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Grilled Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza

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Anyone following all of this crazy zombie apocalypse ‘news’ popping up?? There’s some seriously wacky stuff going on out there.  I’ve seen enough zombie movies to know that this is always how it begins…a few random incidents which are brushed off as isolated events with some logical cause. The public is urged not to panic and then all h.e.double hockey sticks breaks loose. (Being told not to panic is a sure sign that it’s time to panic.) And honestly, though I’m inclined to believe that all of this has more to do with dangerous mind-altering drugs than a zombie armageddon, I’m not sure that brings me any peace of mind.

Did ya know that the CDC’s website has a section on zombie preparedness?? I kid you not. I’m pretty sure it’s a tongue-in-cheek, fun way to educate about general disaster readiness. Or is it???

Personally, I learned everything I need to know from the educational zombie comedy, Zombieland.

Zombie Survival Rule #1: Cardio

Good thing I’ve been running again. And it feels so good. I’d been struggling to get back to a regular running routine ever since having my baby 15 months ago and it’s been an uphill battle, both literally and figuratively. My progress had been dreadfully slow. But, the baby weaned from nursing almost two months ago and my running progress has accelerated ever since. Guess I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on my body. It feels good to get out there for my runs and I’ll be ready when the zombies…errr, I mean bath salt crazies…start chasing me down. (I’m joking…mostly.)

The other benefit of running is that it affords me a little more wiggle room in my dietary choices, so I can afford to enjoy a few indulgences. Ok, my running/indulgence balance is admittedly still a bit off, but it’s getting closer. This grilled chicken tikka masala is one of those indulgences that I think about when I’m running. This mouth-watering pizza combines one of my all-time favorite dishes, chicken tikka masala, with homemade garlicky grilled naan flatbread and a bit of melty mozzarella cheese. Seriously yummy and worth every second of heart-pounding cardio.

I’d like to tell you that this dish is a cinch to pull together, but that would be a lie. There is nothing inherently difficult about it, but between preparing the marinade, making the sauce, preparing the dough, grilling the chicken, grilling the naan, and then assembling and grilling the pizzas, this is a time consuming meal. But it is a labor of love. Definitely worth the time! Just save it for a sunny weekend day and get the whole family involved in the process!

To make things more manageable, you may want to plan to cook the meal in parts. The chicken can be marinated the night before. The sauce, the chicken, and the naan can all be made ahead of time and will hold well in the fridge for a day or two. You could even enjoy the meal as traditional chicken tikka masala with rice and naan one night and make the pizzas for leftovers the next day! However you decide to break it up, I think you’re going to enjoy this delicious meal!

Grilled Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza

Ingredients

For the Naan*

  • 1 packet dry active yeast
  • 1 cup warm water (about 110-115 degrees)
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 4 cups flour (approximately)
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted

For the Chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 inch segment of fresh ginger, grated

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1-2″ segment fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 small serrano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garam masala
  • 1 (29 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne (plus more, if desired)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (plus more, if desired)
For the Pizzas
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Directions

To prepare the chicken marinade: Combine all marinade ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Place the chicken thighs in the marinade and toss to evenly coat. Refrigerate and allow the chicken to marinade for at least six hours or overnight.

To grill the chicken: Wipe the grill with a bit of vegetable oil to help prevent sticking. Preheat grill to medium heat. Shake the excess marinade off of the chicken and place it on the preheated grill. Cook the chicken for about 7-10 minutes on each side. (Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken. The chicken is fully cooked when it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees.) Allow the chicken to cool, then cut into small pieces. Refrigerate until using.

To make the naan: Stir together the yeast and warm water. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar, salt, milk, garlic and egg. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, stirring and kneading for several minutes until a soft dough forms. (Add the flour slowly towards the end, since the quantity of flour will vary. The dough should be slightly sticky, but manageable. If the dough is too dry, add little bits of water or milk. If the dough is too wet, add small quantities of additional flour.) Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a slightly damp towel and allow it to rest at room temperature for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in size. Then, divide the risen dough into 12 equal balls of dough. Place the balls on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Cover with the towel and allow to rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Preheat your grill to medium heat. Prepare a work station near your grill with a rolling pin, cutting board, and flour. Lightly scatter the flour over the cutting board. One at a time, roll each ball of dough into a flat round, then gently stretch the dough into a soft teardrop shape. Place the dough directly onto the grill and cook for about a minute on each side. It will begin to puff slightly when it is done. Remove from the grill and brush with melted butter.

