Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sweetly Re-Done


During this time of the year, when you see that word it brings to mind the sweet crunchy treat made with butterscotch chips and crispy Chinese noodles.  My grandmother would make both chocolate and butterscotch "Haystacks" and I always wondered where the brown hay came from!

As with every other tradition, I made the butterscotch Haystacks every year.  They were usually the last thing left on the goody trays and were eaten as a last resort.  Something about them just didn't appeal to this new generation of sweet eaters.  Time to re-think and re-do those Haystacks!  Don't worry, they're just as easy as before!

Butterscotch Drops

1 pkg (11 oz) butterscotch flavored morsels
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
5 1/2 cups Special K Vanilla Nut cereal

Line 2 baking sheets with waxed paper; set aside.
In a large microwave safe bowl, melt the butterscotch morsels, uncovered, on medium-high, for 1 minute.  Adjust time accordingly until morsels are just melted.
Stir in peanut butter until smooth.  Add cereal and stir until coated.
Drop by rounded tablespoons (or use small cookie scoop) onto prepared baking sheets.  Refrigerate until firm.

See, they're just as easy as before!  Actually even easier because you don't need to chop any nuts! 

Let's see what else I can come up with today!  I get to pretty much stay in the kitchen again all day so I can get the goody trays made up.  So far today there's the smell of Blondies, Sweet & Savory Chex Mix and Nut Clusters.  Okay, Nut Clusters don't smell much but they sure are pretty!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Old Favorites

I can't remember the first time I made Toffee.  I know I was a child because the first time I made it I used the cookbook I got for my 7th birthday!  Although I've streamlined that recipe and made it as simple as it can be I remember standing on a step stool over the stove to stir it continuously while it boiled.

Now I only manage to make it around the holidays and every time I do I wonder why I don't make it as a special treat throughout the year.  I always have the ingredients on hand, it just never enters my mind.  Maybe now with the picture flashing by in the corner of my blog I'll provide a special treat more often.

1 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Butter a square pan, 9x9x2 inches.  Sprinkle the pecans evenly over the bottom.
Heat the sugar and butter to boiling in a 1 quart saucepan, stirring constantly.  Boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes.  Immediately spread mixture over pecans in prepared pan.
Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the hot mixture and place a cookie sheet over the pan until the chips are melted.  Spread the melted chocolate over the candy.
Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm then break into desired size pieces.

What I've learned over the years:  don't substitute anything for the butter; boil for exactly 7 minutes and not a second or two longer; once it starts boiling and you're on medium heat don't turn it up or down during the 7 minutes; run water in the pan immediately to prevent a hard and laborious cleanup; use a light weight wooden spoon to stir, you'd be surprised how heavy that spoon gets after 5 minutes!

Although simple in ingredients and preparation it seems that something invariably goes wrong with at least two batches a year! Not bad when I make anywhere from 10-15 batches! So far this year I've made five and only one had a little snafu. Not sure what happened but the sugar crystallized and it became soft toffee! Every morsel of that soft old favorite was eaten!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Special Requests

Writing this blog is like my food journal.  I started it for two reasons:  1) putting my recipes in a place where they won't get lost and 2) giving my friends access to some of my favorite recipes.  When a friend asks for a specific recipe it sure does validate that second reason!

Barry put on his facebook status today something about having Salisbury Steak for lunch.  That was dinner last night and I usually make sure I make enough so he has leftovers the next day for lunch.  Especially when it's a "Man Dinner" like Salisbury Steak!

Not only is Barry smiling with a satisfied tummy, I'm smiling because a friend has asked for a specific recipe!  This one's for you Kim!

Salisbury Steak and Potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 lbs ground beef (96/4)
2 garlic bulbs
4 slices turkey bacon, crumbled
2 tsp steak seasoning
3 pkgs brown gravy mix, prepared
7 medium russet potatoes
1/2 cup cream cheese, fat free
1/2 cup half & half, fat free
2 tbsp butter

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Slice the top off the garlic bulbs so every clove is exposed.  Place on a small square of foil and drizzle with olive oil.  Fold edges of foil together making a sealed bundle.  Bake 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the bulb.  When cool enough to handle remove the cloves by gently squeezing the bulb.
Add 2 tsp of olive oil to a skillet on medium-high heat.  Once hot, add the chopped onion and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes.  Set aside.
Peel and boil potatoes.  When soft, drain and add cream cheese, half & half and butter.  Mash until creamy.  Cover and keep warm.
Combine the ground beef, bacon bits, onion, roasted garlic and seasonings.  Form into oval shaped patties.  Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the skillet.  Once hot, add the patties and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.  Place in a warm oven while preparing gravy.
Add 2 tsp olive oil to the skillet.  Add the mushrooms and let them sit, without stirring or flipping, for 3-4 minutes.  Flip the mushrooms and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.  Add the prepared gravy.

There are also some little tricks and ideas that I do different depending on my mood.  For instance, if I have some red wine on hand I'll deglaze the skillet after browning the mushrooms...  what am I talking about, I always have red wine on hand!!  Of course if I haven't been to the grocery store specifically for this recipe I make the gravy from scratch (1/2 cup flour to the mushroom pan, add some beef stock, a little worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and the red wine).  Not to mention the order of the recipe...  it's hard to put it into recipe form but really you have to do all of it all at the same time!  While the potatoes are boiling make the patties and start cooking them and while they're cooking you drain the potatoes and while those are draining....  aw heck, you get the idea!

