Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spinach and Rice Casserole

Mmmm…comfort food at its finest!  I absolutely love casseroles, especially ooey gooey creamy ones and this one fit the bill.  If you would have told me that this was healthy or low cal, I would have rolled my eyes at you and certainly would have laughed it off with a “Yah, right!”   But it is and that’s the best part!!

A traditional rice and cheese casserole can be upwards of almost 400 calories per one cup serving.  And most of us wouldn’t eat it as a main dish but a side dish…and adding more to that meal adds even more calories!  This little side dish is so good, you CAN eat it as a main dish, but if you decide to add a protein or salad, you’re still well within a great low calorie meal.

Check out the ingredients below and feel free to add more veggies if you’d like or switch out the ham for chicken or pork.  This would be great with broccoli and squash, too.

2 tsp olive oil
3 medium carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 container sliced baby bellas
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cups water
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
1 bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of water
1 ½ cups uncooked instant brown rice (Note:  be sure you are using instant as it takes more liquid to cook the other kind…and frankly, I’m not good at math so I don’t know how much you’d need!)
1 ½ tsp dried basil
1 ½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup cooked ham, diced
¾ cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.

In a medium/large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms and garlic.  Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add water and soup and heat to low boil.

Add spinach, rice, basil, oregano and pepper.  Return to low boil.

Remove from heat; stir in ham, 1/4 cup of the Cheddar cheese and the Parmesan cheese.

Spread in the baking dish and cover with foil.

Bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.

Let stand uncovered 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

We served ours with a salad – it was delicious!

Serves 8 – 1 cup serving
Calories 195 / Carbs 25g / Fat 6g / Protein 11g / Fiber 4g / Sodium 469mg

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Chicken with Black Bean Sauce

One of my favorite restaurants is PF Changs; I love everything about it – the atmosphere, the food, everything!  I had been wanting to try to makeover their chicken with black bean sauce and finally got around to it.  After eating this version, I could kick myself for waiting for so long; it was divine!
I won’t bore you with a bunch of nutritional information, only to say that this version shaves 300 calories PER serving off the original and you won’t miss a single one of them!
Chicken marinade:
3/4lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
1 T dry sherry (note:  if you don’t already have this in your pantry, get some.  Since I bought it, I use it a lot!)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper

Black Bean Sauce:
          2 tsp cornstarch
          2T water
          ½ cup fat free chicken broth
          2 T dry sherry
          2 T low sodium soy sauce
          2 T black bean garlic sauce
          1 tsp sesame oil

          1 T canola oil
          2 medium zucchini, diced
          2 cup eggplant, diced (about ½ of a large eggplant or 1 small eggplant)
          1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
          2 tsp fresh garlic, minced (2 cloves)
          ½ cup fat free chicken broth

Note:  If all of your ingredients are prepped, this recipe comes together quickly.

In a medium bowl, or resealable bag, place marinade ingredients.  Place in fridge for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the black bean sauce ingredients and stir until the cornstarch is incorporated.  Set aside.

After 20 minutes, remove chicken from refrigerator.  In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola oil.  Add chicken and stir fry for about 5 minutes, until the chicken begins to brown and is no longer pink.  Remove and set aside.

To the wok, add the ginger and garlic and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add the zucchini and eggplant and stir fry for about 1 minute.  You want these to remain crisp tender so don’t cook for too long. 

Stir in the chicken broth and simmer the veggies for about 2 minutes.

Add the chicken back to the wok.  Stir the black bean sauce again and then pour over the chicken and veggies.  Bring to a boil and continue for about 2 minutes. 

Remove from heat and serve over brown rice.

