Friday, September 18, 2009

Be Back Soon!

I'm sure you're all wondering where the heck I've been?!?! I will be back soon, I haven't forgotten about you!

It ended up being quite the busy summer and I have not had time to cook. At all. I know, sad, right?

So I bet you're wondering what I've been doing?
  • Traveling a bit for work and fun
  • Running! If you knew the previous me, you'd likely fall off your chair if the word run even entered my vocabulary. Well, it's true. I have become a runner. I spent a good portion of the summer training for a 193 mile road relay race with 11 other people. And it was a BLAST. I ran a total of 15.5 miles in 24 hours (3 legs of the race). Never in a million years did I think I would ever accomplish that. So to be honest, that's where a lot of my cooking time went, but it was worth it in the end.
  • Home renovations. Currently this is the biggest chunk of my spare time. I'm in the midst some serious home renovations. It's quite the time suck, but they are some needed projects (as in a brand new bathroom and another bathroom gut plus some other projects) and I hope to have them wrapped up soon.
Since we all go through many busy times in our lives, it's still important to keep control of what we eat and try to keep as healthy as possible. I did alter my eating habits a bit this summer to accommodate the amount of running I was doing, but mainly that consisted of a few more pasta nights and an excuse to eat peanut butter on mornings I ran. I wasn't able to make many dinners, but here's a bit about my strategy for keeping the pounds off and eating healthy:
  • FRUIT AND VEGETABLES. It was summer. I kept around especially a TON of fruit and many vegetables as well. Basically, whatever was on sale that week I would stock up on and plan what I ate around that
  • Stick with the grocery store routine as much as I could. My schedule was a bit out of whack, so I wasn't always able to shop at the same time, which has often been a big key to my success in keeping healthy food around and meals in the fridge we could heat up quickly. But I still made time at least once a week to get to the grocery store and stock up on fresh food. This significantly reduces the amount of last-minute take-out that can happen
  • Stock up on low-calorie, pre-packaged snacks. I generally try to avoid these when I'm cooking a lot, but when time's tight, if I have a 100 calorie pack around, I'll eat that for a snack on the go instead of something worse for me.
  • Sandwiches. I made sure to keep bread, deli meat, low-fat cheese and other sandwich items around. In a pinch it can be the best meal. Oh, and some fat free pretzels. Yum! Sandwiches can go a long way and there's lots of variety for those of us who don't like to eat the same thing every day.
  • Crock pot: I did manage to use it once or twice. One of my favorite beer/chicken recipes should hopefully be coming soon
  • Chips and salsa. Keep portions in check for the taco chips, but they are easy to keep around and can be a good side to many quick summer meals
  • Yogurt. The perfect breakfast on the go with some fruit.
  • Tacos. It's quick to cook up a couple of pounds of taco meat (I usually do half lean ground turkey, half extra lean ground beef) and have tacos over a couple of days.
  • Water. As always, hydration is key. Really helps with the hunger.
Hopefully I'll have a food post on the way soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fresh Mango Black Bean Salsa


This recipe has been a long-time coming. The first time I made it I ran out of time and didn't get a photo. The second time my paper with my notes disappeared in some massive home reorganization...so I guess this means third time's the charm! And then I didn't get a chance to blog this before going to France...but it was certainly worth the wait.

No direct recipe credit here. Brainstormed ingredient ideas and tweaked as I made this three times!

Ingredients:
  • 2 ripe mangos, diced small
  • 3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 - 3/4 red onion, chopped
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1-2 serrano peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (for a spicier kick, keep some of the seeds)
  • 3 tsp. minced, jarred garlic, or 2 cloves freshly crushed
  • Juice from 2 limes
  • Juice from one (small-med.) orange, or about 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly grated gingerroot
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • Salte & pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Dice the mangos and put in a large mixing bowl. For some tips on how to cut up mangos, click here. I find it easiest to peel the mango with a potato peeler, slice off four large chunks around the pit and then dice.
  2. Chop the tomatoes, onion and peppers and add to the bowl. Add the rinsed and drained black beans and toss.
  3. Add the garlic, lime juice, orange juice, ginger, cilantro, salt & pepper and mix well.
  4. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving, to allow time for the flavors to blend.
  5. Serve with tortilla chips.

Review:

I don't think I've mentioned this previously but we're big fans of salsa...good salsa, that is. I'm pretty particular about it because there's some bad salsa out there! This was the first time I'd made something other than a regular tomato salsa and obviously we liked it since I've now made it three times. This is a great light, summery salsa. The lime and orange juices go very well with the mango and ginger flavors to make for a great salsa. Plus, I vote that it goes well with just about anything grill-related.

So far I've taken this salsa to three different social gatherings and it was a hit each time. Needless to say, it's going into the regular rotation!

Nutrition Information:

It's tough to figure out exactly how many servings are in this or the serving size, based on the exact amount of ingredients used, how much the mango yields, etc. But the bottom line is, it's a healthy, tasty option. So here are a few guidelines:

I calculated this entire recipe's information at 707 calories, 3.7 grams of fat and 32.1 grams of fiber (about 14 WW points if you want to eat it all...although I can't imagine anyone would feel very well after doing so!)

I estimate there to be about 10-15 servings per batch. I served it for a gathering of about 20 people and they finished it all.

At 10 servings: 70 calories, .4 grams of fat, 3.2 grams of fiber (about 1 WW point)

At 15 servings: 47 calories, .2 grams of fat, 2.1 grams of fiber (about .5 WW points)

*Count tortilla chips separately.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Low Fat Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Graham Cracker Crust and Crumble Topping

I must say, before I even begin the details of this post, I'm pretty proud of this pie. I've said before I generally prefer to cook vs. bake, but obviously it's still important to find ways to get a good sweet fix without the full calorie and fat versions. So not only was this pie AWESOME and low in fat (almost NO butter!), it also was my very first attempt at a pie. Ever. And I will be making it again. It was a big hit all around.

Unfortunately, I didn't get this posted before my trip, so I don't know how much rhubarb is left right now. My plant has gone dormant with the high temperatures, so I'll likely make this pie again this fall when the rhubarb stalks come back.

Crust:

I used the Low Fat Graham Cracker Crust in my recent post.


Pie filling:
Inspired from this recipe at Eatingwell.com.

