Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: Greek Baked Fish

This recipe is one that grabbed my attention from the start. Tell me something has olives, feta and olive oil...and say no more. I am in love. Knowing that my husband is not a fish fan, I knew this was going to be a tough sell. So, to keep us all happy, I used the following recipe, yet substituted 2 of the fish pieces for 2 thinly-cut chicken breasts (cooked in separate dishes). The results were wonderful! This is a great week-night dinner. It looks like it takes some time, but most of that work is done by the oven. With about 15 minutes of prep and 25 minutes in the oven, dinner is served!

GREEK BAKED FISH (or CHICKEN)
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 (6-ounce) pieces of haddock or thin chicken breasts
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup REDUCED-FAT crumbled Feta
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Lemon wedges
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400°F.



Arrange fish or chicken (thin or pounded to 1" thickness) in a baking dish. Lightly dress with 1 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil; season with a tiny bit of salt and some pepper.

Combine garlic, oregano, parsley, red pepper, olives and onions in a bowl and dress with just enough 1/2 tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Toss together to lightly coat. Arrange topping all over the top of the fish or chicken. Scatter feta on top. Bake fish 20-25 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges alongside. Fantastic served with a salad or roasted vegetables (as seen in photo with asparagus).

RESULTS

I know I've said that bread was intimidating to me, but I think fish might have bread beat. I can whip up a tuna melt with the best of them, however actually cooking the fish has always caused a bit of cook's anxiety. As it tends to do, taking a chance and teaching myself to cook something new has transformed my cooking abilities and relieved some unnecessary anxiety. If we don't ever step outside our cooking comfort zones, how will we ever learn or expand on our skills? And just think of all the great dishes we would miss out on! So if you are or aren't into fish, I would give this a try. It really is easy to prepare and tastes incredible! Still not sold on the idea? Make it with chicken. My "Picky Rudy" refuses to eat haddock (with his nose turned up like that 10-year-old boy he becomes when I make something he doesn't "like"), so I subbed chicken. It's still healthy...and still delicious; an easy accommodation.


To make this a "lean" version of Rachael's Greek Baked Fish, I reduced the amount of olive oil, reduced the amount of feta used and replaced it with a reduced-fat version. I also left out the bread crumbs; leaving room for a salad or roasted vegetables. When we do all of this, this is what we get...

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving):
W/ HADDOCK~ 332.75 calories; 15.4g fat; 6.2g carbohydrate, 41.07g protein;  1.2g fiber
W/ CHICKEN~ 280 calories;  11.34g fat;  5.38g carbohydrate;  41.07g protein;  1.03g fiber

BEFORE (w/Haddock): 809 calories;  46.43g fat;  44.86g carbohydrate;  50.42g protein;  3.13g fiber
SAVES: 476.25 calories; 31.03g fat;  38.66g carbohydrate


Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Got Red Wine?

Walk by a bakery in the morning and you can smell those fresh, delicious donuts cookin'. The temptation is high, yet you know that nothing in that donut is going to do anything good for you; nutritionally speaking, that is. However, hold your nose over a glass of red wine and you can feel great knowing that each sip is a toast to good health.

Not all wine is created equal. Red wine is better for us than white wine because it contains a certain something called resveratrol. Resveratrol is a polyphenols (antioxidant) in red wine that has been found to help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces "bad" cholesterol and prevent blood clots. In fact, red wine has 10x the antioxidants found in white wine! The giveaway is that beautiful, deep red color you see.

Now don't get carried away with this news! Red wine is best for us in moderation; which is considered one 4-ounce glass a day. In Dr. Janet Brill's Book Prevent a Second Heart Attack: 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease, she suggests 1-2 glasses of red wine per day. Now that is a prescription I can live with.

Watch this short little video clip of Dr. Janet Brill discussing the health benefits to drinking red wine in moderation, daily. She really knows her stuff and is able to explain it in a way that makes sense. Love that!




No, donuts are never going to be good for us, but at least we have our wine.

Cheers!



Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cooking Light with Ina Garten: Irish Soda Bread

Although St. Patrick's Day was a week ago, I couldn't wait a whole year to share this with you. This is something you are going to want to enjoy throughout the year, not just one day in March. Ina Garten's recipe for Irish Soda Bread totally inspired me to make a healthier, whole-wheat version. Her recipe has now become our very own NEW whole-wheat, butter-free, sugar-free Irish Soda Bread recipe! How does that sound? It's super healthy, super yummy and I couldn't be happier with how it all turned out. I think you will be just as happy. Here you go!

IRISH SODA BREAD
Makes 1 loaf, 10 Servings

INGREDIENTS
  • 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large mashed banana (needs to be soft; skin spotted brown)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1-3/4 cup FAT FREE buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup Egg Beaters (or egg substitute)
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.


