Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: New Year's Resolutions

When referring to the Merriam-Webster's definition of "resolution", it appears that for something to be a true resolution, there must first be a problem that needs to be solved. Take a look. This is copied directly from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Are you getting what I am getting here?

Image from
Definition of RESOLUTION

1: the act or process of resolving: as
a : the act of analyzing a complex notion into simpler ones
b : the act of answering : solving
c : the act of determining

This does make perfect sense when applied to our New Year's Resolutions. People who are vowing to manage debt better as their NYR (New Year's Resolution) are more than likely having some difficulty in that area. Those who choose to loose weight as their goal are the ones having trouble keeping the pounds from creepin' on. People who are super stressed may decide to dedicate more time a week to yoga or meditation. Whatever the "resolution" may be, we are all going to have to do one thing in common to meet these goals; change.

Change is tough. A lot of people fight it because it makes us feel uncomfortable. It can scare us. So as we call on ourselves to make this change, let's consider the reason behind the resolution. After all, Merriam-Webster does define resolution as an "act of analyzing". Is this a change that is needed to improve the overall quality of my life? If it truly is, then go with it. Go all the way and stick with it. The impact of your change will only remain for as long as you are implementing it. Let's face it, if it is a really important NYR, then we want it to more than a year. What we want is more like a new life resolution!

In my own true fashion, I must end on a positive note to this whole New Year's Resolution thing. You know, when we try to think of one, we end up focusing on the negative. What can I do better? How can I look better? You get the picture. Try this. Think about the great things you are doing. Pin-point the positive aspects in your life and make a New Year's Resolution to keep doing them. We already work hard at what we do. Let's not forget that. Deciding to continue something can be just as valuable as opting for a change.

I wish you all a very happy, healthy and wonderful New Year! And best to you...whether you go for a change or vow to keep doin' the same fabulous things.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Paula Deen's Lean: Chicken Fried Steak with Parsleyed Cream Gravy

First, you have to understand something about the house I grew up in. My mother is a former PE teacher ( the apple doesn't fall far) and Jazzercise instructor. My dad has always been and still is a crazy runner. To put it simply, we were a healthy home that valued good-for-you meals and an active lifestyle. With that being said, it should come as no surprise that I was unaware that chicken fried steak even existed until I was in my mid-20's. The other surprise; it's not even chicken! It's beef! Part of this lack of skillet-fried knowledge is due to my geographical location in Virginia. The other blame lies is my mom's cookin'. Don't worry though, my husband's mother has made up for it by being very generous with sharing her knowledge of gravy, fried chicken and cookin' with bacon grease. I have no been completely deprived. Instead, I consider myself lucky to have had exposure to two types of cooking; both wonderful in their own way; which combined created my won style.

I wasn't quite sure how I would like chicken fried steak. So I started with a Paula Deen recipe, 'cause if anyone can be an expert on these things....it's gotta be her. Here is my lighter and leaner version of Paula Deen's Chicken Fried Steak with Parsleyed Cream Gravy from Paula Deen's Best Dishes-2010 (page 15).

Makes 6 servings


Cooking spray
6 cubed steaks (about 2 pounds) Round, not chuck
2 teaspoons steak seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Parsleyed Cream Gravy

2 cups 1% milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and spray liberally with cooking spray.

Season the steaks by sprinkling them with steak seasoning and garlic powder. In a shallow bowl (I like to use a pie dish) stir together flours and baking powder. Dredge the steaks in the flour mixture and shake off excess flour.

Fry steaks in the pan (probably 2 at a time) for about 4-5 minutes on each side. Be sure to respray the skillet with cooking spray each time. Place the steaks in a dish and keep warm in the oven while fryin' up the rest.

Once the steaks are all fried, use the same skillet for making the gravy. Reduce to a medium heat. Whisk milk, beef broth, flour, salt and pepper into the skillet. Whisk constantly for about 6-8 minutes or until it has reached desired consistency. Stir in the parsley and cook for another 3 minutes. Serve over steaks and mashed red skin potatoes.


We all LOVED it! My brother and husband were just blown away with both the appearance and taste of this dish. To completely eliminate the vegetable oil for frying and to make a light gravy that is still thick and delicious was just amazing to them.

