Steak & Potato Skillet Salad

Sounds interesting, right?  That’s what I thought when I first came across this hearty salad.  I think I’ve said it before, but I rarely like salads to be my main course.  I LOVE them as a side, but do not prefer them as the star.  However, when I saw this salad I thought that, while it sounded interesting, it also sounded hearty.  I mean, I still get my steak and potatoes!

This was a SUPER easy way to prepare both the steak and the potatoes.  I used the microwave and one skillet to achieve a freshly seared steak AND crispy potatoes.  While I seared the steak, I popped the potatoes in the microwave to give them a head start (you’ll want to avoid having raw insides and burnt outsides).  By the time the steak was ready to rest, the potatoes were ready to be added to the skillet to finish cooking . . . not to mention they were infused with a meaty flavor from the browned bits left behind by the seared steak.  Talk about delicious!

The dressing was very tasty!  I think it was the thyme that really complimented the beef here.  I will tell you that the reason this recipe has a tad bit more calories than expected is because of the dressings (those darn dressings will get us EVERY time).  So, if you’re really watching calories then you’ll want to half the amount of dressing you put on your salad.  (Just so you can see, I did end up putting the calorie count for the dressing alone.  You can find it at the bottom of the post.)

I really loved this salad . . . even as my main course.  It was LARGE, meaty, and filling.  Oh, and very tasty to boot!

Steak and Potato Skillet Salad
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (or 1/8 tsp. dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 pound boneless top sirloin steak, about 1-1/4 inches thick
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 pound potatoes (about 3 medium), scrubbed and cut into wedges
3 romaine lettuce hearts (about 1 pound), torn into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion

For the dressing:  Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl until bell combined; set aside.  (Alternatively, you can put it all in a food processor and process until combined.)

For the salad:  Pat the steak dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper (about 1/8 teaspoon of each).  Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking.  Brown the steak well on the first side, about 3 minutes.  Flip the steak, reduce the heat to medium, and continue to cook until the center of the steak registers 120 to 125 degrees on an in, 5 to 7 minutes longer.  (This is for medium-rare.  If you prefer it more or less done, cook for more or less time accordingly.  I cooked mine until they were 130 degrees.)

Transfer the steak to a carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.  Cut the steak across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Meanwhile, toss the potatoes with the remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Cover the microwave on high until the potatoes are tender, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring the potatoes halfway through the cooking time.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat until just smoking.  Add the potatoes in a single layer and cook until well browned on both sides, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk the dressing to recombine.  Toss the lettuce and onion with 1/2 cup of the dressing, then divide it among four plates.  Arrange the steak and potatoes on top of the salads, drizzle with the remaining dressing, and serve.

Serves 4.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 1/4 of Recipe)
Calories:  380
Protein:  29g
Carbs:  29g
Fat:  16g (3g = Sat.)
Fiber:  4g

Nutritional Information – DRESSING ONLY (Per serving)
Calories:  83.4
Protein:  0.1g
Carbs:  5.5g
Fat:  7g (1g = Sat.)
Fiber:  0.1g

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Happy first day of March!  This day is good news to me because I absolutely LOVE spring and summer and we’re getting that much closer to these fabulous seasons!  (Plus it is my nephew’s first birthday today and I love him so much!  Happy Birthday C-Bug!)

But since the weather is still kind of cold, I have another cold-weather meal for you today.  Who’s never heard of Taco Soup?  It seems like it is a common soup option for many.  I mean, what’s not to love about it?  It’s a taco in a bowl and I love my taco coming in a soup option when we’re in the colder months of the year.

The GREAT news about Taco Soup is that it is usually well balanced with proteins, fats, and carbs.  Plus it is loaded with antioxidants (thanks to those beans!).  There are several variations of Taco Soup, but here is one of my go-to recipes and I like it because it’s so quick and easy.  It seems like the most time-consuming part is opening each can of goods with a can opener.  It could easily be called Taco-Dump Soup because mostly all you do is open a can and dump it in the slow cooker.  Pretty easy, right?

If you’re REALLY counting carbs and calories, leave out the corn.  That’s what I did here because I am being strict with my carbs and calories right now (I’m going on a beach vacation soon so of course I’m watching my calories a little closer . . . more on that later).   You’ll see that I calculated the nutritional information for both options – corn or no corn.  So, prepare it as you wish (or rather as you need to), but enjoy every bite!

Slow Cooker Taco Soup
Adapted from

1.5 pounds (24 oz.) lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 (16-oz.) can chili beans, with liquid
1 (15-oz.) can black beans with liquid
1 (15-oz.) can whole kernel corn, with liquid
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 (14.5-oz.) cans peeled & diced tomatoes
1 (4-oz.) can diced green chile peppers
2 tablespoons (or 1 package) taco seasoning

In a medium skillet, cook the ground beef with 1 tablespoon of taco seasoning over medium heat.  Drain, and set aside.

