Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spinach, Ham, Potato Gratin

It was a cool, rainy day yesterday. The house needed some home cooking to warm things up. Choosing from my list of preplanned weekly meals, I decided on a new gratin recipe.

We've had gratins before, some were good while others left something to be desired. Recalling some of our previous gratins I made a small change to this recipe before I even started. It turned out to be a good decision.

I added some cheddar cheese between the inner layers of spinach and ham. Other gratins don't do this and lack flavor. At least for Jon and I.

Something I often do when I am baking with milk is to substitute part of the milk for sour cream. For example, I needed 2 cups of milk for the gratin, but the recipe calls for 2%. I don't use any milk other than skim. I am lactose intolerant and the extra cream/fat makes it even more difficult for me to break down the lactose (the sugars and enzymes found in dairy products). So something I learned a long time ago by trial and error is to mix nonfat milk and nonfat sour cream or plain yogurt. It gives me the same creaminess of 2% milk without the side effects. So for this recipe, I used 1 3/4 cup skim milk and enough sour cream to make 2 cups. Mix with a whisk and presto! Skim milk with a 2% feel.

This particular gratin reminds me of my mom's spinach and ham lasagna, which is one of my favorites! Spinach, ham, white sauce, lasagna noodles, and mozzarella. Can you really go wrong there? Uh, no.

This recipe is from the side dish section of my cookbook. But, we served the gratin as a stand alone meal with some fresh tomatoes. So what you see above is actually two servings. Very filling servings I might add.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Spinach, Ham, and Potato Gratin
Serves 8
240 calories per

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped reduced-fat ham (about 4 ounces)
1 tsp salt, divided
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/8 tsp grated whole nutmeg
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
2 cups skim milk*
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
7 cups(1/8-inch-thick) slices Yukon gold potato (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese**
Cooking spray
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 375°.

Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium-high heat. Add shallots and garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat; stir in ham, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, nutmeg, and spinach.

Combine milk, flour, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt, stirring with a whisk.

Arrange half of potato slices in an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt.

Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheddar cheese. Spread spinach mixture over potato slices and cheese. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cheddar cheese over the spinach.

Arrange remaining potato slices over spinach mixture; pour milk mixture over top. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Cover with foil coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 375° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until potato is tender. Uncover and sprinkle with Swiss cheese; bake an additional 15 minutes.

Preheat broiler.

Broil gratin for 2 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.

Allow to set for 10-15 minutes before cutting and serving.

* Original recipe calls for 2% milk
**Not included in original recipe, calorie count was adjusted to include reduced fat cheddar cheese.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Birthday Trifle

This Saturday is my Dad's birthday. Since my work schedule didn't allow for me to be there on his special day, we celebrated yesterday.

We went to a buffet called Aunt B's. It was all southern food- fried chicken, collards, mac n cheese, biscuits and corn bread, battered and fried chicken livers, spaghetti, salad bar, fat back, cobblers, and puddings. And no, that doesn't cover everything on the buffet line- there is much more to choose from. It was all very good :)

When we got home we watched a movie and then ate birthday trifle. It was a success. Look that those flavorful layers of sweet goodness!

Whats a birthday without a card? This one was made especially for my dad-

It was a great day spent together as a family. So, to my dad- Happy Birthday week :)

And to everyone else out there reading along-
Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Sweet Potato Trifle
Serves 12 (2/3 cup per)
300 calories per serving

1 (16-ounce) angel food cake, cut into (1-inch) cubes
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash of salt
2 (15-ounce) cans cooked peeled sweet potatoes, drained and mashed
3 tablespoons flaked sweetened coconut, toasted and divided
1 (8-ounce) container frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed
1 tablespoon chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350°.

Arrange cake cubes in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until toasted, turning once.

Place 1/2 cup sugar, sour cream, and cream cheese in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well combined. Gradually add milk, beating until smooth. Add toasted cake cubes; fold gently to combine.

Place remaining 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla, salt, and sweet potatoes in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth.

Spoon half of cake mixture into a trifle dish or 3-quart glass bowl; top with half of sweet potato mixture. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon coconut over sweet potato mixture; top with half of whipped topping. Repeat layers; sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon coconut and pecans.

Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Funky comfort food

When I was a kid, every great once in a while my dad would make us a really easy dinner that was one of my favorites. I still love it today- tuna gravy on toast. Really simple- a can of undiluted cream of chicken soup, a can of well drained tuna, and milk to thin everything out a bit. Serve over cubed toast. Mmmm. I still have times when I absolutely CRAVE tuna on toast. It's a comfort food for me.

Though simple mention of this meal made my mom cringe (a feeling my husband shares), she did make tuna-noodle casserole when I was growing up. I still don't understand why she likes tuna-noodle casserole but not tuna on toast. It's the same thing only over noodles...

Jon says warm tuna isn't natural. So, I flew solo on this CLP recipe. I was fine with that, I just scaled it down to two servings. It had creamy noodles with a crunchy topping, just the way tuna-noodle casserole should be.

So, here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Tuna- Noodle Casserole
Serves 2
400 cal per

1/2 TBS butter or margarine
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/2 cup skim milk
1/2 (10 1/2-ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1 1/2 cups cooked egg noodles (about 3 ounces uncooked pasta)
1/2 cup frozen green peas or corn, thawed
1/2 TBS lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 (6-ounce) can low-sodium tuna in water, drained and flaked
3 TBS dry Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 TBS grated Parmesan cheese

Melt margarine in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 3 minutes.

Add milk and soup. Cook 3 minutes; stir constantly with a whisk.

Combine soup mixture, noodles,lemon juice, salt/pepper, and tuna together in a 1quart casserole.

Combine breadcrumbs and cheese; sprinkle on top.

Bake at 450° 15 minutes or until bubbly.

Friday, January 21, 2011


I love potatoes. They are very versatile. I've had them boiled, broiled, crinkle cut, grilled, baked, sauteed, mashed... oops I should stop, I'm doing that Bubba Gump thing again, sorry.

One thing I hadn't ever had was potato latkes.

Ok, why was someone keeping these from me?

Potatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil- really can anything be bad about this?! Um, no.

They were super good. Jon wasn't nearly as impressed as I was, he said the seasoning needs some adjusting. To be fair, they do need some very small tweaks that I will take care of when I make them again. (They need more onion and garlic for our tastes, we are also going to add some season salt. No big deal.)

To my Northern friends- stay warm tonight and be sure to throw an extra log on the fire!

One last random side note: through the power of modern technology, I got to watch two beautiful black bear cubs be born today. I've been following Lily and Hope (along with the rest of the North American Bear Center) since last year. January of 2010 was a historic month for Lily. She gave birth to Hope on a live webcam. This was the first time the miracle of birth for a wild black bear had been captured on film in a black bear's den out in her natural environment. And now, one year later (the day before Hope's 1 year birthday) we watched Lily give birth once again. What will we learn this time around? I am excited to find out :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Two Potato Latkes
Serves 4 (2 latkes)
256 calories per serving

2 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup grated fresh onion
1 lb shredded peeled baking potato
1/2 lb shredded peeled sweet potato
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 ounces)
1/3 cup finely chopped green onions
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
Green onion strips (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°.

Drizzle a jelly-roll pan evenly with oil, tilting pan to coat.

Combine grated onion and potatoes in a sieve; squeeze out excess moisture.

Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine potato mixture, flour, and next 5 ingredients (through egg) in a large bowl.

Divide mixture into 8 equal portions, squeezing out excess liquid. Shape each
portion into a 1/4-inch-thick patty; place on prepared pan.

Lightly coat tops of patties with cooking spray.

Bake at 425° for 12 minutes. Carefully turn patties over; cook 30 minutes or until lightly browned, turning every 10 minutes.

Garnish with green onion strips, if desired.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chimichanga Challenge

My dad used to work for a radio station in northern MN. Part of his show was the "Chimichanga Challenge."

He'd ask a question from our trivial pursuit game and the caller with the right answer won a free chimichanga from a local Tex-Mex joint.

Want an example? Here's a card from the set he used to use:
This was an actual challenge- before the Internet was born and gave you the answer 3 seconds later. You had to actually know something about history...

