Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cheese Enchiladas

Cheese enchiladas are an inexact science. The recipe that I've grown up with incorporates a little of this and a sprinkle of that, so feel free to modify the below recipe based on your preferences and/or specific dietary needs. I made 24 enchiladas last night - 12 for Corey and me and two pans of six each for our next door neighbors. (The ones who just had a precious baby boy - they need a couple of easy dinners for the fridge and/or freezer!) The 24 enchiladas I made last night only needed 3 cups of shredded cheese, or less than 1/8 cup cheese for each enchilada (both filling and on top!). So these are low-fat, easy, and inexpensive - a great weeknight meal!

Recipe Notes
Serve with a green salad and Rice Pilaf with Tomatoes. We like to use Old El Paso enchilada sauce, but any variety will work well. When in doubt, use MORE enchilada sauce - it will help keep the enchiladas from drying out!


  • One white onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp. butter, margarine, or light butter
  • Shredded Mexican cheese blend (2 c. per 12 enchiladas is more than enough)
  • Small corn tortillas (such as Mission)
  • Red enchilada sauce
  • Coarse salt & pepper to taste


1. Combine chopped onion and butter in a heavy skillet over medium/high heat. Saute until butter is melted and onions are soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper.

2. Make enchiladas: place corn tortillas on a work surface and sprinkle approximately 1 tbsp. onion mixture and approximately 1-2 tbsp. shredded Mexican cheese blend in the center of each tortilla.

3. Roll and place each tortilla, seam-side down, in a greased casserole dish.

4. When all tortillas are assembled, pour enchilada sauce over the tortillas. Sprinkle additional shredded cheese over the top.

5. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees or until the enchiladas are heated through and the cheese on top is bubbly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Orzo & Green Beans

This side pairs well with Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes & Feta and it couldn't be easier with just four ingredients. This side pasta dish would also pair well with chicken or fish.

Recipe Notes

Cut or snap the beans into fairly small lengths to make them easy to eat. You can prepare this entire dish in the 15 minutes that your Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes & Feta is in the oven!


  • 1 c. orzo
  • 8 oz. (1/2 lb) green beans, cut into one-inch lengths
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Coarse salt & pepper, to taste


1. In a medium saucepan filled with boiling, salted water, cook orzo for 4 minutes.

2. Add green beans and continue cooking until beans are tender and orzo is al dente. (Approximately 5-6 minutes).

3. Drain orzo and return to saucepan. Mix in lemon juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes & Feta

This has got to be one of the easiest meals I know how to make - a little chopping, a little sauteing, and then you just pop it in the oven and you are finished! This is a Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe that I have adapted and have been making for quite some time. I usually serve it over the suggested accompaniment - Orzo with Green Beans (as pictured here).

Recipe Notes
Watch your salt in this recipe - the feta is pretty salty as it is! Also, feel free to substitute low-fat feta cheese in this recipe. I couldn't tell the difference when I made the substitution. I am not a huge mint fan for main dish meals, so I substitute chopped basil for the chopped mint that the original recipe calls for.

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 thinly sliced scallions (green onions)
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper to taste
  • 1-1/2 lb. peeled and deveined medium shrimp, tails removed
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint (I use fresh basil instead)
  • 4 oz. feta cheese


1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add scallions, garlic, and oregano. Cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.

3. Add cherry tomato halves. Cook over medium for 10-15 minutes or until no liquid remains in the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. (I would skip the salt here.)

4. Add shrimp and basil to skillet. Stir to combine.

5. Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle feta cheese over the top.

6. Bake until liquids are bubbling, cheese is beginning to brown, and shrimp in the center of the dish are opaque (approximately 15-20 minutes).

7. Serve over Orzo & Green Beans.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Um, Hello?! Free Tools of the Trade!

I have found a fellow Houston foodie blogger who shares my passions for simple meals that are Generation Y-friendly. Her blog,, is having a giveaway for a crepe pan! My sister Kara, if she is reading this, will be very excited. Just click this link in order to enter and follow the instructions on her blog.

If you win, I expect to be invited over for crepes! Some of The Little Kitchen's yummy-sounding crepe recipes include the following:

Nutella & Banana Crepes
Southwestern Crepes
Crepes Marinier
Peanut Butter, Syrup, and Banana Crepes
Chocolate & Strawberry Crepes
Crepes & Lox
Ham & Cheddar Crepes

And finally, Ashlea offers up some tips on creating great crepes:

Making Basic Crepes

Enjoy and definitely check out her blog!

Basil Pesto

Ok, once I picked my basil plant basically bare of leaves so that it would stop getting so leggy (see previous post), it was time to make basil pesto! This is a great thing to make and toss in the refrigerator for nights when you don't feel like making a big production of dinner. I keep mine in little half-cup gladware containers (above; each half-cup contains about eight servings).

