Snack Time: Harvest Snaps Baked Green Pea Snacks Parmesan and Roasted Garlic

For me snacks are an essential part of my dieting journey. I think it is because when I make dinner, I often make enough so that we have left overs (especially ones that will freeze so that on days when I am too busy to cook we can just take them out and thaw). The trick with preparing more than one portion at a time though, is portion control

And quite honestly, portion control is my biggest dieting weakness. It is something I struggle with, but it is also something I have to balance with scheduling. Sometimes those left overs come in really handy.

Hence the importance of snacking. Having a small snack in the middle of the day (2-3 pm) really helps with reminding me to stick to my portion control and not get ‘just a little bit more’ simply because I made a big pan of whatever we happen to be eating for dinner.

My rules for snacking are fairly simple. I try to aim for as close to 100 calories as possible but try never to go over 150. It has to be tasty and satisfying.

And that is it. Really. it is the only limit that I put on the snack. And I know that sounds strange, but here is why. If I keep that calorie count in check, even if the snack is something more decadent than I would normally allow myself, it helps to keep me on track. It feels like I have been naughty. As a result I not only tend to work a little harder in my workouts, but I also have it in the back of my mind that I ned to keep a close reign on my dinner portion because of the decadent treat I had earlier in the day.

It is, in the end more of a mental thing which, the longer I work on building a healthy lifestyle the more i realize hw much of it is mental. (often in more ways than one). So I trick myself. But it only works if the treat is satisfying and feels like a treat. Choosing a snack that makes me feel like I am trying to be virtuous will actually backfire and make me feel like I ought to et more at dinner.

So did this ‘treat’ hit the spot?

Actually, it did.

The Harvest Snaps Baked Green Pea Snacks come in many flavors. As I love both Parmesan and Roasted Garlic, this is the flavor I went for. I also have to admit that I adore peas. I grow them every year and if I could get the entire garden planted in them, I would.

When the bag is opened there is a strong parmesan and garlic scent to the bag. I was worried it would overwhelm the pea flavor, but it didn’t There was a distinct pea flavor to them. I would perhaps like a touch less garlic so that the pea flavor stands out more, but that really is just nitpicking.

I found these Harvest Snaps absolutely delicious. They are baked instead of fried, which I like and they do have only 130 calories per serving. I really like the fact that it breaks down how many peas are in a serving (about 22) While i do have a scale and weigh things out a lot, I do like knowing that if I am rushed then I can just count quickly and skip the scale.

For me it was necessary to measure out the snacks as I would happily sit and eat the entire bag. They are a salty, savory crispy treat and they really feel like a treat for the taste buds. I felt the same sort of decadence as I would eating my favorite flavor of potato chip. As I am not a huge fan of baked potato chips, preferring just the regular chips, I was a little surprised that they felt just as satisfying as the regular chips. I also like that they are available from a wide variety of stores, from Kroger to Publix to amazon and their own website. So I can easily pick them up no matter where I shop. there is a wider variety on line than at my store though, so I may be poking around to see what other delights are offered, taste wise. I dod really like the Parmesan and Roasted garlic though. it was quite yummy.

I very much enjoyed these Harvest Snaps and will certainly be getting more of them in the future.

Shop High Protein Snacks

Snacktime: Darth Garlic Biltong from Righteous Felon Craft Jerky

I am a big garlic fan. So when I saw this i knew I had to try it. And to be fair this is my absolute favorite flavor that I’ve tried. It is a biltong style rather than a regular beef jerky. To be fair that is the one thing that I would change, I would make this in the same style as the other jerkies Righteous Felon produces. I will still eat it as a biltong, but I prefer the texture of their other craft jerkies while still loving the flavor of this one.

For those who don’t know, Biltong is a little different from regular jerky. First of all it is cured with vinegar which is very different from regular jerky (and why I know I couldn’t actually get the same flavor if it were actual jerky, and really it is just a textural preference.). It is cut slightly thicker because it is air dried and it is never smoke dried so it doesn’t have that smokiness many other jerky products will have. I also find it to be a little drier and less ‘juicy’ I suppose you would say, compared to the Righteous Felon Jerky I’ve tried.

I know the process creates both the flavor and the texture. The texture is okay, I will certainly still eat it, but the flavor is fantastic so I will always order it. If that makes sense. It helps that I adore black garlic as well as regular garlic.

