Monday, March 30, 2009

Garlic Chicken Pasta

Garlic Chicken Pasta

4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp dried basil (crush in hand first), use 2 Tbsp if using fresh basil
6 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup chopped tomatoes (I used halved grape tomatoes)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 pkg. grilled chicken strips (or own chicken)
1 box pasta, (bow tie or thin spaghetti) cooked and drained
1/3 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
(If you are cooking your own chicken, cut into 1 inch pieces and season with salt and pepper; cook in Olive oil then add basil and garlic)
Cook pasta. In large skillet heat oil, basil & garlic for 2 minutes. Stir in chicken and heat approximately 4 minutes. Add pasta, onion, and tomato. Stir & heat 2 minutes. Stir in cheese, season with salt & pepper.
My kids had been begging for shrimp so I added it to this recipe (and I had forgotten the green onions, so they aren't in this picture). This is a great weekday meal that won't heat up your kitchen. You can even grill the chicken out on the BBQ'er for even better flavor.

Chicken Pasta Salad

As the temperatures start to climb, I love to cook recipes that don't require me to heat up the house. This is one of our family's favorite dinners. This recipe is versatile, so if you like more celery or grapes or whatever, just add it.

Chicken Pasta Salad

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes.
Grapes, halved (to taste like 1 cup)
Celery, sliced (to taste like ½ cup)
1 (15 oz) can of pineapple tidbits, drained
4 green onions, sliced
2 apples, peeled, cored, sliced and chunked, fuji’s are our favorite
2/3 to 1 box of bow tie noodles, cooked as per instructions on box

Season chicken with garlic salt. Fry in salted butter with a little olive oil (to keep the butter from burning) until done but not dry. In a large mixing bowl make the dressing:

2 (one serving containers) Yoplait French Vanilla yogurt
½ cup mayonnaise
3 Tbsp honey
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste (1/2 to 1 tsp)

After the dressing has been combined, add pineapple, grapes, apples, celery, green onions, chicken and cooked and drained noodles. Stir to combine and enjoy.

White Velvet Sugar Cookie

Growing up, Sunday afternoons meant making something sweet with Mom in the kitchen and fighting off siblings for the chance to lick the spoon, or better yet, the whole bowl. Yesterday we spent the afternoon making cookies, (reminding the kids about a million times that they have to cool before we could frost them) and decorating them just in time for a bedtime snack. They are the best sugar cookies I have had, and I thank Melanie G. from her blog My Kitchen Cafe for finding a sugar cookie recipe that I couldn't mess up! Now I just have to work on my decorating skills.

White Velvet Sugar Cookie

2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
4 1/4 to 4 3/4 cups flour (I used the 4 3/4 cup, but I live in a very dry climate)

Cream butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy. Add sugar, egg yolks and vanilla; mix well. Gradually add flour. The dough will be VERY soft, but will get firm as it cools in the fridge. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge (I split it up into thirds to chill) for 2 hours or until firm. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into shapes; place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until set, but not browned. Place on wire racks to cool.

Sugar Cookie Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
a pinch of salt
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4-6 Tbsp milk
Food Coloring (if desired) (Using the food coloring drops might thin your frosting, so just add more powdered sugar, or use the food coloring gel, Wilton's is the brand Melanie recommends)

Combine butter, vanilla, salt and beat until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar in 1-2 cup increments until combined. Add milk and food coloring until you reach your desired consistancy.

Whipped Frosting

1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, salt and vanilla. Beat until light and fluffy. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. (Using a chilled bowl and beaters help) Fold whipping cream gently into the cream cheese mixture. This frosting is not sickly sweet and stays soft so all the little sugars and stuff stick very well.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Low-fat Cupcake Brownies/Brownie Babies

Sometimes I just HAVE to have brownies. No, really. The world will end if I do not satisfy my chocolate brownie craving. Lucky for you, and the rest of the planet, I found a way to soothe the choco-beast and still keep my girlish figure. Found this Weight Watchers recipe on-line.

Brownies for one point. Bring it, baby.

I made some up to show you -- but Brian and John scarfed them all down. Sheesh. Boys. ;-)

Weight Watchers Cupcake Brownies/Brownie Babies
Serves 12
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, plus...
1 tablespoon brown sugar, all firmly packed
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. In a bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
3. In a second bowl, stir together remaining ingredients.
4. Pour liquid mixture over flour mixture.
5. Stir until batter is smooth.
6. Pour into a non-stick 12 hole muffin tin coated with cooking spray.
7. Fill cups until half full.
8. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.
9. Remove from oven.
10. Let stand 5 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool.

A couple of things here:

Katie ran from the room screaming (ok, not really) when she saw me putting in cider vinegar and applesauce into a BROWNIE recipe. Trust me: it works. Go with it.

Also, I like to double this recipe. It doesn't quite fill 12 cups in my cupcake pan as the recipe's written.

My favorite way to make these is to use my *mini* muffin pan.
I call them Brownie Babies. Just cook them for 10 minutes instead of 18. I can make lots of little mini-brownies and have TWO for one point. You feel very naughty for chomping a bunch of these brownies babies, but you're still being good.
Brownie Baby Sundaes
We like to make brownie sundaes by warming the babies up, putting them in the bottom of a bowl, and topping them with low-fat ice cream and light chocolate syrup. Maybe some fat-free Reddi-Whip too. Yummers.
Choco-beast happy. ♥

Friday, March 13, 2009

Menu Planning

I saw a post out there in blogland today about menu planning -- they gave a lot of good ideas. (I'll share some of the links below.) Made me wonder how everyone else does their menu planning.

  • Are you a "standing in front of the fridge at 4:30pm" kind of person? (been there, done that)
  • Do you have yours all worked out meticulously for set period of time?
  • Do you freeze meals ahead of time?
  • Do you ever repeat menus to save time and effort?
  • Do you have set nights of the week for certain meals?

