Monthly Archives: April 2013

Spring Asparagus & Manchego Cheese Tart

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I love spring in Portland. Tulips boldly emerge from the earth, flaunting their showy colors for all to see. The sun peeks out from behind soft, fluffy white clouds. And the locals emerge from their winter hibernation in search of that vitamin D that’s been sorely lacking for the past few months.

This is the time of year that I abandon the gym treadmill for the neighborhood pavement on Saturday mornings. My morning run is followed by a stroll through the farmer’s market to see what’s in season and pick up some veggies for the week. Right now, most of the booths are overflowing with fresh, local asparagus.

Say what you will about asparagus, I love it. When I was a kid, my mom would often steam it and serve it with a dollop of her homemade mayonnaise on the side. Today, I enjoy tossing it with a little olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan cheese then roasting it in the over — I could gobble that by the handful. But I wanted to do something a little different this time. What about an entree featuring this tender, green harbinger of spring?

Spring Asparagus and Manchego Cheese Tart

And so my tart was born. It starts with a crust of whole wheat pastry flour, rosemary and lemon zest that I lightened up with a blend of olive oil and water yet managed to still keep tender and flaky.

Whole wheat rosemary and lemon crust

I love to use an authentic tart pan with a removable bottom so that I can pop the pretty tart out and serve it in all its glory.

Whole wheat rosemary and lemon crust

I pre-bake the tart shell then fill it with a creamy mixture of lowfat cottage cheese, minced shallot, and manchego cheese. If you’ve never had manchego cheese before this is an excellent excuse to try it. It’s a Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk that is buttery and peppery all at the same time. It’s perfect in this tart.

Spring Asparagus & Manchego Cheese Tart
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4
  • Calories: 367.1
  • Fat: 15.9
  • Saturated fat: 4.6
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.2
  • Carbohydrates: 27.6
  • Sugar: 4.0
  • Sodium: 710.8
  • Fiber: 4.9
  • Protein: 17.7
  • Cholesterol: 15.5
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Spring is in the air and asparagus is in abundance at the farmer's market. This tender harbinger of sunny days to come graces a beautiful tart of peppery manchego cheese nestled in a lemon rosemary wheat crust. C'est magnifique!
Ingredients
  • 3 oz. whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3 oz. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1 sprig rosemary, needles only (stem removed)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 cup lowfat (2%) cottage cheese
  • 2 oz. manchego cheese, shredded
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 large egg whites
  • pinch coarse sea salt
  • dash black pepper
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed and halved
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a food processor, combine both flours, baking powder, salt, rosemary needles, and lemon zest. Pulse until the rosemary is chopped and ingredients are combined.
  3. Whisk together the water and olive oil. With the food processor on low, slowly drizzle the water and oil mixture into the flour mixture until the dough is soft and crumbly. Turn the dough out of the food processor onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 12" circle.
  4. Gently lift the dough into a 10" tart pan, pressing the dough into the side of the pan. Use a sharp knife to trim the top of the crust even with the top of the tart pan. Bake for 7 minutes then remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  5. In a mixing bowl, combine the cottage cheese, manchego cheese, shallot, lemon juice, salt, pepper and egg whites. Mix in the baking soda then pour the mixture into the baked tart shell, spreading it in an even layer.
  6. Arrange the asparagus in a sunburst design on the top of the tart, alternating spears and stems. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes then slice into 4 equal wedges and serve.

 

Video Demonstration of Spring Asparagus & Manchego Cheese Tart

Chicken Bruschetta over Whole Wheat Angel Hair Pasta

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Several months ago I invested in an external hard drive for my blog because all of my videos and photos were clogging up my internal hard drive and slowing my laptop down. I moved everything on there, including the intro narration and before and after photos that I use in my videos.

Can you guess what’s coming next?

I sat down yesterday morning, as I do every Saturday morning, to edit and upload this week’s video only to find that the USB cable that connects the external hard drive to my laptop has a kink in it and the two won’t connect. Argh!

