Lightened Up Buffalo Chicken Meatballs (21 Day Fix-Friendly)

The problem with posting so sporadically to one’s blog is that one doesn’t always remember what one posted last before starting the next post. Hence, the back-to-back buffalo chicken-themed dishes.

We’ll just have to push through.

Since April I’ve been participating in a health and fitness accountability group on Facebook. If you’re on Facebook at all I’m sure you’ve heard of them. If not; they’re organized via Beachbody “Coaches” that post daily challenges, inspiration, and encourage you to check in with your daily workouts and food logs. And in case you’ve been living under a rock, Beachbody is the company that floods your early morning television with infomercials for programs like 21 Day Fix, Cize, P90X, etc.

I’ve been taking it slow, especially in the beginning because of a knee injury this past spring, but now I’m fully on board with a cardio kickboxing-type workout called TurboFire and I follow the 21 Day Fix container system diet. It has really helped me get back on track with my weight loss, which sadly fell off course last year. Say what you will about multi-level marketing type business; it’s working for me so I’m sticking with it.

The main goal of the 21 Day Fix eating plan is “Clean Eating”; no white flour, no sugar, no processed foods, very limited dairy, organic produce and meats (when possible). This has been an adjustment for sure – I haven’t been a big consumer of processed/boxed foods in a long time, but flour? Sugar? Artificial sweeteners? NO DAIRY ARE YOU SERIOUS? BUT CHEESE, MAN. (Well, 21 DF does allow a few cheeses in a small amount). To make this change has definitely been a challenge, but I’m adjusting well. There are a couple things I refuse to give up – namely the sweetener and half and half in my morning coffee. Since I drink two cups a day at most, I figure what Autumn  doesn’t know won’t kill her.

To keep in line with my new eating plan I’ve researched lots of recipes online (Pinterest is a big help with this), and thanks to my challenge groups I won Autumn’s book of recipes called Fixate (honestly, the recipes in that are great, even if you’re not following the plan). I’ve also started remaking some of my go-to recipes along the 21 DF guidelines. This was one of my first successful forays into “Fixifying” an old favorite, buffalo chicken meatballs. The original recipe wasn’t that bad, with the exception of the butter in the sauce, but when you serve the meatballs alongside super creamy ranch or blue cheese dressing, it’s a no-go. So I made a (semi) Fix-Approved dip to accompany the meatballs as well.

You just mix some ground chicken up with whole wheat bread crumbs, grated onion, one egg, parsley, and seasonings, form into balls with your hands (or a mini ice cream scoop), and bake.

While the meatballs are baking stir together greek yogurt, white vinegar, spices, and a small amount of blue cheese crumbles and set aside. Note: Blue cheese isn’t specifically allowed on the Fix, but it’s such a small amount and you’re only using 2 TB or so of the dip, so. Pick your battles, I guess.

Melt a tablespoon of coconut oil in a pan and stir it together with your favorite hot sauce. Toss the meatballs in the hot sauce mixture.

And serve immediately, with the dipping sauce and some veggies on the side.

Who needs wings? Not this lady.

Lightened Up Buffalo Chicken Meatballs with Blue Cheese Dip

Servings: approx. 5, 6 mini meatballs each

  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c whole wheat bread crumbs (I had panko style on hand)
  • 1/2 medium onion, grated
  • 1/4 c. parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 TB (unrefined extra virgin) coconut oil
  • 1/3 c hot sauce (I use Frank’s)

Mix all ingredients together well. Form into balls (use a mini ice cream scoop, if you have one) and place onto a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray (coconut oil preferred). Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes or until cooked through. Melt coconut oil in a large pan and add hot sauce. Stir together to combine completely. Add cooked meatballs and toss in the sauce to coat well. Serve with dipping sauce and vegetables of choice.

Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

  • 2/3 c fat free greek yogurt
  • 3 TB white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2 dashes Worschestershire sauce
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

Mix all ingredients together, stir to combine. Serve with meatballs (approx 2 TB per serving)

 

As far as container counts are concerned for you 21 Day Fixers: I am not affiliated with Autumn Calabrese or her master nutritionists. I am just a lil baby blogger, and this is by no means 100% accurate so don’t take my word for it: I’m calling one serving of 6 meatballs with one green container’s worth of veggies and 2 TB of dip: 1 Red, 1 Green, and 1 Orange. Possibly 1 t but that’s debatable. Not counting a blue either, since it’s such a small amount of cheese in the dip. (I know those blues are precious!)

