Saturday, December 29, 2012

White Bean Chicken Chili

With a big nor'easter rolling into the neighborhood, I thought today would be a good day for something hot, filling, and flavorful. I adapted this recipe from one by Ellie Krieger at Food Network. I've changed a few things to align with the ingredients I had available and to reduce the carbohydrate content. The original recipe called for poblanos, but my local Shaw's stinks and they only had cubanelles. It also called for hominy and celery, but I just removed them from the recipe because of the carbs and the stringyness of the celery (not great for stomachs recovering from surgery.)

The result is a flavorful, aromatic, chili that's high on satisfaction. Even with the lightly thickened chicken broth, this is more of a stew than a soup in consistency, and there's plenty to chew on with the beans, chicken, and veggies. The cubanelles did what I believe the poblanos were supposed to do: Add a lot of flavor and just a hint of heat. I took Ms. Krieger's suggestion and served it with a couple tablspoons of plain fat free GReek yogurt and I was impressed by the flavor similarity to the less-nutritious sour cream. If you want to lower the fat a little further, I suggest you use ground turkey, as in the original recipe, but I find ground turkey a bit gamey for my taste.

White Bean Chicken Chili

1 T. Olive Oil
1 Medium onion, diced
2 Cubanelle peppers, seeded and diced
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1.5 t. Cumin
3/4 t. Coriander
1/4 t. Cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 t. Oregano
1 lb. Ground Chicken (or turkey, I prefer chicken)
4 C. Reduced Fat, Reduced Sodium Chicken Broth
2 20 oz. Cans Canellini Beans
S&P to taste
4 T. Cilantro, minced

In a large pan, cook cubanelle peppers and onion until soft. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and cayenne and cook an additional minute. Add ground chicken and cook through before adding oregano, chicken broth, and half to two-thirds of the beans. In a small bowl, mash the rest of the beans with a fork. Add the mashed beans to the pan, cover, and cook on medium-low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste and additional cayenne, if desired. Serve with a sprinkling of minced cilantro.

Yield: 6 servings of 1.5 C. each

According to the recipe caculator at, the stats on this round out as follows: Calories 270, Total Fat 10.2 g, Cholesterol 86.7 mg, Sodium 554.4 mg, Total Carbs 23.9 g, Dietary Fiber 6.2 g, Protein 22.3 g.

Head Colds, Snow Storms, and General Malaise

I must apologize for the relative quiet on the blog recently. I came down with a nasty head cold on December 21st (the Friday before Christmas) and have spent most of the past week sleeping or becoming one with my couch. To be perfectly candid, it has really sucked.

Now that I'm starting to clear the fog of both surgery and being sick, I'm looking around my house and realizing that a) my kitchen is an unholy mess, and b) we are rather short on real food. Between me being on mushy proteins and liquids and my wife working 60+ hours a week recently, neither of us has been eating or cooking much. In an effort to change this trend, I am up early this morning to head to the grocery store for a few things ahead of the 3"-9" of snow they say we may be getting in the next 18 hours. Beans have been working really well for as a protein source and I'm now cleared to start on soft cooked fruits and veggies, so I have in mind a batch of white chili, made with ground chicken and poblano peppers. I'm also eyeing a recipe I ran accross in a hand-me-down Gourmet magazine called Salmon Rillettes. It's essentially a salmon dip or spread, but since I'm not eating carbs at the moment, I'm thinking it would be lovely on some hot house cucumbers or folded into an egg white or two for a protein packed mini omelette.

On that note, I've got my reuseable bags and my big floppy wool hat and I'm off to the market. Check back in the next day or so for yumminess!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Week One - Italian Style Chicken Meatballs

I made it through the first week! After a ridiculous amount of fluids, I saw the surgeon and nutritionist this morning and was cleared to begin solid foods again! Woo! My first "meal" was an ounce of low fat sharp cheddar cheese (natch, cheese obsessed as I am.) This evening, however, I'm finally venturing back into the kitchen for something other than popsicles! To celebrate, I've written a new recipe for Italian style chicken meatballs. I did my best to give them loads of flavor without adding loads of fat and carbs and I think I (mostly) succeeded.

