Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Greek Chicken Skewers with Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

I just got back from Las Vegas and I am pooped!  In my opinion, you didn't do Vegas right if you have even an ounce of energy when you get back.  I had to sleep an extra 8 hours just to get myself to the point where I could consciously walk around my house without looking like a zombie. Needless to say, dinner last night had to be clean and simple. I needed a detox from all of the incredible food, and just a few drinks if I remember right, that are definitely not allowed on the usual healthy eating wagon. I won't eat just plain old tasteless healthy food though, it has to be delicious. I love the flavors in Greek food so I decided to spice up some chicken and throw them on the barbie (I am aware that barbie is an Australian term, If you know the Greek equivalent...then you get a gold star smarty pants) These Greek chicken skewers were the perfect meal loaded with protein, low in carbohydrates and absolutely delectable. They would be perfect as a meal served with a Greek salad, as a snack, or even an appetizer. 

The Skewers:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx 5 oz each)
8 bamboo skewers, soaked for at least 30 minutes in water.
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp each: oregano, onion powder, coriander, tarragon, turmeric, curry, thyme, pepper

The Sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt (plain, non-fat)
1 cucumber
3/4 tsp dill
1/2 tsp garlic paste
salt and pepper to taste
**You can also find this sauce used on my Greek Burgers

Preheat grill to 375 degrees. Slice each chicken breast into 4 slices, cutting at an angle to make wider, thinner strips. Weave 2 slices of chicken onto each skewer. Spray the front and back side of each skewer with olive oil then sprinkle seasoning blend on both sides. Set aside.

To make the sauce: start by peeling and rough chopping the cucumber. Put it in a blender and blend to a chunky pulp. Remove from blender and pour into a cheese cloth or paper towel. Press out majority of the liquid reserving only the pulp. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, 1/2 cup of cucumber pulp, garlic, dill, salt and pepper. Mix well. Set aside

Place skewers on the grill for about 3 minutes on each side or until chicken is cooked thoroughly*. Remove from the grill and serve along side cucumber sauce.

*Chicken must reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees in order to be considered safe to consume.

Serves 4
Serving Size: 2 skewers with 1/4 cup yogurt sauce
Per Serving: 190 cals / 2g fat / 3g carbs / 39g protein

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tortilla Soup

This incredible tortilla soup is a recipe I got from a cooking class on my honeymoon. We honeymooned at the Four Seasons Resort in Costa Rica and they offered a cooking class with an executive chef. For me this was the best activity the resort offered. For my hubby, not so much. Luckily my new groom was willing to tag along to make the experience even more special. We got into the kitchen and were handed white aprons ::shriek of excitement:: and then handed all of our prepped ingredients. The finished product was so smooth and delicious that I made him go back two days later to learn another dish. The coolest thing that I learned about the Four Seasons Resorts while on this trip is that any dish you eat while staying there (or any Four Seasons Resort), you can ask for a recipe and they gladly offer it up! I don't often stay at the Four Seasons (Because I'm cheap and I like a good Hampton Inn) but for special occasions like a honeymoon, we'll spring for the luxury. I thought this concept was too cool. While lounging poolside, I had the chance to speak with the Executive Chef who was the brains behind the idea of sharing the recipes as well as the cooking classes with guests. He said that he thought that it would be interesting for guests to be able to take a little piece of their trip home with them and it would be a great experience for those of us that love to cook, to cook alongside the talented chef's that were creating the dishes we were enjoying during our stay. So today, I am sharing a little piece of my honeymoon trip to Costa Rice with y'all. I hope that it warms you from the inside out during these winter months of snow, ice and arctic temperatures. 

14 oz whole tomatoes
1 1/3 cup white onions, large diced
1/2 cup celery, large diced
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups tomato juice
1 tsp whole cumin seed*
3 handfuls, fried corn tortillas (tortilla chips)

1 1/3 cups ripe avocado, chopped into squares
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (The cheese thief helped himself to my mozzarella so I used cheddar)
1 1/3 cups cooked, shredded chicken breast**
1 bunch fresh coriander, coarsely chopped

Spread the tomatoes with oil and salt and grill them until they become soft (you could also bake and broil them). Saute the onions, celery and garlic in a large pot over medium-high heat. When the vegetables are caramelized incorporate the cumin seeds then the chicken stock and tomato juice. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Add the tortillas to the soup and cook for another 20 minutes or until tortillas are tender. Let the soup cool then add to a blender and puree it until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot with the avocado, cheese, shredded chicken and fresh coriander.

*Note: You can find whole cumin seed at Whole Foods or a similar store. If you can't find them, feel free to use ground cumin. Leaving them whole to puree in the blender brings out more flavor than the pre-ground kind therefore you may use a dash or two extra if using the ground kind.
**Note: You can boil chicken breast in salted water, salt and pepper it when done and then use your stand-mixer with blade attachment to shred the chicken. This is my favorite technique to use. 

