Friday, October 12, 2012

Orzo Salad

This is a great pasta salad for a quick dinner or sharing at a gathering. It's very simple, light, but flavorful. The recipe makes enough for a crowd so I cut it in half if I'm just making it for my fam.

1 box Orzo pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 generous cloves garlic, grated
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
juice of 1 lemon
1 cucumber, quartered and thin sliced
2 plum/roma tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 cup crumbled feta

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and put into a large bowl with olive oil, onion and garlic.

Once pasta cools, add remaining ingredients and stir well. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Greek Dressing

We have been making our own dressings lately because its quick, healthy, and you can use what you have on hand. Make this in a shaker or mason jar and pull it out of the fridge a few minutes before serving to let the olive oil thin out at room temp.

1 cup extra virgin olive oil (good quality)
zest and juice of 3 fresh squeezed lemons
red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

In your dressing container (make sure it has a lid), add olive oil. If you have any olives on hand packed in oil (from the deli section), use that oil and add regular olive oil to make 1 cup total. Replace the oil you took from the olives with regular olive oil.

Roll lemons in your hand or on the counter until they feel very loose and soft. Zest lemons with a grater or zesting tool. Cut lemons in half and squeeze out as much juice as possible. Add enough red wine vinegar to make 1/2 cup total. Add to oil.

Grate garlic and add it to oil and vinegar with remaining ingredients. Shake well until all ingredients have combined. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving.

This is great over a "Greek" salad. I enjoy mine with an iceberg bed, and topped with thin sliced onion, diced tomatoes, pepperoncini rings, pitted kalamata olives, and of course TONS of feta cheese crumbled over the top.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Protein Squares

It took me a few tries to get this right, but I finally found a homemade bar I like. These are pretty dense, and pack a ton of protein in a couple bites. The  fall flavors do a great job hiding the taste of the protein powder which is a plus for me. This is a very dry batter, so I recommend an electric mixture to get it combined.

4 TBSP coconut flour
3/4 cup vanilla or unflavored protein powder (I use soy)
2 each tsp cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 TBSP sweetener of choice
4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredient and set aside. Combine wet ingredients in mixer bowl until smooth. Slowly add dry to wet.

Spread mixture into a greased 8x8 glass baking pan. Bake 30 minutes. Let cool, and cut into 9 squares.

With artificial sweetener, my bars have approximately:

125 calories
4g fat
82g cholesterol
250mg sodium
3g carbs
1.5g fiber
1.5 net carbs
1g sugar
20g protein
64% Daily Vitamin A
21% Daily Iron
8% Daily Calcium


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Taco Meatloaf

1 pound ground meat
2 TBSP taco seasoning (equal to 1 packet)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (omit seeds for milder version)
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
1 egg
3/4 -1 cup breadcrumbs
optional: 1/2 cup taco sauce

Saute onions and pepper until soft to release extra juices. Mix all ingredients together by hand until combined, and all breadcrumbs a little at a time until mixture holds together.

Form into a loaf on a broiler pan or in a loaf pan. Top with taco sauce and bake at 350 for 60-75 minutes (depending on the thickness) until juice runs clear. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Brazilian Chicken

This is a quick dinner that tastes like vacation in a bowl!

2lbs boneless chicken breast, thin sliced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt (divided in 1/2)
2 TBSP olive oil (divided in 1/2)

1 onion, sliced
1 seeded jalapeno
3 cloves garlic
1" chunk fresh ginger root, grated
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 can light coconut milk
1 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Mix spices and 1/2 tsp salt together in a medium bowl and rub into chicken. In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat. Cook chicken until browned and juices run clear, about 10-15 minutes depending on thickness. Remove to a clean plate.

In skillet, heat remaining oil and saute onions, garlic, jalapeno and ginger. Once onion is softened, add 1/2 tsp salt, tomatoes and coconut milk and stir to deglaze the pan. Simmer about 5 minutes to thicken, and add chicken into the sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serve over rice or noodles or with a chunk of crusty bread for mopping.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Soft Baked Honey Wheat Pretzels

I am working hard on our road to financial freedom, so we opted to skip an outing to the ballpark and have baseball night at home, complete with every one's favorite snacks. This was my first time with pretzels, but we will be making many more.

4 tsp yeast
1 tsp honey
1 1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 whole wheat flour
2 1/2 all-purpose flour
1/2 honey
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 cup baking soda
4 cups hot water
kosher salt or 1/2 stick butter melted and cinnamon sugar blend

In a measuring cup or small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp honey in warm water and let stand 10 minutes.

In large mixing bowl, combine flours and salt and make a well in the center. Add yeast mixture, honey, and oil into the hole. Mix until well combined and knead for about 5 minutes (low speed). Pour a little oil into the bowl and turn until surface is coated. Let rise is a warm place for an hour. I put mine in the oven, and if its chilly in the house turn it on for 1 minute at 300 to warm it some.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Combine hot water and baking soda.

On a floured surface, divide dough into 6 pieces for jumbo pretzels, 12 for regular size. Roll each piece into a long rope and twist into a pretzel shape. Dip the pretzel in baking soda solution and place onto a greased baking sheet. For salted pretzels, add salt here before baking .

Bake 8 minutes until well browned. For cinnamon sugar pretzels, brush with butter when you remove from the oven, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar powder.

