Sunday, July 25, 2010

Hungry Teenagers

The bootcamp I attend has a summer camp for kids. Its 3 1-week sessions. The teenaged counselors are paid peanuts to come help with the camp, which provides lots of scholarships for the campers. They make no money, and even lose money every year, but they do it for the kids.

The director is one of my trainers and he asked for volunteers to cook for the kids each Monday and Tuesday. They are staying at the home of the head bootcamp trainer and her mother, and have presumably been eating cold cuts or PB&J for the rest of the week, as I know the head trainer does not cook.

I volunteered for 2 Mondays and a Sunday. Last Monday, I made Baked Ziti, inspired by a recipe by Knottie Rosie109, green salad, and these lovely Lemon Cupcakes decorated with lemon Jelly Bellies.

This week, I decided to make French Dip Sandwiches, Sweet Potato French Fries, chocolate Cake Mix Cookies with white chocolate chips, and Lemon Meltaways.

I have an issue with actually cooking the 2 rump roasts, as I have a small crock pot and can only cook one roast at a time. I guess I'll cook one this afternoon and one overnight and just combine and heat them before I bring them to the kids. I'm also afraid that they will have non-toasted bread and non-melted cheese, but I'm sure they will still be grateful.

Now off to cut up 14 lbs of sweet potatoes. Wish me luck!!

Lemon Meltaway Cookies

Repost from this recipe on Reportedly yields 30 cookies, but I guess I made them small because I got about 45

3/4 cup butter (no substitutes), softened
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
3 drops yellow food coloring (optional)

1- In a mixing bowl, cream butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy; beat in lemon juice.

2- Combine the flour and cornstarch; gradually add to the creamed mixture.

3-Shape into two 8-in. rolls; wrap each roll in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

4-Unwrap and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. 

5-Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-12 minutes or until the cookies are firm to the touch. Remove to wire racks to cool.

6- For frosting, in a small mixing bowl, combine the butter, confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel and food coloring if desired; beat until smooth. Frost cooled cookies.

Cake Mix Cookies

I don't know about you, but random cake mixes are a pantry staple in my house. If you are in a bind for cookies (surprise! there's a bakesale at school tomorrow, mom), Cake Mix cookies are a life saver.Makes about 2 dozen, depending on how big you make them and how much batter you eat.

1 boxed cake mix (whatever flavor you want or have on hand)
1 stick of butter, softened but not melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup of chips (chocolate, white chocolate, peppermint, butterscotch, etc) or nuts

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until moistened thoroughly. Portion by spoonful on a  ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes and then allow to cook for at least 5 minutes on the pan before attempting to remove them to a cooling rack. They will be very soft and will fall apart if they are too hot. If it makes you feel better, you can cool them completely on the cookie sheet.

Easy Crock Pot French Dip Sandwiches

Adapted from user lonwolf32

Reportedly yields 9 servings:

4 pounds rump roast
1 (10.5 ounce) can beef broth
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed French onion soup
1 (12 fluid ounce) bottle of Guiness
9 slices of provolone
9 French rolls

Trim excess fat from the rump roast, and place in a slow cooker. Add the beef broth, garlic, onion soup and beer. Cook on Low setting for 7 hours.

Remove the meat from the slow cooker, slice diagonally, and place back in the sauce. Leave this in the slow cooker up to 1 additional hour on low.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), Split French rolls, and top with cheese. Bake 10 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted. Place beef in roll and use au jus for dipping.

Baked Ziti

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from Knottie Rosie109. I initially tripled it to feed 20 people (with leftovers). This one makes 8 generous servings.

1 lb whole wheat penne pasta (or ziti)
24 oz container of fat free ricotta cheese
8oz shredded mozzarella cheese
1 large jar Prego spaghetti sauce
1 lb extra lean ground beef
1 clove garlic, diced or pressed
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg

1- Preheat oven to 400.

2- Brown the ground beef with the garlic and drain. Cook the pasta in boiling, well salted water until al-dente (approx 8 minutes). Drain and rinse the pasta under cold water.

3- Beat the egg in a large bowl. Add in the ricotta, salt, 3/4 the mozzarella and 1/2 the spaghetti sauce.

