Healthy chicken and mushrooms in a sherry cream sauce

Healthy chicken and mushrooms

The biggest challenge in converting to a healthier lifestyle is finding ways to stay full without feeling deprived. Because I’m so used to scarfing down carbohydrates and large portions (and, you know, large portions of carbohydrates), meal times can pose challenges.

But we’re up for the task.

I recently stumbled upon Nosh My Way: a website with tons of delicious, healthy recipes with Weight Watchers PointsPlus values already calculated (four per serving for this dish). You certainly do not need to be on Weight Watchers to enjoy flavorful, lower-calorie meals — though having Marlene do the calculations ahead of time is awesome.

Her recipe for chicken breasts in a creamy mushroom sauce was delicious — and great for a weeknight. Spencer had a mess of mushrooms that needed to be used up ASAP, and most of these ingredients were already on hand. We made a few additions to the recipe, outlined below, but the original would be great, too.

I just have to add garlic, y’all. It’s a sickness.

We served with Brussels sprouts (because I’m obsessed with them), but it would also be tasty over brown rice. Totally your call.

Healthy chicken and mushrooms
in a sherry cream sauce

Just slightly adapted from Nosh My Way. Serves 4.

• 16 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 white onion, thinly sliced or chopped
• 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced baby bella mushrooms
• 1 tablespoon minced garlic
• 3 tablespoons dry sherry
• 1/2 cup reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
• 4 tablespoons fat-free half and half
• 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or scallion greens
• 2 tablespoons cornstarch

1. Season chicken with pepper and salt on both sides.
2. Spray a medium-sized skillet or Dutch oven with nonstick spray and heat on medium heat.
3. Add the chicken and cook, turning once or twice and adjusting the heat to prevent burning, until brown — about 10 to 12 minutes.
4. Transfer chicken to a separate plate and keep warm.
5. Add onions to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minutes.
6. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes.
7. Pour in sherry; simmer until almost evaporated, scraping up any browned bits, about 1 minute.
8. Pour in broth and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in half and half and cornstarch.
9. Return to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan, turn to coat with sauce and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Add the chives or scallion greens and serve immediately.



Recipe: Baked garlic Parmesan shrimp

Baked garlic parmesan shrimpAs Spencer and I become committed to better eating, I’m desperately searching for full-flavor recipes that deliver the goods without as much fat.

This Weight Watchers recipe about knocked our socks off — especially after a few weeks of relatively hum-drum eating. That’s my fault; as I’m learning the ropes of healthier eating, I tend to stick to “safe” foods (like lean turkey, apples, grilled chicken) before venturing into unknown territory.

This shrimp dish was ready in about 35 minutes, start to finish, and set my tastebuds a’ tinglin’ — in a good way! Plus: cheese. This recipe has delicious cheese on it. Felt like a real treat! And to balance out the “treat” aspect, we served it with a salad and light balsamic dressing.

Baked garlic Parmesan shrimp

Adapted from the Weight Watchers community

1 pound (16 oz.) frozen shrimp, thawed (or fresh, uncooked)
4 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp regular butter, softened
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 425 F. In a baking dish, combine the shrimp, garlic, white wine, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, butter and parsley. Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over the shrimp, followed by the grated Parmesan. Cook 15-18 minutes until shrimp are opaque. Serve immediately. Serves 4 (or two hungry people!).

The first dish I ever cooked: Spanish-style green beans

At the end of my first year of Spanish classes, Señora Volland instructed each of her pimply-faced students to choose a recipe from a massive book and bring it in to share. Being all of 13 years old with zero kitchen experience, I scanned the pages until I found instructions for Spanish-style green beans. Being a big veggie lover, they sounded delicious — and relatively simple. I had my mission.

Since first whipping up this dish fourteen years ago, I’ve brought it to countless parties, family gatherings and other get-togethers. It’s relatively easy, delicious, fresh — and a different way to prepare green beans! I don’t know about you, but I’ve consumed lots of judías verdes in my day. Usually just boiled and lightly buttered. So sprucing up a well-known vegetable is something I can get behind, and this is a favorite of mine.

