Go-To Meals Feed

All hail the Chicken Caesar Sandwich!

I was sent a free coupon from Al Fresco for the purpose of creating a recipe.

Chicken caesar dogs

My family is knee-deep in end-of-the-school-year activities -- and this isn't just any year-ender. It's high school graduation time for the teenager, which makes for a busy house (mostly him but also for mom and dad).

I try and resist the urge to just give up and go out for dinner most days, so I look for super easy meals that I can whip up in a flash, and chicken and turkey sausages come in really handy for that.  I pretty much always have a package either in the fridge or the freezer, ready to go for additions to pasta, the grill, and skillet meals. I always reach for poultry sausage because while they have the same great flavors as pork, they're a lot lower in fat and calories.

This quick meal idea was inspired by something I saw on a menu while on vacation this spring. In all the time I've been cooking with chicken sausage I saw it and thought "Great idea -- why haven't I done this before?"

So now I did. 

I made these on the stove but they'd be a great addition to your Memorial Day grill menu.

Armed with a coupon from  Al Fresco, I picked up a package of Sweet Italian Style chicken sausage and made a sandwich twist on the classic chicken Caesar salad that includes all the familiar flavors, including a well-placed anchovy on top.

I was running low on Caesar dressing so I extended it with some Dijon mustard, and I discovered that I liked it even better. The mustard helps bridge the salad and sausage worlds.

I simply toasted the buns but if you want to do it up big-time, brush the buns with garlic butter before you toast them to get that crouton flavor.

Chicken Caesar Sandwiches

  • 1/4 cup light Caesar dressing (I used Simply Dressed light Caesar dressing)
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 4 hot dog or small sub rolls
  • 4 Al Fresco chicken sausages (I used  Sweet Italian style, but Roasted Garlic or Roasted Pepper and Asiago would also work well)
  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup shredded or shaved Parmesan
  • 4 anchovy fillets (optional)

To make the sauce, mix the dressing and mustard in a small bowl. Set aside.

Toast the buns, and while they're heating up, cook the chicken sausage. (I heat them in a dry skillet over medium heat until the sausages start to brown.)

Place the sausages in the buns, top with lettuce, sauce and Parmesan and top with an anchovy fillet. 

Makes 4 sandwiches.


A Chocolate Day giveaway: Balance Bars

This giveaway is sponsored by Balance Bar.

Oh, hey -- Happy National Chocolate Day! 

Balance barsIt's OK -- I didn't send out cards either, but I did get you a present: a chance to win a box of super chocolatey Balance Bars, specifically Chocolate Craze and Double Chocolate brownie bars.

I love-love-LOVE chocolate -- the darker the better, and these protein bars are really chocolatey. The Double Chocolate Brownie has a brownie consistency with a drizzle of chocolate on top, while the Chocolate Craze is a super-fudgy bar covered in even more chocolate.

Both bars are 200 calories apiece with 14 grams of protein, and the Balance refers to the 40 percent carb-30 percent protein and 30 percent fat ratio. I find that it's a really satisfying ratio, and the bars make a great afternoon snack or a breakfast, when paired with a piece of fruit.

Balance banana

Breakfast of champions, baby. When I have a early morning at the gym, I like to eat the banana on the way to the gym and the Balance Bar on the way back. 

My husband's breakfast of choice is a Balance bar and a glass of chocolate almond milk (we're really into chocolate here). 

So, in the spirit of National Chocolate Day, the folks at Balance Bar would like to give one of you a big box of Chocolate Craze and Double Chocolate Brownie bars. All you need to do is follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below to enter. The giveaway ends at midnight on November 1 so get going!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Gettin' saucy with Subway: A giveaway!

Pulled chicken in barbecue sauce and you don't even have to pull out the grill! Subway has a new limited-edition sammie on its Fresh Fit menu: The Smokehouse BBQ Chicken Sandwich. It’s also one of their $6 footlong specials, which makes a great meal for two at 380 calories for a 6-incher.

We tried out the new sub recently and it was saucy without being squishy, with a nice ratio of chicken to sauce. Usually I'm an "everything but the kitchen sink" Subway orderer, but I wanted to really check out the flavor of the sub so I kept things simple and ordered it with lettuce, red onion, tomatoes and pickles (pickles and barbecue sauce are a match made in heaven). 

Would you like to have a Smokehouse BBQ Chicken Sandwich of your very own? How about a few of them? 

I'm giving away a $25 Subway gift card and here's how you can win it:

  • Tell me in the comments what you love most about your favorite Subway sandwich. I'll go first: I love the fact that I can control exactly what goes into my sub and also that Subway has removed all the high fructose corn syrup from its breads -- yay!

This is a limited-issue sammich so time is of the essence. I'll choose a winner on WEDNESDAY, MAY 22 at 8 p.m. ET. You'll need to get back to me quickly so Subway can get you your gift card. 

Disclosure: Subway provided me with a gift card plus one for the winner of this giveaway. All opinions are my own and are not edited or approved by Subway. 

