Healthier Junk Food

Many of you made the resolution this year to lose weight.  You can spend hours running your tushy off, but the real results come from eating fewer calories.  You can eliminate cheese and carbs from your life, but what's the fun in that?! Many of us would probably starve to death if we did that!  I'm a picky eater, by that I mean I basically only eat "junk" food - chicken fingers, grilled cheese, pizza, lasagna, french fries, macaroni and cheese... yup cheese and fried foods - Calorific.   But, I've developed ways to enjoy my favorite foods, but with less guilt. Healthy Junk Food

Here's tips for preparing healthier junk food:

Grilled Cheese

  • Prepare it with cooking spray instead of butter
  • Use "light" bread - Weight Watchers makes bread that is just 45 calories a slice
  • Opt for whole wheat bread over white bread
  • Use just 1 slice of cheese, 1 and a half if you must
  • Use reduced fat cheese - buy fat free or 2% cheese

Chicken Fingers

  • Prepare your own with chicken breasts
  • Dip your chicken in egg whites then whole wheat breading
  • Season the whole wheat breading to make it more savory - i.e. basil, oregano, garlic powder
  • Bake the chicken fingers instead of frying them - 350 degrees should do the trick - they actually back very quickly.  Before you pop them in the oven though spray them with cooking spray or oil so they're not ridiculously dry.

French Fries

  • Start with fresh potatoes, cut them into thin strips
  • Spray a cookie tray with Pam and place potatoes in a single layer
  • Spray the potatoes with Pam, season with salt and pepper and pop them in the oven at 450 degrees
  • Turn over fries occasionally
  • Wear your patient pants - these take a while to crisp up but they taste just like the real fried deal... actually better

Pizza

  • Instead of dough, use a 100 calorie pita, bagel thin, or wrap [my preference is the wrap]
  • Use fat free mozzarella and limit yourself to 1/4 Cup - it might look skimpy but the cheese will melt down and should cover most of the surface
  • Go light on the sauce
  • This pizza will end up costing you less calories than a Lean Cuisine!!!

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe I can recite the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe verbatim.  But, I was getting sick of the same recipe and went on the hunt for a new chocolate chip cookie recipe that was reliable and consistent.  [the Toll House recipe sometimes came out flat and crispy and other times chewy and fluffy].  So after trying dozens of new chocolate chip recipes, I've landed on this one made with Crisco rather than butter.  They're not as sweet as the Toll House Recipe and seem like a more "mature" chocolate chip cookie.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1/2 Cup White Sugar
  • 1 Cup Shortening (Crisco)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons of Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 1/2 Cups Chocolate Chunks

Instructions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl mix the sugar, eggs, shortening, and vanilla.
  3. Add in flour and baking soda to creamed mixture [That's right, we're saving you from cleaning an additional bowl] and blend well.
  4. Add 1/2 of the chocolate chunks and mix.
  5. Roll dough into 1" balls and flatten with palm of hand or a glass.  Slightly push a few chocolate chunks on the top of each dough ball with remaining chocolate chunks.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 9-11 minute.

Botch and Learn

  • The recipe also called for 1 teaspoon of salt, but I omitted it.  Who likes salty cookies?
  • I originally dropped the dough by rounded teaspoons but they came out so inconsistent.  It's worth it to roll the dough into ball and flatten to ensure sheer perfection.
  • You can substitute the chocolate chunks with M&Ms or regular chocolate chips. Or even better, mix mini chocolate chips into the dough, then place the M&Ms on the top.
  • Don't store these cookies in the fridge.  They become hard and lose their chewiness.

20 Appetizers to Make this Holiday Season

  20 appetizers About 40 of my family members gather annually on Christmas Eve.  With a party this size, there's no space for a sit down dinner.  For the longest time, we had a buffet, but no one ever ate because they were full from all the appies.  So we decided that Christmas Eve dinner should only consist of appetizers.  They're typically my favorite part of any family gathering anyway.  This list of 20 savory appetizers will surely delight even the picky eaters.
  1. Chicken Parm Poppers
  2. Spaghetti and Meatball Cups
  3. Meatball Subs on a Stick
  4. Hot Caprese Dip
  5. Pepperoni Pizza Puffs
  6. Cheddar Broccoli Rice Cups
  7. Mac and Cheese Cups
  8. Pea Pesto Crostini
  9. Garlic Chicken Puffs
  10. Feta Dip
  11. Buffalo Chicken Roll Ups
  12. Artichoke Spinach Pinwheels
  13. Avocado Hummus
  14. Caesar Salad Wonton Cups
  15. Zucchini Pizza Bites
  16. Popcorn Chicken
  17. Baked Taco Ring
  18. Pesto Artichoke Zucchini Bites
  19. Caprese Quesadilla
  20. Pizza Spring Rolls

