Originally published October 2, 2012. Revised May 2015.
When I was single, I was a busy girl. I worked, had a few close friends and a social life that involved going out to eat and having a few drinks on the weekends. When I got married, I became a busy wife. I worked, had a husband and few pets; I did the grocery shopping and started cooking regularly. Once I became a mother of two children, life became busier and more demanding than ever. Life became more complicated...but more meaningful. Time became sacred and more precious. Decisions I was making now not only affected my husband and me, they affected my entire family. And when you're a mom, you ultimately want to do what is best for your family.
Cooking is something that takes time, creativity and commitment. Most of us know that cooking is an essential part to achieving and maintaing good health, yet it is easy to find excuses to avoid doing it. But, if your health and the health of your family is a priority, you manage to find the time, creativity and commitment it takes to get a well-balanced meal on the table. Shunning typical salty, greasy (but quick!) convenience meals and restaurant take-out may be difficult to do, but in the long run, your health will benefit from this decision.
I’ll admit I don’t cook every day. I will state, though, that even when I’m not actively cooking, I am still preparing meals that are made with whole-food and fresh ingredients. As a mom who aims to do the best for her family, and as a Registered Dietitian who aim to practice what she preaches, I find myself torn between my two worlds especially now that my schedule is busier than ever. I'm not a creative cook (in the sense of having the ability to make a meal out of anything I can find in the kitchen), but I have a resource that allows me to tap into the creative minds of cooks around the globe and it’s called the Internet.
Social media outlets like Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook are my goldmine to public websites and food blogs filled with recipes and mealtime-inspiration. This is where I’ve been turning when I’m in need of uncomplicated, quick recipes that will deliver healthy and tasty meals. Recipes from Cooking Light Magazine are featured on MyRecipes.com and I’ve found numerous recipes meeting my convenience-caliber right here. I especially love this one, the Little Italy Chicken Pita with Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette, because it uses a combination of basic pantry items and healthy, budget-friendly convenience foods that I can find in my regular grocery store. The trio of balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh basil gives the store-bought rotisserie chicken a zesty flavor while keeping the total calories, fat and sodium contents low. Together with mixed greens and a whole grain pita pocket, you have a meal that delivers “the package”: quick, tasty, budget-friendly and healthy meal that is good for you and your family. Add a side of fresh fruit and you really do have the perfectly, balanced meal.
LIttle Italy Chicken Pitas
Recipe from Becky Mercuri, Cooking Light, July 2007
Yields: 6 servings (One serving = 2 stuffed pita halves)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato oil
- 1 tablespoon chopped, drained oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (about 3/4 pound)
- 1 cup chopped tomato (about 1 medium)
- 1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
- 6, 6 inch pitas, cut in half
- 3 cups mixed baby greens
- Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.
- Stir in chicken, tomato, cheese and basil. Line each pita half with 1/4 cup greens. Divide chicken mixture evenly among pita halves.
Nutrition Facts per serving (2 stuffed pita halves):
Calories: 342, Calories from fat 24%; Total Fat: 9.1 g, Saturated: 2.8 g ; Monounsaturated fat: 4.2 g; Polyunsaturated fat:: 1.3 g; Protein: 26 g; Carbohydrate; 37.3 g; Fiber: 2.4 g; Cholesterol: 56 g; Iron 2.7 mg; Sodium: 397 mg; Calcium: 162 mg.