Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper Chipotle Sauce

This sauce is pretty yummy, and doesn't need to be limited to crabcake use.  I even put some on top of the Cucumber Leek Avocado Soup that I made along with the crab cakes for dinner.  I made basically the same Crab Cakes that I posted before (except I subbed regular onion for green onion and actually refrigerated them for a bit after shaping and before frying, which helps them hold together better).  They were wonderful again (I mean look at that picture.. how can it NOT be delicious?)

My attempts at photography were unsuccessful when I was taking a picture of the sauce by itself, so I've just posted some of it on top of the crab cakes and the soup.

Here's what you need:
1/4 EACH fat-free cream cheese, light mayo, and low-fat yogurt.  Or adjust quantities to your liking, I usually go with a little more yogurt and a little less mayo.  
1 teaspoons EACH lemon juice and worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon garlic paste (you can usually find this cheap at Asian Groceries, or just use roasted garlic or garlic powder)
2-3 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper (I used the jarred stuff, but homemade would be even better)
1 chipotle pepper from the can plus a little of the adobo sauce
2-3 tablespoons diced onion

Mix everything in a small container and use an immersion blender to puree.  Or blend it up in the blender or food processor.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving to let flavors meld.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cucumber, Leek, and Avocado Soup

I overstocked on cucumbers last week and they've been getting to the point where they needed to be used up.  So... soup!  Soup is always a good way to use things up.  And I had most of an avocado to use up as well as some leeks that were borderline slimy around the edges.

This could probably be served at any temperature... I tasted it hot right after making it, but served it lukewarm once I had finished the rest of dinner.  Both were delicious. Tomorrow I'll see how it works chilled for lunch.

I served this with crab cakes and a red pepper and chipotle sauce that I made to go with the crab cakes.  It looked pretty on top of the green of the soup.

What you need:

1 teaspoon oil olive
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, sliced thinly
2 medium english cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/2 white wine
2 cups broth of choice (I used seafood concentrate broth because I was out of chicken broth and was serving this with crab anyway)
2 chipotle peppers
3/4 large avocado (I used the local variety... they are similar to "Florida" avocados back in the States... milder flavor and lower in fat than Hass and much larger)
2 cups Silk Coconut Milk (or regular milk)
3 tablespoons fat free cream cheese

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add leeks, garlic, and a hefty pinch of salt.  Saute until beginning to soften and then add the cucumbers.  Keep cooking until cucumbers are very translucent.  Add the wine and broth and bring to boil.  Turn off heat. Add the chipotle peppers, avocado, coconut milk, and cream cheese.  Puree until smooth with an immersion blender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Try serving with a little goat cheese on top or my new crab cake sauce (once I post it).  Enjoy!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chipotle Vegetable Soup

Mmm... I love pureed soups.  And nice autumny ones like this help me feel more like it's Fall, even though it doesn't seem like it here in the Caribbean.  This came about because I had certain things that needed to be used up in the fridge, the vegetable mixture is a little random.  I'm sure variations depending on what you have in your vegetable drawer would work as well.  

I served this with Pan-Seared Red Snapper and garlic bread for Rob.

What you need:
1 pound fresh pumpkin
1 large carrot
olive oil spray
salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped roughly
1 head of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3 stalks of celery, sliced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2-3 canned chipotle peppers plus a little of the adobo sauce (I used 2, but was torn between wanting more.  The flavor definitely came through with two, but 3 would have added some nice heat)
3 cups broth of choice (I used seafood in this because I was serving it with fish and had concentrated seafood broth packets that I wanted to try... but normally I'd use chicken)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 spicy V-8 juice (or tomato juice)
2 cups Silk Coconut Milk (or regular milk- I like this because it is slightly sweet which is nice with the pumpkin, and tastes richer than skim milk, which has comparable calories)
3-4 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese
1-2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
goat cheese and red pepper flakes

Start by roasting the pumpkin and carrot.  This can be done ahead of time if you want.  Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cut pumpkin into VERY rough chunks (maybe a few inches across) and the carrot into smaller rough chunks (about 1 inch pieces).  Spray a baking sheet with olive oil and spread the pumpkin and carrot across it.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Spray again with oil and then roast for about an hour, or until cooked through.  Set aside (or refrigerate until ready to use if doing this a while ahead).