Italian Style Chicken Meatballs

  • 1 lb. Ground Chicken
  • 1 Egg
  • .25 C. (scant) Italian Bread Crumbs, plus a little for sprinkling
  • 1 t. Basil, crushed
  • 2 t. Mrs. Dash Garlic & Herb
  • 1/3 C. Grated Parmeggiano Cheese
  • .25 t. Salt
  • Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 350F. Combine everything except the olive oil in a large bowl, using a fork to ensure even mixing. On a baking sheet lined with no-stick foil, portion out the ground meat mixture with a 1" scoop. Sprinkle the tops of each meatball with a tiny bit of bread crumbs and spray lightly with olive oil.

Bake until the interior of the meatballs measure 165F (about 8-10 minutes.) Remove from oven and allow to rest 2-3 minutes. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce and pasta.

Yield: approx. 30 meatballs

According to, the nutritional values (per meatball and not including sauce) is: Calories 36.1, Total Fat 2.0 g, Cholesterol 19.2 mg, Sodium 84.8 mg, Total Carbs 1.1 g, Dietary Fiber 0.1 g, Protein 3.4 g.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Home Again

I was discharged from the hospital around 6:30pm last night. The ride home wasn't too bad because I had taken a pain med at 5:00, but the bumps and short stops of traffc in our city at rush hour were No. Fun. In fact the entire surgery and post-surgical recovery are No. Fun. Lots of pain, lots of nausea, lots of getting up and walking around even with the pain and nausea. I have 5 incisions and they all have a bunch of nasty bruising next to them, but I feel much better today (my first full day at home) than I even did yesterday, which gives me hope that every day will be better.

I've been pretty good so far about getting in all the required clear fluids. Propel grape has become a favorite so far. :) The "full fluids" (pudding, yogurt, etc.) has been harder to stay on top of and spacing it out w/the iron supplements has been tricky. The iron supplements have to be taken with an hour on either side of anything containing dairy, which I totally forgot about this morning. But it's a learning process, right?

Last night wasn't too bad, but I'm still very sore and achey. I was up approximately every 2 hours and tried to get in at least 3-5 minutes of walking around the house each time. Preventing DVTs is sort of  major priority for me right now. :)

Ok...I'm to take my foggy brain on a little walk around the house and then I'm taking a nap.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Today's The Day!

Well, my fingers and toes have been scrubbed of nail polish, I've showered 3 times with the antimicrobial soap, and I haven't eaten or drank since midnight. We are on our way into the hospital now in the pouring rain. Registration is at 9:00 am, surgery at noon. Time to change my life!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Final 48 Hours

I'm in the final 48 hours before surgery. Woo! (sorta) It's been relatively sedate so far...did a little bookkeeping work this morning; getting the laundry done and cleaning the house this evening (I took a nap in the afternoon.)

The surgical prep has entered it's final stage and since a picture is worth 1,000 words, how's about a 2,000 word summary? My weekend in 2 images:

Enough said? Yeah, I thought so. ;)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tom Kar Comfort

Whenever I get sick or feel like hell, the only thing I want to eat is Tom Kar (aka Tom Kha Gai) soup. It's a light, fragrant, chicken soup flavored with lemon grass, Kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, cilantro, and galangal. The local Thai restaurant serves it with chunks of mushrooms, chicken breast, and scallions but it's mostly the flavorful broth that I loooove. It's just the perfect comfort food...warm, fragrant, redolent with the scent of lime leaves and cilantro. Mmm...

