Friday, December 30, 2016

Copycat Wendy's Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Recently, I have been on the road and in need of finding a quick meal off the expressway.  And I have found myself enjoying a salad at Wendy's.  It is their Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad, and at 450 calories, it is tasty and fairly healthy treat.  I have had it enough times that I reached my inevitable conclusion..."I can make this myself, and it will be cheaper and better."

So here is my version, which is slightly different for a few reasons.  I mix in iceberg lettuce and spinach.  I think the Wendy's version uses romaine.  I think my version has more quinoa.  I do not have roasted peppers in mine, but I do use a roasted red pepper hummus.  

Speaking of hummus - that is one of my 2 most favorite things about this salad.  The hummus is the dressing - I never add any dressing on top of this.  Also, the salad uses feta cheese.  Love feta!!!

My nutrition info is based on the quantities of what I use.  Feel free to adjust.

This meal as I make it comes out to just over 450 calories, and with lots of protein for staying power for your afternoon!

If you are on a low carb plan - watch the count here.  With the beans and quinoa, you get a fair number of carbs.  On days I eat this, I usually lighten my carb count on breakfast and dinner.

3 oz grilled chicken
12 grape tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1 cup spinach, chopped
2 cups shredded iceberg lettuce
1/2 cup pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup Made in Nature brand Ancient Grain Fusion Southwestern blend quinoa
1 oz red onion, chopped
2 tbsp roasted red pepper hummus
2 tbsp reduced fat feta cheese

Instructions: (listed as a series of pointers)
1. To grill the chicken, I do not use oil.  I like to spray a pan with nonstick cooking spray and then sauté the red onion.  I then add the chicken and cook it until done.  Sometimes I add the tomatoes in after the onions and they also get sautéed. 
2. The beans can be warm or cold.  Sometimes I add these to the pan or nuke them briefly.  You can also use other beans, or omit the beans, which I do sometimes.
3. Chop up the spinach and lettuce to your liking.  I like to chop it up pretty fine.
4. The quinoa blend I use is from an organic market in town.  It's one of those bag blends that you microwave for 1 minute and it is ready.  I use half a packet in my salad.  It is 130 calories for this 1 cup portion.  You can use any kind of quinoa, or even cut it out of your recipe, which I do sometimes.
5. You can use plain hummus as well and it tastes great too!  Or roast red peppers separately.  I have recently made my own hummus and seasoned it with garlic and cumin, then used it for this salad.

Below are several pictures that will also show you some variations of this basic recipe.  The nutrition info at the bottom is based off the recipe as shown above.
This is the original salad - hard to see the lettuce/spinach but it's in there!
Now you can see the lettuce!
Another close up view of the original salad.
A variation of the recipe - using a black quinoa/black bean blend.
No tomatoes in this one.
The possibilities are endless.

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 457
Fat: 15 g
Carbs: 57 g
Protein: 45 g

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Skinny Snickerdoodles

My husband loves snickerdoodles.  I have been searching for a recipe that does not require sugar and butter.  I also recently came in to possession of almond flour, thanks to my sister in law.  Oh my gosh, I love this stuff.  I find it to be so much more filling than regular flour.  It is low carb and packs more nutrients.  And thus, these cookies were born.  No sugar, no cinnamon sugar, no butter, and yet - amazingly flavorful.  Well, to me they were!  My husband still likes his sugar, though he did eat one of these, so I will deem it a small victory for now.

This recipe makes 9 cookies.  I was focused on a small batch here.  Obviously, you can double it for more.  Nutrition info is at the bottom of this page.

1 cup almond flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp oil (I used canola but you can use others)
1/4 cup honey (you may be able to substitute maple syrup)
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Cinnamon (for rolling)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray a baking sheet.
2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Mix to form a dough.
4. Form dough into balls.
5. Spread cinnamon into a shallow bowl.  Roll each ball in cinnamon and place on baking sheet.
6. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
The completed product.
Another view of the final product.

Here you can see the moist inside with that lovely almond flour!

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 120
Fat: 9.9 g
Carbs: 7.4 g
Protein: 2.2 g

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

3 Ingredient Applesauce Brownies

These last couple of weeks have been tough in terms of resisting all the sweets that are around.