I threw on my gym clothes and went for my Saturday morning run on the treadmill at the gym then stopped at Best Buy on my way home to pick up a new cord. I was frustrated to discover that this particular cord is proprietary to the manufacturer and the only place I can buy a new one is from their website. Double argh!!

Oh, and did I mention that the clerk at Best Buy that came over to assist me in my search is a guy that I dated about 2 years ago? And here I am in my gym clothes, no makeup, hair pulled back, smelling of sweat. Yes, it was a bang up morning. I think that deserves a triple argh.

So there is no video this week. I have the footage carefully saved for now and will put it together once I get the new cord, but until then it will live in the internal memory of my laptop. But that can’t stop me from at least sharing the written recipe with you all, right?

This week I present to you an easy, flavorful, and good-for-you dish that has become a staple for busy weeknights in my house. I’ve taken the flavor of Italian bruschetta — tomatoes, basil, garlic and parmesan cheese — added some grilled chicken and served it over a delicate whole wheat angel hair pasta.

First, I marinate boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins in a simple mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, sea salt and pepper. I often start the marinating process before I leave for work in the morning, but 20-30 minutes is sufficient as well.

While the chicken is marinating, I whip up the bruschetta: a mix of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese. I love the pop of color the bruschetta adds to the dish, and of course the flavor combination is divine. I then grill up the chicken in my ridged cast iron grill pan; the tenderloins cook up in just about 2 minutes on each side. Keeping the chicken in the pan, I then smother it with the bruschetta and bake it in the oven at 425F for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are slightly soft and warm. The beauty of cast iron is that it moves easily from stovetop to oven.

The finished product is a delicious explosion of flavor on the palate: juicy tomatoes, peppery basil, spicy garlic, tender chicken, nutty pasta. It’s divine and so easy and good for you, how could you not give it a try?

Chicken Bruschetta over Whole Wheat Angel Hair
Recipe by Colleen Fields
Flavors of classic Italian bruschetta — juicy tomatoes, peppery fresh basil, and spicy garlic — combine with tender chicken and nutty whole wheat angel hair pasta for an easy and delicious meal that is perfect for those busy weeknights.

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
  • 1 oz. fresh basil (about 2 cups loosely packed), chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 6 oz. whole wheat angel hair (aka cappellini) pasta
  • juice of 1 lemon

Cooking Directions:

  1. Whisk together 1 tbsp of the olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, 1 clove of the garlic, and a pinch of the coarse sea salt and pepper. Toss with the chicken breast tenderloins in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag and let marinate for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Mix together the tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and remaining 3 cloves of garlic in a medium mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken tenderloins and cook for about 2 minutes on each side just until cooked through. Turn the burner off and, leaving the chicken in the pan, smother the chicken with the tomato mixture. Move the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are warm and soft.
  5. While the chicken is in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about 4-5 minutes until al dente. Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil and the lemon juice.
  6. Serve the pasta topped with pieces of the chicken and bruschetta topping. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Facts
  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 329.6
  Total Fat 8.0 g
  Saturated Fat 1.6 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 3.8 g
  Cholesterol 58.6 mg
  Sodium 641.2 mg
  Potassium 169.1 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 36.0 g
  Dietary Fiber 5.4 g
  Sugars 1.4 g
  Protein 31.5 g

 

Lime Ginger Salmon over Teriyaki Rice

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I think I’ve mentioned once or twice before that I enjoy running. What you may not know, is that has not always been the case. In fact, before I started my weight loss journey, I had never been a runner before let alone enjoyed exercise.

I grew up in a rural area where outdoor activities were in abundance, but very few organized sports opportunities due to the small, dispersed population. In this setting, I was a complete bookworm. When my brother and sister were playing outside, I could typically be found in a corner with a book. My only real exercise was in the dreaded PE class where militant teachers forced me to do things I did not want to do. When the class was jogging around the high school track, I was typically at the end of the pack in a slow walk. It’s no wonder that I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life.

