full meal deal

lunchbox life: curry coconut cashew chicken

image1(16)First, I have to brag: three weeks left of school, everybody!

So close, yet so far. Week 1 of Testing Month is over, and I’m so proud that my students seem to have thought their test to be super easy, but I still feel for their overworked and overtested brains. Week 2 is coming up, so keep up all in your thoughts as we soldier on in the standardized test world.

As a distraction from testing and as a primer to a challenge later this summer, I decided to tackle a week-long version of the Whole30. Whole30 is an eating plan that eliminates all the fun stuff from your diet: no grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, or alcohol. What are you left to eat? Meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. I’d heard about this program from a few friends, but wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge until I bought the book and started doing some online research. I like that it’s temporary, and while I plan to complete a Whole30 in 30 days when I’m at GHP this summer, I thought I’d do a Whole7 as a trial run. While I’m on Day 2, I have to say that I’m loving it so far and am surprised as how much I like it.

With that explanation, I introduce to you this week’s Whole30-compliant lunchbox life: curry coconut cashew chicken. I’m thrilled about this one, and I know that I’ll feel good about eating it all week long. I used baby bok choy and brussels sprouts from our CSA box, chicken thighs, cashews, unsweetened coconut shreds, coconut oil, and some yummy spices. This recipe is a great way to enjoy Thai flavor without rice or noodles.

Curry Coconut Cashew Chicken

10 boneless skinless chicken thighs

3 cups brussels sprouts

2 bunches of baby box choy

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup roasted and salted cashews

1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds

1 Tbsp. curry powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. cardamom

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. white pepper

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

Lay out 2 full paper towel sheets and arrange chicken thighs in a single layer. Take 2 more paper towel sheets and press down on top of the chicken to remove some of the excess moisture. Next, cut the chicken into chunks (about 1/2 to 1 inch) and place in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the spices, then pour the dry spices onto the chicken chunks and stir to combine; set aside. Chop the bok choy into 1/2 inch ribbons, taking care to discard the stalks. Slice the brussels sprouts thinly on all four sides, taking care to discard the stem and core. Set aside. Heat a wok over high heat and melt the coconut oil. Add the seasoned chicken and cook, stirring frequently for about 4 minutes. Next, add the mushrooms, stirring to coat the mushrooms in the seasoned oil. Next, add the sliced bok choy and brussels, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the cashews, then the coconut shreds. Stir to full combine, then divide between five containers.

meatless monday: warm brussels sprouts salad with persimmon, pomegranate, blue cheese, celery, and almonds

image1(3)Are you ready for the next great salad in your life? What about one with so many of my favorite things that I just had to name them all in the title?

This. salad. though.

The best part? I didn’t even have to go to the grocery store today. The brussels, persimmon, pomegranate, and orange were in my Dirt Farmers CSA box, and I already had the rosemary, celery, blue cheese, and almonds on hand. This is an excellent cold weather salad because of its use of hearty brussels sprouts, plus they’re lightly sauteed to give you a warm bite on a chilly night.

Can we talk about persimmons for a second? Where have they been all my life? They taste like firmer plums that have been marinating in mulling spices. They’re my new favorite.

Let’s also chat about pomegranates. These juicy morsels of fuchsia are a beauty of nature, and their tartness and sweetness serve as a great contrast to the smoky almonds and pungent blue cheese. The celery is added for freshness and crunch.

This needs to go on your “Want to Try” short list for Meatless Monday, or any night, for that matter. Dig in!

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad with Persimmon, Pomegranate, Blue Cheese, Celery, and Almonds

Serves 2 as a dinner salad or 4-6 as a starter

1 lb. brussels sprouts

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (about three sprigs)

2/3 cup pomegranate seeds

2 persimmons, tops removed and cut into dice-sized cubes

3 celery stalks, split down the middle and thinly sliced

2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup smoked almonds, roughly chopped

salt and pepper

Orange-Dijon dressing: Juice and zest of one navel orange, 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp. dijon mustard, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Shake in a jar.

