Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Peanut Sauce

Meatballs are not just for spaghetti and subs, my friends. With the right combination of flavors and sauce, meatballs are great just on their own! This fun, "kid-friendly" recipe is packed with healthy proteins and tons of flavor. As a fast party snack or even the main event on your family's dinner plate, these Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Peanut Sauce are sure to have everyone smiling. The recipe below is a slightly tweaked version of Rachael Ray's, which I found in the pages of her June/July 2011 issue of EveryDay with Rachael Ray (page 24).

Serves 4

  • 1 pound Extra-Lean ground chicken (suggest: Perdue Fit and Easy)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs (Panko)
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • FAT FREE Olive Oil cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup all-natural (unsweetened) peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons LITE soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons SPLENDA
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped peanuts (for garnish)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix the chicken, cilantro, breadcrumbs, onion, garlic, salt and pepper in a medium-large bowl.

Once well blended, roll into 1 tablespoon balls.

Place on a baking sheet prepared with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

While baking, mix the oils, peanut butter and Lite soy sauce in a bowl. Stir until smooth. Warm in the microwave for about 20 seconds.

Remove 1/2 the sauce and pour into a ramekin for dipping. With the remaining sauce still in the bowl, toss the cooked meatballs. Once coated, place on a serving platter and sprinkle with crushed peanuts.


As I tweeted after tasting my first meatball, these things are "out of this world amazing"! You get so much flavor with each bite. The soy and peanut butter, followed by the garlic and cilantro. It's not just a meatball. It's an experience. They are delish and VERY easy to throw together. And in my opinion, not only is baking the meatballs a healthier cooking technique, but it is also easier. Just pop 'em in the oven, set the timer for 10 minutes and forget about it (for 10 minutes). With a little one helping me in the kitchen, I don't like to have hot oil frying on the stove anyway. Baking is just a win-win!

When it comes to the dipping sauce, you really don't need it. It looks nice on the plate and you should give others the option, but the sauce coats the meatballs really well; providing plenty of flavor. Too much sauce can take away from the meatball itself. Save the calories and fat by skipping the dip. You won't miss it! Promise.

Here is the nutritional breakdown. I have figured the numbers using only half of the sauce made, which would be like tossing the meatballs in sauce but not using the dip. I did this for both the before and after. Most of the calories and fat were saved by using LEAN ground chicken (check the label), baking instead of cooking in vegetable oil and substituting unsweetened/all-natural peanut butter. Here's what we got!

Nutrition Facts (per serving~ 4-5 meatballs w/o dipping sauce):

BEFORE: 354.5 calories;  24.41g fat;  14.6g carbohydrate;  19.38g protein;  1.0g fiber

AFTER: 240.75 calories;  10.68g fat;  8.33g carbohydrate;  28.48g protein;  .72g fiber

SAVES: 113.75 calories ~  13.73g fat ~  6.27g carb
ADDS: 9.1g protein

And just in case you were wondering...skipping the dipping sauce can save around 100 calories and 9 grams of fat! See? There really is no need to dip it. They are already smothered in plenty of sweet peanut goodness. The dip is just a classic case of overkill.

So there you have it! These are now a family favorite in my house. You're gonna wanna give them a try!

Enjoy 'em!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Summer Survival with Author & RD, Heather Bauer

Heather Bauer, RD, CDN, Author
Summer is well underway. For parents and teachers, we will be starting back up very soon. It can be tempting to slack off a bit on our healthy routines or become uninterested in working out when it is just too hot to be outside. I was fortunate enough to talk with nutrition expert Heather Bauer, RD, CDN about just how we can stay fit and healthy...and still have fun. Basically, she gave me the "Dog Days of Summer Survival Guide" full of easy tips and recipe suggestions for re-energizing and recommiting to our healthy habits.

Listen to full interview HERE.

  • Got Water?- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water...even when you aren't thirsty. Add fresh fruit slices for flavor and vitamins.
  • Party Time- BBQs are big this summer. Bring something healthy you like or even something unhealthy you don't like. This way you have a healthy option to count on or you won't be tempted to eat the unhealthy food you don't like.
  • Sweet Treats- Heather had some great ideas...listen to the interview to hear them and hear where you can find more.
  • Take It Outside- Study has found that people who ate in front of thier computer ate twice as many calories. Heather suggests eating outside to get an added dose of sunshine.
  • No Lazy Hazy Days- We don't have to hide from the hot August heat. Heather has ideas for getting outside and getting your heart well as relaxing at the same time!

More about Heather...