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. instant tapioca granules
  • 4 cups sliced fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup rhubarb sliced in small chunks
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice (I used the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon)
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt
Crumble Topping:
Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
Directions for entire pie:
  1. Prepare crust based on previous post and set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  3. Process the tapioca granules in a blender until finely ground.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the strawberries, rhubarb, tapioca, sugar, lemon, nutmeg and salt. Toss well.
  5. Pour the pie mixture into the pie plate onto the pre-baked graham cracker crust and spread evenly throughout the pie plate.
  6. To prepare the crumble topping, in a small mixing bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour and brown sugar. Cut in the butter (best if it's still cold) in small chunks, stirring a bit, until it's a crumbly mixture. Distribute the crumble topping evenly over the top of the pie.
  7. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Rotate the pie 180 degrees, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, about 30-35 minutes more.
  8. Cool at least 2 hours before serving.
  9. Serve with a dollop of reduced fat whipped cream for a tasty dessert!


Nutritional Information (including the crust):
For 8 servings per pie:
  • 295 calories per slice
  • 4.5 grams of fat
  • 5.4 grams of fiber
About 5 WW points

For 16 servings per pie:
  • 148 calories per slice
  • 2.9 grams of fat
  • 2.7 grams of fiber
About 3 WW points

Note: Nutritional content does not include added whipped topping/ice cream/frozen yogurt.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Low Fat Cinnamon Graham Cracker Pie Crust (with yogurt, no butter)


Gearing up for an awesome pie post! Started with an easy, pretty much fat free, graham cracker pie crust. The best part is there is no butter included - the crust is assembled with non-fat plain yogurt - worked great!

Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used reduced fat cinnamon graham crackers for a little added sweetness)
  • 2 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp. plain nonfat yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Between two sheets of wax paper, place a few full graham crackers and crush with a rolling pin until sufficiently crumbled. Continue until you get about 1.5 cups' worth (about 8 full graham cracker sheets)
  3. Once the graham crackers are crushed, put them in a medium sized mixing bowl and stir in the cocoa powder, yogurt and sugar until sufficiently mixed into a ball.
  4. Coat a 9 inch pie plate with cooking spray and evenly spread the graham cracker mixture on the bottom and sides of the pan. I used waxed paper to help.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 min.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool before adding desired pie fillings.
Nutritional Information:

At 8 servings per pie:
  • 66 calories
  • .8 grams of fat
  • .7 grams of fiber
About 1 WW point

At 16 servings per pie:
  • 33 calories
  • .4 grams of fat
  • .3 grams of fiber
About .5 WW points

I'm Back! Lots of good recipes on the way!

I'm sure some of you were starting to wonder if I'd abandoned you...nope! I spent the last two weeks traveling here with a group of high school students:
I chaperoned a high school France trip with my mom and my high school French teacher. Since this was a tour with a set itinerary, I'm sure you can imagine it posed a bit of an eating challenge to try and keep within a normal eating pattern. All dinners were included as part of the trip, so I didn't have control over what was served. However, even though the food can be pretty rich in France (and soooooooo good), their portions are a lot smaller...

So, after still making sure I had some of my favorite French culinary items (I'm a sucker for stinky cheese, bread and wine), I am happy to report that after 2 weeks in France I gained less than 1 pound (Ok, I will admit I've been home for 4 days and have been eating very healthy since then but still..) and I am very proud of myself.

What was my strategy?
  1. Portion control - I didn't go to France with the idea that I couldn't have some of my favorite things (yes, I had some croissants, pain au chocolat, crepes AND dessert). But what I did was control it. As with the way I eat at home, if something wasn't one of my favorite items, I didn't eat it. For the stuff I really liked, I made sure to have it but space it out as much as I could and not overdo it. I am proud to say that even with some of the awesome desserts we had as part of the dinners, I didn't finish them. It took a lot of self-talking, but I did it.
  2. Picnic and fruit stands - Instead of sitting down to a restaurant for lunches which were on our own, for almost every meal my mom and I would picnic. We'd stop in a little grocery store and pick up some bread, cheese, fruit, snacks, etc. Also, since it was June and there was TONS of seasonal, fresh fruit, I ate a TON of cherries while we were gone. It was easy to pick up a bag at a fruit stand and have them while we were out and about during the day. Not only was this a good option on our waistlines, it helped our pocketbooks as well!
  3. Water - Keeping hydrated was huge. We always kept water on us (which also meant we were signing up for the sport of "olympic WC searching"...for those of you who have traveled in France, you know what I'm talking about...bathrooms aren't always easy to find...and then there's often one, maybe two stalls). Besides helping control hunger, water makes you feel better, especially when traveling. Every night with dinner we asked for a pitcher of water with the meal (and then usually 2-3 more as the dinner went on :) ).
  4. Yogurt and Compot - Two awesome options at most hotels for breakfast. Even though the yogurt isn't fat free, it's awesome in Europe, and is usually a small portion with much less artificial flavoring. Adding a little bit of honey to plain yogurt was great for breakfast and sticks with you. They also often offer applesauce or compot for breakfast, which is one of my favorite things to eat in France and a good breakfast option. I'll admit, I often jacked the compot from the hotels to also have with lunch. :)
  5. Bring a little something from home - We packed some home snacks for part of our picnics as well - some trail mix, almonds, 100 calorie breakfast muffins, granola bars, and WW 1 pt. bars. These were a nice addition to our picnics.
  6. Good friends - While our students were in their family stays we had the opportunity to visit some of our friends in France. They were very gracious about having food items we could enjoy but not feel bad about eating later. One friend had fat free yogurt in stock (I KNEW there was some!) and our other friends made a wonderful ratatoullie dinner one evening with a lettuce salad and AWESOME vinaigrette. We ate well.
So, those are just a few tidbits on what I did to still enjoy my travels but not fall completely off the bandwagon. Will get working right now on some of the recipes I wanted to blog BEFORE I left! In the meantime, here's a few photos from the trip:

We have to start with a food picture. Now this is my kind of salad. This was the caprese salad we had for our dinner on the Eiffel Tower. Since tomatoes are my favorite food, you can imagine my level of elation when I laid eyes on our salad. Cherry tomatoes over mozzarella with fresh basil, olive oil (notice the small amount on the plate...that's seriously all the salad needed) and a taste of pesto. I was in heaven:

And here are a few more photos from the trip(some food related, of course):
Afternoon break in St. Malo (Brittany):

Giant container of honey to go along with the fat free plain yogurt...yum:
Glass of rosé beachside in La Baule:Wine barrels on our vineyard tour in the Loire Valley:American Cemetary overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. We were there less than a week after the 65th anniversary of D-day:

Le Mont St. Michel:
Wine and bread...cheese was probably gone at this point!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Grilled Summer Vegetable Kebobs: Zucchini & Yellow Squash with Pearl Onions

While I'm sure there's a recipe out there for this, I've never looked for one. I love zucchini, yellow squash and the grill, so there's my inspiration right there.

