Bake or Bake not—But there is no fry!

Popular fried foods include fish, chicken strips, corn dogs, cheese and French fries. But thanks to our Illinois State Fair, we have learned that you can deep fry just about anything.

What’s the difference between fried and baked food?

The main difference between a fried menu item and one that is baked is the amount of calories and fat. When foods are deep fried, they lose their water content and absorb more fat. Depending on the food item, the caloric value can double or even triple when fried. If your goal is to lose weight or even maintain a healthy weight, fried foods are not a good choice.

We now know that fat is actually very healthy for us. Unfortunately, fried foods have the highest content of trans fat, which is a terrible source of fat for your body and arterial health.

What are some healthy fat sources?

Healthy fats like those found in salmon and avocados are excellent for reducing inflammation in your arteries and joints. However, the oils most often used for frying contain high amounts of inflammatory fatty acids. Consuming fried foods can cause inflammation in the gut and aggravate joint and muscle pain.

One last thing…

Don’t be fooled by frozen fried foods. Those frozen chicken strips and French fries that you are “baking” in the oven? They were fried prior to being frozen. Baking is simply the method preferred for reheating them.

Ready to try a non-fried fish meal? Check out my easiest salmon recipe ever for a delicious and nutritious baked dinner!

A Pasta Salad You Can Feel Good About!

As warm weather (finally!) descends upon us, you might find yourself attending more picnics, potlucks or other outdoor events you have to bring food to. Often, the problem with potlucks is that dishes that most people would enjoy at a party tend to not be the healthiest. But with minor substitutions, this pasta salad is sure to be crowd-pleaser while still being a healthy option.

Italian Pasta Salad
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Ingredients
  1. 12 ounces whole wheat pasta
  2. celery
  3. cucumber
  4. tri-colored bell peppers
  5. 16 ounces Olive Garden light Italian dressing
  6. 1 packet Good Seasons Italian dressing seasoning mix
Instructions
  1. Boil pasta until al dente (firm to bite), then drain, rinse and cool.
  2. Chop desired amount of veggies and put in a large bowl.
  3. Add the Italian dressing and seasoning packet and mix well.
  4. After the pasta has cooled, add it to the veggies and mix well.
  5. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  6. Serve the next day, or make ahead a few days in advance.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/
 

Italian Chicken Sandwich

In the days after big cooking holidays, you might feel like you never want to step foot in your kitchen again—or at least not until Thanksgiving. But for some reason, your kids and spouse still need to be fed, so try out this easy Italian chicken slow cooker recipe for a week’s worth of sandwiches.

Italian Chicken Sandwich
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Ingredients
  1. Tomato mixture
  2. • grape tomatoes, sliced
  3. • garlic, minced
  4. • balsamic vinegar, to taste
  5. • salt, pepper & oregano, to taste
  6. • olive oil
  7. Italian chicken
  8. • 4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (frozen or fresh)
  9. • 1 packet Italian dressing
  10. • 1 jar pepperoncini, juice and all
  11. Sandwich
  12. • whole wheat buns
  13. • Dijon mustard
  14. • mozzarella slices
  15. • Italian chicken
  16. • tomato mixture
Instructions
  1. Tomato mixture instructions: Heat olive oil in a skillet and add garlic.
  2. Once the garlic is sizzling, add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, oregano, salt and pepper.
  3. Cook 2-3 minutes, or until tomatoes are mushy.
  4. Italian chicken instructions: Line slow cooker with liner, and then spray the liner with cooking spray.
  5. Put frozen or thawed chicken breasts, Italian dressing and the jar of pepperoncini (juice and all) into the slow cooker.
  6. Note: If your family doesn’t do spice, leave the pepperoncini whole and remove after the chicken is done cooking.
  7. Cook on low approximately six hours.
  8. After the chicken is done cooking, use two forks to shred it in the slow cooker. Take the pepperoncini out.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/

Making Healthy Quick and Easy: Sheet Pan Suppers

I’ve been making a lot more “sheet pan suppers” lately, as these are quick and easy and involve the three necessary nutrients to fill out the plate: carbohydrate, protein and non-starchy vegetable. These are easy to prep the day before on the sheet. Then when you get home, take the sheet out of the fridge while the oven is preheating and have a meal worthy for all taste buds in about 30 minutes.

Here are some of my best sheet pan supper tips:

  • Use the largest cookie sheet/pan you have, preferably from heavy-gauge aluminum or steel. I find these help foods to brown better.
  • I’m all about easy and quick cleanup, so make sure to line the pan you choose with foil and spray with a nonstick cooking spray.
  • Pick your protein. If you are going to use a protein that is larger than the rest of your food, I like to cook it for about 5-10 minutes before putting the rest of the ingredients on the pan.
  • Place the rest of the ingredients in a single layer, cut about the same size so they will roast properly.
  • Season the ingredients according to the recipe or your discretion.
  • Make sure protein is cooked to the proper temperature.
  • For leftovers, use the foil from the pan to wrap the food up in, and then reheat in oven later.

This pan roasted chicken and vegetable meal is one of my favorites. Like I said, I usually put everything on the pan the night before and leave it in the fridge until the oven is preheated the next day. Try it for yourself!

If you are interested in starting with just roasted vegetables, print off our handy Roasting Vegetables 101 sheet  a guide.

Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetable Meal
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Ingredients
  1. 6 medium red potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  2. 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  4. 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  5. 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  6. 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, divided
  7. 3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
  8. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  9. 6 bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed
  10. 6 cups fresh baby spinach
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425o F.
  2. Combine potatoes, onion, oil, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Toss the mixture to coat evenly.
  3. Line a baking pan or cookie sheet with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  4. Pour the potato and onion mixture onto the coated baking pan and arrange the chicken on top.
  5. Mix the paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon rosemary and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and sprinkle it over the chicken.
  6. Bake about 35-40 minutes, or until the inside of the chicken is 170-175oF and the vegetables are just tender.
  7. Remove chicken to a serving platter and keep warm.
  8. Top the vegetables with the spinach and put back into the oven to roast until the vegetables are tender and the spinach is wilted, about 8-10 minutes longer.
  9. Stir the vegetables to combine and serve them with the chicken.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/

Butternut Squash Quinoa Salad

This month we’re thinking more about heart health and preventing heart disease, although protecting your heart is something you can do all year long. Eating “heart-healthy” is a way to lower your risk for heart disease, especially when paired with regular physical activity.

Eating better for your heart doesn’t have to mean a dramatic change in your diet. You can start just by substituting one or two foods at first, and then move on to changing other eating habits.

As part of “heart month” in February, we’d like to offer this heart-healthy recipe. This recipe also has the following health benefits:

  • Dairy free
  • Diabetes friendly
  • Gluten free
  • Gout friendly
  • High fiber
  • Low cholesterol
  • Low fat
  • Vegetarian
  • Low sodium

Butternut Squash & Cranberry Quinoa Salad
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Ingredients
  1. Salad
  2. • 3 cups butternut squash (chopped)
  3. • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  4. • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  5. • 1 cup water
  6. • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  7. • 1/3 cup red onion (finely chopped)
  8. • 3 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds
  9. Vinaigrette
  10. • 1/2 cup olive oil
  11. • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  12. • 1 teaspoon honey
  13. • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  14. • 1 clove minced garlic
  15. Salt & pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the butternut squash with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the coated squash on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  4. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until the squash is tender and lightly browned.
  5. While the squash is roasting, rinse the quinoa under cold water until the water runs clear.
  6. Place quinoa and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan.
  7. Bring the water to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and then cook the quinoa partially covered until the liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  8. To prepare the vinaigrette:Add all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a small bowl or Mason jar.
  9. Whisk or shake until thoroughly mixed.
  10. To assemble the salad: Combine the cooked quinoa, roasted squash, dried cranberries, finely chopped red onion and toasted pumpkin seeds in a large bowl.
  11. Pour the vinaigrette over the mixture.
  12. Stir until the salad is well mixed.
Something to Chew http://somethingtochew.com/
From www.littlebroken.com

This salad is a good source of protein as well as fiber. Serve in a bowl with a spoon or fork. Visit www.SpringfieldClinic.com/FarmersMarket for more healthy recipes.

Instant Pot®: Yay or nay?

Last Black Friday, I jumped on the bandwagon and bought an Instant Pot®. Yes, I had to find out for myself what the craze was all about, so I actually bought in. And Instant Pot® is a programmable pressure cooker that is supposed to speed up cooking considerably. This week, I want to share what I’ve done with my Instant Pot® and how I’ve made it work for my family.

What’s the best part about an Instant Pot®?

First and foremost, what I absolutely love to make in my Instant Pot® is hard-boiled eggs. You may be asking, aren’t eggs bad for you? Despite their occasional negative portrayal, eggs are a fantastic protein source, as long as you aren’t going overboard with the number you eat.

I typically hard-boil about eight to 12 eggs a week for our family of five. The Instant Pot® makes it super-duper easy to do so. Here are the instructions:

Megan’s Hard-boiled Eggs

  1. Put one cup of water and however many eggs you want into the pot.
  2. Program five minutes of pressure, followed by five minutes natural release, followed by 5 minutes cold water bath.

I don’t shell them right away, but put them in a bowl in the fridge to stay fresher for longer. We shell them as we eat them.  

What else can you use the Instant Pot® for?

I also have made a whole chicken with my Instant Pot®, although this is not something new to me. I usually buy whole chickens when they are on sale and freeze them. Typically, I’ll thaw the chicken and put it in the crockpot with all the seasonings I want—by the evening, we’ve got chicken. I’ll shred the leftover chicken and freeze into patches so we can use it for subsequent meals, such as chicken spaghetti, chicken tacos, white chicken chili and BBQ chicken.

How does the Instant Pot come into play? One time, I forgot to thaw the chicken the night before. I placed the whole frozen chicken in the Instant Pot® with the seasonings and a little water. In no time, the chicken was cooked. This is a definite plus of having the Instant Pot® around.

What are some of the lesser-known features of the Instant Pot®?

My last favorite I’m going to talk about today is burrito bowls. When making this recipe, I use more than just the pressure cook feature. You can make the whole burrito bowl meal in the Instant Pot® and not dirty another dish, thanks to the fabulous sauté feature.

Megan’s Burrito Bowl for the Instant Pot®

  1. Put oil, peppers, onion and garlic into the pot.
  2. Use the saute feature to cook, and then add beans, salsa, chicken, rice and low-sodium chicken stock.
  3. Close the lid and pressure cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Quick release and ladle out. Add some fresh cilantro, cheese and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and serve.

This is always a fun, full meal for my family, and it leaves behind great leftovers.

Instant Pot®: Yay or nay?

There are some great features for the Instant Pot® outside of pressure cooking. It has a learning curve, and it’s a little difficult to use and get used to. Sometimes when recipes say “10 minutes,” it’s actually longer because it takes time for the pressure to build. And, I will be honest, it takes up a lot of space if you don’t have much in your kitchen. All that being said, the Instant Pot® can be right for a lot of people and would be a good addition in your kitchen. Happy Instant Potting!!

Instant Pot image from https://instantpot.com/