When shopping for your cubed steaks, look closely at the label to make sure you are getting the leanest cut. The chuck cubed steak is going to have roughly 11 more grams of fat per serving than the round. The reason being is that the round steaks come from an area of the cow that is more exercised. The more exercise, the less fat. Makes sense, right?

To make this dish complete, I would suggest serving over some simple red skin mashed potatoes. Just cube and boil your potatoes, drain and mash. In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon ICBINB and saute a chopped garlic clove. Stir in a little milk and pour onto the potatoes. Mash together with a pinch of salt and pepper and you have the perfect platform for your Chicken Fried Steak with Parsleyed Cream Gravy! YUM!!

I hope you enjoy this slimmed down version of a very classic dish.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving):  374.5 calories;  13.4g fat;  23.4g carbohydrate;  37.7g protein;  1.7g fiber

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: What Drives Our Cravings?

With a degree in Exercise Science and a devoted interest to health and nutrition, it probably won't shock you to know that I love watching Discovery Channel-type television. So much of that stuff is fascinating to me; especially when it relates to the human body. Scientists are still discovering so much about us and how we work. Who knows what we will learn to know about ourselves 20 years down the road? See, that just excites me! I am a science geek at heart. So anyway, back to the question: What drives our cravings?

While watching Human Body: Pushing the Limits with Brain Power, they used a real-life story of a man stranded at sea to illustrate how the brain tells us what to eat. Essentially, our brain detects nutrients in our bodies that are deficient. The brain then sends us messages telling us what to eat based on the nutrients found in the food. We call these messages "cravings".

The man at sea was fortunate to have an emergency boat, some food, water and fishing equipment. However, when the food ran out, he was left only to eat fish. At least he had something to eat, right? Sushi! Well, unfortunately the meaty part of the fish doesn't contain enough of the nutrients for his body to survive. The good news is that the other parts of the fish (fins, scales, eyes, liver) do. To survive, he had to eat those other parts of the fish. After some time, as he grew weaker, something in his brain told him to try eating those other parts. What he found was that those "other parts" which he had once found revolting were actually delicious to him. His body needed the nutrients found in the "gross parts", so his brain told him they tasted great. His brain saved his life and allowed him to stay healthy for 75 days until he was rescued. Isn't that cool?!?
Watch the segment from Human Body: Pushing the Limits HERE.

There may be a real nutritional deficiency going on in our bodies that is driving what we eat. I can't imagine this is all the time, but I'm not the expert here. You just can't tell me that there is something in this box of Christmas cookies on my desk that I absolutely need. Regardless, my brain is telling me to eat one and I should probably listen to it!

The next time you crave something, it would be interesting to consider what nutrients are in that particular food. It could be a legitimate message from your brain telling you that your body is lacking something. Our brains are incredible things. I don't doubt they tell us what to eat without us even knowing it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Cookbook Starring...YOU!

This is not a typical post, but something so cool I just had to share! Last night, I created an adorable photo book all about my daughter on http://www.kodakgallery.com/. Let me tell ya, I had the best time putting this thing together. The site is super easy to use and what I love most of all is how you can save projects to finish later! That is a feature a woman like me definitely needs.

Kimber graces the front cover of her Kodak Photo Book.
Well, while I was having a blast strolling down memory lane and thinking about how the past 2-1/2 years have really flown by, I got to thinking about others books I could make. I could use the Kodak Photo book maker to compile a cookbook! How fun would that be!?!? The Photo books with SmartFit technology make putting together a professional-looking book a piece of cake! There are so many cute and stylish backgrounds and layouts to choose from. There are even layouts that allow space for text...or RECIPES!!

I just had to share this because if you are a cook-a-holic like me, then I just know you have fun putting together your own little cookbook. You don't need to be a famous chef or food star to have your work in a hardcover book. You just need to be you....and to go to the Kodak Gallery to get started! I plan on compiling my Food Foto Book over the holiday break. With such affordable pricing, high quality and user-friendly features (live help is also available, if needed), I have a feeling this is just the beginning of my photo book-makin' love affair.

