Shari Duncan

High Protein dishes

So Simple Spinach & Chicken Saute

by on Dec.14, 2010, under Egg and Main Course Ideas, Fruits and Veggies, General Nutrition, High Protein dishes, Recipes

Fresh spinach paired with tender chicken is the perfect quick-fix meal.

Known in the nutrition world as a “power” food, spinach is packed to the brim with essential nutrients.  Unfortunately, spinach does not top a lot of peoples list as a favorite food. Is it worth the effort to try to get your kids, or yourself for that matter to eat spinach? ABSOLUTELY! Eating spinach will help you meet your daily need for a number of nutrients, including calcium, iron, folate and vitamin A. Spinach is an excellent bone-builder, and contains antioxidants that neutralize free radicals in the brain, thereby preventing the effects of aging on mental activity. It’s also high in flavonoids, plant molecules that act as antioxidants, which have been shown to prevent breast, stomach, skin, and ovarian cancer.

Whether you’re choosing a prepackaged bag of spinach or a fresh bundle, look for spinach that is bright green in color with thin stems and leaves that are not wilted or spotted with yellow. If you prefer tender spinach, choose baby spinach, which is smaller and much more tender. The larger the leaves, the more mature they are and more likely to be tough or stringy.

So Simple Spinach & Chicken Saute


ü  1.5 lbs skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into strips

ü  1 10 oz bag baby spinach

ü  2TBSP Olive Oil

Fresh spinach paired with tender chicken is the perfect quick-fix meal

ü  Minced garlic to taste,

½ onion chopped

ü  Salt and Pepper

ü  Red Pepper Flakes to taste

ü  1TBSP Dijon Mustard

ü  ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

ü  ~1/2 c chicken broth + 1/3 c fat free/low fat milk

In measuring cup, mix together chicken broth, milk, and mustard. Set aside.

In large heavy skillet, heat olive oil. Saute minced garlic over med –high heat briefly to coat pan. When pan is hot, add chicken strips and chopped onions; season with salt and peppers to taste. Sear and brown on each side, turning only once (approx. 3-4 minutes each side).

Reduce heat to med-low.  Gradually stir in milk mixture and cook until bubbly, turning chicken occasionally.  Simmer about 4-5 minutes to blend flavors and juice of chicken is no longer pink when center of thickest part is cut.  Remove chicken from skillet; keep warm.

Increase heat to medium and stir in spinach. Sprinkle with nutmeg and additional salt/pepper.  Cook aproximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until spinach is wilted and some of liquid has been absorbed. Return chicken to pan.

Can be served alone as a low carb, low fat entrée or over couscous, quinoa, or rice if desired as there will be extra sauce. (If desired, you can add a little cornstarch to thicken).

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Quinoa (Keen-wa) The Healthy Grain with the Funny Name

by on Dec.05, 2010, under General Nutrition, High Protein dishes, Recipes

There aren’t many foods that have such high nutrition that they fall into the complete or nearly complete food categories. However, Quinoa is pretty darn close!

Although not a staple in most kitchens today – those who have discovered quinoa know how delicious it is and how good it is for them.   Quinoa is a nutrient dense,  amino acid-rich (protein) seed that has a fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture and a somewhat nutty flavor when cooked.

I finally decided to give into my curiosity and bought a box of quinoa… and am quickly discovering how really simple, delicious and versatile is.  ..

If you do not know what is so special about quinoa here are six secrets.

Easy to prepare, tasty and versatile. Quinoa is a COMPLETE FOOD!

Quinoa with Black Beans. Easy to prepare, tasty and versatile. Quinoa is a COMPLETE FOOD!

Secret 1 – Quinoa is gluten free

Quinoa is a good source of many vitamins and nutrients. Although technically a seed, quinoa ) is commonly referred to and used most often as a grain
because it is also gluten free and very non allergenic, people with restricted diets can usually eat it wit out any problems.

Secret 2 – It is a complete protein

One cup (cooked) quinoa contains eight grams of protein, nearly twice the amount found in other grains. Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it provides the body all nine essential amino acids. For
vegans and vegetarians looking for alternative to tofu and soya it is ideal. It is also far more versatile in the kitchen then other vegan sources of protein.

Secret 3 – Quinoa is REALLY good for your health

It is a vegetable protein which is easy to digest. It also is a complex carbohydrate that slowly releases its goodness into the body. You do not get a rush of carbs followed by a lull. This is great for diabetics and people with kidney problems

Secret 4 – It is available in different types, colors and forms.