The salted pretzels are also delicious dipped in nacho cheese!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chocolate Swirl Pancakes


In my house, we do tons of pancakes, especially for birthdays. This year for my daughter's 14th, we made these and topped them with a little butter and syrup. One picked maple and one picked Hershey's. We splurge on the special days!

I started out by making a batch of regular pancake batter (Pioneer, Jiffy, Bisquick, etc). It's easier to make it in something with a pour spout like my Mom always did. Then make a second batch of batter substituting 1/2 cup of cocoa powder and 2 TBSP sweetener for 1/2 cup of the dry mix. Pour the chocolate batter into a quart bag and cut off about 1/4" from one corner. For fluffy pancakes, you want to stir just enough to moisten everything but still have lumpy batter.

On a hot skillet or griddle, pour out your plain batter into circles. Then using your bag of chocolate batter, make swirl designs in the pancakes. I had lots of leftover chocolate batter, so I made mini chocolate pancakes with it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rainbow Cream Cake

This year, my daughter made a very specific request for her birthday cake: this picture below, maybe a little shorter. Now I know she prefers chocolate cake  I know she likes brownie ice cream cake. But otherwise, she doesn't usually get specific on this kind of thing. AND she didn't even know we were having a surprise party. She thought we would just hang out the 4 of us and eat a 4 foot long cake....

 Quite a beast for 4 people, eh? Since we were in fact having a party, I decided to take a stab at it, in smaller scale, in the neighbor's kitchen, so she wouldn't get suspicious on why we had such a large cake for 4 people the day before her birthday.  
It looks hard. And it sounded hard. But once I had a plan, it was really no problem at all. Here is how it all went down. After a derailment when I snuck to Walmart at 7am for supplies, and my car battery died and left me stranded in the parking lot. Good thing for my neighbor who was up waiting for the baking!

2 boxes white cake mix
2 boxes instant vanilla pudding mix (optional, this is my box cake secret)
eggs, oil, water that boxes require
food coloring (I did 1 primary and 1 neon)
Spray 5 round layer cake pans with baking spray (cooking spray plus flour). Preheat oven as directed.
Mix batter according to package directions (1 package at a time if using a stand up mixer) adding the pudding mix to the dry ingredients. Separate batter into 5 bowls and repeat process with the other box. Each bowl will be half of each batch which will prevent them from rising differently due to the time they were mixed.

Decide what colors you want your cakes to be. I suggest picking 5 and doing 2 shades of  each. For example: Red and Pink, Orange and Yellow, Lime Green and Bright Green, Light Blue and Bright Blue, Lavender and Violet.

One bowl at a time, start your light shade by adding a few drops of food coloring until you get the desired color. Pour half the batter from that bowl into one side of the pan, and use a rubber spatula to spread it just on one half. Add more coloring to darken the remaining batter in your bowl. For example: 10 drops of pink food coloring made my pink, then 10 more drops of red coloring made the other half red. Once you have tinted and poured out all batter, bake about 20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cakes cool at least an hour before frosting. For some reason, mine split themselves down the centers. I stacked the halves on top of each other, and ran a knife down the center side to make them even and make the bottom surfaces flat.

My cake had WAY too much whipped cream (a 50/50 cake to cream ratio). Partly because I wanted it to be well covered and partly because I wanted to use up the cream. You can either make your own whipped cream or just do cool whip. I used 2 quarts or cream with a little sugar, but would've make it work with 1 if I worked sparingly.
Once you have your cake surface ready (a cake board and fancy foil shown, but a cutting board and tin foil is fine), spread a line of cream down the center. Working from the center out, spread cream between two of the half circles like a sandwich and place on the cream line on the board. One at a time, spread cream on the sides of the half circle shaped cakes and add them to the cake on the board. Use the remaining cream to cover the top and sides.

Decorate the top with the sprinkles or fanciness of your choice. For full effect, use rainbow candles. This was nearly a fire hazard with 14 of them!

Sweet and Sour Kielbasa

2 lbs kielbasa
1 can pineapple chunks and juice
1 large onion
1 green bell pepper
1 spicy pepper (your choice, I used poblano)
1 cup cherry pie filling (I buy the sugar-free)
2 TBSP cornstarch
2 TBSP vinegar ( I used apple cider)
1 TBSP soy sauce
2 TBSP brown sugar

Cut kielbasa into 1/4" slices, and onions and peppers into bite-sized chunks. Add them to the crock pot with the pineapple chunks setting the juice aside.

Mix pineapple juice, pie filling, cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce and brown sugar. Pour into the crock pot over kielbasa and veggies and cook 4-6 hours on low.

If you don't have cherry pie filling ( I was just using up some that was leftover), just use a 1/2 cup of maraschino cherries and increase brown sugar to 1/4 cup.

If you opened a can of pie filling and have the rest to use up, put it on ice cream, pancakes, mix it into plain yogurt, or use it in a parfait with vanilla pudding and vanilla wafers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

MDP's Confused Chowdah

I call this confused because when I was a kid, chowder came from Rocky Point and was red (Manhanttan style), or maybe white (New England style). But this batch was more of an orange because I can never decide between creamy or with tomatoes. And when I did a little research, I found there were tons of styles, but this wasn't  one of those either. If you have any interest, check out the Wiki run down for regional chowder characteristics HERE.