As with the recent grilling post, not much goes into it, but it's a great option for the grill. Since the goal for this blog is to offer people a variety of healthy eating options, this fits the bill. One of the biggest challenges in keeping with a healthy eating pattern is when we're pressed for time. So the next time you're grilling and you don't have much time to prepare, these vegetables along with the Cinnamon Ginger Grilled Boneless Pork Chop is an easy, quick solution.


Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini, washed and thickly sliced
  • 2 yellow squash, washed and thickly sliced
  • 6 oz. bag pearl onions, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-3 tsp. minced jarred garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Slice the vegetables (a bit thick so they are easier to skewer) and add to a medium to large size bowl. I halve the larger diameter yellow squash pieces.
  2. Peel onion and halve a few of them against the layers (so they can still be easily put on the skewers) and add to bowl.
  3. Add olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper and toss.
  4. Thread onto skewers as desired (I did yellow squash, zucchini, onion). Be sure to go against the onion layers so they're not as likely to fall off.
  5. Cook over a hot grill until done to your liking (we usually add them to the grill before it's quite hot enough for meat. They tend to take a bit longer to cook than meat).
  6. De-skewer and enjoy!
Notes:

This amount of vegetables filled 3 large skewers. I also have a grill pan that sets directly on the grill. I've grilled them this way a number of times and they are just as good. For this I usually use large sweet onion chunks instead of pearl onions. You could also substitute them for the kebobs.

Nutritional Information:

Makes about 6 servings. Roughly per serving:

70 calories
4.7 grams of fat (.6 saturated)
1.9 grams of dietary fiber

About 1 WW point.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cinnamon Ginger Grilled Boneless Pork Chop

Inspired from my sister, who came up with this great idea for a quick pork chop grill-side flavor boost!

This isn't as much of a recipe, per se, as it is a great idea to keep handy when in need of a quick option to throw on the grill. When everyone else is grilling up their full-fat hot dogs, hamburgers and brats, they'll be jealous of your awesome pork chop. It's quick and simple. Best part is that it's different from a marinade in that it can be prepared right before putting the meat on the grill vs. having to sit in the refrigerator for hours.

Ingredients:
  • Boneless, skinless pork chops, thawed and trimmed of fat (as many as you want to grill)
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • Ground ginger
  • Ground cinnamon

Directions:

Trim fat off pork (I know, that's the good stuff, but trimming it is what makes the pork a great grilling option and a departure from chicken).

Arrange pork chops on a plate/platter.

Lightly spray each one with cooking spray (you don't need much - it's just to help the seasonings stick).

Sprinkle each pork chop moderately with ginger then cinnamon.

Add to a sufficiently heated grill (we use charcoal, so I'm not sure the temperature for gas), turn at least once and cook through.

Enjoy!

Nutritional information per 3 oz. serving:

*According to WebMD, a 3 oz. serving of lean meat is about the size of a deck of playing cards*

164 calories
5.7 grams of fat
1.9 grams saturated fat
0 grams dietary fiber

About 4 WW points.

Note: Pay attention to the meat size, as most boneless pork chops are greater than 3 oz. when purchased pre-cut. One way to keep portion control in check is to cook as-is and when the meat is cooked, cut one to be a similar size to a deck of cards. Keep the rest for leftovers or share with someone.

Aaaand, if you really want a picture, here you go. When this came off the grill the other night, I didn't have time to take a better one...bad layout and a bit blurry but you get the idea. The pork is not burned, the cinnamon just makes it darker.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Updated Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip bread

Sorry to my RSS readers! I accidentally posted the bread while editing. It's now finished! I also updated to have the correct calories. I couldn't figure out why I was getting such a high calorie content but then realized I was only including one loaf in my count instead of three! It's now fixed.

Low Fat Oatmeal Banana Chocolate Chip Bread - No Oil, No Butter!



Inspired from this recipe for Low Fat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins.

Sorry for the posting delay - went on a quick vacation!

Ingredients:
  • 3 large ripe bananas, mashed*
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup instant oats
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (mini chocolate chips recommended)
*Mine were frozen, so I thawed and mashed. When I have uneaten ripe bananas, I peel and freeze in a ziplock bag. Works great for baking with bananas.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium sized bowl, mash bananas with a fork. Add sugar and stir. Add beaten egg and vanilla. Mix and set aside.

In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, oats, salt and cinnamon.

Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, mix well and then add the applesauce.

Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray three small loaf pans with cooking spray and distribute batter evenly between them, filling each about 2/3 full. This would likely make one large loaf and one small loaf as well.

Bake at 350 for 30-35 min., until golden brown on top. Stick a toothpick in the middle of one of the loafs to be sure they're baked through.

Let bread cool in pans for a few minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool 10-15 minutes more.

Each loaf yields 10 thin slices.

Review: This bread ROCKED. I made it during a very busy week and it was awesome to grab a slice of this and some fruit for breakfast as I ran out the door. It definitely cures a chocolate fix. I highly recommend using the mini chocolate chips, as it distributed the chocolate flavor throughout the bread.

I find it hard to believe a recipe can be this good and has no butter and no oil! That's a winner in my book. Sometimes I find baking can be dry when aiming for a lower fat content but the amount of bananas and applesauce in this recipe alleviate that for sure. And it doesn't TASTE low fat, which is even better.

We will definitely be repeating this recipe. The only issue is self-control when a loaf of bread is sitting out!

We ate the first one and froze the other two and they were just as good frozen and thawed as the freshly baked loaf.

Yum!