Now for the rest of the soup: Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Add onions, celery, garlic, and bell pepper.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just slightly beginning to brown.  Add in the roasted pumpkin and carrot, the broth, the soy sauce, and the spicy V-8.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium-low and cover with a lid.  Let simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the milk, cream cheese, and apple cider vinegar.  Use an immersion blender to puree.  At this point, you may want to add more salt and pepper... I did (but I like salty and peppery).

Serve with a little crumbled goat cheese and red pepper flakes on top.  Enjoy!

Pan-fried Red Snapper

This is pretty simple, but still tasty.  I paired it with a Chipotle Vegetable Soup and a served it with a little bottled McCormick's Cajun Seafood Sauce, because I didn't feel like making my own sauce (I like sauce on EVERYTHING. Rob ate his just with lemon).  Next time I think I'll get more creative and make up some sort of awesome homemade sauce to put on it, but the bottled stuff wasn't half bad.

I made three fillets because I was making this for two and also wanted a some leftover.  Just adjust everything a bit if you want to make more or less.

What you need:

3 (6 oz) Red Snapper Fillets, cut in half
1/2 cup flour
Garlic Powder, Black Pepper, Cajun Seasoning, Salt
Olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving

Take fillets out of the fridge about 20 minutes before cooking.  Pour flour onto a plate and mix in the seasonings (I used about 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning, and a hefty pinch of salt).  Dry fillets on a paper towel and then dredge in flour, shaking off excess.  Heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in a saucepan over high heat.  Place 3 pieces of fish, non-skin side down, into the pan.  Cook for 2 minutes, or until beginning to blacken, and then flip and cook for another 2 minutes. When fish is done, it should flake with a fork.  Repeat with other three pieces of fish, adding a little more oil to the pan for this second batch.  Serve with lemon wedges.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pan-Seared T-Bone Steak with Creamy Portobello Mushroom Sauce

No need for a grill to make a delicious steak, especially when it's topped with a delicious mushroom sauce.  I served this with a variation on Roasted Romaine Hearts.  Instead of just using olive oil, salt, and pepper, I also added a little crumbled bleu cheese in between the leaves before broiling and drizzled it with balsamic vinegar afterwards.  Yum!

Just to warn you, this makes a lot of sauce, so you may want to halve the recipe if you are only planning on serving two people.  I don't mind the leftovers myself as I'm sure I'll find some other use for this awesome sauce (maybe an excuse to make more steak?).  

What you need:

2 T-Bone steaks (not sure how much they weighed, but they looked pretty average, other than being on the thin side)
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 small-medium onion, finely diced
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely diced
2 medium-large portobello mushrooms, diced
Salt and pepper
1/2-3/4 cup red wine (I used a Merlot)
1 cup beef broth
1 cup milk or cream (I used 1 % milk)
3-4 tablespoons light cream cheese
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Olive oil

Take the steaks out of the frig about half of an hour before you'll be cooking them (I took mine out at the same time I started the sauce).  Melt the butter in a pot over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, garlic, and a pinch of salt.  Stir and let cook for a few minutes until they start to become translucent.  Add the mushrooms and cook for a few more minutes.  Add some pepper and the red wine.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the milk and beef broth.  Turn heat to low and continue to simmer as you cook the steaks.

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Pat steaks dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a large saucepan over high heat and add a teaspoon or so of olive oil.  When oil begins to pop, place steaks in the pan and sear for 2 minutes on each side (My pan was actually only big enough to do one at a time, so I did them one at a time).  Place steaks on a baking sheet and then put in the oven.  Cook for 4-10 minutes, depending on thickness and how well done you want them to be (my steaks were thin- about 1/2 inch thick.  Since I like mine rare, I skipped out on the oven finishing, but put Rob's in for 4 minutes while mine was still searing).  Take out of the oven and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

While the steaks rest, finish the mushroom sauce:  Add the cream cheese and stir to mix.  Mix the cornstarch with a tablespoon of water and stir until there are no clumps.  Add this to the sauce and let cook for a minute, or until nicely thickened. Add the parsley.  Done!

