Monthly Archives: January 2013

Butternut Squash and Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

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I am three weeks into my experimental support group that I first blogged about here. I am working with a great group of people towards new health and weight loss goals for the year. My new long-term goal is to get to a healthy weight for my height by my birthday in August. You see I’ve escaped that big “O” obesity, but at only 5’4″ I am still considered overweight for my height. I want to remove that designation from my medical chart once and for all.

Now you might think that having lost as much weight as I have that this would be easy for me, but you would be very wrong. Like most humans, I am a creature of habit and once I hit my last weight loss goal I went into maintenance mode. Maintenance mode is different than weight loss mode for me. I stopped logging all my food because I wasn’t focused on maintaining a calorie deficit every day. Instead, I ate sensibly, balancing my daily intake in my head, and I continued my exercise program. This worked for me, I’ve been able to keep the weight off.

But now I need to shift back to weight loss mode. This means journaling my food again and making sure that I stay within my daily calorie budget. It also means upping my efforts in the gym to make sure I’m burning my targeted amount of calories each week; my goal is to burn a minimum of 3000 calories each week. I’ve been doing well on my food journaling, but surprisingly where I have been struggling is with my exercise routine.

I actually enjoy my workouts. I know, I’m just strange that way. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when I have to bully myself to get to the gym, but ultimately, once my workout is finished, I always feel so good. I call it my workout high. Exercising is my primary stress relief tool, and right now, with all of the activity I have going on at work and home, I desperately need that.

Over these past two weeks, though, I have missed my exercise goal. A large part of that is due to being sidelined by a nasty chest cold, but I have also been overwhelmed at work requiring long hours in the office. I find myself trapped in meetings all day and then spending hours afterwards at my desk trying to catch up on email, phone calls, and all that desk work that my internal customers rely on me for. Not getting my workout in has made me a little cranky and irritable, but missing my goal two weeks in a row just frustrates the heck out of me. So what’s the answer?

This week I am getting into the office earlier in the morning so that I have more time up front to address issues at my desk.  I can’t make the meetings go away, but I can try to better leverage my time in them and before and after them. And then I need to force myself to walk away at 5:00 p.m. and get to the gym. Because not getting my workout in isn’t just impacting my ability to achieve my new goal, it’s also impacting everyone around me through my irritable attitude and self-disappointment.

Recipe of the Week

 

Butternut Squash and Chicken Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. raw boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • 2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and wedged
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 medium stalks celery, diced
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb. brown (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 1 sprig rosemary, minced
  • 1 cup frozen petite peas
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup nonfat, plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme

Directions:
Put the raw chicken, 2 whole cloves garlic, cubed butternut squash, and pinch of salt in a pot and submerge in water. Bring to a boil and continue to boil gently for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender and easily falls apart with a fork and the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside to cool. Remove the squash to a mixing bowl and set aside. Save the water as you will need it later.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. I recommend a cast iron skillet that can go from stove to oven. Add the carrots, celery, parsnip, onion, garlic, mushrooms and pinch of salt. Cook about 4-5 minutes or until the onions are transparent. Shred the chicken with two forks and add it to the pan with the peas and rosemary, then cook another 5 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch, combining well so that the vegetables are well coated. Stir in 1 cup of the water that the chicken and squash cooked in. Reduce heat to medium low and let cook until the sauce has thickened up to a gravy like consistency, about 5 minutes. Use the back of your wooden spoon to arrange the vegetables in an even/level single layer in the pan. Remove from heat.

Use a potato masher to mash up the cooked butternut squash in the mixing bowl. Once mashed, use a fork to press out any remaining chunks. Stir in the Greek yogurt. The mixture should have the consistency of mashed potatoes — thick and creamy. If it’s too thick, add a little of the water that the squash and chicken cooked in. Add in increments of 1 tablespoon so you don’t accidentally make it too watery. Once it reaches the desired consistency, spread across the vegetables in an even layer. Sprinkle the thyme across the top.

Bake for about 30 minutes until the squash is golden. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Number of Servings: 4

Nutritional Information: Calories 306.0, Total Fat 3.7g, Cholesterol 33.4mg, Sodium 387.4mg, Total Carbs 50.1g, Dietary Fiber 10.2g, Protein 21.9g

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Turkey Meatloaf with Roasted Red Potatoes

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This week has been a good week for Colleen’s Kitchen. First, my second book went live in the Kindle store and also on Smashwords for other e-reader formats. I had my second virtual meet-up via Skype with the members of my first Get Healthy Challenge — they are a great group of inspirational people and no technical challenges this time!  Then my Slow Cooker Italian Chicken Sausage and Bean Stew recipe was picked up by a major site. And finally, my personal story was published at BodyLog.com. After almost two years of sharing my journey and my recipes, things seem to finally be picking up.

