5 Onions, 8 Pounds of Chicken and 2 Dishwasher Loads.

Just your typical Sunday afternoon, right?

I’ve known a couple people who do the “cook all your meals on Sunday” thing and I’ve always had a mixture of apprehension and hesitation about it.  It seems like a tremendous amount of work (is it really a time saving?) and that it would be difficult to make healthy meals, as I’ve always pictured casseroles and other dense heavy meals sitting in the freezer.

But lo and behold, here I find myself with 4 recipes on the counter, along with 5 onions, 8 pounds of chicken, and just about pot and pan in my cupboard out, ready to be put to work.  I genuinely love cooking, and furthermore, believe that most of the time, home cooked meals are healthier than restaurants meals.  (They are, certainly, exceptions to this.  Especially in the South.)  BUT, as of March, I’m going to be switching to a 4-day work week and the 10 hour days, combined with a 40 minute commute both ways means I’ll be getting home pretty late most nights.  Add a trip to the gym or an errand after work, and I could already forsee it was going to become quite tricky to assume I’d be cooking on a regular basis at night.  Lest we become on first name basis with the folks at Jersey Mike’s down the street, I decided to tackle the Sunday cook-a-thon – since I will now have a 3rd day off every week (woohoo!), I figure it could very well be a good time investment. 

IMG_7676

I gave it a test run this weekend, and while it didn’t go perfectly, it was overall pretty successful.  I cooked for 7 hours, used every pot and pan I own, chopped enough onions to give watching Stepmom a run for the cryfest title, and had to run the dishwasher twice.  I didn’t quite pick out enough variety in my meals (all chicken, oops) and they weren’t the healthiest things in my repertoire BUT….

When all is said and done, I had 5 meals with 4 servings (10 meals for 2) PLUS I was able to take 3 2 servings meals to my next door neighbors, who just had a baby.  So, 16 meals in 7 hours?  Not bad.

IMG_7685

Kitchen: After…. Oh dear.

It’s going to take me a while to perfect this strategy, but overall I think it’s going to work and I’m pleased with the solution instead of subjecting us to takeout or quick heat meals because “we’re busy.” 

Here’s what I made:

IMG_7720

IMG_7722

IMG_7723

Since it was the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, part of my prep was also making our Valentine’s Day dinner: seared steaks, roasted asparagus with proscuitto, twice baked potatoes and this delicious chocolate espresso cheesecake that was made mostly of cottage cheese.  Not kidding.  And I’m telling you that now, because my hubby has already eaten it and now he can know.  Hi, honey! 

IMG_7725

All in all, this actually ended up being about 2 week’s worth of food, because we’re starting the 2nd week and we still haven’t finished it all up.  I’ve even taking it for a lunch a few times, and it’s been a nice change of pace from my usual winter meal, turkey sandwiches. 

The key to being able to do this, I think, is to be okay with eating the same thing a few times during the week.  (Or making smaller portions, or freezing 1/2 of each dish.)  I have no problem eating the same meal a few days in a row, but I’ve definitely talked to a few people about this strategy who were horrified at the idea of having chicken tetrazzini more than once in a week.  *Shrugs*.  If you’ve got the time to cook every night and have that variety, then there’s probably no need to attempt this.  I never did, until I was faced with the alternative of not having time to cook and knowing that we would get into the habit of picking up meals or relying on quick and easy, more processed foods. 

IMG_7700

Some tips if you attempt this:

