Smoky Chicken and Bean Chili

As a result of a very long ago, very unfortunate cooking failure of mine involving chicken and dumplings, my husband is extremely skeptical of anything I make that is called a “stew.” I first described this dish to him as a stew, and when he narrowed his eyes at me in suspicion I revised my language and called it a soup instead. After he tasted it and liked it despite his misgivings about its purportedly stew-like nature, he decided it was really more of a chili anyway.

So there we are. This soup/chili gets its smoky flavor from smoked paprika, one of my favorite spices.  It’s very easy to make and pretty tasty garnished with avocado, sour cream (or greek yogurt) and cilantro.

Smoky Chicken and Bean Chili

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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of an onion, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 can low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Avocado, for garnish
  • Greek yogurt or sour cream, for garnish
  • Cilantro, for garnish

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Instructions

  1. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil.  Add the garlic, onion and celery and saute for about 5 minutes, until onions are translucent and celery begins to soften.
  2. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, paprika, pepper flakes, and cumin and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the chicken breasts to the pot and submerge in the liquid.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the chicken is just cooked through (depending on the size of the chicken breasts, this could take 10-20 minutes).
  4. Remove the chicken breasts with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.  Shred the chicken using a fork, and return it to the pot.  Add the kidney beans and simmer for another 5-10 minutes or so.
  5. Garnish with avocado, greek yogurt or sour cream, and cilantro, and enjoy!

Chocolate Chip Coconut Almond Cookies (gluten free)

I made these cookies for my friends when they came over for Girls night.  They were partly based on a recipe posted on my workplace wellness program website, and as usual also included an odd assortment of things in my pantry that needed to be used up, so I was more or less expecting them to turn out weird and maybe not so delicious.

THEY WERE SUPER DELICIOUS.

My friends are very kind and have suffered politely through many of my gluten free baking experiments. But they pretty unanimously loved these, and I know they weren’t lying because I made a lot and they all managed to disappear by the end of the night. So unless someone fed 30 cookies to Tybee, I think they were a hit.

Chocolate Chip Coconut Almond Cookies

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Ingredients

(makes about 30-36 cookies)

  • 2 1/2 cups almond meal
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prep 2-3 nonstick baking sheets with baking spray (my favorite is Trader Joe’s coconut oil baking spray).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the almond meal, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In an electric mixer, beat the eggs until they are doubled in size. Add the melted coconut oil and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the dry ingredients slowly until combined, then add the shredded coconut, almonds and chocolate chips.
  4. The dough may be a little gooey at this point, so you can pop it in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes to chill.
  5. Place 1-inch balls of the chilled dough on the baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart.  Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges and tops are lightly golden brown. Let cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack using a spatula. Enjoy!

Gluten Free Salmon Puttanesca

In Italian, Pasta alla Puttanesca means Whore’s Pasta.  Make of that what you will.

Puttanesca sauce is usually made with garlic, anchovies, tomatoes, olives, capers and chili pepper and served with spaghetti or penne (I happened to have gluten free fusilli so that’s what I used).  This version is kind of based on a recipe from Food and Wine that leaves out the anchovies (gross!) and includes healthy sauteed salmon instead (yum!).  It’s pretty easy to make and delicious with a nice glass of wine.

Gluten Free Salmon Puttanesca

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Ingredients

  • 4 cups fusilli or penne pasta, dry (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Fusilli)
  • 1/2 lb boneless salmon filet
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp capers, chopped
  • Hot red pepper flakes, to taste (I added about two shakes)
  • 1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped

 

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan.  Reduce the heat to medium and place the salmon filet in the pan, skin side down, and cook for about 4 minutes.  Turn off the heat and use a large spatula to flip the filet over.
  3. At this point, you should be able to peel the skin off relatively easily using the spatula or a knife.  Discard the skin, turn the heat back to medium and cook this side of the salmon for about 4 minutes.  If it starts to stick, add a little more olive oil.
  4. Using the spatula, transfer the salmon from the pan to a plate.  Don’t worry if it isn’t cooked all the way through, because it’s going back into the pan later.  Using the spatula, break the filet up into bite-sized chunks.
  5. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until it is al dente.  It’s better if it’s on the slightly crunchier side, because you’re going to cook it a little bit more with the other ingredients.
  6. Heat the other 1/2 tbsp olive oil in the same pan you used for the salmon, add the garlic, and saute over medium-high heat for about 1 minute, until it is fragrant.  Add the tomatoes and saute for about 4-5 minutes, until they begin to soften.  If there are little brown bits left in the pan from cooking the salmon, you can add a tablespoon of water and use a wooden spoon to scrape them off into the sauce.
  7. Add the olives, capers, red pepper flakes, and salmon chunks to the pan and saute until the salmon is completely cooked.  Stir in the cooked pasta and the basil and cook until the pasta is heated through.  Add an extra dash of olive oil if it looks dry, and enjoy with a nice glass of wine!