Nutritional Information:

Serving size 1 slice, at 10 slices per loaf:
70 calories
1.2 grams of fat
1.3 grams of dietary fiber


1 WW points

At 8 slices per loaf:
83 calories
1.5 grams of fat
1.6 grams of dietary fiber

1 WW points (I'd probably count as 1.5)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Weight Watchers Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies - 1 pt. each



Adapted from Weight Watchers.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour*
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder OR dark chocolate powder (I used Hershey's)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Spoon the flour into a cup, level off, pour into a medium-sized mixing bowl
  3. Add baking soda and salt - stir
  4. With a mixer in a separate bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy
  5. Gradually add sugar and beat well
  6. While still beating, add cocoa and egg whites
  7. Once combined, slowly add flour mixture until blended
  8. Stir in chocolate chips
  9. Spray baking sheet and drop by teaspoons onto sheet
  10. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes
  11. Cool on pans a couple of minutes until firm and then transfer to cooling racks
Makes 40 cookies (see review). *Do not go over 1 cup flour. There isn't a ton of liquid in this recipe and if there's extra flour, they likely won't turn out as well.

Review:

I love these cookies. They are a GREAT option when needing a chocolate fix. I made two batches - one with regular unsweetened cocoa powder and one with dark chocolate. Since I'm a big dark chocolate fan, I do like those ones a bit more, but both are good. It would be easy to make these cookies to bring to a party or to serve to guests without them even knowing it's a healthier cookie recipe. I seriously need to make these more often. Yum!

The key to keeping these cookies low in calories is to count the number of cookies dropped on the sheet. I count to make sure I have 40 cookies. Then I know the serving size is correct.

Nutritional information per cookie:

53 calories
1.8 grams fat
.3 grams dietary fiber

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Southwestern Whole Wheat Couscous with Black Beans


Inspired from this recipe at group recipes.

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous (I used Trader Joe's brand, but any will work)
  • 1 - 1 1/4 cup chicken broth (reduced sodium is best)
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 a red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green onion, chopped (about 1/2 a bunch)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1-2 tsp. minced jarred garlic (or 1-2 fresh cloves, crushed)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

In a medium sized pot, bring chicken broth and olive oil to a boil. Add couscous, cover, remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients. Once the couscous has fully absorbed the liquid, fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Add black beans, red onion, carrot, the jalapeno, green onions, garlic, cilantro and stir. Then add lime juice and spices and toss.

Serve hot or cold.

Review:

Pretty good! I liked this side and it was great as leftovers. I generally ate it cold, but I know my husband popped it in the microwave, so it was also good reheated. The original recipe only called for one lime, but I think it definitely needed two limes. Initially I didn't follow my own advice and add garlic, and after tasting it, immediately added 2 tsp. minced jarred garlic. I think that helped round out the salad.

Overall I really liked this dish and will make it again. It went great as a side dish to the salsa chicken.

Makes about 8 servings. Serving size 1/2 - 3/4 cup.

Nutritional Information:

Per serving (based on 8 servings):

138 calories
1.8 grams of fat
.3 grams saturated fat
5.2 grams dietary fiber
About 2 WW points

With smaller portions, based on 10 servings:
108 calories
1.5 grams of fat
.2 grams of saturated fat
4.1 grams dietary fiber
About 1 WW point

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Crock Pot Salsa Chicken


Sorry it's been a while! Some crazy schedules and computer troubles, but lots of updates coming! This is a common dish in the blogging world, but I still wanted to post it, as it's my own twist and of course, is a healthy choice option.

Ingredients:

4 frozen boneless skinless chicken breast (1.5-2 lbs)
1 cup salsa (hot or medium)
1 package taco seasoning
1 can 98% fat free cream of chicken soup
1 small onion, chopped
1 small can green chilies, undrained
1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream


Directions:


Use medium to large sized crock pot. Spray inside of crock pot with cooking spray. Add frozen chicken. In a separate bowl, mix together salsa (I often use one 15 oz. jar which is more than 1 cup), taco seasoning (I use hot & spicy but mild works too) and cream of chicken soup. Add to crock pot, mix in with chicken and cook on low for 8-9 hours or on high about 4 hours.

When chicken is done, turn off crock pot, remove cover and let it cool a bit. Meanwhile, chop the onion. After allowing it to cool for a bit, take two forks and shred the chicken. Mix in the onion, green chilies, sour cream and heat on low about 30 minutes.

Serve on tortillas (see notes), as a taco salad or over tortilla chips.

Makes at least 12 servings.

Review and Notes:

While there are a lot of these recipes floating out there, this one has some good flavors and works well as a base for tacos. I know a lot of my recipes use onion so if you don't like it, that would be an easy thing to cut out. This recipe makes a decent amount which is nice to have as leftovers for lunch, etc. I also like that the amount of heat added with the salsa and taco seasoning can be adapted to one's tastes. This would also work well to serve at a casual party with a taco bar. Overall great option.

For the tortillas, a great way to make this dish still low in points, is to get whole wheat tortillas that are about 1 WW point. Tortilla shells can vary a lot between brands and even if something is called "wheat" or "with whole grains" that doesn't mean it's the best option. Find something that is around 100 calories or less and has a decent amount of dietary fiber. For these, I generally find something over 5 grams per tortilla shell.

To make tacos, top with fresh cilantro, tomatoes, reduced fat cheese, lettuce and other favorite taco seasonings. The only thing I listed that is going to add significant calories is the cheese. Since the chicken is so flavorful, not a lot of cheese is needed. Keeping the portion in control will make this a great dinner option.

Nutritional Information:

129 calories
2.7 grams of fat (1.2 saturated)
.9 grams dietary fiber

3 WW points

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tortellini Soup


It's been rainy and cold recently so I decided a simple soup was in order. It had been a while since I'd made this one and with a busy week, this was something good to have around the house. Plus, I had some carrots and celery to use, so there we go!

I don't know the original source of this recipe. I got it from my mom and I'm not sure where she got it. Either way, I've (of course) adapted it a bit, so it's more my own now anyway. But if I find the source, I will certainly add credit!

Ingredients:
  • 6 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (or 1-2 tsp. minced jarred garlic)
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups cheese tortellini (see note)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle red pepper flakes (optional, see note)
Directions:

Add chicken broth to a large pot and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, chop celery and carrots. Once boiling, add carrots, celery, garlic, a bit of salt & pepper and red pepper flakes if desired, reduce heat slightly, cover and simmer about 15 min., stirring occasionally. Add tortellini and cook according to package (about 8 min. more), stirring occasionally.

