Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: Goat Cheese - Spinach Pizza

I love, love, love this recipe! The week I tested it out, I made it on three different occasions. It makes a fabulous appetizer, as well as the perfect lunch or light dinner. The best part is that from start to finish, this pizza only takes 20 minutes! That's faster, and much healthier, than delivery. Alright...enough chat. Let's get to the video! Here I am, along with my little helper, making our take on Rachael Ray's Goat Cheese - Spinach Pizza.




GOAT CHEESE - SPINACH PIZZA
Makes 1 Pizza (2 Servings)

INGREDIENTS:

One FLAT OUT Flatbread Light

 
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

1 cup (or handful) of fresh baby spinach

1 plum tomato, chopped

1 ounce soft goat cheese

2 ounces FAT FREE Philadelphia Cream Cheese


1/2 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil


DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place flatbread on pizza stone and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Toss the spinach with olive oil. In a small bowl, mix goat cheese and cream cheese. Place cheese mixture in a Zip-loc bag for applying the cheese; trim small piece off corner .Top the crust with the spinach, tomatoes. Top with goat/cream cheese; squeezing from Zip-loc bag. Sprinkle with additional teaspoon of Parmesan, if desired. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 162.5 calories;  8.42g fat;  11.97g carbohydrate;  12.78g protein;  5.7g fiber

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Surprising My Body

Ok, with most things in life, it is easy to fall into a routine. This includes everything from Tuesday is "Taco Night" to the lunch you take to work. Routines work for us. They keep things simple and organized in this often times crazy and chaotic thing we call life. I get that. When you find what works, ya stick with it. But what about our workouts?

I admit to being the guilty party in creating my workout monotony. Every session pretty much resembles the last. Maybe there were a few extra speed intervals there on the treadmill? Or perhaps I was feeling saucy and added some ab work one day last month? Ok, so there is a little variation, yet not enough to make a difference. My body knows what is coming every time I step into my Nikes. There is no element of surprise. I give my body the same workout and in return, I get the same results. No change, progress or improvement; just the same ol' Lindsay. Hell, I don't even get sore muscles anymore! I am not challenging myself at all. I am currently residing in a fitness comfort zone; desperate for a move into a place that pushes my abilities and a creates a stronger me. So, here's the plan.

P90X Extreme Home Fitness Workout Program - 13 DVDs, Nutrition Guide, Exercise PlannerLast year, my adorable husband Rudy (who understands my love of everything health, nutrition and fitness) purchased P90X for me. Yes, the program that you see on infomercials claiming to transform anyone into a strong, super "beachbody" in 90 days. It has been sitting in a box for a year and it is time to bust it out. I am going for it! Or as P90X says, "BRING IT!"

I started last night and let me tell ya, my body was surprised. Actually, maybe not surprised; more like blindsided. My upper-body is so sore and I LOVE it! I sound crazy, right? But it's a good kind of sore because I know that I have challenged myself and woken up those sleeping muscles. Did I fall on my face a couple times doing push-ups last night? Yes. Did I feel like I should be writing a book called, "Diary of a Whimpy Mom"? Yes. But this is the beginning of change. It was a wake-up call. I have been neglecting strength training for too long. Now I am motivated to take back my strength.

Strength training is important to the overall health of both men and women. Need a bit of convincing? Here is a list of benefits to weight training; found on www.mayoclinic.com:

*Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.



*Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body gains a bigger "engine" to burn calories more efficiently — which can result in weight loss. The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.


*Reduce your risk of injury. Building muscle helps protect your joints from injury. It also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.


*Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won't fatigue as easily.


*Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including arthritis, back pain, depression, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.


*Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults

 
** For the full article on mayoclinic.com, click here.

Not only will this P90X program add a little spunk into my workouts, but it will also allow me to gain the multiple benefits to strength training. I am ready! Are you?