Any other special requests?


I love trying new things during the holidays!  This year I have an extra special reason to try some treats from afar - Hannah!  Hannah is from Norway and is spending the school year with us while participating in the Aspect Foundation Exchange Student program.  From the day we picked her up at the airport she has been a natural addition to our family.  What better way to say "I love you" than to bake something special just for her!

Norwegian Butter Squares

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
Raw sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Chill a baking sheet in the freezer.  Do not grease or line the baking sheet.  Blend the butter, egg, sugar and salt together until it is creamy.  Add the flour and vanilla and mix using your hands until the mixture holds together in a large clump.  Still using your hands, press the dough out onto the chilled baking sheet until it is even and 1/4 inch thick.  Dust the top evenly with raw sugar.  Bake at 400F until the edges turn a golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting into squares.  Place on a wire rack to cool.

I was surprised how simple they were to make!  In fact, they were so easy I put them in the oven and whipped up a batch of toffee at the same time!  The toffee needs to cook, stirring constantly, for 7 minutes so it was perfect timing.  Poured the toffee, pulled the squares out of the oven and there you have it, two Christmas goodies simultaneously!

Taking the picture on the pot holder Hannah brought me from Norway just seemed like the natural backdrop!

Today I am being productive!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Mom always said the best things come in small packages.  I think the same can be said for food - sometimes the tastiest nibbles are the simplest of ingredients.  Simple is good!  Especially during the holidays when there are so many traditional treats that generally take a lot of preparation to make it just like grandma did.

I found a new treat this year that will definitely be on the goody trays from now on.  Simple!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Bugles
1 bag of Bugles
1 bag of milk chocolates (I used Bliss)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk
Colorful Sprinkles (optional)

In a small bowl combine the peanut butter and powdered sugar.  Add the milk and stir until smooth.  Let the mix sit for 1-2 minutes then stir again and add more milk if necessary.  Using a piping bag, or ziploc bag with the edge snipped off, pipe the peanut butter mixture into the bugles.  Unwrap the chocolate and melt for 1 minute on 50% power.  Stir and repeat until chocolate is melted.  You may want to do the chocolate in small batches so it doesn't become hardened to quickly.  Dip the peanut butter end of the bugle into the melted chocolate then into the sprinkles and set on a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Place in the freezer until set.  Store in an airtight container or ziploc bag to prevent bugles from getting stale.

That's it!  Once you do a few of them you get the hang of the piping and dipping and you'll have a pile before you know it.  Well, as long as you can keep from munching on them as you go along!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time To Play

It's now the time of year to PLAY in the kitchen!  I call it playing because it's all about pleasure and fun, sweets and candy, all the "good stuff"!  I start out the first week or so of December making samples of the goodies I will put on the Christmas Gift Trays.  This year has been no different even with the huge 50th Birthday Party and the Master Chef audition!

I started with possibly the best cookie I've ever made in my life!  And I've made a lot of cookies!!  The flavor is spicy and warm, the texture is chewy and crispy and trust me, you can't eat just one!  Rachel said they are perfect Christmas cookies because they sparkle like they have snow on them!

Ginger Cookies
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg and molasses and mix until combined.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until well blended.  Form, or scoop, balls the size of a walnut.  Roll in granulated sugar to coat.  Place on a parchment lined baking sheet 2" apart.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Everybody took one bite and started grabbing more - I couldn't make them fast enough!  This recipe doesn't make very many either, depending on your scoop size, so you may want to double it right from the beginning. 

Be prepared to bite into the best cookie you've ever made!

Party Food

I need to start dropping recipes on here like there's no tomorrow! I have so many and I'd like to have a place to go to review and find them all besides my jumbled up messy binder! This is a much better place and they're in neat little categories that I get to pick!

So here's one that's become a favorite of everybody's since Halloween. The Pirate party this year led to some creative and fun food that I'll get on this blog eventually!  This stew was exceptional though, I even took it with me for the Master Chef casting call. Guess it wasn't "fancy" enough for them but it sure is for us!

Salmagundi (Pirate Stew)
1 lb bottom round, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 lb hard salami, cut into 1" chunks
12 medium shrimp, raw
6 cups beef broth, fat free (approx.)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 parsnips, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup cream (optional)
1tbsp salt

In a large skillet, sear the meat in 1 tsp oil.  Place the meat in a stockpot when seared.  Add one cup of the broth to the skillet to deglaze.  Pour the broth into the stockpot with the meat, adding more broth if needed until the liquid is just below the surface of the meat.  Bring it to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, add 1 tsp of oil to the same skillet.  Add the vegetables and cook until the onions are completely translucent.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Season with salt.
After the meat has cooked one hour, add the vegetables to the stockpot, adding more broth to cover.  Simmer uncovered for another 45 minute until the meat is very tender and falls apart when prodded with a fork.  Add the salami, shrimp and wine.  Simmer another 10-15 minutes until the shrimp is cooked through.  Add additional salt if needed.  Optional:  add cream in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.  This dish serves about ten 1 1/2 cup servings and provides 9 WW+ points.

