Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fettucine Alfredo! Oh, My!!

My kids love fettucine alfredo, and to be honest, so do I. I had to find a way to make it at home and make it healthy yet delicious enough to enjoy. I found it -- with the help of an old Cooking Light magazine. It's a little bit of trouble, but oh, so worth it! Good eating and NO GUILT! I've made this several times and I swear, you would not know it's not the original killer variety of alfredo sauce. Lighter Fettucine Alfredo 1 T. butter 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 T. all purpose flour 1 1/2 c. 1% low fat milk 1 1/4 c. fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, divided use 2 T. lowfat cream cheese 1/2 tsp. salt 4 c. hot cooked fettucine (8 oz. uncooked) 2 tsp. chopped fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley Fresh ground black pepper Melt butter in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for a few minutes until just softened (don't let it brown or fry). Stir in flour. Gradually add the milk, stirring with a whisk. (You are making a "white" roux base, not a browned one.) Cook about 6 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup of your grated parmigiano, cream cheese and salt. Continue to stir till the sauce gets smooth. Toss the sauce with the hot pasta. Turn it out onto a platter or a large pasta bowl and top with the remaining 1/4 c. parm. Sprinkle with parsley and grind a little pepper over the top. This makes 4 1 cup servings, 399 calories, 13.5 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber. I often make it as 8 1/2 half cup servings so it's only about 200 cal. 7 g. of fat and 1 g. of fiber. It's very filling and rich tasting -- You may find that a 1 c. serving seems like too much! Mange'!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chicken Dinner

Do you find yourself eating the same stuff over and over? Sometimes we do that at our house, it's kind of like my creativity gets jammed up! Last night I made something I had not cooked in a long time, and I don't know why! It was so good, healthy and lite! Why did I forget about it?

Roasted Chicken with Vegetables
8 pieces skinless, bone in chicken -- I usually make 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 wings
(Don't bother trying to skin the wings, and just do the best you can w/the legs!)
5 small white potatoes, cut in half
3 medium size yellow squash, halved and then cut into 2" slices
1 large onion, thickly sliced, and separated into rings
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into 1" pieces
8-10 med. mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
5 garlic cloves, smashed and halved
1 T. herbes de provence
1/2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. rosemary
2 T. flour
1 c. white wine or fat free chicken broth
salt and fresh ground black pepper
cooking spray or olive oil
In a small bowl, mix together the herb de provence, thyme, rosemary and 2 T. flour. Lightly grease or spray a 13X9 in baking dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lay your chicken in the pan and sprinkle with about half of your herb/flour mixture. Top the chicken with the cut up veggies and garlic, putting the onion on last, so it's on the top. Sprinkle the vegetables with the rest of the herb/flour mixture. Pour the chicken broth in carefully, around the sides of the dish so the herbs stay on the food. Sprinkle the top with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spray it with a little cooking spray, or lightly drizzle with olive oil. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and let cook about 10 more minutes. (Test your potatoes for doneness before removing the dish from oven. Sometimes it may take a few more minutes.)

This is a great one dish meal. The flour thickens the broth, so it's almost like gravy, but much lower in fat than traditionally is found. Feel free to substitute any vegetable your family likes, but keep the onion, it flavors the other veggies. I made this last night with chicken broth, since I did not have any open white wine, and it really was just as good. Serve it with some rolls -- we like the low fat crescent ones with this.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Eating Healthy Mexican