Combine the flours, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using an electric, hand-held mixer). Add the mashed banana and apple sauce; mix on low speed until mixed into the flour.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, Egg Beaters, and orange zest together in a measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture. Toss in the cranberries and mix into the dough. It will be very wet. (If using a hand-held mixer, the batter will begin to wrap around the mixers. Mix until this happens, then finish mixing using a spatula. That's what I had to do and it worked just fine. Still savin' for that fancy Kitchenaid Standing Mixer!)

Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and knead it a few times into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and lightly cut an X into the top of the bread with a serrated knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a cake tester (or dinner knife) comes out clean. When you tap the loaf, it will have a hollow sound.

Cool on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

RESULTS

Not confident in your bread-makin' abilities? Those days are over! Can you believe how simple this recipe looks?!?! I promise, coming from someone that doesn't make bread from scratch EVER, it really is simple. Up until now, something like Irish Soda Bread would have been reserved for the baking professionals. But by taking a chance, I now know that I can do this! I'm not saying I am ready to open up a bakery or anything, but testing out this recipe has given me a big boost of cookin' confidence in the baking department. Let's take a look at how we did in the nutritional department. If you compared this recipe to Ina's original, you can see that we got rid of all the butter and sugar. Instead, we are using mashed banana and applesauce; acting like butter and providing just the right amount of sweetness. Yah!!


NUTRITIONAL FACTS (per serving): 238.7 calories;  1.32g fat;  51.09g carbohydrate;  8.23g protein; 5.29g fiber
BEFORE: 311.8 calories; 7.5g fat; 54.09g carbohydrate;  7.26g protein;  2.02g fiber
SAVES: 73.1 calories;  6.18g fat;  3g carbohydrate; + .97g protein;  + 3.27g fiber

What do you think?!? When I worked the numbers, I was so excited! Those small changes improved this recipe in every nutritional way. Now it's time for you to try it out and let me know what you think about the flavor.  Enjoy!




Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: Think Your Way Into Lookin' Great

It's amazing how one day I can wake up and feel great about myself and two days later, I feel like a big, hot-mess. For one reason or another, I feel unattractive, tired and worn down. I'm pretty sure that nothing as actually changed with my physical appearance in two days, but something certainly has. So what is the deal? Where did that confident me from two days ago disappear to?


She's still there, but buried under a pile of the heavy, negative thoughts. The voices that we hear the loudest are the voices in our own heads; the ones telling us how we look and how we think others perceive us. Well, it's time to tell those voices that if they don't have anything nice to say...don't say it at all! At times, those negative voices can be so strong that they completely take over how we feel about ourselves. Unacceptable! Change the way I think, and I have the power to change the way I look and feel.

When I wake up feelin' down and lookin' rough, here are some things I like to think about. Feel free to try them out too. At least one of these thoughts is guaranteed to get you thinking your way to lookin' great.

7 THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

1- Just smile and I am instantly hotter than one of those fashion models that never does.

2- My (insert favorite feature here) is fabulous! I'm going to make it "pop" today!

3- I am the only me out there. I am uniquely beautiful in every way.

4- Wrinkles? What wrinkles? Oh, my smile lines. Yes, I am very fortunate to have so much to be happy about that my smiles have permanently marked my face. I am blessed.

5- Don't forget the power of the shower. Taking a shower, putting on some make-up and doing my hair is all I need to go from "not" to "hot". Go ahead and get that water runnin'!

6-The things I say and do are what make me the person I am. When those things are beautiful, I am beautiful. The outside only shines when the light inside is bright.

7- Beauty lives within my mind, my soul and my spirit. If I recognize this beauty, my body will reflect it and others will see all that is beautiful about me.


All of this is about feeling beautiful for you. It isn't for others, but simply to experience the joy of feeling good about how you look. Beauty has many dimensions; physical beauty being just a part of it. Recognize all aspects of your beauty and you are on your way to lookin' great, but more importantly, feeling great too. It all starts with positve thoughts. Feel great and confident about yourself and you are unstoppable.

Have a wonderful Tuesday, Gorgeous!


Monday, March 21, 2011

Sweet N' Healthy: Sweet Potato-Packed Pudding

Well, instead of a sugar-free recipe, I have another "Kid-Friendly" entry for the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission Blogger Contest. This recipe makes me feel a little bit like Jessica Seinfeld; being "deceptively delicious" in sneaking sweet potatoes into vanilla pudding. If you already have the pureed sweet potato on hand, this dessert can be thrown together in only 5 minutes! If not, then simply peel a sweet potato, cut it into cubes, place on a prepared baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 35-40 minutes. Next, blend in a food processor or with an electric mixer and "poof"...you have a sweet potato puree! With 5 ingredients, you can make a low-fat, nutritious dessert for your kids...all without having to add any additional sugar. How sweet is that?!?! Out of the three recipes I experimented with yesterday, this is my hubby's favorite. Try it out and you'll see why.


