Kelly the Culinarian: 2019

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cooking with Kelly: Healthy Spinach Feta Chicken Burger Recipe


I nearly cried in the grocery store this weekend.

You see, I decided many days ago I wanted to spend quite a few calories on a chicken burger from the meat counter on a super plush pretzel bun with all the fixings. I've been working hard and I needed a meal to look forward to. I headed to the store early, and wouldn't you know, they didn't have the burgers. They told me they might have them later.

Frustrated and hungry, because I'm always hungry, I bought the raw ingredients for my favorite burger and set out to make it my own damn self.

The key to these burgers, in my opinion, is getting them toasted enough on the outside to properly cook the chicken while not burning it to oblivion. I got this by using a grill pan inside initially heated to medium-high heat, then reduced to medium after searing. I also covered it with a lid in the last few minutes to capture the steam, but preserve the outer crunch.

My second pro tip is to ensure the spinach is super dry. Otherwise, the moisture will cause your burgers to fall apart while cooking. I thawed the spinach and let it drain, then rung it out with a dish towel.

Healthy Spinach Feta Chicken Burger Recipe


1 pound ground lean chicken
1 beaten egg
9ish ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and thoroughly dried
1 small package of reduced fat feta (this worked out to about 2/3 cups)
1 tablespoon seasoned flour or breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the chicken and egg, then crumble the cheese and spinach over the meat. Season with spices and stir until incorporated. Take care not to over stir the mixture or it will get tough.

Divide into four patties. I like to dent the middle of the patties with my thumb so the burgers don't get domed when grilling.
Chill for an hour to allow the burgers to set. Heat a grill pan to medium high and sear the burgers for five minutes on each side. Cover with a lid and continue to cook until the internal temp reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the grill and cover with foil to rest for 10 minutes.

Serve on pretzel buns with lettuce, tomato, condiments and whatever your heart desires. I highly recommend avocado on these burgers. We had this with blistered green beans and turnip "fries." Worth every calorie.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

2019 First Look for Charity at the Chicago Auto Show

This event makes me so happy! #FLFC19 is hands down my favorite event of the year (See 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015). It's the best way to see the Chicago Auto Show while giving back to worthy causes. It supports a bevy of local charities that support the Chicagoland area in a variety of ways. And for weeks leading up to the big night, I was pumped to see the cars, drink the drinks and eat everything in sight.
This year's event did not disappoint! In fact, I feel like it was less crowded this year and had some interesting offerings, both in the cars and the food.

But first thing's first, for those who asked my dress was another Ross special and the shoes I've had forever but were originally from DSW. And yes, my mother picked out the dress, just like most of my wardrobe (you're never too old to be mothered).
First clink!


We decided against getting a hotel this year because of last year's shenanigans and instead took Lyft back and forth and got to McCormick Place with time to spare. This year, they were passing out champagne in custom glasses while you waited for the show to open, which is always an upgrade in my book.

When the doors were opened, we made a beeline to the Goose Island area, which this year included an entire CTA subway car with taps. And this year's taps were something to behold - there was a keg of Bourbon County Brand Stout that never kicked, despite me circling back for more several times. It was basically magical. It's the first time they've had it on tap in the five years I've been going to this event and it was such an awesome surprise. They also had an exclusive saison I hadn't hear of.
After selecting our drinks, we had a far more leisurely stroll around the show floor, admiring cars and making friends. Four-legged friends that I really wanted to take home (thanks Volvo and Subaru!) but alas, we are a one-dog household.

I also seriously considered this vanlife movement when I saw some of the newer vans. Social media is a great field for remote work, after all.

But let's talk food. Delicious, glorious food. I had a ton and regret nothing. This was only my second cheat meal since the beginning of the transformation challenge and I did it up right. The best thing I ate all night was this Captain Jack's Buried Treasure dessert from Miller's Ale House. I looked it up on their website and it's described as, "Triple layered vanilla ice cream cake, Oreo®cookie crust, Heath Bar® crunch crumble, caramel and hot fudge sauce."