Some ideas for pesto include the following:

- Add to hot cooked pasta, cherry tomatoes, and/or grilled chicken and serve with salad and crusty bread

- Drizzle over fresh mozzarella and tomatoes

- Top grilled chicken or toss with cooked shrimp for an elegant protein

Below is a recipe for pesto I use often that I adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. The recipe uses less than half the oil that traditional pesto recipes incorporate; as such, you likely won't ever see this pesto separate out into oil and other ingredients - it will stay well-mixed!


Recipe Notes
Because my basil plant was so prolific, I was able to multiply this recipe eight times over. Please note that, if you make just one recipe of this pesto, you will have significantly less than these photos show.

  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp. pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbsp. preshredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
  • 2 tsp. bottled minced garlic
  • 4 tsp. olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste


1. Wash basil thoroughly and pat dry.
2. Broil pine nuts in the oven on LOW until toasted.

3. Combine all ingredients except for olive oil in a Cuisinart or other food processor.

4. Pulse until well-combined.

5. Add oil, one tsp. at a time, until pesto is well-blended.

Basil Basics

My basil plant was in serious need of cutting back, so I went to work on it this weekend and got EIGHT packed cups of basil off of it. A perfect excuse to make homemade pesto!

Before I get to that recipe, I thought it might be helpful to share my mom's trick for chopping basil. It's a great way to get uniform pieces for your recipes:

1. Stack several similarly-sized basil leaves, one of top of each other, stems pointing in the same direction.

2. Roll as you would a cigar and hold firmly by the base of the stack of basil.

3. Start at the end of the basil, chopping thin strips of basil. If you need the pieces to be smaller after you finish cutting your
chiffonade, coarsely chop until the desired size.

4. This is a great method for chopping basil to add to salads, sauces, or other recipes where a uniform size is important.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Chicken With Ginger

Corey and I went Asian last night with this Chicken With Ginger recipe, paired with roasted sesame broccoli and Asian Cabbage Slaw. We got a taste of the Orient without expanding our waistlines, either. This chicken recipe only had 1/2 tbsp. oil per serving. I also cut any excess fat off of my chicken breasts before cubing and sauteeing.

Recipe Notes
This recipe can be easily halved to serve 2. In case you are unfamiliar with scallions, they are also called green onions in the grocery store. (It really threw me off for a long time before I figured out they were the same vegetable!)

  • 1 three-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1-1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. white vinegar (I used rice wine vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 c. sliced scallions


1. Soak ginger in cold water for 10 minutes and drain.

2. Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Brown chicken in skillet in two batches, 6-8 minutes each. Set aside.

3. Using the same skillet over medium heat, cook ginger, onion, and garlic. Stir until browned, 8-10 minutes.

4. Add soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Cook over high heat until thick, 3-4 minutes.

5. Add chicken and stir to warm.

6. Remove from heat and stir in scallions.

7. Serve over white rice or cellophane noodles.

If desired, prepare roasted broccoli to accompany the dish:

1. Roast 1 lb. broccoli florets tossed with 2 tbsp. olive oil on a foil-lined cookie sheet for 20 minutes (425 degrees) or until browned.

2. Toss with 1 tbsp. soy sauce, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and sesame seeds, if desired.

Asian Cabbage Slaw

Corey and I tried this Everyday Food recipe with Chicken With Ginger last night, and it was really tasty and refreshing. Definitely a different salad for if you want to have an Asian-inspired dinner. It makes four really generous servings for just over 100 calories per serving.


Recipe Notes

I used preshredded cabbage/cole slaw mix to save some time and effort, and it worked just fine.

Nutritional Information (per serving - serves 4)

116 calories - 3.6 g. fat - 2.9 g. protein - 5.8 g. fiber


  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • Coarse salt to taste
  • 1/2 small head shredded savoy or green cabbage (I substituted preshredded cole slaw mix)
  • 1 c. fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 4 scallions, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 carrot, grated (included in my cole slaw mix)
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno, minced


1. Make dressing: In a large bowl, combine lime juice, rice wine vinegar, oil, sugar, and salt. Whisk until well combined.

2. Add cabbage, cilantro, scallions, carrot, and jalapeno.

3. Toss until well combined and serve.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Christmas Sugars

There is just something about baking sugar cookies at Christmastime with my mom and my sister that really signifies the season. We bake cookies every year on my sister's birthday, which is December 22, and then serve the cookies at family holiday events through the new year. (The photo above includes cookies that my sister decorated last year....I can't take credit!)

My mom sent me the recipe to include in my blog, and I think that you will really enjoy it! Why include these in September, you ask? Because these are also great at Halloween time (with a pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter and orange and green sprinkles) and for Valentine's Day (with a heart-shaped cookie cutter and pink or red sprinkles). Enjoy!


Recipe Notes
This recipe was submitted by Alafair Kane and published in the 1968 Houston Junior League Cookbook. The ingredients that my mom uses are authentic to the recipe, but she has expanded and modified the preparation instructions.

