Category Archives: Dinner

What to Cook for the Hate-to Cook: Part Two

It’s been all hustle and bustle around here lately with all sorts of things going on.  In fact, last week, this “Hate-to Decorator” even made a serious dent in decorating her studio.  It’s looking good, if I do say so myself.  I’m feeling accomplished–and quite proud!  

Well, now it’s time for all of our Hate-to Cooks to feel just as accomplished with their dinner making abilities, and today, the George Foreman Grill comes to your rescue!  Yes, my tip for today comes with an endorsement of a kitchen appliance.  Yes, I need another kitchen appliance like I need a hole in my head, but this little gadget is great for the Hate-to Cook.  

My hubby bought this little gadget when he was living on his own right after high school.  Yes, my hubby is awesome sauce and he bought and managed a business at the age of eighteen.  The hubs was the perfect candidate for our Hate-to Cook series.  Working 18 hours a day at his shop, he had neither the time nor the desire to cook elaborate meals for himself.  Thankfully, my Hubs is also health conscious.  (He groans just seeing a McDonald’s commercial on TV–I love it!)  So, today’s advice comes less from me and more from my amazing husband.  Sorry, ladies, I’m keeping him for life!

Anyway, the George Foreman grill can be a great way to cook up a healthy and nutritious meal in no time flat.  Plus, this is a very inexpensive kitchen appliance.  The one that we have (perfect for one to two people), costs less than $20 on Amazon.  It doesn’t take up much space in your kitchen cabinets either.  

So, here’s what you do.  The night before work, while you’re packing your lunch for the next day (yes, I’m serious), or even in the morning before work (when you’re scrambling to put some food together for the day), grab a chicken breast or two out of the fridge and throw them in a gallon-size Ziploc bag.  Then grab some healthy salad dressing (I use Newman’s Own Lite salad dressing), or some low-sugar barbeque sauce (I use Stubb’s–lots of flavor, very low in calories, and comparatively low in sugar), and toss that in the bag.  Please don’t measure.  The extra sixty seconds just isn’t worth your time.  Just dump it in generously to coat the meat.  Then, squish up the bag, throw it back in the fridge, and get on with your day.  

Now, when you get home from work, get out your George Foreman grill, plug it in, and wait for it to heat up.  (Don’t worry, folks, it takes just a minute or two.)  Once your grill is ready, put the chicken breasts on and close the lid.  Now, some people complain that the ol’ GF dries our their meat.  Well, my trick is to let it sear well with the lid on.  Then, after a few minutes, I open the lid and just cook it on one side until it’s done.  I find that helps.  I also just keep an eye on it, slicing into the breast to check its doneness.  Really, it’s not too complicated, so don’t worry.  And, if you do happen to overcook the meat in your first attempt, just cook it for a shorter time next time.  No sweat.

While your chicken is cooking, you have a few minutes to make up the rest of your meal.  I like to serve my grilled chicken over a bed of salad greens.  I buy the prepackaged, pre-washed kind that I can just pull out of the container and dump onto a plate.  Slice up some other salad veggies to put on top as well.  My favorite salad toppings are avocados, feta cheese, olives, onions, and bell peppers, but use whatever you like.  Then, go watch the Olympics until your chicken is finished grilling.  Yep, it’s that easy.

When I lived on my own before I got married and worked full-time, this was a go-to meal for me.  It’s nice to cook up two chicken breasts even if you’re just cooking for yourself so that you can eat the second piece for the next day’s lunch or dinner.  You can even get creative with leftover rice and make a mexican bowl with black beans, brown rice, chicken, salsa, and a little bit of cheese.  

Oh!  I forgot to mention that clean up is a snap with the George Foreman grill.  (Because even this Love-to Cook hates cleaning up the kitchen afterward…in fact, I have to go tackle my sink full of dishes after I post this…ugh…)  After the grill has cooled a bit, put a wet paper towel on it and close the lid.  This will loosen anything that is stuck on the grill.  Then, just wipe it up after a few minutes, and you’re done!

Best wishes, Hate-to Cook.  I’ve got complete confidence in you!

