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Cold Snap Chicken Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli

May 18, 2014 Comments off

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The past couple of days have brought a rare mid-May cold snap to Atlanta. After the winter of 2014 that just wouldn’t end, I thought we were home free, but walking out of my place to go to dinner last night, I realized I need a coat! In mid-May! Argghhhh. I returned home only to get into a bed made with sheets as cold as ice, and I ended up sleeping in a sweatshirt with a space heater on. I mean, I know I’ve gotten more cold-natured since I lost weight, but this was ridiculous. Did I mention already it’s mid-May?????

Anyhow? Today as I literally chilled in my apartment, I decided it was a soup or stew kinda day. So I went to the kitchen and looked around to see what I could throw together with what I had on hand. I came up with a chicken soup that has just a little sweet potato, onion, and broccoli, with frozen chicken breasts and broccoli and stock from a carton making it easy and convenient, and a touch of sherry giving it an elegant and balanced richness (the sherry is really the secret weapon in this quick and easy, yet ultra-flavorful soup).

I wasn’t expecting it going in, but this Cold Snap Chicken Soup is the best soup I’ve ever made! The flavors were just perfectly balanced, the chicken was exceptionally tender, and it was perfect on a chilly day. I also had a chance to use my brand new red, white, and blue “Fireworkfetti” Temp-tations stoneware that I recently bought from QVC (click here to take a look)! If I was going to eat soup on a cold day in mid-May, I at least wanted it to look, summer-y! I served this with sourdough that I bought from Costco that you then reheat in your own oven for a fresh-baked effect. Yum. I thought I’d share my recipe for the soup with you in case you have a cold snap, or just want a nice bowl of quick and easy chicken soup. You can see it by clicking more. Enjoy! Read more…

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Creatively Cooking at Home

September 8, 2012 Comments off

Italian Barbecue Chicken Tacos on the Stove

I’m sitting here on a rainy Saturday in Atlanta, with the weather people promising this rain is leading to lovely fall temperatures, and I decided to take part of my day to cook what turned out to be a surprisingly delicious and healthy lunch.  I thought I’d try something I haven’t done on this blog in quite a while, and share my recipe with you, but first things first…my weekly progress report.

Yesterday was another great weekly weigh in!  I was at 241.0 pounds!!!  That’s a 1.9 pound loss from last week, a 17.6 pound loss since I restarted my efforts in July, and about 74 pounds down from my estimated highest weight of 315 pounds!  I’m extremely happy with my progress, and highly motivated to continue.  I really think meeting my first goal of 235 before my birthday in late October is within reach, and after that, my next goal will be to reach 215 – which will be a loss of 100 pounds!  It’s amazing to me that a 100-pound weight loss is now within my reach.  And I calculated last night, too, that at my height of 5 feet 10.5 inches, when I reach 212 pounds, I’ll no longer even be considered obese, but merely overweight according to the BMI charts!  That’s really a goal I want to reach.

So part of how I continued my loss this week was something that was a tad unintentional.  Late last week, I bought a plane ticket to take a trip to New York in early October (I can’t wait to spend some time in New York in the fall!), and I decided that I should cut back on my eating out a bit to help offset the expense.  I went grocery shopping, and I made a decision that buying fresh vegetables would help me stick to my plan to eat at home more, both because they’re much more appealing than frozen, and because I’d feel badly if I let them spoil without using them.

Turns out that was a great plan!  I enjoyed cooking healthily and enjoying the fresh flavors of what I made.  And the calories were well within what I needed to continue losing weight.  So today when I was deciding what to do for lunch, I decided to survey the refrigerator and pantry and see what I could throw together with what was left.  I use pasta fairly often, in very small quantities (using only about an ounce or two at a time as part of a mainly vegetable and protein based dish), but today, I wasn’t really feeling like pasta.

I had some flour tortillas in my pantry that weren’t going to last too much longer, and I had chicken breasts in the freezer.  I also had some fresh broccoli and carrots, and some canned tomatoes.  I started to think about some sort of taco with the chicken, and I wanted to do something a little different with the broccoli, so roasting came to mind.  I just got into the kitchen and started cooking with just the barest skeleton of a plan.  First the vegetables went into the oven to roast, and then I got started on the chicken filling for the tacos.  I didn’t really have the right

Italian Barbecue Chicken Tacos with Simple Roasted Vegetables

seasonings for something with a Mexican or Latin flavor, but I always have the right ingredients on hand for Italian flavors, and what I ended up with was actually pretty delicious.  At right is the finished plate, of what I came to call Italian Barbecue Chicken Tacos, with Simple Roasted Vegetables on the side.  If you’ve never had roasted broccoli, by the way, it is simply transcendant.  The tips of the florets transform into something light and crispy, while the stalks and stems take on a wonderful woodsy flavor.