So what changed?

It was about 2 months into my weight loss journey that I began recognizing the benefits of regular exercise. I felt better, I had more energy, I was happier, and I was sleeping better. I began to look forward to my workouts and prioritizing exercise into my daily routine, instead of making the predictable “I don’t have time” excuse.

As I lost weight, though, my daily calorie needs began to decrease which means that I had to continually decrease my food intake. Loving food as I do, I then began to increase my exercise time but the inevitable availability of time began to become an issue. So I began to look for an exercise routine that would burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. And that’s when I discovered running.

I stumbled across a blog called Running While Chunky, a great inspiration for anyone struggling with obesity like me. In this post, the blogger wrote about how she decided to first try running when she was over 270 pounds. At this point in my journey, I was about 260 pounds and I decided that if she could do it, I could do it.

Using her tips and the Couch to 5k beginning running plan as a guide, I set off down my path to becoming a runner. I prepped my body for the shock for about 2 weeks prior by implementing brisk mountain climbers and some running in place into my aerobic routine at home. Then one Saturday I woke up early, laced up my tennis shoes, took the dog to the dog park, and set off around the trail that circled the perimeter.

The first week of the Couch to 5k running plan calls for 60 second running and 90 second walking intervals. I found that I couldn’t do more than 30 seconds in the beginning, I literally thought I was going to die because my heart was racing was so fast. I also found that the 90 second walking interval wasn’t enough time for me to recover my breathing, it took me 3 minutes. Lastly, the one week progression that the plan called for was too fast paced for me, I increased my running interval times every two weeks instead of one.

So let’s just say that in the end the 12 week training time that the Couch to 5k running plan calls for took a lot longer for me. But the point is that I got there.

On this road to becoming a runner something funny happened to me. I found that I enjoy running. I enjoy emptying my mind, focusing on the road, and feeling the breeze against my face as I cut through the air. Whenever I go for a walk now, I can’t help wanting to break into a run.

As a runner, my body craves protein. Salmon is an excellent source of lean protein and healthy fats.

Normally I love to cook salmon on my outdoor grill, I think that is the single best way to prepare salmon. In the rainy northwest, though, the weather is not always barbecue appropriate. So a couple of years ago I invested in a nice cast-iron grill pan that lets me get a bit of the barbecue flavor indoors.

For this recipe, I marinate the salmon filet in a mixture of lime juice, ginger juice, and soy sauce before grilling it. It’s best to let it marinate overnight for maximum flavor.

My favorite accompaniment to this salmon is nutty brown basmati rice cooked in a little teriyaki sauce. I carefully place the rice on a bed of fresh baby spinach to give me my serving of vegetables but also because of the tender, cool crunch it adds to the dish. A drizzle of juice from a wedge of lime adds just the right finishing touch.

 

Lime Ginger Salmon over Teriyaki Rice

Recipe by Colleen Fields
Flavors of tart lime and peppery ginger infuse tender, wild salmon served on a bed of brown rice cooked in teriyaki sauce for a light, delicious and healthy meal.

Ingredients:

  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger root, juiced
  • 1 lb fresh salmon filet, skin removed
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 cup quick cooking brown basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 4 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 4 wedges lime