That’s right, I started this little passion project of mine almost 2 years ago. It was in the spring of 2011, before I achieved my weight loss goal. A number of friends and family kept telling me I should write a book. I decided to start a blog instead to chronicle my journey and share my healthy kitchen discoveries with others.

As a new recipe enthusiast and cooking show aficionado, I was frustrated by the lack of cooking shows that focused on healthy eating. Don’t get me wrong, I love Giada De Laurentiis’ recipes, Rachel Ray and Emeril have occasional winners, Sara Moulton produces some deliciously gourmet fare, and the old Julia Child re-runs are a personal favorite. However, practically none of their recipes are designed for someone on a calorie budget. The portion sizes are often unrealistic and the ingredients often contain massive amounts of butter, oil, and/or cheese that are simply unhealthy. So I decided to produce my own videos to show people that delicious food isn’t something that is unattainable when you are trying to lose or maintain weight.

I started on Facebook where I could easily connect into my personal network, and used the video and notes tools on there. My first recipes were good, but quickly thrown together and not always tried and tested to the extent they should be. Flash forward one year.

I moved my videos over to YouTube and my blog entries to Blogspot where I could build a wider audience and monetize my activity. My little experiment turned into a passion project. I found myself jotting sudden inspirations for flavor combinations in the most random of situations. I started planning my dinners for the week to account for the experiments I was regularly conducting on days I wasn’t filming. Recipes don’t make it to my blog until they are perfect, which typically takes 3-4 tries.

Then several months ago I finally started compiling my recipes into a book. You might think this would be an easy task, but it was difficult because of the time involved. You see, through all of this I am still working full time at my day job. Plus with my catalog growing constantly, there never seemed to be an end in sight. So I decided to piece the book out into sections, publishing each separately. Soups and Stews and Salads have been published, and I am currently working on Poultry Entrees. Once I have published all sections, my goal is to then publish — in hard copy — a complete compendium including some additional bonus recipes.

With all of this comes the publicity machine. I have learned that publicity doesn’t just come to you. You have to promote yourself and generate your own. So with the assistance of a generous, knowledgeable friend, I have begun trolling those channels looking for opportunities to promote myself and my work. And it is starting to work. Perhaps I can finally get this little passion project of mine to pay for itself. That would be nice.

Recipes of the Week

 

Slow Cooker Mediterranean Turkey Meatloaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. raw lean white ground turkey
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup bulgar
  • 2 oz. light feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 medium baby zucchini, shredded
  • 1 medium red onion, grated

Directions:
Spray the inside of the slow cooker (aka crockpot) with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Form into a loaf shape in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on lowest heat setting 8-10 hours. Remove from slow cooker and let sit for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.

Number of Servings: 4

Nutritional Information: Calories 267.6, Total Fat 8.3g, Cholesterol 113.8mg, Sodium 311.4mg, Total Carbs 16.2g, Dietary Fiber 3.0g, Protein 32.3g



Roasted Red Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. red potatoes, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano leaves, minced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl, tossing to coat the potatoes well. Spread into a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, turning the potatoes midway through to ensure they crisp well on both sides. Serve immediately.

Number of Servings: 4

Nutritional Information: Calories 109.4, Total Fat 3.8g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 61.8mg, Total Carbs 18.2g, Dietary Fiber 1.8g, Protein 2.2g


New Cookbook Giveaway!

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Just in time for New Year’s resolutions, my new cookbook Salads is here! It features improved navigation, links to bonus video content and recipes for a whopping 26 different salads.

Would you like a free copy? The first 10 people to email me at colleen@colleens-kitchen.com will get a link for a free download. All I ask in return is that you please post a review of my book (hopefully positive) on Amazon.com and GoodReads.com.

Don’t have a Kindle? Don’t worry! Simply download the free Kindle app on your iPad, iPhone, or Android based smartphone or tablet. It functions just the same.

Asian Turkey Meatballs in Cranberry Chili Sauce with Rice Noodles and Vegetables

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You might have noticed that I like to use ground turkey in lieu of beef in recipes that utilize ground meat. I do this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost that turkey is a lot leaner than beef so is much more calorie friendly, but also because I honestly just don’t care for ground beef. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good steak, and you’ve seen beef recipes on here before, but I don’t like the taste of ground beef and the smell of it cooking makes me nauseous. I know, I’m a little weird, but that’s just the way it is.