Every time I hear the word "chimichanga" I always think of the challenge.

Well there was no challenge, there were chimichangas at our house for supper last night. They were delicious!

Yum! We had them with red salsa and sour cream. They are supposed to be served with green salsa, unfortunately the second ingredient in every single jar of green salsa we looked at is cilantro. No go for this girl.

Jon and I both loved them- in fact, Jon gave them a 9 1/2 out of 10. He said the only thing that will ever be worthy of a 10 is grilled rib eye-medium well. At least he's honest. :)

Typically chimichangas are deep fried, but this lighter version bakes them instead. I for one, didn't miss the grease.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Chicken Chimichangas
Serves 6
250 calories per

2 1/2 cups shredded roasted skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup(4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco cheese
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup fat-free refried beans
6 taco size flour tortillas
Cooking spray
Optional (not included in calorie count) red or green salsa and light sour cream

Preheat oven to 500°.

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl; toss well.

Spread 2 TBS beans down center of each tortilla.

Top each tortilla with 1/6 of the chicken mixture; roll up. Place rolls, seam sides down, on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

Coat tops of chimichangas with cooking spray.

Bake at 500° for 7 minutes.

Serve with salsa and sour cream if desired.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Special Pretzels

"As early as 610AD, at a monastery somewhere in Southern France or Northern Italy, the monks used scraps of dough and formed them into strips to represent a child's arms folded in prayer. The three empty holes represented the Christian Trinity.

The monks offered the warm, doughy bribe to children who had memorized their Bible verses and prayers. The monks called it a Pretiola, Latin for little reward. From there, the pretzel transformed into the Italian word, Brachiola, which means little arms."

This was in an article my grandma sent me when I was about 12 years old. It was around the time I really wanted to start cooking on my own. My parents always nurtured my interest in cooking- from the time I was old enough to help stir, I was in the kitchen if there was something to be done.

I remember my mom helping me make the soft pretzel recipe my grandma had included with the article. And if memory serves, it didn't go well. (laughing at myself right about now...) I was 12, I didn't have the patience or respect for dough that I do now. I remember some funky shaped dough and some very dark, um, "pretzels."

I haven't attempted to make another batch since. Until today. Let me tell you, time and additional cooking experience paid off.

Look at these golden shapes of happiness!

They are so good. They have that ball park pretzel feel to them- a shiny, slightly crisp outer crust and a soft, airy, satisfying center. Top them with some mustard. Oh yea, it's a perfect food for this girl!

I used to wonder how in the world pretzels and bagels got that "snap" and shine on the outer crust. It's very unique. It's a baking soda and water bath.

Here's the pretzels before I gave them their 30 second bath in simmering soda water.

After the bath they get an egg wash and salt (I recommend pickling salt, but I didn't have any on hand). Then, bake them for 12 minutes. Super easy!

So, thank you Grandma S. for the inspiration so many years ago. And, thank you to Cooking Light for putting this recipe in your book so I'd have to give pretzels another go.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Soft Pretzels
Makes 12
141 calories per

1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (about 14 1/2 ounces)
1 tsp salt
Cooking spray
6 cups water
2 TBS baking soda
1-2 TBS cornmeal
1 tsp water
1 large egg
2 tsp kosher or coarse canning salt

Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water in a large bowl, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 3 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes). Add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 40 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°.

Divide dough into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion into an 18-inch-long rope with tapered ends. Cross one end of rope over the other to form a circle, leaving about 4 inches at end of each rope. Twist the rope at the base of the circle. Fold the ends over the circle and into a traditional pretzel shape, pinching gently to seal. Place pretzels on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 10 minutes (pretzels will rise only slightly).

Combine 6 cups water and baking soda in a non aluminum Dutch oven. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer. Gently lower 1 pretzel into simmering water mixture; cook 15 seconds. Turn pretzel with a slotted spatula; cook an additional 15 seconds. Transfer pretzel to a wire rack coated with cooking spray. Repeat procedure with remaining pretzels.