4- Add the hamburger and pasta and mix well.

5- Place the whole mixture in a greased lasagna or 9x13 pan. Top with remaining spaghetti sauce and mozzarella, and the entire amount of Parmesan.

6- At this point, you can either refrigerate for cooking the next day, or bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and brown. If you refrigerate, increase the cooking time by 15 minutes to account for the initial temperature difference. Allow to rest 10 minutes before cutting.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cupcakes that love you back!

I love sweets. It is an addiction, for sure. I have always loved candies and cakes, but alas, they do not love me back. In the past year, I have discovered the secret to low fat baking, and NO, it is not applesauce.

Applesauce contains too much water and really doesn't give the creaminess or tenderness you get baking with oil and butter. I can always tell when something was made with applesauce.

My secret weapon: Fat Free Greek Yogurt! 
It can be subbed in most baking recipes for oil (1:1) and egg yolks (1 tbsp per yolk). It adds calcium and protein and totally replaces the fat in the oil and egg yolks. It is amazing, and the texture is fluffy and moist.

I used this secret when I made 300+ cakeballs for Christmas, and it was on point. I didn't feel so guilty tasting my handiwork when I was done, although I should have stopped at just 1 : /

I am making cupcakes for some hungry teenagers tomorrow night, so this is my recipe:
1 Duncan Hines Lemon Cake Mix
1 c water
1/2 c + 3 tbsp Fat Free Greek Yogurt
3 large egg whites

I always mix the wet ingredients together with the mixer first, to add some volume to the egg whites. Then I add the cake mix and just mix and bake according to the box directions.

When frosted generously with Betty Crocker Fluffy White Frosting from the dry mix, each cupcake is only 120 calories, 1.5g fat, 24g carbs, 10.3g sugars, and 2.3g protein.

We'll see how the kids like them tomorrow!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Smoothie Throwdown

Last night I was challenged to a Smoothie Throwdown by one of my bootcamp trainers. I am assuming he was joking, because no one can beat this one as a post workout meal.

Super Duper Strawberry Smoothie:
1 cup HEB Mootopia Milk (Skim)
3 heaping tbsp MLO Super High Protein Powder
2 tbsp Alive Whole Food Energizer Liquid Vitamin
2/3 cup frozen blueberries (unsweetened, I freeze my own to be sure)
6 medium strawberries, frozen (also unsweetened, frozen by me)
1 tsp granulated stevia (natural sweetener, no calories)

Whiz it all up in the Ninja, and enjoy. I don't know any premixed smoothie on the market that can beat this one: no added sugar, no artificial sweeteners, a bazillion vitamins and minerals.. and it tastes good! Look at the nutrition on this bad boy:

Calories 295.2
Total Fat 1.3 g
Cholesterol 5.0 mg
Sodium 401.5 mg
Potassium 284.7 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28.6 g
Dietary Fiber 4.2 g
Sugars 23.7 g
Protein 39.1 g

Vitamin A 247.3 %
Vitamin B-12 3,368.0 %
Vitamin B-6 2,538.9 %
Vitamin C 1,790.7 %
Vitamin D 125.0 %
Vitamin E 707.3 %
Calcium 86.6 %
Copper 139.7 %
Folate 119.7 %
Iron 57.4 %
Magnesium 43.0 %
Manganese 273.9 %
Niacin 662.5 %
Pantothenic Acid 1,288.3 %
Phosphorus 32.4 %
Riboflavin 1,511.6 %
Selenium 131.5 %
Thiamin 1,706.0 %
Zinc 136.3 %

So bring your blender, Brandon.. its on!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mmmm... Soda!

In an effort to stay away from artificial sweetners and excess sugar, I haven't had a soda, diet or otherwise in about 5 months. I feel great, but I just really miss burping sometimes. Last night I experimented with creating my own Sprite-like drink, with no sugar or artificial sweetners. I have now perfected it, and I think it is pretty darn awesome.