Serve with bread. Makes about 6 servings.

Notes:

One of the biggest keys to making this dish low in calories/fat is the tortellini used. When checking out a few different brands in the store, I noticed a wide variety in calories and fat content for about the same size serving. I ended up getting the three cheese tortellini Buitoni brand9 oz. (235 g) size, which equaled exactly 2 1/2 cups of tortellini. Nutritional information below.

I like to add some red pepper flakes to this to give it some heat. Use caution in adding too much, or it will overpower the dish, since it's broth-based and there isn't much else in the simple soup to mask them.

For leftovers, you will notice a good majority of the broth gets sucked up by the tortellini. It generally gets soupier when you reheat but if you need a bit more, add a bit of water before reheating.

Review:

This is a really quick soup to make, which is nice. Plus, I don't really think it has a "season". Although I might not make it in the summer, it was nice on a cold, rainy spring day. I love that we can have some tortellini for not a ton of calories. It hits the spot!

Nutritional Information: Makes about 6 servings.

Per serving:
161.5 calories
4.3 grams of fat (2.1 saturated)
2.8 grams dietary fiber

Buitoni tortellini: Serving size 1 cup. 330 calories, 9 grams fat (3 saturated), 4 grams dietary fiber. This is incorporated into the total above but might help when shopping for the right pasta to use.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I sent it back

I recently went out to dinner for a friend's birthday. I know for many people, eating out can be the most challenging part of a weight loss plan or even sticking with healthy eating. If you read my original post, I mention I consider myself Sally from the movie When Harry Met Sally.

This particular episode of eating out was simple. I ordered an ahi tuna sandwich that didn't come loaded in sauces, etc. There was a wasabi sauce on the side. And I was having a bit of a splurge night, so I got the tortilla chips for the side instead of a salad (however, I will add that I did not eat them all...that's portion control, which is an entirely separate topic that involves a serious discussion on willpower!). I actually kind of laughed as I was ordering, because I only had one small simple request: no butter on my bread.

You see, while I was carefully reading the menu, I noticed a certain "code"...grilled bun...otherwise known as the bread is buttered. Typically, you'd think if a sandwich already comes with a sauce (in this case wasabi aioli...most often mayo, which I now always leave off), then the bread wouldn't need butter in addition...WRONG! Most of the time the bread is still buttered. In my opinion that's overkill, but maybe that's because I've gotten used to things not needing butter. The flavor of the food should speak for itself...why do we need to drown it in butter? Don't get me wrong, in some dishes butter is a logical choice (in moderation, of course)...but in my opinion, when trying to have a tasty splurge, I don't need the butter.

So, when I ordered, all I had was a simple..."could I please have my bun without butter?" Our server nodded her head, said "sure" and that was that....until my sandwich came, of course.

While everyone else was arranging their plates, unrolling their silverware and preparing to dig in, I quickly seized the opportunity to inspect my sandwich before the server could leave. And sure enough, there was my tasty-looking tuna sitting open-faced on a bun, glistening in melted butter.

So this is the part where it helps to not be shy. I got the server's attention and simply stated (while handing her the plate), "could I get this on a bun without butter?" And there. I sent my food back. I wasn't rude about it, I just sent it back. And my food returned in a few minutes on a bun without butter. Perfect, that's all I need. I can now enjoy my food and a.) not feel entirely guilty doing so and b.) not be incredibly angry that the kitchen couldn't accomodate one simple request.

I can't tell you how many times I've ordered something in a special manner and they get it wrong. Who knows where the message is being lost, but I always ask if they CAN prepare it that way, since some items are often already prepared (this is often the case with vegetables that might already be cooked in oil or butter, so I ask if it's possible to get something steamed without butter or oil. If not, then it's usually the side salad).

So my point is this: Don't be afraid to send a meal back if the kitchen doesn't make it to your liking. There's no need to be rude about it, especially since we really have no idea if the server didn't pass the message forward or if the kitchen ignored/forgot about the request. It took me a while to come to terms with this, especially since I'm not a picky eater so I wasn't accustomed to ordering things in a special manner...and I generally didn't like to draw attention to what I was ordering. BUT, I have learned that I do have a say what I put in my body and if a restaurant can't accomodate that, I should take my business elsewhere. That may sound a bit snobby, but if I don't take care of myself and make that choice, no one is going to make it for me. Plenty of people have severe allergies to food and need things prepared in a special manner, so I consider this along those lines.

Don't be shy. Don't be rude. It never hurts to ask. You never know...you just might empower someone else to order their meal in a way that suits them when they might not have otherwise.




Saturday, April 25, 2009

Crockpot Thai Chicken: simple and not boring


Some people mention when they start WW or a healthy eating routine that they get sick of eating chicken all the time. Thankfully, this blog will NOT be about a million and a half chicken recipes. Even so, with a bit of creativity, chicken doesn't have to be boring...there are a ton of ways to make it and incorporate a variety of flavors and still have a low fat dish.

One thing I've learned through this journey of losing weight and now keeping the weight off, is to make sure to vary what I cook and eat. A little creativity goes a long way without a ton of effort. If we eat the same thing everyday of course we're going to get bored and eventually quit and go back to our old habits. And who could blame us?

One thing that helped me along this path is that I'm a bit of a dork about finding new things to try. I'm always looking for something new I can make that's tasty and fits my eating plan. Even if that's not you, if you are getting bored or see yourself slipping, you might just need a bit of a change to renew your efforts. It might help to consider a couple of different items you could pick up at the grocery store this week to try something different. Even buying a different kind of fruit for a snack can be a start.

BUT, this entry is a chicken recipe. And honestly, the only reason chicken is showing up so early in this blog is because I had a lime to use before it went bad. However, chicken can be a lifesaver especially when we're short on time. So can the crock pot. And this is a good option.

Ingredients:
Plus the chicken, of course.
  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, frozen (about 4 breasts)
  • 1 cup hot salsa
  • 1/4 cup, heaping, reduced fat peanut butter
  • 1Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 a fresh lime (or 2 Tbsp. lime juice)
  • 2-3 tsp. freshly grated ginger (I mince mine)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro
Directions:

Spray the crock pot with cooking spray and add chicken. In a separate bowl, mix together salsa, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, ginger and jalapeno. Pour over chicken. Mix up a bit so sauce is distributed throughout the crock pot. Cook on low 6-8 hours (mine is usually plenty done after 6 hours).

