Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades with Lemon Butter & Cauliflower Puree

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas for dinner.  There are many requirements I have:

  • One portion of the entire meal has to be less than 450 calories, what I’ve typically got left by dinner time
  • It should feel like I got a good-sized portion – none of this two bites and I’m done with dinner foolishness
  • I’d like the cost to be low (I have race fees to pay for, gotta save some bucks! LOL)
  • The kids have to be willing to eat it
  • My husband has to be willing to prepare it.  Have I mentioned I can’t boil water?!?

I found this recipe in Clean Eating’s July/August 2014 issue.

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades with Lemon Butter & Cauliflower Puree

Serves 4; Hands-on Time: 30 minutes; Total Time: 30 minutes

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades

Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Roulades

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (about 2/3 of a head)
  • Zest of 1 lemon plus 2 1/2 tsp juice, divided
  • 4 4-oz chicken breasts, each cut crosswise into 2 thin pieces
  • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup jarred roasted bell peppers, drained and sliced
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp white whole-wheat flour, divided
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken stock

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Fill a medium saucepot with 1 inch water and bring to a boil on high.  Fit with a steamer basket and add cauliflower to the basket; cover and steam until very tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a food processor, adding 1/4 cup hot water from the pot, 1 Tbsp butter, zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp salt. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, line up chicken on a cutting board and spread ricotta evenly over one side of each piece of chicken.  Sprinkle peppers evenly over the ricotta.  Roll up and secure each piece with toothpicks.  Sprinkle remaining 1/4 tsp salt evenly over chicken. Transfer 2 Tbsp flour to a medium sized shallow bowl and dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off the excess. Mist a medium skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium.  Add chicken and cook for about 6 minutes, turning over halfway, until golden brown on both sides. Mist a large baking sheet with cooking pray and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Note: Internal temperature should register 165 degrees F when tested with an instant-read thermometer.  Carefully remove toothpicks and slice crosswise into rounds.
  3. Meanwhile, to a small heavy saucepot, add stock and bring to a simmer on medium-high.  In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tsp flour and 2 tsp lemon juice until smooth.  Add to the stock along with the remaining 1 Tbsp butter.  Simmer for 2 minutes, until smooth and thickened.  Divide cauliflower and chicken among serving plates and top the chicken with the sauce.

Nutrition per serving (2 roulades, 1/2 cup cauliflower, 1/4 of the sauce):

280 calories, 13 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 4 g mono-unsaturated fat, 1 g polyunsaturated fat, 10.5 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 2 g sugars, 29.5 g protein, 390 mg sodium, 94 mg cholesterol

Verdict

The family loved it!  I was hesitant of the pureed cauliflower strictly because that’s such a “diet-y” thing to do.  Why is the potato such an evil little thing?  Rather than using jarred roasted red-bell peppers, my husband took a bell pepper out to the grill and roasted a fresh one from the garden.  So much tastier!  It was filling and flavorful and I would definitely put this in the rotation for the future ask Sean to keep making this.  One thing to note, though – man, there were a lot of dirty dishes! What time we saved in the preparation we gave back in all those darn pots and pans!  Also, hubby the chef said that the recipe wasn’t the easiest to follow and is definitely not for the novice cook because the process of rolling chicken can get messy. The calorie count was good enough that I am able to still enjoy four Biscoff cookies with my evening tea. 😉

 

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Adventures in Calorie Counting

I admit that I am an anxious mess with my weight.  I joke that I have to keep running so that my fat can’t catch back up.  My obsession with the numbers is fueled by the metrics that are so easily available:

  • I use a scale to weigh myself to the tenth of a pound every morning and before and after a run to make sure I stay hydratedIMG_3547[1]
  • myfitnesspal.com allows me to track every calorie I consume, including the 30 calories in a daily serving of my calcium chew
  • I have a Garmin watch with a heart rate monitor that has been calibrated for my personal fitness zones to track my calorie expenditures and my miles run to the hundredth of a mile
  • I wear an all-day activity monitor to track my steps and my sleep

We are a numbers-driven society.  After having lost fifty plus pounds, I have stalled.  Seriously, like the eighteen wheeler in the middle lane of the freeway.  I have gained and lost the same half pound for at least the last twelve months.  I gave myself a break for a couple of those months as I was recovering from surgery, but I really thought my “last ten pounds” would melt right off once I got back to running in the spring.  To say I was frustrated would be an understatement and I took it to Facebook.  I had no idea that my plea for a good dietician would be such a hot button topic that morning, but apparently we are all in same boat.

I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the calories in and calories out part of the equation. In fact, I was restricting myself to 1300 -1350 calories per day and not adding back anything despite the running I was doing or the cross-training on the other days. My perfectly calibrated Garmin with heart rate monitor would regularly tell me I was burning between 250 calories (on light training days) all the way to 1000 calories for a ten mile run day and yet I was only adding calories on run days longer than an hour and those came in the form of a little gel packet of carbs.