  • Plan ahead: Pick your recipes ahead of time, and look for things that have overlapping ingredients.  I definitely took this one a bit too far with all chicken recipes, but besides that the ones I picked out also all had green peppers, chicken broth and onion in them.  This allowed me to use up ingredients among the recipes easier. 
  • Start with an empty dishwasher: Keep it open and load as you go.  This helps keep clutter off the counter and it will make clean up less daunting.
  • Batch task: I learned this skill when I worked at GapKids and it has helped me in so many situations!  Group like tasks together.  For example, pull out all ingredients first.  Measure out dry ingredients.  Chop all vegetables at once.  Then prep all meat.  When you have a break (when something is cooking or simmering) wash dishes as you go. 
  • Prep snacks and other meals too.  You’ve already got the kitchen duty.  Now is a perfect time to pre-chop veggies or salad mix.  I bought a 3 pack of a peppers and only needed the green pepper and half the red pepper for my meals.  The yellow and other half of the red ended up in strips to go with hummus for snacks later.
  • Listen to music!  Whenever I have a long task to do, like cleaning the house or walking the dog or cooking, my iPod has been my saving grace.  A little music, or even a book on tape can distract me enough that the hours fly by and the job gets done.  I spent the first hour of my cooking bonanza listening to a church sermon, the middle 3 listening to Pandora radio (“Club Can’t Handle Me Right Now” station – hello, dancing in the kitchen) and the last 3 listening to the book “The Help.”  I also like to download (free!) lectures from iTunes University or interesting podcasts.  But that’s just me.  But whatever you do: dont watch TV and cook.  I have learned this over and over again.  Well, again, maybe this is just me – but I get so distracted by the show, I end up working slower and it takes me twice as long to do everything.
  • Have an assistant.  Even a furry one.

IMG_7698

Keep your eyes on the prize.  Even though I wasn’t working later yet this week, it was still so nice to do things after work and know that there was still a home cooked meal to be had that night.  On Monday and Thursday, I went for a run.  On Tuesday, I did my last Christmas return and went to dance class with Jamie and Anne.  On Wednesday, I worked til 8 and on Friday, I crashed with a DVRed How I Met Your Mother and some crafting.  Tonight, we’ll probably go out for dinner… because we want to.  Not because we have to.  And that’s exactly how I’d hope it would be.

White Bean Chicken Chili

This is another recipe from my Aunt Jennifer’s recipe book.  I really like white chilis, and this one looked like it packed a little heat.  It actually made a ton of soup, too.  We had about 4 servings that I put in the fridge, 3 servings in the freezer and 3 to give to my neighbor.  (I’m approximating a 1 cup serving.)

Here’s the how to.  I don’t have any funny inside jokes about chili yet… so feel free to share yours if you’ve got one.  No “beans, beans, they’re good for your heart” please.

I think you probably could use the pre-cooked shredded chicken for this, but I ended up dicing and cooking the chicken so it would get the flavor of the onions and garlic while it cooked.

The recipe also called for cumin, which I left out because, eww.  That’s how I feel about cumin.  If you like it, add a shake in.  I think it was 1/2 tsp. 

Aunt Jennifer’s White Chicken Chili
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 med onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 14 oz can chicken broth
2 15 oz cans cannellini beans
1 4.5 oz can green chile peppers
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 dash cloves
1 dash ground pepper

1. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil. 
2. Add chicken to brown and season.
3. Add all ingredients to a large pot.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Serve w/ sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. 
If you’re going to freeze, allow it to cool first.  Pour into glass jars or tupperware and leave room for it to expand.

IMG_7689

Diced chicken to cook.  (Sometimes I use scissors to dice.  It’s faster and I’m lazy.)

IMG_7688

Chicken, onion and garlic cooking in the back – the pot I cooked it all in front.

IMG_7722

Cooling before it goes into the plastic tupperware.

I would serve this with a small side salad, or maybe a nice crusty whole grain roll.  Between the chicken and the beans, it’s got protein and fiber galore so it should be super filling.   Everything seems to settle a bit, so it will need a good stir before serving if you’re reheating.

Chicken Tetrazzini

I dun no whud she do wit her chicken tetrazzini….

I’m gonna go ahead and apologize, because I have yet another recipe that triggers an immediate inside joke… ‘cept this one is between me and anyone who watched the soup in 2010.  If you’re one of those people, I’m willing to guess you couldn’t help but hear this in your head when you read this title:

I’m not going to link the longer clip (just look up “chicken tetrazzini” on youtube if you’d like), but be warned it’s NSFW.  Or children.  Or your sanity.

chick-en-tet-ra-zzini.