The ingredients list for Darth Garlic is very straightforward: Beef, red wine vinegar, salt, ground corriander, black garlic, rosemary, pepper and monk fruit.

It is a simple and very delicious list. My biggest problem is that because it is in smaller pieces, I tend to eat this one from the bag rather than measure my portions out so I almost always eat the entire bag in one sitting instead of breaking it into portions. Which as each serving of this is 80 calories it still ends up only being a 180 calorie snack when I do.

Actually what is fun, now that I’ve understood that once i open the bag, i am eating the whole bag, I tend to have this as a snack when i am having a smaller portion size dinner or one that is veg heavy when it is cold and I am really craving something much more high caloric than I am going to eat. The Darth Garlic not only leaves me feeling as though i had a decadent treat, but because I ate the whole bag I feel like I have over done it on the “treat” of the day and therefore I feel more satisfied with the lighter dinner.

I know, mental trickery. Sometimes it is the best way to deal with your brain when you are dieting. It is as much a mental game as it is a physical one.

As for taste, there is the tang of the red whine vinegar, which is both enhanced and sweetened by the almost balsamic taste of black garlic. The coriander and black pepper help balance out that tang. I am not entirely certain what monk fruit tastes like. I keep looking for it at my local grocery because I know it is often used as a sweetened in food products, but I would like to see what flavor it has on it’s own besides just sweet.

And that is primarily because of products like this Darth Garlic. I am fairly certain there is another flavor in there. There is a light sweetness to the back of the taste and I think that is from the monk fruit, but I think that additional taste is from the monk fruit as well. Mostly because I can’t place the flavor.

It always annoys me when i can’t place a flavor. This is also the reason i have the tendency to bring weird and wonderful things home from the grocery when i see them.

But that is another story.

If you are looking for a savory beef snack without heat but a deep and delicious flavor, I’d suggest giving Darth Garlic from Righteous Felon a try. it is one of my absolute favorites from all of the items i have tried. And it is the one I will reorder every time i place an order with them.

Snacktime with Habanero Escobar from Righteous Felon Craft Jerky

Today I am trying one of my babydoll’s favorite snack treats from Righteous Felon. It is the Habanero Escobar Craft Jerky. What is kind of funny is that this jerky has been in the box we order every time we have ordered from Righteous Felon. It was the first one my babydoll wanted to try once i told him i found a new potential beef jerky source I wanted to try.

Yet this is the first time I have managed to actually try a piece. As soon as the box is opened these disappear into my babydoll’s stash. even with this one I told him I was going to try a piece and he gave me this hound dog look as though I had stolen his treat. I promised him I would only try one piece.

And just so you know he made the shocked face when I took out two pieces for this picture. the largest one immediately went back in the bag and I handed the bag back to him. As you can see, there are pepper flacks on the jerky. It is the first warning that this is going to pack some heat.

Well technically the first clue is the package. This is the full ingredients list:

Beef, Water, brown sugar, soybeans, salt molasses, vinegar, black pepper, natural smoke flavorings, alcohol, habanero peppers, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper, paprika, cloves, chili powder

Now part of me just looks at the list and things, wow that isn’t a bad list. We often make jerky here at the house (when meat is on sale and not as expensive as it has been lately anyway). Much of the items on the list are things I would use for making our own jerky. Which makes me happy. Then I think about the heat that some of those items can bring. And I look at the flakes of spice on the meat.

And I brace for impact.

Actually it was an interesting flavor. And yes it does have flavor. It isn’t just a fire bomb in the mouth. There is sweet and spice and really good flavor. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of heat, but it builds slowly. There is a sweet smokiness to the heat that I really like. I am only likely to eat one to two pieces of this jerky though. While the heat isn’t a lot while I am eating it at the end there is a burst of heat. It is like it grows as you eat it and then when you swallow and open your mouth, the air rushes in and ignites the flame.

the heat blast doesn’t last a really long time. It is a nice pleasant heat and not a painful one. Here is the thing with me and spice. I like heat. I really do like spicy things, however I don’t like it when the heat takes over and the only thing that you can taste is heat. I like the heat to be an accompaniment to the flavor, not the only thing that i can taste. Habanero Escobar from Righteous Felon defiantly has the heat. It is not a mild tasting product. But it is a well flavored product. You will get the heat but you will also get flavor with that heat. And for me, that makes it a winner. Admittedly if i want it again I will have to order it without my baby knowing and hide it like contraband. Otherwise any package that comes in will automatically go into his special snack hideaway. Although truth be know I am okay with that. Getting him to eat a smaller portion of something like Habanero Escobar from Righteous Felon with all of its good ingredients in stad of some of his other snack choices is a win and I am am more than happy to cede the bags to him. I’ll just sneak a few here and there and maybe plan my own heist later.

