Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roasted Corn and Brussels Sprout Succotash

I love getting inspiration from the folks on the Food Network.  In fact, I confess:  I could watch this channel from the time I get up in the morning until the time I go to bed (um, this has happened on many occasions)…but the problem is that it makes me SO hungry!  So with my new healthy lifestyle, I have to limit my intake and turn to it occasionally for ideas only, otherwise I'd walk around with perpetual hunger pains!  But one show I REFUSE to give up is Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives…I can't make those things anyway and fortunately (unfortunately??) none of these wonderful dives is anywhere near me...

Another issue I sometimes find with the Food Network chefs is that many of their recipes can be difficult (they ARE professional Chefs, and it is entertainment…), have way too many ingredients that I don’t have on hand, and let’s face it, many are very high in calories.  To give credit, they are certainly adding more healthy show options, but honestly the Food Network is like that special-occasion restaurant you love:  you love knowing it’s there because it’s your go-to for holidays, birthdays and the like.  But this channel is, obviously for me, possibilities in the making!

The following recipe is from
Big Daddy’s House; one of my favorites!  Until I saw this, the only Brussels sprout recipe in my repertoire was steaming them.  And really, Brussels sprouts can walk a very fine-line when steaming:  there’s that point when they go from perfect, to perfectly mushy.  No matter, I still adore those little cabbage-heads.
So I was very happy to stumble across this recipe and it’s wonderfully Summery!

This is my attempt at lightening it up.  The original recipe called for almost a pound of bacon and more olive oil, with close to 90 more calories, 7g of fat, and almost 250mg of sodium per serving.  I reduced the amount of bacon and oil, being sure to keep the smoky flavor, but without the extra bad stuff.

Hope you enjoy the makeover version as much as I do!

1 tsp olive oil
4 slices of bacon, diced
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
3 shallots, sliced
3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, outer leaves peeled, bottoms removed, halved
1 15oz can corn, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Pinch salt
Pinch freshly cracked black pepper
Squeeze fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Over medium heat, heat a large oven-proof skillet.  Add the oil and then bacon to render it for about 4 to 5 minutes until it’s crispy.  And look at those crispy bits on the pan!

Stir in the garlic, shallots, and Brussels sprouts and sauté for about 3 minutes.

Add the corn, thyme and beans and toss well.  Remove from stovetop and transfer the pan to the oven.

until the Brussels sprouts develop a nice caramely (no, it’s a not a word, but you know what I mean) color; about 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove the succotash from the oven (carefully; the pan is VERY hot…I know this because I have a wonderful scar on my forearm from the last time I made this) and transfer it into a large bowl.
Add the tomatoes, parsley and lemon juice and toss well to combine. I also added a bit of feta cheese.
Season with salt and pepper.

Serve and enjoy!
Serves 6
Calories 169 / Carbs 24g / Fat 4g / Protein 9g / Fiber 7g / Sodium 450mg

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Blueberry Banana Pancakes

One of my favorite parts about the weekend is Sunday breakfast with my husband.  It’s his absolutely favorite meal so I never worry about what to make him because he loves it all!  This past holiday weekend it was sweltering in the mid-Atlantic.  The kind of hot that smacks you right in the face when you walk out the door at 8:00 in the morning.  We decided it would be a lazy-shades-down-air-conditioner-on-full-blast-couch-and-movie type of day.
For breakfast, I wanted to eat something healthy and summery and decided we’d have pancakes with blueberries and bananas; a perfect summer combination.  And...super healthy blueberries are packed full of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and dietary fiber.

Pancakes can seem like an un-healthy option, but they really aren’t.  Most buttermilk pancakes can pack a whopping calorie punch (1 IHOP buttermilk pancakes = 440 calories; 1 Bob Evans pancake = 329 calories) even before adding maple syrup.  This recipe calls for fat-free buttermilk so you're still getting that delicious flavor, and it is a great, healthier option that you can make at home on your own lazy Sunday morning.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp Demerara or Sugar in the Raw
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups fat-free buttermilk
½ cup skim milk
1 T canola oil
¼ cup egg substitute
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, rinsed
2 ripe bananas, mashed

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.

