Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicken & Mushroom Piccata

I’ve been making a lot of chicken lately, mostly because I’ve been getting in on the BOGO deals at my grocery store…but also because it’s definitely a healthy option.

This recipe went together very quickly and was so good, especially if you like tangy and savory dishes. This was a bit of a heavier piccata sauce because of the mushrooms, but they added a yummy kick. I served it over pasta (Ronzoni Smart Taste Angel Hair) for a great weeknight meal that’s so delicious it feels like you’re eating at a restaurant, but less cost and waayyy healthier!

1 teaspoon salt (or less; it’s just for seasoning)
1 tsp garlic powder or garlic and herb seasoning (I have pre-made a mixture of garlic salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and dried parsley and use it a lot)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon capers

It’s best to use cutlets or pound thin any larger chicken breasts.

Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt, garlic powder and paprika.

In a large skillet, heat butter over medium high heat. Sauté chicken pieces until golden brown. Add mushrooms and onion and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl combine the broth, wine, lemon juice and cornstarch and mix together.
Add capers to the pan. Reduce heat to medium low and pour liquid mixture over chicken and mushrooms.
Allow chicken to simmer for 10 minutes or until cooked through and juices run clear.

Serve with veggies, pasta or rice.

Serves 6
Calories 242 / Carbs 9g / Fat 9g / Protein 22g / Fiber 1g / Sodium 1426mg

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

I’ve been so hungry for Mexican cuisine lately! I decided to search for an enchilada recipe and found a great one that I revised a little for our tastes. Hubby is picky, but this met his qualifications for meat and cheese and I was happy that it didn’t kill all of my calories for the day!

This creamy deliciousness smelled so good when it was baking and ended up crispy on the edges and bubbly all over. Isn’t it funny how we all describe food in the same way? Most people get what crispy, creamy and bubbly goodness means.

This is also another great weeknight meal, especially if you have leftover chicken. Otherwise, grab one of those great rotisserie chickens for ease! Lately, instead of using sour cream, I sub plain Greek yogurt, it has fewer calories and adds a nice bite in creamy dishes.

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chiles
1 (10.75 ounce) can low fat condensed cream of chicken soup (you can also use cream of mushroom)
1 container 5.3 oz greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken breast meat
1 cup low fat Cheddar cheese, divided
6 (fajita size; medium) low carb/low fat flour tortillas
1/4 cup 1% milk

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a large baking dish.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and saute the green onion until tender; about 3 to 4 minutes. Hubby doesn’t like green onion, so I used dried minced, just for the flavor. Add the garlic powder and then stir in the green chiles, soup and yogurt. Mix well. This will make about 2 cups of sauce. Reserve 1 ½ cups and set aside.
To the remaining ½ cup of sauce in the saucepan, add the chicken and ½ cup of shredded Cheddar cheese. Stir together.
Fill each tortilla with the chicken mixture and roll up. Place seam side down in the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl combine the reserved sauce with the milk. Pour this mixture over the rolled tortillas and spread to cover.
Top with the remaining cheese and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly.

I topped mine with some of my homemade salsa from this summer. ENJOY!
Serves 6: (1 enchilada) Calories 282 / Carbs 13g / Fat 12g / Protein 23g / Fiber 10g / Sodium 772

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Polenta Lasagna

Polenta is basically a mixture of cornmeal and salted water and it is a great accompaniment to meat and veggies. For those looking for a low carb side dish or who are wheat sensitive, this is a wonderfully delicious option. The first time I made polenta for Hubby, we brushed it with some olive oil and grilled it at a friend’s suggestion; we loved it! You can also serve it plain, just season and sauté it in a little olive oil and eat it up.

It can be purchased dry and ready to mix (ready in literally minutes), or all ready to go in a tube-form. You can find it in your grocery store in the refrigerated section; it is located in the organic aisle of mine. They even come flavored with herbs and/or veggies – try it, I think you’ll really like it.

