Saturday, July 30, 2011

Cucumber Melon Smoothie

In high school, I had the whole set of Cucumber Melon scented everything--body lotion, body wash, bubble bath, hand soap, body spray, etc. It's a nice scent, with hints of cucumber, honeydew and-I think-cantaloupe. Why not recreate into breakfast?

I didn't have any cantaloupe or honeydew on hand, although they're in season right now, but I did have a gallon Ziploc of frozen watermelon chunks. Our 4th of July watermelon was a huge seedless, and I knew we couldn't eat it all in those few days, so I cut it up and froze part of it. And I would use some now. This smoothie is pink and sweet (melon), tangy (orange juice), and has a little bite (cucumber). And the texture is awesome, like softserve ice cream. This makes a great breakfast, a snack, a dessert, or even a great cocktail with a little watermelon or lemon vodka. (I think those exist.)

Cucumber Melon Smoothie
*makes one large smoothie*                      
 2 cups frozen watermelon (or any melon) chunks
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup orange juice

Chop cucumber with orange juice in blender. Next, add watermelon and blend until mixture is smooth and creamy. Devour immediately.

Happy Weekend! I'm working all weekend and don't mind so much. Hope you all have fun plans today and tomorrow.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Favorite Blueberry Muffins

Have you ever made something that surpassed your expectations? Well, it doesn't happen all that often in my kitchen, but it did yesterday. A lady from work is leaving for a new adventure, and we worked morning shifts together on her last day, so why not have a little breakfast to celebrate her? But I needed something most people would like (none of my vegan tofu delights, sigh) and something easy to grab and pop in your mouth. We are working, after all.

So blueberry muffins with a bit of a twist in a caramelized top and served mini size, along with mini pigs in a blanket were about as all-encompassing as I could get. I mean, I love plain old vanilla ice cream, but this breakfast was not winning any awards in the creativity department. However, all 30 pigs in a blanket and 44 muffins were devoured by the time I left that day. And I'm pretty sure it wasn't just because they were starving, although that's def part of it.

Favorite Blueberry Muffins

Makes 48 mini muffins or 20-24 regular sized

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt

1/4 cup oil 
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar

1 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 TB margarine/butter

step one::: In a medium bowl, stir together all dry ingredients (flour to salt). In a second bowl, combine wet ingredients (oil to sugar).

step two::: Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients alternatively with the buttermilk. Stir until all is mixed well together. Gently fold in the blueberries. 

step three::: Spoon into mini muffin cups (I almost fill them so the muffin tops will be enlarged when baked.). In a coffee cup or small bowl, microwave brown sugar and margarine for 35 seconds, or until melted. Stir and spoon 1/4 teaspoonful onto each muffin. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes, or until muffins have risen and caramel has bubbled.

These muffins were inspired by Lou Seibert Pappas' streusel coffee cake, so thanks!
Freeze half of the dough to use another time...this makes a pretty large batch!
The muffins freeze well, too. For an on-the-go breakfast, pop in the microwave for 30 seconds and enjoy with your coffee. 
Happy Friday!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Not-so-fried Rice

No arteries need to meet greasy, limp Chinese take out. But this *healthier* version is easy, tasty, and has endless possibilities. For this adventure, I used a food I've never cooked with before:  

napa cabbage.
It gave a bit of crunch, some filler (besides rice), and color to this dish. After making a batch, I put the leftovers into 2-cup containers and have been grabbing it for an easy lunch at work or a no-thought dinner after a long day. (PS: Napa cabbage has 28 calories per cup, according to this awesome USDA Food-a-pedia.)