Snacktime: Truffle-O Bill from Righteous Felon Craft Jerky

It is no secret, I love beef jerky. I don’t indulge a lot, or at least not as much as I used to, so when I go for beef jerky I like to make sure it is the best quality I can get. I came across the Righteous Felon Craft Jerky in my ever widening search for good products and I fell in love with the design of the bags and the tongue in cheek nature of all of the copy on their website.

For me, snack time is a huge dieting tool. i know that sounds strange, but a good quality, yet low calorie snack, especially if it is protein packed, can really help me not over eat at dinner. Each of these resealable bags has two portions which makes it easy to divide and easy to keep the second portion for a second day. And each portion is only about 60 calories.

While the snack does help keep me from overeating at dinner time, I do like to keep the calorie count low for my afternoon snack. My goal is to not really go too much over 100 calories. And truthfully if i go crazy with the portions and eat the entire bag it is only 120 calories so that too is still within an acceptable range. (I only really worry it is too much if I exceed 150.)

At this time of year i tend to order a lot because they are not only fantastic for during the work day snacks, they have become one of my favorite road trip snacks. Plus my babydoll and I each have our own favorites. And while i will be reviewing my favorites as I work through my recent stock up stash, today’s bag is a first use for me. I have always seen the Truffle-O Bill and liked the image and wanted to order, but then I always go for the flavors I know I love. This time I added in the bad to my order so I could try it.

And yes I justified trying it out by saying “I can review it, yeah that’s why I’m getting it…really…”

I know, sometimes I just lie shamelessly to myself.

As you can see the jerky comes in natural looking strips which I really like. The strips are soft and easy to chew. I know that sounds like a strange thing to say but I have tried several strips like this that are either like chewing on leather or shatter into meat shards in the mouth. This has the perfect amount of chew. It feels like you are eating something solid and tangible (which helps with my snacking to help with dieting plan, it feels satisfying to eat). It also feels like i am consuming way more than 60 calories worth of food which adds to the satisfying feeling.

I will admit i was worried that the truffle flavor would be too intensely truffle but it is just an flavor enhancement. This jerky has a nice smoky flavor with a slightly sweet tang and a sort of deeper meaty flavor that is brought out by the truffle. Which is one of the best features of truffle flavor. Too often people can go just truffle crazy instead of using it as an enhancement. This was the perfect enhancement. The molasses and brown sugar in the curing ingredients list is where the sweetness comes from and it is just enough of sweeteness without being too over the top.

I added this into my order this year because i wanted to try it out. I wasn’t sure about it because with me truffle can go either way. But this Truffle-O Bill was fantastic. And now I think I may have a new favorite to add to future orders. And I also want to branch out and try all of the flavors I haven’t yet gotten to. Luckily they have a bit of a discount on right now. I’ll list it below. It is well worth taking advantage of if you are stocking delicious, high quality snacks.

Free Bag of Biltong or Jerky If You Spend $5 with code BAGONUS2022

Criminally Crafted for the Unlawful Appetite

Holiday Gifts: Righteous Felon Craft Jerky

This may seem like a bit of a strange gift suggestion idea but for my family it actually works really well. First off Righteous Felon Craft Jerky is really good quality Jerky. If you go to their about pages you can not only read about how they source clean ingredients with no added hormones. In addition you can also check out the 44 Roseda Farms where their beef is sourced. I am a big fan of knowing where things originate, especially with food.

In addition to being well sourced, it is absolutely delicious.

Beef Jerky has always been one of my favorite snack items. I know, it is kind of amusing since as a rule I don’t actually eat a lot of beef. I like it, but it is a once in a while treat not an everyday or even every week sort of meal for me. It never really has been.

But I love my beef jerky.

During the week I will have a bag and portion out a few pieces here and there as an afternoon snack. It has great protein and it really takes so little to make me feel like I had a really big snack.

