Grapefruit, avocado salad with chicken

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Just as cold months have us clambering for thick, rich foods, warmer months are all about salads and grilling. Our bodies instinctually know we don’t need as much fat when it’s warm, but we do need more hydration, and the season is ripe for beautiful fruits and vegetables.

Below is an easy salad packed with flavor and health benefits.

Grapefruit is loaded with water, fiber, vitamin C and lycopene. It helps you feel full, slim down, fight aging cells and build immunity.

Avocados are great for eyes, skin, hair, heart, good cholesterol, fighting cravings for bad fats, absorbing other nutrients…they’re even good for unborn babies.

Walnuts help with weight management, sleep, hair, heart disease, skin, preventing cancer, diabetes and dementia, and fighting off stress.

Basil has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.

Put them all together, and you get a glow-inducing meal that tastes as amazing as it is healthy.

Grapefruit, avocado salad with chicken

  • 1 package of mixed greens
  • 1 bunch of basil
  • 1 Grapefruit
  • 1 Avocado
  • 1 handful of walnuts
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon
  • 1 tsp jelly (I used peach, but the fruit won’t be strong enough to alter the flavor, so use what you have)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Torn/cut grilled or rotisserie chicken

Wash all greens (if needed) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Chop up grapefruit and avocado into chunks. Mix oil, vinegar, dijon and jelly. Toast walnuts in skillet or oven. Put all ingredients, including chicken, in a large bowl, toss with dressing and serve.

 


Dinner done easy: Rotisserie chicken and roasted veggies

tri-color-bell-peppers

I was very excited to see hormone and antibiotic free rotisserie chicken at the store yesterday. I really try to go as clean as possible when it comes to animal proteins. I’ve got plenty of hormones kicking on my own, thanks!

Anyway, we’d had a busy day, and I just wasn’t in my normal cooking-mode. Easy was the name of the game, and it doesn’t get easier than chicken that’s already been cooked for you.

As a side, I roasted vegetables while I showered. Don’t pretend you’re not impressed at my multi-tasking.

The point is, you can keep dinner healthy and have it ready in the same amount of time it would take to make a processed, boxed option.

Rotisserie chicken and roasted veggies

  • 1 rotisserie chicken
  • 1 squash/zucchini
  • 3 peppers, preferable mixed colors
  • Olive oil spray
  • s&p

Heat oven to 400F. Slice veggies, spread out on pan, spray with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. If your chicken needs reheating, you can put it in the oven halfway through cooking the veggies.

That’s really it. Just cut up your chicken and serve it next to the veggies.


Sweet, healthy, easy breakfast options

All the nutritional knowledge in the world does nothing to combat my craving for sweets in the morning.

In heaven, I plan to eat a chocolate croissant and biscuits with honey butter every morning. (Heaven is calorie-free, right?)

In my current reality, most morning sweets will hold my appetite for a very short time, while holding the sides of my hips for a very long time. Also, I know that making healthy choices all day long starts in the morning.

Having seen the line at Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts each morning when I use to commute to work in Atlanta, I feel safe assuming I’m not alone, so I thought I’d share some of my sweet solutions.

There is a lot to love about the following options. They’re easy, yummy, healthy and kid-friendly. I don’t use exact measurements for any of them, so just make them each “to taste,” and ask if you have questions.

Sweet, healthy breakfast options:

Nutty Nana Oatmeal: Boil water, add old-fashioned oats, once boiling again, add banana and almond butter. Reduce to simmer and cook until mixed and absorbed. Add a splash of unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

Ezekiel French Toast: Soak Ezekiel bread (regular or cinnamon-raisin) in mixture of egg, unsweetened vanilla almond milk and cinnamon. Cook in a skillet. Enjoy with a little butter and honey, if needed.

Nutty Cinnamon Prunes: Smear a bit of nut butter on a few prunes, sprinkle with cinnamon.

And, of course, there are always my healthy pancakes!