2 strips thick sliced bacon (or 3 regular sliced)
1 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP butter
1 extra large onion, chopped (about 3 cups)
4 inside celery stalks (w/ leaves), thin chopped (about 1.5 cups)
4 small potatoes, diced 1/2" size (about 3 cups)
2 dried or fresh bay leaves
1 tsp dried thyme
2 small cans chopped clams with juice
4 cups stock (ham is excellent here if its on hand, if not any)
2 cups fresh diced tomatoes, 1 cup canned with juice
1 cup light cream or half and half
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large pot on medium high-heat. Add oil and cook bacon until browned. Add butter, onions, celery, potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme and saute about 5 minutes. Once vegetables have begun to soften, add clams and juice, stock and tomatoes.

Cook about 15 minutes over high heat until potatoes are cooked completely. Add cream and stir well to combine before serving.

Estimated Nutrition Info
300 calories
32g carbs
13g protein
4g fiber
5g sugar
437 mg sodium

To get it on the table quicker, I use my Tupperware Quick Chef™ to chop up the onions and tomatoes. You could also do the celery, but I prefer the knife to make clean slices. If you can only find whole clams, you can through them through.

Whatever leftovers we have go into CrystalWave® Soup Mugs so we can grab them and go. Not that they last long!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Taco Pasta Salad

I make this salad all the time to go along with any meat cooking in the crockpot. It makes it a breeze to get dinner together when you are short on time.

1/2 lb tri-color spirals or other short cut pasta
1/4 cup ranch dressing
1 TBSP taco sauce
1/2 cup corn
1 roma tomato diced
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup black beans

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Mix with ranch and taco sauce and refrigerate (at least an hour). When you are ready to serve, add the corn, tomato, onions, and black beans. If it seems a little dry, add a little more ranch dressing.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Low Sugar BBQ Sauce

2 strips of thick bacon, chopped fine
1 small onion, minced
3 clove garlic, minced
5 oz can tomato paste
12 oz can diet Dr. Pepper or diet root beer
1/4 cup reduced sugar ketchup
2 TBSP yellow mustard
2 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 pinch ground cloves
1 tsp MDP's seasoning
1 cup water

Heat a saucepan over medium heat and add bacon. Cook until the fat renders out and drain off as much grease as possible. Add onions and garlic and cook about 2 minutes to caramelize. Add all remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Cook on low heat, uncovered, 1 hour. It should be reduced by about half and real thick when. If you like a thinner sauce, cook about 30 minutes to give the onions time to full cook, but leaving some of the liquid content.

This makes about 2 pint jars of sauce, and if you fill canning jars with the hot sauce and put right into the fridge, they will seal and be good for about a month in the fridge (these can NOT be kept in pantry storage unless you pressure can).

Assuming you use the EXACT quantities and brands that I used, this recipe yields:
2 pint jars, 4 cups, 64 tablespoons
My nutrition calculations per 1/4 cup are:
24 calories, 4 g carbs, 1g protein, 1g sugar

Try this with some recipes like:
Crockpot Brisket
Crockpot Pulled Pork
Beery Good Baked Beans

Beans that Bite (in 5 minutes time)

Need a quick side disk for dinner? Beans are a great source of fiber!

1 TBSP olive oil
small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 (14-15oz) can beans (red, kidney, black, pinto, etc)
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped
1 can tomato sauce (8 oz)

Heat oil over medium high heat and add onion and garlic. Cook onion about 2-3 minutes until translucent.

Add chipotle with a little of the sauce from the can, and tomato sauce. Stir to combine and add beans. Cook another 2 minutes to heat beans through.

What is chipotle in adobo?
Smoked jalapeno chili peppers that are canned in a red sauce that usually contains tomato puree, paprika, salt, onions, oil, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and oregano. Used for making sauces, dressings, and other recipes. Save the rest in the freezer and use a little in chili, soup, etc. I LOVE a little in my tomato soup.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Pizza Pasta

The best of both worlds, it's spaghetti with pizza toppings and a great way to mix the usual. And done in 20 minutes, this is a great meal to prep the veggies for ahead of time and throw it all together for a quick dinner.

8 oz whole wheat spaghetti
1 TBSP olive oil
1 lb lean ground turkey, chicken, or beef
1/2 cup fine diced pepperoni (from slices or stick)
3 cloves garlic, smashed

3 cups any combination:
thin sliced onion
thin sliced bell peppers
thin sliced fresh jalapeno rings
sliced raw mushrooms
sliced black olives
other favorite veggie pizza topping

1 jar  marinara (quart size/28oz)
crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup grated romano, parmesan, or asiago cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat pan over high heat and add olive oil. Cook meat until browned and add garlic and veggies of choice. Cook until veggies are softened and add marinara and red pepper to taste. Simmer on low about 10 minutes and serve over or tossed with the pasta. Top each plate with a sprinkle of grated cheese, shredded mozzarella, and crushed red pepper flakes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mexican Spiced Brownies

1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups raw (turbinado) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBSP cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13x9 inch baking pan.

In mixer bowl, beat together the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves  in a separate bowl and gradually add into mixing bowl until well blended. Pour into baking pan.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

3/4 cup sugar
6 TBSP butter
4-6 TBSP milk
2 cups powdered sugar
pinch cayenne pepper

In a small saucepan, heat sugar over medium heat stirring constantly. Sugar will melt into a golden brown liquid. Once melted, remove from heat and add butter and 1 TBSP milk and stir well (it will be lumpy) Return mixture to medium heat and stir until it becomes smooth. Let cool 5 minutes.