Now of course pirates served this with Sea Biscuits (hard inedible pieces of dough) but we landlubbers prefer a nice soft buttermilk biscuit or sourdough bread to sop up all those wonderful juices.  And don't forget the orange slices to prevent scurvy!  Arrrrgggghhhh!!

While the judges at Master Chef weren't impressed with this creation, you will be!  The hard salami adds a depth of flavor that you don't find in any other stew.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Changing Direction

Sometimes the direction we are going is perfect, heading down that golden paved road with nothing but sunshine and roses along the way.  We vow to stay on that path forever, then all of a sudden there's road construction and we have to take a detour!

The first detour (aka straying off the healthy eating) has finally ended after a couple weeks and I'm back on the golden road!  The second detour is going to be a little longer and involves three very beautiful blessings...  grandchildren!  As we were heading down that golden road towards empty nest and teaching the girls independence, our three grandchildren (ages 7, 5 and 2) have joined us!  Talk about detour (and chaotic road construction)!

So after a five day camping trip of wonderful dutch oven cooking and over-indulging in the snack department, here's the meal that got us all back on track!

Orange Herb Pork Tenderloin

2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 lb pork tenderloin
2 cups orange juice
1 cup chicken broth, fat free
1/4 cup white wine
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano

Preheat the oven to 400F.  In a large zip lock bag, combine 1 tbsp of the olive oil with the garlic.  Add the pork, turning to coat completely, and refrigerate for one hour.  After marinating, remove the pork from the bag and season with salt and pepper.  In a medium oven proof skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the pork and cook until richly browned on all sides, about 10-15 minutes.  Add the orange juice, wine, broth and herbs and bring to a boil.  Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast for about 35 minutes or until the center of the tenderloin reaches 145F.  Remove the pork from the skillet and strain the cooking liquid into a saucepan.  Boil the sauce until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes.  If a thicker sauce is desired, mix 1 tbsp of cornstarch with 2 tbsp of orange juice and add to the sauce, simmering until thickened.  Slice the tenderloin evenly and top with sauce.

This was a perfect dinner over mashed potatoes (made with potatoes and cauliflower) to remind me how easy eating healthy is.  The sauce is rich with a ton of flavor that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy!  Each serving of pork and sauce is only 5 pointsplus leaving plenty of room for the mashed potatoes or even some rice.

Although we're still on a detour, we're going to do our best to enjoy the new scenery until the golden road is finished being reconstructed! 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Winning Is Everything

When cooking, why would we ever want to lose?  Winning is definitely the goal in mind!  The other options just don't seem to be quite as satisfying!  Now that's not to say that sometimes things don't turn out quite as planned and you end up with a whole different and new creation - those times are awesome.  I'm speaking merely of disasters...  inedibles...  black where black doesn't belong!  In those cases, winning is everything!

Last night I won!

Whenever I've attempted to make Chinese food it's always been referred to as Stir Fry.  Why?  We don't order Stir Fry from the Chinese shop menu do we?  Is it even an item on the menu?  Where did the term come from?  Maybe I should look that up before I post this?  Make it an educational post too!  Anyway, last night I didn't make stir fry, I made Chinese Food!  I finally got the taste AND texture of my favorite dish, I won!

Cashew Chicken
6 tbsp soy sauce, divided
2 tbsp sherry (or chicken stock)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
2 lb chicken breasts, cubed
3 tbsp cornstarch, divided
2/3 cup chicken broth, fat free
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp teriyaki sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger root, minced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp canola oil, divided
2 cups fresh snow peas
2 celery stalks, sliced
3 medium carrots, julienned
8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts
2/3 cup cashews
1 cup rice
2 cups chicken broth, fat free

~  In a large resealable plastic bag, combine 4 tbsp soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil and 1 tbsp cornstarch; add chicken.  Toss chicken to coat with the marinade.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
~  Cook rice as directed on the package, or rice cooker, using the chicken broth for the liquid.
~ In a small bowl, combine 2 tbsp cornstarch and 2/3 cup broth until smooth.  Stir in the sugar, vinegar, teriyaki sauce, ginger, salt and remaining soy sauce; set aside.
~ Drain the chicken, discarding the marinade.  Rinse the chicken lightly with cold water to remove excess cornstarch.  (The cornstarch is what gives the chicken the "Chinese Food" texture - ancient Chinese secret!)
~ In a large non-stick wok or skillet, stir fry the chicken in 1 tsp of oil until it is no longer pink.  Remove from pan and add the peas and carrots.  Fry until crisp tender, then add the water chestnuts.
~ Return the chicken to the pan and add the cashews.  Stir the sauce mixture and then add it to the chicken and vegetables.  Bring it to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, until it is thickened. Serve over rice.

Notice I snuck the secret in there!?  I learned that secret a long time ago and I can't believe what it does to the chicken!  You'll have to try it with thin sliced beef for Beef and Broccoli and let me know how it is!

So there you have it - my winning dish!  With 1/2 cup of rice and plenty of the chicken it's only 9 points plus!  That even leaves room for a little extra chicken without the rice - and trust me, you're going to want just a few extra bites!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Birthday Cake

Does everybody celebrate their birthday with cake? Is it okay to say you don't want cake?

