Thursday, December 29, 2011

Savory Spaghetti Squash With Chicken

I used to hate squash. Even the name of this vegetable family doesn't sound very appetizing. But I'm learning to like it. Really.

Other than zucchini, I'm usually pretty "meh" about any squash--I just don't care for it much. Unless, of course, it is cooked and topped with butter, brown sugar, and/or marshmallows. Or mixed with lots of sugar, baked in a pie crust and served with a huge dollop of whipped cream.  Mmmmm....

Anyway, spaghetti squash has a delicate, light flavor, and can be pretty good with just some butter and parmesan cheese. But again, even that isn't something that gets me terribly excited about eating squash.

This recipe for spaghetti squash with chicken and sun-dried tomatoes, though, does get me excited. The first time I made this, we liked it so much that I made it two more times within about 10 days.

I got the original recipe for this dish from Tasty Kitchen, a recipe site to which I refer sometimes. However, as usual, I made some modifications to the recipe, as outlined below.  Also, for my friends who are still on the MRC diet, I will outline at the end of this post how this recipe could be modified to make it "on-plan."

Spaghetti Squash With Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

1 whole spaghetti squash
2 tbsp olive oil
1 rounded tbsp minced garlic
1 cup unsalted chicken stock (I use Kitchen Basics brand)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped*
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 cup frozen peas
2 whole boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cooked and sliced*
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt/pepper to taste

* Original recipe calls for 1/3 cup dried tomatoes, but I think it's better with 1/2 cup. Chicken breasts may be grilled, sauteed, broiled, or baked.  I like to bake mine with a little Beau Monde seasoning and cracked pepper on top. Alternatively, if you have some extra roasted or rotisserie chicken from a previous meal, this is a great way to use it up.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, and scrape out seeds with a spoon. Place squash halves facedown on a foil-lined cookie sheet and bake for approximately 45 minutes; remove from oven and let squash cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the meal.

In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic. Saute 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth, sundried tomatoes, and broccoli and saute 5 minutes (isn't it pretty??).

Add peas, chicken, and remaining 3/4 cup of chicken broth. Shake about 1/4 cup parmesan cheese into mixture (just enough to thicken the chicken broth). Sprinkle in red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover skillet and simmer for about 3 minutes. 

If you look carefully, you'll see that I used a chicken breast that I baked, but I also threw in the 1/2 breast and wings we had leftover from our rotisserie chicken from the night before.

Using a fork, scrape the inside of the squash with the tines to remove strands. 

Put desired amount of squash on each plate, and serve the chicken/veggie mix on top of the squash strands with shaved or grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. (I put about 2 oz of squash on my plate, 4 oz of the chicken, and about 3 oz of the veggie/broth mixture from the pan.)  Yum! Since there are no carbs in this dish, it is perfect with a slice of garlic bread or whole grain bread!

Note: To modify this recipe to make it 100% on-plan for MRC, you can do the following:
1) Eliminate the peas
2) Eliminate sun-dried tomatoes (although I honestly think they don't make a difference to the plan)
3) Eliminate parmesan cheese
4) Substitute MRC chicken boullion supplement mixed in water for the chicken stock--however, I hated the boullion supplement and used unsalted chicken stock while on plan and I never had any problems losing.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Silk Spiced Cheesecake

So, I raved earlier this week about the Silk Soy Nog, and I planned to make the cheesecake recipe off the side of the carton. Fast forward to Wednesday... and there was no Soy Nog to be found anywhere in midtown. :(  I did, however find the last carton of Silk Pumpkin Spice drink, and that was pretty yummy when I tried it... so I decided to use the nog cheesecake recipe and modify it to just make a spiced cheesecake.

Because there's no such thing as a bad cheesecake flavor, right?

After I made it, I put all the info into (my go-to calorie, exercise, and weight-loss tracker), and it came out at about 268 calories. The original recipe from Silk is a bit more calories, I think, as I did make some even-healthier modifications from that recipe, which you can find online here.

Happy holidays, and merry cheesecake-making!

Silk Spiced Cheesecake


Graham Cracker Crust
1 cup finely crushed graham crackers
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp canola oil

12 oz 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup splenda
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup Silk Pumpkin Spice drink
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix crushed graham crackers, honey, and oil well. A food processor would have been a wonderful help here...but alas, I do not have one. So my graham cracker crust is a little chunky, because I got tired of pounding the crackers with a can of refried beans. I recommend a food processor or rolling pin (mine is in storage, boo!), if you have one. Press into bottom of 9-inch pie plate and bake in oven for about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool before filling.

Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees.  Using an electric mixer beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, salt and spices until light and fluffy, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in vanilla and Silk Pumpkin Spice drink. Beat in eggs, one at a time.

Pour into prepared crust and bake for 35-50 minutes until set. A note on baking: the Silk recipe calls to bake for 25-35 minutes, but my cheesecake was nowhere near set by then. I increased baking time in increments of 10 minutes until mine was finished, totaling about 50 minutes. Basically, you'll need to watch your cheesecake carefully after the first 25 minutes, as ovens may vary greatly (from our cheap, crappy oven).

Remove from the oven and let cool, then chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. It got kind of late for me, so I went to bed and ours chilled overnight.

Divide pie into 8 slices (at only 268 calories each--compared to 300+ for any other cheesecake recipe I've found!), and serve!  Even though this used Silk's Pumpkin Spice drink, I didn't find it to have virtually any pumpkin flavor. It was just a really smooth, rich, spiced cheesecake. It certainly didn't taste "diet" or "healthy."