Wall Street Diet, The: The Surprisingly Simple Weight Loss Plan for Hardworking People Who Don't Have Time to DietHeather is a nationally recognmized nutrition expert and founder of Nu-Train in New York City. She is author of The Wall Street Diet (Hyperion, 2008) and sits on the Cooking Light Magazine's Nutrition Advisory Board. Heather often makes TV and radio appearances such as The Tyra Banks Show, America's Next Top Model, and CNN Morning News. She has also been a featured nutritionist in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Self Magazine, In Touch, In Style, Shape, Gotham Magazine and Ladies Home Journal. You can find all of her nutrition tips and perspectives on diet trends by following her blog at

Heather was an absolute delight to talk to. She really knows her stuff and offered great tips that are easy and realistic. As the cover of her book The Wall Street Diet states, "It's not about willpower, it's about strategy." If you have the right strategies, you can live a healthy and happy life without feeling this need for intense willpower for restricting yourself from certain foods. I couldn't agree more with her perspective on this.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Cooking Light with Giada De Laurentiis: Classic Italian Lasagna

Believe it or not, this was my first stab at making Classic Italian Lasagna. Mom makes a wonderful lasagna. I will never forget the night when Hubby was over for dinner (during the dating years) and he tried Mom's lasagna for the first time. He loved it! And in true Rudy fashion, while trying to give what he thought was a beautiful compliment, he left Mom wondering if she should be flattered or offended. "This is so good! It tastes just like Stouffer's!" The boy loved frozen lasagna. He way paying Mom the ultimate compliment, according to Rudy standards. He wanted Mom to know he loved her lasagna even more than his Gold Standard; Stouffer's. Poor Rudy. He always has the best of intentions. We laughed it up then...and we still like laughing about it now.
Well this is no frozen, store-bought lasagna.There are tons of great lasagna recipes out there. But today, I want to share with you a modified version of Giada's Classic Italian Lasagna. My favorite part? The tomato cream sauce!! Yes, a light cream sauce layered in noodles, meat, spinach and cheese! Here's what you need and what you need to do for dinner tonight!

Serves 6

  • 4 tablespoons " I Can't Believe It's Not Butter"
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup WHOLE WHEAT flour
  • 4 cups FAT FREE half-and-half 
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (Healthy jar variety)
  • Salt
  • pepper
  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds FAT FREE Ricotta cheese
  • 3/4 cup EGG BEATERS
  • 1 pound WHOLE GRAIN lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
  • 2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 cups 2% Mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Bechamel sauce:
In a 2-quart pot, melt 4 tablespoons "ICBINB" over medium heat. When "ICBINB" has completely melted, add the flours (all-purpose & Whole Grain) and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes.
Gradually add the FAT FREE half & half, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain; removing any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta and EGG BEATERS. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the lasagna sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture ...

and then a layer of all the spinach.

Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the ground beef on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese (1 cup) on top of the beef.

Spread another 1/3 of the bechamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining bechamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.


This is a great recipe! Easy to create; with parts that are great for young helpers in the kitchen. Again, this is another recipe where simply substituting healthier versions of existing ingredients can make a heavy dish into a healthy dish. Check out the nutritional breakdown!

Nutrition Facts (per serving):

BEFORE: 1273.3 calories;  73.8g fat; 85.94g carbohydrate;  65.5g protein; 6.8 g fiber

AFTER: 782 calories;  20.2g  fat;  96.71g carbohydrate;  62.22g protein;  12.6g fiber

SAVES: 493.33 calories & 53.6g fat
ADDS: 5.8g fiber

Serve with a salad...and you have dinner! It may even last for a couple of nights like ours did! Bonus!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Staying On Track During Vacation

Vacation. It is a time to relax. It is a time to take a break from all the pressures we place on ourselves. A time to let go. Well, not completely, right?

I can only speak for myself, but after a day of eating and drinking freely AND not getting any exercise, I feel yucky. That sluggish feeling is not one I enjoy, especially at the beach. I want to feel healthy and full of energy. I want to feel as healthy on the inside as the wonderful sun has made me look on the outside. Therefore I focus on not diverting too far off the regular path of eating well and exercising while on vacation.

Here are some suggestions for a healthy beach trip.

