Smokey Goodness In A Bowl

This everlasting heat in the valley has worn out its welcome in my book. I’m ready for sweatshirts, blankets, and soups, already! So much so that I’ve bumped my AC down a notch and decided to attempt a black bean soup. I’ve never made one before, but after doing a little research I had a plan.

My mom uses hickory smoked salt in our poquito beans recipe, so that inspired me to make a smokey black bean soup.

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SMOKEY BLACK BEAN SOUP

1 lb dry black beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 each: green, red, yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or shaved
1 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp hickory smoked salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
Salt & pepper to taste
6 c stock or broth (I used chicken, but for a vegetarian meal, vegetable stock would work)
Avocado, cilantro, sour cream or plain greek yogurt for garnish

Rinse and sort the beans – remove any bad beans and rocks. Soak beans overnight in about 8 cups of water. Or do the quick soak method: put beans and 8 cups of water on to boil. Boil rapidly for 2 minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. RINSE WELL when they’re done. This will remove a lot of that unwelcome toot juice.

In a large soup pot, or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions till translucent. Add peppers and garlic. Sauté until soft. Add chili powder, cumin, smoked salt, and cayenne, stir. Add the beans and broth to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat over medium low heat, covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until beans have reached your desired tenderness.

Remove from heat. I like to use my immersion blender in the pot to blend the soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender, get one. Just kidding! (But really, though, they’re awesome) So if you don’t have an immersion blender, put a few ladles of the soup into a blender and blend till smooth. Do this for as much as you want blended. Be careful about blending hot liquids – only do a little at a time.

*Note: if you want to make this a more hearty meal, grill up some chicken, dice it and throw it in with the soup at the end.

Nutrition:
(4 – 2 cup servings)
Calories – 138
Total Fat – 8 g
Cholesterol – 0 mg
Sodium – 1708 mg
Potassium – 184 mg
Total Carbohydrates – 15 g
Dietary Fiber – 6 g
Sugars – 4 g
Protein – 6 g

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Dilly Cukes

I’m all about Greek yogurt lately. Dipping Doritos’ Salsa Verde chips in it is my most recent guilty pleasure snack. So for a healthier option, I thought I’d make a dish similar to one of my favorite Polish dishes.

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Dilly Cukes Recipe

1 hothouse cucumber, seeded and chopped or thinly sliced
3 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp white vinegar
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate for a couple hours to let the flavors meld, or enjoy as soon as you want!

Ruff’n it today!

So the other day at the grocery store, I was talking to the guy at the seafood counter and he convinced me to try something different… White Ruffy. It’s a very mild fish that’s similar in texture to tilapia. And it’s quickly become my new favorite!

I prepared it my favorite fish prep way… Crusted with either toasted wheat germ or flax seed meal. It was SUPER delicious and quite healthy!

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Wheat Germ Crusted White Ruffy

1/2 lb white ruffy fillet, rinsed & patted dry
1/4 c wheat germ or flax seed meal
1 egg white
Seasoning of your choice

Heat a non-stick pan that’s been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray over medium-low heat.

Put the egg white in a medium sized bowl. Give the egg white a good beating with a fork, or use liquid egg whites. Put the wheat germ and seasonings on a plate large enough to handle the fish. Pass the fish through the egg whites and then press into the crust mixture, making sure to get both sides coated well.

Place fish in the pan. Cook for 4-5 min on the first side and then about 2-3 min on the flip side or until the thickest part of the fish flakes easily with a fork.

Enjoy!

Nutritional Info
Calories: 158
Protein: 22 g
Total fat: 6.5 g
Total carbs: 4 g
Dietary fiber: 4 g

My favorite seasonings to use for this dish is a family recipe that is made at Graveyard Vineyards in Paso Robles, CA. Best seasoning EVER if you ask me.

Envious Chicken!

Lately, I’ve been noticing that while I like eating fish, I don’t have that fully satisfied feeling after I’m done eating. Plus I’m not quite getting all the protein I’m aiming for each day. So I decided to switch things up a bit and make some chicken. Now, I’m not one of those individuals that can sit down and devour a whole chicken breast – I pretty much have to force myself to eat any more than 4 bites. However, I have discovered that if the chicken is “hidden” amongst other things, such as covered in a sauce, or wrapped in a tortilla, or in a salad, I will eat it.

This weekend I was trying to think of a way I could disguise some chicken in a healthy way and suddenly I had an idea! GREEN CHICKEN! It’s basically shredded chicken cooked in green enchilada sauce. So I went to the store to grab the ingredients and now that I’m more conscious of what I’m feeding my body with, I started looking at the nutrition labels. While I thought the green enchilada sauce would have been a good choice (or at least not a bad choice), I tried reading the ingredient list and was unable to get through the first 2-3 lines without running into some bizarre, unnatural ingredient that I couldn’t pronounce (and I’m pretty good with phonetics). So I started combing the shelves and that’s when I discovered Herdez’ salsa verde. I recognized every single ingredient listed and the calorie & sodium count was more in the appropriate range for my lifestyle.

Turns out the taste is definitely different than the green enchilada sauce I’m used to, but its still got great flavor. Next time I’ll add a few things to doctor up the sauce so its got a little kick to it. Once the chicken is cooked, you can use it in casseroles, enchiladas, tacos, taco salads, etc…

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Green Chicken
Serves 14 (4 oz servings)

3 1/2 lbs Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast meat, rinsed (goodbye sodium!)
1 large jar Herdez Salsa Verde
1 Onion (yellow or white), sliced, diced, or quartered
1 tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Oregano
Garlic Salt to taste

Put some of the onion in the bottom of a large crockpot, arrange the chicken breasts on top of the onion, then put the remaining onion in. Pour the jar of salsa verde over the ingredients, add the seasonings. Cook on high for 4 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours. Chicken will be ready when you can easily shred with a fork. It should just fall apart when pressure is applied.

