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.
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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.
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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.
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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/

 

Breakfast: It Really IS the Most Important Meal of the Day

Mornings are busy. Whether you’re headed off to work, trying to get the kids to school or both at the same time—trying to start your day can be hectic and stressful. Something that often suffers when mornings get too busy is breakfast. But there are some very good reasons why you shouldn’t skip the most important meal of the day.

The key to starting the morning off right—and giving you enough energy and focus to get you to lunch—is eating within one to two hours of waking up. Eat your breakfast!

What’s the Deal with Breakfast?

Eating breakfast is important because your body has gone the longest it does in a 24-hour period without eating. The key to starting the morning off right—and giving you enough energy and focus to get you to lunch—is eating within one to two hours of waking up.

Eating breakfast helps stave off illness (including serious ones like heart disease or diabetes), improves brain function and is an important step in healthy weight loss. And, it’s easier to pull off than you may think. Try this breakfast burrito recipe below: It’s good for eating right away or making on a Sunday and freezing for the whole week!

Breakfast Burrito
Yields 1
The egg and sausage in this burrito are good sources of protein. A high-protein breakfast will fill you up and give you plenty of energy to start your day!
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 chicken sausage link
  2. 1 whole wheat flour tortilla
  3. 1 egg
  4. a dash of milk
  5. cheddar cheese
  6. 1 tablespoon of salsa
  7. a drizzle of salsa picante or hot sauce (if desired)
Instructions
  1. Shred a tablespoon-size amount of cheese. Set aside.
  2. Crack the egg into a bowl, and then add the dash of milk. Whisk until mixed thoroughly.
  3. In a small skillet, pour the egg mixture and cook until fluffy.
  4. Add sausage and salsa to the eggs. Stir until all the ingredients are warm.
  5. Lay a tortilla out on a plate, fill with the egg mixture, sprinkle cheese, drizzle hot sauce and roll up burrito.
  6. Serve immediately or freeze for later.
Notes
  1. If freezing, place in a plastic freezer bag, and then stick in the freezer. Store for up to one month.
  2. To thaw: Remove from plastic bag, wrap burrito in a paper towel, and then microwave for 1.5–2 minutes or until warm.
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Something to Chew Recap: Best of 2017

We had a great year discussing healthy habits, trying new recipes and making commitments to live well. As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take a moment and recap the “greatest hits” of Something to Chew in 2017.

#5 M&M’s are Football Fields

We took our readers on a journey from one end of the football field to the other, demonstrating just how far you’d have to walk to burn off a single M&M. Making a conscious connection between calories in versus calories out can help you make decisions when eating or drinking certain foods.

#4 Your Diet and Your Job: A Perfect Marriage or Recipe for Disaster?

Problem: Sometimes the influence of those around you affects your ability to stick to your diet. We offered three solutions to common work situations where you may be tempted to break your healthy eating commitment.

#3 6 Steps to Bathing Suit Confidence

The bottom line is to not let your worries of living up to magazine-cover standards overpower the fun you could be having with your friends and family. If you’re eating right and treating your body well, you’re already in great shape!

#2 5 Hidden Sources of Sugar

You already know that cutting back on sugar is a big part of starting to eat healthier. We pointed out five hidden sources of sugar you may not realize you are keeping in your diet. Examining food labels is important for making sure you are not eating too much sugar.

#1 Don’t Stress about PCOS: 5 Habits for Better Weight Management

Our readers have spoken: This was the top post for 2017! We agree; these tips are applicable to those with polycystic ovary syndrome and those just trying to manage their weight in general. Wedding good eating habits with exercise is the recipe for success when it comes to weight loss and management.

Thank you for “chewing” on these tips and tricks in 2017! Look for more health and wellness advice in 2018 as we bring on the new year!