 

Dad’s Farinata with Vegetables and Kalamata Olives

I made this about a month ago when I was cleaning out my pantry and found some chickpea flour that I needed to use up, and for some reason I never got around to posting the recipe until now.  Farinata is an Italian bread/baked pancake type thing that my dad loves to make and gave me the recipe for a long time ago.

It’s pretty delicious, and since it’s made entirely of chickpea flour, it’s gluten free and full of protein.  You can eat it plain as a side dish, or top it with a bunch of vegetables like I did to make it a complete meal.  You can find chickpea (aka garbanzo bean) flour at Whole Foods, health food stores, and Indian groceries.

Dad’s Farinata with Vegetables and Kalamata Olives

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Ingredients

Farinata

  • 1 cup chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Toppings

  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 of an onion, diced
  • 1/2 a zucchini, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Generously coat a large ceramic baking pan with olive oil (this means about 1/2 to 1 tbsp of oil).  Ceramic pans are best for this, but since my ceramic baking pan broke a while ago and I haven’t replaced it, I just used a 9″x13″ nonstick metal baking pan and it turned out fine.  I’m sure glass would probably work too.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the chickpea flour and water together.  Whisk in the olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  3. To prepare the toppings, heat the 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying or saute pan.  Add the onion and saute for 1 minute.  Add the zucchini and tomatoes, and saute for another 2 minutes.
  4. When the oven is getting close to 425, put the prepared pan in the oven to preheat.  You can heat a ceramic or glass pan for 3-5 minutes, but only put a metal pan in there for about 1-2 mins.  Be careful not to let the olive oil burn or smoke.
  5. Remove the hot pan from the oven and pour in the farinata batter in an even layer.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for about 8 minutes, or until it starts to look firm around the edges but the top is still a little bit gooey.  This could take more or less time depending on the size and shape of your pan.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the sauteed vegetables, arugula, and olives on top.  Return the oven and bake another 5 minutes or so, or until the farinata is firm and looks dry on top and the vegetables are nicely roasted.
  7. Let cool a little bit, cut up into slices and enjoy!

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Springtime, and other Glorious Things

It is officially springtime in Sacramento.  At heart, I am a winter-hating, sweet-tea-and-whiskey loving Southerner, and my number one favorite thing about living in California is that by mid-February it’s 70 degrees and the cherry blossoms and daffodils are out in full force.

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Sacramento is in the top ten sunniest cities in the U.S., beating out LA, San Diego and Miami with 78% average annual sunshine.  I love this climate, even though despite my 50% Mediterranean blood I am a fair-skinned, freckled person who is literally allergic to sunscreen.

That is, I love it except for the period of time from mid-July until mid-September when going outside between noon and 5 pm results in your flesh frying off of your bones.  But there are a solid five months until then during which Sacramentans can enjoy the great outdoors.  Yesterday, we celebrated Valentines day with a trip to the Davis Farmer’s Market and a picnic in the Arboretum (along with surprise gluten free red velvet pancakes in bed and super geeky homemade valentines).

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Inside: Beam me up, Hottie.

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Back side: Translation – I’m falling for you.

I am also celebrating the fact that after four long months I finally figured out what’s wrong with my hip.  I had an MRI and found out I have a mild partial stress fracture of my left femoral neck.  It happened in October when I was training really hard for the CIM, and since then it hasn’t completely healed because (of course) I wasn’t resting enough.  Even though I wasn’t running, as you can probably imagine, kickboxing, boot camp and HIIT are not too great for a healing stress fracture either.

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The red line is where my fracture is. Luckily it’s pretty small and doesn’t go all the way across like this poor skeleton guy who looks like his leg is about to fall off.

