Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chinese Spicy Chicken & Broccoli = EASY

Last week I really wanted chinese food. Like, really wanted it, but I didn't want to pay for it, go figure, nor did I want the extra fat and sodium. Sometimes I think though, how much extra fat is added to something so simple like spicy chicken with broccoli?  Well, it really depends, a lot of restaurants squirt or ladle (yes, LADLE) in some oil in their wok for stir frying. I didn't add quite as much.

So again, as we know I am following Diet Free Life and this meal would be perfect for those of you who are also following it. Just keep an eye on the sodium and you may want to switch out the corn starch. I only use corn starch because I like its thickening power more than arrow root. Also, I wonder how potato starch fares on DFL?

Anyways, here is the recipe and all you need to know is its EASY. Oh, one thing, it might be easier to thinly slice your meat while it is just slightly frozen and firm. You can use a cut of beef as well, or even shrimp, yum!

12 oz boneless chicken breast, sliced thin
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce (low sodium) or just use regular low sodium if you can't find dark
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
3-4 cloves chopped garlic
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 large onion, sliced into rings
1/2 cup water
1 tsp black pepper
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper
1 heard of broccoli, cut into smallish pieces
1 tbsp cornstarch + 1 tbsp water mixed

In a bowl, combine chicken soy sauce and oyster sauce. Let sit for about 20 minutes. In the mean time, slice the onion, broccoli and garlic and grate the ginger.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. If you have a wok great! I had to use my paella pan for this. Saute onion for a minute or two, then add garlic and ginger. You want to make sure the garlic doesn't burn, blah! Add the peppers and stir.

Add the chicken and let it lightly brown, its ok if it leaves a little something on the bottom of the pan. This will make a nice gravy. Add broccoli and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add the water now, you may need more, try using 1 cup and scrape the lovely off the bottom of the pan and cover for a minute until broccoli cooks a little more.

At the very end, add the cornstarch slurry and mix until thick.

I ate this with brown rice and it was delicious!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Delicious Cheesecake. Oh and its Low Fat!

Way back in the day I found this recipe, it actually came from Stoneyfield farms, but over the years I've made slight changes that really make this cheesecake smooth, rich, creamy and LOW FAT! How you ask?

Read on...

The secret ingredient is yogurt, and now that Greek yogurt is so popular I use this instead of regular plain yogurt, it definitely speeds up the draining process. Actually, it doesn't even have to be plain, you can use flavors to flavor your cheesecake if you wish, just keep in mind that you will need less sugar than the recipe calls for.

This also is a Diet Free Life friendly recipe, so DFL friends if you find yourself really wanting a rich and creamy dessert that is friendly and under your snack calorie allotment, then try this!

Lastly, you will love hearing people say "Oh I couldn't possibly eat that, its so high fat" and then telling them that they couldn't be more wrong, they still don't believe it! So here is the recipe, you can make it with or without the crust.

1.5 sleeves graham crackers broken into pieces
1 tbsp organic sugar (use white if its all you have)
3-4 tbsp smart balance light butter (or regular butter if you must)

Blend the graham crackers in a food processor until there are no more large pieces. Melt the butter and add to the cracker meal with the sugar. The cracker should form a crumbly moist but not wet ball. Put this in a lightly sprayed spring form pan and press along the sides. I think I used a 9 or 10 inch pan, not sure but will double check later.
Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes.

Cheesecake Filling
1 Large container of fat free Greek Yogurt
3 8oz packages of light cream cheese (neufchatel) or you can even use some fat free too
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp all purpose flour
4 egg whites or 1 cup egg substitute
2 tsp Vanilla (or you can use lemon juice and a little finely chopped rind YUM)

This part is a little tricky, you need cheese cloth which you can find at the grocery store. If not using greek yogurt you HAVE to do this or the results will be too watery. Layer a few pieces of cloth and plop the yogurt in the middle, pull up the sides of the cloth and lightly twist, you will see the whey drain out. Let it drain for a few hours and your result is yogurt cheese. I did this for 30 mins with Greek yogurt and not much whey came out, so yay.

Preheat over to 300F and bring some water to a boil. Once your water is boiled add about an inch to an oven proof dish and place in the oven. The cheesecake needs the moisture in the oven so it doesn't crack (it may still crack).

In a mixing bowl add cream cheese and sugar, cream together. Lightly fold in yogurt, flour, vanilla and egg whites.

Pour filling onto the crust, bake for an hour at 300F. After an hour, shut the oven and allow the cheesecake to cool with the door ajar. Chill for a couple hours before serving, I usually make this the night before and it comes out amaaaaazing!

I wish I had a better photo to show you how awesome this low fat cheesecake really is, but this one will do!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Irish Cabbage Can Be Delicious!