At this time of year though, i stock up for road snacks. While the gas station stop is inevitable because no matter what people snacks I take with me, the car still needs to fuel up too. But having good snacks in the car means that i am not stocking up on some not so great for me snacks when we pause to feed the car.

And as my family is scattered, I am not the only one with a road trip both before and after a holiday. These make the perfect stocking stuffers as I can order a large pack and split it out depending on who likes what. There are flavors to suit pretty much every taste. I am partial to the Darth Garlic and the Habanero Escobar. My babydoll loves the Voodoo Chile (that one is slightly too spicy for me which means he gets the bag to himself which makes him happy).

If you are going on a road trip or have family that is traveling for the holidays this is a great addition to the holiday gift giving, or personal stash. It is also great for those who just enjoy good quality Beef Jerky. While the image here is from the large variety pack that lets you sample all of their varieties, they have many different packs this year, some single variety for those who know exactly what they like. And for those who don’t want the beef jerky party to end, they offer subscriptions as well. That’s right jerky that arrives like magic upon your doorstep for all of your snacking needs.

Well, maybe the subscription isn’t magic. but it kind of feels like it.

For me, it is a great high protein weekday snack and a fabulous road trip supply to stock up on. At this time of year, Righteous Felon also becomes an amazing stocking stuffer.

Criminally Crafted for the Unlawful Appetite

Dinnertime Prep: Slow Cooker Coconut Curry

That’s right it is time for the prep work for dinner. This is one of my favorite easy weeknight meals. While I work from home now, I used to make this all the time when I was working. It is a simple recipe and when I have a busy day ahead, I can prep all of the ingredients the night before and then just put them into the crockpot in the morning and forget about it for the day. It is a longer list of ingredients but many of them are staple pantry items that I almost always have on hand. So making it only requires a little shopping for fresh veg.

Ingredients:

1 can coconut milk (928 per can)

1 coconut milk can’s worth of water (0 cal)

a head of broccoli (60 cal in three cups, which was what my broccoli head yielded)

1 can chickpeas, drained (506 cal per can)

1 sweet potato, cubed (I go with larger cubes so they retain their texture over the long slow cook (114 cal)

1 yellow onion diced (115 cal)

2 cloves minced garlic (8 calories)

2 tsp grated ginger (2 cal)

1 tsp red pepper flakes (6 calories)

1 T ground turmeric (24 calories)

1T cumin (22 calories)

1T paprika (19 calories)

2 tsp salt

28 oz can diced tomatoes (254 calories)

and rice for serving (make separately)

Without the rice the calories for this entire slow cooker’s worth of food is 2058 calories. It gives me and my babydoll four meals. There are two of us so this is eight portions. Each portion is approximately 258 calories without rice. I usually have half a cup of cooked white rice with my portion which adds 121 calories so for me a portion would be about 379 calories. You might separate it differently so I put the calories for the whole thing above. Hopefully that helps you out with your math.

Are you ready for the directions?

  • put the sweet potatoes in the bottom of the slow cooker.
  • Add everything except the broccoli
  • If you are home when this is cooking, leave out the broccoli at this point and turn the slow cooker on low for 8 hours or high for four.
  • If cooking for eight hours add one additional cup of water.
  • In the last hour of cooking, add the broccoli and allow it to finish cooking.
  • If you are not home to add the broccoli for the last hour, layer it on top of everything else and don’t mix it in before setting it on to cook. It will still be okay if you add it earlier it will still be good, just softer. Sometimes I like to have left over broccoli (pre cooked) that I just add in the last few minutes to warm up with the rest of the curry. It is something to play with, depending on how you feel about broccoli.

This is really a super simple recipe to make and I find it really delicious. I personally like the heat level on this but my babydoll does add a squirt of siracha to his bowl. In addition, when I make this, it does make enough for use to have four meals. (there are two of us). I only make enough rice for us to eat with that night’s portion and we mix the rise with the curry in our bowls. This mix does freeze very well actually. The broccoli suffers a little with the reheat, but over all it is great to have extra meals ready to go when things get hectic so I will take a little broccoli wiltage for that.