I started with a 20oz water bottle, and squeezed half a lemon and half a lime into the bottom. I then mixed in 1.5 tsp of granulated Stevia, which is a NATURAL calorie free sweetner, made from the extract of a leaf. I added regular old plain club soda to fill the bottle, and voila! Yummy Soda!!

Zevia makes a lemon lime soda sweetened with Stevia, but it costs upwards of $1/can, and doesn't taste as good or as fresh as mine. I am so happy I can make my own version, fairly cheaply, without all the calories OR artificial stuff.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Supercharged Breakfast

Some of you who know me personally know that I go to bootcamp every morning before work. When I get home, I don't have any time to eat, even though I should eat right after I work out. For 2 weeks now I have been making protein smoothies for breakfast, so I can sip on them on my way to work. Normally, I want to chew something, and my hunger is not satisfied with drinks. However, I've perfected a smoothie that is so thick its is almost like ice cream. Its thick enough that it actually satisfies my need to chew.

In our new Ninja blender (thanks to R's father), I whoosh together the following:
1 cup milk
3 heaping tbsp MLO Super Protein Powder
2 tbsp Alive Whole Food Energizer Liquid
6 peach slices, frozen
3/4 cup blue berries, frozen

The nutritional info on this is freakishly awesome:
 310 cal, 1.4g fat, 372 mg sodium, 733mg potassium, 42.5 g carbs, 5.5 g fiber, 32 g protein and at least 100% if not more, of all of the RDA listed vitamins and minerals.

My frugal tip: Buy peaches and blueberries in season and freeze them yourself. Peel and slice the peaches, and wash and dry the blueberries on a paper towel. Lay each in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer for at least an hour. Take them out, store them in an airtight container or bag in the freezer, and you'll always have frozen fruit on hand. The same method works for most berries and fruits that I know of. I haven't tried bananas frozen in slices yet, but I might this week. We'll see!

P.S. Those vitamins kick major butt. I haven't had caffeine in months, and I am WIRED by the time I get to work, just off of the vitamins in that smoothie. Amazing!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Omnivore Hundred

I copied this from Wife on a Budget, who got it from Very Good Taste:

Here are the directions:

Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food – but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s what I want you to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
SarahPLiz's Omnivore Hundred

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (Alligator)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Well, its been a while

Our schedule got all messed up with an impromptu trip to Florida a couple weekends ago to visit R's family. We got to go snorkeling, but I didn't get to plan a menu or even go grocery shopping on the weekend. Also, work has been getting really hectic. I think this is going to change my plan, as during the week we really don't eat from a recipe. I really don't see a grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli as a recipe. My new goal is to post 2 recipes that I will be making that week, and I'll try to remember to take pictures and edit the recipes with the pictures after I make them.

This week I'll be using a tried and true Italian Beef recipe, which can be served with rice or on a crusty roll with some provolone for a kick-but sandwich. The original recipe calls for a 3-4 lb chuck roast, but I don't think that will even fit in my crock pot, so we'll go for half that recipe. I don't want to have to throw it out because we didn't eat it all. I have made this recipe before, but was reminded of its yumminess by a friend this weekend. Now I am all excited about it.

I will also be trying a Creamy Taco Mac, made with ground chicken and leftover salsa. This recipe is supposed to end up like Hamburger Helper, without the red meat (we'll have plenty of that) and preservatives. I am adapting it for our personal tastes from this recipe on the Delish blog, which is a new recipe source for me.

Creamy Taco Mac

makes 4 servings, 441 calories and 46 grams of protein each. Adapted from Delish blog.

1 lbs extra lean ground chicken breast

8 oz quinoa pasta +1 cup pasta water
1.5 cup fresh or canned salsa (we prefer Ana's)
2 Tbsp mild taco seasoning
3 oz fat free cream cheese
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
salt & pepper
1/3 cup cheddar cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta per directions. Reserve one cup of pasta water.

Over medium heat, brown ground chicken until no longer pink. Add taco seasoning and salsa. Allow to simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Add cooked pasta, reserved water, cream cheese and sour cream. Give it a good stir until cheeses are melty and incorporated. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Season with salt & pepper, as desired. Top off with cheddar cheese for extra cheesy goodness.

