Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Turkey Chili Taco Soup

I know what you are thinking: um, what? As I typed the title of this, that is all I could think, so again, I like to put myself in your thoughts.

I begin tonight's recipe with a little story for you folks. I only like turkey in my sandwich and on Thanksgiving. However, I continue to see more and more recipes using turkey instead of chicken or beef. I was almost turned away from my skinny meatloaf post because it was 1/2 turkey but I tried it anyway and it was awesome. So, last week I went to My Fit Foods to pick up a donation of coupons and gift certificate to an auction I'm coordinating. As I waited while they printed the certificate and bundled 200 coupons, the nice salesman asked me if I would like to try something on the house. I asked him what their best-seller was and he said their Killuh Chili. I was skeptical, this was a dude talking and chili sounded very much like "dude food" but then this girl came in that I recognized from yoga, which happened to be right down the street. She ordered it so that gave it "chick cred". I told him I'd try it, though the meat used was ground turkey. Turned out, I loved it. This experience gave me a whole new appreciation for turkey.

I recently came across this recipe from Gina's Skinny Recipes blog and built it into my meal planning for the week now that I am accepting turkey as delicious. This is my adaptation of her recipe and it was quite enjoyable. I have enough left over to last Mr. Max and I through the week for lunch.

A bowl of this soup contains 198 calories, 1.4g fat, 29.7 carbs, 7g fiber and 19.5g protein.

Grocery List:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 10 oz. can of fire roasted tomatoes and chipotle chiles (or green chiles)
  • 10 oz. bag of frozen corn
  • 15 oz. can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 8 oz. can of tomato paste
  • 16 oz. fat free refried beans 
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 2 - 2 1/2 cups fat free low-chicken broth
I started by browning my turkey in a skillet with just a little olive oil.Use your spatula to separate it out into small chunks.

As I let my turkey brown, I shot the rest of the ingredients, like I used to!

Next, add your chopped onion and bell pepper - cook over medium heat until softened.

I decided to do this next part in my crock pot because I had a post-work meeting. You can crock it my way or stove it Gina's way for a quicker result. If going the crock route, pour the tomatoes, corn, kidney beans, tomato sauce, refried beans, and taco seasoning into the pot.

Now stir it together.

What is that plastic in the picture above?? I would like to take a moment for a little unpaid product placement. Word of mouth, these things are a cleaning miracle. I once threw a queso'd crock pot away after a party because I'd rather buy a new one than clean it. True story of the 23-year old me. If I had these, that would never have been an issue...

Once the veggies are soft, add the skillet contents and combine well. At this point it is up to you how you want the consistency of your "soup" to be. I added 2 cups of chicken broth and after stirring it up, I poured a little more, maybe 1/4 cup.

I left for an hour 1/2 and came back to a perfect consistency, not too thin but not too thick.

Top with cheese and serve!

Cherry-Chipotle Chicken

Inner-nerd factoid for the day: I love alliteration so the fact that this recipe is all "ch's" makes me squirm with excitement.

Moving on to what you care about, I've had several people ask for more basic recipes, ones that will appeal to: 1) picky eaters that do like to cook but have a hard time finding new things due to their tastes, 2) those that don't like recipes with a lot of ingredients because it looks complicated even if it isn't, 3) those that need health-conscious meals as they try to stick to low-cal, low-fat foods. As I try to answer those requests, this seemed to be congruent with the recipes I'm drawn to AND all 3 of the stipulations above. TRUST ME.

How many of you love those store-bought marinades? You know, the fruity ones that have a little chipotle kick that are frequently served over cream cheese at dinner parties or showers. In this recipe, you are essentially making your own but this way you get to control what goes in it for a lower cal/carb/fat result. If you don't like cherry flavor, use other fruit jams like raspberry, preach, apricot, mango - you get the point. This is absolutely interchangeable to fit your taste! I am slightly adapting the recipe found in Cuisine Lite's Fresh and Fabulous 30-Minute Entrees, sticking with their Cherry-Chipotle sauce but removing the dried cherries from the ingredients taking out 120 unneeded calories and 22g extra sugars.

This recipe takes all of 15 minutes to make and contains roughly 122 calories (after taking out the dried cherries), 70mg cholesterol, 10g carbs, 36g protein, 1mg iron and 22mg calcium per serving.