I was looking for a decent cabbage recipe, I mean, cabbage is cabbage. Its not the most glamorous vegetable, but it can be quite delicious. Let me just say that I love cole slaw, like..a lot. Love it. I judge restaurants based on their cole slaw, but I just wasn't feeling it tonight as I had it twice the past week.

This recipe I found has a bit of everything, saltiness from the bacon, sweetness from the cabbage and richness from the butter. Also, you will see some dark green in the photo, that is kale which I had found in my freezer, but you certainly don't have to add it if you don't want to or have it. I just happened to have some so I threw it in and it was pretty good!

Irish Cabbage
1 medium cabbage, quartered and core removed
2 slices of lean bacon
2 tbsp melted butter (or smart balance light)
1 tsp of nutmeg
drizzle of vinegar

1. Boil the cabbage in water for about 10-15 minutes.
2. Fry the bacon, remove from fat and cut into bits.
3. Place the cooked cabbage in a oven safe dish, drizzle with melted butter, top with bacon and nutmeg.
4. Broil for 5-7 minutes.
5. Just before serving add a splash of vinegar to your liking.

Sausage Sunday! Bangers and Mash

Wow, I cannot believe how long it has been since I've written. I've been pretty busy and just haven't had the energy to write anything so here it is! Yesterday was St. Patrick's day, as we know, I am not a lick of Irish, not even a little, but that doesn't mean I can't sort of celebrate with great food, right? Also, I've been following a great program called Diet Free Life (you can thank me for your inbound link later hehe), which has helped me to lose close to 25 lbs in two months (fluctuating the past 2 weeks ugh). The reason for this little ad is because the meal I ate is a complete meal which is pretty close to DFL compliant, with just a few tweaks here and there you can have a very compliant meal!

I went to my sausage go to place, Karl's, on rt 1. I actually didn't go there with bangers on the mind but I saw them, freshly made, lovely bangers just asking me to take them home. So, I did! These bangers a bit spicy with a touch of nutmeg and are very delicious, especially when served with pan gravy which I am a big fan of.

So I guess the only recipe you need now is for the mash, or mashed potatoes. Actually, you don't even need that, just use your own favorite recipe! Ok ok, I will post the one I used:

Mashed Potato
3 large potatoes peeled and cubed
1 tbsp smart balance light (or butter)
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
chicken stock (I love Trader Joes low sodium!)
Freshly ground pepper

1. Boil the potatoes in lightly salted water until soft, usually about 10-15 mins
2. Begin to pan fry your sausages
3. In a bowl, combine the butter and greek yogurt, add potatoes and mash. It will be a bit dry now, so start adding the stock a little at a time. Some people like chunky potatoes, but I like them mostly creamy, so a little extra stock helps with the creaminess factor. Yum, set aside!

Pan Gravy
1 tbsp flour
a little fat to start the roux, use whatever you want

1. Remove sausages from the pan.
2. Add the fat and flour. Whisk
3. Add a little bit of stock while whisking to avoid clumping (this is my trick. I use mostly stock to create a roux rather than mostly fat)
4. Once the flour has cooked for a minute, add about a a cup and a half of stock, and keep whisking up the caramelized sausage off the bottom of the pan and watch the magic happen as it thickens!

And lastly, you need a vegetable to complete the meal. I found a great Irish recipe for cabbage. I will post it here as well as make a new post for it as well. If you like cabbage, then you will like this.

Irish Cabbage
1 medium cabbage, quartered and core removed
2 slices of lean bacon
2 tbsp melted butter (or smart balance light)
pinch of nutmeg
drizzle of vinegar

1. Boil the cabbage in water for about 10-15 minutes.
2. Fry the bacon, remove from fat and cut into bits.
3. Place the cooked cabbage in a oven safe dish, drizzle with melted butter, top with bacon and nutmeg.
4. Broil for 5-7 minutes.
5. Just before serving add a splash of vinegar to your liking.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did, I wasn't really even planning it but it all came together nicely!


(I left my laptop open when I went to get some water and one of my kitties stepped on it and left me this message, I found it to be very fitting so I am leaving it!)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Petits Fours

With Valentines Day just around the corner, what better way to surprise your loved one with something home made and from the heart? These were surprisingly easy to make, a bit time consuming but they were not difficult. I made them for the first time this past weekend for my mom's birthday. We didn't want a cake and especially not a store bought cake either so I decided to try something new. Petits Fours! What is a petit four? Its a small, bite sized confection, in this case, a small cake layered with fruit jam and then covered with a sugar glaze or fondant.

If you are 100% prepared, then this might not be as time consuming as it was for me, I made the almond paste from scratch as well as the frangipane cake, which is the traditional cake for this nice little dessert.

You will need one recipe of cake or you could always just make or buy a different kind of cake as long as you can cut it without crumbling too much. If the cake is dry, brush on some fruit liquer or melted jam (or both!).