Enjoy! XOXO~

Friday, December 6, 2013

Easy Fridge Pickles

I am friends with an amazing little farm girl named Kristi that I met a few years back when I was working in the oil industry. She has this incredible garden (that ultimately inspired my own garden) and always brought us big brown bags full of the most incredible veggies. We called it "The Kristi Yamaguchi Farmer's Market." I was the pickiest of eaters growing up, apparently I only grew up 4 years ago because that is when I started finally eating veggies. She is why I am so in love with tomatoes now and she is also the reason I shake my hand at the gardening gods every year because my cantaloupe do not get bigger than a softball and they can't even come close to the big ole boy, blue ribbon worthy, incredibly sweet and fleshy cantaloupe that she spoiled me on. Anyway...She mentioned in passing that she makes fridge pickles all the time and I, who has always had a curiosity of canning and pickling but never attempted it, was intrigued. She gave me a basic run-down of what she does and how long hers last and that very first batch of homemade fridge pickles was born. Over the years I have tweaked and played and the below recipe is one of my go-to favorite blends but the possibilities are endless. Try different spices, veggies and herbs, change up the vinegar or the amount of salt and sugar. This is just a starting point for you. Just play around figure out what you love. 

4 dark green pickling cucumbers
3 green onions (3 stalks)  
1 cup water
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp pickling salt (table salt will work well enough)
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp whole cumin seed
Optional: Any veggie you have on hand and want to pickle

Wash cucumbers and either slice into 1/4 inch slices or spear them. Wash and trim the roots and bulb from green onion. Remove any loose layers. Cut the green onion, including the white and light green part, into 2 inch pieces. Place in a 1-qt container with a secure lid. If you have any other vegetables such as green or white onion, bell pepper or okra you will prep by cleaning and then cutting peppers and onions or adding whole okra (keep in mind you will need fewer cucumbers if you are using other veggies as well). In a small sauce pan combine the water, both vinegars, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar have dissolved (5 minutes). Add in the peppercorns, garlic and cumin. Pour over the cucumber and veggies. Close lid tightly and place in the back of your fridge. Let the pickle concoction sit for a minimum of one week! Don't feel bad if you don't make it the whole husband usually doesn't. If you want an even easier route, skip the boiling, just dissolve the salt and sugar is warm water add your vinegar and spices and let sit overnight. They won't be near as full of flavor but they will satisfy the urge. Please remember that these must be stored in the fridge. And the best part is: You can enjoy them for up to a month.

Enjoy! XOXO~

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Skinny Mashed Potatoes

OK, Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is around the corner. It is time to turn up the workouts and turn down the calories, you know, just for the time in between the 2 feast-full holidays. This is one of my favorite healthy swaps and I know you will love it too. I actually brought this to Thanksgiving last year for anyone that was trying to be semi-healthy and most of my family members were hesitant to try it. I got every excuse from "I hate cauliflower" and "I don't like veggies" to "I'll be able to taste the cauliflower". I didn't push, I just left it there and slowly but started to disappear. I brought it this year, and they were asking for it before I even had a chance to get it on the table and that doesn't count the 3 phone calls I got making sure I was making it again and the phone calls throughout the year I got asking how to make it. If you can boil, blend and can make this. This is a dish that feels naughty because you're eating mashed potatoes and that is a no-no in the world of health and fitness (or so I'm told) but this is not naughty at all! It is light and airy and yummy. Trust me, you won't be sorry, just look at the nutrition content I put at the bottom of the post!

5 lbs russet potatoes
3 heads cauliflower
1 Tbsp teaspoons salt
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic
2 tsp onion powder
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese (If desired) 

This recipe is super simple...but has a few moving parts so I did a step-by-step for you:

Peel and chop potatoes then boil until fork tender. Drain water and mash potatoes with a masher. They do not need to be completely mashed at this point so lets call this a "rough mash"

Remove stem and leaves from heads of cauliflower. Break or chop into about 2 inch pieces (this doesn't have to be an exact size just fairly uniform). Bring a pot of water and 1 Tbsp salt to a boil (I forgot the salt so I added it late - oh well!) Add in the cauliflower and boil for about 20-30 minutes. Boil until fork tender (I used a 6.75qt Le Creuset dutch oven and I do it in 3 batches). Strain out the cauliflower leaving the water for another batch if needed, if only doing one batch, reserve 1 cup of the boiling water.


At this point, if adding cheese, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Fill your blenders container with 2/3 of the boiled cauliflower, in batches if needed, and add 1/3 cup of the boiling water per batch to help give it enough liquid to blend well. Blend until smooth or pureed. (You will use the other 1/3 of the boiled cauliflower later on)

Add the pureed cauliflower to the potatoes. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt as well as the pepper, garlic and onion powder. Mix well.

Add the remaining cauliflower to the potato mixture without pureeing and mash into potato mixture. This will help keep a thick mashed potato like consistency. If you prefer a smoother consistency then you will just puree all of the cauliflower and ignore this step.

Give the mashed potato mixture one last good mix. At this point, you can eat them and they are delicious. For large family gatherings I like to add a little cheese. If you want to add a little you can smooth out the top with a rubber spatula or the back of a large serving spoon and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Place uncovered in the oven and bake 5-8 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and starting to bubble and brown a bit. Serve and enjoy!

This recipe size is for a large gathering and will serve approximately 20-22 people with 1 cup servings. To convert this recipe for a smaller family meal boil 1 medium russet potato per 3 cups of raw cauliflower you boil or 1.5lbs of potato per head of cauliflower.

Per Serving (1 Cup): 94 cals / 2g fat / 17g carbs / 4g protein
Traditional Home-Made Mashed Potatoes: 237 cals / 9g fat / 35g carbs / 4g protein

Enjoy! XOXO~