So I use ground turkey. At the butcher counter the other day, when I asked for a pound of the white ground turkey, the  man behind the counter casually asked what I was making. “Asian meatballs,” I said. A look of horror crossed his face. “Oh, you can’t use the white ground turkey for meatballs. It’s too lean, it’ll dry out, your meatballs will taste like sawdust. You want the dark ground turkey or ground chicken.”

I smiled knowingly. He doesn’t know me like you do, my dear readers. He doesn’t know that I’m very familiar with this tendency of very lean meat. He doesn’t know that I have spent countless hours in my kitchen experimenting with ways to compensate for this. He doesn’t know that I have found a solution.

“Zucchini,” I say firmly. He raises an eyebrow at me.  “Shredded zucchini. I mix a little in with the ground turkey, it adds a ton of moisture as well as some good for you nutrients, without adding a ton of flavor or fat and very little calories.”

He considers this, but I can still see the doubt on his face. “Give it a try,” I say encouragingly. “The meatballs turn out moist, firm and delicious.” I go on to tell him a little more about the recipe and my kitchen experiments, and I can see he’s starting gain some appreciation of my culinary prowess. The doubt that marred his brow disappears.

I chuckle as I walk away. Cooking is like chemistry. The various combinations of ingredients can yield so many different outcomes not just in terms of taste but also texture and appearance. This is one of the many things I so enjoy about experimenting in my kitchen.

The recipe I am sharing with you today is one of my most adventurous to date. I admit there are a lot of different flavors in here, yet each one complements the other and is absolutely essential to the dish. The idea for this recipe began to germinate when I saw a recipe on Pinterest for Turkey Meatballs in Cranberry Chili Sauce. I thought that was an interesting combination so I followed the link and was disappointed to find that it was nothing more than store bought frozen meatballs in a mixture of canned cranberry jelly and Heinz chili sauce. Gross. I can do so much better than that. And I think I have. Let me know what you think.

Recipe of the Week

 

Asian Turkey Meatballs in a Cranberry Chili Sauce with Rice Noodles and Vegetables

Ingredients:Meatballs:

  • 1 pound white ground turkey
  • 1 medium baby zucchini, shredded
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp shredded ginger root,
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh fresh mint leaves
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and diced
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Sauce:

  • 1 cup whole, fresh cranberries
  • 2 tbsp pineapple juice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 kefir lime leaves, ribs removed and leaves finely minced
  • pinch of coarse sea salt

Noodles and Vegetables:

  • 1.5 tsp sesame oil
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and diced
  • 12 oz. French green beans (haricot vert
  • 12 medium crimini (brown) mushrooms
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 6 oz. rice noodles

Tips:
If the meat mixture is too soft and doesn’t form rounded meatballs, add a tablespoon or two of panko bread crumbs.

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Mix together all of the ingredients for the meatballs. Form into 12 rounded meatballs (3 per person), placing each on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, turning each meatball midway through to keep them rounded and get a slight crisp on each side.

As soon as the meatballs are in the oven, start the sauce as it takes about 25-30 minutes to cook completely. Heat a small saucepan over medium heat. Add all ingredients and mix to combine. Let the mixture come to a gentle boil and continue to boil until all of the cranberries have burst and the mixture has thickened. If it gets too thick, add a little more water. If any cranberries don’t burst, simply smash them with the back of a wooden spoon.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the sesame oil. Add the scallions, mushrooms, green beans and salt. Cook until the mushrooms and green beans have browned slightly.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and cook for 45 seconds to a minute and a half, until the noodles are just tender.

Combine the sauce with the vegetables. Remove the rice noodles from the water and mix into the sauce and vegetables. If the mixture is too dry, add a little of the water that the noodles were cooking in. Serve immediately with the meatballs.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 324.5, Total Fat 7.1g, Cholesterol 111.4mg, Sodium 320.2mg, Total Carbs 36.0g, Dietary Fiber 6.5g, Protein 31.8g
 
 

Cherry Chicken Lettuce Wraps in Peanut Cherry Sauce

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I have been on an Asian fusion kick lately. I think it started when I attended a Thai cooking class several weeks ago. We made salad rolls, Tom Kha soup, and pad thai that was absolutely heavenly. I had used many of the ingredients before, but it’s always fun to experience new flavors and learn new ways to incorporate old ones. Yes, even this chef still has a few things to learn.

My first attempt was a chicken based lettuce wrap. The lettuce cups are my favorite dish at PF Changs, although it’s been quite some time since I’ve been there. They are easy to make and very calorie friendly. So I looked up some recipes on the web for inspiration and got to work.

