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!)

 

“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!

“Borrowed” Bang Bang Shrimp

So…I have a slight problem. I took my very first trip to Bonefish Grill with some coworkers earlier this year, and made the mistake of ordering their Bang Bang Shrimp appetizer. It’s a lovely dish, sizzling hot crispy fried shrimp tossed with a spicy creamy dressing, served over a bed of cool lettuce. Ever since then, I need to have this dish at least once a month. Some might call this an obsession or addiction. I just say they’re damn good shrimp and I’m glad they’re half price on Wednesdays.

I saw a Bang Bang copycat recipe on Pinterest a while back and thought about giving it a try many times, but I always talked myself out of it for one reason or another. I hate deep frying in the house. What if there’s an ingredient I can’t find somewhere? What if the recipe is wrong and it doesn’t taste the same and I wasted how much money on fresh shrimp? And oh, hey, the restaurant is ten minutes away and they’ll make it for me, plus they’ve got some slamming cocktails. But…

sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for it.

I read the recipe and realized I actually had everything I would need at home, with the exception of the shrimp. The sauce is simple, especially if you’re a condiment hoarder like me. And if you like spice? Even better. It’s not an overly spicy dish, but with a name like “Bang Bang Shrimp”, you know it’s got a kick to it.

Serve the shrimp in a fancy dish on a bed of chopped iceberg lettuce and some chopsticks and it’s like I’m AT the restaurant.

Minus my requisite martini.

Bonefish Grill Copycat Bang Bang Shrimp

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Thai sweet chili sauce
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 2 tsp sriracha sauce
  • juice of one lime
  • pinch red pepper flake
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 lb 21-25 shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup cornstarch seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Peanut oil, for frying (can use canola or vegetable)
  • 1 cup iceberg lettuce, chopped
  • 2 scallions, sliced

Set the oil on high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Stir mayonnaise, chili sauce, garlic, sriracha, lime juice, chili flake, salt and pepper together in a bowl and set aside. Dredge shrimp in seasoned cornstarch and fry in batches for approximately three minutes (or until cooked through). Drain each batch on paper towels and immediately place in a bowl. Toss shrimp with a few spoonfuls of sauce until coated and place on bed of iceberg lettuce. Top with sliced scallions and serve.

Now, someone bring me a martini. Or two. This ain’t amateur hour.

Pumpkin Pecan Whoopie Pies

About two weeks ago, one of my coworkers was having a pretty crappy day at the office. I knew I would be seeing her later in the week, so I decided I would make her a treat to help cheer her up. Because who doesn’t love a whoopie pie?

I never pass up the opportunity to brighten someone’s day with something delicious.

The whoopie recipe is Martha’s (with an adjustment or two), but the filling is all mine. Some flavors I love in the fall (besides pumpkin) are maple and bourbon, and I almost always incorporate the two in any of my autumn treats. A little monotonous perhaps, but mama loves her bourbon.

Maple-Bourbon Buttercream. So good it’s a proper noun. I’ve made buttercream frosting so many times that I could do it in my sleep, so I the recipe that follows below *might* not be exact, but it’s  close enough that some simple adjustments (a little extra sugar here, a touch more bourbon there) will get you where you need to be.

I added pecans to the cake for a little texture. I should have either added more or omitted them altogether, but Pumpkin Pecan Whoopie Pies has so much more panache than just Plain Ass Pumpkin.

Oh, alliteration. You make my soul sing.

I used a mini ice cream scoop (2 oz) to scoop the batter for the cakes. This made an incredible amount of mini whoopies – almost three dozen.

No worries, none of them went to waste. I should have flattened them out a bit before baking with a spatula or something. These were a bit…rustic.

Yeah, rustic. That’s what I’ll call them. Also, moist, tender, pumpkin-y bundles of deliciousness. The perfect cure for a bad day, or the perfect ending for a good one.

Pumpkin Pecan Whoopie Pies with Maple Bourbon Buttercream 

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 TB ground cinnamon
  • 1 TB ground cloves
  • 2 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and set aside. Whisk together oil, sugar, eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla. Incorporate wet ingredients into dry and stir to combine. Add pecans (if desired). Scoop batter onto lined cookie sheets and bake approximately 12-15 minutes (touch center of cookie, if it springs back it’s done). Allow to cool while making frosting.

