Sunday, April 20, 2014


Warren has a new favorite dip .... hummus. Given the ingredients I have a hard time paying $3.50 for 10 ounces and that's when it was on sale. So I am off to the kitchen to find a recipes that is just as good. This one had a stronger lemon and tahini taste than I prefer but Warren likes it.

Onion & Garlic Hummus

Adapted from
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 1/3 cup olive oil, divided
1 can (15 ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Saute the onions in 1/4 cup oil until softened. Continue cooking over low heat for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Transfer to a food processor; add the beans, lemon juice, tahini, garlic, salt, pepper and remaining oil. Process until smooth. Serve with chips. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

In Honor of the Olympics in Sochi - Borscht

When we were picking up wine yesterday, the shop was tasting Ukrainian wines in honor of the Olympics so I decided to do the same for lunch. Borscht is one of those things that I have heard was not very good. When I looked at some recipes, there really wasn't anything in it that we do not like so I adapted a Cooking Light recipes from January 2008 to make a vegetarian version. Warren's comment ... " I like it and it doesn't even have sausage!"

1/2 tablespoon canola oil
3/4 cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cups chopped peeled celeriac

1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium parsnip, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon tomato paste
3 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup light beer
1 1/4 cups shredded red cabbage
1 cups chopped peeled potato
1garlic cloves, minced
6 ounces sliced peeled beets
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoons Splenda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Non-fat plain Greek yogurt
Chopped fresh dill

Cook the mushrooms in the canola oil until they begin to brown, stirring frequently. Add the onion; cook until beginning to soften. Add the celeriac, carrot, and parsnip;  cook until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste. Add  water and beer; stir well. Reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in cabbage, potato, garlic, and beets; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and  until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Working in batches puree the soup in a blender. Stir in vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Serving in bowls topped  with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkled with dill.

Along with our soup we had salads topped with a Mustard Seed Scallion vinaigrette also adapted from Cooking Light March 2008. Quick easy and yummy.

Mustard Seed Scallion Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped scallion greens
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until well combined.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Low Fat Minetrone Soup and Salad Time

Back on the Weight Watcher wagon again. I have been really bad the last couple of weeks to today is a new start.
I like making very colorful salads with everything that is in the refrigerator. My favorite reduced fat salad dressing is Good Seasoning prepared the less oil way.

Reduced Fat Good Seasonings ® Italian Salad Dressing
1 packet Good Seasonings ® Italian Salad Dressing Mix
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp water
1/4 cup canola oil

Mix Well!

Low Fat Minestrone Soup
Adapted from
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
8 oz rutabagas, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
14 oz canned tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 oz uncooked whole-wheat pasta*
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray

Lightly coat a pot with cooking spray and saute the onion, celery, carrots, parsnips and rutabaga for about 3 minutes.
Add the broth, tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer over a very low heat for about 15 minutes.
Add pasta to saucepan. Cook until pasta is tender, about 10 minutes more.

* I used Pappardelle's Sweet Potato Orzo.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday !!!

What is on your menu for this year's Super Bowl Feast?

I am going pretty traditional this year since we are having friends over who I have never cooked for before. My usual rule is that I have to prepare 3 tried and true meals for you before you are fair game for experimentation. I did venture out a little and tried a new dip and caprese skewers... all in all pretty safe.
On the menu we have ......
Caprese Skewers
A grape tomato cut in half with a small fresh mozzarella ball wrapped in basil skewered in the middle.

Veggie Platter with Assorted Dips
We went to the PA Food and Wine Show back in November and pick up some yummy dip mixes from Sensational Dips
So we mixed up some Crabby Crab, Luscious Lobster and Loaded Baked Potato. 
1 Tbsp of the seasoning mix added to 1/4 cup light mayonnaise and 1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt.

Bourbon Onion Dip
adapted from Maker's Mark Cookbook
1/4 cup bourbon , plus 1 1/2 tsp
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large sweet onions sliced thinly 
1/2 teaspoon salt
 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
6 oz Greek yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
Few drops lemon juice
Pinch sugar substitute
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook with onions in the oil and 1/2 tsp of salt over high heat until they begin to soften,about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir and cook the onions until they begin to color, about another 15 minutes. Add 1/4 cup bourbon to the pan and stir in. Reduce the heat to low and cook the onions for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have colored and caramelized. Remove the onions from the pan and spread on a plate to cool .