  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter (do not substitute margarine)
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour, spooned into a measuring cup and leveled with a knife
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • Pinch of salt


1. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and egg.

2. In a separate mixing bowl, use a whisk to blend flour, baking soda, and salt. Still using the electric mixer, gradually add dry ingredients to the butter mixture.

3. Divide dough in half. Roll out each half between two pieces of wax paper to a thickness of approximately 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch.

4. Place sheets of dough (still between wax paper) into the refrigerator. Refrigerate 10 minutes or until firm. Keep sheets refrigerated until you are ready to cut out the cookies.

5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Remove a sheet of dough from the refrigerator and remove the top sheet of wax paper.

6. Cut the dough into shapes. Use the same cookie cutter for all cookies on a single cookie sheet. This will ensure that the cookies brown evenly.

7. Use a spatula or icing knife to transfer cookies to parchment-lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar or sprinkles and bake.

8. The original recipe calls for a 375 degree oven and 10-12 minute baking time. My mom's works best at 350 degrees. The time will depend on shape and thickness, but generally 5-7 minutes works for her.

9. The smaller and thinner the cookie, the faster it will bake. The more irregular the size of the cookie, the faster it will bake.

10. Remove from oven when cookies are slightly brown around the edges. Slide the entire piece of parchment paper and cookies onto a cooling rack. The cookies will become crisp as they cool.

11. Makes 4 dozen small cookies or 21 large cookies.

Enjoy! We make these every year!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Meatloaf was my dad's favorite meal when I was growing up, so we ate a LOT of meatloaf. Maybe that is why I grew to dislike it so much? However, once Corey and I got married, I found myself making meatloaf...who knew?! Cooking Light has several tasty varieties, and this recipe is a friend's adaptation of a Cooking Light meatloaf incarnation.

This recipe comes from my friend Shelley, who always has lots of tasty, healthy recipes. She sent me her adaptation of a Cooking Light meatloaf that she and her husband Colin have really enjoyed. Corey and I tried it out last night and it was great! Definitely worth sharing. Not only does it have only 250 calories per serving, it is also a simple recipe with a minimal number of ingredients, and it only requires about 30 minutes in the oven, so your dinner is ready fast! Thanks Shelley!


Recipe Notes
I used 93% lean ground beef instead of sirloin because it was on sale that day. Shelley says that she uses grass-fed sirloin from Whole Foods (Colin is much luckier than Corey!) Both turn out delicious. I had to reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes in my (apparently) very hot oven, so watch your meatloaf in the last 10 minutes or so!

Nutritional Information (per serving - serves 4)
250 calories - 7 g. fat - 27 g. protein

  • 1/2 c. ketchup
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 lb. ground sirloin
  • 3/4 c. finely-chopped onion
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c. breadcrumbs (Shelley uses Vigo with Romano cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Combine ketchup and mustard in small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Reserve 3 tbsp. of the ketchup mixture.

3. Combine remaining ketchup mixture and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Mix to combine (I use my hands).

4. Line pan with foil and coat foil with cooking spray.

5. Place meatloaf mixture on pan and form into an egg shape.

6. Spread remaining 3 tbsp. ketchup onto the meatloaf. Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes or until meatloaf is cooked through. (My oven only took 25 minutes.)

Shelley suggests serving the meatloaf with a steakhouse wedge and mashed potatoes. Shelley also has a great homemade low-fat dressing for her wedge. All you have to do is whisk the below ingredients together and you've got dressing!

  • 2 tbsp. blue cheese dressing
  • 1 tbsp. fat free buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. fat free sour cream
  • 1 tbsp. reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 3/4 tsp. white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sausage & Vegetable Deep-Dish Pizza

This is the pizza recipe that I made to go along with the pizza dough from my previous post. Contrary to my previous belief, pizza is actually not that hard to make from scratch with the help of modern technology (for me, specifically, this help came from my food processor's dough blender attachment). So try this out and enjoy - Corey really liked it!

Recipe Notes

The cooking times were very different for this recipe in my oven (much shorter), so I would watch both the crust and the pizza carefully while it cooks. I don't like mushrooms so I left them out and added more zucchini. I think that green bell peppers would be great to mix in as well.

Nutritional Information (Per serving - 6 servings)
434 calories - 12.8 g. fat - 24.6 g. protein - 3.9 g. fiber

  • 2 c. chopped zucchini
  • 1/4 c. chopped onion
  • 8 oz. package mushrooms, sliced (I substituted additional zucchini)
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 c. fat free pasta sauce (I used Ragu Light Pasta Sauce with Tomato & Basil)
  • 8 oz. hot Italian turkey sausage (I used Jenni-O's)
  • 1 recipe Pizza Dough
  • 1-1/2 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese


1. To prepare sauce, heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add zucchini, onion, and mushrooms to pan.

2. Saute 7 minutes or until lightly browned and soft.

3. Add wine and pepper, cooking 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates.

4. Stir in pasta sauce. Remove from heat and cool.

5. Remove casings from sausage. Cook sausage in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat or until browned, stirring to crumble.

