Monthly Archives: February 2012

Cider Chicken with Apples and Thyme and Honey Roasted Carrots

There are not enough hours in the day, or at least days in the week. Being healthy means not just eating right but moving regularly and also getting enough sleep. During the week, I find myself working very full and usually long days then hitting the gym and by the time I get home it’s about 7:00 pm. That means a late dinner so I’m not even feeling ready for bed until 10:00 pm and then I’ve just completely screwed myself out of 8 hours of sleep.
This sort of schedule leaves no room for stopping at the grocery store or running any other errands after work. So I tend to clump all of my errands into one big to-do list for my weekends, to accomplish after my morning workout of course. Then either Saturday or Sunday night I turn my kitchen into a studio and make a new webisode for you, my dear readers. I have almost forgotten what a moment of relaxation feels like.
What’s a girl to do? What do I trim out? Can’t trim out work, that’s a given. Can’t trim out the gym, it’s become a non-negotiable must for me not just physically but mentally. Ugh.
Maybe I need to redefine what relaxation is to me. These little moments of bliss don’t have to happen nestled in my arm chair, under a blanket, dog on my lap, watching a great movie with a glass of wine in hand. Ok, that sounds pretty damn good. Where was I going?
Oh yes, recognizing bliss. Sometimes things like shopping can be relaxing, I find that there are definitely benefits to retail therapy depending on what I’m shopping for. Maybe I need to add one item to my weekend to-do list each week that will give me an opportunity to find some relaxation.
And in the meantime I will pick up a lottery ticket.
Tip of the Week:
Stay Hydrated
It is so important to keep your body hydrated, whether you’re trying to lose weight or not. It makes up 50-60% of our bodies, regulates body temperature, helps our breathing, transports nutrients, carries away waste, and helps our muscles function. For weight loss, study after study has shown that the more hydrated you are, the quicker your metabolism works and water also helps you feel fuller which helps with appetite control.
Before I started my journey, I was very guilty of not drinking enough water. I drank coffee in the morning, the occasional diet drink with lunch, and that was pretty much it. I didn’t like water and so I didn’t drink it.
Today, I drink at least 64 oz. of water each day, usually more, but it took time and effort to get here. I started by investing in and carrying around a 27 oz. water bottle to which I added Crystal Light flavor packets. I made a daily goal of emptying that water bottle twice before I could leave the office. At home, I kept a gallon-sized pitcher of water in the fridge that I squeezed one lime or one lemon into so when I had dinner at night, or was home on the weekends, I would drink from that. This is where I started.
I slowly weaned myself off of the Crystal Light packets in my water bottle and the lemon or lime juice in the pitcher at home. That may sound like it happened overnight, but it was really more like months that I gradually made that transition. Today, I only have plain water in my water bottle and pitcher at home. I appreciate the cool, clean flavor of water and crave it regularly.
Recipe of the Week:
Cider Chicken with Apples and Thyme
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • 10 fresh white pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 2 slices turkey bacon, diced
  • 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup hard apple cider (should be at least 6% alcohol)
  • 1 firm apple, chopped (like a granny smith or golden delicious)

Heat a skillet over medium heat and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Sear the tenderloins about 1-2 minutes on each side until cooked on the outside but still slightly pink on the inside. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the pearl onions and turkey bacon to the pan and cook until the onions are tender and the bacon is crisped. Add the salt, pepper, thyme and hard cider. Use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up the crusty bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken back to the pan and add in the apple. Mix well to coat everything and cook about 5 more minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the apples are slightly tender. Be careful not to overcook the apples!

Serve immediately.

Serving Size: Makes 2 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 196.9, Total Fat 2.3g, Cholesterol 41.7mg, Sodium 596.0mg, Total Carbs 19.9g, Dietary Fiber 2.0g, Protein 25.3g
Honey Roasted Carrots
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 lb raw carrots, halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seed
  • 2 tbsp chopped, unsalted pecans

Preheat oven to 350.

Use a small skillet that can go from stove-top to oven, such as a cast iron skillet. Heat on medium-low on the stove and add the honey and vinegar. Mix well and cook for about 3-5 minutes until the mixture reduces down and becomes a dark amber in color.

