Well, the clock is ticking and the countdown is accelerating as we speak: Christmas is less than one month away!!! I still have that kid in me at Christmas! Here is a Polar Express look-alike I spied at Union Station in Chicago recently:
I’m sure you all have quite a list of items you want to accomplish before the family festivities begin on December 24/25. Maybe it looks something like this:
1.Make 10 batches of cookies for the community Christmas bazaar- CHECK (I had to get up at 4:30 A.M. to complete these. I was really running behind).
2.Get everyone’s lists of wanted Christmas items, both business, family and friends together-Still working on this.
3. Get the decorations down from the second story of the barn-CHECK- I have my own tote-down-the-ladder sliding system down pat!
4. Decorate the house and put up the tree- CHECK (I LOVE TO DO THIS!).
5. Get the carpet replaced in the Christmas tree room. Our sweet, now 1 year old pit bull/boxer mix “Mia” ate 2 pens on our white carpet. I know she looks innocent, but she is the culprit!- NO CHECK! We will have to wait till 2018 for some new carpeting!
These are just a few of the items on my list, just like yours, the “to dos” keep growing this time of year!
But I’m not here to talk about your Christmas “to do” list, I’m here to help you with a challenge I encounter (and I’m sure you do too) everytime life really heats up with activities. And that is the nutrition challenge we all face this time of year. The question “What’s for dinner” can be a real struggle! Now, I’m not saying we can’t indulge in treats once in a while. Just as my wily husband Randy gleefully bought a box of donuts when we visited our son Sean and his fiancé Ally in Chicago this past Thanksgiving:
No, I’m talking about the premium fuel (nutrition) you must have to complete all of those Christmas tasks PLUS all the other “stuff of life”! If you don’t have a plan for your meals, and especially dinner on these busy days, you might end up as I have on many occasions, grabbing what I call the “cheese, sausage, cracker, wine and nut” option for dinner. Definitely not a good nightly nutrition choice! And it’s not all about increasing girth we’re talking here. It’s more that feeling of health and wellness you derive from sticking primarily to a nutrition and movement plan, especially during busy times like the holidays!
That is why I’ve highlighted three recipes that are either for 4 or 6 people. They are all tried and true nutrition GAME CHANGERS for me and Randy during the Christmas craziness, or for that matter, anytime of year! Leftovers are even that much sweeter with these recipes! I’ve included nutrition information for each recipe, which is really so important to also keep you on track! You can do these recipes in a snap, with just a little forethought for ingredients. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!!
I. HERBES DE PROVENCE CANNELLINI BEAN & SAUSAGE STEW- This stew has been my go-to for years! Not only can you put it together rapidly, it also includes nutritional powerhouses like kale, leeks, garlic, cannellini beans and fire-roasted tomatoes that taste amazing together!
HERBES DE PROVENCE CANNELLINI BEAN & SAUSAGE STEW
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek (white through light green portion), sliced thinly
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. Herbes de Provence (or just a mix of dried thyme, rosemary and basil will do!)
1-28 oz. can of crushed fire-roasted tomatoes
1-15 oz. can of cannellini beans
1-10 oz. bunch of kales, center rib removed and chopped into ½ inch pieces
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 pre-cooked chicken sausages (I use Al Fresco Spinach & Feta for this)
1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2.In a Dutch Oven (or a large pot with a lid), heat the oil over medium-heat. Add the leek, onion, garlic, salt, herbes de provence and red pepper flakes.
3.Cook, stirring constantly, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes (plus juices), beans, kale and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil.
5.Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and put it in the oven. Cook the veggies until tender, with the kale wilting (about 25-30 minutes).
6. Slice the sausages into ½ inch slices.
7.Remove Dutch oven from oven and add the cooked sausage slices. Season as desired. Spoon into bowls and enjoy!
Serves 4, each serving is: 420 Calories, 15.8 g Fat (4.1 g. saturated, 1.3 g poly. 5 g. mono.), 26.2 g. Protein, 46.3 g. Carbohydrate, 14.3 g. sugars, 8.9 g. Fiber, 984 mg. Sodium.
*Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis
II.“EN-LIGHTENED” CHICKEN ENCHILADAS- If you’ve had Chicken Enchiladas in a Mexican restaurant, you might remember the heaviness of the sauce with the cheese, meat and beans. This dish is a lightened up ingredient-wise (there is no cheese in the chicken/bean mixture) with a just a light dusting of cheese at the end. I promise, the enchanting flavors of Old Mexico are still there in this dish! Yes, Randy was a real fan this dish too!