Place pretzels on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Combine 1 teaspoon water and egg in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Brush a thin layer of egg mixture over pretzels; sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until pretzels are deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I love me some bean soup

You know how when you love a good book you read it over and over again. But, after a while, the binding starts to give and the pages start to separate from the spine. It's a hazard of good literature.

Well, my Cooking Light Every Day Favorites cookbook is getting a lot of love these days...

I brought it to my mom and dad's house so that my dad could pick out the dessert of his choice for his upcoming birthday. (He decided on sweet potato trifle, you'll see that recipe later)

Mom took pity on my poor cookbook and helped me rebind it with her binding machine that she uses for her home business. She lovingly removed each and every page, all 415 of them. Then she taught me how to put the pages in the machine to make the new holes. And finally, we put a new spiral binding on it. It's even better than before! I can open the book and have it stay open instead of having the pages flip all over the place. I couldn't do that before as it wasn't spiral bound. (For the record-whoever decided making cookbooks with rigid bindings clearly didn't cook from the same book every day!)


Now, who wants to know what I've been cookin'?

Anyone who knows even a tiny bit about me knows I LOVE me a good bowl of soup. I enjoy chowders, cold soups, hot soups, stews, clear soups, cream soups, veggie soups... yea, the list just keeps going on. So the fact that this little project of mine comes complete with an entire chapter devoted soup is a definite bonus for me.

I've posted my mom's ham and barley soup before. I always enjoyed when she'd make a big ol' pot of this soup on the weekend. My favorite was always eating the ham hock meat when it was being shredded. YUM.

The first soup recipe I cooked from my CLP happens to be a navy bean soup. It reminds me very much of my mom's soup. It has a fun twist though- kale. And you know what kids? Jon and I love kale. We grew it in our garden last year because we eat so much of it.

Check out these vibrant colors!

This soup would be great with a nice crusty bread. And as most soups do- it gets better as it sits.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Navy Bean Soup
Serves 8-10

8: 295 cal per
9: 263 cal per
10: 219 cal per

2 1/4 cups dried navy beans (about 1 pound)
6 cups warm water
1 small yellow onion, peeled
3 whole cloves
2/3 cup chopped celery
3 thyme sprigs
3 parsley sprigs
3 smoked ham hocks (about 1 1/3 pounds)*
1 bay leaf

3 cups chopped kale (we used 4 cups chopped) **
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled Yukon gold potato
1 1/2 cups chopped Vidalia or other sweet onion
2/3 cup thinly sliced carrot
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes; remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain beans; rinse and drain.

Return beans to pan; cover with 6 cups warm water. Stud whole onion with cloves; place in pan. Add celery, thyme, parsley sprigs, ham hocks, and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes.

Discard onion, thyme, parsley sprigs, and bay leaf. Remove ham hocks from pan; cool slightly. Remove meat from bones; finely chop to yield 1/3 cup meat. Discard bones, skin, and fat. Add meat, kale, potato, chopped onion, carrot, salt, and pepper to pan; stir well. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until beans and vegetables are tender. Stir in parsley.

* I used leftover diced, smoked ham. And, because the soup needed a hint more smokey flavor I added just a tiny shot of liquid smoke to the soup. (I know how smoked ham hocks taste in soup. If it's your first experiance with this particular ingredient- definitely give them a try. They are delicious! I just wanted to use up my leftover ham)

** I remove the thick center vein on my kale. I also throw the kale in during the last 10 minutes of cooking only. I like my greens nice and bright. If you choose to leave the thick stem in, be sure to cook your kale for the full 30 minutes to soften it completely.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Huevos Rancheros Redux

I LOVE huevos rancheros. I have posted about them previously.

The recipe came from my cooking light every day favorites cookbook, so we got to have them again!

We've always had them with feta or cheddar cheese. But, since we are following the recipes, we used queso fresco. It was a great way to introduce a new ingredient into my culinary repertoire, something we know with something we don't.

Guess what, it's fantastic. It's creamy and slightly sweet. It lends a beautiful cooling property to the spicy egg dish. We have a few other recipes coming up that use queso fresco so I am interested to see if I feel the same using it in other culinary applications.