Not-so-fried Rice
4-6 servings

4 cups water + 1/3 cup water
2 cups wheat rice
1 1/2 cup carrots
1 zucchini
3 stalks celery
1/2 cup peas or snow peas
1 egg + 1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Dash of ground ginger 
3 cups Napa cabbage
1/2 TB sesame oil (optional) 
Garnish: sesame seeds, 1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup reduced sodium soy sauce

pot for water with lid, large wok or skillet with lid, wooden spoon 
step one: Heat a pot of water with rice and cover. When it boils, remove lid, stir, and recover, reducing heat to a simmer. Let cook 15 or so minutes.
step two: While waiting for the rice, chop up the carrots, zucchini, and celery and put into the heated wok with 1/3 cup of water. Cover and let cook on medium-high for 5 minutes. Add the egg and peas and let egg cook for a few minutes. (Some people like to scramble and cook egg first, before adding to veggies.) Next, add the garlic powder, ginger, sesame oil, and cabbage. Gently stir with spoon and recover for a few minutes.
step three: Check on the rice. If all of the water has been absorbed and a taste test of the rice shows it's cooked, remove rice from heat and gently add to wok. Combine with spoon and add soy sauce. Toss thoroughly. Let cook in wok for a few more minutes and serve in a bowl with garnish.

I mentioned the USDA's new My Food-a-pedia 
This is super helpful. You can look up nutrition values of various foods, get personalized meal plans, etc, and it's also great for kids to use, too. Try this: Click on "Look up a food." Put in anything...I did popcorn. Not only does it give you the nutrition facts for popcorn (and which category it goes in on your plate), it gives you the facts of buttered, low fat, natural popped with butter, air popped, and other varieties. So simple! I hope this helps keep you and your family healthy and happy. 
Happy eating! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Banana biscuits

This is strictly breakfast food...biscuits with warm gooey banana bits in the middle. Served warm with brown sugar on top, or buttered and drizzled with locally harvested honey.

Banana Biscuits
*8 biscuits, 1 mouth*
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons margarine
3/4 cup milk (skim, almond, soy...your choice)
1 medium banana, chopped
3 TB brown sugar

Mix all dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with two forks until a coarse dough forms. 

Pour milk in center and stir until dough is moistened and no lumps remain. Fold in banana. Knead dough for one minute. Roll out dough on floured surface and cut using biscuit cutter or (grandma's way) the rim of a medium drinking glass. Place on nonstick cooking sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake at 400 for 12 minutes. Eat! Cut open and spread margarine and drizzle with honey (optional).

Have a great week, y'all! (I don't actually say y'all...the biscuits just inspired that Southern speak.)


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

I'm completely puzzled by the British TV show, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, now aired on TLC. 16 year old Irish Travellers (negatively labeled "gypsies") marrying boys their age and preparing for a life of cooking and cleaning, beginning their domestication with the most outlandish, over the top wedding celebrations. It's a fascinating culture of scantily clad young women with traditional Roman Catholic values and male dominance as breadwinners, as well as prejudice and ostracization by their neighborhoods (the "country folk"). Watch it sometime--I'm warning you, though, it's a mind warp, but still interesting.

On to other things...

We made this the other night, and it's time to share...Giada's Parmesan Crusted Chicken Tenders. Easy, tasty, versatile. We had this with a side of macaroni & veggies one night, and I've topped a bed of salad mix with a few tenders to make a filling/healthy lunch the last two days. You can make a sandwich with it, come up with homemade sauces for dipping, the possibilities are endless!

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Tenders 
from Giada

4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 pounds chicken tenders (about 24 small to medium in size)
1 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs

Cut tenders to desired size and place in a large bowl. Pour buttermilk over the chicken and stir a bit. Let soak for 15--30 minutes.

In a large pie pan, combine parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. One by one, roll and press chicken into bread crumb mixture. Arrange breaded chicken onto a cookie sheet lined with foil (or parchment paper). Brush olive oil on the foil before adding chicken. After sheet is full of tenders, drizzle a little extra olive oil on to prevent sticking and keep chicken moist. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes, or until cooked in the middle and edges are crispy.
Yes, the sweet potatoes took over the plate. Yummm.
Suggested dips:
Homemade honey mustard
Barbeque sauce (Laurel's)
Balsamic vinaigrette
Ranch dip (Matt's)
Wasabi ketchup (Ketchup-the restaurant-in LA is closed...we missed the fun dips, but you can prob recreate this one at home)
As a bonus, Matt made sweet potato fries for me. Delicious! Unfortunately, they were a little browner than I meant...I left them in the oven too long, against Matt's suggestion. Oops. But they were delicious, I do admit. Hope fully attempt #2 will be better (and will merit more pics on here!).