Grocery List:
  • 1/2 cup purchased BBQ sauce
  • 1/4 cup cherry jam or preserves
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. chipotle adobo chili sauce (get the peppers in the adobo sauce but for those that want to turn up the heat, grind up a pepper, for those that want a more mild kick, spoon out the sauce the chiles are in)
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 2 chicken breast cutlets (already pounded thin and filleted, I cut each in half and have a total of 4 petite chicken fillets)
I used my griddle, or you can use a grill, either way go ahead and preheat your grilling method of choice, spraying with cooking spray to help the meat from sticking. In a saucepan, combine the BBQ sauce, jam, brown sugar, vinegar and chile to a simmer over medium heat.

Cook until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Stir continuously, then add lime juice and set aside.

Place chicken on the grilling surface and brush the top surface with the cherry-chipotle sauce and let grill for about 4 minutes. Flip and repeat.

Once both sides have been on the grill surface, coat with sauce again and let each side cook for an additional 2 minutes. Once your chicken is cooked through, you are ready to serve. Add some of the additional sauce as you please and enjoy!
 Paired with a simple yellow squash and green bean saute

One-Year Blogiversary: Get the Skinny

I seem to find myself in conversation over this heavy topic (pun intended) more often than not. I find that it has become a natural subject brought up in day-to-day exchanges with friends, family, coworkers - even the lady standing next to you in the grocery store checkout line wants to disclose her issues with you. Through these conversations, I hear my personal struggles reiterated by others on a daily basis. I wanted to share this cartoon with everyone for my 1 year blogiversary post along with a little background to the genesis of this blog.

I have weeks where I feel really on target and even if the scale isn't necessarily showing it, I'm feeling slimmer because I'm eating well and making it to my workouts, clothes are looser, it feels great! Other weeks, I feel blah - my clothes are tighter than they were last week but all I did was have a burger on Saturday and missed yoga on Thursday because of a work conflict, ok some wine with friends over the weekend too. Sometimes I feel that I work so hard to "be good" but I have one cheat meal and skip the exercises, so I have blown all progress. 

Then I look beyond the way I feel to determine what factors assist those thoughts and feelings. I had lunch yesterday with a coworker who said "I just don't get it, I work out but I eat half a lunch portion and feel like I have to unbutton my pants afterward. Then I look at her (her = a very slender woman in a slinky pink dress) and I'm like, does she eat??!" - shortly after that, I got in the elevator and listened to a woman complain to her friend about feeling "obese" because she put on her "fat pants" today, a size X (which I won't share because I think it provides an inappropriate, unhealthy image for this person to think that size is considered obese). I think we all feel this way at times, "why can't I look like that," or "according to that person, I'm overweight because I'm a size X," - we get so caught up in listening to how everyone else says we should look, or how they deem a certain size or weight to be "so huge", we never feel comfortable or confident enough in our own skin. 

Last year I sat down because I had reached a point where I realized I was lazy. I couldn't complain anymore because I wasn't actively doing anything about it and despite my best believe-and-it-will-happen efforts, it just wasn't going to magically go away. Going to the gym once a week and having the occasional fruit and salad, skipping meals, where not going to get me anywhere. I needed to examine my unhealthy habits and figure out where to trim the fat (another pun intended). This is why I started this blog to begin with and that my friends is the purpose of this post.

My story: I took a new job a little over three years ago, it was my dream job at 24! A special events coordinator for a major non-profit hospital in a big city. The new longer hours that running events entailed, on top of a new boyfriend routine (Mr. Max!), coupled with our then active social life in which we were going out 5 nights out of the week, all resulted in the inability to keep off those L-Bs like I used to. I was only helping them find a permanent new home on my thighs, hips, arms and belly with poor diet choices and the lack of exercise. After yo-yo dieting, thinking Healthe Trim would really get me "high school skinny" (yes, I buy into radio/infomercial gimmicks from time to time) and infrequent workouts for a year, my metabolism was shot and I decided to buckle down and get serious. Something had to change.

Is this a success story telling you how I lost 20 lbs just after eating right for a year? Nope, sorry. But it was a year ago that I made the decision that if I couldn't always rely on the physical activity because of an erratic schedule, the one thing I really could take control of was eating right and that did make a big difference. Not a 20 lb difference, but enough of a difference to know that it does really help. It is still something I have to work on every day.