It was tough to hear friends ask me if I was consuming TOO FEW calories. The idea of consuming more calories when my weight had stayed the same at 1350 calories was ludicrous!! If I ate more, I would gain, right? I set out to research the idea before I just willy-nilly added calories and went back up to 190 pounds overnight. I learned that I wanted to be sure I ate at least enough to cover my resting metabolic rate, otherwise my metabolism would possibly slow down. Being 5’1 and over 40, that was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. Seriously, I eat any less and those around me might not be very happy with my attitude.   I sought out an appointment at Cooper Clinic in Dallas. They are the gold standard when it comes to health and fitness and we are so lucky they are right in our backyard. My appointment was scheduled for a few days later.

The appointment was scheduled for first thing in the morning because you have to have been fasting for 12 hours. That meant no food, water, pills, exercise, nothing. I ate an early dinner the night before and went straight to bed. When I arrived, I handed the front desk my paperwork that was emailed to me a few days before. I was ushered into a nice dark room with classical music and allowed to relax to bring my heart rate back down to a resting state after the drive over. The dietician explained how the test would work and then made sure the mask fit over my mouth and my nose was plugged so that the test was accurate. The machine calibrated itself during this time to the ambient oxygen level in the room and was soon ready. The test was easy – all that was required was for me to breathe normally for ten minutes. When the test was over, the numbers were spit out on a two page report based on the test.

1498?!?

1498?!?

Who knew? My resting metabolic rate was 1498! It was a solid 150 calories per day higher than any online calculator. Despite all the dumb things I have done over the years with diet and exercise, I have a higher metabolism than average! Add in the calories I burn just working a desk job and usual activity of living, my weight loss zone was between 1500-1600 calories per day. Christie also instructed me to eat back half of ma calories burned on the “big-burn” days like my long runs. She promised that if I made these changes, I should start to see a little movement in the scale.

Two weeks later, I sheepishly admit that the test was correct. I have increased my calories, all clean and nutritionally dense, and have seen a decline in the scale of about a pound and a half. The trend is definitely downward, which makes me pretty happy. So I call this little experiment a win.

The test at Cooper Clinic ran $103 and included a short consultation with the dietician after to get an idea of what the numbers actually mean. You can get the test at a few other locations for up to $20 cheaper, but it usually doesn’t come with someone that can truly give you advice on how to interpret the numbers. I would say it $103 well spent.

“Gracious in Defeat”

Crazy? You bet!  Our sixteen year old son was looking for a 5K race for his benchmark this past weekend.  With it being 100+ degrees in Dallas these days, there are no races to be had, so if he wanted to race, we were going to have to drive.  Most people wouldn’t dream of driving for such a short race, but I am positively certifiable and thought it would be an adventure.  I found a race in Eureka Springs, Arkansas that looked promising.  The temperature would be at least ten degrees cooler than at home, so I jumped on the idea of getting out of town, even for two days.  Only after I registered him did I find a copy of the course map with the elevation.  Hmmm. I might have screwed up.  Apparently, this race is in the mountains.  Yikes. We don’t have mountains in Dallas and I’m not sure Alex is ready for a crazy steep climb over a span of a mile.  Well, we’ll just hope for the best, right???  (Insert Cheshire Cat-grin here..)elevation

The night before

While on the walk of the course the night before, Alex and I saw some great spring wells!

While on the walk of the course the night before, Alex and I saw some great spring wells!

After a nine mile long run with our training groups Saturday morning, we piled into the car and drove the six hours to Arkansas. We made it to the hotel and I got directions to the local Italian restaurant and we took off.  It wasn’t easy to find at first with all of the winding mountain roads.  My poor phone navigation was a mess. Ermilio’s doesn’t take reservations, but was highly recommended, so we put our name on the list and was told the wait would be an hour and a half.  We began walking around and I realized that we were on the course that Alex would run the next morning, so we passed by the hotel and changed into our running shoes to walk the rest of it. It was such fun to see the little town and all of the springs in town.  This is truly a historical little town with so many beautiful Victorian homes.  A tumble down the steep mountainside left Alex with a big gash on the back of his leg and us finding a grocery store for some band aids and Neosporin.  That’s about how our trips roll.  On at least two occasions in the course walk, I turned around a mouthed something inappropriate to my husband about the steepness of the climb.  Seriously, I was starting to worry…

