Mandy's Marvelous Meals

Recipes, tips, tricks, and my journey into cooking fabulous food!

Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad


Have I mentioned recently how hot it’s been?! Not that I am complaining…I LOVE when it is hot. I’ll take 90s/100s any day. However as much as I love it, the heat does take its toll on me including not wanting to cook anything major or eat anything heavy. I found this recipe for Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad in Cuisine at Home Magazine and knew it would be perfect for dinner on a hot summer night.  I make salad a lot for myself and occasionally for both Hubby and me, but sometimes grilled chicken on a bed of lettuce gets to be a little bit boring. This version with a pecan crusted chicken was a very nice change of pace. It was quick and easy to make and the dressing was delicious!

For the dressing, I highly recommend using “raw honey”. It is a little bit more pricey than regular honey, but it tastes so much better and is better for you. You can usually find it at specialty stores or in the “organic/natural” section of most large chain grocery stores. You will get the most health benefits from it if you can buy it local from a farm. The reason being is that raw honey has pollen in it and every region has different types of pollen. Eating local raw honey will help build up your immunity to these types of pollen. (For more information read this article). It also has a lot of other benefits, so check it out!  If you can’t find raw honey or just want to use the regular kind, that’s cool…but you are definitely missing out! 😉  This recipe makes 4 “entrée” size salads, but can easily be changed to make whatever size you like.

Hmmmm…seems like I have a lot to say about “salad” this week!!!

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad

(Recipe modified from “Cuisine at Home” Magazine)

Honey Mustard Dressing

¼ cup raw honey

3 tbsp. Dijon mustard

3 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. minced shallots

1 tbsp. cider vinegar

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt & Pepper, to taste

Pecan Crusted Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½” thick

¾ cup finely chopped pecans

½ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. dried thyme

½ tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

1 egg, beaten

2 tsp. cornstarch

Juice of ½ lemon

1 cup panko-style bread crumbs

1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

Zest of 1 lemon

Salad

3 cups romaine lettuce (or mixed greens)

½ cup thinly sliced red onion

1 large carrot, thinly sliced or shredded

4 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk the egg, cornstarch and lemon juice in a shallow dish.
  3. In another shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, salt, pepper & lemon zest. Add the pecans, oregano, thyme, paprika,  and cayenne.
  4. Dredge the chicken in the egg mixture then the breadcrumb mixture and place in the prepared baking dish.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
  6. Meanwhile, make the dressing by combining the honey, Dijon, olive oil, shallots, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl for the dressing until blended.
  7. Toss the lettuce, onions, carrot and cheese in a large bowl. Divide salad among four plates.
  8. Slice the chicken and place on top of the lettuce. Sprinkle any toasted crumbs left in the baking dish on top of the salads.
  9. Serve with dressing on the side.
1 Comment »

A Little Self-Loathing with a Side of Cucumber Salad


Yesterday I started writing a blog complaining about my lack of willpower and consistency when it comes to dieting and eating healthy. I am a total introvert so I was only blaming myself…and feeling pretty down about it. The problem is when it comes to weight loss and eating healthy I just can’t seem to stick with it. It’s like I am always starting over….I mean I can’t really call months of horrendous eating, a sedentary lifestyle, and gaining back almost all of the weight I had previously lost…just a set back or getting off track a little. A setback is pigging out at that July 4th barbecue…getting off track is not going to the gym for a week, right? Or am I being too hard on myself? It seems like when I read other blogs or talk to other people they talk about having a bad day or maybe a bad week…not having to start again! I truly don’t know why I never stick with it…I don’t want to say I have no willpower because I know if I really tried I could do it. So where do I go wrong???

Anyway, today I’m feeling a little better…I ate healthy yesterday and today (forcing down some nasty watermelon as I type this, which I overpaid for at the food truck). However, I just keep thinking that there is something wrong with me that I cannot stick with it for longer than a few months, or sometimes even only a few weeks.