Colorful 80s Themed Cake

colorfulcake I made a cake for my friend's 80s themed birthday party.  She suggested a colorful cake, perfect idea to encompass this era. To create the colorful inside requires an extensive cleanup, but it's well worth it.  I used a Pillsbury boxed cake mix to make this.

Instructions:

1.  Prepare the cake mix according to the directions on the box 2.  Divvy up the batter into separate cereal bowls.  I used 5, but use however many you want. 3.  Dye the batter with food coloring.  We're talking 80s here, so think neon!  [food coloring typically comes in primary colors, just combine them to get the color you want.  Remember yellow+blue = green, yellow + red = orange, and blue + red = purple.] bowls 4.  Spray a pan with Pam to prevent it from sticking. 5.  Take turns, plopping down different colors into the pan.  Focus on doing one layer.  Then do it again on top of what you just created.  It's alright to get messy, no one will know the difference once it's cooked. [can you tell I do everything recklessly?] inpan 6.  Bake according to package instructions. 7.  Let cool. 8.  Ice and decorate,

Botch and Learn

I have to admit, I didn't have all those glorious props decorating the cake initially, but I stole the decor from the tables and placed them on the cake for the photo op.  Wish I had thought of that sooner! I made a mess.  You couldn't tell in the actual cake though. I baked two 9" x9" cakes and stacked them on top of each other.  I filled the pan with the batter from a whole cake mix.  This really was way too much!  As a result, it took longer than the instructions to cook and resulted in crispier edges with a super moist center. The purple wasn't the color I wanted at all. The more I tried to change it though, the uglier it got.  So here's the key to the perfect shade of purple mix 5 drops red and 1 drop blue. Use vanilla cake mix.  I used yellow cake, and it threw off the colors quite a bit.

Easiest Pumpkin Muffins

Easy Pumpkin muffin, cake mix + can of pumpkin This is the easiest recipe.  Just combine a box of your favorite cake mix with a 15 oz can of pumpkin puree.  No need to add the other ingredients listed on the back of the cake box.  Drop heaping tablespoons into cupcake liners and then bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Combine cake mix and pumpkin puree

Botch and Learn

You can use any flavor cake mix. Muffins can be frosted or left alone. Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Muffin is done when you can push lightly on the top with your fingers and it doesn't sink in. This isn't light and airy like a cupcake, it's much denser. The top of the muffin will be a little crispy and the inside will be moist.

Healthy Turkey Meatball Soup

Fall is here.  There's a crisp bite in the air, leaves are changing, and I've experienced my first cold.  Which means it's time for soup.  I've already declared I making amazing soup, but this Fall I plan on experimenting with a variety of recipes.  Here's the recipe for a white bean kale soup.  Plus it contains meatballs, the best part of italian wedding soup in my opinion.  If that hasn't sold you on trying this soup this will: you make it in a crock pot.  It's almost as easy as making scrambled eggs.

Ingredients ( Turkey Meatballs):

¼ cup milk
2 slices bread
1 lb ground turkey
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
2 TBSP Italian parsley, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Untitled-1

Instructions for Turkey Meatballs:

  1. Pour milk into a large mixing bowl then tear the bread into chunks and add to the milk to soak.
  2. Add the turkey, shallot, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper, cheese, parsley and egg.
  3. Gently mix with your fingers until the mixture is combined.
  4. Form into ½ inch balls.