Serve with the sauce spooned over the steak.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Simple Chicken and Vegetable Stew (CrockPot Recipe)

This is SO quick and easy to make.  Well, quick if you don't count the 4-5 hours it takes in the CrockPot.  But, it's only 10 minutes of prep to start and maybe another 5 minutes near the end.  And it's tasty- reminds me of chicken and dumplings, minus any actual dumplings (though you could add some in if you wanted).  I usually brown the meat I am using when I do things in my CrockPot (to add flavor), but today I didn't feel like it.  In fact, I didn't even feel like taking the chicken out to thaw early enough.  So I put it in completely frozen and obviously un-browned.  And, yep, it's still delicious in the end, and WAY less work.  You could even put everything in the pot the night before and refrigerate it until morning and let it cook while you are at work, or running errands, or whatever.

What you need:

11/2-2 pounds chicken tenderloins, frozen or thawed (just cook a little less if yours are thawed)
1 medium onion, chopped into rough chunks
2 stalks of celery, chopped
8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, either sliced in half or quartered
1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into 1 inch slices and quartered
1 (13 ounce) can of 98% fat free cream of mushroom soup
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano

Place chicken in the crockpot first.  Top with the onion and celery, then the mushrooms, and finally the squash.  Pour the cream of mushroom soup, the worcestershire sauce, and a 1/2 cup of water over the top.  Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours.  Remove cover and add the cherry tomatoes.  Scoop out a couple tablespoons of the broth and place in a small dish.  Stir the cornstarch into this and keep stirring (or whisking) until smooth.  Add back into the crockpot.  Add the garlic powder, pepper, parsley, and oregano.  Keep cooking on high for 20 minutes uncovered to let it thicken a bit.  And done!

Try serving it by itself, with croutons, or over rice. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Carrot-Sweet Potato Hummus

I made this using some of the leftovers from yesterday's Carrot-Sweet Potato Puree.  Tastes mostly like the regular hummus I make, with a little extra flavor.  Though that might be due to the slightly disgusting amounts of raw garlic I put in it... it's hard to taste too much of.  Anyway, it's delicious.  I also added a little tapenade-like topping for extra pizzazz, but you can skip it if you don't feel like it.  It's pretty intense, what with the extra raw garlic and red pepper flakes.  But I think it's delicious.

What you need:
1 cup Carrot-Sweet Potato Puree (or just roast enough sweet potatoes or carrots to make a cup and add those in with a little extra liquid)
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 head of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (or just a few cloves- the raw garlic flavor it pretty intense, so if you don't support a pretty passionate love affair with garlic, reduce it)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
3-4 tablespoons tahini
1-2 teaspoons chili oil
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon fat-free italian dressing (or just add olive oil... I'm just trying to cut back a bit on the calories and this works well for me)

Simply put everything into the blender or food processor and puree.  In the blender, you'll definitely have to stir it around a few times to get everything to blend.  If it still isn't working, add a little more italian dressing or olive oil.  Refrigerate for at least an hour to let it firm up and allow the flavors to meld a bit.  Top with my tapenade-y stuff (recipe below) or just leave it plain.  Enjoy!

Oh, and try making some Veggie Chips to dip with.  Awesome.  Or stick with baby carrots, cucumber slices, or the chips of your choice.


Chop the following finely and mix together along with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt:

2-3 tablespoon pecans, toasted
4-6 cloves of garlic
scant 1/4 cup dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons green olives
up to 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Carrot-Sweet Potato Puree

A nice side dish for fall. I served it last night with my Pork Chop Slop.  

I'm thinking about making leftovers into hummus for a little variation (blending it up with chickpeas, tahini, and more garlic).  I also think it would be good as an oven bake with a bread crumb/ nut topping, or thinned down with chicken broth into a soup.  But it's pretty darn tasty in it's own right as well, so don't feel like you need to change a thing.