I found this picture on the web; this is what it looks like in the tube:

Polenta is very versatile because of its light flavor, and is a great swap for pasta, rice or potatoes and much lower in calories – the entire tube is only 370 calories! This time, I decided to use it as a replacement for lasagna and it was a winner! This is a great make-ahead dish if you are short on time. I also decided to incorporate soy crumbles because I love the texture and wanted something hearty. These crumbles are also a healthier option than ground beef and since I think they are really best made with sauces (they tend to absorb their surroundings), with all of the other bursts of flavor in this dish, I thought they’d be a great addition.

1 jar (26oz) Marinara Sauce (I used Classico Sweet Basil)
1 cup soy crumbles, like Boca or Morningstar
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup red pepper, diced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 cup zucchini, chopped
1 small jar (7.5oz) marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tube (18oz) polenta, cut into 18 slices (I used Sundried Tomato Garlic)
1 cup fat free cottage cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried basil
½ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded

It’s best to have all of your veggies washed and chopped before you begin.

The following seems like a lot of directions, but basically you are mixing up your sauce and then layering the ingredients like you would a normal pasta lasagna.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray an 8x8 baking dish with nonstick spray and layer about ½ cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom.

In a large skillet over medium/high heat, heat the olive oil and sauté the polenta, browning on both sides. You’ll have to do this in batches as all may not fit. Layer the first 9 slices in the baking dish on the marinara sauce and set the others aside for a bit.
At this point, I put half of the artichoke hearts on top of the first layer of polenta and covered it with spinach leaves. You can throw the artichokes and spinach into the sauce mix if you'd rather...make it your own by doing it your way! Once the polenta has been removed, in the same skillet, sauté the onion and peppers, season with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Once the onions become transparent, add the garlic, mushrooms and zucchini cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the soy crumbles, mix and heat through. Now add the rest of the sauce and mix to heat through. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, mix the cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese and basil. Now let’s continue to build this baby! Spread a layer of the cottage cheese mixture on top of the polenta/spinach layer then cover with half of the tomato sauce mixture. Continue with another layer of polenta using the other 9 slices, then the rest of the artichoke hearts and spinach.

Spread the rest of the cheese mixture over that, then add the rest of the sauce. Finish with the mozzarella cheese. We only had provolone available so we subbed that for the mozzarella. Either works fine. Cover with foil and place on a baking sheet. When the sauce starts to bubble, it can get messy in there…just trying to save you a little bit of clean up.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 20 minutes or until cheese is brown and the lasagna is bubbly. Remove from the oven and cool.
At this point, the smell is so tantalizing, it will be very difficult to wait…but with all of the veggies in this dish, it gets saucy. If you don’t care about sauciness (snap!), then let it sit long enough not to burn your tongue when you eat it. But if you DO care and want a more cohesive “piece”, it’s best to let it sit for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

This is what it looks like if you don't wait...still delish, but not in the typical lasagna-y shape...yes, I think that's a word:

If you have any leftovers, lucky you - this darn thing is delicious, now…and later. Enjoy!

Serves 6-8 (about a good size lasagna portion; 4-5” square piece)
Nutrition Info: Calories 290 / Carbs 37g / Fat 8g / Protein 19g / Fiber 7g / Sodium 1220mg

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp

My friend Shannon challenged me to makeover the decadent, and often off-limits, pasta favorite, Alfredo sauce. Of course, I’m always up for a challenge and any reason to be able to eat something creamy and delicious!

I have tried…and tried…to make an Alfredo sauce that actually tasted like it’s supposed to without tasting chalky, flour-y, or just plain milky…big props to Hubby for at least trying my past not-so-delicious attempts. But like The Little Engine That Could…I kept trying…and I FINALLY got it! I found this little gem and revised it from Cooking Light. And I literally had to tell myself (out loud) to stop after one portion and it was hard! But you can feel good about this one. If you’re not a seafood person, you can serve this primavera style with broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini and red peppers, sub the shrimp for chicken, or just serve it over your favorite pasta.

Not only was this delicious, it was super-fast and easy, so no need to wait for the weekend – make it Alfredo Thursday!

Note: Best to have all your ingredients ready before you begin; I told you it was fast and easy!

