Salad Days

I was in the mood for salad today, but too lazy to make it myself. So, off to Trader Joe’s.

When I worked full-time, I depended on TJ’s premade, single-serving salads to get me through the week. My favorite has always been the TJ Tomato and Mozzarella, made with fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes, pine nuts, and a lovely spring mix consisting of spinach, chard, arugula, and various types of lettuce.

TJ’s salads come in containers that fit well into most standard-size lunch bags. The dressing is packed separately in a plastic envelope.

I added an envelope of Starkist tuna for protein, and half an avocado for….well, substance. It was delicious!

If you’re into counting calories and nutrients, here’s the label for this item:

Nutrients for Trader Joe’s Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

As you can see, using the entire envelope of their balsamic dressing adds a lot of calories. I chose to use half and found that satisfactory. Another option is to use your favorite low-fat balsamic vinaigrette. There are several brands in most supermarkets.

Whole Wheat Chicken Enchiladas/Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice

Whole wheat enchiladas with cilantro-lime brown rice



Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone!

This menu may look a little complex, but the two dishes can be quickly and easily assembled with pre-cooked, pre-packaged ingredients. The rice and enchiladas freeze and re-heat well in a microwave or Hot Logic thermal bag (see my “Gadgets” section for more on the Hot Logic). A great brown bag lunch!

Let’s begin with the enchiladas:

WHOLE WHEAT CHICKEN ENCHILADAS (6 enchiladas)

  • 2 cups pre-cooked shredded cooked chicken (use store-bought rotisserie chicken)
  • 2 8-oz. packages Frontera Enchilada Sauce (in Latino food section. You can substitute a 16 oz. can of enchilada sauce)
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups Cheddar cheese (you can buy pre-grated Cheddar cheese in the deli section of your supermarket)
  • 6 “La Tortilla Factory” Low Carb whole wheat tortillas *

1.Pour one package of enchilada sauce into a saucepan. Add chicken. Heat on “Low” until simmering. Turn off the burner.

2.Place a tortilla in a 9”x9” casserole dish. Put 1/4 cup of the chicken-sauce mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Add 1/4 cup grated cheese and top with a couple of slices of onion. Roll up the tortilla around the mixture, leaving ends open. Repeat until you have six completed enchiladas.

3.Pour the second package of sauce over the enchiladas. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese and sliced onions on top. This dish can be microwaved on High for one to one and a half minutes, or until cheese is bubbling.

*Each La Tortilleria tortilla contains 50 calories, 8 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and 11 grams of carbohydrates. In addition, each tortilla has only two grams of unsaturated fat and 200mg of sodium.

CILANTRO-LIME BROWN RICE (2 medium servings)

I first tried this dish at Cheesecake Factory and fell in love at first bite. Their version calls for white rice. In the recipe below, I use brown.

  • One plastic envelope Trader Joe’s Frozen Brown Rice
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro stir-in paste (I found a tube in the produce department at my local Albertson’s)
  • Juice of one large lime

1.Heat up the rice according to instructions.

2.Stir in the cilantro paste and lime juice. Delicious with the enchiladas!



Flatbread Chicken and Bean Burrito

In a previous post, I mentioned a super food that you can purchase at the deli section of many major grocery store chains. I’m talking about Flatout Flatbread.

This bakery product is low cal (90 calories per wrap), high protein (7 grams per wrap), and high fiber (10 grams per wrap). It tastes pretty good, also.

Today, I’m going to show you how to make a nutritious, low fat version of one of my faves: Chicken and bean burritos!

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FLATBREAD BURRITOS (makes 3 burritos, appx. 300 calories per burrito)

1.Combine together in a mixing bowl:

  • 8 oz. canned fat-free refried beans
  • 1 cup chopped roasted chicken breast
  • 2-3 tablespoons taco sauce

2.Spread about 1/2 cup of the mixture onto the smooth side of a flatbread wrap as shown in picture below.

3.Fold the sides of the wrap inward as shown in picture below.

3.Roll the wrap into a cylinder as shown in picture below.

These items can be wrapped, frozen, and re-heated later. When packing for lunch, don’t forget to bring some extra taco sauce!

Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Smoothie

My brother Jack’s morning smoothie

I’m a little late with my blog post this week, as I just got back from visiting my brother Jack in Memphis, TN. Memphis is a great town for some great eats: Spare ribs, fried chicken, catfish, collards….yum! But in order to keep balanced nutritionally, Jack makes himself a smoothie for breakfast every morning. Above, you see bananas, pears, berries, spinach, pineapple, an entire lime, and a little bit of fresh ginger. Jack blended this mish-mash for a minute or two into a lovely, thick veggie malt. By the way, no added sugar….just the fructose in the ingredients. It was delicious!

Squash and Tomato Saute

Yellow crookneck squash and tomatoes

For my low-carb people, here is a nice side dish that pairs well with roasted chicken, turkey, meatloaf or cooked hamburger. It heats up well in the microwave or in the Hot Logic mini oven/lunchpail. (see https://myhotlogic.com for more info on this device.) And it is so colorful!

SQUASH-TOMATO SAUTE (2-3 servings)

  • Two tablespoons of pure olive oil
  • One large yellow crookneck squash, sliced crosswise
  • One medium sweet yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • Two small on-the-vine tomatoes, chopped
  • Approximately 1 to 1 1/2 cups water
  • One small package of fresh dill, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and add squash and onion. Saute for four minutes, constantly stirring.
  2. Add tomatoes and saute for one minute more.
  3. Add enough water to cover. Mix in minced dill plus salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add additional water if needed.
  5. Serve immediately.

Adventures in Nuking: Egg Custard

Microwave Egg Custard

That’s right folks….I actually cooked egg custard in the microwave. The recipe can be found later on in this post.

I was brought up believing that microwave ovens are primarily useful to warm up frozen and precooked foods. And there are a couple of dishes that cook from a state of rawness very well; for example, salmon and trout.

However, I would never have imagined that nuked egg custard is possible until a friend gave me the following recipe a couple of weeks ago.

MICROWAVE EGG CUSTARD (4 Servings)

  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk *, warmed to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Nutmeg
  1. Warm milk to appropriate temperature (30 seconds in the microwave will do it.)
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, add milk, sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla.
  3. Using the lowest speed on rotary beater, mix until well combined. (You can use a whisk instead of an electric beater.)
  4. Pour the mixture into four 6-oz. round custard cups, filling 3/4 full.
  5. Sprinkle with nutmeg.
  6. Cook, uncovered, on High for 4 1/4 to 5 minutes, or until the custard starts to bubble.
  7. Cool, and then refrigerate.**

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*Do not use low-fat or fat-free milk in this recipe. Otherwise, you will get watery custard. I have not yet tried vegan products like soy milk or nut milks.

**It is necessary to completely refrigerate the custard overnight prior to consumption, in order for it to set properly. Eaten cold, the custard will be firm with an creamy eggnog layer on the bottom of the cup. The recipe instructions indicate that you can warm the refrigerated custard by placing in the microwave for 30 seconds, then let stand 1 minute to distribute heat. I have not tried this recipe reheated, but it is very tasty cold.

For a brown bagger, this dish would be delicious as a breakfast item, perhaps with granola and/or blue berries. And egg custard is always good for dessert!

Recipe: Fajitas with Pre-Cooked Chicken

Every once in a while, I purchase one of those wonderful roasted chickens they feature in the deli section of my supermarket. It is, of course, a challenge to use up the entire bird when you’re preparing meals for just one person. But I just can’t resist the smell of those chickens! (By the way, I prefer the herb-roasted variety.)

Here’s one way to use the meat from a roasted chicken:

FAJITAS WITH PRE-COOKED CHICKEN (3-4 servings)

  • Three tablespoons pure olive oil
  • One sweet yellow onion, chopped
  • Two red bell peppers, cut into 1/2″x2″ slices
  • Three cups herb-roasted chicken, shredded
  • One packet (1.0 oz.) Lawry’s Chicken Fajitas mix
  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions and bell peppers, and saute for three minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Stir in the Lawry’s Chicken Fajitas mix and cook for one more minute.
  3. Stir in the chicken and cook for two more minutes.

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I find that making this dish ahead of time, wrapping it tightly and placing in the frig overnight helps to incorporate the flavors into the chicken better. This dish re-heats well in the microwave, Crockpot Lunch Warmer, or Hot Logic convection oven (see the “Gadgets” section for more on these brown bag devices). It’s delicious with a side of re-fried beans and/or warmed up corn tortillas.