I’ve prepared this dish using both fresh and canned vegetables — and the fresh ones taste best, of course. But if you’re in a pinch, go ahead and use the canned varieties. You’ll still have a happy dinner crew, promise.

Having copied this recipe down so long ago, I have no clue where it might have originated — though I found similar ones here and here. I’m super partial to my own, though. And I can smell the intoxicating aroma of garlic already . . .

Green beans in tomato sauce
(Judías verdes en salsa de tomate)

1 teaspoon salt
1 lb. fresh green string beans, trimmed and cut into 2 in. lengths
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic
4 med. tomatoes, or 1 1/2 cups canned tomatoes
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tsp. sugar
Black pepper

In a 3 to 4 quart saucepan, bring the salt and 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Drop in the beans, a handful at a time. Bring to a boil again, reduce the heat to moderate and boil uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until beans are slightly tender. Drain and set beans aside.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy 10 to 12 inch skillet until a light haze forms above. Add onions, garlic and stir frequently, cook over moderate heat 5 minutes, until onions are soft and transparent but NOT brown. Stir in tomatoes, parsley, sugar and a few grindings of pepper, bring to a boil, and cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid evaporates and the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape lightly in a spoon.

Stir in the beans and simmer for a minute or two until they are heated through. Taste for seasoning and serve at once from a heated bowl. Serves 4.

I’m linking up with Beth Fish Reads’ Weekend Cooking! Check it out for more great recipes to get you cookin’ and bakin’ before Monday.

New go-to dinner: Turkey oven sandwiches

The menu around our house has slowly grown in diversity, but it takes something special — something very special — to earn a regular spot in our weeknight rotation. One night is taco night. Then we have spaghetti night, or chicken nuggets night. My dad will probably thrown chicken on a grill on a different day, and then we’re left with dreaded Leftovers Night or We’re Going Out to Bob Evans Night.

Then I began combing the web for something new to make with ground turkey, something our freezer seems to never be without. Until a few months ago, ground turkey was reserved for homemade meatballs (thereby placing them on the roster for Spaghetti Night) and not much else. But now? With this recipe for turkey oven sandwiches, the times have been a’ changin’.

I love these because they’re simple, quick and different, plus mighty tasty and easy to prepare after work. And the best part is that they’re completely customizable — appropriate for the varied tastes of your family and guests, for sure. My dad hates celery, for one, so he gets one that’s completely plain . . . no celery, no onion, no nothing (well, besides cheese and sour cream). Everyone’s happy because they get what they want, and I’m happy because . . . well, it’s just delicious.

Whenever I think about making these, the best part is that we usually have everything we need right at home — minus the pita bread. I’ve made many a run to the grocery store and walked out with just pita bread, but it’s worth it. Filling and warm, these “sandwiches” — open-faced, anyway — are definitely comfort food. They don’t have to have the calories of traditional comfort foods, though; it’s easy to use fat-free sour cream instead of regular, reduced-fat cheese, etc.

The recipe below is a guideline, and most ingredients should be considered “to taste.” For instance, Spencer and I are totally nuts over garlic — so way more than the teaspoon below goes into our skillet. I’m also guilty of slapping tons of garlic salt, black pepper and other random spices, and these have never turned out poorly. The last thing you want is bland ground turkey, so go bold! Add what you think your crew will like — I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Also, I can easily make five sandwiches from one package of ground turkey — sometimes six, depending on how hungry everyone is!

Turkey Oven Sandwiches

Adapted from Betty Crocker

For turkey:
1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon black pepper

When layering pitas:
4-6 pita breads
1 medium tomato, diced
1 medium celery stalk, sliced (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (or to taste)

For topping:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Paprika, if desired

1. Heat oven to 425ºF. In a skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil and garlic before adding turkey, poultry seasoning, garlic salt, black pepper and parsley. Stir occasionally until turkey is no longer pink, then drain.