We eat this as a nice hearty vegetarian meal. You an of course add chicken to it if you wanted. Occasionally I have added chicken to use up left overs. However I don’t think that this meal needs the addition. It is hearty and filling and feels far more caloric than it actually is. (In case you are wondering what the speckles are in the picture, we had a little quinoa left in the bag that wasn’t enough for a portion so to clear the cabinet I added it – you can put it in raw and it cooks with everything else, just add about half a cup more water. It mostly breaks down and thickens the sauce) I find it especially satisfying on a cold evening when the wind is icy and I need warming from my bones outward.



Holiday Guide: i Gourmet

Tis the season of snacking. It is also the season of guests, both expected and unexpected. Most of my family is scattered around the world at this point. Travel is always interesting. Some sections of my family will skip a year of traveling, staying home and communicating through the electronic ether instead of in person and then plan a huge trip with multiple stops along the way to grandma’s house.

It means that starting, well, about now, we will get phone calls about people passing through our area. A lot of my family seems to book flights to major airports and then rent cars to just meander and catch whoever they can on the way. My house is located along the way to a lot of places it seems so we will have people staying a night in the guest room or just stopping by for an hour. Sometimes we get family dropping by for coffee and maybe a snack, other times lunch, dinner and those strange in between times that are neither.

Which means we always have snacks and the makings of a quick cheese board, veg plate and possible charcuterie on hand. With the veg plate I always have two dips on hand for those who don’t do meat or dairy – it is my excuse to make fresh hummus as much as possible. And if they give some advance notice, my favorite battered and fried mushrooms, but that is a different post.

One of my favorite places to stock up is igourmet. During much of the year i will order cheeses from them simply because I like cheese and they have a really good selection of things I can’t find near me (They have a truffle cheese that is fantastic. They sell out a lot, so I sort of stalk the website lying in wait). My babydoll loves their sausages so we often pick a few of those up as well. And while we shop one cheese or sausage at a time when it is just us, we also make lists of our favorites as well as lists of who might be stopping by (No surprise that my family leans heavily towards the cheese board while his leans more towards the sausage).

Sometimes we will order a long list, but often times it is actually easier to order a couple of their gift baskets. The one pictured at the top of the post is their International Snacking Extravaganza box in case you are wondering. Out of this box I have tried the Sweet Sangria olives and absolutely love them. They can really add a great dimension to a simple bowl of snacks. I adore olives, as do many of my relatives and there is usually a bowl of marinated ones out. I make one that has lemon and rosemary in it. These Sangria ones are just easier to buy. They have sweet slightly fruity notes that blend really well with the briny olive and always disappear fast. The brine is a fantastic twist on a dirty martini as well.

Also included in this box is Righteous Felon Jerky. While the Victorious B.I.G. is good, I have to confess my favorite is the Darth Garlic That one and Voodoo Chile are the two we order a lot. The Voodoo is a little too spicy for me but my babydoll loves it. And if we order both then we each get our own bag and i don’t have to share the Darth Garlic.

But beef jerky is another post.

Gift Boxes from iGourmet are a great way to stock up on a variety of items for incoming guests. They also make great gifts. They have boxes that focus on locales like France or Germany. They have cheese centric boxes, charcuterie centric boxes, even a box completely focused on nuts, appropriately named The Nut Case. There are bundles of olive oils or even Barbeque Sauces available. In essence you can find pretty much anything for the food, wine or beer lover on your list.

And to be honest something like the Ultimate Party Collection not only makes a great gift, but can really help you out when you know you have multiple people stopping by and don’t have a lot of time to source a lot of different things. At this time of year, it can be a life saver just to know you have something on hand for whoever ends up stopping by.

Wheter gifting or stocking up for company, iGourmet is well worth checking out this holiday season.



Holiday Shopping Guide: Indoor Herb Gardens

I’m sure if you have read my posts for any length of time you will have realized that I love to garden. And while I simply do love to garden, I also find that it helps me with my weight loss. I know the activity part is helpful, but once the summer fades and the garden is munched over for the winter, the physical activity is minimal.

Where gardening mostly helps me, is in the kitchen. If you have ever watched a lot of cooking shows then you have probably heard the phrase fat is flavor. Sadly this is true, however you know what else has flavor? Herbs and spices.

For me fresh herbs especially make something potentially very bland feel somewhat decadent, especially in the cold winter months. Think about rice, Plain old boiled white rice. On it’s own not so flavor packed. It is a blank canvas, usually to spoon something dripping with sauce on to. However, a little bit of chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lemon mixed in and it becomes a little less boring.