This is the picture from the cookbook(I was too busy eating to take pictures of these guys)

Wanna know what else I was up to today? Home made tater tots. Yea. I did that. Jon said to me, you can do that?! Yes, yes you can. Well, I can can rather. He just ate them :)

Aren't they cute?

So, today you get a two-fer: tator tot recipe and huevos rancheros recipe.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Home Made Tator Tots
Makes about 30 tots

3 medium yellow flesh potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium red skin potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 (heaping)TBS flour
season salt and pepper to taste (be a little heavy on your seasoning as it mellows a bit when baking)
1/2 cup very well crushed corn flakes
melted butter

Start potatoes in cool water. Bring to a simmer. Boil the potatoes until just about done, 18 minutes or so. Slightly under cooked is best in this case.

Using a hand masher or sturdy fork, mash- LEAVE LUMPS! You need these for texture. You don't want super big chunks, but you do want a fair amount of smallish lumps.

Season well. Stir in flour.

Form into tot shapes. Dip in melted butter and roll in corn flake crumbs.

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 400 for about 12-15 minutes until golden.

Huevos Rancheros with Queso Fresco
Serves 4
330 calories per

1 (10 oz) can rotel tomatoes, undrained
1 (10 oz) can red enchilada sauce (we use mild)
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley*
1 TBS fresh lime juice
2 TBS water
1 (15.5oz) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
Cooking spray
4 large eggs
4 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled queso fresco cheese

Combine the tomatoes and enchilada sauce in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes or until slightly thick. Remove from heat; stir in parsley and juice. Set aside.

Place water and beans in a microwave-safe bowl, and partially mash with a fork. Cover and microwave at HIGH 2 minutes or until hot.

In a dry non-stick skillet, warm each tortilla over medium heat until golden brown on both sides. Set aside.

Spray the skillet with cooking spray. Add eggs; cook 1 minute on each side or until desired degree of doneness. (we like ours over easy)

Spread about 1/3 cup beans over each tortilla; top each tortilla with 1 egg. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce around each egg; sprinkle each serving with 1/4 cup cheese.

*Original recipe uses cilantro

Monday, January 10, 2011

Steak N Taters

Jon wanted some comfort food.

That means steak and potatoes (or bacon, it depends on the day). I wanted to work on the CLP.

So, we had steak and slow cooker mashed potatoes. We tried them as written and decided we needed to doctor them a bit. They were ok as written. But once we added some cream cheese and garlic powder they were fabulous!

Oh, before I post this recipe I should back up a bit. We tried a sweet n sour chicken the other day. It was ok, we gave it 5 out of 10. It needs some tweaking before I post it for you. We made notes in my big cook book. So, when that is ready, I will share it with all of you :)

So, without further ado, here are the tasty taters.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes
Serves 3
175 calories per

1 lb red potatoes, scrubbed and diced large (skins left on please)
2 TBS best life margarine
1 oz neufchatel cheese
3/8 cup chicken stock (1/4 cup plus 2 TBS)
1 TBS skim milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 cup sliced green onion
salt and pepper to taste

In a crock pot combine potatoes, chicken stock and 1 TBS margarine. Cook on high for 2 1/2- 3 hours until potatoes are tender.

Add remaining ingredients. Stir and mash lightly.

Serve hot.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

BLT Chicken Pita Sammy

Jon and I both worked yesterday afternoon/evening so we needed a quick meal when we got home.

I always check our schedules when I make the menu, so I had something super easy listed- BLT Chicken Pitas. I used the chicken I had taken off the bone last time I made chicken stock.

I will make a few adjustments next time we make these, but for the first time around they weren't bad.

I was nervous because they had a consistency similar to tuna salad. Jon isn't a tuna fan. He clarified for me that he isn't a WARM tuna fan. Cold in a salad is OK once in a while. (sigh of relief from me on that one!)

Jon suggested more bacon. I listed some of the alterations I will try next time at the end of the recipe.

All in all, they were good and filling.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

BLT Chicken Pita Sammy
Serves 2
370 calories per serving (1 whole pita sandwich, 2 halves)

6 TBS light sour cream
1/4 cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese*
1 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
3/4 cup shredded cooked chicken (about 3 ounces)
2 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 (6-inch) pitas, cut in half

Combine first 4 ingredients, stirring well.**

Combine lettuce, chicken, bacon, and tomatoes in a medium bowl, stirring well.