My family loves "Mexican" food. I put that in quotes because I suspect, like "Chinese" food, the Mexican food we eat here bears very little resemblance to the real thing. I learned to cook Mexican from a friends mother, an air force wife, who had just been transferred to Florida after 5 years in California. She taught me 3 basic recipes for taco filling, cheese enchiladas and chile rellenos. We could not get queso fresco at that time in Florida, at least not in our mainstream, suburban grocery store, so she substituted, of all things, velveeta cheese. I imagine because of the texture. It was while living in Florida -- I am an army brat -- that I also learned to love Cuban food. The lunch ladies who ran the cafeteria at my junior high school were all Cuban, and man oh man, cuban chili with rice, black beans and rice, cooked pork and cuban bread were the food of the day many days in that little school cafeteria! Sorry, I digress, as my point was to talk about eating healthy, mexican food. Here are some recipes that I found in a Cooking Light cookbook. I've made them both several times, and they were a big hit with my family. I've made a few modifications to suit our taste, and you can too! Have fun and be creative! Spicy Black Bean Soup 6 oz turkey sausage, spicy if you like it, if not get keilbasa, sliced 1 cup diced green, yellow or red peppers, or a combo of all 3 1/2 small onion, small dice cooking spray 14.5 oz. can of fat free, low sodium chicken broth or stock 1 (15 oz.) can of black beans, rinsed and drained juice of 1/2 lime a few drops of tabasco sauce 1/4 cup of your favorite salsa 4 T. low fat sour cream chopped cilantro or flat leaf parsley Coat a non stick sauce pan with cooking spray and put it on medium heat. Add sausage, onion and green peppers. When sausage begins to brown, add the veggies get a little tender, add the chicken broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add beans and salsa, and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. When done, squeeze in the juice of the lime. Divide amoung 4 bowl, top each with one T. light sour cream and cilantro or parsley, if desired. This makes 4 one cup servings. Approx. 172 (without sour cream) 4.5 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber. Check your sour cream for it's calorie and fat content or leave it off. Serve it with Speedy Quesadillas 4 - 8" fat free tortillas (look for the kind with 2 or more grams of fiber in them) 1 cup Cracker Barrel reduced fat cheddar cheese 1/4 cup green onions cooking spray Coat one side of a tortilla with cooking spray and lay it in your skillet. Top with 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese and half of your green onions. Top w/another tortilla and spray that with cooking spray. Cook about 2 minutes over med - high heat and turn it over. It should be lightly brown. Remove the first one and do it again. Cut each one into 6 wedges, for a total of 12. Serves 4 people, 3 wedges each, approx. 198 calories, 5.6 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Another word about roasted vegetables

If you make the roasted veggies I've listed earlier, and you have some left, they are great to cook with. Add them to chicken broth for vegetable soup, or put them on a homemade pizza. You can also buy those flatout wraps or use a high fiber tortilla and wrap them up with a little feta cheese and some lettuce for a light lunch. Or reheat them and serve them mixed with 1/2 c. of the new high fiber pasta, another great dinner addition or light lunch. Make lots, they are really versatile!

A relative from California read my blog and sent me the following dressing recipe and a slightly different method that she uses for her roasted vegetables. She roasts hers on a wok on the grill. It's always nice to have options, don't you think?

Balsamic Vinaigrette for Roasted Vegetables
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
3/4 c. oil, olive or canola
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
1/4 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
5 dashed "Maggi" seasoning*
1 T. sugar
Toss the vegetables of your choice in the vinaigrette and roast them on the grill for about 15 minutes, stirring once midway through the cooking time. 
*Maggi seasoning is a swiss condiment, similar to soy sauce. I think it's made by Knorr but I am sure you can find it on most international food aisles in any large grocery store. We used it all the time when I was growing up -- my mom discovered it when we lived in Germany.

Craving pizza?

I must admit, that of all the fast foods and take out, the one I really WANT is pizza. If you are trying to eat healthy, pizza can be a challenge. It's covered with cheese, right? For take out, the best alternative I've found is to order a thin crust veggie. Overall, it's lower in calories and fat, simply because there is less crust and no meat. However, there is that argument that this is not REALLY pizza -- no chewy crust, no gooey strings of cheese. What's a pizza lover to do? Here's a recipe that might help when you are craving ooey, gooey goodness!

Cheese Lovers Roasted Garlic Pizza

One 10 oz. refrigerated pizza crust or make your own (using 1-2 T. olive oil only!)

8 garlic cloves, roasted (method to follow)

3 oz. shredded part skim mozarella cheese

3 oz. shredded fontina or provolone cheese

1 teaspoon dried basil or 2 T. shredded fresh basil

3 large plum tomatoes, sliced

2 T. good grated parmesan cheese

First, prepare your roasted garlic. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Place the whole cloves on a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle them with a little olive oil, just enough to wet them. Wrap the foil around them, sealing it up so the oil doesn't leak out. Roast them for 20 minutes, until soft and lightly browned. Now, on with the pizza. Raise your oven temp. to 425 degress F.Spray your pie pan (12" round or 13 X 9" cookie sheet) with cooking spray (use the olive oil kind if you have it). Unroll your pizza dough and press into the prepared pan. Take your roasted garlic out of it pouch, and using your fingers, press out the cloves from their skins. Place them on the dough, evenly spacing them so there is about one for every slice of pizza. Mash them slightly with the back of a spoon. Add your tomatoes, basil and cheese. Bake until cheese is bubbly, about 12 - 15 minutes.

NOTE: If you put the cheese on the very top, it will get a little brown. If you want "softer cheese" put the tomatoes on the top and add some more "free food" VEGGIES! Try mushrooms, peppers or onions for very few calories and more great taste! I like roasted red peppers and (I must confess!) canned mushrooms.