When you are trying to loose weight food can feel dull and flavorless. Everything it seems is taken out in the name of calorie reduction. Fat is removed, salt is removed, sugar is banned and sauces are kept to a minimum. For me fresh herbs are just a fantastic way to bring back some of that flavor. And in the winter I rely on indoor gardening. The herb bundles of fresh herbs you can get in our grocery over the winter are usually very pricy for what you get and the herbs are not always the best quality. They look like they sat in their little plastic boxes for far too long. which they probably have.

So I like to keep a few potted plants around to not only cut costs but because having plants around makes me happy. In addition if they are there I feel obligated to use them which in turn makes my dishes taste better without adding a lot of calories. The calories you add from fresh herbs is minimal. It is surprising how much fresh basil you can get on the plate for only three calories.

If you are looking to start an indoor garden this winter, or have a gardener on your gift buying list, Botanical Interest is a place you might want to check out. You can order their seed catalogs for free from the site, or just order directly from the site. They have all sorts of articles and tips if you are starting your own indoor garden. I found this one particularly interesting.

And for easy shopping they now have gift bundles available. They have the chef’s herb garden for a general array of the more classics cooking herbs. There is a bundle for those who want to grow vegetables in containers. There is even a bundle for those simply obsessed with chilie peppers.

these bundles are well thought out collections and a great way to start your own indoor garden, help someone else on their way to gardening or surprise your gardener in the family with something unexpected in their Christmas stocking. I really like these bundles and actually ordered the Butterfly Banquet Bundle for my mother this year. She has this one space in her yard that the plants included in the bundle will fill out nicely and with luck attract butterflies in the spring. which I know will make her happy to see well after the holiday decorations are put away and hopefully for several years to come. And that Makes Botanical Interests a great place to visit when filling out your holiday gift list.

Herbs: DIY Indoor Garden

Dinnertime Prep: A different sort of stuffed pepper, Chicken Parm Style

This is the time of year where I crave the warm and rich flavors of large meals. And I have to admit that I love a good chicken parmesan. I know there are ways to reduce the calories in a traditional chicken parm but I also have to admit that whenever I use them I feel like I am eating a chicken parm substitute.

So for me, the best way to get my brain shifted is to think stuffed peppers with a twist. While I like stuffed peppers, I never really crave stuffed peppers. For me at least, they are not in the same crave-able category. I find that if I say stuffed peppers with a twist my brain doesn’t have the gooey chicken parmesan expectations so instead of being disappointed that this isn’t a traditional dish, I am pleasantly surprised by the flavors.

And I am surprised by the lowered calories. Because the one thing this recipe does, is limit the amount of cheese used. There simply isn’t enough space to put the same heaping mounds as I do with the traditional dish. For this recipe I used four peppers (two red Bell and two Poblano). I like both actually. For a light dinner I generally find that one half of the bell pepper is the perfect size for me. My babydoll likes both poblanos or one entire red pepper). The peppers are still good the next day so we have the left overs for lunch. They reheat pretty well the next day. I have never had them last longer than one day so I am not certain how well they keep long term.

The reason that we make this number of peppers is because when we purchase chicken we break it into one pound portions and freeze it that way. If we use four bell peppers it uses up all of the one pound of chicken, with the poblanos it leaves a little left over chicken that I use in a salad.

If you don’t eat chicken, feel free to leave it off. (You will also be able to leave off the egg.) Instead just use the seasoned panko as your crispy element)

It is a pretty simple recipe all told and fun to play around with. I broke out the calories for each item and put the full count for the whole recipe as I made it as well as for my portion size at the bottom of the ingredients list. This is how I make it, but hopefully the break out will let you tweak it to your individual needs)so let’s get into it.

