Monday, October 31, 2011

Time for an Autumn Salad

Isn't a pear just the epitome of fall?  The beautiful colors, the crispness, the sweet flavor. . .

The pear plays the starring role in this autumn salad with pomegranate seeds and candied nuts as supporting accents.  Eat the salad immediately upon tossing so you don't end up with wilted lettuce.

Fall Pear Salad

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 garlic clove, minced

8 cups mixed lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 pear, unpeeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons crumbled lowfat Feta cheese (1 ounce)
3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds 
3 tablespoons chopped green onions
2 tablespoons chopped candied pecans or walnuts

Whisk dressing ingredients in small bowl until well blended.  Refrigerate at least one hour to blend flavors if there is time.  Place salad ingredients in large salad bowl.  Pour dressing over them and toss.  Makes 2 large servings, 4 points plus for Weight Watchers or 258 calories each, or 4 smaller servings, 2 points plus or 129 calories each.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Creamy Friday Pasta

The other night, my son and his girlfriend offered to make dinner for my husband and me.  I accepted with a resounding YES!  Their pasta dish was so delicious I had to get permission to make a version to share.

When I asked, his sweet girlfriend said the recipe was just an easy one she found on line*.  She gave it to me.  Following is what resulted from a change here and a change there - you know, to lighten it up and still have a yummy dish.

I hope it is clear how pasta can be a quick meal no matter what is going on in your life:  the desire for healthy food, something to make when the kitchen is in an upheaval, or delicious food to serve company.  Making pasta allows you to easily express creativity in delicious ways.

Pasta with Creamy Tomato Sauce

8 ounces whole wheat pasta such as farfalle (bow ties)
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 vegetarian "chicken" cutlets (Gardein** brand) OR 4 (4-ounce) chicken breasts, sliced
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup light vinaigrette dressing, any type
4 ounces Neufchatel (light cream) cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.  In large nonstick skillet, warm olive oil over medium high heat.  Add vegetarian OR real chicken and cook for about 6 minutes until beginning to brown.

Add tomatoes and vinaigrette to pan with chicken.  Bring to a boil; lower heat and simmer 4 minutes.  Add Neufchatel and continue to cook, stirring, until cheese is melted and incorporated.  Stir in pasta and cook until warmed through.  Serve immediately with Parmesan sprinkled on top.  Makes 4 (just under 1 1/2-cup) servings.  With Gardein "chicken," each serving has 8 points plus and 339 calories, and with real chicken, each serving has 9 points plus and 380 calories each.

* The original recipe is PHILLY Creamy Tomato and Chicken Spaghetti on

** Gardein "chicken" cutlets are called "Chick'n Scallopini" and can be found in the supermarket frozen food aisle.  I cook with them frequently and find them to be a great substitute for poultry.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Peanut Noodles

This week my kitchen is "under construction," so to say.  Just some minor changes, but it required emptying all my cupboards and drawers.  I'm cooking simply - and pasta is on the menu again.

The serving size here may seem small, but believe me, the flavor combination and richness make up for the amount.  Serve with some cut up fruit or another vegetable on the side and you have a quick complete meal.

Peanut Noodles

1/4 cup reduced fat peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown or regular rice vinegar
2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh chili paste (like Sambal Oelek)
5 ounces soba (buckwheat) noodles or other long thin pasta
2 cups chopped greens, any type
1/2 cup chopped green onions

In small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, agave, sesame oil, and chili paste.  Heat in microwave one minute on high, then whisk again until smooth; set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions, adding chopped greens during the last minute of cooking;  drain.  Toss with sauce and green onions and serve immediately.  Makes 4 (about 3/4-cup) servings, 6 points plus and 332 calories each.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pasta for Dinner All Week

"Quick and easy," "kid-friendly but healthy," "light and fast."  These are the requests I hear for weeknight dinners.  Opt for pasta as the main dish and fulfill each request.  It will be tasty, too.

Ages ago, I found a recipe called Fiesta Enchilada Skillet on the fun and delicious blog Danica's Daily. I have made it many times since.  The following recipe is an adaptation using pasta.  I opted for corn pasta since corn is so prominent in Mexican cooking, but any other macaroni will do.  Make a green salad to accompany it, and your meal is on the table in no time. 

Mexican Macaroni

6 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) corn or other elbow-style pasta
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 (11-ounce) package veggie ground beef substitute OR 1 pound lean ground meat of your choice
10 ounces (1 1/4 cups) green chile enchilada sauce
4 ounces grated reduced fat Cheddar cheese
2  Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss Cheese wedges, crumbled

Cook pasta according to package directions and set aside.  Meanwhile, coat large nonstick skillet with olive oil spray and place over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent.  Stir in veggie beef and cook until warmed through, OR stir in meat and cook until no longer pink.  Add pasta, enchilada sauce, half the Cheddar, and half the crumbled wedges.

