Thursday, June 30, 2011

More Simple Summer Solutions!


Today, we get to see the culinary inspiration of Chez Mukweto, the host and creator of Simple Summer Solutions.  Hasn't this been fun?  I have truly enjoyed visiting others and experiencing their creativity.

In case you missed them:

Monday was a quick and tasty recipe for salmon by Ma Nouvelle Mode.
Tuesday was spicy chicken by The ArtsyGirl Connection.
Wednesday was a refreshing drink here where Tracy cooks it right!!
Friday is a "linky party" for all to share!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Berry Citrus Summer Slush

Here is my Simple Summer Solution!  No need to stop at a fast food restaurant for a quick thirst-quenching summer drink.  Just have a few simple ingredients on hand and blend away.  It is fresh fruit at it's best.  This recipe saves time and money and provides your family with true refreshment.  Enjoy!

 Berry Citrus Summer Slush

8 ounces strawberries or blueberries
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon, lime, or orange juice
1/3 cup sweetener of your choice (i.e. sugar, honey, agave, Splenda, or Truvia)
1/2 cup water
1 cup ice cubes
Citrus slices for garnish, optional

Place all ingredients except citrus slices in blender container.  Blend 30 to 60 seconds, or until ice is crushed.  Pour into three glasses and garnish, if desired.  Makes 3 servings, about 1 cup each.  For those of you on Weight Watchers, each serving has 0 to 3 points plus and varying calories, depending on the fruit and sweetener used.

Tomorrow we visit Chez Mukweto to see her Simple Summer Solution!
Monday was a quick and tasty recipe by Ma Nouvelle Mode.
Tuesday was spicy chicken by The ArtsyGirl Connection.
Friday is a "linky party" for all to share!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Simple Summer Solutions!

Today, go on over to The ArtsyGirl Connection for her exciting recipe for chicken thighs.

Monday was a quick and tasty recipe by Ma Nouvelle Mode.
Wednesday will be right here where Tracy cooks it right!!
Thursday will be presented by Chez Mukweto.
Friday is a "linky party" for all to share!


Monday, June 27, 2011


Saturday is Abundant Harvest day.  I go to a pick up site for my crate of organic produce. I never know what will be in the crate.  I could check the web site ahead and see, but I love the surprise each time.

The lavender was a beautiful addition this week, and right away, I knew what I wanted to cook.  First, I needed to sort through the goodies.  This is the crate I bring home each week:

The white paper in front is the weekly newsletter that tells who grew each item and gives ideas for using unfamiliar fruits and vegetables.  It's like Christmas morning when I lift open the brown paper wrapper and peek inside.  As soon as I see the bounty, my mind begins to picture the fresh and healthy dishes we will eat in the coming week.

I realize not everyone is going to have access to fresh, organic lavender.  You can make this simple chicken dish with just the rosemary or replace the lavender with another fresh herb like thyme.  No fresh herbs on hand?  Substitute dried herbs and use one-third the amount.

 Lavender Chicken

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, or any other type vinegar you have
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh lavender flowers
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4  5-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

In small bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken.  Coat baking pan just big enough for chicken pieces to fit in one layer with olive oil spray.  Place chicken in pan and add liquid mixture; turn chicken a few times to coat completely.  Place in refrigerator to marinate 30 minutes or more.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Bake chicken for 30 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.  Makes 4 servings, 4 points plus and 156 calories each.  Serve with an oven-roasted vegetable like this and some bread for an easy, complete meal.

Note:  Your baking pan should not be larger than the size that holds the chicken.  The honey in the marinade will burn and stick to the pan.

                                       *                                    *                                    *    

Don't forget this week is Simple Summer Solutions over at  Chez Mukweto's.  Go see today's post at Ma Nouvelle Mode for a delicious salmon recipe.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Strawberry Mini Muffins

What is more fun than a pretty pink bite of strawberry sweetness?   I can think of nothing, especially  since there are going to be absolutely no guilty feelings after I eat the bite!

Last Saturday, an exciting group of women met to talk and eat at the Creative Connections breakfast.  I was recruited to make "breakfast treats" for the group and I baked these muffins.  It was a privilege to contribute to this beautiful spread including the following: flowers by Petalicious,  dishes by The Vintage Table Co., printing by The Pomegranate Basket (see label below),  cake truffles by Sweet Little Cakes by Donna, and cupcakes by Kaitlyn's Kupcakes.

It turned out to be a pretty day in the park and a great gathering of creative women, not to mention the many delicious treats.  Now you, too,  can take a few minutes to bake the muffins and bite into one.

Strawberry Mini Muffins

1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons canola or other mild oil
1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces fresh strawberries, pureed in blender or food processor

1/4 cup Neufchatel or light cream cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon strawberry extract (use vanilla if you have no strawberry - frosting will not be pink)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat mini muffin pans with nonstick spray or line with mini cupcake papers; set aside.