Eat, drink, do be merry!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Low Fat Strawberry-Cornmuffin Bread

 Awkward title, I know. But how else to I explain that this low-fat bread is sweet like a muffin and not savory cornbread? I saw this recipe and hacked away at it. Sorry, Food Network. It was a good idea that you had, though. The one I made is a slice-able bread, uses no white sugar and has a bit more bite because of the strawberries. Also, instead of half cornmeal flour and half white flour, we have a little more fiber and nutrients by mixing it up with cornmeal, wheat flour and white flour. You know how I do.

Anyhoo, on to the food...

 Low Fat Strawberry-Cornmuffin Bread
Makes one loaf, but can easily double OR bake in muffin pans instead

1 cup cornmeal flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup orange juice + 1 TB zest
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 cup chopped strawberries + 2 strawberries for topping
3 TB brown sugar + 2 teaspoons cinnamon mixed together, for topping

In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients. (cornmeal through baking powder on the list)
In a second bowl, whisk all wet ingredients. (orange juice through agave syrup)
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir well. Fold in chopped strawberry.
Pour dough into a bread pan (I lined the bottom with a rectangle piece of parchment paper.). Top with sliced strawberries and brown sugar/cinnamon mixture.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from center of loaf. Serve warm and buttered. Yum.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Berry Cucumber Smoothie

Wow, it has been a while! Matt & I spent our 3rd anniversary in Vegas and absolutely loved it. We ate some amazing food (which I'll share later), walked a ton, and came out on top on the slots. I'm back with a breakfast treat that works anytime, really. Cucumber is so refreshing--it's in salads, a replacement for potato chips, and sliced and chilled in water. Why not put it in a smoothie??

Berry Cucumber Smoothie
Serves 2

1/4 cup orange juice (or a large splash)
1 cucumber, sliced into 1-inch rounds
6 ice cubes
8 strawberries, tops off
2 medium bananas 

Blend all ingredients in that order. Serve immediately and garnish with strawberry.

The cucumber taste is very subtle, and the strawberry blends it pretty well. So easy, so healthy! Don't worry about the semi-high amount of's all natural! (no white sugar here, so your blood sugar won't spike) I drank the smoothie 2 hours ago, and I'm still quite full.

Matt & I were so glad to take a trip like that...but I think Sam missed him...a lot.

Happy Tuesday, friends!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mocha Granita

Ever had a granita?

The Italians' version or our snowcones (who invented it first?), granitas are an iced treat made with a simple syrup (sugar and water) and a featured flavor, like watermelon, orange, or mint. Funny, the texture of the granita varies from region to region in Italy, much like snowcones (coarse ice) to Hawaiian shaved ice (melt-in-your mouth, finely shaved) here in the states. I've never made a granita, but turned to Bon Appetit for a little help. Not only is it incredibly easy to make, you can get really creative and really healthy with your recipes. You can insert coffee, fruits, even vegetables, and add as little/no or as much sugar as you like. I followed Bon Appetit's recipe, and it is DELICIOUS! Next time, I'll tone double the coffee; it'll tone back the sweetness and double the amount because it's so tasty.

Jeweled texture, fully frozen, and ready to become granita.

Mocha Granita

from Bon Appetit

2 cups (16 oz) hot, strong coffee

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1) In an 8X8 inch glass pan, pour hot coffee, sugar and vanilla. Stir gently until sugar dissolves, then freeze for one hour.