Bring mixture to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer five minutes.  Sprinkle remaining Cheddar and wedges over top; cover again for one minute to melt cheese.  Serve immediately.  Makes 5 (1 1/4-cup) servings, 7 points plus and 308 calories each.  Adjust nutritional values if using meat.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bread My Grandmother's Way

This bread recipe has been in my recipe box for years.  It was my grandmother's special recipe, and she passed it down to me.  Like everything I make, I changed it a bit, but I kept her old-time method.

The flavor of this bread improves with time, so make it a day ahead if you can.  With each bite, I have fond memories of my grandmother "Bobbi," and I hope it gives you similar warm feelings.

Grandmother's Autumn Bread

1 cup (about 5 1/2 ounces) dried figs
1 cup (about 5 ounces) pitted dates
1 cup boiling water
1 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 whole egg
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat 9 by 5-inch baking pan with nonstick spray.  Chop figs and dates and place in small bowl.  Pour boiling water over fruit and set aside.

Stir agave, pumpkin, egg, egg whites, and vanilla together in large mixing bowl.  Drain fruit, reserving liquid, and set aside.  Add baking soda and salt to reserved liquid.  Add flour alternately with liquid to agave mixture, mixing well after each addition.  Fold in fruit and pecans.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake one hour until top springs back when lightly touched.  Makes one  loaf with 16 generous slices, 5 points plus and 200 calories each.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Veggie Comfort Food

Comfort food to me is not just creamy and cheesy like  macaroni and cheese.  It is bold and spicy and fills the kitchen with wonderful smells as it bakes.  This is before the oven:

 And after:

Just chop the veggies and add a few other ingredients and this is comfort on it's way to your tummy.  Enjoy!

Greek-Inspired Veggie Pot

1 pound any type potatoes, peeled and cut in approximately 1-inch cubes
1 pound any type summer squash, cut in approximately 1-inch cubes
1 pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut in approximately 1-inch cubes
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, cut in approximately 1-inch squares
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, undrained
1 cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, omit if no heat desired
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Coat large casserole pan with olive oil spray.  Combine all ingredients in pan and mix well.  Place in oven and bake 30 minutes, stir, bake another 30 minutes, and stir again.  Bake 15 more minutes, stir, then increase oven temperature to 400°F. and bake for a final 15 minutes.  Makes 8 (1-cup) servings, 2 points plus and 116 calories each.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Decadent Day - Vacation Style!

*     *    *     Decadent Day     *     *    *

Key Lime Pie from the real Florida Keys was quite a treat.  With the first tart and creamy bite, I knew it was destined for Tracy Cooks it Right.  Mine would taste just as rich but secretly be much lighter.

Taste testers confirmed this pie to be every bit as decadent as the "real thing."  Normally a pie serves eight, but one-tenth is a satisfying portion.  It is quick to make and provides a sparkly citrus ending to any meal.  Key limes were plentiful in southern Florida, but not so in southern California.  You can substitute bottled key lime juice or regular limes if necessary.

Key Lime Pie

6 full graham crackers, crushed
2 tablespoons butter or trans fat free margarine, melted
2 tablespoons water
8 ounces Neufchatel (light cream) cheese, room temperature
1 (14-ounce) can fat free sweetened condensed milk
1 (6-ounce) carton lowfat key lime-flavored yogurt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed key lime or regular lime juice, or bottled, if necessary
1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
Whipped topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine crushed graham crackers, butter or margarine, and water.  Mix well, then press evenly into bottom and halfway up sides of 9-inch pie plate.  Bake 7 minutes until just beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In mixing bowl, beat Neufchatel and sweetened condensed milk 3 minutes on high speed, scraping down sides of  bowl occasionally.  Add yogurt and lime juice and again beat 3 minutes on high speed.  Pour into cooled crust and sprinkle with lime zest.  Chill 3 hours or longer before serving.  Garnish with whipped topping, if desired.   Makes 10 slices, 7 points plus and 246 calories each.

Friday, October 14, 2011


I went on vacation to Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  It was a beautiful, restful week that went way. . too . . fast.  Some mornings looking east to the Atlantic were like this:

And some were like this:

And some like this:

      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *      *      *      *      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

On Thursday,  a guest post I wrote before I left appeared on Healthy, Strong, Beautiful., Suzzie V.'s new blog.  Please visit Suzzie and take a look at her fun and inspirational new format.

See you Monday with a vacation-inspired recipe!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Simple Squash

Nothing warms the cackles of my heart more than the smell of caramelizing squash in the oven on a crisp fall evening.  I know I will soon get to eat what smells so good and that it's good for me.

Using walnut oil will add a second layer of walnut flavor, but don't worry if you don't have it. 

Roasted Butternut Squash

3-pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon walnut or olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place parchment paper on large baking sheet for easy cleanup or coat with nonstick spray.  Combine squash, oil, salt, pepper, and walnuts and spread in one layer on baking sheet.  Roast one hour, stirring every 15 minutes, watching carefully at the end so walnuts do not burn.

