Garlic Lemon Artichoke Chicken

My family has had an “eventful” 2017. Don’t get me wrong it’s been full of blessings but it was also filled with multiple stomach bugs (one of which took out my younger son for over a month), learning how to handle very active twin boys (apparently this is not for the faint of heart!), my daughter starting kindergarten, and the passing of my beloved Grandmother. In this whirlwind, I lost sight of meal planning and my usual homecooked meals were comprised of quick fixes like sloppy joes, tacos, breakfast for dinner, leftovers (thanks Mom and Dad), and (full disclosure) fast food/takeout.

Look, this is life and seasons in life, but it doesn’t have to last forever (or for years on end). So this week I decided that I was going to plan meals (AND FOLLOW THROUGH). Sometimes though, you just need inspiration. I mean having the same thing over and over again is just not for me. Flipping through the millions of Pinterest ideas I came across one that uses garlic, lemons, artichokes, and caperberries along with spices I’ve never heard of before. So I decided to SIMPLIFY things without losing the flavor dimensions.

This is a slow cooker recipe but you could also brine this all day and then bake it before dinner. I made it with pasta but you could also serve it with rice, potatoes, quinoa or another grain/starch. Broccoli pairs well with the lemon flavor of the chicken but you could also serve this with a side salad or another vegetable of your choice.

Remeber I’m into EASY recipes that do not take a lot of prep time or purchasing power. This is one of those dump dump mix and set. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons capers plus the brine that is poured in with it
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 3 cloves garlic diced (larger chunks)
  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 onion, chopped

Directions:

  1. Place zest, lemon juice, dijon, vinegar, capers/brine, and minced garlic in a bowl and mix well.
  2. Place chopped onion and the rest of the garlic in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Put drumsticks on top of onion and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour lemon mixture over top of chicken and let marinate for 3-12 hours.
  5. Cook chicken on high 4-6 hours or low 8-10 hours

Serve with whole grain (or gluten-free) pasta

Sauce for Pasta

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon non-dairy spread (butter would work great too)
  • 1/2 medium onion minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • 1 tablespoons capers (with juice)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil over medium heat and sautee onions and garlic.
  2. Add lemon juice and mix. Heat until simmering and add capers.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Add red pepper flakes
  4. Toss with pasta

It was great and we have leftovers for lunch!

Tomato Veggie Slow Cooker Pork Loin

When I was younger my grandmother made these incredible pork chops. They were breaded, pan fried, and then baked with tomatoes and onions. I still remember how they tasted. She hasn’t made them in a long time but my parents have taken this recipe and made it better for you. To get the recipe, I called my dad because he is the one who usually makes the dish and apparently this started the “pork chop recipe battle of 2016” between my parents as they fervently discussed who’s recipe it is. Honestly, whoever’s recipe it is, it is a keeper! This is a dish that my husband and I ask for quite often because it is so delicious!

When I’m cooking I like to take a recipe that I’ve found and put a spin on it so that’s exactly what I’ve done to this one. From my grandmothers original breaded pork chops to my parents unbreaded baked pork chops I took it one step further with a pork loin and I think you’ll really enjoy it…I know we did!

When you buy pork loins at the store they usually come in packs of 2 (about 2 pounds each loin). I used both in this recipe but you can certainly cut it in half and do pork barbecue or cut your own chops (pork chops come from the loin) from the other one. Look for the leanest one…the one without a huge fat layer and marbling. Pork loin is the leanest cut from the pork but it still can have a layer of fat and some marbling.

NUTRITION SIDE NOTE: Marbling is the white swirls in pork, beef, and lamb. This is fat…saturated fat. It carries a lot of cholesterol (it also carries a lot of flavor). Look for meat without a lot of marbling and add flavor through oils, herbs, and spices.

In every recipe I make there’s an ingredient that many people do not think of adding. I like to be creative yet practical and invent recipes that people would actually make at home but also push you out of your comfort zone a little. My secret weapon in this recipe are capers. If you’ve never used/eaten a caper before I promise you are missing out! The are relatively inexpensive (for a jar that will last me months it cost $1.50) and have a taste that will knock your socks off! They are salty and briny…but not strong like olives. D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S!

There’s another catch to this recipe. I add tons of vegetables because a diet that is 2/3 vegetable based has been shown to reduce your risk of many diseases like heart disease and cancer. THAT is why a healthy diet is important. Weight management is important but that is a side note…health, now that’s where it is at kids!

The steps are simple…

Chop:

img_8705

Season

img_8706

Layer

img_8708 img_8709

Smother

img_8710

Cook it!

img_8711

OK the recipe you’ve all been waiting for!

