African Tomato and Peanut Chicken Stew

It is African Heritage Week and Black History Month. What a great time to learn about other heritages and cultures through food. This week, I’ll be highlighting some dishes inspired by African flavors and seasonings. I hope you enjoy them!

Today, it seems to be a fairly straightforward tomato and chicken stew, but then you season it with peanut butter. But it really works. And don’t be afraid of exotic foods when feeding kids. All of the not grumpy kids at my house asked for seconds of this. Serve it as is or with some rice. Enjoy!

African Tomato and Peanut Chicken Stew (Serves 6)

African Tomato and Peanut Chicken Stew

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into small pieces
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 (14.5 ounce cans) fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1. Add olive oil to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook for 1½ minutes, then toss and add onion, bell pepper and garlic. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add ginger and cayenne pepper, and peanut butter, stirring to combine. Cook for 30 seconds.
3. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F and sauce thickens slightly.

Nutritional information:

Calories: 220
Protein: 21 g
Fat: 11 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 107 mg
Carbohydrates: 11 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 274 mg

Source: slightly adapted from Stone Soup

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Layered Greek Dip

I saw a funny meme awhile ago that said, “Do the chips and salsa end or do I just die or what?” It made me laugh, because I LOVE chips and salsa or any kind of dip. It’s hard for me to pass up a recipe for a new kind of dip to try.

This recipe is kind of a twist on the classic Mexican 7 layer dip. I love Greek or Mediterranean flavors. This dip is also extremely flexible – use the parts you like, leave off parts you don’t. Mix it up. This can also be made in smaller portions for a quick healthy lunch with crackers/pita chips, or made onto a bagel for a yummy vegetarian sandwich!

Layered Greek Dip (Serves about 8)

Layered Greek Dip

1 cup hummus
¾ cup plain nonfat greek yogurt (about 1 small container)
1 cup chopped spinach or lettuce
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped cucumber
½ cup chopped kalamata olives
2 T. crumbled feta cheese

1. Spread hummus on serving plate. Carefully spread yogurt on top. Sprinkle remaining toppings in successive layers on top.

2. Chill or serve immediately. Serve with pita chips, crackers, or tortilla chips.

Nutritional information:

Calories: 107
Protein: 5 g
Fat: 7 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 3 mg
Carbohydrates: 7 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 231 mg

Recipe notes: I usually only put olives on half when I’m making this for a crowd, since they are kind of a divisive ingredient. If you have flavored hummus or tzatziki sauce, definitely use those in place of the regular hummus and yogurt.

Source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

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Steak and Feta Quesadillas

What game day foods are your favorites? Wings? Pizza? Chips and dip? We keep it a bit more snack and finger food at our house typically. But that doesn’t mean you have to eat only unhealthy foods.

Today’s recipe is great for your game watching party or a quick weeknight dinner. The spinach packs a great nutritional punch without being an overpowering flavor. Using cream cheese and just a sprinkling of feta lowers the sodium compared to a normal cheesy quesadilla. Enjoy!

Steak and Feta Quesadillas (Serves 4, as a meal)

Steak and Feta Quesadillas

1 T. olive oil
1 large (10-12 oz) sirloin steak, thinly sliced*
½ large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
2 ounces ⅓ less fat cream cheese
¼ cup feta cheese, crumbled
4 large whole wheat tortillas
¼ cup low fat sour cream

1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook steak about 3 minutes, or until beginning to brown.

2. Add onions and garlic; cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until onion beginning to soften.

3. Add spinach, cream cheese, and feta. Cook, stirring, until cream cheese is melted. Remove from pan (if using same pan for quesadillas).

4. Wipe pan clean (if using same pan). Heat same skillet (or a griddle) to medium-high heat. Place one tortilla in pan. Cook for 1 minute, until beginning to warm. Flip. Spoon about 1/3 cup steak mixture evenly over half of tortilla. Fold tortilla in half. Cook for 3 minutes, then flip and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until each side is crisp. Repeat with remaining quesadillas.

5. Cut into wedges to serve. Serve with sour cream.

Nutritional Analysis:

Calories: 420
Protein: 25 g
Fat: 24 g
Saturated Fat: 11 g
Cholesterol: 85 g
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 414 mg

Recipe notes: You could use a variety of different meats here. I’ve used sirloin, flank steak, and leftover tri-tip. It all turns out really well.

Source: adapted from Cooking Light

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Buffalo Chicken Wings

The Super Bowl is this Sunday! I’m not a particularly huge football fan, but I do enjoy watching games with my husband. I also like all the food that goes along with watching the Super Bowl. It’s a fun time to make a spread of yummy snacks and spend time together.

Chicken wings are a classic game day food. With the skin on and frying them, these are typically not the healthiest snack. This recipe skips the frying to lower the fat content. If you put the wings on a rack during the broiling, some of the fat will also drain off. Top with whatever sauce you like. I used buffalo sauce for a traditional approach. This recipe is just a general guideline, so there won’t be any nutrition analysis this time. Enjoy!

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Buffalo Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings – with the joint separated
Buffalo Sauce
Celery
Ranch or Bleu Cheese Dressing

1. Place chicken wings in slow cooker with ½ a cup of sauce. Cook on low for 4-6 hours, until tender.

2. Heat broiler to hi. Line a baking sheet with foil. If possible, place metal rack on top of foil.

3. Carefully put wings on prepared baking sheet. Lightly coat each wing with sauce. Broil on high for 2-4 minutes, just until outside is crisping. You can turn partway through if needed to crisp all the sides.

4. Serve with additional sauce, celery, and dressing.

Recipe notes: You could use whatever sauce you like. The slow cooker makes the wings very tender and juicy. By cooking them in the sauce, the flavor is in the meat already, so you don’t need to coat them with as much sauce later.

What is your favorite game day food? Did you make this recipe? Let me know in the comments.

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Chinese New Year – 3 recipes

This coming Saturday (January 25th) is Chinese New Year.  I love celebrating holidays like this in even a small way with my family.  Food is a great way to introduce our families to other cultures.  It gives our children even a small insight into how people might live differently than us.  They have different food, clothes, holidays, traditions, etc.  This variety is what makes life and the world interesting.

Today I have 3 recipes that make for a fun asian inspired dinner.  Sweet and sour is my kids’ favorite thing.  So I knew I needed to find a way to make this at home.  They don’t eat most of the vegetables when we get sweet and sour from a restaurant, so I put a spin on broccoli that I knew they would like.  If you are doing keto or lo carb, this zoodle lo mein is a really quick and tasty option.  Enjoy!

Sweet and Sour Chicken (serves 4)

Sweet and Sour Chicken with Soy Ginger Broccoli

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite size pieces
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks in juice, 6 tablespoons of juice saved
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cornstarch
red food coloring, optional

1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces. Cook until cooked through (about 5-7 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces).

2. While chicken cooks, mix remaining ingredients minus pineapple chunks together well. Whisk to remove clumps of cornstarch. Add red food coloring if desired to get that traditional bright red color.

3. When chicken is done, stir in pineapple. Reduce heat to medium. Cook for 1-2 minutes, just to heat through. Add sauce mixture. Cook, stirring until desired thickness, 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Nutrition information:

Calories: 296
Protein: 31 g
Fat: 7 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Cholesterol: 100 mg
Carbohydrates: 25 g
Fiber: 1 g
Sodium: 180 mg

Source: adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Soy Ginger Broccoli (serves 4)

1 teaspoon olive oil
2 heads of broccoli, chopped into florets (about 4 cups)
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

1. Heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium high heat.

2. Add broccoli. Cook stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger. Cook stirring frequently for 1 more minute.

3. Stir in soy sauce. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Source: own recipe

Nutrition information:

Calories: 45
Protein: 3 g
Fat: 1 g
Saturated fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 7 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 158 mg

Zoodle Lo Mein (serves 4)

Zoodle Lo Mein

3 zucchini
½ tablespoon canola oil
½ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup chopped cauliflower
½ cup water
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1. Create “zoodles” with a spiralizer.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion through cauliflower. Saute about 5 minutes. Add water, cover, and cook until water is evaporated and vegetables are tender.