Place the ground beef, onion, chili beans, black beans, corn, tomato sauce, water, diced tomatoes, green chile peppers and remaining taco seasoning in a slow cooker.  Mix to blend and cook on Low setting for 8 hours (or High setting for 4 hours).

Serves 8.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving, without Corn)
Calories:  266.7
Protein:  21.8g
Carbs:  26.3g
Fat:  9.5g (3.7g = Sat.)
Fiber:  7.1g
Sugars:  5.6g

Nutritional Information (Per Serving with Corn)
Calories:  291.5
Protein:  22.6g
Carbs:  32g
Fat:  9.8g (3.7g = Sat.)
Fiber:  7.7g
Sugars:  5.6g

Mushroom, Garlic & White Wine Chicken

Doesn’t this sound like such a fancy dish?  I can attest that it tastes kind of fancy, but it’s not all that fancy to prepare.  The mushrooms, garlic and white wine do WONDERS when it comes to flavoring this chicken.  It is tasty!

Not only that, this dish comes together in a flash!  It’s great for any day of the week.  You can definitely use regular chicken breasts and just cut them into strips if you do not have chicken tenderloins on hand.  You’ll notice that I used white cooking wine in this recipe (usually found on the vinegar isle of your grocery store).  You can certainly use regular white wine if you have it.  Or, you can simply substitute chicken broth if you don’t have either.

This is SUPER tasty served over baked brown rice.  Give it a try because I am pretty confident that you’re going to love it.

Mushroom, Garlic & White Wine Chicken
Adapted from

16 oz of chicken tenderloins (about 8 tenderloins)
2 tsp light butter (such as Land O Lakes)
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon all purpose flour* (use rice flour if gluten free)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup white cooking wine
1/3 cup fat free chicken broth
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 200°. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge in flour. (I usually pour about 1/4 cup of flour in a bowl so that it’s easier to lightly coat the chicken.  However, only about 1 tablespoon actually gets used.)

Heat a large skillet on medium heat; when hot add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil. Add chicken to the skillet and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is no longer pink. Set aside in a warm oven.

Add additional oil and butter to the skillet, then garlic and cook a few seconds; add mushrooms, salt and pepper stirring occasionally until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add cooking wine, chicken broth, parsley; stir the pan with a wooden spoon breaking up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook a few more minutes or until the liquid reduces by half. Top the chicken with the mushroom sauce and serve.

Serves 4.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 1/4 of the Recipe)
Calories:  165.6
Protein:  26.2g
Carbs:  6.8g
Fat:  4.5g (0.7g = Sat.)
Fiber:  1.1g
Sugars:  1.4g

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken & Tomatillo Stew

What’s not to love about this Mexican stew?  It’s made in the slow cooker so you really don’t have to do much, it has a smokey cumin flavor, it has sweet potatoes, and it has tomatillos!  I absolutely loved the sweet potatoes in this and couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of using them before in similar recipes.  They were perfect when paired with the other ingredients.

You’ll see that there are optional toppings for this delicious stew.  As you can see in my picture above, I didn’t use any of them simply for the sake of counting calories.  So, depending on where you’re at . . . you can decide if you need any extra toppings.

This was hearty and delicious.  When I made it we didn’t eat it with anything else and we were very satisfied. When you get a chance, you should throw this in the slow cooker and enjoy it as much as I did.

Slow Cooker Mexican Chicken & Tomatillo Stew
Adapted from

1 1/2 cups peeled and diced sweet potatoes
1 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 cloves finely minced garlic
1 tablespoon cumin
5 cups lower sodium chicken broth
16 oz. shredded or chopped cooked chicken
2 cups diced tomatillos
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, optional

Put all ingredients in a slow cooker, except for the cilantro.  Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours, or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Serve in individual bowls and, if desired, sprinkle with chopped cilantro.  (Other optional toppings might include diced avocado, cheese, and crispy tortilla strips.  I left them out for calorie-counting purposes.)

Serves 4 very hearty portions.
(It can really stretch to serve 8, so if you have small people (kids) to feed who don’t need large portions, add a little extra chicken to your portion to ensure you get enough protein.)

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = Approx. 2 Cups)
Calories:  211
Protein:  22.3g
Carbs:  26.5g
Fat:  2g (1.1g = Sat.)
Fiber:  2.7g
Sugars:  4.9g

Maple & Cinnamon-Glazed Acorn Squash

I’m pretty sure I’ve declared my love for squash before (how can there be squash haters out there, seriously!?).  This recipe is also on my love list.  The squash is great, but it’s SUPER great when it’s topped with a sweet glaze that consists of maple and cinnamon.  Talk about a serious flavor boost!  We ate this for our dinner carbohydrate last night and I seriously couldn’t wait to throw it up on the blog.