What to Cook for the Hate-to Cook: Part One

I would have posted this blog last night, but this hate-to interior designer was painting!  Phew!  If people really hate to cook as much as I hate decorating, then you have all of my empathy today because cooking has to be done just about every single day!  Thankfully for me, painting does not!

Anyway, I’m back to my blog this morning with part one of my “What to Cook for the Hate-to Cook” series.  Today’s quick, easy, delicious, nutritious meal?  Frittatas!!

I absolutely love frittatas!  Just in case your forehead is all wrinkled up in a “What the heck is a frittata?” kind of way, let me explain.  A frittata is a bit like a crustless quiche.  You cook eggs and other ingredients it in a large frying pan on top of the stove and then finish it under the broiler or in the oven.  Then you slide it out onto a plate, cut it into pie-shaped pieces, and enjoy!

Here are a few reasons why the hate-to cook should love frittatas:

1.  They are a healthy choice!
I’m a huge fan of eggs and egg whites.  They are a go-to protein source for me since they are a complete protein.  And please don’t worry about all those cholesterol threats they try to scare you with.  Eating cholesterol does not give you high/bad cholesterol.  Processed, sugary foods will do that.  And those fats found in the egg yolk (you know, the ones that actually make the egg taste so creamy and delicious), those fats are good for you!  Again, not all saturated fat is bad for you either.  Eggs are relatively low in calories–about 75-80 per egg.  If I’m really looking for just a big source of protein and really low calories, I’ll make some egg whites.  Half a cup has about 60 calories and 12 grams of protein.

2.  You probably already have the ingredients on hand.
This is a huge victory for you, Ms. Hate-to Cook!  No shopping required!  If you’ve got some eggs in your fridge and maybe a few vegetables, meats, or leftovers, you can probably eek out a frittata with those ingredients!

3.  You don’t even have to measure the ingredients!
Come on.  Let’s be serious here.  I’m a love-to cook, and even I hate to measure things out in measuring cups.  Who has time?  I’d so much rather eyeball it.  I feel closer to Julia Child and other famous cooks and chefs when I do.  Granted, there are times when measuring is a necessity (i.e. I wouldn’t suggest eyeballing the flour for your chocolate chip cookies!), but when it comes to baking a frittata, it’s just not worth the time.


So let’s get started…
So how do you go about making a frittata?  Glad you asked!  I’m including my favorite frittata recipe below.  It’s from my Southern Living Cookbook (and is surprisingly not laden with fat and sour cream!).  It’s a great frittata to start with if you need a recipe for your first time.  However, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to whip up a frittata right now on the fly, I’ll help you with that too.

First, go through your fridge and decide what you might like to put in your frittata.  Pick out some veggies if you have them: bell peppers, onions, asparagus, and broccoli are all nice options, but anything will do.  If you have some meat, you might want to grab that, too.  I like using turkey sausage or bacon (the Hubs loves anything that includes bacon), but even deli meat could work.  Grab any miscellaneous, clean-out-the-fridge ingredients you have: even cold, leftover pasta could work, a can of beans from your pantry, or frozen/diced potatoes from your freezer.  Finally, grab some sort of dairy product.  Ideally plain greek yogurt or sour cream, but if you don’t have that, a bit of milk or cream could work, too.

Grab a large skillet (preferably a non-stick skillet) and set it on the stove to start heating up.  I use a 12-inch non-stick skillet for my frittatas, but occasionally I’ll use my 8-inch fry pan (not non-stick) too.  It depends on how big of a frittata you want and/or how many people you’re feeding.

Now, prep any ingredients that need a bit of prepping.  Chop the veggies, dice the meat into bite-size pieces (this will help them cook faster in the pan, too, if you’re starting with raw meat).

Once your pan is good and hot, throw in a little olive oil to heat up for a minute or so.  Once it slides easily over the bottom of the pan to coat it, throw in your raw meat (if using) and then your veggies.  Let the meat cook through (or nearly through) and the veggies soften a bit.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven or broiler.  My 12-inch skillet is not broiler proof, so I use my oven.  Plus, I’m not too skillful with my broiler anyway (i.e. I tend to set off the smoke alarm…).  I typically heat my oven to 350 degrees.

