i'm at a loss & chicken enchilada's

allright, so no one answered my question about olympians eating mcdonalds.  why not? i know you're reading.  guess i'm the only one who thought it was an interesting sponsorship.  i think mcdonalds and the like should be outlawed.  even if it means less convenience for me when i'm too tired to cook and one less thing to bribe my kids with when i'm at my wits end.   i see mcdonalds and i think salt on sugar on fat.   my father in law refers to mcdonalds french fries as the fries that never die.

have you ever wondered why you cannot acheive the same delicious taste when you grill at home?  oh, those sweet, melt-in-your-mouth hamburger buns.  food that has quite literally been pre-chewed to slide down our throats with little effort helping us to eat more food, a lot faster.  every menu item has been chemically engineered to taste perfect in our mouths.  the combination of salt and fat and sugar makes addiction hard for anyone to avoid. 

anyway, i read too much. 

so ... chicken enchilada's.

i've been really struggling with our meals lately.  the thing is, i wanted to share recipes that i find delicious and nutritious.  meals that helped me lose weight and that are easy to prepare.  but, i quickly realized that the truth is i really eat the same five or six dishes over and over again having changed my relationship with food by viewing it as simply a source for fuel.   we are nearly always eating some variation of chicken with some variation of steamed veggies and a whole grain carb.  i consume little fat and little sodium.  i do not drink my calories.  i chew a piece of gum when i want a sweet treat ...

i have become the master of meal monotony.  so what's to share? well, i guessed i could start trying new things and so this became a new focus.  i began to energectically search for recipes but i was brought back to reality real quick when i realized i am not a very good cook.

my poor family.  poor me really.  for the last two weeks they have been subjected to some not-so-great-tasting meals and not one time has anyone said wow mom, that was good or thanks for dinner.  i started getting depressed about it.  feeling sad that no one was appreciating my efforts and feeling even worse about the reality that is healthy, low fat, low sodium meals taste like healthy, low fat, low sodium meals.

i felt defeated.  i gained a pound in two weeks and i fought back tears every time i watched the family move their food around their plates with zero enthusiasm.

it is easy for me to eat the same thing over and over again.  it is not as easy to convince three small children and my husband that grilled chicken is delicious every. single. night.

what am i going to do?  i wanted to yell then you cook! but my husband is too kind to complain so i never got the chance.  he will eat what i put in front of him so i want it to taste good.

anyway, after some really bad spare ribs and the next nights i-don't-know-what-to-call-it, i wasn't ready to give up and i knew i needed to incorporate some cheese into the next dish or i wouldn't even get them to the table.

introducing the skinny chef's chicken enchilada's.

they were actually good.  i liked them.  jake liked them enough to take for leftovers the next days lunch and the kids didn't complain too much (they were a little hard for them to eat without help cutting). 

i served them with some mexican rice-a-roni and refried beans.  i stuck to the enchilada as it alone has a nice balance of protein, veggies, carbs and fat.  i was worried it would be dry but it wasn't at all.   the only mistake i think i made was i used too much sour cream and not enough spinach.  still, it was really filling and even better warmed up the next day.  it's not the lowest in fat (obviously) but it's definitely a guilt-free version of enchilada's (imo).

hopefully i'm out of my slump. 

recipe and photo from here

i highly recommend this dish but i'm not going to type out the recipe.  just click on the link below the photo for a download of the recipe.

in the meantime, here's a quick snapshot i took just before i rolled the mixture into the tortilla's and a little bit of nutritional info for those who are counting.

one serving (per her recipe which yields 4),
calories 436, fat 19.7g (7.8g sat fat), sodium 972mg (not sure why this is so high ... any ideas?), carbs 33g, fiber 2.8g,  sugar 6.2g, protein 32.5g


breaded chicken & veggie couscous

have you ever tried couscous?

my mom thinks she doesn't like it.

my dad would hate it.

jake says "i like it just fine but it's hard to eat."

and the kids like saying "couscous" so i don't get too many crunched noses when i spoon some on their plates.