So, where were we?  Oh yes, chicken… chicken tetrazzini.  Despite the fact that The Soup has pretty much made this dish a joke in our household, it is DELICIOUS.  And it’s easy to make ahead of time, freezes nicely and travels well.  The recipe came from Wino Emily and she’s made it for us on many occasions.  When I was getting married, I had a kitchen/recipe shower and this was the recipe she gave me. 

It makes a lot – you could do either one big lasagna dish or 2 small 9×9 dishes.  I did 2 small ones, so we could eat one and give one away.  I again used my big serving of pre-cooked shredded chicken for this one.

IMG_7699

 
4 cooked chicken breasts, shredded
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of celery soup
16 oz sour cream
chopped pimientos, drained and rinsed
small container of fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 small box of spaghetti noodles
2 c shredded cheddar cheese
1 onion chopped
1 green pepper chopped

IMG_7693

1. Cook and shred chicken.
2. Cook noodles according to box’s directions.
3. Mix soups, sour cream, and salt and pepper.
4. Saute onion and green peppers.  Add mushrooms. 
5. Add noodles to soup mixture.  Stir/toss (it will be very thick.)  Add sauteed veggies and chicken.  Pimientos are added last so they don’t color the sauce.
6. Place in a greased dish.  Top with cheese.
7. Bake uncovered at 350 for 1 hour or freeze uncooked to be baked later.

I actually made a double batch to have some more for our freezer, and it was so big I had to get out my giant salad bowl to mix it in.

IMG_7712

Unless you’re feeding a crowd, you don’t have to double it.  We’ve got chicken tetrazzini to spare.  (Luckily, it freezes beautifully!)

I forgot to take a finished product picture, but to be honest – it’s not the prettiest dish.  You’re just going to have to trust me that it’s a crowd pleaser and easy to boot.  It’s obviously a pretty calorie dense meal, but a small serving goes a long way.  Pair it with a simple side salad, and you’ve got dinner – for a few nights or for a big group.

Or, to seduce your best friend’s boyfriend.

The next few day’s posts will be featured in one post at the end of the week explaining how I cooked *all* these meals in one day.  Yea, I’m superwoman.  No big deal.

Aunt Jennifer’s Chicken Pot Pie

My Aunt Jennifer is one of the best cooks I know, so when a few years ago when she passed down her old recipe binder to me (I guess she was updating her recipes into a new one), I felt like I inherited a treasure book of secrets.  I always think of Chicken Pot Pie as the quintessential meal that people make to fill up someone’s freezer when they’re going through a rough time and so it was no surprise to me that Jennifer’s recipe was for 2 pies with the directions: “Make one and freeze one to give away.”

Yes ma’am.

This recipe is super easy, but I was really happy with how it tasted.  I put in a few more veggies than it called for, and it made for a very filling meal.

Side bar: I literally cannot eat or make CPP without singing a little diddy to myself of “chicken pot chicken pot chicken pot pie.”  My HS best friend (Hi, Kris!) and I had this as an inside joke, and like most good inside jokes, I had no clue where it originated from.  Enter google.  It took me about 3 minutes to find out it was from an episode of Just Shoot Me, where David Cross pretends to be Slow Donnie in order to get attention. 

It’s at 0:57.  And now, it can be stuck in your head too.  You’re welcome.

Anyways!  Cooking, right?  Yes, cooking.

For most of the recipes I made this week, I had boiled a lot of chicken and then shredded it.  This went into these pies, the tetrazini and the buffalo chicken sandwich. 

IMG_7699

Aunt Jennifer’s Chicken Pot Pie
14 oz frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, peas & green bean mix)
1/3 C butter
1/3 C flour
1/3 C chopped onion
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 3/4 c chicken broth
2/3 c milk
3 c cooked shredded chicken (approx 2-3 chicken breasts)
2 pie crusts*

1. Melt butter
2. Add flour onion, salt and pepper.  Stir quickly to dissolve flour lumps.
3. Add broth and milk, stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute.
4. Add chicken and veggies.  Stir for a minute to thicken.
5. Pour mixture into 2 pie shells.
7. Bake at 425 for 40 minutes.  After the first 15 minutes, put tin foil on the edge of the pie crust to keep it from burning.

