Monday, June 25, 2018

Rotisserie Chicken: 4 Different Ways

How do I find time to cook at home? 
How do I prevent getting bored of the same foods when I am cooking for one?
How do I incorporate seasonal produce into my food routine?

These are typical questions that come up during a nutrition counseling session. My clients often want easy answers at first. They want a meal plan; they want to be told what to eat. But the more they learn about good nutrition, and the more they prepare their own food, the more they learn to eat their own favorite foods in different ways and to plan out their meals in a way that works for them. 

Let me tell you about my experience when I first was learning to cook and feed myself. I remember when I started this blog, back in college, around 3-4 pm, I would start running through the mental inventory of the food in my fridge. Would I start with rice, pasta or tortillas? Did I have a good protein? Did I have leftovers I needed to use up? 

By the time I was walking home after class, I already knew if I needed to pick up some ingredient from the convenience store on campus, or if I had everything I needed. My cooking was very basic at first - mushroom and onion sandwiches with melted provolone cheese, pasta salad with store-bought tortellini, stir-fry made from the vegetables you could find in the dining hall. Working off campus gave me the opportunity to go to better grocery stores and experiment with different cheeses, as well as a larger variety of produce.  By senior year, I was baking cookies every other week, and my cholesterol went up 30 points in a 6-month period. Oops, I may have taken the whole home-cooked thing a little too far.

Now I have other health problems to contend with, so preparing food at home has become even more important to me. However, I still have to fit in exercise, make time to work night clinic, and see my friends and family. So, convenience is high on my priority list. Last Friday, I didn't leave the office until 6:30 pm, so I bee-lined to the grocery store to pick up a rotisserie chicken. That chicken has served me well over the past few days, and is just one example of how food need not be boring or repetitive.

Friday Dinner
Freshly cooked rotisserie chicken with asparagus roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper

Sunday Dinner 
Mixed greens salad with chopped, cold, diced rotisserie chicken, diced avocado, cooked corn kernels, chopped grape tomatoes, crumbled queso fresco, and cilantro lime vinaigrette.

Monday Lunch
Corn tostadas with mixed greens, chopped, cold, diced rotisserie chicken, diced avocado, cooked corn kernels, chopped grape tomatoes, crumbled queso fresco

Monday Dinner
Corn salad with cilantro lime vinaigrette, queso fresco, and fresh-ground black pepper on a bed of lettuce with a chicken breast

Some other ways to use leftover chicken? 

Make a chicken salad sandwich - serve on crackers, whole grain bread, or your favorite whole wheat wrap.

Warm and serve beside any vegetable - sweet potato, corn, green beans, broccoli - there is no shame in frozen, steamed vegetables, but bonus points for a nice browning in the oven!

Throw the chicken in a wok with scrambled eggs, any vegetables that are leftover at the end of the week and make a fried rice.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Taco Night

I was sitting at home at 4 o'clock in the afternoon today contemplating what to do with some leftover corn tortillas, when I found a cooking light recipe for "Smoky Potato and Greens Tacos". Although the resulting tacos were a bit different, they were quite tasty. Cooking Light recommends potatoes, radishes and greens with fresh cheese. I substituted sweet potatoes and used lightly cooked onion instead of radish to give me the same crunch. The queso blanco was also delicious as an appetizer all by itself until I could pull everything together. 

2 corn tortillas
1 medium sweet potato
1 cup spinach/ arugula/ your favorite greens
1/2 cup sliced onions
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro
1 oz queso blanco
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh lime juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke holes in the sweet potato, and bake for 45 minutes. Dice sweet potato and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute onions and mix in greens prior to taking it off the heat. Warm tortillas for 15 seconds in the microwave. Layer sweet potatoes, onion mixture, crumbled queso blanco and cilantro on each tortilla. Serve with a squeeze of lime.

