15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: Baked Steelhead Trout with Chimichurri Sauce

IMG_1980We’re officially almost finished – recipe #13 in the 15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015. We eat fish about once a week, and this week the fishmonger had a nice sale on Steelhead Trout.

Generally speaking, I prefer Rainbow Trout over Steelhead Trout, but the fishmonger just advised me to treat it more like salmon, and it turned out delicious!

I had our fishmonger filet and debone the fish, then simply sprinkled it with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Then they went into the oven at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, I’d been defrosting a portion of the chimichurri sauce I’ve made before, and when the fish was done, simply ladled it across. The fresh, citrusy chimichurri sauce paired excellently with the fish, and paired with a salad and whole grain rice made a filling meal for under 500 total calories.

Only five more recipes left till we’re done with the series!  What healthy dishes have you enjoyed so far in 2015?

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15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: Baked Potato Bar

IMG_1977I’ve talked before about how the hubby isn’t always a big fan of my attempts at “healthier cooking”.  So I’m always on the look out for easy ways to customize a dinner for each of our dietary preferences without having to cook two different things.

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to do this is to set up a DIY baked potato bar. I oven bake a large russet potato for each of us, then put out 8-10 different toppings we can use to dress up our potato.

I go for the healthy options: diced tomatoes, green onions, and salsa.  The hubby layers on shredded cheese, bacon, and sour cream.

Some other tasty options for toppings include:

  • Ranch dressing (or to be healthier, Ranch Dressing Mix)
  • Chili
  • Feta, goat, or blue cheeses
  • Mini pepperonis
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Black beans
  • Avocado/Guacamole
  • Grilled onions
  • Tzatziki sauce
  • Buffalo sauce

Any way you dress it up, it’s a simple tasty dinner that can be as healthy as you make it.

Travel Credit Cards to Pay Attention To Right Now

A lot of people know me as a fan of airline/hotel loyalty programs, and some have even gone so far as nicknaming me “Points”.  And while it’s easy to tease someone with this sort of obsessive hobby, I estimate we’ve done roughly $15,000 in travel completely free over the past 2.5 years because of this hobby, with another $5,000 or so in freebies already booked for later this year.

A few of our freebie trips from 2013, last time we had the Companion Pass (Clockwise from top left): Niagara Falls, Los Angeles for USC Homecoming, Orlando for Disney World, and New Orleans.
A few of our freebie trips from 2013, last time we had the Southwest Companion Pass (Clockwise from top left): Niagara Falls, Los Angeles for USC Homecoming, Orlando for Disney World, and New Orleans.

I bring this up, not to brag, but to alert my readers (do I have readers?  No idea…) that one of the absolute best deals in travel is within easy grasp again: the Southwest Airlines Companion Pass.

The Companion Pass works like this: you earn 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year, and then they give you the pass.  From there, you name a companion and for the entire rest of that calendar year, plus the entire NEXT calendar year, your companion can get a free flight anytime you have a ticket on Southwest – and it doesn’t even matter if your ticket is paid or points, either.  Even better, those 110,000 points you earned to get the Companion Pass stay in your account, meaning you have a good bank of points ready to redeem.

In 2012, we earned the companion pass in November of that year mainly through my work travel – meaning that we were able to use it through the rest of 2012 and all of 2013. In that time, we managed to score 15 round-trip flights through use of our Southwest points and the Companion Pass.  That’s pretty unbeatable.

Of course, what I didn’t know then that I know now is that there’s an easier way.  You can earn 94% of your way to the Companion Pass quite easily by applying for 2 of the Southwest credit cards that are currently offering 50,000 points bonuses and doing the requisite spending ($2,000 in three months for each card). Then, you’re left with just needing to earn 6,000 points (either through spending on the cards, flying Southwest, the Southwest shopping portal, or transferring points from another program) in order to get 2-for-1 travel for essentially two years.

The Southwest Personal Plus card. Nab this sucker plus either the Personal Premier or the Business Plus card, and you’re nearly qualified for the Companion Pass!

We’re working towards getting the pass this way, and already have several trips planned for the rest of this year and next (Nashville, Maine, Seattle, Cancun!) that we hope to do as a result.  The bottom line is: if you have any desire to do domestic travel around the US, especially if you live near a Southwest hub, this is the absolute best deal in air/hotel loyalty points going. Enjoy!

15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: A duo for healthy burgers!

HealthyBurgersOne of the most annoying things about being a single person or DINK (double income, no kids) is that you can never simply make burgers for dinner one night; you have to make a week’s worth of burgers, simply in order to use up the 8-pack of hamburger buns.

So, today’s healthy dinner post is a two-fer: recipes for two healthier takes on the bread-meat-bread classic.

First up, salmon burgers with lemon dill aioli:

I’ll admit it – I cheated on these.  You can buy a pound of salmon, chop it, combine it with onions, garlic, herbs, and an egg and make the patties yourself. But my grocery store sells pre-made salmon patties in the seafood section for far cheaper than a whole salmon filet. You grill them for 3-4 minutes on each side and voila, dinner’s ready.