To make the sauce: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, and serrano peppers. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent. Add the garam masala, stir, and cook for another minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to combine. Continue cooking until heated through, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and add the cream. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and cayenne pepper, as desired.

To assemble the pizzas: Spread a layer of sauce onto each piece of naan. Scatter some of the chicken over each naan. Sprinkle each pizza with a bit of the mozzarella cheese. Garnish with fresh parsley. Heat the pizzas on the grill or in a 350 degree oven until the cheese is melty and all components are heated through (about 8-10 minutes).

*Recipe for naan adapted from the recipe found HERE.

Makes 10-12 small individual pizzas

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Low Carb Cottage Pie

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Earlier in the week, my husband bemoaned the fact that daylight savings time was approaching and we would be losing an hour of sleep. I’m not sure what world he’s living in, but the time on the clock has little relevance for our children. Lose an hour, gain an hour…doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not in control of how long I sleep anyway. If anything, I look forward to this evening when I can put the kids to bed an hour ‘early’.

Springing forward brings other benefits as well, specifically a bit of daylight past the kids’ bedtime…which translates into not running in the dark. That, combined with the warming temperatures of spring approaching, bodes well for resuming my evening runs. I have to admit, I’ve been sorely off-track with my fitness goals during these past two weeks and the number on the scale has been creeping upwards. Wintery weather and the early sunset has made it hard to get myself out the door for my evening runs. And finally being able to fit into some of my clothes again has made me complacent about my diet. But I’m not done yet (far from it) and it’s time to get back on track, before I undo the results I’ve achieved so far.

So, starting tomorrow (today I’m going to eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, AND dinner), I’m hopping back on the horse and refocusing on my fitness goals. With the warmer temps and later sunset, I’ve got no excuses for not heading out for my evening runs. And I’m going to refocus on reducing my refined carb intake (a la South Beach diet), since I know it helps me to feel more satisfied, make better food choices, and eat less overall.

With St. Patty’s Day just around the corner, comforting meat-and-potato type meals are on my mind. But potatoes fall firmly into that refined carb category which I’m aiming to avoid. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some comforting Irish cookin’ with just a few substitutions. You may remember a few weeks ago, when I shared a recipe for mashed cauliflower, which makes a wonderful substitution for mashed potatoes…a substitution which would also make the perfect topping for a low-carb, South Beach friendly cottage pie. Using lean ground beef and part-skim cheese helps lighten the meal even more, without sacrificing any flavor. Furthermore, making low-glycemic index choices for the veggie layer keeps this dish nicely in line with my diet plan.

If you’re looking to celebrate St. Patty’s Day without sacrificing your diet goals, this just might be the dish for you! Though, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I fully intend to make (and eat) more corned beef and cabbage egg rolls on St. Patty’s Day, with a few dark beers to wash them down. (All food and beer are zero calories on St. Patty’s Day…if you’re Irish, that is. I swear it…a little red-headed leprechaun told me so.)

Looking for a traditional lamb and potatoes Shepherd’s Pie recipe? Click HERE.

Low Carb Cottage Pie

Ingredients

For the beef layer:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • Salt and pepper
For the veggie layer:
  • 2 cups green beans, steamed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
For the mashed cauliflower:
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped and steamed until tender
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup part-skim cheddar, shredded

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

For the beef layer: Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring frequently, until fully cooked. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and stir, allowing it to cook for about a minute. Then, add the beef broth, worcestershire sauce, and onion powder. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for a few minutes until the liquid thickens into a gravy around the meat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture into a baking dish.

For the veggies: Wipe out the pan used for the beef. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook for 7-10 minutes, until golden and tender. Scatter the mushrooms and the steamed green beans in an even layer over the meat.

For the mashed cauliflower: Using a food processor, blender, or immersion blender, combine the cauliflower, butter, milk, and garlic powder until smooth. Season with salt, to taste. Spread the mashed cauliflower in an even layer over the veggies.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top. Bake for about 25 minutes, until heated through and slightly browned. (Allow for longer cooking time if preparing ahead of time and refrigerating before baking.)

