Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Provencal Chickpeas

Roasted chickpeas are simple to make.  They can be a crunchy appetizer nibble or a tasty and nutritious addition to a meal.

The roasting time will determine the softness or crispiness of your chickpeas.  For seasoning, I chose herbes de Provence since the warm flavors complement any other menu items, and quite frankly, I have a huge supply.  Any other spice or herb blend - Italian, Mexican, etc. - will work just fine.

Roasted Provencal Chickpeas

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, as desired

In small bowl, stir together garbanzo beans, oil, and herbs.  Add salt, using higher amount if making crispy appetizer-type chickpeas.  Set aside for at least 1/2 hour for flavor to absorb into beans.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Coat baking sheet with olive oil spray.  Spread beans evenly on baking sheet in single layer.  Roast in oven for minimum of 20 minutes.  For crispier texture, continue roasting for up to 35 minutes.  Makes a little more than one cup for a total of 8 points plus and 425 calories.

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Pesto!

There are as many versions of pesto as there are great cooks.  My take on pesto is tangy and delicious despite decreasing the amount of pinenuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil.

Faced with a pile of basil leaves from my weekly Abundant Harvest organic produce crate, I knew there was pesto in my future.  Many pesto recipes are heavy on the nuts, cheese, and especially, the olive oil.  Lighter versions often include chicken broth or plain yogurt, but mine gets it's lightness and fresher flavor from lemon juice.

One batch I made coated a pound of pasta perfectly.  I used penne pasta and served it with a sprinkle of extra Parmesan.  Another batch, as you can see, made a Caprese-style open-face sandwich.  It was toasted whole wheat bread spread with a tablespoon of pesto, layered with sliced tomatoes and grated light Mozzarella, then blasted under the broiler to melt the cheese.  Yum!

Pesto Sauce

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 ounces pinenuts (about 6 tablespoons)
1 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/4 cup)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place basil, pinenuts, Parmesan, garlic, lemon juice, and salt in blender or food processor.  Blend or pulse until finely chopped.  Drizzle in olive oil while machine is running and process until smooth.  If needed, add water a teaspoon at a time to make a smooth but thick mixture.  Makes 1 cup.  Each 1-tablespoon serving is 1 point plus and 50 calories, and each 2-tablespoon serving is 3 points plus and 99 calories.

Please head over to Lottie Loves, a blog by a domestically creative woman who loves the 1940's and 50's.  I was honored to write a guest post for her and enjoyed making recipes from that time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Something sweet but light!

Sometimes a craving hits for something creamy and chocolatey and just darn rich.  Chocolate Eclair Cake fits the bill.  It's a recipe from my past returning now with lighter ingredients.

This is one of those times when I use processed ingredients that include artificial sweeteners.  You can replace them with the  "real" products if you'd like, but the nutritional amounts will skyrocket.  This is not an everyday food but a treat that fits into my light eating plan every once in awhile.

* * Please note: this recipe needs to be made at least 12 hours ahead to allow time to chill. * *

Light Chocolate Eclair Cake

12 low fat graham crackers
2 (1-ounce) boxes sugar free fat free vanilla pudding mix
1 1/4 cups fat free milk
8 ounces frozen fat free nondairy whipped topping, thawed

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons hot water

Lay four graham crackers on bottom of 8x8" square pan, breaking them up as necessary to cover.  In large mixing bowl, whisk pudding mix, milk, and whipped topping until smooth.  Spread half over graham crackers in pan.  Lay four more graham crackers on pudding mixture in pan.  Cover with remaining pudding mixture, then use last four graham crackers on top; set aside.

In small saucepan over very low heat, melt butter and chocolate chips.  Whisk in powdered sugar and hot water until smooth.  Add extra water if needed for a pourable consistency.  Pour evenly over "cake" and spread to cover.  Refrigerate for at least 12 hours to allow graham crackers to soften.  Makes 9 servings, 6 points plus and 235 calories each.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Manicotti My Way

I made a recipe using egg roll wrappers, but only a few.  This Manicotti came into existence because of the leftovers.

Please try this simple version.  All you do is mix up the filling and roll it up in the egg roll wrappers, top with store-bought sauce and some cheese, and bake.  Could not be easier.

Spinach Cheese Manicotti

1 (15-ounce) tub fat free ricotta cheese (I used Trader Joe's)
1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 egg
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 ounces light Mozzarella cheese, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
1 (26-ounce) jar purchased spaghetti sauce (I used Trader Joe's Organic Marinara Sauce)
30 wonton wrappers (I used Nasoya)

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat 9x13-inch baking pan with olive oil spray; set aside.  Combine ricotta, spinach, onion, egg, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in large bowl.  Add 1 cup Mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan and mix well.