SWEET POTATO-PACKED PUDDING
Makes 4 Servings


INGREDIENTS
  • 1 (1 ounce) package of Vanilla Jell-O Instant Pudding mix (suggested: fat free/sugar free)
  • 1 medium sweet potato; cooked and pureed
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Sugar Free Cool Whip (optional)
  • 1 molasses cookie; cut into quarters (optional)
DIRECTIONS

Empty Jell-O Pudding dry mix into a large bowl. Add 2 cups of cold 1% milk and whisk for about 2 minutes. Add pureed sweet potato and whisk until well-blended. Pour mixture into 4 small ramekins or bowls, dividing evenly. Top with grated nutmeg and cinnamon. If desired, add a drop of whipped topping and garnish with a piece of molasses cookie. That part is optional, but I really think you should go for it. The whip and cookie just top this pudding off perfectly! Enjoy!

RESULTS

Sometimes finding a new use for an old ingredient is just as easy as this. Instead of thinking of entirely new dishes, you can always think about something you already make and jazz it up by sneaking in the "secret ingredient". That's exactly what I did here and it worked really well. How many desserts can you actually call healthy AND nutritious? Not many. So here is one to add to the list! Just think about it...veggies for dessert! Now there's something you might have thought the kids would never go for, until now.

There is still time to enter your recipe. Entries are accepted until 11:59PM ET tonight! Click HERE for details.

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving without cookie & whip): 104.25 calories;  1.2g fat;  18.63g carbohydrate;  4.72g protein;  1g fiber


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sweet N' Healthy: "Kid-Friendly" Sweet Potato Pizza

The North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission has challenged all foodie bloggers to get cookin' to create new and exciting recipes using none other than...you guessed it, sweet potatoes! What is really great about sweet potatoes is their versatility. They can be used in both sweet and savory dishes; adding great flavor and tons of nutrition. Because they are so fun to use in creating new dishes, I couldn't stop at just one. I have a recipe for each of the three categories: Kid-friendly, Vegetarian and Sugar-Free. Here is my first recipe. It is a quick and easy Sweet Potato Pizza that the kids (and adults) are sure to love!


SWEET POTATO PIZZA
Makes 4 Servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes


INGREDIENTS
  • 1 medium-large sweet potato; skin removed and cut into cubes
  • 4 ounces Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 slices center-cut bacon
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup 2% shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 4 sandwich thins (suggested: whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tablespoon Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped (optional)
DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place the cut potatoes on a sheet of aluminum foil, sprayed with non-fat cooking spray. Fold the edges around the potatoes; sealing them into a bundle. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until potatoes are soft.

While potatoes are cooking, cook bacon in a skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. Place cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain when finished. Chop bacon into small pieces. Drain the bacon grease from the skillet and return it to the stove; reducing heat to low. Add extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet and heat. Add onion and garlic; cooking until tender.

With an electric mixer, blend the cooked sweet potato with cream cheese. Add the cooked garlic, onion and oil to the mixture and fold with a spatula.

Separate the sandwich thins and place on a pizza stone, face up. Spread the sweet potato mixture evenly on each sandwich thin. Sprinkle evenly with shredded cheddar, followed by the chopped bacon and scallions (optional). Return to oven for 5-8 minutes or until cheese is melted. Enjoy!

RESULTS

They aren't your average pizzas, but they are really good! When it comes to keeping kids happy, it helps to create dishes that are familiar to them. What kid doesn't like pizza?!? Serving up sweet potatoes in this way is sure to have them takin' at least one bite. And that one bite is all they will need to become a Sweet Potato Pizza fan for life!

Do you have an idea for a Kid-Friendly sweet potato recipe? Try it out and post it on your blog by tomorrow night (March 21, 2011) by 11:59pm ET. Follow the guidelines HERE for your chance to win 2K for cookin'!! Good luck!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cooking Light with Lindsay & Giada: King Crescents

Inspired by everything Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday, I wanted to create a slim version of the traditional King Cake. At the same time, I wanted something simple and easy to throw together in a pinch. I remembered a recipe I printed out a few months earlier for Mascarpone and Blueberry Turnovers, created by Giada De Laurentiis. Giada's recipe is what inspired me to create these little fun-filled, festive treats. After dinner or with your morning coffee, I believe you will find pure joy in eating these King Crescents. Let the party begin!

KING CRESCENTS
Makes 8


INGREDIENTS
  • 1 package Pillsbury Reduced-Fat Crescent Rolls
  • 4 ounces Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
Icing
  • 2 ounces Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese
  • 3 tablespoons Fat Free Half-and-Half
  • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
  • lemon zest
  • lime zest
DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together the softened cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar. Fold in the blueberries.