So, earlier I had been feeling sorry for myself when I was in line at Saladworks listening to the couple behind me talk about “eating healthy” (they were invading my personal space so I couldn’t help but eavesdrop!). The woman was extremely overweight…obese… the guy appeared to be a normal weight and they were probably in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Anyway, she was telling him how much she loves eating there (if you’re not familiar with Saladworks, check them out…it is an awesome place).  Apparently it was his first time so she was telling him you can order one from the menu or create your own. She proceeded to explain it’s better to create your own because it’s much healthier. As I listened to them talk and decide what was healthy…they chose to put on top of their lettuce…pasta, buffalo chicken, cheddar cheese, bacon bits, croutons, and some other random veggies topped off with Ranch Dressing! I was absolutely blown away that they both thought this was “healthy”. Now I’m sure it is better than going to McDonald’s for lunch, but I really wanted to turn around and let them know aside from the vegetables and maybe the chicken they really weren’t doing themselves any good. It made me realize that at least I have the appropriate knowledge when it comes to eating healthy. That at least I am not fooling myself into thinking that just because I eat at a place called “Saladworks” I am on my way to weight loss.  I also realized how thankful I am that I only have 30-40 pounds to lose and not 100…because honestly if I didn’t keep trying and starting over I’d probably be much heavier!!  It is hard for me to understand how in this day in age with information readily available at our fingertips that there are still people out there who truly don’t understand what they need to do to eat healthy or lose weight. I feel grateful for the knowledge that I have, which made me feel much more positive…that I can do it if I really want to and really try hard. I also came to the conclusion that starting over is better than quitting completely and just not caring. No matter how many times you get flung off of the horse, the important thing is that you get back on, right? No matter how many times….eventually you may just be able to stay on top!

Since I’ve been doing well with my food choices these past 2 days, here is a recipe for a cucumber salad that I served as a side to some grilled pork (that’s beef in the picture though!) the other night. I am not a huge fan of cucumbers but will eat them once in a while. This is a classic sweet & tangy cucumber salad that you’ve probably had at a barbecue or somewhere along the line…and didn’t even realize it was healthy. This salad is only 1 WWPP (it makes about 4 servings). If you like a sweeter salad then you will need to add more sugar, but keep in mind this will increase the Weight Watchers Points Value. If you like it a bit more tangy then you will need to decrease the amount of sugar. You can also substitute Splenda or another sweetener for the sugar, however this will not affect the WWPP.

Sweet & Tangy Cucumber Salad (Makes 4 servings; 1WWPP per serving)

1 cucumber, sliced thin

8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

½ small onion, sliced thin

2 tbsp. sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup water

1 tsp. dried dill

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the water and sugar just to boiling. Stir until sugar dissolves and remove from heat.
  2. Place the cucumber slices, onion slices, and tomatoes in a bowl and add the vinegar. Pour the sugar water into this and stir. Add the dill.
  3. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
6 Comments »

Smoked Corn Salad


This recipe is a great side dish for any summer meal. It is light, fresh and has a great blend of flavors. The original recipe is from Barefoot Contessa…I only modified it slightly. Although I highly recommend you roast the corn in your smoker (the smoke flavor in the corn is so awesome!!) you can cook the corn however you’d like. Also you should plan to make this ahead so that the flavors have an opportunity to really come through.

I love summer cooking!!!

Smoked Corn Salad

(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa)

3 ears of corn

1 small onion, diced

1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into strips

2 tbsp. cider vinegar

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

  1. Place the corn in the preheated smoker (around 225 degrees) for 20 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle cut the kernels off from the cob.

  2. In a medium bowl add the corn, onion, tomato, vinegar, olive oil, basil, salt & pepper and mix well.  Taste and adjust ingredients to your preference. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

3 Comments »

To Grill or Not to Grill? At Least We’ll Still Have Our Salad!


To grill or not to grill?? That is the question…

The sun has been fighting to come out most of the day and has finally succeeded! Gloomy, rainy weather is finally over…or is it? I really want to make dinner on the grill, but there is now a chance of thunderstorms! I just can’t win…and after a week of crappy weather I’m ready for it to end!

No matter, whatever delicious creation I come up with it will be accompanied by Caesar Salad. Yesterday’s post was for my Slimmed Down version of caesar dressing, so today I thought I’d share the original version for those of you who are not so concerned about calories. Like most things I make, I have to make two versions….regular and slimmed down. Regular for Hubby (who can eat anything he wants and still maintain a slim physique) and Slimmed Down for me, of course. I do try to trick him once in a while, but he can usually tell right away that something is just not quite the same as he is used to. I ran out of the regular caesar dressing one night so I gave him mine and he said it was good but he didn’t like how thin it was. Go figure!

