Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Berried Treasure - Berry Smoothie Pie

Diet – it’s such an ugly sounding word isn’t it? Just mention it and people will cringe. Yup, just like you did when you read it a second ago! Mention the word in correlation to the food you just prepared or purchased and college boys will drop it and run to the pantry to find something “worth eating”. When someone sees I’ve lost weight they come up and ask, “What DIET are you on?”. Occasionally someone will see me eating a dessert or something sweet and say, “Hey! Aren’t you on a diet?”.

The fact of the matter is DIET in and of itself is not a scary word. We are ALL on a DIET. Some are on the SEE-food diet, like I used to be. They see it – they eat it. Some never worry about it, and others just don’t care. Yet the fact remains that our DIET is basically what we put into our mouths and bodies, and like Dr. Gagne, my old Computer Programming professor, used to say, “Garbage in equals garbage out.”

This dessert treat is a Berried Treasure. It’s decadent looking but doesn’t over indulge the calorie meter. It’s quick and easy to make as well. It’s from Jill Bonanno, in Taste of Home’s Healthy Cooking Recipe Cards (Feb. 2009)


1 package (.3oz) sugar-free strawberry Jello

1/3 cup reduced-calorie cranberry juice

1 carton (6oz) fat-free raspberry yogurt

3 cups fresh strawberries, (washed, capped and rough chopped)

1 reduced-fat graham cracker pie crust (8 inches)

Fat-free whipped topping and fresh berries (optional)


First, in a small micro-safe bowl, sprinkle the jello over the cranberry juice.  Let stand for a minute, then microwave for 40 seconds.  Stir and allow to stand for one minute to completely dissolve the gelatin.

              Then, in a blender, combine the jello mixture, yogurt, and strawberries. Cover and blend smooth.

             Pour into the pie shell and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set. 

               Serve with whipped topping and berries, if desired.

The yield is eight slices at 146 calories per slice (excludes optional toppings).

Happy Leap Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Italian Gnocchi Casserole

Tonight's recipe is adapted from Prevention Guides 400 Calorie Meals.  The only difference in my version and Prevention's is that I added some olive oil and sauteed chopped mushrooms into the mix and cut it from their six servings to four realistic servings.  This of course causes the calories to go up from their 225 to a still good Italian meal for 375.

¾ cup fat-free ricotta cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
½ cup (2oz.) shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. (½ oz.) grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 cups jarred low-sodium marinara sauce
1 (16oz.) package of gnocchi (cook per package directions right before adding)
2 cups fresh spinach, thinly sliced

I found this on the shelf with the other pasta.
Follow the package directions prior to building casserole.

Saute the chopped 'shrooms prior to building as well.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a 2qt casserole dish with non-stick spray, then add a small amount of marinara sauce to coat the bottom of the dish.

In a small mixing bowl combine ricotta, basil, 1/4 cup of the mozzarella, Parmesan, and egg.

Blend well then set aside, then prepare the spinach.

Remove stems and stack leaves.

Roll the stacked leaves tightly, and carefully slice

Ready to build the casserole!
Layer half of the gnocchi and then half of the spinach on top of the sauce already placed on the bottom.  Spoon half of the ricotta mixture on top of the spinach.  Followed by a cup marinara. 

Add the sauteed mushrooms, spreading evenly over the layer.

Repeat for the second level. (Gnocchi, spinach, ricotta, and remainder of sauce)

Top with the remainder of the mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until casserole is bubbly and the cheese has browned. 

I could have removed this a few minutes earlier, but it was still good.
Allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spaghetti with Italian Turkey Sausage Meatballs

Let's pause a moment for the dear Italian turkeys that gave their all for the making of this blog post....

Ok so let's move onto the good eats now. 

If this sauce is looking familiar, then thanks for reading other posts in my blog.  Yes, this is the same marinara combination as in the poached eggs recipe.  In this one, I scrapped the eggs and toast in exchange for the Italian turkeys and spaghetti noodles.  Other than that this is the same sauce.  To quote a cliche, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it".  The sauce, well... it ain't broke!