1 package (9 oz) refrigerated pasta like fettuccine, or try a whole wheat option for an even healthier version
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese (I grated my own, but you could even use the powdery kind you probably already have in your fridge…I’m sure true “foodies” just gasped at that comment but we’re busy people!)
1/3 cup fat free half and half
3 T 1/3 less fat cream cheese (I wouldn’t use fat free for this one; it doesn’t melt very well)
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
Dried red pepper flakes and grated Parmesan, for taste

Please note: This recipe makes just enough sauce to coat the ingredients...if you're looking for a creamier option, just double the sauce ingredients before you begin. If you're counting calories, this would add approx. 100 calories/serving.

Cook pasta according to directions without salt or oil. Drain pasta, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water.

In a separate bowl, combine shrimp and garlic. Heat a large skillet over med/high heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the shrimp and sauté for about 4minutes or until shrimp are pink all over. Remove from pan and cover with foil to keep warm.

Note: If you are not adding shrimp, you can saute your veggies and/or chicken the same way: toss with garlic add to pan.

In the same pan, reduce heat to medium. Add pasta water, Parmesan cheese, half & half, cream cheese and black pepper. Simmer about 2 minutes or until cheeses are combined. Add drained pasta and shrimp to sauce and mix. Sprinkle with red pepper and more Parmesan, to taste. Serve with steamed veggies like broccoli or asparagus.

Now, I have a challenge for you: serve this to your loved ones and see if they can tell that it’s a lighter, healthier version…

Serves 4.
Per serving: Calories 398 / Carbs 36g / Fat 11g / Protein 37g / Fiber 2g / Sodium 637mg

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Greek Pizza

Here’s another great, quick weekday meal and it was SO good, we’ll be throwing it into our regular rotation.

I HEART pizza. But did you know that the typical SLICE of cheese pizza is well over 250 calories!?! And who eats just one piece…of just cheese…without adding some other delicious ingredients?? It’s hard to find a healthy version of it in any type of pizzeria which means that I don’t get to have it a lot unless I make it at home.

I had never made a version with pita bread before and it was a great option; the pita gets nice and crispy and because it’s a little thicker, it holds the ingredients really well. I hope you and your family like this option as much as we did!

4, 6” pitas (I used regular old white pitas at 200 calories each; you can lower the cals even more by using low fat)
1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
½ tsp of garlic powder or garlic seasoning
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, squeezed of liquid (you could also use fresh leaves if you’d prefer)
2 large tomatoes, sliced (each pizza will hold about 4 large slices)
¾ cup reduced fat crumbled feta cheese
4 T non-pareil Capers, drained of juice
¾ tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp dried basil
Red pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Place pitas on baking sheets sprayed with non-stick spray. Tip: I always line my baking sheets with foil and spray that; easy cleanup! You could also use the non-stick foil.

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, basil, and garlic seasoning and then spread evenly over the pitas.

Top the pitas with spinach, capers, and tomatoes. On top of the tomato layer, sprinkle feta cheese, oregano and red pepper flakes.
Bake in the oven 12-15 minutes or until pitas brown.

Not only is it delicious, it’s very satisfying: you actually feel like you’re getting a good sized portion because you have your own individual pizza!

Serves 4
Nutrition (per pizza): Calories 358 / Carbs 42g / Fat 12g / Protein 22g / Fiber 4g

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Blueberry Banana Bread

We always have bananas on hand at home and many times we end up throwing out the last few because they are beyond use. Even though I know that the best banana bread is made using those old brown bananas, often, I just don’t have the time to bake. I've sinced learned that you can freeze those old bananas! You can either peel and slice them, or just toss the whole thing, peel included, into a freezer bag. The peel will turn brown but the banana is perfectly fine for later use. Last weekend I was not only hungry for banana bread, but bound and determined to use the ones I had up and to make a healthy version of this beloved bread.

There are lots of yummy partners to bananas and one of my favorites lately is blueberries. It’s like they were made for each other! Well, they are at least a very close second to chocolate chips…in fact, that would be a great variation to this recipe if you were so inclined!