What you need:

1 large sweet potato
2 medium/large carrots
1 medium onion
Olive oil spray
Salt and pepper
1/2-1 cup water
2 cups Silk Coconut Milk (not the regular canned stuff.  If you want to use that, I'd recommend just using 1/2-1 cup of it and adding water to make up the difference.  Or just regular milk, maybe 1%)
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
2-3 teaspoons curry powder
2-3 teaspoons Ketjap Manis or soy sauce

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cut sweet potato and carrots into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes.  Spray a baking sheet with olive oil.  Spread sweet potato and carrot chunks across it.  Peel onion and cut in half.  Place both halves on the baking sheet.  Spray with olive oil again and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 40-50 minutes, flipping once, until cooked and slightly browned.  Dump the vegetables into a large pot and pour 1/2 cup of water over them.  Turn heat on stove to medium-high and bring the water to boil.  Boil for a few minutes and then add the coconut milk, garlic powder, curry powder, and Ketjap Manis.  Bring to a boil again and reduce heat a little.  Cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes and carrots are quite tender.  Use an immersion blender to puree (at this point, add a little more water if needed to help with the blending). Add any extra seasoning if needed (I needed to add a bit more salt to mine).  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pork Chop Slop (Pork Chops Smothered in Vegetable-y Sauce)

Okay, I guess that isn't the most appetizing name, but the rhyming amused me and it's a very appropriate title.  As evidenced by the picture.  And while it won't win any food beauty awards, this stuff IS pretty tasty. I served it with a carrot-sweet potato puree and homemade croutons leftover from the other day.  You could also try it over rice.  This makes four generous servings (one pork chop and a ton of vegetable-y sauciness).

I went with really simple seasonings today, but when I try this again, I think I'll add some herbs- maybe oregano, sage, basil.  The simplicity was kind of nice though- good comfort food.

What you need:

4 pork chops, trimmed of fat around the outside edge
Olive oil spray
Salt and pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 leek, sliced thinly
1/2 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces and then quartered
1 large portobello mushroom, sliced into small pieces
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 (13 ounce) can of 98% fat-free cream of mushroom soup
2 cups water
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 dry red wine
1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese
Red pepper flakes (optional)

Spray a large pot with olive oil and heat over high heat.  Season pork chops with salt and pepper and sear, about 3-4 minutes on each side, until browned.  Place browned pork chops on a plate.  I did this in batches of two.  Add the onion and celery to the pan along with a little bit of water.  Use a spatula to scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the leek, zucchini, mushroom, and bell pepper.  Stir everything around and cook for a few more minutes, or until everything begins to soften and gets a little browned.  Add the cream of mushroom soup, the water, worcestershire sauce, and garlic powder.  Add the pork chops back in and spoon the veggies and sauce over them.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 20-30 minutes, mixing everything around once or twice.  Uncover, add the red wine and cream cheese and mix well.  If it is really soupy, let it simmer a bit more until the sauce has a gravy-like thickness.  Taste test and add more salt, pepper, garlic powder if needed (I went with a bunch of black pepper).

To serve, scoop out a pork chop and spoon a bunch of the sauce over it.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes for a little spice if you want.  Enjoy!

Taco Casserole or Dip

This a great weeknight dinner- it's pretty quick and could also be made ahead of time and then baked when you need it.  It would also make good party food or could be used as a hearty appetizer.

What you need:
1 pound lean ground beef (or if you are like me and on an island where you can't get lean ground beef, see my tips on de-fatting below)
1 medium onion, chopped into small pieces
2 stalks of celery
1 red bell pepper
4-5 pickled serrano or jalapeno peppers
1/2 medium zucchini
1 packet taco seasoning (I used a hot and spicy kind)
2-3 teaspoons soy sauce
2-3 fresh tomatoes
1 tablespoon garlic powder (or less if you're not a garlic person)
1 cup of your favorite salsa
3/4 cup taco sauce
1 can refried beans (I used a can of low fat refried black beans this time around)
1 cup shredded cheese (a mixture of cheddar and monterey jack is good)
Tortilla chips, for dipping
Salsa, guacamole, sour cream

Brown the ground beef in a large pot over medium heat.  Once it is cooked through, add the onion, celery, bell pepper, serrano peppers, zucchini, taco seasoning, and soy sauce.  Cook, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, garlic, salsa, and taco sauce.  Continue to cook, stirring occasionally  until all vegetables are cooked and the sauce is thick, between 5-10 minutes.   While this is cooking, spread the black beans in a 9x9 inch pan.  Pour beef and vegetable mixture over the beans.  Sprinkle with the cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, or until bubbly and LIGHTLY browned on top.