If you use the refrigerated crust and cut it into 8 slices, each slice is approx. 206 calories, with 8 grams of fat, 1 gram of fiber. Your homemade crust may be slightly more, but should still be ok if you keep to the suggested 1-2 T. olive oil.
Enjoy! And in the words of our favorite and first TV chef, Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lunch on the run, and on a budget, too!

Even though I don't work full time -- and barely even work part time right now-- sometimes lunch is a little something of a time crunch for me. I want to try and stay on track, eating something healthy, but tasty too. Several years ago, I discovered "Amy's Organic" spinach pockets. They are sort of like spanikopita (greek style spinach) in a hot pocket that you heat in a microwave. They are inexpensive -- under $3 in most grocery stores, and, as the name says, they are all natural and organic. The company makes lots of other frozen goodies, and the ones I have tried have been good. The spinach feta pocket fits my lunch time requirements -- only 260 calories, 9 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber -- and I really like it. Heat a little soup to go along with it, and you have a tasty, satisfying and healthy lunch. And, it's a lot cheaper than eating out or even grabbing take-out fast food! Don't like spinach? Try the pizza flavored pockets, but watch out if you buy the pizzas. They are very good, but they are made for several servings, so make sure you've got a friend! I learned that the hard way, by not reading the label carefully until after I had polished off most of one! Label reading, another essential skill for healthy living!

Eat your veggies!

There is nothing like some tasty fresh vegetables to round out your meals and boost up the leftover power of your frig! If you still have children at home, vegetables can become problematic at mealtimes. After all, who wants to listen to complaining while they are trying to enjoy a relaxing suppertime?
My kids like some vegetables, and they hate some too. That's ok with me -- I can't stand green peas or asparagus, so I can totally relate. I am the little girl who picked the lima beans out of her succotash! The trick is to keep trying out vegetables until you find some you like. My mom -- bless her heart! -- cooked all her veggies to death, completely mushy. No wonder I hated most of them! When I moved out and began cooking for myself, I discovered that there are lots of them I like. So, how to solve the picky eater syndrome?
One thing that works for me is to roast a variety of vegetables, and simply let folks "pick" out the ones they like! If you have not discovered roasted vegetables, it is an easy way to eat your veggies and love them too! Here is the way I like to fix them.

Roasted Vegetables

1 large zucchini, cubed into 1" pieces
2 small yellow "summer" squash, thickly sliced
1 large red onion, halved and cut into thick slices
10 - 15 medium mushrooms, wiped clean
1 green pepper, cut into about 1" pieces
1 red pepper, cut the same way as the green one
1 handful of cherry or grape tomatoes
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the back of your knife
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. Herbes de Provence spice blend OR a combination of fresh herbs from your garden
(We like a few stems of thyme, a sprig of chopped rosemary and a handful of julienned basil leaves.)
coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 T. balsamic vinegar
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees
Put all of the veg. and the fresh garlic into a large baking dish with the olive oil and toss them gently to get the oil all through the mixture. Add your choice of herbs and toss a little more to distribute. Spread them out evenly in the pan -- they should be in a more or less single layer. Sprinkle with a little coarse sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Remove the pan and sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar. Stir them gently, being careful not to mush them up.
Don't substitute any other vinegar -- you must use balsamic. You can leave this out, if you prefer, but we love the tangy hit it gives the dish. I use a clay baker for this dish, which gives everything a nice color.

The beauty of this dish is that almost any combination of fresh vegetables would work, this is just one that my family likes. These vegetable are also available year round, which is really nice. The boys pick out the mushrooms and tomatoes, so more for dad and me! We grow fresh herbs and in our mild Richmond winters, my thyme and rosemary stay green almost all winter. Even during our recent snow, I lifted up the thyme and found green sprigs under the frozen brown tips! If you don't grow herbs, I highly recommend it, but more on that in a later blog!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Steak and Potatoes

Somtimes, you just want to have a nice steak with potatoes. While I totally buy into the body as temple thing much of the time, I was raised in a family that had steak every Sunday night, no matter what. Now, it was not always the best cut of meat, but it was grilled over a charcoal grill and marinated in what my father called the "Korean Rub Down". That marinade was simply garlic salt and soy sauce sprinkled liberally over a sirloin, bone in steak. Can you say "salty"?

