Tag Archives: healthy living

Turkey Sliders

25 Oct

Ever since Karl’s dad’s big surgery (his dad is doing fantastic, by the way), we have become much more conscious about avoiding red meat.  We have learned that ground turkey and chicken can be great substitutes in soups, tacos, etc.  The one thing we had not yet conquered was a burger.  Sometimes there is just no replacement for a juicy burger – until now!  Previous attempts at turkey burgers yielded dry, boring burgers that we didn’t even want to finish.  Then one day I saw this type while watching an episode of Down Home with the Neelys.  They suggested adding ricotta cheese to keep the burgers from drying out.  I knew right then I needed to try this!

Karl was pretty skeptical when I told him I was making turkey burgers for dinner.  He thought history would repeat itself and we would soon be calling for pizza instead.  I knew better, and he was pleasantly surprised with the result!  He liked them so much he asked for them again the next week!  These are definitely worth a shot if you are craving a burger but want to stay on the healthy side.  Making sliders makes them even healthier (as long as you just eat one!) because it cuts down on the calories.  So here’s how you make them:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium white or yellow onion
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey breast
  • 1/4 cup part-skim ricotta
  • Garlic salt and pepper to taste
  • Slider sized whole wheat buns
  • Cheese slices
  • Burger toppings of your choice – we opted for spciy brown mustard and hot peppers
  1. Dice onion very finely
  2. In a large bowl combine onion, ricotta cheese, and turkey breast
  3. Form meat into 2.5-3 oz patties – I like to do like Rachael Ray and smush the center down so they don’t puff up too much
  4. Cook in  a cast-iron skillet over medium to medium-high heat until all patties have reached 160 degrees F
  5. Top each patty with a half slice of cheese, place on a bun and add your favorite toppings

These would be great with some sweet potato fries (baked, not fried) which I have yet to master.  If you have any sweet potato fry recipes please share them with me!  Since I have not yet mastered the sweet potato fries I served these with garlic smashed potatoes which were really good as well!

Black Bean Tacos

23 Oct

As you’ve probably already gathered, Karl and I like to eat a lot of beans!  They are delicious, filling, and a great substitute for meat in your dishes!  One such bean dish we tried a few months ago and loved is black bean tacos.  We love making black bean tacos for many reasons.  1 – they are delicious.  2 – they are cheap; a can of beans costs only $0.75 while a pound of ground beef is around $3.80.  3 – they are quick and easy; I can have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less.  They are so, so simple, and I promise if you try them you won’t miss the meat!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium white onion
  • 1 bell pepper (whatever color you choose – I like to use half of 2 different colored peppers)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes
  • 1 handful cilantro
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can chopped green chiles
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • flour tortillas
  • shredded lettuce
  • Mexican cheese
  • salsa

How to make it:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saute pan.
  2. Dice onion and begin sauteing.
  3. Dice peppers and add them to the pan; cook until onions and peppers begin to soften.
  4. Add beans, green chiles, and cilantro. Season with cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper.
  5. Slice tomatoes in half and add just before serving.  Cook until all ingredients are warmed through.
  6. Fill tortillas and top with cheese, lettuce, and salsa.
  7. Enjoy!  We usually eat these by themselves but they would also be great with some Mexican rice.

Chicken Chili Mac

18 Sep

Well, its official, fall is here on the east coast, and I don’t think we are going to warm up again for the rest of this year.  This is my favorite time of year because it means getting out cozy sweaters and sweatpants and a season full of comforting soups and stews.  Karl and I will probably make two big pots of chili a month.  Something that we started last year though was really counting our calories and measuring everything that we ate.  It was shocking to see how much you can overeat on a bowl of chili!  You may think that it is difficult to figure out how many calories are in a serving of a food that you prepare, but actually its pretty simple.  So, today’s post will be dedicated to teaching you how to count exactly how many calories go into your favorite dish!