Cooking Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the lime zest, lime juice, and soy sauce. Hold the grated ginger root in the palm of your hand and squeeze so that all the juice is released into the lime and soy sauce mixture. Discard the remaining ginger pulp. Whisk the ingredients together.
  2. Lay the salmon in a shallow pan cut side up (skin side down). Pour half of the marinade over the cut side, patting the juice into the meat. Turn the filet over so that the cut side is down (skin side up) and pour the remaining marinade over the fish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Coat the bottom of a medium sauce pan with olive oil cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until lightly browned. Add the rice, stirring to coat the rice with the oil. Cook for about 1-2 minutes more until the rice is lightly toasted. Add the teriyaki sauce and water, bring to a boil. Stir then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Heat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat. Spray with nonstick olive oil cooking spray. Put the salmon in the pan skin side down and sear for just 1-2 minutes to get good grill marks. Turn the filet over and repeat on the other side. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for about 3 minutes per side until cooked through.
  5. To serve, put 1 oz. of baby spinach leaves on each of 4 plates. Top each with just under 1 cup of the rice in order to allow the heat of the rice to slightly soften the spinach. Lay a piece of salmon over each. Drizzle juice from a wedge of lime over each serving and enjoy.

Yield: 4 Servings

Nutrition Facts
  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 413.9
  Total Fat 11.9 g
  Saturated Fat 1.6 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 3.8 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 3.9 g
  Cholesterol 80.5 mg
  Sodium 667.6 mg
  Potassium 885.7 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 42.1 g
  Dietary Fiber 1.7 g
  Sugars 4.8 g
  Protein 33.6 g

 

Honey Balsamic Chicken and Roasted Vegetables with Whole Wheat Orzo

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I went to my doctor’s for a routine check-up last week and stepped on the scale to find myself up 8 pounds over my pre-vacation weight. Ugh.

With all of the Guinness and potatoes I consumed on my recent dream vacation to Ireland, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. And I did notice that my pants in particular were fitting a wee snugger than they were before. However, since I returned I have been working really hard to get back into my routine, so I was a wee bit disappointed with the scale.

(Warning: I am in love with the Irish use of “wee” and determined to use it whenever possible!)

My first week back, I jumped back into my exercise routine: 30 minutes on the elliptical plus a strength training circuit Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 3 miles of jogging intervals plus a 5 minute core routine on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. My first run was a wee challenging to say the least. I did get exactly two workouts in on the trip, plus we walked a lot as part of our sight-seeing excursions. Still, though, my body screamed in protest as all the Guinness worked its way out of my body.

My eating habits didn’t get back to normal until my second week back. I blame part of that on the time difference, my body didn’t seem to know what a normal time to eat was and I found myself craving food at odd hours. And craving all the wrong kinds of food. Not to mention that I spent my first two weekends back in search of good bar music — and the bar drinks that typically accompany said music — in a fruitless attempt to recreate those lovely nights at the Irish pubs.

So now I find myself stepping back into my routine. Back to the gym. Regulating my weekend drinks to healthy, moderate levels. Cutting out the cheese and sweets that I love.

I haven’t checked the scale yet, but I know that getting back to my healthy normal is having an effect because I can feel it. My runs are easier, I’ve been able to increase my jogging interval times. I’m sleeping better. I have more energy. My moods are better. And I no longer feel bloated and heavy in my clothes, instead I feel sexy and vibrant.

Who cares what the scale says when I feel this good?

Honey Balsamic Chicken and Roasted Vegetables with Whole Wheat Orzo
Recipe by Colleen Fields
Sweet and tangy chicken combines with tender roasted carrots, green beans and red onion over nutritious whole wheat orzo for a meal that is not only delicious, but is also an easy to make dinner for those busy weeknights.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • dash freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch coarse sea salt
  • 8 oz. fresh haricots verts (French style green beans), halved across the width
  • 3 medium carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 6 oz. dry whole wheat orzo, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Cooking Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, garlic, pepper and salt.
  3. Pour half of the marinade over the chicken breasts in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag, tossing to make sure they are well coated. Set aside and let marinate for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Coat a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the haricots verts, carrots and red onion with the remaining marinade. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, tossing halfway through the cooking time to make sure they are evenly roasted.
  5. Cook the chicken in a ridged grill pan or on an outdoor grill for about 2-3 minutes per side, until cooked through.
  6. Toss the roasted vegetables with the orzo and parsley. Serve the vegetable and orzo mixture topped with the chicken breast tenderloins.

