2013’s low calorie and healthy meals

Luke and I exercise at the Y twice a week and try to get out at least once on the weekends for a walk, hike, snowshoeing, . . .something. But we also count calories, this way we don’t feel like we are truly on a diet but we portion what we eat and how much of it we have. For this reason and for allergy health reasons (see barley-free living ) many of the meals that we plan are gluten-free, high protein, and/or low calorie.

As  we start this new year and try to get back to those oh so necessary routines, diets, and exercise I thought I’d share some of last year’s low calorie and healthy eating highlights. So here are some of the top hits from this past year that you might find worth trying out for your new (returning to old) diet and routine.

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1.  A Vegetarian Mediterranean meal. This is my most popular food post ever. It is an easy dump recipe into the crockpot that I adapted from a recipe I got while in Egypt. The base of this recipe is what I call a lentil stew, although it has no vegetables or grains in it, the lentils ,if cooked over time, create a consistency of stew more so than a soup. It’s great for lunches or dinner with a salad or pita bread an hummus.

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2. Stuffed Bell Peppers: This is my second most popular dinner item. These peppers are nice and basic with plenty of room for variation. They requires a little prep. but nothing complicated. Once the peppers are stuffed you can stick them it the oven on low heat and leave them. We often make this on an exercise night where we can put the oven on a low setting, go exercise, and when we are back dinner is ready with minimal mess to clean up afterward. It’s a great all-in-one meal  packed with protein and veggie goodness.

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3.Gluten-Free Low-Cal Marsala. This is a great delicious meal that takes an Italian classic and cuts out calories by using two key substitutes. First I use steamed zucchini instead of pasta. For most Italian meals zucchini pairs perfectly with the meat dish; plus you get a filling serving of veggies for the night. Second I use Parmesan as a substitute for bread crumbs. Parmesan if dry enough if seasoned like Italian bread crumbs it works perfectly for coating chicken and it’s lower in calories.

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4.Gluten Free Low Cal Meatloaf:  I am not a huge fan of traditional meatloaf in the sense of dense bread and meat slices with a sweet sauce on top. This light loaf is extremely low calorie and tastes amazing. Ingredients including rice, and zucchini, with a zesty tomato topping give the loaf a great texture and taste that make it a true all-in-one meal. For both this recipe and the stuffed peppers I make ground beef go further by adding minced mushrooms. Mushrooms are a great away to cut calories plus they have a similar texture and consistency as ground beef when cooked.

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5.BBQ Teriyaki Bowl: Another great easy low-cal recipe. I actually got the teriyaki marinade recipe from a good friend and old tutoree from Japan. The longer the chicken marinates the better the flavor/texture when grilled. For a lower calorie meal you can use greek yogurt instead of mayo as the thickening/cream base of the marinade. Just know the mayo the fat layer in the mayo keeps the chicken very moist. Recently I have added ground ginger to the marinade as well. Once again this recipe is gluten free! No flour in this marinade!

So how are you doing trying to get back into the normal routines?

What are your favorite healthy homemade meals?

Fall Recipe Round-up and Competition

Today we are in Syracuse for the first time on a business trip. Luke will be attending a state wide nursing teaching day and since I am still waiting to hear back on the job interview last week (see a teacher without a classroom), I figured I’d come along and explore the area. I am looking forward to sharing what I find later.

For today I thought it was time to do a food review. In the past almost eight months of blogging I have posted low calorie, low carb (or no-carb), barley-free, and some gluten-free or even vegetarian recipes. As I looked at my weekly calendar (see What the fridge tells us) I realized that my recipes definitely change by the season. So now that I am more willing to not only stand the heat of the oven but enjoy it’s warmth here are a few of my favorite fall recipes. By the way if you have been an avid reader of mine stick around, you may see I’ve added a few alternatives for each meal, and there’s  surprise competition info at the end! Curious?

Here they are (in no particular order because I have a hard time choosing “favorites”):

1. Crockpot Vegetarian Lentil Soup (stew):

Lentil soup is one of those recipes I’ve made several times that reminds me of my semester abroad; the smell of tomatoes, lentils, and cumin always bring me back to living in a flat in Cairo.  It’s easy to throw in the crock-pot; a warm hearty vegetarian and gluten-free meal, and believe it or not it actually tastes better as leftovers! You can partner it with a good salad, some pita and hummus, or if you want meat some kebabs.

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2. Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed Bell Peppers make for a great gluten-free dinner with endless possibilities. Although my version is not vegetarian, I give suggestions for what can easily replace the ground beef in the recipe. You can take this recipe and run in several directions. Want it mexican?: Stuff it with black beans and top it off with tortilla chips, mexican cheese, and salsa. Or if you want a more Italian variety?: Throw zucchini and Italian seasoning into the mixture and top it off with tomato sauce and mozzarella . If you want a different carb?: How about quinoa, or polenta? As I said the variations are limitless.

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3. crockpot french onion soup

I just love the savory combo. of onions and beef broth. Partner it with good cheese and a hearty layer of dark bread and you’ve got a great fall meal in a bowl! This French Onion Soup recipe is gluten-free and low calorie. Because it’s a crock-pot meal all it takes is about a half hour’s worth of work then the crock-pot does the rest. If you want lower calorie you can go without bread, find a low-calorie bread,-or use croutons. Also mix-up what cheese you use-we use swiss or provolone but don’t let that stop you from trying out a different cheesy topper.

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4. Gluten-free low cal chicken marsala

I took this traditional Italian dish and gave a slightly healthier and gluten-free spin on it.  This time I took out the pasta used zucchini as the base ingredient. Another option I have not shared before is to make spaghetti squash, same low calorie count but a similar pasta texture. Instead of breading the chicken I used a parmesan and herb base. Now a typical serving is under 600 Calories!

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5.  Cinnamon Oatmeal Apple Muffins

For the last one I thought I’d throw in a baked good. When I think of fall one memory comes to mind: taking a Saturday with my parents to drive to Oak Glen and pick out apples and eat apple pie. So I love it when the smell of cinnamon and apples fills the house.  These little muffins are hearty and filling but only 100 calories each! They are free of any white sugar and easy to make. I am also in the works right now of dong a pumpkin muffin with the same base recipe. If you want to try it substitute 1 egg white and 1/2 C milk for 1 C of pureed pumpkin. Or if you want to cut out the milk and egg? Use applesauce. Again 1 egg white and 1/2C milk= 1 C applesauce. So if you want to cut all milk and egg out you’ll want to use more applesauce.

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Well if you haven’t felt encouraged to try one of these recipes before I hope you now do!

Now it’s your turn!

Fall Recipe competition:

Share your favorite homemade fall recipe with me and you may just see me post a blog featuring your home-cooking/baking!

I will choose one recipe and share the results and therefore the winner with all of you!

My email is posted on the side-panel of this page. Recipes must be submitted before October 12th!

Happy Cooking/Baking!

Gluten-Free Low Cal. Chicken Marsala


Luke loves mushrooms and I can’t say I dislike them either so awhile back I decided to try to make chicken marsala at home. If you don’t know chicken marsala is a typical Italian dish in which the chicken is parmesan crusted and pan-fried served over angel hair pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce (usually made with Marsala Wine) poured over it.

The first time around I attempted to adapt a few recipes I had seen online. It was the middle of summer and humid-I was sweating in the kitchen trying to balance hot pans of boiling water and popping oil. The final dish was not bad but it was extremely carb. heavy. Not a light easy summer meal.

Still I was determined to try again. This time I needed to make some major adjustments. I took out the pasta and made the dish gluten-free and much lower in calories by using zucchini instead. After a few trial runs of substituting this and a few other items I finally fine-tuned a recipe both of us were happy with. Now this low calorie gluten-free chicken marsala is a common under 600 Calorie chicken-night dinner.

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Ingredients

  2 skinless, boneless, chicken breasts

1 tsp of: salt and black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic (depending how much garlic you like) and Italian seasoning

1/4 C Parmesan cheese

(if you want to cut calories you can take out the Parmesan cheese but it is a great gluten-free substitute for flour or bread crumbs)

½ cup olive oil

8 ounces container of mushroom, sliced and cleaned

2 tablespoons butter  (I use I can’t believe it’s not butter light)

¼-1/2 cup chicken stock

¼ cup sherry or dry white wine (I use cooking sherry which can easily be found at any grocery store)

2 medium to large zucchini’s or yellow squash (you can instead make the pasta alternative of spaghetti squash)

Instructions

1. Split (Butterfly) each chicken breast into two pieces.

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2. Place plastic wrap over them or place them in gallon size bag. Pound each one with a meat tenderizer or a rolling pin until about a quarter inch thick.

IMG_14123. Combine dry ingredients, mixing the Italian Seasoning, Garlic, Salt and Pepper, and Parmesan cheese. Place the mixture in a pie tin or on plate with a good edge.

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4. Pour 1/4 C olive oil into another pie tin or plate. Dip each piece of chicken on both sides in the olive oil then transfer it into the dry ingredients tin, coating both sides.

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5. Meanwhile cut up the zucchini or yellow squash into rounds. Steam the veggies on a low heat so they will done the same time as the rest of dinner.

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6. Heat the other 1/4 C of olive oil over medium-high heat in a medium sized pan. When the oil is hot place each piece of coated chicken in the pan. Allow the pieces to cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. (It is always good to play it safe and cut into the thickest piece to double check that it is done.)

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7. Remove the chicken and place them on a plate covered in tin foil (to keep the chicken warm) and a paper towel (to absorb extra oil). Then cover the plate with another plate or pot lid.

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8. In the same pan used to pan-fry the chicken brown the butter then add the clean and cut mushrooms to the pan.

9. Saute mushrooms for about 4-5 minutes seasoning with a little salt and pepper.

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Then add cooking sherry, or white wine and chicken stock, allowing the liquids to reduce slightly, about another 3 minutes.

When it is time to serve the steamed zucchini  is layered on the bottom.

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Then a crispy piece or two of the pan-fried chicken.

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Then last of all the mushroom sauce.

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Then you are ready to enjoy!

What is your favorite veggie? Way to cook chicken?