Getting Back On Track

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What a weird week.

That is literally all I have to say about it. I was sick in the beginning and then busy towards the end. On top of that, the kitchen became empty too early for me to care about eating healthy. I got super off track this week and need to get back on it. I went to Trader Joe’s this afternoon and stocked up on groceries for the week–I AM READY!

I have a boat load of recipes I plan on making so get ready to read and head to your own store! I’m already making a few things ahead of time for the whole week. I plan on baking some chicken breasts tonight for a few dinners later this week that call for shredded and chopped chicken. I figure it will be much easier to have it ready to go on a week night than have to wait for it to cook the day of. You see? I’m getting the hang of this lifestyle!

After TJ’s, I came back and cleaned Luke’s entire apartment. I was just in one of those moods. I then baked a flourless chocolate cake. I know, I should stop making desserts if I want to eat healthier. But it’s seriously so hard. I’m trying out some recipes that are “healthier” and found this cake recipe through Weight Watchers. It was really easy to make and tastes amazing. You would never know that there isn’t flour and the texture is so rich and creamy, almost like a brownie. I ate my slice tonight with a few strawberries. That was smart…right?

For dinner, I made another take-out fake-out dish. My last version of beef and broccoli turned out so well that I was dying to try a different Chinese meal. Tonight, I chose sesame chicken with broccoli. This version is WAY healthier than any restaurant and tastes even better. I don’t really have anything to steam vegetables in at the moment so I threw my broccoli in a skillet and covered for a few minutes and it steamed pretty well. Just be careful not to burn it if you use my method. 

Tomorrow, look for a recipe for a cinnamon quinoa breakfast bake and whatever I decide to make for dinner!

 

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Lighter Sesame Chicken

by Iowa Girl Eats

serves 2

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup brown rice
1/4 cup honey
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 egg white
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 small chicken breasts (12oz), cut into 2″ pieces
salt & pepper
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
2 green onions, chopped
2 cups broccoli florets

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Prepare rice according to package directions. Meanwhile, combine honey, sesame seeds, soy sauce, and garlic together in a small bowl then set aside. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together egg white and cornstarch until smooth. Season chicken pieces with salt and pepper then add to egg white mixture and toss to evenly coat.
  2. In a small saucepan, steam broccoli until crisp tender then set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then carefully add chicken. Cook for 3-4 minutes a side, or until cooked through. Turn off heat and remove skillet from burner. Add prepared sauce and green onions then toss to combine. Stir in broccoli, then scoop mixture into bowls over cooked rice.

 

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Flourless Chocolate Cake

by Weight Watchers

serves 10 slices

INGREDIENTS:

4 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300 F. Grease an 8 inch round cake pan and dust with cocoa powder. If you want to ensure the cake comes out then cut a circle of parchment paper for the bottom and grease and dust with cocoa powder. Put chocolate and butter in a metal or glass bowl over a pan of simmering water or use a double boiler to melt the chocolate and butter. The second the chocolate melts, remove from heat. Stir in sugar, cocoa powder, eggs, and vanilla. Pour into pan and bake for 30 minutes. If removing from pan, let cool in pan for 10 minutes and turn out onto wire rack. Dust with powdered or granulated sugar if desired.

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Several Recipes To Make Up For Lost Time

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Wow, have I been busy. Or maybe I’ve just been too sick to realize where the time went? I’ve only been battling a cold sine Sunday night, but it feels like forever since I could breathe out of my nose. Luke has it too. We’re still not sure who got infected first, but he seems to have it worse than me. I feel kind of bad, because normally I’d be whipping up some soup to help us. However, I have been so exhausted from this thing that I’ve barely even made myself lunch this week.

I worked a long weekend which always seems to throw off the following week. And it definitely has. I haven’t gone grocery shopping for this week and it’s already Wednesday. I’m thinking I should just wait at this point. No sense in trying to squeeze in time after work when I can probably survive a few days longer. That being said, when I do go to the store I need to be prepared for a full out buy. Food is slim pickings in the apartment due to my lack of energy. (Luke, I’m apologizing for this torture although it doesn’t seem to be bothering you).

Being lazy on the cooking side means I’ve also been lazy on the blogging side. I have about four recipes to share with everyone so instead of making all separate posts, I’m just going to make one long one. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m honestly too tired to type. It’s only 9:30am…

Here starts the long (yet delicious!) list of recipes, from Luke’s kitchen to yours!