I'm sure glad my friend told me no to the cake! Her birthday wish was that I cook dinner for her and make her a dessert "something like flan", she hinted. Well, it just so happened that my mom had told me the last time she had my flan that she would never order it in a restaurant again! So with my friend's wish and mom's praise dessert was going to be a breeze!

Yep, you guessed it, too easy! My challenge was going to be making it a little less calorie laden (I won't say healthy here). I always have fat free half and half on hand so I decided to use that and hope for the best! It worked beautifully!! Mom never guessed and after her third serving my friend hadn't a clue either - I was happy! Then, I got up this morning and while drinking my coffee decided to try again... even lower!

Upside Down Creme Brulee (Flan)
1/4 cup sugar (plus 2 tsp for caramelizing)
1 cup half and half, fat free
1/2 cup Egg Beaters
3/4 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt

Sprinkle 1/2 tsp of sugar in the bottom of 4 ramekins. With a torch, moving the flame in slow spirals, caramelize the sugar in each ramekin until amber or dark amber beads form over the entire bottom surface. Set them aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 300F. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup of sugar and the half and half. Stir while heating over medium-high heat until almost to the boiling point. Set aside to cool. In another bowl, briskly stir the egg beaters, vanilla and salt. Continue stirring while adding the cream mixture in a slow thin stream. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and fill the ramekins, pouring gently. Place ramekins in a baking dish and then fill the baking dish with hot water until 1/2 way up the ramekins. Bake for 40 minutes (more or less depending on the depth of the ramekins) until the centers are softly set. They should jiggle slightly. Remove them from the oven and let them cool in the water for about 10 minutes. Remove them from the baking dish and cover with plastic wrap before placing in the refrigerator. (They are also great room temperature!) To unmold them, hold the bottom half of the ramekin in a bowl of hot tap water for a count of 20. Then, with a small paring knife, go around the edge of each custard. Turn the ramekin over in the center of a dessert plate. If the custard does not fall out, gently lift one edge of the custard with the paring knife to release the vacuum.

Wow, that's a lot of directions! Hopefully I got everything and they turn out perfectly like mine did!

This amazing tasting dessert is only 3 points plus per serving! Only 3!
Would that be considered healthy?

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Healthy Stuff

I was looking through my cookbook and then browsing my blog when I realized that it doesn't quite fully represent our new way of healthy eating. Although most of the family doesn't realize it, we've gotten to the point where there's very little fat, if any, in our meals. They just enjoy all the amazing flavors and beautiful plates they're getting.

They also don't realize they're getting a lot more seafood in their diet! For a family that doesn't care for seafood (one will go to McDonald's instead of Anthony's) I've been managing to "sneak" it into the menu once or twice a week! Today I realized there's none on my blog! How will I ever remember all the successful sneaks if I don't document?!

Besides fish tacos, here's one of the favorites:

Herb Crusted Cod
2 lbs cod fillets

3 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp dried basil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt and pepper
16 crackers, fat free, crushed

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a large baking pan with parchment paper. Lay cod fillets on parchment with a small amount of spacing just so they don't stick together. In a medium bowl whisk together the melted butter, mustard, lemon juice, parsley, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Add the cracker crumbs and combine. If the mixture seems to dry, spray lightly with cooking spray and mix well. Divide the crumbs between the fish and use your fingers to pat it evenly over the top. Bake for 15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets. When fish is cooked through turn oven to broil. Check every 20-30 seconds and remove when tops of crust are a light golden brown. Serve with additional lemon if desired.

This recipe is so simple! And yet everybody will have seconds without realizing I just snuck more seafood into their diet! Will I ever get them to give up the red meat? That makes me chuckle just thinking about it...

During my chuckle I almost forgot to mention, this is only 6 points plus per serving leaving plenty of room for some Parslied Potatoes (coming soon)!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Everybody needs a little recognition don't they? Those of us that love being in the kitchen and putting forth beautiful plates and bowls of food love that recognition - at least I do! I'm so excited to get that through my blog for the first time! A friend of mine read my last blog about my Mother's Day brunch and asked for one of the recipes I included in the list of menu items! Somebody besides my husband read my blog!! How exciting!

So here it is, the requested recipe!

Lemon Panini French Toast
12 slices of French Bread
1/2 cup egg beaters
1/4 cup evaporated milk, fat free
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups of mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp sugar
Squeeze of fresh lemon

Lemon Curd
1 oz butter
1/2 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
Zest of 2 lemons
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup egg beaters

Lemon Curd (can be made ahead of time): in a microwave safe bowl, combine the butter, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook on high about 2 minutes, stirring halfway through. The butter should be melted and the sugar dissolved. Whisk in the egg beaters and microwave 30 seconds. The curd should be thickened, if not, microwave an additional 15 seconds. (There will be leftover lemon curd for another use).

Preheat the oven to 200F. Place a baking sheet in the oven. Mix the cream cheese and 1/2 cup of the lemon curd. Divide between half of the slices of bread and spread to the edges. Top with the remaining slices of bread. Whisk the egg beaters, evaporated milk, sugar and vanilla extract. Coat the bottom and top of the panini grill with cooking spray. Working in batches, dip each sandwich in the egg mixture to coat both sides. Cook until golden brown. Do not press down on the grill! Transfer the grilled French toast to the warmed backing sheet and keep warm in the low oven. In a small saucepan, combine the berries, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until thickened. Serve over French toast.