Tomato Veggie Slow Cooker Pork Loin

Ingredients:

  • 5 stalks celery
  • 3 whole carrots
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 medium onions (2 large)
  • Pork loin (I used 2, 2 pound loins)
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if watching your sodium intake)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1, 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1, 28 oz can diced tomatoes

Directions

  1. Chop celery, carrots, peppers, and half of the onions (larger pieces about 1 inch). Put them in the bottom of a large slow cooker.
  2. Place pork loins in a large bowl and rub capers, garlic, oregano, turmeric, salt, and pepper over the loin to get the flavors surrounding it. I cut small slits into the loin and stuffed them with the garlic and capers.
  3. Put the loins over the vegetables and pour the balsamic vinegar over the loin and veggies.
  4. Place the can of crushed tomatoes around the pork loin and layer the rest of the onions on top. Top it off with the can of diced tomatoes. I also put another teaspoon of capers on top of the diced tomatoes but this is optional…I really like capers!
  5. Cook on high 6 hours or low 8-10 hours.

I served the pork loin with parsley and lemon red skin potatoes and a side salad with homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Parsley and Lemon Red Skin Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • 6 small red skin potatoes cut in 1 inch cubes (skins on)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chives
  • 1/3 lemon (about 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice)

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into a glass dish. Using a steamer lid (or a glass plate on top) microwave on high for 10 minutes.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste (can also use more herbs and spices)

img_8715                                                  img_8712

Recipe Notes: this slow cooker recipe takes about 10 minutes to prepare. You can sear the tenderloin in a pan first but it is not necessary. The meat is fall apart tender without the sear. It is so quick, easy, and delicious.

Pork loin recipe cost: about $15 for  8 servings (4 oz of meat). That is $1.87 per serving!

Quick Family Dinners

I do not have children in school yet but as a stay at home mom with 2 babies and a preschooler I need quick dinners. Let’s be honest, all the moms out there, we are surviving! I had a goal when I first became a mom and that was to feed my children the best that I could as often as I could. You see, as a realistic dietitian, I know that sometimes a fast food meal is completely acceptable because we are surviving but I don’t want to give my kiddos fast food as a norm. I also cannot afford to spend hours in the kitchen preparing gourmet meals because I have 3 kids 4 and under. So what do I do? I cook quick and healthy. I thought I would share some tips for making quick and healthy family meals along with a few recipes.

  1. Set it and forget it! Slow cookers are incredible. I swear a working mom had to invent this thing. When I’m doing a slow cooker meal I put the meat and the marinade in the crock the night before and then throw the crock in the refrigerator until the morning. My most recent slow cooker recipe was chicken breast, fresh tomatoes, and a McCormick spice mix (mojito lime) made like the directions on the pack. It was superb! The spice mix was great and except for the corn syrup was all spices and salt. I served it with corn on the cob and creamy cucumbers (sour cream and vinegar…more on the vinegary side).
  2. You go grill! I love using the grill…actually I love making marinades for the meat and veggies that my husband takes and grills. I make a wonderful adobo pork tenderloin that gets grilled. I use the adobo sauce from the canned peppers, lime and orange juice, splash of red wine vinegar, garlic, cumin, turmeric, some fresh herbs (whatever I’ve planted that season) and salt/pepper. I adapted my recipe from Eating Wells chipotle pork and I must say, since playing with the recipe I cannot give the precise measurements that I use but, wow…delicious every time! I would serve that with red skinned potatoes in olive oil and fresh herbs cooked on the grill and a delicious summer salad.
  3. Turn around turkey. Ground turkey is versatile. We add canned sloppy joe mix, taco seasoning (without hydrogenated oils), make turkey burgers and turkey meat loaf . I also add ground turkey to spaghetti sauce for a nice meat sauce and even do turkey meat balls. However you make turkey remember to incorporate whole grains and/or veggies to your meal to round it out.
  4. Fast cooking fish. Most fish cooks very quickly. Baked fish can be done in less than 30 minutes. Shrimp, mere minutes. Select only wild caught and sustainable. We’ll talk about more specifics on why in a later post but wild caught is better for the environment (and your body) and sustainably caught means we’ll have more fish in the future. In my usual meal planning holster I shoot for haddock, cod, tuna, salmon, and shrimp.
  5. Survival night. Yep we have a survival night. That can be anything from left overs to PB&J with cut up veggies or grilled cheese with tomato soup. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be gourmet. Make sure your meal is balanced with proteins, grains/starches, and vegetables…even if that means it is a salad and sandwich night.

Final thoughts: make sure your quick and easy meals have a protein (animal or vegetarian), grain or starchy vegetable, and a non-starchy vegetable. Fill your plate with that non-starchy vegetable and check out my blog on having a balanced diet for more information on what that means!

Challenge: make a meal plan this week using recipes that are quick, easy, and healthy!