In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and baking soda. In separate small bowl, stir together applesauce, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.  Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir until just combined, then gently stir in strawberries.

Fill muffin cups with batter about half full.  Bake muffins 17 minutes, or until top of one springs back when gently touched.  Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

To make frosting, put Neufchatel and butter in mixing bowl.  Beat with electric beaters, then add powdered sugar and extract and beat until smooth.  Spread a thin layer on each muffin or make them fancier by placing frosting in plastic sandwich bag, cutting a tiny corner off, and piping decorative squiggles on each muffin.

Makes about 43 muffins, 1 point plus and 57 calories each.

Note:  Be sure and go over to Chez Mukweto next week for a little summer fun.  I will be sharing something there on Wednesday, June 29.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Genova Pesto Salmon

Salmon is a favorite in my home.  While we usually barbecue it and love it that way, sometimes we need a little variety.  In this dish, pesto pairs deliciously with both potatoes and the salmon.

Please don't be afraid to cook fish in the oven.  It cooks fast.  In fact, you never want to cook it too long because it can dry out.  This recipe is a quick weeknight meal almost all in one pan - a salad will balance the plate with additional color and nutrients. 

Genova Pesto Salmon

1 pound new potatoes, red or white, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons prepared pesto sauce, store-bought or homemade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound wild salmon, cut into four pieces
1 lemon, juiced

Preheat oven to 425° F.  In large bowl, combine potatoes, garlic, pesto, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Place in one layer in large roasting pan.  Cook in oven for 20 minutes.

Take pan out of oven and remove potatoes from pan temporarily.  Lay salmon pieces in pan and pour lemon juice over them.  Cover salmon with potatoes and put pan back in oven.  Cook 10 more minutes, or until salmon flakes easily with fork.  Makes 4 servings, 6 points plus and 271 calories each.

Note:  The salmon I purchased was "Silver Brite, Wild Keta" from the frozen bin at Trader Joe's.  It is leaner than other salmon I buy.  A different salmon could increase the points plus and calorie amounts.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chipotle Ground Red Pepper

My recent recipe for Santa Fe "Chicken" Sandwiches included an ingredient that is not familiar to everyone.  I ordered this spice online from Penzey's Spices, a fantastic spice purveyor.  It can be purchased in supermarkets as well.

Chipotle ground red pepper is a dried version of smoked red jalepeƱos.  It adds a deep smoky flavor to whatever dish you use it in.  The sauce on the Santa Fe Sandwiches has just the right amount of heat with only 1/4 teaspoon used.  You can vary the amount of heat to  suit your personal preference.  The sauce is so tasty, I've made it twice again, and even used it on other types of sandwiches.  Give this exciting spice a try!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Two of my children have a passion for chocolate and peanut butter together.  When it's a cake occasion, say a graduation or a birthday, they always request chocolate and peanut butter.  Here is my latest response to one of those requests.  And by the way, happy graduation!!

These cupcakes are unbelievably simple to make.  They are so moist and rich, you can leave the frosting off to have a lighter snack.  But don't do it.   The frosting is over the top (pun intended) in creamy goodness and not to be missed.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

1 box chocolate cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist Milk Chocolate)
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 cup water

4 ounces Neufchatel (light cream cheese), room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 2/3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup fat free frozen whipped topping, thawed

Mini chocolate chips or other small candies for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350° F.   Line 18 muffin cups with muffin papers.  In large mixing bowl, whisk together cake mix, yogurt, and water until smooth.  Spoon batter into papers, each about two-thirds full.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until top of a cupcake springs back when lightly touched and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Completely cool cupcakes on wire rack.

To make frosting, in medium bowl, beat Neufchatel, butter, and peanut butter together until smooth.  Add powdered sugar, a little at a time, and beat until smooth.  Beat in whipped topping until well combined.  Frost cooled cupcakes.  Sprinkle with garnish, if desired.  Makes 18 cupcakes, 6 points plus and 216 calories each.

Note: frosting recipe is a lightened version of this one on Annie's Eats.

Just for fun, I made a batch of Strawberry Cupcakes using the same three ingredients - cake mix, yogurt, and water.  The result was moist and delicious, and spread with a couple tablespoons fat free whipped topping, each was 3 points plus and 145 calories.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cilantro Pepita Salad Dressing

If you have ordered the Mexican Caesar Salad at El Torito, you know the luscious creamy green dressing they make.  I find it so delicious that I inquired in the restaurant about the ingredients.  They don't divulge their recipe secrets, but I learned the dressing is full of high-fat mayonnaise.

I continued my sleuthing online and found many "copycat" recipes for this dressing.  They taste so close to the original that no one would know the difference.  But little ol' me does not want all that fat!

