Chicken & [Faux] Rice

I recently discovered all natural frozen cauliflower and broccoli rices, which has been a complete game changer for all things healthy meals. After partaking in some serious aerial yoga this past weekend, I definitely needed an antioxidant packed recovery meal that could replenish nutrients and still leave me feeling satisfied. And as it would turn out, this chicken and “rice” dish I created happens to be my most favorite chicken and rice combo I’ve ever tried (sans the extra calories, fat and carbs) … and y’all know I was raised in the South, so that is saying something.

Recipe:

1 bag cauliflower rice (I use Bird’s Eye brand)
1 bag broccoli rice (I use Sprouts’ brand)
1/2 yellow onion (chopped)
1 zucchini (chopped and quartered)
2 chicken breasts (I only use white meat, but you can use any part of chicken, or even sub with turkey, salmon, and or tuna)
2 large lemons (juiced)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Steam and/or cook both rices (separately), then combine in one large bowl. Squeeze the juice of one lemon and mix together. In a separate pan, cook the onion and zucchini in olive oil until zucchini is tender (not soggy). Combine all together with shredded chicken. Squeeze the juice of the other lemon and mix together well. Salt and pepper to taste. I also like to add Mrs. Dash’s herb blend to these kind of dishes in place of salt.

Yummy! Nom, nom, nom. This dish is low calorie, low carb, and low fat. It’s also gluten free. As I mentioned above, you can sub the meat with a variety, or you can take a vegetarian and/or vegan spin and go meatless, or replace with tofu. Super tasty any way made, and so easy to throw together. Makes for a great dinner and keeps well for packed lunches.

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Creamy Potato Leek Soup

Temps have dropped in TX, making hot teas and soups a regular menu item in my household (along with fuzzy booties and blankets). In keeping with my traditional “easy breezy” meals, I have crafted a delicious anti-oxidant filled soup perfect for a starter, side, or its own stand alone meal.

Here’s what I used:
1 box Imagine’s Creamy Potato Leek Soup
1/2 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
3 leeks (cleaned thoroughly and roughly chopped)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Warm the soup base in a large stove top pot or crockpot. Chop the garlic, leeks, and onion. Add everything together and bring to a medium boil for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Turn heat to low, and let the flavors blend together for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve immediately or freeze for later. Salt and pepper to taste. Optional toppers could also include bacon crumbles (yum), chives, and/or cheese.

Leeks are a phenomenal source of nutrients, vitamins, and cancer fighting agents. If you’re curious about what specific nutritional benefits leeks bring to your diet, check out the following sites:
Live Well – Jillian Michaels

eHealthZine

Meatball Madness

Let’s talk about ah-meat-ah-balls (in my best Italian accent with the notorious finger smooch)! Who doesn’t love Italian food?!?!? Breads, Noodles, Sauces, Wine (hello, lover) …. all the good stuff that makes you say “yum”. Meatballs are definitely one of my favorite indulgences and can be served in a variety of dishes (bonus). Griff specifically requested spaghetti and meatballs on this cold, dreary, rainy Texas day. And when The Amazing Griff Clark asks you for meatballs, you make some amazing, bang up meatballs.

Ingredients:
3lbs lean ground beef
1/2 yellow onion (chopped)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 cup herb roasted bread crumbs
1/3 cup of milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon of low sodium garlic & herb ground spice blend (I used McCormick’s)
Salt & Pepper

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. You’ll need three separate bowls for flavor prep and the ultimate three step combination process. Begin by adding your bread crumbs and milk in a bowl/measuring cup to start the soaking process. In a separate bowl, whisk your egg with ground spices, salt, and pepper. In another bowl, add your chopped onion and minced garlic to the meat. With your hands (time to roll up your sleeves and get in there), start mixing/kneading the meat. Once completely blended, add the soaked bread crumbs (draining any excess milk) and continue mixing with your hands. Finally, add your egg mixture (binding agent) and mix together. Next, roll into meatballs for oven lovin’. I roll medium sized, which makes about 20 meatballs.