I always start by weighing the pot I will be cooking in and recording this.  Next I start cooking!  For the chili I sauteed an onion and added my ground chicken.  As I have mentioned previously we are trying to cut down on the amount of red meat that we eat, so we wanted to try eating chili with chicken instead of ground beef.  I will just tell you up front that it was great!  You could not even tell there wasn’t ground beef in it.  I think I prefer the moistness of ground chicken to ground turkey, but if you are a turkey person feel free to substitute 1 lb of ground turkey instead.

After the chicken was cooked all the way through I drained the excess fat then added 2/3 can of tomato paste and a can of diced tomatoes with chopped green chiles and about a cup of water.  We do the spices the easy way and buy a seasoning packet!  After letting this simmer for about 20 minutes, I add the beans.  We both like a lot of beans so we usually use 3 cans – 1 of chili beans, 1 of dark red kidney beans, and 1 of light red kidney beans (both cans of kidney beans should be drained and rinsed).  I add these about 15-20 minutes before serving, but before I do, I make sure to do a sample to make sure the seasoning is ok!

While everything is simmering I write down the quantities of ingredients and calculate the total calories in the pot.  At the very end I weigh the whole pot.  Then I subtract the pot weight that I took initially to get the final weight of the food.  Then I just simply divide the total number of calories in the pot by the total number of ounces of the food – and voila!  If you try this method I think you will be really surprised at how much you should be eating versus what you actually eat.  It is really an eye opener, and a great way to keep yourself on a good fitness track.

At the end, you can serve your chili with your favorite toppings – crackers, cheese, onions, etc.  My favorite way to eat chili is as chili mac, on top of elbow macaroni.  Whatever you choose just be sure to also measure out your toppings!  I this recipe helps you enjoy a chilly autumn day just like it did for us!!

Chicken Chili Mac

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium white or yellow onion
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 2/3 small can tomato paste
  • 1 can (10 oz) diced tomatoes and and green chiles
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 packet Chili-O seasoning mix
  • 1 can chili beans
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • choice of toppings such as cheese, onions, elbow macaroni, crackers, etc.

Putting it together:

  1. Dice onion and saute until it just beings to soften.  Add chicken and season with  a bit of salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Once meat is cooked thoroughly, drain any excess fat or water.
  2. Add tomato paste, diced tomatoes, water, and seasoning mix.  Let simmer for 20-30 minutes so that flavors meld.
  3. About 15 minutes before serving add beans and let simmer.
  4. Serve with toppings of your choice and enjoy!

Overnight Oats

4 Sep

This morning I want to tell you about what I had for breakfast today (and eat about 99% of the time).  They’re called overnight oats.  I first learned about overnight oats from some other blogs that I read, and I have to admit that when I first read about people eating COLD oats, I thought they were nuts.  But I continued to see them popping up on blogs, and people said that they were so filling.  I decided to try them a few months ago, and the first time or two that I ate them I still wasn’t sure about them.  Karl would look at them and give me a look like what I was eating was disgusting.  He absolutely refused to try even a bite!  Sometime after I’d been eating them for a month I guess he figured that there must be something good about them for a rather picky eater like me to like them so much.  Just as it was for me, he was not sure about them the first morning, but now he swears by them.  It is a sad and hungry day for us if we do not make them, and that’s why I want to share them with you.  They are quick to make, and they fill you up so you start your busy day on the right foot!

You have a couple different options for making them.  The first is greek yogurt versus regular light yogurt.  At first I used vanilla greek yogurt, but I also eat a cup of greek yogurt at lunch time.  Since greek yogurt is so high in protein, I found I  was actually eating too much protein.  So, I decided to switch to Dannon Light and Fit yogurt instead.  Another plus of using the regular yogurt is that it tastes a little better so you don’t need to use any kind of sweetener for it.

The other option you have is for when to make them.  I know they are called overnight oats, and making them before bed is a great option.  But some nights you forget, and once you’re ready for bed you don’t want anything to stand between you and your pillow.  So, we have found that they are also really good if you make them when you first wake up in the morning and let them sit out for 1-2 hours.  This is personally my favorite way to eat them!