Grab your eggs and crack them into a big bowl.  I use 8-10 eggs generally because I like to make a big frittata.  Make it to the size of your pan, and enjoy any leftovers for breakfast or lunch for a few days.  Beat the eggs with a whisk.  Here’s where you can throw in your dairy products.  Adding a bit of greek yogurt or sour cream will help the eggs get nice and fluffy.  If you’re using milk or cream, I’d make sure to whip really well and get some air into the eggs.  Throw in some salt and pepper, taco seasoning, cumin, or whatever herb or spice you want into the eggs.  Heck, if you’ve got some fresh herbs on hand, throw those in.  (I would, but a bird flew onto my balcony and devoured my basil plant.  Does anyone have a pellet gun for sale?)

Once your meat/veggies are cooked, spread them out onto the bottom of the pan, turn down the heat to medium-low, and dump the egg mixture on top.  Let the eggs cook just like that for five minutes or so on the stove.  You want them to start to cook a bit so all you have to do is finish it in the oven.  Then, once it has cooked a bit, throw it under the broiler or in the oven to cook.  The one in my recipe below takes about 30 minutes to cook in the oven.  Yours might take less time if it is smaller or you are using the broiler.  Just keep an eye on it the first time to see how long it takes.  Once it’s puffy and the eggs are set, you’re good to go.  Top your frittata with a bit of cheese right at the end of cooking for an added punch.  Skip it if you’re watching your calories.

Now pull out your beautiful creation and slide it out onto a plate, cut it into pie-shaped pieces and save with a green salad!  You can also top it with salsa, more greek yogurt, green chili sauce, etc.  It’s okay, Ms. Hate-to Cook.  You can hate cooking while enjoying a tiny bit of creativity at the end here.  😉

Let me know how your frittata creation goes!  Best of luck, Ms. Hate-to Cook.  I know you can do it!

Avocado-and-Black Bean Frittata
(from The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 large avocados, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
10 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese
Toppings: avocado slices, plum tomato slices, sour cream
Chunky salsa (optional)

Saute onion in hot oil in a 12-inch oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes or until tender.  Remove from heat; sprinkle top evenly with chopped avocados and beans.

Whisk together eggs and next 4 ingredients; pour over avocado mixture in skillet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes; sprinkle top evenly with cheese, and bake 5 more minutes.  Remove from oven, and let stand 5 minutes before serving.  Serve with desired toppings and, if desired, with salsa.  Yield: 6 servings.

Grill Time!

It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged, but that doesn’t mean the cooking of healthy, delicious meals has stopped!  In fact, my husband and I are particularly excited about a little (or maybe not so little) Memorial Day purchase–we bought a grill!  I don’t know who’s more excited about it, but we’re definitely both in enjoyment!

I love grilling for a number of reasons.  First, my husband is the “griller” in the family.  When I asked him if he would teach me, I received a flat out, “No.”  When I responded, “But what if I want to have a nice grilled meal ready and waiting for you when you get home?” he answered, “I’ll grill it when I get home.”  Fair enough.  🙂  So, reason number one for loving grilling is, I sort of get a break from cooking since all I do is make the sides.  My husband wouldn’t even dream of making sides, but that’s no problemo for me.  Plus, we are essentially cooking together, so that is fun, too.

The second reason I love grilling is for the clean up…or lack thereof!  Seriously, on grill nights, I am in and out of the kitchen cleaning up in no time it seems.  I love it!  After all, once you’ve planned the meal, shopped for the meal, cooked the meal, and eaten the meal, who feels like cleaning up the meal?  Not me.

The third reason I love grilling is for the health factor.  I know, I know.  There are lots of people worried about carcinogens getting into their food by grilling, but I’m not too worried about that one.  For additional information about carcinogens from grilling and why I’m not worried, take a look at this article here: http://nutritiondiva.quickanddirtytips.com/does-grilled-meat-cause-cancer.aspx  Grilling is a great, low-calorie option for preparing food.  Want to add tons of flavor to your food sans calories?  Your grill to the rescue!