However, I did mix up the aioli myself.  Combine 1/2 a cup of mayonnaise, 1 tbsp lemon juice, the zest of 1/2 a lemon, and 1 tsp chopped fresh dill.  This makes an absolutely delicious pairing with salmon – and goes great on a burger bun! Garnish with cucumber, mixed greens, and tomato and you’re ready to eat.

Next, Mediterranean turkey burgers with marinated tomatoes:

The secret to this recipe is to add enough ultra-flavorful ingredients to your patty to make you forget you subbed in flavorless turkey for tasty, marbled beef.  For this recipe, you’ll need 1 lb of ground turkey, 1/4 cup of chopped kalamata olives, 1/4 cup of crumbled feta, chopped parsley and mint, and 1 egg.  Fold all your ingredients together (gently – you want the feta to stay in chunks) then make patties, allowing for 25% shrinkage.

Sear the patties for about 2 minutes on each side, then bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until the center reaches 160 degrees.  While the burgers are cooking, slice a tomato and marinate in your favorite italian dressing to give the burger a little extra kick – garnish with mixed greens, marinated tomatoes, and a little mayonnaise.

So there ya have it – two healthy burger recipes that can help you use up that giant package of buns without getting off track on your New Year’s Resolutions.

15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: Red Curry Shrimp & Long Grain Rice

IMG_1963Starting our second week of healthy dinners for 2015 is an old favorite made more health conscious: red curry.  With just a few simple substitutions, this flavorful dish can easily be under 400 calories a serving, with low net carb as well.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb of large white shrimp (should be about 15 or so; if you can get fresh caught, they’re usually tastier than previously frozen)
  • 1 red or green bell pepper
  • Any other vegetables you have lying around (I used shredded carrots here, because I had them leftover from last week’s Ground Pork Lettuce Wraps, but zucchini, squash, or snow peas would also be good.
  • 1 can lite coconut milk (this is one of the keys to making it healthy; it will cut your calories in half)
  • 3 tbsp red curry paste (I use Thai Kitchen, but any prepared red curry paste will work)
  • 1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 cups rice (cooked – we use the Uncle Ben’s instant rice packets, but you could be even healthier still with whole grain or brown rice.)
  • Thai basil, mint, or cilatro to garnish

Directions:

  1. First, prep all your ingredients – slice your vegetables, shell and devein your shrimp, get your rice cooking, etc.
  2. Put a skillet over medium high heat.  Stir in coconut milk, brown sugar, curry paste, and chili sauce until well combined.  Bring to a boil then let simmer about 3 minutes while stirring frequently.
  3. Stir in the shrimp and vegetables and cook for about 4 minutes.  Then, mix in the lime juice and fish sauce and cook for another minute until your shrimp are just starting to plump up and are pinkish in appearance.  Put the curry in a large bowl, and the rice in another, and serve family style.

Yet another low-fat, low-carb, low-calorie dinner that takes less than 20 minutes to make!

15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: Ground Pork Lettuce Wraps

Ground Pork Lettuce WrapsReady for another 400-calories-or-less, tasty, filling dinner? Dinner #5 in our 15 Healthy Dinners series is ground pork lettuce wraps and the husband actually occasionally requests this meal on his own accord!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 head butter lettuce or romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cub hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 green onion, diced (including tips)
  • 1 small can water chestnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 2 tbsp salted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Add oil to saute pan, over medium high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the ground pork, and cook for 3-4 minutes until lightly browned.
  2. Add sauces, water chestnuts, spices, and carrots.  Stir in and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes until pork is fully cooked.
  3. Once fully cooked, remove from heat.  Add green onions and peanuts. Spoon into lettuce cups, and serve.

This one’s processed-carb free as well as low calorie.  You can replace the meat for any other meat (or even tofu) and you can add or subtract veggies to your taste (we don’t like bell peppers, but a lot of people probably would in this recipe…)

Enjoy!

15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: Southwestern Stuffed Portabella

IMG_1952Seeing as how the hubby wasn’t a huge fan of yesterday’s zoodles, I figured I’d make him something a little more hearty for tonight’s 15 Healthy Dinners meal.

So today, I served up Southwestern Stuffed Portabellas – mushrooms stuffed with beans, rice, and mexican flavors. These tasty little numbers aren’t the most photogenic meal I’ve ever made (read: yeah, it looks like dogfood, I know…), but they’re totally delicious, low-fat, low-carb, and totally vegetarian.

