Monday, January 31, 2011

Mushroom Madness

Nutritionally speaking, homemade meals prepared with fresh ingredients are always the best way to go. But the time it takes to go to the grocery store and create a gourmet meal is not always available. In these, instances many people turn to fast food to solve their time dilemma. Diet Disaster. While I would never advocate for eating frozen meals as part of an everyday healthy lifestyle, most freezer dinners are much better than the local burger joint. I always keep a few stashed away for busy nights and I have to admit there are a few I even enjoy. One of my favorite lines is the Lean Cuisine Market Creations. These gourmet-inspired meals come in a bag and are steamed in the microwave. There is no watery sauce, or rubbery meat, typical of many frozen dishes. They actually don't taste frozen at all. I have tried several of the varieties but my favorite is the Mushroom Tortelloni. The shells are stuffed with portobello mushrooms and cheese and are placed in a rich sauce made of sun-dried tomatoes, green peas, and red peppers. The meal is not huge for 280 calories but I find it to be pretty filling, especially if you add a side salad. I'm not crazy about the long ingredient list but this tortelloni is quite flavorful for a 5 minute preparation. When I think about the quality of a frozen meal, I ask myself if I had created this dish, would I be proud to serve it to guests? The answer to this one is YES. In fact, I might just try to recreate a similar dish. I'll be sure to let you know how it turns out. Check out the Lean Cuisine website to see the other Market creation varieties.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

An Oatmeal Treat that's Healthy and Sweet

Nosh N' Nutrition readers, in my last post I mentioned starting another blog about my adventures in "do-it-yourself" projects and home decor crafts. Well I did it. My new blog is up and running. Although there is only one lonely post so far, I would love for you to check out Crafty Couture and let me know what you think. With this blog as well, I love getting feedback from my readers so comments are always welcome.

Cookies are generally recognized as a fat laden baked treat. A common misconception is that a cookie loaded with oats and raisins is more healthy than a chocolate chip or sugar cookie. While the oats and raisins are not the problem, oatmeal raisin cookies contain the same amount of fat and sugar as other cookies. In an attempt for a big, soft, chewy cookie with lower fat and calories, I decided to whip up a batch of Hungry Girl's Oatmeal Raisin Softies. This recipe uses light butter, applesauce, and egg beaters to create significantly lower stats. Not only are the nutrition facts impressive, but the flavor and texture are equally as great. Often, a cookie deemed "healthy" or "only 100 calories" can be advertised in that way because of the tiny size or portion. I just can't justify 100 calories for a quarter-sized treat. These cookies are large and soft and chewy. They are also filling as each cookie contains 2g of fiber. This would be a great addition to your kids lunch box. Let them help bake the cookies to be a part of part of making a tasty, nutritious treat.
Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
from Hungry Girl
serves 12

1 1/2 cups regular oats
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 cup Splenda (or Truvia)
1/4 cup light butter
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup egg beaters
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, Splenda, butter, applesauce, egg beaters, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly with a wire whisk.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stir until completely mixed and smooth.
  4. Add oats and raisins and mix until are thoroughly coated with the batter.
  5. Spoon batter onto baking sheet in evenly spaced mounds. Using the back of the spoon, flatten batter into circles about 3 1/2" wide.
  6. Bake for 12-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cookie comes out clean.
Nutrition: 125 calories, 24g carbohydrate, 3g protein, 3g fat, 2g fiber, 2 weight watchers points

Sunday, January 23, 2011

That's a Wrap

Made famous by P.F. Chang and also served at other restaurants including Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen, lettuce wraps are a popular Chinese-inspired appetizer choice. Since it is usually a large serving, I tend to order lettuce wraps for my meal. There is something so appealing about the warm chicken and veggie combination served against the cool, crisp lettuce. The sauce in the meat mixture along with the similar dipping sauce makes for an amazing flavor combination. This is a recipe that I would never be able to recreate on my own as I had no idea what ingredients could provide such a succulent sensation. With the help of a fellow blogger, I have perfected this recipe and have gotten compliments by everyone who has tried it. I would have to say the most sincere compliment is from the boyfriend who licks the plate clean after each serving (literally). This is by no means a quick week night meal. There is a lot of chopping and dicing involved but with the help of a veggie chopper, it is not too bad. I would suggest preparing the meat, veggies, and sauces ahead of time. Then the actual cooking time is only about 15 minutes.  Most recipes that I make require quite a bit of nutrition modifications to get them to the point that I will eat them. The original recipe is pretty healthy as it, full of lean protein and veggies with very little fat. I have given the nutrient analysis based on 6 servings with each serving making 2 lettuce wraps for only 95 calories. You can divide the recipe to make 4 larger portions and each serving would still only amount to 142 calories! This is a great meal to serve to guests because it looks fancy and tastes fabulous. I served it over boiled whole grain brown rice along with a dipping sauce that I will post about later. The sauce is so similar to the white sauce served at Japanese steakhouses. It is quite amazing!

Lettuce Wraps
adapted from Fashionably Foodie
serves 6

3 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large carrot
8 whole mushrooms
3 green onions
1 red bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 can water chestnuts, drained
1 head iceberg lettuce (leaves washed and separated in wholes)

(double in order to make dipping sauce)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Splenda
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sriracha sauce (asian chile sauce)
1/2 cup soy sauce
  1. Boil chicken breast for 15 minutes or until cooked thoroughly. Chop finely to the size of a corn kernel.
  2. Finely grate the carrot. Finely dice the onion, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and bell pepper to the same size of the chicken.
  3. Whisk together the sauce ingredients. If you doubled the sauce to make the dipping sauce, set half aside.
  4. Spray a large pan with cooking spray. Add onions, mushrooms, and bell pepper. Saute for 2 minutes to soften. 
  5. Add chicken, water chestnuts, and garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. 
  6. Add sauce to pan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced. Add grated carrot. 
  7. For dipping sauce, add an additional 1/2 tsp sriracha sauce and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes to the reserved sauce.

Nutrition: 95 calories, 7g carbohydrate, 14g protein, 2g fat, 1g fiber, 2 weight watchers points
Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fake N' Bake

I assumed that after graduation I would be searching for recipes to blog about in order to fill my empty schedule. Not quite the case. Between traveling, preparing for grad school, and painting, I am actually behind on posting about recipes that I have already made. In addition, I have recently become pretty infatuated with interior design. After moving back home, I decided it was time to completely make-over my bedroom. While I splurged on my Pottery Barn bedding and curtains, I have made a lot of my own decorations and found more frugal substitutes to designer inspirations. Since this sort of thing has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition, I am thinking of starting another blog to document my "do-it-yourself" home improvement projects along with "before and after" photography. Don't worry though, because this newly found interest will never compare to my passion for nutrition and development of healthy recipes.

The actual point of this post is to give you a very easy alternative to a popular fast food item. Fried chicken fingers are everywhere. From McDonald's to Zaxby's to O'Charley's, you can find chicken fingers in an assortment of restaurants. The amount of calories varies by place, but these are never a healthy option, especially considering that their typical accompaniment is french fries. While this is not actually a recipe, I want to share with you a great way to make crispy chicken fingers (or nuggets) at home in the oven. The key ingredient (besides chicken) is Shake N' Bake Extra Crispy seasoned coating mix. Not only is it healthier than frying your tenders, but much easier too. Just wash and trim your chicken. Drop it in the bag of mix. Shake. and Bake. I'm not saying that you could fool someone into believing these are fried but they are crispy and full of flavor. I like to serve them with my cauliflower casserole (recipe coming soon) and a green veggie for a healthy southern meal. There are also other flavors of Shake N Bake including Crispy Buffalo, Ranch and Herb Crusted, Hot & Spicy, BBQ glaze, and Parmesan (used for my Eggplant Parmesan and Chicken Parmesan recipes).

Baked Chicken Fingers
serves 4

1 pound boneless skinless chicken tenders (or breast cut to tender size)
1 packet Shake N Bake Extra Crispy seasoned coating mix (There are 2 packets in the box)

  1. Place seasoning mix in the bag that comes with it. Drop chicken tenders into bag one or two at a time. Shake to coat.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil and cooking spray (for easy clean-up). Spread coated chicken tenders out on sheet and bake for 25 minutes (The box says 20 minutes but I always do 25).
***Use 2 pounds of chicken and both packets of seasoning mix to serve 8

Nutrition: 153 calories, 11g carbohydrate, 25g protein, 2g fat, 0g fiber, 3 weight watchers points

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Best of Blueberry

Today I bring you another "seldom splurge" recipe; and these blueberry muffins are well worth the splurge.  As much as I love to get rid of unhealthy ingredients in recipes, some definitely belong in baked goods. In my opinion these muffins have everything that is necessary in a good pastry. The texture is soft and moist. The flavor is sweet, but not too sweet. The streusel topping is crumbly with a hint of cinnamon. And each bite includes a delicious blueberry burst. These are seriously one of my favorite breakfast indulgences. While I would consider them a "splurge" because they do contain over 200 calories per muffin, they are still quite healthy in relation to restaurant and bakery muffins. At Starbucks a blueberry muffin racks up 360 calories. A similar treat at Dunkin Donuts contains a whopping 480 calories and Panera Bread's blueberry muffin will cost you 390 calories. To keep my muffin recipe from having as many calories as my dinner, I did make a few substitutions. I traded whole wheat pastry flour for white flour and used fat free milk and light butter. If you are stuck in the house due to ice like we are here in Alabama, whip up a batch of these blueberry streusel muffins and inhale the sweet aroma as they bake.

Oh, and a big thanks to my cousin Lindsey for the super cute Cynthia Rowley plate in my pictures. The other plates that she gave me for Christmas will be making an appearance very soon. Not only does she give the best gifts ever, she also has an amazing blog. Lindsey is so creative and her blog details projects and diy crafts that she has documented as she has began her journey as a newly-wed. Check out it out Novemberly Ever After.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
serves 12

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup fat free milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

streusel topping
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup light butter
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
  3. In a small bow combine oil, egg, and milk. Stir until egg is beaten.
  4. Add oil mixture to flour mixture and combine just until moist.
  5. Toss blueberries in a sprinkle of flour (This keeps them from sinking to the bottom of the muffin) and then stir into batter.
  6. Evenly distribute batter among muffin cups. 
  7. In a medium bowl, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix in butter with a fork to create a crumb texture.
  8. Spoon streusel mixture evenly over each muffin cup.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes.
Nutrition: 225 calories, 36g carbohydrate, 2g protein, 8g fat, 1g fiber, 5 weight watcher points

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Start the New Year Right with Shrimp and Grits Made Light

It is the time of year to set your New Year's resolutions into action. A popular goal for many people is to eat healthier, whether you are  looking to lose weight or just to treat your body better. Broad, long term goals are difficult to achieve because it is hard to stay motivated when the change that you yearn for seems to be nowhere in sight. The best way to reach your ultimate goal is to create short term objectives along with a personal reward system. All of your goals and objectives should be specific and measurable. For example if you want to lose weight in 2011, you should begin with objectives that you are confident that you can meet. You may plan to walk for 30 minutes a day, four times a week; cut your daily calorie intake by 300 calories; eat one serving of fruit each day; and cook a healthy meal twice per week. Once you have stuck to your plan, reward yourself with something like a manicure (not food). Then you can begin to challenge yourself by increasing the intensity of your objectives.

Many people dread healthy eating or dieting because of the foods that they associate it with. It is a common misconception that in order to lose weight, you must eat tiny portions that leave you hungry or bland meals of boiled chicken and steamed vegetables. I feel that many of my recipes offer people a way to enjoy the foods they love, while keeping calories in check. Inspired by my recent New Years trip to New Orleans, this post is proof that southern comfort food can have a place in your healthy diet. Shrimp and Grits is a very common dish in the lower states and is typically loaded with butter, heavy cream, and cheese. After swapping those ingredients for healthier alternatives, the dish was absolutely delicious. It was still creamy, comforting, and full of flavor- everything that Shrimp and Grits should be.

Shrimp and Grits
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 6

2 cups fat free milk
3/4 cup fat free chicken broth
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded parmesan
2 tbsp light butter
3 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup egg whites (whites from 2 eggs)
1 pound peeled and deveined medium-sized shrimp, cut in half
1 tbsp light butter

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 11x7 or 9x9 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium sauce pan, combine milk and broth. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add grits and salt and stir continuously with a whisk for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Add parmesan and butter. Stir until cheese is melted.
  5. Add cream cheese, parsley, chives, garlic, lemon juice, and egg whites. Stir to combine.
  6. Transfer grits into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. In a large skillet, saute shrimp in butter until pink and done (about 5 minutes).
  8. Stir cooked shrimp into the baked grits dish.
Nutrition: 284 calories, 23g carbohydrate, 25g protein, 9g fat, 1g fiber, 6 weight watchers points

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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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