Using a food processor combine the ricotta, yogurt and remaining 1 1/2 teaspoon bourbon, and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Fold in the sour cream. Once the onions have cooled, rough chop them briefly. Fold into the mixture and season to taste with lemon juice, sugar substitute, salt and pepper.

Tortilla Chips with Layered Mexican Dip
Layer  1 can  fat-free re-fried beans, 1 cup reduced fat sour cream,1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise with 1 packet of taco seasoning, 2 avocados mashed with the juice of 1 lime, 1 bunch of chopped scallions, 2 large tomatoes - chopped, a large can of pitted black olives - chopped (optional) and top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Follow the link to a previous post

Roasted Sausages with Onions and Peppers

Meatballs with Pasta Sauce

Mild Hot Buffalo Wings from Arooga's

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Iron Chef at the Charest House

The boys challenged me to make a 3 course meal with four ingredients that they would bring home from the grocery store. They came home yesterday with swordfish, goat brie, red lentils, okra and a fresh coconut. Yes, you are correct, that is five ingredients not four but they couldn't decide which one to put back.
1. The rules of the game is 3 courses using all 5 ingredients.
2. Recipe collection consultation is permitted.
3. No time limit.
4. I can use anything else I already have in the house. No additional shopping.
5. The end product must be something I think they would like.
6. They have to at least try each course.

Scoring of each dish will be conducted based on presentation, creativity and taste on a scale of 1-10 by both judges..... Nick & Warren.

I can up with a soup and 2 different appetizers and entrees that use all of the ingredients. I was excited to try them so I set out to make all 5 dishes. But you will notice there are only four below. There was one for swordfish recipe with a coconut lime sauce. When I made the sauce it was beyond awful so we were back down to three dishes. But I do have an additional okra and coconut rice recipe I will be trying later this week.

Shrimp and Coconut Spring Rolls 
adapted from Bon Appétit | May 2008 

5 ounces peeled cooked shrimp, cut into 1/4inch pieces*
2 1/2 cups thinly sliced Napa Cabbage
1/2 cup finely grated peeled fresh coconut
1/4 unpeeled English cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch cubes 

1 1/2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3 teaspoons fish sauce, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons sugar substitute, divided

1/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
1/3 teaspoon dried mint leaves
5 8-inch-diameter spring roll wrappers

Combine shrimp, lettuce, coconut, cucumber, 1 1/2 tsp lime juice, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, 1/4 teaspoon sugar substitute, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, green onion, and mint in large bowl.

Moisten kitchen towel.

Squeeze out excess moisture and lay towel flat on work surface. Fill large bowl with warm water. Submerge 1 wrapper in water until beginning to soften, about 20 seconds. Place on damp towel. Place 1/4 cup shrimp mixture in 3-inch long strip down center of wrapper. Fold insides of wrapper over filling, then roll up tightly, enclosing filling. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. 

Mix 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 teaspoons fish sauce, 1 teaspoons sugar substitute, and 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes in a  small bowl. Serve rolls with dipping sauce.

* I did not have pre-cooked shrimp so I sauteed the shrimp in a pan coated with cooking spray and dusted lightly with Oriental Five Spice Seasoning.

Well this one was NOT a hit with the boys. Warren could not get past the texture of the rice paper. So ...... we tried frying them. He liked them better but they still were not an egg roll.


Red Lentil Soup with and without Andouille Sausage
adapted from Gourmet October 2007

Who knew red lentils would turn yellow when cooked. I have never worked with them before so it was quite a surprise

1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1  bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 cup red lentils 

3 1/2 cups everything but the kitchen sink stock or canned chicken broth
1 Tablespoon Penzey's turkey base (do not include if using canned broth)
3 cups water

6 oz. fully cooked andouille sausage, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Cook onion garlic and cumin in oil until softened.Add the bay leaf and thyme spring and cook, stirring, 1 minute more. Add lentils, broth, water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until lentils are very soft and falling apart, about 30 minutes.

Discard bay leaf and thyme sprig, then purée 2 cups of mixture in blender and return to pan. 

Serve topped with fresh parsley.

In a small pan, saute the andouille sausage until beginning to brown and heated through.  Add to the servings for people who believe that sausage should be included in every meal. I know two such people. 