The old me: Mr. Max and I formerly relied on Chipotle, La Madeleine, Panera, our neighborhood prepared-food market Eatzi's and the occassional "upscale burger place", meaning, not a drive-thru, or "gourmet pizza", because that's better than a Papa John's.... The decision to change my eating habits meant he did too, we couldn't succumb to the take-out meals anymore. I leaned that I had to cook so that I was in control of the food I consumed, both the nutritional aspects and the quantities. Luckily, Max Man was pretty healthy as it was and already bought organic food only. The boy liked cooking, and was good at it too - this was already looking up. I started only shopping at Whole Foods because I found that my willpower was always tested at a Tom Thumb or Kroger by the snacky foods or Kraft macaroni boxes. Without fail, I would get the frozen dinners full of preservatives, goldfish and what? they have PopTarts, man I haven't had PopTarts since I was a kid so let's get those, 5 for $5 mac and cheese - amazing.... Funny, I don't have those distractions at Whole Foods. I don't see a difference between my old grocery bills and my new ones and feel good knowing that I'm buying everything for a purpose and putting the best I can in my body.

The new me: In this quest, I started going to a health coach to get on the right track and re-learning what I should be eating for a balanced diet, doing it the healthy way. I began buying magazines advertising healthy meals of under 500 calories or less. Then for my busy seasons, I looked for magazines that had 30 minute or less healthy meals (where my Low Stress God Bless label was born). I read America's Test Kitchen practices, learning ways to cut back on fats, sugars and calories by substituting other ingredients and adding more herbs spices to give bland food flavor without racking up the bad stuff. In the beginning, I had a hard time finding recipes to support the goals I was trying to meet and still sounded appealing to my tastes. As I discovered new recipes and sources, I decided to share them with those that were looking for healthy meals or simply loved to cook and thus, a blog was born. 

Here's a secret: I used to dislike cooking. It was a chore, why do it when I could just run up the street and get take out already made for me. I worked hard every day, I am tired when I get home, I don't want to spend an hour making food. I did enjoy it every now and then - my college roommate and I would have fun whipping up some concoctions in the kitchen: shrimp and avocado salad, pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes, and we thought anything pasta was fancy. This carried into the real world, every now and then I found it to be enjoyable but not every night, not things from scratch. I used to dislike almost every vegetable that wasn't potato or broccoli and thought cheese was it's own food group category. I slowly began trying new combinations and realized: this is good, I can make stuff and I'm not bad at it. 

Starting this blog was a tangible accomplishment, it made me want to cook because then I had something to show for it and the ability to share with others. I learned about different tastes, I became challenged to find new recipes that were not only good for me, fun to make and tasty, but ones that I hoped others may find useful too. Through this, I learned to try new things! My very first post, the halibut en papillote is a true testament and perfect example for that. I didn't really care for tomatoes, I had never tried halibut or quinoa, I hadn't made my own pesto before and I didn't think I liked zucchini. Now I use all of these things quite often and it turns out, I love them!

While I still have my problem areas and struggle at least twice a week with wanting to be "smaller," I have more energy than I used to which allows me the chance to make it to the gym after a long day of running around. I never used to have energy. I would hit 3:00 PM and not come back from the slump. Well, I don't always make good use of this energy by diligently visiting the gym daily, sometimes I slip and it is used for happy hour or shopping, tee-hee. That is something I am still working on but I feel like I've been able to conquer cooking, and have something to show for it now 1 year later and can confidently say that I am 1-2 dress/pant sizes smaller (depending on the store) than 365 days ago, so if anything, there's a result.Am I at my ideal size? No, but at least I feel good and overall healthier now than before. I plan to continue and work hard for the results I want to attain while advancing this little hobby I've grown to love, cooking.

Thank you for allowing me to share this compilation of recipes with you so far. Whatever reason you have for following - whether you are looking for healthy recipes, you love to cook or just enjoy blog surfing - I hope to continue to give you what you are looking for and thank you for your support. You encourage me to do this.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Simple Roasted Broccoli

Running with the theme for tonight's dinner, it just doesn't get much easier than this delicious roasted broccoli. This was a simple concoction that I whipped up on a whim to use up fresh broccoli florets.