Anyone else tried this program? I would love to hear your take on it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cooking Light with Ina Garten: Onion Rings

Ina Garten, also known as Barefoot Contessa, does a wonderful version of the fried onion ring. She uses cornmeal and butter milk; followed by a short dip in the fryer, to create her mouth-watering, Cornmeal-Fried Onion Rings. Well, you can already guess that the frying isn't gonna fly in the cookin' lean kitchen. Therefore, I have created a slightly different version of this yummy fried treat. We are baking them and they are going to be just as crispy, delicious and satisfying as the oh-so-fattening version. Have at it!


OVEN BAKED ONION RINGS
Makes 8 servings


INGREDIENTS:

2 large Vidalia onion (sweet onion)
2 cups FAT FREE Buttermilk
1 tablespoon Paprika
1-1/2  cups flour
3 cups ( or about 2 sleeves) REDUCED-FAT Townhouse crackers
salt
pepper
cooking spray

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix buttermilk, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of flour. Mix well.

To crush the crackers, mix in a food processor or place in a sealed plastic bag; crushing the crackers with a rolling pin. Empty the crushed crackers into a shallow bowl. Add Paprika; a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper.

Slice onion; separate into rings.

Add the remaining flour into a large plastic bag. Add a handful of rings to the bag, seal and shake; coating the rings. Dip the flour coated rings in the buttermilk mix, then the cracker mix. Place on a prepared baking sheet (coated with non-fat cooking spray). Repeat for remaining rings. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden and crispy.

Serve immediately, adding just a tiny pinch of salt before digging in.

*Suggested dipping sauce: 1/2 cup of fat free or light ranch dressing + 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce; mix well. SOOOO YUM!




RESULTS:

One of my weaknesses is the onion basket at Buffalo Wild Wings. The beer battered and fried rings, with that outstanding dip, is just out of this world. I don't even know the calorie count on those things and I don't want to. It would probably ruin the experience completely. I do know that it isn't good, so these baked rings make a great substitute when craving that flavor but not wanting to sabotage my healthy eating for the week.

The exact amount of crackers, buttermilk, etc. needed depends on how big the onions are; which is why the recipe calls for 2-3 sleeves of crackers. Just buy a box and you will be set! If you have to add more buttermilk, crackers, etc.,  to finish all the onions...go for it. You aren't going to hurt anything. The major nutritional changes were made when we switched from frying to baking. So, enjoy making these and don't stress too much about exact ingredient amounts. There is only so much cracker batter you can get to stick to an onion. You will be fine!

ENJOY!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 253.75 calories;  4.61g fat;  44.72g carbohydrate;  6.89g protein;  1.86g fiber

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: The Comfort of Apples

I come from a town which prides itself on being the "Apple Capitol of the World". We know how to grow apples, make a lot of great products from apples, and most importantly, we sure know how to celebrate apples. If you don't believe me, just drive through Winchester during the first weekend of May; you'll get the picture.

Anyhoo, when I received my new copy of The Comfort of Apples: Modern Recipes for an Old-Fashioned Favorite cookbook in the mail, I was extremely excited and curious to see how the authors were going to incorporate apples into more than just pie. Well folks, I was blown away from the moment I took it out of the box!

First of all, it is just as adorable as can be. Just look at the fun, bright colors! It's a book that is too pretty to not be on display; therefore it sits on my side table in the living room. Not only does it hold fabulous recipes, but it also makes for a great accent piece in your kitchen or living room decor. Very cute!

Now, let's talk about the meat of the book; the content. The authors, chefs Philip & Lauren Rubin, have proven that an abundance of applications exist for the apple, beyond sauces, crisps and pies. For example, I was inspired by the Gnocchi with Cauliflower, Peas and Apples recipe found on page 96. In true "cookin' lean fashion", there were naturally a few changes made to the ingredient list. Still, my husband, brother and I were very impressed with this particular combination of flavors and with how well the apple was incorporated into the dish. It was delightful! I can't wait to try out more of these recipes. There is a little bit of everything in The Comfort of Apples: Modern Recipes for an Old-Fashioned Favorite; from appetizers to desserts and side dishes to cocktails. It's wonderful!