 

 


Slow-cooker turkey breast over kale

As a spin-off to my slow-cooker turkey breast soup blog, I want to share a recent recipe I’ve been having fun with.

Like the soup recipe, I still coat the defrosted turkey breast in pesto and cook it in the slow-cooker. What’s different on this one is that I throw in whatever vegetables I have on hand (I’ve done onion and different squash varietals, red peppers, carrots, etc.), add in just enough broth to help their flavors mingle and keep them from sticking, then, I serve them on top of fresh kale. The heat from the meat and veggies wilts the kale just enough.

I add a little Israeli couscous for my son since he needs the additional carbs, but we don’t.

Using spinach or kale as a rice or pasta substitute is a great, easy way to completely revamp the nutritional profile of your meal. Between the fiber and the overall nutritional makeup of dark, leafy greens, you’ll stay full longer, and avoid unnecessary starches. You don’t have to completely change your diet to eat more cleanly; just make easy swaps like this one.

This meal is great all-around because it’s ready whenever we finish our whirlwind day and are ready to eat, and it’s family friendly. Eating well as a rule is easier than trying out a fad-diet. It’s just too hard to make a special, healthy meal for one person. You need options, like this one, that everyone can enjoy. Eating well should taste really good.


Apple Coleslaw

Apple coleslaw is great because it adds a bit of crisp and sweetness to your average cabbage salad. My husband doesn’t like mayonnaise, and he enjoys this dish, but you can adjust the ration of mayo to mustard further depending on your own tastes. I just played around with the ingredients until I got the thumbs up from the hubs.

Light mayonnaise, and the use of mustard in place of some of the typical amount (most coleslaw calls for a cup of mayo), cuts down on the fat in this coleslaw recipe. You could also try using a little mayo mixed with greek yogurt to further adjust, but still keep the flavor that mayo brings to the table.

If you don’t have a sprayer to use with your lemon juice, just toss the apples with some lemon juice as you cut them so they don’t brown.

The response I received at the gathering I took this to was largely from people who don’t typically enjoy coleslaw, but enjoyed this variation.

If you ask me, adding in apples is always a bonus!

This was for a large crowd at a BBQ, so you could definitely cut it down.

Apple Coleslaw

  • 4 apples ( I used 2 Granny Smith, 1 Golden Delicious, and 1 Red)
  • Lemon juice (just enough to spritz the apples to keep them from browning)
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 2 stalks of green onion/scallion, chopped
  • 1/8 cup of red onion, chopped
  • 1 bag of craisins
  • 1.5 bags chopped cabbage with carrots
  • 2/3 cup of light mayo – or greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • s&p to taste

Julienne apples and spritz with lemon juice. Put apples in a bowl with other chopped ingredients and half of cabbage. Mix liquid ingredients and add to bowl. As you mix, add in the remaining cabbage. Salt and pepper to taste.


Oh kale, sweet onion, and spaghetti squash, how I’ve missed you

When we were living in Italy, the three ingredients I missed the most were kale, sweet onion, and spaghetti squash. For all the fabulous ingredients I enjoyed there, these three were simply unavailable.

  • Kale is fabulous because it holds up better than spinach when cooked, and… you can make healthy chips with it. I’ve never seen my husband so excited about eating greens as when I make kale chips.

To make kale chips, rinse kale and tear leaves into chip size pieces. Toss with 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a  large ziploc or other container and spread into one layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt, bake at 350F for 10 minutes, turn off the oven and leave in for another 5 minutes, remove and let sit for 5 minutes. They should come out crispy and delicious.

  • I grew up in Georgia and was spoiled by our endless supply of sweet onions from Vidalia. For those of you who don’t know, Vidalia is in Georgia. If it’s sweet, it comes from Georgia. Trust me. In Hawaii, they have sweet “Maui” onions, and they taste like home. I love throwing these on the grill, or using them in soups, salads, etc. to add a natural sweetness.
  • Spaghetti squash is nature’s answer to low-carb diets. How fabulous that God made a vegetable that acts just like spaghetti! You can find it in the produce section along with other squash varieties. It looks like a yellow, oval melon.