Before I get to the recipe, a few words about lime leaves and galangal. Lime leaves (sometimes called "Kaffir" limes leaves) are tough, shiny leaves possessing an immense burst of citrus scent and flavor. The flavor really cannot be substituted, so it's definitely worth the effort to find some. If none of the grocers in your area carry them, you can buy them online here. They freeze beautifully, too. Galangal root can usually be found cleaned, sliced, and frozen at an international grocery store. It's a rhizome, like ginger, but with a very different flavor that combines notes of bitter, sour, and spicy and does not have as sharp a bite as ginger. If you manage to find it in its fresh form, prepare it for use in recipes the same way you would with ginger - scrape off the tender peel and slice, mince, or grate.

Tom Kha Gai (Thai Chicken Soup)
  • 4 C. Low Fat, Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1 Stalk Lemon Grass
  • 2-4 Lime Leaves, torn in pieces
  • 1" Chunk Galangal Root, sliced thinly
  • 2-5 Red Thai Chiles, sliced in half and seeded
  • 8 oz. Chicken Breast (boneless/skinless), cubed in bite-sized pieces
  • 0.5 C. Dried Shiitake Mushrooms
  • 0.75-1 C. Coconut Milk
  • 4 T. Fish Sauce (optional)
  • 3 T. Minced Cilantro
  • 2 t. Fresh Lime Juice
Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow mushrooms to steep for about 10 minutes and then drain, discarding the water. While the mushrooms are soaking, cut lemon grass stalk into 4 even pieces and, using a studded meat tenderizing mallet (or the back of a heavy knife), beat the heck out of it. You really want to bruise it up and tenderize the tough stalk to release the flavor.

In a medium pan, combine chicken broth, lemon grass, lime leaves, fish sauce, and galangal root. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, drained mushrooms, and chiles and simmer until chicken is cooked through. Reduce heat to low, add coconut milk, season with salt to taste, and allow it to heat up. Turn off heat and add fresh cilantro and lime juice and serve immediately.

Monday, December 3, 2012

T -7 Days And Counting

Today marks one week out from surgery (I can't believe how quickly the last month has flown!) and the jitters have definitely taken hold. My head has been all over the place this past week, with my emotions bouncing liberally between excited and anxious, happiness and fear. I guess that's to be expected with any major surgery, but I can say from experience it's not the most fun roller coaster ride. And I was never a fan of roller coasters to start.

The pre-op diet has not been easy to stick with. Especially when feeling emotional/stressed out and craving comfort food. I caved one day last week and had a small serving of mac n' cheese and it took me 3 days to get totally back on plan again. Clearly, all those things about carbs being "addictive" have some truth to them, even if the addictive part is all psychological. Since then, I've been on the look out for non-carb/fat laden comfort foods and have hit upon an old favorite: Tom Kar soup. It's essentially a Thai chicken soup with delicious flavors of Kaffir lime leaf, galangal, scallion, and coconut milk. Look for the recipe in tomorrow's post.

My short-term tumble off the wagon aside, the diet has been amazingly successful so far. (Not completely suprising since I'm eating less than half the calories each day that my body would require to maintain my current weight.) I've lost about 8lbs according to my bathroom scale, bringing me to 320.2 lbs. Pretty impressive for me in such a short amount of time (12 days.) Particularly given the fact that when I'm eating a diet that's a bit less drastically reduced in the calorie department I tend to lose weight at a rate of roughly 1/3rd to 1/2 pound per week...maybe.

Speaking of the pre-op diet, I burned through the vanilla torte flavored protein mix and a now trying the cappucino flavor. It's still a bit sweeter than I prefer, but it has a good strong coffee flavor with a bit of "creaminess" to imply the steamed milk on a real cappucino. I mixed it with my morning coffee yesterday morning because I had run out of milk and it was quite good. (I should also mention for those of you playing along at home that the "grab-n-go" individual serving packets in the link are more expensive than if you were to buy a 1 pound tub of the stuff. I haven't been buying the tubs of anything except the unflavored protein mix because I'm more likely to stick with the diet and drink the damn shakes if I can mix one up when I'm not at home.)

That's the exciting update....I'm off to enjoy the unseasonably warm December weather (55F!)