In a mixer bowl, beat cooled sugar mixture and 3 TBSP milk. Add powdered sugar and a pinch of cayenne and beat until it forms a smooth frosting. If mixture is too dry, add more milk 1 TBSP at a time. If it is too runny, add sugar 1/8 cup at a time. Spread frosting over the pan of brownies and let sit at least 30 minutes before cutting into squares.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Crockpot Pork and Beans

Step 1
2 lb pork tenderloin
MDP's seasoning or other all purpose meat seasoning
1 cup dry black beans OR 1 15oz can
1 cup diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken, pork, or vegetable stock
1 cup chopped onion
1 jalapeno (seeded or unseeded to taste)
2 cloves garlic, chopped or smashed
1 handful chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1 TBSP Cilantro Pesto (if you don't want to make sure, another handful of cilantro, another garlic clove, 1/4 cup chopped scallions, and a squeeze of lime)

The night before, soak beans in 2 cups of warm water. Drain and rinse in the morning. Rinse pork and pat dry. Sprinkle with MDP seasoning and set aside overnight if possible, if not no problem.

Step 2
Mix everything but the meat in the crockpot base, adding water if there is not enough liquid to cover up over the beans, tomatoes and onions.  Add tenderloin and pust it down so that its covered by the liquids. Cook on low for about 10 hours until meat falls apart with a fork and shred as you would pulled pork.

Step 3
Serve over steamed brown rice, in wheat tortillas, or on top of salad. I like an extra shot of siracha and some sour cream.

This made 10 servings, my rough stats are:
136 calories
2g fat
14g total carbs
3g fiber
11g net carbs
17 grams protein
500 mg sodium

These will vary GREATLY depending on a lot of things like tomatoes of choice, stock of choice, steak seasoning of choice, etc.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Low-Carb Flax and Soy Pancakes

I love pancakes, but with choosing to cut out most of the carbs in my diet I haven't had any in weeks. I picked up some soy flour and combined a few recipes to come up with something so I could enjoy pancake birthday breakfast with my son and family, but not stray from my new way of eating. I felt totally satisfied and will be making more of these to freeze in single servings for quick breakfasts.

2 eggs
1/4 cup soy flour
1/4 cup milled flax seed
1 tsp baking powder
2 TBSP sour cream
2 TBSP heavy cream
pinch of salt
1 packet sweetener or 1/2 tsp granulated sugar substitute

Spray a hot griddle or frying pan over medium heat with cooking spray. Pour out 1/4 cup of batter at a time and cook until bubbles form and edges become solid. Carefully flip- these are a lot more sensitive than traditional cakes.

Serve with butter, sugar-free syrup, sugar-free jam, or other toppings of choice.

This are higher in fat than I would normally like, but I am avoiding milk. You could also use low-fat buttermilk for the heavy cream and sour cream and it would drop the fat tremendously.

Rough stats for 1/2 batch- 3-3" cakes:
316 calories
23g fat
13g carbs
8g fiber
5g net carbs
16g protein
352 mg sodium

Friday, March 30, 2012

Cilantro Scallion Pesto

1 bunch green onions, whites and greens
1 bunch cilantro, leaves pulled from stems
1 clove garlic
juice of 1/2 lime
1/8-1/4 cup olive oil
optional: 1 TBSP sunflower kernals

Rough chop onions, cilantro, and smash garlic. Combine in food processor with kernals (if using) lime juice and 1/8 cup oil to start and pulse until it forms a paste. If it is too thick, slowly stream up to another 1/8 cup of oil.

This is delicious over grilled fish or chicken, and mixed into sour cream  for a quick condiment or mixed with a little mayo for a sandwich spread.

Store in a container in the fridge for a week or two, or freeze small portions (like ice cubes) in the freezer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Pumpkin Spice Muffin in a Minute

So I was recently exposed to this whole "Muffin in a Minute" thing... and I am blown away. I have been on a much lower carb diet these days, and found this as part of a recipe for an alternate grilled cheese. With the basic foundation of micro-baking flax based bread, the possibilities are endless. Not to mention I have always been a flax-fan.
Just a disclaimer, this idea is not mine at all and while I did tons of googling, I'm still not sure where the original credit belongs. I made one of the basic recipes exactly as stated, and then experimented with my own creation this morning. Still smiling!

Basic Muffin in a Minute (per each)
1/4 cup flax seed meal (milled flax)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 packet sweetener (or 1/4 tsp granulated)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, 2 whites, 1/4 cup egg substitute
1 tsp oil or melted butter

Mix all in a mug, microwave 1 minute, and BAM! Delicious muffin that you can butter, jam, cream cheese as you like.
Having some leftover pumpkin in my fridge, I decided to add that in and make it my own.

Mom's Pumpkin Spice MIM (per each)
1/4 cup flax seed meal (milled flax)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 packet sweetener
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 egg
1 tsp melted butter
1 generous tsp pumpkin puree
1 TBSP cream cheese

Mix cream cheese and HALF sweetener packet and set aside. Mix remaining ingredients in a custard dish or mug and microwave for 1 1/2- 2 minutes (depending on how hot your microwave runs).
Remove muffin from dish and cut in the center, smear cream cheese "frosting" on each half.