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve over brown rice.

Makes 4-8 servings (see nutritional information).

Notes:

We like our food a bit spicier, so if you don't prefer it that way, you can leave out the jalapeno and use a medium salsa. Even with the hot salsa, if you add more lime juice, it will even out and be less spicy.

I serve this with minute brown rice, cooked according to package directions. I cook it in chicken broth instead of water to give it more flavor. Season with some salt, pepper and chopped green onions after it's done cooking.

A great side dish is steamed green beans with some salt, pepper and a bit of jarred garlic.

Variation: Once cooked, let chicken cool a bit in the crock pot, take two forks and shred the chicken. As leftovers, it makes a great base for a wrap.

Results: Tasty! I've made this meal a number of times and it is awesome to throw in the crock pot in the morning for a weeknight meal. When we first made it, I thought the salsa and peanut butter looked nasty together, but it tastes great when cooked...so don't be grossed out as you're stirring the ingredients! This dish has great flavor and is certainly a step away from boring old chicken. We really like this one and I make it frequently. Another nice thing about it is the ingredients are easy to keep on-hand, so it's a great choice when I haven't quite planned ahead.

Nutritional information:

At 4 servings (using 4 chicken breasts totaling about 2 lbs):

362.7 calories
9 grams of fat
2.1 grams of fiber

About 8 WW points. If using smaller chicken breasts, this could reduce the points value.

Alternative: Shred the chicken and then I estimate it makes about 8 servings (easier to divide!). At 8 servings, it's:

181.3 calories
4.5 grams of fat
1 gram dietary fiber

About 4 WW points.

Enjoy!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Blackberry Red Wine Reduction Sauce

Blackberries were recently on sale, so I picked some up, intending to eat them with yogurt for breakfast. Then I remembered a few weeks ago I had been looking at this blueberry-bourbon pork recipe but never had a chance to give it a try.

So why not try something similar with blackberries? I had the idea earlier in the week and have been waiting all week to give it a try...it was worth the wait. Busy week, so I'm glad I waited until Saturday when I had the time to make this dish the right way, because IT. WAS. GOOD. Success at my first attempt at any sort of a "reduction"!

This recipe takes a bit of prepping for the pork tenderloin so plan ahead...but it's worth it. Plus, this would make an excellent dinner party dish. Oh yeah, and it's low-fat and full of flavor...if your dinner guests aren't into healthy eating they'll never know!

Ingredients:

Pork:
  • 1 unseasoned pork tenderloin, thawed
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Garlic powder
Blackberry sauce:
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cups red wine (I used a Cabernet-Sauvingnon)
  • 2 cups fresh blackberries (about 2 pints)
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. seedless blackberry preserves, no sugar added
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp. sugar (see note in directions)
  • salt & pepper to taste
Instructions:

Pork:


Preparation: The night before you plan to make the meal (or even the morning-of if it's for dinner), rub the thawed pork on all sides with salt, black pepper, garlic powder and rosemary (fresh would be great but I had dried in stock). Since there's already a decent amount of sodium in the pork, it doesn't need a lot of salt. Wrap the tendrloin in clear plastic wrap and store in a container in the refrigerator.

When ready to prepare the meal, take out the pork and it let come to room temperature. Meanwhile, preheat the grill (we use a charcoal grill, so I'm not sure of the temperature if you're using a gas grill).

Once hot, grill the pork 15 min. on each side, about 30 min. total. Some recipes suggest searing the pork for a couple of minutes on either side and then cooking it through on a medium heat. It is recommended to cook pork to 160 degrees, but be careful not to overcook it.

When cooked, remove from grill, let rest for 5-10 min. and slice.

To make pork in oven, cover a shallow baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place pork on foil and bake at 350 degrees about 45 min. or until pork reaches 160 degrees.

Blackberry Sauce:

I started working on this while the grill was heating and it was done about the time we finished the pork. Couldn't resist a photo of the heat rising off the sauce! Yum!

Heat 2 tsp. olive oil (plus a little olive oil spray) in a skillet over medium heat. Mince shallot and sauté until mostly translucent. Increase to med-high, add wine and bring to a boil. Let liquid reduce a bit, stirring some to make sure the shallot isn't sticking to the pan.

While waiting for wine/shallot mixture to boil, wash blackberries, put in a bowl and mash easily with a potato masher (otherwise blackberry juice will spray everywhere!). I did it in the sink to avoid any blackberry juice stains. Another option is to purée them in the food processor and then strain them with a fine strainer to remove the seeds. For a thicker sauce, use the potato masher. I would equate the mashing with "coarsely chopping" (i.e. still lumpy).

Once the wine mixture has reduced some (let boil about 5-8 min.), add freshly squeezed lemon, lemon zest, fresh blackberries, blackberry jam, fresh thyme, sugar (note: omit sugar if not using sugar-free jam), a dash or two of salt and some black pepper. Stir everything together, allow the jam to mix in well, and reduce heat to medium or medium-low. Simmer uncovered for about 30 min. or until sauce thickens to desired consistency, stirring occasionally.

Top sliced pork with blackberry sauce.

Sauce Makes about 8 servings. Because of my desire to eat this dish immediately, I didn't figure out exactly how much it makes, but I estimate it has about that many servings, based on our leftovers. The pork probably serves 4.

Review:

As mentioned above, THIS DISH ROCKS. I will certainly be making it again. Our immediate reaction was that the rosemary on the pork was an awesome complement to the blackberry sauce, coupled with the fresh thyme in the reduction. The garlic flavor was better off on the pork vs. the sauce, but surprisingly also went well. And of course, the red wine flavor ROCKED. Definitely a great combination and one I will be repeating.

We generally bake our pork tenderloins, but I'm really glad we grilled this one. The grill gave it an awesome flavor boost, but I don't think it would be lacking if it's baked. The key would not to overcook it, because the juiciness in the pork added quite a bit.

Nutritional information:

Blackberry reduction: 86 calories, 1.3 grams of fat, 2.1 grams of fiber per serving. Makes 8 servings.

Pork tenderloin: 122 calories, 3 grams of fat, 0 grams of fiber per 3 oz. serving.