Roasted Chili-Garlic Chickpeas

My baby has entered the period of development I refer to as the crash-helmet phase. This is the period of time where I’m inclined to swaddle my children in bubble wrap and coat everything else in cotton balls. Would that be so weird? He’s learned how to stand now, but his balance is poor and he forgets that he needs to hold on for support. He often gets so excited by his new skill that he throws his hands wildly outward in a grand gesture of success, which usually results in propelling his little body backwards. Oh, and he climbs. Things which were never meant to be climbed. Like his older brothers or the dog. That rarely ends well.

His sweet little head is already peppered with pale yellow bruises. Seriously, do you think people would laugh if I wrapped him in bubble wrap? He’s just too stinkin’ cute to be bruised. What if I just turned down the heat and dressed him all day in his puffy winter coat? It won’t be long before he’s chasing his brothers around the house. Everything always seems to happen so fast from this point.

Good thing I’ve gotten back to my running lately, since I’m going to need strong legs to keep up with all of the active little men in my life. You may assume that running is part of my New Year’s weight loss plan, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I don’t run to lose weight (though I certainly hope it will help). Running makes me feel capable and confident. I yearn to be leaner and swifter, so I can glide through my runs with more grace than the current charging-rhino thing I’ve got going on. I’ve got my eye on running the Disney half-marathon someday. Becoming a better runner is one of the driving forces behind my desire to lose the weight. Lose weight, run better…double win!

If you’ve been following this blog over the past month, you know that I’ve been following the South Beach diet in order to shed some of the extra weight I’ve been carrying around since having my third little love. I’ve been at it for a month now, with only a few little ‘cheats’ and I’ve already lost 12 pounds. The diet basically comes down to eliminating refined carbs and focusing on lean proteins, fresh produce, and whole grains. It’s clean eating, which is an idea I can stand behind! Eliminating refined, sugary foods keeps your blood sugar levels stable, which in turn drastically cuts down on the insatiable cravings for naughty things. That works for me.

But though my hunger and cravings are kept at bay on this diet, I still have that afternoon urge to snack like I haven’t eaten in years. It’s more of a comfort mechanism than a hunger thing, usually corresponding with the time of the day when all three boys are tired, cranky, and stir-crazy…the ‘magic hour’ which falls sometime between lunch and dinner and usually fools me into thinking I’m ravenous. So, I need to keep my house free of my most tempting snacks (I’m talkin’ about you, Cheez-its) and well-stocked with more nutritious, but equally satisfying options, like these roasted chickpeas. I can pop a hundred of these little babies and still feel good about the way I’m satisfying my snackiness with loads of nutritious protein and fiber! The hardest part is trying not to eat the whole batch!

Roasted Chili-Garlic Chickpeas

Ingredients

  • 2 (15.5-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain the cans of chickpeas, then rinse and pat dry with a paper towel. Arrange the chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil and seasonings, then shake the pan to evenly coat all chickpeas. Place the baking sheet on the middle oven rack and bake for 25-40 minutes, until as crispy as desired. (25 minutes should produce a crisp exterior with a more tender center. 40 minutes will produce a crunchier result.)

Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Makes a great addition to salads too!

Leftover roasted chickpeas sprinkled over mixed green salad with broiled salmon

Diet Day: 31   Weight Loss: 12   Motivation: Rejuvenated! Hit a plateau, but the scale seems to be moving again!

Pumpkin Vanilla Custard

I call myself a runner. In fact, I’m going to run a 5k race this upcoming Sunday. Pretty impressive, huh?? More accurately, I will partially run, partially walk, and partially crawl a 5k on Sunday.

I am, in fact, a terrible runner. I can’t breathe. My muscles ache. I’m slower than a crippled snail. It’s not in my genes to be a runner. And yet I run. Diehard runners would probably call what I do “casual jogging”. But when I’ve got my running sneaks on, I feel like a runner. And so that is what I consider myself.

