Monday, January 30, 2012

Spinach Quiche

Brinner. Who doesn't love brinner? There is something comforting, cozy and fun about whipping up a little breakfast for dinner. We love our eggs, especially when we can get them fresh from the farm. This is one of my favorite things to do with those eggs.

A flaky, buttery pastry crust is always top notch, but you may not always have the time or desire to make one for scratch. Here is a little twist on a quiche crust you will love.

Spinach Quiche with Sweet Potato Crust
Serves 8 (or 4 ravenous people)

1 medium sweet potato, washed
3-4 cups fresh spinach
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 eggs
1 cup low-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray a pie pan with a bit of non-stick oil. Shred the sweet potato and press into the pan to form a crust. Bake in the oven 10-15 minutes, just until it begins to brown.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. When the crust is ready, layer the spinach, onion and cheese in the crust. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the pan to saturate the spinach.
Bake 45-50 minutes until the top has browned and the eggs have just set, there won't be too much jiggle left.
Remember the eggs will continue to as the quiche rests for about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy your brinner!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos

Mondays always seem to be the hardest for me. Hardest to get out of bed, to focus all day at work. I just want to crash and dream about how lovely the weekend was and knit myself to sleep.

We all have had our fair share of forgettable Mondays. Sometimes, it would make our day so much better to know there is a delicious, hot meal waiting for us when we get home. Here is a great, flavorful recipe to help you beat the most miserable of Mondays.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Serves 4, makes 8 tacos

1 onion, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced
4-5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
1-2 cups water

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 package whole grain tortillas

In the bottom of your slow cooker, layer the ingredients in order. Add enough water to just cover the chicken. To finish in about 6 hours, set to high, for 8 hours set to low. Cover, and let your slow cooker do all the work.
If your taco mixture seems to have too much liquid for your preference, make sure your slow cooker is set to high and remove the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking to thicken. The meat should stay plenty hot while you kick off your shoes and warm up the tortillas. Break up the chicken thighs with a wooden spoon.

Serve with warm tortillas and top with cheddar (or sour cream, or guac, or whatever your taco-loving heart desires).

Experiment with your taco meat -- add tomatoes if you love those, leave out the jalapenos and red pepper if spicy just isn't your thing. Remember, its Monday, you can at least eat what you want. Whatever you do, enjoy an effortless meal knowing Tuesday is that much closer to Friday.

TIP: If you love tacos, but hate the way the drip all over your plate no matter what you do, try propping up one side of your plate with an extra coaster. No one likes a soggy second taco and the hubby is genius for thinking of this.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Super Mac

The very first meal I remember making on my own was mac and cheese. My sister will tell you how awful that first batch was, but thankfully I have learned. I have not, however, lost my love for mac and cheese.

Mac is at the top of my favorite comfort foods, always an excellent choice regardless of season or mood. Warm, cheesy, savory, carbohydrate goodness. Mac is so versatile. Enjoy it with peas, or a sliced all-beef hot dog fresh from the grill, with almost any cheese combination you could dream of. Endless possibilities.

This could be my favorite. You can even have it two ways!

Super Mac gives you a complete meal -- protein, fat, carbs -- all with good veggies. Fast enough for a weeknight meal or a hearty Sunday casserole.

Super Mac
Serves 4

2 cups whole wheat penne
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 chicken breasts, about 20 oz
1/2 pound fresh asparagus, chopped
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 oz fat free cream cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Heat a Dutch oven or large sauce pan over medium to medium-high heat, add the oil and then the onion and a pinch or two of salt. Let the onions cook down for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Add to your pan with another pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Allow the chicken to cook, stirring every few minutes. When the chicken begins to brown, add the asparagus and garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving one cup of the water. Stir in the the cream cheese, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add remain cheeses and some of the pasta water, stirring to combine.

When the cheeses have melted, add the pasta and stir to cover. Add more water if necessary to reach the consistency you would like.

You can serve your Super Mac here, or you can pile it into a casserole dish, cover with 1/4 cup bread crumbs and another 1/4 cup grated parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the top has browned and the mac is bubbly.

If you are going to bake your mac, cook the pasta a minute or two short of the directions on the package.

If penne is not your top choice for your mac (elbows, anyone?), just choose another whole wheat alternative.

How do you like your mac?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Marinade

Sweet and spicy make a great couple. A little heat without burning lips can make for an excellent winter dinner. It's a great way to warm up without piling on the blankets or laying on your pets for warmth, though they are cute and cuddly.

Let's start with a simple marinade you can use on just about anything -- chicken, fish, seafood, beef, anything.