(Note: this is a point to pay attention to serving sizes, as a few slices is probably a few servings. A food scale comes in handy just to get an idea exactly how much your serving weights, to accurately count the calories or WW points).

Where's the inspiration?

As mentioned above, I initially got this idea from a blueberry recipe I read, although this recipe was nothing like that one. I searched quite a bit online for a blackberry sauce I could use, but had a terrible time finding a recipe that didn't call for butter. I didn't think this needed butter...I was able to find enough alternative flavor-boosting sources for much less calories. So, the recipe is somewhat inspired and adapted from this one.

Really though, a WW-friendly-cooking friend had made a similar reduction with figs, so I chatted with her about how she made the sauce and went from there. So thanks to her for the inspiration!

Enjoy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Only Vinaigrette (Salad Dressing) You'll Ever Need

I'm not a huge fan of salad dressing. When I was a kid I generally ate salad without dressing or if I did use it, would lightly coat my salad with a tiny bit of ranch dressing. Odd, since most parents have to beg their kids to eat salad. Even though I will still eat salad that way, I generally like to give it a bit of a flavor boost, especially since I'm not into boring food and plain lettuce is about as boring as it gets.

In other words, a salad dressing has to be pretty darn good and full of flavor if I'm going to spend the calories on it, since most dressings are loaded in calories and fat.

Enter a vinaigrette recipe from a friend in France. Simple, flavorful, many varieties, and the only salad dressing I use, unless a dish specifically calls for something else. I'm no
t kidding, I love this recipe. I love that you can make it your own. I love the bold flavors. I love that it goes with all varieties of greens (and directly on tomatoes, which are a food group in my world). You won't believe how well it goes with red wine and goat cheese (but that salad recipe is for another post). I sometimes wish I could bring my own dressing to a restaurant. And I especially love that you don't need a lot to get the flavor, which makes it very Weight Watchers-friendly.

Quick and simple vinaigrette salad dressing:
  • 2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard (grainy or smooth mustard works. I often vary b/t the two. Only recommendation is NOT to use regular old American mustard...ick)
  • 3 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1-2 cloves fresh crushed garlic (or 1-2 tsp. garlic powder)

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix together as you would beat eggs. If dressing is a bit strong, add a small amount of water. Serve immediately over salad.
If refrigerated prior to serving, allow a few minutes for dressing to return to room temperature and stir again so it's properly mixed. Olive oil will harden in the refrigerator.

There are plenty of options to customize this recipe:
  • For less of a bold flavor, try salad (white wine) vinegar instead of red
  • Not a fan of garlic? Leave it out. I've made it plenty of times without and it's still great
  • Instead of garlic, mince a shallot to add (another variation from a friend in France...certainly worth trying!)
  • Substitute the vinegar to easily make other dressings (balsamic, fig, etc.)
Nutritional information:

The number of servings in this recipe depends on how much salad dressing you use. I estimate there are about 6-8 servings per recipe.

At 6 servings, there are about 70 calories and 7 grams of fat. With a little less dressing per serving it's more like 51 calories and 5 grams of fat. 0 grams of fiber.

You don't need a lot of this dressing to get the flavor.

Enjoy!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Roasted Vegetables and Whole Wheat Pasta Bake

Inspiration from Apple A Day’s blog, who adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis.

Ingredients:


2 small to medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and chopped (about 1.5 cups)
1 small or half a large yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and chopped (2- 2 1/2 cups)
1 ½ cups fresh mushrooms, c
oarsely chopped
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, ha
lved
1 small yellow or red onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed and divided
2 ½ Tbsp. olive oil
Herbs de Provence (see notes),
ground, to taste
4 cups whole wheat penne or fusilli pasta
¼ cup whole wheat Italian style
bread crumbs, divided
2 ½ cups marinara sauce

1 ¼ cups low moisturized, part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
½ cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle red pepper flakes, to ta
ste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a shallow jellyroll pan with foil and lightly coat with olive oil spray.
  2. Chop vegetables and combine in a large bowl. Add olive oil, 1 crushed garlic clove, salt & pepper to taste, and herbs de provence to cover the vegetables. Stir until sufficiently coated with oil (should be light on the oil). Spread vegetables on prepared jellyroll pan and roast in the oven for about 15 min. or until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta for about 6-8 min. and drain. Pasta should still be tough in the middle since it will bake in the oven.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, spray a 9x13 baking dish with olive oil spray. Add 2 Tbsp bread crumbs to bottom and shake to evenly distribute.
  5. In a large bowl, stir together the roasted vegetables and cooked pasta. Mix in marinara, additional 2-3 cloves crushed garlic, remaining 2 Tbsp bread crumbs, ½ cup mozzarella and cilantro/parsley. Add a dash of salt & black pepper to taste. Sprinkle in some crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of spice kick.
  6. Add entire pasta mixture to prepared 9x13 baking dish. Cover with remaining ¾ cup mozzarella and 1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese. Top with freshly cracked pepper.
  7. Bake uncovered 25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown on top

Makes 8 servings. Approximately 7 WW points per serving.


Notes and review:

I meant to use red onion for this dish but they weren’t very good at the store and I had yellow in stock. Either will work fine, depending on your preference.

Herbs de Provence can sometimes be hard to find in the store. I usually purchase them in France, but have seen them in some stores. If you can’t find them, you can
mix your own.

I would have preferred to do a homemade marinara sauce with this but I didn’t have time. I recommend using a marinara with basil, as it added some great flavor. If using a sauce without basil, I would add 1-2 tsp. dried basil when mixing the pasta, vegetables and sauce together.

I had fresh cilantro in stock which ended up being an amazing flavor booster to this dish. I highly recommend using cilantro. Parsley can be common in Italian-style dishes, so is also a likely choice, especially since cilantro tends to be a “love it or hate it” kind of spice.

Overall this was a GREAT pasta dish. It would be perfect as a family dinner or even for a casual dinner party. Awesome flavors and the herbs de provence were a great addition to the roasted vegetables. The blog’s recipe I referenced at the top of this entry used bell peppers. I decided to substitute yellow squash since I had it on hand and love them with zucchini. Bell peppers would be a good substitution for another vegetable in the dish if someone doesn’t like one of the vegetables.

Enjoy!