One more component to this book which cannot go unmentioned is the amount of useful information pertaining to all that is apple; types of apples, equipment needed, apple tasting chart (sweet, tart, for eating, etc.), a little history, canning and cutting tips. I had no idea there was so much to know about apples! For instance, they list 41 different types of apples on the tasting chart. Did you have any idea?!?! I sure didn't.

It's fun to experiment with new produce; exotic things we don't normally use. However, it can be just as fun finding fresh ways to incorporate an "old-fashioned favorite", such as the apple. This cookbook is a great place to find inspiration for doing just that. Plus, you know what they say, "An apple a day..."

ENJOY!



THE COMFORT OF APPLES written by Philip and Lauren Rubin; Lyons Press

**Disclaimer: No compensation, in the form of money or product, was received. This is completely and totally my personal opinion on this fabulous cookbook. Thank you!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cooking Light with Giada De Laurentiis: Chocolate Raspberry Bars with White Chocolate and Almonds

These bars are amazing! They really should come with a disclaimer; "Do not eat alone. You will likely eat the entire batch; which may lead to feelings of guilt or disappointment in lack of self-control." I am so serious. It has been awhile since I made a chocolate dessert (a light chocolate dessert) that has been this rich and decadent. The closest by comparison was Paula Deen's "Better Than Sex? YES!" cake. That thing was fabulous as well. If you are craving something sweet and chocolaty, this is a great choice. Permission to indulge; granted.


CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY BARS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE and ALMONDS
Serves 16


INGREDIENTS:


2/3 cup SMUCKER'S SUGAR FREE  jam (suggested: raspberry or strawberry)


1 (21-ounce) box brownie mix (recommended: Duncan Hines Chewy Fudge)


3 eggs ( 1 whole, 2 egg whites)


1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce


1/4 cup water


1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted


1/4 cup chopped salted almonds


DIRECTIONS:


 Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly spray a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with fat free cooking spray.


In a small saucepan, stir the jam constantly over low heat until pourable, about 1 minute. Set aside.


In a large bowl, blend together the brownie mix, egg, egg whites, apple sauce, and water. Using an electric hand mixer beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the jam over the top of the brownie batter. Using a small spatula, swirl jam into the brownie batter. Bake for 27 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted about 1-inch from the edge of the pan comes out clean.

Spread with the melted chocolate and sprinkle with salted almonds. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool.

Cut into 16 bars and store airtight in a plastic container for up to 1 week.


RESULTS:


This recipe makes for a very simple, beautiful dessert. I couldn't get over how well it turned out! Although I have been eating and cooking lean for some time now, I still know what "real" desserts and other dishes taste like (Yes, I have my splurges. It's all about balance). And with that being said, I really couldn't see how anyone would be able to tell these bars were made with apple sauce instead of oil and sugar free jam instead of the real-deal. And let's not forget how we cut the cholesterol content of the eggs by using only one whole egg, but using just the whites from the other two. Yet, with all those changes, the turnout was still a delicious, semi-homemade dessert that is fit to satisfy every chocolate-lovin' sweet tooth.


ENJOY!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 189.25 calories;  5.14g fat;  35.15g carbohydrate;  3.06g protein; 1.63g fiber

** This recipe was inspired by the Chocolate Raspberry Bars with White Chocolate and Almonds; by Giada De Laurentiis. To view the original, visit her on Food Network.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: Vermont Chicken Pie

Talk about a comfort dish! This Vermont Chicken Pie just takes me back; making me feel all warm and cozy. Originally, this recipe isn't all that bad. Packed with veggies, lean chicken and warm biscuits; it is quite the well-balanced meal. Yet, there were a few simple changes I could see that would lean it to my liking. I give to you my version of Rachael Ray's Vermont Chicken Pie; a "must-try"!


VERMONT CHICKEN PIE
Serves 6


INGREDIENTS:


1  quart FAT FREE/REDUCED SODIUM chicken stock
1 1/2  pounds BONELESS/SKINLESS chicken tenders
1/2   tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2  tablespoons "I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT BUTTER"
1  medium onion, chopped
2  cups "ready to eat" carrot chips
2  ribs celery, diced
6  white mushrooms, quartered
1  bay leaf, fresh or dried
1  teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
2  tablespoons all-purpose flour
Handful flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 lb fresh asparagus; cut into 1/3's
1/2  package REDUCED FAT Pillsbury Grand Biscuits (4 biscuits)

 
DIRECTIONS:


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.