*I buy the Pillsbury pie crusts that are in the fridge/dairy section.  Take them out of the fridge before you prep to come to room temp.  Directions are on the box.  You will need a pie dish to make this in, and if you’re giving one away you can usually find a disposable tin one with a lid in the plastics aisle.  You can also buy the frozen pie crusts already in a tin (buy 2) and 1 box of the Pillsbury dough as the top crusts for each of the pies.

I have also seen CPP recipes where, instead of using a top layer of pie crust, you use the Pillsburgy crescent rolls and lay it out in a lattice shape across the top.  This is intended to cut down on how much pastry dough is used in order to make the recipe a little healthier.  I’ve done this in the past, and it does turn out fine.  So if you wanted to healthify this a little bit, you could do that. 

I decided to make it the traditional way this time though.

IMG_7709

IMG_7713

Before & After.  The after-after?  An empty pie plate.  Yum!

If you freeze or give-away, include the instructions to reheat in the oven at 350 for 15-20 minutes.  For a truly authentic experience, be sure to add a Well, bless your heart as you deliver it to a friend or neighbor in need.

The next few day’s posts will be featured in one post at the end of the week explaining how I cooked *all* these meals in one day.  Yea, I’m superwoman.  No big deal.

Teriyaki Tailgate Wings

Football season has kicked off, which means … tailgates!  We had our first tailgate for Wake Forest’s season opener last night and I had been really craving chicken wings… so I decided to venture into making them myself.  Now chicken wings certainly don’t make anyone’s list of healthiest foods, but I figured if I could find a recipe with a great sauce and bake them, caramelizing the sauce would give it a little bit of a crispy outside without having to deep-fry them.

I don’t know what I was more excited about: Wake Forest’s 53-13 opening day win or discovering that chicken wings can indeed be very tasty without being deep-fried.  Score!

(Ok, that’s the last of my sports jokes.  They’ll only get me so far.)

Try these wings the next time you’ve got a tailgate or potluck to go, and no one will know that you’ve saved them from deep-fried madness.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

You’ll want to prepare the sauce first.  In a large saucepan (not turned on yet), add together:

1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 red hot chile pepper, halved (remove seeds if you want it to be as hot)
2″ piece of ginger root, peeled and cut in half (it will be a large chunk)
5 garlic cloves, cut in half
Turn up to a boil, then switch to simmer.  *Keep your eye on this.  If it bubbles over, you have one sticky stove.  Not that I know from experience or anything…*

Sauce Fixins'

Making the Sauce

While it’s simmering….

Cover your cookie sheet with tinfoil.  This sauce makes a sticky mess, and it’s a whole lot easier to clean up this way.  Then take about 2 dozen chicken wings, rinsed and patted dry, and lay them out on your cookie sheet.   Spray with cooking spray or drizzle a little bit of olive oil, and then season with a little bit of salt and pepper.  Bake for 15 minutes, flip and bake for another 15.  (Total cook time: 30 minutes.)

Ready for the oven!

The sauce may take 30 minutes to really thicken, and it may even take a litte bit longer.  Remember, the thicker it is, the easier it will be to have it coat the wings.

Once you feel like the sauce is thick enough, put the wings in a mixing bowl and pour the sauce over.  Toss to coat.  I used tongs to do this.

Saucing the wings

(I also used the tongs to pluck out the ginger root, chile pepper and garlic clove.  Didn’t want someone to bite into one of those!)

Put the wings back on the cookie sheet, and bake for another 10-12 minutes to caramelize the sauce.  Reserve any extra sauce.  If you can, serve when hot.  I actually did make these the night before, and the day of the tailgate I just stuck them in the oven for about 5 minutes before we left to warm them up.  Extra sauce can then be poured over them.

Teriyaki Wings!

Sit back and watch the crowd cheer!