Serve with tortilla chips and your favorite taco additions, such as salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.  Or skip the chips and just use a fork.  It works well too.


If using fatty ground beef (the stuff we have here is 20 % fat), try this:  Line a largish bowl with a thick layer of paper towels- I use 8 or 9, folded on top of one another.  After the beef has cooked, dump it into this bowl and wrap the edges of the paper towels up around it.  Place a few more paper towels on top.  Now squeeze the fat out!  The beef is going to be pretty hot, so you could try wearing gloves or using a spatula to help you (though I generally just go for it and I haven't suffered any major burns yet).  Once the first set of paper towels is soaked through, repeat with another, and that should do it.  It's actually pretty satisfying to see how much fat you get out and kinda makes me want to keep buying fatty beef even when I someday don't have to.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Homemade Croutons for Soup or Salad

I made these to go with this pumpkin-butternut squash soup.   They would also be perfect for a tomato or french onion soup.  Or just on salad.  Feel free to mix up the seasonings depending on what you are using them for.  I kept it simple here for this soup, but would definitely add different herbs and spices for different soups.  

What you need:

5 cups of cubed bread- each piece should be about a 3/4 inch cube (I used three largish sandwich rolls)
2-3 tablespoons butter, melted (if you want them to be richer, add a bit more butter)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
garlic powder, salt, pepper (I used 1-2 teaspoons of EACH)

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place bread cubes in a large bowl.  Mix the butter, olive oil, red wine vinegar and seasonings in a bowl.  Drizzle over the bread and toss to coat evenly.  Spread onto a large baking sheet.  Bake for about 5 minutes, mix them around with a spatula, and return to oven.  Do this again a couple more times, or until there is no more moisture left and they are golden brown.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Soup

Pretending that it's Fall even though it never feels that way on Saba.  I was going to make a purely pumpkin soup, but they didn't have the fresh pumpkin in the grocery stores that they usually have.  However, they did actually have butternut squash, which is a rarity.  So I got that and a can of pumpkin and made do.  The results were pretty great and I didn't miss the fresh pumpkin at all.  Try serving it with croutons (I made some homemade ones) and maybe a little goat cheese.

What you need:

1 medium/large butternut squash
Olive oil spray
Salt and pepper
1 medium/large onion, chopped
1 leek, white part only, chopped
2 small/medium apples, cored and chopped, peeling optional (it all gets blended in the end, and the peel is healthy, and less work!)
5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups Silk coconut milk (not the regular canned kind.. that would make this really high fat and creamy- though probably delicious, so I go for it if you aren't concerned about the fat) OR try regular skim/ 1% milk or maybe almond milk

Start with roasting the squash:

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Slice squash in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds, spray with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place cut-side down on a baking sheet.  Roast for 40 minutes to an hour, or until it is cooked thoroughly (easily pierced by a fork).  Remove from oven and let cool until you can remove its skin.

For the rest of the soup:

Spray a large pot with olive oil.  Heat over medium and add the onion, leek, apple, and garlic.  Sprinkle in a little salt to get things going.  Cook until softened and just slightly browned.  Add in the roasted squash and can of pumpkin.  Stir and let brown just SLIGHTLY.  Add in the chicken broth and let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  Turn heat off, add in the milk and puree with an immersion blender until smooth.  Season with additional salt and pepper if needed.  Annnnnnd, that's it!  Pretty simple to make and super tasty!  Enjoy!

