Thursday, September 6, 2012

Healthier Living Take 2 (and 1/2)

  The health kick continues!  Joe and I are starting off well on our fitness goals.  He's made it to the gym several times and I have been to two different fitness classes at the gym, yoga (which you all ready heard about) and NIA, which is a cross between aerobics, zumba, and kick boxing and also a lot of fun.  I think my favorite part of that class was actually how much fun the instructor was having throughout (there was cackling, honest to goodness cackling).  I really feel that fitness classes are the way to go for me, but Joe does really well with taking the lone route at the gym.  What works best for you?  Any suggestions for classes I should try?

  Now on to the reason I'm even writing this post, which is the healthy dinner reviews.  I have two different dishes to review today:  Chicken Asparagus Pasta and Chicken Enchilada Casserole.

  Both of these dinners where easy to make, took little prep and were under 500 calories per serving.  They might not fit the thirds requirement that Joe and I are working towards, but they did pretty well.  First off, the Chicken Asparagus Pasta:

Don't you love the color on that chicken breast?

   This was really easy to make and a big hit with Joe (who is much less of a pasta person then I am).  I almost over cooked the chicken because I was worried that the steaming wouldn't cook it enough so I actually cooked it 90% through in the skillet before steaming the vegetables with it.  You don't need to worry though, cook it for a minute or so on each side and then steam it and by the time the veggies are done (I like mine a little al dente) your chicken will be moist and cooked all the way through.  The only other thing I will do differently when I make this next time is to stir in the feta cheese while the pasta is still hot.  We ended up with little chunks of feta instead of a coated type pasta and I think I would have liked it to be more evenly distributed next time.

Now onto the star of the week, the Chicken Enchilada Casserole:

Chicken Enchilada Casserole a la HFH.

   For this dish I did a little bit of prep the night before by shredding two chicken breasts in my Crock Pot over night.  Here is my quick and easy recipe for making succulent shredded chicken:

- Take 1 or 2 chicken breast and put them in the Crock Pot
- Cover with enough water so that there is no chicken sticking out
- Add garlic powder, pepper and salt*

*I'm from Mediterranean stock and apparently we don't measure anything when it comes to cooking (and we talk with our hands - a lot - ) so you'll have to excuse the lack of measurements, but if I had to guess I would go with 1/2 tbs garlic powder and 1/4 tbs of salt and pepper, but whatever your taste buds prefer is best.

For overnight shredded chicken:
 - put Crock Pot on low and cook with lid on overnight and/or until dinner

For same day shredded chicken:
- put Crock Pot on high for 4-6 hours

You will know that your chicken is done because:

1. Your house will smell yummy
2. It will easily pull apart with a fork (or basically as soon as you touch it)

   So I made my shredded chicken, then I used it in my casserole which has 4 ingredients (no really).

- enchilada sauce (we used a spicy red variety from the Hispanic section of the grocery)
- shredded chicken
- 1 bag of Monterrey Jack cheese (again,the cheddar allergy and also what is up with the inability to find light pre-shredded cheese in the Pacific Northwest?)
- 8 small whole wheat tortillas (which was a whole package)

   This turned out really yummy.  I think it's our favorite healthy dinner so far, but it does come out a little dry.  To combat the dryness we just slathered on more enchilada sauce (at 15 calories per serving we figured it was safe to use as much as we want).  I also ended up adding a little salsa to my portion as I am a salsa addict.  :)

   I hope you've been enjoying the healthy recipes so far!  The weekend is coming up and Joe and I have some big plans for chips.  That's right - chips!  Potato chips (specifically kettle cooked salt and vinegar ones) are an all time weakness of mine.  To help fight these cravings we are going to be trying three different styles of healthy chips:

1. Crispy Kale
2. Spicy Sweet Potato
3. Microwave Herb Potato

  I have a feeling that the spicy sweet potato ones are going to be my favorite!  I'll keep you posted on how those go.  Look for more healthy recipes soon (did someone say healthy butter chicken?  Umm... yes, please and thank you).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Healthier Living Take 1

  It's all ready September!  This means that the fall/winter feeding frenzy is about to begin!  "But I didn't meet my summer fitness goals yet!"  You might be saying (I know we are).  Fear not, for Joe and I are embarking on a fitness/wellness plan to help our lives and our waists get back on track and you can follow along with us here...

  Believe it or not, this first recipe is actually a remake of one of our favorite comfort foods - Mac and Cheese.  I know it doesn't sound like we're actually taking our new goals seriously, but after running around all of Labor Day weekend, Joe and I have both come down with some sort of sniffle, which in turn demands comfort food.  To keep us from giving up on the very first day, we turned to Spark People and their list of fantastic recipes.  Then we sat down and discussed what foods we were interested in making for breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week.  Unsurprisingly, the very top of Joe's list was the Baked Mac and Cheese (which I also have Pinned under Food I Need to Make).

  The recipe is easy to follow and the ingredients are pretty inexpensive, especially because we were going to make four meals (two for each of us) out of this.  We substituted healthier whole wheat shell pasta for the elbow macaroni and we couldn't find light Colby-Jack (Joe has a cheddar allergy) so we just used regular.  In the end, it came out more like a macaroni casserole then actual mac and cheese (I'm basing this off of my love for Kraft), but it was still tasty and surprisingly filling.  In the future, we might try and change the amount of cheese to make it taste more cheesy and less of the Dijon mustard.

   The final calorie count ended up being 500 calories for 1/4 of the casserole dish (using the recommended 8x8), which is exactly our calorie target for dinner.  Did I mention that this is really filling?  I didn't feel the need for a snack later (a bad habit I am trying to break myself of, even if it is fruit or veggies).  Joe and I are trying to eat based on the idea of thirds; that is that you should have a third of carbs, protein and fat to what you're eating (notice which one I put first!).  This dish probably wasn't a perfect balance of thirds, but it was pretty close.

This is what one portion of the Baked Mac and Cheese looks like.

   Aside from just changing our diets to incorporate more fresh and healthy foods and less eating out, Joe and I are working on personal fitness goals as well.  I just had my first yoga class ever today!  (Is there something easier then beginner's yoga?)  It was awesome and definitely helped me get in touch with my body, which mostly just reaffirmed how out of touch I've been!  I bought a Living Social deal which gave me a month of unlimited classes at a local gym and two free personal training sessions (which I have never done before, but Joe assures me will be awesome).  Joe has a membership to a different gym that he can go to after work.  We also intend to get more use out of our bikes before the weather turns and are trying to go hiking again soon (so hit us up if you are interested!).

  What is your favorite healthy recipe?  Do you have a health/wellness plan of your own that you're working on?  Please share it, if you do!