I started running sometime after having my second son. I was looking for a quick calorie burn to get rid of some of the extra weight I was hanging onto, without giving up my favorite foods. But what started as a means for losing the baby weight quickly became a treasured part of my day. The solitude. A chance to be alone inside my head for a few minutes. It made me feel strong and capable. It gave me peace and helped me recover a bit of the sanity that small children seem determined to abolish. And in that way, it made me a better, calmer mom.

I’d hoped to continue running throughout my third pregnancy, but fatigue and the waning evening light had other plans. Now, after months of not running (and some extra lingering baby weight), it’s been an uphill battle (both literally and figuratively) to regain my running ability.

This Sunday will be my first race since having my baby. I’m not ready. Not even a little bit. But I’m going to tie on some bells and run the jingle out of that Jingle Bell race.

I can run for 10 minutes (most of a mile) before I feel like I’m going to die. During the 5 minutes which follow, I start talking a variety of nonsense to myself. You’re a superstar. You’re strong. You can do anything! By the time I get to 15 minutes, I’m desperate and fully out of my mind. I’m screaming the lyrics to Pink’s Perfect in my pitchy off-key voice. They don’t like my jeans! They don’t get my hair! Which makes no sense since I almost exclusively wear sweatpants and keep my hair in an incredibly non-controversial pony tail. I’m quite a sight. Panting, crazy eyes, accusatory lyric shouting. Not exactly sure how I’m going to complete this race on Sunday… Ay! What was I thinking??

Run, Amy! Run!

The run will be good for me though, no matter how long it takes me, because I’ve been enjoying more pumpkin treats and apple pie (post coming soon) than any person should. Including this delectable pumpkin vanilla custard. It’s like a pumpkin pie without the crust. And it’s really good. Good enough to add a few more calorie-burning minutes to that run!

Pumpkin Vanilla Custard

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk*
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of ginger
  • 4 egg yolks
*Skim milk would work fine if you’d like to reduce the fat and calories.

Directions

Combine the milk, pumpkin puree, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and ginger in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking continuously so that the sugar and cornstarch dissolve. Once the mixture begins to bubble and thicken, reduce the heat. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks. Gradually whisk about 1/2 of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, starting with a slow drizzle. (Gradually incorporating the hot milk into the egg yolks tempers the eggs, allowing them to slowly rise in temperature without scrambling.) Gradually whisk the egg mixture into the remaining hot milk mixture in the pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, whisking constantly for about 3 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Pour the custard into individual serving dishes and refrigerate until set. Garnish with whipped cream and crushed vanilla wafers.

We all enjoy an occasional pat on the back for a job well done! And as a stay-at-home mom there are no pleased supervisors or satisfied co-workers passing out the pats..only little people who need more apple juice. Urgently. So, it was such a delight to be informed that The Gourmand Mom has been awarded the Editors’ Pick Best Food Blog award by the editors of Parents Magazine. What a fabulous recognition! Thank you, Parents Magazine!

You can check out the complete list of blog award winners here.

Kielbasa and The Hecklers

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Every year, on a Saturday near St. Patrick’s Day, a 15k run takes place in my hometown. The route of the race takes the runners up the road of my childhood home. For the past few years, my parents have been enjoying this annual spectacle seated on lawn chairs at the foot of my neighbor’s driveway, Bloody Marys in hand. As such, when this year’s big day arrived, my parents made their way over to the neighbors at the appropriate time, took up their annual seats, turned up the music, and awaited the sprinting masses.

This year, they waited for longer than usual for the first of the runners to pass. When, at last, the frontrunners arrived, they turned up the music, cheered and waved their Blood Marys in spirited support. A short time later, they repeated this routine as another pair of runners made their way up the steep, windy road. Moments after that, the third group of runners ran past; a man, two women, and two children. They were struggling their way up the challenging incline of my parents’ road. This was certainly not the type of group you’d expect to see leading the pack during a 15k race, gasping for breath, backs arched in weary fatigue. It was at this point that my parents began to suspect that something was amiss. But, as the group struggled to pass, my parents and their neighbors rose from their lawn chairs, turned up the music, and shouted cheers of encouragement, Bloody Marys raised in supportive salute. You can do it! Keep going! One of the women gave up her struggled run and switched to a walk as she passed.