A stress fracture seems like a pretty weird thing to celebrate, but I’m just excited that I don’t need surgery, and that after it heals, I can go back to running up to…drumroll…a 5k distance!  I can never run marathons, and even halfs are a bad idea, because apparently because of my hip dysplasia I’m at high risk for another potentially worse fracture, or at the very least early onset degenerative arthritis.  Sexy!

So for the next three months, I’m only allowed to walk, bike, and do core and upper body strengthening exercises.  My plan is to do Pilates in the morning, and then bike for 30 minutes in the evening, which in this weather is totally delightful.  After that, if my repeat MRI looks okay I can run again.  After months of feeling down on myself, I’m totally pumped.  So much so that I ordered this Beast Mode workout tank off of Etsy (I am slightly annoyed that my catchphrase has been stolen and popularized by a certain Seahawks running back, but oh well):

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And after I remember how to run again, I’m signing up for one of those ridiculous 5k’s with the glow paint that I always see advertised on Facebook.  Let me know if you want to join.

Lemon-Almond Afternoon Cake

I was cleaning out my pantry and getting rid of things that were wayyyyy past the expiration date, and found a package of almond meal that wasn’t expired but that I just bought and forgot about.  I had pinned this recipe from iamafoodblog a while ago, which inspired me to bake this cake.  It turned out moist with toasty almond and lemon flavors, and was perfect with afternoon tea.  It’s also pretty healthy and full of protein, because it’s just made of ground up almonds and eggs.

Lemon-Almond Afternoon Cake

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Ingredients

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • Zest of 4 lemons
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal (I used Trader Joe’s Just Almond Meal)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (having just thrown away my baking powder after realizing it expired in Feb. 2012, I had to substitute with this)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • About 1/4 cup water
  • Powdered sugar, for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare a loaf pan or two round cake pans with baking spray.
  2. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer, and place the egg yolks in a large bowl.
  3. Beat the lemon zest, sugar, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and almond extract into the egg yolks.  This will make a thick paste, so add the water slowly until it turns into a smooth, thick batter.
  4. Whip the egg whites in the mixer until medium peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter slowly, being careful to keep it as fluffy as possible.
  5. Fold the batter into the pan(s) and bake for 15-20 minutes (if you’re using cake pans) or 25-30 minutes (if you’re using a loaf pan), or until the cake doesn’t jiggle and a light golden brown crust has formed.
  6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy with your afternoon tea!

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Me and my First World Problems

So, I haven’t posted in a while because I’ve been more or less wallowing in self-pity and wanting to avoid thinking, talking, or writing about fitness (which is especially difficult during resolution season when fitness is all anyone ever wants to talk about or advertise.)  This is because I went to see the ortho hip specialist, and he is pretty sure that I have a torn labrum in my left hip which has probably been the source of all my pain since October.  This isn’t what the other doctors said, but it makes sense because

  1. it’s something that commonly happens in people with underlying structural deformities (check)
  2. who do a lot of sports, particularly running (check)
  3. I have all of the key symptoms (does it hurt when I do this? OW. Check. Does it pop when I do this? POP. Check.)

Quick anatomy lesson: The labrum is a ring of cartilage around the outside of your hip socket that basically helps keeps the ball of your hip inside the socket.  It’s supposed to be attached to the socket all the way around, but sometimes it gets separated, which is bad and hurts a lot, as you can see from this illustration which is painful just to look at.

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However, I am getting carried away because I haven’t even had the MRI that will tell us for sure if I really even have a torn labrum. and if I do, whether or not it will require surgery to repair, because the soonest I could schedule an MRI was February.  In the mean time, I am strictly forbidden from running, jumping, kickboxing, squats, lunges, boot camp, burpees, and anything else except walking, light biking and very careful yoga.

The doctor actually asked me “have you rested AT ALL?” and I had to guiltily respond “…not really.”  At that moment I felt, not for the first time since my injury last fall, like I might have a slightly unhealthy relationship with exercise.

It’s hard not to think that “more is more” when it comes to fitness.  You can always get stronger, faster, thinner, better.  But being injured is reminding me of the obvious fact that this isn’t actually true–that “more” isn’t always what your body really needs.  The hard part is if, like me, a lot of your self-esteem is tied up in physical activity, you have to find a way to feel good about yourself that doesn’t involve working out a lot.

To this end, my mom suggested I volunteer at a soup kitchen to take my mind off my first world problems.  Maybe I can make them my winter squash and parsnip soup