Grilled meals can be prepared in a snap, and grilling works great whether you’re preparing a meal for one or twenty-one.  When I lived on my own, I would often throw a piece of chicken breast in a ziploc bag with a bit of light balsamic vinaigrette in the morning before work.  Then, I’d come home and throw it on my George Foreman, for an easy meal in no time at all.  Barbecue sauces work well for this, too.  Just watch out for all of those sauces that are so high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  Yuck.  I like to use Stubb’s spicy BBQ sauce since it’s not so sweet.

So, that being said, here is a fantastic recipe for pork tenderloin that we tried recently.  I must say, my hubs grilled it to perfection!  I served it with a wild rice pilaf and a fresh spinach salad with herbs, olive oil, and red wine vinegar.  Yum!

Happy Grill Time to You!

Herb-marinated Loin of Pork
(Taken from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients by Ina Garten–I love her!!)

 Grated zest of 1 lemon
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 to 6 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil, plus extra for brushing the grill
2 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Kosher salt
3 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each)
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, thyme, mustard, and 2 teaspoons salt in a sturdy 1-gallon resealable plastic bag.  Add the pork tenderloins and turn to coat with the marinade.  Squeeze out the air and seal the bag.  Marinate the pork in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, build a charcoal fire or heat a gas grill.  Brush the cooking grate with oil to prevent the pork from sticking.  Remove the tenderloins from the marinade and discard the marinade but leave the herbs that cling to the meat.  Sprinkle the tenderloins generously with salt and pepper.  Grill the tenderloins, turning a few times to brown on all sides, for 15 to 25 minutes (depending on the heat of the coals) until the meat registers 137 degrees at the thickest part.  Transfer the tenderloins to a platter and cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Carve in 1/2-inch-thick diagonal slices.  The thickest part of the tenderloin will be quite pink (it’s just fine!) and the thinnest part will be well done.  Season with salt and pepper and serve warm, or at room temperature with the juices that collect in the platter.

A few notes from me: I was only feeding four people, so I just made two pork tenderloins and still had some leftovers.  I used the juice of 4 lemons and 4 cloves of garlic but kept the rest of the recipe about the same.  I never measure my fresh herbs (and yes, please use fresh!).  I just eyeball it and toss them in.  You can’t really mess it up, especially if you love fresh herbs like I do.  Additionally, I marinated the loins at around 7:30 in the morning, and turned the bag over a few times throughout the day to evenly coat the meat.  It was still plenty flavorful even though I didn’t marinate it overnight.

Late Night Dinners and Moroccan Tagine

I’ve had a couple of clients come to me with questions about eating dinner late at night.  Due to various, crazy schedules or busy evenings with kids, they don’t get a chance to eat dinner until 8 or 9:00 at night.  Some have sworn off eating at that time of night.  Others find themselves famished by that point, but then feel guilty about the size or contents of their meal.

I find myself in the “late night dinner” boat several times a week as well.  Often, I’m not finished teaching music lessons until 8:00, then wrap up my notes before heading home.  What’s a person to do when they haven’t had dinner?

One of my first suggestions is to not let yourself get too hungry.  I know I will almost always overeat if I’m starving.  I’ll reach for carbohydrates or fattening foods for their satiety.  So, I try to keep a snack on hand for the late afternoon/early evening (i.e. some almonds or a protein bar or Larabar).  I don’t always get a chance to eat it, but usually I can squeeze in a minute or two for it.

Another suggestion that goes along with the first is to have your dinner for lunch.  Often times, dinner is our biggest meal of the day.  If we don’t have it, we miss it.  For me, I tend to have more time for lunch than dinner since I’m in between jobs at this point in the day.  If I was planning on having some leftovers or some soup for dinner, I’ll grab that for lunch instead.

If it does get to be pretty late before I’ve had anything substantial, I try to stick with a protein rich dinner.  In my opinion, there may be something to the whole concept of carb cycling (basically, eating more carbs first thing in the morning and transitioning to protein through the day).  Think about it, we need energy for all the activities of our day upon rising in the morning.  Where can we get lots of “energy?”  Carbohydrates.  Then, as we head closer and closer to bed time, we need to think about rebuilding and repairing our bodies (particularly, if you are exercising).  What do our bodies use for rebuilding?  Protein.