Unwrap the crescent dough and separate into 8 triangles. Before rolling the crescent roll as you normally would, place a spoonful of the blueberry mixture at the top end. Roll the crescent over the mixture. Secure the ends by pinching the dough around the filling. Place each crescent on a prepared baking sheet and bake for about 11 minutes, or until golden brown.

While crescents are cooking, melt 2 ounces of Reduced-Fat cream cheese in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in fat free half-and-half and sugar. Keep warm.

When the crescents are finished baking, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 3 minutes. Then drizzle the icing over the crescents using a spoon. Top off with lime and lemon zest. Garnish with additional fresh blueberries.

RESULTS

These turned out to be a delicious, healthy substitute for the King Cake. They are light and airy, yet full of flavor. The zest from the lemon and lime not only provides the traditional colors needed for a King Cake, but it also offers such a crisp, fresh flavor. Like I mentioned earlier; after dinner or with your morning coffee, these King Crescents are sure to satisfy your King Cake craving.

Oh! I almost forgot. If you really want to make this like a King Cake, don't forget to tuck the heat safe mini baby somewhere in one of the crescents, just before icing.

Enjoy!

NUTRITION FACTS (per King Crescent): 152.5 calories; 7.73g fat;  17.73g carbohydrate;  3.47g protein;  .21g fiber

Compare to this King Cake: 465 calories and 17.5g fat per serving



Thursday, March 17, 2011

For the Record, Jalapenos Burn!

One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to teach myself how to cook; to expand my culinary capabilities. I wanted to learn how to prepare healthy foods using a wide variety of techniques and to incorporate new foods into my dishes. I've heard that failure is one of life's best teachers. I would like to add pain to the list of stand-out teachers as well.

Last night, as I was scooping out the insides of 12 jalapenos, it did not occur to me to protect my fingers from the seeds in any way. I wasn't eating them. I was taking them out of the peppers as a preventative measure to avoid a burning mouth. I thought jalapeno peppers were only hot if you ate the seeds. Well, I was wrong. And let me just tell you how wrong I was.

The burn on the fingers was not sudden. It came on slowly, about an hour after fixing the jalapeno poppers ( I later learned hot water can activate the burn). At first, I just washed my hands again with some warm water and thought that would be the end of it. I was wrong...again.

The pain was awful. I couldn't get to sleep (and I was actually in bed early last night). I kept getting up and running my fingers under cold water. That helped tremendously, but only for a minute. All I needed was for it to stop, or at least become tolerable, long enough to fall asleep. It wasn't happening. I even wrapped a cold wash cloth around my fingers at one point. I didn't work. So what do you do when you need to find some answers? You go to the Internet.

A quick search assured me that I was not alone. Hundreds of pages offered home remedies for what I was experiencing and I was willing to try them all at this point. Here's what I did:

1- Rinsed my fingertips in rubbing alcohol.  FAIL
2- Soak fingers in milk or sour cream. WORKED, I guess.

At 11:30, exhausted and annoyed, I fell asleep with my left hand in a glass of milk. Afraid I would spill the milk, my husband took my hand out and set the glass on my bedside table. That woke me right up. The burn came back! So I slept with my fingers in that glass of milk until around 3am. At that point, I was cured! It's about flippin' time, don't ya think?!?!

Had the milk not worked, the other option was to scrub my fingers with dish soap and soak them in olive oil. I hope I never have to find a solution to this problem again. I won't even get into what it felt like taking my contacts out. Not cool.

The lesson learned here; never underestimate the power of the jalapenos hotness. Wear gloves or keep plenty of milk and olive oil on hand. It's like putting your hand on a hot stove; you only have to get burned once to know never to do that again. At 30 years, I am still learning the rules of the kitchen; another thing Kimber and I have in common.

Thanks for letting me share this learning experience with you. Be careful with those peppers!



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: If It Isn't What I Eat, Then What Could It Be?

Last week, my husband Rudy allowed me to open up about his personal struggle with weight gain; more specifically, weight loss. Despite his attempts to cut calories in and increase calories out, the poor guy can't seem to lose any weight. It simply doesn't add up! Our first thought was maybe that the weekends were sabotaging his efforts. Perhaps the extra calories (liquid calories included) from Friday to Sunday were reversing all the hard work throughout the week? It was a good theory, so we tested it out.


From Monday to Friday, he was a working-out, eatin'-healthy maniac. Everything he ate was fresh and lean. His workouts were consistant and even exceeded his efforts from the previous week. So what happened when he got on the scale Friday morning? He gained a pound! What?!?! Can you imagine his dissappointment. Nothing wrecks someone's weight-loss motivation like a "+ pound(s)" on the scale. My heart sank. I felt his pain and frustration too.