Remove from oven, taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper if desired.  Serve immediately.  Makes 4 (1-cup) servings, 2 points plus and 158 calories each.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Remembering Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

Some foods conjure up fond memories.  I've been making these muffins since I was first married years ago.  They ooze chocolatey goodness, even now, after a "health" makeover.

Lots of butter, chocolate bars, sugar, white flour, and twice the amount of chocolate chips were all in need of removal or reduction.  This was a makeover with beautiful results, no doubt about it.

Ok, maybe these are a bit of a splurge, even with the changes, but fond memories are surely worth it!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line muffin tin with cupcake papers or coat with nonstick spray.  In mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.  In small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, egg, and vanilla.

Pour liquid into dry ingredients and stir just until combined, then stir in chocolate chips.  Scoop into muffin cups.  Bake 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean.  Makes 12 muffins, 6 points plus and 235 calories each.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Orange Cranberry Baked Apples

I wanted something more than the same old, same old when it comes to baked apples.  Since I am fond of the flavors of orange and cranberries together, I combined them with the apples with tasty results.

Nothing says "fall" - other than pumpkin - like apples.  And the smell of apples cooking in your kitchen emphasizes that statement.  Because these are "baked" in the slow cooker, you can put them together and go on with your day, enjoying the fragrance as you come and go.  And you know what?  This new flavor combination really works well together.

Orange Cranberry Baked Apples

4 medium Granny Smith apples, cored
1 medium orange
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
4 teaspoons chopped pecans
2 teaspoons maple or brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place apples in one layer on bottom of slow cooker.  Obtain one teaspoon zest from orange peel and juice the orange.  Pour orange juice in and around the apples.

In small bowl, combine orange zest, cranberries, pecans, sugar, and vanilla.  Divide evenly between apples, pushing it down into each core.  Turn slow cooker on to low and cook 4 hours or until apples are tender.

Makes 4 servings, 1 point plus and 144 calories each.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pesto-fied Spaghetti Squash

Abundant Harvest bestowed upon me a beautiful spaghetti squash.  It sat and sat as I pondered what to do with it.  Finally, a craving for Italian flavors and a need to use leftover pesto lead to this result:

Once the squash is roasted, there is little else to do.  I testify this easy dish will delight your taste buds!

Pesto-fied Spaghetti Squash

1 medium spaghetti squash
1/4 cup pesto sauce, homemade or purchased
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons julienne-sliced sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1/2 ounce fresh Parmesan cheese, grated (about 3 tablespoons)

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Poke spaghetti squash all over with a knife.  Place on foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 50 to 60 minutes until knife inserts easily into squash.  Carefully cut squash in half lengthwise and take out seeds.  Using fork, scrape out squash strands into serving bowl.

In small bowl, combine pesto and yogurt.  Pour over squash, add sundried tomatoes, and toss.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve hot.  Makes 4 (1-cup) servings, 3 points plus and 154 calories each.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Onions Galore!

Do you love grilled onions on your sandwich?  Do you look forward to ordering grilled onions on a burger when you eat out?  Now you can have them ready at home to add a flavor punch any time.

Since I'm not really grilling the onions, I named them Onion Confit.  According to wiseGEEK, the definition of confit is "a condiment of fruit or vegetables cooked to the consistency of jam,"  and that depicts my onions perfectly.  And believe me, they are tasty!

Onion Confit

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds onions, about 3 medium, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Warm olive oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Stir in onions, sugar, salt, and pepper.  Cover and cook 30 minutes until onions are soft, stirring occasionally.

Uncover skillet and stir in wine and vinegar.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 35 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.  Makes 1 1/4 cups.  Each 2-tablespoon serving has 1 point plus and 56 calories.

Note: The Onion Confit freezes well.

Here is one way to use the confit:  a sandwich with Jarlsberg Lite Swiss cheese, avocado, arugula, light mayonnaise, and Onion Confit on Great Harvest Whole Grain Goodness bread.  Yum!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Last Day Fall Crawl!!!

The Artsy Girl Connection

Hasn't this been fun seeing all the creative ideas in Fall Crawl?  Many thanks go to Marilyn for organizing such a fun event.  Today is the last day.  You must go to Renee's Joy Journey and see her fall inspiration.

Fall Crawl Schedule
Sept 19th - Marilyn -
Sept 20th - Kellie -
Sept 21st - Letty -
Sept 22nd - Lorie -
Sept 23rd - Abby -  

Abby's will also include our 1st blog hop Linky Party
Sept 24th Tracy -
Sept 25th - Kimba -
Sept 26th - Jacqueline -
Sept 27th - Jillian -

Sept 28th - Kim&Lars
Sept 29th - DEIA

Sept 30th - Meli -
Renee's will be our Second blog hop /Linky Party
October 2nd - Giveaway & thanks to all that joined us in on the crawl!