I know from my running experiences that loud, peppy music and cheers of encouragement can be quite motivating during a race. I’m equally certain that the runners who passed my parents that morning would have been brightened up by their support…had it actually been the morning of the race. But, no…There was no race scheduled for that morning. The race would take place the following Saturday. My parents had not, in fact, spent their morning encouraging racers. They’d spent their morning drinking in their neighbor’s driveway and heckling innocent health-minded joggers.  My parents; the hecklers.  The following Saturday, on the actual morning of the race, they repeated their well-practiced routine.

This story is neither here nor there in regards to the following recipe. But I’ve been giggling for weeks over the thought of my well-intentioned parents harassing random joggers. This is what happens when all of the kids grow up and move out.

Today’s recipe is one-dish meal, which makes me think of camping, for some reason I can’t fully explain. Slices of kielbasa, potatoes, peppers, and onions are tossed in a bit of olive oil and roasted together in the oven; so simple that it’s more of a meal idea than an actual recipe. Enjoy this dish as a family-pleasing weeknight meal or make it for a crowd! It would even make a tasty snack to keep you well-nourished on those mornings where you find yourself heckling joggers from the comfort of your driveway. Serve with a spicy Bloody Mary.

Kielbasa with Roasted Potatoes, Peppers, and Onions

Ingredients

  • 1 Polish kielbasa sausage, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 3 pounds baby red potatoes, cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine kielbasa, potatoes, peppers, and onions on a baking sheet. Drizzle and toss with olive oil until evenly coated. Arrange the mixture in an even layer on the baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the peppers and onions are tender and the potatoes and kielbasa are golden brown. Occasionally turn the mixture with a spatula to promote even browning as it cooks. Season with additional salt and pepper, as desired.

Serve with a warm, crusty baguette.

Fresh-squeezed Ginger Lemonade

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As I was out for my run last weekend, my route brought me past a garage sale. Not so unusual on a Saturday afternoon. But, the thing which caught my attention was the young girl, sitting at the foot of the driveway, selling lemonade. It brought me back to my childhood, sitting with my sisters by the side of the road, selling our wares. We sold just about anything we could think of…painted rocks, watercolor “art”, baked goods (usually cookies from a tube), and of course, lemonade. My sister assures me that there was minimal interest in our painted rocks and that we forced to lower our prices to meet the demand, which inevitably left us standing at the foot of our yard yelling, Rocks!  Get your free rocks here!! Ok, so maybe the rocks didn’t sell so well, but we did sell a glass or two of lemonade. We made our lemonade fresh from a bulk-size tub of powdered Country Time Lemonade (which, incidentally, does not list lemons amongst its ingredients).  We probably shouldn’t have advertised it as “fresh”. But, people would stop as they drove past and buy our lemonade (and get a free rock). Good people. Good memories. I need to remember to keep a quarter in my shoe when I run, in case I pass another lemonade stand.

So, I’ve had lemonade on my mind. But no more tubs of powdered sugar and ‘Yellow 5 Lake’ coloring  for me. Today, we’re making lemonade, fresh squeezed from a bowl full of lemons.  And, I can’t resist the urge to infuse it with a bit of ginger root. (I’ve got a tiny, little addiction to ginger tea.) This recipe is refreshing and not too sweet.  Perfect for a picnic on a hot day!

Fresh-squeezed Ginger Lemonade

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 inch piece of ginger root
  • 1 cup of lemon juice (juice of about 8-10 lemons)
  • 5 cups of cold water

Directions

Peel and thinly slice the ginger root. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of water with sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the slices of ginger root. Bring to a boil. Simmer for a minute or so. Remove the pan from the heat.  Allow the ginger to steep in the liquid for about an hour.  Strain the mixture. In a pitcher, combine the ginger syrup with the lemon juice and cold water. Refrigerate and enjoy!

Balance

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It’s all about balance.

I like to eat healthy. But, I’ve got a thing for ice cream and cookies. I like to eat clean, avoid preservatives and choose organic ingredients. But, I also enjoy the occasional Big Mac and fries. I feed my children fresh, nutritious foods.  But, they also eat candy. I cook most nights. But, we also have take-out. I spend countless hours lying on the couch watching television.  But, I also run several miles a week.

It’s all about balance.

I ate too much and ran too little this week. I am off balance.

Salad for dinner tonight.

Long run tomorrow.

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