***Until 12/23, they are running a special with savings up to 50% off. Hurry up and get going on those books! I was able to save $9 on mine last night!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paula Deen's Lean: Brie en Croute #2

Since my husband and I will take any excuse to throw a get-together, we invited family and friends over for the ACC Championship football game on December 4th; turning it into an all-out sport enthused, charitable holiday event. Rudy and I wanted to use this gathering as a chance to collect sport-related toys for our local Toys for Tots, hoping to make this holiday a little merrier for children in our community.

Along with the football and toy collection success, there is one more victory that needs to be celebrated; the lightening up of Paula Deen's Brie en Croute #2! My friend Karen and I rocked this recipe and had those football fans scrapin' the platter. Who said you can't serve Brie at a tailgate? It was simple and delicious, yet it looked like it took great time and skill. Now I am not down-playin' our culinary skills, but this recipe doesn't require the use of them. Check out how quickly and easily you can serve this fancy appetizer to your guests. I guarentee you will be staring at your creation just like we were; completely impressed with ourselves and loving how much people enjoyed it.

Serves 10

1 can (8 oz) Reduced-Fat Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

1 tablespoon "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" light

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

1 small (7-ounce) PrĂ©sident® 7 oz Light Brie

1/2 cup SUGAR FREE raspberry jam

2 eggs whites, beaten

Heat oven to 350°F. Unroll dough and separate crosswise into two sections. Pat dough and firmly press perforations to seal, forming 2 squares.

Place 1 square on ungreased cookie sheet. Place Light Brie on center of dough.

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute nuts in "ICBINB" light until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Place nuts on top of Brie and spread jam on top of nuts.

With small cookie or canapé cutter, cut 1 shape from each corner of remaining square; set cutouts aside.

Place remaining square on top of cheese round. Press dough evenly around cheese; fold bottom edges over top edges. Gently stretch dough evenly around cheese; press to seal completely. Brush with beaten egg. Top with cutouts; brush with additional beaten egg.

Bake 20 to 24 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes. Serve warm with whole wheat crackers or sliced apples and/or pears.

I am telling you, I LOVE brie! And when I found out that almost every ingredient in this recipe could be replaced with something lighter, I fell in love all over again. The fat content in the cheese has been reduced by 50% and in the pastry.... around 60%! Let's not forget how we cut the saturated fat in butter by 70% and the sugar in the jam by 100%! I can't tell you how satisfying it is when an all-time favorite like this, one that I have deprived myself of or felt guilty about eating for so long, comes out just as fantastic in it's lighter form. I really hope you love it as much as we did. ENJOY!

**Note: Want to cut a little more fat or have a nut allergy, leave out the butter and nuts. It is still going to knock your socks off!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 154.2 calories;  9.2g fat;  13.7g carbohydrate;  7.5g protein;  .26g fiber

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Are You an Emotional Eater?

Image from fantashak.wordpress.com

I'd be lying if I told you that food and I have always had this beautiful, perfectly-balanced relationship. Friends and family can back me up in agreeing that there have been some ups and downs in my past. They have witnessed the roller coasters in my wild ride with weight and food. Now that the ride has ended and I can reflect, it is obvious to see the strong relationship between my feelings/emotions and my feelings toward food. Although oblivious at the time, I can now see that my weight was a reflection of what was going on inside me; emotionally. I find it interesting that right about the time in my life when I met my adorable husband, accepted my first job and bought my first house...my overall health improved.

 I was happy, in loooooooove, busy and full of life. Therefore, food was not a constant thought on my mind. It wasn't my go-to when things weren't going so well. When feeling upset, a chocolate shake did not call out "Lindsay" and promise to comfort me. When stressed, I didn't over-do it on Chinese take-out because I deserved it for working myself into the ground. Instead, food took on the role it was intended for; nutrition for the body. When all other aspects of my life found their place, food found it's place. From there, it took on a domino effect; improving my eating, energy level, sleeping, attitude and overall well-being. All of this because my emotions were finally in check.

The following quiz was sent to me, along with a book by fitness expert, Andrea Metcalf (Review coming soon!). I haven't taken this quiz yet, but I would say based on what I have shared with you and reading over it, I was an Emotional Eater. Sometimes "over" and sometimes "under", but no doubt, emotional. Our emotions can have such power over what we consume. The first step in addressing this would have to be coming face to face with our emotions. Are they controlling what, when and how much we eat?

