light chinese chicken salad with sesame ginger vinaigrette.

It seems ubiquitous that my 100th post(!) is a salad. I suppose it would be completely appropriate if my salad was lemon-themed, but let’s face it, I am just not that organized, and lemons were not in my meal plan this week, aside from my daily warm lemon water routine (<– SO good for you!).

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However, today’s recipe is a salad of Asian inspiration, which is fitting, seeing as Asian flavors are ones that I never, ever tire of. Do you have flavors/cuisines like that? Even with the copious and frankly embarrassing amounts of ginger I consume on a weekly basis, I can never get enough. So I bring you a light and healthy Chinese chicken salad. I don’t think this recipe is authentically Chinese in any realm, but these salads have enjoyed massive popularity for years. Sadly, most restaurant versions are positively laden with sodium and fat, and before you know it, your “healthy” meal has turned into a calorie bomb. No thank you.

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Here, we are grilling our lean chicken breasts (you can use boneless, skinless thigh meat if that’s what you prefer), throwing tons of delicious veggies into our salad, and topping off with a delicious dressing that is rich, thanks to the sesame oil, but not cloying at all. Sliced, roasted almonds provide the crunch factor, and provide us with healthy fats which keep us fuller, longer. This is one recipe I can make over and over again, and never tire of. I hope it’ll do the same for you!

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light + healthy chinese chicken salad.
inspired by many of the Chinese chicken salads I’ve had over the years. 

1 heart of romaine, chopped
2 cups savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, shredded
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup roasted, sliced almonds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, lightly pounded
sea salt and black pepper

dressing:
2 tablespoons low-sodium tamari, or gluten free soy sauce
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sriracha or chile-garlic sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
1 tablespoon diced fresh ginger

directions
To make the dressing: combine all ingredients except oil into a blender. With the blender on medium, stream in the tablespoon of oil to emulsify. Pour into a container and set aside.

To cook chicken: Turn the grill, grill pan or heavy cast iron skillet onto/over medium-high. Season chicken breast halves with salt and pepper. If using a grill pan or skillet, add in one teaspoon of grapeseed oil to the pan to heat. Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes per side, or until no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove to a platter, and cut into thin slices.

To assemble salad: In a large mixing bowl add cabbage, lettuce, carrots, red bell pepper, cilantro, almonds and sesame seeds. Add half the dressing, and lightly toss. Top with chicken and additional dressing if desired.

Serves 2 as a main dish salads.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

thai chicken noodles with red peppers + basil.

Happy Thursday! This week sure has seemed long, hasn’t it? I’ve had a series of deadlines and deliverables looming over me, both at work and for school, so my free time has been greatly reduced. Who needs to sleep??

While amounts of sleep may be variable, the need to eat certainly is not! I know we all need  easy dishes that come together quickly and stay delicious for next day lunches. Today’s recipe is just that: a rice noodle dish positively loaded with veggies and protein to keep you full and satisfied through the most stressful of days. I’m not sure how authentically Thai this dish is, but I promise you it is positively delicious!

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I like the thin brown rice noodles for this, often called ‘stir fry’ noodles at the grocery store. The brown rice adds additional whole grains and fiber, but if you cannot find, simply substitute white ones. I let them soak until they are just shy of soft, as they will cook a bit in the wok, and continue to soften as they sit. Six ounces of baby spinach (weight) may seem like a lot, but it wilts quickly and you’ll be surprised at how much it cooks down.

Serve with some sake, or a crisp white wine, and congratulate yourself on cooking a healthy, filling meal in less time than it takes to order takeout!

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thai chicken noodles with red peppers + basil.
a ‘PTL’ original. 

directions
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh, minced ginger
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
2 red bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced
1/2-3/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
6 ounces baby spinach
1/3 cup fresh basil, minced
1 lime, juiced
8 ounces thin brown or white rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
sea salt and black pepper, if desired (optional)

directions
Heat oil in wok over high heat.  Stir fry chicken for 3-4 minutes, or until no longer pink.

Add bell peppers, ginger, and garlic; sauté until peppers just begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add green onions; toss 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, lime juice and crushed red pepper.

Toss to blend, about 1 minute. Add thai rice noodles. Add spinach in 3 additions, tossing until beginning to wilt, about 1 minute for each addition. Mix in basil. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Toss consistently, to prevent the noodles from sticking.

Serve immediately. Serves 3-4.

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.

Do you ever get an idea in your head and it will. not. go. away. until you make it?? That is today’s recipe for me. A colleague brought in leftover stuffed peppers (mmmmmm) a few weeks ago for lunch, and an idea suddenly popped in my head: chicken parmesan stuffed peppers. Sounds delicious, right? Well, I thought so too, so I looked around on the internet and the few recipes I could find weren’t calling out to me, so I decided to create them. If I do say so myself, these are a winner.

