Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Shredded Chicken In A Flash!

Need some shredded chicken for a recipe?  Don't have 4 hours to wait for it to cook in the slow cooker?  Although my Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken is moist and delicious, some days I just need shredded chicken.... quick!  On those "short of time" days, I will throw a few frozen chicken breasts or chicken tenderloins in a pot on the stove, add water and seasoning, let simmer for 20-25 minutes, then drain and shred. Super easy and quick!  The chicken comes out moist and delicious... the perfect addition to any salad or wrap... or in a taco or enchilada... or pasta... or ???

Quick Shredded Chicken
(makes 4 servings)
  • 4 frozen chicken breasts or 6-8 frozen chicken tenderloins (boneless, skinless)
  • water
  • 1 tsp. Mrs. Dash or other low-sodium table seasoning
  • pinch of onion powder 
  • pinch of salt and pepper


In a large pot, place frozen chicken breasts (or tenderloins).  Add enough water to the pot to completely cover the chicken.  Season with table seasoning, onion powder, and salt and pepper.  Place pot on the stove and turn heat up to medium, cover.  Let chicken simmer for 20-25 minutes (the bigger the chicken breasts the longer the time).  When done, drain water from pot and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Using two forks, gently shred chicken.




Add some Quick Shredded Chicken to a bowl of baby spinach, hard-boiled egg, avocado, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and light blue cheese dressing and you have a delicious Cobb Salad!



I put the leftover shredded chicken in my fridge and use it during the week!  Having shredded chicken on-hand cuts down on the prep time for a lot of recipes :)  Plus, it's always good to have a protein ready for a quick snack too.

Use Quick Shredded Chicken in:
Buffalo Chicken Salad
Power Salad


Xo,
Janel



Sunday, September 23, 2012

Tips for Better Running

For the last couple months, I have been training for a half marathon I’ll be running in November. Although this will not be my first half marathon, I haven’t run one (or run long distance) in over a year… so having a plan and sticking to a training routine is essential. During the week, most of my training is done at the gym where I alternate between treadmill run days and cross-training (cycle classes) days. However, my Sunday mornings are strictly devoted to long, outdoor training runs. I started at 3 mile runs and have worked my way up to 9 miles over the last couple months. The key to adding distance every week is to set a new goal, a challenge that requires you to run (and push yourself) a little bit farther than the week before. For example, I will pick a street corner, stop sign or landmark a little farther away from where I had turned around the week before and make that the new goal for my run. Setting weekly distance goals help you stay motivated… and having a consistent weekly running routine helps you to accomplish those goals!

Here are 27 additional tips to better running from our friends at active.com:

READ ON… GOOD STUFF. LOTS OF GREAT TIPS. http://www.active.com/running/articles/27_ways_to_run_better_every_day.htm


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If you don't run, try to set a different fitness goal every week.  Like 5 more minutes on the elliptical machine or 15 more reps of a strength training exercise.  Giving yourself new goals and challenges every week will make a big difference in your fitness level!

Stay active my friends.
Xo,
Janel

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"Better Than" Pudding Poke Cake

Happy Birthday to Me (Simply

Sister #2, of Sisters Do Food and Fitness, is having a birthday next week! To celebrate, Amy organized a dinner with a bunch of her friends at a great little pizza joint. I wanted the dinner to be special for her, so that morning I went out and got some balloons to take to the restaurant for decoration. At about 2pm, it suddenly hit me that I needed a birthday cake for her too! I don't know if it was the running errands in the 103 degree heat or the fact I was now just so relaxed on the couch in the AC... but somehow the thought of a birthday cake had completely slipped my mind! Really, a birthday celebration with no cake?! That would have been an epic fail on my part. Well, there was no way I was just going to go to the store and buy one. First of all, it was 103 degrees out (no joke)... and secondly, store-bought cakes (while delicious) are so impersonal. So I took to the cupboards to see what ingredients I had for ANY kind of cake!