Although they may appear sweet, these are light and not nearly as sweet as we expected. I guess that's what made them so perfect! The cream cheese combined with the lemon curd is the perfect texture and combines well with the fruit topping. Put the syrup away - you definitely won't need any!

As for Weight Watchers and counting my points, well, what can I say except that it was Mother's Day!! I did calculate though and each full French Toast with the fruit topping was 8 points plus. That's not too bad if that's all I ate for breakfast!

Thank you for reading my blog, it makes me smile!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Doing What We Love

I love Mother's Day! Not only do I get to celebrate my mother, and celebrate with her, I get to be celebrated as well! For many, this means you don't have to go anywhere near your kitchen! For me, it means I get the opportunity to STAY in my kitchen, undisturbed, creating, playing and doing exactly what I love to do!

This year I was able to share some extraordinary delights with my mother and family, including my very dear friend Jackie! I created a brunch that had a little bit of everything for everybody and the menu went something like this....

Lemon Curd French Toast Panini ~ Sausage Gravy ~ Potato Roast ~ Tuscan Baked Eggs
Strawberry Strata ~ Son-In-Law Eggs ~ Crescent Rolls

For this post, I'm going to highlight the strangest and newest creation because it gave me the greatest pleasure to create and sample. A popular street fare in Thailand is now a treat at home!

Son-In-Law Eggs
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tsp chopped lemon grass
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 lime, juiced
6 eggs, soft boiled
2 tbsp peanuts, chopped
1 green onion, sliced

In a small saucepan over medium high heat, reduce half of the can of coconut milk until it splits into oil. Add the curry paste and the lemongrass to the oil and cook for about 1 minute. Reduce the heat and add the rest of the coconut milk, fish sauce, brown sugar and lime juice. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the sauce is a creamy consistency. Keep sauce warm.
Heat a couple of inches of oil in a small saucepan over high heat. Once heated carefully add two eggs at a time to the oil and fry until the outer white turns golden brown and expands int a crisp honeycomb texture. Placed fried eggs on a paper towel prior to placing in a small serving dish. Spoon on prepared sauce, sprinkle with chopped peanuts and green onion.

I tell people about these eggs and they look at me like I was crazy for deep frying the egg - I thought I was too! Who ever heard of such a thing? Not to mention deep frying anything is pretty much never mentioned in this house!

It being Mother's Day and all - yes, I used every extra point I had and probably points leftover from last week and the week before! This one tasty, delightful morsel alone is 8 points plus per warm, comfortable egg!

Note: This is a bit spicy! Okay, it's a lot spicy! Use less curry paste to tone down the heat but I wouldn't omit it completely.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Taking A Chance

There have been times that I've prepared a meal for guests, family and potlucks without trying it first. If my memory serves me right, it's been an epic failure every time! I'm not sure how I can cook meal after meal for the six of us every night and have the majority turn out tasty but then pick something to try for a potluck and have it be dry and tasteless? With every failure, I vow that I will prepare something tried and true, that I will no longer experiment on innocent bystanders!

Then here I went again!

Last night it was my turn to cook dinner for our groups monthly meeting. There's anywhere from 10-20 people that attend and 90% of them are men. Since it was only me providing the entire meal I tried to make something that would appeal to everybody, something well known, easy to recognize and with minimal unique ingredients. Perfect time to refrain from trying something new!

Nope, not me! Refrain? Not usually! And boy am I glad I took the chance!
Check this out...
It's amazingly wonderful...

Creamy Chicken Spaghetti
2 cups chicken breast, cooked and cubed
1/2 cup butter
16 oz fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth, fat free
1 1/2 cups milk, 2%
1/4 cup (additional) white wine
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup black olives, chopped
1 pound thin spaghetti

Bring the broth to a boil. Break the spaghetti into thirds and add to the boiling broth. Boil for 5-8 minutes until tender. Drain spaghetti, reserving the liquid. Melt 2 tbsp of the butter in a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, 1/4 cup of wine and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid has completely evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove the mushrooms and set aside. Lower heat of skillet to medium low and add 6 tbsp of butter. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter, whisk to combine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth (from the spaghetti pot) and whisk to combine. Pour in the milk, and the additional 1/4 cup of wine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, tasting after each sprinkle. Continue simmering until thick. Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Add the mushrooms, chicken and olives and stir to combine. Check the seasoning level again and add salt and pepper as needed. Turn into a 9x13 casserole pan and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

And that my friends is a comfort food dish you will want to make over and over!

The way it's written above it will feed about 8 people and is only 11 points plus per serving. Next time I'm going to try and use less butter, or light butter, and see if that works. I've also seen low fat Parmesan that would help lower it even further. Oh, and not to forget, I bought a pasta extruder that will make thin spaghetti! It's much easier to control the fat and calories when you know exactly what's going in it! I'll post the difference when and if I try the changes - after all, 11 points isn't bad for dinner!

Sometimes you just gotta take that chance!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cooking For One

No, not me! Everybody knows I cook for a minimum of 6 every night - adding to that, the requirement for two leftover lunches and everything I do is for 8!

Wait a minute... breakfast and lunch! I cook for one twice a day!