6. Drain and add to sauce.

7. Prepare one recipe of pizza dough. Turn dough into a 13x9 inch baking pan greased with cooking spray. Gently press dough into pan and up the sides of the pan. Lightly spray the surface of the dough with cooking spray as well.

8. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove plastic wrap and discard.

9. Spoon sauce mixture into crust. Bake on the bottom rack at 475 degrees for 20 minutes or until crust is browned. Remove from the oven.

10. Sprinkle both cheeses evenly over the top of the sauce. Bake on the middle rack for an additional 15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese melts. (Watch in your oven - mine didn't take this long!)

11. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut into six squares and serve.

Making Pizza Dough

Well, I decided to try something new last night - making pizza. There is a Cooking Light Sausage & Vegetable Deep Dish Pizza that I've been wanting to try, and I figured now or never! I was really nervous about making my own pizza dough, but I used the dough blender attachment on my Cuisinart food processor, and it was actually really easy!

It worked out well with my schedule because the dough only needed to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour. So, I mixed the dough after work, left it to rise (covered) while I went to yoga, and popped it in the oven when I got home from my class. Easy! Here is how I did it:


  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 c. warm water
  • 2-1/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus additional for blending
  • 1 tbsp. yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

1. Dissolve honey and yeast in 1 c. warm water; let stand 5 minutes.

2. Add 2-1/4 c. flour, cornmeal, and salt to yeast mixture and stir until soft dough forms. (This is where I put everything in the Cuisinart and let 'er rip!)

3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. (Again, cut out a TON of my productive time by doing this in the Cuisinart with the dough blender attachment!)

4. Add additional flour, 1 tbsp. at a time, until dough doesn't stick to hands (although dough will feel sticky).

5. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning dough to coat on all sides with cooking spray.

6. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Gently press two fingers into dough - if the indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.

7. Roll out or press into a baking dish. For deep-dish pizza, cook for 20 minutes at 475 degrees or until crust is golden, then add toppings and return to oven. In my oven, it only took between 10-15 minutes, so watch your dough carefully.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mashed Potato Gratin

I wanted a potato dish to pair with our steaks on Saturday that was outside of our normal fare. I found this recipe in an old Cooking Light edition, and it went really well with the steak, Carrots & Shallots, and salad that we had for dinner. Also, you would never guess that each serving has less than 200 calories with all of the tasty cheese in the recipe - I believe that Cooking Light accomplished this by keeping butter to a minimum.


Recipe Notes
You can substitute russett potatoes for the Yukon gold potatoes, but the Yukon gold potatoes lend extra buttery flavor to the spuds!

Nutritional Information (Per serving - serves 14)
188 calories - 6 g. fat - 6.9 g. protein - 2.3 g. fiber

  • 4 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 c. (4 oz.) fontina cheese, shredded and divided
  • 3/4 c. (3 oz.) Gruyere cheese, shredded and divided
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 c. warm 1% low-fat milk


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place potatoes in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes until tender; drain.

3. Return potatoes to pan. Add 3/4 c. fontina cheese and 1/2 c. Gruyere cheese. Add butter, salt, and pepper.

4. Mash with a fork or hand mixer until well-combined.

5. Add warm milk to the pan and continue mashing until desired consistency.

6. Turn into a greased, 13x9 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining cheeses.

7. Cover with aluminum foil lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

8. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and discard foil.

9. Preheat broiler to HIGH. Broil gratin for 5 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly.

Roasted Carrots & Shallots

We had a dinner party on Saturday night and pulled some steaks out of the freezer. I wanted some easy, inexpensive sides to pair with our steaks, and one that I chose was this Roasted Carrots and Shallots recipe. They were very easy and inexpensive, using just six ingredients. They paired well with the steak-and-potatoes meal I prepared, and they are pretty easy on the waistline with just 7 g. fat.


Recipe Notes
This recipe can easily be adapted into eight small servings if another vegetable is being served. Otherwise, this makes four big servings. My oven time was shorter than the amount called for in the recipe by about 10 minutes. You may want to watch these pretty closely in the last 10 minutes of your cooking time, depending on how "hot" your oven runs.

Nutritional Information (Per serving - serves 4)

217 calories - 7.4 g. fat - 7.1 g. fiber


  • 2 lb. carrots, cut into three inch lenghts, thick pieces halved lengthwise
  • 12 oz. shallots (about 10), peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • Coarse salt & ground pepper
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. On a large rimmed baking sheet (I lined mine with foil), toss carrots, shallots, and oil. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Bake until tender, 30-35 minutes. Toss once halfway through.