Race day

The morning was beautiful!   Alex and I walked the quarter-mile downhill from the hotel to the start line to pick up his bib.  He did a short warm-up and then lined up.  I look over at the start and see him cutting up with one of the othereurekan start runners his age.  I always wonder what they talk about right before a race.  He started the race pretty conservatively, as everyone did, knowing what was ahead of him.  I texted Sean and told him to be on the lookout.  He and our daughter stayed behind at the hotel to cheer him on at the 2.5 mile spot which signaled the end of the uphill and the beginning of the 200′ drop in elevation in about a half mile.  I asked Sean to text me when Alex passed by and to tell me how many runners were ahead of him.  It was just at 16 minutes elapsed when he passed and I got the text that there was only one runner ahead of him by about 20 seconds.  I jumped up, excited that he would be approaching very soon.  But it took forever for him to come.  Five runners passed by and he was nowhere.  The only thing I could think of was that he fell.  But around the bend he came at a speed that was unreal.  He was yelling and clearly agitated.  The course wasn’t clearly marked, there was no lead car or bike, and the course monitor was apparently more interested in his phone rather than the race.  Both the lead runner and Alex took a wrong turn.  Alex made it about a quarter-mile before he realized he was off-course.  Thank goodness we walked the course the night before!!  He quickly turned around, but had to seriously climb yet another sizeable mountainside.  By the time he got back onto the course, he flew, picking off ten runners like they were standing still.  His Garmin topped him out at a 4 minute mile on that descent.  He finished sixth (second in his age group) with a course distance of 3.6 miles.

Lessons Learned

at the finish lineThe mother of the runner that veered significantly off course literally went grape ape on the Race Director in front of everyone.  She demanded that they give her son the first place win and change his finish time to what it “should have been.”  For a moment, I saw who I used to be as a hockey mom and it scared the living daylights out of me.  My son smiled and said that I wasn’t THAT mom and he felt bad for the kid because he looked humiliated and angry.  We discussed the race and I reminded him of a phrase we have used frequently by an old coach: “Humble in Victory, Gracious in Defeat.”  Alex would be measured not by his finish time of one single race in his lifetime, but how he chooses to react would form who he becomes in the future.

The Race Director was calm under pressure and, while he sympathized with the boy’s issue, he reminded everyone during the award ceremony that sometime this happens to the fastest of runners.  They don’t have anyone to follow, which is why it is so very important to know the course.  Does it suck that he didn’t win the race? Absolutely! Is it crummy that his finish time wasn’t what he wanted? Sure. But that’s why we race.  Any weekend, anyone can win.  That’s the beauty of it.

We would probably come race The Eurekan again.  It was a small race with not a lot of frills, but the course was challenging enough to want to tackle it again. His glutes might disagree, though. 🙂

Emma Grace and I at the Texas state line, Alex collapsed on the star

Emma Grace and I at the Texas state line, Alex collapsed on the star

December PRs are made today

I won’t lie. I don’t run more than three times a week.  I sit in awe of those in my training program that can slog out mile after mile, day after day.  I just can’t do it.  I tried last season and my body revolted in the form of a torn calf muscle and a tibial stress fracture that reminded me that I’m not as young as I like to think I am.  And my past sins of being significantly overweight and sedentary will always be a factor in my training.  Bottom line is I am a slower finisher at the marathon distance.

But I’m totally going to PR this December! 😉

But just because I don’t run every day doesn’t mean that I don’t get my hiney up and moving every single day.  My plan is to be a bit more well rounded this season and see if it makes a significant difference in my finish time.  I run three days a week, do yoga once a week, elliptical, spin bike and strength training.  I would like to think that it’s helping because my run last night actually felt easier than usual.  Last night, however, was an anomaly.  The easy base-pace run started off

We were drenched!  Nothing like the solid "ker-thunk" of dripping wet clothes hitting the tile floor after a run through a monsoon!

We were drenched! Nothing like the solid “ker-thunk” of dripping wet clothes hitting the tile floor after a run through a monsoon!

as usual with temps in the high 90s and humidity at a solid 120% (just kidding, but man, it was humid!).  A mile in to the run, we felt the blessed raindrop.  Then another.  It was just enough to make the steam visibly rise off of the pavement.  Kind of cool to watch, not very fun to be in.  I *may* have looked up at the sky and challenged Mother Nature with a “that all you got?? bring it!”  Hindsight, it was maybe not a smart move to taunt her.  The sky opened up and it didn’t so much rain, but pour enormous buckets of water down.  Not even a visor or hat kept you from needing little windshield wipers on your eyeballs.  We were a solid 40 minutes from the clubhouse when the lightning struck and we were stuck at the lake with nowhere to take cover.  We bounced around a bit, took a short cut, did a hill or two and generally decided that a tempo run was what was on our impromptu plan.  There were many a phone that gave it a good fight but likely lost in the end.  Thank goodness the phone 6 will be out soon, huh??  But I was really impressed that I was able to run at race pace so early in the season and not be sucking wind.  I’m not sore this morning and I generally feel great about it.  Maybe there is something to this well-rounded plan of mine.