Allergens: milk
Nutrition (1 recipe): 308 calories, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 316 mg sodium, 830 mg potassium, 52 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 12 g sugar, 8 g protein, 183% vitamin A, 48% vitamin C, 15% iron, 11% calcium, 24% vitamin B-6, 18% folate, 12% thiamin, 6% vitamin E, 22% copper, 5% magnesium, 31% manganese, 21% pantothenic acid, 11% phosphorous, 5% zinc
Cost (1 recipe): $3.10

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Mediterranean Edamame Grain Salad

I'm in week 2 of meal planning for the new year. But I realize after week, that I really only need two or three recipes to hold me over for the week. Last week it was tuna antipasto, French lentils, and homemade hummus. This week, I have quinoa salad and avocado sandwiches planned, which may be plenty since it's also restaurant week :)

This Mediterranean edamame salad was super delicious - but maybe next time I will buy the pre-shelled edamame.

1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup water
1 package frozen edamame
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
4 cups fresh arugula/ spinach mix
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese
Dried basil, salt, pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer on low for about 15 miutes or until quinoa is tender and liquid is absorbed, adding edamame the last 4 minutes of cooking 

In small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Stir in half of the cheese, the basil, salt and pepper. 

Add the tomatoes to the pan of quinoa, and pour the olive oil mixture over top. Stir to combine. Serve on a bed of spinach and arugula, and sprinkle with feta cheese. 

Allergens: soy, milk
Nutrition(1/4 recipe): 351 kcal, 17 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 5 g monounsaturated fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 309 mg sodium, 382 mg potassium, 32 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 3 g sugar, 24 g protein, 59% vitamin, 25% vitamin C, 30% iron, 16% calcium, 17% folate, 13% phosphorous, 27% riboflavin
Cost(1 recipe): $7.02

Love for Legumes

I didn't have all the ingredients for the original recipe from Kitchn - "Tomato-Braised Lentils with Broccoli Rabe" - so I just made the lentil part and served them with brown basmati rice. I would have liked more tomato flavor, and I think next time, I would add more tomato paste, and even maybe some canned diced tomatoes.

This year, I'm also going to change the way I estimate cost. Since I love to shop at Aldi, and their prices are amazing, I'll be saving my receipts, and using their prices whenever I buy from them. So the prices may seem a little lower, but they are completely realistic.

4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups green French lentils
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
5 cloves garlic, crushed
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sweat the onions over low heat for about 8 minutes until translucent, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the crushed garlic and cook another minutes. Add the lentils, tomato paste and a splash of the stock. Increase heat to medium and stir occasionally until stock has been absorbed. Add 2 out of the 3 tomotoes to the pan. Continue adding stock and stirring ocasionally until the lentils are just tender, about 30-45 minutes.

Add the last chopped tomato to the lentil and cook for 2-3 minutes. Taste for seasoning when warm. Serve immediately.

Adapted from:

Allergens: none (may vary depending on the stock you use)
Nutrition (1/4 recipe): 250 kcal, 15 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 11 g monounsaturated fat, 4 mg cholesterol, 762 mg sodium, 897 mg potassium, 24 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 9 g protein, 12% vitamin A, 24% vitamin C, 22% iron, 4% calcium, 6% vitamin B-12, 17% vitamin B-6, 12% vitamin E, 24% copper, 40% folate, 12% magnesium, 48% manganese, 29% niacin, 8% pantothenic acid, 29% phosphorous, 12% riboflavin, 11% selenium, 14% thiamin, 10% zinc
Cost (1 recipe): $5.05

A little more mediterranean

I'm easing my way into a more vegetable, fish and legume focused-diet. This recipe can serve a family of 4 or become lunch for a few days during the week. As long as you wait to add the salad greens, the tuna salad should only grow in flavor.

1 can of chickpeas, rinsed
2 6 oz cans of chunk light tuna, drained and flaked
1 large bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 lemon, juiced
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Ground pepper, to taste
8 cups mixed salad greens

Combine beans, tuna, bell pepper, onion, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil. Season with pepper. Divide the greens among 4 plates. Top each with the tuna salad.