Sometimes, I’ll just have a protein shake for dinner if it’s late by the time I get around to it.  Other times, something like an egg white omelet makes a good choice or some chicken with vegetables.  I’m not saying you need to swear off any carbohydrates after 5:00 p.m., but try to emphasize protein as you head closer to bed.  Then, once you’ve had your dinner, stop worry about it!  If you are truly hungry, there is certainly nothing wrong with eating.

Here’s an example of a good, protein concentrated dinner.  I made this last night with intentions of eating lots of leftovers this week.  Notice, my meal is not completely devoid of carbs.  After all, even vegetables are technically carbohydrates, and, well, I just like carbs.  Meals feel more like meals if they include them.  However, these are good, complex carbohydrates which my body will break down slowly into nutrients I need.

This recipe is entitled “Chicken Tagine” and is taken from Cooking Light’s Fresh Food Fast cookbook.  I made several changes to the recipe.  It is very forgiving.  I think somewhere along the way I started thinking Mediterranean rather than Moroccan, so I diverged from the recipe a little bit.  All in all, it was delicious, nutritious, and a snap to prepare.  Welcome, Tuesday through Thursday, you busiest days of my week.  I’ve got fuel ready to reheat!

Ingredients

8 (3-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt-free Moroccan spice blend (such as The Spice Hunter)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 (16-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion, undrained
3/4 cup uncooked couscous
Plain fat-free yogurt (optional)
Chopped fresh mint (optional)

A note about the ingredient list.  First of all, I couldn’t find that moroccan spice blend in my grocery store.  I didn’t feel like hunting around at different stores for it, so I just used a salt-free garlic and herb spice blend I had in my pantry.  It worked just fine.  Maybe my recipe turned out less Moroccan-y, but it was still tasty.  Also, I never both to measure out the salt and pepper.  I just give the chicken a light coating and move on (the same with the spice blend as well).  I have great blood pressure, I sweat a lot in my workouts, and I’m not a huge salt on my food kind of person, so I don’t worry about it.  If you need to watch your sodium intake, by all means, measure the salt to make sure you’re not overdoing it!

My pack of chicken thighs only had six thighs in it (not eight).  Don’t bother buying two packs unless you’ve simply got that many mouths to feed.  The recipe works great with six.  Also, I used plain diced tomatoes instead of the garlic and onion variety.  I thought about substituting with another variety of diced tomatoes, but I noticed all of those kinds included ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and other artificial ingredients.  My recipe wasn’t lacking any flavor with the plain jane tomatoes, and the recipe was healthier as a result. Since I was thinking more Mediterranean the more I cooked, I through in some capers as well.  Yum!  I love anything olive-esque.

Additionally, don’t skip the yogurt or the mint!  The mint adds another fantastic (and healthy!) dimension of flavor to the dish (Thank you, fresh herbs, for all your flavor with all the health benefits and none of the calories!).  I used nonfat, plain greek yogurt.  It is so rich and creamy, you’ll think it’s sour cream!

Here is the box of couscous I used:

 This stuff looks so good for you!  I mean, organic brown rice, gluten free, mediterranean curry!  Wow!  But is it really?  Remember, even if you buy something in the health food aisle, the front side of any box is all marketing.  The back of the box is where we find all the nutritional information.  Let’s take a look:
Yep, I can pronounce all those things!  Note, dried cane syrup is sugar, and it is the fourth ingredient.  Not the best thing to see on the back of the box, but there’s only one total gram in a serving.  Not too bad at all.  Citric acid and natural flavor aren’t what you want to see on the back of the box, but they are pretty far down on the ingredient list, and something I’ve chosen not to worry about for the time being.

Okay, moving on from ingredients.  Let’s get cooking.

1.  Sprinkle both sides of the chicken evenly with spice blend, salt, and pepper.  Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add chicken.  Cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until browned.  Add chickpeas and tomatoes; bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes or until chicken is done.
2.  While chicken simmers, cook couscous according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  Serve chicken thighs and vegetable mixture over couscous.  Top with yogurt and mint, if desired.  Yield: 4 servings (2 chicken thighs, 2/3 cup vegetables, and about 3/4 cup couscous).