In a medium bowl, add the buttermilk, skim milk, canola oil, egg substitute and vanilla.  Stir to mix. 

Add the mashed bananas to the dry ingredients.

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, just until incorporated.  You want the mixture to be lumpy.

Gently fold in the blueberries.

Heat a griddle or flat skillet to medium heat.  Spray the surface with non-stick spray like Pam.  When the surface is hot enough, using a ¼ cup measure cup, scoop the pancake mixture onto the hot griddle/skillet.

You’ll know it’s time to flip when the pancakes are bubbly on top.

Flip and serve hot.

I have to have pure maple syrup for my pancakes (1/8 cup = 100 calories), but you can certainly save some calories by serving them with sugar-free syrup (1/4 cup = 30 calories).  Either way, be sure to heat it up a bit before you pour it on your pancakes!

Serves 6 (two 5” pancakes each)
Calories 246 / Carbs 49g / Fat 2g / Protein 9g / Fiber 3g / Sodium 713mg

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Healthier Creamy Iced Coffee

Shannon K. Moore
When I first had the idea of starting this blog, the first person I ran it by was my best friend, Shannon.  She was immediately excited and has continuously been a huge support as I continue along this journey.  When she had an idea about a blog article, I jumped at the opportunity to include her, and asked her to be my guest blogger.  I hope this is the first of many of her wonderful contributions.  Thanks, Shanny!

Women excel in teaching each other smart things that make our lives better.  One thing I have learned is that I would rather chew my calories than drink them.  I owe this “AHA” moment to my beautiful friend and the talented author of this blog, Jenn.  However, with summer approaching I find myself looking for a cold drink, often in place of (or next to) my mid-afternoon snack. My typical go-to drinks are water and seltzer; zero calories and not bad in any way but not “snack worthy” either. What I really crave is yummy, creamy, slightly sweet, Iced Coffee!  I am unwilling though, to justify a high calorie indulgence like a Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino.  This admittedly delicious delight packs a hefty price tag both in cost (averaging $4.75) and calories (460 /Grande!!). I did the math (really, I did!!) and it costs about $.01 per calorie, or in terms I understand best:  about 45 minutes on the elliptical!  SO not worth it!  Especially when there are healthier options that are much more fiscally and physically responsible. 

Here’s my take on a much healthier version of iced coffee; made creamy and slightly sweet with vanilla almond milk or vanilla soy milk.  I’ve also included some nutritional information on both so you can choose which suits you best.

Coffee:  It’s the main event here and let me remind you we are choosing to drink our calories so let’s give them a nice little nest to settle down in; don’t hold back! Start with a good quality coffee like Italian or French roast, or something labeled bold or medium bodied.  Use 1 ½ - 2 Tablespoons of ground coffee for every 4 oz. of water.  This is a little more than you use for your morning Joe, but you want it a little stronger because the ice will water it down a bit. 

Now let’s talk about the creamy-ness factor:  Skim milk is a trusty old standby of the health-minded among us and it’s a great option since fortified milk has about 10% of your vitamin A requirement and 25% of your vitamin D requirements.  But its snack time people! This is an event not to be undervalued here and we all deserve a little excitement in our lives once in a while! Since other options are readily available, why not jazz things up a bit and lend a hand to our lactose or soy sensitive friends.  Vanilla Soy milk, or my favorite Vanilla Almond milk, have fortified varieties that offer similar nutritional values and calorie content to milk, like vitamin A & D and calcium with less saturated fat. Soy milk is a great source of vitamin A, B12 and Riboflavin and is lowest in sodium.  Almond milk is also fairly low in sodium, has no cholesterol and offers 50% of your daily Vitamin E requirement and up to 150mg of potassium.  Yet another bonus for Almond milk is that nearly 1/3 of its calories comes from either polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, both known as healthy sources that have the ability to lower cholesterol levels. 

1 ½ cups of strong, fresh brewed coffee, chilled
½ cup (or less depending on your taste) vanilla almond milk or soy milk

Pour over crushed ice (no skimping, it’s simply better and more fun than cubes, trust me!)

