Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

I always have the best of intentions when it comes to meal planning. It rarely actually works out for me, but still I try. Recently, my husband I got some of those bento-style boxes to make up some healthy lunches to take with us in the morning. The idea would be that we already have a healthy lunch ready to go, so it saves time in the morning and we would be less likely to go out somewhere. 

The best laid plans, amiright?

It didn’t really work. I think the problem is we made too many meals ahead of time, so by the time we got about half way through, the lunches we made weren’t very good anymore, we were bored with the same thing every day, and the main portion of the lunch was a chicken breast which always ended up really dried out after reheating. I had to go back to the drawing board. I think I successfully came up with some other options besides just plain ol’ chicken and rice, and I also think that making them in smaller batches is going to be the key to less food waste and fatigue.

My first idea was this chicken salad. You don’t have to reheat it, so that solves the dried meat problem. I also only made a few days’ worth, so we shouldn’t get too sick of it and we won’t have to throw any of it away. Served with some whole grain crackers and a lite Baby Bell cheese circle and I think I’ve got a solid lunch option on my hands.

I suggest making this at least a couple hours before you plan on eating it so the flavors have a chance to really come together.

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

4 cups cooked chicken (you can use whatever cooked chicken you want. I put 3 chicken breasts in my Instant Pot with some chicken broth, salt, dried thyme, and Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute and they were ready to go in no time.)

1 cup finely chopped carrots

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

1 cup quartered grapes, red or green your preference

1 cup chopped apple, whatever kind you want

Handful of slivered almonds

1-1/2 cups plain non-fat Greek yogurt

Juice from half a lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Keep in mind that none of these ingredients are set in stone. This is just how I make a basic chicken salad. If you don’t like carrots? Don’t add them. Think carrots are the greatest thing in world? Add more! You can put any seasoning you want. You can swap out the almonds for something else. Or remove them altogether. This would also be really good with dried cranberries (not to mention how pretty it would look with that pop of red color!). If you think Greek yogurt is a bit too tangy, you can take some of it out and substitute nonfat mayo or sour cream. If I had some green onions, I would add those too.  

 

Speaking of Greek yogurt, I would start on the lesser end and stir it in in small amounts until it reaches the level of creaminess you like.


This recipe makes A LOT of chicken salad, so it would be good for a party or picnic. The Super Bowl is coming up; you could serve this along with some whole grain crackers as a healthy alternative to the rest of the stuff on the food table.

Garlic Parmesan Chicken and Broccoli Sheet Pan Meal

Do you ever wish that you had, like, 5 more hours in the day? Seriously, when I look at our calendar there are times when I think a 29 hour day is something I could totally work with. 

Alas, that is not possible. So, I just have to make the most of the 24 hours that do come in the day. That’s one of the reasons I really like sheet pan meals. You can cook everything all at once and only have to dirty one dish. And if you use parchment paper, even the one dish you use isn’t that tough to clean.

My favorite sheet pan meal is pretty basic, but still has a lot of flavor. You can always change things around too, like the veggies and the seasoning. Even the meat, just be aware of how long it takes to cook different types of meat.

Basic sheet pan chicken and vegetables*

boneless skinless chicken breasts

Broccoli

Red bell pepper, sliced

Olive oil

Garlic salt

Grated Parmesan cheese

*no amounts here. Make however much you need. This is totally an “eyeball it” dinner. I made 2 chicken breasts, but you can always make 3 or 4. I also just filled in the outside with the veggies.

Put a piece of parchment on a baking sheet. Add your vegetables and toss with olive oil, garlic salt, and parmesan cheese, to taste. Remember, you can always add more later.

I LOVE this olive oil from Trader Joe’s!

Move the veggies to the side and add your chicken breasts. Coat them in olive oil and garlic salt as well. Top each with a little parmesan cheese.

 

Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes. Then turn on the broiler for 5 minutes to get the top of the chicken nice and golden.

That’s it. Serve it up and enjoy an easy, healthy dinner.

