Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crock-Pot White Bean Chicken Chili

Me + Chili = Best Friends for LIFE!  Okay, that may sound a bit weird, but seriously, I love chili!  It's one of my ultimate favorite dishes.  I can honestly eat it at any time during the day, any day of the week, in ANY weather!  When I learned how to make it myself (thanks to my mom), I had no reason to continue to settle for Stagg's canned versions.  I particularly enjoyed their chicken chili, though - which, for some reason, isn't as popular as their other varieties & can sometimes be hard to find.  But, now that I know how to create my own, both my stomach & my pocketbook thank me! 

This isn't your ordinary Chicken Chili, that you may eat over rice - if that's your kind of thing.  This version tastes best topped with a dollop of Sour Cream (yes, I did just say "dollop"), and tortilla strips!  And since it can be cooked in your crock-pot, it's basically fool proof!!!  Go on, give it a try!  Even you non-cookers can hook this one up!

(Recipe adapted from / Serves 5

  • 3 cups chopped Chicken Breasts (cooked or uncooked are both fine) -- works great with leftovers!
  • 1/2 cup Onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano Leaves
  • 1 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Red Rooster Hot Sauce
  • 1 can 100% Fat Free Chicken Broth (add extra 1/2 - 1 can if you like yours a little soupy)
  • 1 medium White Corn, uncooked & kernels removed (about 1 1/4 cup of kernels)
  • 1 can (15 oz) Great Northern Beans, drained & rinsed
  • Ground Pepper, to taste

1.  Add all ingredients (except the beans) to the crock-pot and mix until well blended

2.  Cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours (or until tender - chicken should easily shred with fork)
3.  Add pepper, to taste 
4.  Add 1 can of drained, rinsed Great Northern Beans

5.  Cook for an additional 30-45 minutes
    6.  Serve with your choice of topping(s):  Sour Cream, Guacamole, Tortilla Strips/Chips
This recipe was a HIT with my 5 year old!  She asked for seconds!  I will undoubtedly be making this again. :-)

Simple Trail Mix

Since going "clean", making my own snacks has been the thing-to-do.  Not only is it healthier to create your own, due to the lack of preservatives, added sugars, etc.; but it also costs a lot less than buying pre-packaged snacks.  One of my snacks of choice is my Simple Trail Mix.  I'm not normally a fan of Trail Mix, since it's a mixture of a bunch of different nuts and dried fruits, with all of their mysterious powders, salts, and sugars all mixed up into one big bag - EWWW!!!  But, I really needed to start incorporating nuts into my diet...  So, I developed my own short and sweet version of a snack-size Trail Mix to take to school and/or work with me.  Feel free to add on extra varieties of nuts or fruits, if you like. 

(Original Recipe) / Serves 1

  • 1 TBSP Raw Almonds (you can toast them if you like)
  • 1 TBSP Macadamia Nuts
  • 1 TBSP Raisins
  • 1 TBSP Dried Cran-Cherries (I bought mine in bulk at Winco Foods)
  1. Combine all ingredients into a small container (or ziplog bag) and shake until well mixed.
  2. Enjoy!
(Dried apricots may be a great addition to the mix - I may test them out next time.)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tropical Fruit Salad

I don't know about you, but I love a nice fruit salad!  Not those skimpy versions you get from the restaurant when you order a side of fruit instead of your french fries, but a nice, hearty, sweet, colorful fruit salad.  Yummm... My mouth is watering just thinking about it! [hahaha]  Since I gave up fruit drinks and sodas, and basically any other liquid aside from water and tea, I thought making a fruit salad would help curb my cravings for juice.  Feel free to add your own variety of fruits to the salad.  The possibilities for this are truly endless.  Next week I plan to switch it up a bit - to keep me on my toes ;-)

(Original Recipe) / Serves 5

  • 1 small carton Strawberries, quartered
  • 1 1/2 cup Seedless Red Table Grapes
  • 3 medium rings of whole Pineapple, diced
  • 1 Mango, diced

  1. Wash all of your fruit with Fruit/Vegetable Wash prior to cutting.
  2. Cut the stems off the Strawberries and slice them into fours.
  3. Remove the skin from the Mango, and slice around the large seed - then dice.
  4. Chop the stem off the Pineapple, cut 3 medium-sized slices (about 1-1/2 inches), remove the skin (and core), and dice into smaller pieces.
  5. Add all ingredients into a large bowl (including juice from sliced pineapple), and mix until well coated.
  6. Serve cold (or store in a mason jar or divide into smaller containers for later use)

Sweet & Crunchy Chicken Salad

Four Words:  Starbucks Tarragon Chicken Sandwich... YUMMY!!!!!  Wouldn't you just love to make your own at home, instead of spending $5-$6 on a chicken salad with ordinary sliced bread??  I mean, let's be honest, Starbucks is no gourmet food shop.  They can lay off of the high prices for their food items, at least! Sheesh!!!  Anywho, I was super excited when I came across this recipe!  It's always great to add variation to your regular chicken salad, to prevent your palate (or your kids') from getting bored.  Well enough talk about this.  See for yourself how AMAZING this recipe is!