Easy Italian Beef

This recipe is SO easy, and relatively healthy for low-carb people. Chock full-o-protein. Makes 8 servings with approximately 350 calories and 33 grams of protein in each serving.

1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 lb chuck roast, trimmed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1 3/4 cup beef broth, low sodium
3 tbsp Itailan seasoning
1/2 of a 16 oz jar of pepperoncini peppers, with juice

cut slits in the beef with a knife, just big enough to insert the garlic. In a heavy skillet or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the roast and sear on all sides, including the ends, for 4-5 minutes per side.

Dutch Oven cooking:
Preheat oven to 275. After earing beef, remove the dutch oven from the heat and add the rest of the ingredients.Cover dutch oven and bake for 5-6 hours, until the meat is falling apart.

Crock pot recipe:
Remove the roast from the skillet and add it to the crockpot. Add the beef broth to the hot skillet and use it to deglaze the pan. Scrape up all the good yummy burnt bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the broth to the crockpot, along with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until the meat is falling apart.

Remove the meat from the pot, shred it with a fork, and then return it to the pot with all the juices.

Serving suggestions: On rice, with juice as gravy, or on a crusty piece of baguette with cheese, to make a sandwich. I have also used it in tortillas for a twist on tacos, and it can be added to pasta for a quick leftovers meal. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Menu- Week of June 14, 2010

Well, some of last week's recipes got not so hot reviews from R, but one was outstanding. He really liked the Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms, and requested a repeat performance this week. That's fine by me, because it was really easy to make.

Another realization I have made is that R doesn't like leftovers, and won't bring his lunch, or come home to eat. I have tried rationalizing that it saves us money and is more nutritious, but we end up wasting money every week on food that goes bad because he won't eat it. This week, I will make only enough for me to have lunch for 4 days, and then our dinners for Sunday-Thursday.

We leave for a weekend trip to Florida to see R's parents on Friday, so the menu is really short this week. I will probably end up posting next week's menu on next Monday, and it will be a rushed week anyway. I'm not looking forward to that.

Without further delay, here is this week's menu:

Sunday- Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms (using the crock pot method, since I need my skillet for other things)
Monday- Chicken and Spinach Lasagna (my lunch menu for the week)
Tuesday- Stuffed Portabellas
Wednesday- Grilled Chicken with Mamaliga and Beans
Thursday-  Leftover lasagna and grilled chicken, and any veggies we have left in the fridge

I have been told that I need to post pictures of these recipes, so I will post them as I make the recipes. Last week I found the camera battery and charger, so it should be all ready for this week. Enjoy!

Mamaliga and Beans

Mamaliga is the Romanian equivalent of Polenta, which is the Italian equivalent to thecorn meal mush my dad and Mema used to make me as a kid. It is used as a starch, an alternative to rice or bread. R's mom showed me how to make it quickly in the microwave, but I prefer my version on the stovetop.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens "Polenta and Beans"
Yeild 4 servings

2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup water
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 tsp butter
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup bottled salsa with cilantro or other salsa
3/4 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (3 ounces)

1.For mamaliga, in a large saucepan bring the 2 cups of water and 1 cup milk to boiling. In a medium bowl combine cornmeal, the 1 cup water, and salt. Stir cornmeal mixture slowly into the boiling water. Add garlic and butter. Cook and stir until mixture comes to boiling. Reduce heat to low. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring occasionally. If you can spin your spoon around in the middle, take it out,  and see the bottom of the pot for about 5 seconds, its thick enough.

2.Meanwhile, in a large skillet combine the beans, undrained tomatoes, and salsa. Bring mixture to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir 1/2 cup of the cheese into the polenta. Divide mamaliga among four shallow bowls. Top with the bean mixture and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

I like to serve with a grilled chicken breast, but this can also be a vegetarian entree.

Stuffed Portabellas

Adapted from

Yeild: 2 main dish or 4 side dish servings

4 Portabella Mushroom caps (stems and gills removed with a spoon)
1 large diced shallot
1/4 c. red bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 c. zucchini, diced (with peel on)
4 c. baby spinach (bagged, or remove stems from bunches)
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 roma tomato, sliced thin
2 oz mozzarella cheese
4 Tbsp shredded parmesan cheese

1- Preheat oven to 450

2- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium flame. Add shallot, bell peppers, and zucchini and saute for 1 minute.