This recipe is not exactly a traditional caesar recipe, as it doesn’t have egg or anchovies, like authentic caesar dressing. Here comes one of my weird quirks…I know I’ve had “authentic” caesar dressing a few times at a few higher end restaurants and thought it was delish! However, since I am the one making it….I would not be able to eat it knowing that there is raw egg and anchovie substance in it! Ick!! But not to worry…this recipe tastes just as great!!!

When you make this, I’d recommend using all fresh ingredients (i.e. fresh lemons, oranges, garlic, and parmesan cheese). However, if you’re in  a hurry or don’t have that stuff on hand it tastes good with the bottled version (lemon juice, orange juice, grated parmesan) of all of those things….I’ve made it both ways when I didn’t have the stuff on hand and although the fresh version was better, the other way was really good too.

Caesar Salad Dressing

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange juice

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. dijon mustard

1 tbsp. mayonnaise

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/4 tsp. salt or to taste

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the first eight ingredients. This will only take a few seconds until everything is blended well.
  2. With the blender still running on low, add the olive oil in a thin stream until emulsified.
  3. Add the grated cheese and blend for a few more seconds to incorporate.
  4. Store unused dressing in the refrigerator for up to 1 to 2 weeks.
2 Comments »

Slimmed Down Caesar Salad Dressing


Wednesday was my Week 9 weigh-in with a loss of .5 pounds. Happy to see that I lost this week after last week’s stand-still. I’m still moving at a snail’s pace, but I am ok with that…as long as I keep losing that’s all that really matters.

Remember last week how I went on to preach about how I can feel my bad habits and lifestyle changing (much to my own amazement!)? Well here is another example…the other day I ran to the grocery store for a few random items that we were out of and ended up with a huge basketful of mostly all fresh veggies! I was in total shock when I noticed this as I placed everything on the belt at the checkout.

I never go to the grocery store and only get the one or two things I need…I always end up buying  extra things…things like snacks, candy, cupcakes, chips, etc. This time, I didn’t even give those things a second thought but was compelled to go a little overboard in the produce section! The best part about this was that I genuinely just thought “oh that looks good.” Not, “I guess I’ll get some broccoli and force myself to eat it because it is healthy.” The next best part…I wasn’t even thinking about the goodies that I was bombarded with throughout the store (you know those bright & colorful displays of cookies, cakes & donuts?!).

Now some of you may be thinking, “so what? I always stock up on produce.” But for a junk food junkie like me this is amazing! I feel so proud…this is such a big accomplishment. So for those of you who can relate…don’t give up! Just keep working to break those bad habits and before you know it you’ll be over-spending in the produce section instead of the bakery!!

So to commemorate this special event…here is my recipe for Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. This is probably my favorite kind of salad….but as I’m sure those of you who are watching what you eat know…Caesar dressing is loaded with fat (especially the “creamy” version)! So to make the dressing a little healthier I’ve altered my usual Caesar dressing by decreasing the oil and adding chicken stock to make it go a little bit further. The chicken stock does make the dressing a bit more runny than regular dressings, but if you add the dressing to the salad and shake it up in a container with a lid, you’ll never even notice that it’s thin…you’ll just taste the great flavor. You can pretty much make your Caesar salad however you like but I’m including how I make the whole thing. I’ve only included the Weight Watchers Points Plus for the salad dressing, though. If you follow WW I’m sure you can figure out the points value based on the amount of chicken you use along with any other ingredients you may add.

Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad with Slimmed Down Caesar Dressing

2 oz. grilled or baked boneless, skinless chicken breast, seasoned with salt, pepper & garlic powder

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese

4 Fat Free Caesar-style croutons

2 tbsp. “Slimmed Down Caesar Dressing”

  1. Chop or slice grilled chicken breast.
  2. In a large bowl with a lid add the lettuce, cheese, and chicken.
  3. Add dressing and place lid on bowl. Shake to coat.
  4. Place salad on a serving plate and top with croutons.

Dressing: (Makes 6 servings; 1 serving = 2 tbsp. Weight Watchers Points Plus = 2)

3 tbsp. lemon juice

1 tbsp. orange juice

4 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tbsp reduced fat mayonnaise

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

½ cup chicken stock

2 tbsp. olive oil

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for the olive oil and parmesan cheese, in a food processor or blender. Blend until well combined.
  2. While the blender is running on low, slowly pour in the olive oil to emulsify.
  3. Add the parmesan cheese and run for a few more seconds to incorporate the cheese.
4 Comments »

Slimmed Down Sensation: Sirloin Steak Salad (Friendly’s Copycat)


I am not ashamed to admit that I enjoy eating at Friendly’s once in a while. I know quite a few adults who LOATHE Friendly’s!