The most common is white quinoa. (Also, black quinoa and red quinoa). The different varieties also have different levels of oils in them making some crunchier than others. Quinoa is available in seed (grain form), flour, and flakes. It’s texture is what many love most about this grain (seed).

Secret 5 – Quinoa Can Help You Lose Weight.

Quinoa offers a lot to anyone looking to get healthy. However there are a number of great benefits for those looking to lose weight as well.

  • Because of its protein content and complex carbohydrates quinoa will have you feeling full longer and will also help prevent cravings. You do not need to eat very much to feel satisfied.
  • The amino acids and high quality protein will help you build more muscles. This in turn will have you burning more calories and it will prevent you from losing muscle tone as you lose weight

Secret 6 – It Is Very Easy To Cook

If you can boil pasta or rice then you can cook quinoa. Bring one part quinoa and two parts liquid to boil. Simmer as you would rice for about fifteen minutes or until the grains are translucent.  It has a nutty flavor that complements many other ingredients and adds wonderful texture to soups, stews, stir fry’s and salads

Quinoa is very rich in magnesium,a mineral that helps relax blood vessels, preventing the constriction and rebound dilation characteristic of migraines. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to be related to a reduced frequency of headache episodes reported by migraine sufferers.  Low dietary levels of magnesium are also associated with increased rates of hypertension, ischemic heart disease and heart arrhythmias, and since magnesium helps to relax blood vessels, adding Quinoa to your diet offers your body protection and can improve your cardiovascular health.


Quinoa and Black Beans (adapted from


1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup frozen corn kernels

2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed

and drained

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned.
2. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes,
3. Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro

Servings Per Recipe: 10

Calories: 142

Amount Per Serving

  • Total Fat: 1.7g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg
  • Sodium: 467mg
Amount Per Serving

  • Total Carbs: 25.6g
  • Dietary Fiber: 6.9g
  • Protein: 6.9g

*My customized version:

I substituted olive oil instead of vegetable oil, low sodium chicken for the vegetable broth, used 1 can black beans (instead of 2) and mixed in about ½-3/4  cup of black bean salsa in at the end.

This is satisfying enough as a meal or as a hearty side dish.  I served with Chili and Lime grilled chicken breasts.

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The Incredible Egg… EGGS-actly what your body needs to build muscle!

by on Aug.22, 2010, under Egg and Main Course Ideas, General Nutrition, High Protein dishes, Weight Loss

” My boy says he can eat fifty eggs, he can eat fifty eggs” – Cool Hand Luke 1967

Scientists have shown that those who start their day with poached, boiled or scrambled eggs can lose up to two-thirds more weight than others. The secret of the egg’s success lies in its ability to make us feel full for longer than many other foods.

Eggs make a valuable contribution to a healthy, balanced diet. And they are one of the most complete and versatile, not to mention abundant and inexpensive foods available.  Nutritionists recommend that an egg a day be incorporated into your daily meal planning for maximum health benefits. We all know the importance of protein in the muscle building process; without it, your muscles will simply not grow.  One egg contains 6 grams of high quality protein: so high that it is used as the standard by which other foods are measured. The whites are fat free; it is in the yolk where you find the fat and cholesterol.

..... EGGS-Actly what your Diet needs to build Muscle!

..... EGGS-Actly what your Diet needs to build Muscle!

Eggs are also a rich source of vitamins, including A, E, and K and a range of B vitamins such as B12 (energy), riboflavin and folic acid. Eggs also contain all eight essential amino acids needed for optimal muscle recovery and building valuable minerals like  calcium, zinc, and iron.    It is no wonder that eggs are included among the “superfoods” because of the way they both boost health and tackle obesity.

Eggs are far less expensive than most other animal-protein foods. Although eggs contain a significant amount of cholesterol, they need not be excluded from the diet. Most people need not be concerned about eating eggs in moderation.

As you can see, eggs contain a lot of good nutrition. One egg has about 80 calories but one egg also contains approximately five grams of fat, which is important if you are watching your fat and calorie intake. The white part of the egg contains no fat what so ever, and although all of the fat is contained in the yolk of an egg (yellow) – only a small proportion of this is saturated fat (Bad Fat) – about 1.6 grams. One egg each day is good, but eating three or four eggs every day may add too much fat.