 

Loaded Buffalo Chicken Burgers

I’ve had this recipe sitting around for a while. And sitting and sitting and…well, you get the point. I figured now is as good of a time as any to share, especially since it’s peak grilling season.

I’m a big fan of buffalo chicken anything (well, almost anything. I mean, some people are out here making buffalo chicken hummus and stuff and I’m so not about that. Leave hummus alone, y’all. It’s wonderful the way it is.), and after a big crisp salad with buffalo chicken strips on top, I’d say this burger is my favorite form. Resting on a toasty onion roll, paired with a smoky/sweet bacon jam, all topped with a crunchy blue cheese “slaw”. This burger is enormous and will totally make your summer cookout.

First things first: Make THIS Maple Bourbon Bacon Jam (if you already have a favorite bacon jam recipe, make that – or – ::Ina Garten voice:: store bought is fine). I would recommend making the jam a day or two in advance, it takes some time (totally worth it).

Bonus: It makes a decent amount, so you can eat it on other things! Like toast. Crackers. And…um…spoons.

Next step: Prepare apple/celery slaw. Slice/dice apples and celery, toss in a bowl with chunky blue cheese dressing, a touch of white vinegar, salt and pepper, and set aside.

Snacking optional.

For the burgers, keep it simple. Mix ground chicken with salt, pepper, and 1/2 of an onion, grated. Shape into four patties, making sure to place a dent in the center of each to prevent the patties from puffing up while cooking. Grill over medium high heat for 6-7 minutes each side or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 17o.

While the burgers cook, toast your buns! If you want.

I found that toasting the rolls makes for a more sturdy surface to handle all that burger. Also while the burgers are grilling, cook butter and hot sauce over medium heat until butter is melted and the mixture is bubbling gently.

When the burgers are done cooking, immediately dunk them in the butter and hot sauce mixture, coating on both sides.

Enjoy your bath, lovely.

Time to assemble dat burger.

Spread the bacon jam on the bottom of the roll, top with the buffalo sauce-coated burger, then the apple/celery slaw. Add the top of the roll (obvs), and. Dig. In.

I think these would really go nicely with some baked sweet potato fries. But you do you, boo. Enjoy!

“Loaded” Buffalo Chicken Burgers with Maple Bourbon Bacon Jam and Apple/Celery Blue Cheese Slaw

  • 1 batch Maple Bourbon Bacon Jam, made ahead and refrigerated
  • 1 lb lean ground chicken
  • 1/2 medium onion, grated fine
  • 1 Granny Smith Apple, julienne cut
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced on the bias
  • 1/2 cup chunky blue cheese salad dressing
  • 2 TB distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup hot sauce (I use Frank’s)
  • 4 TB butter
  • salt and pepper
  • rolls of your choice (I used onion rolls)

Take bacon jam out of the fridge and set aside (You might want to just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off and make the jam ‘spreadable’). Mix dressing and vinegar in a bowl, add sliced celery and apple and toss. Season with salt and pepper. Note: if you’re  a big blue cheese fan like me, feel free to add some extra crumbled cheese to the slaw if you have any on hand. I didn’t have any this day but it would have made the slaw that much yummier. Refrigerate slaw while finishing burgers.

Mix ground chicken, grated onion, salt and pepper. Form into four patties, pressing a dent in the center. Grill over medium high heat, 6-7 minutes per side.

While the burgers are cooking, toast rolls in the oven if desired. Add hot sauce and butter to a small pan and cook over medium heat until butter melts and the sauce bubbles gently.

When the burgers are cooked through, toss each in the sauce until covered.

Assemble burgers and serve.

 

 

“Italian Sub” Salad

Well that was an unexpected absence. The past four months since I last posted have gone by in an absolute blur and I have absolutely nothing to show for it, besides my muffin top.

Stress eating is a hell of a thing.