Serve with a straw!

Brew coffee using a drip coffee maker or my favorite, a French press.

Transfer coffee to a pitcher to chill in the fridge, or straight into a glass filled with ice.

Add your choice of Soy or Almond milk…a little Stevia/Truvia or even Agave nectar if you need it sweeter…and enjoy!

Approx. 2 cups per serving: 

Almond Milk:  60 / 5g / 2.5g / 1g / 90mg (fortified with calcium, vitamin D and protein)
Skim Milk: 86/ 0g / 8g / 0g / 125mg
Soy Milk: 100 / 4g / 7g / 0g / 100mg  (fortified with calcium and vitamin D)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lettuce Wraps

It was one of those nights when I’d just gotten home from the gym, I hadn’t planned anything for dinner, which means that I stood looking into my pantry for what seemed like an hour…do you ever do this and hope that something will just magically appear?

So, I kept looking…and I was getting tired…and I was starving.  When I finally decided what I was going to have, this little bit of deliciousness DID appear!  Remember in my last post how I said that I can usually take what I have on hand and throw something together?  This is definitely one of those times.
Trying to put together the actual ingredient list on this one is making me chuckle, though, because really…how do I tell you to go buy the stuff that was literally just hanging in my fridge and pantry??  But alas, I will, because this recipe turned out so well, that I can’t NOT share it with you!
2 tsp sesame oil (sesame oil adds a lot of Asian flavor, but you could also use olive oil)
2 tsp minced garlic
1 ½ cups of rotisserie chicken, diced (you could also season and sauté up two boneless, skinless breasts or use ½ lb lean ground turkey, browned)
2 tsp minced fresh ginger (use 1 tsp ground ginger if you don’t have fresh)
1 T dried minced onion
2 small carrots, finely shredded
1 ½ cups fresh or frozen green beans, chopped
1 can water chestnuts, diced
1 cup chicken broth
1 T reduced sodium Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
¼ cup Hoisin Sauce (Hoisin is a brown, thick, slightly sweet sauce and can be found in the International aisle)
2 T reduced sodium soy sauce
½ cup brown rice (I used one cup of the prepared Minute Rice multigrain medley)
2 tsp Siracha hot sauce (more or less to taste)
dried red pepper flakes, to taste
20 crispy lettuce leaves (iceberg or butter lettuce is perfect, but again use what you have), washed and spun free of water.
2 T reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Siracha

Heat sesame oil in a large sauté pan or wok to medium high, and add garlic.  Cook garlic for about 1 minute, then add chicken and ginger and sauté for about 3 minutes. 
Stir in the onion, carrots, green beans, and water chestnuts.  Heat for about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar and soy sauce; heat through to simmer about 1 minute.

the Hoisin sauce and stir.

Add the rice and stir.

If you like spicy, add the Siracha and red pepper flakes here and mix.
Remove from heat.
Arrange lettuce leaves on plates and spoon the chicken and veggie mixture onto the cups.  Spoon sauce over the lettuce wraps and enjoy!

Oh, and did I mention that this is super QUICK and MAJOR low cal??
Serves 4 (approx. 5 cups each)
Calories 270 / Carbs 30g / Fat 8g / Protein 30g / Fiber 5g / Sodium 850mg

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Banana Chocolate Muffins

Most of my posts have been for savory dishes and meals because that’s sort of my go-to option…I’ve tried desserts and breads and I just haven’t had much luck, unfortunately…as I’ve mentioned before, it’s so disappointing…recently, the currant scone debacle…blech…

Last week I had this pile of brown bananas and really, what can you do with them besides make some sort of bread or muffin??  I’m not naturally a baker…so I really needed to search the Internet for some assistance and I came across this really great blog called Honest Fare and I fell in love with it!  Please check it out…great fresh, simple, healthy recipes and it’s so pretty.

Anyway, I was searching for a way to use the bananas and the almond meal/flour that I recently picked up at Trader Joes and I stumbled upon the blog AND this great recipe for almond meal banana muffins – Jackpot!