Spread 1/2 cup spaghetti sauce over bottom of prepared baking pan.  Spoon about 2 tablespoons filling on one edge of wonton wrapper and roll up.  Place seam side down in pan.  Repeat until all filling and wrappers are used up.  (They will fit tightly in pan.)  Pour remaining sauce over Manicotti.  Sprinkle remaining Mozzarella and Parmesan over top.

Bake 30 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Makes 8 servings, 5 points plus and 240 calories each.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Try Eggplant this Way!

So we've had breakfast together on three different days and now we are moving on. . . from breakfast to e-g-g-p-l-a-n-t.

Sometimes the simplest of ideas turns out to be spectacular.  Usually in my kitchen, eggplant is only roasted in the oven or used in Ratatouille.  This time, however, I tried a new method (to me) - steaming the eggplant.  It resulted in a soft-textured vegetable that soaked up the delicious sauce. Don't be afraid of eggplant.  And use this sauce on other steamed vegetables as well.

Eggplant with Asian Sauce

1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut flour (or 2 teaspoons reduced fat peanut butter)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh chile paste (like Sambal Oelek)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 packet stevia powder (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1 (1-pound) eggplant, unpeeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices

Whisk together all ingredients except eggplant until smooth.  Set aside to let flavors blend.

Bring water in a steamer pot to boil.  Lay eggplant slices overlapping in steamer basket.  Steam 15 minutes until soft.

Place slices on plate delicately so they do not tear, and dribble with sauce.  Makes 4 servings, 1 point plus and 50 calories each (a little more if using peanut butter instead of peanut flour).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Breakfast at Tracy's - Day Three!

What a gorgeous day!  Welcome to our final breakfast together this week.   It's time to take a sip of your coffee and a bite of these fresh and tasty waffles.

Inspiration for recipes comes from many places.  This idea developed from a breakfast I ordered in Lake Tahoe, California.  The 50's-type diner had many intriguing options, but nut waffles caught my eye.  One taste and I knew back home in my kitchen I would re-create the deliciousness of my vacation.

Pecan Waffles

1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups lowfat buttermilk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pecans, for topping
Maple syrup, optional
Butter, optional

Preheat electric waffle iron.  In mixing bowl, whisk together flours, pecans, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and vanilla.  Add liquid to dry ingredients and stir just until combined.

Use about 1/2 cup batter for each waffle.  Cook until desired crispiness.  Sprinkle each waffle with a few chopped pecans, and serve with maple syrup and butter if desired.  Makes 8 waffles, 4 points plus and 167 calories each, plus additional for toppings used.  Two waffles is a filling helping.

Thanks for visiting me this week for breakfast.  
 Please come to my kitchen for more meals in the days to come.  
  It was lovely to have you! 

* * * 
Lastly, please check out my guest post at Danica's Daily.
What a joy it was to share a little bit of me with her readers.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Breakfast at Tracy's - Day Two!

Welcome back to my kitchen this beautiful morning.  Pull up your chair and pour yourself some coffee.  Today we are having a warm and cheesy entree I think you will enjoy.

My husband and I had breakfast with friends recently at an adorable but quirky cafe.  One of the items on the menu was breakfast pizza.  I just loved the idea (but couldn't resist a breakfast burrito that day).  I vowed to experiment in my own kitchen and make my own version.  Here it is!

Breakfast Pizza

1 frozen deep dish pie crust
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted and sliced
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves, sliced
4 ounces Jarlsberg Lite or other light Swiss cheese, shredded
1 ounce reduced fat Cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Carefully loosen crimped edge of pie crust and gently pop crust out of foil pan.  Place on baking sheet and let defrost 15 minutes.  Push crust down on pan, leaving a border of the crimped edge and pushing together any cracks that occur.

Whisk eggs with salt and pepper.  Pour into crust and distribute evenly.  Scatter artichoke hearts and spinach over eggs.  Sprinkle evenly with Swiss and then Cheddar cheese.  Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until egg is set and crust is golden brown.  Cut into wedges and serve.  Makes 6 servings, 6 points plus and 210 calories each.

Note:  Any assortment of veggies or cheeses will work as toppings for this pizza, as well as added meat like sausage or ham.  Vary it to your liking and adjust the nutritional values as necessary. 

Come again Friday for a final breakfast with me this week. 
Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Breakfast at Tracy's - Day One!

Good morning!  Thanks for joining me so bright and early.  It will be fun to have breakfast together several days this week.  My coffee is ready so here we go!