Yield: 4 Servings

Nutrition Facts
  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 365.9
  Total Fat 6.5 g
  Saturated Fat 0.8 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 3.8 g
  Cholesterol 65.0 mg
  Sodium 389.8 mg
  Potassium 155.0 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 52.1 g
  Dietary Fiber 7.8 g
  Sugars 13.2 g
  Protein 26.7 g

 

 

Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash

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Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not that difficult. While there are temptations in abundance out there, as in any situation, it really comes down to making balanced choices. It’s okay to give in to temptation, we are only human after all, but in healthy moderation.

 

One of the cornerstones of my healthy lifestyle is incorporating 1-2 vegetarian days each week. This not only saves money on the grocery bill, but it also makes for dishes that are leaner in protein and lower in fat. I created this Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash on one of my meatless days, and I have to admit I’ve fallen in love with this dish.

 

I love the combination of simple, whole ingredients that comprise the dish. The spice of the chipotle pepper is offset by the sweetness of the acorn squash. And the classic favor combination of rice, beans and corn makes for a satisfying and filling meal.

 

First, I use a chipotle-lime glaze to do an initial bake on the squash.

 

Then, I stuff each squash half with a hearty, southwestern-inspired mixture of brown rice, black beans, roasted corn, roasted red peppers, kale, cilantro, and cottage cheese.

 

Finally, I sprinkle a little bit of shredded, reduced fat cheese over the top of each squash half and bake it again. I love a deliciously satisfying meal that doesn’t leave me feeling guilty.
As you might recall, back in January I put out a call to my followers for a 2013 Get Healthy Challenge. I had 4 fantastic people take me up on the offer to meet once a week via Skype. We have been meeting regularly, with the exception of the 2 weeks I was in Ireland, and our chats consist of sharing our long term and weekly goals, bringing challenges we are having to the table, and providing tips and support to each other to overcome those challenges.
The resilience and dedication of everyone is truly inspiring. One member overcame a physical injury by researching chair workouts to keep him active. Another member practiced her principles of moderation during a vacation and was able to lose 4 lbs. while still enjoying the temptations of any good vacation. I think what I enjoy the most is the tips that we all share with each other, even I have learned a thing or two.
Are you interested in joining us? All you need is Skype on your computer, we convene every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. If you’d like to give it a try, shoot me an email at colleen@colleens-kitchen.com to get started.
Southwestern Stuffed Acorn Squash
Recipe by Colleen Fields
Baked first in a chipotle lime glaze, then stuffed with a hearty, southwestern inspired filling and baked again, the acorn squash takes on a new life. I love this easy and delicious vegetarian dish, and I hope you do too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 acorn squash, about 1 lb. each, halved lengthwise and seeds and pulp removed
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chipotle pepper in 1 tbsp adobo sauce, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry brown rice, cooked (about 1 cup loosely packed when cooked)
  • 1/2 cup nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup frozen roasted corn
  • 1/2 cup black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh kale
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 oz. fire roasted red peppers, diced
  • pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded reduced fat mexican cheese blend

Cooking Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil and chipotle pepper. Use a pastry brush to brush the mixture over the cut side of the squash, using all of the glaze mixture. Bake the squash for about 45 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and use a fork to scrape up and soften the inside flesh of the squash. This will make it easier to eat and also create a larger space for the stuffing.
  3. Mix together the rice, cottage cheese, corn, black beans, kale, cilantro, peppers, and salt. Stuff this mixture into each squash half in equal proportions, mounding it high as it will cook down. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the top of the stuffing, about 2 tablespoons of cheese over each squash.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 4 Servings

Nutrition Facts
  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 280.7
  Total Fat 7.7 g
  Saturated Fat 2.2 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 2.5 g
  Cholesterol 12.5 mg
  Sodium 352.6 mg
  Potassium 887.9 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 45.7 g
  Dietary Fiber 6.4 g
  Sugars 2.5 g
  Protein 13.8 g