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.

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

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

Tomato Soup: I’m Obsessed.

Something fortuitous happened to me this week.  I had been couponing a little too aggressively and as a result, I ended up with 7 cans of crushed or diced tomatoes on my shelf.  I don’t really like stockpiling food, and all these cans of tomatoes were bugging me.  Since I don’t really care for pasta dishes, I wasn’t sure how I was going to use up all the tomatoes.  I went to AllRecipes to do a search by ingredients for crushed tomatoes when I came up on this recipe for Tomato Basil Soup.

It’s no secret I love tomato soup.  But I’ve gotten picky.  I don’t really care for the Campbell’s condensed version (although in a pinch, it will do… especially if there is grilled cheese to dunk in it.)  My craving is best satiated by Panera’s version – slightly creamy, a little hint of basil, and great tomato chunk texture.  This recipe looked like a perfect replica. 

I only made a half batch to see if I liked it, and I made a few tweaks by cutting back some of the butter that seemed extraneous.  It was so good.  I know exactly where the rest of those canned tomatoes are headed. 

Here’s the half-batch recipe (made 4 1 cup servings), with my tweaks.  You can still see the original in the link above:

  • 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
  • 8 oz chicken broth
  • 10 basil leaves, minced**
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 T butter

**I didn’t have fresh basil on hand but I had minced, frozen basil on hand.  I get it in the freezer section of Harris Teeter.  This is the brand I use.

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How to:

1. Add the can of crushed tomatoes to the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

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2. Add basil and sugar.  Reduce heat to low and stir in cream and butter.  Stir until butter has melted.

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3. Serve with homemade croutons!  (See below).

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Homemade Croutons

This isn’t really even a recipe… just a quick how to.  Cut up any stale bread into bite sized pieces.  Put in a ziploc bag and add just a drizzle of olive oil.  Add any type of seasoning you want (I like just a pinch of salt and dried basil).  Pour on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Flip, and bake for another 10 minutes.  They’ll keep in a tupperware or plastic bag for about a week.

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Enjoy!  I apologize in advance to Panera on Penny Rd.  You will probably see a substantial drop in your tomato soup business now.

****

(Oh hey, stats!  In case you’re counting.  Per 1 cup serving: 217 cals, 14.5g fat, 628 mg sodium, 6g fiber, 6g protein.  Croutons will depend on how much bread and OO you use.  I used 3 oz bread + 2 T olive oil.  Per serving (4 svgs): 116 cals.) 

Pesto!

For Valentine’s Day, my husband gave me a plant.  It’s called a polka dot plant.  And it’s sitting on a pot behind my kitchen sink.  The fact that it’s actually alive, a whole five months after I have acquired it is a miracle in and of itself.  I’m not exactly known for my green thumb.

One of these days though, I’d like actually have a garden.  I’d like to experience putting seeds in the earth and getting my hands dirty and seeing the fruits (and veggies) of my labor sprout out months later.  In the meantime, though, I’ll have to be content with polka dot … and my friends sharing the excess production from their labors.

Last week we had a potluck party to celebrate a friend’s birthday and another friend leaving for Italy.  Our friends showed up with dinner dishes in hand, and a bonus – basil!  Three of my girlfriends – Jamie, Anne and Akanksha – all came with a Ziploc baggie full of basil.  I knew exactly what I had to do with all this fragrant delicious green stuff… make pesto!
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This recipe comes from my Aunt Jennifer.  It’s incredibly simple, but so flavorful.  I make it in my food processor, but for years – during college and grad school – I would actually make it in a blender.  (Meaning if you don’t have a food processor, don’t despair… you can still make this!)

Here’s the recipe:
2 cup packed basil leaves
½ cup parmesan cheese
1/3 cup toasted pinenuts
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
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Throw in a blender or food processors.  Whirl.  Eat.
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Uses for pesto:
–          My Aunt Jennifer always cooks tortellini and chicken and tosses it in pesto.
–          I toss on roasted beets + potatoes for a little flavor.
–          Make a Caprese salad (sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil) and drizzle a little pesto over.
–          Slice a French baguette into thin slices, drizzle a little bit of pesto on each piece and add chopped tomatoes on top.  Broil for instant bruschetta!
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Pesto IS very calorically dense (cheese, olive oil, nuts….) – so remember, a little bit goes a long way.  But it’s a great way to use fresh basil from your garden, as well as heart healthy olive oil and nuts, and antioxidant-rich garlic.
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Other variations include swapping the pine nuts for walnuts, and swapping basil for other fragrant herbs like parsley or sage.  (See my parsley pesto here.)