I mean, come on.  Look at all of these wonderful cookies that we get from friends, family, and people at work.  How do you say no?
My solution has been to make my own treats.  I love my chickpea blondies.   I also find that my California fruitcake is a healthier alternative.  I also recently discovered a really easy and delicious brownie recipe.  Only 3 ingredients are required.  How easy is that?

1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup organic peanut butter (you can substitute almond butter)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Coat a 4X6 or 6X6 pan with cooking spray and set aside.  A smaller pan will yield thicker brownies.
3. In a large mixing bowl, mix the applesauce and peanut butter together.  Mix well.
4. Add cocoa powder to the mixture and mix until fully incorporated.  Batter will be thick.
5.  Transfer mixture to the pan.  Bake for 35-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Allow brownies to cool.  Once cooled, refrigerate for several hours (even better overnight).

This recipe yields about 6 brownies.  Nutritional info below!  Not bad - certainly better than a cookie.

Before baking.  The batter tasted great!
After baking.
I did sneak in a bite while warm.

Oh yeah!

Looks like a regular old brownie.

Moist and delicious.
Nutrition information:
Calories: 158
Fat: 11.8 g
Carbs: 11.1 g
Protein: 6 g

Saturday, December 17, 2016

California Fruitcake

This recipe is adapted from the Joy of Cooking and I have been baking it every year at Christmas time for the past 15 years.  Yowza!  My husband affectionately refers to it as "ugly cake" because it bakes all bumpy.  Literally, the batter is just enough to hold the pieces of walnuts and dried fruit together.  This is not your traditional fruitcake.  It is more reminiscent of a granola bar on steroids.

Everywhere I take this fruitcake, from potlucks to gift giving, I always get rave reviews and recipe requests.  Yes, there is sugar in this recipe, but to me this is cleaner and healthier than most fruitcakes I have seen.  The recipe list is short and there is a lot of good in this cake.  It keeps well for weeks and we find improves in taste with time.  I like to make 4 at a time but the recipe below is for one delicious loaf.

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking powder 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts, chopped
4 cups dried fruit (raisins, dates, apricots are my go to fruits but you can use others)

1. Preheat the oven to 300F.  Place a piece of parchment paper inside of a loaf pan and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
1. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in one bowl.
2. Add the walnuts and dried fruit.
3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and add the vanilla.
4. Pour the egg mixture into the other bowl.  Mix together.  Key note: your hands are by far the best tool here!  Make sure you mix it all really good.  It will be messy but worth the effort - take your rings off before you commence this step.
5. Pour mixture into loaf pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
6. Let loaf pan cool on a rack before removing loaf from the pan.  

Freshly baked
I made 2 batches of 4 this year.  That is 8 fruitcakes!
For my annual cookie swap, I shared by fruitcake.
It is fun to cut into squares for serving.
I also served it this way for 2 potlucks at work.
I got a LOT of compliments!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Broccoli Carrot Soup

Winter is here and with cold weekends, it feels good to warm up with a warm bowl of soup.

I have been experimenting with vegetable soup recipes.  I also just had a week where I had some broccoli and carrots that I wanted to do something with.  Along comes broccoli carrot soup!

This is a great low calorie meal with lots of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and iron.  The beans add a fiber boost.

20 oz. chopped broccoli
9 oz. chopped carrots
3 stalks chopped celery (about 1 cup)
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 medium visalia onion
1 leek, chopped
4 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp mined garlic

1. In a stockpot or Dutch oven on medium heat, sauté minced garlic, leek, and onion.  You may add olive oil here but I usually just add some of the vegetable broth at this step to help with the sauté.
2. After a few minutes, add the celery and continue to sauté for a few more minutes.
3. Add the carrots and broccoli.  Continue to sauté for several minutes.
4. Season with cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.  Mix in seasoning.
5. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer.
6. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
7. Check taste and consistency.  You choose how soft you would like to get the vegetables.  I like them soft so I usually cook another 15 minutes.
8. If you would like, you can use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables to your desired consistency.  This is why I like those veggies soft!  
9. Add pinto beans and stir.  Heat an additional 5 minutes to warm up the beans.
10. Eat and enjoy.  