Well worth the calories, in my opinion, dethroning Andy's as my favorite auto show treat. But another treat I really enjoy is looking at the supercar gallery up close and personal. It's always fun to ogle cars that are worth many times more than my home.


We stayed until the very end and soaked up all the show has to offer. Believe me that I got my Cadillac slippers and even built a lego truck in honor of the new movie before taking a car home and sleeping heartily with all the delightful food we consumed helping me along the way.

A huge thank you to the Chicago Auto Show for inviting me to the fabulous event year after year!

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

#TransformationChallenge Two-Week Check In

After a bonkers partner workout
Short version: I'm down 4.5 pounds in exactly two weeks of working out at Orange Theory La Grange.

Long version: This. Is. Hard. Unlike the last time I lost weight using Weight Watchers and running an absurd amount, I'm not hungry all the time and I don't find myself accidentally eating peanut butter right from the jar. Instead, I'm more concerned I'm not eating enough. I've been using FitBit to track my food and aim to get as much protein as possible with the calories I'm allotted. I think the reason that I'm not ravenous is that my legs aren't hungry. The longest I run at OTF is maybe 4.5 miles, so I don't have time to ramp up to that "feed me now and no one gets hurt" level. I'mn fasting until lunchtime most days, filling up on tons of vegetables and finishing most days with a protein shake to try and head to bed with enough protein to build muscles overnight. I'm also taking BCAAs after workouts and melatonin before bed for the same reasons.

The aforementioned ahi tuna, brown rice quinoa
and blistered asparagus
What I've found delightful is that although we're spending quite a bit more on groceries, I'm enjoying trying new recipes and they've mostly turned out better than I expected. Tonight I made seared ahi tuna steaks with a balsamic reduction (best to follow me on Instagram to get the insights) and yesterday, I made chicken stuffed peppers. Next week, I'm planning to try a lentil quinoa bowl knock off based on a really satisfying lunch I had at Panera this week.

I'm also trying to not get obsessed with the scale and man is it tough. I bought a body fat scale that sends all the data to FitBit via an iPhone app. If it's to be believed, I reduced my body fat from 26.7 percent to 19.1 percent. Seems unlikely.

Make no mistake, I know how I got here
On the OTF front, I've been making it to class almost every day, save for some weather-related nonsense. I'm pretty diehard but I don't think I have it in me to leave the house when it's the coldest it's been in a generation. I am feeling less sore than I anticipated. I think it's because I'm constantly moving, and focusing on getting in at least 10,000 steps ahead and taking the BCAAs. I caught myself in the mirror the other day and my arms are already looking more defined. And maybe one day I'll be bold enough to post my two-week abs progress.

I have a planned cheat meal/outing on Friday with the First Look for Charity gala right around the corner. I'm looking forward to eating all sorts of local treats without guilt because I've been on plan and on point.

So my question is, how does one determine exactly how many calories and grams of protein you need to build muscle and lose fat? Evidently, this is a very hotly contested topic on the Internet.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Three Things Thursday

1. I've been working from home for a week now because of the weather. It's been colder than our generation has ever experienced, so I've stayed inside and become a crazy dog lady who picks up her dog to take him outside.

2. I've learned one week into the Transformation Challenge that the difference between being under and over calories is razor thin when you're 5'3". Brent regularly has more calories left at the end of the day than I consumed all day. I'm operating at a deficit, naturally, because I'm trying to lose weight. In the past week, I've created enough of a deficit that I could have had two Taco Bell Burrito Supremes. A day. Every day. On top of everything else I ate.
Missing: 2 Burrito Supremes

3. I've reached peak suburbanite in the past week by taking the wrong, identical coat home from Orange Theory. It's that time of year where every woman in this area of a certain age wears a 3/4 length black North Face puffy jacket. I got home and only several hours later when I went to walk Napoleon did I realize the jacket I was wearing was too big, and the stitching was white instead of black. I had to call the studio and go back and exchange it with the (equally bewildered) woman who took my jacket. Long story short, I now have to label my winter gear like I do for the kids.