Drizzle sour cream mixture over chicken mixture; toss gently to coat.

Spoon 1/4 of the chicken salad into each pita half. Serve immediately.

* The original recipe calls for blue cheese, however, Jon has an aversion to blue cheese so we opted for cheddar. Feta would probably be a fair substitute.

**Personally, this was too much dressing for me. I don't care for extra creamy chicken or tuna salads. Next time we have this I will only make half the dressing.

Other changes I will make next time: slice the tomatoes instead of dicing them and crumble the bacon over the top instead of mixing it in.


I rarely make sweet things for breakfast. Usually it's just a egg beaters sammy. But, since Jon and I were both home I decided to make orange rolls.

They turned out so yummy! They have a delicate orange flavor that surrounds a light and airy pastry roll.

Check out this citrus sugar: SO GOOD.

Here is the almost finished product. I would have taken a picture with the glaze on, but someone was hovering... So, imagine them with a pretty, shinny, delicious robe of happiness drizzled over the top. :)

They take a little time investment, but they are worth every second. Don't be turned off by the lengthy directions, they are truly simple.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Orange Rolls
Serves 12
151 calories per

1/2 package dry yeast (about 1 1/8 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 tablespoons butter, softened (I used Best Life Margarine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 TBS egg substitute
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
Cooking spray
1 tablespoons butter, melted (B.L.M.)
1 tablespoons grated orange rind

6 TBS sugar
2 TBS butter (B.L.M)
1 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

To prepare dough: dissolve yeast in warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes.
6 TBS sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon softened butter
egg substitute

Beat until smooth.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.

Add 1 cups flour to yeast mixture; beat until smooth. Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture, stirring until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour and 15 minutes or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Roll dough into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface.

Brush surface of each circle with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Combine 6 TBS sugar and rind. Sprinkle sugar mixture over dough circle.

Cut circle into 12 wedges. Roll up each wedge tightly, beginning at wide end(like a crescent roll). Place rolls, point sides down, in a 9x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 25 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Uncover dough. Bake at 350º for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

While rolls bake, prepare the glaze. Combine 6 TBS sugar, 2 TBS butter, and orange juice in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook 3 minutes or until sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Stir in 1/4 cup sour cream. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls; let stand 20 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Broccoli and Rice casserole

First of all, thank you to SnoWhite for giving me yet another great recipe!

When I was planning out our menu for the week I needed something to go with my rice casserole. I went to her blog and found this recipe for Ranch Chicken Parmesan. It was amazing!

I didn't have boneless, skinless chicken breast so I used skinless, bone in chicken quarters. I baked them for about 45 minutes to account for the bone being in. Loved them :)

Tonight's other new recipe was part of the CLP. It was a definite hit.

I took some pictures, again, no judging my photography skills!

Seriously, everything was so good. And the casserole was the perfect side for the chicken. We served some quartered tomato wedges for a pop of color. Super tasty. Jon gave the meal a 9 out of 10.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures friend. Cheers!

Broccoli and Rice Casserole
Serves 4
186 calories per

1/2 cup medium grain white rice
1/4 cup raw onion, diced
1/8 cup skim milk
2 oz Velveeta cheese, diced
1 TBS best life margarine
1 (12 oz) bag frozen broccoli florets
1/2 can cream of chicken soup
salt and pepper to taste

Par boil the rice for 10 minutes, drain well. Cool slightly

In a large bowl combine all ingredients until well mixed.

Pour into a casserole dish that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake, uncovered in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Cool 3-5 minutes before dishing out.

**Once I plated up our supper, I stirred my rice a bit to better distribute the cheese. It gave a more creamy consistency**

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cubano Sammy

"So, what do you think?"

"Well, there's only one problem."

"Oh? And what might that be?"

"Clearly you didn't make enough!"

This was the conversation at dinner tonight with Jon. We were testing out Pressed Cubano Sandwiches for the Cooking Light Project (CLP).