ANYWAY.

I used to work in the deli department of a small grocery store in the Pocono Mountains. For those of you not familiar with the Poconos (And there’s like ten of you that read this blog regularly, I know you’re familiar with the Poconos. This is for the OTHER ten people that might stumble upon my ramblings and need a little back story, I’m saying.), there is a large population of people that have transplanted from New Jersey and New York to the area over the past 30 years or so  and have made it their home.

With New Yorkers and New Jersians (Jersey-ites?) come New York and New Jersey foods. Excellent pizza, Italian bakeries, bagels, and delis are all over Monroe County, and the deli I worked in was…

Eh, it was alright. It was cramped and the floor was sticky sometimes and it was a revolving door of college-aged losers (OH HAYYYYYYY) that were too young to go to the bars every night but needed money for the movies and Chinese food. We made awesome homemade salads and gigantic sandwiches and sold good cold cuts. I mean the really good ones.

I blame this job for my deli and sandwich snobbery and that pesky 50 lb weight gain after high school. (Hey, it had to come from somewhere, y’all.) To this day, I refuse to buy cold cuts from certain stores, and am very particular about the Italian subs I order.

The subs we made back in that deli were great – meat, cheese, and veggies stuffed to almost bursting on soft, chewy Italian rolls delivered to us every morning. Our Italian subs were my personal favorite – black pepper-coated ham, spicy Capicola ham (or Gabbagool, as my regulars would call it), hard salami, and sharp provolone cheese. I always preferred mine with lettuce, tomato, a couple hot peppers, and lots of oil and vinegar. Oh, dudes. You think Wawa‘s Italian subs are good? PFFT. Wawa ain’t got nothing on these. (But FYI Primo‘s Sharp Italians are pretty close.)

Unfortunately, the store I used to work in burned down a few years back and was never rebuilt. So you may never know the delight that is a Hilltop Market Italian sub made by yours truly. But you can have this salad, which might be a close second.

Gather your ingredients:

Romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, red onion, pepper ham, hard salami, capicola ham, provolone cheese, sandwich pepperoni, and jarred hot pepperoncini peppers. For the dressing, a little mayo, white vinegar, salt, pepper, and a mess of grated parmesan cheese.

First, the dressing.

Mayo, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add grated parmesan. Whisk violently.

Okay, maybe not violently. Set aside.

Chop up romaine, slice cherry tomatoes in half, slice onion thinly. Add to large bowl.

Like so.

Prepare the cold cuts by layering the pepper ham, capicola, salami, provolone, and pepperoni on top of each other. Roll the entire thing like a log, and slice.

Thusly.

Assemble your Avengers salad: Place sliced rolled cold cuts on the lettuce mixture, and add sliced pepperoncinis. (Or don’t, if you don’t like delicious hot things. No judgement.)

Yes.

Drizzle with creamy parmesan dressing. Serve.

You can add or subtract any cold cut you desire, use different dressing, add some good crunchy/chewy croutons, etc. It’s kind of hard to mess up a salad, no? Unless you use bad cold cuts. Then I don’t know you.

“Italian Sub” Salad with Creamy Parmesan Dressing

  • 1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • Sliced black pepper ham
  • Sliced spicy capicola ham
  • Sliced hard salami
  • Sliced pepperoni (look for sandwich or “slicing” pepperoni, not the small slices for pizza
  • Jarred hot pepperoncini peppers

Toss lettuce, tomato, and onion in a large bowl. Stack sliced cold cuts and cheese. Roll into a log and slice. Top salad with rolled cold cuts and pepperoncinis. Top with dressing and serve.

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-3 Tb white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup grated parmiggiano-reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper.

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and pour over salad (use more or less vinegar to get desired consistency).

This is so easy and delicious it almost feels wrong.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup


It’s fall, y’all! No way to deny it anymore. The days are shorter, the nights cool and crisp, the leaves have started changing, and I’m fighting with every fiber of my being the urge to turn the heat on in my house until November 1st. The arrival of fall brings with it my most favorite “season” of all…soup season!

