Thursday, September 27, 2012

Healthified Mac & Cheese, with a Nutritious Surprise Inside (Recipe, pics)

If you have kids I'm almost positive you have at least one box of Mac & Cheese in your cupboard.  And even if you don't have kids there's still a good chance you have some hanging around.  After all, mac & cheese is an American staple.  But it's SO completely laden with calories and carbs, it's unreal.  I'm looking at a store brand box of the stuff and it has per 1/2 C serving 200 calories, 25.5g carbs and 270mg sodium.  Those numbers are pretty high, if you ask me.  Definitely higher than the recipe I'm going to give you.

There's a nutritious mystery ingredient wrapped up in this recipe, and if you don't tell the kids, they'll most likely never know the difference.

Here's what you need:

6.5 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni
8 oz fresh or frozen cauliflower
1/4 C Italian bread crumbs
4 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz shredded cheese, such as sharp cheddar or colby jack...whatever you like
4 oz fat free cream cheese
1/2 C 1% milk
dash salt
dash pepper
a little bit of dried parsley flakes, maybe 1 Tbsp
elbow macaroni
I just now realized that someone in this house bought 2% milk.  I always buy 1%, and the nutritional values in this recipe are calculated for 1% milk.  
 Here's what you do:

1.  Heat oven to 350F
2.  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1/2 C pasta water.  Drain the rest and set aside.
3.  While pasta is cooking, steam cauliflower (in a steamer or in the microwave with a smidge of water in the bowl), chop it up small and set aside.
4.  In a small dish mix together bread crumbs, 1 Tbsp parmesan, and parsley.  set aside.
5.  After you drain the macaroni, leave it in the colander.  In the same pot you cooked the macaroni, put in the shredded cheese, 3 Tbsp of the parmesan, the cream cheese, 1/2 C pasta water and milk on low heat.
6.  Stir until all the cheeses are melted and combined together and creamy.

7.  Add the macaroni back into the pot with the cheese.
8.  Add the cauliflower to the cheese.  Mix thoroughly until macaroni and cauliflower are completely covered in cheese.
9.  Dump into a sprayed baking dish and top with bread crumbs.  Bake for about 20 minutes.

Makes 10 servings of 1/2C each.

Sure, it's not the intense shade of radioactive yellow as you get with a box of Kraft, but it is creamy, cheesy and delicious...and much better nutrition-wise.

Here's how the numbers break down for 1/2C:  158.3 calories, 4.6g fat, 3g saturated fat, .25g polyunsaturated fat, .39g monounsaturated fat, 14.5g cholesterol, 195.8mg sodium, 192.8mg potassium, 19.9g carb, 2.6g fiber, 9.2g protein. (4 Points Plus) To further reduce the calories and fat you could use reduced fat cheddar instead of the regular cheese I used in this recipe.  You could also lower a few calories and carbs by eliminating the bread crumbs on top.

I got this recipe off Pinterest from Eat Yourself Skinny, but I didn't like their original recipe.  It was very dry, and they added a whole box of pasta (2x what I did here) and it was enough to feed a bleeping army.  Most of it went into the trash because there was just too much.  So to make it cheesier and creamier I kept the same amount of everything except cut the pasta in half.  I really liked the way it turned out tonight.  I think this page in my recipe book will get used quite a lot.  My mom made me a blank cook book with spiral binding and a personalized cover, and I get to fill it in with all my favorite recipes.  It's pretty awesome, except it's getting full really quickly.  I'm going to need another one.  Christmas is coming. ;)  Anyways, you can always tell the recipes I use a lot because they have stains on the pages from my splatters and spills.

I really recommend you try this recipe.  It's very delicious, and with the cauliflower it's a nice spin on the standard American fare.

Eat Happy!
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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Caramel Grapes?! They Taste Just Like Miniature Caramel Apples!

So since I can't sit and munch on a sticky, chewy caramel apple this fall, I couldn't resist trying out this great idea I saw on Pinterest.  Caramel grapes!  I know, right?  Grapes???  Yes!  Don't let that throw you.  If you want to experience the taste of a caramel apple, but don't want to be strapped with all the calories and carbs, you've got to try these.  These little cuties will take away your craving for the fall-time treat with much less damage to the waistline and glucose levels.  It's very easy.  A little time consuming, but I had my daughter help and it went much faster.

All you need are large green seedless grapes, 1 C caramel chips, 1 C salted peanuts, 2 Tbsp whipping cream or heavy cream and toothpicks.  I didn't know what caramel "chips" were, but they were right in the Halloween candy section.  They are little tiny caramel balls specifically for melting and making caramel apples with.  I'm sure that regular caramels would work too.  They just may take longer to melt than the little bits.

First, I chopped up the peanuts to small bits using my very handy Ninja Express Chop.  Then, put the caramel chips and cream in a little pot on medium heat and stir a lot until they are melted.  Then just turn the burner down to 1 while you are dipping the grapes.  All you do is put the toothpick in the grape, swirl it around in the melted caramel and then dip in the peanuts. 