PS: A grocery trip means more meal planning, so stay tuned for next week 🙂

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Baked Pesto Chicken

adapted slightly from The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook

Ingredients: 
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and fresh ground black pepper for seasoning chicken
1/2 cup basil pesto
2 oz. (1/2 cup) grated low-fat mozzarella cheese

Instructions: 
Preheat oven to 375F. Trim all visible fat and tendons from chicken pieces, then cut each chicken breast lengthwise into 2 or 3 pieces.
Spray a 9″ x 12″ (or 8.5″ X 12.5″) baking dish with non-stick spray, then spread 1/4 cup basil pesto over the bottom of the dish. Lay chicken strips over the pesto, then spread 1/4 cup more basil pesto over the chicken.
Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil  and bake the chicken for 25-30 minutes, just until chicken is barely firm and cooked through.
When chicken is barely cooked through, remove foil and sprinkle chicken with 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese. Put dish back into the oven without foil and cook 10 minutes more, just until cheese is melted.Serve hot. There will be some flavorful juice in the bottom of the dish when this is done, so you may want to serve with rice, couscous, or quinoa to soak up the juice.
*I used the juice and poured it over our asparagus and then tossed the extra with some pasta for the man on the couch (who is not a veggie fan).
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Pork Loin with Pan Sauce
slightly adapted by Chef Mommy
Ingredients:
1⁄2 cups olive oil
1⁄3 cup soy sauce
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp parsley
2 tsp  grey poupon mustard
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1-lb. pork loin fillet (YOU CAN USE PORK TENDERLOIN but I found a pork loin fillet for $1 and it was AMAZING)Directions:
Combine all marinade ingredients and reserve 2-3 Tbsp. Place the pork loin and marinade in a Ziplock bag and let marinate for at least 3-4 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a hot skillet over medium-high heat, sear each side of loin for 2-3 minutes. Place in the oven and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the meat has reached 160 degrees. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.Pan Sauce:
Pan scrapings from pork loin
1/2 cup of chicken broth
2-3 tbsp of pork marinade (thoroughly mixed)
1-2 tsp butter

Meanwhile, place the skillet back on the stove over medium heat. Add the chicken broth and scrape up all the browned pieces from the bottom of the pan. Add the marinade and let it boil down for 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and remove from heat stirring until butter has melted. Pour over the pork tenderloin.

*I used a little bit of the leftover marinade to saute the asparagus in a pan over medium-high heat. SO GOOD.
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Shrimp Enchiladas Verde

Ingredients:

1 lb frozen cooked shrimp (cocktail shrimp are great for this!), defrosted

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

28 oz green enchilada sauce

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sour cream (reduced fat is fine)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 4-oz can diced fire roasted green chilies

8 oz shredded “Mexican Blend” cheese (or Monterey Jack)

12-14 corn tortillas ( I actually used whole wheat and they ended up a little soggy, but it was already a messy dish and still went well with a fork!)

fresh cilantro for serving

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roughly chop your cooked shrimp (I forgot this step on accident and they still turned out great!) and place in a large bowl with 1/4 cup enchilada sauce, cumin, chili powder, salt, cayenne pepper, diced green chilies and sour cream. Mix well until everything is well combined.

Pour about 2/3 cup enchilada sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan. Soften your corn tortillas by placing each in a hot skillet for about 10-20 seconds each side. Then, place about 1/4 cup shrimp filling into each hot tortilla along with a sprinkle of cheese. Roll up tortilla and place seam-side down in the pan. Repeat until you have used up all your shrimp filling. (You might have a few extra enchiladas that don’t fit—place them in a small pan).

Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the pan and sprinkle cheese on top. Cover with tin foil and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve with extra salsa, hot sauce and fresh cilantro.