Think you are a consistent emotional eater? Take the quiz and find out.
Naked Fitness: The Proven 28 Day Lifestyle Program for a Slimmer, Fitter, Pain Free Body
Are You an Emotional Overeater?
By Andrea Metcalf,
Author of
Take this short quiz to find out.

I turn to food when I'm sad, disappointed, or lonely. Yes ___ No ___
I often eat past the point of fullness. Yes ___ No ___
When I'm upset, I crave sweets or salty snack foods. Yes ___ No ___
When I go to parties or dine out with friends, I tend to overeat. Yes ___ No ___
If I eat too much, I feel guilty afterwards. Yes ___ No ___
I eat more than I should when I'm home alone or bored. Yes ___ No ___
My moods have the biggest influence on when and how I eat. Yes ___ No ___
I like to nurture family and friends with food. Yes ___ No ___
I think about food a lot. Yes ___ No ___
I am unhappy with my weight, but I overeat anyway. Yes ___ No ___
Eating is my favorite activity. Yes ___ No ___
I tend to clean my plate; I don't like to waste food. Yes ___ No ___
I binge habitually. Yes ___ No ___
The large amount of food I eat embarrasses me. Yes ___ No ___
Sugary foods tend to calm me down. Yes ___ No ___

Count up your yeses and your noes.

If you answered yes to eight or more questions:
Your feelings of anger, frustration, loneliness, sadness, boredom, or even happiness might be causing you to overeat. And you are probably an emotional overeater. You may be eating too much or eating chaotically, but what you are really feeding is something in your life: relationship problems, broken dreams, financial worries, or problems at work. Try the strategies in this chapter, but don't be afraid to seek professional help.

If you answered yes to four to seven questions:
You may be struggling with some emotions from time to time. You are a borderline emotional overeater. At this point, it will be easier to get your eating habits under control by applying some of the strategies in this chapter.

If you circled three or fewer yeses:
You probably aren't an emotional overeater. You may occasionally use food to cope, but for the most part, it doesn't interfere with your ability to manage your weight.

The above is an excerpt from the book Naked Fitness: The Proven 28 Day Lifestyle Program for a Slimmer, Fitter, Pain Free Body by Andrea Metcalf. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
© 2010 Andrea Metcalf, author of Naked Fitness: The Proven 28 Days Lifestyle Program for a Slimmer, Fitter, Pain Free Body.

So, how did you do? I am excited to check out this book and let you all know what I think. I already like the title with the words "Lifestyle Program". That insists it is a change for life, not just a one month diet. We all know that if you want to make changes that stay, then the good habits need to stick around too!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Laughing All the Way

I try my best not to take certain things in life too seriously. Learning to laugh is definitely great medicine for the soul, so I've learned. Life is a lot more fun that way. But did you know that laughter is also pretty good for the body too? Ever laugh so hard your stomach muscles hurt or smile so long your cheeks were sore? It's 'cause you are workin' those 'happy' muscles! Now, I'm not saying that watching Elf or Christmas Vacation can substitute for your exercise routine this holiday season. Oh, if it were only that easy. All I'm doing is giving you one more excuse to choose a lighter approach to life. Laugh a little. It will help keep you healthy in both mind and body.

Other than burning a few extra calories, laughing can benefit the body in several other ways. Take a look!

 Physical Benefits to Laughing:

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

I hope you are all having a beautiful holiday season so far...laughing all the way! HA, HA, HA!

** Reference for laughing facts:  helpguide.org.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: The Low-Fat Trap

In the early days of tracking my food intake, I clearly remember focusing mainly on the fat content. After all, the fat must be what makes us fat, right? I would go directly to the food label and if it was low-fat or fat free...it was good to go. No attention was paid to serving size, calories, nutritional value or carbohydrate count. It was almost as if the words "fat free" translated to "Eat as much as you want, Lindsay." The focus was fat and as long as I kept it low, I was going to be able to maintain a healthy diet and a healthy weight. Oh boy, was I wrong!