Last week, my grocery store offered BOGO blueberries so I scooped them up. Blueberries are great to freeze so if you can take advantage of a sale like that, do so. I just pop the entire plastic container into a freezer bag and take some out, wash them up and use them as I need them.

This is a great hearty bread using whole wheat flour, oatmeal and flax seed meal. It will definitely fill you up and hold its own in the toaster later. I also made a little honey almond butter to go with it, mmmm….

1 cup flour, whole-wheat
3/4 cup flour, all-purpose (I used bread flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oatmeal, quick cooking
3 tablespoon butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, or 1/4 cup egg substitute
1 cup banana, mashed (about 2 bananas)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
4 T ground flaxseed meal

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray.

both flours, the baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the oats.

the butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Beat in the egg; add the bananas and lemon juice. Stir until blended.

Add the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Gently fold in the blueberries.
(Note, the batter at this point is very thick – almost like cookie dough; don’t worry!)

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes; turn it out onto a wire rack to cool.

This was great the next day toasted with the honey almond butter, but just as yummy when it was warm out of the oven, too!

111 Calories/slice – 16 slices

Monday, February 6, 2012

Apple Cranberry Crisp

What can I say about a simple and easy dessert that’s low in calories? Well, how about, “Yes, please!”?

Using agave nectar instead of sugar makes this a healthier version of this classic comfort food. Unlike sugar and corn syrup, agave nectar has a lower impact on our glycemic index and its sweetness comes from a complex form of fructose which is the sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. You can use it in baking, cooking and even in your morning cup of coffee.

1 cup dried cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
Simmer 10 minutes, drain, remove stick
4 medium apples peeled, sliced (you can use any that are in season; I used honey crisp)
1 T cornstarch
½ tsp cinnamon
½ cup agave nectar
Cooking spray

1 cup quick oats
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 T all-purpose flour
3 T light butter, melted
¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
½ tsp salt

Lightly spray a baking dish with cooking spray, combine apples, cranberries and the rest of the filling ingredients in a bowl. Mix to incorporate and then pour into the baking dish and spread out with the back of a spoon

In a separate bowl, combine the topping ingredients, sprinkle over apple/cranberry mix.
Bake for 55-60 minutes or until brown and bubbly…don’t you just love the smell of apples and cinnamon wafting through your house??

When done, serve warm….Mmmmmmmmmmm…
Serves 8; ½ cup serving = 248 calories.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Nut Mix

Here’s another great option for this weekend’s game. A healthy version of the deliciously addicting sweet and spicy nut mix we all can’t seem to get enough of at parties. This one is made with agave for a little bit of guilt-free goodness and a great little kick from the spicy seasonings. As an added bonus, you can feel good that you're getting your dose of "good" fats from the heart-healthy pecans and walnuts.

These little bits were a huge hit last night for their unveiling at a friend’s get-together. Everyone wanted the recipe and they couldn’t believe they weren’t loaded with calories. And if you are short on time, these took less than 20 minutes, including prep!

Enjoy, but be sure to share!

1 1/2 cups walnuts, shelled
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 T Agave Nectar
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp kosher or sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the walnuts and pecans on a large baking sheet and roast about 12 minutes, until fragrant. Be careful not to burn.
While the walnuts and pecans are roasting:

Combine olive oil, agave and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl, mixing to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, except salt.

Remove the walnuts and pecans from the oven and transfer to a large bowl. Drizzle the oil/agave/Worcestershire sauce over the nuts and toss to coat completely. Don't be alarmed, they sizzle! Sprinkle on the dry ingredients and toss to be sure that all of the walnuts and pecans get equal attention.

Return the nuts to the baking sheet, spreading them out, and roast for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the salt; cool before serving.

IF…and I use this word lightly…you have any left, throw them on your next salad! Delish!
Serves approx. 16; ¼ cup serving = 125 calories

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Cauliflower Fries

Wow…that was the first word out of my mouth when I sampled one of these little bits of goodness! You’re confused, aren’t you? I mean, we’re talking about cauliflower…but I’m serious when I say that these were amazing. I guess I can use a word like “amazing” when describing a veggie that most folks either sort of like, or don’t like at all because perhaps we have such low expectations of it? This will change your mind, for real.