There are many granola recipes out there.  Most of them contain copious amounts of butter or oil.  Add that to the fat in the nuts and the coconut usually in granola and this breakfast is no longer acceptable for the lighter lifestyle I choose.

I fiddled around a bit and came up with this lighter version.  It's delicious in a bowl with milk.  It's a great topping for yogurt or chopped fruit.  It makes an unusual but tasty filling for a baked sweet potato (maybe not for breakfast).  I bet you can think of even more ways to enjoy it!


3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sweetened flake coconut
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300°F.  In large bowl, combine oats, almonds, coconut, cinnamon, and salt.  In measuring cup, whisk together maple syrup, agave nectar, and vanilla.  Pour over oat mixture and mix well.

Spread granola mixture on large baking sheet.  Bake 15 minutes, stir, then bake 15 more minutes.  Cool and store in well-sealed container.  Makes 4 2/3 cups, or 14 (1/3-cup) servings, 4 points plus and 159 calories each.

Note: Vary this recipe according to your taste.  Add dried fruit like raisins, dates, or cranberries.  Add chocolate chips or M&M's.  Use another type of nuts instead of almonds.  Just be sure to adjust the nutritional counts.

Come again Wednesday for another yummy breakfast in my kitchen. Have a wonderful day!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Affinity for Figs

Exciting news!  Next week is Breakfast at Tracy's.  I invite you to pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me in my kitchen for breakfast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Please come hungry!

 I don't know why but there is something about figs that intrigues me. 

They aren't very pretty on the outside. 

Cut open they are unusual-looking  on the inside.

But bite into a soft ripe fig and experience a sweetness and juiciness like none other.

I pleaded with my husband to plant me a fig tree so I could grow my very own figs.  He finally consented.  That was two seasons ago.  We bought it and planted it, following the directions from many different sources.  We waited.  That year, five figs grew.  Sadly, we caught a squirrel chowing down on two of them.  That was the last day our little tree was not covered with a net.

This year is a different story.  I can hardly wait to bite into these beauties.  And oh, the recipes I will create.  It's not quite time.  Soon the figs will be soft enough to pick.  We counted over 80 figs!  For now, I will buy a container or two at the market and excitedly look forward to my very own supply.

Following is a "less is more" recipe.  A tiny bit of cheese, some vanilla and spice, and a tiny drizzle of honey is all it takes to take figs to the next level.  The result is a sweet burst of flavor with each bite.

Honeyed Figs

2 tablespoons Neufchatel cheese, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
12 medium fresh figs
1 tablespoon honey

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat flat baking pan with nonstick spray.  In small bowl, stir together Neufchatel, vanilla, and 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon until smooth.  Cut figs in half lengthwise leaving stem on simply for looks.  Coat cut side of each half fig with about 1/2 teaspoon cheese mixture and place in baking pan.

Sprinkle fig halves with cinnamon and drizzle sparingly with honey.  Bake 20 minutes, until hot and caramelized.  Makes 4 servings, 6 fig halves each, with 1 point plus and 132 calories per serving.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Here comes Caesar (Dressing, that is)

Exciting news!  Next week is Breakfast at Tracy's.  I invite you to pour yourself a cup of coffee and join me in my kitchen for breakfast on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Please come hungry!

Today we are making Caesar salad dressing.  Now, don't react by thinking "borrrrring."  I know you see Caesar salad on every restaurant menu, and there are many bottled Caesar dressings to use at home.  I'd love for you to consider trying this Caesar dressing in your own kitchen.

The ingredient list only includes one item out of the ordinary.  Anchovy paste is found in every supermarket and keeps forever in your fridge.  It makes the dressing spectacular (but if you are vegetarian,  of course omit it).  

You will wow your family, your guests,  and yourself with your own Caesar salad.  Now go make it.

Caesar Dressing

1 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 ounce Parmesan, freshly grated
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons nonfat milk
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Refrigerate at least an hour to blend flavors.  Makes 1 1/4 cups dressing.  Each tablespoon is 1 point plus and 45 calories.  Toss with Romaine lettuce, add more grated Parmesan and croutons if desired, and serve. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Beans, beans, the magical fruit. . .

 Our camping weekend is over.  This was relaxation at it's finest even when the sun was hiding.

Now it's back to reality. . . and recipes. . .

We had a crowd for lunch one recent Sunday.  Beans were on the menu to go with a Mexican theme.

These were easy to put together ahead of time and bake just before serving, always nice when entertaining.  They accompanied barbecued chicken in a spicy soy-lime marinade (see below).  The beans were mouth-watering to eat but not so pretty in a picture!  We also served chips, salsa, guacamole, watermelon, and green salad - a real feast - and ice cream and cookies for dessert.  Wish you were there!