Baked Crab Brie and Artichoke Dip 
adapted from Gourmet | February 1998

1 medium leek (white part only), trimmed, washed & chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup drained canned artichoke hearts, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup thawed frozen chopped creamed spinach
1 pound Goat Brie, rind removed and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup white wine
2/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 teaspoons dried dill leaves
1 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1 pound crab meat
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
Accompaniment: toasted thin baguette slices, crackers or tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 425°F and lightly coat an 11-inch gratin or other shallow baking dish (about 6-cup) with cooking spray.

Cook the leek, onion, and garlic in oil stirring, until pale golden then add artichoke hearts and creamed spinach.

Add wine and cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add milk and simmer, stirring, 1 minute. 
Add Brie, stirring until it just begins to melt. Remove skillet from heat and stir herbs into mixture.

Pick over crab meat.

In a large bowl stir together crab meat, mustard, and Tabasco. Add to the cheese mixture. Spread mixture evenly in baking dish and bake in middle of oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.

Serve dip hot with toasts, crackers or tortillas.

Cajun Swordfish with Corn & Okra Rice
adapted from Australian Good Taste - March 2002

1 cup corn kernels
1 cup cooked white rice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
8 small okra, ends trimmed, thinly sliced crossways
Pinch of salt
1 lb swordfish
1 Tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 lime, quartered

Preheat the oven to 500F.

Cook the onion and okra in the oil stirring occasionally, for 7-8 minutes or until crisp and brown. Add rice and corn to pan. Gently toss for 1-2 minutes or until heated through. If dry add a little stock to the pan to moisten the rice.Remove from heat. Taste and season with salt. Cover loosely with foil to keep warm.

Coat both sides of swordfish steak with Cajun spice. Place in the oven for about 7 minutes or until cooked through.

To serve, spoon rice mixture onto serving plates. Top with swordfish and then tomato. Serve immediately with lime wedges.

And the scores are in:Based on 30 points

Spring rolls
                                       Nick                           Warren
Dip                                   14                                26* 
Spring Rolls                       13                                25               
Soup                                 26                                29
Entree                               23                                26

*We preferred the dip with the addition of salsa

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Years Resolutions --- Eating Healthier and Exercising

My resolutions are not a whole lot different this year than in years past. Some years have been more successful than others. The latter part of the year was more successful with the weight loss goal thank to a friend who introduced me to the Advocare program,

After gaining some weight during the holidays, I am starting the New Year off right with a combination of the Advocare supplements and Weight Watchers.

Of course this morning I wake up not hungry at all. We all know I will never make it to lunch as a matter of fact by the time I get to work I am sure I will be starving. So I packed Egg Beater Pizza.

Egg Beater™ Veggie Pizza
1/2 cup egg substitute
3/4 cup mixed vegetables
3 Tbsp spaghetti sauce
1 oz reduced fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
 Cooking spray

Cook the egg substitute in a pan coated with cooking spray. Do not scramble. When almost set flip the egg over in the pan to finish cook the other side. Place the egg in a microwave safe to go container. Rinse out the pan and saute the veggies in cooking spray.
Top the cooked egg substitute with spaghetti sauce, cooked veggies and cheese. When ready to eat microwave until heated through and the cheese is melted.

If eating immediately, heat the spaghetti sauce. Top the cooked egg substitute with heated sauce, hot sauteed veggies and cheese. Return to pan, cover and heat on low until the cheese is melted.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Spicy Lentil Soup

It was a bit chilly this morning so I decided to make some soup for lunch. I have never made lentil soup before so I thought I would give it a try. Spicy usually goes over well with the boys but even after adding smoked sausage to their I could sell them on it. Oh well, all the more for me.

Spicy Lentil Soup
adapted from Food Network Magazine September 2010
2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1/2 green pepper, roughly chopped*
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp grated ginger
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 1/2 tsp Arbol chile powder*
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Kosher salt
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt

Bring the lentils and 7 cups of warm water to a boil. Add the pepper, tomato, ginger, garlic, chile powder, turmeric and 2 teaspoons salt. Simmer partially covered until thickened, about 20 minutes. Thin with water if necessary. (I just happened to be cooking cannellini beans this morning as well so I used a little for the bean cooking water to thin it out.) Stir in the cilantro and yogurt.

* The original recipes called for a serrano pepper which I did not have in the house. So after some pepper research the Arbol is a little hotter than a serrano so rather than using a 2 tsp of the chile powder which is the equivalent of whole pepper I reduced it slightly.