Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recipe Swap :: Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder

The second exchange of the recipe swap was this past week.  This swap was lunch.  Lunch is a difficult category for me because usually I eat leftovers from the night before, yogurt or even a small salad.

The recipe that I was fortunate enough to receive was for Cheesy Potato Corn Chowder.  I must admit that making soups and/or chowders is very intimidating to me.  Honestly, I don't know where that stems from, but whenever my husband suggests soups, I usually have him make them.  However, this was probably one of the easiest chowders to make.  Again, not having a lot of experience with soups, I was surprised at how thick this chowder was without using cream or a heavy ingredient.  

Before even opening the link that I was sent, I was very excited to see chowder as the title of the recipe because I would have to tackle this intimidation.  Especially a chowder that is cheese+corn+potatoes, you can't go very wrong with those ingredients.  Very, very easy to make... this is a perfect comfort food especially on a cold, dreary day.  

The only thing that I would add next time is a touch more of salt.  Potatoes are the one thing that I like saltier than other foods.  The only other change I made was that I didn't use roasted garlic, but I used minced garlic instead.  

Source: GroupRecipes
  • 7 medium yukon gold potatoes, cut in 1/2" cubes
  • 1 carton (32 oz) chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp roasted garlic 
  • 1/2 tsp each salt & pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2 cans (7oz) whole kernel corn, drained
  • 4 scallions, (1/4 cup), finely chopped, optional
  • In 5 qt. Dutch oven, place potatoes, add just enough water to cover. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 to 15 mins or till potatoes are very tender. Drain. Reserve 1 c potatoes; return remaining potatoes to saucepan.
  • In small bowl,mash reserved potatoes with fork; return to saucepan. Stir in broth, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium; cook, uncovered 2 mins.
  • In small bowl, stir flour into milk with wire whisk until well mixed. Add milk mixture to potato mixture, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and boils. Stir in cheeses and corn till cheese is melted.
  • To serve, ladle chowder into bowls; top with scallions.
  • The recipe that I submitted was for Eggplant & Mozzerella Melts from Everyday Food.  Instead of tomato sauce, we lighten it up with a balsamic dressing for a delicious lunchtime meal.  

    Source: Everyday Food
    2 large eggs
    Coarse salt and ground pepper
    3/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs 
    Olive oil, for baking sheet
    1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
    1 loaf (8 ounces) soft Italian bread --- we use ciabatta bread or a great thick, crusty bread.
    Shredded mozzerella for topping
  • Balsamic Dressing:
    1/4c. balsamic vinegar
    1/4c. EVOO
    1 tbsp. honey or agave nectar
    1/2 tsp. garlic powder
    1/2 tsp. dried oregano
    salt & pepper to taste
  • Preheat oven to 475 degrees. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat eggs with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread breadcrumbs in a pie plate or shallow bowl.
    Oil a rimmed baking sheet. Dip eggplant rounds in egg, then dredge in breadcrumbs, turning to coat completely; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Bake (without turning) until golden and tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
    While the eggplant is baking, mix together ingredients for the dressing.  
    Meanwhile, split bread lengthwise, and place cut side up on another baking sheet; press gently in centers to create a well. Layer both halves with balsamic dressing, eggplant, and cheese. Bake until cheese is browned in spots, 6 to 8 minutes.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Berry Berry Chocolate Smoothie

Weight Watchers has these smoothie mixes (or I should say had because I haven't been to WW in well over a year and a half) in chocolate and vanilla.  While cleaning out our pantry, my husband found a few smoothie packs (still before the expiration date!!).  A great addition to an on-the-go breakfast or a midday snack, this smoothie is absolutely delicious, low points and can satisfy a chocolate/sweet craving instantly!

One of my favorite things about smoothies is that you can change the recipe and have a completely different yet tasty treat!

  • 1 packet of WW Chocolate Smoothie Mix (or another powdered mix)
  • 1 cup of frozen berries - I used mixed berries, but whatever your favorite berry is load up the blender
  • 3/4 cup 1% milk
Toss all the ingredients in a blender and mix until all ingredients are well blended.  Pour into glass and enjoy!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Greek Tzatziki Sauce & Chicken Gyros

Chicken gyro night is everyone's favorite night!  No matter what kind of day you had at work, knowing that those delicious ingredients for the tzatziki sauce were melding together in the fridge.  Dinners that don't require much effort, but are healthy & delicious are very much welcomed in our house.  And this dinner is just that.