4. Add parsley & lemon juice. Toss to combine and serve.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Crock Pot Pork Tacos

What a crowd pleaser! This recipe makes a virtual never-ending pot of wonderful slow-cooked BBQ'ed pork. Serve with corn and flour tortillas and toppings such as sour cream, shredded cheese, sliced green onions, fresh chopped cilantro, canned black beans, and anything else that you might find interesting.

WARNING: This sauce does not come out of white cloth napkins, so this might be a meal that is a good candidate for paper napkins.

Recipe Notes
This recipe calls for a 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 lb. pork loin roast. I prefer to use two, 1 or 1-1/2 lb. pork tenderloins. For the onion, I like to use my handheld slicer to cut it finely. This is a really handy tool to keep around the kitchen.

  • 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 lb. pork loin roast (I use two similarly-sized pork tenderloins)
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 c. BBQ sauce
  • 3/4 c. mild salsa
  • 3 tbsp. + 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin


1. Trim pork, place in a 3-1/2 to 6 quart slow-cooker and top with sliced onion.

2. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over pork.

3. Cover and cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or until pork is very tender.

4. Remove pork, place on cutting board and shred with two forks.

5. If desired, strain sauce to remove solids and serve alongside pork. As an alternative, I leave the sauce in the crock pot and add the shredded pork back to the sauce prior to serving.

6. Serve warm with tortillas and toppings.

The Truth About Your Crock Pot

I think that it's time that we have a heart-to-heart about your Crock Pot (or whatever variety of slow-cooker you might own). The brilliant marketing minds at companies such as Cuisinart and All-Clad have all but convinced American cooks that they NEED a $100+ stainless steel slow-cooker with 18 different settings and every possible bell and whistle.

I hate to break it to you, but EVERY slow-cooker recipe I have ever come across instructs to heat on LOW or HIGH. I bought my Crock Pot (which is stainless steel, by the way) at Target for $24.99. It has a little knob with LOW, HIGH, and WARM, and it has worked for every slow-cooker recipe I have ever tried.

This handy little gadget will become your best friend in the kitchen if you are a working girl or a busy mom. Who doesn't like a device that gets left in the morning with a few raw basic ingredients and has a delicious, complete meal waiting for you when you return home? Slow-cooker recipes generally call for tougher cuts of meat that don't fall apart with the long period of cooking, so the meat that goes into your Crock Pot meal is generally quite inexpensive.

There will be several Crock Pot recipes on this blog in the future, starting with Crock Pot Pork Tacos. I welcome your Crock Pot recipes as well, as I am always looking for good "fix it and forget it" meals!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pork Chops and Butter Bean Salad

Corey and I tried this dinner last night, which I found in a recent issue of Real Simple Magazine. I paired it with the Easy Corn Casserole I just posted and it made a very filling meal. Corey said that the pork was cooked perfectly and that it had great flavor, but he wasn't a huge fan of the texture. I guess that you could probably substitute pork loin or pork tenderloin for the pork chops, but I am not sure what that would do to the cooking time? Anyway, if you like pork chops, you will like this dinner, and I was able to prepare the whole meal in less than 45 minutes.

Recipe Notes

I used only cooking spray in the skillet (omitting 1 tbsp. oil to save some calories) and I didn't miss the oil one bit. Instead of bunch spinach, I used the prebagged baby spinach because I like it better. This recipe can easily be halved to serve 2. Quick, easy, and inexpensive dinner.

Nutritional Information (per serving - serves 4)

434 calories - 24 g. fat - 42 g. protein - 5 g. fiber


  • 1 slice white sandwich bread
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil (I ultimately only used 3)
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 1-in. thick boneless pork chops (approx. 1.5 lbs.)
  • 1 bunch spinach, cleaned, sliced, and thick stems removed (I used bagged baby spinach)
  • 14 oz. can butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a food processor, pulse the bread and 2 tbsp. oil until fine crumbs form. Spread on a baking sheet and bake until crisp, 5-6 minutes.

3. Toss the toasted breadcrumbs with sliced scallions, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper.

4. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat (I used only cooking spray). Season pork with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Brown in skillet 2-3 minutes per side.

5. Transfer skillet to oven and roast until cooked through, approximately 7 minutes.

6. Toss spinach, butter beans, vinegar, oregano, 1 tbsp. olive oil, salt, and pepper.

7. Top pork with breadcrumb mixture and serve with the spinach and butter bean salad.

Easy Corn Casserole

I cannot tell you how many friends have asked for this recipe after having it at our house. My mom has even given a little "corn casserole kit" as a party favor at a luncheon after trying out my adaptation of this great Cooking Light recipe. This recipe is so versatile and pairs well with chicken, pork, steak, even burgers! And because it has just six ingredients (mostly dry or canned), it is really inexpensive to make, too.