These little sammys hit the spot! Jon really liked them. As part of our CLP I am requiring a rating for each dish. I gave them an 8, Jon gave them a 7 1/2. That's not too shabby.

You can make them lighter by using reduced fat cheese and turkey bacon, but the "splurge" was nice. We served our mini sammys with apple slices and potato chips.

So, here is your second recipe from Cooking Light Every Day Favorites. Enjoy!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Mini Pressed Cubano Sammy
Serves 2
481 calories per serving -this will vary depending on the meats and cheese you use so adjust accordingly

(Each sammy is 161 calories)

1/2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic finely minced
6 (1 oz) Hawaiian rolls, sliced in half
1 TBS yellow mustard
1 1/2 oz sliced Swiss cheese
3 bacon slices, cooked and halved
2 Vlasic dill pickle stackers, cut into thirds
3 oz sliced ham
1 oz shaved turkey
** The original recipe calls for 1 TBS fresh cilantro, minced.

Combine garlic and oil. Set aside.

Spread the cut sides of the rolls with mustard.

Slice your cheese so you have 12 even pieces. Place a piece of cheese on each roll. Repeat the same process with turkey and ham.

Place a bacon half on 6 of your rolls (preferably the bottom portion) top with a pickle.(Sprinkle cilantro evenly among the sandwiches if using) Place the top half of the roll back on.

Brush each sandwich with the garlic oil.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Add the sandwiches to the pan. Place a heavy skillet over the top of the sandwiches. Press gently to flatten. Cook 1-2 minutes per side until the bread is toasted and cheese is melted.

Smokey Bacon Goodness

I have a little notebook.

No, really, it's miniature. It's only about 2"x3".

I keep it in my purse to write down quick notes- addresses, phone numbers, recipes...

What? You don't have a tiny notepad to write down recipes you encounter every day?! Well, maybe you should invest in one. I got mine in a care package years ago from one of my very crafty aunts.

You say you wanna see it? :) Ok!

There are several recipes waiting for me in that tiny little book.(what's even more impressive is that I usually get them written down on one page!) There are pasta dishes, various burgers, a few sandwiches, and I think there is a salad recipe or two in there as well.

We tried one of the burger recipes last night. It was awesome!

It was quick and easy, it only took about 20 minutes start to finish. I served it with a side of pasta shells. (I had the tomato/bean sauce over my pasta. It reminded me of pork and beans over egg noodles, a childhood favorite of mine.)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Southwest Skillet Burgers
Serves 2
295 calories per serving

1/2 lb lean ground beef
1/8 cup dry bread crumbs(scant)
2 tsp taco seasoning
1/4 cup diced onion
2/3 cup canned diced tomatoes, undrained (no salt added)
1/3 can condensed bean with bacon soup, undiluted
1/8 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, combine the beef, bread crumbs and taco seasoning and mix well.

Shape into two patties.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook patties for 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove burgers and set aside.

Add tomatoes, onion, and soup to the skillet. Stir gently to combine. Return patties to skillet. Bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 160° and juices run clear.

Sprinkle patties with cheese; cover and heat until cheese is melted.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Breakfast Sammy!

I got Jon to agree to my crazy cook everything in one cookbook idea.

There are some exceptions we've both agreed to: if I am allergic to it, it's not happening as written. (sorry kids, cilantro and avocados are not my friends) I will try to use a comparable substitute when possible and will list the original ingredient when/if I post a recipe.

If we don't like it, I am not wasting my time posting it. This blog turned into my virtual recipe box so I only want things we like in it :)

Also, we are omitting the beverages section(alcoholic and nonalcoholic alike). We are sticking to solid foods only.

We've agreed to try everything, even if we've had a not so great encounter previously (figs...).

The goal is try new foods and expand our horizons. (Besides, it's all pretty healthy muahaha!)

Everybody got the idea? Good, moving on.

So, I really wanted to try this ham and cheese sammy that has mango chutney. The problem? I don't have any mango chutney.

Hmmm. I do have cranberry relish though. That's sort of similar. Sort of. (My girl Kate is laughing at me, I can feel it from here)

Well, I tried it.