3- Add. the spinach and cook until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside

4- Spray the bottom of each mushroom with non-stick spray, or brush with olive oil, and place on a cookie sheet. Heat the mushrooms in the oven 1-2 minutes, until they are just warm.

5- Rub the inside of each mushroom with the smashed garlic clove, and sprinkle on the flax seed meal.

6- Divide the veggie mixture and fill the mushrooms. Top with tomato slices and cheese.

7- Bake about 6 minutes, or until the cheeese is melted and bubbly.

8- Drizzle vinegar over the mushrooms before serving.

Chicken & Spinach Lasagna

Adapted from Cooking Light March 2006 "Creamy Spinach Lasagna"
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 piece)


1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1/4 cups chopped onion (about 2 medium)
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1 lb ground chicken breast
1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
3 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (26-ounce) jar marinara sauce, divided
Cooking spray
18 cooked whole wheat lasagna noodles, divided
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
Parsley sprigs (optional)

1- Preheat oven to 375°.

2- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ground chicken breast and cook or until onion is browned and chicken is cooked.  Stir in garlic and spinach. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 3 minutes or until spinach is tender. Set aside.

3- Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, milk, salt, black pepper, and red pepper in a small saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer 1 minute, stirring frequently.

4- Add 2 cups milk mixture to spinach mixture. Cover remaining milk mixture, and set aside.

5- Spread 1/2 cup marinara sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Layer as follows:
3 noodles- 1/3 spinach & chicken- 3 noodles- 3/4 c marinara- 3/4 c cheese
3 noodles- 1/3 spinach & chicken- 3 noodles- 3/4 c marinara- 3/4 c cheese
3 noodles- 1/3 spinach & chicken- 3 noodles- remaining marinara- remaining milk mixture- remaining cheese.

6- Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until lasagna is browned on top. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie

Note: after making this, I realized that it needs more flavor and some salt in the crust. Next time I'll try something different. If you come up with anything, please post a comment and let me know!

Adapted from Pampered Chef  "It's Good For You" cookbook
Yield: 6 servings

2 cups boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into 1 in. pieces
1 tbsp olive oil, divided in 2
1 cup thin sliced carrots
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
2 cups broccoli florets (frozen baby spinach works well)
2 tbsp water
1 can low fat and sodium cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup low fat milk
1 garlic clove, pressed or diced
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
Tony Chachere's to taste

1 1/3 cups Heart Healthy Bisquick
1/2 cup low fat milk
a pinch of salt
1 egg white

1- Preheat oven to 400

2- Heat a skillet over medium heat, with a little olive oil in the bottom (about 1/2 tbsp). Add the chicken and cook until it is just pink. Remove the chicken from the pan and add another 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.

2- Add onions to the skillet and sweat them down (do not caramelize= no browning) until they are translucent. Add the garlic, then crank up the heat to medium-high and add the carrots, broccoli, and water . Cover and cook up to 5 minutes, until the water disappears. This should cook the carrots and broccoli until they are just tender-crisp.

3- In a bowl, whisk together the soup, broth, milk, thyme and black pepper. Stir in chicken and vegetables and pour into a casserole pan of some sort. I have found that they type doesn't really matter, as long as the entire mixture and topping fit in it.

4- Make the biscuit topping by combining the Bisquick, milk, and egg white until just moistened. Either roll out on a floured surface or use a spoon to scoop out the dough. Lay the rolled dough on top of the wet stuff in the casserole pan and cut a few slits to let the steam escape, or plop the scoops of dough out onto the top of the casserole, like a drop biscuit.

5- Bake 30-35 minutes until the topping is brown and the filling is bubbling. to protect your oven from bubbling filling, put the casserole pan on a cookie sheet lined with foil (easy clean up).