Most of the time, I like to look at other recipes for inspiration and then try to incorporate my own flair or flavors.  This works about 96.2785% of the time…but, like I mentioned, I’m not a whiz when it comes to baking…honestly, when I bake, it’s on a wing and a prayer.  Now cooking?  Open up your fridge and let me at it; I’ll come up with something yummy for dinner using the ingredients that you have in there…but baking?  Not me.  So I wasn’t about to mess with this recipe much.  I did need to do a little bit more research because this blogger starts from sliced almonds; I was a few steps ahead as I was starting with the almond meal.  Also, I read a few of the comments and decided to use honey instead of sugar.

Almond meal is basically ground up almonds…and it is FANTASTIC when used in baking.  The benefits of almonds alone is worth picking some of this stuff up.  Incorporating almonds (and walnuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts…) into your diet is a great way to take care of your heart and lower your cholesterol.

Healthy and yummy?  I’m all over it.

2 ¼ cups of almond meal
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
2 eggs
3 T honey
3 ½ medium-sized ripe bananas, peeled (you’ll want these to be brownish…3 bananas for the recipe and the other ½ for the tops of the muffins)
2 T cocoa powder
Coarse salt, for topping

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. 

Grease and flour* a 12-cup muffin tin.  I used coconut oil to grease.  *Be sure that you get enough into the nooks and crannies of the tins; I had some issues with sticking.

In a large bowl, whisk the almond meal/flour, baking soda, and cinnamon together.

In a separate bowl, add eggs, banana, and honey and beat with a mixer until they are fluffy. 

Pour the mixture over the almond meal and mix to incorporate.

Remove about 1/3 of the batter to a separate smaller bowl and mix in the cocoa powder.

Fill the muffin tins with the regular batter and then using a large spoon, top with the cocoa batter in the middle. 

Thinly slice the ½ banana that is left and top the muffins with them.  Sprinkle the coarse salt over the tops and bake.

I only had enough batter for 11 muffins!  Again, not a baker, so I have no idea how I could remedy this in the future…if you know, please share!

At about the 35 minute mark, check the doneness by using a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, remove the muffins to cool.  Otherwise, continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes until done.

As I said, I had a bit of a struggle with a few of these and they lost their bottoms…still good, though!

Aren’t they sooo pretty??!  And oh, sooooo yum!  AND they got even better over the next few days.  Refrigerate to keep.

I'm so happy I found this recipe - hope you get a chance to try these and check out Honest Fare!

Serves 11 (hee hee) 1 muffin per serving
Calories 206 / Carbs 17g / Fat 13g / Protein 7g / Fiber 4g / Sodium 48mg

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes have been called one of the healthiest foods on the planet.  It’s easy to see why:  they are a great source of vitamin A, B6, C and D, they contain iron and magnesium, and are a wonderful source of potassium and beta carotene.
And never mind that they taste amazing!  You can have them in that delicious casserole during the holidays, in a pie, or in savory dishes and just plain ole baked.  No matter how you like them, just try to incorporate them somehow into your diet.
Recently, I decided to try to grill them and not only was it easy, it was a great break from the norm…and fast, too!
2 large sweet potatoes
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Uh, yah, that’s it.
Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them cross-wise about ½ - ¾”; you’ll want them to be a little bit on the thicker side.
Bring a med/large saucepan of water to boil and drop the sweet potato discs in.  Let them parboil for about 5 minutes…just long enough to soften them a bit.
In the meantime, preheat your grill to medium – about 300 degrees, or medium setting.  Spray your grill grates with a non-stick grill spray.
Drain the potatoes and rinse them with cold water so they are able to be handled.  Pat dry.  Cover the discs with olive oil making sure that both sides are oiled.
Place the discs on the hot grill and cook for about 5 minutes.  Flip them over and cook them for 4-5 more minutes.
Remove from the heat and serve with your favorite topping (butter, salt, etc.).  I made a little bit of  maple cinnamon butter to put on top (see below).

Nutrition for Grilled Sweet Potatoes (serves 4):
Calories 111 / Carbs 19g / Fat 4g / Protein 2g / Fiber 3g / Sodium 33mg

Maple Cinnamon Butter
(this makes enough for a couple of uses…use it on toast, pancakes, or however you see fit!)
6 T butter, softened
3 T, maple syrup
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Stir everything together and use right away or refrigerate...dont forget to refrigerate any leftovers.
Nutrition for Maple Cinnamon Butter (serves approx. 18 / 1tsp serving):
Calories 42 / Carbs 2g / Fat 4g / Protein 0g / Fiber 0g / Sodium 28mg

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Meatloaf Muffins

Lately I’ve been really hungry for comfort foods.  It’s fun to try new recipes but sometimes you just want tried and true favorites.  I was hungry for meatloaf and decided to try a different route and make them individually.  This recipe is great because you make 12 at a time, and for just me and hubby, that leaves lots of leftovers which I just portioned out and threw in the freezer.

Instead of using ground turkey, I had lean ground beef on hand (remember, lean beef can be healthy, too!) and I just kept adding stuff to the mixture.  The result was a happy combination of yumminess.

I had also gotten a dozen eggs from my friend’s niece…(Side note:  she’s 11 and a quite the little farm girl – so excited when I opened my carton of eggs and her little business card was inside!) and used them in the recipe.  It was my first time getting “real” eggs and I have to say, there’s comfort in knowing where these came from.  In fact, the more I learn about the benefits of farm fresh eggs, the more I’m kicking myself for not using them sooner!  I’ll be getting into more detail about the benefits of farm fresh eggs in a post very soon!

1 tsp olive oil 
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped carrot
½ cup chopped baby bella mushrooms 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp dried marjoram
¼ tsp dried thyme
1 cup ketchup, divided (1/2 cup each)
1 ½ pounds ground beef, extra lean (raw)
1 cup finely crushed fat-free saltine crackers (about 20) 
2 large eggs 
2 T spicy brown mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce, divided
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, mushrooms, dried oregano, minced garlic and 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce. 

Sauté 2 minutes or until carrots are tender.  Remove from heat and cool.

Combine onion mixture, 1/2 cup ketchup, and the remaining ingredients except cooking spray in a large bowl.

Here's me crushing up some crackers - you can only guess how satisfying this act really is...

Look, here's that fancy egg I was telling you about!

Spoon the meat mixture evenly into 12 muffin cups.  

Top each with 2 teaspoons ketchup....or use your skillzzz to squirt it out of the bottle...

Bake for 35 minutes or until they reach 160° using a meat thermometer.  Let cool for 5 minutes.

Yum, comfort food at its finest…I served these little cuties with grilled sweet potatoes and maple cinnamon butter.

Serves 6 (2 muffins per serving)
Calories 299 / Carbs 24g / Fat 8g / Protein 27g / Fiber 1g / Sodium 724mg

I would love to hear from you - let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Grilled Haddock with Lemon-Caper Sauce

Haddock is one of my favorite fishes (that’s a word, right?); it’s very mild and it tends to take on the flavors of other ingredients so it is very versatile.  This sauce is a great compliment and is so good that you’ll want to find other things to put it on!  Definitely double the recipe if you want more.
3 T fresh lemon juice (approx. one large lemon)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T shallot, minced
4 T capers
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper

4 haddock filets (you can really use any kind of fish for this recipe - remember to calculate your calories accordingly if you use a higher calorie fish like salmon)
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp garlic seasoning (garlic, salt, pepper)

Preheat your grill or grill pan to medium heat.  Pat the fish dry and spray with non-stick cooking spray or olive oil mister.  Season with the salt and garlic seasoning.  If you are using your grill, coat it with olive oil to keep the fish from sticking.  Place fish on the hot grill and cook for 4 minutes; turn, then cook for 4 more.  You’ll know it’s done when it becomes flaky.

In the meantime in a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients for the sauce.  Simmer on low for about 5 minutes.  Just long enough to soften the shallots a bit.

Remove fish from grill and top with sauce.  I also put the sauce on my hericot vert AND the couscous!

Serves 2 – about 6oz of haddock and 2 tablespoons of sauce per serving

Calories 261 / Carbs 3g / Fat 15g / Protein 31g / Fiber 1g / Sodium 1347mg