Friday, February 22, 2013

Baked Chicken Parmesan

I love Italian food, but the Italian food we tend to eat in the US tends to involve a lot of carbs, high-fat cheeses, and fried food.

Except for this baked chicken parmesan. It simple, tasty, and just as good as the fried version. I originally found this recipe on, but made some changes to it to make it my own.

One whole chicken breast is a bit too much for me, so I usually cut mine into about a 5 oz serving (including cheese/sauce). directs you to slice chicken breasts in half, but I was worried that it might make the chicken dry all the way through--so I haven't done it that way yet, but I may for next time.

Baked Chicken Parmesan (adapted from Gina's Skinny Recipes)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3-1/2 c breadcrumbs
1/8 c. shredded parmesan (approximately)
spray butter or olive oil cooking spray
1/3 c. part-skim grated mozzarrella (approximately)
1/2 c. marinara sauce (approximately)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)

Combine breadcrumbs and parmesan in a bowl. Lightly spray chicken with butter or cooking spray, then roll in breadcrumbs. Place on foil-lined baking sheet, and lightly spray top of chicken. Bake at 375-400 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn chicken over, and bake additional 5 minutes.

While chicken is baking, mix paprika with marinara sauce (optional). I used my homemade marinara sauce (I just avoided scooping up mushrooms), and the paprika added a delicious, smoky depth to this recipe.

Remove chicken from oven to spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of sauce over each piece and top with some mozzarella cheese. Bake 5 more minutes, or until cheese is melted.

I also made a baked spaghetti side dish, substituting--you guessed it--spaghetti squash for the noodles. Delicious! I'll be sure to post that recipe next!
Baked chicken parmesan, spaghetti baked squash, and bread with butter!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mushroom Marinara Sauce and Zucchini "Noodles"

I think I've mentioned a few times that I love carbs--especially pasta and rice. ;) No matter how much I've cut back on my carb intake, sometimes all I really want is a bowl of spaghetti with marinara and/or meat sauce. My problem is that I can't eat "just" a serving of pasta...I always want more, plus I'll crave it for days afterwards. So, how can I still enjoy the comfort of a bowl of spaghetti?
Zucchini ribbons, sauce, and ground bison!

Zucchini and homemade marinara sauce!

Most jarred spaghetti sauces are pretty high in sodium, and some even taste overly ketchup-y to me, so I decided about a year ago to start experimenting to make my own. It makes quite a bit of sauce, but it freezes well, so I usually save some for use in other meals--such as the baked chicken parmesan that I had last weekend (will post that one soon!).

Cooked zucchini ribbons.
For the "pasta," I use ribbons of zucchini that I make with a regular vegetable peeler (although I want to buy a spiral slicer--like this one--to do this with); just boil some water and drop the zucchini ribbons in for 20-60 seconds, depending on the desired texture you're going for.

I need protein in my meals, so I usually brown either super-lean ground beef or ground bison and add 4 oz of the meat to my sauce and zucchini, plus a sprinkle of parmesan on top. Add a small piece of crusty bread and it's a hearty, comforting, low-carb dinner!

Mushroom Marinara Sauce

1 (28oz) can Italian plum tomatoes, peeled
2 tsp EVOO
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1/2 C-1C chopped mushrooms
1 1/4 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp red wine
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/3 C fresh parsley, chopped

1) Saute garlic in EVOO, approx 15 seconds.
2) Add all ingredients except parsley. Break up tomatoes with wooden spoon.
3) Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer 20 mins.
4) Remove from heat and stir in parsley

Saturday, February 2, 2013

On Eating Out

Eating out can be a dieting/healthy-eating nightmare. But it doesn't have to be.

When I was actively trying to lose weight, I pretty much stopped eating out in restaurants altogether; the stress and anxiety of finding something diet-friendly, figuring out correct portion sizes, and knowing my weight might bump up regardless from the extra sodium just wasn't worth it to me at the time. This, however, could not last forever, unless I wanted to have no social life.

Once I hit the "maintenance" phase of my journey (no longer dieting, just trying to maintain), I started experimenting with eating out here and there. I still don't make a habit of it, but it's nice to know, for instance, that I can swing into Subway and grab a salad if I'm busy or traveling, stop by Greek Islands on the way home to pick up dinner if I just don't feel like cooking, or meet a friend at Outback or Cantina Laredo to catch up over dinner. But the key to eating out, I have discovered, is planning ahead!