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Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until the temperature gauge reads 165 degrees in the middle. Leaner meats cook quicker, so you’ll want to regularly check at the 20 minute mark.

As previously mentioned, meatballs can be added to a variety of dishes or eaten plain. Either way … delish! I prefer to bake them this way so I can use and/or freeze for several different dishes. Today, I added to spaghetti, just as Griff requested. And oh how he savored and devoured. Love it when any dish is G approved.

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Nom … nom … nom …

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Currently, I have the other 10 meatballs marinating in some Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. Lord, help me (praise hands). Just another savory way to serve up this deliciousness … and that’s just one other sauce option. Mustard blends and ketchup are other additional [fantastic] options to layer on the flavor. Hope you enjoy this recipe and all the tastiness it delivers. You’ll most certainly be hostess with the mostest, should you choose to add to any dinner party menu.

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Broccoli Casserole | Every Day All Day Long

Should anyone ask me about my favorite holiday dish, I would declare it [like the Ricola man on the mountain] to be broccoli casserole. Comfort food at its finest. If you were raised in the South, you’re sure to remember this casserole being a regular at any social event. From Sunday fellowship to hand delivered bereavement committee dinners, I have been baking this dish since I learned how to crack eggs and assemble ingredients for oven lovin’.

I was handed down a mouthwatering broccoli casserole recipe from my Grams’ bestie, Mrs. Polly Walker, via a coffee stained handwritten card (love) given to me at one of our regular Waffle House meet ups. [Memories] That being said … I’ve previously mentioned, as much as I adore all things Southern comfort, I’m constantly searching for ways to improvise ingredients by cutting some of the excessive calories, while still keeping all those Southern tastes. I mean, you should be able to actually see the broccoli in broccoli casserole, so there’s definitely room for ingredient reduction. Here’s what I came up with …

Ingredients:
2 bags of frozen broccoli
1/2 cup vegenaise (a substitute for mayonnaise)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 handfuls of herbs & spices blend bread crumbs (bag can be found at any local grocery store)
2 tablespoons melted butter
Grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thaw your bags of broccoli in the microwave until softened. In a 9×13 pan (sprayed with oil), lightly beat two eggs and combine the broccoli, vegenaise, and cream of mushroom soup together. Mix and spread evenly across the dish. Cover with a layer of cheddar cheese. In a separate bowl, melt the butter and toss the breadcrumbs in until evenly covered. Then, distribute the bread crumbs overtop the dish. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until browned and the sides are bubbling. Your dish should come out looking something like this …

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Dig … in …

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This is another great dish to serve immediately or freeze and use throughout the week. Plus, as a “leftover”, it just gets better and better. Those flavors marry and boast a delightful blend of flavors that sing and curtsy all those charming Southern feels. Enjoy!

Southern Style Chicken & Rice

The cooler weather, holiday vibes, and all the running miles I’m accumulating called for a good protein / carbohydrate replenishing meal. Chicken & Rice immediately came to mind. It’s one of those classic dishes that was always on the buffet line at the many Baptist Church fellowships I attended growing up. And I faithfully heaped spoonfuls on my plate for the ravaging. That being said, we all know this signature dish is likely cooked with 1-2 sticks of butter, heavy cream, and quite possibly lard (I wouldn’t rule it out in the South … seriously). I’m always looking for ways to modify comfort food, while still keeping all the tasty flavors. Here’s what I came up with … and it … is … delish!

Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
1 can cream of celery
1 can cream of chicken
1 can cream of mushroom
1 rotisserie chicken (skinned and shredded)

Start by cooking your rice. In a separate pot, combine your three cans of creamed soups and cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Remove all the skin from your rotisserie chicken (you could also use baked chicken breast), shredding with your hands. Add the chicken to your creamed soups. Once your rice is completely cooked, throw it in and stir well. Cover on low heat for about 10-15 minutes until the rice plumps up and you get a more solid creamy texture to the dish.

Plate away! Salt and pepper to taste.

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Griff approved! This dish serves 6-8 and doubles as a perfect leftover meal for lunches throughout the week (bonus). Easy breezy. Enjoy!