“EN-LIGHTENED” CHICKEN ENCHILADAS
Olive oil Cooking spray
1 cup prechopped onion
1 cup unsalted chicken broth
1 T. all-purpose flour
1 ½ T. Chili Powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
¼ tsp. salt
1- 15 oz. can unsalted tomato sauce
12 oz. of Chunky chicken (canned is good), shredded
1-15 oz. can unsalted black beans, rinsed and drained
12 (6 inch) corn tortillas
3 oz. pre-shredded 4-cheese Fiesta-blend cheese
2 cups chopped tomatoes
¼ cup chopped cilantro
**1/3 cup (6 oz) of non-fat Greek yogurt
1. Preheat broiler to high.
2.Saute onion in olive oil cooking spray. Put enough in the pan so the onion doesn’t burn. Saute until translucent.
3.Combine next 8 ingredients in a medium saucepan with sautéed onion. Bring to a boil over high; cook 2 minutes or until thickened. Place 1 ½ cups tomato mixture in a bowl; reserve. Add chicken and beans to remaining sauce mixture in pan; cook 2 minutes.
4.Stack tortillas; wrap stack in damp paper towels, and microwave for 25 seconds. Immediately spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture in center of each tortilla; roll up. Arrange filled tortillas, seam sides down, in bottom of 13 x 9 inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooked spray.
5.Top with reserved 1 ½ cups sauce and cheese. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbly.
6 Before serving, top with chopped tomato and cilantro. Serve with mixture of chopped cilantro, a squirt of lemon juice and 2 T. per serving of greek yogurt. Enjoy!
Each serving is 2 tortillas and 2 T. of non-fat greek yogurt mixuture. Each serving is 282 calories, 4.7 g. fat (1 g. sat., .7 g. poly, 1.1 g. mono), 40.3 g. carbohydrate,10.1 g. sugars, 19.6 g. protein, 8.8 g. fiber, 545.8 sodium,
** About 1 oz. or 2 T. of yogurt per serving
*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light.
III. FLATTENED SMOKED PAPRIKA CHICKEN-Randy could not stop raving about this dish. Not only does it “look” like you have more chicken than you really do (because of the flattening step), the smoked paprika, mustard, garlic, chicken stock and almonds are magic together, along with fresh ingredients that top the dish! This dish is pictured with two sides, sautéed green beans with chanterelle mushrooms and sweet peppers, with black rice to finish off the dish. This was one of the most satisfying meals after a hard day’s work of Christmas “to-dos”!!
FLATTENED SMOKED PAPRIKA CHICKEN
4-6 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
3/8 tsp. kosher salt (divided)
¼ tsp. black pepper
Olive oil cooking spray
1 ½ T. olive oil, divided
½ cup unsalted chicken stock
2 cloves garlic, minced
**2 T. unsalted toasted sliced almonds
1 T. water
¼ tsp.finely grated lemon rind
1 T. lemon juice
¼ tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. stone groud Dijon mustard
2 T. finely chopped cilantro
1 oz. green olived, finely sliced
1.Place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound until ¼ inch thickness using a meat mallet or small skillet. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.
2.Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add cooking spray then sear 2 chicken breast halves., cook 3 minutes on each side or until done.
3.Repeat with other 2 breast halves.
4.Reduce heat to medium. Add stock, scraping pan to loosen fond (those are those little bits of brown goodness on the bottom of the pan that need to be loosen up with a liquid to add an amazing depth of flavor). Stir in olive oil. Add garlic; saute 1 minute. Add remaining salt, almonds and next 5 ingredients (through Dijon); cook 1 minute or until heated, stirring occasionally.
5. Spoon almond mixture over chicken. Sprinkle with cilantro and olives.
Serves 4 –Each chicken serving is 267 calories, 13.1 g. fat ( 2.1 g. sat., 2.2 g. poly, 8.1 g mono), 1.7 g carbohydrate, 33.1 g. protein, .6 g. fiber, 138.6 mg. sodium,.2 g. sugars
**You can toast them yourself in a dry pan over moderate heat until slightly golden.
*Recipe adapted from Cooking Light.
Randy & I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year !!! A toast to your good health in 2018!!!