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Oh, and here is a spicy shrimp pasta dish Luke made for me last week! I tried watching what he threw in the pan to blog about it, but he was moving too fast (mainly because I think he wanted it to be a secret) for me to catch it all! Just know that it was spicy. So spicy I drank milk with it. But it was amazingly good. I love cooking, but food always tastes better when someone else makes it for you 🙂
Photo by Allyson Grillo

Photo by Allyson Grillo

A Little Pizzaz On Pizza

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naan pizza--chicken spinach feta

Photo by Allyson Grillo

Pizza is probably one of the most versatile foods out there. I’m a big fan of foods like that. Sandwiches, pasta, pizza–all things that you can do just about anything you desire. I like my pizza hot, cold, on thin crust, on thick crust, with lots of meat or with lots of veggies. You really couldn’t go wrong with serving me a hunk of anything that has sauce and toppings on it. And cheese. Make sure you put lots of cheese on that hunk.

I stumbled upon this recipe for naan pizza a few weeks ago and have been dying to try it ever since. I knew of the concept, using flatbreads for a “healthier” version of pizza. I’m not sure about the healthy part. You’re still eating a crap ton of carbs, but whatever. Regardless, it is a little lighter and allows you to fill up more on the toppings (which is really the best part anyway).You could do this with pita bread too and still get similar results. I happen to have a weird obsession (discussed in my Valentine’s Day post) with naan though. It’s so good. My guess is they mix drugs in the batch. That’s how they get me to buy packages of it every time I’m at Schnuck’s (which is the winner so far on my naan excursions–if you know of other good naan buys, please do inform me!!)

This pizza is topped with tons of spinach, chicken and feta cheese to give you the perfect combo of flavors. Everything complimented each other and it was super filling! I ended up only eating half of mine and saved the other half for lunch (which was just as good as seconds!). I tried to save some energy and popped them in the toaster over to cook but next time I’ll go with the oven. I think I could get the bread a little crispier that way. Either way, this was really easy and really good. Now go make it. GO!

PS: Sam has officially started walking EVERYWHERE today. FINALLY! Now if only this weather would warm up so we can get those little legs a goin’! Until then, you can find me playing with toy cars and musical instruments 🙂

 

Photo by Allyson Grillo

Photo by Allyson Grillo

Chicken, Spinach & Feta Naan Pizza

from The New Abs Diet Cookbook

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp marinara sauce
1 large round pita or other flatbread
1/3 cup frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
3/4 cup chopped, precooked chicken breast
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Spread the marinara over the pita. Top with the spinach, feta cheese, and chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Bake a 375 F for 6 minutes.

(I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this. I cut the chicken into smaller cubes before cooking, then pan fried in a little bit of olive oil till finished. I sprinkled with some pepper for flavoring before adding chicken to the pizza.)

My New Love For Chinese

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I used to hate Chinese food. When I was a kid, we ordered take out a few times and the power went out. I think my brain made a bad association between the two and I was doomed for years. In college, my roommate and her boyfriend (now husband…yay!) ordered Chinese food for every Alabama football game. It was their little superstition for good luck. When her boyfriend graduated and went off to law school, I would order with her and we’d watch the game together. Suddenly, I loved Chinese food. And soon enough, I developed the crave.

The only problem with ordering take out is how awful I feel after I eat it. I have no idea what their putting into my food in that little shack joint. And I’m always a sucker for the fried foods. There has to be a way to indulge my new crave but still eat healthy, right? RIGHT! I bring to you, beef and broccoli. I used the crock pot for this one, cooking the strips of beef for about 5.5 hours in a marinade of soy sauce, garlic, sesame seed oil, beef broth and brown sugar. I threw fresh broccoli in after about 4.5 hours of the beef cooking and let everything cook together for another hour or so. Served over brown rice, this “take out, fake out” was absolutely delicious!

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Beef and Broccoli over Brown Rice

slightly adapted by Table for Two

Ingredients:

1 lb. boneless, beef chuck roast, sliced into thin strips

1 cup beef broth

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tbsp. sesame oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp. cornstarch

4 tbsp. sauce (from the crockpot after dish is cooked)

2-3 cups broccoli florets 

2 cups brown rice, cooked

Directions:

  1. In the insert of the crockpot, whisk together beef broth, soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, and garlic.
  2. Gently place your slices of beef in the liquid and toss to coat.
  3. Turn crockpot on low and cook for 6 hours***.
  4. When done, in a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and cooking liquid to create a slurry, pour into crockpot, stir to mix well. Add broccoli florets. Cook on low for an additional 30 minutes to an hour to thicken up the sauce.
  5. Serve hot over 1/4 cup of brown rice.