In order to get the high quality protein and nutrients while reducing your fat intake, try using one whole egg and adding extra egg whites per serving. (I generally use one whole egg to two addition egg whites). You should also poach, hard boil or scramble your eggs, don’t fry them in butter. If you want your eggs sunny side up or over-easy, use a non-stick skillet without the extra butter or oil.

With recent egg recalls, people are concerned about safety and contamination. Always thoroughly cook your eggs to eliminate the risk of getting sick from salmonella.


Spinach, mushrooms and cheese, crabmeat add additional nutrients and flavor to this “not just for breakfast” egg dish.

A few of my favorite things... for an amazingly healthy and tasty omelet.

A few of my favorite things... for an amazingly healthy and tasty omelet.

Prep Time: 5 minutes     Cook Time: 10 Minutes   Yield: 1 Omelette

You will need:

ü  1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites (beaten)

ü  2-3 mushrooms, diced

ü  ~1 cup fresh baby spinach, cut in pieces

ü  1 slice low fat Swiss cheese

ü  ~ 3oz imitation crab meat, flaked or chunked

ü  Salt and pepper.

ü  Cooking spray, butter flavor

  1. Spray bottom of small pan with cooking spray.  Heat on med until hot.
  2. Sauté crab meat until warmed, add mushrooms and spinach. Continue to saute just until spinach begins to wilt.
  3. Add beaten eggs, salt and pepper and sliced cheese.  Cook until eggs begin to set.  Reduce heat, (so you don’t burn your eggs). Continue to cook until eggs are firm and cheese begins to melt.
  4. Fold omelet to seal.
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Lighten Up ! – Chicken Cutlet Parmesan

by on Aug.12, 2010, under Egg and Main Course Ideas, General Nutrition, High Protein dishes, Recipes

No deep frying, No heavy sauces or unhealthy saturated fats.  Tons of flavor and guaranteed satisfaction.

YES! You CAN eat fresh tasting Italian Chicken Parmesan even when you’re cutting calories and carbohydrates.

This recipe is quick and extremely healthy. It is made with skinless chicken breasts and garden tomatoes, Italian herbs and low fat cheese.  Amazing fresh and light flavor. Serve with a side of Italian squash or over salad greens to complete this low carb meal.

  • 4 chicken cutlets or breasts (pounded thin) About 1 ½ lbs

    Swiftly grilled tomatoes make perfect topping for Italian cutlets

    Swiftly grilled tomatoes make perfect topping for Italian cutlets

  • 1 large (or 2 med) tomato sliced (~3/4” or thicker)
  • ~½ cup 2% less fat Italian shredded cheese
  • Salt/pepper; oregano, garlic, basil
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Olive Oil

Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over med high heat. Season sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper and Italian seasonings.  Arrange in single layer in heated pan and cook until just tender (2-3minutes); flip & season and sprinkle shredded cheese over tomatoes.  Cook just until cheese begins to melt. Remove from pan to paper towel.  Do not overcook tomatoes.

Add additional oil or spray to pan.  Add cutlets, season well with salt/pepper, garlic and Italian seasonings.  Brown well on one side. Flip and season and cook until chicken is no longer pink.

Transfer chicken to serving dish.  Arrange tomatoes evenly on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

*This is delicious served over fresh pasta as well, if not on carb restricted meal plan.

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FRESH & LIGHT: Penne Pesto with Shrimp

by on Jul.13, 2010, under Fish and Seafood, General Nutrition, High Protein dishes, Recipes

No time to cook healthy?  Think again.  You can ditch that excuse.

This is incredibly fast and easy to prepare. A main course meal from pan to plate in 15 minutes!   It is light, healthy, fiber and protein rich and bursting with flavor.  Try it.  Your taste buds will be very happy!

  • 2-3 cups cooked whole grain Penne Pasta (about ½ box)

    15 minute dinner that's high in protein, fiber but mostly high in flavor!

    15 minute dinner that's high in protein, fiber but mostly high in flavor!

  • 1 1/4 lb large shrimp, cleaned
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil; Divided
  • Minced garlic (to taste)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 large or 2 med fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 2-3 TBSP Pesto Sauce
  • ~3/4c white wine (I didn’t measure!)
  • Salt, red crushed pepper flakes, Basil, Italian Seasonings.

Prepare pasta al-dente according to directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet or wok. Sauté the garlic, peppers, tomatoes over high heat until tender / crisp. (Approx 3-5 minutes).

Remove veggies from pan into bowl and set aside.

