Friday, February 24, 2012

Tuscan Chicken Cannellini & Tomato-Basil Salad

Well. I have done it again—I have over-extended myself. I've barely had time to get enough exercise in, and I definitely haven’t had time to cook at home much lately. As a matter of fact, I have been eating out a lot in the last few days for social and work events—and even though I’m trying to drink more water to combat it, I feel kind of bloated from the added sodium in restaurant food. 

Also, as many of you may be aware, February through April (and May, actually) is a crazy-busy time for teachers. We had the Nebraska State Writing Assessment that we administered this month, then I had to figure out my departments’ textbook orders and help the district English supervisor plan for Curriculum Day (a full-day inservice for subject-area teachers). Now, I’m working on preparing for the district testing to check to make sure our students are ready for the state testing in reading, math, and science--a test to make sure we’re ready for The Test. I only wish I were kidding.

I don’t want this to turn into a political debate blog, though, so suffice it to say I’ve been extremely busy, but I will try harder to post more in the next few weeks.

On that note, here is how I plan to accomplish that: I need to figure out more meals that I can put together at home and conveniently prep at work, so that will be a lot of what I share over the next few posts.

You may remember my discovery of Ziploc Zip’n Steam bags, and the Greek Chicken with Zucchini & Feta recipe I tried from their website. It has worked out well for my work lunches—I put it all together the night before , bring it to work and put it in the fridge in the breakroom, then cook it in the microwave at lunch. Voila! A hot, healthy, convenient, and delicious lunch. However, I can’t eat that EVERY day (I know, I’ve tried).

So, to continue with my new obsession with the Zip’n Steam bags, I decided to try the Tuscan Chicken Cannellini recipe from the Ziplocwebsite.  I didn’t alter anything in the recipe other than to reduce the amount of the beans to ½ cup—beans are wonderfully healthy and chock full of fiber and some protein, but they’re still a starch and I don’t want to overdo it on starches/carbs—and change up the suggested “garnish” to actually be a tomato-basil salad of sorts to make sure I get my full veggie serving in.

Tuscan Chicken Cannellini & Tomato-Basil Salad

Tuscan Chicken Cannellini Ingredients
Medium Ziploc® Zip'n Steam® Bag
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half, cut into bite-size pieces
½ cup cannellini beans OR other white beans, drained
1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach leaves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ teaspoon dried crushed rosemary
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of kosher salt

Tomato-Basil Salad Ingredients
4 oz cherry tomatoes (I used red and sweet yellow tomatoes)
1 tsp olive oil
3 fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
Pinch of kosher salt
½ tbsp parmesan cheese

Combine all Tuscan Chicken dish ingredients in a Medium Ziploc® Zip'n Steam® Bag (leave out the spinach if preparing the night before. Add spinach just before cooking). Seal bag and shake gently to combine ingredients. Pat ingredients into single layer. Place bag in microwave, cook on full power for 6 ½ to 7 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, with no trace of pink. If needed, continue microwaving at 30-second intervals until done (mine was cooked through at 6 ½ minutes). Allow bag to stand for 1 minute before handling. Shake bag to distribute seasonings. Carefully open bag and pour onto a plate or bowl. (Optional: sprinkle with 1 tsp parmesan cheese)

For the tomato salad, slice tomatoes in half and place in a bowl. Sprinkle chopped basil on top. Drizzle with olive oil and toss (I put mine in a container with a lid and just shook it gently). Right before eating, sprinkle tomatoes with salt and parmesan.

Please forgive the not-great pictures and ugly Gladware dishes--I actually took this to work with me today and took my photos there.


Lunch is served!
Nutritional Information
Tuscan Chicken Cannellini
256 Calories
5.82g Fat         894mg Sodium            21.6g Carbs     7.5g Fiber        34g Protein

Tomato-Basil Salad
83 Calories 
(it may actually be a little less because unless you’re licking the bowl, you’re not eating all of the olive oil)
6g fat               305mg Sodium            5g Carbs          1.5g Fiber        3.38g Protein

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Italian Chicken Sausage & Peppers Skillet

So, I've been a little MIA lately. Sorry about that.

I spent last weekend in Chicago, visiting a childhood friend--catching up, having some girl time, and shopping. Lots of shopping. Michele knows where all the good thrift stores and consignment shops are on the north side of Chicago, and we hit pretty much all of them, I think. I scored some great deals: a jacket, 2 pairs of jeans, a couple of skirts, and some tops--all for $30. That sounds impressive already, but even more so when I say that one of the jeans was a designer pair that usually retails for $200+ (of course, I didn't realize it was a designer brand until Michele told me, because I'm lame when it comes to fashion)!
Haha. Yes, I have the sense of humor of a 13-yr-old boy.