Couple of things going on today that made me title this the way I did... the realization that I've lost 32 pounds is starting to sink in and the conversation I had with a friend last night. Both of those made me realize how important cooking is in my life. My friend was telling me about the horrible frozen lasagna she had (I witnessed her purchasing it at the grocery store) and the fact that she had chicken nuggets for dinner on Cinco de Mayo... both devastating tragedies! Her excuse was that it was too hard cooking for one. I'm here to prove her wrong!

Breakfast Tostada

1 corn tortilla
3 tbsp re-fried beans, fat free
2 tbsp cheddar cheese, shredded, low fat
1 egg
1 tsp sour cream, fat free
Salsa or tomato slice

Spray a small non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Heat the skillet to medium and add the corn tortilla. Spray the exposed side of the tortilla lightly with cooking spray. In order to get a perfect texture and color, turn the tortilla frequently, over and over. Also, press down on the tortilla with a spatula as the tortilla will rise up in the middle. When the tortilla is golden and crispy remove to a paper towel. In the same skillet, fry the egg to your liking. While the egg is frying, heat the re-fried beans in the microwave for 30-45 seconds and spread on the tortilla. Sprinkle the beans with 1 tbsp of the cheese. Place the fried egg on top of the cheese, sprinkle with remaining cheese and top with tomato and sour cream.

A delicious breakfast cooked for one in about 5 minutes! Add to that the fact that it's only 4 points plus and the understanding of the weight loss comes into full focus. Cooking for one is actually pretty easy... just takes imagination, food in the pantry and plenty of plastic containers to save the portions of food not used!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mandatory Posting

I was thinking today, being Cinco de Mayo, that I should probably post something to commemorate the delicious meal we had this evening! I went all out and made chicken enchiladas, shrimp tacos and beef taquitos to have a multitude of flavors, it was quite the feast. It was all low fat and yet just as wonderful as if it were full of calories and unnecessary fat. So I should post it right?

Nope! I'm going to post another great recipe that deserves to be posted on a special day!

Mexican Braised Beef

2 lbs beef chuck roast, trimmed
4 poblano peppers
1 serrano chili
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped rough
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
8 small potatoes, baked

Roast the peppers in the broiler (or over an open flame) until the skin is charred. Place them in a bowl and cover with a towel to allow to steam and cool. When cooled, scrape/peel off the blackened skin. Cut off the stem, open the chili and remove the seeds and ribs. Rough chop the peppers and set aside. Season the beef generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over high heat, add the oil and then add the beef. Sear for about 2 minutes on each side and then set aside. Reduce the heat and add the onions. Cook them until they are slightly carmelized, about 4-5 minutes. Add the chopped chilies and garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the skillet. Cook until it is reduced by half then add the tomatoes and bring it to a boil. Pour this mixture into a crock pot/slow cooker and place the seered beef on top. Cook on low for 6-8 hours until the meat is tender and falling apart. Shred beef, in pot, with forks and mix well with sauce and vegetables. Serve over baked potatoes that have been split in half and raked with a fork.

Although there is substantial prep time with roasting the peppers and reducing the sauce, it is well worth it. Plus, you get it done in the morning and don't have to do another thing until it's on the table!

Depending on the actual size of your roast this meal will serve a minimum of 8 people with plenty of left overs. I take about 1/4 cup of the leftovers and wrap it up in a flour tortilla for lunch the next day - I call it lunch perfection! Dinner is only a mere 9 points plus per serving (including the potato) and the lunch burrito with a carb balance tortilla is only 4 points plus.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Taking Advantage

Tuesday nights have become a late dinner night because of a meeting that runs until 6:30 so we're eating at 7:00 instead of 5:30. Of course this makes everybody (mainly Barry) think they are starving to death! In order to stave off his hunger, I agreed to make some sort of appetizer or soup that could be served at 5:00. This seemed to make him and the rest of the family happy!

So on this Tuesday afternoon I decided to try my hand at flatbread! I envisioned these wonderful little panini appetizers with spinach, mango chutney and goat cheese. As the ripe mangoes sat before me I kneaded and rolled, rolled and kneaded. Then I baked and watched as these beautiful square flatbreads became golden and picture perfect! They came out of the oven smelling... like flatbread! They broke like crackers!! "Aha" I said, crackers and mango salsa!! So I threw together some salsa (mango, pineapple, red pepper, onion, cilantro and lime juice) and let that sit while I searched for something else to do with my final ripe mango.

And here's where taking advantage of the late dinner opportunity and a ripe mango rocked our world with flavor!

Curried Shrimp & Mango Stew
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 gloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1/8 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 Serrano chili, minced
2 cups chicken broth, fat free
1/3 cup white rice
7 oz. evaporated milk, fat free
1 ripe mango, diced
1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, cook the onions in the oil over medium high heat for about 2 minutes, until softened. Add in the celery and garlic and cook another minute. Stir in the curry powder, allspice and diced chili and cook another minute. Add the chicken broth and rice and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cover the saucepan. Cook for about 20 minutes until the rice is tender. Add in all remaining ingredients and cook about 5 minutes until the shrimp is opaque.

This stew can definitely be a meal, not just a snack or appetizer! The recipe makes six 1/2 cup servings at only 3 points plus per serving - you'd need to double it to actually make a meal of 1 cup servings. It has a nice warmth to it but not too much so even those that don't like spicy foods can completely enjoy it.