Nutrition Information (per cup):
Calories: 180
Fat: 5.3 g
Carbs: 26.7 g
Protein: 7 g

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Healthy Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole

Thanksgiving is around the corner and I have started some cooking and baking in anticipation of this special holiday.  One area where I have been challenging myself is in taking recipes that I am used to dumping sugar and flour in and making them more healthy.

Every year for as far back as I can remember, I make my husband a dish that he likes to call "Yambo".  This recipe typically involved canned yams, butter, white and brown sugar, and flour.  

So I have been torn this year.  I want to make my husband this dish that he looks forward to every year, but I wanted to make it more fresh and more healthy.  And thus I can up with this healthier version of Yambo!

I have to say that I was very happy with this recipe.  My husband finished his plate and seems to have accepted this healthier version.  Yay!  Using fresh sweet potatoes really makes a difference.  I really enjoyed the taste and it was better than something out of a package or at a restaurant.  I personally can live without the optional step listed below, but my husband cannot.  Thus there is a "patch" of the sweet potato casserole where I did not drizzle anything - that is my little piece of the casserole!

3 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup butter
1 tbsp milk
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 and 1/2 cup pecans
Optional: maple syrup

1. Boil sweet potatoes for about 20 minutes or until tender.  Drain.
2. Return potatoes to the pot.  Add butter and milk.  Beat with immersion blender.
3. Add salts, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Beat again.
4. Spray an 8" X 11" pan.  Sprinkle 3/4 cup pecans on the bottom.
5. Spoon the sweet potato mix on top
6. Sprinkle the top with the remaining pecans.
7. Optional step: Sprinkle the top with remaining pecans and dust with additional cinnamon, if desired.
8. Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes.

Good presentation for your Thanksgiving dinner
A close up of my husband's maple syrup drizzled side
Served alongside some roasted broccoli

Sunday, November 13, 2016

One Hour Meal Prep: 4 Turkey Lunches

It seems that lately I am traveling about once a month, and I just can't bear the thought of not leaving some prepared food for the family.  I usually will prep lunches for my husband and kids before I go.  Sometimes even a dinner or two.  Yeah, I know, I am pretty nice ;)

I would like to share a very fast and easy lunch prep that took me just a little over one hour in total to pull together.  And I was also able to make a snack and prep a dinner within that time slot, so I would say this was a productive Sunday morning to me.

The point here is that it is not always bad that you buy stuff in a package or a bag!  We are all very busy people and it is ok to grab pre packaged goods to save some time, but still be healthier than going out to eat (and cheaper too).

  • 1 small bag of fingerling potatoes: as an alternative, there are many microwaveable potato bags out there that you can use.
  • 1 bag of precut broccoli and cauliflower
  • 30 oz pack of turkey breast tenderloins (from Aldi)
  • Salt and pepper (optional)

1. If you have 2 ovens, pre heat one oven to 400F and the other to 325 F.
2. While ovens are heating, line 3 baking sheets with foil and spray.
3. Wash and slice all the potatoes in half.   Place into a bowl.
4. Place turkey in a baking dish.  
5. Place turkey in oven for 60 minutes.
6. While turkey is in the oven: work on potatoes and veggies.  Open bag of veggies and place on baking sheet.  
7. Season veggies (I use salt and pepper) and spray.  Place in oven for 20 minutes.
8. While veggies are in the oven: work on potatoes.  Toss in bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, if desired.  Place on baking sheet.
9. Once the veggies are done, pull them out and place the potatoes in for 20-30 minutes.
10. While potatoes are in the oven, work on other things in the kitchen!  I chose to cook up taco meat for Monday's dinner and I also made a batch of my energy bars (peanut butter oat bars) for snacks.
11. Once the potatoes are done, pull them out and the turkey should be done shortly thereafter.
12. Let everything cool and then start staging your containers to package these for lunches.  I packed up 4 lunches with what I had but you could potentially stretch this out more.  

The before picture.

Roasted veggies.
Roasted potatoes.
Cooked turkey.  Everything is out, time to stage it all now!
I use Rubbermaid containers.
First go the veggies.

Then add the potatoes.