tonight we had breaded chicken and veggie couscous for dinner. i made up the breaded chicken and adapted the couscous recipe from here.

this meal is really easy to make and is ready super fast.  perfect.  because i didn't feel like cooking.

for the chicken, i get my two bowls and pour 1/4 cup of egg substitute in one bowl and 1/2 a cup of italian bread crumbs with 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan in the other.  i always use frozen chicken tenders that i've had thawing, all day on the counter, in a ziplock baggie.  i know, you're not supposed to thaw meat at room temperature.  i don't really worry too much.  it's usually still a bit frozen by the time i start cooking anyway and so far no one has died or became ill so i think we're okay.  hopefully i don't regret it in the future. 

anyway.  first thing is the egg substitute.  i use egg substitute all the time.  trying to keep my cholesterol in check.  egg substitute is good.  don't argue with me until you've tried it consistently for at least four years.  saute up some green onions and mushrooms in a small pan coated with pam spray and throw in the egg substitute with a little low fat mozzarella and you're sitting pretty for breakfast (that was just an idea, not part of this recipe). 

back to the chicken.  okay, so i realized today that italian bread crumbs - when purchased from the market already nicely mixed and packaged - have a never ending ingredient list consisting of way more than italian seasoning and bread.  next time, i'll run out to the local gourmet market and pick up some whole wheat bread crumbs and mix in a little garlic powder, onion powder and italian seasoning to make my own.  i bet it's yummy and will yield a lot less sodium per serving.  but today, i made due with what i had.

obviously you dip the chicken in the egg substitute and then lightly into the bread mixture.  i had to run to the store to pick up some parmesan cheese.  we were out.  i love parmesan cheese.  anyway,  i was blown away when i discovered that store brand was way lower in sodium, fat and calories than the major name brand and $2 cheaper for the same amount!! check those labels people!

okay, spray your pan with pam spray (i use olive oil spray.  my dad hates it.  he says it tastes like olive oil).  lay your chicken tenders down oh-so-gently and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. yum.

now the couscous is just as easy if you know how to chop up carrots and zucchini julian style (which i do not).  i need one of those fancy chopper things.  it took me way too long to achieve the "look" ... next time, i'll just chop as usual to save some energy.

i have yet to find whole wheat couscous at the grocery store.  thank goodness for my favorite gourmet market.  they have a nice little room in the back where you can stock up on all sorts of yummy "bulk" foods including whole wheat couscous. 

back to the task at hand. first thing you want to do is spray your pan with more pam spray and heat it on medium high heat.  saute the sweet onion for about three minutes and then throw in the remaining chopped veggies, cumin and coriander.  {next time, i'm going to add mushrooms to the onions and let them sweat for a bit to give a little more moisture to the dish}.  toss the veggies around for about 5 minutes and then add the chicken broth.  bring to a boil and then cover and simmer the veggies for another 5 minutes.  remove the pan from the heat and add the couscous.  cover and let sit for another 5 minutes.  fluff and serve. yum.


side note: today i saw an advertisement for chicken broth that said something along the lines of "no msg in our broth unlike every other chicken broth" so when i went to pick up some groceries i looked into their claim.  turns out the store brand not only doesn't have msg, it was also fat free and had a lot less sodium than the other. even better, i do believe organic free range chicken broth has even less sodium than both previously mentioned broths and would be free of msg as well.  just a guess. anyone know for sure?

tonight i served the fam whole wheat dinner rolls with their dinner but i didn't indulge myself.  the couscous was enough carbs for me.  i really liked it.  let me know if you try it and, if you have any recipes to share with me.  i'm always looking for new ideas!

breaded chicken (yields 6); one serving 144 calories; 2.3g fat (.9 saturated fat), 44mg cholesterol, 7.4g carbs, .4g fiber,  435mg sodium, 23.4g protein.

veggie couscous
1 small sweet onion chopped
3 carrots (sliced, diced, chopped, whatever)
2 celery stalks
1 small zucchini
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 cup low sodium, fat free chicken broth
2/3 cup whole wheat couscous

veggie couscous (yields 6 one cup servings); two cups (what i had) 212 calories, 1.2g fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 237mg sodium, 46.2g carbs, 7.1g fiber, 7.1g sugar, 7.7g protein.