For each sprout, cut off the bottom stem and slice each one lengthwise about three or four times. Discard the stems. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and rosemary over medium heat in a large pan, then add the brussels and toss to coat in the oil. Turn the heat up to medium high and saute for about 3 minutes, tossing throughout the cooking process. After the three minutes are up, Place the warm brussels in a mixing bowl. Add the persimmon, pomegranate seeds, chopped almonds, blue cheese crumbles, and celery. Toss to combine, then drizzle with about half of the dressing. Toss to combine, then serve.

meatless monday: caramelized onion, spinach, and swiss frittata with pan-roasted okra

image1(1)Happy Thanksgiving week! I’m so thrilled to have the week off from school for the holiday, so while there is no lunchbox life this week, I’m happy to bring you this delightful frittata on Meatless Monday.

A frittata is basically a crustless quiche. It’s also kind of like an omelet except that its texture is a little different because of the broiling at the end of the cooking process. I think it’s much easier than quiche or omelets, which is why I think the frittata in an underrated food. It’s similar to a casserole: what do I have in the fridge that I need to use? Particularly for produce, frittatas can save those greens that are just about to wilt or those tomatoes that are on their last leg. Frittatas are much better in the nutrition arena, however, because of their high protein content. While casseroles rely on creamy soups and cracker crumbs to hold all of the ingredients together, frittatas use the magic of eggs to envelop the other ingredients and hold them in a protein-rich form. Oh, and the cheese. So much cheese. But we’re not eating any pie crust, so we can have more cheese, right?

In this frittata, I used farm fresh eggs from The Dirt Farmers, our beloved CSA. I also used some beautiful spinach from last week’s CSA box. I caramelized some onions earlier in the day because I had the time to let them simmer in butter, but you could certainly saute some onions if you’re shorter on time. You could also sub in many different veggies or cheeses; this is the beauty of the frittata. Find what you need to use up, then make it sing with some eggs.

I served this frittata with some tasty pan-roasted okra. It’s so easy: slice okra lengthwise. Heat some olive oil and spices (I used herbs de provence, garlic powder, salt, and pepper) over medium heat, then crank it up to high right before you add the okra. Stir to coat the okra, then let it cook for about 5 minutes, giving it a quick stir a few times throughout the cooking process. Much like oven roasted okra, the char on the pods is so delicious and is a nice contrast to the pillowy frittata. It’s also much better for you than a crispy starch (fries, sweet potatoes, etc.).

image2(1)Caramelized Onion, Spinach, and Swiss Frittata

Serves 4

3 onions, peeled, halved, and sliced into half moons*

3 Tbsp. butter

4 cups fresh spinach (if not baby spinach, tear into bite-size pieces)

1 Tbsp. olive oil

6 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese (I used Jarlsberg, which is actually Norwegian)

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese

salt and pepper

*Melt the butter in a medium size pan over medium heat. Add the onions, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Toss the onions to coat them in the butter, then cook for about an hour, tossing the onions every 10 minutes or so. If you’re short on time, use only 1 onion and 1 Tbsp. butter and cook over medium high heat for about 10 minutes. If you have the time, however, go for the caramelized onions–the slow cooked taste is amazing. Set aside.

Turn on the broiler function in your oven. In an oven-safe omelet pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then add the spinach in batches. As it wilts, you can add more. Next, add the caramelized onions to this pan and stir to distribute evenly. Top with the swiss cheese, then pour the beaten eggs over the mixture. Let this cook and set up for about 3-4 minutes. Next, add the parmesan cheese on top and place pan under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Take out and let cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into fourths. Serve with a green vegetable for a light green salad.

meatless monday and lunchbox life duo: kale salad with roasted butternut squash, blue cheese, pomegranate, and pecans


…and quinoa, and citrus vinaigrette. For both Meatless Monday and Lunchbox Life this week, the plan is to detox! Alex and I had an awesome time visiting New England this past weekend for my cousin’s wedding. We flew to Boston and drove to Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Thursday, explored coastal Maine on Friday, walked around the city of Boston on Saturday morning, and celebrated cousins Jessy and Doug on Saturday evening. We had a wonderful time, but after lobster rolls, clam chowder, airport snacks, and more locally brewed beer than I care to count, I’m feeling the overindulgence. What do I always crave after a vacation full of rich food? Broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and other members of the cruciferous family.