(Recipe adapted from / Serves 3

  • 1 cup chopped Chicken Breasts, cooked and chilled (about 4 tenders)
  • 1/2 cup Celery, chopped
  • 1 cup Seedless Red Table Grapes (or craisins), halved
  • 2-3 TBSP Light Mayonnaise (or Light Miracle Whip)
  • Mrs. Dash Table Blend, to taste
  • 1/2 cup Walnuts, chopped (optional)
  1. Add ingredients to a bowl and mix until well combined. 
  2. Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash, to taste
  3. Serve on your choice of bread (roll, or torilla) with leafy romaine lettuce.

I ate mine wrapped in a 100% Whole Wheat Tortilla. 

Packed and ready to go for Lunch!

February Weekly Menu - Pt. 1

School is OFFICIALLY back in session for me, and with that comes a lot of packed lunches and plan-ahead dinners.  I spent the bulk of last week meal planning and grocery list organizing to prepare for the busy week ahead of me (Stay tuned for a future post regarding meal plan organization tips), because there is nothing that ruins a diet more than an unprepared college student!  Since I spent the weekend with family in Lancaster - thanks to Super Bowl - I was able to buy all of my bulk food items, staples, and food storage items on Saturday at Winco Foods and Walmart, which both have extremely low prices on these items.  With all of the major shopping behind me, all I had left to purchase were my perishables, which was done in one 30 minute trip to Ralphs around the corner.   I like shopping at Ralphs, Fresh & Easy, or Vons for fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, because these items are a lot fresher and cleaner at these stores, than Food4Less or any of the other low-advertised meat/produce stores (in my opinion).  Plus they have a wider variety of organic fruits and vegetables - in addition to some of the nonpopular picks.

Take a look at my menu for the rest of this week (Feb 5 - Feb 9):

  • Breakfast:  Egg & Sausage Breakfast Muffin
  • AM Snack:  Tropical Fruit Salad
  • Lunch:  Leftovers - Chicken Chili
  • PM Snack:  Bowl of Special K "Red Berries" with Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • Dinner:  Southwest Chicken Chimichangas
  • Breakfast:  Egg & Sausage Breakfast Muffin
  • AM Snack:  Green Apples with Almond Butter
  • Lunch:  Sweet & Crunchy Chicken Salad Wrap
  • PM Snack:  Simple Trail Mix
  • Dinner:  Teriyaki Mini Meatloaf, Creamy Mashed Cauliflower, and Green Beans
  • Breakfast:  Bowl of Oatmeal - with added Blueberries & Almonds
  • AM Snack:  Bowl of Special K "Red Berries" with Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
  • Lunch:  Leftovers - Teriyaki Meatloaf Sandwich
  • PM Snack:  Simple Trail Mix
  • Dinner:  Family-Syle Chicken Pot Pie
  • Breakfast:  Baked Fruit & Oatmeal Casserole with Turkey Sausage
  • AM Snack:  Whole Wheat Crackers w/ Sliced Cheese & Ham
  • Lunch:  Create-Your-Own Mini Pizzas
  • PM Snack:  Tropical Fruit Salad
  • Dinner:  Leftovers - Chicken Pot Pie
Thanks to, after inputting these recipes, saving them to my "meal categories," and adding each item to my weekly menu, I was able to generate a personalized shopping list to take with me on my shopping adventures.  My shopping List included:  assorted flours, spices, fruits/veggies, canned beans, cheese, lunch meat, rolled oats, various meats (chicken, ground beef, turkey patties), almond milk, nuts, dried fruit, tortillas, cereal, chicken broth, tea, raw sugar, and a few condiments.  Plus I added on a 12-pack of mason jars to store some of my bulk items and homemade snacks, and food storage containers for lunch. 