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Enchanted Treats | Eagle Brand Magic Cookie Bars

My family has been making Eagle Brand’s Magic Cookie Bars for so many years, it has become a staple expectation for all social gatherings. Birthdays, holidays, showers, company food days … any way we can incorporate these tasty treats into life, we do! And why wouldn’t we when when they’re so easy to throw together and consistently steal the dessert show?! Y’all know I’m all about simple dishes that deliver savory decadence without all that kitchen laboring … magic bars do just that, living up to their name. Absolutely magical. Plus, they last for days, so you can package as lunchbox snacks and munch on for the week … bonus. Mom win!

This past week, Griff assisted with the holiday dessert spread and magic bars were on the list. Any way I can involve my little one into what I’m doing is a win; especially traditions. Griff had a great time putting all the ingredients together and sneaking in some morsels and coconut shavings along the way. Deeeeee … licious!

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Ready for some oven lovin’ …

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Link to Eagle Brand Magic Cookie Bars recipe. The only modification to this recipe (for my bars) is the addition of butterscotch morsels (bang up flavor).

Tasty! Just try eating one …

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Pairs VERY well with your choice of vino. Enjoy!

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Caramelized and Creamy Organic Acorn & Butternut Squash Soup

I said earlier how much I love soup weather and I’m on a roll! My soup kick continues with this soulfully heartwarming squash medly. Y’all just wait … it’s gonna get all kinds of fancy made easy with this bowl of yummy. Infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger flavors, Pacific Foods‘ Organic Butternut Squash puree delivers a beautifully blended tasty soup base perfect by itself or with the following extras I put together.

Here’s what I used:
1 box Pacific Foods Organic Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
1 yellow onion (roughly chopped)
1 fennel bulb (roughly chopped)
1 acorn squash (sliced and quartered)
4 garlic bulbs (diced)
Coconut oil
– Side note: I use an organic spray to give the pan and veggies a few good smooches for the tossing (a little goes a long way). You could also use olive oil, but I’ve found the coconut flavor pairs perfectly with the aforementioned spices and flavors of this soup.
Salt & Pepper to taste
Ground cinnamon sprinkles to taste

Empty your soup box into a pot on low heat to begin waking up all those tasty flavors. While you’re chopping your onion, fennel, and garlic, toss your acorn squash in the microwave for 2-3 minutes to soften for easy slicing (makes life so much easier). Spray your pan of choice with some coconut oil and combine all your veggies for a quick caramelization.

You don’t want to burn the onion and garlic, but you want your acorn squash to be semi soft (a fork poke should help you determine if it’s ready), so you’ll need to actively stir and be mindful of the consistency. The acorn squash will soften later, as it cooks within the soup, once added. Here’s what it should look like …

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Add all of your veggies to your soup puree and bring to a medium simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Then, set on low heat and allow the flavors to love on each other for a good 20-30 minutes, stirring here and there to be sure veggies don’t settle to the bottom and burn.

You can serve immediately or the next day. I personally think it’s better the next day. This soup is great for a starter dinner course, lunch, leftovers, or as a “mug snack” on chilly evenings. Once plated, salt, pepper, and cinnamon sprinkle to taste. Healthy, hearty, and delicious; super easy and super tasty. Hope you enjoy! It’s also Griff approved … and that’s saying a lot from a five year old!

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Organic French Onion Soup [for Days]

It’s finally cooling off in Texas and beginning to deliver a hint of all things wonderful Autumn weather. Better late than never! The Fall and Winter seasons are my most favorite times to be in the kitchen, as they bring out those traditional dishes and spices that recall memories and leave you feeling all warm, fuzzy, and comforted. From a cooking perspective, I really try to keep things healthy. I attempt to substitute carbs and unnecessary calories, when I can, by enhancing the dishes with more vegetables. Baking … well, that’s another story. And there will be plenty of delicious baked treats I’ll post soon you’ll happily devour this season!

Soups are my immediate “go to” meal when it’s chilly and I’m craving a small bite to help me warm up, but not leave me feeling like a busted can of biscuits. Well, unless I have a run the next day … then, I’m having seconds (or thirds) and all manners of engorgement are in full swing!