Usually, we're already hungry by the time we arrive at a restaurant. Everything looks delicious on the menu, and it's easy to convince yourself that you'll "just have a bite" of an appetizer, or you'll fill up on the starter salad and won't eat the entire entree, so it's okay to order what sounds really cheesy/carby/filling/amazing. In my case, all reason seems to disappear when I'm really hungry. Not to mention, if I'm eating out with friends or family, someone is bound to order appetizers to pass around. Basically, before heading to a restaurant, I always try to plan ahead on three counts:
           1)Drinks/appetizers. Am I willing to splurge on those (I usually don't)? Should I plan to eat a lighter entree to offset that splurge?
           2)Menu. I generally try to look up the menu online ahead of time to find one or two dinner options that I think will work for me. This way, I'm not poring over the menu when I'm hungry or distracted, and I'm more likely to make a better choice/plan for special requests.
           3)WATER! I drink plenty of water before we eat out, while I'm at the restaurant, and extra water for about a day afterwards, all to counteract the extra sodium found in restaurant food (also, if I'm well-hydrated before eating out, I'm less likely to overeat).

So, what do I actually eat? Here are some of my "go-to" meals at a few of the restaurants I frequent in Omaha:
My Subway salad.

           Roasted chicken salad-- with spinach, lettuce, shredded cheddar, cucumber, tomato, banana peppers, and fat-free sweet onion sauce on top. I will eat this with 2 packages of saltines, or with a slice of Sara Lee Delightful bread if I'm at home. Note: I do NOT get the "chopped salad" that they just started selling; it's overpriced, and they way they "chop" it mostly just mushes and mangles the salad. I will, however, ask them to cut my cucumbers/tomatoes in half before they put them on my salad, just to make it easier to eat.

           Fire-Grilled Mahi, light style, no rice. This means that I don't get it with the "hearts of gold" artichokes and sauce on top, and my veggies are steamed without butter. I will usually have a piece (or two!) of the bread they serve at the table (with a little butter) while I wait for my meal.
          Grilled Salmon, light style. This comes with a side of steamed veggies, too. Again, I'll usually have a piece of the bread they serve at the table.

Greek Islands:
          Tilapia Dinner. I get the dinner salad with the dressing on the side to dip my salad bites into. I do not eat the bread that they serve while waiting (or if I do, I skip the rice with the meal). I will eat the broiled tilapia, which comes with steamed broccoli and rice--though I'll only eat about 1/2 cup of the rice.
          Chicken Santorini. This is a feta and spinach stuffed chicken breast. Again, avoid the bread, eat 1/2-3/4 of the chicken, approx 1/2 cup of the rice, and the steamed broccoli it comes with. Salad with dressing on the side.

Cantina Laredo:
           Chicken Tampico. I *try* to avoid the chips/salsa they bring when you sit down, but the salsas are soooo good here. So instead, I usually just avoid the Spanish rice served with my chicken. :)  I get the creamy poblano sauce served on the side (I usually don't use it at all, but it's nice to have in case I want to try it), and ask for no monterey cheese on my chicken (it's a pretty large chicken serving, I don't need the extra protein of the cheese). It comes with sauteed bell peppers/mushrooms on the chicken, but I also usually ask for a side salad with dressing on the side.

McFoster's Natural Kind Cafe:
           You would think an organic/vegan cafe would be easy, but organic/vegan food usually has a lot of hidden fat and carbs. I usually get the grilled/broiled salmon. It comes with sauteed or roasted veggies and some bread/toast. If I'm especially hungry, I'll add a side salad with dijon vinaigrette on the side.

In addition to having menus online (even locally-owned places have started putting their menus online), most of the chain restaurants (Outback, etc.) will often have nutritional information posted online. It's always a good idea to check that out, too-- sometimes what they mark as "healthy" or "lite" on their menu is not always as healthy or light as you think, as the sodium will often be much higher. Applebee's, for example, had a Weight-Watcher's-friendly chicken dinner that I ordered once; when I looked at the nutrition information online later, I discovered that the entree had over 1,200 mg of sodium (1,500mg is the recommended daily intake for sodium)! Not only that, but--to be honest--the meal was so salty-tasting to me that it was nearly inedible (keep in mind that I eat low-sodium and am now pretty sensitive to the taste of salt...but still!).