Recipe Notes

I use one real egg in this recipe instead of 1/4 c. egg substitute. I also use a 6 oz. container of fat-free plain yogurt, because none of the grocery stores that I frequent carry plain yogurt in an 8 oz. size. I haven't noticed a difference in consistency - it still comes out moist every time. You will probably want to watch the dish during its last 10 minutes in the oven. I typically need to take mine out between 5-10 minutes before the designated cooking time has elapsed.

Nutritional Information (Per serving - serves 8)

238 calories - 9.2 g. fat - 4.9 g. protein - 1.5 g. fiber


  • 1/4 c. egg substitute (I use 1 real egg)
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted (1/2 stick)
  • 8-3/4 oz. can whole-kernel corn
  • 8-3/4 oz. can cream-style corn
  • 8-1/2 oz. package corn muffin mix (I use Jiffy)
  • 8 oz. carton plain, fat-free yogurt (I use one 6-oz. container)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well.

3. Pour into an 8-in. square baking dish coated with cooking spray.

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Triple Chocolate Pound Cake

This is, quite possibly, the greatest dessert I know how to make. It is a great make-ahead dessert for dinner parties, and it also travels well for potlucks, parties, etc. Several friends have asked for the recipe after having it for the first time.

For a dinner party, this is best served with ice cream and the leftover chocolate glaze as an ice cream topping. If you use all of the glaze on the cake, add some of the Hot Fudge Sauce over the top that I just taught you how to make! This is a VERY old Southern Living old I can't even find it in the Southern Living online archives!

WARNING: This is NOT a healthy dessert (but it tastes so good!).

Recipe Notes
Any leftover chocolate glaze can be used as an ice cream topping. Serve with ice cream and possibly the leftover glaze or hot fudge sauce.

  • 1 package devil's food cake mix with pudding in the mix
  • 1-6 oz. package instant chocolate pudding
  • 1-1/4 c. water
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 18 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (one 12-oz. bag and one 6-oz. bag)
  • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Blend cake mix, pudding, water, oil, and eggs in an electric mixer over medium speed for two minutes.

3. Fold in two cups of chocolate chips with a rubber spatula.

4. Turn batter into a Bundt pan coated with cooking spray. Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

5. Cool in pan for 30 minutes, then invert and cool on a wire cooling rack until cooled completely.

6. While the cake is cooling, combine remaining chocolate chips and whipping cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat, stirring until chocolate is melted completely. (Keep heat setting low so that cream does not scald.) Let cool 5 minutes.

7. Drizzle chocolate glaze over cake and serve after glaze reaches room temperature and hardens slightly.

Hot Fudge Sauce

Whenever I have a dinner party, dessert seems to take up way too much of my cook & prep time. The solution is this fabulous hot fudge sauce that my mom found on When served over ice cream in a pretty bowl or ice cream dish, it's a perfect and decadent finish to your dinner party, and everyone loves ice cream! Since it only has four ingredients, it is easy on the wallet as well. I promise, your guests will NOT be disappointed!


Recipe Notes

You can add additional light corn syrup if the consistency is too thick, but usually the 1/3 cup recommended is just right.

  • 1 c. heavy cream
  • 1/3 c. light corn syrup (plus additional for thinning, if needed)
  • 12 oz. bag semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. extract (vanilla, rum, almond, orange or peppermint are some ideas)


1. Combine heavy cream and corn syrup in small saucepan. Stir to combine, and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat.

2. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips and extract. Whisk until chocolate is melted. If necessary, adjust consistency with additional corn syrup.

3. Serve over ice cream.

Suggested Extract & Ice Cream Combinations

  • Vanilla fudge - vanilla, mint chocolate chip, cookies & cream, peppermint, or chocolate covered cherries ice cream
  • Almond fudge - vanilla or pecan praline ice cream
  • Rum fudge - vanilla, chocolate, or rum raisin ice cream
  • Orange fudge - vanilla or chocolate ice cream
  • Peppermint fudge - vanilla, chocolate, or peppermint ice cream

Staple Starches - Rice

Rice is a great staple starch to serve with just about any meal. It is versatile, inexpensive, and healthy (provided it is not loaded down with butter or oil!) I like to keep a tub of Texmati rice and also a tub of Risotto in the pantry for quick access and lower pricing for the bulk container. I've included four rice recipes below that Corey and I enjoy. They each provide a unique new flavor for your dining pleasure. Hope you enjoy!


This rice is an old Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe is our most frequent guest at the dinner table. It is great with chile con carne, enchiladas, shrimp scampi, and just about any other dish you can think of. It is also easy and inexpensive, using canned vegetables and dried herbs. Check it out - you won't be disappointed.

Recipe Notes
None really - this is our FAVORITE with Mexican food and chile con carne!