Sweet and Spicy Marinade:
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1+ tablespoon teaspoons Sriracha or chile paste
1 tablespoon honey

Whisk everything together in a small bowl. Remember, if you aren't so excited about the spicy half of our lovely couple, you can always start with half of the Sriracha or chili paste and add more to taste. Add more honey if you have gone overboard and your finger caught fire just dipping it to taste-test.

To use, marinate your meat of choice for 20 to 30 minutes before baking or grilling.

Well, now what do we do with it? Make up a batch of the marinade and use half to marinate 2-4 chicken thighs. Use the remaining marinade to baste the thighs as you grill them up. They come out like giant, delicious hot wings sans the fryer. Serve with brown rice and veggies and you have a complete meal.

After we feasted on the chicken thighs, I remembered a menu item from a restaurant I used to work in, one of my dad's favorites. The original recipe was fried chicken and shrimp sauteed in a spicy-sweet sauce over a pile of butter-cream pasta. Sounds delicious right? Of course it does, but we can all hear our arteries clogging and can only imagine how much extra we would have to work out just seriously considering eating it for dinner.

Let's not go there, let's have an alternative.

Kickin' Shrimp and Pasta:
Serves 2

1 batch of Sweet and Spicy marinade
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2-3 cups whole wheat penne pasta
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded, plus more for garnish if desired
1/4 cup plain non-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt
1/4 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon minced garlic

Toss shrimp with half of the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to directions.

Heat saute pan over medium heat and add the remaining marinade. Scoop the shrimp out of the marinade and add to the pan, discard the first half of the marinade. Cook until the shrimp are done, they should be curled and opaque.

Drain the pasta and toss with Parmesan cheese, stirring until cheese begins to melt. Stir in yogurt, milk and garlic and continue stirring until the cheese has melted. Serve the shrimp over the pasta with plenty of both sauces.
Enjoy the salty-sweet-spicy goodness!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A New Year

How was your first week of 2012?
Did you make any resolutions for weight loss, healthy eating or exercise? How is that going?

Do you need to take a lap around the block? Go ahead, I'll wait.

Are you back?

Now, let's get real. I cannot imagine there is any one of us that would not benefit from better food and more movement. Sometimes we get so excited at the prospect of a new year that we set unattainable goals. Let's not set ourselves up for failure.

Let's set real, sustainable goals for a healthier and happier 2012.
Let's get moving and eating well.

If you are in Wichita, check out Firefly Yoga. Nickki has a great deal for a 30-day challenge this month. She can help you get moving at a great price with instructors that will challenge you at every level. You will sweat more than you ever dreamed and love every minute. Don't forget a towel and a bottle of water!

However you choose, get moving. Walk around the block before dinner and get to know your neighbors. Park as far away from the front door at work as possible. Small changes can reap great benefits. Remember that something will always be better than nothing.

Now that we're moving, let's talk food. I challenge you to write down everything you eat for at least one week. Take an honest look at your journal and see what kind of changes you can make. There are so many resources for good eating. My two favorites are Myfitnesspal and Joy Bauer.

Myfitnesspal can help you track your food and exercise to keep focused on your goal. You can get with your friends to share your progress and even scan barcodes for nutritional information. Download the app to track everything from your phone. Joy always has great recipes and ideas for good, wholesome, real food. I love how practical she is.

Here are your take home prizes:

Spinach Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken

Whole wheat spaghetti goes a long way to keeping you full along with protein from the chicken. The packaging on the spinach doesn't say "super food" for nothing.

Serves 2

1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti
2 chicken breasts or cutlets
3 cups fresh spinach
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
1 cup fresh or frozen peas

Cook spaghetti according to the directions on the package. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high. Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the chicken until cooked thoroughly, 4-5 minutes per side.

In a food processor or blender, add the spinach, oil, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Blend until the spinach has all been chopped and a nice pesto has been formed.

Just before the pasta is done, add the peas to the pot and finish cooking. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water and drain. Return the pasta and peas to the pot and stir in the pesto. Add enough of the reserved pasta water until all of the pasta is covered with sauce.

Slice the chicken and serve over pasta. Enjoy!

Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
With dill!

I don't think I could tell you how much I love sweet potato fries. Not only are sweet potatoes delicious and good for you, but we can enjoy them without taking a dive in the fryer. Dill adds a great, fresh taste. This recipes multiplies easily, about 1 medium sweet potato per person

Serves 2

2 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed and dried
2 tablespoons olive oil (or just enough to coat the potatoes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper
2-3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped (optional)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place your baking sheet in the oven while it heats.

Slice the potatoes into 1/4-1/2" pieces. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Spread the fries evenly on the baking pan and bake until crispy, about 20-25 minutes, turning once. Toss fries with dill while they cool in the pan for a few minutes before serving.

Now get going!