valentine dish

it's a bit disheartening that i don't have a great internet connection these days.  blogging has become a challenge and i have so many recipes i want to share but they'll have to wait until i don't have to fight so much with the computer (soon).

for now, here's a taste of our valentine dinnner. 

the family loves roast so i slow cooked a beef top round and it really was yummy.  first i mixed a can of cream of mushroom soup with a packet of dry onion soup mix to spread on the roast.  i only had small red potatoes and onion to add to the pot so i chopped some up and threw them in around the roast to cook on low for eight hours. 

as usual, i steamed a bag of veggies and made some quick gravy for the hub who likes to drown his potatoes and meat (i prefer no gravy).

for dessert we had strawberry shortcake.  i experimented with dessert wine over the strawberries (for jake and i) which was good but a little strong for our taste.  we're just not crazy about wine.  

jake told me i was an over achiever when he saw the heart shaped pound cake.  i thought it was a nice touch.  what do you think?

happy belated valentine's day!  soon i'll tell you about my adventures with muffin making and share my favorite marinade for chicken.  until then .... eat well and get your sweat on (insert smiley).


dinner :: white bean turkey chili

listen, this chili is really good.  i adapted the recipe from one i found at epicurious.com and it has quickly become a staple meal in our home.  the cinnamon makes this dish divine.

first thing you need is about two cups of chopped yellow onions (two medium onions). 

{don't forget :: image quality = camera phone}

saute the onions in a large stock pot with about one tbsp of olive oil heated over medium-high heat.

after the onions are soft, add the oregano and cumin.  saute for one minute.

add the turkey and break it up with the back of your spoon.  cook on high until no longer pink.

throw in the chili powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon and salt.

add a large can of whole tomato's and break them up with the back of your spoon. 

add a small can of tomato sauce and three cups of low sodium beef broth.

top the mixture with three bay leaves and bring to a boil. let the chili simmer for about 45 minutes and then add 3 to 4 cups of great northerns.

there are a few things i do to make this an "easy" recipe to whip up when i can't think of anything else (which is often).  first, i try to always have a few pounds of ground turkey in the freezer and instead of using canned beans, i followed my cousin sarah c.'s advice about preparing beans a head of time and freezing them which helps to cut back on the sodium a lot (by eliminating the need for canned beans).  i also buy dried bay leaves as opposed to fresh bay leaves and i found costco has huge containers of super yummy chili powder in their baking isle.  most of the time you can find great deals on canned tomato's and so i stock up when i can.   once you buy the rest of the spices, they'll last for several batches.  don't forget the cinnamon!

the kids and the hub top their chili with grated cheddar while i prefer a dollup of light sour cream or, as gwen suggested, low fat plain yogurt would do the trick too.  i just happen to be a super huge sour cream fan.  i will make the switch though.  just give me some time. 

we usually enjoy our chili with some version of cornbread or muffins on the side.  this is one meal that everyone eats without complaining. 

anyway, as always, it was delish.  beans beans the magical fruit ... heaven knows i needed it.

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1/4 cup chili powder
2-3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
3 cups low sodium beef stock or canned beef broth
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
3-4 cups of great northern beans

yields 8 servings (about 1.5 cups a serving)
294 calories, 8.2g fat (1.7g saturated fat), 49mg cholesterol, 719mg sodium, 30.8g carbs, 10g fiber, 6.5g sugar, 26.4g protein.

i'm baaack ...

oh internet, i love thee.

okay, so i haven't been able to really go grocery shopping for a while in exception to our purchase of "super bowl friendly" foods on saturday. not having much to choose from ingredient wise makes meal preparation sort of really hard (sort of really) which makes my nutritious dish blogging sort of really hard too. 