I don't do stats a lot because they vary so much... but the stats for my generous size muffin made exactly are:

293 calories
19 g fat
450 mg sodium
13g total carbs
10g fiber
3 g net carbs
.6g sugar
13 g protein

Friday, March 23, 2012

Chinese Chicken and Vegetable Soup

1 TBSP oil
2 cups celery, sliced thin
2 cups cabbage, shredded
2 cups bean sprouts
2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 bunch green onions:
           whites thinly sliced
           greens cut into 1"pieces
1 tsp grated ginger
1 pinch Chinese Five Spice powder
salt and pepper

In a stockpot or dutch oven, heat oil over high heat. Add celery and cabbage and cook until softened. Add bean sprouts, chicken breast, stock, and enough water to come 1"over the vegetables. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Add the white part of the green onions, 5 spice and salt and pepper and cook about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the green part of the green onions.

This makes 8 servings, each with 119 calories, 2 grams of fat, 10 grams carbs, 4 grams fiber, 14 grams protein.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Quick Chicken Poaching

People ask me all the time where I find time to cook SO much that almost everything we eat is homemade. Most of the time, it is stealing a couple minutes of time during other chores and projects to get something started that doesn't need much attention, but yields enough to make a couple meals. One of the EASIEST things to do is to poach up a chicken and they are always on sale for less than $1/pound if you are a stocker.

1 whole chicken (about 4-5 pounds)
1 small onion
Salt and pepper

** You can use anything fresh that you have or any combo: a handful of parsley, sprig of sage leaves, thyme, rosemary OR a teaspoon of their dried counterparts. Pictured was 1 sage sprig and 1 rosemary.

If your chicken is thawed, remove any gizzard bags from the cavity. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, remove as much of the skin from the bird as possible and discard. Its ok to leave a little, but you don't want your stock (aka poaching liquid) greasy. Optional: Use a large cleaver to cut the bird in half through the middle of the breast (making a right and left half) to help chicken cook faster and easier to separate.

If your chicken is frozen, fill your kitchen sink with very hot tap water and thaw for about 15-20 minutes. Once it has softened enough to move its parts, remove the gizzard bag and trim off the skin as directed above. You probably won't be able to cut it in half, but its not a big deal. You can also skip the thawing step by prepping all of your chickens when you get home from the store. Just remove the wrapping and rinse well, remove the bag and place the chicken into a gallon freezer bag. If you use the organs, wrap the bag in wax paper and throw it into the freezer bag.

     Place the chicken into a large stock pot with the onion (quartered), herbs, and salt and pepper. Add enough water to cover the chicken by a couple inches and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for about 2 hours.

Carefully remove the chicken from the liquids into a strainer and set the strainer over the stockpot to drain the juices for a few minutes. Then remove the chicken to a cutting board and remove the easily accessible meat, screening for small bones. You can use this meat for chicken salad, sandwiches, tacos, wraps, salads, soups and TONS of casseroles like Mexican Lasagna.
Discard any leftover skin, and return the bones and undesirable pieces of meat to the stock pot. Bring to a boil, and simmer another hour on medium heat. Strain through a colander lined with paper towels and refrigerate stock so that any remaining fat will solidify on the top.

If you want to really stretch it out, sort through the remaining bones and remove meat to make some quick chicken soup. Rinse pot and add back chicken, chopped onion, sliced carrots and celery and some of the broth once the fat has been removed. Cook until vegetables are softened and turn off from heat. Add a handful of tiny pasta for soup like orzo, rings, ABC's, etc and let stand for about 20 minutes so the pasta cooks, but doesn't bloat.

It takes a few hours, but only minutes of that is actually spent cooking and the rest its taking care of itself.

Pumpkin Curry Soup

I have been trying to watch my carbs lately for weight loss and some overall health issues, so vegetables are on the main stage.  This soup is very filling and tastes like Fall in a bowl.

1 TBSP olive oil
1 large red onion (softball size)
6 stalks celery (about 8" long)
1 1/2 cups chopped bok choy or other cabbage
1 6oz package sliced white mushrooms
4 cups chicken broth
1 15oz can solid pack pumpkin
1 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried curry powder
1/2 tsp dried ground sage
2 TBSP butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a stockpot or dutch oven, heat oil and saute onions and celery. Once they have softened, add cabbage and mushrooms and cook until they are wilted. 
Add chicken broth and bring to a boil, adding water to cover vegetables if needed. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour until everything is mushy soft. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth and add pumpkin and spices. Cook another 10 minutes and add butter and cream and salt and pepper soup to taste. Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream or plain yogurt and a few toasted pumpkin seeds to garnish.

**If you are more concerned with calories and fat than carbohydrates, you may want to reduce the butter to 1 tablespoon and use 1/2 cup milk or half and half instead of the heavy cream.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sesame Chicken Nuggets

I had a major craving for takeout a couple weeks ago and made these for the fam instead. They were scrumptous, and I was even told they preferred them over their heavy-sweet sauced competitors at our local spot.

Heat oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut 1 pound of boneless chicken breast or breast tenders into 1" pieces. If the chicken is thick, pound it out to be about 1/4"thickness before cutting into nuggets.

Set up a breading station with the following:

Bowl #1
1/2 cup flour
1/8 tsp Chinese five spice powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp garlic powder

Bowl #2
2 eggs
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 cup water

Bowl #3
Pulse in a food processor until broken up, but still coarse:

3 cups crisp rice cereal
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds

Bread the nuggets by dipping each piece of chicken in bowl 1, 2 and then 3. Lay them on a baking sheet close but not touching each other and spray tops with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 minutes until the coating is crispy and chicken is cooked throughout.