What a fun fall party idea, isn't it?  Make sure your peanuts are salted.  The salty taste mixed with the sweet richness of the caramel is to die for.  Three grapes is approximately 140 calories (be careful!!!), and 15.2g carbs.  These aren't exactly "healthy", but like I said, it's better than sitting down with a whole caramel and peanut covered apple.  Fun, fun party idea!  Just be strict with yourself and limit how many you eat.

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Spinach Dip With All the Taste and None of the Fat (recipe, pics)

One of the things that is always requested of me when we go to get-togethers is my delicious spinach dip.  It's like it's some gourmet thing that is too difficult for other people to make and they have to wait for me to come over to give it to them.  lol.  It's really so easy.  You know has to be easy!

My kids really love it, and lately they have been asking me to make it again.  I decided to "healthify" this recipe, and I was a little concerned that taking out the fat would compromise the taste.  But it didn't.  It tastes just as good as the full fat version.

I considered trying it with plain yogurt, as I've heard some people use that in place of sour cream.  However, I used plain yogurt in a similar dip the other day and I truly hated it.  It looked gorgeous in presentation, but the taste was "ick"!  Plain yogurt, in my opinion, is no substitute at all for sour cream.  I decided to try fat free sour cream instead.  And you know what?  It works!  I mixed up a batch, and the kids didn't even know that I made a switch on them.

Here's what you need:  Very basic!

16 oz fat free sour cream
1 packet powdered ranch dip mix
10 oz package spinach, thawed with all the water squeezed out and torn apart
5 green onions, finely chopped (I only had 4, but more would have been better)

Put everything into a bowl and mix together.  Simple!!!  It is best to let it chill in refrigerator for a while before serving so that the flavors have time to meld.  Serve with vegetables, crackers, pita chips, crusty bread, etc.

The nutritional information for  1/4 C is 58.6 calories, .7g fat, .13g saturated fat, .2g polyunsaturated fat, .3g monounsaturated fat, 560mg sodium, 175mg potassium, 8.8g carb, 1g fiber, 2.8g protein.  (1 Points Plus) There are about 9 servings for this recipe.  Just remember to add in the calories and carbs for the foods you dip into it.

This is such a great recipe for game days and buffets for the many get-togethers that are bound to happen coming soon with the holidays quickly coming up.  It'll be a favorite, I'm sure of it.  It definitely is in my circle!

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Cheeseburger Quesadilla

Right now I am eating a very good dinner, licking my fingers so I don't get anything on my keyboard.  How about mixing the best of American fare with a Mexican staple?  A cheeseburger quesadilla!  It's so appetizing, yummy and filling, and oh so simple to make.

I mixed some chopped onions in ground beef and added in some italian seasoning.  How do you like your burger meat?  Maybe chili powder or garlic or whatever floats your boat.  Just toss it in a skillet and brown it all the way through, smashing up the big pieces so there aren't any giant chunks of beef.

Next, spray a griddle or skillet with canola cooking spray and put a low carb, high fiber tortilla on.  I used Xtreme Wellness tortilla wraps from Ole Mexican Foods.  You can use whichever brand you want, but you'll want one that's bigger than a fajita size so you have room to fold over all the meat and toppings.

Measure out 3 oz of cooked beef on your kitchen scale and place on 1/2 side of the tortilla.  Top with 1/4 C shredded cheese.  Cook the tortilla until the bottom is golden brown and a little crispy.

Top with your favorite burger toppings like lettuce or tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, whatever.  Just make sure you count the calories and carbs for whatever you top it with.  I used the avocado hummus I posted previously with a smidge of mayo and a hint of ketchup.  It reminded me of the amazing Maui Burger at Island's...omg so good!  My favorite!

The tortilla I used has 110 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat, .5g polyunsaturated fat, 1g monounsaturated fat, 390mg sodium, 14g carbs, 9g fiber and 4g protein.  The nutrition data for ground beef varies, and it depends on the percentage of fat in the beef.  Obviously, the leaner the better.  I think mine was 90% lean, but I usually get what's on sale.  Just drain off the fat before you serve it.  And remember, too, that shredded cheese (depending on the type or brand) carries approximately 100 calories per 1/4 C.  It adds up fast so be careful!

The low carb, high fiber tortilla is better in nutrition than most hamburger buns out there, and it's a nice switch-up from a traditional burger.  You could even top it with salsa (recipe here)...mmm that would be good, too!

Enjoy your American fiesta!
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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Homemade Salsa is the Best and So Easy!