Nutritional Information (Serves 4 - information is per serving)
224 calories - 3.7 g. fat - 4.3 g. protein - 0.9 g. fiber


  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. finely-chopped onion (see my posting The Mighty Onion for preparation tips)
  • 1 c. long-grain white rice (I use Texmati)
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper


1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and rice and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is golden (5-8 minutes).

2. Stir in tomatoes and their juice, thyme, and 1 c. water. Season generously with salt and pepper.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, tightly covered, approximately 18 minutes or until rice is tender. Let stand off heat, covered, for 5-10 minutes before serving. Fluff with a fork and enjoy!


Recipe Notes

This rice, which I got from Cooking Light, is great with beef and chicken dishes, particularly stuffed beef. A garlic press is useful for this recipe for crushing the garlic. I got a Good Grips garlic press for less than $15 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and it has been a great help in the kitchen! This dish can be cut to four servings by halving all of the ingredients and keeping the cooking time the same.

Nutritional Information (Per serving - serves 8)

180 calories - 1.2 g. fat - 3.4 g. protein - 0.7 g. fiber


  • 1-1/2 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 c. uncooked long-grain rice (I use Texmati)
  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3-1/4 c. water
  • 1-1/2 tsp. salt


1. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and garlic to pan, cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Stir in water and salt, bring to a simmer.

3. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.

4. Fluff with a fork before serving.


Recipe Notes

This Cooking Light rice is great with chicken, pork, and fish dishes and makes a complete meal when you also add a dinner salad and some bread.

Nutritional Information (Per serving - makes 6 servings)

146 calories - 4.3 g. fat - 2.2 g. protein - 0.6 g. fiber


  • 3 c. water
  • 2 c. uncooked basmati rice (I use Texmati)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon rind
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice


1. Combine water, rice, and salt in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat.

2. Simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove rice from heat, let stand 5 minutes, and fluff with a fork.

3. Heat oil and butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When butter melts, add mustard seeds to pan and cook 2 minutes or until seeds begin to pop.

4. Scrape seed mixture into rice using a rubber spatula. Fold in cilantro, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir well and serve.


Recipe Notes

This Martha Stewart Everyday Food recipe pairs well with Mexican food, beef, and chicken.

Nutritional Information (Per serving - serves 4)

202 calories - 3.7 g. fat - 0.7 g. fiber


  • 1 c. long-grain white rice (I use Texmati)
  • Coarse salt
  • 1/2 c. fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove


1. In a medium saucepan, bring 1-1/2 c. water to a boil. Add rice and salt. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender - 16 to 18 minutes.

2. While the rice cooks, combine cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, and peeled garlic clove in a blender with 2 tbsp. water. Blend until smooth.

3. Stir cilantro-lime mixture into cooked rice and fluff with a fork before serving.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

For the New Mommy

Our fabulous next-door neighbors just had a bouncing baby boy last week. I am doing my best to take them fresh produce and other healthy items, because they've been loaded down with fatty staples that will NOT help with the Post Baby Diet. Therefore, I made them the Pesto Caesar Salad that I shared with you this afternoon and took them a wonderful, light Chicken and Cheese Casserole. This is a great meal for new moms because it is low in fat (the largest component is skim milk), mild (which is very important if the new mom is breast-feeding), and is freezer-ready (perfect if your new mommy friend is overwhelmed with the number of meals that they're already facing!) With a salad and a loaf of frozen garlic cheese bread, this is a comforting, low-fat meal that any new mom and dad can appreciate.

And COMPLETELY off-topic, I have been alerted to a blog that has a REALLY good wine special right now on a great meritage from Corey and my favorite Oregon Winery: Torii Mor. The Deux Verres two-pack is on sale through tomorrow night, and the 2006 vintage is one of our favorites of all time! Check it out:


Recipe Notes

This casserole is freezer-ready; just don't bake it before you take it over and leave instructions for baking it, along with the bread crumb topping in a separate baggie. This week, I took this recipe, which would normally bake in a 9x13 casserole, and I divided it into two, 8x8 dishes so that we could take 1/2 to our neighbors and keep 1/2 for our dinner tonight too! It worked out great, so you can either make one 9x13 or two 8x8 casseroles.


  • 3 c. cooked, cubed chicken

  • 1 c. elbow macaroni, cooked and drained

  • 1/2 c. chopped onion

  • 1/4 c. (1/2 stick) butter or margarine (I used light butter by Land O Lakes)

  • 1/4 c. unsifted flour

  • 1 tbsp. instant chicken bouillon (3 cubes)

  • 2-1/2 c. skim milk

  • 1-1/2 c. (6 oz) shredded American cheese

  • 1 c. soft breadcrumbs from 3 pieces of white sandwich bread


1. Preheat oven to 350 if baking after assembly.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook onion and butter until tender, stir in flour and bouillon. Gradually stir in milk, cook, and stir until bouillon dissolves and the sauce thickens.