You will also need a fruit jam of your choice or you could make butter cream layers. I used raspberry and apricot jam since the cake was pretty rich.

Step 1. Determine the size petit fours you want. I think mine were about a square inch. I cut the first row, and then used that row as a pattern to make even squares across the rest of the cake.

Step 2: Look through your squares. If any of them are thick enough to be split, I say go ahead and split them to thin out the cake. It will be nice to have a couple triple petits fours (wow so many numbers in that sentence!)

Step 3: Start spreading the jam! Don't put too much or it will ooze out of the sides, and don't do too little, you want to be able to taste the fruit! Top the jammed cake with another cake and voila, you have a double layer petit four, or if you want to make a triple layer, try using two different fruit jams.

Step 4: Once you have all of your petits fours ready, get your glaze going. Here is the recipe I used:

  • 6 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp almond extract (or any kind you like)

  • In a saucepan, combine sugar, water and corn syrup. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches a temperature of 92 F, I think mine went a little higher but it was fine.  Mixture should be thin enough to pour, but thick enough to coat . Stir in the almond extract.

  • Step 6: Place a petit four on a fork, hold it over your glaze pot and with a spoon, spoon the glaze over the cake making sure that all sides have been covered. Allow the excess to drop off and then place on a cooling rack to dry.
  • Step 7: Once the petit fours are dry, you can decorate them any way you would like, or if you are using stick on decorations, be sure to stick them to the fondant glaze while still wet to ensure that the decorations stay.

  • Use your imagination as well as what you have in your cupboard, you would be surprised at the amount of combinations and flavors you can come up with! 

  • Lastly...Enjoy!

Almond Paste for Pastries & Desserts

You might be thinking, what do I need almond paste for!? Well, if you are baking frangipane, you will need almond paste. You might now be thinking, what the heck is frangipane? Well...have you ever had petits fours? Its the cake layer, and its quite delicious!

1 3/4 cups ground almonds
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a food processor add all of the ingredients and mix. Your paste is now formed!

Because of the raw egg, I will be using this paste in a baked good, but other versions of paste that don't use raw eggs can be used for pastry fillings, cookies, name it!


I've decided make this its own post, solely for the purpose of making it easier to find in the future should any of us need it for something.

This cake is so moist and buttery and is typically used to make Petits Fours. You have the choice to use pre-ground almond meal or you can grind your own almonds, in which case you might want to blanch them and remove the skins. I bought pre-ground almond meal from Trader Joes so  the cake is not purely white, which is perfectly fine!

7 oz almond paste
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup flour
Parchment paper

Now, this part is confusing because it depends on how thick you want the cake to be. I used the smallest of the cookie sheets that I had, lined it with pachment paper and preheated the oven to 350F.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Creamy Lemon Chicken "Piccata"

So as some of you know I have been following a new eating program, hoping to shed a few pounds. Yes that is right, I am proud to share that with you all :) .  Anyways , part of the program, besides eating every 2-3 hours is a 3 week "makeover" where you have to learn to eat that often and make sure that what you are eating isn't made completely of fat and makes up a well balanced meal. Tonight I challenged myself to stray away from their recipe cards and to make something that represents ME. It's actually VERY similar to my Creamy Chicken Marsala recipe, but instead this is lemony and creamy.

Also, since this recipe is so low fat I used a non stick pan which worked out nicely, and I still got golden brown chicken.

4 chicken breasts, pounded thin or butterflied
1/3 cup flour
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1 container sliced mushrooms
2 tbsp capers
2 garlic cloves minced
1 lemon, juiced (can even use zest too yum)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp either cream cheese or mascarpone or even a splash of fat free half n half (I use low fat cream cheese)
1 tsp smart balance

1. Heat your pan and fat of choice over medium heat.
2. Pound out the chicken, salt and pepper both sides and dredge in the flour.
3. Add each piece to the pan and allow them to cook for about 3-4 minutes until a golden crust has formed. Then flip to the other side, same thing 3-4 minutes.
4. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside. Add the mushrooms, garlic and artichokes, saute. You can add a little oil or broth to saute.
5. Add the liquids, and place the chicken into the pan, juice and all!
6. Let simmer for a bit and then add the cream cheese and dijon mustard, mix thoroughly until you have a creamy sauce and chicken is cooked completely.

Serve with pasta!

*I had to thicken my sauce with arrowroot (or cornstarch) but if you follow my creamy chicken marsala recipe you can make your roux with equal parts fat and flour, and that can be your sauce thickener. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pork Tenderloin Three Ways!