A few days ago I told you about my new favorite kitchen gadget, the Ninja Express Chop NJ100.  I've been using it a lot, and it was so more than worth the $20 it cost me at Target.  This morning I whipped up a batch of home made salsa in no time at all.  The beauty of salsa is that almost anything can go in it, and it will turn out great.  I just made something really basic with things I had in my kitchen.
I forgot to put the fresh garlic in the photo.
I used roma tomatoes, a little bit of fresh cilantro, onion, olives, garlic and sliced jalapenos.  These were no heat ones, but I wish they had a little more kick to them.  My salsa wasn't quite spicy enough.  I also should have added a little salt, I think.  I didn't measure anything.  I just chopped up some of this and some of that and tossed it together until it seemed about right.  How's that for instructions?  lol  If you don't have a chopper or food processor, just chop up everything very fine.  I chopped up 6 roma tomatoes and threw them in a bowl.  I had a can of already chopped olives in the cupboard and used about 3 Tbsp of those.  I put in about 1/4 C of "no heat" jalapenos and 2 cloves of garlic.  My onions were already done from one I had leftover the other day, and I used about maybe 1/2C chopped...more than 1/4C, but maybe not as much as 1/2.  Somewhere in there...put in as much as you prefer.  The cilantro I just cut up with a knife.  A little cilantro goes a long way. I only put in about 1 Tbsp finely chopped up.  Easy peasy.  There are next to no calories in salsa.  I didn't bother doing any calculations because everyone's will be a little different.  But the jar of Herdez I have in the fridge is only 5 calories for 2 Tablespoons.  Add anything you want...diced chiles, fresh seeded jalapenos, corn, red peppers, anything at all.

So I took a small fajita sized tortilla, sprayed a pan with canola spray and turned the heat to medium high.  I put the tortilla in and cooked it until it was golden, sprayed the top side with canola spray and then flipped it over and cooked the other side.

Then I got 1/4 C of the avocado hummus I previously wrote about and spread it on top of the cooked tortilla.  I sprinkled on 1/4 C shredded cheese, and then topped it with about 1/4C of fresh home made salsa.  What a delicious light lunch or protein and fiber rich snack!  And the avocados add some great healthy fats to the mix.  It was so wonderful.  I'm glad I still have more avocado hummus and salsa to make another one later!

Salsa is so easy to make, it's versatile and refreshingly delicious.  You should go make yourself a batch!

UPDATE:  When I went grocery shopping tonight I picked up a small can of hot diced jalapenos.  I added about 1 1/2 Tbsp of that to my batch of salsa, and now it is absolutely perfect!!!  Better than any jar I've ever had.  Sometimes I amaze myself. ;)

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Salmon Patties (Recipe, pics)

I'm not a big fan of fish, except tuna, but I have said that I will keep trying new kinds to see if I can find one or two that I like.  My vegetarian daughter, who is actually a "pescatarian" (a vegetarian who will eat fish) requested we try salmon in some way.  I remember having salmon patties occasionally when I was a kid, and I remember getting my way through them, so I thought that might be a safe place for me to go with it.

I'm not well-versed in what brand of salmon is best, since I don't know what "good" salmon tastes like, how would I know how to choose a can of it?  I did what any other connoisseur of fine canned salmon would do...I chose the middle-priced can.  lol

Got out my recipe, got out my ingredients and was ready to tackle salmon patties.  Then I opened a can.  o.m.g.  I was not prepared for what I saw in that can...silvery skin and spinal bones.  Like, whole spines.  ew.  I dumped the fish into a bowl and started the task of going through it all and trying to pick out all the vertebrae.  My nose was in a permanent crinkle the whole time.  In fact, it's in a crinkle now just thinking about it.

Fast forward to after dinner for a minute.  I went online and did a Google search about bones in canned salmon.  Apparently they are soft, edible and extremely rich in calcium.  Some people just mash the bones right up in their fish and eat it.  I, on the other hand, don't want to do that.  Other people who are in my thought camp recommend Bumble Bee in the smaller tuna-sized cans because they say they are skinless and boneless.  That's what I'll be buying next time for sure!

After I got all the bones and soft skin picked out of the salmon I started making the patties.

Here's what you need:

14-15 oz canned salmon, drained and flaked with a fork
1/2 C panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
3/4 tsp dried dill weed
1/8 tsp black pepper
a few drops of hot pepper sauce
Cooking spray
1 tsp olive oil

Here's how to make them:

1.  In a large mixing bowl, mix panko, egg, milk, dill weed, black pepper, hot pepper sauce.  Add salmon and mix well.
2.  Measure out 3 oz portions and form into patties.
3.  Spray large skillet with cooking spray.  Heat over medium high heat.  Add patties and cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned.
4.  Add oil to skillet.  Flip patties and cook 3 minutes or until firm and lightly browned.

Makes 4-5 patties.  Serve with tartar sauce, optional (remember to count those calories, too!)