In my frantic ingredient search, I found a random box of sugar free yellow cake mix. Yellow cake seems like a great starting point, right?... except I had never used a sugar free mix before and had no idea what the cake would turn out like! Knowing I had 1 special birthday girl (and 17 of her friends) to impress, I had to ask myself "is this really the best time to experiment?". While I pondered my other (safer) options, I came across a box of instant sugar free chocolate pudding and a tub of fat free cool whip... and I remembered I still had some caramel topping and a Heath bar left over from a
Better Than Sex Cake I had made for my Ladies Night In party last month!  I decided I would take all of those ingredients and make a "Better Than" version of a pudding poke cake.... the caramel, whipped topping, and toffee pieces would surely take a plain yellow pudding cake to the next level!  Oh and the best part... since the cake is a 'sugar free, lighter' cake we would feel less guilty about eating it after consuming a bunch of cheesy pizza.  I quickly went to work on the cake, crossed my fingers and prayed it would turn out as delicious as I was imagining it would...

"Better Than" Pudding Poke Cake

(makes 1 - 9x13 pan, 16 servings)

Ingredients:
1 (18.25 ounce) package sugar free yellow cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 (3.9 ounce) package instant sugar free chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 cups fat free milk
1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping
1 (8 oz.) tub fat free whipped topping
1 toffee bar, crushed (I used a Heath bar)


Directions:
Prepare and bake cake mix according to package directions for one 9x13 inch cake. Remove cake from oven.

While cake is still warm, poke holes down through cake to pan with the round handle of a wooden spoon. Holes should be at 1 inch intervals.



Warm caramel topping in the microwave for 30 seconds. Drizzle 1/2 cup topping over warm cake and into holes.

Combine the pudding mix with the confectioners' sugar and gradually stir in the milk. Beat with an electric mixer at low speed (or whisk) for not more than 1 minute. Do not over beat.


Quickly, before pudding thickens, pour about 1/2 of the thin pudding evenly over the warm cake and into the holes.


Allow the remaining pudding to thicken slightly, then spoon evenly over the top.  Chill cake for at least an hour.

Once cool, spread the tub of whipped topping evenly over the chilled cake. Sprinkle top of cake with crushed toffee bar.


Chill cake until it is ready to be served. Store leftovers in the refrigerator!

Note: This cake can have SO MANY variations using different cake mixes, different pudding flavors, and different toppings. (I can't wait to try all of them!)

Nutritional Info:(1 of 16 servings)
251 calories, 8.9g fat, 44g carb, 2.4g protein

My 'Better Than' Pudding Poke Cake ended up being everything I hoped it would.... it was light and moist, but rich with chocolate and caramel flavors. The crushed toffee bar gave the cake a little chewy, crunchy texture. All in all, it was delicious and perfect. :) I was so nervous serving it not knowing how it would taste (this was one of my many experiments), but the birthday girl LOVED her cake... and so did all of her friends. Everyone wanted to know what kind of cake it was and how I made it; they were shocked to hear how easy it was and that it was sugar free cake and pudding. There is no better feeling in the world for a cook than to hear someone say, "wow, this is so good!". Making people smile and giving them something yummy and memorable to eat are always my main goals when I cook or bake... and I'd say this time was a success!



Happy Birthday Amy! I'm glad I could give you a special birthday treat :)

Xo,
Janel

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Recipe: Easy Slow Cooker Turkey Chili... just in time for fall!

Maybe it was the ONE day of cooler, overcast weather we just had... or the fact that football season is here... but I was suddenly in the mood for a big bowl of chili!  I have always used the same recipe for my chili... it's easy, requires only a few ingredients (most of which I usually have in the pantry!), and it's so delicious!  Sometimes I'll add different vegetables or use a different protein, but this basic version is my 'go-to' chili... it's flavorful, spicy, meaty, and hearty.  It also freezes and re-heats well... which makes for a quick and easy dinner on a busy night.  When I take my Easy Slow Cooker Turkey Chili to pot lucks it always gets rave reviews... I have given out this recipe more times then I can count!