Don’t get me wrong, I could(and do) eat soup during a heat wave in July, but there’s just something infinitely more comforting about tucking into a bowl of steaming hot goodness while you’re cuddled on the couch on a chilly autumn afternoon; wearing flannel pj pants, fuzzy socks, and a big cozy sweatshirt; wrapped in blankets while your two purring cuddle monsters perch precariously on your lap trying to see what you’ve got there, momma.


These two. Menace to society, they are. Not to mention a threat to my sanity and glassware.

ANYWAY. Back to soup. I could eat soup almost any day of the year, but I always seem to specifically crave it when I’m feeling under the weather. Which I was after returning from vacation the other week. Those damn airplane germs get me every time. So before I fully succumbed to sinus ickiness I dug out my soup pot and got cooking.

Since I was in the mood for something with Mexican flavors (am I ever *not* in the mood for Mexican? No.), I went with a simple chicken tortilla soup – chock full of fresh veggies, beans, a little heat, and served up with a touch of freshness with some cilantro and lime at the end.

Firstly I baked a couple boneless skinless chicken breasts in the oven, 375 for 25-30 minutes, or until cooked through. I don’t like to poach my chicken in the broth, I think roasting in the oven gives a better flavor ( it’s even better when the chicken is roasted over some root veggies with the bone in and skin on, but I used what I had on hand here). Dice the chicken up and set aside.

Now get to chopping all those veggies. Onion, garlic, celery, and bell peppers. Maybe some carrots if you’re so inclined (I was carrot-less this time around). Dice everything up fine and sauté in olive oil over medium high heat until the onions are nicely translucent, the celery has softened, and the peppers have slightly browned.

Seasoning time. Add salt, pepper, onion powder, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and chipotle powder to vegetables. Stir in tomato paste. Cook for a couple of minutes to toast spices and paste in the oil.

Onto the canned goods. I love canned beans for soups and chilis, they’re such a big time saver. Be sure to drain and rinse that liquid off though, it’s a bit salty. Drain and rinse two cans of black beans and add to the pan. Add two cans of diced tomatoes with chilis (Ro-Tel), including liquid and stir. Bring to a low simmer.

Add six cups of chicken stock and the diced chicken and bring the soup to a simmer over medium heat. Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed. Chop cilantro finely and add to soup (if desired, I know some people aren’t cilantro fans). Serve with desired additions — wedge of lime, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, even a touch of sour cream or guacamole.

Note: This makes a lot of soup. You can absolutely store some of this in the freezer.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Makes approximately 12-14 cups

  • 12-16 oz boneless skinless chicken breast, baked and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with chiles, with liquid
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp chipotle powder
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 2 TBS fresh cilantro, chopped fine
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • Tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh lime wedges, and some additional cilantro, for serving.

Saute onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil until onion is translucent and vegetables are slightly browned. Add all seasonings and tomato paste, stir to combine, and cook for a couple of minutes to allow spices to toast up a bit. Add drained and rinsed beans and tomatoes and chilis with liquid. Add cooked diced chicken, chicken stock, and bring to a simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add chopped fresh cilantro and serve with desired toppings.

It’s good for what ails ya.

You can also check out some of my other fall soup recipes — they’re all ridiculously delicious and super simple to make.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Creamy Cauliflower Soup (my personal favorite!)

Easiest Butternut Squash Soup Ever

Enjoy! And happy fall!

“Aw, Shucks”-Style Spicy Parmesan Roasted Corn

Midweek, Musikfest 2015. Is anyone else exhausted yet? And I’ve only been there twice so far!

I blame work, as per my usual. This past weekend wasn’t too bad but Friday and Monday were busy busy busy. And as of 6 pm Monday I went right into “Do ALL The Things!” Vacation Mode, so I haven’t given myself a minute to relax and breathe. I slept in a bit this morning, and plan on heading to my parents’ this afternoon for some pool time and dinner. I’ll most likely skip ‘Festing tonight to save my energy for the rest of the week, including the Snoop Dogg show Saturday night.