So...what in the world is going on here? There has to be an explanation. We can't just give up . We put our heads together and came up with a few possible, rational explanations to consider. Here's what we have so far:


Explanation #1: Muscle Gain ~ The exercising could be changing his fat to muscle; resulting in inches lost, not neccessarily pounds. If you have ever watched shows such as Heavy or The Biggest Loser, this happens on occassion. If this is the case, continuing to workout and eat well should eventually lead to weight loss. He just has to stick to it and fight through the urge to become discouraged.


Explanation #2: Thyroid Issue ~ Kristal from Knit1Kids4 left a comment last week that asked if we had ever considered a thyroid issue. Yes, we had, but not seriously. Since he isn't losing weight, I think it's time to seriously revisit this possibility. Hypothyroidism does cause weight gain, along with some other symptoms Rudy is experiencing. It is worth getting it checked out.

Explanation #3: Secret Whoopie Pie Stash in His Car ~ This would explain it, but we are going to have to debunk this theory. There is just no way anyone can keep Aunt Carla's Whoopie Pies within my reach and me not know about it!


That's what we have so far. I will keep you updated and informed as we learn more about what factors could be impacting Rudy's ability to lose weight. If you all have any ideas, please chime in and share with us. There's got to be an explanation why a 32-year-old guy can't seem to lose weight. We are going to get to the bottom of this.


Have a terrific Tuesday, friends!


Monday, March 14, 2011

Cooking Light with Bobby Flay: Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

The "bacon dressing" part was fine with my husband, but the whole "sweet potato" thing had him curling his nose up like a 10-year-old boy. Unless they are covered in brown sugar and marshmallows, Rudy wants absolutely nothin' to do with sweet potatoes. What he soon realized, and I hope you will too, is that sweet potatoes have a lot more potential than to just be smothered in sugar. This recipe for Bobby Flay's Sweet Potato Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing is the perfect example of what possibilities lie out there for this super-starch. Here is the side dish that turned two "sweet-tator-haters" into two of their newest fans!


SWEET POTATO SALAD WITH WARM BACON DRESSING
Serves 8


INGREDIENTS
  • 4 pieces center-cut bacon, medium dice
  • 1 small red onion, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 sweet potatoes; peeled & cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • fat free cooking spray
DIRECTIONS


Preheat oven to 400.


Prepare a baking sheet with fat-free cooking spray; spread the sweet potatoes on the sheet. Bake for roughly 25-35 minutes or until the potatoes can be easily cut through with a spoon. Keep warm.


Heat pan over high heat. Add bacon and cook until just crisp. Remove bacon to a towel-lined plate. Pour off all but a tiny trace of the fat. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Remove pan from heat, add vinegar, olive oil, sugar and reserved bacon. Place the potatoes in a large bowl, pour the dressing over and season with salt and pepper. Fold in the green onions and parsley. Serve at room temperature.


RESULTS


"Out of this world"-fantastic! Both my husband and my friend Shawna are not huge fans of sweet potatoes. However, they were "big kids" and gave 'em a try. AND they LOVED them! The point is, even if you don't like sweet potatoes, this recipe is worth a try. Not only are sweet potatoes great in this recipe, but they are soooo flippin' good for you; each loaded with fiber, beta carotene and other antioxidants.


Since this recipe is already pretty nutritious, there wasn't a whole lot to do to lean it up! I just traded in regular bacon for a lean center-cut and reduced the amount the olive oil needed to make the dressing. The taste result is still the same; a delicious side dish that is sure to impress even the biggest sweet potato skeptics.


NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 147.75 calories;  8.0g fat;  17.29g carbohydrate;  2.57g protein;  2.24g fiber

SAVES: 77 calories; 8.14g fat

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lean Libation: Giada's Italian Lemonade

It's Friday, friends! Therefore, it is the perfect time to share with you a light and refreshing cocktail to add to your Happy Hour menu; the Italian Lemonade. The inspiration for this "Lean Libation" comes from Giada De Laurentiis. The changes made here save some calories, as well as some hard labor. Instead of juicing 12-15 lemons, let's just use a little Crystal Light. See what else you need to do in order to whip up an Italian Lemonade of your own!

ITALIAN LEMONADE
SERVES 4-6


INGREDIENTS
  • 1 packet Crystal Light PURE FITNESS in lemon lime or lemonade; mixed with 2 cups water
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • Basil Simple Syrup; recipe follows
  • 2 cups sparkling water (Perrier or Pellegrino)
  • Ice
  • Lemon twists; for garnish
  • 8 ounces Vodka (optional)
DIRECTIONS

Mix Crystal Light PURE FITNESS lemon-lime or lemonade, Basil Simple Syrup, and sparkling water together in a pitcher. Squeeze in the juice of two lemons and stir. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Pour over ice filled glasses and garnish with a lemon twist.