Roasted Romaine Hearts

My newest obsession:

It's healthy, delicious, super quick and easy.  Way better than eating regular lettuce- trust me.  For now (like the last four times I've made it, all in the past week), I like to spread my favorite low-fat dip (which I just posted) on it.  I will soon be trying some new variations- maybe sprinkling a little parmesan before broiling, or a little goat cheese after.  And maybe doing a bleu cheese and low-fat homemade ranch dressing, or a homemade caesar.  I think it could be used to amp up any regular salad, so try experimenting topping it with your usual favorite salad toppings.  Or eat it plain.  That's tasty too.

What you need (for one large or two smaller servings):

1 Romaine lettuce heart
Olive oil spray
Salt and pepper

Heat oven to broil on high.  Lightly spray a baking sheet with olive oil.  Slice Romaine heart down the center lengthwise.  Open it up and place on the baking sheet.  Spray with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Broil for 5-8 minutes, depending on how hot your broiler gets.  The lettuce should be browned in spots but not burnt.  Dress as you wish and enjoy!

Awesome Apple Bars

This recipe started with my mom's friend, and they've been a family favorite for years now.  I've made a couple slight changes to them (mostly because I have a serious compulsion to not follow any recipe I try).  They are a real crowd-pleaser and sturdy enough to pack up and bring places, such as the sides of sports fields to feed hungry post-game players.  Or serve them hot with a little whipped cream or ice cream.

What you need:

Crust Ingredients:
1 cup chilled butter, cut into 1/2 slices
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt

Filling Ingredients:
3 cups peeled and chopped apple (I used 5 small/medium ones)
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons EACH butterscotch liqueur or creme de cacao (or just use vanilla if that's what you have)

Glaze Ingredients:
2 cups powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2-4 tablespoons milk 

Start by making the crust:
Measure the flour, powdered sugar, and salt into a mixing bowl.  Cut the butter in using a pastry blender until it is evenly distributed and the mixture is crumbly with chunks no bigger than small peas.  Or, if you don't have a pastry blender, use forks or even your hands.  Chill the mixture for 10 minutes in the freezer (and maybe work cutting up those apples while you are doing this).  Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Press crust into two 8x8/ 9x9 pans or one 13x9 pan.  Bake for 15 minutes or until VERY lightly browned.

To make the filling:

Mix all of the filling ingredients together.  Plop evenly on top of the warm crusts.  Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and apples are cooked through.  If it is getting too brown at any point, cover with aluminum foil for the remaining baking time.  

Mix together glaze ingredients, adding enough milk to make a thick, but completely mixed, glaze.  Pour on top of hot apple bars. 

Let cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting into if you want to have presentable looking bars.  Or just dive in and get 'em while they're hot.  They may slop over a bit, but they'll still be delicious.  I made 32 small-ish bars out of this.  Enjoy!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Favorite Low-fat Dip

In my opinion, this goes great with everything.  My favorite use of it is with roasted veggie chips, but regular chips also work, or roasted romaine lettuce, or on top of chicken, or by the spoonful...  It's delicious and really pretty healthy.  I make slightly different versions of it all of the time, but what I'm listing below is pretty typical.  Feel feel to try your own experiments by adding a little mustard, a splash or lemon juice, chopped artichokes, olives, or some different veggies sauteed with the bacon.

What you need:

1 packet Lipton Vegetable Dip/Soup Mix
2 cups lowfat or fat free plain yogurt
4 ounces fat free cream cheese 
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
Olive oil spray 
3-4 slices turkey bacon, chopped into small bits
1 leek, sliced thinly (I've also substituted a little onion for this, and have also added in celery and/or mushroom at the point I add the leek)
3/4 cup frozen spinach
1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes 
Black pepper
Garlic Powder

Mix together the dip/soup mix, yogurt, cream cheese, and mayonnaise.  Spray a saucepan with a little olive oil, heat to medium, and saute the turkey bacon until it just begins to brown.  Add the leeks (and other veggies if you are doing so) and saute until slightly softened and browned.  Add in a little season-all (seasoned salt) and the spinach.  Stir around until the spinach thaws.  Let cool for a few minutes and then add this to the yogurt/cream cheese/mayo mix.  Stir in the sun-dried tomatoes.  Season to taste with the pepper and garlic powder.  Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mushroom, Onion, and Leek Soup