If you would like a quick dipping sauce, combine in a small saucepan over medium heat:
2 tbsp apricot preserves
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp molasses
1 tbsp honey
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
dash Siracha chili sauce

Mix corn starch and cold apple juice until dissolved. Pour into sauce and stir to combine. Once the mixture reheats and begin to bubble, remove from heat.

These are also great as chicken tenders (I cut the tenderloins in half) or as whole chicken breast (pounded thin) AND make a perfect salad topper.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Best Mac Yet (chorizo mac and cheese)

After a week working hard on a Mission Trip to Joplin, MO, Tia came home with one request on her mind: mac and cheese, homemade, with Velveeta and crushed tortillas on top. I wasn't sure exactly which recipe she was asking for, so just whipped up something new with some of her favorite elements. It was a hit, and my family said it was their most favorite yet. They also reminded me that I was long overdue for a blog post :)

4 ounces raw chorizo
1 small onion (about 2" diameter)
1 mild green chili pepper or jalapeno
1 lb whole wheat rotini or other short cut pasta
2 cups cooked cauliflower, chopped (fresh or frozen)
16 ounces Velveeta (small block) cut into 1/2 " chunks
1/2 cup half and half
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

A break from trash pickup to plant trees
Butter or spray a 13x9" baking dish and heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions (I use my Microwave Pasta Maker). You can either cook your cauliflower along with the pasta, or you can add frozen cauliflower to the pasta pot for the last 3 minutes to thaw. Drain and return pasta and cauliflower to the pot, but do not rinse.

While the pasta is cooking, brown chorizo in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once it has rendered its fat, add onions and peppers (* with or without ribs and seeds depending on preferred heat level) and cook until they are tender. Reduce heat to low and add the half and half and Velveeta.  Stirring frequently, cook until the cheese has melted and forms a smooth sauce.

Pour 1/2 of the sauce over the pasta and stir to combine. Pour pasta into baking dish and pour the remaining cheese sauce over the top. Sprinkle tortilla chips on top and the shredded cheddar over them.

Bake casserole for 20 minutes until the top is browned.

For the pasta maker and TONS of other amazing products, check out my Tupperware site:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Turkey and Apple Panini

I am so excited to use the new meat and bread slicer that I got for Christmas, that I am making all kinds of sammies these days. This is great for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast.
Per person:
2 slices sourdough bread, cut to desired thickness
3 oz roasted turkey breast, sliced to desired thickness
1 slice apple wood cheddar
3-4 thin apple slices (use a mandolin so they are super-thin)
1/4 avocado mashed

Heat a panini press or George Foreman type indoor grill. Brush one side of one piece of bread lightly with olive oil and place on hot grill, oil side down. Layer in the following order: cheese, turkey, apple, and the remaining piece of bread with avocado spread on the inside, and olive oil lightly brushed on the outside. Close lid, and cook for about 2-3 minutes until bread is browned and crispy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Breakfast Nachos

4 corn tortillas
4 TBSP refried beans
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 small onion
1/2 cup salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar
jalapeno rings
your favorite hot sauce

Place tortillas on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven until browned and crispy, turning once to toast both sides.

Spread 1 TBSP of beans onto each tortilla. In a microwave safe bowl or skillet, scramble eggs with onion and season with salt and pepper. Add half of the cheese in the last minute so that it melts into the eggs.

Divide eggs among the tortillas and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Top with salsa and jalapeno rings, and hot sauce for the spice-lovers. Serve with fresh fruit and yogurt.

Makes 4 servings

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Slow Cooker Pork Stew

This is a great meal to throw together and forget until dinner time, AND by adding potatoes to each portion, you can please even the picky eaters and waist watchers. In my house, either I am skipping potatoes, or wanting sweet potatoes over white so its a win-win.

1 lb pork loin,  cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 packet onion soup mix
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry
1 large onion, chopped or sliced
3 carrots, peeled and thin sliced on an angle
3 celery stalks, thin sliced on an angle

Place above ingredients in a slow cooker and add enough water to cover. Cook on low 8-12 hours, depending on how hot your crock gets. Add :

1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 8oz can tomato sauce or 2 TBSP tomato paste
2 cups of frozen mixed vegetables (like diced carrots, peas, green beans)
1 TBSP cornstarch dissolved in 2 TBSP cold water

Cook another hour on high until thickened. While thickening, bake potatoes of choice in the microwave or oven. Cut potatoes into 1" cubes and place in bowls before pouring stew over them.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

5 large bell peppers, tops/ribs/seeds removed
1 cup dry quinoa
1/2 lb ground turkey, chicken, pork or beef
small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic
2 cups fresh spinach (or 1/2 cup frozen chopped)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
2 cups marinara or tomato sauce + 1 tsp Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place peppers in a glass baking dish cut side down with 1/2" water in the bottom and steam in the microwave about 6 minutes until tender. Remove from pan and set upside on paper towels. Dry baking dish.

Cook quinoa to package directions. I use an electric rice cooker and it takes about 20 minutes.

In a saute pan brown meat (stirring only as needed to prevent burning), seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Add onion and garlic and cook a couple minutes until translucent. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Mix with cooked quinoa. Place peppers in baking dish cut side up and fill with the quinoa mixture.