Finally, the turkey.
This looks to be a very tasty lunch!
I wish I was staying in town to eat it.
Containers are all lined up and ready for the fridge.
This was the taco meat I cooked up while waiting for the potatoes and turkey.
These are my favorite energy bars!  Also made during oven time!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Chocolate Chunk Chickpea Blondies

I used to crave sweets.  I would scrounge in the pantry after dinner, looking for candy bars.  After changing my diet, my cravings have basically gone away and when I do eat the kind of sweets that I used to, I can't even handle it.  We got a caramel apple pie for my birthday and I had a huge slice.  At first it felt great but within minutes I felt sick to my stomach.  It is interesting how long it has taken me to get over the sugar cravings and now how easy it is to say no to all the Halloween candy that is getting passed around.  It feels quite liberating!

With that being said, it still is fun to have the kind of desserts that I enjoy.  They are flourless but they are still a treat to me.  The secret ingredient that I hide from the kids are...chickpeas.  Hello, protein.  These are great to travel with as well.  I like to toss them in a Ziplock and pack them in my luggage instead of a Lara bar.

One 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup organic peanut butter
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
Chocolate chunks from 1/2 of a 1.55 oz. Hershey bar - feel free to add more :)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Spray an 8X8 baking pan with cooking spray.
3. Use a food processor or a blender to add all ingredients except for the chocolate chunks.
4. Process until batter is smooth.
5. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
6. Spread batter into the prepared pan.  Pat it even.
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes.  Edges will start to brown.
8. Cool pan on a wire rack.
This recipe yields 9 big blondies.

Nutrition information:
Calories: 264
Fat: 16.6 g
Carbs: 22.9 g
Protein: 9.5 g

Friday, October 28, 2016

Peanut Butter Oat and Honey Energy Bars

It has been a very busy couple of weeks.  My husband was out of town, and I was recovering from running my first full marathon!!!  
Yes, it rained, but I did not care.  I finished.
I finished running and my husband flew out the next day.  That left me focused on managing the house, kids, work, and getting some much needed rest.  Now that my husband is back I am happy to be blogging again!

Something I had to learn with marathon training was how to fuel my body during long runs.  I learned about goos and chomps and various candy that runners use.  I found myself really wanting to make my own fuel and I returned to an old recipe that I enjoy, and just tweaked it a bit.  I present to you what I call my energy bars!

These are great snacks as well as running fuel!  My daughter loves them in her lunch.  For running, I would place a couple in a ziploc, place the ziplock in my pouch, and periodically grab a piece and munch it while running.  It got me through 26.2 miles and many training runs leading up to the big day!

They are also super easy to make.  There are only 3 ingredients, and no baking is required.  

1 cup organic peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1. Spray a 9 X 9 pan lightly with non-stick spray.
2. Melt peanut butter and honey together until smooth (I use the microwave for this).
3. Combine mixture with oats.
4. Press the mixture into the pan.  
5. Place in fridge to cool.
6. For storage, you can leave in the fridge to keep them set.  If you like them gooey, leave them out.

Nutrition Information (16 bars, info per bar):
Calories: 190
Fat: 9.1 g
Carbs: 26.8 g
Protein: 6.1 g

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Light Healthy 70 Calories Turkey Meatballs

Turkey meatballs are becoming a big favorite in our family.  They are super easy to make too!

I sometimes will make them the day before so that we have an easy grab and go dinner.  Usually it is served with a side of sauce and pasta noodles, or with spaghetti squash.

16 oz. ground turkey, 93% lean
1 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 egg
0.5 cup wheat flour

1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Whisk egg in a bowl
3. In another bowl, combine turkey and flour. 
4. Add in the egg, garlic, and oil.  Mix well.  Your hands are the best tools.
5. Form into balls - I get 16 out of my forming.
6. Place meatball on a foil lined baking sheet (coated with spray).
7. Bake for 20 minutes.
8. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 70
Fat: 2.3 g
Carbs: 3.1 g
Protein: 6.1 g

Monday, September 26, 2016

Vegetable Egg Breakfast Cups

I love eggs and can eat them all day if I had my way.  Unfortunately on work days, I don't have time in the morning to scramble them up or to make an omelette.  However, I recently discovered the concept of breakfast cups.  The combinations are endless, but essentially you are combining eggs with whatever meats, cheeses, and vegetables you would like, and then you bake this mixture into cups.  It's great because you can eat them right away or save them for later.  I made a batch on Sunday and then I can grab 4 a day for a warm breakfast at work.    My recipe produces a low 52 calories per cup with a whopping 5.3 grams of protein!