French Onion Soup is one of my favorite soups of all time (a close second to Baked Potato Soup). And why wouldn’t it be? All that amazing onion broth flavor, mixed with 1lb (at least) of cheese and softened bread. I love indulging in a bowl at my favorite French restaurant in town, with a glass of Pinot Noir to wash it all down. Who wouldn’t order? I’d like to know. But, let’s be realistic about this tasty bowl … it’s loaded with extra, unecessary calories and carbohydrates. As much as I love the cheesy breaded goodness, there’s still a way to enjoy this soup without all the extras and get the same great taste! Plus, I’m always looking for ways to to make things as simplistic as possible, so here’s an easy breezy modified recipe great for lunch, dinner, and/or leftovers. This dish will feed a village, so be prepared to serve at least 4 or save the rest for the days ahead.

Here’s what I used:
1 box Pacific Organic French Onion Soup
1 crate of Organic Baby Bella Mushrooms (roughly chopped)
Side note: Mushrooms add an extra layer of consistency and heartiness, in place of cheese. 
1 Yellow Onion (roughly chopped)
4 Garlic Cloves (finely chopped)
Salt & Pepper to Taste

Pour your soup base into a pot on med-high heat to get those flavors heated up and flowing. Chop your garlic, mushrooms, and onions. Add your roughly chopped items to your broth and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Afterwards, set your heat to low and allow all the flavors to marinate for about 30 minutes. You can serve immediately, or package for a fridge sleep and serve the next day (even better, once all the flavors have had some time to marry). How simple is that? I love to pair this soup with my staple broccoli and cauliflower cakes (see prior post for recipe). These veggie patties act as a yummy substitute for bread and give you another layer of vitamins and jam packed flavor.

Hope you enjoy! Stay tuned for more easy breezy comfort foods for all things Holidays and seasonal festivities.

A Reading List for Those Comfy & Cozy Occasions

I’m such a fan of a good summer reading list. And in the fall and winter months, I equally enjoy getting comfy and cozy on the patio, or in the living room with a fire burning, immersed in a good book. Vino in hand, of course.

Being an avid reader, I dabble in every genre and I’m always on the hunt for a new reading adventure. When I want to escape my current reality and completely unwind, my “go to” genre is fiction. Specifically the kind of stories that are “keepers” you continually resurrect for another love affair. So, I’ve compiled a list of some of my most favorite quick reads that will leave you enchanted, laughing (snorting, in some cases), exploring, and falling in love with dynamic characters.

In no particular order …

The Doctor’s Wife (Elizabeth Brundage). A literary suspense of infidelity and all that comes with unpopular career choices, as Dr. Michael Knowles and his journalist-turn- teacher wife, Annie, transplant themselves from the big city to a small town in upstate NY.  Rich with unpredictable mystery.

A Bend in the Road (Nicholas Sparks). I know what you’re thinking … I can’t be mourning for days after reading another Sparks’ book. I’m right there with you. I read Sparks’ books in moderation as to not propel myself into a state of utter depression. This one though … is … a … must. Inspired by Sparks’ brother-in-law, this story surrounds Miles Ryan, Deputy Sheriff of New Bern, NC who is also a widower and proud father to son, Jonah. Enter new to town Sarah who is recently recovering from a terribly emotional divorce. These two find solace and comfort in one another, but a shocking secret will cause them to reevaluate everything. [Gah! So good]

Good in Bed (Jennifer Weiner). This one is snort worthy. If you’re looking for a light hearted, witty read, look no further. Often compared to Bridget Jones [LOVE], character Candace (Cannie) Shapiro is an absolute riot. Complete with a recent confusing breakup with Bruce, beloved dog Nifkin, her plastic surgeon father and nutty family, her passion for producing her first screenplay, ridiculous diet programs and more, this book delivers everything you need to root for the underdog and cheer Cannie into every bit of success her heart desires!

The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd). I adore this book and have read it at least ten times. Told from the lens of tenacious 14yr old Lily, this story oozes all those Southern feels of hospitality and healing. It’s serendipitous to see how gravitation towards certain things and places can reveal the answers to all the questions Lily has dearly clung to.