2. Layer pita bread rounds on ungreased baking sheet (it’s okay if they overlap). Layer turkey, celery, red onion, tomato and Cheddar cheese on pitas.

3. Mix sour cream and mayonnaise, then spoon over top. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until topping is light brown. Enjoy!

Chicken satay and peanut sauce — sweet, crunchy, delicious

At a friend’s home in October, members of our local photography club gathered to shoot pictures, snack, chat and enjoy the fading rays of an Indian summer. In addition to the many fabulous desserts and pasta salads was Thai chicken satay — hunks of delicious chicken marinated in coconut milk, curry powder and . . . some other spices we weren’t totally aware of. A kind friend told us a brief outline of her family recipe.

Spencer, my adventurous boyfriend, is never one to back away from a culinary challenge. After feasting on the chicken satay and sharing appreciative glances, Spence began mentally preparing that tasty meal for us in the future.

It just took a few months for it to come to fruition.

On Monday night, I was on “peanut sauce” duty. Because what’s delicious chicken without something to dip it in? Buffalo wings need bleu cheese. Grilled chicken needs barbeque sauce. It’s the way of the world.

Spencer prepared the chicken satay marinade on Sunday, leaving our dinner to settle in the fridge for 24 hours. The recipe below only calls for two hours of chillin’, but I can attest that the day-long yum bath didn’t hurt our meal one bit.

So while he was skewering all the chicken onto sticks, I was pulsing a blender full of onion and minced garlic. We’re not spicy eaters, so we left out the hot chili pepper — but I’m sure that would have given it a nice kick! After the mixture was pureed (and quite intense smelling), into the sauce pan it went. I stirred while trying not to get hot, popping peanut sauce all over my torso, then we added in peanut butter (crunchy!), vinegar and lots of sugar. I like peanut sauce to be more sweet than tangy, so I might have been a little heavy-handed with the sugar crystals. A cup of water was the last thing into the mixture, and then it was left to simmer . . . and that’s it!

Not bad at all, really.

Monday brought a freezing rain/sleet mixture to our neck of the woods in Maryland, but that didn’t deter Spencer from starting up the ol’ grill. The man is primal. Donning our coats, hats and gloves, off to the backyard we went — and the satay was placed over an open flame. It took about a half hour for them to cook, I’d say, which wasn’t bad . . . except we had to keep running into the garage to keep warm. Spencer’s mom, Alex (hi Alex!), called, and we were giggling like children while trying not to freeze and checking our slabs of meat like cave people.

I felt like a cave person.

But it was worth it. The chicken satay was delicious — creamy, but with a nice kick from the curry powder Spencer added to the marinade, plus all the other delicious spices. The peanut sauce had a good blend of sweet and savory (the perfect combination). We made rice to accompany the meal and added in a little curry powder for some color. Satay is a bit ambitious for a week night, but worked out well because Spencer had enough enthusiasm to prep the chicken on a Sunday.

For me? I’m more of a pour-some-spaghetti-in-a-pot and heat-up-some-canned-tomato-sauce sort of girl.

Oh, and cupcakes. I could totally do cupcakes for dinner.

Better stick with Spence so I don’t starve.

Chicken Satay

Recipe from The Perfect Pantry

1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt
A pinch of fresh ground black pepper
2-3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut against the grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices
12 long bamboo skewers, or other skewers of your choice
Peanut sauce

In a small bowl, whisk together everything except the chicken, until the ingredients are incorporated and the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the chicken, and transfer all to a Ziploc bag. Squeeze out the air, and seal the bag. Massage the chicken until it’s coated all around, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Soak skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat your grill to high heat, or prepare a stovetop grill pan. Thread 4-6 pieces of chicken on each skewer, keeping the chicken bunched toward the bottom end of the skewer. Grill the chicken, turning frequently, until crisp, 2 minutes per side. Serve with peanut sauce for dipping. Serves 6-8 (can be halved or doubled).