Since today was a professional development day and I’ll be in Athens for a conference on Thursday and Friday, I just needed two school lunches this week, so I decided to make a double batch of this kale salad. There are many variations of kale salad, but this version is perfect for fall (despite the warmer-than-I’d-like temperatures this week). The kale is the base, the butternut squash is a great meat replacement because of its heartiness, the pomegranate seeds provide sweetness and a pop, the pecans provide the crunch, the quinoa is there for the whole grains and fiber, and the blue cheese is there for saltiness, tartness, and creamy texture. This is really a non-recipe since you can add or subtract anything you like, but I am proud of this combination and think that it really works!

Kale Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Blue Cheese, Pomegranate, and Pecans

2 bunches of kale, torn into bite-size pieces

2 Tbsp. olive oil, separated

1 butternut squash, seeds and skin removed, small dice

1 cup dry quinoa, prepared as directed (should yield 2 cups cooked quinoa)

2 navel oranges, zest and juice separated

1 pomegranate, seeds removed

4 oz. blue cheese

1 cup roasted pecans

for the dressing:

use the juice from the navel oranges

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Toss the butternut squash diced pieces with 1 Tbsp. olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 400 F for about 20 minutes. While the squash is cooking, massage the kale pieces with the other Tbsp. of olive oil and the orange zest. Add the quinoa, pomegranate seeds, pecans, blue cheese, and roasted butternut squash to the massaged kale and toss to combine. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad, and toss to combine.

Note: You can eat this salad right away and store it (already dressed) for lunch the next day. Kale is hearty enough of a green to not wilt under the weight of the dressing, so save this step the next day and enjoy your already dressed salad!

tasty tuesday: spicy shrimp soba noodle bowls


Tonight’s dish was inspired by one of my favorite hidden hideaways in Macon: Pho Saigon. I’m partial to the shrimp noodle soup, which is a pho-like soup that I slurp up with plenty of basil and sriracha, but Alex usually gets a noodle or rice bowl. Both dishes are surprisingly healthy and are packed full of flavor. I knew that we still had some Georgia shrimp in the freezer from our trip this summer to the coast, so I wanted to feature one of our state’s jewels in a way other than a fried variety or in shrimp and grits. This recipe is a great summer-to-fall transition go-to; it’s simultaneously fresh and indulgent-tasting without being too heavy. I used Japanese soba noodles in this bowl which are made from buckwheat and are full of fiber rather than the typical rice noodle in Vietnamese cuisine, but you could use any type of noodle you like.

One of my favorite things about this dish was the contrast between the warm shrimp, broccoli, mushrooms, and noodles with the cool and crisp bean sprouts, carrots, lettuce, and peanuts. You could use any sauce you like, but I threw together some of the Asian sauces we had in the refrigerator and made my own variation. Tip: include a dash of fish sauce in your concoction. It smells less than ideal on its own, but it will make any sauce you like taste authentic!

Spicy Shrimp Soba Noodle Bowls

Serves 2

1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp. canola oil

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 oz. soba noodles

1 broccoli crown, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup mung bean sprouts

1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 scallion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup peanuts

4 leaves of greenleaf lettuce

for the sauce:

1 Tbsp. fish sauce

1 Tbsp. sriracha

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 Tbsp. teriyaki sauce

1 Tbsp. PB2

1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

Cook the pasta according the package directions, rinse with cold water, then toss with 1 Tbsp. sesame oil; divide evenly between two large, wide bowls.

Heat 1 Tbsp. canola oil and 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add two minced garlic cloves, then add the broccoli and mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes, remove from pan and set aside. Add another 1 Tbsp. canola oil and 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil to the pan, then add the other two minced garlic cloves and the red pepper flakes to the oil. Next, add the shrimp and cook for about 1 minute on each side.

Arrange each of these items on around the bowl on top of the noodles: lettuce leaves, carrots, peanuts, bean sprouts, scallions, shrimp, broccoli, and mushrooms.

In a small jar, shake the sauce ingredients together, then pour the sauce into the middle of your bowl. Present the bowl this way to your diners, then dig in!

lunchbox life: slowcooker turkey and kale meatballs with whole wheat rotini


Ah, Sunday: we meet again.  This weekend was full of disco fever due to Taste of the Arts: Studio 54, a disco party and auction benefiting Macon Arts Alliance.  Months of hard work by the committee and staff were all worth it when we saw Macon’s Terminal Station lit up in pink lights and booming with disco music!  Today we got to take it easy and sleep in a bit, although I do have to brag on my run buddy Renee and myself who both attended Taste of the Arts last night and ran six miles this morning–woohoo!