Now we are back into the temperatures and humidity levels that we are used to seeing and I know so many people that just don’t want to train in imperfect weather.  Yes, it’s hot. But slaying the summer will allow us to rule the fall.  If we can run in the heat, we will be so much faster when the temperature finally starts to back off.  Our December PRs will only be made with the consistent training in every kind of weather.  It makes sense – we are supposed to practice with our fuel to train our bodies to accept little foil packets of gel for countless hours and we are supposed to wear the same clothes to know where to apply the body glide in the future… 😉 And running in the rain is just part of it.  If you wait for the perfect moment to run, you will likely never train and it won’t prepare you for whatever Mother Nature chooses to throw at you on race day.  Many a marathon has been run in less than ideal conditions, so you might as well suck it up today and get out there.  Besides, how else will you recognize a perfect day?

Race Recap – Volunteer Edition…

course markingI am the Volunteer Coordinator for my local running club and this weekend, I was asked by a runner how we put on such an awesome race for, essentially, nothing.  Honestly?  Volunteers!!  We charge $10 for non-members to run a race and the rest is made up through the annual membership fees we pay.  Might I add, we are a bargain at $30 a year!  Our biggest volunteers are our race directors.  They are busy every week either pulling permits or booking portos or U-Haul trucks, fire and police, etc.  But the heart of the club is all of the volunteers that give their time every month to execute the plan that the race directors put together.  So, to give you a glimpse into our most recent race…

reg tableMy job started a month prior to the race by putting out a call for volunteers.  The number needed largely depends on the distance of the race, as we have to staff water stops in addition to all of the other jobs.  The August race I got lucky by only needing to staff one water stop.  It was a cross-country style relay race, two miles long for three legs.  We chose to give it a superhero theme this year.

The Wednesday before the race, my life always gets crazy amid a sea of RSVP lists and spreadsheets.  Juggling who can work pre-race, special accommodations due to injuries, people not running, who will have their kiddos with them… it’s more an art than a science.  Once the positions are filled on my spreadsheet, emails are sent out.  As always happens, I had a couple of people email me to say their plans had changed and they would not be able to volunteer after all.  So, the dance began all over again with moving a few people around and putting out a request for more volunteers.  Thank goodness we have such an amazing club, because there are always a few more that will step up.load in

The night before the race, a host of volunteers gathered at our clubhouse to load-in all of the items we will need for our race the next morning.  It’s a sweaty job in August in Dallas!

baton labelingBecause it’s a relay, we needed batons for each team to pass off, so we used Frisbees left over from the annual picnic.  Lots of volunteers came to help put timing chips on the batons and make the medals for our overall winners.  What superhero doesn’t get keys to the city?

Race morning begins in the dark out at the race site. Cones are set out to mark the course and all hands are on deck quickly because we only have thirty minutes until race day registration opens and we have to be ready.  It takes us nearly thirty people just to get the start/finish line set up and all of the registration in place and water stops stocked and ready to go.

Once the runners are off, the party really gets going and the next countdown begins with setting out bananas and post-race food and preparing for the kids’ race.  Part of what I really love about the club is the familykids race atmosphere.  If we can instill a love of being active into kids as young as two, we have done our job to continue the sport.  This particular Saturday morning, we may have forgotten to save enough cones to set out a short course for the kiddos.  No worries!  I used my superhero volunteer skills to gather people who were milling about to be our “human cones.”  Those that helped out came back with huge smiles after having given out high fives to all the kids as they passed by each human cone.  Add one more item of craziness, I forgot to pick up the bibs when I changed out the bucket this month.  My quick thinking Martha Stewart skills ran straight to registration and asked for all the leftover Frisbees that didn’t get assigned to a team that morning – the kids ended up loving that they got a Frisbee to run with just like mom or dad – SCORE!

photo boothEven the photographs at the club race are free!  We had two people graciously give up running the race to give to everyone and it was some of the most fun!  Since the race was super hero themed, the photographers and I thought it might be fun to make a photo booth. Seriously, what I lack in running speed I make up for in my mad-Martha skills.  I immediately went to work making the little “Bam” and “Pow” signs, using old boxes and black and yellow construction paper to make buildings and even threw together some superhero capes.

Finally, when the race is done and the award are handed out, it’s time to clean up.  Nobody really likes to clean up their toys, but it’s necessary and can take as little as an hour start to finish if we have enough hands on deck.  If you’re lucky, you could count all this work as a cross-fit workout… 😉start line setup

I know it’s fun to race, but I can tell you I have gotten more out of volunteering at these races this year than I ever dreamed.  I have made some amazing friends and learned that you don’t have to cross the finish line to be a part of your local running community.

 

*photos graciously provided by David Arvelo and Ian Pierce