(Oops.  That one snuck in there.)

Pro tip:  Bring napkins, or even better, Wet Wipes with you.  Sticky fingers will abound.

Stats: I wouldn’t claim these as healthy per se, but they certainly are a healthier version than the original.  The sauce is fairly high in sodium, which is tempered by using the low sodium soy sauce but the ketchup and hoisin sauce still contribute to the sodium count.  75 calories per wing, 3.7 g fat, 426 mg sodium.  (Teriyaki wing from BBW: 100 cals per wing, 7g fat, 550 mg of sodium.)

Meal Plan Follow Up: Chef’s Salad and Black Bean Tostadas

Wednesday was supposed to be Chef’s Salad, but I ended up going to a Charity Chicks event last minute with some lovely ladies (skirtini’s for a cause, yes please) and I left Matt to his own devices with salad and sandwich basics. Thursday night, Matt was catching up on some sleep after a long shift at the hospital so we didn’t have a sit down dinner.

But, that’s the reality of meal planning:

Meal Plan Follow Up: Pork with Peanut Sauce & Chicken Marsala

This was Monday’s recipe in my meal plan for the week, and I gotta tell ya’ll, it is one of my faves.

Pork with Peanut Sauce

Pork with Peanut Sauce

Unfortunately, I rarely follow a recipe exactly, so I forgot to tell you about a few tweaks I made. If you haven’t tried it yet, here’s a few pointers.
– If you bought pork tenderloin, broil it. It takes about ~8-10 minutes on each side, and it’ll have this delicious, crispy outside and perfectly tender inside. Plus, it’s way faster than the grill / oven.

Broiled Pork Tenderloin

Broiled Pork Tenderloin

– I use about half the peanut butter called for in the sauce, and gently bump up the soy sauce / rice vinegar to taste. I’ve made this the original way, and it’s a little too peanut butter-y of a texture and taste. I like it to be more runny, with just a hint of the PB taste. This is also key for cutting some of the calories. I forgot I had actually made this and posted it about 2 months ago, and you can see here the thicker texture as well as thinner pork chops. This week’s was much better… what can I say, my cooking is a work in progress!

Tuesday I made the Chicken Marsala. I listed the recipe here. Again, tweaks. (I’d be a terrible chemist and/or engineer.)

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala

I love the sauce on this… it tastes even better the second day when the chicken has hung out in that sauce and just soaked it all up. This recipe originally came from WW “Simply the Best” cookbook, and they list the stats at 390, including the brown rice (which I did not list on the recipe). Sure beats Olive Garden’s 770 calorie version!

After I made it, I decided the grapes really didn’t add much. I think I would leave them out in the future, and put mushrooms back in. What’s chicken marsala without mushrooms?

I usually note in my cookbooks when I made a dish, what the reactions were, and any changes I’ve made. The last time I made this dish was actually November 26th, 2006. This is when I first start taking pictures of my food. I think I’ve come a long way in photography, as well as cooking. Here’s the original picture from nearly 3 years ago. I have no idea what setting I was using that made the dish look so…gray.

Original Chicken Marsala, Early Photography Days

Original Chicken Marsala, Early Photography Days

Tonight, Chef Salad is still on the menu and I’m looking forward to a lighter dinner. Okay, sort of light, this salad does involve bacon and cheese. Everything in moderation, right?

Hawaiian Chicken Salad

For those of you in my group on Wednesday, I promised to post the link here of the Hawaiian Chicken Salad since we ran out of hard copies! I love this recipe – the juice from the pineapple means you use very minimal mayo for the whole dish! This is really yummy served on top of bibb lettuce, or on a toasted piece of whole wheat bread. It’s also a great dish to take to a party, since no one is really going to guess it’s low cal. See below & enjoy!

Hawaiian Chicken Salad

Yield: 4 cups Per ½ cup serving: 90 calories

1/8 tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ cup light mayonnaise
2 cups cooked and diced chicken

½ cup cooked celery
½ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup chopped green pepper
8 oz can crushed pineapple in juice, drained

Preparation:
1. Mix together first three ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine chicken, vegetables and pineapple. Toss to mix.
3. Stir in mayonnaise mixture until moistened. Chill 1 hour to blend flavors.