This was so good.  I can't wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow for lunch when it will probably be even better.  It was my first time making mushroom soup and my ingredients are a little random, because I just went with what I had and what I felt like throwing in.  But it turned out great, so now YOU should go out and buy these random ingredients so that you can make it too.  I did use a little real butter because there is something about mushrooms sauted in butter that can't be faked, but otherwise this is pretty darn healthy.  I served it alongside some broiled pumpkin butter-topped salmon and bagel chips (I was going to make homemade croutons for it, but ended up running out of time).  Anyway, the soup was awesome.

What you need:

2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
8 ounce container button mushrooms, sliced
1 portabella mushroom, sliced
1 leek, sliced into thin rings
1 head fresh garlic, cloves peeled and roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1 packet Onion and Mushroom Soup/Dip mix (I used Lipton Recipe Secrets)
1-2 teaspoons black pepper
3/4 cup 1 % milk
1/4 cup fat free cream cheese
1/4 cup red wine (I used a merlot)
Dried parsley
Shredded Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes (optional)

Start by sauteing the onions, mushrooms, and garlic in the butter over low heat.  After a couple minutes, add the leek.  Cook for another few minutes, or until everything is softened and JUST beginning to brown.  Add the beef broth, packet of soup mix, and the black pepper.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat, add the milk and the fat free cream cheese, and use an immersion blender to puree everything.  Stir in a little dried parsley and the red wine.  Season with extra garlic powder and black pepper if you like (I did this, but I like things garlicky and peppery).  Garnish with a bit of parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.  Enjoy!

Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon, Cauliflower, and Four Cheeses

Macaroni and Cheese, or any pasta dish for that matter, is not really my thing.  But Rob wanted some, so I was happy to come up with something that I thought he'd like.  I used bleu cheese, swiss cheese, and a mix (which I think is cheddar and mozzarella).  I'd recommend using a variety because it will give you a nice depth of flavor, but use whatever types of cheese you want.  And trust me, you can't taste the cauliflower at all, so it's a good way to sneak in a bit of nutrition.  

What you need:

1 bag frozen cauliflower
Olive oil spray
Season-all (or just salt and pepper)
Garlic Powder
Salt and pepper
8 ounce box of macaroni, cooked al dente
1 medium onion
7 slices of bacon
1.5 cups milk
3 eggs
3-4 ounces EACH bleu cheese, swiss cheese, and mixed cheese blend (or whatever combination you like, just make it add up to around 11 ounces)
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 cup Panko crumbs

Start by roasting the cauliflower:  I did mine in the toaster oven, but a regular oven will also work.  Or, if you want to save time/effort, skip this and just use the thawed cauliflower as it is.  If roasting, spread on a lightly greased baking sheet, sprinkle with Season-all (or salt and pepper), and bake at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until lightly browned.  I didn't let mine thaw first, so it took a bit longer, but if it is already thawed, this should take 15-20 minutes.  Let cool and chop finely

Next, fry the bacon in a large frying pan over low heat.  Place the cooked bacon on a paper towel and dump all but a very thin coating of the bacon grease out of the frying pan.  Use this leftover fat to fry up the onion.  Once the onion is translucent and slightly browned, add the bacon back in (crumbling it as you go), and then add the cauliflower to the pan.  Add a half cup of the milk and use this extra moisture to scrape up the browned stuff from the bottom of the pan.  Turn off the heat.

Whisk the eggs and the other cup of milk together in a large bowl.  Add about 3/4 of each cheese to the eggs and milk.  Add the bacon mixture, hot sauce, and cooked macaroni.  Season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Pour it all in a 9 x 9 baking pan and then top with the panko and the rest of the cheese.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and lightly browned.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fabulous Mini Crab Cakes

These were AMAZING.  I think they are one of the best things I have ever made.  I decided to go a little wild and actually fry them up instead of trying to be healthy by broiling- it was worth it.  I served these alongside a pan of melted brie with roasted red pepper and pecans for the ultimate snacky splurge meal.  