Add remaining olive oil and shrimp to pan and sauté, stirring frequently until shrimp just begins to turn pink.  Add pesto, dry seasonings and wine.  Stir often to mingle flavors. (Add more/less red pepper flakes to taste).

Return vegetables and 2-3 cups of prepared pasta to pan. Mix well.  Reduce heat, cover, and toss to allow flavors to mingle for 5-10 minutes.  Do not overcook shrimp!

Top with fresh romano/parmesan cheese if desired.


For extra credit!!: Add fresh chopped spinach or asparagus to recipe. This adds nutrients, flavor and color. (I didn’t have any on hand).

Serve with a fresh garden salad.

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TILAPIA Fish Tacos

by on Feb.28, 2010, under Egg and Main Course Ideas, Fish and Seafood, High Protein dishes, Recipes

I make this recipe year round – even during contest prep!

Tilapia is a very lean protein source, low in calories and contains NO carbohydrates.  Add Southwest spices and pan sear in olive oil.  Serve in a low carb, whole grain tortilla, & add desired toppings.

Dinner is served in less than 15 minutes!

Complete High Protein/low carb meal in 15 Minutes.!

Complete High Protein/low carb meal in 15 Minutes.!

Fresh or Frozen Tilapia Filets

1 TBSP olive oil or Non-stick spray

1 TBSP Lime Juice

Southwest Seasonings



Salt/Pepper (to taste)

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

1)      Heat Olive oil over med-high heat in non-stick pan.

2)      Add fresh or thawed tilapia filets.  Season generously with Southwest seasonings, cumin, cilantro and squeeze of lime.

3)      Cook approx 3-5 minutes, depending on thickness of fish. Flip filets when golden browned and season other side until browned on both sides.  Remove from Heat.

4)      Warm tortillas

Pan Sear 5-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness of Fillets

Pan Sear 5-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness of Fillets

5)      Fill Tortillas with 3-4 oz of tilapia and add desired toppings.



Fresh Veggies (I use Red/Green Peppers)

Sliced Avocado

Low fat, shredded cheese


Tilapia (cooked, dry heat), 3.5 oz (100g)

Calories:                                128 kcal
Protein:                                 26 g
Carbohydrate:                       0 g
Total Fat:                              3 g
Saturated fat: 1 g
Unsaturated fat: 2 g
Transfat: 0 g
Cholesterol:                          57 mg
Fiber:                                    0 g

Tilapia is an excellent lean protein, is low in calories and contains no carbohydrates.

Tilapia (cooked, dry heat), 3.5 oz (100g)

Selenium:                              54.40 mcg   (78% DV)
Vitamin B12:                        1.86 mcg     (31% DV)
Niacin:                                  4.74 mg       (24% DV)
Phosphorus:                          204.00 mg   (20% DV)

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Chicken, Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna

by on Feb.06, 2010, under Egg and Main Course Ideas, General Nutrition, High Protein dishes, Recipes

Chicken and low fat cottage cheese are used in place of higher fat beef and ricotta cheese. Spinach and mushrooms provide flavor, texture and added vitamins & nutrients.

1lb chicken, seasoned, cooked in olive oil and garlic; and diced

Chicken Lasagna

Lower in fat; healthier than traditional lasagna

1 10oz package chopped spinach, thawed

Fresh baby Bella mushrooms

1-package oven ready lasagna noodles **

14 oz low fat cottage cheese

Low Fat Provolone / Mozzarella

1 jar prepared Marinara or Spaghetti Sauce

Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Prepare chicken –season GENEROUSLY with garlic, salt and pepper, and Italian seasonings.

Place a few spoonfuls of sauce in bottom of baking dish to coat bottom. Begin layering noodles (uncooked), sauce, cottage cheese, spinach, mushrooms, chicken and shredded cheeses to create the lasagna. Take care to distribute ingredients evenly, including corners.

Top with sauce (cover pasta noodles completely) – and garnish with shredded Parmesan Cheese.

Cover loosely with foil. Bake 30 minutes at 425 degrees F. Reduce temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake 20 to 30 minutes more, or until lasagna is thoroughly heated and bubbly.

Allow lasagna to stand at least 10 to 15 minutes prior to slicing. This helps keep lasagna layers intact when serving.

Use Whole Wheat or Pre-cooked. Only Use partial package to Cut Carbs

Use partial package to Cut Carbs

**Substitute  whole wheat lasagna noodles for pre-cooked. Use only partial package of noodles to cut the total carbohydrates per serving.  I make 3 layers of 3 noodles per layer for a total of 9 lasagna noodles.