2) After the hour, stir slightly again. Freeze for 2 more hours, until fully frozen. (Silly me, I left it in the freezer for 3 days.)

3) Put the pan on the counter and, using a fork, scrape the ice mixture until all is fluffy bits of flavored ice. Serve in a glass and top with heavy whipping cream (whipped cream) and chocolate shavings (Use a veggie peeler to make chocolate shavings.) Serve and indulge! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Green Omelette

Tonight was an "on your own" dinner, which means Matt has something normal (like pasta or chicken) and I have breakfast (or something weirder like oatmeal and ginger tofu). An omelette sounded good, but I wanted to sneak in some veggies also, so here's how it went.

Green Omelette
*serves 1, but easily doubles, triples, etc.*
2 eggs
2 small mushrooms
handful of spinach
3 TB cilantro
1 slice of bacon, chopped
Dash of salt and pepper

Preheat pan/skillet. FINALLY I remembered to spray with non-stick cooking spray after pan is already heated (right before you put food on). In a small bowl, whisk eggs with a fork or whisk, heh. 
Chop mushrooms and cilantro and add to small bowl. Add in spinach, bacon, salt and pepper. Stir a bit (if the bowl's not too full).
Pour egg mixture into pan and cook on medium heat for 4 minutes. When eggs are 75% cooked (just a little runny in the middle), flip half of omelette over. Let cook for a few more minutes, until no runnyness. Serve with your favorite bread and a fruit. A balanced meal, yes.

Have you seen these little gadgets?
They're by Zespri, the kiwifruit company out of New Zealand. Matt got some from work a while back, and I love them. Fruit knife on one side, spoon on the other. Great for melon. I know there are lots of melon spoons out there, but I'm digging these.

Happy Wednesday, happy evening, happy life.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mahi mahi

We've been eating a lot more seafood lately. I thought it would be more expensive, but when portions are kept at 3 to 4 ounces each, it ends up being the same as we were spending on chicken, pork or beef. Plus, the incredible health benefits from fish make me feel even better--tastes good, good for you. Matt went a little adventurous for a dinner last week and cooked mahi-mahi for the first time. We had just made a trip to Whole Foods in Austin; among our fun findings was a package of cedar papers for grilling.
These are new and amazing. You soak the papers in a dish of water for about 10 minutes, they soften up, and you put your food in them (fish, meat, veggies, whatever), roll the papers and tie them, and grill like crazy! The cedar wrapped around the food allows for amazing taste and scent, and it's a fabulous idea (better than cedar planks, in my opinion). 8 papers were $6, I believe. 

Grilled Mahi-mahi
Matt did an amazing job with the mahi-mahi. I honestly did not know anything about the fish, so I took lots of pictures throughout the process. We bought the fish the same day we were using it (advise I kept seeing in all of my cookbooks). We bought a pound of the fish. Matt laid the fish out (skin side down) and cut them into 4 squares (4 oz each, small enough to fit in the cedar papers). He seasoned both sides with sea salt and pepper, rubbing it in.
It's a really pretty fish, with silver and golden skin.
 Then, he removed the cedar papers from the water (10 minutes of soaking) and placed them on the cutting board.
He placed the mahi in the center of the paper and added shrimp/veggies (recipe below) on and around the mahi.
He secured the papers with string and placed on the grill, 10 minutes on each side.
Unwrap carefully and eat, eat. We served with homemade tartar sauce (although it didn't need it) and couscous.

Shrimp and Veggies (to accompany mahi-mahi)
4 servings
1/2 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and rinsed
Cut the following into long, thin slices (julienned):
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
1 zucchini
2 carrots

Combine shrimp and veggies in large bowl. Add:
Juice of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 limes
Dash of garlic powder and black pepper
Pinch of sea salt

Mix with hands (or spoon) until evenly distributed onto shrimp and veggies. Cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then top onto mahi when you're ready to grill.