Grocery List:
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 3 tbsp. of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Seasoning of your choice
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees and cover a baking sheet in a little foil to make the clean up as easy as the recipe! Simply toss the florets in a bowl with the olive oil and lemon juice.

Spread out on a baking sheet and sprinkle with your seasoning. I chose to use Tommy's Spices "The Mix" seasoning. I tried it for the first time as a sample with sauteed veggies this afternoon and thought it was amazing, plus it's a Texas-made product!

Next, put in the oven for 20 minutes to let the broccoli roast and caramelize. When the timer goes off, take out of the oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Let melt and serve!

 Served with lemon-parsley couscous and grilled salmon with mango salsa.

Grilled Salmon with Mango Salsa

I have a springtime Sunday evening treat for you tonight that is delightfully easy. The trick for making this simple and less time-consuming is to buy a mango-pineapple salsa from your local grocer. If you have a "health food" grocery store close to you (Whole Foods, Central Market, Market Street, etc.) they will have a fresh, pre-made pineapple-mango salsa available for you in the refrigerated produce section. I compared those ingredients to the one this recipe called for and they were right on target. For the sake of time, I grabbed that instead of making it myself. That's another 20 minute Jillian Michael's Shred workout, instead of the chopping I would have been doing. I will include the ingredients in case you do want to make it yourself!

Taken from Prevention Magazine's Best Weight Loss Recipes, this salmon dish contains 272 calories, 31g protein, 10g carbs, 1g fiber, 12g fat, 68mg sodium per serving (serving size is a 6 oz. salmon fillet with 3 tbsp. salsa)

Grocery List:
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint  
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped jalapeno pepper
  • or 1 cup of mango-pineapple salsa
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
for those making their own: toss the mango, bell pepper, onion, lime juice, mint and jalapeno in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then cover and let chill for at least an hour to allow the flavors to blend (more time.....) - or, here's my pre-made version compliments of Whole Foods.

Combine the lemon juice and paprika in a large shallow baking dish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place salmon in dish and turn to cover both sides of the fillets. Cover and marinate for up to 1 hour in the refrigerator. After 1 hour, remove fillets from marinade and discard.

Place your griddle on the eye of the stove and spray with cooking oil. Grill the fillets for 10 minutes on each side on medium heat. I like to cover with a large wok top to help it cook more evenly.

Once cooked through, remove from heat and spoon salsa to top. Served with Lemon-Parsley Couscous and Roasted Broccoli.

Lemon-Parsley Couscous

This simple side is a perfect segue from spring into summer, a delicious compliment to citrus flavored entrees such as fish or chicken. Taken from the most recent Cuisine Lite magazine, this makes 4 servings with 291 calories, 4g total fat, 2 mg chol, 52g carb, 10g protein, 21mg calcium per serving.

Grocery List:
  • 1 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups plain, dry, quick-cooking couscous
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tsp. minced lemon zest
Bring broth, lemon juice, and oil to a boil in a saucepan.

Remove from heat; stir in couscous, parsley, zest and salt.

Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a spoon or fork, then ready to serve!
 served with mango-pineapple grilled salmon

Friday, May 6, 2011

Beef and Pineapple Kabobs

I had every intention of making this recipe from - yet again - the Cooking Light Quick and Easy, Low Calorie recipe book, except their version was for pork and pineapple skewers. For the third time in the last month, my grocery store has not had pork tenderloin when I try to find it. I'm sorry, is there a "season" for pork tenderloin??

I look at my list and think to myself: "self, you have two options. Scratch this dinner and go with your plan B of grilled salmon and salad, or, we take the fateful sign of the petite steaks on sale and make something out of these lemons life handed you..." I went for the latter. I ordered up a pound of these little petite top sirloin steaks that were perfect. The butcher man said this is what he preferred to use when he made their kabobs - the beef kabobs Mr. Max and I looooove. Sold.

I planned to use the same ingredients that the pork and pineapple kabobs called for in my beef marinade, I thought I had those ingredients already at home, meaning I did not pick them up at the store. I think you've inferred that this was not the case. So, I created a hodgepodge marinade instead. Meet my ringer ingredients:

The original recipe included mirin and sake, a little tamari - so, of the Asian influence. I took a look at what I had, pulled out everything that made sense - minced ginger, sweet chile sauce, hoisin, tamari (soy sauce) and of course, can't do beef with Worcestershire sauce. See below for approximate measures, but it was very much some of this, a dash of that, all done by taste so that gives you the freedom to create it the way your heart desires.