Avocado Pesto Pasta

About a week or so ago, I discovered Banza Pasta. It is pasta made out of chick peas and IT IS AMAZING!!!!!!!  I seriously can’t tell that it isn’t regular pasta. I’ve tried healthy pasta alternatives (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta), and they just don’t cut it. This Banza pasta is 100% legit.

I promise. I mean, I’ve made it 3 times since I discovered it. I would not lie to you.

I recently bought some avocados, and as they usually do, they went from not ready to EAT ME NOW overnight, so I decided to make some avocado pesto. Yeah, there are lots of healthy ingredients going on here. But you’d never know, because it tastes sooooo good.

This made a delicious, healthy, and easy dinner that my whole family loved.

For the pasta
You can use whatever you want. I highly recommend the chickpea pasta. I found it at Sprouts and Target (if you can believe that), but I’ll bet they have it at Whole Foods too.

For the Avocado Pesto
1 whole ripe avocado
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lime juice
olive oil

handful of basil

pinch of salt and pinch of pepper

In a food processor, add all the ingredients. I wanted to use fresh basil for this like I usually do, but the store was out, so I bought this basil paste. It is still fresh and it tasted good, so I think it’s an acceptable substitution.



Blend everything together until smooth and creamy. I didn’t give an amount for the olive oil on purpose. Start with a couple tablespoons and then add more to get the consistency you want.


Toss the pasta with the sauce and enjoy! For this particular dish, I added some caramelized leeks, but that is totally optional (although a delish addition!).


 

Healthy, Multipurpose Turkey Meat Sauce

OK, so this is my adaptation of a recipe I found a while ago (I can’t remember where). I do remember, though, that the original recipe called this little concoction sloppy joes. I could easily see how this would work perfectly for sloppy joes. The first time I made it, I actually served it over a baked potato and that was pretty delicious. The leftovers have been eaten over pasta and even on their own as-is. That’s why I consider this a “Multipurpose” sauce.

No matter how you decide to eat this, you can know that it will be really yummy and healthy, which is the most you can ask for in a meal.

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 small onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 carrot, chopped small

3 cloves garlic, minced

1-1/2 pounds ground turkey

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1 tablespoon onion powder

½ cup ketchup (preferably organic. Easily found at trader joe’s)

1 8oz can tomato sauce (no added sugar or sodium, preferably)

Water

salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat, saute the onions, bell pepper, and carrot in olive oil until softened. Add the garlic and continue cooking until all the veggies are soft and fragrant.

Add the ground turkey to the skillet with a heavy pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook until no longer pink.  

I forgot to take a picture so pretend there isn’t tomato sauce in the skillet already. 🙂


 

Mix in the garlic and onion powders, ketchup, and tomato sauce. Fill up the tomato sauce can with some water and add that.

Bring the mixture to a boil for a minute or so, then cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Serve in whatever way makes your taste buds dance with joy!

Cauliflower Mash

Who’d have thought that cauliflower was so versatile?! I mean, Fried Rice? Check! Pizza Crust? Check! And now a legit mashed potatoes substitute? BIG FAT CHECK!

I’m going to start by saying that I am a big fan of mashed potatoes. I love them. They are so warm and creamy and just plain delicious. You can serve them as a side dish to pretty much anything. The only thing is, while the potatoes themselves are pretty healthy (full of vitamins and nutrients), what makes mashed potatoes so good is also what makes them not as good for you. We’re talking butter at minimum here. Plus milk, maybe some cream cheese or sour cream. The calories definitely start to add up. Plus, they are quite carb-heavy.

For me, the person who adores mashed potatoes so much, to say these are a totally legit substitution, is saying a lot. I feel like I could have served these at Thanksgiving and no one would have known they weren’t potatoes.

AND THEY ARE SUPER EASY TOO. They take less than 10 minutes to make. These definitely fit my “Trifecta” criteria: Easy, delicious, and healthy.

