Recipe: Stovetop Shredded Chicken

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Stovetop Shredded Chicken

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2lb boneless, skinless chicken breast (Market Pantry)
  • 3-5 cups water
  • seasonings to taste

Directions

  1. Cut chicken breast into smaller fillets and pound to about 1/2-inch thin.
  2. Spray a large pot with nonstick cooking spray. Lay the chicken on the bottom of the pot, trying not to overlap the chicken.
  3. Season the chicken with favorite seasonings to taste. (I like a bit of garlic salt and seasoning salt.)
  4. Gently pour water over chicken until just covering all the chicken. It’s important to fully cover the chicken with water.
  5. Cook on medium-low to medium heat for about 15-20 minutes. Chicken will no longer feel squishy, but slightly rubbery. If you’re unsure, use a meat thermometer to verify core temperature has reached 165 degrees F.
  6. Remove chicken from water and allow to cool for a few minutes. Then pull chicken apart by hand or with a fork into roughly 1/2 to 1 inch pieces.
  7. Serve as a stand alone dish or refrigerate or freeze to use in future dishes.
  8. If refrigerating or freezing, put in 1 quart freezer bag with about 1/4 cup of the chicken stock. Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to a month.
About 130 calories per serving. Great for making bbq pulled chicken, chicken taco meat, or as is for salads or casseroles.

Recipe: Spinach Turkey Lasagna Bake

Spinach Turkey Lasagna Bake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • 12oz pasta (Anthony’s bowties) – 1 1/2 cups part skim ricotta cheese (First Street) – 2oz baby leaf spinach (Ready Pac), finely diced – 1 1/2 lbs 90% lean ground turkey (Jennie-O) – 2 1/2 cups traditional spaghetti sauce (First Street) – 1 cup reduced fast shredded mozzarella (Market Pantry) – 1 1/2-2 cups water – garlic salt, seasoning salt, parsley flakes to taste

Directions

  1. Measure ricotta cheese into a large mixing bowl and leave out for 10-15 minutes to warm a bit. Then add spinach, seasonings to taste, and mix well. 2. Spray a large electric skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the pasta into the skillet, evenly covering the skillet, then pour the water over the pasta until not quite covering the pasta. Cook on medium-low heat about 15 minutes until pasta is al dente. If using SaladMaster, cook on Rice 1 setting. 3. In a large nonstick skillet, brown the ground turkey and drain. Add sauce to turkey and season with seasonings to taste. Simmer on low until pasta is al dente. 4. Layer ricotta mixture onto pasta by spooning small dollops. Fill in the gaps and as the ricotta warms it will spread a little easier making a nice cheesy layer. (See pic below). 5. Pour meat sauce evenly over the pasta and ricotta layers. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella evenly over meat sauce then sprinkle seasonings on top to taste. 6. Cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. If using SaladMaster, cook on Rice 1 setting. 7. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.
About 385 calories per serving. To bake, use a 9×13 casserole dish and cook at 375 for about 25 minutes.

Recipe: Enchilada Casserole

Enchilada Casserole

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs 93% lean ground turkey (Jennie-O)
  • 1 packet low sodium taco seasoning (Market Pantry)
  • 1 15oz can heart healthy cream of chicken condensed soup (Market Pantry)
  • 1 15oz can plain whole kernel corn (Market Pantry)
  • 1 8oz packet red chille enchilada sauce (Frontera)
  • 1 cup restaurant style salsa (Archer Farms)
  • 5 whole wheat taco size tortillas (Guerrero)
  • 1 7oz package reduced fat Mexican style shredded cheese (Market Pantry)

Directions

  1. In a large nonstick skillet, brown the ground turkey.
  2. Stir in the corn, cream of chicken soup, enchilada sauce, and taco seasoning and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Spray a large electric skillet with nonstick cooking spray and spread 1/2 cup of salsa on the bottom.
  4. Cut the tortillas into 4 strips (about 2 inches 2 inches wide). Lay 6 tortilla strips on the bottom of the electric skillet.
  5. Layer 1/3 of the ground turkey mixture on top of the tortillas, then sprinkle 1/3 of the shredded cheese on top.
  6. Make 2 more layers of tortilla strips, ground turkey mixture, and shredded cheese. Finish with the other 1/2 cup of salsa.
  7. Cook on medium for 15-20 minutes. If using SaladMaster, cook on Rice 2 setting.
  8. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.
About 365 calories per serving. To bake, use a 9×13 casserole dish and cook at 375 for about 25 minutes.

