other than being 2 inches too short (something I battle anyway!) THEY FIT. Ohmygoodness, they FIT! 

In my Phit N Phat groups with Corinne, we talk a lot about our inner "fat girl." Even when you lose the weight, there is that heavy person still in there lingering and trying to tell you that you "can't" or that you "won't." She's the one telling me I'm still a size "large" so don't even bother with the "medium." She's the one telling me a triathlon is so far out of my reach and I must be crazy.  When you've been heavy for any period of time, you are inside your own head in a big way. At least I was and still am at times!  This fat-girl thinking holds us back from our goals and our dreams.  It's silencing that fat girl that is one of my missions for 2013.  I don't think she'll ever go away completely, but the least I can do is tell her to bug off! I owe that to myself. My comfort zone is a tough spot to leave, and just like in the dressing room, or in the Biggest Loser gym, you grow the most on the outside of that zone.  Can anyone else relate to this FGT (fat girl thinking)? Share!

"You're capable of anything, honey...if you choose it" - Jillian Michaels