Super easy to make (after the whole bone ordeal).  My kids are not used to the taste of any kind of fish, except tuna.  I was pleasantly surprised when Matthew said, "Wow, Mom...these are really good!"  My non-meat eater really liked them, too.  Until she found a vertebrae.  She said, "What's this?"  I said, "It's a spine bone."  She immediately spewed the bite in her mouth back on her plate. lol.  Guess she didn't like the thought of bones in her salmon either.  Thing is, she did really like the salmon patties.  She just got grossed out by the bone.  But it was a little bit funny.  She's going to be 17 next week, and her boyfriend was sitting next to her.  It was humorous to see a girl that age spit out her food so emphatically and totally gross out her boyfriend.  lol

I WILL be making these again; however, next time I will make sure to buy the boneless, skinless salmon, even if it costs a little more.  The flavor is very mild, which I like, because the fish taste was not overwhelming.  The texture was very good, too.  It reminded me a lot of tuna, but different, if that makes any sense.  So easy, and the Omegas are always a positive.

The nutritional stats I came up with are (for 1 3oz patty):  185 calories, 59.5g fat, 1.2g saturated fat, 119.2mg cholesterol, 416.7mg sodium, 26.7mg potassium, 5.7g carbs, 25.7g protein.
The Points Plus calculator said 1 salmon patty is 18 Points Plus, which is insane.  I know it's because of all the fats, but the Points Plus calculator doesn't seem to care that it's healthy fish fats/oils.

Don't let my icky story of the bones scare you away.  I just thought it was a little funny.  Truly, the salmon patties were very good!

Eat well,
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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Strawberries N Cream Bars (Recipe, Pics)

Sheer decadence.  That's all I can say.  I saw this recipe on Pinterest and changed it up to make it a little healthier.  I substituted Egg Beaters for real eggs, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter for real margarine, substituted some of the sugar with Stevia and used reduced fat cream cheese.  You still need to limit yourself to one, but if you are having a special get-together, potluck or something else where you want to serve something special (and that's soooo easy but no one has to know!), then this is a great treat for you to make.  It's an incredible, tasty little morsel for the end of a delicious dinner.

Here's what you need:

1 regular sized box vanilla or yellow cake mix
1/3 C I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
1/2 C plain Egg Beaters or other egg substitute, divided (1/4C in the dough and 1/4C in the cream cheese mixture) or 2 eggs
1 lb sliced strawberries
8 oz reduced fat cream cheese
2 Tbsp sugar
3 1/2 Tbsp Stevia
1 tsp vanilla

Here's how to make it:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F
2.  Spray 9x13 pan with cooking spray (I used a 10x10 pan)
3.  In a medium bowl combine ICBINB, 1/4C egg substitute, and cake mix.  Mash with a fork until partially combined.  It's very sticky, so we sprayed our hands with cooking spray and then used our fingers to combine it completely into a dough.

4.  Reserve 3/4C of the dough for the topping and set aside.
5.  Press the dough into the bottom of the pan, all the way to the edges.

6.  Bake for 10 minutes.
7.  While the crust is baking, slice the strawberries in approximately 1/4" slices.
8.  In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, stevia, vanilla and 1/4C egg substitute until creamy and well combined.
9.  Spread cream cheese mixture on top of the partially baked crust.
10.  Evenly arrange the sliced strawberries over the cream cheese mixture and then crumble the reserved dough on top of the strawberries.

11.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until crumbs on top turn golden brown.  The original directions said the center should be set, but mine wasn't really completely set; however, once it chilled it was fine to all of us.

12.  Cool completely and then chill for at least 30 minutes before servings.
13.  Cut into 20 pieces.  Store leftovers in an airtight container.
Heaven on a plate.  This is simply divine.  You need to be careful not to over-indulge here.  The calories and carbs could get away from you very quickly.  I can't imagine what the stats on this dessert would have been had I not made the substitutions I did.  They have 136.4 calories, 5.8g fat, 3g saturated fat, .7g polyunsaturated fat, .3g monounsaturated fat, 8mg cholesterol, 264mg sodium, 44.7mg potassium, 20.6g carbs, .5g fiber, 2g protein. (4 Points Plus)

UPDATE:  It's the next day after making this dessert, and I had put the leftovers in an airtight container like the directions said.  I don't recommend making this a day ahead of an event because even though it still tastes amazing the next day, it doesn't look as pretty.  The strawberries get a little bit of a dull color and they get a little soggy.  Taste-wise, still awesome, but to impress with presentation I recommend making it the same day. Texturally it's a little softer, too.  But believe me, there was no problem with making the leftovers disappear when the kids got home from school today!