~Chews Wisely

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Crock Pot Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

The stuff:

1 lb extra lean ground beef

1 medium onion, diced (at least one cup)

2-3 tsp. dried basil

2-3 tsp. dried oregano

2 cloves garlic, crushed (can also use 2-3 tsp. minced jarred garlic)

1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes

2 cups chopped green peppers (generally two green peppers is enough)

1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

3-4 cups beef broth

¾ cup brown rice (not minute rice), uncooked

Pepper to taste


*I forgot to include the green peppers in this photo and then they didn't photograph well,

so don't forget to include them. :)


The execution:


Brown beef with onion over medium heat and place in the crock pot. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low for 6-8 hours. *As shown, will be soupier at the beginning before the rice cooks.


Less beef broth will give it more of a chili consistency; adding more will make it soupier. I usually add 4 cups, but generally have a bit more than 1 lb of meat.


Can also be cooked on the stove – add all ingredients to a large pot and simmer for 1 hour.


Makes about 12 cups. 1 cup is approximately 3 WW points. I think it’s about 150 calories per serving but I wasn’t able to figure it out exactly.


Tips:


Some recipes say to cook the rice beforehand, but I wouldn’t recommend it, as it cooks just fine over time in the crock pot. I also add some ground-up herbs de provence and a few dashes of crushed red pepper flakes for a bit more flavor.


If you want to make it even leaner, cook the ground beef and onion separately and then drain and rinse the beef before adding to the crock pot. Since there are so many other flavors in this recipe, it won’t be lacking.


An additional variation would be to substitute barley for the rice.


I usually find the long grain brown rice it in the bulk section of the grocery store.

The beef broth can be done with pre-made beef broth or by making it with bullion cubes. I’ve done both with success.


The review:


Fantastic – great comfort food!


This has become one of our favorite meals. If you don’t love cooked green peppers (as my husband doesn’t), this soup is still worth a try. There are enough ingredients and flavors that the green peppers aren’t everything in the soup, but still have a presence.


I rarely made soup before coming across this recipe. Soup is generally not one of my favorite dishes but this particular soup has me wanting to make it again and again! Very flavorful AND filling for not a ton of calories.


It really doesn’t need much to round out the meal since it’s pretty sturdy on its own, but a bowl goes well with some crusty, whole grain bread.


Overall, it’s a great winter-time dish (or early spring when it’s still cold out, as it is here!).


If the amount of soup in this recipe is a lot, I still recommend making the full amount. It will cook the best in the crock pot that way. I’ve frozen part of a batch before and it worked well.


*Recipe originally inspired from a handout at a Weight Watchers meeting. Has been adapted quite a bit.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Asparagus (with onion and ham) Pizza

-My own recipe!


The stuff:

  • ½ bunch of fresh asparagus, washed, woody ends removed
  • 1 small to medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ - ¾ jar pizza sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or 2-3 tsp. minced fresh jarred garlic
  • Crushed red pepper flakes to taste
  • 3-4 slices deli ham (vegetarians, see review)
  • ¾ cup part-skim shredded mozzarella cheese (or a reduced fat variety)
  • Freshly cracked pepper


The execution:

Preheat oven to 450. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. I add a bit of olive oil spray to finish coating the pan. While oil is heating, cut asparagus into thirds and chop the onion. Add to pan and sauté until onions begin to brown or become translucent. Be sure not to overcook, as it will cook further once the pizza is assembled. Add some black pepper if desired.


Meanwhile, add desired amount of pizza sauce to a bowl and mix in the fresh garlic. Place the pizza crust on a pizza pan or stone. Can also be cooked directly on the oven rack for a crispier crust. Add the pizza sauce and spread evenly onto crust with the back of a spoon. For an extra spice kick, sprinkle red pepper flakes over the sauce.



Spread the cooked onion and asparagus evenly over the pizza. Tear up slices of deli ham and place on top of asparagus and onions. Cover the pizza evenly with cheese. This is one area to be careful of adding too many extra calories. I make sure to cover the pizza but don’t load it down with cheese, as there’s a lot of flavor in this recipe already. If I have some on hand, I’ll also mix in a bit of grated parmesan cheese.


If desired, add some freshly cracked pepper to the top before baking.


Bake at 450 for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before cutting into 8 slices.




The review:

Tasty! A good healthy option for pizza lovers! This is one of our absolute favorite weeknight meals. We’ve also had a few friends try it who weren’t sure about it at first (one was so-so on asparagus in general) and the ended up loving it!


I do consider it a “splurge” night since it is pizza, but is so much better than ordering out! This recipe is loosely based on a pizza I ordered on vacation, but I guarantee that one was NOT as healthy as this one. It had shredded pork, which was great, but not practical for a quick weeknight dinner, which was the goal for this meal. The deli ham adds a bit of saltiness to the onion and asparagus, which is a good combination but I’ve also done it without the ham and it’s still good – A nice option for vegetarians (consider adding a bit of salt to the cooking asparagus and onion).


Another way I’ve seen asparagus done on pizza is with goat cheese. Goat cheese happens to be one of my favorite food items ever, but again, it’s not practical for a common weeknight dinner. However, I may come up with a goat cheese combination and add as an alternative at a future date…which would certainly be a splurge night, since it’s pretty much a requirement that one include a glass of red wine to accompany goat cheese!



Nutritional bit:

Per pizza slice (approximate…I’m not making promises on potentially bad math!):

172 calories

6.25 grams of fat

4.25 grams of fiber


It works out to be about 3 WW points per slice. This really depends on the amount of oil and cheese used. If you use more than ¾ cup cheese or use a bit more oil or deli ham, I’d count it as 4. Not bad for pizza!


In other words, this is a meal where portion control is a must but is a great option for pizza lovers!



Notes:

Instead of using a store bought crust, one could also make homemade whole wheat pizza dough. I’ve done this on occasion, although not with this topping combination. The pre-made one is a good option for a quick weeknight meal. I plan to make and review one later, but I have used this recipe from allrecipes.com in the past for whole wheat pizza dough, and it’s worked pretty well.



How to make this a complete meal?

Since having only one slice is incredibly difficult and not practical, I stick with very low-calorie options as side items for this dinner. We generally have grapes or some sort of fruit. If we need something else, a mixed green salad with some chopped tomatoes and cucumbers with vinaigrette dressing is a good option.


Enjoy!


~Chews Wisely