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!)

 

Cocktail Friday(on a Monday): Raspberry Beret

Like many people, I’ve had Prince playing on a constant loop in my house and car since Thursday. He was an artist I always enjoyed and admired, and I don’t think we’ll ever see someone like him again, sadly.

I encourage you to tip this one back in his honor.

The Raspberry Beret

  • 2 oz Raspberry Vodka
  • 1 oz. Chambord blackberry liqueur
  • 1 oz. St. Germaine Elderflower liqueur
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • raspberries for garnish

Add vodka, liqueurs, and lemon juice to a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into chilled martini glass. Garnish with raspberries. Play “Let’s Go Crazy” and dance like a lunatic.

 

“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.

 

 

 

 

 

Cocktail Friday: Pomegranate Moscow Mule

I was out and about for a few hours today. I had to run a few errands, including getting fingerprinted (yep) for both jobs, and picking up the boxes of floor tiles I ordered for the kitchen. Yes, I have a new kitchen floor going in soon! I’m so excited. When my dad and I remodeled the kitchen a few years ago I liked the wood laminate that I originally chose for the floor, but it quickly became apparent that it was a poor choice in the kitchen. The new flooring is a vinyl tile that can be laid and grouted like ceramic – my parents actually have it in their kitchen, and I love it. I can’t wait to get started on mine – as soon as dad can find a free weekend!

While I was out today I took a side trip to TJ Maxx “just to see what they had” and ended up buying a pair of copper mugs, something I’d been wanting to procure for a while. I ended up buying a couple other things, too, but we’re not here to talk about my fabulous new poncho and scarf.

Because with copper mugs come Moscow Mules. Vodka, lime, and ginger beer? Oh, heck yes. When you add pomegranate soda? Even better. The soda cuts the spiciness of the ginger beer and gives the drink a fruity sweetness that makes you forget you maybe shouldn’t drink it that fast, Jenn. But you do anyway, because it’s delicious.

Pomegranate Moscow Mule

2 oz vodka

1 oz lime juice

3 oz ginger beer

3 oz pomegranate soda

Fill a glass (or copper mug) with ice, add vodka, lemon juice, ginger beer, and soda. Stir and serve. And try not to chug it.

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!

Cocktail Friday: Up Peach Creek

I’m baaaack! Well, I’ve been back for like ten days but post-vacation blues and subsequent post-vacation illness had me in not so much of a bloggy place. I still feel like I have about five thousand errands to catch up on but I’m slowly getting back into the swing of things. Having a nice long weekend next week will definitely help in this capacity, but I’ve got five long days at both jobs ahead of me before that. Having one of these tonight will help me soldier on.

While in Florida I looked for different cocktails that I’d like to re-create at home, this was one of the first to catch my eye because bourbon, of course. The menu listed a different bourbon used in their version, thus calling it a “Peachy Buffalo” or some such; since I have/prefer Knob Creek Bourbon I’m calling this one the Up Peach Creek.

I haven’t used/drank peach schnapps in ages but the first whiff when I opened the bottle brought me back to the summers of the late 80’s and early 90’s when my parents would have picnics and my mother and all her friends would be drinking fuzzy navels and possibly sneaking sips to me, I’ll never tell. PeachTree is definitely not something I’d use every day but I do like the sweetness it imparts here. It cuts the burn of the bourbon just enough to make this one chuggable (and therefore slightly dangerous) cocktail.

Up Peach Creek 

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1 oz peach schnapps
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 4 oz orange juice
  • orange/maraschino cherries for garnish

Fill a large glass with ice. Add bourbon, schnapps, syrup, juice, and stir. Garnish with cherry and orange slice, if desired, and serve.

Next week: Maybe a post about the trip, definitely a recipe post, and OMG YAY HARVEST FEST. See you then. Have a great weekend. Cheers!

Cocktail Friday: Felix Felicis

I’m writing this post Wednesday night, when I should be finishing up some things around the house, not the least of which is packing.

Because I’m on vacation, you see. For the first time in over ten damn years.

Some time last year I got it into my head that I wanted to go on vacation to celebrate my 40th birthday, and with a stroke of good fortune (not to mention the fact that I’ve been working my ass off at two jobs for the past three years), I was able to book a long weekend with a couple of friends in Orlando, Florida. We won’t have time to do much, since it is just a three day trip, but with regards to Orlando, the only thing that’s on the agenda is the same thing that’s been on my mind for the past…oh, say four years or so?

hp

YES.

Because I’m a GIGANTIC DAMN NERD I’ve been dreaming about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Florida since it opened. After the expansion last year, I figured my 40th would be the perfect opportunity to indulge my inner child/nerd and finally experience the magic for myself.

We booked the trip before the summer even started and now that it’s here it seems like a dream. I’ll talk all about it when I get back, but for now we have a drink to make.

I wanted to make a cocktail inspired by Harry Potter, but I really didn’t want to do yet another version of butterbeer. Been there, done that, made the cupcakes. Besides, I wanted to go to the park and experience the original first before attempting my own bourbon-ized version. Oh yes, there will be bourbon.

While consulting Pinterest I found this Buzzfeed article highlighting a few different Harry Potter-inspired cocktails. And since the “Felix Felicis” scene in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince is probably my favorite scene in all eight movies, I decided to make this simple version of Professor Slughorn’s “Liquid Luck”.

Comedy gold, that is. And a delicious cocktail to boot. The spicy ginger gets mellowed out just a touch by the sparkling wine and simple syrup, combining for a delightfully crisp flavor that bubbles over your tongue.

Felix Felicis (“Liquid Luck”)

  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz ginger beer
  • 4 oz champagne, Prosecco, or other sparkling wine

Combine the lemon juice, simple syrup and ginger beer in a champagne flute. Add champagne to fill and serve whenever you need a little…luck.

See you when I get back!