Greek Tzatziki Sauce
32 oz. plain yogurt
1/2 english cucumber, grated
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. black pepper

Combine yogurt, cukes, garlic, lemon juice & EVOO in a bowl and stir.  Add salt & pepper.  Mix well until all ingredients are blended.  Cover tightly for at least 6 hours in refrigerator.

Grilled Chicken Marinade for Gyros
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 c. EVOO
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. thyme
salt & pepper to taste

Combine ingredients & pour over chicken breasts.  Let marinate for at least 1 hour.  Bake in oven for 25 minutes at 350ºF or until juices run clear.

Assemble gyros on a pita with grilled chicken & tzatziki sauce.  Other garnishes to add are red onion, hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, and feta cheese.  However the sauce is so extraordinarily delicious that it doesn't need any other garnish to add flavor.

Serve with couscous.  Couscous doesn't have much flavor.  Tonight I started with water and added a dash of salt, pepper, thyme & paprika and a splash of lemon juice to tie in all of the flavors of this greek-inspired dish.  No longer was that couscous bland.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Skinnytaste's Asian Glazed Drumsticks!  What a simple, but absolutely tasty recipe with just a few simple ingredients.  The chicken was so incredibly tender.  I made steamed broccoli with a splash of s&p and garlic powder.  This glaze would even be delicious on wings or as a dipping sauce for an asian inspired app.  This recipe reminded me of one of my favorite Chinese food dishes, General Tso's Chicken, but a much healthier option.  Next time (because we already announced that this made it's way into our recipe rotation) we make this, I will definitely make a brown rice as a side dish in addition to steamed veggies.  

The house still has the delicious aroma wafting throughout the house and now, a few hours after dinner, it's making me hungry & my mouth water for lunch tomorrow.

Asian Glazed Drumsticks
Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes 
Servings: 4 • Serving Size: 2 drumsticks  Points: 5 ww pts
Calories: 213 • Fat: 4.7 g  Protein: 27.5 g  Carb: 12.7 g  Fiber: 0.4 g  

  • 8 medium chicken drumsticks, skin removed
  • Pam spray oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 4 tsp agave nectar (or sugar)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 2 tbsp chives or scallions, chopped
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds

In a heavy large saucepan, brown chicken on high for 3-4 minutes with a little spray oil. Add water, balsamic, soy sauce, agave, garlic, ginger, hot sauce and cook on high until liquid comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for about 20 minutes. Remove cover and bring heat to high, allowing sauce to reduce down, about 8-10 minutes, until it becomes a thick glaze, turning chicken occasionally. (Keep an eye on glaze, you don't want it to burn when it start becoming thick) Transfer chicken to a platter and pour glaze on top. Top with chives and sesame seeds and serve.

Naked Chicken!

All glazed up!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

AW Moment - Down a size!

The number on my scale has crept down over 15 pounds in the last 8 weeks.  A number that I haven't seen since before I was pregnant with my first daughter.  While this in itself is a very proud moment in my journey, I could now actually feel it in my clothes.  I knew I needed new jeans when the last hole on my belt wasn't tight enough and my pants still fell down.  I was growing quite tired of pulling my pants up every few minutes.  So while at Target one night, I stumbled upon new jeans.  I picked up a size smaller than my current jeans and I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic about them zipping up.  I tried them on and holy crap, they fit!!!!  What an awesome feeling!  Not only to be a size smaller and reach small goals, but to show that I can succeed at this!!


When we make fajitas, we make the whole sha-bang.  Marinated meat to rice and beans plus all the garnishes makes for delicious and well-balanced meal.  

1lb. of steak
Juice of 3 limes
2 gloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, washed & chopped
1tbsp. ground cumin
2tsp. ground chili powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

Marinate the steak or chicken for at least 1 hour or up to 5 hours. Broil steak in toaster oven for about 30 minutes- less for a more rare piece of steak & longer for a more well done piece.. This marinade is also great for chicken.  Once the meat is cook, slice into strips.

Onions & Peppers
Slice onions and peppers and place in a skillet with 1 tbsp of EVOO on medium-high heat.  Sprinkle with Creole seasoning.  If Creole seasoning is not in your pantry, dash with salt, pepper, garlic powder, ground cayenne pepper & ground paprika.  Cook onions and peppers until translucent. 

Rice & Beans
2 c. basmati rice
32oz. chicken stock
2 tsp. Adobo seasoning (or more to taste)
15oz. can of Red Kidney beans
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook rice according to directions.  Sub chicken stock for water and add adobo seasoning and a can of kidney beans. 