But sometimes you just crave some high fat high calorie fried comfort food…and of course you can’t eat there without getting ice cream. So if you’re trying to eat even a little bit healthy this is not the place to go. My current favorite dish is the Bleu Moon Sirloin Salad. Sometimes I just sit at home and crave it…I must have it!

Friendly's Bleu Moon Sirloin Salad

It’s actually one of their more “adult” meals with crispy romaine lettuce topped with Sirloin steak, pepper, carrots, cherry tomatoes, blue cheese crumbles and crispy onion strings. Served with a dijon vinaigrette….ok I am drooling just writing out the ingredients. Of course, like most “entrée salads” at chain restaurants, this yummy dish comes at a costly (including salad dressing) 860 calories, 40 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, and 83 carbohydrates (23 WW points plus). Sometimes I am willing to indulge in this as long as it is my “Faturday” and it won’t send me over my “Points” limit, but then I got to thinking…why don’t I save some money and some calories and make my own?

Of course, this does not taste as good as the original, but it is pretty darn tasty…and when I think of all the calories and fat I am saving, it makes it taste even better! I am still working on getting the dressing to taste like Friendly’s…can’t quite get that one down yet, but the Dijon Vinaigrette I’ve listed in the recipe is still really good on this salad or any salad, for that matter.  One word of caution, though, it is a bit on the thin side and so it’s a bit runny. The best way to use it is to put your salad in a container or bowl with a lid and shake it up. This way it will get distributed throughout and you’ll see that this small amount really goes far.

As far as the steak you can use whatever type you like, as long as it is a fairly lean cut and is trimmed of fat. I suggest sirloin strip, but the steak in the picture above was a filet mignon. Be sure to weigh your steak before cooking it to make sure you are following the appropriate portion size.

As far as Weight Watchers points, the great news is that my version is only 6 points!

Friendly’s = 23; Mandy’s  = 6!!!!!!

Holy Cow, that is a BIG difference!! It means, I can still have some light ice cream along with it and not feel so bad!

Slimmed Down Sensation: Sirloin Steak Salad (Friendly’s Copycat)

(WW points = 6, this is for the whole salad including the onion crisps & dressing)

3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

1 carrot, sliced or shredded

¼ of green pepper, sliced (more if you really like green peppers)

4-6 cherry tomatoes

3 oz. sirloin steak, trimmed of fat

salt & pepper to taste

2 tbsp. reduced fat blue cheese crumbles

¼ serving, Onion Crisps (recipe follows)

2 tbsp. Dijon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (recipe follows.)

  1. Sprinkle both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Cook steak either on the grill or under the oven broiler to desired doneness. Allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Slice into strips or cut into cubes.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the salad by putting the lettuce, carrots, and pepper in a bowl or container with a lid. Add the dressing and shake well to coat all the vegetables.
  3. Transfer to large bowl or plate and top with steak, blue cheese crumbles, tomatoes and onion crisps.

 

Onion Crisps (WW points plus = 1)

1 small onion, sliced thin

¼ cup fiber one cereal, crushed

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ cup refrigerated egg substitute (i.e. egg beaters)

  1. Slice onion in very thin pieces, preferably with a mandolin slicer.
  2. Crush the cereal by either placing in a plastic Ziploc bag and crushing with a rolling pin or use a blender/food processor.
  3. Put the cereal, salt & pepper in a Ziploc bag.
  4. Put the egg beaters in a bowl and dip the onions shaking off excess. Once you dip the onions place in the bag with the cereal. Once all pieces have been dipped in the egg beaters and added to the bag, shake to coat.
  5. On a non-stick baking sheet, spread out the coated onions and bake in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until crispy.

 

Dijon Vinaigrette Salad Dressing (1 Serving = 2 tbsp.; 2 tbsp. = 1 WW points plus)

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. Dijon mustard

¼ cup chicken stock

1/8 tsp. onion powder

Salt, to taste

Pepper, to taste

2 tbsp. olive oil

  1. Combine all ingredients, except for olive oil, in a blender and blend until well combined. Add the olive oil slowly into the running blender to emulsify.
3 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: