High Protein Chicken Pot Pies with Parsnips in Greek Yogurt Goat Milk Cream Sauce

potpie_topviewMy friend, Lois, asked me if I could figure out a healthier version of chicken pot pie. I have to say it’s a bit of a challenge to replace all of the goodness in that ooey, gooey comfort food full of chicken and veggies floating in a rich, creamy sauce of butter and heavy cream underneath a crispy pastry shell. But it is possible.

After a couple of trials, it’s clear the answer lies in compromise. This recipe cuts a ton of fat from the filling and adds a bunch of protein to the mix. Although you can top it with an olive oil pie crust top or simply sprinkle it with fresh breadcrumbs made from high-fiber, whole grain or gluten free bread, I recommend a little splurge by keeping the puff pastry top – it is a comfort food, after all. Also, if you bake it in a deeper dish as opposed to a wider one, you can cut the pastry you need in half – which cuts the fat and calories in half, too. Here goes…

RECIPE: High Protein Chicken Pot Pies with Parsnips in Greek Yogurt Goat Milk Cream Sauce

  • 1 roasted chicken, skin removed and rough chopped (rotisserie chicken will work if you don’t want to roast your own)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups goat milk (or almond or cow’s milk if you don’t like the taste of goat milk)
  • 1/2 block greek cream cheese, cut in pieces
  • 2 cups nonfat greek yogurt
  • 6 TBSP oat flour (or gluten free)
  • olive oil
  • 1 cup peas, frozen is fine
  • 3 TBSP freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (or gluten free pie crust/bread crumbs)
  • 1 egg, beaten

chicken_stockDIRECTIONS: First, remove the skin and bones from the roasted chicken, give the meat a rough chop and set aside. (Use just the breasts from two chickens if you want to make it extra healthy). Put the chicken carcass in a small sauce pot and add just over two cups of chicken stock. Simmer for 30 minutes to infuse some extra chicken flavor into the broth. Trust me – it makes a difference. Strain and set aside. Remove puff pastry from freezer and thaw until you can unfold it. Sprinkle a board with oat flour and roll pastry just a bit to remove the seams and thin out a little bit.

chicken_fillingNext, add a couple tablespoons of olive oil to the bottom of a dutch oven or a large, deep saute pan. Saute onion, celery, carrots, parsnips, thyme and seasoning over medium/medium-high heat until the veggies become translucent and barely start to brown (about 5 minutes). Deglaze the pan with the brandy and stir for another minute. Sprinkle the oat flour on the veggies and stir for a minute or two. Slowly add the warm chicken stock to the veggies, whisking as it thickens to avoid lumps. Then add the goat milk, 1/2 block of cream cheese, peas, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat. Whisk in greek yogurt; add chicken and parsley. Taste and re-season with salt and pepper if necessary.

puffpastry_potpieDivide mixture among 4 large or 6 smaller oven-safe bowls, mugs or ramekins (something that is deeper, rather than a long cassarole-shaped dish that would require more pastry to cover). Whatever dish you use, flip it upside down on the pastry and cut out a shape slightly larger than your dish. Cover the filled dishes with the slightly oversized pastry and push it against the edges. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and using a knife, cut a couple of slits in the top to let the steam escape. Bake the pot pies in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry puffs up and turns a nice golden brown.



Salmon Kale Cakes with Sweet & Spicy Mustard Jam

Sometimes dinner comes from the pantry because I can’t spend every day shopping or waiting for something to defrost. This recipe happened one day when the fridge was pretty bare. With the exception of the kale, everything else tends to be a staple for most. The jam is something my mom recently made for shrimp, so I thought it would be tasty on the salmon cakes, and it was. Serve the whole shebang on top of a large arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette. This recipe makes 2 large or 3 average sized cakes.

salmonbowlRECIPE: Salmon Kale Cakes

  • 1 cup finely chopped kale
  • 1 5oz pkg skinless/boneless wild salmon
  • 2 slices of bread, crumbled in food processor (use whole grain or gluten free)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil
  • chopped green onions (for garnish)

salmonmixtureMix all ingredients together thoroughly with clean hands. Form into patties. (They’ll be kind of loose, but pat them together as tightly as possible and handle with care while putting them into the pan.) Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the pan. Gently set salmon cakes in pan, leaving enough room to flip when it’s time.) Cook over medium heat until the first side is brown. Carefully flip over and cook until the second side browns and the cake is heated all the way through.

RECIPE: Spicy Mustard Jam

  • 1/2 cup peach, apricot or pineapple jam or orange marmalade
  • 2 tsp thai sweet chile (optional)
  • 3 tsp spicy chinese or coleman’s english mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 TBSP water

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until thoroughly combined. Add as much or as little of the water as you need, depending on the consistency of the jam you choose. Top the salmon cakes with a generous spoonful of jam and sprinkle liberally with chopped green onions. Enjoy!salmonfork


Teriyaki Chicken with Stir Fried Garlic Ginger Green Beans

Every Sunday, I marathon cook. And mostly that means making a pile of lunch that reheats well and is large enough to feed my giant man for five days. He and all of his strongman buddies eat, eat, eat and then they eat some more. Especially right before a show, they’re packing in the protein and intentionally OD’ing on (pretty healthy) calories as often as they can. This recipe is simple, well-balanced and even takes a little help from some store-bought Japanese teriyaki. I’ve included a homemade teriyaki recipe at the bottom of the page, but since I’m writing this recipe mostly for the strongmen, I’m taking some shortcuts that will make things easier. All-in-all, this recipe is more prep and assembly than a complicated cooking endeavor, but delicious nonetheless. It’s also a perfect meal for families during a busy weeknight (but 1/2 of the recipe would be plenty for a family of 4 average-sized human beings).

teriyakisauceRECIPE: Teriyaki Chicken

  • 15 chicken thighs (boneless/skinless)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup teriyaki sauce (Sushi Chef brand, in the black bottle)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay out chicken thighs on a sheet pan leaving a little space between them so they don’t just steam. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove pan from oven and let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before slicing into strips. Toss with 1/2 cup of teriyaki sauce. Taste and add more, if desired.

soygingergarlicRECIPE: Stir Fried Garlic Ginger Green Beans

  • 2 lbs fresh french green beans (the thin ones that usually come washed and trimmed in a plastic bag in the produce section)
  • 3 TBSP fresh ginger root, minced
  • 4 TBSP olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 TBSP low sodium soy sauce

blanchedgreenbeansgreenbeansBring a pot of salted water to a boil and blanch green beans for 3-4 minutes. Drain into colander while you heat up olive oil over medium-high heat. (You should shock the green beans in ice water, but I don’t bother since I’m stir frying right away). Saute ginger and garlic for about 30 seconds.

Add green beans and toss quickly to coat, and to keep the garlic and ginger from burning. After about two minutes, the green beans will start to blister slightly. Hit the pan with soy sauce until it caramelizes. Taste the green beans and add a little more soy, if desired.

teriyakichixthighplateServe chicken and green beans with a side of steamed jasmine rice and top with sesame seeds for garnish. Enjoy!

RECIPE: Homemade Teriyaki Sauce

  • 2/3 cup mirin
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 4 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup honey or agave nectar
  • 5 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Bring mirin to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour in soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and honey/agave. Add garlic and ginger; simmer 5 more minutes.

Shrimp Fried Quinoa

Whenever I make quinoa for a recipe, it never ceases to amaze me how it makes five times as much as I plan for every single time, so there is usually a big container in the fridge for the next day or two. There isn’t always a plan for the leftovers, but the other day I was craving fried rice. So I had (plenty of) quinoa, happened to have all the traditional veggies in the fridge, and even found some little salad shrimp in the freezer. (I wish I had fresh shrimp in the fridge instead, but it just wasn’t in the stars that day). Nonetheless, here’s what I whipped up.

NOTE: This can be made into a vegetarian meal by substituting diced, baked tofu instead of the shrimp. ANOTHER NOTE: I recommend cooking the quinoa in stock instead of water to give it more flavor.

RECIPE: Shrimp Fried Quinoa

  • shrimp_ingredients3-4 cups leftover quinoa, chilled
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 8 green onions, chopped (reserve 2 TBSP)
  • 1 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • ½ lb cooked salad shrimp or cooked large shrimp diced
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3 TBSP teriyaki sauce
  • 4 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 3 TBSP safflower or light olive oil for stir frying
shrimpfriedquinoaBegin by making the sauce. Mix together the soy, teriyaki and sesame oil and set aside. Then start stir-frying the ingredients in layers. Using a wok or large saute pan, heat the oil and cook the carrot and onion for a few minutes before adding the green onions, ginger and garlic to the pan. Stir for a couple minutes more. Make sure the pan is super hot, then add another drizzle of oil to stir fry the quinoa. Next add the shrimp (or tofu), peas, sauce mixture and stir over high heat until it’s evenly distributed. Then scrape everything to the edges of the pan so there is room to scramble the eggs in the middle. Once the egg is cooked, mix throughout the rest of the fried quinoa. Top with remaining scallions for garnish and serve. Makes 3-4 servings, depending how hungry you are. Enjoy!

Creamy Cheese Tortellini with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Pesto

My boyfriend, Matt, is a large human being. As a 6’5″, 300-pounder who trains strongman events with what is known as the ‘meat crew,’ my extensive list of kale salads doesn’t cut the mustard in feeding that guy. I’m committed to make sure he eats as healthy as possible, but considering his 4,000-calorie and 300 grams of protein a day diet, feeding him can be exhausting, to say the least. Unfortunately I loathe the crockpot, which would probably be the easiest way to deal with this scenario. Give me a dutch oven and I can braise anything to almost perfection. But as a cooking vessel, the crock pot makes no sense to me and I promise to ruin everything I put in there, without fail – except this. Thank you Facebook for another fad recipe that turned out to be a winner that can satisfy a strongman.

NOTE: This recipe has been altered from the original to add protein and more flavors, but can easily be served as a vegetarian meal.

spinach_tortellini_crockpotRECIPE: Creamy Cheese Tortellini with Spinach, Tomatoes, Sausage & Pesto

  • 1 bag of frozen cheese tortellini
  • 1 bag of fresh spinach
  • 2 cans of organic diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 block of cream cheese, cubed (Greek style for extra protein, if you can find it)
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto (I usually have leftover pesto in my fridge, or you make it fresh or buy it)
  • OPTIONAL 1 lb. of sausage, cooked (ground or cut links, pork, turkey, chicken, italian, plain or seasoned – your choice)
  • box (or 4 cups) organic vegetable or chicken stock

Put all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 4-6 hrs. Check tortellini after 3 hours to see if it’s finished, and keep your eye on the consistency of the sauce. Add a little more stock if it gets too thick before the tortellini is done cooking. Enjoy!

*Images by Little Fellow and Tawna Allred

Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops with Sweet & Sour Mint Jus

Just when you can’t eat another piece of grilled chicken or hamburger on the barbie, lamb chops are a welcome change – plus they are so easy to make and really delicious. Perfect with a giant salad or some grilled veggies of your choice.

RECIPE: Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops
• 2 lbs lamb chops
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 3 TBSP fresh, chopped rosemary
• olive oil
• salt and pepper

Toss lamb in olive oil, garlic and rosemary. Salt and pepper each side. Grill over direct heat 3-4 minutes per side, flipping only once. This should be medium, depending on your grill. Tent with foil for 10 minutes to let the meat rest.

RECIPE: Sweet & Sour Mint Jus

• 1/4 cup vinegar (white wine, cider, champagne, red wine)
• 1/4 cup raw sugar
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/3 cup chopped mint
• 1 tsp chopped hot red pepper, chopped
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• salt and pepper to taste

Muddle together sugar and mint in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and then whisk in olive oil. Taste and adjust sweetness, saltiness and sour levels to your liking. Divide into small bowls so each plate has their own for dipping. Enjoy!


Crispy Coated Chicken Tenders from Scratch with Creamy Feta Buttermilk Dipping Sauce

NOTE: This recipe requires an overnight or at least a full-day buttermilk soak, so make sure to plan ahead.

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I get inquiries about this recipe more often than any other one, and it’s always from my friends with kids who are scrambling to make dinner before the household hits critical mass. It’s an easy, inexpensive and much healthier way to to have chicken tenders without buying frozen nuggets that display a paragraph of ingredients (only a few of which I recognize). You can serve them along side your favorite dipping sauce, or give the Feta Buttermilk dipping sauce a try.

Before I get started, let me say that there’s no great way to photograph a pile of raw chicken soaking in buttermilk, drenched in hot sauce. So please know the image is not intended to make your mouth water – rather to demonstrate how easy it is to throw everything in one bowl and be on your way.

Note: I’m experimenting with some other coatings (such as oats and nuts) that crisp up nicely without having to pan fry, but for the sake of posting this recipe sooner rather than later, I’m using Panko.