In fact, this so-called healthy low-fat diet was having the adverse effect. The foods I was reaching for were typically high in carbohydrates and calories and lacking in essential nutrients such as proteins and fats. Instead of choosing a satisfying snack like celery with peanut butter, I would go for 4-6 Snackwell's fat free chocolate cookies. Steering away from what I believed to be evil fatty peanut butter (I know better now) was actually causing me to consume more calories and carbohydrates. It's no wonder I would consume all these low-fat foods and still not lose weight; sometimes even gain it. It is all about calories in and calories out. Just because something is fat free doesn't mean you can eat the whole package. If we consume more than we use, we gain weight. My "low-fat" plan was high in carbohydrates; particularly processed sugars. Plus, the idea that low-fat or fat free meant Icould have as much as I wanted was way off.

So, the lesson to be taken from my experiences with low-fat eating: Focus on whole the food, not just the fat. Foods low in fat are what we should be looking for most of the time, but they must also be high in nutritional value. Don't opt for Twizzlers over almonds just because they are a "low fat candy". We need moderate amounts of healthy fats, like those found in almonds, in order to maintain a balanced diet. Consider all aspects of the food (calories, carbs, serving size, protein, etc.) before making a decision. And remember, everything is best in moderation. Even if they are "fat free".

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cooking Light with Giada De Laurentiis: Pizzettes with Gorgonzola, Tomato and Basil

Oh, do I have a very "Happy Holiday" appetizer for you this season! One of the best parts about it; it flaunts the red, white and green colors of Christmas. I love it when the food matches the occasion, don't you?
So, this fabulous appetizer recipe is a healthy take on Giada De Laurentiis's recipe for Pizzettes with Gorgonzola, Tomato and Basil. I know! YUM! Well, I promise that these babies taste even better than they sound. The are simple (only taking 15 minutes), delicious, nutritious and B-E-A-UTIFUL; sure to please your holiday guests. Here's all you need to know...

Serves 8


Rustic Crust used in this recipe.
1 large "ready-to-bake" WHOLE WHEAT pizza crust (Suggested: Rustic Crust

3 ounces Gorgonzola, crumbled

4 ounces cherry tomatoes, cut in half 

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Cut the pizza crust into bite size pieces. Evenly top each piece with just a pinch of Gorgonzola. Then gently press a halved cherry tomato into the cheese. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle the pizzettes with EVOO and sprinkle with fresh basil. Arrange pizzettes on a cute platter and serve right away!


As you can see, I didn't fiddle with the cheese in this recipe too much. We are still using the full-on, whole fat version of Gorgonzola. "Why?" you may ask. Well, first of all, I couldn't find a "light" version of it. Normally that may deter me, but not this time. Considering how little is used and the number of servings this recipe makes, I felt this recipe could be an exception for using real cheese. I did add just a tiny bit of shredded Parm to mine, but that is entirely up to you. It doesn't need it, but when given the choice, my family always votes for more cheese.

The major change comes with the crust choice. Instead of using regular refrigerated dough, I went for the quicker and healthier whole wheat version. The pizza crust I found was organic; made with high quality ingredients such as whole wheat and extra-virgin olive oil. Plus, it had some yummy Italian seasonings thrown in too. Let's also not forget the time you save by not having to roll out the dough and cut it with a cookie cutter. That make this recipe a major calorie and a time saver. YES!

If you are going to do pizza, this is the way to go. To find a crust similar to this, I suggest looking in the refrigerated section of the "health nut" aisle (that's what I like to call it) in your grocery store. You should find something equally as fantastic there.

Enjoy your Pizzettes!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 152.75 calories;  3.66g fat;  24.82g carbohydrate;  6.4g protein;  2.2g fiber

**Recipe inspired by Giada De Laurentiis. Original recipe can be found here at foodnetwork.com. Also featured on Oprah and recipegirl.com!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: "Souper" Soups

With the weather turning colder, warm soups start to sound really good right about now. Although my cooking has expanded a great deal over the past year or so, my husband still wears the cooking crown for two things; grilling steaks and makin' soups. There is a Cheesy Potato Soup that he makes that would just rock your world! It is my favorite. But this post isn't about the soups he makes (sorry Rudy), it's about the soups that we are going to create in the New England Country Soup's Soup Challenge!