If you don’t really cook much, go take a basic class to learn some techniques!  The food network is good for recipe ideas, but they’ve taken more of an edu-tainment route that doesn’t truly teach people how to cook anymore.  If you’ve got the basic techniques down, it’s great entertainment and a way to get new ideas, but if you need the basics, I highly recommend getting your hands on DVD’s of Julia Child’s PBS shows.  She actually wanted to teach us to understand why we do certain things in the kitchen.  Some of the PBS cooking shows today, though far outnumbered by Food Network, also still really try to teach, so check them out, as well.   And smelling your kitchen filled with the lovely scents of a good meal is very satisfying.  As Julia said best, “I like to smell something cooking; makes me feel at home!”  Give the recipes below a shot, and maybe this will inspire you to get creative in the kitchen, too!

Italian Barbecue Chicken Tacos

(Yields 4 Tacos – Serves 2)

  • 2 medium chicken breasts
  • 2T herbs/spices of your choice to season chicken breasts (I use Paul Prudhomme’s Poultry Magic)
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 14.5 oz can petite diced tomatoes, well-drained
  • 1T tomato paste
  • 1T balsamic vinegar jelly (or other savory jelly of your choice)
  • 1/4t garlic powder
  • 1/2T dried basil
  • 1/2T dried oregano
  • 4 small (fajita size) flour tortillas
  • 4t freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

Rub chicken breasts with herbs/spices of your choice.  Heat a medium sautee pan over medium heat, spray with non-stick cooking spray, and then pan sautee the seasoned chicken breasts until cooked through, turning once during cooking and browning both sides.  Remove chicken breasts from pan, and let rest.  Drain the petite diced tomatoes well.  Add the olive oil to the hot pan, and add the drained tomatoes, along with the tomato paste.  Stir until combined and add basil, oregano, and garlic powder.  Lastly, add the balsamic or other savory jelly and let it melt into the sauce (I use a wonderful Balsamic Vinegar and Vidalia Onion jelly that I buy from a fantastic local Atlanta jelly maker called One Screw Loose – they also have an AH-MAZING orange cranberry pecan jelly that I love with roasted turkey or chicken.  Take a minute to visit their website by clicking here, or if you’re in Atlanta, look for them at local festivals and such).  Lower the heat and allow the tomato sauce to simmer while you slice the chicken breasts thinly and heat the tortillas in a dry skillet.  Add the chicken to the tomato mixture, combine well, and allow the entire mixture to heat and simmer for a few more minutes.  When the tortillas are warm, divide the chicken mixture evenly between the tortillas, and top each taco with 1t freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese.

Simple Roasted Vegetables

(yield – approx. 1c – serves 1-2)

  • 1 stalk broccoli
  • 1/2c baby carrots
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1t coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)
  • 1t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2t crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Cut the broccoli florets off the stalk, rinse and dry.  Peel the woody skin off the lower portion of the broccoli stalk, and then slice the stalk into medallions.  Slice the onion into fairly large pieces.  Place the cut broccoli, whole baby carrots, and sliced onions onto a shallow roasting/jelly roll pan with sides.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper, and toss with clean hands until well-coated.  Roast in the oven on a middle rack until the broccoli has begun to brown, and the carrots and and onions are tender and somewhat caramelized.  Approximately 25-30 minutes.  The amounts in this recipe are somewhat unimportant.  Just use a larger pan for more vegetables and make sure you only have a single layer of vegetables so they can roast properly.  Also be careful to use just enough olive oil to barely coat the vegetables so you don’t burn excess oil in the oven – this can lead to a smokey kitchen!  Feel free to play with herbs and spices, as well, though I personally like just salt and pepper to allow the intensified flavor of the roasted vegetables to shine.  If the vegetables are a bit dry for your taste when done, toss with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and/or lemon juice.

BEFORE – Raw Vegetables Cut, Tossed in Oil and Seasonings, and Ready for the Oven

AFTER – Light and Crispy Broccoli Florets with Caramelized Carrots and Onions

Nutrition Monday: My New Favorite Place, Trader Joe's!

April 26, 2010 14 comments

Image by Petr Kratochvil, in the Public Domain

Occasionally on this blog, I’ll mention products or services, and I should make pretty clear that the makers of those products haven’t provided me with compensation of any sort.  Unless you count the enjoyment or benefit I’ve gotten from discovering the product or store itself!  And that’s definitely case with my new favorite place, Trader Joe’s.

I’ve heard friends and colleagues rave about Trader Joe’s for years, and I had successfully avoided setting foot in one until about a month ago.  I’m the type who if everyone in my world seems to be doing something, it makes it kind of not so interesting to me.  Not that I want to be different, because my alternative is shopping at the regular, old-fashioned supermarket, but more that I’m not one to get caught up in trends and more often than not, I find things that get rave reviews to almost always fall short of the hype.  So I’d drive by the Trader Joe’s stores in the city and almost purposely avoid them.

Then some of my blogger friends began tweeting and blogging about Trader Joe’s pumpkin butter, and it sounded really good.  So one evening after work, I decided to drop in and pick some up.  If you haven’t been to Trader Joe’s before, their philosophy is Read more…