I make a breakfast sammy similar to this one, but was intrigued with the idea of adding a sweet element. The sweet and savory combo works so well!

Give it a whirl!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Ham & Cheese English Muffin with Relish
241 calories
1 serving

1 Thomas Better start English muffin
1/3 cup Egg Beaters original *
3 slices Land O Frost ham lunch meat
1/8 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
5 sprays Parkay butter spray
salt and pepper or Janes crazy mixed up salt
2 tsp cranberry-orange relish *

Spray a small skillet with cooking spray.

Mix butter spray, egg beaters, and seasoning together.

Pour into a preheated skillet over medium heat. Gently scramble the egg pulling it into itself to make a shape similar to the English muffin. Flip to finish cooking.

OR pour the egg beaters into a round, sprayed cookie cutter. Flip halfway through.

Split and toast English muffin.

Sprinkle half the English muffin with cheese. Top with egg.

Warm meat through in the skillet. Place on the egg. Spread relish over the egg. Top with top half of English muffin.


* Written recipe calls for 1 large egg and mango chutney.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

First blog of the new year.

So, first things first- Happy 2011 :)

Did you make any resolutions?(and, are they realistic?)

Did you give your sweetheart a kiss to ring in the new year?

Did you see the ball drop in NYC?

More importantly, are you ready for some new recipes?!

I have a goal, (not a resolution, this was a project I decided to take on about a month ago) to cook every recipe in a single cookbook. I have decided that I am going to accomplish this goal by cooking the recipes from The Best of Cooking Light: Everyday Favorites.

We have been purchasing whole, raw chickens for quite some time because it's far more budget friendly. I learned how to cut up a chicken when I was a kid- my mom used to get whole birds once in a while because they are such a good deal. Yea, you have to do a little work, it's worth it. I can cut up, skin, and de-bone my own poultry. It's a great skill. Making my own stock from the bones is a bonus. Besides, no store bought stock compares to homemade.

I also buy my ground beef in bulk (not the chubs! they compress the meat so much it never gets the original texture back) and divide it up into half pound freezer bags. I flatten the meat out in the bag and lay them flat to freeze. Then I just stack them all up.

A trick I learned from my mom is to cut up onions and freeze them. I like to dice up 2 or three at a time, freeze them on a baking sheet over night, then bag them up. They don't clump together if you take this extra step. I've taken to using the same process for celery, green onions, and bell peppers. I rarely need these veggies raw for a dish so it works out well.

I was asked if Jon and I have any New Years Day traditions. We usually sit around the house and watch the Twilight Zone marathon (the original series from the 1950's). But this year Jon decided he wants to build on our tradition. So, off to the beach we go. The sun is shining and it's 75 degrees. It's a great way to kick of the new year.

To kick off my cooking journey I decided I needed to make some chicken stock. I made it in the crock pot. Once it was cooled down some, I divided it up into freezer bags and laid them flat in the freezer. When they are hardened, I will stack them all up.

Word to the wise- LABEL EVERYTHING you repackage and put into your freezer. Seriously, you won't remember 3 months down the road what meats or sauces are what.

I hope you had a delightful holiday season. May your new year be blessed.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

White Chicken Stock (From All New Complete Cooking Light)
Makes 10 cups

28 calories per cup

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
10 parsley sprigs
8 thyme sprigs
3 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch-thick pieces
3 bay leaves
2 medium onions, unpeeled and quartered
2 carrots, cut into 2-inch-thick pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
16 cups cold water
6 lbs chicken pieces (I keep a bag of chicken bones, necks, and gizzards in my freezer for this)

Place first 8 ingredients in an 8-quart stockpot; add the water and chicken.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 3 hours.

Strain stock through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Reserve chicken for another use; discard remaining solids.

Cover and chill stock for 8 hours. Skim solidified fat from surface of broth, and discard.

For the crock pot:

I reduce the water to 10-11 cups.

Put everything in the crock, cover and simmer high for 5-6 hours.

Turn off, allow to cool somewhat. (removing the crock from the cooker helps speed this up)

Strain. Refrigerate. Skim the fat and divide into 1 cup bags.

Label and freeze.