Here are my chicken thighs, prepped and ready for cooking.  I pulled off some of the fat from the meal before cooking, but I leave a lot of it on for some extra flavor (read: satiety!) in the dish.

And here are the little guys cooking away after I added the chickpeas and tomatoes.  Note, don’t keep flipping them over and over while they cook.  After they’ve browned on one side, flip them and leave them until they’re done.

While everything’s cooking, I made (and ate!) a big salad.  This is definitely a great way to control your eating if you’re particularly hungry.  That big salad is low on calories and fills you up.  I think mine had spinach, red onion, tomatoes, red pepper, cucumbers, and feta cheese.  Yes, I put cheese on my salad.  Feta is very low in calories as far as cheeses go, and I absolutely love it.  A little bit of that stuff on top, and I will eat lots and lots of salad!

When the chicken is cooked, plate it and serve.  I always try to make an attractive looking plate.  You will be more satisfied by your meal if it satisfies your eyes as well as your taste buds.  Enjoy!

Make Your Own “Pam” & Salmon Salad

I wanted to share with all of you my new discovery in my quest for better health–the Misto!!  I received two of these as a Christmas gift from my fantastic neighbors this year, and I’ve gotta tell ya, I am loving them!  Basically, the Misto is a small canister into which you can pour oil or vinegar.  Then you pump the can and it makes a very nice spray, much like any cooking spray that you can buy at the grocery store.  My problem with store bought cooking spray is all the junk they have to put in the can just so it will spray.  Odds are good, we probably shouldn’t be consuming things like phosphated mono- and diglycerides and dimethyl silicone (yes, I’m reading right off the can here!).  Remember, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it!

Not only is the Misto a perfect solution to healthy cooking spray, but it is great for dressing salad, too.  I have one Misto filled with extra virgin olive oil and another filled with balsamic vinegar.  I few spritzes of each on my salad, and I’ve got a very healthy, low calorie dressing!

Mistos cost about $10 each, and you can purchase one of your very own here: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=11318517

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted a recipe in my blog, so here’s my recipe for tonight’s dinner.  I love salmon, and I love that this meal makes perfect lunchtime or quick dinner leftovers.  Even better, it’s a snap to prepare.  Serve it with a green salad, and you’ve got a delicious, healthy dinner in no time at all.  Enjoy!

Salmon, Asparagus, and Orzo Salad with Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette
taken from Cooking Light’s Fresh Food Fast Cookbook

6 cups water
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 cup uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta) (I use whole wheat!)
1 (1 1/4-pound) skinless salmon fillet
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Cooking Spray (Insert Misto here!!)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette

1.  Preheat broiler.
2.  Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add asparagus; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Remove asparagus from water with tongs or a slotted spoon, reserving water in pan.  Plunge asparagus into ice water; drain and set aside.
3.  Return reserved water to a boil.  Add orzo, and cook according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.
4.   While orzo cooks, sprinkle fillet evenly with salt and pepper.  Place fish on a foil-lined broiler pan coated with cooking spray.  Broil 5 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness.  Using 2 forks, break fish into large chunks.  Combine fish, orzo, asparagus, onion, and Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette in a large bowl; toss gently to coat.

Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette

1/3 cup (1.3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1.  Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Yield: 1/3 cup.

Chicken Soup & Chicken Dinner

Around this time of year, I just can’t help but think about comfort food–foods that warm you from the inside out.  I read novels about food; I read my cookbooks; I scour the internet for new recipes to try.  I’m also a firm believer that comfort foods don’t need to be unhealthy.  In fact, they can be some of the healthiest recipes of all.  I’d like to share two recipes that I’ve made in the past few days.  One is a delicious Chicken Tortilla Soup (special thanks to my mother-in-law for this fantastic recipe) as well as an easy weeknight chicken dish taken from Cooking Light’s Fresh Food Fast cookbook.  Both recipes are fast, healthy and yummy!