What you need:

10-11 ounces crab meat
1 egg
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1-2 teaspoons mustard
salt and pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped green onion
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs, divided
Vegetable oil, for frying
Mix everything but the panko crumbs and oil together.  Add in 1 cup of the panko crumbs.  Form into 1 1/2 inch diameter discs that are about 1/2-3/4 thick.  Dip in remaining panko crumbs.  Heat oil until just sizzling (I did mine over low, but my burner is HOT, so medium might be appropriate for most).  Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Place on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.  Serve with sauce (below).

For the Sauce: 

Mix the following together:

1/4 cup fat free cream cheese
2-3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2-3 tablespoons EACH finely chopped red bell pepper and onion
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon hot sauce

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Borscht in the Slow Cooker

Delicious, beautiful, and chock full of nutrients.  This made a nice light supper in combination with a bit of leftover crab dip I needed to use up.  And the next night, we ate the borscht leftovers as a side to steak.  

This isn't a terribly authentic borscht recipe, but it's healthy, tasty, and easy to make, so who cares?  Enjoy!

What you need:
3-4 medium beets, thoroughly washed, ends trimmed off, and cut into rough chunks
1-1.5 cups chopped fresh pumpkin or winter squash (really I was just trying to use this up- you could substitute with carrots, which is what I saw in different recipes I looked at before making this)
1 apple, cored and cut into rough chunks
1 leek stalk, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1/2-1 full head garlic, cloves peeled
3 packets beef seasoning or bouillon cubes (I used Swanson Flavor Boost, concentrated broth)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
4 slices turkey bacon

Some sort of creamy topping*(sour cream is traditional, but see below for my healthier choice)

Dump the beets, pumpkin (or winter squash or carrots), apple, leek, celery, and garlic into the crockpot.  Saute the onion and bacon in a lightly greased (I use olive oil spray) frying pan and season with a little salt and pepper.  Once browned, add a half cup of water to the pan and scrape around with a spatula to loosen any browned stuff at the bottom of the pan (adds flavor).  Stir in the beef seasoning.  Pour this over the vegetables in the pot.  Cook on high for 3 hours, or until all vegetables are tender.  Use an immersion blender to puree it all up.  Season with additional salt, pepper, or garlic powder if necessary.  Enjoy!

Cottage Cheese and Roasted Garlic Topping:

3/4 cup cottage cheese (I used 1%)
1/4-1/2 cup fat free Greek or plain yogurt
2 whole heads of roasted garlic (cut the tops off, spray with olive oil, season with a little salt and roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-30 minutes, or until soft)
1/2-1 teaspoon black pepper
fresh or dried parsley
salt (if necessary)

Blend everything together in the blender.  Done!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Gazpacho

A nice refreshing soup- perfect for this hot weather we've been having on Saba.  Serve it with some shrimp, guacamole, and tortilla chips. 

What you need:
4-5 medium-large tomatoes
2 heads garlic (this may sound like a lot, but roasting it really mellows the flavor.  But you can always cut back if you're not a garlic fan)
1 small-medium cucumber, peeled
1 small red pepper, chopped into blendable chunks
1 small onion, roughly chopped (about 1/3 cup chopped)
2 jalapenos or serrano peppers, roughly chopped.
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Soy sauce or Worcestershire (if you think it needs it)
Cilantro, for garnish

Start by roasting the tomatoes and garlic:
Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a baking pan that will fit the tomatoes and garlic with olive oil.  Poke a few fork holes in the tomatoes.  Cut the tops off of the garlic heads.  Place the tomatoes and the garlic in the pan and spray again with olive oil.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the tomatoes are a little charred and the garlic is soft.  Let cool.

Dump your chopped vegetables into the blender.  Add the tomatoes and squeeze the garlic from its paper shell.  Add in the lemon juice and vinegar.  Start blending and slowly add some water to get things going.  Once smooth, add salt and pepper to taste (and maybe a little soy sauce or Worcestershire if it needs a little something more.  I actually cannot quite remember if I did, but I think I might have).  Chill for an hour or two and then serve into bowls and garnish with the cilantro.  Enjoy!