Beef Tamale Bake

Adapted from Pampered Chef  "It's Good For You Cookbook"
Yields 8 servings

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup hot tap water
2 egg whites
3 tbsp. melted butter (always the real thing, unsalted)

1lb. extra lean ground beef
3 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
1 jar thick and chunky salsa (we like Ana's from the produce section)
1 large (more than 15.5 oz) can of beans (black, pinto, kidney, whatever you have)
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat Mexican blend cheese

1- Preheat oven to 400. Spray or butter a 9x13 pan.

2- Combine corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the egg whites, water and butter and mix well. Spread the batter evenly in to the pan.

3- In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown the ground beef with the cumin, chili powder, and garlic until it is no longer pink. Add the salsa and beans and bring to a boil.

4- Spread the beef mixture over the cornmeal mixture and bake 30-35 minutes, until the crust begins to brown. Place a cookie sheet on the rack below the pan if you are worried about it bubbling over and getting the bottom of your oven all grody.

5- Remove from oven, top with cheese, and let stand 5 minutes before cutting into 8 pieces.

Amount Per Serving
Calories 365.2
Total Fat 17.0 g
Saturated Fat 7.4 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g
Monounsaturated Fat 5.7 g
Cholesterol 55.8 mg
Sodium 722.1 mg
Potassium 375.9 mg
Total Carbohydrate 36.8 g
Dietary Fiber 6.9 g
Sugars 0.7 g
Protein 20.2 g

Grilled Smorgasboard

This is a go with the flow type of preparation. Notice that we don't use a lot of salt. R is a salt fiend, but we really don't need it here. Go ahead and heat up your grill. Veggies go first, as they can be served room temperature. If you have a larger grill, then you can do it all at once.

Slice lengthwise into thin slices. Sprinkle with your favorite seasoning blend, which should be Tony Chachere's of course, and brush with olive oil. Grill until you get grill marks and the zucchini is limp.

Rinse the asparagus and then cut or snap off the woody part of the stem, leaving only the tender good parts. Brush with olive oil. Grill until they have grill marks and are tender cooked (not too limp). Once you remove them from the grill, sprinkle them with a little kosher salt and squeeze a lemon over the whole lot.

Green Onions
Yes, we grill green onions (scallions), and they are sweet and delicious! Rinse your green onions and pat them dry. Cut off the really thin parts at the top (save them for another recipe. They freeze well) and just roots at the bottom. You want to end up with a 5-6" portion of the onion, including all the white part. Brush them with olive oil and grill until the white parts have grill marks and are tender.

Portabella Mushrooms
I had to edit the post to add these. I forgot I had them in the fridge, so I figured I'd throw them on the grill before they went bad. I just brished them with olive oil and laid them on the grill, flat side down. They cooked at the same time as the zucchini. When they were tender, I added some parmesan cheese to the top. That's all.

Grilled Tri-Tip

There are so many ways to do it, but basically I marinate or rub with spices and olive oil, and then just throw it on a hot grill.

Here is an example:
Start with 1 lb or so of Tri Tip

Sprinkle on Pampered Chef Chipotle Rub (or a mixture of chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, and oregano) and a little Kosher Salt

Massage in the rub with olive oil (not extra virgin, as the smoke point on EVOO is really low)

Let the meat sit in the fridge for 30 minutes, and on the counter for about 15 while you heat up the grill.

Depending on the thickness and your desired level of doneness, 3-5 minutes per side should be sufficient.

Remove from the grill let it sit (try not to puncture it) for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Always cut meat against the grain so it tastes as tender as you tried to make it. Even a perfectly cooked steak will be hard to chew if you cut it wrong.

Avocado Quinoa Salad

Adapted from
Yield 4 servings (or 2 if you are like us and love the veggies)

1/4 cup quinoa
1 cup chicken broth
1 large avocado
juice of 1 lemon
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 English cucumber, diced (with skin on)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions. If you got yours in the bulk section, then get the broth boiling on the stove, in a pot that has a lid. Add the quinoa, put the lid on, and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Remove it from the heat and leave it covered for 3 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Allow to cool and fluff with a fork.

Cut the avocado in chunks and add to a bowl with the lemon juice. Toss gently, then add the tomato, cucumber, quinoa, and salt and pepper.