Cauliflower Mash

1 bag of Steam-in-bag cauliflower

Garlic salt (to your own preferences)

2 tablespoons greek yogurt cream cheese

½ tablespoon butter

Heavy pinch of shredded parmesan cheese

Steam the cauliflower according to package directions. It will usually give you a range (like 4-5 minutes). I did the longer time to make sure they were really soft.

Dump the bag into a blender or food processor and the garlic salt. I used quite a bit, but you can use however much you like. Start off on the low end because you can always add more if you need to. Also, add the greek yogurt cream cheese. I’ve talked about this before and it is so good. And way less fat and calories than regular cream cheese. Plus it gives a punch of protein. Finally, add the butter (it’s not that much, but it helps give the dish a more “traditional” mashed potato flavor) and a heavy pinch of parmesan cheese. The cheese is optional, but I had it out already for the kids’ dinner, so I just put in a little bit.

Run your blender or processor until the mixture is smooth and creamy. This only takes a minute or two. I would recommend stopping it at about halfway and scraping down the sides.

At this point, give it a little taste test to see if you want to add anything else. If not, then you’re done! I actually let it blend a little bit longer than I needed to at a high speed to help whip in some air and make them a bit fluffier.

I swear, this is my new favorite side dish! I can’t even wait to have them again!

Healthy Creamy Chicken Enchiladas 

So if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of kitchen gadgets. While I definitely have a special place in my heart for seemingly needless gadgets that only serve one purpose and are a bit ridiculous (I’m talking to you, avocado pitter/slicer that I never use but can’t bring myself to get rid of), my heart goes all aflutter for multipurpose gadgets. I mean serious multipurpose. Like LOTS of things.
Enter: The Instant Pot.

Apparently this is a thing that has been around for a while now. I thought it was new, but the more I research recipes, I find bloggers have been raving about this little R2D2 looking gadget for years now. Like usual, I’m late to the party. But no matter, I’m here now. I’m one of them. The Instant Pot People. And if you’re not careful, you could be one too.

Not that I would ever caution against getting one. They are the best. I got mine for Christmas and I am mind boggled at how well it works. Each thing I’ve made so far, I always look at my husband and say “There’s no way it’s done, right?” And each time it is done. Perfectly.

The first thing I made was hardboiled eggs. I just filled up the little trivet they give you, added a cup of water and set the timer for 3 minutes. No, that’s not a typo, people. THREE MINUTES. The eggs were perfectly hard boiled and best of all, they peeled like a dream! No more mangled eggs!

The Instant Pot is a 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker with approximately 1,254,765 uses. I still have a lot to learn, but it’s going to be fun!

For this dish, I made the chicken portion in the Instant Pot. If you don’t have one, you can use a slow cooker or even do it on the stove top or in the oven. Or beat us all with the ultimate time saver and buy one of those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store.

Creamy Chicken Enchiladas

4-5 chicken breasts (depending on size)

2 16 oz jars of salsa verde

¼ cup plain, nonfat greek yogurt

1-2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese

8 whole grain tortillas (I like the La Tortilla Factory Low Carb Whole Wheat Tortillas)

In a Pressure Cooker, add your chicken breasts and a jar of salsa. Set it manually, on high, for 7 minutes. (Yep. Seven whole minutes, you guys). When it’s done, do a quick release and remove the chicken.


Shred your chicken and add to a bowl. Mix in a few big ladle-fuls of the cooking liquid, the greek yogurt, and ½ the cheese.

Warm up your tortillas in some wet paper towels so they are more pliable. Fill each tortilla with the chicken mixture and roll up. Don’t be shy here. Place seem side down in a 9×13 baking dish. Make sure to pour a thin layer of the salsa verde on the bottom of the dish first.

 

After all the enchiladas are in the dish, pour the rest of the salsa over the top and sprinkle the rest of the cheese. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, then turn on the broiler for about 5 minutes until the cheese is all ooey gooey and starting to get a little golden brown on top.