I used acorn squash here, but you can substitute with buttercup, butternut, kabocha, or delicata squash.  You’ll just want to make sure your substitute is similar in size as the recipe calls for (about 1 pound).    You’ll also want to note that different squash may cook faster than others.  Thus, it would be a super idea for you to check for doneness after 30 minutes.

I must mention that the glaze caramelizes over the squash.  Now, anything that “caramelizes” has got to be good, right!?  Well, in this case it definitely was!

Maple & Cinnamon-Glazed Acorn Squash
Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

1 small acorn squash (about 1 pound), halved and seeded
1/2 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sugar-free maple syrup
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray.  Brush the cut sides of the squash with the oil and lay cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet.  Roast until tender (the tip of a paring knife can be slipped into the flesh with no resistance), 35 to 45 minutes.

When the squash is tender, whisk the maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, pepper and cayenne together in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until it has reduced to a glaze that measures about 1/8 cup, 2 to 3 minutes.

Flip the squash over, score the flesh using the tip of a paring knife.  Score a 1/2-inch crosshatch design into the cooked squash, about 1/2 inch deep.  Evenly spread the warm maple glaze over the squash.  Continue to roast until the glazed side begins to brown and caramelize, 5 to 10 minutes.  Serve.

Serves 4.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 1/4 of Acorn Squash)
Calories:  76
Protein:  1.3g
Carbs:  19.5
Fat:  0.7g (0.1g = Sat.)
Fiber:  5g
Sugars:  0g

Crispy Kale Chips

This is such a tasty low-calorie, nutrient packed snack!  Kale chips are not a new idea.  The concept of baking kale until crisp has been around for quite some time.  When I first heard about it I thought it sounded super strange, but I didn’t want to knock it until I tried it.  I tried it and I love it!

It’s a great alternative to potato chips (or something like that).  These don’t taste exactly like potato chips, but they satisfy that salty, munchy craving that we all tend to get at times.  And instead of loading up on empty calories from the naughty carby-snacks, these work as a SUPER great substitute!  You might find me making these as a side for lunch (with my sandwiches), in the late afternoon for a snack, or even as a side dish at dinner.  Why not?  They’re a cinch to make and they have such a LOW calorie count.  Yay!  Yay!  Yay!

Crispy Kale Chips
Adapted from

1 bunch kale (about 6 oz.)
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a non insulated cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.

Wash and thoroughly dry kale with a salad spinner. With a knife or kitchen shears carefully remove the leaves from the thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Drizzle kale with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Gently toss until all pieces of kale are lightly coated with oil (I do this in a big bowl with a rubber spatula or with my hands).

Bake until the edges start to brown but are not burnt, 10 to 15 minutes. My oven takes about 12 minutes and they come out perfectly.  If you over cook these, they will taste bitter so watch them closely towards the end of the baking time.

Serves 4.

Nutritional Information (Per Serving = 1/4 of Recipe)
Calories:  31.7
Protein:  0.8g
Carbs:  2.4g
Fat:  2.5g (0.4g = Sat.)
Fiber:  0.9g
Sugars:  0.5g

Tropical Protein Smoothie

When it comes to easy, this might be my most favorite protein smoothie/shake combination.  I’m not hard to please, am I?  I just love the combination of this fruit (peaches, mangos, pineapple, strawberries) mixed with vanilla.  I use this as a pre-workout shake or as a snack sometimes.  Truth be known that this seriously motivates me to wake up for an early workout some days.  I’ll be laying in bed trying to decide if I should wake up and workout or sleep longer.  As soon as I think about eating this for my pre-workout meal, my decision is made, and I’m out of bed and throwing on my running shorts!  It’s so yummy I feel like I’m “cheating” every time I eat it.

By the way . . . I usually buy me a big bag of this frozen fruit at Wal-Mart.  They usually carry it and, because I like it so much, I love that it comes in a large bag.  It’s more affordable that way too.  (Here’s a picture of it so you can see what I buy.)

Tropical Protein Smoothie

1/2 cup frozen mixed tropical fruit blend
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (about 22g of Protein)
1/2 cup cold water
ice cubes, optional

Place frozen fruit in a blender or food processor.  Blend until fruit is finely chopped.  Add cold water, protein powder, and ice (*if desired).  Blend until well mixed (doesn’t take long).  Pour unto a tall glass and enjoy!

*Note:  Depending on how “slushy” you like your smoothies, you may want to add ice to the blender when adding the water and protein powder.  The frozen fruit will offer some amount of slush, but you can achieve more by adding additional ice.

Serves 1.

Nutritional Information
Calories:  145
Protein:  22.5g
Carbs:  11.5g
Fat:  1g