Divide sauce equally over peppers and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and spoon juices back over/into peppers, and top with mozzarella. Bake another 15 or so minutes until cheese is bubbly.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Vanilla Green Tea Latte (Protein Shake)

8 oz unsweetened* vanilla almond milk
1 scoop (28g) unsweetened* protein powder, vanilla flavor
8 oz fresh brewed chilled green tea (or brew 1 bag in 1/4 cup boiling water for 5 minutes and add ice to cool)

Mix protein powder and almond milk well in a shaker container. Add green tea and ice to fill and shake well. Want it frozen? Throw it all in the blender and pulse until ice is finely chopped and all ingredients combined.

* I drink my drinks unsweetened (coffee, tea, etc) SO if you need a little something in yours, sweetened with honey, sugar, sweetener as you would your morning coffee or cup of tea.

Exact stats will vary based on the product brands used. With Almond Breeze, Sprouts Non-GMO Soy Protein Powder, and Tazo Green Tea- my shake has:

150 calories
2g carbs
5g fat
25g protein
1g fiber
430mg sodium

Need a great little leak-proof shaker to make and take your drink? Check out the Quick Shake and contact me to place an order!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

I have been making a pot of oatmeal a couple times a week lately so we have quick easy breakfast in the morning. You can eat it right away, or reheat 1 cup portions for 1 minute in the microwave when you are ready. It doesn't dry out at all, and if you like it thin, you can add a little more water or milk when you are ready to eat it.

1 large apple
2 medium carrots
2.5 cups water
1 cup rolled oats
1 tbsp flax seed
1 tsp cinnamon
1 chunk fresh ginger (about 1" square)
1/8 cup honey
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup walnuts
1 tsp vanilla extract

Peel and finely chop or shred the apple and carrots. Place in a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add all but the vanilla and stir well to combine. Turn off the heat and add vanilla. Let stand about 5 minutes to thicken.

Makes 4-1 cup servings.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shrimp with Wine Sauce

1 lb raw shrimp
1 lemon
2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 TBSP chopped cherry peppers
1 sprig fresh thyme*
1 cup chopped broccoli
1/2 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth**
Salt and pepper
1/2 box wheat pasta ***
Shredded Parmesan
Red pepper flakes

Cook pasta al dente according to package directions, reserving about 1-2 cups pasta liquid*.

Peel shrimp and remove tails. Rinse and dry well, squeeze half the lemon over shrimp and set aside. Save the other half of the lemon for sauce.

In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, melt butter with the olive oil. Add garlic, cherry peppers, and thyme sprig and cook until garlic is browned and crispy. Add broccoli and shrimp and cook about two minutes, stirring often to prevent garlic from burning. Add salt and pepper to taste.  

Combine juice from the rest of the lemon, wine, and broth. Pour over shrimp and broccoli and bring to a boil. Add pasta and toss to coat, adding a little of the reserved pasta cooking liquids if it needs more saucy-ness. Remove the thyme sprig and discard. Serve topped with shredded Parmesan and red pepper flakes.

* No need to remove the individual thyme leaves, just throw the whole sprig in and pull it out before serving.

** If I don't have stock or broth defrosted, I add 1 chicken bouillon cube to 1 cup pasta liquid instead. Stir to dissolve and add the wine and lemon and you good AND the dish cooks a little quicker because you don't have to heat cold broth to a boil.

*** While we always make this with angel hair, I didn't want the stress of my 3 year old trying to swirl his pasta, so rotini it was. Still just as delicious, just easier to eat.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Egg Roll Soup

If you are a Chinese food lover like me, this is the soup for you.

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced (about 1 cup)
6 cloves garlic, smashed (about 1/3 cup)
6 celery stalks, sliced (about 2 cups)
4 carrots, grated (about 1.5 cups)
1/2 head cabbage, sliced (about 6 cups)
4 cups low/no sodium chicken stock

2 cups frozen edamame
1/2" piece of ginger root, grated (or 1 tsp dried ginger)
3 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 tsp Chinese five spice seasoning
1 TBSP sesame oil

OPTIONAL: 6 egg roll wrappers
In a dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil on medium heat and saute onions and garlic. Once soft, add celery, carrots, and cabbage and cook until slightly wilted. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, reduce to medium.

Add edamame, ginger, soy sauce, five spice, and water to cover. Cook about another 10 minutes and add sesame oil.

OPTIONAL: In a medium saucepan with at least 4" sides, heat 1" vegetable oil  until bubbling. Cut egg roll wrappers into 1/2" strips and deep fry a couple minutes until golden. Serve on top of soup.

Makes 13 cups.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cranberry Pumpkin Oatmeal

1 cup fresh cranberries
1.5 cups water
1 cup rolled oats
1 TBSP whole flax seeds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 can solid packed pumpkin
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a medium saucepan, bring water and cranberries to a boil. Cook about 5 minutes until they have all burst.

Add oats and flax seeds. Once oats begin to absorb water, add walnuts, pumpkin, and maple syrup. Stir well and let stand 5 minutes to thicken.