My version is much lighter and every bit as delicious.  You can throw together a salad with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds),  Mexican Cotija cheese and tortilla strips, then toss it with this dressing and dig in.  Buen appetito!

Cilantro Pepita Salad Dressing

1 4-ounce can fire-roasted diced chilies
1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons grated Cotija cheese (or Parmesan if Cotija is unavailable)
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups light mayonnaise
1 cup fat free mayonnaise plus 1/2 cup full-fat mayonnaise
2 bunches fresh cilantro,  leaves pulled off stems

Place all ingredients except cilantro in blender.  Blend about 10 seconds to incorporate.  Add cilantro leaves a big handful at a time and blend.  Repeat until all cilantro is used.  Refrigerate several hours to allow flavors to blend.  Makes 1 quart, each 2-tablespoon serving one point plus.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Parfait Time

Ever since I bought my pretty parfait glasses, I have looked for opportunities to use them.  With my over-abundance of peaches, nectarines and apriums (3/4 apricot and 1/4 plum), the creation of a new parfait was bound to happen.

Just as I was ready to place the layers in the glasses, I remembered a beautiful glass bowl that has remained unused in my cupboard for years.  A four-serving parfait was born!

Summer Fruit Parfait

4 pieces of fruit such as peach, nectarine, or apricot
1 1/4 cups nonfat milk
2 tablespoons orange-flavored liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon orange flavoring
1 package instant sugar free fat free vanilla pudding mix
4 Biscoff cookies or other biscuit-type cookies, crushed
1 cup thawed fat free frozen whipped topping

Pit and chop fruit; set aside.  Place milk, liqueur or flavoring, and pudding mix in mixing bowl and whisk 2 minutes.  Spoon half into pretty glass bowl or 4 individual parfait glasses.  Set aside 2 teaspoons cookie crumbs, then sprinkle half remaining crumbs over pudding.

Spoon half fruit over crumbs, then spread evenly with half whipped topping.  Repeat layers.  Sprinkle reserved 2 teaspoons crumbs over top.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.  Makes 4 servings, 4 points plus each.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Santa Fe "Chicken" Sandwich

There is a vegan restaurant in the southern California area called Veggie Grill.  It has creative and delicious food which both meat eaters and vegetarians enjoy.  Each time I go, I must order the Santa Fe Crispy Chickin' sandwich for it's combination of creamy, crunchy, spicy and all around goodness.

Since it's not convenient to drive an hour from home each time I want one of these delightful treats, I had to attempt my own version.  Here is my re-creation of the sandwich.

Santa Fe "Chicken" Sandwich

1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 frozen breaded "chicken" tenders (I used Gardein brand)
4 hamburger buns (I used Sara Lee White Whole Grain Buns)
1/2 medium avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
4 thin slices red onion
4 thick slices tomato
4 lettuce leaves

In small bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, lime juice, garlic powder, chipotle pepper powder, sugar, and salt.  Place in refrigerator to allow flavor to develop.

Cook "chicken" tenders according to package directions.  Lay two on bottom half of each bun.  Top with one-fourth sliced avocado, onion, tomato, and lettuce.  Spread 1 tablespoon sauce on top half of each bun and put sandwich together.  There will be leftover sauce to use another time.  Makes 4 sandwiches, 7 points plus each.

Note: These sandwiches can be made with real chicken tenders, of course, but be sure to adjust points plus.

Friday, June 3, 2011


I recently saw a picture of a mouthwatering meatball sandwich in a magazine.  It prompted cravings not to be ignored.  If you are a regular reader, you probably know that meat is not often in my recipes.  I frequently cook with meat substitutes that populate the vegetarian sections of the market.  These meatballs were delicious using a product called Lightlife Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style.  Of course, you can substitute a pound of ground beef or turkey if you like.

Once the meatballs are made, the sandwich comes together quickly and is oh. . so. . good.

Paired with fruit, it makes an easy meal that satisfies those persistent cravings.

Italian Meatballs

1 14-ounce tube Lightlife Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style (or 1 pound ground beef or turkey)
1/3 cup nonfat liquid egg substitute
4 Laughing Cow light garlic and herb cheese wedges, room temperature
1/4 cup rolled oats
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients using hands to mix well.  Form 20 meatballs, about 1 1/2 inches diameter each.  Place on baking sheet coated with olive oil spray, parchment paper, or Silpat.  Bake at 450 degrees F. for 12 minutes (or 18 minutes if using beef or turkey).  Makes 5 servings of 4 meatballs, each serving 3 points plus using Gimme Lean.

For meatball sandwich, combine 4 meatballs with 1/4 cup heated pasta sauce.  Place in toasted light hot dog bun or sandwich roll and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Adjust points plus accordingly.  Enjoy!