My hub. is currently working a temp job in the west end of Richmond and there is a Tom Leonard's supermarket near him on West Broad St. They run some kind of steak on sale every week, as far as I can tell, for about $4.99/lb. It's a great deal! A few weeks ago, it was tenderloin. You had to purchase a whole one to get the price, but they cut and trimmed it for free. So, for about $35 we got 8 perfectly trimmed, little tenderloin filets.

Last night, I fixed a few of them for my family, and they are perfectly healthy and in keeping with my weight loss efforts. However, we all know that potatoes can be a problem, especially if you pile on the toppings or indulge in a decadant gratin. Instead of loosing it, try this recipe. It fits right in and tastes delish.

French Style Country Potatoes

10 oz. baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/3 c. chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1/3 c. thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 tsp. chopped rosemary
1/3 c. non fat, low sodium chicken broth
1 oz. shredded cheese (swiss or cheddar works best)
fresh ground black pepper
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 415 degrees.
Spray a 9" pie plate with cooking spray. Spread your thinly sliced potatoes evenly over the bottom. Scatter the top with the mushrooms, onions, garlic and rosemary. Grind some pepper over all this, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Pour the broth over this mixture and top with the shredded cheese of choice. Spray the top with the cooking spray, or a tiny amount (1 tsp) of butter or marg.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes. It will be crunchy and brown on top. If you prefer a less "crusty" top, leave the cheese off until the last 10 minutes. This serves 2.

Approx. 210 cal. 6 gr. fat 3 gr. fiber or 4 WW points.

You can double this, but you must keep the potatoes in a shallow layer so the broth is almost covering them.
Make sure to thinly slice your potatoes for best results. I use the plane side of my box grater, but a mandolin would work well or your food processor. Also, grate the cheese on the fine grate of your grater. Since there is not much of it, you want to have as much as possible to cover the top.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Company's Coming! What's for dinner?

I've got company coming for dinner tonight, and I want to make something tasty and nice, as well as stay on plan. Chicken Fajitas is the perfect solution! Why? Because the fajita maker -- YOU -- control what goes on those babies. And, since I am the cook, I control the amount of added fat, etc.

I like to marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cook them on the grill. Another thing I like about this meal for company, is that all of the prep work can be done before your guests arrive. Then, while your friends relax with a cold beveridge, you can grill the chicken, and stir fry the peppers and onions. Heat up the tortillas (make sure the get the low fat kind that have some fiber in them -- you've gotta read the labels) and voila, dinner is served.

Fajita Marinade

2 T. olive oil
juice of 1 -2 limes
2 crushed garlic cloves
2 T. soy sauce
4 oz. beer (optional -- you can add a little water to thin the marinade or even chicken broth)
2 T. smokey mesquite grill seasoning

Put the chicken in a large plastic bag and add everything but the grill seasoning (I even throw in the limes after I squeeze them). Let this marinate at least 30 minutes. Drain off the marinade and sprinkle the chix with the grill seasoning. Grill each breast about 10 minutes, 5 on each side, until no longer pink inside. Let the meat rest for about 5 - 10 minutes to retain it's juice. Slice them across the grain, and serve with tortillas, peppers and onions, grated cheese, light sour cream, salsa, lettuce, guacamole and any other thing you like on your fajita!

It's up to you what you serve with your meal and how much you put on your fajita. In control, and still enjoying a delicious dinner!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Keeping Fit in Cold Weather

I like to walk and garden, both outdoor activities. So, when the weather is frigid, as it has been recently in Virginia, getting in my exercise is a challenge. With our current economic situation, joining a gym or a club is not an option. So, I have to be creative to get in a little exercise.

The last few days, I've done what one of my 80+ year old aunts does: I've "indoor walked". This aunt is a lifelong exerciser and she looks great and keeps herself in good shape. She loves to cook and eat, as do I, and balances that out with activity. She said she used to walk outside, but there were so many potholes, fast drivers and loose dogs, that she began getting in her exercise this way. As she explains it, put on a show you enjoy (she likes talk shows in the morning) on 2 different TV's in different parts of your home. I like it if one is upstairs and one is downstairs, but this is not the most necessary part. Begin marching in place in front of one, breathing deeply and raising your arms slowly, up and down. Continue until there is a commercial, and get moving, around the house, up and down the stairs. When the commercial is over, stop in front of one of your TV's, and continue marching, picking up the pace, raising your arms, doing a few leg lifts, adding a dance step or two. I use hand weights, but soup cans would work to up the intensity level a little bit. Keep this up for 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes, I get on the floor and do a few crunches, some more leg lifts and some stretches, something I know she does also. And guess what? You've exercised. Don't like TV? Put on some fast paced music.