Recipe: Bacon Egg Spinach Scramble

Bacon Egg Spinach Scramble

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients

  • 8 large eggs (Market Pantry)
  • 8 servings egg substitute (Market Pantry)
  • 8 slices turkey bacon (Market Pantry), pre-cooked
  • 3oz baby spinach (Ready pac foods)

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and egg substitute.
  2. Spray a large electric skillet with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. Pour the whisked egg mixture into the skillet.
  4. Dice spinach to desired size and mix in to egg mixture.
  5. Dice bacon to desired size and sprinkle on top of egg mixture.
  6. Cook on medium for 15-20 minutes. If using SaladMaster, cook on Rice 2 setting.
  7. Allow to cool a few minutes before cutting and serving.

About 255 calories per serving. To make on the stovetop, use a large, nonstick skillet with deep sides and cook on medium-low for about 20 minutes. To bake, use a 9×9 casserole dish and cook at 375 for about 25 minutes.

 

Recipe: Chocolate Peanut Butter Honey Oat Bars

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Honey Oat Bars

  • Servings: 25 bars
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Ingredients

  • 1 jar (16oz) Peanut Butter & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 3 cups quick oats

Directions

  1. In a large sauce pan, spray with nonstick cooking spray, then cook peanut butter and honey on low for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. While peanut butter mixture is cooking, prepare 9×9 metal cake pan with non-stick spray and/or parchment paper.
  3. When peanut butter mixture is very smooth and well-mixed, stir in oats.
  4. Transfer peanut butter oat mixture to cake pan. Spray a spoon or spatula with nonstick cooking spray and press bars into cake pan.
  5. Cool bars in fridge or freezer for at least 1 hour. For harder bars, cool in freezer for longer time. For softer bars, cool in fridge for shorter time.

About 150 calories per bar.

Recipe: Apple Cinnamon Pancakes with Peanut Butter Maple Glaze

Apple Cinnamon Pancakes

  • Servings: 16 pancakes
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick oats, blended into flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp iodized salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups sweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a medium size mixing bowl stir together dry ingredients until well combined.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together wet ingredients until well combined.
  3. A little bit at a time, stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until well combined.
  4. In a preheated skillet or griddle, use 1/4 measuring cup to pour batter.
  5. Cook over medium-low heat on each side for 2-4 minutes, flipping when the edges become firm and the top isn’t shiny.

About 90 calories per pancake.

Peanut Butter Maple Glaze

  • Servings: 16 tablespoons (roughly)
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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Directions

  1. Pour ingredients into a small sauce pan.
  2. Simmer over low heat 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

About 95 calories per tablespoon.

Meal Planning Made Easy

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Some very dear friends of mine recently shared with me their desire to eat healthier and asked me if I had any tips to share that might help them with meal planning. I remember when I was where they were, wanting to eat healthier but not knowing where to begin. Then it dawned on me that other people might be wondering the same thing. So, here’s my current approach to meal planning. If you’re just starting out or you’re looking for a new approach, my hope is that you might find something here to inspire you on own journey toward more healthful eating.

Making the Plan

I start by thinking about how many meals I need for the week using basic arithmetic: 2 servings per meal, 2 meals per day, 6 days a week means I need 24 servings. So, if I make 3 meals a week, at 8 servings per meal, that’s enough for my wife and I for six days. And I keep a few staples on hand (ingredients for grilled cheese, a couple frozen pizzas, some skillet meals) to fill in any gaps.

For breakfast, I keep healthier options like whole grain cereal (Kashi, Special K, etc.), granola bars, fresh fruits, fat free milk, low-calorie yogurt, etc. on hand. I also make scrambled eggs (2 eggs, 2 whites), turkey bacon, and toast or tortillas sometimes. My goal is keep it simple, keep it healthy, keep it interesting.