Taco Tuesday goes to rehab

Lately I've been whipping up a batch of tacos on Tuesdays, merely so I can yell "Taco Tuesday!" when someone asks what's for dinner.

Last night was Taco Tuesday and it gave me a chance to try out a new Mrs. Dash taco seasoning product. I had already tried the French onion dip mixed with nonfat Greek yogurt and I was amazed that something so good could have zero sodium. (The Mrs. Dash seasoning packets are brand new, so they may be hard to find.)

Buffalo taco meat
Usually, I use ground turkey breast, but I had some lean ground buffalo in the freezer.

 The taco seasoning was just as impressive and just as sodium free. Besides, once you start dumping on the salsa, guacamole and cheese, you've got plenty of salt in your meal.

Taco toppings
I came up with a way to stretch the guacamole while cutting down on calories. I mixed equal parts guac with salsa verde and no one was the wiser (except me). And instead of loads of cheese, I used a tiny sprinkling of reduced-fat Mexican cheese blend. I put it on the "ground floor" of the taco, to sort of glue the bottom together and keep the whole thing from exploding.

Tomatoes and lime
Since I had already used an ample amount of salsa with the guacamole, I topped the tacos with chopped yellow and red grape tomatoes sprinkled with a couple packets of True Lime granulated lime juice.

Taco tuesday
And voila! (Wait -- how do you say "voila" in Spanish?)




Wanna try Oven Crisp Chicken? It's a Subway giveaway

Those sandwich artists at Subway love Shrinking Sisters and we love you, so here's a shot to win a $25 gift card from Subway to check out its latest creation, Oven Crisp Chicken.

Subway_Oven_CrispWe tried it for dinner last night (and again this morning for breakfast), and found that the chicken was well seasoned, substantial, and a nice variation from our usual turkey breast order.

I loaded mine up with every veggie they had, plus a squirt of mustard. My 6-inch sandwich on 9-grain wheat was 400 calories. How do I know? I plugged everything in to Subway's cool "My Build" sammie calculator. It's nice to know that you can make your meal exactly how you want it and not be surprised by the nutrition stats.

The next morning, the sub was just as good, albeit not as crisp, but that's to be expected. And pickles for breakfast is a great wake-up call.

But you don't have long to try it -- the Oven Crisp Chicken is only available until Sept. 30.

So, about that $25 gift card ... want it? Just let me know, in the comments section below, your favorite sub toppings. Mine is ... everything. When you use Subway's My Build calculator, you'll find that ticking every vegetable box will set you back all of 10 calories, and your sandwich will be BIG.

Extra entries (not required but extra fun!):

  • Tweet this message: Win a Subway giftcard from @its_gail of Shrinking Sisters http://goo.gl/kubhX (1 entry)
  • Like Shrinking Sisters on Facebook (1 entry)
  • Give @its_gail some +K on Klout (1 entry per +K)

Deadline for the gift card giveaway is noon ET on Wednesday, Aug. 31 (Shrinking Sister Carol's birthday!).

Disclosure: I received a $25 gift card from Subway to try out its new sandwich for this post. Opinions expressed are my own. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.


My most 'go-to' dinner of them all

We've already checked out my go-to breakfasts and lunches so now it's time for dinner.

I don't really have all that many tricks up my sleeve for dinner because often it's something super simple like a baked salmon fillet or chicken breast, frozen broccoli and a baked potato. (And -- shhhh, don't tell Martha Stewart -- sometimes it's salad and a frozen pizza, but something healthy like Kashi or Amy's.)

But every now and then I like to stir up a batch of chili -- yes, even in summer.

I've been tweaking my go-to recipe for years, subbing out proteins, beans and spices. My latest tweak is because of the BlogHer Knorr Four Recipe Contest. I'm one of 200 bloggers vying to become one of the Knorr Four – a panel of bloggers who will share insights and expertise to provide tips and recipes.

Knorr_stock My entree is Confetti Chicken Chili -- "Confetti" because it's really colorful with the variety of peppers, onions and beans. It uses Knorr's new Homestyle Concentrated Chicken Stock, which comes in a four-pack of little tubs, and each tub makes 4 cups of stock.

The recipe makes 6 servings so it's great for a couple nights of dinners. Either enjoy it as is or dish it over brown rice, quinoa or a baked potato. If you're not a fan of black beans, try white ones, or pintos. (The photo below used white kidney beans.)

Confetti Chicken Chili

  • Gail_chili 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste)
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz. can no-salt-added tomatoes
  • 2-3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried marjoram
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 tub Knorr Homestyle Concentrated Chicken Stock

Heat olive oil in extra-large skillet or dutch oven. Add onions, peppers and garlic and cook until translucent. Add chicken and cook until browned. Add rest of ingredients, cover and cook on medium-low heat for 45 minutes.

(If making recipe in slow cooker, add all ingredients and cook on low for 8 hours. It'll be a little soupier but it's great over rice.)

Each serving is around 375 calories each with a bountiful 12 grams of fiber per serving.