Remove from heat and stir in the carrots, onion, thyme and cumin seed, mixing well to coat everything with the honey mixture. Sprinkle the pecans over the top. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Serving Size: Makes 2 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 165.6, Total Fat 5.3g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 79.5mg, Total Carbs 30.4g, Dietary Fiber 4.2g, Protein 2.0g

Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew

Getting old sucks.
I am watching my grandmother age — she’ll be 92 this year — and I find myself thinking this dreadful thought more and more recently. Getting old really sucks.I have so many great memories of my grandmother playing on the beach, mucking in the cow barn in seemingly giant rubber boots, playing paper dolls with me, singing along as I played the piano, baking in the kitchen, riding horses on my grandparents vast ranch, brushing my hair after a bath, tucking me into bed at night. What is scaring me right now is the complete reversal in our roles. I suddenly find myself the adult and her the child and I can’t fathom how we ended up here.

My Nana, as I fondly call her, is in great physical health, but her mental health has been declining at an increasingly alarming rate. Some days she’s great, others she can’t remember things that happened five minutes ago. On these days there seems to be a fear that grips her and she reacts by becoming this incredibly mean person that I have never known before. It takes an inordinate amount of patience to talk her through these episodes and bring her to a place where she is once again the Nana that I know. As much as I hate to say it, I feel like I’m trying to reason with a toddler in these moments. While we can reach a satisfactory conclusion in that moment, the result is short-term; it’s quickly forgotten and within a couple of days we are once again having the exact same conversation. It’s an unending case of senior deja vu.
And so I find myself wishing that I never get that old. Is that terrible? Given the family genetics evidently on display, and my superior memory, I just know that I am inevitably destined for the same fate. That thought frightens me like you wouldn’t believe. How terrible to suddenly can’t remember something from one thing to the next, to think that your children are stealing from you, to believe that your family doesn’t love you. I’m not sure I would want to live in a world like that.
Of course, with dementia comes the euthanization of self-awareness. So if — or when — this happens to me chances are I wouldn’t know. And maybe that would make it okay. After all, ignorance is bliss, right?
I don’t know what the answer is. All I can do in this moment is cherish my Nana as much as I can while I am still blessed to have her in my life. In the meantime I will tell my children now how much I adore them and apologize in advance for the crazy rants that are sure to come. And of course entertain myself in the kitchen while I still have the capacity and desire to do so.
Slowcooker Italian Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew

  • 1 lb. bulk spicy Italian chicken sausage, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 cans (3 cups) great northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 cups salt free chicken broth
  • 1 cup full-bodied, dry red wine (preferably Italian)
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (omit if using a store bought chicken broth)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Combine the chicken sausage, beans, carrots, onion, garlic, tomato paste, herbs, broth, wine, and salt in the slowcooker and stir well. Add the bay leaf, submerging in the liquid. Cover and cook on low for a minimum of 6-8 hours. Serve with each bowl topped with 1 tbsp of chopped fresh Italian parsley.

Serving Size: Makes 6, 1.5 cup servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 287.5, Total Fat 3.9g, Cholesterol 58.7mg, Sodium 1139.6mg, Total Carbs 34.8g, Dietary Fiber 9.6g, Protein 25.4g
Tip of the Week:
Reward yourself.
This might sound silly. After all, watching that number on the scale going down week after week, fitting into a smaller clothing size, having more energy, and being able to do more things are all their own best reward. But with achieving a goal, I recommend a real, tangible reward as well.
I’ve talked before about setting goals, both long term — the championship, or Super Bowl, if you will — and short term — the games you need to win you to that championship. You should also be setting rewards for yourself. How will you celebrate your success as you accomplish these wins?
Rewards can vary widely as they really depend on you and what you find valuable. For me, I rewarded my milestones with a new pair of shoes, a nice purse, or a neat new gadget for my kitchen. When I achieved my end goal, I cashed in some miles and took myself on a dream vacation to Paris. You need to find what is meaningful to you.
My point is that you have worked hard to achieve a healthy lifestyle, and you should be rewarding your hard work along the way. After all, you deserve it!