Why hello, I'm definitely an adult, why do you ask?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Chicago Auto Show First Look For Charity 2019

First Look for Charity looks through the years
I can't believe this is going to be my fifth year working with the Chicago Auto Show! Smashmouth was right, the years start coming and they don't stop coming.

A little something for everyone
Anyhow, another year, another dress and another memorable night is right around the corner. The First Look for Charity is Feb. 8 and gives attendees a unique look at all the auto show has to offer while enjoying local treats to benefit local charities. In the past 27 years, the event has raised more than $50 million for more than 20 charities in our backyard. For some of these organizations, #FLFC19 is the only fundraiser they have to keep providing services to people in need in Chicago.

The premise is pretty awesome: get dressed up in your favorite black tie apparel, walk around and look at amazing cars with diminished crowds, eat incredible food in insane quantities, enjoy local beverages and hand-crafted cocktails, raise money for nonprofits that need it. There's also live music and a raffle for two brand-new cars (I'm not eligible but don't cry for me, I'll be just fine).

Earlier this month, I stopped by Acura McGrath, which is one of the sponsoring dealerships, for a preview of this year's food. I'm really excited because the food was much different from years past - think tiny tacos, custom-printed macaroons and expertly assembled old fashioneds.




So if you don't have plans or are looking for a great gift for Valentine's Day, consider buying #FLFC19 tickets and making the trek to the McCormick Center on Feb. 8. It's a memorable evening that has something for everyone and is for a great cause. See you there?

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Welcome to my OTF #TransformationChallenge

Hi mom, I hope you like this.

Pre-Ironman me
Current me, at the #FLFC19 Preview
My fitness routine has changed significantly since my last Ironman. And if I'm being honest, I floundered for a while. I trained for and finished Circular Logic verrrry slowly in 2018 and then chilled for a few weeks, trying to decide what to do next. After my experience with Spenga, I wondered what other fitness trends might be out there that would appeal to me. And after years of steady-state cardio, I was ready to do something that made me look better in a bikini instead of a tri suit.

Enter Orange Theory La Grange.

Last April, I signed up for an intro class and got my ass handed to me. I'm a three-time Ironman finisher and I was unattractively sweating from the word "go" and got worked over in an hour. I signed a six-month contract on the spot and reasoned that the more I went, the cheaper it would be. The six-month membership was still cheaper than an Ironman entry fee and I knew my body couldn't do a third year in a row of Ironman training.

Day 1 of the #TransformationChallenge
What's kept me coming back is that in an hour, I'm done. There are tons of classes daily and they include weight lifting and cardio. The quest to get 12 minutes in the orange and red (z4/5) of your heart rate is a powerful enough incentive for me to keep pushing through the tough parts. Also, because it's constantly varied, I'm not usually that sore or worn down.

Now what's keeping me going is the Transformation Challenge. OTF La Grange invited me to participate and cover my fees in exchange for my honest opinions about the experience. It's an eight-week program in which participants have to make it to three workouts per week during six out of the eight weeks. There's a pre-, mid- and post-program weight in and the person who loses the greatest percentage of weight wins a cash prize. Mostly, it's about camaraderie and mutual suffering. OTF La Grange split us into two teams with at studio assistant monitoring us weekly with small challenges along the way. We started Monday, and the first challenge was to track our food.

My body has definitely changed since I started in the spring, but my diet has just gotten worse. I like beer and tacos and chocolate. I travel a ton for work now and my meals aren't always up to me (and if I fly 7,000 miles to a place I'm going to eat the local delicacies). So for the duration of this challenge, I'm tracking my food via FitBit and focusing on quality protein and lots of vegetables. I weighed in at 141 and my goal is to drop 10 pounds. This would put me close to my pre-Ironman weight and would go a long way in helping me fit into my dress for the Chicago Auto Show's First Look for Charity.

Basically, I want to see what would happen to my body if I could couple a less crap-tastic diet with solid physical activity in my peak fitness zone.

Follow me on Instagram, where I'll be chronicling my workouts and meals, and check back to how far I can get on my journey to be the best me.