Making the oats is really simple and should take you 5 minutes or less!  We eat them the simple way with just oats, yogurt, a splash of milk, and topped with fresh fruit, but there are lots of people who add lots of other toppings like peanut butter, nuts, and chia seeds.  So feel free to experiment and make these your own!  Be sure to comment and let me know your favorite way to eat them!

Overnight Oats

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. (40 g) old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 c. (~112 g) yogurt in the flavor of your choice (vanilla works really well)
  • splash of milk
  • fresh fruit toppings of your choice

How to make it:

  1. Mix oats, yogurt, and milk together
  2. Place in refrigerator overnight or let sit covered for about 1-2 hours
  3. Top with your favorite fresh fruit or other toppings, stir, and enjoy!

Soup – no salad, no breadsticks

3 Sep

One of our favorite things places to go and eat for lunch is Olive Garden.  We always get the SSB – Soup, Salad, and Bread sticks.  But did you know that what seems to be a nice light meal can actually be loaded with calories,fat, sodium, and probably cholesterol?  Take the bread sticks – they have to be loaded with butter to taste that good and are at least 100 calories a piece!  And don’t let the salad fool you – they load that baby with cheese, and I think only super high fat and calorie dressing tastes THAT good.  The one good thing about the meal is that the soups are really hearty and not too bad for you.  I wanted to make one of them, the Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans – our favorite) even better though!

I utilized a couple recipes as very broad guides.  The first was Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meal recipe.  I also had a recipe that my mother-in-law had created in an attempt to recreate the OG dish a couple years ago.  Like I said, I wanted to make this dish a little healthier than it’s OG counterpart, so I started with ground chicken.  I honestly just discovered ground chicken in the grocery store last week, and I am in love.  From what I have tried, the ground chicken can be substituted for ground beef in almost any recipe, and it will taste just as good, if not better! So I browned the ground chicken with onion and garlic, then combined it with tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, shredded carrots, a few frozen peas, red and white beans, and pasta and seasonings.

Before adding pasta, beans, or peas

With everything combined in the pot

The beauty of this dish is that it tastes like its been simmering on the stove all day (and you can let it simmer all day if you want to!) but it can be made as a 30-minute meal if that’s all you have time for.

With September comes that awesome fall weather that always has me craving a big warm bowl of soup.  Hopefully wherever you are, when the heat subsides and that bowl of soup is calling you, you will try my Pollo, Pasta e Fagioli!  I promise you won’t know its healthier, and you may even think it beats its sister from OG!  Enjoy!

Pollo, Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground chicken
  • 1 medium white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 can (15 oz) tomato sauce
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes with juice drained
  • 3-4 cups chicken stock
  • 2-3 medium carrots, shredded
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2-3/4 box small whole grain pasta (if you can find it in whole grain I think ditallini works well, but we really liked elbows too)
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to make it:

  1. Dice onion and garlic and begin cooking in pot with about 1 tbsp. olive oil.  Add chicken and season with salt and pepper.   Break into small pieces and cook until browned.  Drain off any fat or water from onions.
  2. Add in cans of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken stock, and shredded carrots.  Season with red pepper, Italian seasoning, and bay leaves.  Let this simmer as long or as little as you want.  I let mine simmer for 10-15 minutes and it was delicious.
  3. Begin cooking pasta.  Since it will be going into a bunch of liquid in your soup, only cook it until it’s “al dente” so it will not get too soggy.
  4. About 5 minutes before serving add in peas, both cans of beans, and pasta.  Let this simmer until everything is heated all the way through.
  5. Top with freshly grated parmesan, or if you are on a tight budget, Grana Padano, cheese.
  6. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Confetti Chicken Pasta

23 Jul

Karl and I work at the same company, but we happen to be on opposite schedules.  Our company runs on a 9/80 schedule which means that we work 80 hours in 9 days instead of the usual 10 (40 hours per week).  The big benefit of this schedule is that you are off every other Friday.  The downside for us is that we have opposite schedules so if it is my Friday off, Karl is working and vice versa.