New England Country Soups prides themselves on making delicious and nutritious soups in many varieties. After reading about the ingredients and tasting the products, I can certainly see why. These people know what they are doing when it comes to healthy soups.

With a simple objective, to "make great tasting, good for you, shelf-stable soups with the same, all natural ingredients we use in our kitchen", the three founding "foodies" were able to locate all natural ingredient suppliers in order to make soups that taste great and are convenient for our busy lives. Thank you New England Country Soups!

So, what's this about a challenge? Well...New England Country Soup, an all natural, ready-to-serve soup brand based in Cambridge, is challenging folks to a Soup Challenge. Essentially, New England Country Soup is taking the bold step of challenging consumers to beat their soup recipes on taste and nutrition. Interested consumers can enter their recipes online, and then 15 semi-finalists in New England will get to challenge New England Country Soup in a live cook-off in January. Consumers will be competing for the chance to win a New England weekend getaway for two to Martha’s Vineyard. Sounds fun, right?

Consumers in 14 states can enter and they can choose to compete against any New England Country Soup flavor including Chicken Corn Chowder, Yankee White Bean, New England Clam Chowder, Chicken Pomodoro, Lentil, Nana’s Chicken Soup, Caribbean Black Bean and Sweet Chicken Curry. To learn more about the challenge and how to enter, please visit http://www.soupchallenge.com/.

I think this recipe makeover is going to be a challenge unlike any I have done before. It's one thing to make something heavy into something healthy, but how do you take something that is already awesome when it comes to flavor and nutrition and then improve on that?!?! Well, we shall see. I think this means a lot of soup experimentation for the Rudolph House between now and January 9th, 2011!

I hope you are as excited about this "souper" challenge as I am. Soup is a great way to pack in tons of nutrition and really satisfy your hunger. Plus, the great thing about soup is that there is usually enough left-over for the next day or two. Soup is a great way to stretch our food dollars as well. With all those reasons, you gotta give this challenge a try!

Which soup will you challenge?

Let's go, Cookin' Lean Crew! Show New England how to cook some healthy, out-of-this-world-delicious soup!

SOUP CHALLENGE STARTER KIT GIVEAWAY: Kit includes three jars of soup and 3 spices used in the soups. Visit New England Country Soup on FACEBOOK to enter!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: Toasted Cornbread, Bacon and Chestnut Stuffing

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, friends. What recipe are you using for stuffing? It's funny, 'cause up until about 2 years ago, I thought there was only one kind of stuffing; the kind my mom makes. Now that I have entered the wonderful world of cooking and recipe searching, I know this not to be the case. There are tons out there! Well, here is a really good one. My modified version of Rachael Ray's Toasted Cornbread, Bacon and Chestnut Stuffing is so light and delicious that you won't feel an ounce of guilt going for an extra helping.

Makes 8 Servings


Two 8.5-ounce boxes corn muffin mix, such as Jiffy (prepared with FAT FREE milk)

One 14.5-ounce can (about 1-3/4 cups) LIGHT & FAT FREE chicken broth

1 cup FAT FREE half-and-half

1/2 cup Egg Beaters 

8 slices Jeannie-O LeanTURKEY BACON, cut into 1/2-inch-wide pieces

1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

1 large onion, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

1/4 cup slice almonds 

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

1 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Salt and pepper

Bake the cornbread according to the package directions. Allow time to cool, then break into 1-inch chunks.

Preheat the oven to 325°. In a large baking dish, arrange the cornbread chunks in a single layer. Toast in the oven, stirring once, until golden, about 10 minutes. In a bowl, whisk together the chicken broth, half-and-half and eggs. Fold in the cornbread, cover and let soak for 10 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.

In a large, heavy skillet, cook the bacon until crisp at the edges, about 8 minutes. Remove the bacon and do not rinse the skillet. Add the EVOO to the same skillet, then stir in the onion and celery. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until softened, 10 minutes. Stir in the almonds, thyme and sage during the last minute of cooking. Stir in the cranberries, parsley, soaked cornbread and salt and pepper to taste. Cover; let stand for 30 minutes (Do not rush this part. Wait the entire 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 350°. Add the stuffing to a greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cover with greased foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover; bake until golden, 15 minutes.