Reserve 2 cups of stock for vegetables. Cut tenders into 1/3's. Bring remaining stock to a boil in skillet, add chicken, cover and reduce heat to simmer. Poach chicken 6 to 8 minutes.


While chicken cooks, in a second large skillet over medium to medium high heat, add oil and "ICBINB". To melted butter, add onion, carrots, celery, and asparagus, adding veggies to the pan as you chop them. Season veggies with thyme, salt and pepper. Saute 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add flour and cook another minute. Whisk in reserved 2 cups of stock forming a sauce around veggies. Stir in cooked chicken pieces, and parsley. Transfer the mixture to a large casserole, oval or rectangular.

Open the biscuits and cut four of them into quarters; arranging in a layer across the top of the casserole. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until biscuits are golden brown, then serve.


*Bake the remaining 4 biscuits for part of a quick breakfast in the morning! Heat 'em up with a little apple butter or honey...YUM!


RESULTS:


We all LOVED this one! I was so excited for my husband to get home from class that night and have dinner. I just knew he would enjoy it as much as Kimber and I had. And he did. In fact, Rudy gave it his official stamp of approval, with a grade of A+ !


To lighten this one up, I started with the classic changes; fat free stock, "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" for the real thing (1/2 the saturated fat), and using 1/2 the called for amount of EVOO. Now, here is the big change; using 1/2 the package of biscuits and switching to the reduced-fat variety. This saved an incredible 40 grams of fat for the entire recipe OR about 7 grams of fat per serving. And that is just the savings in the biscuits! By making these changes, you are able to maintain the same flavors, textures and comforting feelings they evoke without the added fat and calories.


One thing you may notice when comparing my recipe to Rachael's original, is that I left out the mushrooms and peas, yet added asparagus. There was really no nutritional reason for that. It was simply personal preference and the rebel inside of me wanting to experiment. Either way, I am sure you will be pleased. I felt the asparagus was a nice touch; giving this classic dish a more "grown-up" feel and making for a beautiful presentation.


ENJOY!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 315 calories;  8.94g fat;  28.73g carbohydrate;  32.86g protein;  4.15g fiber

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Little Ones in the Kitchen

Part of livin' a lean lifestyle is about sharing what you know with others. In this case, we are talking about the children in our lives. Be it a son, daughter, niece, nephew or grandchild, perhaps even a friend's child; there is an opportunity each and every time we cook to share the importance of healthy, home cooking.

My daughter is two and already a very active participant in the kitchen. She truly is my little helper. When I start to gather things together for cookin' time, I hear this sweet voice say, "I wanna cook! I can cook?" That just warms my heart. Not only are we having valuable mommy-daughter time (my favorite), but my daughter is also learning about different foods, experiencing new flavors, observing and practicing various cooking techniques and most importantly,  learning about kitchen safety. It really is a great time for everyone! If you have little ones around, I really encourage you to try easing them into the cookin' scene...if you aren't doing it already. They will love it!

Here are some great ways to get your little ones involved in a safe, fun way!~

* Stir it up!~ Stirring cold or dry ingredients is a great way to really get the children involved. For the older ones, introduce whisking.

* Measuring Ingredients~ How about a little math integration? Their teachers will be very impressed...and thankful for the hands-on experience.

* Washing Fruits and Vegetables~ Food safety begins with clean produce.

* Adding Ingredients~ My daughter is a little too young  to measure, but once I have it all ready, I allow her to add it. She loves to dump the dry ingredients into cookie cake batters!

* Timers~ Have a young one learning time? Have them keep track and let you know when time is up. (Example: Tell me when it is 5:35 or when the minute hand says 35 minutes past 5.)

*Put it Together or Top It Off~ Allow your children to put sandwiches together or add toppings to tacos or pizzas.