Ingredients:

4 peppers (bell, poblano or a mix of your choice) – 24 cal per bell pepper (whole), 48 calories per poblano pepper)

one cup of marinara sauce (131 calories for the whole cup, 8 per tablespoon)

half a cup of grated parmesan cheese (216 per half cup, 22 calories per tablespoon)

four ounces of mozzarella cheese (316 for four ounces, 79 cal in one ounce)

one pound of chicken cut into small pieces (can use breast or thigh as is your choice) (breast:748 in one pound, 62 calories in one half pepper full thigh:802 cal per pound122 cal per half pepper

once cup unseasoned panko bread crumbs (you will have some left over, (640 cal per cup/ 80 cal per half pepper which I use for the final count but I never use all of the crumbs)

one egg (78 cal 8 cal per portion)

two tsp dried oregano (6 cal per whole recipe)

1 tsp dried rosemary (3 cal per whole recipe)

2 tsp garlic powder (3 cal per recipe)

1 tsp dried onion flakes (17 cal per recipe)

eight fresh basil leaves (if you have them, if not add 1 tsp dried basil) (three cal per recipe)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (83 Cal)

Approximate Calories for the entire recipe: 2,438 calories for the entire dish

Approximate Calories per portion size (one half of a bell pepper) apx 305 calories for one portion

Steps:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Chicken or crispy bits (if no chicken):

  • In a plastic container with a lid add oregano, rosemary, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes and if using dried basil (if using fresh, set the leaves aside for now).
  • Add in the panko bread crumbs.
  • Put the lid on and shake the mix to combine all of the ingredients. Then taste the bread crumbs and adjust, if you need more salt or pepper, add it now. This is the seasoning for your chicken so make sure it suits your taste.
  • in a separate bowl, whip your egg with a fork.
  • Then we bread. Dip your chicken in the egg and then into the bread crumb mix. I like to add a few pieces to the mix, put the lid on and shake, then put the coated pieces on a plate until everything is done. I find it stays neater this way.
  • Discard whatever bread crumbs remain after this as they are now contaminated with raw chicken.
  • If not using chicken, make the mix as above.

To the Stove top!

  • Take your breaded chicken bits, or seasoned bread crumbs if not using chicken, to the stove.
  • Heat the vegetable oil in the pan on medium heat and when a bread crumb dropped in sizzles, start adding the chicken. You are trying to get a crisp on the bread crumbs. You are also cooking the chicken somewhat (about 80%). If there are some pink bits when you are done, that is okay as it is going into the oven. This is to start the cooking process so everything is done at the same time and to crisp the bread crumbs.
  • Work in batches so that you get all of the chicken crisped up and at least partially cooked through.
  • If not using chickee, heat the oil on medium heat and then add the bread crumbs to toast in the hot oil. When they are golden brown remove from the heat and set aside (I like to put them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil – i do this with just the bread crumbs as well as the chicken bits)
  • Once the chicken is done I set it aside and clear away the breading station and sauté pan.

Preparing the peppers

  • Slice in half and take out the seeds.
  • put the peppers in a glass baking dish. I like to line them up so they help keep each other upright like little cups.
  • Add a Tablespoon (more if you like) of marinara to each pepper half.
  • Add a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese to each pepper half.
  • Add in your chicken or a heaping spoonful of your toasted bread crumbs. (The part that touches the sauce below and the cheese above will loose some of it’s crispness, so don’t try and be neat with the laying out of the crispy bits. it is the center part that will stay crisp so sort of mound the chicken or bread crumbs.)
  • Top with a slice of mozzarella cheese (you are welcome to use grated if you like, just make sure you have a thick layer. You need the moisture inside keeping the chicken from drying out and you want the bread crumbs protected so they don’t burn. I find it easier to have a block of mozzarella and slice it into the appropriate amount. If you find mozzarella difficult to slice, put it in the freezer for ten minutes and then slice. you don’t want to actually freeze it, you just want to get it firm with the cold.)
  • Once everything is assembled put it into the over for 45 minutes. Or until the mozzarella is bubbling with brown spots and the pepper is kind of wrinkly and saggy looking and cooked all the way through. Serve hot.

I love this recipe because it reduces both the amount of chicken and the amount of cheese I consume in a sitting, yet still makes me feel like i am having something just a little bit decadent. I actually use this technique for a lot of heavier dishes I like. I will make Chicken cordon bleu peppers for example. The trick is to take the key elements of the heavier dish and shrink down the portions while still retaining the flavor. It also helps that I live with someone who loves stuffed peppers regardless of what is stuffed into them. For me this is a quick and easy dinner with left overs that can be eaten the next day.