Makes 4 servings

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Not SO Bad Rosemary Scones

Until now, I have never had a scone I didn't like. Then again, I have never had one that wasn't about 500 calories, so I didn't have them too often. By swapping out some of the gut busters like heavy cream and butter and cutting them a little smaller, these are a little easier on the waist with only about 150 calories and 5 grams of fat. Even leaves room for a little smidge of honey butter.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup raw sugar (or white if you don't have it)
1 TBSP baking powder
zest from 1 orange and 1 lemon
2 TBSP fresh chopped  or 1 1/2 tsp dried crushed rosemary
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup evaporated fat-free milk
3 TBSP cooking oil
2 egg whites

Heat oven to 400 degrees and spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, orange peel, rosemary, and salt. In another bowl stir together milk, oil, and egg. Add milk mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened.
On a lightly floured surface knead dough 10 times. Lightly roll or pat dough to a 10-inch circle, about 1/4 inch thick. Cut dough into 12 wedges with a pizza cutter and transfer wedges to baking sheet. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes; serve warm. Makes 12 scones.

1/2 stick butter, softened at room temperature
juice from 1/4 orange (leftover from zesting)
1 tsp honey

In a mini food processor or a mixing bowl with a whisk, whip until ingredients are combined and butter is fluffy. Serve on warm scones.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thrifty Tip: Bulk Cut Cheese

It sounds like a lot of hassle, but if you can find a good sale on bulk cuts of cheese you can save big bucks over buying the pre-shredded variety AND it tastes much better. I grabbed up several blocks of this Colby Jack from our local Sprouts (natural foods grocery store) and just froze them right in the plastic they came wrapped in. When we are low on cheese I just defrost and shred. If you prefer, you can also shred the cheese first, and freeze it in quart or gallon bags.

Pictured is a gallon bag, half full for $2.57 (it was $2.99/lb). The price varies depending on where you are, but here in the Dallas area we pay anywhere from $3.49 (Aldi) to $4.19 (Wal-Mart) for a bag of the shredded stuff.

Since Santa bought me a slicer for Christmas, I also plan to check out the blocks at our local wholesale store so I can do up some sandwich slices too!

Monday, January 2, 2012


We make tons of quesadillas in my house. They are great for lunch, dinner, or a little snackin' and can be made to use up almost anything around the house, and with as little as tortillas and cheese on hand. They are also easy to take in lunches or picnic baskets. By making them at home, you can control the cheese to veggie ratio, and eliminate the butter-drenched tortillas served in restaurants.

Per serving:
1 burrito size tortilla (preferable whole wheat)
1/4 cup shredded cheese

plus optional fillers:
grilled chicken, steak, pork, or shrimp
chopped grilled veggies
chopped fresh veggies
bacon bits
refried or whole cooked beans

Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Lightly spray pan with cooking spray (if it browns right away, gently wipe it away with a paper towel and turn the heat down a little). Spray one side of tortilla with cooking spray, and put in sprayed side down on the pan. Sprinkle cheese across tortilla and scatter with optional ingredients. Once cheese is completely melted, fold the tortilla in half and cook until both sides are golden brown.

Making them for a crowd? Don't fold in half, but instead add extra toppings and top with another 1/4 cup of cheese, top with another tortilla, spray the outside of the 2nd tortilla with cooking spray, and carefully flip it over once the top cheese starts to melt.

Serve with your choice of salsa, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce, or chopped tomatoes. 

Not sure what to combine? Here are some of my FAVE combos:
#1- chicken, grilled onions and peppers, and bacon bits
#2- steak, grilled mushrooms, fresh onions and jalapenos
#3- shrimp and sliced avocado
#4- fresh spinach, chopped aartichoke hearts, and fresh tomatoes

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Top Ten Recipes of 2011

2011 was an eventful year for this girl, both good and bad. I was honored to be named Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Blog of the Month in May, and was invited to cook at the Aetna Healthy Food Fight Semi-Finals round State Fair. I was also deeply saddened to lose my mom, who was the foundation of my healthy eating habits and my motivator in starting this blog. At the start of this fresh New Year, I want to thank all of my faithful and supportive readers who support me with your interest in my food obsession.

Here are the recipes that received the most reads in 2011:

10. Pizza Chicken  Not to be confused with Chicken Pizza, this is a low-carb entree with the flavor of pizza without the crust!
9.   Low-Fat Alfredo Sauce A great substitute for dishes that use Alfredo or cream sauce without all the fat and calories!
8.   Healthy Cheesy Potato Fakeout Tastes just like the hash brown casserole you love, with CAULIFLOWER instead of the taters to save your waist ...a little!
7.   Sesame Chicken Make some take-out style food at home-cut the sodium, fat and calories!
6.   Mom's Signature Grilled Chicken So simple I almost didn't post it, but our family's go-to method used for salads, pasta, or just a light dinner.
5.   Broccoli and Cheese Potato Skins Baking these guys helps keep them lower in fat and calories than their fried counter parts!
4.   Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting Because everyone needs a treat, why not enjoy one with the health benefits of a lil pumpkin!  
3.   Pecan Crusted Tilapia Fish my kids devour, mild white with a sweet, crispy coating-just writing this makes me want some!
2.   Buffalo Chicken (or turkey) Meatloaf- prepared in the Aetna Healthy Food Fight Semi-Final Round at the Texas State Fair!

And the NUMBER ONE most popular recipe of 2011... possibly due to Tracy Foley making it so often for her Foley Five...

1.   Baked Coconut Chicken Tenders Sweet and crispy, this are a DELICIOUS substitution for those frozen nuggets that your family will adore.