This week’s lunches are a partial request from friend and reader Jennifer Borage.  Jennifer and Jason have a beautiful new baby girl, Bethany, and Jennifer requested a slowcooker recipe to save time and energy as she adjusts to new mommyhood and going back to work full-time.  This recipe would be a great lunch or weeknight meal, so Jennifer, this is for you, Jason, and sweet Bethany!

The great part about these meatballs is that you don’t have to worry about baking the meatballs in the oven before you place them in the slowcooker.  You just mix the meat mixture, form the meatballs, place them in the slowcooker, pour the sauce over the meatballs, and cook on high for 4 hours.  These are super simple, healthy, and will change the way you think about the otherwise arduous task of meatball making.  I got a good bit of inspiration from this Skinnytaste recipe, but I added the kale and whole wheat pasta to make it a well-rounded meal.  Enjoy!

Slowcooker Turkey and Kale Meatballs with Whole Wheat Rotini

Serves 8

2 lbs. ground turkey

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 egg

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 Tbsp. garlic powder

1 bunch of kale, stems removed, chopped, massaged with 1 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

for the sauce:

2 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Organic brand)

3 bay leaves

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup fresh parsley

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms

salt and pepper

2 cups dry whole wheat rotini (double this amount to match the pasta needed for all of the meatballs in this recipe)

For the meatballs: in a large mixing bowl, add the ground turkey, breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley, egg, oil-massaged kale, garlic powder, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper.  Once the meat mixture is evenly combined and begins to take form, start forming the meatballs in golf ball sized shapes.  Don’t pack the meatballs too tightly; they’ll become too tough if you over do it.  As you form each ball, place them in the slowcooker.  You should have about 30 meatballs from this amount of ingredients.

For the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot and add the garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper.  Cook garlic for about 1 minute until fragrant, then add the 2 cans of crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, parsley, and mushrooms.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, then pour the sauce over the meatballs in the slowcooker.  Cook on high for about 4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours, depending on when you’d like for them to be ready.

When you’re ready to eat, quickly prepare the pasta according the package directions.  Remove the meatballs from the sauce in the slowcooker, then when the pasta is ready, drain it and place pasta in the sauce; stir to coat and combine.  Add about 3/4 cup of pasta and sauce to a dish, then top with four meatballs for each bowl.  Top with grated parmesan.

tasty tuesday: smothered pork chop with shiitakes, quick-fry okra, cauliflower and potato mash, and pickled cucumber

photo(9)This Tasty Tuesday, I took a challenge: pork chops.  I cannot tell a lie–I typically avoid pork chops on menus as I look at them with a skeptical eye.  Will the kitchen overcook them?  Will they taste like chewy tires?  Put simply, they’re usually not that appealing to me.  In recent years, however, I’ve stolen bites of Alex’s pork chops at Downtown Grill, and I have been impressed with every one.  I think my new appreciation for pork chops stems from a simple difference in preparation: the avoidance of cooking them well done.

My friend Steven Fulbright, a fellow Hugh Acheson acolyte, asked me yesterday if I’d ever made Hugh’s recipe for smothered pork chops with chanterelles from A New Turn in the South.  When I told him I hadn’t, he raved about how great they were, so I knew that I had to try them out.  What I ended up with was a take on Hugh’s simple, yet elegant dish, both out of creativity and necessity–I couldn’t find chanterelles at the Fresh Market, so I selected shiitakes instead.  I changed up a few other things, but the simple cooking directions for the meat in Hugh’s recipe made these pork chops, in my humble opinion, pretty darn great.  Seared on the outside and cooked through to medium on the inside, these bone-in chops are simple to make and saved by the accuracy of a meat thermometer.  If you don’t have one, you can buy an inexpensive one at the grocery store or at your local kitchen store–Maconites, go to Robinson Home, of course!

The simple olive oil, salt, and pepper combination on the pork chop allows the meat to shine on its own merit.  The addition of the thin mushroom gravy adds an earthiness to the dish.  The pork chop is set upon a half-and-half mash of baked cauliflower, yukon gold potatoes, and garlic, and some quick-fry okra adds a crispiness to the smooth mash.  The pickled cucumber adds just a touch of sour to cut the creaminess of the mash and stands up nicely to the smooth flavor of the gravy.