We loved this stuffing. All the flavors and textures come together so well. There is a little sweet and a little salt; some crunch and some chew. Plus, it seems so light, as opposed to a traditional stuffing that can be loaded down with butter and oil. We had ours along side a peppered pork tenderloin and it was fantastic. What I also love is the appearance; all the colors. Isn't it pretty? Like Paula always reminds us, "We eat first with our eyes." She is sooooo right.

If you have a chance, I would try this out. If not for Thanksgiving, than any time over this winter holiday season.

And for the record, Mom; your stuffing will always be the best!


NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 133.38 calories;  4.32g fat;  17.49g carbohydrate;  6.94g protein;  1.55g fiber

**This recipe was inspired by the Toasted Cornbread, Bacon and Chestnut Stuffing found on www.rachaelraymag.com. Original recipe by: Susan Lily Ott

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Hey, folks!  I really, really wish I were like Oprah and able to give each of you one of these amazing Butterball Electric Turkey Fryers for Thanksgiving. If I were Oprah, I would probably throw in a car too. Your reasons for wanting this turkey fryer were great; all so genuine and deserving of a prize. But unfortunately, there can be only one winner. That lucky lady happens to be ERIN @ Me, Him & Our Story!

Congratulations, Erin! I hope you love your new turkey fryer as much as my family has.

Thank you to everyone for being a part of this giveaway. The stories you shared just made me smile. I love learning more about the great people who visit The Cookin' Lean Kitchen. You all rock!

Please check back and see me soon. I have more giveaways & exciting reviews on the way!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Two Smart Ideas for Healthy "On-the-Go" Holiday Snacking

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the holidays have officially begun. Aisles in grocery stores and entire sections of Target have been transformed into magical, winter wonderlands full of fun decorations, adorable gift ideas and of course, tempting holiday treats. Cookies, candies, crackers and cheese. It's like the entire snacking industry was taken over by elves! Almost any regular snack food you can think of has been made to look like Santa Claus, a snowflake or a Christmas tree. And what does this do? Well, exactly what those geniuses behind it all want it to do. We buy it, then we eat it. Why not? Look how cute those Christmas Tree cakes are! Oh, and the snowflake crackers! I absolutely need 5 bags of holiday M & M's  just 'cause it's the holidays and they come in red and green. We end up buying and eating things we would normally have the strength to fend off. I know, friends. It happens to the best of us. I'm right there with you.
Luckily, the great people at Bear Naked and Stretch Island Fruit Co. were kind enough to share some of their delicious and nutritious all-natural snacks with me. They sent me some great samples to try and  I am now a huge fan of these two brands. They are two great companies (Go to their sites and read their stories. Cool stuff!) with excellent products. Let me tell you a little about both.

First Up: Bear Naked Fruit & Nut Granola Cookies
These cookies are wonderful. You know from the second you bite into them that this is no Chips Ahoy! Loaded with whole grains, berries and nuts, you are sure to get the energy boost you need, while even calming the occasional sweet-tooth. These cookies contain no preservatives, no cholesterol, no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils and 0g trans fat. Only 100% pure and natural ingredients.  A packaged snack couldn't be any closer to nature. They are yummy and can easily be thrown in a Zip-loc for a take anywhere snack. They also come in a Double Chocolate. Just a little FYI to all you chocolate lovers out there!
To learn more about this cool company and all their products, visit http://www.bearnaked.com/.

Serving Size: 1 cookie   130 calories; 6g fat; 18g carbohydrates; 2g protein

Last, Yet Certainly Not Least: Stretch Island All-Natural Fruit Strips

Think about when you were a child. Who didn't like fruit snacks? Fruit Roll-Ups! Fruit By the Foot! Oh yeah! I remember loving to go to my neighbors house to play because they had all the good snacks. My mom wouldn't buy that stuff. Now I know why. However, had she known about Stretch Island Fruit Snacks, I am sure fruit snacks would have been in the pantry. These fruity snacks are made completely out of real fruit purees meaning that there is no added sugar. All the sugar is found naturally in fruit. They come individually wrapped and in a variety of flavors. A very quick, convenient and mess-free way to get 1/2 serving of fruit.
To learn more about Stretch Island Fruit Co. and their products, please visit http://www.stretchislandfruit.com/.

