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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

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.



  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)


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


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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


Then last of all the mushroom sauce.


Then you are ready to enjoy!

What is your favorite veggie? Way to cook chicken?

Smoke on the Water

This past Saturday afternoon we chose to check out yet another local event. We drove up past where Luke works to Hammondsport for Smoke on the Water, a local BBQ competition benefitting the fire department. I have mentioned Hammondsport on one other occasion (see stars hollow, fireworks, and minions) but if you didn’t get a chance to read-up on it, Hammondsport is a quaint town full of bed and breakfasts at the base of Keuka lake and the Keuka wine trail.


Now I know it seems like this summer I have talked a lot about BBQ (if you want more reading see Kayaking and BBQ, or Racefever and local BBQ). But I have discovered it is a favored food of Lukes (and why wouldn’t it be for a meat-loving male) as well as it seems to be one of the big “things” for summer around here.


If you recall, this is not our first summer BBQ competition. Back in July we drove up to Rochester and attended their BBQ and Blues Fest (see two festivals and korean BBq). But were sadly disappointed that although the BBQ places represented were well known there were only four of them. Also in order to even taste the food you had to buy a ticket to get in, and a plate of their expensive food. Not what we were expecting.



Smoke on the Water was almost the exact opposite.  Walking past the baseball field to the fire department’s lawn we looked around, the place was packed! There were more than 14 BBQ competitors , many had set up their 5th wheels behind their booth for the weekend. There was everything from Mom and Pop recipes to professionals trying to get in on a cash prizes.


We found out when we arrived at the beginning of each hour from 1-4pm a new category of meat would be available for sampling: chicken, ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. And only 6 bucks for unlimited samples!  At the end of the hour they collected the public’s voting cards.


We realized then if we had come at 1pm we would have gotten plenty of tasty meat samplings all afternoon. People were rounding booth after booth with little sample cups in hand. A band played while groups socialized and drank. In case the voting public got hungry in between samples, the fire department was selling french fries, a local restaurant was selling clams and lobster, and there was beer and wine sampling available. Or if someone had a sweet tooth after the salty meat they could head to a booth for floats or ice cream.


There were also plenty of activities including  a 50/50 raffle and silent auction, a cake wheel (instead of walk), and several kids activities.



Since we’d come so late in the competition we decided it wouldn’t be worth the money to sample (there was only one category left). So instead we went to one booth selling meals and for 13 bucks got the Garbage Plate to-go.



When we got home and un-packed our garbage plate we realized it was a giant plate perfect for sharing between the both of us. There were at least 6 pieces of brisket, a good portion of pulled pork, at least 3 ribs, 3 large butter garlic potatoes, and a good helping of other sides: coleslaw, a pickle, baked beans, and pasta salad. It was all amazing and delicious.

My portion
My portion
Luke's half eaten portion
Luke’s half eaten portion

We now know that this is an event worth coming to and the earlier the better.

Have you discovered any local events worth returning to year after year?

Crock-Pot Chicken Lime Chile Soup


Back in California, Luke and I would take daytime date-breaks from studying for our Masters (or just from life) and go to Chili’s. We loved their all-you-can-eat soup, salad, and tortilla chips. Our favorite soup was chicken lime chile. Unfortunately they stopped selling it. 😦 By that time, we were addicted to this light zesty soup.

Since then we’ve been working on our own recipe. So here is my attempt at a gluten-free crock-pot Chicken Lime Chile soup!


You will need:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts

3/4 limes

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons or more of garlic (minced, fresh or powder)

3 teaspoons or more of salt

48 oz chicken broth

8 oz canned green chilies

2 small onions

1/2 cups brown/white rice

1 cup fresh cilantro

2/3 jalapeños

1 medium avocado



1. Cut the chicken breasts into kebab size chunks or long strips.

2. Put ¼ cup olive oil and 2 to 3tbs lime juice (about 1/2 limes) in a medium unheated pan.

3. Add the chicken to the pan and season with 1tbs or more of garlic and ½ tsp salt.

4. Turn the stove to medium/ high heat and let the chicken pan-fry until brown. When brown, cut into the thickest piece to double check it that it is done.


5. While the chicken pan-fries, place the 48 oz container of chicken broth, 8 oz canned green chilies, and ¼ cup olive oil into the crock-pot.

6. Cut up the onion and 1 to 2 limes into quarters. Squeeze the juice from the lime(s) into the crockpot and drop the lime rind(s), onion, 1tbs garlic, and 2tps salt, into the crock-pot and turn on low.


7. Cut or tear the cooked chicken into small pieces. Add the chicken and any oil left in the pan into the crock-pot turning it to  high heat for an hour.



9. In the mean time, if you haven’t already, you can clean and chop up fresh cilantro -amount is up to you (I would suggest 1 cup)

10. After the hour on high, add 1 to 2 cups rice and the cilantro to the crock-pot and cook on low for another hour. Also taste the broth to see if you want to add more lime or remove the lime rinds so the soup does not become too acidic.


11. Next, after the hour on low, check to see if the rice has cooked (if not put the crock-pot on high for another half hour) then add a ½ cup of cut jalapenos and keep on low for another hour.  How long you keep jalapenos in will determine how spicy you soup is.( So you can add the jalapenos as late as 30 min. before serving.)

12. After this hour on low the soup should be done. You can keep it on low or keep warm until ready to serve. Just remember the longer it cooks after the jalapenos are in the spicier it will get.

13. When you are ready to serve, add freshly cut avocado, more lime juice, and fresh cilantro to taste for each bowl. Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

Do you have a favorite soup or dish at a local restaurant?