Serves 4
Calories 200 / Carbs 7g / Fat 8g / Protein 23g / Fiber 2g / Sodium 1028mg

Friday, June 22, 2012

Grilled Portabella Mushrooms

I had dinner with my friend recently and we’d been wanting to try grilling portabellas.  I absolutely love getting together with her because she likes to try new things.  With Hubby not loving vegetables, I like to save these recipes for our get-togethers.  This one was WONDERFUL – we each ate one burger and split a second one!  The calories are so low, you don’t even have to feel one ounce of guilt!
I love mushrooms; their taste, their texture, their versatility (you can add them to ANY kind of recipe and they can be used medicinally!), you could say I pretty much love everything about them.  In addition to all of the above, their health benefits are another bonus.  With more than 14,000 recognized types of mushrooms, only roughly 3,000 of them are edible and less than one percent are considered poisonous.  Mushrooms are extremely low in calories, have very little sodium or fat, and are a good source of fiber.  They are an excellent source of potassium, and are loaded with riboflavin, niacin and selenium.  Some studies have even shown that increased mushroom consumption (especially button mushrooms) can reduce the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
For this recipe we went with Portabellas because we wanted to make burgers and portabellas have that great “meaty” taste.  I apologize right now because my pictures do not do this little baby any justice at all!  The fact is, we seriously wanted to devour them as they were grilling!  The smell was amazing and the taste, even better!
6 large portabella mushroom caps
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 T sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp dried basil
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Additions (feel free to add your own!):  Whole wheat hamburger buns, crumbled feta cheese, grilled red onion, sundried tomato mayo (recipe below)

Wipe mushrooms with a damp cloth.  Note:  Resist the urge to wash them with water because they will not soak up the marinade as well if you do – this was hard for me because I’m a freak about washing veggies!
In a small bowl, mix vinegar, water, sugar, garlic, basil and olive oil.  Pour over the mushrooms, cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.  Turn once after 30 minutes.

Heat grill to medium.  Spray grill with nonstick grill spray.

Place mushrooms, stem side up, onto the grill and cook for about 5 minutes. 

Baste the mushroom as they are cooking.  After 5 minutes, flip over and baste again.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Then devour!

Our caps were small to start with and shrunk so we doubled up!

Nutrition (Mushrooms):
Serves 6 – One cap each
NOTE:  The nutrition information below is an estimate.  I attempted to reduce the amount of oil and vinegar since these are poured off after marinating.
Calories 49 / Carbs 6g / Fat 2g / Protein 3g / Fiber 1g / Sodium 16mg
Sundried Tomato Mayo:
½ cup light olive oil mayonnaise (I used Hellmans)
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ cup sundried tomatoes, diced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano

Mix all of the ingredients in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate for about an hour.

Nutrition (Mayo):
Serves 8 – One tablespoon each

Calories 63 / Carbs 1g / Fat 6g / Protein 0g / Fiber 0g / Sodium 122mg
Place in a large glass dish or container with stem side up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Broccoli Slaw

One of my favorite parts of Summer is how fresh the veggies in salads are and one of my favorite salads is Broccoli Salad…you know the one I’m talking about:  lots of bacon, mayo, sugar, cheese…oh yah… and broccoli.
I decided that I needed to have it recently and although there are just some things you don’t want to mess with, I messed with this.  In the past, I’ve made it with full fat mayonnaise and lots of sugar (one cup was upwards of 520 calories...for a side dish!!) and I thought there just had to be a way I could make it healthier and still yummy.
This is one of those make-ahead salads that’s actually better the longer you let it sit.  So feel free to take this along to your next get together and save yourself some last minute hurrying by making it the day before.  And who doesn’t love a one-bowl recipe!? 
I think this recipe works well because by using broccoli slaw, there’s less surface area to cover so you don’t need as much “dressing”.  That's my uneducated guess...if you have another theory, let me know J
2 cups of broccoli slaw (my grocery store sells this in the fresh produce section all packaged up)
3 slices of bacon, cooked to crisp, and chopped
¼ cup of golden raisins (I had a raisin, cranberry, cherry mix on hand)
¼ cup chopped walnuts
3 T light Ranch dressing
1 T honey
1/3 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, mix the slaw, bacon, raisins and walnuts together.


Add the Ranch dressing and honey and mix to incorporate.

Add the cheese and mix.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours; overnight is best.