RECIPE: Crispy Coated Chicken Tenders

  • 1 lb chicken (breast cut up into thick strips or chicken tenderloins – which are more affordable and less work)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • buttermilk
  • hot sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • dried basil (or italian seasoning)
  • 1/2 box or bag of Panko breadcrumbs (I prefer whole wheat, but either works great)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (grated, not shredded – and NOT the stuff in the green can)

chickenbuttermilkSpray a sheet pan liberally with non-stick spray and drizzle a little olive oil over that. (I’m a fan of the organic spray when I have to use it, but whatever you have is okay.) Add chicken to a large bowl or container with a lid. Cover completely with buttermilk. Add as much hot sauce as you like, garlic, salt and pepper to the bowl. Toss and marinate all day (at least 8 hours) or overnight is best. (I like to do it the day before I bake them.) In a wide, shallow bowl or glass baking dish, add the panko, parmesan cheese, sprinkle of salt, pepper and just enough dried basil so you can see the flecks evenly distributed throughout (close to a teaspoon).

chickenpanTake the chicken (a few pieces at a time), drip off the excess buttermilk and place directly in the panko. Toss gently to coat completely and press the panko into the chicken so it sticks. Place chicken on the pan fairly close together, but not touching. When the pan is full of chicken tenders, drizzle liberally with olive oil. Bake at 500 degrees for 16-18 minutes, flipping halfway through.

RECIPE: Creamy Buttermilk Feta Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (or blue cheese, if you prefer)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayo
  • 1 scallion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to the blender and whiz on high until smooth. Add a little more buttermilk to get to the consistency you prefer for dipping, and adjust seasonings according to taste. Enjoy!

chickensauceNote: Everyone’s ovens vary, so it might take a time or two to get this recipe just right. Adjust the amount of nonstick spray and olive oil drizzle to get the result you want. I prefer mine a little light and dry, but others like a little more glisten. To each his own.

PS: Because the chicken is being cooked at such a high temperature, the stray breadcrumbs may get dark on the bottom of the pan and smoke a bit. I use my fan, just in case. But don’t worry. You shouldn’t be burning anything.

Turkey Florentine Meatballs and Marinara with Parmesan Cauliflower & Roasted Spaghetti Squash

A quick weeknight meal that doubles as lunch the next day. I included two sides that go well with the meatballs and are much healthier than pasta. Perfect for anyone watching their carbs.

MEATBALL INGREDIENTSflorentine_meatballs
1 1/2 lbs lean ground turkey (I use ground turkey breast)
1 box frozen spinach (defrost on counter or microwave, depending on time)
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/4 cups milk (cow, goat or unsweetened almond all work fine)
3/4 cup oats
1 egg
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt and freshly cracked black pepper
a little olive oil

Before you assemble the meatballs, make sure to wring the liquid out of the defrosted spinach or you’ll have a giant soupy mess. In a small bowl, add milk to the oats and set aside. In a large bowl, add the spinach, onion, garlic, egg, grated cheese to the turkey. Now add the oat mixture to the turkey and mix well with your very clean hands. Roll into balls (golfball size) and place on a sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, flipping meatballs after 10 minutes. Makes 12-15. Serve with marinara (recipe below).


olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves chopped garlic
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
dash of honey
1/2 cup fresh basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Over medium heat, heat oil in a large pot until hot. Add onion and garlic, saute for a few minutes until the onions begin to appear translucent. Stir in the tomatoes, dried herbs, honey, salt and pepper. Lower the heat and continue to simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir occasionally. Just before you turn off the heat, stir in fresh basil.

To serve, spoon sauce on the bottom of plate, top with meatballs and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

The florentine meatballs go great with these two sides:

Toss a head of cauliflower florets with 2 TBSP olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt in a large bowl. Spread in 1 layer in a 9×12 glass baking dish and roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden brown, approximately 30-40 minutes, give or take a few. Sometimes I cover with foil for the first 20 minutes so it can steam a little and then uncover it for the last 20 so it can brown. Try it and figure out the way you like best or how your oven cooks. Grate or sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve warm.


Cut the squash in half and scrape out the seeds, just like you would do any winter squash or pumpkin. Drizzle the inside with olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Put the halves flesh side down on a sheet pan and roast for 35 – 45 minutes, depending on size of the squash. Let cool enough to handle, then flip the squash over and scrape out the cooked strands with a fork. You can serve with more marinara and parm, or simply on the side of the meatballs, if you wish.