And A Little Bit of Chicken Fried

All credits on that title obviously go to the Zac Brown Band… one of my favorite songs of late. (Aptly named “Chicken Fried.” Creative.) I mentioned before that living in the South means lots and lots of fried food. It took me forever to realize that when someone mentioned “seasonings” in their green beans, they ain’t talking Mrs. Dash. So, one of the biggest challenges I’ve had as a weight loss coach is introducing people with “seasoned” palates to new and tasty alternatives and convincing them that healthy can be yummy.

When I got this month’s Everyday Food magazine, I knew right the first recipe I wanted to try was the Oven Fried Chicken. I’ve done other variations of this but it never turns out with that juicy flavor that I know those who love tried&true fried crave. This one started with a buttermilk marinade, so I had high hopes for it being a little more authentic.

The recipe is right here, so I won’t go ahead and type it all out. But I will tell you about my tweaks. The recipe says to toast the breadcrumbs for 8-12 minutes. I noticed at 7 minutes they were starting to burn so I pulled them out. They were just about to pass the point of no return, but I was able to rescue them in time. (Thought it was my new oven was too hot, but turns out someone else had the same experience!)

Breadcrumbs, Baking

Breadcrumbs, Baking

I only used my olive oil spritzer on the crumbs and tossed them before baking. I also used boneless, skinless chicken breast and powdered buttermilk (add water) – just because that’s what I happened to have on hand.

Pantry Staples.  (Um, Freezer Staples, too.) Good Stuff.

Pantry Staples. (Erm, Freezer Staples, too.) Good Stuff.

I liked the recipe because it was all things I had in my pantry already, and it was relatively quick. I paired it with a baked sweet potato and a salad. Using my fave calorie count, I calculated my version to be 190 per serving (4 servings with a pound of chicken breast.) With a large sweet tater (160 cals + 30 for 2 tsp brown sugar + 30 1 tsp butter = 220 cals), dinner clocks in at 410 cals. (You can go halves on the sweet tater for budgeting purposes, if you need to.) Pair it up with a big green salad and you’ll be one happy eater. You might not even miss the fried chicken. REALLY. (Ok, give it a few tries…)

Time for Dinner, Ya'll!

Time for Dinner, Ya'll!

Baja Lime Tostadas

We eat a lot of chicken.  Not going to lie – sometimes it gets a little bit boring.  I was looking for a way up our poultry tastings, but I needed something quick.  I make homemade tortilla chips a lot by just baking tortilla shells, so I got the idea to try and make homemade tostadas.  First, I marinated the chicken overnight in my FAVORITE mexi-flavored marinade, Annie’s Organic Baja Lime Marinade.  I first picked this marinade up on a whim when I was looking for a lower sodium marinades and it’s one I’ve gone back to time and time again.

Annie's Baja Lime Marinade

Annie's Baja Lime Marinade

I put the tortilla shells (small ones) on a cookie sheet and sprayed them with cooking spray.  They went in the oven at 400 degrees for just about 6 minutes.  (I flipped them half way through.)  In the meantime, I cooked the chicken on my indoor grill.  When the tostadas were good and crispy, I pilled them up with 2 oz of chicken each and 1 T of shredded cheese.  I put them back in for just another minute to get the cheese a little melty.  When they came out, I dolloped them with 1 T of low fat sour cream and a reckless amount of salsa.

Chicks on the Indoor Grill

Chicks on the Indoor Grill

They were delicious, but we weren’t sure whether you were supposed to pick them up and eat them or slice them up.  We folded them like NY style pizzas and tried to catch the runaway salsa.  So good!

Finished Product!  Eat up!

Finished Product! Eat up!

Although it’s a bit of an estimate with the salsa, they should be around 240 calories.  (215 pre-salsa, with 85-cals coming from the tortilla shell.)