Serves approximately 4 (1/2 cup serving)
Calories 189 / Carbs 9g / Fat 12g / Protein 7g / Fiber 1g / Sodium 272mg

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Baked Stuffed Zucchini

Summer is definitely here, and with it comes the promise of delicious Summer veggies like zucchini and squash.  I’ve been looking for different ways to cook squash because I’ve planted them in my garden this year and I’m anticipating a bountiful of these delicious little goodies (“anticipating” being the operative word here; I’m pretending to be a gardener).
This recipe fed into my Italian craving and I was excited because it was super filling, healthy and a very low calorie dinner…that I enjoyed with PASTA!
1lb lean ground beef or ground turkey (I used 96% lean ground beef – the leaner the better!)
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium pepper (red, green, or yellow), diced
2 Roma tomatoes (any tomato will really do), diced
3 T fresh parsley, chopped
6 small to medium zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise and de-seeded
½ cup Panko (Panko is a Japanese style of flaky bread crumbs)
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ jar of Classico tomato basil sauce (or your preferred sauce)
½ cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese (2%)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375.

Spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray and place the zucchini in it side by side. 

In a small bowl, mix the Panko and Parmesan cheese and set aside.

In a large pan over medium heat, cook the beef or turkey making sure to break it apart with a wooden spoon to crumble it.  Halfway through, add the onion and garlic and mix.  Cook until the meat is all browned and no longer pink. 

Add the pepper, tomato and parsley and mix.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook until the peppers soften a bit, about 2 minutes.

Spoon the meat mixture evenly into the zucchini “boats”.  Sprinkle the panko and parmesan over the top.

Spoon the tomato sauce evenly over the top of the zucchini and bake for about 50 minutes.

Remove the zucchini from the oven and then top with the cheese.  Return to the oven and cook until cheese is browned, about 5-7 more minutes.

I served them with a side of whole wheat pasta and topped it with the rest of my jar of sauce…delish!

Serves 6 (2 halves per person)
Calories 249 / Carbs 22g / Fat 8g / Protein 25g / Fiber 4g / Sodium 443mg

Monday, June 11, 2012

Grilled Italian Polenta

At my recent visit to Trader Joe’s I went on a little frenzy because I don’t have one near me anymore and everything that I love went into my cart.  One of those things was a tube of Polenta.  Now, I know I can get a tube of Polenta in any grocery store, but as I mentioned before I was just so excited to be there, that in the cart it went!
One of the many great things about Polenta is that it has a super long shelf life – it’s like 9 months!  Of course, it’s also super yummy and is very low in calories.  The entire tube has only 350 calories.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s very versatile and makes a wonderful side dish to really just about anything.
I have been in an Italian mood lately so I decided that I was going to try to do something Bruschetta-ish with it because I absolutely love the taste of fresh basil and tomato sauce.  The result was amazing!  And you can’t just use the word “amazing” for everything…it truly does have to be AMAZING...folks, this was, I promise you!
I served it with just a basic grilled shrimp for a light dinner of less than 450 calories.
1 tube Polenta (any flavor will do)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used spicy tomato basil)
½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
Olive Oil spray or Pam
2 T garlic seasoning (garlic, salt, pepper combination)
5 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Preheat grill to 300 degrees or medium heat.

Slice the polenta into 10 slices, about ½ inch each.
Spray both sides of the polenta slices with olive oil spray and season with garlic mix.  Note:  I found it was easiest to spray a foil lined baking sheet first and then sprinkled some of the seasoning onto it before I placed the polenta slices down on it.  Then I sprayed and seasoned the tops.
In a small saucepan, heat the marinara sauce over low heat until ready to use.
Place the seasoned polenta slices onto the hot grill and leave them alone for about 5 minutes.  At the 5 minute mark, flip them over.  They should have a nice grill mark on them.  Grill for an additional 5 minutes.  They should have a little crispness to them.
Next, top the polenta slices with approximately 1T of marinara sauce each.
Sprinkle a little bit of grated parmesan cheese on each top and leave it to grill to melt the cheese a bit.  Remove the polenta from the grill to a serving platter.
Top each with a little bit of fresh basil and serve!
Isn’t it so PRETTY??
Serves 5 (two slices each)
Calories 137 / Carbs 19g / Fat 4g / Protein 7g / Fiber 2g / Sodium 595mg

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grilled Filipino Chicken

Okay – we’re headed back to my roots, here!  As many of you know, I’m half Filipino and if there’s one thing we know about, it’s food!  I truly gained my love of cooking and all things delicious from my Filipina Mama who is one of the best cooks I know. 