For snacks, I keep healthier options on hand like low-calorie popcorn, low-calorie granola bars, and sometimes low-calorie yogurt. I have a version of grilled cheese I make with reduced-fat cheese, low-calorie bread, and low-calorie butter spray that I snack on fairly often as well. We don’t keep much in the way of chips and cookies, etc. around the house.

Executing the Plan

I usually cook twice early in the week (Sunday or Monday, and Tuesday) and once later in the week (Thursday or Friday). This will get our family of three through a whole week on home cooked meals with leftovers. That’s just what works best for my schedule. Then eating out becomes a choice, not a necessity. Also, I cook whichever meal I feel like cooking on whichever day I feel like cooking it. I know some people plan specific meals for specific days, which is great! But that doesn’t work for me. Try out some different strategies and find what works best for you.

The key to meal planning is being intentional—thinking through what you want to cook and eat, if you’ll be able to make the meal (time, skill, tools, etc.), making your grocery list, and following through with actually making the meals. It’s easiest for me to cook bigger meals with more leftovers and keep the recipes pretty simple. I do experiment occasionally as well, but those results can be hit or miss!

A Sample Plan

This is an actual meal plan I made for our family a couple weeks ago.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients

  • 2lb ground beef (or ground turkey for leaner, healthier protein)
  • 1 box (16oz) spaghetti (any pasta will do, i buy whatever’s cheapest)
  • 2 (24oz) jars or cans of pasta sauce (Prego, hunts, etc.)

Directions

  1. Brown the meat, drain.
  2. Add sauce to meat, cook on low 20-30 mins, stirring occasionally.
  3. Cook pasta per directions on the box.
  4. Drain pasta, pour in meat sauce, stir.
  5. Portion into 8 even servings between plates (for that meal) and Tupperware (for leftovers), then serve.
Roughly 450-500 calories. Remember that extra sides and toppings (like cheese) are extra calories. Suggested side: small side salad with light dressing.

Ground Beef Tacos

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2lb ground beef (or ground turkey for leaner, healthier protein)
  • 2 small packets taco seasoning (I prefer the low sodium off brand)
  • 16 taco shells or taco-size tortillas (2 per serving)
  • Desired toppings (shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, tomatoes, salsa, etc)

Directions

  1. Cook meat per directions on the taco seasoning packets.
  2. Prep toppings, prepping extras for leftovers (shredding lettuce, dicing tomatoes, etc).
  3. Heat shells/tortillas if desired.
  4. Serve (one large serving spoon full of taco meat is about a serving).
Roughly 450-500 calories. Remember that extra sides and toppings (like cheese) are extra calories. Suggested side: carrots and celery or fresh fruit.

Chicken Enchilada Casserole

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

  • 2lb chicken breasts or thighs
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 (10oz) can mild enchilada sauce
  • 1 (10oz) can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
  • 1 (15oz) can corn
  • 5-6 soft taco tortillas
  • 8oz shredded cheese
  • Seasonings to taste (esp. granulated garlic, ground cumin, chili powder)

Directions

  1. Cook the chicken, then dice into small pieces or shred it.
  2. Preheat oven to 375F.
  3. In a mixing bowl stir together chicken, enchilada sauce, cream of chicken soup, canned corn (drained), taco seasoning, and extra seasonings.
  4. Cut tortillas into strips about 2-2 1/2 inches wide (about 4 strips per tortilla).
  5. Spray casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Then layer tortillas, chicken mix, and shredded cheese just like making lasagna.
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes. Remove foil, bake another 5-10 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, let cool 3-5 minutes, then portion into 8 even servings between plates (for that meal) and Tupperware (for leftovers), then serve.
Roughly 400-450 calories. Remember that extra sides and toppings (like cheese) are extra calories. Suggested side: small portion of tortilla chips with salsa.

Closing Thoughts

You might notice I don’t splurge for the “healthy” options—I tend to go for the budget varieties unless there’s a significant health benefit (there’s usually not) or there’s a specific dietary need. Meal planning is a balance of budgeting time (to plan and cook), talent (to plan things you can actually make), tastes (to make things you like to eat), and treasure (finding relatively healthy ingredients at affordable prices). But if you’re willing to be intentional and invest the time and energy to plan, and you have some basic cookware and cooking options at home, you’ve got all you need to provide healthier, more affordable meals for you and your household!