Moral of the story: if you think you don’t like pork chops, try, try, again.

Smothered Pork Chop with Shiitakes, Quick-Fry Okra, Cauliflower and Potato Mash, and Pickled Cucumber

Serves 2

2 bone-in, thick cut pork chops (about 6-8 oz. each)

1/2 head cauliflower

2 small yukon gold potatoes

5 garlic cloves

3 Tbsp. olive oil (2 Tbsp. for chops, 1 Tbsp. for cauliflower and potatoes)

2 cups fresh okra, sliced lengthwise

1/3 cup pecorino or parmesan cheese

3 green onions, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. butter (1 Tbsp. for gravy, 1 Tbsp. for mash)

2 Tbsp. half and half, separated

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. fresh thyme

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

handful of pickled cucumbers slices, cut into 1/4 inch vertical slices (I thinly sliced up one cucumber on Sunday and threw the slices in a pickle jar with leftover pickle juice–easiest thing ever.  The crispness of the cucumber is still intact!)

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Rough chop the cauliflower and potatoes into golf ball-sized pieces.  In a small bowl, add the cauliflower, potatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper and mix to combine.  Wrap the veggie mixture in a makeshift aluminum foil pouch, place the pouch on a cookie sheet, and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.  In a food processor, add the baked potato and cauliflower pieces.  Also add the garlic, but be sure to squeeze the cloves out of the garlic paper before adding them to the bowl of the food processor.  Next, add 1 Tbsp. butter, the pecorino cheese, 1 Tbsp. half and half, green onions, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the bowl.  Pulse until desired consistency is reached; set aside.

Raise the heat in the oven to 400 F.  Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat and add 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  While the oil is heating, lightly salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops.  Sear the pork chops on both sides (about 4 minutes each), then place the pork chops on a raised roasting pan and let finish in the oven for about 7-10 minutes.  To check to see if they’re done, place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thicker pork chop, right near the bone.  When the temperature reaches 150 F, you know that they’re at medium.  Take the out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes.

While the chops are in the oven, add the sliced okra to the remaining olive oil you seared the pork chops in.  Stirring occasionally, let the okra cook up for about 10 minutes, browning on the edges.

During this time, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat.  When the butter starts to bubble, add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Next, add the flour and stir to combine, then slowly whisk in the chicken stock.  Turn the heat down to low and let reduce for about 4 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the thyme, 1 Tbsp. half and half, and lemon juice.

To assemble: add about 1 cup of cauliflower potato mash to the plate.  Lean the pork chop on the mash, then arrange some okra around the pork chop.  Add your desired amount of mushroom gravy to the top of the chop, then sprinkle some of the picked cucumber on the top.  Enjoy!

recipe remix: guiltless beef stroganoff


Welcome to the third of five recipe remixes for early summer!  This is three nights in a row of recipe remixes, and I’ll pick back up with numbers four and five next week.  Alex and I are headed to the beach for a long weekend, so the challenge will conclude next week.

Many thanks to Lyn Harris, Laura Peacock, and Claire Steinbeck for the push to find a guiltless version of beef stroganoff!  I will be the first to admit that I’m actually not a huge fan of the original recipe.  Stroganoff is one of those dishes that is, by nature, a leftovers recipe.  Have leftover pot roast?  You make stroganoff, right?  Well, if you have a hankering for stroganoff but don’t have leftovers to transform, I have a tasty, healthy, and economical meal for you!

Here are a few of my lightened up highlights: I used thinly sliced sirloin for the meat.  I’m only cooking for two people, so I got 1/2 lb. thinly sliced sirloin for $4 at Kroger–pretty affordable!  I cut out a good bit of butter, but retained some for flavor.  I also used Greek yogurt instead of sour cream or heavy cream and cut out some of the flour.  I used extra mushrooms for volume and also added some thinly sliced carrots for color, fiber, and bulk.  Since I cut out a good bit of fat, I made sure to use flavor enhancers like cracked black pepper and chives on top to brighten up the dish.  I also carefully portioned out the buttered egg noodles to make sure that the dish was filling, but also didn’t get carried away with carbs.

Nutritional breakdown: 15 Weight Watchers Points Plus, or about 700 calories.  This includes everything–sauce and noodles.

I paired this dish with a light green salad with some blueberries from our CSA and a lemon vinaigrette.