Blissful Tasting!
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Confetti Tuna (Recipe, pics) and an Appliance Review

I got a new toy yesterday, and I'm so happy about it because it made today's lunch a breeze.  I have been doing a lot of searching for a good mini food processor.  I wanted a 3 cup size, and also one that chopped well without turning things to mush or leaving part big chunks and part chopped up stuff.  There was a Black & Decker that I was looking at, but no stores carry it in stock.  You have to order it online, and I just don't have that kind of patience.  It also got mixed reviews, so I was a little hesitant.  But the one I found (and it was the last one on the shelf) at Target was this super cool little Ninja Express Chop NJ100.
A handy small applicance that actually works...and it's PURPLE!!! :)
One thing I really like about it is that the blades are at 4 different levels, so you get evenly chopped food throughout.
Can you see the blades?  They're at different levels for evenly chopped food.
The blades are razor sharp!  You press down on the top to give it a pulse (it chops when pressed, stops when released), and just a couple quick pulses and your food is chopped to perfection.  I read a lot of reviews of a lot of choppers and one thing it seems hard to find is a chopper that will chop, without automatically pureeing, the softest foods (like tomatoes) and still chop the hard stuff (like carrots).  This little gadget does it all.  If you are in the market for an awesome chopper, I highly recommend this one.  And it comes in cool colors.  And it's just at only about $20 at Target.  Great buy!!!

I have to admit, ashamedly, that I have gotten a little off track the past few weeks.  I am bipolar and I take meds for mood swings and also depression.  This past month I have been forgetting to take my meds a lot, and it has been adversely affecting my mood.  So, I've been doing a lot of emotional eating, mindlessly eating crackers and other high carb things, (even some *gasp* oreos).  I've been eating way less vegetables and protein, too.  Fortunately, I've only gained about 1/2 lb so it's not to crisis mode, but if I don't get things back under control it could quickly slip into something terrible.

On to today's recipe!  I had veggies and protein on my mind, so when I saw this recipe on dLife I knew it was the perfect thing to get me back on track.  It's called Confetti Tuna.

Here's what you need:
Look at what an amazing job my Ninja Express Chop did on these vegetables!
1 5oz can tuna, packed in water, flaked with a fork
1/2 C shredded red cabbage
1/2 C chopped carrots
1/4 C shredded zucchini
1/4 C chopped onions
3 Tbsp reduced fat cream cheese
2 Tbsp low fat PLAIN yogurt
1/2 tsp dried, crushed basil
pinch salt and pepper

Mix everything together.  The recipe said to fill a celery stalk with it.  I used it to top cucumbers.  Would be great on pita chips or maybe even rolled up in a tortilla as a salad wrap.

Doesn't it look colorful and delicious?  It is!  I want more, and since it's so healthy it will be ok for me to indulge.  Here are the nutritional numbers for a 1/4C serving:  55 calories, 2.9g fat, 1.1g saturated fat, 16.4mg cholesterol, 128.4mg sodium, 155.5mg potassium, 3.3g carbs, .5g fiber, 5.2g protein. (2 Points Plus)

Healthy Munching!
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Monday, September 17, 2012

Tex Mex Chicken & Rice (Not out of a box!) Very Easy (Recipe, pics)

I used to make this Tex-Mex Chicken and Rice recipe using Rice A Roni or something else in a box.  But the last time I made it I thought there has to be a way to do this with clean ingredients.  And I did it!  I had a little trouble with the rice, but I think I know why.  I'll get to that in a minute.

Here's what you'll need to serve 4:

12 oz chicken breast, cooked, cut up
1 C brown rice
2 C no fat, reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 packet mild taco seasoning (Please see this post on clean, easily home made taco seasoning)
1 small can diced green chiles
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 C shredded cheese (use reduced fat for lower calories)
1 tsp dried, crushed basil
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water

I know the list seems long, but it's a lot of spices and little stuff.  Very easy to put together, so don't get intimidated by the list.  If you read my blog, you know by now that I don't do complicated.

Here's how to make it:

1.  In a pot put 1 Tbsp olive oil, heat it up over medium high heat and then put in the chopped up onions.  Cook the onions until they are golden.

2.  Add in chicken stock, taco seasoning, chiles, basil, chili powder, cumin, and pepper.  Bring to a boil.
3.  Add in rice.
4.  Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 45-50 minutes, or until rice is tender.  Stir occasionally.  Add a litle more water if it dries out.  Here's where I think I went wrong.  My rice cooked for an hour and was still hard.  I added water several times, kept it covered, and I couldn't get it to cook.  But the last time I added some water I turned the heat up to half way on the dial and it cooked well, so I think my "simmer" was too low.  You don't want to turn it up so that the rice sticks to the bottom of the pan, but in my case I think I had it too low because it wasn't cooking.
5.  While the rice is cooking, spray another pan with canola spray and cook chicken until it is no longer pink in the center.  Chop up and set aside.
6.  Add in cornstarch and 1 Tbsp water to rice.  Stir and let it thicken for 2-3 minutes.
7.  Add in chicken to rice.  Let it heat up for a minute or two.
8.  Add in tomatoes and cheese to rice.  Stir.