Just One Thing

A few years ago, we were hosting an old friend and her new boyfriend for dinner.  Her boyfriend was asking me about my line of work, and asked me if I had to give just one recommendation or one tip to someone who wanted to make a drastic lifestyle change what would it be.  Wow.  I racked my brain to try and think of what one and only tip I would recommend to someone.  I know I didn’t come up with an impressive answer then, but today, with a few more years and having worked with a few hundred more people, I think I know what the answer is.  Are you ready?

Cook.

Yup!  That’s my one word answer: cook.  Obviously, there list of lifestyle changes people could make to improve their health or achieve wellness goals is a long one (and I already have issues with brevity, as you may have noticed from many posts), and of course there are many ways to cook that are, well, less than healthy.  But I can tell you with certainty, that every meal you eat away from your home impacts your health. 

And no, I’m not just talking about fast food.  Yes, you get major kudos if you haven’t driven through a drive-thru in decades.  But don’t fool yourself into thinking that just because a menu offers a “Guiltless Gourmet” or has a white tablecloth that it’s a good for you choice.  (It may be a better for you choice, but not necessarily a good for you choice.  An important distinction.)

Before you start thinking I’m here to ruin all your fun, I’ll be the first to confess I love a good meal out.  I love it when someone else does the dishes and the cooking, and I love the socializing with friends and family over a delicious meal.  But I try to recognize that even the grilled chicken salad at my favorite local restaurant is going to be a more indulgent choice than most anything I’d make at home. 

For starters, portion sizes are way too big.  That’s easily contended with: split your entree in half, and bring the rest home.

But the trickier part is all the extras that are served up with our meals, most notably sodium.  Even some of the “guiltless” choices on a menu will have a day and half’s worth of sodium, and some restaurant salads contain more calories than a burger and fries.  Having calorie information on menus (by 2014) is going to go a long way in helping us make better restaurant choices, but until then, sometimes it’s a complete guessing game!

This brings me back to cooking.  If you value your health, you need to know what goes into the preparation of your meal and with the exception of very few resaurants, there’s no way to be sure of that except to cook at home.

Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming.  To keep it both simple and quick, keep your meal simple.  I love to cook and use new recipes, but on busy nights I use this formula: one protein, two veggies, one starch.  Planning what we’ll have at the beginning of the week ensures I have ingredients on hand, and using short cuts like frozen vegetables and qiuck cooking rice puts dinner on the table quickly.

I started this particular section of my blog because I really wanted to demonsrate that healthy eating didn’t have to be boring, nor did it have to be difficult.  I’m fortunate that I enjoy cooking, but really what drove me to learn how to do it was simply wanting to be healthier.  When I come across a recipe with a cooking technique I don’t know, I go search youtube videos to find someone to show me how to do it.  I’ve learned everything from roasting a chicken to searing tuna from youtube. 

I also understand that if you live by yourself, it often feels like more of a hassle to cook and clean up for one than it’s worth.  I understand that – my husband works a lot of night shifts as a emergency medicine intern and I can tell you exactly what I feel like having for dinner when he’s not home:

Cereal!  The dinner of champions.  And hey, sometimes I do.  You know what?  I’ve even had popcorn for dinner before. 

But I notice that when I don’t have a “real meal” I’m more inclined to graze thoughout the rest of the night.  And besides, I finally realized if I value my husband enough to cook him a healthy meal (most) nights, then I should probably extend the same courtesy to myself.

So I thought I’d demonstrate a little experiment here.  How much time and how much effort does it take to make a home-cooked meal for one?

Cooking Start Time: 5:57 PM.  Meal plan: brussel sprouts w/ 1 piece of bacon, cooked carrots, grilled tilapia + grilled pineapple.

Time completed: 6:07 PM.  Ten minutes!  Let’s Eat!

Ok, I know that brussel sprouts won’t be the first thing many of you are inclined to cook…   Not bad for ten minutes worth of work. 
(If you’re counting, that entire meal is 400 calories, 375 mg sodium, 12g fat, 25g protein.)

And, just for “extra-credit” I thought I’d check how long it took me to clean up (since honestly that is MY number #1 reason to want to go out to eat!)  I set my timer for ten minutes…

And it only took seven!  (Dishes in dishwasher, wash pans, wipe off counter tops + clean stove, put away ingredients.)

Start small, and make gradual changes.  If you’re currently eating every meal out, aim for cooking just one or two nights at home.  If you’re eating every every meal out, start with breakfast or lunch – much easier than dinner, especially if you make ahead.  Lifestyle change sounds daunting, but it’s really all about small gradual changes.  Take small steps towards regular at home meals and your health will reap the benefits.