 

***TABLE FOR TWO NOTE:

Note about cooking time: Your crockpot may differ in temperature than mine, I suggest cooking this for 4 hours on your first go-round of this dish. 6 hours in the crockpot seems to be giving a lot of people “shredded” beef instead of slices, so decrease cooking time by 2 hours and go from there. Mine turned out fine with 6 hours.

Planning Ahead

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I’ve been thinking a lot about my future this past week. Who am I kidding, I’m ALWAYS thinking about the future. Luke always tells me to live in the now, which is something I’m trying to work on. It’s just so hard to not be a planner! I’ve always been one to have a plan and even a back-up one in case the first run around fails. This time, I have zero clue about anything. I don’t even know what I’m doing next week, yet alone in a year.

But that’s the beauty of life, right? To always be unexpected. I think it would be pretty boring if I pictured something going a certain route and things always turned out that way. Just looking back on the past year I would have never predicted ANY of the things that have happened. If you told me five years ago I should date Luke, I would have laughed in your face (don’t worry, we discussed this the other day). I also would have probably chuckled if you told me I’d be eating vegetables other than broccoli too. Sometimes things just happen and they end up being really great things.

While I am trying to focus on the now and be where I am and enjoy that (which I can honestly say I’m doing a much better job at thanks to this blog), I do believe there are a few things that should always be planned ahead. Meals, for example, are easier to make when you already have what you need and know what you’re making before hand. I have tried dieting and cooking healthier before and failed miserably every time because I wasn’t meal planning. It can be a total pain in the butt and can take some time, but I promise it’s worth it when you come home from a long day at work and can just whip together a delicious meal you’ve had all day to mouth-water over. That’s my favorite part of planning–I can think about whatever it is I’m going to make ALL DAY LONG and be excited to cook it when I get home.

Besides meal planning, I’ve also been trying to make meals that will last me throughout the week. Mainly, I’m referring to breakfast and lunch ideas, but you could make plenty of dinners for the entire week too. A friend of mine just told me she made the angel hair and zucchini pasta I blogged about a few weeks ago to have for dinner a few nights this week! It’s a simple and genius idea if you think about it, not to mention it saves you a ton of time and money.

Yesterday I made oatmeal breakfast cookies and chicken salad for breakfast and lunch throughout the week. I usually end up having leftovers with the dinners I’ve been making, but sometimes we run out (or Luke and the man on the couch eat them all!) and I’m forced to take a turkey sandwich instead. I love turkey, but sometimes I just get sick of eating it. I thought this chicken salad recipe would be the prefect cure for my Monday blues and boy was I right! It’s a sweeter salad but was so delicious between two pieces of honey wheat bread today (and was also tested with some crackers last night). Either way, this is a must make for any chicken salad lovers out there!

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Peanut Butter Banana Oat Cookies with Chocolate Chips

slightly adapted from Watching What I Eat

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed until smooth & creamy
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix mashed banana & peanut butter until completely combined then add in the applesauce and vanilla. Mix again until all are completely combined.

Add in the oatmeal and chocolate chips to banana mixture until combined. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Drop cookie dough, by spoonfuls, onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet & flatten cookies into circles. Bake cookies approx. 20-30 minutes (some like their cookies less cooked, some cooked more – try it both ways to find which works best for your tastes) or until golden brown & done.  Remove from oven & let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then move to cooling rack.

When cookies are completely cool, store in a covered container.

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Cranberry Apple Chicken Salad

by Ari’s Menu

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbs dijon mustard
  • pinch freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2 tbs finely minced rosemary
  • meat from 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 large gala apple, chopped
  • 1 tbs slivered almonds

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together yogurt, mustard, pepper and rosemary. Set aside.
  2. Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl, and lightly toss. Stir in dressing until well combined.
  3. Eat immediately, or store in refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Pesto, Schmesto

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PESTO MOZZARELLA GRILLED CHEESE.

Are you interested in continuing yet? 

Good.

Saturday was a relatively quiet day for me. I had the day off but had an early eye doctor appointment. I was about six months over-due for my checkup and desperately in need of new contacts. Thanks to my loving mother (I tend to blame her for my awful eyes), I lost a little more vision in my left eye, but nothing too serious. The good news is, I probably won’t be blind by the time I’m thirty (which a doctor told me once…we switched doctors not long after that). I went home to do some laundry and hang out with Bailey. That dog is the weirdest beagle I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, that is for sure. I ended my afternoon with the weekly grocery shopping! I planned a pretty good week (if I do say so myself) and am really excited to share the recipes with you all soon!