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Inside of frying the chicken a la chicken parm, I decided to impart that crispy crunchiness by topping the peppers with a whole wheat panko, cheese and parsley topping. Delicious, and a great way to cut down on calories. We are using whole wheat orzo pasta in the filling, but feel free to use regular orzo pasta. I also found these super cute teeny tiny little fresh mozzarella balls, but any small fresh mozzarella will work for this. Mine were about 1/2 inch big, but you could always buy a big ball of it, and cut it down. That would probably be more economical, but hey, I was all about convenience, and cuteness.

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This recipe seems long, but it’s really just cooking each component, adding them together, and then assembling the peppers. Beautiful! My friend James and I devoured these the night I made them. The recipe makes five as written, and three of my peppers were on the smaller side. One big one was almost too much. As with many casserole type dishes, these get better the next day.

A portable, healthy way to get my chicken parmesan craving? yes, please!

chicken parmesan stuffed peppers.
a ‘PTL’ original recipe. 

ingredients
12-15 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached or roasted, shredded or cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
scant one cup whole wheat orzo, cooked
5 assorted bell peppers, tops cut off, seeded, tops reserved and diced (preferably red/orange/yellow)
1/2 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup fresh baby mozzarella balls
1 1/2 cups jarred marinana sauce, 1/2 cup reserved
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

topping:
1/3 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
sea salt and pepper, to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon each)
5 baby mozzarella balls (optional)
fresh basil leaves, to garnish (optional)

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In an oval 2 quart dish, add cut peppers, standing up to the dish. Cover with foil, and bake in oven for 10-15 minutes to slightly soften the peppers. Remove dish and let cool. Set aside.

To cook the chicken: Heat a deep skillet with one tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add chicken breasts, cover and let cook for 20 minutes until cooked through. Remove from heat, let cook for 3-5 minutes, and then shred or cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

Heat a pot with boiling water and cook orzo to package directions for al dente. Remove, strain, and then add cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Make the panko topping: combine bread crumbs, cheese, parsley and salt and pepper. Toss together with a fork.

While orzo is cooking, heat a small skillet over medium high heat with remaining tablespoon of oil. Add diced onion, diced pepper tops, and garlic to skillet and cook, stirring often for 5-7 minutes, until slightly softened and lightly charred. Remove and add to mixing bowl. Add cooked, chopped chicken, marinara sauce, oregano, salt, pepper, basil and crushed red pepper is using. Lightly toss. Add baby mozzarella balls and lightly toss again.

Using a spoon, carefully fill each pepper with filling to the top of the pepper. Add a small spoonful of sauce to each top, and spoon the remaining sauce around the peppers in the casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes, checking after 30 minutes to assess softening of peppers. Once peppers “give” a little (about 45 minutes), remove foil, add the panko topping, and top each pepper with remaining mozzarella ball. Turn the oven to the broil setting, and broil for 3-5 minutes, keeping an eye on them to ensure no burning.

Remove from the oven, and let sit for a few minutes. Serve, topped with ribbons of basil.

Serves 5.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible** 

chicken taco stuffed zucchini boats.

I know this is my second zucchini recipe in a row, but if you’re anything like me, you are positively overflowing with zucchini right now. I tell you, every summer! My grandmother gifted me with a few from her garden, and while most of them were of normal size, there was one gigantic squash. I stuck it in the refrigerator while I waited for inspiration to strike. I had just made cookies, so I didn’t want to use it for another baked good. I wanted to use the whole thing in one dish, so I decided on stuffed zucchini, or zucchini ‘boats’! I decided to play around with the flavors for this recipe, and went with Mexican flavors.

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Stuffed with Tex-Mex spiced ground chicken, hearty healthy black beans, and rounded out with some extra vegetables, and we have a very healthy take on tacos!

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Naturally gluten free, the filling is chock full of protein, thanks to the black beans and lean ground chicken. If you’re avoiding dairy, just omit the jack cheese and the cotija.

Now I had a huge squash, so a quarter of the squash would serve on person. If you have normal sized zucchinis, you can plan on one half per person for a medium sized one, or two halves for a small squash. This comes together quickly and is so incredibly filling!

chicken taco stuffed zucchini boats. 

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ingredients
2 large or 4 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise with seeds scooped out
1/2 pound ground chicken
1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 cup of zucchini, diced
1.5 tablespoons of taco seasoning (homemade or purchased)
1 10 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes with chiles
1/4 cup of salsa, plus extra for serving
monterey jack cheese, for serving
cotija cheese, for serving
cilantro, for serving
sea salt
black pepper

directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying with non-stick cooking spray. Lightly spray each zucchini half. Place skin side up and bake for 10-15 minutes, until just slightly softened. Remove from oven and set aside. Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat. Add a drizzle of grapeseed oil. Once the oil is shimmery and hot, add the chicken. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until no longer pink. Add the onion and garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes until the onions are translucent and beginning to soften. Add your taco seasoning blend, salt and pepper. Add in bell pepper and zucchini and cook for 1-2 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add in fire roasted tomatoes with chiles and salsa. Stir well to combine and allow to simmer softly until everything is heated through and the flavors combine (about 5 additional minutes).