Stuff needed -

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large bell pepper (red or green or mix)
1 onion sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups marinara sauce ( I used Harris Teeter's Caramelized Onion sauce)
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
5 fresh Italian turkey sausages (hot or mild – I prefer hot)
4 tsp. shaved Parmesan cheese
8oz. mushrooms, chopped
2-4 tbsp chicken broth (to keep things moist)

How now -

First, remove casings from the sausages and add meat to a mixing bowl.  Add a ½ cup of breadcrumbs mixing well.  Roll sausage into ¾ to 1 inch meatballs. (Yield 30-35)

Italian Turkey Sausage Meatballs
Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add the meatballs and brown turning as necessary until cooked through.  Remove to a plate with a paper towel.
In same skillet add peppers, onions and mushrooms, cooking for about 6 minutes or so. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring often. (add chicken broth as necessary to keep moist)

Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in marinara sauce and oregano; cooking for 3 more minutes. Add the meatballs back to the sauce, stirring to coat.  Reduce heat to simmer.

Cook the pasta, drain and top with sauce.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chicken Adobo - filipino cuisine

I love my job.  I'm an ESOL teacher.  (ESOL - English to Speakers of Other Languages)  No matter our cultural difference, our religious difference, our nationalities, and whatever other differences we have we also have similarities.  One similarity that I share with my students is the fact that we all eat.  It may not be the same types of food but we all eat. 

Many of my students share their favorite foods mom or dad cook from their culture.  Many of my students are "western-ized" and love burgers, fries and pizza.  Yet they all to some degree will tell of their favorite "home-cooked" comfort food. 

Tonight's menu was supplied by a very bright young man. He explained to me that in the Philippines the men do a lot of the cooking and his dad makes the best Chicken Adobo. The following is his favorite meal, and I can add... I know why. It's very good!


3 lbs chicken thighs and legs (skinless)
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 cloves fresh garlic minced
2 bay leaves
3 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar Splenda blend
Salt and pepper to taste (more pepper than salt as the soy sauce has plenty of sodium)
2 cups chicken broth

How to -

Clean, trim and remove the skin from the chicken.

In a non-reactive bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken broth and mix well.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.

Pour all ingredients in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over medium high to high heat.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cover for thirty minutes.

After thirty minutes, remove lid and cook for another 15-20 minutes to reduce liquid and thicken.

Serve with white long grain rice using broth over the rice.

We all really liked this meal.  Natalie had a double helping.  I served pan-seared asparagus and mushrooms as a side.  Natalie loves asparagus too.  A very enjoyable meal thanks to a very bright young student.


Friday, February 24, 2012

Poached Eggs in Marinara

Going through my new March '12 copy of the magazine COOKING LIGHT, I found on page 112 a recipe that really piqued my interest - eggs poached in tomato sauce with onions and peppers.  I'm an egg lover and have had them many ways, but I had never even contemplated poached in tomato sauce.  It sounded like a challenge. 

Wednesday nights are my nights for kitchen trials as the ladies eat dinner at church.  The food is usually not conducive to my lifestyle changes, so I experiment at home or eat the spicy stuff they will not.  This week I decided to put COOKING LIGHT's recipe to the test.

Of course, I've never been very good at following the rules completely.  I usually do in the spirit of the rules, BUT I almost always step out of bounds at some point.  I did with this recipe too.  I just can't follow one to the letter of the law.  (That's probably why I don't bake much - it has to be precise, where in cooking things are more forgiving)  I had to add MUSHROOMS!  I would probably attempt a mushroom flavored ice cream if I could make it low cal....

Enough blabbering...

Ingredients- (my version)

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 large bell pepper (red or green or mix)
1 onion sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups marinara sauce ( I used Harris Teeter's Carmelized Onion sauce)
1 tsp dried oregano
4 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
4 mini French bread rolls ( I used the whole wheat take 'n bake from Harris Teeter bakery)
4 tsp. shaved Parmesan cheese
6oz. mushrooms chopped
2-4 tbsp chicken broth (to keep things moist)

What now -

Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat.  Add olive oil to pan and swirl to coat.  Add peppers, onions and mushrooms, cooking for about 6 minutes or so. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring often.

Reduce heat to medium-low.  Stir in marinara sauce and oregano; cooking for 3 more minutes. 

(Here again I deviated from the recipe some as I was cooking for ONE and not four.)  I removed all the sauce except 1/4.  Reserve it for another day! I also only baked ONE French roll and saved the rest to go with the sauce for later)  So the recipe called for making four indentations in the sauce and break 1 egg into each indentation adding salt and pepper to the egg.  Cover and cook for 6 minutes or until the eggs have reached the desired degree of doneness.

Slice the baked French rolls in half and arrange on plates.  Top each with 1/2 cup of sauce and an egg.  Sprinkle each with cheese and ENJOY!

Yes, this is one I will be eating often... who'd a thunk it?  Poached eggs in tomato sauce.