This is a slight variation of her Chicken Adobo which is typically made by boiling with onion and is usually made with whole pieces of chicken or pork.  If you’re interested in the original version, let me know.  Since I’m trying to lighten it up, I thought I’d try grilling chicken breasts and using a similar marinade to what we use. 

I made this with friends who absolutely raved about it and wanted to try it next grilling a pork loin – it’s great this way, too!

Hope you enjoy a little bit of my heritage!

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 bay leaves, torn or crushed
4 T reduced sodium soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp finely ground black pepper
¼ tsp of crushed red pepper flakes
4 oz. 7-Up or Sprite
4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts

In sealable container or large plastic resealable bag, combine all ingredients except chicken and mix. Reserve about 1/3 cup of the marinade for basting during grilling.

Place chicken in the refrigerator to marinate for at least 3 hours or up to 8 hours. The longer, the better!
Remove chicken and transfer the pieces to a large plate, discard used marinade.
Preheat your grill to 350 degrees or medium heat. Grill chicken for about 4-5 minutes on each side.  Baste every few minutes and cook until no longer pink.

Remove chicken from grill, tent with foil, and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
We served ours with grilled pineapple and rice (white rice, with soy sauce - some things you just don't mess with).  To grill pineapple, slice and place on the heated grill during the last 5 or so minutes while the chicken is cooking.  Flip pieces when they have that pretty grill mark on them.

Serves 4 (one breast each)
Calories 177 / Carbs 5g / Fat 2g / Protein 32g / Fiber 0g / Sodium 671mg

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Cheese Poppers

This past weekend was our first camping trip of the season and I really wanted to be sure that we had healthy options to snack on.  A big change from years past when camping meant a free pass to eat anything and everything “Campy”…It's not easy to find healthy options that are still fun, and don't make you feel like you're eating rabbit food.  Who wants to sitting around the fire snacking on carrot sticks?
A few weeks ago, I had attended a picnic and these little bits of goodness were served.  I have no idea if this is how the guest who brought them actually made them, but this is what I came up with and they were surprisingly low calorie for something wrapped in BACON!  Yippee!
And there are only three ingredients!  Certainly, this is my kind of appetizer.  I made these ahead of time and warmed them up at the campground and they were a huge hit!
8 fresh jalapeno peppers
1 container (8 wedges) Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges (I used Garlic & Herb)
12 slices of bacon (try to use the original cut vs. thick cut…it wraps better, and you save calories)

Preheat your grill to medium heat.

Wash the jalapenos.

Slice the jalapenos lengthwise then de-seed and de-vein them – don’t worry about the stem, if they remain, that’s fine.  They look really cute that way, too!

Using a butter knife, fill the jalapeno halves with the cheese wedges.  I found that I could use almost one wedge for two halves.  I think I ended up with one wedge leftover and I just used it to fill any peppers that needed it.

Finally, wrap the bacon around the jalapenos.  Note:  I had thick sliced bacon on-hand and I attempted to use only 1/2 a slice per pepper to keep calories down.  However, I found that when they grilled, the bacon shrunk a little so I had trouble keeping it on.  With regular sliced bacon, you can use a whole slice, it wraps tighter and has better staying power during grilling.  You can also secure the bacon in place with toothpicks (soak in water to keep from burning).

Place the peppers directly onto the grill and cook for about 4 minutes (until the bacon becomes crispy), then flip to finish up on the other side.

Remove from the grill and serve immediately, or like me, reheat them later and they are just as delicious!

Serves 8 (two halves for each serving)

Calories 109 / Carbs 2g / Fat 8g / Protein 6g / Fiber 0g / Sodium 500mg