* Design Stars ~ Allow the children to decorate cakes, cookies, etc. My friend Mandy at gourmetmomonthego.com has tons of fabulous, creative ideas for kid friendly treats like these cute Butterfly Biscuits!

Have fun!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Cooking Light with Giada De Laurentiis: Chicken and Orzo (Pasta) Frittata

When I first looked at this recipe, I asked myself, "What is orzo? Is it another crazy vegetable I haven't seen yet; only available at Wegman's or Whole Foods, neither of which are close to my house?" To the seasoned chef, this is probably common 'culinary' sense. However, I still consider myself a new cook; having really picked it up just over a year ago. There is still a lot of learning taking place. Yet, thanks to the Internet, within seconds I had an answer. Orzo is pasta that resembles rice. I had eaten it before, but didn't know what it was called. Now I know. And perhaps, now you know too!


So, with all that research and talk about orzo, I didn't even use it in this recipe! See what other changes I made to lighten up Giada's Chicken and Orzo Frittata.




CHICKEN AND PASTA FRITTATA
Serves 6


INGREDIENTS:


1/2 cup Ronzoni Garden Delight Rotini pasta
1-1/2 cup Egg Beaters ( or 99% fat free egg substitute)
1/3 cup skim milk (FAT FREE) ricotta
1/4 cup FAT FREE sour cream
2 cooked chicken breasts, cubed (about 2 cups)
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup diced roasted red bell peppers
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


DIRECTIONS:


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.


Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta. Give pasta a rough chop; creating smaller pieces.


In a large bowl combine the Egg Beaters, ricotta, and sour cream and stir until the eggs are beaten and the ingredients are combined. Add the cooked pasta, chicken, scallions, parsley, red bell peppers, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish or 2 pie dishes. Bake for 25 minutes. Turn on the broiler. Place the pan under the broiler until golden on top, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let set for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve with a side salad.


RESULTS:


This is a great brunch dish! You really can't go wrong with the combination of flavors and the ease of preparation.


Using the Garden Delight pasta maintains the texture and flavor of the pasta AND at the same time, contributes toward our daily servings of vegetables. These little rotinis are enriched with tomato, carrot and spinach; something orzo is not. Another idea for substitution could be to use whole wheat rotini. I just like the added color from the veggie rotini. It really pops in the frittata!


When you stretch this recipe over 2 pie dishes, it allows you to have 2 pieces, when in reality...it is just one serving; a way of tricking the mind into thinking you are having more than you are. A little secret with portion control.


Overall, it was really great. And just think of all the fat you save by just using Egg Beaters; 30 G/FAT for the entire recipe! Another example of simple changes you and others will never even notice. That is, until they effortlessly slip into their skinny jeans!


ENJOY!!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 120.17 calories;  .71g fat;  11.06g carbohydrate;  17.09g protein;  1.02g fiber



**Original recipe taken from the Food Network website; Giada De Laurentiis~ Everyday Italian.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Paula Deen's Lean: South-Meets-West Quesadillas

Quesadillas are a favorite around our house. They are so simple to make and can be served at every meal; depending on what you put inside. And that's just the thing. There are so many different combinations of ingredients that can be used in quesadillas; from bacon, egg and cheese for breakfast to a cheesy, veggie medley for dinner. You know what else works well? Pulled pork or chicken BBQ! Take a look...
SOUTH-MEETS-WEST-QUESADILLAS
(Also Includes Vegetarion Option)
Serves 8

INGREDIENTS:
8 Low-Carb Wraps/Tortillas
1 (1lb.) container ready made (such as Lloyd's) pulled chicken or pork BBQ
1-1/2 cup REDUCED FAT shredded Mexican cheese blend
1 medium red onion; chopped
1/2 cup Fresh cilantro
1 cup FAT FREE sour cream
1 cup BBQ sauce
FAT FREE cooking spray

**4 avocados (for vegetarian option)

DIRECTIONS:


Mix BBQ sauce and sour cream. Set aside or place in refrigerator until ready to serve quesadillas.