Next time I think I'll put it over a whole wheat English muffin.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quick and Easy Breakfast Sandwich

When I run into people I haven't seen in a while, the initial remarks are almost the same script - "Oh my! You've lost a lot of weight."  The next few questions range, but once they understand it was from eating right (I don't like the term 'diet') and exercise they almost all come to the following question: "What do you eat for breakfast?" 

Breakfast has always been touted as - the most important meal of the day.  I agree as well.  If I skip breakfast, I am hungry all day and it doesn't matter how much I binge.  If I eat a "bad" breakfast, then I often give up on the day and eat "bad" all day.  Then get mad at myself, resulting in more bad eating habits.  It's a vicious circle of despair.  BUT, if I eat a healthy breakfast and start my day off right... I am at peace with myself.  I have energy for the morning, and feel good about the entire day and will usually eat well all day.  Therefore, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day!!!!

Cereal, whether healthy or not does not work for me.  Cereal seems to be a trigger for bad eating habits - it must be mental from back in the day.  For my friends that have seen as many moons as myself will remember that Saturday mornings were the ONLY day for cartoons, and they always had the cereal commercials on then.  Coo coo for Cocoa Puffs, Cap't Crunch, Trix are for kids you silly rabbit..   Remember?   They also always had those irresistable toys on the inside of the box of cereal.  So you would eat several bowls trying to 'find' the toy...  All bad decisions no doubt...  You see why I think I'm mental about cereal??

Healthy cereal?  Yeah... have you ever actually measured out a recommended serving of it?  It looks like a needle in a haystack, and that is supposed to be your start to the day???  I don't thinks so.

I like real food for breakfast, but time is very valuable and scarce in our home.  Therefore, I had to have some quick fixes that would work.  The following is one of my favorite and most common breakfast items.

Ingredients -

1 - Jimmy Dean Turkey sausage pattie (sliced down the middle to make two thin rounds) 
       *60 calories
1 - Thomas English Muffin (multi-grain light)
       *100 calories
1/2 - Roma tomato, sliced
       *8 calories
1 tsp. French's yellow mustard
       *0 calories

How To-

Toast the muffin, heat the sausage in the microwave for 38 seconds, slice the tomatoes.

Put it all together and add mustard!

Now you have a hot breakfast sandwich for 168 calories! 

The sweet tangy mustard, the spices of the sausage, and the cool tomato in the warm muffin make a great combination of flavors and textures.  It's a great way to start the day, well my day any way!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes

It’s Meatless Monday!  You folks just don’t know… if my brother were still alive, it would kill him to know that I am creating meals without God’s creatures on the plate. 
I love and miss you Bill.  I think of you often and it would be so fun to torment you with these menus from my Mondays.
Tonight’s dish, Black-Eyed Pea Cakes, is inspired by Cooking Light magazine.  I made a few changes to lighten it up a bit and fit my taste buds.  I replaced quinoa with stone ground grits, and egg whites for whole eggs as well as some other minor changes.
Ingredients –
·         1 - 15oz can of black-eyed peas, divided (rinsed and drained)
·         3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
·         1 cup cooked corn grits
·         2-3 slices of red onion, finely chopped
·         4 fresh egg whites, lightly beaten
·         ¼ cup fat free chicken broth
·         ¾ cup Panko Japanese bread crumbs
·         1 ½ tsp. cumin powder
·         ½ tsp. black pepper
·         ¼ tsp. sea salt
·         ½  tsp. red pepper flakes
·         1 Tbsp. Olive or Canola oil, divided
South Carolina Stone Ground Grits in a Rice Cooker
Directions –

Use 1/2 of the drained peas and the chopped garlic placing in a food processor. Blend until paste-like. (I add a little of the chicken broth as needed to blend.)

Put paste mix in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked grits, bread crumbs, onion, the remaining peas, eggs and seasonings blend with your hands or mixing spoon. Don't use beaters.

Pat out mixture into 6 equal patties. Place the patties on wax paper/parchment paper. 

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Once hot add 1/2 the oil and swirl to coat pan. Add three of the patties. Cook on each side about 3 1/2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a paper towel and repeat with the next three patties.

Serve over Collard Greens and a light side salad.  Have a bottle of hot sauce to go with it!


Nutritional Info - 1 serving equals two patties
  • Servings Per Recipe: 3
  • Amount Per Serving
  • Calories: 281.2
  • Total Fat: 5.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
  • Sodium: 978.3 mg
  • Total Carbs: 40.7 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 5.2 g
  • Protein: 13.7 g