Adapted from:

Allergens: fish
Nutrition (1/4 recipe): 264 kcal, 12 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 8 g monounsaturated fat, 30 mg cholesterol, 334 mg sodium, 362 mg potassium, 17 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 22 g protein, 69% vitamin A, 82% vitamin C, 11% iron, 2% calcium, 8% vitamin E
Cost (1 recipe): $14.97 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ideas for 2018

Looking back at 2017, I had so many financial goals, and food just became an obstacle to them. I ate foods that were not the best for me in the interest of cost-savings. I became a believer in Aldi, and I ate whatever Aldi provided (which was not much, sometimes). I stopped trying to follow recipes because you could never find all the ingredients there, and instead just improvised. 

When my favorite Mexican spot next to my office closed, I cooked canned black beans with cumin and garlic and layered them over shredded lettuce and Mexican cheese on tostadas. When my guy came over for dinner, I covered naan bread in caramelized onions, sauteed spinach, shredded parmesan, and fresh mozzarella, and baked it until golden brown.

But when I decided to take a graduate class this fall, I realized why I loved to cook so much in college. It was an escape from homework, and tests, and a time I could socialize with my roommates. When the pressures of school returned, so too did my desire to stand in the kitchen for hours at a time. 

It also got me thinking about where I got my groceries in college. I lived about 40 mins from home, and I often went home to buy groceries. I also had a job that was close to a much nicer grocery store than College Park had to offer.

However, nowadays, when I go down to my kitchen, there is little for me to work with. I want to change that. I want to have that grocery list that I know I can buy everything, and I have recipes to prepare them, and at the end of the week, I can throw the remainder together and make something even more wonderful. 

So, when I think about how to enjoy cooking again, it seems to have to do with having plenty, variety, and also just good groceries. I might have to be that crazy person who goes to three different stores to get what I want. But if I can focus, I think there will still be cost control and balance. 

So, with the Mediterranean diet as my basis, I'm going to load up on veggies for next week, nuts, beans and fish. I'm going to expand my use of lentils, and eat more nuts as a snack. I will note what gets used and what gets thrown away, and try to improve.  Most importantly, I want to use this blog to track my progress and reflect. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Adult Eats - Pretty Penne Ham Skillet

I had a mental shift recently. The whole adulting thing is hitting me pretty hard, and although nutrition will always be a concern to me, cost has become a much larger factor in my decision-making a the grocery store. That means shopping at cheaper stores, using coupons, and eating in a whole lot more. 

It also means I'm less likely to choose recipes with fancy ingredients I don't have, and more likely to just use what I've got in the pantry. This may be why I have been blogging a lot less - because my meals are so run of the mill and don't always seem worth sharing. But I have an ever-growing pile of recipes that I have carefully annotated.When that pile gets too large, I find myself wanting preserve all that work so I can continue to make my cooking better.

Ironically, my grocery bill is 1/3 to 1/2 of what it used to be since I started being more budget conscious, but my restaurant spending is right in line with the typical millenial. According to one source (, the average millenial spends $174/month on eating out at restaurants. I clocked in at $168 last month. I guess I have more work to do...

1/2 package (16 ounces) penne pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
2.5 cups cubed fully cooked ham
1 large sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1-1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add ham, red pepper and onion; cook and stir 4-6 minutes or until ham is browned and vegetables are tender. Add garlic and herbs; cook 1-2 minutes longer.

2. Stir in broth and lemon juice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 10-15 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Add pasta; toss to combine. Sprinkle with cheese. Yield: 6 servings.

Allergens: wheat, soy (chicken broth), milk
Nutrition (1/6 recipe, no cheese): 390 calories, 16 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 903 mg sodium, 500 mg potassium, 42 g carbohydrate, 5.5 g fiber, 3.5 g sugar, 17 g protein, 6% vitamin C, 0% vitamin A, 14% iron, 3% calcium, 9% vitamin B-12, 11% vitamin B-6, 20% niacin, 10% riboflavin, 33% thiamin, 14% selenium, 17% phosphorous
Cost (1/6 recipe, no cheese): $1.63

Adapted from: