Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chili in the Fall...Time for Football


Ok, so with the temperature still in the mid-90's it is hard to imagine that chilly fall nights are anywhere in the near future. Contrary to the weather, football season is almost here. One week from today, the defending national champions will kick off a football season filled with as many victories as the last. Along with Alabama football, comes all sorts of tail-gating treats. One particular food that I tend to associate with screaming fans and touchdowns is chili. A bowl of chili typically provides a high-fat meal, but with my make-over, this easy recipe is full of lean protein and fiber. This is perfect for knocking the chill off, or in my case, dreaming of even the slightest chill gracing the humid southern air. The recipe is best served with houndstooth and a side of Roll Tide!

(The recipe is so simple even an Auburn fan can make it. Seriously, I've seen it done.)

Turkey Chili
serves 4

1 pckg. McCormick's chili seasoning mix
(it comes in different varieties such as hot, mild, or low-sodium)
1 lb. ground turkey breast, browned
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
14.5 oz. can kidney beans, drained

  1. Mix together chili mix, cooked ground turkey, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans in a medium sized pot over medium heat.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Top with greek yogurt, fat-free cheese, and green onions if desired.

Nutrition: 260 calories, 26g carbohydrate, 36g protein, 1g fat, 8g fiber

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Three Cheese Penne the Healthier Way

Now that school has started back and the summer days are fading away, I am beginning to have less time to daydream about my next culinary concoctions. At the same time, I can still find the time to whip up a quick one-dish-meal. I love the preparation involved in selecting a main food to cook, and then finding the perfect sides to complement the flavor and visual appeal- Sunday night did not happen to be a night for this sort of thing. As I was anticipating a busy upcoming week, I scanned my macbook for the perfect recipe. I think it was the title that caught my eye, but I finally decided upon "Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine". This is a Kraft original recipe, made lighter by yours truly. I like to make pasta dishes such as this one, because I know there will be leftovers for later in the week, when my nutrition book steals the spotlight from my recipe book. Also, these "casseroles" reheat perfectly, and sometimes taste even better after the flavors have melded for a couple of days. I think cooking large meals ahead of time is an essential key to healthy eating on a busy schedule. If you can a find about an hour on Sunday afternoon to cook, you can pre-portion serving sizes in storage containers. Then you can take them to work, have dinner ready when you get home, or freeze some for weeks to come. It's even faster than fast food- not to mention cheaper and much healthier.

This pasta has a sort of lasagna flavor, which I think appeals to the majority of people. And who doesn't love a dish that includes three types of cheese? The spinach in this recipe is fairly mild, and great for sneaking in those veggies. I used Fiber Gourmet pasta, but whole wheat noodles are great as well. A simple green salad completes the meal.

Three Cheese Chicken Penne Florentine
serves 6

1 1/2 cups whole wheat penne noodles, dry
9 oz. fresh spinach leaves
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
14.5 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (I used Light Ragu Tomato & Basil)
2 garlic cloves, minced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
2 oz. fat-free cream cheese, cubed
1 cup fat-free shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta as directed on package, adding spinach to the boiling water for the last minute.
  3. Cook and stir chicken and basil in large nonstick skillet, spray with cooking spray, on medium-high heat for 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in spaghetti sauce, garlic, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. 
  5. Simmer on low heat for 3 minutes or until chicken is done. Stir in cream cheese.
  6. Drain pasta mixture; return to pot. Stir in chicken mixture and 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese.
  7. Spoon into a 2-qt. casserole or 8-inch square baking dish. 
  8. Bake 20 minutes. Top with remaining Mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for an additional 3 minutes    or until the cheese is melted.
Nutrition: (with wheat noodles) 270 calories, 31g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 3g fat, 6g fiber
(with Fiber Gourmet noodles) 245 calories, 53g carbohydrate, 32g protein, 2g fat, 12g fiber

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Let Fiber Star In Your Cereal Bar

Rice krispie treats are a snack that has been popular for generation after generation. Of course, like everything else, companies have created modern twists to the original variety for marketing purposes. Unfortunately such additions have nothing to do with increasing the nutrition of the product. Instead, chocolate chips, candy, fudge coatings, and food coloring are what distinguishes this century of cereal treats. If you were to look at the calories per serving on the nutrition label of a box of Rice Krispie cereal, you would probably think of it as a relatively healthy breakfast item. Yes, 120 calories per serving is a small amount, but the cereal is far from the best option. It has no fiber and the second most abundant ingredient is sugar, which is the case with many cereals geared towards children.

While the original rice krispie treat is not the worst packaged snack item available, there is plenty of room for improvement. This recipe is from the Hungry Girl book, which is full of fabulous recipe swaps. It is a very simple recipe with few ingredients needed. The Rice Krispies are replaced with a mixture of Fiber One cereal and puffed wheat cereal. The fat content is reduced by using a light butter. There is really no way to get around using marshmallows; they are naturally fat-free but contain a good bit of sugar. The modification helps to improve the nutrition of the cereal bar, but is still a treat. In other words, these are not a good source of vitamins and minerals and should not become an everyday snack food. My mom made the original Rice Krispie treats not too long ago for a party and I pinched a corner off of one to remember the flavor. I hardly eat sugar at all now, so maybe it was just me, but the bite seemed entirely too sweet. With the new alternative of cereals, there was much more substance which helped to mask the overly sweet sensation. These would be great to pack in your child's lunch- they get a tasty dessert and it shows that you care about their health. Also, allow your kids to help make this simple recipe to get them involved in the kitchen.

Krispymallow Treats from Hungry Girl
serves 25

3 tbsp. light buttery spread
3 cups miniature marshmallows
2 cups Fiber One cereal
5 cups puffed wheat cereal

  1. Melt butter spread in a large saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add marshmallows and stir until melted.
  3. Remove from heat and add both cereals.
  4. Stir until well coated.
  5. Using a spatula, press mixture into a 9x13 baking pan coated with cooking spray.
  6. Allow to cool completely and cut into 25 squares.
Nutrition: 47 calories, <1g fat, 32mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate, 2.5g fiber, 3g sugar, <1g protein

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Now You Have Time To Bake...A 35-Second Lemon Cake

I found this recipe a while back at Eating Well, Living Thin. After swapping some of the ingredients, I mixed everything together in a coffee mug and microwaved it for 35 seconds. Upon removing the single-serving cake, the appearance did not quite convince me that this was a semi-equal substitute to a high-fat lemon cake. The first bite was all it took though- light, fluffy, warm, and the perfect amount of lemon flavor. The best thing about single-serving recipes is the absence of temptation- no leftovers sitting on the counter, begging you to indulge. Also, it helps to prevent mindless munching because you have to put a tiny (very tiny) amount of effort into the preparation. This cake is perfect for a light dessert or a morning treat with coffee. If you are in the mood for an even sweeter snack, try topping the warm cake with a few dollops of cool whip free. Feel free to experiment with other flavors by using different extracts. Strawberry is delicious!

As far as nutrition, this lemon treat, with 80 calories and no fat, is a far better choice than...
Starbucks Iced Lemon Pound Cake: 1 slice, 500 calories and 23g fat
Olive Garden Lemon Cream Cake: 1 slice, 610 calories and 35g fat
Panera Bread Lemon Poppyseed Cake: 1 slice, 450 calories and 20g fat

35-Second Lemon Cake
serves 1

2 Tbsp All-Purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp Splenda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp unsweetened almond milk (or skim milk)
1/4 tsp lemon extract
drop of yellow food coloring, optional

  1. Spray a microwave-safe coffee cup with cooking spray. 
  2. In the cup, with a fork, combine the flour, cornstarch, Splenda, baking powder, and salt until well combined.
  3. Stir in the milk and lemon extract.
  4. Microwave on high for 35 seconds. It should be moist and will continue to set up for a few seconds. If it is still wet, microwave for another 5 seconds. Do not over cook or it will be rubbery.
  5. Serve warm. Top with cool whip free, fat-free cream cheese, or a sprinkling of additional Splenda if desired.
Nutrition: 80 calories, 15g carbohydrate, 2g protein, 0g fat

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Go Green to get Lean

Coming inside for a quick break from the crashing waves and burning sun, I wanted a quick snack. No, I didn't want a bag of chips or a pack of crackers. I knew the perfect dish for my afternoon appetite, but of course I did not have even one of the ingredients at the condo. But when I have a particular recipe in mind, I don't mind if my quick break from the beach turn into an hour of errands. I decided to go to the grocery store, and like usual, instead of grabbing the necessary ingredients, I had to explore the isles as well. Yes it was just Publix, and I typically go to Publix on a daily basis, but I always find that one item in a different store that is not in my store at home.

Once back to the condo, I simply mixed all the ingredients and threw the dip in the oven for about 20 minutes. This recipe is full of flavor and is better than many spinach dip appetizers that I have tried in recipes. Best of all, it is low in fat and calories, unlike those restaurant dishes. The dip is probably best when served warm but is also extremely yummy straight out out of the fridge. The reduced-fat mayonnaise and greek yogurt replace full-fat mayo and whipping cream. The recipe also uses fat-free mozzarella and parmesan cheese, which is naturally low in fat. I placed a low carb tortilla directly on the oven rack to cook with the dip. I took it out about 5 minutes before the dip was finished baking and broke it into chip-sized bites. They were so crisp and delicious and so much healthier than tortillas chips. Fresh vegetables are also perfect for dipping.

Spinach Artichoke Dip
serves 8

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 1/4 cups 0% plain Greek yogurt
1/3 reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 tbsp sliced onions
1 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup fat-free shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size bowl, stir together Parmesan cheese, yogurt, mayonnaise, and garlic.
  2. Add onions, artichokes, spinach and mozzarella. Stir until blended.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Nutrition: 93 calories, 7g carbohydrate, 10g protein, 4g fat

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Slim Like Spaghetti

I am on vacation at the beach for a week before jumping back into the school routine. While we are mostly dining out at local seafood restaurants, I planned ahead and saved some recipes that I cooked last week to post while I am away from my kitchen. Since I don't care to spend much time sitting in the condo on my computer, these posts will be short and straight to the recipe. Unlike with most of my other posts, you will be spared the rambling of nutrition information. Although, now that I think about it, I really want to share with you all the exciting ways to make a healthy spaghetti dish...okay it is just way too pretty outside. I'll save it for a rainy day.

This virtually fat-free dish is so delicious and cooks in a crock pot. You can prepare it, leave it, and come home to a warm Italian entree. Add a salad and dinner is served.

Slim Like Spaghetti
serves 6

1 lb. ground turkey breast
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 package McCormick Italian-Style Spaghetti sauce mix
1 cup water
6 oz. can tomato paste
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups fresh sliced mushrooms
8 oz. dry whole wheat spaghetti noodles
parmesan cheese, optional

  1. Spray a large skillet with cooking spray. Cook ground turkey over medium heat until completely cooked (no pink). Mix in minced garlic.
  2. In crock pot or slow cooker, add cooked ground turkey, seasoning mix, water, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine and add salt and pepper. Cook on the low setting for 4 to 6 hours.
  3. Thirty minutes prior to serving, stir mushrooms into sauce mixture in crock pot.
  4. Boil noodles and top with sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired.
Nutrition: 270 calories, 44g carbohydrate, 25g protein, 0g fat

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Meet Your Goal With Chicken Casserole

Chicken Casserole is a fairly popular dish in the American home. It seems that while they are all similar, there are many small variations when it comes to the topping or filling ingredients. Chicken casserole is known as a comfort food classic and comfort food is typically associated with loads of calories and fat accompanied by an uncomfortable feeling of "Stuffed". This is a simple dish to prepare with no strong flavors to offend picky eaters. This is a meal that will draw you back to memories of your childhood days, warm and welcoming. As far as variations, the recipe contains poppy seeds which add to the texture and eye appeal.

This recipe was given to my mom by a family friend after she prepared the dish for my family. Everyone devoured the meal and my mom decided that she would have to prepare it again. While I am sure it was delicious, I never tried the original version. After looking over the recipe, I decided the casserole definitely had potential for a healthy make-over. I began by substituting the canned soups with the reduced-fat versions. Next, I substituted fat-free greek yogurt for full fat sour cream (If you have been reading my blog,  you could have probably guessed this one without me writing it). The topping is where the casserole racks up most of its fat calories. The recipe called for a tube of Ritz crackers and a stick of melted butter. I replaced the crackers with corn flakes and omitted the butter. I would never recommend this cereal as a healthy breakfast option, but it works in this casserole to add crunch. Plus, it is much better than the buttery Ritz. To further reduce carbs, you could just not use a topping at all. Like I said, I can't compare the make-over dish to the original but my healthy version had an amazing creamy flavor, a plenty crunchy topping, and the comforting appeal I was looking for. I served this dish with steamed green beans and a fresh salad. You could also serve the casserole over whole grain brown rice.

Poppyseed Chicken Casserole
serves 6

1 lb. boiled boneless,skinless chicken breasts, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 can 98% fat-free Cream of Chicken soup
1 can 98% fat-free Cream of Mushroom soup
1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
2 tsp poppy seeds
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups corn flakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Mix together the soups, yogurt, poppy seeds, salt and pepper.
  3. Add the chicken to the mixture and combine.
  4. Pour the mixture into prepared baking dish and top with corn flakes.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes.
Nutrition: 195 calories, 17g carbohydrate, 23g protein, 3g fat

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pizza Party...Healthy and Hearty

Pizza is one of the most loved foods available. Perhaps because there are so many varieties, that everyone is likely to find a type that suits his or her preferences. As much as pizza can vary based on flavor and texture; the nutrition status differs greatly as well. Things that add tremendous amounts of calories and saturated fat to a slice of pizza include thick crusts such as “deep dish”, large amounts of cheese, high-fat meats, and white pizza sauces. Some large pizzeria-style slices can contain up to 500 calories per slice.  While pizza can be made healthier by reducing the fat of the toppings, most pies still have a high ratio of simple carbohydrates to protein. In order to reduce the simple carbs, look for pizzas made with whole-wheat dough or thin crust options. If you are making homemade pizza, use simple swaps to cut calories by topping the crust with reduced-fat or fat-free cheese, turkey pepperoni, and fresh veggies.

This recipe for Pizza Quiche sounds odd and maybe a bit unappetizing, thinking about the combination of eggs and pizza. The dish gets its name because the crust is made from an egg and cheese mixture, but it has no reminiscence of a typical breakfast quiche. The original recipe was part of the Atkins diet, which suggests eating very low carbs combined with high fat meats and cheeses. I adapted the recipe to use low fat substitutes; saturated fats have been linked to increase the risk of Cardiovascular Disease, Hypertension, and Diabetes. This pizza alternative is so cheesy and delicious; you would never guess that it has only 270 calories per serving. Many recipes deemed “healthy” simply cut the serving size to such small amounts that the nutrition stats seem to fit a diet plan. The only problem is that you will be left hungry, which sets you up for unhealthy snacking just hours later. The Pizza Quiche allows you to consume a large portion and fills you up with 45g of protein per serving. It is prepared in a 9x13 baking dish and serves 4- yes you get to eat a fourth of a 9x13 pan for 270 calories. My stats only include turkey pepperoni and mushrooms as toppings but feel free to add whatever you normally order on a pizza. Just keep in mind that adding meats and other high-fat items will increase the fat content and calories of the dish. If the word “quiche” makes you feel like this should be a breakfast meal, well then have it for breakfast. A high protein, low carb meal will get your day started and keep you full until lunch. If the common cold pizza breakfast appeals to you, store leftovers in the refrigerator for a quick morning treat. I had my doubts upon making this for the first time, but if you like pizza you will love this. It is also a very kid-friendly dish as well- let them help with preparation and it is guaranteed to become a family favorite.

Pizza Quiche
serves 4

4 oz. fat free cream cheese
1 cup egg beaters
1/3 cup unsweetened almond milk or skim milk
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp fresh minced chives
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup shredded fat free Cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded fat free Mozzarella cheese
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms
34 turkey pepperoni (2 servings)

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a food processor or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, blend together the cream cheese and egg beaters until smooth. Add the milk, Parmesan, chives, garlic, and oregano. Blend until smooth.
  3. Scatter the Cheddar cheese and 1 cup of the Mozzarella in the prepared baking dish. Pour the egg mixture over the cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Spread the tomato sauce over the baked crust. Layer the pepperoni, mushrooms, and other additional toppings. Cover with remaining 1 cup of Mozzarella cheese.
  5. Turn on the broiler and broil about 6 inches from the heat until golden and bubbly. (Keep a close eye because the broiler will burn the dish quickly. This probably only takes about 2-3 minutes.) Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Nutrition: 270 calories, 12g carbohydrate, 45g protein, 4g fat

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About Lauren


Nutrition student with a passion for giving yummy recipes a healthy make-over. Future RD on a constant search for the best food finds. And new blogger trying to relay my tasty ideas to everyone else.

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