9.  Makes about 4-5 servings of 1 C.

My family really loved the taste of this dish, but there is an ongoing joke in my house.  They say that my cooking is delicious but that everything I make looks like cat puke.  lol  I guess it's because I like the one pot casserole type cooking where everything gets all mixed together in one dish.  Well, since I started this blog my dishes have been looking a little more gourmet, but with this one we were back to the "cat puke" look.  I know, it doesn't sound appealing.  But I think if you served it with more color on the plate, like with a fresh salad and maybe some parsley on top or something like that it would brighten it up a little.  But the taste really was fantastic.  You'll have to take my word for it.  Just try it.  I think you'll like it.  The seasonings give it really good flavor, the cheese and the little bit of cornstarch makes it thick and creamy, and the rice makes it very filling and satisfying.

I was a little surprised that when I did the numbers and compared the home cooked version to the boxed version, there was not a lot of difference.  Even in the sodium, and that was due to the taco seasoning.  If you want you could even go online and look for a home made taco seasoning mix and eliminate the sodium that way.  But the difference is that this way is cleaner eating.  There is nothing but whole foods here (except maybe the taco seasoning packet).  And that's one of my eat cleaner and greener and stay away from processed foods as much as possible.  In that endeavor I was successful.  And I was also successful at making an excellent home made version of what comes out of a box...tastier even.

Don't be put off by my "cat puke" story. lol  This Tex-Mex dish is delicious.  Go ahead and give it a try!

Here's the nutritional info (1 C rice with 3 oz chicken):  376 calories, 8.5g fat, 3.6g saturated fat, 92mg cholesterol, 933mg sodium, 178.5mg potassium, 36.5g carbs, 2g fiber, 34.8g protein. (9 Points Plus)

Buen Apetito!
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tangy and Delicious Lemon Squares (Recipe, Pics)

Oh, how I love the taste of lemons.  So bright and refreshing, tangy, tart and sweet with a little sugar.  Here's a recipe for a little lemon dessert, made a little healthier by using I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and Stevia to replace half the sugar (but you still need to limit yourself to just one).

Here's what you need:

3/4 C white all purpose flour
4 Tbsp I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light
2 Tbsp reduced fat sour cream
2 Tbsp Stevia
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C Stevia
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp grated lemon rind
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  (I used 2 medium lemons to get enough rind and juice)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
pinch of powdered sugar for garnish

btw, in case you don't know this (and I didn't until recently), when you measure flour you are supposed to spoon it into the measuring cup and then level it off with a knife (don't tap it on the counter to level it out) rather than just scoop the flour out with the measuring cup.  when you use the measuring cup to scoop it, it gets really packed in there and you are using more flour than you need, and also adding calories and carbs to your recipe.

Here's how to make them:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F
2.  Combine flour, ICBINB, sour cream, and 2 Tbsp Stevia in a bowl to make a soft dough.  I used a fork to mash it all together, and then Sara used her fingers to combine it into a dough.

3.  Spray an 8x8 inch pan with canola spray.  Press dough down into bottom of the pan all the way to edges.

4.  Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool. (My dough came away from the edges a little.)
5.  Combine sugar, 1/2 C Stevia, egg, egg whites, lemon rind and juice, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together so it is mixed well.

6.  Pour over cooled dough.
7.  Bake 25 minutes or until there is not indentation when touched.  Let cool.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Serves 12.
How delicious does that look?  It not only looks delicious, it IS delicious!  They came out very thin, but don't be deceived.  There is a ton of flavor packed into that little square.  What a nice ending to a great meal with family and friends this would be.

There are 96 calories per serving (serves 12), 2.7g fat, 1g saturated fat, 17.9mg cholesterol, 50mg sodium, 8.75mg potassium, 16.1g carb, 2.1g protein.(3 Points Plus)

I realize that I am trying to give you all healthy recipes, and I also realize that I make a lot of treats.  First of all, I believe that are things are allowed with moderation...have just one, not the whole pan.  Second of all, if you need help keeping to just one, use these dessert recipes to serve when you have guests so they can help you eat it.  They will love them just as much as you do, and they don't have to know how effortless most of what I post here is to make.  Don't tell and they'll think you're a wizard in the kitchen!  I also try to make desserts and treats with less calories and carbs by using lower fat, lower sugar substitutions.  But that doesn't mean you can mindlessly eat them while watching TV or reading Facebook.

If you find that you cannot stop with one, then it would probably be best for you, your waistline and your glucose levels to skip the treats and stick to the proteins, fiber, etc.

Want to try something a little different?  It would probably taste really good, too, with lime instead of lemon.  Orange maybe?  hmmm...if you try something different, let me know how it turns out.

Best wishes and tasty dishes,
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Apples and Dip - Great Snack! (Recipe, Pics)

Here is a really great snack idea.  I was going to say it's super for after school for the kids, but then that would leave me out, wouldn't it?  I'll say it's a "good for anyone in the afternoon" snack.  I got the recipe idea from dLife, but I tell you, I never get the number of servings they say or the nutritional breakdowns they do.  We'll just go with what I got since it's going to be more accurate to how I made it.