Fiber One contest deadline today

You only have a couple hours left to enter my Fiber One giveaway, so if you're interested, get crackin' over HERE.

Go-to lunches, and a Fiber One giveaway

Last week, I let you in on my go-to breakfasts and today we'll talk lunch. Here are a few of my "no-brainer" meals that I love:

  • Turkey Wrap Variety Show: Take a tablespoon of your favorite hummus and spread it on a 100-calorie wrap, like a Flatout. Then layer on a couple ounces of turkey breast and a handful of baby spinach. Wrap and voila! Lunch. Replace the hummus with guacamole, add a few pickled jalapenos and you have a Mexican version. Or skip the guac or hummus and spread a Laughing Cow Light wedge on the wrap for cheesy goodness.
  • My Ninja Quiche: I came up with this one after I bought my Ninja food processor (which Consumer Reports loves, by the way). There are myriad ways to vary this dish -- use turkey or ham, lowfat Swiss, jack or Cheddar cheese, broccoli or spinach, and whatever Mrs. Dash floats your boat. There also are different varieties of Egg Beaters, so go nuts.
  • The Big Salad: I admit, I'm a lazy butt when it comes to salad fixings. Every week I buy a big clamshell container of Organicgirl baby spinach and one of romaine lettuce. That way I can just grab a bunch for an instant salad. All you need to do then is add in some protein, like tuna or the aforementioned turkey and some carby things like garbanzos. Add your favorite healthy dressing and you're done.
  • Shakeology smoothie: Believe me, I have tried to find a better-tasting, lower priced chocolate whey protein smoothie and I simply can't. Everything else comes up bland, chalky or not chocolatey enough. (Ugh, that was one week of disappointing chocolate smoothies.) My go-to Shakeology smoothie is 8 ounces of almond milk, a scoop of chocolate Shakeology, half a frozen banana, a bunch of cinnamon and crushed ice. It also gets buzzed in my Magic Bullet (perfect for single-serve smoothies) until smooth. But make sure you get some good straws. I had bought some skinny cheapos and nearly gave myself a migraine trying to suck up the frosty awesomeness.

But back to breakfast -- free cereal!

FiberOneprizepackphoto Fiber One has a new Honey Squares cereal with only 80 calories per serving. We got samples at Fitbloggin' and now I have the opportunity to give a Shrinking Sisters fan a prize pack containing a box of the cereal, a sensor pedometer with USB connector to chart your walking progress, and a neoprene MP3 holder with arm strap.

The cereal is a sweetened little corn square and makes a great breakfast or snack for when you're tight on calories.

All you need to do is tell me your go-to breakfast or lunch in the comments. I'll randomly choose a winner on Tuesday, July 12 at 5 p.m. ET. That's not only my 19th wedding anniversary (I know!) but it's also the Baseball All-Star Game (how romantic!).

You can get extra chances to enter:

  • Tweet about this promotion and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post.
  • Subscribe to Shrinking Sisters.
  • Follow Shrinking Sister Gail on Twitter.
  • Become a fan of Shrinking Sisters on Facebook.

Disclosure: Fiber One sent me a prize pack and will send an additional one for the giveaway. No other compensation was received.

Go-to meals: Breakfast edition

I gave another hugely popular commercial diet plan a try for the month of June, and after loads of money and a mere 2 pounds lost, I cancelled this week's appointment and once again decided to "go rogue."

While many, many people can follow diet plans and drop tons of weight, I can't seem to. Like I've said before, I'm a rebel and like to "freestyle" my plans. Also, I don't suffer fools gladly, and when the diet counselor got angry with me because I told her I was adding more strength training, she totally lost me.

So! Onward and downward.

I met with the "diet shrink" this week, and she had mentioned that she tried an eating plan that involved lots of delicious healthy recipes. Problem was, she was spending all day in the kitchen and wound up with lots of leftovers because the dishes didn't repeat from day to day.

She gave me an assignment: Come up with my favorite quick and easy "go-to" meals. "And I'll blog about it!" I replied.

Actually, I'm going to blog about it all week. Today, we'll do breakfast, then lunch and so on.

Breakfast Go-To Meals

Purplesmoothie Banana Nut Butter Rollup: 1 tablespoon of peanut or almond butter spread on a 100-calorie wrap with a small banana rolled up inside.

Power Oatmeal: A packet of lower-sugar instant oatmeal made in the microwave with nonfat milk and a tablespoon of ground flax. The flax gives it extra body.

Supereasy Smoothie: 1 cup of plain lowfat or nonfat kefir, 1 cup of frozen fruit and a dash of Splenda or stevia.

Greek Omelet: 1/2 cup egg whites or egg substitute, 1/4 cup lowfat feta and baby spinach.

Next: Lunch!

And over on Shrinking Sisters Reviews ...

Check out my post on what I learned in a webinar with the folks from Gatorade. If you have young athletes in summer camp you'll be interested in how to keep them hydrated in all this heat. I'm also giving away one $100 gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods. You've got until this Thursday (June 30) at 8 p.m. ET to enter.