Here's what I do: I plan our menus for 2 weeks at a time. Why? It matches pay periods, perishable foods usually last in that time period, and I find menu planning pretty tedious and I can't bear to plan it out longer than fortnightly! LOL

With our new Weight Watchin' kick, I find if I plan more what we're going to eat, then that double-cheese-baconburger doesn't find my behind, 'cause we're not hungry and desperate to find something to eat at a drive-through. With our current job loss, it's become really important to make meals that match our budget, and keeps us from making miscellaneous trips to the grocery store. Don't you just love that $27 can of cream of mushroom soup? :-)

To help me, I made a menu planning sheet; a table on one sheet of paper. It shows my 2 weeks and the days of the week. It also has spaces for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I usually only plan the dinners. During the week, breakfasts are do it yourself. Lunches are either leftovers or a quick sandwich or eaten at school. I do plan brekkies and lunches (a little) on the weekends. If you want a copy of my menu planning sheet, leave a comment and I'll send you one.

Some of my resources are:

  • Healthy Cooking magazine (used to be Light and Tasty)
  • Katie's favorites
  • old family recipes, the "tried and trues"
  • some old Weight Watchers mini cookbooks (the 5 ingredient ones are the best!)
  • a couple of really useful old cookbooks
  • the internet
Here are some links to some really good ideas on menu planning. Please share yours! What's cooking with your menu planning? Search for menu planning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cookie Sundae... Pzookie... Whatever!

Oh yeah. Come to Mama.
(sorry. did I say that out loud?)
So, John and Katie and I were all feeling a little sorry for ourselves with the recent snowstorm that hit our neighborhood. (Let's just say we are more than just a little ready for spring to get here.) We needed a little pick-me-up.
This takes a smidge of creativity when you're working on a spartan budget, but I was just the woman for the job. :-) I remembered something that took us to our happy place before, at a local restaurant called Pizza Factory. A dessert called "Never on Sundae".
It's slightly undercooked cookie dough served in a hot skillet, topped with ice cream and chocolate, etc. I've seen it called Cookie Sundae, Pzookie (pizza+cookie, get it?), Skookie ... I really don't care what you want to call it. It's. Good. And it's just what we needed.
Here's how we did it:
Scrounged around and found some cute heart shaped baking pans leftover from Valentine's Day. Much cuter that some old skillet -- and hey, it'll keep the portion size down. Then, we made us up some chocolate chip cookie dough, and pressed it into the bottom of the pans.
We put the pans in the oven at 350° F, for about 8 minutes. Watch the dough -- you want it to look like this:
barely cooked, still ooey-gooey in the center.

Ice cream and chocolate on standby... using the lighter versions of each will keep this dessert to about 6 points.
Plunk a big scoop of vanilla on top of the cookie dough...
...and drizzle with chocolate sauce.
There you go. Whatever you want to call it, I'm in my happy place right now. Enjoy. ♥

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti Sauce

2 lbs ground beef, or you can do 1 lb ground beef, 1 lb italian sausage
2 onions, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 (16 oz) cans of Tomato sauce (I do 2 of the big cans)
3 (6 oz) cans Tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tsp dried oregano
3 tsp dried basil
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp marjoram

Brown the hamburger then drain. Rinse the pan of fat the add olive oil and onions; cook until translucent. Add cooked hamburger and minced garlic. Warm through; when you can smell the garlic, add the tomato sauce and tomato paste and seasonings. Stir to combine. Simmer for 30 minutes. Serve over pasta or use for homemade lasagna.

*This recipe freezes really well. You can certainly brown the meat and onions together, but I like to do them separately to avoid the fat.
This was originally made for our family by the MiaMaids in our ward right after Cory's brain surgery. They brought dinner that night and 2 more bags of sauce to put into the freezer. It is my kids' favorite sauce, and mine as well. Not only is it yummy, but it reminds me of the thoughtfulness of my family-away-from-family.
Recipe courtesy of Nell W.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Red Lobster Biscuits

I don't think I've used this recipe since our Wymount Days. Thanks for requesting it; I feel like I've reunited with an old friend. (:

2 c. Bisquick
2/3 c. milk
1/2 c. shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 c. melted butter or margarine
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. parsley (optional)

Mix together Bisquick and milk (stir just until moistened). Fold in cheese. Drop by teaspoons on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes at 450 degrees. While baking, mix together melted butter, garlic powder and parsley. After biscuits are cooked (and before they're too cool), brush with butter mixture.

Recipes to Remember: Rogers Arkansas Stake Relief Society Cookbook, p. 154

Monday, March 2, 2009

Low-Fat Black Forest Trifle

This recipe is a favorite at our house. Lots of yummy goodness, and not a lot of calories! The way we're making it in this recipe has only 3 points per serving (serving = 1 cup). Woo-hoo! That's a pretty good lookin' dessert, and your caboose stays good lookin', too! ;-)

Here's what we need: reduced fat angel food cake (we make it all the time with regular angel food cake, and just add a point), light cherry pie filling, sugar free-fat free chocolate pudding mix, and light Cool Whip (thawed).

Start by cutting up the angel food cake into bite-sized pieces. Then, get your pudding ready. Open up your cherry-pie filling can.

Time to start layering. First, put about half of the bite-sized cake pieces in the bottom of the bowl. Then add about half of your chocolate pudding on top of the cake pieces.

Now it's time for the cherry pie filling. Again, just use half. Spread it around on top of the pudding to make the cherry layer. Now, add half of the tub of Cool Whip for the whipped cream layer.

Repeat! Use the remaining ingredients: layer the cake, pudding, cherries, and Cool Whip again.

Easy, peasy, huh?