Now, I admit this can "feel" a little goofy, and yes, it looks a little goofy too, but in the grand scheme of things, who really cares?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow Daze

How is everyone out there coping with being cooped up? My hub takes the big beast truck and heads out to work every day, and I am left here with our pitiful little oldsmobile. My subdivision roads are a mess, and I can not find my snow boots. It's been so long since there was any measurable snow in the Richmond area, they have simply disappeared! A friend of mine always looks in my pantry and comments about how long she thinks we could live out of it. That would be an interesting experiment, but I bet we'd get tired of pasta with tomato type sauces, and rice/soup combos before we ever ran out of food! I cooked pretty heavy all weekend, barbequed chicken and a London Broil, so I decided to cook light last night. It turned out well, and it was really lite and easy, so I thought I'd share. This is a super easy to prepare, quick meal. Easy on the pocketbook too. I always watch the ads and check the sale bin, especially at Kroger, for chicken tenders. Chicken Caesar Wraps 1 lb. chicken breast 1 tsp. olive oil 1 T. fat free Italian dressing 1/4 c. fresh grated Parmesan cheese 12 grape tomatoes, halved 8 sliced mushrooms 2 -3 sliced green onions low fat (Lite) Caesar dressing (we like Ken's) Several cups of chopped romaine lettuce Flat Out Italian Herb flatbread I had chicken tenders in my freezer, so that's what I used, but any kind of chicken breast would work. I simply sauteed them in the olive oil and Italian dressing, pulling them apart as they cooked to make bite sized pieces. Be careful not to overcook your chicken, or it will be chewy. Mine took only about 6 minutes to be cooked through. (You could cut it into bite sized pieces before you saute it, but I am lazy and that would dirty another cutting board!) To assemble the wraps, let the chicken cool a little. Lay out a wrap, and spread 2 tsp. of the dressing on it (a thin layer, not gloppy). Starting with the short side nearest you, begin to layer your ingredients. Add a handful of lettuce, keeping everything close to you, and a section at the other end of the flatbread "clear" except for a little dressing. Add on your selection of the veggies and about 6 pieces of the chicken. Sprinkle on a little Parmesan. I always use good Parmesan for this, since you use such a little bit, it's nice to get a lot of flavor. Then top with a little more of the dressing (about 1/2 tsp.) Roll your wrap up, starting with the short side, tucking the filling as you roll. Press down slightly as you do this, and it will kind of stick together from the dressing you put on the bottom. Cut it in half, it's easier to eat. Now, the nice thing about this meal for a family, is that you can lay the ingredients out on the counter and let everyone customize their own meal. The wraps have a good amount of fiber in them, and the chicken is very low fat, so the foundation of the meal is very healthy. (If it seems like I've given a lot of instructions for an easy to prepare meal, keep in mind that I try to write so that everyone can easily make this dish, even those who don't cook often.) Be careful not to overstuff the wraps, or they won't roll! We made 3 big, grown up sized wraps last night and I've got enough chicken and fixings left for at least 2 more big ones. So, I would say this will feed at least 4 grownups, or 2 adults and 3 kids. Serve it with a can of tomato soup, or some home fries if you've got a hungry group.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What's cooking? Broccoli Cheese Soup

I am compelled to cook. I've just gotta' do it! But, what's a healthy eater wanna' be to do? Cook healthy, obviously! Here is my attempt to do that today: Warm, comforting broccoli cheese soup, based on an old recipe I got years ago at a weight watchers meeting. This recipe is ONLY 3 Smart Points per serving if you are following Weight Watchers.

Broccoli Cheese Soup 
serves 4

3 cups fat free, low sodium chicken broth or stock (from a box) or vegetable stock 
10 oz. frozen broccoli florets 
1 garlic clove, minced 
1/4 small onion (about 2 T.) minced 

6 oz. lite velveeta cheese 
1/4 c. 1% lowfat milk 
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the stock in a soup pot and add the broccoli, garlic and onion. Bring it to a boil, turn it down and let cook at least 15 minutes on a simmer until the broccoli is completely cooked. Take your potato masher and mash the broccoli up to thicken the broth. Add the velveeta cheese and milk and let the cheese melt slowly over low heat. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. (you don't need much salt, as the cheese has some in it) 

For a spicy tex-mex flavor, add one can of Rotel Original Tomatoes w/green chilies. More flavor no extra calories! NOTE: You must use processed cheese for this recipe, as it is made for cooking and melts more evenly. Look for the kind made with 2% LF milk, which has 1/2 the fat.