Warm tortillas in the microwave by stacking on a microwaveable plate and alternate with a damp paper towel between each tortilla.  Microwave for approximately 45 seconds.  

Assemble fajitas and add garnishes of your choice. Some of our favorites are Crystal hot sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and avocado.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Skinnytaste's Skinny Italian Spinach Meatballs

Spaghetti & meatball night is quite popular in our house and these are definitely a lighter alternative to a comforting bowl of pasta & meatballs!  We are always trying to find ways to sneak extra veggies into our entrees.  This was perfect- even my 2 1/2 year old daughter loved them.  To save on time, I used a jar of Barilla and tossed with our favorite whole wheat pasta.

I modified that meatball recipe slightly because parsley is not one of our favorite herbs so I tossed in some oregano & basil instead.  Very easy recipe to follow & the meatballs stayed intact while they were pan frying in the skillet.  

Skinny Italian Spinach Meatballs

  • 1 lb 93% lean ground beef
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of all liquid
  • 2 slices whole wheat Weight Watchers bread (or any half point bread)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley - I subbed dried oregano & basil for the parsley.  We are not fans of parsley in our family.
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese (or your favorite Parmesan Cheese)
  • salt and pepper

Wet bread with water then mash up with your hands. Add to large bowl and combine with chopped beef, chopped spinach, egg, garlic, parsley, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Mix all ingredients well until thoroughly combined. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, measure meat, then divide in two so that each meatball is 1/8th of a cup. Roll into little meatballs.
Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, add 1 tbsp olive oil on low heat. When oil is hot add as many meatballs that will fit, cook on low, turning often so that all side get browned. Cook until the centers are cooked through. When finished, place on a dish lined with paper towels to blot any excess oil. Drop meatballs into sauce and continue cooking the remaining meatballs, repeating the process. When all meatballs are in the sauce, simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes. 

Taken with my Palm Pixi

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Grilled Balsamic Chicken Wraps

Usually our grilled balsamic chicken is served with a veg & couscous, but this week we decided to change it up a little.  We decided to add some bleu cheese & a balsamic tomato basil salad to a wrap to be a little different.  

Balsamic Marinade
  • Equal parts Balsamic vinegar & EVOO 
  • Splash of agave syrup
  • Two gloves fresh garlic, finely chopped or minced
  • Dried oregano
  • Salt & pepper
Place chicken (I used three chicken breasts) in the marinade for at least 1 hour prior to baking/grilling, but can be up to 4 hours.  Bake in oven at 350ºF for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked thoroughly.  Dice chicken into bite size pieces.

Tomato-Basil Salad
  • 3 grape tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • drizzle of EVOO
  • 2-3 tbsp. (or more for taste) balsamic vinegar
Assemble wraps with chicken, salad & bleu cheese and enjoy!
Balsamic Marinade

Chicken Wraps ready to be devoured!

Kitchen Tools: My favorite

The garlic press is definitely my favorite cooking tool.  I love garlic, but don't like to smell like garlic for the rest of the day after preparing a meal.  I went to a Pampered Chef party last February and that was one of the items I decided to try since some of the other ladies raved about theirs.  The consultant featured the garlic press while making a pizza for us to sample.  What sold me?  The fact that you can take a whole unpeeled garlic clove and place it in the press, press the handles together and voila! out comes the garlic!  Definitely an awesome tool and a must have for any fresh garlic loving chef!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chicken Ropa Vieja

The first time I had Ropa Vieja was at one of our favorite restaurants, Cuban Pete's in Montclair.  When I found the recipe below, I was very excited to try this as I tried a few others, but nothing was quite as tasty.  

Very easy to make and absolutely delicious, this recipe will surely make it into our regular rotation.  The only modification that I made was the amount of cumin... I loaded up on the cumin.  

Chicken Ropa Vieja
From Skinnytaste.
  • 3 chicken breast halves
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 tomato, quartered
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • reserved broth
  • 1 tsp cumin, or more to taste (I like a lot)
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken, onion, tomato, carrot, and 2 cloves of garlic into crock pot. Add water to cover, and set to high for 4 hours until the chicken is tender. If cooking on the stove,cook on medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Placethe chicken into a bowl and shred it into strips using a fork; set aside. Reserve the liquid.

In a large deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, green peppers, and red peppers. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in chicken, tomato sauce, white wine, and about 3/4 cup of the reserved broth to create a nice sauce. Seasonwith cumin, garlic powder salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on low for about 10 minutes more adding more broth and seasoning if needed. Makes 4 cups.

Served over basmasti rice & topped with shredded cheddar!