Here's what you need:

1/4 C creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/2 C mini chocolate chips
2 Tbsp raisins
1/2 small apple per serving, sliced (my 1/2 apple was 1.75 oz, cored but not peeled)
Then all you do is mix it in a bowl, slice up your apples and there you go.  I measured seven 1 Tbsp servings of peanut butter dip.

Now, the way it was supposed to be made it you core out the apples (but leave them whole) and stuff the dip down into the center.  Then you chill them for an hour or two and make ring style slices so the dip is in the middle of the apple ring.  And the recipe says you are supposed to get 24 servings using 4 apples.  Right.  So I guess according to them 1 serving would be like 1 bite.  That just doesn't work in my world.

Here are the stats for the nutritional stuff with the ingredients I used with the amount of apple I used...  173.2 calories, 9g fat, 3.7g saturated fat, 1.3g polyunsaturated fat, 2g monounsaturated fat, 43.6mg potassium, 22.5g carb, 1.9g fiber, 2.4g protein.  It's a little high in calories, primarily due to the chocolate chips. (5 Points Plus)  But guess what I saw at my Super Wal-Mart!  Sugar Free Chocolate Chips!  I almost got them, but I only had a few dollars on me and they were a little more expensive than the regular minis.  Using the sugar free chocolate would save about 50 calories per serving, and that is quite significant.  They didn't come in the mini morsels, but they could easily be chopped up a little with a knife or put in the food processor for a quick chop.  Just make sure to measure them first and chop them up second.  If you chop them up first, you will fit a lot more into the measuring cup than if you put them in at regular size which will throw off your nutritional data.

When you need a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon, or your kids need a good snack that's a little different than the standard chips or cookies you need to give this a try.  It's super quick and easy to throw together, and it tastes heavenly.  Sara and Matthew both had some and they scarfed it down.  Definitely passed the kid taste test.  Oh!  And I forgot...I also thought it would be super tasty with some crushed peanuts or pecans in it.  Would add a little more in the calories and stuff, but nuts are really good for you.  Just a thought.  I think I'll try that next time.

Snack Away!
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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Creamy Turkey Spinach Pasta Bake (Recipe, Pics)

I don't use a lot of turkey.  I don't know why.  I love it at Thanksgiving time, and have a field day with all the leftovers.  But it seems that's the only time of year I ever make it.  I should have it more often.  I came across this recipe on Diabetic Living Online, and it looked and sounded really tasty.  I was a little skeptical of making it because it has quite a few ingredients, and I was afraid it wouldn't be simple.  It really wasn't bad, though.

Here's what you need:

4 ounces dry whole wheat angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti
1 8 ounce package of reduced fat cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
3/4 cup refrigerated egg substitute (or you can use 3 eggs)
1/2 C light dairy sour cream
1/4 C snipped fresh basil or 1 Tbsp dried, crushed basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
10 oz chopped cooked turkey breast (I bought packaged pre-cooked)
1 10oz package frozen spinach, thawed, squeeze-drained and shredded apart.
1 C Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/3 C bottled roasted red sweet peppers, chopped
Measure out your dry pasta first.

Here's what you do next:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat a 9 inch deep pie plate or a 2 quart square baking dish (I used a 9x13 glass pan) with cooking spray, set aside.
2.  Cook pasta according to package.  Drain well, set aside.
3.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until smooth.
4.  Gradually beat in eggs and sour cream.
5.  Stir in basil, garlic powder, and crushed red pepper.
6.  Stir in spinach until evenly mixed throughout.
7.  Stir in cooked pasta, turkey, cheese and roasted red pepper.
8.  Spread mixture evenly in baking dish.

9.  Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes or until edges are slightly puffed and golden and center is heated through.
10.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Cut into 6 portions and serve.

Matthew and I dipped a finger in the sauce before we cooked it, and he thought it tasted like one of the pasta sauces on the buffet line at Souper Salad.  It tasted pretty dang good.  He wanted to eat it just like it was. lol  But we waited for the cooked version.  Matthew and I thought Sara was a little weird because she thought it tasted like spaghetti and meatballs.  We were confused, because it doesn't taste anything like spaghetti and meatballs.  The sauce is all creams and tomatoes whatsover.  But, whatever, she ate it.  We all thought it was very tasty.  It was filling, too.  Jeff stopped himself with only 2 servings instead of his normal 3 or 4 lol.  Wait, now that I think about it, he came into the kitchen just a little while later and had another serving made into a sandwich.  So, yeah, he still had 3 servings.  hehehe

Tonight Sami was sick and she was alseep during dinner, so I didn't have to worry about adapting hers to vegetarian.  However, next time it will be super simple.  All I have to do is scoop a little out for her into another little baking dish without the turkey, and then mix the turkey in for the rest of us.