12 egg whites
6 whole eggs
1 handful of spinach
3 medium peppers: 1 red, 1 orange, 1 yellow - chopped
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Grab your muffin pans and either grease them or line them with foil muffin liners.  Do not use regular cupcake liners as the cups will just stick to them!  I used foil muffin liners.
3. Saute peppers and mushrooms in a pan.  I used cooking spray on my pan.  Another option is to roast them in the oven until tender-crisp.
4. Combine eggs in a bowl.  Whisk together.  Add in peppers and mushrooms, spinach, and cheese.  Stir until combined.  Add salt and pepper, if desired.  I did not find it necessary for this recipe.
5. Pour equal amounts of mixture into each liner.
6. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Nutrition Information: (recipe makes 24, info per cup)
Calories 52
Fat: 2.6 g
Carbs: 1.7 g
Protein: 5.3 g
Cholesterol: 51.2 mg
Sodium: 77.5 mg
Potassium: 115.7 mg
Carbs: 1.7 g
Vitamin A: 10.5%
Vitamin C: 32.5%
Calcium: 4.3%
Iron: 1.9%

This stash will get me through the work week!
Better than a dessert cupcake.

I store them in a pan and pull these out during the week to enjoy.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

62 Calorie Crepes

I loved eating crepes at a coffeehouse in Maui that was owned by a woman from France.  I had two 12 mile run days when I was on vacation and those were the two days that I treated myself to a crepe.
Wonderful French crepe.
With chicken, tomato, and cheese.

I  started wondering why I didn't just make these myself.  I surfed around, talked to my mom, and came up with this recipe.

And now it has become a weekly tradition for me to make crepes at home.  The whole family loves it because everyone gets whatever filling they want!  I'll describe our combinations below.

I usually make a double batch, which fields us 17 crepes of about an 8" diameter.  This is a thicker crepe.  If you prefer a thinner one, go for it and use a larger pan.  I do make them larger for my husband as he likes them better that way - plus you can really stuff them good this way!

I always make the batter the night before.  It needs time to set.  It also simplifies your work the next day.

3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
3 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup water


1. Combine all ingredients into a bowl
2. Use a hand mixer to blend the ingredients until combined.
3. Leave in fridge for at least 2 hours.
4. Spray pan with non stick cooking spray.
5. Once warm, pour batter into pan.
6. Similar to pancakes, wait until bubbles form and use a spatula to flip over.
7. Transfer to plate and here is where the fun continues.  Fill and serve!

Here are some of our favorite combinations:

  • Cream cheese and strawberry jam.
  • Peanut butter and jelly.
  • Nutella and banana.
  • Nutella and strawberry.
  • Nutella!
  • Ham and mozzarella cheese with spinach and tomato.
  • Avocado and turkey with mozzarella cheese.
  • Chicken with mozzarella, tomato and spinach.
  • Chicken with mozzarella, tomato, spinach and avocado.
  • Turkey with roasted peppers.
  • Syrup.
  • By itself!
And for nutrition, this is low calorie goodness!  A low calorie treat?  Yes please.  62 calories per 8" crepe.

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 62
Fat: 1.6 g
Cholesterol: 46.8 mg
Sodium: 30.2 mg
Potassium: 23.2 mg
Carbs: 7.8 g
Fiber: 1.4 g
Sugars: 0.3 g
Protein: 3.3 g
Vitamin A: 2%
Vitamin C: 3.8%
Iron: 4.6%

Heating up right after pouring the batter.
Here is the heated side after flipping.
Ready for filling.
Here is a jam filled crepe.
Chicken, spinach, tomato, mozzarella, and avocado.
Chicken, spinach, mozzarella, and tomato.
How's that for a good forkful of food?
Dinner is served.
With Nutella for a sweet treat.
Ham, spinach, and mozzarella.