To assemble: Divide the chicken mixture evenly amongst the zucchini boats, top with desired melting cheese (NOT cotija) and put into the oven. Bake for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Serve, topping with cotija and cilantro. Serve with additional salsa if desired.

Serves 4.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible** 

 

skinny chicken parmesan with zucchini noodles.

Chicken Parmesan. That crispy breading, juicy chicken, all deliciously covered in fatty, salty melted cheese and smothered in marinara sauce…. YUM. If that wasn’t decadent enough, let’s throw it all on a massive bed of pasta! Yes? Well, that would indeed be very tasty, but not exactly light. In any sense. Luckily, I have a delicious “skinny” version of chicken parm that will delight your taste buds and satisfy the craving without weighing you down! Perfect for the upcoming warm weather, especially since Memorial Day is ten days away. Um, hi…. When did summer arrive?

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So, how did I skinny-ify Chicken Parm? Well, one of the major ways was to get rid of that huge piece of mozzarella or provolone atop each chicken piece. I know, I know, but before you balk, hear me out. We’re going to swap in salty, intense Pecorino Romano cheese and mix it in with the breading, so that the chicken itself will be nice and cheesy. Pecorino Romano is a full flavored, hard cheese, which is perfect for recipes like this because harder cheeses tend to have less fat, and their full flavor means a little goes a long way.

We are also using whole wheat panko bread crumbs instead of regular. Panko is a Japanese style bread crumb which only uses crustless bread, which results in lighter, airier crumbs. We are also only using an egg white instead of the whole egg, which lowers the fat and calories. As I made this on a weeknight, I used my favorite Marinara from Newman’s, but feel free to make your own! If using store-bought like me, please look for ones that have no more than 80 calories a serving and are low in added sugar.

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One more thing! The pasta. Dump the wheat and serve over zucchini noodles, or “zoodles”. I know they are trendy, but with good reason. They are delicious, and a great way to get a serving of vegetables into a dish that only gets its veggies from the tomato sauce. I used a handheld spiralizer, but you can slice the zucchini very thin (1/8-1/16 of an inch) on a mandoline, or carefully slice very thinly with a sharp knife. They only need a minute in a hot skillet, and they are perfect. My grandparents used to make a tomato sauce with chopped zucchini and then can it, so the pairing of the two together is so nostalgic and lovely for me.  A bonus? This will be safe for any gluten free friends and family.

I hope you love this as much as I do! Your waistline will. ; )

Skinny chicken parmesan with zucchini noodles.
inspired by Cooking Yourself Thin.

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Ingredients

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (halved and pounded thin, ¼ inch thick)*
½ cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese, plus 2 tablespoons
1 egg white
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning (a mix of rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
3 medium zucchini, spiralized or sliced very thin
2 cups marinara sauce (this is the one I use when I purchase it)
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

Directions

Heat a large, heavy bottomed skillet on medium heat and add oil, swirling to coat bottom of the pan. Once chicken is pounded, season with salt and pepper and set aside.

In one shallow dish, mix together bread crumbs and cheese. In another shallow dish mix whisk egg white until light and fluffy. One by one, dip chicken in egg white and then into the bread crumb/cheese mixture, pressing breading to chicken if needed. Immediately place in skillet. Repeat with remaining chicken cutlets. Cook on medium heat for 4 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove and keep warm.

While chicken is cooking, heat sauce in a small saucepan over medium low heat.  Heat another skillet on medium heat and add zucchini noodles. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often until slightly softened. Add some of the warmed sauce to the noodles and combine. Divide evenly among 4 plates. Top with chicken and 1/3 cup of sauce, and ½ tablespoon of reserved cheese.

Serves 4.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**

Notes: My chicken package had two chicken breasts, resulting in ½ pound, which resulted in 4 cutlets. 1 pound should yield 8 cutlets, or 2/per person

Zucchini noodles keep well for one day. If planning on making chicken ahead of time, make noodles the night you plan to serve.

easiest ever slow cooker orange chicken.

This might be the easiest dinner I’ve ever made that turned out so insanely delicious. Lots of things are easy to make (ahem, all the food in the frozen section), but super simple and oh-so delicious are not always synonymous. Then I made this orange chicken in my slow cooker, and those worlds collided, just a little bit.