super bowl friendly foods are not diet friendly foods, not around here anyway and i wholeheartedly regret partaking in them for several reasons.  one being the way i feel the day after the binge.  i feel awful and my cravings are insane.  i am guessing this has something to do with my insulin levels being sky high after eating layer upon layer of salt, fat and sugar.  that's all that crap is really; salt, fat and/or sugar (or a delicious combination of all three i.e. chips with mango salsa).   another reason i am filled with regret is because i'm filled with gas and seriously backed up. 

let's talk about poop people.  my brother doesn't believe women poop.  he told me this once.  ha.  i do poop and it's something i'm really proud of because after years of serious irregularlity (which i attribute 100% to diet), i am finally able to go places without fretting over where the nearest toilet is.  no more stop-at-the-next-gas-station requests that i always blamed on my "genes" because i happen to be a member of a large family with many IBS suffers, most of whom are self diagnosed.  i'm now fairly certain that 90% of these great people could cure most of their tummy issues by changes in diet alone.  eat less fat, salt and sugar and drink more water and your colon with thank you.  i'm telling you!

today i have been focused on drinking a lot of water and eating super light just waiting for some relief. 

so far, for breakfast, this again.  it's a winner. 

for lunch:

a delicious protein shake after my run (which also really helps to loosen the bowels in case you were wondering).

1 scoop of vanilla whey protein (gnc ampliflied wheybolic)
1/2 cup of frozen berries
1 cup fat free milk
1 scoop (tbsp) ground flax seed (bob's red mill)
crushed ice

243 calories, 2.5g fat (0.4g saturated fat), 10mg cholesterol, 236mg sodium, 25.8g carbs, 4.3g fiber, 19.2g sugar, 30.8g protein.

i crave my shakes.  smoothies.  whatever you want to call them.  they are super filling and super quick to make.  they're convenient too ... easy to consume on the run. 

the protein powder i use from gnc was recommended by the knowledgeable man working the counter.  he asked me a bunch of questions about my diet and lifestyle and then made his recommendation. 

i use bob's red mill ground flax because i like it better than any other brand i've tried.  why ground flax seed? well, i don't eat any seafood so i don't get a lot of those healthy omega-3 fatty acids in my diet.  they're great for a lot of reasons; they help reduce your risk of heart disease and may help reduce the inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis.  in addition to omega-3s, flax seeds contain fiber, zinc, iron, vitamin E and calcium among other vitamins and minerals, and are low in saturated fat.  i know this because eatright.org told me so and they don't lie.  ground flax can be added to all sorts of foods.  i'm sure it's great in baked goods as well as oatmeal and cereal.  store it in the fridge in an airtight container for a longer shelf life.

lunch will be a really boring salad of sorts but dinner is going to be delicious.  until then ....



i am hoping that my sweet husband will be able to eliminate the ugly virus effecting our pc at this time.  right now we are visiting with my parents and i thought i'd steal a minute to say i had some delicious food today and am excited to share.

thanks to everyone for all of your support.  i tried to reply to comments and email this morning but the virus was too powerful.

hopefully i'll be back soon! i heart the internet.




dinner :: bbq chicken, red potatoes & steamed veggies

this is actually last nights dinner that i'll be eating the leftovers of tonight.  the kids will be thrilled to not have to endure any of my "disgusting" food tonight.  they get hot dogs over at the school for literacy night. 

this meal is super basic and super easy.

i buy frozen chicken tenders by the bag at costco.  i'll throw 10 or 12 in a ziplock in the morning and let them thaw throughout the day sometimes with no specific recipe in mind.  we eat a lot of chicken.

the chicken is easy.  i just brush a little bit of KC Masterpiece bbq sauce over the chicken and bake in a dish for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  the potatoes i boil for about 20 minutes (until tender) and then to top them, i melt 2 tbsp of butter and stir in 1.5 tsp of parsley and 1.5 tsp of chives.  pour this mixture over the potatoes and yum!  i got this recipe from another blog but i can't remember which one.  i assume it's not trademarked but if i remember, i'll be sure to reference it.  the veggies are just a steamers bag of mixed carrots, peas, corn and green beans. 

i prefer real butter so i try to use it sparingly.  most other times i use a spread like smart balance.