  • Drink LOTS of Water: Always have a bottle with you. When you want to grab a diet soda, make yourself drink 8 ounces of water first.
  • Get Moving in the Morning: Early morning walks/runs on the beach are the best! Get up and hit the sand. Just think, the sand will up the intensity of your workout ( you're gonna burn more calories)!
  • Eat Lunch & Snack: Schedules are a little off at the beach. It's vaca...they should be. But forgetting to each something around lunch time could set you up for overindulging at dinner. Keep those lunches and snacks packed with lean proteins, fruits, veggies and whole grains.
  • Grilled & Steamed: We like to eat out a lot at the beach. This could be very dangerous from a nutrition standpoint. Look for grilled & steamed items; being cautious of heavy creams and stuffed items.
  • Lean Libations: Alcohol can really bring on the calories. Those fruity cocktails are very tempting. Treat yourself to a frozen-fruity treat at least once (I had a Melon Colada. Amazing!). But don't make it a regular thing. Stick to vodka tonics, light beer and wine. 100 calories a drink is better than 350!
  • Beach Activities: Bring games to the beach. Paddle ball, a football to throw or bocce ball. These games are fun and will keep you on your feet.
Vacation is a time to relax and take a break from the daily grind. But I personally don't think it is a free pass to eat whatever you want and forget about exercising. I want to come back from vacation feeling full of energy and ready to go. I don't want to feel like I need to start a diet. That's just me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Paula Deen's Lean: Buttery Crab Pot Pies

It's only fitting that my first recipe post after the beach is a lighter version of Paula Deen's very rich and delicious Buttery Crab Pot Pies. There is a little bit of butter in my recipe...but not a lot! The great thing about crab is that is already has that buttery taste needed for this recipe without having to add the entire stick. With the help of my momma, I have a crab-filled comfort food that will leave you satisfied and anything but "crabby".

Makes 5 Servings


2 tablespoons "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter"
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
black pepper
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour, plus more for dusting
1-1/2 cups 1% milk
1/4 cup clam juice
1/4 cup medium-dry sherry
1/2 pound crab meat, well-drained & shells picked out
1 cup frozen peas
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup Egg Beaters, beaten with a tablespoon of water, to brush pastry

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle position.

In a medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter and warm EVOO. Add the onions and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the 1% milk, clam juice, and sherry. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Add the crabmeat and peas. Remove from the heat and transfer to the refrigerator to cool.

Meanwhile, unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface. Place 5 (8-ounce) ovenproof bowls or large ramekins rim down on the pastry and cut out 5 circles a bit larger than the bowls (you may need to roll the pastry out a bit to accommodate all the bowls). Brush the circles with the egg wash. Set the egg wash aside.

When the crab filling has cooled, divide it among the 5 bowls. Brush the rims of the bowls with the egg wash, lay a pastry circle over each, and seal the edges. Cut steam vents in the pastry and brush with the egg mixture. Place the bowls on a baking sheet and bake on the middle rack until the pastry is puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.


With just a few little changes to the ingredients, we were able to take a once heavy dish and make it a bit more figure friendly. The only thing changed here is the nutritional ratings. Not the flavor. Not the look. Just the numbers. Here's how the before and after facts compare.

BEFORE: 701 calories;  46.55g fat;  51.13g carbohydrate;  23.43g protein;  4g fiber

AFTER: 399 calories;  22.28g fat;  32.22g carbohydrate;  19.76g protein;  3.04g fiber

SAVES: 302 calories; 24.27g fat; 18.91g carbohydrate

This is just one of thos dishes where eat bite just seems like you are doing something bad cause it tastes so darn good! You still get that buttery taste and a bit of puff pastry...but not enough to wreck your healthy eating plan. It's a great treat if you are craving something rich and comforting. Plus, baking them in individual ramekins really helps keep portions under control. That is always a plus!

A big thanks to my Mom for preparing this dish. And another big thanks to my photographer hubby for taking the pics. They did an amazing job, right?!? It's not just Kimber and I. We are a cookin' lean family.

Happy to be back and sharing recipes will you all! I missed this.

Friday, July 8, 2011

On Vaca....We'll Be Back Next Week!

In all the excitement of preparing for our beach week, I forgot to let everyone know there would be no new recipes this week. Sorry, guys! I did a lot of cookin' before we left, so there is plenty to share with you starting next week when we get home.

Over this week, I have had A LOT of great meals in some wonderful restaurants. From Southern Sushi to Tortilla Crusted Salmon. So many ideas have come from this trip and I am REALLY excited to get back in the kitchen.

Speaking of being back in the kitchen...

My mom and I have been asked to be "Guest Chefs" in a fabulous restaurant outside of Charlotte, NC!! The place is called Center Street Tavern in Cramerton, NC. I love this place! Such a great atmosphere and amazing food. We try to eat there each time we visit my parents in NC. Mom and I will be there cookin' like crazy on Monday, July 11th for dinner. If you are close by, I would LOVE to have you come by for a visit!! This should be pretty exciting!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful week! Be back on Tuesday!!


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