To start, you take portabella mushrooms and pull out the caps, lightly brush both sides with olive oil, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Then, cook your favorite kind of whole grain rice – I used the Uncle Ben’s instant stuff – until fully cooked.  Mix in fat free refried beans (they’re just mashed cooked beans – no fat added!), and veggies of your choice; I added chopped tomatoes and diced green onion. Finally, add in about 3 tbsp of salsa and mix everything together until you have a thick oatmeal like consistency.  Spoon your mixture into each portabella cap, then sprinkle with a little shredded cheese and pop in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Once ready to serve, you can either plate it directly or top with a dallop of sour cream or guacamole if desired.  Serve with a fresh side salad, and you have a delicious and filling dinner that’s less than 350 calories per mushroom cap (according to my fitness pal).  That’s a win!

And the verdict from the fella?  Husband-approved!

15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: Oodles of Zoodles

17372676689_414cb7a33f_zDinner #3 in my “15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015” series is all about zoodles: noodles made from zucchinis. To make them, you need a “zoodler” like shown above – you can get them for under $10 on Amazon.

Making zoodles is pretty simple – you put a zucchini per person through the zoodler, then boil for about 3 minutes, until they reach desired doneness. Then you can top with whatever you like – we used ground pork and marinara sauce, but you could just as easily top with pesto or a primavera sauce.

One word of warning – this is not what I would call a “husband approved” dinner.  The hubby ate it, but followed it up with this Facebook comment:

zoodle

So, I guess, take this one with a grain of salt.  But if you need a super-low calorie, low-carb meal that’s easy to make and filling; go zoodles or bust.

Header image photo credit: Flickr user mealmakeovermoms, under a Creative Commons license.

15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: Greek Salad with Rosemary Lamb Lollipop

IMG_1944For the second meal in my 15 Healthy Dinners series, I was stuck with a bit of a quandry: how do I get my meat-and-potatoes loving husband to eat salad for dinner?  He sees salad as a side dish at best.

The answer?  Top it with a meat lollipop that looks straight out of the Flintstones.

Putting together the salad is simple enough – you need romaine lettuce, fresh mint, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, some pitted kalamata olives, and feta cheese. Throw em all in a bowl to your desired quantity, and toss with a good quality greek salad dressing.  I like Girard’s Greek Feta Vinaigrette Dressing.

But the lamb, the crowing beauty of this dish, takes just a little bit more work.  First, know what to ask for at the butcher – you want lamb chops, individually cut and frenched. “Frenched” means the bottom part of meat is taken off, given you the handy-dandy lollipop stick appearance.  (Frenching also lets your lamb cook evenly.)

Once at home, heat a saute pan with just enough olive oil to coat the bottom while you rub room-temperature butter on each chop.  (Yes – we’re using butter and olive oil.  Trust me.  You’re not using much of either, so it’s not going to kill your diet.)  Sprinkle minced garlic, chopped fresh rosemary, salt, and pepper on each chop then place the first side down in the pan.  Let cook for about 3.5 minutes on each side, and when you go to flip them, douse the entire pan with some Worcestershire sauce to deglaze it.

After 7 total minutes of cooking, remove from pan and let them sit for at least five minutes before serving on top of your dressed salad.  And there you have it – a fairly failproof way to get your husband to eat a salad.

What are your 2015 eating resolutions?  Let me know in the comments.

15 Healthy Dinners to Start 2015: Broiled Gulf Snapper & Balsamic Green Beans

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It’s 2015, and so, like just about everyone else out there, I’m on a diet.  Well…maybe not a diet, exactly.  I’m not counting anything…points, carbs, calories, or steps…none of that.  And I’m not cutting any giant groups of foods from my diet, or insisting that they be served in a “juice” variety.

I’m just going simple with this and trying to enforce a few rules I know I like.  They are:

  • Meats, vegetables, and whole grains are better than starches, sugars, and fats.
  • I’d rather eat real butter, sugar, and cream than vegetable oil, aspartame, and soy milk.
  • Unless it’s a social occasion, I should keep the alcohol intake to under 2 servings a night.  Red wine, vodka-soda, or scotch on the rocks are the drinks I’ll choose, when I do.

So that’s about it.  Tonight marks “night 1” of this new plan, and it only took me about 15 minutes to make our dinner: broiled Gulf snapper with sauteed balsamic green beans.

The fish was so simple it’s not even really a “recipe” – I had the fishmonger scale, debone, and cut it into filets for me.  When I got home, I brushed the meaty side with olive oil, then sprinkled with salt, pepper, an old seafood spice mix we had lying around, and garam masala (an Indian spice mix you can find at your regular store.)  Then they went in the oven (skin side down) for about 18 minutes at 400 degrees.

The beans, meanwhile, started out with 1.5 tbsp butter in a saute pan. Add salt, pepper, and minced garlic, and let cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Add 1 tomato, chopped, and then about 1 tbsp of a good balsamic vinaigrette. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until they reach your desired done-ness.

Super delicious!  The filets we got were so big and filling, we both had about 1/3 leftover that I’ll put on salads for lunch tomorrow. A tangerine for dessert and this new “meal plan” is off to a pretty good start.

Check in tomorrow for the next dinner in the series!