the entire meal (4 oz chicken, {1 tbsp bbq sauce}, 4 small potatoes, {1/2 tbsp butter} and 1 cup of veggies)
483 calories, 11.4g fat (4.6g saturated fat), 122mg cholesterol, 385mg sodium, 51.1g carbs, 8.6g fiber, 11.7g sugar, 45.2g protein.

lunch :: chicken salad sandwhich & spinach salad

yesterday i made myself some chicken salad for lunch and saved half for today.  i do this often, make enough for more than one meal and eat it a couple of times in one week.  it satisfies my hunger and takes the guesswork out of "what should i have for lunch today?"

so here you have it

chicken salad
6 oz chicken (boiled and chopped)
1 tbsp light sour cream
1 tbsp light mayo
.5 cup grapes
3 green onions chopped

yields 2 servings (less the bagel)
1 serving; 206 calories, 6.1g fat (1.6g saturated fat), 78mg cholesterol, 132mg sodium, 9.4g carbs, 27.4g protein.
spinach salad
1 - 2 cups fresh spinach
4 sliced strawberries
1/3 cup sliced grapes
1-2 tbsp red onions
1/2 tsp canola oil
1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
sprinkle truvia on top

79 calories, 2.8g fat (.2g saturated fat), 0mg cholesterol, 44mg sodium, 13.7g carbs, 2.3g fiber, 9.9g sugar, 1.8g protein

the drink, i didn't drink.  i happend to get this for "free" at smith's as part of a promotion.  i thought i would try it with my lunch until i read the label and realized i didn't know what most of the ingredients were.  these are the times when i wish i understood more about food and nutrition.  maybe some of this stuff is really good for you but, since i didn't know, i decided not to drink it.

normally i wouldn't eat the bagel twice but today i was in hurry and this is what i chose.  i probably would have been better off to just eat the other half of my bagel from breakfast but i burned plenty of calories during my run so i'm not worried about it.

breakfast :: fruit, yogurt and a bagel

with this being my first post, i'd like to warn you all that breakfast, for me, is usually really boring.  on most days i have four kids to get fed and ready for the day.  i need something quick and easy and something that will get me through my workout without upsetting my stomach.

today's breakfast (courtesy of the phone camera):

.5 cup fresh strawberries
.5 cup fresh blackberries
1 medium banana
1/3 cup fat free vanilla yogurt (mountain high)
1/2 100% whole wheat hearty grain bagel (thomas')
1 tbsp raw-natural almond butter (maranatha)

breakfast summary (less coffee and creamer)
445 calories, 10.6g fat (.8 saturated fat), 78.2g carbs, 14.6g protein, 13.8g fiber

once a week we visit costco and stock up on fruit.  usually strawberries, blackberries or raspberries, grapes and banana's.  we are on a very tight budget so eating the same foods most of the time helps me to stay within our budget.  i buy non-organic foods knowing better. if i had the choice, i would choose organic.

i prefer mountain high yogurt because they do not use artificial sweeteners in their low fat/fat free yogurts.  i also prefer the creamy texture.

i got the thomas bagels on sale even though the calorie content is on the high end (which is i why i split it in half).  they are high in fiber with 10g of protein.  we know we need to consume foods made with whole grains and stay away from those made with refined grains but the creative food packaging can cause confusion.  my strategy is to simply check the nutritional facts and ingredients. if the first word in the ingredient list is "whole," i believe it's usually a wise option.

i prefer raw almond butter to natural peanut butter (almond butter is an excellent source of stress-reducing monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, and potassium).   i always add a sprinkle of truvia natural sweetener for a little sweetness. truvia is a new product.  so far, the reviews seem good in regard how safe it is.  a tiny bit goes a long way. i will open one packet and use it for an entire week. 

last of all, coffee. i can't live without my coffee.  it's my addiction of choice and i usually drink one to two cups every morning with a little fat free french vanilla creamer.  i get frownies on my food diary log every day for the sugar in the creamer but i prefer it to the sugar free versions that leave an awful aftertaste.  this is one of my daily guilty pleasures.
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