Another highlight of my trip: Dyson!
Luckily, Michele eats pretty healthfully anyway, and she went with me to a yoga class on Saturday. I also got a run in at a lake near their house on Sunday afternoon, and it actually felt really good to get outside and stretch and run, even if it was a little windy/chilly.

Anyway, between my trip and work (woowee, I've been busy! The textbook order for the English department is due tomorrow morning, and I only just got it finished.), I simply haven't had time to blog. Or cook. Really, I feel like it's been ages since I've made a meal.

So, when Ben came home last night with some Italian chicken sausage that he picked up at Just Good Meat (an Omaha butcher shop), I immediately thought of Italian sausage with peppers. Yum! I found this Italian Chicken Sausage and Peppers Skillet recipe, which is pretty healthy already, and lightened it up just a little more (reduced olive oil, reduced white wine, reduced pasta...).

Italian Chicken Sausage & Peppers Skillet

1.5 lbs Italian chicken sausage
1 green pepper , sliced into strips  
1 red pepper , sliced into strips
1 yellow pepper , sliced into strips
1 onion , chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon italian seasoning  
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (14.5 ounce) can tomatoes seasoned with basil garlic & oregano (I used Hunt's No Salt Added)
1/4 cup white wine
salt , to taste  
pepper , to taste 

Heat large skillet and add olive oil. Add sausage and brown on all sides. Remove sausage to cutting board.

Add onion to pan and cook about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Then add peppers, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper. Cook until crisp-tender.
While pepper mixture is cooking, cut sausage into bite sized pieces (center will still be raw). Then add back to skillet when peppers are just about done. Add tomatoes and wine and let come to boil. Turn down to simmer for 5 minutes, uncovered (or until sausage is cooked through). 

While the peppers were cooking, I also boiled some whole wheat rotini. I put about 1/2 cup of cooked rotini on my plate, and then topped it with 4 oz of the sausage and about 5 oz of the pepper/onion/tomato mix, along with a spoonful of liquid. Sprinkle with 1/2 tbsp of parmesan cheese, and you have an amazingly flavorful yet healthy dinner!

Nutrition Information for 1 Serving (recipe makes 6 servings)
Skillet without pasta:
Calories: 230
9.37g Fat, 85mg Cholesterol, 896mg Sodium, 12g Carb, 3g Fiber, 22.42g Protein

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Greek Chicken with Zucchini & Feta

So, I wasn't planning on posting anything today, but I just have to share this delicious and sinfully easy meal that I made tonight with one of those Ziploc® Zip’n Steam® Microwave Cooking Bags that I had told you about last weekend.

I was running late to get home and eat this evening before I had to leave for yoga class, and I usually like to eat pretty lightly before I go to a yoga class. However, I'd already had a subway salad for lunch (also usually a staple meal on my yoga evenings because it's easy, fast, and light) and wanted something slightly more substantial for dinner.

I had found some meal recipes on the Ziploc website, so I decided to throw one together and try it out. The Greek Chicken with Potatoes & Feta looked healthy and easy, and I already had the ingredients on hand (we had some Feta left over from when Ben cooked last weekend), so I just went with that.


I did make an adjustment to the recipe to make it just for one person (Ben usually does his own thing for dinner on my yoga nights, so I just did one chicken breast). I also wanted to add an actual veggie to the recipe--because I consider potatoes a starch more than a veggie--so I added some zucchini to it, too.  Also, because I consider potatoes to be a starch, I eliminated the pita for this meal for myself--but if you're not watching carbs in your diet, then feel free to include a pita with this.

This was so incredibly easy to make--and so delicious--that I think I will make it for lunch at work on Friday. I figure I can toss it all in the steamer bag the night before, and just pop it in the microwave at work to cook and eat. Easy peasy!

Greek Chicken with Zucchini & Feta

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half (approx 6 ounces, raw), cut into bite-size pieces
2 small red (or fingerling) potatoes, quartered and thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 very small zucchini, halved and sliced (approx 1/2 inch slices)
1/3 cup (approx 2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 Medium Ziploc® Zip’n Steam® Microwave Cooking Bag

Combine the chicken, potatoes, feta cheese, olives, lemon juice, olive oil, dried oregano, salt and black pepper in a Medium Ziploc® Zip'n Steam® Bag. Seal bag and shake gently to combine ingredients. Pat ingredients into single layer. 

Place bag in microwave. Cook on full power 7 - 7 1/2 minutes (Medium bag) or 6 - 6 1/2 minutes (Large bag), until chicken is cooked through, with no trace of pink. If needed, continue microwaving at 30-second intervals until chicken is done. Allow bag to stand 1 minute before handling. Gently shake bag to distribute seasonings. Carefully open bag, and pour contents into a bowl or onto a plate.