The recipe said to allow it to sit, but I ate it right away and it was delicious. I paired it with some simple grilled chicken breast (olive oil and a pampered chef rub), and it was a great meal!

Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms

Adapted from
I increased the ratio of mushrooms to meat to make it a bit healthier.
Yield 4 servings

.75 to 1 lb tri tip sirloin, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tbsp olive oil
10oz bag of pre-sliced baby bellas (cremini mushrooms)
3/4 c red wine
8oz can of tomato sauce
1/4 c water
1 tsp Hungarian paprika
1 bay leaf
a pinch of dried thyme
1 beef bullion cube (try low sodium)
2 cups cooked brown rice

1- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until glossy, but not smoking. Add the beef and garlic and cook until the beef is brown on all sides.

2- Add the mushrooms and saute for 1-2 minutes.

3- Add in the red wine and use it to help scrape up all the good bits from the bottom of the pan.

4- Add the remaining ingredients (except the rice of course). Cover and simmer on low 45 minutes. The longer you cook it, the more tender the beef will be, but 45 minutes is generally a good length of time. Add more water if the sauce gets too thick.
* If you want the beef to be even more tender, get all of the ingredients up to a boil and dump them in a crock pot. Set on high for 2-4 hours, depending on how much time you have and how tender the beef gets.
5- Serve over rice.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Menu- Week of June 6, 2010

I decided that this week, we'd go for some fiber and healthy fat (AVOCADOS!!!)

Monday- Grilled Chicken with Avocado Quinoa Salad

Tuesday- Sirloin Tips with Mushrooms, served over brown rice

Wednesday- Grilled Chicken with Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

Thursday- Black Bean Chicken

Friday- Leftovers!

Last week we ended up with way too much food, and I ended up having to throw some out, so this week I'm scaling back the recipes so we don't waste. All of these are new recipes to me except the Black Bean Chicken, so we'll have to see how these new recipes work out.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad

This salad can be a main dish, side dish for grilled chicken, or topping for lettuce. But I say skip the lettuce and go for the good stuff.

The key to this salad is fresh lime juice and good extra virgin olive oil. If your olive oil comes in a plastic bottle, it is not good olive oil. If you use it in this salad, your salad will taste like plastic and will be no where near as good.

2 large avodcados, diced
2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 large ears of corn, or 1 small bag of frozen corn
1 red onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 garlic clove, pressed
juice of 2-3 limes
1/2 bunch of cilantro leaves (chop them off the stems)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt to taste

1- In a large bowl, combine the avocado and black beans. Mix with approx 1 tbsp of lime juice to keep the avocado from browning while you do the rest.

2- Options for corn:
  • Boil the ears in salted water for 7-8 minutes. You want them slighlty cooked but still crispy. NOT mushy. Cut the corn off of the cob, allow to cool to room temp and add to big bowl
  • Brush the ears with olive oil and roast at 450 in oven, or on grill until they are slightly done but not mushy. Cut kernels off the cob, allow to cool to room temp and add to big bowl
  • Open the bag of frozen corn and pour it into a collander. Run the collander under warm (not hot) water until the corn defrosts, but you don't want it to cook. Blot with a paper towel to dry it off a bit, and then add it to the big bowl.
3- Add in the red onion and chili powder

4- For the dressing, use a mortar and pestal or a food processor to pulverize the garlic, cilantro and lime juice. This should look something like the beginnings of a pesto. Drizzle in the olive oil and wither whisk or whir a little bit longer in the food processor to combine it. Now it should really look like pesto, but thinner. Add a little more oil or lime juice to taste.

5- Toss the dressing with the avocado mixture, add salt to taste and chill for at least 30 mintues to let the flavors combine. If you let it sit overnight, it won't be as pretty, but it will taste even more awesome.

Black Bean Chicken

Adapted from Sparkpeople member LOSER1231's recipe on
Yields 6 servings

1 lb frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup brown rice
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
16 oz jar of your favorite salsa (green or red)

Place all of this in your slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours. While its a slow cooker recipe, you really want to watch it a bit so the rice doesn't get over cooked and mushy.