Grocery List:
  • 1 lb. beef tips, sirloin, whatever beef you prefer, cut into 2" cubes
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1/2 cup Tamari
  • 2 tbsp. Hoisin
  • 1 tbsp. sweet chile sauce
  • 2-3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cups of pineapple chunks, 1" cubes
  • skewers (obviously not an "ingredient" but needed)
Start by combining your saucy ingredients in a bowl. Mix it up and test by taste to see what you think you need. 

Now, add the beef chunks and let them soak for at least 30 minutes, stabbing them with a fork a few times to help the marinade penetrate into the beef (at least I like to think that is what happens).

While your meat bathes, peel a red onion and chop it in half, remove the center. Chop it in half again. You will end up with nice chunks of onion, perfect for skewers. Chop them to whatever size you like - this size is my preference.

Begin pre-heating your grill or griddle at this point, spraying well with cooking spray. I griddled it this time. I had bought fresh pre-cut pineapple at Whole Foods, I highly recommend you go the same route to save a lot of time a trouble. Once the onion was cut and the beef was ready, time to begin the skewering. There's no method to this madness, I kept 2-3 onion "rings" together and thread it in the order: onion, pineapple, beef - then repeated, see! (right side was the beginning of the sequence, left side is the sharp skewering end)

This made enough for 3 skewers. If your griddle or grill is hot and ready, on a medium-high heat setting - for apartment cooks, level 6 on your stove dial, place your kabobs on the surface and let cook for about 8 minutes, then flip. As a little tip from me to you, I like to take my Wok pot top and cover the food as it cooks - it fills with steam and helps create a more even-cook throughout the meat, also speeding the process.
and flip...

Once your meat has reached it's desired "doneness", remove from the griddle and serve! I paired with a Sesame Ginger boxed rice and steamed asparagus.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Make a Meal: Cilantro-Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa and Saffron Rice

I came across this pairing in the Cooking Light Quick and Easy Low-Calorie Recipes magazine I recently boasted about in another post. Making both of these together was a 30 minute process which was glorious for this cold, rainy Monday.

We both really enjoyed this meal and added in a pre-made squash dish from Whole Foods that included corn, red onion, poblano pepper and melted cheese. It was exactly like the sweet potato hash I had made with squash instead of sweet potato. It had plenty of flavor and felt "summery"! One thing I learned from this is that saffron is expensive. You really do not need much at all, I found some in a very small amount but it was still almost $6! I would look for it at either Whole Foods or Central Market, it is hard to find elsewhere.

Nutritional facts for chicken: 289 calories, 13.2g fat, 35.6g protein, 6.6g fat, 3.6g fiber, 94mg cholesterol, 1.6mg iron, 29mg calcium per serving (serving size, 1 chicken breast with 1/4 cup of avocado salsa)

Nutritional facts for rice: 196 calories, 0.1g fat, 287mg sodium per serving (serving size 3/4 cup)

Grocery List:
for chicken and salsa:
  • 2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 shakes chili powder
  • 3 shakes Adobo seasoning
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (again, I used cutlets, then cut them in 1/2 for 4 thin pieces of chicken)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes (recipe suggests Plum, I used grape tomatoes to use up what I had)
  • 2 tbsp. onion, minced
  • 2 tsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled and finely cubed
for saffron rice:
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup, uncooked basmati rice
  • 2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron threads

Combine the first six ingredients in a large bowl; toss and let stand for about 30 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade and discard the liquids.

Now for the saffron rice! You will want to start the boiling for the rice as the chicken is marinating to time the end result perfectly. Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Add the diced onions and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until browned, stirring frequently to keep from burning.

Add basmati brown rice, chicken broth and the saffron threads.
 the saffron threads

Bring all to a boil then cover and reduce heat. Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Place the chicken on the griddle and let cook until each side is easy to lift to flip.


While your chicken grills, combine your diced tomatoes, onion, lime juice, salt, pepper and avocado into a bowl and stir gently.

Once chicken is cooked through, spoon your salsa over your chicken, fluff your saffron rice with a spoon and you are ready to serve! Garnish with any additional chopped cilantro.
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