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