My Hearty Valentine

Obligatory picture of JM & I

Valentine’s Day. “Singles Awareness Day.” The “Hallmark Holiday.” Any way you slice it, February 14 is just that: a day. It’s only as significant as you make it.

That being said, instead of hanging around and doing nothing last night, we hosted our friends at our apartment and had a small get-together with good food and good wine!! To go along with the homemade pita chips I made the other day, I decided to throw together my chicken salad with homemade mayonnaise. This was met with a bleu cheese dip and a macaroni and cheese with broccoli from our friends that were all to die for!! Thank goodness we offset all the cheese and fats with a nice bowl of fresh pineapple. Even the low fat, low calorie banana muffins I made from sparkrecipes.com were a hit!

Now, yesterday was what a lot of people in the dieting world seem to call a “maintenance day,” in that I did not stick to my diet but also did not eat more than an average, non-dieting day (about 1800-2000 calories for women). I do feel a bit bad that Monday and Tuesday are lost dieting days this week, but I realize that dieting is a process: no one loses all their weight in one day, or even one month. Instead of letting guilt eat away at me all day, I think it’s better to just start fresh today and resolve to get back to my diet. I’m not the kind of person that thinks all these little slips will break my resolve, and I also don’t think you should have to give up a cupcake or a few glasses of wine on a special day just because of your diet (you couldn’t pay me to give up Eveningside Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon or Schulze Winery’s Crackling Niagara)!! Because, let’s face it: I like to eat. And drink. That just ain’t gonna change.

You can access my nutrition report for yesterday here: http://www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/nutrition_food_chart.asp?sidn=3kMClpA6U++++++1]R5Na3++++++++&iMTGoalNum=219540182&dteDateShowing=2/14/2012&bGetElementByID=TRUE

I can’t wait for lunch!

I realized that I have never included a chicken salad recipe here before! And while it is easy enough to make, there are so many variations that it is certainly worth talking about here. It’s not necessarily a health food (it is, after all, made with mayonnaise), but it’s absolutely not a food that must be avoided. In fact, skinless chicken breasts that have been poached are a delicious low fat way to get some much-needed protein into your day. My mother used to make chicken salad for our lunches, and her way was absolutely delicious. The variation I made last night was slightly different, but reminded me of getting those whole wheat chicken salad sandwiches in my purple lunchbox, sinking my teeth into something homemade and awesome, and that wasn’t covered with cheese and intended to be dipped in marinara sauce (most of our cafeteria lunches in high school).

Last night’s chicken salad was: chicken, mayo, curry powder, garlic powder, apples, dried cranberries, and dry coleslaw mix with a good grind of pepper. However, mix it up! Other good combos include: chicken-apples-cranberries-celery-onion-mayo-ground ginger, chicken-apples-grapes-walnuts-celery-Greek yogurt, chicken-cucumber-celery-pineapple-Greek yogurt…..these are my favorites! I love the combination of chicken, fruit, and veggies together, and honestly, any vegetable that does not require cooking would be great in the chicken salad because it will maintain a crunch. You can of course use store-bought mayo (I would suggest olive oil mayo), but you can also use Julia Child’s time-tested mayo recipe to make your own. I have begun to make my mayo with lemon juice instead of white vinegar, which gives it a whole new kick and tasted great with the chicken salad!

Chicken Salad
3 chicken breasts
approx. 1 cup mayonnaise
half an apple
handful of dried cranberries
handful of dry coleslaw mix
curry powder to taste
garlic powder to taste
black pepper (and salt, if desired) to taste

-Place defrosted chicken breasts in a large pot and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil.
-Boil chicken breasts for 30-45 minutes, depending mostly on thickness. You can lift a breast out of the pot with a pair of tongs and cut into the middle with a knife to see if they are fully cooked.
-Remove chicken from water, and cool the chicken by placing the breasts on a cutting board or, as I did last night, in a bowl that you place inside another bowl of cold water to create a water bath.
-Cut and shred the chicken into very small pieces. Add the dry ingredients and mix together well. Add mayonnaise until you are satisfied with the consistency of the chicken salad (I estimate you will use at least a cup).
-Season to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.Tip: The chicken salad will taste better onday 2, so if you make it the night before you intend to use it, it will taste even better! Letting the flavors meld together is highly suggested. 🙂

So, yes folks, I am embarrassed by the results of yesterday’s meal, but considering the drinks and the very large meal, it’s good to know that I was still able to “maintain.” Let this serve as a warning to those who drink more than a couple glasses of wine or a couple beers more than once a week and intend (or not) to diet: think “beer gut.” I was pleasantly surprised by my cupcakes, as dry as they were: they were less than 250 calories even with peanut butter frosting! But still.

For anyone who is wondering about the homemade pita chips, I simply cut pitas into 12 triangles and baked at 375 degrees F for between 10-15 minutes (depending on your pitas and the intensity of your oven). Yum! Make sure that pan is non-stick so they don’t burn.

More weekly progress

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