Easy Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
(makes 8 servings)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 pound lean ground turkey
salt and pepper to taste
1 (15 oz) can low sodium tomato soup
1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
1/2 medium onion, chopped (I don't like onions, so I use about a tablespoon onion powder instead)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like more heat!)
1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt to taste
2/3 cup frozen corn (optional)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place turkey in the skillet, add crushed garlic and cook until evenly brown; drain.

Coat the inside of a slow cooker with cooking spray. Add cooked turkey, tomato soup, tomatoes, kidney beans, black beans and onion. Season with chili powder, red pepper flakes, crushed garlic, cumin, black pepper and salt.  Stir, adjust seasoning to taste.


Cover, and cook 8 hours on Low or 4 hours on High.


Right before serving, stir in frozen corn (optional).




Nutritional Info. (per serving)
255 calories, 5.5g fat, 30g carb, 8g dietary fiber, 21g protein

Top this chili with some light sour cream, 2% reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese, and a slice of avocado and you have a filling, low-calorie, low-fat, high protein dinner!

Enjoy!!



Xo,
Janel


What about the cornbread?!  It was too hot (again) for baking cornbread today........... but stay tuned for my Buttery Cornbread recipe! It goes great with this chili :)

Snack Attack!

Ok, I have a new snack obsession..... Freeze Dried Vegetables! Sounds weird right?! Well, while cruising the aisles at Target on my lunch break (this happens often, sometimes a few times a week) I came across a display with Archer Farms freeze dried vegetables and fruit. I like dried fruit, it's delicious... but high in sugar. What caught my eye at the display was a bag of Freeze Dried Salted Edamame! I love edamame (soybeans) but have only had them steamed, in the pod. Well obviously I had to try this strange freeze dried version. I had no idea what to expect... and all I can say is WOW! Freeze dried vegetables are crunchy and light like popcorn, and just as addicting too. I had to check the nutritional facts again (I always check the first time at the store because snacks have to pass a certain criteria to even make it in my basket)... surely these could not be healthy they were so good. But the only ingredients in the freeze dried salted edamame are soybeans, salt, and sunflower oil. There's only 130 calories per serving, which is 1/2 cup... that's a lot of soybeans! What surprised me the most about this little snack is the amount of protein it contains... 12g per serving! Also soy beans are naturally low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber, so this is one snack you do not have to feel guilty about indulging in!



I was raving about my new-found soy bean snack to my co-worker (a fellow food and fitness lover)... so I gave her some to try and she instantly fell in love too. On another Target cruise that week, I picked her up a bag of her own... and of course I grabbed another one for myself. Well... a few days later when I was ready to tear into my bag of delicious edamame, I realized I had grabbed a bag of Freeze Dried Green Peas instead.... oops. Well I figured if the edamame were that good, surely the peas would be too. I was not disappointed. Once again, I was devouring a light, crunchy, satisfying vegetable snack. The only ingredients in the freeze dried peas are peas! Crazy! And the calories are even lower on the peas... 110 calories for 3/4 cup! The peas are not as high in protein as the edamame, but they are still low in carbohydrates and high in dietary fiber. Seriously, green peas never tasted so good!




Freeze drying removes water from the vegetables yet preserves the flavor (and makes them light and crunchy!).

Well done Archer Farms!!!

Xo,
Janel

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tuna Melts...... without the bread!

It's finally starting to cool down enough in the evenings for me to use my oven again! Wohoo! As much as I do like salads, grilling, and stove-dishes... sometimes it's nice to just pop something in the oven and be able to walk away from the kitchen for awhile. Since I had some nice red, vine-ripe tomatoes sitting in my vegetable bin, I grabbed a can of tuna (I usually have a couple in the pantry, they come in handy for a quick meal) and set to work on some Oven-Baked Tuna-Stuffed Tomatoes for dinner. Tuna-stuffed tomatoes have the same flavor and cheesy-goodness of a tuna melt but without the bread (extra calories and carbohydrates). They are a quick, easy, and super healthy dinner...


Oven-Baked Tuna-Stuffed Tomatoes
Ingredients:
  • 2 large tomatoes or 3-4 medium tomatoes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 (5 ounce) can light tuna in water, drained and flaked
  • 2 tbsp. light mayonnaise
  • 1 dill pickle spear, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup shredded 2% reduced fat cheddar cheese
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut a thin slice off the top of each tomato, and gently scoop out pulp and seeds, leaving a 1/2 inch wall. Season the inside of each hollowed tomato with pinches of salt and pepper.

Mix tuna, mayonnaise, dill pickles, and bread crumbs in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.


Scoop mixture into tomato shells (up to the top of each tomato). Place tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Sprinkle each tomato with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake for 25 minutes.


So easy!!!!


These tuna-stuffed tomatoes turned out great!  Paired with a small side salad it was the perfect, healthy meal. 


And they really do taste like a tuna melt... YUM! 

Xo,
Janel

Dear Coffee, I love you.


I hate to admit this..... but I am completely caffeine dependant.  There are so many different ways to get your caffeine fix these days (energy drinks, supplements, soda), but I have always turned to the aid of the caffeine naturally found in the coffee bean. 
 
coffee beans
 
Every morning of my adult life has started out with a cup of coffee. And we're not talking just one small 8 oz. cup of coffee either... we're talking half pot or big travel-size mug of coffee!  For me, "coffee-d and caffeinated" is the only way my body knows how to start the day... it's really the only way I feel like a normal human being.  Even on my early gym mornings, I will set the delay timer on the coffee maker for 4am and power down some coffee before my workout.  What can I say?.... I love it, I need it, coffee completes me.  Sounds like a serious dependency problem right?!  
 
 
According to WebMd and other health websites, it may very well be a caffeine dependency problem, but not considered serious... whew!  There are many misconceptions out there about caffeine and also it's effects on your health.  Did you know caffeine is present in some over-the-counter painkillers and cold medications?  So coffee drinker, or not, go here to get your caffeine facts straight:  http://www.webmd.com/balance/caffeine-myths-and-facts 
 
 Ok, here's the good news... Coffee may actually have health benefits! 
 
A growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are:
  • less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and dementia
  • have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes
 Read more on the health benefits of coffee here:
 
 
I'll raise a cup of Joe to that!!
 
Xo,
Janel
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Breakfast-to-go!

I am never late to work... except for this morning. I was running a little late for my 10:30am shift due to my attempt to try and squeeze in a 4.5 mile run, 1 hour strength training routine, and 2 loads of laundry during my few open hours in the morning. This was especially ambitious since I still had to shower, get ready, make my lunch and have breakfast before I left the house for the day!  Needless to say, I opted for a super-fast, healthy, high protein breakfast smoothie that I could just take to work with me.

A smoothie is an all-around great option for breakfast on the go... they are quick, easy, filling, and nutritious. Today's smoothie is what I like to call a "breakfast smoothie" because I put quick oats (and cinnamon) in it! I like how the oats give the smoothie a little more texture and make the smoothie more hearty, satisfying, and heart healthy. The cinnamon gives the smoothie that warm and comforting oatmeal/breakfast flavor. I use greek yogurt in my smoothies because it's very high in protein and low in carbohydrates and calories... but I know some people don't care for the taste of greek yogurt, so you could use non-fat plain or vanilla yogurt instead. Also, the almond milk could also be swapped out for soy milk or regular non-fat milk. There are obviously millions of ways you could alter this recipe... but this is a good basic recipe and starting point for further "breakfast smoothie" creativity.


Mixed Berry and Oatmeal
Breakfast Smoothie
makes 1 - 16 oz. smoothie

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup quick oats, oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 4-6 ice cubes

In a blender, pour all ingredients except the ice cubes. Cover with lid and blend on high until ingredients start to combine, about a minute. Stop blender and scrape the sides, add 4-6 ice cubes and blend again until smooth. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator.

Calories: 335 Fat: 3.75g Carbs: 56.5g Dietary Fiber: 13g Protein: 18g

Sorry for the lack of great pictures to compliment the recipe... like I said, I was in a hurry!

Xo,
Janel

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Take a hike!

The Great Outdoors


Anyone who knows me knows that I love to hike! Hiking is a great form of exercise and an awesome way to explore your city. We are lucky enough to live in San Diego, with year-around great weather and lots of great hiking trails. I have found some trails that I really love, and I continue to explore new places. Hopefully, I can give you some good tips about some of the trails that I have been to, and I will continue to update you when I try new ones.

First, we will start with Cowles Mountain. Cowles has outstanding views at 1,591’ above sea level and is arguably the most popular (and populated) trail in San Diego County. Round trip, Cowles is a 3.08 mile hike. I can usually complete the entire hike in an hour and a half. The trail is usually very populated, which is great if you are hiking alone! Sometimes, it can be a little too crowded for my liking, as I find myself spending a lot of time trying to get around people. Btw, hiking etiquette is to walk single file on a crowded trail. People want to pass you and it's impossible if you are double wide. Anyway, back to the mountain, it's a great, beautiful hike. I definitely recommend it for the great views and the fact that it can be done rather quickly. One other item to note, I frequently see broken glass along the street. Use common sense and don't leave valuables in plain site in your car. I believe this is a problem at Cowles. So, just use caution. I have never had a problem. I just feel that that is something to disclose. Also, it gets warm there during summer. I recommend sunrise and sunset hikes during summer. Otherwise, it gets too warm. For more information on Cowles, including directions, please visit their website is located at http://www.mtrp.org/pop_map_details.asp?area_idno=0&habitat_idno=0&trail_idno=3
 
 
All first time must touch the stone at the top of Cowles :)
 
 
One of the many views from the top of Cowles.
 
 
You never know what you'll see.

Torrey Pines State Reserve is also a great place to hike. There are a lot of trail options, so you can easily customize your hike for your needs. Usually, we park at the bottom and hike up the asphalt. Once you get to the top, there are several trail options. I recommend the Broken Hill trail. It is longer and a bit less crowded. It connects to the beach trail and will take you up a different direction. The views are definitely gorgeous. I love this hike for that reason. Roughly, this hike is around 2 miles, but adding in the hike up to the top to begin it, and parking far away, I would say it ends up about 5 miles or longer. It usually takes me about 3 hours, usually because I stop and take pictures along the way (it's too gorgeous not to!). Just a quick tip, it costs $10 ($15 during summer) to park at the bottom of the bottom. I recommend finding street parking on Caramel Valley Road and walking under the bridge to get there. More information, including directions, is located at http://www.torreypine.org/activities/hiking-trails.html

 
The bottom of the Torrey Pines trail.
 
 
The way back up on the beach trail. Don't forget to stop by Flat Rock on the way up!

The last trail that I would like to discuss is Iron Mountain. I tried it for my first a month ago and I loved it. The entrance alone is stunning. The cast iron sign is very cool, and the beginning of the hike is lined with trees and it's just very cool looking. It is a 6.63 mile hike round trip and can take 4-5 hours, but I definitely recommend it. The views from the top are magnificent and it's a really great work out. The trail is located in Poway and it can get a bit hot during the summer. I don't recommend doing this hike in the middle of summer, but I think it is great the rest of the year. I couldn't find a specific website for Iron Mountain, but I did find this trail site with a lot of useful information. http://www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=HGS518-056

 
The entrance to Iron Mountain
 
 
Don't forget to bring lots of water and maybe even a light snack when you hike any trail.
 
Happy Trails! xox
 
Amy