3. Add cheese, cook until just melted. Remove from heat.

4. In a large bowl, combine cooked chicken, cooked macaroni, and cheese sauce.

5. Turn into a greased 2 qt. shallow baking dish.

6. Sprinkle crumbs and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly.* Serves 8.

*If delivering to a new mom, skip this step and leave instructions for cooking, including oven temp, length of cooking time, and instructions to add breadcrumbs on top.

Pesto Caesar Salad

We tried a new salad last night that I found in this month's Cooking Light, and Corey seemed to really enjoy it, so I thought I would share it with you. It's a refreshing change from a regular Caesar and has significantly fewer calories and fat due to the judicious use of dairy and fats.

This recipe calls for making your own croutons, which I tried, and I decided that it is not worth the extra effort to make your own. The recipe calls for 10 minutes in the oven, and I left my croutons in the oven for just SIX minutes and mine almost burned. I would use store-bought croutons both to save time and boost flavor.

This recipe serves six, so I would recommend halving the Romaine, croutons, and cheese for the salad, using only half the dressing for the first night's dinner, and using the remaining salad ingredients for a second salad the next night.

Recipe Notes

As mentioned above, I would skip the step of making your own croutons and use store-bought. I also made a couple of substitutions to the recipe based on what I had on-hand. I used reduced-fat mayo with olive oil (a new Kraft product) instead of canola mayonnaise. I also used shredded parmesan cheese instead of shaved, and it worked just fine. For some reason, I prefer to slice my romaine on a cutting board, with a knife, when I am making a Caesar. It saves a ton of time and seems to work well with the presentation of the salad.

Nutritional Information (Serves 6)

202 calories - 14.3 g fat - 6.2 g protein - 2.9 g fiber


  • 3 oz. French baguette, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1-1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 oz. Parmesan cheese, divided (I used shredded)
  • 1/4 c. organic canola mayonnaise (I used Kraft reduced-fat mayonnaise with olive oil)
  • 3 tbsp. refrigerated basil pesto
  • 4 tsp. water
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. anchovy paste
  • 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp. hot pepper sauce (I used Cholula)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (I used 1 tbsp. bottled minced garlic)
  • 12 cups torn romaine lettuce


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make croutons: place bread cubes in large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes (mine were VERY crispy in 6 minutes). If you use preprepared croutons, you can skip this step.

2. Combine 2 tbsp. grated cheese, mayonnaise, pesto, water, lemon juice, anchovy paste, Worcestershire sauce, dijon mustard, hot pepper sauce, and garlic in a small container with a tight lid. Shake until very well combined.

3. Combine lettuce, croutons, and remaining cheese in a large bowl. Drizzle with dressing and toss liberally to coat.

Staple Starches - Spuds

Corey and I eat a lot of potatoes. They are versatile, inexpensive, go well with just about any meal, and are easy to prepare. We rotate between two standard types of spuds: mashed potatoes and roasted potatoes. I use very little butter and oil in my versions and rely on spices and cooking techniques to boost flavor without adding fat.


Recipe Notes

A common misconception about mashed potatoes is that, by default, they are bad for you. I use only one tbsp. of light butter in my version (which serves three people) and rely on buttermilk. salt, and pepper to add flavor instead. If buttermilk seems a little bit exotic for you, you can also use skim milk. Use just enough milk to give you the right consistency (you can tell from the photo how little I actually used) and season generously. If you need to boost the flavor, continue adding a splash of milk and a twist of salt and pepper until you've got the flavor that you want. Serves 3.


  • 2 medium/large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into thirds
  • Low fat buttermilk (1%) - can also use skim milk
  • 1 tbsp. light butter (I use Land O Lakes)
  • Coarse-ground pepper and sea salt
1. Boil peeled, sectioned potatoes until tender (at least 30 minutes).

2. Add buttermilk, butter, salt, and pepper. Using a hand mixer, blend until desired consistency is achieved.

3. Continue adding small amounts of buttermilk and/or salt and pepper until desired flavor is achieved.


Recipe Notes

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to use quarts of oil to get your roasted potatoes to taste good. I use a couple of tbsp. at the most (and that would be for a cookie tray of potatoes to serve 8 people.) I rely on seasonings and cooking the potatoes at a low heat setting for a long period of time to make them tasty. By roasting at a low heat, the potatoes become crispy on the outside and are tender on the inside. Serves 2.


  • Small Yellow Dutch potatoes (about the size of a grape tomato) - approximately 1/2 lb.
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Tony Chachere's creole seasoning
  • Course salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Clean and halve Yellow Dutch potatoes.

3. Combine in a bowl with olive oil and a generous shake of creole seasoning, salt, and pepper.

4. Toss to coat and arrange on a foil-lined cookie sheet or jelly roll pan.

5. Bake in the oven for between 45 minutes to one hour or until desired degree of browning is achieved.