Tartar Sauce
1/2 cup lowfat mayo
Dash of sea salt and pepper
2 TB dill relish
Dash of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of dried rosemary and basil

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and serve immediately.
While the grill was still hot, I ran out and added a few pineapple and orange slices. Yum. That was dessert.

Hope you had a great holiday yesterday. Happy grilling!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Crimey Limey Pie

This is a twist on a classic...with a homemade graham cracker crust, and extra zest for lime *pop* flavors in your mouth. And maybe I've watched too many police movies, but "crimey" is your homie, your best friend, and this pie is big enough to share, so please do. It would be a crime if you kept it all to yourself...

Crimey Limey Pie
You'll need:
Large pie pan, sprayed with nonstick spray
1 large bowl
Large spoon
Ziploc bag (quart or gallon)

Ingredients for crust:
1 package of graham crackers (8 full crackers)
6 TB melted margarine or unsalted butter
Zest of 1 lime 

Ingredients for pie filling:
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 12 oz. can of frozen limeade or lime juice, thawed OR juice of 6 limes + 1/3 cup water
1 cans fat free sweetened condensed milk
3 egg whites + 1 yolk

For crust: In a ziploc bag, crush graham crackers. Pour into large bowl, along with melted margarine and zest of 1 lime. Combine. Using hands, form crust in bottom of large pie pan and mold until it covers entire pan's bottom and sides.

If you look closely, you can see the lime zest right in the crust!

For filling: Rinse and dry large bowl for reuse. Stir lime juice and zest, limeade, milk and eggs. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour into pie pan. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until pie is slightly firm and crust begins to brown. Allow to cool for at least 45 minutes, refrigerating afterward. Top with whipped cream for fun.
This pie is not exactly healthy, but using egg whites allows the filling to be a little fluffier than usual without the added cholesterol from most recipes that use only yolks. Enjoy with your friends.

Lemon Chess Bars

So I've had this crazy idea that I would publish 100 recipes in this blog before Matt & my third anniversary trip. Well, it's crunch time because July 12th is right around the corner!

In a crunch, my grandmother would make this dessert. She took it to church group functions (Chicken Foot games, ESL classes), luncheons with her fellow retired teachers, and--if we were lucky--would whip it up because one of her grandkids begged her. I thank God for her daily, and this was one of those recipes she taught me to make in her kitchen, me standing on a stepstool to see over the counter. When my dearest girlfriends hosted a bridal shower before Matt & my nuptuals, they has the sweetest idea of enclosing recipe cards in the invitations, to be filled out by all of the guests and given to me at the shower. Guess which one my grandmother wrote out? This one! And now I'll share the love with you.

It's actually a combination of two of her recipes, chess cake and lemon bars, creamy tart lemon encased in a buttery yellow cake. I've modified this to cut out a bit of the fat, but the flavors are still there. If you like lemon, sweet and perfect Southern picnic food, this one's for you.
Lemon Chess Bars
*makes 18 medium bars*
Yellow cake mix
5 TB margarine, softened
1 egg + 2 eggs
1/2 cup shredded coconut (optional)
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
3 cups powdered sugar + more for dusting
8 oz low fat cream cheese, softened

step one: Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, margarine and one egg. Using hands, form into a soft dough. Spray a 9X13 inch pan with nonstick spray. Pat the dough flatly into the bottom of the pan, covering pan evenly. Sprinkle coconut evenly on top of dough, for added flavor.

step two: Rinse out and dry the bowl for reuse. Combine 2 eggs, lemon juice and zest, powdered sugar, and cream cheese. Using a large spoon or whisk, stir until mixture is smooth with very few bumps (a few are okay). Pour mixture on top of the dough in the pan.

step three: Bake for 30 minutes, or until center of lemon bars are firm (not jiggly). Edges will be slightly brown. Let cool for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Eat and treat!

These bars can be left out overnight, but they're best when put in the fridge. The lemon taste intensifies as they get colder!

So there you have it, a fun summer treat. And I think I have 15 more recipes to show this week, before we leave on Sunday. Wish me luck!