When people talk about Musikfest, the conversation quickly goes from the big paid acts to all the amazing free acts to the beer to the food. Oh so much food. There’s succulent shish kabobs, tasty tacos, stuffed pretzels bigger than your head, ice cream sundaes bigger than your car, pickles on sticks, and – brand new this year! – fried butter. (Yes I tried it. Just a small bite. It was as horrible as you’d imagine.) But one of the foodie favorites of ‘Fest by far is Aw Shucks corn on the cob. Sweet corn on the cob, roasted over an open flame, dipped in melted butter, sprinkled liberally with a kicky southwestern spice mix and covered in parmesan cheese. There’s not enough adjectives to describe how freaking good this corn is. Everywhere around Musikfest you’ll see people walking around, ear of corn in one hand, light-up beer mug in the other, butter and spices covering their blissful faces.

Or maybe that’s just me.

In the past few years Aw Shucks has become so popular at area festivals and fairs that they have a permanent stand in the local AAA baseball stadium, so if you have a corn craving from April through August and there’s not some sort of fest going on, you can still get your fix.

Or you can just make it at home, like me.

I can hear you from here. “But Jenn! That’s not an ear of corn! YOUR BLOG IS FULL OF LIES.”

Oh calm down, kittens. As much fun as it is to eat corn on the cob, it’s also messy as all get out. The days I plan on partaking of Aw Shucks at ‘Fest I always take wet naps to clean up after. And a change of clothes. And sometimes a drop cloth. It takes dedication to eat that corn. It’s definitely not a dainty undertaking. My way, however, is much neater and less work to get to the good stuff.

First thing you’ll need is the Aw Shucks spice mix. The mix itself consists of granulated garlic, paprika, garlic salt, onion powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper, so you can “try” to recreate it at home, but there’s mysterious “other spices” listed in the ingredients, so it’s doubtful you’d get just the right combination. The mix is available at all Aw Shucks stands, on their website, and at certain farm stands in the valley. Which brings us to our next ingredient – the corn, of course.

I picked up a dozen ears at Newhards Corn Shed in Coplay, just a short drive up Mauch Chunk Road off of the 15th St exit on Route 22. A great little farm stand, reminiscent of the places I always shopped at with my mom and grandmother growing up in the Poconos. Some of the best corn I’ve tasted, too. If you’re buying your corn at the grocery store instead of Newhards you’re doing it wrong.

A baker’s dozen will run you about $6.50. My only quibble is that they appear to only sell dozen and half dozen bags, so like it or not, you’re buying corn for a crowd.

Shuck, de-silk, rinse, and pat dry. Place corn on your grill on high heat and roast, turning every few minutes, for seven to ten minutes total, until the corn is toasted and brown. Even darker in spots won’t hurt in the least – it’ll just lend to that authentic “Aw, Shucks” flavor. Had I a charcoal grill this would have been even better, but charcoal intimidates the hell out of me.

Next, de-corn your cobs. I’ve found that the easiest way to do this is the method I learned from Rachael Ray – one small bowl inverted in the bottom of a much larger bowl, stand the ear of corn up on its end, and cut down each side of the cob. Corn goes into the larger bowl and not all over the floor, boom.

Like so.

Once all the corn is cut from the cobs (and you’ve removed the smaller bowl), add melted butter, spice mix, and grated parmesan cheese.

Mix to combine. You don’t need additional salt or pepper — there’s more than enough in the spice mix and the parmesan cheese. Add the mixture to a casserole dish.

Grate some additional parmesan cheese and sprinkle just a touch more spice mix on top. Bake uncovered at 425 for approximately 15 minutes.

You can turn the broiler on for a minute or two to brown up the top if you like.

Almost as good as the original.

“Aw, Shucks”-Style Spicy Parmesan Roasted Corn

  • One dozen ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 4 TB butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, with more for grating on top
  • 1/2-1 TB “Aw Shucks” spice mix, depending on your taste

Grill ears of corn over high heat for 7-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until browned and roasted. Remove corn from cobs. Stir in melted butter, parmesan cheese, and spice mix (Start with a smaller amount, and taste as you go to your desired spice level). Pour mixture into a casserole dish, top with additional grated cheese and sprinkle a bit more spice mixture on top. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, turning on the broiler at the end to brown and crisp the cheese on top, if desired. Remove from oven (duh) and serve. Makes an awesome side for steak or BBQ chicken.