BASIL SIMPLE SYRUP
  • 1 bunch fresh basil; washed & stemmed
  • 1 cup SPLENDA or similar low-calorie sweetener
  • 1 cup water
In a saucepan combine basil, SPLENDA, and water and simmer, about 5 minutes. Cool, strain the simple syrup, and store in the refrigerator.


RESULTS

This cocktail is going to be great during those warm summer months. It's one of those "easy to sip on, so be careful 'cause you might drink the entire pitcher on your own" kinda drinks. So in that case, invite some friends over to share it with you. The simple syrup had me a little nervous only because I had never made it before. But trust me, the name doesn't lie. It really is simple to make. So next time you are searching for a light and refreshing cocktail to keep you happy on a hot summer day, stop back in and test out this version of Giada's Italian Lemonade.

CHEERS!

Have a safe and wonderful weekend!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving, based on 6 servings w/vodka): 78.5 calories; 0g fat; 5.9g carbohydrate; 0g protein; 0g fiber



*Original recipe for Giada's Italian Lemonade can be found HERE.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Express" Yourself This Swimsuit Season

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Express for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Ready or not, here it comes! I am talkin' about swimsuit season, ladies...& gentlemen. It's a time that can come with mixed emotions and have us asking ourselves questions like, "Does this suit flatter me? Which swimsuit styles are in this season? Do I have a friend to take shopping with me that will give me an honest opinion on how I look in such a small amount of material?" These are natural reactions to have. But I am here to share some great information with you. AdvertisementExpress has a NEW spring women's swimwear collection that will give your basic beachwear an upgrade with bold hues and body-loving shapes! The only question you'll be asking is, "How do I pick just one?"

I absolutely love this line of swim suits and accessories! The details I instantly fell for were the ruffles. But if you aren't a ruffle-type girl, the other hot details include self-tie sides, glam beaded embellishments and flirty animal prints. If I had to choose one suit, well, I couldn't. But I can settle for choosing two! First, I love the Neon Ruffled Bandeau Bikini Top with string bikini Bottom or the Ruffled Bikini Bottom(in pink[shown] or black). My second pick is the Monokini in classic black. Both simple & sexy at the same time.

What I love most about the collection is how classic it is. Sure, there are some edgy pieces, but most of the colors, cuts and styles are not too crazy for this 30-year-old momma. The suits will be hot this season AND for seasons to come. I was very impressed when I saw this line and I think you will be too. To see more swim suits (and swim shorts for men) and other spring essentials including sandals, tote bags, sunglasses, hats & cover-ups, dive into www.express.com!

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So step out this swimsuit season with a little more confidence and style. You work hard for the body. Now it's time to let Express take care of the rest.

Summer will be here before we know it. It is never to early to dive into that swimsuit shoppin'!

 

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cooking Light with Rachael Ray: Fusilli with Crispy Kale and Ricotta

As mentioned in the most recent "Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday" post, my husband is really focusing on his weight loss goals. Since I love and support this man in all he does, each meal I make will really focus on his specific nutritional needs. One thing I learned back in my figure competition days (which was only 3-months or one competition because I need more than canned tuna & protein shakes to stay sane) was that it is best to have a majority of your carbohydrates earlier in the day or before exercising; allowing more opportunity to use the energy you take in. Following along this logic, it wouldn't make sense to serve my Hubby a loaded pasta dish for dinner. However, Rachael Ray's recipe for Fusilli with Crispy Kale and Ricotta just looked so flippin' good! With a little brainstorming, I decided to substitute the fusilli pasta with some beautiful yellow squash. The outcome? Better than I could have hoped for and extremely satisfying. This dish is great for all kinds of eaters; even low-carb, gluten-free and vegetarian (as long as you leave out the turkey sausage)!

"FAKE" FUSILLI WITH CRISPY KALE & RICOTTA
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 pound kale; stemmed, washed and dried
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 large yellow squash; washed and thinly sliced, lengthwise
  • 3 links Jennie-O Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage; casings removed (optional)
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic; finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 small sprigs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 cup FAT FREE ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Olive Oil Cooking Spray
DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F. Spray the kale lightly with Olive Oil cooking spray; then season with salt and pepper. Arrange the kale on two baking sheets and bake for about 15 minutes, rotating and switching the pans midway through. Prepare the squash the same way using one baking sheet. If your oven allows, place the squash on the rack below the kale, allowing them to cook at the same time. Squash takes about 15 minutes.


Warm a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage, crumbling the meat, and cook until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate. If you’re skipping the sausage, heat the skillet to medium. Add 1 tablespoon of EVOO to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and red bell pepper to the skillet and stir for a couple of minutes. Stir in the thyme and rosemary.