Let's see how the Curried Chicken & Vegetables turns out for dinner...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reconstructing Favorites

There are some recipes that I just can't seem to reconstruct enough to make them compatible with Weight Watchers, no matter how hard I try. And trust me, for some of my favorites I try really super hard! This time, I succeeded in a completely different direction and have found a new holiday meal must-have.

I think of sweet potatoes (yams), I think of marshmallows, brown sugar, butter and sweetness. After all, they are sweet potatoes right? Well, not anymore!! No, they're still sweet, it's just the other sweet stuff I'm not going to be thinking of anymore! Now I'll think of feta and fennel and coriander and savory sweetness!

Here's why...

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
6 small orange fleshed sweet potatoes

6 oz crumbled feta, fat free

1/8 tsp ground fennel seed

1/8 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp garlic, minced

1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 tsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the sweet potatoes and cut off the sharp pointed ends. Prick all over with a fork and put them in a small roasting pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. While the potatoes are cooking, in a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Place the mixture in the refrigerator to marinate until the potatoes are done. When fully baked, remove the potatoes from the oven and cut a "lid" off the top side (not end) of each potato. You want to create the largest "boat" you can but have a wide enough opening to scoop the filling into. When cool enough to handle, carefully scoop the insides of the potatoes out into a small bowl. Mix in about half the feta mixture and let sit for a minute while you turn the skins upside down and spray with cooking spray. This will give them a nice shine when baked. Now fill each "boat" with the feta and potato mixture. Divide the remaining feta between each filled potato and pile high! Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, just until the cheese has started to melt.
And now, we have a sweet potato dish that we can all enjoy!

Although mom didn't care for it , the girls, who don't normally eat the sweet potatoes, loved it! At only 4 points-plus per potato, you can't go wrong!

Don't worry mom, you'll still get your traditional sweet potatoes during the holidays, it will just be a much smaller dish since the rest of us will be eating these!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Celebrations With Food

I cook all the time and definitely don't need a special occasion to make special food. I love the creative process and the billions of tastes and flavor combinations that happen in the kitchen no matter what the celebration, holiday or occasion.

It's Easter time and of course that means another holiday event that has it's traditional menu of family favorites and traditions. Why deviate? I've tried the deviation route and it failed miserably - why do it? To me and my family, the food served on Easter Sunday must resemble brunch served sometime around 11:00 and then a Ham dinner. Easy enough right? Nobody has any other expectations than that so as long as I stick to those simple rules everybody will be happy and I can create to my hearts content!

Brunch - big or small? This year - small and late! We had a wonderful evening with friends the night before which required a return trip to bed after sunrise service! Late or not, the family raved over our small brunch and we'll definitely be repeating it.

Healthified Monkey Bread

1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cans Pillsbury reduced-fat biscuits
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup fat-free caramel topping
2 tsp vanilla

Heat the oven to 350. Spray a 12-cup fluted tube cake pan with cooking spray. In a 1-gallon resealable food storage plastic bag, mix the sugar and cinnamon. Separate both cans of dough into 16 biscuits. Cut each biscuit into quarters. Add biscuit pieces to sugar mixture. Seal the bag and shake to coat. Layer biscuit pieces and pecans in the prepared pan. In a small bowl, mix the caramel topping and vanilla. Pour over the biscuit pieces. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and no longer doughy in the center. Invert onto a serving platter and serve warm. (Serves 16)

This yummy treat is 6 points-plus for four pieces (a full biscuit). Although that's quite a few points for only one part of brunch, it's substantially less than the "real stuff" and yet has all the flavor and warmth. Can't wait to make this one in the Dutch oven while camping!

And now for the main event!!

Maple Sausage & Waffle Casserole

6 homemade waffles, using fat free mix
1 small onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
8 links turkey breakfast sausage
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, 2%
6 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup, sugar free
2 cups milk, 2%
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Remove the sausage from casings and brown in a skillet until no longer pink, drain on paper towels. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, saute the onions, peppers and celery until softened. Transfer to the bowl with the sausage. Coat an 11x8 inch baking dish with non-stick spray. Cut the waffles in half and arrange 6 halves to cover the bottom. There will be some space between the halves. Sprinkle the waffles with half the sausage mixture and half the cheese. Repeat the layer with the remaining waffles, sausage and cheese. Whisk the eggs and milk in a bowl with the syrup, salt and pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the waffle layers. Bake 45 to 50 minutes until the edges are puffy. Cool 5 minutes and serve. (Serves 10)

At only 5 points-plus per serving this sweet and savory breakfast casserole will please everybodys palate!

And that's it! Believe it or not, that's all we had for brunch this year and everybody was very satisfied! Nope - no eggs Benedict, no fruit with the chocolate fountain and no seafood selection. Plain and simple - perfectly delicious!

Hurry and clean up - almost time to start dinner!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Change - is it always a good thing?

Change... good thing?  Bad thing?  Necessary?  Inevitable?
Not applicable this time!

Usually, when I find a recipe, I adapt it, change it, add, subtract and rearrange it. I never seem to be able to stick with the recipe as published, posted or printed. Control issues? Naw, I don't think so!

This is one recipe I will follow to the dotted "i" and crossed "t" - I hope you all enjoy it!