Guiltless Beef Stroganoff

Serves 2, but recipe can be multiplied for a larger crowd

1/2 lb. thinly sliced lean sirloin

2 Tbsp. butter, separated

1/2 sweet onion, thinly sliced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

8 oz. sliced white or baby bella mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup good white wine

2/3 cup chicken broth

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 Tbsp. flour

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup 0% Greek yogurt

4 oz. egg noodles

salt and pepper

1 Tbsp. chopped chives (or parsley, rosemary, or any fresh herb of your choice)

Prepare noodles according to package directions.  After draining, add 1 Tbsp. butter to the noodles and stir to melt.  Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and set aside.

In a large skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. butter over medium-high heat.  While butter is melting, salt and pepper both sides of the sirloin slices, then place pieces in a pan in a single layer.  Let each side brown for about 3 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions to the remaining butter in the pan, stir, and let cook for about 8 minutes.  Next, add the garlic, mushrooms, and carrots and let cook for about 8 more minutes.  Next, add the wine and, using a spoon, scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the wine cook for about 3 minutes.  While this is happening, whisk together the chicken broth, Worcestershire, and flour.  Add this mixture to the pan and let cook and thicken for about 3 minutes.  Next, turn off the heat and add in the Greek yogurt, stirring to fully combine.  In two bowls, evenly distribute the buttered noodles, then evenly ladle the stroganoff sauce over the noodles.  Top with chopped chives or other herbs and serve hot.



recipe remix: slimmed down chicken pot pies


Thanks to friend Jessica Northenor, colleague Jennifer Blackwell, and my mother Donna Andrews, I now have a slimmed down version of chicken pot pie–and you do, too!

The #2 recipe remix is chicken pot pie, and I hope that it will be one of your new favorites.  My first thought with this dish was dread–what is chicken pot pie without the buttery, flaky crust?  I couldn’t possibly imagine a version without it, so I decided to cheat a little bit–by putting it only on the top and not lining the ramekin with it, I could still include my favorite part without totally wrecking a healthy eating plan.  I also cut out some of the richness in the filling by using 1% milk and less flour.

Typically, chicken pot pie includes the following staple veggies: onion, carrot, celery, green beans, and peas.  I used my CSA box as a guide and included the following in my recipe: onion, carrot, peas, kale, potatoes, and parsnips.  The addition of kale helped to round out this dish’s nutritional value, and let’s be honest: I love any excuse to include kale in a dish.  Don’t even get me started on this super food: loads of vitamin K, folic acid, fiber, and we know that any dark leafy green is a nutritional green light.

Let’s get started, shall we?  First, you make the soup base:


Next, you cut out the puff pastry for the tops.  According the the Pepperidge Farm package, 1/6 of a sheet is one serving, so I cut each out like so:


Next, I rolled them out to cover the lids of the ramekins I bought today at Robinson HomeRobinson Home is a fantastic kitchen store in downtown Macon, so if you live here, you should go there…like yesterday.  If you don’t live here, you should check out their website to order all things wonderful for your kitchen.  Next, I covered the soup-filled ramekins with the puff pastry and gave them a quick egg wash, then placed them in the oven at 400 degrees until they were golden brown.


I coupled the pot pies with a simple green salad with beautiful watermelon radishes from our CSA.  They add the perfect pop of color to any salad, and just enough of a spice and crunch to compliment softer greens.

Nutritional breakdown: 13 Weight Watchers Points Plus, which roughly translates to about 650 calories.  Most pot pies are double this (1300+) because of more pastry and more full-fat dairy in the base.

Slimmed Down Chicken Pot Pies

Serves 8

5 bone in , skin on chicken thighs

6 garlic cloves

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

4 cups 1% milk

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried sage (or 1 Tbsp. fresh, chopped)

1 tsp. dried rosemary (or 1 Tbsp. fresh, chopped)

1 tsp. dried oregano (or 1 Tbsp. fresh, chopped)

1 tsp. dried chives (or 1 Tbsp. fresh, chopped)

1 cup carrots, diced

1/2 cup parsnips, diced

1/2 onion, diced

1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen

2 potatoes, diced

2 cups kale, cut into ribbons

1 1/3 sheets Pepperidge Farm puff pastry

1 egg

salt and pepper

Remove skin from chicken thighs and set aside.  Place chicken thighs in a large pot, add 1 tsp. salt, 3 garlic cloves, and the chicken skins, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  When the water is boiling, place a lid on the pot and turn the heat down to simmer.  Let cook for about 40 minutes.  When the time is up, drain the chicken and set aside to cool.  When chicken is cooled, discard the chicken skin and shred the chicken with your hands; discard of the bones.  Set shredded chicken aside.