3. Add zoodles. Saute 2-3 minutes until all ingredients combined.

4. Add hoisin sauce and soy sauce. Stir to coat and cook until heated through. Serve immediately.

Recipe notes: You need medium-large zucchini. You are better off with more zucchini than less, so err on the side of more if your zucchini are smallish. You can make zucchini ribbons with a veggie peeler if you don’t have a spiralizer. They might take a minute or two longer to cook. Lo mein is great for cleaning out the fridge of vegetable odds and ends, Sub in 2-3 cups of whatever you like for the carrots and cauliflower. If the hoisin has too much carbs for your diet, you could do all low sodium soy sauce instead.

Nutrition information:

Calories: 90
Protein: 4 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: less than 1 g
Carbohydrates: 15 g
Fiber: 3 g
Sodium: 428 mg

Source: own recipe

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Curried Lentil and Vegetable Stew

Last week, I talked about my 4 “F”‘s. Today’s recipe can highlight at least 3 of them. And it is National Soup Month, so soup/stew recipe seemed appropriate!

Fresh – I use a ton of fresh vegetables here. I’ve made many variations on this recipe as well, based on what veggies I have on hand and want to use up.

Flavor – I love using curry and other seasonings because they add a TON of flavor without adding a bunch of sodium. Using a sweet curry powder or sweet veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes also means I don’t need to add any sugar.

Fiber – Lentils are a great source of fiber and make this stew very hearty. More veggie = more fiber. Add in whatever you have on hand. I haven’t found a bad combination yet.

Not related to the “F”s, but I also love this recipe because the leftovers are so versatile. You can put it over some brown rice, in a quesadilla, over nachos, or in a pita. It is so much more than just a bowl of soup. If you find a creative way to eat it, please share in the comments. Enjoy!

Curried Lentil and Vegetable Stew (Serves 6-8)

Curried Lentil and Vegetable Stew

2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 zucchini, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped tomato
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons flour
2 ½ cups cooked lentils (see below)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt or sour cream
¼ cup chopped cilantro

1. Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery; saute 4 minutes.

2. Add zucchini and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Add sweet potoat, tomato, curry, flour, and ketchup. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

3. Add broth to pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until carrots and potatoes are tender. Stir in lentils. Cook for 3 minutes.

4. Top with yogurt and cilantro as serving.

Recipe notes: I use brown lentils. Just cook the lentils in water according to the package directions (omit any salt or oil). This is good served over some rice or with naan.

Low iodine adjustment: Use homemade broth and omit the broth. If you can find a salt free ketchup, that would be better. You could omit it, too.

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The 4 F’s

Find a processed food

I’ve been thinking lately about my nutrition philosophy. If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know in general I follow a “moderation in all things” approach. But what does that mean in everyday life? How do I practice that? As I’ve thought on that recently, I distilled it down to four “F” words: Fat, Flavor, Fiber, and Fresh.

Fat: What fat am I using? Could I substitute a healthier option in this recipe? In general, I like to use canola and olive oil. If I’m melting butter for the fat in a recipe, I’ll often sub in oil, unless I’m concerned about flavor. Often, I cut the fat in half compared to a recipe. When purchasing foods, does the “low fat” option lower the calories as well or just substitute something else for fat?

Flavor: How am I seasoning this dish? Can I substitute the salt for something else? Am I already adding a high salt ingredient – bacon, cheese, soy sauce – and don’t need additional salt? If it is a canned food, is there a low sodium option? There is a whole world of flavors out there besides salt. If you do need salt, see if there is a salty option like those mentioned before that adds salt AND other flavor.

Fiber: Is there a whole grain substitute? Could I add more vegetables? Carrots, celery, onions, and spinach are things I add in all the time to recipes. More veggies, and often my family doesn’t notice or care.

Fresh: When possible, choose the freshest item possible. So fresh, then frozen, then canned for vegetables/fruits. Could I make this frozen side or entree on my own and control the ingredients more? A few years ago, I made all my own bread products. That isn’t feasible for me right now as much. But I try when I can. Not only is making things yourself generally healthier, it is also often less expensive.

Hope these give you some things to think about as you work toward a healthier you in 2020!

What do you think about to keep your meals/snacks healthy? Share in the comments!

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