Heat a skillet over medium heat; coating with cooking spray. Place tortilla in the skillet. On 1/2 of the tortilla, add one spoonful of BBQ chicken or pork, 2 tablespoons of cheese, onions and cilantro. Fold over the other half, covering the filling. Cook for about 2 minutes or cheese begins to melt. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes.

Remove from skillet and cut into wedges. Serve with BBQ/sour cream dipping sauce.

**For vegetarian option, use sliced avocados in place of chicken (1/2 avocado per quesadilla). Also, pour about 1/2 - 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce over the avocados before adding cheese, onions and cilantro.



RESULTS:

I had these both ways, with chicken and with avocados; Avocados from Mexico to be exact. And let me tell ya, they are delicious! The combination of flavors, with the freshness of the cilantro, just really brings everything together. What I like the most about this recipe is how little time it takes to throw together. By starting with the ready-made pulled pork or chicken, you are looking at a definite "30 Minute Meal", or even less. I would like to think Rachael Ray would be so proud of me; Sandra Lee too, with it being "semi-homemade" and all.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving; 1 quesadilla):
With Pulled Pork or Chicken: 293 calories;  9.08g fat;  30.28g carbohydrate;  22.94g protein;  8.58g protein
With Avocado, no meat:  413.75 calories;  22.81g fat;  34.35g carbohydrate;  21.95g protein;  15.31g fiber


**Original recipe can be found in Cooking with Paula Deen Magazine- July/August 2010; page 32 : A Hoffman Media Publication.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Say "Cheers" to These Light Beers

Is beer drinking the best kept secret to a slim, trim physique? I am afraid not folks (I know...only in a perfect world, right?). However, should you choose to partake in the hops variety, great taste with fewer calories is the way to go. Beer won't offer any great nutritional benefits to your diet, but a few light beers here and there won't sabotage it either.

Photo By: Randy Mayor
http://www.cookinglight.com/
When it comes to an ice-cold beer, I have my favorite; which I was happy to see that it made list for "THE BEST LIGHT BEERS" taste test featured in the August 2010 issue of Cooking Light magazine. In this article, written by Brady Rushing, three blind tastings evaluated light beers with 125 calories or less and ultralight beers with 70 calories or less per 12-ounce serving. Here were the results:

BEST PREMIUM: Sam Adams Light, $7.97 (6-pack bottled)
Sam Adams' light offering is premium indeed. It features a thicker body and more substantial mouthfeel than others we tested. Its mild sweetness was balanced by a nutty flavor. Overall a great, well-rounded choice. STATS: 119 calories, 9.6g carbs, 4% ABV

BEST ULTRALIGHT: Beck's Premier Light, $9 (6-pack bottled)
This ultralight import had the lowest alcohol content of any beer we tried. But while its body was light and smooth, it still had character—a rich, nutty aroma and a stronger-than-expected finish. STATS: 64 calories, 3.9g carbs, 2.3% ABV

BEST OVERALL: Yuengling Light Lager, $5.47 (6-pack bottled)
The contender from America's oldest brewery had a light amber color that gave way to a medium body with depth and slight hoppy notes, proving light doesn't have to mean dull. STATS: 99 calories, 8.5g carbs, 3.5% ABV

GUYS' FAVORITE: Michelob Ultra, $6.47 (6-pack bottled)
Something about Michelob's 95-calorie contender brought a unified nod from the men on the panel. They noted its medium body, crisp and clean finish—even liked its faintly sweet aroma. STATS: 95 calories, 2.6g carbs, 4.2% ABV

Well, it turns out that the "Guy's Favorite" is actually mine too. With less than 100 calories a bottle and such a light feel, it really is a winning choice for the "livin' lean" beer drinker. Now remember, these beverages are meant to be enjoyed in moderation, on occasion. So when you feel like rewarding yourself or you're gearing up for a long day of football watching, keep these flavorful, light beers in mind.

What's your favorite light beer? I just might do a blind taste test of my own! Any suggestions?