By the time Luke got off work, I knew he wouldn’t want to wait around for me to make a fancy shmancy meal. I opted for a grilled cheese, but with a little twist. I bought some mini ciabatta rolls for the bread (you could obviously use whatever type of bread you want…I just so happen to have a weird obsession with ciabatta ever since I discovered the Italian Combo at Panera Bread). Buying the smaller rolls allowed me to make two sandwiches for each of us which was plenty for dinner. I didn’t make a side, but if you end up with a smaller sandwich you could serve this with some veggies or chips on the side!

This sandwich was to die for. I mean, who doesn’t love stringy mozzarella smothered in pesto layered in between two crunchy pieces of bread that has been topped with butter and parmesan? Uh huh, no one. That’s what I thought. Luke even requested this again late last night as a “snack” and to my knowledge, ended up using the leftover cheese and pesto on a tortilla this morning with a fried egg. The endless possibilities of pesto!

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Pesto Grilled Cheese

slightly adapted from Two Peas & Their Pod

Ingredients:

2 slices ciabatta (or whatever bread you prefer)
1 tablespoon soft butter, for brushing the bread
2 slices reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.

2. Butter the outside of each slice of bread. Spread basil pesto on the inside of each slice of bread. Place the mozzarella cheese slices on top of one piece of bread. Top with the other slice of bread. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese on the outside of one side of the sandwich.

3. Place the sandwich, cheese side down, on the hot pan. Grill for 2 minutes or until Parmesan cheese is crusted and golden brown. Sprinkle the rest of the Parmesan cheese on the outside of the other side of the sandwich. Cook until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 2 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Twenty Three Years Later

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I remember being an extremely picky eater as a child. I used to go to this day-care type ordeal when I was probably 3 or 4 years old out by my grandma’s house. I would stay the night out there so she could take me in the morning and then I would come back and have lunch with her and spend the day there. EVERY SINGLE TIME I ate lunch there, I had PB&J on Rye bread with Cheetos. It never changed. And I’m sure it was because I refused to eat anything else.

Another famous meal of mine was chicken tenders (and macaroni and cheese). Any time we went out to a restaurant, even if it was Mexican or Chinese, I ordered chicken tenders. The worst part about my picky childhood habits was that I carried them with me all the way through high school and early college. I seriously only ate about ten foods. I hated most vegetables (though I’ve always loved fruit) and only ate chicken and hamburgers. I’m sure I would have developed my new pallet much earlier in life if I wasn’t so darn stubborn. I refused to even try foods up until two summers ago when I studied in Italy. I promised when I got there that I would eat everything offered to me (obviously I would have passed on drugs) in order to fully immerse myself in the Italian culture.

In order to enjoy a family sit down dinner, my dad created a dish that everyone could enjoy. At the time, I would only eat chicken, broccoli, and pasta. Why not throw them all together and make something good for all four of us? To this day, twenty-three years later, it’s still my favorite meal. It’s best when served with our garlic cheese bread, but I left that part out for health’s sake. I did throw in a couple breadsticks I found in the freezer though. I could eat this every day and be in heaven. It’s so simple but it’s been around my entire life. I remember eating this at least once a week growing up and I requested it every time I came home from college. Finally, I learned to make it myself for those days when I’m really craving it! I made my version this week and Luke and I both cleaned our bowls. This is my first family recipe I’ve shared on here and I hope you all enjoy it as much as we have!

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Photo by Allyson Grillo

Chicken Broccoli Pasta

by Allyson Grillo

Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes

2 cups broccoli

6 oz angel hair pasta 

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic

1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (depending on how much extra “juice” you want for your pasta)

pepper to taste

grated parmasen for serving

 

Directions:

Heat pan on medium-high, add olive oil. Add garlic and saute for about a minute or two. Add chicken and pepper to taste. Cook chicken until through then add broccoli and chicken broth. Cover and simmer on low for about ten minutes.

In the meantime, boil a pot of water and cook pasta accordingly. When al dente, drain pasta and serve in preferred dish. Top with the chicken and broccoli mixture and then top with grated parmesan cheese.