Left: Maple, Back: Herbed, Right: Mango
My family and I wanted to try something different for a holiday dinner. Usually we would have some kind of roast (turkey, ham, pork, beef) but roasts tend to be a little dry, so I suggested we try roast pork tenderloin. You can buy a pork tenderloin at any grocery store, and they are pretty inexpensive, unlike its beef counterpart. Plus, these tender pieces of meat shouldn't be dry and tough like other meats can get.

In my photo each tenderloin is about 1 to 1 and half pounds, I am not sure if the come any larger than that and that should feed about two people, maybe even three. Once you have your loin at home, the next important step is to figure out what on earth you want it to taste like! You can be plain and sprinkle with just salt and pepper, but we wanted to try a few variations, since we had three tenderloins. We ended up with mango chutney, maple and herbed. Yum!
Herbed, Maple and Mango

For the mango chutney (or you can use ANY fruit flavored jam you you have), I mixed about 1/4 cup of chutney with a table spoon of dijon mustard and 2 tsp of oil. Easy right? Smear it on the tenderloin and voila! Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Next, the maple! 1/4 Maple syrup, 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, 2 tsp oil and maybe 1/2 tsp dried sage. Smear again and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I'd let this one sit for a while if you have the time to let the maple penetrate the loin. This also would be awesome grilled!

The last one we did was a simple dry rub of herbs. I used 1 tsp dried rosemary, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp dried sage, salt, pepper, a little oregano or thyme and voila!

It was one of the easiest holiday meals we've made and the loins were delicious. We served them with roasted carrots, onions and potatoes, acorn squash and fresh baked dinner rolls.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Best Dinner Rolls You will EVER Have

This past Thanksgiving I decided no more factory made crap, *I* was going to attempt to make the dinner rolls! After scouring the internet for days, I actually came across a really good and easy recipe for the best dinner rolls I think I have ever eaten. Surprisingly, it is a King Arthur Flour recipe that I found, a little hesitant because the brand is pretty commercial, I tried it and will never look back, plus their blog is really fun to read.

Keep in mind when cooking for holidays you don't want to do ALL of your cooking on that morning, actually, you shouldn't even want to do some of your cooking on that morning. I did a little experiment with these rolls by making them they day before, but I was afraid that maybe they might not taste as fresh the next day. Boy was I wrong. I par-baked these the day before, they were still snow white, but then popped them into the oven on Thanksgiving Day and 10 minutes later, perfectly golden dinner rolls.

Well, the most recent holiday was New Years Day so I decided to make these rolls again. We had pork tenderloin roasted with carrots and onions, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, acorn squash and of course my ever so fluffy dinner rolls!

This recipe makes 24, which is a lot, but they last for a couple of days I found out, however, since they are so yummy, you may not have to worry about that. I've broken this out into steps, hopefully making it a bit easier to follow and understand. You will need anywhere up to 6-7 cups of flour, even though I don't mention specifics below just yet. Just follow each step, and read ahead before you begin.
Watch how quickly the yeast activates!


Step 1:
Proofed Yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 cups warm milk
3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
2 1/2 tbsp instant yeast (yes, table spoons!)

Mix these together and allow to sit for a couple of minutes until it becomes foamy, its now very alive!

Step 2:

Mix in 5 cups of white flour, slowly so that you don't get flour everywhere if using a stand mixer (with paddle attachment). The dough will look very sticky and not well formed, this is ok! Add 1/2 cup more flour until the dough starts to come together, switch to the dough hook and let your mixer knead for about 5 minutes. Very quickly, and lightly, push on the dough, it should spring back, this means it is done. I actually ended up kneading a bit by hand because I like the way the dough feels and I like being able to feel when its about ready.
Sticky dough, add more flour to form the ball

Step 3:
Place your dough ball on the counter and place your bowl over the dough. It will rise for only about 15 minutes. At this point you can preheat the oven to 350F if baking today. I am going to par bake my rolls and finish them tomorrow just before dinner.

This dough is very soft but not sticky
Step 4:
Test the dough. You will want to now poke your finger pretty far into the dough, and the indent should stay. Yay, next step!

Step 5:
Form the dough into a rectangle, I'd say about half inch thick and then slice into 4 strips. Cut each strip into 6 pieces....6x4 = 24 rolls!

Step 6:
Form each 1/6 piece of dough into a smooth round and place on a cooking sheet lined with parchment paper. You can put them a little close, but not too much. They will need to now rise for another 15 minutes. It is ok if they are touching, when they bake, you pull them apart and they look just like dinner rolls! You could even freeze the dough too at this point.

Step 7:
After the rolls have had their second 15 minute rising, bake them at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until just slightly golden. Since I par bake, I will go for about 10-15 minutes until they have just set and no longer doughy and then bake for another 10 minutes just before serving. 

Note: Can I just tell you how wonderful the house smelled as these were baking? I wish I could put a scratch n sniff dinner roll on this page somewhere!