Please note, the Smothered Green Chili Pepper Chicken recipe calls for reduced-sodium taco seasoning.  I am definitely not a fan of those little packets of taco seasoning mix.  They are loaded with unhealthy ingredients like sugar and MSG.  Instead, I make my own taco seasoning with ingredients I always have on hand in my spice cabinet.  You can mix it up in just a minute or two and save your dinner from the perils of those little packets!  This is the recipe I use: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/taco-seasoning-i/detail.aspx  Just a note, if you’re using it for making tacos or burritos, you may want to add a few tablespoons of water to your meat with the spices.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 t. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. chili powder
1/2 t. ground cumin
1 T. lime juice
2 cans (14 oz.) chicken broth
1 cup of salsa
1 cup frozen corn
1 can black beans or hominy

Cut chicken into bite size pieces (thin)
Heat oil and brown chicken.
Add onion, spices, and lime juice.

Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes

Ladle soup and serve with tortilla chips and avocado slices.

*Control the spiciness of the soup by your choice of salsa.

Note: I don’t measure the onion.  I just use one medium onion and chop the whole thing up.  I use the whole pack of chicken breasts instead of just two.  My husband never seems to mind when I cook with more meat.  🙂  Also, I serve the soup with a dollop of plain, greek yogurt and grated sharp cheddar cheese in lieu of the tortilla chips.  Sometimes I sprinkle it with fresh cilantro and add the avocado slices on top, too.

Smothered Green Chili Pepper Chicken

8 (3-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about 1/2 lime)
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium taco seasoning
8 canned whole green chiles, drained
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.  Arrange chicken in an 8-inch square baking dish; squeeze lime juice evenly over chicken.  Sprinkle evenly with taco seasoning.
3.  Slice chiles lengthwise, cutting to, but not through, other side; open flat.  Place 1 chile over each chicken thigh.  Cover dish with foil; bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle cheese evenly over chiles and chicken; bake, uncovered, an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts.  Yield: 4 servings.

Note: Every pack of chicken thighs I’ve ever seen only has six thighs.  Every can of whole green chiles I’ve ever bought has three peppers in it.  So, one packet of thighs and two cans of chiles gives you three servings.  Just something to keep in mind if you’re feeding more than that!  Also, this is a great meal to make when you’ve got other things to do.  Throw the chicken in, do the laundry or even do a quick workout.  Then, in the last five minutes of cooking, while the cheese is melting, make a quick salad to serve with the chicken.

 

Beating the Cravings & Citrus Chicken Tagine

I found this interesting video blog yesterday about healthy options to choose when you’ve got the “munchies” or a craving for an unhealthy food.  I thought Ben Greenfield had some pretty interesting advice for his listeners, so I’m sharing it with all of you.  (I have no idea why this guy isn’t wearing a shirt for the video, by the way, but apparently he’s feeling plenty comfortable bumming around his house.)  Ben is a personal trainer and Ironman triathlete.  His site and podcasts are very knowledgeable for both the novice and expert athlete.

http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2011/05/5-ways-to-suppress-your-appetite-without-taking-any-special-pills-or-capsules/

On another note, I wanted to share a nice, Fall weekend recipe with all of you.  I just love making soups and stews at this time of year.  I love the spices and vegetables of Fall.  They are quintessential comfort foods for me.  But who says comfort foods have to be unhealthy?  I found this recipe in Kathleen MacNeil’s cookbook Wine, Food & Friends.  It is a little more time consuming than your average weeknight meal, so I recommend it as a great go-to for the weekend so you’ll have delicious weekday leftovers to enjoy later.  But, if you’re like Matthew and me, you may not have any leftovers at all!  🙂

Citrus Chicken Tagine

1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup chopped orange sections (about 1 orange)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons sliced pitted kalamata olives
1 tablespoon chopped lemon sections (about 1/2 lemon)
2 1/2 cups hot cooked couscous
Flat-leaf parsley springs (optional)

1.  Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add chicken and next 6 ingredients, and cook for 12 minutes.  Stir in broth, juice, salt, and black pepper.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes.

2.  Remove chicken mixture from heat; stir in orange and next 4 ingredients.  Serve over couscous; garnish with parsley, if desired.  Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup chicken mixture and 2/3 cup couscous).

I think I used a whole lemon instead of half a lemon because I absolutely LOVE lemons.  And, like I said, the recipe claims to make 4 servings, but I believe we polished it off with one bowl for Stacey and three bowls for Matthew.  Must’ve been good.  😉  Enjoy!