Why Eat Spinach?

Spinach nutrition is amazing. The calcium content in spinach and other dark leafy greens strengthens bones.

The A and C vitamins in spinach plus the fiber, folic acid, magnesium and other nutrients help control cancer, especially colon, lung and breast cancers. Folate also lowers the blood levels of something called homocysteine,protein that damages arteries. So spinach also helps protect against heart disease.spinach_popeye

The flavonoids in spinach help protect against age related memory loss.

Spinach’s secret weapon, lutein, makes it one of the best foods in the world to prevent cataracts, as well as age related macular degeneration, the leading cause of preventable blindness in the elderly. Foods rich in lutein are also thought to help prevent cancer.

The health benefits of spinach are numerous. The vitamins and calcium in spinach, combined with the overall nutritional value of spinach, make this vegetable and its dark leafy green cousins top picks for healthy food choices.

Fresh or frozen, add these greens to your food menu as often as you can.

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VITAMIN SPICE Asian Beef & Jasmine Rice

by on Jan.31, 2010, under High Protein dishes, Recipes

Jasmine rice has a soft texture that is not as crunchy or chewy as other brown rices, but equally as nutritious.

Jasmine is a naturally aromatic long grain rice originally grown only in Thailand. While cooking, this exotic rice fills your kitchen with a delicate scent. The aroma and flavor are natural, nothing is added to the rice. The grains cook up moist and tender with a light, soft texture, and delicious flavor.

1 C brown Jasmine rice

2 C water

Jasmine rice ads delicate flavor and softer texture than traditional brown rice.

Jasmine rice ads delicate flavor and softer texture than traditional brown rice.

1 lb lean ground beef

Fresh Parsley

Fresh minced garlic, to taste

2 tbsp fresh ginger root (or ¼-1/2 tsp ground)

Vitamin Spice ground black pepper

Vitamin Spice crushed red pepper

Vitamin Spice granulated garlic

1 TBSP Coconut Oil

1 red and 1 green pepper, chopped

¼ c beef stock

1-2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce

Chili powder, to taste

½-1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

  • Soak Rice.  In medium saucepan, bring rice and water to boil,  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  • In wok or skillet over medium high heat, stir fry ground beef until evenly browned. Drain, RINSE, and set aside.
  • Heat coconut oil (you can use olive oil) in skillet over medium high heat. Stir-fry garlic, bell peppers, parsley and ginger.  Season generously with Vitamin Spices; (black and red pepper, garlic).  Add salt if desired).  Cook and stir until peppers are tender, but not overcooked.
  • Return beef to skillet. Mix in beef stock, soy sauce, chili powder and Worcestershire. Cook and stir until thickened and heated through.
  • Stir in or serve over the jasmine rice.

Vitamin Spice makes it easy to naturally boost the flavor and nutritional value of your meals.

Blended from premium herbs and spices and packed with essential vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, VitaminSpice’s  line of proprietary spice blends delivers great taste and nutrition in one package. VitaminSpice is a convenient, effective and delicious option for enhancing your daily nutritional intake.

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by on Dec.06, 2009, under High Protein dishes, Recipes

A healthier version of an Italian favorite using heart healthy olive oil instead of butter and fresh mushrooms and peppers

No need to eat plain baked or boiled chicken when dieting.  I prepared this several times throughout my competition prep.  Very low carb, high in protein and healthy fats.  AND.. it is quick and easy to fix.

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken cutlets
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Italian Seasonings (Garlic salt/powder; black pepper, basil, oregano) or if cutting salt you can use Mrs Dash Italian.
  • Butter Buds
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 bell pepper sliced (you can use green, red, yellow or any combination)
  • 1 Tbsp low carb baking flour
  • ~3/4 cup or more Marsala wine (you can use Marsala cooking wine)

Saute vegetables over moderately high heat in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Cook until tender but not overdone; remove from heat and set aside.

Generously season cutlets with seasonings and sprinkle with butter buds.  Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to pan and saute cutlets over moderately high heat until browned well . ( If  needed, you can spray some Pam cooking spray lightly over chicken to keep chicken from sticking to pan)

Sprinkle  flour evenly over 4 cutlets.  Return vegetables to pan and slowly add Marsala wine.  Reduce heat and cover allowing the wine to reduce and the chicken to absorb the flavors of the vegetables and the wine.

Serve  over brown rice and a salad to complete your meal.


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