Once the chicken is done, remove from the juices and shred chicken using 2 forks, or chop chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add to your salad, wrap up in your favorite tortilla, roll up in a corn tortilla and pour some of the sauce over the top to make enchiladas, etc.

One 4 oz serving contains:
124.7 calories
2.2 g fat
21.2 g protein
4.7 g total carbs
1.1 g dietary fiber
2.0 g sugars
344.5 mg sodium

Planning is key

Lately, I’ve been falling down on the job when it comes to meal planning. And unfortunately, that’s the key component to eating healthy. My goal each day is to eat 5-6 small meals, or 3 medium sized meals with 2-3 snacks throughout the day. This keeps my energy up and my metabolism going. Now, in order to eat that many times a day (I swear I feel like I’m eating all freaking day some times!) you have to plan ahead. ESPECIALLY when you have a job like mine where you may get called out to a clients’ site that day and end up spending hours there.

You’ve got to get creative with your meals, and I’m finding that I lack the finesse that I aspire to have in getting all those meals in each day. What I find to be most awkward is when I realize its time to eat and I’m nowhere near a breaking point with my client, so I have to reach into my purse for my trusty little snack bag of raw almonds (15 per baggie) that I won’t be sharing. Momma always taught me to share, so I end up feeling guilty for eating in front of my client and not offering them some of what I’m having. So this is where my dilemma lies… Do I continue eating in front of them? Do I need to bring another snack baggie to offer to them? Am I the only one that feels awkward? Do I need to explain my “diet” to them and why I’m not offering to share? Aaaggghhh!!! Too much to think about!! So then I tell myself: you’re probably just making a mountain out of a mole hill, so just eat the darn almonds, Sara.

The planning is a challenge for me. I never know what is going to sound good to eat the next day, yet I have to make sure I’m prepared for those days I’m away from the office (aka my living room). So the night before I have to plan and prep for the next day. And all that is a little mind boggling for this “fly by the seat of her pants” lady. But I’m working on it! For instance tonight I boiled up a dozen eggs, cooked up some turkey bacon, peeled & separated an orange, made a batch of tuna with veggies, put almonds, fig bars, and a banana in my lunch box, and got all of that in containers & ready to join the snacks in my lunch box before I head out the door in the morning. Now that’s what I call setting myself up for success!!

Let the blogging begin!

Welcome to my first blog entry in Sealed With A Hundred Kisses!

In case you were wondering about the title of my blog… I was opening Christmas cards this morning and was reminded of that little acronym SWAK (Sealed with a Kiss). You remember – when you used to actually write letters and send them through the post? And on those people that meant a lot to you, you’d kiss the envelope closure and write SWAK! But for me, the title means so much more… I’m a huge proponent of love and gratitude. I feel that those emotions can heal the greatest of wounds; it may just take some time to uncover those feelings. And what better way to physically express love and gratitude than with a kiss? 🙂

This morning I got to thinking about things in my life that I’m very thankful for and things I’d like to change. Last night I had a hard night’s sleep – I actually went to bed at a decent time, but I woke up around 2am for no apparent reason and then when my alarm went off at 7am, I felt incredibly groggy and didn’t want to get up. This is very unusual for me, especially since this has been a daily occurrence for the last week or two. I was so concerned about this that went to WebMD in an effort to look it up. Lo & behold, the first thing on their home page was an article titled “Why Are You So Tired? 14 common causes of fatigue and how to fight back”. After reading about the 14 causes of fatigue (and their respective fixes), I decided that I need to make some changes to my life.

A great friend of mine, Nicole Gaitan, has a blog (nicolegaitan.com) that I’ve been following. She’s a personal trainer in Scotts Valley, CA with an incredible ability to tap into what motivates you. One of her clients came to her with a particularly difficult situation and one of Nicole’s requirements for this particular client was to start a blog and to update it daily. The client was apprehensive about the ability to sustain this kind of writing, but as time passed the blog helped her to see how she was progressing. After all, when you’re engulfed in the situation and things change so minimally each day, you can sometimes overlook the progress you’ve made. I decided that this was something that I needed to do for myself. So here we are!

Change #1: I will aim to blog daily. Not all blog entries will be fun-filled and joyous, but they’ll be true to who I am.

Change #2: Lose 10-20 lbs. To reach this goal I’ll have to make additional changes in my life:
Change #2a: Do something active each day. Whether it’s walking to get the mail, taking a walk around the block, going for a jog, getting out my bike and taking a ride, going salsa dancing, taking a yoga break, or exercising with my kettlebell. Just do something ACTIVE!
Change #2b: Make healthy food choices. I have already been doing this, but lately I’ve been slacking a little. So it’s time to get back on top and start making those healthy choices!

Change #3: Start making goals and plan out how I’m going to accomplish them. This blog is a start! From a pair of shoes that I have my eye on, but can’t seem to justify the price tag, to organizing my extra bedroom and office, to redesigning my home decor – I need to determine what I want and mark out how I’m going to get it done.

I’m a firm believer that if you put your mind to it and concentrate on your goal, you can reach it. So my goal for this blog is to help me keep myself accountable and help me stay on top of the changes I want to take place in my life.

Cheers!
sara jean