Some additional modifications I might try in the future: using agave instead of honey, less graham cracker crust (I don't really need it up the sides of the pan, I think), and possibly trying the fat-free cream cheese. I didn't do fat-free this time because, frankly, the texture of the fat-free cream cheese is slimy and kind of grosses me out, so I didn't want to possibly have it ruin the cheesecake the first time I tried this.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Eid al-Adha, Happy Festivus, and Happiness to anyone I forgot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

MRC Texas Chili--Natalie Style

This Texas chili recipe is actually one that I got from the MRC diet center last year, but Ben and I like it so much better than other chilis we've made that this is now my "go-to" chili recipe. It is easy to make, warm, soupy, and pretty mild. It's also low-sodium, low-carb, low-fat...yet high in flavor.  Perfect for a cold night!

Traditionally, Texas chili does not have beans in it. Don't get me wrong, I really like beans--they are, after all, a magical fruit. Seriously, though, they are full of fiber and have some protein, so they're very good for you--but my diet considered beans to be a starch, so I generally didn't add beans to this chili when I was losing weight. Also, my husband prefers his chili without beans so... no beans in our chili. However, you're welcome to add beans to your chili...whatever makes you happy, I guess.

One final note on the ingredients: this recipe calls for 2 packets of a tomato basil soup supplement. This was something I purchased through my diet center, but it is also available online. And actually, the supplement is pretty good, so I still use it whenever I make this chili. However, if you don't need/want the added protein from this supplement, you can substitute 2 cups of low-sodium tomato juice.

MRC Texas Chili

1 lb ground bison (or 96% lean beef or ground turkey)
3-4 green onions, chopped
1 smallish red pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped mushrooms (I used baby portabellas)
3/4 can Hunt's No Salt Added Diced Tomatoes
2 Tomato Basil supplement packets, dissolved in 2 cups of water
          OR 2 cups tomato juice
4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup kidney beans (OPTIONAL)

Brown meat in large skillet or saucepan. Remove meat from pan & set aside. Drain grease from meat/pan.

Add vegetables and saute until tender. Add tomato basil supplement (or tomato juice). Sprinkle chili powder and garlic powder and stir well. Add diced tomatoes and mix.
Yes, the supplement looks pink at first...

I usually measure out about 4 oz of the meat into a bowl and then add a few spoonfuls of veggies and liquid on top before putting the remaining meat into the saucepan for my husband to serve himself from.  However, feel free (unless you're into weighing/measuring your food) to put the meat back into the saucepan and mix well before serving.

I also usually eat mine with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar and a few saltine crackers.

Monday, December 19, 2011


I don't have another recipe to share with you just yet today...but I think I have a discovery that could potentially be huge this holiday season...

Let me start by saying that I love eggnog. I realize it's kind of a love-it-or-hate-it food item for people, but I love it. Probably because, as I recently discovered, it has tons of carbs in it--and we all know how I feel about carbs.

Anyway, I couldn't have eggnog last year because I was on my diet--and I was mostly okay with that, because I knew I could have it this year.  At least, that's what I thought...until I saw the nutritional facts for it when I was at the store yesterday. Um, 200+ calories for 1/2 cup of eggnog???  Even the "light" version had 140 calories!

As I was standing there, trying to convince myself that I could handle just having a sip here and there--and that I WOULD NOT drink the whole carton by myself in one or two days--I glanced over and saw that the Silk brand had come out with a soy nog. My first reaction? Bllleeeeeeeeeccccchhhhh--that has to be disgusting!  But I looked at the nutritional facts and was shocked to see that it had only 90 calories and about 15g of carbohydrates for 1/2 cup. "Now THAT is doable, and definitely worth a try," I thought.

I got it home and poured out 1/2 cup, and tasted it. It tasted JUST LIKE REAL, HIGH-CALORIE EGGNOG! Not quite as thick, but definitely as tasty!

So, if you're craving some eggnog but don't want to totally destroy your diet or daily carb intake, I highly recommend this!

Also, there's a recipe on the side of the carton for Silk Eggnog Cheesecake that I think I'm going to have to try out tomorrow night... so stay tuned!

Oh, and I updated my Fitness page with this week's plan, so check that out if you are interested. :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The adventure begins...

...appropriately, with roasted string beans!

So, why String Beans & Skinny Jeans for the title of the blog? When I started the MRC diet plan, I had to give up my favorite vegetables: potatoes, corn, carrots, onions, and sweet peas. Other than those, I was kind of "meh" about most vegetables, so I really struggled, initially, with getting all of my required veggie servings in. At first, the only vegetable that I seemed to be able to eat a lot of without getting sick of it was string beans (a.k.a. green beans). The skinny jeans came in much, much later--when, after losing 83 lbs, I was able to fit into (and look good in!) my first-ever pair of skinny jeans.

Also, my husband, Ben, is the creative genius to come up with the fun title. All I could manage was some lame puns.

Anyway, in honor of the "gateway" vegetable that helped me lose weight, I thought it would only be appropriate to share one of my favorite and easy string bean recipes that I have tried.

I found this roasted string bean recipe on Gina's Skinny Taste, one of the blogs where I have gotten a lot of great, healthy recipes:

Roasted String Beans with Parmesan

Oil mister + olive oil
kosher or sea salt & pepper to taste
As many beans as you want to cook (I roasted about a pound of french string beans)
shaved parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line one or two baking sheets with aluminum foil. Put beans on baking sheets in one layer and spray with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast in oven for 10 minutes. Take the pans out and, using a spatula, flip as many beans as possible. (I tried just shaking the pan, but I don't recommend doing that unless you don't mind adding fiber to your dog's diet, as many of them ended up on my kitchen floor that way.) Put back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes, or until desired tenderness is reached.

Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Mine went perfectly with a chunk of perfectly-grilled, juicy KC strip steak and a slice of caraway rye bread with Brummel spread.