Since yesterday was my day off I wanted to make a really special lunch for Karl instead of our usual salad.  Just like Thursday night I kind of went through the kitchen and looked at what we had to make a new dish.  I knew that I would not be going anywhere – the temperature outside was something like 99 with a heat index of 116!  So first I thawed out a pound of chicken.  We used to eat chicken every day for dinner, but since we’ve been doing this “semi-vegetarian” thing chicken has not been getting much love!  Once thawed I cut it into small cubes.  While cutting I let some garlic and crushed red pepper simmer in some olive oil.  Then I tossed the chicken in and let it cook on medium-high heat.  It got seasoned with salt, black pepper, and a little onion powder.  Those are pretty much my go-to spices.

I decided that I wanted to make a pasta and chicken dish so I went to the cabinet to see what kind of pasta we had.  Turns out we had about 1/4 box of everything, but there were two boxes of elbows.  Perfect!  I threw the remainder of both boxes into boiling water seasoned with a little salt.

While the chicken and pasta were cooking I chopped up some veggies.  My picks were carrots, cucumber, and red bell pepper.  When the chicken was cooked all the way through I poured into a bowl.  I put another tbsp. of olive oil in the chicken pan and tossed in a BUNCH of spinach.  I just used what we had left in our container – probably 3 full handfuls.  Once that had cooked down a little I added the carrots, cucumber, and pepper.  I let that cook for about 5 minutes and in the meantime drained the pasta then tossed it in the bowl on top of the chicken.  Next I added a few handfuls of frozen peas and corn to the veggie pan.  Once those were heated through I poured the veggies on top of the pasta.  Add some fresh grated parmesan cheese then toss everything together.

Karl was really happy to come home to a hot meal!  He asked what I was going to call it.  I said Confetti Chicken Pasta because it looked like a party in a bowl.  He said I should call it something like Garbage Pasta because it literally was a bunch of leftover stuff that would otherwise just be tossed.  I think that Confetti Chicken Pasta is a much better name.

Oh, and it reheats really well.  I was really glad to find that out because I made a HUGE bowl of it.  I am actually munching on a bowl of it for lunch as I type.  So good!

I’m actually getting packed up to head back to my hometown for a conference Sunday-Thursday.  I am going to try to schedule another post to show up tomorrow or Monday, and I think I have convinced Karl to write a guest post!  I hope you all have a great weekend and a great week!

White Bean Pasta

12 Jul

Tonight I made a new meal that I was really excited to try:  White Bean Pasta.  It seems like a lot of the vegetarian dishes I come across are southwestern/mexican flavored (I guess because black beans are one of the first things people think of when they think about cutting meat), but tonight’s meal was a different story.  I don’t know what this dish would be classified as except fresh and tasty!

The thing that I love about cooking with beans is how quickly the meals come together.  With chicken or beef I would have to pull some meat out of the freezer and wait for it to defrost, and then it would seem to take forever to cook all the way through!  This meal came together in less than 20 minutes and was delicious.  We both had a hard time not helping ourselves to our leftovers!  And, you don’t miss the meat.  This was seriously so good… I’m getting hungry just writing about it!

White Bean Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 box of whole wheat pasta like penne, rotini, or elbows
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 cups broccoli crowns
  • 4 cups baby spinach (I am just guessing – I put in a lot because I knew it would wilt down)
  • 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and rained
  • 3 sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/3 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese

Putting it all together:

  • Boil pasta according to instructions on box – be sure to season the water with salt!
  • Once the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large pan and let the garlic and red pepper cook in the pan for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the broccoli and spinach into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.

    Spinach before...

  • Spinach with broccoli after

  • Add beans and sun-dried tomatoes and cook just a couple minutes to heat the beans.
  • Drain the pasta and pour into a large serving bowl.
  • Pour bean and broccoli mixture over the pasta.
  • Top with parmesan cheese and toss.
  • Enjoy!