That’s it! So easy, right? And pretty healthy too. I mean, there’s a little cheese in there, but everything in moderation, right? I’m not made of stone, people.

Spaghetti Carbonara 

I’ve always loved pasta. I mean, who doesn’t, really? But I feel like I’ve been taking it for granted my whole life. No matter what diet you decide to follow or how you plan on eating healthy, pasta is usually one of the first things to go. Sure, there are healthy alternatives to regular pasta like veggie noodles, whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, even garbanzo bean pasta. The problem is, it just really isn’t the same!

When I made a commitment to eat clean and healthy last year, it put me and pasta on the outs. Now that I’m in a good “maintaining” place (though those last 5 pounds would be nice to see gone!), I feel like I can reacquaint myself with my carby friend again. Every once in a while, of course. For special occasions, like New Year’s Eve, for example.

We don’t usually go out for NYE mostly because everywhere you go is super crowded, crazy expensive, and not nearly as much fun in practice as in theory. All the best New Year’s I’ve ever had were always spent at home or at someone else’s home. It’s warm, you can wear comfy clothes and it’s much cheaper. Plus, there’s still booze, so it’s still a good time!

Since we don’t go out, I always try to make a special dinner for the hubby and myself. This year I decided to make pasta from scratch and use it to make carbonara. Carbonara is one of my favorite pasta dishes and making it with homemade pasta was such a treat! 

I’ve made homemade pasta before when I first got my pasta attachment for my stand mixer, but I just never could quite get it right. This time I tried using Semolina flour and I really think it made all the difference. I used the Bob’s Red Mill brand from Sprouts, but I think you can get it at any grocery store.


It does take some time to make the pasta, but once you do, the rest of the dish just comes right together in minutes. If you don’t want to make your own pasta, go ahead and use store bought.

Spaghetti Carbonara (makes enough for 2-3 plus a little leftover)

For the pasta, I just followed the directions on the package:

1 ½ cups Semolina Flour

½ tsp Salt, optional (I included it in mine)

2 eggs or 3 egg whites, beaten (I did 2 eggs)

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Carbonara:

4 oz diced pancetta

1 leek, chopped, white and light green parts only

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 eggs

Black pepper to taste 

Make the pasta according to the package directions. I tried to be fancy like on tv and just make it on my cutting board. It does work this way, but it is a MESS. This is the part that takes awhile, because once you have all the ingredients mixed together, you have to knead the dough for 10 minutes. It is well worth it though, so pop on some tunes and get to work.


Once the dough is kneaded, cover it in plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.

When you are ready to actually make the pasta, you can either roll it out to your desired thinness and cut it into the shape you want or you can use your pasta maker if you have one. I think pasta makers are worth it and they come in a wide range of prices and sizes. 

I used my attachment with the spaghetti noodle disk in place and got to pumping out some pasta. This time, I didn’t make the little nests that I did before, and they did not clump together, so WIN.

 

Once your pasta is cut (or during the process, if you can do both), make the sauce for the carbonara. In a bowl, whisk together your two eggs, parmesan cheese, and some black pepper. It is important to have that ready to go so that you can add it to the hot pasta right away. The pasta needs to be hot to cook the eggs.


Cook your pancetta and leeks in a skillet until the pancetta is brown and the leeks are softened. When they are almost done, add the garlic and cook until soft.

 

While the pancetta mixture is cooking, add your pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook until done. It only takes about 5 minutes to cook fresh pasta, so keep your eye on it. When it is ready, add it to the skillet with the pancetta and leeks over LOW heat and mix together.

Add in the eggs and parmesan and toss until all the pasta is coated. Some people say to do this off the heat so the eggs don’t scramble, but I’ve never had a problem with the eggs scrambling. I just make sure to keep tossing so the eggs cook through and I am left with a creamy, dreamy sauce.

Then, turn off the heat and serve it up with a little more parmesan on top.

When you spell it out, carbonara seems like a lot of work, but in practice it is actually pretty simple, but it makes a really rich, decadent dish that you will want over and over again.