Chicken Soft Tacos with a Creamy Salsa Verde Sauce and Avocado Fruit Salad

This past week has been unseasonably sunny in my neck of the woods. There is still that desperate wintry bite of cold in the air, but the magnificently bright blue of the sky has been beckoning me out of my dark winter doldrums with a much needed dose of Vitamin D. I love to sit outside, bundled in my down jacket, tilt my face up to the sun and feel it’s warm rays penetrating my skin. Almost heaven.
Of course, that’s when I have a bit of downtime to enjoy the sun. Right now I find myself sneaking outside on breaks during my busy days, grabbing a few precious moments of light, then hurrying back inside to reality. I think it’s important to find those moments, though, seek them out and enjoy them. It keeps me sane in the otherwise insane moments of work, home, and family activities. And sanity is not to be under-rated!
And so this week I offer you a bit of sunshine in the kitchen with some south of the border inspired fare.
Chicken Soft Tacos with a Creamy Salsa Verde Sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • 4 small (50 cal.) La Tortilla Factory Low Carb, High Fiber Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
  • 1 roma tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup lettuce, shredded
  • 1/2 cup Sargento reduced-fat mexican blend shredded cheese
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tbsp green salsa

Preheat the oven to 400.

Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, cumin, salt and garlic. Pour into a resealable plastic bag with the chicken tenderloins, seal and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and put in the oven for 5-10 minutes until heated through.

Stir together the sour cream and salsa.

Cook the marinated chicken in a grill pan about 2-3 minutes on each side until cooked through. Assemble the tacos by placing 1 chicken tenderloin in the center of each tortilla. Top each with 1/4 of the cheese, 1/4 of the lettuce, and 1/4 of the tomato. Drizzle with the salsa verde/sour cream salsa and sprinkle a bit of the fresh cilantro on top. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Serving Size: Makes 4 soft tacos, 2 per person

Nutritional Information: Calories 348.8, Total Fat 16.5g, Cholesterol 46.7mg, Sodium 1211.3mg, Total Carbs 25.7g, Dietary Fiber 14.6g, Protein 39.2g

(Note that I have halved the nutritional value of the marinade ingredients since much of the marinade is discarded.)
Avocado Fruit Salad
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 grapefruit, peeled and segmented
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

Heat the honey and lime juice over low heat, whisking occasionally, for about 5 minutes or just until blended. Remove from burner and let cool.

Combine the grapefruit, mango, avocado and red onion in a salad bowl. Drizzle the honey-lime dressing over the top and toss gently so as not to crush the avocado pieces. Serve immediately.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 161.3, Total Fat 6.9g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 5.3mg, Total Carbs 27.2g, Dietary Fiber 4.7g, Protein 1.6g
Tip of the Week: Tame Temptation!
One of the biggest obstacles to losing weight is giving in to temptation. I don’t know about you, but I am faced with it daily. The key to taming temptation is to acknowledge it head on and deal with it. I recommend one of 3 approaches: eliminate it, find a substitution, or manage it.
Eliminating temptation is basically the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind.” I find that if I don’t buy it at the store then I don’t have it at my house and it’s not a temptation. Of course this is easy to do in your home-life, but not so easy in environments where you don’t have complete control, like at work. I know that when I started my journey, the office candy bowl was a real detriment to my success. It was positioned right by my desk so that every time I went to or from my desk I had to pass by it and that was a sure recipe for disaster. I finally had an honest talk with my office-mates, told them about the journey I was embarking on, and asked if they could find another place to put the candy bowl so that I wouldn’t be tempted so badly. I found that they were extremely supportive and more than happy to find a solution that worked for everyone. It was a win all around.
Another approach is to find a substitution for those things that tempt you. Is there a reduced-fat or reduced-calorie version? Or is there something else entirely that you could substitute and would still satisfy your craving? For example, when I’m craving ice cream, I’ve found that a good sorbet or sherbet fits the bill for me. When I want something chocolate-y, I love Trader Joe’s No-Guilt Brownies which I can whip up in a single serving size in about 1 minute.
Finally, sometimes temptation is too fierce to tame, but you can manage it. I find that most of my temptations are not in the form of sweets but are actually — in no particular order — cheese, wine, and bread. Yes, I think I must be French or Italian at heart. These are things that are impossible — for me anyway — to find substitutions for and I like them too much to just eliminate them from my diet. So what I can do is control my consumption. I simply make sure that (1) the serving size is appropriate and (2) that it’s within my calorie, fat and protein budget for the day. A little bit of something I love is better than nothing at all, in my opinion.