Ingredients for Soup:

8 cups chicken or vegetable broth (64 ounces)
1 15-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
2 carrots, sliced (I used one super large one)
½ yellow onion, chopped (I used 1 whole small one)
4 cups kale (about 1 pound)

Instructions for Soup:

  1. Add the broth, beans, carrots, onion and kale to the insert of a 5- to 7-quart slow cooker.
Untitled-1

Totally didn't leave enough room for the meatballs #botchandlearn

2.  Drop the meatballs onto the kale, cover and cook on low for 5 hours or until the meatballs float to the surface.

3.  Serve the soup garnished with grated parmesan cheese.

Botch and Learn:

What is a shallot?  It looks like a red onion but elongated.  Just a warning, it will make you cry like an onion too!  Thinly slicing this was the hardest part of making this soup.  It was torture.  So I looked up some tips to spare you the discomfort.
  • Peel under running water
  • Place in freezer for 30 minutes before slicing
  • Cut them in half from root to tip, then place cut side down.  Make horizontal slices towards the root, leaving it entact.  Then cut cross-wise thinly.
My crockpot literally just fit all the ingredients.  All of the meatballs were floating at the top from the get-go.  I tried pushing them down but they got squished.  So I left them there and waited for them to firm up before I attempted to do this again.  Avoid this completely by using a larger crock pot.  

Pumpkin Cookies

I like pumpkin everything.  Especially desserts.  Iced pumpkin cookies are definitely on my list of top 10 desserts. They have a cake-like consistency and the perfect amount of sweetness. pumpkin cookies

Cookies

Ingredients:
  • 2 1/2 C flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp  baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 C butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C white sugar
  • 1 C canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and set aside.
  3. Cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar.
  4. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy.
  5. Mix in dry ingredients.
pumpkin cookie dough

This batter is addicting. I'd recommend not even trying it #danger

         6.  Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.          7.  Bake for 15  minutes.          8.  Cool cookies, then drizzle with icing using a fork. DSC_0524

Icing:

Ingredients:
  • 2 C confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 3 TBSP milk
  • 1 TBSP melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Instructions:
  1. Combine confectioners' sugar, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  2. Add milk as needed, to achieve drizzling consistency.
pumpkin cookie closeup

pumpkin cookie closeup

Botch and Learn

The original recipe called for cloves and salt too.  I chose to omit those ingredients and they were still delicious. Sometimes, I make them without the icing to save myself a few calories. Can't tell if they're done? I wouldn't recommend allowing these cookies to brown.  Instead touch the top of the cookie gently with your finger.  If it springs back to form, they're done.  If your finger sinks in give it a few more minutes. If you store these in tupperware, they get extremely moist.  Your choice.  They tend to stick together then though.  I'd at least put a piece of parchment paper in between the layers.  These are the type of cookies it's alright to leave out on a plate too.

Protein Filled Salad

When I'm not frequenting Chop't or Just Salad, I try to make comparable salads at home.  This one is healthy, filling, and delicious. salad pic Here's my favorite combination:
  • Spring Lettuce Mix
  • Grilled Chicken
  • Turkey Bacon
  • Egg Whites
  • Red Pepper
  • Red Onion
  • Cucumber
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fig Balsamic Vinegar
  • Garlic Olive Oil
I know, the last 2 ingredients are odd and scarce.  But, I was recently in Rhinebeck NY and stumbled upon a store designated to oil and vinegar.  Pure Mountain Olive Oil had a huge assortment of unique olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  For example, Garlic Truffle Oil, Fig Vinegar, Chipotle Oil, Persian Lime Olive Oil, and Chocolate Dark Balsamic Vinegar.  You can try the oils and vinegars in any combination.  My favorite happened to be the Fig Balsamic and Garlic Olive Oil.  PS - I walked out of that store with $60 worth of oil and vinegar.
Olive oil display at Pure Mountain

Olive oil display at Pure Mountain

  Hint: When mixing oil and vinegar for dressing, use 2 parts oil and one part vinegar

ENJOY!!!!

katied  

Chicken Noodle Soup

I made  banging soup last week adapted from a Country Living recipe.  Who knew I was capable of concocting soup?  Not me!  Anyway, some ingredients were foreign to me and I made a few other mistakes along the way.  Here's some advice to help you around the kitchen and make a better batch of soup than I did... if it's possible. [No picture, it doesn't do it justice but I swear it was the best soup I ever tasted] Botch and Learn: Don't use a food processor to chop veggies.  Unfortunately, it turned my carrots into baby food.  I used them anyway, but next time I'm reluctantly chopping them. You don't have to cry while cutting onions.  The recipe calls for a lot of onions.  I started to cut one and the Mississippi River poured from my eyes.  So, I consulted You Tube for how to cut an onion without crying.  The full bulb in an onion astonished and disgusted me.  But, I can't wait to cut more onions.  There's a satisfaction that accompanies a successful onion bulb elimination.  You'll see. I didn't have peppercorn or chicken stock so I used black pepper and 4 cubes of chicken bullion.  No harm was done. A sprig is a twig.  I consulted Google Images to determine what a sprig of parsley looked like.  Essentially one "twig" = a sprig. I know I did a great job on the stock, because every time my roommate left the apartment and came back she said "oh my god, it smells so good." A leek looks like a giant scallion.  Thank goodness for signs at the grocery store. Clean out the guts and heart of the chicken.  It still tasted fine, but they were repulsive to pull out.  But, the tender meat fell right off the bone so it was easy to separate.  [re-reading this, it sounds a little dirty] Instead of butter, I used 1 TBSP oil.  Again, no harm done. Read the directions carefully.  When making the soup, I added the parsley in the beginning.  It should be added at the end! Don't cook orzo in the soup.  I don't like egg noodles so I used 1/2 a box of orzo and cooked it in the soup.  This was a mistake because it absorbed all the broth.  It still tasted phenomenal but reflected a soupy risotto.  Next time, I'm cooking them separately and storing in a separate container. ______________________________________________________________________