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In truth, I had an entirely different dinner planned (which seems to happen to me a lot). I was flipping through my recipe book for inspiration, and came across an old magazine recipe and realized that I had every single ingredient hanging out in my refrigerator at that exact moment. Which almost never happens, considering this calls for orange marmalade. I rarely have any type of jelly/jam/preserves, as I like my toast with butter and a drizzle of honey. I had purchased the marmalade for testing a recipe a few weeks back (it was a fail, but it left me with a half of a jar). This also calls for barbecue sauce, which I usually make from scratch, but happened to have a bottle leftover as well. As soon as I realized that I’d be able to use up some of the condiments in my possession and end up with a yummy dinner with next to no effort? I’m in. 

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Honestly? I did not expect this to be so good, let alone blog-worthy! I figured it would be tasty, an easy way to use up ingredients and keep me stacked for lunches for the next few days. But, no. This was delicious, made all the more amazing by how easy peasy lemon squeezy it was to make. 3.5-4 hours in the slow cooker and you’re DONE. Serve it up with some rice, steamed veggies, or with some ginger scallion quinoa, like I did. You won’t be sorry!

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slow cooker orange chicken.
adapted from Food + Family magazine.

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ingredients

1 pound boneless, chicken chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup barbecue sauce (scratch, or your favorite. I like Stubb’s)
1/3 cup bitter orange marmalade (see note*)
2 tablespoons GF soy sauce or tamari
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
1.5 tablespoons of GF cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 scallions, thinly sliced (optional)

directions

Combine chicken and cornstarch in slow cooker, toss gently to combine and coat the chicken pieces.

Add marmalade, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, pepper, garlic and ginger in a separate bowl, whisk to combine. Pour over chicken. Cook on low for 3-3.5 hours, checking after 3 hours for doneness. Turn heat up to high and let cook for 15-30 minutes longer, stirring occassionally, until sauce reaches your desired thickness.

Serve hot with cooked rice, quinoa or steamed vegetables.

Serves 4.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**

NOTE: I searched high and low for a marmalade that did NOT contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. I found Hero brand’s premium bitter orange marmalade, that was HCFS-free and much less sweet, which I much prefer. I recommend it.

 

roasted red pepper + spinach chicken burgers.

A chicken burger that is moist, flavorful and practically guilt free?? It’s possible!

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I love that time of the month when all my cooking magazines arrive. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love all my food blogs and websites, but there is something about flipping through magazines and cookbooks that I just crave. Cooking Light is one of my favorite magazines to get: the recipes are inherently healthier than the average recipe, and I always see tons of things I want to make right away. On the rare occasions that I actually have my stuff together, that happens. More realistically, life gets in the way, and I end up eating white cheddar popcorn, a spicy tuna roll and a teeny cup of lentil soup for dinner. Perhaps that was last night’s dinner… What? It was a long week.

Anyway, back to the burgers. Spring is just around the corner, and that makes me think of grilling all kinds of yummy foods. Ironically, I don’t yet own a grill, so these were made in a pan right on the stove top! You can absolutely grill these, just let them set up a bit in the refrigerator or freezer to lessen the chance of them falling apart on the grill.

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As mentioned above, chicken burgers can be drrrrrry, but not these! We are using roasted red peppers (the jarred ones) in this recipe, and I think that helps with keeping the moisture in these burgers. One pound of ground chicken made me five burger patties that were on the smaller side. You could make these a quarter of a pound each, but the spinach and peppers helped stretch these to five patties.

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To serve I added some honey mustard, a thick slab of feta, some spring greens on a whole wheat English muffin, and ohmygoodnessdeliciousness. That’s not really a word, but it aptly describes these burgers!

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A hint of spice, tang from the peppers and that salty, briny flavor of the feta. Yes, please.

roasted red pepper + spinach chicken burgers.
inspired and adapted from cooking light, April 2016.

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ingredients
1 pound ground chicken
1/3 cup fresh spinach, finely chopped
1/3 roasted red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 crushed red pepper

to serve
feta cheese
honey mustard (equal parts dijon mustard and raw honey)
spring field greens
whole wheat English muffins, lightly toasted

directions

In a large bowl, combine the finely chopped spinach, roasted red peppers (patted to absorb excess oil) and ground chicken. Add in coriander, thyme, garlic powder, salt, pepper and red pepper. Mix gently to combine with hands, being very careful not to over mix.

Shape into five patties, lay onto a cutting board and refrigerate for ten minutes (required if you plan to grill). Remove, let them sit at room temperature while the pan or grill heats.

While the burgers are resting, heat one tablespoon of grape seed oil to a cast iron or stainless skillet over medium-high heat. Cook burgers for 4-5 minutes on each side, covering the skillet after flipping. Remove and keep warm if cooking in batches.

To assemble: Lightly toast the muffin or bun and lightly spread the honey mustard on each bun. Add burger, top with a slab of feta cheese (about 1/4 inch thick) and spring greens. Add top bun and enjoy!

Serves 5. **Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**