Add about 1/4 cup warm water into the garlic-pepper oil and stir. Add the squash to the skillet; coating with the garlic-pepper oil. Add half of the crispy kale, the sausage (if using), ricotta and some nutmeg; toss well to coat the squash. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste. Serve in shallow bowls and top each dish with 1/2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese and piles of the remaining crispy kale.

RESULTS

I was so happy with how the dish came out! The pasta was a major part of it, so taking it out and replacing it with squash was a bit of a risk. However, it worked! It fills you right up, but doesn't leave you feeling uncomfortably stuffed. Plus, it is loaded with nutritious veggies. Knowing that the Hubby isn't a kale fan, I left the crispy kale off the top when plating his dish. When he saw mine, he said, "Ewww. What's on yours?"  With a slight hesitation, I let him know it was the remaining kale that wasn't used in the dish. You should have seen his face! Yep, I had successfully tricked the hubby into eating kale! I don't like being sneaky, but sometimes deception is the only way to get a picky eater to try new things. After the initial shock of my tricky tactics, he just looked at me and joked, "Well, I did hear that kale is the new spinach." What am I gonna do with this guy?!?!

So to sum it all up, I would give this recipe a go! It will definitely get you thinking about other popular pasta dishes that could also work with a veggie substitute for pasta. If taste isn't motivation enough to start thinkin', just look at what we saved here on this one!


NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 197 calories;  12.41g fat;  25.15g carbohydrate;  25.77g protein;  6.43g fiber

BEFORE: 1,031 calories; 55.66g fat;  101.35g carbohydrate;  50.3g protein;  12.63g fiber
SAVES: 834 calories; 43.25g fat;  76.2g carbohydrate

 
Enjoy!


**Original recipe inspired by Rachael Ray and can be found at www.rachaelraymag.com. Click here to order your subscription to Everday with Rachael Ray Magazine.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Livin' Lean Topic Tuesday: The Weekend Sabotages My Husband

Watching someone you love struggle with weight gain and seeing how it impacts them can be really tough. What is even harder is watching them make a sincere effort, only to be let down by minimal results. My husband is one of these people. He is a former college athlete; having been fit all his life. However, once he graduated from Virginia Tech, it was as if his metabolism had come to a screeching halt. The weight just started to creep on and after 8 years, my hubby has put on nearly 55 pounds. He is constantly aware of this; making jokes about how he is now versus how he used to be. Yet I know my husband. I know that behind those jokes and cracks on his appearance or lack of physical fitness, there is a guy that wants to be fit and active again. I know he is frustrated. He wants to change. And I think we finally unveiled the real reason why his efforts have gone unrewarded for so long...


Since I had the day off from school for a doctor visit, I met Rudy for lunch yesterday. As we were eating our grilled chicken breasts and house salads (healthy), he brought up the topic of his weight loss.


"See, Lindsay? Look at what I eat for lunch! I eat well like this every single day and I can't lose weight. Even running doesn't help. I just don't get it."


It doesn't make sense, at least not on the surface. But what we discussed and what me may have figured out is that his fitness and nutritional goals are being sabotaged by the choices he makes during the weekend. Yes, an occasional splurge is healthy. But a splurge that lasts from Friday "happy hour" until Sunday night is not going to do anything to help his weight loss mission. There is a difference between a single splurge and a weekend binge. Everything is good in moderation; even moderation. To really see results, my adorable, fun, party-lovin' husband is going to need to carefully choose when to enjoy a single splurge, when to end the splurge or when to pass it up all together.


It's not easy. Eating and drinking are connected to us both socially and emotionally. But I know he can do it! Sometimes it takes an honest look at what you are truly eating to understand why the results aren't what you anticipated. Splurge calories aren't "free". They still cost us. So remember to keep those moderate splurge foods (and drinks) in true moderation. If you are a "weekend splurger" like my hubby, perhaps try a little mid-week treat to help off-set the desire to go completely overboard once the weekend rolls around.


On that note...have a Happy Fat Tuesday!! Don't get too crazy!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Paula Deen's Lean: Coconut Flan

If you are a flan fan, then you are going to go nuts (maybe even coconuts) over this slim-downed dessert! The only thing missing is a little over 150 calories and 15 grams of fat. Aside from the great taste, I was really impressed with how simple it was to make. Since I have never made flan before, the unknown scared me a bit; as it tends to do with most things we are unfamiliar with. But as you will see, it's one of those "mix everything together, throw it in the oven and forget about it" recipes. Just see for yourself!

COCONUT FLAN
Serves 8

INGREDIENTS
  • 1/4 cup lite maple syrup (Log Cabin Lite)
  • 3/4 cup Egg Beaters (or similar liquid egg substitute)
  • 1 (14-ounce) can FAT FREE sweetened condensed milk
  • 1-1/2 cup LITE coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons shredded coconut flakes
  • FAT FREE Kraft Cool Whip topping (2 tablespoons per serving)
  • 3 tablespoons shredded coconut flakes, toasted -- garnish
DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Pour syrup into a flan dish, pie plate or round souffle baking dish with shallow sides, swirling it around to coat the bottom.