To cook spaghetti squash, pierce it like you would a potato for baking, place in an oven-safe, rimmed pan or casserole dish, and bake at 375F for one hour. When you remove it, it should feel soft. Slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, then scrape the insides with a fork. Everything but the skin will come apart like actual spaghetti. Use/top it with anything you would normally serve over pasta, or season with a little butter/oil and salt as you would a squash.


Make your own granola and protein bars

For all the healthy promises on the packaging of protein and granola bars, most of them are barely healthier than candy bars. They may be great snack options for professional athletes, but most of us aren’t going to burn enough fuel in a day to use up everything they’re packing.

Protein is good for you, as is oatmeal – the basis of granola; however, once you’ve baked them with tons of sugar, fat and chocolate, you may as well have just grabbed a Snickers bar. The fit person on the front of the box probably doesn’t actually eat the bars.

It’s just that protein and granola bars are so easy to grab and eat on the run, right? It’s exceptionally uncool of manufacturers to fake us out and load them with stuff we don’t need.

Thankfully, it’s really easy to make bars at home that have exactly what you want in them, and nothing else.

Homemade protein and granola bars

  • 1/2 cup nut butter (natural almond or peanut butter with no salt added)
  • 1/2 cup natural applesauce (no sugar added)
  • 1 Tbsp of coconut or olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (for minerals)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup organic agave nectar
  • 1/3 cut wheat germ
  • 1 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup vanilla protein powder (I’m sure chocolate would be good, too.)

Optional ingredients: 1/4 cup coconut, 1/3 cup dried fruit

Combine all ingredients and press into greased (you can also line with parchment for easy removal without the spray oil) baking pan or glass casserole dish and bake for 35 minutes at 350. Cut while warm, let cool to harden. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.


Sweet potato, carrot, coconut and chicken soup

Sweet potato, carrot, coconut and chicken soup not only tastes amazing, it’s a cancer-fighting machine.

For those of you on a diet with concerns about the ingredient list, allow me to dispel some myths (italicized, and best read in a valley-girl accent).

Oh, I don’t eat potatoes, they have carbs, and carbs will make me fat. 

Not all carbs are created equal. If you over-consume processed carbohydrates, you will not see the results you are hoping for in your body; however, whole potatoes are unprocessed, extremely nutrient-dense, and sweet potatoes, in particular, rank the lowest on the glycemic index.

Sweet potatoes are nutritional rockstars, and they’re a potato you should say yes to – assuming you aren’t coating them in butter, marshmallows, or any other ingredient that turns them into candy. That’s like adding a candy bar to your oatmeal.

I heard carrots are like sugar sticks with orange food coloring. 

Carrots get a bad rap because they’re a starchy vegetable. Do they have carbohydrates and sugars, yes, but they are all natural, and hold a lot of awesome nutritional wealth that is absolutely worth it in the right portion sizes. The energy boost and fat-fighting properties of carrots cancel out the carbohydrates.

Horses are smart to go for these orange sticks, and you should follow suit. You’ll get vitamins A, K, C, and B6, beta-carotene (for healthy eyes, and cancer fighting power), potassium (fight off the muscle cramps you’ve been experiencing in your workouts), calcium, and more. Besides, natural sugars don’t act the same in your body as refined sugar, and Mother Nature uses more reasonable amounts per serving size than candy companies.

Coconut milk has fat, so I can’t have that either. No fat. No carbs. No sugar.

The fat in coconut milk is not the same as the fat in your french fries.

Although it should still be enjoyed in moderation, the fat in coconut milk is actually good for you. It helps your skin stay elastic. Coconut milk is also high in phosphorus, iron, magnesium, fiber, zinc, potassium and vitamin C.