If you are on your own or find that this portion is too much for your household, you can prepare the recipe as above. If leaving out the chicken just toast a smaller amount of bread crumbs for your portion size. If using the chicken make sure to cook it all the way through if reserving for another night, or just cook a smaller amount of chicken, one breast or thigh instead of one pound. When I lived on my own i would just make this as a single pepper meal. and used one chicken thigh. I ate one half for dinner and ate the second one the next day. It is a very scalable meal

The colder weather brings out the yearning for some old school comfort foods. with a little adjustment this is one of the recipes I use to give me that comforting flavor, while keeping the calories in check. I hope it helps you as you move from fall to winter as well.

Holiday Shopping Guide: The Art of Tea

Once again we delve into the gifting possibilities for the season, this time with the Art of Tea. As you are probably aware I have been working my way through the Tea Discovery Kit (pictured above). It comes with eight sachets of varying blends in an adorable wooden box. The Tea Travel bundle is the Discovery kit with a travel tumbler.

Thus far i have tried out four of the eight teas in the package and really enjoyed all of them. My two favorites have been the White Coconut Creme which i think would make a fantastic tea to serve with a desert at the end of a long meal and the Matcha which was just a stunning tea.

For those interested in Matcha and wanting to get either more traditional with it, or provide something just a little bit extra special for the matcha lover on your holiday list, there are several options. You can purchase the matcha teabags, or a canister of the ceremonial style of Matcha tea. There are even at home ceremonial matcha mixing bowls and whisks for those looking for an elevated experience.

there are travel tumblers and on the go Matchasticks as well that look like very interesting gifts, and to be honest as much as I adore the ceremonial bowls (and really any pottery), I am looking at the glass tumbler for day to day use. in addition to the glass tumblers for an elevated travel experience, The Art of Tea also has various tea accoutrements like glassware, tea strainers, mugs and tea sets. All well worth looking into.

There are of course holiday bundles as well. Sets that offer a few holiday themed teas not available during the rest of the year and delightful additions to the holiday. White Winter Chai, Butterscotch, pumpkin pie and Dark chocolate peppermint. I picked up a canister of it last year and I would be remiss if i just stuck to the teas. I brought a canister of it home with me last Christmas and it was a big hit. At our house we always used to have hot chocolate spiked with peppermint schnapps for the holidays. while we still do, there are a lot of people who either don’t or can’t drink alcohol. Last Christmas we had three pregnant ladies and one older gentleman who’s prescriptions prohibited consumption. I actually preferred it as it had the peppermint I wanted, but it didn’t have the alcohol tang to it. The tea was also a little bit lighter. I should confess I also added whipped cream for the richness.

This year while I will be picking up a cannister of the dark chocolate peppermint, I will probably also pick up the Apple Pie Blend. I have a fondness for the warming spices of the season. I love that you can buy the cannisters either separately or in bundles. I have several people on my list who love the holiday teas and I am always looking for a good hostess gift that is an alternative to wine. For me one of these holiday canisters with a bow on it is a great alternative hostess gift to that bottle of wine. For the past few years there haven’t been as many gatherings but this year it seems like everyone is making up for it. so having a few ready to go gifts is never a bad thing at this time of year.

Of course for the gift that keeps on giving, you can’t beat The Art of Tea’s Tea Club. It is a a monthly subscription. You can choose the frequency (3, 6 or 12 months) as well as the caffeine level, and style (tea bag, looseleaf). It is a really good subscription and I have purchased it for relatives in the past. It is especially useful if you have the relatives who are either trying not to accumulate more things in their houses or who live far away. The two people I generally get this for live on the other side of the country and don’t really travel any more. This is a gift I can get sent to them with no trouble. In addition it isn’t just a holiday gift as it keeps coming throughout the year. It is a great way to make sure someone knows they aren’t forgotten once the holiday ends. It also increases communication as I generally get a phone call as soon as the package arrives. (My great Aunt Olive insists on calling me as soon as the box comes in, then opening each bag, sniffing it and telling me what time of day the blend would be perfect for. Come to think of it, I do the same thing with the blends i pick up. so I suppose it is either a family trait or some sort of learned family habit. either way, it is a gift I know she will enjoy.

If you have a tea drinker on your list, whether they are a long term tea aficionado or someone just beginning to dabble in the wild world of teas, it is well worth taking a look at the holiday sets and blends of the year when making out your gift list. While I know there are a few I will be getting this year, i also know that i will be picking up several cannisters just to take with me as hostess gifts once the holiday celebrations begin. They are just handy to have around and i know that with as much tea as we drink in this house if any of them don’t get handed out, we will always happily use them ourselves.