Maple Bourbon Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar (watch your consistency & volume)
  • 2 tsp maple flavoring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (4 TB) bourbon (or to taste, it will mellow out overnight)
  • 3-4 TB  cream (or milk)

Beat butter in a stand  mixer until creamy. Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, incorporating fully after each addition. Add vanilla extract, maple flavoring, and bourbon & mix to combine. Add cream a little at a time, stopping when frosting is desired consistency.

Spoon frosting into a piping bag with a large plain tip (or use a spatula) and frost half of the cookies with approx 1-2 tablespoons of frosting. Top with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (to allow to set) and serve. The whoopies keep nicely in the fridge for three days, but they won’t last that long.

pumpkinwhoopTrust me.

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

I came up with this one over the weekend. I knew I wanted boneless pork chops with some sort of fruity-saucy accompaniment, but wasn’t sure what kind of fruit until I was walking through the store. Usually when you think pork chops, you think apples or apple sauce. Well, Peter Brady, let me show you something a little different.

“I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.”

This is another very simple recipe, with just a little bit nicer result than your normal grilled chicken breast or sautéed chop. The sauce isn’t too rich or sour, and the fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness to complement the chop and the wine. I added a few healthy grinds of fresh black pepper to add a little depth of flavor.

The chops cook quickly, and the sauce comes together in a matter of seconds. You can literally have this on your table in less than 15 minutes.

I’m always worried when I make something for the first time that I don’t have a recipe for – something original. I’m still a bit unsure of myself when it comes to pairings and flavorings and what “goes” with what. I was questioning myself all week as to whether or not I should sautee an onion in the sauce, or add a vegetable to braise. Ultimately, I decided that the chop and the sauce could stand on their own.

And I was right.

I served this with a simple herb roasted potato (‘recipe’ to follow) and these green beans (minus the shallots). Definitely a keeper.

Boneless Pork Chops with Cherry Merlot Sauce

  • 3 or 4 boneless pork chops
  • 1 cup frozen cherries, thawed, with juice (mash them up a little with a fork or potato masher)
  • 1 cup merlot (use something you would drink. This is a personal favorite.)
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB butter
  • Salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • pinch or two of sugar (optional)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Pat chops dry and season with salt and pepper. Add chops to the pan and cook 3-5 minutes on either side. Remove from pan.

2. Add wine to pan and deglaze, scraping all the brown bits into the wine. Add butter and allow to thicken slightly.

3. Add mashed cherries with juice, 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper, and a couple of pinches of sugar if desired. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

4. Spoon sauce over chops and serve.

Herb Roasted Parmesan Potatoes

I only cooked one potato for this meal, you can adjust this for as many people as you like. 

  • 1 medium potato, cut into large dice
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp herbs de provence
  • 1 TB grated parmigianno regianno
  • salt & pepper

Heat oven to 375. Toss diced potato with oil, herbs, and salt & pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

Toss with parmesan cheese & bake for an additional five minutes.

Serve.

Steakhouse Style Wedge Salad

This is another ridiculously easy recipe; I made it as a side to another dish I’ll be writing up soon-ish, and I figured what the heck, I’ll write this up too. Plus I want to keep the habit of posting regularly and it’s almost bed time and this was the best I could do short notice, so.

I love the flavors in a wedge salad. The “salad” part is just a big hunk of iceberg lettuce, but it’s the toppings you add that make it really special. I see it once in a while on a menu when I go out for dinner and I always consider ordering it, but then I think “Why would I pay twelve dollars for it here when I can make it at home for half that?”

So that’s what I did.

For this I had scallions, crispy onions, bacon, blue cheese dressing, and crumbled blue cheese. I made it easy on myself by buying the precooked bacon. Just one less step and ten minutes faster to salad perfection.

You can make it your own with chives, diced tomatoes, crispy prosciutto instead of bacon (ooh, yum), a different dressing…you get the idea.

Steakhouse Style Wedge Salad

Iceberg lettuce, quartered

3 slices of bacon, cooked and sliced thinly

3 scallions, thin sliced

2 TB blue cheese crumbles

2 TB blue cheese dressing

2 TB crispy salad onions

Top lettuce with bacon, scallions, dressing, cheese, and onions and serve. Goes well with a medium rare steak, but don’t let me tell you what to do.

See? Stupidly, ridiculously easy.

But hey, it counts as a blog post. BAM.