Ingredients:

1 (3 1/2-pound) Whole Chicken 3 quart(s) Low-Sodium Chicken Broth ( I used 4 chicken bullions) 6 Carrots, peeled (don't put it in the food processor) 4 stalk(s) Celery, ends trimmed 3 medium Onions, peeled 5 Black Peppercorns 1 clove(s) Garlic, crushed 10 sprig(s) Parsley 2 sprig(s) Thyme 1 Bay Leaf 2 tablespoon(s) Unsalted Butter (I used oil) 4 Leeks, tops and root ends removed (what the hell is a leek?) 1 teaspoon(s) Salt 1 teaspoon(s) Fresh-Ground Pepper 3 cup(s) (5 ounces) Medium Egg Noodles (I used orzo)

Directions:
  1. Make the stock: Place the chicken and chicken broth in a large stockpot and set it over medium heat. Roughly chop 2 carrots, 2 celery ribs, and 1 onion and add to the broth. Add the peppercorns, garlic, 2 sprigs of parsley, thyme, bay leaf, and enough water to just cover the chicken. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until the chicken is very tender -- about 1 1/4 hours -- skimming the surface periodically. Remove the chicken and place in a large bowl. Strain the broth through a very fine sieve into a large, clean bowl or stockpot. Discard the vegetables.
  2. Make the soup: Skim any fat off the top of the strained broth and discard. Slice the remaining carrots, celery, onions, and leeks into 1/4-inch-thick pieces and set aside. Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken, cut meat into 1/2-inch pieces, and set aside. Chop the remaining parsley leaves and set aside. Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the vegetables and cook until the onions are translucent -- about 7 minutes. Add the chicken, the reserved broth, salt, and pepper. Simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender -- about 1 hour. Stir in the egg noodles and parsley and cook until the noodles are tender -- about 10 more minutes. Serve hot.
 

Mac and Cheese

macandcheese

I love All Recipes, but their recipes are written for gourmet chefs, even  their macaroni and cheese.  Let me help you out with this.

Botch and Learn:

  1. Cook the macaroni al dente.  Otherwise you'll end up with a mushy mess between the warm sauce and baking time.
  2. A roux sounds like a dog's name.  Apparently, it's a mixture of fat and flour to thicken a sauce.  To get it thicker, whisk it for 5 minutes before you add the milk.  Also, macaroni and cheese should be a guilty pleasure - replace a little milk with cream.  I know you want to.
  3. I added the sauce directly into the macaroni pot.  I advise that you don't.  Cleaning three cheesy dishes proved to be time consuming.
  4. I added less bread crumbs into batch 2 and enjoyed the texture more, it wasn't as gritty.
______________________________________________________________________ Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese (Don't try to use Kraft American - there's not enough flavor and you might accidentally get a plastic wrapper in it)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Check the expiration date)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup butter (That's a half of a stick not a full one)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup   crumbs
  • 1 pinch paprika
Directions:
  1. Cook macaroni according to the package directions. Drain.
  2. In a saucepan, melt butter or margarine over medium heat. Stir in enough flour to make a roux. Add milk to roux slowly, stirring constantly. Stir in cheeses, and cook over low heat until cheese is melted and the sauce is a little thick.
  3. Put macaroni in large casserole dish, and pour sauce over macaroni. Stir well.
  4. Melt butter or margarine in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and brown. Spread over the macaroni and cheese to cover. Sprinkle with a little paprika.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes. Serve.