Arroz Con Pollo
2 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 chicken breasts, cubed
1 tsp cumin

2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 o
nion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped
1 4 oz. can diced chilies
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth, fat free
1 cup dried white rice
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 cup shredded cheddar/colby cheese, 2%

Put cumin, coriander and turmeric in a one gallon resealable bag.  Add cubed chicken and shake until well coated. (Mine ended up marinating for a couple hours while I ran and picked up the girls!) 

In a large skillet on medium heat, melt the butter.   Add the garlic and cook 1 minute until fragrant.  Add 
seasoned chicken to the skillet with the garlic and saute until no longer pink. Add the onion and peppers to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.   Add chilies and tomatoes and mix well.   Add broth, rice and remaining spices.  
Bring to a boil.  Simmer covered for about 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through.  Spread cheese over the top, cover for a minute or two and allow the cheese to melt completely.

That's it! Simple and simply amazing! And only 6 points plus for a full 1 cup serving!
We all agreed we could make ourselves sick on this by overeating! It's one of those dishes that you clear your plate from the table but keep your fork in your hand so you can stop by the pan of leftovers and snag a couple more bites!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Exterior Makeover

Everybody knows that when you don't like the outside of something you generally don't like the "something" and most of the time won't try it. That's true for food, clothing, people, restaurants, hotels... you name it. We all know the saying "Don't judge a book by it's cover" but are we really good at following that advice? The media would definitely say no - beauty sells! An ugly meal on the cover of a cookbook is not going to sell the cookbook no matter how healthy, nutritious or tasty it is. And who knows this better than our kids?!

For this reason I decided to create one of my favorite comfort meals with a whole new "cover". By changing the outside I figured I may be able to get my daughters to at least take a bite! And not knowing what it was... they did!! They loved it!

Try it for yourself and get those picky eaters to eat an old favorite!

In-Side Out Cabbage Rolls

1 lb lean ground beef (96%)
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 small head of cabbage, chopped
10 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 cup beef broth
8 oz pizza sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup brown rice, cooked
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, reduced fat, shredded

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, cook the beef, onion and green pepper until meat is no longer pink; drain as needed. Stir in the cabbage, tomatoes, broth, pizza sauce, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender. Stir in the rice and heat through. Remove from the heat and sprinkle with the cheese. Cover and let it stand until the cheese is melted.

I served it in bowls to allow all the juices to stay with it and a slice of garlic toast made with Sarah Lee Delightful 45 calorie bread. For 1 1/2 cups and the slice of bread it was only 6 WW PointsPlus value!! That serving size is rather large too so the points can be adjusted with the serving size.

The family has gotten used to not asking what's in something so I lucked out! Had the kids known it was cabbage I may not have succeeded at giving this not-so-pretty meal a much needed makeover! Will they ever learn not to judge by the outside? I'm not so sure about that but I'm doing my part to teach them well!

This makes me want a haircut and some new foundation...

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Starting Over

How many times have we said and heard that one? I know I've said it at least 100 times! Starting over so many things, so many times... dieting, exercising, budgeting, moving, jobs, relationships, you name it, I've started it over. This time, I've actually started over before starting over! My blog that is!

Shortly after starting this blog almost a year ago and being very focused on cooking healthy meals, I lost it! No, not the weight, the enthusiasm and motivation. The family vacation traveling down the west coast helped - I think I left it somewhere between San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf and Disneyland!

I've now started my journey over - more dedicated than ever! I've been on my newest weight loss journey for 2 months now and the healthy meals are piling up in my recipe book! I'm using Weight Watchers again and find myself addicted to their online features! The recipe builder keeps me logging in every day, all day! So ready or not, here they come!

A little different format this time - no nutritional values for each ingredient. Someday I may come back and edit the new recipes to include that but for now it's all about the PointsPlus values on the bottom line.

Here's the first recipe to begin the new journey:

Chicken Chimichangas

1 1/2 cups chicken breast, cooked
1 1/2 cups picante sauce, mild
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, low fat, shredded
2/3 cup scallion, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin1 tsp dried oregano
6 flour tortillas, carb balanced, low fat
1 tbsp butter, melted

In a small bowl, combine the chicken, 3/4 cup picante sauce, cheese, 1/4 cup onions, cumin and oregano. Spoon 1/2 cup of the mixture down the center of each tortilla. Fold the sides and ends over the filling and roll up. Place the seam side down in a 15" x 10" baking pan coated with cooking spray. Brush each tortilla top with the melted butter. Bake uncovered at 375 for 20-25 minutes until heated through and tops begin to brown. Top with the remaining picante sauce and onions. Optional toppings include additional cheese and fat free sour cream.

Each Chimichanga is a mere 7 WW PointsPlus value and when served with a side of fat free refried beans it's a great meal for under 10 points.

My daughter, who thinks of herself as a Chimichanga expert (actually, she thinks she's an expert at everything since she's 16) was excited to learn we were having these for dinner. She even offered to retrieve the deep fryer from the shelf in the garage! When I informed her they were going to be baked she was skeptical (that's putting it mildly)! After one bite she was hooked! These chimichanga's will make you think differently about those fat laden deep fried ones you get in restaurants. There is no oily after taste and the flavors are all there for you to enjoy. I'll experiment with homemade picante sauce later - these were too easy and too tasty to mess with right now!

I think I'll go mess with something else....