Refried Bean Bake

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 16-ounce cans fat free refried beans (I used Trader Joe's)
4 ounces Neufchatel (light cream cheese), room temperature
4 ounces reduced fat white or yellow Cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat flat baking pan (1 1/2 quart-size) with olive oil spray.  In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion, taco seasoning, and salt, and cook until onion is soft.  Stir in refried beans and Neufchatel and continue stirring until Neufchatel melts and blends in completely.

Spread bean mixture in prepared pan and sprinkle with Cheddar.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Makes 12 (about 1/2-cup) servings, 4 points plus and 166 calories each.

Spicy Soy-Lime Marinade

1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger root
2 minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh chili paste (such as Sambal Oelek)

Combine all ingredients and marinate chicken or other meat at least several hours before grilling.  Entire recipe is 2 points plus and 121 calories.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cha..cha..Chutney Sandwich

I was perusing recipes in the New York Times food section awhile ago and had a thought.  Why not enliven a basic grilled cheese sandwich with chutney?  I liked the idea of spice and creaminess and good flavor all together.

It was exciting to bring such intriguing flavors so simply into my kitchen.  The bread I used was a favorite made by Julian Bakery called "Amazing Sourdough."  I buy it at my local health food store and it is pricey. All you Weight Watchers out there will be impressed that each slice is only 1 point plus.

This was lunch for me so it is just one serving.  Swiss cheese was a smooth contrast to the chutney, but for sure you can use any cheese you like or have on hand.  And if you have no chutney, you can purchase it near other sauces in the market, or you can use another fruit preserve instead.

Chutney Grilled Cheese Sandwich

2 slices bread
2 tablespoons Major Grey mango chutney
1 (1-ounce) slice Swiss cheese
1 tablespoon light buttery spread (such as Brummel and Brown)

Heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Coat one side of each piece of bread with 1 tablespoon chutney.  Sandwich cheese between chutney-coated bread.  Spread one half buttery spread on one side of sandwich.  Place that side down in skillet and cook until golden brown.  Spread remaining buttery spread on top side.  Flip sandwich and cook until that side is golden brown.  Cut in half and serve.  Makes one sandwich, 8 points plus and 371 calories.  Be sure to adjust values if using different bread.

Note: I like Brummel and Brown here because the outside of the sandwich does not get soggy while cooking as it does with other light margarine products.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A tisket, a tasket, a big tomato basket!

Tomatoes picked fresh from my family garden, ready to star in delicious recipes.

Lo and behold, they shine in this basket of biscuits.  With a hint of garlic, a touch of salt, and a chiffonade of basil, here is a recipe to go with all your summer meals.

Tomato Basil Biscuits

1 medium tomato
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons slivered fresh basil (about 12 leaves)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat liner; set aside.  Chop tomato and wrap in paper towel to thoroughly drain liquid.

In large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder.  In separate smaller bowl, whisk together yogurt and olive oil.  Stir liquid into dry ingredients until almost combined.  Add tomato and basil and stir just until combined.

Drop biscuits in 1/4-cup mounds on prepared pan.  Bake 13-15 minutes, until golden brown and firm on top; do not under cook.  Makes 12 biscuits, 3 points plus and 106 calories each.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Can-Do Chili

It's time for our annual camping trip at the beach.  That means packing up food for four days knowing there won't be a market right around the corner.

One of my favorite food tricks for camping is making dishes ahead and freezing them.  As they defrost in the ice chest, they keep the other items cold.  It's a win-win.  Chili is always included, and it's wonderful eaten by the campfire.

I call this Can-Do Chili for several reasons.  Homemade chili is easy and tastes a thousand times better than canned.  It also conveniently uses some canned ingredients.  Lastly, you CAN DO it!

Can-Do Chili

1 large onion, chopped
1 (12-ounce) package Meatless Ground (Yves or Trader Joe's) or 1 pound extra lean ground beef or turkey
1 (30-ounce) can chili beans, undrained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Dash freshly ground black pepper
Shredded reduced fat cheese and chopped green onions, optional

Coat a large saucepan with nonstick spray.  Over medium heat, cook onion until translucent.  Add Meatless Ground and cook until warm or add meat and cook until no longer pink.

Stir in chili beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaf, chili powder, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes.  Top with cheese and green onions, if desired.  Makes 6 rounded-cup servings (7 cups total), 3 points plus and 171 calories each.  Be sure to adjust values if using beef or turkey and the optional toppings.