image provided by microsoft office
As mentioned before, I purchased all of my staples and bulk items (basically everything except my meat and produce) at Winco (with the exception of the mason jars, plastic storage containers, almond milk, cereal, and breads - which I bought at Walmart).  Prior to entering Ralphs, I only spent $90.00 (only $45 at Winco!).  Keep in mind that most of these items I will not need to purchase again this month, which will make my mid-month shopping trip less expensive.  At Ralphs, I filled my cart almost half full with fresh fruits and vegetables (organic for dirty dozen items - stay tuned for info on the "Clean 15 vs Dirty Dozen"), and then topped it off with 5 pounds of 80/20 ground beef, organic chicken breasts, turkey pepperoni, sliced deli ham, canned organic beans & chicken broth.  After scanning my Ralphs Club Card, my total came to $70 - making my overall total $160.  More than likely, the only items I will have to replenish with my next paycheck will be fresh produce, and perhaps one or two more pounds of meat - depending upon next week's menu.  I anticipate that I will more than likely spend a maximum of $50-60 for the rest of the month, as long as I avoid making last minute store runs.

I find that when you avoid those convenience items - like frozen vegetables, pre-packaged seasonings, brand-named pre-packaged meats & canned fruits, you can save a lot of money!  Sure, it requires a bit more time in the kitchen than I may have initially hoped for, but it's definitely worth the extra cash in my pocket.  Plus, by preparing more of your own foods and snacks, you can rest assure that your food is clear of preservatives and other unnecessary added chemicals and ingredients.  The result is fresh tasting "clean" food - not to mention you lose quite a few calories working in the kitchen! 

All in all, I'm very satisfied with this shopping trip.  This was my very first time menu planning and shopping with a specific list in mind, and I did very well!  Once I am able to stock up on more of my staples, and get a better grip on menu planning and deal shopping, I am confident that my monthly grocery budget will be decreased drastically!  Stay tuned for more of my shopping and meal planning adventures...

What was your shopping experience like so far this month?  Feel free to share your adventures or any shopping tips/tricks you have found so far.  I am always open to new ideas!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl doesn't HAVE to equal Diet Disaster!

Photo courtesy of
If you're like me, and many other Americans, you look forward to the Super Bowl each year... Not necessarily because of the teams who are playing, or even the half-time show (although that's what usually draws my attention), but because of all of the FOOD!!!  I was looking forward to this year's event much more than the previous year, (Go Ravens!) and knew that I was going to be in for a real disaster if I didn't plan ahead. 

Since I knew I was planning to snack on some chips and guacamole, indulge in some crackers, cheese, & pepperoni bites; have a few drinks; and devour the hot wings & spaghetti - I did some damage control early on.  By damage control, I mean I WORKED MY BUTT OFF earlier in the morning, so that I could have what I wanted later on, without the guilt.  At about 10am, my younger cousin and I went for a 20 minute jog around the neighborhood - which for me is NOT normal.  I'll do just about any workout there is, but running is normally out of the question!  However, I knew that I had to go above and beyond this time, if I didn't want to completely blow my weight-loss progress thus far.

After my 20 minute run, I ate a small breakfast - a bowl of Multi-grain Cheerios with unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk - while my heart rate was still up, followed by some hip abductions and abdominal twists.  At the party, I brought my own boneless chicken strips - which my niece baked in the oven w/ wing sauce - so that I could still enjoy the hot wings, without the added calories.  Additionally, I only scooped one cup of spaghetti onto my plate, and instead of over-indulging in chips and guacamole, (I tried a few - hey I'm no saint!) I sliced up a cup of strawberries and had those for my finger food.  And even though many of my family members poked fun at how "healthy" I was eating on a traditional junk food day, I stood my ground!  Because in the end, I'm the one who has to live with my eating choices.  When I weighed the chips and guacamole, or the extra spaghetti and rolls against my dream body, the body definitely won!  Because all in all, having my own version of the "Beyonce Body" is much more important to me than a moment of great tasting snacks!

Where I went wrong for the day, though, was my liquor intake - as to be expected.  Had I stopped at just 2 glasses of wine, with the above-mentioned food, i would've been within my 1200 net daily calories - because of my morning run.  However, silly me decided to make a Strawberry Peach Vodka Milkshake (which was BEYOND amazing), which I'm sure pushed me well beyond my caloric limit (by probably 200 cals). 

Nevertheless, I still am pretty proud of myself and how well I held it together around so many temptations yesterday.  The old me would've over-indulged on everything there was to offer at the party, including the rolls, but I held back!  And even though I had the vodka milkshake, only exceeding my calories by 200 instead of probably 600-800+, I'd have to say yesterday was pretty successful!

This is precisely why I say:  "planning ahead is very important"!  Because I foresaw my failures, I was able to put in the work ahead of time, so that I could enjoy myself that evening.  As always, pain before pleasure!  If you "pay" for what you eat before you eat it, you won't have to worry about it later!