Sunday, September 5, 2010

Paula Deen's Lean: Bacon-Pimiento Macaroni and Cheese

It has occurred to me over the past year that I could probably make macaroni and cheese for an entire month and not have to repeat the same variation. Who knew? Well, I bring to you yet another version of this classic dish; Paula Deen's Bacon-Pimiento Macaroni and Cheese. This creamy macaroni has such great flavor; even on the second day!
The unique part of this particular recipe redo is what I used in place of butter...AVOCADOS. You won't believe how easy it is replace the heavy, unhealthy fats in butter with the nutritious, heart-healthy fats found in avocados. See for yourself!


BACON-PIMIENTO MACARONI & CHEESE
Makes 8 servings


INGREDIENTS:
5 center-cut or turkey bacon slices; cooked and crumbled
1/2 fresh avocado
1/2 cup flour
4 cups FAT FREE half-and-half
2 cups shredded FAT FREE cheddar, divided
2 cups shredded Parmesan, divided
2 (8-ounce) packages of FAT FREE cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 pound WHOLE WHEAT small penne pasta
1 (4-ounce) jar diced pimientos, drained


DIRECTIONS:
Preheat broiler. Spray 6 (1-cp) ramekins or one baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.


Warm half-and-half on a large saucepan over medium heat. Put avocado in a blender and slowly add warm half-and-half. When well blended, return to pan and add flour. Whisk unitl smooth.


Add 1-1/2 cup cheddar cheese, 1-1/2 cup Parmesan, cream cheese, salt, red pepper, stirring until melted and smooth. Stir in pasta, crumbled bacon and pimientos.


Spoon mixture evenly into ramekins or pour entirely into one baking dish. Top with remaining cheese. Broil for 4 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let stand for roughly 10 minutes before serving.


RESULTS:
I was amazed at how well the avocaado works as a butter substitute in this dish. Rudy (the hubby), was a little sceptical at first, as most people probably are. But, after that first bite, he was a believer. It was fantastic! Of course, since I love avocados, I took some of the remaing half, sliced it up, and served it along side my macaroni. YUM!
This recipe is just one of many examples of how easily avocados can be used instead of butter. I encourage you to give it a try in some of your own recipes. If you do, I would love to hear about it.
For more info on avocados, visit Avocados from Mexico.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving):  529.73 calories;  13.84g fat;  66.02g carbohydrate;  38.81g protein; 7.98g fiber


**Original recipe can be found in Paula Deen's Best Dishes 2010-Special Issue (page 30): A Hoffman Media Publication.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Paula Deen's Lean: Avocado Chicken Salad

As I shared in my most recent "Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday" post, avocados are a fabulous source of good nutrition, as well as a smart alternative to items like butter or mayonnaise. To keep this theme goin', I bring to you the first of three avocado inspired recipes; Paula Deen's Avocado Chicken Salad. With some light mayo and the flavors of my Avocados from Mexico, this quick dish was a hit for a fun and healthy lunch.


AVOCADO CHICKEN SALAD
Makes enough for 8...if you are willing to share!


INGREDIENTS


3 cups cooked, diced chicken


2 avocados, peeled, diced, and tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice


3/4 cup chopped onion


1 cup Hellmann's Light mayonnaise dressing (green label)


1 to 2 teaspoons pepper


1 teaspoon salt


1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves


DIRECTIONS


Mix all ingredients and chill. Seriously...that's it! How's that for some directions.


RESULTS


I LOVE this spin on chicken salad. And just as much as I love the flavor, I love this fun way of serving it: Serve the chicken salad in the left-over avocado boats (see picture). How cute is that!?!


With this recipe, you will see that I changed quite a few items from the original. It calls for rice and additional dressing. I just don't think you need it. All the rice and dressing does is add to the calories and fat. In this case, less is more.


I will also encourage you to start with just 1/2 cup of mayo and see how it goes. Some reviews from readers on Food Network expressed their opinions that 1 cup was way too much mayo. Just a little FYI.


ENJOY!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 201.88 calories;  10.5g fat;  10.43g carbohydrate;  20.0g protein; 3.7g protein


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