Here are the nutritional stats for this dish (serves 6):  335.6 calories, 37.6g fat, 11.7g saturated fat, 77.5mg cholesterol, the sodium was out the roof, and it mostly came from the fact that I used pre-packaged turkey.  Use freshly cooked turkey (ground turkey would work, too) and the sodium will be much lower, 171.6mg potassium, 22.7g carb, 2.25g fiber, 22g protein. (14 Points Plus)

Considering how many ingredients there are in this recipe, it went together fairly easily.  It was a nice change from regular pasta.  There was only 4 oz in the whole thing, but it seemed like plenty per serving to cure a pasta craving.  It was deceiving, I think, because of how filling the rest of the dish was.  It was super creamy, but had a lightness to it...not too heavy.  Overall it was very good, and we will be having this at our house again.  I hope you try this for your family...I think you'll like it!

I made this for dinner with the Mock Baklava for dessert.  Dinner and dessert BOTH only came to 48.7g carbs...pretty good!


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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mock Baklava (Recipe, Pics)

A couple years ago my husband and I ate a few times at a little hole in the wall Greek restaurant.  One night we got Baklava for dessert.  I thought it was absolutely scrumptious.  Several times I thought about that sweet, delectable treat and that I should try making it, but all the recipes I found for it seemed very involved.  If you haven't noticed by now, I like EASY cooking.

One day I was on one of my favorite sites, dLife, and came across this recipe for Mock Baklava.  It looked tasty AND simple, so I decided to try it.  Here's what you need:

1 cup seedless raisins (I couldn't find anything labeled "seedless", so I just got generic ole raisins)
2 oz dry-roasted walnuts
8 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
Butter flavored cooking spray...I just used my canola oil spray
1/2 C honey
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp melted I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, or something similar

Here are a few preliminary instructions:

I couldn't find anything called "dry roasted" walnuts.  I got a small 2 oz package of walnut pieces in the baking aisle and toasted my own.  I chopped them up into smaller pieces, spread them out on a baking sheet, heated the oven to 375F and toasted for about 10 careful not to let them burn.  Just get toast them until they have a nice golden color and you can start to smell them.
Second, put your phyllo dough out to thaw, but DO NOT open the package!  It will dry out VERY quickly and will be ruined.

Here's what you do to make Mock Baklava:

1.  Preheat oven to 350F
2.  Combine raisins and nuts in a bowl.
3.  I covered my baking sheet with aluminum foil, and I've VERY glad I did.  The honey seeps out during baking and will make a horrible sticky mess on your pan.  I sprayed it lightly with canola oil spray.
4.  Lay down a sheet of thawed phyllo dough.  Spray it lightly with pan spray.  Lay down a total of 8 phyllo sheets, spraying lightly every other sheet.

5.  Spread the raisin and nuts on the top of the phyllo sheets, leaving a 1 inch border on all the sides.
6.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon and drizzle on the honey evenly.

7.  Starting with the long side, roll lengthwise, jelly-roll style.  Place roll with the seam side down, and tuck the ends under.
8.  Melt the butter in a dish and brush the top lightly with it.  I don't have a kitchen brush, so I just drizzled it across.
9.  Cut shallow slashes through the pastry to the raisin-nut mixture at 1 1/2" intervals so the steam can escape.

10.  Bake for 25 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Slice the pastry, using the vent lines as guides.

This was an amazing morsel of sweet, crunchy, chewy goodness!  When I put the cinnamon on I thought it looked like an awful lot, but the cinnamon flavor comes through absolutely perfectly.  The phyllo on the outside is crisp and flaky, and the inside is a little chewy and sticky from the honey and raisins.  One thing made me very unhappy, though.  It was gone too quickly. :(  lol  But it is so sweet that even one slice of it will surely cure your craving.  Needless to say, my husband and kids loved it.  Except Sami is sick and didn't try it, but she doesn't like raisins, so I don't know that she would like it.  But Matthew and Sara did.  I definitely did!

I don't know what it is with dLife and the ingredients they use.  I never come up with the same nutritional counts as they do.  Sure, I may have used a few more walnuts than they did, but their calories and carbs weren't even close to my calculations.  Are they trying to be deceptive?  Do they use secret low calorie raisins and honey?  I have no idea.  But here's what I came up with, and I am confident my numbers are accurate for the ingredients I used.  The way I do it is I have a little chart that I made.  I list every ingredient's nutritional values for the entire recipe, then I add up the totals and then divide by the number of servings.  Pretty straight forward.  Anyways, here's what I came up with per slice:  137 calories, 3.6g fat, 31mg sodium, 96mg potassium, 26g carb, .9g fiber, 1.9g protein. (4 Points Plus)

You really must try this recipe!  It is so far beyond the typical cake or cookie.  And it was EASY!  I am making this again very soon.

Treat Yourself,

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