In a large mixing bowl, beat the Egg Beaters until foamy with a wire whisk. Beat in the condensed milk, coconut milk, vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons coconut. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish; covering the syrup. Set the dish into a large baking pan with sides and carefully pour water around the flan to come 2/3 the way up the sides. This is considered "baking in a water bath". Carefully transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for about 1 hour (may need 10 additional minutes), until the flan is set and the center only jiggles a little bit, like a cheesecake would. Remove from the oven and water-bath and allow to cool completely. Turn the flan out onto a flat serving platter. Cut into slices for serving. Garnish with whipped cream and toasted coconut.

RESULTS

So good and so simple! This dessert is great any night, but especially on evenings when you need an impressive dessert for company, yet need more time to focus on the main course. Having an hour (maybe 1 hour 10 minutes) to work on everything else while the dessert is baking is so nice.
Flan is such a delicate looking dessert, so I was a little scared of messing it up some how. But let me tell ya, there is nothing to be afraid of. Once the flan was completely cool, I took a regular dinner knife around the edge; separating it from the pan. I slowly flipped the dish over and it plopped right out onto the serving platter. No problem! My advice would be to hold the dish close to the platter and make sure you are lined up just right. It comes flying out and you don't want to have to move it around too much.
Finally, to toast the coconut for garnish, I simple tossed them in a small pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes until about 1/2 were a light brown color. Overall, the flavor outcome was great! To top it off, look what we are saving in the fat and calories department!

NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 241.25 calories;  4.2g fat;  44g carbohydrate;  7.91g protein;  .25g fiber
BEFORE: 406.63 calories;  21.08g fat;  48.54g carbohydrate;  8.89g protein;  1.19g fiber

Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Kimber's Korner: Green Noodles & Ham

"I DO like Green Noodles & Ham.
I DO like them Kimber-I-Am!"


As you may have guessed, this dish was inspired by my love for Dr. Seuss. Since yesterday (March 2nd) was his birthday, my Mommy suggested that we try out this fun Rachael Ray recipe for Green Noodles & Ham. "Green Eggs & Ham" is one of my all-time, favorite books Mom and I read together. And now, Green Noodles & Ham is one of my favorite dishes we cook together.


"Just give 'em a try and you will see.
You just might like Green Noodles & Ham like me!"


GREEN NOODLES & HAM
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 12 ounce box spinach fettuccini
  • 8 ounces Low-Sodium ham steak (lean)
  • 1 cup FAT FREE half-and-half
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan; plus a little more for a pinch on top
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spray
DIRECTIONS
Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add a tiny pinch of salt, to season up the pasta as it cooks. Carefully add pasta to water and stir then cook to al dente or until pasta is tender but it still has a bite to it in the center –  or just do not cook it until it is mushy. (Takes about 4 minutes, but check package directions first.)



Cut ham into thin small cubes. Kids not so good with knives should sit this part out. Have the ham already cut up for them.

Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup half-and-half and warm it up a minute. Add about a 1/2 cup of cheese, 4 big handfuls or so, and stir constantly for another minute then season the sauce with nutmeg and pepper. Taste and add a little salt, if necessary.

Turn off heat under sauce and add the peas to it. Then add the ham. Next, drain the pasta (this is a grown-up job). Toss pasta with sauce in the skillet and use tongs to help you pull pasta through sauce until it is coated evenly.You can even add a little more cheese to each plated serving, if desired.

RESULTS
This may be a "Kimber's Korner" dish, but it is something the entire family will love! My parents cleared their plates. I think it is safe to say they liked it too! It would be tons of fun for you to read Dr. Seuss Green Eggs & Ham with your kids and then make this delicious, nutritious dinner together. We sure had a good time. I learned that even though the noodles may be green, they are just as yummy, if not yummier, than the regular ones. It's good to try different things. You may just realize you like them! My Mommy always tells me that part of being a healthy eater means eating a variety of foods; even when foods look different from what I'm used to, like these green spinach noodles. Well, I hope you like this dish---that goes for you "big kids" too!

** "Who's" lookin' for more Dr. Seuss fun? Head on over to Seussville, where there are tons of great activities to choose from including crafts & simple printable materials! It is a great resource for parents & teachers.


NUTRITION FACTS (per serving): 505.5 calories;  8.36g fat;  74.92g carbohydrate;  30.77g protein;  10.6g fiber

BEFORE: 806.75 calories;  44.4g fat;  72.66g carbohydrate;  32.33g protein;  10.58g fiber


~ Kimber

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