Whisk together 1/2 cup water with 1/4 cup flour and set aside.  In a large pot, combine chicken broth and milk and bring to a boil.  When liquid is boiling, add the carrots, parsnips, onion, herbs, and 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper.  Place a lid on the pot, but leave a small vent between the lid and the pot; simmer for 20 minutes.  Next, add the diced potatoes and kale.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the chicken.  When the chicken is added, whisk in the water and flour mixture.

Preheat the over the 400 F.  Using kitchen scissors or a knife, cut the puff pastry sheets into 1/6 pieces.  roll each piece out to cover the lid of the oven-safe bowl or ramekins you’re using.  Ladle soup into each ramekin, then place the puff pastry pieces on top of them.  Whisk an egg into a small bowl and brush each puff pastry top with the egg wash.  Using a small knife, cut a 1-inch slit in the center of the puff pastry.  Place in the over for about 7-10 minutes, or until the puff pastry browns.  Plate each ramekin on a plate with a green salad and enjoy.

post-holiday healthy: brown rice with roasted broccolini, feta, and pine nuts + simple salad with green apple


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!  If you’re like me, you may have had a little too much to eat (or drink) around Christmas.  That’s ok–that time is valuable, memorable, and spent with friends and family you love.  However, you might also be feeling a little bloated or sluggish from all of the sweet, heavy holiday food.  When this happens to me, I ask myself what I’m really craving.  After my pure barre session yesterday at 5:30, I felt so much better, and I got this overwhelming urge for broccoli.  YES, broccoli.  I love the taste of roasted broccoli, but wasn’t sure how I should frame the rest of the meal.  When I went to the grocery, I saw some great looking broccolini, which is a long, skinny variety that has tender stems reminiscent of asparagus.  Then I saw a beautiful green apple and delicate greenleaf lettuce.  I remembered that we had some basmati brown rice, picked up some pine nuts for earthiness and feta for tang, and headed on home.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did–you’ll feel great about the fiber in the brown rice and broccoli and you’ll love the taste from the pine nuts and feta.  Yum!

Brown Rice with Roasted Broccolini, Feta, and Pine Nuts

Serves 2-4 entree portions or 4-6 side dish portions

1 cup uncooked basmati brown rice (or regular brown, if you have it on hand)

2 cups water

1 lb. broccolini (1 bundle at the grocery store)

2 Tbsp. olive oil (separated into 1 Tbsp. each)

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 onion, halved and thinly sliced into half-moons

2 tsp. butter

1 sprig of rosemary, chopped (you could also use 1 tsp. dried rosemary)

2 Tbsp. pine nuts (you could also use slivered almonds if you have them on hand)

1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta

Juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

First, cook the rice according to package directions, set aside, and keep warm.  Heat the oven to 450 F.  While the rice is cooking, chop the broccolini, including the stems, into 1-inch pieces.  In a medium bowl, toss the broccolini pieces, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper.  Place broccolini in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, tossing once or twice during the cooking process.  The veggies will stick to the pan a little, but this is a good sign that flavor is coming!  While the broccolini is roasting, Heat the other Tbsp. of olive oil with the butter and rosemary in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced onions and cook until they become translucent and slightly browned on the edges.  Next, add the cooked rice and stir to combine.  You’ll hear a sizzle from the rice hitting the heat, but this is a good thing–some of the rice will crisp up slightly for a yummy texture and flavor.  Next, add the roasted broccolini and stir to combine.  Turn off the heat and add the pine nuts and feta.  Slightly stir, squeezing the lemon juice over the rice, then serve immediately.

Simple Salad with Green Apple

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side salad

1 bunch greenleaf lettuce, roughly chopped

1 green apple, diced

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp. dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. orange or peach marmalade

salt and pepper, to taste

Add the lettuce and diced apple to a large bowl.  Whisk together the other ingredients together and pour over the salad, toss, and serve.