Thai Peanut Sauce

Recipe from

4 teaspoons corn oil
1/2 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon hot chili pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup of water

In a blender, combine corn oil, onion, garlic and hot chili pepper; blend for 1 minute

Empty the mixture into a saucepan and place over low heat until the mixture starts releasing aroma. Add peanut butter and mix well over low heat.

Add water and let it simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened.

Stir in vinegar and sugar; continue to simmer for another 1-2 minutes. Taste and add more vinegar and sugar if the mixture does not have the sour and sweet taste.

Place sauce in a shallow plate for satay dipping or pour over fresh salad.

My love of capers knows no bounds — so we made Chicken Scallopine

So I’m kind of going through a thing with capers.

It all started on my birthday weekend in July, when Spencer and I went up to Annapolis and had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. If you’ve never been to a Cheesecake Factory, friends, let me caution you: don’t. It’s so good, fatty, filling and delicious, it will ruin you for every other restaurant. And, um, the cheesecake? Cheesecake, people. In a billion different varieties. But if you’re going for dessert, you should skip the whole meal thing altogether. By the time you’re done plowing through your massive entree, any space in your belly for cool, scrumptious cheesecake will have been invaded by meatloaf.

On this particular evening, riding high off a solitary strawberry margarita in honor of the 25th anniversary of my birth, I ordered a chicken piccata dish. On a whim. Because it featured a lemon and caper sauce and, well, that sounded good.

So I ordered it. Spencer and I chatted and made moony, lovey faces at each other. I drank more of my margarita.

And then my chicken piccata came.

And I ate it.

And it was the most delicious thing I’ve ever had in my life.

Was it the perfectly-cooked chicken dripping in the lemon herb reducation? Or maybe the mushrooms — wow, I love mushrooms. Perhaps it was the tender pasta drenched in all that delicious sauce, or . . .

Yes, yes, it was the capers. Totally the capers.

Since I’ve been getting more interested in cooking lately, as we all know, and have had some successes, I decided earlier this week I would whip this one up with Spencer, my favorite sous chef. (Yeah, right — I’m totally his sous chef. Especially since I spend more time taking pictures of dinner than making it.)

After discovering this recipe for Chicken Scallopine over at The Pioneer Woman, one of my favorite blogs, we went to work. And everything went swimmingly! Aside from a mishap wherein I dropped the jar of capers (eek), our stove wouldn’t get hot enough to reduce the white wine (another eek) and our linguine became sticky from sitting too long while the chicken fried (our fault for boiling it too quickly), it was delicious — and relatively simple.

I’d recommend it — especially if you’re all into capers, like I am. Though the recipe calls for a “heaping teaspoon” of the delicious little pickled buds, I could have happily added the entire jar to our pan.

And next time? I’ll be doing just that.

Chicken Scallopine

Recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 pound Linguine
6 whole Boneless, Skinless, Trimmed Chicken Breasts
Salt And Pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Tablespoons Butter
12 ounces, weight White Mushrooms, Sliced Thin
1 cup Dry White Wine
Chicken Broth (optional)
1 whole Lemon
½ cups Heavy Cream (can Use Half-and-Half)
1 teaspoon (heaping) Capers
Chopped Fresh Italian Parsley
Parmesan Cheese, For Topping

Preparation Instructions:

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Flatten chicken breasts to uniform thickness. Salt and pepper both sides, then dredge in flour. Heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry chicken breasts until golden brown. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Throw mushrooms into the pan and stir. Immediately pour in wine and chicken broth (optional), and then squeeze juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon. Stir to deglaze the pan, and then cook vigorously for 1 minute, until sauce reduces.

Pour in cream and stir, then add capers and parsley and stir. Turn off heat. Stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Don’t under salt!

Place pasta and chicken on a platter and top with every last drop of sauce. Generously sprinkle Parmesan Cheese over the top.