The bottom line: You should eat all “real” food in moderation. Don’t eat something that’s processed simply because it claims to have less fat or carbohydrates. If your body can’t easily recognize an ingredient, it doesn’t know how to use it, and it will get pushed to the side to live in your problem areas and cause your body to run less efficiently. Choose unprocessed food, and eat the appropriate portion size

  • If you’re a vegetarian, this soup is great without the chicken, too.
  • You can skip a cooking step by using a store-bought rotisserie chicken.
  • If you like a little kick, add a bit of cayenne with the other spices. You’ll feel nice and toasty after a bowl of this goodness.

Sweet potato, carrot, coconut and chicken soup

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil or real butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken/vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed or not from concentrate)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup of coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pkg (about 6) chicken tenderloins, cut into chunks
  • Arugula for garnish (A green that serves as your pepper!)

Cook chicken in olive oil and set to the side.

Saute onion in 1 Tbsp coconut oil/butter over medium heat until soft. Add carrots, potato, and second Tbsp coconut oil/butter. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add orange juice, salt, spices, and half of the chicken broth, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until potatoes and carrots begin to soften (about 8 minutes), then process until you reach desired smoothness. Add processed soup back to pot and add remaining broth and coconut milk. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add chicken to soup and heat through. Serve topped with arugula. Enjoy!


Sweet potato, sausage and white bean stew

I try to use almost everything I have in the pantry and refrigerator before I head to the store. I do it partly for the challenge, and partly because I don’t always feel like going to the store. This process has turned out all kinds of food combinations I wouldn’t ordinarily mix, but it also keeps me from churning out the same old dishes all the time.

Yesterday I found myself with one sweet potato (lots of nutritious bang for your buck – they should have a label that reads, “eat me”), a package of light Hillshire Farm (Go meat!) sausage, and white northern beans. Also on hand (because I always need them) was onion, garlic, canned tomatoes, chicken broth, and, of course, a plethora of seasonings. Since I’m writing about it, you have already guessed that the result was delicious.

A few notes about this dish before we get to the recipe:

  • Don’t add salt. Between the sausage and the canned beans and tomatoes, you don’t need it.
  • Don’t serve it over rice or pasta. You wouldn’t serve mashed potatoes that way, so don’t serve sweet potato stew that way.
  • You could also make this in the slow cooker.
  • I don’t have a photo because we were really hungry from smelling it, and we ate too fast for my shutter.

Sweet potato, sausage and white bean stew

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 pkg. light smoked sausage
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp dried basil (or a handful of the fresh stuff if you’ve got it handy)
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped (1 inch chunks work)
  • 1 can of whole tomatoes
  • 1 can white great northern/cannellini beans (drained)
  • 2/3 cup chicken broth

In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onion, cook for 3 minutes, then add sausage and garlic. Cook another 3 minutes and add potato and seasonings. Cook 3 minutes, stirring well, then add tomatoes and stir/smash to blend. Finally, add beans. Cover and cook for 20-30 mins, adding chicken broth as needed too keep it from getting to thick and sticking to the skillet.

Enjoy!


Roasted sweet potato and pineapple

I ran across this delicious side dish in Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine and enjoyed it so much I wanted to share the recipe.

Sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index score than other potatoes, making them a good carb, and they come loaded with cartenoids, vitamin C, fiber and potassium.

Pineapple is another nutritional powerhouse with a natural sweetness that only gets better when roasted.

Don’t be shy about the cayenne used in the recipe. I would not categorize this as a spicy dish.

The basic recipe for this dish calls for preheating the oven to 450F and roasting the potatoes and pineapple for 30-35 minutes, stirring every ten minutes. The night I made this I was also cooking a pork loin and wanted to roast everything at the same time, so I actually cooked it all at 400F for 40 minutes, stirring at the halfway point. It made for a very easy dinner all-around.

Without further ado, here is the recipe.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Pineapple

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 medium pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces, or one 20 oz can of chunks in natural juice (drained)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Few cracks of sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes, pineapple, oil, salt and cayenne pepper together and spread evenly on baking sheet. Roast until sweet potatoes and pineapple are tender and golden, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.