Serving Size: 1 strip  45 calories; 0g fat; 12g carbohydrates; 0g protein

So during this busy holiday season, be sure to prepare yourself for hunger by stocking up on healthy, on-the-go snacks such as these. They are perfect for helping us stay on track, even with all the tempting treats of the season around us. I plan on keeping both the Bear Naked and Stretch Island snacks in the house, Kimber's bag and in the car. You never know where you will be when that snack attack hits. Be ready!

Happy & Healthy Holiday Snacking to You!

***Disclosure: Bear Naked and Stretch Island Fruit Co. provided me with samples to taste for this review. All the opinions in this review are my own. I was not paid to make them. Thank you!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: Cauliflower and Ham au Gratin

Thanksgiving, or Turkey Day as we liked to call it in my house growing up, is just around the corner. All of you are probably starting to plan your menu, if you haven't done it already. Well before you finalize your grocery list, I have a suggestion for a new side dish. How about trying this Cauliflower and Ham au Gratin recipe, inspired by Rachael Ray! Generally, I like to stick to the same Thanksgiving menu year after year. The family tends to count on certain dishes and I can't stand to see a frowny face. Therefore, I won't change my menu, I will just add on to it. When you see how easy it is, you will see why I am not crazy for wanting to add yet another dish to an already busy day in the kitchen.

Serves 6


  • Sea salt and black or white pepper

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 1/2 pounds), trimmed into florets and bite-size stems

  • 1 tablespoon "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" (regular or light) OR EVOO 

  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped

  • 2 rounded tablespoons flour

  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

  • 1 1/4 cups FAT FREE Half & Half

  • Freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 (16-ounce) container FAT FREE cottage cheese

  • 1/2 pound JENNIE-O Turkey Ham (comes fully cooked); cubed into small pieces 

  • 1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

  • A generous handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped


    Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 500°. In a large pot, bring a few inches of water to a boil, salt it, add the cauliflower and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and return to the pot.

    Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt the "ICBINB" or heat the EVOO over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 3 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 1 minute. Whisk in the wine, then the milk (or half & half); heat through and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Cook until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the mustard and cottage cheese until melted, then remove from the heat.

    Stir the ham and the cheese sauce into the cauliflower, then transfer to a large, shallow casserole. Top with the parmigiano-reggiano and bake until brown and bubbly, about 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the parsley.


    Normally, when Hubby likes a dish, his response is something along the lines of, "Wow! This is awesome!" When it is really good, I may not even get a verbal response, but more of a sound affect that signifies approval. With this dish, I received none of the above. I got a, "Mmmm..this is different." This is different? What does that mean? Different-good? Different-bad? After giving him a second, he assured me that his response meant it was different, yet in a good way. Good answer, Rudy. But seriously, he was right.

    I would have to agree with Rudy here. It does have a different taste, but it is quite good. The wine and the mustard give you a taste that you aren't expecting if you weren't the one making it. Having been the cook, I was prepared for the flavors and was very happy with the results. We don't eat much cauliflower around here, so it is nice to have a dish add a little excitement to it.

    Rachael's recipe called for 4 ounces of Gruyere cheese, which I substituted with 16-ounces of 1% cottage cheese. Gruyere cheese is a hard, white cheese that typically doesn't come in a low-fat version; at least not where I'm shopping. Also, at $10 a block, it can be pretty pricey as well. Instead, for around $2 and 6 grams of fat, I was able to add some creamy, cheesiness without blowing my financial or nutritional budget. Another idea, which I have not yet tried, would be to use fat free cream cheese instead of the Gruyere (You all know how I LOVE my PHILLY!). If you decide to try it with the cream cheese, please be sure to let me know how it worked out.

    I have a couple more possible Thanksgiving Day menu items to try out; including a yummy-lookin' Toasted Cornbread, Bacon and Chestnut Stuffing. Be sure to check back in and see if it would be a good fit for your Thanksgiving menu too!

    NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 213.67 calories;  4.33g fat; 21.28g carbohydrate;  20.31g protein;  3.65g fiber


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