These are a great healthy appetizer option for you and your Super Bowl guests...I bet even the pickiest of eaters will be pleasantly surprised at how yummy these are! This recipe serves 4 so you might want to make a double batch.

There are only four ingredients and most you probably already have in your pantry.

1 large head of Cauliflower (okay, you probably don’t already have this, but just get some!)
1 tsp garlic salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil spray or use something similar like Pam (if you don’t already have a little EVOO spritzer, get one! You can find them at your local kitchen store and they reduce the amount of oil you use in recipes)
Ground black pepper, to taste

First things first: Preheat your oven to 425 – it needs to be good and hot!

Cut the cauliflower into large bite size pieces; they will shrink up a little so you don’t want to cut them too small. Be sure to remove the core, below:
Now, rinse and dry (I used a salad spinner) your cauliflower and place in a large bowl. Line a large baking sheet with either parchment paper or foil. If you are using foil, be sure to spray it with your olive oil spray.

Now, back to the cauliflower: spray the cauliflower generously with the olive oil spray and mix it around to be sure all of it gets some oil. If you don’t have a sprayer, just drizzle it with olive oil, but be careful not to over oil. If you do it this way, you’ll use about 2 T of oil. You want them to be just wet enough to hold the seasoning.

Turn the cauliflower out onto the baking sheet and spread it around so that it’s close to a single layer. Sprinkle ½ of the seasonings on top and then place it in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes. At about the halfway mark, turn the cauliflower over and sprinkle the rest of the seasoning on top. The cauliflower will have begun to brown – you really want it to be browned because that’s another layer of flavor!
When done, serve with your favorite dipping sauce – any will do…I used ketchup…they taste like fries!

Serves 4 / 1 cup serving = 60 calories

Greek Chicken Skewers with Tzatziki Sauce

I absolutely love Mediterranean food and Greek cuisine is not only delicious, it’s super healthy. A Wall Street Journal article reported that a diet high in Mediterranean foods is linked to lower risks of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and heart disease, as well as cancer…AND it tastes amazing? Sold!

In my old life…ahem, you know 6 months ago when I was 39…I thought so differently about food. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I still LOVE it, but since I started on my journey, I have a new relationship with it. Not only do I look for tasty foods that are actually worth eating, but I also want to eat things that are GOOD for my health. I also viewed special events like the Super Bowl as another day to go crazy and eat what I want…but when I thought about it, I really had lots of days like that: Thanksgiving, Christmas…Groundhog Day…Sunday…

So, in my new life, I still want to enjoy food, but I am also trying to be smart about it. Here’s a great recipe to enjoy this weekend for the big game. Make it ahead and grill them up when your guests arrive – they are pretty and most importantly: yummy! And who doesn’t love meat on a stick??

1 package (approx. 1 ½ lbs) boneless chicken breast or use chicken tenders

Chicken Marinade:
1 T minced garlic
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup extra virgin olive oil (this is strictly for marinade and you will pour most of it off)
1 T dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Slice chicken into strips and place into a gallon-size plastic bag or glass container. Pour the marinade over the chicken, be sure to work the marinade all throughout the chicken, and seal, releasing as much air as you can. Refrigerate for 4 hours or more.

(Serves 4/170 Calories per two skewers)

Note: If you plan to use wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for a few hours. I usually just throw mine in a plastic bag with a little bit of water and let it sit while the marinade is marinading...

Tzatziki Sauce
6 ounces plain fat free Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl, cover with wrap and chill for 4 hours.

(27 calories/serving: approx. 3 T)

When ready to cook the chicken, preheat grill to medium heat and lightly oil the grates; I use a grill spray to keep from sticking. Skewer the strips by threading the skewer, and discard any remaining marinade. Place chicken on the grill and cook for about 5 minutes per side, depending on how large your skewers are. Try turning over only once and be sure to get those great grill marks seared on there. Grill chicken until no longer pink.

Serve with Tzatziki sauce for dipping!