Plain Truth (Jodi Picoult). Another incredible mystery surrounding a newborn’s death in the Amish community and the trial that follows. Layered with drama from start to finish, this novel is completely absorbing and will leave you feverishly turning pages to finish!

The Red Tent (Anita Diamant). This historical drama is told thru the lens of Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph. Author, Anita Diamant, imaginatively explored this Biblical character, who had one line in the Bible, and brilliantly crafted it into a beautiful story of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter (Kim Edwards). Have your tissues handy for this one. This story surrounds the birth of twins, delivered by their father, Dr. David Henry in the 1960s. David delivers a healthy son, Paul, to start. But when his little girl is born, he notices she has Down Syndrome. Afraid of the complications and all the potential hardships she could face, he gives the girl to his nurse, Caroline, to put into a private care facility, telling his wife their daughter passed. After a series of events, Caroline never makes it to the facility and raises the little girl as her own. What follows is an incredible tale of love, regret, strength, deceit, and so much more. An emotional rollercoaster, but a raw and beautiful story.

The Shack (William P. Young). This Christian novel was originally self published and quickly became a USA Today and New York Times bestseller. The story follows the life of Mack Phillips and a camping trip he takes with three of his children. When one of his children goes missing, Mack is forced to face several demons in life. This story will completely captivate you as you experience Mack’s spiritual journey hand-in-hand.

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The aforementioned books are just a few of my favorites and I’m always looking for a new adventure. Please share any of your must reads below – would love to check them out!

 

Acai Bowl | Runner/Yogi Recovery Meal

Acai bowls are one of my most favorite indulgences. I label them as an “indulgence”, not necessarily because they’re “bad” for you but because I do try to limit my sugar intake and they tend to be packed full of natural sugars. Also, I tend to eat them like I haven’t seen food in days. That being said, what they are GREAT for is replenishing nutrients after a few days of intense running and/or training. A welcomed recovery meal.

Acai berries are generous in their benefits, full of antioxidants and heart healthy components. I once read they have the same heart and cholesterol benefits as red wine. While, I’d never replace red wine with anything, it’s nice to know there’s another option out there. Check out this link for some additional benefits of Acai: 12 Health Benefits of Acai Berries.

You can make your bowl with a myriad of fruit and topping options, so this has the ability to morph into whatever your palette pleases.

Here’s what I used:
2 frozen Sambazon Acai berry fruit packs
1/3 cup vanilla Lifeway Kefir
Side note: if you haven’t incorporated Kefir into your life, you’re truly missing out on its outstanding benefits. Click on the above link and read all about it. It … is … amazing. I’m a big fan of the Madagascar Vanilla, but they have a variety of flavors. Some can be pretty sour since it is a probiotic, so you’ll want to find the one that’s right for you.
Fresh blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries
Granola – I used Kind peanut butter cluster (small handful)
2 tablespoons of chia seeds for the sprinkling
Siggi’s vanilla yogurt for the dolloping
Honey for the drizzling

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Let’s start with the Acai super fruit packs. You’ll want to keep these frozen until you’re ready to make your bowl. Run them under water for a few seconds until they start to break apart. Then, open up and throw in your blender. Put your Kefir (you can use your choice of milk or yogurt if you’re not quite ready to invite Kefir into your home) in and blend away until you have a nice frosty/frozen yogurt-esque consistency.

Put your Acai blend in your bowl and then start adding your fruit. You can make it as pretty as you want or just throw it all on and mix it up. I added a healthy dollop of Siggi’s yogurt and like to slowly spoon some with each bite since it adds that extra tangy balance to the sweetness. Drizzle your honey, throw on your granola handful, sprinkle your chia seeds, and you’ve got your recovery meal in a bowl!

As I noted before, you can use any combination of fruit with Acai. Papaya and mangos are delicious when they’re in season. Bananas are a great addition as well. I’ve seen people blend in peanut butter with their Acai for extra protein … tons of options.

Hope you enjoy!