Before serving, stir with a fork to break up the chicken. It should shred pretty easily.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Menu- Week of May 31, 2010

This week we start with Memorial Day. I'm volunteering for a trialthlon in the morning, so we will have our Meat Fest in the afternoon. On the menu are guacamole (avocado mashed with lime juice, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt), Ana's salsa, Tostitos Baked Scoops, and the grilled smorgasboard- tri tip steak, chicken sausage, asparagus, zucchini, and green onions.

Tuesday- Grilled Lemon Chicken with Tabbouleh

Wednesday- Quick Curried Chicken

Thursday- Beef Tamale Bake

Friday- Chicken Pot Pie

All of these recipes make 4-6 servings, so the leftovers will be used for lunches and/or frozen for sometime in the future when I am too busy to cook on the weekend. Sometime life happens.

Tip of the Week:
Chop all of the vegetables first portion them out for the recipes, so you can cook more than one thing at a time without losing your mind.

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Tabbouleh

Adapted from Pampered Chef  "It's Good For You" cookbook
Yields 4 servings

1 1/2 cups water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup uncooked bulgar wheat
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup sliced green onions with tops
1 cup snipped fresh parsley
2 tbsp snipped fresh mint (optional)
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice

1- Bring water, salt and oil to a boil in a small sauce pan. Add the bulgar, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand 25 minutes or until the water is absorbed.

2- In a bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients with the bulgar, cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours to let the flavors blend. It can be refridgerated overnight (great make-ahead option)

Grilled Lemon Chicken

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning

1- Heat grill to medium high. Rinse and pat the chicken dry. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning.

2- Grill 6-7 minutes per side, turning once.

Grilled Pita Bread Wedges

Cut Pita into 4 wedges. Brush with olive oil and grill 1-2 minutes per side, until it is crsipy and lightly browned.

Quick Curried Chicken

Adapted from Pampered Chef's "It's Good For You" cookbook
Yeild 6 servings

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast or tenders, cut in 1in pieces
1 tbsp curry powder
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 14oz can coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
1 14 oz can of pineapple chunks in juice, drained
2 tbsp snipped fresh cilantro
Chopped peanuts or toasted coconut
3 cups cooked brown rice

1- In a medium bowl, combine the curry powder, cornstarch, ginger and salt. Add chicken and toss to coat evenly.

2- Heat large skillet over high heat with 1tbsp olive oil. Add chicken and garlic and cook until chicken is no longer pink, so 6-7 minutes. Remove the chicken from the skillet.

3. Reduce the heat to medium high and add the bell peppers. Cook 1-2 minutes, then stir in the coconut milk, pineapple and chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, or until sauce thickens.

4- Add cilantro and mix gently. Serve over rice, and top with peanuts or coconut if desired.

Getting Started

I love to cook, but I hate to clean. I might as well just put that out there. I have a very busy schedule, so having to come home, make dinner, and then clean up afterwards does not sound very good to me. I'd rather spend my evenings relaxing and eating than cleaning up the kitchen.

Also, I am so tired of Healthy Choice and Lean Cuisine that I can't even stand the sight of them. They have been my staple lunch for years, as I tried to control calories and portions. However, I was filling my body with preservatives and tons of salt, which negated all my efforts to be healthy.

My friend Shayla started cooking all the meals for the week for her and her husband on the weekend. She lost a significant amount of weight that way, without very much change in her activity level, as far as I can tell. Watching her shrink has been an amazing motivator for me to start a system myself.

My fiance R is a meat eater, and he also loves fresh veggies. He's not so hot on cooked ones. This is a challenge for cooking in advance, because I am not fond of microwaved steak and I still end up preparing fresh veggies to go with dinner. However, we are embarking on this adventure, and I want to share it with all of you.

I'll post a menu for the week and then the new recipes. My recipes are adapted from many sources, but I always change them, and rarely measure accurately. I'll give credit where credit is due, however. I might even be able to include nutritional information sometimes, although we aren't focusing so much on counting calories as we are having proper portions of satisfying foods that adequately fuel us for all our activities.

Here we go!