The result was okay, but it was missing something. I started sifting through my pantry, fridge and mental grocery store inventory. There was a jar of Trader Joe’s dark morello cherries in my fridge from a previous experiment and I thought “Oh that might be interesting!”

So I chopped up some cherries, combined them with fresh cool mint, scallions, shredded chicken, crisp vegetables, and some other flavorings. The result was amazing. I was definitely on to something! Next, I decided to put a twist on the peanut sauce by using the juice from the cherries instead of the traditional water or broth that most recipes call for. I also added a little spice to the sauce, because what is Asian food without a little heat?

The result was amazing. This dish has become one of my family’s favorites. There is a lot of prep work, but it cooks quickly and easily, making it a true weeknight winner.

My next Asian fusion inspiration? I am currently working on an Asian inspired spaghetti and meatballs that is turning out quite fabulous. Stay tuned!

Recipe of the Week

 

Cherry Chicken Lettuce Wraps in Peanut Cherry Sauce

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 6 scallions, trimmed, halved lengthwise and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb. raw boneless, skinless chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tsp shredded ginger root
  • 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1/2 cup dark morello cherries, minced
  • 2 persian cucumbers, cut into thin strips
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 head of butter lettuce, washed and leaves separated

Sauce:

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 shallot finely minced
  • 1/3 cup cherry juice (from the jar of morello cherries)
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/8 tsp red chili pepper flakes

Directions

Filling:
Cook the rice in the water according to package directions.

Heat the sesame oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and cook until the shallots are slightly browned. Add the chicken, mint, ginger, soy sauce, sriracha, and cherries. Cook for 1-2 minutes to allow the ingredients to warm up and the flavors to combine. Add the cucumbers, carrots and cilantro. Let cook for just 1 minutes to allow the ingredients to warm slightly and remove from heat quickly.

Sauce:
Heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until the shallot is lightly browned. Add the remaining ingredients, whisking to combine, and continue cooking until it is creamy and thick.

Serving Suggestion:
In each leaf of lettuce, place a little of the cooked rice running along the rib of the leaf. Top with a little of the filling then drizzle with the sauce. Fold the edges of the leaf over – like a burrito – and enjoy!

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Tip
For tender, delicious shredded chicken, simply boil the chicken breast in water for about 20 minutes. Remove the cooked chicken from the water, let cool so that you can handle it then shred it with 2 forks.
Nutritional Information: Calories 308.2, Total Fat 8.1g, Cholesterol 27.7mg, Sodium 587.8mg, Total Carbs 43.2g, Dietary Fiber 4.4g, Protein 18.9g

The Get Healthy Challenge!

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I know that there are thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people out there who woke up this morning with a resolution to lose weight this year. And quite frankly, I am one of them.

So I have a challenge for all of you out there. Is there anyone out there that would like to join me in a Get Healthy Challenge? I am bringing a virtual support network together — for free! — to help you get healthy this year. Here is what I am envisioning:

  • A virtual group meeting once a week either through Skype or Google + Hangout. Time and day to be negotiated amongst the group.
  • At the meeting we will set a weekly goal (connected to our longer term goal) for ourselves, report out on how we did against our goal for the week, share successes and challenges we are encountering on our journeys, and offer advice, tips and general support to each other.
  • I will serve as facilitator and coach for the group.
  • And yes, this is all free. Simply shoot me an email at colleen@colleens-kitchen.com to get started.
I know you’re saying: “But you’ve already lost over 100 pounds, you reached your goal of going from a size 26W to a 12. Why are you trying to lose more weight?” Well for those of you who know me, you’ll know that as satisfying as reaching a goal is, once reached it becomes status quo and pretty soon I find myself looking for a new challenge.
As happy as I am with my size and my body, I’ve decided to lose 20 more pounds purely for the reason of getting out of that “overweight” category. I call this the little “o”. I managed to conquer the big “O” (Obesity) via my first goal, but for my height I am still considered overweight. So I have decided to tackle the little “o” this year and shed it once and for all.

You might think that this will be easy for me, having lost all of the weight that I have, but you would be wrong. After almost a year and a half of maintaining my weight, I now need to shift my mindset from maintenance back to weight loss. My exercise habits haven’t changed since I transitioned into maintenance mode, but my food diligence and specifically my strict adherence to a daily calorie budget has. This means tracking my food intake again.

Behavior change is never easy and I know that I have set myself another challenging goal. I love a good challenge, though, and one thing I learned through my last journey was the importance of a supportive network of friends and family. So I am asking you to join me for this challenge. If you are interested, please email me at colleen@colleens-kitchen.com to get started.

Thanks for a fabulous 2012 everyone! I look forward to continuing my journey to health with you in 2013!

Colleen